Monday, November 9, 2015

Free Fall Movie Review

I haven't written a movie review in a while, but I have watched several movies. One of those movies was a German gem titled Freier Fall (Free Fall for all of you English speakers) a few months ago. Free Fall is good. It had a storyline that I typically don't like, but it did it in a way that made me sympathetic instead of judgmental.

The main character, Marc, is in a relationship with a woman. The woman is pregnant and they are well on their way to being a family. Unfortunately, Marc meets a guy, Kay. Marc and Kay go running together and become more than friends. The attraction between them is hard to deny. I knew after the first "kiss" that Marc would be back for more. How could he not? The kiss leads Marc down a slippery slope that is riveting to watch. It's impossible for him to go back to the life he knew before, but it's also difficult for him to step forward and claim the life that he wants. The audience watches as Marc's life slowly spirals out of his control.

And don't get me started on the sex scenes. Wow! I just...I can't. Maybe it's the desperateness of their first time or the animalistic way that they kiss each other. Whatever it is, the two actors combine to make scenes that emanate heat and lust and will probably leave you feeling some type of way. I've included a clip below, but make sure that you are 18 or older because children should definitely not see what Marc and Kay do to each other. 

I give the movie a B+, mostly because I'm a romantic at heart so I was rooting for a happy ending. However, there is still hope because there is a rumor that there will be a Free Fall 2. I'm definitely looking forward to continuing this journey with Marc and hopefully Kay.  

I know that Free Fall is available on Netflix and through Amazon. I highly recommend that you rent the movie. You won't regret it. 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Thoughts on Spring Valley High

By now, you have either heard about or actually watched the video of a teen being pulled out of her chair and literally thrown to the front of the room and arrested for refusing to give up her cell phone and leave the classroom. 

As a former teacher, I would assign the bulk of the blame for this incident to the "adults" involved in the situation. For starters, this girl was not causing a disruption. I'm not basing that on what I saw in the video, but rather from the accounts of the students in the room. The students on the opposite side of the room didn't even know what the girl had done until they were later informed by their peers. I've had disruptive students. In order for me to deem a student as disruptive, that student needs to actually disrupt class. Having a disagreement with the teacher that is so quiet that only the students near you are aware, does not rise to the level of disrupting the class. I'll tell you who did disrupt the class though: the teacher, the vice-principal and the resource officer. The adults completely disrupted that class for no good reason. 

Before you argue that the girl was being disobedient and needed consequences, let me explain to you what a teacher with even a minimal amount of classroom management skills should have done. Once the teacher asked for the phone and the girl refused, the teacher should have told her that he was writing her up. He should have taken a referral out of his desk and filled it out while he continued to teach the class. If other students inquired who the referral was for, he should have told them that the person knows who they are. As long as the student remained quiet and did not cause a scene, the teacher should have continued with class and dealt with the student later. The teacher could have even told the girl to remain after class so that he could discuss her behavior with her. Classroom management 101 is that you do not argue with students and you do not engage in a public power struggle. According to a woman from the school board, the teachers have been given training on how to resolve similar situations with a student who is being disobedient but is not truly causing a disruption. The woman said, what I as a former teacher already know, the teacher was wrong to escalate the situation. The girl should have had consequences, but there was no need to stop class to deal with her.

I have seen accounts from students that the girl refused to give up her phone, but she did put the phone away and she apologized to the teacher and eventually the vice-principal.  The teacher should have accepted the apology and informed her that he still had to write her up then continued with class. This was not a battle that the adults should have pursued. The phone was away. Hell, I would have been okay if the vice-principal pulled up a seat next to the girl and sat next to her for the rest of the period to make sure that her phone never made a second appearance. After class, the vice-principal could have escorted the girl to the office to be suspended or directly to in-school suspension or given her a detention or anything short of expelling her. 

Now here is where I posit a truly radical idea. Maybe, just maybe, the quiet girl who rarely spoke to her classmates refused to leave class because she...actually wanted to be in class and learn something (gasp). As shocking as it may sound, some kids don't want to be kicked out of class. I've seen people online accuse the girl of clearly not wanting to learn because she didn't have anything on her desk. Obviously these people have not seen the longer version of the video where the resource office shuts the laptop on the girl's desk and moves it away from her, because heaven forbid the laptop get damaged while he is forcibly removing her from the desk. The officer showed far more regard for the laptop than he did for the girl. I've also seen the hint from law enforcement that there is a third video that shows the girl hitting the officer. I'm assuming they are referring to that moment, after the officer has grabbed the girl and lifted her off her feet, where the girl punches at his arm to get free. How dare she give in to her instinct to protect herself. How dare she not sit still and wait to hit the ground.

Every person directly involved in this situation was wrong, from the girl to the teacher to the vice-principal to the resource officer. However, adults are supposed to model behavior for young adults. If I was a young adult in that classroom, what lesson have I been taught? Well, I have been taught that the appropriate reaction to a non-violent girl who is quietly being defiant is to rip her out of her seat and toss her across the room. There are those who have and will argue that the dynamics are different because the girl disobeyed authority figures, but again, I remind those people that her great act of disobedience was not wanting to be kicked out of class. She had already put up the phone and apologized. She was sitting quietly in her seat, as a student should do. Why was it necessary to escalate the situation? Write her up, make sure that everyone in the room understands that she will be punished for her actions and move on with the lesson. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Pool Party in McKinney, Texas

I always try to wait a few days before I comment on a hot button issue. I think enough time has passed for me to write about the now infamous pool party in McKinney, Texas. 

I am bothered by the false narrative that this is yet another attack on police. This is not an attack on police. There were 12 officers who reported to the scene, yet only 1 is being criticized. I have yet to hear people complain about the other 11 officers. In the few glimpses that we did have, the other officers appeared to be employing techniques that were drastically different than Casebolt's. We have to ask ourselves, with at least 3 officers clearly at the scene when the most controversial part of the video was filmed, why did the boy focus his camera only on Casebolt? What was it about Casebolt that drew the young man's attention and held his attention for 7 minutes? At no time in the video does the boy filming turn his camera to one of the other officers there. In fact the few glimpses that we did get of the other officers were in stark contrast with Casebolt. In the beginning, when the boy returns the flashlight to Casebolt, we see one officer speaking calmly to the teenagers then Casebolt comes over and starts yelling at the kids and tells them to sit down. The next glimpse that we get is when Casebolt unholstered his gun and two officers ran over to him as if to say, "Hey, put that away." 

I've seen so much vitriol coming from both sides that I'm a little nauseous. I don't think this was necessarily about race on the police officer's behalf. I think that the adults made it seem like the black kids were the problem and that's why the police targeted the minorities. That said, I do think that Casebolt's actions were over the top and that his behavior towards a mouthy 14 year old child was unnecessary. I see people defending his actions because the girl did not leave right away. What these same people willfully ignore is that when he grabbed the young girl, she was....wait for it....walking away. He didn't rough her up while she was lingering. He literally snatched her back as she was finally following his instructions to leave. The worst part is that even the officer (speaking through his attorney) has admitted that his behavior was unacceptable and yet people are still defending him and excusing his actions.

Casebolt had an emotionally draining day. I'm glad that his attorney explained the two suicide calls that Casebolt had received before arriving at the pool party. The first was an actual suicide and the second was a young girl threatening suicide. Either call would have been a major stressor on its own, but together, that had to be an emotionally exhausting day. Casebolt came to the scene in a compromised emotional state. Like the teacher with outside stressors who "snaps" on a kid, the situation was the straw that broke the camel's back. I'm not excusing Casebolt's actions, but I don't think they were as malicious as some would lead people to believe. However, if Casebolt had not responded to the scene, we wouldn't be talking about the pool party. This would just be another teen party that got out of hand and was broken up by the police. 

The other issue that I have is the portrayal of the kids as out of control. Let's review what we know: too many teens were invited to the pool. The security guard (rightfully so) started refusing entry for the teens, even though many had legitimate guest passes and were invited. Some of the teens jumped the fence because they were invited and felt like the security guard was in the wrong to not let them in to the party. Most teens know little to nothing about HOAs. All these teens knew was that they had guest passes that gave them permission to be there. The appropriate response from adults should not have been to belittle the teens or argue with them. The offended adults should have called the police immediately. Instead, the offended adults, waited until after a fight between an irate woman and a black girl who lived in the community and was hosting the party.

When the police showed up to break up an out of control teen party, the teens started running. Does that surprise anyone who has seen the cops breaking up a wild party? Teens and adults alike scatter with the quickness. Some get away, some don't. The police are left to deal with those who didn't get away or who, for whatever reason (like not thinking they have done anything wrong) did not attempt to flee. Casebolt yelled at the boys to sit down and they did. They tried to explain that they had just arrived and one of them even used the ever offensive "sir" when addressing the officer (yes, that was sarcasm). When watching the video, I saw Casebolt charge at two other young boys and those young boys literally sat on the street because they were following his directions. He had to tell them to move to the grass and all they did was get up and move to the grass. Wow! Those kids sure put up a fight!

When Casebolt ran over to the group of teen girls who were standing away from the scene, he was the aggressor. The girls were the first teens on film who did not jump and follow Casebolt's commands. That set him off and that's why he kept coming back to them and picking with them. I'm not going to sit here and say that the girls were right to keep standing there or point out that there were other people walking in and out of the scene with not so much as a peep from Casebolt. The girls should have been like the boys and immediately followed the order, but like most teens, they saw that they were being singled out and they thought that somehow gave them permission to take their time. They did eventually decide to walk away, but it was too late. Casebolt zeroed in on the girl in the bright bikini and pulled her back in to the fracas. He threw her to the ground and as Jon Stewart so nicely pointed out, Casebolt, yelled at the girl to get her ass on the ground when her ass was quite literally on the ground. If that doesn't scream out of control to the layman viewer, then I don't know what will.

The other thing that has astounded me is the hypocrisy on both sides. Many on the left refuse to acknowledge that 11 of the 12 officers (as far as we can tell) behaved appropriately and many on the right refuse to acknowledge that 1 out of the 12 did not behave appropriately. Many on the left refuse to accept that HOAs are allowed to have rules for their pool. The residents who called the police were well within their rights and I would have done the same thing and probably much sooner. Many on the right justify the manhandling of a 14 year old girl because she had the nerve to talk back, yet openly ignore that she was complying with the police orders when she was grabbed.

Both sides keep cherry picking the dialogue that they want to have and that's unfair to the situation. This was not a group of black thugs terrorizing a suburban pool. This was a mixed group of teens having an end of the school year pool party. This was not a police versus black kids incident. This was one emotionally drained police officer responding in an inappropriate fashion to what should have been a routine break up of a teen party. This was not a bunch of confrontational teenagers threatening the police. This was a bunch of teenagers reluctant to leave a party. This was not a teenage girl resisting arrest. This was a teenage girl being mouthy then flailing to the ground as a grown man yanked her by her arm and hair. (Notice how her first instincts after being forced to the ground was not to curse out the police or fight back, but rather to cry for someone to call her mother.) The two guys who approached the officer were not trying to jump him. They were two guys who were concerned with the teen girl who had just been thrown to the ground like a rag doll and inadvertently got too close to the officer.

I could probably keep going, but I think you get the picture. This wasn't some horrible racist officer attacking black kids, but it also wasn't some mob of unruly black kids. Both sides are far more complicated.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My Thoughts on the Brelo Verdict

Two Wrongs Don't Make a Right

I am a black resident of Cleveland, Ohio. I am neither surprised, upset nor bitter about the Brelo verdict. Brelo was used as a fall guy so I can't be upset with the outcome. Why should one man pay for the mistakes of many? I understand that the prosecution wanted to hold him up as the bad guy because he temporarily lost his mind and stood on the hood of the car and fired 15 shots in to the vehicle after the other officers stopped shooting. His behavior was outrageous, but so was the behavior of many of the people involved. However, only two of the people involved have documented mental health issues, and surprise, surprise, they are the two who lost their lives. The two people who had a reason to not behave "normally" were the only ones who paid a price that night. The police ignored protocol and engaged in a lengthy car chase with 62 vehicles following one car, yet somehow, the bipolar driver of the car is at fault because the police made the decision not to follow their own rules. Those rules exist for a reason. The main reason is for the safety of the people, but part of that reason is also for the safety of the police. Lots of people have asked, what would have happened if Timothy Russell had just stopped? To those people, I ask, what would have happened if the police had just followed protocol? You see how that works? Both "what ifs" end with the same presumption that Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams would still be alive. 

Food for Thought

I, like many others, read the headlines and wondered why would they lead police on a high speed chase? Why didn't they just stop? Then I found out that Timothy Russell was bipolar and that Malissa Williams was schizophrenic and that both were self-medicating with drugs. These two were not simply "drug addicts" as some people have claimed. They were mentally ill people who used drugs to self-medicate. Some of our  "legal drugs" aka "prescribed medications" are more potent than most street drugs, yet we only consider prescription drugs illegal if they are in the hands of someone who doesn't need them. Why don't we have the same consideration for "illegal drugs?" Why are Timothy and Malissa less worthy of life because their drug of choice was not on the approved list?

There was Only One True Victim...and it Wasn't Brelo

Mental health aside, I submit that the only true victim here is Malissa Williams. Her brother pointed out one very important fact: Malissa did not lead police on a high speed chase because Malissa was the passenger. I heard her brother say that and suddenly I felt like a fool for not using my intellect to decipher that very important detail. The media coverage often says that Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams led police on a high speed chase, but that is factually inaccurate. Timothy Russell led police on a high speed chase. One of the officers even said that at some point during the chase, Malissa put her hands out the window and asked the police to stop chasing them. To anyone who argues that Malissa could have gotten out of the car, I ask, at what point could she have gotten out of the car? Did you think that she should have jumped out of a moving vehicle that was driving up to 100 miles per hour at some point? If jumping out of the car didn't kill her, surely being run over by one of the 62 cars that were in pursuit of them would have. And unfortunately, Malissa did not have an opportunity to surrender once the car stopped because the moment the car stopped moving, the police opened fire and did not stop until 137 bullets had been unloaded on two people. I've heard some people say that the high speed chase endangered the lives of innocent people and I can't argue with that, but I can submit that Malissa should be counted as one of those innocent people.

This Isn't Just About Black People

This is not a police versus black people issue. This is a "something is wrong with the system" issue. If people opened their eyes and did some research they would easily discover that police aren't just killing black people. Police are killing and assaulting lots of unarmed, innocent people. The problem is that, as the judge said, police are given a lot of leeway because they have to make split second decisions. Some of the leeway given to police is unbelievable. Firing 137 shots at two people is perfectly legal because you "feared for your life." We are entering a very dangerous slope of acceptance. "Perceived fear" cannot be an acceptable justification for any and all police actions. Sometimes, the police are just flat out wrong and that doesn't mean that all of the police are bad or that I wouldn't call the police if I need them. I have said it before and I'll say it again, I believe that most police are good people, however, even good people can make mistakes that are criminal. When good civilians make reckless, ill-advised decisions that lead to the death of other people, they often (with the exception of those with money) go to jail. When good cops make reckless, ill-advised decisions that are sometimes in direct violation of department policy, they might get fired, but often are simply reprimanded or suspended. This is the classic "do as I say, not as I do" situation and it is unfair to the taxpaying citizens who are ultimately left footing the bill for civil suits against the city.

Cleveland Ain't About That Life

I'd also like to take a moment and note that there was no real threat of a riot in Cleveland last night. With the exception of protesters walking around and the heavy police presence, it was business as usual downtown. The media tried to incite a riot by continuing to discuss the possibility, but it would take a hell of a lot more than this to get Clevelanders to lose it to the point of damaging our city.  

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Chemical Reactions!

So, I haven't posted since December, but I saw this video today and I had to share it. This is how chemical reactions should be taught: