Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Rethinking the Winter Pilgrimage

This time of year, I conduct my annual pilgrimage to see bald eagles in the northern reaches of Westchester County's Hudson banks. This year, there's an “extremely disconcerting” leak of radioactive tritium-contaminated water
from Buchanan's Indian Point nuclear power plant, which is immediately south of Fleischmann's Pier, my prime eagle-watching spot.

There is a quote about nuclear power that I have heard attributed to R. Buckminster Fuller:

The sun is the only safe nuclear reactor, situated as it is some ninety-three million miles away.

About 16 miles (25 kilometers) south of Indian Point, the village of Tarrytown is aggressively pursuing a village-wide solar power initiative. Being 93 million miles from a nuclear power plant is preferable to being sixteen miles downstream from a leaking one.

The nuclear power plant has the Orwellian slogan Safe. Secure. Vital. Nothing sounds quite so safe, secure, and vital as an extremely disconcerting leak of radioactive water.

I'll probably end up making that drive north... it's not like I would be spending a lot of time at the site. Does anybody know of a good Geiger counter app?

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler, Mes Amis

As is the tradition around here, I'd like to take an opportunity to wish everybody a happy Mardi Gras. Mine didn't start off too auspiciously- I had to go to our annual workplace healthcare insurance meeting this morning and ended up sitting in traffic for a good long time due to an eleven car pileup on the Sprain Brook Parkway... I shouldn't complain, I wasn't in one of those eleven cars. After writing this post, I'm going to pick up some peppers and celery in order to make the holy trinity for a pot of jambalaya. Tonight, I'll be heading out to a local bar for team trivia night, and I don't know if they'll be serving any Cajun/Creole fare this week, so I have to get my Lafayette on before leaving the house.

To help you get your Fat Tuesday on, how about some music? Here's a live performance by one of my Cajun/folk faves, Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys:

And so as not to leave the Creole population of Louisiana out, here's C.J. Chenier playing some green beans music:

Before I run off to the grocery store and then ensconce myself in the kitchen for the rest of the afternoon, I'll advise you to check out Aunt Snow's blog- she's hanging her hat in New Orleans these days and has some amazing pictures of various Louisiana krewes. Au revoir, mes amis, laissez le bon temps rouler.

Monday, February 8, 2016

GuNg HaY Fat Choy

Here's wishing a happy new year to my readers who celebrate the Lunar New Year- I hope the Year of the Monkey is a happy and prosperous one for all of us. In New York City, the administration has made the Lunar New Year a school holiday, thus furthering the cause of inclusion in a city which has always been at the forefront of cultural diversity. No longer will parents have to choose between sending their children to school or having them participate in holiday celebrations.

Last year, the New York City public school system added Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha to the school holiday calendar. Hopefully, this year they will add Diwali to the list. You just can't have enough holidays.

Gung hay fat choy, everybody.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Once Again, a Sportball Spectacle

As is typical, I am working on Super Bowl Sunday. Years ago, I decided to completely divorce myself from the orgy of consumption, social pathologies, and unearned loyalty that is professional sports in these here United States. The National Football League is an unholy farrago, destroying its players (on the radio today, a physician noted that football is not a contact sport, but a collision sport), countenancing violence against women despite claiming to be dealing with it, devalues the work of women, further victimizes the most marginalized persons, and transfers taxpayers' dollars into the pockets of billionaire owners. I refuse to involve myself in the whole dirty spectacle...
I'd rather watch a bunch of amateurs playing something, anything for the love of the game and a spirit of fellowship.

Given the appetite people have for bruising displays of athleticism, I'm surprised that nobody has ever started a hadaul league. Hadaul is a fictional sport invented by the late, great Jack Vance, one of my favorite authors, and detailed in The Face, the fourth of his 'Demon Princes' pentalogy. Mr Vance describes the sport in minute detail:

From Games of the Galaxy, by Everett Wright: the chapter entitled "Hadaul."

Hadaul like all good games is characterized by complexity and the multiple levels upon which the game is played.

The basic apparatus is simple: a field suitably delineated and a certain number of players. The field is most often painted upon the pavement of a plaza; occasionally it will be constructed of carpet. There are many variations, but here is a typical arrangement. A pedestal stands at the center of a maroon disk. The pedestal can be of any configuration, and customarily supports the prize money. The diameter of the disk ranges from four to eight feet. Three concentric rings, each ten feet in width, surround the disk.

These are known as "robles" and are painted (from in to out) yellow, green, and blue. The area beyond the blue ring is known as "limbo."

Any number of contestants, or "roblers," may participate, but usually the game starts with a maximum of twelve and a minimum of four. Any more creates excessive congestion; any less reduces the scope of that trickery which is an essential element.

The rules are simple. The roblers take up positions around the yellow roble. All now are "yellow roblers." As the game starts they attempt to eject the other yellow roblers into the green roble. Once thrust or thrown into the green, a robler becomes "green" and may not return to yellow. He will now attempt to eject other green roblers into the blue. A yellow robler may venture into the green and return into yellow as a sanctuary; similarly a green robler may enter blue and return to the green, unless he is ejected from blue by a blue robler.

A game will sometimes end with one yellow robler, one green robler, and one blue robler. Yellow may be disinclined to attack green or blue; green disinclined to attack blue. At this stage no further play is possible. The game halts and the three roblers share the prize in a 3-2-1 ratio, yellow receiving the "3" or half share. Green or blue may wager new sums equal to the yellow prize, and by this means once again become yellow, a process which may continue until a single robler remains to claim the entire prize.

Rules in this regard vary from hadaul to hadaul. At times a challenger may now propose a sum equal to the prize, the previous winner may or may not decline the challenge, according to local rules. Often the challenger may propose a sum double the prize, which challenge must be accepted, unless the winner has suffered broken bones, or other serious disability. These challenge matches are often fought with knives, staves, or, on occasion, whips. Not infrequently a friendly hadaul ends with a corpse being carried off on a litter. Referees monitor the play assisted by electronic devices which signal crossings of the roble boundaries.

Conspiracy is an integral part of the game. Before the game starts the various roblers form alliances of offense or defense, which may or may not be honored. Tricks, crafty betrayal, duplicity are considered natural adjuncts to the game; it is surprising, therefore, to note how often the tricked robler becomes indignant, even though he himself might have been intending the same treachery.

Hadaul is a game of constant flux, constant surprise; no one game is ever like another. Sometimes the contests are jovial and good-natured, with everyone enjoying the tricks; sometimes tempers are ignited by some flagrant act of falsity, and blood is wont to flow. The spectators wager among themselves, or, at major hadauls, against mutualization agencies. Each major shadestages several hadauls each year, on the occasion of their festivals, and these hadauls are considered among the prime tourist spectacles of Dar Sai.

Vance being a competent writer, he was fully aware of the Checkov's gun rule, so he placed his protagonist, a man honed since his childhood into an instrument with one purpose (to hunt down and reap vengeance on the five criminal masterminds who killed or enslaved the bulk of the populace of his boyhood home) in a game of hadaul which turns sinister, then fatal. That's pretty much to be expected in a action-packed tale of revenge. Of course, on a planet which generally adheres to the rule of law, referees would be expected to make sure a match doesn't devolve into a bloodbath. It's no more violent than calcio storico, which is played in a city widely seen as one of the jewels in civilization's crown:

And there wouldn't even be a silly old ball on the field to distract anyone.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

For Smut and Thunder... Blame Nutkin

In a comment to my last post, Smut found the culprit for Thunder's slow posting schedule:

Skwirls stole your posts, Thundra?

Yeah, Nutkin has a lot to answer for... In my opinion, Nutkin should have been a featured menace in a men's pulp magazine:

Oh, Nutkin, your perfidy knows no bounds!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Blogroll Amnesty Day 2016

Tengrain, the patron saint of small bloggers, reminds us that today is Blogroll Amnesty Day, the day for promoting other blogs according to three rules:

1. You are not allowed to complain or mention your blog’s low traffic until you have been posting daily for a year.

2.If you’re little, link other blogs that are new or still growing their audience, and encourage them to practice their craft daily.

3. Then, show them how.

Regarding the first rule, I have to wonder if one can complain if one has put up 24 posts in 24 hours... I can't complain about low traffic at any rate, I passed the one million hit mark last November, thanks to your readership and your linkage. I can't express my gratitude enough, you've always been the best.

As far as the blogs I'm going to link to, here goes nothing...

Buddy McCue's place showcases the man's art, which deserves a good look. The man is a true gentleman with a keen wit, please check him out.

Paleotectonics mixes righteous rage and side-splitting humor, with copious doses of nerdery and traditional Midwestern values. He's exactly what the Heartland should be- a take no shit attitude, walleye fishing, and Dr Who references aplenty.

Also in the Heartland, zombie rotten mcdonald is another righteously angry Wisconsinite whose eclectic musical tastes take a backseat to no one's... ZRM and Paleo represent the original Heartland values, not the 'I got mine, screw you' values promulgated by the Scott Walkers and Rick Snyders dicking up 'flyover country' and making it into a place that people really want to fly over, or flee from.

Aunt Snow's blog is the perfect cure for Beauty Deficit Disorder- she was a great chronicler of the sheer gorgeousness of the greater L.A. area, now she's doing the same for the NO LA area. Aunt Snow lives beautifully, and she shares the beauty of her existence with her lucky readers.

Nasreen Iqbal's blog is the newest blog on my blogroll, a wonderful mix of the personal and the political. Nasreen is another individual whose musical taste I find interesting. One of these days, I'm going to hang out with Nasreen and ZRM and we're going to geek out for hours on music.

I'd be remiss if I didn't thank Tengrain for his unfailing support throughout my blogging endeavor. Also, I don't know if I would have gotten this thing off the ground if it hadn't of been for the early support from Thunder, mikey, Kiwi and Smut, Johnny Pez, and M. Bouffant. If there's such a thing as 'Blog Amnesty', these are the bloggers who showed it to me when I was just beginning.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Having Cast Our Eyes to the West

Man, the West has been in the news quite a bit these days. I haven't been out West since the 90s, when I took two cross-country road trips which took me throughout most of the U.S. In a comment to one of the news stories about the Malheur takeover, one commentor noted that this whole affair reminded him of the Wall of Voodoo song Call of the West:

Harshly awakened by the sound of six rounds of light-caliber rifle fire
Followed minutes later by the booming of nine rounds from a heavier rifle
But you can't close off the wilderness
He heard the snick of a rifle bolt
And found himself peering down the muzzle
Of a weapon held by a drunken liquor store owner
"There's a conflict," he said, "there's a conflict
Between land and people
The people have to go
They've come all the way out here to make mining claims
To do automobile body work
To gamble
Take pictures
To not have to do laundry
To own a mini-bike
Have their own cb radios and air conditioning
Good plumbing for sure
And to sell Time/Life books and to work in a deli
To have a little chili every morning
And maybe... Maybe to own their own gas stations again
And take drugs
Have some crazy s**
But above all, above all, to have a fair shake
To get a piece of the rock and a slice of the pie
And spit out of the window of your car and not have the wind blow it back in your face"

Stan Ridgway was onto something there... it's a pity that Wall of Voodoo is best known for a novelty song, even a fantastic one. They were a really fantastic band, blending alt-country, new wave, spaghetti western sountracks, that inimitable Ridgway twang, and a noirish sensibility. Here's a video of the band's performance during 1983's US festival:

Listening to some of their songs still raises goosebumps. These guys were fantastic, even their novelty songs were great.