Friday, December 2, 2016

The Welcoming Committee

As recent readers will know, I am in the process of moving, but my new place is in the same neighborhood, about six blocks away from the old place. I've been moving stuff in a few boxes at a time (the main items, as longtime readers would probably guess, are books and booze), and getting rid of stuff- clothes I haven't worn in ages (there's a dropoff box for stuff not too far from work), old documents, antiquated electronics (I dropped off a bunch of e-waste this afternoon).

In the course of my move, I've met a couple of the neighbors, one of the upstairs tenants (my new arrangement is eerily similar to the old one- an apartment in a three-family house, I just have an entrance in the back of the place and better yard access), and a next-door neighbor who I took an instant liking to. Leo is originally from Westmeath, and he is exactly the sort of Irishman you'd want for a neighbor- quick with a laugh, eager to lend a helping hand to others, a hearty, good-natured fellow. I also met his yellow Labrador, Setanta, and immediately joked that it was a perfect name for a dog. Leo laughed and noted that his wife is from Ulster, so they named the dog in honor of her roots. He noted that most people that he meets aren't familiar with the name, and I told him that I have Roscommon antecedents, then quickly added that I have Italian, Swiss, and French antecedents as well, then joked, "You need two things in this world, roots and wings." Leo let out a good-natured chuckle at that and I gave Setanta a well-received scratch behind the ear.

I think I'll do just fine in the new place. Here's one for my new doggy friend:

POSTSCRIPT: The one bummer in this move is that Katy, my letter carrier for the past decade, won't be delivering my mail at the new address. She's a really great person, and she knows everything that goes on in the neighborhood. Luckily, I will probably run into her now and again during my strolls through the neighborhood... it's not like I'm going far away.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Happy Birthday, Vincenzo

As is traditional on this day, I am taking time out to wish my brother Vincenzo a happy birthday. Vin is one of those erudite guys who is well-versed in history and current events, possesses a knack for languages and an anthropologist's discernment when it comes to interacting with people from diverse backgrounds. He's a devoted husband, a doting father, and an all-around great guy. Did I also mention that he has an encyclopedic understanding of punk rock? Here's an appropriate number from the Lurkers, a band which Vin always jokes makes the Ramones look sophisticated:

I don't need to tell ya, Vin's a super fella. Happy birthday, fratello!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Realizing I'm Not Getting a Nablopomo This Year

Checking over this month's posts, I realized that I didn't put up a post on the 5th, so I won't be eligible for a NABLOPOMO like I was in 2011... so close. It's no biggie, though, I did once write 24 posts in 24 hours in the course of a long, bizarre day on the job during which I worked a 12-8, 4-12 split-double shift. Ah, those were the days- thanks to Jennifer for putting that idea into my head.

At any rate, I don't have to put up a blog post tonight just to get a NABLOPOMO in this year.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Shy-ber Monday

I make it a point to avoid the 'Black Friday' orgy of consumption like the plague... I've never been that materialistic to begin with, and the idea of joining a scrum and trampling some poor $8/hour retail serf into pulp to get a flatscreen television is utterly repulsive. Same thing with this whole Cyber Monday thing... I prefer brick-and-mortar stores to purchasing online. I work for an organization which depends on visitors' dollars, so I make it a point to have a cashier ring my purchases up- my motto is 'the job you save just might be your own'.

I'm not saying I've never purchased anything from Amazon- all of the independent bookstores within fifty miles of me, with the exception of The Strand, have pretty much gone the way of the dodo, though there is still a really neat independent bookstore in Hastings-on-Hudson, not too far from a funky falafel shack. I miss the slightly grotty used book dens where a patient biblio-hunter could track down weird Science Fiction or Fantasy paperbacks which cost less than a buck. I typically have to wait until I visit mom's house to get my used paperback fix. Every so often, I will break down and use Amazon to find a particular obscure item that I absolutely must have.

Listening to the news radio coverage of Cyber Monday, I was struck by the reporting about possible security threats to online shoppers. While I wouldn't consider myself a Luddite (a ridiculous assertion by a blogger), I do admit to being a little squirrely about using credit cards online... on those rare occasions on which I purchase something over the intert00bz, I tend to use prepaid gift-cards purchased at a brick-and-mortar store. I'm a little cybershy when it comes to purchasing things- I want to deal with a cashier even when I succumb to the e-commerce siren.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Because Snark is Never Out of Place

Via Tengrain, we have a bizarre conflation of obituaries:

Funny, whatever happened to the beard and the fatigues? Of course, this set my smart ass to poetizing:

Here’s the story, of an angry Cuban.
Who was fed up with the bad, oppressing rich.
And chased them all to Miami,
Now ain’t that just a bitch?

Here’s the story, of a man named Castro,
Who was cooking up a Workers’ Paradise.
But he had to go be a mini-Stalin.
Couldn’t he be nice?

Then the one day when this angry Mr Castro,
Had to indulge in all of his vices,
And the shitstorm that ensued, sucked in the great powers.
And we know it as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Missile Crisis, The Missile Crisis,
It’s the shitstorm that we call The Missile Crisis.

For those who are unaware of all sitcom traditions...

Saturday, November 26, 2016

The End of an Era

As Joe Biden would say, "This is a big fucking deal"... Fidel Castro is dead at 90. Castro was one of the most interesting figures of the second half of the 20th century, half monster, half hero- the bête noire of many an American presidential regime but the popular tweaker of Uncle Sam's beard to countless denizens of the developing world who had no reason to love the United States.

Of course, the truth is somewhere in the middle of this tragic mishegas- Fulgencio Batista, the military dictator overthrown by Castro, was a monster himself. More tragically, before he threw in his lot with the Soviet Union, Fidel Castro made overtures to the Eisenhower administration and was rebuffed. Despite portrayals of Eisenhower as the 'last noble Republican', Ike made some serious, far-reaching errors in his term as president (Iran, the Congo, and Vietnam being particularly tragic examples). The major American sins of the Post WW2 era involved propping up dying colonial interests instead of engaging with newly freed colonies as equals to support. I would chalk much of this up to racism, but most of it can be laid at the feet of the Dulles Brothers.

At any rate, the idea of an Eisenhower-backed Castro is an even more interesting counterfactual than a Major League baseballer Castro... sadly for the world, we were stuck with the Castro we ended up with, the central figure in a tragedy with grotesque elements of farce, including such outré assassination methods as exploding cigars and infected wetsuits. With Fidel safely dead of old age, the President-Elect is probably going to take credit. My favorite take on Castro's death is deptfordx' comment at Lawyers, Guns & Money:

“Can’t….. Rest….. Till. America Destroyed.”

*Sees Trump Elected*

“Well my work here is done.”

At any rate, Fidel is finished, one of the last few relics from the not-so-good old days of the Cold War has passed. To the extent that he was a monster, he was merely one in an age of monsters, among the Trujillos and the Duvaliers. His rise, and the rise of other strongmen of his ilk, can be chalked up to failures of the United States to live up to its lofty ideals of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness and the choice not to implement the Monroe Doctrine as a force for extending democracy and self-determination to Latin Americans. If only we had been a better nation all along, maybe Fidel Castro could have developed into a truly transformative politician, rather than a miniaturized Stalin.

Friday, November 25, 2016

As if this Year Weren't Bad Enough

In another crappy development in a crappy year, we lost Florence Henderson: actress, singer, comedian, and beloved icon of TV motherhood. Sure, The Brady Bunch was a hokey sitcom, but Florence Henderson always conveyed warmth and understanding, and was apparently a really good role model for her young costars. I always remember my childhood as a pretty idyllic time, but I imagine that The Brady Bunch provided a bit of escapism for kids from less than ideal homes, with Ms Henderson's Carol Brady being the fantasy mom who always had a sympathetic ear and good advice. As I recall, she largely played a "straight man" role, with most of the gentle comedy coming from the kids' zany antics, but her filmography reveals that she was a good hand with a joke. She even made Wesson cooking oil commercials watchable.

A spicier side of Ms Henderson recently emerged as fake scandal mongers tried to pass a crotch-grabbing (on stage, as part of an act) Florence Henderson off as a Hillary Clinton "just as bad as Donald Trump". It's kinda strange that this was the last big media mention of Mrs Brady before she left us, but I'd be lying if I said that it wasn't kinda hot... and I'm sure plenty of guys my age would agree.

At any rate, we lost another talented individual whose life touched the lives of millions of others, someone who seemed to be as genuinely nice as her sunny TV persona. In this time of ugliness and strife, we could use a wise-but-chipper mom to help us through the days.