Friday, September 30, 2011

The Land of Make Believe

I just read that Glenn Beck is going to feature a children's show on his new "fleecing the rubes" venture. Glenn Beck is known for his whimsical voice characterizations, and should appeal to small children without discriminating tastes. I guess Glenn Beck can be described as a right-wing Uncle Floyd, only without the talent. At least there will be an alternative to the leftist propaganda disseminated by Sesame Street.

I look forward to such skits as "Bert and Ernie Are Filthy Sodomites Who Are Pushing the Gay Agenda Down America's Throat" and "I'm Just a Bill, From A Koch Brothers' Shill". It's time the children learned the truth about America, and not the namby-pamby stuff put out by dope-smoking lefty loons, with their Negro music and factual content:





Here's a good (though depressing) modern take on the old classic:





It'll be interesting to see how this pans out- children can smell bullshit from a mile away, so they'll probably suss out the warped content of this crapfest. Now they'll have one more reason to dread visits to their right-wing grandpa's house.

Special nod of the naked noggin to the good folks at Rumproast, who bring the funneh as well as the righteous anger.

The Truth About Devolution

I'm glad I did two posts on the career and music of Devo- it gave me an excuse to check out a lot of great music, including versions of familiar songs that I hadn't heard before. It also gave me an excuse to avoid writing about the real world for a while, but now that I consider things, the truth of the devolution concept seems to be evident. The creep of the week is definitely NYPD Lieutenant Anthony Bologna of Manhattan Borough South, the white-shirted blackshirt who pepper-sprayed peaceful protesters, and who has a history of abuse of power. Bologna needs to be fired, plain and simple. I don't have any animus towards the police, I know a lot of cops and they are good people, but Bologna is a loose cannon, unworthy of the shield, and he needs to be given the boot and brought up on assault charges. The city doesn't need a knuckle-dragger like him on the streets, abusing power and assaulting individuals exercising their First Amendment rights.

NOTE: Anybody referring to Bologna as a Neanderthal is flirting with a lifetime ban, Neanderthals were awesome.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Devo Post, Part Two

Before I continue with my Devo retrospective, I should make a couple of notes. First of all, Devo was never merely a band, it was really a performance art group, which combined music and visuals in a deadpan, satirical critique of modern consumer culture (writing this, I had to shed a tear for a Devo/Poly Styrene collaboration that should have taken place, but never did). I also have to note that Mark Mothersbaugh's and Jerry Casale's brothers were both named Bob, and were credited as Bob 1 and Bob 2 on the third album's cover. Jim Mothersbaugh was also a member of the band's original lineup, but left the band and was replaced by drummer Alan Meyers. Can't be leaving out these members of the band... wouldn't be fair.

With that out of the way, I can move on the Devo's third album, Freedom of Choice, which featured a cover shot of the band wearing their now-iconic ziggurat-shaped headgear. The album is best known for the band's top-forty hit Whip It. Whip It was inspired by Thomas Pynchon's parodies of Horatio Alger/Dale Carnegie self-help slogans, and the lyrics are cracked versions of such "you can do it" exhortations:

When a problem comes along, you must whip it,
Before the cream sits out too long, you must whip it.
When something's going wrong you must whip it.


The song was widely misinterpreted as having a sadomasochistic or masturbatory theme, and the band played up the S&M angle in the video (embedding disabled), which received heavy airplay on an obscure cable T.V. channel.

Girl U Want was apparently inspired by The Knack's My Sharona. The video for Girl U Want (check out "General Boy's" cameo) is a send-up of 1950's and 1960's T.V. performances, complete with screaming female fans (Outkast's video for Hey Ya mines similar territory). Here's an alternate "spaghetti western" take on the song, which I had never heard until today:





The title track of the album (embedding disabled), while seemingly a straightforward number, has a pessimistic punchline (a feature also found in the at-first-glance optimistic Beautiful World). For an interesting early take on the song, here's a version I'd never heard before today (writing these posts has been a revelation!):





My personal favorite track on the album is Gates of Steel, co-written by two members of Akron band Chi-Pig, which mines some of the same territory that inspired Jocko Homo:

The beginning was the end,
Of everything now.
The ape regards his tail,
He's stuck on it.
He repeats until he fails,
Half a goon and half a god.
A man's not made of steel.


Half a goon and half a god, what a succinct description of the human condition. Here's a live version of Gates of Steel:





The whole album is terrific, but I figured I'd post the highlights, for brevity's sake.

New Traditionalists was the follow-up to Freedom of Choice- for the album cover, the band traded in its ziggurat hats for plastic pompadours, which I always took to be a sendup of corporate icons Ronald Reagan and Big Boy.

Beautiful World, at first blush, seems uncharacteristically optimistic for a Devo song, but its true meaning becomes clear at the end of the song, and the video (which prominently features our old friend Booji Boy) makes the true intent explicit:





Through Being Cool was featured on the soundtrack of the Canadian cult cartoon classic Heavy Metal in a scene in which a prematurely silver dominatrix/avenging heroine encounters some nasty mutants in a nasty mutant bar (warning: clip contains some graphic cartoon violence towards the end):





The video for Love Without Anger was directed by Church of the Subgenius founder, the Reverend Ivan Stang, and prominently features a picture of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs:





Devo did a cover of Alan Toussaint's Working in a Coal Mine, which was released as a 7" single





My favorite track on the album is Jerkin' Back and Forth, another song which could be misinterpreted as a masturbatory reference, though it's really about a relationship gone wrong (which could lead to self-gratification, I suppose):





The next album, Oh No, It's Devo, is less satirical than their previous albums, and contains such synth-pop exemplars as That's Good:





and Peek-a-Boo:





These songs, while entertaining, lack the subversive punch of earlier material- they seem to be Kraftwerk parodies, not subversive takes on American society.

Around the same time, the band recorded a theme song for the largely forgotten movie Doctor Detroit:





It just hit me- Gerald Casale was involved in video production, and the video for Doctor Detroit is a small "snapshot" of his endeavors in this field. The videos for That's Good and Peek-a-Boo employed the bluescreen technique portrayed in the Doctor Detroit video.

The follow-up album Shout was not a successful release, its most memorable track was a mutated cover of Dzimi Hendriks' experimental Are You Experienced?. The video was directed by Ivan Stang:





I have to confess that Devo fell off my map after Are You Experienced, although they released albums Total Devo (featuring songs Some Things Never Change and Disco Dancer) and Smooth Noodle Maps (featuring Post Post Modern Man and a cover of Morning Dew by Bonnie Dobson.

Smooth Noodle Maps was the last studio album by Devo before they went on a six-year hiatus. The band reformed recently and has been touring, and put out an album in 2010. The band also produced a children's cover band Dev2.0 (of course, the darker elements of Devo's music have been stripped out) in conjunction with (eep!) Disney. My one major beef with the project (besides the Disney connection) is that the band members are too conventionally cute (they should have gotten some cute mutants, cutants, to play in the band). Still, if they warp some 4 to 8 year old minds, it's a worthwhile project:





I'll just finish off my Devo retrospective with a video of a single off the 2010 album:





A video of a recent performance of classic Mr DNA:





And, finally, the first part of a 1995 interview with Gerald V. Casale:





Quite an extensive body of work for a "one hit wonder", no?

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Devo Post, Part One

Alright, spuds, I figured I'd have to write a profile of Devo after embedding the video to Space Junk last week. While I love Whip It! as much as the next person, I am aware of all Devo traditions, and I love to spread the word.

The band Devo was formed on the campus of Kent State University in 1973, in the aftermath of the killing of four students by the Ohio National Guard. "Wonkette" featured a video interview with Devo co-founders Mark Mothersbaugh and Gerald V. Casale (their brothers were the other original members of the band), who, after witnessing the shootings, formulated a theory of de-evolution inspired by the barbarity of the massacre and a pseudoscientific book which promulgated the idea the modern humans had descendended from apes which had eaten the brains of other apes. The de-evolution band was also inspired by a creationist tract, Jocko Homo Heavenbound, which provided the basics of the "De-evolutionary Oath":

1. Be like your ancestors or be different. It doesn't matter.

2. Lay a million eggs or give birth to one.

3. Wear gaudy colors or avoid display. It's all the same.

4. The fittest shall survive, yet the unfit may live.

5. We Must Repeat.


Jocko Homo Heavenbound also provided the title for the early single Jocko Homo. The video for the single begins with a brief dialogue between the creepy mascot Booji Boy and his father General Boy (played by Mark Mothersbaugh's father), in which General Boy declares that "every man, woman and mutant on this planet shall know the truth about devolution":





The call-and-response "Are we not men? We are Devo!" was inspired by a scene in the filmIsland of Lost Souls, an adaptation of H.G. Wells' The Island of Doctor Moreau.

Another terrific early single is Mongoloid (the A-side to Jocko Homo. While the song title wouldn't be considered politically correct by today's standards, the song is ultimately sympathetic- And he wore a hat, and he had a job, and he brought home the bacon so that noone knew is a humane characterization of the capabilites of persons with developmental issues:





Devo's first album, produced by Brian Eno, was released in 1978. The album, besides featuring versions of Jocko Homo and Mongoloid featured a cover of the Rolling Stones'(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction (embedding disabled) which subverts the "rockstar bravado and manliness trip" of the original (The Residents did an even more outre cover of "Satisfaction" a few years earlier). At the time of the album release, the band's "iconography" included yellow commercial jumpsuits emblazoned with the band's name. With their uniform clothing and non-emotional delivery, some idiot writing for Rolling Stone branded the group "fascists". Talk about not getting the joke!

The rest of the album, while fantastic, is more conventional rock and/or roll music. Gut Feeling has a particularly fantastic introduction:





Uncontrollable Urge features a hilariously over-the-top vocal performance from Mark Mothersbaugh





Come Back Jonee subverts the heroic Johnny B. Goode rockstar hagiography:





The whole album is fantastic, a bizarre little send-up of RAWK GOD stylings, and a moribund culture. The second album, Duty Now for the Future, while having an excellent title (which would be a great political slogan), represents a bit of a sophomore slump. The album 's sound is more synthesizer-driven than the first album's sound.

The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprise is a send-up of those 1950's "girlfriend meeting with an accident" songs. The video is terrific, but the song doesn't quite measure up (in my estimation) to the standard of the first album:





Corporate Anthem was inspired by the movie Rollerball:





On this album, Devo took Johnny Rivers' Secret Agent Man out to the woodshed:





My personal favorite moment of the album is the portmanteau song Smart Patrol/Mr DNA. Isn't every guy, deep down in his heart of hearts, only a spud boy, looking for that real tomato?





I'm going to break here, I've covered quite a bit of ground, and I haven't even gotten to Whip It! The next post will be shorter, not having the introductory material of this post. I want to end this post by thanking everybody for giving me an excuse to watch a lot of Devo videos- damn, I love these guys!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

A Good Day, But Rough

Today we had one of our major fundraisers at work. After getting a whopping five hours of sleep, I got ready for a ten-and-a-half hour workday. Of course, this meant filling up a cooler with plenty of cold water, because I had to be outside for the duration of the event, and the weather was uncharacteristically muggy for late September (when I have a bad hair day, you know it's humid). I basically do whatever needs to be done, under the rubric of "event logistics"- I lugged stuff around before the event, ran around during the event, and dotted the i's and crossed the t's after the event. I have to confess, my eight-hour speed stick gave up about two hours into the day.

That being said, I had a great time- I spent some time with some co-workers I don't see very often, some vendors I enjoy working with, and a good deal of visitors I see a few times a year, and have come to like immensely. Yeah, I often joke that I'm not happy unless I'm getting my ass kicked, so I was on Cloud Nine all day. Now, I'm just about to lock up, having just entered my hours into the payroll system. I'm covered with a fine patina of salt, even though I drank a gallon of water throughout the day. I need a half-hour power shower when I get home.

It's a good dry-run for October, our major fundraising month, when I'll be working long, strange hours under hectic conditions. At least I won't be sweating like a habanero-chomping horse so late in the fall.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lecture on the "Old Put'"

Before heading to work today, I headed over to the Grinton I. Will library on Central Avenue in Yonkers to hear a talk on New York Central Railroad’s Putnam Division by author Joe Schiavone, who has written three books on the subject of the "Old Put".

The "Old Put" began operation in 1881, and various stretches of the line were in operation until 1980. The last passenger train on the Putnam Division ran in 1958, with freight trains regularly running until 1962. The highlight of the lecture was a series of films from the 1940s and 50s of trains running on the Putnam Line. Unfortunately, none of these films have made it to Youtube, but there are a couple of videos of Joe giving talks along the course of the railway.

The Putnam Division is now a beautiful bicycle path that stretches from Hastings-on-Hudson to Putnam County. I used to ride my bike from my home in Yonkers to my job in Tarrytown when the weather permitted- the southern portion of the path comprised about half of the eleven mile one-way trip to work. I could not imagine a lovelier commute.

A couple of times a year (haven't done it in a while), I'd fill up the 100 ounce Camelback, throw a couple of bananas and a bag of peanuts in the backpack ride, south to the Bronx border, then spend a day riding a round-trip along the entire length of Westchester County. One of the highlights of this ride was passing by the old Millwood Railroad Station, which (sadly) is scheduled to be demolished. The absolute highlight of the ride, however, was riding on the railroad bridge over the Croton Reservoir.

All told, the lecture was a good immersion into the past of an area I know extremely well. There are vestiges of the tracks near the paved bicycle path, and historic markers along its length, but seeing films of the railroad in the twilight of its glory was enlightening.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Relatives For Justice Event

Last night, I went to a event for Relatives for Justice, a nonsectarian Non-Governmental Agency that seeks the truth behind the killings of civilians in the conflict in Northern Ireland. The group is nonpartisan and nonsectarian- they are seeking justice for all the slain, be they Catholic or Protestant, whether the killers were affiliated with the IRA, UDA, UVF, RUC, or others. One major goal of the organization is the determination of the extent of official state involvement in the violence. According to the organization, the government of the UK has thrown up roadblocks in the search for information. A lack of transparency and accountability is something I decry in all governments, especially my own.

The event itself opened with a brief talk by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (some of the attendees assumed I was a member of her police bodyguard detail due to my demeanor), and was followed by a video presentation and a speech by Mark Thompson, the director of the organization. (Relatively) local musician Ted Leo gave a live performance at the event. The final speaker was the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who gave a brief talk in which he emphasized that the search for justice was of paramount importance. He referenced the execution of Troy Davis (which probably wouldn't have been out of place in a hellhole like Long Kesh), and mentioned the need for social and economic justice. He referenced Eastern Kentucky, one of the poorest regions in the U.S., represented by a congressman who pushes for tax breaks for billionaires. After the speeches, I did a little bit of networking.

Being a resident of Yonkers, I approached the organizers about doing an event in the Woodlawn vicinity. My homework after the event is to see if Rory Dolan's or The Rambling House could host a large event- it's a busy month coming up, but I figure putting my ear to the ground and passing along info won't be too arduous, especially if it means stopping in for a couple of pints.

I have my work cut out for me- I have to earn my free Tullamore Dew, and do my part for the fact-finding campaign that has to take place before true justice and reconciliation can take place. I'm going to close out by saying that Ted Leo is a good guy, and post a video for the song he opened his set with, Bleeding Powers:





As an aside, I took the liberty of passing along to Mr Leo something that Truculent and Unreliable wrote about him:

You know those rare people who make you want to be a better person? Ted Leo is one of them, and I’ve always wanted to thank him for that.

T&U, Ted told me that that had to be the single nicest compliment he's ever received. I hope this doesn't embarrass you.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Space Junk

Put on your crash helmets, people, because a satellite will be crashing to Earth in the next couple of days. The last re-entry that received such coverage was Skylab's return to the Motherworld. With this Hail of Metal falling from the sky, the most appropriate song to post is Devo's Space Junk, from their incredible first album:





Link lifted from Tintin's Finn Finn's blog.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Uncharacteristic Bleg

Hidely hodely, dear readers! I don't typically bleg, but I'll make an exception for the Secret Science Club. Check out the Kickstarter page, and think about throwing a couple of bucks their way to ensure that the free lectures will continue (the S.S.C. keeps me off the streets, and where I belong- at the bar!). There are only five days left for the fundraiser. Back when I worked in a big office with 100 or so of my closest friends, I'd ask people to back me in an MS Bike-a-thon. I'd ask everybody for two dollars (the proper amount for a kid on a bike to request), reasoning that I'd rather have a hundred people give me two bucks each than to have two people give me a hundred.

Oh, and check out the awesome picture of the Hamletbot3000 by talented illustrator and all-around good guy Aaron Lampell. It's a hilarious concept, brilliantly executed. It goes without saying that anybody in the New York metro area should check out the lectures- you get to experience what college would be like if the lecture halls had fully stocked bars. What's not to like about that?

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Fundraiser, Avec Musique

Tonight, Secret Science Club goddess Dorian Devins (one of a pantheon of two) will be performing with her cosmic jazz combo at Tagine Moroccan restaurant. The performance will be in conjunction with the SSC Kickstarter Campaign. There's a rumor that some bastard will take the stage to perform a couple of numbers with Ms. Devins. Of course, he'd better get some rest first, having been on graveyards for the past couple of days.

Any readers in the NY Metro area, please stop by Tagine Dining Gallery. Unfortunately, a certain Canuckistani celebrity won't be there, as he is working on a concept album.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hopefully, the Start of a Tradition

Today marks the first (of many, I hope) McLean Avenue Fall Festival. McLean Avenue runs along the Yonkers/Bronx border, and forms (along with Katonah Avenue in the Bronx) the main commercial drag of Woodlawn, a Bronx neighborhood that has "spilled over" to Southeast Yonkers. The two roads are, to put it waggishly, the "tavern district"- I live within reasonable walking distance of a dozen pubs. An old friend of mine from high school, a third generation local business owner (and the most solid of solid guys- still married to his high school sweetheart, employs a lot of neighborhood high-school and college kids), is one of the organizers of the event.





The City of Y______ is closing down McLean Avenue, and there will be two stages for live bands. A couple of local radio stations (including my favorite local commercial station) will be broadcasting. Heineken, which has its U.S. headquarters in nearby White Plains, NY, is a corporate sponsor (it's not my beer of choice by a long shot, but if some nubile lass dressed as a little Dutch girl wants to give me free Heiney's for promotional considerations, I won't say no).

I've worked a graveyard shift, but you can bet your sweet bippie that I'll be at the festival, even if I have to nap on a bench. I figure I'll iron my ears for a bit before hitting the festival, have a couple of beers, sample some of the culinary delights offered by the local eateries, shake my ass a bit, then get my sleep on before working the graveyard again. I want to see this event succeed, because I love, love, love being able to have a beer in the great outdoors when the sun is bright in the sky.

UPDATE: The street festival was a great success. The beer was flowing, the bands delivered the goods, and the local merchants were out in force. The local liquor store was giving out free samples of Jameson's whisky. The local restaurants were in high gear- I sampled some pork chicharrones and a pastellito from a new Dominican restaurant, and had a Scotch egg from the local butcher shop. What's not to like? My old friend who was involved in the organization of the event mentioned that this was "halfway to St Patrick's Day" and there was an effort to move the parade from the road by city hall to the main commercial strip in the "tavern district". Hopefully, this movement will have "legs", there are no pubs near the route of the official St Patrick's Day parade, so the attendees have to drive across town to socialize afterwards. It makes sense to move the parade (of course I'd say that- I live a five minute walk from the Avenue). Here's the unofficial theme song of the neighborhood:


Supplement to the Last Post

I just have to add a few addenda to my last post, on the lecture recap. Yes, there are worrisome trends regarding the health of marine life (to tell the truth, I actually rushed that post due to laptop battery issues). The main threat to marine life is extraction, as Dr. Ausubel put it (can't believe I left this quote out), "Marine life is too delicious for its own good." While he indicated that the fisheries workers with whom he worked were, in general, interested in sustainability (the long-term survival of their industry depends on it), there are, as fish (and Dr Ausubel) noted bad actors. The next big problem facing marine life is pollution- one horrifying slide Dr Ausubel showed featured a plethora of plastic pieces taken from the stomach of a dead petrel.

Dr Ausubel suggested that we refer to comestible marine life as sealife, rather than seafood, in an awareness campaign. In a discussion of aquaculture, he mentioned that many prized food fishes are carnivorous, and raising such fish as salmon involves feeding them other fish. If such fish could be tricked into eating vegetable matter, farming them would be more sustainable. Certain fish, such as tilapia and catfish, are vegetarians, so they are more sustainably farmed.

While there is some cause for pessimism, the Census of Marine Life is a real awareness-raiser. The lecture began on a light note, with music inspired by the project, and ended on an optimistic note, with a video clip of humpback whales from the movie Oceans (N.B. the English version has gotten the "Disney" treatment, the French and German versions are more rigorous):





It's hard to be optimistic these days, but let's hope that the young folks will learn from their forebears' mistakes and work to reverse the damage that's been done.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Post Lecture Recap

Last night's Secret Science Club lecture, by Dr Jesse Ausubel director of the Rockefeller University Program for the Human Environment and vice president of programs at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation (who has a crustacean named in his honor!) gave a fascinating talk on the Census of Marine Life, the first results of which were published in October of 2010. The Census of Marine life was a global endeavor which can be summed up as:


A DECADE OF DISCOVERY
2,700 scientists
80+ nations
540 expeditions
US$ 650 million
2,600+ scientific publications
6,000+ potential new species
30 million distribution records and counting


Various techniques and techonologies were employed in the census- in shallow temperate waters, simple metal frames could be used to delineate a particular "piece" of ocean, in which the ocean inhabitants could be counted, colder and deeper waters necessitated more sophisticated approaches. Submersibles were used in deeper waters, airplane mounted lasers penetrated the upper reaches of the ocean, far-ranging top predators were tagged with "satellite enabled" devices (oddly enough, sharks with frickin' laser beams were not used in the course of the census.

Southern elephant seals were one of the top predators fitted with the "satellite enabled" devices, they were found to range from the northernmost reaches of Antarctica to South America, diving to depths of 2100 meters. Leatherback turtles were found to range throughout the Pacific in a ring-shaped path. A particular northern bluefin tuna ranged from L.A. to Tokyo in the course of 600 days. Great white sharks, while great travelers, exhibit philopatry, they usually return to the same areas they have frequented before. The migratory paths followed by these far-ranging predators can be likened to blue highways.

While diversity of marine life tends to be higher in the tropics, the overall biomass tends to be greater in colder waters, with much of the biomass composed of huge "mats" formed by microbes. One of the greatest areas of biodiversity ranges from the coast of Southeast Asia to the northern coast of Australia, encompassing the waters around Indonesia and the Philippines. Dr Ausubel likened it to a "Golden Triangle", one more felicitous than the other "Golden Triangle" of Southeast Asia.

Of course, the highlight of the lecture was the variety of amazing images Dr. Ausubel presented, slides of jewel-like copepods, and colorful squat lobsters, including the now-iconic yeti crab. In a comment to my last post, Laura requested:

Try to steal the "hairy-clawed Yeti crab" for me-wouldcha.

No such luck, but the New York Aquarium apparently sells stuffed versions (not pictured on their website), and there is a pattern for do-it-yourselfers (PDF warning). I also found a recipe for a yeti crab dessert.

We were also introduced to Escarpia laminata, a tube worm (impinging on Riddled territory here), some specimens of which are thought to be almost 500 years old.

While the Census of Marine Life was the first of its kind, means were suggested for estimating former populations of marine life, including examinations of Roman mosaics, cod fishery records, and whaling records. Many of the most prized fish species are long-lived predators, and overfishing has resulted in declining sizes. If such fishing trends continue, then only really small fish will survive. Smaller fish fare better- Dr Ausubel showed an image of a school of herring of the coast of Maine comprised of an estimated 250 million fish, a school of fish the size of Manhattan.

Another feature of the Census project was the collection of DNA from various fish species. In an amusing side note, a pair of high school students brought samples of sushi into a lab for DNA tests and revealed that cheaper fish are often substituted for more expensive fish in a fishy fraud.

In the Q&A, some bastard asked if there had been any "pushback" on the part of the commercial fishing industry. Dr Ausubel indicated that, while there are certainly bad players, the majority of commercial fishers were cooperative, seeing that sound policies are the key to long-term survival. Another individual asked about the BP oil spill in the gulf, and, while the long-term implications of the spill are unkown, the majority of the "cleanup" was due to bacterial action. The microbes have done a better job than the bipedal primates. After the lecture, I chatted with Dr Ausubel (a genuinely nice guy) about certain possibilities, such as explosions of squid populations due to overfishing of piscine predators, and the exploding jellyfish populations due to the decline of such predators as leatherback turtles.

The lecture, the fifth anniversary lecture, in fact (the first ever SSC lecture was also by a marine biologist), was amazing, and the visual presentation knocked it out of the park, so to speak.

Note: Damn, how could I have forgotten the carnivorous sponges? Seems that some sponges eat crustaceans, not just brain cells. Also, and more importantly, do check out the gorgeous Census of Marine Life website (linked above), what a glorious way to spend some online time.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

No Desire to Own a T.V.

Sheesh, nights like last night make me glad I don't have one of them thar telepicture machines. Just watching the cringe worthy introduction makes me want to smack the entire CNN organization right in the labanza. Sheesh, what a revolting development! Kossack Jed Lewison was liveblogging the debate, poor guy. He offers up a list of the monikers:


5:03 PM PT: Rick Perry is "The Newcomer." Jon Hunstman is "The Diplomat." Michele Bachmann is "The Firebrand." Herman Cain is "The Businessman." Rick Santorum is "The Fighter." Newt Gingrich is "The Businessman." I missed Mitt Romney's nickname. Here comes Wolf Blitzer. "The moderator."

5:05 PM PT: Romney's nickname was "The Early Frontrunner." Wolf Blitzer is announcing this with the enthusiasm of Jeff Probpst. It's like watching the live Survivor results show. Survivor: Contender.



I have my own nicknames for these eight troglodytes, and would love to see yours:

Rick Perry is the Corndog Fellator. Alternate: Rick Perry is the bloodthirsty Texas tyrant who's got great hair.

John Huntsman is the Quisling Servant of the Kenyan Usurper. Alternate: John Huntsman is the other Mormon, who doesn't have Reagan Hair.

Michele Bachmann is the Crazyeyes. Alternate: Michele Bachmann is the crazy cat lady who's got no cats.

Herman Cain is the token. Alternate: Herman Cain is plausible deniability for the racism allegations.

Rick Santorum is the Frothy Mixture. Alternate: Rick Santorum is the guy you need to hide your dogs from.

Newt Gingrich is the Serial Adulterer. Alternate: Newt Gingrich is the disgraced former speaker who spends his campaign war chest on stuff at Tiffany's.

Mitt Romney is the Romneybot 2000. Alternate: Mitt is the guy with good hair, but not that guy with the good hair.


Heh, Mitt:

Looks the part, he's got great hair,
An empty suit, there's no there there.


If I had had a television set, I probably would have chucked a bottle through the screen while that nonsense was playing. Christ, CNN has a more deleterious effect on cognitive development than Spongebob.

I'm going to be running errands tomorrow before heading down to Brooklyn for some drinking and learning (gotta replenish the brain cells killed by CNN). Please, post your alternate nicknames for the candidates, so I can laugh myself into a stupor come Thursday.

Also, anybody in the New York metro area should come to the lecture tomorrow night- it promises to be a really good one, and one that is accessible even to people who aren't that interested in science (shame!).

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years Gone...

The time signature on this post is going to be wonky- I started writing it last night.

It's unusual that I suffer from a spell of writer's block, but this is one of those occasions in which words fail. Jenn of Ark, Vacuumslayer, and Johnny Pez all have good pieces up, and Paul Krugman's piece really hits home.

I wrote a draft with a recap of what I did on the day of the attacks, but wasn't satisfied with it. I'm just going to throw out a few impressions of the attacks and the aftermath.

The one thing that really hit home for me was that many of the victims were in my age cohort, and a lot of them were just starting families of their own. I could not get past thinking of all of the orphans, many of them posthumous births, resulting from the attacks. The guy I knew who perished in the towers, the brother of a young lady I knew from my Saturday morning volunteer gig, was 28, and the world was his oyster- he was doing well in his career, he was part owner (along with his brother) of a popular bar, he was a terrific athlete, an all-around great guy. The thought of him dying could not have been further from my mind, the sight of his lovely, gracious sister's face contorted by grief still hits me from time to time. He shouldn't be dead, he should be hanging out with the rest of us on a Saturday morning, shooting the breeze with the other coaches before the kids' classes begin, maybe even bringing his kids with him. The guy I knew who perished from cancer a few years after the attacks was a kid I'd coached, whose entire family I knew. A clean-living nationally ranked fencer, he died of lung cancer, the result of his being trapped under a van while a cloud of toxic debris swirled around the vicinity. He died shortly after the birth of his child, and a bunch of attendees at the memorial service made his brothers promise to bring their niece to us on Saturday mornings, in order to keep up the tradition. Both of these guys went about their business on what should have been a routine weekday. They were conscientious guys, professionals who were just starting to get established.

I know the father of another victim, a firefighter who died in the collapse of the buildings. The son was one of those people who you loved to hear stories about- he was an adventurer, a guy who'd done a stint in the armed services, had traveled extensively, then joined the FDNY because he craved a life of action. I see his father every year at the big NY Open Judo tournament, and he's lost his spark, there's a void in his life that will never be rectified.

Another friend of long standing, a gruff guy from Queens (now living in Jersey) who was a boxing coach for the program I coach judo for, got all of his co-workers out of the buildings. Although the occupants of the buildings were told to stay put, he wasn't having any of that. He told everybody in the office to leave, then he went to both men's and women's bathrooms, yelling, "Get the hell out of the building, don't bother to flush, don't even bother to wipe your ass!" That's the kind of guy he is, no-nonsense, typical Noo Yawk attitude. All of his people got out alive, but he'll never be the same- he doesn't even travel into Manhattan these days.

The days after the attacks were characterized by the numbness of residual shock- at work, our office took in displaced workers from our office in lower Manhattan. I worked in an office that handled Workers' Compensation claims, and many of our claims were death claims. At night, there were memorial services. There were long lines at local blood banks when we all thought that there would be more wounded victims of the attacks. In the evenings, there were memorial services. I went to downtown Manhattan in early October to visit a friend, and there was a three-story high mound of smoking rubble dominating the streetscape, and many of the streets were closed.

In the aftermath of the attacks, there were certain developments that gave me misgivings, attacks of innocent people in places like Arizona, the weird way that Iraq was injected into the public discourse, even the use of the word "homeland". We all know how that all turned out.

Ten years later, talking with tourists who want to tour "Ground Zero", I have to wonder what the fascination is. I know that some people want to use the attacks as a cudgel with which to browbeat anyone who dissents from their view of society. Even well-meaning people have this creepy fascination with the narrative- while in Maine with family this summer, a very nice woman and her daughter, upon hearing that we were from New York, asked if we had visited Ground Zero. My uncle sighed, shook his head, and said, "I've been to twenty-six funerals, why would I want to visit the place my friends were killed?"

Ten years later, the attacks still resonate with many people. I didn't watch any of the coverage of the memorial, but I'll probably trek down to the memorial park sometime in the near future. For me, though, the memories will come periodically, I'll see friends who lost their brother or their son, I'll see the widow and child of a friend. No need to watch the public memorials, the dead are best remembered by serving the living.

Sorry if I've rambled, this hasn't been the easiest post to write.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Man on Dog, Indeed!

Yikes, breaking news item from the T.M.I. wire services. "Hasn't got a hope in Hell" GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum has a tale to tell from his early days of politicking, a story about a man and a dog. For the sake of brevity, I'll cut to the punchline of the story:


The lady comes back she hands me the water. I’m patting the dog. And taking a drink. The next thing I know I have this warm sensation. And I immediately jump up and there on my tan pants, is a wet spot where you do not want a wet spot.


Note that, at no time does Rick mention that the dog peed on him. Yeah, a normal person would assume that the dog peed on him, as Rick no doubt intended. Unfortunately, Rick's secret is out- the reason he stands by his "man on dog" comment is that he bears the terrible burden of cynosexual arousal, and the crushing despair of thwarted cynoerotic consummation.

Is it "man on dog" when the dog is on top?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Heartland Bloodlust

I didn't watch last night's GOP debate, but I have heard selected lowlights. One of the most mind-boggling moments was the sustained applause and whooping when Perry discussed his record of executions. Even if you're not against the death penalty, is it really something to applaud? Hell, have some dignity, you ghouls- taking a human life, even if you feel it's justified, should be a gut-wrenching decision, should cause the executive (even more than the executioner) to lose sleep. This is especially true in the case of Cameron Todd Willingham who was convicted of killing his daughters and setting fire to his house- after he was executed, experts have determined that the fire was likely accidental. I'm opposed to the death penalty because a wrongfully executed person can't be unkilled. Even if I could intellectually justify the death penalty, I sure as hell wouldn't be gleeful at the prospect of even a heinous criminal being killed.

Perry's predecessor, infamously, was reported to have mocked a woman he sent to the death chamber. Perry seems to share that bloodlust, along with his constituents- one primary voter is reported as having said "It takes balls to execute an innocent man." I can't speak for Texans, but that sure isn't the New York definition of "balls" by a long shot.

It just hit me, the right-wingers think that pro-choice voters feel about abortion the same way they feel about executions. Uh, wingnut bastard, just because you love the death penalty doesn't mean that even the staunchest abortion-rights activist thinks that choosing an abortion is anything other than a gut-wrenching dilemma.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Debutante at the Freak Show

So tonight marks the debate debut of Rick "Corndog Fellator" Perry. I imagine he'll fluff up his national security credentials by discussing his return to Texas during their wildfire crisis, even though he slashed funding for local fire departments (mostly volunteer forces). Of course, patently false narratives about GOP handling of crises never seem to be questioned by the media. Hell, Rudy Giuliani made a lucrative career out of fluffing his security credentials even though his poor, unethical decisions about locating his disaster response command post in a region known to be a target and not updating FDNY radios placed first responders in danger. Yeah, conservatives fuck up security and disaster response, then swagger about claiming to be heroes.

I expect Perry will show up at the debate, pimping a mendacious narrative about his effectiveness in responding to the disasters affecting his state, and the media won't question the narrative. Hell, the dude looks like he could have played an effective governor in a movie, so why sully that image?

Hopefully, the candidates in the freak show will form a circular firing squad. Bachmann's got nothing to lose by sandbagging Perry, and Romney absolutely has to do it (although Perry will probably sit back and have Bachmann excoriate Romney for him- no need for Perry to appear petty). I don't know if I have the intestinal fortitude to listen to the freak show on the radi-adi-o tonight, or if I will just check out the recaps tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Idtellectuals

Characterizing right-wing pundits as intellectuals is inaccurate and overly generous. Such media figures as Michelle Malkin, Pamela Gellar and Savage Weiner (to name but three), operate strictly on an emotional level- rage and fear are all they have. In lieu of rational discourse, right-wingers appeal to the id of their followers. Right-wing commentary is idtellectualism- forget a rational, empirical approach to dealing with the outside world, and embrace resentment, terror, anger. There are no dissenters, just enemies, there is no room for nuance, ambiguity. Higher cognitive functions are dangerous, just channel your base emotions and let fly. Id id id id id! That's all they've got. Thankfully, they don't have any Krell technology to give their ids material form:


Monday, September 5, 2011

So, You Do Your Best to Undermine Me, And You're Shocked That I Spurned You?

There's no butthurt like GOP butthurt- after a concerted effort on the part of Republican lawmakers to get rid of collective bargaining by unionized public employees, Wisconsin Republicans are upset that unions are banning them from Labor Day parades. In response to this rejection, congresscritter Sean "Struggling on $174,000/year (on the public dime)" Duffy had a nice little whining statement:


"Having walked in this parade in past years, Congressman Duffy was hoping that for a moment, we could set our differences aside and simply have some fun in a family-friendly event."


Yeah, just for a moment, forget that I've spent a good deal of effort trying to pauperize you. Damn, what a shitbag- he wants to be seen in a parade, because Americans seem to enjoy them, he wants to participate in Labor Day events because everybody likes a day off, especially in the summer. Shit, laddie, you want to enjoy the perks of the office without answering to your constituents for your awful policies. Next time you hear a conservative talk about "Personal Responsibility", feel free to hit them with a shoe. These lackwits always seem to want a free ride.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Labor Day Synergy

Here's a two-fer for Labor Day weekend, which is marked by celebration of the value of work and those who perform it, and is characterized in NYC by a parade and festival in Brooklyn celebrating West Indian culture. The Jamaican poet and activist Mutabaruka wrote the song H2 Worka to publicize the situation of H2 Visa holders employed as itinerant agricultural laborers in Florida (a subject covered by the H2 Worker: Jamaican Migrants in America, for which Mutabaruka provided the music):





Of course, much of the agricultural labor performed in the U.S. is performed by migrant immigrant workers, most of whom aren't making $50/hour.

Happy Labor Day, dear readers!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Neo-Pagan Heavy Folk

Man, I've been at this blogging thing a year and three-quarters and I've only mentioned Hedningarna in three posts. I'm not much given to absolutist statements, but one that I will make is that Hedningarna's Tra is the best album released in the nineties (Nirvana and Oasis fans, please send me your home addresses, so I can personally administer beatings to you if you disagree). The beauty of Tra is that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts- as great as the individual songs are, listening to the entire album (from haunting opener Täss'on Nainen to sweet closer Tina Vieri, with such tracks as the rage-flecked howl of Min Skog and the joik-inspired Tuuli along the way) packs a punch that the individual songs just can't match.

Here are some videos of Hedningarna performing live on Spanish television while at the height of their powers, when the band was fronted by two unearthly Finnish vocalists. I'm going to post all four parts, and you'd best watch them all, if'n you know what's good for you. Turn the speakers up to eleven, my dears! Part one features the songs Vettoi and Joupolle. Check out the groovy instruments, including a small bagpipe and a bizarre hurdy-gurdy type thing:





Part two of the performance comprises one song, Suet Ulvoo- check out that weird fiddly thing featured in this performance, have you ever seen the like? It looks like something Dr Suess would have cooked up:





Part three opens with Ukkonen, a "spell" to raise thunder (Ukko being the Finnish equivalent of Zeus), and continues with Pornopolka (don't drive while listening to this song- it "enheavies" the foot), a different sort of "spell" entirely:





The performance closes with the song Gorrlaus, a sultry number which, ostensibly, is about a nighttime horse-ride:





So, you watched the videos, now go out and purchase Tra- if there's one album which has the BBBB Top Quality Guarantee, this is it. I'm going to close this post with a shout out to my great and good friend J-Co, who first heard Hedningarna when he purchased a sampler CD from Northside Records which had a large sticker on the front reading "CHEAPER THAN FOOD". The sampler CD included the track Räven on it, which inspired J-Co to buy the album. Within six months, everybody in our circle of friends had purchased it as well.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Seems to Me, He's Not One to Talk About It

America's favorite deadbeat dad, Illinois congressman Joe "Fiscal Responsibility for Thee Not Me" Walsh, is skipping out on President Obama's upcoming jobs speech. We can now add shirker of duties to his list of achievements, as well as deadbeat dad, and deadbeat homeowner. Of course, it would be a huge mistake to confuse Joe "Deadbeat Teabagger" Walsh with geetar player and rawk icon Joe Walsh. Of course, it would be nice if the bad Joe Walsh would just walk away:


Skating through life, won't pay his wife
Won't even pay off his mortgage
Self-righteous twit, arrogant shit.
You do the same, he'll take umbrage.

Seems to me, he's not one to talk about it.
Seems to me, he should shut his fucking trap and go away.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Soundtrack for a Redemption Narrative

I've got a tiny bit of writer's block, so I'll just pad out a comment I left at the mother ship a while back. In the mid-part of the naughts, a pair of flaxen-haired poppets captured the hearts of White Nationalists everywhere with their White Power anthems. The Olsen Twins of hate received quite a bit of media attention with their schtick. Recently, the gals of "Prussian Blue" have renounced their racist past, although their grasp of history leaves something to be desired. Well, recovery is a process, and the girls made the first step in their transformation. The onset of their transformation was initiated, appropriately enough, through the redemptive power of music:


But after enrolling in public school and moving to Montana — a predominantly white state, albeit one with a decidedly hippie-ish vibe — Lamb and Lynx decided they simply no longer believed what they’d been taught.

Their transformation first became evident to Prussian Blue’s fans during the band’s 2006 European tour, a double bill with the Swedish white-power warbler Saga. Along with their familiar repertoire of Skrewdriver covers, racist folktunes glorifying Rudolf Hess and other Aryan “heroes,” and perky bubble-gum ballads about boys and middle school, the girls threw the audience a curve ball — a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.”

“Mama, put my guns in the ground,” they sang to a smattering of boos from the crowd of Scandinavian skinheads and other far-right music aficionados. “I can’t use them anymore.”

They knew it was an unorthodox choice. “Oh, our mom warned us,” Lamb recalled. “She said, ‘You know, some people aren’t going to like this — Bob Dylan was a Jew.’”



Saved by Dylan, and not even "born again" Christian Dylan- who'd a thunk it? Well, here's my snarky take on Dylan's classic, reconfigured for the former poster children for hateful child-rearing:


Mama never did like the Jews,
Never told us 'bout the "Zim"
Played no records by,
That groovy, jewy guy.
So we never heard of him.

Na-na-nazi moms are a bore.
Na-na-nazi moms are a bore.
Na-na-nazi moms are a bore.
Na-na-nazi moms are a bore.

Mama never liked the blacks,
Never told us 'bout the 'drix.
Played no records by,
That guitar-shredding guy.
So we never heard his licks.

Na-na-nazi moms are a bore.
Na-na-nazi moms are a bore.
Na-na-nazi moms are a bore.
Na-na-nazi moms are a bore.



Yeah, chalk one up for the redemptive power of music. Me? I believe in the redemptive power of snark.