Saturday, June 30, 2012

Fryin' and Cryin', Tryin' to Keep from Dyin'

It's going to be a scorcher today, and this is the first day of our big summer fundraiser, so I will be working outside all the doo-dah day. As usual, I will make sure the hundred-ounce Camelbak is filled before I begin the day. To compound matters, I'll be working the overnight shift once the event ends, so I've brewed a pot of iced tea which I then bottled and threw into the freezer. I'll have the luxury of sleeping away the heat of the day tomorrow, and I've already made a ton of hummus, tahini pureed with fish (canned mackerel), and tahini with yogurt, so I won't have to cook for days. Even though, unfortunately, it's not too hot to work, it's too hot to cook. Hell, it's just plain too hot:

Friday, June 29, 2012

De Facto Mandates and the Illusion of Freedom

One of the most common tropes coming from critics of "Obama Care" is "The government has never required people to buy any good or service." The reality of life in these here United States is that there are de facto mandates which are imposed by the actions of the U.S. government and the priorities of the legislature.

One of today's big political stories is the passing of a transportation bill before Congress scarpers off for their Independence Day vacation. Of course, the original GOP House bill would have severely cut funding for mass transit. Of course, public transportation is abysmal in most of the U.S., therefore there is a de facto mandate to purchase an automobile if one wants to travel to work, or to conduct necessary errands.

Public transportation is often decried as being injurious to freedom, because, frankly, people are dumbasses. Having a public transportation option increases one's transportation choices- there is nothing so freeing as being able to leave the most expensive consumer good one owns at home, and not having to worry about traffic, parking, and the like. Of course, a public health insurance option would also result in a net gain in "freedom", because it would give Joe Schmo greater independence from the whims of his employer.

Conservatives and Libertarians have a twisted view of "freedom"- they believe that freedom can only be curtailed by government, while some of the greatest threats to individual liberty are now coming from corporations. It boils down to the asshole axiom "socialism is bad, while neo-feudalism is A-OK." Owning a car offers the illusion of freedom- one can travel on one's own terms, but is saddled with gasoline and insurance purchases. Having workplace insurance coverage, with no public option, ties one to the whims of an employer and removes a bargaining chip from the workers (and makes possible the spectre of fundamentalist lunatic employers seriously curtailing their employees' freedom of self-determination).

Contrary to GOP and Libertarian whining, the federal government has been the greatest guarantor of freedom for average Americans. One merely has to look back on the Civil Rights struggles of the mid-twentieth century to realize that state governments and corporations cannot be trusted as stewards of liberty.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Schadenfreude is Insufficient

I've been enjoying some delicious schadenfreude because the Supreme Court upheld "Obamacare". It's been fun to see many conservatives turn against Chief Justice Roberts while others cook up zany conspiracy theories to explain his fall from grace. It's been a fun day, indeedily doodily, but then the schadenfreude wears off and the realization the the "Affordable Care Act" is a giveaway to the health insurance industry that was cooked up by the right-wing Heritage Foundation. It is a conservative think tank proposed "market based" program now painted as a Stalinist plot, much like "Cap and Trade emissions swapping. The conservatives who now decry "Obamacare" as socialism only hate it because it was put into place on a national level by a blackity-black-black Kenyan Marislamofascist Usurper.

As much as I've been reveling in the howls of outrage from the 'baggers, I realize that "Obamacare" is a deeply flawed proposal. Part of me wishes that the Supreme Court struck it down, and inspired (a guy can dream) President Obama to use an executive order to remove the age restrictions for Medicare. That part of me also wishes that I had a beer fountain and a stripper volcano. Can't a bastard dream, even after the schadenfreude high leaves a hangover?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Too Lazy to Research, Too Ethical to Fake It

Today and tomorrow are uncharacteristic... I finish work today at 8:30AM and don't have to be at work tomorrow until 4:30PM. It's kinda weird to be working two consecutive days with a thirty-two hour period between shifts. Our major summer fundraiser begins on Saturday, and I'm scheduled to work the event, then stick around for the graveyard shift (I think I'm going to have to bring this nuttiness up to the supervisor). The first weekend of the fundraiser shouldn't be too crazy, but next weekend will probably be hectic.

I have to confess, I should have been writing my geeky purslane post throughout the wee hours of the morning, but I've been a bit discombobulated because I had to trek to another job site at 2AM to handle a problem that, though small, could not be ignored. I should have been researching photosynthetic pathways and summarizing them, but I just couldn't be arsed doing it. Not today. It's a pity that I don't feel comfortable pulling stuff out of my ass. Damn, I'll never get any government grants at this rate. I promise that I'll put up a geeky purslane post in the next week or so. Like most of my purslane-related writings, this one will be inspired by a comment from Jennifer:

OT- the 4+ days of 90+ degree weather has brought on the purslane!

UNRELATED POSTSCRIPT: Vacuumslayer's blog hates me- I have been having problems posting comments there, so I'm posting my comment on her latest post here:

GRRRRR... YOUR BLOG HATES ME!!! Let me try this again:

“Masturbatory navel-gazing crap” seems more than a little hyperbolic to me. There’s navel-gazing, sure. I’m not sure where the masturbation comes in.

I think it involves a belly-button fetish.

I have no idea what a “faux hipster” is.

Hipsters are faux Bohemians (fauxhemians), ergo, faux hipsters are real Bohemians. It's AXIOMATIC!

I think he got huffy because you characterized his critique as "stupid". Some people are thin-skinned.

If you're not reading her blog, read it now. It's a heaping helping of awesome, smothered in awesome sauce. Hopefully you will have the luxury of being able to post a hilarious comment there. GRRRR!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Primary Day

The biggest primary race in NY has got to be Charlie Rangel's attempt to hold onto the congressional seat he's held for twenty-one terms. Personally, I've always liked Rangel, but I've been appalled at his recent ethical lapses. As much as it pains me to say it, I'd have to throw my support behind Adriano Espaillat, a Dominican-American state senator running in a heavily Dominican district (I think he'd represent his constituents well). I think Rangel will survive though, with turnout projected to be low. As I said before, I like Rangel, flaws and all, so I won't be upset if he wins, and he'll have a certain amount of congressional seniority, even though he will be used as a scapegoat for Republican politicians hoping to make points about the "bipartisan" nature of poor Congressional ethics.

In the newly formed 7th Congressional District, I'd have to say that I think Nydia Velasquez has been doing a fine job, and I hope she wins reelection. There's some scuttlebutt about her primary opponents being proxies in a conflict with Brooklyn Democratic party boss Vito Lopez, but I don't know enough about Brooklyn politics to comment with any authority... I primarily view Brooklyn as a place where a bastard can drink and learn.

Closer to home, the race to watch is the primary to find a challenger to useless teabagger Nan Hayworth, who inexplicably beat John Hall in 2010. I have no real familiarity with the candidates, but any one of them is better that Nan.

That's the rundown, since I've bored you all with this post about local issues, I figure I owe a consolation prize on this primary day, so here's an appropriate video:

Monday, June 25, 2012

Nuns on a Bus vs. Bishops Being Pricks

This morning, Mark Riley of WWRL interviewed one of the "Nuns on a Bus" who are traveling around the U.S. to protest the Paul Ryan budget. It's a relief to hear Roman Catholic "religious" discussing social justice in the tradition of the Catholic Worker Movement. Of course, there are some stories which evince some confusion regarding what the nuns are doing:

The idea of socially liberal nuns doesn’t just sound like a contradiction — it is. We don’t often associate social progressivism with the Catholic Church. In fact, the Church has become a de facto leader of the pro-life movement, anti-gay marriage amendments and other socially conservative policies. So it is indeed surprising that a large number of American nuns have embraced socially liberal policy in the name of social justice. Sisters involved with Networkparticularly support high government spending for programs that benefit the poor. Their road trip across the nation is aimed at informing Americans on the importance of government spending for social welfare programs.

There has always been a liberal thread in American Catholicism, from the aforementioned Catholic Worker Movement to the anti-war and anti-racism Berrigan Brothers. The fact of the matter is that the all-male church hierarchy has taken a huge lurch to the right since the reforms of the Second Vatican Council. In fact, the Vatican has accused the largest group of American nuns of "radical feminism", criticizing the nuns for being preoccupied with matters of social justice, rather than social conservatism. Shit, social conservatism has been pounded into the faithful (who largely ignore the message) every Sunday by the male clergy, while the nuns have been in the trenches, helping the poor, the sick, and the desperate. Somebody has to provide some balance to the bishops, and as is typical, it's up to the women to actually get the work done. At the rate things are going, the American Conference of Bishops will soon be a small subset of the Republican Party- so much for being catholic...

I hope the nuns can reclaim the progressive mantle for those fair-minded Catholics who aren't willing to march in lockstep with the Conference of Bishops and the Holy See. Most Roman Catholics have interacted more with nuns than they have with bishops (insert joke here, dirty-minded readers), and I'd wager that they are more sympathetic to the nuns' message than the hierarchy's. I don't see a big pushback against the nuns working out well for the bishops.

I also want to say that I'm happy that the news coverage of NYC's "Pride Day" yesterday was thankfully free of interviews with the Cardinal. Last year, he was interviewed by the "all news, except when the Yankees are playing" station, which would not have interviewed Mel Gibson to provide "balance" in coverage of the Israeli Day parade. Sheesh, the Church Fathers really have to stop worrying about what consenting adults do with their genitals, while worrying what adults do with their genitals to non-consenting parties.

I'll take the "Nuns on a Bus" over "Bishops being Pricks" any day.

UPDATE: Christ wept... here's an Iowa congressman laughing at a joke about beating up nuns.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

It's a Beautiful Planet

It's a bug planet! Summer's a funny season... in the first three days, we've had temps pushing one hundred degrees Fahrenheit (about 38 Celsius) and a torrential pop-up thunderstorm (of course, it occurred while I was driving to work). To make the situation even more cheery, the Aedes albopictus mosquito has finally reached the New York metro area. Yeah, summer!

Of course, there's the upside- I have been enjoying nature's bounty lately- the mulberries have been plentiful, and I made a great, big portion of stuffed wild grape leaves that have been tiding me over for the past couple of days. On the super hot days, I decided to forgo cooking and quickly ran the food processor to make hummus and a sardine/tahini puree adapted from Claudia Roden's classic A Book of Middle Eastern Food. The wild raspberries should be ripe within a week or two, and the purslane's finally beginning to make an appearance. Next week, I plan on putting up a super-geeky purslane post, which may go to some lengths to explain why the stuff takes over in the summer. The fireflies are also out in full force, both the beloved typical ones and the jittery, quick-flashing ones that resemble a tiny camera flash going off.

Yeah, the first three days of summer have been a microcosm of the season, a couple of total sweatloaf days, a violent storm, and some genuinely top-notch moments. I can live with this for the next couple of months.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Undertones Oversight...

So, in the two and a half years I've been blogging, I've only mentioned The Undertones in three posts... damn, I'm a loutish spalpeen for not writing about this fantastic band. If I were to sum up The Undertones in one simple sentence, it would be: "The Undertones were Derry's Ramones." They specialized in brief, brief songs (my brother Vincenzo described them as "Three minutes would constitute a ballad") about teenage desire, often unrequited, all sung in the quavering falsetto of frontman (or perhaps, and I don't mean this in derogatory fashion, frontboy) Feargal Sharkey. BBC legend John Peel was on record saying that Teenage Kicks was his all-time favorite song, a song that could move him to tears:

While most of their songs dealt with raging hormones, the band also had a snarky streak best displayed in a barbed tribute to a goody-two-shoes cousin:

Here's a more "introspective" number, a tribute to a child who mysteriously disappeared from Feargal's ken... the fate of "poor little Jimmy" is never made explicit, nor is the thing that he wouldn't let go of:

Wednesday Week is a return to the Undertones' favorite topic, the pangs of unrequited love, with Feargal really jerking on your tear ducts rather than his **REDACTED**:

For a later era number which deviates from their tried-and-true guitar crunch, here's the atypical When Saturday Comes, with a video in which Feargal tries to channel a sickly, anemic Iggy Pop:

I'm saving my favorite Undertones number for last... if Get Over You doesn't slap you silly with it's crunchy guitar onslaught, you've got to check your pulse:

Now, that is two minutes and twenty-six seconds of pure punk-pop bliss. For those of you who are interested in hearing more about The Undertones, here's a nice documentary about the band. So, now I've rectified my Undertones oversight, which is a good thing, because I've mentioned Northern Ireland's other major punk band, which wrote about the violent conflict that The Undertones so studiously left unmentioned in their music, in several posts.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Post Lecture Recap

Last night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn for June's Secret Science Club lecture with Comparative Anatomist Dr Joy Reidenberg of Mt Sinai School of Medicine and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Dr Reidenberg is also the dissection specialist for the show Inside Nature's Giants. The theme of her lecture tonight was "Why Whales are Weird".

Dr Reidenberg gave us an overview of whales, beginning with the distinction between the Mysticeti or baleen whales and the Odontoceti or toothed whales. As an added bonus, she passed out samples of baleen, which is made of keratin which grows from the whales' palates. The baleen whales feed by filtering small organisms out of the water- the baleen acts as a strainer which retains these organisms in the whale's mouth as the whale expels the water with its tongue. The baleen whales can be broadly divided into "skimmers" and "gulpers", and the various baleen whales have wildly divergent baleen morphologies. The Odontoceti, or toothed whales, range in size from relatively small creatures like the harbor porpoise to the sperm whale. Both baleen and toothed whales have the ability to produce various sounds- high frequency sounds (which do not have a great underwater range) are used for echolocation while low frequency sounds (which travel for long distances underwater) are typically used for communication- male sperm whales can produce a 200 decibel "clang" which Dr Reidenberg likened to a cetacean equivalent of "Hey, ladies!"

After the overview of the whales, Dr Reidenberg present the sperm whale dissection episode of Inside Nature's Giants. This is a must-see for those who aren't too squeamish (lotta guts, folks... lotta guts)- besides being informative, Dr Reidenberg is an extremely engaging presenter, her enthusiasm, even in the face of the sort of off-putting occurrences which can happen when one is dealing with tons of dead meat, is infectious.

Dr Reidenberg also gave some great autobiographical information- she related how her kindergarten teacher tried to dissuade her from playing with trucks because she was a girl, and how her current job involves using heavy machinery to deal with the huge carcasses that she works on. She also related how she transported the head of the ill-fated Sludgie the Whale in a body bag, which she left in her backyard, necessitating a desperate call to her neighbor (she left home early to give a lecture) to let him know that there wasn't a human corpse in the bag.

The brilliant, hilarious Dr Reidenberg was interviewed on NPR as well- for those who are squicked out by tons of dead whale meat, the interview is a lot less gory.

The lecture was great, and Dr Reidenberg gave a good, long Q&A session afterwards. Some bastard in the audience asked her about the olfactory lobes of whales (reasoning that smell would not be too useful in animals which have to hold their breath a good deal of the time). She indicated that toothed whales have negligible olfactory bulbs while baleen whales tend to have small ones and that, during one of her dissections, she located a couple of "pits" in the lip of a baleen whale that were possibly involved in taste.

Once again, the Secret Science Club lecture was top-notch. In other S.S.C. news, prodigal Michael Crewdson, co-author of Carnivorous Nights, was visiting his ancestral homeland in the 718 area code. Who needs a fatted calf when one can have a beached whale?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Anniversary of My Madness

It was a year ago today that I wrote 24 posts in 24 hours, a feat which I have never felt the need to duplicate. The idea came to me in a comment thread at Jennifer's blog. By the end of the day, I was having a blast reading the various comments- Thunder posted a comment on every blog post.

The best thing about pulling off a stunt like "24 Posts in 24 Hours" is that I have no reason to ever do it again. I am happy that I did it, I had a blast while doing it, and I was able to cross it off of the "to do" list. In a comment on Jennifer's post, Brando suggested: How about 60 posts in 60 minutes?

Interesting idea, but I just can't type that quickly, and setting all those posts up beforehand would seem like cheating.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Big Jam

For the past couple of days, as I typically do at this time of year, I have been gorging myself on "wild" mulberries. I also managed to restrain myself from devouring all of the berries out of hand, and have a couple of half-gallon bottles full of the sweet, juicy things. I actually refined my harvesting technique- I use the mouth of the bottle to get the berry... place the mouth of the bottle so that the berry lies inside of it, then a quick flick of the wrist will snap the stem of the berry and it will fall into the bottle:

This also allows one to avoid the Tantalus effect- the added inches allowed me to get berries which would have been out of reach of my hand. It goes without saying, every inch counts!

Tonight, I am heading over to visit a friend of mine from high school, and his lovely wife, and we're going to make some mulberry jam. I've got the berries, they have the mason jars and pectin. We will be, so to speak, jamming:

I figure I'll have at least another week to subsist largely on mulberries, there are plenty of additional fruits which have yet to ripen, and the trees are prolific as hell. By next week, the earliest of the wild raspberries should be ripening, so it'll be a jammy couple of weeks.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Fathers' Day

I just want to take an opportunity to wish all of the dads out there a happy Fathers' Day. Of course, I think that it's of paramount importance that, even though you play the role of paterfamilias, you should avoid the pitfalls of the Patriarchy (unfortunately, the word "family" has been nuked from orbit by authoritarian assholes). Be dads, not tyrants, my good men. Of course, if you wish to be a successful paterfamilias, you have to remain bona fide:

Don't allow such a catastrophe to befall you, and do I even need to mention that you should avoid anything called "The Oedipus Project" like the plague?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What's the Fuss? They're All Lamanites

The Liberal Media is having a field day with a Republican National Committee Latino outreach site that features pictures of Asian children. Of course, leave it to the lamestream media to make a big deal out of this, when any good Romney supporter knows that both Asians and Latinos are Lamanites. Sheesh, don't these people know anything?

Of course, the Lamanite invaders have been waging a 20,000 year campaign to undermine the United States (which is pretty odd, considering that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old). We have always been at war with Beringia.

The RNC Latino outreach site also has cryptic messages such as, "How to cease locks the loss in ladies - suggested ways." Such a blog post may seem cryptic to the casual reader, but to anyone with a seer stone, the meaning of the article is made plain. I, myself, am looking forward to the RNC's advice to Latinos on how to "Frog blast the vent core." Suck on that, Obots!

Of course, I'd be remiss if I didn't give a nod of the naked noggin to Vixen Strangely, who posted on this topic earlier.

ADDENDUM: How could I have forgotten Sharon Angle, who actually seems to believe the things that I have been snarking about?

Ay, que mujer tonta!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Flag Day

Since I posted on Canadian Flag Day, I figured that I'd have to write about the United States' Flag Day. Flag Day was established in 1916 by Woodrow Wilson, perhaps this was an effort to boost patriotism during the World War One era. At any rate, I have to confess that, even as a 'Murka hating liberal socialist, I find the American Flag to be a brilliant bit of graphic design... it's visually striking and brilliantly symbolizes the nation that it represents... well done, Betsy Ross, your visual genius has rarely been matched.

I always have a couple of small American flags in the apartment. I tend to find them on the side of the road while biking, or while walking in cemeteries where they have been dislodged from graves. Yeah, I like to visit cemeteries occasionally (and we have some beauties in the NY Metro Area). Here's a picture of Washington Irving's grave, festooned with an American flag:

Anyway, I like to rescue these forlorn, lost flags. I'm usually suspicious of overly patriotic displays, because I agree with Samuel Johnson's adage: "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." That being said, the flag itself is pretty damn sharp, and I think that it should be reclaimed from chauvinistic false patriots (those who claim to love America but hat Americans)... those assholes have their own flag. They have also adopted a flag which perfectly encapsulates their ethos, a depiction of a scared, yet dangerous animal, laden with venom and loudly shrilling it's fear of being stomped on by an ill-defined, threatening figure. How about a saucy little tribute, performed by a leggy, multi-talented ukulele goddess?

Sorry Jimmy, it's not that I don't love ya and all, but you don't have a set of gams like that.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Family Net Worth Articles Really Chap My Ass

I'm beginning to get really pissed off by the screaming headlines about the 40% drop in family median net worth between 2007 and 2010. The articles almost uniformly gloss over the fact that house prices were grossly inflated throughout the mid-oughts. The housing market rapidly inflated largely through the actions of speculators with visions of making a million in real estate. From the "Liberty Street Economics" post, which is a must-read:

In this post, we present new findings from our recent New York Fed study that uses unique data to suggest that real estate “investors”—borrowers who use financial leverage in the form of mortgage credit to purchase multiple residential properties—played a previously unrecognized, but very important, role. These investors likely helped push prices up during 2004-06; but when prices turned down in early 2006, they defaulted in large numbers and thereby contributed importantly to the intensity of the housing cycle’s downward leg.

So, it's largely wealthy speculators, not the poor, black people that the righties love to blame, that caused real estate values to plummet. Don't even get me started on the whole mortgage-backed securities trades, which produced a "moonbeam economy" much vaster than the real economy.

The CNN article glosses over these inconvenient facts, but some of the commenters get it. "TFF17"'s comment pretty much nails it:

"The stunning drop in median net worth -- from $126,400 in 2007 to $77,300 in 2010 -- indicates that the recession wiped away 18 years of savings and investment by families."

No -- it indicates that the 2007 survey was inflated by bubblicious housing values. That "net worth" was not the result of saving and investing, it was the result of a large run-up in price over the five years prior -- much of which was immediately spent.

Of course, the fact that the banks actually owned these houses means that they didn't represent a family's "net worth"... "debt worth" is more like it.

Of course, Mitt Romney's plan would ensure that American families would lose much, much more than 40% of their net worth:

To me, the most damning thing about Mitt's prescription for housing is that he wants "investors" to purchase these houses and rent them out. To him, our society insufficiently resembles feudalism.

The biggest problem in our housing situation is that people have lost sight of what a house is. It's not a big truck an ATM, or a ticket to riches, it's a goddamn place to live, and people are losing their dwellings because our society lost sight of this.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


So, what do I see today, but a link to an article about Glenn Beck, which describes his new attempt at reinvention:

In Beck's telling, the Dallas event is the natural product of a years-long evolution of the modern conservative movement — in which he places his own projects as conspicuously central — that has moved beyond mere grassroots politics, and on to loftier ambitions. But it also marks the latest move in an aggressive transformation of the Glenn Beck brand, from the right-wing ranter-in-chief he played on Fox, to the red-state Prophet of Love he's casting himself as today — a wholesome hybrid of Oprah Winfrey, Walt Disney, and Mahatma Gandhi, the role models he now frequently name-checks.

Oh great, a kinder, gentler emotionally unstable right-wing whackaloon, one who is trying to rescue American popular culture from the vise-grip of godless libruls, meanwhile slandering the memory of a liberal stalwart and American icon:

"The conservative movement needs a Dick Clark," Beck told BuzzFeed in a recent interview. "And I hope to fill some of that vacuum."

You're halfway there, Beck, being a dick and all. Anyway, the attainment of Beck's goal will be daunting:

The venue set to introduce the world to this kinder, gentler Beck is a three-day event in Dallas that the conservative media mogul has billed, "Restoring Love." It will include a "global Tea Party summit," a conference of conservative religious leaders, and a concert-rally at Cowboys Stadium featuring inspirational music from a growing roster of artists Beck is building. The goal, he said, is to seize control of pop culture from the left by producing patriotic, uplifting art — and use that new megaphone to promote a message of enlightenment and love."

Keep fucking that chicken tilting at windmills oh teary-eyed, starry-eyed one:

His current obsession: Spreading conservative values by "reclaiming" mainstream popular culture.

The greatest obstacle to fulfilling his obsession is that conservatives pretty much suck ass at creating pop culture, or any sort of culture (WARNING: GOATSE CONTENT IN LINK). Here are some craptastic examples of what Beck's project promises to promulgate:

And perhaps the best of them all:

Suck on it Springsteen! Bite it, Barbra! Your anti-American caterwauling will never survive the Beck Bandstand Battalion! WOLVERINES!!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

National Issues Hit Locally

Lately, the firehouse a quarter of a mile from my home has been surrounded by signs reading "YOUR LOCAL FIREHOUSE MAY CLOSE" and listing the mayor's office phone number. Two years after the last big budget battle, there's another proposed budget cut which will affect the Yonkers Fire Department.

Of course, there are some who see no value in a large, well-organized, well-funded government workforce. Of course, these anti-government types aren't kitted out in turnout gear and humping Scott Air-Paks while fighting three-alarm fires. Time to ditch the stupid talking points, cuts in the government workforce have real-world implications, and real lives are at stake if "austerity" measures are taken so fatcats can keep their tax cuts.

UPDATE: To add injury to insult, this denigration of government workers is taking place as massive wildfires rage in the western U.S.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Speaking of Fortune...

I'm going to preface this post by saying that, sadly, I don't believe in karma... I think that karma is wishful thinking on the part of individuals who believe in a just universe in which people who do wrong will somehow be punished, and my experience is that this doesn't happen. As Phil Chevron put it, "Wise men are beggared while fools are crowned, the evil ones float while the lowly ones drown." I'm going to have to chalk up the occurrence I'm recounting to pure good fortune.

After working the graveyard shift yesterday, I ran some errands, so I did not get home until about a quarter to ten. I parked the car, and noticed that a very large limb from the nearby oak tree occupied the part of the street in which my car had been parked the day before. As I turned the corner to my street, the unofficial deputy mayor of my neighborhood (a woman with two young sons who sits on her porch for hours every day holding court with various friends who constantly stop by with their own kids for a chat and a play date) told me, "Not five minutes after you left, that branch split off the tree and fell right where your car had been parked."

Funny, that... if I hadn't left early to see my friend's choral performance, my car would most likely have been totalled and I would have been S.O.L. O, Fortuna indeed!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I Lament the Wounds a Graveyard Shift Deals

Last night, I attended a performance of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, a musical adaptation of a selection of poems from a medieval manuscript. Notably, the subject matter of these songs is secular, and the lyrics are in a variety of languages.

Perhaps the greatest pitfall facing any group which wishes to perform Carmina Burana is that the piece is somewhat bombastic in places... its "blood and thunder" can edge into cheese if the performers are not careful. The opener/closer of the piece, O Fortuna, (which is not to be confused with O Valencia!) has been used in numerous films and film trailers to signify "THIS IS EPIC!!!", to the extent that it verges on the hackneyed. It's even received the Tanzmusik treatment for all those rave-loving techno folks.

Last night's performance avoided the overdramatic cheese trap- the choral group was accompanied by two pianos and a battery of percussion- it was particularly amusing to see the gentleman who played the gong during O Fortuna switch to the triangle for the sprightlier pieces in the middle of the performance. As an added "ace in the hole", the director had craftily placed a youth choir in the balcony, and they made their debut during Chramer Gip die Varwe Mir... well played, maestro! The soloists were sublime, and the chorus gave an excellent ensemble performance. It was a good night out, although getting my ass to work afterwards was no pick-a-nick.

As a kooky aside, I have to say that O Fortuna, with its soft/loud/soft sonic palette, reminded me of a Pixies' song:

Can't let all of the high culture I've indulged in get to my head now, can I?

Postscript: I have to try to convince my co-worker to persuade the choral director to do a concert consisting of Pixies' tunes.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Empress of the World

I have a co-worker who is universally beloved... she's good-hearted, intelligent, funny, pretty, hard-working, multitalented, and sings splendidly in a clear alto (and, no, she didn't pay me to write that). She belongs to the Young New Yorkers' Chorus, which will be performing Karl Orff's Carmina Burana at Manhattan's Symphony Space tonight. I have to confess that, while I love Carmina Burana, I can't help but think of Excalibur whenever I hear it. I think I'm going to have to dig up a helmet somewhere, and I swear I'll mace anyone who tells me to take it off.

Anyway, here's Carmina Burana in its entirety:

For a taste of the Young New Yorkers' Chorus, here's a video of them performing Mueller's Caritas Est:

I had to jump through a hoop to attend this concert- I pulled the switcheroo with the lovely gent who was scheduled to work the graveyard shift. At least, I will have the adrenaline rush from the reprise of O, Fortuna to help keep my ass awake during the overnight.

Oh, and which of the singers is my co-worker? Shya, she's the alto.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

As Promised, Some Pennsylvania Brain Bleach

In my last post, I promised a post about some loveliness emanating from Pennsylvania. Last weekend, a friend of mine traveled to Pittsburgh so she could play "merch girl" for her sibling's band's CD release party. I told her not to come back without a disc pour moi, and she played her role of "merch girl" perfectly. Anyway, here's the debut single from Pittsburgh's Broken Fences:

As an added bonus, here's another video from the amusingly named "Broken Apartment" series:

It's funny, I used to joke with an old friend of mine about how hilarious it would be if someone broke into a house just to tune the owner's piano.

Anyway, the CD is out, and it's enchanting... and, no, I don't get any "promotional considerations", I'm just a friend of big sis.

All in the Timing...

The second biggest story this week (after the Wisconsin elections) is the start of the Jerry Sandusky trial, which unfortunately won't evolve into a trial of the corrupt Penn State football program, and a trial of the authoritarian structures which would allow a monster like Sandusky to prey upon children with no fear of repercussions (or even intervention).

Coincidentally, I submitted my personal information and an authorization for a background check to allow me to continue volunteering for an athletic program I have been involved in for twenty years. All of the coaches will be undergoing background checks... better to have to submit to an invasion of privacy than for one kid to be harmed. I've posted on the Penn State scandal before, but I figured I'd have to note that the trial perfectly coincides with my vetting.

I'll have another post up in a few hours. To counteract this horrible Pennsylvania story, I'll have a lovely post about Pennsylvania up in a jiffy.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Crap Day

I'd be lying if I said that this wasn't a crap day. First of all, the Turdwaffle won last night, which is a harbinger of some serious moneybombs blowing up our electoral edifice for the foreseeable future. Second of all, Ray Bradbury died after a long, good, productive life. I'd like to think that he died banging the bejeezus out of a zaftig cutie-pie.

Yeah, it's a pretty craptastic day, the one consolation so far is that ripe mulberries have been appearing on the trees, and I was able to partake of a few this afternoon. It's a small consolation, but you have to grab whatever positivity you can, especially if it's sweet and sun-ripened.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sorta Slackerish/Sorta Preoccupied

Today's been a bit of a washout. I was still a bit knackered from Sunday, when I worked a graveyard shift, then returned to work at 4PM for a site rental- a wedding which had me working until 1AM. At around 12:15, I almost said to the dawdling groom, "Shove off, man, I'm twenty-three hours into a sixteen hour day, and shouldn't you be off enjoying your wedding night?" Tact, it's a funny thing.

Anyway, I got up around noon today, and spent most of the day with my ears glued to the radi-adi-o, listening to coverage of the Wisconsin gubernatorial election. I have to say, I think I hate Republicans even more than I ever have after hearing of some dirty tricks. Robocalls telling petition signers that they don't have to vote? Really, they must think that the voters of Wisconsin are as stupid as the teabaggers who buy their line of bullshit. The people who were circulating the petitions were politically savvy from the start, how could they fall for such puerile chicanery?

I hope to wake up to some fantastic news out of Wisconsin... for now, I'll have to keep the radio on and see if Milwaukee's best-loved undead-American keeps up what seems to be some liveblogging. Kick some ass, Badgers!

Monday, June 4, 2012

No Cinderella Story

A week and I half ago, I decided to spring for a badly needed new pair of sneakers. I took myself to a New Balance outlet not too far from the job and, I have to say, was impressed by the level of customer service I received. The staff actually had those foot measuring devices, which they employed with aplomb. I measured out as a size 111/2 EEEE... on my dad's side of the family, everyone has long, narrow feet, while mom's side of the family has wide, wide feet. Me? I have long, extremely wide feet.

About ninety dollars later, I walk out with a nice new pair of cross trainers, colored a neutral brown color, so they can be worn with just about anything. The coming weekend was the major spring fundraiser, and I knew I'd be on my feet all the doo-dah day. At the end of an eight hour shift, my toes felt cramped (toe woe)... the shoes were a bit too narrow, even though they were the widest size typically available.

I returned the shoes this afternoon, and decided that I'd try a size 12 EEEE (I asked if EEEEE's were even available, and was told that they were not typically made). I spent some time playing the role of Cinderella's ugly stepsisters as I crammed my feet into shoe after shoe. In the course of this trial by fitting, I learned that the front of the shoe is referred to as a toe box, and let me tell you, a tapering toebox is the bane of my shoe purchasing efforts. Can't a guy get a nice pair of Frankenstein shoes?

I settled on a pair of size 12 EEEE cross-trainers, and I'm hoping that they break in nicely. I really can't dick around when it comes to shoes, because I'm on my feet all the time at work, and cover quite a bit of ground in a typical day. Besides, a shoe purchase involves the outlay of a not-insignificant wad of cash.

It could be worse though- as I guy, I only encounter shoe problems because I'm a goddamn mutant when it comes to foot size (a shoetant?). Women are even more S.O.L than guys like me are- women's shoes are a conspiracy against women by guys who absolutely hate them.

I'd be remiss if I didn't relate a story about my brother Sweetums here. Sweetums has size 13 feet, also very wide. Back in the 90's he traveled around the globe. While he was in Hong Kong, he decided that he'd attempt to purchase shoes, because he found the tailor shops in the city to be excellent. Whenever he walked into a shoe store, he'd raise his foot, and the entire staff would gather around, gaping in wonderment and dismay. He then noticed that he'd get on a ferry, and girls would start nervously giggling when they looked down and saw his feet. He took a walk in a residential neighborhood, and a couple of old ladies playing mahjong motioned him over and offered him some tea. When he sat down, and crossed his legs, they saw his feet and started commenting to each other a mile a minute.

I haven't gone shoe shopping with Sweetums since grammar school, but I imagine that he'd be even more hard-put to shod himself that I've been these last couple of weeks.

As much as it pains me to say it, I may have to spring for barefoot shoes. Christmas shoes, however, are out of the question.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Travel to Weird Places on the Internet

I want to preface this by stating most emphatically that this post is not about New Clopping Republic, which is not to be confused with the even less reputable New Republic. I've been to some weird places on the internet while working the graveyard shift this morning. For instance, I had never heard of the Thousand Year Elven Holocaust until this morning. For a brief overview of this suppressed history, there's a video narrated by an extra from The Matrix:

Note: The video is better when this is played simultaneously as an audio track. I also apologize that the narrator wasn't a hot elf chick.

Getting back on topic, the Thousand Year Elven Holocaust was a new one to me. I had no idea that The Broken Sword was a non-fiction book about a skirmish in this conflict. Even though the nassty elfses are no longer with us, any search on the internet will reveal that the trolls are doing just fine.

Even though the elf-kings of yore are no longer with us, there were some depictions which survived the Dark Ages. Here is an artist's depiction of Dumaspric, last elf-king of Brentwood, basking in the illuminating rays of right-wing wisdom (warning- if you've eaten lunch within the last two decades, DON'T CLICK ON THAT LINK!!!).

Of course, while the video addresses the Danubian Druids, other authorities tend to focus on Albion's Druids, as this video explains:

POSTSCRIPT: I'd be remiss if I didn't present an alternate viewpoint- there are those who insist that the Elven Holocaust did not, in fact, take place, and that elves are not only around, but are super sexy (hat tip to Monsieur Bouffant, who just may be an elf.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Surely No Sugar Daddy!

Perhaps the biggest local story this past week was Mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposal to limit sugary soft drinks sold in certain types of establishments to under sixteen ounces. Bloomie's stated goal in this restriction is to reduce the prevalence of obesity in New York City.

I'm actually a little peeved at the media coverage of the mayor's idea- the proposal is not a ban, but a regulation. One would still be able consume calorie-laden, sugary drinks in copious quantities, one just wouldn't be able to take a single thirty-two ounce quaff. Additionally, the limitation wouldn't apply to all sorts of establishments- oddly enough, 7-11, which sells the iconic 44 ounce Super Big Gulp and 64 ounce bucket o' soda Double Gulp, would not be affected by the regulation because it's a convenience store, and is treated as a grocery store, not a dining establishment.

While I can't say that I am against this regulation, I think there are better methods of handling the problem of overconsumption of high-fructose corn syrup laden potables. I understand the mayor's impulse to limit portion size (well, to make it less convenient to load up on these beverages)- I remember when the typical portion size was considered to be eight ounces and the calorie content printed on a twelve ounce can reflected this, even though the can held one and a half servings. Perhaps if the total caloric content of a beverage were printed on the cup (a Double Gulp of non-diet soda would have about 2500 calories-kilocalories, actually, says the pedant- more than the recommended daily caloric intake for a typical adult male, with no appreciable nutrient content) consumers would be less apt to fill that soda bucket.

Personally, I prefer a one-cent-per-fluid-ounce tax on sodas, though a proposed soda tax fell flat (HA!) a few years back. The ban is silly, especially since many fast food joints allow refills. Besides, if cup sizes are limited to sixteen ounces, how could two girls share one cup?

I really can't muster any outrage over this issue... it's not quite like the time Fruit Pie the Magician was run out of town. Not being a big soda consumer, I can see the sense in Bloomberg wanting to limit soda containers to sixteen ounces. That being said, if he tries to eliminate the imperial pint, it's on!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Snarky Sister's Birthday

As is my usual tradition, I post birthday greetings to my sister on June 1st. While I can be pretty snarky, my sister makes me look like a rank amateur in comparison. I've thrown around some weapons-grade snark at times, but she's can deploy snarktomic bombs which produce background levels of snark that have half-lives of decades. Hell, she snarkily dubbed my baby brother "Gomez" back in the 80's, and the nickname persists to this day. She's the one who nicknamed my older brother "Sweetums" in a fit of sarcastic exasperation ("Oh, he would never do anything wrong, because he's perfect! Sweetums would never do anything out of sorts"). The "Sweetums" thing backfired, because, to put it bluntly, my older brother really is perfect. We still call him Sweetums, but there isn't a hint of irony or snark when we use the 'nym. My brother Vincenzo and I escaped my sister's nickname mill, probably because we "bookend" my sister in birth order, so it was harder for her to come up with something that stuck. For the record, my sister and I are "Irish twins" (yeah, I'm aware that it originated as a derogatory term, but any sting it had has long been blunted), and we would be impossible to be around for the period of time during which our age overlapped. The whole family pretty much resigned itself to a couple of weeks of sarcasm and general snippy behavior before we'd snap out of it. Ah, good times...

Anyway, happy birthday, Sis!