Friday, November 30, 2012

Vin's Birthday

Today is my brother Vincenzo's birthday. Vincenzo vive in il Veneto, vicino di Verona. He's got a sweet situation- he lives in a house on the grounds of a farm. His landlord has adopted him and his family, and brings over fresh produce and eggs on a regular basis. Every Sunday, Vin, his wife, and their kids have dinner at the landlord's house. The kids get horse rides and generally live an idyllic life in one of the world's most charming countrysides. Not a bad gig, da vero?

Buon compleanno, fratellino!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Clueless Caucasian Curmudgeons Critique Cute Korean Cutup

Who better to weigh in on a genuine international pop phenomenon than an angry, stupid old white guy? I have to admit that my exposure to the song Gangnam Style was pretty late in the game, and completely due to a post by Interrobang. My knowledge of K-pop is slightly more substantial than bubbles but less substantial than rain. Of course, being ignorant about a particular subject may cause me to eschew criticism of said subject, but Bill O'Reilly has no such qualms about flaunting his dumbassitude. Yeah, Bill just had to weigh in on Gangnam Style and, in a masterstroke, brought on somebody even more ignorant than himself to contribute his two cents. Bill could have brought on a hip, young Korean-American to break down the cultural phenomenon, but he's not really trying to understand it... this is a classic example of fostering the ignorance and bigotry of his audience.

Bill's guest Dr Keith Ablow is even more clueless than he is. Let's unpack some of Ablow's idiocy regarding the song. Here's the "Heart of Dorkness", so to speak:

For Americans, at least, most of the lyrics of Gangnam Style can't be understood, since they are in Korean. Here's a sample: "Na je nun ta so ro un in gan jo gin yo ja . . . " Psy himself performs (like many entertainers) under a pseudonym. His real name is Park Jae-sang.

The great sin here is that Ablow states that the song can't be understood, yet he makes no attempt to understand the lyrics, even though he goes so far as to write some of them out. It's so much more comforting to foster the prejudicial view that the song is gibberish... would such bullshit fly if Ablow were discussing Nessun Dorma or In Fernem Land? If Ablow had decided to scratch below the surface and do his homework, he would have discovered that Gangnam Style is actually a slightly subversive satire of a stratified society. Here in the 'States, we need more such satire.

Of course, the popularity of Gangnam Style is international- any discussion of the song's impact has to take this into consideration. South Korea, with its population of just under fifty million has internet usage of 82.7%, making it the 17th "most wired" nation on Earth (the United States comes in 27th place with 78.3% connectivity). Trying to shoehorn the popularity of the song into an "Americacentric" model is plumb dumb.

As far as the popularity of the song outside of Korea, I imagine much of the popularity in Asia is due to the fact that fans are drawn to "PSY" because they can relate to him better than, say, to a Taylor Swift or a (shudder) Ted Nugent. Bill-O, of all people, should realize that people enjoy seeing folks who look sorta like them represented in the media.

Moving on to the Western World, there are approximately 1.7 million Korean-Americans in the U.S. Korean-Americans have long labored under the stereotype of being a model minority, composed of hard-working, wonky brainiacs. Gangnam Style, much like the "Howard and Kumar" movies, shatters this stereotype. Here we have a thirtysomething Korean guy who is a jokey, yet savvy, party animal- take your "model minority" perceptions and shove 'em. One of my favorite iterations of the song is this one, which perfectly encapsulates the "cool brainiacs" aesthetic.

Outside the Korean-American community, a lot of youth culture is otaku culture... there is a hearty embracing of Asian popular entertainment and the young consumers drive much of the popularity of web content. The incredible rise of Gangnam Style is incomprehensible to a square old fogey, much like the inexplicable resurgence of 80's pop tunes used to "count coup" on n00bz and the bizarre popularity of glorious Russian cheese among snarky youths. The very concept of "cool" in the 21st century involves syncretism, it's a blending of cultures low and high, east and west, meatspace and web- the cool people are African-Americans who are obsessed with kung-fu movies, Canadian muppets, and glorious mutants. Who would be more appealing in today's pop culture melting pot than a not-so-young Korean guy, surrounded by pretty young women, singing a piss-take of a song, rooted in an African-American musical style, with a brief, catchy English chorus and featuring a hilarious video?

Gangnam Style works on many levels- it's a satire, it's a physical comedy, it's an easily learned dance craze (like other inexplicable hits). Hell, even a clumsy galoot (don't look at me, I'm a dancing machine, most guys who like to fight are) can hit the floor when this tune plays. Expect to hear the song played at weddings for years to come (my prediction is that the "Hey, sexy ladies!" part will be played while the bridesmaids assemble, maybe when the garter is tossed).

Finally, Gangnam Style lends itself to the DIY/mash-up culture, and has spawned a plethora of videos, including some truly inspired ones. Gangnam Style, far from merely being the most popular Youtube video of all time, is actually a good microcosm of the Internet itself- it's a true melting pot of styles and themes from across the planet. It's no wonder that a couple of fuddy-duddies, addressing an audience of grumpy old fogies, can so spectacularly fail in their assessment of this cultural phenomenon.

UPDATE: Now, here's a real assessment of Gangnam Style by someone who knows what she's talking about.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Special thanks to zrm, who corrected my misspelling of "Gangnam". Thanks, old chum! mikey observes Bill-O's combination of racism and opportunism, which leads me to this observation... I think the main reason Bill's ass is chapped by the popularity of Gangnam Style is that it represents the primacy of "hip-hop culture" worldwide. In Bill-O's world, Asians are supposed to be the model, "almost white, well behaved" minority. To see a Korean guy performing a rap dance number must make Bill-O's head feel all assplodey. Remember when America's Racist Uncle decried the fact that young Latinos identify with "rap culture"? Well, now even the "nice" non-whiteys have succumbed to the beat. Combined with the overwhelming support for President Obama by Asian-Americans, expect to see a lot of Asian-bashing in the conservative media in the coming years. Yeah, yet another "natural Republican voter" constituency fleeing the "big tent" due to bigotry and ignorance. J. Neo Marvin compares Gangnam Style to the most important song of the 1990's, the prescient Common People by Pulp. Now, this is how to approach a song- figure out the lyrics. Of course, Bill-O and his knuckleheaded guest don't want you to be exposed to the class-critique central to Gangnam Style, it suits their purposes to portray the song as so much gobbledegook (nasty pun intended, we all know what Bill-O was thinking). The unintentional hilarity of Ablow's take on the song is that his characterization of its popularity as a symptom of a shallow American youth culture is based entirely on an extremely shallow understanding of the song.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Never Piss Off a New York Bartender

If there's one piece of advice I feel I must impart, it's that one should never, ever, ever piss off a bartender in New York City. Of course, one should never piss off anyone who is handling their comestibles, but it's even more of an imperative in New York City. EVERY NEW YORK CITY BARTENDER KNOWS EVERY OTHER NEW YORK CITY BARTENDER!! It's axiomatic, folks, they all know each other. Of course, this works to one's benefit when one is well-versed in bar etiquette, which basically boils down to "don't be an asshole and don't be stingy with the tips.

After last night's fundraiser for NY Aquarium staff whose homes had been damaged by the storm (including one individual I have met, and think highly of), I decided to hang out in the bar for a bit. The bartender, Brian, was a Galway native who had lived in various neighborhoods in the outer boroughs. After a couple of beers, he comped me a shot of Jameson's. We soon got to talking about (what else?) bars, and the conversation went a little like this:

Hey, you know **REDACTED**, who works at **REDACTED**?
Of course, I know the whole family, how about **REDACTED**?
Yeah, a few years back, he worked at **REDACTED**, I went there at eight in the morning to watch the Ireland/Netherlands cup match, and the place was packed with Ozzies and Kiwis watching the tail end of the rugby championships. Stumbled out of the bar drunk as a lord's bastard around two P.M.
Well, **REDACTED** now owns **REDACTED**.
That's across the street from **REDACTED**, you know, one of members of the family who owns it was killed in the Trade Center. Damn shame, he was a hell of a guy.

It's funny how small aa town New York City, with its millions of inhabitants, can be... at least as far as pub talk goes. Most of the bartenders have worked in various places, and a lot of them help each other with referrals. Of course, I live in a pretty solidly Irish neighborhood, so a couple of the bars are "bar staff bars", the places where Manhattan bartenders grab a drink on their day off. Other places are known for their music, while some are known for their physical plant (Brian told me that he covets the unusually beautiful antique bar at The Punch Bowl, which is an "old man bar" in The Bronx- oddly enough, the spectacularly talented Mary Courtney plays ballads there for the topers).

The bartenders are sort of like a secret society, a brotherhood of beer-slingers. I like to think of them as the Murphia.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I Can Help People by Guzzling Beer?

So, I can raise money for displaced aquarium workers by chugging large quantities of beer? I can get behind that. I can totally get behind that.

Good thing I'm a thirsty boy. Here's to hoisting a few pints... for great justice.

Monday, November 26, 2012

I Love the Taste of Schadenfreude... Tastes Like Butterscotch Schnapps

Ah, where would I be without the hilarity to be found at The House of Substance? Anyway, Monsieur McGravitas embedded a great musical version of the infamous, foul-mouthed rant by a drunk woman who was enraged by the re-election of the Kenyan Usurper, done by the mysterious and not-quite-vanished Righteous Bubba. Anyway, I was shocked that the embedded video had less than a thousand hits. I've been watching it regularly, and you should be doing the same:

I won't be satisfied until this song gets played regularly in night clubs.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Belated Post Lecture Recap: The Science of Sandy

Last Tuesday, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn for the latest Secret Science Club lecture featuring physicist and atmospheric scientist Dr Adam Sobel of Columbia University and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. The subject of the lecture was Superstorm Sandy, a topic very much on the minds of lecture attendees.

The key to understanding Superstorm Sandy is the chronology of the storm- the "Frankenstorm" which hit the Mid-Atlantic states. This storm was a combination of post-tropical storm Sandy and a winter storm, which could be likened the "parents" of the superstorm which made landfall centered on the Jersey Shore. If one were to search for "grandparents", one would have to discuss two climatic systems, the Madden-Julian Oscillation (a tropical system of eastward-progessing fluctuations in the amount of rainfall from the Western Indian Ocean to the Atlantic) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (which, true to its name, deals with atmospheric pressure fluctuations between Iceland and the Azores). Due to the North Atlantic Oscillation, the polar jet stream moves- a postive condition drives the jet stream northward, a negative condition drives the jet stream southward, bringing cold air to the Atlantic seaboard.

In Mid-October, an active Madden-Julian Oscillation moved into the Atlantic Ocean and the North Atlantic Oscillation pushed the jet stream southward. The conditions were conducive to both tropical and winter storms. Additionally, on 10/20/2012, a "blocking high", an area of high pressure which remains largely stationary, formed in the Western North Atlantic. Such blocking highs in this region prevent winter storms from moving east.

On 10/22, the National Hurricane Center named Tropical Depression 18, which was subsequently upgraded to Tropical Storm Sandy.

On 10/24, Sandy hit Jamaica as a category 1 hurricane. On 10/25, it hit Cuba as a category 2 hurricane.

Many computer models of the track of a storm are run due to the vagaries of chaos theory- small changes in one region of the atmosphere can result in large changes in weather elsewhere. In the case of Sandy, European computer models accurately predicted the track of the storm.

When Sandy made landfall in the mid-Atlantic states, it was a post-tropical storm interacting with an extratropical storm (the "winter storm" blocked from moving east by the stationary area of high pressure in the western North Atlantic). This interaction resulted in a condition known as the Fujiwhara Effect, which causes the vortices of two cyclones to orbit a mutual center and, sometimes, to merge. In the case of Sandy, the storms merged and the resultant storm was pushed ashore. When Sandy made landfall, it was not a hurricane (cyclones are typically symmetrical, while winter storms are asymetrical, usually comma-shaped)... Sandy had a high degree of asymmetry and was a vast storm... the windfield of the storm was approximately one thousand miles across. When Sandy hit landfall in New Jersey, no hurricane force winds were observed. The horrendous damage associated with Sandy was due to storm surge- high sustained winds pushed ocean water onto the shore.

Sandy's unprecedented storm surge was largely due to the unusual sharp westward angle of the storm track. Storm winds are stronger to the right of the track, and the onshore winds were associated with a very large wind field- this was the worst possible situation in terms of storm surge. Most cyclones which hit the New York metro area move up the cost and weaken, storms which take Sandy's track are exceptionally unusual. In terms of historic hurricane landfalls, Sandy's angle was unique. Stochastic models indicate that a category one hurricane making landfall at the angle which Sandy made landfall is a once-every-700-years event.

Tidal gauges at the Battery (the southern tip of Manhattan) indicated a three-meter storm surge on top of a five-foot tide (sorry about the mixed measurement metaphors). This was the highest storm surge ever recorded at this location.

As to whether climate change "caused" sandy, no single weather event can be attributed to climate change. As far as trends go, the best models give result in mixed predictions about whether the number of cyclones will change. Worldwide, there are typically 90-100 cyclones every year. While some models indicate that this number may even drop, there is much confidence that the most intense storms will become stronger. Of course, Sandy was not an intense storm when it made landfall, it was a category one storm rendered destructive by its size and the angle at which it hit. The distorted jet stream which resulted in the blocking high which prevented Sandy and its accompanying winter storm from moving eastward is associated with the loss of sea ice. The most simple link between climate change and the destruction resulting from Sandy is a rise in sea level. In the past century, the sea level in the NY metro area has risen a foot, largely due to the land subsiding post-Ice Age, and partially due to thermal expansion of the sea water.

In the Q&A, some bastard in the audience asked why, in light of atmospheric pressures lower than any recorded for the latitude, Sandy did not result in stronger winds. Because Sandy was such a vast storm, the pressure "contours" were wide- a smaller storm would have had smaller "contours", so the winds would have blown with greater velocity.

Once again, the Secret Science Club delivered a top-notch lecture, and a timely one. Sandy still looms large in the public's mind, and Dr Sobel's lecture did a lot to demystify the storm, even if such demystification didn't provide comfort to those who suffered loss.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Nice Work Ethic!

Funny, I had written that I'd attempt to set up a couple of posts to cover the Thanksgiving holiday, but I totally dropped the ball. Problem is, I went out for a couple of beers and a great lecture Tuesday night, slept a couple of hours after coming home, then hit the road in the wee hours of the morning to drive to mom's house in Virginia. Because I had a lecture recap in the pipeline, posting something insubstantial just didn't seem so urgent.

Leaving at half-past-four in the morning has its benefits- I hit little traffic on the busiest travel day of the year and got to mom's in time for a late breakfast. Oddly enough, I was totally wired for most of the day (hanging out with my nephews, who I hadn't seen for months, forced me to get my second wind- these boys are good company, but one can't be slow around them). Wired though I was, I wasn't about to drive to a Starbucks so I could put up a perfunctory post. Much better to goof off and hang out with the fambly.

Thanksgiving was great- the food was delicious, the company divine. I was grateful to my co-workers who worked the day so I could make the trip down to mom's place. I spent the day after Thanksgiving hanging out with my nephews- my mom went out for dinner with a co-worker who was down in the D.C. area visiting her daughter, and my sister and her husband were out with a couple they hadn't seen in years. I had the privilege of hanging out with my brilliant, hilarious nephews. Boy B., the elder of the two, is going to be going on college visits starting next year (this is kinda scary somehow). He's planning on visiting **REDACTED**, and I told him that I'd try to get a smart, attractive former (and probably future) co-worker to take him around campus. Hey, what better favor could a guy do for his teenage nephew than to arrange to have a good-looking, smart young lady take him around a college campus?

Because I have an aversion to traffic and needed to get to work by Saturday afternoon, I decided to take a nap, then hit the road for another overnight drive. Once again, I avoided the typical, horrible Thanksgiving weekend traffic. I was able to catch some Z's during the day, and will be working until 8AM. I have some time to catch up with the news and, more importantly, to write the lecture recap.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Dedicating this One to the Plutocrats

The next couple of days will be characterized by a weird posting schedule- my plan is to hit to road for mom's house in northeastern Virginia in the wee hours of Wednesday morning (the graveyard shift has its benefits) and to hit the road in the wee hours of Saturday so I can get to work in the early afternoon. I'll try to schedule some posts ahead of time, so my blog doesn't get Zardozed right back to the Stone Head Age.

This weekend, I heard an instantly catchy tune on the radi-adi-o, a song which should be required listening for plutocratic d-bags who mistreat the employees who actually produce the value for their companies.

Be a Jerk by Brooklyn's (no hipster references, please) Boy Girl Party is my latest song obsession. I fell for the song from the opening bass line, which reminds me of a slowed-down take inspired by the opening to Straight to Hell, one of my favorite songs, and I was charmed by lead singer Melissa Lusk's voice. Blast it, folks, annoy your Republican uncle who's an apologist for greedy old plutocrats:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Could There Be a Better Name for a "Drained" Corporation?

Vixen Strangely knocks it out of the park with her post on the Hostess bakery situation. This article gives a good breakdown of the Hostess situation, but I'd quibble with the characterization of the mergers-and-acquisition people as "vulture" capitalists. They're not vultures, they're parasites- they infest a seemingly healthy corporation and suck out all of the creamy goodness, leaving a drained husk. In this case, the parasites have finally killed off the host, or Hostess, if you will.

This post was adapted from a comment I posted on Vixen Strangely's "Rumproast" post. For the record, the last Twinkie I had was consumed about four or five years ago- it was deep-fried by the guy who invented the fried Twinkie, but what really stood out on the plate was the amazing berry sauce that was drizzled over the thing. Hold the Twinkie, give me a pint of that sauce! I've been to the Chip Shop numerous times since trying the fried Twinkie, but my preferred dessert is another Old Speckled Hen (better a speckled hen than a spotted dick).

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Nostalgic for Nostalgia

This post is in response to a recent post by ZRM in which he wrote: Uh-oh. Looks like it’s gonna be an Alarm night before posting the video for one of my personal faves, Spirit of '76. I've referenced The Alarm in a couple of posts, but I'm in a nostalgic mood, so I'll revist my favorite Welsh band.

It's funny that, in his response to the comment that I'm expanding into this post, ZRM wrote:

I have always been much more affectionate toward the Alarm than, say, U2. U2′s social attitudes seem so much more like a posture, their Dublin working class background notwithstanding. Mike Peters and his band seemed more true in their expressions, if less artful.

I almost always go for passion over gormless skill. Shocking, is it not?

Which is eerily reminiscent of my brother Sweetums' characterization of the band: "The Alarm is kinda like U2, but just a little bit better." I've always felt that The Alarm never made it to the heights that U2 did because the Irish-American community in the U.S. is larger and more cohesive than the Welsh community here. Hell, much of my early championing of U2 was due to my perception of a shared heritage. Don't get me wrong, though, I love the Welsh, and have ever since discovering Lloyd Alexander's books. Anyway, The Alarm played a few big stadium shows back in the 80's and skirted superstar status before losing steam Rain in the Summertime still gets occasional airplay and I've heard the instrumental portion used as "bed" music.

Anyway, back in 2003, lead singer Mike Peters, who had successfully waged a struggle against cancer, formed a "reconstituted" Alarm with former members of Stiff Little Fingers and Sisters of Mercy and embarked on a whirlwind tour which saw the band playing three back-to-back-to-back weekly shows in New York and L.A. My high school friend J-Co picked up four tickets for each of the three shows at New York's Knitting Factory. J-Co and I attended all three of the shows, with a revolving cast of family and friends joining us.

Each night's performance was a tour de force, Mike Peters sang his heart out in the intimate Knitting Factory as if he were still doing big stadium tours. He knew he was playing to a friendly audience, and he had enough confidence in his fans to (in very ballsy fashion) surrender the mic to the crowd as they sang a chorus out loud. Luckily, somebody got footage from the 2003 concerts.

Here's an English version of Bastard-approved Gwerthoch Fi I Lawr Yr Afon:

Here's the classic Sixty-Eight Guns from the band's first LP (google the term, kids!):

Here's the poignant One Step Closer to Home:

While not footage from the 2003 tour, one of the emotional high points of the concert was when Mike Peters commemorated his friend Stuart Adamson, who had succumbed to chronic depression and took his life in 2001, by performing Stuart's signature song:

Besides his old material, Mike Peters performed new material which was extraordinarily well received:

For the record, I think my all time favorite Alarm song is Howling Wind, from the first album. The first line of the song still gives me goosebumps- "Love on this wasteland holds no dominion." Sheer poetry! Here's a version from the original lineup's farewell tour in 1991:

I composed this post in the pre-dawn hours at the tail end of a double overnight shift-I find myself in reverie... I am nostalgic for a 2003 nostalgia trip.

UPDATE: I can't believe I omitted the fact that, after all three shows, I got to hang out at the bar with Mike Peters, who is a hell of a nice guy. It was really nice to be able to shake his hand, thank him for writing a ton of music which was a large part of my adolescent experience, and have him thank me for my support. Mike Peters- definitely a GOOD GUY.

I Saw Two Shooting Stars Tonight

Tonight is a bit of a slog, I'm working a double tonight so my co-worker can attend a fundraiser for the children's hospital in which his son waged, and lost, his fight to cancer. How could I refuse such a request? To be honest, our shift swap will give me my first Saturday off in a l-o-n-g time. I'll be heading straight to my volunteer gig when I leave here at 8AM, and will try to catch a nap on the tatamis in the dojo in the periods in which we don't have a class.

It's not a bad night to be working an all-nighter, because the Leonids meteor shower will be in full swing around 3AM. It's a chilly night, but I will be able to bundle up and sit outside so I can watch the show. If it gets too cold, I can always stuff Ginger down my sweatshirt.

Of course, the post title is cribbed from Billy Bragg's A New England, which was my introduction to Mr. Bragg's wonderful body of work:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Secret Science Cinema!

Last night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn to attend Night 7 of the Imagine Science Film Festival, a joint venture of Imagine Science Films and The Secret Science Club. Friend of the Bastard and all-around Good Guy Dr. Alexis Gambis is the genius behind the film festival and Secret Science Goddess Margaret Mittelbach (one of a pantheon of two) played the role of M.C.

The night began with a piece that caused a bit of controversy, a "musical" piece by French artist Luis Nieto, "played" on an electrified fetal pig, various dead lab rodents, and a dead frog. The bit was quite morbid, although the general intent was to demonstrate the role of electricity in the nervous system (I was reminded Luigi Galvani's "frog leg" experiment). Throughout the performance, one could hear a bemused bastard muttering "That's more messed up than a football bat" if one were close enough to said bastard. In the post-presentation Q&A, a visibly upset biology grad student asked Monsieur Nieto if he were aware of the possible repercussions of performances such as his, in light of the threats that researchers using live animals face- Smut Clyde touched upon this in a recent blog post... it's like he knew. Nieto's Locus Solus was a similar short, involving a pig's head attached to electrodes.

Now, onto the shorts which stuck out in my mind... the piece with photomicroscopy pioneer Roman Vishniac was dated, but sweet, and the imagery was beautiful. The scene in which Vishniac returns his "friends" to the pond from which he scooped them up was particularly charming. Vishniac's gorgeous footage of microorganisms played throughout the festival, bookending the other shorts.

Whiskey Water Trick was an amusing bit, and would be a great party stunt to pull off.

Periodic Table Table was a fun piece about a man who built the eponymous piece of furniture. It was a funny bit about a charming dreamer with an eccentric vision.

Flutter was a poignant short about an elderly, solitary butterfly collector. It was somewhat depressing, here's a man who is entranced by the object of his obsession, but he kills the very things he collects.

Insane in the Chromatophores, another Smut-approved piece, was shown in the festival.

Discovering Mount Gorongosa chronicled an expedition sponsored by Chicago's Field Museum to a mountain in a park in Mozambique. This gorgeous little film detailed the field work done by the museum staff and its African colleagues, specifically the collection of mammal and bird specimens, and the various pathogens which infect them. The scientists from Mozambique were an engaging group, their dedication to the conservation of their nation's natural resources (if the trees aren't preserved, the water won't be pure, as one of them observes) was heartening. This was, for me, the highlight of the festival.

Legs-Atavism was another highlight- a blackly hilarious film about a Russian scientist who is obsessed with "elongating" subjects (because the world's tallest man should be from the Soviet Union) until he has an epiphany... legs gotta go. While it was a screamingly funny "mockumentary", I read it as an indictment of the Soviet-era embrace of Lysenkoism and the persecution of actual scientists who didn't toe the party line.

X-Inactivation and Epigenetics and Superluminal Neutrinos in 5 Minutes were great, informative shorts which concisely summarized complicated scientific research.

Those were the standouts, I'm a little pressed for time, so I'll leave things at that. I'll see if I can hunt down embeddable videos in the next few days. All told, it was a great night, and I was very excited to hear that Dr Gambis is working on a feature length film. Hopefully, I'll be able to post a review of it in several months.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Eric Cantor, Magnificent Backstabber

Consider, if you will, the strange case of General David Penetraeus. When he was heading up the counterinsurgency in Iraq, Petraeus was the fair-haired boy who stood up to quisling Democrats regarding war policy, any criticism of him was considered treasonous by right wingers. To the Republican true believers, General Petraeus was seen as the great hope for Republican party since Bush was a failure (for a hilarious sample of butthurt, check out this fawning video). The hero-worship for Petraeus wasn't limited to his biographer/comare.

The most bizarre feature of the current Petraeus adultery scandal is the source of the leak. A teabagging FBI agent got wind of Petraeus' affair and concocted a theory that the press was conspiring to hide the affair to, get this, protect President Obama. The teabagger contacted fellow teabagger Eric Cantor, who informed the director of the FBI. The conspiracy theory is now that Petraeus was forced to resign before he could testify about the attack on the consular office Benghazi. Yeah, this is an Obama Administration scandal, even though all of the principals are Republicans. Now, the conspiracy mavens on the right just might impeach the president for another man's infidelity (the specter of Clinton's penis yet again looms over the office of the presidency).

If Eric Cantor stabbed David Petraeus in the back in an attempt to embarrass President Obama, it would not be the first time that he stuck it to a fellow Republican. During last year's debt ceiling negotiations, Cantor bucked Boehner's authority as Speaker of the House. Eric Cantor is a false-friend worthy of a Shakespearean tragedy or a mafia movie. Part of me thinks that he might be engaged in a deep-cover Alinskyite plot to undermine the GOP from within (and then I come to my senses). It would be fun to spread this rumor in order to undermine Cantor, the man who single handedly prevented David Petraeus from rebuilding the Republican Party and taking it to victory (bonus hilarity at the link- d00d thinks Scott Brown should run in a 2013 special election if John Kerry becomes Secretary of State).

UPDATE: For some added hilarity, Petraeus features prominently in the new "Call of Booty" video game.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sleipnir, Infested by Worms?

When confronted with an embarrassing truth, one often concocts a story which obscures the reality and redirects the attention of any discerning seekers of information (damn, that almost reads like something a foreign spambot would have yerked out onto a comments page). For instance, Odin's horse Sleipnir was the offspring of the stallion Svaðilfari and the god (you read that right, even "supposed to be macho" Thor was a gender-bender) Loki. It's pretty embarrassing to be the offspring of a horse and a Jötunn (this sort of thing is not a big deal in Georgia, though), but it's even more embarrassing to be worm-infested. I mean, look what happened to Fáfnir.

You read that right, folks, flatworms can effect the development of one's legs. If it can happen to frogs, why not a horse? Hmmm... after all these years I finally figured out the superhero origin story for Four-Legged Man.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Galt's Greasepit

Since the Kenyan Usurper's re-election, a bunch of wealthy "Jerb Creaters" has decided to "Go Galt" in order to punish the American people for their temerity to buck the wishes of their rightful overlords. In perhaps the silliest of these threatened layoffs is the promise from Applebees' franchise-owner Zane Tankel to freeze hiring at his forty Applebees locations. Mr. Tankel's main beef with Obama is that the Sinister Kenyan would force Mr. Tankel to **GASP** insure his employees. Why should Mr. Tankel be forced to spend money on his food-handling employees to keep them healthy? Chronically diseased food service workers have been part of the American experience for centuries- insisting on a healthy workforce is positively un-American.

Mr Tankel is vowing to freeze hiring and to cut back his current employees' hours, thus ensuring that they won't be able to afford to eat at casual dining establishments such as Applebees. Mr Tankel's decision not to expand his operations in the New York Metropolitan Area is a major blow to the region, because there are very few inexpensive restaurants in New York City. Also, if Applebees restaurants in New York City are understaffed, who will restock the salad bars that so many hard-working office drones depend on for their mid-day repasts? BOBO WEEPS!

Finally, Applebee's is America's Neighborhood Grill and Bar. If these American grill-and-bars close, New York's neighborhood bars will be taken over by sinister foreigners with strange, almost unpronounceable names like Declan and Patrick. We can't let that happen, just because another sinister foreigner is trying to force healthcare costs onto a hapless millionaire! Remember, folks, tyranny starts with something small, like a pre-broken healthcare system designed by right-wing think tank staffers. If that is unopposed, then the government will implement even greater affronts... why, they may even insist that minimum wage standards are upheld.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hoping for Armistice

This being Veterans' Day, I could write another post about the need for a more compassionate policy for veterans who have returned from our recent (and not so recent) wars. This year, though, I wish to call attention to the fact that Veterans' Day was originally Armistice Day, a celebration of the end of the First World War. I'm hoping that NATO can move the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan prior to the projected 2014 departure. It sure would be good to have a genuine armistice, an end to the long, pointless war. I'm not holding my breath, though.

As is typical, I'll post the video to Tin Soldier by Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers, an angry but not unsympathetic view of the young men who composed an occupation force from a member of the occupied populace.

All too often, young people join the military to escape from dim economic prospects, only to be used as pawns by policy makers who will never have to bear the burden of suffering that inevitably results from war. Here's hoping to an early armistice, and a rejection of the impulses that have led us, again and again and again and again, to war.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Sad News for a Guy Who's Nostalgic for Bands Most People Have Never Heard Of

Tonight, I heard the sad news of the passing of Jo Dunne, bassist/guitarist of Bastard-approved band Fuzzbox, who put out the great album "We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It".

While the band is perhaps best known for their outré cover of Spirit in the Sky, Fuzzbox was an influence on Riot Grrrl bands with such songs as Bastard fave and feminist anthem XX Sex:

The band's aesthetic was Day-glo and cartoonish, the music a combination of stripped-down, primitive instrumentation and soaring vocals, the lyrics often critical of the Patriarchal Dominance System:

Even their songs about more conventional subject matter, such as failed relationships, were somehow subversive:

Here's another good one about the difficulties women have in communicating with condescending men:

It's amazing that the band had such mature insights at such a young age:

Rest in peace, Ms. Dunne

Friday, November 9, 2012

Total Perspective Vortex

Tonight, I'm basically phoning it in. This post is merely a re-post of an exchange in a Rumproast comment thread between the awesome and not-slackerish-at-all Vixen Strangely and some bastard. Vixen Strangely's original comment is the italicized portion, the section I am responding to has been bolded:

Looking at the way some aspects of the campaign were totally phoned in (“Amercia?” The “off-the-shelf” character of Romney’s vague policy statements. The gimmick choice of a rock star running mate who did exactly zero good for the campaign, as could have been predicted), I figured there was a long-con version of the game Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich were playing—you know, make like it’s a real campaign and then disappear before shit got real. The Hermanator executed that much pretty well, Gingrich less so—he got caught working at it and ended up in campaign debt without, I think, his profile much raised.

I just could never figure out what Romney’s pay-off was. When the “optimistic” and as later admitted, “incorrect” internal poll numbers were leaked, I thought maybe, instead of spin, it was a case of them having two books—the real internal poll numbers, and then the story they gave donors (since it was clear Romney would tell them anything) and other rubes. I just figured Romney was in on it. Now, I don’t know what to think. For all we know, instead of a campaign to get Romney elected, it was all an elaborate money-laundering front for the Mob. And then there’s poor deluded Mittens with Quick Tan on his collar, thinking, “I’m going to be president, someday.” He was born to be had because he wanted it so bad.

Not that I have sympathy for him. But it would make a nice closing scene to the sequel to Game Change. The fireworks display is ordered, the transition web site is about to go live, and there’s those Ohio numbers, not swinging his way. Camera closes in tight on fingers across a cell phone key pad—to customer service at Visa….

Those people got bonuses, once.

I think this is the truth... all his life, Mitt's had people blowing smoke up his ass. Mitt's mother referred to him as her miracle baby. In college, Mitt was referred to as one mighty and strong, destined to lead the country. Even on a basic level, Mormons believe that they will eventually become gods. Everything in Mitt's life conspired to inflate his ego, and to lead him to believe that his victory was inevitable... as his awful wife put it, "It's our turn."

By losing, Mitt basically went through Douglas Adams' Total Perspective Vortex.

Mitt's problem is that he's no Zaphod Beeblebrox, even though, if he had been elected, his primary function would have been to draw attention away from the true rulers of the universe.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Norris/Nugent 2016!

One of the best things about the Romney campaign post mortem is reading the collective cri du cul emanating from the right-wingers. One interesting feature of their distorted view of the election is the contention that Romney, like his predecessor John McCain, was not conservative enough. Yes, even though paleolithic paleoconservative rape-apologists like Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock lost their senate bids because of their knuckle-dragger comments concerning women's rights, Mittens somehow lost because he wasn't regressive enough.

One axiom of the right-wing is that Conservatism can never fail, it can only be failed. Since Romney failed, he cannot be a conservative. So, what of 2016? Ryan would be the most likely choice, because he was the second banana on the ticket... the one hitch is that he will still have the Romney stench clinging to his P90X-toned frame. Former Tea Party heartthrob Chris Christie is being drummed out of the party because he praised President Obama's response to Superstorm Sandy. Rick Santorum is too much of a Big Government guy to be entrusted to run for the White House. Rick Perry is too soft on immigration. Let's face it, there are very few true conservatives worthy of running in 2016, but I have the perfect ticket:


I believe this is the true conservative ticket that can win the White House back for the GOP. Let's meet the candidates, shall we? Here's the totally-not-insane presidential candidate, speaking calmly and eloquently about the importance of the separation of Church and State:

Here's the one-hundred-percent-not-sexually-confused Ted Nugent expressing the psychosexual aspects of the Second Amendment:

How could the GOP fail to capture the all three branches of government with such a dream team at the top of the ticket?


Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Six Digits!

Another reason for a little happy dance! Today, I broke the hundred-thousand pageviews barrier! Thanks to all of my loyal readers, and to my wonderful blogroll.

Here's a breakdown of top ten referring URLs throughout the history of my blog: 1395 1387 703 607 559 519 499 253 231 216

As far as referring sites go, here's the top ten: 15957 4014 1606 1572 1163 864 787 757 621 598

For search keywords:

big bad bald bastard 1383

frank frazetta 148

big bad bald 91

hairy-chested yeti crabs 65

frazetta women 62

bald bastard 55

big bird 55

blames you for computer not working meme 46

title 43

andy griffith socialist 41

My most popular posts are:

National Day of Mourning for Groovy Van Drivers
May 11, 2010, 3 comments

A Glaring Omission in My Last Post?
Apr 7, 2011, 12 comments

White Supremacists, Kiss My Ás
Dec 29, 2010, 6 comments

Been at it Two Years
Dec 1, 2011, 25 comments

A Couple of Boobs
Feb 1, 2012, 14 comments

Post Lecture Recap
Feb 24, 2012, 17 comments

An Addendum to My Last Post
Apr 16, 2011, 12 comments

Been Putting Off Posting On This Topic For Weeks
Sep 11, 2010, 4 comments

Perfunctory October Post
Oct 12, 2012, 8 comments

Wave of Santorum About to Hit Iowa!
Nov 16, 2011, 13 comments

Finally, my audience:

United States 55544

Canada 4858

New Zealand 4314

United Kingdom 4064

Russia 3562

Germany 2744

France 1451

Netherlands 755

Ukraine 702

Indonesia 641

I just want to take a moment to say that I love what I do, and I love you all. Thanks for giving my your support, and for providing me with love, laughter, and links. You're the best audience a bastard could ask for and I look forward to a lot more mutual laughs and learning going forward.

You have my gratitude!

Basking in Schadenfreude

As Thunder is wont to say, "The schaden freudes itself", and I am positively basking in a most delicious sensation of schadenfreude. I almost put on the Rush Limbaugh show to hear that bloated bunghole having a meltdown on the public airwaves, but I'm not a masochist. I can gorge myself on the most succulent morsels of impotent rage without giving that moron additional ratings.

Ah, yes, schadenfreude is a heady feeling. I'll bask in the glow for a couple of days before sobering up and discussing the implications of the election, and the importance of staying politically alert and active. Right now, though, it's time for a happy dance:

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Working Election Day

As is typical, my workplace is the polling place for the municipality in which it's located. Once again, I find myself at work, making sure that things go smoothly for the poll workers (I had to reset the breakers for the optical scanners... how I miss the old, clunky mechanical voting machines). The turnout has been high during the day because we have a retirement community up the road which has been shuttling residents to our site at regular intervals. It's always a bit of a weird day, I'm not usually here at this time.

I've been sporadically listening to the radio, and have logged on quickly to post this and to glance at some of the blogs. I'll vote when I get home (my polling place is right across the street from my house), then maybe hit a bar to watch the coverage (if I can be arsed watching the slo-mo horse race).

The one Election Day song that comes to mind is The New World by L.A. workhorses X, a band I have always loved. Crank this one, folks:

Don't forget the motor city!

As an added note, quite hilarious, an elderly woman arrived with one of the attendants from the assisted living community, and made a comment about her earrings- they were made out of beer bottle caps and they had "OBAMA" stenciled on them. Awesome, if I were allowed to discuss politics withing 100 feet of the polls, I'd have given her a high five.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Not the Best Weekend

Whew, I finally returned home from a thirty-two hour endurance tour on the job. I had pulled an afternoon-to-morning all nighter, then returned to my home to recharge my cell phone, the company phone, and my laptop on Saturday morning, knowing that I'd be returning Saturday afternoon. My workplace had been sans electricity since approximately 11PM last Monday. I knew that I would not be having a fun time.

Fortunately, we have a lot of lanterns on the job because we use them for atmospheric illumination during night events. I relied heavily on a small radio/LED combo with a solar panel and a hand crank throughout my "purposeful camping" trip.

When I returned on Saturday afternoon, I knew I wouldn't be leaving anytime soon. One of my co-workers had called to tell me about the ordeal of trying to find gasoline in his Bronx neighborhood. In Yonkers, all of the gas stations near my house were completely sold out of gasoline, and the open gas stations I passed on my way to work had half-mile lines. I had about a quarter of a tank left, so ditching the car in the parking lot at work was my plan. The buses and trains were running, so I knew I'd have options (funny how most suburbanites are completely ignorant of their local public transportation options, even though almost everybody in my neck of the woods heads down to Manhattan on a fairly regular basis) if fueling up were a problem.

Saturday night into Sunday morning was no picnic. It was dark and cold and, worst of all, there was no internet access (HORRORS!!!). I don't creep out easily... at the best of times, my job is not one for someone who's easily rattled. I didn't get creeped out, but I wasn't exactly happy. The worst sensation was the chronic lack of warmth- I had put on several layers of clothing, but I didn't have a place to go for additional heat. It's not a fun sensation after the first few hours. When the skeleton crew came to work the day shift (both guys had lost power at home for most of the week), I stretched out on a settee and zonked out for a few hours. Oddly enough, I really didn't need that much sleep- my need to go outside and feel the sun's warmth and chat with my co-workers outweighed my need for sleep.

As I'd suspected, the guy who was scheduled to relieve me was still unable to purchase gas and, to compound matters, his ninety-two year old mother was in the process of being transferred from a hospital to a rehabilitation-oriented nursing home. My problems were nothing compared to his. Besides, the local gas stations were not operational because of the lack of electricity. I was actually relieved to be able to hunker down for some more time while the infrastructure was being returned to normal.

After dark, I began to see some activity on the road adjacent to my office- the good folks at Consolidated Edison had a couple of bucket trucks on the scene. Those people are absolutely heroic- they've been working outside, in the cold and darkness, around the clock. I had no heat, but I was sheltered from the elements, and I really wasn't busting my ass (I spent much of my shift spending some quality time with Will Shortz, having grabbed a bunch of past issues of The New York Times from the recycling bin). The power finally came on around 10PM. Wow, what a transition! I actually did a little happy dance before running all over the site checking the outbuildings and resetting the various alarm systems. I also sent text messages to management and the bigwigs in "physical plant" to let them know that power had been restored. The only wrinkle was that there was no internet access because the server wasn't online. Can't complain, though, the sheer fact that I was able to see clearly was cause for celebration.

When my relief came in at midnight, I headed immediately to the nearest all-night gas station, which had started the pumps only two hours earlier. There were four or five cars ahead of me, so I didn't have to wait more than five minutes before I could gas up the car (my primary concern at this time). I lucked out, the gas stations near my home are still out of fuel.

As soon as I got home, I decided that I'd put up a post recapping my sucky weekend. As soon as I hit "publish", I'm going to take a long, scalding shower. Thirty-two hours is too long a time to spend catassing in the cold and dark.

As sucky as my weekend has been, I want to stress yet again that I got off easy. My home is intact, and I was relative safe ensconced at work. I'm extremely fortunate, and I'm going to make damn sure that some of my O.T. goes to the relief effort for my people.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Post Sandy Reality

Power is still out at work... I spent sixteen hours on the job, much of it spent in a building without heat or electricity. The sky has finally cleared up a bit, and a lovely waning moon illuminated the landscape quite fetchingly. I think spending so much time in the dark has left me acclimated to the poor lighting conditions. I'm not Ginger's equal, but I'm coping pretty well. Sigh, if only Lamarck were right.

Being cloistered at work, I have been largely ignorant of the true extent of the storm's damage (even though I have been sitting in the dark for a week). I drove home past a bunch of gas stations which have the pumps roped off and festooned with "NO GAS" signs. I passed a half-mile gas line, a line in which one of my co-workers had been waiting for three hours before the "NO GAS" announcement was made. I'm still doing okay- got a quarter of a tank left in my small car. Hopefully, after I pull another sixteen hours, fuel deliveries will have been made, and the darkened gas stations will have the power restored. The only reason I came home this morning was that I needed to recharge my cell phone and, more importantly, the company cell phone. I have the luxury of camping out on the job tomorrow, having recharged devices and all that. If I can't refuel, I may do just that.

I have to say, I am grateful to my family for dragging the family to a rustic cabin every summer. I know how to prepare for "primitive" conditions, I know how to prepare, I know how to conserve limited resources. It's not so comfortable doing it in a blustery November week, but I have the skill set which allows me to pull through. Still, I'd like to have my nice, heated, well-lit office back.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Crossing My Fingers

I called into work this morning and the power was still out at 8AM. I'm going in at 4:30PM and working straight through to 8:30AM. Gadzooks, I hope Consolidated Edison gets the power back on. Sixteen hours with no heat, no electric light, and (worst of all!) no internet is going to be an ordeal.

I'd post a video, but I've already posted the most appropriate one. Ah, hell, there's a live version:

Can I just say, in a totes hetero (and totes modest) manner, that bald, nerdy guys are hot? I mean, I'm just saying. Now, wish me luck, I sure as hell don't want to be eaten by a grue.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Romney, Wrong on the Role of the Federal Government

Sitting in the dark on the job for two days, one has time for contemplation. Because I was sitting in the dark as a result of a major storm, disaster response has been on my mind. I'm going to riff off of one of the last blog posts I read before losing the electricity, Bette Noir's "compare and contrast" post about President Obama's approach to disaster relief and Mitt Romney's statements about disaster relief in one of the primary debates. Here's an excerpt from the transcript of the debate, hosted by CNN's John King:

“FEMA is about to run out of money, and there are some people who say do it on a case-by-case basis and some people who say, you know, maybe we're learning a lesson here that the states should take on more of this role,” Mr. King said. “How do you deal with something like that?”

Romney’s response: "Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that's the right direction. And if you can go even further and send it back to the private sector, that's even better.

“Instead of thinking in the federal budget, what we should cut – we should ask ourselves the opposite question,” Romney continued. “What should we keep? We should take all of what we're doing at the federal level and say, what are the things we're doing that we don't have to do? And those things we've got to stop doing, because we're borrowing $1.6 trillion more this year than we're taking in. We cannot ...”

King interjected: “Including disaster relief, though?”

Romney replied: “We cannot – we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we'll all be dead and gone before it's paid off. It makes no sense at all.”

A quick glance at the map of Superstorm Sandy demonstrates the stupidity of Mitt Romney's proposal for diminishing the role of the federal government in disaster response. Hurricane Sandy was a vast storm which ravaged the Atlantic Coast of the United States from North Carolina to Massachusetts, with lesser, though significant effects felt as far west as Ohio. Simply put, the storm was too vast for any single state to be able to handle disaster response and relief. Damage to the infrastructure within a state hampers the coordination of relief efforts. Even now, days after the storm, there are communication problems (I have electricity, and I am having problems getting through on the phone for various reasons, those without power are even worse off). In much of the New York tri-state area, gasoline is in short supply. To put the burden of disaster relief on the overburdened states is asinine. Just because I want to twist the knife, so to speak, Mitt Romney's record as a governor responding to a natural disaster is not a good one.

In times of disaster, it is important to remember the original motto of the United States, E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for "out of many, one". Combined, the states form a more powerful whole. In times of natural disaster, the federal government can coordinate the response more readily than the states which have been hit. The United States is a vast country, the nature of disasters differs from location to location- while different states can concentrate on their areas of expertise, a central coordinating agency is better able to marshal resources that will be needed after local resources are exhausted.

To compound Romney's idiocy, his assertion that he'd rather have the private sector administer disaster responses is truly a howler. Of course, Romney's not really an idiot- he's the sort of sociopath who would prefer that there's an executive skimming off the top when funds are allocated for disaster aid. If Romney gets elected president, expect well-connected wealthy insiders to get even wealthier on the misery of disaster victims. In anticipation of such a (literal) windfall, Jeb Bush has founded a for-profit disaster response corporation. If disaster response is privatized, there will be a two-tier approach to relief and recovery operations- the rich folks will be whisked out of the disaster area in luxurious helicopters with fully-stocked bars while Joe and Jane Schmo will die horribly... the executives have to make a profit, after all. I imagine Jeb Bush's privatized disaster response will be just as successful as his brother George's privatized war.

In the '90's the town of Rye Brook, New York decided to experiment with privatized firefighting services. The private firefighting corporation cut corners with wages, ensuring that the workers were poorly-trained and had a high turnover rate, and they refused to engage in a mutual assistance agreement with neighboring municipalities, and the result was disastrous. Imagine how poorly a private corporation, with an eye towards maximizing profits, would handle a disaster of the magnitude of a Sandy.

Hopefully, the example of Sandy will wake voters who would vote for Mitt Romney out of spite. Romney is unfit to run the country- Chris Christie, a man I can't stand, has praised President Obama's disaster response and is being lambasted by his former admirers for it. Former Republican and wishy-washy "third way" flack Mike Bloomberg has endorsed President Obama's candidacy. In the face of disaster, real leadership and a genuine desire for public service is needed. Mitt Romney is a callow, hollow simulacrum of a man, and his history of failed disaster response and putting personal profits over the public need renders him unacceptable as a President.