Saturday, January 31, 2015

Inauspicious Beginnings

My day started inauspiciously today- after working until 4AM in frigid temperatures with brutal wind chills, I slept for three hours. I woke up at 7:47AM to get ready to head to midtown Manhattan for my volunteer gig and immediately put on the local "all-news (except when the Yankees are playing)" station for their once-every-ten-minutes traffic and weather report. This being the New York metropolitan area, the traffic report also covers the transit system, should there be a problem. This morning, there was a particularly dire report, for me... the 1 Train southbound service was suspended because of police activity at the 238th St station, which happens to be my stop. Damn... When the all-clear was given about an hour later, I headed down to my typical parking spot.

When I got to the elevated tracks, I couldn't help but see the gray "Medical Examiner" minivan parked under the el. Yeah, not a good sign. I ascended the stairs and got a glimpse of a bright blue bag on a gurney, and a couple of technicians with "CORONER" appliquéd on the back. Well, I couldn't complain, being on the outside of the bag, though the person in the bag was beyond complaining.

The ride to Manhattan was uneventful, though the train was a bit more crowded than usual, due to the earlier delays. The classes were awesome- the kids were especially funny today. I had one very small girl, trying to bear walk under me while we were doing this exercise, and if there's something on this planet cuter than 4 to 7 year-olds sumo wrestling, I don't know what it is... even kittens would be jealous. One of our students, a tiny slip of a thing with a blonde page-boy haircut and a black eye that her younger sister had given her during some at-home roughhousing, was particularly good today, beating opponents larger than herself using techniques we'd taught her. She finally met her match fighting a sweet, mild-mannered girl about fifty percent larger than her... oh, well. You can tell which kids have siblings, they tend to be the tough ones... I can see this particular girl's trajectory- black eye by six, black belt by sixteen.

After the program, I headed up to work and had an inauspicious beginning to my workday... some jackass was walking on the frozen surface of the on-site body of water. I yelled at the guy, "GET OFF OF THE ICE! AND FOR GOOD MEASURE, GET OFF OF THE PROPERTY!"

I had been inconvenienced by one corpse already that day... I sure as hell didn't need to be inconvenienced by another.

UPDATE: Earlier, I was combing the internet for this story, but it hadn't been published... the deceased was twenty-two years old. DAMN

Friday, January 30, 2015

Jack London Story Weather

Oof, tonight the temperatures are supposed to hit ten degrees Fahrenheit (about -12 Celsius), with serious wind chills. It's not quite as bad as something out of a Jack London short story, but it's unpleasant. Before heading to work, I went to the shop where I usually buy workclothes and picked up a pair of flannel-lined jeans. Yeah, it's that bad, ordinary dungarees just won't cut it on a night like this. When I go out on my regular inspection tours, I'm dressed in full-on snow-ninja fashion- can't have too much exposed skin on a night like this. I also prophylactically slathered my hands and face with Queen Helene cocoa butter lotion before heading to work, and have a small tube of a store-brand moisturizer in my bag to touch up the hands and the spot between my eyes before heading out on the periodic walkabout.

One of my co-workers brought Fred and Ginger home with him for the weekend, because it's supposed to be pretty brutal weather-wise for the next couple of days. I'm going to miss the cats, I was planning on stuffing Ginger in my pants and Fred under my shirt to keep us all warm.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Keep Xenu Out of Our Schools

A recent local scandal concerns a Church of Scientology backed group running anti-drug programs in the NYC public school system. The Foundation for a Drug Free World is promulgating myths about drugs that make Reefer Madness seem tame by comparison:

The real danger of a Scientologist-run anti-drug program in the schools is Scientology's hostility to psychiatry- a Scientology affiliated anti-drug program could conceivably present a message that all drugs, even those in the pharmacopeia are bad. If they are allowed to promulgate this message, how soon before they busted out the E-meters in the classroom?

The irony of this Scientology-backed anti-drug program is that it coincides with increasing interest in marijuana legalization. Maybe the city should put together a comprehensive drug education program similar to successful sex education programs- teach about the risks and responsibilities attendant to behaviors, and emphasize that certain behaviors are best indulged in when one is mature enough to handle them.

Keep the religious nuts out of our drug education as well as our sex education... there's no need for Satan or Thetans in our public schools.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Always Liked These Guys, Now I Like Them Even More

I have been a fan of the Dropkick Murphys since day one... the band carries on the fine tradition of Celtic punk started by the Pogues, one of my favorite bands. It seems like conservatives have lost their shit regarding the Dropkick Murphys because the band expressed its displeasure at Scott Walker using a song of theirs without permission, as Republicans often do, despite their expressed respect for property rights. Scott Walker's use of the band's music is especially galling because the band has always supported unions, even featuring the union anthem Which Side Are You On? on their album Sing Loud, Sing Proud. How could the band tolerate the anti-union, anti-worker Walker?

One of my favorite numbers by the band is their high-energy take on one of my favorite songs, Pete St John's "transportation ballad" The Fields of Athenry:

Longtime readers will recall my utter disgust with John McCain when he took a hardline anti-immigration stance in his latest (and hopefully last) Senate reelection campaign... at a pro-immigration reform rally in 2006, we serenaded that nasty old coot with a heartfelt a cappella rendition of The Fields of Athenry. Screw Walker, screw McCain, screw the entire GOP.

How about another video? The Rocky Road to Dublin is another of my favorite trad songs:

The song has traditionally been sung at breakneck pace- it was punk back in the 19th century.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

'Snow Biggie

The Northeastern U.S. Is experiencing the tail end of a winter storm that was supposed to dump "the most snow seen since the Pleistocene" on the region. Luckily for me, the storm veered about forty miles east of it's projected path and has been dumping anywhere from 18 to 24 inches of snow on Long Island and Eastern Connecticut.

I opened up the front door at 8AM to find a coating of about four inches on the ground, with a minuscule amount of flurries falling. I was able to shovel the sidewalk in front of my place and my neighbor's place, and my neighbor's driveway, in less than an hour. I cleaned off my car and was back inside by 9, even allowing for a rap session with the neighbors.

I'm not complaining- while the local travel bans have been lifted, the roads are still a mess, and less than ten miles east of here, there's a foot of snow on the ground. This storm was no biggie for me, but there are plenty of people still suffering through it. Stay safe, people!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Disarraybian Peninsula

Last week was a crazy week for the Arabian Peninsula- Saudi Arabia, which has been building a wall on its northern border to keep out the ISIS menace it helped to create, just lost its aged, repellent king only to replace him with his aged, repellent brother. Meanwhile, Shiite rebels have overrun Yemen's capital.

It looks like the Arabian Peninsula is facing big problems. I can't shed any tears, though, as the place is a hotbed of Islamic Sunni fundamentalism, and the wellspring of Wahhabist terrorism throughout the world. Vixen Strangely has put up an appropriate obit for the royal shit, a great antidote to the fawning panegyrics to the bloodstained tyrant. Meanwhile, the Shiites running amok in Sana'a could present a counterbalance to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, perhaps the most significant balance of terror since the original Star Trek aired.

The Arabian Peninsula is in disarray, but perhaps the reality of the sectarian war finally coming to bite its inhabitants in the ass is the best thing to happen to the Islamic world since the fall of the Ottoman Empire. It took the horrific violence of the Thirty Years War to end the religious wars on the European mainland and usher in a more secular culture... let's hope the current sectarian strife in the heart of the Middle East will weed out the fundamentalists on both sides of the Sunni/Shiite divide and allow a more pluralistic society to take hold.

I'm not holding my breath, though...

Meanwhile, I wonder if one of the reasons for the Saudis flooding the oil market is to gain an influx of cash in order for the royal family to make a mad dash to safety in exile.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

GOPer Eels

I typically leave it to the professionals to mock Sarah Palin (even if it means they break their resolutions). The big leaguers can mock her idiotic Iowa speech. I just want to parse one part of it:

“It is good that we have a deep bench and its primary competition that will surface the candidate who’s up to the task and unify and this person has to because knowing what the media will do throughout all of 2016 to all of us it’s going to take more than a village to beat Hillary.”

Regarding that deep bench, this is all I have to say:

The GOP has a deep bench,
It's deeper than an ocean trench.
I'd rather vote for gulper eels,
Than racist old GOP heels.

Yes folks, rather than see any of the GOP 2016 contenders win the presidential election, I'd rather be led by this charming beast:

Just look at those eyes... more soulful than Newt's or Jeb's.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Plain Possum

Last night, while on the walkabout at work, I heard a scratching sound, which drew my attention to one of the neighbors:

In the middle of the frame, in the flashlight's beam, you can just make out a face belonging to a North American opossum (Didelphis virginiana). Unfortunately, the tree branches made focusing on the 'possum's face impossible. 'Possums, along with the nine-banded armadillo and the North American porcupine, are the best-known "Southern" survivors of the Great American Faunal Interchange, with the opossum being the only marsupial living in North America. Our opossums don't hibernate, which is unfortunate, because it started snowing heavily soon after I took this picture. I will make sure to check the vicinity again tonight to see if I can find the little beastie.

North American opossums are famed for engaging in defensive thanatosis, feigning death in response to perceived threats, to the extent that "playing 'possum" is a colloquial term for feigning death or unconsciousness. This particular survival strategy is occasionally employed by other mammals.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Gohmert's Twisted History

Via Tengrain, we have the awful Louie Gohmert giving an even more awful "tribute" to Dr Martin Luther King, Jr.:

“Thank God for Martin Luther King Jr. People in Egypt know about Dr. King. He wanted a peaceful demonstration and they were part of a peaceful demonstration. Unfortunately, radical Islam did not like being removed. They burned churches. They went after Christians. They went after Jews.”

Gohmert, while lauding Dr King for his nonviolence, is also distorting history. There was never a danger that Dr King's supporters would burn churches, go after Christians, and go after Jews, but the conservative Southern Christians that mutated into Gohmert's political base did that very thing- they destroyed churches, they went after Christians, they went after Jews. It's a sick bit of work, invoking Dr King in a condemnation of an Islamic extremist group which is guilty of the same damn things that King's enemies were guilty of.

Back on Monday, I asked rhetorically whether conservatives could just cut the crap and stop trying to co-opt King's legacy, but it seems that the bottom feeders just can't do it... and Gohmert may be the worst bottom feeder of them all.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dumbass Rages 'Gainst Rise in Wages

From the awfulness file comes Californian Republican Representative Tom McClintock speaking against raising the minimum wage. As an added bonus, McClintock decided to add a little bit of racism to his class warfare:

"Only if you want to rip the first rung in the ladder of opportunity for teenagers, for minorities, for people who are trying to get into the job market for their first job.”

He goes on to badmouth minimum wage jobs:

“It’s not supposed to support a family. The minimum wage is that first job when you have no skills, no experience, no working history. That’s how you get into the job market, that’s how you develop that experience, develop that work record, get your first raise, then your next raise, then your promotion.”

I started my first job, doing general stocking and cleaning work in a local deli when I hit the age of sixteen and could get working papers. I had skills, a general competence in cleaning gained by helping out with housework and a good grasp of math and language. I didn't enter the workforce as some sort of tabula rasa. Furthermore, my job was in a service industry which depended on other people having enough disposable income to pay someone to make their breakfast or lunch for more money than they'd pay if they'd prepared it themselves. With a bolstered minimum wage comes a bolstered customer base. From a strictly anecdotal standpoint, I was one of the few kids in high school who could go to a nearby deli to buy lunch (of course, I got a discount as well as my weekly pay, which made me popular at lunchtime).

Another thing, these service jobs typically can't be outsourced, so any characterization of them as being worth no more than a $7/hour rate is bullshit- if the minimum wage has been raised, the wage will go up, period- it's pretty hard to have some poor peasant in Vietnam or the Philippines making a burger for some d00d in Santa Monica. The odds of these jobs just "going away" is pretty slim- increased demand resulting from increased wages will result in job increases. There might be a slight diminution of corporate profits at first, but that should be eliminated fairly quickly by rising sales.

The entire argument against raising the minimum wage is specious, and McClintock just brought some additional ugliness to the "debate" by bringing minorities and his perception of their lack of value into it. If there is one job that isn't worth seven dollars per hour, it's that of a Republican representative.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Post Lecture Recap: The Tale of the Teeth

Last night, I headed to the beautiful Bell House, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, for this month's Secret Science Club lecture, featuring Dr Shara Bailey, of NYU's Physical Anthropology Department and the Center for the Study of Human Origins. Dr Bailey's, er, bailiwick, is dental paleoanthropology, the study of hominin teeth.

Dr Bailey began the lecture by stating that teeth are an important part of the anthropological toolbox- the display of one's teeth can inform others of one's emotional state, one's health, and one's wealth. An examination of an individual's teeth can reveal the approximate age of that person- the first permanent molars (the "school teeth") typically erupt at the age of six years, the second permanent molars (known as the "factory teeth" in the days before child labor laws) typically erupt at the age of twelve, and the third permanent molars (the "wisdom teeth") typically erupt at age eighteen. If one were actually to cut a tooth in half (something that is generally not allowed to occur with teeth in museum collections), a more refined estimate of age can be made by counting the layers of weekly enamel secretion. The physiological stress of birth is evident by an enamel layer known as the neonatal line.

Enamel secretion is affected by diet- one dramatic example of this is the explosion of dental caries and abscesses in North American populations after maize was adopted as a dietary staple. In a less dramatic example, an examination of microwear on tooth enamel can reveal what an individual ate within the last years of its life.

Tooth morphology can also reveal the population affinity of an individual- Northern Europeans often have a feature on their first molars known as "Carabelli's cusp", Native American and East Asian populations often have "spatulate or shovel-shaped" incisors, African populations often have a feature called cusp 7, and indigenous Australians have a divergent cusp 5. By examining teeth, an expert can assess biological affinities and gauge migrations.

Dr Bailey noted that teeth have a high (97%) mineral content and quipped that they are "fossils in your mouth". While the roots of teeth need to fossilize, the teeth are "already there". Because of this, teeth are very common fossils. Because of the prevalence of fossil teeth, and the variety of distinct tooth morphologies, a study of Paleolithic hominin teeth can help to determine how much interbreeding there was between Neanderthals and early modern humans.

The lecture then shifted to a quick introduction to the Neanderthals ("H" optional, and silent, at any rate), a geographically and temporally distinct archaic hominin. The Neanderthals ranged from Europe to Siberia from approximately 250,000 years ago to approximately 40,000 years ago. Neanderthals were distinguishable by large brow ridges, a long "lemonhead", an occipital bun at the back of the skull, and midfacial prognathism (the middle of the face extends outward). The Neanderthals are commonly associated with an assemblage of tools known as the Mousterian industry.

Dr Bailey then asked why modern humans survived while the Neanderthals did not. Were Neanderthals subsumed into the modern human gene pool? Were they challenged dietarily, perhaps by an inability to catch birds or fish? Were they just culturally less sophisticated to the extent that they couldn't compete with early modern humans? Examining Neanderthal teeth could help to answer these questions. On the subject of diet, were Neanderthals scavengers? Primates typically don't scavange carcasses. An analysis of the isotopes in Neanderthal teeth and bones conducted about fifteen years ago revealed that meat made up much of the Neanderthal diet. Skeletal remains of Neanderthals reveal that they lived very tough lives- just about every Neanderthal skeleton found shows evidence of healed injuries. This combination of a lot of meat and a lot of injuries suggests that Neanderthals hunted a lot.

Among the Neanderthal remains found at the La Ferrassie site, there was evidence of drastic tooth wear in the incisors, some of the individuals having worn the enamel completely from their teeth. This pattern of wear is similar to that found in some modern Inuit populations- it is possible that this wear resulted from paramasticatory behaviors, such as using the teeth to hold tools or to work hides. The wear was evident in all adults, with no differentiation between males and females. There was also evidence to suggest that right-hand dominance occurred with the same frequency as it does in modern populations.

A topographical analysis of the enamel surface proved that Neanderthal diet varied over their geographic range- Neanderthals that inhabited open environments exhibited wear patterns similar to those of natives of Tierra Del Fuego, while those who inhabited wooded areas had wear patterns similar to those of modern forest dwellers. The amount of vegetation consumed correlated with the amount of tree cover. Individuals inhabiting similar environments tend to have similar diets.

Dr Bailey then described the use of calculus to determine diet- an examination of tartar can reveal phytoliths which provide proof of consumption. Phytoliths found in the dental calculus of Neanderthals found at the Shanidar III site in Iraq demonstrated that cooked barley was a component of their diet. Although samples came from a relatively limited geographic range, Neanderthals and early modern humans living in the same area ate the same things.

Neanderthals and early modern humans coexisted for 50,000 years in Europe, but determining the taxonomy of fossil teeth (the most commonly preserved part of the body) was beyond the capabilities of early researchers. It was originally thought that it was impossible to determine the taxonomic affinities of fossils solely from teeth, but this has turned out to be false. In order to determine the affinity of teeth, the morphology of teeth had to be studied and the scientific method had to be applied to the analysis of teeth of unknown origin. Dr Bailey then launched into a topic she dubbed "Neanderthal Teeth 101". Neanderthals had curved, shovel-shaped incisors. There then followed a flurry of information about hypocone cusps on the upper first molar, and the statistically significant differences between Neanderthal and modern human teeth. Neanderthal cusps tend to be "skewed"- they tend to form a more rhomboid pattern than is typical of modern human teeth, though there is some overlap. Despite the variation, the differences are statistically significant. The tips of Neanderthal cusps are more closely spaced, and it appears that Neanderthal tooth growth was more rapid. This rapid tooth growth is a derived trait, which Dr Bailey jokingly characterized as "whacko", extant apes and modern humans have more similar growth patterns.

There are 27-30 dental traits that point to Neanderthals- the combination of traits is significant, not one single trait. Again, there was a rapid-fire introduction to specific traits, a distinct lower 4th premolar, the high mid-trigonic crests common to 90% of Neanderthals. Dentally, Neanderthals were more different from humans than chimps and bonobos are.

Limiting one's observations to morphology, one would suggest that there was differentiation between Neanderthals and modern humans at the species level. Even though mammal species can have a divergence resulting from being separated for a million years, interbreeding can occur. The species concept does not apply except in the long term. It is believed that the Neanderthals and modern human populations separated morphologically over 400,000 years ago. That being said, modern humans of European and Asian descent have a genome characterized by 2-4% Neanderthal genes (the average being 2.9%). The presence of Neanderthal genes in the modern human genome can be explained by Neanderthal-modern human matings once ever 20-50 years throughout the years of population overlap. The persistence of these genes suggests that they played a significant role in the survival of these populations. A skeleton found at the Lagar Velho site in Portugal appeals to be a Neanderthal/modern human hybrid. The skeleton features short distal limbs, which could have proved to be an adaptive advantage in high altitude or cold weather conditions- the skeleton's teeth, though, offer no evidence of hybridization, necessitating further study of this specimen.

There may have been cultural factors limiting the interaction of modern humans and Neanderthals. There is a paucity of art associated with Neanderthals- most paleolithic art is associated with early modern humans, with the Aurignacian being perhaps the greatest flowering of paleolithic art created by modern humans. An analysis of teeth associated with Aurignacian sites shows that 89% of them belonged to early modern humans. Another Paleolithic "industry", the Châtelperronian, perhaps represents a Neanderthal population using tools more characteristic of early modern humans. It is unknown whether the Châtelperronian tools were made in imitation of modern human tools or were obtained through trade... it is possible that Neanderthals had the capacity to create as modern humans do, but that they tended not to do it.

The end of the Neanderthal era was marked by climate change- it was characterized by variable climatic trends, shifts between cold and temperate conditions, and the resultant shifts in biomes, such as tundras giving way to forests. Shrinkage of environment and the limitation of the Neanderthals' resource base would have resulted. At about 65,000 before present, the Neanderthal population appears to bounce back after a decrease, but by then early modern humans would have exerted pressures on Neanderthal populations. Small advantages for modern humans would have made an impact on the food base of Neanderthals, which resulted in their being supplanted.

Dr Bailey delivered a tour de force lecture, yet another triumph for the Secret Science Club. In the Q&A, some bastard asked about estimated caloric needs for Neanderthals- these people were built like short linebackers and had very large brains. Dr Bailey indicated that the general consensus is that an adult probably needed to consume 4,000 kilocalories worth of food per day. Said bastard also snuck in a question about the Denisovans- Dr Bailey said that there just wasn't enough evidence to make any definitive statements about them, but that they seemed to be more closely related to Neanderthals than modern humans.

Here's a video of an interview with Dr Bailey:

Pop open a beer, sit back, and listen to Dr Bailey drop science... it's the Tale of the Teeth, and it's a fascinating one.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Can't They Cut the Crap for Just One Day?

Martin Luther King Day really brings out the viciousness, duplicity, and cognitive dissonance of American conservatives. On the one hand, they are laughably trying to claim that King would be a movement conservative, had he not been assassinated by a radical conservative white guy. On the other hand, they are trying to conflate King and LBJ with Nazis (while engaging in the same strategy that LBJ brought up: "take a simple thing and repeat it often enough, even if it wasn't true"). Meanwhile, in Arkansas, the troglodytes celebrate the birthday of traitor Robert E. Lee along with the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. who fought, non-violently, to hold the United States to the lofty ideals it claimed to espouse.

Can't these bottom-feeders knock it off for one day? One single day, in which they can simply shut their mouths, rather than shitting all over the legacy of a great, liberal, progressive hero?

Oh, who the hell am I kidding?

Sunday, January 18, 2015

In Light of My Last Post

My last post concerned Saudi fears that their protégés in ISIS could invade Saudi Arabia in an effort to capture Mecca. While I certainly wouldn't cry if the Saudi authorities were deposed by their own creation, the fact that gasoline prices would probably spike is of some concern.

It's a damn good thing that the Bush Administration, in the wake of the Saudi-funded and Saudi-implemented 9/11 attacks, decided to make energy independence based on renewable power sources a priority, and ushered in a "Project Apollo" scale push for clean, cheap energy.

Damn, my knee is bruised from all that slapping, and if this is a joke, why are my eyes red?

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Chickens Coming Home to Roost on the Hajj

From the "unintended consequences of religious fundamentalism" file, comes the story of the Saudi royal family shitting a brick at the prospect of ISIS invading in order to seize the city of Mecca, to the extent that they are building a northern border wall.

The irony here is that there's no real difference between ISIS and the Saudis, right down to the beheadings. For the past fifty years, Saudi Arabia has funded fundamentalist Sunni Islam throughout the world, creating the doctrinal underpinnings of extremist groups like ISIS and Boko Haram. Just last year, the Sunni-dominated Gulf States were reluctant to address the ISIS threat, seeing the Shiites of Iran and their Iraqi puppets as a greater threat.

Well, now it looks like their poisonous ideology, a religion that brooks no compromise, no common ground with the infidels or heretics, will be coming back to bite them. I can't say I feel any sympathy for the fuckers. Hopefully, these two vipers will annihilate each other. Inshallah...

Friday, January 16, 2015

So I Considered a Paleodiet...

I considered adopting a paleodiet, but I have been having problems finding trilobites in any of the local grocery stores.

Post inspired by a great post by Smut Clyde, concerning the fact that Ben Carson is a shill for a dubious "supplements" pyramid scam.

In a hilarious bit of ratfuckery, the article lambasting Carson for his grifting appeared in National Review- clearly, the establishment Republicans want to kneecap Carson before the 2016 GOP primary season.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

A Less Appealing Call

The latest conservative Christian freakout is over a single weekly Muslim call to prayer issuing from the bell tower of Duke University's non-denominational chapel. The latest news is that the amplified call to prayer has been cancelled, leaving Duke University's 700-odd Muslim students to prick up their ears.

Personally, I don't see the threat to a all to prayer resounding over the campus... the Friday 1PM Call to Prayer is a hell of a lot less appealing to a typical college student than the Saturday 3AM Call to Booty.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Mullah Joe-mar Issues a Fatwah

It's been a while since I've lambasted former congresscreep Joe Walsh, but I have to note that the guy has a serious case of fatwah envy. Here's Mullah Joe-mar wishing death on the infidels:

Let's hope that when the Islamists next strike they first behead the appeasing cowards at CNN, MSNBC, etal who refused to show the cartoons.

Yeah, Joe, not showing the offensive cartoons should be a capital (literally) crime.

Joe Walsh isn't the only righty with a "dead liberals" fantasy... National Review's Chuck Cooke gushed about the prospect of snarky liberals being massacred:

America’s Provocateurs Are at the Mercy of the Barbarians

The most likely targets of Islamist wrath are in the cities with the most restrictive gun laws.

... Taken together, Washington, D.C., New York City, and Los Angeles host almost all of the more controversial media personalities in America; and, taken together, these cities have some of the worst self-defense laws in the country. Had Charlie Hebdo been an American publication, it would most likely have been located in Brooklyn or in Silver Lake or in Columbia Heights -- positioned, in other words, in precisely the sort of place in which attacks on its employees would have been most likely to succeed. This, as the French might say, is “absurde.”

Sorry, Chucky, we don't need some pistol-packing 'bagger savior to defend us- hell, we consider those people more of a threat... and besides, all those Oklahoma guns didn't save Oklahomans when a small government conservative white guy launched a terror attack.

Sorry, people, we're just not afraid, and you won't get to live out your "Someday, you'll need me and I won't help you and you'll be sorry" dream. Simply put, we don't need you guys. Your old hero didn't keep us safe on 9/11/2001, and he "avenged" us by attacking the wrong people. We're just not that into you guys (and I mean guys), and we really wish you would stop fantasizing about our corpses.

Monday, January 12, 2015

La Dolce Donna

From the "damn, I didn't know they were still alive" files, here comes news of Anita Ekberg's death at the ripe (and I mean ripe) old age of eighty-three. Anita Ekberg put the "OO" in va-va-voom! Her lofty position in the pantheon of cinema sex sirens can be summed up in one two minute scene from Federico Fellini's La Dolce Vita:

Besides her status as fifties-vintage, fifty megaton sex bomb, Ms. Ekberg was lionized in a song by Dylan, before he went all Judas-y.

Perhaps the best comment I've read concerning Ms. Ekberg's sex-status symbol was an autobiographical bit from "Raw Story" reader Bronxboy47:

Goodbye Anita. You and Sophia created some serious confusion when this gay man was a teenager. But it was all sorted out eventually. You were, and remain, unforgettable.

Good one! Perhaps Anita could even have straightened out a bunch of self-loathing closeted Mormons.

Buon riposo, Anita, ti sognero' tutta la notte.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Plea for Pluralism

Wow, millions of people rallied in Paris to demonstrate solidarity in the face of violent extremism. The healthiest societies are those who embrace pluralism- societal progress can only take place in a milieu in which there is a multiplicity of =-----------------------]p[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[[; (note: Fred contributed that last bit) viewpoints.

Reactionary forces, from the ISIS fanatics who kill other Muslims as well as non-Muslims to the fundamentalist bigots in our own country, want a monoculture, and are all to quick to use violence in their pursuit of a boring, uniform planet. It's heartening to see that the majority of us, who wish to live in peace with each other, are taking to the streets.

My plea is for a pluralistic society, for only in pluralism can genuine peace, prosperity, and progress be achieved.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Domestic Terrorism Finally Getting Traction in News

Buried among the non-stop coverage of the shootings in Paris was the story of an incidence of domestic terrorism, the bombing of the Colorado Springs office of the NAACP. I was pretty sure that this story would be glossed over (though the coverage is occurring during the weekend, when ledes tend buried) because it doesn't fit the accepted media narrative of "violent" protests by African-Americans and the culpability of liberal mayors and activist clergy.

If there's one downside to this coverage, it's that damn sketch of the suspect. Fuh-huh-huck, I would never wear "dudebro" sunglasses!

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fuck the Fanatics!

I was preoccupied for the last two days, so I was unable to post about the horrific assassinations of satirists in Paris, and the subsequent murders of civilians in the course of the manhunt for the fanatical murderers. In my last post, poking fun at the "Sounds of Sodomy" campaign, I wrote:

Religious fanatics don't have a sense of humor, but they provide so much unintentional amusement. Apparently no organization now wants to take the credit for this hilariously backfiring campaign. What's no so funny is the religious right's attempt to interfere with the private lives of everyone, even non-believers. The best weapon against authoritarians is mockery, and mockery they got.

In the case of the murders of the "Charlie Hebdo" staff members, there is no amusement to be found, but the solution to authoritarian Wahabi Islam is to ridicule it- "Charlie Hebdo" will be running off a larger print run to defy the violent fanatic freaks. Seriously, fuck the fanatics.

The problem with the Abrahamic religions is that they have allowed authoritarian fundamentalists to hijack them. In the case of Islam, Saudi Arabian wahabists, the sort of people who demolish Islamic artifacts that they consider "improper", have been exercising all too much influence worldwide, trying to supplant other Islamic traditions. The Sufism endemic to Afghanistan gave way to the wahabism of the Taliban, courtesy of the mujahideen who were supported in the last throes of the Cold War. Malian wahabists vandalized Timbuktu's repository of irreplaceable Islamic legal commentary.

Wahabists are nihilists, theirs is the religion of the Rub al Khali, the sterile rejection of life for the empty promises of a heaven that sounds suspiciously like the Penthouse Club. Fuck that heavenly lie- any religion that countenances murder and glorifies death is bullshit.

I have Muslim friends, and I'm going to say that the only good Muslim is a bad Muslim- at least by Wahabi standards. My Moroccan friends drink wine, which would inflame a Saudi "virtue and vice" policeman. The Indian teller at my bank branch doesn't wear a headscarf (she was sporting some lovely henna designs stenciled on her forearms for the Eid celebration- this sweet-natured middle-aged matron would enrage a Talibani. By the same token, the only good Christian is a bad Christian, by the standards of the humorless authoritarians who take on the mantle of the religion.

Authoritarians cannot stand ridicule. Nihilistic religions which reject the world and its beauty cannot stand up to any criticisms. While law enforcement agencies track down those who plot violence, let the rest of us continue to ridicule the fanatic fundamentalist freaks of all stripes. Fuck the fanatics, Je suis Charlie.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The T00bz Are Alive!

With the Sounds of Sodomy... It seems that a right-wing christianist organization has distributed anti-gay leaflets asking "Should children be exposed to the sounds of sodomy?" Hilarity ensued... Being a snarky Bastard, I don't want to be left out!

Hello penis, my old friend,
I'm sticking you in a rear end.
And as I'm straining at a fundament,
I hear the clergy and the prudes lament,
That the sex acts, I perform
In my bedroom, lead to doom.
Listen! The sounds of sodomy.

On sweaty sheets, I will butt-bone,
Hear my partner start to moan.
'Neath the glow of a fluorescent tube,
I realize I should have used more lube.
When I heard my partner
Crying out in pain, due to strain.
Echoing sounds of sodomy.

And when I empty out my balls,
It echoes down good christian halls,
And a kid will ask his parent,
What the grunting in Flat 4B meant.
When they hear my "O" they will surely get confused,
Mom's not amused.
Mysterious sounds of sodomy!

Manichean dichotomy: Evil and good sodomy.
Clerics feeling up the congregants,
"Laying hands" upon the faithful's pants.
Your wife won't blow, you can get
An annulment stat. Fancy that!
Church-approved sounds of sodomy!

Religious fanatics don't have a sense of humor, but they provide so much unintentional amusement. Apparently no organization now wants to take the credit for this hilariously backfiring campaign. What's no so funny is the religious right's attempt to interfere with the private lives of everyone, even non-believers. The best weapon against authoritarians is mockery, and mockery they got.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy Three Kings' Day

Today was the Feast of the Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas, on which many European and Latin American peoples exchange gifts. My mom's new next-door neighbors are immigrants from Mexico (who have two U.S. born children). Mom gave them a batch of cookies on Christmas Day. Tonight, after dinner, the kids paid her a visit and gave her a potted orchid as a gift. Mom has a knack with plants- many times, she has nurtured "gift" poinsettias until they attained the status of small shrubs. I expect this orchid will be taking up much of her living room in a few months.

Mom also has a knack for making friends with the neighbors, always has, and blossoming friendships are even better than orchids.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bring Back the Sumptuary Laws!

In the past week, we've had Fox talking heads criticizing a guy who makes six figures and is a bestselling author for dining in a fancy restaurant, and an Oklamhoma law that will ban the wearing of hooded sweatshirts under certain circumstances. These two felons felines would be so busted if they were in Oklahoma:

In both cases, the uproar concerns "those people" consuming goods and services that white people can consume without censure. I doubt that the black hoodie/cat bed that I own would cause me to be stopped and/or shot in an Oklahoma convenience store. I doubt that Mitt Romney would be censured for dining in a fancy restaurant to celebrate the New Year, though he's the sort of barbaric cult member who'd drink Diet Coke with his chateaubriand. At any rate, I fully expect a Fox "pundit" to call for the return of sumptuary laws to prevent "those people", such as the most powerful man in the world, from owning or consuming goods or services that are meant for the heaven-ordained masters of the universe, even those who drink Diet Coke with their chateaubriand.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Spambot Christmas Miracle?

Have you ever had a spam comment which was so utterly, bafflingly perfect that you couldn't bear to delete it? Looking through my comments page, I discovered this gorgeous comment on a two and a half year old post of mine:

Merry Christmass. Looky here...

Precisely why I had our ‘philanthropic + epiphany’ (=so much to give + vision): wanna see a perfectly cognizant, fully-spectacular, Son-ripened-Heaven?? … yet, I’m not sure if we're on the same page if you saw what I saw. Greetings, earthling. Because I was an actual NDE on the outskirts of the Great Beyond at 15 yet wasn’t allowed in, lemme share with you what I actually know Seventh-Heaven’s Big-Bang’s gonna be like: meet this advanced, bombastic, ex-mortal Upstairs for the most juvenile-lip-service, ultra-groovy, picturesque-paradox, pleasure-beyond-measure, Ultra-Yummy-Reality-Addiction in the Great Beyond for a BIG-ol, kick-some-ass, party-hardy, robust-N-risqué-passion you DO NOT wanna miss the sink-your-teeth-in-the-smmmokin’-hot-deal enveloping, engulfing our catch-22-excitotoxins. Cya soon, girl

PS "I Am the One who runs the world. You're here to prepare for Heaven. You cannot make it to the Great Beyond on your own." -Jesus ...and I, as a sinfull mortal, help in this symbiotic relationship: take part in this glorious, Christmas gift; this wonderFULL, Heavenly Kingdom that we may live forever. God bless you with discernment.

I'm not 100% sure if it's a spambot... there's no sales pitch of any sort. If it's a genuine apostolic message, then this is the sort of religious fervor I can tolerate... "engulfing our catch-22-excitotoxins" is a lot more appealing than hating on gay people and non-believers.

Pax vobiscum, Dr. kold_kadavr_flatliner, MD, the sub/dude, even if you are a spambot!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Eat Like a Leopard Seal

At a recent party I attended, the hostess assembled some whimsically creative appetizers:

In (hopefully) uncharacteristic fashion, it took me a while to figure out what the little "penguins" were made of- a glimpse across the room had me wondering if they were some sort of confections. Thankfully, I was able to suss out the truth as soon as I got up close to them.

Being a big fan of the olive in all of its permutations (even as an improvised weapon, which brings us back to penguins), I scarfed these little things down as if I were a ravenous leopard seal:

Or a marine videographer...

It could have been a lot worse, I wasn't acting like a fur seal.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Addio Zio Mario

Soon after putting up my last, insubstantial post, I checked out the news to discover that quintessential New York liberal Mario Cuomo has died. While I was really too young to appreciate "Uncle Mario", as my mom would facetiously refer to him, while he was governor, his legacy as a liberal giant who stood up for working people and assiduously opposed the death penalty, was something I came to admire. Roy, an astute observer of all things New York as well as All Things political, posted a wonderful memorial and Jimmy Vielkind of Capital New York wrote a beautiful wrap-up of other political figures' remembrances of the man.

In 1983, Governor Cuomo spoke out against the inhumane "small government" policies of Ronald Reagan (which really boiled down to small government for the little guy, and a huge defense boondoggle, naturally):

“Of course, we should have only the government we need. But we must have..all the government we need. A society as blessed as ours should be able to find..shelter for the homeless, work for the idle, care for the elderly and infirm, and hope for the destitute.”

He expanded on this theme in his speech at the 1984 Democratic National Convention:

Thirty and a half years later, this speech sounds as timely as ever. Sadly, Governor Cuomo's son, Governor Cuomo, has decided to cast himself as a "Republican lite", all too eager to embrace the "austerity" route. I think Andrew lost his way somewhere between Albany and Albany.

Rest in peace, Zio Mario, you were a liberal titan, the like of which we need now more desperately than ever. Addio!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Not Going to Do a 2014 Retrospective, With One Exception

So, it's the first day of 2015... nothing feels different, not that anything should. 2014 was a pretty "meh" year- although there was a groundswell of populism concerning police brutality, there was no political groundswell last November, so Congress will be dumber than ever. Thanks, Obama voters!

There were a couple of stories which didn't pan out as earthshaking events- Ebola? What's that? All-in-all, a pretty "meh" year. I'm trying to think if there was anything out of the ordinary in the realm of pop culture. I can't really think of too many top notch songs released in 2014, with one notable exception. Back in October, the band TV on the Radio (hilariously described by a local DJ as the most "Brooklyn" band out there) released their amazing song Happy Idiot:

The video is a gem, featuring ">Speed Racer" iconography, the band dressed in visually arresting style, a cameo by Paul "Pee Wee Herman" Reubens, and the unearthly Karen Gillan (seriously, her hair should win a special effects Oscar). I've never been an MTV kid (I was a child of the radio), but this video makes for compelling watching. I can truthfully say that the only thing not on my 2014 "meh" list is this song.