Monday, June 18, 2018

After Yesterday's Rant, Something Lovely

In the wee hours of the morning, while listening to my favorite college radio station, I heard a lovely song by Melody's Echo Chamber, fronted by French singer-songwriter Melody Prochet, who is recovering from a traumatic accident. The whimsical video for Breathe In, Breathe Out looks to me as if it were inspired by Moebius' artworks:

I like to think that the action depicted in the video takes place in a more verdant, gentler part of the same planet on which this video takes place.

I must say, though, that French musicians seem to have a lock on really cool animated song videos.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

For Fathers' Day, a Meditation on Masculinity

First of all, here's wishing a happy Fathers' Day to all of the dads out there. Have an excellent day and be excellent. Masculinity has been a hot topic in the news these days, with a 'crisis of masculinity' being cited for, among other things, a recent spate of mass shootings by men. The so-called Men's Rights Movement, while citing dubious statistics about how men have it worse than women, elide the fact that men are the cause of most men's problems... Murdered? Imprisoned? Sent to die in a war? Yeah, the responsible party or parties was probably another man. Also, for so-called rights advocates, these guys never seem to want to solve the men's problems that they complain about before they get down to their primary business, which is bashing women.

Toxic masculinity usually involves racism as well as sexism, and a lot of the rage felt by angry young men (the sort of 4chan/incel types who use 'cuck' as an insult) is inspired by racialized sexual fears, or sexualized racial fears- the apotheosis of this rage taking place three years ago to the day.

The 'crisis of masculinity' narrative has spawned its own snake-oil industry populated by grifters who, oddly enough, all seem to have the sort of high-pitched voices that don't exactly scream 'smoldering volcano of testosterone'. Most of them seem to have self-help books in which they, like Sgt Rock, promise to help their young marks win their own small battle of the sexes. My favorite moment in this cottage industry is lampooned by Sam Seder in this video:

They money quote is the one in which this boob finds a slippery slope between snowball fights being forbidden by schools (seems the dumbass hasn't heard of liability lawsuits) and the ravishment of your daughters by wild boys:

Increasingly, among my students, I see young men who don’t know how to be good men. My son wasn’t allowed to throw a snowball, for example, in elementary school. It was against the rules for him to even pick up snow off the ground. It is in that manner that decent boys are made to feel guilty about their masculine impulses. So, they withdraw, confused. The more aggressive, psychopathic boys? They simply don’t care. So they’ll be the ones fathering your grandchildren, in the future – if tomorrow’s woman can find a man to sleep with at all. That’ll keep the testosterone flowing

I am hearing it, the poetry of Mu
! Canadian loon actually believes that women want to be involved with men who abuse them, which makes me suspect that his contact with women tends to be limited. The problem with toxic masculinity isn't the masculinity, it's the toxicity.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Cumbia Crash Course

I have a busy day tomorrow... I am in the middle of a double overnight shift, and will be working until 8AM. My upstairs neighbor will be taking her two kids to an all-day Gaelic Games tournament- she constantly has her kids enrolled in activities of various sorts, and they are nice, responsible kids. While she and the kids are away, she wants me to let their dog, a wee terrier mix, out so he can take a pee outside. Then, I will be driving to Peekskill, New York for the 12:30PM christening of the twin babies of Maria, who is one of the weekend cleaning contractors at my workplace.

The post-christening party will start at 7:30 PM, also in Peekskill. I will have to head home to Yonkers to rest up a bit, and will let the neighbors' dog out again for a pee break, then head back to Peeksill for the party. Maria, who is from Ecuador, warned me that I will be expected to dance to cumbia:

Tonight, I will be studying the dance steps, sort of a crash course in cumbia. Luckily, I am pretty skilled when it comes to cutting a rug. One of Kovacevic sensei's favorite quotes was one attributed to various sources, most commonly Confucius: "Never give a sword to a man who cannot dance." Of course, I'm not a fencer, but I am known to be a dancer.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Damo Suzuki Steered Me Wrong!

It's that glorious time of the year when the maternally-inclined snapping turtles in the vicinity leave their various watery homes in order to lay their eggs. While doing the workday walkabout, I saw this beauty returning to our onsite pond after laying her clutch of eggs:

At one point, I contemplated the feasibility to stick my foot next to this turtle in order to show a size comparison, but I thought better of it because I like my toes, as unlovely as they are. As it is, I would estimate the length of her carapace as approximately fourteen inches, and she looked like she clocked in at thirty pounds. I watched her stroll to the pond, even recording a video which I can't embed... nuts to you, Blogger!

Because snapping turtles have small plastrons, they walk with their hind legs directly underneath their bodies, while their front legs display that typical 'reptilian' sprawl. At any rate, when Damo Suzuki sang my favorite Can song, he didn't have Chelydra serpentina in mind:

I've been looking for an excuse to post this delightful bit of nonsense, because it's been an earworm for me since I heard it on college radio a couple of months ago.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Procrastination Is Unscientific!

Grrr, I am one mad bastard, mad at myself for failing to buy a ticket for tonight’s Secret Science Club North lecture. I logged on to the Symphony Space website last night and there were tickets available, then went out for bar trivia before buying... I mean, what are the odds that someone would buy a ticket overnight. Today, I logged in to buy a ticket and saw the dreaded words: SOLD OUT. Cue the sad trombone sound.

I apologize to Margaret and Dorian, to my readers, and most of all myself. It’s been a busy month, but I should have taken care of purchasing a ticket well in advance.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018


Tonight is the retirement party for one of our managers on the job. We are having a potluck, so I spent yesterday grinding fava beans and chickpeas in order to make falafel from scratch. I was taught how to make it by a Coptic woman who lived downstairs from me years ago. Today was spent in the kitchen, frying the falafel and making tahini sauce from scratch. I figured I would bring something vegan, in case anybody on the job has dietary restrictions, self-imposed or not.

The coworker who is retiring has been with us about eight years, he rose through the ranks to his management position, like myself. I will miss him, though I occasionally run into him at the 238th St/Broadway subway station. Hopefully, this will happen more frequently when he's retired.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Imagining their Meeting

Just dashing off a quick post between errands (I’ve been in the kitchen all day, preparing for a potluck at work tomorrow). The big pending news story is the summit in Singapore between Trump and Kim. I have a suspicion that they will spend their one on one meeting as a mutual gripe fest about their overbearing fathers.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

PR: Pride, Resistance

Today is National Puerto Rican Pride Day, and the streets of Manhattan will play host to an estimated two million attendees. I occasionally post about Puerto Rican matters- in the course of working in the South Bronx for fifteen years, off and on (I was a rover, having assignments all over the NYC metro area), I developed an appreciation for Puerto Rican culture. My friends and co-workers, solid working and middle class people who came from humble origins, embraced me and taught me about their music, their food, their solid family values. I was introduced to the music of Eddie Palmieri and reveled in the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater's annual performance of scenes from my beloved Don Quixote. Working Sunday mornings with a solid mountain-born boricua, I ate so much mondongo that another co-worker was convinced that the two of us were 'a couple of drunks'. Puerto Ricans, and the diaspora Nuyoricans, are an integral part of the metro area's fabric- they tend to work as civil servants: police, firefighters, health care professionals, teachers.

This year, though, in the wake of the revelation (no surprise) that almost five thousand people died as a result of Hurricane Maria, the parade takes on a new urgency. This year, the parade will not only be about pride, but about resistance. The Puerto Rican people were abandoned by the federal government, led by a chief executive and a coterie of advisors who have an antipathy for people of color, especially people de la herencia latina. Last month, a Republican candidate opined that Puerto Ricans who settled in Florida in the aftermath of Maria should not be allowed to vote. As a mental exercise, could you imagine a political candidate suggesting that New Jerseyans resettling in Pennsylvania after Sandy should not be able to vote? Actually, PA being a swing state, don't answer that... Not only are Puerto Ricans US citizens, but Puerto Ricans have a tradition of service in the US armed forces. I find it shameful that such loyal Americans have gotten such a raw deal in their hour of greatest need, but I have hope that they will be a major force in reclaiming the government of the nation. Yo tengo fey en la alma de mis amigos puertorriqueños, y esta fey me da esperanza.

This being a post about Puerto Rico, I can't finish off without posting some good salsa, so here is Puerto Rico by Frankie Ruiz:

Al fin, recuerdan que no son olvidados.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

And the Summit Will Feel Like a G6

Well, it looks like Trump is messing up at the G7 summit, with his talk of imposing tariffs and his sermon that Russia, which has a smaller economy than Texas should be reinstated after being kicked out of the G8 for annexing the Crimea. At any rate, Trump is alienating key US allies with his insults, and confusing them by reversing his rhetoric by later claiming that eliminating all tariffs should be considered. This volatility, or mendacity, is what makes dealing with a dotard so dangerous. With Trump isolating the US from its closest allies, this summit has been described as G6+1, which reminds me of a catchy but rather silly song from about a decade ago:

Tweeting insults from the bowl like a dummy
Donnie got no poker game, just rummy.
D00ds that have to act like this got wee dicks,
And the summit will feel like a G6.

I don't think that next week's summit with North Korea will go any better, I just dread what song it may remind me of...

Friday, June 8, 2018

Adieu, Anthony

Like the vast majority of people who love to cook and to eat, I was shocked and saddened by the death of Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain could be prickly at times, but he was refreshingly candid, unfailingly honest, and devoted to the idea that humanity could be brought together through mutual understanding, obtained over a good meal and a frank conversation.

Back when my older brother, Sweetums, was planning his wedding, we decided to kick off his bachelor party at Anthony Bourdain's Brasserie Les Halles on Park Avenue South- the perfect place for a hanger steak with some pommes frites, and an even better place for boudin noir.

Of course, it was Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential which really put him in the public eye. As someone who worked in the local deli throughout high school and college, I enjoyed this unvarnished look at the commercial kitchen- while my kitchen experience lacked the frenetic pace of the restaurant industry, cooking and peeling twenty pounds of potatoes a week and washing a sinkload of steam table trays every day was quite the education. Bourdain's book rang true, especially when it described the economizing measures that cooks use to make sure that the profit margins, always razor thin, aren't obliterated by waste. My equivalent of 'don't order fish on Mondays' is 'bread pudding is on the menu so the day old bread can be sold at a good price'... for the record, I like bread pudding. Also for the record, when the stale bread not used for bread pudding gets as hard as a rock, it gets thrown in a blender and ground into crumbs used to make meatballs/meatloaf and to coat cutlets.

Kitchen Confidential
got Bourdain out of the kitchen and onto television screens, where he played the globetrotting bon vivant, sorta like James Bond without the violence. In this role, he was an educator, an ambassador- he exhorted people to get outside of their comfort zones, and to trust the locals:

The observation that the street food is safer than the fancy hotel buffet food was echoed by parasitologist and GOOD GUY Mark Siddall- the stuff in the hotel steam tables has probably been sitting around for hours...

Bourdain was also a tireless champion of the Latin American immigrants who form the backbone of the food service industry.

One of my favorite Bourdain moments was his foray into my beloved Bronx, where he went to eat cuchifritos:

Watching that clip has me craving some morcilla, though I have to confess that my favorite cuchifritos place in the city is the place on 116th St right by the 6 Train stop.

Anyway, the man is dead, and his fans, including myself, feel the loss. Here's an old interview, unfortunately conducted by a total b00b, in which Anthony describes what his ideal last meal would be:

I admire his patience with such a dull-witted individual... For a sharp-witted individual's take, Tengrain posted heartfelt tributes to Anthony Bourdain, advising us that the best tribute to the man's life is to eat and drink with friends. It's the least we can do to memorialize this chef, diner, globe-trotter, humanist, and educator.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Mars' Carbon Footprint

Here's a bit of news that I find very exciting- NASA's Mars Curiosity Rover detected carbon-based molecules in sedimentary rocks on Mars and seasonal methane variations in the Martian atmosphere. While this doesn't mean that NASA discovered life on Mars, it does mean that, at least at one time, life was possible on Mars. With the discovery of these tantalizing hints that life may have existed on Mars, the Mars 2020 Rover mission takes on a renewed urgency.

I periodically blog about Mars- in fact, Mars came up as a subject of last month's Secret Science Club lecture. I feel that humanity eventually needs to get it's ass together and colonize other planets, or put succinctly:

Learning more about the red planet is crucial for humanity's long-term goals, especially in light of stupid geopolitical events, which are increasingly looking like an explanation for the Fermi Paradox.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Recipe for Ratfucking

I've been scratching my glabrous pate lately about the 'jungle primaries' that took place in California, that bizarre 'top two' system that makes one-party elections possible. Everything fell into place for me when I learned that the system was pushed for by then governor Arnold Schwarzenegger- on the face of it, the system sounds like serious Republican ratfucking:

“We want to change the dysfunctional political system and we want to get rid of the paralysis and the partisan bickering,” then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who championed the electoral reform into reality, said in celebrating its approval by California’s voters in 2010. “Those are huge changes that will change everything in the future.”

The reason why he wanted to get rid of partisan bickering is because, in California, the Republican party has slipped to 'third party' status- partisan politics is deadly to a rump party.

The 'top two' primary system can be manipulated by unscrupulous Republicans running fake Democrats or fomenting internecine Democratic squabbling in order to split votes. The whole damn thing is a mess.

For a reliably progressive state, California sure has some insane state laws... I'm looking at YOU, Prop 13! Luckily, the two tier primary system didn't adversely affect the electoral prospects for Democrats this year, but things could have gone differently, as intended by the architects of this bullshit legislation.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Somebody, Please, Think of the Wankers!

Seems like a lot of people, by which I mean d00dz, are upset that the Miss America pageant is dumping the swimsuit competition.

It’s getting so a guy can’t even catch a glimpse of ankle these days, so it’s no wonder that guys are in a tizzy. As if that weren’t bad enough, this is a harbinger of a slippery slope... next thing you know, Penthouse Magazine is going to feature architectural photos in the centerfold.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Pushing the Bounds of Acceptable Discourse

I’ve been grappling all day with Trump’s morning tweet about how, as president, he could pardon himself. On the face of it, it’s a ludicrous assertion. While Trump is not an intelligent man, he is a man of low cunning (to crib a joke from an old Life in Hell panel, he is “stupid like pig but cunning like serpent”)... there is a very good reason for this ridiculous statement.

Trump is floating a trial balloon, by which I mean a pre-trial balloon: by introducing the bizarre notion that he can pardon himself, he is pushing the boundaries of acceptable discourse. He, his minions, and the corporate propaganda outlets that back him will repeat the notion in order to normalize a previously unthinkable position. Given the piss-poor performance of the mainstream media in holding Trump accountable for his atrocities and the complicity of the Republican Congress, this strategy just might work.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

With Boredom Comes Mischief

It's a quiet night on the job, the weather is foul outside, so I had some time for some mischief... idle hands and all that. Poking around the t00bz, I ran into Vic Berger's photoshop of Trump and wondered why nobody had made an animated GIF using it. Dicking around with GIMP and an online GIF maker, then adding a soundtrack, I came up with this:

I'm surprised I haven't run into this before... after all, even the guy's fans picture him as a frog.

Hat tip to Smut, he's a master of the animated GIF.

Feel free to share, even to improve if your photomanipulation skills are better than mine, which they are.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Walking With and Without Ginger

Yesterday, I arrived at work shortly before 5PM, and my initial task was to help the tail end of the day shift lock up the joint after the tourists left. Oddly enough, everybody was out shortly after 5, rather than the usual 5:30 weekday exodus. After everybody left, I decided I'd spend some quality time with my beloved Ginger. I had to do an inspection tour of the site, and Ginger usually trots along behind me as I make sure everything is ship-shape.

About halfway through my walkabout, Ginger decided to plop herself down on a convenient perch. I suspect that she was reluctant to follow me through a section of the property occupied by about twenty or thirty geese. Most of the geese onsite are overly tame, but Ginger, being small and a predator, would probably have faced a gauntlet of angry birds. I perambulated the property and at one of the distant corners, I ran into a critter which probably would have been scared off by Ginger:

It was a relief not to have to deal with death and dismemberment, though this cottontail was probably big enough to challenge my feline associate.

I walked back the way I had come, through the gauntlet of geese, and reconnected with my precious kitty:

What a precious, precious kitty! It being a muggy day, I decided to groom Ginger a bit, merely using my fingers to comb some excess fur off of her muscular form. Ginger is one of those easily distracted cats, she typically never sat still long enough to brush, but I learned my lesson, and decided to apply operant conditioning. If you want the cat to behave in a particular manner, reward that behavior... a handful of kibble, a small mountain of fur, and Ginger was as pretty as a picture.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Traditional June First Post

As is typical, I take time out on the first day of June to extend birthday greetings to my super snarky sister. As Irish twins, in our childhood we were impossible to be around for the days we were the same age, and the family basically resigned itself to constant bickering until my birthday rolled around and I 'lapped' her agewise, so to speak.

Things have mellowed considerably, and there is no bickering between us at this time of year. She's been particularly busy lately, having gone to Berkeley for her oldest son's graduation. She is now playing host to three of his college buddies who road-tripped east with the lad (two of them had never been to the east coast) and are now staying in the DC metro area for a few days. To make things even more hectic, my nephew's girlfriend is coming to DC for a summer internship, so the house will be pretty crowded for a while. We were raised in the tradition of hospitality, so she is continuing the family practice of amassing an extended family. It's what we do... we nerd out and we take in additional 'relatives'. I have no doubt that my sister's birthday party this year will last all weekend-long.