Sunday, July 22, 2018

Money Well Spent

On the way from work this morning, I stopped by the local H Mart, a Korean-American supermarket with great prices, good quality, and a head-spinning variety of products. After picking up some vegetables and a package of delicious chicken hearts, I headed down the Housewares aisle and made a big score, a portable charcoal grill with folding legs for only eight bucks:




Huh, I never noticed that the decorative ferrule on the chair in the lower right corner looked like a peener until now... At any rate, this grill is smaller than my laptop and probably weighs under two pounds. I guess it was on sale because summer vacation time is waning. At any rate, grilling season is year-round. My landlady provided us a propane grill, but it's not the same as a GEN-YOO-INE CHARCOAL GREE-YUL... you might as well just put a stove in the backyard.

Even better, at the local Stop and Shop yesterday, I scored a package of T-bone steaks, each one perfect for this grill, for under $4/lb. I think Reagan would approve of this purchase because REASONS.

Friday, July 20, 2018

When Looking Around Is Getting You Down

It's been a crap week, as far as the news cycle goes. On the workfront, things have been busy- this is a six day week, which is wearing me down, but good for the bank account. Today was a gloriously lovely summer day- not too hot, and with low humidity. Tonight is absolutely gorgeous- shortly after sundown, I was greeted by a lovely half moon (most appropriate for a lower New York location) attended by Jupiter:




Even a quick shot with a phone camera resulted in a decent photo- the half moon is rounded out by the focus softening clouds and Jupiter is just visible below the halo of light from the moon. The sight of these heavenly bodies was even prettier than the photograph indicates. Given the vastness of the cosmos, earthly problems can diminish to insignificance for a moment or two.

When looking around is getting you down, look up.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

I've Seen This Movie

In the midst of all the crazy stories deriving from the Helsinki Treason Summit, there's one story which really needs more attention: a small amount of plutonium and cesium were stolen from a Department of Energy SUV parked in a San Antonio hotel lot. This is the sort of thing that happens when a corrupt boob runs the department. While the amount of missing plutonium may be small, that stuff is dangerous, so the fact that it is missing is disconcerting, to say the least.

This whole kerfuffle reminds me of the plot of one of my favorite movies, Robert Aldrich's 1955 noir classic Kiss Me Deadly, with its famous atomic McGuffin:





If you haven't watched the film, it's just about perfect, with incredible dialogue and a morally ambiguous hero who is up against absolute monsters. Do yourself a favor and watch it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

If Anything, Things Look Worse

It's been one bummer of a week, and it's little more than half over. While we don't know what Trump discussed with his boss on Monday, there are some suggestive hints... Trump's bizarre statement about Montenegro's people being aggressive, and the possibility of them starting World War Three, is troublesome, considering that Montenegro joined NATO last year. Putin probably backed an attempted coup in Montenegro in 2016. Trump's statement about Montenegro signals that the United States can no longer be trusted to honor the obligations encoded by its alliances... to me, it looks like NATO is functionally done.

Just as worrisome is Trump's refusal to rule out handing former ambassador Michael McFaul to the tender mercies of Putin's inquisitors. This is a clear signal to anyone in the diplomatic corps that diplomatic immunity is now a farce. It also signals that the US Government doesn't take seriously its obligation to protect United States citizens from autocratic regimes with which the US doesn't even have an extradition treaty. McFaul may be Putin's enemy, but he's no enemy of the American people.

Mere discussion of violating treaties and extraditing American citizens to hostile foreign powers is an unacceptable subversion of the norms by which civilized societies work. If this doesn't spur Congress to initiate impeachment proceedings, then this downward spiral into autocracy will ramp up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

KGB? NRA? GOP? WTF?

It's been almost a decade since the last foxy redheaded Russian spy story broke, but sexiness sells, and it seems that foxy Russian spies are a renewable resource, therefore the arrest of Russian 'gun rights activist' and possible spy Maria Butina is all over the news. She certainly has appeared with numerous pro-gun figures, as David Hogg pithily noted:





The real kicker is that the NRA funneled Russian money into the Trump campaign... Russian money, Russian agents- the GOP is in the midst of a Slavic shitstorm, a Russiacane. Now, in order to better cover up this flow of dark money, the Treasury Department is going to make it easier to hide donors. Spasiba, assholes!

I suspect that Maria Butina was ratted out by Dana Loesch... Dana is ten years older than Butina and probably saw the younger gal with the flamboyant red hair as a threat. I think the final straw probably came when this borscht 'bibing babe sold more beets than Dana. How many gun molls could the NRA possibly need? Gun molls, like foxy redheaded Russian spies, are also a renewable resource.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Summit Was a Nadir

Today, I spent a good deal of the day listening to the United States President act as if he were a Russian mole who had infiltrated the highest office in the land In a meeting which has popularly come to be known as the Treason Summit, Donald J. Trump met with his boss for a performance review. Before the summit, by which I mean nadir, began, Trump was blaming the United States for bad US/Russia relations. When he met with Putin, it was behind closed doors, with the accompaniment solely of translators... not a good sign at all. I sure as hell hope the Finns found a way to bug the meeting, perhaps with a 'wire tapp' of some sort.

Things got even more surreal when Trump and Putin conducted a joint press conference which freaked a lot of people out. Particularly bizarre was Trump's plan to let Putin guard the henhouse:


"I addressed directly with President Putin the issue of Russian interference in our elections. I felt this was a message best delivered in person. Spent a great deal of time talking about it. And President Putin may very well want to address it, and very strongly, because he feels very strongly about it, and he has an interesting idea."


He trusts Putin over the members of his own country's security/intelligence apparatus:


"So I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today."


Okay, Vlad says he's innocent, so he must be innocent!

The whole summit nadir has been such a shitshow that even Republican congresscreeps are freaking out about it, though none of them seem inclined to do anything about it, such as impeaching the motherfucker. Trump will return to DC, or one of his golf resorts, and he'll still be a Russian asset. It wasn't that long ago that American neocons were trumpeting a unipolar moment in which the United States was the world's sole hyperpower- now through the actions of one fool, it now seems to be a client state of a country with a GDP smaller than that of Canada. I can't wait until Putin rolls out our new cybersecurity strategy!


As a kid, the classic WLIR used to play this song, which even during the tail end of the Cold War seemed a bit of a novelty song:





Somehow, it doesn't seem all that funny anymore.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

There Are Twelve of Them and Asshole Lyin'

In the realm of international relations and domestic politics, things are, to use a technical term, fucked up... twelve Russians have been charged with meddling in the 2016 election cycle and the president of the US might be a Russian asshole... errr... asset. Put succinctly, shit's weird.

Seeking a bit of escapism, I decided to read a novel, John Le Carré 's 1974 thriller/procedural Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy. The novel chronicles an investigation into Russian infiltration of an intelligence agency conducted by an agent, George Smiley, who was drummed out of the service in the upheaval after the death of the elderly, ailing agency head. Brought out of retirement after a bombshell revelation of betrayal by a field agent who romanced a disenchanted Soviet agent, who divulged the presence of the undermining 'mole'. Smiley was conceived as an anti-James Bond... he is on the far end of middle-age, portly, erudite, unobtrusive enough to be able to melt into a crowd, and married to a brilliant, aristocratic wife who conducts multiple affairs (in the parlance of the Cartoon Frog Ironic Nazi Brigade, he is a 'cuck'). Possessing an eidetic memory and a painstaking attention to detail, Smiley, with the aid of his trusted protégé Peter Guillam, tracks down clues, interviewing former agents and hunting down information pointing to the contents of 'misplaced' or redacted files. Smiley's role is almost entirely cerebral, with Guillam doing the necessary legwork and occasional pilfering of evidence.

The title refers to the code names of the suspects, derived from a children's rhyme:


Tinker, tailor,
soldier, sailor,
rich man, poor man,
beggarman, thief.



Before the action of the novel, Smiley was a suspect, but was cleared by the old agency head, known simply as 'Control'. After clearing Smiley, there are three highly-ranked suspects in addition to the new agency head, hence the tagline which my post title refers to: "There are three of them, and Alleline." Smiley's mission is to uncover which of these individuals is, or are, responsible to feeding information to the Russian intelligence service.

The book was a quick, entertaining read- the dialogue is flawless, and the jargon invented by le Carré has an air of authenticity that has led to its adoption in real life. The action in the book is almost entirely cerebral- the hunt is a battle of wits, not a superfest di puncho puncho run run. The book also frankly depicts sexual matters such as Smiley's wife's infidelity and the probable same-sex romance between two extremely competent men of action, with no moral judgment attached to their relationship by le Carré.

Immediately after reading the novel, I hunted down the 1979 BBC miniseries starring Alec Guinness.





I wanted to cement in my head the complicated plot, and to be able to visualize the settings described in the book. I'm not a big TV watcher, but the miniseries was superb, anchored by a flawless lead performance- Alec Guinness conveys erudition, but can wither with a glare. The miniseries belongs to him, but actress/comedienne Beryl Reid runs away with a scene playing a former agency head of research who Smiley contacts for information regarding the probable Russian handler of the mole:





I particularly love the way she conveys the sheer delight she feels to be on the hunt again, to match her superb wit against her subtle enemy. It's to Alec Guinness' credit that he is content to be upstaged by his costar. Ms Reid's soliloquy also reveals the temptation presented to boys growing up during the death-throes of a world superpower: Trained to Empire, trained to rule the waves. Englishmen could be proud then, George. They could... All gone.

Both book and miniseries are fantastic, and complementary. In this era of renewed Russian actions against the West, they are good, timely reads.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Bloated Blowhard's Blighty Blunders

Ugh, what an embarrassment... Vulgarmort landed in the UK, greeted by hundreds of thousands of protestors, and proceeded to lie to and about the media, and managed to look like a dumbass, spawning some very funny, often obscene, responses. My favorite comment was a reaction to the US Embassy warning Americans abroad to keep a low profile:


Nah we love Americans it's just the haunted fluorescent ham mannequin and his keyboard MAGA arseflutes that need to shit off into a heap.


Now, THAT is how you cuss somebody out... this guy has been on a roll!

Being the sort who can't keep his mind on work, Vulgarmort scarpered off the Scotland, where he has long been unpopular. If anything, the protest signs were even more hilarious than the English ones. Yeah, the prevailing attitude in the UK is that Trump is a numpty, indeed a bawbag.

First NATO, now the US/UK alliance... what is the next relationship he's going to fuck up?

Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Tourist Experience

Working evenings and nights, sometimes I am tasked with locking up the site after business hours... I have found that the best way to get people to leave at the end of the day is to give them someplace to go. There are a couple of nearby places to which I refer people, one of which I went to for dinner with friends before tonight's shift. We are all June babies, celebrating a month late, so we went to one of the nicest local places:




Every once in a while, it's good to see one's home territory through the eyes of a tourist- I have been referring people to this restaurant for years (if they are on a budget, I tell them to order one drink apiece, split an appetizer plate or two, and live la dolce vita for a half hour before going to a less expensive place for a main course), and it is nice to see that my local knowledge is sound.

Me being me, I am now reminded of a Gang of Four song which is most appropriate:





Of course, playing the tourist isn't the same as being a tourist- as I walked from my parking spot to the restaurant, I ran into plenty of locals that I knew.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mom's Birthday

As soon as I got to work tonight, I called mom to wish her a happy birthday. Mom is going strong, as always, and we had a great discussion of current events- before I called her, she had a similar conversation with my brother Vincenzo, who wished to retire from the Army earlier this year, but was 'stop-lossed' for a year. Needless to say, neither he nor my mom is happy about the current situation regarding our alliances with South Korea and NATO. It's kinda weird when even a routine 'happy birthday' call becomes a discussion of the current National Nightmare.

Mom made sure that all of her kids inherited her insatiable curiosity and devotion to education. I can't even begin to describe how indebted to her I feel... she instilled in us her values, the values which have allowed us all to thrive. She continues to be an inspiration and a source of strength.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

It's an Alliance, Not a Protection Racket

Well, the Dotard is in Belgium after spending two days bashing NATO and the European Union. He thinks that other NATO nations aren't paying their fair share for defense, though the United States' spending on military matters is completely out of whack. He's also whining about the US trade deficit vis-a-vis the EU, but here's where I note that Americans want European wines, cheeses, and olive oils while nobody in Europe is itching to get some Velveeta... there are reasons for this trade deficit, and they don't involve Continental chicanery.

This insistence that our NATO allies are cheating us reflects the Dotard's mindset- he looks at NATO as if it were a classic Mafia style protection racket, and is trying to shake down the other signatories to the treaty that formed the organization. It's a case of 'Nice country you've got there, Estonia... be a shame if something happened.' Weakening NATO will only strengthen Russia's position on the world stage, and Western defense experts are gaming out possible Russian moves to destabilize the Alliance further. With Dotard planning to meet with Putin after his visits to Belgium and the UK, it seems more likely to me that he is actively working on behalf of Putin rather than merely taking Russian money and looking the other way... I suppose that would make him less of a dotard and more of a mole.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The ApPotUs

Tonight, Donald Trump announces his pick for Supreme Court justice during primetime. The guy really thinks in 'Reality TV' terms- this announcement will be really good for ratings. Unfortunately, unlike his role in The Apprentice, his current gig doesn't involve editing out his incompetence and viciousness... now, wouldn't you love to see the footage that ended up, as the cliche goes, on the cutting room floor?

I'm not going to predict his pick, but nominating Amy Coney Barrett would be a classic troll maneuver- putting a woman in charge of dismantling women's reproductive rights, then calling any liberal critics of her misogynists. Of course, I have a plan for such a contingency, and it's crazy enough that it JUST MIGHT WORK!!! At any rate, I won't be watching the live announcement, having no wish to boost Dotard's ratings.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Ditko Dead

I have never been a big fan of comic books, with one notable exception, but I have absorbed much of the pop culture through Saturday cartoon adaptations. Well, recently, the reclusive Steve Ditko, who came up with Spider-Man, died in his New York apartment. To me, Spider-Man was perhaps the most appealing superhero- he was a teenager who had to deal with studies, relationship complications, money problems, and an overbearing boss. Spider-Man was created as an Outer Boroughs hero, the sort of hero who is currently popular, a Queens kid who receives a gift that he is compelled to use for the common good, but unable to use for his personal enrichment. Spider-Man also remained resistant to the silly 'grimdark' aesthetic that seemed to characterize comics and genre fiction in the 90s- there was a bright primary color palette, though the narrative was tempered by a tragic backstory, which in some iterations could have been prevented by Spider-Man himself.

Besides Spider-Man and many of the villains in his orbit, Ditko created Dr Strange for Marvel Comics. He also indulged in his *SIGH* Objectivist leanings by creating an Objectivist superhero. Funny how this character never got the Saturday morning cartoon treatment.

At any rate, Steve Ditko was one of those titans of pop culture, even if he wasn't a household name. I was introduced to his work through reruns of the 1967-1970 cartoon series with the catchy theme song:





There were also hilarious Spider-Man sequences in the 1970s education show The Electric Company





The bit about not being able to eat a hotdog still cracks me up. At any rate, even as someone who didn't read comic books, Steve Ditko's most memorable characters percolated into my pop-culture awareness... and of course, without Spider-Man, we wouldn't have Italian Spiderman, who is even cooler:





I'd be remiss if I didn't post the Ramones' take on the theme song to the 1960s era cartoon:





After all, the Ramones were also superheroes from Queens... and Steve Ditko fans to boot.

Friday, July 6, 2018

Dramatically Patterened 'Stealth' Lepidopteran

Tonight, I found a dramatically patterned insect on one of the doors of our main building- look at this gorgeous thing:




It took me a while to identify it because nothing about it screamed 'LEPIDOPTERA'. As we have a pond onsite, I was looking up caddisflies of eastern North America and getting nowhere. I finally decided to look up all insect species listed for New York state on the wonderful Insect Identification website, and luckily it was listed among the 'A's' or I'd still be looking. This most unmothy (antennae aren't feathery, wings are compact) looking insect is an Ailanthus webworm moth, a North American moth which has adapted to utilize a tree introduced from Asia, though now commonly associated with Brooklyn.

It's a strikingly pretty insect, one I really don't recall seeing before. Apparently, they are originally from the semitropical regions of Florida and the Caribbean region... but global warming is a Chinese hoax.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Republicans in Russia

What better way to celebrate the foundational document of your nation than to visit a hostile foreign power that has meddled in US elections? Eight Republican senators decided to spend the Fourth of July on a visit to Russia. The delegation DID manage to spend time on the 4th with the US Ambassador, where they sang the national anthem:


Oh, say can you see
By St Basil’s fair domes
The proud GOP,
Paying court at the Kremlin.

In bold ties and dark suits,
They are far from their homes.
Doing damage to us,
Sabotage like a gremlin.

And each GOP flack
Wants a KGB hack
To win in the Fall
‘Cos it’s morals they lack.

Oh, say does your senator hang out with Putie?
Then voting his ass out, is your sacred duty!



PLAY BALL GO VOTE!!!

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Independence Day, or IndepenDUNCE Day?

As is often the case, I find myself working on the Fourth of July. I don't mind, though, I have gotten to a point in my life at which I'd rather not deal with crowds, or traffic, or any other BS. I'm not even prepared to deal with noise this year. It also doesn't hurt that it is a double-pay day. If I need to celebrate a holiday, I can celebrate Arbor Day or St Swithin's Day.

I didn't have to be at work until 5PM, so I waited out the heat wave reading the outraged responses to NPR's tweeting of the Declaration of Independence and the hilarious responses to some dumbass predicting that the Democrats would start a civil war. There are a lot of dunces in this nation, so many that they jeopardize our democracy. As if that weren't bad enough, a US court ruled that there is no fundamental right to literacy. When asked what sort of government the Constitutional Convention implemented, Ben Franklin is reputed to have responded: "A republic, if you can keep it." If people don't wise up, those prospects seem dim.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Subverting Trump's Supreme Court Pick

In the wake of Anthony Kennedy's retirement, Trump will be nominating a Supreme Court justice. One of the purported frontrunners is Amy Coney Barrett, an under-fifty, ultra-conservative Roman Catholic woman who is expected to be hostile to the decision in Roe vs Wade. The conventional wisdom is that Coney Barrett would be a disaster for women's access to reproductive healthcare.

If Coney Barrett does get the nomination, there is a way by which the Democrats could subvert the process. Most Republicans are stupid and hate to read, and all Republican members of Congress are stupid and hate to read. I mean, they have Louie fucking Gohmert on the payroll. Because they are stupid and sloppy, it might be possible to trick them into, instead of voting for Coney Barrett, voting for Courtney Barnett:





There are no citizenship requirements to be a Supreme Court justice, so putting an Australian on the court is perfectly Constitutional... and wouldn't you rather have a deadpan-snarker Aussie lesbian singer-songwriter on the court than some moral scold?

Monday, July 2, 2018

If'n You Hear 'Splosions, Git Yer Shootin' Arn!!!

Ya know, shit like this is going to get someone killed- Alex Jones is telling his troglodyte audience that Democrats are planning to launch a civil war on July 4. Seriously, this is Radio Rwanda level stochastic terrorism. July 4th is a public holiday, a holiday on which people gather in large crowds to watch fireworks, listen to music, or engage in other activities.

It's past time to ban this asshole from his online platforms- he is fostering a culture of paranoia which has all-too-often resulted in real-world violence.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

It's Incontrovertible, We Are in the Stupidest Possible Timeline

Sometimes, it feels as if we have slid into a parallel universe, an alternative timeline in which we are now living on a changeling Earth, and not a badass techo-sorcery Changeling Earth. There is a prevailing sense of surreality as we see the President of the United States engaging in trade wars with Canada, mulling over the dissolution of NATO, and getting played by the dictator of North Korea.

There have been indications that we are living in the stupidest timeline, and I believe we now have confirmation: the Trump administration has apparently drafted an anti-WTO bill called the US FART Act. The people can't even do Orwellianism right.

UPDATE: There's a Crap-and-Trade joke in here somewhere...