Monday, July 22, 2019

Perfidious J00z Are Ruining the Legacy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby!!!

It’s been a few years since I’ve written a post about assholes being enraged about Marvel’s Thor. These creeps lost their part-time minds when a female iteration of Thor appeared in a comic book. Now, they are feeling the same angst over an upcoming movie in which Thor is a lady. Some of them are, as is distressingly fascionable today, blaming the Jews for emasculating Thor. Oh, the perfidy! Why must the Jews disrespect the legacy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby?

Something tells me that most of these whiners have never read the original Norse source, or they wouldn’t be so upset about Thor in a dress.

POSTSCRIPT: Weird, all of the links seem to be broken, but the html coding looks okay. I will post links to the current outrage in the comments.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Meanwhile, Back on Earth

This weekend, I found myself the victim of a Chinese hoax. Put succinctly, it’s been hot as balls. Today, the mercury hit 98, with the humidity making it feel like 105. I tried to limit my outdoor time, but my job involves spending quite a bit of time outdoors, so I coped by drinking a lot of cold water before stepping outside. Still, each day I sweat through a couple of shirts. It was a relief each day when everyone else went home, and I could sit in my office without a shirt. The dress code, like the hospitality standards, goes to hell at a certain time of night.

The heat wave is finally subsiding, as a cold front is moving in, bringing rain. I’ll be off tomorrow while the promised rainstorm hits its full fury. Given the conditions I worked under all weekend, I’ve got a bunch of musty smelling shirts to launder.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

After Fifty Years, What Are We Achieving?

I enjoyed the Google doodle celebrating the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing, narrated by Michael Collins himself. The Apollo 11 mission occurred shortly after I was born, the day of my christening... family lore has it that some of the attendees were glued to their car radios in the parking lot until they were told to get in the bleepin' church already! I've written a bunch of posts about the moon- musings over the celestial body's beauty, science posts, posts about the Apollo missions themselves. I work nights, the moon literally looms over me much of the time.

That world of fifty years ago seems remote... sure, while the Apollo missions themselves were peaceful, an achievement for humanity as a whole, secondarily an achievement for Americans, the United States was involved in bombing peasants to oblivion in Southeast Asia at the time (the Mekons pointed out this contradiction). The plaque left on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin is a beautiful bit of prose, but the mission didn't herald an era of peace:

Rather than heed the Call to Adventure, the excitement of discovery, humanity's leaders decided to become bogged down in greed, fundamentalism, superstition, and tribalism. What should have become a Grand Mission for All Humanity soured, and petty, parochial concerns came to preoccupy Homo sapiens. Scientific inquiry takes a backseat to distortions of data to push corporate agendas, government policies subsidize fossil fuel extraction rather than the development of clean, renewable energy sources. Monkey trials are conducted, flat earthers push their nonsense on social media platforms. I think that, by nature, I tend to be an optimist, but the empirical evidence that has confronted me for the entirety of the twenty-first century causes me to have flashes of pessimism. I'm not the kind of person who dwells on concepts like the Fermi Paradox, but fifty years after one of humankind's most lofty achievements, it seems as if our species is slowly sliding to stagnation, and possible destruction, so that a tiny majority of the Worst Persons on the Planet can engage in an overconsumption that will eventually consume us all.

Friday, July 19, 2019

American Dream, American Nightmare

I have been in a foul mood all evening, and it's not due to the fact that I sweat through three shirts over the course of the workday. We had a lovely event, a dinner for a cadre of visiting teachers who have been at a workshop all week. The president of the organization attended, as did the head of HR and another vice president. Assorted other mucky-mucks were also present. Because we had a crowd of almost fifty attendees, we needed a cleaning contractor present to make sure the bathrooms were cleaned and stocked, and to assist in getting the post-dinner trash out to our dumpsters.

Tonight, our cleaning contractor was my Chilean friend, whose mother brought her here three years ago so she could pursue a STEM education. She's a vivacious young woman, quick with a joke or an anecdote. When there was a lull in the workday, while all of the guests and VIPs were dining, she told me that she had had a nightmare... it was a nightmare specifically about ICE. Her family had gotten a visa extension, but still felt tension about the process going through. She told me that her mother had instructed her not to answer the door, not to talk to strangers, and to dress in her best clothes when she was in public. She recounted how, when she came to the US, she was shy, but that her confidence had grown as she learned English and started to take honors classes. Now, her confidence had been shaken. She came here to study, to learn, to live up to her limitless potential.

Luckily, one of my favorite co-workers, a manager who serves as den mother for the younger staff, saw us conversing in a manner other than our accustomed jocularity and noted that we seemed concerned. We recounted our conversation, knowing that she was completely trustworthy. The gauntlet had been thrown down, how do we protect our vulnerable immigrant friend? I told her that I could drive her to work on Saturday and Sunday mornings so she can avoid public transportation, and we both pledged to her that she could contact us if ever she had a problem. She's smart, so she downloaded an app which provides advice in case she is stopped. My co-worker and I told her we'd help her to dress in a more 'American' fashion (note to self, buy New York Yankees cap ASAP) so as to look inconspicuous. When she was occupied with a task which took her away from us, we discussed educating ourselves about actions we could take if something arose.

It's particularly infuriating that this charming young woman, who should be stressing out about taking the SATs and applying to colleges, is now preoccupied with raids, with keeping her head down when she should be beaming with pride about her accomplishments. In a very big way, I am now forced to confront the question, what will you do if the unthinkable comes to pass? The topic came up at the end of the night, when the guests left, and a skeleton crew helped to rinse off and pack the dishes and glassware. We have all come to know and love someone who believes, with reason, that she could have a target on her back, how will we respond?

I remember hearing from all sorts of people back in 2016 who feared that discrimination against them would ramp up. I gave a half thought-out statement of support back then... now, I have to think about concrete means of support. What do I do should the unthinkable come to pass?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Secret Science Club Post-Lecture Recap: This Subject's Deep

On Tuesday night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, for this month's Secret Science Club lecture, featuring Dr Vicki Ferrini of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping. Dr Ferrini's topic was Mapping the Ocean Floor, and she kicked off the lecture by noting that maps are a common part of our lives- we are a geospatially oriented culture, to the extent that we have maps on our phones, and a lot of data at our fingertips.

Most of the planet's surface, approximately 70%, is covered with water. Most of the ocean floor is unseen, unmapped, unknown. While humans have mapped 100% of the surfaces of the moon and Mars, only 15% of the ocean floor has now been mapped within a 100 meter resolution. Dr Ferrini displayed a map of the North Atlantic Ocean floor, and noted that little is known, most of our knowledge being limited to the continental shelf.

Dr Ferrini's specialty is bathymetry, the mapping of the depths. She noted that the shape of the seafloor in a very localized area can be observed at the beach. For mapping the seafloor in deeper waters, sound is used. She gave us an overview of mapping conventions, pointing out the rainbow colors of the maps, with warm colors indicating shallows and cooler colors indicating depths:

She then displayed a picture of the open ocean and joked that, on a good day, the view from her office is good, then contrasted that with a picture of a tempest-tossed sea and quipped that a bad day at work is dangerous. On a really good day, she is able to explore the depths of the ocean in the Alvin submersible, which can accommodate one pilot and 2 scientists- the Alvin is a national research asset, the use of which is open to any university faculty who gain approval. Dr Ferrini travels around the world observing the different processes that shape the seafloor, using a sound-based data acquisition system. Building a global ocean map can be likened to solving a puzzle, a coherent image of the sea floor must be pieced together. Different instruments have different resolutions, resulting in different errors- most of what we know about the ocean depths is estimated- much of bathymetry is predictive. Satellites can measure perturbations and produce a global image, but one with poor spatial resolution and low vertical accuracy. Dr Ferrini contrasted a Google maps image of Manhattan around the UN with an image of the McDonnell Seamount near Wake Atoll. In terms of resolution, satellite cannot compete with sonar. Dr Ferrini displayed a video of Alvin exploring the seafloor, and indicated that it is very expensive to map the depths.

Why do we map the oceans? Nautical charts are important for safe navigation. Maps are crucial for oil and gas exploration. Communications cables are often laid on the seafloor. Maps can also help researchers determine the progress of climate change. In one dramatic case, the search for the wreckage of the lost Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 jetliner was hampered by poor maps- one can't zoom in on an area for which no data have been compiled.

Four hundred and thirty thousand square kilometers of the ocean floor have been mapped, and the data is publicly available. Most bathymetry takes the form of ship-based mapping. Historically, this was done with a deadline, a weight on a chain which was lowered into the water, a technique which Dr Ferrini humorously characterized as 'low res/little detail'. In the 1950s and 60s, the use of sound to map the depths came into use- typically, one sonar device pointed straight down would measure directly underneath a boat to make a profile. One of the pioneers of sonar-based bathymetry was Marie Tharp, who was not allowed to go to sea until 1968, but who compiled sonar images into a map of the ocean floor in collaboration with Bruce Heezen. Their map of the mid-Atlantic ridge is remarkably accurate:

Marie Tharp's work was instrumental in the verification of the theory of continental drift. In a retrospective, she described her career:

The whole world was spread out before me (or at least, the 70 percent of it covered by oceans).I had a blank canvas to fill with extraordinary possibilities, a fascinating jigsaw puzzle to piece together: mapping the world’s vast hidden seafloor. It was a once-in-a-lifetime—a once-in-the-history-of-the-world—opportunity for anyone, but especially for a woman in the 1940s. The nature of the times, the state of the science, and events large and small, logical and illogical, combined to make it all happen.

Modern seafloor mapping uses a multibeam sonar array, a 'fan' of sound beams which create many data points when they are picked up by transducers on the bottom of the boat's hull. Dr Ferrini compared this multibeam mapping to 'mowing the lawn', complete coverage of the boat's vicinity is obtained. The multibeam array not only measures the depth of the ocean floor, but the intensity of the returning sound beams allows researchers to determine if the ocean floor is rocky or muddy. Also, anomalies can indicate the bubbles produced by methane seeps.

Continuous surface detail is obtained with these sonar arrays. Sound velocity depends of water temperature, so the data has to be corrected for. Because the ships are moving, the data has to be corrected (Dr Ferrini joked that she gets motion sickness). Many pieces of data are brought together and cleaned up. It's a slow process, a single ship would take one hundred thousand years to finish mapping the depths. One way to speed up the mapping process would be autonomous mapping platforms, a combination of surface and underwater robots... one of her colleagues developed an unmanned surface vessel which is a 'mothership' for underwater drones.

Dr Ferrini then shifted to the topic of the interdisciplinary approach that will take researchers beyond bathymetry... ship-based mapping is the beginning, and the maps can guide other research. Near-bottom mapping has been done with resolutions up to twenty-five centimeters. Dr Ferrini displayed pictures of spiky hydrothermal vents, which form the mineral-rich base of the deep-sea food web. She posed the question, what would it be like to stand on the sea floor and look around? A sense of scale has to be developed. There are emerging visualization techniques which assist researchers- Dr Ferrini displayed an image of the Hudson Canyon and delivered a groan-inducing pun: "How can we fathom this?" Once a base map is built, the Alvin can be taken down for a new perspective on the data. Mosaics of the photos can be color-corrected and compiled by artists into clean images of underwater features.

Dr Ferrini then told us about Earth's newest land, Hunga Tonga, born of a 2014 volcanic eruption. NASA satellite data measured the processes of erosion and redeposition which shaped the island (this data could be used as an analog for modelling how Martian land masses were formed). Dr Ferrini and her crew broke off from some planned work due to bad weather and pulled up to the island in order to conduct a sonar sweep from the depths to the shallows in order to fill in some blanks for NASA. A flat subaqueous portion helped to keep the landmass intact.

No single country can assemble the bathymetric puzzle alone. NOAA is dependent on a global community, a community not only made up of government and academic personnel, but of industry and the general public. Anyone with a sonar unit can contribute data. The United States National Archives make data available to all (Dr Ferrini did note, though, that certain information, such as the location of shipwrecks, has not been revealed in order to protect future archaeological sites). Intergovernmental organizations such as the International Hydrographic Organization also make data available. The General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO) 2030 project aims to create a complete high-resolution map of the seafloor by (you guessed it) 2030 in collaboration with the Nippon Foundation.

Dr Ferrini stressed that the oceans are critical to human survival- 50% of atmospheric oxygen is produced by oceanic life. Ocean maps are critical to understanding the oceans. Technical innovations, such as improved sensors, improved data processing, and improved data sharing are needed. The world's oceans belong to all.

The lecture was followed with a Q&A session. The first question involved the effects of sonar on whales- the high frequency sound beams used for bathymetry scatter quickly, and pose little danger to cetaceans. Some anthropocene-obsessed Bastard in the audience asked her if she had observed any negative effects of human activity on seafloor communities, and Dr Ferrini answered that she hadn't yet, but that regulations to protect these habitats might be needed in the future. Manganese nodule mining might pose the biggest danger to seafloor biomes. Regarding changes to the seafloor- most changes occur in shallow areas, necessitating continuous surveying, but the depths are not as stagnant as originally thought. Concerning the location of earthquakes, sonar is insufficient, other resources are needed to pinpoint these occurrences. A question about the Alvin resulted in a funny aside- there is no privacy in the submersible, which operates from 8AM-5PM, and there is a sign advising users: PB4UGO. Dr Ferrini joked that occupants tend to bang their knees in the cramped interior, but everybody is too excited to notice. Regarding satellite data, satellites use optical techniques such as LIDAR, which are thwarted by cloudy or deep waters. A question regarding the extinction of oceanic life had Dr Ferrini stating that she is an ocean optimist- the ocean is the world's greatest museum, things die and become life for other things, and that humanity will be extinct before the oceans are depleted of life. In a hilarious tangent elicited by a question regarding the cost of sonar equipment, Dr Ferrini narrated a tale of shopping for a Boston Whaler with her wife and having the salesman giving her a lecture explaining how the sonar system worked.

Once again, the Secret Science Club delivered a fantastic lecture. Kudos to Dr Ferrini for hitting that 'secret science sweet spot', that combination of raw-information, explanation of research methods, and adventure narrative, leavened with good humor. Kudos also to Dorian and Margaret, and the staff of the beautiful Bell House on a job well done. As an added bonus, SSC co-founder Michael Crewdson was back in the ancestral homeland for his traditional Australian Winter break, accompanied by his oldest child. Welcome back!

For a quick taste of the Secret Science Club experience, here is a lecture by the good doctor about making bathymetric data available to the public.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Shaken, not Stirred

I’m deriving a lot of Schadenfreude from the outcries of MRA types over the casting of a black woman as 007 in an upcoming ‘Bond’ movie. It wasn’t too long ago that these same morons were losing their minds over the prospect of Idris Elba being cast as Bond. Well, now they are shaken, not stirred, because there are now girl cooties all over their male wish-fulfillment fantasies.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen a ‘Bond’ film- even in high school, I figured that they were kind of ridiculous. Reading Frederick Forsyth as a kid pretty much ruined James Bond for me, and the final nail in the coffin was Chuck Jones’ ridicule of the character in his autobiography, Chuck Amuck... a spy would have to be totally incompetent to blow his cover by acting conspicuously and giving out his name, code name.

I didn’t even bother with the ‘grittier’ reboot of the franchise with Daniel Craig in the title role (my choice for the role would have been MacGowan, Shane MacGowan, who actually looks like he smokes and drinks as much as Ian Fleming’s character). Why would I spend my entertainment dollars on a franchise which glorified toxic masculinity, jingoism, and the mindset which led to the Brexit disaster? If I want to experience reactionary attitudes, I can get them for free.

At any rate, the entertainment value over the freakout about Lashana Lynch being cast as 007 (in the franchise, a designation, not a name) is greater than the movie’s could ever be. I love it when the SJWs ruin things for bigoted assholes. The only thing that could possibly make this better is if the character’s name is Peg Butts.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Prime Directive

The Google tells me that today is Amazon Prime Day, when Deep Discounts can be found on the e-commerce titan’s website. Being a believer in the sort of mom and pop stores that anchor my neighborhood, I haven’t purchased anything from Amazon in years (though I have to confess that I would use it to buy something I could not obtain otherwise, should such an occasion arise).

Workers in a Minnesota Amazon distribution center walked off the job, seeking better working conditions. It’s a gutsy move in this New Gilded Era, an era of poor worker protections. When all you have to lose is a dangerous, unpleasant, low-paying job, you have nothing to lose. It’s been over two years since I’ve ordered something from the Bezos Borg, I think I can wait a good long time before buying those out-of-print books I had my eye on.

Being a fan of classic ‘Star Trek’, I was impressed by the concept of The Prime Directive. If I have a Prime Directive, it’s the classic ‘do no harm’. My Prime Directive directs me to avoid Prime Day. I support local businesses, and the job I end up saving just might be my own.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Return of the ICE Age

Back in June, I wrote about my Peruvian friend discussing how proposed ICE raids had cast a pall over the local Hispanic community. Trump postponed the raids until this weekend, but either due to a slow rollout or desensitization among the immigrant community, this round of raids doesn't seem to have caused a similar panic. In contrast to that June morning, the topic of ICE raids never came up in our conversation this morning, which revolved around more mundane matters.

Two ICE raids yesterday, in NYC's East Harlem and Sunset Park neighborhoods, were unsuccessful, and the ACLU has disseminated information about dealing with raids. I only know about what's going on in my circle of friends, but it seems that these actual raids just haven't inspired the same sort of fears as the previously announced ones, or maybe the fears have been normalized, merely a part of the general background angst that characterizes this current era.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Not Exactly an Alien Invasion

My take on extraterrestrial life is that I have no doubt that it exists, given the vastness of the universe, but that no intelligent extraterrestrials have visited this island Earth. I do, however, sometimes read up on UFO conspiracy culture because this sort of bad sci-fi appeals to me almost as much as good sci-fi does. Apparently, there had been hopes that Trump, an 'outsider', would reveal the 'truth' about UFOs, but that didn't materialize, to the disappointment of True Believers.

Besides the earnest UFO 'researchers', there are the shitposters, the sort of pranksters who set up a Facebook page for a mass videogame style 'raid' on Area 51. Joking that 'they can't kill us all', over half-a-million respondents have stated that they want to 'Leroy Jenkins' their way onto the restricted military base. My belief that any of these people are serious is even lesser than my belief that ETs have buzzed the planet, given the difficulty of moving that number of people to a remote desert site in Nevada, meaning that the Area 51 staff would actually be able to kill them all.

Speaking of aliens, the SFFaudio Podcast did a fun episode on Alien, the movie's antecedents, and media franchises inspired by the movie. A few years back, I covered the same territory in a blog post... given that the movie is now forty years old, I really should re-watch it. That's a better way to spend a July afternoon than sitting in plastic cuffs in the heat of the Nevada desert.

Friday, July 12, 2019

The Most Popular Woman in New Jersey

The plan was simple- leave mom’s house before 9AM and drive straight to work, leaving a couple of hours of grace period in case of bad traffic. Everything was smooth sailing until I got to Interstate 80- a roadside flashing sign indicated that the entire highway was closed at exit 30 in New Jersey due to an overturned tractor-trailer. The road had been closed from before rush hour, and I found this out around 1:30PM. I crossed into Jersey at the Delaware Water Gap and stopped at the Information Center a few miles into the state. That’s where I met HER... I grabbed a road map and, like everyone else, conferred with her about bypassing this 100% blockage of a major traffic artery. She went over the route with me: get off I80 at the exit for State Route 206 northbound, then turn onto Sussex County Route 517 northbound, then exit at State Route 23 southbound (which is a southeasterly route), and take it to Interstate 287 northbound to 87 east and the Tappan Zee Bridge.

I thanked her, and complimented her on her graciousness and good humor. She was being put through her paces on a rough day, and her charm and élan never faltered. In retrospect, I should have gotten her name so I could write a letter to the NJDoT. Besides providing information, she provided me with the Call to Adventure (if not the Lady of the Lake, she was the Lady of Lakehurst). I found myself on meandering rural roadways snaking through the hills of northern Jersey, suddenly traversing quaint hamlets thick with antique shops. If I hadn’t have been constrained timewise, I might have played the tourist in this region which, somewhat disconcertingly, was within range of my radio presets.

I made it through Jersey Rurality and emerged onto familiar roadways, right around the time that a single lane of I80 was opened. The imparted wisdom of the patient, good-humored Jersey Girl has won me through, and I arrived on the job with plenty of time to spare.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Tribute to Mom on Her Birthday

Mom, what can I possibly say about her which would be at all adequate? The best tribute to Mom is that she raised five children who are all responsible adults. I chalk that up to the fact that she instilled in us a sense of the importance of education, and she embodied the values that she espoused. Hypocrisy has always been foreign to Mom- it was always something she hated, and she realized that kids have a keen sense for it, so she avoided it at all times.

Growing up, we always had money for educational programs and sports equipment, even when money was tight... we weren't the type of people who indulged in material luxuries. For instance, we went many years without a television, though there were always plenty of books in the house.

Having five kids, Mom always had room for more under her roof, so our house was the go-to place for all of our friends throughout our lives (from grammar school buddies to grad school buddies to my brothers' Army comrades), many of whom still drop by when they are passing through Northern Virginia. Did I mention that extending hospitality was another value that Mom stressed?

I am grateful for the values and traits that Mom instilled in my siblings and I, the values being handed down to the next generation, which is also thriving. I guess living up to her standards is the best birthday present that we could give her.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Beetlesleuth! Beetlesleuth! Beetlesleuth!

Last weekend, I was set with the job of identifying a showy, thumb-long insect that had drawn the attention of visitors to one of our sites. Sadly, she (I'll get to this later) had left her perch when I arrived, but one of our visitors forwarded a picture to one of our shop employees, who e-mailed it to me. This is one impressive looking beastie:

The best way to figure out exactly what you're looking at is to know generally what you are looking at. I immediately thought I was looking at a beetle, because the upper set of wings looked like hard elytra, and the long, yellow 'spine' at the end of its abdomen shouted out 'ovipositor' to me. I tried a Google image search, but it wasn't very helpful, so I headed over to the laypersons' Insect Identification website. Being 99.9% sure I was looking for a beetle narrowed things down, so it didn't take too long to find out that this was a female Broad-Necked Root Borer (Prionus laticollis), described on the site as 'mammoth'... which made me even more miffed that I didn't get to see her. I then emailed my co-worker, and our visitor to inform them of the result of my sleuthing, forever cementing my reputation as the company 'bug guy'.

Post title lifted from this movie scene.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Virginia Bound

Today is a travel day- I'm heading down to northern Virginia for a family visit. Mom's birthday is coming up, and I haven't seen my sister and her kids in a while. Special thanks to my co-worker for swapping a Monday shift for a Thursday shift so I could be around for mom's actual natal day. I've already been tasked with some yardwork- laying down some topsoil and spreading grass seed where mom had an emerald ash borer stricken tree removed from her yard. I have already accomplished another task, a self-imposed one, namely buying up the entire stock of Vita pickled herring in sour cream from a local supermarket because mom can't find it in Virginia stores. A cooler full of herring isn't exactly traditional road-trip accompaniment, but this boy knows his mom.

I have set up a couple of posts, but I will be back in New York in time for Friday's shift (barring any untoward events). Here's hoping the traffic won't be horrendous!

Monday, July 8, 2019

SDNY Steps Up When Florida Fails

The biggest local story is today's biggest national story- the arrest of Jeffrey Epstein on child sex trafficking charges. It looks like the Southern District of New York will hold Epstein accountable for his crime spree after Florida dropped the ball, in a case which looks like an egregious quid pro quo.

The real story here is the probability that Epstein was procuring minors for wealthy, connected men, including current and former presidents. I'm with Tengrain, this is not a matter of politics... anyone found guilty of abusing minors should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I'm hoping that Epstein takes down a bunch of predators with him.

While I am not surprised that powerful individuals are engaging in the sexual abuse of minors (it's about power over), I don't believe that there's a satanic cabal that sacrifices and eats children. Evil is more banal that fantasists believe it is... this is sordid and mundane, a crime of men, not devils.

Hopefully, the Southern District of New York can put Epstein away for the rest of his life... this sort of task can't be trusted to Florida Man.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

I've Got Your White Nationalist Little Mermaid Right Here

There was a bit of an online kerfuffle over the casting of African-American singer/actress Hallie Bailey as Ariel in an upcoming live-action production of Disney's The Little Mermaid. Normal people don't give a dolphin's dingus about such matters, but it did cause a stir, amplified by a teenage troll/catfisher posing as a young woman online.

Hallie Bailey is an attractive young woman with a lovely voice, so she fits the role of a young mermaid in a movie musical perfectly, unless you have racist tendencies. I propose that the white nationalists make their own 'little mermaid' movie, starring someone with the criteria they demand- pale skin and lustrous red hair... of course, an ability to sing would be nice:

Of course, in this version of The Little Mermaid, the prince would end up drowning.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Rightwing Reverse Ouroboros

Today, there was supposed to be a big right-wing 'free speech' rally in Washington D.C., which had already promised to be a shitshow due to infighting. It turned out to be even more embarrassing than anyone expected, with various speakers crying about Tinder bans, trying to pull off failed stunts, and infighting. Besides being characterized by pettiness and disunity, the entire program really smacks of involving only the Extremely Online. Thankfully, the day wasn't marred by the sort of violence which usually erupts in places like Portland, but I wouldn't be surprised if the youngish right-wing crowd goes looking to beat up lone pedestrians after their post-rally drinking. If I were a DC native, I'd use cicrumspection while downtown tonight... after a failed rally and a few drinks, I imagine the frustration level is pretty high among the MAGA-types.

With yet another failure of a hyped event, the alt-right is looking even more incompetent than usual- they are a reverse Ouroboros, a snake with its head wedged up its cloaca.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Dark Lord Confirmed

I've been calling the Orange Ogre in the White House Vulgarmort for years, ever since a certain author said that he was worse than the arch-villain of her best-selling series of novels. Vulgarmort came across as a villain, albeit an incompetent one. This week, though, the Dark Lord vibe was readily apparent. I mean, get a load of Barad-Dumb:

As if that isn't enough to convince the skeptics, Vulgarmort left a taint of evil lingering in the air of Washington D.C.:

Ominous tower, pall of sulfur over the city? I'm convinced... just wait until he rolls out his 2020 campaign theme song.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Mixed Feelings this Fourth

I had to work today, but I usually work on Independence Day. It was a lovely day on the job, I spent the first hour with five attractive, intelligent coworkers, and I just spent a half hour watching the local fireworks display from the privacy of one of our site parking lots. Personally, I’m doing okay.

Again, though, it’s the existential angst that I can’t shake, the fact that there are concentration camps on the border, and the Orange Ogre just had a tinpot dictator-style spectacle (in which he rambled incoherently about airports during the Revolutionary War, among other gaffes). The surreal nature of this current age is disconcerting, that tension between the straight white male privileged existence, and the reports from afar of fascist rallies, child prisons, and political stagnation. I wonder how late-Imperial Romans or late Weimar Republic Germans felt... did they have an inkling of how things were getting really bad? Am I overly dramatic here?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

He Can’t Even Play Dictator Correctly

From the Department of Schadenfreude, it’s looking like Vulgarmort’s Grand Spectacle is shaping up to be a debacle. Who could have guessed that the guy who was made to look like a success through the magic of TV editing would muff up yet another endeavor? There seems to be a lack of planning, a flying-by-the-seat-of-your-pants quality to this tawdry affair. The fact that the heat index will be in the triple digits, and there’s a possibility of scattered thunderstorms only add to the general air of haplessness.

When Trump delegates his evil to factora such as CBP and ICE, alarming things happen, the sort of things that have people quoting Niemöller, but when he is in charge, he fails in spectacular fashion. He’s as clownish as Kim Jong Un, but he’s nowhere near as effective, and we should all be glad for that.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Make Alcohol Go Astronomical!

Via Tengrain, we have news that Trump wants to impose four billion dollars worth of tariffs on goods imported from the European Union in retaliation for European aeronautical subsidies.

I'm taking this personally because booze tariffs are going to be levied. I'm just glad that I still have about a liter-and-a-half of Tullamore Dew in the house. Of course, whiskey is leading me astray, but not to Trump's AmeriKKK. I mean, have you seen what's happening in that shithole?

Monday, July 1, 2019

For My Canadian Readers

Here’s wishing my Canadian readers a happy Canada Day. A perusal of my blogroll will indicate that it adheres to ‘Canadian Content’ rules. Despite the fact that Canadians are mysterious and inscrutable, and possibly dangerous, I can’t help but love them. In honor of Canada Day, I will blast the Canadian national anthem, which I’m pretty sure is Aldo Nova’s ‘Fantasy’.

All kidding aside, it’s nice to know that there is a functioning country adjacent to ours... I hope that we Americans can look to their example and become a better, more compassionate society, glorious and free.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Pride Post 2019: A Half-Century After Stonewall

The annual Pride parade in NYC has become a Big Deal, but in this era of Pride commercialization, it has to be noted that the Stonewall Uprising a half-century ago was a response to government-sanctioned violence against LGBTQ persons, largely persons of color. The riot, as it was termed, was led by transwomen of color responding to police harassment and assault (despite the whitewashed depiction in a recent movie).

Fifty years later, Pride is often seen as a white male celebration, though alternative marches have arisen to counter the sanitized narrative pushed by government agencies and corporations. The point of Pride is visibility, a display of solidarity in the face of peril. A gathering such as took place in Manhattan today could not have occurred a half-century ago... the Powers That Be simply would not have allowed it. The problem is that the struggle isn't over- violence against transwomen of color is rampant and Republican congresscreeps still oppose anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The Bad Old Days could always return in these days of weaponized bigotry and fanatic populism.

Dr Martin Luther King, Jr said: The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. That arc needs to be bent toward justice. The Stonewall patrons who refused to accept abuse at the hands of individuals who were supposed 'to protect and serve' strained to bend that arc, and any bit of complacency can cause that arc to bend in another direction. Here's wishing my LGBTQ readers a happy Pride day, albeit a cautious one. The struggle isn't over, and the forces of regression never stop.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Schrödinger's Blackness

The effectiveness of a Democratic candidate can be determined by the intensity of Conservative attacks against them. Therefore, Kamala Harris' effectiveness after the second Democratic debate has spawned a bullshit campaign questioning her identity as a black woman. The coordinated troll campaign reached its nadir when Uday retweeted a notorious right-wing whacko and fraudster:

The 'inorganic' nature of this campaign was apparent from the start because so many of the social media posts were repeated verbatim. The anti-Harris campaign was amplified by the outré ADOS (American Descendants Of Slaves) 'movement', which seems to be a group of trolls trying to drive African-Americans away from the Democratic Party, and more troubling, trying to drive wedges between the various sub-populations of the African Diaspora. ADOS is a blend of Trumpism and gatekeeping... it's a more under-the-radar version of Candace Owens' grift-y Blexit. I'm a white dude, but I look askance at the ADOS contingent because, while Amadou Diallo's family never lived under Jim Crow, his 'blackness' was not questioned by the police officers who slew him. Some of them are even claiming that Kamala Harris' father was a white Jamaican descendant of slave owners. While the particular history of one enslaved Diaspora group differs from the history of other groups, their descendants tend to share the same experience of discrimination- racial profiling, redlining, and harsher police treatment.

Reading about this troll campaign, the phrase 'Schrödinger's Blackness' popped unbidden into my mind... to Conservatives, the 'blackness' of a Democrat of African descent is uncertain until a determination is made of the particular needs of a campaign, by which I mean smear campaign. Right now, while ratfuckers are trying to undermine Kamala Harris' support among African-American voters by claiming she's not a genuine 'black American' (sic), those very same ratfuckers will accuse her of being an 'angry black lady' when it suits their needs. These arbiters of blackness, many of them black Russians, are not acting in good faith. Meanwhile, decency prevails in other quarters. It's good to know that the pushback has been well-coordinated... Kamala Harris knows her lived experience, and can define her own approach to her African Diaspora heritage. If she wants to use this classic as her campaign theme song, she can do as she damn well pleases.

ADDENDUM: I googled the phrase 'Schrödinger's Blackness' and only came up with one other instance of its use, for a concept which differs from my use of the term, but that I suspect will also be used as a weapon against Kamala Harris.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Eldritch Night of Music, Year of Eldritch Music

Uncharacteristically, I had to do quite a bit of driving for work tonight... I put nearly thirty miles on the odometer because I had to check multiple worksites. While driving from site to site, I caught the local commercial radio station's fantastic 10 at 10 (Ten Great Songs from One Great Year) feature- tonight's year was 1974, and the music featured had a decidedly outré, even eldritch bent, just the sort of music one wants to hear while driving on lonely roads at night.

How about Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells to put you in an absolutely not-creeped-out mood?

A little later on, Blue Öyster Cult's album version of Astronomy was featured. Good thing that light never warms, it's been hot and muggy all day... but only eldritch for the last hour or so.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

Spanish Lessons

Poking around the intert00bz today, I read a couple of pieces on how right-wingers are in a tizzy about three of last night's Democratic debate candidates speaking Spanish, or a facsimile thereof, during the debate. The US has a Spanish-speaking population of 41 million, so an ability to communicate to these potential voters could be crucial to winning elections, which is probably the major reason why right-wingers are so upset (SPOILER: It's really about the bigotry).

The use of Spanish by Beto O'Rourke didn't please everyone, but the guy DID grow up in a city named El Paso in a state named Tejas... besides, the Irish have long had a tradition of supporting their Spanish-speaking brethren. The Irish and Mexicans share a love of beer, fútbol, accordions, and veneration of the Virgin. Really, who could possibly distinguish between the Irish and the Mexicans?

Dumbass Brian Kilmeade asked, "Do Spanish people like people to speak Spanish with them?" In my experience, most people do appreciate any effort made to communicate with them in their primary language... but my Spanish is pretty good. A few weeks back, when I first met my young Chilean friend, I said something to her in Spanish and she joked, "You just want to practice your Spanish on me!" I answered, "Practicar es importante, pero hablaré cualquiera lengua que prefiere." That was enough to convince her that my Spanish was, if not fluent, proficient, and we typically bounce back-and-forth between the two languages. Since I usually work with her and my Argentine-American friend, we have a lot of conversations about dialect and specialized vocabularies. On one afternoon, I got a lession about Lunfardo, the tango-influenced, largely Italian-derived slang of Buenos Aires. Since my Spanish education, like most Spanish-language instruction en los Estados Unidos, comprises a sort of 'greatest hits of the Spanish speaking world', I was able to introduce one of my favorite short stories, Gregorio López y Fuentes' poignant and hilarious Una Carta a Dios to my South American friends. I imagine that my Argentine friend and I will have our Chilean friend reading El Sur before the summer is over. Of course, about half of our conversations are in English- my Argentine friend came to the US to study art history, and married a Yanqui. My Chilean friend was brought to the US by her mother, who doesn't plan on settling here long-term, so she can pursue a STEM education that would be harder to obtain in Chile... she's National Honor Society, so she's doing her mother proud.

I don't think for one moment that the Fox commentariat's pondering whether or not Spanish-speaking US citizens like to hear presidential campaigners hablan español... it's the sort of rank concern-trollery which is even less sincere than an attempt hablar la lengua.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Make Politics Boring Again!

I didn’t watch tonight’s Democratic debate- I don’t have a TV and I didn’t have the gumption to seek it out online. The stage is crowded at this point, and I prefer Elizabeth Warren as a candidate. I really didn’t need to hear from Tulsi Gabbard or the non-Beto white guys on stage tonight, and I had to go grocery shopping and do a load of laundry anyway. I will catch up on the highlights tomorrow.

There’s one critic who had a review of the debate, a man who is an amalgam of all of the bad kids in ‘Willy Wonka’. His review was one word:

Too many big words for his pea brain... Me? I want a return to boring politics. I want a return to the boring days when I didn’t check the PotUS’ Twitter feed to see if he nuked Iran, or Iowa. I want a return to boring technocrats running various Departments, of stable policies run by staid bureaucrats. There’s a value to boring routine- roller coasters are fun, but you wouldn’t want to commute to work on one, especially not one with non-working harnesses and faulty brakes.

Unlike Donald, I want boring, it sure beats horrific.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Annoyance Day

There’s a local primary election today, and my workplace is a polling site. I had to arrive at 5AM to open up the building for the poll workers. For some reason, they have been super annoying today. At one point, they asked me for an extension cord for an optical scanner, and I told them that I didn’t have one, so they would have to move the machine. One of them had the nerve to tell me, “You’re unprepared.” I told her, “I’m not with the Board of Elections, this has nothing to do with me.”

A half hour later, another one asked me if I had a roll of duct tape, and I told him no. He said, “You’re unprepared.” Hearing this a second time, I shot him a dagger-glance and hissed, “My job was to open the doors, turn off the alarms, and turn on the lights. My job is pretty much done. YOU are the one who’s unprepared.” He scooted away pretty quickly, which was good, because I was tempted to add, “I’m still here to make sure you don’t steal anything from the gift shop.”

At another point, one of them couldn’t get a backup scanner (Plan B) to turn on. She asked me if the outlet was good, and I pointed out that the power strip on light was lit. I suggested that she call the Board to see if they could determine the problem. It’s after ten AM, and nothing has been resolved.

A couple of them asked me for the company WiFi password and I told them that the guest WiFi comes online after 9AM.

Even the voters are annoying today. Our retail staff is in Manhattan for a trade show, so nobody is here to work the shop. I put stanchions up to block access. One ninny walked in from the rain and placed her umbrella on the floor on the verboten side of the stanchions. Again, I gritted my teeth and barked, “Don’t put your wet umbrella by our merchandise.” What kind of asshole thinks that’s acceptable?

I’m here until 2PM, when my sarcastic colleague takes over. I’m usually patient, but today has been a string of annoyances- I’m going to warn him about what to expect. Then, I’m going to grab a couple of well-earned beers.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Really Big Easter Eggs

I’m not a really big movie-goer, but I knew that I would end up seeing Godzilla, King of the Monsters on the big screen. I am a big fan of both the serious original 1954 Gojira and the gloriously goofy 1970s Godzilla monster bashes. More significantly, I know one of the motion-capture actors who played monsters in the movie, and I like to support my people. The new Godzilla movie navigates a middle course between the two styles of kaiju movies- there are scenes of human suffering as cities have to be evacuated from ‘the Titan menace’ and there are strangely beautiful monster fights, with prehistoric menaces flinging brightly colored radiation beams at each other.

The movie definitely demands suspension of disbelief... after all, it does feature a moth larger than a jumbo jet as a main character. Put your skeptical adult brain in neutral, embrace your inner eight year old, and bask in that nostalgia, because there are tons of Easter eggs- callbacks to other kaiju movies. Zang Ziyi’s Dr Chen shows pictures of her mother and her twin sister conducting research on Infant Island, calling to mind the pixies from the classic Mothra movies. The three-headed monster is known as ’Monster Zero’ before Dr Chen identifies it as King Ghidorah by perusing old legends. An oxygen destroying missile, reminiscent of the device used to kill Godzilla in the 1954 movie, is deployed against Godzilla and Ghidorah, with unexpected results, revealing the true nature (and true danger) of Ghidorah. Even Ken Watanabe’s (as Dr Serizawa) viral ‘let them fight’ line is referenced by another character.

The plot is a mishmash of Gaia hypothesis (an ‘eco-terrorist’ villain describes the Titans as the ‘immune system meant to bring ecological balance to a world undergoing a mass extinction), military thriller (terrorists vs international monster monitoring organization), and family drama... but you’re really here for the monster battles. There are topical scenes of child separation in refugee crises, and a nod toward the need for finding a balance between humanity and nature... but you’re really here for the monster battles.

The movie does convey a sense of wonder- such scenes as the emergence of Mothra from her cocoon were gorgeous. There are moments of pathos as well- particularly when Dr Serizawa approaches a stricken Godzilla and intones ‘goodbye, old friend’ in Japanese. Watching the movie, I became an eight year-old again, which was a nice way to spend two and a half hours, in a world where real monsters dwell.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

ICE Threat Chilling

Today, I was reminded of how the political has the potential to become personal in a matter of moments. This morning, the cleaning contractor, a gentleman from Peru, came in and remarked that his neighborhood was in turmoil due to rumors of Trump's proposed mass deportation push. Trump indicated that he would postpone the mass raids, but people in my friend's neighborhood are laborers who don't have much time to keep up with the news... and they have no reason to believe that the White House Occupant is telling the truth. Suffice it to say, people were scared, and in this era of cruelty, that was probably the reason for the proposal in the first place. The people who wash dishes in restaurants and mop bathroom floors in office buildings were terrorized: Mission Accomplished!

This afternoon, I returned to work, albeit at a different site. Typically, the first two people I see are both South American women. One is a gift shop clerk about my own age from Buenos Aires. She's a sophisticated lady of European descent, who would look at home in Madrid, or Milan, visiting museums or working in a boutique. She was appalled when I told her about my conversation of the morning, and we had a dolorous conversation about the cruelty and capriciousness on display- she asked my why there weren't mass demonstrations on the streets, and I didn't have a good answer for her. We Americans tend to be more passive than Europeans when it comes to making our displeasure known en masse. Her husband is a US citizen, and her daughters are fine, upstanding young Americans who are just now approaching the age at which they will become politically involved... and involved they will be.

The other South American woman, a cleaning contractor who works for the same company as my Peruvian friend, is a Chilean teenager who has only been in the 'States for three years- she's a perfect example of what José Vasconcelos termed 'la raza cósmica', a walnut-complected girl with a sweet, expressive face. Her mother emigrated to the US specifically so that she could receive an education, and she has plans to study nursing, and then pathology, so she could become a medical examiner. She seemed to be unaware of the planned ICE raids, and I wasn't about to bring the topic up because she already has to deal with her remaining NY State Regents Exams. She's a hardworking girl, and she quickly became an indispensable help to the staff of the site, even going out of her way to help organize supplies for school groups. She is exactly the sort of person you would want to move to your city or town, a National Honor Society member who is working hard and pulling good grades in school.

It bothers me that good people, good friends of mine, feel like they have targets on their backs. These people contribute to our society, their potential should not be scorned. It bothers me even more to have to work out ways in which I could protect them if things take a turn for the worse. A gauntlet has been thrown down, and I have to figure out the best way I have to pick the damn thing up.

POSTSCRIPT: The ACLU has a good primer on what to do if the raids go through.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Definitions, Pondering Definitions

Today was a glorious day, the sort of early summer day in the scenic Hudson River Valley that is exceeded only by the sort of late summer days we get here. I work in spectacularly beautiful surroundings with lovely people... as I often say, my life is okay. Still, there's an existential horror occurring in this land that I have loved, something which intrudes even on days such as today... this week was particularly disquieting because it involved the mainstream media splitting semantic hairs over the definition of 'concentration camps'- I imagine Merriam-Webster is getting a ton of web traffic these days.

As is typical of the post-November 2018 mediascape, the 'controversy' was ignited by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the favorite bête noire of right-wingers and the idiotic media flacks who 'bothsides' issues to a fare-thee-well. The hair-splitting also plays into the hands of Holocaust deniers, who often dispute the fact that the Nazis intentionally killed Jews in an industrialized fashion.

The real problem here isn't the definition of 'concentration camps', it's the definition of 'Americans'... who are we? What have become?

Friday, June 21, 2019

Madman Theory Gone Wrong?

The only time I ever posted about 'the Madman Theory' was when I wrote a review of the 'Ellery Queen' novel (actually written by my beloved Jack Vance) The Madman Theory. The 'Madman Theory' was attributed to Richard Nixon by H. R. Haldeman:

I call it the Madman Theory, Bob. I want the North Vietnamese to believe I've reached the point where I might do anything to stop the war. We'll just slip the word to them that, "for God's sake, you know Nixon is obsessed about communism. We can't restrain him when he's angry—and he has his hand on the nuclear button" and Ho Chi Minh himself will be in Paris in two days begging for peace.

The basic gist is that an opponent would be reluctant to provoke a madman... Trump's decision to retaliate against Iran for shooting down a drone was immediately followed by a reversal, supposedly ten minutes before the planes were to have been sent to strike Iran. Trump claimed that his change of policy was motivated by compassion and a sense of proportionality, but cynical persons aver that his boss called him to tell him to back off. While Trump said the military was 'cocked and loaded', it seems that the Republican congresscreeps were cockblocked. Whether or not Trump is bluffing or actually had a change of heart regarding an actual attack on Iran, all I can really say is that I am thankful that my brother Vin retired from the Army in April.

The problem with the Madman Theory is that it doesn't work if the person using it is actually a madman.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Opposite of Philanthropy

I am a believer in science, an adherent to the proposal that humanity can better itself with knowledge, with peer-reviewed research, and policy rooted in fact. My wish is for a society rooted in progressive policies, informed by science and scholarship... the sort of society which could, for example, eradicate measles. Even now, I believe that I once lived in such a society.

It was enraging to read that a wealthy billionaire couple has donated an ungodly sum of money to an organization which spreads anti-vaccination propaganda. These people are engaged in action deleterious to human welfare... they are squandering their riches on disinformation which is immiserating children, putting innocent individuals at risk. Whatever their motivation, they are making things worse for humanity.

I am all for Elizabeth Warren's proposed wealth tax- it's only fitting that the ultra-wealthy should be forced to pay to offset some of the damage they are inflicting on our nation.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Day Three of the Birthday Bender

Birthdays should be celebrated on the Hanukkah model, they should be multi-day affairs. Luckily, I have a bunch of friends who were born in mid-June, and unluckily, my work schedule is heavily weighted towards weekends, which luckily means that I have three days off each week. Yeah, I’ve had some booze, but I think that made sense.

Tonight, I met with a coworker whose birthday was last Saturday and a former contractor we have become close with whose birthday is today- his husband rounded out the group. We hit the Maya Riviera restaurant in the village of Briarcliff Manor, about seventeen miles north of the City of Y_____. It’s a nice, old school Mexican restaurant, but not particularly ‘Mayan’ (they don’t serve the typical Yucatán dish cochinita pibil, which is pork stewed with blood orange juice and black peppercorns in a banana leaf and served with pickled onions). I ordered chicken mole poblano, which is sauced with an elaborate melange of chocolate, nuts, and spices. It’s a culinary tour de force, the kind of dish that involves a lot of grinding and mixing- I’ve only made it once, for a special occasion, years ago.

It was one of those slow dinners, very talky, pretty boozy... just the kind of dinner between old friends celebrating getting older. The birthdays continue until next week, but the bender ends tonight- this guy’s work schedule is heavily weighted towards weekends, after all, and with maturity comes responsibility.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

These Are the Armies of the Right

Tonight, there will be a big Trump rally/campaign kickoff in Orlando. The various septs (or sects, if you’d prefer, though I like the callback to ‘septic’) of MAGAland are assembling. Among the more outre members of the group are the QAnon Cultists and the Pinochet-loving Proud Boys. Both groups are arrayed in their typical uniforms for this event, lending (to my nerdly eye) an air of ‘cosplay-of-the-damned’ (curseplay) to the proceedings.

I’m reminded of the outlandish gangs from the 1979 movie The Warriors, from which I’ve taken the post title- each in their fanciful dress code. I can’t dig it, though, I can’t dig it at all.

Monday, June 17, 2019

Half Century Club

It's another year around the sun for me. Personally, I'm doing okay, but I can't help but feel that somehow, the world has gone radically wrong in the course of my lifetime. I was born during the apogee of the Space Age, but Flat Earthers not only remain among us, but seem to have a larger cultural presence that they would have a few decades ago. The problems of racism and misogyny haven't been solved, and again there seems to be a backlash against the gains made by women, people of color, and LGBTQ people. It's tough to pinpoint exactly when things started going wrong, but I lay much of the blame on Reagan, who cheerfully pushed the lie that government was the major problem in people's lives, and that unions were greedy institutions preventing Joe Schmo from becoming a millionaire. The demographic shifts that our country is experiencing are something I am comfortable with- I spent a lot of time in the Bronx as a kid, and when I lived in New Rochelle, NY, there was already a vibrant community of Mexican immigrants whose culture and language I came to love. While I was fully aware of our nation's questionable foreign policy in places like Latin America and the Middle East, being the sort of kid who started reading the newspaper in kindergarten (my mom loves to tell the story of the time I didn't want to go to a friend's birthday party at an amusement park because I had read about a ferris wheel accident in Durban, South Africa), the current cruelty is something I never would have predicted. Years ago, I still thought that the nation I grew up in was fundamentally good... I sure hope it is, and that the current shitshow is a temporary phase.

I wish I could say that the half-century I've spent on the planet was marked by progress, but I don't see it. Again, personally I am doing okay, I am surrounded by friends and a loving family, and I even work in a gorgeous place. I might be looking a little craggy lately, largely as a result of keeping horrendous hours, but generally speaking, life is good... I mean this is me at work:

It's a funny week, a lot of my friends and one of my uncles were born around this time of year- today marks the start of three days of celebrating birthdays. Sure, the promise of the era of my birth has been squandered on five decades of missed opportunities, wasted potential, but I'm doing okay, and the people around me are doing okay, and I am still optimistic enough to believe that we will be working to make things better. Things had better get better.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Happy Fathers' Day 2019

First of all, here's wishing a happy Fathers' Day to all of my readers. Last year, I wrote a post about masculinity, and the worrisome backlash against the advances that women have made in society. To a large extent, it's an online phenomenon, but it periodically manifests itself in the real world, with deadly consequences- most mass shooters have a history of violence against women. Once again, it seems like our society is failing its boys and young men. I was fortunate to grow up in an environment in which the older kids had a protective attitude towards the younger kids... the boy who lived across the street from my grammar school was three years ahead of me in school, and when he was in high school, he would still stop by to make sure that we were all doing well. I won't say that bullying didn't occur, but it was typically nipped in the bud by other kids.

I chose my 'nym years ago as a send-up of tough-guy masculinity... paradoxically, I think it's ridiculous while being able to draw upon it on those rare occasions when it's handy (sometimes, coming across as someone who'd be perfectly happy to rip someone's head off is a useful skill, especially when backed up with the ability to rip someone's head off). Part of me believes that much of the current crisis of masculinity is due to the synergistic effect of poor job prospects, lack of physical activity combined with a toxic gamer culture, pop-cultural depictions of largely-unattainable physiques, and an echo chamber of disaffected misogynists who want to blame women for the woes of young men rather than blaming the effects of the metastatic stage of current capitalism. Thankfully, my brothers, my male cousins, and my friends are involved with their children, and the next generation of my social circle is made up of well-adjusted kids with impressive accomplishments. It's imperative that we, as a society, break this cycle of radicalization.

Men just have to do better, and part of it is making sure that masculinity isn't seen as a straitjacket which limits boys' and men's emotional expressions and life experiences, masculinity shouldn't be monolithic. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: The problem with toxic masculinity is the toxicity, not the masculinity... and we need poison control badly.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

The Internet's Augean Stables

Ah, 8Chan, how does one describe it? It's a festering heap of child pornography, Gamergate misogyny, racism, anti-semitism, conspiracy mongering, and exchanges between mass shooters, wannabe mass shooters, and fans of mass shooters... you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy. 8Chan is the Augean Stables of the internet, the shittiest of shitposting shitholes... it is also the subject of a recent search warrant:

It will be interesting to see how the Chan Klan handles the prospect of being outed after having assumed anonymity on the imageboard... how many anime-Nazis are sweating over the prospect of their employer finding out that they are egging on potential mass shooters? What is 8Chan's biggest 'celebrity', the anonymous hoaxer(s) known as "Q" going to do if anonymity is compromised? Ben Collins of NBC speculated about this as well...

Reading over this post, I realize that I need to step away from the internet for a bit- it's a beautiful summer night, with an almost full moon... that beats a shitstorm anytime.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Excising Expertise

The latest atrocity in the current maladministration is Trump's executive order directing governmental agencies to cut their advisory committees by a third. At a time when scientific expertise is needed now, more than ever, this clown is showing scientists the door. The idea that this is a money saving measure is ridiculous in light of the growing deficit. The idea that this is a measure meant to curb conflicts of interest is even more ludicrous, especially in an administration that puts a former aerospace executive in the position of Defense Secretary. The very idea that Republicans were waging a war on science has become axiomatic. Trump is ramping up this war, he's basically nuking science from orbit, it's the only way to be sure that his corporate cronies can complete their Global War on Terra.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Gulf of Oman Incident?

I don't trust the Trump maladministration, and I especially don't trust neocon loon John Bolton and theocon loon Mike Pompeo, thus I am more than a little skeptical about the recent attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman, which Pompeo insists were perpetrated by the Iranian armed forces. While I find the Shiite fundamentalist regime of Iran repulsive (though I think the Saudis are worse, despite our purported alliance with them), I've been suspicious of Republican claims of Iranian malfeasance ever since George W. Bush lumped them in with Iraq and North Korea as part of the 'Axis of Evil'. In light of Trump facing increased scrutiny for his failures and felonies, I am concerned that he might pull a 'wag the dog' maneuver if he thinks it'll save his badly bronzed hide (I've never bought that 'Donald the Dove, Hillary the Hawk' narrative). I can see Pompeo and Bolton egging him on towards this end, I just hope that Congress would act to stop any sort of foreign policy blunder.

I really don't want to sound paranoid, but it's not like trumped-up naval incidents in the gulfs of the world are that far-fetched.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Men Wouldn’t Face This Scrutiny

I watched most of yesterday’s women’s World Cup match between the United States and Thailand while playing bar trivia last night. It was a 13-0 rout, in case you missed it. Tonight, one of the stories on the network news concerns whether or not the continual scoring and subsequent celebrations were evidence of poor sportsmanship. I doubt that a men’s team would face the same criticism- they would have been portrayed as exuberant rather than bullying, their displays of bravado being portrayed as admirable.

The US is a large, wealthy country, and one that places more of a premium on women’s athletics than most other nations (though the Michigan State horror shows how far we need to progress). It’s no wonder that the women’s national team would be a dominant force in the World Cup. Coming opponents will be wealthier countries than Thailand, countries with stronger soccer traditions- the outcomes of the games might be uncertain. Let the women’s team have their moment of exuberance, they play a lot better than their male counterparts.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Another Young Immigrant Dies In Trump Administration Custody

Via Tengrain, we have the tale of another young immigrant dying in custody of the Trump maladministration... the French oak sapling given to Trump by Emmanuel Macron as a token of goodwill between France and the United States has died. It had been placed in quarantine after already having been symbolically planted on the White House grounds... whisked away to an uncertain fate like a Guatemalan toddler. It’s axiomatic that everything that Trump touches dies, whether corporation, child, or tree. Part of me suspects that Trump didn’t want anything shadier than he in the vicinity of the White House. At this rate, we’ll be lucky if the Republic is left standing when he leaves office.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Unarmed Man Enters Battle of Wits

I had a long, arduous (but fun) weekend on the job, so I spent most of this rainy day sleeping. I missed John Dean’s testimony in Congress, which was knocked out of the local headlines by a Manhattan helicopter crash. I DID manage to catch up a bit this evening, and was struck by this exchange:

What we have here is a failure to communicate a drunken bro-hole trying to outclass a man who has been a public servant and a truth-teller for longer than he’s been alive. It’s amazing to see callow nepotism hires believe that they can best individuals who have weathered the greatest political scandals of our time. Looks like Gaetz chose the wrong day to quit drinking.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A Semi-Formal Night

In a marked contrast from last night, tonight is the night of a major fundraisers’ event. I’m sitting around in jacket-and-tie as the swells are having a lovely al fresco dinner. Needless to say, the head of our organization is here, along with two Vice Presidents. My day really begins when the caterers need to clean up and get out, when my role as keyholder comes into play.

Then it’s change into shorts and T-shirt and run around making sure that the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed... making sure the caterers know where the dumpsters are, then locking up the service entrance. Thankfully, the weather is perfect, so I won’t be running around in a quagmire in my best shoes.

It’s been a weekend of contrasts, a night with young Bronx working class heroes and an evening with well-heeled (some exceedingly so) philanthropists. It’s the blend of job experiences that makes the position interesting... well, that and being with all the critters once both poor and rich humans leave.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A Rustic Night

Tonight is a weird night on the job- one of our sites is hosting a campout for the counselors of another educational non-profit. I just arrived, and the recent college grads are out having dinner. I had worked an afternoon shift at another site before relieving my coworker who had been here.

The ‘kids’ are all vetted- they wouldn’t be working with high school students if they hadn’t been. My coworker told me that there were about twenty of them, so it should be a lively night. They will be setting up a campfire in a designated firepit when they get back.

My job is to act as keyholder, to make sure that our guests can get where they need to get and to use my local knowledge if there’s an emergency (which I don’t expect). I anticipate that it will be a fun night, but a busy one... and it’ll also be a busy night for the mosquitoes.

UPDATE: It’s dawn now, and the guests are still sleeping. When they came back from dinner, they built a campfire and made s’mores, making sure that I got one. One of the old-timers, who was here on the overnight last year, told a funny story about cooling off in our one air-conditioned building (for the record, last night was a lovely 60 degrees) and hearing a bang-and-clatter overhead... he didn’t want to stay inside, and he didn’t want to leave the building to face whatever made the noise. He was in the classic horror movie dilemma. I joked that I’d be the guy to go outside and investigate, to my doom!!! That’s why I’m the night guy. Even though I only live a few miles from this crew, I came across as some sort of eccentric Druid type.

The highlight (literally) of the night was when these young adults, who are mainly from the Bronx, looked up and saw the (truth be told not-many) stars of the northern suburban sky. One young man, making out the constellation, joyfully exclaimed, “The Big Dipper!” It was just the sort of moment that camping is made for.

Friday, June 7, 2019

There's a Moon in the Sky, It's Called the Moon, and It Is Part of Mars

The stupid never ceases, with the current cri du cul being Vulgarmort's stupid tweet about the Moon:

Weird, we never learned that in astronomy class! The most charitable interpretation of this tweet would be that a Moon mission would be part of a broader Mars mission, but besides the incoherence of the tweet, such an interpretation would assume that going to the Moon is, in fact, a place where NASA would be going. At any rate, the whole thing is mind-bogglingly stupid.

The post title is taken from a song from the B-52's first album. Poking around the t00bz, I found a great live version of the song from 1985
, and as an added bonus, Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz of Talking Heads (who are also the Tom Tom Club) are playing bass and drums respectively.

Maybe if someone told Trump he could ride in a gold meteorite, we could get his ass out of the White House.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Complications of Brain Salad Surgery?

It's another bummer in a year of bummers... famed Louisiana musician Dr John, nee Malcolm John Rebennack, has died. The news reports that he died of a heart attack, but I suspect that he succumbed to complications of brain salad surgery.

Dr John was one of the pillars of the New Orleans music scene, working as a session musician with artists across the color-divide since the 1950s (he played with Professor Longhair as a teenager).

I am a fan of the various musical traditions of Louisiana, a point I belabor on Mardi Gras, and I have posted Dr John's version of the standard Iko Iko, a song I posted a 'dissection' of a few years back.

My favorite song by Dr John is the otherworldly, creepy even, I Walk on Guilded Splinters, the tour-de-force of his psychedelic voodoo-inspired album Gris-Gris. Just try to listen to this song without feeling a sligh tingle up your spine.

Malcolm John Rebennack was a one-of-a-kind performer, a flamboyant character from a flamboyant city who took the mélange of cultures from that storied burgh, tripped out, and unleashed the resulting idiosyncratic style on an unsuspecting listening public... maybe he was the one performing brain salad surgery on the rest of us.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Sweetums, 2019 US Tour

My older brother, Sweetums, is coming on a whirlwind US tour because it's a college reunion year. He flies into JFK airport, and we are planning on having dinner with several family members before I drive him down to the Princeton, New Jersey area so he can meet up with some old college buddies and they can road-trip to the reunion. What, you thought he went to Princeton? Hey, now, Sweetums is elite, he's not an elitist. While the prospect of driving on the New Jersey Turnpike isn't exactly a pleasant one, I can't think of anyone I'd rather be stuck in traffic with than il fratello maggiore mio. It'll be nice that he's combining a family reunion with his college reunion.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Floofy, yet Dangerous

I haven't written a Ginger post in a while, so I figured I'd post a comical picture of my divalicious co-worker acting like a floofy, goofy girl. Here's my beloved kitteh exposing her soft white underbelly:

A dog person would interpret this as a desire for a belly rub, but cats are more ambiguous than dogs and that soft, fluffy expanse of fur is surrounded by four sets of switchblades. In this particular case, it's probably a sign of Ginger's trust, but I know her well enough so that I stick to the safe spots when I pet her.

Monday, June 3, 2019

The Ants in France Live Mainly on the Plants

I had a conversation with one of our site visitors yesterday about flowers... I mentioned that she had missed the blooming of the lilacs by a couple of weeks, and she wistfully mused, "I wish the flowers could last all year long." I noted that I loved the sense of succession, the changing of the various botanical sensations. I love the daffodils and crocuses in late March and throughout April, as well as the wild redbud blossoms. They give way to the cherry blossoms, wisteria, and lilac. Now, it's the locust blossoms and the showy peony flowers:

Is that color not outrageous? Of course, with peonies, you get the ants, which are attracted to the nectaries the buds feature much like the trumpet vine does. The vampire hell ants are long extinct, and the current ants tend to prefer heavenly food sources.