Thursday, January 18, 2018

Betrayals Most Foul

In a week of repugnant news stories, the harrowing tale of Larry Nassar's sexual abuse of multiple girls is perhaps the worst. The fact that Nassar cloaked his depredations in the guise of medical treatment is a horrific betrayal of a medical doctor's duties, generally held to be sacred. He betrayed the trust of his victims, and their parents, some of whom were convinced that their daughters were mistaken concerning Nassar's conduct. Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics failed to protect their charges against Nassar, eerily echoing Penn State's failure to protect children from a sexual predator... Nassar was able to abuse scores of girls over the course of decades, leading some victims to commit suicide or to seek solace in drugs.

I've long held a repugnance for high level competitive gymnastics, as detailed in Little Girls in Pretty Boxes... I look at Kerri Strug's perfect landing with an injured ankle as a more of a horror story than a triumph:





Don't get me wrong, that was a display of guts, but it points to a disregard for the well-being of girls, an attitude conducive to a predatory culture. Nassar had a one-man reign of terror, but it's hard to see any good guys involved in the sport.

Part of the reason which I find this especially repugnant is my volunteering as a coach for a children's athletic program. After the Penn State scandal became public, all of the adults involved in the program had to undergo background checks. I'm a judo player, and our sport had a sexual abuse scandal- Kayla Harrison, the most accomplished American judoka ever, was abused by a coach and fought depression and suicidal ideation. She is now a tireless crusader against child abuse.

Besides screening adults who are involved in children's activities and making sure that there is no unsupervised contact between kids and adults, it is crucial to believe children when they reveal that they have been abused (I was enraged by the tale of the woman whose parents didn't believe her tale of Nassar's abuse), and it is crucial to instill in them a healthy skepticism of authority figures. For all the characterization of 'stranger danger' being the major threat to children, the tragic fact is that abuse is usually perpetrated by trusted adults- clergy, coaches, teachers... it's often the stranger who notices that something is wrong and puts an end to the abuse.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Shocking Death

Here's a tragic companion to yesterday's post- Dolores O'Riordan, the lead singer of the Cranberries, has died at the all-too-young age of forty-six. I don't recall the 1990s as being a banner decade for music, but the standout bands for me were rock bands that were fronted by charismatic female vocalists. Among these standout bands was The Cranberries from Limerick, Ireland. Their first album, released in 1993, happened to coincide with an Irish Renaissance in the New York metro area- a poor economy in Éire drove a wave of immigration to NYC and much of the Irish immigrant community migrated from the Norwood section of the Bronx to the Woodlawn/McLean neighborhood which straddles the Bronx/Yonkers border (my neighborhood). Locally, the storied Rory Dolan's pub opened in 1994, and internationally, Riverdance swelled into a cultural juggernaut (for the record, I still chuckle at Michael Flatley jokes). The decade was perfect for the release of a debut album by a Very Irish band, and the Cranberries fit the bill.

The band immediately made an impression on me with the ethereal single Dreams, a perfect showcase of Ms O'Riordan's vocal range, from breathy to belting:





It's here where I confess that, if I can be said to have a 'type', it's gaminesque Black Irish heartbreakers like Ms O'Riordan, which is a factor in my fanboi status and my current melancholy.

The band's 1994 second album opened up with the political song Zombie, written to protest a 1993 bombing by the provisional IRA, a splinter group of which committed the horrific Omagh bombing. The song charted throughout the world, having resonance wherever bitter dead-enders cling to their hatred and violence:





In 1994, I went with a bunch of friends to see the band play the Beacon Theatre, a really amazing music venue on Manhattan's West Side.

After a run of albums throughout the 90s, the band seemed to fizzle out, but they recently mounted somewhat of a comeback:





The best way to remember Ms O'Riordan is to blast her music, so here's a 1999 concert video by The Cranberries:





News of her death came as a dreadful surprise, but the, forgive the expression, lingering melancholy is knowing that a voice which formed a big part of the soundtrack to a fantastic time of my life has been stilled.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

An Unlikely Survival

Today, something which I never would have believed thirty years ago happened... Shane MacGowan turned sixty years of age. My love for Shane has been documented over the years, I just didn't think that this hard-drinking, hard-drugging, hard-living rapscallion would live to be eligible for a senior citizens' discount. Here's a guy who's public debut was a journalist-documented earlobe biting at a Clash show:




Who would have thought that that bloody kid would survive decades of self-abuse to become a beloved elder statesman? While I am a huge Pogues fan, I figure it would be fun to post a video of a song by Shane's first band, The Nipple Erectors- here's King of the Bop:





A cute number, but perhaps not indicative of the man's glorious songwriting skills. A few years later, the guy was writing epics such as The Sickbed of Cuchulainn:





It looks like Shane had a blast on his birthday, but I'd be remiss if I didn't add (as everyone does) that I'll always be shocked that he outlived Kirsty.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Racists and Reactionaries

On this Martin Luther King Day, in the year of the fiftieth anniversary of his assassination, the individual who holds the highest office in the land is fresh off of a scandal in which he was heard to malign immigrants from developing nations which are still contending with the aftereffects of colonization and post-colonial exploitation. The general consensus among Trump watchers is that Trump was motivated by racial animus, though the cretin won't own up to his racism.

Back in the happier times of the Obama presidency, there were murmurs that the United States had entered a post-racial stage, though anyone who could decipher the 'dogwhistles' of the racist reactionaries could tell a contrary tale, a tale of a backlash against an African-American president seen as a sinister 'other'. Now, the White House is occupied by one of the chief proponents of this racist conspiracy theory.

The racist reactionaries now seem more emboldened than every, feeling no qualms about repeating the basest racist calumnies. The rank-and-file righties aren't shy about expressing racist views, often cloaking their racism in psuedoscientific bafflegab. Outside of this core of unabashed racists, there is the so-called ironic racism exhibited by people who would never consider themselves to be bigots, an 'ironic' racism indistinguishable from other forms of racism.

I'd like to think that this new reactionary culture is merely a societal 'hiccup', a last gasp of a reactionary white culture that blames its lessening fortunes on people of color, rather than on the corporate culture that has been driving the race to the bottom. Among all of the pieties and platitudes that will be expressed today, though, there's a nagging suspicion that America's congenital birth defect will continue to haunt the body politic for the foreseeable future.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

This Is Not a Charade

The latest, and most worrisome, outrageous news story has got to be the false ballistic missile alarm which had Hawaiians freaked out for over half an hour. Apparently, a single individual was able to mistakenly confirm an initial false alert. What the hell ever happened to the 'buddy system', whereby one person cannot make such a momentous decision as calling for a ballistic missile alert? Shouldn't there be fail-safe systems so that one dumbass or psycho can't cause an entire state to shit a collective brick? In my estimation, false nuclear alerts are a mark of shithole countries.

The post title is taken from Fishbone's Party at Ground Zero, perhaps the most fun song ever written about Mutually Assured Destruction:





Thankfully, there wasn't a missile attack on Hawaii, and thankfully the guy with the big nuclear button was too preoccupied with golfing to launch a 'retaliatory' nuclear strike against North Korea.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Bros, the Pinkertones Were Joking

Via Tengrain, perhaps the most disturbing story in a week chock full of crazy shit, attendees at a tech conference in Las Vegas were, I kid you not, entertained by robot strippers. Ordinarily, I am not even phased by paraphilias, as long as consenting adults are involved, but this particular event offered a view into the maelstrom of misogyny that is the Damore wing of Silicon Valley:


For the club itself, the stunt is undeniably about money as much as exposure. Men at the event seemed to think it was hilarious to throw wads of cash at the animatronic women to spite the female human dancers.

“Just look,” said Eric, a Las Vegas resident, “they’re throwing money at the robots, not the real women tonight.”



One of the pillars of the 'involuntary celibate' culture is the idea that women will be replaced by sexbots, perhaps with Swiss-engineered artificial vaginas. Of course, this would come as a relief to women forced to work with these creeps, though I imagine any robot forced to be a cyberconcubine would quickly come to violate at least two of Asimov's Laws of Robotics. In the meantime, the whole sex robot thing is as ridiculous as it is creepy. People, the Pinkertones were joking about sexy robots:





I'm pretty sure Asimov was serious, but these robot stripper tippers might have caused him to rethink things.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Come Hell or High Water

Today is going to be fun... it is supposed to hit a high of 57F (about 14C), with torrential rains. There is quite a bit of snow still on the ground, but what really has me concerned is the fact that the body of water on the jobsite has been well-frozen for a couple of weeks, so I am concerned that the danger of flooding will be similar to that posed by a hurricane. Hurricane Irene flooded a couple of our buildings back in 2011, and it was no picnic dealing with that.

I advised my boss to have the guys on the day shift pile sandbags around a couple of basement doors which could be vulnerable to flooding. I don't have to be back on the job until midnight, and I sure hope that I won't have to deal with subaqueous conditions.