Friday, December 31, 2010

Yet Again...

I am ringing in the new year in typical fashion... at work. This is no hardship, as I consider New Year's Eve to be "amateur night"- a lot of establishments price-gouge, and there is a lot of dumbassery as "in vino veritas" reveals that there are a lot of knuckleheads in the population. No need freezing outside with a couple million of my closest friends, or slogging back home on the 4 train blinking as the dawnzerly light streams in through the windows (North of 149th St, the train leaves the tunnel and travels on an elevated track) after dropping seventy-five bucks for the privilege to drink bottom shelf champagne. No need to navigate roads plagued by impaired drivers, or having to deal with the gendarmes. Yeah, I usually spend the night in low-key fashion.

I have to say that, while not an overly pessimistic person, I really don't see things getting any better in 2011. 2010 was a pretty piss-poor year, especially when viewed as a coda for an overly optimistic 2009. I get the feeling that 2011 will be another "lost year" following a lost decade. My personal situation is not so bad, but the feeling of "potential squandered" still haunts the whole damn country. I apologize for being a downer... how about a video for a nice little bit of power-pop as a "riff" on my "amateur night" comment?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Shameful Anniversary

December 29, 2010 marks the 120th anniversary of the Wounded Knee Massacre, in which the U.S. 7th Cavalry killed almost three hundred members (mostly women, children, and elderly men) of the Lakota Sioux nation- "a thing to melt the heart of a man, if it was of stone, to see those little children, with their bodies shot to pieces, thrown naked into the pit.". The Wounded Knee massacre followed decades of broken treaties, and the near extirpation of the bison on which the plains people largely subsisted. Of course, by the time of westward expansion onto the plains, the slaughter and forced relocation of the autochthonous peoples of the Americas had been well underway for centuries.

Dee Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is probably the best introduction to the horrific treatment received by the indigenous people of the Americas. It is a read that haunts the reader long after the book is put down.

Of course, the latest ill-timed right wing screamfest results from President Obama expressing his support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. After centuries of wanton slaughter, broken treaties, and heinous mistreatment, many Native Americans are mired in poverty- making light of their plight in an effort to count coup on a political opponent is simply despicable.

Thom Hartmann devoted a goodly chunk of time to the Wounded Knee massacre on his 12/29 show, so a nod of the naked noggin is due to him.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

White Supremacists, Kiss My Ás

It seems that white supremacists are in a snit over the casting of a black actor as Norse god Heimdall in an upcoming movie based on a series of comic books (insert joke about white thupremathists being thor). Gadzooks, they are a whiny bunch of emo kids. To make the schadenfreude even more delicious, one of Heimdall's nicknames is white god, or hvíta ás. It's really amazing what sets off the knuckle-dragging, teabagging set. As an added betrayal by **snerk** the comics industry, Batman has started a French franchise with (gasp!) a Mohammedan. Perfidious purveyors of puerile prose with pretty pictures, you leave right wingers with no recourse other than reading actual books... ACTUAL BOOKS!!! Monsters! Idris Elba should tell the white supremacists to blow his Gjallarhorn.

I have my own beef with Marvel's imagery, though, I mean Asa-Þor has got a red beard! Jumping Jörmungandr on a pogo stick, "redbeard" is a common cognomen for the god of thunder!!! Thor also, for the record, looks dynamite in a bridal gown.

I just want to add that I am not knocking comic books, even though (with a couple of notable exceptions) I've never really been into them- it's a noticable lacuna in my otherwise solid geek credentials. I am most certainly, however, knocking white supremacists- fuckers give us shavepates a bad name.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Felt Old and Decrepit Today

The last couple of days have been a slog- I arrived at work around 7PM on Sunday to avoid driving through the blizzard at its peak, and ended up leaving at almost 4PM the following day. Upon arriving at home, I found that the snowplows had left huge piles of snow at the sides of the local streets, so I had to carve out a parking spot. My next door neighbors (who are wonderful) let me park in their driveway while I dug out a parking spot. I usually help them shovel snow because they are both getting on in years- they got help from a former co-worker yesterday. Anyway, I spent a couple of hours digging out a spot. A couple of hours of grunt work at the tail end of a thirty-hour endurance tour left me completely wiped out- I ate a quick dinner, brushed my teeth, and passed out for the next fourteen hours.

I woke up around noon, still aching from shoveling, and made plans to meet an old friend who was in town visiting his parents. I met my friend and his father, a retired professor of the Slavic languages department of a major northeastern university. My friend's father had just finished a physical therapy appointment- he is recovering from a minor stroke. The good professor's charmingly accented baritone was hushed, his burly frame was diminished... thankfully, his sharp wit hadn't been dulled by his stroke (as an aside, I always find that the ability to be funny in a second language to be a clear-cut mark of intelligence). I snapped out of my "cripes, I'm hurtin' for certain" mood, and remembered how fortunate I am.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Succor for the Sucker

The snow removal technician has finally arrived to clean out the lot, so I can finally get my ass home after an all-night slog on the job. Yee-haw!

Next year, the organization should award their contract to this guy.

Oh, and incidentally, happy birthday to my great and good friend J-Co, who is always up on the "Community Calendar" even though he has relocated to the Boston area.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

The New York metro area is experiencing a blizzard that is expected to dump anywhere from ten to twenty-four inches of snow on the ground, accompanied by gusts of wind approaching those of a category one hurricane. I'm a snug as a bug in a rug an ootheca here at work. I came in early so I could relieve a beloved co-worker (and because I'd rather be safe at work than driving through a foot of snow a few hours from now, after digging my car out of a snowbank). I have an overnight bag packed, and enough yerba mate to keep a small army of gauchos buzzing. Yeah, I'm dug in for the duration, and have no desire to hit the roads until the sun is high in the sky, and the plows have done their job. Just to refresh the memories of my readers, this is what I will see tomorrow after the sun comes up:

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I am at work right now, it's been a quiet, peaceful day spent at a truly enchanting spot. A co-worker of mine came in for a few hours and brought his lovely, polite young daughters to keep him company. They left a couple of hours ago, so I have the place to myself. Yeah, we may be understaffed and overextended to a certain extent, but I really can't complain about my circumstances.

Last night, I had Christmas Eve dinner with some great good friends, a family that I'd known since I was a young-un. Stopping by on Christmas Eve for a couple of hours was always a tradition- my characteristically nice friends had a Christmas tree buying routine that would have matched a De Beers diamond merchant's techniques for ruthlessness... they would go to a lot where some poor schmo was selling trees around 5 PM on Christmas Eve, and offer the guy five bucks. Invariably, the guy would say, "That's a thirty dollar tree!" and my friends would respond, "There's nobody else here on the lot, is it a five dollar tree or a zero dollar tree?" They'd bring the tree home, and, in a fashion that would have made Tom Sawyer envious, they would throw a Christmas Eve tree-decorating party. Even when they were still in high school, they had this devious scheme down pat. Their callous treatment of Christmas tree vendors aside, they have always been unfailingly hospitable, generous people (their house, like ours, had an "open door" policy- nobody was turned away). Anyway, I went over to their ancestral abode for Christmas Eve dinner (including Yorkshire pudding made by a Yorkshire native) and a heaping helping of nostalgia. My friends' spouses and kids were over, so I got to hang out with three generations of my awesome extended family at a time I couldn't get out of town to be with my nuclear family.

I'm grateful to have such awesome friends.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Cozy Place to Spend the Winter

Last week, I spent some time looking for praying mantis oothecae in an open field on a jobsite. I didn't find any during my active search, but I stumbled upon one purely by accident on another jobsite. The hardened foam masses have a distinct shape that leap out to a trained eye:

It's funny how pattern recognition works- even a cursory glance at a patch of nondescript vegetation can reveal wonders to an informed observer.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Have Yourselves a Groovy Little Solstice*

So, it was the first day of winter, although it's felt like winter for a couple of weeks now. Just as the arrival of the red winged blackbird heralds spring, I've always seen the arrival of buffleheads as a signal that winter has come (as the old song goes, Gone away is the bluebird, here to stay is a new bird). Of course, the male hooded merganser can often be mistaken for a bufflehead, though the accompanying females with rusty-red heads give the charade away. The hooded mergansers also tend to overwinter in the area, thus leading to potential confusion.

Last night, I stayed up late to watch the lunar eclipse- the nearly full moon was ringed by an icy halo, and the shadow of the earth gradually obscured Earth's celestial "daughter". While observing the dance of the heavenly bodies, I was lucky enough to see an extremely bright meteor. Even though it was freezing out, the night was enchanting. Yeah, winter may be a drag sometimes, but it surely came in on a high note.

*Title lifted from a hilarious, criminally neglected song.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Always Found Them Creepy

One of the New York Metro area's most beloved Christmas traditions is the New York City Ballet's peformance of George Balanchine's staging of Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker. I have to confess that I have always found the music to The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy to be creepy. Just ignore the visual of the lovely Victoria Luchkina dancing, and listen to the soundtrack- imagine that you've just broken down on a dark, secluded roadway on a freezing winter night, and imagine how you'd feel if you heard this music in the background:

I also find The Carol of the Bells to have a bit of a creepy horror-movie vibe, reminiscent of this:

Mind you, I do not dislike either of these pieces of music, but they both give me just the tiniest frisson of unease. To me, these songs aren't so much Christmas carols, as they are songs for the darkest days of the year.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It Runs in the Family

On the anniversary of my father's death, I headed down to the ancestral estate of my paternal relatives in the Bronx, and my aunt (the reigning matriarch of the family) and I went out to dinner. We spent the night recounting family history, and I was reminded of an inter-office memo my father had written while he was serving in the U.S. Army.

Dad went to college and law school under a full R.O.T.C. scholarship- he started off his army career in the military police because he was a large individual, but was transferred pretty quickly to the J.A.G. corps because of his legal background. While serving in the J.A.G. corps in Fort Gordon, a superior officer wrote a memo in which he (inexplicably to me) used stati a plural form for the word status. My father, no doubt appalled by the use of a plural for "status", wrote a letter explaining that, having a fourth declension noun as a root, the proper Latinized plural of the English word status would be status, not the second declension-ish stati. He wrote this letter entirely in Latin (I believe my mother still has a copy of it somewhere). It just goes to show that smartassed erudition, or erudite smartassery, is a characteristic family trait.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

About Last Night

Last night, I was hooting and hollering about being uninspired, but I actually put up quite a bit of stuff in the Writers' Room for snarky cynics. It just goes to show, one is only as good as the people with whom one associates. Thanks, snarky smartasses, you're the best! Now, if only the Muse will sing to me while I'm sailing my own whine-dark sea.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Singularly Uninspired

It's funny, I have a couple of topics I wanted to write about last week, but I just can't find the get-up-and-go to write about them today. Since this is the run-up to Christmas, how about a little Christmas music?

As much as I like the song, I have to say that the video, cobbled together from the performance of another song, is pretty damn uninspired. Therefore, it's a good reflection of the day's malaise here in Bastardland.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Even in Death, He Vexes Me

Dealing with the death of loved ones is difficult (the one year anniversary of my father's death is coming up), but how does one deal with the death of an acquaintance one does not particularly like? What does one do when one finds out that one's most bitter rival has met an untimely end? Should I regret our feud? Could things have turned out differently if we had only met under better circumstances? Part of me feels a pang of remorse... maybe we could have been friends. While his death means that he won't be preemptively stealing the very apples that I've planned to scrump, I can't help but think that those aforementioned apples will taste like ashes in my mouth next fall. The battle of wits made those stolen apples taste sweeter, the rivalry made the very act of scrumping more dramatic. Now, I am robbed of this game, and the lacuna in my spirit vexes me, as does the fact that his corpse is decomposing under my workplace, and the aroma of his passing into the bosom of the earth permeates the building.

Rest in peace, old foe. Our conflict was bitter, your passing pungent.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Recap of Wednesday Night

I am notoriously lazy about tagging my posts... I've never done it. If I did, though, I'd probably have a "making zrm jealous" tag. Well, this would be one of those posts.

On Wednesday night, I rode the 4 train down to Grand Central Terminal, and hoofed it to Connolly's pub on 45th St for a benefit sponsored by the Irish-Mexican Alliance to raise funds for the Committee to Protect Journalists' efforts to grant asylum to Mexican journalists targeted by narco gangs.

Journalistic legend and quintessential New York City "man of letters" Pete Hamill spoke about his love of Mexico, which was cemented by a five day stint in jail after a drunken bender. While in jail, he was fed by the families of the other jailbirds (including a bus driver who had crashed his vehicle), and generally made to feel at home in a bad situation. He noted the generosity and hospitality of the Mexican people, and his abiding appreciation of their culture.

Panamanian-born international salsa superstar, actor, and politician Rubén Blades (I had the honor to shake his hand and have a brief word with him) spoke about how, as a law school graduate in Panama, he decided to emigrate to the United States rather than to work as an attorney under a military dictatorship (contrast his career- a young lawyer refusing to work under a military dictatorship, and becoming an internationally beloved musician and actor, with that of John Yoo, who worked under a "democratically elected" regime writing justifications for torture, and ended up as a cloistered "think tank" flack writing self-loathing filled diatribes against "elitism"). Hell, I sure as shit wouldn't shake Yoo's hand. Mr Blades recalled his start in the mailroom of Fania Records which led to his career as a songwriter and musician, and gave a stirring account of performing his politically-charged music in venues in the Argentine and Uruguayan dictatorships, and learning afterward that the silent response from the crowd was inspired by respect, not fear.

Host T.J. English gave a brief, blistering talk on the realities on the border, and indicated that he has an upcoming article on the subject of violence against journalists in the February 2011 issue of Playboy- if you want to use the old "I buy it for the articles" line, make this issue the one you purchase "for the article".

A common theme throughout the night was the connection between the Irish American experience and the Mexican American experience. The speakers evoked the St Patrick's Battalion, the Irish soldiers who, unwilling to participate in a war of aggression which brutalized a peasant population with whom they identified, deserted the United States Army during the Mexican-American War, about which Ulysses S. Grant wrote:

Generally the officers of the army were indifferent whether the annexation [of Texas] was consummated or not; but not so all of them. For myself, I was bitterly opposed to the measure, and to this day regard the war, which resulted, as one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory. Texas was originally a state belonging to the republic of Mexico. . . . An empire in territory, it had but a very sparse population, until settled by Americans who had received authority from Mexico to colonize. These colonists paid very little attention to the supreme government, and introduced slavery into the state almost from the start, though the constitution of Mexico did not, nor does it now, sanction that institution. . . . The occupation, separation and annexation were, from the inception of the movement to its final consummation, a conspiracy to acquire territory out of which slave states might be formed for the American Union.

The spoken presentations were followed by performances by waggish Joe Hurley, local favorites Celtic Cross, and, from El Paso, Texas, yet another group of young musicians who look like grad students playing a glorious "wall of sound" of Indie Latin rock (or is that Latin Indie Rock?)- the engaging Frontera Bugalú:

Frontera Bugalú got the dance floor shaking its collective ass. After the set, I told the band's frontman that the addition of a clarinet gave a hint of Middle Eastern flavor to their unmistakably "Mexican" sound- the delicious auditory equivalent of tacos al pastor. This compliment was warmly received, and I purchased their demo CD. Give them a listen, they really are great.

I also had a chance to hang out with a guy, I'll call him "Larry", who is well known on the local music and art scene. While he didn't perform, Larry served as an elder statesman of sorts. I chatted with him briefly, and asked him if he had any plans for a Midwestern tour. Sadly, he told me that, while he loves the Midwest (especially Chicago), the economics of touring weren't very favorable at the time. This sad fact should serve as an impetus for any Midwestern fans to get their arses to New York for a spell.

I have to give a special shout-out to my great and good friend J-Co, who (although he relocated to the greater Boston metro area to raise his lovely family) always seems to be up on the New York calendar of events. Thanks, J-Co, for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Gadzooks, I Hate Them

Man, it's been a busy week, and I have so many topics which I haven't had time to cover... I think I will spend a good portion of the coming week catching up. I just wanted to quickly put up a post saying that the fucking Republicans fucking suck. After years of using first responders as props, and portraying anyone who didn't support the Iraq invasion as an Islamofaciunamericanandproblyafagtoboot, they deny a bill to pay for healthcare for the very people they used as props.

As a New Yorker, I say, "Fuck the fucking fuckers!"

I hope to put up another post tonight after working an event. Like I said, I've been busy busy busy.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Most Carnivorous Night EVER!!!

Last night was the fifth annual Carnivorous Nights Taxidermy Contest. Originally conceived as a one-off event, inspired by the unsettling "Rump Ape" (a simian simulacrum crafted from the rump of a white-tailed deer) and promoting the engaging Carnivorous Nights: On the Trail of the Tasmanian Tiger by Friends of the Bastard Margaret Mittelbach and Michael Crewdson. Five years later, the continuing event sold out a 300 seat venue. Holy catfish, who knew it would take off like it did? The event is a very tongue-in-cheek celebration of "Rogue Taxidermy". Being co-sponsored by the Secret Science Club (SSC goddess Dorian Devins was a judge, SSC goddess Margaret Mittelbach was MC), I attend the event out of solidarity with my people. Last night, I actually presented one of the exhibits, sent by Peter Cua, a genius of an artist from Singapore, who was unable to attend. After my traditional "Carnivorous Night" meal of a spleen sandwich, I headed down to the Bell House for the event. I had my prepared "Shaggy Dog Story" statement (approved by Peter himself), which I read after fortifying myself with two (and no more!) pints of brew:

I feel somewhat unworthy to present these specimens, which were made by Dr Peter Cua of the island nation of Singapore. Dr Cua was unable to attend this event, so you got me... a smartass presenting the work of a genius.

Dr Cua's dream to perfect the miniaturization of taxidermy specimens began with the demise of his beloved pet impala- he had wanted to mount and display it in his home, but his apartment was too small to accommodate such a large specimen, as well as his other belongings... a plight that residents of Brooklyn will no doubt understand.

Dr Cua drew inspiration from the indigenous Jivaro people of South America, and traveled to the Amazon basin to learn their methods for shrinking preserved heads for ritual purposes. While effective, the traditional methods were time consuming, and often messy. During a hiatus in his studies, he recalled a time when he mounted a prize marlin caught by a retired American astronaut living in Singapore… while he met with this client, he was served a sample of freeze-dried space ice cream. Inspiration hit- he would combine traditional Jivaro techniques and cutting-edge NASA technology to form a new field- shrinkadermy through freeze-drying.

As luck would have it , Dr Cua’s initial efforts in this new field coincided with the rise of a multi-nation space program- Dr Cua was approached by a high-ranking official in the International Space Agency, who told him that Russian cosmonauts had been prone to depression brought on by the sterile décor of the MIR space station. In an effort not to repeat this morale problem in the International Space Station, the agency wanted the interior of one of the station’s modules to resemble a rustic cabin, or hunting lodge. Of course, mounted trophies weighed too much for the launch vehicles, and would have taken up too much room in the space station. Through his genius and hard work, Dr Cua was able to shrink bear and moose heads to mount on the bulkheads of the International Space Station, thereby ushering in a new era of rustic charm in outer space. Having planned a manned space flight in 2011, the Chinese Space Agency has consulted with Dr Cua, who is currently preparing some mounted shrinkadermy specimens, so the Chinese space capsule will look like a charming Sichuan farm village, thus giving the astronauts a feeling of nostalgic warmth as they hurtle through the void, because (as Roberto Montalban so memorably said) "It is very cold in space".

Dr Cua has also expressed his desire to show gratitude to the Jivaro people for their tutelage, and is planning on building an extensive freeze-drying facility in the Amazon Basin. Because of his commitment to sustainable development and green technology, he is planning to power this facility with an array of electric eels, which are indigenous to the region.

When asked to reflect on his career, Dr Cua has only two regrets. The first is that the non-avian dinosaurs died off due to the K-T extinction event. Shrinking and mounting one of the awe-inspiring sauropods would have been the crowning achievement of the shrinkadermist’s art. His second regret is that he could not be here tonight with you.

Thank you, and without further preamble, here are the beautiful creations of Dr Cua’s art:

Yeah, just picture the big galumphing galoot in the masthead photo sharing a stage with such delicate, enchanting pieces- wow, I felt "ogreish", and had this dread that I'd somehow drop the display (I am not a clumsy person at all, but I always have this weird "Bull in a china shop" feeling around fragile objects).

Peter's sculptures took the "Most Intriguing" prize in the contest.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Gelt Trip

So, Hanukkah began on December 1, and I haven't mentioned it at all. I kinda feel a little guilty, and I'm not even Jewish, man. I forwarded a link to the Electric Eel Christmas Tree post by SMcG to a friend of mine, and she remarked, "Gotta get one of those for my electric menorah." This got me thinking... an electric eel has no visible scales, so it is most likely not kosher. Even if it is not for human consumption, can an observant Jew bring something as treif as an electric eel into the house on Hanukkah? Not having a theological bent, I will leave this question to the religious sages.

As an aside, if any of you know of a single frum girl who needs her potatoes grated, I will work for latkes. Special consideration will be given to young ladies with wide hips and narrow kitchens. So, happy Hanukkah to all readers, and please send latkes, gelt, and money.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Happy Belated Birthday, Sweetums

Yesterday was the birthday of my older brother, Sweetums. The origin of the Sweetums moniker dates back to the days when I had a glorious golden 'fro. My younger brother Vincenzo and one of my cousins (gotta dig up a pseudonym for him- I think he assumed the alias "Big Leo" in the course of the hilarious "Midnight Gardeners" prank) decided to skip a high school pep rally the day before Thanksgiving, which prompted my mother to say, "Well, your brother would never skip any school event!"

My sister's peanut gallery observation was, "Oh, yeah, he's so perfect, Sweetums would never do anything bad."

Not even a minute after my mother gave her little lecture, Sweetums showed up at the door, home for Thanksgiving break a day early. My mother asked, "What are you doing here? I thought you were coming home tomorrow."

The response, "Oh, I was offered a ride home, so I bagged a couple of classes so I wouldn't have to take the bus."

Timing is everything.

Happy birthday Sweetums, give my love to the wife and kids.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

My Opening Salvo in the War on Christmas?

A few years back, I probably would've been inclined to drop some spare change in the bucket of a Salvation Army bell-ringer out of knee-jerk generosity, but then I had an epiphany, a Road to Damascus Highway to Hell moment, if you will. The bell ringer was outside the supermarket, and I paused and thought, "Wait, the Salvation Army is a religious organization, and I know absolutely nothing about their tenets." I needed to find out more about the Sally Army. Well, sure enough, the tingling spider sense was correct. Yeah, the Salvation Army is a typical authoritarian Protestant Evangelical group with an anti-gay agenda... the "S" word was the initial tip-off for me. To compound the problem, the Salvation Army also has a clear-cut anti-drunkard bias... this hits home, because drunkards are my people! Yeah, no need to feel even the slightest twinge of Scroogitude as you pass by these bell-ringers for bigotry. Find another, more worthy charity to support. Of course, no blistering indictment of the S.A. would be complete without posting this classic singalong:

As an added bonus, here's an additional song which describes a similar group's (thankfully) failed attempt to abduct a proud worshipper of Dionysus into a lifetime of servitude to a sere, Calvinist divinity:

Gotta dig those Portugese subtitles. I was familiar with "Monkees" iteration of the song from my childhood, but this is the best version I could find on the t00bz, although the Saved finale subverts the original intent of the song.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Seduction in the Tea House and Other Tales of Urban Lust

Well, now that I have your attention... Last night, I attended a special birthday performance by Friend of the Bastard Saasha Foo. Well, I'll begin by saying that she should consider a name change to Saasha Feu, because the girl was on fire- she called her set Devil with a Heart of Gold, and I instantly thought, "This could be the basis for a hilariously warped musical comedy to submit to the Fringe Festival."

Miss Foo introduced herself with the eponymous ad-libbed tune, then launched into a hilarious evisceration of Burt Bacharach's Wives and Lovers, turning the dated "default sexism" of the song into a satire of the Beauty-Industrial Complex. Yeah, Brazilian waxing and bleaching "down there" were undreamed-of in Burt's heyday, but Saasha worked them into her brutal-yet-affectionate takedown of the song... hey, it's 3PM, hubby's due back by 7, so girl get cracking! She followed this with another genre-subverting take on a breakup-and-resultant-heartache song, Was I Just Another Blonde to You? Confronting her ex with a younger version of herself, she asks the inevitable questions, such as: "Was I just another sticky bun to break in two?" Put a "Y" on the End of "Man" was her take on polyamory, in which Saasha sings that she wants to schtupp just about every man she sees on the street. The show-stopper for me, though, was the hilarious Park Slope Gigolo, in which Miss Foo sings of the eponymous "working man" paying his way by servicing the stay-at-home mothers who congregate in the local Tea House. The surefire cure for post-partum depression, the Park Slope gigolo ("the sugar in your Bigelow") has his own baby sitter. Saasha followed this up by a mission statement- she wants to start pimping d00ds out to supplement her income (motherlovers take notice, Brooklyn fathers take heed). Saasha's show of love for country music took the form of a takedown of a coked-up former boss who looked on her ass as his "personal property"- a Foo-vian take on Take This Job and Shove It. Her finale was another satire of the pressures on women to conform to unrealistic standards of beauty (a duet with a friend)- The Tapeworm, Gay Porn Diet. Why suffer at the gym, or deprive yourself of calorie laden treats when you can enlist the services of a special little friend, a Platyhelminthine buddy which will allow you to sit on the couch all day long, eating cinnamon rolls slathered with an entire tub of margarine and watching gay porn? Trying to fit into that wedding dress? Just enlist the services of a tapeworm, just make sure it doesn't poke out during the ceremony. Wow, what a finale. Throughout the night, I had to restrain myself from drinking while Saasha was singing... I had visions of Hoegaarden shooting out of my nose. Yeah, she's that funny, and her brilliantly distorted version of the universe (the Foo-niverse, if you will) is a great place to visit for a couple of hours. Adam Klipple and Gary Wang provided an excellent musical background for Saasha's gleefully cracked songscapes.

While I can't find any "spit take" inducing videos of Saasha, here she is in her "serious" mode... I apologize for the darkness of the video image, but one can just make out Miss Foo's trademark "cat eye" vintage glasses and bangs:

After the performance, I told her that, within ten years, drag performers would be imitating her. She replied, "That's the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me."

Rock on, Saasha Foo, and get cracking on the musical!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Been at It a Year

Wow, it's the one year anniversary of my little blogging experiment. I'd like to thank Jesus, my family, and the Academy... wait, this ain't the Oscars. Besides Jesus, my family, and the Academy, I really want to thank all the fine people listed on the blogroll to the right, I love you all and want to have your babies. I also want to extend a special thanks to my good friend Frenchy, the guy who took the picture of that glabrous, scowling ruffian on the masthead- he had been on my case, telling me for years that I should be blogging... he also gets on my case telling me that I need to do sit-ups, proving that peer pressure need not be a pernicious influence. I also need to give special thanks to Tintin, Gavin, D. Aristophanes, HTML Mencken, and Brad of the Sadly, No! editorial board and the hilarious denizens of the comment threads (I think it was M.Bouffant or Spengler who likened the comments threads at S,N! to a writers' room for smart snarkmeisters- please correct me if I'm wrong). The blogroll is populated mainly by Sadlynaughts. I also have to confess that I feel I owe a debt of gratitude to AK and Smut who gave me the final push over the border into Blogistan- it's no coincidence that I started my blog shortly after the debut of Riddled... how could I possibly let those mad antipodean geniuses have all the fun? Thunder, ZRM, Von, Johnny Pez, Aunt Snow, Jack C, SMcG, Ned, AG, JNeoM, VS, M.B., A212, Jenn of Ark, Spengler, and any others I may have forgotten- thanks all. If you ever get to the NY metro area, first round's on me. Special thanks also to SSC goddesses Margaret and Dorian, who have done a lot to encourage my writing endeavors. Also, a special shout-out to the lurkers (I know that I have some family and friends who read this on a regular basis), and the drive-by posters (I had one anonymous comment on a "local interest" post, and for the life of me couldn't figure out who it could have been). The window must be open a crack, people, 'cos a little rain seems to have gotten into my eye.

So, how would I measure my blog-performance over the past year? Well, have you read anything by Jack Vance? Did you give a listen to "friends of the Bastard" Jim Keyes or Mary Courtney? Did you purchase any music by Hedningarna? Did you click on any links to summaries of the work of any of the lecturers who spoke at the monthly "Drinking and Learning" series? Did you laugh? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then I can feel pretty damn smug.

It's been a hell of a year, thanks for sharing it with me.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy Birthday, Vincenzo!

Today marks the birthday of my brilliant brother Vincenzo. Vincenzo, like my baby brother, Gomez, is a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army. He has always been an extraordinarily hard-working, generous, and intellectually curious person. When he was in school, he introduced an "open house" policy among his peers, so our family played host to literally thousands of young men and women from all fifty states, and several foreign countries. Vin always made sure that everyone was invited- nobody ever had pariah status in his eyes.

This generous spirit, a keen interest in other cultures, and a natural knack for languages has served him well in his career- he's engaged in scorpion eating contests with Thai counterparts, trained guardsmen in American Samoa, and run role-playing exercises involving Arabic-speaking peoples from Iraq and Michigan in government-run Potemkin villages. In all of these situations, he has made an effort to understand and develop an appreciation for those of different backgrounds (he still loves freaking out Samoans by dropping a bit of their language into a conversation).

He, of course, had to serve in Iraq, because he took an oath to serve a government run by people who fall far short of his high ethical and intellectual standards. As a voter, I feel I have to apologize for the decisions that we, as a society, have made. Hopefully, military personnel like my brothers will be able to repair some of the damage done by the stupid, the greedy, and the xenophobic. Maybe our country can try to shift our foreign policy duties to the State Department, rather than the Department of Defense.

It goes without saying that my brother has lost soldiers under his command, mostly young Americans from small, rural towns. He has always had a keen understanding of the socioeconomic realities which have caused young men and women to enlist (the same socioeconomic realities that inspired him to join the service). He's also aware that a lot of these folks will face challenges integrating into civilian life, and has made everyone he's been in contact with read Eric Maria Remarque's The Road Back. It should come as no surprise that one of Vincenzo's all-time favorite songs is about the harsh realities that face an enlisted soldier (written by someone who lived in an occupied city in the time of an insurgency):

Happy birthday, Vin, and all my love to the wife and kids.

Monday, November 29, 2010

National "Have Lunch With an Engineer" Week

My sister, her husband, and my two awesome nephews took a road-trip to Boston last week, so I met them for lunch as they stopped in New York state on the drive home. I met them in Tarrytown, NY, in the shadow of the Tappan Zee Bridge. My sister and her husband are bona fide rocket scientists... aero/astro engineers, to be precise.

Today, I met up with N__B for lunch and a beer in The Bronx. Of course, he had a lot of pictures of "Baby Bear", who is a fine looking baby. POST MOAR PITCHERS, NED!!!

All told, "Have Lunch With an Engineer" week has been a rousing success. Hopefully, "Have Drinks With an Architect" week will arrive sometime in the near future... I seem to recall having a rum collins waiting for me somewhere.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Never Was Into the Whole Mass Consumption Thing

I never understood the appeal of overconsumption. The whole idea of getting up at 2AM in order to queue up in front of a store before engaging in a melee/feeding frenzy repulses me (and, for the record, I am often up at 2AM, and I actually enjoy fighting). I sat out Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, and will take a pass on Cyber Monday. Rather than brave the traffic near the malls, I headed over to the Hudson River for a walk before heading to work. The wind has been ferocious, with sustained speeds of thirty miles per hour, so the day felt a lot colder than the mercury would indicate. The wind raised whitecaps on the water's surface, and whipped spray over the seawall. The afternoon sun slanting through a break in the clouds suffused the gray waters with a faint golden hue:

The picture really doesn't do justice to the color of the water- it was an enchanting gray/gold (I am thinking of a non-existent poem now, Nothing Gray Can Stay- Borges would have handled this sort of thing with much more aplomb than I). Miraculously, I found some Concord grapes still clinging tenaciously to the vine, their faint sweetness combining with the cold ambient temperature to create a delicious effect.

I'll trade whitecaps on the Hudson for Black Friday in the mall anyday.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is my kind of holiday- we Americans demonstrate our gratitude to a largely benevolent universe in typical fashion- we eat like porkers and drink like hell... but not today. This year, I'm working, but it's a quiet, pleasant day. My sister, her husband, and their two sons will be passing through the area on Sunday, so I'll get some "family time" in, but today, it's all about a quiet day on the job, and a couple of beers when I get home.

Anyway, there aren't too many Thanksgiving carols, but I figured I'd post the ones with which I am familiar. The first is a cute little ditty by the Damned, the B-side to the single "Smash it Up":

While the "Turkey Song" is fun, the reason it's important is that it inspired one of the greatest songs ever written. Apparently, a German fan asked Shane MacGowan if he knew the "Turkey Song" by the Damned, and the brilliant, though addled, songsmith interpreted that as "Turkish Song of the Damned", and wrote a spine-tingling song about retribution from beyond the grave, inspired by a funny novelty song:

Unfortunately, my favorite Thanksgiving song, and perhaps the most touching love song ever written, cannot be "embedded", but no Thanksgiving would be complete without listening to it.

Note: Yeah, Thanksgiving wouldn't be complete without listening to "Alice's Restaurant", but every radio station worth a damn is playing it. I tend to like to post more unorthodox selections. Happy (U.S.) Thanksgiving, all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Dumby O'Shill and the Little People

It's funny how serendipity works- my post last Saturday linked to a bunch of Pogues' songs, including Transmetropolitan, which contains the couplet:

Going transmetropolitan, yip-ay-aye
From Surrey Docks to Somers Town with a K.M.R.I.A.

The acronym K.M.R.I.A. (attributed to Joyce and, oddly enough, an education nonprofit) has been in my mind lately (how could I resist blasting Transmetropolitan numerous times in the past few days?). Now, I actually have a doughhead to whom to say it.

I knew Ross Douthat's column would be mind-numbing just by reading the opening sentence:

For an American tourist weaned on Gaelic kitsch and screenings of “The Quiet Man,” the landscape of contemporary Ireland comes as something of a shock.

Yeah, there's your problem right there- Douhat views Ireland through the prism of technicolor fantasy (I imagine that he, like most American conservatives, also views American culture through the same prism of 50's nostalgia which simply ignores such unseemly topics as segregation and witch hunts). My great and good friend Joe S________, (the man who coined the phrase "City of Y______" to describe the city in which I live) disparagingly refers to this as the Candyland attitude towards Europe- the misguided view that European cultures should be trapped in amber for the purpose of amusing the sort of American tourists who are jarred by the intrusion of the container port of Mestre reality on their Murano glass fantasy.

As an aside, I am reminded of a rejoinder to the Creationist fallacy, "Why are there still monkeys if humans evolved from monkeys?" This is, of course, "If many Americans and Australians are descended from Europeans, why are there still Europeans?" To the Candyland-obsessed tourist (or opinion columnist), the fact that European cultures have been continuously developing in the twenty-first century is an affront. Getting back to the column under consideration:

It’s as if there were only two eras in Irish history: the Middle Ages and the housing bubble.

This actually isn’t a bad way of thinking about Ireland’s 20th century. The island spent decade after decade isolated, premodern and rural — and then in just a few short years, boom, modernity!

Of course, this isolation exists only in Douhat's mind (hell, DeValera was born in Manhattan, and there has always been a back-and-forth between Ireland and the diaspora communities- sometimes, this was nothing to be proud of). The condescending Douthat also needs to be reminded that isolated, premodern and rural — and then in just a few short years, boom, modernity perfectly described the typical American heartlander until such Big-Government, socialist programs as rural electrification and the interstate highway system.

Douthat then goes on to write:

The Celtic housing bubble was more inflated than America’s (a lot of those McMansions are half-finished and abandoned), the Celtic banking industry was more reckless in its bets, and Ireland’s debts, private and public, make our budget woes look manageable by comparison.

He offers no hard evidence of this, and no links to statistics. Of course, we really don't know how the housing/mortgage/derivatives crisis will pan out here in the states, but why should reality get in the way of Douthat's anecdotes?

This particular sentence made me smile:

Nowhere did the imaginations of utopians run so rampant, and nowhere did they receive a more stinging rebuke.

I would posit that the imaginations of utopians (uteapians?) received a more stinging rebuke in Delaware and Nevada, but I confess to being a smartass.

Getting to the point, Douthat writes:

To the utopians of capitalism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the biggest booms can produce the biggest busts, and that debt and ruin always shadow prosperity and growth.

The emphasis is mine- there is no reason why debt and ruin should follow prosperity and growth. Of course, in a well-regulated system, slow steady growth should be the order of the day. The Greenspan era of bubbles is not typical of a sensibly regulated economy. To say that ruin always follows growth is a gross overgeneralization.

Of course, the heart of any Douthat column is the oversimplification of the role of religion in society, and the unqualified assertion that religiosity is preferable to secularism:

To the utopians of secularism, the Irish experience should be a reminder that the waning of a powerful religious tradition can breed decadence as well as liberation. (“Ireland found riches a good substitute for its traditional culture,” Christopher Caldwell noted, but now “we may be about to discover what happens when a traditionally poor country returns to poverty without its culture.”)

Douthat seems to be blissfully unaware of such quaint religious customs as incarceration and indentured servitude of "fallen" women, and rampant child abuse. The lovely Leslie Dowdall has one of the most succinct (and certainly most beautiful) summations of the role of conservative religion in Irish culture- a good antidote to Douthat's simplistic pieties.

Douthat's closing paragraph really kicks the condescention into overdrive. I'd love to print a flier with this column (accompanied by Douthat's portrait) and post it all over the NY metro area. I imagine this goateed moron wouldn't be able to enter a pub without being clobbered:

As for the Irish themselves, their idyllic initiation into global capitalism is over, and now they probably understand the nature of modernity a little better. At times, it can seem to deliver everything you ever wanted, and wealth beyond your dreams. But you always have to pay for it.

WTF? Really, he's describing the stereotypical quaint bumpkins of dated pop culture, rather than a nation of clear-eyed realists who have long been wary of policy makers living it up in Brussels with the EEC earning a tax free salary just to play Monopoly.

Shorter Douthat: The problem with Ireland is that it is a real country, inhabited by real people who don't conform to my stereotype.

Douthat would be better off visiting a sanitized theme park... Irelandland.

Postscript: As I wrote in my last post, it's the little things that really tend to piss one off. The sentence which really makes me want to beat the shit out of this doughhead is this: In sleepy fishing villages that date to the days of Grace O’Malley, Ireland’s Pirate Queen (she was the Sarah Palin of the 16th century), half the houses look the part .

Granuaile is one of my favorite historical figures (and not just because she flirted with baldness). Unlike the half-term, half-assed, half-wit (uh, sorry, I'm trying to recapture the poetry of "four door, foor speed, four cylinder" here) of Wasilla (half-baked Alaska sums it up concisely), Granuaile had a decades-long career, remarkable for a woman of the time, as a buccaneer, a clan chieftain, and an (dare I say it) insurgent. The one thing she has in common with Sarah Palin besides her gender is that she serves as a figure on which various groups can hang their desires (Teabaggers and starbursters in the case of Palin; feminists and nationalists in the case of Granuaile (may as well post a video for Oró Sé do Bheatha 'Bhaile). Comparing Palin to Granuaile is merely the dingleberry perched atop this shite sundae of a column.

In common with Ross, I also believe in a Technicolor fantasy, a magical realm known as Serious Opinion Journalismland- in my fantasy world, the "paper of record" publishes an excoriating rebuttal to this crap by Larry Kirwin (posting that link to make zrm jealous).

As a parting glass (so to speak), here's a great bit quoted by
Monsieur Dampniche (buy his book, already!):

“who gives a fleyn feck about the economy. We built a lot of proper houses, improved the roads, and everybody got a good television. And we didn’t tear down any pubs. If things fall apart again, nobody cares. We’re still better off.”

Yeah, crazy, unsophisticated bogtrotters spent their money on infrastructure- buncha n00bs!

Monday, November 22, 2010

I Wanted to Smack My Radi-adi-o

It's the little things that really tend to piss one off. For instance, I was listening to my radio, and a Geico commercial came on which posited the question (I paraphrase), "Would helium make opera seem less pompus and stuffy?" An audio clip follows with a baritone huffing helium in the middle of an aria, that aria being Largo al Factotum from Rossini's opera buffa The Barber of Seville. Of course, the particular aria singled out in the commercial (because people know it from popular culture) is one of the least boring and stuffy pieces of music ever performed. This sprightly, funny piece is about a pompous (but never boring) individual, but it swings:

Pompous and stuffy? Only if you're lazy and stupid. With a little work, the lyrics translated, this piece is revealed as a jaunty introduction to one of the classic characters of the Western comedic tradition.

Of course, Largo al Factotum is best known in the popular culture from the Bugs Bunny cartoon Long Haired Hare, in which our protagomorph matches wits with pompous baritone Giovanni Jones (the helium bit is a crib of the alum-spiking scene in the cartoon). Now, while Giovanni Jones is portrayed as a pompous ass, I think that Messers Jones and Maltese would have joined me in my desire to hit the guy who wrote this ad copy with a shoe. After all, their love letter to Rossini is so much more eloquent than this little mash note.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

In Keeping With Our Weekend Tradition

I decided to post an video of an early song by one of my all time favorite songwriters. Here's Gabrielle, a love song by a young pre-ravaged-by-drugs-and-booze Shane MacGowan, fronting his band The Nips (originally The Nipple Erectors). The song isn't really a love song to a girl named Gabrielle, but a love song to the old West End:

Shane's fascination for London was also expressed in such classics as Transmetropolitan, Dark Streets of London, Lullaby of London, and London, You're a Lady. Specific geographical features, such as the Albert Bridge, neighborhoods like Soho, and geographical locales such as hustlers' districts. Even though Shane is usually characterized as an "Irish" artist, London (besides, alas, booze, speed, and horse) always seemed to take first place in his heart. "Gabrielle" may have been his first love letter to the Big Smoke.

Update: Wow, I just realized that I made an omission so glaring, so great that one could drive a double-decker bus through the vexing lacuna made thereby- I forgot to link to the song London Girl, a personal favorite. This song, with its jaunty accordion riff (I've never banned anyone, or moderated comments, but I think I would give a lifetime ban to anyone making a broad disparagment of the accordion), and it's tale of love for a girl simply because she is, indeed, a London girl.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Zombie Fanfic

So, having read Rise Again, I am now hungering for a possible sequel like a zombie hungers for a fresh human brain. I think Rise Again Again would be a good title, to be followed by Rise Again Yet Again (which will undoubtedly inspire the cheap Turkish knockoff Rise Again Yataghan. Until a sequel arrives, I guess I'll have to write some zombie fanfic (uh, there's a potential minor spoiler, but it's one that the reviews I linked to in my last post revealed- that being said, READ THE BOOK ALREADY!!!):

She eased her foot off the ludicrously small Ludens cough drop shaped accelerator of the four door, foor speed, four cylinder Chevette that she'd salvaged on the highway outside of Baraboo. Hitting the clutch and shifting into neutral, she coasted down the road into the outskirts of Milwaukee, while turning the lights off, then cutting the engine. Silent as a questing owl, she entered the city. Like most cities hit by the contagion, Milwaukee was dark, and the shells of burnt-out houses stood here and there like the unfilled, carious molars of a wino. Funny, after the plague, there were no winos on the streets... they provided a dainty, well-marinated feast for the initial zombie swarms. One intact house stood, an incongruous light burning in an upper floor.

She reached for her trusty twelve-gauge and slipped out of the car. As she approached the house, she could faintly hear music blaring from within, an uptempo number with jagged-edged guitar riffs, and undecipherable lyrics shouted with gusto. The music sounded vaguely familiar, though she couldn't put a name to it. It reminded her of her childhood, when an older, mohawked kid played that sort of music, and scared the more staid members of the community before succumbing to the siren song of L.A. She briefly wondered what happened to him, what he'd been doing before the plague hit. "Probably living in a shoebox in L.A., living off Social Security, and posting righteously irate social critiques on the 'net," she thought. Well, whatever had happened to him, here was a whole new situation.

She entered the house undetected, the music covering the sounds of the door being forced. Her heart racing, she climbed the stairs. Facing the light-haloed door, she hitched her shoulders and thought, "No time for stealth, time for action." She kicked the door down and brought the stock of the shotgun to her shoulder. Incredulously, she saw a zombie bent over a drafting table, working on some building schematics. She knew that the zombies' cognitive faculties had improved dramatically, but this was a shock. She blurted out loud, "I knew they were getting more intelligent, but never thought I'd find one drawing architectural plans."

The zombie turned his baleful gaze on her, then opened its mouth to wheeze, "Shit, lady, what makes you think I'm one of the smart ones?"

My working title is I Rocked With a Zombie.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

If You Read Only One "Zombie Apocalypse" Novel This Year...

Ordinarily, my taste in horror fiction runs to tales of middle-aged academics having nightmares about huge, rugose, iridescent cones, or kindly, whimsical wizards being plunged into reality-warping horror- the scariest book I've ever read is a short novel about one man's helplessness in the face of an indifferent universe. This time, though, I thought, "Why not give zombies a chance?"

Why not, indeed?

Rise Again, the debut novel by Ben Tripp (yo, check the blogroll), is an effective horror-thriller. While cleaving (heh- I kill me) to many of the conventions of the pulp (I do not use this term disparagingly, as a perusal of any book reviews I've done on this blog will attest) horror genre, Mr. Tripp's novel transcends them with its careful characterizations, satirical content (although the "zombie apocalypse" genre lends itself to Juvenalian satire of the most bitter kind), and the author's flair for descriptive language.

Synopses of the plot can be found elsewhere on the web, so I'll touch on other aspects of Mr. Tripp's novel.

I've been hip to Tripp through his illustrations, and it comes as no surprise that he has an eye (not safe for the squeamish) for imagery- three of my favorite examples being:

Features whipped past: stark forms of rock, skeletons of trees and bushes, fences flashing their Morse code of posts and rails.

Two of the corpses by the scooters were dressed in dusty, worn-out ordinary clothing that had been washed too seldom, and yet too often. Locals.

His skin was so wrinkled, each line as sharply defined as a razor cut, that he almost appeared to have been shattered and reassembled by someone unhandy.

Of course, what would a zombie apocalypse novel be without buckets of gore? If you're squeamish, or just about to dine, you might want to skip the following phrases describing the carnage that defines the genre:

fountains of blackened meat and streams of blood…
rivulets of melted fat running out and sizzling…
rags of brown meat…
gobbets of reeking flesh…
stank of grilled meat, a smell that left a taste in the mouth.
His face was a symphony of yellows and browns, with notes of deep blue like the USDA ink stains on a side of beef.

Man, Mr. Tripp really has a predilection for portraying meat, an invaluable skill for an author of a horror tale. I can see it in my head, a few years from now, a college course titled Comp. Lit. 302: The Esthetics of Meat- Imagery in the Fiction of Ben Tripp.

The narrative is not unrelievedly bleak, however- there is a hint of humourous leavening (one throwaway one-liner had me chuckle out loud), and there are sendups of reality-show culture and political triangulation. Mr. Tripp also pays homage to the pop-culture antecedents of his novel, with shout-outs to the works of Georges Romero and Miller.

He also has a skill for portraying emotion with nuance(a welcome addition to the horror genre)- his protagonist is driven by her sense of duty to maintain a tenuous grasp on order, and to search for her missing sister. The other main characters grow into their changed roles in believable fashion. The final sentence of the book is a devastating blow- the carpet is pulled out from beneath the reader, who is left with a hauntingly ambiguous ending to ponder when the book is put down.

All told, Rise Again is a good, gripping read. Like the best works of horror, it reminds us that we have the potential to be the worst monsters of all. Here's a hearty high-five and a pat on the ass to Our Man Tripp. Now, when's the next novel coming out?

Postscript: Let me just add that Rise Again is not the scariest thing that Ben Tripp has written.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Taxes

Following up on yesterday's post, I wonder if Rangel, now convicted of ethics violations, will receive any sanction or censure... on one hand, punishing Rangel would be an instance of "counting coup" on a political opponent, on the other, such an action would risk some sort of retaliatory measures (oh, who am I kidding, the Democrats won't do Jack Meriwether Shit). Either way, it is to be expected that the response to Rep. Rangel's violation will pale in response to the punishment a private citizen with no connections would receive.

Last April, I wrote a post about how I do not complain about having to pay my taxes. I consider my tax payments to be the dues I pay to live in a civil society. That being said, I hope the Congress just lets the Bush-era tax cuts expire... all of them. I don't want to see middle-class tax cuts held hostage by a party which demands that the tax cuts on the wealthy remain in place.

I look at these tax cuts this way- if I were to, hypothetically, receive a $600 tax cut, and the decreased revenue results in a lack on infrastructure maintenance, which leads to my hitting a pothole, resulting in a $900 car repair bill, what the hell have I gained? Ah, I'm grumpy now- probably because Johnny Pez' For Want of a Nail stories are better than mine.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie

I am saddened to see how low Charlie Rangel has fallen. After a long, distinguished career as a U.S. representative, he's now reduced to fleeing his ethics hearing, crying poverty?

I always liked Rangel, I considered him a great liberal voice in the House, and a public servant dedicated to the (largely voiceless) people of his district. He was also a funny, charismatic speaker, with a distinctive gravelly voice and an interesting cadence. He always made for interesting media appearances.

He should have retired- he should have given another Harlem politician (preferably a young, idealistic up-and-comer) a chance, rather than running for reelection. As someone whose salary was paid by the taxpayers, he should have paid his taxes.

You broke my heart, Charlie.

As an afterthought, Rangel's ethics problem will undoubtably be seized upon (again)by the usual suspects, and a round of "You know those people are dishonest and corrupt" will dominate this week's news coverage.

UPDATE: Oh, double bing-bang hell!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

I Am Fully Versed in Physics, Politics, Earth History, and Alien Affairs

Sticking with my weekend tradition, I'm gonna lighten up a bit. Combining my fascination with recent developments in kookery with my fascination with dark-haired Scottish charmers (oh, who am I kidding- I have a soft spot in my head for all sorts of Scottish charmers) I'm posting a video by the Rezillos (later the Revillos). Vocalist Fay Fife had a rare knack for looking fantastic while belting out loopy sci-fi lyrics in a Fred Flinstone outfit:

Flying Saucer Attack (perhaps the best bass line EVER!!!) would have been another appropriate choice, but the video is just a bunch of B-movie SF stills. For the record, my favorite song by the band is It Gets Me- a perfect showcase for Fay's inimitable voice (and that BASS!).

Happily, the band is still touring. It's nice to see such lovable eccentrics thriving- it's a reminder that the good guys win sometimes... even while contending with flying saucer attacks.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Never Thought I'd See This

I never thought that I would see a time in which a prominent television personality would broadcast a personal attack utilizing calumnies culled from the notorious forged tract The Protocols of the Elders of Zion on a major television network. Despite his protestations of innocence (oddly combined with a bizarre imprecation of the Anti-Defamation League), the imagery conjured up by Beck to criticize Holocaust survivor George Soros is undeniably similar to that used in anti-semitic publications. Sure, Beck can deny that his attack on Soros is not an attack on the Jews as a whole, but his research (loosely defined) cites a menagerie of anti-semitic kooks, and the conspiracy theorist whose ouvre looms large in Beck's alternative history based some of his beliefs on the works of the "Protocols'" disseminators.

I was tearing up the apartment to find my copy of the Illuminatus! omnibus volume to find a quote about Henry Ford, but I didn't have much time before I had to get my ass to work. The quote roughly read, "Henry Ford introduced the Model T and The Protocols of the Elders of Zion to America, thus polluting the air and the minds of the country." I'll dig the book up to find the exact quote, but suffice it to say that Glenn Beck is continuing this reprehensible trend of stinking up the place.

UPDATE: I dug out my copy of Illuminatus!, and the quote I wanted is in Appendix Nun (the appendices are named after the Hebrew letters used in the Kabbalah):

HENRY FORD: By importing The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion and beginning the mass production of automobiles, he managed to pollute both the mind and the air of the United States, but he meant well, or at least he meant something.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Post-Lecture Recap

Tuesday night's Secret Science Club lecture, by icthyologist Dr. Melanie L. J. Stiassny, was top-notch- it was the sort of talk that could appeal to the extreme-sport fanatic, as well as the person whose eyes don't glaze over when they hear the term "micro-allopatric speciation". The talk concerned the mind-boggling variety of fish species (many endemic) in the lower Congo River, specifically the rapid-running stretch of the river near the Malebo Pool.

The Congo River forms a major biogeographic barrier, with two distinct faunal assemblages on either side of the river. Until relatively recent geological time, the Congo Basin was a vast lake, which was drained when the Congo River was formed. The lower reaches of the Congo are characterized by incredible stretches of rapids (Dr. Stiassny appears in this video). The violent hydrology of the lower stretches of the Congo River is the most likely explanation of the diversity of endemic species. Due to the strong currents, fish populations separated by mere hundreds of meters can be prevented from interbreeding (Dr. Stiassny likened this micro-allopatry to a lack of interbreeding between Manhattanites and Brooklynites- to which a wag, not the Bastard, replied that such was the case). Another analogy she used to describe the effect of the current was that the rapids serve as a "Roach Motel", in that downstream trips are decidedly one-way.

One of the fishes she touched on was an eyeless, pigment-lacking thing which had turned up dead (or, in one case, a moribund fish which died in her hand)- laid low by rapid decompression. A survey of the river in the vicinity in which these blind fish were found (using a high-tech catamaran-mounted device launched from a fifty-foot dugout pirogue) revealed that there are "pools" in the Congo River which exceed seven-hundred feet in depth.

All told, the lecture was fantastic- part adventure travelogue, part description of scientific process, part summation of research results, with a hint of pathos as Dr. Stiassny touched on the violent conflict that affects some regions of the Congo, and a strangely touching anecdote about a pallid, eyeless thing dying in her hand.

For a taste of the lecture's greatness, check out National Geographic's article and accompanying video footage.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

He Can't Have It Both Ways*

So, let me get this straight... Mr. Ben Tripp wants me to poop my pants in fear, even though he made me laugh my ass off? The prosthetic ass that I use to allow me to wear pants does not have a sphincter to loosen with terror.

All ball-busting aside, here's a hearty high five to the multi-talented Mr. Tripp. Congratulations on the publication of your first novel. My copy of Rise Again has just arrived at the local Barnes & Nobel (I figured that I would make a statement by ordering it at a bricks and mortar operation- picking up the book in a public place could help to give it "legs"). Hopefully, the book will provide a sensitive portrayal of zombies, so as not to upset the Shambler-American community.

*Subtitled- I Have No Ass and I Must Poop (of course, this is meant as a parody, so fair use laws should keep the notoriously litigious Harlan Ellison at bay).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not Requesting a Mulligan...

But if I had to rethink Saturday's post, I would have commented on the end of "Daylight Savings Time" by posting a video for the Skatalites' Eastern Standard Time:

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Getting Back to Our Usual Weekend Tradition

I've been pretty pissed off for most of the week, so I'm going to provide an anodyne, in the form of some infectious pop music sung by a trio of dark-haired Scottish heartbreakers. I really don't know a lot about the "God Help the Girl" project, but the song has a nice retro vibe, and Mlles. Ireton, Garcia, and Klobouk have more charm than a warehouse full of novelty bracelets:

I can't be angry all the time... I can't be angry forever.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Fate Forces Me to Post

I was dithering about a topic on which to post when I read about Keith Olbermann's suspension. While I have been without a television for a couple of years now, I religiously watched "Countdown" during the early-to-mid noughts. I would get home from work, descend to the basement, and watch Keith deliver a newscast which contrasted sharply with the war-boosterism and "don't question Bush" lie-down-and-roll-over punditry of the other "news" outlets. During the commercial breaks, I would pound away on a heavy bag. I credit the combination of Keith's righteous anger and Everlast's commitment to quality with the maintenance of my sanity throughout the bizarre Bush era. Goddamn MSNBC suspends Keith for making legal political contributions, while giving "blame Poland for WW2 fabulist Pat "America's Racist Uncle" Buchanan. Fuckin' fuckers are fucking fucked!

I'm pissed off, so I think I'll post the one other thing that kept me sane during the noughts. I compulsively played Gang of Four's Entertainment. The song "Ether", written about The Troubles and the UK media's coverage of said strife, could (with a little tweaking - substitute "Gitmo" for "Long Kesh") have been written about Operation Iraqi Liberation. Give it a listen, then go out and get the whole album:

While I am venting, I may as well express my scorn for fucking Clinton's fucking signing of the fucking 1996 telecommunications act, which ushered in the era of media consolidation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Time for a Haiku

I will try to do a weekly haiku feature, if I can only remember. Hell, haiku's easy, even if I do omit the kigo.

Election's over-
I am a little bummed out
I'll get over it.

Updated blogroll-
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Your contributions
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Post haiku comments.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Election Aftermath

I have never had an appearance by a guest blogger because "Big Bad Bald Bastard" is an identity as well as a blog... as much as I love everyone, I have no intention to franchise out the Bastard brand. Additionally, I don't write a lot about family, because I respect their privacy, but a couple of weeks ago, I received an e-mail from my older brother, Sweetums, who has been living in Switzerland for the last few years. In it, he expressed some concern about the direction in which the U.S. seems to be heading. I am flirting with "guest poster" status by posting his e-mail, with some links (picked by myself) to serve as annotation:

Now, I have to vent a bit about something…I nearly wept when I read this morning that NJ's Gov. Christie is putting the kibosh on the ARC Tunnel under the Hudson. Contrast this with the Swiss, doggedly digging away under the Alps. The Gotthard Base Tunnel will be the world's longest, and should be done in another 7 years or so. What a sad lack of vision in the US, seemingly at all levels of government! I'm so tired of 'Don't Tread on Me', and all the other 'Me'-centric noise floating around. How about 'Duty Now for the Future', borrowing from the Brothers Mothersbaugh (Brothersbaugh?) - you know, the quaint notion that as Americans we collectively strive to build a better life for the generations that follow? Does that no longer resonate with anyone?

Yeah, in his zeal for waging Teahad, Governor Christie* destroyed a much-needed tunnel that would have improved the lives of New Jersey residents for decades to come.

Now, with the ascendency of a Repuplican House which sees "lower taxes on the superrich while reducing the deficit" as a possibility, America's slide into senescence continues apace. Yes, we are continuing to ensure that the "lost decade", the "'noughts", continues, and are well on our way to what Gene Wolfe called "the do-nothing future, in which humanity sits at home and waits for the money to run out". Gene Wolfe's Seven American Nights makes good reading for this depressing continuation of stagnation and deregulation- it is best read in public, as you watch unsightly families gobbling down chickenesque goo molded into proteinaceous nuggets. The novella, which is set in the U.S. after a soft apocalypse (caused by our chemically-saturated and infrastructure-ignoring lifestyle) is a real downer- the perfect coda to a downer of an election season.

*It is to be remembered that his opponent was once CEO of Goldman Sachs. While it is not difficult to see how NJ voters didn't want to vote for the financial industry insider, I have to observe (in my typical smartass fashion) that they traded the "Goldman Sachs" candidate for the "God, this man sucks" candidate.