Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Happens in Syracuse...

... ends up in Vegas. I wonder if Von had anything to do with the Vegas death ray, which is an update of the ship-burning mirror array said to have been deployed by Archimedes against a Roman fleet during the siege of Syracuse.

If anyone sees Von wearing a monocle, or adopting a snow-white Persian cat, please notify the authorities.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Immortalized in Stone Cornmeal

One of my most prized possessions, prominently displayed on my living room wall, is a bag which contained an Italian equivalent of Cheetos, inexplicably named for the city in which I reside:

I can't remember how the actual snack al formaggio tasted, but suffice it to say, it wasn't lovingly crafted from fine Parmigiano-Reggiano. On the topic of Parmigiano-Reggiano, I once got into an argument with a girl at a fundraising party which featured some high-end imported antipasti. My friend Sal and I were speculating on the value of a round of cheese the size of a tire, and I ventured a guess that it must have been worth about $800. A young lady overheard me, and said, "But, Parmesan cheese is only $3 per pound!" Ay, che donna pazza! I couldn't stand by and hear her disparage a cheese like that, so I lit into her (verbally). Oddly enough, I didn't end up going home with her.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Papa's Got a Brand New Gourd

A very groovy friend of mine got her hands on a big gourd, and (knowing that I am a yerba mate drinker) fashioned a cup for me. I am still soaking it in hot water, and scraping out the white pithy lining of the gourd, but I love the thing, and can't wait to use it. You can just see the mouthpiece of the bombilla sticking out from inside the gourd:

Christmas came early!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Von Steuben Day

Today marks NYC's Von Steuben day celebration, and the German/American Unity Day outdoor beer bash in Central Park's Sheep Meadow. I should be quaffing big boots of beer under a tent while listening to polka (the ultimate thrash music- celebrating substance abuse and involving wild dancing by d00ds in leather pants). Alas, I have to work today (as Oscar Wilde said, "Work is the curse of the drinking classes."), so I won't be guzzling wiesbier by the half-liter.

Oh, well, at least there's music, like this ditty from Die Toten Hosen. This number is a spoof of the children's classic Zehn Kleine Raupenkinder:

This coming month is going to be an extremely busy one for me. I'll try to maintain a decent posting schedule, but my posts may be short- {snagglepuss} perfunctory, even {/snagglepuss}.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Hitting the Pavement

Last night, I decided to put my nose to the grindstone, and volunteered to work a phone bank for the re-election campaign of New York's 19th Congressional District Representative, John Hall. Yeah, getting pissed and venting isn't enough... it was time to do something. I traveled to the northern part of Westchester County, and put in two and a half hours calling voters in the 19th District. I'll probably put in a couple of days a week, and am looking forward to some real "shoe-leather" canvassing work. This election is going to be a squeaker, and the results will be a referendum on the so-called "liberal agenda", so I'm willing to bust my hump in an effort to prevent Hayworth from winning.

Still the rep, if I have my say,
Still the rep, I'll work night and day,
And upstate I'll schlep,
So he's still the rep.

I'm just going to relate one phone call which made me crack up. I called a gentleman who told me that he'd be voting for Hall, and asked him if he "Leaned Hall" or was a strong supporter. He told me that he "Leaned Hall", but that Hall was too centrist.


UPDATE: It seems that 18th District GOP candidate Jim Russell has a history of writing anti-semitic and racially charged screeds. He's challenging long-time rep and all-around wonderful human being Nita Lowey. This provides me further impetus to bust my hump for John Hall (Rep. Lowey's seat is secure- she truly is beloved by her constituents).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Heard This One on the Radio

Last night, the local commercial radio station played the following song, which grabbed me, and burrowed into my big bald head:

I don't know a lot about these folks- apparently, they're from Syracuse, but are relocating to Brooklyn (the "Mecca" for indie-bands these days... if Mecca had booze, which it doesn't). The single can be downloaded at the band's website (thinking of zrm here).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A Long Way From Home

While on the path by the Bronx River Parkway, I saw this guy:

Funny to see a Euro-style Grey Goose among its distant American cousins. I don't know if it's an escaped domestic goose, or a voyager blown widely off course, but it's here in Yonkers- another immigrant in a city that has a thriving population of recent arrivals.

For the record, while I would not refuse a shot of Grey Goose vodka, my preferred brand is Zubrowka, which contains an infusion of buffalo grass. While I usually drink it straight, it is commonly mixed with apple juice to make a szarlotka ("apple pie").

Monday, September 20, 2010

Wankers for O'Donnell

I really think I should ask for a refund from the School of Snappy Comebacks. I am totally off my game these days. For instance, when reading about the Delaware GOP senatorial candidate, I should have posted this (I Googled it, and it seems nobody has written it):

"Regulate wankers, not bankers!"

Of course, a "Wankers for O'Donnell" PAC would be hilarious. I imagine guys in trenchcoats carrying signs reading "Rub out the socialist agenda" or "Beat off the assault on liberty". Please, Blue Hen 'baters staters, make this happen!

Note: Title has been changed for improved hilarity. The original "Dear School of Snappy Comebacks" just didn't have any pizzazz, any "tactical elan", if you will.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Vinland the Good

In an effort to reduce the amount of fat around my kidneys, I hit the trail by the Bronx River, which lies within trebuchet range a uniped's arrow flight of my dwelling. While on the trail, I noticed that the wild grapes which grow in profusion around the region are now ripening.

One cannot determine the ripness of these pea-sized grapes by observing the color, the ripe ones have a yielding texture, and are easily plucked from the vine. Each has two or three seeds. I must have eaten a pound of grapes while I was out- I've been making dolmades from the leaves pretty much all foraging season, but this was the real "payday".

Seems like I'm not the only one who's been praying for rain so the grapes grow, here's The Lurkers channeling Cousin Dino from Ohio:

I'll post a picture later- right now, I'm heading out to the local brewery to get my growler filled. Maybe I should have titled the post "Beerland the Good".

UPDATE: The picture of my delectable little grapes has been posted.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Spider Sense Was Tingling

I was listening to the local "All news, all the time- except when the Yankees are playing" station and I heard this ad. The following lines really caught my attention:

The bridge to nowhere was a drop in the bucket. Today, Washington is spending millions on special interest projects like tunnels for turtles and digging for fossils in other countries.

Now, being a conservation-minded, nerdy science type guy, I am for tunnels for turtles and fossil digs in other countries. Turtle tunnels help to slow the decline of turtle populations, giving this ancient tetrapod lineage a shot to survive the Anthropozoic Era (and who the hell would want their kids to grow up in a world without turtles?). Digging for fossils in foreign lands has yielded incredible advances in scientific knowledge. The "bridge to nowhere" was a proposed project to benefit a handful of wealthy, politically connected landowners.

By downplaying the odiousness of the GOP-sponsored project, and making the "liberal backed" projects (which would actually produce beneficial results for humankind) seem like wasteful excess, the Public Notice group behind the "nonpartisan" Bankrupting America tip their hand. Looking into Public Notice, I found that executive director Gretchen Hamel was Deputy Assistant U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) for Public and Media Affairs for the Bush Administration. Nonpartisan, my ass.

Heard the ad and started retchin'.
Poked around and I found Gretchen.

Seems I'm woefully late to the party, the good people of TPM were covering this months ago.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Haven't You Heard the Welsh?

They really do excel!

Yesterday, I met with a event planner who is working on a shindig that my workplace will be hosting, and I noticed that she had a bumpersticker which read: "Thank God I'm Welsh". Funny, just this week mikey posted a comment on this thread which included this sentence:

Nope, might as well be written in the original Cymraeg.

Earlier this week, I was thinking about an alternative to "Talk Like a Pirate Day", and, after seekings and peekings on the t00bz, I hit on "Talk Like Gurgi Day". Now, Lloyd Alexander's masterpiece (which everyone should read) is loosely based on the Mabinogi.

Yes, the Cymry have been on my mind lately, so I decided that I would post a "video" for a song in their mother tongue. Perhaps you'll recognize the tune:

The English title of the song, Sold Me Down the River, refers to an idiom which most likely has its origins in the antebellum American slave trade- slaves sold down the Mississippi river would most likely end up in harsher working conditions. In keeping with the original meaning of the phrase, the Welsh version could very well apply to an individual sold down the Severn River, and ending up a slave among Goidelic pagans.

A couple of years back, the Alarm played three shows at the Knitting Factory in lower Manhattan in three weeks. I went to all three shows (as did my old friend J-Co), and got to meet Mike Peters, who is a genuinely nice guy. He knew his audience, as he'd turn over the mike to the crowd, which knew every word to every song- it was a ballsy move on his part, but he knew the crowd wouldn't sell him down the river.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

International Burn a Copy of Treasure Island Day

This coming Sunday is Talk Like a Pirate Day, which is a day dedicated to glorifying murderous, scurvy sea dogs. Still, I feel that it is time for America to quit apologizing for our actions and bowing to pirates. We must send a clear message to the piratical element. We will no longer be controlled and dominated by their fears and threats. It is time for America to return to being America. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island after the golden days of piracy, a safe time when pirates could be portrayed as freedom-loving swashbucklers with a shockingly modern approach to the concept of Workers' Compensation. Today, with a resurgence of piracy, I strongly feel that it's time to burn a copy of Treasure Island in order to send a message that piracy is about pieces of hate, not pieces of eight.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Primary Day

It's primary day
My workplace is a poll site
I'm "minding the store".

The primaries here in New York State promise to be pretty interesting. Today marks the debut of the optical scanners- gone are the old mechanical voting machines with the levers (I hope some have made their way to museums- voting on one of the old machines was a visceral experience). I have to confess, I think I have a bit of a crush on one of the candidates for Attorney General, not that I'd let scarlet tresses sway my vote... The Republican gubernatorial race is interesting- "Tea Party" favorite Carl Paladino, known for his class, is running neck and neck with GOP establishment candidate Rick Lazio, even after sending campaign literature which is almost as noisome as his e-mails. Whoever gains the GOP gubernatorial nomination will most likely be nothing more than a speed bump for the juggernautorial candidate Andrew Cuomo, whose only apparent flaw is his taste in women.

The general elections should be interesting as well, so I'll be popping some popcorn, tossing it with a little pesto, and settling in to take in the spectacle.

Update: One thing that strikes me as odd is how quiet the voting process is now. I can't hear that satisfying **KA-CHUNK** *click-click-click-click* **KA-CHUNK** sound that always characterized voting, and that makes me nostalgic for the noisy old days.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why Does Newt Gingrich Hate the Founders?

I hadn't been planning on posting about politics today, but Newt Gingrich's assertion that President Barack Hussein Obama has a Kenyan anti-colonial worldview has me scratching my glossy bald pate in puzzlement. Uh, what the hell is wrong with an anti-colonial worldview, Kenyan or otherwise? These guys had an anti-colonial worldview, as did these guys- this guy and the guys lauded in the guys mentioned in this song (crank up the volume!) were all anti-colonial. Hell- I am anti-colonial, and I am sure all of my regular readers (both of youse!) are. Is Newt defending colonialism? If not, is he opposed to all colonialism, or just colonization of geographic regions inhabited by non-whites?

I really hope that this statement is hung around Newt's neck like a goddamn bullseye, because that would make Newt an easy fucking target for his political opponents... an E.F.T., if you will.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Been Putting Off Posting On This Topic For Weeks

Today was one of those pristinely beautiful late summer days in New York, a day much like this date nine years ago, weatherwise. The day of the attacks, I spent over an hour standing on the edge of the Major Deegan Expressway service road, watching the emergency vehicles speeding southward towards the poisonous plume of smoke and particulates rising in the south.

The following weeks were a blur- the following day, I stood for hours on line at the regional blood center, with many others who had believed that there would be survivors who would need transfusions. The following weeks, there were memorial services for the fallen (I'll never forget the anguished look on the face of a friend who had lost her brother, one of those guys who, through smarts and sweat, had it all- an athlete, a professional, part-owner of a successful family pub- a brilliant guy from a brilliant family). There were conversations with an old family friend who had gotten all of his co-workers out of the building (controverting the building management's directive to stay put) and was suffering from "survivor guilt". There was work- my office handled Workers' Compensation claims, and we jumped through hoops to process the influx in death claims- each file represented a loss (one particular one, the death of an EMT- a beautiful single mother who lived across town from me, still haunts me from time to time). Even years after the attacks, people are dying- last year, I went to the wake of a guy I had coached as a kid- a new father, dead at thirty of lung cancer resulting from exposure to particulates. Visits to a friend's apartment in lower Manhattan involved a walk past the still-burning pile of rubble. There was an unreal quality to it all, a dull ache that lingered, a feeling of being under siege. I'd take the "1" train from 238th St in the Bronx to Times Square, and there would be armed National Guardsmen in the Times Square Station- of course, this wasn't genuine "security" because there was noone scrutinizing the 238th St station. Like most New Yorkers, these were among the worst days of my life (I had had similar horrid experiences- a friend of mine was killed in the "Lockerbie Bombing" while I was in high school, and a friend from grammar school had been killed while on the local police force, gunned down half a mile from the house he grew up in).

Like almost all Americans, I was enraged by the terrorist attacks, but I realized that the perpetrators were a small sect of fanatic fundamentalists, and did not represent the majority of Moslems. Two of my dearest friends and mentors are Moslems, and they were just as shocked and horrified by the attacks as anyone. When I think that anyone would assign culpability to these men because of their religious background, I am appalled. I honestly thought there would be more of an anti-Moslem backlash in this country, and, looking back, would say that the one thing that the odious George W. Bush got right was speaking out against such a backlash.

Now, nine years later, the backlash comes, led by self-aggrandizing, publicity-seeking lunatics (I refuse to mention them by name- not wishing to give them even a shred of recognition) and cynical political opportunists. The conflation of all Moslems with Wahabists in general, and Al-Qaeda in particular, strikes me as a desparate, despicable ploy to gain advantage in the current midterm elections, an attempt to discredit a President with a foreign-sounding name by insinuating that he is in cahoots with terrorists. The one individual I'll single out for especial scorn is Peter King, the Republican representative from Long Island. On the one hand, he's playing procedural games holding up relief for first-responders, on the other hand, he's making inflammatory statements about innocent Moslems seeking equal treatment under the First Amendment. King's dubious history with the Irish Republican Army only compounds the odious nature of his bigoted jeremiad. If anyone had told King that there were too many Roman Catholic churches in the UK, King would, rightfully, have called out the bigotry of such a person.

To cut short my now-rambling screed, I'll sum my opinion up succinctly. All Moslems are not terrorists. Lumping innocent Moslems in with terrorists is bigoted and counterproductive. The current "controversy" over the proposed Cordoba House/Park51 project is a cynical ploy to stoke anti-Moslem fear, and to portray the President as a threat to white Christian America. Finally, the shit's got to stop before some serious damage is done to our society.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I Was in a Grumpy Mood

I saw so much st00pid crap on the way to work that I was going to post something about how much I hate driving nowadays. I was looking for a video of an old drivers' ed movie (uh, not that kind) which describes a driving philosophy I have subsequently learned is the Smith System of Defensive Driving. One of the main tenets of the Smith System is "Always Leave Yourself an Out"- the particular film (which I couldn't find) expressed this as "Maintaining the Space Cushion". Yeah, I always like to have some space in which to maneuver (note to tailgaters, if I wanted you riding up my ass, I'd have wrapped you in duct tape). Today, I saw it all- tailgating, weaving throughout traffic, signaless lane changes... it's like a sizable, aggressive minority of the drivers on the road learned how to drive by playing video games (I confess to driving a couple of times with this playing in my head, but I "cooled it" pretty quickly). Well, suffice it to say, I was in a pretty pissy mood while I was driving, but it quickly passed. Funny, eh, I find work a lot less stressful than the commute.

Since I couldn't find the drivers' ed movie I was looking for, how about a video for a song I've heard for the first time? I can't believe the view count is so low after two months:

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Happy Rosh Hashanah

Here's wishing a happy Rosh Hasanah to all readers (Jewish or otherwise). I've always been into multiculturalism because my ethnic background is "mixed European" (my father was the product of an "interracial" marriage similar to the one the inimitable Larry Kirwin, and the boys sing about, my mother's grandparents were European expats who met in Buenos Aires). We always had Jewish neighbors with whom we were close, and mom often peppered her conversation with Yiddishisms picked up from a boss (gonif being a particularly favored pejorative of hers). We even doubled up on holidays with neighbors (also an "interracial" marriage, Rachel being Sephardic, George being Ashkenazi). Seders, Christmas dinners, Diwali celebrations- you name it, I love them all (any excuse, or none-at-all, for a party). To me, critics of multiculturalism are the most boring people of all... they want a homogenous, bland society where everybody is pounded into the same niche.

The Jewish people are remarkable for their tenacity in maintaining their identity while thriving (often in the face of terrible persecution) in the many societies in which they have found themselves. They provide an object lesson in multiculturalism- they have been able to adapt to prevailing social norms while not losing their core beliefs. Today, I'll be raising a nice cold egg cream, and wishing a hearty "L'chaim!" to you and your loved ones.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Missed by That Much!

So, it seems we had a couple of close calls today. We didn't join the mighty Mesozoic monsters in oblivion.

In fact, the day was positively lovely here in the Northeastern U.S., and I took a nice long walk down to the Bronx and around the perimeter of Woodlawn Cemetery (I enjoy strolling through the grounds as well, but didn't feel the need to enter today- maybe missing oblivion by a factor of tens of thousands of kilometers was a factor in this choice). Of course, the mere fact that these potentially fatal collisions can take place underscores the need for science-positive public policy because science works, bitches!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Worst Fundraiser EVER!!!

So, while traveling to the northern part of the county, I stopped in a local cafe and saw this poster on the "Community Events" bulletin board:

One would not think that a fundraiser for a chapter of the SPCA would feature cats on the menu, but one would be mistaken.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Batrachian Buddy

Since I was a small lad, I have always had a fondness (not an overfondness, mind you!) for toads... I also have a fondness for Toad's, but that's not germane to the topic. Tonight, I saw a handsome specimen of the common toad of the Northeastern United States, Anaxyrus americanus (formerly Bufo americanus, but Bufo is more properly applied to them fancy elitist You're-a-Peein' toads), holding court behind my workplace. The site abounds in toads, and sighting them never fails to amuse me. I took this portrait, but it totally fails to capture the pretty, golden eyes of the little beastie:

I didn't want to harass the critter, so I didn't go for a closer picture, and, no, I did not lick the toad in order to get high. Toad-licking is a fool's game and can only lead to heartbreak.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Big Bad Bald Bastard, Indeed

Snark Central co-proprietor D. Aristophanes made a reference to underground comics artist Richard Corben in a comment thread. I'm most familiar with Corben's work through the "DEN" sequence in BOOB-bedizened animated movie Heavy Metal, based on Corben's "DEN" material in French adult comic Metal Hurlant. This bit, voiced by the late John Candy, never fails to crack me up, although the comic version apparently had the protagonist "walking around with his dork hanging out" quite a bit. Well, the "DEN" character, a big bad bald bastard catapulted to an alien planet/alternate universe, originated in an animated short called
Neverwhere, which I'd never heard of... until tonight, when I found it in the t00bz. The short has a real "Edgar Rice Burroughs" feel to it:

This brief clip reminded me of one of the great "what if" moments of American animation- famed animator Bob Clampett collaborated with Edgar Rice Burroughs' son on a project to bring ERB's "Barsoom" books to the screen. Ah, what could have been:

As a postscript, I swear that I did not post the Clampett short in an effort to make Johnny Pez cry... honest!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sayanora, Summer!

This being the third day of yet another heat wave, I have to confess that I am not sorry to see the imminent end of summer- kids should be in school, doncha think? I know that this should be bittersweet time of year, but this summer has been marked by heat waves and drought conditions. I, for one, am not sorry to see September arrive. In honor of this month, and to commemorate the late, great Alex Chilton, here's a little power pop to listen to as you browse through catalogues for children's back-to-school outfits: