Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy Walpurgisnacht!

As is my wont, I am extending happy Walpurgisnacht wishes to all of my readers, particularly to the witches in my readership. If you can't get to the Brocken, you can still be rockin' on Walpurgisnacht, though the one Walpurgisnacht carol I know is a slow, contemplative number:

For old-time cinephiles and those with an anthropological bent (though the film says as much about early 20th Century attitudes as it does about the traditions of witchcraft), there's always the film Häxan:

For my part, my favorite local "witch" has got to be Mother Hulda, an herbalist and "wise woman" who lived in New York's Hudson Valley. Besides being known as a "witch", she was a crack shot, even as an aged woman. She is reputed to have lost her life in the Revolutionary War- local legend has it she led a group of Redcoats on a snipe hunt, and picked them off one-by-one as they blundered after her in the woods. One of the soldiers finally put a musket ball in her, and the grateful populace buried her in an unmarked grave outside of the sacred ground of the churchyard.

Just goes to show you, fundamentalist conservative jackasses have been with us since before we were us.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

All This Talk About Butts...

In a weird sort of web-coincidence, Triplanetary and Vacuumslayer have blog titles mentioning the badonka-donk. I think I'm going to piggy-baby gotback on their posts, in a crass attempt to maintain my status as the internet's number one "unapologetic ass man". Yeah, I have no shame... but my shameless ploy has led me to an inspired bit of lunassy:

It must be noted that one of the funniest things I've ever seen is at 1:11 in the Sir Mix-a-Lot video, when the magazine title Cosmopygian appears in the background. It made my laugh my shapely ass off when I first saw it, and it still cracks me up. Oh, and the best thing about laughing your ass off is that, at the end of the day, you've still got your ass.

It must also be noted that I've been suffering a case of writer's block this evening, and found a convenient backdoor to creativity.

UPDATE: Seems like Ned's jumping on the butt bandwagon now. Shake it, Mr Beaumont, shake it like the 1906 earthquake!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

All-Nighter Aftermath, D00ds Singing Pretty

By the time this post hits the t00bz, I'll be sleeping off a sixteen-hour overnight stint (fueled, as always, by consumption of copious amounts of yerba mate), as my co-worker attended a black-tie fundraiser for a charity. With gasoline prices hovering around $4.15/gallon, it's nice to be able to combine two days' commuting into one round trip. It's also nice to have some quiet time to catch up on the news after a busy week of attending lectures and drinking beer. The one downside is not being able to participate in the back-and-forth jocularity in the comments section in real time. Oh, well, can't win 'em all.

In a comment in an epic 200+ comment thread at Jennifer's place, which is not to be confused with Jennifer's place, I described the Shins' song she posted as "unabashedly pretty, which is something I don't often say about a song featuring a male vocal." Last night, I heard the latest song by English band Keane, and it's another unabashedly pretty song sung by a d00d:

I think I see a trend here... I think it may be part of the New Sincerity, but not an insincere New Sincerity (I was pretty sure that Vacuumslayer had a post up about bronies but I could not find it in the t00bz- a little link-help, and I'll link to the post). Anyway, there's a trend of guys singing pretty songs lately. I remember when such prettiness wasn't en vogue:

Now get off my lawn, I'm sleeping!

UPDATE: Found Vacuumslayer's "brony" link...

Friday, April 27, 2012

Post Lecture Recap

Last night, I headed to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn for the monthly Secret Science Club lecture, in which physicist(!) Dr Leonard Mlodinow gave a neuroscience (!!) lecture. Dr Mlodinow also has the distinction of having written scripts for McGuyver and Star Trek: The Next Generation. He also authored The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, co-authored The Grand Design with some guy named Steve, and has just released Subliminal: How Your Unconscious Mind Rules Your Behavior, which formed the basis of his talk.

The simple definition of subliminal is "beneath the threshold of the senses". Dr Mlodinow began his talk with a brief account of James Vicary, a marketing researcher who claimed to have flashed subliminal advertisements for popcorn during the course of a film showing, which led to increased popcorn sales- the claims were later determined to be a hoax.

Our mental lives can be divided into a conscious and an unconscious... we are unaware of our unconscious. Our conscious mentality is not a record of experience, but is constructed from limited data- our perceptions and our memory of them. There is a difference between what the eye sees and what the brain perceives. The brain fills in gaps in input (February's lecture went into this at length). Optical illusions mess with context, rendering our perception unreliable.

Humans being social animals, "social intelligence" is important to us. The fusiform facial recognition area is devoted mainly to recognizing faces. The ability to recognize faces doesn't work well when we view an upside down portrait of a familiar face. Also, our ability to determine the gender of a portrait often depends on the contrast in the image.

We also tend to fill in auditory input- if part of a word is interrupted by a sound (e.g. a cough), we can fill in the part of the word that was inaudible. In another exercise, the word "eel" was spoken in various sentences, and was perceived in different fashion according to other words in the sentence (the word "orange" would result in one perceiving the word "peel", "shoe" would render "heel"). Dr Mlodinow then played a section of the song Stairway to Heaven backwards- the first time he played the section, there were no accompanying lyrics, and the clip sounded like gibberish. Then he played the clip with accompanying "lyrics", and the written words affected the audience's perception of the clip. A third playing of the clip, after the suggested "lyrics" we added, and one tended still to perceive the "words".

Social perception involves a quick assessment of limited information. For this reason, uniforms are typically worn by individuals to assist observers in assessing the roles of the individuals wearing them. Social judgment is not a direct result of experience, but must be constructed by observers. Dr Mlodinow cited an experiment by Princeton University psychologist Alex Todorov, who had participants rate photos of men for competence and likeability... the photos were portraits of competing politicians, and the 70% of the individuals rated as more competent had been victorious in their campaigns.

Dr Mlodinow then went into the unconscious influence of touch. In primates, grooming is used to foster trust and bonding. In humans, there are nerves in the face which are probably connected to social touch. Touch, even if not noticed, can foster trust. In one experiment, a researcher in a social setting asked different individuals for their phone numbers- without a brief touch, the researcher received the digits 10% of the time, with a slight, unobtrusive touch, the success rate leapt to 20%. Another study found that table servers who lightly touched diners as they presented the check tended to get tips 2.5% higher than those who did not. Servers who rattled off a list of daily specials had a 40% chance to persuade diners to choose a special, with a touch accompanying the litany of specials, this increased to 60%.

Dr Mlodinow then went on to describe to constuction of one's sense of self, beginning this section of the lecture with an awesome quote by Salvador Dalí: "Every morning upon awakening, I experience a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí, and I ask myself, wonderstruck, what prodigious thing will he do today, this Salvador Dalí."

In one study, 100% of high school students rated themselves as "above average". 94% of college professors tended to view themselves as above average. In another study, medical doctors who were asked to make a pneumonia diagnosis reported that they were 80% confident that their diagnosis was correct, while the actual success rate was 20% (no information about the self-rating of bloggers, though). In self-reporting grades, students reported 89% of A's, 64% of B's, 51% of C's and 29% of D's.

Dr Mlodinow then discussed motivated reasoning, and cited himself, a physicist who wrote a psychology book, as a test case- we use desires and prior beliefs to color our perception of what we may consider "objective" judgments. "Unfriendly" data, data which is antithetical to our prior beliefs, is often rejected.

Dr Mlodinow had the audience participate in two simple experiments- in the first, the audience was divided into two halves. Each half was shown an ad for a hotel in Tahiti, with identical photos and descriptions, but wildly different prices. The price shown to group one was $5,500 per night, the price shown to group two was $55 per night. The members of each group were asked to name a price they were willing to pay for the room, and an average was taken- group one's average price was around $2,500 while group two's was around $250. Numerical judgement also takes place in context- having a number in mind, even an implausible one, affects thinking and results in anchoring.

In the second experiment of the night, a list of words was presented on the screen, and read out by Dr Mlodinow and an assistant. Many of the words were words such as "cake", "candy", "chocolate"- afterwards, the audience was given a list of three words, and instructed to write down which words they remembered as being on the original list. Even though the word "sweet" was not on the list, many audience members perceived it as being on the list because of other words which were associated with the concept of sweetness.

The lecture was yet another Secret Science Club slam-dunk. I'd be remiss if I didn't write that the line for the lecture stretched all the way down the block, and the crowd spilled out of the main room into the front lounge, where the audio of the lecture was broadcast. Three years ago, when the lectures took place at the smaller Union Hall in Park Slope, I joked that the Secret Science Club would eventually have to meet in Madison Square Garden. Last night's attendance seemed to validate my prediction... unless maybe Brooklyn is chock full of McGuyver fans.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Brooklyn Bound

I'll be headed off to Brooklyn for yet another lecture this week. Damn, seems like my brain is filling up but good lately... hope I don't suffer from Too Much Information:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ned's Lecture

Last night, I attended a lecture by N__B on the development of the skyscraper in the late 19th century. Ned mainly focused on the newspaper headquarters of Printing House Square in lower Manhattan. While he lamented the fact that he could have done better, the lecture was clear, informative, and entertaining... perfectly suited for laypersons as well as for individuals involved in the building trades.

Ned began his lecture with a discussion of the origin of the skyscraper. Besides height, he defined skyscrapers as being slender- the Manhattan Building of Chicago is a prime example of an early skyscraper, even though it's not very slender, and Ned noted with glee how a friend of his from the Windy City is a bit miffed that this Chicago landmark bears the name "Manhattan".

Ned defined characteristics of buildings- to paraphrase, they must resist the effects of gravity, they must resist the effects of lateral load (modern buildings must also resist the lateral effects of wind, and seismic activity as well), buildings must have interiors sheltered from external elements, buildings must have floor space, as an added characteristic, buildings should have some degree of fire resistance. Ned used the example of a tool shed as the simplest building- it resists gravity and lateral load, it has an interior sheltered from the elements, and it has a floor. Giving the example of the Statue of Liberty as a structure which is not a building, as Ned noted that it doesn't possess floors.

Until recently, most buildings had bearing walls- the masonry walls of the building provide the support for the structure. The walls are thicker at the base of the building and gradually thin as the building rises. Interior walls tend to be thick, as they also support the structure. Ned cited the Hotel Chelsea as a prime example of a building with masonry bearing walls, and quipped that the thick interior walls provided quiet rooms, which explains the popularity of the hotel with writers, musicians, or whatever Sid Vicious was. One problem with tall buildings with masonry bearing walls is that the thickness of the walls makes the interiors of the lower floors dark, as the windows tend to be tunnel-like. An advantage of masonry bearing walls is that additional stories can be stacked on the building- Ned used the example of the New York Tribune Building to illustrate this nicely.

Ned then went on to describe what he terms "Cage Frame" buildings, in which the masonry walls are reinforced by columns- originally, the columns would be adjacent to the masonry walls, but they came to be imbedded within the walls. As the masonry walls taper as the building gets taller, the columns in the upper stories tend to emerge from the walls, while they are completely imbedded in the lower floors. In these buildings, the walls do not have to bear the entire weight of the structure.

Finally, we have the development of the steel "skeleton" framed building, in which the structure is supported by, you got it, a steel skeleton, while the walls merely keep out the elements. As a fascinating aside, Ned noted that, originally, the walls were constructed from the bottom up, as bearing walls necessarily were, but that the wear and tear of construction often damaged the walls, necessitating replacement- relatively early in the development of curtain walls, builders came to begin construction of the walls at the second or third story, thus obviating the need for replacement of first story walls. One drawback to the steel skeleton building is that it is more difficult to increase the height of such buildings, unlike the bearing wall constructed buildings, on which additional stories can be stacked.

The greatest advantage of steel skeleton framed buildings is the cost of construction- most of the building components can be made off site. Masonry construction requires skilled on-site construction. While steel was initially expensive, it was less costly to build such a building than to have a crew of masons working on site constantly.

Of course, Ned illustrated his lecture with gorgeous old photographs of such gorgeous old buildings as the Singer Building, City Investment Building, and other stellar examples of early skyscrapers, such as can be found at his beautiful blog. While he posted a self-deprecatory entry on his blog today, don't believe him for one minute- he hit a home run with his presentation. My post does not really do Ned's lecture justice, so you'll just have to check out his blog on a regular basis, as he posts on the arcana and minutia of structural engineering.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lecture Tonight

Tonight, I'm planning on heading down to Manhattan to hear some guy who likes old buildings give a lecture on, well, old buildings. I'm sure he'll bring up his favorite buildings in the lecture, just like Dear Eccentric Uncle Robyn would:

Sadly, though, this lecture isn't the sort of lecture which features beer.

Monday, April 23, 2012

New Niece

Today, I had a message on my voicemail- my brother Sweetums' wife just had their first daughter, who will have an interesting time with all of those brothers running around. If my sister, the only girl in a houseful of boys, is any indication, my new niece is going to be brilliant and formidable. Mother and baby are doing well.

High fives all around!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Blogger Has a New Look!

I'm just not digging the new Blogger interface. I'm sure I'll become reconciled to the new scheme of things, but change ain't good (damn, two references to The Professional in the space of a few days... I may need professional help, though the image of the Grim Reaper as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl...Manic Pixie Dream Ghoul? Damn, that would be a great premise for a horror comedy in the vein of Return of the Living Dead. Actually, Manic Pixie Dream Ghoul would also be an apt description of the title character of Brian McNaughton's dark fantasy tale Meryphillia). Anyway, I digress... I dislike the new interface and I absolutely loathe the preview feature. Also, am I the only one to have a goddamn right-margin toolbar that cuts off the last couple of characters per line? Double bing-bang hell, that is NOT a good feature. I don't see any great new features, either. I'm not a Luddite, but I tend to avoid changing things that aren't broken. I still use the flip phone I bought seven years ago (it's a seemingly indestructible industrial phone that I bought because I tend to work under conditions adverse to the longevity of electronic devices), my car is over ten years old (I had to retype "years" a couple of times because the goddamn right margin toolbar made it unable to determine that I had typed "yeatrs" by mistake)... I'm conservative enough in my consumption patterns to risk being seen as a skinflint. This new "improved" Blogger? I'm just not digging it. It's not as bad as the updated Captcha system that I jettisoned, but it's pretty damn bad. Not bad enough to get me to change to another platform, though. Not yet, at any rate.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Uncle Ignatius, Eligible for Social Security Benefits

The redoubtable BLCKDGRD informs us that the iconic Iggy Pop is of retirement age. Of course, the thought of Herr Pop retiring is repugnant to me. Thanks for decades of fantastic music, and for inspiring countless other musicians to kick ass, birfday boy. Perhaps my all time favorite Iggy song is Search and Destroy, originally recorded with the Stooges: Here's a funny video of some square who was probably younger at the time than Iggy is now announcing a Stooges concert: As far as later era Iggy goes, I have to admit that I've always found the song Pumping for Jill, from 1981's "Party" album, hilarious. The weird synth solo in the middle of the song never fails to crack me up: If you're thinking of sending Iggy a gift, I hear he can use shirts.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Second Anniversary, Attempted Gaiacide

Today marks the second anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, brought to you by British Petroleum, in collaboration with Halliburton and Transocean, LTD. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the largest environmental disaster to occur in the precincts of a developed nation (although the "developed" nature of the Gulf Coast region of the U.S. can be debated- apologies to my friends in Lafayette, LA). The disaster occurred in a context of corporate malfeasance, involving depraved indifference to human life, cutting corners in construction, using insufficiently tested (possibly untested) material, and executive sociopathy. In the wake of the seafloor oil gusher's creation, BP attempted to hide the extent of the spill by using dispersants, the extreme toxicity of which had been hidden under the pretense of "trade secrets". The full extent of the disaster is unknown, and is likely to remain so, as information critical of the fossil fuels industry is typically suppressed. Two years after the toxic mix of petroleum and Corexit was added to the Gulf, the marine life is exhibiting horrific deformities. It's a common right-wing trope that environmentalism is about putting "nature" over the needs of humans, but the mouth-breathers ignore the inconvenient fact that humans are part of nature... we don't exist in some separate, rarefied sphere. A knucklehead may ask, "So what? Who cares about a bunch of lousy shrimp?" The retort is, unfortunately, too complicated to fit into a soundbite- humans are long-lived apex predators (in fact, we eat a lot of oceanic apex predators), toxins have great opportunities to accumulate in our bodies. Environmentalism concerns human health and quality of life. Nature, red in tooth and claw, cannot be destroyed- there are organisms which are a lot hardier than we overly smart yet overly stupid apes, organisms which will survive us. We won't destroy the planet, we'll just destroy our ability to inhabit it, and there are no alternatives. Problems with the supply of, and ill affects of the use of, fossil fuels have been known for decades. Fossil fuels should be thought of as "startup capital"- they allowed us to industrialize quickly, and to achieve unprecedented productivity, but the use of fossil fuels should have been a stepping stone to the development of renewable energy sources. Unfortunately, we are, to paraphrase Gene Wolfe "waiting for the money to run out." The problem with renewable energy is that it's hard to monopolize wind and sun, and the plutocrats would rather kill the planet than to give up an iota of profit.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy to Make Him Seem Wankerish

Is there no help for the plutocrat's son? Poor little rich boy Mitt Romney is convinced that he will be the victim of a vast left wing conspiracy:

"There will be an effort by the quote vast left wing conspiracy to work together to put out their message and to attack me. They're going to do everything they can to divert from the message people care about, which is a growing economy that creates more jobs and rising incomes. That's what people care about."

Yeah, Mitt, there's a vast left wing conspiracy to make you seem like an out-of-touch, condescending douchebag. The conspiracy is a wide one... everybody seems to be in on it. Cookie enthusiasts are in on it. Young black schoolchildren are in on it. Impertinent reporters are in on it. Dogs are in on it. Mothers who receive public assistance are in on it. Mitt's campaign advisor is in on it. Mitt's wife, herself smug, entitled, and out of touch, is in on it. Hell, even Mitt Romney is in on the vast left wing conspiracy.

Yeah, Mitt, it's a vast left wing conspiracy to make you look like a clueless cobag... since you are a clueless cobag, the entire fabric of the universe is wrapped up in this conspiracy. You can't buy friends, Mittens, and even your attempts to approximate a human personality go over like a lead balloon. Better stay away from public interaction going forward, it just cracks your lifelike facade.

UPDATE: I missed out on the obvious joke... GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will be attacked by a vast left-wing conspiracy headed by Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An Overactive Fantasy Life

Soon after the death of prevaricating shitbag Andrew Breitbart, right-wing lunatics have theorized that he was assassinated, presumably by the forces of the Keyan Usurper. This has, predictably, led to some pretty funny proclamations from various and sundry whackjobs. My favorite was a paranoid, self-aggrandizing screed from a commenter at right-wing fever swamp Free Republic. I was going to bold the parts that I find particularly amusing, but the whole thing is pure comedy gold:

To: combat_boots
The pros can make it look natural or like an accident. There are substances, that in tiny quantities (millionths of a gram), can cause illness, cancer, strokes, nerve damage (e.g., Rush’s hearing loss), mental confusion (e.g., Rick Perry’s sudden dementia), bizarre behavior, etc. There are THOUSANDS of such substances. Even a top quality autopsy may not discover them. Just looking at natural plant alkaloids, there are many thousands of substances that cause a variety of harmful effects. Think of how easily medical researchers create a particular cancer in lab animals. This is 21st Century assassination. It is done quietly by highly paid professionals. The democrat party has plenty of contacts with organized crime figures and foreign intel services.

Every conservative leader needs to be extremely conscious of this threat. Poisons can be delivered by food, drink, inhalation, or skin contact. For example, an assassin could put a tiny amount of poison on something that the target will touch. It could be delivered by a handshake at a rally!

I once worked for a retired three star general, the former head of Defense Intel Agency. He told me, “When it looks suspicious and highly unlikely, it is almost certainly enemy action”.

Fellow Freepers, this is not conspiracy theory. What I am recommending is a much higher level of security.Don’t think for a minute that the commies will not kill you. I have no doubt that every member of FR is on a hit list. After the Cold War, when KGB records were released, I found out my name was on a list of former military officers to be rounded up and executed after a successful nuclear strike on the United States.

They are here. Now. They will do anything to hang onto power.
133 posted on Thu Mar 1 07:24:21 2012 by darth

Gotta love that hyperactive imagination, I'd title it The Secret Life of Someone Shitty... maybe The Secret Life of Walter Sobchak. A couple of things strike me about this little essay... perhaps the best feature is that it employs the exact opposite of Occam's Razor- why settle for a simple explanation when a shadowy grand conspiracy can be spun? The fatal heart attack of a pudgy, rage filled boozer? POISON! The hearing loss of a pill-popping radio hack? POISON! The mental lapse of a good-haired goofball? POISON! I will, however, note that I do suspect that traces of natural plant alkaloids will be found in Breitbart's bloodstream. Still, I don't think that the Democratic National Committee is employing a Sarkoy venefice to "deal with" a coterie of hacks and boobs. The other thing that strikes me as hilarious is the unmitigated narcissism that is evident in the piece- I have no doubt that every member of FR is on a hit list. After the Cold War, when KGB records were released, I found out my name was on a list of former military officers to be rounded up and executed after a successful nuclear strike on the United States. Yeah, every member of the Free fucking Republic forums is on a hit list... right. Your obnoxious right-wing relative? He might not be around for Thanksgiving if Obama's army of organized crime figures and foreign intel services gets him with some exotic toxin. Maybe they'll even get a crack assassin with a sweet little heart-shaped face framing the nastiest pair of eyes you ever saw to cook up some high-tech death for the Mall Ninja who wrote this piece.

They are here. Now. They will do anything to hang onto power. Even spending a lot of money and effort to kill a bunch of misanthropic, homebound neckbeards.

As a coda to that essay, there are some hilarious responses to it, posted for your enjoyment and derision:

To: Travis McGee
I say this in all sincerity, Matt: You better watch your knot. I’d be checking my six at regular intervals and only eat out of cans for a while.
The chances that Breitbart just dropped dead at such a convenient time just doesn’t pass the smell test — the chances are millions to one. When you have the Chicago Mob working out of the White House, well, need we say more?
These soulless creatures will do anything they think they can get away with, including murder most foul. “The ends justfies the means” and all that rot.

The Chicago Mob may be working out of the White House, but I bet Breitbart was offed by the queers!!! Plus, "checking your six" is some funny pseudo-military jargon/tough guy talk to throw about.

To: dragonblustar
Breitbart died at 43? Nobody dies at 43.
My wife studies this stuff in great detail. She is a bestselling author of crime and suspense novels. She has all kinds of books on how to kill people and cover up crimes. She says there are a whole lot of ways to cause (for example) a heart-attack and make it look natural. Not saying that’s what happened here. Just sayin.
17 posted on Thursday, March 01, 2012 9:26:56 AM by ElkGroveDan (My tagline is in the shop.)

Yeah, nobody dies at 43... I checked every obituary on the t00bz, not a one! I'm starting to suspect that this guy's totally existent bestselling author wife may have killed Breitbart- she seems to know a lot about killing people and making it look natural!

And I bet she totally exists, just the the original poster's three-star general boss.

Lest you think I trolled the fetid bytes of Free Republic, rest assured, I found this thread at another site.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Making Scents

This being spring, the flowers are in bloom and there is a riot of color and fragrance here in the NY Metro area.

Here is a showy Wisteria, trained into a bush, rather than the typical vine. That blob in the foreground is a preying mantis ootheca:

Next up, we have a gorgeous lilac. When my sister was a young girl, she had a room painted a purplish pink... being a tomboy, she was incensed at the thought of having a pink room, until my mother managed to mollify her by telling her it wasn't pink, but lilac. Well played, mom!

Finally, we have a Viburnum bush. These bushes are extraordinarily fragrant- if we prop open the door at work, the sweet aroma permeates the room, it's so strong:

If only everything smelled so sweet at this time of year... weatherwise, it feels more like July than April, and, frankly, right now I am an unholy sweat loaf:

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Gothic Pixie Dream Girls

I'm not a big movie goer, so I've managed to avoid the Manic Pixie Dream Girl phenomenon noted and named by Onion film critic Nathan Rabin... unless Natalie Portman's character in The Professional qualifies, in some sick and twisted fashion. Personally, I'd consider the Manic Pixie Dream Girl in The Professional to be Death, because, as Stansfield observed, death is whimsical:

I'm not really up on the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl phenomenon, though Zooey Deschanel (part of the Axis of Deschanel) seems to be considered (fairly or unfairly) the archetype. Zooey's alright- that dark hair/blue eyes combination is one I typically find devastating. Of course, I'm more of a fan of Gothic Pixie Dream Girls, and the great and good Vacuumslayer seems to have cornered the market on this aesthetic.

Damn, I thought I'd coined the term, but it seems someone beat me to the punch. Oh, double bing-bang hell, I thought I was being clever.

I still maintain that someone should create a video game based on Vacuumslayer's art- Pissed-Off Pixies anyone?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Two Topics: Titanic, Taxes

I guess it's pretty inevitable that I'd mention the centennial of the sinking of the RMS Titanic... yeah, I'm going with the herd on this one. The story of the Titanic disaster resonates with us still because it combines the elements of glamor, hubris, death, pathos, the struggle between "Man" and "Nature", and recrimination... if someone should decide to base a film on the sinking of the Titanic, I imagine it would be a huge blockbuster at the box office.

Of course, the timing of this anniversary corresponds with the tax-paying season in the United States, so I'll be able to get on my soapbox and bloviate. The Titanic disaster occurred at a time before radio, radar, and weather satellites were invented. There was no good way to track the movement of dangerous icebergs, and no way to transit information regarding oceanic and atmospheric conditions in real time. Whether or not the crew of the ship committed errors in judgment, they were largely sailing "blind" in the North Atlantic.

With the use of satellite imaging and communications, such disasters are less likely to occur in the present day. The funding of monitoring programs is not certain, though, as the Paul Ryan budget adopted by the GOP House of Representatives would cut funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration while cutting taxes on the wealthiest Americans. One glance at the NOAA website, with its posts about record high temperatures, horrific storms, and shrinking arctic sea ice, is enough to tell you why the GOP House wants to cut NOAA funding- obviously, NOAA's a hotbed of Communism, even more so than the Democratic Caucus in the House. Take that, pinkos! Who the hell needs your monitoring of storm systems? The Free Market will protect us from the ravages of storms! Iceberg monitoring, who the hell needs it? If the meddlesome government just left multinational energy corporations alone, there wouldn't be an iceberg problem!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dong Dysfunction

Pity poor Kim Jong-huey, he had a problem getting his dong up. Of course, when one wants to strengthen one's grip, what better way to do so than to test one's dong? Poor Kim Jong-un, he'll never be the equal of his old man when it comes to dongs. If Kim Jong-il had to do it all over, maybe he would have appointed Kim Jong-louie or Kim Jong-dewey... maybe the family history of successful long-range dong tests would have been secure.

You shamed the family dong, little Kim!

Whoa... in a sort of bizarre synchronicity, I just discovered that Lil' Kim has recently recorded a single with a Korean singer with the stage name Se7en:

Far out... maybe watching that video would help Kim Jong-un get his dong up.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Hottest Ticket in Town

While listening to the local NPR affiliate, I discovered that Kraftwerk is playing an eight night career retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art. Damn, tickets were only twenty-five bucks, and they went on sale back in February... that's what I get for being a Philistone (not only a Philistine, but a caveman to boot). I've mentioned Kraftwerk in a few posts, but I've never really tackled the band head on. It's a pretty daunting task, as Kraftwerk's DNA can be found in many modern musical styles. It's kinda funny, but exceedingly cool, that a bunch of frosty Teutonic guys could have had such an influence on hip hop:

Since the cool kids are tipping the hat to Substance McGravitas, I thought I'd link to a post in which he embedded a Kraftwerk documentary, but I can't find the original. Guess I'll have to embed it on my own blog:

It's an interesting documentary, and it captures a time during which a quartet of German musicians could travel "From station to station back to Düsseldorf city, meet Iggy Pop and David Bowie."

Just so you all know, I'm not jealous of the folks attending the retrospective shows. HONEST!!!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Wretched Ingrates, Why Do You Hate Your Betters?

Gotta love Conservatives, always sticking up for the poor, put-upon plutocrats. First, we have Mitt Romney having to think for an hour about whether or not he supports equal pay for equal work for women. Then we have the Blunt/Rubio (anybody up for writing Blunt/Rubio slashfic?) bill, which would have given employers more power over their employees' healthcare decisions than they already have. Finally, we have Carl Rove's petition against forcing Randian Superman bosses to pay a higher tax rate than their serfs employees. "Sign it, peasant, or I'll cut your access to contraceptive care!"

It gets better... the worst president ever warned President Obama not to raise taxes on the "job creators" who used their Bush tax cuts to create the worst jobs climate in the U.S. on record. I'm actually stunned that Bush had the gall to leave the isolation of his Texas abode, and show his face in the bluest of blue cities.

Frontrunner Rmoney, who hilariously compared President Obama to Marie Antoinette, will be running on his ability to create jobs, even though his record as a vulture capitalist shows that he destroyed thousands of high-paying jobs. Yeah, keep touting those numbers, Mittens, I'm sure Marie Antoinette would have enjoyed riding "dressage" horses with you had you been contemporaries.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Santorumentum Suspended!

I'm kinda bummed that Rick Santorum has suspended his presidential campaign, thus ending the monkey knife fight known as the GOP 2012 primary race. Of course, there's some hilarity to be had in the article, in light of the definition of Santorum's name (note to Laura, both links are to that site):

He was a long-dormant volcano due for a surprise eruption.

Yeah, an eruption of santorum has got to be a surprise.

I'll miss Rick's campaign, because it bled Rmoney's SuperPAC backers of millions of dollars in what amounted to a mutual destruction pact, and it forced Mitt to tack hard right, which will harm his chances in the general election. On second thought, though, the timing is pretty good, being so soon after the Etch-a-Sketch gaffe... Mitt's expected turn towards the center will take place soon afterward, making his conversion, hard enough to swallow to begin with, seem even more unprincipled and callow. How does Mitt walk back his Road to Dumbasscus conversion narrative?

Thank you, Rick Santorum. Thank you for stepping on Mitt Romney's limp dick for so long. Thank you for setting yourself up to be the possible front-runner in the 2016 presidential campaign (of course, Santorum did not endorse Romney, and probably wants him to lose this election so he can run in the next one).

Of course, Newt is sticking it out to the bitter end, thus ensuring some hilarity at the GOP convention. Isn't vindictiveness grand?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Graveyard Shift, Eldritch Tales

Today, I have the pleasure of working the graveyard shift. It's quiet... just myself and the cats holding down the fort. Graveyards aren't so bad- I have a chance to catch up with the news, and I'll be driving home when most people are on their way to work. I do, however, miss the back-and-forth with the commentariat here **sniff**.

After catching up on some reading, I tracked down a video for Tomb of Ligeia, which I alluded to in a post last month. At 4:40, Vincent Price throws a head of cabbage at a cat, and he delivers his wonderful lines about it starting at 7:19:

I wonder if Eccentric Uncle Robyn was inspired by the film to write this song:

I also got around to arranging the Clark Ashton Smith tales I copied off The Eldritch Dark into folders. I have all of the Averoigne tales, the whole of the Zothique stories which inspired Jack Vance's "Dying Earth", and the whole Commoriom Myth Cycle preserved by the Atlantean high-priest Klarkash-Ton. It's been a good day for some serious weirdness, and it's not even dawn. As much as I love Clark Ashton Smith's work, he's probably not everybody's cup of tea. I'd probably suggest The Return of the Sorceror as a good, gruesome introduction to CAS, but my favorite tale of his might be The Seven Geases.

As luck would have it, I found an adaptation of The Return of the Sorceror from Rod Serling's Night Gallery starring Vincent Price, but it's dubbed in Portuguese:

Before I wrap this post up, I just want to engage in a bit of speculation... how much cooler would Star Wars have been if Vincent Price had played Obi-Wan Kenobi? Hell, I'm not knocking Alec Guinness, but we're talking Vincent Price here!

UPDATE: I found an English language version of the "Night Gallery" episode. I also found another episode based on H.P. Lovecraft's Pickman's Model.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Egg Hunt

What better day to go on an egg hunt than Easter? I have a lot of territory to cover, but there are countless eggses to be found. Some of the eggs have even been colored.

I seem to remember a post on Riddled which mentioned the salamander/algae symbiosis, but I've searched for it and cannot find it. A little help, dear antipodean friends!

Happy Easter all... don't be overdosing on chocolate now!

Oh, and as an Easter bonus, here's the incomparable Vincent Price as Egghead:

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Biggest Reason for Loathing John Derbyshire

I loathe the odious John Derbyshire for his horrid racism, but the thing that I take almost personally is that he is now the best known individual with the surname Derbyshire. I have long been a fan of pioneering electronic musician and recording genius Delia Derbyshire. You may not have heard of Ms. Derbyshire, but if you have a nerdy bone in your body, you have heard her best known work, an otherworldly take on a piece by composer Ron Grainer:

Here's a video of the charming (though possessing alarming dentition) Delia Derbyshire, presiding over her domain:

Here's the first part of a documentary about the visionary Delia Derbyshire (the stuff she was doing in the 60's sounds contemporary almost fifty years after it was recorded):

It's my solemn hope that this forward thinking, brilliant Derbyshire is remembered, and the backwards, contemptible Derbyshire is hounded into oblivion.

Oh, and about John Derbyshire's firing by the National Review... I'm not impressed. John Derbyshire's mistake was that he blared out his racism loud and clear, instead of couching it in code words and "dog whistles". John Derbyshire's screed makes him unacceptable company at the polite sorts of cocktail parties. Of course, such loud and clear racism was stock-in-trade at the National Review, which had a long tradition of opposing civil rights and demeaning African-Americans. The asshole's essay would have made a typical cover piece on an edition of "NR" from the 1950's or 1960's.

UPDATE: For contrast to Derbyshire's horrible injunction "Avoid concentrations of blacks not all known to you personally", here's an antidote... another Englishman, the Sainted Joe Strummer, relating how he attended a reggae concert and gained some insight into political and economic justice:

White youth, black youth
Better find another solution
Why not phone up Robin Hood
And ask him for some wealth distribution

It's not a matter of white and black, it's a matter of right and wrong.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Got Off the Boat, Went for a Mango

Very rarely do I get off the boat, looking for mangoes, but Rumproast post about conservative "humor" led me to click on a link to "Pajamas Media" in order to count coup. The Rumproast post has a point-by-point breakdown of a right-wing "comedian's" essay, and illustrative examples showing that right-wingers just aren't that funny. In the original essay that's lampooned, the moran writes:

Take me, for example. I’m certified funny by all the national authorities. In fact, doctors often use my material as a diagnostic tool. If someone reads something I’ve written and doesn’t laugh, that probably means he has a brain tumor.

This is why Republicans favor deregulation... obviously the national authorities have been co-opted and now certify sub-standard wags as funny. Well, a reader posted a rather lengthy, pretty thoughtful comment to the post, and the author responded by riffing on what he'd written before:

21. Pastor of Muppets

Is this even remotely serious? All the best comedians since roughly ever have been liberals, minorities, or at least have left leanings. George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Hicks, Tina Fey, John Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Eddie Murphy, Louis C.K., and those are just off the top of my head. I could go on all day. The only “conservative” comedians I can think of are Jeff Foxworthy, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, Larry the Cable Guy and that ventriloquist guy with the skeletal terrorist puppet. Ron White isn’t even that conservative; he just speaks with a twang.

I understand that the point of this whole website is to basically chant “Conservatives good, liberals bad!” ad infinitum, but by any metric, funny liberals greatly outnumber funny conservatives. And there is a reason for this: good comedy is the process of taking traditional, everyday, normal, familiar institutions and ideas, and ridiculing them until they look weird and funny. This is what conservatives can’t handle. They can’t handle their sacred institutions being ridiculed. They can’t handle their traditions and ideas being challenged. And they don’t seem to understand that this is what good comedy is about.

Instead, conservatives view comedy as the polar opposite: the normal ridiculing and shaming the weird and different until it conforms. This is what conservative “comedians” like Ann Coulter do: ridicule gays, minorities, woman, liberals, etc. There’s not much of a set up or a punch line; conservative humor is essentially the political equivalent of “yo mama” jokes: “Liberals are so stupid that [fill in the blank]“. There’s really no thought required. All it does is help conservatives affirm their preconceived beliefs: “Oh, look dear, this woman on the teevee is making fun of liberals, and we hate liberals, so we must be right! Aren’t we so clever?!” But where are the conservative comedians challenging conservative idea? They largely don’t exist, because conservatives won’t accept it.

One of the few exceptions to this are Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of South Park, who are both self-proclaimed conservatives and outrageously funny. And they are equal opportunity: they’ll poke fun at Al Sharpton one week, and Glenn Beck the next. And yet, conservatives don’t watch South Park. Liberals tend to be the biggest viewing audience. And this underscores my point: it’s not that conservatives aren’t, or can’t be funny, it’s more that conservative audiences generally don’t appreciate nuanced, challenging humor; they instead prefer “yo mama” jokes.
April 6, 2012 - 10:42 am

Frank J. Fleming

You may have a brain tumor.
April 6, 2012 - 11:09 am

Heh, what a rejoinder... I decided to don wetsuit, slither into the fetid waters, and respond.

That’s no tumor, Frankie, it’s called a cerebral cortex.

Surprisingly, the comment made it through moderation... I may have to click through once more to see Frank's witty rejoinder. Something tells me that an average lefty could win a battle of wits with the guy with one hemisphere tied behind his or her back.

Speaking of the brain and conservatives, remember folks, they aren't anterior cerebral cortex people, they're amygdala people. If a conservative indicates that he or she was joking, it's probably a pathetic attempt to walk back eliminationist or otherwise horrible rhetoric. Expect the horrid John Derbyshire to hide behind Thalia's skirt any moment now...

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Search Term Roundup, With Bonus Spam Hilarity

I always like to keep abreast of the search terms that have brought people to my blog, so I check out these stats on a regular basis. This week, I've had a couple of humdingers. Some of them I can't even begin to puzzle out because they're so outré:

only females girls and males boys completely naked for martyr

cato's suit of armor

bullet witch wallpaper

lesbian white male

images dutch fruit face

smashed boobs

in a lot of "kirk/spock" fan fiction, the "star trek" characters engage in a homoerotic relationship.

That last one is pretty wordy, don'cha think?

Here's a typical "porn-y" search criterion:

hot boobs mom 40 yers and more

I'll leave it to my readers to see if they can help this hapless horndog out...

As an added bonus, here is a "spam" comment which I find extremely amusing- I find the wording of it funny because it sounds almost like something a CEO would say at a shareholders' meeting, just a little off:

We've Reached The End Of Another Fantastic Year For Celebrity Nudity.

Oddly enough, this comment was posted on my Anderson Cooper/Race Bannon post. I actually marked it as "not spam" and published it because I thought it was so damn funny. Of course, this raises a question about celebrity nudity... did either Anderson Cooper or Race Bannon release a sex tape this year?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Of All the Days to Find this Out

Today, on the 44th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination, a little over a month after the killing of an unarmed African-American teen, I find out that a GOP asshole in upstate New York proposed a "stand your ground" law for New York State. The fact that he originally proposed this legislation in 2008, and that it received little media attention appalls me.

Additionally, there are Republican efforts to legislate reciprocal concealed carry laws, which would enable lunatics from states with absolutely no gun control to bring firearms into states with tough concealed carry laws.

Shit, the New York metropolitan area has a population of almost 20 million. We have to deal with many, many individuals throughout the course of a typical day. Every once in a while, we get irritable... the last thing we need is a law which would allow uninvestigated shootings to take place. We have enough clueless tourists wandering around the city as it is, do we really need fearful rubes with itchy trigger fingers clogging Times Square? Shit, we have one too many cowboys in Manhattan- no need for a full-blown Wild West Show.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Help Mitt, Ann!

Lifelike human simulacrum Mitt Romney has a problem connecting with women voters. Sorry asshole, you just can't pull the Etch-a-Sketch routine and expect women to forget about your selling out women in order to pander to the right wing GOP base. In a last-ditch effort to salvage his sagging electoral prospects among female voters, the Romney campaign has decided to unleash the Kraken Ann Romney. On the surface, Ann Romney is fairly appealing- she looks like a nice lady, and herstruggles with multiple sclerosis and breast cancer evoke sympathy among even the most hard-nosed opponents. The one problem is that Ann Romney is just as out-of-touch and gaffe-prone as her odious husband.

Ann Romney, noted driver of a couple of Cadillacs and wife of a guy with a net worth of about $250,000,000 doesn't consider herself wealthy:

She has described a family-owned six-bedroom mansion as a "little place":

Like many non-wealthy Americans, she is always up for a flying around the country to get in a horsey ride. I'm sure she'll connect well with the women of these United States.

Of course, Ann's first goal is to make her husband seem less stilted and robotic, and she's off a grand start. In fact, she's willing to expose a soft part of Mitt that the voters haven't seen:

"And one of the things, Ann Romney, that folks talk about with your husband, Mitt Romney, and I’ve seen him in casual conversation-He comes off very smooth and okay. But sometimes he comes off stiff. Do you have to fight back some criticism, like ‘My husband isn’t stiff, OK?’"

Laughing, Ann Romney responded, "Well, you know, I guess we better unzip him and let the real Mitt Romney out because he is not!"

If that's Mitt's secret weapon, it seems to have gone off in his magic underpants. It's better to be perceived as a robot than a soft boy (and not of the good variety). I look forward to Ann Romney leaving the campaign trail to spend more time with the family.

I'd be remiss if I didn't reveal the inspiration of the post title, which is a song by Boston band Lyres:

UPDATE: I just want to say that I think it's hilarious that Mitt Romney's campaign is best symbolized by a flaccid penis. That's pretty much Mitt in a nutsack nutshell.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Getting Asked Questions on Other Blogs

In a comment to a recent post at Casa de la Sustancia, Vacuumslayer (who is part of the Axis of VS) asked a guestion about the giant African pouched rats which seem to be invading the U.S.:

Hey, B^4, how would you make that giant rat delicious?

My initial reaction is to treat the giant rat like a guinea pig, and go the Peruvian/Andean route. Of course, rodents probably taste a lot like lagomorphs, so a hasenpfeffer recipe would probably serve well. I imagine that rat is low-fat (how 'bout that?), so I'd avoid roasting it. I'd probably braise it- make a sofritto of onion, carrot, celery, garlic, maybe some green pepper, then add the giant rat, then add some crushed tomatoes and white wine, season to taste, and braise the bejeezus out of it. Perhaps giant rat red curry would be delicious, served over jasmine rice. At any rate, there are bound to be a number of ways to make the beast palatable, should you choose to eat that rat:

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools Day

I used to enjoy April Fools Day, with it's harmless pranks and jocularity, but, unlike Mr. T I have no pity for fools. Of course, the problem in the U.S. is that fools have been playing a big role in establishing national policy. The damn fools who elect fools to political office are perhaps the biggest fools of all. I'm sick of fools... except for certain fools, though the New Zilders, no fools, prefer Pavlovas- editor's note: hubba hubba! That being said, fools are good subject matter for songs:

Foolishly, I can't decide whether my favorite Bow Wow Wow song is the pretty Do You Wanna Hold Me? or the hilarious Sexy Eiffel Tower. Thankfully, Frank Black wasn't so turned on by the Eiffel Tower.