Thursday, May 31, 2012

Seeking Government Employment

This week, from the Department of What the Fuck? we have a news item about a guy who disdains government jobs who is, wait for it, seeking a government job:

He wants to "send those government workers back home" (as if they didn't work in the communities in which they live and pay taxes), yet he wants to enter the government payroll and move into government housing.

Romney's dumbass soundbyte is in the tradition of dumbass demagoguery that is the Reagan legacy:

Shit, I'm starting to think that it's the toxic mixture of Grecian Formula and Brylcreem that's rotted the brains of these helmet-haired hucksters.

Hmmm... the Wikiwakiwoo says that lead acetate is still used in hair dyes. I think I may be onto something.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Conservative Blogosphere as RPG

I was blissfully unaware that the right-wing blogosphere had a "blogswarm" last Friday to expose the current perfidy of a tried, convincted, and paroled former felon who they see as an ally of liberal bogeyman George Soros. Apparently, Brett Kimberlin did something which caused racist right-wing crank R.S. McCain to "hit the matresses", so to speak. Of course, the threat to life and limb was not-so-well defined:

Mr. McCain was interviewed by John Hawkins and my suspicions about his having to "flee for his safety" were proven correct… turns out Mr. McCain was concerned he was going to be sued and is not in fear for his life

The entire conservative movement is nothing but a huge role-playing game... it's a bunch of bored suburbanites sitting at their computers and collectively simulating a fantasy world in which they can play heroic roles in order to save their world from the forces of evil... it's basically World of Wingnuts. Unfortunately, some of the participants, like the guy quoted at No More Mister Nice Blog, don't seem to realize that their little "game" is best confined to the computer:

Read all of the incredible, sick-making story -- which includes some perfectly typical and disgusting bile spewed by some of the violence-supporting left-wing animals who think things like this are just peachy -- and gird your loins. Because it's going to come down to shooting with these vermin eventually, if we're to retain any rights at all. Patterico wouldn't like me saying that, I’m sure; I don’t much like having to say it myself. But it's a mere acknowledgment of current reality: we are in a cold war with neo-Marxists who are trying to steal our country, have already done enormous and probably permanent damage to it, and will stop at nothing --absolutely nothing -- to see to it that our voices are silenced. That war must inevitably go hot, unless we're willing to surrender to them.

Whoa, easy there, chief... you seem to be blurring the lines between fantasy and reality there. Sure, you claim to be lamenting the necessity of your "hot war" against the fags, vegans, feminazis, and assorted other monsters, but you forgot to use the unscented lotion as your spank-lube and gave the game away. I imagine Custer at least once voiced lies about how "regrettable" the "need" to extirpate the "savages" was before donning his spurs and riding off to Little Bighorn. It's best to keep the fantasy limited to the computer world. We wouldn't want this thing to turn into a LARP... can't have "Blogswarm! Blogswarm! Blogswarm!" devolve into "Bloodshed! Bloodshed! Bloodshed!"

Of course, it has to be noted that the "Cold Fury" guy who wrote the excerpt that I cribbed won't be the guy who's fighting in the streets, no matter how inevitable he hopes the "war" is. The mentally unstable guy, fed on a diet of Fox News, Glenn Beck, and other hate merchants, will be the guy who shoots someone, or bombs a gay bar or abortion clinic and, when that happens, "Cold Fury" numbnuts will cover his ears and cry "Lone Wolf!" while the mainstream media dutifully reports "Both Sides Do It".

POSTSCRIPT: Of course, the real fun is to figure out what role the various members of the Right Wing Media play in this sordid little game. I nominate Bill O'Reilly as the Dudgeon Master. Pammiecakes would be a 10th level Shrieking Harpy. Doughbob would be an 8th level Semantimancer, with the special power to twist the meaning of words until each syllable screams in agony. Sorry, folks, I took the easy ones...

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

For some reason, I thought that I'd posted a video for Eric Bogle's No Man's Land last Memorial Day, but in actuality, I posted it as a reaction to the news that the last WW1 combat veteran had died. Anyway, I can't think of a more appropriate post for Memorial Day than to post a video for the song, which has become a standard covered by numerous artists:

The last verse of the song is a particularly poignant one:

Now young Willie McBride I can't help but wonder why
Do all those who lie here know why they died
And did they believe when they answered the cause
Did they really believe that this war would end wars
Well the sorrow, the suffering, the glory, the pain
The killing and dying was all done in vain
For young Willie McBride it all happened again
And again, and again, and again, and again.

Eric Bogle also wrote the anti-war ballad And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda about a wounded veteran of the battle at Gallipoli:

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Eight Hour Endurance Test

Today, I am working outside from 10AM to 6PM... it's our major spring fundraiser, and staff from all of our sites will be working together. It's a great day for seeing people I haven't seen in a while, both co-workers and visitors. I enjoy the day, but it kinda kicks my ass. Of course, I have taken my usual warm-weather outdoor work precautions. I filled the 100 ounce Camelback "bladder" with water last night and threw it in the 'fridge, so I can re-hydrate. This year, I have slathered myself with a combination SPF30 sunscreen and natural insect repellent... consequently, I smell like a citronella candle, which is better than smelling like a sweat loaf.

Near the parking lot, there is a cottonwood tree sending out seeds so it looks as if there were drifts of cotton balls covering large portions of the property. I'll keep an eye out for my good friend Shelly, who will probably be around making sure her kids get laid.

After work, I'll actually have the luxury of going out for a cold beer, as I don't have to return to work until 4PM tomorrow. I think I'll need some hoppy sustenance after a long, citronella-scented day on the job.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Busy Weekend

This weekend will be a busy one for me and my co-workers- we have our major spring fundraiser going on all weekend. Yesterday, I put in a sixteen hour day and while I'm only working eight hours tonight, one of my counterparts is putting in at least twelve hours (I would have relieved him after eight hours, but another of our sites was rented out for a cocktail party, and I have to be around to make sure things go smoothly). Still, things are not as crazy as last year when I juggled my college reunion and the spring fundraiser. I also figure that there won't be a lot of web traffic over the weekend, so I decided not to put up a substantial post that I have been working on 'til Tuesday.

I'll be working outside all day tomorrow, so tomorrow's post will be set up tonight when I have a moment after the caterers, all nice people I have worked with on numerous occasions, pack up.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Cupp, Flynt, Fluke

The title of this post came to me because two of the aforementioned individuals have names that are almost words, while the third has a name which is any one of several actual words. Plus, "Cup, Flint, Fluke" could be the name of a game much like "Rock, Paper, Scissors"- Flint cracks Cup, Fluke envelopes Flint... bear with me people, this post is going to have some digressions and will most likely end up borderline NSFW because of the subject matter (though, to be honest, I am writing the post at work). Before I get to the body of the post, I recommend Substance McGravitas' and Vacuumslayer's (love the title!) posts on the subject to anyone who's reading this.

The Cupp kerfuffle began when Larry Flynt's porn mag Hustler printed a faked photograph of right-wing columnist S.E. Cupp with a penis in her mouth. Besides playing a conservative atheist who goes to bat for religious fundies (of the right sort, or the white sort), Ms Cupp plays a smoking hot "Canadian girlfriend" for trollish right-wing guys. As much as I hate to say it, Ms Cupp is awful pretty, by which I mean she is pretty, but she's absolutely awful. Cupp's basically a Wingnut Pixie Dream Girl... at the very least, she plays one on T.V.

At any rate, some editor at Hustler decided to photoshop a phallus in Ms. Cupp's mouth and to accompany said falselatio photo with some insincere "political" boilerplate:

S.E. Cupp is a lovely young lady who read too much Ayn Rand in high school and ended up joining the dark side. Cupp, an author and media commentator who often shows up on Fox News programs, is undeniably cute. But her hotness is diminished when she espouses dumb ideas like defunding Planned Parenthood. Perhaps the method pictured here is Ms. Cupp’s suggestion for avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.

Stories about the picture surfaced at Glenn Beck's The Blaze website (linked by SMcG, but I'll be damned if I'll link to Herr Beck), and ignited a storm of outrage on the right, oddly enough largely aimed at the National Organization for Women for not immediately condemning Larry Flynt. As Cupp herself put it:

"The National Organization for Women, NOW, will not come out and say, ‘Liberal women deserve more respect, and we are not going to defend conservative women.’ They are not going to admit to that. You have to wonder if they had done this to somebody like Nancy Pelosi or Michelle Obama, would that stand? Would no one make a stink about it? I have to think they would."

Of course, the idea that NOW is on top of every image put out by a spank-mag publisher, and has a rapid-response team to post criticism of the editorial staff is ridiculous on the face of it, but wingnuts aren't known for their sense.

Oddly enough, the fact that The Blaze posted the picture of the graphic graphic, albeit a blurred one, means that many, many more people will "see" the image than would have had they not put it up on the site. It's akin to the Streisand effect- the response ensures that the picture will gain more prominence. Additionally, I can imagine the "Blaze" readers rubbing one out while squinting in an effort to decipher the blurred region of the picture- a masturbatory effort harkening back to their nights watching the scrambled Skinemax signal on their parents' television in the forlorn hope that an approximation of a boob would be discernible through the visual "noise". I imagine that the majority of the sales of this issue will be to the conservative autolotharios mentioned in SMcG's post.

One individual who immediately condemned the picture was Sandra Fluke, who was recently the target of a similarly vile attack by the none-too-bright George Tierney Jr of Greenville, South Carolina. Tellingly, when S.E. Cupp was asked about Rush Limbaugh's non-apology to Sandra Fluke after his disgusting three-day rant, she deemed it "sufficient" (no direct link- story is at Newsmax, and I won't send them hits). It's also sufficient to say that Sandra Fluke has a hell of a lot more class than S.E. Cupp (not to mention George Tierney Jr of Greenville, South Carolina).

Now we get to Larry Flynt- the idea that Larry Flynt, a guy who has made his money by objectifying women, is a liberal is ludicrous... although I'd be willing to reconsider his "liberal" status if anyone can conclusively prove that his "Hustler Clubs" are union shops in which the strippers have generous benefits packages. Flynt doesn't map onto the traditional left-right axis- I'd consider him to be some bizarre permutation of a "libertarian", for lack of an adequate term. In response to the uproar, the loathsome Flynt characterized his faked phote as satire- to me, that statement doesn't pass the smell test... the picture is porn, and Ms Cupp is not a willing participant, therefore, the picture is outrageous and indefensible.

On the subject of porn... porn has been with us since genus Homo wised up. Porn is a vast industry, and it's not going anywhere. While a great deal of porn is misogynistic and demeaning, porn per se is intrinsically no more demeaning to women than, for example, a column by S.E. Cupp. That being said, I think that there should be a certification process for porn akin to that used for coffee, so conscientious consumers can choose coercion-free, sex positive porn which justly remunerates the performers. Porn consumption should be like meat consumption: occasional, and with a consideration of ethical standards.

Both Substance McGravitas and Mark from Newcorpse note that Limbaugh's attacks on Sandra Fluke really can't be compared to Flynt's hit piece on Cupp. Vacuumslayer brings the lulz with the title, but makes a serious point. For sustained snark, this thread at the mothership is pure comedy gold, with "not a gator" knocking it out of the park:

I’m a little surprised (maybe pleased?) at all the people defending Sippy Cupp here, but, you know, somebody put the character “Sarah Palin” in an actual porno four years ago and I didn’t see this amount of denouncing going on. Tactics or is it the shoop itself?

Sippy Cupp uses that same “sexy schoolmarm” look to get attention while claiming that everyone loves her for her “ideas”. Except that unlike Palin, who is extremely sincere about her fire and brimstone old tyme religion (Palin sincerely believes she should get her way and other exist to serve her whims), Cupp is such a fake you can see the peeling paint from the other side of the teevee screen.

How can she be “shocked” when someone “punks” her carefully crafted smexxxxy™ image? She does this shit on purpose because she wants money, money, money and she thinks she can get it out of “teh rubes” who she believes to be afflicted with the old ultra-stupid. She’s a panderer who has more contempt for her marks than Ritt Momney on his worst day. And what’s worse, she’s a bad liar to boot.

Heh, "smexxxxy™" indeed!

UPDATE: I wrote this post between 4AM and 8AM today while on the job since 4PM the previous day, and I forgot a couple of salient points, one of them being a BIG ONE.

The big point that I missed is that, according to the Newscorpse post, S.E. Cupp thanked Larry Flynt for his photoshop:

Cupp: If I could just express a little gratitude for Hustler – and I’m being completely serious here – There is an accompanying sidebar to this story and why they did this to me. And in that paragraph they say it’s because she’s lovely, she’s smart, she’s fine, but she happens to be a crazy conservative, she’s pro-life, and wants to defund Planned Parenthood. And for that she deserves a phallus in her mouth. That is essentially what they’re saying and I have to commend that as being incredibly honest. [...] So I wish that the media entities that perform this kind of misogyny would just come out and do what Hustler did instead of just beating around the bush and pretending to be fair, pretending to be above that.

Beck: So may I translate? I think what I’m hearing you say – correct me if I’m wrong – is that Hustler Magazine has higher standards than the media and the National Organization of Women.

Cupp: That’s exactly right. They are more straight forward. They have uncomplicated this belief system, which exists on the left and the right, that my being pro-life, my political views make this OK. It justifies it and I, essentially, deserve it. That is honesty on this issue I have never seen before.

Besides thanking Flynt, Cupp did thank Sandra Fluke for condemning Flynt. Of course, she did complain that NOW didn't release a statement, but they are so busy fighting an onslaught of Republican legislation that harms women that Sippy's plight is, rightly, on the back burner.

Another thing I want to note is inspired by a comment by Aunt Snow:

Gosh, I am wondering how a righteous, God-fearing right-winger might have managed to stumble upon the image.

I mean - it's not like it was out there in the public square. Anyone who objects to an image in "Hustler" that degrades women would have had to actively seek out the magazine and purchase it.

I imagine that at least one, possibly all, of the Hurr Hurr "Hawt Conservative Women" Righties set a Google alert for "S.E. Cupp porn" and that the information about the picture came up, leading them to make an issue of it. Of course, most people reading the story have asked, "Who the hell buys porn magazines anyway, besides old dudes and winos?" The very notion of walking into a store and plunking down a greasy wad of dollar bills for a beatin' bible is almost quaint, in a sleazy kind of way. Speaking for myself, I get all of my Smut on the internet.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Struck by Three Prongs

Every so often, something leaps off the page or screen and hits your eye like a three-pronged fork. Having just read about Mitt Romney's not-very-well-received "three-pronged approach to achieving better educational outcomes for disadvantaged students", I was struck by another recent post about Romney's three-pronged strategy to reduce his "gender gap". Further gazoogling reveals a three pronged approach that would take care of the Jihadists. Another site reveals his "three-pronged characterization of President Obama aimed at sowing serious doubt among Americans about his stewardship of the country". A Latina academic has outlined a possible three-pronged "Latino Action Plan" to make Latino voters not hate his guts.

Three prongs... it's a nice number, low enough so that even Rick Perry couldn't lose count. It's pretty much bullshit, and I'm looking forward to when Mitt finds himself on the receiving end of a three-pronged defeat come November.

It's a perfunctory post, to be sure, but I think I'll tackle the S.E. Cupp/"Hustler" controversy and that will require some time.

UPDATE: I can't help hearing this post title to this tune:

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Relief for My Family

My younger brother, Vincenzo, returned from the greater Kandahar metropolitan area yesterday. He's finished a year-long tour of duty that he'd started while my baby brother Gomez was still there. For the first time in a long time, both of my younger brothers aren't in the theatre of war. It's a relief for my family, but there are other families that have members still involved in a war with no real objectives, and no real exit strategy. The military presence hasn't been matched by adequate humanitarian aid or diplomatic efforts.

Personally, I think our biggest failure in Afghanistan was our lack of involvement in the region after the Afghan-Soviet War. We armed a coalition of tribal partisans, nationalists, and religious fanatics to the teeth and trained them how to wage a guerrilla war with modern weapons, and set them loose, then made no efforts to get them to stand down and to learn to form a normalized, modernized society. We blew it then, we blew it in 2001, and we're still blowing it, and the end result is lost and shattered lives (both NATO and Afghan) Right now, our policy is, basically, to swat mosquitoes with a howitzer- it's dangerous, counterproductive, and destined to be unsuccessful.

It's time to bring all of the NATO troops home.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Disco Decimation

For the second week in a row, a disco giant has hustled off to that great, celestial discotheque. It just goes to show you, you can't be stayin' alive forever. While I knew that he'd been born in England, I had no idea that Mr. Gibb was, in fact, a Manxman... it's a pity the Bee Gees never recorded a record in the indigenous Goidelic tongue. Anyway, here's an oldie, a number sung by Robin Gibb before he and his brothers reinvented themselves as Disco superstars:

Man, he sure sounded earnest back then!

UPDATE: The "still" from the video that is displayed on the blog is really unflattering... but I think everyone will remember Robin in a more "aesthetic" fashion.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

When a Joke Leads to Nostalgia

In order to make a joke in the latest "Riddled" comment thread, I had to resort to teh Goog... I am not really a comic book fan (with one notable exception), so I had to look up the setting of a cult British comic book, which I had conflated with a British pop band which I had sadly all-but-forgotten. Anyway, I've been on a bit of a Mega-City Four kick tonight, which is fortunate, because they put out some damn fine pop songs:

Snark... it makes everything better, doesn't it?

Friday, May 18, 2012

Secret Science Club, Post Lecture Recap

On Wednesday night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn for May's Secret Science Club lecture with neuroscientist and Columbia University chair of the department of biological sciences Dr Stuart Firestein. While Dr Firestein studies the vertebrate olfactory system, tonight's lecture was about ignorance and inquiry.

Dr Firestein began the lecture with a brilliant characterization of the difficulty of scientific inquiry. It's difficult to find a black cat in a completely dark room, especially one in which there is no cat. In some ways, scientific inquiry is like stumbling around in a dark room, until a source of light is found... then that light can be used to locate other sources of illumination. The perception of science is different from the pursuit of science- science is not merely and accumulation of facts, a lot of information remains to be discovered. As Marie Curie put it, "One never notices what has been done; one can only see what remains to be done."

Dr Firestein mentioned an "Ignorance Course" at Columbia, in which various scientists discuss what they want to know, and the current state of ignorance in their field. By ignorance, they do not mean simple ignorance, which can be styled "willful stupidity". By ignorance, Dr Firestein means an absence of facts, communal gaps in knowledge. Such ignorance can be termed "knowledgable ignorance". As 19th Century physicist James Maxwell said, "Thoroughly conscious ignorance is a prelude to every real advance in knowledge."

Dr Firestein noted that the iceberg is a traditional metaphor for ignorance, because much of it lies below the surface, be he rejected that image as too static. His preferred metaphor is the expanding ripples in a pool, a circle which gets ever larger. Knowledge creates "better" ignorance, it helps us frame better questions, even as it creates more ignorance. As George Bernard Shaw observed, "Science is always wrong. It never solves a problem without creating 10 new ones." Kant referred to this process as "Question Propagagtion"- each answer begets more questions.

On the topic of ignorance, Dr Firestein also mentioned an individual who I perhaps hate more than anyone else currently walking the planet... while what he said has some application to "conscious ignorance", I think he was just trolling:

One problem facing scientists is how to figure out what they need to figure out. As the British geneticist J.B.S. Haldane noted: "I have no doubt that in reality the future will be vastly more surprising than anything I can imagine. Now my own suspicion is that the Universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose."

Dr Firestein related a mental exercise in which the philosopher Wittgenstein asked students how they could "prove" Copernicus' heliocentric model using only their senses, and how they would be able to tell a heliocentric system from a geocentric system. I found a video which nicely sums up this exercise:

Foucault's Pendulum demonstrated the rotation of the Earth, but that doesn't count for Wittgenstein's purposes.

Dr Firestein used the a term (perhaps a throwaway line) "Cognitive Copernicism"... there is nothing special or privileged about the cosmic landscape or the cognitive landscape.

Dr Firestein made a distinction between low quality ignorance and high quality ignorance... is the ignorance worthy of a grant proposal, or just a bull session? In determining the quality of ignorance, certain distinctions have to be made. Are the questions to be addressed big or little ones? Of course, some seemingly small issues are, in actually, big deals... considering a simple 8 minute arc allowed Kepler to revolutionize astronomy.

Other considerations in research are the tractability of the subject- science is often the "Art of the Soluble". The difficulty, or "obstinacy" of the problem is a factor. Of course, research is also limited by technical requirements, monetary and other resources, a sense of community among the researchers, the importance of research to the field, ethical and moral considerations, and the duration of necessary research- is a problem soluble in a researcher's "scientific lifetime"?

One interesting tack on research is poring over old papers to find new questions to tackle- the "ignorance of the known" is a good way to characterize these potential avenues of inquiry.

In the Q&A, some bastard asked Dr Firestein his opinion of a quote once offered by said bastard's waggish high school physics teacher: "When one pursues a doctorate, one learns more and more about less and less until one finally knows everything about nothing."

Dr Firestein addressed this specialization in higher education. One pitfall in research is that intellectual prejudices can interfere with inquiries. Often, an immense edifice of facts seems impregnable, and studies outside one's field are often impenetrable. One should strive for a quality Keats called negative capability:

I had not a dispute but a disquisition with Dilke, upon various subjects; several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature, and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously - I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason - Coleridge, for instance, would let go by a fine isolated verisimilitude caught from the Penetralium of mystery, from being incapable of remaining content with half-knowledge. This pursued through volumes would perhaps take us no further than this, that with a great poet the sense of Beauty overcomes every other consideration, or rather obliterates all consideration.

Erwin Schrodinger expressed the need to abide by ignorance while conducting research:

In an honest search for knowledge you quite often have to abide by ignorance for an indefinite period… The steadfastness in standing up to [this requirement], nay in appreciating it as a stimulus and a signpost to further quest, is a natural and indispensable disposition in the mind of a scientist.

Researchers often have narrowing "silos" of information that can cause some problems "across scientific borders". There are pitfalls to interdisciplinary work- a risk of mediocracy.

Dr Firestein also indicated that skepticism is "dynamic ignorance"- often, the perceived "facts" are the least dependable part of an endeavor. A scientist must be skeptical, and continually engage in revision- revision is success. He also expressed his dislike of the idea of hypotheses... the hypotheses model may once have been useful, but one's "best idea of how things work" often leads to emotional investment on the part of a researcher. Unfortunately, grants usually depend on "hypothesis driven" inquiries rather than curiosity-driven "fishing expeditions". As he ruefully noted about hypothesis-driven research, "You always get what you screen for." He also quoted Fermi's observation about hypotheses: "There are two possible outcomes: If the result confirms the hypothesis, then you've made a measurement. If the result is contrary to the hypothesis, then you've made a discovery." Regarding the problem of emotional investment in hypothesis-driven research, Dr Firestein quoted comedian Emo Phillips: "I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this."

He indicated that we need more of a "Will Shortz" approach in our educational system.

To a question regarding the relative importance of basic research versus applied research, Dr Firestein indicated that both are important. He quoted Ben Franklin who, while he observed an early hot air balloon flight in Paris, was asked by a Parisian, "What use could this be?" and answered, "What use is a newborn baby?" He also described Dirac's proposition that positrons existed, which led to Anderson's discovery of the particle which eventually came to be employed in PET scans.

If I were to sum up the lecture in one sentence, the take-home message from this lecture is: Science is the search for better ignorance.

For another take on this lecture, a writer from the Dana Foundation posted her summary yesterday. I have to tip my hat to her because she "scooped" me... but for misremembering my stupid notebook, I woulda, coulda posted this on the same day. Well played, Dana Foundation!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Cretin!

I was going to do my typical post-lecture recap, but I left my notebook behind when I ran out the door. I could put up a half-assed post about last night's lecture, but there were a lot of memorable quotes I'd like to put up verbatim. I will make sure that I get on the ball tomorrow.

Seeing as I'm not writing the recap today, I feel that I should make note of the passing of the glamorous diva Donna Summer. To remember her, I'm posting the video of I Feel Love, which was really ahead of its time:

That song sounds more like "techno" or "electronica" than "disco". As much as some people claim there was an anti-disco backlash, I think that disco largely morphed into several other musical styles... I know I've touched on disco before, but I've never written my threatened "disco post". Has it become just a running gag, or will I make good on this threat? I can't say, but any disco post won't be written tomorrow, because I've got a lecture recap to write.

Today, though, it's all about dancing, and remembering a true diva. Rest in peace, Ms. Summer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

No Sleep 'til Science!

It's that time of the month, the day when I wend myself to Kings County, the County of Kings, and King of Counties, to engage in some drinking and learning. In memory of Adam Yauch, and to indicate that I shall not be sleeping on the subway, here's a little musical number for the Brooklyn bound:

Why do you seem so surprised, what were you expecting?

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Melancholy Day

Today marks the fourth anniversary of my Uncle Jim's death. He died peacefully in his bed in the house built by his grandfather in the beautiful Bronx. Two of my other uncles and I were staying there overnight, as he had a scheduled doctor's appointment in Manhattan the following day, and we had to get him there on a timely basis. My aunt, the family matriarch, was having knee replacement surgery at the time, so she wasn't holding down the fort.

My uncle had been seriously injured as a boy, and he had a residual fear of doctors that he never quite got over. Part of me thinks that he decided that he wanted to leave on a high note, at home, surrounded by family, rather than being poked and prodded in a healthcare institution. After sitting up watching one of his favorite movies, he went to sleep, and didn't wake up.

Two years ago, I posted a short eulogy I had written for the post-funeral gathering. My cousin Andrew read it for me, because I flew out to Switzerland a few days after my uncle's death to visit a newly-born nephew. The funeral had been delayed so my aunt could attend post-surgery, and my uncles could travel to their ancestral Bronx homeland. To tell you the truth, besides not being fiscally able to cancel the trip on such short notice, I needed to get the hell out of Dodge, so to speak. My uncle had been through a lot in his last months, and I spent a good portion of the day of his death recounting the medical history of his last two-to-three years. Needless to say, it was an emotionally draining day.

Today, I drove in a downpour to Nassau County, on Long Island, and had lunch with my cousin Andrew. Among other things, we reminisced about Uncle Jim, who my cousin likened to "our Paul Bunyan" because of his sheer physical strength (he could lay cinderblocks like mere mortals lay bricks). It's good to have a legendary figure to look up to in your childhood.

It's been a melancholy day, it even looks like a melancholy day, weather-wise.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Time Was Tight... Sadly, Now It's Up

I've long been a fan of Booker T and the M.G.s, so I read with some sadness of the passing of Donald "Duck" Dunn. The amazing thing about Booker T and the M.G.s was the fact that, starting in the early 60's, they were a racially integrated band based in a Southern City (I'd like to note here that Archie Bell and the Drells was also an integrated group). I'm reminded of a political cartoon by Dr Seuss- employing both the black keys and the white keys is key to a harmonious tune. Thanks, Duck Dunn, for the fantastic music and for the wisdom to transcend the bigotry of the milieu in which you found yourself which made it all possible.

Here's a recent version of my favorite Booker T and the M.G.'s song:

Happily, Booker T. Jones is still going strong, he appeared on the David Letterman show last week.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers' Day Greetings!

I'm going to take an opportunity to stop reading about the mommy warsand to wish a Happy Mothers' Day to all the mothers out there. I'd like to give a shout-out to my mom, my sister, my sisters-in-law, my aunts and cousins, and all the gorgeous mothers on the blogroll, and to all the other mothers out there who read this.

A couple of years ago, I posted a beloved Mother's Day carol by noted cat fancier and glass-jawed belligerent Glenn Danzig, but I'm posting a different celebration of mothers this year:

It's a little early to call her, but I shall call my mom today and tell her that I, along with all of my peers, am crazy now.

Friday, May 11, 2012

So Many Choices, It's Not Fair

I had to run some errands today which brought me to the city of New Rochelle, which was founded by Huguenots fleeing persecution in France. New Rochelle is a very ethnically diverse community, and has had a sizable Mexican-American population for the past four decades. New Rochelle's Mexican restaurants are the best in my neck of the woods, and even Mexican food aficianados living in New York City would be well-advised to check them out.

After parking in front of a friend's (he's the guy who hired me to work at for The Gates project) place of business, I ran to the bank, passing such fantastic Mexican restaurants as The Little Mexican Cafe, The Mexican Corner Restaurant, La Herradura Mexican Pizzeria and Restaurant. I also passed by Indian restaurants Rangoli and Coromandel and Peruvian restaurants La Brisa Marina and Cholo's Kitchen. Golden Krust Jamaican Bakery was also within easy walking distance. Each place beckoned, but I was in the mood for some tacos from hole-in-the-wall wonder El Michoacano. Having a ravenous hunger, I ordered four tacos- carnitas (roast pork), cabeza (stewed beef head), buche (pork stomach), and chorizo (hot sausage)- to wash it down, I ordered a large horchata. Before my order came to the table, the charming proprietress placed a bowl of sliced, pickled carrots and jalape├▒os and a small plate of corn chips with refried beans on my table. The tacos came, garnished with sliced radishes quartered limes, and some quickly fried onions. The horchata came in a 32-ounce takout container.

I ate a leisurely meal, watching La Rosa de Guadelupe with a young family and a couple of guys on their lunch break. The meal itself was stellar, I won't have to be eating dinner tonight.

I used to work in New Rochelle years ago, and fell in love with the restaurant scene- there are a lot of great places from which to choose. Unfortunately, I don't get there too often these days (the city, while not far from my home, is a pain in the ass to get to, a drive there involves travelling on local roads which tend to be congested). I was grateful to have an opportunity to partake of the local cuisine, and even more grateful to run into my friend and shoot the breeze for a while.

I don't forage all the time! Bonus New Rochelle trivia, the superhero defender of New Rochelle is The Blowfish Avenger.

UPDATE: I put this post together pretty hastily, so I forgot to add my joke that the city would have been cooler if it had been founded not by Huguenot refugees from La Rochelle, but by heathen refugees from Averoigne, though the city would have been called New Ximes under those circumstances.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the post title is cribbed from a relentlessly poppy Guadalcanal Diary song:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Forager's Diary... My First Love

If I had to claim a "gateway" plant for my foraging habit, it would have to be the wood sorrel, which we used to jokingly call "sourgrass". Wood sorrel has a pleasantly tangy taste, and I would typically just eat it out of hand while weeding the garden as a kid. The plant (genus Oxalis) contains good quantities of vitamin C but also contains oxalic acid, also found in spinach, which is toxic in large quantities (it just goes to show you that you have to eat a wide variety of foodstuffs). As luck would have it, it's growing in profusion on one of the sites I work.

Once again, the Wildman is the go-to guy on foraged vegetable matter. Green Deane's "Eat the Weeds" series is also an invaluable resource:

Of course, the wood sorrel looks a lot like clover, which is also edible, though I have to confess, I've only eaten clover blossoms. In Jamaica, "sorrel" refers to the red hibiscus, which is used to make a delicious punch (I remember having to bite my tongue to keep from laughing when I received a bottle of "Ho-Made" brand sorrel punch at a local Jamaican restaurant a number of years ago. I kept the bottle for a while, but have misplaced it in a succession of moves over the years.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Wow, just overnight, it seems, President Obama has changed his stance on same-sex marriage. The President likened his change to "evolution"... he has evolved from Homo phobicus through the transitional form Homo donascdontelicus to Homo sapiens. I'd like to think that the final speciation event took place last night... in my mind's eye, I picture the President picking up an old, lovingly worn copy of Where the Wild Things Are and saying, "Fuck the bigots, I'm doing this for Maurice."

Obviously, the fight is far from over, but there's some cause for celebration. How about a splendidly goofy dance number from former Buzzcock Pete Shelley?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wild Rumpus Over

Today's bummer has to be the death of Maurice Sendak, the beloved and, to stupid prudes, controvesial author and illustrator. Like many great books intended for children, Maurice Sendak's works tended to be characterized by what I'd call "mitigated darkness". In his best-known books, Sendak's young protagonists leave the comfort of their homes and enter surreal dreamscapes inhabited by ominous, though ultimately benevolent, figures, passing through these dreamscapes back to the sanctuary of home, with a renewed appreciation of what they have.

Sednak's illustrations gloriously mix the grotesque and the whimsical, his monsters were simultaneously fearsome and comical. The ugly, charming creations depicted by Sendak (much like the Muppets) allow readers to confront their fears and master them... when one is the King of the Monsters, one doesn't have to be afraid of the thing lurking under the bed.

Is there a better tribute to Mr Sendak than to devour one of his books, preferably in the company of a brilliant, demented child? Here's an animated short based on Mr Sendak's most controversial (OMG! SKETCHED NUDITY!!!) and most surreal work:

Thanks for the imagery, Mr Sendak, and thanks for the tools to disarm childhood fears.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Losing It Over France

The electoral victory of OMG!SOCIALIST!!! Fran├žois Hollande in France has at least one right-wing nut in the U.S. convinced that Europe is burning. It's a little premature to declare an entire subcontinent (people, Europe's not a continent, no matter what the Risk board tells you- Eurasia's a continent, of which Europe, like India, is a subcontinent... pedantic bastard is pedantic) dead, when the socialist bete noire hasn't even been sworn into office.

The real fear that American wingnuts have is that any turn away from austerity measures will succeed, that the Keynesian model of government spending to prime the economic pump will show the idiocy of the trickle down economics and a model of taxation originally scribbled on a napkin. Yeah, economic success in a France led by a socialist would blow forty years of Reaganomics out of the water. If such success does take place, the wingnuts will try to ignore it. If unable to ignore it, they will scream about how planned economies are injurious to freedom- yeah, even if it's just the freedom to starve to death on the street.

It's going to be a long, stupid season coming up, with all sorts of attempts to make France seem like a pit of horreurs.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cheated Out of a Supermoon

Last night, I should have been basking in the cool, silvery glow of a supermoon. The lovely site where I was working should have looked like an eldritch fairyland, bathed in the lunar lumens. Overhead, the moon should have been SCREEEEAMING, Whi-ite as turnips on the Rhine, but it wasn't, not for me! A thick layer of clouds overlay the entire NY metro area all day and all of the night, thus robbing me of some awesome moonitude.

There's a moon in the sky (it's called the moon), but you couldn't have guessed that if you'd been here in NY last night.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Cinco de Mao

This post is a response to a post by the dumbest man on the internet, but not the post you think it is... The guy who puts the MO in moron is making a big deal about President Barack Hussein Obama "officially" starting his re-election campaign on Karl Marx' birthday. As an aside, does everything have to have a hidden significance in Wingnut World? Is everything a plot, or are there such things as coincidence, or luck, or the blind mechanism of nature? No wonder these nutbars don't believe in evolution. But I digress... the intrepid Food Porn Emperor dove into the fetid swamp and brought up a hilarious tidbit of tomfoolery:

Now we know why Cinco de Mayo is suddenly a big holiday. It’s all about celebrating Karl Marx! Sounds like the work of La Raza, doesn’t it? Well, not all of us are fooled so they can take their holiday and shove it up their you know what!

Yes, Cinco de Mayo is a Marxist plot, not a ploy by booze distributors to sell off truckloads of beer and tequila. Once again, we have the opposite of Occam's Razor at play (Rozar's Macco, anyone?), the simple explanation is to be eschewed in favor of the convoluted plot.

Yeah, the Mexicans, or shall I say Marxicans, have emigrated to the United States in order to bring down the capitalist system from within. You may think the the Capitalist Randian Supermen have been hiring undocumented Mexican immigrants in order to increase their profits by undermining organized labor and undercutting wages, but you'd be WRONG!!! The Marxicans are using their commie mind control powers to delude the Job Creators into hiring them so they can all quit en masse, or should I say como un grupo and bring down the economic system. In an insult to the Sainted Ayn Rand, who died for America's sins of altruism and a welfare state, the Marxicans are using the term vayando Galto to describe this mexodus.

It gets worse, there are reports, albeit from "non-traditional researchers" of Red Chinese troops massing in Mexico. In fact, it's probable that the Marxicans are ACTUALLY Chinese, with their shared fondness for jade and hot peppers. I suspect that the Mexicans and Chinese have been hatching a trans-Beringian plot to destroy the U.S. for the past 20,000 years.

Lately, this twenty-millennia war has come to a head. The Mexicans, in concert with the Arabs have been setting off sultry sex bombs in the U.S. to soften up (while, paradoxically, hardening) the American Male's ability to resist the Marxican onslaught. Yes, the Marxicans are also on the vanguard of Islamofascism, sheeple... today, it's the harmless, Christian sounding tacos al pastor, but tomorrow, you'll be living in a shawarma, sharia shadow of the the former U.S.of A.

The Wolves have been at the door for almost four decades now:

If that video didn't wake you up, nothing will! Laugh it up all you want, but the Mexicans, the Islamists, and the Communists are conspiring to destroy the U.S.A., and don't even get me started on what the queers are doing to the soil! Sure, celebrate Cinco de Mao, sheeple, but remember that, with each body shot, you're undermining the body politic!

I like you, dear readers, you're not like the other people, here, in the trailer park.

Friday, May 4, 2012

May the Fourth be with You

I'm going to preface this post by stating that I will be in serious danger of losing my geek credentials with this post...

One of my cousins texted me the post title earlier today- I had no idea that today was Star Wars Day, but I caught on pretty quickly.

I have to confess that I am a bit of a Star Wars agnostic (cue chorus of boos from grammar school age children... Mass gonna kick my ass). Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the movies, but I have no real need to see them over and over. I haven't seen the original series in years and can count the number of times I've seen them on my fingers. I've seen the "prequels" once each, and really see no need to see them again... for the record, I've seen the "Lord of the Rings" movies once each and really did not dig them- a quote about "looking fair and feeling foul" comes to mind, but I can't place the source... Yeah, I'm totally going to insprie some serious nerdrage and get drummed out of geekdom with this post.

Getting back to the topic, I saw the original Star Wars in the theater as a young lad, and, like most people, I was blown away by it. How could a small boy not be blown away by a Space Samurai-Wizard Western? I mean, that scene where Luke and Obi-Wan (who should have been played by Vincent Price) walk into that monster bar was friggin' AWESOME! The second movie was also fantastic- the revelation about **SPOILER REDACTED** was shocking, the cliffhanger ending genuinely moving. The third movie had its ridiculous moments, but it still delivered the spectacular fun it promised, so its sucktastic elements could be overlooked (to an adolescent boy, a copper bikini space princess makes up for a lot of sins).

The strain of suck became much more evident in the first prequel, with its crypto-Caribbean amphibian embarassment and its CGI aliens who looked like guys in rubber masks, but the seeds of suckitude were with the franchise almost from its inception:

For a taste of the two fads that dominated the late seventies, there's no better example than this:

Oh, yeah! Shake that astrobooty!

To compound matters, George Lucas went back and sowed seeds of suck in his earlier, better films. Yeah, way to step on nostalgia's dick, George!

Despite the foregoing rant, I don't dislike the movies, I'm just not a rabid fanboy. That being said, the movies are part of the cultural DNA, and the rabid fans are awesome... in fact, they've been putting out consistently better stuff over the last decade than Lucas himself. Tell me that this isn't awesome:

Unfortunately, some of the entries of the blog I linked to are pretty sad, trite examples of sexism and homophobia, which is sad, because this is 100% awesome.

Yeah, the fans have a great track record, and have been better stewards of the franchise than the originator. I mean, how can one top this?

Yeah, there's a galaxy of "funny" out there, lovingly crafted by amateurs. I can't be hating on Star Wars, it forms a shared narrrative that has inspired millions of people around the world... may the fourth be with you, you crazy, brilliant fans.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

He's Just Trolling Now

Damn, I don't even think Mitt Romney's really campaigning at this point... he's just trolling now. In a comment about the State Department's handling of a Chinese dissident, Mitt actually said (emphasis mine):

"The reports are, if they are accurate, that our administration wittingly or unwittingly communicated to Chen an implicit threat to his family and also probably sped up or may have sped up the process of his decision to leave the embassy. If these reports are true, this is a dark day for freedom, and it's a day of shame for the Obama administration."

Sweet tittyfucking Jesus, he's just trolling at this point. Mitt's got a problem with talking about stuff he doesn't know shit about. If his mouth is open, he's either lying, or he's talking smack without the facts. The article wryly notes: Romney did not specify how he would have handled the incident, and his campaign has not offered a more detailed response. Yeah, he's just trolling, he has no answers, he just makes demands of the Presnit without having a grasp of the facts.

The final awful Mitt bit is the lame, hypocritical platitude-cum-accusation: "We should defend (freedom) when it's under attack." Too bad the asshole can't follow his own advice.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The 3 A.M. Phone Call

One of the most talked-about ads in the 2008 Democratic primary was Hillary Clinton's "3 A.M." ad:

Who do you want to pick up the phone in the White House at 3 A.M, in the midst of a national security crisis?

Mitt Romney should run a "3 A.M." ad of his own, with an emphasis on who's making the phone call... "Mitt, this is Bryan Fischer, and there's a national crisis- you've got a homosexual on your staff!!!"

This post, dear readers, is a product of my laziness, as it's an elaboration of comments I posted at Rumproast and Mock, Paper, Scissors. Well, laziness and contempt of Mitten's being so gutless as to let these lunatics sway him...

Just to set the record straight, I think that Grennell is a shitbag, but his sexual orientation has nothing to do with that.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Besides being May Day, the first of May is the start of outdoor fucking International Workers' Day, which is widely regarded as a commemoration of the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago, which took place in the context of a general strike demanding an eight-hour workday. Oddly enough, even though it stemmed from events taking place in the U.S., May Day is typically not celebrated here (our Labor Day is in September), being an unholy stew of paganism and pro-labor demonstrations the Wikipedia article expresses these beautifully as the "Green Root" and the "Red Root"... can't have that shit in 'Murka.

Of course, "conservatives" in this country like to denigrate unions, and the role of unions in providing for the eight-hour workday (which is rapidly disappearing in the U.S.) and five day work-week (like your weekends off? thank the unions!) has been ignored in the media. Generally, the value of labor has been denigrated (unless it's used as a cudgel to belabor the poor underclass, yet another example of right-wing cognitive dissonance). Latter-day GOP politicians would never get behind the rhetoric of beloved Republican and noted Commie bastard Abraham Lincoln:

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.

How about a good Socialist folk song, a love song to labor, if you will?

Here's an English translation, for all the non-francophone Workers of the World in the audience:

Heh, indeed... here's Billy Bragg's English version:

Now, get back to work, ya buncha slackers!