Thursday, January 31, 2013

John McCain: Profiles in Stagnation

On March 31, 2006, back when John McCain still played an honorable man on T.V., I headed down to the St Barnabas Church hall on the Bronx/Yonkers border to hear the senator speak to a largely immigrant crowd about immigration reform. In May of 2005, McCain cosponsored an immigration reform bill with Senator Ted Kennedy. The crowd was mainly Irish and Irish-American (the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform was instrumental in organizing the event, and the Legalize the Irish T-shirt was the de rigeur outfit of the night. Of course, this being the New York metropolitan area, other immigrant groups were represented as well. Besides local politicians and numerous media outfits, Irish-born boxer John Duddy was present as a celebrity guest.

When McCain's entourage finally arrived at the venue, we greeted him with a heartfelt rendition of "The Fields of Athenry", a song about a young family split up by penal transportation during the Great Hunger (Paddy Reilly's version is the definitive one, though younger artists tend to give it a more aggressive spin, it being a rebel song, after all). McCain's speech was well-received, the general gist of it summed up in this excerpt from an interview with The Irish Voice:

“It is an honor to speak with a group of people who are dedicated to ensuring illegal immigrants are given the opportunity to come out of the shadows and get on a path toward earned citizenship in America. The Irish have been coming to the United States, contributing to our nation’s economic and social growth, for decades. They embody the determination and desire of those who come to America seeking a better life for themselves and their families.”

After the prepared speech, members of the crowd, including a man from the Dominican Republic who told a moving tale of establishing a family business here in the States after escaping poverty at home, gave their testimonials. The mood of the crowd was optimistic, and Senator McCain departed amidst general acclaim. Me being me, I headed off to the pub with some friends to hoist a pint to the man's health.

Not even a year later, while campaigning for the GOP presidential candidacy, McCain started to distance himself from the issue of immigration reform in order to shed his "moderate" image. After losing the 2008 presidential election, McCain moved even farther to the right in order to hold onto his seat in the Senate:

Far from being the humane immigration reform advocate, here was McCain playing the grumpy, xenophobic old coot, arguing for a border fence while accompanied, ironically enough, by a right-wing sheriff who was conducting a same-sex affair with an undocumented immigrant. We sang "Fields of Athenry" to this grumpy old bastard? We hoisted a pint in his honor? Teddy never would have pulled that kind of crap on us!

Now, in 2013, after a crushing electoral defeat for the GOP among Latino voters, McCain states that we can't have eleven million undocumented immigrants "living in the shadows". McCain cops to the fact that his motivation for re-proposing immigration reform is purely for political purposes. So, after taking a long detour that brought him around to full blown xenophobia, John McCain in 2013 is precisely where 2005 John McCain was. Eight years of wasted opportunities... truly John McCain is a profile in stagnation.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

A Soggy, Foggy Day

After a brutal cold snap that had the usual suspects yammering that global warming is a hoax, yesterday was marked by unseasonably warm temperatures, and today the mercury is supposed to hit the 60's fahrenheit (about 16 celsius). Besides the balmy temperatures, the fog blanketing the area is thick enough to cut up and spread on toast. After spending the wee hours wandering around a scene from a production of "The Hound of the Baskervilles", a beautiful, otherworldly scene was revealed after daybreak:

Sight lines aren't very good... the scenery fades into a soft, pale gray loveliness:

I'm sure it doesn't look so pretty on the roadways, so I'll probably hunker down in a cafe and have a post graveyard-shift coffee until the rush hour wanes.

As a humorous postscript, I want to say that my job is not the sort of job that someone who's easily rattled could ever perform. My former supervisor once told me of a new hire who couldn't finish the night. He called the supervisor at home and told him, "I can't work here, I just saw a ghost." Dude was so freaked out, when the supervisor came to see what his problem was, he handed over the company cell phone and the site keys... he was in such a hurry, he ran a red light in his haste to get out of the parking lot. That guy really would not have liked today. Me? I love it!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The God of the Achievement Gaps

Pity poor General Jerry Boykin, who cites crippling pee-shame as a reason why women should not be allowed to take on combat roles in the U.S. military (never mind that women have been on the front lines of U.S. military engagements since the days of "Molly Pitcher" (for a stirring tale of heroism in the early days of the American Revolution, one can't beat the "better than fiction" tale of sixteen-year-old Sibyl Ludington).

Boykin's ridiculous assertion that shame about one's dirty business would undermine morale in a gender-equal military reminds me of the "God of the Gaps" argument used by Creationists and other religious apologists, which posits that divine causes are necessary to account for lacunae in scientific knowledge. As science progresses, the gaps shrink, there's less room for God, and the apologists move their goalposts and find another "gap" to defend. In the case of those arguing that women should not have equal opportunity, male supremacist apologists claim that women are unable to perform certain tasks. As women demonstrate that they have the ability to excel in traditionally male-dominated fields, the arguments of the sexists become more ludicrous, the goalposts move to the extent that assholes like Boykin are reduced to citing their, uh, assholes as a reason to deny equal opportunity to women- the "God of the Achievement Gaps" gets smaller and smaller.

Cross-posted at Rumproast.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Malware Issue

Fuckety Fuck Fuck! Avast antivirus keeps giving me a "dangerous download blocked" message at my own goddamn blog. Thunder was kind enough to point this out to me last week:

Infection DetailsURL: h**p://
Process: C:%5CProgram Files%5CMozilla Firefox%5Cc...
Infection: URL:Mal

I apologize to my readers for this, and hope that nobody has gotten any malware from this site. Being a bit of a computer "n00b" (the blogging is really just glorified word processing for me), I don't know what the hell to do about this untenable situation (oddly enough, though, I don't get a "ping" from Avast every time I navigate here, which confuses the hell out of me). I think I need to contact blogger technical support, but any advice would be appreciated.

On a happier note, I've been listening to "Rocket Scientist" by Sweden's Teddybears and Philly's Eve compulsively. It's really conducive to some serious ass-shaking, and the lyrics are a hoot:

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Hedgehogs on the Beach

From the annals at Right Wing Watch, here's a story of creationist grifters Kevin Swan and "Creation Museum" creator Ken Ham claiming that they are "effectively very, very close to Omaha Beach in the war of the worldviews?"

I think Swanson and Ham are being surprisingly accurate in their characterization of their role in the culture wars. Swanson and Ham are the human equivalents of the "Czech hedgehogs" that littered the beaches of France- they are vicious, dense, and serve only as an impediment to progress.

As an added bonus, here's Ham's talk of the specter of the loss of the "war of the worldviews":

It is, it’s an extremely important battle. Because, you know what, it only takes one generation to lose a culture. That’s all it takes. And if you can capture one generation, you’ll have the culture. And just as, you know, when the Israelites crossed the Jordan river and there were 12 stones to remind the next generation of what God did and what did we find? They weren’t reminded, the next generation, they lost it in one generation, we’re losing this culture before our very eyes today because the church opened the door to allow the philosophy of naturalism, and evolution, millions of years, to permeate into God’s word. We need to shut that door. If we don’t shut that door, that’s where the battle’s at right now, if we don’t shut that door, we’re going to lose this culture, America will be the England and Europe of tomorrow.

GASP, we'll be the England and Europe of tomorrow? Will that mean that we'll have super high-tech jet fighters trains from the future? Well, clear those goddamn hedgehogs off the beach already!

Postscript: The danger of posting a link to a Nena video (even Nena singing in English, which is second-rate Nena) is that I will now spend the rest of the night watching Nena videos.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Death of a Titan

Today, I read with great sadness of the death of Aleksey Vayner, who strode like a colossus through his own imgagination. Back in 2006, my brother Sweetums e-mailed a link to the "video resume" that catapulted Mr Vayner to internet infamy:

He appended a cryptic note, something to the effect of "check out the credits at the end, I think your mind will be blown". Sure enough, after six minutes of shameless, yet goofy, self-promotion, there was a dedication:


Back in the 90's, I had played "dummy" for Radomir in kids' judo and self-defense classes. Kovacevic was six feet, six inches tall, and 280 pounds of muscle and badassery. He competed in three Olympic games, and won a bronze medal. He was perhaps the funniest human being I've ever met- he could actually make you laugh even while he was kicking your ass (for example, he once had me in a classic arm bar, having one of my arms locked between his legs, and my other arm in his meaty paws, being extended in a direction anatomy never intended... while I was grimacing, he turned to the kids standing around us and joked in his heavy Slavic accent, "Look, he looks just like Jayzuz Christ." Hurting as I was, I had to chuckle).

Sweetums knew that the dedication to Radomir would catch my notice. Kovacevic played an integral role in the development of the "Big Bad Bald Bastard" character- in the 90's, I was working in the five boroughs of NYC investigating freaky insurance claims that the insurance companies gave up on and spending a few hours a week getting my ass kicked by a guy who would have made a perfect heavy in a James Bond film. If that's not enough to transform a bookish suburban kid into a bad bastard, I don't know what else would.

Like everybody who came into contact with him (including, no doubt, Vayner), I had a bunch of Radomir stories, two of which I particularly love to relate:

One morning, Radomir was teaching a class of eleven year old boys. While he was explaining a technique, some guy walked into the dojo, and one of the kids turned around. Radomir pointed at the kid and bellowed, "YOU! IF YOU ARE FUCKING GIRL, AND DOORBELL RINGS, ARE YOU GOING TO SAY, 'OH, I WONDER WHO IS AT THE DOOR... MAYBE IT'S MY FRIEND PETER.'? NO! YOU WOULD NEVER DO THAT. WHEN YOU ARE WITH ME, YOU PAY ATTENTION TO ME ALONE!" The combined hilarity of a Serbian werebear using such language while yelling at an eleven year old, and the image of some guy telling his fuckbuddy, "Baby, maybe I should get the door" hit me like a truck full of comedy, but I knew that I'd be the next one to feel his wrath if I started laughing. I spent a good two minutes silently rocking back-and-forth, biting my lip until I could taste blood.

Another morning, Radomir was giving self defense advice to a class of twelve to fourteen year old girls. In characteristic fashion, his underdeveloped sense of vulgarity in the English language (he spoke Serbo-Croatian, Russian, Japanese, Italian, and English- he was an extremely smart guy, he just had a sailor's vocabulary at times) contributed some pure comedy gold to the grotesque physical comedy which was to follow. In this lesson, he was teaching a bunch of girls how a five foot tall woman could take on a six foot tall man. He, at six-six, was playing the woman's role:

"Look, you watch movie, and kung-fu woman beats the crap out of a man, but this is bullshit! In real life, an ordinary woman cannot beat an ordinary man fighting like a man. She must fight like a woman, nice and soft!"

At this time, I'm starting to have misgivings... Kovacevic stared to caress my face and said, "Make him think he is nicest guy in world. Ohhh... so nice." He's rubbing my cheeks and cooing in a falseeto, and then suddenly he pokes his thumbs into my eyes... nice and soft. I'm thinking, "Shit, my contacts..." when the knee comes up. He gave me the slightest "love tap" to the family jewels, and I'm on the mat, gasping and thinking, "Ow! My balls! Ow, my eyes! Ow, my balls!" The girls are standing around us in a circle, mouths agape, when Radomir roars at them, "WHY ARE YOU THINKING 'OH, POOR GUY.'?" DON'T WORRY ABOUT HIM, HE MUST LOOK AFTER HIMSELF! IF HE WERE CONCERNED ABOUT YOU, HE WOULDN'T HASSLE YOU IN FIRST PLACE!"

Good times... good times... there are other Radomir stories, like the time he limped into the dojo because he twisted his ankle while chasing the bodyguard of a minor celeb who tried to cut the line to the club he was bouncing, so he could beat said bodyguard up more, his habit of singing at the top of his lungs in restaurants, and if the manager came up to convey other diners' complaints, he'd hug the guy, and "convince" him to sing a duet. He succumbed to prostate cancer in 2006 at the appallingly young age of fifty-two. His memorial service was attended by about 800 people, and we laughed at all of our reminiscences of the man. I got off easy, he just beat the crap out of me... he mentored one tennis player who was too flat-footed on the court, and got him to stay on the balls of his feet by poking nails through the soles of his shoes. After the memorial service, there was a reception where the Slivovitz flowed like water.

So, what does this have to do with Aleksey Vayner, who also died altogether too young? Well, Vayner's cardinal mistake was to tell tall stories about himself, while Kovacevic allowed the people around him to tell tall tales, which just happened to be true. Vayner should have paid more attention to Kovacevic when he told his favorite joke:

A rooster was chatting with a bull. "I would love to be able to get to the top of that tree," sighed the rooster, "but I haven't got the energy." "Well, why don't you nibble on some of my droppings?" replied the bull. "They're packed with nutrients." The rooster pecked at a lump of dung and found that it actually gave him enough strength to reach the lowest branch of the tree. The next day, after eating some more dung, he reached the second branch. Finally after a fourth night, there he was proudly perched at the top of the tree. Soon he was spotted by a hunter, who promptly shot the rooster out of the tree. Bullshit might get you to the top, but it won't keep you there.

It's a shame Vayner went into a bit of a downward spiral after he bacame internet infamous- he could have forged a great career as a paid huckster like the slap-chop guy. Having failed to sell himself as a product, he could have swallowed his pride and pushed other cheesy products like a champ.

Enough about Vayner, here's a memorial video about Radomir, where you can hear the man himself, so you can imagine him delivering his hilarious tirades in that accent:

Here's a video of one of his 1980 Olympic matches:

Watching that match, I recall a time when a friend of mine asked me what it was like getting the crap beaten out of me by that "big, ugly meathead". I replied, "He's no meathead, he speaks five languages and teaches philosophy. Come to think of it, he's not ugly either, he's actually kinda handsome in a 'heavy in a James Bond movie' kinda way." It's funny how some people want the big, tough, physically competent guy to somehow be deficient in some way. Some people can't accept the fact that some folks roll a bunch of "18's". Too bad his "constitution" roll wasn't as high as his others.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Secret Science Club Post-Lecture Recap: Dark Matter Matters

On Tuesday night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn for the latest Secret Science Club lecture, featuring astrophysicist Dr Jeremiah Ostriker, professor emeritus of Princeton University, currently of Columbia University. Dr Ostriker has enjoyed a long, storied career in astrophysics, and his latest book is the brand-spanking new Heart of Darkness: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Invisible Universe, co-authored with Simon Mitton.

Dr Ostriker's lecture was an overview of the study of astronomy and astrophysics, with a concentration on the developments in the field throughout the 20th century- a century of cosmological investigations which culminated in a paradigm that really works, but remains puzzling in many ways.

Dr Ostriker began with a brief survey of astronomical studies from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries, beginning with the work, from 1550-1650, of Brahe, Kepler, and Gallileo, who challenged long-standing views of a static cosmos with the Earth at its center, and created the model of the heliocentric solar system. From 1650-1750, Halley, Euler posited universal laws for the cosmos, and applied mathematical analyses to celestial matters. Thomas Wright described the shape of the Milky Way as "an optical effect due to our immersion in what locally approximates to a flat layer of stars." The sun is one star in a galaxy of stars. The majority of a galaxy's stars are near the center of the galaxy- our sun is far from the center of the Milky Way. He also speculated that the dim spiral nebulae were other galaxies, previously, such nebulae were not recognized as such. In 1924, Edwin Hubble confirmed that these spiral nebulae were indeed galaxies. Immanuel Kant elaborated on this theme, speaking of a universe composed of "islands" in the void. In the 1840's a great telescope named the Leviathan was built in the Irish town of Parsonstown specifically to explore the nature of nebulae.

In the 20th Century, Einstein, Hubble and Baade were instrumental in laying the foundations of modern cosmology- not only are there many galaxies, but the galaxies seem to be moving away from each other with a velocity proportional to their separation (an observation known as Hubble's Law. With the discovery that the universe is expanding, there was a question as to whether the universe will expand forever or if gravity will cause the expansion to decelerate and the universe will collapse. When Einstein formulated his Theory of General Relativity, he believed that the universe was static, and postulated a cosmological constant. After seeing Hubble's evidence of an expanding universe, he realized that the universe is not static- the cosmological constant is characterized as Einstein's "greatest blunder".

Physical theories were put on the back burner through much of the 20th Century as astronomers were trying to puzzle out other astronomical questions, such as the size and the age of the visible universe. In the years 1958-1975, ever larger and more powerful telescopes were used to estimate these cosmological parameters. A major breakthrough took place at a Bell Labs radio facility in Holmdel, New Jersey when physicists Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected background radiation from the Big Bang.

Additional surveys of the sky showed a large scale structure in galaxy positions- galaxies tend to cluster, and there are filaments between various clusters. The question of the origin of this structure, and the formation of galaxies after the Big Bang became of paramount importance. Immediately after the Big Bang, the elements were "cooking together"-the most common elements are the lightest ones: hydrogen, helium, and lithium. While the Big Bang theory seemed correct by the end of the 1960's, the density of observable matter was deemed insufficient to slow the expansion of the universe. A paucity of matter would lead to an increasingly empty universe, so why would the observed clustering take place... something crucial was missing from the cosmological model.

From 1975-1995, dark matter came into its own. Dark matter was initially proposed as an explanation for discrepancies between the visible matter and estimated total mass in a distant galaxy cluster by astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky in the 1930s. Simply put, the observable matter was insufficient to account for Zwicky's observations of Coma Cluster, a gluster of at least one thousand galaxies. Zwicky, who is largely unsung, theorized that clusters of galaxies are held together by the gravitational force of dark matter. Dark matter seems to be electromagnetically inert- it neither reflects nor emits light- the only observable indication that dark matter exists is its gravitational effect.

In 1977, Dr Ostriker observed that rotation curves showed that most of the mass of a galaxy is in the outer regions of the galaxy that have little light output. The mass goes up as one measures outward. Each galaxy has a vast dark halo. The total amount of matter in the universe is ten times what was originally thought when only visible matter was taken into account. At this point in the lecture, Dr Ostriker observed that Van Gogh was eerily prescient:

Perhaps the best evidence for dark matter was found around the year 2000, when observations of the Bullet Cluster, a cluster of two colliding galaxies, showed that dark matter is not merely composed of baryonic dust and gases, but is something completely different. Dr Ostriker likened the Bullet Cluster to the "Rosetta Stone of Gravity". In his Theory of General Relativity, Einstein theorized that light could be be bent by gravity, an effect known as "gravitational lensing. Gravitational forces, to a large extent resulting from dark matter, cause observed galaxies to form "arcs".

In 1991, the Cosmic Background Explorer satellite confirmed the basic prediction of the Big Bang- a universe filled with black body radiation. The "sky" is not uniform- it shows the seeds for stucture, evidence for dark matter. Tiny early fluctuations grew with time as the universe "evolved".

In the 1990's, evidence suggesting an increase in the pace of the expansion of the universe led to the theory that dark energy permeates the universe.

While the basic model of cosmology seems to work, big questions remain unanswered- what is the origin of the perturbations which gave rise to the structure of the universe? What is dark matter? What is dark energy? In addition, there are Modified Newtownian Dynamics, or MOND theories which posit alternatives to the dark matter/dark energy model, but these are not commonly accepted.

In the Q&A, Dr Ostriker discussed several characteristics of dark matter. Dark matter is not observable in the electromagnetic spectrum, merely by its gravitational effects. While dark matter may "collide", it is unknown whether gamma rays would result from such collisions- any ideas about the nature of dark matter are still theoretical. Closer to stars, baryonic matter is more common- dark matter is less dense. Dr Ostriker opined, "There may be one microgram of dark matter in this room". I looked, but the closest I came to finding it was a pint of Guinness.

At the end of the Q&A session, Dr Ostriker uttered one of the best lines I've ever heard in my life... upon answering the last question he said, "Shouldn't we stop this and start drinking?"

Way ahead of you, good doctor, way ahead of you!

All told, it was another top-notch lecture presented by the Secret Science Club.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Speaking of the "Memory Hole"...

Funny I should mention Orwell's memory hole in yesterday's post... From the Department of "You Can't Make this Shit Up", Mitch McConnell basically wants President Obama to forget the past four years:

“Every four years on Inauguration Day, America shows the world that our major political parties can disagree with civility and mutual respect. It is in this spirit that I congratulate President Obama on his inauguration to a second term and wish him well in the fulfillment of his duty to lead the U.S. at home and abroad over the next four years. The President’s second term represents a fresh start when it comes to dealing with the great challenges of our day; particularly, the transcendent challenge of unsustainable federal spending and debt. Republicans are eager to work with the President on achieving this common goal, and we firmly believe that divided government provides the perfect opportunity to do so. Together, there is much we can achieve.”

Christ, what an asshole... it wasn't too long ago that McConnell admitted that his number one priority was to make Barack Obama a one-term president. Having failed in that, he now wants to call a mulligan and have President Obama pretend that the shabby treatment he received from the Republican congresscreeps for the past four years never happened. For a party that seems to idolize the past, the GOP sure loves to shove things down the memory hole. Forget the elephant logo, the Republican emblem should be a goldfish.*

*The pedant in me has to note that the whole three-second memory stereotype is untrue, but I figured the joke is in keeping with popular perception so I ran with it... and promptly ran over it with my "explaining voice".

Cross-posted at Rumproast.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"Corner" Copes with King Day

Today being Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. day, I figured I'd look at how the National Review's "Corner" has tried to cope with King's life and legacy... by shoving its own ignominous past into the memory hole At the National Review website, there is a perfunctory post which completely glosses over the fact that, as commenter MikeM points out, National Review was extremely hostile to Civil Rights and Desegregation efforts throughout its ignoble history. It's no mystery that the particular moment of history that William F. Buckley tried to stand athwart yelling "STOP!" was the moment that desegregation was beginning to be implemented. In 1957, Buckley wrote his most infamous take on race:

"The central question that emerges . . . is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not prevail numerically? The sobering answer is Yes – the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists."

"National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. . . . It is more important for the community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority."

"The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve the Negro as a servile class. . . . Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function."

Yeah, just let that sink in, all the while remembering what Buckley characterized as "cultural superiority":

Also in 1957, Richard M. Weaver wrote a book review in the National Review titled "Integration is Communization". Here's the "money" quote from this piece:

“‘Integration’ and ‘Communization’ are, after all, pretty closely synonymous. In the light of what is happening today, the first may be little more than a euphemism for the second. It does not take many steps to get from the ‘integrating’ of facilities to the ‘communizing’ of facilities, if the impulse is there”

In 1964, to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the "Brown vs Board of Education" decision, Buckley wrote this:

"But whatever the exact net result in the restricted field of school desegregation, what a price we are paying for Brown! It would be ridiculous to hold the Supreme Court solely to blame for the ludicrously named 'civil rights movement' – that is, the Negro revolt . . . . But the Court carries its share of the blame. Its decrees, beginning with Brown, have on the one hand encouraged the least responsible of the Negro leaders in the course of extra-legal and illegal struggle that we now witness around us. . . .

"Brown, as National Review declared many years ago, was bad law and bad sociology. We are now tasting its bitter fruits. Race relations in the country are ten times worse than in 1954."

National Review was at the vanguard of the "idtellectual" wing of the conservative movement, and their staff had a hate-on for anyone who was working for desegregation and equal rights. Again, WFB's stated purpose was to stand athwart history yelling "STOP!", by which he really meant, "STOP GRANTING CIVIL RIGHTS TO UPPITY NEGROS AND STRIDENT WOMEN!" There's no memory hole deep enough for the cornerites to bury all of the garbage that their magazine has written about Dr King's struggles, and their failure to own up to their past sins is doubleplusungood.

For a good dissection of conservatives' failed attempts to co-opt Dr King's legacy, this post is hard to beat. Also, hat tip to MikeM, the commenter at "NRO" who was the catalyst for this post.

Cross posted at Rumproast.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Inaugural Poem

Last night, on the drive to work, I heard an interview on PBS Newshour with Richard Blanco, the poet chosen to read a poem at the second inauguration of the Kenyan Usurper. While I have no animosity toward Mister (or should I say SeƱor?) Blanco, I'm a little miffed that I wasn't chosen as the inaugural poet. I mean, I totally wasted about five minutes writing my inaugural poem:

A second term!
The wingnuts squirm,
And each cries for his momma.
The president
Is still a gent
Named Barry H. Obama.

Anybody up for contributing additional stanzas?

Cross posted at Rumproast.

UPDATE: I love the comments so much, I decided to slack off today, Sunday 20 January, so the comments could keep coming. There are some additional comments at Rumproast which are also PURE COMEDY GOLD. Have I told you all how much I love you?

Friday, January 18, 2013

Temporally Unmoored

Something weird happens when one works the graveyard shift for an extended period of time, as I have since the big shakeup on the job two weeks ago. For one thing, one gets used to the feeling that one is a day ahead of everybody else (with certain exceptions of course). It's nice to be finished with the workday while most people haven't even begun, but it really doesn't help with the commute- I usually try to run a couple of errands near my workplace to kill enough time that I avoid the brunt of rush hour traffic. My one problem is that I haven't really developed a sleeping pattern- should I sleep during the morning and early afternoon, the late afternoon and evening, or a split/combination of the two? I guess I'll vary things according to the social calendar and prevailing weather conditions... if it's crappy out, no need to stay up to stave off S.A.D.

The real test comes every other Saturday, when I leave work and head straight for Manhattan for my volunteer gig- I basically leave home around 11PM on Friday and don't get home until about 2PM on Saturday. The other Saturdays, I leave home around 8AM and don't get home until about 1AM Sunday.

Sometimes, I feel unmoored from the world timewise- most news bureaus in the States are closed, so the news is repetitive. A lot of late night radio is just plain weird- thankfully, 6-9AM promises some damn good radio here in New York. There aren't a lot of people online (with certain exceptions of course), and I typically see one person on the job at midnight, and one person at 8AM. It's easy to get lost in the cognitive labyrinth that is the internet in the wee hours of the morning. As an example, the response that I had originally planned to make to a comment at the mothership about "The Citadel":

City walls? Inner defensive walls and towers? Weapons technology from World War One …a century ago… could easily decimate this city. Are they expecting to be invaded by the Visigoths? I would think the Visigoths would take one look at these plans and be all like, “Wait, you people are from the 21st Century. You’ve landed men on the Moon, sent probes beyond planets we’ve never heard of, built bombs that obliterate everything for miles, fly machines that rain death from the skies… and these jackholes plan on building city walls to protect them? From sorcery? Really? We brought the Romans to their knees… but we didn’t have fucking SORCERY at out disposal. These guys think their cute little city walls are going to protect them… from FUCKING SORCERY?!”

Was pretty abstruse:

Not when the federal government can cast Tiltowait!

This led me on a long nostalgia trip on the web, chasing down esoterica concerning a game that my siblings and I spent long hours playing in our 'ute, which led on a chase after an anime based on the game, which can be seen here. Of course, the cartoon bears little resemblance to the way we played the game- in the cartoon, some guy kills Werdna with a really big sword, when anybody playing the game knew that the best hope for survival was to hit the mofo with Mabadi. Buncha n00bz!

Yeah, I'm becoming unmoored... reading this post over, it might be a psychological unmooring...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Prognostication's Not Pork!

It's a relief that the House of Representatives passed Superstorm Sandy relief in a 228-192 squeaker. In truly asinine fashion, the GOP congresscritters wanted to cut $13 million from the National Weather Service. Leave it to Republicans to want to cut funding from the National Weather Service in the wake of a huge weather-related catastrophe (I am reminded of Bobby Jindal's scornful remarks about "volcano monitoring", delivered while Alaska's Mt. Redoubt was being monitored due to an eruption threat). It's also reminiscent of their 2011 decision to cut funding for NOAA's hurricane tracking satellite system.

In the case of Sandy, continual monitoring was crucial, because the path of the storm was atypical, a once-every-700-years event. The European tracking models more accurately predicted the path of the storm than the American ones... thankfully, those socialistic scientists like to share data. If there hadn't been accurate models, the toll of death and destruction would have been unthinkable.

Once again, the Republicans have shown a willingness to continue their war on science... hell, they have Creationists sitting on the House Science Committee. In the case of their attitude toward the monitoring of natural phenomena that can result in mass death, their hostile attitude toward science can result in real harm.

Prognostication ain't pork, people.

Cross-posted at Rumproast

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Hoping for a Hell... for YOU

It's amazing how, even a month after Roy had an epic post about "The Citadel", leading to an epic comment thread, the topic still fascinates. Of course, coverage on Fox Nation of "The Citadel" and Glenn Becky-becky-becky-becky-stan-stan has put this project back on the cognitive map that is "teh t00bz". Perhaps my favorite bit out of the "Citadel" blog was this excerpt from a September post:

The post below discusses the very real liklihood of refugee children who will come to our gates.

Of course we will give as many sanctuary as possible.

What of their adults? Perhaps Liberals who did not prepare and only in the Hell of civil war truly understand that their values are stupid? Do we accept their children and tell the parents to walk back toward Hell? I have no intention of sharing my bread with a stupid Liberal who is dying because of his/her stupidity. But his kid may be a different story.

This is nothing more than a "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome" fantasty of refugees making their way across the ruined landscape from Berkeley to friggin' Idaho, the foolish adult liberals lamenting their failure to stock up on an emergency kombucha supply, only to be told by the lordly right-wing Masters of the Citadel to go to hell... more in sorrow than in anger, of course.

Most of these "Prepper" SHTF yearnings are like the fundieloons' Rapture fantasies- the appeal to the lizard brainers is the idea that YOU will suffer. You are the one in the Lake of Fire for Eternity, you are the starving refugee staring down the barrel of an AR-15 while the "prepper" sits like a soft, pinkish "Smaug" on his mountain of Spam cans and tells you to leave or he'll shoot. It's the worst sort of fantasy- they desire for the whole world to go to pieces so they can lord it over those they perceive as "enemies". It's a juvenile fantasy, akin to a junior high schooler's "yeah, she'll regret not going out with me because I'll be rich and famous someday".

I don't want the world to come crashing down around me, no matter how well I "prepare" for such a calamity. Those who do are tragically paranoid and delusional, and in one case, the paranoid delusion actually brought a "Hell on Earth" scenario to a couple of dozen families.

UPDATE: I took a walk in the snow through my beautiful work-site and had a sobering thought... for some of the survivalists, it's not the idea of sitting Smauglike on their mountain of Spam cans that appeals, it's the very idea of shooting a black person, a brown person, or a liberal that appeals to them. Scratch below the surface of even the polite ones and the violent urges appear- Liberal Hunting Permit, anyone?

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Easily Distracted

I was distracted today by a series of videos expounding on Glenn Beck's newest grift, a slightly more publicized, but no less unhinged Citadel compound. Grifters gotta grift, and this grift is grandiose. I wonder how soon it'll be before he starts selling "shares" in his combination Galt's Gulch/Disneyland. I think I'm going to have to buy stocks in the company that makes Flavor Ade.

Oh, fuckety fuck fuck, Gawker beat me to the punch on this one... gotta "refresh" more often. Gotta love the second video- he is pro-fracking but he wants to establish a self-sufficient community including a farm... good luck with that tainted "Freedom Water".

And what's up with Beck's attempt to reinvent himself as a libertarian? Good luck with that, the Paulbots have long memories.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Need a Bit of a Breather

I think I need a bit of a breather... the news has been filled with horrible people trying to prevent measures to reduce the general horribleness level from being taken. On a personal level, it's been a rough week and a half at work (interspersed with a bit of hilarity here and there which I really can't get into). Today is one of those days when I left the house around 8AM and won't get home until 1AM tomorrow. We had two classes, and I had three great fights with Gentle Jimmy G., so suffice it to say, I'll be one aching Bastard tomorrow. I got to work early to shoot the breeze with an awesome co-worker, and our conversation was pretty depressing, despite "corporate's" exhortation for us to be optimistic. The part-timers have their meeting on Monday, and I have a suspicion that a good number of them will quit- a lot of them are retired, and work with us out of a love for the site and the work. Even the weather is a downer- it's pretty warm, but the fog is thick enough to slice into pats to be spread on toast later. I think I need to submerge myself in a dreamy pop confection, preferably one sung by twin beauties... Brooklyn's School of Seven Bells takes its name from the, you guessed it, School of Seven Bells, a legendary school for pickpockets. A nifty pickpocketing awareness blog has the lowdown on the school:

According to Paul Higdon, an expert with the international police agency Interpol, the mysterious school for thieves got its name from the colorful final exam its graduates must pass.

In the test, the teacher poses as a mark, his body booby-trapped with seven small bells, each strategically placed. The students must slip valuables from each of seven pockets without ringing any of the attached bells.

Well, this band will only steal your, you guessed it, heart. Here's a video of a live perfomance of "Half Asleep", a song which I can identify with tonight:

The band is now a duo, as one of the lovely Dehaza sisters left the band in 2010.

Friday, January 11, 2013

File Under "G"

Huh? What's this in the pigeonhole marked "G"?


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Night of the Long Knives, One Week Later

A week ago, the organization for which I work gave pink slips to a bunch of senior employees- it's a sprawling organization, so I don't know the full extent of the firings (it's a few as 13 employees, as many as 16). Today, a week later, there is a meeting for all full-time employees- the part-timers have their meeting next Tuesday, a development which (smacking of "divide and conquer", doesn't make me feel too good). I expect to hear a lot of corporate blatherskite about the organization being strong, despite the almost literal decimation that took place.

I had dinner with some good friends on Sunday, one of whom I've known since high school. The woman who got my foot into the door of the organization is a close mutual friend of ours, so I brought up the firings. This led to a discussion of corporate-speak, and the changing euphemisms for really bad shit, each new term adopted when the general population of drones gets hip to what the old term really meant. We used to have "restructuring", then "downsizing", then "right-sizing". My old friend said, "Now, they call it realignment." This led to a rueful chuckle from me, because "realignment" was the precise term used in my organization. I wouldn't mind a realignment so much, but the alignment change always leads to chaotic evil.

Postscript: One of my co-workers who was axed was thinking about retiring this year. He had been disgruntled for a long time, and really disliked management. I always told him, "Hold out as long as you can. You may hate management, but I'm sure you love the site. Think about what a beautiful workplace you have, and dwell on that." I will keep my advice to him in mind as I'm listening to some consultant-approved gobbledegook in a half-hour or so.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Bad Ego Trip

In a previous post I commented on the egotistical nature of the paranoid conspiracy theorist- that conviction that one is privy to a recondite knowledge that the common schmuck is blissfully unaware of, mixed with the surety that a powerful, shadowy cabal has one in its crosshairs. Nobody exemplifies this particular style to the extent that Texas crank Alex Jones does. Jones is the sort of guy who is still peddling the black helicopter nonsense from the 90's:

He's also been pushing the "New World Order" conspiracy theory so brilliantly sent up in Shea and Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy. While Jones generally seems to steer clear of anti-semitism, his basic paranoid thesis is pretty much the one originated in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, just with the "Jewish" serial numbers filed off, and Jones doesn't shy away from having anti-semitic guests on his show.

Jones tends to apply the opposite of Occam's Razor to events... for example, he sees a criminal conspiracy on the part of the White House to explain the death of a rageaholic with a heart condition and substance abuse problems. Oddly enough, there's a conspiracy theorist who is convinced that Alex Jones was involved in the "assassination" of Andrew Breitbart. Suffice it to say. Jones is a one-man maelstrom of madness, albeit one with a cult following (he also shows up as a recurring guest on late-night Sasquatch radio). Jones was catapulted into a position of greater prominence when he was inexplicably invited to an interview on a mainstream cable news outlet this week, whereupon he had a meltdown, and issued a threat of violent revolution:

Shortly after his on-air meltdown, Jones retreated to his hotel room, where he spun a yarn about being followed by undercover cops and "Bloomberg's Mafia":

I imagine that, in his own mind, Alex Jones sees himself as a portly Jason Bourne, hounded by operatives of the "New World Order" at the behest of Mike "total Mafia" Bloomberg and Piers "Hatchet Man" Morgan. Jones' internal narrative can be titled "The Secret Life of Someone Shitty", a bad ego trip of particularly lurid fashion. In his latest video, he claims that he may be killed by "crackheads" in a false-flag operation. Oddly enough, for a guy who is constantly under the "threat" of "assassination" at the hands of the "New World Order", the guy has been around for about fifteen years.

POSTSCRIPT: Hilariously, even though he has ripped off Alex Jones for years, Glenn Beck is in the midst of a feud with Herr Jones:

As Thunder puts it, the schaden freudes itself!

As an added bonus, Leaving Alex Jonestown is an in-depth exploration of Mr Jones ouvre.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Local Characters

Tonight, I began work at midnight. I had to go over a procedure with the co-worker I was relieving, which took up a few minutes, then discussed whether the problem he was having was unique to the site we were currently working (it was, thankfully, so it's probably a programming oversight). He left, and I got my ducks in a row for the rest of the night. Realizing that I needed to get something from my car, I exited out the front door, and saw a guy outside the building. It being after midnight, and he being on site, he immediately placed himself in an "adversarial" role... time to play the role of the Big Bad Bald Bastard- cue stentorian bellow:


"I just wanted to check the ashtrays."

The guy was well-spoken, a white guy in his mid thirties, reasonably well-dressed. I'd actually seen him before, sifting through the ashtrays for cigarette butts, but not at this hour.

"In the future, you might not want to do it at this hour... it's not a good time to be on the property."

"I can't do this in public."

"Carry on, then.... We're closed this time of year, you'll probably have slim pickings."

He wasn't too proud to sift through two public ashtrays to scavange other people's dog-ends, but he had enough pride to not do it when there were people milling about. I seemed to recall hearing that the guy was the son of a local "Man of Substance", but couldn't remember who had told me that. He did have a nicer phone than mine, which he used to illuminate the contents of the ashtrays.

As I watched him leave the property, I pondered what sort of mental illness could have a not-indigent man sifting through foul saliva-coated trash at midnight on a cold winter's night. As a high-schooler, I worked in the local deli, and there was a local guy who was convinced he was a priest- he'd walk up the street blessing telephone poles, so I was used to having harmlessly eccentric locals around.* Shortly after he left, my co-worker returned to retrieve the coat he'd left hanging in our office. He's a local guy, so I asked him if he knew the "cigarette butt" guy. He didn't know him. Next time I see the dude, I'll make it a point to introduce myself. I can sympathize with the guy, I'm a butt man myself.

It's a good thing to know the local characters... especially the one's who make impromptu calls at odd hours.

*One day, my boss' grandfather (everybody called him The Boss), a paisan's paisan from the old country, was walking down the street, and the good "father" blessed him with a grand, sweeping sign of the cross. When The Boss came through the door of the deli, his daughter-in-law yelled at him, "Why'd you let him do that? He's unauthorized." The Boss simply shrugged and said, "If it make-a him happy, 'sokay."

Monday, January 7, 2013

We All Know How This Usually Works Out

M. Bouffant, L.A.'s favorite curmudgeon, put up a post which makes me wonder, "Poe's Law violation or Godwin's Law violation?" To sum up M.B.'s post, former hippy, alt-medicine scammer, and naked adult swim partner of Allen Ginsberg turned ranting right-wing loon Michael Savage, has called for a right-wing nationalist party unified under a charismatic leader. We all know how well that works out...

The funny thing about "Savage's" rant is that he pretends that the Tea Party could be the nucleus of this new "Nationalist" party:

“We need a nationalist party in the United States of America”... "You have the rudiments of a new party in this country called a Tea Party. They need to restructure their party. They need a charismatic leader, which they don’t have. When you say Tea Party no one knows who the leader is because there is no leader. No man has stepped forward who can lead that party. The Tea Party is the rudiment of the new nationalist party. Somebody has to bring them all together, unite them like King David did the ancient tribes of Israel. And there is no King David out there. Who’s the King David? Tell me who is going to do it?"

Someone should inform him that the Tea Party was, at best an attempt to rebrand the GOP in order to remove the stench of the Bush era (an attempt that seems to have gone horribly awry) and, at worst, a bald-faced grift. Oh, who am I kidding? Savage has been grifting for years... coffee enemas, anyone? Savage has his own grift going on, so he doesn't have to play the Max Bialystock role in this new "Nationalist Party" scam. He says he's not willing to play this role due to his age, but I'd wager that he's too canny a seller of the Kool-aid to end up in the bunker when things go to hell.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Three Kings Day

January 6 marks the Feast of the Epiphany, which commemorates the visitation of the Magi in Christian tradition... the day is also known as "Three Kings Day". As Aunt Snow so beautifully recounted, it's traditional to eat a special "King Cake" on this day, and the individual who finds the token (often a bean, a coin, or a plastic baby Jesus, has to buy next year's cake- I imagine choking on a plastic baby Jesus would be an ironic way to go...).

Anyway, it is believed that the Magi were Persian wise men, though it seems that wise men are pretty scarce in that region of the world these days. Anyway, since I'm not a devout person, I think I prefer this version of the tale of the visitiation of the Magi:

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Gaulois Galoot Goes Galt

Finally, an overprivileged tax-avoiding whiner has the courage to "go Galt"- Ubuesque actor Gerard Depardieu has finally gotten sick of all the merdre he's put up with at the hands of the money-grabbing French government and moved to the capitalists' paradise (you read that right) of Russia to enjoy their 13% flat income tax. Of course, Tea Party types love their flat taxes, largely because flat taxes are regressive.

Perhaps the Tea Partiers can be convinced to move en masse to Russia, where they won't be taxed excessively. The fact that Russia is an oligarchy led by corrupt kleptocrats backed by armed thugs should be no problem for the Tea Party supporters. Now, besides playing up the flat tax angle, how do we convince the 'baggers to move to Russia? Maybe we can convince George Soros to fund the construction of a Potemkin Branson in Siberia.

Alternate post title: Depardieu.s.s.r.

Cross posted at Rumproast.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Didn't Realize It Was a Political Song 'Til Now

I'm heading off to a departmental meeting this afternoon, so I figured I'd fall back on that old "post a video" gambit... A few days ago, Ned put up a post titled "Camouflage", which reminded me of Gang of Four, a band I like enormously. Gang of Four's song "I Love a Man in Uniform" was a departure from their earlier work sonically (it's a lusher, fuller sound, in contrast to the edgy, jittery minimalist music of their earlier works), and I used to think that it really didn't have a political bent. Recently, with the focus given on gun ownership, and the generally poor state of the economy, the political nature of the song finally dawned on me- the song is basically the lament of an underemployed, disaffected man who convinces himself that his dysfunctional relationship is healthy, and props up his flagging self-esteem by collecting weapons and engaging in "military" cosplay:

Time with my girl, I spent it well
I had to be strong for my woman
She says, "You must be joking, oh man You must be joking,"
She needed to be protected.
The good life was so elusive,
Handouts, they got me down.
I had to regain my self-respect
So, I got into camouflage
The girls, they love to see you shoot.

I love a man in a uniform.
I love a man in a uniform.
I love a man in a uniform.
I love a man in a uniform
To have ambition was my ambition.
Time with my girl,
I spent it well.
"You must be joking, oh man, you must be joking."

If that doesn't describe the Tea Party and "Milita" communities to a "T", I don't know what does. Enough of yapping, crank this one and shake your rump for great justice:

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Cowardly, Callous, and Cruel

Never mind the Fiscal Cliff kerfuffle- what really chaps my ass is Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner's decision to abandon a vote on a Superstorm Sandy aid package.

I have made no bones about having an enormous amount of contempt for NJ Governor Chris Christie, and I have absolutely no use for odious GOP Representative for New York's Long Island Peter King. To summarize my assesment of these jerks- Christie is a loudmouth faux tough guy who doesn't give a damn for Johnny and Janie Paycheck, and King is a rabble-rousing anti-Muslim bigot who ignores the needs of the 9/11 first responders he invokes in his prejudiced tirades. Today, I view these clowns as the proverbial stopped clock- both Republicans have had choice words about House Speaker John Boehner.

Peter King first lambasted Boehner on the floor of the House of Representatives. King was even more pointed in his criticism of Boehner afterwards, going so far as to urge New York and New Jersey Republicans to stop donating money to the Republican Campaign Committee:

Christ Christie also came down on the Boehner like a two ton heavy thing:

Of course, Christie mendaciously throws in a criticism of New Jersy Senate Democrats, in order to play the "both sides do it" card.

Not content to passively ignore the impassioned pleas of New York and New Jersey representatives to bring this vote to the floor, Boehner apparently lashed out at NJ Republican Frank LoBiondo. The latest development in the case is that Boehner, cowed by the vehemence of his fellow Republicans has promised to bring Sandy aid up for a vote after the new Congress is sworn in. Too callous to bring up the vote on Tuesday, too cowardly to stand by his prior position.

John Boehner's a godawful fool-
He's cowardly, callous and cruel.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's

As has been typical since I started blogging, I have been working on New Year's Eve or Day- I decided to change things up by working the graveyard shift instead of the evening shift. As I have averred every year, I have come to think of New Year's Eve as amateurs' night, having seen a lot of dumb stuff happen (I've done some dumb stuff, but typically of the "get caught by girl one sucking girl two's face while girl one went off to the bathroom" variety- hey, I was too drunk to tell her "she reminded me of you" and not Penthouse lucky enough to arrange a threesome- I've never done anything "crash the car in a drunken stupor" or "start a donnybrook in the street" stupid). Anyway, it's been a quiet night, safely cocooned at work on this night of sobriety checkpoints and drunk drivers. While not watching bizarre animation by the guy who animated the video for a great drinking song, I've been making sure that nobody hopped the fence to piss on the property (I made sure I was extra vigilant after the 4AM last call). Fun, eh? At least it's a double-time day. Anyway, I figured I'd cease my navel gazing and post an appropriate video. Here's New Year's by New York's Asobi Seksu. The band's combination of crunchy pop and sweet vocals reminds me of my beloved Shop Assistants

Here's another take, but I think the song plays better with a harder sound- this version is pretty, but it needs some chunkiness to avoid being twee in my estimation:


Now, that's the way to do it... by playing a kickass drum solo, Yuki Chikudate is one pretty lead singer who won't be upstaged by the drummer.

Wow, three video embeds of the same song, with no covers... I think that's a record, but can't be arsed poring over every post to ascertain this fact. The funny thing is that New Year's is not even my favorite Asobi Seksu song.

Happy New Year's Day, everybody!