Friday, July 31, 2020

Soft Open

Today was the inaugural day of our truncated season. It was an experiment in opening, with limited tickets for two hour blocks for members of the organization. The general consensus is that we have a core group of people who buy annual memberships, and they should be rewarded for their loyalty in a year in which we weren't open at our usual time. As an added bonus, a local storyteller who has worked our events for many, many years was on the premises to entertain our visitors.

Social distancing guidelines were maintained, and masks were required. Visitors were limited to grounds passes, our buildings weren't open to the public. Besides the usual manager on duty, one of our program directors, a vice president, and two members of our development staff were on hand to gauge the number of visitors. By all accounts, things went well... I only came to make sure the place was properly locked up when everybody else left.

The highlight of the day, of course, was seeing everybody. Most of them I hadn't seen since last November, which was about two thousand years ago. Everybody is doing okay... my standard line for the past four months has been 'everything's terrible, I can't complain'. Besides coworkers, my young Chilean friend, who worked as a custodial contractor for us last year, stopped by to meet her sister, who was working as our custodian. She graduated with honors from the local high school, but it was a truncated year, with online classes and no end-of-year New York State Board of Regents examinations. She will be attending the local community college in the fall, other college options just not on the table this year. She's a bright young woman with a strong work ethic, she just happened to arrive in this country at a bad time.

It was a good day, a nice reunion tempered by a slight undercurrent of melancholy. Typically, I'd arrive and there would be a whole contingent of staff, mainly tour guides, hanging around nerding out, and there would invariably be cake and other snacks in the break room, which has now been divested of everything except for a case of bottled water in the fridge. It's a sociable bunch that works here, it's hard getting used to the social distancing.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Nine Nine Nine Tears

One of the more inane political figures of the past decade has been Herman Cain, a 2012 Republican presidential candidate whose platform and campaign slogan, which read like a fast food offer, I lampooned almost a decade ago. Well, Cain the Inane died as he lived, in a stupid and senseless manner, cut down by the 'Rona at the age of 74. Cain's death from COVID-19 was particularly ironic, in light of the lackadaisical manner in which he approached the pandemic:

I don't believe in karma, but I'm not so sure now... In a particularly ghoulish twist, as Cain was dying, his communications team was still making light of the illness which had struck down their boss:

He gave his life for Trump, and to 'trigger the libs' by not wearing a mask. This is a case of history repeating as both tragedy AND farce, just the sort of 2-for-1 special old Herman Cain would have pushed as the CEO of a (by all accounts) terrible chain of fast food pizza joints. To mourn the man, I'm gonna cry 9-9-9 tears.

Herman Cain is not the only wingnut who has died of a hoax, Turning Point USA co-founder Bill Montgomery also died of COVID-19. Even as his carcass was stiffening, his organization was tweeting out dank memes to trigger the libs:

Yeah, I feel so owned right about now!

In a trifecta, the Stupidest Man in Congress has tested positive for COVID-19, having been screened just before joining the Dotard on Air Force One. He is claiming to be taking hydroxychloroquine for the 'rona. Among the drug's side effects are 'confusion, mania, hallucinations, paranoia, and psychosis', which are a normal state for Gohmert. I can't say I'd be too sorry to see the awful Gohmert croak... once again, I am tempted to start believing in karma.

On a bizarre side note, today I learned that Gohmert, like Ming the Merciless, has a sexy, rebellious daughter. This year keeps veering from tragedy to farce to cheesy sci-fi flick.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

When the Dogwhistle is an Airhorn

My beloved Yonkers was, in a national news story, the subject of a desegregation lawsuit which was resolved in the 1990s. In the interest of full disclosure, I moved to Yonkers right around the time of the desegregation, and lived approximately five blocks north of the recently renovated Arthur J. Doran townhouses, named after a long-serving judge who is a fixture in the neighborhood, the sort of larger-than-life local character that one runs into in the local taverns. For a while, I was carless, so I would take the local bus to work, and I struck up a friendship with a bright, musically talented African-American girl who would take the same bus to the Saunders Trades and Technical High School. This young lady lived in the neighborhood because of the desegregation effort. Despite the fears of a lot of white Yonkers eastsiders, the neighborhood wasn't negatively affected by integration, and the property values most certainly did not plummet. In my estimation, the desegregation (which wasn't necessarily an integration) improved the neighborhood. At the same time, a maturing Irish immigrant community was moving into the area from the Bainbridge Avenue neighborhood in the Bronx and Albanian immigrants were moving up from the Pelham Parkway/Lydig Avenue neighborhood. As things stand, East Yonkers is a vibrant, diverse neighborhood, the sort of neighborhood which is a destination for people from the tristate area and overseas.

Why am I bringing this up? Via Tengrain, we have a racist horror tale told by the Occupant of the White House, the sort of horror tale which is contradicted by my lived experience:

There is no non-racist interpretation of this statement. The Suburban Lifestyle Dream the Dotard describes probably only existed in 1950s and 1960s sitcoms, and was notably skewered by Gerry Goffin and Carole King:

Yonkers is that most urban of suburbs, a city of two-hundred thousand residents which is dwarfed by NYC, which abuts Yonkers to the south. My neighborhood is a mix of one family houses, multi-family houses (I live in a three-family house, with an immigrant from Northern Ireland and her children on the floor above me and an African American family, the husband a lawyer and the wife a nurse, on the topmost floor), and largish apartment buildings. Dropped into my neighborhood, you could picture yourself in certain neighborhoods in Queens or Brooklyn. It's the sort of neighborhood where an elderly Irish man goes to the house of the Mexican family next door to watch football, by which I mean fútbol... the sort of neighborhood where the Albanian guy working at the auto repair shop buys his breakfast at a Yemeni delicatessen. It's a Suburban Lifestyle Dream which is diametrically opposed to Trump's racist nightmare... a glorious City of Hills which beats the hell out of a Pleasant Valley.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

A Pandemic More Dangerous than COVID-19

A recent video produced by Big Dead Breitbart, disparaging mask-wearing and hyping hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure, has been taken down by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube... but not before being shared by the dumbass in the White House.

The video featured members of a group (the Republican Party hastily assembled teams of pro-Trump doctors) naming itself America’s Frontline Doctors (their website is a mere twelve days old). They seem primarily to be anti-vaccine. The group's nominal leader is a Dr Simone Gold, whose career seems pretty damn sketchy, but her mere MAGA misinformation was upstaged by a genuine psycho who believes in disease-causing demon semen and astral sex with witches. Sorry, Simone, you just weren't crazy enough for Trump's 'Murrica. Dr Immanuel was pretty much a QAnoner before QAnon was even a thing:

I'm not the only one who's wondering why this video, accompanied by a broad-spectrum social media campaign also pushing hydroxychloroquine, has been pushed by right-wing media conglomerates Breitbart and OAN. A cynical attempt to boost the drug's price before dumping a ton of it? An attempt to shift the blame for hundreds of thousands of deaths from the Trump Maladministration to a 'corrupt medical cartel' burying a 'miracle cure'? It's a handy-dandy Swiss Army knife, conspiracy-wise, a multipronged assault on Trump's enemies AND a cash grab!

After the purge of the Breitbart video from numerous social media platforms, Dr Immanuel posted an imprecatory prayer exhorting God to bring an end to Facebook:

It's nice to know that she and I agree on one thing!

At any rate, the misinformation, indeed malinformation, pandemic is even more dangerous than the COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday, July 27, 2020

One Hundred and Fifty Thousand

The US death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 150,000, a number I believed we'd hit by August, but not quite so soon (yeah, I realize that it's the 27th). Back in March, I predicted that a half-million Americans would die before the pandemic ran its course, but I'm now thinking that my prediction was a low-ball. So much for sunny optimism!

The crazy thing is that the initial shutdown was predicated on putting in place a broad testing regimen, which never materialized. The push to reopen things led to a failure to contain the virus, which will inevitably lead to new shutdowns. The current situation with Major League Baseball is a perfect symbol of the failed pandemic response.

At work, we will be reopening one site for limited visitation this coming Friday, admitting small groups of ticket-holding persons, keeping activities limited to outdoors, enforcing social distancing and mask rules. We tend to have responsible visitors, so I think it could work. It'll be nice seeing coworkers outside of the skeleton crew that has been holding down the fort since March, but I can't say that I am one hundred percent confident that it's a good move.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

One Hundred Days

There are one hundred days until Election Day. One hundred days until we Americans get an opportunity to vote out the WORST MISTAKE EVER made by an electorate, by which I mean the contra-democratic Electoral College. A lot can happen in one hundred days, especially in this year of out-of-control pandemic and civil unrest which has prompted a federal response which sure looks like a dress rehearsal for putting a dictatorship in place. Current electoral projections show Trump taking a shellacking, but do not take into account voter suppression, a favored tactic of the Republican Party.

It's going to continue to be a long, tragic year, the one hundred days will drag out because of the COVID-19 time dilation effect. I'm resigned to the idea that things are just not going to get any better, not in an existential manner. Of course, there is a feeling of unreality here in my neck of the woods, where the pandemic seems to be under control, for the most part, and civil unrest hasn't really broken out... but there's a feeling that, just out of earshot, the country is a hell-blasted shitscape. It's this shitscape that will determine the outcome of the election, and I sincerely hope that people come to their senses, and that Little Gloves will leave the White House willingly.

One hundred days... I don't even know if suspense is what I feel, and I'm comfortable enough not to feel dread personally (I'm a cishet white guy, even as a Trump-hater, I'll be among the last to feel any oppression). There's an emotion I'm feeling, but it would require a multisyllabic German name to adequately express. I have one hundred days to figure out what that name might be.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Tenacious, Delicious

Life, as they say, will find a way, and no organisms are quite as adept in finding their way as the various plants we call weeds. For instance, here is a lamb's quarters (Chenopodium album) plant growing out of a thin layer of dirt on top of our parking lot at work:

The plant is in the same genus as quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa), and I am always bemused at the idea that suburban yuppies will spray glycosphate weed killer on it while buying quinoa at Whole Foods. For the record, I love quinoa, but hate weedkillers. The green leaves of the plant are comparable to spinach in flavor, and are a big component of my summer foraging regimen. The small seeds are dead ringers for quinoa seeds, though black in color, and, ground into a flour, were a favorite campaign food for Napoleon. I tend to favor the greens, because they are available long term, while the seeds are ephemeral and a pain to harvest.

Looking at that picture of the plant growing in a thin layer of soil, I have to wonder why this particular plant, having been eaten in historical times, never became a part of mainstream agriculture. Did we just happen to pick the wrong vegetables?

Friday, July 24, 2020

Be Not Afraid

In current parlance, it would have been called a 'man cave', but it was merely a semi-finished section of the basement where the weight set was kept, and the books on the shelves were cheap paperbacks, not quite worthy to share the bookshelves in the living room where the pretty hardcover books resided. On the wall was a poster, popular in the early 1970s, bearing a quote, a parody of Psalm 23, which is apocryphally attributed to Patton:

As a kid, I thought this poster was one of the funniest things I'd ever seen, and the semi-illicit thrill of seeing a naughty word only added to its appeal.

A few nights ago, I was walking on a path, adjacent to the fence around the site perimeter that leads from the administrative area (parking lot, offices, shop, concessions) to the bulk of the site where the visitors go to experience our programs. The path runs along the main road, but has considerable tree cover. As I was walking, I caught the distinct aroma of cannabis. Regarding the stuff (and all narcotics, truth to tell), I think it should be legal, regulated, and taxed, just like booze. Just like booze, I don't want anybody partaking of it at my workplace (unless, of course, it's legalized, and the organization wants to celebrate an April 20th Hemp Day). There was nobody on the path itself, but as I rounded a bend, I saw a man on the sidewalk, peering over the perimeter fence. I don't know for sure if he'd been the one smoking, but he and I were the only ones in the vicinity. If he had been smoking, the THC certainly didn't impair his perception, because he immediately became aware of my presence, and he was very helpful:

"There's an animal up ahead, on the right hand side. Don't be scared."

Perhaps remembering the poster in the basement, I replied, "Thank you, sir, but that's okay. I'm the scariest animal on the premises."

Post title taken from this hymn.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Yoho, Yahoo

There's nothing I despise more than a bully, especially a male bully who picks on women and girls. This week, Florida Man Representative Ted Yoho, a yahoo, called Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a 'fucking bitch' while almost out of earshot. Being a bully, Yoho is also a coward, he couldn't even muster the nerve to insult the freshman representative to her face.

When talking about my feisty mother, who was born and raised in the Bronx, I always say, "You can take the girl out of the Bronx, but you can't take the Bronx out of the girl." I'd describe AOC in the same terms. Merely existing as an attractive woman on the streets of New York City, and working for years as a waitress and bartender serving drunk bros, AOC has a PhD in toxic masculinity, and she castigated Ted Yahoo on the floor of the Capitol:

It's a remarkable ten minutes on the House floor... Representative Ocasio-Cortez was brilliant, fierce, eloquent, unflinchingly repeating the foul language Ted Yahoo used to insult her from ten paces away. Her dismissal of Yahoo's false piety and hypocritical 'embrace' of 'family values' is a much-needed counter to the bullshit Republican 'Party of Values' propaganda. Yahoo represents a dysfunctional old guard of bigoted, misogynistic men (most of them, but by no means all, white), and he will be relegated to a mere footnote in the historical record of Ocasio-Cortez' career. Ocasio-Cortez is a self-made success story, unlike the creepy nepotism-hire failsons in Congress (I'm looking particularly at Florida Man Matt Gaetz here), and I look forward to following her in a long career in government. The fact that I have a familiarity with and a fondness for the district which she represents sweetens the pot- I know young women and girls who see her as a role model.

Women are just better stewards of society than men have been... just look at the successful COVID-19 crisis response in nations with women leaders. Seeing more women, especially seeing young, working-class women of color, elected to positions of authority, is a good sign that we Americans can turn a corner if we get out and vote. We need intelligent, idealistic, fearless representatives, especially ones who can muster a healthy dose of righteous rage.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Internet's Augean Stables

It's a herculean task, but it looks like Twitter is finally banning the most obnoxious QAnon accounts. The platform, used by individuals who wouldn't be able to access the fever swamps of 8chan/8kun, has been one of the major vectors of QAnon lunacy. Well, the day of reckoning for the trolls, grifters, and cultists is coming soon, but not soon enough:

The responses to the upcoming ban are nothing short of hilarious, such as this imprecatory prayer against a social media platform:

Sorry, lady, Parler is just not where it's at. This is basically a prayer to make 'fetch' happen:

The bulk of the comments from the 'anons' are claims that the Techbros of Silicon Valley, prominent Democrats, and celebrities are running scared, and are trying to silence the QAnon movement in order to save their skins, but the simple fact of the matter is that the swarms that the conspiracy theory pushers are sending to harass verified accounts have made the platform untenable for people with genuine followings- Tom Hanks is more valuable to Twitter than PepeCucksSoyBoys1488.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

The Deplorables Will Engage in Mental Contortionism

One of the tenets of the craziest fringe of Trump supporters is the ludicrous idea that Donald Trump, who has been credibly accused of human trafficking, is leading an effort to combat a global, satanic pedophile ring. It's a grotesque, deplorable even, proposition, but its adherents were somehow bolstered, despite the fact that trafficking arrests went down under Trump, by the arrest of notorious serial sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. In the face of evidence that Trump had a decades-long friendship with Epstein, the Deplorables insisted that Trump was acting undercover, feigning friendship with him in order to obtain evidence to smash the pedophile ring.

Imagine, then, the mental contortions necessary to reconcile 'Trump the Hero' with real-world Trump, who conveyed well-wishes to Ghislaine Maxwell, Jeffrey Epstein's partner-in-crime in their pedophile enterprise:

It's begun, the gyring and gimbaling in the wabe beyond the discourse of decent human beings:

Was it sarcasm? A warning not to spill the beans on powerful, well-connected child molestors? An indication that a pardon is on the way? I'd chalk it up to a stupid man's stupid answer to a question about a woman he'd rather forget about. It's merely another grotesque detail in a disgusting life, a life led by a sociopath who has no consideration for the lives of the young girls preyed upon by Maxwell, Epstein... and in all likelihood, himself.

ADDENDUM: It gets even stupider:

I'm not looking forward to this getting even dumber.

Monday, July 20, 2020

But as the World Becomes More Primitive, Its Conspiracies Become More Idiotic

The most shocking local news story of the weekend was the assassination in New Jersey of a federal judge's son and the attempted assassination of her husband. Fueling the conspiracy theory pipeline was the fact that Judge Esther Salas was slated to preside over a class action lawsuit against Deutsche Bank AG on behalf of investors concerned about the bank's failure to combat money laundering, including the laundering of serial child molester Jeffrey Epstein's money. Epstein's death in prison fueled a wave of conspiracy theory content, because he could have been the linchpin in a worldwide campaign to bring down wealthy child abusers. The gangland style assassination of a judge's family member fits well into the broader conspiracy framework, the ideal that a shadowy, powerful cabal would send a message to Judge Salas makes sense to people raised on 'Godfather' movies.

The reality, though, seems to be stupider, as the primary suspect in the murder and attempted murder turned out to be an 'antifeminist lawyer' who argued a case for male-exclusive 'selective service' before the judge. No grand conspiracy here, no shadowy cabal sending a message to let judge Salas know that any efforts to combat a global pedophile ring would be countered in deadly fashion... just a sad, stupid man with a years-long grudge against an accomplished woman fighting gender-based inequality. In this most stupid of timelines, we got a most stupid assassination.

The post title is inspired by my favorite scene in perhaps my favorite movie, the 1955 adaptation of Kiss Me Deadly.

I know that the phrase 'We Live in the Most Stupid Timeline' has taken on the status of an axiom, but it seems that every week is proving it to be true.

ADDENDUM: In an entirely predictable development, the prime suspect blended his misogyny with racism. They all do.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Sore Feet, Soaring Heart

Last evening's walk was glorious, but I ended up with a case of sore feet (no blisters, though). I have to confess that this five mile (8km) stroll was the first long walk I've taken since the COVID-19 outbreak. My friends and I met up at 7:30PM in front of the Tarrytown train station, where free parking is to be had on the weekends. If I were to undertake this hike on a weekday, I'd take the 25 bus from an intersection three blocks from my home to the Yonkers train station, then take the glorious Metro North Hudson Line trip to Tarrytown. At the train station, we caught a free shuttle bus to the West Nyack trail head, and the journey began.

The Governor Mario Cuomo Bridge, like it's predecessor, the Tappan Zee bridge, spans the widest section of the Hudson River, named by the Dutch for the indigenous Lenape people. It might seem counterintuitive to build a bridge across the widest section of the river, but the site was chosen because it was about as close to New York City as could be while outside the purview of the New York/New Jersey Port Authority, being under the New York State Thruway Authority.

The bridge itself has always consisted of a superstructure close to the eastern bank of the mighty Hudson, with a long causeway forming the western portion of the bridge. There are high barriers on the sides of the bridge to forestall despondent people from taking swan dives:

The actual pathway is divided into a four foot wide pedestrian lane and an eight foot wide bicycle lane:

Along the span, there are six wide areas which double as observation posts and rest stops:

All along the watchtower causeway, the central superstructure beckoned like a... uhhhh... beacon:

As night fell, the view of the superstructure became more and more breathtaking (or maybe that was the upward incline), especially when contrasted with the view of the river below. Passing cars, though, made focusing the camera a pipe dream:

A plaque on one of the towers of the bridge eulogized the late, great governor of New York State:

There were quite a lot of people walking across the bridge, and the atmosphere was pretty festive. It's impossible to be in a cranky mood when the view is so gorgeous, sore bodies notwithstanding. By the time we reached the eastern shore, we were fairly tired, what with the distance traveled and the heat, and we had approximately a mile's walk remaining between the eastern visitors' center and the Tarrytown train station. We arrived in T-town just at the tail end of their COVID-19 related closure of Main Street to allow outdoor dining. I was able to hit a hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant that was still open for some tacos and a restorative horchata. It is said that hunger is the best sauce, but La Perla Poblanita's food needed no additional embellishment.

I parted with my friends in order to go to work, and as soon as I arrived, I took a couple of aspirinas. Yeah, my feet, between balls and arches, were still a little sore. As I confessed, it had been a while since I'd taken a long walk like this, which means that I need to get back to a routine in which such beautiful expeditions are... uhhh... routine.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

We'll Cross That Bridge When We Come to It.

A little over a month ago, a pedestrian/biking path the new Tappan Zee Bridge (named after Governor Mario Cuomo) was opened. This evening, after a scorching day, I am planning to meet some friends to take a free shuttle from the Tarrytown train station to West Nyack, on the other side of the river, for a walk back along the path. It's a 3.6 mile (5.79km) walk back east. It's the sort of walk which should ordinarily take an hour, but with the scenery and the undoubted stops for hijinks, it should take us a bit longer than that... hopefully leaving time to dine in one of the charming restaurants in the charming village of Tarrytown, a town perhaps best summed up by this guy:

Hopefully, we'll get a glimpse of NEOWISE as we stroll along, though the bright lights of the bridge may interfere with any skygazing.

Anyway, speaking of bridges, how about an extremely earnest song by an extremely earnest band of Bono protégés? Here's the band Cactus World News playing the 1986 Self Aid concert:

Teh Wiki, which never lies, indicates that these guys reformed in the twenty-first century. I hope they are having a good run in this bad century, they always came across as nice, earnest guys.

Friday, July 17, 2020


We have a small greenhouse behind our main building at my principal workplace. In normal years, when we are open for visitation, a local gourmet market runs a concession stand, and the greenhouse is open for visitors to enjoy their coffee, sandwiches, or pastries amid the potted plants. A few days ago, I noticed that an unauthorized visitor had somehow gotten into the building:

While there may be delicious bugs to eat on the premises, I was concerned that this little critter wouldn't have access to water (I honestly don't know the drinking requirements of toads), so I evicted it from the premises, placing it on the patio out back, near a new planting:

In gratitude, it peed all over my hand...

On a sober note, an appalling number of Americans, facing pandemic-related financial stress, are facing a housing crisis, with one third of Americans being unable to pay their entire rent or mortgage. This could result in an eviction/foreclosure crisis by August, with no financial help for Joe-and-Jane-Schmo coming from this Maladministration or a gridlocked Congress. Hell, even whimsical posts take a dark turn in these awful, awful times.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Terrific Meal, Terrible News

In the Before Times, I had a habit... approximately every two weeks, I would descend upon a local Indian restaurant like a corporeal (in the most literal sense of the word) manifestation of gluttony, and chow down on their lunch buffet, indifferent to the weeping of the management as they saw their children's college fund diminishing with every plate. I kept to a pretty strict rotation so no one establishment would have to deal with my bottomless curry-maw... besides, some places set up a dosa grill, some places have particularly good homemade breads. Mine was the cruelty of Nature, not the cruelty of the malfeasor. Just kidding, I'd always order a drink to pad out the check and tip well so as to make up for my depredations at the steam table.

This evening, before reporting to work, I stopped by one of the regular places on my Indian restaurant itinerary, Swagat in Tarrytown, which is indeed a nice town in which to tarry. I had a hankering for a fish curry, and Swagat does a particularly good one. Swagat is well named, it's a Sanskrit word meaning 'welcome', and owner Mohammed Nibibrahim, a diminutive Bangladeshi man with an outsized personality, would always greet each visitor effusively. He'd typically call even regular customers 'boss', and thought it a splendid joke when I'd respond by calling him 'boss of all bosses', even if he didn't realize that it was a Mafia reference, which would have cracked him up even more.

Tonight, as I stepped in, his absence was notable. I asked the manager, "Is Mohammed here?" He responded, "You didn't hear the news?" For me, the date the world stopped was March 10th. It was Tuesday. I hadn't been to Swagat since February, that long ago time when things had meaning. Mohammed had succumbed to COVID-19 on March 24th. They had all contracted it, he was the only one who didn't recover. Mohammed had an ageless quality about him, with his dark hair and boundless energy, he could have been anywhere from his late fifties to his seventies. He was just shy of his seventieth birthday when the virus took him.

New York is in the midst of a cautious reopening, with limited indoor seating in most places, and outdoor tables for those establishments which have the space to put them up. As things get more normal, and I return to favored spots, I have a hope that beloved proprietors, managers, and waitstaff are waiting for me, that familiar, friendly voices are calling out a welcome. As I noted, 'Swagat' means welcome, and I will always anticipate a welcome when I go there, but it won't be that effusive, cheerful Nibibrahim welcome.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

You Bruised My Knuckles With Your Face

It's a disquieting video, a recording of two NYPD officers assaulting a homeless man for taking up more than one seat in an almost empty 6 Train (Lexington Avenue local):

The video of this small man being beaten by two larger men is disgusting, but the crowning grotesquerie of it all occurred later, when he was charged with assaulting the arresting officer's knuckles with his face:

Saha said in a criminal complaint that Long told him Joseph kicked his right hand while the officers attempted to cuff the ejected rider on the platform. Long, according to Saha, “sustained swelling and substantial pain to the knuckles of his right hand and was transported to the hospital.”

“He informs me that because of the swelling he is unable to open and close his hand without experiencing pain,” Saha said.

Yeah, I imagine you, dear readers, can scarcely believe it as well. Thankfully, Manhattan District Attorney and utter piece of trash Cy Vance dropped the assault charges against the victim of this act of brutality, but being trash, did not drop misdemeanor 'resisting arrest' charges. AOC, as usual, brought her typical compassion and moral clarity to bear on this issue. We need first responders, not fist responders.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

A Crack in the Stack, then Craic Out Back

This day began as, to use the vernacular vulgate, an ass day. I had a slow drip of water into my apartment which turned out to be from a crack in the stack pipe, the large drainage pipe for the building, in the apartment upstairs from mine. This problem was diagnosed last week, a call to the landlady that there was a drip of water through my ceiling and mold in the basement laundry room ceiling had led to a call to a plumber. At 9AM on my day off, I had to be up to open up my apartment for the plumbers who would be knocking holes in my wall and ceiling to access the faulty pipe. Thankfully, what was supposed to be a five or six hour job ended up being a two hour job, so having the water shut off was no big deal. I spent the morning shooting the breeze with my landlady, a nice lady to be sure.

This evening, my upstairs neighbor and I went to our nextdoor neighbor's house for drinks and a light dinner on the backyard deck. He's a Westmeath man who has been living in Yonkers for twenty years, after a stint in London. My upstairs neighbor's ex came by, and I learned (after a couple of years) that he and my nextdoor neighbor had known each other for years, ever since my nextdoor neighbor worked in a video store (this will tell you how long ago this was) in Cavan which my upstairs neighbor's ex used to patronize when he was a boy. It was funny to hear them relate old anecdotes about people and places they'd known in common, including an uproarious story about a nefarious cross-border smuggler going to the video store to rent a movie, any movie, and getting handed a movie in about a minute, then when the gardai showed up the next day to interrogate my neighbor, getting a story about how the nefarious smuggler had dithered over what movie to order for at least half an hour... a few weeks later, the nefarious smuggler was offering my neighbor a thirty inch TV gratis.

The beer flowed, and I had brought a bottle of my homemade rocket-fuel strength limoncello. It was a hilarious, boozy night, but one which turned serious as we talked about family in those stretches between jokes. We all have similar values, and family was a common thread throughout the hours of conversation. As I noted, the day started off as an ass day, with a crack in the stack, but it ended up as a class day with craic out back.

Monday, July 13, 2020

He'll Eat Purslane, but not the Sidewalk Purslane

Longtime readers will know that I have a longtime obsession with purslane. This ubiquitous weed is both delicious and nutritious, and it thrives in the heat of summer. Purslane is famous for the ability of its tiny seeds to infiltrate the merest cracks, allowing this tough-yet-tender plant to thrive everywhere. In a walkabout in the neighborhood, I found this lovely plant growing out of a tiny gap between a sidewalk paver and a mailbox:

It's a nice specimen, with big, succulent leaves, but it's location suggests exposure to car exhaust and dog pee. I was almost tempted to pick it just to transplant it to seed another area, but the plant is so ubiquitous that it doesn't need to be propagated. Most people want to get rid of the stuff. July is a big purslane month for me, the plant thrives in the sun and weathers dry conditions well. I prefer to eat it uncooked, in order to preserve its juicy crunch (cooked, it gets mucilagenous, like okra), so it's a perfect summer green.

Title somewhat inspired by the bridge of this gloriously demented number.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

A Shanda fur die Goya

It's a brand I've been aware of since I was a kid, a local company which ran some commercials with a distinctive, catchy slogan:

Furthermore, it's a brand I patronized... a family company run by Spanish emigrants to Puerto Rico which puts out a wide variety of comestibles de todo el mundo latino. It's also a brand I won't be buying anytime soon, after the CEO of this privately-held family company showed his ass by kissing Trump's ass:

It's one thing to support a political party or candidate, but this servility to an incompetent boob who has shown contempt and actual malevolence towards your primary customer base is beyond the pale. Goya Foods, as I noted before, has, for decades, been the leading producer of pan-latin products which have been staples in the kitchens of the Latin-Caribbean, Mexican/Central American, and South American diaspora. It was also the introduction to an array of latin cuisines for the entire spectrum of non-latin populations here in the 'States. You can get a sense of the feeling of betrayal in this thread of responses to a tweet by AOC, who to many Americans is the face of young, up-and-coming Americans of latin descent:

My favorite thing about the thread is the interplay between Filipino respondents and Latin-Caribbean respondents concerning adobo, which means two very different things, both rooted in a history of Spanish colonization. I imagine there will be a fun, productive culinary exchange in this era of home cooking and gastronomic experimentation.

As for myself, a perusal of my shelves reveals several bags of dried beans bought during those bad early days of the pandemic when the supermarket shelves were being stripped bare. I also have a jar of chimichurri, which is easily made from scratch, and a chunk of piloncillo bought on sale to add an 'exotic' touch to the big jug of cold-brewed coffee I've been keeping in the fridge. I personally prefer La Morena brand chipotles, but the local store was sold out, so I have a can of Goya chipotles in the fridge at work. Personally, I think that one should make one's own sofrito/sofritto/mirepoix/trinity rather than using a commercial variety, but I'm un vero contadino at heart. Having worked in the South Bronx for fifteen years with many Puerto Rican and Dominican persons, I learned how to cook dishes such as pernil and arroz con gandules, which were accompaniments to all celebrations. I like malta as a chaser to whisky when it's not a big drinking occasion that calls for beer chasers, but I think I'll switch to Malta India, even if it's harder to find.

As I've indicated, I have Goya products in my home and in my workplace, and I have been a customer for decades, but, from a moral perspective, I can't support a company with a Trump-sycophant at the helm. I have had too many immigrant friends tell me that they were genuinely afraid of the current maladministration's policies, I've had conversations with friends in which we discussed the all-too-real possibility of having to hide friends in attics or spare rooms. I'm sure these immigrant friends of mine have bought Goya products, the brand is so ubiquitous in the Northeast that some supermarket aisles list 'Goya' on their directories. There are other brands of Latin American products out there, and numerous threads about making Latin-Caribbean staples from scratch. If you had asked me about Goya a week ago, I would have told you that, not only was I a customer, I actually looked up their stock symbol (they are privately held) back in March because I thought it would be a good purchase in these days of pantry staples with long shelf lives. Not now, though, not this white boy...

On a related note, I bet the chief marketing executive for Vitarroz has had an erection lasting for more than four hours.

Post title, in a most New York fashion, taken from a Yiddish aphorism, because a post incorporating only three languages just wasn't sufficient.

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Mom's Birthday 2020

Today is my mother's birthday. Mom, to put it succinctly, is a legend. She grew up in the Bronx, born right before the outbreak of WW2. She grew up frugally, in an age of wartime austerity, and quickly learned that the most valuable possession one could earn was an education. She was a stickler for academic pursuits, but in other matters she wasn't an authoritarian... for instance, she wasn't a believer in curfews, averring that a kid who'd get into trouble at midnight would get into trouble at eight o'clock. Besides, she knew all of our friends, often playing host to them, so she had a trust for us youths. It's tough to maintain good grades, her number one priority, when one is conducting a crime spree.

Oddly enough, she had a reputation as a hardass disciplinarian, but most of that reputation was due to the fact that she had high standards, and she modeled them. For us, there was a high degree of buy-in. so there was no need for punishment of any kind. There has never been hypocrisy in Mom, and she inculcated in us her values, not only stated by lived. We knew what was expected of us, and we held up our end of the bargain.

Growing up in the Bronx, Mom was exposed to a diverse population, and prejudice was abhorrent to her. Her loathing of bigotry was put to the test while my father was stationed in Fort Gordon, Georgia, in the late 60s, and they invited an African-American officer in my father's unit to Thanksgiving dinner. A Mississippi born man, he was shy about attending a social event in a White household, but Mom and Dad insisted that he came, even berating a White Southerner who told them, "we don't do that sort of thing down here", telling him that he would have to be the one who left. Mom never lost that commitment to hospitality to all persons of goodwill, years later this was made apparent in public at my brother Vincenzo's West Point graduation, when a Nigerian classmate, who was a regular visitor to our house, ran up to Mom, picked her up, and shouted, "Mama, I've done it!" Over the years, over a thousand young men and women called her Mama. The door was always open to all comers... even if nobody was home, a lot of them knew which rock the spare key was hidden under. There were days when we would return home from work, and there would already be a crowd.

I will forever be grateful to Mom for her love, support, and values. While we weren't exactly rolling in cash, there were always plenty of books in the house and there was money for extracurricular activities. My friend two-meter Peter used to joke about the high-octane college stickers on the somewhat beat-up station wagon being a perfect distillation of my family. Yeah, Mom was all about the intangibles: values, knowledge, community. She still is, and so are my siblings and, I hope, myself. For this, I will be eternally grateful.

Friday, July 10, 2020

A Hail and Farewell

Today was the last day on the job, after eleven years, of my dear friend and co-worker T. She has always been more like a cousin than a co-worker... When we first me, I took one look at her, with her brassy rock-and-roll attitude, and thought "we two are going to get along just fine." I have lost count of the number of events we've worked together, some a bit stressful, most an absolute joy. She's been a fine mentor to the young folks who make up about twenty-five percent of our seasonal staff (the other seventy-five percent being retirees), again more like an aunt or older cousin than a manager. She has always worn her heart on her sleeve, and her generosity is second-to-none.

She was also the kind of person who one could, after a few beers, confide in, even if it did earn you a smack:

"You know who I think is really attractive?"
"Oh, no, do I want to hear this?"
"[NICKNAME REDACTED]? She has really big dreams!"
"Yeah, that's one of the first things I noticed."

The bruise graced my upper arm for a week...

Our birthdays are only a few days apart, so it was our tradition to celebrate with a couple of other friends who are also June babies. This year, of course, we put this plan on hold. Hopefully, we can get a bunch of people together for a farewell party. She actually runs a weekly D&D session for a bunch of our young co-workers (yeah, she's the cool nerdy rock aunt, which is not a contradiction in terms these days), so putting out a Zoom memo shouldn't be difficult. The site where she principally worked will probably be open for outdoor activities by the end of the month, so maybe a picnic is the way to go.

I think it was burnout that got to her... inconclusive Zoom meetings in a time of uncertainty, a feeling of not being appreciated (I suspect that upper management wanted an NPR girl rather than an SOU girl), a general feeling of rudderlessness in this awful year. There's also her desire for wanting more freedom to write, to pursue other creative endeavors. I'm going to miss having her around on the job, she's one of those people who can make even a hectic day fun, but she's not really going anywhere, unless it's a side trip to Rivendell. Siri, play "The Greatest Adventure." And, no Siri, I'm not crying.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Back from Furlough

About a week after her tenth anniversary party via teleconferencing, my co-worker Ginger has returned to the job. Chin scritches ensued:

It's hard to adequately convey how happy I am to have the dear, precious kitty back on site.

If there's one small wrinkle, the sort of thing which would cause a divalicious cat to emit a low-but-sustained growl, it's the realization that a bunch of interlopers have moved in and are trying to usurp her position as the boss of the site.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Dim Costcosa

During this Plague Year, I've been obsessed with Robert Chambers' story-cycle The King in Yellow, referencing it in a couple of posts. In this week's Lovecraft reading by Ruthanna Emrys and Anne M. Pillsworth at Tor Books website, they cover a riff on 'The King in Yellow' by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. The very idea of a madness-inducing play (or opera or film) resonates in this age of social media induced meme-poisoning (amplified by reactionary talking heads who have turned public health into a culture war) injecting not-just-misinformation but malinformation into the public discourse, which leads to madness, despair, disease, and death.

The mad, maskless minions of the King in Orange are out there, terrorizing the good people of, well not Carcosa, but Costcosa:

We know, asshole, you wear no mask...

Customer, we only ask
That you wear a snug face mask.
Is that such an awful task?
In Costcosa.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Addio, Ennio

In yet another terrible development in a terrible year, Ennio Morricone has died at the age of ninety-one. Morricone was, simply put, one of the great composers of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Longtime readers will know that I have long been a fan of Signor Morricone. Morricone had a knack for surprising even longtime listeners... I went on a deep dive last year tracking down the origins of his Fistful of Dollars overture in an arrangement of Woodie Guthrie's Pastures of Plenty. Morricone was a genius at conveying mood, and his body of work, as argued in this Vulture piece, really formed a musical genre of its own, typified by pretty melodies punctuated with weird whistles and warbles, and discordant guitar riffs or percussive slaps. With this preamble out of the way, there's no better way to commemorate il maestro than to feature a bunch of my favorite compositions by him.

I figure I'll start with the holy trilogy of Sergio Leone films, the 'Dollars' movies which formed most Americans' introductions to his work. The overture to A Fistful of Dollars has its roots in an arrangement of Pastures of Plenty mutated into something unrecognizable but for the rhythm guitar that forms the bedrock of this otherworldly composition:

While I adore the overture for For a Few Dollars More, I figured that I'd highlight the pretty-yet-creepy Musical Pocket Watch motif that runs throughout the movie, the devastating import of which is revealed at the film's finale:

Then there's the celebrated overture to The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, this orchestral rendition captures the beauty of the piece while stripping it of the original's weirdness:

With the 'trilogy' out of the way, another of my favorites pieces by Morricone is Da Uomo a Uomo from Death Rides a Horse. I love the way the tension builds as the song goes on, that driving rhythm, punctuated by shrill flute trills, the sense of impending menace as the chorus sings, "He'll be coming around the mountain" to "test his gun". Goosebumps!

For a taste of Morricone in a more whimsical mode, I can think of no better track than Farewell to Cheyenne from Once Upon a Time in the West:

Besides scoring Westerns, Morricone scored several giallo films, with the theme to Dario Argento's The Bird with Crystal Plumage being another of his pretty-creepy masterpieces:

In the 1980s, Morricone scored longtime collaborator Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time in America, this more 'mature' work having a noticeable lack of bells, whistles, and staccato percussion effects:

I could go on, but that would cut into my listening time. I think I will finish off with one of Ennio Morricone's most hauntingly beautiful compositions, The Ecstasy of Gold from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Could there be a better musical sendoff for the man?

Addio, Ennio, grazie per tutta la musica.

Monday, July 6, 2020

It's Life, Jim, But Not As We Know It

I only have a few minutes before joining with some old friends for a night of teleconferencing and a virtual board game, so this is just a quick post... This evening, Firefox' home page dished up an article which I might not necessarily agree with, but which is an interesting intellectual exercise: Do we share the planet with currently recognizable life forms? Such lifeforms, with a different biochemistry, alien to us, and therefore undetectable using current investigative techniques, would form a sort of 'shadow biosphere'. The concept, which I don't necessarily buy, reminds me of dark matter, for which there is evidence, but little interaction (besides gravitational forces).

Me being a smartass, I was reminded of this oldie:

It's a thought-provoking read, even if I don't necessarily buy it- an interesting intellectual exercise... and, hey, further inquiries could open up biological vistas previously unsuspected. I shall be pondering it even as I engage in contention with my old chums.

Sunday, July 5, 2020

And You Think Your Dog Has It Rough

My principal workplace is pretty marshy, a small tributary of the mighty Hudson flows through it, and expands into a pond. There is a low-lying reedy area where the tributary meets the great river. Yeah, it's pretty much a marsh.

My main reason for this preamble is to establish that we have frogs and bugs in profusion. Early July is the mating season for the bullfrogs and fireflies onsite, so observable mating rituals are a feature of every night. The Fourth, with its loud pyrotechnic display, must play hob for these poor critters. Some poor bullfrog is crooning his heart out, hoping to attract a sexy lady frog, and the booms of the fireworks drown out his love song. Some poor firefly is blinking his ass off while the potential love of his life flies off toward a distant starburst.

The Fourth of July is one big zoological cock-block!

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Pondering a Genuine Revolution

As is tradition, NPR broadcast a reading of the Declaration of Independence yesterday. As an aside, a NPR Twitter thread of the text of the Declaration created a right-wing tantrum a couple of years ago. The bulk of the text of the Declaration is a list of grievances against the Crown of the United Kingdom. One Twitter wag compared the Founding Fathers to a bunch of 'Karens'.

The lofty language in the Declaration rings hollow when one considers that the author, and majority of signatories, of the Declaration were slaveowners:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Offer not valid if you're not a White guy... Frederick Douglass was keenly away of this hypocrisy.

With the preponderance of continual Black Lives Matter protests occurring across the nation, I have been thinking about what the American Revolution actually meant, and came to the conclusion that it wasn't a true revolution, and that the country which resulted from the success of the revolt merely continued a colonial regime under 'new management'. In vast swathes of the country, the social order was akin to feudalism, albeit lacking the complex web of obligations that the feudal system embodied. For many residents of the United States, the American system of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was actually a 'step backwards' from the typical society of the Middle Ages.

Seeing the protests, which are countrywide, and enduring, I am envisioning a genuine Revolution, one which will result in the adoption of the lofty ideals of the American Experiment for ALL residents of These United States. What are the protests besides a list of grievances such as those enumerated in the Declaration of Independence? What is the suppression of Black votes but an example of Taxation Without Representation?

The Declaration of Independence was written at the onset of the Revolutionary War, and was followed by a period of violence, privation, and uncertainty. I don't believe that the current situation is as frought as those uncertain years, but things could get uglier. Hopefully, the decent people of the country will assert themselves in November, revolt against the White Supremacist Oligarchy, and put into place a government which applies the premises of the Founders, such brilliant but such flawed men, universally. It's time to shed our centuries of post-colonial malaise and unite to form a mature society, that More Perfect Union enshrined in the United States Constitution.

Friday, July 3, 2020

The Female of the Species is More Chunky than the Male

A couple of nights ago, I was working in a building without glass panes in its doors, and I left the main door ajar so I could keep one eye on things outside. This was a bit of a mistake, as several insects, attracted by the light, decided to enter the building to flit about. Among the flitters was a clumsy flier, a beetle as long as my pinky finger. This sucker would actually clatter as it hit an occasional wall. I got a decent picture of it when it finally landed:

As far as finger-length, reddish brown beetles in New York State go, there are two candidates, and I was immediately able to rule out one of them. The remaining bigass beetle local to the area is the Broad-Necked Root Borer (Prionus laticollis). The female Broad-Necked Root Borers are too chunky to fly, being about twice as massive as the males. Also, the lack of the prominent yellow ovipositor is a dead giveaway that this clunky flier was a boy.

I ended up turning off the lights in the building when I went on my tour of the facilities, which led to my insect companions, both competent fliers and this guy, to leave for the brighter environs of the streetlights, about one hundred meters away.

Post title inspired by this gloriously demented pop ditty.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Horror of Horrors

To my dismay, when I arrived at work tonight, I discovered that our internet service is not available. I suspect that we had a brief power outage which knocked our server offline. Tomorrow morning, I will have to text my boss to let him know that our email and scheduling programs are inaccessible. Luckily, our self-reporting payroll submission took place last week.

I will try to set up some posts at home tomorrow, in case the IT guys can’t get the server online tomorrow. They will probably text instructions to our work cell phone to walk us through the process of resetting everything. If we don’t have Internet, it’s no big deal, I need to calculate my taxes for last year, which should kill a few hours that I’d usually spend snarking online.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

It's Astounding, Time Is Fleeting

2020 has been a bizarre year, to be sure. One of the standard jokes early in the year was that April had about seven-hundred days. That was back in the shutdown stage, when every day blended together into an amorphous timeblob. Supermarket shelves were pretty bare, so even eating involved throwing a bunch of stuff in a Dutch oven and keeping a perpetual stew going on the stove. I was lucky, in that my work schedule was never disrupted, though the seasonal influx of coworkers. contractors, and visitors never materialized. Even now, I'm pretty much in 'Winter Mode' on the job, stuck without having to perform the weekly ritual of opening the place up for the day and greeting the incoming 'day people'.

June, on the other hand, was pretty much 'blink and you'll miss it'. The individual days aren't that different, but favorite restaurants are now open for takeout and, if possible, open air dining. I've been able to get together with friends that I hadn't seen in person since March (though we've been good about using platforms such as Zoom and Discord to chat, and even get a weekly board game going). The routine of work has been leavened by the influx of new faces, and the mere fact that the daylight hours are longer, affording more of an opportunity to see the critters that have adjusted to the new 'less-human' normal. I'm still in denial about it being July already.

Post title taken from this classic number and its associated dance.