Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Crimes Against Demeter

Amidst the horrors of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with the wholesale slaughter of civilians and the use of sexual violence against women and children as a weapon of war, it seems like a small thing, but it's the sort of small thing which will have global repercussions... I mean, the destruction of Ukraine's agricultural capacity.

Ukraine is traditionally known as the Breadbasket of Europe, and is the third largest exporter of grain in the world.  It is also a major producer of sunflower oil and potatoes.  Countries in the Middle East and Africa are particularly vulnerable to food insecurity due to the war's prevention of agricultural activity in Ukraine.  Invading a major food producer and exporter on the cusp of planting season is a particularly horrifying act of aggression.

Via Tengrain, we have a tale of a more subtle horror, the destruction of Ukraine's National Gene Bank of Plants.  This facility, in Karkhiv, preserved over one-hundred and sixty thousand varieties of seeds, some of them valuable hybrids, others not extant anywhere else in Europe.  The maintenance of genetic diversity among crops is crucial in this age of monocultures, emergent pathogens, and climate change.  A lack of diversity among our crops leaves us vulnerable to blights which can wipe out genetically narrow populations.  Maintaining diversity also allows agronomists to determine whether certain plant varieties, perhaps regional heirloom landraces, are better suited to changing climatic conditions.  The loss of 160,000 varieties of plants, while not as gut-wrenching as the murder of one civilian, is the sort of slow-creeping horror which becomes apparent on deeper contemplation.

To compound matters, as Tengrain noted, warming in the Arctic doesn't bode well for the Svalbard Global Seed Vault either.

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Formula for Disaster

One of the latest right-wing smear campaigns has involved blaming the Biden administration for a shortage of baby formula, with the main narrative partaking of the very same 'Great Replacement' bullsjit which inspired the Buffalo massacre- namely, accusations that the Biden administration is stockpiling  baby formula for undocumented immigrants while native-born white babies starve.

The reality is that GOP policies, such as deregulation and toleration of monopolies, are to blame for this problem, which has been exacerbated by Trump's MAGA-branded protectionism.  The main reason why baby formula is is short supply is because an Abbott Nutrition owned formula production facility in Sturgis, MI was shut down due to contamination by Cronobacter sakazakii and Salmonella NEWPORT bacteria.  The contamination resulted in one probable death and necessitated a recall.  The GOP is the party which views regulation as 'burdensome', and, in true Libertarian fashion, Abbott execs spent money which could have been used to modernize, or at least sanitize the Sturgis facility on stock buybacks.

Another major factor in the baby formula shortage is that 90% of the baby formula in the US is produced by four corporations.  This situation is exacerbated by Trump's vaunted North American trade agreement being disadvantageous to Canadian formula producers.

Once again, we see Republicans blaming Joe Biden for the deleterious effects of Republican governance, which is always a formula for disaster.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Sure Sign of a Sick Society

American society is sick to its core.  Because I was either busy or fatigued last weekend, I didn't cover the racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.  The shooter, who should have been flagged to remove his guns, was motivated by the White Genocide or Great Replacement conspiracy theory, which posits that there is a Jewish plot to use immigration from the Global South to marginalize white people in order to create an easily controlled 'mongrel' population.  It's a toxic blend of white supremacy and incel rage that has led to mass shootings throughout the past decade.  Recently, it's been promoted by Tucker Carlson of Fox.  The ten victims of the massacre were decent family people, many of them senior citizens.

As heartbreaking as the news of the Buffalo massacre is, the real horror dawns when you learn that it wasn't the only racially motivated mass shooting in the US that day... three Korean women were murdered at a hair salon in Dallas.  One knows that one is living in a sick society when there are so many mass shootings that they crowd each other out of the headlines.

I spent most of today sleeping, I must confess.  Sure, I worked three days worth of hours in two days, with three hours spent coaching, but I think that a desire not to even leave the house was as much of a motivator as fatigue.

Sunday, May 15, 2022

Exotic Breakfast

It's been a long month of bad news and a long weekend of activity, both work related and volunteer gig related.  Frankly, I feel beat... I figure I'd put up a fun post about music, I think we can all engage in a brief bit of escapism.

In the wee hours of the morning, stalwart DJ Big Al of Fairleigh Dickinson University's radio station, played the song Breakfast at Denny's by Providence, Rhode Island neo-lounge band Combustible Edison.  You may recall that neo-lounge, sometimes called Space Age Bachelor Pad music, was briefly in vogue back in the 1990s.  It's a trippy number:

While the song certainly could be interpreted as a song about breakfast at one of the restaurants run by the diner-style chain Denny's, I immediately suspected that something else was going on...  This song certainly seems like a tribute to Martin Denny, a lounge musician who incorporated latinesque and asiatique sounds into his compositions to form a subgenre of lounge music dubbed 'exotica'.  A prime example of Denny's work is the title track from his album Quiet Village:

My primary interest in Denny's oeuvre is the fact that his brand of exoticization of the Mysterious East inspired Japanese popular music giant Haruomi Hosono to form a band as a joke, poking fun at Western stereotypes of Eastern culture.  It didn't hurt that he formed this band, Yellow Magic Orchestra, with fellow geniuses Yukihiro Takahashi and Ryuichi Sakamoto, so this joke of a band was hugely influential on succeeding generations of electronic musicians.  Fittingly, YMO's first single was a cover version of Martin Denny's Firecracker:

It's funny how the mind works, sending me on a musical odyssey, beginning with a jokey 1990s tribute to a 1950s purveyor of 'exotic' music and ending with a jokey 1970s tribute-cum-parody of that very same music.  Along the way, I listened to a good bit of Denny's body of work, itself inspired by the post-WW2 fascination of all things Pacific, and now I want a breakfast at Denny's, complete with some tiki-bar cocktails.  Looks like I might have to whip up some orgeat syrup.

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Flying Solo

My cultural reference for a hectic day is the long penultimate scene of Martin Scorcese's Goodfellas, in which a coked-up Henry Hill is running multiple errands while freaking out about a helicopter which he is convinced is tracking him.  It's a darkly humorous film sequence with a bit of that trademark Scorcese cultural, by which I mean culinary, flair that I love.

My day wasn't quite so hectic, but the only stimulants running through my system are a couple of cups of coffee.  I started the day working the graveyard shift. then returned home to take a one-hour nap.  Then I was off to my volunteer coaching gig, where I was the only judo coach present.  I ran four classes of children from ages five to fourteen, going over proper movement and unbalancing techniques, then throwing them using the major hip throw, O Goshi, which is particularly suited to gi-less fighting.  Throwing the students, so they can learn proper falling, is an important teaching technique.  As a treat, I let the kids throw me using O Soto Gari, the first throw we teach them.  I sent a couple of sensei-to-sensei photo messages to our head coach so he could see what he was missing.  Then I had the kids practice uchikomi, those form practices so crucial to the sport.  In the youngest students' class, I was able to enlist the services of my self-appointed nemesis, a young girl who wants nothing more every Saturday morning than to fight me- she's a very enthusiastic student who knows what she's doing, and I basically gave her a brevet rank to assistant coach.  She's a serious girl who wants to use her stuff, so she was more than happy to help rally the other kids to the uchikomi practice so she would have an opportunity to kick my butt... which she did.  I also received invaluable help from the teenage counselors who escort the kids from activity to activity- in one case, one of our students who has earned his orange belt led an incoming class in the ritual bowing in that starts a workout while I led the preceding class in bowing out.  If you are going to fly solo, you need support staff to help you navigate.

After coaching, I was able to go home for two hours of sleep before having to go to work,  

I'm also flying solo at work- the one remaining coworker in my department (while my coworker Jim is on medical leave) is attending his daughter's college graduation/  I had to go to one site at 4PM to help lock up at the end of the day, then hightailed it to another site to help the manager lock up after 5PM.  I'll be working until midnight.  I'm going to be dragging my tailfeathers, but a college graduation doesn't occur every weekend.  I can deal with flying solo all the doo-dah day under these circumstances.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Muskus Interruptus

The main business story today concerns Elon Musk's decision to put his pending Twitter purchase on hold.  He's claiming that he's doing so until he can be assured that fewer than 5% of Twitter users are bots, but I suspect that he was only trolling, and never really wanted to buy the social media company.  Here's a pundit opining that he's also trying to weasel out of the one billion dollar penalty he faces for backing out of the deal.

Musk has long shown that he has the emotional maturity of an eight-year old, and not a particularly well-adjusted one.  He received publicity for his announcement, and he believes he 'triggered' a lot of people.  He's not a genius by any stretch of the imagination, just a weird edgelord kid that never grew up.

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Woke Culture is Emasculating Dinosaurs!!!

Looks like the woke crowd is at it again, this time ruining dinosaurs!  In the American edition of British tabloid The Sun, some schmuck was complaining about an upcoming BBC program depicting a softer T. rex... WARNING: LINK GOES TO SUN.  Sure, predatory animals don't spend all of their time killing and eating other animals, but the libs are forcing images of dinosaurs engaging in family life to ruin men.

The conspiracy runs deep, and at least one 4Chan neonazi has detected a Jewish plot in the pushing of LGBT rex:

Ah, yes, the Rootless Cosmopolitans are at it again!

Here's another Brain Genius, commenting on a Vintage Dinosaur Art Facebook page, complaining about how the libs have ruined dinosaurs by discovering fossil evidence which forced a reassessment of what these animals looked like:

This is just a selection of a longer screed which is a farrago of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia, and a stubborn refusal to read the most recent research on dinosaurs.  The entire manifesto can be heard, read by the hosts of the Minion Death Cult podcast:


That's right, zaftig chicks are ruining dinosaurs, and they're in it with the queers! Being a filthy lib, I've been down with the feathered dinosaur conspiracy for well over a decade.

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Pretty Is the Head Which Wears the Crown

I am fortunate in working at sites which encompass a lot of green space, representing a variety of environments.  In particular, we are blessed with a wonderful variety of birds.  For the past two years, we have had some of my personal favorites in residence, such as this gorgeous creature:


The picture is not great, it's difficult to take a mid-distance photograph against the reflective surface of the water, but the subject is amazing.  That is a black-crowned night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), easily identifiable by virtue of its black crown, which trails two long white tassels.  These birds tend to be less shy than other wading birds.  Years ago, my favorite bird ever was a black-crowned night heron which would take up a position near a waterfall in the Bronx River, about a meter from the well-traveled biking/jogging/walking trail.  The prospects of a good meal outweigh all of the weird bipedal mammals in the vicinity.

This bird has found a spot in the local brook in which there's an inflow from the pond on our premises.  It's a good spot to hunt for critters washed downstream, so I am looking forward to seeing this bird in the coming months.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Secret Science Club Post-Lecture Recap: Secret Science Horde Descends on Brooklyn

Last night, I headed down to the beautiful Bell House, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, for this month's Secret Science Club lecture.  This month's lecture featured my great and good friend Dr Simon Garnier, who heads up the New Jersey Institute of Technology Swarm Lab.  Dr Garnier is a Renaissance man, he's a biologist whose study of ants and their behavior has led him to being a robotics expert.  I arrived early to the beautiful Bell House and had an opportunity to catch up with him- he regaled me of tales of transporting his cat to Europe while on sabbatical, and other humorous slices of life from a tragic period of time.  Needless to say, it was time well-spent catching up, especially since we were joined by a couple of other SSC regulars in a long-overdue reunion.

Dr Garnier's lecture topic was The Self-Assembling Horde: Building Functional Structures on the Move.  Dr Garnier began his talk with a self-deprecating joke about his accent, assuring us that he was talking about the ant, an insect, rather than the aunt, that weird lady at Christmas asking you why you don't have kids.

Dr Garnier then posed the question: What is life?  He noted that, as a biologist, everything he does depends on this definition.  He used Emerson as an example of a poet's definition of life: The creation of a thousand forests is in one acorn.  Biochemist Albert Szent-Györgyi's definition was: Life is an electron looking for a place to rest.  Astrobiologist Michael Russell stated: The purpose of life is to hydrogenate carbon dioxide.  Life creates entropy, resulting in more chaos.

Dr Garnier then gave us his somewhat jocular definition of life: Life is a complex, autonomous, multi-level game of Lego.  He then gave us an overview of the various levels of organization: atom, molecule, macromolecule, organelle, cell, tissue, organ, organ system, organism.  The self-organization of individuals through interaction results in disordered elements forming a global order.  He illustrated this with an adorable video:

Things that aren't very smart bump into each other and eventually organize.  

Dr Garnier concluded: self-organization plus natural selection equals life.  He added that he would add another layer to the atom-to-organism self-organism, the superstructures formed by some organisms, such as social insects.  He displayed several examples of such superstructures as fire ant rafts:

And clusters formed by honeybees to ward off the attacks of wasps and hornets:

Dr Garnier then narrowed his focus to army ants of the genus Eciton.  Army ants are not defined taxonomically, but by behavior- they are nomadic, form new colonies by fission, they have strict reproductive cycles, and they are very carnivorous, being top predators equivalent to lions ecologically.  Dr Garnier noted that they are very strange ants.  The genus Eciton is completely blind.  Eciton forms colonies of up to a million individuals- Dr Garnier compared the movement of a large colony to the inhabitants of Philadelphia packing up and moving thirty kilometers every day.  When the ants stop moving, they form living bivouacs in which they shelter the queen and her brood.

Being nomadic, army ants cannot engineer the environment like ants that build nests.  Ants such as leafcutter ants build elaborate nests, and use the leaves they harvest to grow gardens of the fungus that they feed on.  Colonies of up to twenty-five million ants form highways along which they transport leaves:

Army ants such as Eciton, being constantly on the move, do not build infrastructure- they inhabit a chaotic environment which cannot be engineered due to time constraints.  The ants have evolved behavioral and anatomical adaptions to attach to each other to build structures on the fly.  These structures are self-repairing.  

The NJIT Swarm Lab has studied the ants, which do not thrive in laboratory settings, in the field for over ten years.  Dr Garnier broke down the study of on-the-fly construction of superstructures as a function of achieving three objectives: overcoming constraints on movement, maintaining traffic along a pheromone trail, and traversing dynamic/unstable substrates.

Why do ants build where they build?  They build where it is difficult to move.  In a recent experiment, a board was placed as an obstacle interfering with an army ant column- the angle of the board to the ground was changed in order to make scaling it more difficult.  The difficulty was measured by the number of ants which fell off the board.  As the angle of the board got steeper, and more ants fell off, the ants would attach to each other to form scaffolding.  Dr Garnier made the analogy of human rock climbers using each others' bodies instead of pitons to climb a cliff face.  As scaling the board became more difficult, more ants would join the scaffold.  

The decision whether to move or to join the structure depends on the constraint on movement- more difficulty in movement means that more ants join the structure.  Dr Garnier likened the decision making process of an ant to that of a thermostat.  Ants build until a structure gains maximum efficiency.  Simple behaviors suffice to build complex structures- in the case of constraints on movement, if it is difficult to walk, the ant stops and helps others to overcome the constraint.

Traffic occurs along trails. In a 2012 experiment, natural bridges formed by ants were destroyed using tweezers, and the ants repaired these bridges within thirty seconds.  If traffic is disrupted, it is restored using packing functions- ants crowd in to complete structures.  As structures near completion, fewer ants crowd in.  How long does an ant stay in a structure?  This is a function of traffic, as long as traffic is high, and and would stay indefinitely, but as traffic lessens, an ant will move itself.  Dr Garnier proposed and analogous situation in which human commuters assembled the George Washington Bridge every morning at 7AM, then dissolved it at 9AM, then reassembled it at 4PM and kept it up until 7PM.  He joked that this is the way it should be: "We don't want you in Jersey."  He followed this up by noting the time the governor did exactly that.  Dr Garnier proposed an army ant lesson: YOUR WORK IS NOT DONE UNTIL EVERYONE HAS GONE.

Dr Garnier noted that, besides the reproductive queen and male drones, there are four Eciton castes:tiny non-reproductive females whose role is largely unknown, typical food-gathering workers, long-legged workers which transport food, and long-mandibled soldiers which defend the food source by biting.  Army ant colonies are parasitized by various birds which steal food from the ants, a case in which the parasites are larger than their hosts.

He then described the way in which ants build bridges to form shortcuts, displaying a video of the process:

Note that the bridge 'moves' to improve the shortcut, and the bridge is longer than an ant's body size.  There is a cost/benefit analysis at work- the cost of building the bridge should not exceed the cost of moving the unspanned distance.  Dr Garnier noted that there are mathematical models about this tradeoff which can predict where a bridge will be built.  He gave us another army ant lesson: SOME CORNERS, IT SEEMS, ARE WORTH CUTTING.  Up to twenty percent of the colony can be used to build bridges.

Ants move along a dynamic substrate... the surfaces on which ants move can be unstable, the weight of the ants atop it can move it.  How do these blind ants build on changing substrates?  In one experiment, the gap which had to be bridged was increased:

Army ants use hysteresis to stabilize control of constructions.  Hysteresis is a delay between cause and effect upon change in the direction of a cause.  As a bridge nears a stable state, the probability of ants leaving or staying is about equal.  After a stable state is achieved, the probability of ants leaving becomes lower than the probability of ants joining.  This asymmetry creates hysteresis.

Hysteresis stabilizes complex structures.  Traffic varies a lot, but hysteresis prevents overreaction to variations in traffic, and creates bridges which do not collapse and are not overlarge.

It's here where I note that, appropriately for a Swarm Lab, a gaggle of Dr Garnier's grad students were in attendance at the lecture.  From time-to-time, Dr Garnier would call out to one of his colleagues for a clarification of a mathematical model, or a clarification on a project to vacuum up an entire bivouac.  In our conversation prior to the lecture, he noted that he did not like remote teaching or lecturing, and it was mostly due to the lack of feedback from both audience and colleagues.

Dr Garnier then mentioned the lack of funding for the sciences, and noted that one way he was able to get a National Science Foundation grant was to partner with Northwestern University's engineering department to create robots which can assemble themselves into structures by melting and melding together in any configuration.  Dr Garnier quipped: "Your money at work!"

No additional parts are needed.  Ant models can be used as models for building auto self-assembling robots.

Dr Garnier ended his lecture by urging us to support science education, noting that we are living in a time in which book burnings are occurring and women's bodily autonomy is being attacked.  He noted that we may not be the resistance yet, but we very well might be.

The lecture was followed by a Q&A session.  Before the first question, Dr Garnier jokingly warned the audience that living in Jersey had destroyed his French but had not improved his English, so they might have to ask for clarification.  The first question involved the last ant forming a bridge- Dr Garnier joked that she was able to safely cross an obstacle: "Don't worry about her."  Regarding colony sizes, they range from about ten thousand (recently 'fissioned off colonies') to about a million- smaller colonies use shorter trails with fewer bridges?  Which caste is the most important in bridge construction?  It's unknown at this time.  Soldier ants, about 2% of a colony, are not involved- they only bite, and cannot even feed themselves due to the size of their mandibles.  Do other ants form bridges?  Weaver ants in Australia form bridges, but these are a function of other ants walking over them- in contrast to Eciton army ants, weaver ants have excellent vision and stop at gaps.  Weaver ants can see if an impasse is unbridgeable.  Blind army ants just find another route if a gap proves insurmountable.

Why did ants evolve social behavior?  The prevailing theory is because the workers are the offspring of diploid queens and haploid males who develop from unfertilized ova, therefore each of these ants shares 75% of its genome with its sisters, while it would share 50% of its genome with any offspring.  It's an indirect passing of genes, inclusive 'fitness'.  In other organisms, social behavior may result from more 'selfish' behaviors- a fish in a school might hide behind other individuals, or otherwise avoid predators.

Why are army ants nomadic?  Army ants are weird ants.  They have a strange reproductive cycle in which many larvae are produced at once, which necessitates the consumption of a lot of protein.  The ants need to move so they don't exhaust the resources in a constrained area- its a case of move or starve.  Are army ants cannibalistic?  This hasn't been observed, but some ants lay eggs as a food resource.  Why are they blind?  They re-emerged after living underground.  

Are their atypical ants?  Outliers?  One study of ant foraging behavior noted that ants wander around in search of food sources, the trails are more varied in environments with patchy resources, and are less varied when adequate food sources are found.

How about castes?  Eciton has four observed non-reproductive castes, but some leafcutter ants have 13 castes, the smallest of which can perch on the heads of the largest.  The smallest leafcutter ants tend the fungus gardens that the ants subsist on.  Regarding intelligence, a typical ant has about 12,000 neurons, they don't know much.

Regarding field work, the main difficulties are finding the ants and making them walk your setup.  As far as the energy it takes to make bridges, the exoskeletons of the ants can lock into position, so it requires little energy to sustain weight.

Asked about a particularly weird study, Dr Garnier noted that he was approached by a law enforcement agency about a crime prediction project- looking at data, can criminals be likened to an army ant swarm dependent on environmental factors?  Can a model be formed of crime (e.g. drug dealing) as a collective market-based activity and used to predict where a criminal 'swarm; will hit next?

What is the purpose of bivouacs?  To protect the queen and her brood.  Bivouacs even provide temperature regulation, with ants shifting position in order to maintain optimal conditions for larvae.  Among nest building ants, the brood is moved throughout the colony to maintain optimal temperatures.

Some Bastard in the audience asked Dr Garnier if the Swarm Lab has sent any researchers to study distantly related Old World ants which behave similarly to New World army ants.  Alas, the NJIT Swarm Lab has not sent any grad students to Cameroon to study driver ants.

Once again, the Secret Science Club has served up an excellent lecture.  I often talk about the 'Secret Science Sweet Spot', and Dr Garnier always hits it- he serves up interdisciplinary material, illustrated by memorable video footage, he finds ways to involve his graduate students in the lectures, and he leavens his material with humor.  Suffice it to say, he consistently knocks it out of the park.  Kudos to the good doctor, to Margaret and Dorian, and to the staff of the beautiful Bell House.

Now, for a taste of that Secret Science Club magic, here is Dr Garnier lecturing on the self-assembling horde:

Pour yourself a nice beverage and soak in that SCIENCE!!!

Monday, May 9, 2022

Brooklyn Bound to See an Old Friend

Tonight, I am headed to the beautiful Bell House, in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, for this month's Secret Science Club lecture.  This lecture marks the return of Friend of the Bastard Dr Simon Garnier of the New Jersey Institute of Technology Swarm Lab,  Longtime readers will know that Dr Garnier has delivered multiple SSC lectures, and is a regular attendee of the lectures, many of which have been by his colleagues.

For those who aren't familiar with the Good Doctor, he is an entomologist and robotics expert, who has parleyed his observations of insect swarms into the programming of autonomous robots which can act in swarms to achieve needed goals- for instance, searching unstable buildings for individuals in need of rescue.  He also models traffic patterns, and is a very entertaining, informative lecturer:


He's also a friend, the perfect sort of fellow to have a beer with, and a mentor to his graduate students and post-doc fellows.  

Tonight, I'm expecting Dr Jen to meet me at the Bell House after she finishes with work-related consultations.  It'll be a 'meet the family' moment, because the Bell House staff, the audience regulars, and the SSC mavens, including the lecturer this month, are such old, good friends.  The important thing here, though, is that I'm winning another covert over to the Secret Science Club.

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Happy Mothers' Day, Be Careful!

Here's wishing all of the mothers in my readership a happy Mothers' Day.  I'm grateful to my mom for the values she instilled in me and my siblings, and the stellar example of proper conduct she modeled for us.

I'd be lying if I didn't say that this Mothers' Day is fraught, in light of the leak about the SCotUS' plan to overturn Roe vs Wade.  The United States has an appallingly high maternal mortality rate, more than double that of most wealthy countries, with non-Hispanic African-American women having a horrific mortality rate of 55.3 deaths per 100,000 live births.  Predictably, the maternal mortality rate tends to be higher in red states (with New Jersey being an odd outlier), precisely those states which are poised to ban abortion if Roe vs Wade indeed gets overturned.  It's here where I note that maps of all sorts of bad outcomes in the US invariably correspond to maps of the Confederacy.

The Republican foes of abortion rights are so demented, Republicans in several states even stated that they would ban abortions in the case of ectopic pregnancies, basically forcing women to die, killed by non-viable embryos.  The outcry caused Missouri Republicans to back down from this particular horror.  For the record, a few years ago, Ohio Republicans pushed legislation to 'transplant' ectopic embryos into the uterus.  This isn't about saving babies, it's about controlling women, even to the point of killing them.

So, have as happy a Mothers' Day as you can under the circumstances... the fight will continue, so maybe a little break, perhaps a champagne brunch with the kids, is in order.  Be careful, though, moms, because the second half of this year is shaping up to be pretty damn bad.

Saturday, May 7, 2022

Faithful Servant, Treacherous Snitch

Like most middle-class people in developed countries, I find my smartphone an invaluable tool.  It's basically an electronic Swiss army knife- phone, camera, computer, calculator, compass, atlas rolled up in one compact package.  It's also a snitch, providing data to observers such as search histories and locations... data which could be weaponized against women seeking abortions.  Conservatives in the US have already indicated that they do not believe in one's right to privacy, why would they respect one's right to have one's data private?

During 2020's Black Lives Matter protests, it was no secret that police were surveilling protestors' phones. The ability of the police to demand one to unlock one's phone, even forcing one to use one's fingerprint to unlock it, has been litigated in the courts, and there seems to be differing policies in various states.

My advice to anyone seeking an abortion, or even protesting for women's reproductive freedom, is to get a burner phone, that staple of crime dramas and spy thrillers.  A cheap pre-paid flip phone can be purchased at a big box store for about twenty bucks, and prepaid cards with a set number of minutes and/or text messages, can be used to replenish it.  I'm not a big fan of big box stores, but the faceless anonymity of the megacorporation is actually a plus when one wishes to protect oneself from reactionary forces while living in an actual crime drama/spy thriller.  It's going to be a long, hot summer, leave your faithful servant at home so it can't snitch on you.

Friday, May 6, 2022

Open for Business

Today was the first day in over two years that my workplace has been open for business on a regular basis.  We had some form of our fall fundraising events for the past two years, on a truncated basis, but our regular day-to-day visitation was on hiatus.

It was a soft opening today, the weather being unseasonably cool and rainy was enough to dissuade walk-in visitors from coming, and there weren't too many pre-ticketed visitors.  It's not necessarily a bad thing- the site that I am currently working has no functional plumbing, due to a water main break. There are a couple of porta-potties set up in the parking lot, and two cases of bottled water in the breakroom fridge, but no running water just isn't pleasant.  I joked with the manager on duty that she should contact the staff of the nearby pizzeria to arrange bathroom privileges.  

Meanwhile, the site looks gorgeous, with the lilac bushes and apple and dogwood trees in bloom.  I would have taken pictures, but for the rain.  It's a nice place to be, even when you have to use a porta-pottie.

As far as my job goes, it's going to be wacky because of our staffing issues.  I close up here and have to go to another site for a midnight-to-seven graveyard shift.  My boss told me that they have a bunch of applications for positions in my department, but no hires yet... I made sure to tell him that he needs to ask candidates if they are afraid of the dark.  I often describe my job as a 'Scooby Doo' episode every night, and individuals who get freaked out by weird noises and hard-to-decipher chiaroscuro conditions don't do well with us.  Weekends will be pretty bad, with me cramming three days' worth of work into two days, but I can't say I'm not happy with going to a four-day week.

Tomorrow is also supposed to be foul, weather-wise, but being a Saturday, we will probably be busier than we were today.  I sure hope so, the sites need to be appreciated by the general public, not just lucky employees like myself.  It's been two years of loneliness, these places need love.

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Expanding the Team

Tonight is bar trivia night, an opportunity to unplug from the news, which is terrible, get together with friends, and engage in friendly competition with other locals.  Last week, a young lady informed us that she and her friend would be joining our team, effective tonight.

Who were we to say no?  This woman is a force to be reckoned with- she's a motormouth (not in a pejorative sense), with a continual line of snappy patter.  She didn't just kiss the Blarney Stone, she slipped her tongue so far down its throat, she gave it a tonsilectomy.  She had us rolling with her anecdotes, perfectly delivered.

In particular, she told a story of her early days as an immigrant from Ireland's County Kerry.  She had been visiting Manhattan, and took the Metro North train back to Yonkers.  When she hopped in a taxi, the cab driver asked her about her accent, and she told him that she was from Ireland.  As luck would have it, he had just seen the film adaptation of Angela's Ashes, so he knew things.  He replied, "You're lucky to have gotten out alive!!!"

Given this cue to riff on, she spun a yarn about growing up in a shack with a leaky roof, raised by a consumptive mother along with nineteen siblings.  With her particular knack for banter, she kept regaling this credulous man with a tale of privation and misery.  Good thing she got out alive, indeed!

How could we say no to such a character when she informed us that she was henceforth on our team?

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

New York Welcomes Healthcare Refugees

Being a New Yorker, I am proud to say that we stand by our stated values.  I'm particularly pleased that some of our politicians have made public statements that women seeking abortions are welcome to travel to this state, where abortion services are protected by law.  Manhattan borough president Mark Levine made this policy explicit:

Mr Levine also provided information regarding payment assistance and travel assistance for patients traveling to New York for abortion services. He also reiterated that fact that abortion will remain legal in New York even if Roe vs Wade is overturned.

We tend to live by our values here in New York, and to have no tolerance for bullshit.  We know that the current situation in much of the US is untenable, and will provide a safe harbor for any refugees fleeing right-wing tyranny.  Is it any wonder that I have tremendous pride for my motherland?

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

There Is But One News Item Now

The news pretty much blindsided me, because I spent much of last night gaming with old friends, avoiding news and commentary for a few hours of friendly competition and the jocularity which accompanies it.  When I finally became aware that an anonymous leaker had revealed Sam Alito (not going to call him a 'justice') had drafted an opinion calling the overturning of Roe vs Wade, I had a brief flashback to Spring 2020, when there was but one news item... the probable termination of legal abortion in much of the United States drives all other stories out of the headlines.

Already, 23 states have put into place legislation to outlaw abortion as soon as Roe is overturned.  Three years ago, I had a conversation with a friend regarding the people we'd have to hide if anti-immigrant policies got worse... today, I had a conversation with her about the people we'd have to help travel to get healthcare.  She made me swear I'd provide the bail money for her because she's going to fight this thing as hard as she can.  

Already, the abortion rights rallies are taking place, but I think that a general strike by all pro-choice women will be needed.  If women are relegated to second-class status by a Supreme Court dominated by justices nominated by popular vote losers, they should withdraw their contributions to society to force change.  Sure, voting in November is critical, but the same Supreme Court which is moving to strip women of their right to necessary reproductive care is also moving to strip them of their right to vote.

This court won't stop with Roe, if successful, they will move to overturn Obergefell and Lawrence vs Texas.  These people will never stop their culture war until they are stopped, and they need to be defeated now.

Monday, May 2, 2022

Snarky Biden Is Best Biden

I've commented on how I admire compassionate Joe Biden, the man who (despite a reputation for gaffes) never falters when called upon to act as consoler-in-chief.  I've also written about how I was pleasantly surprised by Biden-as-boss, the hirer-in-chief who has made historical appointments to important positions in the government.  I have to admit, though, that my favorite Biden is snarky Biden, the Biden who, while leaving a press gaggle, responds to a BBC reporter, "I'm Irish."  That's the best Biden, the one whose wit undercuts right-wing accusations of senility.

Snarky Biden was on hand at this week's White House Correspondents' Dinner, when the man showcased his ability to cut a mofo to pieces with a smile: 


The best thing about it is that he didn't even mention The Former Guy by name, so any criticism of his joke is also an accusation of TFG.  Once again, it's clear that one has to be on the alert in order to get one over on Sleepy Joe.

Sunday, May 1, 2022

Recap of a Busy, but Good, Day

Today, I'm beat... it's the sort of day when one hesitates between reaching for the aspirin bottle or the Tullamore Dew bottle.  I can't complain, yesterday was a really good day.  I worked the graveyard shift, then returned home, where I was able to nap for an hour before heading to my volunteer coaching gig.

It was nice to see my friends and colleagues, most of whom I've known for many years. The highlight of the morning was seeing that one of my favorite kids in the program had been promoted to counselor, a member of the team that actually runs the program, herding the students from class to class, making sure we coaches adhere to class times, and occasional escort a kid or a group of kids to the bathrooms.  This young lady disappeared from the program for a couple of years while she fought cancer, and beat it soundly.  Her younger sister is one of our best students, and when she arrived, their parents told us about big sis being in the hospital...  I have nothing but admiration for this brave young lady, who battled a scourge that no child should have to face.  Words being inadequate tools on some occasions, I greeted her with, "Welcome to Team Grownups!"

My great and good friend Frenchy, who took my profile picture in the dojo, was with me, and with the vaccines and boosters, we were able to dispense with the social distancing policies which made grappling impossible for the last two years.  I had brought a portable crash pad with me, so I spent part of each class throwing our students with the major hip throw O Goshi, which is the friendliest throw for gi-free fighting.  It's important for them to feel how a throw works, and how to land properly.  As I was throwing them, the mantra of bad parents came unbidden to my mind: "This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you."  Yeah, those kids fell once, except for the adventurous ones who insisted I throw them a second time... they bounced back up and, yes, some of them requested a second trip through the air.  Me?  I threw sixty kids over the course of three hours... I'll be feeling it all the doo-dah day.

I managed to pick up a self-appointed Nemesis as well, a girl who appears to be seven.  She told us that she takes judo classes elsewhere on Mondays, following up with an ominous "I want to fight you."  I told her that we had to get through basic instruction for less advanced students, but she was insistent: "I want to fight you."  I told her that she should save that attitude for the 2036 Summer Games, and I was only half-joking. Needless to say, I was an instant fan.

After the athletic program, I headed over to my friend Kid's house for a cookout, a celebration after his sons's first Little League baseball game.  My friend J-Co came down from Boston to join in the festivities, as did Poor Scott, who Kid and J-Co worked with as teenagers.  For the record, I went to high school with these guys, and consider them family.  To add to the family atmosphere, Kid's parents joined us, ensuring that we ate well by bringing some gorgeous peppers and zucchini to throw on the grill.  Kid's mom also took on the project of oven-roasting a couple of trays of chickpeas, spiced with salt, cumin, and paprika... ceci nuts, in the vernacular of my grandfather's people.

In the course of our banter, Kid mentioned that he had an old dryer in the basement which, someday, had to be removed.  I announced, "I've had enough beer to feel valiant, but not enough to be impaired.  LET'S GET THIS DONE!"  No injuries were sustained in the successful moving of this dryer, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't feeling the aftermath of this exertion, as well as the exertion from beating up five dozen kids.  I'm happy to say that I felt good enough yesterday afternoon to move the darn thing in the first place.

We hung out for about seven hours, joking around while enjoying a multi-course though casual feast, and basking in the conviviality of an extended family.  I had to call it an evening then so I could go home and sleep for several hours before going back to work another midnight shift.  Three hours was sufficient, though I put an extra spoonful of coffee in the French press.

J-Co's plan is to depart for Boston after 8AM, so we made plans to meet for breakfast after I finish my shift at 7AM.  There are leftovers which would be great in a frittata or omelet, and some house-made chorizo from a Mexican-American market not to far from my place.  It's not very often that we can all get together, so putting off sleep for an additional hour is a small price to pay... and pay that price I shall, say I as I eye that aspirin bottle.

Saturday, April 30, 2022

Saturdays Are Busy Again

Today is going to be a busy day.  I'm at the tail end of the graveyard shift, but will be going to the first Saturday morning of this semester of my volunteer gig.  We are still in COVID mode, so we'll be outside again, but I will be bringing a portable crash pad so the kids can practice ukemi.  We might not be playing actual full-contact judo, but we will be able to practice the basics so our classes don't fall too far behind.

After classes end around noon, I will be going to my friend Kid's house to celebrate his sons' opening Little League baseball game.  As an added bonus, our great and good friend J-Co will be coming down from Boston for the festivities.  

It's going to be a good day, albeit a busy one, a day spent with old friends and young friends- guys I went to high school with, men and women I've coach with for many years, and young student athletes.  I'm going to be one tired guy at the end of the festivities, but that's the price one pays for being involved with people.

Friday, April 29, 2022

Breathtaking Bronx

In yesterday's post, I promised that I would provide photographs of my visit to the orchid show at the New York Botanical Garden with the lovely and brilliant Dr Jen as soon as I could connect my phone to my laptop.  I'm glad I got the logistics of the trip covered yesterday, so I can concentrate on the breathtaking beauty of the flowers on display.

We'll begin with the venue of the flower show, the 1902-vintage Enid Haupt Conservatory.  As we wended our way along the winding paths of the Botanical Garden, we suddenly saw a flash of sunlight on glass, signaling the location of this massive greenhouse.  Dr Jen made a quip about how, when she was studying pathfinding in the US Army, she learned how important it is to look up to get one's bearings.  The centerpiece of the conservatory is the glass dome, which is impressive when viewed from inside or out:

The conservatory was a perfect sanctuary on an uncharacteristically chilly (40F 4.44C) late April morning, though the warmth and humidity necessitated the removal of outerwear and hats.  The environment was perfect for a profusion of orchids, though:


The orchids weren't the only stars.  Climbing up a metal stairway to the canopy of the conservatory revealed some spectacular plants- I was particularly taken with this epiphytic cycad, Zama pseudoparasitica:

There was also this interesting bloom in the canopy, though I wasn't able to ascertain its identity... I love the color of this thing:

Many orchids are also epiphytes, such as these orchids being photographed by this fine specimen of Doctoria jenensis, out of her natural environment:

I have to confess that I was extremely lazy about checking out the Latin binomials of these flowers because I doubt they have common names that a layperson would recognize, but there was a riot of wonderful forms and colors.  

This burgundy beauty was particularly striking:

The form of this flower is wonderfully ornate:

If I had to guess, I imagine that this lovely specimen is a lady's slipper orchid, some species of which can be found in these here United States:

The cumulative effect of all these beautiful colors was inspiring, and the fragrance of the flowers was a constant background note:

In such a wonderland (you know, the Bronx), can one fail to be happy?

Look at those two merry adventurers, grinning ear-to-ear in a tropical paradise nestled in the heart of New York City's solitary mainland borough.  My goal was to convince Dr Jen that she should love the Bronx, as I do, and I think I achieved my goal.  I mean, how can one not love such a breathtaking borough?

Thursday, April 28, 2022

We Are Experiencing Technical Difficulties, Please Stand By

Today's blog post was going to be a no-brainer.  This morning, an uncharacteristically chilly morning, I wended my down to the Upper West Side of Manhattan to meet Dr Jen.  My mission?  I was going to convince her that the Bronx is a place that is worthy of love.  My methodology?  To take her to the orchid show at the NY Botanical Garden.

The expedition was characterized by skin-of-the-teeth transfers... I caught the Bx34 bus at 8:06AM and arrived at the Woodlawn terminus with the 4 Train leaving in one minute.  By the time I swiped my Metrocard and hustled up the stairs, I was striding onto the train as the iconic 'Stand Clear of the Closing Doors' message played.  I had a leisurely two minutes to transfer to the 2 Train at the 149 St Grand Concourse station and arrived at our meeting place a minute early.

Jen and I then boarded the 2 Train and took it to 125th St, where a brisk walk took us to the Metro North Railroad station just in time to board the train.  There is a surcharge for buying tickets on the train, but the kindly conductor allowed Jen to download the MTA app so she could purchase tickets without this penalty.  We arrived at the Botanical Gardens station five minutes before the 10AM opening.

Dr Jen had a time constraint, an important call with a client at noon.  We had a whirlwind tour of the orchid show and our skill at making transportation connections ran out- we missed the Metro North train back to Manhattan by two minutes.  There's always a plan B, so we took a walk through the beautiful Bronx along Bedford Park Blvd to my beloved 4 Train.  We bid each other adieu, myself heading back north, and Jen heading downtown, where she would transfer, like I did, at 149th St Grand Concourse, to the 2 Train, which stops a couple of blocks from her domicile.  She made it back in plenty of time for her call.

So, why the technical difficulties when everything worked out to our advantage?  Well, I was going to post pictures of the orchid show, but I left my iPhone to USB cable at work, and the new charger cable for the phone is some proprietary BS which is incompatible with the laptop.  Trust me, I have plenty of gorgeous pictures on my phone.

Those pictures will have to wait for tomorrow's blog post, please stand by.

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Gonna Call This One Early

2022 is not even one-third over, but I am going to make the call for best record release of the year.  Last year, I was taken with a song I declared the weird hit of the summer, Chaise Longue by Isle of Wight songstress/comediennes Wet Leg.  The band has been releasing singles on a regular basis and finally released their debut album, which is all-killer-no-filler.  Each of the tracks sound distinct, but all of them are unmistakably Wet Leg... the band's blend of off-kilt humor, low-key salaciousness, and guitar-shredding musicality are apparent in each release.  Their videos are also of-a-piece, with visual callbacks to prior releases.

I figure I should post videos for their last two releases, so you can compare and contrast them with last year's raucous breakout.  Here's the gorgeous Angelica, with its beautiful, layered vocal harmonies and dream-pop sound punctuated by aggressive guitar bursts:


Here's the droll UR Mom, which calls out PUA/negging BS in hilarious fashion.  It's here where I note that the 'Scotty and the Soft Boys' reference is probably a shoutout to Isle of Wight resident Robyn Hitchcock's first band.  I can imagine Rhian and Hester jamming out with Uncle Robyn, weaving together hilarious, surreal material.  The song is a classic putdown, but the video has a happy, timely ending:

For a good taste of the band's range, musicality, and sheer joie d'vivre, here's a live performance by Wet Leg... BLAST IT!


I know April isn't even over, but I'm calling this one.  There's no way that a better album than Wet Leg by Wet Leg is getting released this year... or perhaps any year.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Why so Tense? He's a Friend!

Yesterday, while on the scout, I noticed that Ginger was wagging her tail, which in 'cat speak' is not a sign of happiness and contentment:

I was wondering what got her dander up, and I noticed an old friend was lounging around the property as if he owned the place:

That handsome fellow is my old chum Deer 58, who is festooned with a radio collar and a couple of earrings.  I still haven't ascertained who's tracking him, or if he's on some sort of stag parole, but I figure he likes it here and plans on staying.  Ginger will just have to get used to him.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Bye Bye Birdie?

The big business news of the day is that Twitter's board accepted a buyout deal from Elon Musk, though the current shareholders could always put the kibosh on the deal.  If the buyout goes through, the app will probably degenerate into a shithole.  For all of his money, Musk is a troll with the mentality of a 12 year old... he's the sort of individual who accused a genuine hero of pedophilia in a fit of pique.

I think that MAGA infiltrator Amanda Moore has the best description of what will be in store if the deal goes through:

Yeah, having the world's biggest troll in charge of a major platform is bound to make it into a, shall we say, unappealing location on the web.


I just recently signed up with the platform, because it stopped being functional for readers who didn't sign up.  I'm not saying that I would automatically leave if it gets more toxic, but it would be funny if a mass exodus of users caused Muskie to lose a shitton of money.  If an exodus does occur, though, I want to remind people that Myspace still exists.

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Tengrain Brings All the Folks to My Yard

In addition to posting the picture of the hilarious beef-free spicy beef sandwich on this blog, I posted it on my Twitter feed, and forwarded it to Tengrain for his running bad signs series.  Tengrain, being a magnanimous sort, and an unfailing supporter of moi,  Tengrain retweeted me and started a campaign to nab me over 100 followers by day's end:

The current count stands at 121.  Thanks, Tengrain!  You've always been the Patron Saint of the Small Bloggers (even us big ones), and you've always shown me nothing but kindness... love ya, man!

A perusal of my followers list will reveal that there are a lot of members of this here bloggerhood, a lot of the Wonkette commentariat, a handful of meatspace friends, and people who have found me via comments on other threads.  My follower growth was organic, incremental, but Tenrain changed all that.  This morning, my count was 84 followers, today's gain was the 'Grain gain.  I promise to use my powers for good, by which I mean snark.

Saturday, April 23, 2022

I Have Questions About Item 13

A couple of days ago, I stopped at a local delicatessen, and I noticed something odd about one of the items on their specialty sandwiches display:

I have questions...  

Here's where I confess that, despite my confusion regarding this sandwich and its anomalous name, that looks like one hell of a sandwich.  Actually, both of the sandwiches on display here look super delicious... I just don't think anyone should order the Spicy Beef Sandwich by name, not if they want that delicious-sounding item number 13.

Friday, April 22, 2022

Ponderous Possum

On April 2, I posted a comical video in which a rather chunky opossum ran right towards me until, within less than a meter, it realized that I was a monstrous bipedal threat.  Going through my photo collection on my phone, I realized that, before I realized that a video would be better I had taken a still photo of the possum squabble that precipitated that encounter.  I noted then that the possum in that video was considerably smaller than its adversary, which is the larger, paler blob in the still photo:

I'm reasonably sure that this diesel Didelphis is a male, because they get considerably larger than female conspecifics, and this is the largest opossum I've ever seen.  As I was leaving work in the morning, I took a brief, non-optimal video of this chunk while juggling a couple of bags.  Check out the massive cranium on this critter:

Needless to say, I am a fan of this absolute unit.  I don't know what the growth rate for Virginia opossums in New York State is, but one thing that bums me out is that these critters rarely live more than two years in the wild (with the exception of populations on predator-free islands), so I'm going to have to enjoy the company of this chonky boy while I can.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Rooting for Injuries in a Battle of Titans

It seems that every time Florida is in the news, it concerns a shitshow... I mean, when's the last positive story you've read out of the Sunshine State?   Well, the current shitshow is a battle between titans, both of which I have no use for... I am not a fan of Disney at all (I find their content to be saccharine, reactionary, and disrespectful of source material which is WAY more interesting, they own way too much of the Media/Entertainment industry, and their efforts to change IP laws oppressive to creators), but I absolutely loathe the Republican Party.  Therefore, I am watching the DeSantis/Disney battle with much glee, and I hope that both parties inflict grievous injury on each other.

The current fracas between Disney and the Florida GOP involves legislation to end a special self-governing deal that Disney was granted in 1967, which basically created a corporate fiefdom in which Disney was free from local regulation and taxation.  For once, I am in favor of a piece of Republican legislation.  That being said, the reason for this change is a Republican campaign against Disney for their tepid pushback against Republican anti-LGBTQ+ legislation.  I firmly believe that Disney should not be exempt from paying taxes, and should have limited scope in setting regulatory agendas, but the Republicans still manage to be the bad guys here.  I'd say I'm rooting for Disney, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to see them brought down a couple of pegs (especially regarding tax abatements).

One thing that I would like to note is that the number of votes DeSantis won by in 2018 is roughly equal to the number of Disney employees in Florida.  I sure hope this knock-down, drag-out fight continues.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Cult of Set Responsible for COVID?

From the annals of fake epidemiology, we have the conspiracy theory that COVID is caused, not by a virus, but by snake venom being used to poison tapwater supplies.  This whackaloonery was spread by right-wing crank Stew Peters in a QAnon-adjacent bit called 'Watch the Water'.  The Vatican is behind a plot to use snake DNA to turn humans into human/snake(devil) hybrids:

Never mind that not all religions consider snakes to be evil, evil overlords know that turning into a snake never helps Making people afraid of turning into snakes does help, though... it helps separate fools from their money:

  Filters?  There goes my plan to market antivenin pumps that you can hook up to your sink!

I'm old enough to remember when the anti-vaxxers were touting viper venom as a COVID cure. It's weird how fickle these fools are. At any rate, I suspect the Cult of Set might be involved... two, three years ago, COVID was just another coronavirux, but now it's everywhere: 


On a serious note... while the grifters are using this malinformation to scam the rubes out of money, it's baffling the lengths to which the rubes will go to avoid the reality of a viral pandemic which can be mitigated with vaccines and mask use.

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Former Saint Now Eligible for Beatification

Today's bummer news is learning that Chris Bailey, the lead singer of seminal Australian punk band The Saints, died at the age of 65 this month.  The Saints formed in Brisbane in 1973 and their 1976 single (I'm) Stranded was the first punk single by a non-American band.  With its distorted guitar onslaught and raw vocal, it still sounds dynamic and timeless:

(I'm) Stranded was chosen for the title of the band's first record.  The band's second single was Erotic Neurotic, and it follows that same model of guitar onslaught backing raw, deadpan vocals:

For their second studio album, Eternally Yours, the band mixed their punk sonic onslaught with R&B style horns.  Know Your Product wass the standout single from the album:

As was No, Your Product:


The third album Prehistoric Sounds presaged the breakup of the original lineup of the band, with Chris Bailey wanting to pursue a more traditional rock-and-roll sound while lead guitarist Ed Kuepper wanted to move in a more avante-garde direction.  Here's the Bailey-penned Take This Heart of Mine:

Mr Bailey kept soldiering on throughout the 1980s, releasing the poignant Ghost Ships in 1984:

In 1986, the Saints released the album All Fools' Day, which hit the Australian charts and was a commercial success in the United States.  The lead single, workingman's anthem Just Like Fire Would, became a bit of a standard, and was even covered by that Springstone fella:

Chris Bailey and the Saints were instrumental in inspiring other Australian musical legends such as Nick Cave.  Mr Bailey's career was stellar, his music ranging from raw DIY punk to R&B to an antipodean take on Americana music.  As always, the best tribute to the man is to blast his music on full volume.

Monday, April 18, 2022

One Long Setup for a Grift

One of the latest viral sensations coming from the right-wing fever swamps is Tucker Carlson's hilariously homoerotic screed about the crisis among men.  The whole thing is cuckoo-for-Cocoa-Puffs, but Media Matters for America analyst Nikki McCann-Ramirez distilled it down to its Chuck Tingle-esque essence:

Besides the homoeroticism of the clip, I am struck by the performative bullshit of it all, particularly the slipshod manner in which these guys are performing their manly feats. The guy who's shooting shirtless will probably get burned by hot, ejected casings, the guy grilling is using flames which are way too high, the wrestler goes for a lackluster 'shoot for the leg' manuever... my favorite is the guy with the axe, who is 'choked up' on the handle too much, and keeps his hands together, which prevents him from building the momentum for proper chopping. These are actors, not men performing tasks in a competent fashion. 

As someone who is 12/10 on the manliness scale, i have to say that this whole farrago of macho posturing was extremely funny. And then there's the real nutty stuff, such as the ball-baking content:

Uh, there's a reason why the testicles are stored in a little bag dangling outside the body, but who am I to tell MAGA males not to nuke their sperm counts? That being said, it's entirely appropriate that the Swanson's TV dinner heir is telling his rubes to stick their family jewels into an Easy-Bake Oven. 

As soon as I saw this trailer, I smelled a grift, and I suspect that Tucker Carlson will launch a line of 'male vitality supplements' like those that Alex Jones has been hawking for years. Carlson has got to know that Jones is in financial trouble, and is probably moving in on this particular scam, though Jones is too stupid to see it:

There's no honor among scam artists.

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Happy Easter 2022

Here's wishing all of my readers a happy Easter.  I'm currently working the graveyard shift, which entails preparing the site for any daytime activities.  This year, that means hiding Easter eggs for the annual egg hunt.  Since most of you aren't local, I can get away with giving you folks a hint...  I've hidden eggs under half the the geese on the property:

Actually, it's early in the season, so the Branta candadensis population onsite is jockeying for prime nesting sites. Doing research on these birds, I learned that they can reach ages in the thirties, even in the wild.  While I can't be sure, not being skilled in telling individuals apart, I think this bold goose might be this guy, who I have a history with.  If so, he's mellowed considerably, and he knows that I won't back down to his bluster, so he gets close and noisy, but avoids any physical conflict these days.

Happy Easter, everybody... it's a good day to make a truce with a goose.