Tuesday, February 21, 2017

My Profile Picture Doesn't Look Bad Enough

The profile picture I've been using since this blog's inception was snapped by my friend Frenchie (who is, of course, Italian), a man I have known for almost twenty years. Ever since I've known him, he has taken headshots of his friends, and my photo was an impromptu one taken in the dojo on a Saturday morning between classes. This past Saturday, he took another round of headshots, which he then 'doctored' using an app on his phone. I initially protested that I hadn't shaved for a couple of days, to which he replied, "That's good, it makes you look tougher." In order to make us look even 'tougher', he played with the contrast, darkened the image, and applied a red filter so we all looked like we'd be fighting (which we had been). I now present the publicity still for Frank Miller's 'Bastard City', a Quentin Tarantino Production:

Funny, I could swear that I had blue eyes...

After he took this picture, he took one of our mutual friend and colleague, Kickass Sue. Sue has a baby face, with a snub nose and wide eyes... while she is extremely tough, she is incapable of looking 'mean'. After Frenchie took her picture and played with the images, he showed it to her and her verdict was, "I don't look tough, I look drunk!"

I look drunk too, drunk on baaaaadness.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Avec Ma Mère

At the end of last year, I moved from one apartment to another, my landlord having sold the three-family house in which I rented an apartment... I moved all of six blocks. During the same timeframe, my mom sold her house in Northern Virginia. My sister, her husband and their sons relocated to the D.C. area earlier in the year when my brother-in-law retired after a career in the Air Force (my sister and her husband are both rocket scientists, literally). Mom moved in with them while she searched for a nice, low-maintenance townhouse in the general area, and she finally closed on a place a week and a half ago. Her furniture and other belongings were delivered on the 15th.

I drove down to her new place today in order to help her unpack and move stuff- I told her that I'd rather not move the fragile stuff, but the heavy stuff wouldn't be a problem. I talk a good game about being a 'bull in a china shop', but I'm really not that clumsy, I just would rather tote boxes of books than to gingerly place the good stemware in a cabinet.

Of course, we didn't accomplish a thing this evening, after I got the grand tour of the new place, mom and I just shot the breeze for hours over a leisurely dinner and a couple of belts of homemade limoncello that would make a passable rocket fuel... gotta talk to my sister and my brother-in-law about that.

Tomorrow, the work begins, the unpacking, the stowing away, the gathering of the moving boxes. My hope is that all of the grunt work gets done so mom can just rearrange the small, but not necessarily minor, stuff at her own pace. Wednesday, I'll move all of the boxes into the garage before driving directly to work in NY's suburbs, so mom doesn't have to lug the recycling that far when it's cardboard collection day.

The important thing is that mom doesn't have to couch surf anymore, she gets along well with all of us kids, but I'm sure she's happy to have her own place. Mom is tough as nails, and very independent, so this autonomy means a lot to her.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The 'Rosetta Stone' for Decoding Much of the Current Culture

At Roy's place, commenter M.Krebs linked to a blog post about the role that the 4chan message board played in the ascent of Donald Trump. This post is required reading for anyone trying to make sense of the political career of a boorish, idiotic authoritarian.

4chan is the wellspring of much of internet culture, having originated such ubiquitous internet memes as LOLcats, Rickrolling... indeed the typical 'internet meme' with the black-bordered white lettering. The 'no rule' random board /b/, whose users styled themselves as /b/tards, was the place where the channers tried to one-up each other with disturbing images, extreme porn, scatalogical content, Nazi allusions. I've never been a 4chan denizen, being too old and too averse to bad grammar and spelling, but I internet-know a decent fellow who was a 4channer, and he characterized the trolling culture there as 'pissing in an ocean of piss'.

My gut feeling is that much of the anger that led to Gamergate, the 'alt-right', and the Trump election stems from the 4chan 'internet nerd' crowd's anger at having their culture 'co-opted' by normies. When Katy Perry referenced 'their' cartoon frog in a tweet, it caused a lot of outrage among the alt-cognitive. The spite that led to the Trump election is similar- the wholesale rejection of societal norms as a backlash to the 'liberal elite', or 'politically correct' culture. The 'chan' base, the 'anime Nazis', backed Trump because they saw the election of this 'pussy grabber in chief' as a rebuke to the Anita Sarkeesians of the world.

The tragedy of this particular political backlash is that it is rooted in an ephemeral internet culture, but its dire effects will be long-term. The standing of the United States is in jeopardy, as are the civil rights of its residents. Most alarmingly, the planet's ecology is reaching a tipping point while the administration is doubling down on denial. By the time the 'chan klan' grows up and realizes that their actions have real consequences, it will probably be too damn late, but hey, at least they showed those uppity bitches and meme-stealing normies an thing or two.

Friday, February 17, 2017

As Tengrain Would Put It, a Palate Cleanser

After a week of really bad news, I figured I needed to post what Tengrain would call a palate cleanser. I listen to a lot of college and public radio, and even the local commercial station I listen to has a nice 'indie' vibe. One band that's been getting quite a bit of buzz is Sydney's Middle Kids. These... uh... kids from the drouthy Antipodes are really amazing- their rhythm section is muscular and frontwoman Hannah Joy deploys jangly guitar and gorgeous, rich vocals in a killer combination. I am totally enamored of the band's second single, Your Love:

I've been a big fan of Australia's independent musical scene since my days of listening to Midnight Oil, the Hoodoo Gurus, and the Celibate Rifles. That being said, the Middle Kids are keeping up a grand tradition, and I look forward to hearing much, much more from them in the future.

When things are terrible, we need good art more than ever.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

He's Hurting My Brain

I have to confess that, in certain matters, I am a snob. I've never been the sort to scorn 'the help', and I have no contempt for people who work up an honest sweat. That being said, I admire a well-crafted turn of phrase, and I cringe when I hear a native speaker who butchers the English language. Listening to Donald Trump's press conference today pretty much hurt my brain. Besides the mendacity and belligerence, the damn thing was redundant, redundant, redundant. Cazzo di merda, just look at this:

The press has become so dishonest that if we don't talk about it, we are doing a tremendous disservice to the American people. Tremendous disservice. We have to talk about it. We have to find out what's going on because the press, honestly, is out of control. The level of dishonesty is out of control. I ran for president to represent the citizens of our country. I am here to change the broken system so it serves their families and their communities well. I am talking, and really talking, on this very entrenched power structure and what we're doing is we're talking about the power structure. We're talking about its entrenchment. As a result, the media's going through what they have to go through to oftentimes distort — not all the time — and some of the media's fantastic, I have to say, honest and fantastic — but much of it is not. The distortion, and we'll talk about it, you'll be able to ask me questions about it. We're not going to let it happen because I'm here, again, to take my message straight to the people.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Republican speech without a measure of blame for the Kenyan Usurper:

As you know, our administration inherited many problems across government and across the economy. To be honest, I inherited a mess. A mess. At home, and abroad. A mess. Jobs are pouring out of the country. You see what's going on with all of the companies leaving our country, going to Mexico and other places. Low pay, low wages.

Mass instability overseas, no matter where you look. The Middle East, a disaster. North Korea, we'll take care of it, folks. We're going to take care of it all. I just want to let you know. I inherited a mess. Beginning on day one, our administration went to work to tackle these challenges. On foreign affairs, we've begun enormously productive talks with foreign leaders, much of which you've covered, to move forward to security, stability and peace in the most troubled regions of the world, which there are many.

This repetition seems to suggest a paucity of vocabulary, or a bad commercial for a shitty product:

They don't have the right equipment, and their equipment is old. I used it. I talked about it. At every stop. Depleted. It's depleted. It won't be depleted for long. One of the reasons I'm standing here instead of other people is, frankly, I talked about we have to have a strong military. We have to have strong law enforcement also.

Once again, the man cannot let go of the fact that he lost the popular vote by almost three million ballots:

I'm here following through on what I pledged to do. That's all I'm doing. I put it out before the American people, got 306 electoral college votes. I wasn't supposed to get 222. They said there's no way to get 222. 230 is impossible. 270, which you need — that was laughable. We got 306. Because people came out and voted like they have never seen before. So that's how it goes. I guess it was the biggest electoral college win since Ronald Reagan. In other words, the media is trying to attack our administration because they know we are following through on pledges that we made, and they are not happy about it for whatever reason.

Let it go, Vulgarmort... seriously, you won the rigged Electoral College vote in a low-turnout election with three alternative candidates, you just aren't that popular.

This particular quote had me laughing: This administration is running like a fine-tuned machine. I bet this machine was well-oiled:

The whole thing veered off into even weirder territory during the Q&A, during which certain responses were simply bizarre:

Well, the leaks are real. You're the one that wrote about them and reported them. I mean the leaks are real. You know what they said. You saw it and the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake because so much of the news is fake.

His obsession with ratings is unhealthy:

I just see many, many untruthful things. And I'll tell you what else I see. Tone. I see tone. You know the word tone. The tone is such hatred. I'm really not a bad person, by the way. No, but You know, but the tone is such — I do the get good ratings, you have to admit that. But the tone is such hatred.

The guy can't even refrain from undermining his talking points in the space of a single answer:

Russia is a ruse. Yeah, I know you have to get up and ask a question, so important. Russia is a ruse. I have nothing to do with Russia. Haven't made a phone call to Russia in years, don't speak to people in Russia, not that I wouldn't, but I just have nobody to speak to.

I Spoke to Putin twice, called me on the election. I told you this. He called me on the inauguration a few days ago. We had a very good talk. Especially the second one, lasted for a pretty long period of time. I'm sure you probably get it because it was classified, so I'm sure everybody in this room perhaps has it, but we had a very, very good talk. I have nothing to do with Russia. To the best of my knowledge, no person that I deal with, does.

The whole press conference was a disaster, and listening to snippets of it throughout the day was conducive to indigestion and a suppressed rage. Our last president was one of the most articulate, intelligent individuals to occupy the White House, and now we have this self-pitying, bellicose idjit in residence. I can't even snark about this.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Rand Paul Has Always Been a Partisan Hack

I have long maintained that Rand Paul is a useless sack of crap topped by a bad toupée, a category of individual which seems to be all too prevalent in our government these days. My contempt for Paul has only increased with his weaselly response to the Michael Flynn meltdown. Apparently, the distinct possibility that the White House is compromised by the Russian government is no big deal, because it would reflect poorly on Republicans:

"I just don't think it's useful to be doing investigation after investigation, particularly of your own party. We'll never even get started with doing the things we need to do, like repealing Obamacare, if we're spending our whole time having Republicans investigate Republicans. I think it makes no sense."

Contrast this with the endless series of investigations into the Benghazi consulate attack, the blame for which can be partially laid at the feet of Republicans, who are still reluctant to fund embassy security.

The GOP is now clearly putting party interests over the interests of the nation. In light of the constant litany of incompetence and corruption emanating from the White House these days, this is unforgivable. I sure hope the Democrats remember this sort of bullshit when it comes time to vote on pretty much everything the Republicans propose.

As an added source of annoyance, the drive to repeal Obamacare is something that will benefit none of the voting public, even the stupid teabaggers. I am posting uncharacteristically early today because I just got out of our annual meeting regarding employer-provided health insurance. We get decent coverage, but non-emergency care is limited to a certain geographic range, and we are supposed to consult doctors within the 'preferred provider' system. I know Obamacare was a flawed bill, but goddamn it, a national health plan would make life easier for everyone outside of the insurance industry. To hell with Rand Paul and his whole corrupt cadre of hacks.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Gratitude, with a Side of Confession

I want to take an opportunity to thank Bluegal at Crooks and Liars for listing my Saturday evening post (nyuk nyuk) in the blog roundup. This linkage from a major blog means a lot to me.

Now for confession time... I linked to a lot of other posts in that post, hopefully funneling a whole bunch of traffic to my blahg. All your clicks are belong to moi.

Getting back to "sincere mode", thanks again and, at the risk of sounding smug, I think all of the linked posts are worthwhile reads, solely due to the quality of the lectures. I'm merely a stenographer, and a boozed-up one at that. I try my best to hunt down additional links, but it's the scientists who shine.