Monday, November 20, 2017

Brooklyn Bound, Repeat Secret Science Club Lecturer

I'm heading down to Brooklyn this evening for tonight's Secret Science Club lecture, featuring the return of Dr Susana Martinez-Conde of SUNY Downstate. Two years ago, Dr Martinez-Conde gave a great lecture about perception which featured a lot of really great optical illusions.

I'm running out the door, so how about a video for my favorite song by Joe Walsh, but not the asshole Joe Walsh:





Lately, it seems like we've all been living a life of illusion. Try as I might to pierce the Veil of Maya, I still see a hairy, anthropomorphic pumpkin in the White House.



Sunday, November 19, 2017

Responding on the Local Level

It's been two months since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and the response by the federal government has been a disaster, a farrago of incompetence and outright kleptocracy. Thousands of marchers hit the streets of Washington D.C. today to call attention to the situation in Puerto Rico, and the poor response to it.

The real response to the ongoing crisis is coming from local municipalities- shortly after the hurricane, the Fire Department of New York rallied to collect material and funds for the relief efforts. Last week, I made a donation to the police department of the Town of Greenburgh, north of my beloved Yonkers, to help send a team of first responders to the island. The New York Metropolitan Area is home to a large Puerto Rican community, the members of which form a large portion of our civil servants, our first responders, the people who keep things running. New York, along with Florida (also home to a large Puerto Rican community), is stepping up to get the power running on the island after the corrupt cronies were sent packing.

I believe in competent governance, the pooling of talent and funds to ensure that the roads are maintained, the garbage collected, and, yes, disasters are responded to with alacrity, compassion, and know-how. The worst bill of goods ever sold to the population of the U.S. was Reagan's assertion that government is the problem. If you are a member of a political party that runs on this premise, you have no business being in government, because you will seek to prove it. The GOP has devolved since Reagan, to the extent that we have a bunch of kleptocrats, and kakocrats, running the country. Thankfully, there are still localities which function, and can act to prop up places, like Puerto Rico, that have been the victims of this dysfunctional government. I'm thankful I live in one of these localities.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Senseis Nerding Out

This morning, as is usual for me this time of year, I went down to Manhattan for my volunteer gig, teaching children's judo classes. The latest addition to our roster of senseis is a women's national champion judoka who is all of twenty-two years old. Like most judoka I have met, she is tough as nails but nice as can be- there is something magical about the sport, it involves combat with compassion. When an athlete throws an opponent, there is an emphasis on proper form so the thrown individual's safety is fostered. A few years back, when asked what he thought of MMA, one of my senseis thought for a minute, then answered, "It lacks warmth."

After we taught four kids' classes, we were hanging around the dojo and I started talking with our young champion about her field of study in college, and she mentioned that she studied ecology, with an emphasis on botanical systems. The conversation soon turned to the topic of slime molds, and she started rhapsodizing about these amazing, protean eukaryotes. She recounted how she convinced a professor, a fungi specialist, to order a slime mold for her. I had to ask, "Oooh, was it from Carolina Biological Supply?" Needless to say, we went down the nerdery rabbit hole, and the two of us were regaling Sensei Big Al about the wonders of slime molds, and our new sensei showed us gorgeous pictures of the slime mold colony that she had fostered, and we discussed the 'brainless intelligence' of these organisms. This sort of 'intelligence' in food location can mimic the highways of a country:





I'm pretty sure one of those slime trails is Route Nationale 7. When Sensei Frenchie's wife came to the dojo after our classes, we subjected her to this onslaught of nerding out. Slime molds just aren't popular enough, and we were in evangelical mode.

Me being me, I mentioned the Secret Science Club and suggested that I introduce sensei to mon bon ami Simon Garnier of the NJIT Swarm Lab- he's totally down with slime mold fandom. I envision a trail of New York nerdery to rival a slime mold's peregrinations across a culture medium.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Decrying the Over-Commercialization of the War on Christmas

There was a time when the War on Christmas didn't start until after Thanksgiving, and the War on Christmas decorations didn't go up until December. That's all changed now, via Tengrain, the good folks at Right Wing Watch have reported repulsive grifter Jim Bakker's early start on the War on Christmas:





Jim is complaining that he can't buy Jesus-themed merchandise at Walmart, but he's hawking the stuff himself... this is like Pepsico complaining that the Coca-Cola Company of America doesn't sell their products at Taco Bell. I think the War on Christmas has become over-commercialized, but the entire evangelical movement is one huge commercial enterprise.

POSTSCRIPT: I have become addicted to Vic Berger's videos... he's the Werner Herzog of satire, making hilarious-yet-terrifying edits of right-wing wackos and fundamentalist con artists. His use of music, sound effects, and tempo manipulation is brilliant, each video is a surreal mélange of horror and comedy. His YouTube channel is a time-sink, you've been warned!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Et Tu, Al?

This one genuinely hurts... in the general torrent of sexual harassment accusations and revelations, Al Franken has been accused of non-consensual kissing and groping. I have long admired Franken for his outspoken support of liberal values and causes, and his progressive political career. To hear that he has been a creeper and an abuser is disheartening. I thought he was better than that. Looking at the photo of him creeping on Leeann Tweeden is infuriating... even if he wasn't actually touching her, this sort of smirking attempt at 'humor' makes light of sexual aggression.

I'm not the only one who's pissed off... Of course, the regressive Right will try to draw false equivalences between Franken and serial-pedophile Roy Moore. I also have a feeling that Bill O'Reilly, who has long hated Franken, will try to use this scandal to leverage a return to the airwaves.

Al fucked up, bigly, and this is a fuckup which will reverberate throughout the public discourse.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

This Is the Best News You're getting All Week

It's been a busy day, so I am going to post a video for my current earworm, a viciously funny number from Brooklyn's electronic superstars LCD Soundsystem. I was first drawn to the single 'Tonite' by its retro-electronica sound, but damn, the lyrics are topical and trenchant:





This was the verse that hit me when I first heard the song:


And you're too sharp to be used
Or you're too shocked from being used
By these bullying children of the fabulous
Raffling off limited edition shoes



Sound familiar to you?

Monday, November 13, 2017

The Hero America Deserves

From America's Heartland, a folk hero arises... in a downmarket echo of Rand Paul's bizarre, violent altercation with a neighbor, an Oklahoma man decided to challenge a former neighbor to a knife fight. Already, we are in Borgesian territory, El Mediooeste rather than El Sur. As if that weren't fantastic enough, our protagonist fashioned a makeshift haramaki out of pornographic magazines. There's a sort of old-fashioned quainterie about the whole affair, and a hearkening back to the ancient Far East. As far as I am concerned, Donald Gene Gaither is the hero that America now deserves, the one Donald who best represents our nation.