Thursday, December 31, 2015

Cool Things No Longer In North Portland: The Janzen Beach Carousel

Six years ago I wrote about a trip to North Portland's mall and the classic carousel therein.

The carousel was an oddity, a remnant of the pre-WW2 era when the island in the Columbia was an old-school amusement park instead of a Seventies style shopping mall;
"The carousel remains, last of the amusement rides, remnant of the old mall, a whirling delight of grandiloquent carved horses and antique showmanship of an earlier time."
Well, not any more.

The last bits of the Seventies mall were demolished a couple of years back. The new owners have converted the site into a 21st Century big-box retail outlet for a couple of the remaining tenants such as Burlington. But the carousel disappeared during the renovation and for a while even the location where the pieces were stored could not be found.

A bit of classic Portland panic ensued until eventually a City councilman got involved and chivvied the hiding place out of the out-of-state owner.

(The little article about this adventure at the Restore Oregon website is kind of adorable, complete with a treasure map to the storage building and Nick "Indiana" Fish in adventurer garb...)

But, as the linked article notes, the carousel is still in pieces and the owners show little or no urgency in building a new home for it. Were my kiddos still carousel fans I would be more harassed about that, but as it is it's simply a rather sad little note, the passing of another piece of rather pleasant Portland history.

The Hooters across the freeway, on the other hand, is still going strong serving up dry oversalted chicken wings and domestic corn beer to gullible rubes overly impressed by tits.
De gustibus, I suppose...

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Princess Unchained

A couple of years back I wrote a post about the character Princess Leia in George Lucas' Star Wars epic. Specifically, the bizarre incongruity of putting the character in a metal bikini for no real reason other to, well, frankly, ogle Carrie Fisher's pretty figure in a skimpy outfit.
In the post I wrote that;
"...Slave Leias are troublesome...because they have the effect of (making the Leia character valued because of) sexual display, and, in turn, devaluing (the female characters) based on a sort of juvenile smuttiness about seeing their bodies."
The whole macguffin of Star Wars, women, their bodies, and how they come together seems to have returned with the new Lucas flick, The Force Awakens with Ms. Fisher, again, in the middle of it.

Fisher isn't happy that she has been slammed by viewers for "not aging well", and is pretty pissed off that - unlike her co-stars Hamil and Ford - her value relative to the new film is often being weighed based on her looks.

(It's worth noting that a hell of a lot of this goes back to the ridiculous but bog-bro-standard of a woman's sexual desuetude increasing with age, a stupid idea I've discussed here before...)

Why bring this up? Because the Boy and I went to see her new film last week.

I could go all Siskel and Ebert on you here, but why? You know what it was; a Star Wars flick. X-wings and blasters, "I have a bad feeling...", droids, alien critters, good Jedi and bad Sith.

Overall we both enjoyed it. It was good popcorn entertainment and a fun diversion, which is all I'd ask from a popcorn film.
The plot rolled along nicely with the minimal required fanservice, the two young leads were well written and well acted, and even though you'd think that after the first TWO times the Empire would have learned about the whole...ah, but I won't spoiler that part in case you want to go see it.

Here's the thing, though. The most challenging and intriguing thing about it - two words I'd never have thought I'd ever say about a Lucas film - was watching Fisher and Harrison Ford, the two of the oldest actors on screen. They've been mailing it in for so long that I'd almost forgotten what made them stars back in the day. But together they provide what modest throw-weight there is to the tale and, as such, do the best work they've done in a long time.

Ford's Han Solo was spot-on; trying to be the same "scoundrel" that makes him feel like he's still got some remnant of his youth and the sort of swagger that captivated the Princess when they met.

But...he's also smart enough to know he's kidding himself. Years and sorrows have slowed him down. He knows that he's slowing down and that the things he's running from are catching up to him. He knows that while he can't stop running that he can't run fast enough to escape his past and his grief, and that's as grievous as what he's fleeing.

All the while Ford doesn't lose the essential core of the guy. It's an older Solo but still Solo. Good work...but Fisher's older Leia was as good or even better.

I've read reviews that called Fisher's performance "perfunctory" or "embarrassed" but I disagree completely; her restrained work is perfect for the part. Leia is scarred as her lover is scarred, but her way of dealing with that is to lock down. She withdraws inside the austere senior officer and faction leader, all too aware of her responsibilities, just as her ex retreats into his feckless bad boy all too heedless of his.

Fisher conveys this by using her older looks and body to great effect. She wears the strained face of someone who lives with the constant fear of agony, a veteran trooper who has taken the big wound. She moves slowly and cautiously as someone who expects at any moment to be spitted on the spear of old pain that she knows from experience will stagger her and drive her to her knees.

She's damaged, just as he's damaged, but her scar tissue is formed in stillness as his is in motion.

As a couple they're terrific.
(Selfishly, I wish that there had been a little more sexual desire, some sexual tension, but expecting adult sexuality from a Star Wars flick is like expecting grand opera from friggin' Care Bears; you know it ain't gonna happen.)
Together their work shows the viewer that all their emotions are still there but that both have wrapped those emotions away in deep storage because they hurt too much to be exposed. They hate the baggage each of them carries while loving the person almost - but not quite completely - buried under the baggage. They're still in love but given their griefs and, more particularly, their disparate reactions to their griefs they can't stand to live with each other.

I was amazed...until I remembered that George Lucas had nothing to do with writing this thing. Anyway, this was perhaps the first time I've ever seen one of these SW flicks where the characters 1) felt like actual people and 2) drove the story along. It felt like an actual movie instead of a toy commercial written by a 12-year old. I think a huge part of that was the age of Ford and Fisher, and the knowledge of the actual pain and suffering that the blasting and slashing were inflicting.

The characters they played in the earlier films were young people having "an adventure" for other young people to enjoy.

In this one they're still "adventuring"...but at the heart of the adventure, like a hidden knife inlayed with old blood, is mortality. Age and pain have taught them that "adventuring" has a deep and sorrowful cost.

The two young actors in the piece are their yesterday and our today, strong and brave and striving for today's bright crown of honor and glory.
The two older actors are tomorrow; the slave standing behind us holding above our heads that crown and whispering into our ears alone the reminder that beyond today is the inescapable nightfall of age and death.
And as important as the quest for, and the brightness of, that light is how we face the darkness.

Losing the Whisky Rebellion

One of the more irritating ammosexual traits is their man-crush on fucking Tenthers and "sovereign citizens" and the other assorted douchenozzles that populate the far-right wing of the anti-government crowd.

The last time we saw this was when welfare rancher Cliven Bundy got all rampant about not paying his fucking debts and a crowd of Second Amendment jihadis showed up at his moochateria to face down the Feds.
The really fucking irking part about that was that it worked. Bundy's young welfare-buck ass stayed out of the sneezer and the Federal claws stayed out of his wallet and the guntards walked away with a swagger and the win.

And now they're at it again, out in the lesser-paved part of my own state.

Largely because, in my biased opinion, the Feds punked out at the Bundy crib. Here's one of the fucking rebels in arms talking about how their jihad would have succeeded had the Feds tried to enforce the law:
"We had counter-sniper positions on their sniper positions. We had at least one guy—sometimes two guys—per BLM agent in there," Payne told a Montana weekly, the Independent. "If they made one wrong move, every single BLM agent in that camp would've died."
Nice. You do that in a black ski mask, Abdul, and Donald Trump is gonna carpet bomb your and your whole family's asses. But do it with a "Don't Tread On Me" flag and you're a GOP Congressman.

What a goddamn mess.

Anyway, the point is that, while irritating, this is nothing new. It's happened before, back in the early days of the Republic. And the then-leader of the Federal government knew precisely how to deal with this sort of fucking idiot:
"Washington organized a militia force of 12,950 men and led them towards Western Pennsylvania, warning locals "not to abet, aid, or comfort the Insurgents aforesaid, as they will answer the contrary at their peril."
Now THAT's the way you deal with fucking Bundys.

That's how the Feds should have dealt with the last one. And how they should deal with these newest Oregon ones, too.

So far no Federal agencies have done anything about the Oregon rebels, and I have no idea whether, or how, they plan to deal with them. But I can at the very least give them one little bit of helpful advice.

The First Rule of Keeping a Republic: Don't Lose the Fucking Whisky Rebellion.

The Second Rule?

If You Want To Be A Good Citizen, Don't Start The Fucking Whisky Rebellion.

Honestly. These fucking people...

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Playing off

Did I mention that my beloved Timbers won the Major League Soccer title this season?

Oh, yeah. Sorry.

So I've walked around just slightly pleased this entire December because of this, and I just realized why because I watched Rog and Davo talking with the lovely and intelligent Rebecca Lowe on Men in Blazers last night.
Turns out that the Lovely Rebecca is a Crystal Palace supporter (see the little stuffed eagle on Davies' shoulder? That's "Kayla", Palace's eagle mascot). She was talking about the distress that Manchester United fans are feeling this season even though the Scum are within the top half of the Premiership table and in a position that fans of other, more mundane, (read: Palace) clubs would normally consider supremely enviable.

But that for ManU fans this is anything but. The Red Devils have been losing and drawing, not scoring, and generally looking moderately crap for much of the 2015 campaign, and this gives the over-accustomed-to-success-ManU-fans huge, huge sadz.
Lovely Rebecca's observation was that this was because these overprivileged mamzers were, in her words, "forced to face Life", that is, Life as the Rest of Us have to live it; full of disappointments, failures, heartbreak, people we love who like us "as friends", movies starring anyone ever appearing on American Idol, nonalcoholic beer.

And that hit be right between the eyes because the story of a Portland Timbers fan has been failure for nearly 40 years.

The original Timbers came oh-so-close, going to the old NASL "Soccer Bowl" championship match in 1975 but losing to Tampa Bay.
Between that year and last month the closest the Timbers ever came was...close.

We won the old USL in league play - winning the "Commissioner's Cup", the regular season record - in 2009 but proceeded to shit the bed against the damn Vancouver Whitecaps. We won the Western Conference in league play in 2013 but failed to beat Real Salt Lake for the conference playoff.

That's kind of been the "Portland Story"; win regular season games, go to the playoffs, lose.

Until, two years ago...

The Portland Thorns had a fraught season in 2013. Starting the season ripping out five wins and a draw the Thorns were top of the table in the middle of May. But by mid-June the team had slipped down to third of eight. In August the team lost two, drew one, and won one, nearly dropping out of championship contention.

Portland went to Kansas City to play the Blues - who had split the season series 1-1-1 with them including a home defeat in August - and shipped two goals in the first thirty minutes. The team looked beaten and out of ideas.

But some of the players refused to lay down and die. Tobin Heath scored just after the half hour. Christine Sinclair finished a brilliant run dishing to Tiff Weimer who scored just past the hour mark. And Allie Long drove the nail in 18 minutes into overtime.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, impossibly, for the final 210 minutes of the 2,190 minutes the Thorns played in 2013 the team played like...well, champions. They crushed Western New York in the championship match to win the first NWSL title.

The storyline of this Timbers season is freakishly similar.

At the beginning of October the Timbers stood in seventh place in the MLS Western Conference, out of playoff contention having lost a gutting 1-nil home decision to Sporting Kansas City. The team had scored only 31 goals in 31 games.

They were out of the Open Cup. They had finished behind both Vancouver and Seattle in the Cascadia Cup.

It looked like lights out.

Suddenly, unexpectedly, impossibly, the Timbers began to win.

They won their last three regular season matches to finish third in the Western Conference.

They won an insane play-in round match against Kansas City that went to twelve rounds of penalty kicks after 120 minutes.

They comfortable disposed of the Vancouver and Dallas sides that had finished above them in the West.

Then they won the championship match.

Both Portland's professional soccer teams have now won their leagues. Within two years of each other. Both teams will now wear the star above the club crest that forever shines as the sign of a championship season.
I have to confess something here.

I'm not a big fan of "playoffs", in any sport. My feeling has always been you play a sports season to decide who's the best. You win the season, you win all the matches, you win. You're the champion. That's it. No frigging "wild cards", no "play-ins", no gimmicks. Play the games, win, that's it.

But boy friggin' howdy am I glad that the outfits that run American soccer don't think like I do.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Varsity Drag

Paul Campos at Lawyers, Guns & Money...

...makes a hell of a frighteningly good point:
"...a huge social problem, which is made all the more difficult by a consensus, broadly shared across the ideological spectrum, that more education is the solution to an almost unlimited number of economic and social problems. For obvious reasons, those peddling these cures — which as he says is almost everybody in and around the world of education and employment policy — are not eager to consider that a large percentage of the population is not going to be helped by ever-more elaborate treatments along these lines."
Five years or so ago I wrote up a little post about one of the mortally wounded in this losing battle;
"This is the Debatable Land, the very distant fringes of the warm, sunlit uplands of education that you see in the television specials and that politicians and educators tell you is the hope of the future. This isn't Manifest Destiny, the broad horizon and limitless opportunity that the land speculators of pedagogy are selling you; this is the dark hinterlands of learning, the Mountain Meadows of education, where ignorant armies of harassed, poorly prepared, overcharged students scramble to learn by night from equally harassed, poorly paid instructors. This is the recruit depot for a beaten army, where with my jaded sergeant's eye I can pick out the walking dead from the likely survivors. This one, she wears her body bag around her head like a shawl, her puzzled eyes already glazed with the dim awareness of danger and failure around her.

She's not going to make it."
Campos points up the most damning statistic for those who want to cling to the Pollyannaish belief that enough "education" will solve the problems of capital flight and the enforced decay of the middle-class-wage jobs; that pay for college graduates has remained virtually unchanged over damn near 40 years. If a "college education" was the solution to the problem of corporate flight and the deliberate selection of capital over labor then you'd expect that that value would have risen steadily over time, as have prices, costs, and profits.

They have not.

This is not some sort of "inevitable" outcome, some sort of natural progression in the market economic cycle.

It is, instead, what happens when you choose to let the people who own businesses - including education business - do things that are in their short- (and medium-, or even long-term) interest but which are not in the interest of the society as a whole.

The implications of this slow-motion disaster seem obvious. An increasingly desperate citizenry is faced with an increasingly unpayable cost to try and grab and hold on to an increasingly unprofitable and decreasing number of jobs. This citizenry can be reliably counted on to be easily panicked by, and to be easy prey to, the least scrupulous, most vicious demagogue that promises whatever pie-in-the-sky the poor bastards think can save them and their children.

Are you scared? I'm scared.

Fuck, the whole idea is as scary as a secondhand plumber's pickup truck full of ISIS headcutters armed with nuclear machetes and hordes of venomous snakes carrying Ebola.

Why the hell CNN isn't all over this I...oh, wait.
We are so, so, so, so, so, SO fucked.

Let's you and him fight

Believe me whan I say that I am seldom surprised when the stupidity and overall fatuousness of the U.S. public is exposed.

Still, this brought even me to a standstill:

The graphic is from a Fallows post in his Chickenhawk Nation series and in the manner of pictures is worth a thousand words.

This image makes me almost physically ill. Almost two-thirds of my fellow "citizens" want to fight the Islamic State; want to send their fellow citizens - again - to fight a land war in Asia against jihadis who want my Army brothers there killing people and wrecking shit because of the success it brought them when we tried and inevitably failed in Iraq. Almost the exact same proportion of these cowardly shitheels want someone else to do the actual fighting, someone not their precious snowflake selves.

I don't think that my country has changed all that much over the years. Enough retrospective accounts of the "Greatest Generation" have emerged to correct the wartime propaganda tales of American heroes fighting to get at the dirty Japs and filthy Huns. Were there a lot of volunteers? Sure. Were there also a hell of a lot of people looking for cushy Stateside billets, cozy hidey-holes in noncombat service jobs, and deferments? You bet your ass.

But this...this is really beyond disgusting.

First, because the entire notion is both stupid (it failed huge when we tried it when the Iraq-Syria was still actual sorta-kinda Westphalian states instead of the colossal shitmire of failed-statedom-and-Sunni-rebellion it is now) and obviously so. It's not like we don't KNOW that this hasn't worked and why.

Second, because the geopolitical setting for this stupid is completely different from the sort of problem we faced in 1941. Germany and Japan had actual armies, navies, and air forces. They could have really defeated our armed forces and destroyed the United States. There was really no other option between victory and defeat. This is, instead, a classic "cabinet war", something that We the People can choose to do or not do without risking any real danger more serious than that presented by the random drunk driver or household slip-trip-fall.

Worse. Shoving U.S. armed force into this meatgrinder - short of deciding to become an open empire and conquering and occupying the places the Ottomans themselves couldn't hold - is in itself a defeat; as Sun Tzu would remind us, if you are fighting without an obtainable goal you have already lost.

But damn near two-thirds of my "fellow Americans" are too fucking stupid to see that and too fucking selfish to put their own asses on the line to back up their own stupidity.

Honestly. These fucking people...

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Watches of the Night

It was a practice in Headquarters Company, 2nd Battalion (Airborne) (Light) 187th Infantry Regiment - stationed in the tropical paradise of Fort Kobbe, Panama - for the unmarried sergeants to volunteer to take holiday duty for the wedded guys. So that's why I found myself standing on the landing outside the dayroom of the HHC barracks Christmas Eve day dressed tastefully in holiday-green tropical fatigues and a santa-red beret being violently abused by a Panamanian taxi driver.

It seems that one of our American heroes had, in an excess of Christmas cheer, commandeered the driver's services to motor all around Panama Viejo attempting to find a shapely little elf who would supply a Christmas stocking that he could fill.

Not surprisingly, given his slobberingly drunk condition, the only attentions he could find came from ladies who expected to receive green, folding presents in return, which struck our young hero as more than a little Grinchy.

This seeker of the true Spirit of Christmas imbibed some Chistmas spirits and then resolved to return to his only REAL family, his buddies at HHC 2/187, only to find on arrival that one of Santa's little ho-ho-hoes had lifted his wallet during his importunations. Or he had left it on the bar. Or whatever.

The upshot was, anyway, that he now had nothing to give the infuriated driver whose worn taxi now reeked of cheap perfume and drunken G.I. Worse yet, he turned out to be nimble as a monkey - even drunk - and had shinnied up the mango tree in front of the barracks and was hiding in the branches lobbing the occasional overripe fruit at both the driver and the taxi windshield.

The street in front of the barrack reeked of mango juice and the combined noise of a furious taxi driver and an intoxicated arboreal G.I. This, in turn, drew a small crowd of pre-Christmas revelers, who took turns abusing both parties and shying additional fruit at the taxi when the driver wasn't watching.

I managed to pay off the driver, scatter the crowd and talk the monkey-boy out of the tree just as one of my other single friends came sauntering down from his post as battalion staff duty NCO.

"I see life in the slums is still exotic and vigorous, even on Christmas Eve" he sneered.

SGT Chief: "Little you know about it, lolling about up there at Battalion as you do. It's like a freakin' Jerry Springer show down here, you know. Oh, and a Merry Christmas to you, too, jackass."

BN SDNCO: "Yeah, well, lucky for us that the first Christmas happened in Bethehem, not Fort Kobbe, eh?"

SGT Chief: "Why's that?"

BN SDNCO: "'Cause where the hell'd you find three wise men and a virgin around here..?"

It was an old joke but I was still chuckling as I ran back up the stairs to the dayroom to share warm Coke with the three guys watching football.

This year, as they have for the past fourteen years now, American soldiers are preparing for a holiday in faraway places much less entertaining and far more hazardous than my Panamanian Christmas Eve nearly three decades ago.

I'm sure that they share many of the same feelings I did then: loneliness, regret, some pride in a hard job well done in demanding circumstances, but mixed with others I didn't; fear of death or wounding, anger and grief at lost friends, hope that their own homecoming will be soon and safe.

As do I.
And to you all; Merry Christmas, Joyous Solstice, Happy Kwanzaa...whatever, where-ever, and however you celebrate, may the light of love and laughter be with you though these long nights and on into the sunlight of tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Roasting on an open fire...

...or, in this case, simmering on the stovetop hob; feijoada completa.

If you're not familiar with this stuff it's a stew of beans and meat. Originally from Portugal it is made in most of the former colonies, and in particular in Brazil it has become a sort of national dish, the Brazilian version of spaghetti in Italy or bratwurst in Germany.

There's about a gajillion recipes for feijoada, but they always start with a bean-and-stock base. I make the Brazilian version that starts with black beans. Usually I start them simmering in a turkey or chicken stock; this year's batch, though, was made largely in a spiced beef stock supplemented with commercial chicken stock and water.

Once the beans have softened I added the meats. This year I went with the pig; smoked hock, salt pork, and a sort of Portuguese sausage called linguisa you can find nearly everywhere. After that has a chance to simmer down a bit I added a couple of oranges. It's simmering now to ensure that the hocks soften and disaggregate so I can pick out the tough hide and the bones.

I've sampled it a couple of times this morning. That's part of the fun. It seems like it's going to turn out a little saltier and smokier that usual. Should be interesting; we'll see. I've made some batches that were outstanding, some that were kind of meh, and once one that was just awful and tasted strongly of horse. I have no idea why.

So far the stew, and setting up the tree, are the only real "holiday" sorts of things I've done. The kiddos have knocked out the usual Christmas school activities - gingerbread-house-making and Santa-image-drawing - and my Bride has been shopping for presents, but me? Nada.

Unchurched as I am the religious symbolism is nil, and now that I have an income the whole greed factor is much diminished. My family is all too far away to visit without the ridiculous discomfort of commercial air travel, and my children are of an age and a disposition where Santa is no longer a fact and Jesus is not yet a necessity.

Making matters worse the contrast between the idealized "Christmas spirit" and the reality of trying to shoehorn human nature into either a saint's slipper or a Santa boot just points up how awful we are as groups. People as individuals can be delightful; people en masse are typically wretched; I can't remember where I read that the intelligence of any group can be reliably assessed by dividing the intelligence of the smartest individual by the number of members...but I find that to be depressingly true in general.

Add to that the increasingly loathsome din of modern commercial Christmas and the whole business is really a pain in the giggy. Makes me want to just sing...

...but that's just me snarking. I don't actually feel stabby about The Season. Rather casual, occasionally irked, but largely indifferent. It's nice to have the time off work, it's pretty with the lights and the decorations...but overall? It's just another day approaching the end of another year.

But I hope you are all having a good...whatever you celebrate this time. May your dreidels have always turned up gimel. May your Umoja cup be full to overflowing. May your Christmas star shine brightly. May your solstice candle burn brightly through the longest night of the year. May your Festivus whatever the fuck poles are supposed to do, and may you have enjoyed a full and weaseliferous Zappadan.

Y'know what? Screw it; if the Christians can move their Savior's birth to December to fuck over the Mithraists then you can damn well dance to whatever festival tune you enjoy.

Back later this week with more Christmas crap.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Damned dirty apes

So I've been using this morning - since my work here in Medford is shut down by the Northwest Rainpocalypse (film at 11...) - to ponder what exactly it is that has me so grimly uneasy about this year in U.S. politics.

And, no, I don't think I have anything to add to the bleak assessment I have already so often written down here; this isn't really an essay about "U.S. politics".

Rather, it's a distillation of what I finally realized so worries me about U.S. politics, and it links back to a post over at the Penguin's place about Obama Derangement Syndrome. In it the Tuxedoed One notes that:
"I can’t think of any time in this nation’s history where the rhetoric surrounding the President is so divorced from reality...this hatred towards Obama is divorced from anything the man has actually done...It’s as if a significant portion of the white population of the United States has gone completely insane. And I don’t know if the nation is going to be able to survive that."
THAT's my concern.
When I look around at the looney-tunes Mirror Universe that the GOP has constructed, as typified by this Obama-derangement and the hysterical pants-pissing terror and range evoked by Obama's mildly rational speech the other day, what I see is the cumulative effect of thirty-five years of selective breeding and nurturing of a sort of subspecies of higher primate; let's call it homo wingnuttiens.

It sort of looks like homo sapiens with 100% less sapience.

It looks, in fact, a lot like the intelligent apes of the old Charleton Heston flick or, rather, the artifact in the plot of the film's source material, a novel titled La Planète des Singes. Same basic story; astronaut finds ape civilization and uncovers the history that humans effectively created their own downfall and the rise of their anthropoid masters. The moral of the story is that human intelligence is not a fixed quality and could atrophy if taken for granted.

Or if deliberately destroyed.

By, for instance, creating a race of demi-humans who have been carefully taught to believe only what they are told by certain sources, to automatically refuse to accept anything that doesn't fit what those sources tell them, that base their actions on automatic acceptance of certain ideas (war, strength/force, "Western culture", patriarchy/authoritarianism, "market economy"/rapacity, Christian theocracy/primacy, xenophobia) and rejection of others associated with what they see as despised and illegitimate enemies.

This isn't exactly new. I pretty much had the wingnuts figured out back in the Clinton years – the default position of the GOP has simply become complete rejection of the legitimacy of ANYthing Democratic, or, more precisely, anything not endorsed by their own echo chamber.

And this wasn't exactly an accident. The GOP mad scientists have created these creatures for their own power. But I think, like the researchers in La Planète they are being willfully blind to their own madness.

Several studies of the wingnut-third has established fairly thoroughly that the cumulative effect of the right-wing echo chamber, eliminationist rhetoric, and apocalyptic propaganda has developed a “country within a country” populated by people who see the world through wingnut beer goggles.

So, for them, the actual corporatist Eisenhower-Republican Obama isn’t an actual thing. It’s the secret-Muslim communist traitor welfare daddy Obama that exists.

The complexity of the modern Middle East isn't an actual thing; it's the seething cauldron populated by nothing but beheading Muslims who live to kill white men and rape white women that exists.

Or something.

And so on down the line. "Markets" aren't something established and run by societies and governments, they are magical fucking invisible-hand unicorns dancing on rainbows. Oligarchies aren't bad for the non-oligarchs, they're just how life is and if you aren't rich it's because you're a lazy loser. Taxes are theft. Peace is surrender. War is victory.

And my problem with all that is that I’m not sure that you can run a functioning representative democracy when about a quarter to a third of your “citizens” are effectively living in a fantasy world of their own devising.

The potential for a critical mass of these nutjobs blowing the doors off of the polity seems WAY too high not to happen at some point.

So while I'm not going to predict a Trump presidency or some sort of immediate disaster in the immediate future, my consistent low-grade concern is that my country is a long way to developing a strain of this homo wingnuttiens into a force that has the potential, if and when the plague that kills all the dogs and cats, to break down the country of my birth in such a way that it will be nearly impossible to rebuild.

I'm not really sure how much I fear this, or how realistic my fear of this is. But I can feel it like the hum of distant high-voltage wires that begins to crackle in the rain whenever I read of the latest trumpism and the wingnut baying that it produces.

I feel distantly angry and at the same time bereft, as if I have already lost something that has not been taken from me yet.

In a strange way, I feel like I am already mourning the loss of my country.

Monday, December 07, 2015


Here comes Drachma the Merkitty pulling what Missy has labeled as "Drachma's Christmas Slay":
You'll note that the idiot cat encourages the Girl in her pranking by plodding along with this contraption harnessed to him instead of tear-assing around the room in proper insane cat-tied-to-a-box fashion:
And...there he goes.
He really is a sweet cat. But...Jesus, cat, show some pride! How the hell can I convince my kids that you are really a small but vicious domestic predator if you keep doing stuff like this..?

Red sky at morning

I wanted to throw out a couple of things that caught my eye, in no particular order.
First, here's Krugman on the effect of economies on politics in the Thirties and today:"Europe’s underperformance is slowly eroding the legitimacy, not just of the European project, but of the open society itself." as he notes the recent success of the neofascist Fronte National in the French elections.

Second, David Niewert at Orcinus disputes my characterization of Il Douche as a mini-Mussolini, but notes that The Donald is hitting a lot of the sorts of notes that fascists like to play, and seems very likely to be setting the table for some true Great Leader to sit down and eat.

And, finally, in looking around at the general reaction to the San Bernardino shootings, the latest in public statements from the Obama Administration, and Ranger Jim's worthwhile rumination on "what can/should we do about these damn jihadis?" over at Milpub I note:

First, Ael comments with his usual perception that "Well, I think the answer lies in an educated population who make enough of a living to indulge themselves the leisure of being active participants in a representative democracy." and:

Second, the Republican reaction to Obama's speech the other night which was, pretty much, what Jim's post advocates (other than the what I agree is the fundamental mistaken assumption that "we are at WOAH!" with these jihadi groups).

It was, almost to a degree, completely unhinged. Their universal take was that Obummer was his usual faggot secret-Muslim self for insisting on a reasoned assessment of the actual "threat" and a proportionate response and for not ripping his shirt off, leaping on top of the desk, and screaming "Kreegah! Obama bundolo!" at the top of his lungs, i.e., demanding the extermination of the Muslim brutes.

My personal favorite, by the way, was the response of SEN Marco Rubio, the "thinking man's" Republican: "We are at war with a radical jihadist group, more capable than any terrorist group, more capable than any terrorist group and any armed insurgency this nation ever has confronted."
Now you'll have to excuse me.

Me and Senator Rubio and this piece of fucking dimension lumber here are going into this little room until I have beaten into his pointy little fucking head the following four words:





"...more capable than...any armed insurgency this nation has ever confronted."

Fuck! THIS...this is the one of the two political parties we have allowed ourselves. This is Ael's educated population taking an active part in representative democracy.

And this is what we're supposed to try and beat into intelligence?
Shit, I've chaptered out privates with more promise than this.


My beloved Portland Timbers are the 2015 Champions of professional soccer in the U.S.

There really isn't more to be said, but, being who I am, I will say more after I've taken some time to simply sit and smile. In September this team seemed headed out of contention altogether. Today they are the champions. This season has been a ridiculous, improbable dream and, as such, perhaps all the more wonderful. I will have some thoughts later, but for now, the taste of victory is sweet.

Friday, December 04, 2015

Friday Jukebox: Je suis désolé Edition

Because, frankly, I am feeling desolate and far from home today.

But any day when Mark Knopfler can swing it zydeco fashion can't be entirely without hope.

Thursday, December 03, 2015

Some ruminations on nutter shootings

Look, people. Death is all around you. We're BORN owing God - or Nature, or whatever - a death. As my old drill sergeant used to say, the single most fucked up thing about Life is that NOBODY gets out of it alive.

If you're going to get all freaky worrying about your safety or groveling on your knees begging God to save you because anti-abortion propaganda drove some loony to shoot up medical clinics, or because some asshole with a religious mania, or a nasty personality, shot up his workplace's Christmas party you're worrying about the wrong thing.

An e. coli bug, or a drunk driver, or that third goddamn Hostess Ho-ho you just ate is gonna kill you long before some Islamic nut or some rightwing manic. could get all freaky about what seems like a mad orgy of death and destruction and the end of times and OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!!

Or. You can listen to an old Army sergeant.

You're gonna die. Yep. Some day you're dead meat. Pinin' for the fjords. Ceased to be. Expired.


Until then every day you live you are a gift of love.

So hug your children. Drink something strange, and adventurous. Sit out under the stars and watch the universe wheel overhead. Hold someone dear to you very, very close and still, so still that all you can hear is your heartbeat and theirs. Kiss their skin softly, sweetly, and inhale their scent and stop and remember; every day you live you are a gift of love.

Someday you will die.
But not today.

Boredom is a force that gives us meaning

It's easy to underestimate.

Rain shut down the job I'm covering, so I had a whole afternoon to myself in Medford. In the rain. And cold.

Rainy, cold Medford is pretty damn...well, it's Medford in the cold rain. Figure it out.

So I took a shower and caught up on some paperwork. Read a book - Cold Iron by Stina Leicht; "blackpowder-and-socery", elves with magic and flintlocks fighting humans with ring-bayonets and 12-pound Napoleons and a fun read - and did some bloggage. Chatted with some friends via e-mail and FB.

Finally I ran out of entertainment so I sat down and did these;

This is "Kittehs o' War" for the Boy, and this "Drachma the Cat God" for the Girl. HAD to be their beloved kittehs, of course. I had a buttload of these postcards and realized that the kiddos have NO interest in reading some sort of boring letter from me. My Bride I can write to...but the urchins? They love the cartoons.

So I taped the postcards together to draw the images and then took the tape off. I'll mail them tonight so next week the littles can put them together as jigsaw puzzles. A quick and fun little project and, hopefully, entertaining for them.

But now I'm done and bored again. I wonder if there's a bad movie on?

Three-Fifths Compromise

I'm sorry, but I'm done with arguing with ammosexuals about "Second Amendment Rights".
You can argue the semantics of the "well-regulated militia" clause all you want, but the bottom line is that too many goddamn people can get their hands on too many goddamn firearms and We the People aren't even trying to do a goddamn thing about that.

Hell, the Framers would have a goddamn kitten fit if they saw what We have done with the verbiage they doped up just to keep the slaves down and avoid paying for professional soldiers.

As a result we're killing more American people every day than in the wildest Islamic State jihadi's wet dreams and that's indescribably, ridiculously, grotesquely fucked up. The Constitution is not supposed to be a goddamn suicide pact.

And speaking of the Constitution, it used to classify folks who weren’t free white men as 3/5ths of a human being. That was fucked up, so we changed it.

The Second Amendment as currently interpreted has effectively classified folks who aren’t armed and insane as the targets for those who are.

It's time to fucking change that, too.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Toes, again

I have this friend. She's a sort of epistolary friend, seeing that she lives in Colorado, so I've never actually met her. But she and I correspond through our Facebooks, and share the commonality of having a daughter who was born of another mother.
But here's something my friend does that's kind of a chuckle. She posts pictures of her toes.

Wherever she goes, or sometimes just for her own amusement, she posts a shot of her feet standing on, or in, whatever or whereever she's going. I call these things "Where In The World Are Maia's Toes?" pictures.

Well, at the moment Maia's toes, the rest of Maia, her loving inamorato, and her adorable little girl, are in sunny Nayarit, Mexico.
And whenever she posts her "Where Are Maia's Toes" photo it will undoubtedly be delightfully warm and sunny.

Now. Here's where MY toes were this morning:
My in-laws have this game they play. Well, it's not an actual "game", it's more of a sort of contest they enter into whenever they get together. It's called "My Life SUCKS!" and the object is to lay down such an irrefutably wretched whine that nobody else in the family group can top it. Ideally your story is so jaw-droppingly awful that it's like a mike drop and you win walking away. You got cancer? Well, my cancer had a tumor. You got laid off work? Well I got laid off, then my unemployment got denied.

Then I got cancer.

You see how this works. And you can't win by coming directly out and saying "My life sucks." You have to present your little tale of woe so artfully, so passively, as to seem to be simply telling the story of your past week, or month, or your prospects or lack of same. You can't be seen as actively thumping the tub for your life-suckage. You just have to lay some tracks down and hope that your sucky life is more sucky than anyone elses. Then you win.

I ask my Bride, so, what do you win? and she looks at me like I just coughed up a hairball. You win because your life sucks the most, duh! Nobody else can top you, you are the King (or Queen) of Suckulation and everyone else has to pity you and feel for you because of the massive suck your life is.

Anyway, the point is that, based on the whole toes thing; neener, neener, Maia. MY life sucks worse than yours at the moment.

Gee. That didn't feel nearly as good at it's supposed to.

Maybe I need to talk to my Bride. There must be some sort of in-law thing here that I'm just not getting.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Climate Change for Dummies

One thing that makes me despair for my species is the appallingly chasm-like abyss of derp that you encounter whenever you say the words "climate change".
I mean, yes, it's a science. But it's not fucking rocket science.

What's the one single thing that we hairless monkeys have been doing more than anything else since the end of the Neolithic?

No, not screwing. We've been doing that forever and will continue so long as we have teensy tinsy little stupid-brains in our genitals, sort of like the ones that the big therapods had in their butts to help control their back ends. Except the genital tillermen and -women are usually busy driving us into a freaking tree in pursuit of each other instead of doing anything helpful. But that's beside the point.

No. We've been making stuff. Bronze axeheads. Iron plowshares. Steam engines. Cotton gins. Battleships. Nuclear power plants.

All this making means burning dead things. Wood. Coal. Petroleum. All that burning shoves gases and particulates into the air.

And we know what that does. We've seen it on Venus, where the gas blanket is so thick that it traps solar heating like a big ol' duvet.

So it's not some sort of wild speculation or conspiracy theory to draw the line from A to B to C; more industry = more gases = more insulation = more heat.

And it doesn't take a genius to figure out how this extra heat could be a bad thing. Hell, even my old boss the Green Machine is worried. In the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review the authors said:
"Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world.

These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence."
Note the verb. "Poses". Not "might pose" or "could pose" or "fuck NOAA, this climate change stuff is a bunch of libtard hooey..." "Poses"; pose pōz/verb
3rd person present: poses

1. present or constitute (a problem, danger, or difficulty).
"the sheer number of visitors is posing a threat to the area"
synonyms: constitute, present, create, cause, produce, be
"pollution poses a threat to health".

So. I go to my Facebook page and I find a post from a friend of mine. Great gal, Olympic athlete, mom, artist...and a pretty smart person. And she's got a link from "PragerU" talking about how climate change isn't a real - not a REALLY real - problem and, besides, "doing something" would be SOOOO expensive. "Will the enormous cost justify the gain?" is their tagline.

That's pretty much where I facepalmed. PragerFuckingU. Gah. Have you ever encountered those idiots?

SweetFuckingBabyJesusonaStick you've never seen drool-puddle-stupid until you've seen one of the videos these drooling stupids produce. They're supposed to present topics from a "conservative" point of view, "conservative" meaning, apparently, "the condition the human brain assumes when all the little brain cells have been herded onto cattle trucks and transported to extermination camps where they are dosed with ZyklonB in the brain showers..." but all they manage to do is make "conservatives" look "fucking stupid" by reducing complex topics to a word salad of conservative talking points, bad arguments, and outright lies.

Here's an article from something called The Blaze which is, so far as I can tell, some sort of wingnut website that luurves them some PragerU (Prager, BTW, is one Dennis Prager, a wingnut radio shouter before branching out into dubious "educational" schemes).

The article tries to make this "PragerU" sound full of awesomesauce but, instead, ends up making the wingut radio-shouter moron sound like...well, a wingnut radio-shouter moron. Here's the article citing the wingnut radio-shouter moron on foreign affairs;
“The people who try to make the Middle Eastern conflict complex have an agenda,” he said, giving just one example (see the condensed Middle Eastern lesson, below)."
Complex? Pshaw! Saddle up, l'il buckaroo, and let's ride through hundreds of years of migration, religious coexistence and conflict, resource allocation, consuption, and disputation, Mongol invasions, Ottoman rule, European colonial highjinks, and four Israeli-Arab wars - in just five minutes!

Yes. Somebody has an agenda here...but more'n likely it's the wingnut radio-shouter moron who thinks that you can "teach" the Middle East in five minutes.

That's "PragerU" and that's what my smart, dynamic, engaged friend thinks is a valid "take" on climate change. I've tried to expose Prager to her, I've tried to show her the science...and she won't go there. "I'm not convinced." she says. "What about "Climategate"? What about this? What about that?", throwing every wingnut talking point smokescreen out at me. She just. Won't. Budge.

And that's reeeeally depressing. Because she's a relatively "high-information" Republican sort of voter. She reflexively hates Clinton but is smart enough to recognize the passengers in the Republican clown car as three rings full of liars, fools, charlatans, and whackaloons. She's very religious but not self-righteous about it. She's usually pretty good people...but she's buying this and - I can't imagine any other reason other than - its because the wingnuts and Christopaths are yammering about it.
So this strikes me as pure tribalism. And if the Clown Clan can pull my friend into their Clubhouse of Bottomless Derp...what the hell can the rest of us do? There's enough of these people to jam things up enough, long enough, until we're all dog-paddling around Manhattan.

And then what..?