Tuesday, June 14, 2016

There is something quite alluring about the zeal of so-called Second Amendment enthusiasts. They are noble defenders of the peace, quietly enforcing politeness and rectitude through the unspoken threat of mortal violence if person or property are violated. They might even claim to be capable of repelling government overstep, as if their pea-shooters could stymie the order of a drone-strike. They claim that weapons of war are a citizen's birthright. Maybe they should investigate getting a hellfire missile permit.

Look, I think hunting rifles are fine. I think shotguns are fine. Hell, I even think it's not the end of the world if people have revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. The latter are very, very dangerous, and the stats show that they are most likely to be used for the purpose of self-termination (which I find sad, but hey, that's the individual's choice). But high-powered assault weapons with large magazines that were designed explicitly for killing large amounts of people in a short amount of time?

I wish y'all would just join those well-regulated militias if you love the second amendment so much. Who are you benefiting, if not the gun manufacturers? I know you won't believe me, but believe me: a heavily armed society only leads to more needless death. It doesn't prevent it. Their thinking belies a typically American fantasy that they don't live in a civilized society. We still believe in cowboys, even though for the vast majority of the population, the reality is that we live in cities that are absolutely governed by the rule of law.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Woman denies trying to hide Syria rebel cash in underwear http://gu.com/p/4vd9m

Sunday, July 27, 2014


The Lunar Module seen from the Command Module of Apollo 11.
If you have an even faint interest in the history of space exploration, you will probably lose a few hours at http://spacelog.org/ where several searchable transcripts of famous space flights can be found.  At the moment eight flights are available, with more to come.  I first went for Apollo 13, but then I quickly switched to Mercury 3, the first American manned mission to space (the first manned mission, Vostok 1, is also available, but only in Russian.) 

It's all very technical, but even if I don't understand most of what's going on, it's fun to feel like I'm reliving some of those heart-stopping moments.  Like landing on the moon.  Forty-five years ago, three guys went to the moon.  Well, actually only two of them made it to the surface, the third, Michael Collins, stayed in the Command Module that remained in orbit around the Moon.  He was vital to the mission, but man, I would've felt a tad jealous if I were him.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Dignité, égalité, et absurdité

Two recent stories out of France have reminded me just how grand it is to live in the land of the free, at least when it comes to heaping vitriol upon others with impunity.  These two stories ought to shock most of my compatriots, since the supremacy of the First Amendment is so ingrained in our legal tradition that even most leftists understand why the ACLU defended the right of KKK members to express themselves in public.  As Voltaire never said, "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

The first news item stems from an image posted on the Facebook page of an ex-extreme-right candidate named Anne-Sophie Leclère, which seems to imply that the Justice Minister, Christian Taubira, was very cute indeed when she was 18 months old:

Well, this poorly constructed photo-montage incited quite a fuss, especially because of what happened next: Leclère was sued, sentenced 9 months in prison, and fined €50,000 ($67,529).  Her political party (the Front National, or FN) was also fined €30,000, even though it disapproved of the image at the time, and even excluded her from the party.  (In recent years the FN has been trying to revamp the hard fascist/racist image left behind by James Bond villain and party-founder Jean-Marie Le Pen, and has clamped down on any overt racism.)  Leclère will appeal the decision. 

Emilio Largo from Thunderball, left, and Jean-Marie Le Pen, right.
  This reminds me of the Sarkozy Voodoo Doll incident, in which the President of France took legal action against the company producing the dolls.  In the end the dolls were re-released on the market, but were required to wear a warning on the box, which I will translate for your enjoyment:

It has been judged that inciting the reader to poke the doll herein with the provided needles, an action that carries the underlying idea of physical harm, however symbolic, constitutes an insult to the dignity of Mr. Sarkozy.
You can't make that shit up.

 In contrast, the US has a long and fine tradition of likening our political elites to other primates, and entire industries have been spawned to allow us to crush George W. Bush's head on a stress ball, beat the crap out of his likeness on a punching bag, and wipe his face on our asses with novelty toilet paper.

The next story is really incredible though.  A blogger named Caroline Doudet panned a restaurant, citing poor service.  The restaurant owner sued the blogger.  The judge fined the blogger $3,400, in part, she explained, because the blog was ranked highly by Google, and was thus damaging to the restaurant.  The End.

While this story is getting quite a bit of play in the English language press, all I could find in French were a few grouchy blog posts.  If the French think that such a judgement is business-as-usual, or isn't newsworthy, the state of affairs in France is worse than I imagined.

I know that there have been abusive lawsuits against sites like Yelp, but picking out a single blogger because she said that the service was horrible?  Amazing.  More details from wapo.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Capricious Unibrow Story

When I was a young teen I remember listening to a particularly irritating story being told by my Italian-american grandmother in her Chevrolet Caprice.  "I used to have eyebrows just like you when I was young," she warbled.  "They grew right to the middle.  So I plucked them."

I remember hating her right then and there, not only for bringing up such an embarrassing subject for me, but also for being genetically responsible for the trait that got me harassed at school.1  I fought my nausea and feigned interest: "So what happened?" 

"It just stopped growing back as I got older," she squinted back at me, through the rear view mirror.

1 I had always wondered why I had a unibrow while nobody else in my family did. It turns out they were all just assiduous pluckers.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Self medicate!

I was all excited and stressed out this morning because I had an appointment with a mental health professional: someone to whom I could say anything, and from whom I could hopefully get some intelligent advice (and/or drugs). 

Well I took the packed Division bus downtown and found the Water's Building in the arctic face-burning wind only to find out that Dr. Fuller does not participate in the Blue Care Network, but in Blue Cross Blue Shield (I thought they were the same... the logos are identical.), and would I want to pay 185 dollars?  Eventually they said I could get a session with Dr. Vanderbeck at 4pm, and I agreed.  I sat down and picked up a National Geographic, but then I realized I should do some research on this Vanderbeck character, if that is his real name.  My worst fears were realized... Hope College... Christian Camp bladibla... specializes in sexual abuse.  Cancel'd!

So I went back into the cold.  I passed the arena which is surrounded by WWE coaches, and dozens of semis filled with equipment.  I saw the Hopcat Bar, and, determined to get therapy of any kind, went in.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

It's A Real Big City

I don't know why I never published this:

I'm finally getting that "real" big city experience that I'd been so idealistically pining for all these years.  No, New York didn't count.  New York is too nice these days.  But the moment I step out of my apartment in Marseille, I get the real deal - the trash, the stink, the drooling drunks and the hollering insane people.  Walking down the street can be a chore.  "Non!  Je ne veux PA-PA-PA-PA-PAAAS!" screamed a woman in my face a propos of nothing.  I ducked away to be accosted by two gypsy girls who grabbed my arm and demanded coin.

A stroll through town is actually a dance around sleeping hobos, panhandlers, illegally parked cars, slowly waddling wide-assed old ladies, and dog shit.  Slick-haired 20 year-olds obstruct the sidewalk like Algerian James Deans.  Your presence cannot break their far away gazes.  Crossing the street is not for the inattentive.  Expect the unexpected from the diesel death-machines since they've just been stuck in a traffic jam for an hour, so when they find open road, they go for it with gusto.  After an hour outside, my nerves are jangled, my eyes burn, and my nose and lungs are insulted.