All things weird and wonderful, 30 & 31

31 01 2013

Two-fer weirdness!

Fred Clark at Slacktivist/Patheos tipped me off to both of these—okay, he didn’t email me personally and say, Hey, Absurdbeats, these might be candidates for your weird wonder series, but as I’m a reader and he presumably writes for his readers, why not say he wrote about these for me?—where was I? Oh, yes, while trying to decide which to use, it occurred to me that this is my blog, and I can both of these suckers if  I damned well please.

Which I do.

So the first:

It Takes Planning, Caution to Avoid Being ‘It’

Group of Men Have Played Game of Tag for 23 Years; Hiding in Bushes, Cars

Russell Adams, Wall Street Journal

[…]

One year early on when Mike Konesky was “It,” he got confirmation, after midnight, that people were home at the house where two other players lived. He pulled up to their place at around 2 a.m., sneaked into the garage and groped around in the dark for the house door. “It was open,” he says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, man, I could get arrested.’ ”

Mr. Konesky tiptoed toward Mr. Dennehy’s bedroom, burst through the door and flipped on the light. A bleary-eyed Mr. Dennehy looked up as his now-wife yelled “Run, Brian!” Mr. Konesky recalls. “There was nowhere for Brian to run.”

[…]

That’s right, ten men have been playing tag for 23 years.

That’s some fuckin’ dedication, man, and if it isn’t quite as weird as some stuff (or the next item), it’s still a damned fine enough to count as wondrous.

Now this, this is weird:

Source: scuba.com

The comment on this delightful specimen:

Come on, evolution, you cannot be serious with this sh—

Oh, wait. OH. Ha! I get it. Clearly the red-lipped batfish is a work of satire, not meant to be taken as a literal “animal,” which would of course be ridiculous. Sorry, I can be a bit slow sometimes. Nice one.

The site is WTF, Evolution?, and it’s only two weeks old, so go ahead, catch up, then follow it FROM THIS DAY FORWARD.

I was talking with one of my students today about how amazing biology is—I did manage to restrain myself and not use the phrase ‘weird wonder’—especially in comparison to non-quantum physics.

Nothing against non-quantum physics—gravity and the conservation of matter and the principle of inertia are all deeply practical things—but it’s not. . . ohmyfuckinggod mindblowing the way quantum physics and almost all of biology is.

Newtonian physics, I mused to the student, is efficient and predictable, but biology, emmm, not so much. Biology is all about survival, so anything that will get you there, well by gum, let’s do it! And if conditions change such that more adaptations help with survival and reproductive fitness, go ahead, just tack those adaptations on!

If physics is sleek and efficient, then biology is a Rube Goldberg contraption.

“I’m not sure we’re done with this fiddler crab yet.” “Don’t be such a perfectionist, evolution, it’s good enough.” “But the claws are totally different sizes, don’t you think people will notice?” “Dude, it’s fine, let’s go make some birds with funny butt feathers.”  (Thanks to @davelevitan for the suggestion.)

It’s true, I don’t always love life, but damn! I do loves me some Life!





Listen to the music: What would we do without you?

29 01 2013

Kate Bush is still putting out records, right?

I mean, I know she was never one to crank out the albums, but every coupla’ years she would drop a tankful of tunes and Kate being Kate, that was usually enough to get me through.

Then again, I didn’t really start listening to Kate Bush until, mm, The Whole Story/The Sensual World, so it was pretty easy for me to say, No hay problema with the lente of the songs: I could simply dig through the back catalog and satisfy myself with those.

And Kate Bush is satisfying, because her songs were always kitted out with weirdness (the aro0-roo-roo in “Hounds of Love”) or literary allusions (“Cloudbusting” and Wilhelm Reich) or literary weirdness (Heathcliffe! It’s me, Cathy! I’ve come home/It’s so cold, let me in-a-your window-oh-oh).

And why the Pause for the jet? Why not?

She’s heartbreaking too, but often with an undertone of menace: in “Hello Earth” she warns the sailors and life-savers and cruisers and fishermen out of the sea and “Mother Stands for Comfort” of the worst kind. Oh, and the threat of “Experiment IV”:

Music made for pleasure,
Music made to thrill.
It was music we were making here until

They told us
All they wanted
Was a sound that could kill someone
From a distance.

Of course these lyrics would be surrounded by the most gorgeous sounds.

I thought I had all of her cds prior to Hounds of Love, but I don’t see any on my “stolen/not replaced” list. Hm. I wonder if I had them on vinyl. . . .

Anyway, while I thought I had the cd (The Red Shoes) after The Sensual World, apparently not. The gods of Wikipedia tell me there were three cds released in the 2000s, but I don’t know any of them. If I ever get around to buying music again, I should probably consider those.

My favorite Kate Bush tune? I dig most of them, but the one that stoppers out the rest of the world? Jig of Life. The fiddle, the drums, the, um, obscure lyrics, the DRUMS, the incantation at the end—c’mon, is it really such a surprise?

The only thing missing is a jet.

~~~~

54. Bjork, Homogenic
55. Rory Block, Gone Woman Blues
56. Blondie, The Best of Blondie
57. Bjork, Vespertine
58. BoDeans, Love & Home & Sex & Dreams
59. Boukman Eksperyans, Yodou Adjae
60. BoDeans, Go Slow Down
61. Boukman Eksperyans, Libete (Pran Pou Pran’l!)
62. David Bowie, The Singles 1969-1993
63. Billy Bragg, Talking With The Taxman About Poetry
64. Billy Bragg, Worker’s Playtime
65. Billy Bragg, Don’t Try This At Home
66. Brazilian Girls (eponymous)
67. Breeders, Pod
68. Billy Bragg, Going to a Party Way Down South
69. Breeders, Last Splash
70. Broken Social Scene, You Forgot It In People
71. Brother Sun Sister Moon, The Great Game
72. Broken Social Scene, We Hate Your Hate
73. Carla Bruni, Quelqu’un m’a dit
74. Jeff Buckley, Grace
75. Kate Bush, Hounds of Love
76. Butthole Surfers, Electrilarryland

Putting these in the order in which I listen to them as opposed to a straight-alpha is a pain in the ass. The point is to listen to these in a manner in which I otherwise wouldn’t—hence the A-Z ordering—but having already stated my minor listening deviations (breaking up bunches of the same artist), I think I can go back to just listing what I’ve listened to and be done with it.

I mean, I want to be meticulous but not, y’know, uptight. . . .

I’ve also decided to start mixing in some jazz. My jazz cds are currently separated from my pop cds, but as I listen to them, I’ll integrate them into the whole.

And while I may end up inserting some classical into the listening mix, the cds will remain in their orchestra seats.

1. Geri Allen, The Gathering
2. Geri Allen Trio, Twenty One
3. Anderson, Crispell, Drake, Destiny





You can’t get no cornmeal made

28 01 2013

Oh lordy, am I lazy.

The less I have to do, the less I get done.

Now, on the one hand: Duh! If I have two things to do I get fewer things done than if I have 8 things to do, but that’s not what I mean.

No, what I mean is: If you give me large amounts of time in which to accomplish a few tasks, I will. . . not accomplish them. This is less of a problem if I owe work to someone else, but if it’s just for me? Mmmm, no.

Classes begin this week, and while, yes, I have completed my syllabus for my bioethics class (updated, shifted a bit), I haven’t yet bothered to print it out, or to get my shit together for tomorrow.

Hey, that’s what the morning’s for.

And my other class, well, that one doesn’t begin until next week, so hey, I got a whole week to overhaul (as opposed merely to updating) the thing.

Deadlines, man, I need deadlines. Gimme a deadline and I’ll git ‘er done. No deadline, no dice.

Oh, to be self-starting and self-disciplined. . . !





Between ideals and fact

26 01 2013

I said I wasn’t going to concern-troll the Republicans, right?

Well, what about concern-imp-ing? Concern-nixie-ing? Is it really concern-monster-ing if my recommendations apply to all political parties?

Whatever.  Here it is: Focus on governance.

Shockingly original, I know, but its obviousness has been obliterated in the past decade or so by Republican operatives (Karl Rove) so intent upon winning that they forget that winning is only the beginning, and not the end, of electoral politics.

I’ve described election campaigns as free-for-alls, governed solely by the standard of “what works”, i.e., solely by what increases the chances of winning. Another shockingly original insight: if you want to win, you have to concentrate on winning, full stop.

But after  you’ve won, you have to do something else: You have to govern.

Now, however distinct are the ways of the campaign from those of governance, it is worth considering whether a platform for governance can help you to win. Sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes all you have to do is remind the voters of what a great guy you are or what a great team you’re on and how terrible is the other guy or team. You go for fear or pride or collegiality (“I’d like to have a beer with that guy”) and don’t say much about the Eurozone crisis or CAFTA or the eligibility standards for SSI and bim bam boom, you’re in.

At some point, however, folks might wonder just what it is you plan to do once you’re in. A backbencher representative might be able to get away with platitudes and ideas to nowhere, but party leaders—governors, senators, presidents—have to do something. They have to govern.

If, therefore, you want your candidate or party to win, it might just help to have some ideas of how to govern. It’s not enough simply to say “there’s a problem and the other team caused it”; you have to offer solutions.

Edward L. Glaeser gets this. He’s an urban-conservative, and as such focuses on what can done to make things better. I disagree with both his analyses of and suggestions to fix the problems of urban life, but I really like that he grounds the symbolic appeals to conservatism in practical policy-making. I really really like that he thinks Republicans should engage in governance as something other than acts of arson, and that he doesn’t consider conservative policy-making a contradiction in terms.

He thinks Republicans should compete for cities, and points to what he sees as the accomplishments of Republican mayors as both reasons and guides for a GOP commitment to urban America. Focus on what we have to offer—what good we can do—he counsels Republicans, and go from there.

In other words, build an electoral strategy based on policy accomplishment, and you might just win.

Elections and governance are way too messy and contradictory for a simply Competence=>Victory equation to pan out (see: Michael Dukakis). Dirty tricks and fear-mongering and lies and money and error and passion and whole tangled nest of interests and reasons and desires will all play parts in electoral campaigns, as will the always-important backdrops of economic performance and unpredictable crises. Arguably, policy achievement might not play much of a role, at all.

And yet, it’s just possible that policy achievement might matter, perhaps even enough to cross that line from defeat to victory. There’s so much that can’t be controlled in elections; why not focus on what you can control, what you can do?

Unless, of course, you think it’s better just to control the elections so that you don’t have to worry about governing at all.





Pictured you mean and I pictured you bold

26 01 2013

Sarah Palin has left the building.

Buh-bye.

Oh, I’m sure the half-guv will find some other way to lodge herself somewhere in the media’s eye, but she has diminished herself from log to speck, and Roger Ailes has figured out that specks just don’t produce enough ratings to justify the time or money. Perhaps she’ll return as a guest on one of his Fox-y shows, but her days of cashing a regular check from Murdoch are over.

Weep not for her, of course, as she and the rest of her clan have made millions in the years since she winked her way into our nation’s consciousness, and, as Rick Perlstein (among others) has demonstrated, there are plenty on the right willing to throw money at the those adept at stoking their furies. She’ll be fine.

And the rest of us? Oh, hush, we’ll be fine, too.





You’re on your own now

24 01 2013

I’m not supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Nothing against First Lady/Senator/Secretary Clinton, JD, but I ain’t supporting nobody for 2016 because a) nobody has said he or she is running, and 2) it’s too damned early to think about.

Not that I’m not thinking about it. *Sigh*

If she does run, I’ll take a look, just as I’ll take a look at everyone else with policy proposals within the ballpark of the not-horrible. (A low bar, yes, but one which most Republicans and quite a few Dems haven’t managed to clear in years.)

Still, there is one thing I like very much about Clinton, regardless of any possible candidacy: She just doesn’t give a shit anymore.

I mean this in the best possible way, as a resignation which moves her beyond all of the Washington and pundit horseshit and into the realm of real political action. She has a job to do and she’s going to do it and fuck off to anyone who doesn’t like it or her.

You could see this movement into a kind of pure-practical politics during her reign as Secretary of State. She got along fine with President Obama and served his agenda well, but did so in a way which she clearly shaped. Beyond the Beltway she was free from the sniping about her clothes and her hair and the constant agita about her relationship to her husband and able, simply, to act on behalf of the people and policies which matters to both her and the president.

Pundits suggested she looked best in short hair; she grew it long. She defended the pantsuits for their practicality, then didn’t mention it again. She drank beer and danced with her staffers, and appeared in public at least once without makeup.

That last bit might seem a triviality—and as someone who hasn’t worn makeup in over 20 years, I truly wish it were—but for a sixty-something high-status woman to go face-naked in public is damned-near astonishing.

She doesn’t care.

I was leery of her in the 2008 run, tired of the “Clinton drama” and unsure of her temperament for the office. Yes, she had done good work as a senator, but I still remembered FLOTUS Hillary, and that Hillary was clearly pissed-off at having to perform a role which did not fit. Yes, she chose to marry Bill and to support his run for president, but as someone with her own political ambitions, “First Lady” had to feel like a crummy consolation prize.

And that her husband, with all of his political skills, nonetheless let his indiscipline hobble his chances for real legislative success had to have pricked at her in ways wholly distinct from the wounds of his personal indiscretions.

I don’t think Obama did her any favors in picking her for Secretary of State—he chose her because he thought she could benefit his administration—but he did give her a way to apply her own formidable intelligence and skills in a manner which both served him and freed her.

Oddly, my reconsideration of her began with an Onion article, about her return to the Senate after losing the nomination:

One anonymous Wisconsin senator told reporters that Clinton has been known to deliver a sustained, audible sigh while President ProTempore Robert Byrd calls the meeting to order; frequently votes by letting out an extended belch; repeats the title of every bill in a high-pitched, mocking tone; and, once, after her disruptions caused the former first lady to be escorted out of the Capitol, raised both middle fingers in the air and proposed that the entire Senate go fuck itself.

This was satire, of course, but I nonetheless liked the picture of her saying “fuck it” to the whole shebang, of her not caring what anyone thought anymore.

Fours years later, and she really doesn’t care—not about all of the nonsense that has hemmed her in for most of her adult life. She knows what matters, and fuck everything else.

I like that in a politician.

~~~

And yes, if she does run, that Bjork tune will be her theme song, at least on this blog.





You’ll meet an army of me

23 01 2013

No, I haven’t decided who I’ll support in 2016, but. . .

. . .this will give nightmares to all the right people.

~~~

Photo credit: Image by Kevin Lamarque / Reuters