Dare you look at a king? Would you sit on his throne?

28 02 2013

This is wrong. WRONG.


Cats do not do tricks. Cats are not “trained” the way dogs are trained.

Cats are, at most, restrained.

As in: get your face out of my yogurt, stop whapping the print on the wall, get off the stereo, quit biting the plant, oh for fuck’s sake would you fucking stop grabbing the fucking computer cord, fucking hell?!

Cats will not stop trying to eat the yogurt, whapping the print, leaping on to the stereo, biting the plant, or fucking grabbing the fucking computer cord, for fucking hell’s sake.

They will, at best, pause.

No, cats train us: to leave the water dribbling out of the bathroom sink because it is apparently so much more delicious than the water I refrigerated overnight and just poured into the bowl; to pry off from the milk jug the plastic ring and toss it onto the floor rather than just recycling the whole damned thing; to wake up and withdraw my legs from around a sleeping cat and rearrange on the sliver of bed they’ve somehow managed not to occupy rather than just roll over and let them deal with it; and, of course, to clean up after their shit. Literally.

If you have a dog and you die, your dog will lie down next to you and whimper and lick your face and try to revive you.

If you have a cat and you die, your cat will bite you to make sure you’re really dead, then will feast on your corpse.

Such creatures are not meant to be trained, and I can only guess what revenge the cat in that video has planned for the human who thought it would be “cute” to get the kitty to shake.

Remember, lady, while you’re snorfling over your “dead” kitty, she’s wondering which part of you to eat first.

h/t Cute Overload


Such a mean old man

28 02 2013

Outside of electoral politics, I have an ambivalent relationship to nastiness.

I’m mostly opposed to it, but sometimes find it apropos as a form of self-defense. I am mostly not nasty, and as for the times when I have indulged, be it for self-defense or not, I generally don’t feel great about it afterwards.

It’s just low; I try not to be low.

Critical, however, being critical isn’t low or nasty. The best criticism requires engagement, and the best engagement requires empathy, and it’s tough to be simultaneously nasty and empathic. And criticism can be devastating without being nasty.

I have been and will almost certainly in the future be critical of Rod Dreher, and I’ve gotten to the point where there are some posts of his that I won’t bother reading, if only to spare myself the exasperation. And yeah, there have been times when I’ve thought he’s been nasty and low.

Still, I don’t think he deserves this.

The post, by Elon Green, goes after Dreher for (what he would dispute, but could nonetheless fairly be described as) his homophobia, and while I think Green offers the least-generous reading possible of Dreher’s writing, it’s not an unfair reading. Giving someone the benefit of the doubt is, as Zoe would say, “a kindness”, but it is not required for fairness.

The commenters, on the other hand, are going after Dreher personally because they loathe his politics, and speculating about him in ways that both suit their own view and justify the attacks.

I know, I know—enter a comments section at one’s peril—and it’s not as if ad hominen attacks are anything new under the sun, but I wonder why, outside of a tavern and after having a few, anyone would bother taking the effort to be nasty to some stranger online.

Go after his arguments, annihilate his presuppositions, rail against the damage those who share his point of view have inflicted and continue to inflict on queer folk, but jeez, leave his personal life, and his chickens, out of it.

There’s something happening here

25 02 2013

What it is, ain’t exactly clear—but this particular theme is messed up.

Since I have no clue what is the problem or how to fix it, I’m simply going to go to bed and assume that the good folks at WordPress will cure whatever ails it.

We’ll see if ignoring this problem makes it go away. . . .

Come together

25 02 2013

This is as close as my critters get to cuddling:


Twenty minutes after I took this shot, Jasper leaned over and began licking Trickster. Which was, as ever, prelude to biting.

Oh well, they both seem to like me well enough.

Oh write me a beacon so I know the way

24 02 2013

dmf is an enabler.

He turned me on to Wallander, which third series I just finished watching.

Okay, note: here be spoilers.

Yes, my weakness for police procedurals was fed by the mischievous dmf, who dangled Kenneth Branagh-as-a-Swedish-cop in front of me, knowing I would bite. It was dark and gloomy and  Wallander was dark and gloomy and the long shots of the prairie and the sea somehow managed to be both peaceful and menacing.

I generally only watched one episode a night. Unlike, say, Waking the Dead, there was little light relief in each episode, nor was it like Numb3rs, where things often turned out okay; no, Wallander was an hour-and-a-half of anxiety, waiting for something to go wrong.

To its credit, things didn’t always go wrong, but, honestly, you knew better than to think the right would last for long.

I’ve only watched a couple of episodes of Luther—Idris Elba, duh!—and really, really enjoy Alice Morgan, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Luther and Wallander share the same dim fortune. Luther’s wife came to him in the last episode I watched, but I bet, as with Wallander’s girlfriend, she won’t be long with him.

But maybe not, maybe the producers will allow him Zoe, if only to keep we viewers on edge wondering if she sticks around (or stays alive). I do have to say that, as much as I liked Vanya, I worried that he was messing things up with her; it was easier after she left.

Anyway, one downside to watching all of these procedurals is that certain plot points are repeated across the various series. This past fall CSI featured a 3D-printed gun; a week or two later, the terribler-and-terribler CSI: New York. . . featured a 3D-printed gun. Brennan was shot in that lousy Bones episode with a bullet that couldn’t be found; a frozen meat bullet (which turned out to be a frozen blood bullet), I hissed, thinking of a similar bullet from, I think, an years-ago CSI.

The plot points aren’t necessarily shared across the entire genre: there are things that show up on the forensic shows that wouldn’t, say, matter much on any of the Law & Order series. The too-creepy-even-for-me Wire in the Blood shares more with the tamer-but-still-creepy Criminal Minds than with, say, the Inspector Lynley series (which I stopped watching because he was so insufferable), or NCIS. And Cold Case was a rather direct theft of Cold Squad.

And, of course, you learn to be far more skeptical than the cops, and to keep an eye out for any halfway-well-known actor: that person almost certainly will figure prominently in the the plot. Both of these can detract somewhat from one’s enjoyment: you the viewer figure things out more quickly not because you’d be a better detective than these folks, but because you can see signals to which the t.v. cops are blind.

Would I have been any kind of detective? I doubt it. For one thing, I had zero desire to become a cop, and it was only in my thirties that I realized how much I liked puzzles—and that only emerged when  wondering what I might have specialized in had I gone to (and made it through) med school. I liked diagnostics, so maybe internal medicine, but more likely, pathology.

In any case, with training I might have been a competent enough detective, but I doubt I’d have been anything more than that, and might not have been even that.

Now, now I’m a competent enough adjunct professor, and trying to be something more than that. Perhaps that’s among the reasons I like procedurals: I’m still trying to puzzle my way through, so I appreciate those moments, even if fictional, when the puzzles have been solved.

And it’s gone, gone, gone

23 02 2013

Stick a fork in it already.

Bones done gone jumped the shark.

Two cliched metaphors: too much? No, not really; quite apt, actually.

Dr. Temperance Brennan has held to her atheism throughout the entire run of Bones, even as the show’s creators have given space for Booth’s religious beliefs and various other supernatural phenomenon (i.e., the episodes with Cindy Lauper’s character Avalon).

I don’t particularly mind those flights into fancy, if only because they represent the beliefs of the flight-y characters. These representations can be done well (the first Avalon appearance) or not so well (the second Avalon appearance), and they can, as with Booth’s dead comrade’s appearance at the end of a Gravedigger episode, come off as both playful and poignant.

But the key has been that the show allows for both belief and unbelief. Even if Brennan is characterized as arrogantly rational, they’ve allowed her to score real points against supernaturalism, and to have some fun doing so. (See, for example, the episode “The He in the She” in which she comments on the fashion choices of the Pope.) The viewers are offered a menu without being prodded into picking a particular item.

That, along with everything else, has been slowly disintegrating in the past two seasons (again, season 6 isn’t worth mentioning), but last night [actually, last week’s episode, the latest one free on Hulu] it all fell apart.

First, there was the cliched Brennan-gets-shot-almost-dies bit. Yes, the show has put its characters in mortal danger before, but usually in service to some larger storyline. Last night, the reason why Brennan got shot was a sideline: the whole point was for Brennan to die so that—wait for it—she could experience an afterlife. With her dead mother.

Awww, shit, really?

At first, Brennan dismisses the experience as a neurochemical response to trauma, but by the end the game is given away: Brennan’s mother tells her something  no one else would know, a telling confirmed upon Brennan’s waking.

Superficially, this is akin to the dead soldier’s appearance at the end of that Gravedigger episode, but as the soldier was a manifestation of Booth’s consciousness—and that Brennan didn’t know who he was—it worked. Belief and unbelief bumped into one another, and both went on their way.

This time, however, we were pointed on the way, and whether or not Brennan tries to make sense of this latest experience—which, if handled intelligently (and which, given the writing of late, I doubt will be), could be intriguing as a character study, that tension between the natural and the supernatural went slack.

I’m one of those people who aren’t bothered by spoilers, and who like to re-watch old shows. I don’t know why I enjoy watching things I’ve seen before—there’s a kind of comfort in it, I guess—but having seen something three times in no way interferes with my desire, after some lapse of time, to see it a fourth.

Thus, I watch and re-watch old episodes of Bones. In fact, last night, after having watched the latest free episode on Hulu, I went back and watched a couple of old shows on Netflix. There were from the third season.

I don’t know that I’ve re-watched any episodes from season 7, and when season 8 hit Netflix, I might pass those by, as well. It’s not that the show is terrible, it’s just that it’s not what it was. It’s gone flat.

And last night? It pancaked after flipping over that shark.

Git ‘er done

21 02 2013

A person without interests has no business in politics. Further: A person who is all principle and no interests is a menace to politics*.

Those were a pair of off-the-cuff remarks I made to Jtte in response to some statement she made about the movie Lincoln and the allegedly nefarious means used to pass the 13th Amendment. For chrissakes, I said, are people really shocked that deals are made in order to accomplish anything?

(Well, Thomas Frank is, apparently, but as much as I enjoy his Doris Kearns Goodwin-bashing, I think he needs to dry his eyes and unclutch his pearls.)

What was that line about how the British Labour Party managed to get the National Health Service through Parliament? Ah, here it is: NHS champion Aneurin Bevan overcame doctors’ opposition to his plan when he “stuffed their mouths with gold”.

Goddamned right. If that’s what he needed to do in order to bring health care to every citizen of Britain, then stuff away.

I am not in any way opposed to principle in politics: It is at the core of why anyone should bother with it, and without it politics degenerates into a corrupt flea market.

But politics without interest isn’t politics, either, as much as it pains this Arendtian to say that: It is instead a high-minded—and inert—debate club. It is not enough to proclaim one’s principles and ideals; one must also get something done.

And when there is opposition in principle, you get something done by appealing to interest. No, the true believers won’t be “bought off”, but those for whom something is a moderately- rather than strenuously-held principle, one can bargain one’s interest in order to shape the policy more in line with one’s principles.

As a political scientist, as well as a leftist whose views are not adequately represented by the Democratic Party (and, I have to add, as a still-too-gleeful observer of current Republican and conservative agita), I’ve thought a lot about compromise and lesser evils, holding fast and moving over. When I was younger I was much more militant—which only meant I agonized over my pragmatism.I might vote for the Dems, but I felt bad for doing so.

No more. Now my attitude is take what you can get, then take some more.

I still agonize, to be sure, because there are some matters which are either/or, and by voting for this senator and that president, I’ll end up electing someone who will end up on the either when I am holding to the or.

But most things aren’t all-or-nothing, and always refusing anything less-than-all is apt to leave you with nothing.


*By this I mean electoral politics and elected politicians. Those who lead social movements might lean more on principle than do politicians, but even social leaders have to take stock in order not to become either fanatics and/or useless.

This is what you’ll get when you mess with us

20 02 2013

Could it have been the wrestlers?

You know, the ones I dated, the ones for whom flirting/foreplay usually involved a hold, escape, reverse, and/or pin?

Good times.

(Pause as I take a breath, smile vaguely, and remember. . . .)

Okay. Where was I? Oh, yes, defense.

What, you didn’t get that from the opening? Yes, one very good thing (among other good things) about dating wrestlers was that I learned how to get away from wrestlers. For almost every move there is a counter-move, and as the smaller and less muscular of the pair I had to rely on those counters if I didn’t want the, ahhhh, match to end too soon.

TMI? Sorry.

Anyway, I figured out awhile ago that I am much more comfortable on defense than offense. In argumentation I can go either way (although, even there, I’m quite happy to let you go first), but in most things, I’m thinking more about how not to get clipped or caught out than how to pull ahead.

No, this hasn’t necessarily worked out well for me and yes I’m trying to take more risks, blah blah, but for once I’m not going to veer into ontology and instead remain coasting along the concrete.

Toward drones.

What, you didn’t see that veer coming?

Okay, this post at Crooks & Liars got me thinking that drones will almost certainly fly in the skies of our ever-advancing surveillance state:

So far only a dozen police departments, including ones in Miami and Seattle, have applied to the FAA for permits to fly drones. But drone advocates—who generally prefer the term UAV, for unmanned aerial vehicle—say all 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the U.S. are potential customers. They hope UAVs will soon become essential too for agriculture (checking and spraying crops, finding lost cattle), journalism (scoping out public events or celebrity backyards), weather forecasting, traffic control. “The sky’s the limit, pun intended,” says Bill Borgia, an engineer at Lockheed Martin. “Once we get UAVs in the hands of potential users, they’ll think of lots of cool applications.”

Cool applications, my ass.

One guy mentioned that the solution to drones is more drones, but in the civilian sphere, that makes no damned sense. No, in addition to trying to beat back these suckers with laws, we should also consider how to fuck with and otherwise frustrate ’em.

In theory, drones can offer unblinking eye-in-the-sky coverage. They can carry high-resolution video cameras, infrared sensors, license plate readers, listening devices and other high-tech gear. Companies have marketed drones disguised as sea gulls and other birds to mask their use.

I know zip about how these craft communicate with their pilots, but that communication could be disrupted, correct? And would it be possible to set some kind of electronic barrier around one’s household that would mess with the drone’s sensors?

Electronic monkeywrenching, is what I’m suggesting.

There are real political and ethical issues with any kind of monkeywrenching, but my cranky self can’t help but pay attention to and wonder about ways for those with less power to mess with the levers operated by the more powerful. It’s akin to James Scott’s notion of weapons of the weak, but more (c)overtly confrontational; in any case, the point is to evade claims of others to you.

I don’t seek to evade all claims—hell, as a civic republican, I think my fellow citizens may make more claims on me than they already do—but those claims must be legitimate. And I readily grant that some of the uses of drones might in fact be legitimate, but it seems to me that legitimacy must be granted rather than assumed.

In the land of the CCTV and moneymoneymoney, I am not optimistic. So bring on the jammers and wrenches—and maybe, for those gull-drones, a slingshot.

No hippychick

17 02 2013

I have never been hip.

There have been times in which I might have approached cool, but, really, I doubt I’ve ever been cool, either.

No, I run too hot: I was too eager, too earnest, too political, too angry, too depressed, too neurotic, too in-my-head, too awkward, too dismissive, too dug-in, too restless, too. . . yeah, I dunno what exactly hip is, but I was too-much (and not-enough) ever to be it.

I’m not bashing the hip, however—at least, not in the this post. Yes, when I lived in the un-hip far-out-on-the-L section of Bushwick and had to deal with the polyester-bowling-shirt-surfer-shoe-straw-hat-wearing skinny folk of the near-L-stop Williamsburg and hip-Bushwick, I met my weekly quota of sneering-at-hipsters with ease. But now, away from the L train and a bit more ensconced in my life in New York, I shrug my shoulders and think, Eh, it’s a thing.

And, honestly, while I never could have been hip or cool (or punk or goth), there was always a part of me that was/is fascinated by the performers of hip. I was waaaaay too self-conscious to have treated my life as a kind of performance, to have shown myself off with such elaborate disdain for anyone who wasn’t me and mine.

Oh, I disdained, believe me, but I could never achieve that combination of commitment and detachment necessary to the extended pose of the hip. I didn’t have the knack.

All of which is a long way toward considering yet another NYTimes Style section piece on Brooklyn hipsterdom—only this time, the hipsters have moved upstate, to what author Alex Williams calls “hipsturbia”.

There’s much to criticize about the piece, as there always is with Style section essays—the exclusive focus on above-median-income white people, the writing off of large sections of Brooklyn, the constant need to say Brooklyn is over, etc.—but I don’t know how critical I can be of those profiled in the piece.

They want their comforts at an affordable price; who doesn’t?

Sure, it sounds obnoxious to decide to live in a place because when you did a Google Map street search you found more Subarus than SUVs, but who doesn’t look for signals that a particular neighborhood might work for someone?

I don’t have much money, but even with my limited funds I had (and have) my preferences. I like my general neighborhood and am glad for my train options, but would like to be closer to Prospect Park, and a few more coffee shops/bistros/pubs would be nice. I like trees.  I’d rather live with more apartment space in Brooklyn than less in Manhattan. And since I’ve never been hip, I don’t have to worry that as Brooklyn is, pace the Times, fading in hipness, it’s no longer the place for me.

Anyway, it seems as if the problem is less with the former Brooklynites than with the Times trying to stamp its own narrative on their exits. It’s not that hard: these folks are trying to find a way to live their lives in ways that make sense to them, and are trying to figure out how to blend what they like best about Brooklyn (or, really, any place they lived and loved before) with what they can find where they are now.

Trying to figure out how to make sense ain’t a trend; that’s life.

Valentine’s day is over

14 02 2013

Valentine’s Day. Eh.

When I was a kid my dad would buy treats for all of us for Valentine’s Day, so I was WHOO! VALENTINE’S DAY.

Then I got older and hated everything, so VALENTINE’S DAY, BOO!

Then I got even older and skeptical of corporate interest and manufactured holidays, so Valentine’s Day, how gauche.

Then I got older still and said, yeah, it’s manufactured and commercial, but if it gets you chocolate and kisses, well, what the hell, have at it. And if not, eh.

Anyway, a coupla’ vids for whatever mood you’re in:

Oh, Billy. . .

Gotta love the fish-sticks.

I don’t know if they were a one-hit wonder or not, but this is a fine pop song—although I wonder how many might not know what a “cassette tape” is.

The desperation in this song is so. . . fetching.

Because if I ever think love might even be possible for me, this might be a nice way to experience it.

Kisses to all.