Tuesday, December 31, 2019

2019: a look back and a look forward

Confucius advocated a cultivation of the self; a bit like Saint Irenaeus and his notion of soul-making, Confucius saw people as works in progress, moving toward becoming more human(e). 2019 felt a bit like a soul-making year for me. Mentally speaking, there's been a lot less random flailing than usual. True: I'm still an idiot who doesn't know what he wants to be when he grows up; unlike several of my friends, I wasn't gifted with an inner compass pointing me to a clear destiny.

Or maybe we all eventually slot into the destiny thing, but each of us does so at his or her own pace as murky, weaving futures resolve themselves into linear clarity—a straight line to one's fate that becomes all the more obvious as time grinds relentlessly forward. The great writer and thinker Samuel Johnson supposedly said that the knowledge that you'll be hanged in a fortnight concentrates the mind "wonderfully." At my age, I'm close to seeing the end of the conveyor belt I'm riding, and I know I don't have much time left before I tumble off its edge. This knowledge does indeed provide a certain focus, a certain lucidity, and that's one of the things I'll be discussing in this entry.

So, yes: 2019 was a year of Irenaean soul-making or Confucian self-cultivation. Certain things have become obvious to me thanks to job-related turbulence and other factors, and thanks to certain signal events. Let's talk about signal events first.

This was a year of losses and almost-losses. I almost lost a friend because of political differences, and while I'm not quite sure whether we're officially back to being simpatico, we seem to be in a slightly better place, now, than we had been before conflict between us erupted from seemingly out of nowhere. In terms of actual losses: blogger Steve Krodman, a.k.a Elisson (Eli's son), died of ALS in January of this year. In April, I got the news that my friend Kent Davy had been diagnosed with "wild melanoma," an internal cancer (despite the name) that started in his liver before metastasizing to a lung and taking him down by July. Steve's ALS moved frighteningly quickly; Kent's cancer did likewise.

On a less somber note: I turned 50 this year, right along with the first-ever moon-landing event. I'm fond of noting that my buddy Mike and I are moon-landing babies: Mike was born in mid-June of 1969, about a month before Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon; I was born in late August of 1969, about a month after. We are the open and closed parentheses for that historic moment. Turning 50 means facing the fact that you've lived a half-century, and it's a time to take stock of your life and ask yourself what the hell you've accomplished. I can't say that I've accomplished all that much, but another signal event happened this year of which I'm very proud: I walked from Incheon to Busan, this time doing the entire Four Rivers Trail from end to end, as God intended. So I've got that under my belt, if nothing else. So much for signal events; let's talk job-related turbulence.

While my position at work isn't under any particular threat, life in the aftermath of my first boss's departure has become very topsy-turvy and disorganized. I'm no longer given a single large project on which I can work steadily and quietly. Instead, I'm given a flurry of random, short-term assignments according to the ever-shifting needs of a department that is trying desperately to cater to the fickle whims of other departments. Whereas, under my first boss, my work was appreciated and actually implemented, in my current circumstances, most of what I do gets pulled, twisted, contorted, watered down, and otherwise redone by my fellow staffers, so life is now a constant process of being shut down and shot down, creatively speaking. As I've told my officemates, my attitude is basically "fuck it" because nothing in Korea—or more specifically, in our company—moves in a straight line, and you can never predict the future. Projects never end up the way they started out. Promises mean nothing; vacation days are never made clear until the last minute; declarations of where the department is going get countermanded or contradicted by subsequent changes in circumstance, and in that sense, my current work life isn't very stable. I have job security, to be sure, but working in R&D feels as stable as trying to read a book while inside a Moon Bounce with a bunch of sugar-frenzied kids. I want and need stability; right now, the signal-to-noise ratio has slid too far toward the noise.

One temporary solution to this problem has recently come to light: I might be leaving my current R&D team to go back to work with my former boss. That would mean a return to the good old days of the 2015-16 era. But what all this instability has really taught me is that I'd rather be my own boss. Maybe this is what it feels like when your internal compass stops wavering and locks on to a particular direction. Vague impulses and desires coalesce into clear convictions. For me, the clearest direction is creative: I want to get more into writing, and I want to get more into videography. I don't consider myself compelling as a speaker or particularly photogenic, but I do have opinions on a variety of topics, as well as plenty of ideas for various projects. Right now, I have several book projects, one of which I'm currently working on. It ought to come out sometime next year, which is a major reason to look forward to 2020. I plan to subscribe to Skillshare, a teaching website and "online learning community" that offers thousands of courses on practical topics like writing and filmmaking. That's where I hope to pick up skills in videography, and the first fruits of those labors will probably be the creation of a video channel on a site like YouTube or BitChute. Don't be surprised if you see my ugly ass talking into a camera sometime next year.

Another reason to look forward to 2020 is that I'll be zeroing out my scholastic debt. This is huge for me; it's been a goal of mine for almost two decades, and I'm finally there. Paying down this debt has been a painful lesson in the power of karma, and the fact that karma doesn't give a shit what your intentions might have been. Make a stupid mistake, get bitten in the ass. Hard. That's what happened to me with my scholastic debt: I got both a full scholarship and financial aid for grad school, and I decided, like a moron, to keep the financial aid and use it to pay my rent while I focused on studying. What I should have done was reject the financial aid and work during grad school; I'd have learned a lot more about time management and work/life balance—skills that actually matter in the real world. Instead, I ended up making choices that have crippled me, financially, for nearly twenty years. It's only now that I'm literally old and graying that I can finally say I'm crawling out of the debt hole that I myself created through my lack of wisdom. Lesson learned. My advice to young people thinking about grad school: do it sooner rather than later, and if you get a full-ride scholarship, don't accept financial aid! Work your way through school! You'll thank me later.

Zeroing out my debt will be a moment for celebration, but once I'm done dancing a jig, I'll need to concentrate on the next big thing: saving a pile of cash and planning for a possible return to the States. As long as I work in the education sector in Korea, I'm always paying into the National Pension fund. This won't pay out over the course of my golden years; it'll be given to me as a lump sum either when I request it or when I finally choose to leave the country for good. It's not the same as getting a steady trickle from Social Security, and it's not the equivalent of an IRA, 401(k), or whatever. 2020 will see the beginning of Project Save a Shitload. If I stay in Korea a few more years, I can quickly amass six figures and think about returning to the States. In the meantime, if I am able to switch over to some sort of lucrative self-employment while in Korea, I can save even more.

Starting a family after age 50 seems not to be in the cards for me. I have no romantic prospects, and I don't see anything on the horizon—at least, not until I've somehow lost 30-40 kilos and fattened up my bank account. So whatever life lies ahead, it's probably going to be a single one. That prospect would have disturbed me during my college years, back when I thought I'd make a good father and family man. These days, though, I think I'm way too introverted to open my life up to someone else and live a shared existence. I think I'd end up feeling too confined by the constant need to compromise, negotiate, and communicate—all things that extroverts are better at than introverts. And having kids at my age would be tiring as hell; I watched my friends—who followed the normal, society-approved path of having kids in their late twenties—go through the hell of losing a sleep schedule through their kids' infancy, then stressing for years as their kids were growing up. I can't say that I'd want to go through all that, especially now, at this point in my existence.

So life is, for me, a matter of embracing the choices I've made that have put me on my current path. This path is leading me out of debt, away from married life, and possibly toward a fulfilling, self-directed career in a creative field. I have other fields I want to explore, such as architecture—the building of things. I'd love to get more into painting and sculpture—especially with wood as my medium, but also possibly with stone and/or metal. I'd like to continue to explore brush calligraphy and brush art, as well as cartooning, which I still do on occasion. Life presents one with so many opportunities to be this and do that, and it's for that reason that I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up. At a guess, writing will always remain my main creative pursuit, given that it's the activity in which I engage daily, with near-monastic consistency.

But we'll see. I've talked a good game about destiny in this blog entry, but from my limited, horizoned perspective, it's also true that the future doesn't feel set in stone. And that's the excitement of a life well lived, isn't it? You move forward in the hopes of a better future, having faith that the path before you won't have (m)any pitfalls, but you're never really sure about what's coming next. Some people shrink from the prospect of an unwritten future; others look forward into the fog with eagerness. I'd like to think I'm part of the latter crowd.

So—onward to 2020! Happy New Year to all my friends and readers.



Monday, December 30, 2019

the kind of comedy that'll piss certain dipshits off

Drinking game: while you're watching the following video, take a shot every time the audience holds its collective breath because it's hearing something true but un-PC.






do we idolize the Enlightenment?

This Prager U. video claims the Enlightenment isn't all it was cracked up to be:


There are claims in the above video that are worth examining. I'm not sure I'm totally convinced by the argument as presented (e.g., we can use history, tradition, and experience to justify slavery), but I'm willing to explore some of the argument's details.

Your thoughts?

ADDENDUM: I ask because there are conservatives like Dr. Vallicella who purport to espouse Enlightenment values. See here, for example:
My brand of conservatism could be called American. It aims to preserve and where necessary restore the values and principles codified by the founders. Incorporating as it does elements of classical liberalism and libertarianism, American conservatism is far from throne-and-altar reaction. While anti-theocratic, it is not anti-religious. It stands for individual liberty and its necessary supports, private property, free markets, and limited government. It is liberal in its stress on liberties, but conservative in its sober view of human nature, a nature easily corrupted by power and in need of restraint. It avoids the reactionary and radical extremes. It incorporates the values of the Enlightenment. American conservatism presupposes the existence of “unalienable rights” which come from nature or from “nature's God.” First among the liberties mentioned in the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution is religious liberty which includes the liberty to exercise no religion. It is first in the order of exposition and (arguably) first also in the order of importance. The second liberty mentioned is free speech. Both of these classically American values are under assault from the utopian Left which has taken over the Democrat party in the USA.


bizarre and amusing at the same time






Sunday, December 29, 2019

Chinese-food snafu

I'm a patient, tolerant man, but waiting three fucking hours for Chinese food that normally arrives within 20-40 minutes is a little much even by my standards. I ordered my food at 3:06 p.m. today, and the man at the other end told me the food "would take some time." At 6:06 p.m., I called the restaurant back and spoke with some ajumma who kept bellowing "Hello? Hello?" into the phone. I shouted that I had been waiting for three hours and asked her when the food was coming. "The guy left," she shouted back. It's been ten minutes since that exchange, and no one is knocking on my door. One thing's for sure: I won't be ordering from Myung-goong Chinese Food ever again. This is the first—and last—time I'll be placing an order with them. What a spectacular level of retardation.

UPDATE: the Chinese place just called me and asked me what I'd ordered. Stupid motherfuckers. I guess the delivery guy never actually left. Anyway, I told them I was canceling the goddamn order. So there we are. I had wanted a late lunch, and now I'm going for a regular dinner. Christ. When I think about it, I've generally had pretty bad luck with ordering Chinese food. The only reason why I wanted to order from Myung-goong, today, was that their ad showed a new type of jjambbong done up with fish eggs. So, going against my own sense of foreboding, I placed the order. And look how that turned out.



"Chernobyl": review

HBO's 2019 "Chernobyl" is a five-part miniseries about the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The drama has several subplots; one focuses on the efforts of certain scientists and one party official both to handle the crisis on the ground and the public-relations fallout (pardon the pun), all in the face of a Soviet government determined to present to the world an air of confidence and competence. Another subplot deals with the pregnant wife of one of the firefighters sent to the plant. A third subplot depicts the toil of a group of tough miners who are tasked with digging out a space beneath the dangerously radioactive plant in order to install a heat-exchanger that will reduce the thermal emissions from the plant's exploded core. A fourth subplot, which occurs later in the miniseries, focuses on a young man who is drafted into an ongoing military effort to salvage irradiated territory and prevent the continued spread of radiation; in the young man's case, his job is to stop irradiated pets and wildlife from leaving the enormous hot zone by shooting the animals down, piling them into a truck, and burying them under concrete. The series's final episode deals with the trial of the people managing the plant at the time of the disaster, thus offering our lead characters, the aforementioned scientists and party official, a chance to provide expert testimony about what exactly occurred on the early morning of April 26, 1986.

Russia apparently wasn't happy with this miniseries. Russian film critics, historians, politicians, and other people actually involved in the events of the Chernobyl disaster have accused the HBO team of producing a miniseries rife with exaggerations and outright lies. "Chernobyl" gives us a fairly clear list of heroes and villains; the show has little truck with moral ambiguity, and as a result, many Russians question the nature of the storytelling on display. I have no idea what the actual truth is, although I assume that much of what I saw while watching the series is based on fact, given the ending-credit title cards in the final episode, which give us updates on what became of many of the principal characters portrayed in the drama. (Spoiler: pretty much everyone ultimately dies of radiation exposure. The whole thing was and is a massive Shakespearean tragedy.)

One of the central mysteries of the series was how it was possible for a graphite-lined core to explode. The scientists spend much of their time focused on this question, and it isn't until the trial in the fifth and final episode that we get the full story of how it happened. The trial is significant because it was the moment when scientists, and even a crucial party official, felt obliged to tell the truth about how systemic incompetence and blind pride and nationalism kept people from facing the reality of the situation. Story writer Craig Mazin and series director Johan Renck both saw the Chernobyl story as a sort of metaphor for the fake-news, post-truth, alternative-facts times we currently live in, although they view the problem from the liberal/left end of the spectrum. The moral of the story, as in Alan Moore's Watchmen, is that the truth, however much it gets suppressed, will always eventually find its way out.

"Chernobyl" is a huge, sprawling story featuring an ensemble cast, but worthy of note are the actors who played the principal characters—mostly British thespians who play Russians, but with their native accents in place. (A few American actors are scattered throughout the cast in minor roles.) Jared Harris is Valery Legasov, the nuclear scientist—and deputy director of the Kurchatov Institute—who is called in to unpack the mystery of the explosion; Stellan Skarsgård is Boris Scherbina, a party official who is initially dismissive of the danger, but who eventually comes to understand the gravity of the situation. Emily Watson—she of the perpetually haunted facial expressions—plays nuclear scientist Ulana Khomyuk, a fictional character created to represent the hundreds of scientists who work with Legasov to unravel the jumbled chronology of the disaster. Paul Ritter plays consummate dickhead Anatoly Dyatlov, the on-site manager who insisted that the nuclear plant run a safety test that should never have been run while the plant was at low capacity. Jared Harris is a great choice for the role of Legasov; he is the Platonic ideal of nondescript in terms of his looks, and he plays the role of a socially tone-deaf scientist to the hilt. Stellan Skarsgård portrays the only main character to go through anything like a character arc: his Boris Scherbina is a gruff mocker of scientists and dismisser of obvious truths at first, but once he witnesses the sheer destruction at Chernobyl with his own eyes, his mindset changes, and he becomes an advocate of the scientists, joining them in their search for truth while also weaving his way through the nightmarish bog of Soviet bureaucracy. Skarsgård brings to the role his characteristic authority and wit. Emily Watson as Ulana Khomyuk does her usual fine job of looking haunted as she teases out the implications of the plant explosion, the shattered core, and what the disaster implies for millions of lives in the USSR and Europe. Paul Ritter deserves a ton of credit for portraying one of the most hateful—and hated—characters in the story: Anatoly Dyatlov refuses to listen to reason, insisting on doing things his way, then blaming his subordinates when everything goes to hell.

The story begins in 1988, two years after the disaster, with Dr. Legasov recording his thoughts onto several audio cassettes, then hanging himself. Before he commits suicide, he bundles the tapes up and hides them in a small, dark niche outside his building, presumably so that someone will come along, pluck them out, and eventually disseminate his final thoughts to the world. The title cards in Episode 5 tell us that Legasov's suicide made it impossible to ignore the tapes, and apparently, Mikhail Gorbachev himself saw the Chernobyl disaster, with its cracking-open of the shell of Soviet lies, as the true catalyst for the fall of the Soviet Union, which happened only a few years later.

Overall, I found the story—whatever its fictions—to be a riveting watch. In some ways, the construction of the drama harks back to old, 1970s-era disaster films, which also featured ensemble casts, and also examined the chain of events leading up to a disaster. Disaster stories can't help but be morality plays. I do, however, have some disagreements with the thrust of this drama. First, I'll start with something that actor Stellan Skarsgård says during an interview: ultimately, it was the system that was to blame. Systemic thinking is an artifact of the leftist/liberal mentality, which refuses to see things in terms of individuals. While I would never go so far as to claim that systems don't exist, I think it's the individuals in those systems who make crucial choices that affect thousands, or even millions, of others. My second disagreement is with the implication, by the show's writer and the director, that "Chernobyl" should be taken as a moral tale about current political leadership, i.e., the rightie-nationalist people like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson. In the times we currently live in, it's less the leaders and more the media that are the cause of the crisis in truth we're currently experiencing. I think writer and director Mazin and Renck would be braver to couch the moral lesson in terms of the leftist fakery and chicanery happening these days, but somewhat ironically, they are, like the politicos in the Soviet Union, obliged to stick to the leftist narrative, which rejects the truth.

"Chernobyl" is a depressing yarn. If the message of the miniseries is what Mazin and Renck say it is, then the drama has missed the point. But those with eyes to see and ears to hear will tease out the correct message from this well-crafted story... because lies carry a huge cost, and the truth will always eventually find its way out.



some pics from PowerLine

From PowerLine's "Week in Pictures":











Saturday, December 28, 2019

wir müßen arbeiten

And the word has come down from on high that, yes, we must work on January 1. Arbeit macht frei! It's at times like these that I can't stand the company I work for. But for what it's worth, I've decided to turn that frown upside-down by having a little fondue party in the office. So there's that. But there's an obstacle to our enjoyment: we've got a guy who can't have too much salt, a woman who can't have too many carbs, and another guy who can't do gluten, so I'll have to cater to everyone's needs by providing chunked-up veggies for dipping. As for me, I'll break keto again and just stick with good ol' bread. Paris Baguette makes shitty baguettes that are, ironically, perfect for dipping in and dragging through fondue cheese.

Hope your New Year's Day is better than mine!



la tirade de Jean McCréri

My buddy John Mac gets his rant on about racism.

Excerpt:

...whenever the elites are wailing about all the bad things attributed to white folks[,] I do a simple test to determine if they are racist: I change the color of the skin. If I can’t say it about brown people as a group, you can’t project your own racism on white people.

Amen to that.



Friday, December 27, 2019

Vader-related geekery

The most comprehensive examination of Darth Vader's fighting style that I've ever seen:






practicing for actual war

All this play-fighting is merely prep for the inevitable zombie apocalypse:






Gilleland's howler

Over at Michael Gilleland's excellent Laudator Temporis Acti, there's a post about a "howler" of a translation. Some translator, it seems, rendered the Italian promiscuità directly and literally as "promiscuity" in English, which would lead an anglophone reader to think there was some raunchy, indiscriminate sex happening. The writer of the passage that Gilleland quotes contends that the translation should have been "propinquity," i.e., physical closeness, so as to make clear that the original author was referring to people who were jam-packed together, not to an orgy.

All this made me think of the French prof at Georgetown who warned us English-speakers that la promiscuité, in French, could conceivably refer to sexual promiscuity, but in both its older and more modern usages, it refers more to a non-sexual situation in which people are simply jumbled together. Look the word up in Lexilogos, and you get the following definitions:

A. − Vieilli ou littér. Mélange ou entassement confus, assemblage disparate de choses abstraites ou concrètes.
En partic. Rapprochement sexuel de personnes contraire à un code moral ou une loi.

B. − Assemblage, voisinage de personnes de moeurs, de milieux, de races ou de sexes différents dont le contact paraît choquant ou contraire à la bienséance.
− ANTHROPOL. Promiscuité (sexuelle). Relations sexuelles soumises, chez les peuples primitifs, à des règles impératives.

C. − Mod. Proximité, entassement de personnes résultant d'une situation particulière (généralement d'une exiguïté de lieu), ressentie comme désagréable ou néfaste moralement ou physiquement.
Note that definition C, above, is the modern one, and all it entails is an unpleasant packing-together of people in a cramped space. Promiscuité has a possible sexual connotation in its older, more literary sense (def. A), and also in a more anthropological sense (def. B).

What's even more interesting is what you see when you visit Dictionary.com and read its definition of "promiscuous":
1. characterized by or involving indiscriminate mingling or association, especially having sexual relations with a number of partners on a casual basis.
2. consisting of parts, elements, or individuals of different kinds brought together without order.
3. indiscriminate; without discrimination.
4. casual; irregular; haphazard.
So it seems the semantic field of "promiscuous/promiscuity" really isn't so far off from the Italian promiscuità or the French promiscuité. You will have noted, of course, that the sexual aspect of the word is front and center in definition 1, probably because most English speakers hear "promiscuous" and immediately think of wanton sexual activity. In the end, I can see why the translator might have chosen to translate the Italian expression literally: the semantic field of the English equivalent makes such a translation plausible. The translator's error, though, was in being out of touch with the public and not realizing that most anglophones would probably get a giggle out of such a rendering.



surprise, surprise

I predicted that a toenail would fall off around Christmas, and one just did today—but not the one I'd expected to lose. It was an innocent-looking, healthy-looking toenail on my left foot—the one between the middle toe and pinky toe—that decided to give up the ghost. Meanwhile, my left middle toe, with its disgustingly black toenail, continues to hang tough even though, by all rights, that nail ought to have been the one to make the leap first. Go figure.



don't watch if you're planning to see "Rise of Skywalker"

One thing I did on Christmas was treat myself to as many spoilery videos about "Star Wars, Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker" as I could find. I had already heard from many sources that the movie was a lame lost cause, so I thought to myself, "Fuck it. I might see the movie still, but I may as well spoil it all for myself." So at this point, I now know every important point there is to know about the film. I won't spoil any of it in this post, to be sure, but if you're OK with hearing spoilers or you've already seen the movie (it gets released in early January here in Korea), then feel free to watch the spoiler-laden video below. It's done up in the style of those Hitler videos in which Hitler is ranting in German, but the subtitles have nothing to do with what he's saying. In the video below, the language is Spanish, and the subtitles make it seem as if the guy with the infectious laughter is ridiculing the climax of "Rise of Skywalker." I couldn't help but laugh along with the video, and I give full props to whoever wrote the subtitles for having given the movie a proper skewering. Enjoy.


Best comment below the video:
"I guess Force lighting is like diarrhea: once it starts, it won’t stop."



Thursday, December 26, 2019

debt paid

For the longest time, I had a file on Google Docs titled "Creditors." This was a list of people to whom I owed money—people who had spotted me a few hundred bucks here and there to help me out. As I paid these good people back, I wrote "PAID" by their names to indicate the status of the debt. I hadn't opened that file in years, and when I opened it last night, I saw that there was only one unpaid debt left: W980,000 to Kent Davy. My guts twisted, and a wave of sadness swept over me. Kent passed away in July of this year, and as a symbolic gesture at the memorial service, I left a million won in a white envelope to be used by his daughter, who is attending a rather expensive Ivy League school. Kent's wife, shocked at the amount, wrote me a thank-you-but-why email, to which I responded with the story of how Kent had, years ago, paid me W980,000 for proofreading work that I never did for him. I was supposed to look over some research paper that he'd been writing for a course he'd been taking—something about Korean history. I never got the paper; Kent must have written it and submitted it without needing to show it to me. Anyway, when I mentioned to Kent that I'd been paid for doing zero work, he shrugged and told me to keep the money; he might need me to do some task that would be worth about a million won. Years passed, and the debt faded into history. Then Kent died, and I suddenly had a reason to gather up the funds and give them to his family. I'm sure Kent's daughter will find a good use for the money. Textbooks and food are both expensive where she is, so if 800 or so bucks can help defray the cost of living, then I'll have done some good. It's just too bad that I couldn't pay Kent back directly.

Epilogue: I've deleted the "Creditors" file. All personal debts are now paid.



whirly bird

This is made all the more hilarious by the inclusion of the "Interstellar" soundtrack:






Rep. Dan Crenshaw on the impeachment vote

Texas Representative Dan Crenshaw—the one-eyed war vet who got insulted by comics on Saturday Night Live (and who received a public apology)—speaks directly to the public, expressing his thoughts on the Democrat-led movement to impeach Donald Trump:






Larry Elder on #WalkAway

Without explicitly talking about the hashtag #WalkAway movement, Larry Elder goes over some good reasons why black folks ought to think about leaving the Democratic party:






your 9-second Christmas horror story

A kid gets a real shock:






you can still listen to Christmas tunes after Christmas Day, right?

This Eric Clapton rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" is one of the best I've heard. The video is nothing but still images, so just enjoy the audio:






Wednesday, December 25, 2019

salad and Faux-fredo fusilli

The salad:


There's a bit of a story behind the salad, and it has to do with the dressing, which isn't pictured in the above photo. A standard oil-and-vinegar dressing usually involves about three parts oil and one part vinegar (you can vary that proportion according to your taste). I used olive oil and Kirkland balsamic vinegar, and since I have a huge supply of xanthan gum thanks to my keto-dabbling (which has been going on for a while, now, even though I haven't blogged about it that much), I added a tiny fraction of a teaspoon of xanthan gum to the oil and vinegar in an attempt to create an emulsion. A little xanthan gum goes a long way: you can significantly thicken a half-gallon of Chinese egg-drop soup with half a teaspoon of the magic powder. I put in less than an eighth of a teaspoon, and that proved to be too much: I got an emulsion, yes, but the dressing basically turned into goop. Luckily, I added some water, and the mix thinned out into something pourable while still staying emulsified. Xanthan gum is a great little thickener, especially for salad dressings, but also for various sauces. The fact that you need so little of it makes it a very economical purchase.

The pasta:


The tightly spiraled fusilli pasta is great for trapping sauce, which is why it's one of my favorite pastas to use. The Faux-fredo sauce came out great: it's "faux" because, instead of using Parmigiano Reggiano, I used the much funkier Gorgonzola, which I love. I think Alfredo works better when it's less subtle. I made enough Faux-fredo pasta for another whole meal, so I'll be saving the leftovers for later—maybe this weekend.

Dessert courtesy of Shinsegae Foods:


Korean/Japanese-style cheesecake is much lighter and fluffier than American cheesecake, which is tasty but way too heavy for my taste. In East Asia, they place less emphasis on the cheese and more on the cake. Makes sense to me.



funniest Christmas story you'll see today

Courtesy of the whackjobs at Black Rifle Coffee Company:




on the menu today

Sorry, no keto today: my excuse is that it's Christmas, so whadaya', whadaya'? Instead, we've got the following on the menu of unhealthy self-indulgence:

1. Kevin's Faux-fredo-style Gorgonzola chicken fusilli with bacon, spinach, and mushrooms—herbed and seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder, dried onions, and dried chives
2. Salad with spinach, bacon, bleu d'Auvergne cheese, green bell peppers, red bell peppers, carrots, dried currants, cherry tomatoes, tangerine wedges, and a balsamic/olive-oil dressing

Photos later, of course.



family wholesomeness

The Ducoulombier family sends me a lovely Yuletide family pic in which they also show off the humble gifts* that I Amazoned them:


Tim, center, seems to have grown like a weed since I last saw him. He's turned into a little version of the already-little Ben Shapiro. Joséphine (eldest daughter), a natural blonde, appears to be rockin' a brunette look for now. Everyone looks happy and healthy and cheerful. You can always count on the Ducoulombier family for beautiful family pics. Not a bad image for the end of the year!



*In case you're wondering what the gifts are: Tim is holding a large box that contains a game called "Mâche-Mots," i.e., "Chew Words," in which players actually do the opposite of chewing because their mouths are held open by a device called a mouth prop or a mouth guard. This is the French version of the game "Watch Ya' Mouth," which is itself one of several types of mouth-prop games. Héloïse, meanwhile, is holding up a surprisingly tiny calendar of "365 trucs inutiles à savoir," i.e., "365 things that are useless to know." I thought the calendar would be bigger, frankly. These were just meant to be some family gifts; I know everyone in that household likes to play board games (they have an armoire stacked high with them, and I played a few games while I was there), so the mouth-prop gift seemed apropos. The calendar, meanwhile, goes well with the family's collective sense of humor; they're a jokey bunch.



Merry Christmas!


Peace and blessings to all my friends and readers. May your Christmas be free of strife and cheerfully predatory tigers.



Tuesday, December 24, 2019

officially under $20K

It's been a years-long journey, and it's almost over. Starting out with a towering scholastic debt that was right around $80,000, I've paid that debt down until, just this month, I broke through the $20,000 barrier. In another several months, I'll have paid off all of my scholastic debt, and once I pay off what little credit-card debt I have, my credit rating will go from its current 780 to somewhere over 800 (850 is the maximum).

I will, of course, be in a very spendy, celebratory mood for a long, long time after I officially zero out my scholastic debt. I'm also thinking of taking a trip to Qatar next year, where I'll hang with a South African friend and experience, for a few days, the gustatory delights of that food mecca. I might finally buy myself a new computer—not that my faithful MacBook Air is dying or anything (it's been chugging along with very few problems since 2011), but I think the time has come to get myself an actual, respectable desktop. Should I stick with Mac or go with a Windows machine? I'm equally comfortable with both, and at this point, I think I've passed beyond any Mac/Windows partisanship.

I've written about this elsewhere (cough), but there's a chance I might find myself once again working under my former boss. If so, then because my ex-boss was fairly lenient, I can think realistically about doing another long walk, perhaps the longer coastal walk, within a year instead of waiting two years. That would be a dream come true.

So life is looking up—way up. The only thing that could be bring me down would be some huge personal calamity—a car accident that cripples me, a cancer diagnosis, or a similarly disastrous event. I half-expect something like that to happen; I'm convinced the cosmos doesn't have my best interests at heart, and I've suffered comparable disappointments before. But there's little use worrying about what you can't control, and for the moment, at least, all signs point heavenward, and that's good enough for me.



Scrooges

Dr. Vallicella cites Dennis Prager on why the left supposedly hates Christmas.

I wouldn't have put much stock in Prager's view, but then I saw this over at Instapundit.



stay classy

The building I work in is called "Classia," and since the fourth floor is devoted to our company, we get tons of young, twitchy students coming through these halls every day. As you can imagine, this means filthy public restrooms, litter on the floors, and vandalism. Below is the sign next to the fourth-floor elevator doors. It used to read "CLASSIA," along with brief descriptions of every floor. Now, those descriptions have been fingernailed off, and "Classia" has been reduced to its gluteal essentials. Behold:






via Bill Keezer

Is Bill back to sending out links to memes and cartoons? We can only hope.






is the space-heater trick working?

I don't pay rent: my company pays that for me. Instead, I pay a monthly "admin fee" that also includes my electricity. In the spring and fall, during those perfect windows of time when I use neither my A/C nor my heating system, my bill is very low: around W160,000 (or about $135). In the summer, the bill can get up to around W200,000 if I blast my A/C day and night, but winter is worse: the ondol floor-heating system consumes large amounts of electricity, and my bill often skyrockets to just over W350,000.

I'm trying something new this year: instead of turning on my ondol, I'm using a modest space heater that I'd bought years ago. I've placed it close to my bed so it can warm me while I sleep. In theory at least, the space heater uses far less power than the ondol does, making it a much cheaper option for wintertime heating. Last month, my bill was just under W180,000 ($153), which is fantastic for this time of year. I'll be curious to see what my December bill is (the bill for December arrives the first week of January). If it's under W200,000, I'll be delighted.



Monday, December 23, 2019

Styx on Trump and impeachment

Dem defections may be continuing:


How bad is it when even CNN says Trump is gaining ground?


I would still contend that the Dems will push through with impeachment because, well, they're stupid and they just can't help themselves. Sane liberals really ought to be writing their representatives and demanding a return to rationality, but I think we're long past the point of no return. As Vader said to Luke: "It is too late for me, son."



Charles takes on the puffy, fluffy stuff

What counts as bread? What counts as cake? Charles ponders the surprisingly thorny question of how to define terms like bread, cake, and even cracker. In doing so, he brushes by—albeit without mentioning it—the Wittgensteinian concept of family resemblances.



"It: Chapter 2": two-paragraph review

[NB: spoilers, but I don't care.]

I've already written of my distaste for both the movie "It" and the Stephen King novel on which it's based. The monster has never made any sense to me, and the movie version of the story was hard to take seriously. The same goes for 2019's "It: Chapter 2," again directed by Andy Muschietti and starring the adult versions of the kiddie cast (although the kids return in flashback in this film, apparently computer de-aged for continuity's sake): Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader, Isaiah Mustafa, Jay Ryan, James Ransone, Andy Bean, and Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise the marauding alien clown. Whereas the first chapter of the saga took place in 1988, this second chapter takes place 27 years later, in 2015. Our young heroes, the Losers, have all grown up and moved on, barely remembering the traumatic events of '88. Only Mike Hanlon (Mustafa) has remained behind in Derry, Maine, to keep watch, to remember, and to be ready to recall the Losers should the monster return. Return it does, as children once again go missing. Mike summons the Losers, and everyone but Stan Uris (Bean) answers the call: Stan, fearful, has committed suicide, slitting his wrists while in his bathtub. Mike explains to the group that It can be defeated via a Native American ritual called the Ritual of Chud (Chüd, with an umlaut, in the book), but the Losers need to sacrifice an item of personal importance as part of the ritual. The Losers once again head into Derry's dank sewers to do battle with Pennywise, armed with little more than their love for each other and their conviction that Pennywise can be destroyed.

The movie tries hard to be both a comedy and a horror film. Even the musical soundtrack is un-serious, reminding me of nothing so much as the soundtrack from the 80s-era Ghostbusters movies. Bill Hader as grown-up Richie Tozier and James Ransone as the adult Eddie Kaspbrak function as comic relief, but I didn't find either of them all that funny. Maybe it's the audience effect: comedy is funnier when you're in a theater full of laughing people, although that doesn't explain why I usually laugh like a moron on LSD while watching "Rick and Morty" by myself. Pennywise/It once again makes no sense in terms of his abilities and his motives. If he's an alien that lives on fear, who can be defeated through the mere power of imagination and belief, then he should have been eradicated centuries ago. Instead, the Ritual of Chud ends up being useless, and the Losers have to make up another, equally nonsensical strategy on the fly to defeat the monster (spoiler: they resort to name-calling, which somehow shrinks It from a giant spider to a midget-sized clownlet). About the only thing I truly appreciated was a funny callback to John Carpenter's 1982 "The Thing," which featured a scene in which a disembodied head sprouted spider legs and crawled around. The same thing happens in this movie, and a character utters the line "You gotta be fuckin' kidding," which is straight out of "The Thing." That gave me a chuckle. Otherwise, this movie was a real drag to sit through: it was unfunny, un-scary, and illogical; it was also based on one of Stephen King's weakest-ever novels. King (who has a cameo in this movie) is a master storyteller, but even the masters churn out turds now and then, and the novel It was a massive turd that has now spawned two cinematic turds. I'm glad It's over. If you're looking for a good movie about an evil clown, you're better off watching the far superior "Joker."



Sunday, December 22, 2019

hungry for some ramen?

Impressive. Most impressive.






good (but spoiler-laden) "Joker" commentary

The commentary below delves somewhat into the political dimension of "Joker." It reveals the climax that my review didn't reveal, so you might not want to watch the video if you still intend to watch the movie. Also: you're going to be butthurt if you're a Jared Leto fan.


My favorite quote from the video comes early: "I like how 'Batman Begins' ends with a Joker teaser, and 'Joker' ends with a Batman teaser." Ah, symmetry.



"Joker": review

[NB: some spoilers, but the climax/crescendo is left un-spoiled.]

The ghostly influence of Alan Moore and Frank Miller is evident in 2019's "Joker," which is something of a stand-alone film that is kind-of set in the Batman universe. "Joker" is directed by "The Hangover" helmer Todd Phillips, who also co-wrote the screenplay. It stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, a shy, mentally ill man who gets by in Gotham City working as a not-very-successful sign-twirling clown. Fleck takes care of his mother Penny (Frances Conroy), who claims to have worked for Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen, looking burly and surly) years ago, and who constantly writes Wayne letters asking the billionaire for help. Arthur, who gets mugged and has his "Everything Must Go!" sign stolen by some nasty kids, likes to come home to his and Penny's grimy apartment and watch the "Live with Murray Franklin" show. Franklin (Robert De Niro), an analogue for Carson and other late-night hosts, is an inspiration to Arthur, who wants to become a successful standup comedian.

But Arthur has problems. He's mentally unstable and, having recently been released from Arkham Aslyum, is on meds and seeing a city-appointed counselor. Arthur laughs at inappropriate moments, and while he seems detached and unempathetic when it comes to his interactions with other people, he's socially aware enough to realize that his laughter causes discomfort. This realization prompts him to apologize while he's cackling, coughing, hitching, and hiccuping; when he remembers to do so, he hands the offended people around him little laminated cards that explain, in small print, that he has a condition, possibly neurological, that causes him to laugh uncontrollably. In cold, squalid Gotham, most people have little or no sympathy for Arthur. Most people barely acknowledge his existence.

At Arthur's place of work, a grungy studio where professional clowns don their makeup and wacky clothes and prep for their various gigs, a seemingly sympathetic coworker named Randall gives Arthur a gun after he professes sympathy following Arthur's mugging. While it's hard to say what moment, exactly, might be the crucial moment when meek, emotionally fragile Arthur Fleck begins to transform into the mass-murdering Joker of legend, this moment—the receiving of the gun—is a good candidate.

"Joker" is an origin story that has echoes of Alan Moore's The Killing Joke, a graphic novel that has, by now, attained legendary status among comics fans. In Moore's story, the unnamed man who becomes the Joker tries to support his family through standup comedy, but he's a failure. In the movie, Penny asks her son how he could choose a life of standup comedy: aren't comedians supposed to be funny?

The transition takes place slowly, by degrees. It's a bit like watching an addict's progression, in phases, from a gateway drug to the harder stuff. Arthur gets the gun, and it's not long before he's waving it around in his apartment and accidentally firing it, terrifying himself, his mother, and possibly the neighbors in the building across the way. Not long after that, the gun gets used in self-defense to stop a subway assault, and by the end of the story, the gun has become Chekov's gun in full as it's used in the commission of a very public murder.

A good bit of controversy surrounded this movie, both from the left and from the right, fairly early on. Director Todd Phillips felt that much of the criticism of the movie came from the "far left" and from "woke" culture. Concerns were expressed that the film, which shows a marginal individual's eventual embrace of violence and murder as a way of lashing out at society, might inspire actual shootings. These fears proved unfounded, as has been the case with most moral-panic fears about cultural phenomena like Harry Potter, Dungeons & Dragons, and violent video games. Some people critical of the film felt it offered too compassionate a portrayal of the Joker, who arguably comes off as a figure of pity—someone who understandably goes off the deep end because of (as Alan Moore puts it in his version of the Joker's origin story) one bad day. I'm actually glad there was a controversy: "Joker" is, if nothing else, an issues movie, and there are plenty of issues to discuss, from the marginalization of the mentally ill to the cutting-off of government services for them to the question of whether insanity is an excuse for deadly violence. It could be said that, in this movie, the Joker's victims all deserve what they get. Almost every single person killed by Arthur Fleck (and the body count in this film is fairly low) has it coming, with the exception of one seeming sacrificial lamb at the very end of the film—someone who is apparently murdered off-screen.

And this is what distinguishes Joaquin Phoenix's Joker from, say, Heath Ledger's. Heath Ledger's Joker is somewhat akin to a cosmic force, a preternatural, even demonic, being who puts together complex plots with the sole purpose of forcing people to maim and kill each other. Ledger's Joker does this because he rebels against the very existence of any sort of social fabric or social order; "I'm an agent of chaos," he claims, although I've argued that Ledger's Joker is, ironically, anything but chaotic in nature. Phoenix's Arthur Fleck is simply trying to survive, to be recognized as a fellow human being, to be—if anything—accepted into the social fabric. When this doesn't happen, when Fleck suffers rejection after rejection and has a whole series of one bad days, he turns rabid. When the Joker commits his very public murder near the end of the film—a moment that evokes Frank Miller's David Endochrine scene in Part 3 of The Dark Knight Returns—he tells his victim that he's going to "get what [he] fucking deserves." This Joker, then, uses the language of justice to validate his killings. He cherishes the chaos that results from this murder, but he also sees the murder as a way to bring the scales back into balance. Perhaps there's a parallel with Ledger's Joker after all, for that Joker observes, "Oh, and you know the thing about chaos: it's fair."

Phoenix's Joker isn't a god, demon, trickster, or anything so cosmic. He's not an expert with chemicals or a clever strategist. Socially and sexually awkward, suicidal, and possibly autistic, he's also not a witty, Mark Hamill-style font of clever one-liners. He is quintessentially human—a stumbling, wounded soul who has gone from wanting acceptance to repudiating the world. As I wrote earlier, the Joker becomes the Joker in a series of steps, and it's a small step from taking vigilante-style revenge on the guilty to killing the guiltless as well the as guilty. This is why the final scene of the movie is so important: those bloody footprints in the sterile Arkham hallway, which suggest the shedding of innocent blood, pave the way for the Joker we've all come to know, love, and fear: a killer of the sinless and the sinful alike.

Whether you cleave to this interpretation of the Joker is very much a matter of personal preference. I'm still not happy to have this level of specificity about the Joker's origins, but then again, the movie does much to show that Arthur Fleck is clinically delusional, thus making him an unreliable narrator. While some critics have claimed that certain plot points are clear revelations of this or that aspect of the Joker, I'm not so sure. The movie teases us, for example, with the idea that Penny Fleck—Arthur's mom—had an affair with Thomas Wayne, and Arthur was the result of that affair, thus making him Bruce Wayne's half-brother. (We meet a very young Bruce in a scene where Arthur tries to visit the Wayne residence to speak with Thomas about his mother.) Arthur steals some documents from Arkham (where Penny had also been institutionalized for paranoid delusions and child endangerment) that would seem to indicate that Penny had actually adopted Arthur—something that Thomas Wayne himself also says. But we, the viewers, no longer really know what or whom to believe. Both Penny and Arthur are congenitally delusional; is this because they actually are related? And does that mean that the scene in which Arthur is looking at his mother's file is a false memory? A person could go nuts trying to figure out the concrete truth. It's the viewer's choice, in piecing together Arthur's tortured past, to accept this or that piece of information as real or not. This creates a discomfiting sense of ambiguity, an ambiguity that seems to parallel both Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" and Alan Moore's The Killing Joke regarding the question of a past that is multiple-choice. (You'll recall that, in Nolan's film, the Joker tells two different stories about how he got his facial scars.)

"Joker" is an excellent film, in my opinion, but some critics have noted that it rips off the story beats of Scorsese films like "Taxi Driver" and "King of Comedy"—neither of which I've seen as of this writing, making it impossible for me to confirm this contention. Then again, what some would call "ripping off" others would call "paying homage to." Phillips and Phoenix have crafted a provocative work that has, if nothing else, caused me to think long and hard about it. Elements of the movie certainly parallel other works in the DC Comics universe, and I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Scorsese was an influence as well. At least "Joker" has its roots in good material. It certainly stands on its own as a unique take on an iconic supervillain—brought down to size, in this version, and portrayed as a mere human in pain, lashing out in fury at his cold, cruel surroundings. Arthur Fleck doesn't tumble into a vat of acid and come out mentally altered; if anything, he's a victim of the "gravity" that Heath Ledger's Joker referred to at the end of the "The Dark Knight": all a person needs, to go from sane to mad, is a little push.

Hats off to the writer-director for creating a compelling—and occasionally scary—story. (The tensest moment in the film involves a terrified dwarf.) Hats off to the art director and cinematographer for giving us a Gotham that is probably the most depressing version of the city that I've ever seen on film. Kudos to Joaquin Phoenix for a bravura performance, and to other cast members like Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, and Leigh Gill for their memorable scenes. "Joker" isn't an epic; it's a personal drama with a narrow focus on how one person handles, or refuses to handle, his inner demons. The personal nature of the drama makes it intense; it's a story that will leave you pondering it long after you've finished watching. Recommended.



Saturday, December 21, 2019

Sweden's contribution to fake news and delusion

I may have to subscribe to Angry Foreigner:






story ideas

I've had some strange ideas for short stories lately. Maybe I should write a collection.

1. Mr. Fusion becomes a reality: matter/energy conversion is now available to the general public. Collecting garbage now becomes a way to either earn money (you're paid for dumping your trash into a converter) or earn energy for your domicile/community (dumping trash into a local converter means more energy for your and your neighbors' homes). But with this new tech comes the downside: the mafia and various other unsavory types now have an easy way to dispose of damning evidence, dead bodies, etc.—and there's no way to trace these things once they've been lost in what is essentially the ultimate Orwellian memory hole. Also: some people cheat the system by dumping things like soil, rocks, and trees into the converters, which (in these early days of the new tech) can't distinguish between trash and non-trash. What shape does such a society take?

2. On the eve of his first major battle in the Civil War, Robert E. Lee is yanked out of his reality and transported to another world on which he is stripped of all rights and dignity and forced to labor as a slave for what feels like a year. After his period of cruel servitude, during which time he witnesses and experiences unimaginable horrors, Lee is brusquely transported right back to the place and time from which he had been snatched. But now, Lee has a completely different attitude toward slavery, and he looks upon black chattel slaves with a compassion rooted in experience—an experience he can't talk about with his fellow Grays because no one would believe him. What does Lee do? He might be in a position to halt the Civil War before it begins if he has the courage of his new convictions.

3. A story called "The Failures," about a group of friends who all seek some sort of redemption after having spectacularly failed at something earlier in life: a failed monk, a failed tiger, and a failed rabbit, falling in together and having an adventure that will change—and perhaps exalt—them all. If they survive.



service notice

If you're looking at my blog's sidebar (and I know you aren't because, hell, who looks at sidebars anymore, right?), you may have noticed that many of the sidebar images are no longer showing up. These images, which date back years, are stored over at the image-hosting service Photobucket. Photobucket just put out its own service notice saying its main servers had suffered a massive power outage that is still proving hard to cope with.

Their message says in part:

On Wednesday, December 18th, we experienced a total power outage at our primary data center. The immediate shutdown resulted in systematic issues when the power was restored. We were also not able to rely on our backup data center resources. The [repair] process is taking longer than expected because the security we have in place requires additional processing time. [Sounds like bullshit to me.] We are in the process of migrating Photobucket to a more reliable environment. Once service is restored, our primary focus will be on moving your beloved images to this environment.

I've been planning to leave Photobucket for years, but I admit I've been dragging my feet about it. The ability to link to images hosted on that site has severely degraded over the past half-decade, and I've experienced numerous frustrations as old pics on my blog have been disappearing. At some point, when I have the time, I plan to migrate (to use Photobucket's own term) all my images off Photobucket and quit the service altogether. I pay $65 a year for this image-hosting service, and it's simply not worth the cost. Google charges me $2 a month for 100 GB of image storage, which is exponentially cheaper, not to mention plenty of space for my needs. Taking my images off Photobucket and re-posting currently "dead" images on my blog will be a daunting task: the blog is turning 17 this coming July 4th, and that's nearly 14,000 posts to wade through, many of which have embedded images. I'm not looking forward to this task, but at this point, I'd rather go through the miserable labor of migrating off Photobucket than stick with an unreliable service.

Upshot: the sidebar will look shitty for the next little while, but I'll be tackling it first before I deal with the restoration of old images in the blog's archives. It's likely that I have many of the images in storage on my Mac and/or the Mac's attached 750-gig external drive (thanks again, Hahna Kang, for giving that to me! I've barely scratched the surface when it comes to stored data!). Wish me luck as I embark upon this long, slow cleanup.

ADDENDUM: sidebar images are back, now loaded into Google storage.



has Trump been impeached or not?

Tim Pool goes over the current confusion on whether Donald Trump has actually been impeached. The story so far is that the House has drawn up articles of impeachment against Trump, and there's been a vote to impeach. The problem—the sticking point that's currently causing confusion—is that Nancy Pelosi, current head of the House, hasn't yet officially conveyed the articles to her counterpart Mitch McConnell, who heads up the Senate. The Senate is the body responsible for carrying out the actual trial; the House merely proffers the accusation, and that's all an impeachment is: an accusation of wrongdoing. Impeachment is not proof of guilt, and it's not removal from office. But are we even at the stage where we can definitively say that Trump has been impeached?


There's a lot of alt-media speculation as to what Pelosi's game is. Styx angrily points out that Pelosi is trying to control and manipulate the Senate by demanding a formal guarantee of so-called fairness and objectivity in the upcoming trial. This demand is laughably hypocritical, given how Pelosi and the House Democrats have conducted informal impeachment hearings that, thanks to their informality, have not allowed GOPers to present counter-evidence and counterarguments—hence the GOP's demand to make those hearings formal. Like it or not, the moment everything passes to the Senate side, the proceedings will be formal, and we'll be sure to hear all the evidence and arguments that the Democrats have thus far tried to prevent from seeing the light of day.

So why is Pelosi delaying when her fellow Dems are baying for the impeachment to proceed full steam ahead? Some in the alt-media speculate that Pelosi—and this is ironic—may actually be one of the saner heads in the House. According to this argument, Pelosi—who has been trying to fend off the id that is the far-left wing of her party—is fully aware that the Dems are driving nails into their own coffin by pushing so hard for and focusing so relentlessly on impeachment. The 2020 election is already lost, and desperate Dems in Congress are going for a Hail Mary—anything to besmirch Trump and, it's hoped, diminish his chances for an electoral victory. Pelosi, too, wants her party to have a victory, but she knows that going through with Trump's impeachment (and polls show Trump's approval has actually ticked up a couple points in recent weeks) will only seal the Democrats' fate as they continue to alienate moderate voters disgusted by the Dems' obsession. One or two Dems are already defecting from the process; Tulsi Gabbard voted "present" when the impeachment vote happened; Andrew Yang has openly said that impeachment is a losing strategy for the Democrats; Representative Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat, has said he's planning to become a Republican as a way of protesting his current party's mad rush to impeach Trump. There are cracks in the Dem field as dimwitted Congressmen begin to realize the implications of their concerted action—implications that have long been discussed and explored by the alt-media (which, if you're not consuming it yet, you really ought to consume... get off your diet of lies!).

Styx says Pelosi basically made her bed and now has to sleep in it. I think the Dems are going to go through with the impeachment because they've already come too far, and it's impossible to stop this train now. The compulsion driving the inevitability of this situation (fueled largely by the wild-eyed far left represented by The Squad, et al.) would almost be sad if it weren't so comical. The alt crowd saw all this coming from a mile away, but the Dems are in the thrall of their own scotosis, and there's no removing the scales from their eyes. The consequence of all this blindness is that the GOP will retake the House in 2020, hopefully ejecting most of the far-left scum currently holding seats, and it will probably keep or even strengthen its hold on the Senate. That Trump will be reelected is a foregone conclusion. I've heard there's a good chance the Dems might try again with impeachment at a later date, but that's only going to happen if the Dems still dominate the House after the 2020 elections. Fat chance.

ADDENDUM: if you're the impatient type, watch the cued-up video below. I've set the marker to start the video at 15:17, which is when Pool directly addresses the question of why Nancy Pelosi is holding back:






if you liked that other porch-pirate vid...

Here's a new vid by Mark Rober, featuring a grown up (and healthy-looking) Macaulay Culkin and a new, improved, glitter-spraying, farting, video-recording device meant to give porch pirates (i.e., people who invade your property and steal delivered packages off your porch) a hard time. Enjoy the Schadenfreude:






JK Rowling's "cancellation" shows how the left eats itself

JK Rowling, reliably leftist, tweeted in support of a woman who got fired for asserting the obvious: that a trans "female" is still chromosomally male. For her support, Rowling has been dogpiled by the rabid, science-denying leftist outrage mob. Here's Paul Joseph Watson:


The right does indeed have its share of troglodytic science-deniers and antimodernists—people who use the Bible to claim the earth is 6000 years old, or that gay marriage is some sort of crime. But the left has no moral leg to stand on when it comes to science-denial: the trans movement is evidence of that, as are the idiots who refuse to discuss the possibility that IQ is unevenly distributed among the races. (Ashkenazi Jews tend to come out on top in most IQ studies. Does it offend me to realize I'm not part of that elite demographic? Not one bit. Why? Because my IQ doesn't define me. The people who get upset by such things are congenitally insecure.) We should also add the morons who very unscientifically agree with AOC that the earth is doomed and will somehow "end" in under twelve years.

Anyway, as PJW says, Rowling—a hypocrite when it comes to immigration—isn't deserving of any sympathy. Let her get eaten by her fellow liberal scavengers.



Friday, December 20, 2019

a "Joker" review is coming

Stay tuned. I might need to watch "Joker" a second time before I put pen to paper, so to speak. There's a lot to digest when it comes to this film: the controversy surrounding it, the inevitable comparisons between Joaquin Phoenix's and Heath Ledger's performances (I think it's safe to say, all these years later, that Jack Nicholson was basically channeling a nastier version of Cesar Romero back in 1989, so Nicholson isn't in contention here), the portrayal of Gotham City, and the various themes and issues brought up by the story. This might prove to be a lengthy, meaty review. You've been warned.



Styx on the latest Dem stall-out for impeachment

Styx notes the irony that the Democrats have now done the very thing they accuse Trump of doing: turning politics into a risible media circus.


If you're impatient and just want to get to the meat of Styx's rant, here (6:36):






Thursday, December 19, 2019

sometimes, it's best just to mock the stupid and the paranoid

The "OK" sign is a white-power gesture right? You're a racist bigot if you flash it, right?


#MaxineSoWhite
#TheyDontUnderstandHumor



the winds of change

I haven't done a "frank" post in a while. It's about time.






it's not looking good for "The Rise of Skywalker"

Jeremy Jahns is very unhappy (no spoilers):


Chris Stuckmann gives "Skywalker" a big "meh" (no spoilers):






Wednesday, December 18, 2019

guess I better watch "Parasite"

It's a big, live topic in the office these days, mainly because a gyopo coworker has been puffed up with Korean pride: "Parasite," a social-commentary-laden drama about bloodsuckers* directed by Bong Joon-ho, is up for (and has already won) many, many film awards, and it was recently nominated for an Oscar in the category of Best International Feature Film. Some might grumble that this is an injustice, given that the Academy has nominated foreign films for Best Picture before (e.g., "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon," which should have won over the far inferior "Gladiator" in 2000; instead, "Tiger" won Best Foreign Film).

I've ordered the film via iTunes, and it'll be arriving on my computer this coming mid-January, so I guess I'll see it then. I've seen a review on YouTube by my go-to guy Chris Stuckmann, who raved about the film and gave it an enthusiastic "A+" grade.



*It's tempting to say "gold-digging bloodsuckers," but from what I've heard, the neediness/compulsion runs both ways in the story, with the poor family sucking the life out of the rich family and vice versa, and with some sort of "rival parasite" trying to muscle in on the poor family as the long con continues. Is this impression correct? Let me know.



Gary Larson returns

The big news on my radar today is the rather timid return of Gary Larson, creator of the bizarre single-panel comic The Far Side, which ran from 1980 to 1995 and has since become a welcome part of the American cultural fabric. I have mixed feelings about Larson's return. On the one hand, there's a happy, fan-service aspect to seeing a beloved trope from memory come back to life. On the other hand, the country has moved on, and our collective sense of humor has changed. Can a much older Larson (God, how old is he now?*) survive in today's aesthetic climate? This may, if anything, be a more fearsome form of climate change to deal with.

Well, whatever my doubts and misgivings might be, I'll be happy to visit Larson's official website and see his old cartoons along with his periodically generated new cartoons. I get the impression that he's not planning to match his output from his heyday; the man must be rich off his ass by now, so he can afford to take things at a slow pace, commensurate to his doddering years. Good luck, Gary. These cows're for you:






*Wikipedia says he's 69, so he's not that old.



Tuesday, December 17, 2019

got enough phones?

A typical day in the life of a motorcycle-delivery guy:


You'll have noted the steering-column panel holding several cell phones. Delivery guys use these phones for all sorts of things ranging from navigation to staying in contact with the restaurant or business (while navigating).

I also like the glove-like "sleeves" into which the cyclist can tuck his hands to protect himself from the weather. Typical sights you see in South Korea.



a little Robot Chicken to lighten the mood

Hee:






Styx on the "OK" hand-gesture witch hunt

Below: a really good vid from Styx re: a 4chan prank that has been taken as literal truth by sanctimonious idiots who have been suckered into believing that the "OK" gesture is somehow a white-power signal. It was a fucking prank, you morons!

Of course, the joke has morphed since its inception. There may now indeed be white supremacists who, just to troll the easily triggered, do use the "OK" gesture to refer to white power. At a guess, such people constitute the tiniest minority—something that leftist paranoia will not permit the left to acknowledge. For the wild-eyed left, the far right is everywhere, hiding in every closet, every dark corner, and under every rug. It's Nazis all the way down. No, my friends: as leftist Tim Pool keeps pointing out, the left's insanity is far worse, right now, than any possible madness coming from the far right. You can't play moral-equivalence games in the current climate. One side is objectively worse. Sure, I grant that that may change over time; after all, during the Dubya era, we had neocons and theocons, neither of which group is particularly happy with Donald Trump these days (good). But right now, it's quite definitely one side of the aisle that has chosen to wear the stupid hat, and it's wearing it proudly.






PJW FTW

Paul Joseph Watson puts out another funny video about the hypocritical leftist meltdown currently happening in the UK in the aftermath of the December 12 parliamentary elections. Boris Johnson retains his seat as prime minister, and his fellow Tories have ridden a crushing wave of victory, upending Labor and sending avowed socialist Jeremy Corbyn scurrying into obscurity, all while irrationally insisting that Labor "won." The reality-denial is at Baghdad Bob levels, but I guess that's par for the course with these geniuses. Get ready for your heavy dose of acerbic Watsonian wit:






frat-boy stupidity on the History channel

I don't know why anyone would subject himself to the bone-crushing bite of a large monitor lizard, but the name of the History Channel show is "Kings of Pain" (doubtless a reference to the old Sting song), so I suppose this is meant to be a festival of macho masochism. I found the following video fucking nuts, but it did end up being entertaining in a perverse way. If you're the oversensitive, over-empathetic type, please don't hit "play." Just move on.






"The Last Jedi": a belated response to the haters

The following video makes some good points about (1) the character of Luke Skywalker and (2) Rian Johnson's directorial vision in crafting the story he did when he made "The Last Jedi" (lengthily reviewed here). Whether you'll agree, though, is another matter.






the Right Brothers take on feminism

Some trenchant questions for feminists from the Right Brothers:






Monday, December 16, 2019

LOTR, gangsta-style

I sometimes forget how hilarious the Pistolshrimps are:






Sunday, December 15, 2019

the three horsemen of Kevin's apocalypse

Bye-bye, sodas. Bye-bye, carbs. Hello, keto. And hello, brothers of keto.

I've been reading Dr. Jason Fung's book, The Diabetes Code: Prevent and Reverse Type 2 Diabetes Naturally (available at Amazon here). It's very informative, and not a little scary in its description of how all-pervasive the damage of diabetes can be. All your major organs are affected by it; neuropathy (which I suffer in my feet to a light degree) is only the beginning. Fung's contention, consistent with that of Gary Taubes, is that carbs are the root of the problem. Further, Fung thinks that diabetes doesn't have to be a lifelong ailment: it can be halted and even reversed (although many of the effects of diabetes, like neuropathy, cannot). This is good news for people in my situation, i.e., 50-something folks who could end up with a slew of major problems in as little as a decade if they don't get off the deadly course they're on.

I haven't read all of Fung's book yet, but I've seen the commentary around the book and know something of his plan, which includes 24-hour blocks of fasting to supplement one's intermittent fasting. Fung recommends a diet that is mostly congruent with the keto diet, so these are, starting tomorrow (Monday the 16th), the three horsemen that will be chasing me for the next several months: (1) keto dieting, (2) intermittent fasting, and (3) Fung's 24-hour fasting blocks, which he recommends doing 3-4 times a week (for me, that means MWF). Fung's book is shot through with anecdotes about people who went from being heavily dependent on meds that did nothing to help them, to being completely med-free, all while losing weight, gaining energy and alertness, and regaining a sense of well-being.

I'm cautious, of course: as I've written before, I tried Atkins in the early 2010s, with that diet's hardcore two-week ketosis "induction" period at the beginning, and it led me to become clinically depressed. But I've been watching plenty of YouTube videos about keto-friendly recipes that will allow me to satisfy my massive craving for bread, pasta, and sweets without falling off the wagon. I have no illusions that keto substitutes will be anywhere near as tasty and satisfying as the real thing, but it's getting to a point where, if I don't put myself onto some sort of regimen, I may very well not make it to 60. I've often joked about dying by that time: my maternal and paternal lineage both have histories of heart attacks; my paternal grandparents were also alcoholics, and my mother's father died of a heart attack when he was relatively young. Genetics-wise, the odds are very much stacked against me, and given that Mom herself didn't make it past her sixties (she was 66 when she died), I need to look out for diseases like cancer as well. The odds of getting cancer go up logarithmically when you're diabetic; "cancer loves sugar," as one doc on YouTube puts it.

While it's tempting to lay out my plan here, I know I've done that before, and doing so often seems to jinx me. Suffice it to say that I'll be sticking to keto and the two types of fasting, with occasional exceptions for the holidays that will be compensated for by some nice, long walks. I might explain my regimen in more detail after a couple of months, assuming I start to see results from the discipline. So mark this blog post; I'll be expecting my commenters to hold my feet to the fire. To the man in the mirror, I say: Ganbatte!



the physics problems in "Ad Astra"

Great takedown of the wonky science in "Ad Astra":






"Ad Astra": two-paragraph review

An accomplished, preternaturally phlegmatic astronaut in his fifties finds out his septuagenarian dad might still be alive and orbiting Neptune. That's the premise for 2019's "Ad Astra" (literally, "to the stars"), which is directed by James Gray and stars Brad Pitt as astronaut Roy McBride, with Tommy Lee Jones as father and dedicated alien-hunter Clifford McBride. Most of the focus is on Roy, whose commitment to his job and overly calm demeanor have cost him his loving wife Eve (Liv Tyler). Roy's journey takes him from Earth to the moon, then onward to Mars, and eventually to Neptune, where his father was last reported to have been 26 years earlier, overseeing a SETI effort called the Lima Project. Roy has gotten word that his father, deemed missing all these years, might still be alive, and that a series of antimatter-driven power surges coming from Neptune has the potential to destroy human life by disrupting all electrical activity. Roy is tasked with going to Mars to broadcast a message to his father, a man who had fanatically dedicated himself to the search for alien life. When Roy's broadcast produces what seems to be a response, Roy is cut out of the next phase of the mission, which is to destroy the Lima project with a nuke. Roy manages to get aboard the rocket heading to Neptune, and the rest of the movie is about the long trip to the eighth planet, the possibility of Roy's meeting his father again, the question of alien life, and whether to blow up the Lima Project to save Earth.

Brad Pitt plays the über-calm Roy with great subtlety. Roy has to prove his stability many times during the film by taking periodic psych evals that, when he passes them, allow him to proceed to the next phase in his mission. These evals reminded me of the harsh interrogations undergone by Agent K in "Blade Runner 2049." The movie struck me as an uneven mix of "Interstellar," "Gravity," and possibly "Solaris," which I haven't seen but have heard about. The story has the trappings of an odyssey, given that it's a couple days to the moon, nineteen days to Mars, and seventy-nine days out to Neptune. The emotional scope of the story, by contrast, is quite limited. Roy deals with feelings of loneliness and rage as he endures the long solitude of his voyage and tries to cope with the inner demons resulting from a turbulent relationship with his father. One of the big questions for me was how the movie would deal with the prospect of alien life, and I ended up feeling that the film very much dropped the ball in this respect. The drama had the chance to be grandiose and cosmic in scale, but in the end, it was mostly about daddy issues and (literally) letting go. I'm not convinced that the movie's conclusion provided much of a payoff, given all the buildup. "Ad Astra" isn't a film I'm in any hurry to rewatch; it's slow and somewhat dull, with a very simple, linear plot and a mundane ending that stands in sad contrast to the cosmic vistas laid out before us.