Sunday, July 12, 2020


My goal, for the past two weeks, has been to get rid of leftovers. After the lasagna I just made, I had a leftover cheese mix, leftover meatballs, leftover pasta, and some spare salami and pepperoni. So why not buy a bottled tomato sauce and make a mini-lasagna?

The cheese topping might have come out better this time:

I inserted more pasta into the lasagna this time, but when the thing was done baking, I had to figure out how to get it out of its container (would've been a shame to eat it right inside the baking dish without being able to enjoy the sight of a nicely stacked mini-lasagna). I ran a knife around the circumference and turned the baking dish over, resulting in an upside-down lasagna over which I sprinkled some Grana Padano:

Not bad, overall, but if I do this again, I won't bother with strongly flavored meats like salami and pepperoni. The meatballs (which I crumbled) will be enough. I might, in fact, have enough leftover material to make yet another mini-lasagna. If so, I'll do it right this time.

my first time listening to Tucker Carlson

This may be the very first time I've actually sat through a talk by Fox News talking head Tucker Carlson. Carlson generally gets praise from the right for his outspoken opinion pieces. Here he is below, talking about how elements on the left don't want Joe Biden to debate Donald Trump (at least, not without saddling Trump with all sorts of onerous preconditions):

Assessment: Carlson doesn't sound all that different from the alt-media sources I listen to, so I don't think he adds much, if anything, to the current discussion. He has a huge platform thanks to his status as a Fox News bigwig, but the content of his rhetoric is no more or less cogent, informative, or intelligent than anything I've already seen. I'll give Carlson credit for not sounding as loud and obnoxious as righties like Ann Coulter, Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, and Alex Jones—all people I studiously ignore. But is that high praise?

is the US dissolving?

Tim Pool wonders aloud whether we, as the US, are at the end of our collective rope:

"The Supreme Court just gave away half of Oklahoma." That's pretty stark. And as Pool notes in the video, this sets a very ominous precedent. The US is being eaten from within. All is cancerous now.

linguistic geekery

An interesting tour through the pronunciation of food names with Adam Ragusea:

The comments below the video point out several humorous hypocrisies. Since Ragusea has a background in journalism, a certain measure of hypocrisy isn't surprising.

A few quick remarks:

1. I agree that it's hypocritical to reject pretentiousness and then invent something called "Ragusea's Law," even if I think the law makes sense.

2. Ragusea's pronunciation of the French "le McDo" is wrong. He says, "le mack dooh," but en réalité, the French say, "le mack doh."

3. In Italian, the "ch" combination sounds like a "k," hence "bru-SKEHT-dah" for bruschetta.* To pronounce the "sch" sound in a provocatively German way might raise hackles in Italy, even if Benito and Adolf were buds. (Italy and Germany were enemies in WWI.)

*And the Italian word for "why" is perché, pronounced "pair-kay."

Saturday, July 11, 2020

pissed off at Tim Pool

In the following video, Tim Pool hectors his friend Adam Crigler. This isn't a new state of affairs; Pool often comes off as overly intense and way too arrogant. He's routinely dismissive of Adam's opinions. I've written before about men and their tendency toward oneupsmanship; Tim's attitude and language make for the perfect example of the sort of dickhead mode of discourse that we guys fall into. With Tim, his replies to Adam are always along the lines of, "But the real point is..." or "But what you're not getting is that..." He's dismissive, he's arrogant, and in my opinion, he's not a very good or respectful listener.

So having had enough, I wrote an angry comment beneath the video (please pardon my awkward Korean; Pool often talks about his quarter-Korean heritage, so I thought I'd test his Korean knowledge with a little peep-to-peep message):

[I tried writing a comment before, but it got deleted. I assume this is because I either (1) hit a nerve, or (2) left a URL (to my own blog) in the comment, and the algorithm swooped in and ate everything. So here's try #2.]

야—친구한테 싸가지 없는 새끼 처럼 행동하면 안 돼! 전쟁 날 때 곁에 싸울 사람이 누구일까, 어?
Hey—don't be a dick to your friends. When the war happens, who's gonna be fighting alongside you, huh?

You like talking about a coming civil war, but if one is really coming, you're going to want your closest mates in the foxhole with you. What's their motivation to fight alongside you if you're so insecure that you constantly have to be the smartest guy in the room? Acting that way doesn't make you seem smart: it makes you seem stupid and petty. You're better than that, and Adam and Lydia both deserve better from you. So stop dialing your intensity up to a self-righteous 11 (as you accuse others of doing), calm the fuck down, and show those good people some respect. Lay down the good karma now, Tim; you'll benefit from it when the shit hits the fan. And be happy that Adam is your friend; he's a much better man than I. If you spoke that dismissively and arrogantly toward me, you wouldn't have any teeth left.
—a fellow part-Korean peep

NB: if this comment also gets deleted, I'm going to keep reposting it until it sticks.

Yeah, I was angry. I admit it. And I generally like Tim's videos, but every once in a while, I have to step back and take a breath because Pool is always cranked up to 11. He's intense and often full of righteous anger, while also seeming to vacillate in his views of Trump and conservatism. Maybe Tim Pool is best taken in small doses. I recently unsubscribed from all of his channels so that my daily queue isn't flooded with a torrent of his videos. I still watch his stuff, but now, I pick and choose what I watch instead of feeling obliged to watch everything. This is a much better arrangement, psychologically speaking.


To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
—Abraham Maslow, misquoted

To a man with his head up his ass, everything looks like a colon polyp.
—Kevin Kim, polyp-biter

Friday, July 10, 2020

Styx on why he's not voting for Biden

Styx offers five reasons for not pulling the lever for Biden:

lasagna: gone

The lasagna was a hit, and it's now all gone. We four guys ate about 90% of it right there in the office; everyone had two servings. What was left was taken home by my Korean coworker, who called his wife and asked whether it'd be okay to bring home some more of my food (he had taken some some leftover spaghetti sauce last time). He told me that his wife shouted, "What're you asking me for? Just bring it home!" I consider that a compliment. And I think I may have a fan of my cooking outside the office now.

I had brought along the extra pasta, some sprinkling cheese (Grana Padano, a mild cousin of Parmigiano-Reggiano), and the lasagna itself, which was a heavy bastard. I'm actually shocked we all ate as much as we did—especially my boss, who is as big a guy as I am, but who doesn't seem to eat that much. (He's nine years older than I am, so he may have learned some prandial life-lessons that I have yet to learn, e.g., how to pace oneself.)

When I tried to pull the lasagna out of my oven during this morning's final bake, the wire rack inside the oven suddenly collapsed (that's never happened before), probably because of the awkward way that I'd been tugging the rectangular baking pan out of the oven. The lasagna fell with a heavy clunk, finding itself at an awkward angle. It had been put together very sturdily, though, so only a tiny bit of grease from the red sauce leaked out. I managed to extricate the lasagna before anything horrible happened (all without burning myself), and then I turned the lasagna around and reinserted it so that the surface of the dish would be evenly heated (I love how my oven has top burners that can function like a broiler; thanks, Charles). A few minutes later, and the lasagna was done. I left it in the oven to cool down a bit; in the meantime, I prepped for work. Disaster averted. In the picture below, however, you can see the wrinkling in the top cheese layer, caused by the lasagna's drunken lean inside the oven:

My apologies for the ugly shot that follows, but here's my plate, with a partially eaten first serving of lasagna on it:

The whole thing looks like a horrible, bloody mess, but I have to say that it tasted pretty good. My American coworker, the one whose wife is a chef, declared my lasagna better than the one his wife had made.* She apparently belongs to the Béchamel school of thought, but my coworker further complained that she had mixed together her cream sauce and her meat sauce before assembling the lasagna, and he didn't like the diluted effect that such mixing produced. I saw a photo of my coworker's wife's lasagna, and I told him it looked gorgeous. He made a face and complained about taste and texture. Not having eaten the Missus's lasagna, I'm in no position to judge it. All I can affirm is that it looked mighty fine.

In other news: my pasta roller already seems to be dying on me. It's a cheap piece of crap, and I really ought to shell out for a better roller. I'll see what I can find by shopping around here in Korea as opposed to relying on GMarket or other local online providers. I might try Amazon if I'm desperate; we'll see. My roller is still usable, but I just can't use the three widest settings on it without it seizing up on me while I'm turning that crank. Very annoying.

This turned out to be an eight-layer monster. Here's how the layers went, from bottom to top:

1. meat sauce (leftover spaghetti sauce)
2. pasta
3. cheese mix (mozz, parm, romano, garlic powder, parsley)
4. meat sauce (leftover spaghetti sauce)
5. pasta
6. cheese mix (mozz, parm, romano, garlic powder, parsley)
7. meat sauce (leftover spaghetti sauce)
8. one final sprinkle of a mozz/parm combo

Somehow, it all remained inside the baking pan. Getting the pan into my No Brand heavy-duty shopping bag proved to be a chore, but I managed to do it without spilling anything or burning my fingertips. Lugging the bag to work was a chore, though; as I wrote earlier, the lasagna was pretty damn heavy. It was a bit like carrying two gallons of milk. How'd we eat all that?

The homemade pasta tasted pretty good, even on its own. I now have what I consider a standard formula or recipe for pasta: one medium egg per 100 grams of flour, one pinch of salt per 100 g of flour, and one "glug" of olive oil per 300 g of flour. I saw some online chatter about not putting salt in your pasta because the salt crystals can tear up the dough when you roll everything out flat. That confuses me, though: if the salt dissolves, even partially, when it combines with the moisture of the eggs and the oil, craggy salt crystals shouldn't be a problem. Am I missing something? I haven't suffered any torn dough yet, so I feel that the warning about salt can be safely ignored. If you've suffered a salt-related pasta disaster, send me pictures as proof of the danger. I'd really like to see this problem up close.

Anyway, the process of making this lasagna was rather lengthy, but overall worth it. I finally got rid of my extra meat sauce, and the meal made a few people a little happier. I now have a lot of extra pasta to deal with; luckily, I have some leftover cheese mixture and some pesto. In my apartment building's downstairs grocery, they sell prosciutto, so I might buy some of that and see what sort of mischief I can make with all these carby leftovers. Onward and upward.

*To be fair, she was trained to cook Korean and Japanese food. She's very interested in Western food, but for her, that's more about tentative exploration than deep dedication to proper form and technique. As I noted before, though, her red-velvet cake was bang-on delicious. I think she's making an effort to be as true as possible to the Western dishes she encounters. It's too bad, really: my coworker doesn't read my blog, so he has no idea I'm praising his wife's cooking off in some obscure corner of the internet.

lasagna: the build

Thursday night, I rolled out pasta sheets and made a lasagna, which I then par-baked. I'll finish the monster Friday morning; it needs another 30-40 minutes of cooking before I lug it into work. It's an almost literal monster for sure; I wonder how much it weighs.

Below: me and my pasta sheets:

How's it hangin'?

A closer look:

Top rack:

I've taken the sheets off the rack and have begun the boil-and-shock process described in Adam Ragusea's video. This involves boiling the pasta sheets for two minutes, then moving them immediately into a bath of ice water. Once the sheets have cooled, they need to be moved onto clean towels (Scott brand paper towels, in my case) and patted dry. Once dried and rested for a few minutes, the sheets are ready for stacking inside the lasagna.

Here's the boil:

Here's a wide shot of the assembly line:

I had brought out my meat sauce and cheese mixture to allow them to reach room temperature for maximum spreadability:


Pan: buttered.

Below, the build begins: sauce, pasta, cheese, repeat. I managed only seven layers, which meant only two layers of pasta. Since I had so much spare pasta, I wrapped it up and will take it along with me in case there's any whining from the crew about a lack of pasta: I'll simply boil the spare sheets and slap one on my charges' plates.

I had envisioned making twelve sheets of pasta: four sheets times three layers. The sheets ended up being larger than what I needed, and I discovered that I needed only three sheets per layer, plus the little trimmed bits to cover any exposed spots. Here's the build, in progress:

Nearly done:

Spare sheets, wrapped and ready:

A wide shot of the final product, topped with a mixture of el-cheapo Parmesan and low-moisture mozzarella (which is also the el-cheapo kind):

Lastly, the food-porn shot:

The idea was to par-bake the lasagna before I went to sleep, then to bake it the rest of the way just before going to work. I'll have shots of the final product later on Friday.

three via Bill

Bill Keezer links to the following images:


Seoul mayor Park Won-soon has been found dead in a forest. He was 64. My buddy Mike actually broke the news to me around 1 a.m., Seoul time, via text message, so I found out about Park from an American source. Apparently, authorities had been looking for Park since he'd been reported missing by his daughter. He disappeared a day after allegations of sexual harassment had surfaced against him. Park, when he went missing, had turned off his phone and had reportedly left a "will-like" note, which was found by his family.

Park's mayoralty didn't register much in my consciousness. Unlike previous Seoul mayor Lee Myung-bak (who became president of South Korea, then got taken down for corruption and imprisoned in the wake of President Park Geun-hye's own imprisonment), Park didn't have any grandiose pet projects to offer the people, e.g., Lee's restoration of the Cheonggye Creek in downtown Seoul, or the possible building of a Seoul-to-Busan canal (Lee was obsessed with waterways, I guess). According to certain news articles, Mayor Park had received praise for his local handling of the coronavirus pandemic in Seoul. I don't know the extent to which Seoul—which is the seat of South Korea's national government—is run by the mayor's government or by the federal government, but if the Seoul-based handling of the pandemic has been mostly the work of Mayor Park, then I offer sad and belated praise for his light touch.

At a guess, Park's death was a suicide—maybe by hanging, maybe by a long fall. ROK Drop, linked twice above, speculates that Park may have pulled a Noh Mu-hyeon. You'll recall that President Noh, in the midst of his own corruption scandal, went for a walk in 2009 and ended up plummeting off a local cliff.* I imagine we'll learn more over the next few weeks, and my inner cynic predicts that this issue will be immediately politicized. I had hoped that, by living in Korea, I could have avoided the insanity gripping Western countries like the US and the UK, but South Korea looks to be on the precipice of teh krazee. I hope I'm wrong.

There's way too much urgent news to keep track of these days; culture continues to accelerate, spinning itself ever tighter and tighter. I often wonder whether it's better simply to say "fuck it" and just unplug from it all. The world will continue on its merry gyration; people will continue to be varying degrees of kind and cruel, smart and stupid. Same shit, different day, right? Meanwhile, Seoul's mayor is dead, and things are going to get interesting. Maybe Korea will go nuts, or maybe this country will once again offer an amazing display of surprisingly civilized behavior—as happened during the Park Geun-hye demonstrations, and as has been happening as the country deals with the Wuhan Virus pandemic.

*Suicide is regarded very differently in East Asia than it is in the West. Part of this has to do with the difference between a "guilt" culture and a "shame" culture. In anthropological circles, guilt is seen as a private condition—something between you and your conscience, or between you and God. Either way, the focus is on the individual, and on individual integrity. In a guilt culture, how you act, even when you know no one is looking, matters ethically. In shame cultures, such as those in East Asia and the Middle East, shame is a public emotion that has everything to do with how society regards you. Your self-worth is measured by how the public views you; your "honor" is very much linked to things like your social status/position and your reputation. How you look externally is more important than who you are internally. Look dignified, and you have dignity. If, in reality, you're a criminal, then just don't get caught.

In such societies, which also tend to be group-first in orientation, ejection from the group is tantamount to death: to be cut off from the hive is to be shorn of all that makes one human. Sustained disapprobation is little different from outright physical rejection, according to the shame-culture point of view. And that's why suicide is a plausible out: one does much to recover one's honor by voluntarily paying the ultimate price for having fallen in status. Who, after all, can question the sincerity of one's remorse when one is willing to expiate one's sins by dying? Such self-sacrifice does much to restore the honor of the dishonored. To an Easterner, then, Western notions of suicide as selfish, cowardly, and overly rash ("a permanent solution to a temporary problem," as Westerners like to say) make little sense.

But as much as my above explanation of the two cultures might seem to favor the guilt-culture orientation, I sometimes wish American politicians were more East Asian: American pols (and American celebrities, too, for that matter), when their corruption is exposed, simply puff themselves up and deny any wrongdoing, stubbornly clinging to their twisted, abominable, delusional worldview. Facing the opprobrium of the masses is no problem for leprous souls with no conscience. American politicians (and celebrities) would never consider suicide as a way out—perhaps because, like other Westerners, they see suicide as a coward's solution. Me, I think such politicians are cowards for not opting to run themselves through, to dive off a cliff, or to hang themselves. They could learn from the Koreans.

Thursday, July 09, 2020

to boil, or not to boil?

I'm making lasagna pasta for tomorrow's lasagna (which is itself an effort to get rid of a ton of spare red sauce I'd made over a week ago). The question is whether to boil the fresh, flexible pasta before building the lasagna. Answers vary, and there are vocal adherents of both schools of thought. Right now, I'm leaning toward the "yes, boil it" camp, which argues that the pasta gains a bit of bite and resistance (and, therefore, texture) through the act of boiling it (and, according to some, the act of letting the boiled pasta sit for a bit before you begin stacking your lasagna layers). The most convincing video I've seen on the subject comes from Adam Ragusea ("rah-GOO-see-uh," not "ragù say," as I'd been mentally pronouncing the surname):

The "no, don't boil" camp appears in these search results.

seen at Instapundit

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Tim Pool's hilarious discussion of Kanye West

Too funny:

something a bit happier

A pair of non-racist dogs in Thailand:

mass murder through disinformation

Some well-deserved righteous anger over thousands of unnecessary deaths:

Styx on statues

This video contains a modest proposal that begins around 8:24:

Styx's proposal is funny, but unlikely to be implemented. My variant of the proposal involves, as I wrote earlier, taking up a sniper position.

an Eastern European puzzles over Western leftists

Yeah—I wanna know what the fuck their problem is, too.

Tim Pool with the Claira Janover (Stabby Girl) followup


Tuesday, July 07, 2020

I assume he's speaking to white leftists

Whoever the intended audience might be, I like this:

fud: eetn

I brought the rest of my pulled pork to work yesterday, along with the coleslaw and some pickles. Everything's gone now. My Korean coworker confessed to having eaten four or five sliders, ignoring the doshirak (a sort of bento-style boxed lunch) he had brought with him.

The plan last night was to make some sauerkraut so I could munch that alongside some kielbasa, but I ended up being too tired to cook. So kraut will be tonight's project, along with creating some pasta dough to roll out Thursday night as part of Friday's lasagna, which I've now promised the crew. I'm just trying to get rid of my leftover spaghetti sauce (which tastes fuckin' fantastic, by the way... as with gumbo, time is definitely an ingredient in spaghetti sauce); I have a tub of it, so why not use the sauce for a good cause, eh?

I also have plans for the liquid left over from my slow-cooking of the pulled pork. It's full of glorious fat, and it seems ripe for making some kind of gravy. To that end, I've bought nearly a kilo of beef with which to make more meatballs—less Italian-style, this time, and more the sort of neutrally flavored meatballs that could go Swedish or could be used in a sweet-sauce preparation. No sweet sauce this time around, though; I'm sticking with pulled-pork gravy. That ought to be interesting. I'm wondering what starch would go best with it. Maybe potatoes... maybe Spätzle...? I've got a huge tub of sour cream, which is an ingredient in Spätzle dough....

Tuesday night: make kraut, fry up kielbasa, buy a chunk of Parm for lasagna
Wednesday night: make gravy & meatballs + maybe Spätzle; make pasta dough and fridge it
Thursday night: roll out pasta dough, create lasagna
Friday morning: bake lasagna, take to work

Expect photos.

you don't touch Saint Frederick

Frederick Douglass is one of the few historical figures whom I deeply admire. He enjoys the status of a saint in my mind. An autodidact who escaped slavery and went on to speak eloquently on behalf of the plight of his people, and on behalf of the equality of all human beings, Frederick Douglass truly is an American hero, a towering figure from our past who deserves our utmost respect.

So imagine my fury when I read that a statue of Douglass had been ripped off its pedestal and dragged over to a nearby river, presumably in an attempt to dump it in the water. This desecration occurred in Rochester, New York, at the very place where (and on the very date when) Douglass gave his "What, to the Slave, is the Fourth of July?" speech, 168 years ago.

More and more often, I find myself fantasizing about taking up a sniper position not far from certain statues, just so I can expose a few rioter-plunderer-desecrators' brains to the open air. Maybe it's good that I'm in Korea because, were I in the States about now, I might very well be in jail. And without a single twinge of regret.

a good video on face masks

In a time of COVID-19, people in the US still wonder whether masks are a good or a bad thing. Part of the confusion stems from politics; part of it is from the ever-changing scientific advice we receive from experts who seem to vacillate way too much. The following video doesn't tell the whole story (e.g., it says nothing about the possibility of rebreathing pathogens, nor does it explore the issue of washing one's mask), but it provides a good argument for why masks are likely a good thing. I haven't changed much from my original position that masks do little to protect oneself, but I'm increasingly convinced of masks' practical utility when it comes to the protection of others. The video also offers dramatic evidence of why it's unwise to allow your nose to hang out of your mask. Watch and learn.

While we're on the subject of COVID-era hygiene, the video below was news to me: soap apparently does kill bacteria. This wasn't what I learned while working for an infection-control company: what I learned was that soap, at best, lifts dirt and pathogens off your skin and washes everything down the drain. According to the video below, though, even regular soap has antibacterial properties... which makes me wonder what difference there is between regular soap and specifically antibacterial soap. Whatever the case, it's reassuring to know that hand-washing is a reliable way to deal with germs.


A double-whammy of decease—truly the Day the Music Died. Both Charlie Daniels and Ennio Morricone have passed on from this plane of existence. Daniels died at 83 of a stroke; Morricone died at 91 of complications following a fall. I'm not much of a country-music fan, but even I appreciated this awesome commercial in which Daniels starred:

As for Ennio Morricone, well, I grew up with his music. Here are three tributes that are part of my permanent playlist on YouTube:

RIP, Maestros.

Tim Pool on Kanye's presidential bid

Tim doubts Kanye is serious:

I agree that Kanye isn't the most stable of dudes.

Here's Styx on the same topic:

Monday, July 06, 2020

Saturday "linner"

The Saturday shindig at the boss's apartment went well. The boss wanted to do it potluck-style, so everyone brought some kind of food. The boss's wife made a very tasty pot of galbijjim, or braised short ribs and rice. Others brought potato salad, japchae (cellophane noodles with meat and vegetables), fruit, large loaves of bread, and red-velvet cake. I brought homemade pulled pork, homemade coleslaw, and store-bought slider buns, which were, aside from the potato salad, the most American dishes there.

Everything was excellently made; I stuffed myself by eating three platefuls of food. The fête went from about 3 p.m to 7 p.m. It was a long subway ride out to and back from Suwon, just outside of Seoul. Here are a few pics of the feast.

Fruit featured prominently as a typically Korean dessert:

A lovely red-velvet cake:

Braised short ribs and rice:

A wide shot:

Pulled pork, up close:

A very delicious potato salad:

A good time was had by all. There was so much food that there were plenty of leftovers; I'm bringing my remaining pork and slaw to the office Monday afternoon so we can finish that off together. I have to wonder what happened to the tater salad and the japchae; the latter doesn't keep for very long. No matter: we all left my boss's residence with pleasant memories of a delicious meal.

first roach in five years

Killed my first roach in five years of living in Daecheong Tower. It's an old building, and you'd expect there to be more roaches, but this critter is the first one I've seen. A few blasts of my disinfectant spray, and death was swift.

scammers abound

Some banners about real-estate scams:

I think they meant paper cups

Korea refuses to acknowledge its dire need for proofreaders:

Sunday, July 05, 2020

burger buns

I may have found a new YouTube chef to follow: Ethan Chlebowski. I'm not thrilled by his over-serious intonation when he's narrating his videos, but the guy seems to know what he's doing. Below is a video in which he demonstrates how to make brioche-style burger buns. You'll immediately note that his bread comes out looking more like standard store-bought buns without being quite as pretentiously brioche-y as regular brioche buns.* As Chlebowski explains in this video, he uses significantly less butter than is normally used for brioche dough, which explains the difference in the buns' look.

As for me, I may be making lasagna, this week, with the massive amount of red sauce I have left over from the paroxysm of cooking I did a week ago, so I've bought another 2.5-kilo bag of flour and will be making flat sheets of pasta soon.

Oh, yeah: I do have some food pics from this past July Fourth potluck-style fête over at my boss's (rather palatial) apartment. Expect to see those up sometime in the next 24-36 hours. Meanwhile, enjoy Ethan Chlebowski's video.

*My opinion on brioche is here.

Candace Owens, en fuego

Candace Owens for president! I think she'd make a marvelous successor to Donald Trump in 2028, but I'm sure there are stupid people out there who'd call me a white supremacist for backing Ms. Owens. In the video below, Ms. Owens repeatedly hammers on the question, "What does the black community want?" Many of her talking points are ones that people in the center and on the right have heard before, but they bear repeating, and Candace covers these points with her characteristic acuity, cogency, and eloquence:

predictable leftist reactions to Trump's Rushmore speech

Pretty disgusting—but perfectly predictable—leftist tweets and other reactions displayed over at Instapundit. Tim Pool has his own pointed reaction to the left's reaction to Trump's Rushmore speech:

President Yeezus?

Yes, it's true: Kanye West belatedly throws his hat in the ring.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - American rapper Kanye West, a vocal supporter of U.S. President Donald Trump, announced on Saturday that he would run for president in 2020 in an apparent challenge to Trump and his presumptive Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States,” West wrote in a Twitter post, adding an American flag emoji and the hashtag “#2020VISION”.

It was not immediately clear if West was serious about vying for the presidency four months before the Nov. 3 election or if he had filed any official paperwork to appear on state election ballots.


Elon Musk, the chief executive of electric-car maker Tesla and another celebrity known for eccentric outbursts, endorsed West’s Twitter post: “You have my full support!” he wrote.

I saw the link to this article on Instapundit. Glenn Reynolds thinks Kanye knows what he is doing: he is deliberately attempting to siphon black voters away from Joe Biden, so this presidential bid (along with Elon Musk's expression of support) is more of a troll than a sincere shot at the Oval Office. If there's a chance that Kanye is actually serious about this bid, well... he may be in for a rude awakening. I like the "trolling" theory better.

the Donald's Rushmore speech

There's far too much to quote from President Trump's speech at Mount Rushmore, but here's an article that sums up the salient points pretty well, and with plenty of directly quoted text.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Ave, Herr Gilleland!

Mike Gilleland writes a poignant, thought-provoking "Happy Independence Day" post.

Colion Noir on the armed St. Louis couple

A clear-minded assessment by Colion Noir (who is a lawyer as well as a pro-2A gun-rights activist) of that St. Louis incident involving a frightened couple, Mark and Patricia McCloskey, in a gated community who stood outside their front door with guns at the ready while protesters walked menacingly past their property:

Noir notes that merely having your gun safely at the ready is legal, but actually pointing your gun at specific people is assault, so Mrs. McCloskey might find herself talking to the police sometime soon. Noir notes that both spouses desperately need firearms training.

Happy Fourth!

One commenter to the following video wrote: "This is the way the national anthem should always be played." Heh.

While we're celebrating freedom, here's a Michael Knowles meditation on Kanye West's most recent release, which includes religious imagery and some thoughts on what freedom is about:

Friday, July 03, 2020

this joke works if you know Korean

I just learned a new vocabulary word, and it sounds like a combination of two already-known vocabulary words. That's how this lame, stupid joke came to be. At least it made my Korean coworker laugh. Briefly.

Highlight the space between the brackets to see an explanation of the awful joke:

[In Korean, a cutting board is called a doma ("doh-mah"). A snake, meanwhile, is a bem. I recently learned the word for "lizard," which is domabem. So there you go: the genesis of my awful joke. Hopefully, you find it so stupid that its very stupidity is what's funny.]

I miss my way of celebrating the Fourth

When I lived in Front Royal, Virginia, right by the Virginian sector of the Appalachian Mountains and right on top of Shenandoah National Park, I created a minor July Fourth tradition for myself, which involved getting in my Honda Fit and rolling along Skyline Drive, a 100-plus-mile-long winding road that roughly paralleled a section of the Appalachian Trail and approached, way to the south, the George Washington National Forest. Along the Drive, every few miles, were these overlooks where you could park your car, brave the local mosquitoes, and look way down into the great, sprawling Shenandoah Valley. As twilight changed into night, you could see the tiny lights of individual and clustered houses—distant neighborhoods that twinkled like fallen stars in the vast bowl of the valley.

And if you got to an overlook right as night was falling on the Fourth, you'd be rewarded with the sudden sparkle of fireworks popping off in those neighborhoods: tiny, random, evanescent swarms that were a joyful reminder of a long-past defiance, one that changed, over the centuries, into a transatlantic friendship with our former rulers. I would drive from overlook to overlook, stopping for several minutes at each one to soak in the modest fireworks display. I could often hear, in a time-delayed way, the soft popping noises of those little bomblets bursting in air. I would normally celebrate this way until I was sure the last firework had exploded in the visible parts of the valley, and then I would quietly drive back home.

This was nothing like standing awash in the crowded, noisy, litter-strewn, drunken bombast of a Washington, DC, fireworks event. There was a subtle magnificence about this sort of celebration—a celebration that not even the people in the valley knew made any cohesive sense. The fireworks were spontaneous, uncoordinated displays of joy, and yet together, they made for their own humble symphony in the night, and I was thankful to all those valley dwellers for their élan and joie de vivre and other French words. Vive la liberté.

We're losing that liberty right now, so this might be a more mindful July the Fourth than most. That said, I wish all my Yankee readers (and anyone else who retains some fellow-feeling for my often-fractious, often-crazy, often-stupid fellows) a very Happy Fourth of July. I'll be celebrating at my boss's residence tomorrow; I'm bringing the pulled-pork BBQ sliders, so I have some coleslaw to make tonight.

A Happy Fourth to all and sundry!

Blogger says...

Thanks to a commenter, I went over to Blogger's message page to see the details on the changeover from "legacy" Blogger to "new" Blogger. Here's the skinny:

We’ll be moving everyone to the new interface over the coming months. Starting in late June, many Blogger creators will see the new interface become their default, though they can revert to the old interface by clicking “Revert to legacy Blogger” in the left-hand navigation. By late July, creators will no longer be able to revert to the legacy Blogger interface.

So by late July, we will all have no choice but to be moved over to the new Blogger format. If so, then as I'd written before, I'll work with it for a month while seeking other blogging platforms. When that month is over, I'll either stay with the new Blogger or jump to an entirely different platform—one where I will have already started building a blogging presence. It seems like a brusque, unsentimental to say goodbye to a blogging platform that has been decent to me for years, but Google isn't leaving me with much of a choice, alas.

Perhaps I should invest time in following Hillary Clinton's injunction to those coal miners and just learn to code. Creating my own blog and hosting it on my own server might ultimately be worth it despite the huge amount of time, effort, and expense involved.

Tim Pool, a mess of self-contradictions, defends and scolds Stabby Harvard Chick Claira Janover

Here's Tim Pool with the update on the stab-happy Harvard chick, Claira Janover, who was so obviously just joking about knifing people. I have to say that my compassion for such idiots, when things blow up in their faces, is pretty much at zero at this point. If she gets harassed and receives death threats for her unwise, unhinged rant, then good. May she be driven into hiding, and may she be worried about getting stabbed by someone who actually is stab-happy. Sorry if I come off as an uncompassionate asshole, but this cunt is speaking from a lofty position of privilege and clearly has no idea how the real world operates. She got canned from her dream job at Deloitte? Boo-hoo. She should be strapped naked to a trestle table and given the old "death by a thousand cuts" treatment.

Or maybe I'm just joking about that...? It's so hard to tell these days!

ADDENDUM 1: according to a commenter below Tim's video, Stabby Chick apparently lost an internship, plus an opportunity to work full-time for Deloitte, not an actual job at Deloitte. This may or may not be the case. Fox Business says this.

ADDENDUM 2: Stabby Chick graduated in May of this year, so it's incorrect to describe her as a "senior at Harvard University," as I did in my previous post.

ADDENDUM 3: I saw this comment under Pool's video: "Starbucks is always looking for loony baristas, so that Harvard education isn't all wasted, honey." Ha!

in answer to John Lee's question

Blogger John Lee tweets:

In answer to John's question, which I originally saw over at ROK Drop, I provide the following answer, which I left as a comment at ROK Drop:

I go through certain daily annoyances as a half-Korean living in South Korea, and that's because, despite 15 years in country, I'm still unrepentantly American in thought and action. I feel I understand a lot more about the culture than I did when I first arrived in the 90s, but there are still some sticking points, e.g., general rudeness when it comes to either ignoring or being mindful of your fellow man. I missed the hate-America phase back in 2002; I came back to Korea that year, but I was too late for most of the demonstrations, the bigoted restaurant signs, and anti-Western attitude problems. I'm also not a military guy, so I've rarely had to deal with the dirty looks and surly dispositions reserved for the US military. I also don't frequent Itaewon or any sort of bar scene because I'm a boring asshole who doesn't drink, so you'll never find me involved in bar fights. Instead, I go distance-walking along the beautiful riverside and creekside bike trails, and I'm very thankful that South Korea has such a network for us walkers (shameless plug: walk blogs here and here).

Overall, I'd say there are many reasons to love my mother's country, and I feel comfortable living here, despite minor irritations and conflicts due to cultural static. Korea has been undeniably good to me, and in general, Koreans have proven to be kind, friendly, helpful, and open. They have certain annoying characteristics, but to be fair, Koreans who live in the States have similar complaints about us Yanks. Who resides in a godlike position to judge the "objective" goodness or badness of a culture and a people? We can only judge from our own perspective. I might think the current leftist politicians in both the States and South Korea are fucking stupid, but that thinking doesn't apply to how I view the regular folks—the ones who work hard every day and simply want to live happy lives with their friends and families. I certainly don't hate Korea; I have a long list of complaints about the country, but most of those complaints aren't serious, and if I lived in a different country, I'd end up with a long list of complaints about it, too. That applies to living in the States as well: there's plenty of infuriating bullshit that comes with living in America (ever visited the local DMV?). But just because a place has faults doesn't mean you can't love it. More on that in a bit.

To answer John Lee's question more directly: is SK still unfriendly to foreigners? I'd say the general answer is no, but that answer is based on my narrow, introverted perspective as a quiet dude who prefers Korea's beautiful scenery to hanging out in bars and confining my daily travels to Itaewon. (Fortunately, there are many expats like me who actually take an interest in the culture and the landscape, and who are willing to explore more than just one district in Seoul.)

Knowing some of the language definitely helps: it makes life easier and allows for a bit more insight into the culture. I can't understand the expats who spend ten years in country and can barely string a sentence together in Korean (I've heard all the excuses for not bothering to learn the language). In the publishing house where I work, I interact in Korean all the time with our in-house designer and other Korean staffers. My feeling is that learning the language is a way of saying "thank you" to the country that feeds, clothes, shelters, and pays me. Korea keeps me alive, so how can I not be grateful?

Overall, I'm very much enjoying life in Korea. I have friends and relatives here, I'm generally OK with the work I do, and the country offers a huge smorgasbord of things to explore. I'm at the point in my life, at age 50, where I have to think seriously about where I'm going to die, and my two choices are South Korea and the States (although I wouldn't mind dying in Switzerland, to be honest). South Korea feels like home, and I love the country enough to feel I could fight and die for it if necessary, even as out of shape as I am. If war ever starts while I'm here, I won't run. I'll crack a few invaders' skulls first. So I guess it's not just a matter of "I enjoy living here," but a matter of feeling some level of love for and loyalty to the land and its people—not that I would ever betray the country of my birth, but you get what I'm saying. Of course I'm disgusted by peninsular politics and politicians, but no country is perfect in that regard, and there's more to life than goddamn politics.

I hope that answers John Lee's question.

Post scriptum: if you click over to the "foreigner-friendliness" map that is linked in John Lee's above-embedded tweet, you'll quickly realize there's some rank bullshit going on there. Here's the map below, for those too lazy to do any clicking (source credit):

Click on the map to enlarge it. Meanwhile, here are my problems with the above image:

1. I get that Canada might be more foreigner-friendly (FF) than the USA. Scandinavia, too. But Mexico? Just because Mexico is ethnically diverse (a fact that the liberal scolds who worry about "racism against Mexicans" continually forget) doesn't mean it's FF.
2. Yemen is as FF as Canada?
3. Japan is more FF than both the US and South Korea? Nonsense.
4. Mali is as FF as Canada? You don't say.
5. Switzerland is more FF than France??? Do you even know the Swiss?
6. Is the map seriously suggesting that South Korea is less FF than North Korea?

I could go on, but I don't think this map is worth shit. I'm morbidly curious to know what metrics were used to determine the respective degree of FFness of a given country, and what survey methodology was employed. Okay, strike that: I'm not curious at all. This is garbage.

stabby, stabby

You've heard about the senior at Harvard University who is threatening to stab anyone who has the "caucasity" to say "All lives matter"? What a stupid fucking bitch, and such a shining example of Harvard's best and brightest. Michael Knowles has this to say:

will Trump drop out because of low poll numbers?

Dr. Karlyn Borysenko, psychologist, thinks Trump is capable of an insanely tunnel-vision-like focus that has the potential to propel him, once again, to victory:

Consider the above video a counterpoint to Tim Pool's incessant vacillation on the question of Trump's 2020 chances. Pool says he currently leans toward the notion of Trump's losing; in doing so, he sounds a bit like Scott Adams, who humorously and insincerely hedged his bets in 2016 regarding Trump, claiming that he was fully supportive of Hillary Clinton and her campaign. This may be a case of anti-jinxing: you deliberately predict disaster in order to avert it. It's magical thinking, to be sure, and it may be unwarranted this year.

I don't see how the American public can possibly vote for a party that tacitly and openly supports rioting, pillaging, and kowtowing to PC sacred cows, all while preaching the twisted doctrine of intersectionality (a species of the self-righteous victim mentality) and anti-Americanism. July the Fourth is a celebration of white supremacism? Mount Rushmore is a racist monument? I trust the American public is watching all this, along with the destruction happening in the big blue-state cities, and is quietly taking notes.

I'm pretty confident that Trump will win handily this November. For the idiots who don't see this, it's 2016 all over again: over-reliance on biased polls, and incestuous amplification on the left as a 100-million-person sewing circle tells itself a narrative that is completely unmoored from reality. Expect more dramatic weeping and screeching at the sky this November as the moronic half of the country wails in despair, then gathers itself up again to continue the campaign of lies in which it's been engaged for nearly four fucking years.

My most fervent hope is that the GOP takes back the House while retaining the Senate, thus closing off the option of a second time-wasting, money-wasting impeachment. As for the question of whether Trump's final four years in office will be a smooth coast toward the finish line: I seriously doubt it. His second term will be turbulent and tumultuous, especially with half the country blinded by a false narrative about how awful America really is. How do you un-fuck 150 million brains? I don't think it's possible, which doesn't bode well for what happens after Donald Trump leaves office.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

fêting the Fourth? then you're a white supremacist

Jesus Christ.

And how are things going in the CHAZ, which apparently isn't as dead as first reported?

As Tim says: handgun sales across the country have spiked by 145%; bodies are starting to pile up in the CHAZ; things are going to hell in the big, Democrat-run cities. There's a karmic, you-reap-what-you-sow vibe about current events these days.

Meanwhile, Columbus, Ohio has taken down a statue of Christopher Columbus:

Are we in the darkest timeline? Maybe. Maybe not. Would a Trump win be a harbinger of unicorns and rainbows? I submit the answer is no: we're in for another four years of fake scandals abetted by the faux media. Tim Pool has been wavering on the question of a Trump electoral victory, possibly because he's a little too hypnotized by the lying press. Below, Pool talks about a reason to think there might be Trump landslide. Watch it before Tim swings back to black-pilled pessimism:

go figure

It's July, so Blogger's rollover to the "new Blogger" format should have happened. We had been promised that the new Blogger would be the default interface starting at the end of June, but I'm still using the good old "legacy" interface and seeing the "Try the New Blogger!" button at the bottom of the left-hand margin of my input/edit window. Go figure. Anyway, if this means I don't have to do anything and can just keep on blogging the way I normally do, then great! That's what I plan to do. My thanks to Blogger for keeping the legacy option open for us old-school curmudgeons who hate and fear change... especially when that "change" means moving to a decidedly inferior interface.

My advice to Blogger: if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Don't change things merely for change's sake. That's a stupid waste of time, money, and effort.

the site that sharted it all!

Remember that site? It still exists, albeit under a slightly different name, and it's more of a museum/mausoleum, these days, than an active spot at which to find the latest in scatological cartoons. (I did see some Trump-related animations, though, so the site still has a heartbeat.) If I recall correctly, was at the forefront of a wave of Flash-animation sites, all of which are doomed to die as of the end of this year when Flash itself goes kaput. How sad. So let's do a nostalgic pass-in-review of some toons, for old time's sake.

How cause and effect work according to the mainstream media:

The media reveal the true nature of what they send forth:

Donald Trump tries to rid himself of the lying mainstream media:

Ah, the good ol' days...

food as comedy

The YouTube channel Sam the Cooking Guy celebrates hitting the 2-million-subscriber mark by making a massive, twenty-pound cheeseburger. I applaud everything about the cheeseburger except the goddamn onions, but since Sam is an onion addict who has already groused that we onion-haters need to grow up, I'll keep my grumbling more or less to myself. The video is hilarious as Sam tries to figure out how to flip five-pound burger patties. Can you expect disaster and mayhem? Yes. Yes, you can:

my new favorite tweet

Seen over at Instapundit:

four via Bill

I've been saying this for a while, now: the side that's been quietly buying all the guns is the side that's going to win any sort of violent civil war:

Dear rioters: please feel free to try and invade the suburbs. I need a good laugh.

In the meme below, I guess the wolf is the mass of far-left rioters (or the entire far left), the sheepdog is the police, and the sheep is us: We the Sheeple.

Ignore the hippie psychologists. Bring back spanking and set some fucking limits with your spoiled, retarded, pussy-ass children:

Lastly: we've known this for quite some time:

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Ave, Jeff!

Dr. Hodges has a humorous take on the phrase "no quarter given," which has been in the news lately thanks to Senator Tom Cotton's recent Twitter call to give no quarter to "insurrectionists, anarchists, rioters, and looters." I imagine that a lot of the usual squawking and flapping about Cotton's statement has to do with the original meaning of the term, to wit: in battle, you take no prisoners and simply kill the enemy. Prisoners take up space because they're put in confined "quarters," in a manner of speaking. (See more about the origins of the word and concept here.) By killing the defeated, you don't put yourself in the position of being saddled with living bodies that require care. Your army can remain mobile.

Is Senator Cotton seriously calling for the US military to mow down criminal civilians, whatever rights those civilians may have? I doubt it. He probably meant "no quarter" in the more modern, diluted sense of "no mercy," i.e., once a criminal gets nabbed, he isn't let off the hook by some compassionate authority figure. Instead, he is punished to the fullest extent legally possible. I hope Cotton doesn't end up apologizing to the PC outrage mob. As far as I'm concerned, he didn't exaggerate or misspeak: if criminals show up and show your property (and possibly also your family) no mercy, then they in turn should be shown no mercy.

preach it, Senator Tim!

From Instapundit, quoting black Republican Senator Tim Scott:

“We’re coming [in] after to fix their problems and that’s what the party, the Republican Party, has been doing for decades: fixing the challenges brought to people in liberal cities by liberal politicians,” Scott argued.
I normally wouldn't highlight Tim Scott's race, but there's been a lot of news, lately, surrounding Scott's police-reform proposals (click the above link for more) and Democrats' vociferous objections to them. Like it or not, this plays into a racist-left narrative that has been simmering for some time, now. You might counter that, in Tim Scott's case, people are reading racism into a situation where no racism exists, to which I respond, what the fuck do you think THE LEFT has been doing this entire time? Agreed: it's an utterly stupid, useless rabbit hole to go down, this question of "you're rejecting his proposals simply because he's black." But you have to hold leftists up to their own leprous standards and counter them the way they counter you. To stop a forest fire, you often need to set up a backfire.

an email to my goddaughter

Sorry, folks. I had placed a lengthy email to my goddaughter—who had recently graduated from college—in this space. After leaving it up a couple of hours, I decided to take it down and allow private correspondence to remain private. While I had put the email up in the spirit of sharing some positive sentiments with my readers, it occurred to me that my goddaughter might not approve of having an audience read a message that had ostensibly been meant just for her. So with that in mind, and feeling somewhat chastened, I've decided to take the email down. My apologies to anyone whose feelings have been hurt by this action, and my apologies to anyone whose feelings have been hurt by my having initially uploaded that email.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

spot the errors

From a goofy tabloid article about Woody Harrelson, we get this gem of a sentence:

Harrelson's father left the family when he was only seven and this seemed to affect his mindset.
Here's the sentence in context:
Looking back at his childhood in Midland, Texas, Woody Harrelson admits he may have been a lot to handle. "I had a lot of anger, a lot of rage," he confessed to Esquire. The young boy found a way to get kicked out of his nursery school and then first grade. After an incident where, supposedly, teachers accused a young Harrelson of stealing a purse, he "went around the school breaking windows with [his] bare fists." Harrelson's father left the family when he was only seven and this seemed to affect his mindset. "I think I was also just too soft. I was so sensitive, so vulnerable," he told GQ. As a result, Harrelson vowed to toughen up and not be pushed around. But this manifested in negative ways. He admitted to having "tantrums" and holding onto this "rage" as he grew older.
Does the added context make the sentence clearer? I might tentatively say: Yes, but not by much. Anyway, as regards the sentence in isolation, I see at least three errors. Do you see them? Do you see more errors than just three? How might you rewrite the sentence so that it works well on its own merits as well as in context (and, yes: other parts of that paragraph desperately cry out for repair, but we'll save that for another time)?

Leave your thoughts in the comments.

"Burn Notice": series review

Over the past few months, I finally had the chance to binge-watch "Burn Notice," a spy-themed USA Network action-dramedy starring Jeffrey Donovan, Gabrielle Anwar, Bruce Campbell, Sharon Gless, and Coby Bell (from Season 4 onward). The show ran seven seasons from 2007 to 2013, which was the same period when the world was switching from "dumb phones" to smartphones—a technological change that the show itself reflected over its final few seasons, along with some shameless product placement for Microsoft whenever we had a closeup of a phone or pad. The show's basic premise was that Michael Westen (Donovan), a spy who worked for the CIA, got burned, i.e., disowned, disenfranchised, disconnected, and disempowered. The CIA wasn't done with Westen, though: he was dumped in his hometown of Miami, close to his mother (Gless), and not allowed to leave the city. Most of the seven seasons were devoted to Michael's pursuit of the people who had burned him—a long, long rabbit hole that led Westen on many a wild goose chase. Along for the ride were Westen's sort-of-ex IRA-connected, bomb-happy girlfriend Fiona Glenanne (Anwar) and Michael's ex-Navy SEAL buddy Sam Axe (Campbell). Beginning in Season 4, the crew acquired Jesse Porter (Bell), a spy who got accidentally burned by Michael during one of Michael's missions. Another recurring family character was Michael's brother Nate (Seth Petersen), a gambling-addicted loser who both resents and idolizes his older brother.

To understand "Burn Notice," think of it as the humor-filled love child of two mostly humorless TV shows: "24" and "The Equalizer" (the TV show with Edward Woodward, I mean, not the Denzel Washington movies). Michael Westen is cut off from the CIA, but he still needs to make a living, so he becomes a government-trained do-gooder. Every episode of "Burn Notice"—for the first six seasons, anyway—runs on two parallel tracks: Westen's pursuit of the people who burned him, and Westen's aid given to the show's victim-of-the-week. The show never quite explains how Westen and his team are able to obtain the often-expensive spy equipment and weaponry they rely on to resolve their cases. It frequently seemed to me, as I binge-watched, that Westen & Co. had a net income of zero dollars, especially once you realized that much of the work they did was gratis—a charity to help out a friend of a friend, or a friend of Michael's mom.

The show stretched plausibility and didn't take itself seriously at all. Each episode featured Michael's smooth tones doing a periodic voiceover narration about spycraft; in interviews, Jeffrey Donovan has said that the showrunners had retained a veteran spy as a consultant, so a lot of what we learned on the show was true to life—except for when the discussion turned to things like bomb-making and such. In those cases, the show used fake chemicals and deliberately mis-portrayed procedures for the understandable ethical reason that it would be unwise to give true crazies an education on how to kill people en masse.

Ultimately, though, I found "Burn Notice" to be at its best as a character study, an exploration of a tight network of friendships and familial relationships. When the series begins, Michael is on prickly terms with his ex-SEAL buddy Sam Axe, who has been recruited by the FBI to spy on Michael. Michael is also navigating the complicated waters of his relationship with his mother Madeline, a.k.a. "Maddie," whose husband used to be abusive to her and the two boys, Mike and Nate. Fiona Glenanne, an ex-IRA operative whom Michael met during some missions in Ireland, begins the series as Michael's sort-of ex, and most of the seven seasons of the show are devoted to exploring how Michael and Fiona really feel about each other.

Like many post-2000 TV shows, "Burn Notice" folds long story arcs into its overarching plot, which means that, while there might be "villains of the week" (many of whom are quite colorful), there are often a few big-bad antagonists lurking in the background, pulling the strings in mysterious ways over several episodes, preventing Michael from finding out more about how he got burned. Season 7 mostly drops the aforementioned parallel-plot format to concentrate on a central question: the saving of Michael Westen's soul. In Season 7, Michael contends with a villain named James Kendrick, a man who seems able to reach inside Michael's head and manipulate him far more than any other villain has ever managed. It's up to Michael's friends to try to remind Michael of who he is and which team he's on, and the battle for Michael's soul lasts pretty much until the series finale.

I'll say it now: I found Season 7 to be the weakest of all the seasons; I wasn't convinced that Michael, who had been so solid for six seasons, could suddenly find himself so utterly hypnotized by James and his cult-like organization. It felt almost as if the writers of the show wanted to make Michael Westen more like Jack Bauer in "24," a man who becomes increasingly disenchanted with his country's government once he realizes just how full of vipers it is. This shift in the show's tone and in Michael's character felt somewhat off to me. Season 7 was entertaining, to be sure, but I think it could have benefited from better plotting.

Season 7 aside, "Burn Notice" is a dramedy, so it features plenty of lighthearted moments, often coming from Bruce Campbell's Sam Axe, a mojito-swilling bachelor who's always on the lookout for a rich woman on whose coattails he can coast. Sam and Fiona, both of whom have claims to Michael's friendship, don't always get along with each other, and part of the show's charm comes from its exploration of their evolving relationship, which often feels like a testy sibling rivalry. Gabrielle Anwar, as Fiona, also proves to have an amazing sense of comic timing. Like Katee Sackhoff as Starbuck in "Battlestar Galactica," Anwar is one of those actresses whose expressive face clearly telegraphs her character's inner emotions. Fiona is a joy to watch, and her interplay with the other principals is always entertaining. Maddie provides plenty of her own comedy as she growls and chain-smokes her way through scenes in which she's required to help the team in some way. These scenes can veer from the comic to the deadly serious, such as in the episode where Maddie—played by Sharon Gless—is forced to blackmail a cheerful, innocent bank officer played by Tyne Daly (Gless and Daly starred together in the 1980s crime drama "Cagney & Lacey," which also lasted seven seasons). Maddie ends up furious at her son for having to ruin another woman's life.

Season 4 sees the introduction of a new team member: Jesse Porter, played by the very capable Coby Bell. Fiona takes a flirtatious interest in the trim, muscular, and handsome Jesse for a brief time, but she quickly finds herself again and remains faithful to Michael. Jesse's character, from Seasons 4 to 7, often gets plenty of screen time, but I felt that he was sometimes relegated to fifth-wheel status: we never get to explore much of Jesse's own personal life, and we never see him with a girlfriend or anyone else close to him—not even a regular friend. Jesse becomes part of Michael's team, but he's the team member who's in the most eccentric orbit around Michael. That being said, his character is the focus for some great drama: he starts off as another burned counterintelligence agent—accidentally burned by Michael, who hides this fact from Jesse for as long as he can. Michael ropes Fiona, Sam, and Maddie into a conspiracy to keep the true cause of Jesse's current hardship away from the young spy, ostensibly "for his own good." But Jesse is no dummy, so as you can imagine, he figures out what Michael has done to him. Now betrayed and feeling both raw and murderous, Jesse has to contend with the urge to put a bullet in Michael's brain while also coming to terms with the fact that, in the spy game, people fuck each other over all the time, and it's nothing personal. Maddie, who has hosted the homeless Jesse at her house and developed maternal feelings for him, plays a key role in trying to get Michael and Jesse to clear the air between them and to patch things up. The epic speech she gives in the episode where she tricks Michael and Jesse to meet makes for the kind of drama that wins an actress an Emmy. Sharon Gless, as Madeline, is definitely a key to the show's success. Maddie Westen—tough and brave, bloodied but unbowed—is quite a character, and I mean that in several senses.

The show isn't above making sly intertextual references. Several Bruce-Campbell-related jokes allude to Campbell's famously prominent chin, and one recurrent character calls one of Sam Axe's makeshift weapons a "boomstick," a hilarious reference to Campbell's now-iconic "This... is my boomstick!" line in 1992's "Army of Darkness." Early in the series, Sam and Fiona, acting as spies, introduce themselves to their marks as "Detectives Cagney and Lacey," a nod to Sharon Gless's Cagney character from the 80s. The intertextuality extends further, and in subtler ways: Jonathan Frakes—Riker from "Star Trek: The Next Generation"—directs several episodes, and "Burn Notice" plays host to several cast members from "Battlestar Galactica," such as Tricia Helfer and Lucy Lawless (both of whom played Cylons on "Galactica"). Sci-fi nerd and comic actor Patton Oswalt guest-stars in a few episodes during some later seasons, and even huge stars like Michael Ironside and Robert Patrick make brief appearances. The show shamelessly plugs itself into the pop-culture Zeitgeist, and you can track the evolution of the series by what sorts of cell phones the cast members use.

Season 7, the show's final season, ends on a bittersweet note that involves both tragedy and triumph: a major character dies, but some of our main characters get something akin to a happy ending. All in all, I enjoyed "Burn Notice" for all its quirkiness: its humor, its action scenes (Jeffrey Donovan is an actual practicing martial artist who did most of his own stunts on the show), and even its frequently goofy, corny tone. All of the principal cast members do stellar work and mesh about as well as any small ensemble cast can be expected to. "Burn Notice" does follow a certain formula, and it occasionally strays a little too far into "24" territory, but overall, the series makes for a lively watch. I was thankful that the series didn't take the route of the 1980s show "The A-Team," in which the main characters would spray a fire zone with enough lead to build a huge bunker, all without ever hitting anyone. In "Burn Notice," bullets do actual damage, and the show isn't shy about killing off certain much-beloved characters, or about showing our main characters killing someone in cold blood when necessary. The series was, at least until Season 7, a delicate balance of humor and grit, with plenty of character development and interaction. While not as intense or as philosophical as my two favorite series, "24" and "Battlestar Galactica," "Burn Notice" still earns my respect as a show with an interesting story to tell.

ADDENDUM: here's a video that unabashedly praises "Burn Notice":