Saturday, March 06, 2021

Ave, Charles!

I'll take a moment to wish my buddy Charles a very happy 24th anniversary.  He notes that this particular anniversary signals he has now lived more years as a married man than as a singleton.  Twenty-four years of wedded bliss is nothing to sneeze at.

You see, when we got married, I was about a month-and-a-half shy of my 24th birthday. That means that this will be the first anniversary where I will have been married to HJ longer than I haven’t.

Charles also observes:

Traditionally, there isn’t even a special gift associated with the 24th anniversary (although, according to Wikipedia, the “modern” gift is “musical instruments,” for some reason).

How about buying your wife a moktak?




Friday, March 05, 2021

the "kids in cages" canard

Oops:

That's right up there with the "fine people" hoax.



Derridean différance

This post is inspired by commenter Daniel, who mentioned Jacques Derrida's concept of différance over at my other blog.  So what is différance?  It's the semantic quality of being both different and deferred.  Allow me to explain.

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was an Algerian-born Frenchman who contributed hugely to the two sister movements of postmodernism (which I usually nickname "PoMo") and poststructuralism. Historians who study Derrida tie his thinking in with that of Ferdinand de Saussure, the so-called "father of linguistics."  I alluded to some of Derrida's language- and text-related thoughts in my other posts on PoMo, but suffice it to say that Derrida is often seen as having "radicalized" Saussurean thinking.

So we need to understand first that Saussure looked at language as a field of contrasts (recall what I'd written, earlier, about Derrida seeing vocabulary as pairs of opposites, with one side of the pair being "privileged"), as well as a field of implied contrasts. Take a word like dog. The moment I say the word, certain contrasts come to mind, e.g., dog vs. cat.  But Saussure noted that the field of implied contrasts is, in fact, infinite:  the moment you say X is a dog, you're saying that X is not a cat, not a paper bag, not a novel, not a car, not a wish, etc., ad infinitum.  A whole universe of contrasts is implied the moment you say or name a thing.  Derrida's notion that words are only ever defined by other words has its roots in Saussurean thought, and now, the stage is set for understanding the world of swirling text in which we live.

The French verb différer means both to differ (i.e., to be different) and to defer (i.e., to put off until later).  Derrida deliberately misspelled the noun form (normally spelled différence) to arrive at a word whose strange spelling keeps you forever off-balance:  différance.  The concept of différance, as applied to words or to text in general (remember that a painting can also be a text), means that any given word has a meaning that is unknowable until it is seen in context.  Take cat, for example.  If I use a form of that word in the sentence She's a catty individual, I'm talking about felines only obliquely.  If the syllable cat were floating around in a context-free abstract space, you'd never know what the syllable meant until it nestled itself into a context-providing sentence.  So:  the word cat is different insofar as it means "not a dog, not a wooden block, etc."—and it's also deferred because you can't know what the syllable cat means until you see it in a sentence.  Different and deferred:  the word cat exemplifies différance, and so do all other words and concepts.

You can see how différance might apply to smaller units of text, such as letters.  You can't know how the letter "c" is pronounced until you see it in context:  police car.  See?  (C?)  Or how about the letter "x":  xylophone, Felix, Oaxaca.

So this is the textual world we live in, according to Derrida.  There is a constant semantic dynamism at work in all words and concepts, and it's not until you add context that you can know anything... and even then, the added context is no guarantee that you've understood the text "correctly," whatever "correctly" might mean.  Meaning has an inherent plasticity, and because there's no ultimate foundation for meaning (no "transcendental signified"), there will always be some "play" when it comes to semantics.  That's largely thanks to différance, the deferred difference.

This may be one of the few areas where I think Derrida's thought has merit (my overall judgment is that PoMo/PostStruc is garbage), but that's mainly because this line of thinking is a direct extension from Saussure's work in linguistics.  You could, in fact, argue that human history shows a centuries-long awareness of différance at play in human discourse and art:  our puns, our slyly hidden subtexts, our accidental and deliberate misconstruals, the fights we get into over this or that terminology—all of these things imply an intuitive understanding of différance.  Derrida just happened to be the one to put it into (ha!) words.  Perhaps he could be said to be a discoverer of différance, not its inventor or creator.



"The Greatest Showman": review

Before there was ever an Island of Misfit Toys, there was PT Barnum's circus.  2017's "The Greatest Showman" is a cinematic musical starring Hugh Jackman as the indefatigable Barnum himself.  Michelle Williams is Barnum's long-suffering wife Charity; Zac Efron is Barnum's business partner Phillip Carlyle; Zendaya is the trapeze artist (and Carlyle's love interest) Anne Wheeler; finally, Rebecca Ferguson is Swedish singing talent Jenny Lind.

This movie is both a musical and a biopic, and since we all know biopics often tend to be as much fictions as fact, it's safe to say that the film isn't too concerned with the truth.  That may be apropos in this case:  PT Barnum had a reputation as a fraud and a shyster; he might have approved of a biopic that distorted his life and presented it as larger than life.  The basic plot follows Barnum from his boyhood days to the moment he has his epiphany and realizes his circus doesn't need to be housed in a brick-and-mortar building, but should instead become a traveling tent show.  (In reality, Barnum's circus didn't come to life until the man was 60—just one of the many liberties taken with the details.)

As a boy, Phineas Taylor Barnum had a sense of humor, a sense of adventure, and a wild imagination.  We see him joking with his young neighbor Charity, who adores his wit and laughs at his jokes, even if it means getting in trouble for spitting out her tea.  Charity's straitlaced, patrician parents look down their noses at young PT and his father, a working-class tailor. Eventually, when PT is old enough, he asks for Charity's hand in marriage, and they move to New York City, where they start a family and have two daughters, Caroline and Helen (Austyn Johnson and Cameron Seely, respectively).  PT is unable to find and keep decent work; money troubles plague the early years of his marriage.  There's a brief flashback in which a young PT, starving on the streets after his father's early death, receives an apple from a kind stranger with a deformed face; the experience remains with PT and blossoms into something big later on.  PT initially thinks he should establish a museum; he does so, but almost no one visits, and his daughters tell him he needs to have fewer "dead things" and more living, sensational items to show off.  A light bulb goes off in PT's head, and he begins trolling New York for freaks and acrobats.  Many appear—meekly at first because they've lived under the pall of societal hatred and ridicule—but Barnum convinces them that they can put on a show and gain respect thereby.

This proves to be only half correct:  Barnum's show is, initially, a great success, but the haters begin to arrive in droves, mocking the circus freaks (as well as the black members of the troupe, who may as well have been circus freaks themselves, given the ubiquitous racism of the period) and threatening to run everyone out of town.  Meanwhile, Barnum's young, white partner Phillip Carlyle falls in love with the beautiful Anne Wheeler, who is black; Carlyle's parents view the interracial romance with disgust, and Phillip does what he can to make up for his parents' prejudice.  Anne, for her part, sees the problem as much bigger than just Phillip's parents, and she has a point.  

The haters continue to hate, but Barnum's show continues to turn a profit, and he's finally able to move his wife and daughter into a mansion down the street from Charity's parents.  The move is partly to spite the in-laws who looked down on PT, but it's also to please his wife, who has fond memories of the mansion from years ago, when she was a little girl, and the mansion had been abandoned.  But, unsatisfied with his success, Barnum pines for legitimacy:  he's known as someone who is openly a fake and a con man, drawing in crowds and exposing them to trickery and illusion, and he wants to be known for something real.  During a visit to England to meet the Queen, Barnum makes the acquaintance of "the Swedish Nightingale" Jenny Lind, who is an immensely popular singer in Europe.  He tempts her away from her Europe tours with the promise of big money in the States; the film implies that Barnum and Lind engage in a naughtily flirtatious relationship:  like Charity, Jenny is charmed by PT's wild imagination, and PT is hypnotized by Jenny's genuinely stupendous talent.

The rest of the movie involves a plunge into despair as Barnum loses Jenny, the haters burn down Barnum's building in New York City, and Barnum nearly loses his family when a photo of Lind impulsively kissing him hits the newspapers and angers Barnum's wife.  And then, when all seems lost, a new thing arises from the ashes, and the future is bright once more.

I admit I'm not much of a musicals kind of guy, but occasionally, I'll sit through a musical and be touched, maybe even transported.  I enjoyed (and maybe even cried at) a live performance of "The Phantom of the Opera" at the Kennedy Center years ago.  "The Sound of Music" has been a much-viewed and re-viewed classic in my family (its director, Robert Wise, also directed "Star Trek: The Motion Picture").  I absolutely loved Baz Luhrmann's zany, kaleidoscopic "Moulin Rouge" when it came out years ago.  So it's not as though I'm completely impervious to a musical's charm... but it has to be a good musical.

I'm not sure "The Greatest Showman" was that musical.  Yes, there were brief moments that touched me.  Yes, there were themes I could sympathize with, such as the idea of accepting the marginals among us, whether they be bearded ladies, "dog boys" stricken with hirsutism, conjoined twins (Chang and Eng make a brief appearance as part of Barnum's "menagerie"), freakishly tall and freakishly small human beings, or folks who have the misfortune of being black in a pre-Civil War society.  Yes, the talent on display was impressive, and the acting was generally fine.

But the movie has problems.  First, there's the matter of how the film handles PT's shysterism.  Much of his chicanery is merely implied; we don't see him shamelessly hawking fake mysteries or "mermaid skeletons" the way the real Barnum did.  (The real Barnum's most morally repulsive act may have been when he charged money for people to witness the gruesome autopsy of a black woman named Joice Heth, who was supposedly the 161-year-old nanny of George Washington.  In truth, Heth died around the age of 80, and Barnum actually admitted that Heth's age was half of what had been advertised... but he admitted this during the autopsy, when he knew his audience would be more transfixed by the gore than by the admission of his lie.  Wikipedia notes that Barnum had forced Heth to work 10-to-12-hour days while she was in her 80s.  The inclusion of this horrific deed might have made "The Greatest Showman" a much less upbeat musical.)  More confusingly, the movie emphasizes the idea that Barnum's ensemble of freaks and marginals were legitimate talents—not fakes at all.  The trapeze artists were actually good at what they did.  The singers and dancers and knife-throwers and acrobats were, in fact, adept at their work.  The freaks were genuine products of biological conditions, and when singer Jenny Lind came on board, she proved to be nothing short of the real thing.  So while I had done a bit of research into the real PT Barnum's life and had discovered on my own that he had, in fact, been quite the trickster and con artist, the movie merely claims he is a fake while showing us a man who puts on a bona fide show for the entertainment-hungry masses.

The movie also contained a few blatantly unresolved issues, of which I'll mention only the most glaring example:  that of PT Barnum's marginalization of his own troupe because he was so enamored of Jenny Lind.  The movie shows us that Barnum becomes so enthralled by the idea of legitimate talent that he dismisses his faithful troupe as nothing more than fakes themselves.  There's a sad moment in the film in which Barnum literally shuts the door on all of his performers except Jenny, excluding them from the posh party he's at.  The troupe mopes in sad silence before breaking out into a song about accepting oneself.  But does anything result from this conflict?  No.  Later in the film, Barnum has lost Jenny, and the troupe has seemingly forgiven him, knowing Barnum to be the victim of his own capricious whims.  I think the screenwriters missed a huge opportunity to explore a conflict that could have developed both Barnum's character and the individual characters of the troupe.  The conflict went unexplored because, I guess, it was more important to propel the plot forward.

And while the performances were generally good, I'm afraid I have to single out Michelle Williams for looking rather uncomfortable in a musical.  I'm not sure whether she sang her own songs (Rebecca Ferguson got overdubbed, and so did several other characters), but Williams never resonated with me.  She didn't seem to have much chemistry with Hugh Jackman, and during the moments when she was supposed to be dancing happily on a rooftop, she often looked as if she wanted to be somewhere else.  Now, I've sung Williams's praises before (see my review of "Manchester by the Sea," where I thought she was incredible), and I would never disparage her acting talent, but I just don't think that she meshed well with this film as a whole.  Every scene in which she appeared served to push me, just a bit, out of the film.  Her character, Charity, is supposed to be a sunny, optimistic person who gradually becomes disappointed with some of her husband's life-choices, but I don't think Michelle Williams is wired to play overly sunny characters:  she's more at home with quietly sad, brooding roles in which she labors under dark clouds.

Hugh Jackman, by contrast, has a deep background in stage musicals, so he's on his home turf here, never once evoking Logan the Wolverine.  Zendaya, too, is already a singer/dancer, and so is Zac Efron ("High School Musical").  All three actors are perfectly at home in a musical setting, and it shows.  The other performers in Barnum's troupe also do yeoman's work, even if they don't enjoy the same amount of screen time as the principals.

And this brings me to the film's greatest problem:  not the performers, but rather the music itself.  Remember the musicals I listed above?  The thing they all have in common is their memorable tunes.  Nothing in "The Greatest Showman" strikes me as anywhere near as memorable as any song from the aforementioned musicals.  And that's unfortunate because the performers do sing and dance their hearts out.  The movie's production values are quite good (except maybe for the CGI circus animals that appear at points throughout the film), and the energy level of the film is undeniably high.  I suppose I should also give the biopic-musical credit for not completely sanitizing PT Barnum's life:  the movie makes clear that the man was often ruled by base motives, that he wasn't always moored to reality, and that family did not always come first for him.  That said, biographical accuracy or not, the music was still a disappointment:  it just wasn't all that catchy.  Maybe a rewatch is in order, but to be honest, I'm not particularly motivated to spend more time with Mr. Barnum and Company.

As I mentioned above, biopics often lose something in the accuracy/factuality department.  This is even more of a problem when the biopic is also a musical:  musicals strain reality through a poetical filter that sometimes captures certain truths while letting other—arguably more important—truths pass right through.  If you're a fan of musicals, and if you buy into Barnum's sometimes manic optimism, then "The Greatest Showman" might be for you.  If, on the other hand, you're not normally into musicals, and you have somewhat high standards for both the music you do listen to and the story plots you experience, then "The Greatest Showman" will definitely not be worth your while.



Thursday, March 04, 2021

the three Leonids

I saw this pic in a comment thread on Instapundit and decided to have some fun with it:

Brezhnev's natural unibrow look, a Photoshopped redo to make him appear more civilized, and then a return to the unibrow, this time turned upside-down to fill up that hilariously wide "philtrum gap" between his nose and the top of his upper lip.  The longer the philtrum, the dopier you look, which is why Homer Simpson is drawn the way he is:

Of course, to be fair, if you go in the opposite direction and give the subject a short philtrum, that doesn't end up looking too smart, either:



the Kathleen Kennedy saga continues

I sincerely hope that Disney fires this useless woman:





The Epoch Times news dump

1,600 Immigrants Arrested Over 3 Days in Single Texas Border Sector


13 Killed in California Crash Allegedly Entered US Illegally via Border Fence Hole


108 Illegal Immigrants Released by Border Patrol in Texas Tested Positive for COVID-19


FBI Counterterrorism Official: No Firearms Recovered During Jan. 6 Capitol Breach


Over a Dozen Soldiers Stationed at Capitol Are Sick After Provided With Undercooked Food




more images

 









stay tuned

I just watched "The Greatest Showman," starring Hugh Jackman.  A review is pending.



Wednesday, March 03, 2021

Ryan Long, feminist mom





vote-reform redux

Here:

Supreme Court Appears Favorable to Arizona Election Integrity Lawsuits

“I think we all should agree at this point that we want to have confidence in our election system,” Brnovich, the state’s Republican attorney general, said in an exclusive interview with The Epoch Times days before his Supreme Court appearance, in which he shared his views about the upcoming oral argument at the high court and electoral integrity measures in general.

“We want orderly elections,” he said, adding that he was optimistic that the court appearance would help to generate momentum for electoral integrity measures nationwide.

More Americans need to become active in defending the nation’s founding and the institutions that came out of it, he said.

There is a certain amount of establishment thinking out there “that just wants to go along to get along … [but] the stakes are so high right now in this country that we need champions that understand what the framers of our Constitution established here in this country.”

There is a “need to understand traditional notions of federalism and to understand that the Constitution is all about protecting rights, and that the government is supposed to be limited and its powers defined.”

Forbidding unlimited third-party ballot harvesting is a “commonsense” way to protect the secret ballot, and to prevent undue influence, voter fraud, ballot tampering, and voter intimidation, Brnovich said.

Reform will take years, and there's no guarantee that we'll ever reach a point where the issue of legal, legitimate voting is absolutely settled.  For that reason, the battles must be fought yard by yard.  My buddy Steve is delusionally calling these efforts "pursuit of full-on minority rule."  That's consistent with the left's distorted worldview.  I call it fairness.  If you can't trust the electoral system, it's only a short step to total societal chaos.  Right now, half the country thinks the 2020 election was an utter fraud.  What's to stop the next election from being a might-makes-right superbrawl?  Hot civil war is right around the corner.



election reform: a slight ray of hope

With the rampant cheating and fraud in the 2020 election (yes, there was plenty of evidence; if you think there wasn't, then you weren't paying attention, and/or you were listening to all the wrong news sources), many on the right have pinned their hopes on state-level election reform as one way to redress the situation we currently find ourselves in—one in which the left-Democrats are trying to make mail-in voting a permanent nationwide option.  This is on top of other nefarious measures such as allowing dead people to vote, using unreliable voting machines instead of hand-counting the votes, allowing people with no legitimate ID to vote, allowing prisoners and illegal immigrants to vote, etc.

So it's nice to know that Georgia, at least, is doing something about the problem:

Georgia House Passes Omnibus Election Reform Bill

Georgia’s House of Representatives passed an omnibus bill that would reform a range of election rules, including over absentee voting, voter ID for absentee voting, time limits for voting, and more.

The 66-page bill, HB 531 (pdf) passed the Republican majority chamber on a party line vote of 97-72 and is headed to the state Senate for further debate.

State Rep. Barry Fleming, a Republican, the main sponsor of the HB 531 bill, said that the proposal was designed to restore voters’ confidence in Georgia’s election system following the 2020 presidential election, which saw numerous allegations of voting irregularities and allegations of election fraud. 

Separately, the GOP-majority Senate on Feb. 23 introduced its own version of an omnibus election reform bill, SB 241 (pdf) that has some overlap with HB 531. One difference is that the Senate bill would eliminate no-excuse absentee voting, something that has been allowed in Georgia since 2005, whereas the House bill would still allow no-excuse absentee voting.



Tuesday, March 02, 2021

"Un moment d'égarement": review

Titled "One Wild Moment" in English, "Un moment d'égarement" is a 2015 film directed by  Jean-François Richet.  It's a remake of a 1977 film with the same title, and if you've seen the 80s-era US remake of the 1977 original, "Blame It On Rio," then you know the basic story:  two fathers travel with their teen daughters to a lovely vacation spot; one daughter falls in lust with the other father; a snake crawls repeatedly into a hole, and then the rest of the story is about the fallout from that indiscretion.  In "Blame It On Rio" (which starred Michael Caine as the Lolita-banging dad), the film ends almost in the manner of a Shakespearean comedy:  pretty much everyone is happy, and the situation has come to a tidy conclusion.  In the 2015 film, the ending is positively creepy, with the little nymphomaniac staring meaningfully at the man she fucked right before we fade to black and roll the end credits.

I'll give the movie a thumbs-up for recruiting a good stable of actors.  Vincent Cassel is in the Michael Caine role as Laurent, the divorced-but-still-horny dad who gives in to temptation.  Acting giant François Cluzet plays Laurent's friend Antoine—a fussy, combative, insecure man currently going through marital problems of his own.  Antoine's daughter Louna is played by Lola Le Lann, who seduces Laurent.  Louna's friend (and Antoine's daughter) Marie is played by Alice Isaaz.  

"Un moment d'égarement" utterly lacks substance.  It's a dramedy that, in the grand French cinematic tradition, gives us an opportunity to ogle a fair bit of tits and ass as Louna shakes her naked booty and flashes some nipple at Laurent.  As with the other two versions of this story, the sex happens, and then we have to watch as the characters figure out whether to hide or reveal the truth of what occurred, and what to do about their feelings (or lack of feelings) for each other.  As I noted above, this 2015 version of the story goes in an ambiguous direction, leaving several basic questions unresolved:  has Laurent managed to shake Louna off?  Is Louna the type of psycho who won't be deterred from her prize, even if her pursuit of a much older man angers her already-insecure father?  Has Laurent's daughter forgiven him for being a creepy old perv who bangs little teenage girls?

Ultimately, the movie failed to make me interested in a single one of the above questions.  It sucked.  It sucked harder than Louna was sucking Laurent.  (Okay, that's a bad joke:  I don't recall there being a blowjob scene anywhere in the story.)  Roger Ebert famously shat on "Blame It On Rio" when it came out; the movie certainly wasn't one of Michael Caine's more stellar efforts.  And I'm afraid the same goes for veteran actors Cassel and Cluzet.  This one isn't any sort of feather in the cap.



Sarko en taule!

Shocker:  former president of France Nicolas Sarkozy has been convicted of corruption and has been sentenced to a year in jail.  See here:

PARIS (AP) — A Paris court found French former President Nicolas Sarkozy guilty of corruption and influence peddling on Monday and sentenced him to a year in prison. He can ask to serve that time at home and also plans to appeal.

The 66-year-old, who was president from 2007 to 2012, was convicted of trying to bribe a magistrate in exchange for information about a legal case in which he was implicated.

He will remain free while he appeals, but it was a blow to the retired politician who still plays an influential role in French conservative politics. It’s not the end of his legal troubles either: He faces another trial later this month and is also under investigation in a third case.

I haven't followed France-related news that closely, so this came as a shock to me.  It feels a bit like the "justice" meted out in South Korea, where politicians are convicted and jailed in a neverending cycle of revenge.  Too bad for Sarko, really; I kinda liked him.



molluscan entertainment





is Joe Biden already losing support?





cats being trained to launch nuclear weapons

Before your cats can effectively launch nuclear weapons, you have to start with the basics:  getting them to understand how to push buttons and levers.  Here are two cats who are on their way to becoming America's last line of defense:



course plotted, Captain

I did what I'd threatened to do:  I went to the office Sunday afternoon and evening, where all was quiet except for one other staffer who had also decided to be a work-nerd, and I mapped out the rest of my route down the east coast.  As you'll see if you click over to my Kevin's Walk 5 post about the mapping, the actual distance was surprising and a bit disappointing.  To any readers who might be more familiar with the route than I am, I invite you to comment and set me straight on how the actual route should go.



Monday, March 01, 2021

polar-bear memes

Over at Gypsy Scholar, Jeff Hodges has been writing poems about animals.  His latest poem is about polar bears, which reminded me of some of my favorite polar-bear-related memes:


My absolute favorite of the bunch is the original polar-bear meme:





Biden's national-security report card

President Joe Biden's performance over his first month has been a mixed bag in many ways, including national security.  According to this "report card" on Biden's performance, his worst problem is his laxity regarding the US-Mexico border:

10. Reducing undocumented migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico by 85 percent:

No policy was arguably as important to Trump [as] securing our southern border, and he delivered on it starting early in his tenure, from building over 450 miles of a border wall, to instituting a “remain in Mexico” policy that mandated asylum-seekers remain outside the United States while they await their status.

Biden reversed both of those on his first day in office. He called the border wall “a waste of money that diverts attention from genuine threats to our homeland security,” and has long called the remain in Mexico policy “inhumane.”

The result? A surge of over 100 percent in illegal border crossings over this time last year. Now Biden is proposing an eight-year pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants that many fear will itself be a magnet for more illegal immigration as migrants try to get to the United States to benefit from it. Make no mistake, there could be no clearer contrast between Trump and Biden in the area of national security than on border policy.

Biden obviously has no clue what constitutes a "genuine threat."  That's extremely bad news for the country as a whole.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

COVID-19 death rates compared

United States COVID-19 death rates—total deaths thus far over total population:
512,000/325,000,000 = 0.00157538461, or almost 0.16%

South Korea COVID-19 death rates—total deaths thus far over total population:
1,600/52,000,000 = 0.00003076923, or about 0.003%

The US death rate, by the above reckoning, is 53 times higher than it is in South Korea. The United Kingdom, by the way, and apropos of nothing, is apparently reporting zero deaths from regular flu over the past year. That smells like bullshit to me.



seen during today's walk

When I walked to Bundang before, I mentioned seeing two bizarre sights:  some mysterious runes painted onto a Jersey barrier, and the deliberately misspelled graffito "They cake is a lie."  Well, behold the runes (click image to enlarge):

And here's "They cake is a lie." Note how, in some cases, the "y" is an afterthought:






GK Chesterton's un-Christian sentiment

Un-Christian, but I agree with it:

More politicians should be hanged.



go visit Kevin's Walk 5

Today's walk to Bundang turned out to be just a one-way trip.  I'm not too sorry I quit halfway through; 17.5K turned out to be just the right distance, I guess; I was plenty tired, my feet were achy, and I was starting to feel the beginnings of a blister on my left sole.  

I'm home now, and I've just written up a post over at Kevin's Walk 5 about how I plan to proceed for the big walk later this year.  Give the blog a visit if you want.



Cuomo... going down in flames?

Styx on Andrew Cuomo's Hindenburg moment:





walk update

[This, too, is a scheduled post.]

I headed out very late for this walk, and I'm trying to decide whether to cut it short by stopping at Bundang and taking the subway back.  If I walk the entire 35K, I won't be finishing until very late at night.  I'll get back to you with a decision.



from PowerLine's Week in Pictures

[NB:  This is a scheduled post.]














a good post from Instapundit

[This is a scheduled post.  I'm out walking.]

I don't normally credit Ed Driscoll, one of the co-bloggers at Instapundit, with good posts, but this post was good enough to quote here in its entirety:

WHY IMMIGRANTS FAVOR THE MELTING POT OVER MULTICULTURALISM: What Multiculturalism Has Wrought. The elevation of every world culture as “equally meritorious” has created a deep inequality in our own.

Upon arriving in America, Binh immediately found differences. “When I first got [to America] in 2009, I was waiting for the bus. A police officer stopped by and asked if I needed a ride home. Today I realized I should have said yes,” Binh says. “This country is so generous, and they are so welcoming. I do not see the racism in white people. I hang out with rednecks. I feel like liberal media has been pushing a strong image about America. I am more welcome here in the U.S. than in my own country.”

Taking in more than 1 million legal immigrants every year requires a culture of racial tolerance and a belief that in many parts of the world seems almost unnatural: that a complete stranger should be welcomed, because he or she has the potential to contribute something meaningful to the United State. This is what Binh means when he says that America is a generous country.

Ironically, to advance multiculturalism and deny American exceptionalism is to strike at the foundations of what makes America so appealing to immigrants the world over. What message should we be sending minority and immigrant youth growing up in a society where they don’t look like most people? Do we tell them that the American dream can be theirs, too, if they adopt our common language and a strong work ethic? Or that assimilation is fruitless, that this country will always reject them, and that they must never surrender the slightest bit of their culture?

Read the whole thing by clicking over, and mentally match this up with my post about the female North Korean solider who defected, came to America, and discovered she had been taught nothing but lies.

One comment beneath Driscoll's post:

This goes a long way toward explaining why immigrants who have done it the legal way are among those most opposed to illegal immigration.

If it were true that all cultures are equal, there would be no desire to immigrate.  The left loves to paint itself as pro-immigrant, but notice how lefties routinely and stubbornly ignore the testimonies of the immigrants who have come to the States to escape poverty, bad economic policy, and oppression.  I hear that some Chinese immigrants are now speaking out against "woke" PC culture, saying they didn't come to America to re-experience a Cultural Revolution.  I'm sure that sentiment is shared by any number of Cubans.  "Worker's paradise"—right.



Saturday, February 27, 2021

I ordered the large

Dinner ended up not being American breakfast.

Yeah, it's huge.  Sue me. It's also the only meal of the day.



Hollywood economics, Chinese politics

The Czech Republic to the rescue!  This country teaches the world (especially retarded Hollywood) how to conduct business during a pandemic:

China has eliminated poverty? Welcome to Xi Xinping's newest big, fat lie:





does Taco Bell have a new, disruptive service paradigm?





CaranoWatch continues

The fallout from Gina Carano's firing continues.

To be clear, Rosario Dawson has not been fired from the Star Wars universe quite yet, but there's a chance that she might be if she fails to shake the "transphobe" label.  Above, Mannix repeats the common wisdom that the left eats its own.  It's true.  Rosario Dawson is a dyed-in-the-wool leftie social-justice warrior (SJW), and that doesn't exempt her from leftist hate.

Now imagine Kathleen Kennedy as Hitler:





tomorrow, we slog

It's a bright, beautiful, warm day out, and tomorrow's going to be the same.  I'll be doing a 35K hike to Bundang and back tomorrow.  Today, I'm chowin' down on a homemade Amurrican-style breffus.  For dinner.  Because that's how I roll.  I'll also have some news about my big walk later this year.  That news will appear on my Kevin's Walk 5 blog, but I'll put up a quick note here to alert readers when the KW5 post goes up.



some images

This tweet didn't age well: 

Trump understood the Middle East's psychology, and no war erupted.  Then there's this:

The next two are via Bill Keezer:


If you're convinced the US is a racist, fascist hellhole, then leave.



Friday, February 26, 2021

"Dallas Buyers Club": review

If we think of AIDS as a pandemic of sorts, then I can say that I lived through that crisis when I was a kid.  I didn't gain awareness of AIDS as a widespread problem until I was in junior high, which is when everyone started jokingly accusing each other having AIDS.  The early 1980s were a bad time to be effeminate-looking or otherwise delicate-looking if you were a guy:  the term "faggot" was being thrown around with abandon back then, and everybody knew that AIDS was exclusively a "faggot" thing.  We now know better, and I'd like to think that the nation's collective homophobia has simmered down to some degree.  We now know that heterosexuals can be infected by HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.  We also understand AIDS well enough that modern treatment regimens can keep the condition from becoming a death sentence.  A lot has changed since the 80s.

2013's "Dallas Buyers Club" (sic:  no possessive apostrophe) takes us back to that unenlightened period of American history.  Directed by Canadian Jean-Marc Vallée and starring Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Garner, and Jared Leto, "Dallas Buyers Club" begins in roughly 1985, with electrician/rodeo fan Ron Woodroof (McConaughey) finding out he has HIV, which he probably contracted via unprotected sex with a needle-using drug addict.  Woodroof is told his T-cell count is scarily low, and he has thirty days to live; in denial, he rages at the doctors, but then he cools down and begins to read about AIDS and its treatment.  A new drug called AZT is being used in human trials.  Aggressively promoted by its manufacturer Avonex and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), AZT seems to be the only game in town.  The medical trials involve giving half the patients sugar-pill placebos, with the other half receiving the actual drug.  This doesn't satisfy Woodroof, who crosses the border into Mexico seeking alternatives.  There, he meets the disgraced Dr. Vass (Griffin Dunne, unrecognizable) and discovers that AZT in large doses is essentially a poison that kills all the tissue it touches.  Vass puts Woodroof on a regimen of nutritional supplements, DDC, and Peptide T, a non-toxic protein.  Woodroof, incredibly, begins improving, and an idea is born:  why not ship these meds across the border and sell them to AIDS patients?

Woodroof encounters problems with the US government along the way to starting up his under-the-table business.  The FDA eventually makes unapproved drugs illegal, and as Woodroof's "Dallas Buyer's Club" business flourishes, the IRS swoops in to audit him.  Woodroof acquires a business partner:  a trans woman named Rayon (Leto) who proves to have good money-management skills and a knack for finding clients in the gay/trans community.  Woodroof, who comes from a good-ol'-boy culture in which even the slightest sign of delicacy means being branded a "fuckin' faggot," is leery of Rayon at first, but he comes to trust her and even to view her as a friend.  Rayon's Achilles heel, however, is her cocaine addiction, which gets in the way of her own ongoing AIDS treatment.

I doubt I'm spoiling things when I say that, in the 1980s and early 90s, an AIDS diagnosis was indeed a death sentence, so there's only one way this story can end for Ron Woodroof.  But that's one of the major themes of "Dallas Buyers Club":  when faced with the sure prospect of death, what do you do?  As the character Red says in "The Shawshank Redemption," you get busy livin', or you get busy dyin'.  Ron Woodroof—sex addict, drinker, drug-user, and AIDS victim—chooses the former, belatedly imbuing his heretofore-wastrel life with real meaning.

Viewed through a cultural/political lens, "Dallas Buyers Club" has something for everyone of every political persuasion.  Woodroof's transformation from homophobic bigot to a close friend of Rayon the trans woman makes for a touching character arc that will appeal to the liberal end of the spectrum.  Meanwhile, Woodroof's unbridled capitalism and his hatred of the sluggish, ponderous, clumsy federal government—which can't approve good medication fast enough for thousands of dying patients—will appeal to the right side of the political/cultural aisle.

How much of the story is true, though?  I did a bit of research, and one of the first things I discovered was that Woodruff may not have been the raging homophobe he appeared to be during the first third of the film.  He may, in fact, have been bisexual himself, although testimonies conflict on this point.  As to whether AZT was and is the out-and-out poison that Woodroof believed it to be, well, this seems to be false.  AZT is still prescribed today as part of an AIDS treatment regimen, but doctors have since learned that AZT works best in very small doses, and alongside other meds.  Peptide T and DDC have also been shown to have dangerous side effects.  It's rarely wise to go against the experts when it comes to medication.  The movie also completely glosses over the fact that Woodroof was married several times (we only ever see him as a swinging single), and that he had a daughter.

So if "Dallas Buyers Club" can't be trusted to get the science right, and if it can't be trusted to get Woodroof's biography right, then how should we view the movie?  Is it a fable?  Is it some kind of morality play?  Is it that most pretentious of genres, the character study?  At a guess, it's probably the latter.  But consider:  the Dallas Buyers Club did exist; Ron Woodroof was a real person, and he was operating in rebellion against the US federal government.  To that extent, we've got a David-versus-Goliath situation, and maybe that's enough of a framework to hang a story on.  The characters of Rayon and sympathetic researcher Dr. Eve Saks (Garner) are both fictional, but if the movie's central message is about living and not merely surviving, then we should step back and let art do its thing, conveying a message straight to the heart.

The principal actors, especially McConaughey and Leto, do an incredible job.  Both men lost 47 and 30 pounds, respectively, for their roles as AIDS victims, and they both acted their hearts out.  (Both ended up winning Oscars for Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor, respectively, among other prizes.)  Leto, per his reputation, never once broke character during the 25-or-so days of filming.  (I've sung Leto's praises before; see my review of "Blade Runner 2049.")  McConaughey is a natural at conveying the desperation of a dying man who suddenly reorients his life because he wants to live.  Ron Woodroof, who had initially been given thirty days to live, died seven years after his AIDS diagnosis, having lived a full life, and having spared hundreds, perhaps thousands, of AIDS patients from early deaths.

Jean-Marc Vallée deserves credit for telling his story unsentimentally, in a style that Vallée himself describes as being close to that of a documentary.  Music during the movie is mostly diegetic (i.e., the music you hear is part of the universe in which the story is being told, so the characters are also hearing the music), but there are fleeting moments during which an actual soundtrack comes to the fore, and when it does, the melody is spare and tasteful.  The cinematography evokes a somewhat sepia-toned, broken down, 1980s-era Texas—a bit dusty, a bit forlorn, which is consistent with the rejection Woodroof suffers when his friends and coworkers discover he has AIDS and automatically assume he's a homosexual.  The movie manages to stir the emotions without reaching for overwrought treacle, and while we know what sad, inevitable arc Ron Woodroof's story must follow, I'd still say that the film ends on a life-affirming note.  Ron Woodroof didn't merely survive; he lived.

Watch "Dallas Buyers Club" with my enthusiastic blessing.  Know that it's very much a work of fiction that happens to incorporate some historical elements into its story, and that the historicity of the story isn't the fundamental point.  The point, Dear Reader, is 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.



the "eating while black" hoax

Some idiots can't help themselves.  Despite several scandals in which race-baiting hoaxers have been caught (think:  the Jussie Smollett mugging hoax), some people continue to attempt these stupid shenanigans.  A recent example only now making the news:  in 2018, a young female student at Smith College named Oumou Kanoute claimed to have been harassed by university staff while eating in a campus cafeteria.  The staffer apparently told Kanoute the cafeteria was closed, and she interpreted this as a racist act.  Later on, a law firm conducted an investigation into the matter and concluded that no wrongdoing had occurred.  Too little, too late, however:  by that point, the staffer who had approached Kanoute was suffering severe stress, another staffer had been forced from his job, and on-campus workers were obliged to undergo racial-sensitivity training.  Read more about the stupid incident here.  If there were any justice, Kanoute would be expelled from Smith College and sued for both libel and slander (her attacks were both written and verbal, so she committed both acts).

For a brief period, I dreamed of getting a doctorate and teaching at a university for the rest of my life.  Ever since I got a good whiff of the rot that's spreading in American college campuses, though, that dream has shriveled and died.  Campuses, these days, are well-manicured cesspools of PoMo/Marxist sludge, inculcating students into an unjustifiable grievance culture and creating a generation of pussy-ass beggars who demand everything while offering nothing.  So much for "ask not what your country can do for you"; so much for "not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Smith College's motto is Audacity, Agency, Authenticity.  Audacity means daring and implies courage.  Agency connotes self-empowerment, i.e., you are free to act and therefore not a victim.  Authenticity calls to mind honesty, integrity, and sincerity.  These are all excellent, worthy virtues, and I applaud the college's choice of them.  Oumou Kanoute, by contrast, has shown herself to be a liar and a coward who thinks of herself as a victim.  She is the exact opposite of what Smith College supposedly stands for, and what's worse:  the college's administration probably stands with her.  See why I'll never be a college professor?

Fuck academe.



must-see video: spread this far and wide

Pas de machines à voter, et pas de vote par correspondance!

No voting machines, and no mail-in voting!

Where is this policy in force?  In France!



(NB:  I had to use a VPN to visit the site and watch the video on my phone, but on my office computer, no VPN was necessary.  Your mileage may vary.  Just a heads-up.)



let the warmongering begin: Biden orders airstrikes in Syria

The left kept accusing Donald Trump of being a warmonger, but to my knowledge, he ordered only two strikes, both more or less surgical:  one in Syria, and one in Iraq specifically to kill Iranian General Soleimani.  Trump started no new wars, and he was on his way to major draw-downs in various theaters.  Is Biden riffing off the Trump playbook with his order to conduct a surgical airstrike inside Syria against Iran-backed militia, or is the ancient Democrat starting to reveal his inner warmonger?  

Alt-media talking heads warned and warned that Clinton-era Democrats tend to be hawkish, a stark contrast with Donald Trump's largely dove-ish international policy.  The pundits that I listen to have repeatedly predicted that Biden & Co. would drag us back into global conflicts; Styx, in particular, has noted that neocons and neolibs are basically the same, especially in terms of international policy and their cavalier attitudes toward military action.

So let's see what happens.  Will Biden start pumping US troops back into Syria in what will eventually balloon into a much larger campaign, or is he trying to do what Trump did, i.e., use a surgical strike to make a point that he hopes won't need to be repeated?  (Biden's order was in response to a February 15 attack that injured several Americans.)

Since the changeover from Trump to Biden, Iran has begun demanding "reparations" for the Trump-era measures levied against it.  Biden was vice president when Barack Obama sent Iran literal cargo pallets of cash, so it wouldn't surprise me were Biden to knuckle under to Iranian pressure.  But again, we'll see.

UPDATE:  check out this Instapundit post, which lays out Biden's hypocrisy (although personally, I'd wait until Biden gets us deeper, militarily, into Middle Eastern conflict before declaring him a hypocrite on this score).


Thursday, February 25, 2021

plucked from online

I can hear some people crying "Disanalogy!" about the above joke.  But is it?  Really?

You may recall that US Representative Eric Swalwell (California, 15th District) is infamous for farting on camera and banging a Chinese spy named Fang Fang.  US politicians need to stop being suckers when it comes to the Chinese.  And I know a lot of white guys suffer from "yellow fever," but trust me:  due diligence will save you both hassle and heartache.



video smorgasbord

Biden's old and a pushover, and the world knows it:

Biden's town-hall performance sucked balls:

Comedian Ryan Long gives us... progressive superheroes!





an NK defector talks about her experience in America

Imagine being so utterly wrong about America and having the courage to admit how wrong you are.  Now compare that sort of courage to the cowardly, stupid, stubborn, and delusional behavior of the American left.  

Here's a North Korean officer who defected from North Korea, came to America, and discovered firsthand that everything she had learned about our country was a lie.  Now think about the lies that the American left tells itself in a gutless effort to block out the truth.

Pay special attention to what the lady says at 7:27.  The American left—the extreme wing of it, anyway—would like to make us into North Korea:  weak, starving, and ineffective.  What would this former North Korean soldier say about America's current leftward lurch?




joke seen on YouTube: McGregor the Irishman

It's like that joke about the old Irishman crying in a bar. 

He says: "You see this bar? I built this bar with my own bare hands. I cut down every tree and made the lumber myself. I toiled away through the wind and cold, but do they call me McGregor the bar builder? No." 

He continued: "Do you see that stone wall out there? I built that wall with my own bare hands. I found every stone and placed them just right through the rain and the mud, but do they call me McGregor the wall builder? No.

"Do ya see that pier out there on the lake? I built that pier with my own bare hands, driving each piling deep into the ground so that it would last a lifetime. Do they call me McGregor the pier builder? No." 

"But ya fuck one goat..."

(credit:  a comment seen under a YouTube video)



Wednesday, February 24, 2021

yesterday's lunch and dessert

My US coworker's pro-chef wife came through yet again, gifting us troops with an udong/odaeng soup, two types of California roll, and a lemon pound cake that featured crumbled pistachios instead of the more classic poppy seeds.




It was all quite good, and I admit I stuffed myself.



2 more via Bill




more vindication

An article from the religion blog Word on Fire goes into more detail than I did about the postmodernist roots of the current wokeism.  This article, too, puts Nietzsche at the root of the problem, then it mentions Jacques Derrida but focuses primarily on Michel Foucault and his discourses on power.  Here's a link (courtesy of Instapundit):

"Wokeism" in France:  The Chickens Coming Home to Roost.

The author uses the proverbial karmic chickens as his metaphor; in my own piece, I used the Cylons of "Battlestar Galactica."  Same difference, really:  something insidious is created; it leaves home, grows and festers, then comes back home with a vengeance.*  Some excerpts from the above-linked article:

I will confess that one of the biggest laughs I’ve had in the last several months was occasioned by a recent article in The New York Times by Norimitsu Onishi. In this lengthy piece, the author tells us that the current political and cultural leadership in France, very much including President Emmanuel Macron, is alarmed at the rise of “American-style woke ideology,” which is effectively undermining French society and fomenting violence. Why, you are wondering, would this produce laughter? Well, what we call “woke” thinking in our American context was almost totally imported from French intellectuals who flourished in the second half of the twentieth century. One thinks of Jean-Paul Sartre, Jacques Lacan, Jacques Derrida, Julia Kristeva, and perhaps especially of Michel Foucault. The thinking that was originally shared in Parisian coffeehouses eventually made its way into the university system of Europe and then, especially in the seventies and eighties of the last century, into the world of American higher education. Finally, in very recent years, much of this thinking has poured out onto the streets in the form of “wokeism.” In the measure that it is threatening French society—as indeed I think it is—the phrase “the chickens have come home to roost” springs rather readily to mind.

In order to make this plain, I should like to concentrate on the one French theorist that has had the greatest impact on the formation of the “woke” mentality—namely, Michel Foucault. When I commenced my doctoral studies in Paris in 1989, just five years after Foucault’s death, the philosopher’s owlish face looked out from every bookstore window in the city. It was simply impossible to avoid him. Foucault is perhaps best characterized as a twentieth-century disciple of the influential German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche. Famously declaring that God is dead, Nietzsche denied the objectivity of epistemic or moral truth and saw human life as a ruthless power struggle. Decrying Christianity as a “slave morality,” the pathetic attempt of the weak to shame the strong, Nietzsche called for the Übermensch (the over-man or the super-man) to assert his will to power. In a universe void of objective moral values, the Übermensch is to embody his own values and to declare his dominance.

Foucault thoroughly embraced Nietzsche’s atheism and hence denied any objective grounding to moral values. Instead, he interpreted these, whether espoused by Church or secular society, as the means by which powerful people maintained themselves in positions of power. Like Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud, Foucault was, accordingly, a master of suspicion, an unmasker of what he took to be pretentious claims to truth. He unfolded his Nietzschean project in a series of massively influential books from the sixties and seventies: Madness and Civilization, The Birth of the Clinic, The History of Sexuality, and Discipline and Punish. In all of these texts, he engaged in what he called an intellectual archeology, digging underneath the present consensus on matters such as the nature of madness, sexual morality, the legitimacy of incarceration, etc. in order to show that in previous ages, people entertained very different ideas in all of these arenas. The upshot of this move was to demonstrate that what appeared to be objective moral principles and high-sounding language were, in fact, the ever-shifting games played by the powerful.

Now the legion of Foucault’s disciples in the Western academy continued this archeological project after their master’s death, looking especially into issues of colonialism, gender, homosexuality, and race. And what they found in all these areas, unsurprisingly, was a Nietzschean power struggle between oppressors and oppressed. Once awakened to this reality (woke), they endeavored to foment confrontation between the powerless and the powerful, and here the influence of Marx cannot be overlooked; indeed, one of Foucault’s greatest mentors was the French Marxist Louis Althusser. Appeals to order, social norms, objective ethical values should be swept aside, for they are but a camouflage for the real social dynamics. Vive la revolution! I trust that much of this is sadly familiar to any American who endured the worst of 2020’s social upheaval.

I've repeatedly said that, despite postmodernism's protestations to the contrary, postmodernist thinking is allied with Marxism; the two strains of thought naturally go together, and the evidence of their alliance is easy enough to dig up: just look at any humanities department in any American university these days, and you'll find that the people quoting Derrida, Foucault, Lacan, Deleuze, Guattari, etc., are the same people offering Marxist critiques of modern capitalism.  The two philosophies—PoMo and Marxism—are united inside a single head and seem to coexist quite harmoniously.  That's the undeniable empirical truth.

If an organization like Black Lives Matter follows the Nietzschean path of "foment[ing] confrontation between the powerless and the powerful," then it should come as no surprise when the leaders of BLM proclaim themselves to be "trained Marxists."  PoMo and Marxist worldviews share a natural affinity.

If I had my dictatorial way, I'd take an axe to the very roots of all PoMo, which has become a cancer that has metastasized throughout American culture over the past half-century or so.  Alas, it may be too late to do anything about the problem.  Only a violent spasm of revolution or counter-revolution will burn out the sickness, and even then, much of it will survive and regrow.  The fight never ends.

__________

*I can already hear my more nitpicky commenters asking, "Are chickens insidious, and do they grow and fester and come back home with a vengeance?"  Fools.  These are karmic chickens, so of course they're insidious, and of course they fester.

Or weren't you paying attention?



blue states = beggar states

Stephen Moore:  The Blue States Are Now the Beggar States.

Excerpt:

Last week, I visited South Florida for four days, and what a shock: Everything was open. The beaches, the hotels, the restaurants (with some sensible safety and [social-distancing] restrictions). The classrooms are full.

The other strange thing about being in Florida was that people were happy. They were playing tennis and golf. They were going to work and getting on with their lives. Florida is a Republican, can-do kind of place.

Then, there is New York. Manhattan is a morose and deserted place to be. It's as if it's boarded up. People are living their lives afraid. They are depressed, which makes the whole place depressing.

In Southern California, I experienced the same dreariness. And it wasn't the weather, which was warm and sunny. Restaurants were closed or highly restricted. Stores were sparsely attended, and people were generally grimacing and standoffish. They yelp in horror if you take off your mask, even for a moment.

Yet through it all, there is almost no evidence that lockdowns, business closures, stay-at-home orders[,] and other strategies have reduced the infection rates or death rates from the virus. To take just one prominent example, open Florida has had a lower death rate (adjusted for the age distribution of the population) than closed-down California and New York. Even President Joe Biden's crackerjack health officials can't explain that one.

 

Fifty states experimented with responses to the virus, and the verdict is in: The big blue states got crushed. The highest unemployment states are Hawaii, Nevada, California, Colorado, New York, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Connecticut. On average, the blue states have 2 percentage points lower unemployment, which means millions of more jobless citizens. Their revenues have collapsed with businesses closed down.

The part I highlighted is confusing to me; 2 percentage points' lower unemployment strikes me as a good thing:  millions fewer jobless citizens, not millions more.  Am I misreading this?  I mean, if I see that the country as a whole has a 4% unemployment rate, versus five years ago, when the figure was 8%, I'm going to think that that's an improvement.  Am I wrong?

Anyway, the article's larger point is that you're better off in a red state than in a blue state.  No disagreement here.  I imagine that Texas, despite the current deep-freeze and the green-energy-related crisis, is still doing better for itself than most blue states.