Wednesday, October 31, 2012

PSY redux

This article (thanks, Twitter) supports my own insights about PSY's success. I had written:

Most Korean attempts at marketing Westward are woefully tone-deaf. But PSY doesn't come off as a slick, calculating poser; he actually seems to be having fun-- and in a freewheeling, fuck-you, devil-may-care way, no less. Americans respond to this: in true Taoist fashion, PSY succeeds without even trying.

But my own theory about PSY's success is simpler: he's a nonconformist square peg in society's round hole, and this quirky individualism is what grounds his appeal in the West. Whether PSY is parodying the rich or engaging in massive self-parody makes little difference, pace the Wall Street Journal: the point is that PSY isn't a Cylon (PSYlon?). Most Korean groups fail in the West precisely because they have a manufactured, unspontaneous, overly saccharine look about them. PSY, by contrast, doesn't have the air of someone who has undergone massive plastic surgery to make him into an aerodynamic sex doll. Far from being a boy-band clone, he's channeling the rough-edged, uncouth John Belushi, but with a bit of a Korean twang.

In the Financial Times article (linked above), Christian Oliver writes:

The broader lesson from Gangnam Style is that it is many miles from the manicured, sanitised view of Korea that the apparatchiks have sought to project. PSY looks more like a ssireum wrestler than a pop star. He sings from the toilet, goes to the sauna with gangsters and pokes fun (albeit very gently) at some of his country’s social pressures. There’s an earthiness and boisterousness here that state tourism and branding officials have always tried to shun. They need to learn to engage with it.

Amen to that.


you may say "Awwwww"

Saw the following picture tweeted earlier today. While it was obviously taken in a flood zone, I don't trust that it actually shows NYC flooding. In fact, I'm not even sure that this scene takes place in America. In any event, I went all soft when I saw the image, and now I present it to you. You'd have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by it.


interesting links come my way

My buddy Dr. Steve sends me disturbing news: Disney has bought out the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas for $4 billion, and will put out a new Star Wars movie in 2015. In his email, Steve asks me: "What's your guess as to the storyline?" I have no damn clue. All I can say is that Lucas had better not be the director or scriptwriter; both of those jobs can be ably filled by Lawrence Kasdan, a superb writer/director.

My brother Sean, meanwhile, links to a hilarious video of an exorcism, but this one comes with a twist: the demon being exorcized is gay.

A link I found in a completely random way: Georgetown University's Dr. Charles E. King writes an essay titled "How to Think." I might photocopy this for some of my students.

Sandy and Grover.

Blogger friend John McCrarey sends me this YouTube link: Real Aquaplaning.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

all is calm

This morning's weather, lacking the lame drama of yesterday's gentle wind and pitiful rain, is marked by quiescence. As if in preparation for the quiet night of Christmas Eve, everything is subdued right now: no wind, no rain, no drama, no nothing.

So! Will I be going to work today?

UPDATE, 12:26PM: I've got an hour to go before I have to prep to leave for work, and there's still been no announcement as to whether we're having class today. I'm assuming we will be working; the day's been calm and manageable. All I have to worry about is, uh, hydroplaning.


all joking aside

All joking aside, I do hope that my readers on the Eastern Seaboard are doing OK-- staying dry and safe, snuggling up with a book perhaps, and keeping flashlights (not fleshlights!) and candles handy. May your roof leakage and wind damage be minimal.

My buddy Dominique wrote me from France earlier today:

salut Kévin,

d'après les dernières nouvelles de la météo, ça va souffler sur la côte Est! j'espère que tu t'es mis au chaud, bien protégé, tiens nous au courant,

à bientôt

Hi, Kevin,

According to the latest weather reports, it's going to blow hard on the East Coast! I hope you're someplace warm and protected. Keep us up to date.

Till soon,

I wrote back:


Merci pour ton email. Pour le moment, il pleut un peu, mais pas trop, et il n'est pas très venteux non plus (ça va empirer demain, je crois). Tant que j'ai de l'électricité, je te donnerai des mises à jour aussi souvent que possible. S'il y a une panne, je te contacterai par mon portable.



PS: As-tu entendu qu'on appelle cet orage le "Frankenstorm" chez nous?


Thanks for your email. For the moment, it's raining a bit, but not too much, and it's not very windy, either (it's going to be worse tomorrow, I think). As long as I've got electricity, I'll give you updates as often as possible. If there's an outage, I'll reach you by my cell.



PS: have you heard that they're calling this storm the "Frankenstorm" where we are?

Dom replied:

oui en fait Sandy et Frankenstorm c'est le même ouragan, je ne sais pas pourquoi on l'appelle avec 2 noms

Yes, in fact, Sandy and Frankenstorm are the same hurricane; I don't know why they're calling it by two names.

As I was typing my reply to this, Dominique wrote again:

voilà j'ai compris, c'est à cause d'Halloween,

There, I get it-- it's because of Halloween.

My reply (which took Dom's second email into consideration at the very end):

J'imagine que "Sandy" est une appellation plus traditionnelle chez les métérologues (on tend à nommer les ouragans d'une manière alphabétique: Alain, Bruno, Colette, David, etc.), alors que "Frankenstorm" est un sobriquet inventé par le public, parce qu'il s'agit de plusieurs orages qui se combinent d'une manière plutôt maladroite, et bien sûr parce que c'est bientôt la Fête des Morts. --ah, voilà... j'ai reçu ton second email. T'as raison.

I imagine that "Sandy" is a more traditional name among meteorologists (they tend to name hurricanes alphabetically: Alan, Bruno, Colette, David, etc.), whereas "Frankenstorm" is a nickname invented by the public, because it's a question of several storms combining in a rather awkward way... and of course because it's Halloween soon. --ah, there we are... I got your second email. You're right.

Nice to know that old friends across the ocean are watching over me.

Stay safe, good gentles.


a quick thought on my recent crash

Considering how I wiped out, the experience gave new meaning to "Take the car out for a spin."


October surprise!

Oh, come on, conservatives-- don't be that way. I've already done Obama before.

And Britney Spears.

And Albus Dumbledore.

And Kim Jong-il.

[Romney pic stolen from here.]


et non: la défaite

So I drove over to Wal-mart this morning, not even thinking that I'd need to call first since the rain wasn't coming down that hard. When I got there, though, I saw that the Tire and Lube section was closed, and wooden cargo pallets had been piled high in front of each garage door, creating a forbidding ambience. A lady waddled out from the main store and waved me away, shouting unnecessarily: "We're closed, honey!" Yeah, I gathered that, Missy.

Out in Appalachia, you get a lot of "honey"s and "darlin'"s. It's cute.

I'm not sure, though, whether Wal-mart's Tire and Lube Center is closed because of the weather, or because it's Monday. I guess the proper thing to do will be to call tomorrow before I try heading out there one more time.

Meanwhile, I bought a tire gauge after lunch, drove over to the local Martin's gas station, filled up the Fit's tank, and pumped up a tire that, according to the gauge, was down to a scary 15 psi. Here's the thing, though: as soon as I applied the air nozzle to the tire-- it's the kind of nozzle that has its own built-in pressure gauge-- I saw that the tire was already at 30 psi, which is close to the required 32 psi. So I filled the tire a bit, checked the pressure with my own gauge again, and got a reading, this time, of about 32 psi. Satisfied, I capped the tire's valve and trundled on home, but was still a bit disturbed that I'd gotten a possibly false reading off my new gauge.

Upshot: no new tire(s) today. I'll call the tire wizards tomorrow and see whether they're open or whether, like the French, they're using any excuse to close.


Monday, October 29, 2012

next week it is

Well, shite.

Enterprise definitely adds the cost of rental on top of the $200 security deposit, so I can't afford to rent a car this week. I've already called Collision Experts to let them know I'll be dropping off my car on November 5, and I've called Progressive to let them know the same. In the meantime, I need to worry about my own safety: a park ranger at Skyline Drive glanced at my left front tire yesterday and declared it "a little on the low side," which makes me think I've got a slow leak. I'm going to go back to the Wal-Mart I'd gone to recently to get my new front tires, and will ask them to replace either one or both of those tires again. Since I got the original new tires only a couple weeks ago, I'm hoping that I'm under some sort of warranty. If not, I can at least afford to shell out for both tires (approx. $164).

What a week this is already shaping up to be. And then on Wednesday, I have the privilege of teaching Devil Child again. One of our more serious coworkers handled DC last week, and did pretty well with him-- better than the rest of us, I'd venture, although DC did start to become his normal, antsy self around the 70-minute mark.* DC obviously responds to a no-nonsense, authoritative style. I may steal some of my coworker's strategies, for what they're worth, although I'm not hopeful that those strategies will translate well into my teaching style. With DC, I have to be the opposite of who I normally am: normally, I'm cheerful, jokey, and fast-talking. With DC, I have to switch off all the humor because I know he'll take any hint of levity and run with it, making loud, lame jokes or booming stupid pronouncements that highlight his vast ignorance and unwillingness to learn new things. You might argue that DC's only a kid-- just a fourth-grader-- but I've seen plenty of fourth-graders, in my time at YB, who are quiet, focused, and attentive.

The first time I worked with DC, he loudly asked, "Are you on meds?" I knew, at that point, that this kid was going to be a fucking rude pain in the ass. And yeah, I still think that his obnoxious incompetence marks him as a future CEO.

Hey-- let's give this kid a pseudonym so that I don't have to keep calling him "Devil Child." Let's call him "Iblis," which is close enough to his real name, and is also the Muslim designation for Satan.

*I've noted to our office staff, several times, that DC really needs to come for one-hour sessions. I don't know whether my fellow teachers might back me up on this, but I'm hoping that, if we can build a chorus, the office might see fit to inform DC's parents of the need for a change. The problem, though, is that our office tends to kowtow to the parents' wishes (we're supposed to have a "teachers don't talk with parents" policy, for example, but I talk with parents semi-routinely when the parents request a moment to confer), which doesn't bode well for a schedule change. In addition, the parents have noted that DC's performance in school has markedly improved ever since he began working with YB (no credit to me; I've had the little monster only twice thus far, whereas Lily [not her real name] has had him seven or eight times), which means the creature's going to keep right on coming to our center.

This reminds me of that old SNL sketch with John Belushi: "The Thing That Wouldn't Leave." In this sketch, a slobbish, obnoxious Belushi torments a mild-mannered couple played by Bill Murray and Jane Curtin. Curtin screams in horror every time Belushi declares another reason not to leave. Murray lamely insists that Belushi quit the premises, but no dice. I wish I could find the original video, but a quick search on YouTube and Google Video reveals nothing (unless the sketch is part of a larger video clip with a different title).

Oy gevalt.


avoiding a Yuletide party

YB recently sent out a shotgun email about an upcoming Christmas party. At least it's not a required event, like that ridiculous, mandatory staff party at English Channel in 2004 ("You vill enjoy yourself, ja?!). And I have to give YB credit for calling it a "Christmas party" and not some bullshit PC name like "holiday party."

As I told the staff this past Saturday, I won't be going to this party. One reason is my own natural introversion: I can't stand most parties unless they involve people I'm very close to. A second reason is the bad taste left in my mouth by all staff meetings and parties: as much as I like the folks I work with, why would I want to spend my free time on an activity that reminds me of work? Plus, this YB party would involve more than just our YB Near staff: there will be people there from the entire DC-Metro region, which brings me back to the introversion thing.

I used to tell my Korean girls at Sookmyung University that I was an introvert, and they'd make loud noises of denial and disbelief. I can't blame them: my teaching style tends to be very extroverted and energetic (one thing I can't stand about teaching at YB is that I have to remain seated all day long, my ass getting fatter... and fatter...), which can lead to a false impression of who I am. But in reality, I'm a boring homebody, content to scuttle back into my cozy little hobbit hole, crack open a book or a computer screen, and spend hours reading or typing away, happy as a razor clam.

At Sookmyung, I used to hold end-of-term parties for each of my classes, and I almost always ended up cooking for the girls. By the end of any given spring or fall semester, we'd have spent around fifteen weeks together, so we had definitely established a bond. I cooked or prepped a wide variety of meals while at Sookmyung: boeuf bourguignon, fettuccine Alfredo, tacos (which the girls hated because they couldn't stand the smell of cumin), chili dogs, gyros, fondue neuchâteloise, pesto shrimp, insalata caprese, and God knows what else. I always ended up tired but happy on those days. Here's one blog post about an end-of-term celebration that included putting on some skits, and here's another featuring fondue.

So there are parties I know I'll enjoy and parties I know I won't. A lot about my current experience at YB reminds me of the Westerner-versus-Korean dynamic I used to experience while working in Korea: the Koreans are gregarious for cultural reasons (being introverted in Korean society = weird), so they're always up for a reason to gather. Meanwhile, the Westerners, following the individualistic stereotypes of their culture, tend to pack up at the end of the day and zip on home to do their own things. It was like that with the foreign instructors at Sookmyung as well: no one really hung out with anyone else. I can't say whether that's a good or a bad thing, but it's undeniably a cultural thing.

So I imagine this upcoming YB Christmas party will feature plenty of Korean faces and relatively few white ones. The white folks will be inveterate "company people," i.e., people who feel strongly loyal toward the corporation-- people who see themselves still working at YB in the next five or ten years, and who may feel a sense of obligation about showing up.

Ah, yes: I must confess that there's a third reason I won't be attending this party: my bowels. You see, I work on Saturdays, which is highly inconvenient for both my sleep schedule and my intestines. I spend most of the work week on one schedule (roughly 3:30PM to 9:30PM), then suddenly have to switch to a very different schedule on Saturday (9AM to 5PM). This plays havoc with my internal rhythm, often leaving me tired and wanting to poop at inopportune moments. I've found the best remedy is to stop eating after 3PM on Fridays. This gives my ancient entrails a chance to chew food at their leisure, resulting in a comfortable, Saturday-morning constitutional upon the throne that leaves me empty and hungry for our company's weekly pizza lunch. Since this Christmas party will be taking place on a Friday at 6PM, though, I won't be able to attend-- as much for biological reasons as for psychological ones.

beware, beware
the maddening stare
of chasm so hairy and bold!

it sings, it sings
the anus, it brings
a thunderous tale to be told!

now watch, now watch
the frightening crotch
its underside slick as the grass!

we run, we run
it blots out the sun
this hideous cloud from my ass!

Click here to see an old Pope/Emperor joke (homemade animated GIF).


dropping my car in the shop tomorrow (maybe)

I'm driving up to Collision Experts tomorrow, in what is likely to be a drab and drizzly morning, to drop off my poor Honda Fit (if you missed the reason why, see here). I have to rent a car that same morning while I'm up in Winchester; I'm hoping I've got enough cash to pull this off. Enterprise, that hellhole, requires a $200 "security deposit" from renters who pay via bank debit card. Dickheads. I'm not sure whether this means that rent is charged on top of that $200 figure; if it is, then I very likely won't be able to afford the week-long rental. If I can't afford the rental, I won't have a car to drive to work... unless I drive my Fit back home from the body shop, keep it another week until I get paid by YB, then try this whole procedure again the following Monday, November 5.

If my slowly deflating tires last that long, that is. Life is never boring, is it?


Sunday, October 28, 2012

General Mortars

So I saw this nasty item in the news:

Kim Chol, vice minister of the army, was taken into custody earlier this year on the orders of Kim Jong-un, who assumed the leadership after the death of his father in December.

On the orders of Kim Jong-un to leave "no trace of him behind, down to his hair," according to South Korean media, Kim Chol was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and "obliterated."

...which made me think of what might have happened if General Kim Chol had been... The General Who Could Not Be Killed By Mortar. (Hover your cursor over each image to see the English translation.)


Saturday, October 27, 2012

no depicting the Prophet!

For some odd reason, it remains common "wisdom" among many Muslims to claim that the Prophet Muhammad cannot be depicted-- ever. I'd like to know where this silly injunction began, because if it's a binding injunction, then many Muslims throughout the ages have been cavalierly ignoring it.

"Show me your evidence!" challenges my Muslim interlocutor, a.k.a. Empty Chair.

Well-- how about this?

"Not convincing! The artist didn't portray the Prophet's face!" crows Empty Chair.

Ah-- moving the goalposts, are we, Empty Chair? So it's kosher to depict the Prophet's body? Does this mean a filmmaker can safely do a film about the life of Muhammad without ever showing the Prophet's face? Tell you what-- let's leave that question aside and concentrate on the Prophet's face, shall we?

"You'll never find such a work of art!" challenges my interlocutor.

Oh? How about these--?


"Double d'oh!"

"Triple d'oh!"

"Quadruple d'oh!"

"Quintuple d'oh!"

"Sextuple d'oh!"

"Septuple d'oh!"

"Octuple d'oh!"

"Nonuple d'oh!"

My main source for these beautiful pictures is here. It's amazing what five minutes' research can produce. Can we please shut up about not depicting Muhammad, now?

An earlier post on this topic is here.


Kevin's rap 'bout da po'-po'

Au lecteur: To be read aloud, with proper rap cadence, if at all possible.

whutchew gonna do
when da fuckin' po'-po'
gotchew on da flo'-flo'
fuck you in da ass-ho'
and you screamin' "No mo'!"
and dey laughin' "Ho! Ho!"
muthafuckaz say, "Yo!"
like you gonna explo'
when you eatin' kung-po'
andjoo hurtin' down lo'
when dey beatin' you slo'
cuh' dey wanna enjo'
watchin' all yo blood flo'
comin' outchyo' ass-ho'

muthafuckaz in da house
muthafuckaz in da house
muthafuckaz in da house

If that doesn't win me some sort of literature prize, I don't know what will.


I throw more food at you

How do you deal with leftover frittata-like dishes like my crustless quiche? You sandwich them up, of course! I bought some mediocre croissants from the local Food Lion, along with some strawberry jam, and made some dingle-damn breffus sandies. See below? In truth, I should call them dinner sandies, since I devoured them at around 11PM last night.

By themselves, the croissants were pretty much flavorless, so I split them, buttered their exposed insides, then put them under the broiler for 90 seconds. The quiche, meanwhile, went into the microwave for a quick warming.

And I learned my lesson about microwaving strawberry jam: don't do it. I had made this same type of sandwich just the other day, but made the mistake of spreading jam on the bread before microwaving the sandwiches entire. Lemme tell you: hot sugar burns. It burns like holy water on possessed flesh. It's not like hot wax, either, where the pain is both superficial and temporary. Sugar doesn't lose its heat quickly: it stays hot a long, long time. I knew this, of course, from having made plenty of berry syrup over the past few years, and from having been burned by said syrup a couple times. Hot sugar would make for an effective torture device. (I'm surprised Jack Bauer never caught on.) But somehow, I had forgotten this important fact, and when I bit into the microwaved sandwich, I got a vicious, jammy surprise, because dammit, my sandwich bit back. Dat shit was hot, yo!

So when I made the above sandwiches, I made them in parts-- broiling the bread, 'waving the quiche, and spreading cold jam on everything only at the very end of the assembly process. Much, much better.


Friday, October 26, 2012

applause for a brave old man

90-year-old Jay Leone was the victim of a break-in by methamphetamine addict (and champion dumbass) Samuel Cutrufelli, 31. It all went down like this:

The incident occurred at about 10:45 a.m. Jan. 3 at Leone's home on Via La Cumbre. Authorities said Cutrufelli entered the home, put a gun to Leone's head, tied his hands with a belt and rummaged through his bedroom for valuables.

Leone said he was able to wriggle his hands free, then convinced the burglar to let him use the bathroom. Then he got one of the five handguns stashed in his bathroom, sneaked back to the bedroom and spotted Cutrufelli in his closet.

Cutrufelli allegedly fired his gun, hitting Leone in the jaw area, and Leone fired back. Cutrufelli then wrestled his gun away, put it to Leone's head and pulled the trigger, but no bullets were left in the gun.

When police found Cutrufelli bleeding in his car a short distance from Leone's home, he said he had shot himself and needed medical attention, Twin Cities police said.

Cutrufelli could face life in prison if convicted of the charges. His lawyer, Sanford Troy, said Cutrufelli is a methamphetamine user, that the incident was a drug deal gone sideways, and that Leone shot him in the back when he was trying to flee.

Cutrufelli, a father of two, is a Petaluma resident with Novato roots.

As far as I'm concerned, all praise to Jay Leone for being a fucking badass. Meanwhile, this turd is suing Leone for the gunshot injuries he sustained. What gall! The man ties up the old guy, shoots him in the face, then sues him?

I think it's time for a little Dirty Harry-style justice. I say we find this asshole's family, kidnap the mom and kids, and put them in a pit as the killer did in "Silence of the Lambs." Then we threaten to off them, one by one, unless Cutrufelli gives away all of his possessions and offers a written and verbal public apology to Leone for his crime. After that... I dunno. We make Cutrufelli fuck 600 diseased sheep or something. Or we let 600 diseased rams fuck him. I'm not picky.

Cutrufelli really is dumb. He told the police he'd shot himself after having been shot in the back? Heh. I'd love to see this guy end up in prison and become some burly inmate's bitch. That, friends, would be justice.


well said

Found here:


once more unto the breach

Piling on, Dr. Vallicella examines the claims of Dr. Eben Alexander, who said he experienced a vision of the celestial realm while clinically dead. Despite being a theist, and because he's a rigorous thinker, Dr. V pronounces himself politely skeptical of Dr. Alexander's paradisiacal narrative.

My point is not [that] the doctor has not given us evidence that mental functioning occurs in the absence of brain activity; I believe he has. My point is that the evidence is not compelling.

Our predicament in this life is such that we cannot prove such things as that God exists, that life has meaning, that the will is free, that morality is not an illusion, and that we survive our bodily deaths. But we cannot prove the opposites either. It is reasonable to maintain each of these views. Many arguments and considerations can be adduced. Among the evidence is a wide range of religious, mystical and [paranormal] experiences including near-death and out-of-body experiences. The cumulative case is impressive but not conclusive. It rationalizes, but does not establish. Philosophers. of course, are ever in quest of 'knock-down' arguments. This is because you are no philosopher if you don't crave certainty. Ohne Gewissheit kann ich eben nicht leben! Husserl once exclaimed.* But so far no 'knock-down' arguments have been found.

Stephen Kaplan, in his Different Paths, Different Summits, wrote of the irreducible diversity of mystical experience. With constructivist epistemology as his jumping-off point, Kaplan argued that all mystical experience is inevitably culturally mediated: we construct perceptual and conceptual filters through which we see the world and come to know it. Christians are thus predisposed to see angels, harps, and clouds; Tibetan Buddhists will see themselves haring through the bardo; Muslims will, meanwhile, envision an oasis-paradise and, perhaps, a bevy of brown-eyed virgins. Why should out-of-body experiences be any less culturally mediated than mystical ones? Dr. Alexander was already well-steeped in Christian culture and mythos long before his "death." It's only natural for him to report an angel sighting.

Upshot: move along. Nothing to see here.

*This translates to "I simply cannot live without certainty!"


Thursday, October 25, 2012

infernal shrieking

I've replaced my Blogger-made Twitter widget with a Twitter-made Twitter widget, and for the moment it seems to be stable. So if you can't be bothered to go directly to my Twitter feed at, feel free to peruse my recent tweets on the right-hand sidebar.


I throw food at you

Here's a sampling of some things I cooked and ate recently. First, two shots of a Ruth-inspired stuffed pepper. This came about when I realized that I had a several-days-old green bell pepper in my fridge, and not much else. It's been prepped with some rice for the major stuffing component, some leftover marinara sauce from a Pizza Hut delivery, and some Food Lion provolone cheese. I could have spiced the pepper up, but didn't think of doing that until it was already too late.


Next up: I went to the store, bought some eggy/sausage-y supplies, and cobbled together my crustless quiche. Below, I've paired it up with my homemade oi-kimchi. Behold:


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

politics and bad punctuation

Got a flyer in the mail today. It showed former Virginia governor Tim Kaine standing next to President Barack Obama, and declared in large, boldface letters:


I love it.


delay and risk

We're going to find out just how tough a Honda really is, I guess: the body shop has suggested to me that I should wait to bring my car into the shop until this coming Monday (October 29). This will minimize the time I'll need to rent a car, and will keep me from wasting time renting a car when repairs aren't going on: you see, the shop in question is closed on both Saturdays and Sundays.

So from now until Monday, October 29, I'll be driving my damaged Honda to work. That's four 90-mile commutes. I plan to leave for these commutes very early so that I can drive under 70mph (the car vibrates gently at 60); I'm just hoping that that damn pebble in the rim doesn't pop the tire. Another blowout of the left front tire is just what I fuckin' need.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

napped through the debate

So I missed The Final Conflict tonight. At this point, I imagine it now comes down to one last paroxysm of swing-state campaigning (clever/snotty ads, leaflets, phone calls, etc.-- I'm glad I no longer have a land line!) before Election Day, November 6. From what I can see, insta-polls are giving the final debate to Obama by a significant margin. Will it be enough for him to recover his faltering momentum? We'll all soon know.

It's been interesting to watch the commentaries of the liberals and conservatives on my Twitter feed. I can provide you with a taxonomy of post-debate ejaculations, which seem to fall into three major categories:

1. "Our guy won!" (Often accompanied by the goofy interjection "BOOM!")
2. "Their guy lied! Let's fact-check, shall we?"
3. "The moderator sucked!"

Complaints about the moderators originated more on the conservative side than on the liberal side. This might be partially attributable to a certain desperation, a desire to see Romney move ahead. But it might also be rooted in a legitimate complaint: all the moderators were decidedly left-leaning (imagine the cries of "Foul!" had a Fox News moderator been selected), and in at least two debates, we've got documented evidence of pro-Obama bias in terms of time-allowance and/or outright combativeness with Candidate Romney.

I tried to read conservative (libertarian?) Stephen Green's "drunkblogging" of the debates, but found his comments largely uninformative, though occasionally blandly humorous. Green seems to think Romney held his own, which amounts to a win. No surprise here; Green's a Romney supporter. (At least he's frank about his biases, though, unlike so many lefties in the mainstream news media.)

Rather under-reported, tonight, were Obama's apparently snappish quips to Romney, including one remark about aircraft carriers ("We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them."). Conservatives took this as a sign that Obama was acting un-presidential. Given the foul-mouthed natures and searingly bad tempers of presidents like Truman, Nixon, and Clinton, however, I'm not even sure how meaningful the "presidential" label is. I suppose the media are looking for any hint that one or both debaters are losing their tempers. That's the problem with living in an HDTV culture: every little tic and quirk is put under the microscope. It's impossible for a human to be human.

It's probably true that confirmation bias reigns: partisans won't be convinced by debate results; they already made their decisions long ago, and no evidence to the contrary will deter them from the way they've decided to vote. Obama sucked in the first debate, but his drooling worshipers kept right on drooling and worshiping. Romney's performance in the two subsequent debates seems to have been lackluster, but this hasn't dimmed the optimism of his rabid disciples.

I'd say that it's a real toss-up as to who is going to win the coming election. We won't be seeing a true face-stomping landslide victory, as happened for both of Ronald Reagan's terms. This promises to be a fairly close shave.

ADDENDUM: Charles Krauthammer predictably declares Romney the winner of tonight's presidential debate:

“And the high point of that debate for Romney is when he devastatingly leveled the charge of Obama going around on an apology tour,” Krauthammer continued. “Obama’s answer was, ‘Ask any reporter, they’ll be able to tell you it wasn’t so.’ It’s about as weak an answer as you could get. And Romney’s response was … to quote Obama saying, ‘We dictate to other nations,’ and Romney said, ‘We do not dictate to other nations. We liberate them.’ And Obama was utterly speechless. … I thought Romney had the day. He looked presidential. The president did not. And that’s the impression I think that is going to be left.”


the insurance adventure continues

I dedicate this post to Aaron, who in a recent comment said he was curious as to how Progressive handles claims.

The claims adjuster (heretofore referred to, rather neutrally, as "the assessor") arrived today. He turned out to be a she, and she was very cheerful and polite. She circled my quasi-wreck with her digicam, taking pictures of minutiae-- all the little dings and scratches and buckling that aren't immediately visible upon cursory inspection. She agreed that it's probably better to leave that evil pebble wedged inside the rim; she also told me that her estimate would likely be more of a "best-case scenario" whereas the body shop's estimate was more of a "worst-case scenario." In the end, though, her estimate proved not to be that different from the shop's: she came out at $2800 as opposed to Collision Experts' $3200. She said that that difference mostly had to do with a disagreement on how to assess the damage to my radiator: whereas the body shop felt the entire frame assembly needed to be replaced, the adjuster's feeling was that only some of the frame was beyond salvage.

She finished her inspection, told me to wait ten or fifteen minutes while she wrote everything up, then appeared at my apartment's doorstep with a fully itemized list in hand. She walked me through her list, explained what needed to happen next, and that was that. All in all, the whole thing took less than an hour, and wasn't as painful an experience as I had thought it might be.

There's still the matter of the $250 deductible, though: I won't be able to pay it until my next paycheck, which won't be until early November. The adjuster warned me that many body shops refuse to release the owner's car until they've received their deductible, which means another week without a ride unless I rent that whole week. I'm hoping, though, that this body shop will release my car to me if I give them my best, most heartfelt doe-eyed-fat-boy look.

So what's next? you ask. Well, here's the procedure:

1. I need to scan, convert to PDF, and email a copy Progressive's multi-page estimate (and a company check) to the body shop.

2. The body shop will tell me when parts for my car have arrived. While I wait, I'm going to have to risk driving to work, at least once or twice, in my precarious vehicle.

3. 24 hours before I drive my wreck up to the body shop, I need to call my agent at Progressive and let him know that I'm taking the car to the shop. My agent will, meanwhile, gather the body shop's contact info and get ready to dialogue with the shop folks.

4. I'll drive the car to the shop, rent a car on site (probably Enterprise), and tool on home in my sure-to-be lovely, flower-scented rental.

5. On the day the car is repaired and ready to go (I've been warned that repair time might be longer if it turns out the car has further problems and/or needs more parts; Progressive will send out an inspector to confirm the shop's claims), I'll drive up to Winchester, drop off my rental, get a quick ride to the body shop, and drive off with my newly convalesced steed. In theory, if the doe-eyes thing works, I won't pay my deductible until the following week, after I've been paid by YB.

And that, im'sh'al-Lah, ought to be that.


Ave, Peter!

Peter at Conscious Entities does his best CS Lewis impression from The Screwtape Letters and, in the guise of senior devil Screwtape, tackles the interesting subject of Eben Alexander, the neurosurgeon who has so recently-- and famously-- written and spoken about his extra-corporeal experience following clinical death from complications related to meningitis. (I reacted to Alexander's claims here. Dr. Hodges reacted here. In a more eloquent and sophisticated manner, Peter arrives at conclusions that are remarkably like my own. "One life is good enough," he writes.)

A fun excerpt from Peter's post:

Consider, to begin with, the opportunities for that most useful sin, spiritual vanity. I say opportunities, but are we not in fact dealing with a sin which is already fully realised? The symptoms of vanity are bad enough in those people who merely insist on telling one about their dreams; this fellow believes his are a Divine revelation which we must all read about! I hardly think Dr Alexander, in the quiet of his own mind, can suppose himself to be much less than a saint – and then which of the saints could claim to have the further distinction of being a proper scientist? A neurosurgeon, to boot! He surely feels that he has been called to a high and lonely eminence. Apart from its inherently damnable qualities, this vanity will encourage a misplaced feeling of certainty and divert his attention away from the very area – his own failings and imperfections – which most need his attention. And of course it is always especially delightful when a man’s religion is the very thing that helps drag him Hellwards.

Do note, as you read Peter's piece, the stereotypically British hatred of commas (perhaps not so visible in the above-quoted excerpt).


Monday, October 22, 2012

posts from the past

I did a Hairy Chasms search on "pope fiction" and got these results. I'd love to craft more animated GIFs, but my current copy of Photoshop Elements has a bug in it: I'm unable to control the frame rate, which is locked in at 0.2 seconds per frame.

ADDENDUM: More fun animated GIFs here.


alas! I must rent my own car

I spoke with a Progressive Insurance claims representative today for about 45 minutes. It seems that I don't have rental replacement coverage, which means a rental is going to set me back about $150-$180. A quick comparison check of local rental spots shows me that Enterprise car rental is probably my best bet. As of this afternoon, they've got a compact car available for $49.99/day, which they total up to $165.93 for four days. That calculation seems strange, but I think they're going by nights: three nights at about $55/night (i.e., $49.99 plus tax).

So the next step in the process is that Progressive will be sending out an assessor tomorrow afternoon to do an estimate on my car. He'll quote me a price; I'll relay the quote to Collision Experts, the body shop I'll be working with. Ideally, I'll drive my wounded car to Collision Experts to be worked on starting Tuesday morning, and that same morning, I'll walk a few miles to the car rental place to rent my dang car. That afternoon, I'll drive to work in my rental; my car will be in the shop until Friday (ideally! might take longer if the shop needs to order parts); on Friday, I'll drive the rental back to Enterprise, walk the few miles over to the body shop, drive my car home, and pay the $250 deductible once I've gotten my next paycheck. Joy.

My premium won't go up until March of next year, at which point it's going to rise by about $24/month. That. Sucks. Ass. But such is life, oui?



My apologies to anyone who is bothering to read my Twitter feed via the "Infernal Shrieking" gadget on the right-hand margin. The gadget hasn't been working for a couple of days; I'm hoping the problem resolves itself soon. In the meantime, if you're desperate (ha!) to read my tweets, you can go to the source: @bighominid.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

a friendly message from Mother Russia


a nice chat with a blogging friend

This evening, I had the good fortune to sit down at The Apple House in Linden, Virginia, and talk for almost two hours with blogger Bill Keezer of Bill's Comments. This was our first time ever meeting face to face. Conversation ranged all over: we talked family matters, trains (a pet subject of Bill's, and a train rumbled by as we were talking), politics, the military, science, my accident, ADHD, religion, woodworking, and the art of manuscript-building. Bill's working on a rather ambitious science- and religion-related book project right now; I'm hoping to be in his inner circle when he feels his manuscript is mostly ready for perusal.

Bill's a cheerful guy who looks a bit like Santa Claus, but leaner and tougher-- as if Santa had morphed partway into Ernest Hemingway. It's easy to imagine Bill in a Franciscan friar's habit, fighting off brigands with a fearsome wooden quarterstaff, cowering monastic novices watching him in awe (he's actually an active Lutheran). He's also the kind of person that the French call bien dans sa peau, i.e., comfortable in his own skin-- cheerful, composed, gracious, and easily adapting to his surroundings. We ate outside this evening; Bill with his pulled-pork sandwich and I with my massive, one-pound burger. My interlocutor turned out to be a natural raconteur, and the evening's creeping chill, as the sun set, didn't dampen his spirits one bit. I'm glad we had the chance to meet, and hope we'll meet again soon.


insurance update

After a bit of dithering, I called Progressive Insurance and worked with a customer service rep for a few minutes. He took down basic information about me and the crash, gave me a claim number, and told me to expect a call from a claims rep either tomorrow (unlikely, but possible) or Monday, during business hours.

All I care about, right now, is having a functioning car to drive to work on Tuesday. I checked my insurance contract, and I do have rental replacement as one of the articles, so if the rep and I get to talk by, say, Monday morning, and if an inspector from Progressive can evaluate the car by Monday afternoon, I ought not to have any trouble getting a car. Otherwise, I have to risk driving to work in my broken Honda on Tuesday.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

it is accomplished

For those who might have missed it: I've finished my post on la Génération Identitaire.


in reply to Women's Humor

A friend of mine just retweeted a bit of humor from a Twitteric entity named @WomensHumor. The tweet, in a bit of feminist bravado, said:

"Why do people say 'Grow some balls'? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding."

Yeah... I'll believe vaginas are tough the day a woman fucks a cactus.


the estimate

I need to call my insurance provider in a few minutes, but the repair estimate on my car-- which I got today from a company called Collision Experts in Winchester-- is an eyeball-slashing $3200, with a four-day down time for repairs. This is going to be awkward: the state trooper had deliberately chosen not to report the accident because he felt the estimate would have been substantially under $1500.

The next step in the process will be, as I said, to call Progressive Insurance. They'll interview me about the accident; Collision Experts warned me that Progressive might try railroading me into using a different body shop (CE obviously has a financial motive for giving such a warning). If my brother David is right, the insurance company ought to guide me through the rest of the process and paperwork.

I also need to worry about renting a car so I can continue to get to work... this can't happen today, though: I tried the local Enterprise rental place, and they had no available cars. So I'm going to have to risk driving my car-- which is in much more of a precarious position than I had thought-- to work tomorrow. A 90-mile commute at 70 miles an hour... hmmm.

What sort of extra damage was there? you ask. Well, a lot more was visible in the light of a sunny day than was apparent last night in the rain. I have a nasty-looking pebble wedged inside the rim of my left front tire. I wondered aloud about taking it out, but the lady at Collision Experts advised against it, saying this might provoke or accelerate a leak, possibly leading to a blowout. My radiator has been bent way out of shape, like a rectangle that's leaning drunkenly to one side. One of the radiator struts has been severely bent; the front bumper and grille are both ruined; the coolant system may have problems; wheel alignment will need to be checked, as well as frame alignment; the front fender shields have been rubbed to ribbons inside the wheel wells; and then there are the sundry cosmetic problems to consider. I felt bad for the car, which I had started to think of as my war horse.

So-- call insurance today, set up a repair date for Monday, risk driving to work and back tomorrow, rent a car on Monday (luckily, I'm off that day), let the mechanics work on my destrier for four days, pick up the repaired car on Friday, pay whatever insurance deductible I have to pay... and let's hope like hell that that's it. By next Friday, life ought to have reset itself. Except that I'll be stuck with a higher monthly insurance premium. For ever. And ever.

And now, for your entertainment, here are more pictures of the damage (hover your cursor over each image to see its caption):


Friday, October 19, 2012


I was in a one-car accident this rainy, rainy Thursday evening-- spun out on Route 66 after hitting a patch of water. Incredibly, I wasn't going that fast-- maybe 70-ish, like the peloton of cars around me. We were travelling uphill around a slight curve when I suddenly and completely lost all traction. I skated across the road's surface as if on ice; I don't recall how many times my car spun around-- two or three times, maybe?-- but I slid gracefully into a shallow, grassy ditch and got stuck. The ass end of my car was at the ditch's bottom; my headlights shone upward, their beams cutting directly across the freeway. I tried reversing and advancing to get the car out of the ditch, but the angle was too steep and the mud and grass prevented my wheels from getting any traction.

Since I was part of a peloton when the accident happened, there were many witnesses to my wipeout. Two charitable drivers stopped-- a man and a woman. The woman got to me first; I got out of my car, and she asked whether I was OK. I told her I was fine (which was true; I still am). She told me about a near-wipeout that she had had a while back. The other driver, a guy, got out and offered to call a tow truck for me. I gratefully accepted, even though I had my own cell phone. The woman went on her way; the guy offered to let me sit in his car while we awaited the towing service. I found out his name was Chris; he works in sales and has a son in first grade. He took a cell phone pic of my car (thinking of doing that before I had thought to do the same thing), and sent it to his wife as a way of saying "I'm gonna be late tonight, honey." I talked with him a bit about my teaching job and my time in Korea; within minutes, a state trooper had arrived, and I got out of the car to speak with him.

Officer Corbin was polite, even friendly; he asked me about the road conditions, about whether I had been wearing my seat belt, how fast I'd been going, etc. He examined my car and agreed with my theory that it was still drivable. The only visible damage was to the front bumper, which had gotten mangled as I pirouetted through the muddy ditch.

In the minutes before the tow truck arrived, I found myself surrounded by six-- count 'em-- emergency vehicles: an ambulance, a large fire-and-rescue truck, another truck whose purpose was a mystery to me, another state trooper, and two SUVs that pulled over and promptly did nothing. I found out that all these vehicles had been responding to another wipeout (of which there were several on that stretch of 66), in which a car had overturned. While all six vehicles were there with me, the area around me and my car was floodlighted to the point of daytime brightness. Everyone eventually pulled away-- except for Officer Corbin and the second state trooper-- when the tow truck arrived.

Just as I had sat in Chris's car, I also spent some time inside Officer Corbin's car. He wrote up his report of the accident while I waited, and he kept me talking about myself as he wrote. That was his way of keeping me calm, I suppose, but the fact was that I was already quite calm. No shakes at all. My nerves might have been jangling with adrenaline and guilt had I had a passenger in the car, but since I was alone when all this happened, I didn't feel particularly guilty, stressed, or nervous.

Officer Corbin gave me a slip of paper: information to give to the insurance company tomorrow morning. He also said that, when I speak with the insurance company, they will likely ask (1) whether the accident has been reported by the state police, and (2) whether I have been charged. He advised me to answer "yes" to the first question-- because estimated damage of over $1500 must be reported-- and "no" to the second (which came as a relief; earlier, Chris had said it was likely I would be charged and might have a court date).

By that time, the tow truck had pulled close to my car and the driver had gotten out, so I excused myself from the front seat of the squad car and met with the driver. I told him I only wanted the car pulled out of the ditch. He said that would be a whopping $150. (No, he wasn't the one who described the price as "whopping.") Later on, he told me the normal charge for "winch-outs" was $200, so without any irony in my voice, I thanked him for the discount. He was friendly and efficient; the car came out in a trice. We agreed that, to test the car's drivability, we would drive down to the end of Exit 31 (I had plowed to a stop about 150 yards before the off-ramp; I hope to see my tire gouges when I pass that way again), at which point we would stop and discuss payment. I told Officer Corbin of our plan, and he was OK with it.

The tow truck driver did notice, however, that my front bumper was about to fall off: it was being held in place by a single plastic snap-peg. He felt the best thing to do would be simply to remove the bumper and let me drive home bumperless, but he wondered about how legal that would be. I walked over to Officer Corbin, who was with the second state trooper, and asked him about the bumper situation. He felt it wouldn't be a problem, nor would driving bumperless to work this coming Saturday. He told me that, if I were to get pulled over, I should show that piece of paper he had given me earlier-- the one for the insurance company-- to the apprehending officer.

So the tow truck driver removed my bumper, and we stowed it in my hatchback. I thanked everyone profusely for their help. I eventually got in my car and followed the tow truck driver onto the off-ramp at Exit 31. We stopped, I got into the towman's truck, and we hashed out the pay and the paperwork. We also agreed that my poor Honda's nose job would probably have to happen at a body shop or at a Honda dealership (I bought my car in Winchester, which isn't far away from where I live). The driver tried to be reassuring; he mentioned that he'd once had a bumper job done for as little as-- bing-- $150. That figure again.

We shook hands, and just as I was about to get out of the truck, Officer Corbin knocked on the passenger door. He said he'd had a change of heart: he was no longer going to report the accident because my car was perfectly drivable, and because he couldn't see that a mere bumper replacement was going to cost over $1500. So he advised me to tell the insurance company that he was not reporting the incident, which was good news: no info would go to the Department of Motor Vehicles, nothing would go on my record, and there was a good chance my insurance premiums wouldn't be affected.

All business concluded, and with everyone heading off to their respective destinations, I drove home. My brother David, whom I had texted, was waiting for my phone call; I called him around midnight once I was safely back in my palatial apartment. David seemed to feel that there was no reason to report the accident to my insurance company at all: just pay out of pocket for everything and have done. I told David that I'd need reimbursement for the cost of towing and for any repairs, so I would need to tell my insurance company what had happened. David advised me not to call the insurance folks until I had gotten a firm lock on the cost to replace the bumper.

There's little else to report. I do feel amazingly lucky: tonight's accident could have been so much worse-- both in terms of personal injury and in terms of my finances. I somehow managed to pick a smooth, slick, fairly shallow ditch in which to dunk myself, for starters. I didn't hit anyone else while I was spinning out, despite the crowd of cars. The car didn't sustain any major damage to the wheels, axles, or undercarriage. I haven't been charged with "failure to maintain control of vehicle," or whatever the term is. I wasn't going fast enough to end up in a rollover, thank Cthulhu. I didn't get injured. And I wasn't nearly as shaken up as I could have been: if anything, I felt as if I'd just gotten out of a roller coaster ride-- pumped, weirdly elated, but not a trembling mess at all. I was calm the entire time, which is another satisfying test of how I handle crises. The only urgent question clanging in my brain, as I was spinning wildly, was Am I going to roll over? But that didn't happen.

So all's well that ends well. I drove home bumperless-- which made my car look like an angry robot-- and I did end up taking pictures of the wreck, which I offer to you now:


Thursday, October 18, 2012

a tale of two students

One of my students today, whom I'll call SK, walked in looking forlorn. When I asked him what was wrong, he told me that his mother had been pulled over for going 15 miles per hour over the speed limit in a residential section. Yikes. SK was upset-- upset at his mother, upset at the policeman who pulled his mom over, upset at life. The fine is apparently close to a thousand dollars ($60 per mile-per-hour over the limit) and SK's mom, who is Korean and doesn't speak much English, would rather pay the fine than appear in court. She's undoubtedly thinking like a Korean: the shame of a court appearance is just too much for her. Of course, there are consequences for not appearing in court: first, there's the fact that, if she appears (repentant!) before a traffic court judge, that judge will very likely reduce her financial penalty and the number of points on her license. Second, if she stays home, pays the full penalty, and accepts the full number of points on her license, her insurance is going to become very expensive. Third, if she goes to court and the officer isn't there, the case will be dismissed. Why miss that chance?

SK's been dealing with mom-related issues for a little while, now. Today's traffic incident isn't the first time he's shown resentment toward his mother. He's embarking on his teen years, which means the boulder of his spirit is slowly thronging with the lichen of Attitude. I'm no family therapist, but I do sense that some gentle intervention may be called for. SK needs to understand that his parents made a brave decision when they jumped ship and came to America to start a new life. He needs to know his mom is doing the best she can in an alien culture. I know how much life can suck when at least one of your parents hasn't really been assimilated into the surrounding culture; my own mother and I used to go 'round and 'round ourselves. But SK's got only one mom, and he needs to understand that she's trying.*

Tonight was also my second night with Devil Child, who tonight put his stupid-ass graffiti on my own artwork, called me a "bully," acted like an impudent asshole and, through his generally pugnacious conduct, basically placed his immortal soul on the conveyor belt to hell. These were the two most trying hours of my entire YB career; I don't know how my colleague Lily (not her real name) has survived six go-arounds with this kid, all while keeping her sanity.

I had DC all to myself tonight: there were no other students with me that session. And thank goodness for that: DC creeps out the other students with his loud, obnoxious behavior. I'd rather have him alone. He borrowed colored pencils from Lily to work on a drawing this evening; the first thing he did was to take a million years sharpening those goddamn pencils, and then he proceeded to break pencil after pencil by pressing too hard on the paper as he was coloring. He adamantly refused to take instruction on how to do anything properly, whether we were talking about drawing or photocopying; he had no patience for explanations of any length; he was sloppy with his writing and his drawing, and he was a self-centered little bastard to boot. While I'd love to knock his stupid head off, the law and my conscience prevent me. This is a bad, bad situation.

And in a strange coda to tonight's fiasco, I met the kid's father in the parking lot as I was walking out the door for the night. Far from listing all of Devil Child's numerous sins, I merely told the father that DC needs to learn to concentrate more. His father said that DC's schoolteachers now see some improvement in him ever since he began coming to our tutoring center; I wouldn't know. I've taught DC only twice thus far, so if credit must go anywhere, it should go to my colleague Lily, who's dealt with him much more often.

The fact that DC's father is seeing improvement in his kid is bad news for us: we're sending the message that our center's methods work, so DC should continue to attend classes with us. Yumpin' Yaysus. I've got this kid again next Wednesday.

*I realize that "trying" has two senses.


une déclaration de guerre: la Génération Identitaire

I only recently learned about a French youth movement called the Identity Generation. The movement's site is here; go visit it, scroll down, and watch the video (many thanks to Malcolm for having pointed this group out).

Here's the video's full text (their "declaration of war") in French:

Nous sommes la génération de ceux qui meurent pour un regard de travers, une cigarette refusée ou un style qui dérange.

Nous sommes la génération de la fracture ethnique, de la faillite totale du vivre-ensemble, du métissage imposé.

Nous sommes la génération de la double-peine : condamnés à renflouer un système social trop généreux avec les autres pour continuer à l’être avec les nôtres.

Nous sommes la génération victime de celle de Mai 68. De celle qui prétendait vouloir nous émanciper du poids des traditions, du savoir, et de l’autorité à l’école mais qui s’est d’abord émancipée de ses propres responsabilités.

Nous avons fermé vos livres d’histoire pour retrouver notre mémoire.
Nous avons cessé de croire que Kader pouvait être notre frère, la planète notre village et l’humanité notre famille. Nous avons découvert que nous avions des racines, des ancêtres, et donc un avenir.

Notre seul héritage c’est notre terre, notre sang, notre identité. Nous sommes les héritiers de notre destin.

Nous avons éteint la télévision pour descendre à nouveau dans la rue. Nous avons peint nos slogans sur les murs, scandé « la Jeunesse au pouvoir » dans nos mégaphones, brandi bien haut nos drapeaux frappés du lambda. Ce lambda qui ornait le bouclier des glorieux Spartiates est notre symbole. Vous ne comprenez pas ce qu’il représente ? Il signifie que nous ne reculerons pas, que nous ne renoncerons pas. Lassés de toutes vos lâchetés, nous ne refuserons aucune bataille, aucun défi.

Vous êtes les Trente Glorieuses, les retraites par répartition, SOS Racisme, la « diversité », le regroupement familial, la liberté sexuelle et les sacs de riz de Bernard Kouchner. Nous sommes 25% de chômage, la dette sociale, l’explosion de la société multiculturelle, le racisme anti-blanc, les familles éclatées, et un jeune soldat français qui meurt en Afghanistan.

Vous ne nous aurez pas avec un regard condescendant, des emplois-jeunes et une tape sur l’épaule : pour nous, la vie est un combat.

Nous n’avons pas besoin de votre politique de la jeunesse. La jeunesse est notre politique.

Ne vous méprenez pas : ce texte n’est pas un simple manifeste, c’est une déclaration de guerre.

Nous sommes demain, vous êtes hier. Nous sommes la Génération Identitaire.

I wrote my buddy Dominique about this video. My email (in part):

Qu'en penses-tu? (Vidéo trouvée par un de mes «amis en ligne».)

C'est une pub qui a beaucoup de circulation en France actuellement ou non? Avec 60 et quelques mille vues (et non pas quelques millions), je me demande...

Dominique wrote back:

pour le clip, je ne l'avais jamais vu, ni jamais entendu parler, je pensais être plutôt bien informé! à moins que les média n'en parlent pas volontairement pour ne pas faire de publicité, ça peut faire peur, c'est bien fait, bien formater (les paroles et les idées sont simplistes, on finit avec une jolie blonde, "un visage d'ange" ) sans avoir de recul je pense certains pourraient adhérer très facilement à ces idées et d'autres pourraient entrer en lutte contre, ce clip n' a pour but que de faire du buzz et de générer une certaine violence, leur volonté c'est une pensée unique, privation de toutes les libertés (liberté de penser, liberté de se déplacer, liberté d'aimer qui on veut...) je pense qu'on peut dire vive la Chine, vive la Corée du nord, l'ex RDA aussi, sans oublier l'Allemagne nazie, quelle vie agréable on aurait avec de telles idées! c'est pas sérieux... mais ça existe, il vaut mieux le savoir,

[This post is to be continued! I plan to translate all the above for you once I'm home, and to offer some thoughts on the subject. If you read French, then you're welcome to peruse the verbiage now, of course.]


First, a translation of the "declaration of war":

We are the generation of those who die because of a dirty look, a cigarette refused, or a bothersome style.

We're the generation of ethnic fracture, of the total failure of "living together," of imposed social integration.

We're the generation of twin hurts: condemned to contribute to a social system that is too generous with others to continue to take care its own.

Our generation is the victim of the May '68ers,* the ones who claimed to want to emancipate us from the weight of traditions, knowledge, and school authority, but who first freed themselves of their own responsibilities.

We've closed our history books to find our memory. We've stopped believing that Khader** could be our brother, that the planet is our village, and that humanity is our family. We've discovered that we had roots-- ancestors-- and thus a future.

Our only heritage is our land, our blood,*** our identity. We are the inheritors of our destiny.

We've turned off the television to take once again to the streets. We've painted our slogans on the walls, chanted "Youth to power!" in our bullhorns, waved high our "Lambda" flags. This "Lambda," which adorned the shields of the glorious Spartans, is our symbol. You don't understand what it represents? It means that we won't back down, and we won't give up. Tired of your cowardice, we will refuse no battle, no challenge.

You are the Thirty Glorious Ones,**** national retirement benefits, SOS Racism, "diversity," family regrouping,***** sexual liberty, and Bernard Kouchner's sacks of rice.****** We are 25% unemployment, social debt, the explosion of multicultural society, anti-white racism, shattered families, and a young French soldier dying in Afghanistan.

You won't take us in with a condescending look, youth employment,******* and a pat on the shoulder: for us, life is combat.

We have no need of your politics of youth. Youth is our politics.

Don't misunderstand: this text isn't a simple manifesto-- it's a declaration of war.

We are tomorrow; you are yesterday. We are the Identity Generation.

Next, a translation of my email to Dominique:

What do you think of this? (Video found by one of my "online friends.")

Is this an ad getting a lot of circulation in France or not? With 60-some thousand views (and not several million), I wonder...

And now, a translation of Dominique's reply:

As for the video clip, I've never seen it or heard about it, and I thought I was rather well-informed! Unless the media are deliberately not talking about it in order not to give it air time... It could scare people; it's well-made, well formatted (the words and ideas are simplistic; we end with a pretty blonde, "an angelic face"). Without taking a step back [for a fuller perspective], I think that some people could attach themselves easily to these ideas and others could enter into a struggle against them; the clip's only goal is to create buzz and generate a certain violence. Their will is [defined by] a single thought-- deprivation of all freedoms (of thought, of movement, of loving whom one chooses...) I think one could say "Long live China! Long live North Korea, and the ex-East Germany, too," without forgetting Nazi Germany. What a pleasant life one would have with such ideas! This can't be serious... but it exists, and it's better to know this...

My thoughts on this movement:

Like my French buddy, I found myself creeped out by the video's message, which was by turns incoherent and sinister. I have some vague notion of what these kids are against, but almost no idea of what they're for. If anything, the video comes across as propaganda for Le Front National, the anti-immigrant party that used to be led by the pugnacious Jean-Marie Le Pen ("Khader is not my brother"). Monsieur Le Pen is too old to be active in politics now, so his battle standard has been taken up by his handsome but odious daughter, Marine Le Pen.

There's a definite sense of "Ausländer raus!" in the video (see the link in the third footnote, below). These kids no longer see themselves as part of a village-monde or any other sort of extended, harmonious community. If anything, I get the sense that la Génération Identitaire sees itself as tilting toward a Swiss lifestyle-- one that is primarily white-dominated, not merely culturally but also racially-- an orderly, socially homogeneous existence: La France pour les Français ("France for the French," a slogan of the National Front). All I can say to that is that it's far, far too late for France as a whole to tilt that radically rightward. France is awash in leftism, and has been for a long, long time. (My tweet on that here.)

Let's talk about the vid's cosmetic aspects for a moment. The clip's background music and editing style are super-manipulative of emotions, which automatically sets alarm bells off in my head. The stark black-and-white style also implies a black-and-white mentality, both in the logical sense and, quite possibly, in the racial sense. The militancy of the kids in the clip is pretty off-putting as well.

I think, when my friend Malcolm first linked to this video, he wasn't so much supporting the ideology of the Identity Generation as he was simply making the point that, even in leftist France, leftism isn't working-- people are pushing back. My feeling, though, is that the video hasn't gotten nearly enough circulation to count as a true movement. It represents, at most, an angry flash mob. The video may be enjoying a spot of international popularity, but what counts is whether ça fait éclat en France. If the vid, and the movement it portrays, isn't that widely known, there's little chance it can effect political and social change on a grand scale.

Which may be a good thing. Those kids are scary.

*May 1968 was famous as a time of social, political, and cultural upheaval upheaval in France. From May to June of that year, spontaneous demonstrations erupted, most of them with the theme of anti-traditionalism, anti-capitalism, and anti-Gaullism (i.e., Charles de Gaulle)-- essentially a gigantic wave of leftism. May 68 began as a student revolt, but as the movement gained momentum, its ranks were joined by the working class. (Source)

**I asked my buddy Dominique whether "Khader" was a generic term/epithet for a Middle Easterner, like "Achmed" in the US. He said yes. So, to say that "Khader is not my brother" is to say "I don't relate to the Middle Eastern/Muslim population in our midst."

***The phrase "our land, our blood" calls to mind the German "Blut und Boden," or "blood and soil," a slogan popular among the Nazis. (See my post here.)

****Les Trente Glorieuses (the Thirty Glorious Ones) refers to a nearly 30-year period (1945-1973) of strong economic gain and the crystallization of France's leftist social policy. (Source)

*****Le regroupement familial (family regrouping) is a government-sponsored policy that allows families scattered in many different countries to reunite in France. This has obvious implications for immigration. (Source)

******I asked Dominique about Bernard Kouchner. His reply:

Bernard Kouchner est un médecin (il a crée MSF = Médecin Sans Frontière ) qui a fait de la politique et qui a été ministre (des affaires étrangères, de la santé, actions humanitaires) dans des gouvernements de droite et de gauche, c'est lui qui a développé le droit "d'ingérence", en gros, c'est intervenir dans un pays étranger pour apporter de l'aide aux populations civiles, soit en faisant la guerre comme au kosovo (il a été Haut Commissaire de l'ONU au Kosovo) ou en apportant de la nourriture, dans ce lien tu comprendras mieux la référence au sac de riz


Bernard Kouchner is a doctor (he created MSF = Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders) involved in politics, and who was a minister (of foreign affairs, health, humanitarian action) in both rightist and leftist governments. He's the one who developed "the right of interference"-- basically, this means intervening in a foreign country to bring aid to its civilian population, either by waging war as in Kosovo (he was High Commissioner of the UN in Kosovo) or by bringing food aid. In this link, you'll better understand the reference to the "sack of rice." (LINK)

*******The phrase emplois-jeunes (youth employment, youth jobs) refers to a government-sponsored program through which young adults can engage in a 5-year work contract (the duration is actually more flexible than that). The program was created in 1997 under the auspices of Lionel Jospin, then-Prime Minister under President Jacques Chirac. (Source)


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama regains a bit of stature

My impression, from reading the commentaries after having come home too late to watch any of tonight's Rombama debate, is that Obama acquitted himself well. He was much more aggressive tonight than he had been on October 3, and although Romney maintained his attack posture, Obama caught Romney on some inconsistencies in Romney's attitude toward, for example, car manufacturers. Romney also made a verbal gaffe about "binders full of women" that's currently getting a lot of satirical play in the liberal tweetosphere. (Romney's gaffe is the equivalent of my tone-deaf father's saying "Atta girl!" to a thirty-something occupational therapist. Yeah... he did that. She glowered. And I cringed.) Liberals seems to be ecstatic about tonight; their dear leader was in much better form. This also means, of course, that liberals who had earlier feigned insouciance after Obama's initial debate debacle had been disingenuous: it turns out that they were, in fact, worried about their man.

But was Obama's second-round triumph enough of a victory to swing the polls back in his direction? Who knows? We'll know more by tomorrow, I'm sure.


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Daryl Hall says, "Fuck You!"

Awesome vid of a strangely mellow Cee Lo Green and the always mild-mannered, milquetoast Daryl Hall (he of 1980s Hall and Oates fame) cranking out Green's "Fuck You"-- one of my favorite "happy" songs. I've loved this song ever since I heard the "Glee" rendition of it with Gwyneth Paltrow on lead vocals (good studio performance here). I love how Paltrow ends her TV version of the song with, "Let's go get some tacos!" Daryl Hall, meanwhile, does surprising justice to Cee Lo's song, gamely pronouncing his "Fuck you"s and "Ain't that some shit"s with élan, and looking as if he's truly enjoying himself.

Now where's John Oates?


for those of us who missed the jump

A consolation prize: documentation of Felix Baumgartner's astounding 127,000-foot jump can be found here. Most touching part? His mom crying.


Ave, Zen Kimchi!

At the Zen Kimchi food blog, I found two entries on Buddhist temple cuisine: here and here. When you go to a temple and eat, the monks enjoin you to clean out your bowls-- not a single grain of rice should be left when you're done. The lesson is two-pronged: eat mindfully, and never waste a single precious thing.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Happy 33, Sean!

Known variously as Seany, Seanicles, Bean, Mr. McVicker,* Big Boy, and Sean the Bahn from the Coconut Pond, my littlest brother Sean turns a disgustingly old thirty-three today. His birthday marks the end of the merciless, three-month onslaught of birthdays that begins on August 31st with my birthday, continues to September 10th with my goddaughter's birthday, moves on to September 12th with my buddy Dr. Steve's birthday, rolls over to September 14th with my brother David's birthday, and then skips to October 15th for Sean's birthday. Sean is ten years younger than I am, and today we celebrate his having survived three elevens around the sun.

Sean is a professional cellist. This means he belongs to a worldwide fraternity of musicians who all know each other very well. He has had master classes with luminaries like Mstislav Rostropovich, and he knows the scuttlebutt about cellists like Yo Yo Ma. Sean has played in many venues ranging from the Kennedy Center to spots in both Western and Eastern Europe. He founded his own chamber orchestra, CounterPoint, and performs with it. Sean also does gigs around the DC-Metro area and teaches privately. He's busy and in demand; his students have made him proud by winning all sorts of awards.

The love of Sean's life is his chihuahua, Maqz. Maqz is, like many small dogs, both clever and naughty. He'll pretend to obey you, but he's a sneaky little bastard, and if you're not careful he'll steal your food. I've house- and dog-sat for Sean many times, so the dog and I are well-acquainted. Maqz has an impressive vertical leap, despite being white around the muzzle these days. (My Maqz-related posts are found here.) Unfortunately, being a chihuahua, he's got nasty anal scent glands that need to be "expressed" periodically; this involves a trip to the local PetSmart where, I imagine, some woebegone professional digs a finger into his ass and squeezes out all that foul-smelling liquid. Not a job I would want. But for all the trouble he causes, Maqz is a good and faithful companion for my brother, as well as a link to our past: Mom adored that dog, and she doted on him whenever Sean brought him over to the parents' house. I blame Mom-- fondly blame her, fondly-- for how spoiled Maqz became.

Sean used to live in Boston during his grad school days at the New England Conservatory (NEC). I got to learn a little bit about the city from visiting him, just as our family learned a lot about Cleveland when Sean was going to the prestigious Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM). In Boston, Sean lived in an interesting condo that was more vertical than it was horizontal:

One of Sean's housemates was a Korean chick who used to get way too friendly with Sean's male guests; she soon acquired the moniker "Welcome Wagon" for her amorous services. I wonder what she's up to these days. Sean has other friends, including the amazing Katie K. out in California, who is Assistant Principal (voila) for the San Francisco Symphony, and who has worked with the likes of James Horner (composer of the soundtracks for dozens of films, including "Avatar," "Star Trek 2," "Star Trek 3," "Apollo 13," "Titanic," etc.).

I suspect that, as Sean gets older, his killer work schedule and his itinerant, quasi-Gypsy existence are starting to wear on him. He's looking for stability-- a rare commodity in the life of a musician. To that end, he's taken up auditioning, and has gone to places like Seattle, Baltimore, and DC's Kennedy Center. Sean is, proudly, on the "sub list" for both the Baltimore Symphony and the National Symphony, which means he's racked up hours playing with the big fish. I wish Sean the best, and hope he lands a fantastic new job as a well-paid cellist in a large orchestra, enjoying a nine-month schedule, traveling to amazing global venues, and living the high life. His audition experience is only just beginning; according to Sean, many high-caliber musicians go through dozens of auditions before landing their dream job. Sean has had only a handful of trials.

My little brother shames me with his industrious work ethic. He almost never has a chance to rest, and he's always on call. Sean has really made a name for himself as a musician, as a teacher, and as a decent, kind, perceptive, loving human being. I couldn't be prouder to have him for a brother.

Happy Birthday, Sean!

Another writeup of Sean can be found here (scroll down).

A recent picture of Sean in action here.

*In response, my brother sometimes refers to me as Mr. Bigglesworth. Or just Biggles.


debate schedule

It seems there is to be only one vice-presidential debate, and that's over with now. There are only two presidential debates left, according to this site:

1. Tuesday, October 16, 2012:

Topic: Town meeting format including foreign and domestic policy
Air Time: 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York (Tickets)
Sponsor: Commission on Presidential Debates
Participants: President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney
Moderator: Candy Crowley (CNN Chief Political Correspondent)

The second presidential debate will take the form of a town meeting, in which citizens will ask questions of the candidates on foreign and domestic issues. Candidates each will have two minutes to respond, and an additional minute for the moderator to facilitate a discussion. The town meeting participants will be undecided voters selected by the Gallup Organization.

2. Monday, October 22, 2012:

Topic: Foreign policy
Air Time: 9:00-10:30 p.m. Eastern Time
Location: Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida (Tickets)
Sponsor: Commission on Presidential Debates
Participants: President Barack Obama and Governor Mitt Romney
Moderator: Bob Schieffer (Host of Face the Nation on CBS)

The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate and will focus on foreign policy.

Foreign policy will be the focus in both debates, eh? Benghazi, Benghazi, Benghazi. Hit 'im hard on that point. Highlight the growing fissure between the White House and the State Department.


a proper Sunday lunch

What I had for lunch today:

Store-bought mak-kimchi (north); home-made oi-kimchi (west); more or less proper homemade ddeok-manduguk, i.e., rice cake and dumpling soup (east); and homemade ddeokbokgi (sliced rice cake and sliced fish cake in spicy red pepper sauce; south).


rationalizing Romney

My buddy Mike writes an open letter to his Canadian conservative friend Skippy, in which he explains why he feels he needs to vote for Mitt Romney this election. Mike's reasoning amounts to a game-theory approach to voting: a vote for the libertarian Gary Johnson (whom Mike likes and whom Skippy, as a Canuck political hound unable to vote in US elections, favors) would amount to a "wasted" or "throw-away" vote, especially with Virginia's current status as a swing state, so in order to make a difference, however minimal, it's better to vote for Romney-- to be a molecule belonging to a much larger wave.

I respect my old friend's pragmatism, even though I disagree with it. For me, voting is a matter of conscience, not calculation: no vote is wasted as long as it's done with the full weight of one's personal conscience as impetus. If one feels that Gary Johnson is truly going to be a better choice than Mitt Romney, why not simply vote one's convictions?

The counterargument, of course, is that pragmatism is a value, and thus influences one's conscience. So in essence, Mike is acting according to his value system by choosing "the lesser of two evils," as he puts it. I would still disagree, though, mainly because I feel that the injection of too much sophisticated thinking into one's voting choices is evidence that conscience and calculation are mutually exclusive: one wanders away from one's conscience when one overthinks one's choices. At bottom, conscience is less about the head and more about the heart.

Like Mike, I'm not happy with either of my major choices for president. But I know that, when Election Day comes, I'll be voting for the person I think best fits the job, whether or not that person has a chance of winning the election.