Saturday, August 17, 2019

pot pie, take 3

I cooked up my final two pot pies. I have a much better sense of scale, now, as to how much dough I actually need for each pie, and with that knowledge, I decided I could make two pies instead of one. Each of these pies is slightly smaller and less grandiose than the pie from my very first attempt, but the end result strikes me as much neater and just as tasty. Since both of the pies I made look the same, I'm showing off only one of the pies below.

Before baking:

After baking:

By folding over the pie dough, I allowed the natural imperfections in the dough to create the vents, but I did help matters along by cutting in only two extra vents per pie.

Result: veddy nice, veddy nice.

"There is nothing worse than a Kevin!"

Yerp—you heard it here first:

I think that was a Kevin Bacon joke.

2 via Bill

first-ever visit to Kervan, Itaewon

Met my buddy Charles at Kervan, a Turkish-ish joint in Itaewon. The food was good, although it was a bit skimpy for the price (Charles, who probably weighs around half a Kevin, might disagree), and while the main components of the meal were nicely done, it felt as if other elements weren't given very much thought, e.g., the sliced dill pickles and jalapeño peppers that have nothing to do with Turkish cuisine, and the white and red dipping sauces, which tasted fine, but which seemed more like American condiments than anything Turkish or Middle Eastern. That said, I loved the grilled meats, and both the hummus and flatbreads were nicely done, as were the puffy Turkish rolls served as appetizers. Some pics follow.

A kebab medley:

The hummus and some lavash (flatbread):

My attempt at making a mini-shawarma:

The "twin pide":

I swear we didn't deliberately arrange this:

For Round 2 after Kervan (which means "caravan" in Turkish, I think), we moved over to CoffeeSmith, a café we've been to before. Charles initially chafed at his tea, but he eventually decided it wasn't as bad as all that. I enjoyed my bottle of Bundaberg Ginger Beer and my waffle plate. The waffles were crisp on the outside and tender on the inside; I couldn't complain. Charles ordered a beautiful slice of five-layer cake with a thin-but-rich chocolate ganache; he allowed me to sample a bit of it, and it was perfect—a far cry from the usual boring Korean cakes that never have enough butter, sugar, and eggs.

Charles had to go bake bread, and I had to go watch the final two episodes of Season 1 of "The Boys" (which I'll be reviewing soon, along with Season 2 of "American Gods"), but for three hours, a good time was had by all.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Doner und Köfte mit Andong

Andong offers a Berliner's guide to one of my favorite sandwiches, döner kebab:

And here's a primer on Andong's new love, Köfte:

via Bill

I was impressed when I first heard about this:

...and then I remembered that the students at Tiananmen had carried a statue of Lady Liberty with them, yet no help came. As Styx says, the world is abandoning these people:

President Moon Jae-in's 8/15/19 speech

The unofficial English translation of President Moon Jae-in's speech on Liberation Day (August 15; called Gwangbok-jeol in Korean) can be found here. The speech doesn't mention the US until about two-thirds of the way through, and then only to talk about future projects. As per usual, history is rewritten to make Korea sound as if it liberated itself, so no other countries (like the US) get thanks for their aid in booting the occupying Japanese out. Some parts of the speech reveal a willingness to find a way forward with Japan, but one of Moon's goals is, apparently, to "overtake Japan," as he says toward the very end of the speech (I have no idea how accurate the translation is). Reunification remains a cherished objective, potentially yielding many benefits, but there is no specific language as to how reunification might occur. In the meantime, the South pledges to continue cooperating with the North to encourage mutual prosperity. Optimistically (and with inadvertent hilarity), Moon claims the North has begun to embrace a market economy. The guiding image, mentioned throughout the speech and presented as a not-yet-attained national goal, is of a Korea that either "cannot be shaken" or is "unshakeable." All in all, I'd say the speech is about 80% vacuous pablum and 20% substance, and I use the term "substance" grudgingly.

Korea might not want to thank us for what we did, but...

Thursday, August 15, 2019

carbonara: Babish redeemed!

Andrew Rea of Binging with Babish did indeed see the Italian chefs' criticism of his carbonara. Stung and seeking redemption, Rea has just made another video in which he does carbonara right... followed by a bastardized prep in which he insists on adding garlic into the mix because reasons. Both dishes are, admittedly, appetizing to look at, but I have a feeling I'd much prefer The Real Thing to the bastardized version.

Happy Liberation Day!

Let's keep this country as free as it can be, eh, President Moon?

no LSD required

Enjoy the visual trippiness of the following Björk video. You don't even need the music, although I'm sure my brother Sean, a Björk acolyte, would disagree.

Jon Miller on the Statue of Liberty's poem

Miller makes good points about the history of the Statue of Liberty, which came from France without a poem attached to it. The poem, written by Emma Lazarus, was slapped on in 1903, in an era when immigration policy was actually much stricter than it is today, i.e., the poem was never a paean for open borders. The video below provides a good history lesson.

My take, however, is this: the left likes quoting the "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free" line, and I completely agree with the spirit of that line because I'm not anti-immigration. What I am is anti-illegal immigration, which means my focus is on the final four words of the above quote: yearning to be free. Quite a few of the people we blithely let into our country do not yearn to be free. They do not yearn to integrate or assimilate; they do not yearn to adopt twenty-first century morals and customs, or to recognize our laws as the ultimate law of the land. For those reasons, they ought not to be let into our country. The poem itself is ammunition for this sentiment.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

it has arrived!

My belt-hole puncher has arrived!

Can't wait to get home and hole up my new belt.

your throat-singing interlude

Enjoy some Tuvan throat-singing (two simultaneous "voices" from one throat):

ADDENDUM: I'm currently creating some teaching materials about music for a project-oriented course. I asked my colleagues what the most popular group in Korea is right now, and the consensus was BTS (a.k.a., the Bangtan Boys, or 방탄소년단, Bangtan Sonyeondan). So I just watched my first-ever BTS video, and I could feel my balls steadily shrinking in my pants. Click not the link lest you suffer my fate. I thought I hated American country music, but this is so, so much worse. Watch what you will, but as for me, I'm just not into the lady-boy stuff.

on batteries and clothing

If I'm not mistaken, one of my cell-phone batteries dates back to 2013, back when I purchased my current cell phone. At this point, my phone, a Samsung Galaxy S4, is showing its age: it's gotten finicky about which plugs it can charge with, so I find myself having to drag around my 2017-era portable power supply, which no longer recharges three full times: it can barely make two full recharges. I'm not worried about the portable charger, though; two full recharges will be enough to get me through two days in a row of camping. I am, however, thinking that I ought to replace at least one of my phone's batteries. One battery, as mentioned above, is six years old; the other is two years old and already showing rapid power drainage as I use it all day long. The older battery drains down to 10% power, then shuts the phone off: that's how old and decrepit it is. At the very least, that battery needs to be tossed and replaced.

I'm hoping that cold weather won't be an issue when it comes to battery-power drainage. I'll be starting in late September, when daytime temps will be warm, but nighttime temps might be slightly cooler. By the time I hit mid-October, night might actually be cold, and that's when I'll be doing three out of my projected four days of camping. I suppose I can just keep my power supply physically close to me as I sleep, and during my walks, if the day is cold, I can house my tech inside the chest pocket of a jacket.

That's one major difference between a spring hike and a fall hike: the need to dress in layers, which means the need to bring along extra clothing. Not tragic: I'll be taking along a poncho, my blue windbreaker from last time, and a light-but-fluffy insulating vest that was a gift from my ex-boss. Given how much stuff I won't be taking this time around (think: food, as I won't be eating when I'm camping, so yes, there will be a point where I go two days without food), the addition of the vest won't be onerous at all.

the drive-thru skeleton prank


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Chad Prather, "political cowboy"

This is the second Chad Prather video I've watched. Along with his country twang comes a good dose of wit and humor. Watch this Prather video about "the AfterBern":

I agree with every word of the above. The first video of Prather's that I watched, however, contained some ideas that I definitely don't agree with, so I'm a bit circumspect about this guy. I'll take what wisdom I can from him, but just as I ignore Styx when he starts talking about the occult, I'll ignore Prather's blather when he bloviates about marriage equality and its relationship to religion. I'd like conservatives a lot more if they could only bring themselves into the twenty-first century when it comes to matters of marriage, sex, gender, and all the dimensions of human sexuality. Mind you, I'm talking only about a certain sector of the right, which is the same caveat I've given about my broad references to people on the left.

Tim Pool on the nightmare of Google's mind-manipulation

Are you paranoid if they're really out to get you?

A commenter on Instapundit joked that, whenever conservatives receive a call for a phone poll, they should lie and say they're voting Dem all the way, just to skew the poll results and create a greater shock when Trump wins again in 2020. That may actually be a good strategy, given the subtle and obvious manipulation coming from the left. Keep in mind that Pool is himself a leftie—one of the few objective ones online.

canceling "The Hunt"

Jon Miller's video begins with a spiel about Jeffrey Epstein, but I've cued up the part where Miller talks about the cancellation of a movie called "The Hunt," which apparently sparked outrage among both liberals and conservatives. The film is a satire in which rich, elitist liberals in a dystopian world go on hunting safaris to kill rightie "deplorables," a group of whom manage to fight back. Outraged conservatives (including Donald Trump, who tweeted angrily about it) apparently see the film as unflattering to conservatives; outraged liberals hate the film for its portrayal of liberals as violent sadists. Miller weighs in, expressing his disappointment that the combined outrage mobs have brought the film down, but he mainly blames the left for its censorious refusal to allow leftists to be portrayed in a bad light. I agree with Miller: the film should have been released. Perhaps it still will be... on home video.

a good rant about the idiocy of Andrew Yang


Monday, August 12, 2019

life improves

After a month of working with an insufferable temporary coworker (she'd been kicked out of her teaching position and given thirty days' notice to leave, during which time she was to work in R&D while looking for employment elsewhere), my life suddenly improved the moment she left, which was this past Friday. Over the weekend, two items I had been desperately seeking for months suddenly appeared before me, like magic, in my apartment: (1) the hand-held baggage scale that my brother David had given me last year, and (2) a mini multi-tool that is 100 g lighter than my full-size multi-tool. The scale turned out to have been hiding in plain sight on one of my bookshelves, and the multi-tool had been hiding inside the various folds of my new backpack. I had periodically searched for both of these items since at least the beginning of this year, if not before. Now, with my vile coworker gone, I was suddenly able to find these items as if they had been calling out to me. Maybe this was the cosmos's way of rewarding me for not having taken a baseball bat to my coworker's skull. Working with her did require nearly infinite forbearance. I'll write more on this later. Maybe.

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Jamaican beef patties: the experiment

Like Cornish pasties, Jamaican beef patties normally use a dough that's sturdier than your typical apple-pie dough. I was lazy, though, and decided simply to add turmeric (and some bacon fat) to the standard pie dough. That was easy enough, and then all I had to do was add the beef filling, which was basically taco-style ground beef, but with jerk spices and seasonings. I need to improve my crust-wrapping game (I have no consistency), but the patties came out looking more or less recognizable. For comparison's sake, here's what a typical, machine-made Jamaican beef patty from 7-Eleven looks like. Enjoy the following images.

Half the dough was enough to make three large and two small patties:

Here's the best-shaped one of the bunch:

Here's a smaller patty, broken open:

They seem more golden-brown than yellow in the photos; maybe it's a trick of the lighting. They're supposed to look yellow thanks to the turmeric in the dough, which also makes the patties taste way better than they should.

Next—the better-shaped of the two small patties:

What they look like when you bite their heads off:

A final glimpse of the innards of the cooled-down, best-looking patty of the batch (I had to reheat this patty in the microwave before I ate it):

Not horrible for a first attempt, but there's definitely room for improvement. The patties all tasted good, though, and the pockets' crust was pleasantly flaky; I also liked the addition of allspice and cinnamon to the mix, but next time around, I'm going to cut way down on the sugar and ketchup. The filling was a bit too sweet for my taste.

protesting the Baltimore cleanup

A video well worth your time:

What do you do when people in obvious need of help reject your help?

You can't fix stupid.

Tim Pool on Epstein conspiracy theories

Tim Pool shares my skepticism about Jeffrey Epstein's death. While the right is converging on the "Oh, he was definitely murdered" narrative, Pool points out the simple fact that we currently have no direct evidence that this is the case. The murder crowd is operating purely on sketchy reasoning from circumstantial evidence that has already been filtered through the press, i.e., there is almost nothing to go on.

Dr. John Pepple notes the following:

This reeks of the sort of things that happen in banana republics. Either (1) he did commit suicide, and (a) it was incredible incompetence on the part of the prison authorities to take him off a suicide watch, or (b) the authorities were bribed to do so, so that he could make his attempt without hindrance[;] or (2) he was murdered[;] or (3) he’s not dead at all and has been spirited away somewhere.

I vote (3). Epstein is partying with Elvis.

ADDENDUM: a vandal has scrawled "XOXO HILLARY + BILL" just outside of Epstein's townhouse in Manhattan. The Clinton Body Count trope persists.

seen on Instapundit

This got an involuntary laugh out of me:

There are people on both the left and the right who are trying to make former vice president Joe Biden out to be both a creeper and a racist. I don't actually take either of those accusations that seriously, despite my having poked fun at Creepy Uncle Joe on numerous occasions. The slew of photos showing Biden getting uncomfortably close to many different women could simply indicate that the man is the product of a certain era, and his background makes him out of step with the current look-but-never-touch #MeToo Zeitgeist. This doesn't mean that women should take Biden's disregard for personal space in stride, but it does mean that it's at least possible that Biden simply doesn't know what effect he's having on people. That said, the photographic evidence about Biden will make for some marvelous and hilarious campaign ads next year, even if the explanation for his behavior turns out to be perfectly innocent: perception is greater than reality, as media-guy Donald Trump knows all too well. As for Biden's supposed racism: he's made some tasteless gaffes, including one only a couple days ago in which he declared that poor kids are just as smart and talented as white kids (d'oh!). But does Biden have a history of trumpeting white superiority, or a history of refusing to work with non-whites? I don't think so. After all, he served eight more-or-less harmonious years with Barack Obama. So that narrative also has no teeth.

Biden was just involved in an incident in which he supposedly "grabbed" a woman's arm after she questioned him on how many genders he thought there were. If you watch the video, you'll see that Biden's hand does indeed close around his questioner's upper arm, but was he actually grabbing it? True: with the legal definition of assault being as vague as "unwanted touching," what Biden did could count as assault. The woman turns out to be a conservative staffer for Turning Point USA. We'll see whether she presses charges.

ADDENDUM: from the comments to the above-linked post: "Remember when [CNN reporter Jim] Acosta was touched by a girl, and the meltdown he had?" That's a fair point.

Mark Robinson redux

I wrote about Mark Robinson last year, but the video of Robinson's impassioned speech in the wake of a mass shooting has resurfaced and is making the rounds again. Robinson makes the basic, obvious point that more gun laws will only affect (and handicap) the law-abiding. This commonsense insight seems never to penetrate the dim consciousness of the gun-grabbers.

The above video has been given the cringe-inducing title "Black Guy Causes City Council to Erupt Over 2A Speech." I don't see how the man's race figures into this, so I find the video's title in very poor taste. Some commenters, leaving their thoughts below the vid, agree with me, calling Mr. Robinson "a red-blooded American." Damn straight.

When I wrote about Robinson last year, I said the guy ought to get into politics. According to some commenters on the above video, Robinson is currently running for office.

I sincerely hope he wins.

Keywords: Mark Robinson, Second Amendment, 2A, gun laws, gun control, mass shooting, massacre, city council

2019 Incheon-Busan Walk: the puzzle of Day 1

Just thinking out loud, here...

I'm in Seoul, but on Day 1 of my upcoming walk, I want to start in Incheon. Normally, I prefer to be out on the path before 6 a.m., but I don't see how I can do that on Day 1. If I take the subway out to Incheon Station, then take a cab from the station to the start of the Four Rivers path over at the Ara Canal West Sea Lock, I won't be starting the walk until after 7 a.m. The sun will be high in the sky by that point, even in late September.

Maybe that's the only way to do it, though. If I'm an hour or two late in my schedule, that won't be tragic: I'll still get plenty of rest at the end of Day 1, probably at my usual EG Hotel near the Gayang Bridge in western Seoul, or at one of the motels across the street from the hotel. The end of Day 2 is going to be a little weird: I'll be overnighting in my own apartment, which now becomes yet another waypoint on the road to Busan (itinerary).

So, yeah, maybe there's nothing for it. I'll simply take the 5 a.m.-ish subway out to Incheon Station, arrive around 7 a.m., take a cab from Incheon Station out to Ara Canal West Sea Lock, and begin my ramble a bit before 8. I've had late starts before; they didn't kill me.

But, wait—I just thought of another option: train out to Incheon on the Friday night before Day 1 (a Saturday) begins, stay overnight at my usual motel (the Techno), be out of the motel by 5:15 a.m., then grab a cab out to the seaside. I could easily start my Day 1 walk before 6:30 rolls around. That might actually be the better solution. Yes, indeed.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Jeffrey Epstein found dead in his cell

The kid-porker is dead. Have fun roasting in hell, Jeff!

Jeffrey Epstein has committed suicide inside his New York City jail cell.

The billionaire pedophile was found dead around 7.30 am on Saturday at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan.

The 66-year-old hanged himself, according to law enforcement sources.

Epstein was awaiting trial on charges of conspiracy and sex trafficking and was being held at the high-security complex without bail.

The financier - who once boasted high-profile friends including Prince Andrew and President Bill Clinton - was arrested on July 6, accused of arranging to have sex with dozens of underage girls at his residences in New York City and Florida between 2002 and 2005.

He had [pled] not guilty to the charges.

The shocking news of Epstein's death comes just two weeks after he was hospitalized following a first suicide attempt inside his prison cell.

A few people on Epstein's list can breathe a sigh of relief... at least for now. There are plenty of records to dig through, even if Epstein himself is no longer alive to provide testimony.

Chalk one up for a rare instance of cosmic justice, even though I grant that this will make justice for other people more difficult to come by.

Expect more Clinton Body Count conspiracy theories.

ADDENDUM: Styx is at his most disappointing when he engages in conspiracy theorizing:

Paul Joseph Watson also smells a rat:

the wheels of impeachment are turning

Tim Pool's video title, below, is a bit too sensationalistic: the Democrats haven't yet formally brought articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, but they're gearing up to do so, and it looks as though nothing will stop impeachment from happening. This is, of course, both a well-anticipated move and a huge mistake, and it's bound to backfire even further on the Democrats, who have already taken a machete to their party's image by allowing their far-left wing to take over the stage. The Dems at least have their timing correct: the best time to impeach Trump isn't 2019 but 2020, the actual election year, and by gearing up for impeachment now, they will have the momentum to bring articles of impeachment against Trump early next calendar year. But what's likely to happen is that swing voters will lose all sympathy for the Democrats, who will be viewed as desperate enough to try anything to prevent Trump's reelection. It seems, though, that the Democrats can't help themselves: since 2016, they've been stepping on rakes pretty much non-stop. The screaming in 2020 is going to be far shriller than it was in 2016, especially once impeachment dies an ignoble death in the GOP-dominated Senate.

ADDENDUM: Styx doesn't take the situation seriously:

Thomas Sowell: interview

I've read plenty of essays by the great economist and social theorist Thomas Sowell (a self-described libertarian), but I've never before heard him speak. Until now. Watch this snippet of a larger interview in which Sowell addresses moral decay and social order via the comparison of two blackouts that happened twelve years apart:

And now, I have another book to put on my Amazon Wish List.

sea critters

YouTube is a good source of some incredible undersea video. Behold:

this weekend's cooking projects

I need to make pie crust for my remaining pot-pie filling, which I've kept in the freezer since I made a huge load of it around the end of July (some filling is thawing in the fridge as I write this). So I'll be making pot pies that I can eat over the course of next week.

My other project will be to make Jamaican beef patties, which I've been craving for the past month. As I've written before, the first thing I do whenever I'm Stateside is drive straight to a 7-Eleven and buy myself two salty, nasty, absolutely delicious beef patties. They are without a doubt the ultimate in bad-for-you food, but they fill a Jamaican-shaped hole in my soul.

And that's why beef patties are also on the agenda this weekend. I'm not sure whether I'll take pics of the pot pies, but do expect photos of the beef patties. From what I gather, after taking in many recipes and videos, their yellow color comes from the addition of turmeric to the pie dough. And, yes: I'll be using the same pie dough for these patties as I've been using for the pot pies. I won't be going the Cornish-pasty route (i.e., using much sturdier dough).

Off to Costco. Tally-ho!

Google's influence > Russian influence

Did Google manipulate the electorate in 2016 such that it sent 2.6 million votes to Hillary Clinton? This PowerLine Blog article talks about a liberal Democrat named Robert Epstein, a psychologist, professor, and author, who accuses Google of having rigged the 2016 election to the tune of 2.6 million votes for HRC. The author of the PowerLine article, Paul Mirengoff, doubts that Google's influence is quite that significant. He writes:

I’m skeptical that Google sent anything approaching 2.6 million votes Hillary Clinton’s way in 2016, just as I’m skeptical that “the Russians” caused more than a handful of Americans to vote for Donald Trump. However, Epstein’s claim of a strong Google effect seems more plausible than claims of a Russia effect.

For one thing, Russian [social-media] efforts apparently consisted of outlandish statements on social media that mirrored what others on the fringe were saying. They were a drop in the bucket — or rather the cesspool. By contrast, millions of mainstream Americans rely on Google for information without suspecting that they are being manipulated.

For another, Epstein isn’t just a respected psychologist. He’s a liberal who supported Hillary Clinton. Epstein has no political interest in arguing that her vote total was inflated through manipulation.

The parallel claim cannot be made when it comes to those who argue that Russian efforts on social media swung the election to Trump. To my knowledge, those who advance this theory are all Democrats and/or [Trump-haters]. They have a strong political interest in claiming “we was robbed.”
Read the rest.

Styx on Rosanna Arquette's white guilt

"Limousine liberal" is a term I heard years ago to describe the rich lefties who tell everyone how to live while they, by contrast, fail to practice what they preach. Leonardo DiCaprio comes in for a lot of hate, these days, because he preaches green living out of one side of his mouth while using a private jet to scoot from environmental summit to environmental summit, leaving a massive carbon footprint for one lone guy. White man speak with forked tongue. In the above video, Styx offers some choice suggestions for people like Rosanna Arquette (an 80s/90s-era has-been whose net worth is $9 million, by the way): go give your money to the poor. Go live under a bridge and sleep in a cardboard box. Go organize a fundraiser to refurbish some schools. Do something instead of just sitting on your ass and talking.

I'd like to think, in fact, that this is an area where liberals and conservatives can agree: conservatives appreciate individual, voluntary action at the local level while liberals are vocal about serving the community and helping the downtrodden. There's no reason why righties and lefties can't both find themselves at a local soup kitchen, helping those who need help—the strong aiding the weak. But people like Arquette are mere virtue-signalers; they announce their supposed "guilt" as a way of saying "See how 'woke' I am?"—and then they go back to attending the same coke-snorting parties that they always go to—the ones full of over-privileged, sanctimonious dickheads like them.

For what it's worth, I've written before on the topic of liberals and conservatives working together. In my estimation, rich liberals like Rosanna Arquette aren't worthy to lick the boots of the liberals (and conservatives!) who actually put in the hours at the aforementioned soup kitchens, doing something real, doing something of substance and consequence, fighting the good fight even when the fight seems doomed to fail. Arquette and the rest of the self-righteously bloviating limousine-liberal tribe can all go to hell as far as I'm concerned. And they can shove their white guilt up their collective ass.

Friday, August 09, 2019

Andong does biangbiang mian

The cheerful German with the nearly perfect English is at it again:

This dude really deserves at least a million subscribers. I'm thoroughly enjoying his videos.

"Rocketman": review

Following hard on the heels of smash biopic "Bohemian Rhapsody" is 2019's "Rocketman," the wholly unreliable narrative of the life of singer Elton John (Taron Egerton). Comparisons between "Rhapsody" and "Rocketman" are inevitable: both were directed by Dexter Fletcher (even though Bryan Singer, despite being fired from "Rhapsody," was given director credit); both movies focus on larger-than-life gay megastars; both are carried along by a slew of musical numbers, and both rely on the crucial, central, titanically energetic performance of their respective stars.

But "Rocketman" makes little or no attempt to be a standard musician's biopic: instead, it's a full-on musical, with Elton John's past featuring scenes in which characters suddenly break unabashedly into song. John's work (and that of lyricist and lifelong straight-mate Bernie Taupin) spans decades and genres. It's enough material for there to always be a song that perfectly fits a given moment in John's life. In fact, the movie argues that most of these songs were born of events in John's life—which may or may not be true, given the liberties taken with chronology. A quick scan of Wikipedia shows that the movie is almost entirely fictional, and there are currently controversies surrounding the uncharitable portrayal of certain key characters in John's story: relatives of the people depicted in the movie have expressed varying degrees of confusion, dismay, and anger at what they see as gross, even slanderous,* mischaracterizations. John was an executive producer on the film, and according to him, he was reduced to tears when he watched the final product. I imagine this means he found the film to be an "authentic" portrayal of his life—factually inaccurate but morally right.

The story's framing device is a group-therapy session that John basically hijacks, and at which he tells his life's story. As the film begins, Elton Hercules John slo-mo walks on scene wearing a flamboyant costume—one of many—that makes him out to be both devil and angel, a coincidentia oppositorum of terrestrial carnality and celestial musicality. We're given to understand that John is telling his story over several days and several sessions: the composition of the therapy group keeps changing every time we cut back to it.

What we learn is that John has led a miserable existence thanks to a mostly absentee father (Steven Mackintosh) and a cold, narcissistic mother (Bryce Dallas Howard... strangely). Neither parent supported John's musical aspirations, nor did they recognize his budding talent: it was young Reginald Dwight's grandmother Ivy (Gemma Jones) who gave the boy the emotional support he needed to cultivate his prodigy-level talent and gain entry into the Royal Academy of Music. Playing as part of a backup band before finally breaking through when he changes his name and his outlook, Reginald—now Elton John—finds himself on the ladder of success, only ever moving upward. Record deals and concerts go from dreams to reality, and along with all the success come sex, drugs, betrayal, and the constant fear of being outed as gay. Through it all, Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) is a constant companion, supplying the lyrics that John instantly transmogrifies into memorable music.

The overall arc of the film latches on to the theme of John's basic desire to be loved. Having received so little love as a child, John vainly seeks it from fans and hangers-on, even as he vainly seeks solace in drugs, alcohol, and sex. John's manager John Reid (Richard Madden in this movie, and portrayed more charitably in "Bohemian Rhapsody" by fellow "Game of Thrones" alum Aidan Gillen) goes from adoring to monstrously controlling, even forcing John to perform a concert a short time after John has had a heart attack. In the end, though, John has his therapeutic breakthrough, sobers up with help from a rehab clinic (the very clinic at which he's hijacking the group-therapy session to tell his tale of woe), and gets back out on stage to keep belting out those famous tunes.

As with "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Rocketman" scores points in terms of its technical achievements. John's costumes, which often come at the viewer in fast and furious montages, are hilariously true to the actual costumes worn by the real Elton John. Director Fletcher's kinetic camera work is in evidence, as is his deft handling of both fast-paced group repartee and intimate one-on-one cri de coeur moments. The editing can get a bit frenetic, but the wildness is nowhere near the absinthe-fueled level of, say, Baz Luhrmann in "Moulin Rouge."

Among the actors surrounding Taron Egerton's version of Elton, special note must go to Jamie Bell as bestie Bernie Taupin. Bernie isn't gay, but he loves his best mate like a brother. In the movie, Elton claims to have been friends with Bernie for years, and they've never once had a row—a claim that's contradicted at least once during the story. Gemma Jones as Ivy Dwight is believably supportive and tender to young Elton, who is ably played at different ages by Kit Connor and Matthew Illesley (who looks uncannily like an old photograph of young Elton shown during the end credits). Richard Madden, whom I know best as the ill-fated Robb Stark from "Game of Thrones," is masterful as an evil version of John Reid (who, you'll recall, also managed Queen), a cancerous presence who takes over Elton's life and nearly ruins him, beginning as Elton's lover and gradually transforming into Elton's torturer. The lone false note in all this is Bryce Dallas Howard, whom I found to be miscast in the role of Elton's mother, Sheila Eileen Dwight. Howard, the very Amurrican daughter of the great Ron Howard, needs to work on her English accent. A lot. (Actually, it's not so much the accent as the intonation: Howard sounds like nothing so much as an American doing an impression of an English accent, and that performance took me partly out of the movie, as did her exaggeratedly insouciant, callous way of acting. Or was that meant to be a cartoonishly distorted memory of past family life...?)

So now we come to the topic of Taron Egerton, best known for his work as Eggsy in the Kingsman films. Egerton is tasked with nothing less than carrying the entire plot. He did his own singing, and I'm pretty sure he did his own piano work, too, all while dressed up in those ridiculous costumes that John has always loved. Here's a spoiler: Egerton sounds nothing like Elton John. He lacks the singer's power and resonance. That said, he does capture John's soul-bearing melancholy, and when he's in costume, Egerton even looks a lot like young Elton. The real Elton John was apparently quite enthusiastic about Egerton's performance; the two have become friends and have performed on stage together as part of the promo tours they've done for the movie. It's touching to see: during those performances, Elton John sits back a bit and plays the piano while Egerton sings John's songs. Egerton's portrayal of the off-stage Elton John is fascinating, even riveting: the frowns, tics, twinges, and scowls convey volumes of thought and emotion. I have no idea whether the actual Elton John is similarly expressive, but this fictional version of him is an open book filled with a long, sad story.

But if we come back to the comparison thing, I have to admit I wasn't as deeply moved by this movie as I had been by "Bohemian Rhapsody." Maybe it was the overdose of Liberace-like flamboyance (Liberace gets a quick nod during the scene in which Elton calls his mother and comes out as gay; his mother is watching Liberace on TV when he calls). Maybe I don't like Elton John as much as I like Queen. Maybe it was the underlying bipolarity of the movie's tone: the ups and downs tended to come in relentless waves, violently whipsawing my mind. Maybe it's the fact that the filmmakers decided to make Elton's life into a musical based on very few actual facts, thereby turning the whole project into the vision of an unreliable narrator. One of the movie's promo posters bills the film as "based on a true fantasy," and that's certainly the spirit in which Elton John's story is told. "Rocketman" isn't a sanitized hagiography, but it makes no bones about not being firmly grounded in reality. In the end, I'm glad John liked this distorted, hyper-cinematic version of his life, and I'm glad that he and Taron Egerton became friends. Something real and good came out of this experience, but for me, ultimately, the film was less than real, and not quite as good as it could have been. Watchable, yes. But then again... no.

*I assume I'm using the word slanderous correctly, here. Legally speaking, slander is spoken whereas libel is written, and a movie is more about the art of the spoken word than the art of the written word. And yet, movies are based on written scripts, so maybe libelous is le mot juste in this case. Are there any legal experts among my readers?

one of Tim Pool's bleakest

Are we heading for a civil war? Tim Pool thinks so. The crazy keeps ratcheting upward:

As I've said before: if it comes to violence, one side has been quietly buying all the guns. And if you think the US military is going to stop those gun-totin' folks, remember that two-thirds of the US military leans right. If the left keeps pushing, the eventual explosion is going to be bloody and merciless and all-consuming. I don't look forward to that at all; I say none of this with relish. I'd rather have peace. But as Pool notes, it's the left that's doing most of the provoking right now, and the tiger of karma is poised to leap.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

June speaks out for the mute and defenseless

I only just heard about the cruel female YouTuber, Brooke Houts, who accidentally and stupidly uploaded footage of herself abusing her new pet Doberman. In the footage, Houts slaps the dog, manhandles it, yells at it, and even spits on it. June, who goes by the moniker Shoe0nhead, was outraged and decided to make a video about the incident. It's worth your time to watch this, and to ponder certain people's casual cruelty toward animals:

As June points out in the video, the incredible thing—aside from the abuse itself—is the scarily two-faced nature of Brooke Houts. Pretty by certain standards (she does nothing for me, truth be told), Houts seems to suffer from a syndrome that I suspect manifests in many beautiful women: outwardly saintly, inwardly a bitch. Like it or not, beauty opens doors, and winning the genetic lottery means you rarely have to work hard to get whatever you want. This is not a good recipe for character development. Brooke Houts strikes me as over-privileged and in need of about sixteen weeks of US Army basic training—what the men do, not the women.

EPILOGUE: the LAPD is investigating Houts for animal abuse.

it's official!

If it weren't for some onerous circumstances at work (I'll write about that in a "frank" post soon, once A Certain Unsavory Coworker leaves our office for good), I'd be celebrating: I finally got word from the HR department that my request for my upcoming vacation has been approved. And that means...


There's so much less to prep this time around since I'm walking the same path as in 2017. I have the luxury of time, and I've already bought pretty much all the new equipment I'll be needing. I've got a nice, new Gregory backpack, which won't be loaded down nearly as much as the other pack had been two years ago; I've got my new leather belt and new walking shoes; I can use my spare trekking pole this trip. I need to review my equipment, especially my bivy sac, which I haven't taken out of its bag for two years. I hope it's not moldy and rotten. It shouldn't be; I cleaned it fairly thoroughly last time around.

I'm thinking about swearing off sodas and other sweet drinks this time around. My time in France last year, when I lost six kilos in two weeks, taught me that I could lose a lot more than the ten kilos I lost over 26 days in 2017. In France, I had Coca Cola only when I visited my friend Dominique's parents for lunch, and that was maybe twice or three times a week. True, I could work my way through most of a 1.25-liter bottle of Coke during a single lunch sitting (and Dom's folks were polite enough not to make comments about my Coke dependency), but that was it: otherwise, I was walking around the marshland or trekking out to Niort, over 40,000 steps away from Dominique's place. Eating good, homemade food also meant I was staying away from junk food, and whenever I retired to my room for the evening, I ate literally nothing (except during the first day or two of my stay, when I discovered a tin of chocolates!). It was great discipline, even if my circumstances weren't entirely of my own choosing.

So applying my France experience to the upcoming walk seems like a good idea. No soda, then. And as for fruit juice: every motel room has a mini-fridge in which you can often find a couple midget-sized cans of fruit juice and/or shitty coffee. Normally, when I reach my room, I'm so tired and parched that I don't give a fuck what I'm drinking, and those tiny cans of blessedly ice-cold liquid are the first things to die. I normally don't drink coffee, but I'll guzzle it on the trail. Upshot: aside from the meager portions of juice that I find in those mini-fridges, no juice for me, either. No soda, no juice—just tea and water. I have a feeling I'm going to regret this commitment, but there's no doubt it'll make life interesting. And who knows: maybe I'll get used to not downing my favorite drinks while I'm crossing the country.

So those are some pre-walk thoughts. I might feel more celebratory when the weekend rolls around, but for now, it feels good to know I'm good to go. I still have a ton of pot-pie filling, so maybe I'll make some more pie crust and bake up some dang pie. That reminds me: I also want to make some Jamaican beef patties. That might be another weekend project.

doc-visit aftermath

When the nurse can't find your veins:

This was a new nurse, not the one I've known since 2015. She palpated my right arm, then palpated my left arm and slid the needle in... when no blood came out, she went for the back of my hand. That seemed to do the trick, and now we have proof that I'm not undead.

The previous nurse could find my left arm's vein with no problem.

Sorry for the blur. Less-than-ideal lighting in the burger joint.

Wednesday, August 07, 2019

ludicrous ad gets ludicrous treatment

Earlier today, while on Instapundit, I saw the stupidest ad pop up. So of course, I screen-grabbed it and made a meme out of it. Enjoy.

Larry Elder on the idea that Trump is a racist

Elder's video points out that the left has a long, long history of evoking fascism and Nazism where Republicans are concerned.

Elder is somewhere on the libertarian/conservative end of the spectrum.

"drowning in a sea of fake news about Trump"

Poor Tim Pool. He's a liberal who must constantly repeat that he doesn't like Trump, yet he so often finds himself defending the president because the leftist media are so biased against the man. I get the feeling that Pool has had about enough of the media's bullshit.

While we're on the topic of fake news... (h/t Bill Keezer)

render edible

I had packed up my keto bread from the night before, placing it into a plastic snap-lid container and sticking it in the fridge. When I came back from work Tuesday night, I went right to the fridge, cut myself a slice of keto bread... and discovered that it tasted markedly better than it had the previous night. Not great, mind you, and only barely good, but certainly better than when it had been fresh out of the oven. The eggy taste had largely faded, as had the oppressive almond flavor. This was still far from ideal, but the bread was more edible—more tolerable—than before.

Still, I had already slated the bread for execution, having decided that the only way to rescue the remains of this loaf would be to cube up the bread and pan-fry it in my Middle Eastern-style spiced oil. Here's the result of that labor:

One realization I had, while I was slowly eating this pile of bread, was that I should have crumbled the whole thing: the crunchy, pan-fried crumbs actually tasted better than the larger cubes of bread. This thought, in turn, led me to wonder whether this might be something crunchy that could be sprinkled over, say, a gyro. In Greece, they put french fries into gyros for added heft and crunch, so why not go this route instead of using fries? Of course, if the only reason to make this keto loaf is to use it as a crumbled topping, then is the effort of making the bread really worth it? Only the Shadow knows.

"Brightburn": two-paragraph review

Produced by James Gunn ("Guardians of the Galaxy") and directed by David Yarovesky, 2019's "Brightburn" stars Jackson A. Dunn as Brandon Breyer, son of Kansas farming couple Kyle (David Denman) and Tori (Elizabeth Banks) Breyer. Branded "superhero horror" by the media, "Brightburn" is the story of a child who falls to Earth in a spaceship and, when he turns twelve, gets activated—so to speak—by the spaceship's alien technology. Flipping the Superman story on its head, Brandon goes full-on malefic, using his powers for evil. This initially means taking revenge against children and adults whom Brandon perceives as having wronged him, but as the alien ship's repeated message becomes clearer, Brandon's dark ambitions transform, in the end, into something more global in scale. Kyle and Tori had been unable to conceive (we're never told whether it's one or both parents who are infertile), so Brandon's cosmic arrival is a godsend. Once Brandon turns to the dark side, though, it's Kyle who catches on first while Tori remains in a state of maternal denial. People in the small town of Brightburn, Kansas, keep dying, and the circle slowly closes around the Breyer family.

"Brightburn," which is basically an "Omen"-style Antichrist horror movie that happens to use superhero tropes, takes the cheap route and fills much of its run time with jump scares. There are a couple graphic scenes of gore—one involving a shard of glass embedded in a woman's eye, and another involving a man who loses his jaw when he bites his SUV's steering wheel during a crash—but for the most part, the movie relies on shadows, suspense, and the aforementioned jump scares to keep things moving along. Much of this struck me as boilerplate, and the only truly interesting question for me was how Brandon would handle his mother once she finally overcame her denial and faced the truth that her son was a monster. "Brightburn" has been hailed by some as a clever turning-turtle of the superhero narrative, but the very concept of the superhero-gone-bad has been done a thousand times already. It didn't help matters that the conflict between suspicious Kyle and in-denial Tori felt like an extended version of the "It's Not About the Nail" viral video on YouTube, with Kyle understanding the essence of the problem while Tori insists he's missing the point. I also think the story could have been clearer about why, exactly, Brandon was turning evil. There were moments when it seemed as if his bullying at school, and his mistreatment by certain adults, were a catalyst for the curdling of Brandon's soul, but all in all, it felt more as if Brandon's evil directly resulted from the alien ship's powering up and beaming a creepily cryptic activation signal into the boy's head. In the end, "Brightburn" is good to watch with a bunch of half-drunk friends, but I don't think it fully commits to its gonzo premise. Despite the occasional gore, the film pulls its punches, and I was left feeling a bit empty.

Tuesday, August 06, 2019

improv nuttiness

Presented without comment:

PJW on the recent mass shootings

Good material to remember:

ADDENDUM: seen at Instapundit:

And while we're at it:

No, the United States Doesn’t Lead the World in Mass Shootings

keto bread with egg: first-ever (and likely last) attempt

Keto bread is a gluten-free bread substitute for dieters who crave bread. I'm tempted to put scare quotes around the word bread because, based on the results of my first-ever attempt to make a loaf of keto bread, the thing is more like banana bread—which is technically a cake—than the kind of bread that normal human beings eat.

I don't have an electric hand mixer, so I was unable to whip the eggs into a near-mousse the way you're apparently supposed to. Otherwise, it was simply a matter of following the instructions (recipe here), which weren't hard to decipher.

The results were... well, pardon the pun, but I'm still digesting the experience. The loaf cuts like bread, and to a limited extent, it even feels a bit like bread (but again: banana bread, except drier). Meanwhile, the crust isn't a happy, tasty layer resulting from a surface-wide Maillard reaction: it's more like what happens to eggs in a frying pan when you leave them un-stirred for a little too long.*

The bread was made with almond flour (well, almond meal, which contains almond skins), and along with tasting eggy, it tastes rather almond-y. I almost wish I were eating marzipan instead. In terms of texture, the thing is fairly solid; with few exceptions, the crumb doesn't evince any of the bubbles you expect from normal bread—except in a cake-y way.

I have yet to see how the keto bread will behave when I pan-fry a slice or two in butter. I'm hoping it'll be awesome, but I don't know how almond meal will react to a skillet's heat. I did try the sandwich thing by spreading some mayo onto two thin slices of bread and adding some American cheese. A sandwich made with keto bread is edible, but the bread's odd taste, with its echoes of marzipan, definitely dominates the experience. I suspect that one can "judo flip" the taste (i.e., make the taste work for you) by making a sandwich whose filling has a flavor profile that goes well with almonds and eggs—maybe something with fruit or peanut butter (although that introduces carbs unless you go for no-sugar peanut butter and leave out the fruit), or maybe breakfast sausage and scrambled eggs.

All in all, though, I think I want to try making an egg-free keto bread next. This bread is way too eggy, and might be a candidate for bread pudding. Pics of the bread follow. I suspect the bread looks much better than it tastes.

Stay tuned for pics of pan-fried bread, coming soon.

ADDENDUM: and here it is:

Can't say the toasted bread was any more impressive than the un-toasted bread. A bit crunchier, perhaps, but the basic taste was still the same. Overall, I don't find this "bread" very appealing. Admittedly, this may be because I'm still a newbie at making keto bread. But this first attempt didn't really fly with me, and rather than risking the whole egginess issue again, I'd rather move on to eggless keto bread.

(I might try redeeming the bread by pan-frying it in the spice mix that I use when making my Middle Eastern chicken.)

*Technically, the keto bread's crust is the result of a Maillard reaction: eggs are full of protein. But the result still isn't the same as what you get when baking normal bread.

the other dumb blonde

Also found here:

dumb blonde

Found here:


Monday, August 05, 2019

a glimpse of the Democratic Socialists of America

The following video, which is of a moment during a meeting of the Democratic Socialists of America (of which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a member), apparently went viral. According to Tim Pool, incredulous people who watched the video said it felt like an episode of "South Park"—it was that surreal. I've cued up the moment so you don't have to slog through Tim's entire spiel to see/hear it. It is pretty hard to process.

the mileage doesn't quite work out, but...

I'm thinking that, since I'll have thirty calendar days to do this upcoming walk, I might as well do it properly, i.e., starting from Incheon. According to the milestone at Incheon (see this post and scroll down a bit), the total length of the Four Rivers trail is 632.945 km. I just finished working out, leg by leg, what a true Incheon-to Busan walk would entail, and the distance I arrived at was 571.32 km. That's a 61.625-km difference in measurement. It could be that, because I plotted my route, this time, from lodging to lodging instead of from cert center to cert center, some kilometers got shaved off along the way. That still doesn't explain why there's such a huge difference in total mileage, though. It could be that something, somewhere, got mis-measured and/or miscalculated. I'll keep checking.

cleaving to the narrative

Yup: Donald Trump must the cause of all these shootings. Bernie Sanders, among others, seems to think so. And certain elements on the left are bending the truth to make it seem so. It's all about how Trump is "creating a climate of hate." Which of course explains all the shooters who self-identify as leftist.

And while we're on the topic of distorting truth...

From Instapundit:
As Expected, Trump Blamed for Deadly Massacres. “Twitter was full of all kinds of blame for Trump (and Fox News)[,] which is strange because[,] after domestic terror attacks by radical Muslims, we are immediately warned not to extrapolate blame beyond the guilty party.”


What is trust?
a. a type of faith, belief, or confidence
b. how the Irish pronounce "thrust"

all hail xanthan gum!

As I learn more about how the keto diet deals with things like carby thickeners, the more fascinated I become. In particular, I've been learning about xanthan gum which, in keto breads, is a thickener that takes the place of gluten—the stretchy, proteinaceous substance that gives bread its flex, bounce, and stretch (and, by extension, stretchy bubbles).

I recently ordered two small bags of xanthan gum in preparation for when I do finally attempt to make some keto bread, and I decided to use some of the gum when I made some egg-drop soup for myself the other night.

Very impressive stuff. Xanthan gum, which is derived from a bacterium (Xanthomonas campestris), should be used in very small quantities, as I found out while making egg-drop soup. A mere teaspoon into nearly a liter of soup thickened the entire thing within seconds. This makes xanthan gum much more effective than cornstarch.

The carb profile for xanthan gum can be a bit misleading: there are 6 grams of carbs per 7 g of gum, but there are zero net carbs in xanthan gum. If I ever decide to make a less carby version of my generic Chinese stir-fry sauce, I'll replace the cornstarch with xanthan gum.

Sunday, August 04, 2019

"Destroyer": review

Directed by Karyn Kusama ("Girlfight," "Aeon Flux"), 2018's "Destroyer" stars Nicole Kidman in a thoroughly unglamorous role as LAPD detective Erin Bell, a cop who has made many mistakes in life, and who is running out of time to correct some of her biggest ones. When we meet Erin, she seems to be little more than a woozy drunk who has no shame about appearing at crime scenes in an inebriated state. Most of her fellow cops can't stand her, but she has a few strategically placed friends in the force, here and there, who respect her, get where she's coming from, and are willing to help her when she's pursuing thin leads.

Erin has an estranged teen daughter named Shelby (Jade Pettyjohn), a wild child who skips school, parties far too much, and runs around with 23-year-old boyfriend Jay (Beau Knapp), much to Erin's chagrin. Shelby lives with her adoptive father Ethan (Scoot McNairy), but as we learn through flashbacks, she is actually the love child of Erin and Erin's now-deceased undercover partner Chris (Sebastian Stan). Years ago, Erin and Chris had infiltrated a bank-robber gang led by the cultic, hypnotic Silas Howe (Toby Kebbell); while the gang was planning a huge robbery, Erin and Chris fell in love and decided to risk keeping a fraction of the potential cash for themselves. The robbery went wrong; Chris was killed after revealing himself to be FBI (Erin, being an LAPD greenhorn at the time, had been drafted into the undercover operation by the FBI), and Erin managed to snag a few million in cash, which she hid away and never touched, in the hopes of one day using it to help out her daughter. Flash-forward to now, and Erin is hunting Silas again because she's seen signs that Silas, who has been underground since that long-ago robbery, is active once more.

"Destroyer" does a head-fake that's a bit similar to what we saw in "Arrival": the narrative ends up forming a kind of loop that is punctuated by flashbacks that fill in Erin's history. Little by little, we come to understand that, while Erin does have a drinking problem, the reason why she spends so much of the movie talking in a gravelly whisper and stumbling about drunkenly has little to do with alcohol. The twist, then, came as a genuine surprise to me, and I thoroughly appreciated both the scriptwriting and the clever direction, which together played their cards very close to the vest. This may have been the most enjoyable aspect of the movie.

The movie's tone, though, sometimes pushed me out of the film. Director Kusama seemed to be trying for a meditative, noirish feel, something along the lines of Michael Mann meets Terrence Malick meets Denis Villeneuve, but the end result was characters who all spoke their lines with deadly, over-earnest seriousness, and there were times when that became inadvertently funny to me. Imagine a couple at a restaurant: the man is trying to bare his agonized soul to his woman, but she's got an attack of the giggles and can't take him seriously. That was, occasionally, my own relationship with this film: I was the one with the giggles. That said, I'll give Kusama points for trying, even if I don't think she quite succeeded.

Nicole Kidman has the tough duty of being the center of this story, which is told entirely from her rapidly fraying perspective. Kidman in flashback looks like her usual beautiful self, but her present-day incarnation is timeworn, hollow-cheeked, strung out, un-made-up, and generally horrific. Kusama humanizes Kidman's character, who is no ruthless Jack Bauer or clever Ethan Hunt: she's just a flawed woman whose soul-light is this close to flickering out, and she's trying to right two major wrongs in her life—the botched robbery from years ago and her botched motherhood right now—before her light is snuffed out. Kidman gives a solid performance and owns the movie, incarnating a character that is about as far away from typecasting as polar bears are from penguins.

I came away from this film with mixed feelings, but it's been several days, and the movie's story and visuals have somehow stayed with me. Not many movies leave that sort of impression these days, so while I cautiously recommend "Destroyer," I do recommend it. Now, if only I could figure out what the title actually means... does it refer to time? To the ever-hovering angel of death, which ultimately comes for us all?

shoeses: ask, and ye shall receive

John Mac was apparently happy to see my new belt, but he also wanted to see the new shoes. I'd actually written about these shoes before, noting they were exactly the same as the ones I'd bought last year (and am still wearing; they're pictured here), just a half-inch longer: I'm now officially a size 12. But why not show off the new pair, right? Here are three pics.

These poor beasts of burden have no idea of the beating that awaits them two months down the road. That said, I look forward to wearing these bad boys.

the El Paso shooting

Here's Chandler Crump on the Saturday shooting in El Paso, Texas, where over twenty people were killed (more on that story here; the shooter is 21-year-old Patrick Crusius of Allen, Texas, and he may have been an anti-immigrant white supremacist according to his manifesto):

Chandler makes some traditionally conservative points about the sort of opportunistic gun-grabbiness that always happens in the wake of shootings like this. He also expresses what I think is a reasonable social conservatism that is actually more libertarian than conservative: he's for gay marriage, and he's okay with minors who dress in drag, even if he personally finds it weird, but he draws the line at the sexualization of these minors. That strikes me as a reasonable stance, and if that's the nature of today's youths' social conservativism, then I support that point of view. Kids have the right to get weird if they want (although they should do so in dialogue with their parents as long as they're minors). Once they're of legal adult age, they then have the right to determine their sex/gender destiny, whether that means surgery, embracing a drag-queen life, or whatever.

Chandler's video also features an interview with the most awesome dude in Texas. Big thumbs-up to that guy.

Crusius was taken into custody. Wikipedia currently says the following:

A mass shooting took place at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, United States, on the morning of August 3, 2019, at approximately 10:40 a.m. local time (16:40 UTC) resulting in the deaths of 20 people and at least 26 injured, making it the deadliest shooting of 2019. A single white gunman is suspected of committing the shooting. He was apprehended by police shortly afterward and arrested. An ongoing FBI investigation suggests the shooting may have been a hate crime or act of domestic terrorism; no charges have been filed.

A white nationalist manifesto, published prior to the shooting on the website 8chan's /pol/ board and titled The Inconvenient Truth, is believed with "reasonable confidence" by police to have been written by the suspect. The manifesto expresses support for and inspiration by the Christchurch mosque shootings, makes reference to the white genocide conspiracy theory as motivation behind the massacre, and rants against "race-mixing." The suspect, 21-year-old Patrick Crusius, was a reported follower of alt-right and pro-Donald Trump content on social media. Two law enforcement officers told ABC News that after Crusius was taken into custody, he told investigators that he wanted to inflict maximum Mexican casualties.

an astonishing stat

“Only 41 percent of black voters who are overwhelmingly Democrat believe that Trump voters are racist, which is less than Democrats as a whole.”

That's crazy, especially that final clause. But apparently true.

So it's mostly self-hating liberal Whitey who insists on the distorted, PC worldview. This is the same Whitey who insists on being a white knight (pun very much intended) toward all brown and browner people. No racism in that attitude, I guess, right? Whitey as white savior?

ADDENDUM: and while we're on the subject of stats:

Monica Lewinsky's autograph sells for twice the price of Bill Clinton's.

Jesse, back in fine form

Hilarious commentary about Bruce Lee:

new belt: found!

Thank goodness.

Slowly but surely, over the next 50-some days, I'll be prepping for my second cross-country walk from Seoul to Busan: 550 kilometers and about 26 days. I'm probably going to create a "Kevin's Walk 3" blog for that purpose, but for the moment, I'm concentrating on what items I need for this walk. Most crucial is a belt that I can slide through my Gregory pack's hip-belt assembly. What I've been looking for is a belt that is exactly the same as the Texas-sized leather belt I currently use, except for the buckle, which I want to be a single square of metal instead of several pieces capable of breaking into parts like in 2017.

I found exactly the belt I was looking for Saturday evening in Itaewon, and on my first try, no less. Itaewon's main street has a series of big-and-tall stores that cater to Westerners and to larger-than-normal Koreans (of which there are many, and their numbers are increasing). I went into the same store I'd visited on the day of my friend Kent's funeral; a different lady was there, and I initially ignored her as I surveyed the belt rack. My eye lit upon a belt that looked uncannily like the one I was using right at that moment, and I saw with joy that it had a solid, one-piece buckle. The construction of the belt looked to be almost exactly the same as mine, so I took it into the back corner of the shop, closed the curtains of the makeshift fitting-room area, and did some tests. I took off my own belt to compare lengths; the new belt was a few inches shorter, but could easily span my girth with plenty of room to spare. The new belt's holes didn't reach as far as they should have, but that wasn't a problem because, at home, I knew I had a belt-hole-making kit that I've already used to make holes in my current belt.

So everything checked out: the belt looked and felt tough, was easily long enough, and had exactly the buckle I wanted. And I didn't even have to dig deep into my small storehouse of Korean vocabulary to ask the lady to find exactly the sort of belt I wanted. The thing was priced at W25,000, which may be about what I'd paid for my current belt. Given how crucial this piece of equipment will be on the walk, I paid the price gladly.

So: that's one crucial piece of hiking equipment down. I think I have pretty much everything else I need, equipment-wise (including a poncho this time!); I'd purchased a bunch of new stuff in 2017; by the end of the trek, the backpack and my bandanna were the only things that needed replacing.* I still have a fresh trekking pole, which I'd carried, hilariously, across the country on my backpack, but never once used. That means I won't have to shell out for a new goat's foot for the tip of the pole. Good thing. I also know I'll be carrying much less stuff with me this time around, so this second trip down to Busan ought to be less burdensome.

I'm still waiting on HR to give its okay; my team leader talked with an HR staffer about my upcoming walking trip, but that talk apparently didn't result in the official email telling me my trip had been cleared by the Powers That Be. I might have a small celebration on the day I get that email, which I hope will arrive this coming week. Life definitely feels much more meaningful when I know there's a big walk in my future.

*Recently, I had to buy new walking shoes because my current pair, purchased last year while I was in the States, has already worn out thanks to the miles I've put into them since last August (quite a few of those miles having been added during my trip to France last October). I'm going to try not wearing my new shoes too much until September, at which point I'll need to wear them so as to break them in while I train my feet and body in earnest for the big trek. For now, I can do my prep at a slow, lazy pace, but come September, things are going to pick up speed as my departure date—Saturday, September 28—approaches.