Sunday, January 31, 2021

fairly Atkins-friendly

in praise of the great Gavin Newsom


I had some leftover cheese from Friday's fondue luncheon, so guess what I ate Saturday night.  I took a trip down to the first-floor Paris Baguette in my building (PB's shitty baguettes, which I'd normally consider too tough, are actually perfect for fondue), bought a baguette, then used the remainder of my wine to make an impromptu fondue. Behold:

I hate to say it, but this was a better batch than the one I'd made for Friday's lunch.  (That batch was a wee bit boozy; I and my Korean coworker were both rosy-cheeked by the end of the meal, whereas my white boss and coworker both looked unaffected.  My Korean coworker commented that fondue wasn't the sort of food he could eat in large quantities.)

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Michael Knowles on the GameStop flap

Good, educational video:

no go

So I was on my way out to Yangpyeong this morning, despite the fact that there was a sudden snow shower in progress, spanning the distance from Seoul to Yangpyeong, a good sixty kilometers.  Meanwhile, my buddy JW texted to say that something work-related had come up, so he'd have to meet me partway along the path instead of walking the whole 30K with me (a cynical part of my brain thinks that JW has been trying to dodge these 30K walks for a while, now, even though he's ten times more athletic than I'll ever be).  I told JW that I'd text him back with an update once I got to Yangpyeong.  

When I got to Yangpyeong, the place was covered in snow.  The forecast said that temps would rise to warm levels by midafternoon, but when I got off the subway, I could see that, at that moment (it was a bit after 11 a.m.), the sidewalks were slippery and not ideal for distance walking.  I wasn't about to walk an hour or so on my own while waiting for the sun to come out and for the snow to melt, so since I was in Yangpyeong, I headed over to my favorite Chinese place to have lunch.  JW called me just as I was being seated, and I told him we'd need to cancel the Yangpyeong-Yeoju hike based on what I'd seen.  JW, insistent on doing some walking, suggested that we meet in the afternoon, at 3 p.m., to do our usual short walk to Jamshil Bridge and back.  I said okay, hung up, ate lunch, and rode another two hours on the subway back to Seoul from Yangpyeong.

I met JW at our usual meeting spot, where the Tan Creek and the Han River meet, and we did our walk to Jamshil Bridge and back.  JW said he needed to burn off some extra calories because he'd been partying the night before, so he walked with me up to my apartment building, which is where we parted ways.  (He walked the rest of the way back to his place in Samseong-dong, almost literally up the street from where I live.)

It was a weird, tiring day, and it had felt as if Mother Nature had basically declared that no meaningful distance walking would be happening today.  Hey, fine with me.  February is looking fairly warm, according to; I get the feeling that spring is coming early, so JW and I agreed to stay in touch about doing the 30K walk sometime in February.

I'm gonna make myself some dinner now.

Friday, January 29, 2021

George Carlin on PC speech

Political correctness is fascism:

This is a good one to sit through.  Carlin was a leftie by many metrics, but he was also extremely critical of PC leftism.

Yangpyeong to Yeoju: we're on again

My buddy JW texted me about meeting up to do a long-planned 30K walk from Yangpyeong to Yeoju.  We had canceled two weeks ago because of the weather; we had canceled last week because JW had a wedding to attend (I walked to Hanam City alone), and earlier this week, I had seen the forecast for snow on Thursday and had canceled this walk a third time.  But the snow proved to be nothing much:  there was no accumulation on the streets, and the sidewalks were mostly walkable.  Today, it was sunny out, so even the sidewalks (the ones exposed to the sun, anyway) were clear of ice, and tomorrow, the weather in both Seoul and Yangpyeong promises to be fairly bright and warm in the afternoon.

So JW and I will be training separately to Yangpyeong Station; we'll meet there and head along the Four Rivers path to the city of Yeoju, passing two dams along the way.  There's also a nasty hill about 1.5 hours into the walk, but it's the only real challenge the whole day.  Everything else is quite beautiful.  My only regret is that JW, as is his wont, prefers to start late, so we're meeting at Yangpyeong Station at 11 a.m.  This means we'll finish up in Yeoju around 7 p.m., or maybe even 8 p.m., at which point we have to decide whether we'll eat in town or just take a bus or train back to Seoul.  It's disappointing to end in the evening because it'll be too dark to see the second dam, the Yeoju-bo.  But it is what it is, and I'll at least be able to spend some quality time with a friend.

If you're having trouble remembering this segment of the walk, see here.

NB:  this will be JW's first-ever full-length, 30K walk.  Another milestone!

GameStop shenanigans

The situation is this:  a video-game retailer called GameStop is dying.  Its stock price has been plummeting, and hedge-fund managers have been hoping to "short" the failing stock shares in order to gain money.  I'm no economist, so I've had to educate myself as to what's going on, here.  Please bear with me as I provide my clumsy, left-handed explanation, which is geared to us stupid people who need to digest information in small, simple chunks. defines a hedge fund this way:  "an investment partnership that uses high-risk, speculative methods to obtain large, short-term profits."  So predators, basically.  And these folks are often very, very rich.  They swoop in like vultures when they think they can make a quick buck, especially when they see a dying company.

What, then, does it mean to "short" a stock?  Several different sources have several different ways of putting it.  One source says it's like betting on the continued downward movement of share prices, thereby making money when one's prediction of loss comes true.  Another source simply says it's a way of making money from a company's losses.  Either way, the converse must therefore be that, if the dying company suddenly comes back to life, then the people shorting the dying company's stocks will lose money, not gain it.

So apparently, a bunch of small-fry investors decided they'd had enough of the predatory behavior of the hedge-fund folks.  These small investors got together, David-versus-Goliath-style, and decided to invest heavily in GameStop, thereby driving its share prices up.  Result:  angry hedge-fund managers now losing millions of dollars because their strategy of shorting GameStop's shares has backfired.

Much of the trading is occurring via an app called Robinhood, but the movement to rescue GameStop started on a Reddit forum called r/WallStreetBets.  Result:  GameStop's share price went from around $18 to over $300 (it's still wildly fluctuating), a phenomenal gain that represents a phenomenal loss for the hedge-fund predators.  The managers of the Robinhood app have decided—unwisely—to restrict trading of GameStop shares, as well as the shares of certain other companies.  Outrage has ensued because, once again, this looks like another form of Big Tech oppression.  Big Tech, in the form of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., has been deplatforming and otherwise censoring people whose opinions are adjudged "hateful" or "bigoted" or some other made-up form of badthink.  Robinhood seems to be heading in the same direction, and the little people are furious to see Big Tech circling the wagons around the rich and overprivileged—the hedge-fund people, in this case.

The kerfuffle has produced a strange alliance of parties on both the left and the right, all of whom feel for the little guy and despise the Goliath that is the hedge-fund cronies.  Robinhood is now being sued for its restrictive actions (this is a class-action lawsuit).  A good video summary of the situation by Sky News Australia, a conservative news outlet, is here:

And here's a set of tweets shown on Instapundit:

I don't expect the sudden left-right détente to last.  For the moment, everyone hates Robinhood, and maybe this will prompt more people to pay attention to Big Tech oppression in general.  Meanwhile, the right needs to get off its lazy ass and create an entire freedom-friendly network of Big Tech options of its own—one in which intolerant deplatforming is not—is never—allowed.  I see so many commenters whingeing about how the left has taken over all of our cultural institutions, but this takeover happened because one side of the aisle was passive and indolent for years.  Fine:  blame the left for what it's done to erode the nation, but take time to look in the mirror and blame yourself, too.

panna cotta: a delightful disaster

I forgot to take pics of the fondue, which is too bad because the texture of the melted cheese was perfect, despite my having used potato starch instead of cornstarch as the thickener/emulsifier.  I did, however, manage to take pics of the panna cotta, which turned out... okay.  It was edible, even tasty, but the texture was a bit too thick, and my presentation skills proved to be utterly lacking.  So enjoy some pics of rank ugliness, but trust me when I say that the dessert tasted better than it looked.

Panna cotta before being garnished:

Below:  the blueberry sauce had a mind of its own and ran all over the place, but the sugar doily underneath it held up well enough:

I served the above to the troops, but for myself, I sprinkled some hard, caramelized sugar onto the surface of the panna cotta.  Behold:

What I was originally aiming for was a "cheat" crème brûlée that used panna cotta and not custard.  Custard, which has egg yolks in it, requires a delicate touch; panna cotta, by contrast, is far easier to make, and the resultant texture is similar to that of a custard.  Unfortunately, because panna cotta is made with gelatin, you can't use the kitchen-blowtorch method to produce a glassy layer of caramelized sugar:  the panna cotta itself will liquify under the intense heat of the torch, as I discovered to my dismay.  

So what's the alternative?  One method is to lay down a circle of sugar on a Silpat silicone mat, torch the sugar, let it cool, then see whether you can pick the resultant caramelized doily up in one piece.  Another method is to follow Martha Stewart's guidelines for in-the-pan caramelization.  This involves cooking a half-cup of table sugar plus 1.5 tablespoons of water in a pan at medium-high heat until the sugar turns amber-colored.  You have to be quick at that point:  once the sugar goes amber, you've got maybe 30-45 seconds before it goes black because it's now burning.

Alternative Method #1, blowtorching sugar on a silicone mat, led to a successfully caramelized sugar doily, but the doily proved too fragile to lift off the mat in one piece.  It crumbled into little pieces.  Alternative Method #2, the Martha Stewart approach, led to a batch of burned sugar the first time I did it:  I didn't realize how quickly the sugar would go from brown to black.  My second attempt was perfect, though:  I got the sugar to the amber stage, then poured out thin circles of it onto the Silpat mat, each circle about the size of the palm of my hand.  The sugar hardened into nice, glassy little circles... but then the problem was that the circles—which I had thought were thin—turned out to be a couple millimeters thick.  I had essentially made hard candy.  Fuck.  

Well, according to the Martha Stewart recipe, this is what "caramel crumble" is supposed to do, so the next step would be to crush the hardened sugar into powder.  I used my mortar and pestle for that, but I still had some rather large flecks of hard caramel.  Pressed for time, I simply poured my torched caramel and my pan-cooked caramel into the same container and decided I would not place the crumbled sugar onto the panna cotta:  I didn't want my charges to complain about how hard the caramel was to chew.  I would leave the sugar aside as a decorative option if the troops wanted it.

Before I got the Martha Stewart method totally down pat, I had tried to pan-cook a combination of table sugar and turbinado.  The combined sugars behaved weirdly in the pan, drying up before caramelizing (I ended up having to add more water), but I did eventually manage to make three sugar doilies out of them:  they were the correct texture, but they weren't properly caramelized, so they missed the mark in terms of taste.  I decided I'd place these doilies onto the panna cotta, though, because they'd crack easily under the pressure of a spoon, just like a regular crème brûlée.

I also prepped a blueberry sauce and some strawberries.  Unsure how to combine all these elements into a coherent presentation, I simply lumped everything together atop the panna cotta, which is what led to the aesthetically horrifying results you see above.  Maybe next time, I'll try laying the blueberry sauce around the edge of the panna cotta and placing the fanned-out strawberry right in the center.

There's a lesson here for beginner cooks:  they say you're never supposed to feed your guests something that you're making for the very first time.  This is why the fondue was a success while the dessert was a failure:  fondue is something I've made tons of times, but I've never tried to make a cheat version of a crème brûlée before.  I learned a lot while making my misbegotten dessert, but my charges—the ones who gamely ate my food—were the ones who paid the price for my inexperience.  Lesson learned:  don't do that ever again.

today's office meal

I'm serving fondue neuchâteloise, garden salad (courtesy of Paris Baguette, where I bought today's sacrificial baguettes), and vanilla panna cotta with caramel crumble, blueberry sauce, and strawberries.  Photos to follow, so stay tuned.

Thursday, January 28, 2021


Legendary actress Cloris Leachman has died.  She was 94.  I'll let Wikipedia do the talking:

Cloris Leachman (April 30, 1926 – January 26/27, 2021) was an American actress and comedienne whose career spanned more than seven decades. She won many accolades, including eight Primetime Emmy Awards from 22 nominations, making her the most nominated and, along with Julia Louis-Dreyfus, most awarded actress in Emmy history. She won an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a Daytime Emmy Award.

gorgeous in 1970

You don't live to be 94 without amassing an enormous filmography.  Leachman's résumé could go on for pages.  I remember her best for her comic roles in History of the World: Part I, Young Frankenstein, and for her absolutely gut-busting turn as the S&M-loving Nurse Diesel in High Anxiety.  (She and Harvey Korman stole the show, as far as I'm concerned.)

The last role of hers that I saw was in Season 2 of American Gods, where she played the role of an old Slavic deity named Zorya Vechernyaya, goddess of the evening, and one of three cosmic sisters.  I recall being shocked, while watching American Gods, to discover that Leachman was still alive and active; somehow, I'd gotten it into my head that she had passed years ago.

For certain, Leachman had presence.  She was great with foreign accents, great at disappearing into all manner of esoteric characters, and gifted with a marvelous sense of humor and comic timing.  I'm sad to know she's gone, and but thankful she graced us with her presence for as long as she did.

RIP, Cloris Leachman.  Flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

your dose of musical humor

Enjoy the surreality.

hey, Bill: 33.9 seconds

This is just between me and Bill Keezer.  He'll know what I'm talking about.

what Inauguration Day looked like on the ground

Troops, troops everywhere.  This was my first good look at the troop presence on Inauguration Day. I didn't realize that a similar troop presence existed in multiple cities across the nation.  (In fact, before I go further, I really ought to confirm this, but at least one person in the video above names the city he's in while he's filming the troops.)

A comment appended to the video:

A US President doesn't need fences and military protection to be inaugurated. A dictator does.

Exactly.  And the left keeps accusing the right of fearmongering.  Projection.

Tim Pool: Biden turns against his own

more Styx on Biden

meme via Bill

I guess you can't blame Biden for not remembering something he'd said a little while ago.

"The Nightingale": review

A harrowing tale of rape, murder, racism, and revenge in 19th-century Van Diemen's Land (present-day Tasmania), 2018's "The Nightingale," directed by talented Aussie Jennifer Kent, tells the story of young Clare Carroll (Aisling Franciosi, pronounced "ASH-ling fran-CHO-see"), a convict indentured to a cruel British lieutenant named Hawkins (Sam Claflin).  Clare is married to fellow indentured convict Aidan (Michael Sheasby), and they have a baby daughter.  The two have been hoping for release papers from Hawkins, but the lieutenant shows no sign of wanting to let go of his charges.  When a high-ranking officer comes to the homestead where Hawkins and his men are garrisoned, Hawkins sees a chance to ascend to the captaincy.  A man of cruel and base appetites, he also sets his lustful sights on Clare.  One thing leads to another, and Clare ends up raped while Aidan and her baby are killed.

That horror is the setup for the rest of the story.  Regaining consciousness after her rape, Clare wakes to the sight of her husband's and daughter's corpses.  Something curdles inside her, and she prepares to pursue Hawkins, who has left for the town of Launceston with a small detachment of men to plead his case for his hoped-for captaincy.  Unable to track the troops or survive in the bush on her own, Clare is obliged to retain an Aborigine named Billy (Baykali Ganambarr) to help her.  She initially lies to Billy, telling him that she is chasing after her husband.  She is also haughty and bigoted toward Billy, whom she addresses as "boy," in the manner of most of the other white characters in the film.

The story takes some unpredictable turns, but one predictable arc is that, as Clare and Billy get to know each other better, they also begin to fight through their respective bigotries and see each other as individuals worthy of respect and even friendship.  One thing they share is a hatred of the English:  Clare is Irish and has been oppressed by the English all her life; Billy has lost all of his family to them.  When Billy learns Clare's true purpose and then loses a favorite "uncle" named Charlie (Charlie Jampijinpa Brown), he decides to commit himself to the path of revenge alongside Clare.

Clare is the eponymous "Nightingale" in the story:  one of her duties, as a servant, was to sing to the troops—young men who all quietly lusted after her.  It was Hawkins who bestowed the nickname.  Billy, too, has an avian nickname:  Mangana, a type of Australian blackbird that Billy says can be a guide.  Birds are a recurrent trope in "The Nightingale," representing many spiritual qualities, but especially the yearning for freedom.  Much of the movie focuses on the plight of the Aboriginal people who must deal with the incursion of the white man.  Whites are portrayed—with only one or two exceptions—as universally cruel and rapacious, out of touch with nature, inhumane, and focused only on blood, pillage, murder, and rape as they participate in the irony of "civilizing" Van Diemen's Land, a penal colony just off Australia.

The movie is a strange combination of prudish and graphic.  The rape scene at the beginning is awful to behold, not to mention very hard to watch, but it's filmed—if this adverb has any place here—tastefully.  By that, I mean there's no actual nudity (cf. the horrific violation we see in "A Clockwork Orange" when Alex visits the home of Frank Alexander and rapes his wife); the raw reality of the rape is implied through the actions and emotions of the actors.  When it comes to violence, though, the movie pulls no punches.  We see a white man receive an Aboriginal spear through the throat, another man stabbed multiple times in the chest and bludgeoned in the face, and quite a few bloody shootings.  The overall effect of all this violence is depressing.  That's what I came away with, anyway:  1825-era Tasmania was a hell on earth, mainly thanks to the brutal European colonists.  Interestingly, although the film focuses so much on the depredations of the white man, there's a quiet moment in the story where Clare asks Billy whether there are, among the Aborigines, people as cruel and rapacious as Hawkins.  Billy sadly says yes.  When Clare asks how the tribe handles such people, Billy says that the elders try to talk sense to them through words and rituals.  Clare then wants to know what happens when those measures don't work.  "We kill them," Billy says matter-of-factly.

As revenge tales go, "The Nightingale" is nothing like "Kill Bill."  It's not fun; it's not flashy; it's not cartoonish; it doesn't end happily or triumphantly.  Clare is no Beatrix Kiddo; she has no talent for killing, and as it turns out, she has no real stomach for it, either, her fury toward Lieutenant Hawkins notwithstanding.  Jennifer Kent crafts a taut, steady-paced yarn that is as much a character study as it is a social commentary.  Clare, as our Irish protagonist, is not particularly likable, at first, despite the horror she endures:  she begins the story just as full of racism toward Aborigines as the English troops she claims to despise.  Billy undergoes his own character arc as well; Baykali Ganambarr's portrayal is full of roiling emotion as Billy goes from hating all whites to befriending at least one of them.

Overall, I found this to be a well-made film.  If I have one complaint, it's that Jennifer Kent sometimes fails to make clear where our characters are in relation to each other, which results in a bit of spatial confusion.  Aside from that, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the principals all do a marvelous job in their roles.  A special nod must go to Sam Claflin for portraying the utterly evil Lieutenant Hawkins; it didn't take long for me to start rooting for Hawkins's death.  From what I understand, early screenings of "The Nightingale" resulted in walkouts because people couldn't get past the horrific rape scene that opens the story.  The director is on record as standing by her artistic choices; she made "The Nightingale" while consulting with Aboriginal tribal elders who saw this as a chance to tell the harrowing tale of a brutal period in Australian history.  For that reason, Kent felt she had to hew as close to the truth as possible in depicting that era.  I don't know enough about Australian history to judge the historical accuracy of this film, but I can say that, as a story, it makes for a compelling, wrenching, memorable watch.  I recommend "The Nightingale" for the powerful performances, the beautiful cinematography, and the frank exploration of some thorny historical issues, but I know that anyone who watches this film will probably never want to watch it again.  While there is a quietly uplifting message to be had at the very end, the path to that ending is a deeply depressing via dolorosa.


SPECIAL NOTE:  this marks the final movie in my iTunes queue.  I have a ton of movies in my Amazon Prime queue, so I guess I'll start watching those soon.  I certainly have no shortage of films to plow through; once I finish my Amazon Prime queue, I've got a slew of films on my iTunes wish list to purchase and then watch—especially now that I'm in a better financial position to do so!  I also have, on iTunes, several already-purchased TV series to binge-watch.  Which reminds me:  I need to buy "Psych" and Season 3 of "American Gods."

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

your primer on critical theory

America Undercover, with Chris Chappell, has an awesome video on the nature of critical theory, a driving force in today's culture war:

The gentleman being interviewed, James Lindsay, is the coauthor of the book mentioned in the video, Cynical Theories:  How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody.  I have now put that book on my Amazon Wish List.  One's education never stops.

a quick heart-health test

Over at Instapundit, there's a quick post linking to an article about a heart-health test that you can perform, assuming you have normal use of your legs:

Walk up four flights of stairs (60 steps) in 45 seconds—no stopping or resting, and no running. You must climb the steps at a brisk walk.

Simple as that.  People in the Instapundit comment section—always on the lookout for exceptions, loopholes, and ammunition for clever rebuttals (because they're men, and that's the nature of male discourse, i.e., to always defiantly pick "c" when given a choice between "a" and "b")—complain that they don't live in buildings tall enough to have four flights of stairs, or that they're using a cane, etc.  I say this:  if your knees are shot, or if you're otherwise handicapped, then of course this test isn't for you.  But if you can put one foot in front of the other without your heart exploding, then think about giving the test a try.  (And if you already know your heart might explode if you tried walking up 60 steps, then you don't really need a test to know what condition your heart is in, ja?)

At my place of work, it's two flights of steps to go up one floor.  It's an old Korean building, built before building codes were modernized and standardized, so the flights are uneven:  14 steps, then 12 steps, for a total of 26 steps per floor.  So I did a slightly scaled-down version of the above test by walking upstairs from the first floor to the third floor, i.e., four flights at a total of 52 steps.  

My time for 52 steps:  30 seconds.  To get the result for 60 steps, I did a proportion:

30/52 = x/60

Result:  34.615 seconds.  Let's round up to 35 seconds.

According to the article, "anything under 45 seconds is good.  Around 60 seconds means you might have some work to do.  Anything over 90 seconds and, well, make a doctor's appointment."  Seems like good advice.

I'm not in shape by anybody's standards, but my penchant for distance walking means that, even in my current deconditioned state, I can pass the stairs test with flying colors.  If you're concerned about your heart health, and if you've got the use of your legs, give this test a try.  It's not meant to be minutely precise; it's only supposed to give you a rough-but-reliable measure of your current cardiovascular health.

innumerate Uncle Joe

 I expect the leftist press to downplay this or cover it up:

If Trump flubbed like this, the press would be all over it.  But Creepy Uncle Joe has the plot armor that comes with being a leftie.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Ryan Long's latest: "PC" culture

Good God... how many layers of metahumor are there in this hilarious sketch?

If you know Ryan Long and his sense of humor, then you know he's a right-leaning Canadian who makes comedy sketches lampooning the left.  What you see above appears to be a fair-minded attempt to lampoon the right for once... but is that what's really going on?  I think this is more likely a satire about the left's perception of righties, i.e., the perception that, when righties are alone, away from the public eye, this is how they talk.  So if I'm right, the sketch is targeting lefties, no differently from any of Long's other sketches.  Here's a public-service announcement, then:  if you're a leftie, and you think the above is an accurate representation of how righties are, then you're the noxious, hairy, embarrassing butt of the joke.

good one from Ace

Ace's website is ugly as sin—poorly formatted and a pain to look at—but if you see past the exterior, there's often good content there.  Case in point:

What If Deplorables Start “De-Platforming” Leftists From Receiving Skilled-trade Services?

[Buck Throckmorton]

If Monster Tech can aggressively de-platform businesses and individuals for expressing forbidden opinions, then maybe it’s time for skilled tradesmen to respond in kind against the woke left.

Leftists despise working class “deplorables” and seek to punish them for all their disapproved habits—you know—God, guns, motorized vehicles, and voting MAGA. Well, the tradesmen I know are swamped with business right now, so it might be a good time for them to establish their own “terms of service” enabling them to deny services to advocates of cancel culture. We’ve learned from Monster Tech that all you have to do is declare someone’s speech to be “hateful” or state that their speech might “incite violence” to banish someone from receiving service. If a deplorable can be targeted as hate-filled for simply supporting Trump, then a tradesman’s Terms of Service can in turn declare that any visible support for Democrats constitutes hate speech.

Broken down on the side of the road with a Bernie or Biden bumper sticker? Sorry—you’re going to have to find a wrecker that employs all 57 genders and declares all their pronouns. But Earl’s 24-Hour Wrecker won’t be towing your car today. Terms of service, you know.

Broken-down furnace during a deep freeze? Too bad you advocated for a fracking ban on Facebook. That’s a violation of Smith HVAC’s terms of service. It looks like you’ll need to find yourself an HVAC company that can fix you up with 100% renewable energy if you want your heat back on.


Can such service be denied? The left is already doing it. My county is relaying updates about Covid vaccinations via Facebook. My town posts winter road updates on Facebook. I can’t express my political views on Facebook, or else Mark Zuckerberg might deny me access to life-or-death info regarding roads and vaccines.

As the defenders of Monster Tech like to remind us, if I don’t want Facebook banishing me for having the wrong opinion, then I can just go start my own social-media monopoly. Well, then, it’s not asking too much for the left to go start their own skilled-trade services.

It shouldn’t have to come to this, but we’re already seemingly here. In addition to the de-platformings by tech companies, some banks are refusing service to gun-shop owners, retailers are banishing products from My Pillow, etc. If we can only buy products and services from those within our political tribe, leftists are really going to hate the new rules when they’re in critical need of a skilled tradesman.


Trump team disavows new Patriot Party

From the Epoch Times:

Former President Donald Trump’s campaign team is disavowing any affiliation with a newly formed political committee called the MAGA Patriot Party.

“We are not supportive of this effort, have nothing to do with it, and only know about it through public reporting,” campaign adviser Jason Miller told The Epoch Times on Jan. 25 via text message.

Donald J. Trump for President (DJTFP), in a miscellaneous report filed with the Federal Election Commission, said it wanted “to disavow the activities of a committee named Patriot Party.”

The MAGA Patriot Party National Committee filed a notice of organization with the commission earlier on Jan. 25. While the filing claimed that Trump’s team was linked to the new committee, Trump’s team said it didn’t authorize the filing of a form claiming it as a participant in joint fundraising activities, hasn’t entered into any joint fundraising agreement with the new committee, and has no knowledge of the Patriot Party’s activities.

I assume that Trump wants hands-on control of the creation of a Patriot Party, so while this move might be appreciated, it's not an official rollout until Trump himself does the rolling-out.

Monday, January 25, 2021

it's okay when President Joe does it

Because fuck South Africa, right?

Isn't it lovely how relative a term "racism" is?


I wasn't sure whether I should even do a "Ululate!" piece for Larry King, who just died at the age of 87 from complications possibly related to COVID-19.  King was never central to my viewing habits over the years, but he was a constant presence somewhere in the background.  A bit like Donald Trump, King liked slapping his own name up on most of his projects:  Larry King Live, The Larry King Show, Larry King Now, and Politicking with Larry King.  He was a calm, affable interviewer, perhaps a little harder-hitting than Charlie Rose, but only a little.

I will, however, remember King most for a monumental moment in broadcasting:  the tense debate that King hosted between Ross Perot and Al Gore in 1993.  That debate was uncomfortable for me to sit through, and it showcased Al Gore's skills as a nimble debater:  Gore absolutely wiped the floor with Perot, who proved temperamental under fire.  This was a terrible PR moment for Perot, and it may have swung a lot of fence-sitters toward Gore, who displayed an almost Vulcan level of calm as he casually dismantled Perot's arguments, one after another.  All of this happened while King stared beadily.

Well, the show is over, and the King is now dead.  I salute his long, stellar career in broadcasting, even if he was just one leg of the satanic centipede that is CNN.  The man survived a heart attack, quintuple-bypass surgery, and even lung cancer.  He somehow survived eight marriages as well.  Despite his frail, skeletal appearance, King kept chugging along, and there's something to respect in that.

RIP, Mr. King.

a different, more positive sort of reconquista

I trust the movement will only continue to grow, and I don't take these good people for granted.  Many come from leftist-dominated countries, so they know, quite intimately, what leftism brings to the table:

Why the US Hispanic conservative movement is surging — even without Trump

"The Mustang": review

"The Mustang" is a 2019 Belgian-French production set in the modern American West.  Directed by actress-turned-writer/director Laure de Claremont-Tonnerre (what a name!  Laura Clearmountain-Thunder!), "The Mustang" stars Matthias Schoenaerts, Jason Mitchell, Bruce Dern, Gideon Adlon, Connie Britton, and Josh Stewart.

We learn that wild mustangs still roam the Western plains, and many are rounded up by the government and trained by local inmates so the horses can be auctioned off.  The story focuses on one inmate named Roman Coleman (Schoenaerts), a large, brawny, taciturn man who has already served twelve years of a sentence for having violently cracked the skull of his girlfriend, leaving her brain-damaged and incapable of caring for herself.  Roman has spent several stints in solitary confinement; by his own reckoning, he doesn't get along with other people.  The prison psychiatrist (Britton) eventually gets Roman reintegrated into the regular prison population; he ends up as an awkward roommate of the unsavory Dan (Stewart), who immediately comes off as a shady character.  Roman has a pregnant, twenty-something daughter (Adlon) who hates him for what he did to her mother; she visits Roman on occasion, mainly to have him sign certain papers that allow her to get on with her life.

With the help of the psychiatrist, Roman is assigned to outdoors maintenance duty, but he becomes curious about the mustangs being taken in by the prison.  One mustang in particular, a very wild, angry one that's just been brought in, catches Roman's attention when he hears it kicking furiously at a stable door.  Noting his curiosity, old horse wrangler Myles (Dern) gives Roman a chance to join the horse-training team.  In twelve weeks, Roman must learn not only how to guide a horse around a corral, but also how to ride a horse in preparation for the auction, where inmates will ride the horses out for a crowd of bidders to see.  Fellow inmate Henry (Mitchell), a veteran cowboy, is assigned to help Roman learn the ropes.

The plot of "The Mustang" is fairly easy to predict at this point.  Roman connects with the captured mustang, whom he names Marquis (pronounced "Marcus" in the film), and the symbolism of a captured, angry horse bonding with a captured, angry inmate is obvious.  But despite presenting us with such on-the-nose imagery, "The Mustang" delves deeply into the inner lives of both Roman and Marquis, mainly through a show-don't tell narrative and loving cinematography.  Director Claremont-Tonnerre co-wrote the story, and it's clear she has a deep love of horses, and that this story was an important one for her to tell.  I don't know the real name of the horse playing Marquis, but I have to give the horse credit for being almost as fine an actor as his human associates.  The scene in which Roman and Marquis finally begin to bond is deeply touching:  Roman is at the point where he thinks Marquis is untrainable, and when he slumps down in despair, it's at that moment that Marquis quietly walks up behind Roman and lays his huge, equine head on Roman's shoulder.  It's a marvelous scene.

And overall, this is a marvelous film.  Simple, unpretentious, and of necessity minimalist because the story takes place inside a prison, "The Mustang" is a thoughtful exploration of one man's healing as he edges closer to the road to redemption.

ADDENDUM:  I saw the name "Schoenaerts" and thought it sounded familiar, and the actor's face looked vaguely familiar as well.  When I looked Schoenaerts up, I had an "Aha!" moment when I saw he had also played an important role in "The Danish Girl," a movie I'd reviewed several years ago.  He looked utterly different in that movie.  Schoenaerts, a Belgian, was raised speaking French and Dutch, and it's obvious he also speaks flawless English; for his role as Roman, he had to speak a rough-around-the-edges form of English used by hardened convicts, and he did so utterly convincingly.  Full props to Schoenaerts for disappearing into this role, which he absolutely owned.

Matthias Schoenaerts in "The Danish Girl" (L) and "The Mustang" (R)

Joe Biden doesn't want you to have a job

So the Senile-Drooler-in-Chief has nixed the Keystone pipeline that allows Canada to send oil down to the mainland US in a safe, reliable, environmentally friendly way (compared to using freight trains, which have a tendency to spill their contents and cause all sorts of environmental havoc).  In doing this, Biden is not only poking Canada in the eye—he's also depriving US workers of an estimated 70,000 pipeline-related jobs.  Thanks, Joe Biden!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Styx: Biden's third day in office

The uck-fuppery continues:

The contrast between Trump's and Biden's treatment of the military:

from PowerLine

Joe Biden is going to prove disappointing to more than just the right.  Not even one week in, and he's already breaking a slew of promises even as he does what he can to drive the US economy into the dirt.  Fucking idiot.

attributed to Ted Nugent

It's not yet confirmed whether rightie rocker Ted Nugent in fact wrote the following letter, but the letter itself is making the rounds:

Dear Vice President Biden,

Although I refused to listen to it, I understand that during your presidential acceptance speech, you were calling for the unity of Trump supporters.

I remember four years ago my President Trump also called for unity. I remember how Congressional members of your Democratic Party responded by boycotting his inauguration. I remember how you and your Democratic party cheated and used the greatest law enforcement institution of this country to spy on my President Trump’s campaign. I remember how you and your Democratic Party created a fake Russian dossier to try and impeach my President Trump. I remember how your speaker of the house ripped up my President Trump’s beautiful State of the Union speech on National TV. I remember how you and your Democratic Party tried to impeach my President Trump over a Ukraine phone call. You accused my President Trump of pay to play. Come to find out Joe, it was really you and your son Hunter.

I remember how you and your Democratic Party blamed my President Trump over a pandemic that he had nothing to do with. I remember how you and your Democratic Party encouraged rioting and looting of my great United States of America. I remember how you and your Democratic Party used the media to spread lie after lie about my President Trump. I remember how you and your Democratic Party stole the election from my President Trump. This Trump supporter remembers all that Joe, and will NOT be unifying with your Democratic Party. Your abject criminal dishonesty is treasonous. You belong in prison along with the rest of the Swamp.

Ted Nugent


Saturday, January 23, 2021

today's walk

I took a 27K stroll from my place to Hanam City today (Saturday).  It was a welcome return to form after two weeks of just lazing around thanks to snowy, icy, slushy weather. I realize I could have switched to staircase work, but as I said, I was lazy. 

There are no photos from today's walk, but I do have stats:

I was walking unencumbered today (except for a liter of water in two 500-cc bottles), so the 25 kilometers to my usual stopping point took me almost exactly five hours, which is nice:  this means my normal walking speed hasn't gone down, which is something I'd feared last year.  No:  I'm still at 5 km/h, at least in cool weather (and today was more cool than cold—almost springlike).  But my walk took me past my usual stopping point, past the Hanam City Starfield department store, and almost all the way over to the local bus terminal.  That's a total of about 27 kilometers.  I could have stopped at Starfield, as it turned out:  there was a bus stop for the 9303 bus right there.  I did make a pit stop inside Starfield to go relieve myself after five hours of walking; there were public toilets all along the trail, but there were also throngs of people out today—fair-weather pussies who would never show their cowardly faces in sub-freezing temps.  So I skipped the public toilets and waited until I'd hit Starfield to go drain the dragon.

The day was warm:  it got up to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10ºC), which is short-sleeve weather for me.  I often felt stupid for wearing a coat on top of a windbreaker, so for three-fourths of the walk, I took the coat off and tucked it under my left arm.  It's actually been warm-ish for the past few days, so it was surprising to see that, once I'd left Seoul, the Han River was still frozen over as I approached Hanam.  There were signs along the river warning about going onto the ice and possibly drowning, but I saw no one crazy enough to tempt fate in that way.

I was also testing out a pair of thick winter socks that my boss had gifted his employees with.  They weren't made of cotton, thank Cthulhu; only an idiot goes distance walking in cotton socks, which cause blisters and irritation.  The socks fit my feet well, but they proved to be a little too tight around the toes, which would be bad news if I were to wear them repeatedly over several days' walking.  I didn't end up with any blisters, despite being rather de-conditioned after two weeks of resting and eating poorly.

Speaking of de-conditioning, I developed an ache in the small of my back as I walked, despite having taken my usual complement of pain pills (I took more pills once I'd hit 15,000 steps).  I think this is because of the return of my gut, which pulls at the lower spine the way a gestating baby causes lower-back aches for pregnant women.  The ache went away after a while; it wasn't a major thing, but it was noticeable.

Otherwise, I simply walked without stopping, except for my pit stop inside Starfield.  When I got to the 9303 bus stop, I waited twenty or so minutes for the bus, then the ride home was around an hour thanks to slow traffic as we approached Jamshil.  Once at Jamshil, I took a cab back to my apartment, nodding off several times as I rode, and I shuffled up to my place, stiff and exhausted.  I'll be sleeping well tonight.

I always forget how many steps it takes to reach Hanam.  In my mind, it's only 25,000 steps, but in reality, it's always over 30K steps.  Days like this are good because I can eat 3,000 calories' worth of food and not worry too much about blood sugar or weight gain.

I'm still debating whether to stick to the plan and hike the east coast later this year, or to chuck that idea and hike the beautiful trails on the island of Jeju.  I'm going to plot out the rest of the east-coast trail soon, and then we'll see.

please hold

I'm finishing up a 27K walk to Hanam City.  I might have something to say when I get back, so stay tuned.

Styx on Biden's first two days

Day One:  already a failure:

Day Two:  Styx laughs at you for voting for Biden, who is already reneging on his many promises to the people he'd pandered to:

Is it true that Biden is already facing articles of impeachment?  At a guess, this is going fizzle out.  The Dem-dominated House won't carry through on the articles since it's their guy in the driver's seat, so there's zero chance this will gain any traction. Or so I say, anyway.

Friday, January 22, 2021

two paintings from #3 Ajumma

I was sent these two paintings via text message from my #3 Ajumma:

I just texted Ajumma to ask her about the signature at the bottom-right corner of the second painting.  It looks to be in Russian, which isn't Ajumma's normal style.  (Compare the first painting, which has the standard "2020 Kang" signature on it.)  Was the second painting even done by her?  The style seems a bit different—a bit more ethereal—if you look at the lighting.  I haven't received a response from Ajumma about what's going on, but I'll leave an update here once I find out.  Stay tuned.

UPDATE:  Ajumma says the second painting was originally by someone else, but she was asked to paint a reproduction of it.  Is she becoming an art forger?

Never Trumpers gonna nevertrump

Trump's great gift was his ability to out you.  Even you might not consciously realize where on the political spectrum you lie, but Trump was able, as president, to evoke such instinctively visceral reactions in people that those people's true character couldn't help but rise immediately to the surface.  People show their true selves in a crisis, and Trump was, for many, a walking crisis—a blustering, impolitic hurricane of New Yawk crassness and bluntness, plus his own unique blend of megalomania and narcissism.  This is how we ended up with such a huge contingent of Never Trumpers:  superficially genteel Republicans who simply couldn't see their way clear to giving Trump a chance, and who actively did what they could to abet the left-Democrats by hindering Trump's agenda at every turn.  Early opposition to Trump's border wall was, you may recall, more a function of Republican resistance than of Democrat resistance.  Why?  Because these superficial people were (and are) stuck on the level of decorum, refusing to recognize the pragmatic realities of politics.  The pragmatists, i.e., the ones who agreed with Trump's agenda, were quick to say of Trump that "he fights."  To them, this quality was far more important than whether Trump liked his steak well done or thought that not all "war heroes" deserved to be fetishized.  (Look at what a foul, vindictive creature John McCain revealed himself to be after Trump heedlessly smeared him.)

Basically, Donald Trump rubbed people the wrong way because he was Rodney Dangerfield's Al Czervik in "Caddyshack":  obnoxious, uncultured, direct, egotistical, and unfiltered.  Trump was a loud, lusty fart in a church; he was the stinky, horrifying smear of diarrhea in your underwear.  And unable to see past their own superficiality, the Never Trump contingent recoiled in disgust and longed for a return to the good old days of faux gentility and cautiously allusive speech.  The Never Trumpers weren't exactly wrong to see Trump as a danger to their way of life:  after all, Trump was, despite the recently added "R" behind his name, still very much a 90s-era New York liberal Democrat.  As president, Trump was pro-labor in a way that would have made Bill Clinton and his contemporaneous Dems proud.  Trump's concern for border security was also a reflection of his Democrat roots:  recall Bill Clinton's 1995 State of the Union address, in which Clinton emphasized the need for increased patrols and deportations of "illegal aliens," a phrase that hadn't been cancelled by the PC police back then (perhaps because a Democrat was the one uttering it).

If only the Never Trumpers could get past their delicate stomachs to see Trump's accomplishments, many of which did, in fact, dovetail with a traditionally conservative agenda.  But such a shift in attitude is nearly impossible for those who are weak of constitution.  The Never Trumpers pine for Reagan, but the days of Reagan are long gone.

From "Trump Was No Reagan?":

National Review has found yet another reason to hate Trump, whom it has attacked relentlessly for over four years. It seems that among his multiple shortcomings, according to Frank Lavin, a supporter of Republican Voters Against Trump in 2020, Donald Trump was not the Gipper. In fact, he caused the Republican Party to deviate grievously from Reagan’s policies; and so it now behooves us to save the GOP by returning to the proven “conservative” teachings of the president whose approval ratings approached 70 percent shortly after leaving office.

Given how the GOP aided and abetted the left during Trump's administration, I'm in no mood to save the Republicans.  Let the GOP die.  Let it wither and sift away like dust.  The GOP doesn't need an internal revolution; it's far too leprous.  What we need is a new party that represents the current orientation, which is no longer so much a left/right polarization as it is a nationalist/globalist one.  Ignore that reality at your peril.

Lavin offers a study in contrast between the Gipper and Trump. In most ways (except in his tax-slashing and deregulation policies), Trump dragged the GOP away from the firm foundations that Reagan bequeathed to his followers. For example, Reagan had “values,” while presumably the Donald has none that we can praise. While Reagan stressed cooperation with the opposite party, Trump was always at war with the Dems. Or as Lavin tells it: “Reagan occasionally found support from Speaker Tip O’Neill. Trump ended up with nothing from Speaker Pelosi.” The contrast continues with Lavin noting: “Reagan set the stage for NAFTA with his call for a ‘North American Accord.’ Trump sided with Bernie Sanders in withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.”

And here's what the Never Trumpers refuse to understand:

In the 1980s, the Democratic Party of Tip O’Neill bore little resemblance to the party that Trump had to confront as his relentless enemy. Back then, Democrats were still a party of blue-collar workers (a class that Trump tried to bring into his populist movement). Tip O’Neill was an Irish Catholic ward-heeler from Boston who represented a working-class base; Nancy Pelosi, by contrast, speaks for culturally radical San Franciscans in a transformed Democratic Party, which today features LGBTQ demands, anti-white hysteria, Green New Deals, and which fights the gender identity war. Why would anyone think that Trump would not have gotten along with Tip as well as Ronnie did; or that Reagan would have enjoyed a better relationship with the present Democratic Party than Trump has? We are speaking about different forces of opposition to the GOP in two different eras.

Although Reagan faced critics in the leftist media, as someone who briefly served in his administration, [I] assure Mr. Lavin that this sniping was nothing like the nonstop, venomous attacks to which Trump was subjected from the moment he declared his candidacy for the presidency. I have no idea how anyone but an absolute saint would not have exploded in the face of such slander; and it was directed not only against the president but also against his wife and young son. Never in my long life have I seen such a feeding frenzy.

Attacks on Trump as another Hitler and calls for assaults on him became commonplace over the last four years; and I strongly suspect that if Reagan [had] been forced to deal with such adversaries, his approval rating and his temper would both have taken a hit. Reagan left office with a 63-percent approval rating, which by 1989 went up to 68 percent. We might ask what that approval rating would have been if the media [had thrown] dirt at him incessantly, and if his congressional opponents [had] incited riots against him throughout his presidency. Please note these attacks occurred not just because the Donald was intemperate in his language. The Left wanted power, and it was necessary to destroy Trump’s presidency to achieve it.

Finally, I would note that, unlike Reagan, Trump tried to be a transformative president who took his own party kicking and screaming into the populist form that he gave it. Although an honest, dedicated leader, Reagan transformed nothing.

Trump had ulterior motives for adopting the "R" label.  In his own calculating way, he had figured that he'd get further as a Republican than as a Democrat, and he'd do it by being a troll, a true maverick, unlike John McCain, who was no maverick at all despite his undeserved reputation as one.  (McCain was, in his better moments, a conciliator, which is how he gained his reputation as someone willing to work across the aisle.  His problem was that he traversed the aisle and basically became the first-ever Never Trumper, serving as a tool of the far left.  Something similar happened to Mitt Romney.)  So, yes:  Trump's agenda, when it finally became clear, was not entirely congruent with that of the old-guard GOP.  And yet it was very pro-America, which you'd think the GOP would appreciate.  Apparently, the GOP didn't:  they had gone too far down the globalist rabbit hole, which is the same route taken by all the rich left-liberals, thus making it difficult to frame issues in terms of left versus right.  The concept of NAFTA was very old-school GOP; free-trade agreements were seen as an extension of free-market thinking that would increase competition, bring prices down, and further promote the globalistic agenda.  Along came Trump with a different idea:  the pro-labor Democrats were right, and Americans would need to come first, from now on, in whatever international deals we made.  This meant bringing manufacturing back to the States; it meant not relying on foreign slave labor to make American products (right, Apple and China?).  Throughout Trump's term, and especially during the still-ongoing pandemic, it also meant not relying on other countries for essential products like fuel and medicine.  Trump was aiming for energy-independence as well as pharmaceutical independence.

The GOPe (GOP Establishment/Elite), as Never Trumpers and other old-school GOPers are scornfully called by Trump loyalists, dug their heels in at every turn, horrified at seeing their way of doing things turned upside-down, and equally horrified at being asked to keep the promises they'd made to the electorate.  And in setting themselves against Trump, they stood in the way of bettering America and proved that they were perfectly happy with the globalist project, perfectly happy to collude with Democrats, and perfectly happy to watch their constituents go under like the poor saps in steerage in the Titanic.  The voting public is still sorting through the wreckage of Trump's single term, but I'm hopeful that, given enough time, opinions will begin to coalesce, and a platform for a new party—perhaps the Patriot Party—will emerge and dominate.

All I know is this:   the GOP in its current form has to go.  It's a disgusting beast composed entirely of malice and inertia—lazy, cowardly, and evil.  Even the conservative judges appointed by Trump did nothing to stand in the way of leftist encroachment, which is perhaps a sign that Trump proved not to be the best judge of character after all.  Everyone needs to be replaced, including the GOP who, far from helping Donald Trump drain the swamp, proved to be as much a part of the swamp as the leftists currently blighting our government.

Will it take a civil war to cut out this much cancer?  Can the swamp ever truly be drained?  I honestly don't know, but DC is a hopeless mess, and like Al Pacino's Frank Slade in "Scent of a Woman," I'd happily take a flamethrower to this place.

today's lunch

Last week, I made choucroute alsacienne for the office crew.  My intention, this week, had been to make fondue neuchâteloise (the "standard" or "classic" fondue), but my American coworker—the one with the Korean wife who's a trained chef—said that his wife was desperate to get rid of a load of spinach she'd been gifted, so she'd been thinking about making a spinach-based pesto.  I've made spinach-based pestos before, with cashews and white cheddar; they lack the kick of a standard pesto, but they're smooth and pleasant, and they make for a nice change of pace.  So I agreed to a sort of cooperative arrangement:  instead of fondue, we'd do pesto on fusilli pasta.  I would bring the pasta, and the Missus would make the pesto.  Along the way, I decided to make a salad to accompany the pasta, so I bought ingredients for a simple, impromptu caprese:  basil, cherry tomatoes, and mozzarella.  I also wanted to throw in some proteins, so I fried up some Korean-style smoked duck, which tastes an awful lot like regular bacon.  The Missus ended up surprising us by also prepping some lovely butter shrimp spiced up with Thai chili powder, salt, and pepper.  As much as I enjoyed the wife's pesto, I think I enjoyed her shrimp way more, and I pestered my coworker for the spice/seasoning recipe.

The pic below shows my second plate of food.  By that time, the lovely shrimp were all gone, so I can't show you a pic of the best part of the meal.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Biden bits

Neither of these articles is reassuring:

1. "The MSM is No Longer Covering Up Biden's Cognitive Decline"

On the eve of [Biden's] inauguration, Politico published an article that contains an anecdote that is actually quite disturbing.

For higher-profile remarks, [Biden would] obsessively rehearse portions until he committed them to memory. And at times through the various iterations of outlining remarks, Biden could grow downright ornery.

“I would never say this,” Biden once snapped at an aide, aghast over the prepared remarks he was reviewing, according to a person in the room during a speech prep session last year. “Where did you get this from?’”

The aide explained that Biden had just said it in a public speech a couple of weeks earlier.

2. "Words of Division" (Heather Mac Donald)

It’s an odd way to seek national unity: call a significant portion of the American public white supremacists, racists, and nativists. Welcome to the Biden presidency.

Joe Biden’s inaugural speech as 46th president is predictably being hailed for its “unifying” message. And just as predictably, his invocations of the divisive bromides of the identitarian Left are being swept under the rug.

According to Biden, we are a “great nation” and a “good people.” But we also oppress minorities with an ever-rising fervor. “Growing inequity” is among the greatest challenges facing the country, according to Biden, along with the “sting of systemic racism” and encroaching “white supremacy.” Only now are we confronting “a cry for racial justice, some four hundred years in the making.”

One might have thought that more than 50 years of civil rights legislation; the banishing of Jim Crow segregation; the ubiquity of racial preferences throughout corporate America, higher education, and government; [trillions of tax dollars] attempting to close the academic achievement gap; and the election of black politicians by white voting districts would have reduced inequity, not increased it. But to Biden’s speechwriters, steeped in academic victimology, racial inequity is always with us, requiring constant remediation from government.

Congratulations, President Biden, on your inauguration.  I look forward to a wonderful couple of years before you keel over.  Do what you can to get back in the good graces of China and Iran, both of which are sacred bastions of human rights.  Try hard to undo Trump's tax reforms for the middle class, and please pass an economy-killing minimum-wage law even as you attempt to resurrect Obamacare.  While you're at it, please hamstring the economy by trying to implement some version of the harebrained Green New Deal so that no one will travel by airplane ever again, the country will lose its energy independence, today's cars will be outlawed, and America's cows will have their assholes firmly corked.  I'll be curious to see how you deal with race relations as you rain fire upon white people (but not upon yourself or your crooked family) in a move that should never be considered racist because racism is bad.  We do, alas, live in a racist, fascist hellhole of a country, which is why everyone is trying to immigrate to it.  For the past four years, we've been so scarily fascist and repressive that leftists and the leftie news media have been shouting about fascism at the top of their lungs—which is of course what happens in a fascist country.  Or maybe that's not a joke:  proponents of free speech have been routinely repressed and canceled by Big Tech organizations that are eagerly doing the left's bidding.  Maybe there is fascism, just not from where you think.  Anyway, it's good to know that you're preaching the ideal of "unity" from behind concertina wire, walls, and twenty-some-thousand National Guardsmen.  This is an excellent way to begin your administration, and I can only hope that we'll see much more of this.

one via Bill

Alas, the left is deaf to irony:

A Walk in the Woods: review

Bill Bryson is a British-American writer who has lived in the UK for much of his adult life.  It was while he was living in the States in the mid-90s, however, that he got the idea of walking the Appalachian Trail, a path stretching over 2,000 miles from Maine to Georgia (or, as most people walk it, from Georgia to Maine).  Bryson ended up hiking over 800 miles of the path in an inconsistent, sporadic fashion, with an old friend named Stephen Katz (a pseudonym), an out-of-shape recovering alcoholic.  The result of this adventure was a travelogue titled A Walk in the Woods, which came out in 1998.  Years later, the book was made into a movie starring Robert Redford (see my review here).  I saw the movie first and became curious enough to want to read the book, knowing that the movie was doubtless a Hollywoodized version of the tale.  When I did finally sit down to read the book on my phone's Kindle app, my suspicions were confirmed:  there are plenty of ways in which the book and the movie diverge, although the basic story is the same.

The book, unlike the movie, gives us almost no insights into what Bryson's wife Cynthia was thinking.  Cynthia is a barely-there background presence in the book, popping up only occasionally.  The narrative focuses, for the most part, on Bryson and Katz, but it frequently digresses into exposition about the trail—its ecology, its history, its odder aspects, and even, at times, the politics of its construction and maintenance.  What comes through in these digressions is Bryson's uncomplicated love of and fascination with nature, and his sadness at how modernity is heedlessly ripping away at that nature as people continue to develop the land.  At the same time, as Bryson himself admits at the end of his tale, he is a creature of those same modern forces, and he appreciates things like decent houses, shops, restaurants, and nicely furnished hotels.

I was interested in A Walk in the Woods because I knew that Bryson would offer at least some hard-earned insights that would be similar to the ones that had come to me during my three walks across South Korea.  I should start off by noting there are disanalogies:  Bryson actually hiked in the mountains, for one thing, while I merely walked along a fairly well-manicured bike path that was over 95% flat.  Bryson talked about doing 14-mile days (about 23 km); on flat ground, that's a fairly modest, fairly easy distance, but among the steep hills and mountains of the Appalachian Trail, that's an impressive effort, so my hat is off to Bryson and Katz for their achievement.

What were some of Bryson's insights?  I took a ton of notes as I read; the Kindle app allows a reader to highlight passages and leave notes or comments, all of which are stored as a list that the reader can go back to later.  While I won't burden you, in this review, with every single passage I quoted and commented on, I'll share a few of Bryson's more interesting points and my reactions to them.  First:

"Few people manage to carry less than forty pounds."

This is a reference to pack weight.  I reacted to this by noting that I had brought my own pack's base weight down, over the years, to a bit over twenty pounds (10 kg).  And while I'd like to be charitable and assume that most of the experienced hikers carrying their forty-some pounds are doing so because they're on the AT and not on a bike path, I've seen plenty of YouTube videos showing expert hikers who have done the Pacific Crest Trail (the western US's answer to the AT) with packs weighing no more than ten pounds.  That's with water.  Then again, it could be that things were different in the 90s.  Hiking gear today is extremely high-tech—light, flexible, versatile, and durable.

Bryson talked about bringing too much with him in the early stages of his trek, but as he went along, he developed a keener sense of what he needed and what was superfluous.  This dovetails with my own experience, and I think it's something that hikers and backpackers have to live through in order to understand the principles at work.  You can hear the old proverb that "You should pack as little as possible, then throw away half," but until you've actually gone distance hiking, your understanding of that proverb will only be at the superficially intellectual level, not at the heart-level of real experience.

"There is always more hill."

Ha ha—yes!  I do know this feeling despite not having had to face anything like the hilly terrain that Bryson walked.  You're walking up a nasty hill that has many curves along the path you're following; you think you've come to the top, but no!  There's still more hill to go.  As bad as this was for me, I can only imagine how much worse it had been for Bryson, who was in his forties when he hiked the AT.

"It means effectively not only that you must walk a prescribed distance each day but then spend the night penned up with strangers."

One of the things I loved about walking the Four Rivers path was that, once I was away from major cities, I often had the path to myself.  That, or the number of passing bikers was minimal, with almost no fellow walkers at all.  Bryson's remark makes me wonder whether I really want to hike the AT myself.  While he was at pains to say that the AT was often empty, he was truthful enough to observe that the stopping points were where hikers tended to congregate and camp together.  That's the last thing I'd want at the end of a long day's hike:  a crowd of jabbering people.  I worry that the Camino de Santiago might be like that.

"You know your life has grown pathetic when you're thrilled to have a covered wooden platform to call your own."

I responded to this by commenting, "How different from my own attitude toward shwimteo."  I saw nothing pathetic about those raised resting places, each of which possessed its own quiet architectural dignity.  If anything, I was thankful to find every shwimteo that I ended up using.  This is one aspect of trekking in which Bryson and I seem to part ways.

"Eventually, on the trail, everything reminds you of food."

I can definitely relate to this.  One of the things I love about trans-Korea hikes is how my life narrows down to something very simple and focused:  today's goal is to get from A to B, and it's only when I get to B that I can think about eating a decent meal.  So more often than not, I'd end a daily hike feeling terribly thirsty, but also somewhat hungry.  Not ravenous, mind you, but hungry.

"In many places in America now, it is not actually possible to be a pedestrian, even if you want to be."

This is a complaint I've made several times:  the US, as a whole, is very walker-unfriendly, and that needs to change.  Some effort could be made at, say, the state level to create networks of trails and walking routes that connect the dots between and among major cities and little towns, with shwimteo-like facilities along the way for weary travelers to rest their heads.  One thing I hated about my 2008 walk in the Pacific Northwest was the danger that came with walking along freeways and highways, many of which had either narrow shoulders or no shoulder at all, thus forcing me to dodge traffic as best I could.

I remember, at one point during the 2008 walk, trying to cross a particular bridge that had no sidewalk.  Traffic was constantly streaming across the bridge; I would walk twenty feet, then stop to let cars pass, then walk another twenty feet, and so on.  A police car eventually showed up:  someone had reported that I looked as if I'd wanted to jump.  What an idiot, I remember thinking.  What jumper leaps off a bridge while wearing a full backpack?  The officer ended up beckoning me into his cruiser and giving me a ride the final few miles to a motel.  Upshot:  the US is walker-unfriendly.  Build more paths, people!

"a certain home-stretch perkiness in our steps"

At this point in the travelogue, Bryson and Katz are calling it quits, having concluded they'd done enough of the Appalachian Trail to be able to say that they had walked it.  Not all of it, of course, but they had walked it all the same.  That said, I could relate to the feeling of elation that comes with the knowledge that you're walking the final few miles of your long journey.  It's an elation born of a feeling of deep accomplishment, a kind of self-satisfaction that isn't so much boastful as it is a species of fulfillment.  Historically, my walking speed picks up on the final day of my Four Rivers walk:  even with a pack on my back, I can almost make 5 km/h, which is roughly my speed while unencumbered.  There's just something about knowing that the goal is not far ahead, something that pulls you along like gravity when you're on a slight downward slope.

"I bought a bucket-sized Coke and sat in a booth by the window, feeling very pleased.  I had done seventeen miles over a reasonably challenging mountain in hot weather.  I was grubby, sweat-streaked, ... and rank enough to turn heads.  I was a walker again."

As with the previous insight, this one resonates with me.  When you've done a hard day's trekking, nothing beats a massive sugar hit from a cold, tasty soda, and knowing how hiking lowers your blood-sugar levels, you also know that you can indulge in your soda with no serious consequences to worry about.

So there were many moments, while I read A Walk in the Woods, at which I could easily relate to Bryson's experience.  I still don't know what hiking seventeen miles in mountainous terrain on a hot day might feel like, but maybe that sort of experience lies somewhere in my future.

Bryson's book is full of humor, interesting facts about the AT's history and ecology, and maybe even some life lessons.  Bryson does engage in some obvious exaggeration and embellishment here and there, but it's not enough to take me, as a reader, completely out of the story.  I don't begrudge him his embellishments any more than I'd begrudge an old salt telling his fish stories.  A Walk in the Woods makes for easy, pleasant, edifying reading, and I highly recommend it.

Oh, one last thing:  the book, like the movie, does talk about an obnoxious woman named Mary Ellen, a know-it-all snot who uses every opportunity she can to tell Bryson and Katz what they're doing wrong.  Unlike the movie, however, the book tells us what became of Mary Ellen:  for all her bluster, she ended up quitting and going home mere days after having met the two men.  I had a moment of grim satisfaction when I read that.  Bryson had done an excellent job of making me hate Mary Ellen, and oh, I do hate her with a passion.