Saturday, December 27, 2014

"I Felt A Great Disturbance In The Narrative"

Hundreds Turn Their Back on de Blasio at NYPD Officer's Funeral
Via Small Dead Animals / Drudge

Until The Sun Comes Up

A story of violent deaths in Chicago, and a Chicago Tribune news reporter's story of covering them on the overnight shift.
For an overnight shift reporter in America's murder capital, the beat is an education in violence and its aftermath, marked by powerful snapshots of grief.
What does the aftermath of murder sound like?
I stood outside the yellow tape, looking at the crumpled body of 14-year-old Damani Henard, whose name I did not yet know, surrounded by an eerie quiet.

That silence, one I’d hear versions of again and again, became a powerful part of my nights. Four hundred fifteen people were murdered in Chicago in 2013, more than in any other American city — and this was an improvement from the year before. I was at the scene of more than 30 of them. Most were killed by guns; many were teenagers. In Chicago last year, more than 2,100 people were shot.
These are murders that never merit protests, nor appearances by well-dressed and immaculately coiffed civil rights activists.  And that is simply, dreadfully, wrong.  

Read the whole essay.

What did you do for Christmas, Screech?

"Oh, stabbed a guy in a bar."

Dustin Diamond is being held in lieu of $10,000 bond (some sites say $1,000) he was with his girlfriend at the time, (some say wife) at the Grand Avenue Saloon in Port Washington Wisconsin, some say only Ozaukee County.

Apparently another couple started trouble. Taking photos, arguing. It is unclear what Diamond used to stab the guy, a pen that he was holding to close his account or a 3.5" blade found with him in the car when arrested. He says he noticed his girlfriend being held by her hair and that he does not recall exactly, that things happened so fast.

I tend to believe him.

You know, I have not seen a single episode of Saved by the Bell, mostly because the Screech character is intolerable and so are the other douchbag characters, especially the white guy jock character with the baggy jeans and cross trainer shoes laced up so the shoe-tongue sticks out. Ugh. I tried to watch the show and failed. It is a terrible show. I have no idea why it was so popular. But Screech was the absolute worst. He seems to have recovered somewhat from his incredible awkward stage. Someone mentioned he had a porn video out. I found it in two seconds. Ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh.

Now I need therapy.

"Why did you slash your wrists, Chip?"

"As punishment for searching and finding Dustin Diamonds sex video and click, click clickity-click clicking through it. That's why."

I also saw him one time on a show about people trying to lose weight. He was a psychological argumentative mess there too.

I take it back. He has not recovered from his awkward stage, and he never will.

And that's what you get for going out to a bar on Christmas. Honestly, there was nothing else to do? I didn't even know bars were open.

TMZ has video of right before the fight where everything appears to be normal, except for the swears.

Actually, his mug shot looks fine. But this is what on-camera flash does to a photographer's subject.

It's all good. Life is like a jail sentence. "I'll be outta here in no time." And there's hardly a difference between in here with all the attention, and out there where I'm nobody special.

But know what's as interesting as Screech in a fight? This guy was arrested for making a fuss about being refused drive-through service at Taco Bell on his bicycle. He would not go away, and apparently could not come inside. Again, flash, but not on-camera flash. See the difference in contour? This is a better photo because of it. I mean, come on. You're taking a dozens of photos a day as part of your job. That makes you a professional photographer. What we notice here is a trace of pride in one's craft by getting the flash off the camera. And of course the subject is incredibly interesting. A grown man profoundly sad about tacos and about everything that led to the incident.

So sad, he didn't get his Taco Bell. And now he's in jail. Life is so unfair sometimes.

"The Way You Move"

Friday, December 26, 2014

Angelina Jolie & Brad Pitt Support Shiloh's Wish To Be Called "John"

The couple's oldest biological child, who was assigned female at birth, joined brothers Maddox and Pax wearing sharp suits and short haircuts.

The eight-year-old's family fully supports their decision to self-identify — from an affinity for suits and ties to shorter hair to the name change. (Editor's Note: We have followed the Advocate's lead, and referred to John Jolie-Pitt as "they" as a gender-neutral pronoun to respect John's decision, whatever gender they may end up being.)

John (formally known as Shiloh)

Khonsumes done went and died

What, your phones broken? You couldn't call?

Clicken sie fer der größer.

This is actually a very good example of a portion of a scroll that Khonsumes commissioned for his own tomb. 

The book, Going Forth by Day is not an actual book. There is no such thing as Book of the Dead. Instead, the scrolls were vignettes that people of means commissioned from scribes for their individual scrolls, usually the most significant bits. It would be like picking and choosing your favorite parts of the bible. That is why no two examples are exactly the same. Most often the scrolls were pre-written and pre-painted with spaces left for names to be inserted. Chincy, isn't it? And isn't it ever so? The most heartfelt religious beliefs reduced to prosaic pedestrian commerce. Khonsumes (I associate the name with "consumes") was a priest himself, meaning a scribe himself, but he certainly did not write his own scrolls. 

You can actually see the handwriting change as scrolls progress with these things. You can see the virtuosity of the art change as well. You can see the difference in handwriting between text here and there, and between text and name of deceased, you can see where too much space or too little space is allowed for the name. I do not know of a single example where this is not so.

My own copy is among the best. The scroll of Ani now owned by the British Museum. Hard as h-e-double scroll sticks to follow. It does not read as the scroll reads. The actual scroll itself is cut into pieces. Budge (the often wrong British archaeologist) had to decide where to make the cuts and the British museum is stuck with those segments for display. The text in the book representing the museum's holding is cut further into pieces for reproduction based on importance and length for formatting. Translation is in pieces too and hardly matches at all. The text in English does not match the photograph on the pages. The complimentary literature explaining things helps but it is exhausting to keep checking back and forth, back and forth, struggling to match interpretation with text, additional explanatory literature, try as you might to follow, the thing is in chunks all over the place and wears you right out trying to make sense of it. Further, it is written in demotic, a shorthand sort of cursive of hieroglyphics that is somewhat idiosyncratic as handwriting is. The whole point was to help study hieroglyphics. I cannot make sense of it all and I have a terrible time using it as learning tool. But it is beautiful, very large format, and technically excellent. Even more so if you are already a pro.

Did You See The Thing That Guy Did?

Did you  see it?  It was on television, earlier this week I think.  You know that guy, the hater guy with the beard, the guy that they tried to get kicked off of television a couple of years ago?  That guy?

Phil Robertson and his family gave a friend of forty years a new house.  She had fallen on hard times and needed help, so Phil Robertson and his extended family decided that they'd give her a new house. A new home to live in.  Her son has been Willie Robertson's best friend since both were in grade school.


And more.

Winning hearts and minds comes not from marching, nor protesting, nor rioting, nor destruction.  It comes from loving ones neighbors.  It comes from people's hearts.  And souls.

A belated Merry Christmas to each of you.  Hearing from you on Lem's blog nearly every day of the year has been a wonderful gift.  Very best wishes to you!

pure as snow

without flash ↑
with flash ↓

Flash was actually first. I turned the dial in the dark and didn't know I turned it to "figure it out yourself with flash."  One more click over is "figure it out yourself without flash," the setting I wanted. Because I hate on-camera flash. Either way I'd have to be very steady and adjust things in Photoshop. On-camera flash dis-goose-tin, i-tiz. I didn't even notice any atmospheric dots at all. I cranked ISO up to 3200 and that is a terrible way to go. Just terrible.

This lens does not have vibration reduction that the 18-200 has. I keep forgetting the zoom lens has that excellent feature and the others do not. This lens is zoom too, but only 14-24. This lens is a monster. It weighs as much as the camera. 

High ISO makes photos appear very grainy. You will notice it quite clearly on the real size. Even though your camera can do it doesn't mean that you should. The best ISO is 100 or 200. I usually shoot at 400 because that is not so bad. But on-camera flash is the worst of the worst kind of light. It tends to eliminate shadowing and you need that to round out your subjects, to give them depth. 

See what I mean? Make this bigger by scootching with your fingers, or by clicking to see more clearly the grainy McGrain. 

Thursday, December 25, 2014

baby Jesus

Dad, don't just kneel there. Can't you make yourself useful?

The photo is making the rounds with the title "Jesus is going to have some wicked abs by the end of the season." 

Analyzing Bob Dylan's Christmas Lights

Main link

Nackles: A Christmas story

By Donald Westlake (writing as Curt Clark)
Originally published in
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, January 1964

Did God create men, or does Man create gods? I don’t know, and if it hadn’t been for my rotten brother-in-law, the question would never have come up. My late brother-in-law? Nackles knows.

It all depends, you see, like the chicken and the egg, on which came first. Did God exist before Man first thought of Him, or didn’t He? If not, if Man creates his gods, then it follows that Man must create the devils, too.

Nearly every god, you know, has his corresponding devil. Good and Evil. The polytheistic ancients, prolific in the creation (?) of gods and goddesses, always worked up nearly enough Evil ones to cancel out the Good, but not quite. The Greeks, those incredible supermen, combined Good and Evil in each of their gods. In Zoroaster, Ahura Mazda, being Good, is ranged forever against the Evil one, Ahriman. And we ourselves know God and Satan.

But of course it’s entirely possible I have nothing to worry about. It all depends on whether Santa is or is not a god. He certainly seems like a god. Consider: He is omniscient; he knows every action of every child, for good or evil. At least on Christmas Eve he is omnipresent, everywhere at once. He administers justice tempered with mercy. He is superhuman, or at least non-human, though conceived of as having a human shape. He is aided by a corps of assistants who do not have completely human shapes. He rewards Good and punishes Evil, And, most important, he is believed in utterly be several million people, most of them under the age of ten. Is there any qualification of godhood that Santa Claus does not possess?

And even the non-believers give him lip-service. He has surely taken over Christmas; his effigy is everywhere, but where are the manger and the Christ child? Retired rather forlornly to the nave. (Santa’s power is growing, too. Slowly but surely he is usurping Chanukah as well.)

Santa Claus is a god. He’s no less a god that Ahura Mazda, or Odin, or Zeus. Think of the white beard, the chariot pulled through the air by a breed of animal which doesn’t ordinarily fly, the prayers (requests for gifts) which are annually mailed to him and which so baffle the Post Office, the specially garbed priests in all the department stores. And don’t gods reflect their creators’ (?) society? The Greeks had a huntress goddess, and gods of agriculture and war and love. What else would we have but a god of giving, of merchandising, and of consumption? Secondary gods of earlier times have been stout, but surely Santa Claus is the first fat primary god.

And wherever there’s a god mustn’t there sooner or later be a devil?

Which brings me back to my brother-in-law, who’s to blame for whatever happens now. My brother-in-law Frank is—or was—a very mean and nasty man. Why I ever let him marry my sister I’ll never know. Why Susie wanted to marry him is an even greater mystery. I could just shrug and say Love Is Blind, I suppose, but that wouldn’t explain how she fell in love with him in the first place.

Frank is—Frank was—I just don’t know which tense to use. The present, hopefully. Frank is a very handsome man in his way, big and brawny, full of vitality. A football player; hero in college and defensive linebacker for three years in pro ball, till he did some sort of irreparable damage to his left knee, which gave him a limp and forced him to find some other way to make a living.

Ex-football players tend to become insurance salesmen, I don’t know why. Frank followed the form, and became an insurance salesman. Because Susie was then a secretary for the same company, they soon became acquainted.

Was Susie dazzled by the ex-hero, so big and handsome? She’s never been the type to dazzle easily, but we can never fully know what goes on in the mind of another human being. For whatever reason, she decided she was in love with him.

So they were married, and five weeks later he gave her her first black eye. And the last, though it mightn’t have been, since Susie tried to keep me from finding out. I was to go over for dinner that night, but at eleven in the morning she called the auto showroom where I work, to tell me she had a headache and we’d have to postpone the dinner. But she sounded so upset that I knew immediately something was wrong, so I took a demonstration car and drove over, and when she opened the front door there was the shiner.

I got the story out of her in fits and starts. Frank, it seemed, had a terrible temper. She wanted to excuse him because he was forced to be an insurance salesman when he really wanted to be out there on the gridiron again, but I want to be President and I’m an automobile salesman and I don’t go around giving women black eyes. So I decided it was up to me to let Frank know he wasn’t going to vent his pique on my sister any more.

Unfortunately, I am five feet seven inches tall and weigh one hundred thirty-four pounds, with the Sunday Times under my arm. Were I just to give Frank a piece of my mind, he’d surely give me a black eye to go with my sister’s. Therefore, that afternoon I bought a regulation baseball bat, and carried it with me when I went to see Frank that night.

He opened the door himself and snarled, “What do you want?”

In answer, I poked him with the end of the bat, just above the belt, to knock the wind out of him. Then, having unethically gained the upper hand, I clouted him five or six times more, then stood over him to say, “The next time you hit my sister I won’t let you off so easy.” After which I took Susie over to my place for dinner.

And after which I was Frank’s best friend.

People like that are so impossible to understand. Until the baseball bat episode, Frank had nothing for me but undisguised contempt. But once I’d knocked the stuffing out of him, he was my comrade for life. And I’m sure it was sincere; he would have given me the shirt off his back, had I wanted it, which I didn’t.

(Also, by the way, he never hit Susie again. He still had the bad temper, but he took it out in throwing furniture out windows or punching dents in walls or going downtown to start a brawl in some bar. I offered to train him out of maltreating the house and furniture as I had trained him out of maltreating his wife, but Susie said no, that Frank had to let off steam and it would be worse if he was forced to bottle it all up inside him, so the baseball bat remained in retirement.)

Then came the children, three of them in as many years. Frank Junior came first, then Linda Joyce, and finally Stewart. Susie had held the forlorn hope that fatherhood would settle Frank to some extent, but quite the reverse was true. Shrieking babies, smelly diapers, disrupted sleep, and distracted wives are trials and tribulations to any man, but to Frank they were—like everything else in his life—the last straw.

He became, in a word, worse. Susie restrained him I don’t know how often from doing some severe damage to a squalling infant, and as the children grew toward the age of reason Frank’s expressed attitude toward them was that their best move would be to find a way to become invisible. The children, of course, didn’t like him very much, but then who did?

Last Christmas was when it started. Junior was six then, and Linda Joyce five, and Stewart four, so all were old enough to have heard of Santa Claus and still young enough to believe in him. Along around October, when the Christmas season was beginning, Frank began to use Santa Claus’ displeasure as a weapon to keep the children “in line,” his phrase for keeping them mute and immobile and terrified. Many parents, of course, try to enforce obedience the same way: “If you’re bad, Santa Claus won’t bring you any presents.” Which, all things considered, is a negative and passive sort of punishment, wishy-washy in comparison with fire and brimstone and such. In the old days, Santa Claus would treat bad children more scornfully, leaving a lump of coal in their stockings in lieu of presents, but I suppose the Depression helped to change that. There are times and situations when a lump of coal is nothing to sneer at.

In any case, an absence of presents was too weak a punishment for Frank’s purposes, so last Christmastime he invented Nackles.

Who is Nackles? Nackles is to Santa Claus what Satan is to God, what Ahriman is to Ahura Mazda, what the North Wind is to the South Wind. Nackles is the new Evil.

I think Frank really enjoyed creating Nackles; he gave so much thought to the details of him. According to Frank, and as I remember it, this is Nackles: Very very tall and very very thin. Dressed all in black, with a gaunt gray face and deep black eyes. He travels through an intricate series of tunnels under the earth, in a black chariot on rails, pulled by an octet of dead-white goats.

And what does Nackles do? Nackles lives on the flesh of little boys and girls. (This is what Frank was telling his children; can you believe it?) Nackles roams back and forth under the earth, in his dark tunnels darker than subway tunnels, pulled by the eight dead-white goats, and he searches for little boys and girls to stuff into his big black sack and carry away and eat. But Santa Claus won’t let him have the good boys and girls. Santa Claus is stronger than Nackles, and keeps a protective shield around little children, so Nackles can’t get at them.

But when little children are bad, it hurts Santa Claus, and weakens the shield Santa Claus has placed around them, and if they keep on being bad pretty soon there’s no shield left at all, and on Christmas Eve instead of Santa Claus coming out of the sky with his bag of presents Nackles comes up out of the ground with his bag of emptiness, and stuffs the bad children in, and whisks them away to his dark tunnels and the eight dead-white goats.

Frank was proud of his invention, actually proud of it. He not only used Nackles to threaten his children every time they had the temerity to come within range of his vision, he also spread the story around to others. He told me, and his neighbors, and people in bars, and people he went to see in his job as an insurance salesman. I don’t know how many people he told about Nackles, though I would guess it was well over a hundred. And there’s more than one Frank in this world; he told me from time to time of a client or neighbor or bar-crony who had heard the story of Nackles and then said, “By God, that’s great. That’s what I’ve been needing, to keep my brats in line.”

Thus Nackles was created, and thus Nackles was promulgated. And would any of the unfortunate children thus introduced to Nackles believe in this Evil Being any less than they believed in Santa Claus? Of course not.

This all happened, as I say, last Christmastime. Frank invented Nackles, used him to further intimidate the children and spread the story of him to everyone he met. On Christmas Day last year I’m sure there was more than one child who was relieved and somewhat surprised to awaken the same as usual, in his own trundle bed, and to find the presents downstairs beneath the tree, proving that Nackles had been kept away yet another year.

Nackles lay dormant, so far as Frank was concerned, from December 25th of last year until this October. Then, with the sights and sounds of Christmas again in the land, back came Nackles, as fresh and vicious as ever. “Don’t expect me to stop him!” Frank would shout. “When he comes up out of the ground the night before Christmas to carry you away in his bag, don’t expect any help from me!

It was worse this year than last. Frank wasn’t doing as well financially as he’d expected, and then early in November Susie discovered she was pregnant again, and what with one thing and another Frank was headed for a real peak of ill-temper. He screamed at the children constantly, and the name of Nackles was never far from his tongue.

Susie did what she could to counteract Frank’s bad influence, but he wouldn’t let her do much. All through November and December he was home more and more of the time, because the Christmas season is the wrong time to sell insurance anyway and also because he was hating the job more every day and thus giving it less of his time. The more he hated the job, the worse his temper became, and the more he drank, and the worse his limp got, and the louder were his shouts, and the more violent his references to Nackles. It just built and built and built, and reached its crescendo on Christmas Eve, when some small or imagined infraction of one of the children—Stewart, I think—resulted in Frank’s pulling all the Christmas presents from all the closets and stowing them all in the car to be taken back to the stores, because this Christmas for sure it wouldn’t be Santa Claus who would be visiting this house, it would be Nackles.

By the time Susie got the children to bed, everyone in the house was a nervous wreck. The children were too frightened to sleep, and Susie herself was too unnerved to be of much help in soothing them. Frank, who had taken to drinking at home lately, had locked himself in the bedroom with a bottle.

It was nearly eleven o’clock before Susie got the children all quieted down, and then she went out to the car and brought all the presents back in and arranged them under the tree. Then, not wanting to see or hear her husband any more that night—he was like a big spoiled child throwing a tantrum—she herself went to sleep on the living room sofa.

Frank Junior awoke her in the morning, crying, “Look, Mama! Nackles didn’t come, he didn’t come!” And pointed to the presents she’d placed under the tree.

The other two children came down shortly after, and Susie and the youngsters sat on the floor and opened the presents, enjoying themselves as much as possible, but still with restraint. There were none of the usual squeals of childish pleasure; no one wanted Daddy to come storming downstairs in one of his rages. So the children contented themselves with ear-to-ear smiles and whispered exclamations, and after a while Susie made breakfast, and the day carried along as pleasantly as could be expected under the circumstances.

It was a little after twelve that Susie began to worry about Frank’s non-appearance. She braved herself to go up and knock on the locked door and call his name, but she got no answer, not even the expected snarl, so just around one o’clock she called me and I hurried on over. I rapped smartly on the bedroom door, got no answer, and finally I threatened to break the door in if Frank didn’t open up. When I still got no answer, break the door in I did.

And Frank, of course, was gone.

The police say he ran away, deserted his family, primarily because of Susie’s fourth pregnancy. They say he went out the window and dropped to the backyard, so Susie wouldn’t see him and try to stop him. And they say he didn’t take the car because he was afraid Susie would hear him start the engine.

That all sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? Yet I just can’t believe Frank would walk out on Susie without a lot of shouting about it first. Nor that he would leave his car, which he was fonder of than his wife and children.

But what’s the alternative? There’s only one I can think of: Nackles.

I would rather not believe that. I would rather not believe that Frank, in inventing Nackles and spreading word of him, made him real. I would rather not believe that Nackles actually did visit my sister’s house on Christmas Eve.

But did he? If so, he couldn’t have carried off any of the children, for a more subdued and better behaved trio of youngsters you won’t find anywhere. But Nackles, being brand-new and never having had a meal before, would need somebody. Somebody to whom he was real, somebody not protected by the shield of Santa Claus. And, as I say, Frank was drinking that night. Alcohol makes the brain believe in the existence of all sorts of things. Also, Frank was a spoiled child if there ever was one.

There’s no question but that Frank Junior and Linda Joyce and Stewart believe in Nackles. And Frank spread the gospel of Nackles to others, some of whom spread it to their own children. And some of whom will spread the new Evil to other parents. And ours is a mobile society, with families constantly being transferred by Daddy’s company from one end of the country to another, so how long can it be before Nackles is a power not only in this one city, but all across the nation?

I don’t know if Nackles exists, or will exist. All I know for sure is that there’s suddenly a new meaning in the lyric of that popular Christmas song. You know the one I mean:

You’d better watch out.

"Passenger tossed after flipping out over staff’s ‘Merry Christmas’"

The grumpy passenger, who appeared to be traveling alone, barked at the woman, “You shouldn’t say that because not everyone celebrates Christmas.”
The agent replied, “Well, what should I say then?”

“Don’t say, ‘Merry Christmas!’ ” the man shouted before brushing past her.

Once on the plane, he was warmly greeted by a flight attendant who also wished him a “merry Christmas.” That was the last straw.

via Drudge

N. Korea whirlpool

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Mrs. Brown's Boys Christmas 2013 Bucking Mammy

Good times, good times. Mrs. Brown is a bit sweary.

The show is written and produced by Brendan O'Carroll who plays the title character. Other characters are real life family and friends. It depicts an Irish family along the lines of the American show All in the Family. Recorded in front of live audience, production jokes and mistakes are edited in for broadcast. Produced by BBC Scotland the show was panned by critics but has become a ratings success in Ireland and Britain and is gaining all over the place including Australia and Canada. On YouTube this video has 1,300,000+ views where Americans ask, "Where are the jokes?"

And that is funny.

Soon it will be Christmas day

Men With Tools

He owned a beat-up Toyota minivan,  The body was shot, but mechanically it was otherwise okay.  Then someone told him about an abandoned Cessna aircraft at a junkyard.  No engines,  far too many hours to be rebuilt and made airworthy.

An empty garage, a lot of tools, and some very talented friends and.....a street-worthy Cessna.

He drives it around town when the weather is good;  to the gas station, the drive-thru, the store, and so forth.

What better way to celebrate the birth of Christ

than with a Planned Parenthood s'more?

Asks Doug Powers at The Powers That Be.

Doug is commenting on a Planned Parenthood promotional s'more kit. The maker is offering a $5.00 donation to PP for each photo of a s'more promotional packet using #PPsmoresupport but as of the writing there is only one photo at the hashtag, the one Twitchy posted. Although there are other social media photos, there are none with the hashtag, so no donations at the time of writing.

Somebody thought it was cute. And Christmas season brings out their cuteness.

It looks like their cute little twisted effort failed if not backfired.

Twitchy has more s'more.  It is where I nicked the source pic.

To answer Doug as to what better way, tender conversations with family and friends centering around common areas of interest. Exchanges of gifts that communicate the importance of people to you. Expressions of love and affection, by phone, by card, by messenger pigeon, what have you. That's what. The season is another chance to find your real inner character and allow it to surface. It is an opportunity to be sweet and to be generous especially if you have a bit of trouble with that sort of thing throughout the year. Better to have that spirit surfaced all year, but here is your chance to pull it off officially without unfounded fear of being considered a flake.

I received a card from a sister-in-law who never does write, never calls, never emails that said simply "I love you" and it means the world to me.

I does.

Because sometimes I have my doubts. Conversely, I discovered a simple thing as packets of seeds can bring a person to tears. Surprising. But true. That is what is better than a Planned Parenthood promotional s'moor kit.

Doug says those people are mentally ill and I agree with him. There is something quite wrong with them that I am unqualified to diagnose.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Who's The Man?

Love her.

Here's more.

Can't Stop the Cavalry

Sony Backtracks, Will Now Release The Interview

"The plan is to release the film simultaneously in participating theaters and via video on demand. The Plaza Theater in Atlanta, the MX Theaters in St. Louis and the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Austin have now said they will distribute the film. The MX said it would be selling tickets as of 2 p.m Tuesday."
“We have never given up on releasing ‘The Interview’ and we’re excited our movie will be in a number of theaters on Christmas Day,” said Michael Lynton, chairman and CEO of Sony Entertainment. “At the same time, we are continuing our efforts to secure more platforms and more theaters so that this movie reaches the largest possible audience.

“I want to thank our talent on ‘The Interview’ and our employees, who have worked tirelessly through the many challenges we have all faced over the last month. While we hope this is only the first step of the film’s release, we are proud to make it available to the public and to have stood up to those who attempted to suppress free speech.”
James Franco & Seth Rogen

Nephews are home from school all week

Saturday Morning, behind the Swimming Center

Yesterday at the local park, all to ourselves 
Saturday morning after Swimming Lesson

"Open-Air urinals to be screened after public criticism"

"I'm not very enthused with the design but we have decided to add additional screens around them so that they are more acceptable to the public," he (Councillor Lex Bell) said.

"That's a response to public feedback, but also we're not opening them now until midnight.

"Residents have been saying that they find it offensive to see someone toileting because you can still see the heads and legs of people.

"There's also been the problem of some ladies using them, and they're not designed for ladies."

However, he said it was less of a problem for women as they mostly used toilets in a nightclub before they left the premises.

IRS, busted

Daily Caller (a site with a hyperkinetic JAVA script writer with a disrespect for its readers)
Via Instapundit.

Daily Caller has obtained an advanced copy of House Oversight and Government Reform Committee report that demonstrates malicious intent by IRS to improperly block conservative groups that they termed "icky."

Eight senior leaders in a position to prevent the targeting are identified. The report cites six major points in the report. Half we already knew but now the report says they have proof.

Here is a condensed summary:

1) They admit to spinning the issue
2) Stephen Miller almost told the truth but Nikole Flax instructed him not to.

That name is new to me. To the tower!

3) IRS definitely used a different standard on conservative groups.

Well, duh.

4) Lois Lerner expressed frustration with having to approve a lot of groups. Her colleagues assured her she wouldn't have to.

5) IRS sought outside advisor for ways to deny tax-exempt status to conservatives.

6) An email shows the IRS sought to use a new "gift tax" to target nonprofit political groups.

Monday, December 22, 2014


"These wonderful things are the things we remember all through our lives"
That recording is 50 years old and still I never tire of it. I associate it with those great Firestone and Goodyear Christmas albums from the 1960's that my parents would play on the console stereo this time of year. Plus there's something about the singers' chemistry and counter-melody duet.

Gormé was quite a looker in her day:

She passed away just last year. Her husband, Steve Lawrence, wrote:
Eydie has been my partner on stage and in my life for more than 55 years. I fell in love with her the moment I saw her and even more the first time I heard her sing. While my personal loss is unimaginable, the world has lost one of the greatest pop vocalists of all time. Link

Joe Cocker, RIP

Joe Cocker passed away today.  He was 70 and had lung cancer.  Rest in Peace, Joe.  You had a great run.

Here's my Joe Cocker story.  The day I almost met Joe Cocker. Almost.

Trout fishing is romantic?

No wait. What? 

I never thought of that.

Now that I'm thinking about it, I suppose that it is.

I don't know why we visited the man who lived in the little red caboose that had been transformed into a tiny house and positioned on a spot near Aspen airport. I hardly recall who I was with. I think we were teens and I think there were were four of us. But I could be wrong about that, it was a very long time ago. Around the time of my first apartment. We were visiting one of our group's friends. 

The red caboose guy was busy at the moment of our visit doing something very odd indeed -- tying his own fishing flies. At the time I knew nothing of trout. I had no idea how delicious they are. I had no concept of how easy they are to prepare. I did not know that they have no scales. I did not know how wonderfully crispy their skin fries. Nor how their entire skeleton can be lifted off in one piece from filets as you see the cartoon cats hold up as a delicacy while plying the back ally as a French waiter with a towel draped over one arm and garbage bin lid as a tray of fine dining tidbits. 

The man was thin and rough in appearances. He had a kit, a tackle box of materials containing hooks of various sizes, wires of differing colors and materials from metal to nylon and polyester, feathers of different kinds, bits of fuzz. A small vice was clamped to the tiny kitchen table that held a hook and he cut off segments of feathers. I sat opposite him at the table and observed  him at work wrapping coils of wire around the feathers onto the hook, then pushed it all back and continued wiring other fuzzy things onto the hook, then tying it off, and finally  trimming  the feathers to produce an ersatz fly or larval bug of some sort. It looked nothing at all like a real insect, and I didn't imagine it would when it was wet. He appeared to know what he was doing and well practiced. He made about seven flies without any variation.  Apparently something to fake out the fish into taking it for something else that is edible to fish. His considerations were imagining what the fish would be eating that time of year. He imagined what the fish  would unhesitatingly be going for that day.

His intention was to score his own dinner.

We followed as he rode in his truck to nearby Roaring Fork River, so close it was almost his own back yard and hardly a need for a truck at all. He took up a position between trees among reeds on the bank and cast upstream. His line floated. The current carried his line down the river. He pulled it back without reeling it in and recast upriver. His line floated with the current again. He cast again and again and again. 


That was my impression of fly-fishing. Boring as hell. The fish, trout specifically, were not biting those endless minutes I observed. He said, "It is just a matter of time."

Apparently he was certain the river actually does contain fish. But I would not know that by what I observed. We departed with him still standing there fishing having caught nothing at all. 

The whole episode left me flat. It killed my teenage interest in fly-fishing.

I did ask a few questions. Have you caught fish here before? How big were they? How many do you usually catch. What will be dinner if you don't catch any? Does your line ever get caught up in the trees? Does your hook get caught on hidden logs? How many of your flies do you go through in a day?  Do you lose any? Doesn't that piss you off? Do the fish ever swallow the whole thing? Do they ever get stuck in rocks? Do you ever catch fish you don't want? Must you have a license for this? Do you need a new license each year? Do the park people challenge you? Do you ever forget it at home? What happens if you don't have your license with you? Are the fines high?  How long can the fish keep in your creel before they go off? Do you ever get a fish with another fish inside it?  Do you clean your fish right here? Don't fish like to eat other things? Do they only eat the insect that is happening right now? Are fish really this single-minded seasonally? Don't they enjoy variation in their diet. Do you ever change flies? How do you know which fly to use? Why is your hook so small? Why don't you use a regular fishing line?  Where is your net? Why does the string  have to float? How do you know where to cast? How do you know where the fish like to hang out? Does that change by the time of day? What if it rains? 

He was satisfied to see us leave, to see me leave,  while he stood there and continued fishing in solitude. 

In the vehicle driving off, as passenger looking over my shoulder and seeing him standing there alone with his quiet activity all by himself without anyone to talk to, no music or anything, with his back to us, I suppose that is somewhat a romantic sight. But not romance in the usual sense. Yes, I suppose there is something romantic about fly fishing. Even if you do not catch any trout. But it would be a whole lot better, I think,  if you did. And that is why, after all that,  I do not understand why fishermen throw them back in. 

"Bratton: Tensions in NYC like 1970s"

Who would’ve ever thought déjà vu all over again, that we would be back where we were 40-some-odd years ago,” Bratton said in an interview on NBC’s “Today.”
When asked whether he had seen such tensions or divide before, Bratton replied, “1970, when I first came into policing, my first 10 years were around this type of tension.”

“… It’s quite apparent, quite obvious, that the targeting of these two police officers was a direct spinoff of this issue of these demonstrations,” the police chief said.

“Many issues of the 1970s are now revisiting us once again. And once again at the forefront of dealing with those will be America’s police forces,” Bratton said at a police promotion ceremony on Friday

He continued, “While the focal point has been on policing, and now growing to the rest of the criminal justice system, the issues are not just about us, or the criminal justice system. They are societal issues, societal issues that were very evident in the 1970s which we thought we addressed but quite clearly, for so many, in this city and this country, have not been addressed.”

“We’re in a change moment,” Bratton said. “The idea is to take out of this crises, find opportunity to move it forward and I think that can happen … We will seize on this tragedy, we’ll seize on all these issues and we’ll move forward.”
Via Drudge


I was shopping tonight at Trader Joe's and a cover version of that song came on. I held down the record button on my iPhone voice recorder and held it up to the speaker long enough to make a note. I forget whose version it was -- everybody has covered it -- even Bob Dylan tried to "uncover" it.

The song, originally the B-side of "White Christmas," was written in 1942 as a nod to soldiers who couldn't be home, but, more universally, to anyone who wanted to be home.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

bûche de nöel

Yule log cake. I made this in February so mine is called bûche de février, and that breaks the rules.

There are no rules.

The log is a rolled genoise type cake made of flour and sugar and salt folded into warmed beaten egg white for its structure. A plain sponge cake designed to soak up liquid flavors. That takes a bit of technique that I did not understand at the time. Here is a video. It is in French, but eh, so what. He shows you his mise en place, and that is easy enough. He forgoes beating egg white separately, rather, he beats whole egg over moderate heat to lighten the whole thing and warm to the touch. This is to strengthen the egg as an incomplete sauce. Then beats it for a long time until it changes color to pale. For a very long time, say five or seven minutes. Maybe even ten minutes. It will double in bulk. Then folds in the dry ingredients. You can see he does the fast careless way for he does not care. He is an insouciant chef #idon'tcare.

When baked It puffs like a soufflé.

For a bûche, a log, you need a large thin rectangular cake baked on a sheet pan. So, that must be carefully prepared first with parchment paper, butter and flour so it can be lifted without damage. It is rolled with the parchment still on. Cooled a bit in the shape of a roll. then carefully unrolled and frosted and rolled up again.

I did not do all that, for I too do not care. I used a box cake mix and prepared frosting. What a cop out. It is not the real deal, and in France you will be mocked for such a pathetic effort as if you know nothing important at all.

Then little mushrooms made from meringue in two parts, caps and stems glued together with frosting or ganache and set all around and stuck onto the log, as if mushrooms exist outside in winter. This is a fairy tale cake where such things can happen. Scraped with a fork to suggest bark. Dusted with powdered sugar for snow. I used cocoa powder because my snow is quite dirty. There used to be high pollution where I live and it is a form of silent protest.

People put holly and holly berries, pinecones, pine needles and other things to evoke the idea of an actual log, Sometimes they become quite ridiculous with cookies, and fruit, and jellies chocolate curls, candy, candy canes, train sets, elves and presents and ribbons and bows, wreathes, woodland creatures and other holiday things improbable to find on a log. Even chocolate signs in exquisite handwriting that say, "Merry Christmas!" Or, "Happy Holidays!" Or "Joyeux Nöel." So there is no chance of being faked out and your cake tossed onto the fireplace fire mistaken for a genuine log.

But now people in France and in French Canada have become jaded about the whole thing but not burnt out entirely on bûche de nöel so their cakes have developed a more elegant style. And there goes all the kiddy holiday fun that started it off. Now they are coated with smooth ganache, or made to look like cushions with buttons of silver dot nonpareilles, so-called because they are so perfect that nothing parallels them. Sprinkles. Kiddy sprinkles. Sometimes they have layers of crunchy wafers inside. These are highly stylized logs, not fantasy logs.

Doesn't this look like fun? 

It is not fun. It is serious business. But your kids will not know that. They will have fun. Lots and lots of fun being silly with cakes and spending time with you because that is the most important thing to them in the whole world, and then eating it. 

Annie Lennox

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.

I love the strength of her sustains and the powerful clarity of Lennox's phrasing. I love the steady progression of the music and its breaks. I love the corresponding power of her walk, and the progression of the parade of people in the video. I adore the oddness of costuming. The charm of Lennox's multiple characters. The humility of kneeling to angels that appear in the sky, the silliness of the angels halo, the theatrical-medieval sepia, the antique haze, the overlapping fades, dissolves, double, triple, quadruple montage of the whole pastiche, the children throwing snowballs, and the ridiculous wickerwork Father Christmas, the fire and stereoscope flip book. I love it all through and through. This is so ace. I play it all year. It totally gets me.

Mad as a brush. Lennox is a true professional musician and I love her. I do. I think she's even atheist I'm not sure. She said on the radio she was raised with carols that she loved. I think it is just music to her, and that makes me love the song, the video and her even more. There is no maudlin piety. It is just music and theater. That's all. And what music! There is a live version introduced by George Stephanopoulos that is every bit as good even without the video that so arrests my attention, and with stronger instruments and choir. On stage she is wearing a black t-shirt with text that reads oddly: "hiv positive" under her black jacket pinned with a looped red ribbon.  Did I mention she is quite mad? I hope you like this as much as I do, both the song and the video.

The whole album is great, A Christmas Cornucopia

The largest vessel the world has ever seen

A nos freres d'armes Americains

A French soldier shared daily life with two American Army units. He tells his story to a French newspaper. Here is the translation. It is impressive, to say the least of it. 

This is seen on Ace of Spades, overnight open thread 12/20/14

Mayor de Blasio passing through a corridor for a press conference on shooting of two NYC police officers

In the distant past when I cared to socialize in crowded places, weekend patio bars, cocktail parties, what have you, busy places I'd go to see and be seen, met up with friends, encounter new ones, stand shoulder to shoulder, this was a technique I picked up. A simple quarter turn to shut off unwanted conversation or snip undesired attention and engagement .Everybody is drinking, everybody is talking anyway. Not even a full reversal,is necessary a mere shift in posture does the trick. 

It seems de Blasio burned one bridge too many. Apparently MoveOn,org (yes, that thing is still around) started a petition asking for de Blasio's resignation and the petition already has 21,000 signatures. 

I heard, I heard it here a smatter of fact, they always do eat their own. But who would have thought so quickly?

[The gunman, Ismaayil Brinsley, said on Twitter, "I'm putting wings on pigs today. They take one of ours, Let's take two of theirs." Then shot two officers then shot himself. It is believed he also shot his previous girlfriend earlier in the day. But apparently did not kill her. That is two for two. Honestly nothing else can be expected when community organizer is elevated to national community disrupter. Yes, this is programed community agitation on a national scale. Al Sharpton's 80+ White House visits says so. #failed philosophy #failed math]

Winter Solstice 2014

The photo is a near perfect disequilibrium. Imagine the border as a cell wall or impermeable membrane which blocks the mixing and spread of enlightenment. There is an unnatural driving force -- almost like a concentration gradient -- the question is whether lightness or darkness will spread. History knows both.
solstice Look up solstice at
mid-13c., from O.Fr. solstice, from L. solstitium "point at which the sun seems to stand still," from sol "sun" (see sol) + pp. stem of sistere "to come to a stop, make stand still" (see assist).  
The etymology of solstice captures a 13th century optical illusion, when people still thought that the sun moved across the sky each day. It traced a bit higher each day in the summer until the end of June when it appeared to stop and reverse course, tracing lower each day until the end of December when it again stood still and then headed back up. Of course the whole reversible motion is a continuous process, but imagine being the first to figure how things all really worked: eppur si muove