Friday, March 06, 2015

Pornography + Time = Art (2)

Here's another Venus -- she was a popular girl back in the day -- this one called The Birth of Venus, by Sandro Sandro Botticelli.

Or, as she is probably equally well known, Venus on the Half Shell.

This is another masterpiece from the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. And yes, I put my naked eyes all over this one as well.

As I've said,  Blogger has announced that as of March 23, all blogs containing "images and videos that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity" will be banned.

While they do say they will "still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit. For example, in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts", that's some cold comfort -- it's not at all clear whether that ban will or will not include this picture. For example, if I call this "pornography" (which I clearly imply), does that remove the "artistic context" so that it will be banned and my blog taken down?

Only time will tell... And yes, I am trying to push the envelope here.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

The Revenge of the Hippies...

Speaking of Hippies, no less an authority than Mr. Duck Dynasty himself, Phil Robertson says that over 100 million Americans are infected with an STD, and it's all the fault of those god damn Hippies:

There is a penalty to be paid for what the beatniks, who morphed into the hippies [did]. You say what do you call the hundred and ten million people who have sexually transmitted illnesses? It's the revenge of the hippies! Sex drugs and rock and roll have come back to haunt us.
Yeah, Phil. You look like the perfect spokesman for the anti-Hippie movement. Go find a 14 15-year-old to screw before she gets used up -- "ruined" -- and isn't fit for anything except using a hand washboard to clean that skanky beard of yours.

The Death of Hitchhiking

Used to be, way back when, that one of the most efficiently economical, if not speedy, ways to get from point A to point B was to hitchhike. Despite such stories as that of Billy Cook (who did kill a couple who were kind enough to give him a ride on US 66) and a ton of urban legends that told of drivers being murdered by psychopathic or ghost hitchhikers (the "no good deed goes unpunished" school of thought), hitchhiking was a viable transportation alternative in the US starting in the Great Depression and continuing through the mid-1970s.

It was helped along by the likes of Jack Kerouac, whose On the Road was not only the so-called (by the sensationalistic-even-then media but no one else) "Bible of the Beat Generation" but a seminal influence on the thinking and behavior of the "flower children" of the late 1960s. All that despite the fact that even a casual reading of On the Road will reveal that Jack Kerouac did surprisingly very little hitchhiking in that book.

This alternative form of travel reached its zenith with the rise of the Hippie Movement, when any "long-haired freak" (i.e., a Hippie) who wanted to go somewhere was virtually guaranteed of a ride, at least part of the way, by some other long-haired freak in a car. It was rare for someone to have to wait longer than an hour -- and often much less -- at a good freeway on-ramp before getting a ride.

There was an active "jungle drums" communication system between and among the hitchhikers as to what on-ramps were the best and which were to be avoided. Back then, a lot of states still had some very draconian laws against hitchhiking, but those laws were enforced differently in each state. Colorado had the most strict laws, and they were the most strictly enforced. A good friend of mine was trying to hitchhike out of Trinidad and got swept up by the cops, had to spend a night in jail and two hours the next morning at a "rescue mission" (where he had to sit through a lengthy and completely boring sermon) only to get for his sustenance a bean sandwich(!) and an onion, followed by a five-mile hike out of town before the cops finally turned back and he was able to snag a ride over the border to New Mexico.

I did my share of hitchhiking back in the day, and it was almost always an adventure. One time my buddy and I were at the very back end of a line of Hippies wanting rides from Sacramento to "the north" (Portland or Seattle) and a guy drove down the line asking people something and then driving on to the next person or group. I didn't know what he was up to, and I was ready to turn him down since everyone else had, but when he got to us he said he was going north, but he was going over to the coast road (Hwy 101) and then north, but only as far as Eureka. "Only?"

We took the ride, eventually landing in Arcata in time to socialize (i.e., "party down") with some Humboldt State students (even back then it was known as "Dope U") for a few days, and arrived in Portland a few days behind in a schedule that we didn't really have.

No, I didn't ever get picked up by that legendary car full of horny schoolteachers resulting in a Dear Penthouse Forum letter. Nor the solitary woman out to "get even" with her husband -- that's what bars were for, anyway...

But one thing I used to do all the time circa 1974, killing time at an on-ramp, was to write this graffiti on the backs of freeway on-ramp signs: "A man without a country is like a fish without a bicycle." That wasn't original with me by any means -- I cribbed it off the wall of a Hippie bar in the Bellingham WA suburb of Fairhaven -- but I do note with a modicum of anonymous pride that it was eventually picked up by Gloria Steinem and changed to "a woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle".

It was an extremely interesting and entertaining way to travel, as long as you didn't have an inflexible itinerary or a schedule, as long as you were willing to entertain the drivers that picked you up, and as long as you didn't have an over-inflated idea of how dangerous it was to hitchhike. The California Highway Patrol did a study, released in 1974, that indicated that hitchhikers were not disproportionately more likely to become crime victims than the general population. Other studies confirmed that as well.

So why did it stop? Nowadays you can drive from coast to coast, from border to border, and see maybe a single hitchhiker or two. I think it's because all the hippies grew older and got more fearful from watching Faux News, and everyone else -- the same people who wouldn't give you a ride back then -- still has the same "fuck you" attitude that they always had...

That and I think we are all more fearful in general than we were back in the day, when it was the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and love was all around, you know, all that stuff. I personally have not picked up a hitchhiker in years and likely will never do so again. It's probably still as non-dangerous as it ever was, but still... I'm older now and I've probably soaked up by osmosis some of that famous "good sense" that we all seemed to lack back then. (My father was famous for saying, about me, while shaking his head slowly back and forth, "that boy just ain't right in the head".)

In 2013, MSNBC did a story called What Killed Hitchhiking? that goes into it in some depth. As a guy named Phil Reed from says, "it was the demise of the '60s mentality of love and trust and the belief in community ... Hitchhiking hippies were replaced by hitchhiking ex-cons. Even I wouldn’t pick up a hitchhiker today."

And there you go.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Who Is Anti-Semitic?

It's an easy question to answer, but first you need to figure out who is "Semitic". It's likely not what you thought. Because of the Holocaust, most people think that Jews are the only Semites. They are not.

The word Semitic actually describes a bunch of different kinds of people, all based on their language. If your culture speaks a Semitic language, i.e., one that comes from something called the Proto-Semitic language, then you are a Semite. I hate to break the news to all of the dickwads on the right wing, but the speakers of those Semitic languages are: Akkadians (Assyrians and Babylonians), Ammonites, Amorites, Arameans, Chaldeans, Canaanites (including Hebrews/Israelites/Jews/Samaritans and Phoenicians/Carthaginians), Eblaites, Dilmunites, Edomites, Amalekites, Turukku, Ethiopian Semites, Hyksos, Nabateans, Maltese, Mandaeans, Mhallami, Moabites, Shebans, Meluhhans, Maganites, Ubarites, Sabians and Ugarites. And, most importantly, that list also includes ... dare I say it ... Arabs!

Which is why it is almost laughable to hear the wingnuttery describe Arabs who hate Israel as Anti-Semitic. These people think the 50 senators and the president who "boycotted" Babbly Nuttinyahoo's speech are anti-Semites.

Can you imagine that, our own pro-Arab crypto-Islamist openly-secretive -- did I mention pro-Arab? -- jihadi-in-chief, Barack Hussein Obama, an anti-Semite? A contradiction in terms if I've ever seen one.

Must-See Cinema: Citizenfour (2014)

Hey, kids, you wanna see something really scary?

By now everybody knows something about Edward Snowden -- wasn't he that traitor that sold out American secrets somebody?

Well, no, he was the guy who blew the whistle on NSA spying on, well, everybody!

Citizenfour is a documentary from filmmaker Laura Poitras that chronicles the Edward Snowden affair from the first tentative contact that he made with her all the way through to his exile in Russia. When you realize that the American government not only has the ability to spy on each and every digital communication not only here but worldwide, but actually does so, then you realize that any right to privacy that you thought you enjoyed was just an illusion.

Watch as The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald interviews Snowden in a hotel room in Hong Kong, where Snowden landed in hopes that the Chinese would not give him up to the US easily. The matter-of-fact approach that everyone seems to take to the NSA spying is in itself chilling.

Snowden was charged in absentia with four violations of the Espionage Act of 1917, which a rational person would think only applies to spies during wartime, passing information to the enemy, that sort of thing. Or, from the true intention of the Act, just being one of those adherents to a "foreign" ideology (i.e., Socialism, Communism).

If you thought that was all it covered you would be wrong. As a group of lawyers offering their services pro bono to Snowden take pains to point out, it's much broader than that -- anything the government says is "secret"  IS secret and you can be prosecuted for revealing it. Even if you can prove that the "secret" was unconstitutional and illegal. That is not a defense against prosecution and conviction.

So it's kind of a hollow reassurance to hear and see Obama in this movie say that Snowden should come home and face a "fair and impartial" prosecution by owning up to his "crimes"... Yeah, I wouldn't come back, either. The minute he sets foot on American soil -- or really anywhere within the reach of the long arm of American "justice" -- he'll be "disappeared" so fast that you wouldn't even know he was there. "Snowden? Snowden who?" will be the response if you have the temerity to ask. And then you will disappear as well.

Netflix doesn't have it yet, but they do have it listed so you can save it to your queue and watch it when it does come out on DVD. Of course the NSA will know that you have expressed an interest in it and you'll come up to the top of their "special list". Just as I'm sure I have for just recommending it.

Citizenfour won the Academy Award for Best Documentary at this year's Oscars. Of course the NSA knows how everyone voted, so don't be surprise if certain voting members of The Academy start mysteriously disappearing in the next few months...

Citizenfour on the IMDB.
The Snowden Saga: A Shadowland of Secrets and Light in the May 2014 issue of Vanity Fair.
NBC News Interview With Edward Snowden.

Tuesday, March 03, 2015

Exploitation Movies: The Cocaine Fiends/The Pace That Kills (1935)

The 1930s produced a cornucopia of grindhouse exploitation films (aka "sexploitation" movies), usually disguised as "educational" movies that were ostensible cautionary tales about one social problem or another.

Today we have The Cocaine Fiends, originally released under the title The Pace That Kills, another morality tale involving dope and at-risk youth (are there any other kind in these movies?).

Full movie:

Pretty but innocent (aren't they all?) Joan Bradford works at her mother's restaurant on a busy highway in the country. A traveling salesman/dope pusher stops by while he's on the lam from the cops and offers her a "headache powder". You can figure out right there where this is going, and it doesn't disappoint that expectation.

Joan falls in love with the guy and heads for the bright lights of the big city, keeps taking those headache powders, and eventually becomes Lil, a "gangster's moll". In the meantime, Joan's even-more-innocent younger brother is working as a carhop(!) at a drive-in restaurant (the iconic Twin Barrels in Los Angeles*) with a blonde girl co-worker who introduces him to some "pick-me-ups" in the form of that now infamous headache powder.

Things go along and we watch intercuts between the sad mother back in "the country", waiting in vain for a letter from her wayward children, and the brother and sister, each of whom is in the thrall of addiction independently of the other. Some stretched-out spiraling-the-drain stuff occurs, the brother's blonde girlfriend from the drive-in, looking especially haggard, becomes a streetwalker to supply his raging habit (now he's evidently shooting up), she eventually commits suicide after she gets pregnant and he says he never loved her, and finally there's a "surprising" plot twist at the end.

Oh, and a couple of people do end up happily ever after, a rich girl we see slumming at -- and kidnapped from -- the Dead Rat Cafe, who can't understand why she isn't acceptable in "society" (there's a reason for that, having to do with that plot twist) and her beau/watcher/protector, who is actually a lieutenant in charge of the vice squad who is working "undercover".

About the only high point here is that Dead Rat Cafe, situated on a sleazy non-descript alley in the "bad part of town". As we hear early on, when girls end up there it's the end of the road for them. But when we finally get to actually see inside the Dead Rat, it turns out that it is a swanky-looking nightclub with a live band and a floor show! Two of the floor-show singers actually get to sing, which kind of makes this a musical. Sadly, they aren't very good singers,which is, I presume, how they ended up in this dog of a movie.

The money shot: There isn't one. The sex is all implied, there's no nudity, and while there are plenty of drugs -- cocaine and opium -- we never see anyone actually using -- the camera would cut away to a reaction shot instead. The raciest thing about this movie is the original poster:

If, based on that poster, I'd gone to see this movie in a theater, I'd demand my money back.

Lessons learned: Don't take that first "headache powder" if someone offers it to you, not even a beautiful blonde, stay away from the city if you are from the country, and don't trust anybody...

Directed by: William A. O'Connor.

Also known as The Pace That Kills (original title).

More reading:
The Pace That Kills on the IMDB

* The Twin Barrels drive-in was legendary to the generation that came of age when "cruising" was a thing. For those not in the know, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, kids in hot-rod cars would spend a whole night cruising "the strip", from one drive-in to another, for no particular reason, other than to see and be seen and show off their cars. This social milieu was captured perfectly in the coming-of-age movie of my generation, American Graffiti.
Given its legendary status, it's kind of surprising that I couldn't find much on the Interwebs about the Twin Barrels except that matchbook cover.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Looking Into Putin's Soul?

I wonder how The Smirking Chimp (aka George "Dubya" Bush) feels now about that rash statement he made way back when, when he said about Vladimir Putin, "I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country."

It seems to me that you couldn't be more wrong about someone, even if you defended Joe Stalin by saying, I don't know, that he loved his daughter (for the record, she says he didn't).

So how does Dubya feel about that now? Is he willing to admit he was wrong?

You dreamer, of course not.

We have an answer to that very question from the wingnut media. Just as they always have, they are falling all over themselves to shore up the reputation of their Second Savior (the first being St. Ronald, bless-ed be his nayummmm).

According to the Daily Caller blog, Bush now "thinks" that Putin became "a different person".


It's not at all clear who Putin has become in Bush's "mind". Maybe Phil the Prince of Insufficient Light, since we are sure that W. would never be taken in by an actual Agent of Darkness.

Anyway, it just goes to show you that a con man is actually the easiest one to con (see for example, Magic in the Moonlight, the latest film from Woody Allen). Bush, with his True Believer personality, was eager to see into Putin's "soul", and all it took was a couple of throwaway lines about Putin's mother and the piece of the "one true cross" (or something like that) to convince Dubya that Putin was another "man of god". Like himself.

Speaking of Dubya, he came up in a Listverse post the other day, 10 Events We Can’t Figure Out From The Vietnam War, one of which deals with his "questionable behavior" during the Vietnam War. I have expounded at length on this over the years, so we don't need to go into all that now. You all know the special kind of contempt I feel for him. (Hint: It's because he and Cheney were "chickenhawks".)

I will say, however, that my contempt is tempered -- a little -- by the knowledge that he really couldn't help being so fucked up in the head, what with all that competing-but-always-falling-short relationship with his father and the faulty toilet-training from his mother (think about it). I mean, come on.

If I were just a little more charitable towards him, I'd cut him some slack.

But I am not, and I will never be. Not after 4,491 Americans and an unknown number of Iraqis (estimated as at least 174,000 and likely many more) died as the result of a who's-got-the-biggest-dick contest between him and his dad. I will NEVER forgive him for that.

However, go take a look at the comments section for that Listverse article and see all of the rabid foaming-at-the-mouth wingnuts who are STILL defending the fucker. If you read them all, you'll see that it deteriorates quickly into a "Did not!" "Nyahh, did too!" schoolyard scuffle. Clinton! Obama! Clinton! Obama!

Fuck 'em all. I'm right, they're wrong, and that's the end of that.

That said, I kind of miss the little fucker because I don't have George Bush to kick around any more. Except I do, as evidenced by this post... So there.

Monday Music Break: Quel Temps Fait-Il A Paris

From one of my favorite movies of all time, Mr. Hulot's Holiday:

This is also "must-see cinema". If you've never seen this hilarious movie -- or want to see the restored "director's cut" -- get it from Netflix -- it is available from various streaming locations, but you will want to see it in the best quality and the way director wanted you to see it. Be sure to look for the introduction by former Monty Python Terry Jones on the DVD as well.

Further exploration:

Sunday, March 01, 2015

An Optical Illusion That Is Truly Mind-Blowing

By now everyone has seen "The Dress" -- the famous ugly dress in San Francisco that seems to change colors depending on who is viewing it. See Debate Rages Over Color of Dress.

I am not at all convinced that this is a "real" thing -- I think it's a case of using PhotoShop to lighten or darken the color saturation in the photo and spreading out into a flurry of linkstorms on social media.

However, this is the real deal and it will blow your mind. Take a look at this picture:

See those squares with letters "A" and "B"? You are not going to believe it when I tell you that those squares they are on are exactly the same color. But go ahead, use a color picker of some kind in a graphics program and you'll find that both squares are a neutral gray with RGB factors of "R=120 G=120 B=120"; in Hexidecimal it's "#787878", on both squares. In other words, the SAME color.

The eyes are the easiest things to fool. Yet another reason why so-called "eyewitness testimony" is worth a lot less that we are told in court that it is.

Thanks to Color Wheels are wrong? How color vision actually works for this example.

Book of the Month: The Train to Crystal City

Everyone who was awake in history class (or who wasn't home-schooled) knows that in WWII the US government rounded up 120,000 ethnic Japanese -- both immigrants and American-born -- on the West Coast and shipped them off to a series of "relocation" (i.e., concentration) camps east of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountains.

The one camp that everyone seems to know about was situated at Manzanar, California, in the dry Owens Valley on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, below Mt. Whitney. This camp is so well known probably because of the 1973 book, Farewell to Manzanar, written by former internee Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston, which was made into a made-for-television movie of the same name in 1976. If you want to see it, it's a fairly easy three-hour drive from Los Angeles up the Owens Valley. There's not much left now.

The camps were established in remote locations from California to Idaho through Montana and Wyoming, from Nevada to Utah to Colorado, from Arizona through New Mexico to Texas, and some were scattered even farther away from the West Coast, including one in Bismarck ND.

But one of the most unique camps was built around a cluster of adobe shacks formerly used by Mexican farmworkers in the Rio Grande Valley just a few miles north of the Mexican border on the outskirts of a little town called Crystal City TX. That was a light and airy name for someplace so hot and flat and dusty that many inmates came down with lung diseases from just breathing the air, but the town did (and still does) claim the largest statue in the world of ... Popeye the Sailor (they grow a lot of spinach in Crystal City).

What isn't so well known is that in addition to the Japanese, a lot of Germans -- and some Italians -- who were suspected by the government of being potential foreign agents or just somehow "subversive" (based on such things as unverified reports from suspicious neighbors) were also sent to the camps in droves, driven out of such Midwest cities as Chicago, Milwaukee and Cleveland. Most of them ended up in Crystal City behind barbed wire. These were mostly German immigrants who had some connection to the Hitler government, no matter how tenuous that connection was -- sometimes all you needed was a family member back in Germany who worked for the Nazis. These were people who had been in the US for years and had families but who for one reason or another couldn't or didn't get US citizenship. Almost all of the their children had been born in the United States and were American citizens, but they were locked away as well.

Add in the Japanese internees -- once again mostly "suspicious" characters who had a family member back in Japan who was in the Japanese government; even someone whose brother was in a fairly low position as field translator from Chinese to Japanese was not safe.

After this sudden lockup in the concentration camp at Crystal City, many of them became so embittered at the US government that they leaped at a chance to be repatriated back to Germany or Japan at -- or near -- the end of the war. In most cases they were repatriated with less-than-ideal results, not only for the native parents, but especially for their American-born children.

The full story of this dark part of American history came alive to me as I read The Train to Crystal City: FDR's Secret Prisoner Exchange Program and America's Only Family Internment Camp During World War II by Jan Jarboe Russell

Based on years of research by a native Texan, which included tracking down and interviewing former camp inmates in the US, Japan and Germany, and poring over old newspapers and examining musty documents at state and national archives, this book illustrates profoundly this little-known event in American History.

There were a lot of things I had not known before I read this book. For example, several of the families were repatriated to their "home" countries, i.e., Germany and Japan, even before the end of the war. The Americans, along with the Germans and the Japanese, created a secret "prisoner exchange program" which traded, on a one-for-one basis, Americans held in Germany since the start of the war for German-ancestry people held in Crystal City. The "model camp" at Bergen-Belsen exchanged a bunch of Jewish internees for an equal number of Germans, which meant that families being repatriated, complete with their children, were whisked by train from Marseilles where their boat landed, up into Switzerland and there they changed trains and went on into Germany. This was in the spring of 1945, very near the end of the war. For the children especially the culture shock was overwhelming -- they had gone from the urban environs of major Midwest cities to the pastoral semi-arid desertlands of Texas and then straight into the wasted landscape of a losing war. There was no shelter, no food, no room for them to stay with relatives. They had nothing.

In the meantime the Jews who thought they were getting freedom and a trip to America instead got to go to Algeria, since even at this late stage, when the Nazi atrocities against Jews had already been well-documented, the nativist anti-immigration anti-Semites in the US State Department refused to allow them to board the boat to America.

Another surprise was that, at the start of the war, almost 900 ethnic Japanese had been grabbed up in Ecuador(!) at the request of the American government, taken to the United States and interned at Crystal City. The same thing happened to a lot of Germans, a few Italians, and many more Japanese in Latin America, spirited out of their countries and into the Crystal City camp because they were seen as potential saboteurs to the alliance the US was trying to make with Latin America -- a "Good Neighbor Policy" that even Walt Disney got into by releasing The Three Caballeros as a good-will gesture for our putative allies south of the border.

In case you've never seen The Three Caballeros, you can watch the trailer here:

The book is filled with heartbreaking details of families ripped asunder by the larger issues of the war. It will give you an incredible insight into how the camp came into being, how it was administered, how families survived even as they were being torn apart, and the horror, shock and fear experienced by the children who were "repatriated" to completely foreign countries, countries that had been wasted by five years of war, countries that for the most part didn't even want them and had no place for them.

I rate this book very highly -- it's especially ideal for WWII buffs, military historians, sociologists and even anthropologists. Hell, everybody will enjoy it reading it. Get  it, read it, you won't regret it.

Further Information:
  • Crystal City Internment Camp 1945 (from Dept of Justice documentary film):

Saturday, February 28, 2015

You Are What You Think You Are

The other day I kind of came out of the theocracy closet and admitted that I am an atheist. And while that is technically true, it also implies a certain level of emotional and/or psychological commitment to atheism that I don't really feel. That's why I prefer to think of myself as a "non-theist". While, as I say, it's technically true that I am atheist, the fact that I don't believe in god doesn't really enter in to my own perceptions of the "me" that I am, or my "world view".

This is clear to me but surprisingly hard to convey. The atheists I know who proudly and loudly proclaim that fact seem to be committed to an almost missionary zeal about it, and I just don't feel that way. This lack of belief of mine is beyond agnostic ("wishy-washy-can't-committer") but it isn't "other-directed". It's just as aspect of my character, like having a sense of humor or having thinning dark curly hair or brown eyes or believing that all Republicans are evil or being an outrageous flirt.

A very good friend of mine is a Christian...but she is on the branch of Christianity that you never hear about in the media, the Religious Left. She takes seriously the Jesus of the Bible who was all about loving your neighbor, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, visiting those in prison. She does all those things. The people on the Religious Right, as far as I know, absolutely do not. do these actions. Instead they hate their neighbors (the ones who don't look like them), cut food stamp and welfare payments and the only prisons they think about are the ones they can still all the "criminal lawbreakers" in. As Gandhi said, "I like your Christ; your Christians...uh, not so much"

You are the sum of your parts, in this case your beliefs, and I am solidly Liberal in my thoughts and deeds. But even I am not perfect. With all of the leftwing beliefs that I have, I am perfectly comfortable owning several guns. I don't think there's anything wrong with responsible gun owners having firearms. The problem, though, is all of the irresponsible people who also have them. You know, like pretty much everyone in the NRA, and those who believe that the solution to school shootings is to arm all the teachers. It's like Archie Bunker once said on All in the Family, when interviewed about a skyjacking: "Arm all the passengers. Some guy jumps up wit' a gun, he got 50 pointing back at him. Problem solved."

If you are like me and own guns in what some try to paint as a hypocritical defiance of your beliefs and your liberal ideals, you don't have to feel bad, feel guilty, or hide your guns away from being seen. Don't want to give up your guns for politics? You don't have to. There's an organization calling itself Democratic Gun Owners Association of America which is aimed at Democrats who own guns responsibly and works against the stupid excesses of the NRA.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Pornography + Time = Art

For those of you who were home-schooled and are therefore deficient in art history -- especially this kind -- that is the Venus of Urbino by the great Renaissance painter Titian.

No less an art authority than Mark Twain himself called this painting, "the foulest, the vilest, the obscenest picture the world possesses." Tongue fully in cheek, I presume...

I have actually seen this painting, with my own naked eyes, in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

Yeah, I know: Place dropper.

BTW, Blogger says that as of March 23, all blogs containing "images and videos that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity" will be banned.

While they do say they will "still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit. For example, in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts", that's some cold comfort -- it's not at all clear whether that ban will or will not include this picture. My first question is this: How will they know?

Stay tuned...

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Christianists Fight Back With "Bigotry Map"

The American Family Association has apparently hired a web-programming whiz kid of about 12 to come up with something they are calling their Bigotry Map, where they identify "anti-Christian" groups by geographical location. There's a "slick" zoomable map complete with little symbols to show what threats to Christianity exist in various locations. These threats are conveniently broken out into easily-digestible categories for you: Homosexual Agenda, Anti-Christian, Atheist and Humanist.

It turns out, though, that their whiz kid is also a plagiarist -- their map is a blatant copy of the Hate Map created by the Southern Poverty Law Center which shows the locations of various Hate Groups in the US.

I am proud to say that if you zoom in on the State of Washington, you'll see me represented, with the symbol for Anti-Christian, defined as "Actively engages in the complete eradication of the Christian faith from society, government and private commerce. These groups file lawsuits and use intimidation to silence any reference to Christianity from the public square."

I'm not identified by name, but I am the chapter leader of the local branch of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which the AFA has designated as being on their "enemies list" -- they might as well call us a "terrorist organization". The funny thing, though, is that AU is not anti-religious, but rather pro-First Amendment. In fact, the executive director of AU, Barry Lynn, is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ, but as we already know, the UCC is "not really Christian"...

You can read more about this "informative" map at Fuzzy Map: Religious Right Group Accuses Americans United And Its Allies Of Being A Bevy Of Bigots on the AU site

I actually feel a little slighted, since I am also a supporter of what they dismissively call "The Homosexual Agenda" as well as being a Humanist and a card-carrying atheist -- or I would be if we actually had cards.... I don't actually belong to the Freedom from Religion Foundation, but I do support their agenda, so that means that of the "enemy organizations" identified on their front page, I've got four out of four.

So when the Religious Right finally wins in their long struggle to establish their theocracy in this country, it's likely I will be on the first train to the concentration "re-education" camp. But I trust that I will see many of my literally dozens of readers there...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

More on Bill O'Reilly, the Serial Liar

Over at Wonkette you will see the story that goes with this mostly-unrelated picture:

Jeez, it turns out that our friend BillO was an earwitness to history. He was on his way to interview the strange George De Mohrenschildt, a shadowy figure connected to the assassination of JFK through his odd friendship with putative assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.

According to BillO's own words, he was on De Mohrenschildt's front porch when George blew his own brains out with a shotgun rather than provide testimony to the House Select Committee on Assassinations in 1977.

There's just one little problem with that narrative. BillO was in Dallas at the time, a fact verified by numerous sources more credible than the Official Faux News Bully-in-Chief.

Wonkette calls it Ace Reporter Bill O’Reilly Killed Lee Harvey Oswald, Ran Area 51, Co-Piloted Amelia Earhart’s Plane on the Glassy-Eyed Knoll.

Is Bill Orally the Jack Crabb of the 20th Century?

I hate to jump on the heap with all this piling-on abuse of Poor BillO -- I know I should probably feel bad for fanning the flames, but come on. It's Bill O'Reilly!!!

BTW that picture is one of my favorite mockup Photoshop photos of all time, one that the Dead Kennedys should have grabbed for an album cover.

The Demise of "Niggardly"

According to, the word "niggardly" is defined thusly:

  1. reluctant to give or spend; stingy; miserly.
  2. meanly or ungenerously small or scanty: -- "a niggardly tip to a waiter".
  3. in the manner of a niggard.
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, its etymology is thus:
niggard (n.) "mean person, miser," late 14c., nygart, of uncertain origin. The suffix suggests French origin (see -ard), but the root word is possibly from earlier nig "stingy" (c.1300), perhaps from a Scandinavian source related to Old Norse hnøggr "stingy," from Proto-Germanic *khnauwjaz (source of Swedish njugg "close, careful," German genau "precise, exact"), and to Old English hneaw "stingy, niggardly," which did not survive in Middle English.

Because it is so close in pronunciation -- or in hearing at least -- to the notorious "n-word", it has pretty much fallen out of polite conversation. I am language scholar enough to realize that words fall out of our vocabulary all the time. The "ruth" in "ruthless" for example, was in use just a hundred years ago or so. It's still a word that exists, but it might as well not since no one uses it except as the first part of its negative, ruthless. The "gruntled" in disgruntled is another that exists only in its negative. When was the last time you heard of anyone who was "gruntled" except in the form of some semi-clever wordplay?

All languages change and grow over time. New words are added, old words are cast aside and fall out. I really can't get exercised over the loss of "niggardly" -- if it is routinely heard by black people as a racist term, it ought to be retired.

Once I had a black woman on my staff come up to me completely pissed, livid, that our computer geek had used the word in her presence. I think I handled it pretty well, given the circumstances. I led her over to the office dictionary and together we looked it up, she found that there was nothing racist about it, neither in the word itself nor in its etymology. And that pretty much defused the situation, but it was a signal to me to watch my own language for these kinds of accidental racisms, words which are in context not racist at all but that sound racist to a hearer who was already attuned from birth to routinely hear the "N-word" coming out of a white person's mouth.

So it is good bye to "niggardly". It is, in fact, still a perfectly usable word, but it freights too much unintentional baggage to be used in a conversation. Probably not in written communications, either.

And it is of course even worse with the base of the word, "niggard", a noun for someone who is niggardly. That is even more likely to be misheard and misinterpreted.

Must-See Cinema: The Exiles (1961)

In 1956 USC film student Kent MacKenzie shot a short film documenting the impending displacement of pensioners from the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles, which was slated for "urban renewal", i.e., the destruction of ramshackle apartment buildings and down-at-the heels Victorian houses to make way for "progress" -- banks, office buildings and eventually the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

MacKenzie was so taken with the area and its residents that he returned two years later to film The Exiles, a full-length documentary look at the Native American residents of Bunker Hill, who were in a kind of exile from their tribes and reservation homelands. It took three years of filming and editing to produce this film. It took so long to document what is, on screen, just one night in the lives of his subjects that several of the principle characters were no longer around by the end, and the film had to be re-edited accordingly -- a couple of characters we meet early on have just disappeared by the end of the movie. In reality, they had gone to prison, a fate that has befallen so many "Indians" who are in exile from their homes.

The Exiles is one of those glimpses into a life that no longer exists. It's sad to think that, even by the time the film was released, it's likely that most of these buildings had already been flattened and the residents displaced.

You will recognize Bunker Hill when you see it. The Angel's Flight funicular railway and the 2nd Street Tunnel are both iconic landmarks in many Hollywood movies of the 40s and 50s and later. Television, too.

I first saw this in one of those film classes that I took in college ("Documenting Urban America" or something like that). I loved the movie, and I had almost given up hope of ever seeing it again.

But ... Fast forward to the DVD revolution and the advent of Netflix. It's now available on DVD from Netflix. The disk also includes as a bonus MacKenzie's student film, Bunker Hill (referenced above).

More reading:
· The Exiles on the IMDB.
· Angel's Flight Railway in movies and television (IMDB).
· 2nd Street Tunnel in movies and television (IMDB).