Important Notice

Special captions are available for the humor-impaired.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tempest 1982

I am lending this movie to a friend so I couldn't help but watch a bit of it for the umpteenth time. Sorry for the poor quality of this clip but that's all that's available on YouTube. Tempest by Paul Mazursky. I wrote about this once before.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Winter that Wasn't

I’m not complaining or anything but it looks like we may not get anything approaching a winter here in Valencia. The daytime highs have often been above 20° and lows are mostly above 10. I simply have no excuses to ignore my bike. Sometimes when I leave the house for a ride I feel a little under-dressed but after about ten minutes I warm up and after another 30 minutes or so I’m ready to unzip my top and let some air in. This is spectacular weather for cycling and the only thing keeping me off my bike is my work schedule. I have managed to fit a ride in at least 4 days a week so far this year which is great news for January. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Anti-Nutritionist Speaks

This essay sort of spun out of control and was supposed to be a recipe for the lentil soup I made this afternoon.

Lentils are about the cheapest thing you can eat and among the healthiest.  A one kilo bag of lentils here in Valencia costs about 1€ and that cooks up enough for about ten people.  Granted, you need to add something to the lentils to make them more appealing  but nothing much more than a couple of onions, some garlic, a few potatoes, and any a bit of meat for flavoring. I’ve heard from many people that lentils should always be cooked with potatoes but I haven’t been able to find anything to back up this assertion.  These legumes are a great source of protein deriving 30% of their calories in the form of protein. Lentils help to reduce blood cholesterol since they contains high levels of soluble fiber. That’s about all I will ever say about the health value of food because I think that most of what people claim about food just isn't true.

I was thinking about what a friend of mine said recently about people’s eating habits. He studies nutrition and his contention is that if people had smaller refrigerators they would eat better because they would eat more fresh food and less processed garbage. I was in the supermarket last night standing in the check-out aisle behind a couple who had an absolute enormous amount of food in their shopping cart. The push cart was overflowing with stuff. I shop 4-5 days a week so I barely buy enough to fill the little hand baskets at the market. What I took note of last night is that the more food people buy at one time the unhealthier their food is. This couple was loading up on processed and frozen food that I almost never eat. Because they are trying to stock up for the next 5-7 days what they are buying isn’t as healthy as fresh foods that you have to buy with more frequency.

Vegetarians and vegans almost always make exaggerated and sometimes outrageous claims about the health benefits of their diets. Just what this is based on is never mentioned. I suspect that many of these people going on about how “healthy” their diet is are the same folks who dabble in astrology or tarot cards or other anti-science horseshit.  These people are also the type to go on and on about “cleansing” and detoxifying the body and fasting and dieting to effect this result. If I’m not mistaken the human body already has a cleansing technique that seems to accomplish this task. It’s called taking a dump. Maybe the vegans should try this before venturing out on a whacky detox diet.   

I don’t claim to know the first thing about nutrition. All I have in the way of credentials is my own experience as an extremely healthy 50 something adult male. I’m almost never sick and have never needed the care of a doctor unless it was to fix something that I broke.  I get a cold or the flu maybe once every 3-4 years, if that. If you don’t believe me ask anyone who knows me.  I’ve never been on a diet and basically eat whatever I feel like eating but I make almost everything myself.  I eat fresh fruit every day, a banana and something else but almost always a banana. Bananas are easy to eat. I try to eat the banana at the same time every day, sometime in the early morning.  I’d say that I get a lot of exercise mostly through cycling and pull-ups and push-ups. I go through phases in which I will do 1,000 push-ups 3-4 days a week.  I don’t have a car and all of my transportation is effected by bike or on foot.  It’s not like I hold myself up as some sort of fitness ideal but I feel great every morning when I wake up (without a hangover).

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Whole Enchilada or Shit Rolls Downhill

One thing American conservatives know how to do is circle the wagons and fight to the bitter end. They do this on every one of their talking points, most of which are completely moronic and serve mostly to broaden the constituency, not because the folks at the top who pull the strings really care about such issues.  The ruling class among the Republicans doesn’t care about things like guns or abortion or prayer or “family values” or whatever phony stupidity the bulk of their party goes on and on about.  Rich people have always and will always have access to safe abortions. All Roe vs. Wade did was to give this opportunity to people of lesser means. If a rich person needs an abortion all they need do is hand their doctor a load of cash and have him do it. The hyper-rich don’t care about personal firearms; they have their own security apparatus to protect them.  These ridiculous tenets of the party and many others are simply fictions of the party to make working class slobs feel like they have a stake in Republicans politics.

More and more we are seeing that to gain membership into the conservative club you have to bite down hard on each and every one of the pillars in their platform.  They believe that any sort of gun control is tyranny; global climate change is a hoax; all abortion is a crime against god; all government except the military is bad; taxes are tyranny; anyone who cares about the environment is an extremist; and countless other insane postures that they repeat often and loudly which makes them true. Conservatives actually have propaganda mills that churn out on a daily basis the filth that you hear repeated by conservatives as if it is the truth handed down by their god.  Places with faux academic names like the American Enterprise Institute, the Heritage Foundation, The Discovery Institute, and many more intellectually bankrupt centers that begin with a conclusion and work backward to find shreds of evidence—usually false—to back up their loopy narratives.  It’s repulsive that these places are often referred to as “think tanks” because “fiction tanks” would be a better name.

Once the daily proclamations are regurgitated from the fiction tanks they are picked up by the far-right media outlets. Fox News starts beating the drum as soon as they rip the memo off the fax machine and they harp on it until they receive something else to rant about. That’s what they do; they repeat the conservative talking points for the day and they attack their adversaries with any half-wit strategy that comes to their mind. If what they report turns out to be a fiction they don’t apologize, they don’t offer a retraction, they simply move on to the next bit of propaganda they were served.

On the second rung from the bottom of the conservative cycle of bullshit are the bloggers, a mostly insane group of fanatics who have nothing better to do than sit around every day and spew vitriol about the vile liberals. My advice to these crazies is to take a day off. Go for a walk. Get some exercise. Try writing about something besides politics at least once in a while. Instead, they keep at it day after day, year after year taping out their twisted ideas for America, like Jack Nicholson’s demented character in the shining typing the words “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” over and over again in what was the most frightening display of psychosis ever depicted on film. These right-wing political bloggers bring to mind the ancient Christian scribes in the total devotion and religious fervor they bring to their rather tedious duty. The scribes toiled without questioning their work in much the same manner as today’s bloggers except they also did so without the Pringles® and Pepsi® that comfort the right-wing pundits.

Below the bloggers (and quite possibly below everything else in the food chain) are those who comment on the conservative blogs and posts dear to conservatives.  I always say that the level of discourse couldn’t get any lower until the next round of arguments come in and I see that the level has dropped precipitously.  The current right-wing rhetoric about gun control seems to have unleashed the worst in people and has brought out the most vile, racist, and violent discourse I’ve ever read in modern America.  Every half-wit conservative who doesn’t know the difference between “then” and “than” has all of a sudden become a constitutional scholar specializing in those few words that make up the Second Amendment.  Evidently our founding fathers meant that amendment to mean that our government has no right to limit in any way the sale of arms of any kind. Period.  By the logic of conservatives and the child killing lobby known as the National Rifle Association it would be OK for someone to set up an assault weapons and ammunition stand like a cotton candy booth but without the pesky regulations the cotton candy people suffer through. 

Facebook is another vehicle for the right-wing’s relentless attack on common sense.  One central theme of conservatives is that business owners (job creators) are somehow better citizens than the rest of us.  In one particularly repugnant article making the rounds a business owner decided to fire his employees who voted for Obama (he identified them by their Obama bumper stickers) because he said that Obama was bad for business and if these people wanted change he would give it to them. Of course this person is yet another fiction but the fact that this had any sort of positive resonance with people is disturbing.  My response to this anecdote is to say that if this is the way this guy conducts his business it’s no wonder he is losing money.

The strategy of the Right is to control what is being discussed. The next thing is simply to repeat something enough times so that it seems like the truth to their acolytes. “Ronald Reagan was the greatest president in history.” “Bill Clinton is a criminal.” “Iraq is our enemy.” These all must be true. The next thing is to allow no dissension among the rank and file. Even if some bit of bullshit they threw out as news comes back at them they stick to their guns. On global climate change conservatives have had to tread a little more softly because there is simply an avalanche of science pointing in the opposite direction but they don’t admit they are wrong; they simply change their opinion a bit. First they denied any sort of climate change at all, and then they said that it wasn’t from man’s activity on the planet. Conservatives have never admitted that the war in Iraq was a horrible mistake; they simply moved on to the next fiction in their propaganda arsenal.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Breaking News: Lance Armstrong is a Huge Piece of Shit

I was reading about how Lance and Oprah got together to work out the details of his interview.  Oprah has a house in Hawaii and so does Lance, although on a different island. You see, this is the difference in the new America, the rich and obscenely rich will always be rich. Not only will Lance Armstrong not go to jail after breaking more laws than would fill a criminal code book, but he will always be wealthy. Just like all of the assholes on Wall Street who robbed this nation blind. None of them were even charged with a crime, and they sure as shit aren’t about to give up any of the loot they stole.

This is what you get when you build a nation in which a handful of individuals control a vast disproportion of the wealth. Not only have we built individuals and institutions that are too big to fail, but they are also too big for jail. If only all of the wretched slobs languishing in American prisons had simply figured out a way to be too big to get locked up. That should be a lesson to anyone selling stupidly small amounts of illegal drugs: think big!

Next on Lance’s list of sins is whether or not he is an asshole. I would have to put my vote firmly on Yes. I remember after he won his second Tour de France he stood on the podium in Paris with his newborn son in his arms showing the world what a fabulous human being he was: a father, a husband to his wife who stood by him, and a top athlete. Six months later he was fucking Cheryl Crow—so much for the father and husband part of Lance’s mythology. It would take a few years and better drug tests to topple his status as athlete.  Armstrong’s intimidation of critics is like something out of The Sopranos and certainly qualifies him for asshole status and should probably rate him a jail cell.

As far as Lance’s doping itself goes, the matter is an open and shut case. He used illegal drugs and he violated the terms of his contract with his team’s sponsor, The United States Postal Service. He spent over a decade lying his ass off at every opportunity and he slandered the name of anyone who challenged the fiction he had created about his achievements.  He lied under oath. He lied to all of his fans. He is a huge piece of shit in my book, but so what? He’s too big to go to jail and he will always be rich. Lesson learned.

Another question we need to get from the avalanche of doping scandals that run through many professional and amateur sports is about the health effects these drugs have on users. Part of the plea bargain for these convicted athletes is that they should have to submit to tests to determine exactly what these drugs have done and will do to their bodies.  Do these drugs adversely affect their health? 

Sorry Lance, your crocodile tears and your “admission of guilt” are way too late. He's like a rat caught in a cage. What else can he do but make an attempt to come clean and redeem himself, at least a little? And why should anyone believe him now? If we know one thing about the abilities of Lance Armstrong, it's that he is a fantastic liar. He's one of the best. He is the seven time world champion liar. A liar like Lance comes along once, maybe twice in a generation. They should give him a prize.

In the end he will simply go back home, to his second or third home in Hawaii and wherever the hell else he has a mansion while the rest of us suckers wake up tomorrow, go to work, and try to do the right thing even if it isn’t very profitable.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Kindergarten: Failure is Definitely an Option

Mrs. G. recalls it as "the darkest year of my life." She cried all the time. She had trouble speaking in complete sentences. She lost 15 pounds. One of her friends remembers fearing that the stylish blond mother of two, and owner of both an Upper East Side apartment and a Long Island beachfront home, was suicidal.

A child stricken with cancer? The collapse of her husband's business? The death of a beloved parent? Menopause? No, the darkest year of Mrs. G.'s life came the year her son was rejected from kindergarten.

-Kay S. Hymowitz, City Journal

It’s time to start looking for a school for your little overachiever. Not meaning to point out the obvious but you really should have started the search a lot earlier. You screwed around with things like nurturing and now there are only two years before kindergarten. Most responsible parents these days start filling out applications to competitive schools once they get a sonogram or as soon as the paper turns blue on the pregnancy test. For truly forward-thinking parents life begins with the pre-conception bottle of champagne.  The finer beverage shops now have pre-school registration forms at the counter next to the condoms.

It isn’t overstating the case to say that you may have destroyed any chance whatsoever for your child to have a meaningful life the way that is defined in your neurotic social circle.   If your kid doesn’t get into the right kindergarten you may as well send them to a lunch lady training academy, at least according to the popular wisdom of the over-privileged heaped upon you 24 hours a day. And forget about a public school. If that’s your plan you should consider changing your baby’s name from Wilson to Spartacus.

If after all of your considerable efforts you only manage to get your child into a second-tier kindergarten there is no need to panic. All you have to do is put that child up for adoption, learn from this mistake, and start over with another baby. If you have become too “attached” to this child to relinquish it, you may consider keeping it on as an employee in some domestic capacity, say as a maid or gardener. Let’s be honest with one another, even though your second choice of kindergarten costs $35,000 a year plus supplies, the only thing your child will be fit for in life will be manual labor, politics, crime, or teacher at a highly-exclusive pre-school academy.

If this whole process seems too daunting, too much of a crap shoot, there is another option available to would-be parents. Instead of the traditional process of having a child of your own, scratching and clawing to get junior into a succession of ever more expensive schools which may or may not culminate in producing an offspring you would be proud to call your own, then there is a new service available to qualified parents (i.e. wealthy). At My Kid Is Better than Yours Adoption Agency you can chose from an array of accomplished adults. You can pick and choose among the adoptees who are licensed professionals from leading universities, or even professional athletes (all of our candidates have at least a .350 average, and that’s in the American League!). Shouting out “My son, the doctor” to no one in particular has never been easier.

At a cost of only $500,000, the My Kid Is Better than Yours adoption process will save you a fortune over raising your own captain of industry or World Series ring-holder from scratch. The price may seem a bit high but, by skipping their actual childhood, you’ll save at least that much by not having to buy hundreds of little metal cars. The bond between you and your adopted kid will be so authentic that your adult child won’t want anything to do with you, just like in traditional families.

A lot of you are probably thinking about the possibility that your hyper-successful progeny could turn out to be a complete criminal, and by that you mean convicted. It’s hard to believe but many extremely successful people in our society don’t rate very high as human beings. For those parents who wish to eliminate any possibility of risk regarding their offspring we offer a new service. When you choose Only the Good Die Young Adoption Agency there are no surprises. Our creative writing staff will painstakingly fabricate the perfect child for you, working backwards from the tearful New York Times obituary, to a remarkable career, to a childhood that filled you with pride and the neighbors with envy. Everyone knows that the tragic demise of a promising youth trumps any other parent’s boring story about their little go-getter urchin.

Imagine having a child who doesn’t drag your good name through the mud with a sex scandal or drug issues. Can you put a price tag on that sort of peace of mind? We have and if you have to ask you can’t afford it. Or perhaps your kid may actually flourish in public school?