Tuesday, July 28, 2015

I'm Sure I'm The Very Last Person On Earth To Post This Image...




...Of black police officer Leroy Smith coming to the assistance of an elderly white supremacist overcome by the heat at the hate rally.  It just makes me smile, that's all.   It's not quite as uplifting as this one...


...showing Keshia Thomas protecting a white man with a Confederate flag on his t-shirt, Albert McKeel Jr., from being beaten up at a KKK rally in Ann Arbor.  Before she intervened, the scene looked like this: 



...So it looks as if she got there just in time.  (At the instant this photo was taken I was sitting in class 2 stories above them.  College memories!)

But the Leroy Smith one is good, very good, because he's a black police officer living and working under the administration of our first black president, serving and protecting even though the person he is serving at this moment happens to hate his guts for irrational reasons.  That's showin' 'em.

The Bad News About The "New Horizons" Mission...



...is simply that the probe, having taken a gander at Pluto, is going nowhere near Eris, the most interesting Kuiper Belt Object, if you ask me -- and I know you didn't ask.

This link includes visuals (scroll down to check out the groovy rotating solar system credited to Alex Parker) that show where New Horizons is going to go from here.  Eris is one of the three white spots picked out in that graphic, and here you can see a still of the same graphic, this time with Eris labeled.  The new ruling planet of Libra is something like 90 degrees away from Pluto in the sky and way, way off the path of the New Horizon.  (And standing out quite some distance from the main throughway of the Kuiper Belt, I notice.  Never in the mainstream is Eris.)

It strikes me for the first time that this highly-successful budget mission to Pluto may have something to do with Vladimir Putin stirring things up in Ukraine.  ARE WE FEELING A LITTLE THREATENED, VLAD?  Far be it from NASA to sow discord between the East and the West...chuckle!

(And this was a budget mission, believe me.  The Bush administration repeatedly tried to defund the whole deal, not just New Horizons but NASA itself.  The NASA budget has slipped from 4.3% of the federal budget to 0.5% today, and New Horizons cost "only" $720 million American -- the cost, I am told, of three F-35 fighter jets.  So I have to say this effort was not too shabby.)



Saturday, July 25, 2015

And On A Similar Note...



Just look at that smile!

Thought For The Day



And for some people, this is really all it takes. 

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Can I Impose Some Order On The Chaos For A Minute Here?


This flag is certainly a familar sight lately.  My Ohio contacts tell me, for instance, that since the call went up to take this flag down for good, in the wake of the Emanuel AME Church massacre, they're seeing more than twice as many Confederate flags flying around greater Cleveland, with the words "HERITAGE NOT HATE" added.

Can these people be serious?

Item:  If the Confederate flag is part of the American heritage, it's about our heritage OF hate.  It's hard to believe that in a country full of people who like to dress up in Civil War uniforms and re-enact one of our bloodiest wars, known for its disproportionate casualty rate and the historic turning of brother against brother, that anyone here cannot know that.  Are you all stupid or what?

Item:  Ohio was not one of the Confederate States, people.  Did you really not know that?

Item: Anyone who thinks that the Confederate flag is about our American heritage, let me set you straight right now.  It's not.  That flag flew proudly over the people who seriously planned to break away from the Union and start their own country.  Why?  Because they wanted to go on making easy money on the backs of their slaves, many of whom were their own children, sex partners and siblings.  The Confederacy was not American.  It was anti-American.  In more ways than you can shake a stick at.  

Item:  Even if the Confederacy had been a part of the American heritage at one time, which I don't believe for the reasons stated above, it's now dead.  And that's the best thing to happen to this country since the Louisiana Purchase.

Just a reminder.  This is the flag we rally around now:


And that's a good thing.


Our Government At Work



This one is always going to give me a smile.  Says here in my news magazine that the Inspector General recently discovered that from 2008 to 2013, in attempting to get back 128 million dollars in overpayments, the Social Security Administration spent 323 million dollars, but only recouped 109 million of the dollars they sent out by mistake. 
 
This means they had a net loss of 214 million simoleons.  Most of it was what you can call "throwing good money after bad."
 
Normally I hate math, but this equation is delicious.

Is This In The Natural Order Of Things?



...Well, the LATEST NUMBERS ARE IN, and there are now more than 25 women accusing Bill Cosby of rape.  Cosby's believers and defenders are HEADING FOR THE HILLS.  Why?  Well, setting aside the fact that there are more credible accusers than you can shake a stick at, it seems Cosby himself admitted under oath that at some point he was trying to get hold of sedatives to use on women he wanted to get sex from. 

And those believers and defenders are reeling from what seems like the HUGE CONTRADICTION that a guy this child-friendly, fatherly, harmless-seeming and funny could also be a serial sex offender.

IS IT A CONTRADICTION AT ALL?  Throughout most of human history, men with power have put together stables of women. The more they can afford, the more women they collect.  Those who can't collect women in an aboveboard manner -- for whatever reason -- get them by other means.  All kinds of other means.

Item:   Read the Book of Genesis, which has more than a few plural marriages, and I don't mean women with a lot of husbands.  One of the matchmaking methods you can read about in there involves wiping out an entire village, killing the men, married women and children, and keeping the unmarried girls as unwilling wives or just sex slaves.  I once listened in astonishment as a Born-Again explained to me that it was perfectly all right for the desert tribes to do this because the victims of the genocide "were not of Yahweh."  'Kay, it must be true if you say so, asshole.

Item:  We are all descended from the family of Great Apes.  With the exception of the Gibbons, who are more distant relatives and a pair-bonding species (meaning they mate with one partner for life), all of us -- Gorillas, Chimps, Bonobos, and Homo sap. -- are hardwired to practice polygamy.  The Greek word polygamy means "many wives."  The silverback, the one with the most status, gets almost all the females for himself in a typical Gorilla village.  The other male Gorillas -- who want status as much as anyone else there -- are constantly scheming and competing with the silverback, and with each other, to get some for themselves.  Plus ├ža change, eh?

Item: Did you know the real reason the Catholic Church instituted the rule about priests and nuns having to be celibate after 1139?  And why they upheld it on review in 1563?  (George Carlin called it the "no-nooky clause.")  They linked it to the fact that the Bible never specifically mentioned any wives or children hanging around Jesus or his apostles in the New Testament, but the plain fact is that the Vatican wasn't raking in enough money from their global monopoly on Christianity to support all the wives, mistresses, and children of their clergy.  Most of the clergy in those days were Italian, and it's a well-known Italian custom even today for men with clout to have at least one mistress on the side.  (Many of them were nuns, in fact.)  And in the 1100s, priests had almost as much clout as kings.  (I really wonder what became of all these families when the no-nooky clause came into play.  I assume they were grandfathered and only the new recruits were forbidden to have sex.)

Item:  One group that has never needed to stop having something on the side is royalty.  In England, right now as I type this, you automatically get to be in the government if you're a documented living descendant of the illicit union of the king and the upstairs maid from 10 generations back, and she bore him one of what Will Cuppy called "the royal bastards."  The living descendants get to be in the House of Lords.  I don't see anyone objecting to it.

Item: Osama bin Laden is a fairly well-known example of how a lot of people still build families in the Middle East.  He has 52 siblings, 5 wives and 25 children.  The kids -- Osama's sibs and his children after him -- share fathers, but have more than a few mothers between them.  In Saudi Arabia this is perfectly kosher and legal -- you should pardon the expression.  It says you can do it in the Q'ran, I hear.

Item: Moving from the Middle East to the Middle West, you'll find that the old tradition has not died out.  From deadbeat dads who have girlfriends and kids all over the place and support none of them, to wealthy serial monogamists who send their kids to exclusive prep schools while dating the au pair on the side, there are guys like this all over the USA.  Only a few of the creepier ones, like polygamist diaper-grabber Warren Jeffs, make the news.  And yet we react with surprise and outrage when a college fraternity makes a ritual out of getting sorority girls liquored up and gang-raping them.

...Which brings us back to Cosby.  Maybe he really doesn't see anything wrong with drugging a woman and raping her if he can't get her any other way.  Thousands of guys don't think it's wrong.  And some of those guys are positively brilliant, churchgoers, in very responsible jobs, running the government, and so on.  Bill Cosby himself has done some fine things for this country over the years -- chipping away at the racial divide and showing everyone that even -- gasp! -- an African-American man can be decent and upstanding.  This is exactly why everyone is acting so betrayed.  I just want to point out that one thing Cosby, a member of the species Homo sapiens and thus hardwired to want as many wives as he can get, can't legally have his own harem in the USA -- regardless of all his money, his huge fanbase and the respect he gets.  And drugging and raping women creates a harem not even the women involved are aware of, so as long as he gets away with it, everything's cool, right?

All I'm saying is that we need to get off the fence on this issue.  Is it OK or not OK for men to collect sexual conquests as part of their climb to positions of power and status?  Is it foolish to try to deny that we are polygamous by nature?  Are we -- should we be -- moving towards becoming a pair-bonding species?  We either need to reward all harem owners, reward only certain forms of harem-keeping (NOT the Cosby method, please), or seriously work to put a stop to it.  As it stands we are doing all three at once.

And where does Cosby really stand on what he's done?  You don't hide something if you think it's right, do you?  Maybe you just don't hide it if you think the neighbors will disapprove, huh?  See, that's the place we really need to drill if we want to strike oil.  The one solid form of social control afforded us by our Great Ape genes is this: we are all so, so worried about whether we look OK in other people's eyes. 

Item:  The only really severe method the Amish use for social control is called shunning.  If you break the rules badly enough, nobody in the Amish community will have anything to do with you.  Why is that all they do?  It's all they need to do.  There is some Order in what seems like the Chaos of daily American life.  This is one example of that.  While you have to sort of make friends with Chaos in order to get by, there are certain kinds of Chaos you do not need to be spreading around if you don't want Order to come by and kick your tail.  Bill Cosby is finding that out the hard way as I type this.  Whose side are you on, anyway?

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Welcome to Santa Barbara d'Oeste, Brazil...



...Where people in a rainbow of colors fly the Confederate flag and celebrate their heritage as post-Confederates. 

Yeah, THAT Confederacy and THAT Confederate flag, the one everyone has been arguing about -- more than ever, I should say -- since Dylann Roof gunned down 9 people (including a black Senator) in the Emmanuel AME church at a Bible study class.

Apparently, some years ago when the Confederacy was still extant, a group of secessionists SECEDED EVEN MORE from the United States and bought some land in Brazil from Emperor Dom Pedro II.  They proceeded to intermarry with the locals -- white ones, members of the local Indian tribes and the descendants of black slaves -- and carried on with their lives as if the race issues that drove them out of the US OF A never existed.  And TO THIS DAY they consider themselves to be proud descendants of the Confederacy, without knowing necessarily what the American Civil War was about.

Now, if everyone in the USA who flew a Confederate flag -- or had a bumper sticker, t-shirt, decal, or customized rifle stock with the Stars and Bars on it -- took this Brazilian attitude said it was about "Heritage, not hate," I might believe them.   But it just seems to me its been a while since I saw a black Amerindian Spanish speaker waving one of those flags in the USA.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

THE MAGIC CHRISTIAN



This remarkably Discordian 1969 film, with Peter Sellers, Ringo Starr, Raquel Welch, Roman Polanski, Laurence Harvey, Isabel Jeans, Christopher Lee, Hattie Jacques and Wilfrid Hyde-White -- among many, many others -- is one I hunted up recently and saw again after we lost Sir Christopher the other week. 

IT'S BEEN FAR TOO LONG.
 
PLOT SUMMARY:  Sir Guy Grand, a terribly wealthy Englishman (Sellers), is strolling in the park one day when he comes across a young man living rough in the heart of London (Starr).  He becomes fascinated with the homeless lad, earns his trust -- then whips him into a solicitor's office and adopts him that same day.  We never find out who he was before or how he came to be living in the park, but he is now Youngman Grand.  Sir Guy sets out to show him the ropes of his new life.  This consists of taking Youngman to all the places wealthy Englishmen go to fill their time.  YOU KNOW THE DRILL.  They go to Sotheby's to look at the artworks up for auction.  They shoot some pheasant.  They attend a race on the Thames between England's top rowing teams, Oxford and Cambridge.  They watch Cruft's on telly.  Youngman and his dad attend a top-level meeting of the executives at Grand and Son, the conglomerate owned by Sir Guy. ALL THAT ROT.  And then, the real adventure -- they book passage on The Magic Christian, a brand-new, ultra-luxe cruise ship whose maiden voyage promises to be the social event of the season!!! 
 
If this sounds like a bunch of boring-a$$ Chauncey Uppercrust B.S., well, NO IT ISN'T.  This story is set in a world where nothing goes as expected, and that's often true because of Guy Grand himself.  This is a man on a mission, wanting to see how much he can GUM UP THE WORKS with his most powerful weapon:


I WON'T SPOIL THE STORY FOR YOU.  Suffice to say that Sir Guy does a GREAT job of COMFORTING THE AFFLICTED -- as when he freaks out a steam-cart vendor by paying for a hot dog, which costs ninepence, with a five-pound note.  When the man complains that he doesn't have that much change, Sir Guy hands him a tenner as well, and just then the train Guy is leaning out of starts to pull out of the station, leaving the hotdog vendor shrieking in frustration...But 15 pounds richer.  He does an even better job of AFFLICTING THE COMFORTABLE, for instance after a brief conversation with the Cambridge rowing team...But that's a long story.
 
By the time they board The Magic Christian, all of London is truly upset, but the fun is just beginning as the fabulous new cruiseliner gets underway.  Move over, S.S. Poseidon.  Here's one of my very favorite scenes:

 
Here's the question I never get answered, no matter how many times I see it:  how much of the mayhem is orchestrated by Sir Guy?  How much of it is just a typical day in the life for London?  Will we ever know?

One thing I do know is that Clovis Sangrail would be very, very impressed with Sir Guy.

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Eris Ephemeris Selection!






I, personally, feel a little more secure if I know what she's up to.
 
I came across the ephemerides (linked in the first sentence of this entry) while looking for the names of the two planets I spotted out my bedroom window last night, so perfectly in conjunction that it looked as if the larger, brighter one were giving a piggyback ride to the smaller, paler one.  I assumed it must be Venus and Mars or Mercury -- how often do you see any of the others?  -- but it looks as if I must have seen Venus and Jupiter. 
 
Can you imagine giving a piggyback ride to Jupiter? 
 
I gather that when Venus and Jupiter are conjunct, great things happen.  Love and mind-blowing good luck collide.  How bad can that be?
 
Meanwhile, in a position in the sky that is trined to the Venus conjunction (in Leo), Eris is in conjunction with Uranus (in Aries).  Chaos and controversy are colliding with shock and alternative lifestyles.  That can only refer to this week's SCOTUS decisions making gay marriage legal anywhere in the backward, bigoted USA, close on the heels of the similar legalization of gay marriage -- by referendum this time -- in Ireland, one of the most conservative countries in Europe.
 
And they say astrology doesn't work!