Fred and Ginger….and a cow.

June 29, 2012 at 1:38 pm (By Ron)

I know I promised Karen Let’s Face The Music and Dance for the big drama of it all, but I remember Fred’s cow reference near the beginning here…and I hope you find it funny!

I’ll Be Hard To Handle from Roberta

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A picture in need of a caption

June 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm (Icepick)

Below is a picture of my bob-tailed cat, Tribbles. Clearly it needs a caption but I have no idea what it should be.

I keep thinking it ought to be something with a Harryhausen theme….

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May as well write the inevitable post …

June 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm (Icepick)

… about the Supreme Court ruling today.

So, the SCOTUS has ruled that PPACA (ObamaCare) is legal in almost every particular. Specifically, they ruled that the individual mandate is legal because it is a tax. They ruled against the individual mandate on Commerce Clause grounds, but since it is a tax that doesn’t matter. Simplified (probably overly so)*, Congress cannot make you buy health insurance under the Commerce Clause. However, they CAN tax the living hell out of you and let the IRS ream you until you die of sepsis unless you do – just so long as they call the penalty a tax.

Thus they say it is constitutional. Or rather, five of them say it is. The deciding vote was not Kennedy, but Roberts. It should not come as a surprise that a man appointed by a President who believed in ever-expanding powers of government in general (and of the Presidency in particular) ruled in favor of ever-expanding government intervention. The surprise is that Alito did NOT so rule. No doubt the Bush Family is disappointed in Alito, but you will recall that he was not their first choice for that position. And once again Bush pulls ahead of Obama in the race for the title of Worst President Ever.

Some are making a case that this is a partial victory for conservative leaning folks, as Roberts’ opinion limits Congress’s powers with regards to use of the Commerce Clause and spending powers. But that is grasping at straws and also bullshit. What Roberts’ sophistry does is show Congress how to enact almost anything without having to go looking for the authority somewhere in the Constitution. Just follow Roberts’ reasoning in this decision, and there won’t even be any point in taking the matter to court.

I have seen in argued that The People will limit Congress in this matter, as The People hate new taxes. The only problem with that is that The People had the wool pulled over their eyes this time, and there is no reason to think The People will be any less stupid the next time around.

At this point in time, Congress can now force Americans to do anything they can pass through Congress (just call the penalty for NOT doing the thing a tax, and sick IRS agents on anyone that doesn’t comply), and the President now has the power to assassinate American citizens anywhere at his whim, with no recourse for the doomed.

We owe a collective apology, much belated, to the ghost of George III.

* Via Althouse, more about the case:

In III-B, Roberts tells us that we need to shift from thinking about the individual mandate “as ordering individuals to buy insurance, but rather as imposing a tax on those who do not buy that product.”

The quotes indicate Roberts wording in the opinion. So I didn’t oversimplify at all.

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Bath Salts ruled out. Zombie Apocalypse, the Munchies and Voodoo still possibilities.

June 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm (Icepick) (, )

Back on June 1st I blogged about a series of cannibal attacks here there and everywhere. The first attack to hit the news had been the highly disturbing (even by cannibalism story standards) attack by Rudy Eugene upon a homeless man on a causeway in Miami. At the time bath salts, the latest drug du jour, had caused Eugene to strip off his clothes, attack another human being and eat that person’s face.

Today the toxicology results from the autopsy on Eugenewere released to the public.

The much-anticipated toxicology report released by Miami-Dade Medical Examiner Dr. Bruce Hyma found marijuana in Eugene’s system, something CBS4 News had previously reported, but no evidence of  any other street drugs, alcohol or prescription drugs, or any adulterants found in street drugs.

The report said this includes cocaine, LSD, amphetamines (Ecstasy, Meth and others), phencyclidine (PCP or Angel Dust), heroin, oxycodone, Xanax, synthetic marijuana (Spice), and many other similar compounds.

Hyma’s office specifically ruled out bath salts, a class of synthetic drugs that have been known to cause bizarre behavior and overheating of people who use them, two things that made some believe Eugene’s cannibalistic behavior could be blamed on the drugs.

So bath salts have been ruled out.

The remaining possibilities are not comforting. He could be Patient Zero for the outbreak of the Zombie Apocalypse. This, of course, is completely absurd.

Or perhaps Eugene had the worst case of the munchies ever. This is also absurd, as I’ve never heard of marijuana inducing straight-up zombie behavior before.

Voodoo is another possibility. The Miami Herald interviewed Eugene’s girlfriend and she offered voodoo as an explanation.

The man being depicted by the media as a “face eater” or a “monster” is not the man she knew, she said. He smoked marijuana often, though had recently said he wanted to quit, but he didn’t use stronger recreational drugs and even refused to take over-the-counter medication for simple ailments like headaches, she said. He was sweet and well-mannered, she said.

Eugene’s girlfriend has her own theory on what happened that day. She believes Eugene was drugged unknowingly. The only other explanation, she said, was supernatural — that someone put a Vodou curse on him. The girlfriend, who unlike Eugene is not Haitian, said she has never believed in Vodou, until now.

“I don’t know how else to explain this,” she said.

Faced with horror, the unbelievable becomes possible for those left behind. Personally I don’t believe in mysticism, so Voodoo as magic doesn’t convince me.

However, Voodoo does have its own rights and practices and herbal trreatments. I can believe that Eugene was dosed with some drug, maybe scopolamine or something similar, that wouldn’t show up on standard toxicology reports. Perhaps the labs didn’t look for the correct drug, and not looking they didn’t find the incriminating drug.

At least that’s what I hope, as the other options are both absurd and disturbing.

(Two other options exist, of course. One is that Eugene had a complete psychotic break. However, it seems that those that knew him were completely shocked by this. At the very least I haven’t heard anyone stating, “Well, Rudy was under a lot of stress and he was pretty high-strung, I knew something was going to happen….” Besides, how many people have breakdowns and start doing … this. I don’t think this hypothesis seems likely. The second option is “UNKNOWN”. That one not only encompasses everything not listed, it also creates a certain dread of its own. If we don’t know what caused Eugene to snap, we can’t be certain that it won’t happen to us.)

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Long May They Wave.

June 26, 2012 at 1:06 am (By Amba)



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Tropical Storm Debby Does Orlando-area News Casters

June 25, 2012 at 8:54 am (Icepick) ()

We’ve got a tropical storm over in the Gulf of Mexico. Debby as a tropical system isn’t all that impressive but she _IS_ a tropical system. She’s got some of the usual attributes and at least one that is unusual. The unusual bit is that she has stalled out in the Gulf, with the consequence that we’re getting drenched here in the peninsula. We’ve been getting soaked by this system for several days now, even before it was an official system. The rain is needed but tiresome at this point.

Among the more usual aspects are those you would associate with a tropical system (wind, rain, etc.) and weather porn from the local news. Debby is a big, slow, wet, sloppy kiss from the tropics and the local news folks are aroused. They show their ardor by devoting as much coverage as possible to this storm. Back in March it was clear how hard up the newsies were getting as they devoted inordinate amounts of coverage to any little local storm that popped up. They really REALLY needed to get some, so Debby is a prayer answered.

Weather porn is the local news caster’s dream. Indeed, even some national news types love it too. Dan Rather made his bones covering a hurricane, and Geraldo doesn’t usually miss an opportunity to stand out in the wind & rain and look like a bigger fool than usual. Weather porn is big and dramatic, and even when death is involved it avoids the nastiness of talking about psycho-killers, child molesters, the deranged and the political. And once they get their fix of Act of God Drama they can go back to the regular stuff with a happy little glean in their eyes. So in the next few months when you see a newscaster reporting some grotesque of a story political or criminal (not mutually exclusive) with a twinkle in their eye, you’ll know that some locale just got the stuffing kicked out of it by weather in the previous weeks.

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wasted 25 dollars

June 23, 2012 at 9:05 pm (By Realpc)

I went to the new age store again this morning and asked the sales person if the psychic would be there today. She said yss. I asked again if the psychic, Lacey, really gets information from spirits, rather than asking questions and guessing based on common sense.

“Oh no, she never asks any questions and she really gets the information from spirits, she is wonderful, blah blah blah.”

I found out I could get 15 minutes for $25 so it seemed worth trying, and I came back later.

Lacey smoked cigarettes, INSIDE the new age store which was scented with incense. I happen to hate cigarette smoke but the spirits didn’t tell her that.

She asked what I wanted to focus on, since we only had 15 minutes. I said I would rather let the spirits tell her, since I didn’t want to direct them.

It turned out Lacey sort of knows me, because she has seen me walking and biking a lot. So, with no guidance from me (or the spirits), she went on about how I am so much connected with the earth and the spirit worlds.

She gave me a standard motivational talk about how I also need to connect with people, and to get over the fears I acquired in childhood. I should go in a positive direction, rather than negative, etc.

She stretched all this standard BS out so it would take up most of the 15 minutes.

Finally I told her that I am not a loner who needs to learn how to connect with people. She only assumed that because she saw me walking alone a lot. I said I walk because I like to get exercise and I am busy so most of the time it’s easier to walk by myself.

She said well it’s true that I need to get past the childhood fears, etc. I said yes I already know, and I work on that. I said I really hoped the spirits would tell her things that apply to me and my current situaion, not to almost everyone in the world.

Lacey got offended and said she is not a carnival act and she will not be tested.

The spirits did tell her that I play piano and compose music, and she started tapping her fingers on the table like it was a piano. I said ok that is close, since I play an instrument.

She asked what instrument. I said why can’t the spirits tell you. Again, I heard that she is not a carnival act.

I did not go in there as a skeptic looking to see through the BS. I came in ready to open my soul to the spirits and learn the truth, however scary or hurtful. As the sales person had warned me, that I must be ready to hear the truth.

So as the last minutes ticked away, I told Lacey I really meant to focus on what was happening with my boss at work. Lacey took her best guess — my boss has gone away, become distant? I met her questioning gaze. She had no more guesses.

So finally I told her my boss has been torturing me and I decided to give up and get another job. Lacey said that was a good decision, and she said I will never lack money and God always takes care of me.

Well I hope she is right about that, but I have no reason to believe her about anything.

She said I didn’t have to pay, but I paid anyway, since I will always have abundance in my life.

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On to the next topic….

June 21, 2012 at 12:13 am (Icepick)

Via Althouse I saw the following.

Forbes has an article. I will note that the headline of the story gets it wrong: This would not revolutionize cancer treatment so much as it would revolutionize cancer diagnosis. (I’ll also note there can be downsides to having very sensitive tests, but that’s a topic for another time.)

Two things struck me about the video. I’m interested if anyone else here will be struck by the same two things. Actually, I’m sure everyone will be struck by one of them, it’s actually the second thing I’m curious about.

So, reactions?

(And no fair looking at the comment section over at Althouse first.)

UPDATE: Okay, so no one else picked up on the second thing I noticed. Jack Andraka has very few verbal ticks. Note especially the end of the clip, during the interview portion. I counted one brief “um” and that was it. He did throw in an “and stuff” near the end, but he was completely lacking in “uh”s, “er”s, “like”s, “you know”s, long pauses, grunts, drawn out words (e.g., “aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaannnnnddddd”) and similar tricks to gain time to express a thought. A very sharp and very focused mind behind that voice.

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Why I May Vote for Obama This Time. If I Vote.

June 18, 2012 at 8:26 pm (By Amba)

I’m awfully tempted not to.  Sickened by the ever stronger resemblance of partisan politics to football, where getting the ball away from the other team and into one’s own end zone has become an end in itself, and the presidential election is the Super Bowl.  Nauseated by the prioritization of winning and spoils over governance, the frosting of self-righteous ideology over self-interest. (Everybody loves big government if it enables their class, from Wall Street to welfare.  Wallfare.) Gagged by the subscription to prefab sets of ideas that are shibboleths for membership in one or the other group of We Are the Good, the Better Sort. Bewildered by the crude misfit of polarized ideas to reality, which always seems to me to be neither/nor and both/and: Poverty’s the poor’s fault/poverty’s the rich’s fault. Abortion is a sacred right/abortion is a heinous crime.  Well, yes and no.  (As I tried hard to express here, but of course it is inexpressible. That’s why Taoists shut up, or talk nonsense.)

But I have a friend who used to be a diplomat in communist Eastern Europe, and he once said to me, “You have to vote.  Because you can.” Every time I consider not voting, I hear him say that.

As a voter, the main principle guiding me seems to be countersuggestibility.  I’m not sure some of my family and friends even know that I didn’t vote for Obama last time.  I didn’t have the courage to tell them, because I frankly thought some of them might stop speaking to me — that’s how tribal politics has become.  But also, not voting for Obama was not some grand declaration of principle or ideology.  I simply didn’t think he was qualified for the presidency in terms of executive experience, and I thought that if I wouldn’t vote for a white guy with the exact same bona fides, voting for Obama just because he’s black would be racist.  That left me, I thought, with no unquixotic choice but to vote for McCain, who was too old (if there was ever a time for him, it would have been 2000) and possibly a loose cannon.  But I wasn’t afraid of conservatives per se (other friends of mine, who may now stop speaking to me, are), and I respected survivors.

I expect Romney will win in November — we always change presidents when the economy’s bad, and it is still awful — and I’m not afraid of him, either. In every way (including the Brylcreem) he seems like a throwback to the Nixon era, a pragmatist and a manager, not an ideologue.  All his flip-flopping just says to me that he’s a political opportunist who will put on the cloak of whatever ideology will get him elected, and then throw it off and get to work, with fairly nonideological results.  (Exhibit 1: Massachusetts.)  I’m not afraid of his Mormonism, either.  Such Mormons as I know seem to pretty much ignore their screwy theology and concentrate on clean living and efficiency.

So why vote for Obama, who has been a predictably weak president in many respects (though a stronger one on national security, of all things, than one would have expected)?  Because I can’t stand his automatic demonization any more than I could his automatic deification.  Conservatives’ visceral hatred and distrust of him seems as reflexive and a priori as liberals’ reverence for him.  It’s like the Zen koan “Show me your original face that you had before your mother and father were born.”  Conservatives hated and liberals loved Obama before he was born.

I might vote for Obama for the same reason I didn’t vote for him before: because he’s just a guy.  He wasn’t the savior, and he’s not the devil.  How perverse is that?

My favorite presidential candidate was the unesthetic, no-bullshit Chris Christie, a Republican who dared to say human-caused global warming is real.  (Not that I agree with him; I admire him for breaking ranks.)  If he were Romney’s vice-presidential choice, it might sway me. But he won’t be. Romney’s choice will be someone more telegenic and demographic, like Rubio.  Besides, Romney is probably healthier than Christie, and you want it to be the other way around.

*Sigh*  Okay, bring it on.

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Beethoven at the End: the Missa Solemnis

June 17, 2012 at 2:55 pm (By Tim) (, , )

Despite having a lot on my mind that I think might be blog-worthy, I have hardly posted anything here or via my other, very sporadic blogging efforts. There are two reasons for this: First, I am crazy-busy. I am working two jobs, and my boys, despite their teenage years, have been taking more of my time than I thought possible.

The other reason is, of course,  a state of depression about social media. I’ll go into that another time. But, while trying to cure my blues with music, which I have been doing since the Eisenhower Adminstration, I ran across the following, which I’ve also posted to Facebook:

Herbert Blomstedt gives a wonderful talk at the link below about Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis. The associated performance is superb and well worth the cost of a single viewing or even a subscription to the Berlin Philharmonic’s excellent streaming service, Digital Concert Hall.

Beethoven’s highly unusual setting of the Ordinary of the Mass is among his last works, and the one he regarded as his greatest. It is not a Mass suitable for church. It is far too outsized to be part of any actual Liturgy. It represents, instead, Beethoven’s own personal expression of faith and inner spirituality. And, despite its late-Beethovenian self-involvement, it is a work that in deep ways hearkens back to the 16th century and the techniques of the great Franco-Flemish and Italian polyphonic composers. There is hardly any thematic development in the way late Classical composers such as Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven himself had perfected and extended, and which anyone who knows this style would expect. Beethoven’s treatment of his thematic material in the Missa Solemnis has more in common with Josquin than Haydn, or certainly the Beethoven of the Nine Symphonies. Beethoven takes a step away from his own world and his own ego and makes a deep bow toward composers such as Palestrina, who in the Renaissance had laid the foundations upon which Beethoven was attempting to erect his masterpiece.

At the same time, this music is “difficult” and, in that sense, forward-looking. Beethoven’s harmonic language, his large orchestra and chorus, and the technical demands on all the musicians, especially the singers, are harbingers of the later 19th century. Beethoven seems to have intended this work to last, and for it to stand, like his late quartets, somehow outside of time.

Blomstedt makes the point that every note here is “charged with meaning.” This is an extremely important notion that Blomstedt repeats and extends it to the entire realm of “classical” music. The difference between the art music of our Western Civilization (if I may use such a term without irony) and other music we hear every day, is that each note of classical, or “art” music (the word I prefer) is, or ought to be, charged with meaning. And there are very few pieces of music so charged with layers of meaning as the Missa Solemnis. It is long and difficult, but there is little else in Beethoven, save his last string quartets, that attempts such transcendence. Whether he achieves it is a hard question, to which everyone who hears this piece will know there is no easy answer.

The entire concert, including the trailer and Blomstedt’s interview, is at the following link:

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