Monday, February 19, 2018

Presidents' Day 2018

Presidents' Day is a bit weird this year- I worked an overnight double shift because my co-worker and I swapped shifts so I wouldn't have to travel to work in a snowstorm on Saturday night for the Sunday graveyard. We decided that the best course of action for both of us was to stay off the roads. Tonight, I will be celebrating Presidents' Day in traditional fashion- traveling to Brooklyn to hear a smart, funny Frenchman lecture about army ants and highway infrastructure.

Presidents' Day is the combination of Lincoln's and Washington's birthdays. Like most Americans, at least in the Northern and Western precincts of These United States, venerate both of these badasses. It's important, though, not to venerate these flawed men as demigods- Washington in particular had some glaring character flaws (I highly recommend this book to everybody). Lincoln, though not perfect, was one of the more enlightened white males of the 19th Century (along with Charles Darwin), and the one thing that he can be legitimately criticized for was, in my estimation, necessary. Yeah, Washington and Lincoln were flawed, but I feel that their virtues outweigh their flaws, indisputably in the case of Lincoln.

That brings me to the current occupant of the White House... I can't think of any virtues that the guy embodies. Wisdom, temperance, mercy, eloquence- all are foreign to him. Hell, one could say that he loves at least one of his children, but even that has a creepy vibe. Hell, one can't even say that the guy is making the trains run on time. All flaws, no virtue... I might have to drink more tonight than is usual.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Gender Neutral Canadian Anthem

I'm late to the party, but I figured that, given the fact that my blogroll conforms to Can Con (and Kon Kan) standards, I should weigh in on the gender-neutral lyrical changes to the Canadian National Anthem, which I'm pretty sure is Fantasy by Aldo Nova:

The lyrical changes, which have upset conservative talking heads, really shouldn't be controversial, as they are minor, and convey a better sense of Canadian society.

The line: See the girls with the dresses so tight give you love, if the price is right has been changed to See the peeps with the dresses so tight give you love, if the price is right. As Tengrain chronicles in his Fashion Week posts, dresses aren't limited to the girly type persons.

The second verse of the song required the most revision:

Outta sight, buy your kicks from the man in the white
Feels all right, powder pleasure in your nose tonight
See the men paint their faces and cry
Like some girls, it makes you wonder why
City life, sure its cool, but it cuts like a knife, it's your life

Again, the changes are a better reflection of Canadian culture:

Outta sight, buy your kicks from the person in white
Feels all right, powder pleasure in your nose tonight
See the mimes paint their faces and cry
Like some kids, it makes you wonder why
City life, sure its cool, but it cuts like a knife, it's your life

The Canadian martial-arts community is a diverse one, and you are just as likely to get kicked by a woman in a white gi as by a man, and don't even think about going mano-a-mano with a senior citizen or a member of the First Nations.

The bit about the mimes is a call-out to the French contributions to the Canadian art scene. Finally, the original assertion that only girls make you wonder way was insufficient to explain the Canadian spirit of inquiry.

All told, the new gender-neutral language in the Canadian national anthem is a welcome change, and it is to be expected that Aldo Nova will be changing his name to Aldx Novx to better reflect his greatest contribution to the Canadian songbook.

Oh, and a belated happy National Flag of Canada Day to my Canadian readers. Fess up, Flag Day is celebrated in February because that's the month in which the Canadian flag instills fear in any and all rival nations.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

A Monstrous Proposal

It seems that, after every mass school shooting, right-wing troglodytes vie to determine which one of them will utter the most outrageous proposal to deal with the problem of gun violence in order to derail any conversation about sensible gun regulation. The post Parkland shooting news cycle has Fox' Gret Gutfeld taking the prize in this dubious endeavor- he believes that school children should be trained in hand-to-hand combat:

You have to be rational about it, which means hardening soft targets through drills and training. Learning combat. Learning hand-to-hand combat. This works, by the way, for terror, if there’s a terror attack, and it works for school shootings.

...How do you improve upon this rationally? Well, you train them. That simple.

I teach children's judo classes, I teach hand-to-hand combat to children as young as five. It would be a gross dereliction of duty and a violation of any sane code of ethics to suggest to my students that they should attack an assailant armed with a firearm. I would expect to be run out of the dojo if I told the children to emulate scenes from Walker, Texas Ranger. I've had to sit through 'Run Hide Fight' videos yearly for quite some time now, and I would tell my young students to run like hell or to find a really good hiding space.

Gutfeld isn't alone in this idiotic stance- a few years back, new WaPo hire Megan McAddled opined that children should rush an active shooter. Swarm tactics can effectively be used on active shooters, such as the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Church gunman, but the effectiveness of this approach is predicated on having the knowledge to recognize when a shooter is preoccupied, and the body mass to subdue that individual. It's really not an option for kindergartners.

The real problem with this sort of foolishness is the misuse of public airtime to distract from the real issue at hand- the ease with which an unstable individual with a history of making threats and of torturing animals can get a gas-operated killing machine. I believe in the Second Amendment, with one critical caveat- that the whole damn thing be enforced, particularly the clause regarding the 'well-regulated militia'. If you want an Armalite rifle, you should have to prove your competence, not only in the use of said firearm, but in navigating the day-to-day business of living. I would also advocate a probationary period, similar to that which beginning drivers are subjected to. Can't undergo three months of training and evaluation to take control of your shooting iron? Well, you are not mature or stable enough to have it. Teaching hand-to-hand combat to children, promotions are dependent on testing, not only of the students' knowledge and ability to apply it, but of their ethics, the way they approach the sport, the way they approach each other. Incidentally, we promoted a bunch of our beginning students to yellow belts- last week, we told them to engage in self-directed play for a half hour, observing them as they practiced the techniques they have learned and occasionally asking them questions about vocabulary or history. They weren't even aware that they were being tested. The kids are well-regulated, and someone who seeks the awesome responsibility of owning an instrument solely designed to kill humans should be subject to an even greater degree of regulation. No obfuscating bullshit about untenable 'solutions', our society needs action to curtail the low-grade civil war which is putting our children in the morgue, in the hospital, in grief-counseling.

The title of the post is cribbed from Jonathan Swift's masterpiece of Juvenalian satire, but the Gutfelds and McArdles of the world aren't being satirical, they are merely monstrous.

I'll be leaving for Manhattan soon in order to teach, and I will make sure to cherish the kids in our classes. I won't act surprised when our five year-old hand holder grabs one of my meaty paws, I will praise our serious fourteen year-old for her kindness in playing with her younger cohorts. A few weeks ago, the mother of one of our five year-olds asked me about the safety of the sport, and after rattling off statistics, I paused and asked her to look at the adults on the mats- look at the gray hairs, look at people in their forties, fifties, and above playing the sport. My sincere wish is that her daughter decides to stick with the sport, and still plays it long after I haue ſhufflel’d off this mortall coile. I sure hope that she will live in a society which isn't plagued by regular blood sacrifice.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Meanwhile, on the Home Front

Days after the story of brave high school faculty members sacrificing themselves to protect their students, we have a local horror story- twin brothers, one of them a teacher, from the Bronx have been arrested in a bomb plot targeting children: “Under the full moon the small ones will know terror.”

To compound the horror of it all, the teacher, who had been caught having an affair with a fifteen year-old girl, had enlisted the aid of students in dismantling fireworks for bomb-making material. In the annals of bad teachers, I think this asshole is in the running for top dog.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Eagles, Not Puppies

Today's news coverage was depressing, but there was a ray of hope- an interview with survivors of the mass shooting in Florida instilled a sense of pride in me... these kids were compassionate, grateful, and defiant. Their parents have every right to be proud of them. The victims of the shooting were exactly the sort of people this nation needs, generous kids and valiant adults taken from their friends and loved ones by a nonentity who never should have been able to obtain a firearm.

Meanwhile, in the scummy precincts of the internet, the right-wing conspiracy crowd is trying to claim that the shooter was a registered Democrat and an antifascist, contrary to evidence, and the woman-hating contingent is trying to claim him as their latest anti-feminist hero. Needless to say, the Powers that Be won't do a goddamn thing about our mass shooting problem, with the number of 2018 shootings clocking in at thirty. As a matter of fact, Republicans in Congress want to lower the bar for concealed carry to the lax standards of the ungovernable Southron hinterlands- as a New Yorker, I don't want some creepy Florida Man type bringing his shooting irons into Times Square for a little turkey shoot/suicide by cop.

What the fuck would it take to have sanity prevail when it comes to the acquisition of firearms? Frankly, I'm a supporter of the Second Amendment, particularly the first clause, which tends to be elided by the NRA and their minions. I doubt that asshole shooter boy would have been able to last for a day in a bonafide well-regulated militia.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Ya Know, I Used to Love the Times

Years ago, I took great pleasure in reading the New York Times. On Sundays, the routine would be 'put on a pot of coffee, make some breakfast, and read the Times'. Once, when a bunch of my brother Vincenzo's West Point classmates came down for a free weekend, one of the regulars, Whisky Joe, and I went to the local Borders bookstore after a long drinking binge and picked up the Sunday Times. Hung over, we split up the paper, he reading the front section, me doing the crossword puzzle, when it hit me... I turned to Joe and said, "Some people have yahooism thrust upon them, they just don't know any better, but we choose to be yahoos- we're sophisticated, educated yahoos." Thus was born the Educated Yahoos Club- the Sunday morning hangover spent with the Times. Back in the day, the Sunday Times was a formidable chunk of paper, and it was a rare treat to read it cover to cover, all while nursing a major hangover.

Since the 90s, though, the Times has left me cold. Their Iraq coverage in the runup to the second Gulf War was appalling, and their habit of hiring mendacious right-wing hacks is maddening. Recently, though, they went too damn far and hired a racial-and-homophobic-slur-slinging apologist for Neo-Nazis to head up their opinion page coverage of tech issues. A simple Google search would have revealed Norton's history of bigotry, yet someone in the organization decided that she would be a good fit. How the hell can I trust the 'paper of record' to chase down the details of a news item when they can't even vet a prospective employee? At this stage, the New York Times is about as credible as the Washington Times, an observation that gives me no pleasure. Would it be possible to liberate Will Shortz somehow?

Monday, February 12, 2018

There Are Consequences to Putting Grifters in Power

I have had the flu on my mind lately- one of my fellow coaches at my volunteer gig has recently gotten over a case of influenza that had her bedridden for three days, and she is indomitable. Additionally, my upstairs neighbor told me yesterday that her two kids are just getting over the flu. There's a full-blown flu epidemic occurring, an epidemic which is believed to be responsible for approximately four thousand deaths per week. I'm not a public health professional, but if I were, I'd be in crisis mode... because there's a crisis going on now, one compounded by the low rate of flu shot effectiveness this season.

In light of the ongoing epidemic, the fact that the current administration had appointed a grifter who purchased tobacco stocks before assuming her position as head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should be considered a major scandal. Tragically, the constant cavalcade of scandals and the resultant fatigue has muted coverage of what I perceive should be the current number one domestic policy disaster. The last thing we need is a CDC head who has “certain complex financial interests that have imposed a broad recusal limiting her ability to complete all of her duties as the CDC Director”, but having no CDC head is almost as bad. Yet again, the Republican war on good government, as exemplified by Ronald Reagan's particular brand of idiocy, which has metastasized in the GOP:

The premise that government is a problem is a self-fulfilling prophecy- government will become the problem. With an influenza epidemic of more-than-common virulence happening, this is a problem.