Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Map: Hardest Places to Live in U.S. - Note on Oregon

The New York Times' The Upshot published a cool map back in June, showing by color code where in the U.S. it's the relatively easiest and hardest to live. They explain the map's making, and the six data points used:
Annie Lowrey writes in the Times Magazine this week about the troubles of Clay County, Ky., which by several measures is the hardest place in America to live. The Upshot came to this conclusion by looking at six data points for each county in the United States: education (percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree), median household income, unemployment rate, disability rate, life expectancy and obesity. We then averaged each county’s relative rank in these categories to create an overall ranking.
The obvious upshot: the American south, notably the most politically conservative region of the country, is a gigantic shit-pot for people who don't have a gigantic shit-ton of money. But I noticed a less obvious one, and highlight it here, for my old friends in Oregon.

See that roughly rectangular bit of blue well-being in Southern Oregon, right on the California border? (Click on pic to enlarge.) I circled it in white so you could see it:

That's my old home of twenty years, the relatively lefty, liberal island of Jackson County (Hippy.com!), in the otherwise very conservative sea of light orange that is Northern California and a huge chuck of Southern and Eastern Oregon. Us old hippies, we try to see that everybody does okay. We try, anyway.

Here's a video on the map, by Dave Rubin, of the recently launched Rubin Report:

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"An Impolite Interview With Joseph Heller" 1962

Came across this November 1962 interview in the now defunct The Realist by Paul Krassner, primarily about Heller's 1961-released Catch-22. Several pages long, fascinating, funny, often over my head, enlightening—including on the origin of the name "Yossarian" (it was meant to be from "an extinct culture, somebody who could nto be identified either geographically, or culturally, or sociologicaly..."). Haven't finished it yet, but I will soon—and I'm counting on it making me smarter, damnit.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Australia: Cannibal Horses

Holy gods, this place
As Don Driscoll returned from a snow trip in Kosciuszko National Park this winter, he was confronted with a disturbing sight.
At Dead Horse Gap, the Australian National University environment professor chanced upon a dead brumby, with three other brumbies standing around it. 
"Two of the horses had their snouts inside the gaping stomach cavity of the dead horse and they were eating out the insides of it," he said. 
"We were really quite shocked to see that, we just couldn't believe our eyes.
Pretty sure we'll soon find out they're venomous. And can fly. Because...Australia.

I must also note that "Dead Horse Gap" - well where else would you find cannibal horses?

• Photo, not of brumbies, from here.

Random Thought: We Are Their World

You don't get to succeed at the game of rolling out wholly invented, manufactured, international super-celebrities along the lines of Justin Bieber, the Kardashians, and the latest iPhone, unless you've successfully created an international framework through which and in which those products can so massively, and so perversely invasively disseminate and flourish, like so many maggots, parasitic wasps, and bacteria in a corpse bloating down by the lake.

Most unfortunately, and obviously: that framework has been created. And it's made of us. Countries and countries and countries of us. Just waiting for the next super-celebrity to come rolling out of the factory.

We are losing this one.

Update: This graph says so much about what I just wrote:

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Yow! Blast From the Past: 1985, Athens Version

An old friend just time-machined me, sending me a fragment from a time long ago:

Annabels was a legendary place in Athens, a fairly rundown favorite of buskers from all over the world, run by an English expat couple, John and someone. (Amanda?) I stayed there for some months in 1985, in the midst of a several year busking blur. (Counts to himself: 29 years ago. Ow.) We'd play on the city trains for a few hours in the afternoon, make enough for another night in the hostel, food, retsina, beer, ouzo, whatever else we needed, then—the night. Yow. Mostly unshareable memories. Beautiful, wonderful, musical, friend-filled memories.

Annabel's is long gone, unfortunately. Glad to see the street name, though! Koumondouro Street, properly spelled, was a hell of a location, just a walk north of the Acropolis. Perhaps C. and I will walk down it one day in the not to distant future.

Thank you, Sara F. B., for that completely unexpected blast from the past!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Bottomfeeders: selected cuts

CDBaby, the great online music distribution site, has just made a new music player available, as seen above. Here we have a few cuts from my 2000 album Bottomfeeders. Please enjoy a test-run, feel free to add a cut or two to your music collection.

My favorite, musically: "Sigh." My favorite, for personal reasons: "Donald."

Thanks for listening.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Landslip Collaroy, Aug. 19, 2014

Heavy rains for days led to a bit of a cave-in yesterday at an already sketchy building site at the end of our street. Took out part of a unit block's driveway.

Pics and video from the this morning, August 20, showing the backfill process beginning (video does not play sideways):

The crater you see here is the building site. The slide or slip damage you can see in the back, the dark slabs with the white marks on them being bits of tarmac from the driveway that collapsed. Very close to that building.

From yesterday, this is the left-hand-side of the crater, just to give you an idea of how close this building site is to existing structures. They were trying to tuck a nine-unit apartment building between this home you see here (a Collaroy historic site; more info here) and that apartment block on the right you can see in the other photo. Oy.

Here's a good short Instagram video, taken from above the site, of the excavation, with a gratuitious show of the view from up here of the Tasman Sea (which we don't have in our peasant's abode on the street below, no thank you very much).

Super Bonus:

Update, August 21:  Updated info and better views here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Screenplay: The Texas Brainsaw Massacre

My next movie will be built around these four paragraphs:

According to a ruling last week by the Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals, Michael McIntyre and Laura McIntyre removed their nine children from a private school in 2004 to homeschool them.
Michael McIntyre’s twin brother, Tracy, testified that the parents used empty space in a motorcycle dealership that he co-owned as a classroom. But Tracy said that he never saw the children reading books, using computers or doing arithmetic. Instead, the children were seen playing instruments and singing.
“Tracy overhead one of the McIntyre children tell a cousin that they did not need to do schoolwork because they were going to be raptured,” the court document noted.
After Tracy confronted the parents about the curriculum, the school was later moved to a rental house.

Never mind the similarities to the Harry Potter story, this will be 100% original. I've got the whole thing worked out in my head, right down to Cate Blanchett's pigtail length.

Cate—and Steve Buscemi—please clear your calendars.


Monday, July 21, 2014

RIP, James Garner

Had to rummage through some old files to find this, a "Rockford Files"-inspired excerpt from an old, unfinished story, "Ransom Harry." "The Rockford Files" remains one of my 1970s teenage touchstones, and Jim Rockford was as good a TV hero/role model for a dumbass kid from Buffalo as they come.

RIP, James Garner, thanks for the memories.

*** ***

Excerpt, "Ransom Harry"

"Aw, I don't know, Harry boy, it's sounds awful fishy to me. And I'm trying to get outta this business, have been for years."

Jim looked at Harry. Harry looked helpless, defeated.

"Aw jeez," said Jim. "You say that someone has kidnapped your happiness? How did they do that? Did you leave a window open or something? And how do you know it's your happiness? Did they send you an ear or anything? It might just be a big mix-up."

Harry showed him the ear.

"Oh jeez, that's awful, Harry, that's—get that thing away from me."

A slightly bewildered, elderly gray-haired gentleman hobbled up into the trailer.

"Oh! I'm sorry Jimmy-boy, I didn't know you had company. I'll just go out here and do something else."

"No, no, Dad, come on in. I was just talking to an old friend of mine. Dad, like you to meet Harry, Harry Jenkins, old army buddy. Harry, this is Rocky."

"Yes, I know," said Harry.

"You know?" said Jim. "You know my Dad?"

"I ain't ever seen him before in my life!" said Rocky.

"You must have," said Harry, "I've known you since I was a kid. And Angel, too. Is Angel coming over?"

"Angel!?' said Jim, jumping to his feet. "You know Angel? Oh jeez, now we're really in trouble."

"Trouble?' said Rocky, "What trouble? You're not getting my boy mixed up in any trouble! He's already had enough trouble for ten people!"

Harry looked grief stricken. "I didn't know who else to turn to, Jim" he said, "I'm desperate."

Jim let out a heavy sigh, gripped the back of his chair, grimaced, swiveled his eyes to Rocky.

"His happiness has been kidnapped, Dad," he said gravely.

"His happiness? Kidnapped? I ain't never heard'a such a thing!"

Rocky took off his cap and scratched his head.

"Well, I guess there ain't nothin to do 'cept get in the truck and the Firebird and go on down to a warehouse or somethin'. You ready, Jimmy-boy?"

"No Dad, you can't go. You stay here and I'll take care of this. Should just take a little while."

 "That's what you always say! And I always end up going anyhow! Just don't get me killed—I got two years left on this contract, then I got a made-for-TV with CBS!"

The gold Firebird spun its wheels, the old truck bounced and rattled, and soon…a warehouse. A long black limousine in the parking lot. A tall swarthy man with greasy black hair got out of the limousine.

"Okay Rockford, this is it. And your old man too," said the tall swarthy man in a swarthy voice. A barrage of gunfire, a hail of bullets, and a swarm of lead all broke out at once. Jim and Rocky lay in pools of blood on the pavement. Harry stood blinking in the sun, unhurt.

"You bastard, Garner," mumbled Rocky, still face down in a pool of blood.

The credits started to roll. Harry heard theme music. The tall swarthy man walked up to him.

"Who the hell are you?" asked the tall swarthy man.

"I'm Harry," he said. "The guy whose happiness you kidnapped! What have you done with her?!"

"Harry?" said the tall swarthy man. "Happiness? Kidnapped? Her? What the hell are you talking about? You can't kidnap happiness. It's not a thing. Whattaya stupid?"

The tall swarthy man slapped Harry in the face, got in the limousine, and the car drove off.

Harry heard a telephone. He turned around. Right behind him, in the middle of the parking lot, next to the warehouse, was Kate Jackson. She had a telephone in her hand.

"It's for you," she said to Harry, raising an eyebow and smiling a small, knowing smile.

Harry smiled, weirdly, at Kate Jackson, and took the phone.

"Hello?" said Harry.

"Good job, Harry-boy! Good show, too! I always did love 'The Rockford Files.' Too bad Angel didn't show up. He was always my favorite!"

Saturday, July 19, 2014

White House: No "Democratic Process" For U.S. Citizens On Intelligence Policy

A new NSA domestic spying piece just came out today. I got it via Marcy Wheeler, who runs the great blog Emptywheel. Her tweet:
The piece was written by John Napier Tye, a former State Department employee. Please see Emptywheel for a deeper discussion on this - I just wanted to point to something Tye says right off the bat:
In March I received a call from the White House counsel’s office regarding a speech I had prepared for my boss at the State Department. The speech was about the impact that the disclosure of National Security Agency surveillance practices would have on U.S. Internet freedom policies. The draft stated that “if U.S. citizens disagree with congressional and executive branch determinations about the proper scope of signals intelligence activities, they have the opportunity to change the policy through our democratic process.”  
But the White House counsel’s office told me that no, that wasn’t true. I was instructed to amend the line, making a general reference to “our laws and policies,” rather than our intelligence practices. I did. 
Even after all the reforms President Obama has announced, some intelligence practices remain so secret, even from members of Congress, that there is no opportunity for our democracy to change them.
The White House counsel's office "instructed" a State Department speechwriter to not say that U.S. citizens have the opportunity to change U.S. government policy through the democratic process. Because "it wasn't true."

I know I'm a plain old dummy U.S. citizen - but what the f*ck?

Note: I get that much in the intelligence world must by necessity be out of wide public view, but that does not mean intelligence oversight by democratically elected officials cannot take place. My old senator, Ron Wyden, among others, has been trying to hammer this point home for ages.