Beauty, Beholder, Eye Thereof

Somewhere on my meanderings through Teh Intarwebz, I stumbled on this photo, which depicts the typical G.I. squad weaponry of World War II.

For those unfamiliar with Ye Olde Weaponrie, they are from the top: M3 submachine gun, Colt 1911-A1 pistol, Thompson 1928-A1 submachine gun (standard and “commando” versions), M1 Carbine, M1 Garand, M1918 Browning Automatic Rifle (BAR). All in manly chamberings like .45 ACP , .30 Carbine and .30-06 Springfield, and there’s not a single piece of plastic to be found anywhere: just wood and steel and death and stuff.

I’ve fired every single one of them, of course, and loved the experience more than is proper to discuss in polite company.

Feel free to tell me why I shouldn’t feel a sense of longing for the Good Old Days.


(Yes, I know the M3 could be altered to fire the silly 9mm Parabellum Europellet, but like dear old Uncle Ernie who liked to fiddle all about, we just don’t talk about such wickedness.)


6 comments already!

Enough Old Stuff

One of the several “throw or keep?” decisions I had to make when emptying the house was about my CD collection. As I came late to the Digital Revolution (21st Century version) — and some say I still haven’t joined it — I haven’t started downloading music from Amazon Musik or whatever they call it, simply because I have most of my favorite music on CD already, and with a very few exceptions, I find modern music unappealing.

Unfortunately, this also means that I’ve become sick of all the old music, “old” being defined as 60s-70s music of my rock star (uh huh) youth. I mean, if I hear “Sweet Home Alabama” and anything by Led Zeppelin one more time, I’m going to slip the safety off the 1911. Even longtime favorites like Genesis, Steely Dan and Jethro Tull are beginning to pall, and needless to say, I have every album of artists like the aforementioned as well as the Beatles, Joe Walsh and Wishbone Ash on CD, so the collection of my favorite musical genres is extensive. But I never listen to it anymore because I’m bored with it. I ended up keeping almost all my old CDs, but have yet to unpack any of them, let alone listen to them. The problem is that music has always been a major part of my existence, and I have to listen to something.

So what am I listening to, at the moment? Classical, mostly, because it doesn’t seem as though I can ever get sick of it. Lately I’ve rediscovered several old favorites like Saint-Saëns and Dvorak, and of course there’s always the perennials (Chopin, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Beethoven etc.) that can be relied upon for listening pleasure, as always. It also helps that their music is being interpreted differently by the various conductors and musicians (Lisitsa, Grimaud, Mutter and so on) — and just as I’ve veered away from Classic Rock, I’ve also lost interest in classical artists like Gould, Rubinstein, Horowitz and even Barenboim (the “Old Guys”, as I’ve heard them described). I like the freshness and verve that virtuosos like Valentina Lisitsa and Olga Kern bring to the old favorites like Beethoven’s Pathétique and Rachmaninoff’s Piano No.2, and the effect of that is almost, as I said earlier, a rediscovery of classical music.

In similar vein, I listen to the old standards like the songs of Rogers & Hart, Carmichael and Gershwin — they never grow old — but I have to say, I also enjoy the interpretations given their music by “modern” artists as well: people like the incomparable Harry Connick Jr. and equally-brilliant Norah Jones. Even Willie Nelson and Eric Clapton have started to reinterpret the standards and to my mind, are eclipsing the “old guys” like Fred Astaire and Julie London, who actually introduced me to this genre. (It’s not that the latter are bad — of course they aren’t — but I’ve just heard them so often, it’s starting to get stale. Yes, even Astaire.)

There’s a common thread to the above which I’ve just realized at this moment: it’s not the music I’m sick of, it’s the original versions thereof. Nobody is reinterpreting Classic Rock, other than as cover bands like American English (Beatles) and Zepparella (Zep).

So maybe that’s what Classic Rock needs: for new guys to reinterpret their music (as opposed to just reproducing it), much as Dred Zeppelin did to Led Zeppelin (I love the Dred, by the way). Let’s hear Dream Theater do their version of the White Album (minus the excruciating Revolution No.9, please), let’s see what Norah Jones does to Suite: Judy Blue Eyes and let’s find out what Samantha Fish does with Blowing In The Wind and Harry Connick Jr. with Only One Woman.

But if I can ask for one, and only one favor from all this reinterpretation activity: we do not repeat not need another version of Free Bird. Don’t make me slip that safety off the 1911…


Update: This wouldn’t be a decent post without an example of the “old” music, and a totally gratuitous pic of what I’m talking about. Here’s Samantha Fish:

…and here’s Only One Woman.


19 comments already!

Maskirovka

The Russian word in the title means “to conceal”. Let me give you a modern-day example thereof.

There is an international group of people whose purpose is to hobble the industrial capability of the advanced nations of the world, so as to “equalize” the outputs of those nations and the “emerging” nations — much as racehorses are handicapped by carrying heavier weights to compensate for their greater ability. There are all sorts of reasons for this group to exist: some members are part of the emerging nations themselves and seek to help their client countries, while other members are citizens of the advanced nations who wish to improve the chances of the emerging nations by slowing or crippling the advanced nations. The motives of the first group (the “emergents”) are obvious, unambiguous and completely understandable. Those of the second group, however, are a lot less so, unless one understands the philosophical underpinnings of their actions.

There is a socio-political philosophy that advancement of one group can only occur at the expense of another; in other words, progress, wealth, development and so on are all finite, and therefore when one group advances, it takes from the “pool” of, say, wealth which by definition will impoverish others. This philosophy is called Marxism.

So while both emergents and Marxists have different motives, their goal is the same: handicapping the progress of advanced industrial economies.

There is a third group of people who have yet another philosophy, but whose goals (at the moment) are similar to those of the emergents and the Marxists. This last group, whom I’ll call the naturalists, prefer to think of the Earth as a perfect ecosystem that is despoiled by the actions of Man, and therefore will support any initiative or action that lessens the baleful effects of human activity. (These are the people who will oppose electrification of a rural Third World community because electrification will “spoil” the traditional culture of the community, regardless of the fact that the traditional culture causes people to starve in huge numbers and have infant mortality rates six times greater than their own group.) This group is largely ineffectual because their philosophy is ignored not only by thinking people, but by the people in the Third World who believe, rightly, that things like electricity provide a greater chance of survival in their hostile environment. But the naturalists serve an important purpose in the furthering of the three groups’ common goal (handicapping advanced nations’ progress and prosperity): their philosophy can be adopted by all three groups as an umbrella.

Advanced nations are likely to reject attempts to slow them down to allow competition from emerging nations — sentiments like “we welcome competition” are utter nonsense because nobody likes competition except the beneficiaries thereof.

Advanced nations also accept the fact that Marxism is nonsense — wealth is not finite, it’s infinite — and even when advanced nations buy into Marxism slightly (e.g. most of Western Europe, all of Scandinavia and people living in coastal U.S.A.), they will acknowledge privately that Marxism fails utterly wherever it’s practiced in its purest form (e.g. Cuba, the former Soviet Union and lately, Venezuela).

Advanced nations also accept the fact that the entire ethos of human history and endeavor is the exploitation of the Earth’s resources to improve the condition of humankind. Sometimes that exploitation is excessive — the open-pit mines of Kazakhstan, the deforestation of Eastern Africa for farming, and so on — and all recognize the need for responsible and even delicate management of resource exploitation where it can be done. Needless to say, the degree of responsibility is the subject of debate.

All of which brings us to the maskirovka.

I have written extensively as to why all current climate prediction models, the basis of the maskirovka, are a load of junk. Rather than do all that again, therefore, I’ll just refer to this excellent summary.


Update: For some reason, the last part of this post did not appear, so I’ve rewritten it below. Many apologies.

The goal of the three groups cannot garner support from the broad mass of people, for the simple reason that most people (of all skills, nationality and education) will not buy into the disparate philosophies of all three groups. What is therefore needed is a overriding message which can cover and conceal these philosophies and blur the goals into a single thesis. That statement has to have some underpinning, so a set of data — climate data — has been assembled to alarm people into thinking that not only is climate change imminent and catastrophic, it is also man-made (anthropomorphic). That the data is junk is beyond debate; one test of a mathematical algorithm supporting the thesis of “CLIMATE CHANGE SOON! WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE!” found that not only was the algorithm flawed, but it created precisely the same conclusions regardless of the data fed into it — randomly-generated numbers, in other words, had the same conclusion as actual climate data points. (And the data collection methodology of the latter was also flawed, meaning that the foundation data was junk to start off with, hence the need to jiggle the calculations to provide the required conclusions. In the data analysis business, we used to call this the “K” factor, or to use its proper term, Lies & Bullshit.)

Of course, when people (such as myself) pointed out the inherent fallacy and mendacity of the maskirovka, the hysterical name-calling and insults were bound to follow: “climate-change denier” (consciously linking the term “denier” into the same category as “Holocaust denier”) became the term, rather than the more appropriate “skeptic”. Note too that the original term for “climate change” was “global cooling” in the 1980s, then “global warming” in the early 2000s (Al Gore, call your office), and then when the contradictory terms for the same phenomenon were pointed out, the thesis was quickly renamed into the catch-all “climate change”.

None of this, however, can refute the utter fallaciousness of the climate change data (also proved by the constantly-shifting doomsday dates of global catastrophe, all of which have either been passed or else can plainly be seen to be nonsensical). Further (actual) scientific research has shown that solar activity — which cannot be controlled by human intervention — is largely responsible for the overwhelming number of climate change events. This, then, is the simple reason for the hysteria with which anthropomorphic climate change skeptics are attacked; the mathematical foundation of the thesis is fatally flawed and indefensible, actual climate change is uncontrollable, and therefore the focus has to be shifted to impugn the skeptics. Some have suggested that skeptics be treated as criminals, some in academia have been ostracized by their peers and/or forced out of their jobs, and so on.

None of this matters. The plain fact is that the maskirovka has failed, millions of climate change research dollars are imperiled, and without the figleaf of “science” to support it, the entire coalition of the emergents, Marxists and naturalists is no longer viable.

The Emperor, truly, has no clothes. Anyone claiming otherwise is either a fool, a liar or a villain. There is no other alternative.


5 comments already!

You Asked For It

I hate to harp on the importance of appearance yet again, but this little temper tantrum has caused me to have an even bigger one:

She is a bestselling author with a healthy bank balance, but Chocolat writer Joanne Harris found herself shunned by sales staff at Harvey Nichols in London – because she wasn’t smartly dressed.
The writer, 52, whose novel was turned into an Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche, took to Twitter this afternoon to blast the retailer, saying she’d encountered ‘intense snoot’ from staff ‘unused to contact with people in hoodies’.

But it gets better.

She added that her ‘elegant Parisian aunt’ had taught her that an establishment with true class never judges its customers on appearance.

Listen, you classless idiot: did you ever stop to wonder why your Parisian aunt is “elegant”?

It’s because appearances matter, you fucking slob. Let me take this woman’s attitude apart, piece by piece.

I’ve been to Harvey Nics many, many times — it was always Connie’s first stop in London because of their amazing cosmetics department — and we never, ever encountered any “snoot” from the polite, helpful and attentive staff. Know why? Because we were always well-dressed and (in the case of The Mrs., anyway) looked as though we were the type of people Harvey Nichols wanted as customers. One older sales assistant even remembered Connie from an earlier trip. “You’re the lady from Beverley Hills with the delightful children, aren’t you? Welcome back to London.” (I guess they just don’t get that many six-foot-tall redheaded American women from Beverley Hills shopping there.)

Here’s a clue for Joanne Harris. The staff at Harvey Nichols are very, very accustomed to customers wearing hoodies in their store; generally, that’s because said hoodie-wearers are career shoplifters. If you go into a store looking like the average criminal then how, exactly, do you expect the staff to react to you? “It shouldn’t matter how you look!” Well, welcome to the real world, sweetheart, and guess what? How you look does matter.

In fact, judging other people by how they look is not “trained behavior” created by Harvey Nichols management; it’s trained behavior as a result of many thousands of years’ genetic conditioning, where judging appearances is not a matter of “snoot”, but quite often is a matter of life and death. The oldest human instinct is probably a subconscious warning of “Predator!” so the instinct, in other words, is already ingrained. Then add experience (hoodie = possible shoplifter) which fills in the rest.

It’s time for my Parisian restaurant story (and to those who’ve heard it before, sorry but it’s relevant). The scene: Paris between Christmas and New Year, i.e. full to the brim with people. It’s also pouring down with rain, and tit-freezing cold. Dramatis personae:  la famille du Toit, having just quit standing in a seemingly-endless line at an art museum because bullshit. We are well-dressed because when we travel, we are always well-dressed: no jeans, sneakers, tee shirts nor (duh) hoodies; rather, it’s dress slacks, decent shirts / blouses, shiny dress shoes and silk scarves under cashmere coats.

We walked into a nearby but packed restaurant, and I fought my way to the maître d’hotel‘s stand. I apologized (in French) for not having a reservation, explained our predicament, and asked if it would be at all possible for the restaurant to seat a party of six (we had an “adopted” child with us), and no, we wouldn’t mind waiting. The headwaiter looked at the rest of us and clearly saw how we were dressed. He sat us at the bar counter, moving people down to give us room, gave us complimentary bottles of sparkling water, and told us please to be patient, and he would seat us shortly. About five minutes passed; then he came back, and apologized profusely that he hadn’t been able to get our table ready, and would Monsieur please excuse him? In vain did I protest, and repeated that we were the ones imposing on him. No matter: he raced off, and in another five minutes showed us to our table, apologizing again, showed us the glasses of complimentary vin blanc on the table, and six waiters pushed our chairs in as we sat down. It is generally regarded by our family as one of the best meals we’d ever eaten, both for the quality of the food and the service.

Now here’s the kicker. While we were waiting for our table, two couples came into the place separately, looking like members of the International Backpack Set — and the headwaiter shooed them out, telling them the place was full, even though there were a few empty tables-for-two right there in the bar area. He did not want their business. Why? Because backpackers are a waste of seats: they order the cheapest stuff on the menu, stay far too long (in a city where dawdling over a cup of coffee is not frowned upon), they generally tip badly, and because they’re scruffy, they bring down the whole tone of the place — and remember this last part, because we’ll be getting back to it. I agree, it’s not fair. But once again, that just happens to be the reality we live in. (By the way, the meal was expensive — as I recall, about $100 per person, excluding the service charge — but we did drink about five bottles of wine and a few liqueurs and cocktails, as well as ordering dishes like patê de foie gras and terrine rustique de Provence. Not, in other words, the kind of fare ordered by yer typical hoodie-wearing backpackers, so the maître d’hotel‘s instinct was correct.)

Which brings me back to my point. It’s not fair — actually, I think it’s perfectly fair, but let’s just grant the point for the sake of argument — that in a classy establishment, someone dressed like Grace Kelly will get better treatment than your average hoodie-chick:


Imagine that. (And lest I be accused of bias, that’s a model in the second picture and not yer typical street skank.)

I also know that in oh-so-egalitarian America, we don’t put up with class and airs, so it really shouldn’t matter. Uh huh. You’re quite welcome to think that, but in return you have to tell me the color of the sun on your imaginary planet.

And in any event, the woefully-dressed Joanne Harris was “snooted” at Harvey Nichols, which is one of the classiest stores in the world, let alone London, and they make no bones about the fact that they cater to people of wealth and class — how the sales staff are dressed should give anyone a clue. Just for being so dense and clueless, Harris should have been tossed out of the store on her ass, let alone snooted.

At the heart of her snit, by the way, is a kind of arrogance: “I’m smart! I’m classy! I’m a writer! I’m famous! I have a healthy bank balance! And you should know all this and should defer to me, even though you have no idea who I am, and despite the fact that I look like a street slapper!”

Bullshit.

And for the staff at Harvey Nichols: you may have lost this classless harpy as a customer, but I for one promise to visit you the next time I’m in London, and buy something from you because — guess what? — I like the idea that the staff discourages hooligans from frequenting their wonderful store. It makes for a better shopping experience, for me. And I too am a customer, and one moreover who won’t look like he just got off the bus from some council block in the East End.

Patsy (from Absolutely Fabulous) would quite possibly stop shopping there too, but because “Harvey Nics lets just anyone shop there these days, sweetie-darling. Even those dreadful hoodie-types.”

At Harvey Nichols, Patsy’s type is in the majority, not Joanne Harris’s, and the store runs their business accordingly. Good for them, say I.


12 comments already!

Law Abiding, More Or Less

Despite my outwardly-conservative mien, I am in fact a rebel, and have been one pretty much all my life.

Most of my Longtime Readers are familiar with my 1972 arrest and brief imprisonment (at age 17) back in the old Racist Republic, for the heinous crime of daring to publicly express my opposition to apartheid and especially to the education policy foisted upon Black South Africans by the Afrikaner Nationalist government. Because this protest had taken place in public (even though on the university campus), I and many others were charged under the Riotous Assemblies Act (there was no First Amendment in S. Africa, you see) because we hadn’t applied for a protest permit — did I already mention that the protest took place on private property? — but I and the others were later acquitted on a technicality.

That was only the first of my encounters with the State, by the way. Another involved hiring a wonderful Black maid to clean my apartment and do my laundry, but refusing to “register” her with the proper local authorities because I thought that was a load of old bollocks. Then when this was discovered, the local gauleiter bureaucrat charged me with being in contravention of the Group Areas Act (the one that said that Blacks couldn’t be in “White” areas without a permit), and issued me a fine. Which I refused to pay. So I was dragged into court yet again.

Judge: You have to pay the fine.
Kim: I’m not going to pay the fine.
Judge: Can you not afford it?
Kim: No, I can afford it. I’m just refusing to pay it.
Judge: Why?
Kim: Because it may be the law, but it’s ridiculous.
Judge: If you don’t pay the fine, you could face a jail sentence.
Kim: I don’t care. You might as well fine me for not having a permit to work my job here in Johannesburg.
Judge: You don’t need a permit to work here; you’re White.
Kim: And that’s why I’m not going to pay the fine.
Judge: [mumble mumble]

At that point, my lawyer told me to sit down and STFU, went up and spoke to the judge, who then told me I was free to go and slammed his gavel down with what I think was relief.

Turns out that unbeknownst to me, one of my buddies had come to the courthouse in case I needed bailing out — he knew me far too well, I think — and he’d secretly paid the fine already. (His father was a member of the U.S. Embassy staff, and apparently he’d ordered his son to do what he did because while he sympathized with my actions, he also saw the realities of the situation, and me having a criminal record was not a Good Thing. Bah.) For the record, I was then 26 years old.

Since I’ve been living here as a citizen in the United States, though, I’ve lived a simon-pure life, from a legal standpoint anyway. The reason is that most U.S. law makes kinda sense, certainly when compared with the apartheid bullshit, although I regret to say that I did carry a handgun a lot when I lived in Chicago because that prohibition was not only stupid, but un-Constitutional (as the McDonald case would prove many years later). It was crappy. Every time I saw the potential for some villainy to be perpetrated on me or someone close to me, my thought was always, “Oh please please please pick on someone else because otherwise I’m going to get into such shit when I shoot you in the face.”

I’ve also started to misbehave a bit since, oh, 2009 (the start of The Obama Years) because socialism, no details necessary. But really, it’s been so far, so good.

And I told you all that so I could tell you this (and it was all triggered by this article).

What may come as a surprise to most is that the laws I obey almost obsessively are the traffic laws. Why? Because alone among the laws, they all make sense: slow down here for the sharp corner, don’t park there, stay in your lane, don’t run a red light, don’t speed through a construction zone, etc. etc. — all are very sound and logical, and I obey them almost obsessively. Since coming here over thirty years ago, I have had the grand total of one traffic ticket, and that was because I was lost, looking for landmarks and didn’t see the speed notice. Even the judge sympathized, and let me off. That’s a fine I would have paid, let me tell you, because I really shouldn’t have been speeding.

I also like the fact that when people break the law egregiously — e.g. running a red light while drunk — that the Law beats them over the head with the Book. I also think that if an illegal alien breaks a traffic law — any traffic law except maybe illegal parking — he should be deported. I remember talking to an Egyptian guy — a legal resident — boasting about how he’d amassed an astonishing number of traffic tickets for reckless driving because “We don’t have traffic lanes in Egypt, man. You drive where you want.” Having been to the Third World (in my case, India), I’ve seen how this approach to driving works and let me tell you folks, it ain’t pretty. I told him he needed to straighten out and clean up his act, because if he ever got nailed for driving that way and caused someone’s injury or death, he wouldn’t have to worry about the damn police because I’d come to his house and pull his eyes out of his sockets. (“If you’re going to drive around without looking, you don’t need your eyes, asshole,” were my exact words.) He was not happy, but then again, nor was I.

And I’m sick of people thinking that driving is in the Bill of Rights and therefore can’t be taken away from them. It isn’t, it can, and in a lot of cases, it should. Yeah, I know that if you can’t drive, you’ll lose your job because you can’t get to work blah blah blah. That’s the reason to drive carefully and not break the law, shit-for-brains.

I need to quit now before I get really angry.


23 comments already!

Getting Older, Caring Less

There are three ironclad rules about getting older:

  1. Make no long-term investments.
    This means not making any kind of investment where you’re unlikely to live to see the outcome.
  2. Never trust a fart.
    I don’t think I have to explain this one.
  3. Never waste an erection.
    Ditto. Believe me, when you get up there in age, these physiological miracles are not as common as they were in your twenties.

Let’s go back to #1 for a moment. Perhaps it’s because the past few years have been so difficult for me, nursing an ailing wife and then having to deal with her death, one realizes that most stuff is irrelevant by comparison, on a personal basis of course.

It has worried me that things that would in the past have brought from me a seething rant full of invective, rage and possibly even threats, now occasion from me a wry smile, a scowl or a muttered curse. (This would include almost every idiocy / lunacy perpetrated by Our Beloved Government — may the fleas of a thousand camels infest their nether regions.)

Why is it that I don’t really care much about anything, most especially when it doesn’t affect me personally, or if it does, it’ll likely happen after I’m dead? (There is a tangential discussion to be had on this topic, by the way, which would argue that if  my attitude is common among senior citizens, then old farts like me should never be allowed to formulate any kind of long-term government policy or change any social institutions. But we’ll do that some other time.)

When we lived in the Chicago ‘burbs (Prospect Heights, for those who know the area), our little municipality was one of the very few which did not use “city” water, but relied on wells. (This despite Lake Michigan being but a few miles from our front door — inexplicable.) Property taxes were of course lower, but that was offset by occasional water shortages, which totally sucked. Anyway, a referendum was held on whether the Heights should go to city water — it would require a bond to finance bringing water lines to the streets, but residents could have the choice of paying for the water line from the street to the house, or just sticking with well water. The bond would require a one-time per-household fee of a few hundred dollars — payable by an addition to the property tax bill (which, as  I mentioned earlier, was very low). We were overjoyed, and couldn’t wait for the measure to pass. It failed. It failed because about 50% of the residents were elderly and didn’t care that the future residents would have a better quality of life — because they themselves wouldn’t be around to see it, and thus weren’t interested in spending even the few dollars necessary. So we were stuck with tepid, unreliable well water, which situation we resolved by moving to the City of Chicago when our lease ended, and living not a few miles, but a few yards from Lake Michigan. We never stopped hating those elderly residents of Prospect Heights, though — even though they were obeying Rule #1.

I don’t want to be one of those selfish old bastards; but at the same time, I find myself getting the same kind of perspective. My conscience will generally make me do the right thing, I hope — I would vote in favor for that water bond in a heartbeat, for example — but from what I can tell, that’s not the way to bet when it comes to other people, and most especially older politicians whom one would hope have the same social conscience as I, but who clearly don’t.

Have I gone soft? (This is not a reference to Rule #3, by the way; at least, I hope not.) I’ve noticed that events that would normally make me livid with rage now simply irritate me; and paradoxically, things I would have shrugged off in the past now make me want to reach for the 1911.

Maybe it’s because of the circumstances I find myself in now, maybe it’s an effect of age, or maybe it’s some of both. I need to think about it some more, and figure it out.

Your opinions on this topic will be welcome. This is important stuff to me.


17 comments already!