Thursday, July 24, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Yma Sumac, "Tumpa"

I've heard of her but never heard her sing--till today.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sam & Cat: The Series Finale

The series finale of Sam & Cat aired today (Thursday) at 4:30 p.m. Hawaii time. The episode, "#GettinWiggy", went like this:

Dice (Cameron Ocasio), the neighbor boy renowned for his "amazing hair", has a shot at making the cover of a magazine and thus boosting his hair-modeling career. The gig is in Phoenix. Because he's only twelve, Dice needs a chaperone. His mother and aunt are ill with coyote fever so Cat (Ariana Grande) agrees to take him there. Sam (Jennette McCurdy) plans on going with them, but her criminal record precludes her from entering Arizona, as well as Utah, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Tennessee. So it seems she'll be all by her lonesome for the weekend.

Meanwhile, Nona (Maree Cheatham), Cat's grandmother, had to vacate her apartment in a retirement home called Elderly Acres while it was being fumigated for pests. She asks if she may stay at her former apartment, which she shared with Cat (in the pilot episode, Sam encouraged Nona to move to Elderly Acres). Cat enthusiastically agrees, to Sam's dismay.

Cat and Dice arrive at the photo shoot, where Dice finds he has to contend not only with several other hair models, but the top hair model in the world, a teenage boy with a long, silky blond coif. The high-strung photographer fawns over the blond guy's hair, and Cat just knows it must be a wig. She pretends to look for a dropped contact lens and has Dice turn on a giant fan (to give models that windblown look) in hopes of blowing off the kid's wig. It only succeeds in giving him an artfully disheveled look that the photographer adores.

Back home, Sam is talking to someone on her cell phone as she enters the house, resigned to having for lunch a half-eaten bag of potato chips she found on the road. Then she looks at the counter. A veritable feast is presented by Nona: fried chicken, ribs, macaroni with (four kinds of) cheese, and ice cream with all kinds of toppings, including strawberry gravy. Overcome with joy, Sam hopes that if she's dreaming she never wants to wake up. Later, Sam remembers she has to get up early to babysit the Franklin twins, but Nona offers to take over so Sam can sleep in. Nona even did Sam's laundry. Picking up a piece of clothing, Sam marvels that she "got the stink out."

In Phoenix, the blond guy is chosen for the magazine cover, which angers Cat, convinced as she is that he's an impostor. She jumps atop him and tries to pull off his wig, which is his natural hair. As Cat plucks out lock after lock before the horrified onlookers, the police move in.

Nona has managed to get the Franklin twins asleep, thanks to warm milk and turkey juice. The fumigation at Elderly Acres was successful and the residents can all return, so Nona is preparing to go home. Sam's phone rings. A frantic Dice tells her first the good news: he made the magazine cover (with blond guy practically scalped by Cat, Dice, the runner-up, now has his big break); Sam couldn't care less. Then the bad news: Cat is being arrested, and blond guy, shown moaning on a stretcher, is going to a "scalp hospital." Cat could stay in jail for two weeks, and Dice is likely stranded for the duration of Cat's imprisonment. He asks Sam to have Nona come to Phoenix to bail out Cat and bring them home.

Sam pauses to think. She tells Nona that Cat and Dice will be in Arizona for two more weeks and Cat thinks it would be nice if Nona stuck around for a while. Then Sam plops on the sofa.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Sam & Cat

Some of you reading this may never have heard of Sam & Cat, or iCarly or Victorious, let alone watched them. You may have been engrossed in Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Game of Thrones, or other prestige shows of that ilk. Learning of the show's cancellation, you wonder, Where did it all go wrong?

Calling Dan Schneider the Norman Lear of children's TV is a stretch, but both are adept at creating suites of programs connected by characters, with distinct styles and worldviews.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Kunstler: Struggle to the Death

In which Kunstler assesses the conflict between Israel and Palestine. (Have he and Max Blumenthal ever met? What would a debate between them be like?)

Kunstler: Struggle to the Death.

For public consumption, the fatuous haircut-in-search-of-a-brain, a.k.a. Secretary of State John Kerry, hauled out the dog-eared playbook for “negotiating a ceasefire” between the Palestinian Hamas leadership and Israel. Neither side takes him seriously, of course. In this historic moment of Islamic uproar across the entire region, Hamas is just following the larger script: act up and act out.

They would like to catch the momentum of rampaging ISIS next door, but Hamas is not a mobile force of mostly young male psychopaths. They’re stuck in Gaza embedded among their women and children doing what they can to eliminate Israel and replace it with an Islamic state. For the moment that means lobbing rockets from launch sites planted among the homes and institutions of daily life in the densely urbanized Gaza strip.

So far in the current offensive, they’ve launched over 700 missiles at Israel. Some of the rockets, purchased through the world’s arms bazaar from China, are powerful enough to reach Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. But they are poorly-targeted and Israel’s “iron dome” anti-missile system can intercept some of them before they land on anything.

Unlike previous offensives, when Hamas rocketeers could set up mobile Qassam missiles in alleyways or rooftops, and beat it a few minutes after firing, the new larger rockets require sturdier installations. Thus they can be systematically discovered and targeted. Hamas is quite willing to sacrifice the women and children who eat and sleep around their rocket installations for the propaganda value of pretending that they were not deliberately put in harm’s way.

Israel has accepted the reality that Hamas deliberately uses its own people as human shields and has opted to destroy the missile-launch sites in any case, because the alternative is to give Hamas free reign in bombarding Israel. One would think that world opinion would understand this equation. But there is little sympathy for Israel’s predicament, and little appreciation for Hamas’s calculated ruthlessness vis-à-vis its own people.

The birth-rate in Gaza is among the highest in the world. If it is a deliberate result of social policy, it is a cruel bargain for the Palestinians, who are apparently regarded as expendable by the Hamas leadership. In a culture that glorifies suicide bombings, routine human sacrifice must be normal, though to a Western sensibility it seems tragic.

It shapes up as a struggle to the death that will not be impeded by reason, the good intentions of others, or sentimentality. What Israel remembers is that nobody was on the side of its people in 1939 and they’ll be damned to make the same mistake of not fighting back again. This certainly sets up a situation of extreme political danger in the region, but no more now than the ISIS juggernaut, or the larger beef between the two basic branches of Islam, or the fate of the fragile Saud monarchy.

This is not a region of the world than can support large populations of human beings of any religious persuasion, and in the new age of extreme resource limits blind circumstance itself, more than personalities or doctrines, will determine who gets to inhabit what rockpile.

What’s changed is the perception that the USA has any role to play any longer even in the diplomatic theatrics. The Middle East is disintegrating faster than any polity in historical memory. It appears that, if anything, the USA has only succeeded in accelerating the process wherever we turn our attentions. Since the 1970s, we haven’t felt the ultimate consequence of trouble in that part of the world, which would be an interruption in the oil supply coming out of there.

Back then, there might have been something we could do about it. Now there is nothing we can do but stand on the sidelines and wait. In the meantime, wouldn’t it be a good idea to attend to our own problems, especially the critical need to prepare for American life in a post-oil world?

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Malaika Adero

C-Span 2 was covering the Harlem Book Fair today. Malaika Adero, a writer and publishing executive, spoke about the state of black publishing.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Kunstler: We Are All Ninja Turtles Now

(Kunstler may or may not know of the upcoming Ninja Turtles movie.) I'll add photos and links to illustrate this essay. By his own admission, Kunstler doesn't understand women, and how women were, are, and will be affected by this "great unraveling." It's a story affecting men and women, and some women (especially politicians and executives) are at its center. Let women and men tell their stories.

(Here's a good overview of the fashions of the 2010s.)

Kunstler: We Are All Ninja Turtles Now

With lakes, swimming holes, rivers, and pools beckoning, I went to a sporting goods chain store at the mall — where else? — seeking a new bathing suit (pardon the quaint locution). The store was curiously named Dick’s. All they had were clown trunks. By this I mean a garment designed to hang somewhere around mid-calf, instantly transforming a normally-proportioned adult male into a stock slapstick character: the oafish man-child.

This being a commodious warehouse-style store, there was rack upon rack of different brands of bathing suits, all cut in the same clown style. I chanced by one of the sparsely-deployed employees and inquired if they had any swimming togs in a shorter cut.

“What you see is alls we got,” he said.

Even the Speedo brand had gone clown — except for the bikini brief, which I wore back during 30 years of lap-swimming, but which I deemed not quite okay for an elderly gentleman on the casual summer swim scene. So I left Dick’s without a new suit, but not before having a completely unsatisfying conversation with one of the managers.

“In the old days,” I explained, “bathing suits were designed to minimize the amount of cloth one dragged around in the water. These clown trunks you sell not only make a person look ridiculous, but they must be an awful drag in the water.”

“That’s what they send us,” he said. “It’s alls we got.”

The Fourth of July rolled in just in time to celebrate the disintegration of Iraq following our eight-year, three trillion dollar campaign to turn it into a suburb of Las Vegas. Me and my girl went over to the local fireworks show, held on the ballfield of a fraternal order lodge on the edge of town. The fire department had hung up a gigantic American Flag — like, fifty feet long! — off the erect ladder of their biggest truck, in case anybody forgot what country they were in. Personally, I was wondering what planet I was on. It was a big crowd, and every male in it was dressed in a clown rig.

The complete outfit, which has (oddly) not changed in quite a few years (suggesting the tragic trajectory we’re on), includes the ambiguous long-short pants, giant droopy T- shirt (four-year-olds have proportionately short legs and long torsos), “Sluggo” style stubble hair, sideways hat (or worn “cholo” style to the front ), and boat-like shoes, garments preferably all black, decorated with death-metal band logos [or, more likely, energy-drink logos; see previous link.--P.Z.]. You can see, perhaps, how it works against everything that might suggest the phrase: “competent adult here.” Add a riot of aggressive-looking tattoos in ninja blade and screaming skull motifs and you get an additional message: “sociopathic menace, at your service.” Finally, there is the question: just how much self-medication is this individual on at the moment? I give you: America’s young manhood. [And it seems the baggy look has been out of fashion for a few years now.--P.Z.]

Does it seem crotchety to dwell on appearances? Sorry. The public is definitely sending itself a message disporting itself as it does in the raiment of clowning. Here in one of the “fly-over” zones of America — 200 miles north of New York City — the financial economy is mythical realm like Shangri-La and the real economy is somewhere between the toilet and a rat hole. Under the tyranny of chain stores, there really is no true local commercial economy. The few jobs here are menial and nearly superfluous to the automatic workings of the giant companies.

I don’t have the statistics but I suspect a lot of the males around here are on federal disability payments, and probably in the psychological categories including “depression,” “learning disabilities,” “ADHD, and so on.” In such a situation, wouldn’t a person benefit from presenting himself as child-like, with a dash of menace? And wouldn’t it be advantageous to look that way all of the time, in case one was unexpectedly visited by a government employee?

Down in Brooklyn, a world away, the young men go about in their hipster uniforms: Pee Wee Herman cut casuals. They’re still role-playing “the smart kid in the class” even though they’ve been out of class for a decade. Their computer dreams of IPO glory are formulated with the tunnel-vision of science fair projects. Left out are the realities of the greater unraveling.

Women are not at the center of this story. Theirs is another story. Let some woman tell it before I get to it. {Emphasis mine.--P.Z.]

Never has a society entered an epochal transition with such unpreparedness.

Never has a society appeared so childishly decadent.

Thursday, July 03, 2014