Without my walking stick
I’d go insane
I can’t look my best I feel undressed
Without my cane
With two broken vertebrae, a dead sciatic nerve, and my maiden aunt Bernice’s choking fear of nightfall, I had enough walking canes, sword canes and decorative Civil War cudgels to equip the road company of Red Badge Of Courage. By and large, that all happened before Leon released Without My Walking Stick, a tune I grew to love like a rock n’ roll groupie.
Now that I am additionally tied to several different flavors of Blind Guy canes as tall and thin as a willow rod, this song is practically my marching theme.
One last thing: the actual provenance for “Without My Walking Stick” precedes Leon Redbone by at least forty or fifty years. Below the fold, you’ll find a 78 RPM version of the song recorded by Tommy Dorsey. Oh, and BTW, you should never forget that the tune was written by (*gasp!*) Irving Berlin!!!
A “Tokamak” is a doughnut-shaped fusion reactor—often as much as hundreds of miles in circumference—that can control the plasma-scale temperatures of fusion energy by channeling thermal streams around a super-powered magnetic racetrack.
After decades of research on prototype Tokamak designs, the Iter project has recieved a final go-ahead from 34 international governments. That’s really satisfying to me, because fusion power is one of the few “sure bets” for sustainable power generation in the future. Not quite as important as that, I should note that the last time I presented a technical pitch on fusion technology at an international science conference, the topic was the Iter project. Not saying I made the Iter project happen, just that—like thousands of other people—I gave it a nudge.
When I was a kid, I collected Phil Ochs albums. Phil was a protest singer who never seemed quite certain whether the songs he sang were political or simply topical…but as this commenter notes, there was never any doubt in the listener’s mind:
Seasass 1 year ago
How about an update in light of recent events at Penn State:
“Oh, look into the shower, there’s a schoolboy being raped
I saw the old man dogging him, but now he has escaped
Guess I could have done more than call Dad and tell JoePa
But what do lowly grad assistants know about the law?
And I’m sure it wouldn’t interest anybody …”
In April, 1976, Ochs hanged himself after a long period of depression and creative exhaustion…so he “ain’t marchin’ any more,” but obviously his tunes are still strutting across the politcal frontier. Bravo, Phil!
Jacques Brel is well-known as a hellacool songwriter who redefined many genres of love songs in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s.
Everyone who knows Brel has a favorite tune already. However, ‘70s legend Scott Walker may have claimed a new title with this version of “Mathilde”—a bipolar Apache dance of a love ballad that’s punctuated by impossibly complex instrumentation you couldn’t duplicate with a computer algorithm.
Take my word for it, gang—you have no choice but too enjoy this tune. Scott Walker was the greatest neglected talent of the last forty years. And now the movie, folks:
Forty years after the National Lampoon was a monthly addiction for snarkologists, Cheech Wizard remains an Amusement Destination for those of us who like our snark mixed with rare plant juices, stage magic and acute testicular swelling.
Even in clunky computer claymation, the Zydeco Hat is the Cultural King of my g-g-generation. DUCK, LIZARD!
By which I mean, questioning the foundation of several centuries worth of scientific inquiry by providing students with the option of a “Build Your Own Bullshit” Bar at the old studiatorium we used to consider a classroom.
In biology class, public school students can’t generally argue that dinosaurs and people ran around Earth at the same time, at least not without risking a big fat F. But that could soon change for kids in Oklahoma: On Tuesday, the Oklahoma Common Education committee is expected to consider a House bill that would forbid teachers from penalizing students who turn in papers attempting to debunk almost universally accepted scientific theories such as biological evolution and anthropogenic (human-driven) climate change.
Gus Blackwell, the Republican state representative who introduced the bill, insists that his legislation has nothing to do with religion; it simply encourages scientific exploration. “I proposed this bill because there are teachers and students who may be afraid of going against what they see in their textbooks,” says Blackwell, who previously spent 20 years working for the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma. “A student has the freedom to write a paper that points out that highly complex life may not be explained by chance mutations.”
HB 1674 is the latest in an ongoing series of “academic freedom” bills aimed at watering down the teaching of science on highly charged topics. Instead of requiring that teachers and textbooks include creationism—see the bill proposed by Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin—HB 1674’scrafters say it merely encourages teachers and students to question, as the bill puts it, the “scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses” of topics that “cause controversy,” including “biological evolution, the chemical origins of life, global warming, and human cloning.”
If someone wants their kid to be a nice little coddled egg or shit-fed mushroom, why is it so difficult to just homeschool the little larva without trying to impose one’s vast ignorance on everyone else’s brat? I mean, really! Making up stuff as you go along is to science as drinking cleaning fluids found under mother’s sink is to eating. In other words—that’s just wrong, son. The freeedom to write a paper claiming that the earth is held up by an infinite number of turtles is the freedom to step out in traffic—just because you can, doesn’t make it right. To understand science is to be able to ably defend your propostition because it has been tested and you understand what the tests meant and what the results meant. Parroting back the bullshit you were raised with is no more science than a dog shaking hands means that the canine in question is attempting to introduce itself into human society—except that a dog, at least, might expect a treat. Or petting. But a child who parrots nonsense and expects an A for failing to be educated isn’t introducing hirself to science. That child is rejecting it. And is no more educated than a child who rejects spelling or claims 2x2=a million.
Making bullshit a law doesn’t make it anything more than bullshit. They might as well call ice cream a vegetable.
Big band colossus Woody Herman didn’t cover hack songwriters or marquee bands. In fact, he preferred to duplicate the songmaking of artists whose fame and talents rivaled his own. That became apparent yet again when Woody dedicated half a vinyl album to a cream-of-the-crop selection of Steely Dan tunes.
Herman’s Dan collection was hard to find (and expensive once you found it) when I acquired mine 15 years ago. I don’t know whether that situation has improved in the intervening years. But just in case the tracks are still fugitive, here’s what Polly and I excavated on YouTube. Enjoy the signature Fagen/Becker medley of American blues styles, with a steaming dollop of woodchoppers’ winds and horns on top!
The world is on fire
Your body doesn’t burn
Kill yourself before receiving
Something out of all this breathing Don’t you ever learn
“Don’t you ever learn?” is a song about temptation, easy solutions and stupid decisions. Playing it just the other day reminded me yet again that the first 56 years of my life were a long pleasant boulevard through time, lined on either curbside by things that had fallen out of my pockets over the years. Wandering this street at my leisure after living it in real time has yielded many treasures comparable to finding money wedged between two cobblestones or a brand new Portofino cigar still in its tube. I plan to spend a lot of time here from now on, and I intend to equip myself with a pair of high-capacity swag bags to hold all the tips and trinkets and memorabilia that I encounter in my travels. ETW, this is my last self-serving tribute to Todd—at least for today. Some other day, I may feel an urgent need to write my long-delayed master’s thesis on “International Feel,” the kick-ass bookend tune from A Wizard, A True Star.
Two things that never appeared previously in the Superman Comics Universe:
• Fashionably color-dampened Superman without his bulging red underpants.
• Stylishly-bearded Cluck Bent answers Bruce Campbell’s immortal book title, If Chins Could Kill.
Sad to say, that’s all I know about The Man Of Steel franchise that debuts its first $1.95 burger platter later this year. For all intents and purposes, it looks like The Man Of Steel will more nearly resemble That Guy From Last Night or audition-losing talent who weren’t selected for the Brawny paper towel wrapper. If Jor-El sucks as badly in this film as he did during ten years of hyperventilating fatherhood in the TV series Smallville, the next Superman film will be the last one ever…starring Michael Richards.
Back in the mid ‘80s I spent most of my weekends chilling on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, where I dated one of the daughters of America’s original “Beat” writer, Chandler Brossard. One day, when she was engaged in her casting job for TV’s “Another World” soap opera, I received a phone call from Andy Warhol’s nephew, James, who lived in Queens. It seems James needed a human model for a book cover he was painting, and he thought I could fill the bill. And since my gal was busy tending to the needs of a TV show cast which included a budding juvenile Jane Krakowski, I decided to help him out.
Forty-five minutes later, the L train dropped me in front of James’s industrial-style loft in Queens. He didn’t have any official props, but he equipped me with a mop-bucket helmet, a bathroom-rug cape, and a plastic broom handle to stand in for my ray gun.
You can see the results above, in the appropriately titled, “Nightmare Machine” installment of the Battlestar Galactica chronicles. And thanks to James for visiting me in the trauma hospital, remembering that he had painted this, and offering to send me the original canvas to hang in my home. How’s your life, cousins?
Every month, for the past six years, I have been riding the subway to Brooklyn to attend the monthly Secret Science Club events. The first meeting of The Secret Science Club took place in the basement of the Union Hall bar in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, it was an irreverent career retrospective from a marine biologist. Like some sort of sea creature, I was hooked. At first, the lectures seemed a little ilicit, a group of passionate people meeting in the basement of a tavern. To me, it was part of the pushback against stupidity- reasonable people were getting behind reason in the wake of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District victory. The forces of dogma and magical thinking had lost a monkey trial waged north of the Mason-Dixon line... they had been beaten back, now it was time for the troglodytes to be beaten down. Arranging informal science lectures in bars was a wonderful thing, an effort to show that science was not something limited to those in the ivory/ivy towers of academia.
Now, six years later, the S.S.C. meets in The Bell House, a much larger venue owned by the same consortium of owners as Union Hall. Every month, the lectures play to a standing-room-only crowd. Every month, I write a recap of the lecture for my blog. Since the lectures aren’t political, I have never posted a recap here, but inspired by Vixen Strangely’s latest blog post about ocean acidification and the fact that Hurricane Sandy was such a newsworthy event, and an event that had political repercussions, I’m going to post the latest lecture, a discussion of Superstorm Sandy, below the fold. Put on your lab coats, dear readers, it’s going to get, uh, scientific...
It’s easy to point fingers after a loss and I wouldn’t normally do it, but consider what happened.
Project Orca was supposed to enable poll watchers to record voter names on their smartphones, by listening for names as voters checked in. This would give the campaign real-time turnout data, so they could redirect GOTV resources throughout the day where it was most needed. They recruited 37,000 swing state volunteers for this.
I worked on the Colorado team, and we were called by hundreds (or more) volunteers who couldn’t use the app or the backup phone system. The usernames and passwords were wrong, but the reset password tool didn’t work, and we couldn’t change phone PINs. We were told the problems were limited and asked to project confidence, have people use pencil and paper, and try to submit again later.
Then at 6PM they admitted they had issued the wrong PINs to every volunteer in Colorado, and reissued new PINs (which also didn’t work). Meanwhile, counties where we had hundreds of volunteers, such as Denver Colorado, showed zero volunteers in the system all day, but we weren’t allowed to add them. In one area, the head of the Republican Party plus 10 volunteers were all locked out. The system went down for a half hour during peak voting, but for hundreds or more, it never worked all day. Many of the poll watchers I spoke with were very discouraged. Many members of our phone bank got up and left.
I do not know if the system was totally broken, or if I just saw the worst of it. But I wonder, because they told us all day that most volunteers were submitting just fine, yet admitted at the end that all of Colorado had the wrong PIN’s. They also said the system projected every swing state as pink or red.
Regardless of the specific difficulties, this idea would only help if executed extremely well. Otherwise, those 37,000 swing state volunteers should have been working on GOTV…
Somebody messaged me privately after my email and told me that North Carolina had the same problems—every pin was wrong and not fixed until 6PM—and was also told it was localized to North Carolina.
Once volunteers signed up, they were invited to take part in daily conference calls, but rather than focusing on training, these tended to be cheerleading sessions, with any tactical considerations reduced to answering questions such as would it be OK to wear a red sweatshirt to the polling place. Then there were other minor problems such as this:
On one of the last conference calls (I believe it was on Saturday night), they told us that our packets would be arriving shortly. Now, there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion about what they meant by “packet”. Some people on Twitter were wondering if that meant a packet in the mail or a pdf or what. Finally, my packet arrived at 4PM on Monday afternoon as an emailed 60 page pdf. Nothing came in the mail. Because I was out most of the day, I only got around to seeing it at around 10PM Monday night. So, I sat down and cursed as I would have to print out 60+ pages of instructions and voter rolls on my home printer. Naturally, for reasons I can’t begin to comprehend, my printer would not print in black and white with an empty magenta cartridge (No HP, I will never buy another one of your products ever again). So, at this point I became panicked. I was expected to be at the polls at 6:45AM and nothing was open. I was thankfully able to find a Kinko’s open until 11PM that was able to print it out and bind it for me, but this is not something I should have had to do. They expected 75-80 year old veteran volunteers to print out 60+ pages on their home computers? The night before election day? From what I hear, other people had similar experiences. In fact, many volunteers never received their packets at all.
It got worse:
At 6:30AM on Tuesday, I went to the polls. I was immediately turned away because I didn’t have my poll watcher certificate. Many, many people had this problem. The impression I got was this was taken care of because they had “registered me”. Others were as well. But apparently, I was supposed to go on my own to a Victory Center to pick it up, but that was never communicated properly. Outside of the technical problems, this was the single biggest failure of the operation. They simply didn’t inform people that this was a requirement.
It’s worth giving Ace of Spades the click and reading the rest of Ekdahl’s article if you’re amused by descriptions of extreme ineptitude, but here’s his signoff:
The bitter irony of this entire endeavor was that a supposedly small government candidate gutted the local structure of GOTV efforts in favor of a centralized, faceless organization in a far off place (in this case, their Boston headquarters). Wrap your head around that..
How about this for loveliness: the liftoff, at 8:35 PM EST today, of Space Exploration Technologies’ Falcon 9 carrying the Dragon nose capsule, due to dock with and resupply the International Space Station. The image was so wonderfully Buck Rogers-esque, that I saved the video for after the jump:
You can choose the path where we control more of our own energy. After thirty years of inaction, we raised fuel standards so that by the middle of the next decade, cars and trucks will go twice as far on a gallon of gas.
We’ve doubled our use of renewable energy, and thousands of Americans have jobs today building wind turbines and long-lasting batteries. In the last year alone, we cut oil imports by one million barrels a day – more than any administration in recent history. And today, the United States of America is less dependent on foreign oil than at any time in nearly two decades.
Now you have a choice – between a strategy that reverses this progress, or one that builds on it. We’ve opened millions of new acres for oil and gas exploration in the last three years, and we’ll open more. But unlike my opponent, I will not let oil companies write this country’s energy plan, or endanger our coastlines, or collect another $4 billion in corporate welfare from our taxpayers.
We’re offering a better path – a future where we keep investing in wind and solar and clean coal; where farmers and scientists harness new biofuels to power our cars and trucks; where construction workers build homes and factories that waste less energy; where we develop a hundred year supply of natural gas that’s right beneath our feet. If you choose this path, we can cut our oil imports in half by 2020 and support more than 600,000 new jobs in natural gas alone.