Sunday, June 26, 2016

#12 and #5: The KC Experience and Another State Down

So, we're back from vacation and I can finally do this:

Despite having been to Kansas City at least twice before this trip, I don't think I've ever managed to sneak across the border that's like, right there and check out the other side. We made it official this trip since we had to return our too short barstools to IKEA, where, as usual, we brought too much candy and spent money. (We also snagged some Ligonberry Jam so we could make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for our lunches instead of just PB sandwhiches, but tragically, it didn't make it out of Lincoln, NE.) So, I've been to Kansas, which brings my total up to 36 states! Only 14 left to go!

But we also got a better sense of Kansas City as a place... we sort of had to tailor our schedule to take Little Dude into account (who is one sweaty baby and dislikes heat intensely) and with intense heat blanketing the area on our arrival, we sort of chilled out a little bit and took some time to enjoy ourselves. That's not to say, we didn't do nothing- we checked out the Farmer's Market:

I would have loved to have had a little more time here to browse around, but damn it was hot... we did score some salsa for the Mother-In-Law and ate at a super cool Brazilian joint that made for a tasty lunch- we also caught site of KCMO's opposite, KCK:
And of course, we had to round things out with the obvious culinary choice:
I think this alone makes a return trip to Kansas City worth it. This was excellent BBQ... the beans were hickory pit beans that were so tasty that Little Man was asking for more and the burnt ends were incredibly tasty. I've been to the Power and Light District before and I've been to Arrowhead before but honestly, I think this probably was the pinnacle of my Kansas City experience thus far.

I think I've got a little more research to do and maybe a return trip or two to be sure, but I think we can throw Kansas City in the old rotation of 'possible weekend destinations.' The food alone makes a return trip worth it- and there's still plenty left to see for any future trips down there.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #171

We're back to our regularly scheduled programming this week and back in the islands, this time, with the flag of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines:


Adopted on October 21st, 1985, the flag consists of three vertical bands of blue, yellow and green with three diamonds in the center representing the Grenadine Islands which are part of the country. They also recall the nickname for Saint Vincent as 'the gems of the Antilles.' The blue in the flag represents the tropical sky and the crystal waters, the yellow stands for the golden sands of the Grenadines and green is for the lush vegetation of the islands. The diamonds are set lower in the flag recalling their geographic location in the Antilles chain.


From 1979 to 1985, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines used variants of this flag- which, instead of the diamonds, have a realistic breadfruit leaf and the arms of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in the center of the flag. The arms of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines are kind of interesting actually- from the top down- though it's hard to see on the flag- you've got a cotton plant at the top, the centerpiece is taken from a colonial badge used from 1907 to 1979 and features two women in classical Roman dress- the one of the right holds an olive branch, the one of the left holds the scales of justice and kneels before the gold altar between them. 'Pax et Justicia' of course, means exactly what you think it does: Peace and Justice.

After trading hands between the French and British in the 18th and 19th centuries, the place eventually became British and it's history in the 20th and 21st centuries seems to be punctuated by eruptions of La Soufriere, a volcano that blows it's top with some regularity from a geographical point of view. (There have been eruptions in 1812, 1902, 1979- which, you know- seems kind of semi-regular to me.)

So that's Saint Vincent and the Grenadines! Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ashes of Brexit

Well, shit.

Some genius cut a line somewhere on our development last Friday, so I was forced to dash in and out of the internet to check the progress of the Great Brexit Vote last night and collapsed in a heap assuming, as many people did, that it would be a narrow, razor thin margin of victory for the Remain Camp. Instead, I woke up to find that, no, in fact, people had apparently done the opposite and voted to Leave- admittedly, by a razor thin margin of victory.

Well, shit. Look, I'm sitting on my perch across an ocean and let's be honest here- there are family ties to the mother country but nostalgia is really what drives my connection at this point. And an expired passport that I'm going to have to renew at some point, but won't, in fact guarantee my wife or children freedom of movement around Europe as it had me- that's assuming there's much of a UK left to move back to in order to secure them dual citizenship, which the Missus and I have long talked of doing- if only for a few years.

This is going to be like a slow-motion trainwreck for at least the next two to five years and god only knows what Britain (or what's left of it) is going to look like when it's done. The rubble is still falling, so I'm sort of unpacking what to think about all of this, but in no particular order, some thoughts:

Democracy isn't pretty. Like it or not, there was a vote last night with a healthy turnout of over 70% and the people have spoken. Now, it's a legally non-binding referendum, so technically the government doesn't have to do a damn thing, but what really pisses me off is reading about remorseful Leave voters regretting their choice because 'they didn't think their vote would count.' This is why I remain steadfast in my belief that there's no such thing a fucking wasted vote. Every vote counts. Last night proves it, despite an apparently significant number of absolute numpties across the pond who apparently can't walk and chew gum at the same time.

Gosh, I'm glad I'm not retiring any time soon. The Dow is down 600 points, as apparently- nobody could have expected this.

David Cameron is an idiot. I mean, I get it- you shut the Eurosceptic wing of your party down if you go out and win this referendum, but the key words in that last sentence are 'win this referendum.' I wasn't overly impressed with the way he handled the Scottish Independence Referendum (you got the feeling that cynically, Tory hearts weren't really in it, after all, if Scotland goes, it's pretty much Tory rule for decades in what remains of the UK) and he pissed this referendum completely down his leg.

Where the hell is the Labour Party? Does it have it's head up its ass? I mean, look at these full results... FFS, look at the goddamn map.  Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle voted Remain- but not by much. Disturbingly large chunks of Wales voted Leave. There's a sea of blue all over Northern England which should have the Labour Party asking some serious questions of itself. If it can't carry it's traditional working class strongholds, there's a problem here. A big one. I'm not surprised someone tabled a motion of no-confidence against Jeremy Corbyn- looking at the map, whatever they were saying apparently didn't get through.

The prospect of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister... smh.

I'm honestly not sure how big a role immigration played in all of this, but if there's a lesson for the global elite/establishment, it's that people don't want open borders and unrestrained and unrestricted immigration. They want rules, they want a system in place that works. From an American point of view, I think it's culturally ingrained in all of us at a  young age that cutting in line is bad. And that, to me, is really the heart of the immigration issue. There's always going to be a racist/xenophobic fringe to this question, but the bulk of people just don't like people who cut in line. Take a number, dot the I's, cross the T's and do it right. Plenty of people do.

Is Scotland gone? I'm not sure... it wouldn't surprise me, but there's a lot of question marks that need answered which is why I don't think Nicola Sturgeon is going to swing for that particular fence unless she's damn sure she can win. She might say that she's going to push for a second poll, but saying it and doing it are two separate things.  The downturn in the oil market means that the SNP has a math problem that the other parties in Scotland are pressuring them on and a Second Independence Referendum would expose a lot of the economic uncertainties that still remain and that could make a second vote a less than sure thing. (But this is an interesting thought experiment. Hmmmm...)

Is Northern Ireland gone? I'm going to say 'not yet' to this, but this vote did open up that particular can of worms again. Especially if after the rubble settles Northern Ireland finds itself at a significant economic disadvantage. But a united Ireland? Might have to wait a generation or so before it becomes a serious possibility, but it's a blip on the radar in a way that it wasn't before yesterday.

At the end of the day, I'm still not entirely sure how to feel about this. There's a real chance that the United Kingdom won't exist in it's current form in 20 years. But there's also an equal chance that this could touch off a whole series of populist revolts across the EU. I understand the arguments to stay, but Brussels needs to understand the arguments to Leave as well. People were watching- especially after what the EU did to Greece and probably weren't all that crazy about what they saw in terms of national sovereignty being trampled on in the name of ensuring the stability of the Euro.

Politically, I'm not sure a United Europe was ever going to work. Economically, it seemed to be a lot more stable- and if it evolves into anything, I'd bet on an economic union more than a political one.

I honestly have no idea what happens next.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

My Vote Project: Free Your Mind



Chapter One of long, protracted national nightmare reached it's formal conclusion last week with the DC Primary. It's over. At last and we find ourselves left with two of the least appetizing candidates imaginable: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. There are still some things left to discuss...  what does Bernie extract in terms of support/platform planks to official endorse Hillary? Who are the Vice Presidential picks going to be? Will the country disintegrate in disgust between now and November? Will be finally have an answer to that fateful question: 'What if they held an election and nobody came?'

I don't know, but as I noted, these choices are less than thrilling. My socks are remaining firmly in the 'up' position and have yet to show any indication they're going to be rolling up and down any time soon. So, here's where this nightmare of a primary season has left me:

1. Donald Trump: Nope. Nope. Nope. Big bag of nope. Hell nope. Let me tell you a little story about a man called nope! Nopity nope nope nope.

2. Hillary Clinton: Maybe. (But probably not.) I'll have to do my homework a bit more on Mrs. Clinton, but 'NOT TRUMP' is not a good enough reason for me to vote Clinton. Whoever wins, we're stuck with them for four years- I'm not voting against someone else just to find out that the person I did pick sucks out loud, albeit in a slightly more palatable way.

(Plus, fuck the Establishment. I mean seriously? We can't get together on reducing magazine sizes or banning assault weapons? We can't even shepherd one lousy bill through Congress to tackle this pressing problem of guns? Really and truly, if I endorse anyone or anything, it's this notion: vote them all out. Every last one of them, Republican and Democrat alike. Vote literally for anybody else- Green, Libertarian, Constitution, hell, Socialist. Send a message to the two big parties that if they can't get together and do the important things, they don't deserve to have jobs. This is why we need a Plan C- if for no other reason than a healthy fear of unemployment to motivate Democrats and Republicans to do their damn jobs for once.)

So if the Big 2 are unappealing, who are we left with?

1. Gary Johnson: Honestly, I'm probably going to vote Libertarian this election. I've got to roll my sleeves up and get digging through websites to lock it in, but I think at worst, they'll crack 5% at best, they'll break 15% and get into the debates- either way, if there's a leader of this ship of fools, right now it's Gary Johnson.

2. Jill Stein: I dig a lot of what the Greens say, especially about political reform and bringing our government back to the local level to encourage participatory democracy and citizen involvement. I voted for Stein in 2012 and although she's pushing hard for Bernie to come run on the Green ticket with her, I don't think Bernie will bite.*

3. Literally anyone else. Weirdly, the Natural Law Party always intrigued me a bit, but I don't know if they're still around and kicking. If I was in Minnesota, I'd be digging on Independence Party candidates and probably throwing my weight behind them.

This is not the way I imagined the primary season ending when it began, but it's over and if the two main choices don't appeal to you, well then, maybe it's time to do like the video says and 'free your mind.' The rest, undoubtedly, will follow.

*Look, I don't want to sound like a tinfoil hat wearing Conservative, but the whispers about Hillary and this damn email stuff are still out there. Bubbling quietly in the background... if the wishful thinking of the Right actually turns out to be true and the Democrats turn their lonely eyes to Uncle Joe at a Convention which would be thrown into chaos, I have no idea what Bernie might do. Suddenly, the Greens and their offer might be sort of tempting. But who knows...  people have been whispering 'indictment' for months now and none have appeared, which makes me thinking this is a 'Field of Dreams' type moment for the right. If they wish it, it will appear sort of thing. But you can't count it out either.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

This Week In Vexillology: Flag Day Weekend Trifecta

It was Flag Day this week and although I'm technically on vacation at various points to the south and west I figured what better way to celebrate Flag Day than to take a look at the flags of the various states that we're visiting while we're out and about for the long weekend.  First up, Kansas:

Yikes. The unfortunate trend of 'seal on a bedsheet' which is all too common for state flags is alive and well in Kansas- and, just in case you were wondering what state you were in, should you happen to see a Kansas flag flying, it helpfully informs you: KANSAS as in, THIS IS THE FLAG OF KANSAS. Which is a pity, because the seal is actually pretty decent as these things go.

First up, we've got a sunflower (Kansas is 'The Sunflower State') over a bar of gold and light blue. Then we get into the seal, which has a lot going on. There's a landscape with a rising sun. A river and a steamboat (for commerce) a settler's cabin and a dude plowing a field (agriculture), a wagon training heading west (American expansion), Native Americans hunting bison, and a cluster of 34 (yes, 34) stars above it all because Kansas is the 34th State. Oh and the state motto: 'Ad Astra per Aspera' or, 'to the stars, through difficulties!'

The seal does look nice, I'll give it that, but holy hell, you need a decoder ring to figure out everything that's going on here...  oh well. ON TO THE NEXT ONE!

                        
Gah, what fresh hell is this? To be totally honest, I had never in my life looked at the flag of Nebraska before this moment and now, I begin to understand why- while there isn't exactly a ton of design creativity put into your average state flag, Nebraska seem to be an exercise in either pragmatic practicality or sheer laziness. 'Hey, we need a flag.' 'Well, do we have a seal?' 'Yeah.' 'Well, just slap it on a bedsheet. There. Done. Back the fields, everybody!'

And before y'all get up on your high horses and get all on me for being Iowan and not liking Nebraska, no less an authority than the Norther American Vexillological Association thinks this thing is a dumpster fire. It ranked 71 out of 72 US States and Canadian province flags. Which means that you're not crazy, Nebraska is worse than you imagine. (And they know it too! In 2002 there was some discussion of creating a commission to maybe, just maybe, design a better flag. They decided not too. Oh well.)

As with Kansas, you need a decoder ring to figure out what the hell is going on with the seal. A train steams across the background toward the mountains, a steamboat plies the waters of the Missouri (though how do you know it's the Missouri? Could be the Platte, right?) A cabin and some wheat sheaves represent the importance of agriculture, a blacksmith is busy doing his thing with an anvil in the foreground. And the state motto is at the top of it all: 'Equality Before The Law.'

(I do give Nebraska a little bit of credit. You do sort of have to look for a second to figure out what state this flag belongs too- not like others where it's all KANSAS and in your face about it.) Okay, let's finish the trifecta, shall we?

                       
Wrapping up our little jaunt around the heartland of America, we've got what's honestly the best looking flag of the Trifecta and again, I find myself surprised: I've never honestly looked at a flag of Missouri, but hey, here it is and it's actually pretty decent. (NAVA Survey Ranking: 48th out of 72.) A horizontal tricolor, the red-white-blue combination reflect the state's ties to France from back in the day. The red and white stripes represent valor and purity, while the blue stands for three things: permanency, vigilance and the justice of the state.

In the center of the flag, you've got the state seal of Missouri surrounded by a ring of 24 stars representing- you guessed it! Missouri's position as the 24th State admitted to the Union.

Then, we get to the seal. While it's not super crowded like Nebraska or Kansas- it's more of a traditional set up, there's still a lot going on here, which is sort of exasperating, but whatever. Here goes: in the center circle- we've got the Great Seal of the United States on the right, a crescent moon (newness of statehood and the potential for growth) and a bear (strength and bravery on the left). The whole circle is surrounded by the motto 'United We Stand, Divided We Fall' and although it's very hard to see, at the bottom of that is a belt buckle, which symbolizes the state's ability to secede from the Union if they wanted to. Two big-ass grizzly bears support the whole thing. 

Below that, we see the state motto: 'Salus Populi Supreme Lex Esto' or, if you like, 'Let the welfare of the people be the supreme law.' Below that, you've got the year 1820 inscribed in Roman numerals, even though Missouri didn't actually become a state until 1821.

Above it, we've got a helmet which represents that state's sovereignty and a large star (Missouri, the 24th state) surrounded by 23 other stars and the wavy line below it is supposed to be a cloud, which represents the difficulty Missouri had becoming a state to begin with. 

So there you have it, our official Flag Day Weekend Trifecta. Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying, FREAK or otherwise!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Boozehound Unfiltered: Michter's Bourbon

This month's edition of Boozehound Unfiltered capped of a very enjoyable evening with friends and family. We grilled out, we ate, we got the baby to sleep and the kids safely enraptured by the wonders of watching Frozen for the umpteenth time. (Shout-out to one of the nieces, who fell asleep and ended up half falling off the couch and had her head on the floor- which would have woken pretty much anyone else up, but she slept through it like a champ.) Then, we busted out the beers and the booze and had some adult fun.*

As a company, the Michter's brand can trace it's history all the way back to the American Revolution and 1753 Pennsylvania- George Washington himself visited the distillery and purchased whiskey to keep his soldiers warm during the long winter at Valley Forge. It's changed names a couple of times over the centuries, but survived prohibition and all the way up to 1989 before a downturn in the industry forced bankruptcy. Happily, the brand was revived by the mid-90s and relocated to Kentucky where it's been ever since.

Their website is pretty impressive- lots more detail on the history and the technical aspects of their distilling- which admittedly is something I need to learn more about. They're a small batch/single barrel production- so their overall range is small-only four offerings to choose from. But if their bourbon is any indication, tracking the other three down might be something worth doing.

Let's have a taste, shall we?

Color: Amber and dark honey

Body: Complex...  I got the usual mixture of vanilla and cinnamon with a touch of raisins- but there was also some underlying fruit that eventually teased itself out to be a combination of prunes, figs and plums. Very rich- and intriguing.

Palate: Nicely balanced on the tongue- it's not too weak/watery or strong/syrupy, the spices that were evident in the body become far more important here, with cinnamon and possibly nutmeg or all-spice (I couldn't really tell- there was something other than the cinnamon, I knew that.)

Finish: Smoky and gradual.

Overall: Rich and complex, this was one the best bourbon I've drunk in awhile. It's got an appealing body and an even better palate and finishes nicely. If you're looking to shake up your bourbon routine, get out there and grab a bottle of Michter's. You won't regret it. My Grade: B+

*I also got to try a wee dram of Ardbeg's Correyvreckan, which I'd like another shot at. That was a little later in the evening and let's just say that my tasting notes were somewhat sketchy to non-existent- but the weirdest part of all? It tasted like tequila to me- and not good tequila. Like Cuervo. So I'd like another chance to take a sipple and see if I'm wrong.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Arguing About Semantics

I succumbed to a mild bout of irritation this afternoon as our alleged leaders of both parties continued to bicker over words, rhetoric and other pointless things. So, first of all:

Watch this.

I'm not a huge Samantha Bee fan as she tends to be a little too progressive-preachy for my liking sometimes- but then again I haven't seen that much of her show either. After seeing this, I might start. If you weren't expecting someone on television to channel to sheer unadulterated fury and impotent rage a large chunk of the country must be feeling in the wake of our latest tragedy, guess again. Go, watch.

Read this.

This flashed across my Twitter feed this morning, courtesy of a RT from the always excellent Caitlin Moran. I clicked the link, read it, thought 'well this makes a lot of sense and seems pretty damn true to me' so I gave it a RT myself. Then I saw President Obama unleash on Donald Trump about his refusal to use the term 'radical Islam'- he called it a political distraction.

But that article I linked to hits the nail on the head. If you don't want to call it 'Radical Islam' call it something else. Call it anything else. But if liberals can't name and identify the problem and draw a clear delineation between disliking radical fanatics that shoot up nightclubs and an entire religion, then they essentially give the entire issue to Trump and his ilk. And how's that working out? If you don't call the problem something, you can't stamp out the ideology. (And can we agree that the world would be a better place without ideologies like these?)

There is a radical ideology out there. It's killed more Muslims than anything else, but if we're too scared to call it what it is for fearing of being seen as 'Islamophobic' we're never going to solve the problem. And believe me, I'd like to solve the problem. I think extremism of any kind is bad. I think if you like freedom and living in relative peace and quiet then extremism should be opposed. Vehemently. Loudly. And without consideration for people getting their underwear in a bunch about it. Radical Islamic Terrorists have killed people across the world, the overwhelming majority of their victims are Muslim. Saying so shouldn't be seen as prejudice against Muslims and wouldn't be if Liberals could actually pull their heads out of their asses and own this issue for once. If you let Trump set the debate, you get to play by his rules on this issue. I didn't see anything from the President or Mrs. Clinton this afternoon that indicated they were trying to take the issue away from him.

Which brings us back to the other side of the political equation: guns. Do I think it's demonizing all gun owners to maybe, just maybe, get guns like the AR-15 off the streets? No. My first amendment rights are limited. I can't shout 'fire' in a crowded theater. And if my first amendment rights have some natural limits, surely the second amendment has some too?

I'm not sure about the whole 'no guns if you're on the no-fly list' thing. It seems logical, but I dislike the idea of the government keeping lists. But background checks on all sales? Let's do that- can we get together on that, at least?

It's worth noting that super strict gun control laws didn't stop attacks in Paris or Brussels. A ban on assault weapons or weapons like the AR-15 isn't a cure-all. But I know there are too many of those type of guns that are too readily available to loons and fanatics. There should be less. If someone has the intestinal fortitude to come up with a law that can effectively and efficiently make that happen- whether it's an assault weapons ban or something else, let me know.

Do I think anything's going to happen? No. I remain 100% convinced of that. I do feel like the mood of the public is shifting though. Whether it's shifting enough to prod Congress into action is doubtful. Republicans are going to say as little as possible and do nothing and Democrats won't be nearly as aggressive as they should be in an election year with the possibility of getting the Senate back in play.

Whatever his motivation- whether it was repressed sexuality, religious fanaticism or some strange combination of the two, it's irrelevant. We know the lack of a sane gun policy is part of the problem. We know the extremists we fight are another part of the problem. Getting to a solution requires being open and honest about identifying the problem.

Instead, we argue about semantics.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #170


This Week In Vexillology, we're still kicking around the Caribbean Sea moving north from Trinidad and Tobago to take a look at the flag of Saint Lucia. (Which, yeah, bears a passing resemblance to the Delta-Symbol from Star Trek- at least a little bit, anyway.) Settled in 1635 by the French, Saint Lucia got passed back and forth between the British and the French multiple times over the centuries until the Treaty of Paris in 1815, which saw Britain take final, permanent control of the island- it became a crown colony of the United Kingdom that year. It joined the West Indies Federation from 1958-1962* and when that didn't work out, it became an associated state of the United Kingdom and adopted it's currently flag which it retained after independence in 1979.

What does it all mean? Well, the blue in the flag is for the sky and the sea (specifically the Atlantic and Caribbean). The black and the white are for the harmonious relationship between the black and white races. The yellow is for sunshine and prosperity while the two triangles represent Gros Piton and Petit Piton, two volcanic cones located on the island. (And unity.)

Glancing through it's Wikipedia page- which I know is a terrible way to get to know a country, but cut me a break, all right? It seems like Saint Lucia is your typical tropical island paradise: beaches, great weather, plenty of tourism, etc, etc, etc.

(*Tangent Time! The whole West Indies Federation was actually a thing! Much like what Central America tried to do back in the 19th Century, the West Indies tried to do in the middle of 20th. Didn't go so well, so they ended up splitting into nine separate countries instead. Why didn't it work? Well, Jamaica wasn't happy about the way things were going down and if Jamaica ain't happy, then nobody is happy, you know?)

Remember, until next time keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Queasiness of History

I want to be happy about this. I feel like I should be happy about this, but as I sat in Dispatch on my second break on Wednesday, I found myself anything but happy about it and I wasn't quite sure why. I've thought the inability of the United States to elect a woman to it's highest office has long been a ridiculous pet peeve of mine and now, finally, a qualified woman had, for the first time in history won the Presidential nomination of a major political party and I honestly wasn't sure I could bring myself to vote for her.

Politics in this country needs to change and I mean absolutely and Hillary Clinton, whether you love her, hate her or just get utterly queasy at the thought of voting for her, is a card-carrying, dyed in the wool member of the political establishment.* She reeks of it. She oozes it. She is just another politician and that might work for some people- hell, it might work for a lot of people- enough to make her President, even, but I'm not sure it's going to work for me yet.

I had to hit mute on her speech last night. 'Make America Great Again' is apparently code for 'taking America backwards' but she's ready to 'write the next chapter of American greatness' which is pretty much saying the same damn thing only instead of four words, she used seven. She's going to have our backs, which made my shoulder blades itch, because she's just another politician- she might even be a good politician and good politicians- male and female make sacrifices to preserve themselves in power. She might tell me she has my back now, but she'd shank my ass in a second if she thought it was in her best interests.

I might be okay with just another politician this time around. I might be okay with someone who can wheel, deal and work across the aisle to get shit done and move the needle a bit. Problem is, I'm not sold on the idea that another President Clinton is what this country needs. If elected, then the Presidency will have been held by either a Bush or a Clinton for twenty of the past twenty eight years. That, to me, is not a sign of a healthy democracy. We have enough problems with the country's drift toward corporatism and oligarchy without encouraging more of it.

But the pinnacle has been reached, the glass ceiling shattered with the biggest one of the all still to come. It's an achievement, however you look at it.

I hate that she had to use her husband's name to do it though**. And maybe that's a stupid thing to hate and it's quite possibly an unfair thing to hate, but nothing irritates me more than people who get all excited because 'Bill's going to be back in the White House.' His ass ain't gonna be in charge- I want to know what President Hillary Clinton is going to do for me. I want to be convinced, because right now, I'm standing on the precipice of history and feeling distinctly queasy about it all.

Fear of Trump might motivate many, but it's not enough for me. Trump doesn't have my vote and while erratic and unpredictable, he's shown moments of uncomfortable coherence now and again. I have no idea who's going to win this election but therein lies the dilemma of this election. I'm not convinced that either one of them will do a damn thing that matters. That's what's making me contemplate buying my body weight in Tums- because right now, honestly, I'd need an industrial strength nose peg and a metric fuckton of Tums to vote for Hillary.

That might very well change, but then again, it might not. So yes, Wednesday night history was made. And I wish like hell I was happier about it.

*This was my problem with Bernie as well. I couldn't accept the premise that in order to change the government we have and make it work for the people, we'd have to expand the government we have in a massive, expensive way. You can't put an IKEA kitchen with all the trimmings in the middle of a house with massive structural issues and a leaky roof and expect it to still look good in a year or so. You've got to rebuild the house from the ground up. Similarly, I hear a lot of promises from Hillary, but haven't really seen evidence that she's interested in radical change of the status quo.

**Yay, my master's thesis is still in my brain! The track record of female leaders who used their husbands/father's name to springboard their way to power is mixed, whereas women who did it themselves from the ground up tend to fair a little better- I think. The whole widow's walk phenomenon seems to be more of a South-SE Asia type of thing so far, but Cory Aquino and Megawati Sukarnoputri were solid...  the rest were a mixed bag. Though it's interesting that Indira Gandhi was offered the job immediately after Nehru died and she said no. She didn't want to be a figurehead beholden to the party bosses and if Prime Minister Shastri hadn't had a heart attack the history of India might be very different indeed.

On the face of it, who cares? I mean she got to where she is, does it matter how? That's what I'm not entirely sure on myself. I don't think it's like Sammy Sosa or Mark McGuire who get the asterisk next to their names for their careers, but banking on the nostalgia and the residual good feelings people have for your husband can be something of an albatross, especially if you can't deliver what people are voting for you for. (If they don't have the warm and fuzzies for your husband, that can also be an equally large albatross.)

***Well, if not Hillary, then who? Camille Paglia (who's columns are always excellent- a must-read) likes Senator Diane Feinstein out of California, which I could totally see. I think if Senator Klobuchar from Minnesota lands herself in the Governor's Mansion for a term or two, she could be an candidate people could get behind. (You can't count her out of the Veepstakes either if the Clinton Camp is serious about putting another woman on the ticket.)

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

'Deadpool' --A Review



While the Missus was using up her Pottery Barn giftcards, Little Man and I took a gander around the Jordan Creek Mall and, on a whim, I snagged Deadpool on blu-ray. Then, when we got home and got the kids to bed, the Missus and I sat down and watched it. Let's be one hundred percent clear:

This is the best X-Universe movie so far.

Don't get me wrong: Days of Future Past was excellent... I enjoyed the Wolverine movie (not X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the other one) and X2: X-Men United ranks right up there with Spiderman 2 as one of the best entries in the increasingly sprawling genre that is the superhero movie. Deadpool, however, took things to an entirely different level.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) runs around a Canadian city that, while never named, looks a hell of a lot like Vancouver, handling contract killings and roughing up creepers for a little bit of money here and there. His days in the special forces are behind him and he seems perfectly content to just keep living life until he meets a stripper named Vanessa. (Morena Baccarin). Eventually the two fall in love and Wade proposes to her just in time to find out that he has cancer of the pretty much everywhere. When he's approached in the local assassin/hit person bar by a mysterious man that bears a passing resemblance to Agent Smith from The Matrix offering a cure, he brushes him off at first, but eventually takes him up on the offer, only to find out that the cure isn't what he was expecting.

Wade is held captive and repeatedly tortured to try and trigger a mutation of some kind, which eventually happens, but leaves him horribly scarred but with the ability to regenerate and heal from pretty much every injury you can imagine. Not wanting to return to Vanessa looking like he does, Wade wants to track down Agent Smith and the man responsible for his torture, Ajax to make them 'fix his face.' The usual amount of killing, death, destruction and mayhem follow in his wake- and catch the attention of The X-Men, who send Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead to try again to persuade Deadpool (as Wade now calls himself) from shooting everyone and to join the X-Men.

While Deadpool turns down their pitch to join up, they do help him recover Vanessa from the clutches of Ajax (who has put two and two together and figured out who Deadpool really is and promptly kidnaps her) and while monumentally (and rightfully) pissed off at Wade for not, you know, letting her know that he's alive, she decides that she still loves him, scars and all and the movie ends happily ever after, etc, etc and leaves us all wanting the inevitable sequel to come out next month instead of in a couple of years.

As much as Days of Future Past did to erase the bad taste of X-Men 3: The Last Stand from the minds and mouths of fans of the franchise, so Deadpool laid to rest, once and for all, the terrible, terrible portrayal of the character from X-Men Origins: Wolverine. This was the perfect portrayal of the wise-cracking, profane, vaguely perverted, cartoonishly violent, fourth-wall breaking character and the refreshing injection of irreverence and actual humor into a superhero movie is an intriguing wrinkle for a genre (oeuvre?) of movies that seems to have become very preoccupied about taking themselves very seriously.

Irreverence and humor can work for these movie- as can R-ratings. The next Wolverine movie has already been announced as an R-rated movie and they've already said that the sequel to Deadpool is going to feature have his long-time foil and partner Cable.

I also think that this movie probably provided the best portrayal of Colossus yet. He was an actual character in this movie. With you know, more than one line and stuff! Plus, I think they get his size right in a way that none of the other X-movies has so far. He looks like a colossus and his optimistic, Boy Scout personality is pitch perfect and absolute fits with the way the character is portrayed in the comic books. I had not encountered Negasonic Teenage Warhead before this movie, but with a New Mutants movie reportedly on the way, it seems obvious they might be laying some groundwork there for future appearances in that branch of the X-Universe as well.*

If I have one, tiny quibble with this movie, it's with the obvious: why didn't Wade just tell Vanessa he was alive to begin with? It'd be one thing if he had and she was all like 'ewwwww, gross'- then I could see his motivation to fix his face- and when at the end of the movie she was totally down with his scarred appearance and all that, it made a lot of the violence seem absolutely unnecessary. A lot of lives could have been saved if Wade would have just told his girlfriend he was alive but a little messed up, cosmetically speaking. But then again, I suppose cartoonish levels of violence that's not strictly necessary also fit well with the character of Deadpool.

Overall: I enjoyed the hell out of this movie- which is laugh out loud funny and absolutely and unapologetically inappropriate. They finally got the 'Merc with the Mouth' right and hit this movie out of the park. I, along with the rest of the world, can only count the days until the sequel comes out. **** out of ****

*Since they're obviously in Canada, this begs the question: do they start tugging at enough strings to get us into Weapon X? Or even Alpha Flight? I think they could have a lot of fun with the fact that Canada seems to produce an inordinate amount of superheroes/villains in the comics. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Couldn't Happen To Nicer People

Full disclosure: I wander through Gawker and it's affiliated sites on a fairly regular basis- though the actual mothership probably isn't my most-visited site, I give it a go from time to time, but really, Deadspin and io9 are where I'm usually to be found. I could really give half a shit about the whole Hulk Hogan sex tape thing, but the reaction to the news that Billionaire Peter Thiel was the guy funding Hogan's lawsuit the whole time is sort of amusing to say the least.

Billionaire do this. I detest the whole 'money is speech' notion, because it reduces our basic rights to commodities and that's just bullshit. The Constitution doesn't say that you can have as many rights as you can buy- it says everyone has the same rights under the law. More money shouldn't buy you more rights.

But, as I said, billionaires do this. The difference is that when billionaires like Tom Steyer or George Soros fund lawsuits that liberals and progressives like, then we don't hear about it. When Thiel goes after a media company that has done some excellent work and some frankly cheap tabloid hackery, all of a sudden the media elites are clutching their pearls and talking about what a 'threat to free speech it is.' (Some people say it's a load of bunk, some people say- of course- that it's really racism that's behind this, some people say maybe. The opinions run the gamut.)

So Thiel went a little Count of Monte Cristo on Gawker...  maybe Nick Denton is right- maybe the guy is a comic book villain, but as I keep hearing whenever the (usually, but not always Progressive/Liberal) internet mobs run amuck because someone has the audacity not to hew to their ideological orthodoxy*: 'Free speech doesn't protect you from consequences.'

No, it doesn't. So why should Gawker get a pass? They outed a dude with, to coin a phrase used by Bill Burr, 'fuck you money.' And if you out a dude with 'fuck you money' you really shouldn't be all that surprised when they in fact, use their money, to well, fuck you. Granted in the case of Gawker it could be well be a terminal fucking, but as the great and the good always sermonize: free speech doesn't protect you from consequences.

Is it a threat to free speech itself? No more than anything else is these days...  one prominent case doesn't make a trend, but it might set a legal precedent that's worthy of some concern. If we find ourselves getting to the point where billionaires can use the law to hide themselves from the scrutiny of the press, then I think we have a problem. But conversely, if you're the ones driving the content that sets the tone for our public discourse, then there's some onus of responsibility on the side of journalism as well.

I mean, look at the original story that purportedly started Thiel on his Count of Monte Cristo quest. This wasn't about exposing the wrong doings of a rich and powerful guy. They figured out that he was gay and then went ahead and outed him, because they thought it was pretty cool? How is that newsworthy? How is that responsible journalism? How is that any of Gawker's business much less any of mine? They ran a story that took what I would imagine to be an incredibly personal decision- to come out as gay, in public- out of the hands of someone, just because they could. And just because you can do something, doesn't mean that you should.

Actions, as people like to remind us these days, have consequences. And if Gawker goes down, it'll be a shame, because when they hit home runs, they can produce things of beauty when they want too. But the problem is, when they miss, they miss in the worst way possible. It's sort of fascinating to watch- because there's the range of genuinely incisive, even important journalism/commentary at one end and the worst kind of tabloid trash at the other. And in this case, the latter got them into some deep and well-deserved doo-doo, and to be honest, it couldn't have happened to nicer people.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

This Week In Vexillology #169

This Week in Vexillology, we're swapping one set of island nations for another and heading back across the Pacific, through Central America and out into the Caribbean Sea to take a look at the flag of Trinidad and Tobago:


Adopted following independence from the United Kingdom on August 31st, 1962, this striking flag is known as The Sun-Sea-Sand Banner (which seems appropriate, as I'm thinking that a Caribbean nation probably has a surplus of all three of those things.) Red represents fire and the sun (also courage), black is for earth (also dedication) and white is for water (also purity and equality).

Just a casual glance through Trinidad and Tobago's WikiPage makes for fascinating reading. Settled originally by indigenous tribes in the area, Spain soon moved in and ran the joint for three centuries or so- which would have been fine and dandy and probably lead to an inevitable changing of hands at some point, but it looks like they landed a governor, Don Jose Maria Chacon in 1783 that took a rather loose interpretation of a declaration from King Charles III and ran with it. The promise of free lands for Catholic families will to swear allegiance to the kind of Spain lead to wave of immigration from Scots, Irish, German and English families. During the French revolution, they saw an influx of people from nearby French colonies and finally, the colony shifted over to the British in 1797, which saw an influx from nearby British colonies in the Caribbean.

But it doesn't stop there! Chinese, Portuguese and a significant amount of Indians were shipped in as indentured labor in the 1800s. Tobago has a similar history, with Dutch and Courlanders (from a small duchy in modern day Latvia moving during the 16th and 18th centuries.

Granted- this fascinating blend of cultures was brought about with a hefty amount of help from things like the slave trade and indentured servitude, but what a blend! Must be a fascinating place to live- not to mention visit.

So that's Trinidad and Tobago! Remember, until next time, keep your flags flying- FREAK or otherwise!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Squawk Box: Coming This Fall

Well, early last month the networks did their usual shenanigans cancelling a ton of shows (goodbye to Nashville and Castle) and dropping the usual hefty amounts of previews for new shows that have been picked up for the fall season. Some notable trends are immediately obvious- with CBS rolling out Limitless last year, that meant every one had to take a turn at adapting a movie to television and boy oh boy are there plenty to choose from:

Rush Hour: For the love of God, why?
Training Day: Oh, so they flipped the races and the African-American young Detective type is going to teach Bill Paxton important lessons about sensitivity, justice and race in modern America? Sounds amazing!
The Exorcist: Meh. Not really my type of show
Lethal Weapon: Strangely, I might give this a go. I think a lot is riding on the chemistry between Clayne Crawford and Damon Wayans, Sr. but it's got some potential
Frequency: Hmmm... well, I've never actually seen the movie, so why not give it a go?

There's a couple of 'rich, billionaire geniuses' type shows that are kind of intriguing:

Pure Genius looks at a billionaire trying to change the medical field... APB is sort of like, 'what if Bruce Wayne brought a police precinct' instead of became Batman. Both could be awful, but both might be interesting enough to check out.

Deisgnated Survivor: After years of running around a doing the bidding of various Presidents on 24, Kiefer Sutherland actually gets a shot at the top job...  the big question: will he be a better President than Donald Sutherland on The Hunger Games?

Time travel is getting a double shot of love this fall with Making History and Timeless. The former looks slightly more promising than the latter.

Bull. is Michael Weatherly's new show, post DiNozzo/NCIS and it caught my attention with the following sentence: 'Inspired by the early career of Dr. Phil McGraw' I'm officially intrigued.)

No Tomorrow: Girl meets hot guy who is convinced the world is going to end soonish and lives her life out loud or some thing?

Man With A Plan could be the sitcom Matt LeBlanc has been looking for, but maybe not. The Mick looks slightly better and then there's Jenna Elfman in Imaginary Mary and American Housewife.

Star: Intriguing and interesting... I've yet to see Queen Latifah suck in anything.

I'm not sure if Conviction and Notorious are the latest entries in Shonda-land, but they feel like they are- but if they're not actual Shonda-land shows, they're going to fit right in just fine.

With Parenthood gone, it seems like NBC is banking on This Is Us to fill its shoes.

Pitch is probably the show that caught me the most by surprise, because it's actually got an intriguing premise- the first female pitcher to start a Major League Baseball game.

All in all, there's some intriguing stuff coming in the fall, but to be honest, nothing that excites me in a major way. There are shows I'll probably check out, but none of these really rises to the level of 'MUST WATCH AND DVR IMMEDIATELY' you know? I could be wrong- and probably am- about at least one or two of them, but we'll see what the fall brings to the table.

Enjoy the feast of links! (Oh and what the heck, dear reader (or readers) go ahead and tell me your favorite in the comments!)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Bye, Quad



Little Dude was having a rough day last week, which the Missus and I thought meant that teeth were imminent, but no, he just really needed to poop and like us was probably tired of living in a sweatbox for a couple of nights. Needless to say, I planned some car trips to see if he would drop off to sleep- and both times he did, but on Trip #2 in the late afternoon, I swung through McDonald's to get a Happy Meal for Little Man (who had been a really good sport for the majority of the day) and then I realized that since Little Dude was still sleeping, I might as well swing up and take one last look at Quad.

I have no idea why I like Quad quite so much. I didn't even live there: I lived in Hillcrest. But in the year I spent working for the Security Division, I spent inordinate amounts of time walking the dorms and got to know them all very well- and Quad quickly became my favorite and everyone I tell this too thinks I'm either a. crazy b. stupid or c. just a little bit weird.

I understand why though: Quad was showing it's age and had been for quite some time. It was in dire need of an update- but the sense of history in the building was nice. The place had character- from that study lounge with the piano in one corner, to the Rehder Lounge (I think it was called) just off of the Main Lobby that had all those pictures from the construction of Kinnick Stadium from waaaaaaaaaaaaaay back in the day. The place had character and class.

I almost wished they would have restored the place to it's original glory and made it an actual Quadrangle again, but time marches on and the College of Pharmacy needs some extra room to expand. So, bye, Quad. I'd buy a brick, but I didn't actually live there and while you were my favorite dorm, you weren't $100 worth of a favorite dorm, you know?