Categories
Funny and/or Strange Photo I Like Uncategorized

Dukakis Still Drives Old Tank Everywhere

Since we’re slogging knee deep through a year of ridiculous campaigners, I thought I’d roll out this post on a serious candidate’s most ridiculous moment. And all ye gods, goddesses and l’il baby godlets, please bless The Onion,   from whence this came.

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Image from…”a campaign stop for Democratic presidential nominee Michael Dukakis: a ride in a 68-ton M1A1 Abrams Main Battle Tank. The visit, meant to bolster the candidate’s credibility as a future commander-in-chief, would go down as one of the worst campaign backfires in history.”

 

Categories
Commentary

Smoking and Obama Kill?

If you’re wondering do other nations villify us  as much as we do them, witness this poster seen recently in Moscow. It says, “Smoking Kills More People than Obama does.”

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When I’m done laughing, all I can think is: yeah, well–that’s all fine and dandy and cute and funny, Russia–but ask yourself this: are your better off today than when your own President took office?  Because he sure is, with a net worth of nearly $200 Billion that qualifies him as one of the wealthiest people on earth.

So, let’s call it a draw. May the biggest man win.

SAINT PETERSBURG - SEPTEMBER 05: In this handout image provided by Host Photo Agency, Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and U.S. President Barack Obama shake hands during an official welcome during the G20 Summit on September 5, 2013 in St. Petersburg, Russia. The G20 summit is expected to be dominated by the issue of military action in Syria while issues surrounding the global economy, including tax avoidance by multinationals, will also be discussed during the two-day summit. (Photo by Alexey Kudenko/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)
(Photo by Alexey Kudenko/Host Photo Agency via Getty Images)
Categories
Commentary Uncategorized Yinzerism/Pittsburgh Advocacy

Heath Miller, We’ll Miss You

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A little late, but this is a post that I can’t not make.  After eleven seasons, tight end Heath Miller, the quintessential Steeler, has called it quits–here’s hoping he’s making it out with both his body and his brain intact, even though I’d have loved to see him stick around for another Lombardi trophy next February. A humble player in a world of egotists, Miller miller.pngnever complained about being employed as a blocking tight end, at which he excelled, while less talented players grabbed more attention as glorified wide receivers. For most of his career, he was far and away the most complete, most complete tight end in the league, a brutal blocker and sure-handed receiver. Just as importantly, he was a man whose life outside the stadiums rarely made the news, unless he was being feted as a superior citizen.

My only complaint is that it’s possible my wife liked him just a little bit more than I would have liked.  Good luck to him, though, despite that–he deserves his healthy retirement.

Categories
Commentary

Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight

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I don’t see a lot of films in the theater, and I rarely review those I do–if for no other reason than that I tend to spend my big screen movie money on empty calorie treats like the latest Star Wars film–spectacles with running and jumping, superheroes and spacemen, things that go kaboom in the deep. By strange coincidence, while devoting some time to catching up with some of the many blogs I follow, after a lengthy period of real-world responsibilities pulling me away from you, my electric brethren, I stumbled into not one, nor two, but three different reviews of Quentin Tarantino’s Hateful Eight. I consider this as a calling to write my own. And while it seems a bit late for a film that premiered on Christmas Day, 7 weeks ago, I’ll say: so what. The film is going to come out on DVD and streaming soon enough, and the internet is forever.

The plot isn’t complex: Kurt Russell’s aging bounty hunter, escorting a prisoner played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, and running hard to outdistance a looming Wyoming blizzard, first encounters an infamous colleague, Major Marquis Warren, to whom he grudgingly offers assistance. Soon, the two hardened men take shelter in a remote mountain outpost, in the company of an assortment of potentially dangerous men, one or more of whom is almost certainly not what he appears to be.

As the blizzard descends on the outpost, the perspective changes from sweeping, widescreen vistas of gray and white, granite and snow, icy rivers and stark forests beneath soaring peaks, to the warm, fire lit confines of the snowbound cabin. The sense of confinement, despite the rich, saturated glow, is threateningly claustrophobic, leaving one almost desperate to return to the harsh, howling storm outside.

From here, the concept is simple. A room full of strangers and their secrets, each of whom has some reason to distrust, or despise, at least one of the others, none of whom–even the men we suspect are the heroes in the tale–can be trusted. Who are these people? What are the agendas at play? When will pulsing tension break, and who will survive when it does?

Jackson and Russell deliver highly nuanced anti-heroes, reluctantly allied–at least in the short term–against the strangers around them. Leigh is nothing short of perfect as a filthy, rotten-toothed villain bound for the gallows, while veteran Tarantino players Tim Roth and Michael Madsen are subtle, hovering between menacing and virtuous. Bruce Dern is quietly powerful as a withered veteran confederate officer who serves as both mirror and foil to Jackson’s former Union soldier, but it is Walton Goggins, the least famous player in the main cast, who nearly steals the film as the morally indeterminate young Chris Mannix, who claims to be the new Sheriff of Red Rock, delayed on his trip to assume his duties.

Early in the film, I suspected the three hour running time of the extended roadshow version might be too much, given the palpable weight of tension that runs through virtually every word, action, and and moment of the film, but even with the old-fashioned intermission that further extended the showing, I was quickly draw into the action, where I lost fully lost myself. For all that time, the story never lags–even a prototypical Tarantino flashback deep into the heart of the film, which reveals a much more light-hearted back story for the owners of the mountain sanctuary, is fraught with promised doom and mayhem made all the worse by its sunny happiness and a charmingly bright performance by veteran stuntwoman and actress Zoë Bell (who played the scarred mystery woman in Django Unchained, took all those beatings as Uma Thurman’s stunt double in Kill Bill, and doubled leads in both Inglorious Basterds and the Grindhouse films–Mr. Tarantino, would you please make this woman a star already!)

For all of it’s lush visual appeal, Hateful Eight is an old school drama, with talented actors at their peak, inhabiting tightly written characters in conflict with each other. In an age of CGI gobbledygook and cynical pandering to corporate theaters and studios that foolhardily invested in the failure that is 3D technology, this is a big, gorgeous, exquisitely crafted masterpiece shot on rich, glorious film. Take away the performances, the sizzling dialogue, even the bile-churning, exquisitely tangible violence, and Hateful Eight would excel on the merits of it’s cinematography alone. It is beautiful and horrible, the best Tarantino has done since Pulp Fiction. It is nothing less than the work of a master at the top of his craft, and should not be missed.

Categories
Commentary Quote

Another Scalia Post–Enjoy The Quotes

Not always, but more often than not, I’ve disagreed with Antonin Scalia’s fiercely Screenshot_7conservative judicial opinions, just as I disagree in principle with his deeply felt conviction in the philosophy of constitutional originalism. It’s not that my opinion on the subject matters much, or at all, but I do have my thinking moments, and in those moments it occurs to me that a document approaching its 250th birthday, serving as guidebook and center of a nation that is similarly aged, during a time in history during which the world has changed more profoundly than any equivalent in human history, merits some reflective interpretation of how monumentally different our nation, and our perspective, has changed over those years.

But I digress. As I’ve said earlier this week, while Scalia is no moral or philosophical role model, I have a deep appreciation for his devilish mind, especially as an often gleeful contrarian who deeply enjoys using wordplay to elevate, skewer, and occasionally just entertain, as well as respect for some–but certainly not all–of his personal opinions, if for no other reason than they are often presented so wonderfully.  Many of Scalia’s most scathing opinions could have been expressed in terse, coldly efficient language, but instead the man had a penchant for verbal knife-twisting that will be missed, especially compared to milquetoast lightweights like fellow conservative Clarence Thomas.  And while I am certain that the America I long to see becomes more possible without Scalia at the bench, I mourn for the loss of his keen and inimitable intellect and irrepressible style.

With that in mind, here is a selection of his “greatest hits,” so to speak. We’ll start with one of my favorites, which I happen to agree with very much.

“If I were king, I would not allow people to go about burning the American flag. However, we have a First Amendment, which says that the right of free speech shall not be abridged.”

And I’ll follow with one of his most wrong-headed, on Citizens United v. FEC, which granted corporate entities, political groups, and other organizations to contribute virtually limitless funds, often under a veil of anonymity, to candidates.

“I don’t care who is doing the speech — the more the merrier. People are not stupid. If they don’t like it, they’ll shut it off.”

And there are so many more of these gems, of which I offer but a sampling:

“The Court’s argument also overlooks the rudimentary principle that a specific provision governs a general one. Even if it were true that the term ‘such Exchange’ … implies that federal and state Exchanges are the same in general, the term ‘established by the State’ … makes plain that they differ when it comes to tax credits in particular,” he said. “The Court’s next bit of interpretive jiggery-pokery involves other parts of the Act that purportedly presuppose the availability of tax credits on both federal and state Exchanges.”–dissenting opinion on thwarted challenge to the “Obamacare” legislation.

“The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic. It is one thing for separate concurring or dissenting opinions to contain extravagances, even silly extravagances, of thought and expression; it is something else for the official opinion of theCourt to do so.”

And this one, oozing with rightful condescension, regarding a case about permitting a handicapped (no pun intended) golfer to use a cart in a PGA tournament.

“If one assumes, however, that the PGA TOUR has some legal obligation to play classic, Platonic golf — and if one assumes the correctness of all the other wrong turns the Court has made to get to this point — then we Justices must confront what is indeed an awesome responsibility. It has been rendered the solemn duty of the Supreme Court of the United States, laid upon it by Congress in pursuance of the Federal Government’s power “[t]o regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States,” to decide What Is Golf. I am sure that the Framers of the Constitution, aware of the 1457 edict of King James II of Scotland prohibiting golf because it interfered with the practice of archery, fully expected that sooner or later the paths of golf and government, the law and the links, would once again cross, and that the judges of this august Court would some day have to wrestle with that age-old jurisprudential question, for which their years of study in the law have so well prepared them: Is someone riding around a golf course from shot to shot really a golfer? The answer, we learn, is yes. The Court ultimately concludes, and it will henceforth be the Law of the Land, that walking is not a “fundamental”

“The judge who always likes the results he reaches is a bad judge.”

“A man who has made no enemies is probably not a very good man.”

“Never compromise your principles, unless of course your principles are Adolf Hitler’s, in which case you would be well advised to compromise them as much as you can.”

“In a big family the first child is kind of like the first pancake. If it’s not perfect, that’s OK. There are a lot more coming along.”

“Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to determine where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited in the Constitution?” he asked. “…It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that. And once you acknowledge that, we’re into a different game.”

“I even accept for the sake of argument that sexual orgies eliminate social tensions and ought to be encouraged.”

“Indeed, follow your star if you want to head north and it’s the North Star. But if you want to head north and it’s Mars, you had better follow somebody else’s star.”

“If it were impossible for individual human beings (or groups of human beings) to act autonomously in effective pursuit of a common goal, the game of soccer would not exist.”

And just when you’re thinking, “this guy isn’t the villain I thought he was,” you run into something like this:

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.”

“This case, involving legal requirements for the content and labeling of meat products such as frankfurters, affords a rare opportunity to explore simultaneously both parts of Bismarck’s aphorism that ‘No man should see how laws or sausages are made.'”

“Our manner of interpreting the Constitution is to begin with the text, and to give that text the meaning that it bore when it was adopted by the people … This is such a minority position in modern academia and in modern legal circles that on occasion I’m asked when I’ve given a talk like this a question from the back of the room — ‘Justice Scalia, when did you first become an originalist?’ — as though it is some kind of weird affliction that seizes some people — ‘When did you first start eating human flesh?'”

“I find it a sufficient embarrassment that our Establishment Clause jurisprudence regarding holiday displays has come to ‘requir[e] scrutiny more commonly associated with interior decorators than with the judiciary.’ But interior decorating is a rock hard science compared to psychology practiced by amateurs.”

And lastly, you’ve got to love a man who sticks it to his haters–in a letter to the editor of the Boston Herald…ouch.

“It has come to my attention that your newspaper published a story on Monday stating that I made an obscene gesture — inside Holy Cross Cathedral [Boston], no less. The story is false, and I ask that you publish this letter in full to set the record straight. Your reporter, an up-and-coming ‘gotcha’ star named Laurel J. Sweet, asked me (o-so-sweetly) what I said to those people who objected to my taking part in such public religious ceremonies as the Red Mass I had just attended. I responded, jocularly, with a gesture that consisted of fanning the fingers of my right hand under my chin. Seeing that she did not understand, I said ‘That’s Sicilian,’ and explained its meaning– which was that I could not care less… How could your reporter leap to the conclusion (contrary to my explanation) that the gesture was obscene? Alas, the explanation is evident in the following line from her article: “‘That’s Sicilian,’ the Italian jurist said, interpreting for the ‘Sopranos’ challenged.” From watching too many episodes of the ‘Sopranos,’ your staff seems to have acquired the belief that any Sicilian gesture is obscene– especially when made by an ‘Italian jurist.’ (I am, by the way, an American jurist.)   Sincerely, Antonin Scalia.”

Categories
Funny and/or Strange Narrative/Journal Uncategorized

On This Day in History…

In 1941, legendary North Korean dictator Kim Jong-il was born. He would have been 75. I snapped this photo back in my days with the diplomatic corps, during a three-day bender with Jong-il and a trio of Belgian prostitutes we’d picked up after a failed, clandestine meeting in Antwerp. He wanted nothing to do with increased grain subsidies, he’d laughed, unless that grain arrived in the form of Jack Daniels bourbon, which was hard to come by in North Korea thanks to an American embargo on luxury goods.

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Jong-il decided he wanted to swim, and one thing led to another. We crossed France without incident. Surely some palms were greased along the way, as there was no mistaking the sleek, vintage  1974 Lincoln I wouldn’t see again until his funeral parade.  Man, was that car cool.

Just after dawn we found ourselves in an apartment two blocks off the Cotes de Basques, ostensibly maintained as an RBG safe house. There was so much beer, pot, and cocaine–Jong-il was crazy about snorting the coke from one of the hooker’s ass cracks, after which he would laugh for half an hour, just giggling like a school girl–I’ve never seen anything like it, even during the out of control years of the first Bush administration. We never even left the apartment, let alone saw the beach. Sure do miss that crazy little guy; he really knew how to party.

 

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Uncategorized

Monday/Memeday: In Honor of Justice Scalia

Antonin Scalia memes are overrunning the Internet…

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I can’t help but think the guy would be pleased by the attention, but disappointed with what thus far seems to be a somewhat lackluster effort. Still, I found a few good ones.

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And, finally, in perhaps the greatest compliment, even the Most Interesting Man in the World speaks up. We should all be so honored.

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Categories
Commentary

Back To Work, er…Fun

The massive project–a volunteer, service-short of shindig–that has kept me away from the blogosphere for the past month or so culminated almost flawlessly this past weekend, but now we find ourselves a week past due starting seeds for the spring garden, despite the bitter cold and snow we’ve been enjoying, and well behind schedule on our taxes, which this Die Strafeyear will be followed by FAFSAS forms for my kids. So, while I’m not totally unencumbered by real world responsibilities, I may actually get in more than a post a week, not to mention have some time to keep up with all of your stuff, which I’ve missed more than you probably know.  Fair warning: it shouldn’t be too long before my smart-assed strafing of reply boxes picks up once more, so get those little pie plate helmets on yer heads and get the sirens going.

 

Categories
Commentary

Justice Antonin Scalia Dies

So, Antonin Scalia died in his sleep yesterday–otherwise engaged, I remained blissfully unaware of this admittedly monumental development until this morning, when the news hit my ears (my eyes, to be precise) with a monumental “plop” not unlike a turd splashing into the hygienic blue-tinged water in the lavender scented bathroom of Aunt Mathilde’s scrupulously maintained cottage. I am a terrible person, because my very first thought was: “Good.”
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But I’m not irredeemable. I stepped back. Scalia was a human being, I’m relatively certain, however inhumane he often seemed to me, as the angry, stubborn voice of pretty much everything I despise about the modern, contemptuous, obstructionist, and highly partisan incarnation of conservatism. Odds are, if Scalia had an opinion, I opposed it.  Right now, writers are falling all over themselves in efforts to grab page hits, struggling to reinvent the justice as, as one called it, “a tireless defender of the constitution.”  Well, I’m here to say that no Justice in recent history has gone further in interpreting said constitution through the warped, narrow, insidious filter fashioned by melding hyper-conservatism with Catholic extremism.  A hypocrite in every sense of the word.

I backed away from the initial, positive response to his death out of respect for his friends and family who probably, for the most part, loved him and now mourn his passing. But rest easy–his particular brand of one-sided objectivity will be remembered: already, his surviving Republican allies are already gathering to obstruct any attempts to fill the open seat on the Supreme Court, until a new President takes office nearly a year from now. Yes, Justice Scalia, you will not be forgotten.

And, by the way, my antagonistic view of the guy should not imply that I don’t find him fascinating and deeply nuanced–he clearly had a mind I would have enjoyed getting to know, and was a fellow contrarian to boot.  Here’s a link to a fanstastic and illuminating interview with him. I highly recommend it for reading.

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sheer awesomeness

The Black Swallow of Death

I know, you’ve missed me–I’ve been buried in real-world work again–but I’m swimming towards the surface.  In the meantime, here’s a transcript, with some additions, from a Facebook post that’s making the rounds–a story too fascinating, exciting, and (sadly) unsurprising to not share with you.

Eugene_Jacques_Bullard,_first_African_American_combat_pilot_in_uniform,_First_World_War Do you know who this is a photo of? Chances are you don’t, but don’t feel bad because probably not one American in one million does, and that is a National tragedy. His name is Eugene Jacques Bullard, and he is the first African-American fighter pilot in history. But he is also much more then that: He’s also a national hero, and his story is so incredible that I bet if you wrote a movie script based on it Hollywood would reject it as being too far-fetched.

Bullard was an expat living in France, and when World War 1 broke out he joined the French Infantry. He was seriously wounded, and France awarded him the Croix de Guerre and Medaille Militaire. In 1916 he joined the French air service and he first trained as a gunner but later he trained as a pilot. When American pilots volunteered to help France and formed the famous Lafayette Escadrille, he asked to join but by the time he became a qualified pilot they were no longer accepting new recruits, so he joined the Lafayette Flying Corps instead. He served with French flying units and he completed 20 combat missions.

Eugene Jacques Bullard. (U.S. Air Force photo)
Eugene Jacques Bullard. (U.S. Air Force photo)

When the United States finally joined the war, Bullard was the only member of the Escadrille or the French Flying Corps who was NOT invited to join the US Air Service. The reason? At that time the Air Service only accepted white men.

Now here is the part that almost sounds like a sequel to ‘Casablanca’: After WWI Bullard became a jazz musician in Paris and he eventually owned a nightclub called ‘L’Escadrille’. When the Germans invaded France and conquered it in WW2, his Club, and Bullard, became hugely popular with German officers, but what they DIDN’T know was that Bullard, who spoke fluent German, was actually working for the Free French as a spy. He eventually joined a French infantry unit, but he was badly wounded and had to leave the service.

Bullard became known as "The Black Swallow of Death," a pretty awesome nickname by any accounting.
Bullard became known as “The Black Swallow of Death,” a pretty awesome nickname by any accounting.

By the end of the war, Bullard had become a national hero in France, but he later moved back to the U.S. where he was of course completely unknown. Practically no one in the United States was aware of it when, in 1959, the French government named him a national Chevalier, or Knight.

In 1960, the President of France, Charles DeGaulle, paid a state visit to the United States and when he arrived he said that one of the first things he wanted to do was to meet Bullard. That sent the White House staff scrambling because most of them, of course, had never even heard of him. They finally located him in New York City, and DeGaulle traveled there to meet him personally. At the time, Eugene Bullard was working as … An elevator operator.

Not long after Eugene Bullard met with the President of France, he passed away, and today very, very few Americans, and especially African-Americans, even know who he is. But, now YOU do, don’t you? And I hope you’ll be able to find opportunities to tell other people about this great American hero that probably only 1 American in 1 Million has ever heard of.

Postscript: It’s worth noting that I also discovered this photo of Bullard being beaten by police in the famous anti-black, anti-communist, anti-Semitic Peekskill Riots of 1949. God bless America–the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Peekskill--Eugene Bullard attacked

515f1qwGj6L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_The italicized text above arrived in my hands attributed to someone named Terry Dunn, via Facebook. I’m unsure of its provenance.

A more complete biography of Corporal Bullard appears here.
His wikipedia page is here.  (link repaired)

And there is even a book. It is amazing how much there is that we don’t know.