Author Archives: sam
OK, I’m going to lay my cards on the table. I voted Trump.
No, I didn’t. Let me repeat: I did not vote for Donald Jehoshaphat Trump to be President of the United States of America. That was just an experiment to see how you felt immediately after reading it. Pleasure at finding a kindred spirit? Pity? Disgust or even rage bordering on nausea?
Did you even get past the first sentence (let alone the headline) in order to read this plot twist, or are the saloon doors still rattling back and forth from the speed of your exit?
There’s a not-quote-apropos YouTube moment for everything
The truth is, I voted none of the above, which in the eyes of some Democrats makes me just as bad as the people who voted Nader in 2000. (I voted Nader in 2000.)
And a butterfly flapped its wings
Not long after abstaining from my civic duty, I then had the audacity to hope that it was too early to call Trumpageddon.
This is a view I still hold.
I can read* (*the question is what one should be reading) and observe exquisitely unpresidential press conferences. I see how it looks. Amateur hour with clowns at the head table.
And yet, I can’t help but feel that anyone this widely reviled by the forces arrayed against him, including a press corps which made him despite themselves and is itching to unmake him (with the tremendous help of unforced errors), and political opponents more concerned about their stalled career trajectories than the nation’s stability, can’t be all bad.
He also seems inclined to want to act on his campaign promises.*
Sure he’s got his bad points, like clumsily showing concern for America’s borders by wanting to build a wall instead of a fence, or having disturbing tendencies to occasionally speak ugly truths (e.g., “for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation…”, “You think our country’s so innocent?”) in between ugly tweets. His every syllable isn’t scripted like a Hillary Clinton’s, and a lot of people like a script.
Setting aside the pesky line of succession, I’m sure we can all think of a hundred other qualified applicants for head of state.
If you’re in the IMPEACH HIM NOW crowd
or the coup d’état crowd
or even the please-report-yourself-to-the-Secret-Service crowd
imagine the almighty turmoil the country would go through if there were a transfer of power in the current climate. Remember that 60 million of your fellow Americans voted for him. They had their reasons, just as you did yours for voting Clinton, or third party, or not at all.
Maybe you have imagined it
and still feel it’s worth it; maybe you’d be right. It’s something thoughtful people should be able to debate in a reasonable way.
Like a helping of irony with that?
I’ll check my diary
Look what just arrived—could it be a belated valentine from the other Legal Occupier of this address? Because the 27th has significance in our lives. It’s our anniversary!
(Actually our anniversary is the 28th. I can never remember with exactitude despite piling up an impressive number of them. I figure having it nailed down to those two days deserves some credit.)
Seeing as she would never get the date wrong, chances are it’s not from her. I open it. What’s this?
Looks official, signature in contrasting ink and everything. That’s Hales, John Hales, licence to instill fear in the noncompliant.
Canterbury isn’t just around the corner, but it’s close enough that it shouldn’t take two years for an officer to hurry up and get here to check up on us already. That’s about how long we’ve been getting love letters from Capita, the company contracted out by the BBC to blanket the country with stern letters like this.
The assumption is that everybody is tuned in at some point. There are no discounts for not being camped out on the couch in front of the tube; it only takes once a year, so if you’re only turning it on to catch the Queen’s Christmas Message, savour every word.
The problem is, not everybody watches television or uses their computer as one. Many of us use services such as Netflix exclusively, which warrants no licence. And some outliers have no interest in moving pictures at all.
Just having a TV in the house doesn’t mean it has to have papers: you’ve actually got to turn it on. As it is inconceivable to Capita that you can own a set which primarily gets used as, say, a temporary storage facility the top of which is easier to access than drawers and a step up from the floor,
only occasionally being called into service for things called ‘videos’, you’re considered guilty until proven innocent — “Tell us you don’t need one.”
If only it were that easy. Yes, you can inform them that none of this applies to you, but you’ll still have to be prepared to admit an Enforcement Officer to check up on you. Or so they say.
Actually, Capita ‘Officers’ have no more right to enter your home than the pizza delivery guy.
You’re perfectly entitled to close the door in their face, or better yet, not open it in the first place.
Why would you be so rude? Perhaps because you have the quaint notion your home really is your castle, or as close to a castle as you can afford, and being asked to admit what are basically salesmen, or else, sticks in the craw.
As you can see, the tone of the letters is firm if not threatening. It works. There are even people who have admitted to caving in and getting a licence although they absolutely don’t need one, due to a combination of intimidation and ignorance of the law.
Mrs Legal Occupier and I made sure we knew our rights before taking the drastic step of laughing at the letters that come through the slot about once a month. And anyway we’re busy the 27th. I for one am going to be spending it apologising for wishing her happy anniversary right after waking up.
Star Trek comes in handy. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve needed a pop culture reference and reached for Kirk & Co. They’ve also provided fan fiction mulch on a few occasions.
This despite that I rarely rate it higher than Good Bad, the category which naturally falls below Good and above Bad. There’s also a Good Good, but I see no need for a Bad Bad.
I turn on the subtitles when watching anything. It’s not that I’m hard of hearing; it’s more that I always have a nagging worry about missing dialogue, and prefer the redundancy. These days all my viewing is done on a computer, making it easy to collect screenshots along the way.
The following are from the Star Trek Voyager episode Alter Ego, which may have been the first to make me sit up from my usual half-interested slouch, one eye on the Netflix window, the other on some fresh hell in my chosen opinion aggregator, and say to my Oreo “Hey, this is better than Good Bad.”
After the preliminaries, which are nothing special else I would’ve taken snaps of them, we are presented with the sight of the ship’s senior logic jockey fiddling with one of those Vulcan games that make you wonder if this advanced race is all it’s cracked up to be. Humans discovered Pick-up sticks centuries ago.
In walks Harry:
“Grasshopper,” he forgot to add. Harry calls it:
as I was saying, the obviously troubled Operations Officer
has come seeking wisdom from Lt Cdr “Know-It-All” Tuvok, who like Spock only has one name, all others having been dispensed with probably around the time the Vulcan High Command outlawed any emotion more severe than a raised eyebrow.
Harry has woman woes. A step up from Tribble trouble, if you ask me.
Well, this is Star Trek. Specifically, Harry is smitten with a holodeck character (“Computer, give me something from Baywatch, aged to perfection”) who’s the only one who really understands him. Or at least that’s what I assume the project notes said.
Tuvok looks into the situation
and comes to appreciate what Harry sees in what’s-her-name. But it turns out all is not what it seems. Marayna (all writing is improved by research) isn’t in fact just another saucy tomato.
She’s a highly intelligent forehead being of the sort the crew is forever running into. But I’m getting ahead of myself in my rush to finish this before I run out of screenshots.
Mary lives on a space station, her job to keep an unruly nebula tame by twiddling dials to maintain that wondrous dampening field technology that awaits future generations. She’s a little like a lifeguard keeping her entire race safe, suffering from not-so-splendid isolation.
She’s managed to infiltrate the Voyager’s CPU or whatever and project herself as holobait. She’s done things like this before, to other ships. It passes the time.
Only this time she didn’t reckon to meet a mind as fascinating as Tuvok’s. She falls for him. She must have him, or else. The imminent destruction of the Voyager awaits, unless the crew can figure all this out before the credits roll.
A highlight of the episode is the hilarious fight between holo Hawaiian hotties (resistance to alliteration is futile) and B’Elanna.
One wonders if junior Vulcan Voric paid to have that set up, fuel for the obvious Pon farr smoldering behind his bedroom eyes earlier in the show.
There is the usual meeting of the minds (Neelix is often the mascot begging for scraps at the table, but he’s too busy adjusting the feng shui on the holodeck of this love boat) who struggle to find a solution which doesn’t violate the prime directive of being too earnest. They fail, of course, as Tuvok allows himself to be beamed into the lair of the highly intelligent forehead being, who his tricorder identifies as the reincarnation of Alex from Fatal Attraction, to be faced with an ultimatum: be hers, or she’ll use her plasma nebula powers to boil the crew of the Voyager like so many bunnies.
There follows a genuinely touching exchange whereby Tuvok talks her out of this act of extreme jealousy
convincing her that she needs to get out more.
I’ve skipped a lot of details, but that’s the gist of it.
What struck me about this episode was how it rose like a phoenix from the ashes of my expectations, begging the question of why I still watch the various Treks floating forever in syndication. It seems that resistance really is
Look, I’m no TV reviewer. I was just pleased that Alter Ego was better written and acted than the usual ST fare; even, if I may be dreadfully patronising,
Is it possible I will be pleasantly surprised by future episodes I’ve already seen ages ago and conveniently forgotten?
* * *
Bonus shot of the doctor, still nameless (Shmullus doesn’t count) but now considering Don Juan.
Blast from the past:
More screenshots from the not-such-an-idiot-box here. I’d like to see how Janeway handles first contact with Swearengen.
In an alternate timeline B’Elanna eschews engineering for the entertainment industry and gets a gig directing an incredibly appropriately named episode of The Americans.
She’s winning as usual. Came out of the gate with a seven letter word. We’ll have to play piecemeal through the week or not at all till next weekend.
She usually reads the board upside-down. Doubtless she could take on a dozen challengers at a time, blindfolded.
I’ve got a 2,000 year old Roman coin in my pocket.* It’s genuine, if the dealer was legit. I don’t see why it wouldn’t be; an abundant supply is available to those interested in history but lacking a trove of disposable income. I would’ve gone for the Yappese Rai but there was no way I’d get that home in a cab outside The Flintstones.
I bought it almost as an afterthought when sourcing a gift for my father, who long ago was bitten by the numismatic bug. I’m not a collector, though will admit to a fondness for £2 coins, especially shiny ones.
It’s cool being able to walk around with something in my pocket that a resident of these windy isles could have carried in his before the Dark Ages. (Did they have pockets back then? Do I need to look that up? Can I trust Wikipedia? Oh let’s, especially as they aren’t motivated by filthy lucre.) What might he have spent it on? A haircut? Small amphora of joy juice? Tip for the attendant at the baths, accompanied by a wink? I can only imagine. Which is kind of the point.
Recently the Bank of England introduced a new fiver. Can’t say I’m a fan. It looks sharp, but it doesn’t like to be folded—a nonstarter for those of us who don’t bother with wallets. It’s also disconcertingly slippery. They say it’s good for the environment, so there’s that.
Peep Show aficionados may remember the rather icky episode when Jeremy is making a deposit at a sperm bank but has nothing in the way of visual stimulation. Desperate, he tries it on with Queen Elizabeth on the front of a £20 bill. When it flutters to the floor in the heat of passion, Sir Edward Elgar on the flip side spoils it for him. There was even a Facebook page devoted to this particular gag.
The banknote featuring the quintessentially English composer on the back is no longer legal tender, though Liz’s ballroom eyes and a stirring rendition of Pomp and Circumstance might still be a potent aphrodisiac for some.
Now appearing on Netflix
They say power is the ultimate turn-on. I don’t know about that, but in order to be worth anything, money needs power behind it. Traditionally the face of that power has been stamped right on top.
That now pleasantly worthless old Roman coin of mine was later joined by a gift from my father: my inheritance, as he put it. One hundred trillion dollars, backed by the full faith and credit of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. While admiring the Chiremba Balancing Rocks, one is given to pondering the value of money and the state of the economy in general. It’s a whole lot of zeros.
Cash money is rumoured to be on its way out anyway. The banks would certainly prefer it all be relegated to a museum. I rather hope it stays in circulation. I may not carry much of it, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
* for the purposes of this post. I seem to have misplaced it. I hope the parking garage didn’t get it.
The world awaits my seminal paper, In Defense of Mouthbreathers.
I don’t know about you, but I need a lot of air. It might have something to do with all my cycling, which instills the need to suck in oxygen at prodigious rates. Or it could be a vague feeling that my nose is filtering out the good stuff. Whatever the reason, I am not ashamed to admit to giving my lungs the biggest hole in my arsenal to inflate themselves.
My concern is that breathing using your mouth is too often tainted with negative connotations. As The Urban Dictionary puts it, a mouthbreather is
1. Literally, someone who lacks enough intelligence that they never learned to breathe through their nose.
2. A really dumb person.
When humans first acquired the power of speech, doubtless they quickly moved on to insults. “Why can’t you just yawn and be done with it?” said Lucy to the “handy” habilis painting her cave, ignoring the 1.2 million year gap.
RDH Magazine has this to say: “Mouth breathing affects the pH of the entire body… A low pH oral environment is not only corrosive to the teeth directly, but the acidic pH activates the acidophilic and acidogenic bacteria to set up housekeeping. Building a healthy biofilm in the presence of acidic saliva is nearly impossible. Acid begets acid.” Oh dear. Parenthetically, RDH, you don’t make it easy find out what those letters stand for. Rooting for Dental Hygiene?
“We know that breaking a habit is nearly impossible and starting a new habit is just as hard. And like it or not, one habit will be replaced by another, so finding an alternate habit is a good strategy.” Just when I was about to take up the harmonica.
How they used to “cure” mouthbreathers in unenlightened times