squarely in the balls

Okay, I expected Paul Ryan’s speech to be less than honest and straightforward, but I didn’t expect him to distort the facts quite so blatantly. Gov. Romney, on the other hand, I fully expect him to shovel baldfaced lies with both hands. But somehow I got the opinion that Ryan was a principled ideologue — that he’d lay out his appalling agenda with pride because he believed in it so strongly.

Silly rabbit.

(photo by Scott Eells/Bloomberg)

Happily, several news organizations recognized what was going on. The New York Times, for example, wrote the following:

The Romney campaign … has developed a counterstrategy: Don’t change the plans, but don’t talk about them, either. Instead, invent a phony attack on President Obama’s policies, which are public in full detail, and hope that voters get so confused that they throw up their hands and cast their vote on some other issue or on emotion.

But then, of course, there is FOX News — a faux news organization that can be reliably counted on to support the Republican party line (or, just as often, to actually shape the Republican party line). They found Ryan to be “a smart, passionate and all-around nice guy — the sort of guy you can imagine having a friendly chat with while watching your kids play soccer together.” It’s exactly the sort of non-substantive bullshit you expect from the blathering dolts at FOX Ne…wait a moment. What’s this? What’s this from FOX?

On the other hand, to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention to facts, Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech.

Yeah, I double-checked. That’s actually from FOX News. I dunno…maybe it got into there by accident? Maybe some over-worked editor just missed it during the excitement of being in Tampa in August? Maybe what happened was…no, no, wait…there’s more:

Ryan may have helped solve some of the likeability problems facing Romney, but ultimately by trying to deceive voters about basic facts and trying to distract voters from his own record, Ryan’s speech caused a much larger problem for himself and his running mate.

Holy crap. FOX News has kicked Paul Ryan squarely in the balls. It’s like the magnetic poles have reversed on the planet. It’s like the Mississippi River is running north. It’s like Professor Moriarty has packed a healthy lunch for Sherlock Holmes and tucked a scarf around his neck to keep out the chill. What the FUCK is going on here?

UPDATE: I’m happy to report it’s not just the NY Times and FOX News who are reporting that Rep. Ryan’s speech was maggot-ridden with lies. Several major news outlets are featuring similar articles.

It’s not really news, of course. The Romney-Ryan campaign has relied on lies in most of their television advertisement for some time. But it’s interesting that the news media is finally reporting it — and doubly interesting that this change in reportage comes on the day Gov. Romney is to make his acceptance speech. Will Romney, tonight, be able to repeat the same lies for which his running mate is currently being excoriated?

so very sorry

There’s a lot of apologizing going on right now in the Republican party.

Missouri Congressman Todd Akin has apologized for his comment about ‘legitimate rape.” Frank Szabo, who is running for the office of Sheriff in Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, has apologized for saying if elected he’d arrest doctors who perform abortions and would resort to deadly force to stop them if necessary. Marilyn Davenport of the Orange County Republican party apologized for sending out an email with a photograph of President Obama’s head on the body of a chimpanzee. Congressman Paul Ryan, who is running for Vice President of the United States, has apologized for accusing U.S. military commanders of being dishonest about their budgetary needs in their testimony to Congress. Mitt Romney, running for President, apologized for saying he was not concerned about the very poor.

Everywhere you look there’s a Republican apologizing — and not meaning a word of it. Has Akin had a change of heart? No, he hasn’t; he still wants to make it illegal for a woman to terminate a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. Has Szabo changed his position on shooting doctors who perform abortions? Not really; he now says “I recognize it [abortion] is legal, and for that reason deadly force against an abortion doctor is not justifiable.” Only for that reason; otherwise, I guess he’d just have to shoot their sorry asses. What about Ms. Davenport? Is she really sorry about sending out that photograph? She’s only sorry “if anybody was offended” by it, because she claims there’s nothing racist about it.

Does Ryan now believe the generals were telling the truth when they testified under oath that they didn’t need the increase in military spending that Ryan wants them to have? No, he doesn’t. He says he “misspoke” when he accused them of dishonesty, and “I was clumsy in how I was describing the point I was trying to make.” He still believes, though, that “what we got from the White House was more of a budget-driven strategy and not a strategy-driven budget.” In other words, he still thinks the generals were lying, but only because they’re cowards and not because they’re mendacious. And what about Romney, is he really concerned about the very poor? Yes, he absolutely is. He’s concerned they’re getting too much support from the government — support he believes ought to be going to…well, people like him.

When these folks say “I apologize,” it appears they actually mean to say “I’m very sorry that what I believe is so unpopular it might hurt my chances to get or maintain the power and authority I need to impose those beliefs on people who disagree with me.”

They’re a sorry bunch, the current Republican party — and they’re not afraid to say so.

in other news

Okay, first let me confess that I have on occasion gotten magnificently drunk and gone skinny-dipping. I’ve even gone skinny-dipping when moderately drunk, when mildly intoxicated, and when perfectly sober. I have absolutely no problem with skinny-dipping as a practice.

But I’ve never done it in front of families — and especially not families with children. Nor am I a member of the Republican Party. Nor am I a member of Congress. Those are some of the many many things that set me apart from Kevin Yoder.

Republican Skinny-Dipper Kevin Yoder

Yoder, a GOP congressman from Kansas, was part of a Republican ‘fact-finding’ trip to Israel last year. During that trip, about twenty congressmen and congressional staffers decided to take an after-dinner swim in the Sea of Galilee. According to the Kansas City Star, some of the GOP congressmen “said it was a religious experience (the Bible says the Sea of Galilee is where Jesus walked on water); others said they wanted to cool off; and still others admitted alcohol may have guided their decision.” Or maybe they wanted to cool off after all the alcohol and getting nekkid was a religious experience.

Yoder has issued the following statement:

“A year ago, my wife, Brooke, and I joined colleagues for dinner at the Sea of Galilee in Israel. After dinner I followed some Members of Congress in a spontaneous and very brief dive into the sea and regrettably I jumped into the water without a swimsuit. It is my greatest honor to represent the people of Kansas in Congress and [for] any embarrassment I have caused for my colleagues and constituents, I apologize.”

He jumped into the water without a swimsuit. Regrettably. He apologizes for the oversight. It was a Congressional fact-finding mission, and one of the facts Congress found is that you probably shouldn’t go swimming naked with your Yoder hanging out.

The Kansas Republic Party is distressed, but glad that the public’s attention has been diverted from Todd Akin, their candidate for the US Senate who believes there is such a thing as ‘legitimate rape.’ According to Akin, a legitimate rapist confers some magical property to the victim which prevents her from conceiving. It’s a lesson for all those illegitimate rapists out there: if you really care about women, you’ll get more serious about rape. Spare your victims the trauma of an abortion.

Republican Dumb-ass Todd Akin

In other news, NASA is considering sending a rover mission Kansas to fire a frickin’ laser into the heads of GOP members of Congress, seeking signs of intelligent life.

nobody burned more bridges

“Nobody burned more bridges than Louise Brooks, or left prettier blazes on two continents.”

It was a pleasant afternoon and I was strolling along the riverwalk, which is a thing I like to do whenever possible. I was thinking about all the stuff I needed to get done, which is a thing I like to avoid thinking about whenever possible. As I approached one of the many bridges that cross the river I noticed a small sketch inked or painted on the side of the abutment.

It clearly wasn’t the usual graffiti. It was a woman’s face, sketched small — not much bigger than my hand. There was something very familiar about the face. It was the hair, mostly — that short angled bob — but even the pose reminded me of something I’d seen somewhere before. I knew that face.

I stood there for a time and studied the sketch. There seemed to be a slight Asian quality to her eyes, and I wondered for a bit if it might be a sketch of Anna Mae Wong — the first Chinese-American movie star of the 1920s and 30s. I’d seen a documentary about Wong at some point, and it mentioned her as having gone through a ‘flapper’ period. It might be her.

Anna Mae Wong

Anna Mae Wong

But no. When I returned home, I cracked open my computer and a quick Google search confirmed it. Whoever it was — if it was intended to be a sketch of an actual person — it wasn’t Anna Mae Wong.

But who was it? I was absolutely certain I’d seen that face somewhere. Maybe I’d come across a photo similar in style while researching a Sunday Salon. Some photographer from the 1920s or 30s, certainly. American? Possibly, but more probably European. A French photographer, perhaps. That hairstyle, though, definitely belonged to the flapper era. Was that a uniquely American Jazz Age phenomenon? Or was the flapper fashion cross-cultural? I’d no idea.

So I tried a Google image search using the keywords flapper bob. It seemed like a long shot…but there she was: first photograph on the first page.

Her name is Louise Brooks, and she wasn’t European. She certainly wasn’t French — at least not by birth. She was born in 1906 in a small town in Kansas, of all places — a town with the improbable name of Cherryvale. She wanted to be a dancer, which was quite an ambition for a girl from Cherryvale (which, at the time she was born, had a population of about 4000 souls — almost double the current population, which tells you something about Cherryvale, Kansas).

Louise decided to do what all ambitious Midwestern girls dream of doing: she packed a bag and went to New York City. That was in 1922; Louise was 15 years old.

She was accepted into the Denishawn Dance Company, run by famed choreographers Ruth Saint-Denis and Ted Shawn. By 1923 she was one of the company’s principal dancers. By 1924 she was fired from the company because of her temper. By 1925 she was dancing in London, where she gained some notoriety for being the first woman in England to dance the Charleston on stage. Later that year Louise returned to the U.S. and signed a five year contract with Paramount Studios. She was 19 years old and they told her they wanted to make her a movie star.

And lawdy, they did. They surely did.

She made a number of silent films in the U.S., and her signature hairstyle quickly became adopted by young women all over the country. For the most part Louise played flappers and vamps, roles for which she was perfectly suited since she actually was a flapper and a vamp. Her career at Paramount was tumultuous — she drank too much, she had affairs with men and women (including Marlene Dietrich), she argued with the studio executives, and she alienated directors and producers by ‘reading too many books’ and having too many opinions.

And once again her fiery temper caused her to be fired. As before, Louise responded to being rejected by going to Europe and becoming a success. In 1929, at the age of 23, she made the film for which she’s best known: Die Büchse der Pandora. Pandora’s Box. Here’s how the movie is described:

The rise and inevitable fall of an amoral but naive young woman whose insouciant eroticism inspires lust and violence in those around her.

Louise played the role of Lulu, the ‘amoral but naive young woman.’ The movie itself is confused and disjointed, but by all accounts Louise personified the role. It lifted her from the status of ‘movie star’ up into the category of ‘movie legend’ and eventually ‘cult figure.’

Her life continued at the same dizzying, passionate pace. She returned to Hollywood, she married millionaires and divorced them, she argued and seduced and drank and danced, she posed in the nude for photographers, she made two more films (one with John Wayne) and then abruptly left the movie business. She moved back to New York and spent herself into bankruptcy. By the time the Great Depression rolled around Louise Brooks was broke but well-dressed. She worked part-time as a salesgirl at Saks Fifth Avenue and part-time as a courtesan, keeping company with the city’s few remaining rich men.

By the 1950s, Louise Brooks was something of a recluse, living in a small New York apartment. Then French film historians rediscovered her and began to revive her films. The critic Henri Langlois declared “There is no Garbo, there is no Dietrich, there is only Louise Brooks.” The French revival sparked interest in the U.S., and caused the film curator of the George Eastman House to track down Louise in New York City. He persuaded her to move to Rochester, NY, where she began to write about her life and acting career. She became something of a film critic herself, and later published an autobiography titled Lulu in Hollywood. When Liza Minnelli was looking for inspiration on which to base her character Sally Bowles in the movie Cabaret, she found it in Louise Brooks. Her life story fueled novels and biographies, it drew the attention of documentary filmmakers, and even became the underlying concept of a popular and influential Italian erotic comic book series — Valentina.

That face went from Cherryvale, Kansas to New York City to London to Hollywood to Germany to Hollywood again and New York City again to Rochester, NY and now it’s on the side of a bridge crossing the Des Moines River, some four hundred miles from Cherryvale. That’s a hell of a journey. It’s a hell of a story. Louise Brooks was a hell of a woman.

darwin made it up

“The theory of evolution is a theory, and essentially the theory of evolution is not science—Darwin made it up.”

When I read this comment by Kentucky State Representative Ben Waide (do I need to say he’s a Republican?) I just shook my head. I wasn’t the least bit surprised; I wasn’t at all distressed. Scientific ignorance is rampant in some parts of the nation and it runs deep in one political party. So the guy is a dolt when it comes to science. So what?

Then I learned Waide is a member of Kentucky’s Joint Committee on Education. This guy is making decisions on education policy. And suddenly he’s not just a dolt when it comes to science — he’s a dolt with the power to create more dolts. And that matters.

Rep. Ben Waide

Waide went on to say one of the most profoundly stupid things I’ve ever heard. “My objection is they should ensure whatever scientific material is being put forth as a standard should at least stand up to scientific method. Under the most rudimentary, basic scientific examination, the theory of evolution has never stood up to scientific scrutiny.”

Never stood up to scientific scrutiny? I doubt that any scientific theory has been more thoroughly challenged and examined than theories of evolution. There is far more scientific support for evolutionary theory than there is for the current theories of gravitation, more solid scientific evidentiary support than there is for atomic theory, more  than there is for the theory of general relativity. If Waide believes evolution isn’t science, then the University of Louisville (where he graduated with a B.A. in Health Science) should rescind his degree. They should seize his diploma, burn it, bury the ashes in the ground and salt the earth above it.

Darwin made it up, he says. The shallowness of that claim is staggering. His total lack of understanding of science and how science works may not disqualify him from representing his district in Kentucky — his constituents have the absolute right to vote for somebody with that bovine level of intelligence — but you’d think it would be enough to prevent him from shaping education policy. Or misshaping it, as the case may be.

I don’t care if Waide personally doesn’t believe in evolution. I don’t care if he’s Kentucky’s version of Madeline Basset (who famously “holds the view that the stars are God’s daisy chain, that rabbits are gnomes in attendance on the Fairy Queen, and that every time a fairy blows its wee nose a baby is born”). But if you believe babies are a result of sinus issues in the wee folk, then you shouldn’t be shaping birth control policies.

boneheaded mistakes

I have a new camera. I’ve had new cameras before, but not like this one. Almost all of my previous new cameras were SLRs or DSLRs, and it was fairly easy to adjust to them. A slightly different feel in the hand, some variation in the menu system — that was it.

But not this time. This time is different. This time the new camera is a Fujifilm X10.

It’s a sweet little unit. Small but sturdy, beautifully constructed, extraordinarily quiet to use, pleasing to the eye but plain enough to be inconspicuous. It’s a rangefinder style camera, with an optical viewfinder that gives you absolutely NO information at all. No shutter speed, no aperture, no ISO, no hint at metering, nothing at all. If you want to get a good exposure, you’d damned well better know what you’re doing.

Oh, you can turn on the LCD monitor and use that to compose your photograph. That’ll provide you with nearly as much information as the Mars rover sends back to JPL. The LCD certainly makes shooting photos a lot easier. But I find I’m relying almost exclusively on the information-free viewfinder. It reminds me of my very first camera — an old Argus rangefinder from the 1950s. Completely manual, of course. I don’t think it even had a built-in light meter. It was just a metal box with a lens. Relying on the viewfinder with the X10 is like remembering how to drive a car with a manual transmission — you make some awkward and noisy mistakes, but you recall how much fun driving can be.

I wanted this camera to tote on my bicycle, but it’s turning out to be an ideal cityscape and street camera. I have no hesitation in pulling out the subtle little X10 in situations where I’d have been reluctant or unwilling to use a DSLR. There IS some hesitation before actually shooting the photo, however. Not because I’m uncomfortable with it, but because I have to pause a moment to consider issues of exposure. I have to hold back a bit while I judge the parallax error caused by the viewfinder.

It’s like learning to shoot photographs all over again. For the most part I walk around following the old Weegee rule for exposure: f8 and be there. But when immediacy isn’t an issue, I have to actually evaluate lighting conditions and decide on the proper exposure. Photography has become a challenge again. Every decision point that was second nature with a DSLR now requires active thought, which keeps me more engaged in the moment.

And isn’t that what photography is all about?

As you can see from some of these photographs, I’m still making mistakes. I sometimes get the exposure wrong, I screw up the composition by misreading the parallax difference, and I bungle the focus point. Rookie mistakes. Boneheaded mistakes.

I can’t tell you how much fun I’m having making those mistakes.

sad and stupid

“Right now, it’s just a mass shooting.”

Those are the words of ‘a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity,’ quoted in The Washington Post. Just a mass shooting. Jeebus on a fucking cracker. Just another mass shooting.

Some jamoke strolls into a Sikh temple and opens fire. Six people dead. Seven, counting the shooter himself. And we’ve become so inured to this routine madness that federal officials can say “it’s just a mass shooting.” In other words, it’s nothing out of the ordinary; it’s not an extraordinary massacre — just your usual, normal, everyday sort of massacre.

And how is the right wing responding to this latest ‘just a mass shooting’? Some of them are assuming it’s a ploy by President Obama to create conditions that will help him get re-elected and take away their guns. Here are a few choice comments from freerepublic.com:

   [T]he timing seems suspicious as well, given the upcoming elections and Democrats’ attempst to scale back conceal carry?

After Aurora is this the next asset being ‘activated’ by his handlers. The more BHO fears November the more of these events are going to occur and they will escalate in level of violence and number of casualties.

Sounds like Liberal black ops operation to influence the election

Adolph Hitler: socialist. Obama: socialist. And the parallels don’t stop there by any means. The parallels are eerily similar, except instead of Jews, it’s Christians that are now ok to persecute. I know in this case it wasn’t but that’s where the trend is going. I’m still wondering when 0bama’s Reichstag Fire moment will happen.

Wow the lefties are really shooting up the country right before the election. No doubt to prop up their Obama God as only he can save us from those evil right wingers.

So it’s either just another ordinary mass killing or it’s a liberal plot to disarm conservatives. Both viewpoints are sad and stupid. Stupid, stupid, and so terribly sad.

buying cheerios gets complicated

I put the camera away just before the police arrived.

I was just riding my bike to the market to buy some Cheerios, after all. My route took me by the former mobile home court. It’s ‘former’ because two years ago, this entire area was under two-to-three feet of water. The nearby creek had flooded for the second time in a couple years (each flood was consider a ‘once in a century’ event). I’ve written about the creek and the flood before. The people who lived in the mobile home court were evacuated, and eventually the entire area was condemned. The city bought the property, relocated the residents, set up some barricades and for a year and a half the mobile homes were inhabited primarily by sparrows. feral cats, and spiders.

After a year or so, the city sent in demolition crews and the mobile homes were reduced to trailer-sized piles of scrap metal and junk. The remains of the homes was hauled away, then other crews arrived and tided up the smaller scraps of metal and broken glass and scatterings of plastic.

And then…nothing. The weeds grew, the barricades were knocked over, there were fewer feral cats, but more deer and the occasional fox.

Yesterday, as I rode to the market, I noticed that the old barricades were gone and a fence with gates had been installed. There was a sign on the gate, and I assumed it was a No Trespassing sign. It was just a warning that dumping was illegal. The gate was cracked open. Just wide enough for a curious person on a bike to ride through.

I’m a curious person. I rode through.

It’s quiet; very little road noise after you’re in a hundred yards or so. It would be incorrect to suggest the area is beginning to look park-like. It looks more like a neglected yard behind a barn — only with a road running through it. It’s not particularly photogenic. But I’m playing with a new camera, so I shot a few frames. Then put the camera away and headed back for the gate.

And that’s when the police arrived. A squad car parked just outside the gates. I figured I was about to get a lecture about trespassing, but when the bald, bullet-headed officer stepped out of the squad car the first thing he said was “What’s up?” I told him I saw the gate was open and since there wasn’t any No Trespassing sign, I rode in and took a few photographs. He asked to see them. I asked why he wanted to see them. He gave me the standard ‘if you haven’t done anything wrong’ speech. I told him there was a principle involved.

I’ve been around the block a few times. One thing I’ve learned is that unnecessarily antagonizing a police officer is a mug’s game. I was willing to get into a pissing contest if it was necessary, but I’d rather avoid a situation where it becomes necessary. So I offered the officer a deal. “If you acknowledge you have no legal right to see the photos, and that I have no legal obligation to show them to you, then I’ll show them to you.” He seemed to find that amusing, but he agreed. He actually said it out loud; “I have no legal right to see your pictures and you have no legal duty to show them to me.” So I showed them to him. There were only seven of them.

After he’d looked at the photos, I asked if I could photograph him. He said “I can’t stop you, but I’d rather you didn’t.” So I didn’t. He got back in his car and drove off.

I got back on my bike and continued to the market. Bought some albacore tuna, a box of Honey Nut Cheerios, a couple of apples, and a pint of Red Velvet Cake ice cream.