pants on fire

For a decade Michael Cohen was Comrade Trump’s fixer — the guy he went to in order to get ugly shit done. Pay off a porn star, bully a business partner, threaten a reporter, kill an unflattering story. If ugly shit needed to be done, Cohen was willing to do it. He was actually proud of his ability to ‘protect’ Trump from the consequences of whatever ugly shit Trump had done. By any moral or ethical standard, Michael Cohen is a flaming asshole.

But yesterday, through the magic of hypocrisy fueled by stupidity, the Republicans on the House Oversight Committee actually managed to make Michael Cohen look like a sympathetic figure. The Republicans, like Cohen for the last ten years, were hoping to ‘protect’ Trump from ugly shit. Unlike Cohen, they weren’t very good at it.

Their approach was flawed. It depended almost exclusively on 1) attacking Cohen’s credibility, 2) yelling at him, and 3) arguing the hearing itself was a waste of time. Here’s why that didn’t work. First, Cohen entered the hearing room and set his own pants on fire. He baldly stated Comrade Trump was a racist, a con man, and a cheater. Then he said, “And yet I continued to work for him.” Boom. The most effective line of the hearing. It was effective because it was in the past tense, because it implied “I’m done working for him.” You can’t damage a person’s credibility when that person openly shreds it himself and says, “Lies got me into this mess, lies can’t get me out of it, believe me or don’t believe me, all I have left is the truth as I see it, and here it is.” It was a raw admission by Cohen. But I don’t think it would have been as effective if the Republicans hadn’t been such dicks.

Second, yelling at Cohen was pointless and massively stupid. You yell at people to rattle them, to make them so upset they can’t think straight, to keep them off-balance. But c’mon, Cohen worked for Trump for a decade. He’s been yelled at by the best. The yelling only served to make the Republicans look more dickish.

Third, a number of Republicans used their allotted five minutes to claim the hearing itself was taking them away from more important matters. Instead of wasting valuable Congressional time talking to a known liar about the possible criminality of the President of the United States, they claimed the committee should focus on the gang members of MS13 who are storming the Southern border bringing in drugs and disease in an effort to weaken Americans by giving free late-term abortions to people who believe in climate change. Or something like that. Seriously, some of those people are off their meds.

There’s another reason the Republicans failed yesterday. They didn’t even try to claim Comrade Trump was innocent of any wrongdoing. They didn’t even try. Seven hours of testimony and questioning, and not once did the House Republicans attempt to defend their president. Not once.

Were the Democrats any better? Surprisingly, yes. I mean, sure, there were a few mooks trying to score political points or get in a soundbite they thought would play well on their local news station, but most of the Democrats were actually prepared and focused. Most of them asked at least one intelligent question.

Here’s something else to think about. Yesterday we only heard testimony about the stuff Cohen could talk about in a public hearing. There’s more stuff he can only discuss with members of Congress in closed sessions. Stuff he’s only allowed to discuss with the folks building a criminal case against Trump.

And in other news, Comrade Trump, the current President of These United States, is returning to the US after the failure of his second summit with Kim Jong-Un, the North Korean dictator who has been starving his own people, and who had his own brother assassinated using a nerve agent in a busy airport, and who ordered his uncle Jang Song Thaek (and his uncle’s aides) to be executed with a damned anti-aircraft gun (after which they were reportedly dismembered and fed to dogs), and who had his uncle’s children AND grandchildren executed (though not, apparently, fed to dogs), and who executed at least one of Jang’s supporters (O Sang-hon) with a fucking flamethrower. That’s how Kim does pants on fire.

Comrade Trump, who repeatedly says the free press is the enemy of the people, calls Kim Jong-Un ‘my friend’.

Advertisements

knuckles is back

I have a moderately well-regulated disorganized life. That’s not as contradictory as it sounds, probably. What I mean is I sort of depend on a few daily routines that keep me somewhat disciplined in order to do the stuff I need/want to do. But those routines contain a lot of latitude for things that are unplanned, distracting, silly, random, fun, purposeless, and/or serendipitous. One result of living that sort of life is occasionally different parts of my life carom into each other.

Here are the various bits of my life that have bounced up against each other recently:

  1. It’s winter, and we’ve had like 40 inches of snow in something like three weeks, and I’ve been unable to take my normal daily walk. I have time on my hands.
  2. Because of 1. I’ve been playing GeoGuessr more often.
  3. I recently had a discussion in which I defended the concept of appropriation in art.
  4. I remain stupidly attached to the pseudonym Knuckles Dobrovic.
  5. The Knuckles Instagram account was currently idle, since I’d finished the second Knuckles project.

Those bits all came together and stuck, which is why I’ve started appropriating Google Street View images from GeoGuessr and turning them into a new Knuckles project. (Just to recap, I came up with the alias Knuckles Dobrovic about five years ago when I decided to dip my photographic toe into Instagram; first I photographed Things On A Table, followed by Double Exposures of My Feet.) I’m going to repeat something I’ve already repeated once before (and will probably repeat again), something I wrote at the completion of the first Knuckles project.

I’ll probably come up with some other sort of project, simply because I’ve grown fond of the name Knuckles Dobrovic. I realize that’s a stupid reason. I don’t care. I’ve no objection to doing things for stupid reasons.

gsv #1

Yeah, so here are the first images of the new Knuckles project. It’s not remotely an original idea. Actual artists have been using Google Street View (and I’m just going to start calling it GSV because I’m that lazy) as source material for years. I’m okay with the idea not being original. Sometimes creativity isn’t about finding an original idea; it’s about taking an existing idea and smooshing it into a form that’s your own.

Here’s the thing: every photo project is defined by its parameters–by some sort of unifying theme. Some folks doing GSV work take a classic street photography approach, some rely on New Topographics surface mapping, some treat it as landscape photography, some concentrate on the interactions between people on the street and the GSV camera.

gsv #2

So the first thing I had to do was to decide on my own project parameters. I spent a couple of days thinking about this stuff because I tend to think too much about just about everything. I always begin by making things ridiculously complicated, then whittling the idea down to something fairly manageable. Here are my basic parameters.

1) Rely on the randomness of the GeoGuessr app to find GSV scenes. The problem with that, of course, is that sometimes (well, often) the app will drop you in a location that’s utterly devoid of anything interesting. You can waste a lot of time noodling around for some scene worth capturing. On the other hand, that’s part of the attraction–coming across unexpected stuff.
2) Look for scenes that are ordinary but visually interesting. A lot of GSV artists seek out the dramatic or the weird or the otherworldy–car crashes, rural sex workers, odd graffiti, a particular color palette. I wanted to find mundane moments that still caught the eye.
3) Transform the image. Just some quick and dirty Photoshop grunt work. Square format, black-and-white. Get rid of the GSV directional markers and the Google trademark.
4) But not too much. I didn’t want to hide the fact that these are GSV images. So any other artifact of the GSV camera–weird angles, disrupted lines, blurred areas–remain.

That’s it. Once I’d decided on those parameters, I went noodling through the game to see what I could find.

gsv #3

I didn’t find much. It turns out that noodling around in GSV in random parts of the world is a lot like going on a photo-walk. There’s a whole lot of stuff that isn’t very interesting to look at. A boring stretch of road in Andalusia is as uninteresting as a boring stretch of road in the Australian outback or a boring stretch of road in central Russia. Playing GeoGuessr as a photo project feels different from playing GeoGuessr as a game. The fun part of it as a game is trying to solve the ‘Where the Fuck Am I?’ puzzle. As a photo project, where you are isn’t at all important; the only important thing is what you can see wherever you are.

gsv #4

Another problem quickly became apparent. When you DO happen to find something fairly ordinary but still visually interesting, GSV doesn’t necessarily give you a good angle to photograph it. In real life, you have control over your position. If you need to take a few steps to the left, if you need to squat down, if you need to get closer or farther away, you can do that. In GSV you only get what GSV gives you. For example, I saw some kids playing on a swing set on the outskirts of a small village in Estonia (okay, on my computer screen I saw an image taken mechanically by the GSV camera of kids playing on a swing set), but the kids were largely obscured by a tree and a recycling can. It was an interesting human moment, but it wasn’t a visually interesting image. If I moved forward in GeoGuessr, a hedge hid the kids; if I moved backward, a house was in the way. There was simply no possible way to turn that human moment into an interesting photograph. This is what happens when you let a robot do a photographer’s job.

gsv #5

On the other hand, the impersonal, un-engaged, dispassionate GSV has mapped around ten million miles in 83 countries. Ain’t no photographer gonna do that. In that ten million miles, there are bound to be a LOT of things worth looking at. So if you are stupidly persistent and pathologically curious and live a moderately well-regulated disorganized life that allows you to piss away a few hours now and then in an endeavor that has no real value except your own amusement, there’s a decent chance you’ll get to see some of those things.

ADDENDUM: Because I’m a self-promotional dunderhead, yesterday I completely forgot to include a link to the Knuckles Instagram account.

wish i was making this up

Seriously, just what in the fuck was that?

Let’s try that with inflection. Just WHAT in the fuck was that? Just what in the FUCK was that? What in the fuck was THAT? SERIOUSLY, JUST WHAT IN THE FUCK WAS THAT?

I watched…and I completely fucking gobsmacked that this is real…the President of These Semi-United States speak like an addled 12-year-old for 50 minutes, during which he claimed there was a national emergency because the US is being invaded.

“We’re declaring it for virtual invasion purposes.”

“We’re talking about an invasion of our country with drugs, with human traffickers, with all types of criminals and gangs.”

Virtual invasion purposes. I don’t even know what that means. I tried for a moment to figure out what it means, but it was like whacking myself in the forehead with a ball peen hammer. It was just pointless pain. If any other president in history had decided to declare a national emergency they’d 1) make sure they had an actual emergency, and 2) would get somebody to write them a coherent speech and not just stand in front of a podium and wing it.

Jesus suffering fuck. Okay, okay, deep breath. Right. Just to state the completely obvious, there IS no emergency. The number of immigrants showing up at the southern border (legally or otherwise) has been declining for nearly two decades. That fact is supported by data gathered and published by US agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, When asked by a reporter if he believed the data, Comrade Trump said:

“I get my numbers from a lot of sources, like Homeland Security, primary. And the numbers I have from Homeland Security are a disaster.”

Dude, the fact that you don’t like the data doesn’t make it an emergency. That DOES NOT MAKE ANY SENSE. None of this makes any sense. Aargh! And then…and I swear I am NOT MAKING THIS UP…then Trump says this:

“I didn’t need to do this. But I’d rather do it much faster … I just want to get it done faster.”

What sort of cretinous fuckwit says, “Guys, we got us an emergency! We got to build us a wall! We got to build it RIGHT NOW! Well, we don’t really have to build it right now, but I want to which makes this an EMERGENCY cofeve hamberder!!!” Aargh!

And guys, that’s NOT the craziest or stupidest thing Trump said. I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP. He also claimed President Obama (the Last Sane President of the United States) told him, while sitting in beautiful chairs, that he (Obama, the LSPotUS) was thinking about starting a war with North Korea. And he claimed the Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan had nominated him for the Nobel Peace Prize — which he’d earned because Obama got one after he’d only been in office for about fifteen minutes and he didn’t even stop rocket ships from flying over Japan like Trump did.

Trump abruptly left the podium and returned to the Oval Office, but I think we were only about seven minutes away from the moment when he would declare himself the Sun God, which would allow him to have sex with his daughter Ivanka Antoinette on a golden throne in a room scented with peaches.

Anyway, this morning Comrade Trump declared a national emergency. This afternoon he flies to Mar-a-Loco to play golf. I am not making this up.

a few simple rules

I was pushing a loading cart holding maybe ten heavy boxes and an ironing board down the hallway of ‘senior living center’ (it’s a long story, but irrelevant to this post) when an old guy using a walker came tottering down the hallway with a small homely mixed breed dog that was suffering from some serious sinus issues. I stopped the cart, smiled at the guy, and said “Now that’s a fine-looking dog.” He smiled and chuckled and thanked me. Told me the dog’s name. Said, “He’s friendly,” which I took as an invitation to lean down and pet the wee creature, who was largely indifferent to the entire situation.

My friend, who was pushing a smaller loading cart, gave me a familiar WTF look as we started moving again. I said, “Always compliment a person’s dog. The dog’s don’t care, but it makes their owners happy.” She said, “Is that like a rule of life?”

Always compliment a person’s dog.

I decided that it was. Or should be. And here are a few more basic rules of life.

— Always compliment a person’s dog.
— Don’t block the aisle with your shopping cart.
— Apologize when you’re wrong.
— Don’t wear blackface.
— Hold the door open for everybody.
— Vote.
— Tip your server, even if the service is poor (because these folks are always overworked, get paid very little, are often abused by their customers, and sometimes they make mistakes like everybody else).
— Read at least a few paragraphs after the headlines.
— Tell the people you love that you love them.
— Tell the people you like that you like them.
— Push your damn chair in when you leave the table.
— Check the batteries in your flashlight.
— Don’t argue with stupid people.
— Park between the lines.
— Don’t judge people for the TV shows they watch, or the books they read, or the games they play, or the music they prefer, or the god they worship, or the clothes they wear, or the food they cook, or…just don’t fucking judge people.
— Refer to folks by the names they ask you to use even if you don’t understand and even if you think it’s stupid.
— Say ‘hi’ to strangers now and then.
— Try new foods, even if they sound/look gross.

Say ‘hi’ to strangers now and then.

Okay, that’s not a complete list. And maybe they’re more like guidelines than rules. And they’re my guidelines; they don’t need to apply to anybody else. I figure you’ve probably got your own. But these work for me.

ag-gh! help!

Tomorrow evening Comrade Donald Trump will stand up on his hind legs and bark at the American people. Afterwards, he’ll probably call it ‘maybe the greatest State of the Union speech ever given in history.’ I’m pretty confident it’ll mostly be bullshit.

I don’t say that because I dislike Trump (though I do — I really do — Jesus suffering fuck do I dislike Trump). I say that because the speech will be meaningless. Why? Two very fundamental reasons. Reason One: the state of the Union is Ag-gh Help! Reason Two: nobody really trusts or believes anything Comrade Trump says anymore. Last I heard, WaPo had Trump at just over 8000 lies since he assumed office (and really, that’s the best use of ‘assumed’ ever).

The state of the union is Ag-gh Help! largely because Trump is really bad at being president. Why? Because he’s ignorant of the functions of government, he has no interest (and probably lacks the capacity) to learn the functions of government, he seems incapable of putting the nation’s interests before his own, he’s incapable of establishing a coherent policy and abiding by it, and none of the other nations of the world trust him or believe him when he makes a promise (on account of all that lying). All of that is in addition to the fact that Comrade Trump is effectively a Russian intelligence asset. In other words, ag-gh help!

Yes, he IS giving a State of the Union speech.

This is how bad Trump is at being president. Right now the Trump administration doesn’t have a chief of staff, it doesn’t have an Attorney General, it doesn’t have a Secretary of Defense, it doesn’t have a Secretary of the Interior, it doesn’t have a Director for the Environmental Protection Agency, it doesn’t have Director for the Office of Management and Budget. The people who held those positions have all either resigned or been fired. All of those positions are in the hands of ‘acting’ directors. We don’t even have nominees for many of those positions. Ag-gh help!

Again, why? Because competent people don’t want to work for Comrade Trump. Nobody trusts him (there’s that lying business again, plus the fact that Trump has no concept of loyalty to his staff). The fact is, Trump treats being POTUS like it was a part-time job. Seriously. A member of the White House staff recently leaked three months of Trump’s private daily schedules. The very fact that his own staff is actively undermining him is evidence of how badly he sucks at his job. Worse, the schedules show that for the past three months, Trump has spent about 60% of his day engaged in ‘executive time’. Which is basically watching FoxNews and tweeting. (If you’re interested, you can look at those schedules yourself.) Ag-gh help!

So it’s really no wonder the state of the union is Ag-gh Help! When Trump bothers to actually attempt to do his job, he’s bad at it. He can’t say that in his speech, of course. Which means he’s pretty much limited to having to lie a lot. Which is what everybody expects. Which is why the speech is meaningless.

That said, Comrade Trump can count on his fellow Republicans to give him several standing ovations. Why? Why why why? Because they’re as responsible for the state of the union as he is.

Ag-gh help!