Saturday, April 29, 2017

A Morelity Play

Last night, I had a pretty shitty assignment... last Saturday, one of my subordinates found an empty bottle of Hennessey and a used prophylactic at one of our sites. The obvious conclusion is that some individuals have been crawling through a gap in the perimeter fence and using the place as a free no-tell motel. When people feel comfortable trespassing on a site, bad shit can happen- vandalism of sensitive buildings, injury due to misadventure, liability lawsuits. My approach to my supervisor's position is to 'lead with my chin'- if someone is going to pull a duty which probably would lead to a call to the local constabulary, I think it should be me. I'm not easily rattled, I am comfortable sitting in the dark waiting for something to happen, and I am comfortable coming down on assholes like a two-ton heavy thing.

After getting the departmental cell phone from my principal site at 9PM, I headed down to the site which had the potential to become party central. I got to the site, and went into stealth mode... I was covering the whole site, basically playing the wandering monster (bugbear, large and fierce but incongruously stealthy) in a Keep on the Borderlands LARP. Yeah, I was there to wreck some adventurers' shit. I was wandering the site, making my "hide in shadows" rolls, when around midnight, mirabile, I find three morels growing under a lamppost:

I had to resist the urge to use my high-powered flashlight to go on a mushroom hunt, thereby blowing my cover... talk about potential mission creep! Still, I was champing at the bit until 2AM, when it started to rain, there was no sign of any trespassers, and I had to return to my principal worksite in order to perform can-opening duties for my two bosses. That also involved resisting the urge for mission creep, and driving straight home to do some sauté-ing. In the meantime, I'm wondering if the trespassers are actually coming during the daylight hours- it's easier to find the gaps in the fence when it's bright out... easier to find mushrooms, too.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Selling 'Murka by the Pound

Being an outdoorsy type, my latest Trump outrage is the executive order which will probably place twenty-four national monuments in jeopardy. The very idea that the fate of the public's inheritance will be placed in the hands of a coterie of extractive industry executives is infuriating. Trump has placed so many foxes in the henhouse that it is now a foxhouse.

To compound the crime, certain of these monuments were designated to protect sites important to Native Americans, including sites containing priceless artifacts. Trump has long had a willingness to attack Native Americans who have the temerity to get between him and a dollar.

The post title is derived from this album title. If Epping Forest were a national monument, Trump would turn it over to his cronies:

I have confidence that the National Parks Service will be on the forefront of this battle.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Batrachian Bings

Our pond at work is a sexy, sexy place, and the toads in the ponds are singing their seductive songs, a bunch of batrachian Bing Crosbys crooning their little amphibian hearts out. I managed to spy this sizable specimen heading off to the aquatic orgy:

In a couple of months, the place will be overrun by loads and loads of tiny toads, which always makes me extremely happy.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Demme Dead

Today's bummer is the death of Jonathan Demme. My introduction to Mr Demme's oeuvre occurred in high school, when I went with a bunch of friends to see Stop Making Sense. We were all Talking Heads fans, but we weren't old enough to get into most venues that the band would play. The film was a great outing for a bunch of smart-aleck kids who were just on the cusp of their concertgoing years. The opening of the film, with the jittery, angular David Byre, practically lost in an iconic oversized suit, appeared on the stage alone, with an acoustic guitar and a 'boombox' which served as a visual shorthand for a rhythm track played through the soundboard. to play the paranoiac classic Psycho Killer:

The beauty of the film is that the band gradually assembles onstage, with Tina Weymouth being the first to join Mr Byrne for the song Heaven:

This incremental approach to taking the stage loans the documentary a certain sense of drama- this isn't a mundane music film, it's somewhat reminiscent of the 'assembling the team' scenes from The Seven Samurai, with David Byrne playing the Takashi Shimura role.

David Byrne remains the visual centerpiece for most of the film, with his eccentric movements and a jacket which threatens to engulf him. I particularly like his almost-martial performance of the song Swamp:

Another highlight of the film for me was the sublime This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody):

On the whole, Stop Making Sense is sheer perfection- the band was at the height of their powers, and Mr Demme showcased them to perfection. The one part of the movie where David Byrne cedes the center of attention is when he leaves the stage to allow bandmates to perform as the Tom Tom Club, with perennial New Wave crush Tina Weymouth taking center stage, and our hearts along with it:

Is it just me, or is her outfit definitely the inspiration for Daisy Ridley's 'Star Wars' outfit? Daisy, put four strings on that staff of yours, and join a band! Back to Stop Making Sense, this Byrne-less interlude gave the man enough time to put on his REALLY BIG SUIT, and take the stage- Mr Demme's direction for Girlfriend is Better being sheer perfection, as we initially see a looming shadow before the big reveal:

I could go on about Stop Making Sense for paragraphs... the film made such an impression on me. Of course, there's the rest of Mr Demme's filmography, from his directorial debut with the trash-auteur Roger Corman distributed Caged Heat to the horror-film-with-ambition Silence of the Lambs or black-comedy Married to the Mob, but it's Demme's ability to capture musicians' personalities as they perform which never ceased to amaze me. Here's Demme's video for New Order's The Perfect Kiss, which beautifully captures the band interfacing with their equipment:

I'm going to end this post with Jonathan Demme's film Storefront Hitchcock, who is one of my all-time favorite musicians. Here's Uncle Robyn playing the gorgeous-though-melancholy Airscape:

Needless to say, I have been a fan of Jonathan Demme since before I could legally drive. It was nice to think that this accomplished person had tastes similar to mine, producing art which showcased some of my favorite performers. His political views also tended to align with mine- he was a champion of human rights. In all, he was a remarkable spirit, and I know I will miss his continuing artistic endeavors.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Everything Is Political

Today, I attended the annual all-staff meeting at work. It's always a nice event, most of our staff is made up of part-time, seasonal workers, so the meeting is a really sweet reunion. After working nights and weekends all winter without seeing too many people, catching up is a lot of fun. I also had a good long talk with my new supervisor (my old supervisor retired on April 14th). I let him know about a couple of things that I am concerned about, and we made arrangements for him to stop by at night and see what my typical work experience is. We get along well, and he is 'on the same page' about certain projects I suggested.

There was an undercurrent of uncertainty, though... we are an educational not-for-profit and we have $960,000 in grant money from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. With a regime hostile to the NEH and the NEA, this funding may disappear, putting us in the hurtbox.

I don't mention my employer by name on the blog, but I love to bring visitors to our sites when they come to the NY metro area. For instance, I have taken Major Kong to visit while he was on a delivery run. The mission of the organization is important, the values the organization espouses align with my values. Our President noted the challenges we may be facing, and told us that we weren't alone in the fight, then he urged us to call our congressional reps. He noted that Kirsten Gillibrand and Louise Slaughter are very supportive on the arts and the humanities. It was the first time that he has ever been explicitly political, but the political has become personal, and we, like many others, are fighting for our lives.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

What Do We Want? SCIENCE!

Yesterday was a great day- I took a vacation day and headed down to the NYC March for Science. I met up with
Yastreblyansky (nice to put a face to the name) at 65th and Broadway and we had to walk up to 68th St to queue up for the march due to the number of attendees. The crowd was amazing- there were a lot of really smart people, a lot of kids were in attendance with their parents and teachers. The signs were awesome, a lot of them played on Pi and the square root of negative one. Many signs, including my own, played on the whole 'Alternative Facts' dope-trope. Another popular theme was 'small hands can't grasp big facts'. One woman had a heart-wrenching sign... eight years of primary school, four years of high school, four years undergraduate college, seven years of graduate school, four years post-doc, under one year to take it away.

It was a coldish, rainy day- my sign started soaking up water before we hit Times Square- but spirits were high. It was fun meeting physicists and psychologists, and school kids, all of whom were advocating for funding science and for basing public policy on evidence-based science. There were a couple of places where the crowd started booing- passing a 9/11 'Truther' and passing the The Trump International Hotel and Tower in Columbus Circle. The march ended in Times Square, where, by happy coincidence, a samba group was drumming. The overall vibe in the Broadway pedestrian plaza was festive. I ran into Secret Science diva Dorian Devins, along with her fantastic husband and a couple of other SSC regulars. I also ran into the awesome scientist/adventurer Dr Evon Hekkala, her fantastic husband, and their lovely children. I had a great conversation with some folks from Jersey who had met at the NYC Women's March and were continuing their resistance activities (nevertheless, they persisted). I also ran into an alumnus from my Prestigious Bastion of Prestige who had graduated a few years ahead of my enrollment, but we had several biology professors in common. We must have spent an hour shooting the breeze about the teachers we had in common, about current mutual acquaintances. He hinted to me that Morbid Anatomy might be rising, Phoenix-like, from the ashes.

Finally, around 3PM, I decided that, in desperate need of a piss-break, I would retreat to the shelter of a tavern. After a warming shot of Tullamore Dew, I was fortified for the subway ride back to the Bronx- I passed small groups from the march and we greeted each other warmly. I walked all the back to Columbus Circle, and there were a bunch of Fordham University students hanging out outside the subway station. We shouted one of the slogans from the march:


Thursday, April 20, 2017


This Saturday, I am planning on attending the NYC March for Science, so I registered tonight. My great and good friends at the Secret Science Club are planning on attending, though I imagine that any attempt to organize a group ahead of time would be like herding cats. Suffice it to say, the rally starts at 10:30AM at Central Park West and 62nd St, so any of the SSC regulars can rally there.

Longtime readers will know of my love for science, and my feeble layperson's attempts to promote it. It's time to put my moxie where my mouth is and to step up for evidence-based policy. If you are in the NY Metro Area, and are planning on attending, please let me know. I'll be the guy who looks a lot like the profile picture at the right, so I won't be that hard to find.

And on a lighter note, here's a whimsical number from nerd-approved They Might Be Giants:

That might be considered an unofficial theme song for the march.