Saturday, May 30, 2015

TYWKIWDBI ("Tai-Wiki-Widbee"): Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure

I don't know why people act shocked when trains derail and bridges collapse given that our politicians don't think that funding our aged infrastructure is important.  I highly recommend the following the blog post:

TYWKIWDBI ("Tai-Wiki-Widbee"): Infrastructure, infrastructure, infrastructure: American politicians and businessmen give lip service to "infrastructure" improvement, but always defer the funding to their su...

Friday, May 29, 2015


Nose Smudge, Equine Rescue, Gibsonia, PA 2015

Thursday, May 28, 2015

One Of These Things Is Not Like The Other...

...One Of These Things Does Not Belong, Pittsburgh, 2014

This past weekend was the Memorial Day weekend where we honor those who served and died in the armed forces of the United States.   Last year on Memorial Day my wife and I went to the military section of a nearby cemetery to pay our respects.  It was a quiet sunny day, perfect for reflection.
Then I spotted a Civil War era grave with both an American flag and a confederate flag and I was appalled.  I can't tell you how tempted I was to pull out my lighter and set it on fire.  The very symbol of slavery and treason planted in the ground of the northern state that saw the battle (Gettysburg) that brought about the end of the Civil War.  Disgraceful.  I find the confederate flag as hateful and offensive as the Nazi flag.  Afterall, they represent very similar ideals of oppression and hate.
I wish I had set it on fire.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Barbie Selfie

Nude Barbie Bathroom Selfie With Gun, Pittsburgh, 2014

I am working on a series of nude Barbie selfies.  Barbie's nude because she came to me that way and I am not spending money on doll clothes.  Plus, Barbie's so stiff that that's why she's often found naked at the bottom of a toybox; no kid wants the hassle of dressing her.
This shot is representative of an all-American girl, bored at home, armed because who isn't, and wanting to share her singular specialness with the world.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Between Is One Bad Show

Last night I watched the first episode of the new Netflix show, Between.  It's too bad that Dorothy Parker insists on remaining dead as she alone could do justice to ripping this insipid bit of crap to bloody shreds.  The production values are so low that they seem to be a nonexistent after thought that never materializes.
 In this doomsday-ish scenario, where everyone over 22 years of age gurgles dark, viscous blood and then drops dead, we see in way of any pathology performed, an old guy in a lab coat in what looks like an ill-equipped high school science lab surrounded by corpses, still fully clothed, on gurneys, peering into a microscope.  I foolishly thought that he was preparing to do an autopsy, but no.  Not even when a couple of lackeys show up from the Canadian version of the CDC does anyone think to do an autopsy.  Yeah, you are real serious about getting to the bottom of this phenomenon.
Look, I can tolerate a certain amount of suspension of belief, and even huge dollops of fringe science, but this is no science.
After one episode I am outta here. 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Rosalyn Drexler

Rosalyn Drexler, 'Self Defense', 1963

Rosalyn Drexler is an accomplished writer, artist, and former professional wrestlerHer pop art work produced in the early to mid 1960s is perhaps the most relevant work of that aesthetic ever conceived.  No wonder Warhol, who was a shameless rip off artist anyway, ripped her off too.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A Viper, With A Blade, In The Water Garden

Game of Thrones 4D Puzzle Box, Pittsburgh, 2015

The puzzle of fitting.  In the event that you have not seen episode 6 of season 5 of "Game of Thrones", be warned, there be spoilers beyond this jumping off point.
While I've seen episode 6.5, titled 'Unbent, Unbowed, Unbroken', twice, and did notice a certain slash to a certain character's arm, I must admit that I failed to appreciate its significance until I read this piece in Vanity Fair.   Brilliant!  To sneak something in on us in a blink of an eye, something that clearly means that guy's gonna die a horrible death by poison, an action so fleeting in the bigger picture that's demanding the viewer's attention, that seemingly only one person in the entire blogosphere took note, is quite remarkable.
The show, at this point, had no choice but to deviate from the framework provided by the books.  A written narrative and a visual one are two different animals as it is.  A show or movie based on a novel need not adhere strictly to it, but in the case of "Game of Thrones" the showrunners had no choice.  George R. R. Martin writes at his own pace, and the show has outpaced that pace.  And, I would argue, that it's exciting to see deviations from the books.  It makes for more compelling storytelling for this viewer.  I think that, since I came to the books because of the show, that I am more vested in how the show is telling the story of the seven kingdoms versus how Martin is telling that very same story.  Well, not so very same any longer.

Monday, May 18, 2015

A Mad End

Mad Men Intro

Everything, dammit, comes to an end.  Sunday May 17, 2015 saw the final episode of Mad Men air.  I didn't get to watch it in real time because no matter much I might adore the show, the alarm goes off at 4:45am and, well, sleep and I have a deep and meaningful relationship.  I did catch up with the finale this morning, savoring every moment because I knew that this was the last.  It was more wistful than tearful, and for that I'm pleased.
The evolution of the characters over the seasons was wondrous to behold - even when they didn't change all that much because people don't really betray their core nature.  In that way we are all Sisyphus rolling a boulder of our baggage up that hill every single day.  Don Draper's baggage in particular was monumental.  Given his origins, and his childhood, where he ends up is surprising, but how he conducts his private life isn't.  His relationships with the romantic interests in his life, that endless parade of women, is disappointing, but nonetheless typical of someone so scarred and ashamed of his past.  Two of Don's deepest and most surprising relationships with female characters were nonsexual.  One was with Peggy Olson, the fresh from secretarial school secretary, who rises through the ranks to become a head copywriter.  Don's protege.  They have a conflicted relationship because she initially was always looking toward him for approval and he was pushing back to get her to stand on her own and have confidence in her work.  Then later he seemed to want her approval and she seemed tired of the dance...but there comes a time again when they do dance, and they share the only two beers to be found in all of Indiana on a Sunday night when the sale of alcohol was still prohibited.
The relationship that interested me the most was entirely outside the office and was between Don and his daughter Sally.  I think that this was the only relationship that truly mattered to Don given how when he either had to be honest with her, or risk losing her love and trust, he was honest with her.  When I watched, and rewatched, the episode where he drove all three of his children to Hershey, PA to show them the squalor in which he'd been raised, and there was no doubt that this was in response to Sally telling him that she knows nothing about him or his past.  And then, finally, when she tells him in a later episode that she loves him, you see a release of tension on his face, as if...
Don would never have his mother's love, she died birthing him, and he was so colossally disastrous in his romantic life that he was compelled to sabotage anything and everything good that came his way.  But with his daughter, with Sally, there is that familial love that he was always denied.
I'll miss this show.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Ajuga reptans, Common Bugle

Ajuga reptans, Common Bugle, Pittsburgh, 2015

Common Bugle is in the same family as Heal-All or Self-Heal (Prunella vulgaris), and shares much the same medicinal properties.  A poultice made of the flowers and leaves is helpful in healing any external wound, and a tea of the flowers and leaves is an effective treatment for a cold or cough.
I found a clutch of this perennial herb growing wild in my yard, but it didn't escape on its own.  At some point, like much that has gone wild in my yard, someone planted this European native here.  It's such a helpful herb, especially over the winter when we drink a lot of herb teas as a preventative measure, that I've got it hanging and drying right now for future use.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

What Worlds May Come

Glechoma hederacea, Ground Ivy, Pittsburgh, 2015

It's funny.  When I think of when, not if, we colonize other planets, I wonder what plants in particular we'll take with us.  Of course everything that we do take will be an alien, perhaps even invasive, species to this xenoworld.  I know that of course we will be taking things from Earth with us, whether on purpose or by accident (think rats on a ship, but more likely tiny seeds in an air duct, or even pollen on your eyelashes).  It's simply the nature of nature to hitch rides.
Ground Ivy, aka Creeping Charlie, official taxonomy Glechoma hederacea, was brought by colonists, probably on purpose, from Europe to North America specifically for medicinal reasons.  The herb is now ubiquitous in yards, fields, and wasteland over its range.  While not typically consumed by any variety of cattle because of its bitter taste, that very same bitterness it what gives it its value by herbalists.  I've taken ground ivy tea and it's horrible, but it does alleviate symptoms of a cough and cold.  There are other herbs I much more prefer (honeysuckle, heal all), but in a pinch I will turn to this because it's easy to find.  No amount of honey or whiskey added to ground ivy tea makes it any less loathesome, and there are reasons to be cautious with use of this herb as it contains two volatile oils, terpenoid and pulegon, that are can irritate the digestive tract, kidneys, and liver - though I've never experienced this (but in truth, I've never consumed much of the tea at any one time).
I don't recommend this herb, there are better alternatives such as heal all (aka self heal, Prunella vulgaris) being the most effective herb I have in my pantry.   Just a reminder:  Always use caution when collecting anything from the wild for medicinal or culinary purposes.  Know the dangers!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Saga of Black Widow: We Can Only Marvel

                                       Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow

The mishandling, at seemingly every turn, of one of the greatest superheroes ever to flicker across a screen, boggles the mind.  As one who has spent their entire life immersed in a consumer driven soulless capitalistic society, a society that will not only make a sex tape, but then have their own mother leak it and then broker a deal for its sale, I can't explain why there is such a dearth of Black Widow merchandise available to slake our unquenchable thirst for cheap plastic crap made in China, or cheap t-shirts made in Bangladesh, or cheap whatever made where ever the marketing Hydra at Marvel/Disney has found the lowest possible wages (as a bonus, this nation probably has the worst working conditions in the world, and employs only children, who they chain to their workbenches).  One would've thought that after the brouhaha kicked up when the first Avengers movie came out in 2012 they would've had some Black Widow action figures and bath towels and pencil boxes and cans of Raid endorsed by her.  But no, and the inexplicable thing about this is that there is clearly a market for it.  PEOPLE ARE CLAMORING  FOR ANYTHING WITH BLACK WIDOW ON IT.  Maybe we want it because we can't have it, because like unicorns and angels, it doesn't exist.  It then can't help but take on a mythical quality, something that we are compelled to pursue.  Call me Ishmael, but really, I'm Ahab in this.
And now, finally, a few thoughts on how no one in any universe gets how fucking funny Jeremy Renner is:  Sir, dude, asshat, you can mansplain all you want, the fact remains that for some reason you think it necessary to slut shame a fictional character.  I think he's jealous of all the screen time and arc that Black Widow gets versus what his fictional character, Hawkeye gets.  There's also the fact that Scarlett Johansson is a much more talented actor than Renner is, so his petty jibes come off as a bit obvious.  The best summation of everything problematic about the new Avengers movie can be found in this piece on io9.
I have not had the chance to see the new Avengers movie yet, and I think that now I have to give myself some time to set aside some anger on my own part before I dare see it.  The crazy thing is that so much of this was completely unnecessary.  I do hope that they kill off Renner's character.  They could do it off-screen so that we don't have to endure any more of his interviews promoting this movie or that.  He could get blood poisoning from a rusty arrow or something.  All of the remaining Avengers could meet up at his cremation.  It could be a comedy!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Mary Worth

Mary Worth, May 3, 2015, the toilet, Pittsburgh

For years I've read the syndicated comic strip Mary Worth because I find it so incredible that something so banal exists.  The strip at its core, at least how it's rendered currently, is supposed to be uplifting.  Serially Mary butts into someone's life, whether it's a friend, a friend of a friend, the daughter of a friend of friend's hairdresser's cousin, or a complete stranger.  She insinuates herself into this person's life under the auspice of just being concerned about that person's well-being, all the while manipulating that person into living the sort of life that Mary envisions them living.  After a couple of months of hounding this poor soul, Mary moves on to her next target.  She's like a pathogen, an opportunistic fungus,  a brown recluse in your shoe.
There are often little things incorporated into the strip to subconsciously remind us that Mary is a saint, an angel, a truly caring spirit among us.  In the last panel of this past Sunday's strip the recessed light above Mary's head gets to pull duty as a halo of sorts, hovering over her head the way that Mary hovers over her unsuspecting victims.  Well played, Mary Worth.  Well played. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

A Lantern For All Seasons

Physalis alkekengi, Japanese Lantern, Pittsburgh 2015

Found while walking the dog, the manner in which this last season's japanese lantern dried out provides for a stunning photographic study of it.