who to shout to?

For some reason we feel compelled to weigh in on topics throughout the years even though we know nothing will change.  Tis the reality of the times we live in, where government and society are kind of on hold while people shout at each other instead of listening.

By who to shout to?  Let’s take the current gun control talking points and recycle them.  To the point that Beto O’Rourke has to shout at people like a child in a public meeting, instead of, you know, listening.  Oh, Beto, let’s do some basic government analysis / math here:

– House of Representative: 220 Democrats & 208 Republicans

– Senate: 50 Republicans, 48 Democrats, 2 Independents (who are Democrats in reality) w/ tying vote going to the Vice President

– President Joe Biden

In other words, Democrats control the legislative process.  Ah, but you say, the filibuster prevents progress of any legislation in the Senate.  Okay, fair enough.  But who owns that?  Joe Machin and Kyrsten Sinema.  So, um, uh, shouldn’t every gun control advocate on the planet be shouting at those two people, instead of the NRA?  Like, really, really shouting at them?  Or barricading their homes with protestors and throwing red paint on their four figure suits?  No, they won’t.  Why?  Because it’s not about gun control, it’s about political power.  And Machin and Sinema are from swing states the Democrats can’t afford to lose.

The Republicans were similarly jammed at many times in the last two decades when they had the White House plus both chambers and couldn’t move shit for legislation either.  Both parties have their eye on the long game of power politics, not specific individual issues.  So as with most things, get used to it.  Nothing’s going to change.  We’ll see another mass shooting soon.

man shouts at the incoming tide, with equal effect

pop ups are back [frowny face]

Will the Internets devolve? Is Netscape coming back to life? What about [shuffles through some old dusty velum parchments] Myspace, I think maybe they’ve got Facebook in their sights.

Well, at least we got rid of pop ups. Remember those? From like 15 years ago. It was so bad you had to download pop up blockers. But then each individual web browser began putting the blockers inherently into the browser’s code. So you didn’t have to worry about it.

Glad those days are over. So yeah, I was talking to my dog and … oh, oh

oh no

no, please no

Am I going to have to search for a pop up blocker? For fuck’s sake I might as well search for the hottest new clamshell phone. REMEMBER THE 486?!!! IT’LL BE BACK SOON!!! [throws chair]

Nara: Daibutsuden / Todaiji temple – what’s 1,270 years old is beyond comprehension

As a draw on my old photos sometimes I’ll hit upon a trip and I distinctly remember being there when my Parents visited me.  These are good memories, and not to be taken for granted.  Daibutsuden is the Great Buddha Hall in Nara.  The overall complex is Todai-ji or TodaijiDaibutsu is the largest copper Buddha in the world.  As with all major Japanese temples, this one has a tale.

Originally the site was a 8th Century temple built by Emperor Shomu to honor his infant son’s death.  This is when Nara was Japan’s capital, though the country was not totally united during this era.  The larger temple, and chiefly the Daibutsu came later, between 738-752.  It seems (by legend) that in order to finance such a grand undertaking Shomu had to cut a deal.  The Buddhist monk Gyoki would help, but only if he was allowed to teach Buddhism to the people.  This was part of a very complicated transition in Japanese religion where traditional Shinto beliefs began to evolve alongside Buddhism and they merged into a very unique Japanese version of both religions.

But as with all things religion, this transition had its opponents.  But money talks, and Shomu wanted what Shomu wanted, so he cut a deal with Gyoki who got what he wanted.  Here’s a relatively rare (my opinion) in history where an absolute sovereign and an important religious figure resolved their differences with compromise instead of bloodshed.  Contrast this with Henry II and the splattering of some random guy’s brains inside a random cathedral.

It didn’t come cheap.  Gyoki and his followers scoured the country for money and materials.  The statue itself brought financial difficulties to the entire country and gobbled up much of the country’s entire copper supply.  Weight: 500 tons, or the size of a decent sized ship by today’s standards.  Back then, it’d have been the largest ship in the world if it could have floated.

the man himself

his home

Like many temples in Japan, the original Hall burned down many times.  The current hall was finished In 1709, Great Buddha Hall, Daibutsuden, which houses the Daibutsu.  Bizarrely, it’s actually 1/3 smaller than the wooden building it replaced.  Even so, until the turn of the 20th Century it was still the world’s largest wooden building.  And like the temple, the statue itself has been repaired and redone many times over the years due to fire and earthquake damage, plus wars.

Plus it’s 1,270 years old and is thus beyond comprehension.  I’m a big believer that the human brain has limits and the idea that any one of us can properly conceive of 1,270 years inside our brains is asking too much.  It’s a long, long time, with countless lives and dreams riding along the waves of time all while Daibutsu hangs out and watches.  Bronze statues can’t talk.  But maybe if you listen, even if your brain can’t comprehend it, you can still learn from it.

Nyoirin-kannon is next to daibutsu

a pyre outside the main Hall, all these years later I still can’t shake the idea that I botched the angle of this shot

just one man, praying alone, riding the waves of time

we must obey the blood moon’s auspices

There’s an awful lot of awful stuff going on the world today.  War, inflation, celebrities, forthcoming food shortages, pandemic, Tom Brady, and the fact that Vlad Putin has not accidently stumbled into a functioning wood chipper.

But last night’s Blood Moon is what we should all REALLY be paying attention to.  After all, seeking the auspices of such a rare occurrence is surely a sign from God / nature / gods / aliens / whatever.  We must obey.

What?  You want me to follow the teachings of SCIENCE?  The Blood Moon has a perfectly rational scientific explanation and it’s known to all.  Nonsense, I say!  Humanity has only been a keeper of that sweet sweet astronomical knowledge for say three or four centuries.  That leaves 4500 years of human history to be our REAL guide.

So what’s the Blood Moon telling us?  We have no idea, but here are some possibilities:

1) That we, humanity, are total losers and a failure.  We have no choice but to crack each other’s head’s open and feast on the goo inside.  [H/T Kent]

2) You need to buy a new pair of shoes.  Even if your current shoes are brand new.

3) We must all cast Tom Brady into a cenote, to please the gods.

4) Vlad Putin did not have cancer, but possibility the Blood Moon gave him cancer last night.  These are positive changes.

5) The Blood Moon commands us to tame inflation, with fire, as in, arson.  We should totally get started tonight.

6) We must appease the Blood Moon’s anger, please snare your local squirrel, rabbit, or HOA President and sacrificially open their body to determine the color of the liver.

7) In addition to baby formula, the Blood Moon states we will all soon run out of paper clips.  The absence of which, will significantly increase the overall risk of nuclear war.

8) Quit your job, immediately.  Don’t think, just do it.

9) Hug a total stranger on the street and tell them it’s all going to be okay.  Be prepared to run fast if they object to said hug to avoid arrest.

10) The Blood Moon is actually a Batman-like signaling device to a genocidal alien race.  The signal instructs them to come here and do us in, to put us out of our own misery.  As per usual, the aliens will be too bored, drunk, and/or believe us not worth the trouble and they’ll do nothing.

Yes, Lord Blood Moon, we will obey. Yes! Ohhh yeeesss!

walking and blinky boxes

When I was growing up in the 1870’s, the story of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time was about as complicated as society got.  Now each individual with a smartphone has more computing power in their pockets than the space shuttle had.  This makes for some interesting aspects of modern human behavior.  None more so, to me at least, than the concept of walking and actively being engaged with the blinky box at the same time.

This has always struck me as odd.  To the point I feel really weird if I ever do it.  What I usually do if I have to be on my phone for any reason is I stop walking, take care of it, and resume walking afterwards.  It’s usually only when I’m like late for something and I have to be on the phone for some reason and it just feels wrong, I feel very off about it.

But in the morning death march on the subway where thousands of faceless drones slowly work their way to their day job doom, there’s usually a good percentage of like 5% or so who are walking with their faces in their phones.  It’s always struck me that these folks walk so much slowly than everyone else.  So I guess you can walk and chew gum at the same time while being on your smartphone but it decreases your steps per minute by 47%.

I guess the brain power goes into the smartphone, and the body can’t concentrate or cope and so now your body just inherently reduces your speed by 47%.  I’m sure somebody’s done a study to confirm this, I should probably look it up, I’ll get right on that.  Honest.  Also in case there was any remaining doubt, smartphones are addictive, alter your brain chemistry, and the freaks of Silicon Valley are indeed evil geniuses and have nailed human behavior cold.

Enjoy your weekend, friends!

Samurai Gourmet – your short crash course in Japanese culture

Trying to comprehend Japan is a hard by worthy endeavor.  I lived there for three years and decades later I’m still learning.  Sometimes you run into a gem that’s both fun and helps you along the way.

Lost among the extreme amount of worthless nonsense that Netflix puts out is a 2017 short series in Samurai Gourmet.  It lasted only one season of twelve episodes, each a short bite no longer than about twenty minutes each.  It wasn’t renewed for another season because Netflix is dumb.

The show focuses on Takeshi Kasumi played by all-purpose multi-talented actor Naoto Takenaka.  Kasumi is a 60 year old recently retired salaryman (sararīman) who goes on food based adventures.

A lot of this is straight food porn, but hell so much of television is nowadays.  And I find the food aspects interesting but that’s not the real appeal.  At its core this is a lighthearted comedy about a guy starting a new (and perhaps his first) real stage of his life.  It’s also just plain darn fun, a fact I constantly have whined about on this degenerate blog as missing from much of modern television.

Kasumi is shadowed by the neat, unique concept where his alter-ego is a Sengoku Jidai era samurai (Tetsuji Tamayama) who shares the same experiences but is a badass whereas Kasumi is still figuring out who he is as a person.  Essentially if you have any interest in Japan, or food, or just want a fun comedic ride, this is for you.  But a few key points I’ll make without getting into the plot, such as it is.

1) Kasumi retires at 60 after working for the same corporation for forty years and ended at essentially middle management.  It’s typical sararīman.  At more than one point he remarks that he walked to and from the same train station every day for decades and never took a detour.  The show (wisely, because it would break the fun) doesn’t dwell on the absolute misery of the life of a sararīman.  The punishing hours, the demeaning work, the lack of independence, and absolute total deference one must show to one’s superiors regardless of their brutality or lack of talent.  When you understand what being a sararīman really is, it makes Kasumi’s adventures mean so much more.  He’s finally free to be his own person, and now that he has that freedom, he’s on an adventure to discover who that person is.

The very first episode he dwells at his anxiety that he cannot possibly have a beer with lunch, oh no, that’s not proper.  For a sararīman, beer is for late night mandatory after work events with your boss where you get plastered and arrive home after your wife’s already asleep.  But in the episode, Kasumi orders the lunch beer, it’s a release for him.  The very first step on his journey to be free, a person he actually wants to be.  In many ways, and this is where Naoto nails this performance, Kasumi is also still emotionally a little boy.  He wife (Honami Suzuki) has a remark in episode three that’s telling where Kasumi has to overnight at an inn and she’s astounded because he’s never been alone all his life.  He grew up with his parents, lived with them through university, and moved out when he got married.  Now who he is?  Sometimes they intersperse scenes from his childhood, before he became a sararīman, which is of course a perfect foil for what happened to him the past four decades.  He’s a free child, had a punishing four decade gap, and now?  That’s the core of the show.

2) The other major theme is Kasumi and Shinzuko’s marriage.  If you want to understand what a lot of Japanese marriages might be like, particularly in the sararīman theme, here you go.  There is a deep respect between the two, but essentially they barely know each other and lead completely different lives.  He was a four decade sararīman.  It’s never mentioned if they had children.  It’s never mentioned if she had a job, because she probably didn’t.  She has her own hobbies, she’s completely independent of him, and you clearly get the idea that she really doesn’t need this guy at all to be happy.  She cooks for him and helps him here and there but otherwise one could mistake this for a loveless soulless marriage.

I don’t think it is one.  They never actually say the word love, but I think it’s there.  The closest they come to it is late in the season where they go out for their anniversary.  And they both joke about how they hardly ever did this, or even went out to eat together at all.  There’s an extremely emotional, even romantic moment where Kasumi opens up to her in a way he probably never has.  But the word love isn’t there.  He simply states, nearly but subtly tear eyed (Naoto is a superb actor), “I ask for your continued support.”  And she says the same back.  It reminds me of The Fiddler on the Roof song Do You Love Me?  These two people have been together a very, very long time, haven’t had the easiest of lives, and have just somehow made it work.  They’re together and in love even if they’ve never realized it’s happening in such a way.  I think their marriage would have been explored a great deal more had Netflix not cancelled the show.

3) The samurai parts are fairly typical, but just fun.  Tetsuji is cut from cloth to play this era of samurai and it’s such a joy.  But they keep it short, and leave you wanting more.  Tetsuji is only on screen for maybe two minutes of each episode.  But each vignette is a good look at that era of Japanese culture and contains countless thoughts on war, class, etc, etc that are short but on point.

4) The food parts are the food parts.  It’s indeed modern food porn.  But if you like Japanese food you get the usual oden, yakitori, yakiniku, etc, etc.  There’s also a surprisingly large amount of times, about a 1/3 a think, where Kasumi goes and pursues Western style dishes with their own Japanese twist.  If you like this kind of food (I worship it) then this will leave you hungry as it should.  I went to a local yakitori place off this show’s cravings alone last week.  The result?  It sucked, I was so disappointed the place failed.  Why can’t I live three train stops from Shinjuku?  We need teleporters to be invented, right now.

5) A pox on you Netflix, did we really need another season of Bridgerton?  How much did that cost them to make, ~$124M?  I think the budget for Samurai Gourmet is about five bucks.  And it’s more emotionally engaging and thought provoking.  It’s been five years, so this is a dead show.  But it is very much worth anyone’s time.  It’s fun, enjoy the ride.

setting $500M on fire

Last month we wrote a piece in which we were flabbergasted that any rational human would be interested in CNN+. But even we had no idea it would be this bad. After three weeks and a daily average of only 10K users the hammer came down and it’s done.

They spent $500M on this. There are some fellow bloggers on wordpress that get more than 10K visitors a day. What a disaster. But this was predictable. We saw it coming. Hell give me that $500M. I need my own zoo.

To me, this is a good thing. Some streaming services need to fail and fail badly. Otherwise we’ll just replace cable with 79 different streaming services. Which is asinine and silly.

absurdity of the week – apartment building names

As I ride into work on the subway I always see a lot of construction.  But much of it is coming to a close as all the newfangled buildings take shape.  Many of them are brand new modern city apartment buildings.  First off, all of these structures are glass enclosed, fake brick nightmares that have stale architecture, no style, and look like they were designed by a logical computer program.  Probably because they were designed by a logical computer program with the intent of providing the most efficiency possible.  Once upon a time, humanity built beautiful buildings with soul.  Even the post office was meant to have style.  Now we get buildings that are designed off spreadsheet outcomes.

Second, all of these new apartment buildings have the most pretentious names imaginable.  One I saw this morning is called “The Gantry”.  What?  According to Oxford, a gantry is: “a tall metal frame that is used to support a crane, road signs, a spacecraft while it is still on the ground, etc.”  So other than to sound fancy, snooty, and otherwise give the impression that this particular apartment building only wishes to house stuck up assholes, why would you name your building after a metal frame?  Of course, you wouldn’t.  What I’ve written above to me is a negative trait for a building, but to the building designers it’s The Point.

The Gantry in San Francisco (not my city, yes there are several The Gantry’s in the USA [shakes head in exasperation]) says this:  “EVERY COMFORT CONSIDERED.  The Gantry Apartments welcomes you with studio-, 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom apartment homes in Dogpatch, San Francisco, all designed to meet your needs and desires for a carefree and luxurious lifestyle.”  It also uses the term “Luxe” on the website.  To steal a quote from South Park, in order to live in such a place you have to be in love with the smell of your own farts.

But don’t worry!  TAP is here to help.  We’ll take care of apartment naming from now on.  If building designers disagree, they’ll be sent to a Russian conscript training camp near Rostov-on-Don and their buildings destroyed by my Guests.  Let’s go.  Let’s fucking go!!!

1) The Gambler – We see to your every comfort, unless life’s dice roll against you, in which case we will immediately evict you

2) The Wreck of the Hesperus – Where your pride is summarily & forcefully removed via our constant vigilance towards your misery

3) As We Like It – Your every comfort is not considered, if this is a problem, you don’t have to live here

4) The Cat Burglar – All pets (particularly cats) are more than welcome at our fine establishment, just realize we will occasionally rob you for your own amusement

5) The Acolyte Politico – We have no available apartments, please kindly descend into our boiler room to tour our fine building, it is recommend your will is accurate prior to your visit

6) The Coliseum – We built our beautiful building to match Rome’s finest architecture, we also host blood sports in the penthouse every Friday and Saturday

7) Gulag – The finest of pre-revolution Imperial Russian architecture provides a backdrop to our mandate that any abject pretension detected in the building will result in severest punishment

8) The Olympian – Sports, every day, competition, we’re for the strong of all, and our building carries the boon of classic Greek architecture

9) The Hopeless – We seek to provide our residents every opportunity to consider the pointlessness of their corporeal existence, also free gym membership!!

10) The Lunatic – Why did I write this post?  Someone, please help me!  They made me do this, I need rescuing!  Please help pay my ransom.  Please kindly send cash, money order, or gold bullion to:

The Arcturus Project – Apartment Architecture & Naming Reclamation Project

C/O Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation

1794 Aguiyi Ironsi Street

Abuja 900001, Nigeria

the best mercenary gig since December 25th, 1776

So pretend for a moment we know a dude in Damascus and let’s just say he’s a day labor construction worker.  Business is pretty good for him.  Much of his country has to rebuilt since his President, along with some Iranians, and some guy named Vlad utterly destroyed most of it.  But let’s face it, working in construction can be dull and repetitive.  So our bored Damascene (we’ll call him Fred) is looking for a little zest in his life.  Then one day he hears he can earn a few grand a month as a merc.  All he has to do is join a few thousand of his Syrian buddies and head off to Ukraine.  For you see, Fred’s heard that some guy named Vlad needs his help.

For you see, Vlad has a problem.  He needs an army to win a war.  But the problem is that when his troops aren’t looting gas stations, shooting rockets and artillery at apartment buildings, or getting main battle tank turrets blown clear into the stratosphere, they’re executing a total clusterfuck of an invasion.  This makes Vlad angry.  And everyone knows you don’t want to make Vlad angry.  But when 1/4 of the army has become casualties courtesy of brave, freedom fighting Ukrainians, then Vlad needs more bodies to feed into the inferno.  Or as ordinary average gentlemen titan badass Volodymyr Zelenskyy has termed it: “…throwing Russian soldiers like logs into a train’s furnace.”

We think Fred might have before him the best mercenary gig since December 25th, 1776.  After all, once Fred and his Syrian buddies are ambushed and most of them killed or captured, Fred will sure have a story he can tell his grandkids.  But in general, here’s why Fred should take this gig, hands down:

– Gets a firsthand view of the supposed second most powerful land army on Earth, only to wonder why they haven’t figured out how tires work

– Has the chance to remember his Damascus days when the civil war was at its height and he was starving, as he now starves again as the supposed second most powerful land army on Earth also apparently hasn’t figured out field rations

– Might get the chance to meet a real swell, beautiful young Ukrainian woman who he might imagine they could get married one day, right before she shoots him in the face

– Might get the chance to meet a real swell, beautiful old Ukrainian woman who might feed him a real meal, but who will likely tell him how her witchcraft will cause his dick to fall off or shine him on by giving him sunflower seeds so that when he dies his corpse can produce something useful

– Everyone loves explosions, even Fred.  And boy oh boy when a 46 ton main battle tank goes, it goes spectacularly.  Fred will have plenty of opportunities to marvel at just how high in the air a tank turret can actually fly

– Has the opportunity to realize just how wonderful the job of a day labor construction worker is

– Will remain puzzled how he never meets a Nazi, because Vlad kept telling him there were Nazis everywhere.  Fred just guesses it might be a cow he sees every now and then, but he’s not so sure

– Learns a valuable life lessons about avoiding con artists once he realizes Vlad has no intention of actually paying him the promised merc salary

– Can kindle a new interest in history as Fred becomes one with the spirit of an old Hessian dude as he’s likewise mopped up in an ambush by freedom fighters

– He gets to conduct the classic, ever memorable Tour of Europe after throwing away all his weapons, deserting, and trying to join a cousin he knows who lives in Bremen

give me more

oh, CNN is now streaming too

Soon there will be 129 streaming services, somewhat close to the number of core cable channels I suppose.  But at $5.99 each month per service, your new streaming bill will be $772.71 per month for them all. Please save ahead of time so your bank account doesn’t go into the red.

So don’t think for a second all the media companies are upset that cable is dying.  Not even a decade or so ago nine out of ten Americans had cable.  Within the year I bet it’ll be less than half.  But media companies are making more money than ever (except for live sports) so it all works out for them.

And so now CNN is in on the game.  In America you can watch all their programs, but not live news. The international version gets live news.  Because the last thing people know CNN for is live news.  You could spend time with such intellectual heavyweights like Wolf Blizter or Anderson Cooper on their talk shows, two arrogant empty suit guys who have contributed less to the goodness of America than your local jury duty foreman during any equivalent time period.

Uh, there’s some food stuff on there.  Because I guess CNN thinks food will sell.  But Bordain’s dead, so they’ve lost that brilliance.  So I guess they’ll pull some other person out of the woodwork, like some celebrity to talk about food.  Umm, I think they have a bunch of documentaries hosted by people they picked off a spreadsheet based on their political beliefs and skin color.

Um, they do some history stuff every now and then.  Like they had that series that covered each decade.  But that was shallow, pandering, and sucked.  So, um, [furrows brow] what preciously is there for CNN to stream, without live news?  If I were them, they should just throw a puppy on screen with a ball of yarn.  Though they can’t do that because Animal Planet already has a $4.99 a month service exclusively covering puppies playing with objects.

Would it be too earnest of us to ask the aliens to just get on with it?  I mean I know the invasion target date is 2037, but what’s the point in waiting?