Lenny Bruce and the Fucking Hypocrites

Lenny BruceOn this day in 1908, the great political cartoonist Herbert Lawrence Block was born. He was better know as Herblock. He started creating political cartoons in 1929. By the 1950s, he was established at the Washington Post (you know, when it was a good newspaper). He is best known for coining the term “”McCarthyism” in a 1950 cartoon. He also managed to make it on Richard Nixon’s “enemies list”—one of the greatest achievements one could have in Washington of the 1970s. He continued to work into his 90s.

Jazz pianist Art Tatum was born in 1909. Known for his great virtuosity, he really should be heard. I often think of him as much a classical musician as anything. God knows he could have been anything. You owe it to yourself to listen to this two minute solo piano version of the song “Yesterdays.” It is exquisite:

The great songwriter Paul Simon is 72 today. I am not that fond of Simon & Garfunkel. But when he went solo, something clicked. Here he is doing one of my very favorite songs, “Train in the Distance.” I love that line, “Negotiation and love songs are often mistaken…” But more than that, it is that rarest of things: a discussion of love as one gets older. No one loves a train up close; it scares the horses and wakes everyone up.

Other birthdays: painter Mariotto Albertinelli (1474); and comedian Sacha Baron Cohen (42).

The day, however, belongs to the great comedian Lenny Bruce who was born on this day in 1925. He is a tragic character in the history of 20th century American hypocrisy. For the last five years of his life he was actively pursued for obscenity. This was to the point of police going to his shows under cover so that they could arrest him afterwards. And he wasn’t doing anything that people weren’t doing on late night television ten years later.

I feel a great affinity for Bruce. I don’t think he understood just how serious the government was about enforcing clearly ridiculous laws. He was arrested for saying “bad” words on stage to people who had paid to see him do exactly that. He was arrested for possessing “dangerous” drugs. I think he thought that it must all be an elaborate joke. “Surely they can’t be this small minded!” But indeed they were. And are.

There is very little video of Bruce. The following is really great, although it is not exactly typical of his act. However, it shows his wonderful combination of harsh humor and sweet sentimentality. Based on the very end of it, it must be from some documentary.

Happy birthday Lenny Bruce!

God Likes Squids More Than You

Massimo PigliucciTake the human eye, one of the creationist’s favorite examples. Some people see dark spots on their eyes when staring at very bright light (or sometimes even the blue sky). Those spots are caused by the fact that the blood vessels serving the eye are positioned in front of the optical nerves. This is a rather annoying feature, which a competent engineer would have certainly avoided. In fact, cephalopods (ie, squids, octopuses, and the like) have their eyes (which evolved independently from the vertebrate’s) built the other way around, so they don’t have to suffer from this inconvenience. The only possible conclusions are: a) god didn’t design the thing; b) god is pretty sloppy and not worthy of all our unconditional admiration; c) god likes squids a lot better than humans.

—Massimo Pigliucci
A Case Against God (pdf)

“Redskins” Apologetics Getting Strained

Washington RedskinsAs you probably know, the Washington Redskins have been at the center of a controversy over their name. Many people say that the name is offensive but the owner of the team, Daniel Snyder, refuses to change the name. I’ve been thinking about the issue. It occurs to me that the term “redskin” is like one of my favorite joke words, “darky.” The word “darky” was once a deeply offensive term but no one uses it as an insult anymore. So I use it to lampoon modern people, calling them both racist and stuck in the past at the same time.

I think the same thing is going on with “redskin.” It isn’t a term that people use to insult Native Americans anymore. But it used to be, and even in my lifetime. I think this clarifies the issue. No one would think it was alright to have a football team named the Washington Darkies. But people continue to try to make the case for Redskins.

Rick Reilly wrote a curious article over at ESPN, Have the People Spoken? It is one of those Thomas Friedman kind of columns, “I talked to a cab driver and he agrees with me so that settles it!” In Reilly’s case, he talked to a Native American (his father-in-law, Bob Burns) and he didn’t have a problem with the name. Even worse, he talked to people at a couple from high schools with the redskins name that are majority Native American. And they said the kids loved the name. Case closed!

I’m not sure what’s going on here, but I suspect this is what I refer to as “Why does mom get to call you that?” Conservatives often get upset that minority groups get to use derogatory terms for themselves that whites cannot use. But that’s just the way it is. And if the kids at Wellpinit High School, with its 91.2% Native American student body, like the name “Redskins” it might be because of its offensiveness, not despite it.

On Friday, Dave Zirin reported on another problem with Reilly’s article, Blackfeet Elder Refuses to Be Son-in-Law Rick Reilly’s “Uncle Tom.” It seems that his father-in-law didn’t say what Reilly thought he said. He does find the redskins name offensive. Of course, we didn’t need to get confirmation of that. The whole argument is just so much, “All Indians walk in single file! At least the only one I ever saw did.”

Zirin focuses on how those who want to protect the name seem to hear only what they want to hear. I’m sure the Redskins name’s days are numbered. But it brings up a broader issue in team naming: is it really okay to have any team names that refer to Native Americans in a league that is overwhelmingly owned by white men? These are men who continue to prosper because of white privilege and the large scale theft and genocide of the Native Americans who made the mistake of once owning this land. I’m not at all sure it is acceptable to even have names like “Indians,” much less what seems to me to be the even more offensive “Cherokees.” Time will work this out I suppose.


I mentioned the Cherokees because based upon my (admittedly limited) knowledge, no other tribe worked so hard to get along with the United States government and do things according to their social norms. The Cherokee Nation repeatedly took different parts of the US government to court. This happened most notably in Worcester v. Georgia where the Supreme Court found more or less that tribes were independent and that Georgia couldn’t pass laws limiting how the Nation ruled its own land. President Jackson notably refused to enforce the ruling. The point is that all the talk of the rule of law and all that stuff is bullshit. What was done to the Native peoples was racism pure and simple.

Brown vs Blue: UPS, the Last Straw

Some read “UPS” as the plural of “up,” but it is correctly read as “oops.”

There are a few things to note about UPS. OK, one of them is I really don’t like them. I think it’s only fair to begin with that statement, since it is not really my plan to try giving them an unbiased review, in this writing.

Most of my adult life, job wise, I have found myself working in customer service and shipping.

I’m not a particularly fast worker. I do my best, but because of my inability to assemble miniature artificial trees at an acceptable rate, I was offered a position as a shipper, for the same company where I was interviewing for a production job.

Years later, at the now defunct startup BroadLink Communications, on my first day of work, I received a package from UPS. Upon closer inspection, I realized it was a package BC had shipped to a customer a month prior. I researched the tracking information (which, at the time, provided much more info than they do today). Not only did the shipment never reach the customers address, it never even visited their state. Instead, I was provided with the grand tour of the US, which the package had underwent… visiting no less than 10 UPS facilities spread across 8 states, until it finally made it to the address they had entered as its destination: BroadLink Communications, its point of origin. Nice.

Years later I worked purchasing, shipping and receiving audio/visual equipment, which largely was installed in hospitals. I would get urgent requests for a replacement unit, managers screaming at me over the phone. I’d say to my boss, “the route isn’t there for another week, I can get a delivery there in two days, via UPS.” He would shake his head and tell me no way could I get a small tv to the (SF) East Bay, 35 miles away, in one piece using UPS. Over some time, I boxed with excess padding; I double-boxed; I even triple boxed one unit….and all I accomplished was proving Mr. White correct. I am an awesome shipper, but I could not get the men in brown to deliver a single electronic shipment, via 2-Day Blue, intact, over a 35 mile distance. Why ship a product 2nd-day delivery, over a 35 mile span? Because GROUND could take 3-4 days to make it across the bay…….about a 40 minute drive. Something also worthy note is, in general, if you buy 3-day delivery, it makes it there in three days. Never two. This is frustrating.

Over the years I have shipped many products, ebay sales etc. I have, in the process, become very fond of the people in blue, your United States Postal Service (USPS). Despite all disparaging remarks about USPS regarding inefficiency, incompetence, laziness etc., I have been beyond satisfied with their service, both shipping domestic and international. I have entrusted them with fly-fishing poles, expensive camera (telephoto) lenses, children’s acoustic guitars, glass ornaments and the ever popular Beanie Babies. They have NEVER lost, misplaced, delayed or damaged one item. WOW!

Its time for me to disclose what spurred this rant. I received a package on the day I began writing this. I waited all day for my shipment, knowing UPS delivers to my apt complex twice. Sometimes three times in a day. I ran downstairs at the sound of every truck or van noise…..school buses, water deliveries etc. High priority packages, Overnight Red get here in the AM. Blue 2nd-day sometimes do too. But if your package is arriving via Ground, enjoy the wait, especially if you are receiving at a residential address.

Tracking Number: 1Z3F07V74202253498
Delivery Time: 7:07 PM
Delivery Location: RESIDENTIAL

UPS, when you absolutely have nothing better to do with your day!

Aerospace, Newsgroups, and Sports

Rocket News

I think it’s only natural to be drawn to some things. Most things we find alluring, we are supposed to feel guilty or ashamed of…
Mostly, I am referring to common vices.
Al Gore, whether he was a contributor to the advent of the internet or not, was not likely a player in the elements which really spurred on the growth of it: Vices.

Some of us were users of online life prior to any graphical interface being layed over it. Everything was text and most of the ‘net was in the form of UseGroups or Newgroups, sometimes called Usenet.
My understanding is, its pretty much gone, that raw form. But tonight I ran across a smidgeon of what once was and my participation in it. Ever search for yourself? I did.

As a substitute for actually gambling on sports, me and some other guys used to participate in an exercise of futility called RGS. I don’t recall what the name stood for, but it was myself and some aerospace engineers who fancied themselves Sports Handicappers. You found online ‘lines’ for sporting events of your choosing and risked imaginary funds in an ego-driven contest for manhood.

I searched for RGS and my handle, Kimba1964 and found this entry from 2009. Though way before the time of this communication, the web had become graphically fancy, many of us old dudes still liked the old ways of doing things. Indeed, nowadays ‘groups’ are long destroyed by spam and trafficking of illegal files and, as a result, provider after provider has been cutting off all direct access to them. Here’s a sample of the RGS group format and my final entry:

rec.gambling.sports ›
Gerald wins the RGS Baseball Week 9 Contest
Hash: SHA1

Updated through Sunday, June 7

Gerald won the Week 9 Contest and $250 had been added to his total.

Player Previous June 7 Current Week Month BOTW?

Kimba $7269 3-2, +$314 $7583 4-9, -$128 4-9, -$128 Y
Gerald $6586 1-0, +$100 $6936 7-6, +$ 73 7-6, +$ 73 N
Gary $4523 0-0, +$ 0 $4523 0-0, $ 0 0-0, $ 0 N

June 7:

W +$ 80 TOR -1.5 rl, -125 play of the month //NO SUCH THING AS POM
W +$186 nym -108 play of the day
L -$100 CWS -119
W +$248 SF -121 play of the week
L -$100 LAD -121
3-2, +$314

W +$100 Oakland Athletics -114
1-0, +$100

Weekly Contest Winners (+$250 bonus):
Week 1: Gerald 9-5 +$506
Week 2: Kimba 7-3,+$412
Week 3: Kimba 13-9,+$505
Week 4: Gerald 3-2,+$ 48
Week 5: Gerald 5-3,+$256
Week 6: Gerald 1-0,+$100
Week 7: Kimba 13-10,+$136
Week 8: Kimba 8-2,+$678
Week 9: Gerald 7-6,+$ 73
Week 10: (pending)

Monthly Contest Winners: (+$500 bonus)
April: Gerald 13-5,+$938
May : Kimba 32-26 +$149
June : (pending)

Player Notes:
Kimba: Always to risk (e.g., -110 = risk $100 to win $91)
Gary : Always listed pitchers
Gerald: Always action, unless specified; Always Pinnacle, unless specified

Version: GnuPG v1.4.9 (MingW32)


RGS Baseball CONTEST -My Participation

Usenet is being dumped by at&t
we are also likely going homeless in 2-3 weeks, sans a miracle……so the
point be moot.
Been nice playing with you guys over the years. I will have this for a
couple days more……please feel free to write me via my old email:
kimb…@yahoo.com and be sure to include RGS in the title, so that msgs
could be found……….would be interested in knowing if there are any
truely FREE third party news access servers.

Will likely also be dumping my domain: www.BestWager.info which i have
owned for something like 6 years.

Got three little ones and a mrs to worry about……and the shelters are not
accepting anyone.



Why this exchange of notes has been preserved by the web, when almost no other traces exist? Who knows… But herein, I pay homage to what was the basis of what we take for granted.

Where Have All the Channels Gone?

Comcast - I love how this pic looks like a billAs consumers increasingly turn away from cable, cable tightens the noose on those skating by…

-By “cable” I specifically mean Comcast.

-By “those skating by” I mean those who have the most basic internet access at home and somehow, by default, have a very limited access to cable service (called “limited basic” by Comcast personnel).

For many years, those who subscribed to a basic level of cable-based internet have found, that if they connected a digital tv and did a channel search, they had something they weren’t supposed to have, for “free.”

Just recently, in the San Francisco northbay and many other regions of the US, Comcast has put an end to the freeloading.

The access was very basic, only allowing a handful of English-speaking networks. Mostly, what you would get as free broadcast, if you were close enough to the nearest major population (MSA).

In theory, we are close enough to San Francisco to get free television broadcasts, but the surrounding terrain make the signal impossible to pull in from 39.5 miles away.

What you are left with is a couple channels carrying FM audio and a very annoying video of a 20-something Comcast Rep telling you about how they have made service changes in your area to streamline your cost-effective options.

Comcast… Thanks for making me consider signing a contract… with satellite service.