Wanna buy a cup?

April 9, 2014
AP_chinese_cup_kab_140407_16x9_992

That’s an expensive cock. Vincent Yu/AP Photo

Then why not pay $36 million for this one? You don’t have 36 million dollars? That’s a damn shame because your loss was Chinese billionaire collector Liu Yiqian’s gain as he paid that $36 million you didn’t have for the above pictured, Ming dynasty, porcelain wine cup. 

Let’s put that purchase into perspective, shall we? Here are some other things he could have done with that ridiculous amount of money:

  1. He could’ve just kept it in a bank. At a low, low annual interest rate of just 2.8% it would’ve been making him a million fucking dollars a year.
  2. He could’ve won the lottery–twice. Assuming that in a standard 6/49 lottery a single selection of 6 numbers costs him $1 and knowing that in such a setup the chances of winning are 1 in 13,983,816, he could take his 36 million dollars and purchase the nearly 14 million combinations of numbers necessary to cover every possible outcome more than two times over (you would also, of course, have to ignore any ticket-buying limits and the horrible impracticality of having to purchase said number of tickets, but hey). Sure, he would probably end up losing money on it since most jackpots are only worth a paltry few million, but being able to say you won the lottery twice would be a lot cooler than buying a cup.
  3. He could’ve purchased a dozen million-dollar homes in 12 beautiful locations around the world and a midsize Gulfstream private jet to fly him between those homes.
  4. He could’ve  turned 36 random people into millionaires. How awesome would that be? Just walk up to someone give them a check for a million dollars and tell them not to spend it all in one place.
  5. Or he could’ve done something really great by, for example, providing 18000 Cambodian children with a full 4-year scholarship to college or university. 18000! According to some sources I found, a complete post-secondary education in Cambodia costs around $2000. “I could potentially improve the fortunes of an entire nation by creating 18000 skilled and educated young people OR I could buy a CUP!” Good choice bud, good choice.
  6. And finally, he could’ve gotten himself 36 million one-dollar bills, put them all in a big pile and burnt them. Because yeah, he might as well have.

Any other suggestions?

 

Moving Picture Time

April 2, 2014

ABBA along with Tim Rice wrote a concept album for an ’80s musical called Chess. This is from that musical and it’s all kinds of good.

Catchy as hell and the lyrics are genius. For example:

Get Thai’d! You’re talking to a tourist
Whose every move’s among the purest
I get my kicks above the waistline, sunshine

Awesome.

 

The Murder of James Boyd

April 1, 2014

As you can see in the above video, police officers in Albuquerque, New Mexico murdered a man by the name of James Boyd.

There is so much wrong with this beyond the fact that a man died unnecessarily that I don’t even know where to begin and when I do begin I’m not sure that I’ll be able to stop.

Wrong 1: The officers who shot and killed the man have not been charged with murder despite proof in the form of clear video evidence of said murder.

That is how untouchable the police have become in the United States; they can kill someone who was not a direct threat to them, video-tape it, voluntarily release that tape and not face any punishment for it.

Wrong 2: The police were there in the first place.

As this report by KOAT the local ABC affiliate for Albuquerque shows, someone called the police station and reported “some homeless” had been living in the hills behind his property for a month. (Apparently living or sleeping or camping on what I presume is public land is illegal in New Mexico. Problem 2b: Illegal camping is a thing.) I could understand that if Boyd had been threatening hikers in the area or something to that affect, which I concede is definitely within the realm of possibility given his apparent background, then sending officers to check it out was the proper thing to do. Nowhere, however, in any of the news reports I’ve read does it state that he was causing any trouble in those hills, so, yeah, “illegal” camping and fear of property-value depreciation were the reasons for the police being there and eventually killing a man.

Wrong 3: James Boyd was not receiving care in a mental health facility.

Why was a man who clearly needs help and potentially posed a threat to the public not being helped? Because America’s you-can’t-tax-me attitude means that the United States has probably the worst social welfare network in the western world.

Wrong 4: There was at least one military veteran involved.

Weapons manufacturers and security consultants are constantly trying to sell their wares and tactical plans to police departments around the US and they have been quite successful in doing so. This is why some police departments now own APCs, use flash-bangs, wear body armor and carry assault rifles. So, what better men for these police departments to hire than those who are already trained in the use of those weapons? Having already had the always-protect-never-betray-your-brothers mindset that the police love drilled into them and experience in killing people are nice plusses on their resumes, too. At the very least these ex-military bros and wannabe green berets seem to be the type of people who don’t mind using violence against others as is evidenced by the “booyah” in the video.

Wrong 5: There was a K9 unit on the scene.

Dogs should work with the police for one reason and one reason only: to find something or someone. If your goal is to have someone calmly submit to being handcuffed then bringing a large, vicious-looking dog to the scene and then having that dog jumping and barking aggressively right in front of the person you are trying to talk to is the dumbest thing you could do. This will automatically escalate the situation. Especially if the person you are trying to apprehend is mentally ill. In this case the dog was quite obviously there specifically to ratchet up the intimidation and general threat of violence. I don’t know at what point the dog was introduced to the scene (apparently this standoff lasted some 3 hours) but doing so at any point was a mistake.

***

Well, let’s stop there. I’m not going to get into the numerous other horrible, inhumane and stupid things these adrenaline-junkie-asshole-paramilitary-cops did because they all produce the same headache-inducing, soul-crushing why?

As for offering alternative strategies or ways of resolving the situation that would have prevented the death of Boyd, I’m sure there are a hundred ways that could have happened. I’m sure that even children know enough about tasers and riot shields that they could come up with a smart solution. So, why then could several grown men who we trust with our safety and protection not devise a single, non-fatal, solution?

Beyond the shock and rage felt over a sick man being murdered by police officers, there is the continuing tragedy that none of the root problems that led to this situation are going to disappear anytime soon. The mental health care network is not getting better, homelessness (and the criminalization thereof) is an ongoing, serious issue and the militarization of policing steadily marches on. I’m certain, sadly, that James Boyd’s life will not be the last one taken by this idiocy.

Lost

October 6, 2013

A man wakes up and before he’s gotten himself out of bed a memory pushes itself into his groggy mind. Perhaps his mind was still in dream mode, rearranging memories to make room for more, and that one, of the watch, was left behind as his mind returned to consciousness. Whatever the reason for the memory surfacing was, he spent a large part of his morning exploring it.

It was the memory of a watch and it wasn’t the first time it had surfaced, but he had never thought so deeply about it before. He had always just pushed the memory aside with a sigh of regret. Why regret? Because losing your grandfather’s watch, which had been given to you upon his death by your father, is not something you can take lightly nor easily accept.

He can’t really remember what the watch looked like; maybe silver with a white face and a tan leather band. But, he can remember how it was lost, although saying it was lost is not entirely accurate. The loss was a combination of negligence and thievery. It involved gym class, a jewelry box and absent-mindedness.

It was some two decades earlier, and the man was a boy in grade school. His school’s gym teacher had a rule that all students had to put any rings, earrings, necklaces or watches into a little box he kept on the small stage in the gym. The logic being that your valuables would be safer in the box, which could be seen by everyone, than left in the unmonitored change room. The boy agreed with this logic and dutifully put his watch in the box. What he didn’t take into account was that he would have to remember to collect the watch after class.

He left the gym without his grandfather’s watch. Sometime later that same day he remembered with a sudden panic that he had left the watch behind. He went back to the gym, his heart in his throat; a sense of doom hovering over him. He told the gym teacher that he had forgotten his watch earlier and asked to check the box. The watch was not there. In his heart he had known that it wouldn’t be. He walked home alone, knowing that he would have to explain the loss to his father who had trusted him with the watch. He had wanted to show that he was old enough to be trusted with such a valuable object, but he had failed, and now felt the shame that only little boys can feel when they have disappointed their fathers.

And now 20 years later he sits wondering where the watch ended up. Someone took it that day long ago, but who and why? Was it another kid just trying out what it feels like to steal something, who then later felt scared and guilty and threw the watch into the garbage or the woods or the lake? Was it the gym teacher? That’s highly unlikely as an adult who steals doesn’t just steal once and surely he would have been caught at some point. Did someone take it by accident, thinking it was theirs?

More haunting than the thought of who took the watch, is where is it now? Did it end up buried in a landfill, still ticking for months in the dark, under the earth until one day the battery died? Is it at the cold bottom of a lake or stream, corroding away? Is it in a box or drawer somewhere, forgotten after all these years? Does it sit, at this moment, wrapped around someone’s wrist, worn with pride by that person who has no idea where it came from, just like the boy who lost the watch has no idea where it’s gone?

The Word

June 24, 2013

If an angel out of heaven,
Brings you other things to drink,
Thank him for his kind attentions,
Go and pour them down the sink.

G.K. Chesterton, The Flying Inn

NHL Playoffs – Second Round Preview

May 15, 2013

The first round’s over and as always there was some great, high-tempo, heavy-hitting hockey. Some stray thoughts:

  1. The Boston-Toronto series was, for me, a big disappointment. It was nowhere near as physical as a lot of people (myself included) thought it would be. I was actually hoping the Leafs would pull it off, so that there would be a little more Canadian flavor to the second round, but things ended in predictably disastrous fashion for the Leafs. A highlight for the Leafs, though, was the play of Grabovski, who despite not putting up points, didn’t give up on a single play, getting run over time and time again, but getting right back up.
  2. What Toronto and Boston lacked in craziness, the Canadiens and Senators made up for. I hadn’t seen an actual line brawl in a long time and there it was, happening between two teams that rarely engage in fisticuffs. Montreal’s lack of discipline killed them. Karlsson didn’t play as large a part of the Senators success as I thought he would.
  3. John Tavares gets better and better with age. The team around him is growing up, too. Watch out for them in the next couple of years.
  4. The highlight of the first round was definitely Niklas Kronwall’s beautiful hit on Kyle Palmieri, the crowd’s reaction to the hit and the following “You got Kronwall’d” chant.

 

And now, on to the second round.

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Early Summer, Late Afternoon

May 12, 2013

I’m sitting on the rooftop terrace of a 3-story coffee shop with an Italian name. According to the electronic device in my hand, and the sweat on my brow, the temperature is 29 degrees. According to my eyes it’s a sunny, hazy afternoon. There’s a nice breeze blowing, though, which keeps me comfortable, while I sip my caffeine-laced, iced drink.

The downtown core, which I can observe from my seat is crowded equally by cars and pedestrians. Summer apparel is out in full force; men in shorts and polo-shirts, women in breezy summer dresses, mini-skirts or hot pants and Ts.

There’s an outdoor event promoting the new shopping mall that opened recently. I can’t see it from where I sit, but the children, walking here and there, carrying balloons that sport the mall’s logo tells me it’s happening.

Further down the street there’s a band playing on the sidewalk. A small throng of people stand in the shade watching them. I hear Mmm Bop by the Hansons followed by an equally boppy Korean song. The music fits the day perfectly.

Every few minutes or so a group or couple of Westerners strolls by, the men sticking out in the crowd with their light colored hair and long legs, the women by their chubbiness; the petit-ness of Korean women making their western sisters seem huge by comparison.

All along the street, every window seat of every restaurant and cafe from first floor to fifth is occupied. Those patrons sit there as I do, drinking or eating, watching the street from their air-conditioned environs. Later they will go outside, making statements about the heat, as they move on to their next climate-controlled destination.

Books for April

May 3, 2013

south_of_the_border_west_of_the_sunSouth of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami: There’s a definite trend of similarity which runs through Murakami’s work. The awkward young man, who loves a messed-up, pseudo-ethereal woman and his struggles to find himself will be familiar to anyone who has read at least one of his books. Despite that I keep finding myself engrossed in his books with their sad, mysterious and weird characters who live in a very real world that is sometimes interrupted by moments of surreal existentialism. They are wonderful reads, this one included, and I like to think of them as a series rather than standalone books, and that works just great for me.

Hemingway-short-storiesThe Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway: As the title says, this is a collection of every short story Hemingway ever published. There’s not much I can say about them, other than that they are good and this is a good book to carry around with you for when you need a little inspiration for your own writing. They’re also good stories for bedtime reading, since they are short and won’t keep you up all night, like the next book in this post will.

under the domeUnder the Dome by Stephen King: This book’s a monster at over a thousand pages, but I’m guessing you’ll get through it pretty quickly. It’s hard to put down. There’s a ton of characters and thick plot that moves along very quickly. In Big Jim Rennie, this book has a character that much like Cersei Lannister in the Song of Ice and Fire series, is so hateable that you will read on just in the hopes of seeing him get his comeuppance. Overall a very entertaining read. On a side note, this is being turned into a mini-series on CBS to be aired this summer. I can’t see how a tv version, especially on CBS can depict some of the savagery that adds to the menacing feeling of the book, but who knows, it could be good.

arlt-mad-toyMad Toy by Roberto Arlt: Translated meticulously by Michele Aynesworth, this is the story of a young man, a teenager actually, who struggles with his place in society and the expectations of his family. He wants to be a great man, but finds himself trapped in the lower class of early 20th century Argentina. Arlt drops a lot of slang and cultural references from that time period into his book and Aynesworth provides footnotes for all of them, making the book somewhat of a history lesson as well. This is a really interesting and thought provoking little book.

Playoffs – Eastern Conference Preview

May 1, 2013

nhl eastern conference

After a great Sunday game between the Bruins and the Senators the East is all set for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The final placings didn’t work out how I would have liked them to, but there’s sure to be some great hockey coming up.

Ideally, I would have loved to have seen a Canadiens-Maple Leafs match up. I’m a Montréal fan and a Leafs hater and watching two of the oldest rivals in pro-sports play each other would have been great–it’s been far too long since they last met in the playoffs. That being said, I’m sure the Bruins-Leafs series will be fun to watch as both teams have a good deal of rough and tumble to them. Also, a team that I’ve come to like a lot over the last half-decade are the Islanders, but unfortunately for them, they drew the Penguins in the first round, which is definitely bad news for them. Anyways, lots to look forward to.

On to the predictions:

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Amazing Student Diary Entry

April 29, 2013

Title:  In the academy

I studied the math. It wasn’t
palaces
because bathroom is a dirty paint
But It was a great bath
room.
I was a happy
It was a great time


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