Alert the Media: Rodent Does Not See Shadow

Posted in Whatever Else on February 2nd, 2016 by bill

Gobbler's Knob, indeed.

Well, will miracles never cease…for the first time in recent memory, that chubby little prognosticating mammal in Pennsylvania has predicted an early spring.

Of course, we all know, don’t we, that Groundhog Day is fixed? The town elders of Punxsutawney get together every year and decide in advance what the outcome of the shadow-seeing-or-not-seeing drama is going to be. It is all a cruel charade inflicted annually on the American public, who really ought to know better.

Still…this being only the second day of February, I’ll take all the good news I can get. Let’s go ahead and call this a positive sign, cause why not? Early spring for everyone!

Dead ones and the living

Posted in Whatever Else on February 1st, 2016 by bill

So here we are in February – normally my least favorite month, but this year it comes as a welcome deliverance from the death parade that was January.

A lot of famous people died last month, or at least it seems that way. In truth it was probably just business as usual. If you look up lists of deaths on Wikipedia, you’ll see that on an given day 10 or 20 or 30 “famous” people die (in this context, that means people famous enough to have Wikipedia pages). So I guess that’s just how it goes – time marches on, the old order gives way to the new, etc. etc.

Of the January deaths, Bowie, of course, was the big one. He will continue to be the big one for the rest of the year, and the rest of the decade, at minimum. The rest were just your regular celebrity deaths, with the notable names including:
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Welcome to Your Post-Vigoda Future

Posted in Whatever Else on January 27th, 2016 by bill

The youngest picture of Abe Vigoda I could find.

Earlier this week I wrote: “Bowie’s passing proves once and for all that no one lives forever.” But just in case there was any last, lingering doubt in anyone’s mind, the death yesterday of Abe Vigoda ought to silence it.

By my calculations Abe spent 94 years, 11 months, and 2 days on this planet, and for roughly half that time he made a living by looking like he could drop dead at any moment. This led some of us to believe that he might possibly be an immortal, and the monitoring of his aliveness became something of a national obsession, spawning a Firefox plug-in and (which will now permanently switch over to “Abe Vigoda is dead” status).

Well, Abe’s continuing existence made for good entertainment; his demise, not so much. So rather than try to mine any more material out of the man, I will simply refer you to my previous Vigoda posts here, here, and here.

So long, Abe, and thanks for the memories.

The Increasingly Weird Life of Martin Shkreli

Posted in Whatever Else on December 21st, 2015 by bill

So just a few days after I wrote about Martin Shkreli, in the context of his status as the owner of the only copy of Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, he was arrested by FBI agents on securities fraud and wire fraud charges. As a result he has been in the news even more than previously, and the more I learn about him, the more I’m impressed by what a weirdo he is – in that special way that only billionaires can be weird, by virtue of having the resources to indulge their eccentricities to the farthest extreme.

The day after his arrest, Shkreli was back on the streets and back on the internet, live-streaming five hours of his life during which he played online chess, strummed his guitar, and browsed OKCupid dating profiles. Or so I am told. I am not going to enable Shkreli’s colossal ego by by watching that shit, curious as I may be; it’s bad enough I’m writing about him.

Frankly, though, I’m not sure which is weirder: that Shkreli likes to live-stream his entire life –  he has previously posted video of himself working on his computer, and even sleeping – or that people seem to care. On his part it’s just raw narcissism; what’s the excuse of the people who are watching? Morbid curiosity? Lifestyle envy? Or just a simple case of nothing better to do?

Shkreli clearly craves notoriety, perhaps even more than money, and doesn’t seem to care how he gets it. In that sense, casting himself as a heel in the increasingly professional-wrestling-like world of modern celebrity is a shrewd move. He also apparently takes some amount of inspiration from the world of gangsta rap, and no doubt considers himself a “gangster” of one kind or another, which makes his recent perp-walk something to brag about. Well. Hopefully he will be doing hard time soon, and we’ll see then how hardcore he is.

Quotes du jour

Posted in Whatever Else on October 18th, 2015 by bill

“Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.”
– Travis Bickle, 1976

“Someday a real rain will come and wash all this shit off my car.”
– Me, today

Aloha Again

Posted in Whatever Else on August 24th, 2015 by bill

Three monkeys on an island.

Last week, this summer’s grand tour took us to the biggest of the Hawaiian, or as they were once known, the Sandwich Islands (cue mental image of trees laden with BLTs, Reubens, and Italian subs). Imagine if that name had stuck, and our 50th state was called the Sandwich Islands, or maybe just Sandwich. It seems like a whole different world. Our current president would be a native Sandwichian. There would be a TV show called “Sandwich 5-0″ and a beverage called “Sandwich Punch,” which is just plain confusing.

This is the kind of thought that tends to drift through your mind in a place like Hawaii, where the tropical atmosphere (combined of course with the drinking and smoking) quickly induces a dissociative state. A week passed in a pleasant blur, and while there was a certain amount of touring and beachgoing, there was also a lot of sitting on the lanai with a glass of wine in hand.

And in truth the indolence has not entirely worn off…so that’s all for now. Aloha, and I really mean that.

Philadelphia 1, hitchBOT 0

Posted in Whatever Else on August 4th, 2015 by bill

It was only yesterday that I learned, posthumously, of the existence of hitchBOT, a “hitchhiking robot” created by some Canadian college professors. hitchBOT safely navigated its way around Canada, Germany, and the Netherlands, and in July set out to cross the United States. After being treated kindly and hospitably in Boston and New York, taken to a Red Sox game and Times Square, hitchBOT made a big mistake.

It went to Philadelphia.

Within hours, hitchBOT was lying decapitated and dismembered in a ditch.

My initial reaction was, well of course that’s what happened. In Latin, “Philadelphia” means “City of Brotherly Love”; but in American, it means “City Where They Chuck D Batteries at Ballplayers.” As a native Philadelphian, I feel like I can say this without prejudice: people in Philadelphia can be really mean. There are plenty of nice people there too, but the mean ones are mean in a special way peculiar to the city.
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One final piece of advice from our friends in Scotland

Posted in Picture du jour, Whatever Else on August 3rd, 2015 by bill

Back to the Old Grit’n'Grind

Posted in Whatever Else on July 6th, 2015 by bill

After three weeks of travel both foreign and domestic, we are back in Humboldt County and back to regular old daily life, more or less. There will be things to say, maybe some pictures, once I’ve had a chance to get a little organized and get my head right.

In the meantime, here’s a shot I took in London, I think of the grit that the Cleveland Cavaliers were missing in those last couple games:

What’s Blowing My Mind, 2015 Edition (Part 5)

Posted in Whatever Else on June 11th, 2015 by bill

“Your mind…blow it, blow it.”
-David Bowie, “The Gospel According to Tony Day”

The Sleeping Tapes

My goal for today has been to think, talk, read, and write about anything other than basketball, because in contrast to the joy that following the Warriors has brought me all year, at the moment it is making my stomach hurt.

To help soothe my nerves I turned to Jeff Bridges’ The Sleeping Tapes, one of the most bizarre and wonderful artifacts to emerge from our popular culture in recent years. Listening to it, one cannot help but wonder, “How did this thing come to exist?”

The Sleeping Tapes are a series of audio sketches, I guess you’d call them, starring Jeff Bridges, Hollywood royalty and son of Hollywood royalty, beloved to many for playing the role of Jeffrey Lebowski a/k/a The Dude. In the introductory track Bridges says, “I hope they inspire you to do some cool sleeping, some cool dreaming, and some cool waking up.” So I guess theoretically you are supposed to put this on when you climb into bed and listen to it as you drift off into dreamland. I don’t know that I would necessarily recommend it for that purpose. Bridges’ intentions may well be entirely benign, but there is just a touch of something unsettling here, just a hint of a David Lynch quality.

For instance, there’s the part where he tries to coax his wife into contributing to the project, even though she has just woken up and clearly has no interest in this nonsense. Why is that on the album? Then again, why not? Here are some of the other fucked-up things you’ll hear here:

- Jeff Bridges humming for three minutes.
- Jeff Bridges, apparently on a playground, telling a story about how he and his daughter used to meet up in their dreams.
- Jeff Bridges telling you how he plans to have his remains shot into space.
- Jeff Bridges leading you on a guided tour of Temescal Canyon where you meet a guy named Neal, find an abandoned office chair and some Spanish doubloons, and go hang-gliding.
- A long and somewhat random series of affirmations, including everything from “You are a good person” and “I like your haircut” to “You have strong hands, capable of woodworking” and “You are very good at guessing when a traffic light will turn green.”
- The sound of Jeff Bridges’ toilet refilling.

A few years ago I coined the phrase “transmission from Planet Weird,” and this is definitely one of those. I can’t fully do it justice in words; I encourage you to go check it out at It is a free download, but you can also make a donation that will go to a charity called No Kid Hungry. That will probably help you sleep a little better.