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Oh, Japan!


I honestly do not know what I was doing when I found myself in this place today. I only know it scared me. Japan Trend Shop is superficially one of those silly gadget shops, like Brookstone, but being Japanese…somewhat more horrifying.

Like, in the cosmetics section, you can buy horse oil. Which, if you read the description, is clearly made from actual horses (“Son Bahyu also breeds only quality horses, so its creams do not contain oil from former racing horses or other steads that are no longer healthy.”).

You can spend $24 on a cardboard box for your cat to sleep in. An ordinary cardboard box, though I suppose it is “designed to look just like the boxes used to send and transport large bottles of soy sauce in Japan.” So there’s that.

Earplugs in the shape of tiny colorful dachshunds ($42). A plastic vase you can scream into to muffle your angsty cries $52 (reduced from $80). A machine that makes perfectly spherical balls of ice in seconds, $1,281 (I won’t lie, I really want one of these). Cotton Wife and Husband Hug Pillows (“We’ve seen plenty of hug pillows in Japan before but these have the most attractive and, well, huggable designs so far.”). $180.

None of those objects brought me to the site, though. I decided I just couldn’t bear to post a picture of the thing that caught my eye: the Bigan Beauty Face Expander. It’s supposed to be for exercising your cheek muscles. And there are other horrifying-looking beauty apparatuses in that section, but I just. No. No, I don’t believe it.

August 17, 2016 — 8:26 pm
Comments: 13

What the hell, Belgians?


There’s something super creepy about the Belgians. Like, these guys. The Blancs Moussis, or ‘clad in white’, from the mid-Lenten celebration of Stavelot (it was last weekend). “During the afternoon a procession of floats travel through the streets showering crowds with confetti and flogging them with pig bladders.”

Oh, and Kattenstoet (means Cat Parade) where they commemorate that time they threw cats from the towers by throwing toy cats from the towers. Those and more creepy Belgian festivals at the link above.

I’m not sure why this story has floated up again, since it happened in the Nineties. I think because his lawyer has been telling stories to a local magazine. Innyhoo, Marc Dutroux was a pedophile serial killer who kidnapped girls and kept them in his basement. Some he killed, two just plain old starved and a couple were found alive.

During the investigation and trial, the behavior of the police and other authorities was so strange and incompetent that when Dutroux insisted he was part of a large pedophile ring that included people at all levels of government, he wasn’t completely dismissed. This was all going on when I first began travelling to the UK and I remember the scandal festered unresolved for a very long time.

Hence my Belgophobia, probably. Just thought I’d share, since Dutroux is back in the news.

Tomorrow? Dead Pool! Be here, 6 sharp.

March 10, 2016 — 10:39 pm
Comments: 8

The thirtieth anniversary of something I don’t remember


Sunday is the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. He was walking home from the movies with his wife when he was approached by a gunman and shot dead.

Sometimes I like to play a game with True Crime books: I shuffle to the picture section and, without reading the captions, try to figure out from their faces who’s the victim, who’s the perp and who’s the policeman. In this case, though, it’s easy — dude on the right is a druggy who was picked up for the murder three years later after Mrs Palme picked him out of a lineup. That’s about all the evidence against him, though, so the case is classed as unsolved. A hundred and thirty people have confessed to the murder and been dismissed.

It’s officially the biggest murder investigation in history — bigger than JFK’s, bigger than Lockerbie. And it’s still active. Sweden even scrapped their 25-year statute of limitations on murder to keep it going (which is fine. There shouldn’t really be a statute of limitations on murder).

He was a hard left anti-Imperialist, pro-Revolutionary, the first Western head of state to visit Cuba and speak in favor of Cambodia’s revolutionaries. So you can imagine the prevailing theories.

The Turks say the Kurds did it, the Kurds say the Turks did it. There was a Yugoslavian, and a LaRouchie. Indian gunrunners. Chilean fascists. The Masons. The CIA. I’m not even kidding. If you like this sort of thing, this is just the sort of thing you’d like.

Not me. I hate the unsolved ones. Good weekend, all!

February 26, 2016 — 9:19 pm
Comments: 8

Oh, dear


Oh, dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. In what’s being called “the design fail of the year,” San Fran designer Lehu Zhang apparently really and truly didn’t mean this minimalist monkey to look like a Communist propaganda poster for gay sex.

Eh. Well. Gong Hey Fat Choy, y’all. Happy Year of the Fire Monkey. Here’s a better article about Chinese New Year, what am today.

February 8, 2016 — 9:11 pm
Comments: 19

Lookin’ better all the time


Behold, Tristan da Cunha, the Nipple of the Seven Seas. It’s not really called that, but just look at it. The capital — well, the only settlement, really — is called Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, though. It is the world’s remotest inhabited island, smack in the middle of the Atlantic, somewhere between Africa and South America.

The record high temperature is 75.9°, the record low temperature is 40.3° and it rains 250-plus days a year. It is a British Overseas Territory, natch.

The islands have a population of 301. The main settlement is Edinburgh of the Seven Seas (known locally as “The Settlement”). The only religion is Christianity, with denominations of Anglican and Roman Catholic. The current population is thought to have descended from 15 ancestors, eight males and seven females, who arrived on the island at various times between 1816 and 1908. The male founders originated from Scotland, England, The Netherlands, the United States and Italy, belonging to 3 Y-haplogroups: I (M170), R-SRY10831.2 and R (M207) (xSRY10831.2)[39] and share just eight surnames: Glass, Green, Hagan, Lavarello, Patterson, Repetto, Rogers, and Swain. There are 80 families on the island. Tristan da Cunha’s isolation has led to an unusual, patois-like dialect of English described by the writer Simon Winchester as “a sonorous amalgam of Home Counties lockjaw and nineteenth century idiom, Afrikaans slang and Italian.”

I mention this because a) it’s an interesting place, duh and b) THERE’S A JOB OPENING. Local government is searching for an agricultural advisor. Looks like a terrific place to ride out the apocalypse. Plus, a place that inbred is bound to be full of…certain…opportunities.

Man, if I were thirty years younger. And male. And knew jack shit about agriculture…

Have a good weekend, y’all. Tomorrow comes DEAD POOL ROUND 80. Be here, 6pm WBT, or pick through other people’s leftovers.

January 21, 2016 — 10:15 pm
Comments: 8

Not good


Jihadi trouble in Paris tonight. Current reports are three separate scenes, thirty dead and ‘scores’ taken hostage, but it’s all very fog-of-war just now.

I wish we had a decent news outlet on the scene, but failing that: BBC Live Coverage; Sky Live Coverage. They’re as bad as each other, but they have bodies on location.

Unfolding as I type.

November 13, 2015 — 10:19 pm
Comments: 33

Jack Ma’s huge head and tiny face fill me with awe


Jack Ma, founder of Ali Baba. Richest man in China. Actually he sounds like a cool guy, but he looks so strange, I actually googled to see if he had some kind of weird metabolic disorder I shouldn’t make fun of.

Nope, just freaky looking.

China, if you haven’t paid attention, is in deep shit.

On the domestic front, Uncle B and I have just trimmed and washed nine flipping pounds of gooseberries for the freezer. Gooseberries. They’re a misery.

Also, my pickled carrots have had eight days of the seven to nine I was supposed to give them. They’re delicious. I’ve put them in the fridge.

Does anyone know…now they’re in the cool, do I need to keep burping them?

July 7, 2015 — 10:05 pm
Comments: 13

Then and now

This is a ring that turned up in a 9th C Viking burial in Sweden. It’s made of glass (apparently that was a new and expensive material then) and the inscription reads “to Allah” in Arabic. It was a woman’s burial in a place called Birka (ha! ha!), but the body has completely rotted away, sadly, so they can’t tell if it was an Arabic woman that somehow made it to Sweden. Here’s hoping some hardy Viking beat up and A-rab and stole his stuff to give his good lady.

Archaeologists think it confirms old stories that there was trade between the Vikings and the Islamic world. Quite possible, too — those guys got everywhere.

There’s an escalating kerfuffle between Sweden and the region. Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström had planned to address the Arab League and give them a finger-wagging lecture on human rights. So the Saudis blocked her. So Sweden published the speech she was going to give (it didn’t mention the Saudis by name, but it talked up women’s and human rights — wait, there’s a difference?). So the Saudis won’t issue any more visas to Swedish businessmen. So the Swedes cut off military cooperation with the Saudis. So the Saudis have expelled Sweden’s ambassador.

All this matters, I guess, because the Swedes desperately need oil. And the Saudis desperately need…pass. I don’t know. Blondes?

Anyway, it’s not just the Saudis. The whole Arab world has its panties in a twist (wait, do they wear panties under those things?). The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) which represents 57 muslim countries (wait, there are fifty seven of the buggers?) issued a statement that read in part:

“The world community, with its multiple cultures, diverse social norms, rich and varied ethical standards and different institutional structures, can not, and should not, be based on a single and centric perspective that seeks to remake the world in its own image.”

Emphasis mine. Rich and varied ethical standards. Ho ho ho.

March 19, 2015 — 9:14 pm
Comments: 20

Kung Hei Fat Choy

Year of the Goat, ladies and gentlemen. Though I’ve seen it described on some sites as the Year of the Sheep. I suspect that’s because sheep have better PR.

Sadly, it would appear that the Year of the Goat does not mean we get to head-butt and stink in 2015. Honestly, what is the point?

Did I ever tell y’all about the herd of fainting goats we had when I was small. Yes, it looks like I did.

February 19, 2015 — 10:35 pm
Comments: 19

Two things that are dangerous

Two dangerous things about the Guardian article circulating today: the one that says 50% of all property is owned by the richest 1% of the world’s population.

The first dangerous thing is, it’s just a press release from Oxfam. I mean, literally, there was no reportage going on here. They basically ran with a shorter and slightly reworded press release, quotes and bullet points and all.

If you think I’m shitting you, here’s the press release. Also note, the chairman of a thing called the Coalition for Inclusive Capitalism is a woman named Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild. Say, did you just hear the theme to the X-Files?

It’s shocking how much journalism is that and only that these days. How valuable a service is a press release aggregator, really?

The second thing is, they’re playing with fire. How very fucking easy it is to whip up class envy. Almost no-one on this earth — including some incredibly wealthy bastards — doesn’t look at some other wealthy bastard who has a few kgilliion more and think it’s not fair. The guys in first class you walk past to get to your miserable seat? They’re all thinking to themselves, “public transportation sucks. Why don’t I have a private jet?”

As conservatives, we are naturally disinclined to steal from our neighbor even if we do think he’s got nice stuff and more of it than he deserves. Plus, we know well the inviolable rule of wealth distribution — those that do the distributing get the wealth. And even so, it’s not too hard to get us hating on the rich folks.

But heed this statistic from the article: the world’s poorest 80% own 5.5% of the wealth. You know what that means? If you live in the West and have a basic middle-class existence, you’re almost certainly in that top 20%. And if you think the great sucking black hole of socialism will hit that top 1% and leave you and me — the rich bastards in the following 19% — alone, you haven’t been watching how it works.

January 19, 2015 — 11:10 pm
Comments: 17