Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Snake Squash

Have you ever eaten anything longer than your arm?

I haven't -- but plan to. I just got a "Snake Squash" grown in Louisiana. Italians love it and call it "Cucuzza Squash." After peeling, you cook it like any other vegetable. Report on that to follow.

I knew you wouldn't believe me about its size so here's photographic evidence. With no editing!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Mission Report

From: Secret Agent 008
To: Case Handler #666
Date: July 26, 2019

Secret Agent 008 reports the assigned mission has been successfully accomplished.

Disguised as a Canadian tourist, I infiltrated the International Spy Museum in Washington DC with ease. My cover was effective as the sight of a red-faced, slightly-alcoholic man of advanced age wearing unflattering shorts and an old hockey t-shirt drew no attention, particularly among the crowd in these parts.

Once inside the spy museum I deployed "social engineering" to locate the secret underground tunnel to the highly-restricted target area. [Note to file: Social engineering is efficacious with low-paid American workers who seem not to give a damn about obeying their capitalist oppressors' rules.]

Maneuvering through security in the tunnel was a breeze -- only one guard, a middle-aged female, asked for identification. I invited her to sniff my cologne and its tranquilizing chemicals neutralized her instantly.

Penetrating the inner sanctum, I suddenly encountered my life-long nemesis whom I've fought on numerous occasions. He still bears the scar of our last meeting when I parried his knife-thrust with the sharp edge of my Louis Vuitton handbag. [I was undercover as a shapely fashion model at the time.]

In contrast to our prior enmity, we greeted each other heartily. "Comrade," he exclaimed enthusiastically, "now we are on the same side!" Yes, I concurred; the election of a "useful idiot" has united our nations in ways unthinkable before now.

Unlike my standard assignment [blow everything up and escape with the prettiest girl] this mission ended with kimchi and vodka shots. If history repeats itself in the 2020 election, there may not be any future role for our spy agency -- unless Our Glorious Supreme Leader declares war on another failing democracy.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Summer Trips

How's your Summer going? Doing anything fun?

On Thursday I'm riding my motorcycle down to Washington, D.C. to visit the International Spy Museum. The Museum just moved to a brand-new building which is much bigger than its last and has more exhibition space.

I've always been fascinated by spies and espionage. New York City has a decent spy museum which I visited last year (Spyscape). Its presentation is interactive; you get tested for spy abilities and at the end you're told which role you're best suited for (e.g., field operative, agent handler, analyst, cryptologist, surveillance officer, etc.). The NYC museum is fun.

I've never been to the bigger one in D.C. I hear it has innumerable cool things to see, like a lipstick-shaped pistol used by female Russian spies in the Cold War. (See picture.) The pistol is a 5mm single-shot weapon that delivers "the ultimate kiss of death." Secret agents also used hollow coins to hide microfilm. And listen to this -- in the 1960's, Romania's Secret Service stole an American diplomat's shoes, put a hidden microphone in his heel, and returned them to him and later listened to his confidential conversations. Wow...

Modern spy-craft centers on computers and hacking. Governments know how to secretly turn on microphones and cameras in smartphones/laptops to monitor and record people without anyone knowing it. The U.S. infiltrated Iran's nuclear weapons facilities by putting malware in seemingly-innocuous USB's used to transport critical software in computers that weren't connected to the Internet and thought to be impenetrable. Another way of breaching "air-gapped" (non-online) computers is to use high-pitched sounds (beyond human hearing) that instruct computers to furtively do things their operators are unaware of. Ingenious stuff.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote: "espionage offers each spy an opportunity to go crazy in a way he finds irresistible" (“Mother Night: A Novel”, p.191). Yup, that's me!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

To The Moon, Alice

There's an expression people used to say when they were complaining. I heard it a thousand times growing up but just realized I haven't heard it in years.

The expression is: "If they can put a man on the Moon, why can't they [whatever you're whining about]."

Do you remember this?

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Shooting Pool

With some things, paying for quality matters; with others, it doesn't. I will sacrifice for the former but economize with the latter.

I'm an enthusiastic pool-player. Not an especially skilled one, but I enjoy the game. Until recently I never used a real pool-cue, just cheap ones a small step above warped bar sticks. Then I splurged and bought a professional cue -- at a steep price -- and wondered if it would make a difference. 

Whoa! It's a magic wand! 

I can't say it makes me play better than I am but it certainly enables me play at the very limit of my ability. The stick's balance is perfect, my stroke is smooth as a lover's caress and the cue transports kinetic force directly and without waste. Using it feels like shooting pool in Heaven, where all of your shots are effortless and three-bank trick-shots go straight into the pocket.

The good news is this inspires me to play more. I'm shooting tonight with a new friend, Lonnie. If any of you want to visit a seedy pool-hall with a grungy biker, let me know and we'll hang out sometime. It's a fun game.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Lost Innocence

The most important book I read growing up was "Ball Four," a hugely-controversial book about baseball written by Jim Bouton who died this week (of dementia at age 80). I can't emphasize enough the impact this sports-expose had on my 13-year old self. Even today "Ball Four" is widely considered the greatest book written about baseball. It was published in 1970.

Jim Bouton was a decent pitcher with some ups and downs in the major league. He pitched well for the Yankees for a few years and ended his career throwing knuckleballs. His real contribution to the sport, however, was not on the playing field: it was revealing the truth about professional ball-players, including legends like Mickey Mantle.

What Bouton disclosed wasn't pretty. He described players routinely acting like foolish boys -- they'd peek up women's dresses, cheat on their wives, drink to excess and gobble down amphetamines. With striking immaturity they slipped mirrors under hotel-room doors to try to glimpse naked ladies, gawked at women at the ballpark, played pranks on each other and generally behaved like jerks.
Coaches were no better. Bouton described most of them as idiots who spout bromides instead of wisdom. Legends like Mantle were exposed: Bouton said Mantle often played hung-over; years later, Mantle admitted he was an alcoholic and sought treatment.

The book created a furor because the image of baseball at the time was impeccable. Players, thought to be heroes, were now seen as ordinary humans capable of indecency. Naturally the baseball establishment shunned Bouton for decades until it finally came around to realizing that telling the truth isn't a crime. In Bouton's later years he was welcomed back by MLB and even celebrated for his courage.

For me, the book showed societal loss of innocence. Many social traditions were falling at the time and baseball was simply another one. Pretending young men who play the game are better humans than they really are serves no purpose except to line the pockets of rich owners (who, themselves, cheat on their wives and engage in bad behavior). Plus, and this shouldn't be under-valued, the book is funny. Bouton was a natural comedian and his glee in pulling back the curtain on his team-mates is as amusing as it was shocking.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Outside The Box

David Bowie had a creative mind that roamed far beyond convention. He was interviewed 20 years ago and gave some great answers to these questions:

- - - - - - - -

What is your favorite journey?
"The road of artistic excess"

What is your current state of mind?

Which word do you most overuse?

What is your greatest fear?
"Converting kilometers to miles"

- - - - - - - -

I wish I was so clever!

Monday, July 8, 2019

Up North

We just had a long holiday weekend. I used the opportunity to visit friends.

I travelled north to Potsdam, just below the Canadian border, and saw Aimee. Aimee, you may recall, is my seamstress-friend who custom-made a special dress for me last year. I'm going to showcase the dress soon after an upcoming photo-shoot.

From there I crossed the border to Hamilton, Ontario, which is between Toronto and Niagara Falls. Blogger-extraordinaire Sheila, who lives on the West Coast, was here seeing her friend Elaine. I popped up to join them. The three of us had a wonderful time. Here are some pics.

What did you do over the weekend?

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Oh, Canada

I'm up in Canada this weekend. Visiting friends in Hamilton, Ontario.

I love this country but, damn, the traffic around Toronto is worse than New York. Never thought I'd say those words. As you can see above, to handle the trip I've become bi-monetal. :-)

Actually, given my additional use of two cyber-currencies (Bitcoin & Ether) I'm technically quad-monetal. (I made up that word for the joke; auto-correct keeps changing it to mineral.)

What are you doing this weekend?

Wednesday, July 3, 2019


I've fallen down a rabbit-hole and don't want to leave. I'm immersed in a lengthy streaming binge on a Netflix show ("Dark") which resonates deeply with me.

I've learned to hesitate recommending entertainment to people because taste is so subjective. I'm not suggesting you watch this, just putting it on your radar in case you're inclined toward the same subjects I am.

"Dark" is a science fiction series made in Germany. That place of origin plays a big role in its appeal to me. The show is spoken in German and you can see it dubbed (wrong choice) or with English subtitles (right choice). Listening to the characters speak German resurrects the six years I spent learning that language during my youth. Wie geht es dir?

The subject of the show is time travel. Not in a superficial cheesy way but founded on actual historical texts of alchemy, hermeticism and other ancient philosophies. You can dig deep into the scientific and cultural references made and find substance. Intriguing material indeed.

The show starts in 2019, then moves 33 years earlier to 1986 (with notable changes in fashion and technology). Later the show jumps backward to 1953, then forward to 2053 and also backward to 1921. Each jump is 33 years because that's the cycle of nature when cosmic forces re-align. Everything takes place in a single small town in Germany where the characters' families have always lived.

The show is remarkable in that it has no special effects, no violence, no sex. It's drastically unlike anything else you see on the tube today. You won't recognize any of the German actors but the cast is talented and totally believable in dramatic roles.

There are two seasons out; the second was released last month. A third, final season will appear next year. At first, the show is hard to follow because there are so many characters and plots but it's worth sticking with to navigate through initial confusion. By the time you hit the second season you're fully aware of the maze of connections and entranced by where events are going.

Some of you might like "Dark," some not. It's the center of my universe right now -- at least this particular universe in the multiverse of possible existences.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

My Magic Dress

When you have a shapeless shape, how do you create a pleasing figure? Magic. That's what this dress does -- its design transforms nature. Yay!