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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bruce Jenner, sex symbol?

Writing Caitlyn's sister two days ago reminded me of how, after Jenner won his gold medal in 1976, women went crazy over him. I remember hearing a number of them talking about how incredibly sexy Jenner was.

I could never see it. He had an extremely bland and also slightly rat-like face:

To me, he looked like a cross between Pete Rose --

-- and Sandra Bullock.

And I'm not the type who's reluctant to say another guy is good-looking, as I've shown here and here and here and here.

In that last link, I described Sean Connery as the perfect amalgam of male beauty and toughness. Jenner was the opposite: bland to a fault, a him-bo with a Prince(ss) Valiant haircut.

In retrospect, we know why he came across that way.

Of course, now that a he's in full transvestite mode, he's even less appealing.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Your dad bod is killing you -- here's how to fix it"

The NY Post ran the above article this morning. It's not particularly insightful or original; it merely advocates a standard course of diet and exercise. But the one interesting -- in fact, striking -- thing about the article is that it features the very first set of realistic before-and-after pictures I've ever seen.

A multitude of exercise programs promise miraculous results, with before and after pictures to match. But the before picture is always taken with straight on lighting, and the guy often seems to be sticking his stomach out on purpose while wearing a sad sack expression.

The after shot is inevitably with him holding in his stomach, at a flattering angle, with side or overhead lighting, and with a shaved chest. In some cases, the guy has obviously gone on steroids, which accounts for the "miraculous" nature of his transformation.

Anyway, kudos to the Post for running this realistic article, even if -- or rather because -- none of the after pictures are exactly inspirational.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Caitlyn's sister

You may remember Kelly Lebrock, the 80's sex symbol:

The other day I stumbled across a more recent picture of her:

Some of the change is obviously due to age, which LeBrock certainly can't be faulted for. But some of it is due to weight gain, which can have a weirdly masculinizing effect. When you look at the picture above, or this picture --

-- and then look at that famous Vanity Fair cover shot of Jenner --

-- you'll see a disconcerting resemblance. In fact, the only discernible differences are that Jenner has a thinner waist and arms, and perkier breasts.

With LeBrock, we're not even talking about a high testosterone, muscular female athlete -- the type you might see in the ESPN Magazine Body Issue -- who is touted as "beautiful" in order to make some feminist political point. We're talking about a woman who originally gained fame as an ideal of feminine beauty. There was certainly nothing masculine about LeBrock's waist-to-hips ratio or other contours here:

Back then, you'd certainly never have mistaken her for the young Caitlyn:

I've heard that Europeans mock us for the way so many American women look: masculine, with big implants.

Some of that may just be a matter of perception. But Americans do tend to get fat at a higher rate than Europeans. That may be partly because Americans smoke less. But it's also partly our diet, especially after decades of our government-advocated "food pyramid," which emphasizes carbohydrates and low-fat foods. That, plus the high sugar content of many processed American foods, inevitably lead to more obesity.

People seem to finally be waking up to the fact that a more Atkins-like diet is the way to go.

In the meantime, the only upside seems to be that Kelly and Caitlyn will be able to borrow each other's clothes.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Trump outdoes the original

It just struck me whom Donald Trump, with his blond eyebrows and supercilious expression --

-- reminds me of: 

The resemblance is more than physical. 

Both men revel in their wealth, in fact boast of it. 

Goldfinger hosted guests at his Kentucky horse farm.

But Trump has Mar-a-Lago:

When James Bond asked Goldfinger what the golf club secretary would have to say about Goldfinger's having ordered Oddjob to decapitate a nearby statue, Goldfinger replied, "Oh nothing, Mr. Bond. I own the club."

Trump can say the same, three times over. The Trump Organization owns and operates the Trump Turnberry hotel and golf resort in Scotland, the Trump National Doral in Miami, and the Trump International Golf Links in Ireland.

(Whether Goldfinger was vain enough to name his golf club after himself is not known.)

Goldfinger showed absolutely no respect to Bond, despite Bond's heroic service to his country.

Trump recently disrespected an even higher-ranking American war hero.

When about to be disemboweled by that laser, Bond asked Goldfinger if he expected him to talk. Goldfinger replied, "No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!"

Trump has been similarly blunt about an entire class of people: illegal immigrants. (If you prefer, you may substitute the word "honest" for "blunt.")

Neither man is exactly a feminist. Goldfinger liked to surround himself with beautiful women, including Jill Masterson (whom he later had painted gold) --

-- and Pussy Galore's Flying Circus:

Trump also seems to view beautiful women purely as decorative objects to surround himself with. He owns not only the Miss Universe pageant --

-- but the Miss USA pageant as well:

(Should Trump get the Republican nod, don't expect any of that "two for the price of one" nonsense about him and Melania.)

But, there are differences as well. Goldfinger was never called "the Auric." He never spoke of himself in the third person. And there is no indication he ever thought he should be Chancellor of Germany.

Goldfinger was actually, by comparison, a humble and self-effacing man.


Drones seem to be more and more ubiquitous these days. Amazon is supposedly considering delivering packages by drone.

From what height would these drones drop their packages? If it was from six feet or more, that would harm any fragile contents. But if they gently place them on the ground, their rotors have the potential to hurt humans. How would they guard against that? And how much would an injured person be able to sue Amazon for? It's not as if Amazon doesn't have deep enough pockets to attract the attention of a lawyer or two.

There have already been several cases of people injured by drones.

This Australian triathlete was injured when photographer's drone crashed next to her mid-race.

Singer Enrique Iglesias' hand was injured by a drone during a concert in Tijuana.

A number of people were received minor injuries from a low-flying drone at the Virginia Motorsports Park during the Great Bull Run (a local version of Pamplona).

So far none of the injuries have been serious. But take a look at this drone race and ask yourself if these objects couldn't cause serious injuries. They sound like huge mosquitoes, and look like malevolent flying spiders. But with those spinning rotors, they're really just flying knives.

As anybody who's ever had a model airplane can attest, control of a remote flying object is often far from perfect. Here's a compilation of crashes, if any proof of that is needed.

What happens the first time a drone get sucked into a jet engine and causes an airplane crash? A near miss occurred just eight weeks ago above New York City. Passengers are unlikely to take kindly to the idea of their plane dropping out of the sky because some photographer wanted an aerial shot.

And what about terrorists? How convenient would it be for them to deliver a small bomb to, say, Times Square on a Sunday afternoon? Or to a football stadium? Or to an outdoor concert? This wouldn't even require their presence. (And wouldn't the terrorists see this as poetic justice, given the number of deaths we have inflicted upon them via drone?)

These things will probably wreak all sorts of havoc in the near future.

Update: This article on the threat from drones just appeared on 7/25 in the Post. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Donald Trump not a sociopath

On Saturday, the nation let out a collective gasp -- or chortle, depending on political affiliation -- when Donald Trump declared that John McCain is not a war hero. (“He’s not a war hero….He’s a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”)

Virtually everybody was shocked and appalled that Trump would denigrate McCain's service this way. Whatever you think of McCain as a Senator, as a Presidential candidate, or as a human being, the one thing about him that is absolutely undeniable is his heroism in Viet Nam. McCain turned down the opportunity to be released from captivity early because he felt it wouldn't have been right to leave his fellow American captives behind.

This happened while Donald Trump was getting five separate deferments.

In a roundabout way, Trump's repulsive statement is actually proof that he's not a sociopath. If he were a sociopath, he'd be a lot slyer with his smears, a lot better at fooling people, and a lot better at seducing -- rather than repelling -- an electorate.

Yes, Trump is a narcissistic personality. In fact, far more narcissistic than most narcissists. He's just a walking, talking, bloated ego, always full of bombast, always full of hot air, and always full of himself. He is unable to open his mouth without boasting.

Yet there's something naive, almost innocent, about the way he brags. He seems to have no idea how off-putting he is, and what kind of impression he is making. He comes across a little like a five-year-old when he boasts, a five-year-old who has no idea the kind of impression he's making.

And that's why nobody took him seriously as a candidate.

(Honestly, in a weird sort of way, I almost find Trump's boasting cute. Funny, even.)

In any case, sociopaths aren't like that. They're far better at hiding their true natures, at paying lip service to the proper ideals, at putting up a false front of humility, and at reading people and telling them what they want to hear.

Trump is just a big fat kid with a lot of money -- who likes to boast about that money. And evidently his money makes him think he can kick El Chapo's ass, or convincingly criticize McCain's war record. Trump even sees his money as qualification enough to be President.

That's the nature of narcissism.

But not of sociopathy. (A sociopath might think those things, but he'd be too sly to actually say them.)

Different styles of sociopathy

A few days ago I got the following comment (which I've edited slightly) on the Do sociopaths love their children? post: 

A lot of these comments about sociopaths seem to confuse "that jerk that beat my kids, or the jerk who ran off with his girlfriend" with an actual sociopath. In fact, what they are describing sounds closer to borderline personality.

An actual sociopath is a person who cares about things, not people, and is driven to succeed at all costs, pushing aside whoever hinders their desires. They are willing to lie or cheat to get what they want.

I know this because I've studied this (and because I've worried that I might be one). I concluded after research that while I do lack some empathy, I have more in common with a schizoid (inability to feel emotions strongly) than a true sociopath. Don't confuse sociopathy with Asperger's, schizoid, autism, borderline, or any other personality disorder. It is characterized by deceit, indifference to the feelings of others, and malice.

Many sociopaths are in positions of power, where they can control the lives of others: police, politicians, etc. Quite a few are landlords. Think about this the next time you pay rent, and the guy raises it.

From my understanding, sociopaths develop in an atmosphere where love is not actually present, where parents use and abuse, and the child has no reason to believe anyone cares for them.

Given this, it is difficult to see a sociopath give genuine love to a child. If they do, yes, it is a sort of "extension of oneself" deal. Or in some cases the opportunity to control or use the child, or make a baby psycho of their own.

I replied:

Good points. I've noticed that while sociopaths are something like 3 or 4% of the male population, something like 30% of divorced women claim their exes were sociopaths. I guess it sounds more dramatic than "borderline personality" or some of the other diagnoses. I suspect the most common condition they faced was simply narcissistic personality disorder, which is far more common. (All sociopaths are narcissists, but not all narcissists are sociopaths.)

You give a good description of sociopathy, but keep in mind that there are different styles of sociopathy. You mentioned police and landlords, but the deceitful style you describe has a more white collar flavor to it. There are plenty of low level criminals who are sociopaths as well, and they just don't seem to care that much about anything (or anybody), just their next score, or their next fix, or their next rape or kill. They're dishonest and indifferent to the feelings of others, but also irresponsible (they don't care enough to get to a job on time, etc.). Plus there's the pathological liar style of sociopathy, which is characterized less by malice than indifference to others, but a burning desire to be the center of attention and be lionized, often for false reasons. (Think Munchhausen's Syndrome.) 

I want to expand on this a bit. It's always helpful to remember that there are different styles of sociopathy. At one end you have Anthony Lord (described in the previous post) or Richard Matt, described here and here. These guys are the type of sociopath who is always bristling with hostility, and there's never any mistaking their intentions. They were bullies when young, and they remain bullies after they become adults. 

There is also the Munchausen Syndrome-type of sociopaths. These people appear completely different from an Anthony Lord or a Richard Matt. They have pleasant demeanors, don't come across as angry, and generally aren't violent. But underneath there is the same absolute lack of humanity, the complete indifference to others. 

If you had seen Lacey Spears walking down the street, you'd never have felt threatened by her sweet smile and cherubic face in the least. But she ended up killing her young son (by injecting him in the stomach with salt) just so that she could get more sympathy for herself. Who but a monster could have done this? 

Or take Jackie Coakley, the false UVA rape accuser. She was an innocent-looking coed who, at first glance, blended right in on the Charlottesville campus. She, too, would appear to have nothing in common with Lord or Matt. She had no desire to beat people up, or shoot them, or dismember them. All she wanted was the attention she got from being a "victim." Yet at the same time, she couldn't have cared less if some frat boys had been kicked out of the university or even sent to jail because of her lies. Which indicates the same complete lack of conscience. 

Another common variety of sociopath is the con man. He generally lies because he wants something from you: maybe sex, maybe your money, or maybe your vote. 

The type of men who prey on lonely women and pretend to love them in order to take their money are an example of this type of sociopath. They have a number of different scams, but most boil down to (a) building a relationship with a woman by acting as if they love them (and extracting real feelings of love in return), and (b), somehow cadging money from them. No one would argue the utter lack of humanity of these men. 

(And there are plenty of women who pull the same scam on naive men.) 

Another type of con man is the kind who wants your vote. Bill Clinton lies all the time in order to further his own ends. He hasn't the slightest discomfort with lying, especially about himself, and one of his biggest lies is to frequently attribute the noblest of motives to himself. Anybody so dishonest by nature essentially has no regard for others. 

In any case, the point here is that there are different styles of sociopathy. And just because someone does not come across like an Anthony Lord or Richard Matt does not mean they're not equally devoid of decency. 

Friday, July 17, 2015

A criminal who looks the part

The Portland Press Herald just ran this article about Anthony Lord, 35, who shot four people last night in northern Maine.

Some excerpts:

Two people died and three were injured, shot by a registered sex offender who led law enforcement officers on a high-speed chase and massive manhunt before being taken into custody Friday afternoon, according to Maine State Police.

Anthony Lord, 35, has been charged with two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping and may face other charges.

A 21-year-old woman who was allegedly abducted by Lord was found safe. Authorities said Brittany Irish was found with Lord in Houlton at the home of Lord’s uncle. The two know each other, but police did not say how.

One of those killed was Kyle Hewitt, 22, Irish’s boyfriend. The other was Kevin Tozier, 58, of Lee, who was shot when Lord allegedly stole a pulp truck from a wood lot in Lee, police said.

Irish’s mother, Kim Irish, 55, was wounded, as was Clayton McCarthy, 55, owner of the pulp truck, and Carlton Eddy, who was shot while driving his pickup near Irish’s home, police said...

Officials first received a report at 8:30 p.m. Thursday of a barn on fire in Benedicta, at a residence where Irish lives with her parents. Lord is a suspect in the fire.

At 4:40 a.m. Friday, authorities received a report that Kary Mayo of Silver Ridge Township had been assaulted in his home and had his guns and pickup truck stolen, allegedly by Lord. Ten minutes later, the windows at Lord’s brother’s residence in Benedicta were shot out...

Eddy, who drove by the burning barn and turned around in the driveway at about the same time, was shot in the shoulder through his passenger’s side window, police said.

Lord left that house with Irish, police said.

At about 5:50 a.m., an East Millinocket officer spotted the pickup and tried to pull it over but it sped off, police said. As the officer chased the stolen pickup, Lord allegedly started shooting out the window at the officer, police said. At some point the officer lost track of the pickup....

Lord was arrested without incident after a relative told police where he was, police said….Lord was described as about 5-foot-9, 263 pounds, with blond hair and blue eyes….

Lord’s 6-month-old son, Larry Earl Lord, died May 7 in Bangor. State police continue to investigate the circumstances of the child’s death, spokesman Stephen McCausland said. The State Medical Examiner has not determined a cause of death pending further studies, according to a spokesman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office.

The article goes on to describe Lord's lengthy previous criminal history dating back to 1999.

Suffice it to say, Lord was an extremely bad guy. Usually sociopaths just look like everyone else, which is how they fool people. But occasionally they look the part, as with Richard Matt, one of the two Dannemora escapees, whom I described here as exuding a "glowering malevolence." 

Anthony Lord definitely looks the part as well, and radiates that same glowering malevolence:

That face isn't hard to read. If you see a visage bristling with that much hostility coming at you, you pretty much know immediately to just get out of the way. 

In all three pictures, Lord looks as if there's nothing he'd love more than to kill the photographer. (Or you or me, if we were there.) 

He doesn't look all that fat, which probably means that a fair amount of the 263 pounds distributed over his 5' 9" frame is muscle. (All the scarier.) 

There's an expression: by the age of 50, a man is responsible for his own face. 

In other words, whether handsome or ugly, by the age of 50 a man's character will have emerged on his face. 

It only took Anthony Lord 35 years. 

"Jihad on US Troops Is Not a 'Circumstance'"

Michelle Malkin describes President Obama's reaction to yesterday's ambush of four Marines perfectly.

The contrast between the Left's reaction to the Charleston killings and yesterday's is, as always, illuminating.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Donald Trump vs. El Chapo

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's escape from a Mexican prison came at an opportune time for Donald Trump, who has attracted a lot of attention for his comments about illegal immigrants.

After the escape, Trump tweeted, "Can you envision Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton negotiating with 'El Chapo', the Mexican drug lord who escaped from prison?…"

(In a roundabout way, Trump was actually complimenting El Chapo here, by suggesting that the other American Presidential candidates were not the drug lord's equal.)

Trump, however, then followed up with, "…Trump, however, would kick his ass."

A Twitter account claiming to be El Chapo's then responded, "Keep screwing (with us) and I'm going to make you eat your fucking words you lousy white faggot."

(This response is more likely to have come from one of El Chapo's sons. Whoever it was who tweeted this evidently has not yet been swayed by the Norte Americano movement for gay liberation.)

All in all, it's made for a pretty entertaining mano a mano confrontation. This calls for a comparison between the two men on the various measures they seem to care about.

Net worth

Trump boasted about his net worth of 8.7 billion when he announced his candidacy last month. But Forbes magazine, a more impartial source, recently listed his net worth as $4 billion. El Chapo is said by Wikipedia to have a net worth of one billion; but that, too, seems inaccurate. Anybody who keeps $207 million in cash lying around one of his houses likely has a net worth far, far higher than that. And El Chapo's power has been said by some to exceed that of Pablo Escobar, who at his peak was supposedly worth $25 billion.

This one goes to El Chapo (with a low degree of certainty).

Real estate

Here, too, it's a little hard to compare. The only picture available of one of El Chapo's houses was this one of the Mazatlan vacation home which was raided:

It featured a manmade cave with hot tub:

And a private zoo with well-cared for exotic animals, including these black panthers:

El Chapo reportedly owns fifteen other houses as well as four farms, but pictures of those are not available.

Trump's most famous house was Mar-a-Lago:

But Trump often buys real estate as an investment rather than a place to live. He bought Mar-a-Lago in 1985, had it renovated, and in 1995 turned it into a club with paying guests.

His main residence is a three story penthouse at the top of Trump Towers...

….decorated, of course, in Louis XIV style.

This one goes to Trump, though also with a low degree of certainty since information on El Chapo's other residences or farms is hard to come by.


Trump dresses nicely, as befits a successful businessman. But his well-cut suits usually get overlooked because one's eye is inevitably drawn to that swirling monstrosity on top of his head:

It's also hard to get beyond his facial expression, which almost always seems to radiate unbridled egotism.

El Chapo often dresses in such a way that he would be indistinguishable from the mass of day laborers you'll find standing on street corners in many American cities:

Of course, Trump pretty much has to dress the way he does, whereas Guzman has no need to impress his cohorts with his duds.

Trump certainly gets the nod for fashion sense, but El Chapo is the better man for his evident lack of vanity.

(Since we're basically talking machismo here, the latter is probably more important.)

Personal taste

El Chapo's artistic tastes seem to run to gold-plated weaponry:

But if Louis XIV had had an AK-47, he'd probably have had it coated with gold leaf as well. And Trump, after all, did own the Taj Mahal in Atlantic City...

…which even Louis might have found a bit garish.

So this one is a tie.

Their women

Here's is El Chapo's current wife, Emma Coronel:

And Trump's current wife Melania at a similar age:

But here's Melania now, Botoxed beyond recognition:

Mrs. Guzman is certainly more attractive than the current Mrs. Trump (currently). Then again, the second Mrs. Trump, Marla Maples, may have been better-looking than either:

Still, it's now that counts, so by that measure, El Chapo wins.


When it comes to who could more easily order a hit on the other, there's no question: this is El Chapo's world.

Of course, if Trump gets elected President, and has the US military at his disposal, the odds shift drastically. The Donald's election seems doubtful, despite recent polls, but if he ever did find himself in the White House, he would have the capacity to reduce all of Mexico to smoldering ruins. (And, truth be told, he does seem inclined in that direction.)

But, once again, it's now that counts, so El Chapo wins.


Here, of course, there is no question: Trump is free to appear in public, and speechify to his heart's content, whereas El Chapo is wanted, and must scurry through various dirt tunnels in order to stay out of -- or escape -- prison.

Evidently one of El Chapo's biggest weaknesses is fine food. Often diners in some of Sinaloa's finer restaurants would occasionally find themselves surrounded by gunmen who would politely ask them for their cellphones. Then El Chapo would come in and order a meal with his henchmen. Once he finished, he would always foot the bill for the entire restaurant as a way to repay the diners for their inconvenience, then return their phones.

Still, Trump, who also has the look of a man who appreciates food, is the winner here.


The final, and perhaps ultimate measure, is how much respect each man commands in his own country.

In this country, Trump is widely viewed as a buffoonish blowhard, and his candidacy as an exercise in vanity. All sorts of people feel free to mock his hair, and even question whether it's his own. The now defunct Spy magazine regularly referred to him as a "short-fingered vulgarian." And how many headlines will read, "You're fired!" if Trump eventually drops out of the Republican race?

In his country, El Chapo is a folk hero who has had songs written about him.

Niccolo Machiavelli once said, "It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both."

El Chapo actually seems to have pulled off the trick of being both feared and loved in his own country.

Trump inspires neither emotion.

Winner on this count, and also overall: El Chapo.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Love and Mercy

Saw the new Brian Wilson biopic last night. I actually hadn't particularly wanted to figuring I was already so familiar with his story that it wouldn't be that interesting.

But watching it, I had the opposite reaction: it was gratifying to see that the filmmakers didn't take any liberties, and faithfully represented his life just as it was. Cutting back and forth between the older and younger Wilson worked, too.

Paul Dano did a fantastic job as the young Wilson, John Cusack a good job as the older version. Wilson's father Murray was portrayed as the bullying taskmaster he was. And Dr. Eugene Landy was shown as the sociopathic leech he was. (Paul Giamatti is fearless about playing loathsome.)

Making a movie about a genius -- as opposed to an action hero -- is difficult, because it's hard to dramatize thoughts coming out of someone's head. But the recording sessions with the studio musicians captured Wilson's creativity and perfectionism, and the movie hinted at the way other musicians were in awe of him after Pet Sounds came out.

Not the most exciting movie ever, but if you're already in awe of Wilson's music, it's worth seeing.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

El Chapo flying high

To continue with the narcocorrido tone of the previous post, here's a picture of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman which was supposedly taken a day or two after his escape from that maximum security jail:

(Interesting fashion choice: while NBA players dress like Hollywood drug lords, a real drug lord dresses like….a lumberjack?)

And here is another picture of Guzman, purportedly post-escape, enjoying a beer:

(A bit more stylish this time, though still not NBA-level.)

A neighbor reported to police that on Saturday night he saw a helicopter land near the entrance to the tunnel through which Guzman escaped.

El Chapo's first prison stay lasted from 1993 to 2001; he reportedly enjoyed women and cocaine at will there (though he escaped from that prison as well). Given which, one wonders what his stay in Altiplano this past year was like. How did the other inmates treat him? How did the guards treat him? What kind of special favors did he enjoy?

Given El Chapo's reputation and power and reach, one has to imagine the guards and other inmates treated him pretty much like a god. At least one of the guards who was bribed and/or threatened must have kept him apprised of the progress of the tunnel which was being built, and informed him when it was time to go.

It's highly doubtful that any of the other inmates ever got horny and thought to themselves, hmm, his ass looks pretty good to me, I think I'll rape him.

Extreme respect -- even obsequiousness -- must have been the order of the day.

Evidently the more powerful cartels hire former Mexican Army Special Forces personnel. This isn't surprising, when you think about it. Look at it from the soldiers' point of view: you can either continue to work for a soldier's pay, or you can make twenty times as much taking your special skills elsewhere.

Drug kingpins tend not to be particularly long-lived. But while alive, they tend to enjoy themselves, what with unlimited money and all that comes with it, including beautiful women and personal armies.

A commenter ("Mark") said after yesterday's post, in reference to President Obama, "If I gave many speeches in front of thousands of cheering people it would affect my ego too."

I think Obama's self-regard was in place long before his tenure as President. But the comment makes me wonder whether El Chapo, who must receive a similar level (if different style) of adulation, has let it go to his head. 

Judging from his taste in clothing and beverages, he hasn't.

(Anyone have a tune I can set these lyrics to?)

Monday, July 13, 2015

This one's more like Hollywood

On June 26, I wrote about the differences between Richard Matt, one of the two escapees from Dannemora prison, and the way prison escapees are usually portrayed by the movies.

Two night ago, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the world's most powerful drug lord, escaped from the maximum security Altiplano prison 90 miles outside of Mexico City. Evidently while he was there a one mile long underground tunnel leading all the way to his prison cell was built, and he escaped through that. (How could people from his cartel possibly have done this without the collusion of many of the personnel at that maximum security jail?)

Guzman was more like someone Hollywood would have dreamed up.

His nickname, "El Chapo," which means "the shorty," derived from Guzman's height of 5' 6." But Guzman was in many ways larger than life, as befits the world's most powerful drug lord.

According to Wikipedia:

Guzmán has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful people in the world every year since 2009, ranking 41st, 60th and 55th respectively. He was named as the 10th richest man in Mexico (1,140th in the world) in 2011, with a net worth of roughly US$ 1 billion. The magazine also calls him the "biggest drug lord of all time," and the DEA believes he has surpassed the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar, and now considers him "the godfather of the drug world." In 2013, the Chicago Crime Commission named Guzmán "Public Enemy Number One" due to the influence of his criminal network in Chicago, though there is no evidence that Guzmán has ever been in that city. The last person to receive such notoriety was Al Capone in 1930.

Guzmán's Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States, the world's top consumer, and has distribution cells throughout the U.S. The organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine, marijuana, MDMA and heroin across both North American and European markets. At the time of his 2014 arrest, Guzmán imported more drugs into the United States than anyone else.

The automatic assumption would be that Guzman, who rose to power during an unprecedentedly bloody era in the history of drug cartels, would have to be a sociopath. I'm not saying he's not one; but when you read his personal history, you don't get the sense of personal vindictiveness, dishonesty, and overall pretense that you normally get with a sociopath. It's more just the sense of an ambitious businessman, or perhaps military leader, going about his job capably.

And if you read about El Chapo's early childhood, you'll see that he basically just joined the family business.

From the "Early Life" section of his Wiki bio:

For many generations, his family lived and died at La Tuna. His father was officially a cattle rancher, as were most in the area where Guzmán grew up; according to some sources, however, he may have possibly also been a gomero, a Sinaloan word for opium poppy farmer….

Few details are known of Guzmán's upbringing. As a child, Guzmán sold oranges, and dropped out of school in third grade to work with his father. Guzmán was regularly beaten and sometimes fled to his maternal grandmother's house to escape such treatment. However, when he was home, Guzmán stood up to his father to protect his younger siblings from being beaten….His mother, however, was the "foundation of [his] emotional support". As the nearest school to his home was about 60 mi (95.6 km) away, Guzmán was taught by traveling teachers during his early years, just like the rest of his brothers. The teachers stayed for a few months before moving to other areas. With few opportunities for employment in his hometown, he turned to the cultivation of opium poppy, a common practice among local residents….Guzmán, at the age of 15, cultivated his own marijuana plantation with four distant cousins, who lived nearby. With his first marijuana productions, Guzmán supported his family financially.

When he was a teenager, however, his father kicked him out of his house, and he went to live with his grandfather….Though most people in Badiraguato worked in the poppy fields of the Sierra Madre Occidental throughout most of their lives, Guzmán left his hometown in search of greater opportunities; through his uncle Pedro Aviles Perez, one of the pioneers of Mexican drug trafficking, he left Badiraguato in his 20s and joined organized crime.

An abusive father but a mother who loved him doesn't necessarily spell sociopathy. Either way, El Chapo's career as a drug dealer succeeded beyond the wildest dreams of even most sociopaths. He reportedly had 16 mansions, 46 vehicles, and 4 ranches.

When just one of his many houses was raided (this one) --

-- the authorities found $207 million in cash secreted in suitcases, in closets, and in the walls. There's a fairly famous picture of the stash, in case you haven't seen it already:

They also found a collection of fancy guns, many of them gold-plated:

And an exotic animal collection, including this white tiger:

(What self-respecting drug lord's zoo does not include a white tiger?)

This article from last year raised the question of the whereabouts of of El Chapo's "third or fourth" wife, the 24-year-old Emma Coronel, when El Chapo was arrested last year. He had married the beauty queen --

-- in 2011, when he was 57 and she was just 18. She wasn't the woman he was with when he was arrested in Mazatlan in 2014. But she is the mother of two of his children. Wherever she is at the moment, it's a safe bet that she is not destitute.

It's a little hard to blame the prison employees for having cooperated with the Sinaloa cartel. When Pablo Escobar reigned in Colombia, one of the ways he held onto his power for so long was keeping many police, judges, and journalists in his sphere of influence. He let them all know that if they looked the other way, he would give them upwards of half a million dollars; if they did their jobs responsibly, he would kill not only them but their families as well.

It wasn't really much of a choice.

And it doesn't stretch credulity to imagine that the Sinaloa cartel does business the same way.

The nature of El Chapo's escape will be far different from that of the two killers from Dannemora. El Chapo won't be stumbling around alone in the forest, fighting off the mosquitoes and  subsisting on stolen candy bars and getting drunk on stolen booze.

The same people who built that tunnel have long since whisked him off to one of his many safe houses, most of which have been built with secret, steel-reinforced trapdoors leading to yet more tunnels.

Maybe El Chapo will be caught again, maybe not. If he is, he will have undoubtedly lived quite large in the meantime.

(Looking back over this post, it occurs to me that it reads suspiciously like a narcocorrido, one of those Mexican ballads glorifying drug traffickers. Hadn't intended to do that, it just sort of came out that way.)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Gay voices

Two days ago the NY Times ran a review of Do I Sound Gay, a movie by David Thorpe, who examines how his voice betrays his sexuality. (He also interviews various well known gays like David Sedaris, George Takei, Dan Savage, Don Lemon, and Tim Gunn about their voices.)

I've always found the voice to be the surest giveaway of male sexuality. I've certainly been fooled by appearance, gait, and mannerisms. Sometimes I'll see a guy, and wonder. But then I hear his voice, with all its intonations and inflections, and think, oh, okay.

Some gay men, and some lesbians, essentially advertise their gayness with their dress and (in the case of lesbians, their haircuts). And some stay in the closet. But even from the closet, the voice is usually a giveaway.

Lesbians tend to talk in a sort of hollow-sounding, monotonic alto.

With gay men, it's not just a matter of pitch (though I can't think of many gays I've known with rumbling basses.) Gay men tend to have a certain vocal vivaciousness, a heightened expressiveness, a certain singsong emphatic quality. And even when they have deeper voices, as with George Takei, they often have a certainly overly enunciated actor-ish quality which gives them away.

According to the Times, when Thorpe went to a speech therapist to try to sound less gay, he was given "exercises to reduce his nasality and elongation of vowels. Liberace and Paul Lynde are cited as embodiments of the flamboyant gay stereotype."

The Times article starts out by saying:

David Thorpe’s engaging personal documentary, "Do I Sound Gay?," tiptoes into treacherous waters, where it stirs up a few ripples before gracefully backing out. Not so long ago, mockery of the sissy queen stereotype, with a limp wrist, a mincing gait and a lisp was a surefire laugh getter for comedians like Bob Hope, who made cruel sport of perceived effeminacy.

Okay, individual gays ought not to be mocked for an effeminacy they can't help. But as I recall, Hope didn't name names, he merely play-acted at being a sissy himself, which was more self mockery than cruelty.

And why, exactly, does the Times deem the waters that Thorpe wades into so "treacherous?" Because he dares to talk about some of the characteristics that tend to differentiate gays from straights?

This is evidently an intolerable thought crime. Stereotypes, no matter how accurate, are, according to liberals, intrinsically evil. In fact, it seems the more accurate they are, the more evil they are.

It's one thing to criticize mean-spirited mockery (of the type this blog often indulges in). It's another to insist that all stereotypes are misleading. That's just dishonest. Nobody says that all gay men speak as described above. But to say they're more likely to is simply being realistic.

The prudish, neo-Victorian sensibilities of the NY Times can't countenance that sort of honesty. And they continually demonize those who point out the obvious.

Anyway, Thorpe himself sounds realistic, honest, and likable. And his movie likely reflects his character. If I'm going to spend an hour and a half watching a movie, I'd prefer brutal honesty to propaganda.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The fashion sensibilities of black pro athletes

A young man recently said to me that the best way to dress is like a black pro athlete, except you have to pull it back a little. He said, "They spend a lot of money on their clothes, but never know where to draw the line."

The young man was unfamiliar with the heyday of Walt Frazier and Artis Gilmore. Here's Walt decked out in all his finery, circa the early 1970's:

(Walter's middle name was "Clyde," though "Thomas" would have made for a more appropriate license plate.)

And here's Artis Gilmore, circa the late 70's:

His hair made the 7' 2" Gilmore look a little like a caveman who had just killed a grizzly, skinned it, and donned its hide.

But athletes don't dress like 1970's pimps anymore. (Then again, neither do pimps.) These days, black pro athletes tend to favor bespoke suits; they just go a little overboard with them. For instance, a lot of people buy three piece suits; but only pro athletes actually wear the vest.

Lebron James, the most prominent player in the game today, is a case in point.

The suit is perfectly nice, but did Lebron really need the lapel pin and the boutonniere and the sunglasses and the earring? He's got too much going on.

Here's Lebron on the day he first got selected in the NBA draft, dressed like an old-style plantation owner -- except more so. (Granted, he was just out of high school at this point.)

Lebron in a more sophisticated version of plantation chic:

Perhaps it was cool that evening, which would explain the scarf which matched his pocket hankie. But did he really need those sunglasses when the sun was no longer out?

Lebron accepting an ESPY award:

(Wouldn't it have been better to save the Santa Claus outfit for when he was giving, rather than receiving, something?)

Those custom suits don't come cheap: Lebron probably spends more on his clothes per annum than a schoolteacher's entire salary. Which is a pretty big price to pay just to look foolish.

Lebron's former teammate Dwyane Wade is another clotheshorse. Here's Dwyane looking sharp:

And he does look sharp. But that double-breasted vest alone makes him look as if he's trying too hard.

Here's Dwyane in a bow tie.

If a white guy wore that outfit, you'd just assume he was gay. But when it's a 6' 4" black guy bursting with muscle, you think, ah, a professional athlete.

Here's Dwyane dressed up as an English country squire --

-- except that no country squire actually puts that much effort into his clothes. (Maybe Dwyane gets a pass on this outfit since it seems to have been GQ, and not himself, who dressed him.)

Here's Dwyane as a college professor.

(He'd definitely be teaching one of the humanities in that outfit.)

Some of these getups are so overdone they graduate from "outfit" to "costume," since they almost seem to be about trying to become a different person.

Dywane sporting yet another bow tie.

Given that he wasn't wearing glasses in any of the other shots, one has to assume that those lenses are accessorial rather than corrective.

His look is actually not all that far from Urkel's:

The recent trend in black fashion toward buttoned up shirts, bow ties, sweaters, and glasses-as-props must have started out as an I'm-so-cool-I-can-get-away-with-dressing-nerdy kind of thing. Then it just sort of morphed into a fashion statement of its own.

And if there's one group that can get away with wearing these types of clothes without coming across nerdy or wimpy, it's pro athletes. They still look foolish, though.

Dwyane making yet another bold statement.

(All I can say is, Dwyane must be extremely confident in his masculinity.)

Dwyane on his way to a game:

It takes a major effort to color coordinate not only your pants, your shirt, and your sweater, but also your shoes, bag, and even earphones. Excess color coordination seems to be a theme among the pros.

And here's one, final shot of Dwyane, ready for work:

(Seriously, who pushes his jacket sleeves up?) And was that watchband custom made to match his suit or was he able to buy it retail?

The basketball player many consider the greatest of all time was Michael Jordan. He seemed to consider himself one of the greatest dressers as well. But he, too, always seemed to be trying too hard:

Jordan, weirdly, always favored big, boxy suits that looked too large for him. The shame of it was that he had a great body for clothes: a lean, muscular 6'5." But the body got lost in those huge outfits, and the effect was always that of a kid wearing his father's clothes.

Here's Michael swimming in yet another suit:

(The all-red motif seems to be a thing among the pro ballers too.)

Michael showing his moves in a topcoat.

Michael in an outfit which looks strangely like a bib:

No matter how outlandish the outfit, Jordan's jackets were always, like his ego, too big. One can't blame him for the ego: he was constantly fawned over wherever he went. His outfits were another matter.

Even his casual look was baggy. Here's Jordan-as-Shaft:

Evidently, when your ego is past the point of no return, you feel that even your clothes should be larger than life.

Other NBA stars have followed suit. Here's Anthony Davis sporting contrasting lapels:

Chris Paul:

The watch is a little too big, the pocket hankie a lot too big, and the color coordination overdone; but at least he's wearing his shades outdoors.

Chauncy Billups, who must be a Michael Jordan fan, in a suit/caftan:

A diamond earring seems to be de rigueur among NBA stars.

Damian Lillard:

DeMarcus Cousins:

DeMarcus seems to be another Urkel fan.

Kevin Durant, making a statement with suit and sneakers and gold chain:

Many NBA players, like modern artists, seem to want to be different merely for the sake of being different.

Dwight Howard:

Nick Young:

(No point in wearing an outfit like that and being sheepish about it.)

Here, for purposes of comparison, is the Joker:

His face is a little jarring, but the loud jacket, boutonniere, bow tie, and garish yellow shirt with two sets of buttons wouldn't be out of place in the NBA.

Another style icon is boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr:

(Contrasting lapels is yet another theme among pro athletes.)

Here's Floyd doing his Guys and Dolls gangster (gangsta?) thing:

Floyd being color coordinated:

Floyd receiving an award:

Are his eyes so sensitive to light he has to wear sunglasses indoors? Or is he just protecting them from the light reflecting off that suit?

And here's Floyd putting on a belt that would look understated with some of the above outfits:

You may be thinking, well, Floyd is a boxer, and it's not really fair to use a boxer as an example of black fashion sense. But, that wasn't always the case.

Here are Muhammad Ali and Wilt Chamberlain in the late 1960's, showing that it is far better to clown around on purpose than be made to look a clown by one's suit.

One of the biggest fashion plates ever was Deion Sanders. At the peak of his earning power, Sanders reportedly spent over four million dollars on suits.

Here's Deion with his (now ex-) wife:

(That has to be one of the few suits that could work at both a casino and a funeral home.)

Neon Deion:

Deion's huge smile always helped. Lebron and Dwyane and Michael take fashion seriously. Deion, too, was a peacock; but he also seemed to almost be amused by his clothes, which made him seem -- rightly or wrongly -- to be in on the joke.

Here's Deion wearing the above suit in reverse:

Once again, Deion's smile almost seems to be saying, yeah, I know I look foolish, but this is fun, so what the hell -- you only live once.

Here's Deion making an appearance on Saturday Night Live:

Were this anyone else, I might think he was playing the role of a priest in a skit. But it's Deion, so I'll assume he was just delivering the monologue.

Deion in an uncharacteristically untucked in moment:

Or maybe that's just part of the look, it's hard to tell.

Deion-as-traffic cone:

And Deion demonstrating, yet again, that he knows how to enjoy life far, far better than you or I:

After the early 1960's, the gradual shift in black fashion sense away from traditional white styles seemed to parallel the shift in black names. At around the same time blacks adopted dashikis and let their hair grow into Afros and (a few) started wearing 1970's pimp style outfits with gaudy jewelry, more names like Dontay and Jamal and Antwan started to appear as well.

It was all part of a calculated effort to differentiate themselves from stodgy old white standards. It's understandable, although from the outside looking in, it seems misguided.

The dashikis and Afros have long since departed, but the pro athletes still have their own sense of style. These days, it seems to consist of taking traditional white clothing and making it flashier. So they add touches that, in the end, make them look silly to most of us.

But after you look at enough of these pictures, the realization sinks in that they would actually feel foolish wearing a regular, boring old white guy's suit. Their teammates might even mock them for doing so.

A lot of whites don't realize that Urkel, and the Carlton Banks character on Fresh Prince of Bel Air, weren't just about being nerdy. They were about making fun of whites -- and of blacks who wholeheartedly bought into white fashions and aspirations.

Also, what do you expect these pro athletes to do with their spare time and obscene disposable incomes? Read the New Yorker? No, they're going to go shopping for clothes to adorn themselves with. (In a way, their mentality is similar to that of rich, spoiled housewives.)

And, as with those housewives, the adorning inevitably turns into a sort of competition, resulting in ever more outrageous styles.

Of course, fashion, like beauty, is subjective. So, passing judgment -- as I've just done -- is equally silly.

But whatever your taste, anyone who pays too much attention to his clothes ends up looking foppish.

You'll never see a twittier-looking bunch of guys than in the Style section of the NY Times any Sunday. (Weirdly, the men most attracted to overdressing seem to be either whites at the effeminate end of the spectrum or blacks at the masculine end.)

Anyway, Lebron can dominate on the court, and when he does, he looks rugged and masterful. But when his clothes call attention to themselves, he looks foolish -- in a peculiarly black pro athlete sort of way.