On a Lighter Note, Check Out This Obituary

And now, for some completely different things…

Thing the first: The Times ran, I kid you not, a delightful obituary yesterday.

Alan Abel, Hoaxer Extraordinaire, Is (on Good Authority) Dead at 94

Alan Abel, a professional hoaxer who for more than half a century gleefully hoodwinked the American public — not least of all by making himself the subject of an earnest news obituary in The New York Times in 1980 — apparently actually did die, on Friday, at his home in Southbury, Conn. He was 94.

I wonder how long they’d been working on that headline and lede?

Long before The Onion began printing farcical news articles[…] there was Alan Abel. A former jazz drummer and stand-up comic who was later a writer, campus lecturer and filmmaker, Mr. Abel was best known as a perennial public gadfly, a self-appointed calling that combined the verbal pyrotechnics of a 19th-century flimflam man with acute 20th-century media savvy.

He was, the news media conceded with a kind of irritated admiration, an American original in the mold of P. T. Barnum, a role model whom Mr. Abel reverently acknowledged.

Today, in the internet age, anyone can be a Nigerian prince. In Mr. Abel’s time, however, the hoaxer’s art — involving intricate planning, hiring actors, donning disguises, printing official-looking letterheads, staging news conferences and having the media swallow the story hook, line and sinker — entailed, for better or worse, a level of old-time craftsmanship whose like will almost certainly not be seen again.

I recommend reading the whole thing. It’s an engagingly-written look back on an interesting man’s life.

Thing the second, I made a sign-up form for the Minecraft whitelist, so, if that’s for you, yay.

What’s everybody doing to unwind tonight? I might watch teevee or keep working on that Vinge book.

Cosplay Socialists Open Thread (+Minecraft address!)

Julia Salazar is one of the latest young, Democratic Socialists of America-affiliated insurgents to defeat an establishment Democrat in a primary. She is also my potential future state senator, as that primary was in New York Senate District 18. Also too, she is a bizarre serial fabulist.

The New York Post condemned her personal story — a big part of her appeal — as “wildly exaggerated.” Salazar has said she immigrated from Colombia when she was, in fact, born in Florida; asserted a “working-class background” that her brother strongly denied, offering photos of the family’s four-bedroom riverfront house; said she went to work at 14 to “make ends meet,” which her mother contradicted; implied her mother hadn’t gone to college when her mother got a degree when Salazar was 8 years old; asserted a very confused timeline about her conversion to Judaism; and claimed Jewish ancestry nobody could verify.

Eve Fairbanks at Buzzfeed has an article up about what she sees as a generational issue: Well-Off Millennials Are All Julia Salazar. I Wish We Weren’t.

Rolling Stone seemed baffled to have to report last night that “the constituents of District 18 were apparently untroubled” by that. But I wonder if the supporters — certainly the young, mostly white, recent college graduates who flooded her victory party — didn’t recognize, at least subconsciously, that this kind of thing is just way more common than we’d like to admit.

The article limns something I’ve seen a lot of.

I’ve described my paternal grandfather as a man who “grilled armadillo roadkill” to suggest he was a Southern hick, and it’s true he liked armadillo and at least occasionally foraged killed ones — but he was also the head of the archaeology department at the University of Florida. I’ve told people my maternal grandmother is an illegal immigrant who came to America illegally, alone on a boat from Poland, like an orphan Fievel the Mouse, conjuring hardscrabble images of tenement life, not mentioning that she married into a wealthy family.

I suppose I’ve lightly participated in this myself. “Did you know my mom grew up poor on a family farm?” I sometimes say, bristling at claims that we’re anything other than very recently well-to-do. It’s not unbelievable if you meet her–she’s an often-foul-mouthed animal lover who likes to shoot guns. But just looking at her C.V., you might have a hard time seeing it, other than the decidedly non-elite education. However, I am a creature of privilege. What’s important is that I don’t cover myself with her history, or use it to claim imaginary oppression. (Lord knows I have enough actual problems anyway.)

I’ve also observed the true cliche that nobody seems to have gone to Harvard or Stanford, but rather “college in Boston/the Bay Area.”

I will say that there is significant social pressure, at least among some Millennial groups, to just shut up about fixing oppression if you’re privileged. (I encounter this mostly on social media and rarely in person, so it could be an Online Mean Girls issue.) That doesn’t excuse lying, but it may explain the prevalence of this particular lie. On the flip side, there really is a problem with the most vocal ‘socialists’/’leftists’ being the ones with the least skin in the game–I’m looking at you, Chapo Trap House. (I’m actually not, because I find looking at them unpleasant.)

Anyway, thought y’all might enjoy the (hate)-read. I will now be re-enabling my Millennials-to-Snake-People browser plugin.

Onwards to more pressing issues: The Minecraft server is up! It’s at, and if you leave your username (not email) in the comments, I can whitelist you. It’s running Spigot with a land-claims plugin on easy. This IP will eventually be DNS’d to a balloon-juice subdomain, but I’m still working out the kinks.

Non-sports open thread!

Video Games Thread!

Good morning everyone!

On occasion, in the comments, I talk about video games. Sometimes people join in! Last year, at the recommendation of some jackal here, I picked up Horizon Zero Dawn, which was just great, so thanks, person.

What are your most favorite games ever? Mine are Metal Gear Solid 3, Final Fantasy VII, Breath of the Wild, and the Fallout series. And Minecraft, I suppose, as a perennial favorite.

What are you playing that you are enjoying? I’ve been playing Final Fantasy XV and Stardew Valley lately. I played through most of Subnautica in April, which was also great.

Really though, I wanted to ask this question: The Minecraft aquatic update is out, and I want to play it socially, but not with jerks. If I set up a little Minecraft server for friends of the blog, would anybody be interested in joining?

Nerdy Open Thread

Several somebodies here recommended Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief to me recently. I just finished it, and–thanks! Just what I needed. I especially liked the artful lack of exposition, which always stands out in a genre known for the opposite.

But it got me thinking about doing another book recommendation thread. I think this Saturday seems good. There was a suggestion to focus on a narrow genre, and was wondering if anybody had thoughts. Thoughts?

The Quantum Thief also got me thinking about Cowboy Bebop, probably due to the preponderance of artful Martian capers. I kept hearing this song in my head.

Thanks for reading. You may now have a picture of Samwise, who likes to sit on rectangles.

Open thread!

p.s. Anybody pick up Battle for Azeroth?

Samwise Open Thread / An Introduction, for the Unfamiliar

Hello, my pseudonym is Major Major Major Major, and I am, apparently, a blogger.

As many of you already know, I’m a prolific commenter here. (For those who didn’t know that, now you do.) Recent-ish-ly, I’ve been working with Alain on various improvements to the site. These efforts kept hitting the same snag: developing anything for a system you don’t have access to is terrible. So Alain gave me the keys to the production server. Somebody had the bright idea to give me the keys to WordPress too, so here we are.

I know I’m supposed to say something snarky here, but I really do think it’s kind of an honor, so hey, thanks!

Now. Before you complain about the site in the comments, let me say that we are aware there are many issues. We might even be aware of yours! But BJ is nobody’s full-time job, so, well, you know how triage works.

As for posting, I’m going to keep that light. As Alain mentioned, I’d like to start a twice-monthly series where we can all talk about good books to read. I may do the first one on Sunday. If there’s interest, I may also start a feature where we can talk about video games. Let me know. Finally, I may jump in with a west coast late night open thread on evenings where there’s a need.

Bio and pet pics below the fold…

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Late Night Open Thread: Gamerz & Luzers

The Spousal Unit is on vacation this week, and there was much smack talked about Accomplishing Projects around the house / yard, but it’s been almost 100 degrees for the last three days and there’s only so much the window air conditioning units can do against the officially ‘oppressive’ humidity. We did get to the garden center today, and by a miracle I actually found annuals to fill out the remaining flower spaces that met both my critical standards and those of Himself… but that means being outside in the damned daytime tomorrow, hauling planters & shifting dirt. If you don’t see any posts with my name, either the heat got me or I’ve been arrested for spousal murder.

‘Ethics in Gaming’ Open Thread: Another Trumpshow of Farce

The Verge reports:

Today, President Trump brought together top executives of the gaming industry, parents groups and members of Congress for a meeting to discuss violence in video games. Announced last week as part of President Trump’s response to the Parkland shooting, the meeting was hastily assembled and has been criticized as a purposeful distraction from more concrete gun-control measures.

The proceedings were closed to the press, but by all accounts, the meeting was a strange one. The President opened the meeting by showing a supercut of hyperviolent gameplay scenes apparently compiled from online streamers — a compilation that was later posted to the White House’s official YouTube account…

Attendees said there was little serious talk of government restrictions on content (which would present significant legal challenges), and the conversation focused on more robust age restrictions or voluntary measures that could be undertaken by the industry itself. “The president encouraged [game developers] to explore things they can do on their own to make things healthier in society,” said Media Research Center President Brent Bozell, “and that’s where it was left.”

In part, that may be a result of who was in attendance. None of the three conservative critics in attendance have any particular focus on video games, and each is better known for their work in other areas. Parents TV Council member Melissa Henson writes primarily about liberal values in Hollywood, while fellow attendee Lt. Col Dave Grossman specializes in teaching military tactics to police officers. (He was quoted telling officers “It’s your job to put a piece of steel in your fist and kill those sons of bitches when they come to kill our kids,” in a recent profile in Men’s Journal.) Bozell himself has most recently focused on raising awareness about allegedly anti-Christian bigotry on ABC’s The View…

No doubt it will be explained that it is very triggering for wanna-be Nazis to see their idols treated as the bad guys in games like WOLFENSTEIN. Why can’t we think of the poor lil’ Nazi snowflakes!