January 2, 2016

"Iranian protesters ransacked and set fire to part of the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on Saturday..."

"... after Saudi Arabia executed an outspoken Shiite cleric who had criticized the kingdom’s treatment of its Shiite minority."

The former prime minister of Iraq, Nuri al-Maliki, has said that the execution of the prominent Shi'ite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr by Saudi Arabia will be the downfall of the Gulf kingdom's government.

Picnic Point out and back.

The walk out...


The walk back...


The NYT has a respectful article about Donald Trump's older brother, who died at the age of 43, after years of overuse of alcohol.

The brother, Freddy, is in the middle here, with Donald at his left:

The NYT quotes Donald Trump saying that Freddy “was caught sort of in the middle as somebody who didn’t really love [the family business], and only because he didn’t really love it, he wasn’t particularly good at it.... My father had great confidence in me, which maybe even put pressure on Fred.” And:
Mr. Trump said that their father “could be unyielding,” and that Freddy had struggled with his abundant criticism and stinginess with praise. “For me, it worked very well,” Mr. Trump said. “For Fred, it wasn’t something that was going to work.”...

“He would have been an amazing peacemaker if he didn’t have the problem, because everybody loved him,” he said. “He’s like the opposite of me.”
Part of that oppositeness is that Donald Trump has never used alcohol.

The internet is a cure for the delusion that you have originality.

I was just boiling water to make a cup of coffee and the dog followed me into the kitchen, because he always accompanies anyone going into the kitchen on the off chance that there's something in it for him. I said, "Dogs don't drink coffee," and added, "But if I did a Google image search for dog drinking coffee, I'm sure I'd get a picture of a dog drinking coffee." And the larger point is: Anything you can think of, before you get the idea that you've thought of something new, you check and you see that it's not new, and you never get puffed up about anything brewing in your head. Whatever you can think of, the internet is right there to tell you it's been thought, it's been done.

Drink up. Move on.

It's okay. You're okay.

"The genius of ISIS propaganda is how skillfully it imbues the idea of jihad not only with traditional notions of honor and virility..."

"... but also a strong undercurrent of oppositional, postmodern cool. CVE [Countering Violent Extremism] practitioners can’t possibly hope to challenge the glamor, energy, and sheer badassery of violent jihad as an ideal, still less the wider emotional resonance of the warrior ethos on which it draws. But they can reasonably hope to subvert ISIS’s claim to embody that ideal.... The bigger challenge—as Alberto Fernandez, the former coordinator of the U.S. State Department’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications, noted when I interviewed him earlier this year—is how to create a counter-narrative that is not merely negative but boldly affirmative, offering a vision that is just as exhilarating and seductive as that of jihadists. 'The positive narrative,' he said, 'is always more powerful, especially if it involves dressing in black like a ninja, having a cool flag, being on television, and fighting for your people.' The problem for CVE is that in an ironic age in which few 'grand narratives' remain, no one—except perhaps for the jihadists and their supporters—really knows what that narrative is anymore."

From "The Challenge of Jihadi Cool/ISIS’s countercultural appeal is real. And it must be taken seriously" by Simon Cottee in The Atlantic.

At the link, an ISIS fan is quoted blogging: "The bottom line... is that the Islamic State is the classic scifi underdog battling a seemingly all powerful Evil Empire America against impossible odds—and in the very best scifi tradition—they are winning."

The view from my window, just now...


"We talked to them and they’d be like, 'Why am I not getting notified when people vote on my stuff?'"

"And we’d be like, 'Well, we wouldn’t want to do that 'cause we might send you, like, 50 notifications that you got 50 of your friends to vote on your card.' They’re like, 'But that’s what I want.' "

Said Michael Jones, chief executive of Science Inc., which makes an app (Wishbone) aimed at teenagers. He's quoted in a NYT article titled "App Makers Reach Out to the Teenager on Mobile." How old is Jones?, you might ask. I did.
Mr. Jones, a 40-year-old Gen Xer, has tracked youth culture since the grunge ’90s, when he started a magazine called Elixir as a University of Oregon sophomore. This was back when teenagers went to bookstores in search of small-circulation “zines.”...
Back in his day, they didn't have the internet. They didn't have apps. You couldn't carry your phone around with you, and you couldn't write to anybody on a phone and you couldn't see pictures on a phone, and you couldn't, like, vote on pictures on a phone. We had these things called zines

Shabab turns Hillary's words into truth.

"During a Democratic presidential debate last month, Hillary Clinton said that Mr. Trump had been used in a recruitment video for the Islamic State, a claim that was later debunked." But now:
Al Qaeda’s branch in Somalia released a recruitment video on Friday that criticized racism and anti-Muslim sentiment in the United States and contained footage of the Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump announcing his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the country.

"There is a naïve idealism at the heart of student protest, which might be desperate or loud but never as cynical as the world that necessitated it."

Writes Hua Hsu — author of "A Floating Chinaman: Fantasy and Failure Across the Pacific" — in The New Yorker:
Today’s youth should be understood in terms of the choices available to them, not the world they’ve inherited. Let college kids be, many of us say, for they are no weirder than we were.
I — who went to college in 1969 — think they are a lot less weird than we were. But if you think they are weird — entitled, oversensitive, whatever — you should look to your own mind and ask why it has created the character you believe in:
The imaginary college student is a character born of someone else’s pessimism. It is an easy target, a perverse distillation of all the self-regard and self-absorption ascribed to what’s often called the millennial generation. But perhaps it goes both ways, and the reason that college stories have garnered so much attention this year is our general suspicion, within the real world, that the system no longer works. 
Oh! He had to go and say "garnered." That word! I'm making a tag for "garner (the word!)." These imaginary college students may have their miniature outrages and microagressions, but I've got mine. It's the word "garner" and all that it symbolizes — the perverse refusal to speak clearly, the mushmouthed fear of using the verb "to get"...

Caitlyn Jenner mocked in Philadelphia's Mummers Parade... replete with "Dude Looks Like a Lady."

"The Mummers Parade, held each New Year's Day and said to be the oldest folk festival in the country, has tried in recent years to be more diverse, but a musical 'act' put on by a group called Finnegan New Year's Brigade Comic Club was criticized as hurtful and bigoted," says The Daily Mail (with lots of photos). Here's video:

The group's response, via Twitter, was: "OMG STOP EVERYONE! Happy New Year 2016!! #Sensitive." And, an hour later: "Finnegans is seriously done with this bs tweeting back and forth and assumptions. Be a man literally and contact our email." And also:

I can't be a man literally, and I'm not one to email people in the news to try to get more info, but I'm interested in the context of the Mummers Parade. I haven't watched it in decades, but I remember the Mummers Parade of a half century ago, when I got my TV from local Philadelphia channels. It was always a bit of a mystery who these men are and why they were dressing up so fancy.  So I found an old news article about Finnegan New Year Brigade. Here. This is from 1997:
Finnegan New Year Brigade is determined to challenge for the Mummers comic brigade top prize. So for 1998, it has turned itself into a wench club. The guys in Riverfront NYB, who have paraded in wench dresses almost forever and won the big one in '95, are hard at work in their Two Street lair on elaborate props and gold lame turbans. It's the first time they'll strut without the traditional long-braided wigs. Last year, Bryson NYB, a 175-member family wench brigade, copped first prize with silver tinsel wigs and space age gimmickry that included actual females in dresses.

... As the rest of the parade shrinks, the freshest, fastest-growing part of modern mummery is the oldest - wenches. In Thursday's Mummers Parade, up to one quarter of all the estimated 8,000 costumed marchers will be (mostly) guys in wench dresses....

A decade or so ago, the city and some Comic Division directors were trying to exterminate the wench as everything wrong with mummery - drunk, unprepared, unaffiliated, boring, or (before the 1964 blackface ban) insultingly crude.
So cross-dressing is a big deal, and it's something the authorities have been embarrassed about for a long time. It's the low-class end of the traditional parade.
Finnegan NYB, named for a playground in Southwest Philadelphia where members met playing ball, is actually practicing tomorrow for their "Wenches of Oz.'' These are motivated guys, 120 strong, plus 17 sons and three young daughters, out to improve last year's ninth prize.

"It seems like all the time the wenches are winning it,'' said Captain Mike Inemer of Turnersville, N.J. "So we're going to give it a try.''....
ADDED: Wikipedia sums up the history of the Mummers Parade, which "traces back to mid-17th-century roots, blending elements from Swedish, Finnish, Irish, English, German, and other European heritages, as well as African heritage":

When the action was real — 100 years ago.

Beautiful, perfect...

... and funny/frightening in a way that can never be in today's CGI movies, where you don't need bother to ask yourself — a question asked at 3:27 — "What are the rules of this particular world?"

That made me think of this, from a review of the new movie"In the Heart of the Sea"
The pacing here is certainly forceful, as it is during the harrying and the slaughter of a sperm whale, and yet the force lacks clarity. This is partly because computer-generated waves never quite buffet us with the slap of the real thing, and also because, in the twenty years since [Ron] Howard made his finest film, “Apollo 13,” something has happened to the editing of action sequences. No longer, it seems, are we required to know who is doing what, and where, at any given point. What matters is that the frenzy of the occasion should be matched by the drubbing of the images, which must pelt us without pity or interruption. Just to crank up the turmoil, “In the Heart of the Sea” can be seen in 3-D, so that masts and braces keep poking you in the nose....

January 1, 2016

"People, people this isn't even my dog, I found this picture on fascistbook, stole it, and decided to use it in a prank to fool these religitards."

"So I did, and low and behold idiots left and right fall for it, and those that didn't, seem to think they have a superior intelligence or something, for pointing out the obvious. Keep in mind, I never told a single soul to like this, that is their choice, I don't give a f*ck either way."

The originator of badly-burned/ham-on-face dog explains himself and is quoted at Snopes, which gives a big FALSE to the rumor that the dog's face was burned.

Discussed yesterday on this blog at "Millions Of Prayers Go Out To Dog Afflicted With Ham On Face."

ADDED: The expression is "lo and behold," not "low and behold." It's a Bob Dylan song, "Lo and Behold":
“What’s the matter, Molly, dear? What’s the matter with your mound?”
“What’s it to ya, Moby Dick? This is chicken town!”
Lo and behold! Lo and behold! Lookin’ for my lo and behold
Get me outa here, my dear man!
AND: "Lo" is a very old interjection, going all the way back to "Beowulf." It just means look. So "lo and behold" means look and see.  Here's how Tennessee Williams used it in "Streetcar Named Desire":
"You come in here and sprinkle the place with powder and spray perfume and cover the light-bulb with a paper lantern, and lo and behold the place has turned into Egypt and you are the Queen of the Nile!"
Now just say that in your best Marlon Brando voice. Put some ham on your face and talk like Marlon Brando.

"U.S. Doesn’t Know How Many Foreign Visitors Overstay Visas."

The NYT reports:
Nearly 20 years ago, Congress passed a law requiring the federal government to develop a system to track people who overstayed their visas.... Since then, the federal government has spent millions of dollars on the effort.... One widely cited statistic, from a 1997 report by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, puts the number of people who overstay their visas at 40 percent, about 4.4 million of the estimated 11 million undocumented residents in the United States....

"I understood my mother’s feeling of helplessness in the face of his strength, his intelligence, his lies, and his malice, and I hated him."

"I hated him deeply and completely. If I could have called down a god’s wrath on him and destroyed him with a lightning bolt at that moment, I would have done it."

From the memoir of Juan Thompson, the son of Hunter S. Thompson, quoted in a NYT book review. Juan was in the house when his father committed suicide in 2005:
“I heard a weird cry and a crack,” Juan writes. “I thought nothing of it. Hunter was famous for his peculiar vocalizations, and the thump was probably a book he had dropped or thrown.”
Juan reports that there was, in fact, very little blood to clean up, which was something I'd worried about at the time. I said:
I have a hard time thinking of this suicide as a rational act, like that of a person in the advanced stage of a painful, fatal disease. He kills himself while he's in the middle of talking to his wife and trying to get her to come home and help him do his work. He doesn't say goodbye. And he shoots himself in the head, leaving the gory remains to be cleaned out of the kitchen. And meanwhile, his son, daughter-in-law, and 6-year grandson are in the house, doomed to come upon the scene before the wife comes home from the health club. That seems like a sudden, impulsive act that expressed some strong feelings toward the wife. 
But apparently there's a way to shoot yourself in the head that doesn't leave a lot of gory remains. Assuming Hunter S. Thompson knew about it and took care about that, I stand corrected.

"'I absolutely love this job,' [John Kerry] told me more than once. “It is so much fun.”

Me = David Remnick, in The New Yorker, who drops that quote right after this description of a few weeks in the life of John Kerry:
One day, his plane settled in Samarkand, where he patiently endured a forty-five-minute lecture from the dictator of Uzbekistan. The next day, he was in Ashgabat, the surreal, peopleless capital of Turkmenistan, a hermetic state where the post-Soviet dictator renamed the days of the week and devoted a national day to the muskmelon. Kerry had flown to Santiago to take part in a conference to save the world’s oceans. Then he was in Paris, in the wake of the terrorist attack at the Bataclan concert hall, to join talks designed to rescue the earth from overheating to the point of global catastrophe.
Can you detect Remnick's opinion of Kerry in those 4 sentences? I think he doesn't want to speak ill of him — not outright — but he sees him as a sad failure. Here's one more paragraph from the article. Test my theory:
But while Kerry made his name in a radical voice, he was always a man of the establishment. More than any diplomat or politician this side of Bill Clinton, he has an abiding faith in the value of personal relationships and of his capacity to persuade. All he has to do is get the parties in a room and he can’t lose. Obama, by contrast, has no more cultivated relationships with foreign leaders than he has with Republican leaders. Where Obama is skeptical, Kerry is almost sentimental in his optimism. He has even made his peace with Henry Kissinger: “I seek his advice—he’s a brilliant guy.” He recounted a lunch that they had recently, at which Kissinger told him, “The difference between you and me is that I think that personal relations don’t matter much. I think interests matter.” Kerry replied, “I think interests matter, of course, but I think personal relations can help matters—they can be influential.”
And, a bit later:
There is no concealing his eagerness to make a deal; to a critic, his style is reminiscent of the customer who sternly tells the salesman, “I’m not leaving here until you sell me a car.” No one seems to inspire Kerry’s outrage, including the worst of his negotiating partners. “I think they want to be valued for who they are and understood for where they come from and what their life is about,” he told me. “I think if people have a sense that you know what they’re about, they can build some trust with you....”
But don't you have a sense that they know what you're about? What if they see you as an over-optimistic sentimentalist who really wants to make a deal and to feel that he has a relationship with you?

"A man in Russia’s Far East woke up in the morgue after having been declared dead..."

"... local media report. Before the incident, he had been doing vodka rounds with friends – and after the 'miraculous awakening,' he went back to the party.... [H]e found his friends were still drinking, but this time commemorating him.... The commemoration ceremony was quickly revamped into a re-birthday party."

Yeah, I know. Did that really happen... somewhere in the wilds of Russia. The Khasanky Region, we're told. I try to Google Khasanky and Google asks whether perhaps I mean Kazaky, Khasan, Khasani, or Khanky. But it's a good story... possibly appropriate if you're waking from the dead of last night's carousing.

Achievements in makeup: Two-Face...

... by and on Kay Pike. Click to animate:

Sweet '16.

So far, so good.

December 31, 2015

At the New Year's Eve Café...


... it's time to close down 2015. Say goodbye and hello to '16. May it be sweet '16.


... stop beginning your answer to any question with "So..."...

Earlier in 2015.

"Great style and substance. We looked at this one and talked about it for 15 minutes," I said last May, about this:

And here's something else I had last May, "Masculinity is hard," about an Elspeth Reeve TNR piece called "No Campaigns for Manly Men," which took the position, as I put it, that "without the broad, loud-mouthed, bullying Chris Christie in the presidential race, we have no 'manly men.'"
You might want to challenge that characterization of Christie, but that's the way Reeve presents him as she sets up her argument that the real men are gone.
Who’s the manly man’s man of the right? It’s not a politician like Ted Cruz, who exudes “televangelist” more than “cowboy.” It’s not a pundit like Glenn Beck, who cries over the Constitution and sells premium dad jeans. Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Bobby Jindal—they’re all kind of cute, and certainly non-threatening. Jeb Bush is selling himself as the Smart Bush.
It was so pre-Trump back then. 

Actually, Trump is mentioned in the Elspeth Reeve article. She consults the linguist Geoff Nunburg and he found it "hard to think of manly men," so he switched the subject to assholes:
Assholes do very well on the right in particular. I wrote a book about assholes, I feel like an expert on the subject. And they do very well on the right. I mean there was a period in which Donald Trump was leading the Republican polls. And it isn’t as if there is anybody in America who doesn’t think Donald Trump’s an asshole. But he’s like, our asshole.
Our asshole. It's not exactly a campaign slogan, but think about it. 

"Perhaps above all else, the data shows that Mr. Trump has broad support in the G.O.P., spanning all major demographic groups."

Nate Cohn reports in a piece — somewhat misleadingly titled "Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporters: A Certain Kind of Democrat" — based on interviews with 11,000  Republican-leaning respondents (done by Civis Analytics, a Democratic data firm).
[Trump] leads among Republican women and among people in well-educated and affluent areas. He even holds a nominal lead among Republican respondents that Civis estimated are Hispanic, based on their names and where they live.

But Mr. Trump’s lead is not equal among all G.O.P. groups, or across all parts of the country. His support follows a clear geographic pattern. He fares best in a broad swath of the country stretching from the Gulf Coast, up the spine of the Appalachian Mountains, to upstate New York....

His geographic pattern of support is not just about demographics — educational attainment, for example. It is not necessarily the typical pattern for a populist, either. In fact, it’s almost the exact opposite of Ross Perot’s support in 1992, which was strongest in the West and New England, and weakest in the South and industrial North....
Much of this article strains to find racial material, dragging in evidence of the Google searches in various areas. Maybe you can tell where the racists are by where people search for racial epithets, and then maybe Trump supporters in the same area are the same people who did the searches. Cohn concedes that this evidence is weak, but it's not so weak that he doesn't bother with it.

What stands out to me after reading the whole article, however, is that Trump obviously has a lot of support among a wide range of people, including many that you wouldn't expect if you've been relying on mainstream media for information: women, well-educated people, Hispanics. There needs to be much more serious analysis of what is going on. American politics is outrunning the pundit class, which has lost a lot of ground tripped up on the delusion that this can't be serious.

What's the deeper meaning of wearing a fur coat to sing "Natural Woman"?

"[Aretha] Franklin performed in her floor-length fur coat until stepping away from the piano to absolutely slay the final moments of her staple song, tossing her coat to the ground as the crowd jumped to its collective feet."

I lot can be said about this song. What does it mean not to feel "natural" as a woman? Are women unnatural without the man? If she only feels "like a natural woman," is that like the way Madonna felt "like a virgin." She wasn't a virgin, but she felt like one (for one reason or another).

So, it's already a puzzling song, subject to many interpretations. Okay: What does it mean to sing it in a fur coat?

And can you think of any other occasions when what the singer wore affected the meaning of the song? The first thing that crossed my mind was Marlene Dietrich singing "Give Me The Man" while dressed in a tuxedo. But I don't think that's a good answer.

ADDED: "Her mouth was as wise as her eyes … and her voice was like her coat, rich and supple, and somehow full of secrets," wrote Patricia Highsmith in "The Price of Salt," which is now a big Oscar-begging movie called "Carol." The coat, a fur coat, looms large, as the costume designer Sandy Powell explained. It was "probably the most important item to get right."
"It’s those descriptions that don’t say what colour or shape it is or anything like a clue.” To interpret that impression of sexy, conspiratorial opulence, she says, she knew it had to be a blond mink, not brown, and not light or flashy.
Fur is big now and deeply meaningful.

"Millions Of Prayers Go Out To Dog Afflicted With Ham On Face."

"One share = ten prayers."

IN THE COMMENTS:  LuAnn Zieman said:
First, "prayers go out to dog" isn't what praying is about. No one prays to the dog (or the person for whom they are praying, as the case may be.)
Well, there are so many things wrong on so many levels that it's like a contest to see how wrong you can be. Frankly, I think it's wrong to put a piece of ham on a dog's face, but I find it very funny to mock the "share this" bullshit on Facebook and the idea that sharing is a way of praying. And the depiction of the suffering of injured dogs is, in my opinion, internet porn.

But now that you mention it, "prayers go out to dog" is a funny mistake. The lack of an "a" or "the" before "dog" almost makes me want to believe it was some kind of knowing humor, like the old joke about the dyslexic:
“Mario, what do you get when you cross an insomniac, an unwilling agnostic and a dyslexic?"

"I give."

"You get someone who stays up all night torturing himself mentally over the question of whether or not there's a dog.”

"Climate Chaos, Across the Map/What is going on with the weather?"

That's the headline and the first sentence of the article that's featured front and center at the NYT right now.

My question: When is it only an idiot who equates climate and weather?

Here's the third highest rated comment over there: "It's time to take all politicians who are global warming deniers and knock their heads with two-by-fours." Why not beheadings? I heard that's a thing. Effective against heresy, you know. 100%.

The "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" with President Obama as one of the comedians.

It just went up. Here.

ADDED: "I'm appreciably cooler than I was 2 minutes ago." That's the only quote I wrote down. It's something Obama says after he's driven the 1963 Corvette Stingray for a couple minutes. Obama notably drives with one hand draped over the top of the wheel. He observes that you "can't do 10 and 2" with a car like that.

There's a nice beginning where Obama is at his desk in the Oval Office and Jerry comes up and just taps on the window. Obama claims to have some work to do — like he's always at the desk working — and Jerry flops down on the sofa to wait. Jerry takes an apple from the big bowl of apples on the coffee table and — after taking a bite — asks the President: "Are these washed?" I liked that, because that's how I feel about bowls of apples too.

They end up having coffee in what looks like the White House staff break room. Obama tells Seinfeld to make the coffee, which he does. It's a Mr. Coffee machine. Is that always there? I bet not. I bet they have one of those push-button, single-cup machines. The tables in the place all have those red-and-white checked table clothes that used to be the mark of a neighborhood Italian restaurant. I'm skeptical about those too. I bet that was staged, like the 2 women at the table sitting behind Jerry — although maybe not, because I got tired of that one woman who was positioned to seem like a head growing out of Jerry's neck.

Jerry tried to get the President to be funny by asking him about his underwear (which, I learned, is all the same color) and whether he's somehow haunted by all that's gone on in the White House over the years (Jerry pushed the notion that it's like "Night at the Museum"). There was some talk about whether it's bad to be famous. The President claimed to miss anonymity, but Jerry said he remembered not being famous and it's not that good. And Jerry worked on the idea that those who hold power for too long become crazy, but certainly didn't get the President to concede that he's losing his mind at all, though the President did say that quite a few world leaders are mentally disordered. That's just paraphrase. I'd have to watch again to get the precise quote. Should have written that one down, but writing while watching would have ruined the pacing and I like Jerry too much to do that to him.

"She is not asking me a darn thing in a negative. She's giving no viewpoint of anything negative having happened to her."

"And I sat there and I watched her eat the muffin. I don't think she ate all of it. She then wrapped it up, didn't finish all of the tea. By the way, she sat fully in the chair. She got up. I got up with her. Opened the door. She went out through the second door to the car, got in the car and drove away."

From the deposition of Bill Cosby, in the case of Andrea Constand, which the NYT says is "different" from many of the other accusations.

"At Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearing for secretary of state, she promised she would take 'extraordinary steps…to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest.'"

"Later, more than two dozen companies and groups and one foreign government paid former President Bill Clinton a total of more than $8 million to give speeches around the time they also had matters before Mrs. Clinton’s State Department, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis. Fifteen of them also donated a total of between $5 million and $15 million to the Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation, the family’s charity, according to foundation disclosures. In several instances, State Department actions benefited those that paid Mr. Clinton. The Journal found no evidence that speaking fees were paid to the former president in exchange for any action by Mrs. Clinton, now the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination...."

Google some of the text if you need a nonsubscriber link for "Speaking Fees Meet Politics for Clintons/Former president spoke to groups with issues before State Department," by James V. Grimaldi and Rebecca Ballhaus.

4 imagined reactions to Jeb's New Year's Eve anti-Trump ad.

I'm not saying any of these are my reaction. These are just 4 sketches of what's going on in the head of 4 imagined viewers of Jeb's video.

1. The music is so annoying! Why is Jeb annoying me? If he had something important to say, would he be poking me in the eardrums like that? Go away, Jeb. You've lost. Can't you at least be dignified about it? Are you using high-energy music because Trump called you low energy? You're trying to scare me about "chaos," so you put on chaos music? But if I'm chaos-averse enough to take your prompt and fear Chaos Trump, I'm chaos-averse enough to click off the video before I see the five terrible things you've cherry picked on Trump, and if I can put up with the music, well, maybe I'm the kind of person who likes the way Trump is shaking things up on smug insiders like you.

2. Why appropriate New Year's Eve? Can't I just enjoy my holiday? I suppose you know you're going down and you've decided to go out with a bang. Couldn't you wait until the holidays are over, and couldn't you end it with some grace and dignity, like by embracing the best other candidate to carry forward the old tradition of Republican moderation or whatever it is you're supposed to represent? Was I supposed to receive this ad in a spirit of holiday drunkenness, like: Whoa! Everything is spiraling out of control! I need to get this Trump spirit out of my system and make a New Year's resolution to quit drinking that stuff? Sorry, Jeb. I was never drunk on Trump, and I resent the insinuation. I'm listening, and I'm thinking, and maybe you need to do some of that New Year's reflection on the subject of whether the people who are responding to Trump are actually stone cold sober.

3. Oh, man, these jerks, these nerds, trying to get a gotcha on Trump. Right off, there's this what's your favorite Bible verse bullshit. Yeah, I'll say "bullshit." Trump said "bullshit" twice to a big crowd of Iowans and Nebraskans the other day. I don't have a Bible verse on the tip of my brain to hand out to any clown who thinks he's got a way to prove I'm not religious. Or, hey, here: "It is written, you shall not test the Lord your God." That means, if you're testing me, you're the Satan in this conversation. Look it up. It's Matthew 4. And "nuclear triad"? And Hugh Hewitt, with his glossy hairdo and his legs-of-the-triad hand gestures... you're testing us again. Yeah, we don't know the term. Trump didn't know the term. So what? So the hell what? And Jeb collecting all this stuff is like the dweeby schoolboy who does a Nelson Muntz "ha ha" at the school marm's corrections. I'm sticking with the popular boy, Trump.

4. Thanks, Jeb, for waking me up to the terrible chaos that lies ahead if any human being becomes President. Please enfold me now in your tender arms and comfort me.

"They weren't that keen to have me involved anyway, but if I get in there, I'm just going to cause trouble..."

"... because they're not going to do what I want them to do. And I don't have the control to do that anymore, and all I would do is muck everything up. And so I said, 'OK, I will go my way and let them go their way."

They = Disney. Me = George Lucas.

"They wanted to do a retro movie. I don't like that. Every movie, I worked very hard to make them different... I made them completely different – different planets, different spaceships to make it new."

Disney is like the government (like the left-winger's idea of the government). It's better at knowing what you want (what you should want) than you are.

December 30, 2015

"Can Trump’s Clinton-Sex-Scandal Revival Hurt Hillary?"

Asks Margaret Hartmann (in New York Magazine).
While several of his rivals have tried and failed to turn Bill Clinton's decades-old sex scandals into a 2016 campaign issue, Trump is actually making it happen. After his complaint about Hillary calling him "ISIS's best recruiter" morphed into a debate about sexism just before Christmas, Trump changed the conversation again, tweeting on Monday "If Hillary thinks she can unleash her husband, with his terrible record of women abuse, while playing the women's card on me, she's wrong!" Tuesday on the Today show, he added, "there certainly were a lot of abuse of women, you look at whether it's Monica Lewinsky or Paula Jones, or any of them, and that certainly will be fair game."
Hartmann quotes Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus who said that "in the larger scheme of things, Bill Clinton’s conduct toward women is far worse than any of the offensive things that Trump has said." And Marcus contended that what Bill did should be held against Hillary, because: "She is (smartly) using her husband as a campaign surrogate, and simultaneously (correctly) calling Trump sexist."

And Hartmann points us to a Wall Street Journal opinion piece that calls Bill Clinton "a genuine sexual harasser in the classic definition of exploiting his power as a workplace superior, and the Clinton entourage worked hard to smear and discredit his many women accusers."

Over on Facebook this morning, my son John had linked to a CNN piece: "Trump: It's OK to talk about my personal life, too."
Trump didn't go into specifics.... But his personal life at times has been tabloid fodder, most famously in the early 1990s when his marriage to his first wife, Ivana Trump, fell apart after he had an extramarital affair with model and actress Marla Maples. Trump eventually married Maples in 1993, and the two divorced six years later. Trump married his current wife, Melania, in 2005.
John commented: "I love the subtly sardonic phrase 'his current wife.'" That prompted me to type this out very fast over there at Facebook, and now I want to reprint it here. I said:
Trump is in a good position here: 1. The bad stuff was already exposed like hell in the tabloid press back when it happened. 2. That was over 20 years ago. 3. He's been with his current wife for more than a decade. 3. His kids turned out great (including the one with Maples). They are beautiful, smart, respectful, and productive. 4. There are so many people who know him and have had a motivation to speak ill of him this year and there's been silence. 5. He's not resting his case on personal rectitude. 6. He hasn't flaunted his religion and being quiet about religion is one way -- a good way -- to seem sincere and respectful toward religion. He's not asking to be seen as a religious paragon and to be voted for on that ground. 7. He isn't saying much at all in the social conservative realm, but he needs to fend off his competitors who are doing that big time. I think subtle prods to regard them as insincere are fine and I agree with the insinuations. 8. Hillary is vulnerable and he's signaling to her that efforts to paint him as sexist will be met with criticism about what she did toward women in defense of her husband. She deserves that criticism.

The discovery of bacon.

Young Donald Trump sounds rather sensible.

A 9-year-old boy named Relic asks Hillary about pay equity, and some are asking if his mom put him up to it.

He said:
'My mother, over there, is complaining that she does not get much more money than my father... My mother is an engineer, I meant, teacher. My father is the engineer. And I think that my mother is working more harder than my ... I think my mother is working much harder, is working more harder than my father and she deserves to have more money, like, get more money, than my father. Because she's taking care of children and I just don't think it's fair.'
First thing I'd like to know is: Who named him Relic?!

Second, it's interesting that the child thinks his parents are getting paid for the work they do around the house, like taking care of children. He doesn't know how hard the 2 parents work when they're on the job. I hope Hillary straightened him out about that. 

Anyway, good for the little kid standing up and asking a question... if he truly was self-motivated. I hate when adults use children in politics.
[The mother's] Twitter account contains only one tweet, a note from 2012 announcing that she was preparing to take Relic and his twin brother, then just 6 years old, to a protest against Mitt Romney, who was the Republican presidential nominee. 'Getting Ready to go to Boston with my sons and their signs "Romney, Release Your Return" and "Romney, What Are You Hiding?"' the tweet read....
Oh, no. A kid holding a sign he can't possibly understand. How awful! A 6-year-old with a sign about taxes. Sigh.

Side issue: Relic has a twin brother. Can you infer the name of the other boy? [Selleck? Cedric? Cleric? Eric?]

"Bill Cosby has been charged with aggravated indecent assault in Pennsylvania..."

"... the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office said Wednesday. The charge is a felony."

Listening to rooms.

Michael Kimmelman has "Dear Architects: Sound Matters" in the NYT — with audio revealing the subtle audio dimension of various places.
The spaces we design and inhabit all have distinctive sounds. The reading rooms at the New York Public Library have an overlay of rich sound. Your office may be a big room in a glass building with rows of cubicles where people stare into computer screens. It may be sealed off from the outside, and you may think it is quiet....
That reminded me of the scene in "Living in Oblivion" — a movie about making a movie — where at one point everyone needs to stop making any noise so the sound technician can record the "room tone":

AND: Here's some mockery of room tone:

6 blog posts by 6:15 this morning.

I'm just telling you this because I'm afraid you won't notice all the new material, including one post about what I googled at 2:30 a.m.: "Does Donald Trump sleep?"

"[A]s long as there have been humans making beautiful things, there have been other humans who wish to subsume or harness that energy via sexual congress."

"Sex is a method (and an effective one) for achieving a kind of transcendental closeness to another person and, by inevitable extension, to the work that they make."

From a New Yorker review by Amanda Petrusich of a book that's "an unapologetic celebration of how a coterie of self-liberated women ultimately chose to explore that complex, ancient idea—to see what happens when a person comes at beauty with beauty, when she gives herself over, entirely, to an abstraction."

The book is "Groupies and Other Electric Ladies: The Original 1969 Rolling Stone Photographs by Baron Wolman."

Put on the spot by a question at a town hall, Hillary Clinton calls what is happening to Christians in the Middle East "genocide."

A member of the audience asked (and I'm assuming this wasn't a plant): "Will you join those leaders, faith leaders and secular leaders and political leaders from both the right and the left, in calling what is happening by its proper name: Genocide?"

Hillary said: "I will because we now have enough evidence."
It's clear, Clinton said, that there is a brutally violent campaign "deliberately aimed at destroying not only the lives, but wiping out the existence of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East in territory controlled by ISIS."...

The State Department has spent months debating whether to label the Islamic State’s attacks against members of a different religious minority, the Yazidis, a "genocide," a designation that carries significant legal, political and historical implications. Christian groups and Republicans have urged Secretary of State John Kerry to include Iraqi and Syrian Christians as well.
It's more than a year until the next President takes office. If this is genocide, President Obama should be acting now. It's not enough for Hillary Clinton to use the word. She must criticize him, actively, and she must take responsibility for what she did as Secretary of State that led to what she now concedes is genocide.

"I don’t analyze things too closely. I find the more you analyze, the more you get away from spontaneity."

"I have only one rule: I just want to write a story that would interest me — that’s the only criterion I have. Am I eager to see how it ends? If these characters really existed, would I want to see what happens to them? … If I like something, there are bound to be millions of people who like it, too. And if they don’t, shame on them."

From "Excelsior! As Stan Lee turns 93 today, here are our 20 best Stan the Man quotes." ("Today" = 2 days ago.)

"How Long Can Jeb Bush Lose?/Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson says for quite a while."

Oh, that's just great. The old Governor who got the GOP nomination for Senator here in Wisconsin in 2012 — edging out a very attractive, energetic young guy — and then went on to lose the election to a very liberal Democrat is encouraging Jeb to hang on and prevent Marco Rubio from building support.
"[Jeb] doesn't have to win until he gets to Nevada and Super Tuesday. He's the one person with the ties to the establishment and the organization in every state. There are Bush people in every state, whether it be for the father Bush, the younger Bush or Jeb," Thompson says. "Other candidates have to start showing victories in Iowa and New Hampshire. Bush doesn't have to have that. He's got the luxury he's got enough money to continue advertising. Jeb doesn't have to win the first three states."...

... Thompson says Super Tuesday – the March 1 set of primaries set mostly in the south – is when "Bush will shine" due to his ability to advertise in many markets at one time....
So a man who's been exposed as incapable of winning voters through campaigning nevertheless has his preexisting pile of money and can use that to jam the airwaves and crowd out candidates who might be able to look great fighting Hillary next fall. Thanks a lot, Tommy. You're the perfect carrier of that message.

ADDED: This NYT article — "Jeb Bush Sprints to Escape Donald Trump’s ‘Low Energy’ Label" — seems really slanted pro-Bush. It calls his speech "forceful and freewheeling" and says he spoke to a "rapt crowd."

How many people does it take to make a "crowd" and what does the look on its face need to be before a reporter can call it "rapt." "Rapt" — according to the OED — means: "Originally: transported in spirit by or as though by religious feeling or inspiration; (hence more generally) absorbed, enthralled; fascinated, intent."

The OED connects this word to the Latin version of 2 Corinthians 12:2, which, in English, is: "I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows." In Latin, the boldfaced part is: raptum..usque ad tertium caelum.

AND: You know, Jeb's going to need those people to vote. He can't be losing them to The Rapture.

Does Donald Trump sleep?

That's the question I googled at 2:30 a.m. as Meade and I contemplated getting up for the day. What I picked out to read was: "Donald Trump's sleep-bragging highlights a broader issue" (in The Chicago Tribune, 11/12/15). I liked that because it seemed ludicrously emblematic of the press efforts to use anything they can find to portray Trump as deranged and disgusting.
Despite studies showing links with diabetes, high blood pressure and weight gain, sleeping just a few hours a night was a badge of honor long before Donald Trump's repeated — and very flattering — public comments on his own ability to get by on three or four hours. In Springfield on Monday, he touted this trait, saying, "I have a great temperament for success. ... You know, I'm not a big sleeper, I like three hours, four hours, I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what's going on."
I toss, I turn, I beep-de-beep, I want to find out what's going on... Ha ha. Beep-de-beep instantly became slang around here.

Actually, the article isn't really about Trump. It's about how the vast majority of people need more sleep than the 3 to 4 hours sleep braggarts like Trump talk about.
The problem, experts say, is that very few of us — in the realm of 1 percent — can actually flourish on just a few hours of sleep a night, and sleep-bragging makes what for most of us is an unhealthy practice seem more desirable.
I see 2 problems there: 1. 1% is still a lot of people, and you may be one of them. Of course, it's desirable. As with brains and beauty, you're lucky if you're in the top 1% and you should feel good about it. 2. The experts are sleep experts, and they've got an economic interest in lack of sleep as a problem.

I also read "19 Successful People Who Barely Sleep," which is from 2012, so it predates the aggressive get-Trump era. It quotes Trump saying: "How does somebody that's sleeping 12 and 14 hours a day compete with someone that's sleeping three or four?"

Here's another quote from Donald Trump: "Don’t sleep any more than you have to. I usually sleep about four hours per night." He's not telling people to cut back on their sleep if they need more, just informing us of what should be obvious: Stop when you've had enough.

The man who wrote the first episode of "Star Trek" and the "Nothing In The Dark" episode of "Twilight Zone"...

... George Clayton Johnson, has died at the age of 86.

Johnson also wrote the original "Ocean's 11" and the book (made into a movie) "Logan's Run." "Logan's Run" is the story about a wonderful, entertaining society that executes its citizens when they turn 30.

"Nothing In The Dark" is the "Twilight Zone" in which the unknown young actor named Robert Redford played Death and got inside the house of an old woman who'd been determined to keep Death from entering. Here, somebody compressed the episode into a 2-minute version:

December 29, 2015

How did I miss this impropaganda?

"You could've at least let Rosa sit at the front of the logo @HillaryClinton."

That's from almost a month ago. I'm only seeing it now in this NYT piece "When Presidential Candidates Go Too Far on Social Media: #FeetInMouth." That is, it's part of a collection that has blunders from other candidates to dilute it.

The NYT has referred to it once before, not when it happened, but in the depths of a December 23rd article called "Hillary Clinton Is ‘Not My Abuela,’ Critics Say." And I must give the NYT credit for doing a full article on that Abuela thing, which, to self-criticize, I never attended to.

Blogging the end of the year.

Looking around at various websites, I see lots of articles with best/worst lists and other summing up of the year. I seem to remember reading that the reason these things exist is that they can be prepared in advance thus allowing writers to take the week off between Christmas and New Year's. I never do that. I get up every single morning and write on this blog as I have since January 2004. The posts are never prepared in advance and are always based on material I'm reading as I'm blogging (or thoughts and events that have just occurred in my real life). But reading those other things, I do think maybe I should have a year-end feature or 2.

In the first few years of the blog, I had 2 things that I did. One was quotes of the year — all quotes from blog posts I'd done. For example, here are the quotes of the year from 2005. One of them is: "He's crushing his testicles in tight trousers for world peace." (John Lydon insulting Bono.) And here's one from Hillary: "They will do what they think is in their interest, however they define it." (She was a Senator, predicting how her Democratic Party colleagues would vote on the nomination of John Roberts.) And one of my all-time favorite quotes: "I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos and murder." (Werner Herzog in "Grizzly Man.")

The other thing was "A year in the life of the blog," which picked one post from each month of the blog. Here's the one from 2005, which began with "January: I just wrecked my car." (Comments were off back then, if you're wondering why that didn't get more of a reaction.) That year also had "July: Tattoos remind you of death," which for a long time, I viewed as my template for what I thought a blog post should be. (Comments were on by then, and there's Meade in the comments — Meade, whom I met and married 4 years later.) And here's the year-in-the-life post for 2006: "Live-blogging the Bloggership conference!" (at Harvard Law School, back when lawprofs were excited about Bloggership) and "Arches" (with lots of photographs of the national park including one where you can see the car that replaced the one that I'd wrecked the year before — the car I still have).

I'm not sure when I stopped. It's a big undertaking going through all the post of the year to pick something from each month or give all the quotes a chance at immortality. There tend to be about 4,000 posts a year. I must have felt it was some kind of duty or ritual that only I cared about and no one would notice if it stopped, the way nobody noticed when my "History of" project topped out at Guinea-Bissau.

But I'm inviting suggestions — do another year-of-quotes post, another year-in-the-life post, return to "the History of," or something else methodical... but what?

Martin O'Malley: "The very last event of the night, we actually had a whopping total of one person show up..."

"... but by God, he was glad to see me. So we spent the time with him... So I wasn't surprised that he was uncommitted. But I was glad he took the time to come out in the snow to see me. We almost canceled that last event but we were out there anyway, so we plowed through."

Aw. Here's the sweet/dismal/tragic/hilarious scene:

(Via Sara Beckman.)

That's about it for the military's robo-dog.

"It was designed to carry at least 400 pounds of supplies and be able to follow Marines through rugged terrain that regular vehicles wouldn’t be able to traverse, like a robotic pack mule." But it was gas-powered and too noisy. They tried a smaller one with an electric engine, but it could only carry 40 pounds, less than half the weight a Marine carries. Not much use. The project is now abandoned, but here's how it looked back when the dream of a military robo-dog lived:

"After five minutes of talking to you in pre-op. I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit."

Said the the anesthesiologist to the unconscious patient, who was recording the whole thing on his cell phone as he underwent a colonoscopy. But don't feel too sorry for the man. He's getting half a million dollars after a 3-day jury trial.
“I’ve never heard of a case like this,” said Lee Berlik, a Reston lawyer who specializes in defamation law. He said comments between doctors typically would be privileged, but the Vienna man claimed his recording showed that there was at least one and as many as three other people in the room during the procedure and that they were discussing matters beyond the scope of the colonoscopy.
"I wanted to punch you in the face and man you up a little bit" isn't defamatory, but the anesthesiologist also commented on a rash, calling it "some syphilis on your arm or something" and "It’s probably tuberculosis in the penis, so you’ll be all right." Since he did not have syphilis or tuberculosis, that was a false statement. I would have thought the best argument is anyone who heard the remark would have understood it as a joke.

If Donald Trump isn't a fascist, how about calling him a Know-Nothing?

John Cassidy, in The New Yorker, tries "Donald Trump Isn’t a Fascist; He’s a Media-Savvy Know-Nothing." Various people are trying to wreck Trump by calling him a fascist, and Cassidy doesn't exactly want to absolve Trump of the charge...
Originally used as a collective noun for the murderous, revolutionary hypernationalist movements that emerged in Europe from the embers of the First World War, the word is often employed today as a catch-all term of abuse for right-wing racists and rabble-rousers. Trump certainly qualifies as one of the latter, but calling him a Fascist serves to obscure rather than illuminate what he is really about.
... he just wants to find something that works.
Part of the problem is a definitional one. Even historians who have spent their lives studying Fascism can’t agree on what the word means.... 
Once something becomes an insult — like "asshole" — it loses its particular meaning and at some point it doesn't even hurt. But if you could get all historical about what "fascist" means, you'd have to admit Trump isn't a fascist:

Russia has built an Orthodox church in Antarctica....

... built from logs from Siberia, which you can see in a photo that illustrates a NYT article called "Countries Rush for Upper Hand in Antarctica."

It made me think of the old Bob Dylan song "I Shall Be Free No. 10":
Well, I don’t know, but I’ve been told
The streets in heaven are lined with gold
I ask you how things could get much worse
If the Russians happen to get up there first
Wowee! pretty scary!
That song is from 1964 and the reference is to the race to get to the moon. We'd been led to feel that it would be a disaster if the Russians got there first:
[I]f we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny... Now it is time to take longer strides--time for a great new American enterprise....
Make America great again. I think President Kennedy said that.

"Conservatives tend to be a lot more reactive to negative information and they also tend to be a lot more insular in nature..."

"... and they also tend to have less tolerance for ambiguity. Conservatives would prefer a negative concrete statement to a slightly positive, uncertain statement."

For the annals of Things You Can Find a Professor to Say, quoted in a NYT article titled "Donald Trump’s Unstoppable Virality," by Emma Roller.

I'd love to know what Roller asked to get the professor — Bradley M. Okdie, a social psychologist at Ohio State University at Newark — to say that and how many other professors she talked to before getting Okdie to dish up the perfect quote.

Roller continues:
With his us vs. them invective and his refusal to denounce hate-filled speech from some of his supporters, Mr. Trump is an echo chamber for certain corners of the far right, as evinced by his popularity with white nationalists and the so-called alt-right movement of mostly online activists.

“Donald Trump is telling them something they already believe, and they’re sharing it because they want other people to believe it too,” Professor [Jeff] Hemsley, who studies virality, said.
There's zero acknowledgment that Roller is part of the anti-Trump's effort at virality and that she's working on talking to NYT readers about what they already believe. She's putting out concrete negative statements that lack nuance — Trump's "hate-filled" speech, etc. — and must hope for virality.

But, sure: What a puzzle! Why is Trump so much more viral than everything else that people are trying to get to go viral? Maybe if Roller and others would use the subtle intellect that they like to think they have to analyze what Trump is actually saying rather than instantly repackaging it as white supremacy, nativism, and bigotry, they might learn something about why this man has been so effective.

It's easier to massage your usual readers about how the people who are not them are the ones with the low tolerance for ambiguity.

December 28, 2015

"Earlier this year, he said he had switched from his usual drink, Jack Daniels and Coke, to a healthier alternative: orange juice and vodka."

"'Apparently I am still indestructible,' he said."

RIP, Lemmy. He was 70.

I just relistened to his interview with Marc Maron, from last September. You can listen here.

"My curiosity was way bigger than fear, so I jumped into the water and go close to it."

"This squid was not damaged and looked lively, spurting ink and trying to entangle his tentacles around me. I guided the squid toward to the ocean, several hundred meters from the area it was found in, and it disappeared into the deep sea."

"No charges for Cleveland police officers in shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice."

WaPo reports. 
“The outcome will not cheer anyone, nor should it,” [Cuyahoga County prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty] said. “Simply put, given this perfect storm of human error, mistakes and miscommunications by all involved that day, the evidence did not indicate criminal conduct by police.... The death of Tamir Rice was an absolute tragedy but it was not, by the law that binds us, a crime...”

"What’s here? There’s no swimming pool, no basketball court. There are rattlesnakes and wild boar, and it’s 110 degrees."

"In the middle of nowhere. Wind gusts blowing. Dust getting in your mouth. It’s not for the faint of heart."

Governor Jerry Brown describes his 2,514-acre property, where he and his wife stay in what definitely deserves the term "tiny house." And it's not poshly tiny like those NYC apartments in the news today. There's an outhouse and no electricity.
“You know what I like?” Mr. Brown asked. “You get up in the middle of the night, the stars are very bright, the moon shining on the barn. It makes for a good balance between the intensity of the political and the serenity of the land.”

"Why so many Dutch people work part time."

#1 on The Economist's list of its 10 most popular "explainers" of 2015.

The "linguistic contortions" the Obama adminstration uses to "mask" the "boots on the ground" that are the Special Operations forces.

Explained in the NYT:
“You know, when I said, ‘No boots on the ground,’ I think the American people understood generally that we’re not going to do an Iraq-style invasion of Iraq or Syria with battalions that are moving across the desert,” [President Obama has] said.

Defense Secretary Carter, in a discussion this month about a new deployment of as many as 200 troops, including scores of Special Operations forces, to Iraq to conduct raids and gather intelligence, spoke in Pentagon jargon. He called it a “specialized expeditionary targeting force.”

Senior American officials disagree on what exactly these troops will be doing, with top aides to Mr. Obama playing down any fighting role. “This is not a combat mission,” one senior administration official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal directives to the Pentagon. “This is to enable partners.”

But in a conference call with reporters on Dec. 2, Col. Steven H. Warren, a military spokesman in Baghdad, said, “I mean, a raid is a combat operation. There is no way around that. So, yeah, more Americans will be coming here to Iraq, and some of them will be conducting raids inside of both Iraq and Syria.”

So I downloaded Yik Yak, because I wanted to see what the students around here are talking about.

The #1 thing seems to be that the professors haven't put their grades in yet.

"Trump ties with Pope Francis in U.S. poll for second most-admired man in the world."

Funniest headline of the day. At Politico. The poll is from Gallup, and Trump and Francis aren't tied for #1. Obama is #1. He got 13%. The Trump and Francis numbers combined are less than that. And Hillary's #1 on the women's list. #1 for the 20th time, which is 7 more times than Eleanor Roosevelt. So calm down Trumpions.

"What if I told you that I’m sexist? Well, I am.... To make things worse, I’m an academic, a philosopher..."

Writes Emory philosophy professor George Yancy, purporting to free himself from "the lies that we men like to tell ourselves — that we are beyond the messiness of sexism and male patriarchy, that we don’t oppress women."
This doesn’t mean that I intentionally hate women or that I desire to oppress them. It means that despite my best intentions, I perpetuate sexism every day of my life.... As a sexist, I have failed women. I have failed to speak out when I should have. I have failed to engage critically and extensively their pain and suffering in my writing. I have failed to transcend the rigidity of gender roles in my own life. I have failed to challenge those poisonous assumptions that women are “inferior” to men or to speak out loudly in the company of male philosophers who believe that feminist philosophy is just a nonphilosophical fad. I have been complicit with, and have allowed myself to be seduced by, a country that makes billions of dollars from sexually objectifying women, from pornography, commercials, video games, to Hollywood movies. I am not innocent.

I have been fed a poisonous diet of images that fragment women into mere body parts. I have also been complicit with a dominant male narrative that says that women enjoy being treated like sexual toys. In our collective male imagination, women are “things” to be used for our visual and physical titillation. And even as I know how poisonous and false these sexist assumptions are, I am often ambushed by my own hidden sexism. I continue to see women through the male gaze that belies my best intentions not to sexually objectify them. Our collective male erotic feelings and fantasies are complicit in the degradation of women. And we must be mindful that not all women endure sexual degradation in the same way.
I skimmed this when it came out, on Christmas Eve and have had half a mind to write about it since then. My original idea of what I wanted to say has faded, mainly because I'm reading these 2 paragraphs more closely and realize that he's not admitting to much, in fact, he's promoting himself as a man who understands feminist critique and is aspiring to win admiration for trying to rid himself of aspects of sexism that most men (I think) are not willing to regard as sexism.

I mean, look at these failings. Not transcending the rigidity of gender roles in his own life? (A humblebrag? He's so inherently masculine.) Insufficient loudness in contradiction of male philosophers who diminish feminist philosophy? Acceptance of Hollywood movies? Lack of mindfulness? Lax inclusion in something called the collective male imagination? The real point here is that all men are necessarily embedded in sexism, an affirmative effort is needed to escape from it, he's so enlightened he knows that, and he's so good that he's striving and straining to escape.

On first read, however, I thought the confession of sexism was more damning, and I was going to blog about how a professor is admitting that he subjects his students to different conditions based on their sex, and that is, as a legal matter, sex discrimination. The line "I continue to see women through the male gaze that belies my best intentions not to sexually objectify them" is, actually, rather damning.

On the theory that the confession was damning, I wanted to ask: Why did Yancy feel free to write that? And I wanted to answer: If you go to the link, you'll see that the column is not about sexism. It's about racism. It's called "Dear White America." Yancy is a black man, and he'd like the collective entity called White America to recognize that we are necessarily embedded in racism, and his detailing of his own sexism is presented as a model of how to examine yourself and find the problem in you even though you resist and like to think of yourself as not belonging to the benighted crowd known as racists. So Yancy feels free to write that he's a sexist because it's part of an essay about the racism of white people.

But I felt he was endangering himself, even as he lured others into endangering themselves. Come on, watch me confess. It's good. It's just what we need. But how does he know that? What confidence can we have that this soul-baring exercise will work out well? He is perhaps overconfident, because he enjoys certain privilege as he speaks about race, but he could be wrong about how his confession will be received. Once the words are said, you lose control, and other people, with other agendas, will use those words against you. Ironically, his confidence is patriarchal. He seems to think women will appreciate his efforts and enfold him. Shouldn't part of the confession have been that he assumes women are nice and nurturing and incapable of fighting too hard?

Having done my second read, I have to say, you can follow his model of confessing to racism, but work on your skills. Put your confession in carefully honed writing, and ensure that it works to make you look better than virtually everyone else — the overt racists and the blind, benighted white people who won't admit to being racists. Think you can do that?

Now that The Beatles are streaming on Spotify, what are the top-10 most-streamed songs.

The streaming began on Christmas eve, and here's the top 10:
(1) "Come Together"; (2) "Hey Jude"; (3) "Here Comes the Sun"; (4) "Let It Be"; (5) "Twist and Shout"; (6) "Blackbird"; (7) "I Want to Hold Your Hand"; (8) "In My Life"; (9) "She Loves You"; (10) "Help!"

Once, Hillary Clinton "went undercover" as a white woman in the South.

The NYT has an article "How Hillary Clinton Went Undercover to Examine Race in Education" that gets this comment:
As a 75-year old African-American am I supposed to be impressed by yet another piece of Clinton-propaganda from the NYTimes?? No thank you; been there, seen all of that and more, and find this effort to be sorely lacking in journalistic seriousness or any other kind of objective informational service. Has the intervening 43 years of history made a difference in us, her, the US? I'm beginning to have my doubts. Not to mention how a White female goes "undercover" in the White south?? What was she pretending to be, or not to be?
ADDED: To answer the question, Hillary was undercover in the sense that she was pretending to be a mother who wanted to place her child in a private school — in Dothan, Alabama in 1972 — and seeking to be assured that there would be no black children in the school. Hillary was a Yale law student, working on a project designed to test whether schools were engaged in race discrimination. The NYT portrays this work as daring:
“It was dangerous, being outsiders in these rural areas, talking about segregation academies,” said Cynthia G. Brown, a longtime education advocate who did work similar to Mrs. Clinton’s. She added, “We thought we were part of the civil rights struggle, definitely.”
So she was "undercover" in the sense that she was winning the confidence of people who would have closed themselves off to her if they knew what she was trying to do to them. If this is, indeed, propaganda for Hillary Clinton, it has a downside. She's good going undercover, winning confidence to get to a place where she can pursue an agenda, which, if known, would have caused people to keep her out? That's not, generally, the message a presidential candidate wants to send.

December 27, 2015

"When I can present myself as a woman (or a girl), I often feel better than my usual self, more present in my body..."

"... I am not model-pretty, and sometimes not even comfortable (tights can be scratchy; so can newly shaved chest hair), but I am more at home in the physical world, as well as excited by the relative novelty of what I get to wear, from silver flats to ruffly Swiss dot tops. I’d dress like that all the time if I felt I could do it well without half an hour of prep work when it’s time to get out the door with our kids in the morning, without distracting my students, and without disorienting the people around me who have got used to Stephen or Steve. That is to say that while I enjoy being Stephanie—I’d hate to give it up—I am not unhappy enough about my male body, my life as a guy, to spend the energy, money, and time required to live as a woman from day to day (in the parlance, 'go full-time'), as other varieties of trans people do. Stephanie is not somebody else I created but a better, an aspirational, version of me—I don’t even stop my friends from calling me Stephen, though I’d rather be called, when in drag, by my feminine name. I am at once, 'on the inside,' Stephen and Stephanie, and I write poems and personal essays about how it feels to be the internally divided, multiple, transgender me."

From "Mansplaining Cross-Dressing," a New Yorker essay (published in January 2014), by Stephen Burt, whom I was just looking up because he's got a book review in the NYT today. That old New Yorker essay called to mind a new piece in The New Yorker, which is mostly about Jill Soloway, the writer/director of the TV show "Transparent," but has this really interesting bit about Eileen Myles, who's described (awkwardly) as "a protégé of Allen Ginsberg’s who wrote the cult classic 'Chelsea Girls.'" (That means Myles wrote "Chelsea Girls.") I liked this:
“I grew up thinking I was a boy and praying to God I’d become male,” Myles told me. “Jill says, ‘Why don’t you identify as trans?’ It’s like, I don’t want to make it your business to call me ‘he.’ I’m happy complicating what being a woman, a dyke, is. I’m the gender of Eileen.”... I asked Myles if, as a poet, she struggled to refer to an individual person as “they.” She said, “It’s not intuitive at all. But I’m obsessed with that part in the Bible when Jesus is given the opportunity to cure a person possessed by demons, and Jesus says, ‘What is your name?’ And the person replies, ‘My name is legion.’ Whatever is not normative is many.” She liked the idea of a person containing more than one self, more than one gender. “Part of it is just the fiction of being alive,” she said. “Every step, you’re making up who you are.”

We drove out into the Driftless Area of Wisconsin....

... where a bit of sun caught a green patch....


We got out and walked the Table Bluff segment of the Ice Age Trail...


... then back into the car, to drive home, with a stop at Culver's....


"Brothers and sisters, as I have said and repeated many times, nobody consulted me about ascending Jesús de la Merced to the rank of general in the army."

Archbishop Oscar Vian said, after local media picked up the story that a parish priest had announced, in a Christmas Eve mass, that a beloved statue was going to be promoted the rank of general in the Guatemalan army.

The statue, Jesús de la Merced, was already a colonel in the army, having received that rank during the 19th century cholera epidemic. The statue's 300th anniversary is coming up, so it was believable that the statue would become a general, but the parish priest had it wrong.

"I think every person in the United States has a right to an opinion on that, which he can express publicly except for me."

"And if I have an opinion, I might talk to my wife about it, but I'm not going to talk to you."

Said Justice Breyer to ABC's Jonathan Karl, who was pushing him to say what he thought of Donald Trump's plan to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

AND: We watched nearly all the Sunday shows this morning, and we were laughing at all of the talk of Trump. The Trump name was wedged into just about everything. But it was Jonathan Karl who had the interview with Trump. Keep an eye out for that video. It's pretty amusing. Karl is practically a puppy dog in his eagerness to let Trump know that ABC should be his go-to stop for dropping a Sunday interview.

Consider "Mein Grundeinkommen" — "My Basic Income" — just giving every German 1,000 euros a month.

The amount is "less than half the average German monthly wage, but more than twice what those on welfare receive." Right now, it's just an experiment, with 26 participants, but the idea is to see what people do with what lefties promote as "emancipatory" and — I'm guessing — most people think of as disastrous overspending that would wreck the incentive to work.

In Finland, there's a new program that will pay everyone $900 a month (but it won't begin until 2017). But that program cuts all other government benefits, saving the government the costs of administration and means-testing. It's a safety net for everyone, and it eliminates gaming the system. You can then make whatever income you want on top of that.

And Germany already pays $200 per month "for all children and young adults up to the age of 25 as long as they are in school or at college, which are also free of charge." But what about adults of working age?
"A basic income paid out to everyone could unleash enormous amounts of creativity," said [Michael Bohmeyer, 31, who runs the "My Basic Income" project].... "Machines are going to be taking care of just about everything for us over time.... So to be able to work creatively, people need some security, they need to feel free. And they can get that with a basic income."
What are the participants in the project doing? There's...
... a woman who said she wanted to use the income to "spend more time with her children and do volunteer work"; another woman who said she wanted "to be able to live my dreams and give something back"; a third woman who said she wanted "to develop a theater production"; a man who said he would use the money "to hire a new employee to help my ecological vegetable garden business grow"; and a fourth woman who wrote she "wants to wake up happy every day, to travel more and support other artists."...
If you know you're being studied in an experiment, doesn't it ruin the experiment? You've got an extra incentive to do admirable things and help prove the theory of Unleashing Enormous amounts of Creativity. If it became routine and everyone got it and no one was monitored, there would be a lot of lazing about, eating and drinking, and watching TV, and not even the really high-quality shows you're proud to say you watch, I bet.

This reminds me of the famous Nancy Pelosi remark about Obamacare: "We see it as an entrepreneurial bill. A bill that says to someone, if you want to be creative and be a musician or whatever, you can leave your work, focus on your talent, your skill, your passion, your aspirations because you will have health care. You won’t have to be job locked."

The kooky old dream of more artists.

"Dr. Spitzer’s remaking of psychiatry began with an early interest in one of the least glamorous and, historically, most ignored corners of the field: measurement."

"In the early 1960s, the field was fighting to sustain its credibility, in large part because diagnoses varied widely from doctor to doctor. For instance, a patient told he was depressed by one doctor might be called anxious or neurotic by another. The field’s diagnostic manual, at the time a pamphlet-like document rooted in Freudian ideas, left wide latitude for the therapist’s judgment. Dr. Spitzer, a rising star at Columbia University, was himself looking for direction, increasingly frustrated with Freudian analysis. A chance meeting with a colleague working on a new edition of the manual — the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the D.S.M. for short — led to a job taking notes for the committee debating revisions. There, he became fascinated with reliable means for measuring symptoms and behavior — i.e., assessment.... One of the first behaviors he scrutinized was homosexuality, which at the time was listed in the manual as a mental disorder. Dr. Spitzer, after meeting with gay advocates, began re-examining homosexuality based on whether it caused any measurable distress. The issue was extremely contentious, but in 1973, Dr. Spitzer engineered a deal by which the diagnosis was replaced by 'sexual orientation disturbance,' to describe people whose sexual orientation, gay or straight, caused them distress."

Dr. Robert L. Spitzer died last Friday at the age of 83.

What if Americans stopped believing the travel propaganda?

You'd get articles in The Daily Beast with titles like "American Tourists Quit Trying to Understand the World/The United States initiated a new golden age of travel. Now terrorism and fear-mongering by demagogues is grounding the project."

"Fear-mongering by demagogues" is propaganda, but so is taunting people about not engaging in tourism — saying they've caved to fear-mongering demagogues — and portraying tourists as engaged in a lofty pursuit of "understanding the world."

There are pro and con arguments for traveling and for not traveling, and people weigh the pros and cons for themselves. I don't see the rationality of declaring that those who decide not to travel are irrational. You could be rational or irrational either way.

The writer of this Daily Beast piece, Clive Irving, is a senior consulting editor at Condé Nast Traveler, so he's interested in promoting travel and boosting the mood of the people who choose to spend the money, make the effort, and take the risks of traveling and looking down on those of us who lean toward thrift, comfort, and safety. The prime argument is that the travelers are genuinely interested in learning about the people of the world and that those who stay at home are not. Here's Irving:
Mass tourism swamped iconic destinations like Venice and the French Riviera. But the real travelers—as opposed to the tourists—were no longer blinkered by a Eurocentric idea of what constituted a civilized culture. To these people the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia became as important to see as the cathedral at Chartres, or Kyoto, the old imperial capital of Japan, as spellbinding as the ruins of ancient Rome.
Notice what's not there: the people who actually live in these foreign lands. These are lovely old sites. I went to Rome. Upon arrival, I was robbed, but later I saw the ruins of ancient Rome. I can honestly say I was not "spellbound." Yes, this is the place that I've long known about, these stones are the stones... but the value lies in what I know because I've read about ancient Rome, and it is more reading that has a shot at spellbinding me. Do the people who travel have a more wide-ranging mind than the people who read and think about the world? Anyway, as Irving observes, places like the ancient ruins of Rome have tourists walking all over the place. And I'm sure Angkor Wat has tourists walking into your camera shots trying to get you out of their camera shots, even though these shots are unlikely to be as good as a hundred photographs you could see right now by Googling for images of Angkor Wat (or watching the last season of "Survivor").

More from Irving:
By traveling, Americans had found out for themselves that abroad was, in reality, a complex and volatile place where people did not immediately accept American exceptionalism, had a pride in their own differences and values—and were prepared to debate them with open minds.
Who travels to a foreign country and engages the locals in debates about American exceptionalism? Or does Irving really mean that by traveling, an American can absorb some snubs and sneers from people who don't like Americans for reasons that will not be explained on the scene but could be grasped through reading and thinking.

There is a lot of detail in Irving's article about "the indignities and frustrations" of airports and airplanes and quite an effort to tie these problems to what he sees as an overreaction to terrorism. He says that after terrorist attacks Americans are "less resilient" than Europeans:
The San Bernardino slaughter.... produced a completely disproportionate change of mood, turned uglier after being fueled by politicians, building on foundations laid by imbecilic xenophobes like Ann Coulter.
Nothing reinforces ignorance more than isolationism. Fear of “the other” intensifies as people retreat behind barricades in their minds, while the actual physical barricades fail to produce enduring security. Reinforced borders and walls promote friction and conflict, not contact. Personal contact—the kind of contact that breaks barriers of attitude, language, religion, and ideology—comes only through experiencing the change of landscapes, senses, and feel of places that is the essence of travel.
I question this belief in the kind of "personal contact" you can get from foreign travel. You can trek all over the place and still be quite ignorant, and I suspect the locals mostly look at the tourists as ignoramuses. Why wouldn't they? And as for the "retreat[ing] behind barricades in their minds," we're all in our own mind. There's no way out. You have never traveled beyond your own skull and you never will. The promotion of travel — an expensive, time-consuming, arduous activity — as the only way to understand the world is propaganda. There are other ways to develop your mind, notably the thing you are doing right now.

ADDED: I wonder if these people who believe they're understanding the people of the world through travel ever consider spending more time in the poorer neighborhoods of their own city and getting to know the immigrants who live in their town? Why not contribute the money you would have spent on travel to a charity that serves this population and then volunteer for some activities that might involve you in real relationships with some of these immigrants? If that doesn't seem like a viable alternative to you, then why take pride in the imagined superiority of yourself as a traveler?

AND: I would love to see Skara Brae, but I'm seeing other people standing around even in the pictures on the Internet: