February 22, 2014

"Ukraniains streamed to see Viktor Yanukovich's luxury estate... closed off...for nearly a decade, and... were confronted by the scale of the opulence he built around him."

"Ukrainian security and volunteers from among Independence Square protesters have joined forces to protect the presidential countryside retreat from vandalism and looting.... Hundreds of people entered the grounds but not one has entered the building itself...."

"If the government is entitled to require that female contraceptives be provided to women free of charge, we have trouble understanding how signing the form..."

"... that declares Notre Dame’s authorized refusal to pay for contraceptives for its students or staff, and mailing the authorization document to those companies, which under federal law are obligated to pick up the tab, could be thought to 'trigger' the provision of female contraceptives."

Wrote Judge Posner
, for the 7th Circuit panel that upheld the district judge's denial of a preliminary injunction. The claim is based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a federal statute, which requires the federal government refrain from substantial burdens on religion unless they are necessary to meet a compelling government interest. Posner finds it hard to see the burden in signing a 2-page form that's mostly "boring boilerplate."

Judge Flaum dissented:
We are judges, not moral philosophers or theologians; this is not a question of legal causation but of religious faith. Notre Dame tells us that Catholic doctrine prohibits the action that the government requires it to take. So long as that belief is sincerely held, I believe we should defer to Notre Dame’s understanding.

2 conversations I listened to today (with great pleasure).

1. The Sartorialist, Steve Schuman, talking about photographing fashion on the streets and his devotion — even as many other offers come his way — to blogging and to sincere self-expression.

2. Lena Dunham talks to Bill Simmons about "Girls" (establishing her distance from her character Hannah) and about the pop music and TV and movies that have influenced her.

Yanukovych flees Kiev, denouncing "vandalism, banditism and a coup d’état," and Yulia Tymoshenko is freed.

"With nobody clearly in charge, other than the so far remarkably disciplined fighting squads, lieutenants of Ms. Tymoshenko moved to fill the power vacuum."
With Oleksandr V. Turchynov, a former acting prime minister and close ally of Ms. Tymoshenko, presiding over the Parliament, her Fatherland party seemed to be in charge, at least temporarily.

With a veto-proof majority of more than 300 of the 450 seats, Mr. Turchynov guided the Parliament through the constitutional process of declaring the president unable to fulfill his duties and setting a date for new elections.

At the Wrestlers Café...

... we're just playing!

"The white man demands that the black man entertain him?"

A sarcastic question, by Freeman Hunt, in the comments to last night's post, which was about a Jeffrey Toobin piece in The New Yorker that savaged Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas for not speaking during oral argument. "Thomas is simply not doing his job," Toobin wrote. I had highlighted the racial issue like this:
If the politics were reversed — and Thomas were liberal and Toobin conservative — I doubt if Toobin would have exposed himself to the risk of accusations of racism.
Freeman went on a much harsher attack, asking the question above, then, a few minutes later, posting this (with quote marks around what is her version of what Toobin seems to be saying):
"Why don't that lazy black man put on a show for me? You git to performin' now, ya hear!"

And this in The New Yorker!
Somebody send Toobin a white suit, a cane, and a hankie.

If he doesn't have them already.
And (beginning with another paraphrase in quotes):
"A-leanin' back in a fancy chair like he's somethin'! You tell that boy to sit up straight and look them white men in they eyes."

Is that what his editor had to craft into what is now the piece we read here?
Here's the material from the actual Toobin piece, as published in The New Yorker, that provoked that paraphrase:
In his first years on the Court, Thomas would rock forward, whisper comments about the lawyers to his neighbors Breyer and Kennedy, and generally look like he was acknowledging where he was. These days, Thomas only reclines; his leather chair is pitched so that he can stare at the ceiling, which he does at length. He strokes his chin. His eyelids look heavy. Every schoolteacher knows this look. It’s called "not paying attention."
Schoolteacher? The editor didn't even take the trouble to expunge every tell.

"[T]he system rewards skaters who know how to game it. And Sotnikova did."

Is that supposed to sound like something's wrong?

These are the Olympic Games. Knowing how the game is played and playing it to get the best score is exactly what it means to win a game. I don't get this attack on Adelina Sotnikova's victory. Yuna Kim may have looked more lovely and mature, but she achieved that in part by choosing a lower level of difficulty. She knew the risk of playing the game that way, and she didn't act like a bad sport when her strategy failed. Her admirers did, however. I'm irked by their babyishness in support of the older woman's approach to the game.

"Why Is It So Hard for Women to Write About Sex?"

A question that is the title of another article in that new issue of The Atlantic that I'm reading this morning. (See my 2 other posts, one about the supposed "Dark Power of Fraternities" and the other about a "scene" composed of men who like to wear masks to make them look like heavily made-up women.)

"Why Is It So Hard for Women to Write About Sex?" I have a better question: Why is it so not hard to write a blog post about an article titled "Why Is It So Hard for Women to Write About Sex?" Answer: Because it's funny to predict that the question will be answered with the usual claptrap about how complex and elaborately nuanced and just generally better women are than men and then to check to see whether it is.

Another answer would be: It's so hard for women to write about sex because it's hard for anyone to write about sex.

"How can man know himself? He is a dark and hidden thing."

Said Nietzsche, quoted in the Wall Street Journal's review of the book "Mindwise" by Nicholas Epley. If you can get past the subscription wall, there's an entrancing Robert Capa photograph of a man in a mask, furthering this blog's theme this morning. (If you can't see it there, see it here.)

There's also this excerpt, for what it's worth:
Consider, Mr. Epley says, the differences between Adolf Hitler and Saddam Hussein. In September 1938, Neville Chamberlain, as well as other leaders around the world, believed Hitler when he said he wouldn't invade Czechoslovakia (turns out he was just buying time to get his invading forces maximally prepared). Some six decades later, President George W. Bush, as well as other leaders around the world, failed to believe Saddam Hussein when he said he had no weapons of mass destruction. (He didn't, though according to the postwar Iraq Survey Group's conclusions, he valued the ambiguity as a deterrent and led even his own army to conclude that he did.)
IN THE COMMENTS: Quoting the part about Saddam, dhp said:
The best way to lie is to tell the truth unconvincingly.
Which raises the question whether Bush lied when he expressed a belief in the lie Saddam told in the form of telling the truth unconvincingly.  Did Bush correctly perceive that Saddam intended to be disbelieved and then fall for the lie that Saddam did have WMD or did Bush mean to be taken as a liar who in fact knows that Saddam is trying to lie by telling what Bush knows is the truth, that Saddam does not have WMD?

"An astonishing number of CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, congressmen and male senators, and American presidents have belonged to fraternities."

A sentence that makes more sense if you know that it appears in the middle of an article titled "The Dark Power of Fraternities/A yearlong investigation of Greek houses reveals their endemic, lurid, and sometimes tragic problems — and a sophisticated system for shifting the blame."

The article is by Caitlin Flanagan, and it appears in the same new issue of The Atlantic as the article (linked in the previous post) that gave us a perfectly serious and sympathetic presentation of men who are fixated on wearing silicone rubber masks that depict exaggerated, heavily made-up female faces.

Caitlin Flanagan's name has appeared only once before on this blog, in a post titled: "Why did Caitlin Flanagan write such a poorly supported article on fraternities and rape?"
And why did the Wall Street Journal publish it? Was there a whole lot more material in the original article, which was then edited down to make Flanagan look utterly ridiculous?
I'm not going to spend the time with The Atlantic's "Dark Power" article to figure out whether it's better supported than the WSJ's Caitlin Flanagan article. I don't have that kind of time. The title is ludicrous, I can't imagine being astonished by whatever the number of CEOs and politicians is, and I'm just struck by the presence of this article in the same issue as that piece about the "masking scene."

"Kerry, the 'unofficial matriarch' of the female-masking scene."

Photo caption at an article at The Atlantic titled "What Men Find Behind Female Masks/Inside the increasingly common practice — and business — of female masking," which isn't about some figurative "mask" women wear as they interact with men, but about literal masks — "soft, flesh-like silicone rubber" things — that men wear.
“I thought that I've got to be the only person on the planet that has these feelings and these interests,” [Kerry] said. It wasn’t until the birth of the Internet two decades [after he became fascinated by rubber masks worn by female characters on the TV show 'Mission: Impossible'] that he discovered there was a thriving community of men who also enjoyed wearing female masks — which offered him both solace and an exciting business opportunity.
We're told that Kerry is married to a woman, that she's creeped out by the lined-up women's faces in his mask-making workshop, and that he therefore refrains from asking her to allow him to wear one of these masks while having sex with her. He fantasizes about it but figures that "the reality would be really, really disappointing."
"In a way I don't want to fetishize my wife. You know, I have sex with my wife because I love her. And I don't want to turn her into a sex object, if that makes any sense at all. Because the mask is a fetish object, that's the only thing it really exists for. Among cross-dressers and the like, there is often the thought that masking is a farce. That if a person were truly serious, they wouldn't hide behind a mask."...

"It does strike me odd though that people who practice some of the most socially unacceptable behaviors can also be the most prejudiced,” said T-Vyrus, 34 “in doll years,” a self-described “drag queen, tranny, female masker” and editor of masking magazine Hot Girls. “Among cross-dressers, shemales, trannies and the like, there is often the thought that masking isn't real, that it's a put on, a surrogate, a farce. The thought that if a person were truly serious, they wouldn't hide behind a mask."
Yes, isn't that always the question? What would you do if you were truly serious?

February 21, 2014

It's Saskia, today in the dog park.

This dog, with mismatched eyes, gets her owner's commands in Russian:

"No crotch shots. No mistress in Argentina. And no political vendettas featuring a bridge."

Politico's Elizabeth Titus squeezes a column out of how boring the Scott Walker email thing is by padding it with details about political scandals that were exciting.

"By refusing to acknowledge the advocates or his fellow-Justices, [Clarence] Thomas treats them all with disrespect."

"It would be one thing if Thomas’s petulance reflected badly only on himself, which it did for the first few years of his ludicrous behavior. But at this point, eight years on, Thomas is demeaning the Court. Imagine, for a moment, if all nine Justices behaved as Thomas does on the bench. The public would rightly, and immediately, lose all faith in the Supreme Court. Instead, the public has lost, and should lose, any confidence it might have in Clarence Thomas."

Writes The New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin, who probably never had any confidence in Thomas to lose. What Toobin calls "ludicrous," "petulan[t]," and "demeaning" behavior is simply Thomas's silence at oral argument. Toobin invites us to imagine all 9 Justices adopting Thomas's approach to oral argument and dictates how we'd all feel: We'd rightly, and immediately, lose all faith in the Supreme Court.

But that's absurd. If all 9 Justices decided they didn't want to ask questions of the lawyers in person, that would be the end of oral argument. The argument would be complete in its written form, in the briefs. What would be outrageous about that? Personally, I love the theater of oral argument, and I enjoy the early clues about what the Justices are thinking and what they might write in their opinions. And Justices showing up in public and speaking might give us some sense of security that these life-tenured characters are at least somewhat alive and lucid. But switching to putting it all in writing could be a perfectly rational and acceptable approach to accomplishing the work of an appellate court.

I assume Toobin knows the reason why Thomas says he refrains from speaking:
[H]e has said that he is silent out of simple courtesy. He has also complained about the difficulty of getting a word in edgewise on an exceptionally voluble bench.

“We look like ‘Family Feud,’ ” he told a bar group in 2000 in Richmond, Va.
If Toobin's hypothetical were to begin to come true — that is, if the other 8 Justices were to radically cut back on their continual talking, overtalking, and interrupting — we'd get a chance to find out whether Thomas's own explanation is what Toobin must think it is: a lie.

Let me make one last observation. Toobin all but calls Thomas lazy: "Thomas is simply not doing his job." If the politics were reversed — and Thomas were liberal and Toobin conservative — I doubt if Toobin would have exposed himself to the risk of accusations of racism.

ADDED: More here

"Many people who have not fairly tried it know not the value of snow for washing the face and hands."

"It is a genuine cosmetic prepared by Madame Nature without a particle of any poisonous vegetable, and offered to the public more from benevolence than any pecuniary motives, and particularly designed for the relief of all who are afflicted with an ugly skin. Try in the next light snow that falls. First rub the hands with a piece of bar soap till a sufficient quantity adheres, and then taking up a little snow, rub the hands with the snow and soap until the water drops so pure as not to stain the snow where it falls. Then proceed to the face, and if it does not procure the pure blush of health, you may rest assured there is nothing in the apothecary's shop... that will do it."

Beauty advice from 1837.

3 years ago in the Wisconsin Capitol...

It looked like this:

And the news came out that Madison schools would reopen (after a week of accommodating the teachers' desire to participate in the scene at the Capitol), and we learned that Jesse Jackson would was staging a rally at a local high school and the president-elect of Madison's teachers union was recommending classroom exercises:
Peggy Coyne, a Black Hawk Middle School reading specialist and president-elect of Madison Teachers Inc., said she plans to ask students to write journal entries Tuesday about what they did while classes were canceled the last four days. Coyne said teachers might also incorporate recent events into lessons about Wisconsin labor history.
At the time, I said: "Look, the teachers should leave the children out of their political struggle. They've already deprived them of nearly a week of the teaching they signed on to deliver. The students should receive, immediately, substantive educational lessons of the completely normal kind. Leave the politics, indoctrination, ideology, and political discipline out of the classroom."

Ted Nugent apologizes "for using the streetfighter terminology of 'subhuman mongrel'..."

"... instead of just using more understandable language, such as 'violator of his own- the Constitution.'"

"When most people check into a hotel and realize a large group of high school students are there, there is a hesitation as to if you really want to be checked into that hotel."

"Thankfully, the guests at one Kentucky hotel stuck around, even though 1,000 high school students were there. The Kentucky State Choir conference meets at the Louisville Hyatt every year. It is a tradition that every night of the conference, at 11 p.m., the students come out onto the balconies to sing the National Anthem."

"The man whose lips Rihanna ruthlessly mocked on the Internet — in front of nearly 12 million people — doesn't think it's racist..."

"... in fact, he's HAPPY she compared his mouth to a leather couch."

More artwork that the cleaning lady threw out.

"Works made out of newspaper and cardboard, and cookie pieces scattered across the floor as part of Sala Murat's display were thrown out."
It is not the first time artwork has been accidentally thrown away by a cleaner.

In 2001, a Damien Hirst installation at London's Eyestorm Gallery consisting of a collection of beer bottles, coffee cups and overflowing ashtrays was cleared away.

Later, in 2004, a bag of paper and cardboard by German artist Gustav Metzger was also thrown out while on a display at Tate Britain.
This is so predictable that I cannot believe that the cleaning people aren't well instructed when the artwork is at all mistakable for trash. Why wouldn't the insurance company require it? We're told the insurance company will fork over something like $14,000 for the lost cookies-n-cardboard. Saying so doesn't make it true, and if this is really a publicity stunt, we're receiving lies. But that's all I'm going to say about that, because I need to go photograph the wolf wandering in my hall right now.

"Soros-backed group pores over emails as it targets Walker."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports:
Organizers say they have committed about two dozen of their Washington, D.C.-based staff to poring over the 27,000 pages of emails.....
So about 1125 emails per staff member.  Guessing at the length of most emails, I say they can get their poring done in 2 days, max.
Larry Sabato, a prominent political analyst at the University of Virginia who had placed Walker atop his early list of Republican presidential hopefuls, said he didn't think the emails and documents hurt Walker.
"I would put a big red asterisk to anything I say," Sabato said, noting the huge number of documents could be hiding something damaging. "It could be Bridgegate. But I don't think it's like Bridgegate. I just don't think it is nearly as serious."
Yeah, also Bridgegate wasn't preceded by years of secret investigation by prosecutors. What do you think would be in there that we haven't heard about yet? Maybe some embarrassing little junky things that people jot down when they're emailing and imagining that they're more or less talking to the other person. We're going to have to get used to reading material like that and being reasonable about understanding this, but maybe everybody needs to see their side burned first.

For example — see previous post — what's in all that Department of Agriculture email that the Obama DOJ doesn't want to release in that Shirley Sherrod defamation case against Andrew Breitbart? What bad things did those insiders say in the course of decided to cut Sherrod loose? I doubt very much that it's something like: Now that Breitbart has established that Ms. Sherrod practices racial discrimination, we cannot keep her in her current position of power. It might be something more like: Sherrod is toxic. We can't let that get on us.

Has the Dalai Lama ever smoked pot?

"No. Never. These kinds of substances are generally considered poison, very bad. But for particular illnesses, this is sometimes deliberately used. So that’s up to the doctor, or up to scientists. The ability to judge reality is something very unique. Our brain is something very special. So if that is damaged, that’s awful. So alcohol and drugs are very bad."

"Judge rips feds in Sherrod-Breitbart lawsuit."

Now, this is interesting. From Josh Gerstein at Politico:
A federal judge delivered a severe tongue-lashing to a Justice Department lawyer Thursday, slamming the Obama Administration for its handling of demands for government records in the libel lawsuit fired Agriculture Department employee Shirley Sherrod filed against conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart.

During a 40-minute hearing, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon repeatedly ripped into the government and DOJ trial counsel David Glass for resisting requests from both sides in the case for government files and e-mails that might be of use in the litigation....
Release the email! We here in Wisconsin are deluged with internal emails relating to Scott Walker. Freedom of information is a bitch.
At the outset of Thursday's hearing, Leon lit into Glass for filing a 21-page statement outlining the government's position—a filing submitted electronically just after midnight Thursday along with a stack of nine exhibits. The judge called it "a self-serving pleading, not requested by anyone" and repeatedly suggested it was filed for "public relations" reasons rather than because it might be useful to the court....

"This is not a typical case.....This case involves someone who was fired by a cabinet officer....The government is not going to be able to slow roll this case," the judge insisted.
Leon, by the way, is the judge who ruled last December that the NSA surveillance program is a likely violation of the 4th Amendment, saying "I cannot imagine a more 'indiscriminate' and 'arbitrary invasion' than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every citizen...." He's a George W. Bush appointee and a former law clerk to Justice Clarence Thomas.

"Slow roll" is an intriguing expression to hear from a judge. It seems to originate in poker and to refer to some annoying taunting approaches to revealing your winning hand.

ADDED: Instapundit says:
I believe I said when this suit was filed that the discovery was likely to be interesting. If DOJ is stonewalling, it must be.
David Lat, quoting the government's memo, says:
The government is willing to produce the evidence that is directly relevant to matters actually at issue in the litigation. But as a non-party, it doesn’t want to get dragged into this mess more than necessary....

Eighty-three categories of document requests, plus a raft of deposition subpoenas, issued to a third party? This sounds a bit like a fishing expedition to me.

Are you in a happy state?

I am. Wisconsin has moved up from 20th to 14th. Meanwhile, North Dakota leapt from 19th to 1st.

In the end, are guns what killed CNN’s 'Piers Morgan Live'?"

Asks Rick Kissell at Variety.
There’s no way to quantify how much of a factor the discussion of gun control on “Piers Morgan Live” has contributed to its ratings (which were never all that great to begin with), but the show’s numbers have fallen more sharply since it became a frequent subject on the show.

Monday’s installment included discussion of the [Michael Dunn loud-music] murder trial and [George] Zimmerman’s assertion in a CNN interview with Chris Cuomo earlier that day that he was a victim.

HLN host Nancy Grace was among the guests, and she didn’t want to hear more gun-control talk from Morgan. “Are you back on gun control again?... If it weren’t for the British, we wouldn’t even have to have protections to carry guns. It was the British way back when they founded America. They were running through all of our homes trying to take our stuff. So we’re protected under the Constitution. So it’s not really right for a Brit to jump up and start talking to us about gun control.”
Nancy rants, but it's funny. Sit back down, Brit. We're still pissed about things you did 240 years ago. It's a bit early for one of your kind to be jumping up.

"I too agonized about getting into a good college... But no one told me at the age of 15 that I’d better focus all my energies on being absolutely perfect."

Writes Megan McArdle (who's got a new book on the importance of the freedom to fail). She says "we have become crazy on the subject of college":
Now, more than ever, we view a college degree as an absolute prerequisite for a minimally decent life. And if we’re in the upper middle class, it has to be a degree from an elite school. Kids who a generation or two ago would have gone to a local college, or the state university, are now applying to Harvard University. And since the number of slots at those elite colleges has barely budged, parents are essentially trying to push an ever-larger number of kids through a medium-sized funnel.
Back in the good old days, the finer families had an easier time putting their kids on the fast route to success. Now, with all these upstart proles horning in, it's time to tell everyone to calm down, back off, and quit trying so damned hard.

She doesn't mean to be saying that, but that's what I'm seeing between the lines. It seems to me that it's up to the individual to decide how competitive you want to be and what kind of competition you want to enter. That's going to change the mix of who ends up at Harvard and all the lesser institutions lined up underneath it. When it's packed with hyper-earnest, Little Miss Perfects, what will be the great benefit of having a friendship network of other people who went to Harvard?

And it's simply not true that "Now, more than ever, we view a college degree as an absolute prerequisite for a minimally decent life." Where I live, you can be governor without a college degree — governor and a hot prospect for next President of the United States. And Google gives me over 57 million hits on the search successful people who didn't finish college.

But McArdle probably knows her audience. They are those "we’re in the upper middle class, it has to be a degree from an elite school" people who look at their kid and think: Egad, what an insufferable drudge sprang forth from my loins and yet I must tiger-mom forward and ensure that the prize is mine hers.

"I’m not a global warming believer. I’m not a global warming denier."

"I’ve long believed that it cannot be good for humanity to be spewing tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. I also believe that those scientists who pretend to know exactly what this will cause in 20, 30 or 50 years are white-coated propagandists."

Says Charles Krauthammer, giving the "settled science" climatologists an easy opening for rebuttal — that word "exactly."

Who pretends to know exactly what will happen in the future?

Krauthammer may have some decent points here, but if you're going to call other people propagandists, you'd better strip your own writing of propaganda. Don't propagandize about propaganda. Or should I say: It takes one to know one.

Call Off The Wild.

Crying wolf was crying wolf.

The reason I put this up without an I'm skeptical tag is that a U.S. Olympic Team member put her name on it. America's team as a group would not pull a prank that disrespects the host country, and I would have thought that individual team members would be under some sort of ethical constraint not to appropriate the group's reputation to do something like this. I expressed that opinion to Meade just now, and he said athletes aren't that good.

ADDED: Scrolling through my recent "I'm skeptical" posts, I think that I see that I'm most skeptical of artists — the small-penis movie, the Ai Weiwei vase-breaking. I'm also skeptical of scientific studies and politicians. As for lawyers and judges... and journalists, I don't trust anyone whose milieu is words.

But I guess I had some credulity about athletes, some desire to see them as embodying an ideal of honor. Especially Olympic athletes. Ceremony, loftiness, deep dedication — that's the stock in trade of the telecast of The Games. If I'm not falling for that fantasy, why am I watching? Especially luge.

February 20, 2014

"What the ding-dong heck is going on if this is still something we're talking about?"

"I love that, with "the ding-dong heck.'"

I say "fucking hell" myself, but I think it's nice that Emma Thompson says "ding-dong heck" (answering the question "Are people writing better parts for women now?"), and funny that Oprah loved it.

"Respect others and if they have questions about Glass don’t get snappy."

"Be polite and explain what Glass does and remember, a quick demo can go a long way. In places where cell phone cameras aren’t allowed, the same rules will apply to Glass. If you’re asked to turn your phone off, turn Glass off as well. Breaking the rules or being rude will not get businesses excited about Glass and will ruin it for other Explorers."


"41% now believe 'stand your ground' laws improve public safety, up seven points from 34% in July."

"Thirty-four percent (34%) think such laws undermine public safety, unchanged from the earlier survey. Eleven percent (11%) say the laws have no real impact on public safety, while 15% are not sure."

The July poll was right after the George Zimmerman verdict.

"The protests in the Maidan, we are told again and again by Russian propaganda and by the Kremlin’s friends in Ukraine, mean the return of National Socialism to Europe."

"The Russian foreign minister, in Munich, lectured the Germans about their support of people who salute Hitler. The Russian media continually make the claim that the Ukrainians who protest are Nazis. Naturally, it is important to be attentive to the far right in Ukrainian politics and history. It is still a serious presence today, although less important than the far right in France, Austria, or the Netherlands. Yet it is the Ukrainian regime rather than its opponents that resorts to anti-Semitism, instructing its riot police that the opposition is led by Jews. In other words, the Ukrainian government is telling itself that its opponents are Jews and us that its opponents are Nazis."

From "Fascism, Russia, and Ukraine," by Timothy Snyder in The New York Review of Books.

"I'm pretty sure this is a wolf wandering my hall in Sochi."

Video by U.S. Olympic Luge team member Kate Hansen.

ADDED: Hansen lent her name to a hoax.

"If you can trust your family, take them, but perhaps make a contingency plan for which one you'll all eat first..."

"... and discuss it in secret with the others. (You might also make another plan about who'll be eaten second, and discuss this with whoever's left. If no one discusses eating anyone with you, distrust them all.) If your family includes any young children you are not prepared to eat then your chances of success are more or less zero, but you're probably accustomed to that feeling."

"German artist Simon Menner has photographed a camouflaged sniper in each of these images."

"Can you spot them?"

What makes you more creative — beer or coffee?

A nicely executed infographic.

"Yet Obama seems so fixated on [the 'reset' of relations with Russia] that he will not risk annoying Putin by voicing full-throated support for the Ukrainian protesters."

Says George Will, noting that:
Putin’s contempt for Barack Obama is palpable. Russia’s robust support of Bashar al-Assad is one reason Assad has, according to the Obama administration’s director of intelligence, “strengthened” his position in the period since Obama said Assad should “step aside.” Russia has been less than helpful regarding U.S. attempts to halt Iran’s nuclear weapons program. Where, exactly, has Obama’s much-advertised but never defined “reset” of relations with Russia been fruitful?
And here's the Wall Street Journal:
The U.S. should want to pull Ukraine into the Western orbit as a matter of human dignity and strategic interest. A Europe-leaning Ukraine can join the company of free nations and fulfill the aspirations of its people. A Ukraine tilted toward the corrupt authoritarian regimes allied with Moscow will be a source of regional unrest at best, and part of a revived Russian empire if Mr. Putin has his way.

With his studied detachment from foreign affairs, Mr. Obama has shown zero interest in this strategic confrontation.... Mr. Obama may want to retreat from the world, but the world won't retreat from America.
Meanwhile, Obama is doing that "line" thing again:
"[W]e’re going to be watching closely, and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters... We've also said we expect peaceful protesters to remain peaceful, and... there will be consequences if people step over the line."
As noted in my earlier post this morning, it appears that the protesters broke the truce and restarted the violence, so what are the consequences?

"'I don’t encourage anyone to protest by destroying other people’s property,' said Ai, apparently forgetting that time..."

"... he dropped Han dynasty urns, cut up shoes, wrecked a bunch of chairs, and ruined some perfectly good bicycles. Mr. Ai claims that the Miami vase-smashing is 'very different,' because when Ai ruined pots and bikes and the lot, they 'raised some new questions.'"

(I previously discussed this art vandalism conundrum here.)

IN THE COMMENTS: American Liberal Elite said (quoting the linked article):
"It's a fair point to say that Ai owned the objects he destroyed, while Caminero did not." 
So, of course, it's a point, but is it a conclusive consideration, especially when we are talking about ancient artifacts? Do you accept destruction of unique objects? This reminds me of the flag-burning cases. To those who wanted it to be possible to punish someone who conveyed his message by burning an American flag, was it enough of an answer to say that the protester was burning his own flag? Don't you think that the destruction of ancient artifacts could be banned and should at least be condemned, even when it's the destroyer's own property? One could also view it as morally wrong to destroy any useful object, and it's certainly fair to express disapproval of expressive conduct that comes in the form of destroying things.

At the Venture Forth Café...

... take one puppy step forward. Yes, you may.

How counter-trailer-trashy can a mobile home get?

So much so that when HuffPo writes about it, they say "underneath this adorable 'ESCAPE' cottage is nothing more than a sneaky RV." RV? They mean mobile home. Further down, they use the term "mobile home" like this: "it's safe to say the 21st century mobile home is taking on-the-road living to a whole new level."

A mobile home doesn't give you "on-the-road living." It's a pretty big deal to move a thing like that around. It's not an RV!

By the way, I love it. Click through the slide show, and check out the manufacturer's website. And I'm not just saying that because they are a Wisconsin company. I would happily attempt to live in one of those, and I could imagine a retirement lifestyle with Meade living in one of those and repositioning it every year or so to some beautiful place. Except it can't be a beautiful place like those woods in the pictures. You have to hook it up in a trailer park. So... I'm guessing at some point — pretty soon — there will be upscale, Boomer-oriented trailer parks for mobile homes like this.

IN THE COMMENTS: Tibore observes that the manufacturer's FAQ says "by law it is considered an RV." That's in the context of financing and taxes, so I guess in the legal sense I'm wrong to say it's not an RV. Where is the line between mobile home and RV? Maybe the legal line and the consumer perception line are different (like the way SUVs are trucks/cars).

Who broke the truce in Kiev? You can't tell from the NYT headline "Kiev’s Brief Truce Shatters in Bursts of Gunfire."

It's like the truce shattered itself. And those guns fired themselves. Can we get some human minds into the action? I assume that the responsibility falls on the side the NYT would like to present as sympathetic. Let's read until we can see who did what:
Ukraine’s descent into a spiral of violence accelerated on Thursday as protesters and riot police officers used firearms in a clash apparently intended to reclaim areas of Independence Square, the symbolic central plaza in the capital that had been retaken by police two days before.
So protesters and riot police simultaneously fell into the accelerating spiral of violence?
The fighting shattered a truce declared just hours earlier. Just after dawn, young men in ski masks opened a breach in their barricade near a stage on the square, ran across a hundred yards of smoldering debris and surged toward riot police officers who were firing at them with shotguns.
Ah, then, it was not simultaneous gunfire? It was young men in ski masks running — without guns?! — toward police who were firing shotguns at them? But the demonstrators, we're told, were able to retake the square:

Why does Miley Cyrus, in her current show, "stuff a thong in her mouth and simulate oral sex on a Bill Clinton impersonator"?

I'm not going to talk about the parents who are complaining that the show is pornographic and unsuitable for youngsters. Exercise parental control, parents, you nitwits. It's not like the general sexual aspect of the performance was a surprise. I don't think the parents' pettish performance in The Theater of Outrage had to do with the specific aspect of the show that made sport of Bill Clinton. That was a surprise, and if that made the difference in where you draw your own okay-for-kids line, then I'd like to hear the specifics of your particular outrage, because I'm closely following the subject of the continued viability of the story of Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.

Some people think this story belongs in the past, even as Bill Clinton seems likely to renew his residence in the White House, the site of his "inappropriate" and "in fact... wrong" interactions with Monica. Others, notably Rand Paul, seem to believe that it's relevant to Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy. But members of the opposing party will use whatever material is useful in attacking her, and the question whether this material works is something I've been writing about in other posts.

What I want to talk about here is a popular entertainer dragging this old story out of the shadows. Presumably, Miley Cyrus is either a liberal or would like to have the reputation as a liberal. She's an entertainer. That's the norm. I feel I need to presume that she and the people who design her shows do not want to undercut the public image as a properly leftish character — not too political, perhaps, but safely and comfortably in bed with the good people.

February 19, 2014

Microaggression alert.

You may know that I am tracking the term/concept "microaggression." Therefore, I must point out this Buzzfeed article: "19 LGBT Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis."

I'm starting to feel like pointing out a microaggression is a microaggression.

"Jimi is very much into state-of-mind type lyrics, but even so, lines like 'Manic depression is a frustrating mess,' just don't make it."

"It is one thing for Jimi to talk arrogantly, and without any pretense at artistry; it's another to write lyrics in this fashion."

From a collection of bad Rolling Stone reviews. It's fun to read the casual disrespect for things that these days are boringly taken for granted as great.

Via Metafilter, where there are lots of comments.

At the Stop Right Here Café...

... Rocky says what've you got?

"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who has been eyeing a 2016 presidential run since his battles with labor unions made him a Republican star..."

"... is in the midst of dealing with the fallout of two criminal investigations at home that could complicate his move to the national stage."

So begins a big, conspicuous piece in The Washington Post, which doesn't say anything that's not familiar to those of us here in Wisconsin, including the spin of last paragraph:
If conservative groups succeed in undermining the investigation’s legitimacy, the result could ironically convert the probe from a possible Walker weakness into an unexpected strength, rallying conservatives around a governor perceived to be holding firm against liberal bullies.
By the way, 3 years ago today, in the Wisconsin protests, which included teachers who were calling in sick to absent themselves from the classroom, doctors stood on a street corner under a sign that read "I'm a doctor/Need a note?" They were real doctors, putting their names on notes that the protesters could use to excuse their absence from work:

In addition to vocal coaches and hair and fashion stylists, "American Idol" has brought in "spiritual advisers."

They were introduced on the show as "nondenominational spiritual advisers." (The spelling on screen was "advisor," but my research says "adviser" is the more standard spelling, and it's what I've used on this blog whenever I've paid attention to this pesky spelling problem.) One of the advisers said: "For these folks, this is a dream opportunity, but it comes with a lot of pressure. We're here to answer and help them through some of that."

My immediate response was: "That's ridiculous! That's New Age-y! What about the contestants that have serious religions or who don't want any religion? Why don't they just have psychological counselors? Why 'spiritual'? Ugh! 'Spiritual'! That grotesque gray area between real religion and no religion! A great example of the seemingly middle moderate position being the most offensive place of all." (Or something to that effect.)

"I also like to use random constraints to fuel a discussion or class exercise."

"For instance, I might ask students to pick random numbers and then we use those pages in the text as our focus passages, figuring out what they have to do with each other. Depending on your course subject, random numbers, sentences, or image selectors might be helpful constraints or prompts for an exercise."

The 4th on a list of 4 ideas under the heading "How to Jump Start a Flagging Discussion Class." This is a post at the lofty Chronicle of Higher Education, and the author Natalie Houston is an English professor. I wonder how this randomness gambit could be adapted for law school. My first thought is: This is ludicrous and unprofessional, and the professor must generate questions worth the students' time. My second thought is: Legal minds can connect or distinguish anything from anything else, so why not randomly extract 2 sentences from 2 places in today's reading assignment and challenge the students to build their legal skills? My third thought, an answer to that question, is: Because this is ludicrous and unprofessional, and the professor must generate questions worth the students' time.

Big and small.

I had the occasion this morning to use one of my favorite tags, big and small. Scrolling through, I got to this post from June of last year, which ends with a sequence of images of 4 faces, and the third picture in the series is missing, its link gone dead. I'd like to restore the post with a workable image, but I can't remember who it was. You'd think it would be easy to figure it out — especially for me, since the sequence came out of my thought processes, and only last year.

UPDATE: Problem solved by the first commenter, Sean Gleeson. Thanks! Original post corrected.

"Loving cats may not make a person a liberal, but it does increase the odds that a person already is one."

Increases the oddsthe data show — but nowhere nearly as much as agreeing with the statement "I’m proud of my country’s history" increases the odds that you are a conservative.

"There are reports that Mr. Obama used to be skeptical of having a library at all..."

"... a bold move would be to revert to tradition and deposit his papers at the Library of Congress."
Failing that, he should set himself apart by thinking small or, at least, smaller. Mr. Obama has written a moving book about his early life; there’s no need to retell that story. His library should be more of an archive and less of a museum, more of a house, less of a shrine. In an austere age, a modest library could be the grandest statement of all.
That's Witold Rybczynski, the urbanism scholar, and I love this idea of presidential humility and minimalism and can even imagine Barack Obama opting to further his glorification and magnification through the old humility and minimalism gambit.

But come on. Well, maybe he will go smallish or arguably smallish... if that's the only way left to make a big impression. Personally, I find gigantic presidential libraries creepy and embarrassing, but then I've only ever been to one. I can't imagine making a pilgrimage to the library of some President I adulated, but then, that's not how I've ever felt about a President, so I'd inevitably be keeping the grim in pilgrimage.

Also, I'd like to question this line of Rybczyki's: "Mr. Obama has written a moving book about his early life; there’s no need to retell that story." That book was written at the outset of his political career, part of an enterprise of packaging, framing, and mythologizing. It is quite obviously in need of retelling. And Obama in his own preface to the 2004 edition acknowledged that he could (and perhaps should) have written a different book:
I think sometimes that had I known [my mother] would not survive her illness, I might have written a different book—less a meditation on the absent parent, more a celebration of the one who was the single constant in my life. In my daughters I see her every day, her joy, her capacity for wonder. I won’t try to describe how deeply I mourn her passing still. I know that she was the kindest, most generous spirit I have ever known, and that what is best in me I owe to her.

"It is called the tactic of scorched earth," said a protester in Kiev, Ukraine.

Quoted in the NYT report that begins:
With hundreds of riot police officers advancing from all sides after a day of deadly mayhem here in the Ukrainian capital, antigovernment protesters mounted a final desperate and seemingly doomed act of defiance late on Tuesday evening, establishing a protective ring of fire around what remained of their all-but-conquered encampment on Independence Square.

Feeding the blazing defenses with blankets, tires, wood, sheets of plastic foam and anything else that might burn, the protesters hoped to prolong, for a while longer at least, a tumultuous protest movement against President Viktor F. Yanukovych, a leader who was democratically elected in 2010 but is widely reviled here as corrupt and authoritarian.
Democratically elected in 2010...

Another quote from a protester:
"We have no other way,” said Lena Melniko, a 33-year-old accountant who joined a team of protesters digging up paving stones and passing them on to fighters to throw at the police, “We have been protesting for three months but are stuck in dead end."
I can't speak to the details in Ukraine, but in a democracy, the results of an election are not overturned by protests, no matter how long and fervent, and your "other way" is the next election (and whatever other mechanisms, such as impeachment, that you have within the system). If you think you don't have enough of a real democracy, because the elected leader is vile, corrupt, and authoritarian, why would you imagine that violence would get you closer to leadership that is not vile, corrupt, and authoritarian?

"I don't know why your boyfriend smokes pot. I was a big pothead in high school and college and I started simply because it was fun."

"It felt super good and it made me happy. But I kept doing it because it made me complacent. I never got angry or frustrated and I never cared about anything too much to let it get me bent out of shape. (Except weed. I got really angry when I couldn't smoke weed.) I think some people do specifically do it because it takes the stress of caring away. It makes things easy. Maybe your boyfriend feels stressed out. I also had some depression at some point in my potheadedness (I don't remember where), and smoking pot was an activity that felt good and passed the time. As a depressed person, I couldn't pour myself into hobbies, but I could indulge in physical pleasures like pot. Since he's smoking when he wakes up, to me that seems more of an approach to manage stress. I'd add, some people do just enjoy smoking pot, but the everyday part and the waking-and-baking makes it seem like a crutch. Whatever it is, I don't think it's something you can change and if you try, will probably just result in fights and be unpleasant for you. You should decide whether you're OK with him dealing with stress or passing his time this way or not. And if you're not, find a new guy."

An answer is attempted, to a question asked at Metafilter.

My question: If "medical marijuana" is a legitimate concept and you use marijuana every day, should we assume (or worry) that you have a medical problem that warrants more scientific medical treatment or (if it's a psychological problem) more intelligent and direct personal engagement? And: Isn't marijuana going to make it difficult for you to give a straight answer to that question?

February 18, 2014


Today. Photos by Meade.

"And you don't believe we're on the eve of micro-destruction."

Said Meade —  referencing recent discussions of "micro-aggression" as well as the old Barry McGuire song "The Eve of Destruction" — after I call attention to the small destructions that seemed to be the theme of the day here at Meadhouse. This morning, he left the room while the bacon was cooking, and I, with my anosmia, did nothing when it burned. Later, I knocked a glass onto the kitchen floor and it splintered, and then, just now, it seemed like the chili might be headed over the edge into charring.
Yeah, my blood's slightly warm, feels like coagulatin',
I'm sittin' here, just contemplatin',
I can't tweak the truth, there's so much moderation
A handful of Senators sink into contemplation...

"What I did NOT expect is that THE MAN HIMSELF would write me an apology. So now I’m totally guilty about wasting his time."

Says the art historian, who criticized President Obama for disrespecting art historians and prompted him to hand-write her an apology letter:

"It's really hard, in America, to say: Could we all please stop taking offense at this?"

People are never going to stop taking offense, I say, as Glenn Loury urges that we stop taking so much offense. (The Samuel-Jackson-Laurence-Fishburne mixup comes up as an example of taking offense, and both Glenn and I do our Samuel L. Jackson imitations.)

"There's something very strange about her... It is time that people found out about this house. Oh, weird things go on in here. They have powers! Supernatural powers!"

Said Mrs. Kravitz, the busybody neighbor who was actually right about weird things going on.

The actress, Mary Grace Canfield, whom you may know even better from "Green Acres," has died at the age of 89.

I'm afraid you have the wrong Kravitz in your clip. You're showing Alice Pearce, who played Mrs. Gladys Kravitz. Canfield was in only 4 episodes, playing Abner Kravitz's sister Harriet.
Oh! Sorry. You know, I almost figured this out, because I looked at IMDB for "The Disorderly Orderly." I was under the impression that the actress who played Mrs. Kravitz was also Mrs. Fuzzibee in "The Disorderly Orderly," and I didn't see that on Canfield's list. But here's "The Disorderly Orderly" on Pearce's IMDB page. Those 2 women sure did look alike, homely in the same way — a way which made for some great comedy. I'm sorry to see that Pearce died back in 1966, when she was only 48. And I'd just like to say that of all the movies that ever made me laugh, "The Disorderly Orderly" is in my top 5 of most laughing. I can only think of one other movie that made me laugh more. It's a Jerry Lewis movie that came out in 1964, and I was 13 when I saw it.

At the 2 Dogs Café...

... there's always a companion to talk to.

"But it all ties into Generation Wuss and its wussy influence on social media to a degree; if you have a snarky opinion about anything, you’re a douche."

"To me, that’s problematic. It limits discourse. If you just like everything, what are we going to talk about? How great everything is? How often I’ve pushed the Like button on my Facebook page? Is it BuzzFeed who said they’re not going to run any negative reviews any more? Really, guys? What’s going to happen to culture then? What’s going to happen to conversation? It’s going to die."

Something Bret Easton Ellis said right after saying that "David Foster Wallace is a complete fraud" who by committing suicide has acquired "a very sentimental narrative."

Much more at the link, including a photo of Bret, lounging on his bed. He's barefoot and propped up with pillows and has Kleenex and a cell phone nearby. I don't think he was in that pose at exactly the moment when he denounced Generation Wuss and its wussy influence, but it's funny to think that.

"Using wooden mallets cut from plywood, a crew of eight banged together the slotted frame of a WikiHouse without a single nail."

"It took the WikiHouse team of eight just two days to build its two houses, which were 12 feet wide, 26 feet long and nearly 10 feet high."
Builders use 3-D modeling software to design the houses and direct a robotic power tool called a CNC router to cut parts out of sheets of plywood. The free designs can be customized with computer-aided software.
Compare the 1920 "kit house," as encountered by Buster Keaton:

"Most girls don't think I have a penis at all at this point, so if they find out that I do, it's kind of like, you know, 'Oh, well look at that! It's actually there.'"

"It's like a homeless guy bringing you home to his mansion, like, 'Whoa, where did this come from?'"

Says Patrick Moote, a man who was publicly humiliated in a viral kisscam video of his marriage proposal getting rejected by a woman who (later) told him it was because his penis is too small. He's made a documentary — which he calls a "cockumentary" — called "Unhung Hero."

When life gives you lemons a small penis, make lemonade a documentary about your small penis.

We must stop the drought. Stop the drought. Now watch this drive.

A variation on a famous old quote that sprang to mind when I read this headline: "Obama Plays Water-Guzzling Desert Golf Courses Amid California Drought/After preaching shared sacrifice to assuage the California water shortage, Obama has played some of the country's thirstiest golf courses."

In case you don't get the reference:

Bush subsequently gave up golfing, saying: "I don't want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf... I feel I owe it to the families to be as -- to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal."

In Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus — protecting women from insufficiently absorbent underpants.

If you like your panties, you can keep your panties. But the government must insure proper standards, and if these ladies — pictures of protests at the link — think they like lace panties, please listen and learn. The Moscow-led Customs Union has a better, more scientific and expert understanding of what you really want, and it thinks that deep down inside, you are really very moist and lace does not absorb enough moisture.

ADDED: Confession. Meade found that article and emailed me the link. After I wrote this post and alerted Meade, he read it and said: "Thanks for being my cat's paw... my pussy paw."

MORE: A "cat's paw" is, to quote the OED, "A person used as a tool by another to accomplish a purpose." Historical example:
1657 Killing is Murder 3 These he useth as the Monkey did the Cats paw, to scrape the nuts out of the fire....
1883 American 6 245 Making themselves mere catspaws to secure chestnuts for those publishers.
The use of the word "pussy" to refer the vulva or vagina goes back as far as 1699:
1699 T. Durfey Choice Coll. New Songs 7 Johnny..many Times Pussey had fed.
1790 A. Tait Poems & Songs 144 Thro' Susan's Holland smock or spare Or on her pussie for to stare.
1865 ‘Philocomus’ Love Feast i. 9 My poor pussy, rent and sore, Dreaded yet longed for one fuck more....
1879 Pearl Oct. 108 To handle, feel, and revel in such a luxuriously covered pussy and bottom, excited me more every moment.
1899 Mem. Dolly Morton 88 Two, or three of them put their hands on the ‘spots’—‘pussies’ they called them.
1913 L. Strachey Ermyntrude & Esmeralda (1969) ii. 12 I'm also sure that it's got something to do with the thing between our legs that I always call my Pussy....
1973 A. Powell Temporary Kings v. 258 Louis's stuffed a charming little cushion with hair snipped from the pussies of ladies he's had.
I hope that's not too pedantic... so pudendantic...
1841   F. H. Ramsbotham Princ. & Pract. Obstetr. Med. (1855) 33   These parts, closing and surrounding the genital fissure, altogether constitute the pudendum....
1922   A. G. Magian Sex Probl. Women ii. 31   The Vulva, or Pudendum, includes—(1) The labia majora and minora bounding the pudendal cleft. (2) The mons veneris. (3) The vestibule, [etc.]....
1993   B. W. Aldiss Tupolev too Far (BNC) 36   What I clutch in my hand is a fruit of the sea almond. It's..covered with a fine but coarse fibre like pubic hair. In fact, the nut resembles a girl's pudendum.
AND: The origin of "cat's paw" is a fable by La Fontaine, and it reveals why the quotes above include references to nuts.

(More of J.J. Granville's fantastic illustrations of La Fontaine here.)

"[W]atching his hair fall to the floor during a mandated haircut in prison led him to feel that 'most of me was laying on the floor.'"

"Hair is closely connected to a Native American’s innermost being and identity, and has profound religious significance for all tribes. Hair constitutes part of one’s identity as an Indian person, and is a cornerstone element in Native American religious practice."

Seeking Supreme Court review of an 11th Circuit decision rejecting a claim under the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, under which state prisons that accept federal money must agree to refrain from putting substantial burdens on religion that are not supported by a compelling state interest.

February 17, 2014

"Yet here I am, month in and month out, dropping my pants for a stranger, letting her slide hot, green, organic wax along my vulva, around my labia..."

"... and across my lower abdomen with a thick, pale wooden popsicle stick just so I can feel 'clean.' How can I subject a part of my body with such a complicated narrative to this hedonistic ritual and still call myself a feminist?"

Key word:
pollcode.com free polls 

Why did the artist break the $1 million Ai Weiwei vase?

1. Look at this picture of the entire room, with 3 big photos of Ai Weiwei dropping what is (supposedly) an ancient Chinese vase. In the middle of the room, on a low platform, not protected or roped off in any way, are 16 vases, which may or may not be ancient, which have been dipped in garish bad paint. What is this supposed to mean?

2. Now, we get the news that "Maximo Caminero, a well-known local painter," walked into the room (which is at the Pérez Art Museum Miami), picked up one of the vases and let it drop, and "I did it for all the local artists in Miami that have never been shown in museums here. They have spent so many millions now on international artists. It's the same political situation over and over again. I've been here for 30 years and it's always the same." We're told the vase was worth $1 million, but Caminero says he didn't know that and feels "so sorry about it, for sure."

3. But Caminero also suggests that he perceived an interactive display, with the photographs intended to convey Ai Weiwei's message that they should follow his example and, as in the photographs, drop a vase and break it, and this seems to make sense in light of the apparent cheap crappiness of the vases out there unprotected on the floor:
"It was a spontaneous protest... I was at PAMM and saw Ai Weiwei's photos behind the vases where he drops an ancient Chinese vase and breaks it. And I saw it as a provocation by Weiwei to join him in an act of performance protest. If you saw the vases on display and the way they were painted there was no way one would think the artist had painted over an ancient artifact... Instead I thought it was a common clay pot like you would find at Home Depot, frankly.... I lifted the Vase and let it smash on the floor like WeiWei did in his picture then waited for authorities peacefully and never resisted punishment.... But honestly I had no idea the vase had any value. I admire Ai Weiwei greatly and have always supported his actions while he was suffering indignities from the Chinese government."
4. Ai Weiwei presents the vases as dating back to "China's Neolithic period, making them anywhere from 5,500 to 7,000 years old, and have been dipped in cheap, garishly colored industrial paint." Could this possibly be true? Would he wreck ancient vases like that? The linked story says: "Given the historical context, Ai's vandalistic alterations to the vases makes for a stirring and visually striking metaphor for the conflict between East and West, a conflict between culture and commercialism." That's the sort of tedious text one is used to reading on cards stuck to walls in museums, but perhaps that is satire. I find it hard to believe the vases are actually ancient.

5. Whether the vases are actually ancient and whether they are individually worth $1 million...

... (and not simply easily replaceable objects in an assemblage that as a whole is worth $1 million) and whether Ai Weiwei intended to convey the message that visitors should do what he is doing in the photographs and pick up a vase and break it, isn't it believable that Caminero genuinely understood that to be the message?

6. Was it the message?

3 years ago today: Wisconsin Democrats flee to Illinois to avoid vote in the state Senate.

The "fleebagger" phase of the Wisconsin protests began.

At the state capitol, there were thousands of protesters, inside and out. Here is one of the many photographs I took that day:

ADDED: On February 20, 2011, I encountered another woman using a swastika to protest Scott Walker and asked her "Do you think Scott Walker deserves to be compared to the Nazis?"

"The image in question was an extension of the cultural, historical and living legacy surrounding people of color — particularly young men—being portrayed as violent in contemporary culture and media."

"By using this particular image of President Obama, I unknowingly perpetuated this living legacy and subsequently allowed a medium of SSMU’s communication to become the site of a microaggression; for this, I am deeply sorry."

Evidence that the term "microaggression" survives in public discourse (at least at McGill University in Canada). Here's my speculation, dated December 13, 2013, that the word had died:
I've been working on the theory that the term "microaggression" briefly spiked to prominence and then utterly crashed with the story of the professor who was accused of "microaggression" for correcting spelling and grammar errors....
I reported a blip of usage there, but then, on January 6, 2014, after checking for signs of life, I proclaimed the term "really most sincerely dead." I've kept monitoring and today's link goes to Professor Jacobson who asserts:
“Microagression” is the latest craze in racial grievance, something we highlighted when a UCLA professor was accused of the transgression for correcting grammar on minority students’ papers.
That is, as evidence of the "latest craze," he cites the very incident that I saw as so dumb it killed any incipient craze.

By the way, the idea of microaggression is a secular version of the scrupulously religious believer's concept of sin. There are all these little wrongs you might be committing, and you should become aware of them and apply conscious effort to eliminating them. The religious person might believe that God watches and cares about these tiny infractions. The purveyors of the concept of microaggression seek to instill a conscience about the smallest things, but unlike those who define sin very broadly and call believers to seek perfection, they are shaming even those who have not yet signed on to the broad definition of what counts as wrong, and they want to enforce their strict demands through the exercise of power in this world.

"You can't be a strong or cool woman and be represented except in a harsh way, looking mean and cold and hard."

"It's like reverse sexism. They don't want to show a picture of you smiling because it's not good for their editorial."

Says Kim Gordon. (She was in the band Sonic Youth for 30 years and nowadays paints.)

She complains about sexism in the music industry:
"In rock music people have certain assumptions that it makes people more enlightened and it really doesn't. It was the same thing playing for Neil Young's audience [in 1991] and being reminded that hippies can be really narrow-minded. We were around people who felt like, 'We're groovy, we're cool,' but they were so sexist. It was just in your face all the time."
And today?
"Are women using their sexuality to sell records because they're empowered? In which case yeah, great. But with some women it's almost inbred and there's pressure of competitiveness: who can be the sexiest? Male executives don't have to say anything because women know. And it's all aesthetically pleasing but it gets a little boring after a while if that's the only side that gets promoted."
What if women became fully autonomous, empowered individuals and nothing changed? What would that mean? Maybe the unexamined existing culture represents much more of what we want than we expect when we demand power and freedom, but that doesn't mean that power and freedom are not good. You might want to choose the very life that would have been imposed on you if you could not choose. And you can just think about whether that explains Katy Perry, et al.

"In my honest opinion we looked like nuts in those years. Nobody can have been as badly dressed on stage as we were."

Writes Björn Ulvaeus of Abba, explaining that a motivation for the costumery was that they wanted the cost of the clothes to be tax deductible and that meant that they'd need the Swedish government to accept that their assertion that these things were not also usable as street clothes.

And this was in the 1970s, the decade when people wore the strangest clothes.

"Aggressive humor, you’ll probably guess, is linked to maleness...."

Writes Kyle Smith in a NY Post column titled "Who tells the best jokes? Neurotic, aggressive jerks."
[Scott Weems, a cognitive scientist] at the University of Maryland, tiptoes into the area of what he delicately calls women’s “struggle in the world of comedy,” or as feminist sociolinguist Robin Lakoff put it more directly in 1975, “Women can’t tell jokes — they are bound to ruin the punch line, they mix up the order of things, and so on. Moreover, they don’t ‘get’ jokes. In short, women have no sense of humor.”
With feminists like that, who needs male chauvinist pigs? I googled that quote to see if Lakoff was paraphrasing what other people think, and the first hit was this webpage — with genuinely ludicrous retro web design — with the headline — I'm not kidding — "From Peek-a-boo to Sarcasm: Women's Humor as a Means of Both Connection and Resistance." I almost got a headache finding the answer to my question, which is that Lakoff was only explaining the old stereotype, not expressing her own opinion. Anyway, Smith continues:
Terrified of where he’s heading, Weems retreats to the usual Women’s Studies jibber-jabber about how this is men’s fault, writing, “Women communicate differently than men and, consequently, are often subjected to misunderstandings in male-dominated environments. Because their language tends to be powerless, they can’t tell jokes, at least not effectively, and so are robbed of an important social function.”
But isn't Smith doing pro-woman jibber-jabber of a typical sort: Whatever is found to be true of women is portrayed as good. "Neurotic, aggressive jerks" are the best joke tellers, and that's why men are better at joke telling. What might seem bad about women — inadequacy at joke-telling — is transformed into good: non-jerkiness.

An absurdly big "if": "If girls did actually come to realize that they’re 'in the driver’s seat' when it comes to sex (and if sisterhood really were powerful)..."

"... they could change the market entirely, having sex only when they were ready and only when they saw a serious commitment on the part of their partner. As the voiceover in the video explains, 'Collusion — women working together — would be the most rational way to elevate the "market value" of sex.'"

So, first, get all the women in a big union... and, then, everyone must stick to the union, so, denounce the sluts scabs....

By the way, I found the video unwatchable. The animation technique of having a hand in fast-motion writing the text heard in the audio is especially irritating here. Just let me read the darned text, which I could do in a hell of a lot less time than the 10 minutes that video takes, no matter how fast Mr. Hand is herky-jerking along. Unlike text alone, that kind of animation is a merger of the actual script's message with an implicit message: Here, we'll make it all very simple and obvious for you and it will be amazing and conclusive. When those 2 simultaneous messages don't harmonize, it's headache-inducing.

"It’s bizarre... New York is in some interesting company, right up with the reddest of the red states."

"And you worry that there will be bleed-over from New York to other states."

Glenn Loury asks: How does Bill Clinton "get to go around and be an honorable defender of the Democratic Party line, which is a pro-woman line..."

"... when he took advantage of an intern in his office? And, you know, I'm not a pro-impeach-Bill-Clinton guy and whatnot, but I kind of find it hard to see that Rand Paul doesn't have a point there, okay? How is it that the press and everybody else can just forget about the exploitation of women when they're actually exploited and yet are prepared to level their howitzers of criticism on any Republican who might say something that could be construed as anti-woman, who hasn't been messing around with the interns under his charge?"

That's a long question, asked of me, and my answer begins "Well, the simplest explanation..." and I bet you can guess what I'm going to say.

This clip includes material about the Clarence Thomas hearings and the way sexual harassment in the workplace is an equality problem that extends beyond the individuals who might be choosing freely to interact with each other.

February 16, 2014

At the Sheepdog Café...

... you can talk all night.

The One-Sided, Out-of-Context Valentine's Dialogue now playing in its full context — Glenn Loury and I are talking about love, sex, and gender.

Here's the out-of-context, super-short tease I posted last night, and here's the fully dimensional interrelationship:

ADDED: You might particularly like this segment about the notion of women marrying "up" or "down":

"In general, I don’t like people saying nasty things about other people’s religion, but this is something else."

"This is fundamentalism, which says that parts of its own religion are bad. In a sense, I’m defending their religion, and they’re attacking it."

Said Wendy Doniger, the author of "The Hindus: An Alternative History," a book that is being recalled and pulped by her publisher in India, Penguin Books India in the face of a threat of legal consequences under an Indian law banning acts "intended to outrage religious feelings."
The original legal complaint, filed by Dinanath Batra of the group Shiksha Bachao Andolan, described a “hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in poor light” and called Ms. Doniger’s approach to Hinduism “that of a woman hungry of sex.”
Of course, we can still buy the book — here — and I can't tell from the article whether people in India will be able to download the digital version of the book. One thing about books as physical objects is that a show can be made of casting them out of the stores and destroying them. Is it a good book? Here's the review of it that appeared in the NYT back in 2009:

"In following Pastor Coots for our series Snake Salvation, we were constantly struck by his devout religious convictions..."

"... despite the health and legal peril he often faced. Those risks were always worth it to him and his congregants as a means to demonstrate their unwavering faith. We were honored to be allowed such unique access to Pastor Jamie and his congregation during the course of our show, and give context to his method of worship. Our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time."

Dead, now, from a snake bite, here's Pastor Coots in his snake-handling devotion:

How to watch the Sochi Winter Olympics.

"(He declined to be interviewed for this article.)"

The most telling parenthetical in George Packer's "Cheap Words/Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?"

"He" = Jeff Bezos.

Lots of fascinating things in the article, which feels quite biased against Amazon and in favor of all the publishing industry people who have lost out and who did submit to interviews. Sample:

"Since the Enlightenment, one mode of science has always been dominant, the top metaphor that educated people use to talk about experience."

"In most of the twentieth century, physics played the role of super-science, and physics is, by its nature, accommodating of God: the theories of physics are so cosmic that the language of physics can persist without actively insulting the language of faith. It’s all big stuff, way out there, or unbelievably tiny stuff, down here, and, either way, it’s strange and spooky. Einstein’s 'God,' who does not play dice with the universe, is not really the theologian’s God, but he is close enough to be tolerated. With the great breakthroughs in understanding that followed the genomic revolution, evo-bio has become, insensibly, the model science, the one that so many of the pop books are about—and biology makes specific claims about people, and encounters much coarser religious objections. It’s significant that the New Atheism gathered around Richard Dawkins. The details of the new evolutionary theory are fairly irrelevant to the New Atheism (Lamarckian ideas of evolution could be accepted tomorrow, and not bring God back with them), but the two have become twinned in the Self-Making mind. Their perpetual invocation is a perpetual insult to Super-Naturalism, and to the right of faith to claim its truths."

From Adam Gopnik's excellent essay "Bigger than Phil/When did faith start to fade?"

"I didn’t used to play any music in the car for the first years of my older son’s life."

"I was that hippy who believed that my son’s interactions should be with voices and conversation only," writes Mayim Bialik on her blog. With additional children, she became less austere about protecting the precious little ears and minds, and she says pop music is great candy, but:
The issue is that pop music is/has become, in some cases, kind of racy. I am generally admittedly a socially conservative fuddy-duddy even though I am a complete bleeding heart liberal politically.
She quizzes us with sex-and-drugs lines from 6 songs.
I don’t want my sons singing about magic in pants and smoking weed and booties up. Period. Right? The notion that those lyrics “go right over their heads” is actually not accurate and I don’t buy that. Words have meaning. I don’t know why Juicy J (the rapper in the Katy Perry song) wants to “put her in a coma” and I don’t want my 5- or 8-year-old asking me why either. Adult themes, especially sexual ones, don’t belong in my sons’ mouths. I’m pretty sure about that....

"Farewell, our sweet, spangled prince."

The last of Evgeni Plushenko, who wore some fabulous costumes out there on the ice. (Make sure to scroll down and see the muscle suit.)

"[H]e seems to treat women the way some people treat paper cups..."

One part of a 3-part item on the list of "2 things you need to understand about the Wells Report on Richie Incognito."

"So, if money is the measure of evil in American politics and the Evil Koch Bros only come in 59th, who is really the most evil donor ever?"

"Turns out it’s Act Blue, with just short of $100 million in contributions during its lifetime, which only started in 2004, 15 years after the Evil Koch Bros...."

I think it's like the way 15 is 105 in dog years. $18 million — the Koch total — should be understood in "conservative" dollars when ranking "most evil" donors. Let's use the "dog years" multiplier of 7, to demonstrate the concept. $18 million is $128 million in conservative dollars. So, understood properly, the Koch Brothers actually do rank #1 on the most evil donor ever ranking.

Get your shoes on.

Slate's Climate Desk — "a journalistic collaboration on climate change" — wants you to know that "Internet Trolls Really Are Horrible People/Narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic."

By Chris Mooney, who, based on that headline, is himself trolling, so I'll take that as a confession that he's narcissistic, Machiavellian, psychopathic, and sadistic.

Mooney — who wrote a book called "The Republican War on Science," which sounds like trolling — tells us of some new research (from the University of Manitoba) into the psychology of trolls. So how did the researchers determine who counted as a troll so that they could study what these people are really like inside? If you restrict the category to horrible people, it's no surprise that you find that the horrible people are horrible.

But why does this belong at Climate Desk? You can guess without reading this sentence: "Last year Popular Science did away with its comments sections completely, citing research on the deleterious effects of trolling, and YouTube also took measures to rein in trolling."

From the link to Popular Science: "A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again."

I feel like trolling Slate's Climate Desk over this. Oh, but if I do, I guess I'm one of the "horrible people." Thanks for the advance pushback, but I'm not taking it. Who says things like "you're a horrible person"? I'd say a child, but maybe also an excessively emotional adult. Mooney would like to disqualify skeptics as toxic evil-doers. I'm sure he — like Popular Science — is tired of fending off arguments he feels have already been answered conclusively, but expressing that exasperation by demonizing his opponents is none too scientific.

Meanwhile: "1 in 4 Americans unaware that Earth circles Sun."

Micro-sads of the morning.

1. I edited a 53+ minute video down to 1 minute, 45 seconds of out-of-context lines, and made a teasing post out of it — "what more do you even need to know?" — and reading the comments, I don't think anyone bothered to watch.

2. Meade has photographed people's dogs and posted the pictures on his Flickr page, and he encounters those people again, and they need to ask again how to find that Flickr page. They can't remember, even though they are pictures of their own dog.

What little twinges of gratification did the internet fail to deliver to you? Become aware of and experience the absurdity of these micro-sads.