January 18, 2018

Writing fast or slow.

Robert A. Caro, in a new interview in the New York Review of Books:
My first three or four drafts are handwritten on legal pads. For later drafts, I use a typewriter. I write by hand to slow myself down. People don’t believe this about me: I’m a very fast writer, but I want to write slowly.

When I was a student at Princeton. I took a creative writing course with the literary critic R.P. Blackmur. Every two weeks, I’d give him a short story I’d produced usually at the last minute. At the end of the semester, he said some complimentary words about my writing, and then added, “Mr. Caro, one thing is going to keep you from achieving what you want—you think with your fingers.”

Later, in the early 1960s when I was at Newsday, my speed was a plus. But when I started rewriting The Power Broker, I realized I wasn’t thinking deeply enough. I said, “You have to slow yourself down.” That’s when I remembered Blackmur’s admonition and started drafting by hand, which slows me down.

"the things you think you love — like a pair of Gucci booties — can't reciprocate. That relationship is one-sided."

Writes Mary Carlomagno, a de-cluttering expert, quoted in a WaPo article that talks about many techniques, but has one I haven't see before:
Take a photo. Carlomagno likes the idea of taking a photo to keep ("that leather pencil skirt that you were only able to wear once, after you had food poisoning in 1994") and letting the object go. This solution was a revelation for me when it came to gifts and paper memorabilia — a way to preserve programs from a wedding or an aunt's teacup without having to find a place for them.
The love for things is unreciprocated, so treat them like people who don't love you, whom you may still love. Keep a photograph:

"After a brief moment of existential crisis, Google’s question 'Is your portrait in a museum?' has the potential to bring people closer to great works of art."

"After all, I was linked to amazing individuals who sat for accomplished artists housed in major museums around the world. But is it really that effective? A quick review of social media confirms that the Twitterverse is weighing in on their art historical doppelgängers. Alas, the comments of the Twitter hive mind are rather superficial...."

From "Here’s My Problem With the Google Arts & Culture Face-Matching App" (Smithsonian).

What's up with the empty shelves at Whole Foods

Business Insider investigates:
  • Whole Foods employees say stores are suffering from food shortages because of a newly implemented inventory-management system called order-to-shelf, or OTS.
  • Whole Foods says the system reduces unnecessary inventory, lowers costs, and frees up employees to focus on customer service.
  • Employees acknowledge that less food is spoiling in storage rooms, but they describe OTS as a "militaristic" system that crushes morale and leads to many items being out of stock.
  • "Last week, we ran out of onions and potatoes twice," an employee of a Brooklyn Whole Foods store said. "Entire aisles are empty at times."
  • "It has for weeks had empty shelves, and I shop there twice a week," one customer told Business Insider. "The prepared-food section is not refreshed, and food looks stale."
ADDED: The Madison Whole Foods is nowhere nearly as bad as what you see in the photographs at the link, but there are gaps in the shelves, giving an impression of deficiency where once we saw abundance. It makes a big psychological difference! The real-world store is theater, and it's not at all like a website.

"The Times editorial board has been sharply critical of the Trump presidency, on grounds of policy and personal conduct."

"Not all readers have been persuaded. In the spirit of open debate, and in hopes of helping readers who agree with us better understand the views of those who don’t, we wanted to let Mr. Trump’s supporters make their best case for him as the first year of his presidency approaches its close. Tomorrow we’ll present some letters from readers who voted for Mr. Trump but are now disillusioned, and from those reacting to today’s letters and our decision to provide Trump voters this platform."

Wrote the NYT editors yesterday, so today's the day for the page full of pro-Trump letters.

That's a big step away from the Don't-Normalize-Him narrative of a year ago.

ADDED: A few excerpts, each from different letters:

"If I wanted a scripted smooth talker for president, I’d have voted for someone else. An unscripted Mr. Trump feels more authentic to me, and I still don’t see him as a politician. If the election were held again today, I would 100 percent vote for him again."

"Who knew that all it would take to make progress was vision, chutzpah and some testosterone?"

"I loved George W. Bush, but he failed on policy over and over again. If it takes putting up with Mr. Trump’s brash ways to see things get done, that is a deal I’m willing to accept. To be honest, I’m not sure he would have accomplished what he has so far without being an unrelenting public bully."

"As a child of the ’60s I admire his iconoclastic nature, optimism and unapologetic humanity. When asked during the campaign about his truthfulness, he replied that maybe he is too truthful."

"I have a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, and a bachelor’s and master’s from Harvard; I’m a former hedge fund trader and now an academic.... [Trump] has turned a fragile nation 'anti-fragile' (the scholar Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s term). Before Mr. Trump, we were scared of any volatility. Oh no, ISIS! Oh no, banks! The more chaos there was, the worse we were. Now volatility is our friend. The more chaos, the better! Entrepreneurship up. Optimism up. Good old American problem solving is back! You know who loves change? Capitalists. Mr. Trump has led us on that spiritual exodus."

"Trump’s Border Wall Prototypes Are Minimalist Art — and Should Be a National Monument."

NY Magazine.

Asking Philip Roth to take #MeToo seriously.

At the NYT, Charles McGrath interviews the venerable novelist, who says a lot of words, but does not answer the question:
C.M. One of your recurrent themes has been male sexual desire — thwarted desire, as often as not — and its many manifestations. What do you make of the moment we seem to be in now, with so many women coming forth and accusing so many highly visible men of sexual harassment and abuse?

P.R. I am, as you indicate, no stranger as a novelist to the erotic furies. Men enveloped by sexual temptation is one of the aspects of men’s lives that I’ve written about in some of my books. Men responsive to the insistent call of sexual pleasure, beset by shameful desires and the undauntedness of obsessive lusts, beguiled even by the lure of the taboo — over the decades, I have imagined a small coterie of unsettled men possessed by just such inflammatory forces they must negotiate and contend with. I’ve tried to be uncompromising in depicting these men each as he is, each as he behaves, aroused, stimulated, hungry in the grip of carnal fervor and facing the array of psychological and ethical quandaries the exigencies of desire present. I haven’t shunned the hard facts in these fictions of why and how and when tumescent men do what they do, even when these have not been in harmony with the portrayal that a masculine public-relations campaign — if there were such a thing — might prefer. I’ve stepped not just inside the male head but into the reality of those urges whose obstinate pressure by its persistence can menace one’s rationality, urges sometimes so intense they may even be experienced as a form of lunacy. Consequently, none of the more extreme conduct I have been reading about in the newspapers lately has astonished me.
Maybe you forgot the question by the end of all that!

The question is whether he has come to understand a woman's point of view that has become so widely publicized in the past year, and he talks and talks, and he never says one thing about a woman.

It's as if he's telling us by showing us that women are nothing at all. They're the background against which we are able to see what a man is.

What do you make of the moment we seem to be in now...? Nothing!

IN THE COMMENTS: Rob said:
The question wasn't about a woman's point of view, it was about male sexual desire and its manifestations. That's precisely what Roth answered.
The question was an invitation to see male behavior in terms of the many highly publicized accounts given by women. This is a woman's point of view. His answer makes the women invisible. He says nothing about how the women have told their stories. He says there's no "moment" to make something of as far as he's concerned, because he's been looking deeply into the sexual behavior of men. He's already told the story... and more... and better. There's nothing new here for him. In fact, we ought to read his old books, because he's been way ahead of us for decades.

And when you're a star they let you do it — you can do anything — and they can tell an eagerly listening world exactly what you were like.

People want access to the star, as Donald Trump famously observed: He's automatically attracted to beautiful women — like a magnet.... And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. They let you do it. You can do anything... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.

That's the up side of being a star: You're attracted to somebody beautiful and she lets you have her body.

But the downside is that, because you're a star, if she ever has an inclination to tell the story of what sex was like with you, everybody wants to hear it. The media will publish all the details, down to the awkwardness of your "claw" move:
She says Ansari began making a move on her that he repeated during their encounter. “The move he kept doing was taking his two fingers in a V-shape and putting them in my mouth, in my throat to wet his fingers, because the moment he’d stick his fingers in my throat he’d go straight for my vagina and try to finger me.” Grace called the move “the claw.”
Little, private things that weren't even the slightest bit abusive will be splashed on the front page of The Daily Mail. She says that you said she was "beautiful and smart just like his daughter," and the world will react with horror as if you'd called her by your daughter's name while you were having sex. She says that you had intercourse in the "textbook generic... one position" that people "would expect someone [your] age to do," and people will laugh derisively, just as they would have laughed if you done something less usual, such as having her urinate in the bed.

You're a star, and you can do anything... and anything can be done to you.

"Trump displays unalloyed masculine strength. His supporters do not care if he is predatory, insulting, or offensive as long as he is never in doubt..."

"... especially if he is kicking the limp Washington establishment around. Trump’s instinct-driven behavior confirms that he is the archetypal alpha-male, the unfiltered reptilian brain, concerned only with sustenance, survival or sex. If anything enters his world, they know he must either eat it, kill it, or mate with it. That’s why they like him. For about half of America, that is terrifying. For the other half, Trump’s strength is the only thing they can count on to protect them from return of the elite bloodsuckers who would devour them.... Trump’s supporters don’t expect his unrestrained id to ponder the details of briefing papers before he eats the red meat in front of him. As long as Trump displays strength and grabs the media, the establishment and America’s adversaries by the pussy, he’s the T Rex many of his supporters want."

Said Alex Castellanos, "a veteran Republican media consultant and Trump loyalist," asked to comment on the subject of "why Trump and his supporters are immune to the attacks of the #MeToo movement," and quoted in "Can Democrats Follow #MeToo to Victory?" (NYT), the column by Thomas B. Edsall discussed in the previous post.

I had to break out that quote for a separate post, because it's so well written! But is it true? It's at least truthy.

If you ask the question like that, out loud... "Can Democrats Follow #MeToo to Victory?"...

... I hope it's because you believe the answer is no. If this is your actual strategy, you better keep it to yourselves. If you can. Don't repeat the Jennifer Palmieri screwup. Remember, earlier this month?
The Center For American Progress (CAP) Action Fund circulated a memo... co-authored by former Clinton communications director Jennifer Palmieri...  “The fight to protect Dreamers is not only a moral imperative, it is also a critical component of the Democratic Party’s future electoral success..."...
"Can Democrats Follow #MeToo to Victory?" is a NYT column by Thomas B. Edsall. I haven't read it yet, but I suspect that he's posing the question to answer it in the negative. Let's see:
The issue has the potential to accelerate the growing discontent among well-educated white women with the Republican Party. But it could also intensify hostility to the liberal agenda among conservatives, particularly white men, many of whom view women’s complaints of discrimination as “an attempt to gain advantage” in the workplace....
Edsall goes on to quote a lot of academics and pollsters in a way that should inspire caution about using this issue too much. He mostly lets data and experts do the talking for him, and the closest he gets to answering the question in the column title is "what looks like a favorable climate now for Democrats is in fact highly volatile."

One of the pollsters — Alex Castellanos — says something so interesting that I'm going to make it a separate post. So if that's what you're inclined to talk about, please save your comment for a post that will come up next and very soon.

January 17, 2018

Trump's "Fake News Awards."

The GOP site is swamped, but Fox News has the list:
1) The New York Times’ Paul Krugman claiming markets would ‘never’ recover from Trump presidency

2) ABC News' Brian Ross’ bungled report on former national security adviser Michael Flynn

3) CNN report that the Trump campaign had early access to hacked documents from WikiLeaks

4) TIME report that Trump removed a bust of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the Oval Office

5) The Washington Post’s Dave Weigel tweeting that Trump’s December rally in Pensacola, Florida, wasn’t packed with supporters

6) CNN’s video suggesting Trump overfed fish during visit with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe

7) CNN’s retracted report claiming Anthony Scaramucci-Russia ties

8) Newsweek report that Polish First Lady Agata Kornhauser-Duda did not shake Trump’s hand

9) CNN report that former FBI Director James Comey would dispute President Trump’s claim he was told he was not under investigation

10) The New York Times report that the Trump administration had hidden a climate-change report

11) In Trump’s words, "‘RUSSIA COLLUSION!’ Russian collusion is perhaps the greatest hoax perpetrated on the American people. THERE IS NO COLLUSION!”

"I hope the ~500 RTs on the single news write-up made that burgundy lipstick bad highlights second-wave feminist has-been feel really relevant for a little while."

Said Katie Way, the reporter who wrote up the story about bad sex with Aziz Ansari. She's criticizing Ashleigh Banfield, a Headline News anchor who'd criticized that story.

Nothing says feminism like a woman criticizing another woman's hair and makeup... and yet, I find it hard to watch cable news because I feel bad about the extremely heavy makeup and the mussy spaniel ears of hair/"hair" on just about all of the newswomen.

"Family of H&M 'Coolest Monkey' ad model forced to move due to 'security concerns.'"

Why?!

The mother of the boy criticized the criticism, saying that her son modeled "hundreds of outfits" and that people need “Stop crying wolf all the time, unnecessary issue here… get over it." Then she got attacked by “other black people for not condemning H&M" and for being "a sellout" and "an embarrassment to the black and African-American people" who "sold my son for money."

ADDED: The link goes to Fox News. I'm puzzling over why the woman said "African American" when she lives in Sweden and the protests were in South Africa. Perhaps she was speaking Swedish and the translation is bad.

At the Paper Bag Café...

IMG_1833

... what have you got in there?

This is an open thread, which means that I also remind you to think of using the Althouse Portal when you shop at Amazon. The portal link is also always right over there in the sidebar.

"The specter of Dickens’s ranting spinster — spurned and embittered in her crumbling wedding dress, plotting her elaborate revenge — casts a long shadow over every woman who dares to get mad."

Writes Leslie Jamison — in "I Used to Insist I Didn’t Get Angry. Not Anymore. On female rage" (NYT) — invoking Hillary Clinton:
In “What Happened,” her account of the 2016 presidential election, Hillary Clinton describes the pressure not to come across as angry during the course of her entire political career — “a lot of people recoil from an angry woman,” she writes — as well as her own desire not to be consumed by anger after she lost the race, “so that the rest of my life wouldn’t be spent like Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens’s ‘Great Expectations,’ rattling around my house obsessing over what might have been.”
Miss Havisham was "rattling around" over a marriage that never happened, so it's irksome to see her used as Hillary Clinton's point of reference. Hillary Clinton is all about a marriage that did take place, and it would be interesting to know what she would have been without Bill.

But the topic here is female anger.
If an angry woman makes people uneasy, then her more palatable counterpart, the sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant. Angry women are messier. Their pain threatens to cause more collateral damage. It’s as if the prospect of a woman’s anger harming other people threatens to rob her of the social capital she has gained by being wronged. We are most comfortable with female anger when it promises to regulate itself, to refrain from recklessness, to stay civilized.
That's the discipline. If you're set on looking beautiful and commanding empathy, you've accepted the subordination and made yourself small. I think this is an important topic, and I like the photo illustrations at the link, but the essay is not to my taste. Quoting Hillary. Quoting this wretched nonsense from Audre Lorde: "I have suckled the wolf’s lip of anger and I have used it for illumination, laughter, protection, fire in places where there was no light, no food, no sisters, no quarter." Wolf's lip??

Here's the whole Lorde essay, in case you think more context will help.

Wait a minute! I googled "wolf's lip" and got some major help from Urban Dictionary ("Picture the side of a dog's mouth, the back part with wrinkly skin and folds of dark moist flesh"). Did the NYT understand what it was quoting?!

IN THE COMMENTS: Rob said:
"[T]he sad woman, summons sympathy more readily. She often looks beautiful in her suffering: ennobled, transfigured, elegant." Now we know why Cory Booker publicly anguished about hurting and having tears in his eyes.
From last night's Cory Booker comments thread, Hoodlum Doodlum says "This one goes out to Corey and T-Bone" and points us here:



You might be asking, yes, but who's T-Bone. Answer: "Cory Booker’s Imaginary Friend" (National Review).

"North and South Korea have agreed to form their first joint Olympic team and will march together under a unified flag during the opening ceremony..."

The Daily Mail reports.
The two Koreas agreed to form a combined women's ice hockey team to take part in next month's Winter Olympics in PyeongChang in the South next month. Seoul's Unification Ministry says the agreement was during talks on Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom....

North Korea will send a delegation of about 550, including 230 cheerleaders, 140 artists and 30 Taekwondo players for a demonstration, the statement added.
Great. I guess. 230 North Korean cheerleaders... not really picturing that, but okay.

The problem Scott Walker spared Wisconsin.

The L.A. Times reports:
The estimated cost of building 119 miles of bullet train track in [California's] Central Valley has jumped to $10.6 billion, an increase of $2.8 billion from the current budget and up from about $6 billion originally.

The new calculation takes into account a number of intractable problems encountered by the state rail agency. It raises profoundly difficult questions about how the state will complete what is considered the nation’s largest infrastructure project with the existing funding sources....

The sobering news about the cost increases was long forewarned, though rail authority Chairman Dan Richard has consistently rejected those warnings. About a year ago, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a secret risk analysis that said costs were rising sharply and could hit $9.5 to $10 billion. When The Times disclosed the warning, Richard downplayed the analysis....

It's not the end of it all: the end of The Awl.

The Awl is ending, the NYT reports.
Over the years, there were viral stories about how to cook a steak and David Foster Wallace’s private self-help library, as well as popular essays providing pointed advice to young people and exploring a writer’s evolving relationship with death.

Many of the writers went on to distinguish themselves. Some, like Vinson Cunningham and Heather Havrilesky, now write for The New Yorker and New York magazine’s website The Cut. One of The Awl’s founders, Choire Sicha, is now the editor of the New York Times Styles section.
How about Abe Sauer? Where is he? He's the Awl writer I remember, because he attacked Meade for getting a ticket that allowed him to attend a Scott Walker State of the State Address. Like it was a scandal that somebody gave Meade the ticket:
I blogged a couple photos Meade iPhoned from the assembly chamber just before the speech began. And this guy Abe Sauer imagines he's uncovering some kid of scandal:
What kind of special access was granted to the assembly chamber that day? How did everyone get in? Let's look at Larry Meade...
His name isn't "Larry," Abe. Abe Sauerkraut....
Sorry The Awl died. Even though I've had a bad attitude about it for the past 7 years.

#WakeUpWisconsin.

Twitter has #WakeUpWisconsin at the top of its "Trends for you" list for me. I won't show you what's mostly there, but I like these 2 reactions:



Fit-to-print headlines in the NYT.

I was struck by the headline on this Frank Bruni column: "Donald Trump Will Soil You. Ask Lindsey Graham."

Soil you?!

From the text of the column, I see 8 examples of "shit"/"shit-" and only one "soil-."
... “shithole” or “shithouse”... the initial accounts that Trump said “shithole”... “shithouse countries” rather than “shithole countries”... I find a title for a tell-all about complicity in this rotten age. Call the book “Shit and Its Suffixes.”... Graham has too often and exuberantly played the flatterer, and where did it land him? In a shithole. Or a shithouse. Either way, he’s soiled.
What is the NYT decency standard right now? Why couldn't Bruni have the punchline he worked so hard to set up. He must have wanted to say Either way, he's shit on, and the headline — without self-censorship — would have been Donald Trump Will Shit On You.

Maybe the powers that be at the NYT decided that the direct quote of the President should be printed (even if it's only an alleged quote), but that wouldn't authorize Bruni's quip about the book title “Shit and Its Suffixes." That's an invention of the NYT writer.

If they're going to allow the witticism "Shit and Its Suffixes," why clench the sphincter on Donald Trump Will Shit On You?

"Donald Trump Will Soil You" just sounds silly. Either do the rude talk or don't.

At least pick a euphemism that sounds like something that might come out of a flesh-and-blood person. No one says "He soiled me!"

Drudge celebrates the 20-year anniversary of the story that made Drudge Drudge.

In the upper-left corner of Drudge right now:



That links to the old stories, as originally published, beginning with:
At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the President of the United States!

The DRUDGE REPORT has learned that reporter Michael Isikoff developed the story of his career, only to have it spiked by top NEWSWEEK suits hours before publication. A young woman, 23, sexually involved with the love of her life, the President of the United States, since she was a 21-year-old intern at the White House. She was a frequent visitor to a small study just off the Oval Office where she claims to have indulged the president's sexual preference....
"The president's sexual preference" is how people said "blow jobs" 20 years ago.*
NEWSWEEK and Isikoff were planning to name the woman. Word of the story's impeding release caused blind chaos in media circles....

Michael Isikoff was not available for comment late Saturday. NEWSWEEK was on voice mail.

The White House was busy checking the DRUDGE REPORT for details.
And we've all been busy checking Drudge ever since. I'm exaggerating, saying "all." I know some resist. They're busy avoiding checking Drudge.
_______________________

* We're much less prissy these days. Back then, we wouldn't use the rude words when they applied literally. These days, we use rude words just to be funny or emphatic — e.g., "shithole countries" — even though some of us still think we can get our fellow countrymen gasping over the outrage that the president's language preferences include a dirty word.

ADDED: I remember the reaction to Drudge 20 years ago, especially a lawprof colleague saying (angrily): "He's not a journalist," meaning that he should not be speaking conspicuously, exercising independent judgment about what is news, because he doesn't have the credentials that authorize him to operate in the profession called journalism. She said this very emphatically, as if it was somehow going to make Drudge go away or stop us from looking at him. I wish I'd had the presence of mind to start blogging that very day.

January 16, 2018

"I hurt. When Dick Durbin called me I had tears of rage... when tens of millions of Americas are hurting right now because of what they're worried about what happened in the White House, that's unacceptable to me!"

"For you not to feel that hurt and that pain...  that’s unacceptable to me. Your silence and your amnesia is complicity.... Why is this so important? Why is this so disturbing for me? Why am I frankly seething with anger?..."

Seething with anger, Cory Booker:

"There’s no indication whatsoever that he has any cognitive issues. I’ve found no reason whatsoever to think the president has any issues whatsoever with his thought processes."

Said Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician, who gave the president "perfect score on a cognitive test designed to screen for neurological impairment" (NYT).
Dr. Jackson said that a cognitive test was not indicated for Mr. Trump when the president underwent his annual physical on Friday, but that he conducted one anyway because the president requested it after questions from critics about his mental abilities. He said Mr. Trump received a score of 30 out of 30 on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, a well-known test used by the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and other hospitals.
So will the President's critics stop with the talk of dementia and insanity? If they don't, are they cognitively impaired?

ADDED: I decided to answer my own questions by checking out a few places I would expect to lean anti-Trump.

1. Talking Points Memo has "What We Learned From Trump’s Doctor About The President’s Health." This is a straight report that doesn't try to figure out a way to preserve the demented/insane narrative. Some of the commenters say the doctor is lying. There's also material like "Maybe Trump isn't crazy or impaired, I'll accept that. What it simply means is that he's a dumb asshole."

2. Vox has "White House doctor: Trump “has absolutely no cognitive or mental issues." This too tells the story straight.

3. The Daily Beast has "Doctor: Trump’s Cognitive Exam Results Were ‘Normal.'" Very short, with the quote from the doctor after a reminder that after "Fire and Fury" "questions have swirled about Trump’s mental capacity and his fitness for the office he holds." It does't say these questions are now soundly squelched, so maybe some readers will cling to hopes that the President is demonstrably nuts. No comments.

4. CNN has "This is the cognitive test the president passed." This seems fair and factual. You can see the test here, and it isn't especially hard. You would all probably also get 30 out of 30, and I suspect that someone who started out very intelligent could probably still get a perfect score, but I have no experience with the kind of loss of cognitive ability that might be symptomatic of early dementia.

At the Old Dog Cafe...

IMG_3809

... you can loll around all you want.

And please remember to use the Althouse Portal when you're shopping at Amazon.

"Feminists have been on the forefront of tackling these knottier issues of sex, consent, pleasure and power."

"And so it’s up to us to lead the way in confronting the private, intimate interactions that may be technically consensual but still profoundly sexist. This will only happen if we move beyond being reactively 'sex positive' and recognize that human sexual interactions are not always clear-cut: yes or no, good or bad, empowering or not, either assault and worth worrying about or technically consensual and therefore not at a problem. We can – we must – wade into the messy, complicated nature of sex in a misogynist world. What a shame that opportunity was wholly missed with this breathless celebrity exposé."

Writes Jill Filipovic in "The poorly reported Aziz Ansari exposé was a missed opportunity" (The Guardian).

I'm surprised to see the belief that feminists haven't yet moved from "being reactively 'sex positive'"! But I think I get it. Is it that young feminists are too tightly bonded to the notion that sex should turn out well whenever they decide to have it? (I mean: as opposed to assessing the situation and predicting the odds of having an unrewarding or actively bad experience.)

Feminist backlash against "Handmaid's Tale" author Margaret Atwood for advocating some #MeToo moderation.

The Guardian reports.
“In times of extremes, extremists win. Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated" [Atwood wrote]....

Many online took issue with her view. “If @MargaretAtwood would like to stop warring amongst women, she should stop declaring war against younger, less powerful women and start listening,” wrote one person on Twitter. “In today’s dystopian news: One of the most important feminist voices of our time shits on less powerful women to uphold the power of her powerful male friend,” wrote another....

"Justice Scalia... was fascinated by the fact that Trump was so outspoken in an unfiltered way, and therefore we were seeing something a little more genuine than a candidate whose every utterance is airbrushed."

Said Bryan Garner, who has an upcoming book, "Nino and Me: My Unusual Friendship with Justice Antonin Scalia." Garner coauthored books with Scalia: "Making Your Case: The Art of Persuading Judges" and "Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts."

Scalia's quote about Trump is getting featured in some news stories, but I'd like to call your attention to 2 other things that I saw in the first few pages of the book, which is all that is visible at the Amazon link.

First: Scalia, teenage heartthrob and, later, the grownup with groupies (click to enlarge):
Second: David Foster Wallace (initially referred to by Scalia as "this man"):

Isn't it nice that the Germans can feel comfortable portraying the American President as a monkey?



So much freedom.

Feuer. I know it means fire. But when I try to say it out loud....

Anyway, speaking of making America great again or, I should say getting back to where we were before, I remember spending the Bush years seeing this set of images posted on the door of the office of one of my law school colleagues:



But of course there was no way at all that President Obama could be depicted as any sort of a nonhuman primate (or even any animal at all). Here's the NPR explanation from 2011: "Portraying Obama As Chimp Not Like Showing Bush As One."

But now we've got Trump, the man who will "take all the heat you want to give" him. And even the Germans — who I would have thought would self-censor forever — relax into the freedom of depicting the President as an ape.



IN THE COMMENTS: John Henry says (referring to the Spiegel cover):
I look at the picture and see a progression from glorious manhood (Clinton. He got blown in the oval office! What a man!) to slightly cromagnon (Bush. Kinda stupid but looking better as time passes) to almost Monkey (Obama. How is this not racist?) To full on monkey (Trump. Why?)

Forget it Jake. It's Germany. Racism is baked in.

"If beauty is forbidden, we'll proudly break your law."


Samantha Power and the "pale, Irish statue."

From "Samantha Power: Hosting election-night party to celebrate Clinton victory was one of my many 'bad ideas'" (Washington Examiner):
Power said she is “haunted most” by images of her children on the night of the election, who spent much of the night running around her apartment. When the election was called for Trump, though, Power said her daughter, who was 4 years old at the time, was “just lying in my lap, kind of like this pale, Irish statue.”

“And there’s something about the way she’s lying, I don’t know, that just makes her look like she’s the one who’s going to inherit … she’s going to inherit this—what he does is on her, right?” Power said.
I'm musing over the ethnicity and the calling of our attention to the whiteness of the child's skin. What can it be but a mother's love for her own little child? And yet, if a conservative were to tell us of his reaction to the election of a liberal in terms of a haunting memory of gazing at his child's very white skin, he would be called a racist.

January 15, 2018

At the Mommy Says Café...

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You can talk about whatever you want.

And remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

Fiction and nonfiction: "Cat Person" and Aziz Ansari.

Lately, I've been thinking about fiction and nonfiction. I've said a few times that I love the nonfiction essays of David Foster Wallace but I can't force myself into the fiction. Just last month, I got some insight from his interview with David Lipsky:
I can tell by the Lipsky interview that Wallace put much less effort into those essays than he put into his fictions, but the fiction doesn't work on me the way it's supposed to, which is — Wallace says this in the long interview — that it's supposed to be great fun....
Lipsky emailed me and challenged my resistance to reading Wallace's fiction. I've tried to get into "Infinite Jest," and I can see how much fun it's supposed to be, but it's just not fun for me.

I'm working my way to saying something about Aziz Ansari, so let me preview the nonfiction sex story about him that's in the news today. He's quoted as saying, during the incident, "Oh, of course, it’s only fun if we’re both having fun," and afterwards texting, "It was fun meeting you last night," to which the woman responded, "Last night might’ve been fun for you, but it wasn’t for me."

Anyway, Lipsky recommended 2 short stories that might awaken me to the joys of reading fiction from David Foster Wallace: "Good Old Neon" and "The Suffering Channel" (both in  the collection "Oblivion"). I've read them and I've been mulling over what to say to Lipsky, something about the difference between fiction and nonfiction. I was thinking the answer is something like: In Wallace's nonfiction, we see, through his eyes, people and situations that are really out there in the world. In his fiction, his mind has created a world, and everything in it he made for reasons that came out of his head, and that's just too intense, too nightmarish, too sad. In his nonfiction, he goes on a cruise ship or to a state fair or a lobster festival or to the porno film awards ceremony. He comes up with perceptions and ideas about those real things that other people created, that are not figments of his imagination. He didn't invent things for the purpose of making us feel awful about them (or good about laughing at them). That stuff really exists, and he's our fascinating companion, looking at it with us. We're not alone.

The work of fiction that's got so much attention these last 2 months is "Cat Person" by Kristen Roupenian, in The New Yorker. Many people who were talking about it didn't really seem to fully register that it was a work of fiction. As Laura Adamczyk wrote (in AV Club):
Debating over who’s the bigger jerk in this [story about a short male-female relationship], or any, work of fiction misses the point.... And yet because so many people came to the story through social media, as opposed to having the print issue delivered to their mail boxes, they clicked through and read without seeing its “fiction” designation. This no doubt encouraged some people to read the story not only as nonfiction but also as something that was up for debate, something they should or should not agree with....
And now we have the turnaround, a nonfiction account of a date with the charming young comedian Aziz Ansari that people are reading and comparing to "Cat Person." But Aziz Ansari is a real person, and the story told by the pseudonymous "Grace" is exposing him to devastating contempt. He's not a fictional character, like "Robert," the "cat person" Roupenian created for us to loathe. Grace's story is presented as true, which of course doesn't make it true, and for all we know, "Cat Person" squares up more accurately to something that happened in real life, but "Cat Person" is called fiction.

Here, I'm having the reverse feeling that I have with David Foster Wallace. I prefer the fiction. I prefer "Cat Person" to Grace's story, because "Cat Person" excludes the question of what should we do to this man who pushed his way through a sexual encounter without noticing how not-into-it the woman was. We can observe and analyze the details contemplatively because there are no real people, just stand-ins for people who might exist, and there's no issue of whether the author is being fair to anyone or whether "Robert" should be arrested or otherwise ruined. We watch and judge and learn. We — all of us — have the woman's vicarious experience. But the decision to tell the stark details of a bad sexual encounter with Aziz Ansari feels so dismal and sad. I'm not able to think about the story itself. I'm completely distracted by the exposure of the frailty of a particular individual, a real person.

A problem I've had with fiction is the sadism: The author creates characters who will be amusing to torment. But Grace's story entails finding a real person, someone we already like (or love), and telling a story about him that demands that we hate him.

Catherine Deneuve nonapologizes.

From "Catherine Deneuve Apologizes to Victims after Denouncing #MeToo" (NYT):
“I’m a free woman and I will remain one,” Ms. Deneuve said in the letter to Libération. “I fraternally salute all women victims of odious acts who may have felt aggrieved by the letter in Le Monde. It is to them, and them alone, that I apologize.”

Last week’s letter, which said that using social media as a forum for sharing experiences of sexual misconduct had gone too far, drew some praise but also international criticism.... The sentiment of the statement had been misrepresented by some of her fellow signatories, [Deneuve] said. “Yes, I signed this petition, and yet it seems to me absolutely necessary today to emphasize my disagreement with the way some petitioners individually claim the right to spread themselves across the media, distorting the very spirit of this text,” she continued....
Deneuve is not apologizing. Some people got the wrong idea about what the letter meant and she's letting them know she cares about their feelings. She's not saying she did anything wrong, so it's a nonapology.

Deneuve also took a shot at "conservatives, racists and traditionalists of all kinds who have found it strategic to support me": "I am not fooled... They will have neither my gratitude nor my friendship — on the contrary.” The NYT points out (for what it's worth) that Deneuve signed a 1971 letter (along with 343 other women) saying that she had had an abortion (when it was illegal).

The linked NYT article also refers to this NYT op-ed, "Catherine Deneuve and the French Feminist Difference," by the French journalist Agnès Poirier:
Call it a cliché if you like, but ours is a culture that, for better and for worse, views seduction as a harmless and pleasurable game, dating back to the days of medieval “amour courtois.” As a result, there has been a kind of harmony between the sexes that is particularly French. This does not mean that sexism doesn’t exist in France — of course it does. It also doesn’t mean we don’t disapprove of the actions of men like Mr. Weinstein. What it does mean is that we are wary of things that might disturb this harmony.

And in the past 20 years or so, a new French feminism has emerged — an American import. It has embraced this rather alien brand of anti-men paranoia... it took control of #MeToo in France, and this same form of feminism has been very vocal against the Deneuve letter....

To many of us in France, Simone de Beauvoir could have been writing yesterday: “Relations between men and women in America are one of permanent war. They don’t seem to actually like each other. There seems to be no possible friendship between them. They distrust each other, lack generosity in dealing with one another. Their relationship is often made of small vexations, little disputes, and short-lived triumphs.”
I guess that's the sort of thing Deneuve wants to distance herself from. That's the trouble with signing a group letter, joining a movement, or even using a word like "feminist." You empower other people to seem to be speaking for you when they go about saying things that are not precisely what you want to say.

"Ms. Puertolas says her heart was racing. Then she recalls telling herself: 'I am Gilda. I am not Sabina. Sabina is back at the hotel.' She walked onto the set for the first time."

"Near the end of the first act, Ms. Puertolas stepped up to deliver the opera's most challenging aria, 'Caro nome.' When she finished, the crowd erupted. 'It was absolutely wonderful,' Ms. Rebourg says. Near the end of the three-hour opera, the curtains fell. Ms. Puertolas got a standing ovation, leaving her in tears. After expecting so little from his balcony seat when the substitute was announced, Mr. Darlington was moved by her 'splendid' performance. 'Knowing about her ordeal made it even more poignant.'"

From "An Opera Lost Its Soprano -- It Had 36 Hours to Find Another --- 'Rigoletto' diva's illness was do-or-die opportunity for a fill-in from Madrid" (Wall Street Journal).

My favorite linguistic issue ever: What if Trump didn't say "shithole" but "shithouse"?

Have you seen this one? National Review editor Rich Lowry was on "This Week" yesterday and this happened:
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's pretty clear [President Trump] said what's been reported. By denying it, he puts his supporters in the most difficult position.

LOWRY: He used a different -- my understanding from the meeting, he used a different, but very closely related vulgarity. He said s-house, and not s-hole. That's not going to make a difference to anyone. But the general remarks -- yes -- I'd like to have a transcript, because everyone is putting so much weight on this to see exactly what was said in what ways, but the general tenor of the discussion has been reported accurately.
Not going to make a difference to anyone?! Now I'm determined to find a shithouse/shithole distinction.

Historically, going back to the 1600s, "shithole" first meant "The rectum or anus." (I'm using the OED.) "Shithole" took on other meanings in the early 20th century: "a wretched place," "a toilet." And in the late 20th century, it also became an alternative to "asshole" to mean "a despicable person."

"Shithouse," going back to the 1600s, meant "toilet," usually an outdoor toilet — a "privy" or "outhouse." The oldest published usage is (like Trump's purported use) metaphorical:
1659 J. Howell Ital. Prov. Let. Ital. Prov. sig. A4v, in Παροιμιογραϕια If Florence had a Sea Port, she would make a Hortyard of Pisa, a Counting-house of Ligorn, and a shitt-house of Luca.
Like "shithole," "shithouse" came to mean "a wretched place" in the 20th century. The first published use was in 1949, in Henry Miller's "Sexus": "You leave the toilet and you step into the big shithouse. Whatever you touch is shitty."

And here's Martin Amis in "London Fields" in 1989:
The class system just doesn't know when to call it a day. Even a nuclear holocaust, I think, would fail to make that much of a dent in it. Crawling through the iodized shithouse that used to be England, people would still be brooding about accents and cocked pinkies, about maiden names and settee or sofa, about the proper way to eat a roach in society. Do you take the head off first or start with the legs?
Ha ha. Settee or sofa. It's so like shithouse or shithole. And yet so different.

Anyway, "shithouse" also came to mean "despicable person" in the 20th century (at least in Britain). And it's been an adjective meaning "contemptible, bad, disgusting" at least since 1966, when Charles Bukowski wrote in a letter, "The flunky fired from his shithouse job, the guys like me."

There are also the phrases: "To be in the shithouse" (as in "Fleetwood Mac's career was definitely not in the shithouse") and "shithouse rumor" ("All you had was a shithouse rumor" (heh, that's all we have about Trump and "shithouse")) and the well-known "shithouse rat" ("Cute as a shithouse rat," wrote the lowly, lowry cur James Joyce in that shithouse book "Ulysses").

I've got to say, if Trump said it, I hope he said "shithouse." First, I like the resonance with his real estate career. It's the humblest real estate, a shithouse. "Shithole" has more of an anatomical whiff to it — not that Trump doesn't also have his connection to body parts (tiny hands, grabbed pussies, differently sized penises).

ADDED: There's also the subtle topic of what goes on in the mind of a person who hears "shithouse" and later drags "shithole" up out of his memory. If the wrong word was reported, what caused the house-to-hole substitution? Phobia about human anatomy?

New snow, right now.

P1150835

How Trump "took the heat" for all of them: The "shithole" timeline.

January 9: With the "Fire and Fury" frenzy raging and the mainstream media pushing the Trump-is-nuts narrative, Trump convened a Meeting with Bipartisan Members of Congress on Immigration in the White House. Modeling sanity, he humorously acknowledged the craziness of politics and his ability to help the "traditional politicians" "take the heat."
Thank you, Lindsey.... you know, when you talk about comprehensive immigration reform, which is where I would like to get to eventually — if we do the right bill here, we are not very far way. You know, we’ve done most of it. You want to know the truth, Dick? If we do this properly, DACA, you’re not so far away from comprehensive immigration reform. And if you want to take it that further step, I’ll take the heat, I don’t care. I don’t care — I’ll take all the heat you want to give me, and I’ll take the heat off both the Democrats and the Republicans. My whole life has been heat. (Laughter.) I like heat, in a certain way. But I will. I mean, you are somewhat more traditional politicians. Two and a half years ago, I was never thinking in terms of politics. Now I’m a politician. You people have been doing it, many of you, all your lives. I’ll take all the heat you want. But you are not that far away from comprehensive immigration reform....
January 11: The 2 Senators he named in his I'll-take-the-heat remark, Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin, came to meet with Trump in private, and immediately afterwards there was a report from an unnamed source claiming that Trump had said "Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?" Whoever chose to drop this bomb — Durbin? Graham? — delivered the heat. It wasn't quite the heat Trump had asked for. He'd offered to take the heat on the way to bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform, but it seemed that Trump had resisted the Graham-Durbin proposal, which would have given special priority to Haitians. We don't know for sure exactly how Trump expressed what seems to be his preference for a "merit" system, but the quote was very exciting and, the frenzy of "Fire and Fury having died out, the media jumped at what they needed to fan anti-Trump fires once again. Trump is a racist was at least as hot as the previous week's Trump is crazy. Trump got the heat. And he likes heat, in a certain way. Does he like it that way? Who knows? Saying "shithole" over and over while deploring the man who said it had far more energy than the underlying policy question, but maybe on some level we were forming opinions about whether we prefer immigrants based on "merit" or from the places people have the most reason to want to leave.

January 14: Various persons from the January 11th meeting say different things about what Trump really said and whether they could "recollect" anything specific, and then Trump himself spoke up. NYT:
After three days of denunciations from around the world, President Trump declared that he is “not a racist”.... Mr. Trump also insisted that he had not made the inflammatory comments in a White House meeting on Thursday.... “I’m not a racist,” Mr. Trump said... “I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you.”...
Trump was backed up by 2 other Senators who'd been in the room:
“I didn’t hear that word either,” [Tom] Cotton said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “And I was sitting no further away from Donald Trump than Dick Durbin was.” Mr. Cotton said Mr. Durbin “has a history of misrepresenting what happens in White House meetings,” an assertion that [David] Perdue made in his own interview Sunday morning on ABC’s “This Week.”
January 15: It's Martin Luther King Day. Where do we want to go with this? Fan the flames again? Do we want to believe we have a crazy or racist President or a crazy and racist President? Or does it seem that Trump has taken the heat, taken all the heat they wanted to give him. His whole life has been heat. He likes heat, in a certain way. That doesn't mean we all like heat. Some of us would like to get to normal, including normalizing immigration policy, with real legislation that we actually believe is the right solution and that we want to see enforced.

January 14, 2018

At the Greenhouse Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

You can celebrate the 14th anniversary of this blog (as discussed this morning). Please remember, as we go forward into Year 15, that you can use the Althouse Portal to Amazon and that you can make direct PayPal contributions to this blog. With PayPal contributions there's a space to convey a message me, as one reader did the other day: "I’m liking the serendipity of your retiring around the time that Trump took the stage and dumped all this great material on your lap. Keep up the great work! I especially liked your observation about S-town today." I added the link so you can see what he was talking about. Anyway, thanks to all for reading, thanks to all who read and also comment, and thanks to everyone who supports this blog through Paypal and Amazon.

"Anatomy of a Farce/Fusion GPS founder’s testimony shows how we got the collusion narrative . . . and why it won’t go away."

You need to read Andrew McCarthy at National Review. From the very end:
If the Justice Department and FBI abused their intelligence-collection authority by seeking a FISA-court warrant based on unverified information, if they in any way gulled a federal judge into believing that Steele’s rumor-mongering was refined U.S. intelligence reporting, why not disclose that misconduct and put the collusion chatter to rest?...

They may not have had a collusion case on Donald Trump, but they surely had lots of intelligence tying him to bad people and unsavory activity.... [T]he Justice Department and FBI must have figured the public would never see their classified FISA-court application, especially after President Hillary Clinton took office. Thus, they had a strong incentive to load it up with anything they thought they had on Trump....

Even if that information doesn’t prove collusion, and even if some or all of it is suspect, would you want such an application disclosed if you were the president?

"My neurons are fried from all the volatility. I don’t even care at this point. I’m numb to it. I’ll lose a million dollars in a day and I’m like, O.K."

"The worse regular civilization does and the less you trust, the better crypto does... It’s almost like the ultimate short trade.... When I meet people in the normal world now, I get bored. It’s just a different level of consciousness."

Said Grant Hummer, who runs the San Francisco Ethereum Meetup, quoted in "Everyone Is Getting Hilariously Rich and You’re Not" (NYT).
His room is simple: a bed, a futon, a TV on a mostly empty media console, three keyboard cleaning sprays and a half dozen canisters of Lysol wipes. His T-shirt read, ‘The Lizard of Wall Street,’ with a picture of a lizard in a suit, dollar-sign necklaces around its neck. He carries with him a coin that reads, “memento mori,” to remind himself he can die any day. He sees the [cryptocurrency] boom as part of a global apocalypse.
I guess this is the T-shirt:

Time's Up! — after a week of shaming — for Mark Wahlberg (who didn't do anything wrong).

The NYT reports:
Mark Wahlberg and his talent agency, William Morris Endeavor, will donate $2 million to a fund dedicated to fighting pay inequity and harassment of women in Hollywood.

The donation will be made in the name of Michelle Williams, Mr. Wahlberg’s co-star in the movie “All the Money in the World,” after an outcry about pay discrepancy in reshoots for the film. Ms. Williams received a per diem of $80 for 10 days of work while Mr. Wahlberg negotiated a fee of $1.5 million. The two actors are represented by the same agency.

“Over the last few days my reshoot fee for ‘All the Money in the World’ has become an important topic of conversation,” Mr. Wahlberg said in a statement. “I 100% support the fight for fair pay and I’m donating the $1.5M to the Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund in Michelle Williams’ name.”
Why shouldn't I presume that the agency would get the best deal it could for all of its clients? I guess, going forward, anyone representing an actress will be able to get more based on the bad publicity potential of disparate pay. But in this particular case — as I understand it (hard to tell from the NYT) — Williams had a contract that agreed to do reshooting and Wahlberg did not. That put Wahlberg in a strong bargaining position, and the agency got him $1.5 million for the extra 10 days of work. Williams was stuck performing on the contract she'd already signed, which may have been the best deal for her at the time it was made. Who had any idea this strange calamity would hit the film? (Kevin Spacey became so toxic, his scenes had to be reshot with a different actor.)

Protests trashing stores in South Africa after H&M uses black child to model a shirt inscribed "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle."



Via "H&M Closes Stores in South Africa Amid Protests Over ‘Monkey’ Shirt" (NYT), which quotes Julius Malema, leader of South Africa’s second-largest opposition party, Economic Freedom Fighters: “We make no apology about what the fighters did today against that store called H&M... Every shop that undermines black people must be attended to. It must be shut down. It must be closed... We cannot allow the humiliation of black people to continue... No one should make jokes about the dignity of black people."

A great cold open on "SNL" last night.

I particularly love Fred Armisen as Michael Wolff. It's also wonderful to see Bill Murray as Steve Bannon, and I'm told the Mika and Joe stuff is spot on. I find Kate McKinnon very funny here, but I don't know "Morning Joe" enough to see how closely she's tracking Mika Brzezinski, but Meade tells me it's a great impersonation:



I'm told I should watch some YouTubes of "Morning Joe" so I can understand the Mika and Joe dynamic, but trying to extrapolate from this imitation, it seems that the man (Joe) is inflated with self-importance and the woman (Mika) serves the role of continually deflating him in this weird combination of disrespecting him and being sexually attracted to him. Did I get that right? I don't know, but I laughed a lot and am prompted to believe I would laugh even more if I understood the target that is Mika Brzezinski.

What really cracked me up was Fred Armisen, whom I couldn't recognize for a good while because of the bald head but also because he assumed the ridiculous, infuriating demeanor of Michael Wolff so perfectly.

I laughed even more at the "My Drunk Boyfriend" sketch, which was about full-size robot dolls that are actually like your drunk boyfriend. The physical comedy is really excellent:

All right... time to start Year 15.

It was 14 years ago today that I opened the blinds on this little window into my head. I didn't know who would peek in, only that I had made it possible to see the things I let show, and the sheer possibility felt incredibly exciting and almost too frightening.

As I said in the second post on that first day, January 14, 2004:
I had just emailed [a blogging colleague] about my admiration for her and my own timidity: "I'll have to think about getting up the nerve to do this sort of thing. It seems if you're going to do it, you need to become somewhat chatty and revealing, which is a strange thing to do to the entire world." Then it seemed altogether too lame not to go ahead and start the blog.
Having set aside my lifelong timidity, I got on the blog ride that let me see what I thought about everything that happened — including things that happened to me — for 14 years. I got to pick what I genuinely felt like talking about and to say only what I wanted to say. Of course, once again, as in all of the other 14 years in the life of this blog, I have written here every single day.

I write for the flow — the sheer intrinsic pleasure of unfiltered writing. I love having readers, but only if you like this sort of thing. Why else would you be here? Actually... ha ha... I can think of a few other reasons people could be here, since I often read things I don't like, so I can write about them here.

It's fine if you're reading because I annoy you and you want to fight about it in the comments. The main thing I wanted in going into law teaching was to have more vibrant conversation than I'd experienced in law school, and what drew me into the blog was a desire to get into discussions that in real life were muffled and suppressed.

The desire still rages, so onward to Year 15.