November 29, 2021

Sunrise — 7:00.

IMG_8440D 

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"Though it’s the film’s quieter absurdities – like its glorious shot of Crawford, sheathed in platinum sequins, descending a curved staircase while she scowls at a plate of cold, congealed steak – that tickle me more than its chaotic, cacophonous climaxes."

From "Mommie Dearest at 40: the derided camp classic that deserves a closer look/Faye Dunaway’s all-guns-blazing performance as Joan Crawford is one of many reasons why the reviled biodrama is not the disaster many have labelled it" by Guy Lodge (The Guardian).

Yes, it has been 40 years, and I rewatched it for the first time this week. Not because I noticed it's the 40 year anniversary but because it's in a collection of Frank Perry movies on the Criterion Channel, and I'd just watched one of them — "Diary of a Mad Housewife" — for reasons discussed in a November 9th post. And I'd watched another — "The Swimmer" — back in 2018, discussed here. Frank Perry is a strange director. All 3 of these movies have a heightened surreality. They're all heavily focused on an awfully unpleasant central character who's jammed right up in your face for 2 hours. 

There are 2 more Frank Perry movies collected at Criterion — "David and Lisa" (which I saw sometime in the 1960s and have never rewatched) and "Man on a Swing" (a 1974 movie that I don't think I'd ever noticed before).

Have you got anything to say about Frank Perry? If you know him at all, which of these movies is your opinion based on? If it's "Mommie Dearest," do you agree — as I do! — that these are the best 6 1/2 minutes in the movie?

George yawns as Paul invents "Get Back" out of thin air.

"But what Biden knows, after three-plus decades of being politically left for dead, is that nothing’s over just because a bunch of unnamed staffers who spend too much time reading polls say it’s over."

"He knows from experience that the more monolithic and reflexive the popular wisdom, the more likely it will be proved wrong. Does Biden run again? Personally, I’ve always thought he was most likely a one-term, stabilizing president, and I don’t really believe he has made up his mind to seek another term. But it’s early yet, and I’m pretty sure Biden won’t be spooked into accepting everybody else’s idea of political reality."

From "Panicked Democrats are ready to shove Biden aside. Again" by Matt Bai (WaPo).

Elon Musk "became a bright antithesis to Russian capitalism, a guide on how you can get rich in the right way and how you can spend the money you earned in the right way."

"The Russian environment could not produce this cultlike figure. And it is an easy import because Musk is not associated with some Wall Street billionaire, he is not a native American and he engages with Russia. So he is not perceived as a stranger, and this image is important to a stratum of people who are in need of one."

Said Alexey Firsov, founder of the Platforma sociological research and consulting firm, quoted in "Memes, merchandise and Mars cocktails: Russia’s mania for Elon Musk has no bounds" (WaPo).

And there's this, from a 29-year-old Moscow bartender who attracted the attention of SpaceX by applying for the job of bartending on its mission to Mars: "Probably the decisive thing that inspired me to follow Musk is when he said that you shouldn’t be afraid of failure. I think, here in Russia, if you make one mistake, it follows you. His view seems to be that if you make a mistake, you get experience and learn from it and won’t make it again. I think it’s unique for people in Russia."

In Russia, we're told, people love wearing Elon Musk imagery on their shirts:

"There are two pronouns: he and she. Our language is beautiful. And two pronouns are appropriate."

Said the French first lady, Brigitte Macron, quoted in "In a Nonbinary Pronoun, France Sees a U.S. Attack on the Republic/When a French dictionary included the gender-nonspecific 'iel' for the first time, a virulent reaction erupted over 'wokisme' exported from American universities" (NYT).
Lilian Delhomme, 24, a gender-nonconforming student of international affairs at the University of Paris 8 who has been using the pronoun “iel” for about a year, was appalled by Ms. Macron’s statement. 
“This for me was very violent,” Mx. Delhomme said in an interview. “Coming from the first lady, from a woman, from a French teacher, from someone whose relationship went against many societal norms, it made me lose hope.”
Mx. Delhomme was referring to the fact that the relationship between Ms. Macron, 68, and Mr. Macron, 43, began in high school when he was a teenager and she was his drama teacher, married with three children....
That's a nice example of going on the offense, but I wonder if the French who are outraged about the invention of ungendered pronouns might also reject the "many societal norms" that stand in the way of a sexual relationship between a teenaged student and his high school teacher. I don't know. I am not French. I don't have my finger on the pulse of the French. 

But, from afar, I empathize with the sentiment "Our language is beautiful." It is true of French and it is true of English, though awful writing and speech is possible in both languages, and it's hard to speak beautifully of the desire to control the growth of the language. There are always many extra words, and who could you trust to pare away the extra words?

One answer is: The dictionary! I remember when some people would eschew any word that wasn't "in the dictionary." 

ADDED: If you object to adding weird words, why would you say "wokeisme"? I detect eepocreeezeee.

"As South Koreans enter the living-with-corona phase of the pandemic, some are easing back into social life by visiting public spaces where they can be alone and do very little."

"Nothing is the new something in South Korea as people desperately seek refuge from the pressures of living as functioning adults in a global pandemic in a high-stress and fast-paced society with soaring real estate prices and often-grueling work schedules. At a Space Out Competition this year, competitors sought to achieve the lowest heart rate possible while sitting in a 'healing forest' on the southern island of Jeju....Spacing out is known in Korean as 'hitting mung,' a slang usage of the word 'mung' to describe a state of being totally zoned out.... With the weather change this fall, now popular are the terms 'forest mung' and 'foliage mung,' meaning spacing out while looking at trees or foliage. There’s 'fire mung,' or spacing out while watching logs burn, and 'water mung,' being meditative near bodies of water.... On Ganghwa Island, off South Korea’s west coast, a cafe named Mung Hit also offers no-activity relaxation areas. In one section is a single chair facing a mirror for anyone who wants to sit and stare. There are nooks for meditating, reading, sitting by a pond or the garden, or enjoying mountain views. No pets or children are allowed.... '"Hitting mung" is a concept of emptying your heart and your brain so that you can fill them with new ideas and thoughts. We opened because we wanted to create a space for people to do just that'...."

November 28, 2021

Sunrise — 7:11, 7:17.

I took this picture at 7:11: 

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And Meade took this picture — I'm in it — at 7:17:

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"In many years of working as a travel writer — which I’ve often thought of as working the awe beat — I’ve come to understand that awe cannot be easily choreographed."

"Some of the times I have experienced awe: An hour of avalanches rumbling down the south face of Annapurna under a full moon. Fork lightning strobing across the empty deck of a cargo ship on Lake Victoria. An eagle hovering 20 feet above my shoulder in the Chilean tundra. These... transcendental moments... relied on serendipity...  Some occasions, by contrast, when I didn’t feel awe: gorilla tracking in Uganda, seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre amid a jostling crowd of people taking photos of it with their mobile phones, every safari I’ve ever been on.... Space tourism belongs to this subset of ostensibly awesome experiences that often feel anticlimactic precisely because they come with a promise of awe factored in... The sense of surprise that is arguably the most vital precondition for experiencing awe will have been watered down by the months of forethought and demystification.... It’s the difference between joining a 20-strong organized tour to see the Northern Lights and, say, camping alone in some Scandinavian wilderness and being roused from your tent by the aurora’s spectral green ripples illuminating the canvas.... 'The best way to access this everyday awe is by allowing yourself to wander, to avoid following a schedule each moment of the day. We didn’t evolve to feel awe about hurtling through space.'"


When have you experienced the sublime? Was it planned? Was it in a group? Did you pay for it? If it was planned, paid for, and in a group, did you really feel it, or did you fake it? What if other people murmuring about the sublimity they paid for punctured your sublimity? What if it left you cold, what if it felt like nothing? But you paid $450,000! 

I'm pulled into the upper right hand corner of The Washington Post — so dangerous, so syrup-drenched.

Here's that corner (9 items):

It's an omakase breakfast — omakase, not omicron — the selections entrusted to the illustrious mainstream newspaper. I will update this post, course by course. 

1. "For Clarence Thomas, avowed critic of Roe v. Wade, Mississippi abortion case a moment long awaited" by Robert Barnes. There's oral argument in the big abortion case this Wednesday, and, we're told, Thomas receives "unprecedented deference" these days — because of all his new colleagues, who "think like him," and because there's a new method of asking questions at oral argument, and not only does he speak now, he goes first, and no one cuts him off. They let him finish "his low-key inquiries." Thomas has repeatedly written separate opinions to say that Roe ought to be overruled. "Thomas’s idiosyncratic views and his resistance to compromise still make him the justice most likely to write a solo opinion," writes Barnes. But what's to prevent these new Justices, who may genuinely respect him, from curing that loneliness? Asking that question, I thought of the adage, "Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one already." And then I realized I'm talking about the person named in the next headline down, Henry David Thoreau.

2. "The Black people who lived in Walden Woods long before Henry David Thoreau": "'Down the road, on the right hand, on Brister’s Hill lived Brister Freeman, ‘a handy Negro,’ slave of Squire Cummings once... With him dwelt Fenda, his hospitable wife, who told fortunes, yet pleasantly – large, round, and black, blacker than any of the children of night, such a dusky orb as never rose on Concord before or since,' Thoreau wrote in 'Walden.'"

3. "Amid massive shortage, Canada taps strategic reserves — of maple syrup": "Petroleum stockpiles aren’t the only strategic reserves being tapped this season amid concerns of supply shortages and sky-high prices." There's a Canadian federation that, we're told, gets called "the OPEC of maple syrup." The shortage seems to have mostly to do with people cooking more pancakes and such on account of the lockdown, but there's also stress to the maple trees from climate change, so make sure to keep worrying about climate change. It affects pancakes!

4. "The Rule of Six: A newly radicalized Supreme Court is poised to reshape the nation" by Ruth Marcus. The conservatives are no longer just looking for a 5th vote. With 6, it's like "an heir and spare." They can afford to lose one. No more need to cajole that last one, the fussed-over "swing" voter. And Marcus tells WaPo readers to be be afraid, be very afraid.

5. "Hanukkah isn’t ‘Jewish Christmas.’ Stop treating it that way. No need to include our holiday in the winter extravaganza of commercialization, thanks." Sample sentence, representing the tone and message of the entire piece: "No Jew has ever gazed longingly at a 12-foot inflatable reindeer and wished in her heart she had an equally large Moses to display in front of her house."

6. "Greece was in deep trouble. How did it right the ship? Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on the arrival of migrants — and tech companies." An interview with the prime minister. Highlights: "We should agree in principle that no country has a right to weaponize migrants. . . . We won’t let people come in as they please." About criminalizing “fake news”: "What we are doing is very measured and very valid."

7. "Five myths about the supply chain/No, self-driving trucks wouldn’t fix all our problems." "Much of today’s mess was caused by relying on extremely fragile — and extremely long — supply lines. Ohno would have shuddered at the thought that his ideas were being applied in this manner." Oh no! Taiichi Ohno originated the concept of just-in-time delivery.

8. "The newest coronavirus variant is raising alarms. The pandemic is not over." "It will take time to determine if the variant is more transmissible than delta, or more virulent, but it is a worrisome development." Won't there always be a new variant so that we will always be told we don't know enough yet and we will need, once again, to err on the side of safety? This feels like a treadmill that we can never step off.

9. "Stephen Sondheim made art that made life more real" by Alexandra Petri. A song "can’t be too clever, and it can’t be too dull. It has to land on your ear as a surprise. If it contains jokes, they have to rhyme. (If it contains rhymes, words that are spelled differently are funnier, Sondheim thought, than words that are spelled the same.)... The song has to take the character singing it somewhere. It has to be essential to the show. 'If you can take the song out,' Sondheim said, 'and it doesn’t leave a hole, then the song’s not necessary.'... Life also exists in time. You cannot stop it and start it and go back and hope to make yourself better understood. You must express yourself in the moments allotted and make yourself heard and choose what to say." 

If I hadn't committed to reading every one of those 9 stories, the ones I would have read would be: 1, 2, and 9. And I would have blogged all 3. 

Having read all the stories, I rank their bloggability, for me, beginning with: 1, 9, 2. Then, there's a big drop off. There's something I'd wanted to say that 8 gave me the chance to say, so I'll put 8 next. I'd put 3 dead last, because I don't really want to blog about the syrup supply, though it would shoot to the top if I had a "syrup" tag (and I might create a "syrup" tag, but it will take a while to add it retrospectively, and it's only interesting if it collects a lot of old things, which it will, more than 10). I put 4 next to last, because it's obvious to me what it will be from the headline and the author, and I don't need more of that. Third from last is 5, which is unnecessary holiday fluff, and I didn't like the insinuation that I was "treating" Hanukkah in any particular way. That leaves 6 in dead center. The Greek Prime Minister. I had to force myself to read that, but he was concise and hard core — quotable.

Oops, I forgot the supply chain. I know it's important, but it's not my thing. I put Greek Prime Minister at what I called "dead center" and in 5th place, so let's put 7 in 6th place. 

Final ranking: 1, 9, 2, 8, 6, 7, 5, 4, 3.

ADDED: I have now made the tag "syrup." Click. It's pretty exciting. 

"Audience members were treated to author Haruki Murakami serving as a disc jockey while playing the works of jazz great Stan Getz and talking about his music."

"Murakami played records from his own extensive collection during a session held Nov. 13 at the Waseda International House of Literature in Tokyo.... In the shadows of his spectacular and extensive musical career, Getz continued to suffer from alcoholism and drug addiction his entire life. 'Music is there like an independent form of life unto itself,' Murakami said. 'It keeps evolving even if it lives in a host who is so messed up.'"

From "Murakami spins best of Stan Getz while he talks about jazz great" (The Asahi Shimbun).

A reader sent me that link, and I greatly enjoyed reading it here at my computer with access to Spotify to listen to, notably, “Corcovado” from “Getz/Gilberto."

 
I made a bookmark for The Asahi Shimbum, where I was pleased to see that the biggest front-page item was "Pigeons figure the odds to perch where safety is assured"...
The unusual sight of 30 or so pigeons perched on the rooftop of a parked car on a road in central Tokyo, rather than an adjacent small park, seemed like an unlikely place to congregate. But in fact it made perfect sense.... It turns out that pigeons take two factors into account when they pick where to perch, according to Shigeru Watanabe, professor emeritus of animal behavior at Keio University who won... the Ig Nobel award, which honors “achievements that first make people laugh and then make them think,” for showing that pigeons can distinguish between paintings by Picasso and Monet by showing 10 pictures of each to them.
I who was lost and lonely/Believing life was only/A bitter tragic joke, have found with you, the meaning of existence, oh my love....

November 27, 2021

Sunrise — 7:14.

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Nothing like the drama of yesterday's sunrise — even though on both days the cloud cover was reported to be 50%. 

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Joe Rogan and Jocko Willink on "Peng Shuai and China's Anti-American Propaganda."

"You can bet on almost anything today. Elections. Literary prizes. If you have a feeling that, say, Lapuan Virkiä is going to beat Porin Pesakarhut in the women’s Superpesis..."

"... the top professional pesäpallo league in Finland, you can put your money where your mouth is. During the pandemic, as casinos and racetracks closed, you could wager on the evening’s forecast in real time, or on the upcoming winter snowfall.... In 2018, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act, opening the door to online sports betting across 21 states.... Total gambling revenues in the U.S. are set to break the $44 billion mark this year, approaching the size of the market for movies, books, and music combined.... Gambling relies on addiction for its business model to function.... Gambling is an entertainment of uncertainty, a way of turning instability into play, of pretending that the structures of life don’t apply to you, that you are exempt from statistics. It’s also a way of avoiding reality, avoiding the future. When the wheel is still spinning, the fall hasn’t come. Gambling is a symptom, almost an allegory, of American decay.... Gambling is fun because it makes money seem like a game, a trifle. But fiscal silliness has been spreading more broadly recently. Crypto, with a market size that recently exceeded $2 trillion, has caused a widespread questioning of the very nature of money. Since 2008, the Fed has made quantitative easing—printing more cash—a part of its regularly scheduled programming. The U.S. money supply grew by $5.5 trillion, a 35.7 percent increase, from December 2019 to August 2021. Inflation is now rising faster than it has in 20 years. The number in your bank account does not mean today what it meant a month ago. Is currency itself now just the house money of the biggest house in the world? Who isn’t gambling now?"

From "America’s Gambling Addiction Is Metastasizing/When life feels this precarious, it’s only natural to roll the dice on just about everything" (The Atlantic).

If you ever find yourself wondering, Am I the only one who..., the answer is no you are not. There is always someone else.

That's what Meade asserts — and I presume he's not the only one who asserts that. If he could say it, someone else has also said it. You're never the only one.

The specific occasion for the assertion of this immense generality was a discussion of yard signs on view in our neighborhood as we were driving home from the sunrise run this morning. We noted that the Black Lives Matter signs are nearly all gone, for whatever reason. The only persistent signs are anti-gerrymandering, perhaps because there's serious hope of affecting legislation, with help from Tony Evers. (Evers, the governor, is a Democrat, but both houses of the Wisconsin legislature are run by the GOP.)

I mention Evers, and I have to add, "Say it, say it!" which I do to escape the very mild fake annoyance I would experience if Meade said what he always says — or used to always say — which is: "Tony is the little man who lives inside my mouth and tells me what to do." I added, "Do you think you're the only one who whenever he hears the name Tony Evers says 'Tony is the little man who lives in my mouth and tells me what to do'?"

"Plans are afoot to turn Notre Dame cathedral, once it’s restored, into what some have called a 'politically correct Disneyland'...."

"The plans, yet to be rubber-stamped, will turn the cathedral into an ‘experimental showroom,' with confessional boxes, altars and classical sculptures replaced with modern art murals. New sound and light effects will be introduced to create ‘emotional spaces.' Themed chapels on a ‘discovery trail’, with an emphasis on Africa and Asia, will pop up. And Bible quotations will be projected onto chapel walls in various languages, including Mandarin. The last chapel on the new trail will have an environmental emphasis. Defenders of the new plan are bound to say that Notre Dame, before the heart-breaking fire of 2019, was already an artifice. The sublime cathedral, begun in 1163, was heavily adapted in a Gothic Revival style in the late nineteenth century.... With exceptional buildings, close to the public’s heart, like Notre Dame... architects can’t get away with doing the hideous things that go down well at the club. Well, they can’t on the outside of buildings, anyway.... And so radical changes for the exterior were vetoed.... Because people aren’t quite so familiar with the inside of Notre Dame, there is greater wriggle room for the anti-history brigade to prevail...."

From "Don’t turn Notre Dame into a 'politically correct Disneyland'" by Harry Mount (The Spectator).

I agree with Mount, but I just want to descend into the mundane language issue: Is "wriggle room" the British version of "wiggle room," and, if so, are there subtle, interesting difference between wriggling and wiggling that we ought to take into account? 

The OED does not have anything about "wriggle room," but it does have a definition for "wiggle room," though it's a "draft addition": 

Another U.S. expression the OED notes is "get a wiggle on" (which means to hurry). English has so many words. Do we need both "wriggle" and "wiggle"? And we also have "squirm" and "writhe," to name 2 more. "Squirm" has the advantage of rhyming with "worm," but worms really seem more to wriggle... or is it wiggle? "Wiggle" is the official Bob Dylan choice.

I'm not that worked up about the Disneyfication of the interior of Notre Dame. The contents of those alcoves along the perimeter are transitory — they'll live out their little lives and pass away.

UPDATE: This post made me remember a song that I don't think I have thought of in over half a century:
  
 

This song, from 1959, is by the stunningly unattractive men who called themselves The Playmates. Their hit that you're more likely to remember is "Beep Beep."