August 25, 2019

"He is only 29 years old, but football has wrecked his body and stolen his joy. Over the past four years, his injuries have been brutal and relentless..."

"... shoulder sprain, torn cartilage in the ribs, partially torn abdomen, lacerated kidney, concussion, torn labrum in his right shoulder and now the calf and ankle problem that hasn’t healed.... 'For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab — injury, pain rehab — and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and offseason,' Luck said Saturday night. 'And I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away.' The delightful thing about Luck always had been his love for the sport. He graduated from Stanford with a degree in architectural design, and he could have been a great engineer (maybe he still will be). He didn’t play football out of necessity or simply because he was so good at it. He didn’t use the game as a way out of a tough life. He loved it, really loved it. He geeked out on football..."

From "For Andrew Luck, football had wrecked his body and stolen his joy" by Jerry Brewer (in WaPo).

"Eugen Kukla could not have made his feelings clearer as 120 drunken tourists thronged noisily past his home around midnight, rudely breaking the silence of a normally sedate city-centre residential street."

"'Fuck pub crawls, fuck pub crawls,' he repeated over and over again, while filming the scene on his smart phone. Some of the crowd reacted in amusement, smiling and waving into the camera. But Kukla, 55, a photojournalist, did not see the joke. 'It’s an expression of my personal feelings, a buildup of frustration over a long period of time, years and years and years,' he said.... [A] rising tide of visitors has flooded in, up from 2.62 million in the year 2000, to just under 8 million last year.... The trend is transforming Prague and risks pushing out long-term inhabitants of the city centre – historically considered a residential district – and turning it into a tourist-only zone.... The signs of such tourist-driven commercialisation are everywhere, seen in the spread of cheap souvenir shops, massage parlours painted in out-of-place garish colours – an example of what officials denounce as 'visual smog' – and the dancers in giant panda suits that proliferate in Old Town Square.... Also notorious are walking tours in Malá Strana, near Prague castle, which often culminate in visits to the Lennon Wall, a famous protest site during communist times that has since become a place of free expression for would-be graffiti artists, but is now being defaced with mindless spraying done at the urging of guides.... Tourists were pictured clambering on to outsize statues of babies designed by the Czech artist David Černý in Kampa Park and pouring beer into the mouths of two male figurines in the courtyard of the Franz Kafka museum...."

From "The fall of Prague: ‘Drunk tourists are acting like they’ve conquered our city’/As the Czech Republic capital launches a crackdown, the Observer joins one of the organised pub crawls that are blighting residents’ lives" (The Guardian).

"Why, exactly, elk calves die after human activity as mellow as hiking is not entirely clear."

"Some likely perish because the mothers, startled by passing humans and their canine companions, run too far away for the calves to catch up, weakening the young and making them more susceptible to starvation or predation from lions or bears. Other times it may be that stress from passing recreationists results in the mother making less milk."

From "Americans' love of hiking has driven elk to the brink, scientists say" (The Guardian).

"Seems like this advice, which will provide essentially no meaningful benefits to the world, is designed to achieve an exquisite balance..."

"... keep travelling but feel more virtuous by tweaking your usual routines with tiny sacrifices, while retaining some of the guilt and shame that appears necessary to be a genuine 'woke' person."

That's the top-rated comment on "How Guilty Should You Feel About Your Vacation?/And what can you do about it?" by Seth Kugel (in the NYT).

First, I highly recommend clicking through so you can see the fantastic illustration by Tim Enthoven (I see I recommended him before, here).

Now, to the text. Kugel is a travel writer. And the NYT makes money selling travel to its readers. The problem of air travel and carbon emissions is a huge conflict of interest for them, and it's painful or humorous to watch them try to writhe into a nonridiculous position.
So, O.K. How bad should we really feel? Well, first of all, no self-flagellation required for that week in Italy. It is true that your round-trip flight is probably the biggest single contributor to your carbon footprint this year (unless you moved from a studio apartment to a mansion or quit your job for the Nature Conservancy to become a coal lobbyist). But shame is the wrong emotion....
Why is shame the "wrong" emotion? And why does the text switch from "guilt" to "shame"? I thought the distinction was important! It's not even discussed. And the text goes on to suggest that the reason "shame" is "wrong" is because shaming isn't an effective way to get people to change what they are doing. It's not? Why not? Is that scientifically proven fact? You know, where you have the problem of people not wanting to believe the science about climate change, you ought to adhere closely to science, and yet you have nothing scientific about shaming (or guilt, which you unscientifically merge)!

It seems to me that shaming is often quite effective.

"The five members of HOWL's board... have begun weighing the possibility that their perfect place may not be long for this world."

"There are no clear inheritors of [The Huntington Open Women’s Land], which was designated a place for women and women only by a private donor in 1986.... Such stories of pending obsolescence are common among the living leaders of the womyn’s land movement, who began founding rural lesbian utopias in the 1960s. At the peak, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there were an estimated 150 such intentional communities in the United States. The lands are now at risk of dying out, partly because of their virtues: They exist in remote, off-the-grid areas.... In the absence of the men, women often comfortably lounged around the premises in various states of undress. HOWL in particular was envisioned 'as a place where young women have role models of strong old women....'...  More recently, HOWL joined Hipcamp, an online camping booking platform, which has led to an uptick in visitors.... 'This is a business,' said Barbara Lieu, 74, who manages the properties. 'Some might say it’s not, but it is.... I don’t have a fantasy that young lesbians will want to come here. They have enough freedoms in the world that we never had. And they’re transitioning in all kinds of ways.'... Starting about a decade ago, HOWL began to welcome anyone who identifies as a woman. The move caused some longstanding members to bristle.... There have been rumors of new separatist communities springing up elsewhere. [There is word] of one run entirely by trans women in the South. The rumors place it on an alpaca farm...."

From "Why Doesn’t Anyone Want to Live in This Perfect Place?" (NYT).

"My first experience taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (M.B.T.I.) was at a job where it was mandatory."

"The company’s chief executive announced that all employees would take the test as part of a quarterly staff retreat. The assessment concluded that I was an I.N.T.J. (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judgment.) At the retreat, we were all encouraged to share our results with one another as we participated in various team-building activities. I reluctantly revealed mine, as I wondered how this detailed profile of my personality traits and communication style would translate to my colleagues. Not only was I the sole black woman in the organization, a demographic notoriously misunderstood in the workplace, I now had the additional strike of being outed as an introvert, in the company of extroverts. Introverts have long been marginalized in professional environments. In American office culture, where break room small talk, brainstorming meetings and open office layouts are all commonplace, there seems to be little tolerance for the solitary nature of the typical introvert....  Before the Myers-Briggs team-building event, a few minor office conflicts had revealed that my reserved and independent work style didn’t mesh well with my manager’s, who preferred frequent updates and over-communication about projects. As the months passed, it became clear that I wouldn’t progress in a way that fit my career goals — or personality. Whether it was a self-fulfilling prophecy or a true ripple effect of the M.B.T.I., I left the job shortly after."

From "To Promote Inclusivity, Stay Away from Personality Assessments/Do personality tests like the Myers-Briggs help managers learn their team’s working styles, or just encourage them to hire and promote people like them?" (NYT).


After writing the last post and creating a new tag "littering," I launched into the enterprise of adding the tag retrospectively, through the whole 15-year archive of this blog. Soon enough, I saw I was creating a parallel tag. There already was a tag "litter," so I had to work to get rid of the new tag.

I don't want my blog littered with duplicative tags. So the tag — the good old tag — is "litter."

I hadn't used it consistently, since I'd forgotten I had it. Just now, I added it to a few old things, including that post about Professor Amy Wax 2 days ago, which included The New Yorker's paraphrase of her saying "that white people litter less than people of color."

What Wax actually said was that French children "wouldn’t dream of creating a ruckus, just like they wouldn’t dream of littering." Then the New Yorker interviewer, Isaac Chotiner, prodded her with the question "So white French kids wouldn’t dream of littering, you mean?" She answered in an indirect way that reinforced her position that she's talking about culture:
Well, certainly, in Germany, I don’t think they would. I’ve seen them being upbraided on the street for doing that by other people. I just think there are differences in behavior that track culture, that track nationality. They’re not perfect. There’s a range. If you want to deny that they exist, you know.... [Laughs.]
She didn't agree with the absurd idea that the tendency to litter is inborn and race-based! I remember back in the 1950s, I saw litter all along the roadways where I lived (in Delaware, amongst white people). I felt really bad about it, and it seemed hopeless. But Americans decided to turn things around and we did. And look at England. The American humorist David Sedaris frequently writes about his public-service work picking up litter near his home in England.

From "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls":
I find a half-empty box of doughnuts and imagine it flung from the dimpled hand of a dieter, wailing, “Get this away from me.” Perhaps the jumbo beer cans and empty bottles of booze are tossed for a similar reason. It’s about denial, I tell myself, or, no, it’s about anger, for isn’t every piece of litter a way of saying “fuck you”?
So click on the "litter" tag. There's some good stuff in there, including litter at the Wisconsin protests (and discussion of the folk belief that left wingers litter and right wingers leave a place cleaner than they found it), litter on Mount Everest, the old Arlo Guthrie song line "What were you arrested for?," the "Garden Spicer" project, and the concept of "hipster litter."

The etymology of "litter" is bed-related. "Lit" is the French word for bed. It's from a bed that you get to the sort of "litter" that you carry a person on...
... and the idea of a "litter" of animals. Picture the scraps of plant material that would be the animals' bed.

From there you get the plant "litter" — the bits of fallen leaves you can use as mulch or that might be involved in Finnish forest-raking. Once you see that, it's easy to see how "litter" became "Odds and ends, fragments and leavings lying about, rubbish; a state of confusion or untidiness; a disorderly accumulation of things lying about" (OED). That meaning emerged in the 18th century.

The verb "litter" begins with the idea of making a bed for an animal. By the 18th century, it could also mean "To cover as with litter, to strew with objects scattered in disorder." The oldest use with that meaning comes from Jonathan Swift in 1726:  "They found, The Room with Volumes litter'd round." Later, there's Charles Dickens, also talking about written material as litter: "A dingy room lined with books and littered with papers" ("A Tale of Two Cities, 1859). Indoor litter. Clutter. And, notably, books.

Today's digression got started with the discussion (in the previous post) of a comics artist depositing tiny scraps of writing around town. So I've cycled 'round to where I began. Literary litter. And oh, the scraps of writing I've strewn on this blog for 15 years! But there's no paper, no substance at all. Am I littering? Am I literary?

And no, "litter" and "literature" do not share an etymology. The "lit" in literature comes from a line that had another "t." The French is "littérature." It's not like the French "lit" for bed. Think of "letter."

Now, get moving...

"Gharib often forces herself to make a zine in five minutes, and she used that same approach when creating chapters for her book."

“The challenge and the beauty of the [comics and zines] format is practicing extreme restraint,” she said. “I had to condense down what I was trying to say in a set of words and meaningful images.'... You’re busy. We get it. But you can use small pockets of time to create. Gharib, for example, molded omelets and other foods out of leftover clay during work meetings. “If I don’t have any art materials and I get bored, I try to interact with whatever I have on me in the space I am in,” she said. “Sometimes I pick flowers and leave them places, or tear tiny bits of receipts or trash in my purse and write tiny messages on them and leave them around the city for people to find."

I was reading "How to Draw Yourself Out of a Creative Funk/Malaka Gharib, the author of the coming-of-age graphic memoir 'I Was Their American Dream,' shares her tips" (NYT) on my iPhone, where the Instagram images didn't display. I made a mental note to write a blog post titled something like "Littering?! The NYT endorses littering?" But this morning I'm on my desktop and I'm seeing the images and — is it just Morning Me versus Late-Night Me? — I'm presenting the Times text uncritically and clicking "Follow" at Instagram and thinking this littering is like the small category of graffiti that I'm happy to see.

A post shared by malaka 🥀 gharib (@malakagharib) on

August 24, 2019

At the Green Fly Café...


Alight. Be in the yellow. Unload your thoughts.

(And enjoy the shopping — though the Althouse Portal to Amazon.)

I'm getting pretty bored with material like this.

Look at that! It screams: I've got nothing new to say but it feels so important to say it all over again.

Anyway, I didn't read it. The Presidency of Donald Trump Never Gets Any Less Absurd. What I feel is the The Disbelief in the Presidency of Donald Trump Never Gets Any Less Absurd.

I wasn't a Trump fan at the point when he got elected. But he got elected, and I adapted. He became the President. He is the President. Yes, it is absurd, but life is absurd. You can't spend your life pacing about frantically and insisting on telling every passerby that life is absurd. But columns must be written.

I'll bet there's something in there about "I am the chosen one." But doesn't Andrew Sullivan think he is the chosen one — the one chosen to write columns about the unrelenting absurdity of Donald Trump?

Oh, now, I must do a page search to see if I win my bet with myself. And, yes, I do:
In just a few minutes this week, standing next to a noisy helicopter, in what now passes as the only form of press conference that still exists in this White House, he said a series of things that were absurd. He touted a new medicine to cope with veterans’ suicides; he answered a question about loopholes in gun background checks by talking about loopholes in immigration law; he said without irony that in America, “we have great mental illness”; he said that American Jews who vote Democrat are “disloyal to Israel,” as if dual loyalty were an expectation and not an anti-Semitic slur; he said — while looking heavenward — that he is “the chosen one” to tackle trade with China; he said “I have many people from Denmark who live in the United States”; he claimed his predecessor changed the rules on family separation in immigration when his own administration did it; he said (for the umpteenth time) that his term of office might last another 14 years; he threatened to release ISIS fighters in Germany and France to punish those allies; and he said he is “very seriously” considering an executive order to change the Constitution.

If you can begin even to engage this bizarre, dangerous, deranged, and ignorant stream of consciousness, and try to discern some kind of logic or pattern, your brain will break....
So we're all broken?

"Men are hurting, and, according to many researchers, masculinity is what is hurting them..."

"... and making it hard for them to maintain friendships. Society tells men* to be stoic and to suppress their feelings and expects them to be aggressive.... 1. Don't blame yourself. You are a product of a society that expects very particular things of masculinity, so focus on undoing hurtful and restricting belief systems. 'Friendships are coded as not masculine; certainly emotions are coded as ... not masculine.... So if you're not supposed to be emotional that means you're not going to be able to find the intimacy.'... 2. Accept your own desire for intimacy and normalize it for the people in your life.... 3. Model vulnerability.... 4. Ask more questions.... 5. Get close with the children in your life...."

From "Men Can Have Better Friendships. Here's How" (NPR).

What's with the asterisk on "men"?
* For the purpose of this piece, we're using the word "men" to refer to people who identify that way and who can be saddled with the constraints of masculinity.
Get ready for a world where "men" needs an asterisk and where the word refers to people who are "saddled with the constraints" of this condition. Almost makes you wonder why anyone would identify as male when it wasn't their assignment at birth. If you go out of your way to get to manhood — through the post-birth identification process — can you still be "saddled with the constraints of masculinity"? Or is it understood that this is exactly what you are identifying with (in which case it's not a constraint but precisely where you want to be)?

I'm just going to guess — even though I think these are interesting questions — that the answer is no. I'm thinking the identification as male is something deep-seated and not purely a choice. So you're not saying, I want exactly that. And in fact, you might even choose things for yourself that then burden you in many ways, foreseen and unforeseen. I think of the analogy of marriage: People fall in love and marry, intuitively or as a matter of rational choice, and still have constraints and burdens when they get what they want.

Back to the main substance of the article: "Men are hurting, and... masculinity is what is hurting them." Could there be an article "Women are hurting, and... femininity is what is hurting them"? Well, yes. I think there could be, and much of feminism says exactly that. You may think that feminism blames men and to say "femininity is hurting women" seems to put the blame within women. But to blame "femininity" is not to blame women. It blames the culture. But is femininity bad? Is masculinity bad? I'm not sure those are interesting questions. I guess stereotypical ideas about masculinity/femininity can limit your fulfillment as a human being.

As for the desire for better friendships, isn't that something that besets all adults? Do men look at women and think the women have great friendships and I wish I had something like that in my life? But I think many women wish for better friendships too, and also that a lot of women have... I mean... are saddled with the constraints of bad friendships.