February 21, 2020

"Should Mr. Trump look out the window of the presidential limousine, he could see billboards blaring, 'Donald Trump cheats at golf,' and 'Donald Trump eats burnt steak.'

"There's also, 'Donald Trump lost the popular vote' and 'Donald Trump went broke running a casino.'"

From "Mike Bloomberg trolls Trump with billboards as Trump campaigns in West" (CBS News).

Maybe we can get Glenn Kessler to fact-check that "burnt steak" part.

Trump orders his steak "well done." Well done steak is not burned:
A well done steak is the hardest to cook. The secret is to do it low and slow—it's the only way to prevent burning while fully cooking it through the middle. This steak should not be burnt on the outside. While there is not the faintest hint of pink in the middle, it should be browned through, not burnt through. This steak should feel solid to the touch. For a 1-inch steak, grill over medium heat between 10 and 12 minutes per side. It should reach an internal temperature of 170 F (77 C) or higher.

"I’ve had the company go back over its record and they’ve identified 3 NDAs that we signed over the past 30-plus years with women to address complaints about comments they said I had made."

"If any of them want to be released from their NDA so that they can talk about those allegations, they should contact the company and they’ll be given a release. I’ve done a lot of reflecting on this issue over the past few days and I’ve decided that for as long as I’m running the company, we won’t offer confidentiality agreements to resolve claims of sexual harassment or misconduct going forward. I recognize that NDAs, particularly when they are used in the context of sexual harassment and sexual assault, promote a culture of silence in the workplace and contribute to a culture of women not feeling safe or supported. It is imperative that when problems occur, workplaces not only address the specific incidents, but the culture and practices that led to those incidents. And then leaders must act."

A statement from Mike Bloomberg.

Well done.

"U.S. officials have told Sen. Bernie Sanders that Russia is attempting to help his presidential campaign as part of an effort to interfere with the Democratic contest..."

"... according to people familiar with the matter. President Trump and lawmakers on Capitol Hill have also been informed about the Russian assistance to the Vermont senator, according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence. It is not clear what form that Russian assistance has taken.... Sanders’s opponents have blamed some of his most vocal online supporters for injecting toxic rhetoric into the primaries. At a Democratic candidates debate in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Sanders indirectly blamed Russia, saying it was possible malign actors were trying to manipulate social media to inflame divisions among Democrats.... Also this week, a senior U.S. intelligence official said that Russia had 'developed a preference' for Trump in the 2020 campaign — an assessment that infuriated the president....."

WaPo reports.

What do you think is really going on? Would Russia help both Bernie and Trump? Why? Is it a preference for chaos? I can see the theory that getting Bernie the nomination works in the long run to help Trump, but that requires you to think that Russia prefers Trump to Bernie. Why wouldn't Russia just help Bernie?

RELATED: "Will Bernie Sanders' long-ago praise of Socialist regimes hurt Democrats in November?/If Sanders is the nominee, some Democrats worry Trump will hammer him on his long-buried words in defense of governments in Nicaragua, Cuba and the USSR" (NBC News).

"Jurors in the trial against Harvey Weinstein indicated they were deadlocked Friday on the two most serious counts against him..."

"... prompting the judge to order that any verdict must be unanimous. New York Supreme Court Judge James Burke added that if the jury can't reach a unanimous decision, then it can't return a verdict on the two counts of predatory sexual assault, which carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.... [Weinstein] also faces one count each of first-degree rape and third-degree rape, and one count of a criminal sex act. The jury suggested it reached a unanimous decision on those three counts. The structure of the charges means Weinstein can be found guilty of no more than two of the charges against him. The first-degree rape and criminal sex act charges are each punishable by at least five years to 25 years in prison. The third-degree rape charge is punishable by up to four years behind bars."

NBC News reports.

It's the Era of That's Not Funny.

"I do not think that anybody — Bernie Sanders or anyone else — should simply get the nomination because they have 30 percent of the delegates and no one else has that many."

"Let’s say that he has 35 percent. Well, 65 percent he doesn’t have, or that person doesn’t have. I think that we have to let the system work its way out. I do not believe anyone should get the nomination unless they have 50-[percent]-plus-one.... A lot people in the race still, but they’ll be dropping off quick, because the money is running out. So I think you’re going to have the field winnowing fairly quickly. And you have most of the people who are not Bernie Sanders, are people who are moderates, and maybe they’ll work something out to get together and try to find that one person who can come up with the number of delegates. Maybe that’s one way to do it.... I just don’t think you can give the nomination to somebody who has 65 percent of the people that made a different decision."

Said Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader, from his office at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, quoted in "Harry Reid says Sanders needs more than plurality to win Democratic nomination" (WaPo).

That sounds right to me, but there are times when I think it's becoming so likely that Trump will win that those who are trying to shape the future of the Democratic Party might prefer to let Bernie Sanders take the nomination and then go on to fail and fail big. That way, the left-wing extreme takes the blame, the loss can be massaged into the argument that the socialist move is a proven disaster, and the liberal moderates can reclaim control. If Sanders gets the most votes/delegates going into the convention, but the convention works out a way to give the nomination to someone else, the far left will rage on for another 4 years with a sense of entitlement that it's certainly their turn in 2024. And let's say that convention picks Pete Buttigieg, the shining new talent. Then, he'd be ruined for 2024. Save him. Let him age for 4 years. And give him a clear run at the presidency in 2024, after Trump is gone and after the Democrats prove to themselves that Americans won't vote for left-wing extremism.

"There’s been a real shift in how people, especially young women, think about beauty and desire. We’re in the age of #MeToo. Ideals are changing..."

"... and people want diversity and representation, ethnically and racially, but also in terms of shape and body type. For retailers to not adapt or evolve can be a fatal flaw."

Said marketing professor Kalinda Ukanwa, quoted under the heading "Out-of-touch, overly sexual marketing," the 3rd of "5 factors that led to Victoria’s Secret’s fall" (WaPo).

From the comments at WaPo:
Originally, Victoria's Secret sold pretty underthings and nightgowns in a time when women were wearing practical or professional clothes. Then they changed and the merchandise was more about overt sexuality and tartiness. It was like they were trying to replace Frederick's of Hollywood. The store windows could be embarrassing to people shopping with kids. Go back to things women want to wear for themselves, drop the stripper vibe, and the business could flourish again....
Do you remember the original Victoria's Secret — in the 1970s? It did always have to do with the male shopper, but it was created by a man who felt bad about the way he was treated when he went shopping for lingerie for his wife — like a "pervert." That is, it wasn't so much about the kind of leering, domineering male #MeToo is fighting, but about a male who himself feels dismissed and judged — the subordinate man.

"The ‘Rage Baking’ Controversy, Explained/'Rage Baking: The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury, and Women’s Voices' is one of the most hyped cookbooks/essay collections of the year..."

"... but Tangerine Jones, a black woman who began using the phrase 'rage baking' years ago in response to racial injustice, isn’t credited," Eater explains.
On February 4, Simon & Schuster published Rage Baking: The Transformative Power of Flour, Fury, and Women’s Voices.... Then, on February 14, blogger and baker Tangerine Jones published an essay on Medium titled “The Privilege of Rage,” outlining how she coined the phrase “rage baking” back in 2015, and watched as Alford and Gunst’s book was published to great acclaim as her work went unacknowledged. Jones, a black woman, wrote that “Being black in America means you’re solid in the knowledge that folks don’t give a true flying fuck about you or anyone who looks like you,” and that she turned to baking as a form of self care. In 2015, she started posting online with the hashtag #ragebaking, and started the @ragebaking Instagram account in the summer of 2016....

“There are huge consequences when [black women] express our rage because we’re seen as threatening,” [Jones] said in an email, even noting that her post likely wouldn’t have been as popular “if I wasn’t code switching and couching my profound disappointment and anger in ‘eloquent’ ways.”
I'm trying to understand how Tangerine Jones feels, and here's what I come up with. What if some men — without so much as mentioning me — put out a book titled "Cruel Neutrality: The Transformative Power of Blogging, Brutality, and the Detached Voice," and the authors were raking in money and doing TV appearances and their names replaced mine on a Google search on "cruel neutrality" (click to enlarge and clarify):

"That man has wild hair... oh wait."

That man has wild hair... oh wait. from r/confusingperspective

"We are very proud of crafting this idea. Mold grows in a very inconsistent way. We had to work for several months, with different samples, to be able to showcase the beauty..."

"...of something which is usually considered undesirable. I never thought I would become a specialist in mold, but that was required to make this one happen."

Said Björn Ståhl, quoted in "Why Burger King Is Proudly Advertising a Moldy, Disgusting Whopper/The chain's anti-preservatives pledge breaks just about every rule in advertising" (AdWeek)("The Moldy Whopper campaign, created through a partnership of three agencies features intriguingly high-resolution photography and video of a Whopper being consumed not by humans but rather by the voracious maw of time itself. In other words, we get to see a Whopper rotting").

Very beautiful, not that you want to eat it, but the point is that you eat it freshly made, and the mold that comes later proves its goodness on Day 1. And Burger King trusts its customers to understand the science and to enjoy the beauty of the artistically photographed food in its post-edible phase...

Snobs will say anyone sophisticated enough to appreciate this approach to advertising would never eat at Burger King anyway.

ADDED: Something you might not know about me is that in the year before I went to law school, I worked at J. Walter Thompson. The biggest client at the time was Burger King, and the big new campaign was "Burger King and I":

"Shh! You'll wake up the monkey" — We now know Trump's favorite movie.

There was a time when this business had the eyes of the whole wide world. But that wasn't good enough. Oh, no! They wanted the ears of the world, too. So they opened their big mouths, and out came talk, talk, talk... And who have they got now? Some nobodies — a lot of pale little frogs croaking pish-posh.... Words! Words! You've made a rope of words and strangled this business! But there is a microphone right there to catch the last gurgles, and Technicolor to photograph the orange, swollen tongue!

Yes, Trump was raving last night. In Colorado Springs. One of his many topics was the fact that a South Korean film had won the Best Picture Oscar:
"How bad were the Academy Awards this year? Did you see? And the winner is: a movie from South Korea. What the hell was that all about? We've got enough problems with South Korea, with trade. On top of it, they give them the best movie of the year? Was it good? I don't know? I'm looking for — where? — can we get 'Gone with the Wind' back please? 'Sunset Boulevard.' So many great movies. The winner is: from South Korea. I thought it was Best Foreign Film. Best Foreign Movie. No. Has this ever happened before? And then you have Brad Pitt. I was never a big fan of his. He got up, said little wise guy statement.* Little wise guy. He's a little wise guy."
Now, the most interesting part of all that was saying "Sunset Boulevard."

Some people might say, no, the important thing was disrespecting South Korea or disrespecting films that are not American. But that's just his usual America-first rhetoric. We should be the best. Other countries may compete, and good for them, but we should play to win. Certainly, the film industry is a place where America has traditionally won big. So we should win every year.

Some people might say that the important thing was that when he needed to think of examples of American greatness in film, the first thing he thought of was "Gone with the Wind" — a movie that takes the Southern side in the Civil War and presents slavery in a positive light. How out of touch can you get? Or was he dog-whistling to present-day racists? Ah, "Gone with the Wind," those were the days! Is he nostalgic for old movies or for the Old South? Or is he just trying to sidetrack his critics into making weak accusations against him?

But I say the most interesting partis that after he cited "Gone with the Wind" — the most conspicuous Old Hollywood movie — he paused and said "Sunset Boulevard." Now, "Sunset Boulevard" is a great old movie. It's one of the few movies that has its own tag on this blog, one of my all-time favorites. But it is a smaller, more artsy, more film buff choice. It must be a movie he actually cares about. Does he identify with the main character, Norma Desmond? She's an aging actress, who has become sidelined, but she dreams of becoming big again, and it's all quite delusional. Think about what it means for Trump to identify with that... and then to find himself on the presidential stage.


* Pitt's "little wise guy statement" — accepting the Best Supporting Actor Oscar — was: "They told me you only have 45 seconds up here, which is 45 seconds more than the Senate gave John Bolton this week. I'm thinking maybe Quentin does a movie about it. In the end, the adults do the right thing."

IN THE COMMENTS: Temujin says something that completely resonates with me:

"We all know that Trump is a bully. But I say, I’m a New Yorker, and I know how to deal with bullies. I did it all the time. I’m not afraid of Trump and he knows it."

Said Mike Bloomberg, quoted in "Wounded but defiant, Bloomberg promises to keep fighting."

I don't think any of the Democratic candidates are afraid of Trump. They all say he's a bully and offer to stand up to him. The question isn't whether they're afraid, but whether they are capable of fighting to a win. Bloomberg's real answer on that question is that he's got all that money. And that he's more capable than the other finalists not because he's a fierce debater, but because he's moderate and normal.

By the way, I'd like to look at the new Bloomberg ads. Why can't I find a YouTube page that just gives me all his ads? Is it that the campaign wants to force me to go through a page where I give them my information (which I don't want to do), or is that they have targeted ads and they don't want me to see the ads that are targeting other people?

ADDED: About that "I’m a New Yorker" business. Sanders is also a New Yorker. I'm interested in the way United Statesians find important meaning in their particular state affiliation. Amy Klobuchar presents her Minnesotanosity as a compelling qualification. Buttigieg has some belligerent pride in Indiana. Biden finds meaning in Pennsylvania and Delaware. Warren goes all Oklahoma on us. They all act as though their particular state gives them special powers.

I like this about America, but it is a form of prejudice. It's apparently an acceptable prejudice, this notion that my state is superior to the other states, that I'm better than other people because I come from this state. I've lived in New York and experienced the New Yorker's attitude of superiority. I happen to come from Delaware, and I've learned that people don't think much of the Delaware person (unless it's a corporation), but I grew up thinking we were very special because Delaware is The First State. Like: We're #1.

But I learned long ago that no one outside of Delaware cares at all about that. New Yorkers, on the other hand, never let go of the belief that in their own superiority. You see that in Bloomberg. Who's nearly 80. And who's trying to convince the people in all those other states that he's their guy. He expects them to be awed by his superiority. But he was crushed at the debate. Where's the superiority?

Maybe he's too sophisticated to take the bait. These people can't make me mad. If you can find video that shows Bloomberg's face when Elizabeth Warren says "horse-faced lesbians" — most video shows only her at that moment — you'll see he does not look the slightest bit alarmed or intimidated. There's a slight smirk, like he still thinks his joke is funny or thinks Warren is merely amusing in bringing it up.

Just when you think huge, prominent eyebrows may be going out of style...

"Unibrowed model Sophia Hadjipanteli takes London Fashion Week by storm" (NY Post). Lots of amazing photographs at the link. Is the model some sort of humorist — a satirist of beauty?

Here's the Instagram page for #unibrowmovement.

And here's "This Model Is Making the 'Unibrow Movement' Happen" (Glamour). It's from September 2017, so maybe it means the unibrow movement is not happening, since it hasn't happened yet. I, for one, am sick of having everyone's eyebrows in my face. Back off! And yet, I've got to say I find this more appealing that the overly made-up, un-unified eyebrows that have been annoying me.

Points for originality — and, yes, I know about Frida Kahlo — and naturalness, nerve, and humor:

February 20, 2020

At A's Café...


... you can talk 'til day.

Mike Bloomberg tweets a comic montage of debate clips to make the point that he's the one with executive experience...

... but absolutely every response to it that I'm seeing on Twitter is attacking him for editing video to change the sequence — like it's dishonest, showing a real event in a way that it did not happen.

This is exactly like the montage Trump tweeted after the State of the Union, with Nancy Pelosi ripping up his speech at multiple points during the speech (and not after it was over, as happened in real life).

You can make people look awfully bad with this technique, but it's a standard comic method, and it would be terrible to lose it. But this is the Era of That's Not Funny and people have shown themselves to be woefully lacking in the ability to detect fake news.

Bloomberg's montage shows him asking whether seemingly trying to determine whether he is the only one on the stage with executive experience and portrays all of the others incapable of answering. I think the biggest problem there is that some of the other candidates do have executive experience. Buttigieg was a mayor, Biden was vice president, and Klobuchar was a county attorney. But Bloomberg is technically right, because the question he asks is "I think I'm the only one here, I think, that's ever started a business — is that fair?"

"Non-toxic masculinity."

There's a phrase.

I saw it on the front page of The New Yorker.

Inside, the article is titled "What Charles Portis Taught Us."* Charles Portis —who died this week at the age of 86 — was the author of the book "True Grit."
Portis’s diffident, modestly gallant characters were a world away from the marital bonfires and priapisms of other male writers of his crop—Roth, Updike, Yates. His male heroes practiced a masculinity that by the standards of the day was uniquely (and unfashionably) nontoxic. It’s hard to imagine the bafflement with which Portnoy or Angstrom would have confronted a guy like Jimmy Burns, from “Gringos,” who tries to persuade two young women to move into his hotel with a come-on like this: “The doorknobs are porcelain with many fine hairline cracks. The towels are rough-dried in the sun. Very stiff and invigorating after a bath.”

“Only a mean person won’t enjoy it” is something a critic once wrote about “True Grit.” In part, I love Portis because I feel less mean when I read him. It’s not just that his novels are gentle and funny; it’s that Portis’s books have a way of conscripting the reader into their governing virtues—punctuality, automotive maintenance, straight talk, emotional continence. Puny virtues, as Portis himself once put it, yet it is a great and comforting gift (in these days especially) to offer readers escape into a place where such virtues reign....
I didn't like the phrase "non-toxic masculinity" when I saw it in the headline, but in the context of this essay, it's fine. It's explained and specific. Out of context, I don't like the way it implies that masculinity is bad and in need of toning down or that we only want men who make sure they are innocuous.

* Is that supposed to make us think of the passage from "Alice in Wonderland"?
"Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn't one?" Alice asked.

"We called him Tortoise because he taught us," said the Mock Turtle angrily: "really you are very dull!”
I think rhymes should be edited out of writing unless the writer has some sort of porpoise.