December 31, 2012

"Thirteen years ago, I happened to be at my folks for New Year's."

"Both my Dad and my significant other were asleep in couches and Mom and I were sitting drinking and gossiping."
The subject of resolutions came up and somehow we decided we were going to do a good deed at least once every day for a year.

It seemed so much better than depriving ourselves of something or quitting something or losing weight or whatever. It could be as simple as letting someone ahead of us in traffic, helping a person find the right aisle in the grocery or even being nice to a telemarketer.

My Mom passed away that year. I have done a good deed every day since, for the last thirteen years. And every time I do, I think of her.

A conversation for the end of the year.

At the New Year Café...


... say hello from 2013, if you're out there on the globe somewhere where it's next year. If you're still waiting in 2012 with the rest of us laggards, feel free to talk about anything.

How to read a book a day for a year.

Choose short/easy/audio books.

Actually, I read a book a day and have for years — but it's an audiobook, and most of this reading is done while asleep.

Do you have an reading-related New Year's resolutions? Let's think up some reading projects for the new year. We don't necessarily have to do them. Let's just contemplate them. I've already thought of 2, one of which I plan to do. First:
Maybe a good project would be those "History of..." pages, not just for their most common words — WAR! — but to have had it run through your head, at least once, what happened in all of those places. Do you know how many pages we are talking about? The number of members in the United Nations is not the right answer, but do you know that number? It's 193. Wikipedia lists 206 sovereign states (including those with disputed sovereignty).

Let's make a New Year's resolution: Each day, read one Wikipedia "History of..." page. Will you join me? We'll go in alphabetical order, and I'll prompt you with blog posts.
That will start on New Year's day. Don't worry, I'll make it amusing. Second:
What I like [about "The Great Gatsby"] is that each sentence is good, on its own. Seriously. Test it out. "As my train emerged from the tunnel into sunlight, only the hot whistles of the National Biscuit Company broke the simmering hush at noon." Every sentence is a writer's inspiration....

I feel like starting a blog devoted to individual sentences in "The Great Gatsby," chosen randomly, and continuing until all the sentences have been used up.
With commentary, of course. For example, here's my commentary on the hot-whistle-simmering-hush sentence (responding to a commenter who complained that "trains do not 'emerge' from tunnels. They blast, speed, rip, explode, hurtle. E.B. White and Orwell would have hated the verb 'emerge'):
Now, one reason the train can't "blast" or "explode" from the tunnel — and by the way, oh, you men, with your cocks — is that the "only" sound was the "hot whistle." Otherwise, there was a "hush." That's all very surreal, no? Why didn't the train make any noise? It emerged, because it wasn't a screaming cock blasting through a vagina tunnel, as happens in your (presumably) E.B. White-approved works of fiction. Why was the train silent, why were the whistles hot, why was the hush simmering, why was it noon, why were the whistles biscuit whistles, and why wasn't it the biscuit, rather than the whistle, that was hot?

"Long before Erika Menendez was charged with pushing a stranger to his death under an oncoming train at a Queens elevated station..."

"... she had years of contact with New York City’s mental health and law enforcement establishments."
She was treated by the psychiatric staffs of at least two city hospitals, and caseworkers visited her family home in Queens to provide further help. She was also arrested at least three times, according to the police, twice after violent confrontations....

There were ample warnings over the years concerning Ms. Menendez.

In 2003, according to the police, she attacked another stranger, Daniel Conlisk, a retired firefighter, as he took out his garbage in Queens.

“I was covered with blood,” Mr. Conlisk recalled on Sunday. “She was screaming the whole time.”
That's the NYT. In The Daily News, we learn that what she was screaming was "You fucked my mother."

Up for 2 hours... still waiting for the sunrise.

I love mornings!

"It is shockingly inexpensive to travel within Turkey by plane."

"Take this segment: from Istanbul to Izmir (about an hour flying time) on Atlas Jet, it's $25 (without additional discounts). For this, we get not only the flight itself, but a warm snack (melted cheese sandwich, cake, coffee or a soft drink) and, too, upon arrival in Izmir, free transportation by bus to towns south of us. Including to Slecuk — another hour's worth of travel."

... worth of travel.

Do you understand it?

"What do a cake, a runner, a rainbow and a kalashnikov have in common."

"10 Contested African Images of 2012."

Baz Luhrmann's "Gatsby."

If you loved "Moulin Rouge," as I did, you may find the new trailer thrilling:

I was literally thrilled. And I'm very skeptical of all movies. I resist going to the movies. I see one comment over at YouTube whining about this not being in 3D. 3D is a curse. I've vowed never again to see a movie shot in 3D unless it's in a 3D theater. I saw that most recent "Planet of the Apes" movie, which was shot as a 3D movie, in a non-3D theater, and it was full of dumb shots — objects placed in the extreme foreground, actors framed in a way that you could tell was for an effect that you weren't able to see. I'd love to see "Life of Pi," but I put off going, because it's such an ordeal to engage with a 3D experience, and now it's only around here in non-3D, and I can't go, because of my vow. I'm delighted that Luhrmann didn't mess up the visuals to pander to the 3D dweebs.

Here, you can read "The Great Gatsby" on line, in a nice format. This is one of my favorite books. What I like is that each sentence is good, on its own. Seriously. Test it out. "As my train emerged from the tunnel into sunlight, only the hot whistles of the National Biscuit Company broke the simmering hush at noon." Every sentence is a writer's inspiration. I'll vouch for that.

ADDED: A trailer was put out last summer using many of the same visuals and a very different audio track, and I blogged at the time: "It looks awful, with horrible acting." I'd forgotten that! Here's the old trailer:

But I did say: "But then I think it's like 'Moulin Rouge,' which can seem bad if you look at it the wrong way, and this new 'Gatsby; is in fact directed by the same person, Baz Luhrmann." There's a fine line — in some quarters — between garbage and greatness. 

What's Happening to Hillary? Only a clod would say the clot is a plot!

Here are Senators Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein, interviewed by Chris Wallace (yesterday, on "Fox News Sunday"):
WALLACE: Senator Graham, how important is it for Secretary of State Clinton to testify under oath before she leaves office about the Benghazi terror attack?...

GRAHAM: Absolutely essential that she'd testify....

WALLACE: Some of your Republican colleagues say they are prepared to hold off the confirmation of John Kerry as secretary of state, until Secretary Clinton testifies as secretary, before she leaves office.

GRAHAM: That's going to happen. I've been told by Senator Kerry he wants that approach also. He needs to hear what she says so he can make comments about, I agree with her/I don't agree with her. It makes sense to have her go first.

WALLACE: Do you agree with that, Senator Feinstein, that she needs to testify first, as an -- and have you been assured she will testify, though it has been 3 1/2 months since Benghazi and she still has never really answered questions, about Benghazi, her role before, during, after the attack? Do you have reason to believe she'll testify as secretary?

FEINSTEIN: She has said she will and I believe she will. You know, she's had a very real accident and she's recovering from it, and, she will be back. I gather, her first day, of work may well be next week. So, I think that's good news.
With all that assurance that Hillary Clinton would testify, later that day, we heard the news that Hillary Clinton had entered the hospital with a blood clot. We weren't told the site of said blood clot. Was it her brain (recently concussed)? Was it her leg (where she had a blood clot back in 1998)? The former is a big deal, the latter, not so much. Why not specify the site, since it make such a big difference, medically? Oh, but we're told we must not display any skepticism, any hint of suspicion that the SOS is trying to avoid having to testify about Benghazi. The woman is ill. Only a clod would say a clot was a plot.

Here's medical expert Kent Sepkowitz:
Unlike the relatively bland “concussion after fainting” pronouncement from earlier this month, this terse press release from her spokesman smells a little fishy. First it is odd that we are not told where the clot is—usually the clot, referred to as thrombophlebitis, occurs in the leg, a condition suffered by former president Richard Nixon after leaving the White House. 
Maybe you can remember — if not, guess! — how sensitive we were to Nixon's phlebitis, which conveniently flared up in the midst of Watergate. Ha! That bastard thinks he can get our sympathy. Pathetic! (That's what I said at the time.)
The clot [in the leg] can be uncomfortable but is only dangerous and even life threatening if it breaks free and travels downstream into the lung—a pulmonary embolus, in medical parlance.... Given that Clinton already has had this condition and those who have had one episode have a predilection to recurrence, the lack of a reminder of the 1998 clot from her press people seems a strange oversight.

Another problem with the “concussion then clot” story is this—the concussion, if indeed it came after a faint, should not directly predispose Clinton to a clot....

Alternatively, is it possible that the clot in question is one in the lining of the brain that can form after head trauma.... But anticoagulation is never given to persons with clots around the brain. They are either watched without intervention or surgically evacuated. So this possible explanation is out.

We are left with a story that is not easy to connect up with sparse information from the inside crowd, who could easily deflate speculation with two or three more measly facts. The National Enquirer has already declared Clinton to be suffering from a brain tumor, linking her observed weight gain, possibly from treatment for the putative cancer, and not-exactly-explained need to leave Obama’s Cabinet to the grim diagnosis. Such a story no longer seems to me as implausible as it did after the faint and concussion reports.
The suppression of informationthe site of the clot — suggests 2 radically different theories: 1. fakery/exaggeration to evade testimony, or 2. something horribly serious. I read Sepkowitz to exclude the middle ground.

UPDATE: Email from CNN says: "Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has a blood clot between her brain and skull behind her right ear, her doctors said." This seems to be the option that Sepkowitz excluded because "anticoagulation is never given to persons with clots around the brain." If that's correct, then something is still, to use Sepkowitz's word, fishy.

UPDATE 2: Here's the Washington Post, on January 1st, noting the site of the clot and saying "The conventional treatment is an anticoagulant drug for at least six months." So that directly contradictions Sepkowitz's statement that "anticoagulation is never given to persons with clots around the brain."

AND: I've got a bit more to say here

December 30, 2012

Obama seems amenable to the NRA idea of armed guards in schools.

On today's "Meet the Press": David Gregory asked him what he thought of having "armed guards at every school in the country," adding "That's what the NRA believes. They told me last week that could work." Obama said:
You know, I am not going to prejudge the recommendations that are given to me. I am skeptical that the only answer is putting more guns in schools. And I think the vast majority of the American people are skeptical that that somehow is going to solve our problem. 
Of course, we are also skeptical that gun control is going to solve our problem. My only point here is that Obama didn't denounce the idea and treat it as crazy, which seemed to be the left/liberal spin last week after NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre made the proposal. Obama is saying that the idea deserves consideration. And to say you doubt that it's the "only answer" is to imply that it may belong in a package of items that together are the answer. In fact, later, he said: "I'm going to be putting forward a package..."

At the Sunroom Café...


... we can wait out the winter.

Fiscal cliffhanging on their every word.

Are you?

On "Meet the Press" today, Obama mostly came across as the moderate, pragmatic politician I like.

Now, I'm not a sucker for mere posing, and in fact, I get suspicious when I hear what are simply assertions of pragmatism:
But generally if you look at how I've tried to govern over the last four years and how I'll continue to try to govern, I'm not driven by some ideological agenda. I am a pretty practical guy. And I just want to make sure that things work. And one of the nice things about never having another election again, I will never campaign again, is I think you can rest assured that all I care about is making sure that I leave behind an America that is stronger, more prosperous, more stable, more secure than it was when I came into office.
Well, no, I'm not going to rest assured. Much as I would love these statements to be true, they make me nervous. And that assurance came right after the most partisan thing he said in the whole interview. The moderator, David Gregory, had asked Obama how "frustrated" he was about the difficulty of getting things done with Congress. Gregory asserted that people were constantly coming up to him saying "Don't they realize, all of them, the president, Republicans and Democrats, how frustrated we all are?" And President Obama showed a little irritation:
Well, I think we're all frustrated. The only thing I would caution against, David, is I think this notion of, "Well, both sides are just kind of unwilling to cooperate." And that's just not true. I mean if you look at the facts, what you have is a situation here where the Democratic party, warts and all, and certainly me, warts and all, have consistently done our best to try to put country first.
Country first. Where'd he come up with that slogan?

Then Obama started inching away from this assertion that the Democrats are better. He shifts to more neutral boilerplate about trying "to work with everybody involved to make sure that we've got an economy grows" and "Make sure that it works for everybody. Make sure that we're keeping the country safe." Then he retreats again, making abstract concessions (in question form):
And does the Democratic party still have some knee jerk ideological positions and are there some folks in the Democratic party who sometimes aren't reasonable? Of course. That's true of every political party.
So are the Democrats better or not? He's melted into squishy blandness. And it's exactly here that he does the not-an-ideologue/practical-guy riff that appears at the beginning of this post.

"Shut up. Shut up. Shut up."

"Please. Shut up."

"What I learned about beauty from my 56 hours in jail."

I hope you learned not to do that duck-lips thing with your mouth that you did in the "Self-portrait from the day before the incident." But no, it's stuff like:
These women were endlessly resourceful: colored pencils for eyeliner, lip liner, and eye shadow (yeah, it fucking hurts to apply). If you bend every other prong of the standard-issue comb, it becomes a makeshift brush....
The worst thing about my short time in jail? Honestly? Besides the indignity and the shitty food and the crushing boredom and the derision from the staff and the self-loathing just being there obviously inspired? Chapped lips.

OK, maybe I’m being a little facetious, but I was parched. My lips were cracked and bleeding, spoiled with a steady diet of Fresh Sugar lip treatment. Licking my lips only made it worse, but I couldn’t help it — it was Pavlovian. It sounds stupid, but I remember that agony more clearly than anything else. When my cellmate shared her makeshift chapstick (shave gel mixed with something pink that I never actually identified) with me, I practically kissed her. 
That sets up a hilarious lampooning by a commenter. Excerpt:
We broke our inkpins and blew the black ink out into our small cups of vasaline, then took a small 2 inched toothbrush to apply... some girls lined their eyes with Sharpies, meant to label our personal property. We made lip gloss with color out of red Kool-Aid or red jello and neosporin. We had clear toothpaste gel that did everything but brush your teeth, and we used this for everything from hair gel to adhesives for our pictures and calanders... We took our Gold Bond Foot Powder and dripped coffee and red Kool-Aid in our cups to try and create eyeshadow and blush....
Another commenter offers a tip she learned in school:
This sounds gross, but my 8th grade science teacher told the class that he just used his own ear wax as lip balm...

The worst part is that he wasn't even mentioning this as like a survival technique....
I love when science teachers challenge their students.

Look, don't even get started with the chapstick. It's addictive:

You'll wake up thinking about it:

"Impractical Accessories."

There's some great stuff in this slideshow, but attention must be paid to the 10th image, shoes designed by Iris Schieferstein, with the toe portion made from real horse's hooves and the high heels little pistols.

"Treating OWS as 'potential criminal and terrorist threat' was exactly the right thing to do."

"No one knew whether these protests were going to stay peaceful or not. OWS certainly wanted it to turn into a phenomenon of national civil unrest. Why the FBI wasn't supposed to treat it as if it had the potential to go that way is beyond me."

Writes one Metafilter commenter, who gets 3 "favorite" votes from the community and — 8 minutes later — this response:
Treating OWS the Tea Party movement as "potential criminal and terrorist threat" was exactly the right thing to do. No one knew whether these protests were going to stay peaceful or not. OWS The Koch Bros. certainly wanted it to turn into a phenomenon of national civil unrest. Why the FBI wasn't supposed to treat it as if it had the potential to go that way is beyond me.

The response now has 33 "favorite" votes.

"[I]ncredibly articulate and human... charmingly personal while at the same time substantively deep."

Who can it be?!

The notion that technology is the reason the murder rate has fallen by half.

"A deranged woman who told cops she detests Muslims broke into a maniacal fit of laughter as she was charged with a hate crime Saturday..."

"... three days after she allegedly shoved an Indian immigrant to his death in front of a Queens train."
“Tell your client this is not funny,” Queens Criminal Court Judge Gia Morris thundered, speaking to defense lawyer Dietrich Epperson. “This is not appropriate.”...

Before she was ordered held without bail, prosecutors revealed [Erika Menendez, 31] has expressed no remorse — and even bragged about smoking pot and having sex with her “man in Brooklyn” after the murderous deed.

The deranged drifter - who witnesses said was mumbling to herself but never said a word to Sen before the fatal shove - ran downstairs from the elevated tracks after the attack....

A wild-eyed Menendez seemed startled as she was led out of the stationhouse in handcuffs, en route to her arraignment, about 8:30 p.m. Saturday....

“I know her. ... You could tell that something was not right, like she needed medication or something,” said [one doorman at her mother's apartment building]. “It’s just very sad what happened.”...
“When she didn't take her medication, she got wacko,” said [another doorman].
There are no guns to propose banning, and we're not going to ban subway trains or enclose the platforms in elaborate sliding panels. Maybe something more needs to be done to institutionalize the mentally ill or to supervise the taking of anti-psychotic medication. But one must observe that this subway pushing comes less than a month after an earlier subway pushing in NYC, one that receive a great deal of publicity. There are many murders, but some get more media than others.

A subway pushing is one of those riveting events that the media fixate upon. That becomes an idea vividly imprinted on millions of brains, which intensifies as they head down into the subway, see the platform, the platform's edge, the people standing near it, and hear the sound of the train coming into the station. Emotion is stirred. Most people either ignore that idea, or it's an idea that makes them step from the platform's edge and try to get a wall behind them or keep an eye out for odd movements. But some people are mentally ill. The idea rages up into a powerful impulse, the train is pulling into the station, and they can't resist.

The media reports are — I must assume — a causal factor in the creation of a murderous impulse that some people are not going to be able to control. And yet, the media have their own irresistible impulse to publish these highly stimulating stories, an impulse which, by linking, I am stimulating.

December 29, 2012

Finally, after all these years, not since the 90s, we will have a name for our decade!

I just realized that with the arrival of 2013, a great void will be filled. There will be an end to the lack of a name for the decade. With '13, will be in The Teens!

Don't tell me we had a name for the first decade of the new millennium. We talked a lot about what it would be called, and then it came and instead of calling it something, we just worked around the lack of a name. Don't tell me we called it the "ohs" or the "aughts." We did not. And we entered the second decade of the new millennium with the same problem. 2010, 2011, 2012... Don't tell me we called that the "tens." Obviously, we didn't.

Relief from the torment of namelessness arrives on Tuesday. Don't worry about 13 being unlucky. That's superstition. I am talking about real life. We need a name for a decade. I have fond memories tied with the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, and the 90s. There's pizzazz and warmth and eclat and resonance in those terms. We've been empty and hungry for 13 years. The gnawing craving for meaning is over.

It's the Teens!

A couple of books.

I was just asking for some ideas for a conversation about end-of-the-year things, and now I've had the conversation, which I'll be showing you when it's up, but right now, I'm buying 2 books that were recommended in that conversation:

1. "When the State Speaks, What Should It Say?"

2. "Veil Politics in Liberal Democratic States."

After I bought them, Amazon started making recommendations in the philosophy category, and I noticed that "Complete Works of Plato" (only $1.99) was ranking at #5. Maybe you think that's about where it belongs, but that would depend on what else is ranking. Here are those best sellers in philosophy. #4 is "Fifty Shades of Grey Decoded: A Man's Playbook." I can understand why it's #4, but I can't understand why it's philosophy. By the way, it's only 19 pages long, which is to say, it's not only not philosophy, it's not a book. You can get the first page free at the link, and it tells you that "sex slave" contracts are all over the internet, so the author isn't going to write one out for you. You should just "find one that suits your needs and tweak it." And "keep in mind that this is not 'real' slavery." Noted.

What was the biggest pop culture phenomenon of the year, do you think? "Fifty Shades of Grey" or "Gangnam Style"? Those are 2 things that, in the future, will seem so 2012. We're not taking them with us into the new year, '13.

Blogging, paying attention to each day as it happens, makes it hard to assess a whole year.

So I'll feel better once we've crossed over into the new year. All this year end business is a drag to me. I used to do these year-end posts where I'd highlight one blog post from each month of the past year or list my favorite quotes. I had my archive to mine for this sort of material. But I've written close to 5,000 posts this year. I'm not going to run through all of that, even quickly. I can only wonder what the hell was it? I know the feeling of assurance that there is always something to write about, that each day brings a new set of topics, but I'm puzzled, at year end, at the what could have mattered. 5,000 things?!

If I had to list what really mattered, not for its day, but enduringly, what would it be? Of all the things we talked about, each in its own day, what do we carry with us into 2013?

I know: President Obama got reelected. We did a hell of a lot of yammering for that one take away. Is everything else ephemera?

A euphemism for "aging": "evolving."

One of my wise [yoga] teachers told us that after 50, she began to cross off the list poses that she no longer felt made sense for her evolving body.
Cue the episode of "Outer Limits" where David McCallum enters the evolution machine:

Tip for "wise" teachers: You're not evolving. And why you find the notion of evolving more comforting than aging is a mystery you might want to ponder.

"Your ignorance makes me ill and angry."

Also... here's the trailer for "Altered States":

"France's Constitutional Council on Saturday rejected a 75% upper income tax rate to be introduced in 2013..."

"... in a setback to Socialist President Francois Hollande's push to make the rich contribute more to cutting the public deficit."
The Council, made up of nine judges and three former presidents, is concerned the tax would hit a married couple where one partner earned above a million euros but it would not affect a couple where each earned just under a million euros.
Why does that make it unfair? It seems as though the court is sticking up for the single-earner household — for traditional marriage. Why does fairness require that? I think this is what we here in the United States would call a policy decision, to be left to the legislature. (Yeah, a 75% tax rate is really high, but that's not the legal flaw this court found.)

"Boyfriend Bears is a non-profit organization that encourages pre-teen and teenage girls to live a life of purity."

"Our bears serve as a reminder that we promote purity to be a lifestyle. Boyfriend Bears provides the opportunity for girls to make a stand for what they believe in and to stay strong in their morals."

Via Metafilter. Sample comments from there:
"It's like Japanese body pillow girlfriends, but not as creepy, because it's pure."

"This is what killed Timothy Treadwell."

"Wow, that part about writing letters to your future husband, tucking it into a special pocket in the teddy bear and then giving them to him on your wedding day...that squicked me out."

"Does this mean the purity rings are not working?"

"'It’s wrong to stop girls from going out' of the house... but there’s little choice because the city is so unsafe for women."

"Revulsion and anger over the rape have galvanized India, where women regularly face sexual harassment and assault, and where neither the police nor the judicial system is seen as adequately protecting them."

Growing old tests your atheism.

"Live your life."

"Animal activists have been attacking our family, our company, and our employees for decades because they oppose animals in circuses."

"These defendants attempted to destroy our family-owned business with a hired plaintiff who made statements that the court did not believe.... This settlement is a vindication not just for the company but also for the dedicated men and women who spend their lives working and caring for all the animals with Ringling Bros. in the face of such targeted, malicious rhetoric."

The ASPCA pays $9.3 million to get out of this case, which continues against the other defendants, the Humane Society of the United States, the Fund for Animals, Animal Welfare Institute, Animal Protection Institute United with Born Free USA, various lawyers, and a former Ringling employee named Tom Rider.

"Madam, this dress is so sexy it’ll give your husband ideas."

"Why, does a brain come with it?"

"It’s almost always a mistake to read only a first-rate writer’s masterpieces."

"A great deal of Fussell’s best, most perceptive and, frankly, most hilarious work arrived in books like 'Class: A Guide Through the American Status System' (1983). The idea of talking about social class is so taboo in America, Fussell reported, that when he explained his book’s topic to strangers, they reacted as if he had said, 'I am working on a book urging the beating to death of baby whales using the dead bodies of baby seals.' It’s a book that, especially if you are uncertain of your own class status, can still draw blood."

Ha. Well, I loved that book.

"Don’t trade up..."

That's a rule that "starts out as a bit of simple, practical instruction — don’t back out of a social engagement just because a snazzier offer came along — and broadens out into an entire perspective on how to live."
Don’t grade friendships on a hierarchical scale. Don’t value people based on some external indicator of status. Don’t take a competitive view of your social life. There are very few rules I carry around with me every day. Don’t trade up is one of them, and I truly can’t tell you how many seemingly complicated situations it resolved into clarity and fairness. I am grateful to you for that.
One of the lessons learned. 

Plus... handmade impromptu gifts, like a little chair made out of that wire that goes around a champagne cork.

"It's bubbly time, Jerry."

A truly charming and funny encounter.

The deaths of 2012.

Wikipedia provides a very extensive, day-by-day list of the names of the notables who departed this year. Many others died too. Do you have any idea how many? And by the way, do you know the answer to the question whether there are more human beings alive right now than there are dead — total dead from the species homo sapiens?
The world population hit 7 billion last year, and the number of people who have ever lived is around 107.7 billion. But what about the future? [Carl Haub, a demographer at the Population Reference Bureau] said the percentage of people ever born who are still living may increase.
The U.S. Census Bureau says that 55,530,627 human individuals have died in 2012, but there's some clearly false specificity there, considering the additional statement that 1.8 human beings die every second. The stream of humanity is continually refreshed, though, as 4.2 babies arrive. It's impossible to individually mourn the millions who have died. Even if you did nothing else with your life, you could not properly acknowledge even one person per second, shortchanging the .8. How many died while I was clumsily framing that last sentence? And what have I done with myself, each second, as 1.8 persons die? Enough to deserve my place among the 7 billion, the 7 billion, each of whom has his death second, waiting ahead, somewhere in the next 300 million seconds?

But the notables. Let's scan the list of notables. Most of these names, if I've seen them before, I don't remember. There are so many, even among the notables, that I can't trouble myself to read all the names. Riccardo Schicchi, 59, Italian pornographer, renal insufficiency... Sophie Firth, 3, English child actress (Emmerdale), multiple organ failure from blood infection... I try to read the list, and I can't. I give up. Then I realize I'm only looking at the list for December. The notables merge with the non-notables, the 50+ million dead of 2012. Meanwhile, 134 million have joined the temporary festival of life. Who on earth are they?

Things done in 2012.

1. Eating ribs in Muskogee.

2. Caught a lost dog.

3. ...

Blog project begun. Not completed.

A map depicting each country in the world with the single word that appears most often...

... on that country's "History of..." page in Wikipedia (excluding the country's own name along with some list of common words like "the" and "was"). The project seems designed to throw "war" in our faces, so what I found interesting was looking for whatever isn't war. For example, Australia gets "new." Here's the big image of the map for your inspection.

Only one has 2 have the name of an individual human being. Not North Korea, because "Kim" isn't just one person. And, no, kids, Monte Video is not a guy, though he sounds like an amusing guy. That's Montevideo, broken into 2 lines. You knew that, but don't be so pleased with yourself, because, chances are you don't know one thing about the history of... Do you even know where Montevideo is?

Maybe a good project would be those "History of..." pages, not just for their most common words — WAR! — but to have had it run through your head, at least once, what happened in all of those places. Do you know how many pages we are talking about? The number of members in the United Nations is not the right answer, but do you know that number? It's 193. Wikipedia lists 206 sovereign states (including those with disputed sovereignty).

Let's make a New Year's resolution: Each day, read one Wikipedia "History of..." page. Will you join me? We'll go in alphabetical order, and I'll prompt you with blog posts.

Will you join me? free polls

December 28, 2012

At the Photo-Free Café...

... it's an open thread. Enjoy!

"Senate Republicans refuse to confirm Kerry until Hillary testifies about Benghazi."

I approve!

"Gregory had no intent to commit a crime; he was committing journalism instead."

"Gun owners often say they want the government to leave them alone; why then are some clamoring for Gregory to be prosecuted?"

Asks Howard Kurtz, with amazing naivete. The implied argument is quite weird and perverse.

First, he's got this either/or premise: If you're doing one thing, you're not doing something else. If you're doing journalism, you can't also be doing something else. That might make sense if the crime in question had a required mental element that would be negated by the intent to "commit journalism," but it doesn't. Mere possession is enough. The most virtuous individuals with the best intentions get stuck with this law applying to them. If you don't like that, then you don't like this law. You've got an objection to the law, and yet, ironically, Gregory was arguing for more laws like that! That was the nature of the "journalism" he was "committing." He ought to be the first one prosecuted, not the last.

Second, Kurtz, a journalist himself, is mired the same sense of entitlement that people are objecting to in Gregory. He thinks journalists are special people who float above it all, who don't live in reality. You are the very people who are supposed to be observing reality, understanding it, and explaining it. But you don't even see that you are part of it. You have less awareness of it than the people you're getting paid to inform. Maybe you think you're just too important to have your time wasted by consequences that would befall ordinary people. You need to be free to continue to sit there mouthing outrage about the next terrible thing that befalls some ordinary person out there in the real world.

Third, Kurtz thinks he's caught others in hypocrisy. If gun owners want the government to leave them alone, why would they want Gregory to be prosecuted? It's like Kurtz wants us to laugh in his face. Yet he seems to think he's being quite clever. Why would he think that? Puzzling, isn't it? My only answer is that he does not believe in the rule of law. It doesn't occur to him that what gun owners who "want the government to leave them alone" want is for legislatures to refrain from passing laws and to repeal existing laws and for courts to declare laws null under the Second Amendment. Why should these people like it if one privileged, prominent man escapes prosecution? The laws remain, affecting everyone else, even as the oppressiveness of the laws is falsely minimized.

What does the NPR article "Assessing Hillary Clinton's Legacy" say about Benghazi?

Only this:
Clinton also played a key role in the international action in Libya. So far, she has avoided much of the criticism over the attack in Benghazi that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in September.
That's the second-to-the-last paragraph. The last is:
"She will be leaving this job, in my view, with almost no asterisks* and that, it seems to me, in this day in age, is a real accomplishment," [said Aaron David Miller, vice president of the of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars].
In the higher-up paragraphs, we get Miller saying:
"She has pursued an agenda, which has been highly constrained by both the kind of cruel and unforgiving foreign policy world out there and by the president's own determination to withhold, in my view, the most consequential issues related to national security, war, peace, big-think strategy"...

What was left, he says, is an agenda that Clinton shaped, one Miller describes as "planetary humanism." That includes women's issues, the environment, press and Internet freedom, and social media.
Women's work. And now the lady has a headache. Don't trouble her about Benghazi.



"Britney Spears... just wasn’t crazy enough."

You have to understand what your job is.

"A Madison police officer will face no criminal charges after fatally shooting a man who had mistakenly entered the wrong residence..."

"... struggled with the homeowner, then charged at the officer and reached toward his gun, Dane County District Attorney Ismael Ozanne said Thursday."
Attorney Jeff Scott Olson, who is representing [Paul] Heenan's family, said "I believe it was unjustified".... He maintains Heimsness could have used other tactics against Heenan, 30, a local musician who "weighed 150 pounds and never hurt a fly in his life," after the two were separated by about 5 to 6 feet after the physical confrontation.

Travel to Istanbul for a mustache implant.

It's a big "beauty tourism" trend.
“Both in Turkey and in Arab countries facial hair is associated with masculinity, and its lack can cause social difficulties. In Turkish there is a word for it: köse – baldness of the face – and it is usually not considered a good thing”....

A Turkish tourism agency specializes in hair implant tour packages that costs approximately $2,300 for the four day long procedure and treatment, which also covers medical and overnight expenses....

Why didn't EPA adminstrator Lisa P. Jackson fulfill "high hopes of sweeping action to address climate change"?

Maybe you can find clues in the NYT article about her departure. I note:
After his re-election, and a campaign in which global warming was barely mentioned by either candidate, Mr. Obama said that his first priority would be jobs and the economy and that he intended only to foster a “conversation” on climate change in the coming months....
In political rhetoric, "conversation" usually means: I don't want to talk about it.
After Republicans took control of the House in 2010, Ms. Jackson became a favored target of the new Republican majority’s aversion to what it termed “job-killing regulations.” One coal industry official accused her of waging “regulatory jihad,” and she was summoned to testify before hostile House committees dozens of times in 2011. She was frequently subjected to harsh questioning that at times bordered on the disrespectful.

Ms. Jackson, the first African-American to head the E.P.A....
Oh! Those terrible Republicans! Harshly questioning an African-American! Why it bordered on the disrespectful. At times.

Among Jackson's modest achievements (which appear to be limited mostly by President Obama's re-election-conscious decisions):
[N]ew vehicle standards will eliminate billions of tons of carbon dioxide emissions and double the fuel efficiency of the American light-duty transportation fleet over the next decade.
Billions of tons over a decade? Did you know human beings on earth exhale about 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide a year?

The NYT article ends with this quote from Jackson: "Before me... some people said that African-Americans don’t care about the environment. I don’t think that will ever be the case again." Ironically, that's the first time I've ever heard that stereotype.

ADDED: I was surprised to read that the EPA has 17,000 employees. What's the carbon footprint of an agency with 17,000 employees?

"So why is compromise so hard in the House?"

"Some commentators, especially liberals, attribute it to what they say is the irrationality of Republican members of Congress."
But the answer could be this instead: individual members of Congress are responding fairly rationally to their incentives. Most members of the House now come from hyperpartisan districts where they face essentially no threat of losing their seat to the other party. Instead, primary challenges, especially for Republicans, may be the more serious risk.

I finally figured out what David Gregory displaying that prop reminds me of.

Yesterday, I was asking: Why was that prop so important to David Gregory? If possession of that high-capacity magazine was a crime, and the NBC folk knew it and had even contacted the police and thus even knew they'd created rock-hard evidence that they knew it, why did they go ahead and have Gregory flaunt that illegal possession on television? They had to have thought it was a devastatingly powerful prop. My first guess was that they imagined that viewers — some viewers, at least — would find the object itself scary.

Now, I've got to show you another one of Chip Ahoy's little riffs, because it's what jogged my thinking on the subject for some reason. Here's Chip in the comments thread to that other post, the one where I showed those David Gregory masks (designed by Chip). This is a little dialogue:
"No. It doesn't look that threatening to me. If that's what you were thinking. No. It just doesn't."

"What do you mean? Are you insane? This magazine holds thirty rounds."


"So? So? So? Is that all you got? It holds thirty!"

"So. It's small. Looks like a PEZ dispenser to me."

"WHAT? So, this is amusing to you? You find this amusing."

Caption: "It holds 30." I'm not sure exactly why that jogged my thinking, but suddenly I understand the drama Gregory (and his people) were trying to enact. It's a deep psychic memory of childhood. Gregory sought dominance over his interlocutor, NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre, and the idea — in the act of picking up that magazine and beginning an interrogation about it — was that Gregory would become (subliminally) a parent figure who would push LaPierre into the subordinate role of the little boy, the cowering child confronted with undeniable evidence of his wrongdoing. What's THIS I found in your room?

The plan was for LaPierre to babble lamely, scrambling to explain it away, like the kid trying to concoct some cockamamie reason why that (whatever) got into his room. He'd look foolish and guilty, as Dad continues to hold up the item which the kid knows will be the defeat of every idea that flashes through his stupid, stupid brain.

The scenario didn't play out as scripted. LaPierre is a stolid veteran of many a confrontational interview. He's not going to let the interviewer get the upper hand that easily. Somebody needs to tell Gregory: We all want the hand. Hand is tough to get.

December 27, 2012

"Tired of being stopped at airports? Can you do without all the hassles of unreasonable arrests?"

"Had it up to here )) skeet (( *cut at the neck* with all those intolerable fines and inconsistently applied regulations and restrictions?" asks Chip Ahoy, offering these Official Washington, D.C. Gun Passes in sturdy laminate/sun proof colors/long lasting bands/Large holes for clear vision/slip proof:

South African president Jacob Zuma said owning a dog is part of "white culture."

He said that loving dogs more than people shows a “lack of humanity” and an effort to “emulate whiteness.” He's gotten some criticism for these remarks.
The president’s office sought to clarify his remarks, saying he was encouraging “the previously oppressed African majority” to uphold its own culture.

What going off the "fiscal cliff" will cost you...

... in increased taxes.

Common Cause v. Biden, challenging the Senate filibuster, was "a nostalgic evocation of the old days of public law litigation."

Observes Garrett Epps.
The federal courts have become almost implacably hostile to this kind of reform lawsuit, and those who bring them know that their chances of victory are vanishingly slim. Whatever one may think of the filibuster, however, we can be glad this suit was dismissed; its cure for the filibuster would be worse than the disease.

Why was that prop so important to David Gregory?

"Yeah, asking for permission is pretty damning when you ignore what you are told directly from the law enforcement authority and do it anyway."

But what it tells us is that the prop was really, really important to Gregory. Let's think about why. He knew he was going to have NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre across the table and that he'd push him with one question after another, building the pressure. Here's how that moment looked:

You hear the tension in Gregory's voice as he's about to confront LaPierre with the prop — actually 2 props: the high-capacity magazine and then the smaller one. At the point when Gregory picks up the first prop, you see his eyes dart over to the side. He doesn't have the script memorized, but the precise text is important as he displays one prop and then the other. He need the prompter.

Of course, if this prop display is supposed to be explosive, it doesn't work, because LaPierre is good at not getting agitated. Predictably good, so Gregory's routine looks silly to me. But maybe it inflamed some people in the "Meet the Press" viewership. Maybe there were lots of folks at home going "OMG that thing is huge!!"

I'm trying to think of other examples in political/policy debates when somebody whipped out a prop for dramatic effect. Especially examples where it really worked. I remember President Clinton waggling his pen. Anything else?

ADDED: I was thinking about the value of a fetus replica for a pro-lifers, and, googling, happened upon this 3D-printed replica made from an MRI image.

UPDATE: I figured it out!

"Isn’t there something creepy about Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz having... 'asked his Washington-area employees to write "Come Together" on each customer cup today, tomorrow and Friday, as a gesture to urge leaders to resolve the fiscal cliff'?"

Asks Mickey Kaus.
Did Schultz take a poll of his employees–sorry, “partners,” he calls them–before ordering pressuring asking them to join in this lobbying effort? What if he were, say, the CEO of Chick-fil-A and he “asked” his “partners” to write “Preserve the Family” on the outside of cups and containers?

I’m not saying what Schultz did is or should be illegal, certainly not in a Citizen’s United world. If he wants to run a hybrid coffee-shop-political-organization, that’s fine with me. But maybe he should have made that clear to his workers when they signed up.
What troubles me about the slogan "Come Together" is that it's a pretty obvious reference to the Beatles song that begins with Lennon saying "shoot me" over and over. Given the recent massacre — and the fact that Lennon himself was shot to death — it's not good resonance.

As for an employer telling employees what to say to customers, I've got no legalistic problem with that. The first job I ever had was as a waitress, and I was required to greet the customers with the lengthy "Hello, my name is Ann, and I will be your waitress tonight." How do you give that wooden line a good reading?

I'd much rather say "Come Together," especially if I was serving muddy water, brewed with a mojo filter.

"[W]e estimate the elasticity of homicide with respect to gun prevalence as between +0.1 and + 0.3."

Some numbers.

What is Drudge trying to say about Sonia Sotomayor?

This is at the top of the right-hand column at Drudge this morning:

Now, as we saw last night, what Justice Sotomayor did was deny an emergency injunction. That would have required a finding that "the legal rights at issue are indisputably clear," which clearly, they are not. And her opinion never mentions "morning-after" pills, only contraception, generally. (The challenged HRSA’s guidelines refer to "all Food and Drug Administration . . . approved contraceptive methods.")

With that rather strange photograph and the reference to "morning-after," I've got to infer that Drudge intended sexual humor aimed at the Justice. I think the photograph was chosen for the "bedroom hair" and the groggy eyes. Or do you focus on the hand? Does it seem to be tossing pills at us?

"15 Things Overachievers Do."

Penelope Trunk's list is — in typical Trunk style — highly provocative, full of surprising details and counterintuitiveness.
2. They use pharmaceuticals. Adderall is de rigeur [sic] for the high-powered jobs in high-powered cities...

8. They get pregnant at 25. If they’re a woman, that is. It’s clear that only a very small, anomalous group of women can have a high-powered job when they have young kids. So women should make a plan to have kids early, and then they can position themselves for a high-powered job once their kids are all grown up....

12. They don’t write books. The book industry is dead. They have no control over distribution channels and they have no control over author publicity, so the value publishers add in the book business is pretty much zero.... So for now, if you have an idea, put it in a blog. Harvard Business Review says that people who are serious about ideas are blogging.

13. They don’t let themselves get fat....
Read the whole thing... and this other thing that — in accordance with item #15 — she stole the idea from.

"Are gun owners now going to be stigmatized like sex offenders?"

Asks TalkLeft.
I think it's an attempt at intimidation. I wonder if any of those whose addresses were published are immediate family members of federal officials or employees, and covered by 18 USC Section 119, which prohibits publishing home addresses for intimidation. Or if the internet publication of home addresses of gun owners can be considered cyber stalking, cyber-bullying, harassment or invasion of privacy under state laws? Just because the information is available under a FOIA request, does that mean it can be publicly disseminated? I'm sure they checked with their lawyers and felt like they were on safe ground, but I hope somebody sues them.
This incident reminds me of the mailings that went out last spring showing the names and addresses of residents in one's neighborhood and whether they'd voted in recent elections. At the time, I called it "incredibly creepy":
This is an effort to shame and pressure people about voting, and it is truly despicable. Your vote is private, you have a right not to vote, and anyone who tries to shame and harass you about it is violating your privacy, and the assumption that I will become active in shaming and pressuring my neighbors is repugnant. 
In a second post on that topic, a commenter, The Drill SGT, pointed to some social science research on the effectiveness of manipulating social pressure with this sort of information about what neighbors are doing. Apparently, if this sort of thing works, they'll be plenty more of it.

Get ready.

Going Galt means different things to different people.

Observes Roy Edroso, reading Will Spencer:
[W]e've seen folks Go Galt by leaving lousy tips, by alerting local merchants that they planned to "buy nothing – other than vacations out of the country – until the president exits," by quitting smoking, etc. Or at least talking about doing it.

I had despaired they'd ever get serious about it. Spencer, though, has an impressively meticulous list of tactics...

So next time some guy at the DMV fills in his license application with scribbles, then winks at you; or sneakily takes a whole stack of change of address forms from the post office; or takes a government job and, unlike any other civil servant you've ever seen, goofs off — then you'll know the revolution is afoot. This time for sure!

"A well-known Capitol protester was charged Wednesday with receiving stolen property for allegedly keeping a State Capitol police officer's jacket..."

We've reached a very late stage in the Wisconsin protests, which begin in February 2011:
The jacket belonged to Officer Tammy Torstenson, who said she had taken off her jacket during protests at the Capitol and put it behind her work station but later found that it was missing, according to the complaint.

The mother of Jeremy J. "Segway" Ryan, 24, of Madison, found the jacket in October while she was cleaning out Ryan's apartment....

Ryan said he never wore the jacket outside his apartment but would put it on as a joke when friends were over, "because being a Capitol Police officer is a joke to him and his friends"....
The Capitol Police were a joke to them? Here's something I wrote in September 2011:
In observing the protests nearly every day through the entire period of the protests, Meade and I often tried to figure out what the police were doing, including the Capitol police. There seemed to be a policy of facilitating the protesters, perhaps because it actually was the best strategy for maintaining order when the police were vastly outnumbered. I have video of protesters assuring me that "The police are on our side."

"Audience Participation Cues for the My Dinner with Andre Midnight Screening."

When those "Rocky Horror" events leave you feeling empty and questioning your very existence, it's time to move on to the Andre scene...
When André tells the story of his attempt to workshop a production of The Little Prince, and how he found himself eating sand in the Sahara desert with a Buddhist monk, eat some sand.

Throw a banana at the screen every time André mentions his wife Chiquita....

When André and Wally discuss the lamentable state of the theater and wonder if it’s possible to create a theatrical experience that would shake people out of their complacency, ask yourself: Is attending this screening/performance of My Dinner With André making you less complacent, or does it allow you to wrap yourself in yet another protective layer of ironic detachment? Is endlessly reenacting My Dinner With André a way for members of The MDWA Midnight Madness Troupe to hide behind a mask of performance and avoid exposing who we really are? Are we really saying anything with this show, or is it just an excuse for people to get drunk and dress up on a Friday night?

Treat yourself to a nice amaretto when Wally orders an after-dinner drink....

December 26, 2012

At the 10 Commandments of Love Café...

... take happiness with the heartaches and go through life wearing a smile.

"Antidepressants to treat grief?"

"Psychiatry panelists with ties to drug industry say yes."

"The Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to block the Obama administration's contraception mandate from taking effect."

"Justice Sonia Sotomayor rejected a request for an emergency injunction that would have shielded employers from the mandate."

Opinion: here:
Applicants do not satisfy the demanding standard for the extraordinary relief they seek.... This Court has not previously addressed similar RFRA or free exercise claims brought by closely held for-profit corporations and their controlling shareholders alleging that the mandatory provision of certain employee benefits substantially burdens their exercise of religion.

"150 years ago, on December 26, 1862, 38 Dakota men were hung in Mankato, Minnesota."

"It was the largest mass execution in U.S. history. The men were hung after being convicted by a U.S. military commission for participating in the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862. Originally, 303 were sentenced to death, but President Lincoln commuted the sentences of most of those convicted."

The 100 Best Lists of All Time.

#1 is the periodic table of the elements and #2 is the Bill of Rights. I'll leave it to you to guess what #3 must be, with the additional clue that #4 is the 10 Commandments.

"Should drowsy driving be prosecuted like drunken driving..."

"... or is nodding off at the wheel simply an accident – like hitting a patch of ice?"

George Will on religion and politics.

This is a great presentation. I heard it on satellite radio as I was driving the other day and recommended it to Meade, who noticed it on C-SPAN on TV and also recommends it. I wish I had a full transcript to point some things out, but really... watch this.

ADDED: Here's the text: PDF.

"NBC's David Gregory, the subject of a now-popular police investigation..."

Politico's Dylan Byers seems to think the deliberate flouting of D.C. gun laws — committing a crime, knowingly, right there on network TV — is some kind of absurd winger obsession.

Emily Yoffe asserts that I attacked her "as a tool of the racial and ethnic preference lobby."

She stands by her ethical advice to someone, but quite aside from my problem with that ethical advice, I'd like to say that it's unethical to portray what I said so inaccurately.

Here's the post I wrote, which isn't a general attack on her support for affirmative action. I was calling attention to the problem of incomplete honesty from those who seek to benefit from affirmative action and the way the school applying its policy has shared interests that cause it not to want to know about a false or misleading statement. This is the very issue that had been in the news with respect to Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren. The schools want to be able to say that they have a good proportion of minority students, so they may not mind if an applicant claims, based on family lore, to be a member of a minority group.

Yoffe professed not to notice any harm to anyone in this interaction between a school and an applicant. That was, at best, willfully blind. As an ethicist, she ought to want to address the larger problem. And now, after linking to me as she did, she has an ethical obligation toward me that needs some attention.

"Where's Hillary?"

Is she hiding or truly ill?

"Putting kids together and sorting by age also created that dysfunctional creature, the 'teenager.'"

"Once, teen-agers weren’t so much a demographic as adults-in-training."
They worked, did farm chores, watched children and generally functioned in the real world. They got status and recognition for doing these things well, and they got shame and disapproval for doing them badly.

But once they were segregated by age in public schools, teens looked to their peers for status and recognition instead of to society at large.

The Tuber and The Turpitude.

The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association invokes the moral turpitude clause in its contract with Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton, recently outed as a prostitute.

Polyamory on the march.

"It's all based on a really high degree of love and trust," says the wife.

I love the look on the face of the moderator at 1:57.

"And then, after a while, it didn't really bother me," says the goat-bearded husband.

Something about the music track — so cheesily happy! — makes me especially dubious about the actual happiness achieved by this exemplary couple.

The wife looks way happier than the husband. Check the look on her face at 2:11 as she pops some food in his mouth (enacting the supposed charms of domesticity).

Oh, wait... there are 2 different women here, but they look kind of alike. I notice this halfway through, at which point, I don't really care who's getting sexual satisfaction where, because I simply don't believe their protestations of pleasure. You can't believe what regular, closed-marriage couples say about themselves either. It's all perfectly smarmy until a marriage breaks up, not that you can believe what the broken-up halves of erstwhile marriages have to say about what happened.

By about 4:42, my impression of what I might be looking at here is gay people who want to live in nuclear family units, with their own biological children. This would be something entirely different from the "polyamory" model that is being pitched in the media. That is, 2 homosexual couples could reorganize into 2 married opposite sex couples for the production of children, whom they would live with in one household. The married couples wouldn't have a sexual relationship (beyond producing the children), and they would have an enduring, happy sexual relationship with their homosexual partner. The 2 couples could live nearby and serve in an uncle/aunt role toward each other's children.

"Boy, I can't think of a better Christmas present than to read about these vile unpleasant asocial deluded individuals suffering..."

"... all locked together in a big metal box. Schadenfreude to the max."

My post title "Buttons offed" made one reader picture "2 hands clasping the lapels of their own jacket and ripping them apart to reveal not a blouse but 2 voluptuous naked breasts."

"Buttons offed, pop pop, that's the image that happens" — says commenter Chip Ahoy, prompting Dr Weevil to say "Photoshop or it (your fantasy) didn't happen."

If he hadn't achieved this status yet — and I think he had — Chip Ahoy became the #1 Althouse commenter of all time — not counting Meade — by producing the Photoshop. (There's a link within that link, so nothing NSFW unless you click again.)

Forbes, ranking the "Best States for Business," finds "a clear separation between right-to-work states and those that are not."

"All but one of the top 10 states have right-to-work laws on the books (No. 5 Colorado is the exception). Of the bottom 10 states, No. 46 Mississippi is the only right-to-work state."

Tracking down Tawana Brawley in pursuit of a $429,000 in damages (and interest) for defamation that occurred in 1987.

"In all these years, she’s never told the truth about this hoax or paid me a cent," said Steven Pagones, the former Dutchess County prosecutor who was called a "gang-raping, kidnapping racist."
The case was catapulted onto the national stage by attorneys Alton H. Maddox and C. Vernon Mason, and the then-little-known Rev. Al Sharpton, who claimed she was raped 33 times.
Celebrities weighed in, with Bill Cosby posting a $25,000 reward for information on the case, Don King promised $100,000 for Brawley’s education and boxer Mike Tyson gave her a $30,000 watch to ease her pain.
Brawley has just been located, working as a nurse, under an alias, in Virginia.

"I witnessed light sexual play among officers, a lot of e-cigarette vaping, and a whole lot of officers laughing and clowning in regard to some of your nude images, dear passengers."

What goes on in those sealed rooms where TSA agents look at X-ray images of passengers in screening machines? The agents are isolated where they won't see the in-the-flesh individuals being screened, but they will see them naked. How would you expect human being to act while doing a job like that?

I love the placement of e-cigarettes in the scenario, as if they make the TSA workers more disreputable and sleazy — in a high-tech kind of way that meshes with the high-tech way they are peeping at nudity.

Quite aside from the TSA and its awful problems, vaping e-cigarettes can be amusing way to do something with your mouth and hands. Here's a kind that doesn't even deliver nicotine.

"I still have to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down and do what I like doing best: killing people."

Wrote William Spengler Jr., 62, after ambushing and killing 2 firefighters who arrived at a fire he set.
“There was no motive in the note. There were some ramblings in there,” [said Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering].

“It spoke mainly that he intended to burn his neighborhood down and kill as many people as possible.”
Spengler committed suicide.

"If you occasionally buy this product, please kindly resend this letter to the World Human Right Organization."

"Thousands people here who are under the persicution of the Chinese Communist Party Government will thank and remember you forever."

Real or fake?

"We know what the future of the Internet's going to be."

"It's going to be a great, big video platform."

And here I thought it was all about the return to reading and writing.

The Bnei Menashe — one of the "lost tribes" — immigrate from India to Israel.

BBC reports:
"The members of this tribe have never forgotten where they came from and we are excited to be able to help them come back," [said  said Michael Freund, chairman of the Shavei Israel group which helped organise the journey for the Bnei Menashe members.]

But some critics say the Bnei Menashe's link to Judaism are "historically untenable". They accuse the community of using their status to escape poverty India.
There were 10 lost tribes in all. Were these people one of them? They maintained an oral tradition — dating back to the 8th century B.C. — telling of their migration through Persia, Afghanistan, Tibet, China, and ultimately to settle in northeastern India. Should skepticism be aimed at these people, or is it better to honor them and welcome them as symbolizing the idea of the lost tribes — which itself may be only a myth?

Here's the Wikipedia article on the 10 lost tribes, including details of all the various claims and speculations. There are so many candidates — in Africa, all over Asia (the Pashtuns, the Japanese), in Europe (the Irish), and even in the Americas. The Book of Mormon goes into this topic:
In the Book of Mormon, Lehi (Hebrew לחי Léḥî / Lāḥî "jawbone") was an ancient prophet who lived around 600 BC...

Shortly before the destruction of Jerusalem, Lehi escaped with his family, along with his friend Ishmael and his family, and another man named Zoram. Together, Lehi led them south down the Arabian Peninsula until they reached a fertile coastal region they named Bountiful. There, they built a ship, and sailed across the ocean to the Americas. Lehi's sons Nephi and Laman are said to have established themselves and to have founded Israelite nations: the Nephites and the Lamanites....

Many Mormons consider Native Americans to be descendants of the Lamanites. Officially, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints appears to accept this position....

December 25, 2012

Buttons offed.

I finally figured out how to rid this blog of those damned "share" buttons. It's not that I'm against sharing — on Christmas! — but those things were slowing down the page loading. Had you noticed? Are you noticing a difference?

"The governor knew what he had to do. He confiscated their sports equipment..."

"... telling them that if they insisted on celebrating Christmas as a 'matter of devotion' they could do so privately at home, 'but there should be no gaming or reveling in the streets.'"

"Has anyone ever told you that your high-wattage passion for no-collar American food makes you television’s answer to Calvin Trillin, if Mr. Trillin bleached his hair, drove a Camaro and drank Boozy Creamsicles?"

"When you cruise around the country for your show 'Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives,' rasping out slangy odes to the unfancy places where Americans like to get down and greasy, do you really mean it? Or is it all an act?"

3 of the many questions in Pete Wells's now-legendary, all-questions review of Guy's American Kitchen, one of 6 "Must-reads of 2012" in the "food" category, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Wait — actually, there's one non-question, the last sentence: "Thanks."

Also on the enticing list:

"How the Chicken Conquered the World." ("How did the chicken achieve such cultural and culinary dominance? It is all the more surprising in light of the belief by many archaeologists that chickens were first domesticated not for eating but for cockfighting.")

"Here Are Our Five Favorite Food-Cliché Sentences."
("The velvety-smooth bisque's unctuous mouthfeel is lobster-tastic with its toothsome tidbits. To. Die. For.") I prefer the article upon which this writing game is based: a list of food-writing clichés. ("Mouthfeel: The blow-job-iest of all food words.")

"An Oyster in the Storm." ("[O]ysters... once protected New Yorkers from storm surges [and] played a critical role in stabilizing the shoreline from Washington to Boston.")

"I Was a Cookbook Ghostwriter." ("I know a lot of chefs who write their first book themselves. Then they say "I’ll never do that again." It’s just not worth it.")

"The Twee Party." ("Is artisanal Brooklyn a step forward for food or a sign of the apocalypse?")(By the way: 1.  "artisan" is on that banned clichés list noted above, and 2. art is anal.)

The DC police are investigating the David Gregory incident "to determine if the magazine was in fact real." reports (and quotes the criminal statute).

What's to investigate? Here's the "Meet the Press" transcript. Gregory said:
Let's widen the argument out a little bit. So here is a magazine for ammunition that carries 30 bullets. Now isn't it possible that, if we got rid of these, if we replaced them in said, "Well, you could only have a magazine that carries five bullets or ten bullets," isn't it just possible that we can reduce the carnage in a situation like Newtown?
Either he violated the criminal law or he lied. He certainly expected us to believe he held in his hand what he said he held. What made him think he could do that (or appear to do that)? He must think the law doesn't apply to him, or he wouldn't even pretend to break it.

IN THE COMMENTS: rhhardin said:
It seems like a chickenshit complaint, and a chickenshit law.

But Gregory is advocating that, which reaches mostly into humor.

He has to pretend to take seriously what he doesn't take seriously.

At the Santa Claus Café...

Christmas 1953

... the traditionalists here at Althouse seem to believe that Christmas is not complete without this photograph from 1953.

"The more I study the history of intellectuals, the more they seem like a wrecking crew, dismantling civilization bit by bit — replacing what works with what sounds good."

Writes Thomas Sowell, in a column called "On Christmas, Liberals Are By No Means Liberal."
After watching a documentary about the tragic story of Jonestown, I was struck by the utterly unthinking way that so many people put themselves completely at the mercy of a glib and warped man, who led them to degradation and destruction. And I could not help thinking of the parallel with the way we put a glib and warped man in the White House.
Wow. That's harsh.

Here's the documentary about Jonestown. And here's Sowell's excellent book "Intellectuals and Society."

"Have yourself a merry little Christmas / It may be your last/ Next year we may all be living in the past."

The original lyric to "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas," which I learned about after happening to catch the tail end of "Meet Me in St. Louis" while channel surfing last night. We happened to drop in just as Judy Garland was about to sing the much-loved Christmas tune, which might have been less-loved if Judy hadn't pushed for happier lyrics. The line, revised, is "Let your heart be light/Next year all our troubles will be out of sight."

What Judy and Margaret O'Brien are so sad about there is moving to New York. They love St. Louis.

Judy's version, in turn, was insufficiently happy for Frank Sinatra, who got the line "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow" changed to "Hang a shining star upon the highest bough." Here's Frank. I think "muddle through" would have suited him — that edge of sadness. And "bough" is a silly word.

There's another place in the song with alternate lyrics: "Through the years, we all will be together if the fates allow," was originally "if the Lord allows." Judy sang "the fates," but returning to "the Lord" is something you can always do.

Meadhouse, kinkaidified...

... by Chip Ahoy:

... who explains how he did it here.

This is my original, mere reality, deemed too bleak by those who find fulfillment in the work of Thomas Kinkade:


And here's a genuine Kinkade Christmas scene, whose deer look familiar... except it seems that Chip took the trouble to give the older deer an upturned tail to match the fawn's. It's that kind of attention to detail that turns our hearts aglow, like windows in that humble cottage... there, across yon half-frozen stream:

"American Slavery Was Not A Sergio Leone Spaghetti Western."

"It Was A Holocaust. My Ancestors Are Slaves. Stolen From Africa. I Will Honor Them."

Spike Lee, being noble
, perhaps, but also horning in on another director's movie. Still, why should Quentin Tarantino be able to get away with doing a movie about slavery?
"All I'm going to say is that it's disrespectful to my ancestors to see that film. That's the only thing I'm gonna say... I can't disrespect my ancestors. I can't do it. Now, that's me. I'm not speaking on behalf of anybody but myself. I can't do it."
And that's the only thing he's going to say.
"What does he want to be made, an honorary black man?... I want Quentin to know that all African-Americans do not think that word is trendy or slick."
He had to say that too.

I think it's fine for him to say all these things. First, it looks like people are going to him with questions. And, second, everything he said was true.

Did you get what you wanted?

Like I did, back in 1958:

Christmas 1958

"From bone fragments to Higgs boson, the tiny finds with huge consequences."

The scientific breakthroughs of 2012.

Whither the Denisovans?

"I want you to see what you're up against... okay?... What hope have you got?... Quit while you're ahead!"

[ADDED: Bad language warning on the videos.]

The "flunky pig tryin' to con" Al Pacino was Charles Durning.

It's Christmas, but that doesn't mean nobody dies. Goodbye to the great character actor, who was in everything. Here he is in "O Brother Where Art Thou?"

You slump-shouldered sack o' nuts.

Kerry Gordon — "sensational scientist!" — asked by Sam Wilson — "a wastrel wordsmith" — to fulfill his "one wish: wedlock!"

"Dare she pursue this preposterous proposition?"

See all "32 Fables from the Foreseeable Future," in PDF, here.

"Seal songs finally make sense...."

"No: Ennui...."

Forecast: "prancing party ponies with precipitation of presents."

Merry Christmas!

December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve.


Merry Christmas!

Jack Klugman has died.

At the age of 90. You probably think of "The Odd Couple" or, maybe "Quincy," but here he is in a 1960 episode of "The Twilight Zone," called "A Passage for Trumpet":

The dark-eyed junco.

I didn't have the presence of mind to grab the camera and take a picture of the globular gray bird with a white belly, perched on the deck railing just beyond the glass. Instead I scrambled for my glasses, and the bird flew away. But we remembered how it looked, and Meade figured out it was dark-eyed junco, and googling, I found lots of photos but what I liked best was this lovely illustration and story.
The junco was not so much flying in to the window as it was flying right up against it. It would fly up and down the window's length, using its claws to aid in climbing. All the while it peered at us. It did this repeatedly. Various hypotheses were tossed about as to why a junco was engaging in this risky, precious energy expending behavior....
Dark-eyed juncos are "the 'snowbirds' of the middle latitudes." Of the middle latitudes? That makes me look up "snowbird" in the OED. Snowbird... I just think of that cornball Anne Murray song. But the OED says a "snow-bird" is "One or other of various small European or American birds, esp. the snow-bunting (Plectrophanes nivalis), snow-finch (Montifringilla nivalis), or snow-sparrow (Junco hiemalis)":
1694  Philos. Trans. 1693 (Royal Soc.) 17 996   The Snow-bird which I take to be much the same with our Hedge Sparrow; this is so called because it seldom appears about Houses but against Snow or very cold Weather.
OED has this 3rd definition: "3. U.S. slang. One who sniffs cocaine (cf. snow n.1 5d); gen. a drug addict":
1923   J. F. Fishman Crucibles of Crime vi. 126   It was discovered that each of them [sc. handkerchiefs] has a small ink mark in one of the corners..these handkerchiefs had been dipped in cocaine... The mark in the corner notified the ‘snowbird’ that it was ‘loaded.’
There's a 4th definition, also U.S. slang:
1923   Nation 31 Oct. 487   In winter, when building is at a standstill in the North, northern workmen, ‘snow birds’ or ‘white doves’ in Negro parlance, flock south.
And a 5th definition: "A person who likes snow; a snow-sports enthusiast." And here we get a D.H. Lawrence quote from 1928: "I am no snow-bird, I hate the stark and shroudy whitemen, white and black." [ADDED: Is "whitemen" an error in the OED?!] That's from something called "Not I," which I can't seem to find on the web. But with some "snow-bird" searching, I did come up with this D.H. Lawrence poem, "Self-Pity":
I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.
You're not feeling sorry for yourself on Christmas Eve, are you?