December 31, 2013

"There’s this energy drink culture now, a high-level, high-risk culture, that’s being marketed and impacting the way people ski."

"That’s what people see and that’s what people think skiing is, but really, that’s the highest level of skiers doing the highest level of tricks."

At the New Year's Eve Café...

... have a seat and try to sum things up.

"Look, you wait until they get to be 20-years-old, the only picking that’s going to take place is your pocket."

"You got to marry these girls when they are about 15 or 16, they’ll pick your ducks. You need to check with mom and dad about that of course."

So said Phil Robertson — back in the news, not because he said something edgy again, but because his antagonists dug up a 5-year old video. It took me a while to grasp that "pick your ducks" means pluck the ducks that you bring home (and not choosing which ducks to shoot). Robertson, we're told in the linked article, married his wife in 1966 when she was 16 (and he was 20). They'd been dating since she was 14 (and he was 18).

This material is right there in Phil Robertson's autobiography, "Happy, Happy, Happy," which has been out since last May. I have it in my Kindle. At page 52:
Miss Kay was the perfect woman for me. I was sixteen and she was fifteen when we were married. Nowadays some people might frown on people getting married that young, but I knew that if you married a woman when she was fifteen, she would pluck your ducks. If you waited until she was twenty, she would only pick your pockets. Now, that’s a joke, and a lot of people seem to laugh at it, but there is a certain amount of truth in it. If you can find a nice, pretty country girl who can cook and carries her Bible, now, there’s a woman. She might even be ugly, but if she cooks squirrels and dumplings, then that’s the woman you go after.
Seems like he's been telling that pluck-a-duck joke for a long time. Anyway, how old was Phil when he married Kay and how old was she? The stories in the news and in the autobiography don't match. And what was the law in Louisiana at the time? I think (looking casually on line at what the law is today) that if you're under 18, you need both parents' consent, and if you're under 16, you need a court order.

"Despite winning more games than their first-round opponents, New Orleans and San Francisco will get penalized in the playoffs..."

"... because another team in their respective—read: tougher—divisions had a slightly better record...."
There is no debating the toughness of the NFC West over any division, especially the NFC North.

The 49ers would earn the third seed in a properly reshuffled playoff system, hosting the sixth-seeded Packers instead of going to Green Bay. The current rules are actually punishing San Francisco for playing in the toughest division in football in favor of a team that won the league's weakest.
Aw, but at least it's warming up in Green Bay. They say it's getting up to maybe 11° by Sunday.

Via Throwing Things, where the first commenter says:
If you don't like it, then win your division. If you don't like missing the NCAA tournament, then win your conference. These playoffs and tournaments are supposed to find the best team, and if you can't win the regular season then don't complain about your seeding.

And I'm a 49er fan.
What do you think? (Multiple answers allowed.) free polls 

"We still have so much to get to, including the annual tradition of asking 'Hey, was that racist?'"

Squeals Melissa Harris-Perry, on her MSNBC show, going to a break, just after displaying picture of Mitt Romney's family that includes a black adopted child  and inviting her panel to "caption" it, which they do with mockery like, "It really sums up the diversity of the Republican party, the RNC. At the convention, they find the one black person."

The line I quote in the post title, above, was delivered without a trace of awareness that the segment she'd just overseen would prompt the cry "Hey, that was racist!" I have no idea what the "Hey, was that racist?" stuff after the break turned out to be or whether Melissa Harris-Perry — if we were to look more broadly at her efforts — has been doing any good work in the enterprise of making race consciousness something that can be joked and bantered about in a relaxed and friendly way.

I see I do have a tag for her name, based on an article she wrote in The Nation in September 2011. I blogged about her perception that "A 'more insidious form of racism' — replacing the old 'naked, egregious and aggressive' racism — is now undermining Barack Obama." She thought — as I paraphrased it — "that people loaded race into their positive feelings for Obama, and now they have a special race-based disappointment."

Quite aside from racial politics, I thought children were off limits. Here you have an MSNBC panel segment planned around laughing at a baby. We scrupulously avoid using Obama's daughters as raw material for jokes. Why didn't anyone at MSNBC nix this?

UPDATE: More apologizing — replete with tears — here.

Tomorrow, in Colorado, you can walk into a marijuana store and buy marijuana, but what does it cost?

This article (linked at Drudge) doesn't say, other than to predict it's "likely to be expensive." Rachel Gilette, a National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws lawyer, said:
"I did talk to a retailer yesterday who had just set his price points, and they were about double of what you have been able to get medical on the market for the last year... So it is going to be more expensive at least for the foreseeable future."
Theran Snyder, who runs a shop called Kine Mine in Idaho Springs, won't say exactly what he'll charge the new nonmedical customers (and whatever it is, there will be 31.9% tax on top of it). Currently, the medical customers pay $225 per ounce for medical marijuana, and, citing worries about short supply, Snyder plans to charge the nonmedical people much more:
"Obviously the way we're planning on controlling our inventory is with price, and unfortunately that means we're going to be charging a premium."
Also obvious is the incentive to users to continue to seek medical status and/or to remain in the black market. 

"What do scientists say when they go to the bar?"

"Climate change scientists say: 'Where's the ice?' Seismologists might ask for their drinks to be 'shaken and not stirred.' Microbiologists request just a small one. Neuroscientists ask for their drinks 'to be spiked.' Scientists studying the defective gubernaculum say: 'Put mine in a highball,' and finally, social scientists say: 'I'd like something soft.' When paying at the bar, geneticists say: 'I think I have some change in my jeans." And at the end of the evening a shy benzene biochemist might say to his companion: 'Please give me a ring.'"

From a collection of scientists' favorite jokes... at The Guardian, via Metafilter, where someone says:
Aw, a lot of these are pretty weak. Reddit had a great post earlier this year, "What's the most intellectual joke you know?," that had a lot of good ones. I've stolen two of them.

The first requires some thought:
Three logicians walk into a bar. The bartender asks "Do you all want to start with a beer?"

The first logician says "I don't know."

The second logician says "I don't know."

The third logician says "Yes!"
The second doesn't:
Pavlov is sitting at a pub enjoying a pint. The phone rings and he jumps up shouting "Oh shit, I forgot to feed the dog!"

December 30, 2013

"[Y]es, it’s a huge relief that the woman to whom Obama spoke of his own 'evolution' on marriage equality is no longer closeted...."

"And yes, this is not news to me....  and yes, I’m glad for her survival of cancer and her own evolution as a free woman."

"Third Icebreaker Fails To Reach Stranded Ship In Antarctic."

"That was the word early Monday from aboard the MV Akademik Shokalskiy — the Russian ship with 74 passengers and crew that's been stuck in Antarctic ice for a week now."

The passengers are not all scientists. Some are "paying members of the public." Oh, those people who just need to go everywhere, eh? People with "bucket lists." I suppose they want to pay to go up in space too. Will they have to chip in for the helicopter rescue or whatever else is going to be needed and/or will they sue the shipping company?

Here's how the cruise was presented to the public:

"The idea that gluten and carbohydrates are at the root of Alzheimer's disease, anxiety, depression, and ADHD has now reached millions of people."

"It is the basis of a number-one bestseller written by a respected physician. What is it worth?" asks James Hamblin in The Atlantic.
Even as someone who was seriously skeptical of [David] Perlmutter’s story, after reading his 336 pages — and watching his whole YouTube channel and most every TV appearance — I have found myself hesitating around grain. His message is so ardently and unwaveringly delivered. That is how one-sided pop-science works. Katz wrote a tongue-in-cheek case that the 1974 advent of the Post-it note was the cause of the obesity pandemic, to show how easily correlations can be spun. If I read 336 pages on the evils of Post-its, I might set our office supply room on fire....

When a person advocates radical change on the order of eliminating one of the three macronutrient groups from our diets, the burden of proof should be enormous....

"It’s all over now but the mop-up. Maybe shovel-up is more like it."

"And the biggest load sitting there, as the tents are packed up and the elephants are sent down the rails, is free agent-to-be Jay Cutler," writes Rick Telander in the Chicago Sun-Times, the morning after the big game.
Cutler was pretty good in the Bears’ season-ending 33-28 loss to the Packers that reminded us, above all, that Aaron Rodgers is as good as it gets when it counts....
You wouldn’t think what the Packers accomplish should figure in Cutler’s future, but it does because Rodgers and the Packers aren’t going away. Both Cutler and Rodgers are 30, but Cutler is seven months older than his rival.

And Cutler can’t beat the Packers. He’s now 1-9 in his career against them, including the playoffs....
AND: Here's the University of Wisconsin football team, watching the Packers game at a hotel in Florida, forlorn and then jubilant as Randall Cobb's touchdown wins the game:

(There's one Bears fan there, right in the middle, nicely revealed in the slo-mo repeat.)

A plan for reviving the study of grammar.

Over at Language Log, here (recommending The Penn Treebank) and here:
A basic understanding of how language works should be part of what every educated person knows....

[A]t least in the U.S., my suggestion would be to turn away from English departments, and pursue a plan based on an alliance of linguists with people in computer science, psychology, statistics, medicine, law, sociology, business, etc., who increasingly see linguistic analysis (e.g. in the form of "text mining" or "text analytics") as an interesting object of study in itself, and as a means to enable research on other (applied or fundamental) topics. This alliance — which eventually might even include some people from Digital Humanities — is a plausible basis for college-level courses in "grammar" as practical text analysis.
There are more links in that passage than the one that I copied, by the way. That one just jumped out at me. There's no link, however, on "Digital Humanities," which puzzled me, so I googled and found a number of things, including — in The Chronicle of Higher Education — "Stop Calling It 'Digital Humanities'" and an easy-to-absorb Wikipedia article. Excerpt:

Justice Sonia Sotomayor will lead the Times Square New Year's Eve ball-drop countdown.

"She will press the crystal button... the first United States Supreme Court justice to do so."

Because she's from New York City? But almost half of the Supreme Court Justices are from New York City, including both the other female Justices. The male is Justice Scalia.
While it may be difficult to imagine Justice Scalia on the stage in Times Square, Justice Sotomayor has taken on a more public role as a justice, especially as she promoted her recent memoir, “My Beloved World.” She has doled out career advice on “Sesame Street,” appeared on “The Daily Show” and even salsa-danced with a Univision anchor.
Justice Scalia doesn't take a public role?! He's always out and about spreading the word about Originalism and so forth. If he's not manning the Times Square crystal button and not on "Sesame Street" and "The Daily Show," I think that has more to do with liberal media ostracizing nonliberals than anything else.
Justice Sotomayor was selected because of her inspirational story of rising from a humble background to become the first Hispanic justice on the court, said Tim Tompkins, president of the Times Square Alliance. She has encouraged others to dream big, a nice message for a new year, he said.

Anderson Cooper will host the televised party in Times Square, with performances by Miley Cyrus, Melissa Etheridge and others. Viewers should not expect to see Ms. Cyrus twerking near Justice Sotomayor. The justice will have a private space at the event, Mr. Tompkins said.
Humility, big dreams and inspiration, and the continuing subordination of women (in the form of Miley's plastic-clad ass, but not too close to the risen-from-humility Supreme Court Justice, who will be encased in an enclosure of sublime respect with her crystal button).

All the Presidents' Slaves.

And what they had to say about them. Here are 5 quotes. Before checking the link, try to guess the President.

1. "A general emancipation of slaves ought to be 1. gradual.  2. equitable & satisfactory to the individuals immediately concerned.  3. consistent with the existing & durable prejudices of the nation...  To be consistent with existing and probably unalterable prejudices in the U.S. freed blacks ought to be permanently removed beyond the region occupied by or alloted to a White population."

2.  "As far as lenity can be extended to these unfortunate creatures I wish you to do so; subordination must be obtained first, and then good  treatment."

3. "I can only say that no man living wishes more sincerely than I do to see the abolition of (slavery)…  But when slaves who are happy & content to remain with their present masters, are tampered with & seduced to leave them… it introduces more evils than it can cure."

4. "(God) works most inscrutably to the understandings of men; - the negro is torn from Africa, a barbarian, ignorant and idolatrous; he is restored civilized, enlightened, and a Christian."

5. "You tell me, friends, of the liberation of the colored people of the South.  But have you thought of the millions of Southern white  people who have been liberated by the war?"

The link comes via Metafilter, and I can't vouch for the accuracy of all of the quotes, especially ##4 and 5. Apocryphal?

"The White House, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy organizations will launch a campaign this week to highlight real-life experiences under the Affordable Care Act..."

"... tales so compelling that they help drive up enrollment, marginalize Republican repeal efforts and erase memories of this fall’s debacle."

Shouldn't that just be the internal memo about the campaign? Saying that's what you're about to do is practically the opposite of doing it. And I think the story only came out in that form — over at Politico — because actually doing it is not possible, not with the raw material they have. Perhaps they expected the media to do it for them, in which case the question is, why isn't the media doing their work for them, as usual? And I'm guessing the media can't do it either, because even if you are inclined to sift through the raw material and find the good things, you can only cherry-pick where there are some cherries. Politico needs to write about something, and this was all they had, the desperate fantasy of launching a campaign that can't possibly happen.

It's like a sad scene from an old melodrama:
“Go on,” said Lennie. “How’s it gonna be? We gonna get a little place.”
“We’ll have a cow,” said George. “An’ we’ll have maybe a pig an’ chickens . . . an’ down the flat we’ll have a . . . little piece alfalfa——”
“For the rabbits,” Lennie shouted.
“For the rabbits,” George repeated.
“And I get to tend the rabbits.”
“An’ you get to tend the rabbits.”
Lennie giggled with happiness. “An’ live on the fatta the lan’.” 

December 29, 2013

Kick blocked.

"It's knee on shin, so when he goes to kick, you put your knee on his shin... It has happened in sparring and guys take a minute off and walk around, and at least it stops them from kicking you. To break someone's leg, I've never done that before. I didn't want to see Anderson get hurt like that."

But everyone's looking at the graphic pics/video of Anderson Silva breaking his leg.

"It's just hard to have your national bird in your arms, going through seizures in a way it can't control..."

"... when you can see it's in pain but don't know what's happening to it."

A Republican and a Democrat from the House Intelligence Committee say the NYT got its Benghazi story wrong.

Fox News Sunday had a good segment today with 2 members of the House Intelligence Committee, the Republican Mike Rogers and the Democrat Adam Schiff talking about the NYT article about Bengazi, reporting on its investigation that "turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault" and that "it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam."

Drudge's de Blasio debasement.

Drudge isn't the loftiest place on the internet, but this is beneath him:

The linked article, in the Wall Street Journal, makes no mention of the Clinton impeachment and gives us no reason to associate deBlasio with any of Clinton's misdeeds and lies. Clinton is a former President, and it's a decent honor for deBlasio to have him do the swearing in.

Drudge's highlighting of the impeachment is gratuitous and stupid, and that headline has been at the top of the page since yesterday, so there's been plenty of time for Drudge to realize it's not up to his usual standards (which include lots of room for ridicule and cheap shots).

Now, if Drudge had phrased the headline to refer to oaths — Clinton lied under oath and now he's administering an oath — I would have approved. Since Clinton was impeached for lying under oath, the appropriate connection was within reach, but Drudge didn't quite get there and ends up looking mean-spirited and flailing.

Woman who only had 3 words for her critics — "ha, ha, ha"...

... now faces a year in prison and critics who say things like "It would be justice if the cat survived and she didn't survive prison" and "Put her in a Rubbermaid storage container for a day... but be nice and bore a few holes so she can breathe. Do it in a public area so people can walk by and say 'ha, ha, ha' to her."

"These sculptures represent the beginning of an exploration into this participatory nature of skin..."

"... a move away from the idea of skin as boundary between 'inside and 'outside' the body, utilizing touch as a means to explore the active relationship between skin and space."

"My biggest problem with unworthy is one of my biggest problems with the 2013... internet...."

Says a commenter at Metafilter (and by "unworthy," he means Upworthy).
... i don't want to look at your fucking video to consume your content. I have no problem with videos, i just think they're the wrong medium for a lot of things. Video of something specifically happening, or some visual/multimedia art? Cool. Video documentary of a situation or about a person? fine. Stupid video of someone talking about something with a couple still photos overlaid a few times? Fuck. OFF.

There's an "idiot switch" safety step that's being skipped here. People need to be asking themselves "What would be missing from this if it was simply written out, maybe with a couple inline images?"...

I think unworthy is a far more sinister cancer than even buzzfeed. All the time people send me links to stuff on there and go "omg check this out". Click through at my desk at work/on the loo/etc and go "oh, video, nope"....

You want me to watch a 4:30 video of something i could read in like 45 to 60 seconds even if it was towards the thick end of content these videos ever have?...

There's a lot of pasta sandwich going on here. It's just the wrong type of content for the media.
Things were different back in the days of Rickrolling, when you didn't know you were clicking to a video, and as soon as you saw that you got to a video (that video), you knew you were tricked and you clicked away. Now you know by the teaser that you are getting sent to a video and you're somehow supposed to believe that if you spent a little time watching the material roll out — in that annoying, exasperating way that video subjects you to its time frame — you really will get to experience the promised feelings. Your heart will explode into a sunburst of tiny sparkles or whatever.

You'd think that by now — at the portal to 2014 — we'd be steely and unteaseable. Who would waste 8 seconds anticipating that this video will restore your faith in humankind?


Are you like me? When you read the words "if you spent some time watching the material roll out... you really will get to experience the promised feelings," did you switch over to thinking about Obamacare?

I'd like to think that by now — at the portal to 2014 — we'd be steely and unteaseable.

Picture yourself stuck in a meeting with a boss who believes that the office's wacky interior design makes meetings not boring anymore.

The founder of Airbnb, Joe Gebbia, says: "It’s suddenly like, meetings aren’t boring anymore."

In the company's new headquarters, there are:
A series of eight private meeting rooms that are exact replicas of some of [Airbnb]’s coolest listings from around the world; an atrium with a massive living wall climbing up the brick facade and a Rear Window-esque view into the aforementioned meeting rooms; and, most importantly, a conference room inspired by the War Room in Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, complete with a circular table and overhead lighting.
Picture yourself in a meeting here...

... listening to the grandiose maunderings of people who are sure you can't possibly feel oppressed.

December 28, 2013

"Months of investigation by The New York Times, centered on extensive interviews with Libyans in Benghazi who had direct knowledge of the attack there and its context..."

"...turned up no evidence that Al Qaeda or other international terrorist groups had any role in the assault."
The attack was led, instead, by fighters who had benefited directly from NATO’s extensive air power and logistics support during the uprising against Colonel Qaddafi. And contrary to claims by some members of Congress, it was fueled in large part by anger at an American-made video denigrating Islam....

Anger at the video motivated the initial attack. Dozens of people joined in, some of them provoked by the video and others responding to fast-spreading false rumors that guards inside the American compound had shot Libyan protesters. Looters and arsonists, without any sign of a plan, were the ones who ravaged the compound after the initial attack, according to more than a dozen Libyan witnesses as well as many American officials who have viewed the footage from security cameras.

"Belgium’s euthanasia guidelines are a mere veneer that can be violated without consequence."

"When violations finally come to public light, lawmakers simply amend the law to reflect actual practice."

Belgian doctors have provided euthanasia to: "a transsexual repelled by the results of a sex change operation... a depressed anorexia patient who wanted to die after being sexually exploited by her psychiatrist... deaf twins, who asked to be killed together when both began losing their eyesight... elderly couples who preferred immediate death to eventual widowhood."

They harvest organs in the process too, when they can.

"Is Michelle Obama’s Birthday Party Invitation Inconsiderately Worded?"

What does it mean to invite people for "Snacks & Sips & Dancing & Dessert"?

I think it means there will be plenty to eat and drink but you can't sit down. Kinda like "Let's Move" but more festive.

"A&E now has, if not an obligation, a golden opportunity."

"The network should return Robertson and Duck Dynasty to the air, but not in the adulterated, cartoon version that has conservatives so besotted.... No, Duck Dynasty should get real," writes Richard Kim in The Nation.

"For me, pictures like this are so troubling because they ask core questions about the contradictory nature of photography."

"On the one hand, the photo is a tremendously disturbing representation of evil and chaos."
On the other, it is such a perfect and unique example of this evil that it transcends the constant, predictable, numbing pictorial representations of equal or greater violence that usually just slip away unseen. These are such troubling thoughts to think. Ten years ago, I would have felt some of the violence before I could acknowledge my respect for the photograph. Now I feel them both simultaneously. Perhaps that’s the great achievement of the photograph. But what do I know anymore? I guess I’m in too deep.

"Pop princesses bow to queen Britney Spears."

No, that is not bowing. Scroll through the rest of the pictures. It's all terribly disrespectful to the poor, troubled ex-princess, Britney. If she's to be a queen, give her a dress... and some dignity.

Mark Steyn tweeted me!

"What should happen is the following: please develop the film and hand it over to your students."

Wrote the great film director Werner Herzog to the film professor who had 2 weeks earlier handed him a Super-8 camera and instructed him to make a film for the Film 102 class.
My demand is the following: they have to make films, collectively or individually, which should include my footage. Obviously, they do not need to take everything, nor in the order I filmed the material.

The title of their film/films has to be WHERE’S DA PARTY AT? 

In my footage this appears in one of the graffiti, and at least this portion of the text should appear in the film, or all the films.
The film prof told the students their project would be a bit like what Herzog did making the film "Grizzly Man," using the footage (and pawage) of the late Timothy Treadwell.

"The 17 most jaw-droppingly terrible lyrics of 2013."

This stuff is so bad I don't know how the author (a writer at Salon) could be troubled to listen through it to find these items in the first place. Or do the tunes just jump off the radio or the internet and accost you until you pay attention and hate them?

Speaking of attacks against one's will, the worst lyric seems to be: "Put Molly all in her champagne/She ain’t even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that/She ain’t even know it."

Have you noticed the new HBO show "Getting On"?

We've started watching it. The scene is a geriatric extended care facility, which is timely, no? Here's a list of 4 reasons to watch, including this scene:

I don't know why that isn't the kind of politically incorrect that gets you in trouble. Clearly, HBO means for us to laugh at the incomprehensibility of East Asian languages. ("It's something Chinese-y.") Remember when Rosie O'Donnell got in trouble for doing a crude imitation of Chinese?

ADDED: ""[I]n what many would consider heretical by Hollywood standards, the actors do not get their hair or makeup done. The existing overhead fluorescent bulbs serve as the only lighting set up."
"The three of us have joked that we are three of the bravest actresses in TV right now with no hair and no makeup," [Laurie] Metcalf says. "It's a luxury to not have to worry about it, but it's also a kick in the face - being willing to look like you've had a hard day on your feet."
Metcalf (who played Roseanne's sister on the old "Roseanne" show) plays a doctor "who feels insulted by her assignment to the Billy Barnes unit. She wanted to be a medical-research star and is obsessed with collecting and analyzing feces, an ongoing metaphor for the show's bleak environment. The correct way to pick up an errant sample off a waiting room chair dominates an entire episode."

AND: Unlike all those TV hospital with that let "thin, beautiful, hyper-articulate doctors... demonstrate their intelligence and/or compassion""Getting On" gives "a trio of frumpy, middle-aged comediennes regular opportunities chance to be funny, unlikable and compelling."

"This is the environmental awakening. It marks a new sensitivity of the American spirit and a new maturity of American public life."

So wrote Richard M. Nixon in his "Special Message to the Congress Outlining the 1972 Environmental Program" (February 8, 1972):
From the very first, the American spirit has been one of self-reliance and confident action.... What has dawned dramatically upon us in recent years, though, is a new recognition that to a significant extent man commands as well the very destiny of this planet where he lives, and the destiny of all life upon it. We have even begun to see that these destinies are not many and separate at all -- that in fact they are indivisibly one....

It is working a revolution in values, as commitment to responsible partnership with nature replaces cavalier assumptions that we can play God with our surroundings and survive. It is leading to broad reforms in action, as individuals, corporations, government, and civic groups mobilize to conserve resources, to control pollution, to anticipate and prevent emerging environmental problems, to manage the land more wisely, and to preserve wildness....
Among the many subheadings of this document is "ENDANGERED SPECIES":
I propose legislation to provide for early identification and protection of endangered species. My new proposal would make the taking of endangered species a Federal offense for the first time, and would permit protective measures to be undertaken before a species is so depleted that regeneration is difficult or impossible.
And it was on December 28, 1973 — 40 years ago today — that President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act into law.

Scientists fight over what would happen if you fell into a black hole.

Leonard Susskind, a physicist at Stanford, says: "It's kind of like you're rowing on Niagara Falls, and you pass the point [where] you can't row fast enough to escape the current... Well, you're doomed at that point. But passing the point of no return — you wouldn't even notice it."

"A scientific mission ship, trapped in dense pack ice off East Antarctica, is still awaiting rescue after a Chinese icebreaker failed to reach it."

"The Snow Dragon icebreaker was itself stalled by heavy ice, officials say."
Although trapped for the moment, the scientists are continuing their experiments. They have been measuring temperature and salinity through cracks in the surrounding ice.....

The goal of the modern day Australasian Antarctic Expedition is to repeat many of the original measurements and studies of the Mawson expedition to see how facets of the environment have changed over the past century.
Here's the Spirit of Mawson page about the current expedition.

"Michelangelo's Grocery List..."

"... written for an illiterate servant."

"I’m a patriot and a Christian... But now it’s gotten to where I’m some kind of nut or Bible beater."

Writes Phil Robertson in his recently published book, "Happy, Happy, Happy: My Life and Legacy as the Duck Commander," noting that he's just following "the principles on which the United States was built... right there with our founding fathers."
What in the world ever happened to the United States of America, folks? Our country is so different from the nation that was founded more than two hundred years ago. I’m absolutely convinced that the reason America went so far and so fast is that our founders were God-fearing men. It was godly from the start. Our founding fathers fled the wickedness of Europe and came to America to build a nation built on principles, morals, and their beliefs in Jesus Christ. They drew upon their faith and biblical ideals to actually construct the framing documents of our great country.

December 27, 2013

A&E brings Phil Robertson back into its good graces.

This was all so very predictable, but here's the statement and it's headlining at Drudge, so, after all our discussions of the topic, I feel I must treat it as news.
As a global media content company, A&E Networks' core values are centered around creativity, inclusion and mutual respect. We believe it is a privilege for our brands to be invited into people's homes, and we operate with a strong sense of integrity and deep commitment to these principles.

That is why we reacted so quickly and strongly to a recent interview with Phil Robertson. While Phil's comments made in the interview reflect his personal views based on his own beliefs and his own personal journey, he and his family have publicly stated they regret the "coarse language" he used and the misinterpretation of his core beliefs based only on the article. He also made it clear he would "never incite or encourage hate." We at A&E Networks expressed our disappointment with his statements in the article and reiterate that they are not views we hold.

But Duck Dynasty is not a show about one man's views. It resonates with a large audience because it is a show about family… a family that America has come to love. As you might have seen in many episodes, they come together to reflect and pray for unity, tolerance and forgiveness. These are three values that we at A&E Networks also feel strongly about.

So after discussions with the Robertson family, as well as consulting with numerous advocacy groups, A&E has decided to resume filming Duck Dynasty later this spring with the entire Robertson family.

We will also use this moment to launch a national public service campaign (PSA) promoting unity, tolerance and acceptance among all people, a message that supports our core values as a company and the values found in Duck Dynasty. These PSAs will air across our entire portfolio.
That's terribly carefully worded. I'm sure they worked very hard on that.

Here's your ice cream.


(Via Metafilter.)

What to do about those "hospice survivors" who are "draining billions from Medicare"?

They only got in because 2 doctors certified they'd only live 6 months at the most.
[O]ver the past decade, the number of “hospice survivors” in the United States has risen dramatically, in part because hospice companies earn more by recruiting patients who aren’t actually dying, a Washington Post investigation has found. Healthier patients are more profitable because they require fewer visits and stay enrolled longer.
So... the way we're supposed to see that the greedy corporations aren't bilking us all is for more people in their care to kick off? Noted!

Federal judge in NY says the NSA surveillance program is legal.

Judge William H. Pauley III grants the government's motion to dismiss in a lawsuit filed by the ACLU.
Judge Pauley said that protections under the Fourth Amendment do not apply to records held by third parties, like phone companies.

“This blunt tool only works because it collects everything,” Judge Pauley said in the ruling. “While robust discussions are underway across the nation, in Congress and at the White House, the question for this court is whether the government’s bulk telephony metadata program is lawful."
He says it is.

"Hey, Al, do you remember that time, back in the day, when we chemically castrated you for no good reason?"

"Yeah? Well, we forgive you. Also, you’re dead."

Feats of strength in Austin, Texas.

As long as we're talking about Marines doing pullups, here's Meade — last week, in Texas — doing a chinup:

You know the chinup/pullup distinction, don't you? Meanwhile, I provided support for a sculpture...

... in front of The Bill & Melinda Gates Computer Science Complex and Dell Computer Science Hall. I wonder what people at the University of Texas actually call that place. Gates & Dell? I'd call it The Gates of Dell (riffing on The Gates of Hell).

The sculpture itself — by Sol LeWitt — is called "Circle with Towers."
The outdoor structure possesses a discernable logic and rhythm: the concrete towers are four blocks wide while the low walls between them are eight blocks wide—a perfect 1:2 ratio. The fact that there are eight towers, each composed of repeating four-sided square modules, further instills a sense of calibrated order.
And while we're merging (and morphing) with sculptures, here's Meade, playing the gargoyle...

... at the Littlefield Fountain, which has the inscription "A short life hath been given by Nature unto man; but the remembrance of a life laid down in a good cause endureth forever."

A shantytown in Madison, Wisconsin.

"The first 'tiny home' constructed for Madison's homeless was officially occupied earlier this week — the first of what OMBuild, a nonprofit organization that grew out of Occupy Madison — hopes will eventually be a 'village; of little houses for the formerly homeless."
City ordinances require the house — parked on the street — to be moved every 48 hours.

OMBuild is waiting for a qualified nonprofit group, like a church, to step forward and obtain a newly created zoning permit that will allow a little house to be placed permanently on private property. Long-term, OMBuild would like to own property on which a “village” of little houses could be developed....
This is supposedly modeled on something that's going on in Washington and Oregon, including "Right to Dream Too" "a 'rest area' located on private property in downtown Portland, fenced with a ring of recycled doors morphed into a mural art project."

"Just morph out from there," I say and Meade says, "I knew you would say that." We get each other's allusions, which in this case was "Start with homosexual behavior and just morph out from there. Bestiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that woman and those men."

What's morphing in your world today? "Morph,"  the verb, goes back to 1982, according to the (unlinkable) OED, as a reference to the computer animation process, and the extended use, referring to change "as if by morphing" only appeared in the early 90s. I first heard the word "morph" when that then-amazing video "Cry" came out in 1985.

Back to the topic of fencing in a possibly unsightly shantytown, the top-linked article quotes a [former] Madison city council member, Brenda Konkel, who toured places like Right to Dream Too. She said: “Fences are important — it gives the community a sense of security and personal responsibility — and that gives people the right to govern what goes on there.”

Is the fence to cater to the feelings of those who are fenced in or those who want them fenced in? You know there's a question you're supposed to ask:
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offence.
Something there is that doesn't love a wall,
That wants it down.'....

"So cluttered was Holzberger's home that police did not find him when they searched the house Nov. 10."

"It wasn't until Retzlaff allegedly confessed to the killing three days later and told investigators exactly where to find him that police discovered the body."
Now, friends are left to contemplate a character who immersed himself in causes, survived mostly on ramen noodles, and rode around on his bicycle to mine treasures from other people's trash.

"He lived one of the most simplistic lives of anyone I've ever known," said a friend, Jim Carpenter.
"Simplistic" means — according to the (unlinkable) OED "Of the nature of, or characterized by, (extreme) simplicity. Now usu. with the connotation of excessive or misleading simplification." Carpenter's use of the word isn't wrong, just unusual. And it's unusual not merely because he meant it as a compliment, but because he looked at extreme clutter and saw admirable simplicity.

"In the US, reality TV is replete with spoiled teenagers, extreme eating challenges, and arguing roommates."

"Here in Kenya, though, an innovative show is putting aside ratings-grabbing petty squabbling and trying to do good: helping small farmers back from the brink of poverty."

The Marines Corps quietly puts off the requirement that female Marines perform 3 pullups.

A Marine spokesperson cites the need to "ensure all female Marines are given the best opportunity to succeed." Only 45% of female recruits could meet the standard, which 99% of male recruits meet.
Robert Maginnis, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, says the delay shows that women just can't meet the same standards.

"Young women, in spite of all the training and all the best intentions, are not going to be the equal of young men in terms of upper body strength," Maginnis says. "You've got to have a lot of upper body strength to lift the stuff. Been there, done that."

Maginnis just wrote a book called Deadly Consequences: How Cowards are Pushing Women into Combat. He says the issue has more to do with politics than protecting the nation.
But 45% of the women did it. Depending on how you look at it, that's a surprisingly high percentage.

Did the judge in the Utah same-sex marriage case "give Justice Scalia the finger"?

So said lawprof Jason Mazzone, blogging at Balkinization, quoted today in the NYT in a piece titled "Utah Ruling Means No Respite for the Supreme Court on Same-Sex Marriage," by Adam Liptak. Liptak writes that the U.S. Supreme Court might have hoped, after this year's 2 somewhat modest same-sex marriage cases, to put off the big same-sex marriage question — whether there is a right to same-sex marriage — for a few more years. But the Utah case, it seems, is crushing that hope:
... Judge Shelby’s decision will certainly get the justices’ attention. He acknowledged, for starters, that the Supreme Court’s 5-to-4 decision striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, United States v. Windsor, could be read to support either side in his case....

To resolve the tension, Judge Shelby looked to Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion in Windsor.

“The view that this court will take of state prohibition of same-sex marriage is indicated beyond mistaking by today’s opinion,” Justice Scalia wrote.

Judge Shelby wrote, referring to himself, that “the court agrees with Justice Scalia’s interpretation of Windsor.”
Is that "giv[ing] Justice Scalia the finger"? Scalia did what many dissenting opinions do: call attention to the implications of the principle established by the majority, which the majority — posing as modest and incremental — coyly pretends are not there. If Professor Mazzone is right, and Judge Shelby meant to say "fuck you" to Justice Scalia, then it must be acknowledged that Justice Scalia was asking for it.

When your husband gives you a huge hideous handbag for Christmas...

... get out there and parade around for the paparazzi.
The design features several eerie nude female figures and a bare-chested monster, and has been directly hand painted on the front of the very expensive leather good.

On Thursday, Kim also posted a photograph of the bag on her Instagram account, captioning it with a series of hashtags, including '#HandPaintedGeorgeCondo #HermesBirkin #OneofOne #ChristmasPresentFromYeezy'.
Now that the awful thing has been photographed, seal it away. Never carry it again. At auction — some day soon — it will sell for $100 million.

And what a lucky artist. We've now all heard of George Condo. Here's what George Condo thinks of you:

Lots more George Condo images for your delectation here, but don't think that if you bought a very expensive Hermes handbag for your wife that you could get George to paint it into a billboard advertising himself, not unless the paparazzi are after her too.

December 26, 2013

"On November 5, 2014, Wisconsin progressives will wake to find that not only has Scott Walker been elected statewide for a third time..."

... but the GOP has taken back the U.S. Senate and increased its House majority.
Republicans will also be calling Obamacare the worst popular domestic policy reform since Prohibition (also warmly embraced by progressives, let's not forget), and the battle to deliver the knockout blow to this wobbly but still-standing program will enter its next phase.

This news will undoubtedly make many isthmus residents sad, and some might need a hug. Too bad Madison's Snuggle House didn't make it through 2013.

Happy New Year.

"An Iowa State University professor resigned after admitting he falsely claimed rabbit blood could be turned into a vaccine for the AIDS virus."

"Dr. Dong-Pyou Han spiked a clinical test sample with healthy human blood to make it appear that the rabbit serum produced disease-fighting antibodies, officials said."

He got $19 million in grants from the National Institutes of Health.

60 swimmers injured in a mass piranha attack.

In Argentina.

Aaron Rodgers is cleared to play on Sunday...

... against the Bears, who broke his collarbone back in November.

AND: Not just cleared, but will start.
"We're in it. You know we have a chance against our rivals, and what a better way than to go down there and get some redemption and host a home playoff game," Rodgers said....
Redemption is a nice word. One could also say revenge.

First ski of the season.

Finally snow + not horribly cold.

Mark Steyn writes about "de-normalizing" — being put "beyond the pale of polite society and mainstream culture."

And he's sorry his editor at National Review "does not grasp the stakes" in the "Duck Dynasty" flap.
Indeed, he seems inclined to “normalize” what GLAAD is doing. But, if he truly finds my “derogatory language” offensive, I’d rather he just indefinitely suspend me than twist himself into a soggy pretzel of ambivalent inertia trying to avoid the central point — that a society where lives are ruined over an aside because some identity-group... decides it must be so is ugly and profoundly illiberal.
Via Power Line, which says:
As to the terms Steyn used, I understand [National Review editor, Jason Lee] Steorts’ point. I too would have liked the column better without the unfunny Rat Pack joke. And I agree with Steorts that courteous disagreement, devoid of insults, is usually preferable to lack of courtesy, even when one is disagreeing with the dangerous and the uncivil.
The point of the Rat Pack joke — “How do you make a fruit cordial?”/ “Be nice to him.” — wasn't that it's funny. It's that not too long ago junk like that was the norm. It was probably considered sweet, gentle and even gay-friendly. Steyn is paying attention to how cultural norms change. This is something I've been talking about too, and I am confounded by what a hard time people have understanding this subject. (Read my posts and the response in the comments here and here.)

"In a happy coincidence, the grandmother hypothesis comes along just as Americans enter what might be called the Age of Old Age."

"America's biggest generation, the baby-boomers, began retiring in 2011. This gerontocracy is expected to drain our wealth."
By 2060, more than 20 percent of all Americans will be 65 or older, up from 13 percent in 2010. More than 92 million oldsters will roam the land, if roaming is within their power. People who fret about the federal budget point out that, by 2011, Social Security and Medicare were already eating up a third of it. Looming in the near future is the prospect that both programs' trust funds will vanish as the number of workers paying into the system goes down.

But are senior citizens really "greedy geezers" (a term made popular by this magazine in 1988) about to bankrupt us? The grandmother hypothesis suggests not. It suggests that we should see the coming abundance of over-65-year-olds as an opportunity, not a disaster....
We Boomers must get out in front of the death panels. "The grandmother hypothesis" — whatever the hell it is — is the kind of propaganda we need. And, young people, did you scoff at my use of the term "death panels"? I hope so! It means our propaganda is working. But how well will it work when more than 92 million oldsters will roam the land, if roaming is within their power. If you young people decide you're tired of funding our pensions and our health care, capacity to roam will not be enough. We'll need to run.

"A year of controversial products."

6 of them, collected at The New Yorker. One of them is marijuana:
Colorado and Washington have been hard at work setting up marketplaces for marijuana, after both states legalized the sale of the drug. “What the state is doing, in actuality, is issuing licenses to commit a felony,” Mark Kleiman, a professor of public policy at U.C.L.A. and a drug-policy analyst, told Patrick Radden Keefe for “Buzzkill,” a piece that ran in this magazine in November. While the laws had strong support in both states, their implementation has not been without its controversies. “Earlier this year,” Keefe writes, “the liquor-control board unveiled a logo for Washington State marijuana, with a cannabis leaf superimposed on a map of the state. After an outcry that the state was ‘promoting’ pot, the design was abandoned.”
Here's the whole article "Buzzkill," which I highly recommend. There are so many complexities to the problem of "legalizing" marijuana, much more than you can see from that squib. It's fascinating! Notably:
When legal marijuana goes on sale, sometime next spring, the black market will not simply vanish; over-the-counter pot will have to compete with illicit pot. To support the legal market, Kleiman argued, the state must intensify law-enforcement pressure on people who refuse to play by the new rules. A street dealer will have to be arrested in the hope that “you will migrate that dealer’s customers into the taxed-and-regulated market.”

[T]ax revenue from the sale of legal cannabis will be devoted to substance-abuse prevention and research — not to police or prosecutors. Who, then, was going to pay for such a crackdown? Although Kleiman urged state officials to set aside funds for increased law enforcement, he can get impatient with such complaints. He likes to say, “You don’t get any of the revenue for arresting robbers, either.”

"Respect All/Love Many/Harm None."

A bestickered Chevy truck, seen last Sunday in the SoCo area of Austin, Texas:

(Click photo to enlarge.)

"Giving thanks is no longer just holiday fare."

"A field of research on gratitude in kids is emerging, and early findings indicate parents' instincts to elevate the topic are spot-on. Concrete benefits come to kids who literally count their blessings."

"Beginning in 1953, when [Ayn] Rand was nearly 50, Ms. Branden wrote, the intellectual mother of principled self-interest had ardently pursued an interest in Ms. Branden’s husband, Nathaniel."

"Though 25 years apart in age, they had an affair for about 15 years. Ms. Branden knew about it because Ms. Rand had insisted from the start that both spouses — Ms. Branden and Ms. Rand’s husband, Frank O’Connor — give their consent. Ms. Branden revealed the story, she said, partly to set the record straight about Ms. Rand’s sudden banishment of the Brandens from her circle in 1968. She had denounced them in a widely circulated essay, claiming they had exploited her financially. The couple denied the accusation."

From the obituary for Barbara Brandon, the author of  "The Passion of Ayn Rand."

ADDED: Here's a clip of Brandon talking about her book on Reason TV:

I found that looking for a good clip of Helen Mirren playing Ayn Rand in the Showtime movie based on Brandon's book. Here's the trailer for that (which I watched and which caused me to say "Oh, bullshit.")

"Republicans have a 49%-44% edge over Democrats in a generic ballot, a key 2014 midterm election indicator..."

"... according to a new CNN/ORC International poll," says a new Breaking News email from CNN. Here's the article:
Two months ago, Democrats held a 50%-42% advantage among registered voters in a generic ballot, which asked respondents to choose between a Democrat or Republican in their congressional district without identifying the candidates. 
Whoa! 2 months ago the Dems were up by 8 and now they are down by 5? That's a 13-point change in the spread.

"Amazon's Best-Selling Books of 2013, and What They Tell Us About America."

Interesting, but what it tells me is that it's time to make all those end-of-the-year lists, like Best Quote Quoted on This Blog for Each Month of the Year That's Now Ending, or whatever that annual nonsense I used to do was. I'm using the term "annual nonsense" because I have a tag for that.

When I click on that tag, I see that bellyaching about end-of-the-year fussing is an annual thing for me. Such as: "Blogging, paying attention to each day as it happens, makes it hard to assess a whole year." And: "Personally, I don't get too revved up about the shift from one year-number to the next one. I think we live in days, and when life is good, normal days are the best, and the truth is, we live in days."

Yeah, I love normal days. Nice to get past Christmas. I mean, nice to get past Christmas and not believe in Boxing Day.

Hey, actually those old quotes are quite fascinating to return to. From the second link, above, remember this oldie-but-goodie?
"In addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it."
Oh, the shit that was shoveled in 2008!

As 2013 stumbles to a close, many of us wish the country had settled for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree and not acquired the grandiose notion that the forest was a poisonous landscape. Some of us liked our tree and wanted to keep it. 

December 25, 2013

"Merry Christmas (I Don't Want To Fight Tonight)."

"Unlike Romney, Reagan connected with the daily struggles of ordinary Americans."

"In announcing his candidacy, he shared the story of 'a Christmas Eve when my brother and I and our parents exchanged modest gifts — there was no lighted tree as there had been on Christmases past. I remember watching my father open what he thought was a greeting from his employer. We all watched and yes, we were hoping for a bonus check. It was notice that he no longer had a job.... I’ll carry with me always the memory of my father sitting there holding that envelope, unable to look at us. I cannot and will not stand by while inflation and joblessness destroy the dignity of our people.'"

From Scott Walker's "Unintimidated: A Governor's Story and a Nation's Challenge" — a passage found while searching for "Christmas" in my ebooks.

"Even now in my mind’s eye I can see a series of ads in Boys’ Life from the A. C. Gilbert Company of New Haven, Connecticut, promising the most wholesome joy from their ingenious chemistry sets, microscope kits, and world-famous Erector Sets."

"These last were bolt-together toys from which you could make all manner of engineering marvels—bridges, industrial hoists, fairground rides, motorized robots—from little steel girders and other manly components."
These weren’t things that you built on tabletops and put in a drawer when you were finished playing. These were items that needed a solid foundation and lots of space. I am almost certain that one of the ads showed a boy on a twenty-foot ladder topping out a Ferris wheel on which his younger brother was already enjoying a test ride.

"If you don’t want to marry a homosexual, then don’t."

"But what gives you the right to weigh in on your neighbor’s options? It’s like voting on whether or not redheads should be allowed to celebrate Christmas."

Writes David Sedaris in "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls" — something I found today in my search for the word "Christmas" in the text of my Kindle books.

"Frank’s generosity extended far beyond me and others in his inner circle. He was often kindest of all to strangers."

"I’d wander into a room and hear him on the phone to his accountant, Sonny Golden, asking him to check out some tragic story he’d just read in the newspaper about a mother who couldn’t pay her medical bills. 'Make sure she’s okay and has everything she needs,' he’d say. 'And don’t tell her who sent the check.'...  He’d anonymously replace the Christmas presents a family had lost in a fire after he’d watched their story on the TV news. Or he’d sit with the newspaper circling the names of strangers down on their luck and have Dorothy [Uhlemann, his personal assistant,] send them five hundred dollars from 'a well-wisher.'... He’d invite the kids of old friends backstage if he played a university town and give them a pep talk about working hard. He paid off the mortgages, loans, and debts of just about anyone who asked him."

Wrote Barbara Sinatra in "Lady Blue Eyes: My Life with Frank," in a passage I ran across today as I search for "Christmas" in the books I have on Kindle.

"My family began to legitimately believe that my favorite thing in the world was hot sauce."

"If I 'forgot' to put hot sauce on my food, they helpfully reminded me. They consistently brought home newer, spicier, weirder hot sauces for me to try. For Christmas that year, Santa gave me a whole case of hot sauce. Being a child, I was devastated that a potential toy had been replaced by those bottles of painful torture, but I couldn’t let anyone know. At that point, I was starting to feel more and more at peace with the idea of admitting failure, but it was too late. I’d been pretending for long enough that it would be too weird and embarrassing to explain myself. There was no choice but to maintain the illusion."

A passage from Allie Brosh's "Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened," found today because I'm searching for "Christmas" in my Kindle books.

At the Christmas Café...

... did you get everything you wanted?

"In the spectacular Christmas 1956 issue of Life, devoted in full to the 'new' American woman..."

"...  we see, not as women’s-magazine villain, but as documentary fact, the typical 'career woman — that fatal error that feminism propagated' — seeking 'help' from a psychiatrist."
She is bright, well-educated, ambitious, attractive; she makes about the same money as her husband; but she is pictured here as “frustrated,” so “masculinized” by her career that her castrated, impotent, passive husband is indifferent to her sexually. He refuses to take responsibility and drowns his destroyed masculinity in alcoholism.
From Betty Friedan's "Feminine Mystique," found this morning as I search my Kindle collection of books for the word "Christmas."

"If one could nominate an absolutely tragic day in human history, it would be the occasion..."

"... that is now commemorated by the vapid and annoying holiday known as 'Hannukah.'"
For once, instead of Christianity plagiarizing from Judaism, the Jews borrow shamelessly from Christians in the pathetic hope of a celebration that coincides with “Christmas,” which is itself a quasi-Christian annexation, complete with burning logs and holly and mistletoe, of a pagan Northland solstice originally illuminated by the Aurora Borealis. Here is the terminus to which banal “multiculturalism” has brought us.
From Christopher Hitchens's "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything."

"I noticed that there was nobody like me in the Sears, Roebuck Christmas catalog that Toot and Gramps sent us, and that Santa was a white man."

"I kept these observations to myself, deciding that either my mother didn’t see them or she was trying to protect me and that I shouldn’t expose her efforts as having failed. I still trusted my mother’s love — but I now faced the prospect that her account of the world, and my father’s place in it, was somehow incomplete."

Wrote Barack Obama in his memoir "Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance." Later, his father does find a place in his world at Christmas time, and it's like this:

"I have no 'meditations,' suggested by this spot where the very first 'Merry Christmas!' was uttered in all the world..."

"... and from whence the friend of my childhood, Santa Claus, departed on his first journey, to gladden and continue to gladden roaring firesides on wintry mornings in many a distant land forever and forever. I touch, with reverent finger, the actual spot where the infant Jesus lay, but I think — nothing."

From Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad," found in "The Complete Mark Twain Collection," as I search for "Christmas" in my ebooks this morning.

"Cabbed up to Jerry and Mick’s apartment for Christmas lunch."

"Jerry’s pregnant sister Cyndy just married Robin Lehman, and so everybody was happy. Jerry’s mother was there. Jerry had an apron on that when you unzippered it a big cock came out, so I was taking funny pictures of that, her cooking a turkey with a cock in her hand."

From "The Andy Warhol Diaries," found as I search for "Christmas" in my Kindle books. Kindle conks out after it finds 100 of whatever it is you are searching for, so all I can say is that Christmas appears more than 100 times in Andy's diary, so it's not as though that was the only one I could find. I am responsible for selecting that. But I'll give you another one. This one has Nancy Reagan in it. The year is 1981:

"Time’s gone by since that silly, regrettable business/When she became known as The Girl Who Ruined Christmas."

"Helen harbors the hope that the passing five years/Have made folks forget both the vomit and tears..."
And throwing of glassware and drunken oration,
That half-hour tirade of recrimination
Where, feeling misused, she had got pretty plastered,
And named His name publicly, called him a bastard.
The details are fuzzy, though others have told her
She insulted this one and cried on that shoulder,
Then lurched ’round the ballroom, all pitching and weaving
And ended the night in the ladies’ lounge, heaving.
From David Rakoff's "Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish: A Novel," found, this morning, on my search for "Christmas" amongst my ebooks.

"At last the anchor was up, the sails were set, and off we glided. It was a short, cold Christmas..."

"...and as the short northern day merged into night, we found ourselves almost broad upon the wintry ocean, whose freezing spray cased us in ice, as in polished armor."
The long rows of teeth on the bulwarks glistened in the moonlight; and like the white ivory tusks of some huge elephant, vast curving icicles depended from the bows. Lank Bildad, as pilot, headed the first watch, and ever and anon, as the old craft deep dived into the green seas, and sent the shivering frost all over her, and the winds howled, and the cordage rang, his steady notes were heard,—
"Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood,
Stand dressed in living green.
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,
While Jordan rolled between."
Never did those sweet words sound more sweetly to me than then. They were full of hope and fruition. Spite of this frigid winter night in the boisterous Atlantic, spite of my wet feet and wetter jacket, there was yet, it then seemed to me, many a pleasant haven in store; and meads and glades so eternally vernal, that the grass shot up by the spring, untrodden, unwilted, remains at midsummer.
From Herman Melville's "Moby Dick" found as I search for "Christmas" in my ebooks, here on Christmas morning on a short northern day in Wisconsin ,where spite of this frigid winter, it seems to me, there are meads and Meade eternally vernal.

"Everybody knew him. 'Happy New Year,' he called, and sometimes 'Merry Christmas.'"

"He said this all the time. At Christmas he said Happy Halloween."
Justin W. Brierly was shaking hands with everybody and saying “Good afternoon, how are you?” and when midnight came he was saying “Good afternoon, how are you?” At one point I saw him rushing the Mayor of Denver off somewhere. Then he came back with a middleaged woman; next minute he was talking to a couple of young ushers in the street. The next minute he was shaking my hand without recognizing me and saying “Happy New Year, m’boy.” He wasn’t drunk on liquor, just drunk on what he liked---thousands of people milling, and he the director of it. Dancingmaster Death indeed. But I liked him, I always liked J. W. Brierly. He was sad. I saw him threading through the crowd in loneliness.
Found in Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," as I search for "Christmas" in my collection of Kindle books.
A little boy came by on a tricycle. “Merry Christmas there. Don’t you think it might be better if you stayed on the sidewalk, someone might come by and make oatmeal out of you.” The little kid shot by in the street with his face pointed to the future. Brierly got in his car, U-turned, and threw a parting sally at the little boy. “When I was your age I was confident too. My mudpies were marvels of architecture. Eh?” Brierly and the little boy disappeared around the corner slowly then we heard him shoot the car ahead to businesslike affairs and he was gone.

Christmas gift cards.

For you worst-of-the-worst Christmas shoppers, it is still possible to email a gift card that will arrive right now.

A&E celebrates Christmas by showing 25 episodes in a row of "Duck Dynasty."

Replete with the supposedly on-the-outs Phil Robertson.
“I think, honestly, it’s A&E trying to play both sides of the coin,” [said Cate Meighan, senior writer for Celeb Dirty Laundry]. “They’ve come out and not supported Phil’s statements… however they’re also looking at the backlash from the fans, and they have a huge amount of backlash from the fans... It is really a money thing... You’re going to have the same people tuning into ‘Duck Dynasty’ that always have and the same people not watching that always have.”

She said at the end of the day, the series will likely continue if the advertisers continue rush to air ads during the series.... “Unfortunately people are secondary,” she said. “At the end of every single thing that we see it’s about the money and the advertising.”
Oh, come on, Cate. Corporations are people too. So it's "a money thing"? Who but people care about money? People invented money just as people invented language and getting offended at language, and people invented corporations to channel money and language and offense. And entertainment. Arts and entertainment.

Peace on earth, good will toward people of all entertainment orientations.

Christmas morning.

Just now, pre-dawn.

Merry Christmas, everybody!

December 24, 2013

"I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it."

Says Edward Snowden.

"The power which has always started the greatest religious and political avalanches in history rolling has from time immemorial been the magic power of the spoken word, and that alone."

"The broad masses of the people can be moved only by the power of speech. All great movements are popular movements, volcanic eruptions of human passions and emotional sentiments, stirred either by the cruel Goddess of Distress or by the firebrand of the word hurled among the masses; they are not the lemonade-like outpourings of the literary aesthetes and drawing-room heroes."

"How Much of a Psychopath Are You? Take the quiz, compare yourself with your friends (or with some historical figures)..."

"... and see what pets, musical styles and news media are more popular with the more psychopathic."

I'm surprised at how "psychopathic" average people are. This quiz seems to equate the moral awareness of the reality of other human beings with empathy, which I don't think is right at all. I came out with a 6% score and was told what a warm, "people person" I am, which isn't true.

The view from McDonald's.

A stop in Oklahoma, late Sunday afternoon.

Note the thick coating of ice on the tree. We made it that evening to Andover, Kansas, just beyond Wichita, and driving yesterday, we stopped somewhere in Iowa...

... before reaching Madison just before 10 p.m. (in time to stop into Whole Foods before it closed so we'd have fresh bacon and eggs for a classic breakfast Tuesday morning at Meadhouse).

L.A. Times columnist connects Gov. Scott Walker to Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson.

There must be a way to do that, right?
Like the “Duck Dynasty” dispute, or the recent fight over renaming a Florida school honoring a founder of the KKK, the Wisconsin fight raises the question of among some people as to whether there is a blanket protection of speech, even when it is hateful to some people....

The Wisconsin law, signed by Walker,  amends a 2010 state law that required Wisconsin's Department of Public Instruction to hold a hearing on a school's race-based nickname if the agency received a single complaint. The 2010 law placed the burden on the school district of proving the nickname wasn't discriminatory.

"The Democratic Party of Wisconsin scrubbed its website Wednesday of accusations that Gov. Scott Walker was kicked out of Marquette University and student elections there."

"The move was in response to a PolitiFact Wisconsin investigation that found no evidence Walker was forced out of either," reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
"While we still stand behind our sources, only Scott Walker can clarify what happened in his time at Marquette University, and we'll afford the governor the respect of taking him at his word on this," Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate told the Journal Sentinel. "Accordingly, we've updated our website."
Paraphrase: After all the disrespect, when we find ourselves cornered and unable to continue the longstanding smear without getting too much smear on ourselves, we'll afford him the respect.
The Democratic Party's site previously claimed that Walker either dropped out or was forced out not long after he was "kicked out of student elections at Marquette University after masterminding a scheme that destroyed newspapers critical of him."

Tate had previously defended the accusation, saying the party had heard unspecified information from people it could not identify about misconduct by Walker.

“My initial reaction was, ‘I killed her... This is my first time. And Jen is dead.’”

"After a couple of terrifying seconds, Gerakaris slowly pulled her head out of the wall and looked at Casarona incredulously."
Gregg and Jen aren’t the only lovebirds who have landed in the hospital. Here are five other cases featured on TLC’s “Sex Sent Me to the ER”....

At the G Raj Mahal...

... come in and sit down.

(Photos from Austin, where we were for pre-Christmas. We're back home now.)

Kathy Griffin tweets a graphic, comparing Phil Robertson and Matthew Shepard — not a victim/victim.

Twitchy decries the comparison mainly on the theory that Robertson committed no act of violence against gay people and also observing that "the murder of Matthew Shepard... might not have had anything to do with Shepard being gay after all, but rather with drugs."

Here's the book that came out last September examining that evidence that the murder wasn't about homosexuality but crystal meth: "The Book of Matt: Hidden Truths About the Murder of Matthew Shepard."

But let's take this a step deeper and compare the repression of free speech and the use of physical violence to control and oppress people. Murder — especially torture murder, like Shepard's — is a terrible crime. Is it even worse if it is a hate crime — that is, if the victim is chosen because he belongs to a group toward which the murderer feels hate? The reason it is considered worse is because of what it does to the minds of other members of the group.

We all fear crime, and if there is a lot of murder going on, it erodes our sense of well-being and may inhibit our freedom to move around town. But when the crime is hate crime, it has a disparate effect on the minds of the people, so that some are constrained and afraid more than others. That matters! In fact, spreading a false belief that a murder is a hate crime also imposes that disparate burden on members of the group that was supposedly targeted.

Hate speech similarly affects the minds of the members of the group against whom hate has been expressed, and it can produce the same kind of fear of violence that is caused by a report of a hate crime. Now, there is hate speech and there is hate speech. Think of the most virulent hate speech, and you should see how powerful it is, how justified and painful the fear is. In extreme cases, members of the targeted group should take alarm and even flee in terror. A purveyor of hate speech need not commit an act of violence to create a fear of violence. He might inspire others to commit those acts of violence, and even if he doesn't, the threat of violence alone has an effect. False reports of hate speech work the same harm.

In the set of statements that could be characterized as hate speech, what Phil Robertson said was not that bad. Many would argue for a narrow definition of hate speech such that what Phil Robertson said would not be in the set at all. Defining the category very broadly is a political and rhetorical move, and it isn't always effective. At some point — and perhaps with Robertson, we've hit that point — you're being too repressive about what can be said on issues about which decent people are still debating, and it would be better to hear each other out and remain on speaking terms.

There is more good to be achieved by talking to each other and not shunning than by treating another human being as toxic. In fact, to treat another person as toxic is to become hateful yourself. It's better to let the conversation flow, and if you really think your ideas are good, why switch to other tactics? What's the emergency? Especially when your cause — like gay rights — is for greater human freedom, you ought to resist becoming a force of repression.

Since making his controversial remark, Phil Robertson has put out the message that as a Christian he loves everyone. Love speech is the opposite of hate speech, and it has so much more to do with Christianity than the reviling of sin in the earlier remark. He wants to speak against sin, but it's a problem when you aim a remark at a kind of person who has, over the years — over the millennia — felt a threat of violence and the burden of ostracism. I think Robertson knows that.

That's what I want to say in this conversation that I think should flow on. The love is in the conversation. The conversation is an independent good, even if we never agree.

Come on, haters. Show the love.

It's Christmas Eve.

December 23, 2013

Greetings from Austin!

We're back in Madison, but here's a handful of photos from Austin, where we spent the last week.