September 28, 2013

"Back in Paris, friends asked if I'd met someone new and assumed I must have fallen in love."

"But the reason I was so radiant was that I'd decided to be celibate."

Does celibacy make you "radiant" because you decided to undertake it? Will radiance not ensue if celibacy simply befalls you?

Was she really "radiant"?

"Radiant" is a funny word, lobbed automatically at brides, and therefore suspicion-provoking when aimed at the celibate woman.

"Radiant" means — according to the unlinkable OED — "Sending out rays of light; shining brightly" or "Of the eyes, a look, etc.: bright or beaming (as with joy or love). Of a person, esp. a young woman or bride: giving off an aura of joyfulness or health; glowingly happy." Amongst the OED quotes is one from a book that we once reveled in here at the Althouse blog, "The Great Gatsby":
1925   F. S. Fitzgerald Great Gatsby vi. 132   Perhaps some unbelievable guest would arrive, a person infinitely rare and to be marvelled at, some authentically radiant young girl.
Authentically. Oh! There's that adverb. Celibate sounds so pure. But authentically? Who on earth knows when she has achieved authenticity... especially in the radiancy department. Those auras must emanate from real joy.

At the Tragicomic Café...


... you can strut and fret your hour upon the stage.

"There are many here among us who feel that life is but a joke."

Sang Bob Dylan in "All Along the Watchtower," which I'm quoting because today's theme on the blog is tragedy and comedy and because I'm reading this NYT piece by Bill Wyman (not that Bill Wyman) about how it's conceivable — not that conceivable — that Bob Dylan could win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Mr. Dylan’s work remains utterly lacking in conventionality, moral sleight of hand, pop pabulum or sops to his audience. His lyricism is exquisite; his concerns and subjects are demonstrably timeless; and few poets of any era have seen their work bear more influence.
Just this morning — a propos of what I won't say — we were talking about examples of individuals who gain an audience and then see their self-expression reflected in how that audience understands them, and they reject their own expression because they don't like how it looks. Who has done that? I thought first of Dave Chappelle, and Meade thought of the Little Green Footballs blogger Charles Johnson. I came up with another name that doesn't really fit the category — Saint Paul — and Meade said Bob Dylan.

Googling in the theater.

Remember when Pee Wee Herman got arrested for masturbating in a movie theater? That was long ago. It must have been before home video, because why go to a theater to masturbate? Exposure? The thrill of potential discovery? A need for just the right degree of intimacy with others? Because once pornography is subject only to boring disapproval from bland people, one must look for another way to feel that you're doing something titillatingly wrong?

But today, the transgression is Googling in the theater. Googling, long ago, could have been a slang term for masturbating. (Are you googling again?!) But those days are past. Googling is research, and research in the theater is a subversive activity.

From Professor Meltsner's essay about the play "Arguendo," discussed in the previous post:
[The play] is replete with jargon and enough insider's free expression law that even many lawyers in the audience were grabbing smart phones to do some instant Googling.

"Arguendo" — a play with the text lifted from a Supreme Court oral argument about free speech and nude dancing.

At the Public Theater until the end of October. From a review in NY Magazine by Scott Brown (presumably not the political dreamboat Scott Brown)(links added by me):
In 80 dizzy minutes of towering, tottering legalese, hilariously atrocious wigs and highly athletic swivel-chair-ballet, five performer-creators... do the seemingly impossible: They make the Rehnquist Court feel as intellectually rigorous as The Muppet Show. (And I mean that flatteringly, with respect to The Muppet Show.)...

"A tragedy is a tragedy, and at the bottom, all tragedies are stupid."

"Give me a choice and I'll take A Midsummer Night's Dream over Hamlet every time. Any fool with steady hands and a working set of lungs can build up a house of cards and then blow it down, but it takes a genius to make people laugh."

Said Stephen King. 

Then there's this super-concise, possibly perfect aphorism: "Life is a comedy to those who think, a tragedy to those who feel." That's the playwright Racine, who should be from Wisconsin, but he was French. And though that quote feels related to King's, I think it's quite different. King is talking about works of art and how hard it might be to crank them out, as he does in great volume. Racine is talking about how any given person might view life itself.

What do you think and feel? (Multiple answers allowed.) free polls 

"Questions is a game that is played by participants maintaining a dialogue of asking questions back and forth for as long as possible, without making any declarative statements."

"Play begins when the first player serves by asking a question (often 'Would you like to play questions?'). The second player must respond to the question with another question (e.g. 'How do you play that?')."
Each player must quickly continue the conversation by using only questions. Hesitation, statements, or non sequiturs are not allowed, and cause players to foul. The game is usually played by two players, although multiplayer variants exist.

Scoring is done by foul. Fouls can be called for:
  • statement: player fails to reply with a question
  • hesitation: player takes too long to reply or grunts or makes a false start
  • repetition: player asks questions identical to or synonymous with one already asked this game (not match)
  • rhetoric: player asks a rhetorical question
  • non sequitur: player responds with an unrelated question
That game is played in Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead":

That's the movie version, which shortens the scene. We saw the live play last night in Spring Green. I had never heard of the game before and assumed it was a game created for the play. I'm only finding out now that apparently it's an old game. The play is from 1966, so it's old one way or the other. Had I known of this game, I'm sure I'd have engaged my sons in playing it, years ago, not that many years ago, but 20 years ago. I'd have believed it was good for the development of a child's mind, the way I believed it was good for them to play a game I invented called "What if you had to argue?" (explained in the old blog post "What if you had to argue that it's good for children to play 'What if you had argue?'").

September 27, 2013

At the Walled Garden Café...


... how do you get in to talk about whatever you want, which was the tradition in Althouse "café" posts? I thought the switch to moderation implied the end of the old cafés, but as Meade pointed out, they can work just fine in the new regime of moderation. You can talk about anything you want, but you have to wait for the moderation to happen. So the old back-and-forth is not supported, unless you revisualize it happening very slowly.

"This Dog Will Teach You How To Drink From A Water Fountain."

"Feel free to start things off slowly. This water’s not goin’ anywhere...."

AND: As long as I'm at Buzzfeed, let me serve you this to go with that water:

"Did you bristle at the journalism at all, like why do we need the New York Post if the Times is gonna publish a headline saying you were a leftist?"

WNYC’s Brain Lehrer asked Bill de Blasio (the Democratic candidate for mayor of NYC).

De Blasio, admitting that the NYT headline saying that he "Was Once a Young Leftist" fit his own description of himself, in 1990 as being for “democratic socialism,” but that "I always described my philosophy of being made up of a blend of influences and ideas."

Picturing the phone call between Obama and President Hassan Rouhani of Iran.

It was "the first direct contact between the leaders of Iran and the United States since 1979," and by President Obama's report, the 2 men found "a path to a meaningful agreement."

I'm just trying to imagine how this phone call sounded...

Hello? Uh, hello, Hassan... Listen, I can't hear too well, do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?... Uh, that's much better. Fine. I can hear you now, Hassan, clear and plain and coming through fine...  I'm coming through fine too, eh? Good, then, as you say, we're both coming through fine. Good... Well, it's good that you're fine, and I'm fine. I agree with you. It's great to be fine. Now, then, Hassan...

Source material:

"Masters was a brilliant, obsessed and often cold and imperious surgeon determined to make his name by decoding the mysteries of sex."

"Johnson, who had a deft and invaluable human touch with the people they studied, was a sexually liberated woman who wanted a career."
Together they spent thousands of hours watching subjects masturbate and copulate while wired to monitors.

They also had sex with each other, lots of it, but Masters, who was married, insisted that they keep their couplings secret, scientific and impersonal. Late in life, Johnson said she didn’t desire him when they started, but couldn’t say no. “I didn’t want him,” she told Mr. Maier. “I had a job and I wanted it.”
Mr. Maier is Thomas Maier, author of
"Masters of Sex," and there's a new Showtime series based on it.

ADDED: Very nice graphic design here with the letters and image:

"You have to think big... The worst thing you can do is be ditsy."

"Think huge leaves, enormous grasses and flowers big as dinner plates."

Said James van Sweden, the landscape architect (who died last week, age 78).

(Lots of pictures of gardens here.)

"8 Things Your Lawn Is Trying to Tell You."

Headline (in Popular Mechanics.

That feels like a challenge to write your own list, so here's mine:

1. "Get off me."

2. "I'm sick of this 'Get off my lawn business.' I am not your lawn. I belong to me."

3. "Why don't you go back in the house, sit down at your computer, and write a 1000-page novel called 'The Lawn' — some Stephen King type thing about a lawn that's trying to tell some guy something, gets a mind of its own, and all hell breaks loose."

4. "Alternate title: 'Mown.' Get it? Moan. I love puns. It feels so good to get mown."

5. "Grrrrr. Ass."

6. "I am the beautiful uncut hair of graves."

7. "The only reason men are alive is to take care of me."

8. "Fascist!"

"Ladies and gents, I invite you all to Turing Test this thing until it explodes in a cloud of hubris."

Deliberately screwing with the live chats.

How long before that becomes a crime?

So I tried to watch the pilot episode of "Breaking Bad."

There's much talk about the final episode of "Breaking Bad," and I've got a houseguest arriving on Sunday who importuned me to set the DVR to record that episode but told me I can't just watch the final episode with him. I've got to watch the whole series from the beginning, which is to say I've got to watch 61 hours of the thing before I can hang out with my newly arrived houseguest watching the show he's so excited about and (not that I care much) everyone in the media seems unable to shut up about.

Attending to the assigned recording task, I see that the network (AMC) is running a marathon of all the old episodes leading up to the big finale, so I set the DVR to lay in the requisite 61 hours. Last night, settling in to watch the new episode of "Project Runway," I see that I accidentally bumped it, what with all the incoming "Breaking Bad" and baseball games. (The DVR can record 3 things at once, but not more.) So I call up the "Pilot" episode of "Breaking Bad."

I turn it off after 22 minutes. Interestingly, 22 minutes is the classic length of a sitcom. Have I got Sitcom Mind? Reading the summary of the "Pilot" episode, I see that some exciting stuff was about to happen. When I turned off the show at 22 minutes, Meade and I had a conversation of untimed length about how perhaps there's a Hollywood plot to disparage ordinary American life through the depiction of the bored, boring, declining, dying white man. It started long ago with "The Honeymooners" — notice the shift to sitcoms — but the man we're invited to look down on has become more and more dull and meaningless until he's fully dehumanized and about to fall off the face of the earth anyway. (The "Breaking Bad" guy learns he's dying of lung cancer.)

If we'd hung on past the sitcom length of time, we'd have seen the police bust a meth lab, and other scenes of cooking up drugs, accidental fires, deadly fumes, sirens, a misfired gun, and a reactivated cock. I'm reading the plot summary out loud to Meade as I try to write this. We get into another conversation about television over the years and what it's done to our notions of masculinity. We're talking about Ralph Kramden and Ricky Ricardo as I dump sesame seeds into the stove-top seed roaster. (I like darkly toasted sesame seeds on cottage cheese for lunch, and Meade has been chiding me about over-toasting them, like sesame seeds are going to cause cancer.) The conversation continues as I follow Meade out to the front door, and it's on and on about "Bewitched" and "Leave It to Beaver" and Red Skelton.

"Remember how Red Skelton used to say 'Thank you for inviting me into your living room'?" I ask, and Meade — picking up the dog leash — remembers and entertains my elaborate theory about TV needing to be different from theater and movies because it comes into your home and how in sitcoms you're mostly sitting in your living room looking into some fictional family's living room, and there's this interchange between the sitcom family and the viewers' family. I bring up the transfusion metaphor from "Atlas Shrugged" that we were talking about a couple days ago. How has the poison — is it poison? — been administered all these years? Why have we kept the channel open? Because it only takes 22 minutes? What subversion of our values has taken place? I go on about Archie Bunker in his chair, which faces the TV....

... and we are on the other side of the TV, in our chairs, looking through at them, as if we are on their TV. What are we doing? Are the women nudged to look over at their men and see them as Edith, above, sees Archie? What has been happening in these 22-minute treatments we've volunteered for all these years?

Meade inquires about the 22 minutes — the time for the show in a 30-minute slot with commercial — and he seems to notice for the first time that the premium cable channels don't have commercials, and I tease him that he's like these sitcom husbands who are never fully clued in. He's off to get Zeus (the dog) to take him for a walk, and I make some wisecrack — like I think I'm in a sitcom — about how he should do well with the dog, since dogs don't even know the difference between the show and the commercial.

Ha ha. Back in the kitchen of my sitcom life, I see — through billows of smoke — that the sesame seeds are on fire.

The mutable sexuality of an internet celebrity.

Antoine Dodson, the hide-you-kids-hide-your-wife viral-video celebrity, has been tweeting about causing a pregnancy in a woman:
"I just became the happiest man alive!! My beautiful Queen and I are having a baby!!" he tweeted. "Wait what?" one user wrote. "Aren't you gay?" another added.

Last May, Dodson claimed he wanted "a wife and family" and "to multiply and raise and love my family that I create." Dodson explained in a series of tweets that he had become a "True Hebrew Israelite descendant of Judah" and referred to his former lifestyle as "foolish."

"I have to renounce myself, I'm no longer into homosexuality," he concluded.
ADDED: He doesn't seem to be denying his homosexual orientation, just rejecting the behavior urged by the orientation, which is exactly what many religions teach. He isn't claiming to be sexually attracted to the woman that he's gotten pregnant. You'd think if he were devoted to following traditional religious teachings he would refrain from pregnancy-causing behavior outside of marriage. Who knows what the whole story is?

There are several moral/religious issues that we can't disentangle in this particular case without knowing more. And I don't really need to know more about Antoine Dodson to go on with the issues raised in a more general fashion:

1. A man's desire to produce offspring is separate from his desire to have sexual intercourse with a particular human being, and many men of homosexual orientation have produced children with women who don't interest them sexually. One reason it's helpful to be honest and not repressed about homosexuality is so that people don't deceive themselves into entering sexually unsatisfying marriages.

2. A homosexual man who wants a family with children might attract a woman into a marriage (or other child-bearing relationship). He could be deceiving himself and her — which is very sad. He could be only deceiving her — which is just plain wrong. Or the 2 of them could be eyes-wide-open about what they are doing, which is, if they really understand what they are doing, a matter of individual choice.

3. It's a separate issue whether that man and woman, having formed a family like that, give each other permission to find sexual satisfaction with other partners. That's not traditional morality, but it is a matter of individual choice.

4. And it's a separate issue whether a man and a woman, having come together to bring a child into the world, must stay together to raise that child. This is the most serious moral issue, because the child isn't given any choice.

"Did Allen West Lose Media Gig Over Politically Incorrect Statement?"

"The fiery Republican reportedly called a colleague a Jewish American princess."
The alleged incident isn't West's first un-PC "exchange" with a female colleague. In a scathing e-mail sent in 2011, West told Florida congresswoman and Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz that she was "vile, unprofessional and despicable" and not a "lady."
I'm noticing this because I saw I was getting traffic this morning to a 2011 post of mine about the Wasserman Schultz incident.

The "media gig" West lost was at Breitbart. Too bad there's no Andrew Breitbart around to manage the reputation and practices of the media enterprise that carries on under his name. Why some internal dispute goes public like this, I don't know, but everyone connected with it gets hurt.

Comedy is when a white man falls into an open sewer and dies.

Jack Hamilton has a piece in Slate subtitled "Forget Walter White. Eastbound & Down is the most original, disturbing, wrenching show on television. (And it’s hilarious, too.)"
If we live in a golden age of great television shows, the vast majority of these shows have featured angst-ridden white male protagonists. This shift from heroes to anti-heroes has been frequently and rightly characterized as a broader interrogation of masculinity itself, one occasioned by crises of its creators, crises of culture, or both. But while current prestige-magnets like Mad Men and Breaking Bad might offer revisionist takes on white maleness, they also offer their audiences renewed fantasies of the same. Young men buy suits cut to look like Don Draper’s; aggrieved Internet communities close ranks in protection of Walter White’s right to be the One Who Knocks.
So what's great about Eastbound & Down is that it deprives the beleaguered white male of hope.
Eastbound & Down isn’t so much a show about white masculinity in transition or decline as it is a biting send-up of male fantasy itself. Powers fancies himself an alpha dog, gunslinging, rock ’n’ roll outlaw, a fiction he believes to be reality, and to which he believes himself to be entitled. Kenny Powers’ problem, in a sense, is that he’s watched too much TV. If Mad Men is a drama about the encroaching demise of a certain white male dominance, Eastbound & Down is a satire of its vacancy, and its bankruptcy. The latter is a whole lot funnier, and often more daring.
Because hopeless, pathetic decline is hilarious. To paraphrase Mel Brooks: Tragedy is when a woman or person of color feels disrespected or bullied. Comedy is when a white man falls into an open sewer and dies. (Here's the disemparaphrased Mel Brooks quote.)

I quoted the subtitle of the article above — because it made the content of the article clearer— but now I see enough additional meaning to make me want to quote the title. It's "Breaking Ball." That's not just a play on "Breaking Bad" and a reference to crushing testicles, it's an allusion to the show's milieu, baseball. Eastbound & Down shows baseball as "gross and debauched, a morass of juiced-up players, abusive fans, godforsaken locales, bored and boring spectacle."
Many of the actors on-screen... boast hilariously unathletic physiques, and seem to have last donned a glove back in the days when home plate came with a tee. It’s the ugliest depiction of the game in recent memory, a hilarious and welcome desecration of one of the old white America’s favorite civic religions.
Take that, white America.

September 26, 2013

"How long did it take you to figure out they were playing 'Leader of the Pack'?"

It's the University of Wisconsin Marching Band, practicing this evening, as Meade and I try to figure out what they are playing. Watch for the "ARREST WALKER" sign. If you come down to Lake Mendota...

"I want a girl with a short skirt and a long jacket..."

A reader sent me that, with the message: "This is right up your alley I think."

"Buying marijuana in Denver is a downright pleasant experience."

"Customers wait in a well-appointed waiting room.... When their names are called, they will follow an attendant through an atrium where they can buy t-shirts or smoking paraphernalia, and into a quaint shop where they can peruse the wares."
There, they will find a wide array of aromatic marijuana flowers in glass jars, pot-infused products — mints, beverages, or something to satisfy the sweet tooth — as well as pre-rolled joints and servings of cannabis concentrates.

Customers are rung up on a computerized point of sale system. They get a receipt — a receipt! — after paying for their marijuana. They are free to walk out to their cars, drive their marijuana home, and smoke it.

It's a remarkably clean system. It doesn't feel like a violation of Title II of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, the federal law that governs controlled substances, even though it is. It's a safe, stable, professional environment.
How incredibly strange! Would you feel free to violate federal criminal law like that? I note the line "when their names are called." You have to give your name? Would you give a fake name? We're in a transitional phase, and it can't go on like this. Can it?

I think it's unfair, but that's me, a scrupulous law-abider. I don't like this gray zone, where something is open as if it's legal, but the feds maintain the power to crush you whenever they want. The risk-takers get their drugs, and those of us who scrupulously limit ourselves to legal substances look on and wonder.

"Quite simply, the book review is dead, and the long review essay centered on a specific book or books is staggering toward extinction."

"The future lies in a synthetic approach. Instead of books, art, theatre, and music being consigned to specialized niches, we might have a criticism that better reflects the eclecticism of our time, a criticism that takes in various arts all at once. You might have, say, a review of a novel by Rachel Kushner that is also a reflection on 'Girls,' the art of Marina Abramović, the acting style of Jessica Chastain, and the commercial, theatrical, existential provocations of Lady Gaga and Miley Cyrus. Or not. In any case, it’s worth a try."

Writes Lee Siegel in The New Yorker, longingly. Why in that example did he name 5 women and allude (via "Girls") to at least 4 more? Have women overrun culture in some anarchic way, making the single-mindedness of the stereotypical male seem old-fashioned? The future is all wildly free-associative, like the fever-swamp brain of some lady blogger.


"Yes, but what does sprezzatura think of it?"

Redo those old family photographs.

Like this.

(Via Metafilter.)

All those commenters who wanted me to read "The Fountainhead."

All I did was buy the ebook "Atlas Shrugged" so I could blog about things Ted Cruz — "Political anarchist or genius?" — said in his (not a) filibuster yesterday. Having riffed on and sniffed at some bloody metaphors in the Ayn Rand tome, I was beset with comments telling me the Ayn Rand book I really must read is "The Fountainhead."

Surfed started it:
The Fountainhead was a better read, a more cogent and focused book and you get the same dose of the philosophy....

Addendum: In the movie Dirty Dancing (1987) Baby confronts Robbie to pay for Penny's abortion. Robbie refuses to take responsibility and preaches “Some people count and some people don’t” and then hands Baby a used paperback copy of The Fountainhead saying, “Read it. I think it's a book you'll enjoy, but make sure you return it; I have notes in the margin."

"It was the most inconvenient and the most delightful place ever seen."

Wrote William Morris of Broadway Tower (which was built in 1799, to please the Countess of Coventry).
The Tower... certainly was absurd: the men had to bathe on the roof — when the wind didn't blow the soap away and there was water enough — and the way supplies reached us I don't quite know; but how the clean, aromatic wind blew the aches out of our tired bodies, and how good it all was!

"The Left must constantly re-write its own history to create the appearance of consistency in its advocacy of progress..."

"... but the Left’s definition of progress is itself constantly changing, and feminism’s embrace of pornography — celebrating objectification as 'empowerment' — is but one example of this re-definition project."


Here's a book that was published in 1990: "Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism."

I have that on a shelf in my office, along with many similar tomes of the time.

"A height of some fifty feet above the roofs of Rome gives me all the advantages that I could get from fifty miles of distance."

"The air so exhilarates my spirits, that sometimes I feel half inclined to attempt a flight from the top of my tower, in the faith that I should float upward," said Hilda.
"O, pray don’t try it!" said Miriam laughing. "If it should turn out that you are less than an angel, you would find the stones of the Roman pavement very hard; and if an angel, indeed, I am afraid you would never come down among us again.” 
This young American girl was an example of the freedom of life which it is possible for a female artist to enjoy at Rome. She dwelt in her tower, as free to descend into the corrupted atmosphere of the city beneath, as one of her companion doves to fly downward into the street;— all alone, perfectly independent, under her own sole guardianship, unless watched over by the Virgin, whose shrine she tended; doing what she liked without a suspicion or a shadow upon the snowy whiteness of her fame. The customs of artist life bestow such liberty upon the sex, which is elsewhere restricted within so much narrower limits; and it is perhaps an indication that, whenever we admit women to a wider scope of pursuits and professions, we must also remove the shackles of our present conventional rules, which would then become an insufferable restraint on either maid or wife.
From Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Marble Faun."

"Such a captive maiden, having plenty of time to think, soon realizes that her tower, its height and architecture, are like her ego only incidental..."

"... that what really keeps her where she is is magic, anonymous and malignant, visited on her from outside and for no reason at all. Having no apparatus except gut fear and female cunning to examine this formless magic, to understand how it works, how to measure its field strength, count its lines of force, she may fall back on superstition, or take up a useful hobby like embroidery, or go mad, or marry a disk jockey. If the tower is everywhere and the knight of deliverance no proof against its magic, what else?"

Thomas Pynchon, "The Crying of Lot 49."

Visualizing the completion of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia cathedral, which was begun in 1882.

The end of the construction is projected for 2026, and this 90-second video shows what will be done. I said "wow" out loud at 0:58:

September 25, 2013

The open-plan bathroom-bedroom.

"Is having open-plan bathrooms just the natural extension of our open kitchens and a general global modern-day tendency to open up our living spaces and live in lofts or loftlike spaces?"
Is it an extension of the idea that bathrooms aren’t just functional necessities but spa-like focal points of our sanctuary-like homes? Or has the erosion of privacy in our public lives just made us all more comfortable being overexposed, even at home?
I like it. No mention at the link of where the toilet is, and I assume it goes in a small space behind a door. If I'm right about that then it's about how someone bathing or shaving wants to be interacting with someone who's reading in bed or watching TV or whatever. It's similar to wanting the walls removed from your kitchen, so you can cook while hanging out with (or keeping an eye on) people in the next room.

ADDED: I've seen so many TV real estate reality shows where everyone wants an open-plan kitchen/dining/living room area that I can't help thinking it won't be long before that starts to look like what all the boring, conventional people have and they'll start tsking about how it's "dated," and the reality show designer will be amazing the clients by building walls.

"An ultra low frequency attack is what I’ve been subject to for the last three months..."

"... and to be perfectly honest, that is what has driven me to this."

We're #2.

The #1 party school is West Virginia University... according to Playboy. The University of Wisconsin is #2.

"If you're like most normal people, you've briefly considered eating a baby or two."

"Not literally, of course. That would make us no better than hamsters or wolf spiders. But pretend baby-eating – that is, explaining to an infant that she is so cute that you just want to gobble her up, or, in extreme cases, gently grabbing a pudgy appendage and making Cookie-Monster eating sounds – is not unheard of among H. sapiens...."

"One of the reasons the Daily Beast is struggling to attract readers has to be Troll City: the comments which mar the view of the last couple of paragraphs of every article."

"Your writing is pretty good, Beast, but the quality and intelligence of your comments is at the bottom. The nastiness spewing from these red-captioned paragraphs negatively colors your whole enterprise."

Says a comment to a Daily Beast article titled "Hillary for President...of the Universe," subtitled "Sure, Hillary Clinton could run for the White House. But where the world desperately needs a personality like hers is at the helm of a strong global governing body, says Sally Kohn."

"We'll learn more about why baboons actually love grapes."

Says the lady newscaster in the purple dress as a baboon, smiling, gropes her breast.

RELATED: What happens when you teach a gorilla sign language?

How can "Obama and Clinton really believe that young people are all going to become extraordinarily altruistic just in time for Obamacare to be smoothly implemented"?

John Althouse Cohen is skeptical, in this Facebook post, linking to "Bill Clinton: Obamacare 'Only Works' If 'Young People Show Up' and Buy Insurance."

Clinton says (text and video at that second link):
"I think it’s important for you to tell the people why we’re doing all this outreach, because this only works, for example, if young people show up and even if they buy the cheapest plan, they claim their tax credit so it won’t cost them much — 100 bucks a month or so. We’ve got to have them in the pools, because otherwise these projected low costs cannot be held if older people with preexisting conditions are disproportionately represented in any given state. You’ve got to have everybody lined up..."
Now, I might suspect him of slyly undercutting Obama's grand plan. He's almost coming out and warning young people that the old are exploiting you, you should take alarm, and you can free yourself from this plot by saying no, I'm not jumping into that pool, I'm not lining up for my own destruction.

But Obama is sitting right there next to him. They're side-by-side in 2 big, upholstered Clinton Global Initiative armchairs. Obama restates Clinton's point:
"What happens is, if you don’t have pools that are a cross-section of society, then people who are already sick or more likely to get sick, they’ll all rush out and buy insurance. People who are healthy, they say, ‘You know what, I won’t bother.’ And you get what’s called adverse selection."
You can get snookered in a comfy chair.

After 21 hours, Ted Cruz is cut off by Harry Reid, who says "I don't think we learned anything new, but it has been a big waste of time."

Reid portrays what Cruz did as the notion that "any day that government is hurt is a good day" and calls that notion Tea Party and "the new anarchy."

I've never read "Atlas Shrugged," but after all these years, I'm adding it to my Kindle.

I'll explain this to you, but could you please, if you need a Kindle, use this linkto check out the spiffy new Kindle Fire? Or go in through the Althouse Amazon portal and buy whatever you want, including a copy of "Atlas Shrugged," if you, like me, have some use for it. Or do you already have it on your shelf? I know at least one of my readers kept 2 copies of "Atlas Shrugged" on his shelf, and perhaps he systematically handed off copies of it to people who wandered into his lair and said, "Why do you have 2 copies of 'Atlas Shrugged'?"

I hope you enjoyed the quality of my commercial effort, above, and feel inclined to show your appreciation by using those links, or just by continuing to read this. You've wandered into my lair, and maybe you're saying "Yeah, why would anyone after resisting 'Atlas Shrugged' all those years finally relent?"

And it is many years. I'm quite old! I don't need any philosophical-ideological mental nourishment to power me forth in this life. It's not breakfast time chez Althouse. When I was young, a classmate — this was high school — chided me for not reading anything that wasn't assigned by teachers. That wasn't quite true — though I did apply myself assiduously to consuming whatever the government indoctrinators put on my plate — but I was quite sensitive to insinuations that I was in any way not a good person. And I read the book this teenage boy insisted on giving me: "Anthem." Sorry, old man who was once that boy, but it didn't change my life, it's still the only Ayn Rand book I ever read, and I don't remember anything about it, other than that it might have been science fiction.

The reason I'm downloading "Atlas Shrugged" into my Kindle this morning is the reason I buy most of the ebooks I buy: I want to be able to do searches, find the context of quotes, and cut and paste text into this blog. I happen to need "Atlas Shrugged" right now, because Ted Cruz — the filibustering Ted Cruz — was quoting from "Atlas Shrugged," and I was using a quote on the blog, in the previous post, and I have a lot more to say about the quote, and I can't do it without the context.

Ted Cruz reading "Green Eggs and Ham" in its entirety and "Atlas Shrugged" — just parts — from the Senate floor.

Here he is, reading "Green Eggs and Ham" last night at 8 — to us and to his 2 daughters, whose bedtime it was:

I play it, and we talk about how Obama could use that: Try it, try it, try Obamacare and you may see. You may like it. And then when we try it — if we're like the character in the Dr. Seuss book — when we finally try it, we actually do like it. Ah, but in the book, it's not saying try green eggs and ham and once you do, the only thing that you'll ever be able to eat is green eggs and ham from here on in and whether you like it or not.

No, no, that's not the proper comparison. Yes, Obamacare will go into effect, but it can be changed. It can be tweaked. We can drizzle some food dye over the eggs or take away the eggs altogether and just have ham. The ham's not green. Or is it? The text is ambiguous: green eggs and ham.

Let's see those illustrations again. Cruz did not hold up the book and let us see the pictures. No, no, you can't see whether the ham is green until you've tried it and it becomes the only thing on the menu from here on in. We have to pass the bill to find out what's in it. You have to eat the eggs and ham to find out if they're any good, and yes, you know that the eggs are green, but is the ham green too?

I hope you understand that paragraph. That's me, riffing, after a good night's sleep. I activate the live feed and there's Cruz, fully chipper, structured, and lucid, after more than 17 hours. He's not logy and ranting like Jimmy Stewart in "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," which — hello? — was a movie, so the struggle of the filibustering Senator needed to feel expansively dramatic. The actor had to demonstrate his range, show his chops, have an opportunity to go big and even — if he's good enough, and Stewart was — give us a taste of the ham. But the acting required of Cruz is to act like he's exactly the same as he was at the point when he started. There's no narrative arc. This is real life. This is not fiction. This is the truth.

And Cruz is talking about truth, I hear, as I activate the live feed on my iPhone (and I'm still in bed, having slept more than 8 hours). Cruz is talking about Ayn Rand, I figure out after a few lazy moments of assuming his references to "Rand" were about Rand Paul.

Cruz is reading and doing commentary on passages from "Atlas Shrugged." One is this:
There are two sides to every issue: one side is right and the other is wrong, but the middle is always evil. The man who is wrong still retains some respect for truth, if only by accepting the responsibility of choice. But the man in the middle is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist, who is willing to sit out the course of any battle, willing to cash in on the blood of the innocent or to crawl on his belly to the guilty, who dispenses justice by condemning both the robber and the robbed to jail, who solves conflicts by ordering the thinker and the fool to meet each other halfway. In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromise is the transmitting rubber tube. 
It's nearly 8 o'clock, and I need to get going. I resist the rejection of moderation. I myself am a moderate. A moderate with a good night's sleep. I'm aroused by Ayn Rand's condemnation of "the man in the middle." I need to do some blogging. That's my part, and I've been doing it, in an unbroken string of days for nearly 10 years — unbroken in the sense of each and every day, but I haven't been typing nonstop as Ted Cruz has been talking nonstop. "Man in the middle" is a phrase that feels like a call to action, because it's a phrase Meade and I have used when we talk about a man we saw as a hero for sitting down in the middle of the Wisconsin Capitol rotunda, in a crowd of sign-carrying, noisy partisan protesters, inviting them to speak, one-on-one, with someone who was not in agreement with the crowd. It looked like this:

At the time — it was March 2011 — I said:
I started to imagine Wisconsinites coming back to the building every day, talking about everything, on and on, indefinitely into the future. That man who decided to hold dialogues in the center of the rotunda is a courageous man. But it isn't that hard to be as courageous as he was. In the long run, it's easier to do that than to spend your life intimidated and repressed. That man was showing us how to be free. He was there today, but you — and you and you! — could be there tomorrow, standing your ground, inviting people to talk to you, listening and going back and forth, for the sheer demonstration of the power of human dialogue and the preservation of freedom.
Talking, indefinitely into the future... in the middle of a government building. That's what Ted Cruz is doing, but not in the moderate, surely-we-all-can-get-along mode. He's on one side, and he's reviling anyone in the middle. He's reading from Ayn Rand, saying that the moderate is evil, because the moderate is the knave who blanks out the truth in order to pretend that no choice or values exist.


In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. Oh? But would you like it it in a box? Would you like it with a fox? Would you like it in a house? Would you like it with a mouse?

September 24, 2013

"Married cancer patients live longer than single people who have the disease..."

"The study, published in The Journal of Clinical Oncology, found that single patients were 53 percent less likely to receive appropriate therapy than married patients."
The finding suggests that maintaining grueling chemotherapy and radiation schedules and taking medication as prescribed is easier for people who have help from a spouse compared with single people who must manage the logistics of cancer treatment on their own....

Notably, men with cancer showed a greater benefit from marriage than did women. That doesn’t mean husbands are not supportive of wives....

Snuggling and snookering.

Was the CapTimes snookered by some web pages about "Snuggle House"? This seems absurd:
According to a recently created website and Facebook page, a new business called "The Snuggle House" is coming to Madison's east side on Oct. 1....

The Snuggle House promotes "touch therapy." Similar businesses and "cuddle parties" have promoted group and professional snuggling because of the increase in oxytocin released during the activity which can lead to a feeling of well-being and happiness....

The Snuggle House does not list an address or phone number. A Facebook message seeking additional information on where, when, why and how the Snuggle House will work was not returned on Tuesday.
If it's a real place, we could have fun mocking it, but come on. I'm stopping at critiquing the journalism on display here. Why are you promoting a (possible) business that doesn't respond to a press contact? It's lame and empty titillation, even as the purported business disclaims any sexual aspect to the services it would sell (if it were real) for $60 an hour.

"Comments can be bad for science. That's why, here at, we're shutting them off."

"As the news arm of a 141-year-old science and technology magazine, we are as committed to fostering lively, intellectual debate as we are to spreading the word of science far and wide."
Even a fractious minority wields enough power to skew a reader's perception of a story. A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to "debate" on television. And because comments sections tend to be a grotesque reflection of the media culture surrounding them, the cynical work of undermining bedrock scientific doctrine is now being done beneath our own stories, within a website devoted to championing science.

"Ted Cruz Vows To Talk Against Obamacare 'Until I Am No Longer Able To Stand.'"

Filibuster action: watch it here.

UPDATE, 6:08 p.m.: Home from work, I'm catching up on the feed now. He's talking about tweets. He's reading #DefundObamacareBecause tweets. He could go on forever this way. But he could go on forever any number of ways. A filibuster, with a filibusterer worth his salt, will never run out of material. As the quote in the post title says, it goes on until the speaker physically fails.

"When you desire to make any one 'love' you with whom you meet... you can very readily reach him..."

Says The Ladies' Book of Useful Information (1896):
Wherever or whenever you meet again, at the first opportunity grasp his hand in an earnest, sincere, and affectionate manner, observing at the same time the following important directions, viz.: As you take his bare hand in yours, press your thumb gently, though firmly, between the bones of the thumb and the forefinger of his hand, and at the very instant when you press thus on the blood vessels (which you can before ascertain to pulsate) look him earnestly and lovingly in the eyes, and send all your heart's, mind's, and soul's strength into his organization, and he will be your friend...
His organization, eh?

I was all about to find Meade and try that move, but I got distracted by "organization" and had to check out the (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary. Here are a couple quotes therefrom to help you grasp "organization" (until it pulsates):
1860 Dickens Uncommerc. Traveller in All Year Round 24 Mar. 513/1, I must stuff into my delicate organisation, a currant pincushion which I know will swell into immeasurable dimensions when it has got there.

1908 G. K. Chesterton Man who was Thursday 39 You, my poor fellow, are an anarchist deprived of the help of that law and organization which is so essential to anarchy.

"A fingerprint of the phone user, photographed from a glass surface, was enough to create a fake finger that could unlock an iPhone 5s secured with TouchID."

"This demonstrates – again – that fingerprint biometrics is unsuitable as access control method and should be avoided."

Via Metafilter, where somebody says:
It might be worth noting that the amount of effort required here seems to be significantly more than the effort required to pick a lock, and we're not all saying, "hey, locks are imperfect, it was stupid of the builder to even bother putting them on my house!"

Something is better than nothing, and no security is perfect.
Yeah, and if only the original owner's finger would work, it would create an incentive to steal the phone and sever and take a finger.

The comics artist Lynda Barry joins the University of Wisconsin faculty as an assistant professor of interdisciplinary creativity.

Interdisciplinary creativity.

When, according to Chief Justice Roberts, are you required to wear cowboy boots to a Supreme Court oral argument?

When you are representing the state of Texas.

ADDED: What this post is really about....

"Please forgive me, we are not monsters," said the terrorist to the 4-year-old boy who had called him "a very bad man."

This Daily Mail item forefronts the daring, outspoken little boy, Elliot Prior. Your heart is supposed to tingle at the boy's courage as he "protected his mother, Amber, who had been shot in the leg" in the Kenyan mall massacre and was the reason the terrorist "took pity." But scroll down and see:
The terrorists said if any of the kids were alive in the supermarket they could leave. 'Amber made the decision to stand up and say "yes".'... After discovering [that Amber Prior] was of French origin, the men began to plead with her and claimed that the Muslim faith ‘was not a bad one.’

‘He told me I had to change my religion to Islam and said “do you forgive us? Do you forgive us?’, the mother told The Independent. ‘Naturally, I was going to say whatever they wanted and they let us go.’
It's nice to think about the boy, but it was the mother, who figured out how to tell the right lies convincingly. She gains pride through the boy, who, at 4, had no way to use strategy and guile, like his mother, who continues to use strategy and guile as she talks to the press and diverts attention away from whatever shame and humiliation she may feel over the lies she chose to tell to save herself and her children.

Presumably, if she had stood tall, proclaimed herself a Christian, and brought death to herself and her children, her courage would have been celebrated at the top of the article. I'm saying this to celebrate Amber Prior.

"Last year I concluded.... that frequent Facebook use was not indicative of narcissism though we did conclude that excessive use of Twitter was."

"But one year later, I doubt we would find the same results. Twitter, like Facebook, has become part of the national psyche."

Science marches on and so does the internet.

Apparently, the nation has a psyche, and the people, within that psyche, can't be diagnosed with a mental disorder that is the condition of the national psyche. It can't be a disorder at that point, presumably, because whatever characterizes the whole nation is order, and if you've ordered yourself to the new order, you are not disordered.

I Google "national psyche," and the first thing that came up was this Wikipedia article "National psychology," which begins:
National Psychology refers to the (real or alleged) distinctive psychological make-up of particular nations, ethnic groups or peoples, and to the comparative study of those characteristics in social psychology, sociology, political science and anthropology.

The assumption of national psychology is that different ethnic groups, or the people living in a national territory, are characterized by a distinctive "mix" of human attitudes, values, emotions, motivation and abilities which is culturally reinforced by language, the family, schooling, the state and the media.

According to the pioneer psychologist Wilhelm Wundt, the attempt to theorize scientifically about national psychology dates from the mid-19th century. Around 1900, national psychology had become an accepted topic of study in the social sciences, at universities in Western Europe and North America....
And then what happened?

"I'm blogging from behind. Your confusion is part of the From-Behinders technique."

My answer in response to a commenter who says he's confused by my statement "Another job well done by leading-from-behind Obama" in yesterday's post about the end of the hunger strike at Guantanamo.

"Our institution has launched new reporting requirements for all NIU social-media accounts that are, to put it mildly, onerous to the point of ludicrous."

"They want us to count all interactions. And document whether they are positive, negative, or neutral. They want screen shots to document all of our counting and downloaded analytics. Every. Month."

University, confused and desperate about what it's saying about itself, decides to go all-out looking confused and desperate, which is one more thing it's saying about itself, and — unlike all those blogs, Facebook pages, and Twitter feeds written by miscellaneous University personnel — it's the thing that gets a big article written about how confused and desperate it is, and that article is in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Just when you think new media is scorching your reputation, old media bites you in the ass.

It's so unfair!

"I haven’t had a cigarette in probably 6 years. That’s because I’m scared of my wife.”

Said Barack Obama, caught in a seemingly candid moment.

I don't believe in the truth of either statement — that he hasn't had a cigarette in about 6 years and that he's scared of his wife — but I don't hear an intent that these remarks be taken as true. I hear an off-the-record interaction with one individual that's about making a friendly connection. There's camaraderie in displaying that he knows something personal about the other man and — since what he knows is that the man has a substance addiction problem — referring to his own parallel weakness.

He doesn't scold or put down the other man, but expresses hope — hope! — that the man has quit smoking and makes the possibly untrue assertion that he hasn't smoked one cigarette in "probably 6 years." This is an encouraging remark, and I think that it was offered in the spirit of encouragement but that Obama also realized that it might sound braggadocious, so he toned it down with the self-deprecating humor about being scared of his wife.

That gives an explanation for not smoking and works as posing that he's an ordinary guy tending to the demands of his wife, even though he is the most powerful man in the world. This is humanizing and a bit silly, and it's a male-bonding moment, containing the implication that wives are demanding and require appeasement.

If you want to mock or criticize Obama here, I think the more sophisticated speculation not that he's revealed he's subservient and pusillanimous, but that this is misogyny or male chauvinism. Obama is using his wife — both as a stereotypical woman and as the caricature of her that we see in the media — to make points with another man. Michelle Obama is not there. It's a remark about her behind her back. She's not named, but called "my wife." And she's scary. He's not actually scared, just tapping an old sexist mindset that makes it possible to laugh at stupid cartoons like this:

And Obama is simultaneously appropriating the anti-Michelle propaganda of his political opponents. He's casually gesturing at the huge pile of mean-spirited scribblings about how she's always nagging everybody about health, all the miscellaneous things scribbled on web pages and illustrated with photos like this:

Feminists and traditionalists alike can chide the man who engages in loose, humorous talk about his wife behind her back.


"Honor your marriage; keep it pure by remaining true to your wife in every way."

September 23, 2013

"I think the hunger strike ended because the men achieved their objectives."

"As far as I know, Korans are not being searched. Guantánamo has returned to the national agenda. And President Obama has renewed efforts to close it. And, frankly, six months is a long time to be on a hunger strike."

All right then. All is well in detaineeworld. 

Another job well done by leading-from-behind Obama.

"The Academy was simply asking for trouble by giving extra attention to [Cory] Monteith and not Larry Hagman and Jack Klugman."

"Yes, you could argue that it’s not clear where you draw the line. Do you stop after Klugman while eschewing names like Charles Durning, Annette Funicello or Bonnie Franklin? Maybe, maybe not."
What is clear is where you don’t draw the line. You don’t draw it where it leaves out two actors who were major TV stars across the decades. Frankly, though Monteith became a target, I’m not sure you include [Jonathan] Winters in a special Emmy memory before Hagman and Klugman, and I say that as a big fan of Winters and someone who didn’t watch “Dallas.”...

In particular, based on how important Hagman was to CBS, thanks to “Dallas,” his exclusion really is inexplicable. More than one person has wondered whether Winters’ link to Robin Williams, whose new CBS series debuts this week, was the reason that Winters got the nod.

Man, this is just an ugly conversation.
Death and commerce... is it really that ugly?

"18 Fun and Utterly Fascinating Facts About Joe Lhota."

He's the GOP candidate for mayor in NYC. I'll highlight one, the most legal one:
6) Remember the Giuliani administration's showdown with the Brooklyn Museum over a portrait of the Virgin Mary that involved elephant dung? A lot of that was Joe Lhota! As deputy mayor, he spearheaded negotiations with the museum, threatening it with eviction and funding cuts. He admitted recently that his legal argument was flawed, saying, "I have a much clearer understanding of the First Amendment now."
 And now I'm following Lhota on Twitter. Sample tweet:

"Kuwaiti preacher Mubarak al-Bathali ruled recently that marriage depicted on television is considered valid and real."

"His ruling was based on a Muslim hadith, a saying by the Prophet Muhammad."
In this hadith, Muhammad defined three issues as pivotal and serious even if used jokingly: Marriage, divorce, and freeing a slave. "This hadith shows intent has no central part in these three matters," said the preacher, who also ruled that a woman who is married cannot depict a character getting married on television.

"An Egyptian court on Monday ordered the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood and the confiscation of its assets..."

"The court ruling formalizes the suppression of the group..."
Monday’s ruling addressed a lawsuit filed by the leftist party Tagammu, which accused the Brotherhood of being a terrorist organization and of “exploiting religion in political slogans.” Laying out its decision, the court reached back to the Brotherhood’s founding in 1928, when Egypt was ruled by a British-backed monarchy, and argued that the organization had always used religion as a cover for its political goals....

The Brotherhood, which began as a social and religious revival movement, was tacitly tolerated for years despite being outlawed, growing into Egypt’s largest philanthropic organization, with a national network of clinics, schools and other charities helping to provide a partial social safety net below the rickety Egyptian state....

Ibrahim Moneir, a Brotherhood official who is still at large, called the ruling “totalitarian.”
What is wrong with using religion as a cover for political goals? In the United States, we staunchly defend our right to do that.

"I thought it might be better to be like a chameleon — able to adapt and change and blend with our environment rather than conquer it."

Said Ross Langdon, a Tasmanian-born architect who built "eco-lodges and socially sustainable tourism in ecologically sensitive locations." He died in the Nairobi terror attack, along with his partner Elif Yavuz, a Harvard PhD and malaria specialist, who worked for the Clinton foundation.
"Elif was brilliant at her job and a joy to work with.... She was a friend both in and out of the office, and always had a great sense of humor – recently, her baby belly had been the subject of a number of jokes."
ADDED: Many pictures of this couple here.

"When I say that the article of religion is deemed a trifle by our people in the general, I assert a known truth."

"But when we suppose that the poorer sort of European emigrants set as light by it, we are greatly mistaken."

Patrick Henry, 1766.

Are the 2 terms of a 2-term-presidency equal in length?

The only interesting answer is no, so it should be obvious that if I'm asking the question I think there's a nonobvious answer.

Cheesecake, an experiment in communal living, ongoing after 20 years.

"Of the original 11 members, seven are still here... The community has taken on new members, so there are now 13 altogether. No one seems lonely..."
In matters involving the environment, Ms. Otis said, the community is divided into two camps: “Some are Druids, those who don’t want to change anything, and some are foresters, who can cut the brush back. Jill and Gaile are the Druids.”

Gaile Wakeman, a retired pediatric physical therapist who is 76, concurred. “I don’t want a single tree to be cut.... I don’t give on this. You cannot replace a tree that’s been here 300 years.”...

The other thing residents tend to disagree about is money. And as is true elsewhere in the country, Ms. Otis said, “conservatives are those who do not want to spend money, and liberals do.”

But while these distinctions may resemble those between Republicans and Democrats, Ms. Wakeman noted, Cheesecake members lean to the left politically. “We’re all pretty liberal,” she said. “A Tea Party person would never live here.”

Justice Sotomayor says that "a meaningful person" is a person who is: 1. "interesting" and 2. "giving."

The Supreme Court Justice was talking to University of Delaware students:
“What will make you a meaningful person in life is two things,” she said. “That you become an interesting person by learning as many new things as you can every single day you live, ... and that you use that knowledge in a way in which you’re giving to people.”

“It really doesn’t matter what kind of work you do,” she added. “... Do things that interest you and excite you and satisfy whatever skills and intellectual challenges you like puzzling over.... Even number crunchers do great things.”
You can pick apart some of these premises, stated and unstated, but what appeals to me is the importance of being an interesting person.

Usually the stress is on gaining education and then using it to make contributions that will benefit others and make the world a better place. I don't know if Sotomayor really meant to say this, but the words imply that being an "interesting person" is an end in itself. Or is it that others are benefited and the world is a better place if there are "interesting persons" out and about?

Note too that Sotomayor says that the constant pursuit of learning should be driven by "things that interest you and excite you." You need to have interests and then — powered along by interests — become interesting.

That's putting a lot of value on interestingness. I'm quite interested in that, because in blogging, the standard — for me, anyway — is interestingness. What's interesting now? (And now? And now?) Interestingly enough, right now, the interesting thing is interestingness. Isn't that interesting?

ADDED: The opposite of interesting is boring. A less-nice way of making Sotomayor's point is: Don't be boring. And don't be bored. Don't do what bores you, and that should make you not boring. Others are benefited and the world is a better place if you are not boring.

"That's an article of faith about truth, not truth."

"It's a belief that supervenes truth."

"My amendment says basically that everybody including Justice Roberts — who seems to be such a fan of Obamacare — gets it too."

Said Rand Paul (not modeling orthodox notions of what judges are doing when they decide cases):
"See, right now, Justice Roberts is still continuing to have federal employee health insurance subsidized by the taxpayer.... And if he likes Obamacare so much, I’m going to give him an amendment that gives Obamacare to Justice Roberts."
If only judges had a personal interest in the outcome of their decisions...

In Minnesota: "Judges would still stand for re-election, but would face no challengers."

"Instead, voters would opt to keep judges or toss them out. If an incumbent lost, a nonpartisan review committee would assemble a new pool of potential replacements and the governor would select a new one."

That's the proposal. Before you click through to the article, think about whether this would serve the agenda of liberals or conservatives.

September 22, 2013

"We can’t 'Whatevs' hard enough on this one."

"The only thing that merits any kind of response is the question of style. And since she clearly doesn’t have any, there’s literally nothing left to say about it. We reiterate what we said the morning after she destroyed Western Civilization: she just looks stupid.... Nothing says 'I have no persona of my own' than freezing your face into nothing more than a logo for pictures and thinking that it makes you look interesting."

Meanwhile, at the Emmys, keep scrolling here until you get to Raquel Welch. She's 73.

In the arb: duckweed, fungus, and a murder scene.

Seen today in the UW Arboretum:


I do a Bloggingheads with Glenn Loury that's ostensibly about whether Obama has weakened and what the NYC police are doing after stop and frisk.

The folks at Bloggingheads put it this way:
On The Glenn Show, Glenn and Ann check in on Obama a year into his second term. Has his vacillation on Syria and the Fed hurt his credibility? Ann argues that the Larry Summers controversy exposed an anti-science crowd on the left—but maybe a small dose of delusion is healthy. Turning to the end of NYC's stop-and-frisk program, Ann worries that emotions adulterated the public debate. Are liberal gun-control measures breeding a nation of victims? Finally, Glenn criticizes the secrecy of the security state under Obama.
There's an awful lot going on in that diavlog, and I think we talk past each other more than usual. "Ann worries that emotions adulterated the public debate" is a terrible summary of what I say. 

Go to the link if you want to hear the whole thing. I'll excerpt a part that deals with something I care about: the unlikelihood that anyone is really making truth their highest value.

I'm highlighting what I had to say, so click to continue the video when you get to the end of this clip if you want to hear Loury's response. The lead-up to this clip is about the trouble Larry Summers got into at Harvard when he suggested that there might be a biological explanation for the scarcity of females in the highest levels of math and science.

The otter juggles.

(Via Metafilter.)

Kinja, Gawker's answer to the problem of ugly, out-of-control comments sections.

"Kinja flips on its head the idea of comments and conversation below a story on Gawker Media’s Web sites...."
When people sign up for Kinja, they are given their own Web address on the Gawker platform — similar to a Tumblr Web site — which becomes a collection of that person’s comments on stories. Kinja will also enable readers to write headlines and summaries — comments that have graduated from college, if you will — for stories on Gawker and even from other sites. Readers will then be able to use Kinja as a central hub for discussion on these stories, almost like their own chat room protected from the commenting maelstrom.
Great. I hope the design works. Seems similar to what Metafilter has been for many years. It's good to allow people to take possession of their collected comments that are otherwise scattered about. You can take some pride in your body of comments, at least within Gawker blogs (as, on Metafilter, you have a page that collects your comments on all the various Metafilter posts you've commented on). It makes being a commenter more like being a blogger, and it lets a popular commenter drive traffic to blog posts. But it's all very intra-Gawker, just like Metafilter is intra-Metafilter. I'd like to see an overarching comments system like this. And I'd love to see Blogger provide something like this for Blogger blogs like mine.
Along with the updates to the comments service on Monday, Mr. Denton is set to unveil “a manifesto” of sorts that will outline Gawker’s plan to further blur the line between reporters and readers and explain readers’ rights. Among them, there is “the right to experience legible conversations” on the site.
I've had a big struggle, peaking over the summer, with the problem of "illegible conversation," as problem commenters maliciously disrupt what might otherwise be a readable comments section. Now, I don't know that the Kinja solution will work. It might empower some of the most disruptive commenters, as they go off topic to entertain and win admirers for some agenda or style of comedy or edgy satire who'll relocate to their Kinja page. But Denton just wants you within the Gawker media empire, and not off on Twitter or Facebook, because he wants the page views in his operation, where he gets the ad revenue. The situation for a blogger is different.

I blog to publish my own writing, and I include comments as a way for me to interact with readers and to amplify and get different angles on things I want to talk about. I'm not about devoting my work to maintaining a social media website for people who don't care about what I'm writing. That's the enterprise of people like Denton who are designing a mechanism for making a lot of money. As an individual expressing myself — with the long-time motto "To live freely in writing" — I am more like the commenters upon whom Gawker is leveraging its Kinja scheme.

Listening to Oliver.

Do you remember Oliver?
His clean-cut good looks and soaring tenor voice were the perfect vehicle for the uptempo single entitled "Good Morning Starshine" from the pop/rock musical "Hair," which reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1969, sold over one million copies, and was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A. a month later. Later that fall, a softer, ballad single entitled "Jean" (the theme from the Oscar-winning film The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie) bested his previous effort by one, reaching #2 on the Hot 100 and #1 on the Billboard Easy Listening chart. Written by longtime beatnik poet Rod McKuen, "Jean" also sold over one million copies, garnering Oliver his second gold disc in as many months.
This kind of recording is the kind of thing that I rejected at the time as commercial/mainstream/square/cornball, but I'd recently rediscovered "Good Morning Starshine" and found it quite beautiful, enough to look him up in Wikipedia just now and enough to make me add "Jean" alongside "Good Morning Starshine" in my iTunes.

And remember Rod McKuen? Remember when people loved him and then the cultural elite delivered the message that you're supposed to hate him?
Frank W. Hoffmann, in Arts and Entertainment Fads, described McKuen's poetry as "tailor-made for the 1960s [...] poetry with a verse that drawled in country cadences from one shapeless line to the next, carrying the rusticated innocence of a Carl Sandburg thickened by the treacle of a man who preferred to prettify the world before he described it."

Philosopher and social critic Robert C. Solomon described McKuen's poetry as "sweet kitsch," and, at the height of his popularity in 1969, Newsweek magazine called him "the King of Kitsch."

Writer and literary critic Nora Ephron said, "[F]or the most part, McKuen's poems are superficial and platitudinous and frequently silly." Pulitzer Prize-winning US Poet Laureate Karl Shapiro said, "It is irrelevant to speak of McKuen as a poet."
Wow! Listen to the hate.

"'Listen to the Warm,' remember that?" I ask Meade, as I look for an Amazon link that I thought would go amusingly on the words "Listen to the hate," above. "You can't even buy that now." But I remember high school kids who clutched that book and felt lucky to have it. What other poetry books — in our lifetime — have experienced that kind of young love?

Meade says, "There was an audio," and you can still buy that.  And you can buy endless other works of poetry in audio form, albeit with music (or something approaching music) supporting the poetic verbiage so you don't have to think "poetry."

We're reveling this morning in "Good Morning Starshine"...
My love and me as we sing our
Early morning singin' song
And "Jean"...
Jean, Jean, roses are red
All the leaves have gone green
And the clouds are so low
You can touch them, and so
Come out to the meadow, Jean
Jean, Jean, you're young and alive
Come out of your half-dreamed dream
And run, if you will, to the top of the hill
Open your arms, bonnie Jean
Till the sheep in the valley come home my way
Meade says, "What'd he say? Till the sheep come home? Why not till the cows come home?"

I say that old Rod avoids clichés, at which point the first line of the song repeats, "Jean, Jean, roses are red," and we laugh.
And all of the leaves have gone green
While the hills are ablaze with the moon's yellow haze
Come into my arms, bonnie Jean
Jean, you're young and alive!!
If you're listening to the Oliver recording, you won't question those 2 exclamation points.
Come out of your half-dreamed dream
And run, if you will to the top of the hill
Come into my arms, bonnie Jean
Superficial and platitudinous and frequently silly....

"What's that line," Meade asks "'Come out of your half dream...'?" I'm reciting the lyrics and Meade has free-associated, via "dream," to "Time passes slowly when you’re lost in a dream...." All neural pathways lead to Dylan (chez Meadhouse). I see I did put that CD into iTunes, and Meade sings along:
Ain’t no reason to go in a wagon to town
Ain’t no reason to go to the fair
Ain’t no reason to go up, ain’t no reason to go down
Ain’t no reason to go anywhere
"See that's your argument against travel," Meade says. There's no reason to go anywhere, and when you stay where you are — lost in a dream — time passes slowly. It's as close as we can get to immortality.

"Nasa video footage shows what the moon would look like as it rotates. The images are impossible to witness from Earth..."

"... because the moon is 'tidally locked' to it, meaning only one of its faces ever points toward the planet. These timelapse pictures were captured using Nasa's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, which circles the moon at an altitude of 50km."

"The white walls of the All Saints Church were pocked with holes caused by ball bearings or other metal objects contained in the bombs to cause maximum damage."

2 suicide bombers kill more than 60 Christians in Pakistan.
This is the deadliest attack against Christians in our country,” said Irfan Jamil,  bishop of the eastern city of Lahore.

The bishop in Peshawar, Sarfarz Hemphray...  blamed the government and security agencies for failing to protect the country's Christians.  “If the government shows will, it can control this terrorism... We have been asking authorities to enhance security, but they haven't paid any heed."

"It would be terrible for our democracy … if one politician could directly solicit $3.6 million from a single donor."

"That is 70 times the median income for an American family. It would mean a tiny, tiny group of donors would wield unprecedented power and influence," says an election law expert from a liberal advocacy group, quoted by David Savage in an L.A. Times piece titled "Supreme Court may strike new blow to campaign funding laws/The Supreme Court, in a new campaign funding case, may lift a lid on the total the wealthy can give to all candidates and parties."
In recent [Supreme Court] opinions, [Chief Justice John] Roberts has said the government may not try to "level the playing field" between candidates or prevent well-funded candidates from using their financial advantage to dominate the airwaves. The only justification for limiting contributions, the court has said, is to prevent "corruption or the appearance of corruption."...

"This is a limit on how many candidates you support, not on how much you give them," said James Bopp Jr., an attorney for the Republican National Committee. He cites the case of McCutcheon, an Alabama man who gave a total of $33,000 to various Republican candidates for Congress last year and wanted to give $21,000 more. He was stopped by the legal limit on total contributions to candidates, which now stands at $48,600.

McCutcheon "holds firm convictions on the proper role of government" and "opposes numerous and ill-conceived and overreaching laws," he told the court, and he wants more "federal officeholders who share his beliefs."

"They want power to cut taxes, eliminate regulations, take government down except for what they like."

That's Bill Clinton, criticizing Republicans, and — accidentally — describing what should happen in American democracy.

Take government down sounds destructive, but when you add except for what they like, the alarmism dissipates. Why shouldn't we always, in a democracy, be figuring out what we like and withdrawing our support for everything else? Otherwise, the idea would need to be that we must always retain everything that we already have, because we already have it. That seems to be a definition of conservativism.

In context, Clinton's remark is about how difficult it is for liberals who must add new things for government to do. That's hard, he's saying, when the conservatives are trying to subtract. Then the liberals have to expend effort trying to preserve all the things government has already gotten involved in, when it would be so much nicer to talk to people about the next thing government could do.

The paleotectonic evolution of North America.

"The first map shows the land 510 million years ago, progressing from there... through the accretion and dissolution of Pangaea into the most recent Ice Age and, in the final image, North America in its present-day configuration."

Superimposing the familiar shapes of American states adds drama:

Oh, California! At the top of the link, you can see further back in time — 85 million years earlier than that to a nearly nonexistent pre-California. Looking at the series of maps, you're pushed to imagine what shapes lie ahead. Caged in our human-sized time frame, we like to think the drastic reconfigurations of the coastlines could be controlled if only we would live more virtuous lives, but in the larger scheme, change grinds on.

(Much more at the link.)

3-D printed food.

This seems incredibly dumb, unless you are hyper-focused on the shape of food — enough to ignore that it's all processed from already-highly-processed food paste.
[W]e had (once again) food in the shape of our initials. It was creamy and light, though the monogrammed letters made us feel uncomfortably Trump-like.
Are billionaires into monograms? Seems to me monograms are a pretty squarely middle-class affectation. Here's Pottery Barn's Monogram Shop, where the promotional copy stresses "personalizing" things like towels and pillowcases to make them "extraordinary."

I mean, it's funny to purport to squirm over feeling like a very rich man, when what you are doing is the sort of thing that stolidly mainstream retailers use to make the most conventional shoppers feel special.

What's funny is that the writer of that lengthy NYT article indulges in the liberal's cliché snubbing of Donald Trump, when he would know enough to refrain from displaying snobbery toward the actual middle-class Americans who patronize The Monogram Shop.