October 26, 2013

At the Gustaf-and-Zeus Café...

... find your circle.

"If you are truly a feminine woman at your core, but don’t know how to let your femininity surface, you will end up unhappy, feeling miserable and depleted."

"It takes a lot of energy to reject a part of you that is there whether you like it or not. And even if you think you are happy, something will feel like it is missing some day. Why? Because you’re rejecting a part of yourself. Being able to claim your feminine energy is at the heart of your own happiness, and most definitely the happiness of your relationship."

From a post titled "How Most Women Reject their Femininity (and How you can stand out from the crowd)" at a website called "The Feminine Woman," written by Renee Wade. I stumbled into this the other day as I was participating in a Facebook discussion that got onto the topic of feminine beauty, and I went on a search looking for examples of the most feminine-looking face (not the most beautiful feminine face).

I'd remembered reading about a study that found that people thought a man's face was most appealing if it was slightly more feminine-looking than the average male face. I was wondering if the most beautiful female faces would be those exactly at what is the average among women or tending slightly masculine or tending slightly feminine. I know that the most extremely male-looking faces are experienced as ugly, but what about the most extremely feminine faces? I wasn't even sure what that would be. A very small, pointed chin? A tiny, tiny nose and gigantic eyes? I really don't even know.

I got sidetracked onto that "Feminine Woman" site, which I thought raised some interesting issues that I'd like to talk about. I'm not saying Renee Wade is a reliable expert or an impressive theorist in the realm of gender studies. I had a flashback to the "Total Woman"/Marabel Morgan phenomenon of the 1970s, which was, even then, ludicrously uncool.

I'd like to put aside the notion that women should be feminine — because that's what God or nature intended or because it's traditional or the foundation of society or whatever you (or somebody else) might think.

I'm interested in individual expression, freedom, and happiness.

Let's hypothesize that there is something internal and psychological that we've been calling "femininity" (because it corresponds generally to having the female body type). You have as much or as little of it as you have for whatever reason. With that understanding, reread the quote that begins this post.

Now, the question becomes: What does it mean to be extremely feminine?

And: What would it be like if those who are psychologically at the extreme of femininity were to feel supported and encouraged to openly and proudly manifest their femininity? Try to answer this question without confusing it with the efforts of those who don't actually have this inward orientation but who are aspiring to images and stereotypes about femininity out of social pressure or as a means of competition for other things they may want.

"NO BID CONTRACT: Michelle O's Princeton classmate is executive at company that built Obamacare site..."

Headline today at Drudge, linking here.

The link goes to The Daily Caller, where we learn that Toni Townes-Whitley is a senior vice president at CGI Federal and also graduated from Princeton in the same year as Michelle Obama. Given that over 1,000 highly able persons graduate from Princeton in any given year, it's not that amazing that you'd find a Michelle Obama co-grad somewhere at the executive level of a large corporation, so this story seems a bit dumb, unless...
Townes-Whitley and her Princeton classmate Michelle Obama are both members of the Association of Black Princeton Alumni....
... unless your point is that black people are in a cabal.
Toni Townes ’85 is a onetime policy analyst with the General Accounting Office and previously served in the Peace Corps in Gabon, West Africa. Her decision to return to work, as an African-American woman, after six years of raising kids was applauded by a Princeton alumni publication in 1998.
Jeez, the writing in The Daily Caller is bad! So Townes-Whitley decided to return to work as an African-American woman? What was she before? A white man?

Look, I'm concerned about corruption and the appearance of corruption, but this is a low-quality effort at investigative journalism. And yet think of the traffic that story is getting with the Drudge link. The rewards are there for those who are hot to get them. Fine. You like that story? Then don't whimper about lefties' expressions of contempt for right-wing media.

Are you ready for a really glitzy version of the crudely animated TV cartoon "Mr. Peabody & Sherman."

Here's the trailer:

I especially appreciated the big faceful of armpit hair at 1:16. I remember that in the early days of computer animation hair was hard to do, so the characters tended to be insects or plastic toys. There's been so much progress since then, not that I've set foot into a theater showing a computer animation since I walked out of "Antz" because the closeup faces were making me ill.

The human faces in "Mr. Peabody & Sherman" are actually a lot like those insect faces that made me ill, except that they nail those smart-ass-kid expressions that — since the 1980s — TV has been teaching our children to make.

Of course, Mr. Peabody is a dog, so the hairs will have been minutely attended to. If I were to see this film — which I wouldn't, because I almost never go to the movies and I have a physical aversion to computer animation — I would be continually distracted by the constant minute wiggling and shimmering of the hairs as they — this is how I would think of it — show off that they can do hair.

ADDED:  Here's how the old TV cartoon looked. It was "crude" in the sense of its being done quickly and cheaply, but the drawing is actually quite vivid and charming. I love drawn cartoons, and I admire cheapness and quickness when the result is good, so I'm a bit sorry for using the word "crudely" in the post title. [AND: The particular "Mr. Peabody" cartoon I happened to find to link to there, which I just watched, has an Indian character of the smoke-um-peace-pipe sort that you'd never see today, and more strangely, there seems to be a swastika on one of the teepees.]

"At first she wanted to faint as she stared at the new face, smooth and freckled, stitched to her daughter’s pale scalp."

"But when [Carmen] Tarleton started talking in her old familiar voice — 'Can’t you just get in here?' — [her mother] relaxed."
“I said, ‘This is who Carmen is now,’ and it really looked beautiful,” she recalled. “Although it didn’t look anything like her, it was her face.”

Would you want to go out to a concert of Bach Suites in a space that is kept completely dark?

I mean, wouldn't recorded music be better? And it would be a lot less trouble than going out, your chair at home is probably comfier, and there would be no one rattling a program/opening a candy wrapper/coughing. No one other than you. At home, you're free to sneeze, take you music device into the bathroom with you, eat all manner of smelly foods, and even sing along, making up your own words that don't even have to rhyme or make sense. The room was humming harder/As the ceiling flew away.... You can call out for another drink. Because you're alone and no one cares about your outbursts. Or someone else is there, but they've resigned themselves to putting up with the likes of you. You with your coughing and sneezing and nonsense lyrics. What happens when you call out for another drink? Does that long-suffering wife/husband of yours bring a tray?

But let say you do want to get up off your sofa and amble down the sidewalks of New York City to the Goethe-Institut Wyoming Building at 5 East 3rd Street. I love the combination of Goethe and Wyoming. Especially on 3rd Street. That's not 3rd Street in Brooklyn, where, you may remember, I lived back in the early 80s. That's positively 3rd Street in Manhattan, where you've got a lot of nerve to enter a concert hall in the dark:
After of years of investigation, the Suites are removed from the concert hall and placed in an unilluminated space, in which the cellist repeatedly plays them over a period of ten days. Through the extended timeframe and the elimination of any visual input, the listener and the playing musician are unified within the same visual and musical space.
Scurry over there — would you? — if you're within scurrying distance, and let me know if you became unified with the musician by virtue of your presence in "the same visual and musical space." The "visual space" is nothingness. You can close your eyes while listening to your iPod, and imagine the cellist playing with his eyes shut. But he's not there, and it's not happening now, so unification requires more imagination. Still, this mystic state might be more achievable in the absence of the distraction of finding your way around in the dark.
Uncertainty about the original creative intentions of the Suites invites perpetual debate and allows imaginative free reign for redefining the environment in which they are played. 
I'm distracted reining in my imagination and reigning over my imagination about the old rein/reign pedantry. But proceed:
Bach Suites in the Dark removes the Suites from the concert hall [and] explores their malleability and the notion of practice in which they are rooted. 
Most people know the Suites from recordings — like this — so the notion of removing them from the place where you never needed to go invites us into the even-more-imaginary place in the past when people had no recorded music.

October 25, 2013

"Even if the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act fails spectacularly, single payer is not going to happen in America anytime soon."

"Here’s why: Most Americans have insurance, and most Americans like that insurance. That’s why the administration designed such a complicated, kludgy system; they had to at least be able to claim that all the people who had insurance they liked would be able to keep it.... People are loss-averse; they worry more about losing what they have than they do about some unproven potential gain. If Obamacare’s insurance reforms break the market, that calculus still won’t change: Most people will still have insurance they like, and they will not be willing to give it up in order to solve problems in the individual market.... Even if the individual market functionally disappears, most people will still be covered.... Ironically, single payer seems much more plausible if the system succeeds...."

Megan McArdle rejects the conspiracy theory that Obamacare was meant to fail to get us to single payer.

"Removing comments... affects the reading experience itself: it may take away the motivation to engage with a topic more deeply..."

"... and to share it with a wider group of readers. In a phenomenon known as shared reality, our experience of something is affected by whether or not we will share it socially. Take away comments entirely, and you take away some of that shared reality, which is why we often want to share or comment in the first place. We want to believe that others will read and react to our ideas."

From "The Psychology of Online Comments," by Maria Konnikova.

At the Cloudy Day Café...


... come out and play.


"Dr. Ed Friedlander displays his tattoo with a medical directive to not use CPR."

Caption on a photo on an Atlantic article subtitled "An ICU physician on taking time to discuss with patients how they see their final days."
It is scary to ‘nudge’ a patient toward an end-of-life decision. But maybe that’s what it means to be a doctor — knowing our patients and helping lead them toward the decisions that are most consistent with their wishes. And nothing is scarier than the status quo.
Also new at the Atlantic website today: "Death Is Having a Moment/Fueled by social networking, the growing 'death movement' is a reaction against the sanitization of death that has persisted in American culture since the 1800s."

I've got a feeling death will be having a "moment" until the last of us Baby Boomers has departed.

"I certainly have never made anyone suffer... The word 'suffering' is completely inappropriate to use about the process of filming."

"To talk about the suffering of the actor is something I can only laugh at — in such a beautiful profession, where you’re creating through your emotions, your body — to me, there is nothing of suffering. The job of an actor... it’s one of a spoiled child. You wake up, you’re made up, you do a few takes, you’re beautifully lit. Not to get into my social origins, but I’ve seen hard labor, and it is not comparable."

Said Abdellatif Kechiche, the director of "Blue Is the Warmest Color," which stars 2 young actresses who claim to have suffered in the filming.

Nice interview with Charles Krauthammer on "The Daily Show."

Video here. Krauthammer was good at connecting with the liberal Jon Stewart, in part because — as he says in the interview — he was once a liberal himself and in part because he had some ready and charming parries in the form of — this quote is from memory — "That's an excellent argument. Unfortunately, it's wrong...."

He was pushing his new book, "Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics," which comes out on October 30th.

"Without private evidence, I will take a pass on the frail case of Jon Lester and the Twittered glob of something-or-other in his glove."

"Cheating was more blatant and more fun in the old days, when the Giants’ Gaylord Perry would smilingly stand with upraised arms while an ump frisked him for K-Y Jelly or other skulking lubricants. When a Phillies pitcher, Kevin Gross, allowed sandpaper to fall out of his glove, he indignantly denied that he’d been doctoring the ball. No way! A great dad, he’d been employing idle dugout moments to fashion a little birdhouse for his daughter."

The great old Roger Angell is blogging the World Series, with better words and better memories than anybody else.

He's 93!

In case you don't want to take a pass on the Twittered glob of something-or-other, here's "'Giant booger' or rosin? Jon Lester says he doesn't have a cold."

"The 50 Greatest Breakthroughs Since the Wheel."

"The Atlantic recently assembled a panel of 12 scientists, entrepreneurs, engineers, historians of technology, and others to assess the innovations that have done the most to shape the nature of modern life."

I was interested to see nitrogen fixation at #11, because it's something I've got to tell you I had never thought much about that at all until last week when I was reading this excellent New Yorker article by Elizabeth Kolbert, "Head Count, Fertilizer, fertility, and the clashes over population growth," which begins with this topic:
Early in the history of agriculture, people realized — without, obviously, understanding the chemistry behind this insight—that when usable nitrogen ran low fields turned barren. Eight thousand years ago, farmers in the Middle East were already planting legumes, whose roots harbor nitrogen-fixing bacteria, in rotation with cereal crops, such as wheat. Later, Cato the Elder recommended that Romans “save carefully goat, sheep, cattle, and all other dung.” Bird shit is an excellent source of nitrogen, and in the early nineteenth century, when Europeans learned that there were mountains of the stuff on remote islands off Peru, the discovery inspired a guano rush; by the eighteen-fifties, Britain was importing four hundred million pounds of bird poop a year, and the United States a hundred and seventy million pounds....

By [Fritz] Haber’s day, the appetite for crop-friendly nitrogen was so huge that scientists had turned their attention skyward. Nitrogen is the most common element in the earth’s atmosphere.... but almost all of it is floating around in the intractable form of N2. When... Haber showed how to bust up N2 to produce ammonia — NH3 — he basically solved the problem. No more guano would be needed. Haber had, it was said, figured out how to turn air into bread.

"Now let us get this straight... We elected you to get the country out of economic and foreign policy troubles, and instead you made them worse?"

Meade writes a new caption for what he tells me is his favorite "Far Side" cartoon:

"ObamaCare 2016: Happy Yet?/The website problems were finally solved. But the doctor shortage is a nightmare."

An interesting WSJ column by Bradley Allen, a pediatric heart surgeon, painting a nightmare scenario that's very heavy on predictions of doctors serving their own self-interest:
With the best and most successful doctors disappearing into concierge medicine or refusing new Medicare and Medicaid patients, replacing these experienced physicians with bright young doctors to work with the "general public" has become difficult. Why? Because such doctors are hard to find — going into medicine doesn't have the professional allure it once did.
This is the perspective of a doctor, who believes his profession is highly elite and deserves to be treated that way, but I think he's a little blind about the continuing ability of doctors to opt out of the system. Won't they be compelled to participate? I don't think they can be compelled to work if they choose to retire from the practice of medicine, but why wouldn't the government's system evolve into something that subsumes all medical practice? If there are shortages that frighten and distress the people, the doctors' options will, I predict, shrink.

Must the "professional allure" be preserved? Apparently, it's already gone. Who will want to be a doctor now? As the nightmare unfolds, we will find out. Old doctors are always checking out and the system is always producing new doctors (and other medical professionals). Who will they be and what will happen? Maybe in the future we will dispense with pediatric heart surgeons. We got by without pediatric heart surgery before 1956. I'm picturing lots of nurses and lots of palliative care.

Cowgirls emailing cowgirls.

Neo-Neocon — a propos of my post showing me in cowgirl dress at age 4 — emails to show me her picture of herself at approximately age 4, dressed as a cowgirl:

She was inspired by Jane Russell (in "Son of Paleface"). I was inspired by... can you tell?... one of my readers could...

... Sally Starr.

What not to do when telling women what not to do.

A memo to women lawyers is a good negative example:
Last night, we started receiving reports of a memo entitled “Presentation Tips for Women” that was distributed by a member of the Women’s Committee to all women associates across the U.S. offices of Clifford Chance.
I haven't worked in a law firm since the 80s, so you tell me: Why is there a "Women’s Committee" in the first place?
Our tipster was correct in that the vast majority of these words of wisdom aren’t tips for “women,” but rather, tips for “human beings.”
Yeah, but there's a "Women’s Committee." These are women helping women. Either you like that or you don't. Pick one.

"The big embarrassment here isn’t the spying..."

"... but rather the fact that it has become public due to the incompetence of those charged with keeping it secret — and, of course, the inept response once the news has come out."

"All the states are competitive on this stuff, but I think Amazon realized that Wisconsin is not only open for business, Wisconsin is good for business."

Said Phil Jennings, president of Next/Partners, Inc. (and Wisconsin Law grad), explaining Amazon's selection of Kenosha for a $250-million distribution facility that brings "1,100 new jobs, including hundreds of high-paying technical and management jobs."
Jennings says he’s never met [Gov. Scott] Walker and didn’t contribute to his campaign, but he says the Republican deserves credit for trying to improve the state business climate. He contrasts that approach with former Gov. Jim Doyle and current Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, both Democrats.

“Unlike Doyle and Quinn, Gov. Walker has worked hard to create the platform where Wisconsin can be attractive to Fortune 50 companies like Amazon,” he says....

Amazon has been criticized for running sweatshop-like operations, but Jennings says the Kenosha development will be a state-of-the art, air-conditioned facility that will include sophisticated package handling equipment.
The quote in the post title refers to the Scott Walker slogan: "Wisconsin is open for business."

ADDED: Meanwhile, in Milwaukee: "Special Prosecutor Named In Investigation Of Possible Criminal Activity Surrounding Scott Walker Recall Election." More jobs... for lawyers.

Wisconsin boy has been wearing his Aaron Rodgers jersey every day for 3 years.

His father set off this effort at record-breaking by mentioning some boy who'd worn a Brett Favre jersey for 4 years. 

We're told the shirt is hand-washed every other day.

As long as we're talking about things that happened in 1983 — note the previous 2 posts — let me add that Aaron Rodgers was born in 1983. Amazing what some people in their 20s are able to achieve. He'll be 30 on December 2nd.

"To me the Beirut bombing started it all. The person they said was responsible was (Osama) Bin Laden's mentor, from what I've been told."

Said Kim Carlson, the sister of Jesse J. Ellison of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin, who died at the age of 19 in the bombing of the U.S. Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. The 30th anniversary of the bombing was Wednesday.

Today is the 30th anniversary of the invasion of Grenada — "the first major operation conducted by the U.S. military since the Vietnam War."

Do you remember the reason for Operation Urgent Fury? We had to save some medical students?

"An extremely drunken man who lost track of time called 911 to ask what day it was."

News from Flathead, Montana.

Protest kissing in Iraq — on the charred plinth of a vandalized sculpture of a man and woman kissing.

Kamaran Najm posted a photo on Facebook and...
"The first three hours it was mainly media outlets calling me. I had no idea that this was the first public kiss in Azadi park," he said.

Although the couple were protesting at the vandalism, which included an attack on the grave of famed Kurdish romantic poet Sherko Bekas, not everyone got the picture. Kurdistan's two major Islamic groups spoke out in condemnation, believing they had set out to offend Islamic sensibilities. "Everyone should be against the kiss. It's an effort to disorient Kurdish Muslim youths," Muhammad Hakim, of the Kurdistan Islamic Group, was quoted as saying by Kurdish online news site Bas News.
Everyone should be against the kiss.
The authorities seem to agree, with local media reporting that the regional prosecutor was pursuing a lawsuit against Najm for "behaving or performing an act out of the accepted social and cultural norms".

The news that Najm could be charged has led to copycat pictures on Facebook, but he says he has not had time to pay much attention to them. "I've been told couples in and outside Kurdistan have been taking pictures of themselves kissing and putting it on Facebook. I am told it is about 10 or 11 couples now," Najm said.
10 or 11... keep it up. You can build a new social and cultural norm. I suppose, legally, it's the "accepted social and cultural norm" at the time of the behavior that's allegedly "out of the accepted social and cultural norms."

"The Cities Creating The Most Middle-Class Jobs."

The top 4 are in Texas.

"Germany and France demand talks with US over NSA spying revelations."

"The revelations are threatening to create a major rift between the US and its European allies," says the Guardian.
Despite US efforts to placate Angela Merkel – including a phonecall made by the US president, Barack Obama, on Wednesday – she has refused to conceal her anger over the issue. "We need trust among allies and partners," Merkel told reporters in Brussels on Thursday. "Such trust now has to be built anew... It's become clear that for the future, something must change – and significantly."...

The latest confidential memo provided by [Edward] Snowden reveals... that one unnamed US official handed over 200 numbers, including those of the 35 world leaders, none of whom is named. These were immediately "tasked" for monitoring by the NSA.

After Merkel's allegations became public, the White House press secretary, Jay Carney, issued a statement that said the US "is not monitoring and will not monitor" the German chancellor's communications. But that failed to quell the row, as officials in Berlin quickly pointed out that the US did not deny monitoring her phone in the past.

October 24, 2013

"University of Colorado Boulder tells students to avoid costumes including cowboys, indians, white trash or anything potentially deemed offensive."

Reports the U.K. Telegraph. It's the U.K., so maybe something's lost in the translation. I see they don't capitalize "indians." (I'm offended!)

But what's offensive about cowboys?
A university spokesman called cowboy costumes a "crude stereotype."
Okay, I'll just go as a university spokesman.

ADDED: Here's a picture of me, back in the 1950s, before I learned about the horrors of crude stereotypes:

scrapbook 5_0017

It snowed here yesterday.

I was in class, and I'm not sure if it wasn't just rain in town, but further out in the country where Meade was, it looked like this:

"The Wisconsin Supreme Court raised the prospect Wednesday of striking down part — but not all — of a law that gives same-sex couples some of the rights of those who are married."

At yesterday's oral argument.
... Austin Nimocks, an attorney for the plaintiffs, argued domestic partnerships mirror marriages and thus aren't allowed under a 2006 amendment to the state constitution that bans gay marriage and any "legal status identical or substantially similar to marriage."....

Justice Patience Roggensack noted it is rare for the court to strike down a statute in its entirety, rather than just the parts that violate the constitution. That prompted a discussion about whether the court could take out the elements of the registry law that require people to be of the same sex and not closely related.

If the court were to go that route, gays could remain in domestic partnerships, but heterosexual couples would now get the chance to form them. Family members could also enter into them, such as a woman who took care of her sick grandmother.
I haven't seen the transcript of the argument, and I can't tell if this was merely a device to open up the analysis or a real option under consideration, but it strikes me as profoundly anti-democratic for judges to rewrite a statute like that. It would be an interesting legislative innovation to allow domestic partnerships for any 2 co-habiting individuals who would like access to government benefits as a legally recognized couple. But that ought to be something the people have had some chance to contemplate and about which to have some representation in the legislature.

I support same-sex marriage and I opposed that 2006 amendment to the state constitution, but the amendment is what it is, and it seems as though the court is confronted with a statute that probably violates that constitutional amendment. I understand the urge to resist that unpleasant conclusion, but statutory and constitutional texts need to be taken seriously.

The people who oppose same-sex marriage are cynical enough already about whether texts are interpreted fairly and whether majoritarian preferences count against elite opinion anymore.

"What Is Mitt Romney Hiding in His New House's Hidden Room?"

"You can see the room in the blueprint at right. It's a little over 50 square feet, twice as long as it is wide. The document marks where the 'hidden door' will be built in to shelving in the adjacent study. It's next to the 'powder room' and the 'coat room," which many people would call a 'bathroom' and 'closet.'..."



Hey, you. You got something to say?

Politico's Todd Purdum goes on an inane rant against a statement that was apparently never made...

... but which would have been so terrible if it had. 

Purdum — referencing the TV show "The West Wing" — informs us that "the White House is a pretty awesome place." So it would really be immensely nervy if someone were to say something contemptuous to the President of the United States in the White House.
[T]he alleged dis words are so personal, so passionate, so disaffected-high-school-sweetheart in tone — “I cannot even stand to look at you” — that it’s hard to imagine any grown man saying them to another — much less to the president. 
Know what's true of many things that are hard to imagine? The way they don't happen.

"The comments by 'titus' on this post are offensive but important."

Says a commenter on a Facebook post that links to that post of mine about the gendered complexities of makeup.

I'm just guessing that longtime readers of the comments section on my blog would be amused to see someone noticing Titus for the first time and pronouncing him offensive but important.

I was going to invite readers to attempt to say something offensive but important, but immediately realized that was not a good idea. You need offensive + important + ??? + !!! to = Titus. And until you figure out the ??? and the !!!, the offensive + important formula is incomplete.

"This Guy’s Wife Got Cancer, So He Did Something Unforgettable. The Last 3 Photos Destroyed Me."

Please don't Google that line and go to the website where it is written. It's one of those places that tries to pick up something that is or could be viral and to capture the traffic that really ought to go to the place that originated the material. In this case, the website copies a whole series of photographs and statement from the photographer's blog and doesn't even link to that blog.
From Angelo’s blog: “I remember the exact moment…Jen’s voice and the numb feeling that enveloped me. That feeling has never left. I’ll also never forget how we looked into each other’s eyes and held each other’s hands. ‘We are together, we’ll be ok.’”
That appears, without a link! You may think I've got my priorities mixed up, getting mad about bad etiquette, when there's cancer — cancer!! — in this world. I disagree. I'm no fan of cancer, but cancer doesn't have a mind capable of conceiving of a self-serving plan to do its damage. And scolding cancer isn't going to change anything. Expressing outrage at poor human behavior is constructive. So is taking photographs and blogging about a painful and terribly sad loss.

The photographer is Angelo Merendino. Here's his website. Here's the blog.

"Health Care Law Fails to Lower Prices for Rural Areas."

A NYT headline.
While competition is intense in many populous regions, rural areas and small towns have far fewer carriers offering plans in the law’s online exchanges. 
I'm impressed at the investigative reporting here. They got into the online exchanges and got to the point where they could find out what's on offer in many places? Apparently. But some of the analysis is based on a list from the Department of Health and Human Services showing which insurance companies are serving various counties. 58% of the counties have 2 or only 1 company offering insurance.
The analysis suggests that the ambitions of the Affordable Care Act to increase competition have unfolded unevenly, at least in the early going, and have not addressed many of the factors that contribute to high prices. Insurance companies are reluctant to enter challenging new markets, experts say, because medical costs are high, dominant insurers are difficult to unseat, and powerful hospital systems resist efforts to lower rates.
This feels like a foundation for the argument that markets don't work and therefore a fully government-run health care program is needed.
It is unclear how the online marketplaces might evolve over time. Many large insurers are closely watching what happens in the first year to decide whether to more aggressively pursue new markets. In the meantime, problems with the healthcare.gov Web site are making it harder for them to know whether the exchanges’ slow start is the result of technical difficulties or more serious underlying problems, such as a lack of consumer demand, that would discourage them from entering.
This seems to set up an argument that we never got to see what private companies would do in the marketplace, since the promised marketplace was never there in a form where it could be observed and intelligently responded to.

(There's much more in the linked article.)

Who are the "navigators"? Who stepped up to do this job, "helping" people who call for help with a hopeless but mandatory website?

Would you like that job? Probably not. Imagine, if you will, a person who does want that job. Someone desperate for a job, any job? Someone who wants a sitdown job that doesn't seem to involve any real work? Some naif who sees it as a way to help people? Some guy whose real job is a money-making scheme of his own? Some asshole who gets off on inflicting pain on fretful folk who simply must get through a door it looks as though he's got authority to open?

October 23, 2013


Riley, Zeus

It's hard for some.


Easy for others.

Ted Cruz's wife Heidi is like him in "intensity — and they’re both extremely bright" but: “Nothing in her background remotely approached Ted’s Scalia-like conservatism."

A quote from one of Heidi Cruz's academic mentors in a NYT article titled "A Wife Committed to Cruz’s Ideals, but a Study in Contrasts to Him."

"Geezers Love the World Series and Threaten Baseball."

Headline at Bloomberg for an article about how the audience for the World Series skews old. The median age is 53.4. Me and Meade — we exceed that median, and we will be watching and hence threatening baseball.

Feel free to hang out in the comments here during tonight's game. And do this poll:

Who are you rooting for?
pollcode.com free polls 

Quelling an obscene chant by threatening to take away UW football's greatest tradition: the "Jump Around."

A proposal here at UW-Madison:
If the offending chant is heard at Camp Randall Stadium before the fourth quarter, then "Jump Around" won’t be played.

If, predictably, the profanities come to life after "Jump Around" is played, then one of the most iconic celebrations in all of college football goes away for the next game — or games.
A description of the chant and the "Jump Around" here. Reasons why this threat would not work:

1. Authorities telling a big group of free citizens what not to say is pretty much forcing them to say it.

2. You'd be punishing everyone in the stadium — including a lot of alumni who come to town for the games — for the yelling in the student subgroup.

3. You can only threaten not to play "Jump Around" over the stadium loudspeakers, but everyone there knows when the song is supposed to play, and if it didn't play, surely they'd sing it. There would be smart phones everywhere to play the song and boost the singing, making it more boisterous than ever.

4. You ought to be thankful you've got students who do yell. What if they didn't?

ADDED: From the scoreboard, October 2011:

At the Dogs-Are-Human Café...


... Oh! The humanity!

"In December 2007, candidate Obama was asked: "If you could... enact one piece of legislation — one thing, that’s all you’re going to get through in your presidency — what would it be?"

It was a question asked by one of 6 New Hampshire independents meeting with Senator Obama at the Loaf and Ladle restaurant, and "it seemed to stump him for a moment." What was the answer?

"What is this feeling that I have inside? It makes me feel gloomy..."

Lena D is out to "reduce shame and embarrassment." Meade laughed much more than I did, and I especially liked the part where the guys in the locker room join the catchy refrain: "It's my PEER-eee-udd..."

The best Halloween costume of all time is in Madison, Wisconsin, on Tottie, the pug.

Says Buzzfeed.

Instructions on how to make it at the link. You need a pug and an old Barbie doll...

"A motorcyclist who authorities say was driving his bike at speeds that reached 140 mph told central Illinois police he was rushing because he needed to use the bathroom."


IN THE COMMENTS: Dubiousness. From Strelnikov:
An obvious lie. Any man knows he can pull over and pee anywhere along the road. What kind of biker worries about peeing outdoors?
And from DanTheMan:
Back when I was a police officer, I heard this one a lot. It's part of the top 3 excuses:

1) Stuck gas pedal
2) Cruise control malfunction
3) Urgent bathroom emergency

If you gave me one of those excuses, you generally guaranteed yourself a citation.

"As the daughter of a successful lawyer, Dickinson would have had ample access to quality paper..."

"... leading some scholars to argue that later in her life she was deliberately experimenting with ways of presenting poetry beyond the conventions of the printed page."

"If you allow it for Mr. Davis, you allow it for Ms. Adams, Mr. Jones and everyone else."

So said the Stevenson, Alabama city attorney "adding that this was the most protracted litigation in the city since a case a few years ago involving something about pigs."

From a long NYT article about a man who buried his wife in his front yard.

"We spent so much damn time navel gazing, and that’s the tragedy of it" — it, being Syria.

A former senior White House official, quoted in a NYT piece navel-gazingly titled "Obama’s Uncertain Path Amid Syria Bloodshed."

This article marks the return to the topic of Syria, which had dropped out of public consciousness, like a lot of other things that are waiting to be rotated back in.

The article at the link is long and detailed. You should read the whole thing. Watch for Hillary Rodham Clinton arguing for the United States to get "skin in the game" and Samantha Power saying "if you had met the rebels as frequently as I have, you would be as passionate as I am." Obama, by contrast, comes across as brooding and indecisive.

IN THE COMMENTS: MadisonMan said:
Obama's Uncertain Path Amid Benghazi Attack

Obama's Uncertain Path Amid IRS Scandal

I said:
Yeah... "uncertain path amid"... how hard did they need to think to come up with that?

It's such an all-purpose excuse for the President's failures. And so weird. "Path Amid Bloodshed"... that's one of these concrete images that don't really look right in the mind's eye. "Path" is metaphor, but what is a "path amid bloodshed"? We're asked to picture him — what? — walking around pools of blood?

"Amid" suggests standing still and being confused. "Path" suggests he's going somewhere.

The word "path" seems to give too much credit.

The word "amid" seems to suggest that he's not responsible for anything.
The NYT's uncertain path amid presidential failure.

"Supreme Court to Decide Whether Corporations Can Pray."

Snarky headline at the Bill Moyers website on an article about the pending Supreme Court case dealing with whether religious persons who have set up their business using the corporate form can be compelled by the government to provide their employees with health insurance that covers drugs that they believe murder human beings.

The case isn't about praying. It's about money and what it means to be compelled to contribute your money to something that you sincerely believe God requires you to fight to the end. I think it's close to the same problem that individuals face when they pay their taxes and believe that something the government is using the money for is deeply wrong. For example: war.

But the Bill Moyers operation thinks mocking religious people is a good move. I say it's prime jackassery... except to the extent that it's old-school, left-wing hatred of corporations. Let's see how they feel if Hobby Lobby loses its case — as I think it will — and its owners dissolve the entire operation to maintain religious purity — would they? — and throw 13,000 employees out of work. I suspect the the Bill Moyers folk would double down on their contempt for religion.

Your pre-dawn Meade dog.

Here's that video Meade was editing in the next room when I called out that question last night about the first automobile. There are no cars in this video, only dogs, lots of dogs, filmed by Meade yesterday at the Capital Springs dog park. Meade gets down to the dog's-eye level and, in the editing — with music licensed via iMovie — opens the portal to Dog World:

You see what it's like in there?

October 22, 2013

"A White House national security official was fired last week after being caught as the mystery Tweeter who has been tormenting the foreign policy community..."

"... with insulting comments and revealing internal Obama administration information for over two years."

2 years!

The Daily Beast preserved the tweets of Jofi Joseph, AKA natsecwonk, which included crap like:
“I'm a fan of Obama, but his continuing reliance and dependence upon a vacuous cipher like Valerie Jarrett concerns me.”

“Was Huma Abedin wearing beer goggles the night she met Anthony Wiener? Almost as bad a pairing as Samantha Powers and Cass Sunstein ...”

“So when will someone do us the favor of getting rid of Sarah Palin and the rest of her white trash family? What utter useless garbage....” 
2 years! What does this say about national security?

(I know. It's Samantha Power (not Powers) and Anthony Weiner (not Wiener).)

Heads and tails.



"When we were an agrarian nation, all cars were trucks..."

"... because that’s what you needed on the farm."

That's an analogy from Steve Jobs, quoted in a NYT article about the newest iteration of the iPad. Is it really true that the earliest cars were truck-like? I didn't believe that. I Google. I get to Wikipedia. I'm amazed and call out this question to Meade (who is editing dog video in the next room): "When do you think the earliest thing that could be called a car — an automobile — was?" He says 1910, then re-guesses 1890. I say: "1672."

Jay Carney walks out on a black female reporter who's asking a polite question about the Obamacare website.

"White House spokesman Jay Carney today abruptly walked out of the briefing room after struggling to answer questions related to Obamacare."

"Farrah Fawcett called and said she was on her way down to Union Square, and she arrived in half an hour with Ryan O’Neal."

"They looked at her portrait and I didn’t think Farrah liked it, but then she studied them for about half an hour and finally said she loved it. I had Bob come down because I thought he could talk them into doing a cover, and she said she would. And she looked pretty, her hair was all washed, and she looked very very nice. She’s sweet. So then they left and I stayed alone with Rupert. Dropped him off (cab $ 4). Then glued myself together because I was invited to Prince Abudi’s dinner for Marion Javits."

From "The Andy Warhol Diaries," which I downloaded today after writing about that Andy Warhol painting of Farrah Fawcett. I wanted to be able to search the text — for Farrah Fawcett and, as time goes on, other celebrities. And I love Andy's writing style. Then glued myself together, indeed.

At the Tongue's-Out Café...

Josie, Eli and Della

... lap up what's new.

"It’s just wrong that men look just fine the way they are, but we women are encouraged to believe we don’t look good enough unless we 'fix' our faces."

Writes Roz Warren in her anti-makeup manifesto in the NYT, where the first commenter plumps her up with "You go girl!"

Which highlights my point: Women can use makeup OR not use makeup and people think it's just fine. Women are encouraged to believe we can be whatever we want, either glammed up beyond recognition or utterly fresh-faced or anywhere in between. It's true that the expression "fix my face" originated with women — women with a sense of humor, by the way. (And it wasn't just "fix my face," it was also "put on my face," as if — oh, horror, from the viewpoint of a Women's Studies major! — a woman without makeup is faceless!!!)

But the truth is, the woman could and still can fix her face as much as she wants or not at all, and most of the time it only takes a couple minutes and those who do more are having fun with it.

It is men who are deprived of the option to tinker with what they've got naturally. The quote I put in the title would make more sense rewritten as: It’s just wrong that women look just fine whatever they choose to do, but men are encouraged to believe they look however they look and they're not allowed to fix their faces.

Not that there aren't big brands like Marc Jacobs attempting to liberate men from their prison of fresh-facedness: "There's the Remedy concealer that has a really lovely palladium tip that really feels nice and cool to your undereye area, and God knows I can always use a bit of Remedy Concealer myself... Then there's the brow tamer which has a lovely soft application wand and the formula itself is soft and smooth feeling rather than sticky and gooey or hard... there's the Liplock which has a nice minty fresh taste. It's very important to have a nice moist lip so you're always ready to kiss and make out with that right person."

Yeah, you laughed at him? See how oppression weighs on the male?

Ryan O’Neal, fighting for an Andy Warhol painting that Farrah Fawcett left to the University of Texas...

... submits to a deposition and has to admit that Farrah caught him in bed with another woman in the bedroom the couple shared, which explains her motivation to give the painting to Texas. But, he says, she did not take the painting when she left — because wouldn't you grab a painting worth millions if you were running out in a rage — as you might rip your treasured Farrah Fawcett poster of the wall — if it was yours? Answer: No. Moving an expensive painting is a big deal.

And in fact, a year later, the painting was moved to Fawcett's place. How does O'Neal explain that? He says it was sent away "for safe keeping because his new girlfriend did not like having the image of Farrah on the wall 'staring down at her' all the time."

If you're already out of sympathy with O'Neal, check out the photo at the link of him leaning toward a torso mannequin wearing what appears to be Farrah's iconic orange bathing suit, while, in the background the dead actress smiles in her eternally popular poster. The less-famous image of Farrah is this:

That's the Warhol that was hanging over the couple's bed. Imagine cheating on her under that. Imagine having sex with the man who got off having sex with you under that picture of her.

The picture, which Farrah left to her old school, had been missing but was found because O'Neal did a reality show in 2011, in which it could be seen hanging on the wall. At the time O'Neal murmured about how Farrah "permeated my mind and my being" and "still does" and "The things that are nice in my house are the things that she got me."



We were never really #1.

On the Law Prof Blog Traffic Rankings, Paul Caron has figured out a way to get Instapundit back in (by using Google Analytics numbers in addition to Site Meter), so I'm down to #2 this time around, which was always understood to be the case.

"Highlights of Diversity Forum 2013: Day 1."

Highlights of the highlights:

1. UCLA Professor Sylvia Hurtado said — as paraphrased by the UW student newspaper — that universities "must place student identities at the center of diversity initiatives... revise their practices to accommodate students’ various identities, and employ more advisors and caseworkers whenever possible."

2.  Columbia University Professor Donald Wing Sue talked about "microaggressions" (which was a topic on this blog a few days ago here).  Sue said: "When you are unaware of what the dynamics are and you do not have a critical race consciousness, you can not facilitate a dialogue."

3. UW Diversity Planning Committee seeks to be "a resource for the state" and also to have "the people of the state be a resource for us."

4. How to get more "underrepresented students" to go into STEM fields? There are FIGs (First-Year Interest Groups) and Mathology Boot Camp and BioHouse and Bio-Commons.

5. Vice Chancellor Darrell Bazzell said: "If we are truly to be serious about diversity and creating a diverse environment... Then we must have a diversity plan.”

Obama's "There’s no sugarcoating it" was — we now know —  a sugarcoating.

WaPo reports:
Days before the launch of President Obama’s online health ­insurance marketplace, government officials and contractors tested a key part of the Web site to see whether it could handle tens of thousands of consumers at the same time. It crashed after a simulation in which just a few hundred people tried to log on simultaneously.

Despite the failed test, federal health officials plowed ahead.
What else have they plowed ahead even though they knew it wouldn't work?

Let's remember this particular delusion: that a machine already in motion is easier to fix than one that you keep on the ground until you know it works (or at least until you don't know that it doesn't work!).

Yesterday, Obama said: "There’s no sugarcoating it: The Web site is too slow; people have been getting stuck during the application process."

He was sugarcoating when he said that. "There’s no sugarcoating it" was — we now see — manifestly a lie in the form of the classic lie: "I am not a liar."

"Breaking Bad – Lingering Questions."

I'm linking to this because after writing that last post, I want to follow Boring as Heck. There, I added it to my blogroll. I don't know if I've ever done that based on reading only one post, but I can't read this "Breaking Bad" post. Not just yet. After bitching about and resisting nudging to watch the show, especially in the week leading up to the finale, I started watching one episode at a time.

I'd captured the first 20 or so episodes when AMC was running the whole series, in order, and I have a slight tendency to sit down at a certain point in the evening with the feeling that it's time to consume about an hour of television. I used to watch "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report," but the political topics of the day — insurance and budgets — have a dreariness that is not puffed into an amusing form by derision and head-slapping. I know comedy should hurt. I like edge.

But it's such a dull edge, and perhaps some fictional explosions and existential ennui would better enliven my hour in the comfy chair. So I've been dipping into the accumulated episodes of "Breaking Bad." I've gotten far enough that I wish I hadn't switched off its recording after 22. There's not endless space in that DVR box, and we had about 100 post-season baseball games to keep track of before the World Series even begins, and then there are all those football games. Meade would watch these things live, and I wouldn't watch them at all, but put us together and the DVR is needed to control the flow of commercials, which I can't face with passivity. Some of them — I'm talking to you, "Jeremy" — bother me even in fast-forward.

So, with the nudging to watch it gone, I'm quietly, slowly consuming "Breaking Bad." I'll eventually reach then end, where "Lingering Questions" will be relevant to my slowly-catching-up experience. But I wanted to pin down that Boring as Heck post and thought it might matter to those of you who are beyond spoiler alerts.

"My favorite scientist? No question, it’s Tesla. Tesla is for the win. Simple as that, my man."

"He’s win and Edison is fail. If Edison was around today, I’d kick him in the dick. I hate Thomas Edison and love Tesla because of some insanely freaking epic webcomics I’ve read, where he’s riding a dinosaur and just doing altogether random shit. Tesla much? He’s epic as hell, which, by the way, is where Edison is. Or he would be, if hell was a real place, which it’s not. That reminds me, you see that image macro about how stupid those failshit Christians are? Bacon for the win...."

Getting sharp and sophisticated from the internet, as dramatized by Boring as Heck.

Via Metafilter, where the comments start out with the dumbness of people who didn't read it, which is another internet thing that's fucking awesome, especially when someone finally nudges them that it's satire and then that guy gets 13 "favorites."

We're all going to be just fine....

(Adding tags to this post, I discover that I have at "Tesla" tag but no "Edison" tag, because that's what the internet does to you. And, in fact, I have a "bacon" tag.)

David Sedaris writes about the suicide of his 50-year-old sister.

He seems to have practically no information about why she did it, and the story is very much about the diminishment of the (still large) family. The sister, Tiffany, had been estranged from the rest for years. (She left a will: "In it, she decreed that we, her family, could not have her body or attend her memorial service.") So this is about the permanent loss of someone who really already wasn't there.
Each of us had pulled away from the family at some point in our lives—we’d had to in order to forge our own identities, to go from being a Sedaris to being our own specific Sedaris. Tiffany, though, stayed away....

“Why do you think she did it?”...  How could anyone purposefully leave us, us, of all people? This is how I thought of it, for though I’ve often lost faith in myself, I’ve never lost it in my family, in my certainty that we are fundamentally better than everyone else. It’s an archaic belief, one that I haven’t seriously reconsidered since my late teens, but still I hold it. Ours is the only club I’d ever wanted to be a member of, so I couldn’t imagine quitting. Backing off for a year or two was understandable, but to want out so badly that you’d take your own life?

“I don’t know that it had anything to do with us,” my father said. But how could it have not? Doesn’t the blood of every suicide splash back on our faces?
I'm impressed by Sedaris's willingness to go ahead and say — in so many words — how could you do this to me? I'd like to think that in some circumstances, it could help the would-be suicide to see things from a different point of view. This is about my family... my ancient tribe.

October 21, 2013

"Facebook is allowing videos showing people being decapitated to be posted and shared on its site once again."

"The social network had placed a temporary ban on the material in May following complaints that the clips could cause long-term psychological damage."
The US firm now believes its users should be free to watch and condemn, but not celebrate, such videos.
How are they controlling how people react to what they see?
Facebook's terms and conditions now state that it will remove photos or videos that "glorify violence" in addition to other banned material, including a woman's "fully exposed breast."

"Family at war with cemetery over 6ft 7,000lb SpongeBob SquarePants headstones they had made for soldier daughter 'murdered by her boyfriend' on Valentine's Day."

The cemetery says it must "balance the needs of families who have just suffered a loss with the thousands of families who have entrusted us in the past" and offers to pay for "a solution...that will properly memorialize Kimberly, within the context of Spring Grove’s historic landscape and guidelines."

But the family is fighting for the garish cartoon sculptures. The murdered woman's sister says: "I thought it was the greatest thing in the cemetery. I even told the people there that I think this is the best monument I’ve ever seen. It’s the best headstone in the cemetery and they all agreed. It came out really nice."

Yes, SpongeBob seems inappropriate in a cemetery, but who is to say what characters belong? If statues of angels are permitted, someone might be offended by angels. We all have our different religions and religion-like beliefs and spiritual supports. Who's to deny this family the solace they find in SpongeBob?

(Other than Nickelodeon, which owns the trademark.)

"Law reviews are not really meant to be read."

Writes Adam Liptak at the meant-to-be-read New York Times:
They mostly exist as a way for law schools to evaluate law professors for promotion and tenure, based partly on what they have to say and partly on their success in placing articles in prestigious law reviews. The judge, lawyer or ordinary reader looking for accessible and timely accounts or critiques of legal developments is much better off turning to the many excellent law blogs.
Well, that should get some links from blogs to the NYT, which needs traffic and isn't going to get much from law reviews. The on-line game is so much more energetic and invigorating than the tedious slog to write the unreadable stuff that can be placed — placed, like an unread book is placed on a shelf — somewhere prestigious.

Ever stop in the middle of trying to read a law review article and say to yourself: What am I reading? What this is is a line on somebody else's resume. It wasn't meant to be read. It was meant to be a title with a citation that would be a line on someone else's resume.

5 dumb things about CNN's "5 things that have happened since Obamacare launched."

1. From the intro — not one of the "5 things" — we're told: "People who have health insurance through their employer, or through Medicare or Medicaid, can continue to get it that way." So, that's the first dumb thing: CNN doesn't think it's a "thing that has happened" that many people have lost what they had before.

2. Two of CNN's 5 things are: "1. Sign up on Healthcare.gov hasn't been easy" and "2. State sites seemed to fare better." Seemed. What has happened is that something seems to be doing better than the thing that's going terribly. I guess seeming is a kind of happening. But what is this seeming even based on? "The Department of Health and Human Services says it won't release enrollment figures before November, but CNN "canvassed" 14 states and the District of Columbia and — "combining what states report as 'enrolled,' and what they're calling 'almost enrolled'" — got to a total of 257,000 people. 134,000 of that total came from whomever they got on the phone in New York. CNN notes problems in Hawaii and California. Thus, CNN accomplishes a halfhearted transmission of the meme that the state exchanges are doing well.

3. "3. Overall enrollment numbers are unclear." So, CNN is revealing that what has happened is that we can't see what is happening.

4. "4. The cost of care has become more clear." This item is about the cost of insurance, not the cost of care.

5. Republicans!!! Needing a 5th item — because a list of 5 things seems better than a list of 4 things — CNN collects a bunch of bad-sounding things that Republicans did. Aren't Democrats ever a thing that happens?

"But the problem Obama now faces is one familiar to many Presidents before him: a need to demonstrate basic competency."

First sentence of the last paragraph of a new Time magazine article titled "No More Apologies: Why Obama Has to Get Mad About His Broken Obamacare Websites."

Most ludicrous word in that sentence: "now."

(Why now? Why not earlier? Like before we elected him or at least back when he let the Democratic majority push through a complicated reform that they couldn't even comprehend let alone persuade the American people we should want?)

Most ludicrous word in the article headline: "Broken."

(Things that were never in working order cannot be broken. It's like saying a rock has "fallen asleep" or a lead balloon has "landed.")

"The seriously rich wrestle with issues that most of us never have to consider."

"Problems such as..."
... shall I customise my Learjet so that I can stand upright in it? How can I make it to number one on the rich list? Do I own too many Basquiats and Koonses? Should I go public on my $2bn Gates Foundation donation?

While many deliberate over these conundrums, one overriding issue surpasses all the others: where should I stash my cash and, therefore, where should I live?

"Therapeutic cuddling is cuddling designed as a non-sexual way to stimulate oxytocin, the love hormone, which makes you feel safe and connected to others."

"These people are really lonely... There's a lot of need for touch," said the proprietor of Madison's Snuggle House, Matthew Hurtado. The City of Madison seems to be dragging its heels, fretting over the possibility of prostitution, and the place has had to delay opening.

According to Hurtado, there are 300 clients waiting for cuddling sessions, and that if the Madison sugglery is like NY's Snuggery, the clients are likely to be old people who — as the article paraphrases it — have "lost their spouses."

Lost their spouses? That sounds like carelessness. You know how old people are. Yes, they are old, so their spouses are more likely to die than the spouses of younger folk. But it's not the use of loss for death that bothers me. It's "spouse." What's the sex balance in that New York clientele? Are we talking about women and men or mostly (or nearly all or all) men?

Anyway, I note that "The Snuggle House occupies former law offices." Make a list of ways in which snuggling is not like lawyering and, next to it, a list of ways in which they are the same. On which list do you put "raises fear of prostitution"?

ADDED: Comment at the link: "I just know I'm going to get Snuggle House and Waffle House mixed up."

"Putting the scion in unconscionable."

Is there a name for that form of joke, where you perceive a word inside another word?

The particular observation in the post title was made by Meade, reading about the son of a widow who hoped for succession rights to a rent-stabilized apartment.

ADDED: TV Tropes has a page titled "You Put the X in XY," which includes examples that are mostly really dumb, like "You put the itch in bitch."

The Kindle search tool is good (too good) at exposing these words within words because its search tool won't let you restrict the search to an actual word. For example, you'll have a hell of a time looking for a word like "hat," which appears in every "what" and "that." But I've made some delightful discoveries by accident this way.

"This is not what bankruptcy is about.... What’s next? Are they going to start going after food stamps?"

Argues a lawyer for a woman who filed for bankruptcy with $23,000 in debt, whose landlord — not among the creditors — stepped forward with an offer to buy out her rent-stabilized lease for an amount equal to her debt. It's worth it to the landlord because, under NYC's rent stabilization law she pays only $703 a month for a place that would go for thousands in the current market. She's 79 and has lived there for 50 years.

October 20, 2013

At the Zeus and Wrigley Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

Beautiful libraries.

Photos here.

And here's the book.

"How to tell if your dog is involved in..."

"... a sex scandal."

"Conservatives need to stop playing by the rules set by the left. With creativity and a little innovation, we can redefine the debate on our terms."

Writes Scott Walker, in his new book, which, we are told, criticizes Mitt Romney.
Walker writes that Republicans in 2012 didn't run on their principles, didn't criticize Obama enough and did a "lousy job of presenting a positive vision of free market solutions to our nation's problems in a way that is relevant to people's lives."
The book — "Unintimidated" — won't be out for another month, but you can pre-order it here.

"To those who reported me, to those who are disgusted by my body, to those who commented 'horrible' or 'disgusting' on an image of ME..."

"... I want you to thoughtfully dissect your own reaction to these things, please think about WHY you felt this way, WHY this image was so shocking, WHY you have no tolerance for it."

"If [HealthCare.gov] doesn’t work soon, even liberals concede that the mandate would have to be delayed..."

"... because you can’t very well fine people for failing to buy a product they can’t access," writes Ross Douthat in the NYT.
And that combination — a hard-to-navigate online portal and no penalty for staying uninsured — could effectively discourage all but the most desperate customers from shopping, which in turn would create an unsustainably expensive insurance pool, driving prices up and driving people away, and potentially wrecking the entire individual insurance market in short order.
It's as if that was the plan. They must be kicking themselves about not being able to declare victory if that happens. They'll have to act all meek and apologetic as they roll in the alternative — single-payer health care (or something close to that).

If you're wondering what conservatives ought to do, Douthat says that "the conservative policy thinkers I know" are hoping the healthcare exchanges will work.

"Now that leading mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota have both vowed to add two Muslim holidays to the public school calendar..."

"... advocates for other religious and ethnic groups are clamoring for their days to be recognized too."
“I think the city has to recognize (Chinese New Year),” said [Assembly Speaker Sheldon] Silver, a Democrat whose district includes Chinatown in lower Manhattan. “We don’t want to take away from the learning days, but we have to adjust the calendar appropriately to include all of the major populations that we have.”
All the major populations... what about the minor populations?
[City Councilman Daniel Dromm] introduced a resolution in July to close school on the holy day of Diwali, a festival of lights celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains.

A spokesman for Lhota said he’d consider adding other holidays. De Blasio has said he supports adding the Chinese New Year, but his campaign wouldn’t comment on Diwali.
Where will it all end?

Imagine putting education first.

Soshoku danshi — "grass-eating men" — "a heterosexual man for whom relationships and sex are unimportant."

"The phenomenon emerged a few years ago with the airing of a Japanese manga-turned-TV show. The lead character in Otomen ('Girly Men') was a tall martial arts champion, the king of tough-guy cool. Secretly, he loved baking cakes, collecting 'pink sparkly things' and knitting clothes for his stuffed animals. To the tooth-sucking horror of Japan's corporate elders, the show struck a powerful chord with the generation they spawned."

This comes from the article "Why have young people in Japan stopped having sex?," which I linked to earlier today for some different purposes. I wanted to break this out separately. I may not be understanding the Japanese phenomenon accurately, but I'm interested in the way a television show can begin with a character who is supposed to be laughed at but who ends up inspiring some viewers, who legitimates and activates feelings that they have about themselves, and shows them new ways to behave, openly and without shame.

The example that occurs to me in American culture is Maynard G. Krebs, the best friend of the main character on the old Dobie Gillis show (which was on from 1959 to 1963). It was assumed that viewers would identify with Dobie. That's why he was the main character. He dressed and acted like a conventional teenaged boy of that time. He wanted girlfriends, and he had struggles with his parents and teachers, but he mostly tried to satisfy them even as he pursued his overarching goal: relationships with females.

The Maynard character wasn't supposed to call American teenagers into another way of living. Maynard (played by Bob Denver) was less good-looking, dressed grubbily, wore a goatee, was dumb about or uninterested in a lot of typical teenager things. He wasn't interested in girls. He rejected work and other conventions of middle class American life. His only interest was jazz, and he was — we were expected to understand — a beatnik. But we didn't fulfill the expectation that we would read this character as a clown. We got the idea: We could live in a new way.

Blah blah blah... we became hippies.

"You can make him waste his time not only in conversation he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him."

Advice from the devil in "The Screwtape Letters," which I found doing a search in my ebook, looking for boredom, which I did after this outburst of mine on the topic of boredom and the devil.

In "The Screwtape Letters," the devil tells of a man who arrives in hell and says: "I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked." He was damned not because of indulgence in "sweet sins" but because he spent his time "in a dreary flickering of the mind over it knows not what and knows not why, in the gratification of curiosities so feeble that the man is only half aware of them, in drumming of fingers and kicking of heels, in whistling tunes that he does not like, or in the long, dim labyrinth of reveries that have not even lust or ambition to give them a relish, but which, once chance association has started them, the creature is too weak and fuddled to shake off."

"Mailer thought that God exists but is not completely in control of his creation. He needs us to help him in his struggle with the Devil."

"How can we help? By acting instinctively and taking risks, on the understanding, as Mailer liked to say, that the best move lies close to the worst. It’s no good choosing a middle path. We have to risk being damned if we hope to save God, preserve our souls for reincarnation, and avoid cancer. The guiding power in all this business is the unconscious, which Mailer thought had 'an enormous teleological sense,' and which he named 'the navigator.'"

Another extract from that subscribers-only New Yorker article by Louis Menand about Norman Mailer. That jumped out at me in part because of the recent excitement over Justice Scalia's revelation that he believes in the Devil.

"I had some dim intuitive feeling that what was wrong with all journalism is that the reporter tended to be objective and that that was one of the great lies of all time."

Said Norman Mailer, quoted in this subscribers-only article by Louis Menand in The New Yorker. As Menand puts it, Mailer "made the way in which events are reported part of what is reported."

ADDED: You could say something similar about law: I had some dim intuitive feeling that what was wrong with all judicial opinions is that the judge tended to be objective and that that was one of the great lies of all time. But what then? No judge can switch to writing the judicial equivalent of New Journalism.

(20 years ago, I tried to write about this problem, here (PDF) — with some quotes from Mailer's "Executioner's Song.")

AND: From that link, above, on New Journalism, which goes to Wikipedia:
How and when the term New Journalism began to refer to a genre is not clear....

But wherever and whenever the term arose, there is evidence of some literary experimentation in the early 1960s, as when Norman Mailer broke away from fiction to write Superman Comes to the Supermarket. A report of John F. Kennedy's nomination that year, the piece established a precedent which Mailer would later build on in his 1968 convention coverage (Miami and the Siege of Chicago) and in other nonfiction as well.
And here, you can read the full text of "Superman Comes to the Supermarket" (at the Esquire website, Esquire having once been a monumentally important magazine). It begins:
For once let us try to think about a political convention without losing ourselves in housing projects of fact and issue. Politics has its virtues, all too many of them -- it would not rank with baseball as a topic of conversation if it did not satisfy a great many things -- but one can suspect that its secret appeal is close to nicotine. Smoking cigarettes insulates one from one’s life, one does not feel as much, often happily so, and politics quarantines one from history; most of the people who nourish themselves in the political life are in the game not to make history but to be diverted from the history which is being made.
Convenient sidebar chez Esquire: 

Are we doomed? Did you go to my link and read the sentences that followed those 3 mindbendingly interesting sentences that began "Superman Comes to the Supermarket," or did you go over to click through to the explanation of why Miss Johansson in the sexiest woman alive (or what a "brutally frank" 98-year-old woman might say about sex)?

What if young people stopped having sex?

Case study: Japan.

The term is sekkusu shinai shokogun — "celibacy syndrome."

Think it won't happen here or that if it did, it would be good?
Japan's under-40s appear to be losing interest in conventional relationships. Millions aren't even dating, and increasing numbers can't be bothered with sex. For their government, "celibacy syndrome" is part of a looming national catastrophe. Japan already has one of the world's lowest birth rates. Its population of 126 million, which has been shrinking for the past decade, is projected to plunge a further one-third by 2060....
[A relationships counselor has clients] who have taken social withdrawal to a pathological extreme. They are recovering hikikomori ("shut-ins" or recluses) taking the first steps to rejoining the outside world, otaku (geeks), and long-term parasaito shingurus (parasite singles) who have reached their mid-30s without managing to move out of home. (Of the estimated 13 million unmarried people in Japan who currently live with their parents, around three million are over the age of 35.) "A few people can't relate to the opposite sex physically or in any other way. They flinch if I touch them," she says. "Most are men, but I'm starting to see more women."
And these are the people who are seeking counseling. There must be far more who are not going to admit they have a problem.

Well, in fact, is it a problem to live the solitary life? The government — and society — may want you to pair up and form a family unit for the sake of the whole, but for the individual? Perhaps many people are discovering a great truth in living the life of solitude and simplicity.

(Consider: "Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do.")

Those who portray solitude as a problem may say the individual isn't having a fully dimensional, deeply satisfying life. But that might be the propaganda, and the truth could be that we need to exploit the individual to generate wealth and new human beings so that the group can thrive. If it is not actually a problem for the individual, then those who see and fear the disastrous dysfunction of the group are tasked not only to cure a nonproblem but also to convince individuals to perceive a nonproblem as a problem and to submit to the cure.

Walt Disney smoked 3 packs of cigarettes a day and died of lung cancer, but portraying Walt Disney in a movie, "can we show him smoking?"

"No way in hell," says Tom Hanks, citing "the current atmosphere of pressure in films."

The film is "Saving Mr Banks,"  about Disney acquiring the film rights to "Mary Poppins," which I guess is supposed to be interesting because of the merger of American and British culture, with Britain embodied in the author P.L. Travers, and Tom Hanks essentially wooing her. Allegorical claptrap... and that's assuming it's ambitiously conceived. It might just be exactly the story of Disney getting the rights to "Mary Poppins." Who cares? People might care if Hanks seems like Disney, if they remember what Disney seems like. Why isn't he smoking?!