February 8, 2014

At the Bookshelf Café...

... you can find the key.

"When somebody says, 'You should do something'..."

"... the subtext is: 'You're an idiot for not already doing it.' Nobody takes advice under those conditions."


If you're enjoying this blog, consider using the Althouse Portal into Amazon to do your shopping. It's a way to make a contribution to this blog (without playing more for whatever it is you need to buy).

If you're looking for suggestions, here's something I bought recently: hand warmers.

"The thing that's struck me about all the hype for the Sochi Games is that it seems to be completely centered around the host city and the spectacle of the Olympic Games..."

"... and not nearly as much as usual about the athletes competing. Is it because of the dearth of American medal hopes in figure skating, and that I don't care about any of the flippity-flip 'extreme' sports?"

We watched a little of the opening ceremony stuff last night. The intro historico-travelogue film montage — with a fleeting glimpse of a statue of Lenin — had me welling with involuntary and inexplicable feelings of love for Russia. I suspect a vast communist conspiracy. But then the athletes in matching parkas marching out behind flags seemed absurd. "How is this entertainment?" I cried out in pain. The announcer lady was burbling about the great degree of enthusiasm with which some athlete with few (if any) teammates was waving his country's flag and declaring that Great Britain's jackets were the best so far. "It might work all right for people who really love flags or who get into the fashion-show aspect of the jackets, like, oh, blue with red trim, excellent!" I said, but that was the next morning, after we shut off the TV and crashed for 8 hours.

ADDED: You can see the film montage here along with by Ed Driscoll's criticism of it as praising communism.  The text of the voiceover is:
The towering presence, the empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint. The revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. 
I don't hear praise there, but the refraining from criticism, excusable as the etiquette of a guest. To call something a "pivotal experiment" is not to say that it was a good idea or that it produced a good result. It's certainly accurate to call it an experiment and pivotal. And look at the next line:
But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures. 
This asks use to turn away from the usual thoughts about politics and look at the people and their "passion."
As a more reliable right to their collective heart. 
I'm not sure the word there is "right," but if not, what is it? "Relic"? It's very emotive semi-gibberish, but this reinforces the idea that it is the Russian people we ought to think about now. Admittedly, "collective" sounds commie.
What they build in aspirations lifted by imagination. What they craft, through the wonder of every last detail. How magical the fusion of sound and movement can be. How much a glass of distilled perfection and an overflowing table can matter. 
This part bordered on capitalistic — all the great things Russians have made. (And all the vodka they drink.)
Discover the Russian people through these indelible signatures. Discover what we share with them through the games that open here tonight.
This is mostly a softly fuzzy invitation to think of the host country as its people, even as the Olympics invite us to think of the athletes from the different countries as the individuals they are. Let's concentrate on what we share, rather than where governments disagree. Feel the love. As noted in my original post, this minute-long click really worked on me at an emotional level, despite my intellectual perception of bullshit, inanity, sentimentality, and subliminal communist propaganda.

"Competitiveness about 'I know the Internet better than you do,' is really out of date."

"Nobody 'knows the Internet' well enough to count anymore. Maybe a decade ago, but even then there was more than anyone could digest."

Says Instapundit, linking to me, which he's been doing since a decade ago, and I know the internet well enough to know it's nice to get an Instapundit link, and it wasn't me that was getting competitive in the "I know the Internet better than you do" mode. I was quoting Susan Orlean, nattering inanely about keeping up with internet things like @Horse_ebooks and "This Is My Milwaukee."

ADDED: Even more so than in the nonvirtual world, we all go where we want, and I want to be here, after I've gone out following my whims and predelictions, showing you what I've found and nattering, possibly not always inanely, with the lucky consequence that you've chosen to browse here.

Out of 25 U.S. Presidents, I am most like... Barack Obama.

Compared to the general population, this test says I — like Barack Obama — am:
Above average on Extroversion, indicating that you are somewhere in between a pure extrovert and a pure introvert - an "ambivert."
Above average on Openness, indicating that you are very impatient with the way things are and always on the look for the new, the untested, and the untried.
Average on Agreeableness, indicating that you alternate between being tenderhearted in some situations and tough-minded in others.
High on Conscientiousness, indicating that you are focused when it comes to goals and deadlines and like to complete your goals and tasks before starting new ones.
Average on Neuroticism, indicating that you respond adequately to changes in your environment and feel some measure of stress under pressure without letting it get to you.
Professor Yin took it and ended up being most like Dwight Eisenhower.

ADDED: After Meade took the test and came up as Barack Obama too, I formed the belief that the point of this test was to promote Barack Obama, who's so very very normal. He's just like me and the same as you. ALSO: The overeagerness of this test to tell us that we're like Barack Obama is shown by the fact that Meade and I were not the same on 4 of the 5 elements. He was average on extroversion (where I was above average), below average on openness (where I was above average), average on conscientiousness (where I was high), and low on neuroticism (where I was average). The only thing were the same on was agreeableness, where we were both average. I call bullshit on the test (and palpable bitchery on myself).

AND: A funny line from Meade's results page: "Amazingly, your personality is simply too smooth and well-rounded for Dr. Neiman's study to be able to say anything about you." To which I add: Unamazingly, Dr. Neiman's study is simply too smoothed out and dumbed down to be able to say anything about about anybody. I know: More palpable bitchery from Althouse. Which, I'd say, makes me most like… oh… Andrew Jackson. Let's make shit up.

Rand Paul thinks anyone who raised money through Bill Clinton ought to give the money back.

Or they really shouldn't be pushing their bona fides on women’s rights. Because Bill Clinton is a "guy who was using his position of authority to take advantage of young women in the workplace.” Paul cites the figure $850,000 as the amount paid to Paula Jones to settle her sexual harassment complaint.

And Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri said "I don’t want my daughter near [Bill Clinton]." But that was back in 2006.

"'Hate' is too weak a word to describe the feelings that Hillary’s core loyalists still have for McCaskill," according to a new book, "HRC: State Secrets and the Rebirth of Hillary Clinton."

McCaskill supported Obama in '08, but she needs to get right with the Clintons. Here she is, stepping up to defend them now, against the righteous gender politics of Rand Paul. She says: "I think most women understand that they should not be held accountable for the behaviors of their husbands. And you know, frankly, it was a long time ago, and our country did very well under the leadership of Bill Clinton."

I don't get the applicability of the general proposition that "women... should not be held accountable for the behaviors of their husbands." When a woman allies with a man and remain allied with him as she seeks vast political power, how can she disaggregate herself from him? She actively facilitated him, and she did it in a way that was also about furthering her own career:

Surely, she's accountable for that! This isn't about some little woman who stayed home and baked cookies and had teas. This is Hillary Clinton, who was there actively fighting right alongside her husband, and who went on to leverage her experience in that role in a climb to immense power.

I think Republicans mostly get into trouble trying to play the gender politics game against the Democrats, but Rand Paul seems to have some special power and will to step up and play. It's quite helpful, healthy, and refreshing. I will take a front-row seat as an avid spectator on days when Rand Paul is playing.

An artsy-fartsy photo project lifts the lid on that "Death" box in your psyche, almost causes me to start another new blog, and gets us back to how John met Yoko.

"Philip Seymour Hoffman looks chillingly vacant in this tintype photo he posed for at the Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 19, just two weeks before his death Sunday from an apparent heroin overdose."

I had noticed that set of Sundance tintypes — here, at Esquire — but I'd passed on blogging it because it seemed artsy-fartsy. I like the one of Sam Shepard. That takes advantage of the effect nicely. (The movement of the subject causes the hair to resemble a white bird in flight.)

The Philip Seymour Hoffman one is among the best in the group, but how can you separate the old-timey artsy-fartsiness from all of your emotions in that box in your head labeled "Death" that this picture now opens?

But wasn't that the artsy-fartsy idea of doing tintypes in the first place — to take people alive today and position them in a past so long ago that they all look like people who must certainly now be dead and to plunge us into an angsty state of awareness that all of the pictures of ourselves and everyone we now love will some day be pictures of the dead?

"Not that I doubt Dylan hasn’t come to believe she’s been molested, but if from the age of 7 a vulnerable child is taught by a strong mother to hate her father because he is a monster who abused her..."

"... is it so inconceivable that after many years of this indoctrination the image of me Mia wanted to establish had taken root? Is it any wonder the experts at Yale had picked up the maternal coaching aspect 21 years ago? Even the venue where the fabricated molestation was supposed to have taken place was poorly chosen but interesting. Mia chose the attic of her country house, a place she should have realized I’d never go to because it is a tiny, cramped, enclosed spot where one can hardly stand up and I’m a major claustrophobe. The one or two times she asked me to come in there to look at something, I did, but quickly had to run out. Undoubtedly the attic idea came to her from the Dory Previn song, 'With My Daddy in the Attic.' It was on the same record as the song Dory Previn had written about Mia’s betraying their friendship by insidiously stealing her husband, André, 'Beware of Young Girls.' One must ask, did Dylan even write the letter or was it at least guided by her mother? Does the letter really benefit Dylan or does it simply advance her mother’s shabby agenda? That is to hurt me with a smear. There is even a lame attempt to do professional damage by trying to involve movie stars, which smells a lot more like Mia than Dylan."

One paragraph in the long "Woody Allen Speaks Out," published by the NYT last night. Read the whole thing. It's quite cohesive and devastating, these words of a man who lets loose after holding his tongue all these years while a woman who passionately hates him sent her words flying everywhere.

Woody Allen's argument builds in a series of paragraphs, and I'm not choosing the most persuasive one to highlight, just the one with a striking item of evidence that I'd never seen before, "With My Daddy in the Attic," right there on the album with the song Dory Previn wrote about Mia, "Beware of Young Girls."

The psychodrama of Woody and Mia is mind-bending. Both of them lavish pity on the children who got caught up in their vortex, each blaming the other for hurting the children, each claiming to be the one who has struggled all these years to save the children.

Woody must have known the structure of Mia's psychology very well. He used her tender fragility in so many of his movies. She was his muse during the height of his artistry. Then he did something — suddenly letting her see he'd transferred his sexual love for her to her daughter Soon-Yi — and there's no denying that part of the story and Woody's active role unleashing Mia's wrath. I could believe every word of Woody's story and still think: You knew her, you understood her so deeply, you connected to her through children, and you made her crazy and vengeful.

It's no great wonder that he kept quiet all these years and that he ends his speaking-out with a vow never to speak about it again. "Enough people have been hurt." Surely, that much is true.

And now back to the movies, the made-up stories, the actors and actresses pretending to wound each other deeply and to spiral into evil, vengeful rages. Have you seen "Blue Jasmine"? It's wonderful. Cate Blanchett in the lead role of the sensitive blonde who comes unhinged, the role that would always go to Mia, back in the days when she was Woody's muse and had a lock on every lead.

February 7, 2014

"Actually, the Althouse animagus scared the crap out of me this morning..."

"... with the rant on [Stephen] King and the intelligent bow to Tyler Cowen who rejects the push-button of good v. evil stories for his preferred superior push-button of having a higher IQ, superior to schmucks frozen in hell with lower IQ’s. The higher IQ test (the end-all criterion for the real hot smarties) juxtaposed against the raw animalistic gaia rant really scared me – until I saw what I felt (I may be wrong about this) was the point, er the two points, er the three points, (I can’t count higher than three, so I must stop here) – expressing palpable bitchery (that had to feel primally good) to provoke exactly the binary good v. evil reaction that Cowen criticizes – whether Cowen is right or wrong is not the issue, because simple rightness or wrongness is not the test – when it’s not the test."

That's just part of what Naked Surfer said in the ice cave a few hours ago. You can't surf naked on Lake Superior, even when you're feeling superior, especially when its frozen, but I appreciate Naked Surfer's effort to understand what was going on here on the Althouse blog at 4:52 in the morning, when I accepted Stephen King's apology and grabbed his abandoned but unforgettable phrase "Palpable Bitchery" for my very own.

After 23 years, we decided to replace the old cooktop.

 With this:

The old one was still working, but looking a bit beat up, and it was a little sad to see it go, because many fine food-centered experiences took place around it, notably the famous — I'm saying "famous" because it got reported in the NYT"You cook breakfast. I'll blog it."

More prosaically, 5 years later, that is, last week, we were talking about the old cooktop here. People were prodding me about glass, but I like glass. It's like a iPhone. Especially the new one, which is black and has touch controls. It doesn't take photographs, but it's good in photographs, nice reflections.

When you use a Taser to steal a Stradivarius, it's the confetti that will get you arrested.

That's what Salah Salahady and Universal Knowledge Allah found out.
After the robbery, a customer at Allah's barbershop on N. King Drive [in Milwaukee] heard him and other customers talking on Feb. 1 about the violin robbery. The tipster said that after his haircut Allah asked him for a ride home. During the ride, Allah mentioned that Salahadyn had "used the electric, not the heat," referring to using the Taser during the robbery.

The next day, that person shared he information with a police officer he knew. Investigators, with the help of the FBI, had already traced the sale of the Taser to Allah through tiny, unique bits of confetti emitted by the weapon....

Pat Nixon "never stopped believing that the Kennedys had stolen the 1960 election..."

"... or that Watergate originated as a plot by her husband’s political enemies. She argued against his resigning even after she’d started packing."

From a NYT book review of "Pat and Dick/The Nixons, an Intimate Portrait of a Marriage," by Will Swift.
Swift succeeds in showing a young couple united by a degree of class resentment and a political understanding of how their apparent ordinariness could spark a sense of sympathetic identification in the mass of voters who would eventually form Nixon’s “silent majority.” More profoundly, the couple shared what the author calls “an underlying, no-nonsense melancholy” that derived from “the sadness of their difficult childhoods.”

The ice cave craze.

Droves of people going to the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore see the "gleaming columns of white and pastel earth tones, translucent stalactites of ice and windblown, feathery creations... the caves... of magic and wonder," so that what was once a mile-long hike out onto Lake Superior has gotten much longer because it's hard to snag parking at the Meyers Beach parking lot.

The eerie beauty will have a different feeling with such large crowds, but maybe it's a grand winter festival. We want to go. It's pretty cold up there right now, but actually less cold than here in Madison. I've been in those caves in the summertime, by kayak: see. But I'd love to see them with the ice.

Paul Ryan 48%, Hillary 43%; Rand Paul 47%, Hillary Clinton 43%; Ted Cruz 43%, Hillary 44%; Christie 42%, Hillary 43%.

The new Quinnipiac poll.

"If it'd been the sacrifice of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber, that we are invited to anticipate daily..."

"... we could delight in the Faustian justice of the righteous dispatch of a fast-living, sequin-spattered denizen of eMpTyV. We are tacitly instructed to await their demise with necrophilic sanctimony. When the end comes, they screech on Fox and TMZ, it will be deserved. The Mail provokes indignation, luridly baiting us with the sidebar that scrolls from the headline down to hell."

So goes the roiling prose of Russell Brand, who's feeling no sense of narrative completion from the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Brand, himself a recovering drug addict, wants to leverage the occasion of the Hoffman death into an argument for changing the drug laws.

"I try to learn interesting things about the world and in this case, the competitiveness about 'I know the Internet better than you do' is pretty profound."

"There's a tremendous arrogance. I found that hilarious — by Gawker standards, it was a resounding compliment." 

The "that," which Susan Orlean found hilarious, was Gawker's opinion that her New Yorker article, "Man and Machine/Playing Games on the Internet" was "generally, much less embarrassing than it could have been."

I've read the New Yorker article. You'll need a subscription to read more than the very beginning. It's about 2 guys who are interested in doing prankish internet things and portraying what they are doing as an art project. Why is The New Yorker facilitating their enterprise? Partly because they've managed to build heavy traffic, but also because Susan Orlean felt like writing about it. So then, why did she feel like writing about it? You can read the interview at the top link and find some answers like:
It doesn't even occur to me to turn on the TV anymore. I'm just sort of screwing around online, either on my phone or my iPad. I can stay very entertained. It's remarkable....

I'm a real app girl — I'm always goofing around with the newest gizmo....

I, for one, welcome our computer overlords. I don't worry about that, I really don't....

How to be a deaf musical genius.

1. Just lie about being deaf. 2. Have somebody else write the music for you. 3. Both!

"Do you think George Bush would have been able to do this, or any white president would have been able to do this? No."

Said Georgia Rep. David Scott, a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, complaining to Valerie Jarrett about 2 of Obama's judicial nominees...
... one who once supported a state bill to keep the Confederate battle emblem a part of Georgia’s flag, and another who led the defense of the state’s photo ID law, which Scott claims is a statute designed “to keep black folks, as much as possible, from voting.”

“I asked her specifically that they should be [withdrawn]. She just didn’t say anything.... The president should have said, ‘There’s absolutely no way I want to go down in history as putting these kinds of people into federal court nominations against my own African-American [people]’ ... It’s a tragedy.... This is a terrible mistake, history will record it as such.... And it breaks my heart that it’s a black president.”

Oh! The poor politico whose speech — written by The Daily Show's Lizz Winstead — gets called "The most painful speech ever" by Politico.

My heart — which, I must say, contains an element of palpable bitchery — goes out to Democratic Congresswoman Donna Edwards, who had a text, probably a fine text that would have killed if delivered with the intensity and commitment — the passion and intrigue — of a Daily Shower like Samantha Bee.

Now, Donna Edwards is to be mocked — on Politico! — because the nitwits in the audience couldn't get jokes like: "Come on, help me y’all: I want to give a really special shout out to Nancy Pelosi and all my sisters in the libido caucus — holla'!"

5 a.m.


The view from my desk, right now.

UPDATE, 7:14: The sun is up and the scene — with the sunrise hitting the steam from the heat plant (no, the photo above does not show the neighborhood on fire) — looks like this:


Joe Biden begins his (non)campaign for the presidency with a manifest lie.

"There's no obvious reason for me why I think I should not run."

Let me Google a picture of obvious for Joe. Here:

Anyway, the quote above is from a CNN "breaking news" email, previewing something airing on a CNN show called "New Day," which is on at 6 a.m. ET. 5 a.m., my time. I'm actually up and able to watch that, but I'm not fool enough to watch news TV at this hour. Who is? It's a good place to slot Biden, lying. Obviously.

Joe continues: "For me, the decision to run or not run is going to be determined by me, as to whether I am the best qualified person to focus on the few things I've spent my whole life on."

For me, the decision what to say about this palpable nonsense is going to be determined by me, because for me what I write is determined by me. Did I mention me? I and only I will decide the things that must be decided, as I am the best person to decide. Sure, Joe. You will decide. You will decide that others have decided that you will not be the one to make all the decisions as the next decider.

Now, go. Focus on a few things, as you continue to expend the remaining years of your whole life. 

Stephen King wants you to "Just know my heart is where it’s always been: in the right place."

So ends his apology for his attention-grabbing Tweet — "Boy, I’m stumped on that one. I don’t like to think it’s true, and there’s an element of palpable bitchery there, but...." — which we were talking about here last night. My post is pretty much only about the instant-classic, unforgettable phrase "Palpable Bitchery."

I pause for a few moments at this point to create a blog called Palpable Bitchery. Feel it, read it.

Now, all I want to say in this new post is: Isn't it funny, the big horror writer, caring so much about our knowledge of his good heart — heart in the right place — when we know that his writerly master mind would — in an instant — take a phrase like heart in the right place and mutate it into some crazy story about hearts in little children turning alien and evil and melting everything within their lovely little communities that he would imagine and describe just so you'd feel awful to see them destroyed?

But Stephen King would like to remind you of the 4 books he wrote — Carrie, Dolores Claiborne, Rose Madder, and Lisey’s Story — that demonstrate that "I have plenty of respect for women, and care about the problems and life-situations they face."  And he has the life story to reinforce this reputation for respecting women: "My single-mom mother faced plenty [of the the problems and life-situations that women face], believe me." Plus, he has "no sympathy whatever for those who abuse children." Can you really write novels about child abusers without inhabiting their innards and seeing it from their point of view? Leave that to the Nabokovs.  This is Stephen King. His evil is pure evil and his good is pure good. "I wrote about such abuse — and its ultimate cost to the victim — in Gerald’s Game." And presumably Gerald['s abuser] is nothing but a monster down to his core. Is there some reason why anyone would read that book?

Here's something Tyler Cowen said in a TED talk:
As a simple rule of thumb, just imagine every time you’re telling a good vs. evil story, you’re basically lowering your IQ by ten points or more. If you just adopt that as a kind of inner mental habit, it’s, in my view, one way to get a lot smarter pretty quickly. You don’t have to read any books. Just imagine yourself pressing a button every time you tell the good vs. evil story, and by pressing that button you’re lowering your IQ by ten points or more.
Consider the palpable foolery of Stephen King. He needs you to know he's a good person. He detected bitchery, and The Grand Bitch Internet struck back. He's cowed. He wants to be loved. And that's why he cannot be a great writer. So give him the love he craves. Apology accepted. You are forgiven, Mr. King, you tiny little man.

It's 4:50 in the morning here in Madison, Wisconsin. Are you feeling the palpable bitchery? It exists, and it is real. And spectacular.

February 6, 2014

"Awkward Russian Wedding Photos..."

"... Are A Whole New Level Of WTF."

"But long before he referred on the air to Gary Carter as Gary Cooper, declared that 'if Casey Stengel were still alive he'd be spinning in his grave'..."

".. or watched a long ball disappear from the park with the trademark call 'Going, going, gone, goodbye!,' Kiner was one of the game’s great right-handed hitters."

Goodbye to Ralph Kiner. He was 91.

"In the annals of prisoner-of-war videos, this seems to be a first. A slightly befuddled Belgian Malinois..."

"... appears on a tight leash, surrounded by heavily armed, bearded men boasting of their battlefield loot."

"They zip-tied the man, dragged him into a van, burned him with a blow-torch, doused him in bleach, severed his penis, and then drove away with it..."

"... all in a bid to learn where he was hiding his cash. Now Elliott, the industry lobbyist, appends press releases with an unusual note: 'To understand the importance of fixing banking, please read this story: "Marijuana clinic owner penis cut off."'"

"Broadway theaters dimmed their marquee lights for one minute Wednesday in memory of the acclaimed screen and stage actor Philip Seymour Hoffman..."

"... who died on Sunday, apparently of a drug overdose."

What do you think of this tribute to a man who ended his life with heroin?
pollcode.com free polls 

Stephen King weighs in on Dylan Farrow's statement: "There’s an element of palpable bitchery there."

Full quote: "Boy, I’m stumped on that one. I don’t like to think it’s true, and there’s an element of palpable bitchery there, but...."

Palpate any bitches lately, Steve?

What does "palpable" add? Is it just verbiage — meaningless padding — or is it a way to say that he feels it — he senses it? (It's his truth.) Or does it mean there's some substantial bitchery?

And what's with "bitchery" and "element... of bitchery"? That seems like a way to avoid saying that the woman is a bitch. There's some bitchery in the letter she wrote.

At the Stand-Up Desk Café...

... we're keeping warm.

(By the way, if you're enjoying the blog this morning — on any other morning — consider sleepwalking over into Amazon through the Althouse Portal and buying yourself a proper pair of pants or whatever else it may be that you have — wittingly or unwittingly — gone without.)

Let's just hope the hilarious badness stays at the merely hilarious level.

"15 signs that Russia is not very ready for the Olympics."

It's already not really funny. I feel bad for the athletes who trained for this.

Here's the #SochiProblems feed at Twitter.

The famous lawprof Larry Lessig is walking across New Hampshire in the wrong kind of pants and it's a story in The New Republic because...

... well, you'll have to read a long way into this article to figure out why, and it's not the cause of knowing better than to wear jeans when hiking in cold, wet weather.

Wasn't there some old lady that was walking across America one time, for peace or something like that? And then there was Forrest Gump, running across America, getting to the end, then turning around and running the other way, and gathering followers, even though he had no message? Or was a happy face T-shirt the message? I don't know, but there's no way I'm sitting through that movie again to try to find out.

But I will try to read this TNR thing. Scanning to paragraph 7:
And so, while the New Hampshire Rebellion is patterned after the exploits of “Granny D,” the octogenarian campaign-finance-reform activist who walked the length of country in 1999...
Yes, that's the old lady I just mentioned. Granny D. Campaign finance reform? I'd forgotten. But she was noticed. Because she was old, and she was walking. The whole length of the country. Lessig is reasonably young, and he's only doing a 2-week, 185-mile walk. But he's famous, and he's savvy about getting publicity.
... Swartz is its real inspiration. Lessig sometimes calls the march “Aaron’s walk” and timed it to begin on the one-year anniversary of Swartz’s death. “That event radicalized me,” Lessig tells me. “It’s pushed me over an edge, a certain kind of edge.”
Pushed over the edge, by a young man who went over the edge into suicide.

Walking is a grand old way of spreading a message and gathering followers. It's the Jesus method. Imagine Jesus augmented with tweeting and TED talks and all the other mechanisms of modern media.

"Together, these weaknesses led to the biggest Obamacare derp storm of the year."

A sentence, summing up after a list of 2 things, from a Salon article by Brian Beutler titled "Anatomy of a media disaster: Why the press is botching the latest Obamacare story."

Okay, I get it. Journalism sucks. Reporters glance at something, see how it works with what they wanted to say anyway, and slap it up there to get the scoop and claim the traffic, in the very style they'd denounce bloggers for using, if they bothered to bullshit about blogging anymore, which they don't, because they want to be your blogger now.

But what's with "derp storm of the year." Is that the way grown men talk now?

In case you're wondering, Urban Dictionary supplies this definition of "derp" — with 11,000+ "up" votes — from 2005: "A simple, undefined reply when an ignorant comment or action is made. Brought to life in the South Park series, when Mr. Derp made a guest apperance [sic] at South Park Elementary as the chef for a day, followed by hitting himself in the head with a hammer and exclaiming 'Derp!'"

More at "Know your meme," taking it back to the 1998 movie "Baseketball" (made by South Park's creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone). It seems to have arisen from "dur" which was a variation on the older "duh." "Duh" was big in the 1960s, by the way, when it was a shortened form of the original — do you remember? I remember! — "uh buh duh." I'm guessing at that spelling. Was it ever written? Maybe it should be spelled "ubbaduh."

Anyway, all I'm saying is... the stupidity is running deep this morning, and even the observers of stupidity are manifesting their stupid idea of superiority by talking stupidly. Beutler. I'm looking at you. Beutler. Beutler. Beutler...

"It's excellent art. Realistic. Ought to satisfy those who are tired of trite abstractions."

Said David, in the comments to this morning's post about the "Sleepwalker" statue — of the man in his panties — at Wellesley College.

Been there, done that:


That's Meade, getting statuesque with Duane Hanson's "Janitor" at the Milwaukee Art Museum. That thing dates back to 1973. Here's an article about the restoration of the "beloved" art work:
While on view, Terri lightly vacuums Janitor frequently, but there still is a certain amount of dirt and grime settled in. The very first thing we had to do was address how or if to clean the janitor’s clothing. We thought that it might be possible to take his clothes off and throw them in the conservator’s version of a washing machine, but that’s not the case. We discovered that Duane Hanson constructed the Janitor so that his clothes cannot be removed....

[Senior conservator Jim DeYoung] shared that over the years, parts of Janitor’s outfit have sadly gone missing to the wandering hands of Museum visitors. Jim discussed the ethics of honoring the originality of the artwork as it currently exists, or honoring the intentions of the artist.... For instance, concerning the missing articles in the janitor’s pockets, Jim and Terri felt secure in following their own skills and instinct to find comparable materials to replace the thefted items....
There was so much discussion back in the 70s about the value of Hanson's work, but at this point, no one bothers with this debate anymore. People just love it. Maybe they shouldn't. Maybe they've lost a sense of outrage at being amused — as comfortable museum-goers — at the weariness and dreariness of a workingman.

AND: Look at the magnificent grandeur of the woman — idealized and all head — lording it over the pitiful man. Some curator decided upon that juxtaposition.

It's easy to make fun of these women, but I do think it's fair to say that the art folk here are exploiting people.

The sculpture is out in the open where it can be seen from a distance and it really does look like a strange man stumbling about in his underwear.

Whether you're afraid of "him" or simply think he has a problem — after all, it's winter — and needs help, you're drawn into a real emotional response before you realize it is art. You're out there, living your life, in the public space — here, at a college that has drawn you in through gestures of welcoming and has taken your money — and suddenly you see a problem that you must respond to. But — ha ha — it's only a statue. You're silly. You were afraid of a statue. So it's an unsettling prank. Why? Is that good art? It has appropriated your peace of mind, your comfort in a public space, for what? To challenge and intrigue you, perhaps. The art people on campus would like to reach out — like this fake man groping forward nakedly sleepwalking — because the youngsters need to be contacted, against their will, and if they don't like it, they're to be publicly derided for their lack of sophistication.

(Originally posted as an update here.)

ADDED: Now, I'm not saying the petition was the best response. I think the kids should fight back in various ways. Here's a young woman doing a selfie with the guy. If you can get someone else to take the picture, the arms are in a good position for pretending to be dancing with him. He could be dressed up. It's possible that the art people imagined that the students would just laugh and play, but if so, they were unsophisticated. They were unable to see things through the eyes of others.

AND: Let's realize that throughout history statuary has been used to intimidate people. What's all that ancient Egyptian sculpture about if not to cow people into abject submission?

Think of all the Lenin and Stalin statues. And how about Saddam Hussein's despicable "Victory Arch"?

Is the Wellesley "Sleepwalker" in this tradition? Yes, the idea of a mighty oppressor seems like a dream to us now.  Perhaps it's a joke bouncing off the tradition of the intimidating colossus.

Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!

Who can be afraid anymore? We've been tweaking Ozymandias for centuries. We've laughed at the imposing males and their sculptural representations for so long that it should be the men — not the women, putting the "tit" in petition — who cry out at the long-running, long-stumbling humiliation of the puny fake man in saggy panties.

"Either you take all the dogs from the Olympic Village or we will shoot them."

"It is true that there are stray dogs in Sochi, more stray dogs than in other cities.... The explanation is quite simple. When a big construction project is underway, dogs and puppies always appear whom the builders feed. Now the builders have left, but unfortunately, the dogs remain."

February 5, 2014

Statue of a pathetically vulnerable man somehow "triggers" female fears of victimization.

"A realistic-looking statue of a man sleepwalking in his underwear near the center of Wellesley College has created a stir among the women on campus, especially as more than 100 students at the all-women’s college signed a petition asking administrators to remove it."

(Via Instapundit.)

ADDED: It's easy to make fun of these women, but I do think it's fair to say that the art folk here are exploiting people. The sculpture is out in the open where it can be seen from a distance and it really does look like a strange man stumbling about in his underwear. Whether you're afraid of "him" or simply think he has a problem — after all, it's winter — and needs help, you're drawn into a real emotional response before you realize it is art. You're out there, living your life, in the public space — here, at a college that has drawn you in through gestures of welcoming and has taken your money — and suddenly you see a problem that you must respond to. But — ha ha — it's only a statue. You're silly. You were afraid of a statue. So it's an unsettling prank. Why? Is that good art? It has appropriated your peace of mind, your comfort in a public space, for what? To challenge and intrigue you, perhaps. The art people on campus would like to reach out — like this fake man groping forward nakedly sleepwalking — because the youngsters need to be contacted, against their will, and if they don't like it, they're to be publicly derided for their lack of sophistication.

"Shivering as a Form of Exercise."

"Shivering in the cold sparks a series of biochemical reactions deep within the body that alters fat cells and bolsters metabolism, much as formal exercise does, according to a fascinating series of new experiments."

"I think my sister is missing a great deal in life in not reconnecting with her father, who had always adored her."

"It’s important that she assert her independence from our mother and not go through life with the false impression that she has been molested by my father. I am very happy I have come into my own power, separating from my mother, which has led to a positive reunion with my father."

Says Moses Farrow, defending Woody Allen. Moses is, we're told, a family therapist. He has some things to say about his mother: "From an early age, my mother demanded obedience and I was often hit as a child. She went into unbridled rages if we angered her, which was intimidating at the very least and often horrifying, leaving us not knowing what she would do."

Meanwhile, Mia is tweeting: "A lot of ugliness is going to be aimed at me. But this is not about me, it's about her truth."

I feel like shutting the door on this session of family therapy, but I'll just say "her truth" is a strange expression. The usual concept of truth is that it is simply the truth. When you put a possessive in from of it — this is my truth — it is ordinarily to concede that you are talking about the way things look or feel from your perspective. And it's odd to direct your audience to another individual's truth, as though you need people to think about the question at hand through the eyes of this other person over there. This is her truth. That's what's important. This is not about me. How do I know it's not about you or that "her truth" isn't really your truth? Do we even know that Dylan Farrow wrote her own letter?

"Listen Elizabeth, this is the President!"

"I don’t have any time for this ****. I‘m keeping the world from nuclear war all the time. I’m sending a plane to pick you up."

Scurrilous nonsense, no doubt. Let's squelch these rumors quickly.

80-year-old singer from a sect of mystic minstrels performs "Mr. Tambourine Man" in Bengali.

"... with his son, Bapi, singing over a droning line from a traditional one-string instrument called the ektara, topped with a woodwind sound and a polyrhythmic beat."

You can play the audio at the link. I played it for Meade — who is extremely familiar with Bob Dylan music — and he listened to it for over a minute before guessing "Blowin' in the Wind," at which point I said he was right about it being Dylan, and he listened for another minute and came up with nothing.

Here's the whole "From Another World" album of Dylan covers. 
Soneros from Cuba, Gypsies from Rumania, poets from Rajasthan, musicians of the Nile, Persian sufis, have each chosen to portray in their own way, one song from Dylan's repertory whose subject has a particular link to their own culture. Dylan's inimitable lyrics have been translated into the local community language of each artist and then tailored to suit the verse and rhythmic patterns of the vocal and musical style.
Inimitable lyrics... in a language you don't understand. Let the buyer beware.

"Chris Christie’s pain is Scott Walker’s gain."

Headline at Politico.

Love the picture of Walker at the link. The pointing while winking thing is his trademark.

Meade is working on a dance to go with the "Stand With Governor Walker" song, and there's a big pointing-while-winking move.

Meade, you may remember, had a very special experience with the Walker wink, described in this post of mine from March 1, 2011, during the very intense protest period, when Walker delivered his budget address in the State Capitol.
Meade was there... [and] describes the big standing ovation when the Governor said:
We must work together to bring our spending in line with reality. We were elected  — not to make the easy decisions to benefit ourselves — but to make the difficult ones that will benefit our children and grandchildren.

We need a commitment to the future so our children don't face even more dire consequences than what we face today.
Meade says he joined the standing ovation at this point, and that Scott Walker looked at him and gave him: 1. a smile, 2. a nod, and 3. a wink. Meade was quite pleased about that!
It should be noted that Meade was sitting in a part of the gallery that was packed with people who were not applauding and not standing, so his belief that the smile-nod-wink was precisely for him is not delusional.

"On the one hand, [using Google Glass] to capture a photo with nothing but a wink is worryingly creepy."

"As is real-time facial recognition. On The Other Hand, technology companies from LG to Microsoft to Apple are also raising privacy eyebrows."

Privacy eyebrows. I love the idea of privacy eyebrows. If everyone around you is taking photos with winking, surely you ought to be able to do something with the raising of privacy eyebrows.

"Judge orders release of emails of convicted former Scott Walker aide."

"Personal information collected (in) a criminal investigation is routinely included in criminal appellate records," wrote the judge. "Although the investigation that led to the criminal charges against Rindfleisch generated widespread public interest, Rindfleisch is no different from any other person seeking appellate review of his or her criminal conviction. She may not seek to shield information simply because she does not want the information to be made available to the public."

Everything will become public? Things like Social Security numbers and medical information will be shielded, but everything else will be ours to nose through. What was the underlying crime? Doing work for the campaign while at her government job. She pleaded guilty, but there is an appeal, based on the breadth of the search warrants.

What's in all that email?
Likely included in the emails are messages exchanged with Walker or his top political aides as he ran his 2010 campaign for governor.
Scott Walker... they'll get him yet. And if they don't, it won't be that they didn't try, and they'll have unintentionally left him looking unfathomably clean.

"What did Lincoln say at Gettysburg?"

A scene from the 1935 movie "Ruggles of Red Gap":
The climax of the film is Laughton’s recitation of the Gettysburg Address (something that does not happen in the original story). This occurs in a saloon filled with typical American Western characters, none of whom can recall any of the lines but are spellbound by the speech. Newly imbued with the spirit of democracy and self-determination, [the English butler, Marmaduke] Ruggles becomes his own man, giving up his previous employment and opening a restaurant in Red Gap.
The scene is unbearably, magnificently corny, to the point where... well, what did you feel? Did it get you in the end? There's the part where Ruggles is whispering the words to himself, as if he's praying, and the upshot of the recitation which is: I want to open a restaurant! A beanery!

Here's the original book — sans Lincoln rhetoric — by Harry Leon Wilson, whom I was reading about this morning as a consequence of my curiosity — see the previous post — about the phrase "as all get-out."

There's only one mention of Lincoln in the original. The "I" is Ruggles, the butler, who is reading a printed card headed "Take Courage!"
"Demosthenes was the son of a cutler," it began. "Horace was the son of a shopkeeper. Virgil's father was a porter. Cardinal Wolsey was the son of a butcher. Shakespeare the son of a wool-stapler." Followed the obscure parentage of such well-known persons as Milton, Napoleon, Columbus, Cromwell. Even Mohammed was noted as a shepherd and camel-driver, though it seemed rather questionable taste to include in the list one whose religion, as to family life, was rather scandalous. More to the point was the citation of various Americans who had sprung from humble beginnings: Lincoln, Johnson, Grant, Garfield, Edison. It is true that there was not, apparently, a gentleman's servant among them; they were rail-splitters, boatmen, tailors, artisans of sorts, but the combined effect was rather overwhelming.

Andrew Rosenthal, the NYT editorial page editor, "runs the show and is lazy as all get-out."

According to a NYT writer, quoted in a NY Observer piece titled "The Tyranny and Lethargy of the Times Editorial Page/Reporters in 'semi-open revolt' against Andrew Rosenthal." The Observer pauses to say "one can almost hear the Times-ness in his controlled anger (who but a Timesman uses the phrase 'as all get-out' these days?)" and that riff on language derails me from the substance of the article.

I mean, I nearly got sidetracked earlier this morning, when I was writing about Justice Scalia's remarks — about the way judges inactivate themselves in times of war — into riffing on his use of "whatnot." Talking about WWII, he'd said, "the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot." Whatnot! Who talks like that?

Spinning the CBO report.

The Wall Street Journal: "The Jobless Care Act/Congress's budget office says ObamaCare will increase unemployment."

Talking Points Memo: "The Best Of The Bad Reporting On Obamacare, The CBO And Jobs."

The White House: "Statement by the Press Secretary on Today’s CBO Report and the Affordable Care Act."

L.A. Times: "Why the new CBO report on Obamacare is good news."

And here's an effort at disciplining the spinners, from Glenn Kessler, the WaPo Fact Checker, who "takes no position on the implications of the CBO’s analysis" and — because there must be a Pinocchio rating — gives 3 Pinocchios "to anyone who deliberately gets this wrong."

It's not easy being a left-wing mayor.

Poor Bill de Blasio!
As New York’s 152 municipal unions line up to press Mayor Bill de Blasio for raises and back pay, his administration and the powerful teachers’ union... is seeking $3.4 billion in retroactive pay...

For Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat with close ties to labor and big hopes of increasing spending on prekindergarten and after-school programs, paying billions to the teachers could starve him of the resources to finance his policy goals....
At a press conference, he pointed at this "tremendous fiscal uncertainty" and mentioned his idea — it worked in the political campaign — of more income tax from the rich. He must know he can't make this work. Nice new stuff for the little kids — and the parents who would like more of the day-care-like benefit that comes from early education/"education" — that's the kind of thing that excited the good liberal folk of NYC who trusted him with power, but in the end, in the cold light of exercising that power, de Blasio is going to have to go with the unions, isn't he?

"Justice Antonin Scalia says World War II-style internment camps could happen again."

A headline that might seem shocking but doesn't surprise me at all. What Scalia said is an entirely ordinary observation within the field of constitutional law (from my perspective, anyway, as someone who's taught conlaw for 30 years):
Scalia was responding to a question about the court's 1944 decision in Kore­ma­tsu v. United States, which upheld the convictions of Gordon Hira­ba­ya­shi and Fred Kore­ma­tsu for violating an order to report to an internment camp.

"Well, of course, Kore­ma­tsu was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again," Scalia told students and faculty during a lunchtime question-and-answer session.

Scalia cited a Latin expression meaning "In times of war, the laws fall silent."

"That's what was going on — the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot. That's what happens. It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war. It's no justification but it is the reality," he said.
What's more notable than that it could happen again is to have such a clear statement that "of course, Kore­ma­tsu was wrong." The law school dean, Avi Soifer, made that observation at the time.

Soifer then pushed toward a recognition that the courts should maintain their supervision of the political processes even in wartime. Scalia's remarks, as reported, don't go so far as to say that he as a judge would be able or willing to do anything about the rights violation that is, now, after the war, so clear. In fact, Scalia seems to be conceding that if it we ever were, once again, in a situation where the President did see fit to do something that drastic, the courts would not help.

February 4, 2014

Jerry Seinfeld doesn't care about racial and gender diversity: it's "P.C. nonsense" and "anti-comedy."

Asked about overrepresentation of white males on his comedy show, he says: "People think it's the census or something? I mean, does this represent the actual pie chart of America? Who cares? Funny is the world I live in. If you're funny, I'm interested. If you're not funny, I'm not interested. And I have no interest in race or gender or anything like that. But everyone else is kinda, like, with their little calculating. 'Is this the exact right mix?' You know, I think, that's like... to me, it's anti-comedy. It's more about P.C. nonsense than 'Are you making us laugh or not?'"

ADDED: In case you don't watch the clip, I wanted to transcribe Jerry's sarcasm when the topic of racial diversity if first introduced: "Take a look around" — gesturing at the audience — "what do you see? A lot of whities! What's going on here? Oh, this really pisses me off!"

Apparently, Seinfeld is getting criticized for this. I see Dave, in the comments, said:
Seinfeld's response is intriguing because a safer answer would have been so easy — "well, that's just who I've had on so far, it's been a random walk, there are plenty of funny women/minorities in the industry, I'm sure I'll have more of them on in the future, yadda yadda yadda." Say that, and no critical pieces get written about him.

But he didn't. This sentiment must have been festering inside him. He must have wanted to get this out there. I wonder why that is. Fascinating really.
I don't think that would have been a safe answer, because he's done so many of his shows — "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" — with white males, too many to fit the excuse that he just hasn't gotten around to it yet. I think what we're reading there is safer than other things he thinks: The coffee conversation works best when he's with someone who's more like him. He is favoring his own kind — and his own kind is a minority group that has done especially well in comedy. He was being P.C. not to mention that. Quotas were used against Jews in the old days, and any sort of counting and calculating in an effort to make the comedy community look like America, would hurt Jewish males  the most. His people.

An appeal to race-and-gender blindness may be the best he can do. When I first blogged the clip, I thought Seinfeld chose to tweak us with something he knew would go viral. He's pushing a show. People need to see that he has a show and bother to watch it. But this morning, reading Dave's comment, I'm more willing to think the interviewer's question opened a portal to an angry place inside him. Notice that his very first outburst is a hostile "Yeah, let's get into that."

"Awfully cold this year. This is the first time in 10 years that I actually started wearing pants to work."

"Once I hit the zero mark, that was it...."

An extreme example of the tendency of postal workers to wear shorts.

"If you don't like it, don't live in the [expletive] country next to a farm."

"Those are my cows. We legally butchered them.... We save the heads, we dry them out, we sell them.... It's not illegal to have a cow head on your property...."

"This day! It had everything: a hike, a crazy ambulance ride, hospital visits (two hospitals!), sunshine, kindness..."

"... so much kindness, and finally a gorgeous sunset, and dinner for me, on a tray, at home."

Nina's hiking in Turkey. Skim this post the wrong way and you'll miss the attack of wild dogs. It's one of these travel-photo pieces, and there are no photos of the part with the biting dogs.

Ever worry about traveling abroad because what if you had a medical emergency?

ADDED: Are there packs of wild dogs in the United States? I found this:
As many as 50,000 stray dogs roam the streets and vacant homes of bankrupt Detroit, replacing residents, menacing humans who remain and overwhelming the city’s ability to find them homes or peaceful deaths.

"I think it's part of Mia Farrow's desire to hurt Woody Allen."

"His reaction is one of overwhelming sadness because of what has happened to Dylan. She was a pawn in a huge fight between him and Mia years ago. The idea that she was molested was implanted in her mind by her mother."

Said Woody Allen's lawyer Elkan Abramowitz, on TV today.

"Is that Ann Althouse on the left?"

"Yes, that's Ann Althouse on the left, but she's pretending to be on the right."

"What is behind the CrossFit need, which is a variation of compulsive intense training?"

Thomas Beller says: "The answer moves along several parallel axes." The link goes to The New Yorker as you might have surmised based on: 1. The fact that my previous post goes to The New Yorker, 2. That "answer moves along... axes" locution (Who talks like that"), and 3. I don't have a third axes to my speculation about your surmising (Sorry, I feel a compulsion toward groups of 3, especially when writing about groups of 3, and what is behind this need of mine, and does it move along 3 axes?):
1. The Axis of Wanting to Be a Middle-Aged Man Who Can Dunk....

2. The Axis of Parenting. And Within That, the Axis of Having a Son.... Maybe I joined CrossFit because I wish to live long enough to be able to play with my son at exactly the age—ten and onward—when I no longer had a father to play with me. Every parent knows how much having a kid inspires meditations on mortality. But was a son also provoking in me rivalrous feelings? Was I going into training for a competition that wouldn’t begin in earnest for twelve or fifteen or twenty years?...

3. The Axis of Geography.... New Orleans...“decrepitude.”... The word brought me up short. New Orleans is a place where one is constantly reminded of nature’s desire to reclaim the landscape....

As if you were "dipped in hot burning oil and your body is in flames."

Diana Nyad's description of getting stung by a box jellyfish. Video at the link, which goes to The New Yorker, which doesn't warn you that the word "fuck" is yelled many times.

41.4% of Americans are "very religious" — that is, they say religion is important and they attend service every week or almost every week.

And that's up from 40.1% the previous year. Add to that the "somewhat religious" — you know who you are — who make up 29.2% of Americans, up from 28.9%.

10 of the 11 most religious states are in the south, and you can probably easily guess the non-southern state in the group. It's the second most religious state in the U.S., second only to Mississippi. The least religious states — the top 4 — are scrunched into the upper right-hand corner.

Is the argument for religion getting more persuasive, and is there some reason why it's more persuasive in warmer places, or is it mostly that people who are already religious have more children and pass religion along?

"'I don’t wear the Che Guevara T-shirt at work,' the mayor said..."

"... after joking that he kept a portrait of Guevara, the Marxist revolutionary, in his office."

The NYT public editor registers 2 polite objections (where strong criticism would make more sense).

1. "As the Latest Christie Story Evolved, The Times Should Have Noted a Change."
“We made dozens of changes to this story, and it’s all happening live in front of the reader,” he said. “The story probably went through two dozen versions.” Editors can’t be expected to describe each one of those changes, [the Metro editor, Wendell Jamieson said].

And he added that no change, including the one I mention above, “alters the essential truth of the story, which is that a former Christie ally has opened fire on him in a big way.”
What an outrageous move! Defining something as "the essential truth" so that the thing that did change appears inconsequential: What really matters was that Christie was getting attacked, not the assertion that the attacker was in possession of "evidence" against Christie. But it was that evidence that got everyone excited, which was the point of the big scoop that Jamieson seeks to defend. The public editor, Margaret Sullivan, mildly chides him. There should have been "some sort of notice" of this edit.

2. "On Kristof’s Column About Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen..." Sullivan says that she's "troubled by the same questions raised" in email sent to her by a professor named Chris Rasmussen, whom she quotes:
The writers who are permitted to “columnize” for The Times have a tremendously influential platform, and I wonder whether they should use that platform to advocate on behalf of personal friends, as Mr. Kristof did yesterday....
Personal friends? Sullivan does not provide any detail about this personal friendship. I clicked the link to see Kristof's own disclosure, which specifies who the friendship is with, but not the degree of warmth and interaction: "I am a friend of her mother, Mia, and brother Ronan, and that’s how Dylan got in touch with me." That disclosure appears only at the column, not at the blog post, which is where Dylan's open letter appears in full and thus the page most people are reading. Can't Sullivan do more than say she's "troubled" and that there are "questions"? I had to Google "what is nicholas kristof's friendship with mia farrow" in an effort to get details. I found this at a website the credibility of which I don't know:
But Kristof and Farrow aren’t just ‘friends.’ They are close friends. Romantic? I’m not suggesting that. They travel together, Kristof writes about Farrow often, he Tweets and re-Tweets her.
Why couldn't Sullivan extract details from Kristof?

Come on, Sullivan, be there for us. Yes, yes, I know. You're all going to say that of course the "public editor" position is NYT PR and a fraud.

"Trick Websites Dupe Democrats Into Donating To Republicans."

Think Progress is worried about websites that conspicuously display the name and face of a Democratic candidate and then invite contributions to "help defeat" that candidate.

Do these violate election law? Should they?

The law of contempt — when "the refusal to testify is somehow transmogrified from a lock to a key."

Why the judge released the anarchist who would not testify.
Judge Keenan wrote that he was skeptical of [Gerald] Koch’s assertion that he knew nothing. He also disagreed with Mr. Koch’s belief that he had been singled out because of his views, writing, "There is simply no evidence that the government, threatened by Koch’s subversive prowess, seeks to bring him before a grand jury on a pretext, either to gain access to the treasure trove that is his circle of friends or to send an ominous message to political dissidents."

But the only relevant issue in deciding whether Mr. Koch should be released, Judge Keenan also wrote, hinged on whether continued incarceration could persuade him to testify....

"[C]ontinued confinement will not move Koch from the reflexive ideology that forbids his cooperation with the serious investigation at hand."

"Information wants to be shared... Privacy must be overcome... Control is the new privacy...."

3 principles of Mark Zuckerberg's theory of privacy are discerned in this Washington Post article written by an Information Studies professor.

The second principle — as stated by the professor — looks ominous, but it's just badly written. It does not mean that Zuckerberg has a mission to overcome our privacy. It means that the default settings at Facebook should favor privacy, and that privacy must be overcome by the action of the website's users.

Inaccuracy of Buzzfeed quizzes exposed.

"Shirley Manson Took the Buzzfeed 'Which '90s Alt-Rock Grrrl Are You?' Quiz, And Didn't Get Shirley Manson."

"Does it really matter that he had 4 shots of espresso? Must we know that he seemed 'out of it?'"

"Perhaps the respectful thing to do is celebrate the life he had..." says a commenter at a CNN article titled "Piecing together Philip Seymour Hoffman's final hours," which includes the information that on the morning before his fatal heroin overdose, "Hoffman stops in at Chocolate Bar on 8th Avenue for his regular order: a four-shot espresso over ice with a splash of milk. He is alone and chats with members of staff," who say that "He seemed perfectly fine... He seemed in good spirits. He was very happy." We also learn of his evening beverage,  "a cranberry and soda."

These positively perky drinks do seem to matter, but why? The reader grabs onto such details, and this grasping for meaning in things that have no meaning explains why we want to read novels. People have their problems, sometimes they use drugs, and sometimes drugs kill their users. Why do we care to know what the man drank, when the drinks were not an element of the toxicity causally related to the death? As a reader, searching for meaning, I felt myself latch on in particular to those 2 drinks. This seemingly useless and pointless knowledge makes us feel more present in this life.

Useless and pointless knowledge, the phrase that came to my mind thinking about the a four-shot espresso over ice with a splash of milk and the cranberry and soda is from Bob Dylan's from "Tombstone Blues" plays in my head:
Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge
The truth is, we are cooled by the dead man's refreshing beverage. He may have been "out of it," but we are in it, this life.

"A sex change operation is funded by New York City's Administration for Children's Services."

The child psychiatrist at the gender and sexuality service at NYU Langone Medical Center said: "It’s not a cosmetic procedure.... It’s treatment" and "it can be lifesaving."

At the 3:41 Café...


... am I the only one awake? The only light is the computer screen and the "on" dots for electronic things. The view out the window beyond the screen vaguely reminisces about yesterday's "Impression, sunrise":


The plume of steam from the heat plant catches whatever ambient light there might be here near the shore of Lake Mendota, in the middle of the night.

February 3, 2014

At the Low Light Café...

... the angle is blinding.

Why not O'Malley?

For President.
"I have a great deal of respect for Hillary Clinton... But for my own part, I have a responsibility to prepare and to address the things that I feel a responsibility to address. . . . To squander this important period of preparation because of horse-race concerns and handicapping concerns is just not a very productive use of energy. . . . Right now, I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing — the thought work and the preparation work."
ADDED: "Clinton's biggest vulnerability in 2008 was the aura of inevitability... That could be compounded in 2016 — particularly if there's no serious primary opponent — and so a slow and deliberate ramp up could serve her well."

"My mother works so hard/And for bread she needs some lard."

"'I can’t think of a single child who would opt for this phrasing over, say, a more simple "so hard to make bread,"' a choice that demonstrates he 'was already exhibiting the masterful grasp of language for which he would later become famous.'"

"Every day, for six months, [Ezra Klein] ate the same thing and ran three miles. He dropped 50 of his 220-plus pounds..."

"... and started to focus more on how he dressed. 'There was something that happened when he did lose that weight,”' Gideon Kracov, his half-brother, says. 'Something clicked with him.' Ezra was a voracious reader but a poor student, whiling away hours smoking pot and playing GoldenEye and Tony Hawk on his Nintendo 64. He says he graduated from high school with a 2.2 GPA and barely got into UC Santa Cruz."

From a New York Magazine article titled "Here, Let Ezra Explain/What is D.C.’s most famous young policy wonk doing leaving the Washington Post? Trying to start a news organization he thinks could one day eclipse it."

As long as it's a day to think about what it means to be an underdog.

"One of my worst experiences was being forced to swim in the nude in high school."

"This was a common practice in Chicago and other large city schools until the 1970's. You had a choice: either swim in the nude for four years of high school or take ROTC to get a waiver."

From an essay titled "Men, Manliness, and Being Naked Around Other Men/A culture that tells people to 'man up' when it comes to nudity invites strange problems."

"Is Elena Kagan a 'paranoid libertarian'?"

"Judging by Sunstein’s definition, the answer is yes."

"Extinct cowboys. Broncos with no buck left in them. Hairless men. Female entrepreneurs. The evidence is all there. Keep it up, NFL."

"Ten thousand more Super Bowls and we'll be even."

Hanna Rosin does the math in an item titled "Our First Feminist Super Bowl."

Accidental overdose or suicide?

A "breaking news" email from CNN says: "Authorities investigating the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman found more than 50 glassine-type bags containing what is believed to be heroin in his apartment, two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation said today. Investigators also found several bottles of prescription drugs and more than 20 used syringes in a plastic cup, the sources said."

ADDED: "I’m a fucking idiot."

"Is there anything more American than America?"

I laughed at what I considered a really dumb first line, even as Meade, seeing the opening back-of-the-head shot, identified Bob Dylan. Here's the ad, to analyze in the cold light of day:

On review, I understand the sense of the line that caught my ear as dumb. It's that all the foreign carmakers are only imitating what is essentially American, the car. Detroit carmakers were the "inspiration" for "the rest of the world," says the great genius songwriter who took his inspiration from plenty of others who came before him.

At 0:49, Dylan lumbers forward saying, "Yeah, Detroit made cars. And cars made America." His upper lip looks strangely fake. There's no mustache. Did he shave off his mustache or is it plastered down with some sort of flesh-toned makeup paste that's impairing the mobility of his mouth? He wants his mustache, I think. He's had it a long time. But Chrysler doesn't want a mustache image.

Near the end, Bob says, "So let Germany brew your beer..." and I take a little offense, because beer is a big part of the manufacturing segment of the Wisconsin economy. But Bob's a Minnesotan, and there's some interstate rivalry, even as he's talking up Michigan. It's the state that shares your state's border that you tend to disrespect. Once there's another state buffering the proximity, you can get a little fuzzy and romantic.

Meade says, as I'm playing this: "The background tune is 'Things Have Changed.'" He recites a line of that song — which is playing only instrumentally — "I used to care but things have changed." The vocal track enters at the very end, with only the line "things have changed" — not "I used to care." You're supposed to care — a lot — about America. At least when you're buying a car. There are no cars in that song. There's some waiting for a train and walking on a bad road, and...
Feel like falling in love with the first woman I meet
Putting her in a wheelbarrow and wheeling her down the street
That would be a change, but what you need, in this unchanged America, is a car, and Bob recommends a Chrysler.

"Joining Republican anti-tax stalwarts like Dave Heineman of Nebraska and Scott Walker of Wisconsin in calling for more tax cuts, for instance, is a Democrat, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York."

Writes the NYT in an article titled "Battles Loom in Many States Over What to Do With Budget Surpluses."
While Republicans are tending to advocate more tax cuts and Democrats are more often pushing to restore spending on education and other programs, the differences between the two camps are not always so stark, with some governors outlining plans that appeal across party lines.
For the record, at his State of the State Address (PDF), Scott Walker said:
Every child, regardless of where they live or what their parents do for a living deserves a chance to have a great education at the public school, charter school, choice school, virtual school, or home school environment right for them. With this in mind, we increased funding for our traditional public schools by $387 million and expanded the choice program for other families across the state.
He may be an "anti-tax stalwart." He did say: "What do you do with a surplus? Give it back to the people who earned it. It's your money." But it's not right to portray him as stinting on education. 

If there's a mistake in your HealthCare.gov account, there's no way to fix it.

WaPo reports on the 22,000 "appeals" filed to get mistake fixed that "are sitting, untouched, inside a government computer and the "unknown number" of less formal efforts by consumers who call for help and are told there is nothing that can be done yet.
“It is definitely frustrating and not fair,” said Addie Wilson, 27, who lives in Fairmont, W.Va., and earns $22,000 a year working with at-risk families. She said that she is paying $100 a month more than she should for her insurance and that her deductible is $4,000 too high.

When Wilson logged on to HealthCare.gov in late December, she needed coverage right away. Her old insurance was ending, and she was to have gallbladder surgery in January. But the Web site would not calculate the federal subsidy to which she knew she was entitled. Terrified to go without coverage, Wilson phoned a federal call center and took the advice she was given: Pay the full price now and appeal later.
Not only is there no solution now, it's not even a priority. (Here are some things that are top priorities: "an electronic payment system for insurers, the computerized exchange of enrollment information with state Medicaid programs, and the ability to adjust people’s coverage to accommodate new babies and other major changes in life circumstance.")

In case you want to hear an interviewer who feels free to continually interrupt the President of the United States to turn up the heat.

Here's Bill O'Reilly interviewing Barack Obama. Full video and transcript at the link. I'll just excerpt the part about the IRS scandal, and I invite you to consider — in addition to the substance — whether this kind of interruption is unacceptably disrespectful or justifiable to prevent the interviewee from running out the clock with propaganda:

"Seven years after the feminists tried to bring down a Supreme Court nominee for sexual harassment — but really for his conservative stances — they went into contortions to defend Clinton. "

A sentence that deserves to be extracted from yesterday's Maureen Dowd column, which is titled and begins as if it's all about Rand Paul's comments connecting Bill's misdeeds to Hillary's presidential candidacy.

The title is "The Gospel According to Paul," which I didn't like because: 1. It appropriates religion for no reason, 2. I didn't immediately get which Paul it referred to (and avoided the column for a day because I had no interest in reading about Paul Krugman), 3. There was nothing gospel-like about the things Rand Paul had said, and 4. The column is really ultimately not about what Rand Paul thinks, because Dowd takes her own position about the relevancy of what Bill did to the decision whether to elect Hillary Clinton President.

Dowd's column ends:
It is not so simple to cast Hillary as a victim; she was also part of the damage-control team to vouch for her husband and undermine his mistress. White House aides and other Democrats spread the word that Monica was a troubled young woman with stalker tendencies. Sidney Blumenthal, a senior White House adviser, later testified that Hillary told him that “she was distressed that the president was being attacked, in her view, for political motives, for his ministry of a troubled person.”

Monica had to be sacrificed for the greater good of the Clintons and feminist ambitions. Hillary was furious at Bill — stories were leaked that he was sleeping on the couch — but she also had to protect her political investment. If he collapsed, she was done. And she was going up — to the Senate and eventually the Oval Office.
(Boldface added.)

ADDED: Meade, who's helping me proofread by reading this post aloud, pauses at the word "mistress" (which I've highlighted to help you find). He says: "That's old fashioned." And I think: And inaccurate! I ask, as is my wont, for permission to quote him, and he says yes and "Do I have your permission to do anything I want to you?" And now, I have to say: "Do I have permission to quote your 'Do I have your permission to do anything I want to you?'" And he says: "I don't think that would be understood very well, but yeah." And I'll just let you imagine what he said or I'll never be able to end this paragraph.

Impression, sunrise.

Photo taken at 7:10 a.m., precisely the official sunrise time today. My window faces north, so I can't see the sun directly, but the University's heat plant, puffing out its endless plume of steam provides a softly flowing reflection of the conventional sunrise scene taking place over to my right and out of my view.

"Female journalists... can get away with explicitly sexist attacks on their male colleagues."

"Last August, after getting into an on-air spat about U.S.–Russian relations with MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell, New Republic senior editor Julia Ioffe penned an article titled 'Dear Lawrence O’Donnell, Don’t Mansplain to Me About Russia.' In January, Marjorie Ingalls, a columnist for the online Jewish magazine Tablet, derided male reviewers who were insufficiently impressed by Disney’s latest animated feature 'Frozen' as 'boys' who miss the film’s girl-power message because they are 'writing with their penises.'"

So writes Cathy Young... with her... computer...  in Reason, in a piece called "Is There a Cyber War on Women?" 

Wouldn't it be fun to use such casually absurd and unfair literary fillips when writing about women? But you'd get in trouble. The feminists would be on your case. I'd say about that: 1. Mockery of the group that's been, traditionally, subordinated feels different and is going to be disapproved of long after many or most people are ready to say we've reached the condition of equality, 2. Mockery of the traditionally up group — males, white people, etc. — acknowledges their power and doesn't feel subordinating, so it actually does seem like fun, 3. Men (and white people) can put their efforts into claiming victimhood and insisting that we respect their dignity by refraining from sexist tropes like "writing with their penises," but 4. When all the writers submit to the calls for civility and treating everyone — including the powerful — with respect and gender-and-color neutrality, we will all be less free and more bored.

There's a lot more at Cathy Young's article, including this paragraph that mentions me:
While the political blogosphere, like punditry in more traditional media venues, skews male for many complicated reasons, the female presence in the new media is strong and thriving. Currently, the top-rated blog according to Technorati is the female-headed Huffington Post and the most popular independent, one-person blog belongs to University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse. Althouse’s take on the issue of woman abuse online can be summed up as “report serious threats to the cops; otherwise, grow a tough skin.”

"There were 3 minutes on the clock, still ticking, and he’s still in our face telling us, 'Stay ready.'"

"And we’re like, 'Man, the game’s pretty much over.' He just wants to be great that much."
[Russell] Wilson is accustomed to playing the underdog role. He was a two-star recruit coming out of the Collegiate School in Richmond, Va. His size was deemed an impediment. He played two sports at North Carolina State, was drafted as an outfielder by the Colorado Rockies in 2010 and played two seasons of minor league baseball. Plenty of people pushed him to pursue baseball

Wilson, though, chose a different route. After he had an impressive postgraduate season at Wisconsin, Seattle selected him in the third round of the 2012 draft. It was not long after the Seahawks had already paid a considerable sum to sign the free agent Matt Flynn.
It's a day to think about what it means to be an underdog. (And a Badger.)

February 2, 2014

At the Snow Dog Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want. Including the Super Bowl.

Go deep!