February 15, 2014

One-Sided, Out-of-Context Valentine's Dialogue.

1 minute, 45 seconds, edited for fun, from a 53+ minute conversation.

At some point, soon, the full dialogue, in split screen, will be up on Bloggingheads, in case you're wondering how all this might fit together. But maybe you'll say this says it all, and what more do you even need to know? Fill in the context yourself.

"It's downright appalling that the Obama administration would give in to right-wing obstruction and nominate ... an anti-choice, anti-equality candidate for the federal bench."

"Putting forward a right-wing candidate that would make George W. Bush think twice for a lifetime judicial appointment isn't horse-trading; it's caving on core progressive values, period."

ADDED: A week ago, I blogged about the Congressional Black Caucus meeting with Valerie Jarret about this and one member complaining: "Do you think George Bush would have been able to do this, or any white president would have been able to do this? No.... This is a terrible mistake, history will record it as such.... And it breaks my heart that it’s a black president."

"Where to keep your pubic hair."

"Cameron Diaz Encourages Women to Keep Their Pubic Hair in Her New Book."

Kinda like pressed flowers... or very unobtrusive bookmarks.

"In a defeat for organized labor in the South, employees at the Volkswagen plant here voted 712 to 626 against joining the United Automobile Workers."

"The loss is an especially stinging blow for U.A.W. because Volkswagen did not even oppose the unionization drive. The union’s defeat... was one of the most closely watched unionization votes in decades...."

The NYT reports — without mentioning the comments President Obama made yesterday, behind closed doors, to Democratic lawmakers in Maryland:
Obama said everyone was in favor of the UAW representing Volkswagen except for local politicians who "are more concerned about German shareholders than American workers"....
ADDED: "This is like an alternate universe where everything is turned upside down"...
... said Cliff Hammond, a labor lawyer at Nemeth Law PC in Detroit, who represents management clients but previously worked at the Service Employees International Union. "Usually, companies fight" union drives, he added.... "This vote was essentially gift-wrapped for the union by Volkswagen"...

But more workers were persuaded to vote against the union by the UAW's past of bitter battles with management, costly labor contracts and complex work rules. "If the union comes in, we'll have a divided work force," said Cheryl Hawkins, 44, an assembly line worker with three sons. "It will ruin what we have."...

"I just don't trust them," said Danielle Brunner, 23, who has worked at the plant for nearly three years and makes about $20 an hour—about $5 an hour more than new hires at GM, Ford and Chrysler plants.

He would have been the voice of Shrek and was in talks to play Fatty Arbuckle in a biopic and Ignatius J. Reilly in a film of "A Confederacy of Dunces."

But he died. Had he lived, Chris Farley would have turned 50 today.

By the way, why has there never been a film version of "A Confederacy of Dunces"? Is it cursed? Look at the list of actors around whom projects were attempted. In addition to Chris Farley, John Belushi, John Candy, and Divine. There was another failed project, built around Will Ferrell (in 2005). At least Ferrell lived. Steven Soderbergh, who co-wrote that adaptation, said: "I think it’s cursed. I’m not prone to superstition, but that project has got bad mojo on it."

"In this sense, doge really is the next generation of LOLcat, in terms of a pet-based snapshot of a certain era in internet language."

"We’ve kept the idea that animals speak like an exaggerated version of an internet-savvy human, but as our definitions of what it means to be a human on the internet have changed, so too have the voices that we give our animals. Wow."

"Everything is now based on something else."

An interesting proposition, stated in the abstract, it's proffered as Reason #2 for "Why Hollywood Still Makes [Remakes]."

Has originality become impossible? Is the freshest approach to be up-front and clear that you're copying?

"We don’t have anything against socks; in fact, our big fluffy ones were extra helpful this chilly season."

"But we’re not wild about jamming them under open-toed and/or summery shoes. Some may think it adds a youthful flair, but when we look at it, we see a crazy old lady shuffling off to evening bingo. Which will be great when we are that crazy old lady, but please don’t rush us there, designers. We have at least two more years."

Supposedly the scariest fashion trend on the horizon.

I like it. But then I am a (crazy) old lady.

ALSO: Check out the expressions on the faces of the women at "Worst Eavesdropping Experience" (and read the text of what they were listening to).

ADDED: From the Sartorialist in 2012: "If You’re Thinking About….Black Socks, Black Shoes" (located by clicking my "hosiery" tag).

AND: "Socks with sandals are on trend for spring/summer 2010."

PLUS: "Sometime around age 50, women start to let go of certain ideas about themselves and fashion. Up till then you can wear lots of silly or brash things, and if you are reasonably fit and attractive or consistently daring, it doesn’t really matter. You’re still with the tide. You are home free with your esoteric Pradas, your porkpie hats and coy Lolita socks, and no little voice is going, 'Heh-heh-heh, you’re too old for that.'"

And here's a picture I took of myself years ago, when I was 55:

"Earwax is a neglected body secretion whose potential as an information source has yet to be explored."

"Our previous research has shown that underarm odors can convey a great deal of information about an individual, including personal identity, gender, sexual orientation and health status."
"We think it possible that earwax may contain similar information."...

"In essence, we could obtain information about a person's ethnicity simply by looking in his ears.... While the types of odorants were similar, the amounts were very different."...

"Odors in earwax may be able to tell us what a person has eaten and where they have been."
What does the earwax say?

NYT frontpage teaser: "Focused on strength and bonding, [football] has a homoerotic component."

That surprised me, because it feels really old-fashioned, a throwback to a time when supposedly deep thinkers and culture critics thought it was intriguingly perceptive to describe something as unwittingly exhibiting homosexual tendencies. That was when sophisticated people thought they'd be admired for basing their insights on what was presumed to be a shared understanding that it was embarrassing or shameful to seem gay. Of course, the New York Times does not want to unwittingly exhibit the tendency to seem like those benighted people of not that long ago, and it's certainly not how one basks in one's own sophistication today. So, as I said, I was surprised.

Here's the underlying article, an op-ed by Nicholas Dawidoff, author of "Collision Low Crossers: A Year Inside the Turbulent World of NFL Football." Researching his book, hanging out with the New York Jets, Dawidoff says that "at times," he "found the atmosphere intensely homophobic." Example, a coach reviewing film of a game might criticize a play by calling it "gay porn." Dawidoff, apparently taking his own word "homophobic" literally, asks "What were these big, strong men so afraid of?"

Dawidoff notes that players and coaches spend lots of time together, much of it in small rooms. "It really is intimate." They like this close association and speak of mutual love. He leaps from that brotherly love to sexual love:
The very nature of football, focused as it is on strength, virility, grace and manly bonding, has an obvious homoerotic component for those who play and for those who watch. 
The word "obvious" is supposed to keep you from seeing what to me is obvious, that he swapped one kind of love for another. Eros for philia.
Part of the reason homosexuality is anathema in football, the reason gay players hide their sexual identity and fear rumors will keep them from getting drafted, is the worry that the affection could go too far and force the rest of the team to confront something uncomfortable in their bonds.
Oh, come on! Who's the homophobe here?! Heterosexual male athletes are afraid that their friendships will feel sexual? That's not my understanding of male heterosexuality. I haven't interviewed every heterosexual male on this subject, but I don't think heterosexual men worry that if they hang around indoors with their male friends long enough, there will be blow jobs.

Mailing babies and bees, dancing the Frugue and the Watusi, and how to spell Lucy/Luci.

The news from 100 years ago.
Babies are not mailable. The post office so holds in an edict barring them from the parcel post. The question arose over a request by the postmaster at Stratford, Okla., for a ruling by the department as to whether a patron of his office could send a 2-year-old child by parcel post from Twin Falls, Idaho, to Stratford. The postmaster was greatly puzzled, because he could find nothing in the regulations covering such a case. It was the first time the authorities here had been asked to rule upon the question and it caused a mild sensation. After reference to the parcel post regulations it was discovered that the Oklahoma postmaster was right, that there was nothing in them covering such a case. It was therefore decided that all human beings and live animals are barred from the mails. The one exception is the queen bee, which is the only living creature that can enjoy the privileges of the parcel post.
The news from 50 years ago:
President Johnson's 16-year-old daughter, Lucy Baines, danced the 'Frugue' last night, surprising White House aides and acting just like an average American teenager. Lucy was attending a weekend high school conference on religion at Buck Hill Falls in the Pocono Mountains. The attractive brunette, wearing a navy blue skirt and white blouse, arrived at the dance for conference delegates about 10 p.m. Lucy was the hit of the dance. She danced with seven or eight young men. They twirled away dancing the Frugue, a dance popular with teenagers.
I could only find video of Luci dancing the Watusi: here. The bad news is: The clip has no audio. The good news is: She's dancing with Steve McQueen. Did the newspaper quoted above misspell her name? Is it Luci or Lucy? The issue of how to spell the name of the President's teenage daughter was also in the news 50 years ago. From March 2, 1964:
President and Mrs. Johnson's younger daughter may prefer to spell her name "Luci," but her mother says firmly that the official spelling remains "Lucy."...

Mrs. Johnson's verdict on the name came when Malcolm Kilduff, White House press aide, was checking the guest list with her. With pencil poised, he asked: "Luc-I?" Quickly Mrs. Johnson said: "No, spell it L-u-c-y."
And what's with "Frugue"? Isn't it "Frug"? And how do you dance the Frugue/Frug? Here's how you dance it if you are rich:

If you're utterly awed by that — and I was — here's the whole movie.

"What is the White Privilege Conference?... 3. It is not a conference designed to rally white supremacist groups."

For the annals of ambiguous conference names.

(I'm noticing this because it's it's located here in Madison.)

ADDED: "The 15th annual White Privilege Conference (WPC) will come to Madison, Wis., late this March, and Wisconsin taxpayers are being forced to foot a heavy portion of the bill."
Educators, school faculty members, nonprofit staff, students, and others are expected to attend the conference, which will be partly funded by municipal coffers, public universities, and hotel-tax revenue....

Taxpayers will also incur costs paying substitute teachers to fill in for absent educators at the four-day long conference that runs from Wednesday, March 26, to Saturday, March 29. Outside of taxpayer funding, the WPC depends on donations and fees. Registration for the entire conference can cost from $195 for a college student to $440 for a corporate attendee.

February 14, 2014

"Or maybe our attempts to get at the truth of an imbroglio, like that involving Farrow and Allen, reflect a frustrated aspiration to retrieve some kind of shared, collective truth, period."

That's one sentence in a belabored essay by Lee Siegel titled "Is the News Replacing Literature?" Subheading that appears at the top of my browser but not on the page: "Woody Allen and Dylan Farrow v. Proust and Kafka."

Of course, Woody Allen has written innumerable screenplays in the 20 years that have gone by since we first heard the accusations about what he might have done to Dylan. We still consume those things. We (some of us) endeavor to fathom "Blue Jasmine" or whatever his movie of the year is.

But Siegel insists: "Instantaneous news of what happened, or might have happened, has become our art, and, like the chorus in ancient Greek tragedy, we are all part of the swelling roar." If so, is this bad? In novels, the characters are fictional, so our inferences from the evidence don't pass judgment on anyone real. If we can't see all the facts, it's because the author created ambiguity or didn't foresee all the various ideas we'd have, reading, and the additional things we might think we need to know.

It's a mental exercise, reading fiction, and the author may be a despicable person, like Woody Allen, if Woody Allen really did the things he's accused of, so maybe it is better to stretch our minds over the framework of some news story, like the story of Woody and Dylan. There, the facts are incomplete for a different reason, but the incompleteness is reality-based: Reporters can't get any deeper into the truth of the past. If we judge, we judge real people, and that isn't merely a mental exercise. We risk our own morality.

Siegel observes "a backlash of fanatical certainty and malevolent personal projection" in much of the "swelling roar" about Woody and Dylan, but people say foolish things about art too. High art is a filter. Who has opinions about Proust and Kafka? Maybe what's really eating Siegel is that those who used to consume high art and exchange their fanatical certainties and malevolent personal projections amongst themselves have joined the mob blabbering about news stories, and where can you find the truly excellent people anymore?

"Like most women, I’ve had the experience of feeling intimidated by strangers on the street, or afraid while walking on my own at night."

"But very few of those moments stand out. When I think about this skirt-spinning incident, however, I still get worked up."
I’m certain that the guy wasn’t trying to belittle me; he was trying to be friendly and make small talk. He was clumsy, but he wasn’t a jerk. But I can’t help thinking that no one would ever make small talk with a man by complimenting his shoes and then asking him to see if he could jump real high in them.
From a New Yorker piece titled "Real Everyday Sexism," by Andrea Denhoed. Description of the "skirt-spinning incident":
I was meeting some friends at a bar, wearing a dress with a full skirt. A male friend-of-a-friend in the group complimented the dress and then suggested that I “give a spin” to see if the skirt would puff out adorably. I stared at him for a second, then said, “I’d rather not,” and sat down. Inevitably, the rest of my friends gave me some friendly ribbing for being “tough” and “not taking shit.”
Why, really, does Ms. Denhoed keep getting "worked up" about this? Could it possibly be that she's embarrassed that she was so cold to this poor man and that she didn't pick up on the opportunity that her friends gave her, by teasing her in a friendly way, to rethink the situation on the spot and laugh at herself and be sweet? Why wear a dress with a full skirt if all you want is to be treated the same as a man in boring trousers? Perhaps Ms. Denhoed is afraid that the full skirt made her look childish, like a girl who wants to be a ballerina, and she was cold because the "compliment" felt like the man thought that too.
It’s telling that the natural outlet for the tension in this instance was for everyone—myself included—to riff on my abrasive noncompliance, rather than on the cartoonish absurdity of his request. 
Yes, indeed, it is telling. It tells us that people would rather be absurd and laugh and that they invited you — on this social occasion, in a bar — to dance and laugh, and even when you did not laugh, they lavished upon you even more invitations to laugh, to give up your abrasive noncompliance, but you didn't. You held onto it, you thought and thought, until they were all wrong, and the wrong that was done to you fit a whole template of wrongs done constantly, everywhere hurting everyone. Look! Everyone! See it now!

"Give a spin," he said. And, in the end, she did. She gave a spin, a spin her way, in words. And he got to see if it puffed out adorably. It did not.

Valentine's Day, the Google Doodle.


"20 Things People Supposedly Like More Than Sex."


1 in 5 who signed up for health insurance failed to pay the first premium.

And so, they are not covered (even though extensions were given). 
People could have many reasons for not paying their premiums. Some decided they did not want a health plan for which they had applied. Some never received an invoice from the insurance company, or received it late. In addition, phone lines of some health plans were overwhelmed.

Obama administration officials said they did not know how many people signing up for coverage had paid their premiums because the government had not finished building the “back end” of the computer systems needed to pay insurers.

"Look, if you don't cooperate with me, I'm not going to let you continue your argument... Would you stop babbling?" said the judge to the lawyer.

"When you're asked a question ... you're not supposed to interrupt judges and, if they ask questions which can be answered yes or no, you answer yes or no. Don’t you understand that?"

It was Judge Richard Posner, schooling Jones Day partner Matthew Kairis, in the oral argument about Obamacare, contraceptives, and the burden on religion.

Pushback against the news that more women are "marrying down."

"If they’re marrying plumbers and electricians, while holding degrees in women’s studies, they’re marrying up in terms of income."

That's Instapundit, and even that is snarkier than it needs to be. This is America. Where is the up and the down? Why pick on women's studies? Almost any academic field might put you in a worse place than learning how to do something that people really need, and those who figure that out and learn a trade and start a business may be showing better signs of intelligence than those who go to college (who may be unthinkingly following the obvious path and trusting that the world would provide them with the thing called "a job").

Rush Limbaugh covered this story yesterday:
I can remember all the times in the 25- year history of this program where I would talk about the economic phenomenon of women marrying up.  I can't tell you how offended certain people got at that, even though it simply was an accurate depiction of what happened.  I mean, you can get mad at it all you want, but men have been, or were, the primary breadwinners for eons...

So here we are now where the Pew Center actually has a chart titled, "More women marrying down."  Educationally.  Does marrying someone with less education mean marrying down economically?  According to the Pew Research Center, not necessarily.  When they looked at the newlywed women who married someone with less education, they found that a majority of these women actually were still marrying up economically.  In 2012, only 39% of newlywed women who married a spouse dumber than she was out-earned him.  Look, it just takes less time to say "dumber" than "less educated," but you know what I mean.  Plus, let's admit, it sounds funny.
Says the man who dropped out of college (and who believes he's so smart he has to have "half my brain tied around my back just to make it fair").

The problem — and the reason for this up/down business — is that (most) Americans don't like to talk about social class. We use education as a proxy for social class, and that causes us to say and think some things that don't make sense. We don't want to sound so snobby as to say: This woman married a man who is beneath her, because he works with his hands. We have contempt for that kind of expression, but it really is what is being said.

Drake is "disgusted" that Rolling Stone "took my cover from me last minute and ran" with Philip Seymour Hoffman.

He tweets: "RIP to Philip Seymour Hoffman. All respect due. But the press is evil."
"I'm done doing interviews for magazines. I just want to give my music to the people. That's the only way my message gets across accurately."
I feel like siding with Drake here. I mean, he sounds self-absorbed and uncaring.  Philip Seymour Hoffman died! But Philip Seymour Hoffman killed himself with drugs. Why channel all honor to him? The man left 3 young children fatherless. Meanwhile, Drake is staying alive, giving music to the people. Where are our values? Why are we morbidly drawn in to Hoffman's self-waste? Show us somebody who's doing something good, offering new, positive things that make life worth living.

I haven't been keeping track of Drake, however, and perhaps he's awful for some reasons that haven't crossed my path, and I can't remember whether his music is any good, musically or message-wise. That's not my point here. I'm just taking him to be a living artist with new material who got eclipsed by our absorption with the way a dead artist would never give us anything new ever again.

"I'm very obviously gay, and there are always gonna be people in America and everywhere else who are definitely going to hate."

"But I think that in the last two years there have been a lot of things that have really changed that, and have really made it a positive thing," said "American Idol" contestant MK Nobilette, as she awaited the judge's announcement whether she'd made it on to the next round as one of the final 30.

The first judge to speak was Harry Connick Jr., who said "Thank goodness" — meaning thank goodness a lot of things have really changed in the last 2 years.

The next judge to speak was Jennifer Lopez. She began with "This is a tough day," which was the kind of stalling they were using repeatedly when they were ultimately saying yes. (That's how they try to wring emotion out of contestants and audience members who haven't yet caught on that this is the tell that the news is good.) Lopez proceeds through the narrative arc, as if she were making the "tough" decision on the spot: "The world is changing, I think." And then: "We think that you could be an American Idol."

"Thank you guys so much," said MK, crying, and as she's walking out of the room, we see the third judge, Keith Urban, quietly, emotionally, pronounce the ultimate judgment: "The world is changing."

And so "American Idol," the long-time, middle American family show — a show which has had beloved gay contestants before, but never one who was openly gay — has gone all in for gay acceptance. The 3 judges — each in succession — carefully, gently, sweetly, informed America that the world has changed (or is changing). This is where we all are now (or where the arc of history is bending).

Come on. Group hug, America. 

Baskin-Robbins had 32 flavors, and Facebook has 50 genders.

It's just a commercial gimmick, and I know I'm letting it work on me by giving the little boost of publicity that a blog post is.

Whatever you say about this — wherever you are on the 50 or 100 or 1,000 positions there are on the continuum of reaction — you'll be rewarding Facebook. Even if you leave Facebook and tell all your friends to leave Facebook, you'll be helping Facebook, because they want a better proportion of hip, young people. They've got the problem of young people not using Facebook anymore. Go ahead and leave, conspicuously, and look like you're taking your old, uncool friends with you.

List of genders below the link. They aren't so much different genders as different forms of expression about gender. They could have simply given everyone an open window to fill in. We have an open space to write in our name. There's no drop-down menu with millions of names. At what point in website construction do you normally switch from a menu of options to a window to be filled in? Far less than 50, I presume.

This list of 50 was constructed as a viral ad for Facebook. We're supposed to talk about it, react, and spread the word. So, whatever, I'm in this far. Here, I'll give 10 words:

1. It's funny that the list still has "other" as an option. 2. There's also "neither." 3. This is a list of everything the Facebook people imagined anyone writing in the blank if we were just given a blank within which to write what we want, 4. Now, I'm having a flashback to the olden days when we thought it was hilarious to fill in the box labeled "sex" with: "on a regular basis," 5. The first item on the list is "Agender," and you know Facebook has the most obvious hidden agender I've ever seen, 6. No, no, no, I'm not going to look up the terms I don't understand, 7. "Androgyne" seems anodyne, 8. "Two-spirit" sounds New Age-y, 9. "Bigender" could use a hyphen so people don't see the syllable break as "Big Ender," 10. And yet "Big Ender" could itself be a gender, because as long as we're trying to come up with as many options as possible, if you can think of it, why can't you be it? 11. At this point, what difference does it make? 12. Oh, I've gone to 11? You thought there would be only 10 items on my list? And now I've gone to 12. Take that, unhip loser. Don't repress me, man. Get off of Facebook, the website used by the hippest, coolest users.

February 13, 2014

There's only one of the 50 states that has no snow, and it's not Hawaii.

It's Florida.

(Because Hawaii has some mountain peaks. The highest you get in Florida is Britton Hill, a mere 345 feet above sea level.)

"The tricky thing about stress (and the anxiety that comes with it) is that it’s an absolutely necessary emotion."

"Our brains are wired such that it’s difficult to take action until we feel at least some level of this emotional state. In fact, performance peaks under the heightened activation that comes with moderate levels of stress."

Writes Travis Bradberry in a piece called "How Successful People Stay Calm."

"Complains the 'Mommyish' blog: 'The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue will feature Barbie, so your daughter can feel bad too.'"

"Others sarcastically say since SI always treats its models like 'things,' why not just put a 'thing' on the cover?"

"I'm not a designer, nor do I think I am... I see an opportunity to help curate these different pieces for guys at an accessible level."

Says Ryan Seacrest about the new men's fashion line going out under his name.
Mr. Seacrest said he intended the clothes to reflect what he wears. When manufacturers proposed lilac and green, he said "I wouldn't wear that," he recalled, in a recent telephone interview. "Sometimes they've said to me, 'You wouldn't wear this color but people like this color. They want to buy that color.' " Some shades of green made it into the neckwear collection, just "not bad leprechaun green," Mr. Seacrest said. Lilac was scrapped for blues and charcoals....
I love the word "curate" as used these days euphemistically to upgrade a certain sort of activity, to imbue the appropriation of the creative work of others with creativity of its own, making the selection and presentation perhaps even more refined and praiseworthy that the original work. I see the Oxford English Dictionary is watching this development, with a new meaning, a draft addition from 2011:
trans. In extended use: to select the performers or performances to be included in (a festival, album, programme, etc.); (also) to select, organize, and present (content), as on a web site.

1982   N.Y. Times 24 Jan. ii. 8/1   The Kitchen presented three different programs of ‘New Performances from P.S. 122’, curated by and including Mr. Dennis....
2003   Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont.) (Nexis) 20 Feb. f6   You have every reason to be wary of a Ramones tribute album curated by Rob Zombie.
2006   Play: N.Y. Times Sports Mag. June 44/2   As you wade through the millions of words on ESPN.com, you wonder if anyone is curating what reaches the screen....
2010   W. J. Martin & X. Tian Bks., Bytes & Business iii. 45   Publishers will be..engaged in the business of generating, curating and aggregating content.

Dawn, right now.

The pink sky got me looking for the camera, which I found in the pocket of a coat hung near the front door. The search was annoying, but it ended well, with me seeing a more direct view of the sunrise from the front of the house...


... photographed not through a window, but standing outside, without a coat, in the 18.5° — "Feels Like 8°F" — cold. Nice! (When you're out there for 30 seconds.)

"When President Obama told Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in March 2012 that 'after my election I have more flexibility'..."

"...most assumed he was referring to foreign policy. It turns out Mr. Obama's ambitions weren't so limited."

IN THE COMMENTS: retail lawyer writes:
Question for Ann: How are law schools explaining this new flexibility, promulgation, the Take Care clause, etc.? How do you think they'll be teaching it in the future? Sometimes I wish I still were in law school.
And I said:
I'd quote Justice Jackson in the Steel Seizure Case:
I cannot be brought to believe that this country will suffer if the Court refuses further to aggrandize the presidential office, already so potent and so relatively immune from judicial review, at the expense of Congress.

But I have no illusion that any decision by this Court can keep power in the hands of Congress if it is not wise and timely in meeting its problems. A crisis that challenges the President equally, or perhaps primarily, challenges Congress. If not good law, there was worldly wisdom in the maxim attributed to Napoleon that "The tools belong to the man who can use them." We may say that power to legislate for emergencies belongs in the hands of Congress, but only Congress itself can prevent power from slipping through its fingers.
"The tools belong to the man who can use them."

It's a great line.

But sometimes you've just got tools lying around, and no one can use them too well, and some men and women try to use them to halfway build something and then they leave it leaking and creaking for some other man to whip into shape with those tools, which he's not too good at using, but he keeps tinkering away, ineptly, and everyone watches and bitches about it, and you've just got some huge hulking crappy thing that's never going to work right, but so much damned effort was put into building the thing that we just go ahead and use it anyway.

"Why It Makes Sense for Students to Grade One Another’s Papers."

A column by  Barry Peddycord III at The Chronicle of Higher Education.

I — a professor — didn't actually read this column. I only read the headline and glanced at the text, and this one sentence that popped out at me:
In its worst incarnation, peer grading can be a scheme for lazy professors to offload on students the boring work of assessment.
But I do read exams, every single exam for 30 years, every single word of every single exam, including all the handwritten words — and a typed exam was rare until a few years ago — many of which I had to stare at for a good long time before they acquired meaning.

Everyone is lazy to a certain extent. Despite laziness, most of us have enough character to do what we perceive as our duty. In fact, what we call laziness is an urge for efficiency, a good counter-force that keeps us from become drudges and drones.

So what I'm saying is: If you talk up peer grading and supply professors with plenty of lofty, unselfish reasons to adopt this policy, the sense of duty will erode, and we will drift toward efficiency (AKA laziness).

ADDED: Unlazily, I created a new tag, handwriting, and added to to many old posts. It's a nice tag, the kind I like, because it pulls miscellaneous things out of the 10-year archive. Including...


"Despite the grim and often overtly political pre-Games coverage of what became known as Putin's Olympics..."

"... the only crises to have occurred in Sochi thus far are Shaun White's failure to medal in the half-pipe and Bob Costas' wicked eye infection." L.A. Times TV critic Mary McNamara skewers journalists.
For weeks, the media preamble to the Games leaned heavily on political criticism: For Russia's anti-gay laws, the expense of the facilities, the unsmiling tyranny of the president, the joylessness of the populace and the shoddiness of the accommodations. (If you want to ensure negative coverage, put journalists in bad hotel rooms.)...

[T]he tone increasingly trended to near hysteria, especially when compared with the months-long Valentine to Britain of two summers ago. Stray Sochi dogs were being rounded up and possibly shot! The American athletes couldn't get their Chobani yogurt!...

Not surprisingly, many thought the grim prophecy fulfilled by the now-infamous Fifth Snowflake Disaster. Early on in the opening ceremony, one of five large illuminated snowflakes refused to turn into an Olympic ring. The show included a young girl successfully suspended hundreds of feet in the air, enormous and flawlessly executed dance numbers, and a stadium floor that miraculously transformed into oceans, countries and Venetian-glass skies. But did you see that malfunctioning snowflake?

The ex-Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, guilty of taking $200,000 in bribes from businessmen who got favors and contracts worth $5 million.

He'll go to prison, for up to 20 years, CNN reports, quoting a local lawyer who says the trial was "too painful actually to watch," because Nagin "did a belly flop" and "just looked terrible," taking the stand in his own defense after the prosecutors had "just swamped him," with the businessmen — who'd already pleaded guilty — testifying about paying the bribes. 

"It's Friday the 13th. For the love of God, people, be careful."

"If you're going to take any risks, I hope it's worth it for you."

I wrote in the morning, 5 years ago, when Friday the 13th fell on Friday, and I did take risks and it was totally worth it for me, that day when I fell in love with Meade.

As the first commenter, the aptly-named Pogo, said: "Friday the 13th is even worse when it falls on a Monday."

Today, Friday the 13th comes on Thursday. Tomorrow, actual Friday, is Valentine's Day. Find love today.

ADDED: Later this morning, I happen to write a post that causes me to create a new tag — handwriting — which I apply retroactively to things in the archive and it gets me back to a post that's also from 5 years ago, 5 years and 12 days ago to be precise, with a picture of me from the 1970s that my then-husband took. In the comments, the then-husband comes in to say "Hi, Ann," and Meade — in his fabulous green-pants phase — said:

February 12, 2014

"If you want to find the ur-texts of ‘The Producers’ and ‘Blazing Saddles,’ of ‘Sleeper’ and ‘Annie Hall,’ of ‘All in the Family’ and ‘M*A*S*H’ and ‘Saturday Night Live’..."

"... check out the old kinescopes of Sid Caesar."

Goodbye to Sid Caesar. He was 91.

ADDED: "Everybody thinks that Sid waited to be pumped up with intelligence and with material from his writers. They thought that he was just like — he'd sit there like a crazy empty balloon and that we would come in and we would pump him up and make, you know, we'd make a human being out of him. His tongue would stick out and he would talk and be funny, you know? But, believe it or not, Sid was one of the funniest guys, even away from the writers and the writing room."

Said Mel Brooks.

"Sid was the flame... Every writer was a moth who wanted to hang around that flame. There wasn't a writer in television who didn't want to be licking around that flame."

Said Carl Reiner.

At the Running Dog Café...

... you can talk about anything you want.

About that standing desk...

Readers who know I love my standing desk keep pointing me to this XKCD comic:

"Republican wins San Diego mayor special election. And in spite of a flood of public-union money in favor of the Democrat."

"Obama Turnout Machine Crashes in San Diego — Loses Mayor’s Race by 9 Points."
The polls were skin-tight leading into yesterday’s election, and unions poured in millions to keep control in the nation’s eighth-largest city. . . . Democrats were stunned at the margin.
IN THE COMMENTS: mccullough said:
What justifies the "in spite" in the article? Pension and medical benefits of public employees are a hot issue. The more a Dem candidate looks like a union stooge, the worse it is for that candidate.
I think what we are seeing — and what we saw here in Wisconsin in 2011 — is a new visibility to the dysfunctional cycling of money between the public employee unions and the Democratic Party.

"House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is trying to make the midterm elections all about women."

"Armed with Democratic polling, the California Democrat has for months been touting a 'women’s economic agenda' in more than two dozen events across the country, with more planned soon."

ADDED: I've been entertaining the suspicion that the basic problem is that women are — or are thought to be — less interested in politics than men. We represent more than half of the electorate, and yet we may be apathetic or distanced or deferential to others about the traditional political issues — foreign policy, economics, business affairs, infrastructure projects, and whatnot.

We may tend to sit back and let others worry about those things and even decline to vote. Or politicians might simply think that's our tendency. And so something extra seems to be needed to get our attention and to lure us into having an opinion that is sufficient to motivate us to vote. So that's why we get special politics for women.

One thing Republicans might do — and I think some of them already do — is to portray that special politics for women as offensive to women. Of course, that itself is special politics for women.

The NYT takes aim at the Republican Governors — including Scott Walker — who are running for re-election in 2014.

"Mr. Walker is one of eight Republican governors facing re-election who swept into office in 2010 in states that President Obama won two years earlier, driven by the Tea Party at the height of its influence. Mr. Obama clawed back in 2012 to win each state again."
Mr. Walker argues that Wisconsin offers a lesson to his party nationally. “The perception of many across America is Republicans in Washington are the party of ‘no,’ they’re just against things,” he said in an interview. “We shouldn’t be about austerity. We should be about reform. We should spell out a clear message about how we’re going to reform things. I think what voters are hungry for in battleground states is leadership.”...

If the other Republicans in the Rust Belt are trying to moderate their message, Mr. Walker in Wisconsin argues that independent voters do not want Republicans to move to the center....

“I argue the way you win the center, which is key to winning battleground states, is not to run to the center; it’s to lead, it’s to be bold,” he said.


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"Governor Walker says it's 'ridiculous' to comment on the state of women's health care in Wisconsin because 'no one is talking about those issues.'"

NARAL is urging people to "Call Governor Walker every Wednesday during the legislative session and tell him women's health matters!" I went to that page as a result of email from NARAL Pro-Choice Wisconsin with the subject line "We ARE talking about women's health." (I don't know why I get email from them. I see how to unsubscribe from their email list, but I choose not to.)

There's a short clip at the link with Scott Walker responding to an interviewer, deflecting a question about women's reproductive rights on the ground that "women I talk to in my state never talk about that issue." Here's a longer clip, and I can see that the interview is from August 2012, in the heat of the presidential campaign, and his point was to focus on the economy:

Actually, even that longer clip is out of context. The interviewer, Amy Goodman (of Democracy Now!), is shown in the middle of something and ending "On choice, on abortion, with Paul Ryan being the vice-presidential candidate, do you share his views?" What views? What did Paul Ryan say as paraphrased by Goodman? Walker's response is "That’s a ridiculous question." What, exactly, did Walker call "a ridiculous question"? NARAL would like you think that Walker — now, even after the presidential 2012 race is over — thinks "the state of women's health care in Wisconsin" is beneath his concern.

"It's a wonder we can even feed (and hydrate) ourselves."

We're idiots, babe.

I attempt to explain the comedy of Dumb Starbucks.

You know, when someone is actually named Ann, she's probably tired of hearing people tell her: Ann is my middle name.

Yeah, it's every woman's middle name.

That Slate article: "The Massive Liberal Failure on Race. Affirmative action doesn’t work. It never did. It’s time for a new solution."

It's long, so you might want to read it to see why it's said that affirmative action doesn't work. You might find it helpful to know that the author, Tanner Colby, looks like this...

... and that in addition to his book "Some of My Best Friends Are Black: The Strange Story of Integration in America," he's written biographies of 2 white male comedians, John Belushi and Chris Farley. Here's a HuffPo piece that had him going on about how he has no black friends, even though he's totally liberal and lives in NYC. He's "never even been inside a black person's house." So that's his background. Why he's the person to declare and explain the failure of affirmative action and to propose a solution, I do not know.

Does Slate know? Obviously, Slate's publishing the article boosts Colby's stature as an expert on this topic. It's why I'm reading Colby's piece. But I can see the reasons why Slate would publish this. It knows its readers are mostly white liberals, and it's easy to guess that they're susceptible to the narcissistic question: Where are my black friends? (Obama counts as one friend, but he's always so busy.) And Slate's headline is one of the most egregious pleas for traffic I have ever seen: "Massive Liberal Failure on Race: Affirmative action doesn’t work...." Massive! Liberal! Failure! Race! The righties will not be able not to link to this, I can hear them chuckling. And maybe, oozing in around their self-loving liberalism, they believe that plenty of their regular readers, the good liberals, feel secretly aggrieved about affirmative action.

February 11, 2014

"Many of you probably know me as a comedian... but this is a real business I plan to get rich from..."

"The owner of a parody coffee shop in Los Angeles called 'Dumb Starbucks' has been revealed to be Canadian television comedy personality Nathan Fielder."

"We are evaluating next steps and while we appreciate the humour, they cannot use our name, which is a protected trademark," a Starbucks spokesperson said in a statement.
Part of the comedy is this straightfaced assertion about law: "By adding the word dumb, we are legally allowed to use the coveted Starbucks name and logo, because we've fulfilled the minimum requirements to be considered a parody under U.S. law." That's transcribed from the video. What I like about this is that the comedian is making fun of law, and he's also perplexing Starbucks, which probably doesn't want the image of humorless and litigious. But I guess they have to protect their trademark. I predict quiet arrangements and Fielder closing down the place with no consequences. He's actually helping Starbucks, and I assume Starbucks wants whatever good can come of this, while squelching the bad.

By the way, in the video, doesn't the exterior shot of the place, showing the strip mall, look like where Saul Goodman had his law offices on "Breaking Bad"?

At the Althouse Alehouse...


... get a life, make a duck face, and tell us your most secret desire.

"It's a public space, like the public library, which Barbara Ehrenreich called socialism at its finest."

So said The Progressive's senior editor Matt Rothschild, about WYOU Community Television, which has entered into a relationship with the Madison Public Library:

"As long as we have Shirley Temple, we'll be all right," said Franklin Roosevelt.

Quoted at 5:01 in this Screen Actor's Guild presentation from 2006:

Shirley Temple died last night at the age of 85, and here's my longer tribute to her from this morning. I just wanted to put that up too. It's full of incredibly charming things.

"Well, I mean... knees. I don't much like knees."

(Via Metafilter.)

"But for Boomers, it’s like when one of Gary Larson’s Far Side gorillas says to the other, 'You know, Sid, I really like bananas...'"

"'... I mean, I know that’s not profound or nothin’ … Heck! We ALL do… But for me, I think it goes beyond that.'”

From an article by Bert Archer titled "Let Us Now Praise ... Bob Dylan? Really? Must We?" that ends "Fuckin’ Boomers."

And here's Banana Miscellanea, where, if you scroll down to the far nether region you'll get to the Far Side jest. On the way down, you'll find "Mayor Forced to Eat 12 Pounds of Bananas," "Man Gets 20 Days in Toy Banana Flashing," "Bananas and Cucumbers: Too Sexy for Women?," "Oldest Man, New Yorker, 112, Swears By Bananas, Anacin Tablets," and more.

Lugers don't like being appropriated by The Canadian Institute of Diversity and Inclusion for use in a pro-gay video.

It's a slow-motion video of double-lugers rocking back and forth in an effective visual double-entendre and then the words: “The Games have always been a little gay. Let’s fight to keep it that way.”

The NYT article quotes some Olympians: 
“They’re making fun of our sport for their cause and it doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me,” Christian Niccum, an American Olympian, said after completing two training runs at the Sanki Sliding Center. “If I were to go hug my dad and someone took a picture and showed it in really slow motion, they could use it in a video like that and that’s just ridiculous. It’s my dad. Can’t we show affection to each other without it being some sort of sexual contact? This is sports. It’s the same thing. Why does it have to be like that?”

Another American, Preston Griffall, who will compete in the doubles competition, which begins Wednesday night, said most doubles lugers understand that they are an obvious target for jokes. “We’re two dudes, laying on top of each other in spandex,” he said. “Of course people are going to make fun of it.”
Who's got the better perspective?
pollcode.com free polls 

"You have a prosecutor — whether intentionally or unintentionally — reveal information that is covered by the gag order. There's nothing you can say about this as a target to put things in context."

Says David Rivkin, a lawyer for Eric O'Keefe, of the Wisconsin Club for Growth, whom prosecutors seem to have revealed as one of the targets of the John Doe investigation (which circles around Governor Scott Walker).
... Rivkin said he couldn't be sure if prosecutors intentionally leaked the names with their filing. But Rivkin called the disclosure "unfortunate."

"This underscores what a chilling effect a comprehensive gag order causes," said Rivkin, a partner with the Baker Hostetler law firm in Washington, D.C....

Others involved in the case said they were inclined to believe the initials were inadvertently included in the filings. "It looks really sloppy to me," said one source familiar with the investigation. "But maybe there's some rhyme or reason that isn't readily apparent."
Maybe there's some rhyme or reason... That's the attitude — an incredibly lame attitude — you take when you want to presume that government is behaving properly. Ironically, this sector of government — the John Doe investigation — is all about supervising the propriety of another part of government — some things relating to Scott Walker.

We're talking about the burdens on free speech, so the presumptions should favor the citizen. The apparent motive to chill conservative political speech in Wisconsin is itself chilling — whether that's the real motive or not.

"If an Ohio punk has the right to have her genitalia operated on, why has not the Somali woman the same right?"

Asked Germaine Greer, in her book "The Whole Woman," and now, unsurprisingly, she's being attacked for defending female genital mutilation. I'm not reading the whole "Whole Woman" book, and I don't know how much it defends the other culture's genital cuttings as opposed to challenging us to judge the culture we don't know with the same degree of harshness or sympathy that we use in judging the culture we do know.

Are her critics really answering the question asked above? I'm seeing things like:
The MPs' report... says that Ms Greer takes "no account of the purposes of female genital mutilation, nor the lack of choice for those young girls on whom it is inflicted.  Equating the forcible clitoridectomy of an eight-year-old girl with the voluntary body-piercing of an American teenager is absurd"....
Because the operation is often carried out in non-sterile conditions, sometimes using kitchen knives or pieces of glass, there is a risk that the child or woman could die of infections such a septicaemia.
But the quoted question refers to "the same right" and to "the Somali woman." Again, I have not read the whole book and don't know everything Greer may have said, but going on only the quoted question above, I see her talking about voluntary surgery, performed within high-quality medical facilities, on adult women. That is what the same right would look like.

Goodbye to Shirley Temple.

Here's the NYT obituary, with some of the details of the life of the greatest child star of all time and perhaps the most loved actress of all time. My mother taught me to love her in the 1950s when I was a child — my mother, who had loved going to the movies when she was a child during The Depression, when Shirley Temple movies were coming out and making people happy.

I watched so many Shirley Temple movies on our big black-and-white TV. They were on all the time — "Captain January," "The Littlest Rebel," "Curly Top," "The Little Princess." So many of the movies I saw as a child were Shirley Temple movies on TV. I was never taken to a movie theater with my parents, so I didn't see a movie in a theater until I was old enough to go without an adult. Movies were part of television, and there was Shirley in her childhood prime. She had a TV show — "Shirley Temple's Storybook" — where we saw her as a lovely adult woman, introducing a filmed fairy tale each week.

I've written many blog posts about Shirley Temple over the years, and I'm going to extend this post with some links to them.

January 29, 2014, blogging about the State of the Union:
"Shirley Temple is there," I said, spotting Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and being unfair to Shirley Temple, whose ringlets — as I do an image search this morning — look artlessly subtle and not at all like Debbie's headful of boing-y springs. Incredible what women can do to themselves and still be taken seriously.
June 20, 2013, blogging about Paula Deen's getting into trouble for the notion of a slave-themed wedding with "a bunch of little n-----s..."  like "in the Shirley Temple days," where "they used to tap dance around":
[O]bviously, there were all sorts of problems with the way black people were depicted in old Hollywood movies, let's at least get it clear in our minds what the movie reference is. There was a 1935 Shirley Temple movie called "The Littlest Rebel," and here's what it looked like when Bill Bojangles Robinson (playing the slave "Uncle Billy") danced. He's not tap dancing "around" — as if slaves dance around while working — he's giving a performance at an elegant affair — as a soloist, not in "a bunch." And he's not in shorts and shirt-sleeves. He's wearing long pants and a vest and a jacket. So Deen's mental image of what went on in the bad old days of Hollywood is itself an embarrassing distortion.
February 6, 2013, "My duck does a wonderful trick. My duck can lay an egg!" A sweet clip of Shirley, presented a propos of the "'Signs that people are tired of thinking about politics,' which highlighted the Washington Post article about the amazing fact that a bird laid an egg. And who better than Shirley Temple to epitomize the desire for distraction from politics?"

August 27, 2012, the topic was the desire for a movie that "helps me be a nicer person, not a sharper arguer":
I'm wracking my brain trying to come up with a movie that oriented me toward greater niceness. I can think of movies that might help you become a better person, but it's usually in the sense of becoming bolder, more independent, more resolutely opposed to evil and oppression. But nicer? Can you think of a movie in which the central character, someone you identify with, is especially polite and the politeness isn't basically something he must overcome in order to succeed.

A-ha! The answer: Every Shirley Temple movie.
April 28, 2012, somehow the top of Obama's gaffe about "clinging to guns and religion" led to Shirley, after some lady reminded somebody of Jane Withers, as Withers' appeared as an adult in the 1960s in ads for Comet scouring powder, and I said:
When my mother saw those Comet ads, she's always exclaim about how mean Jane Withers was to Shirley Temple. She was the child actress who was most emphatically not Shirley Temple....
Withers played the role of a girl who was mean to the most lovable child who ever lived, and therefore she became — in my mothers mind — the mean girl, indelibly, no matter how many sinks she scrubbed clean.

April 29, 2009, a controversy over a photographic presentation of teenaged Miley Cyrus looking overly sexualized led me to show you this clip of Shirley Temple as a toddler playing a seductress. It's simply astounding by today's standards:

April 9, 2007, I have "A profound movie experience... watching one of the first movies I ever saw... Perhaps the second movie I ever saw in my life -- the first was 'The Little Fugitive" -- was the Shirley Temple movie 'Captain January.'"
And speaking of influences, I can see how much this influenced me. Shirley is angrily defiant as she stands up to the prissy female truant officer who doesn't like the feisty attitude she's learning from the men. The truant officer wants to put her in an institution, away from Captain January, the kindly lighthouse keeper who found her after a shipwreck.
You should be taken home and spanked! What kind of man is this Captain January to allow you to run around?
This is some heavy dialogue for a young child to hear. (Shirley has just been looking at a picture she thinks is her dead mother and has tried to sing the song "Asleep in the Deep.")
Helen: How can anyone sleep in the deep?
Capt. January: That's the long last sleep, Star.
Helen: Does everyone have to die?
Capt. January: Yes, everyone does.
Helen: Even you and me?
Capt. January: Yes, when the time comes.
Helen: Do you think we'll make it till Christmas?
Capt. January: Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if we did.
Yes, Shirley reminds you of death, then tries to cheer you back up with Christmas and short term hopes.
April 23, 2004, I write my first (and best) Shirley Temple post, telling the story of "The Hagen Girl" — the movie she made with Ronald Reagan — complete with shot-from-the-TV-screen stills:
It's bad, but awesome. Ronald Reagan comes to town, hears people gossiping about him, and doesn't like it..... The gossip is all about how Mary Hagen, played by Shirley Temple, is an illegitimate child and the father is Reagan. Shirley was the most adorable child ever, but here she is as a gorgeous teenager:

Read the whole story at the link. I'll just tell you that Ronald Reagan rescues the suicidal Shirley from drowning — complete with pictures of Reagan diving into the raging river and Shirley looking "modern and fabulous" while wet — and in the end he tells her — so Reaganesquely — "It's what you are, and where you're going that really matters."

April 24, 2004, the day after that big Shirley-and-Reagan post, I posited a question for which you'll see no answers at the link, because I didn't have the comments on back then. You might find this a particularly interesting question today, what with all the recent talk of Woody Allen's depredations and travails:
So if a teenage girl goes for a year believing an older man is her biological father, but then finds out it was just rumor, is it okay to marry him? I mean in a conventional family-oriented movie. That's what happened in "That Hagen Girl" (discussed... with pictures, yesterday). Ronald Reagan was none too happy with the role of the father figure and begged for a rewrite in which he doesn't end up marrying Shirley Temple.
Reagan's misgivings about the script were borne out when the film had its first preview screening. After he rescues Temple from her suicide attempt, he admits that he loves her. But when he said the words on screen, the preview audience screamed "Oh no!" almost in unison.
So they recut it, so people wouldn't scream in horror! But that only made it an inexplicably sexless marriage.

February 10, 2014

At the Blue Snow Café...

... we're all here and intent on finding a place.

Medal blocking.

I want to watch the Olympics without knowing the outcomes, but I'm constantly looking at websites. I'd like some software that would block stories that reveal results. It's impossible to avoid spoilers!

The return of "My scotoma."

Previously experienced on August 15, 2004. Exactly the same thing is happening to me now. Strange!

10 years apart. Why?

Beautiful, graceful, hilarious enactment of utter outrage at a white guy's inability to tell black people apart.

By Samuel L. Jackson, who is not Laurence Fishburne, and if you think you can proceed to the next topic oh, hell no!

"That the media is making such a big deal out of Sam may seem a little strange, particularly to those who are and have always been down with the gay folks."

"It’s helpful to consider the idea that we’re writing the last chapter in a very lengthy book of American history. The advancement and acceptance of an openly gay male pro athlete (sorry pioneering ladies – we know you were first) is the final stage of cultural acceptance of gay people living openly and happily without having to hide who they are. The Onion, in their usual fashion, made a joke out of it in August that’s funny but insightful: 'Area Teen Quickly Running Out Of Chances To Be First Openly Gay Anything.'"

Scott Shackford, in Reason.

In other words: Things that should already be too boring to mention and will be soon.

"The Woody Allen Debate Belongs in the Public Sphere."

"When an alleged victim of abuse tells her story to the world, it's not any more virtuous to ignore the controversy than it is to take a side," writes Noah Berlatsky in The Atlantic.
If we all just stay above the fray, and insist that the existence of abuse here is unknowable — that, de facto, means that Allen wins. If no one is judging, if no one will discuss his family life, he can go on as he always has, and, presumably, keep collecting those lifetime achievement awards. [Dylan] Farrow is asking you to take a side and to see this as a public issue. If you don't, you should at least be aware whose wishes you are honoring, and whose you are not.
You can infer from that that Berlatsky has taken a side and which one.

ADDED: No, no, I take that back. The inference isn't locked in. You could accept that there should be public debate and still not take a side. And you could certainly have that debate and side with Woody (although that feels, in some circles, like a position that would induce social shunning). And I don't even accept Berlatsky's spoken inference, that if you refrain from debate, you're furthering Allen's cause. You might think that Dylan's open letter forced Allen to publish his statement and that attention to his detailed arguments is undermining her already-well-known position, and this new debate further distances her from decisive victory.

"Ah! There!"

"She finally has her potato!"

"Welcome to The Intercept..."

Glenn Greenwald invites you into his lair.

Something about being welcomed to something called "The Intercept" gave me that eerie "Outer Limits" feeling:

Watching that, you may think: But no, that's what Glenn is trying to show you that the government is doing...

"I totally forgot that I had nothing under my suit."

Said the Russian speed skater, Olga Graf, as she completed her skate and "We have very, very tight suits and I just wanted to be able to breathe and take it off. I realised it after that. Maybe this video will appear on YouTube, but that's not so bad."

Trading on the Starbucks name, Dumb Starbucks says it's legal because it's parody.

"Although we are a fully functioning coffee shop, for legal reasons Dumb Starbucks needs to be categorized as a work of parody art. So, in the eyes of the law, our 'coffee shop' is actually an art gallery and the 'coffee' you’re buying is considered the art. But that’s for our lawyers to worry about. All you need to do is enjoy our delicious coffee!"

And all the media need to do is lavish them with publicity... before their lawyers do battle with Starbucks lawyers (and lose).

How far can we go with the "It's an art project" defense?

Right after Bill Clinton was impeached, Hillary "sounded very up, almost jolly."

According to her closest friend Diane Blair, whose papers we're getting glimpses of this morning.
"Told me how she and Bill and Chelsea had been to church, to a Chinese restaurant, to a Shakespeare play, greeted everywhere with wild applause and cheers—this, she said is what drives their adversaries totally nuts, that they don’t bend, do not appear to be suffering."
That's likeable enough!

"The Hillary Papers/Archive of 'closest friend' paints portrait of ruthless First Lady."

"The papers of Diane Blair, a political science professor Hillary Clinton described as her 'closest friend' before Blair’s death in 2000, record years of candid conversations with the Clintons on issues ranging from single-payer health care to Monica Lewinsky."

ADDED: From Blair's notes from a phone call with Hillary about the Lewinsky debacle:
[Hillary] is not trying to excuse [Bill Clinton]; it was a huge personal lapse. And she is not taking responsibility for it... But, she does say this to put his actions in context. Ever since he took office they’ve been going thru personal tragedy ([the death of] Vince [Foster], her dad, his mom) and immediately all the ugly forces started making up hateful things about them, pounding on them.

They adopted strategy, public strategy, of acting as tho it didn’t bother them; had to. [Hillary] didn’t realize toll it was taking on him.... She thinks she was not smart enough, not sensitive enough, not free enough of her own concerns and struggles to realize the price he was paying....

[The affair with Monica] was a lapse, but she says to his credit he tried to break it off, tried to pull away, tried to manage someone who was clearly a ‘narcissistic loony toon’; but it was beyond control....  HRC insists, no matter what people say, it was gross inappropriate behavior but it was consensual (was not a power relationship) and was not sex within any real meaning (standup, liedown, oral, etc.) of the term.
That last line must refer to Bill's "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," but what does that last parenthetical mean?  Is "standup, liedown, oral, etc." the sequence of actions in real-meaning sex or is it supposed to be a list of things that one might do but that — without more depth of feeling — don't deserve the lofty label "sex"? The phrase "narcissistic loony toon" suggests the ridiculousness of Monica's love for Bill and her delusion that he loved her too. In which case — within the Mind of Hillary (as paraphrased by Diane Blair) — Bill did not have sex with Monica, but Monica had sex with Bill.

But Hillary's reasoning is the perfectly banal stereotypical reasoning of a wife explaining why she's staying with a cheating husband. What he did with that other woman wasn't real, because it wasn't love. And to put it that way is to cancel the reality of the other woman, for the sake of one's one alliance with the man, the man who brings you status and power. It's a cancellation because there was love: Monica loved Bill. And that cannot mean anything to Hillary, who nullifies Monica's mind with the pronouncement that the mind is unsound. The woman is crazy.

A little bit nutty and a little bit slutty.

Oh, sorry. Wrong phrase. Wrong nutty slut. Oops!

"Jimmy Carter’s Disastrous Olympic Boycott."

A history lesson at The New Republic.

Do you remember who said "Nobody made me come here and I’m nobody’s Uncle Tom" and why?

A last meal of rye bread, execution by gunshot to the head, public dissection, and a feeding of the flesh to lions...

... so ends life for Marius the giraffe. His crime? Unsuitability for breeding. His genes are too common and they don't want so much inbreeding.
The zoo's decision to conduct the public dissection, and the disclosure that the animal was shot rather than being killed by lethal injection so that it could be fed to the carnivores, fanned the protests and provoked some calls for the zoo to be boycotted or closed. The controversy was fed further by startling images and video of the process, including a picture of a large chunk of meat with an unmistakably spotty hide being fed to the lions....
Stop your crying. It's science, children!
Bengt Holst, the zoo's scientific director, said he had never considered cancelling the killing, despite the protests. "We have been very steadfast because we know we've made this decision on a factual and proper basis. We can't all of a sudden change to something we know is worse because of some emotional events happening around us. It's important that we try to explain why we do it and then hope people understand it. If we are serious about our breeding activities, including participation in breeding programmes, then we have to follow what we know is right. And this is right."
We can't all of a sudden change to something we know is worse because of some emotional events happening around us....

You know what that reminded me of? This (of course!).

"I do appreciate your willingness to sound like an idiot in an effort to help me."

Things overheard at Meadhouse.

Context: Meade had just helped me proofread and edit the previous post by reading it out loud, which he does as if he were a generic reader who has no reason to apply his intelligence to making sense of hard-to-grasp locutions. It's annoying to hear your writing read out loud like that, and I need to control my instinctive reaction and remember why he's adopting the tone of a rather dumb reader.

Speech's trends in America's United States.

Is the United States of America on track to become America's United States?

That's a question that crosses my mind after reading this Language Log discussion of the trend away from using "of" and toward using the possessive "-s" in phrases where there is no living entity to do the possessing. There's a nice graph at the link showing this historical progression in the State of the Union Address, which I guess some day will be called the Union's State Address.

Language Log did not use the phrases America's United States or the Union's State Address. Those are my comic projections into the future based on the discussion of the tendency to say things like "some of America's leading foundations and corporations" instead of "some of the leading foundations and corporations of America." But there are many examples — I went looking for them — of the continued use of the "of" formation, including one in the sentence from which I extracted "some of America's leading foundations and corporations":
And I'm reaching out to some of America's leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds stay on track and reach their full potential.
Sometimes the 's feels right and sometimes we know it's wrong. Maybe you'll laugh — or get mad at me — when I point out that President Obama did not say "color's young men." But it makes you think: What do we believe we are saying when we use the possessive with inanimate things?

Shallow notions of "food deserts" and fixing bad eating habits by subsidizing the fruit and vegetable sellers.

"The presumption is, if you build a store, people are going to come," but: "We don't find any difference at all. ... We see no effect of the store on fruit and vegetable consumption."

The quote, at NPR.org, is from a Penn State sociology/anthropology/demography professor named Stephen Matthews, who points out what NPR paraphrases and characterizes as "obvious": "Lots more intervention is needed to change behavior."

That is, if well-meaning manipulations of human culture fail, what is needed is more intervention. Manipulate harder.

And a UCLA "public health researcher" named Alex Ortega is quoted:
"The next part of the intervention is to create demand... so the community wants to come to the store and buy healthy fruits and vegetables and go home and prepare those foods in a healthy way, without lots of fat, salt or sugar."
Here comes the next part of your intervention, you ignorant folk. We're going to push harder and harder until you finally go to the store, buy things that so far you haven't wanted, take those things home, wash them, slice them up, and cook them the right way, the way the people who know better call "healthy."

February 9, 2014

At the Samoyed Café...


... come on, let's hang out.

"Thanks for using 'evanesce'! Always loved that word and its sound. And thanks also for all the O.E.D. posts."

Wrote Lyle Sanford, RMT, in "The morning chocolate conversation," so naturally, I had to look up "evanesce" in the OED.

"Evanesce" means "To fade out of sight, 'melt into thin air,' disappear." The word is traced back to 1855, to Frederick William Faber's "Growth in Holiness":
We must with holy superstition keep [spiritual favors] secret.... As soon as they are known they will evanesce. This is their way. When God means us to let any of them be known, He will give us such a light that we cannot mistake Him and such an impulse that we cannot resist Him.
This feels weighty, given the inclusion, earlier today, of "knowing God" as the 3rd item on my list of "List of Easy and Impossible Enterprises."

"Why Do Republicans Want Us to Work All the Time?"

Asks a professor of leisure studies in The New Republic.

When you sort the comments by "best," this comes up on top:
To answer the writers question, we dont want you to work all the time, we dont give a flying shlt what you do.. We just dont want to have to pay for your life of leisure. Do what you want, leave me alone.

WaPo's Chris Cillizza has 4 possible answers to the question Why does Rand Paul keep attacking Bill Clinton about sex?

Cillizza came up with:
1. It revs up the base...
2. It's a way to get at Hillary...
3. It's who Rand is...
4. It's personal....
Before reading those reasons — which are detailed at the link — I set a goal for myself to come up with 4 more reasons. Off the top of my head, here:

1. He believes in the principle of workplace equality and is dismayed at how predatory individuals seeking personal sexual pleasure have disrupted the meritocracy that should prevail.

2. Someone on the Republican side needs to be able to counter the "war on women" propaganda of the Democrats, and no one else seems to have the guts or skill to do it properly.

3. He dislikes the idea that the distinction of first female President should go to a woman who leveraged her power through a male who she knew was taking advantage of women.

4. He knows that if the Democrats had material like this to use against a Republican candidate, they would have no mercy.

I'm sure you can help me lengthen this list.

"What the White House wants you to think is, if a person chooses to make less income, they must be doing something that makes them better off."

"What conservatives would have you ask is, is it an appropriate use of someone else’s money to put you in that position to choose?"

The morning chocolate conversation.


The coffee was not enough. I had to top it off with chocolate. And now more than an hour has passed since the first post of the day. I feel I should have served up some meaty political posts, delving into... oh, who knows?... some right-winger demanding that his crowd get heated up over the income tax in New York, which is causing him to abscond to Florida... or some left-winger assuring his flock that the John Doe investigation is really, really, probably going to get Scott Walker, just you wait. But I did not do that. My words did not go down on this blog. They evanesced. There is no archive, only vague memories of a conversation. What on earth did we talk about?

Ah! I remember. The conversation started with the observation that in blogging, there is always one post on top of the other, the new surmounting and obliterating the old. I'd been blogging about betamax3000's elaborate "Desolation Row" parody, about which he'd said, at last night's Bookshelf Café:
I Would Like to Think 'Internet meme Row' Will Inspire in Althouse a Sunday Morning Proustian Memory Flow, but - Alas - It Will probably Just be Swept Along With All of Yesterday's Other Pixels.

The Internet Paints Over Itself Each and Every Day.
And I was saying — to Meade, here in nonvirtual reality — that's a subject that bedeviled me in the early days of this blog. Like here, I'm chiding myself in 2005 for taking the trouble to update something written in 2004: "Don't I realize the old posts sink into oblivion? These old posts don't really exist at all." I visualized each new post physically weighing upon the posts underneath, pressing them endlessly into the murk.

Now, I tend to think — and this was the beginning of the hour-long conversation — that blogging is like life itself, with everything happening now, here in person, but better, because we can all talk at once, have the feeling of immediacy and spontaneity, and still be able to hear each other, almost in the present, and because of the archive, at any time, if we happen to care to listen to what has gone before.

I imagined a theater full of 2,000 people, with everyone talking out loud, expressing their thoughts at once. No one would hear what anyone was saying and it would just be an annoying variation of everyone sitting there silently and thinking. Blogging is the equivalent of having the superpower to go to everyone in that theater and to close enough to hear that person and to repeat time, the same few seconds, over and over, until you'd gotten around to everyone and heard what each one had to say. No, it's even better than that, because you have a way to find the words you'd most like to hear, and to jump from one part of the theater to another at will.

You might think it would be better to write a book, that could exist and last and be read for 100 years, but perhaps in that 100 years, there would be no more readers than will read this blog post in the next 2 hours. And what of this conversation — this conversation from an hour ago, which I wasn't planning to blog about — this conversation that evanesced? There's no archive at all, unless I can pull it out of my memory and blog it now. There was all that and many more observations, including much talk of this panel discussion of 4 comedians where (at some point) they get to the topic of using what I will refer to as "the N-word"...

... and we talked about what it means to be "edgy," the subjectiveness of the edge with respect to comedy as opposed to the edge in slope snowboarding (and our own subjectiveness about what we were calling "the edge" as we nearly got into an argument), and how Michael Richards got into trouble by thinking he could be Lenny Bruce (and what was it Lenny Bruce did anyway? was it the same as the way Dustin Hoffman did it in "Lenny"? (NSFW)), and how comedians in a panel discussion are not the same as comedians doing standup, and panel discussions seem like they are supposed to be friendly conversation, but really involve a lot of competitive hostility, which maybe is what Chris Rock was doing to Louis CK in that part of the panel discussion that Meade described, but I still haven't watched, but I've been on plenty of academic panel discussions and I have a bit of a superpower to detect passive aggression, and that's why I like to do things in writing, from my remote outpost in Madison, Wisconsin, where the second post of the day, 2 hours after the first, is way overdue.

If you're one of "Those Very Few in the Direct Intersection of Dylan Obsessives and Internet Meme Aficionados"...

... then betamax3000 has written a "Desolation Row" parody that you will be able to appreciate.

But he wonders if he took too much time, given the limited traffic at that intersection, and yet he didn't take the time to link to every meme, and I'm not going to do that either. Here's Wikipedia's "List of Internet Phenomena" if you need a reference. Everything's already listed at Wikipedia, maybe even before it really is a phenomenon — and there must be Wikipedia editors monitoring the list to prevent wannabe phenomena from leveraging their phenomenality by inserting themselves on that list — and that's one more reason why, as we were talking about yesterday, "Competitiveness about 'I know the Internet better than you do,' is really out of date."

Now, that's a quote from Instapundit, based on his observation: "Nobody 'knows the Internet' well enough to count anymore. Maybe a decade ago, but even then there was more than anyone could digest." But it's also paradoxically true that everybody already knows everything, or is so close to seeing what any given thing is — by consulting the endlessly updated "List of Internet Phenomena" and whatnot. (Do you know "whatnot" as an Althouse blog phenomenon? Are Althouse blog phenomena foremost in your mind?).

It's not worth being competitive about an activity that is so easy. Easy and impossible — those are the worst enterprises.

There should be a Wikipedia article "List of Easy and Impossible Enterprises." War, life itself, knowing God.... and whatnot.

So betamax showed up on that knowing-the-internet thread to say: "The Internet is Best Understood as the Longest Bob Dylan Song Ever." And I said:
I wonder if Bob goes on the internet.

And if he does, where does he go?

Does he keep a Google Alert on his name, like I do?

If he ever ends up here, does he find me (us) creepy?

Does he find everyone creepy?

He must go on the internet. How could he not?

He's out there traveling around, in hotels. What do you do in a hotel? Either you turn on the TV, you read a book, or you go on the internet. (I guess it's possible that you interact with in-the-flesh humans, but I don't think a 73-year-old man does that too much.)
More to the point, would Bob find betamax3000 creepy? Here's Bob's "Desolation Row." Purporting to quote an entity called "Naked Bob Dylan Robot," betamax writes:
They’re selling postcards of the meme
They’re painting the LOLcats brown
All your base is belong to us
Dysfunctional Family Circus is in town
Here comes the Sad Keanu
They’ve got him in a trance
One hand is tied to the Aww Yea Guy
The other Faps to Michelle Jenneke's Warm Up Dance
Fucking Magnets, How Do They Work?
They need Cool Story, Bro
As Althouse and Meade look on their iMac tonight
From Internet Meme Row

Cinderella, she has the Duck Face
“Your Argument is Invalid,” she smiles
And puts her hands in her back pockets
Keep Calm and Carry On style
And in comes Scumbag Steve, he’s moaning
“Can I Borrow Everything?”
And Good Guy Greg says, “You’re in the wrong place my friend
But You can take my Keys”
And the only sound that’s left
After the Honey Badgers go
Is Harp Darp Herp Derp Hurr Durr Durr
From Internet Meme Row

Now Imma Let You Finish
Bed Intruder is beginning to hide
The Hipster Mermaid
Has even taken Dating Site Murderer inside
All except for Epic Beard Man
And the hunchback of 4chan
Everybody is Om Nom Nom Nom
Or collecting Spam
And Leeroy Jenkins, he’s dressing
He’s getting ready for the show
He’s going out with Anti-Joke Chicken
From Internet Meme Row

Now Overly Attached Girlfriend, she’s ’neath the window
with a Kitten in a Bowl
On her twenty-second birthday
She already is RickRolled
To her, death is quite romantic
She waits on Ceiling Cat
Batman Slapping Robin
I Want My Hat Back
And though her eyes are fixed upon
Perfectly Timed Photos
She spends her time with White People Dancing
From Internet Meme Row

Einstein, disguised as Friendzone Johhny
with the Droste Effect
Passed this way with Pancake Bunny
and his friend, Almost Politically Correct Redneck
Unimpressed Astronaut
He Welcomes Our New Insect Overlords
Then went off with Prancing Cera
And going Full Retard
Now you would not think to look at him
But he was famous long ago
For 'Make Me a Sandwich, Star Wars Kid'
From Internet Meme Row

Dr. Filth, he Releases the Kraken
Shit Just Got Real
I Love Bell Peppers
The Whole Chuck Norris Deal
Now Chuck's nurse, some local loser
She’s in charge of the Bikini Bridge
Nicolas Cage wants Cake
and says Nuke the Fridge
They all play on pennywhistles
You can hear Super Mario
If you lean your Trollface out far enough
From Internet Meme Row

Every time you masturbate, God kills a kitten
Put That Cookie Down
The Phantom of the Opera
Does a Barrell Roll with the Virgin Clown
They’re spoonfeeding George Takei
To get him to feel more assured
Then they’ll kill him with Shit That Siri Says
After poisoning him with Angry Birds
And the Phantom’s shouting to Emo girls
“Don't Tase Me Bro!"
George Takei is just being punished for going
From Internet Meme Row

Now at midnight Grandma Finds the Internet
And Old Spice's Terry Crews
They Come out and Summon Penguins
That know more than they do
Then they bring them to the factory
Where the heart-attack machine
Is strapped across Hot Dog Legs
And then the Krispy Kreme
It's brought down from the Almighty Loaf
Leave Britney Alone
It's 'Yeah Science Bitch'
From Internet Meme Row

Praise be to Bold Move Cotton
The Titanic was Pawnd
And everybody’s Printing Out the Internet
And shouting out 'Khan!'
And Keyboard Cat and Karma Whore
are Forever Alone
While calypso singers laugh and ask
Where Me Keys, Where Me Phone?
Neil deGrasse Tyson Reaction
So Zetta Slow
And nobody has to think too much
From Internet Meme Row

Yes, I saw your Youtube yesterday
About Honey Boo Boo
One Does Not Simply Walk into Mordor
They Don't Think It Be Like It Is But It Do
All these Memes that you mention
Yes, I know them, they’re quite lame
I had to rearrange their Harlem Shake
And give them all another name
Right now its all First World Problems
I Know That Feel Bro
Time for Yet Another Facepalm
From Internet Meme Row
That was when it was 9 below zero and 3:07 in the middle of the night. At  3:25 AM, he declared "I Think I Just Won the Dylan Internet," which — does this sound I-know-the-internet competitive? — is another internet meme. You won the internet.

You know there's no winning like losing, and that losing is not winning at all.