August 23, 2014

The Dog Dreams.

You are running, running...

"You oughta hear their version of 'Hey Jude.'"

Said Bob Dylan about Brave Combo, "a regional band out of Texas that takes regular songs and changes the way you think about them."

Here's the "Hey Jude," with — of all people — Tiny Tim singing the lead. Here's Brave Combo doing my favorite Doors song.

And here's the place in Bob Dylan's book "Chronicles" where he's eating french fries with Tiny Tim and they're listening to Ricky Nelson on the radio:
At some point during the day, Tiny Tim and I would go in the kitchen and hang around...

One afternoon I was in there pouring Coke into a glass from a milk pitcher when I heard a voice coming cool through the screen of the radio speaker. Ricky Nelson was singing his new song, "Travelin' Man." Ricky had a smooth touch, the way he crooned in fast rhythm, the tonation of his voice....

Ricky's song ended and I gave the rest of my French fries to Tiny Tim....
"Tonation," like "potate," discussed earlier today, is, in the opinion of the (unlinkable) Oxford English Dictionary, an obsolete and rare word. It means: "The action of toning or producing musical tones; the tones or notes so produced." As long as we're talking about french fries, "potate" can be slang for act like a potato, but the OED's obsolete and rare meaning is liquid or liquefied.

Only one Bob Dylan song mentions potatoes. If you know it before clicking, you get points in this game.

I encounter 5 items of celebrity news.

1. The snake that bit one of the dancers in a rehearsal of the Nicki Minaj song "Anaconda" was a "boa constrictor named Rocky who has been in the entertainment business for 15 years." A boa constrictor is not an anaconda, but the snake had no way to know the song was celebrating some other species of snake. Nor do I think the snake could take offense at the lyrics and think something like: That's all I am to you, something that reminds you of a body part of one of your kind, not as a unique individual with many facets to my serpentine being other than serving as a hyperbolic metaphor for the human penis? Do you even know about the snake's penis? Am I simply a big penis to you? Do you even know who I am? I am Rocky, a veteran of 15 years in the entertainment business! I think a boa constrictor bites when it feels threatened, so if the 15-years-in-the-entertainment-business snake bit a dancer, he must have felt really scared. He doesn't know his name is Rocky, a name that connotes a tough guy. He's just a snake. He doesn't know what snakes mean to us, and he's not really in the business, is he? Not from his perspective. He's not getting any coins, as Nicky might put it. He's a confused, frightened creature in an incomprehensible environment, fighting for survival. And that's our favorite phallic symbol.

2. Jennifer Lopez says: "I like being in a relationship. I’m not one to like, whore around, and stuff like that — that’s not my thing." Is she calling other ladies "whores"? Is that allowed these days? She used "whore" as a verb, naming the action, not the person. That might be a love-the-sinner/hate-the-sin kind of attitude, but then she didn't ever say whoring around is bad, only that it's not her "thing." Do your own thing. That's what we said in the 60s, often along with its corollary: Let it all hang out. The Isley Brothers sang: "It's your thing/Do what you wanna do/I can't tell you/Who to sock it to." Some people — like Jennifer Lopez — find that their thing is having sex with their own spouse. No judgment. It's all good. You whores.

3. That bad old billionaire racist Donald Sterling had fallen out of the news, and here's V. Stiviano rescuing him from that fate and averring that the old man is gay and she was his beard. This is not attention whoring — is that word permissible? — because Stiviano is fighting against a lawsuit filed against her by Sterling's wife Shelly, who accuses her of being "a thief and an embezzler," which provides the basis for a counterclaim of defamation.

4. To stop his descent into into a condition I think is called Jack Nicholsonism, Leonardo DiCaprio must lose 10 pounds. "He has given up pasta – and he loves pasta... He also plans on working out more and he is taking his bike wherever he goes." DiCaprio is about to turn 40, and his girlfriend is a 21-year-old model named Toni Garrn, who apparently either wants to make very sure we pronounce the "r" in her name or is a pirate. We're told of Garrrrrn that "Of course she doesn’t care" that Leo is fat. Why would Leo be with anyone who would say she cares that he's fat when he's fat? I love you just the way you are. That's what Billy Joel sang, back in 1979, stealing, he admits, the last line of the 4 Seasons song "Rag Doll," which was inspired by a squeegee-man girl who extracted $20 from Bob Gaudio. Did Joel have any particular person in mind? Yeah. His first wife, and she didn't even like the song. Joel went through 2 more wives, including a 23-year-old that he married when he was 55. Oh, but don't be too mean to Mr. Joel. He has "battled depression for many years," and once tried to kill himself by drinking furniture polish. Furniture polish? "It looked tastier than bleach." But good luck to DiCaprio, whether he chooses to remain boyishly cute or become the jolly roué. Flabby or toned, he'll always be cuter than Billy Joel, and good for him for never divorcing anyone. He has never married.

5. Speaking of fat, Warner Brothers is in trouble for "fat shaming" in its new direct-to-video Scooby-Doo movie "Frankencreepy." Some curse causes Daphne Blake to go from size 2 to size 8, but size 8 is depicted more like size 22, and Tom Burns of The Good Men Project writes: "It's sad to think that my daughter can’t even watch a cartoon about a dog solving mysteries without negative body stereotypes being thrown in her face." But apparently, there's an argument that the curse is that each character loses what she (or he) is most afraid to lose, and the only reason Daphe loses her fine figure is that she's too damned in love with it in the first place. This notion of curses tailored to each psyche is familiar. In one of my favorite movies, "The Witches of Eastwick," Satan (the above-mentioned Jack Nicholson) curses the various women with their own fears, and in the case of Cher, the fear is snakes. Watch Cher wake up in a bedful of snakes. Can somebody check the IMDB page on those snakes? I want to know how long they've been in the entertainment business and what are their degrees of separation from Rocky?

The Washington Redskins need to change their name... to The Washington Posts.

In honor of the brave warrior spirit of The Washington Post, which is taking a bold and daring stand against printing the name "Redskins."

That is the kind of courage and strength that translates elegantly to football, a game where players regularly risk hurting one another and are, accordingly, bound by an elaborate system of rules — which are frequently amended to limit the extent of injuries — by defining penalties. For example, "One arm in front of the body with palm out and fingers up, moved in a pushing motion" is a penalty called "illegal contact." Watching a game, I am often perplexed by the erudite officials in striped shirts who throw down what I like to refer to as "hankies" when these players — who seem so tough and ready for action — do something that the higher ups have deemed offensive.

So the metaphorical meaning is perfectly fine: The Washington Redskins must become The Washington Posts. 

I know, you might say "Posts" reminds you of something that's stuck in one place and never moves, which seems like the opposite of football, where the point is to gain territory. But they are trying to reach the goal posts. So "posts" is a football word. And I would also note that there many points in football when an offensive player offends by simply moving. It's a "false start." So you are sometimes required to be like a post.

And don't get after me about trademark law. The Washington Post is in the newspaper business, not the football business. There's no risk of confusion. It's like Apple records and Apple computers.

Potate = "What potatoes do."

"Haters gonna hate, potatoes gonna potate."

A trending word at Urban Dictionary. Don't confuse it with "potentate." Potentates don't potate.

By the way, there actually is an obsolete and rare word "potate," defined in the (unlinkable) OED as an adjective that perhaps means liquid or liquefied. The etymology is the  classical Latin pōtātus, the past participle of pōtāre, which means to drink (as in the English word potable or potation). The etymology of "potato" is different, related to Spanish and French words where the second letter was "a," not "o," patata and patate.

The word "potate" appears in the Ben Jonson play "Alchemist"  (1612 ):
Eight, nine, ten days hence,
He will be silver potate; then three days
Before he citronise: Some fifteen days,
The magisterium will be perfected.
That's alchemy talk. If you want to brush up on alchemy terms, here's "A Lexicon of Alchemy," also from 1612. "Magisterium" is defined as "a Chemical State which follows the process of extraction."

"Mr. Gore likes to say 'our democracy has been hacked by big money,' but he has done some hacking himself..."

"... in his many rent-seeking activities. His Current TV payday, partly at the expense of the Qataris, partly at the expense of U.S. cable subscribers and shareholders, must be especially piquant to Americans exhausted by Mr. Gore's incessant moralizing. What would be nice to know, and what a full airing of the legal record might show, and is at what point Current stopped being a sincere experiment in liberal news and entertainment. At what point did it morph into a scheme to shake down TV distributors and flip the carriage rights for what BusinessWeek estimates was $450 million in profit to Mr. Gore and partners."

From "Al Gore vs. Al Jazeera vs. the Truth/How the ex-veep came by his cable TV windfall remains heavily redacted," in the Wall Street Journal, where you might have to Google some of the quotes text to get a link that works for you.

ADDED: If I read the article correctly, the contract had Gore et al. receiving $500 million and only $65 million has yet to be paid. By litigating for the last 13% of what was due under the contract, Gore lights a fire under al Jazeera to show that the terms of the contract have not been fulfilled, that the whole contract is void, and to get back some or all of the 87% that has been paid. Shouldn't Gore want to keep that door closed? But Gore isn't only putting $435 million at risk. He's also putting his reputation up for attacks, such as the one in the linked WSJ article. If he's a big huckster, he's got an especially big stake in hiding his hucksterism, unless he's retiring from all of that and doesn't give a damn what history thinks of him. Meanwhile, al Jazeera has an opportunity to upgrade its reputation by arguing that it paid most of the money and held a small portion in escrow to motivate Gore to perform his contractual obligations. What were those obligations? Well, something that at least seemed worth $500 million to al Jazeera.

August 22, 2014

The NYT blithely dispenses with Scott Walker as a GOP presidential candidate.

The column is "Taking Account of Republican Presidential Contenders," by Albert R. Hunt, which begins with the assertion that this year "hasn’t been so kind to... Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin." That's backed up only with this:
Mr. Walker of Wisconsin, 46, a success in a generally Democratic state, was considered a first-tier contender. But a mini-scandal and an expected tight re-election race this autumn have dashed his prospects.
Dashed his prospects? But the efforts to concoct a scandal got nowhere. And so what if the re-election race is close? He'll get honed, and if he loses, he's losing in "a generally Democratic state," so even then I wouldn't call his prospects "dashed." I think the NYT is a bit too eager to write off "Mr. Walker."

Before the performance...


... of "Travesties" at the American Players Theater the other night. This play was so good — as a text and as a performance — that the next day I bought tickets to see it again. And I also bought tickets to see "The Importance of Being Earnest" a couple days before the second viewing of "Travesties." The 2 plays are related, and some of the actors play corresponding roles in the 2 plays. I'd seen "The Importance of Being Earnest" (in movie form) long ago, so I got the hang of the references, but not all the particularity. "Earnest" is playing in the outdoor theater at APT, "Travesties" indoors.

I was so taken with "Travesties" that I even bought the text. It's one of these plays about art, and I love art about art. What is art? I'm entranced by all sorts of blabbing on this subject, especially wrangling with the problem of art and politics — propaganda and all that — and "Travesties" has Vladimir Lenin as one of the characters. Lenin says things like:
Today, literature must become party literature. Down with non-partisan literature! Down with literary supermen! Literature must become a part of the common cause of the proletariat, a cog in the Social democratic mechanism. Publishing and distributing centres, bookshops and reading rooms, libraries and similar establishments must all be under party control. We want to establish and we shall establish a free press, free not simply from the police, but also from capital, from careerism, and what is more, free from bourgeois anarchist individualism!
Lenin actually wrote that. The playwright (Tom Stoppard) worked it into the script, which isn't all horrific blowharding like that, there's a lot of absurd banter and mistaken identity and various hijinks of a theatrical kind. Lenin is a minor character. James Joyce is more important, and the Dadaist Tristan Tzara.

Speaking of evil dictators — who never wear shorts and flip-flops, by the way — I got around to watching that 2004 movie "Downfall," you know, the raw material for all those Hitler parodies. It's heavy going, 156 minutes, mostly in the bunker. The familiar scene isn't the ending. It's quite close to the beginning.


The science of why people cry at movies is deployed to design movies that will make people cry.

If movie makers could really figure this out decisively, would you go to movies or avoid them? I'm very resistant to manipulation when I perceive it, but I guess part of the science is not to trigger the resistance, but to cause the viewer to have a response that feels natural.

And I see a proximity to political propaganda, so I don't like science helping manipulators learn how to bypass our judgment and get right into our nervous system.

I'm not saying that kind of science is unethical or should end, but we the people need help resisting.

"When someone negates their existence, they cancel themselves out in my mind."

"I have many records, books and films featuring people who have taken their own lives, and I regard them all with a bit of disdain. When someone commits this act, he or she is out of my analog world. I know they existed, yet they have nullified their existence because they willfully removed themselves from life. They were real but now they are not. I no longer take this person seriously. I may be able to appreciate what he or she did artistically but it’s impossible to feel bad for them. Their life wasn’t cut short — it was purposely abandoned. It’s hard to feel bad when the person did what they wanted to. It sucks they are gone, of course, but it’s the decision they made. I have to respect it and move on."

That's not the only point Henry Rollins makes in "Fuck Suicide." My son John focused on one of the other points over at Facebook, where I'm participating in the comments. I'm choosing to focus on this because it made me reflect on the way I feel when artists who have spoken to me kill themselves. Unless they are in the final throes of a fatal illness, their suicide reveals something about the mind that gave rise to the art, and it infuses that art with different meaning.

I found a metaphor in the garden by the front steps.


The shed skin of a cicada:
In China, the phrase "to shed off the golden cicada skin"(金蝉脱壳, pinyin: jīnchán tuōqiào) is the poetic name of the tactic of using deception to escape danger, specifically of using decoys (leaving the old shell) to fool enemies. It became one of the 36 classic Chinese strategems....  In the Chinese classic novel Journey to the West (16th century), the protagonist Priest of Tang...
I know. You want to make a joke like: Give us this day our daily orange-flavored beverage.
...  was named the Golden Cicada; in this context the multiple shedding of shell of the cicada symbolizes the many stages of transformation required of a person before all illusions have been broken and one reaches enlightenment. This is also referred to in Japanese mythical ninja lore, as the technique of utsusemi (i.e., literally cicada), where ninjas would trick opponents into attacking a decoy....

In the Japanese novel The Tale of Genji...
Genji text:
The lady with the scarf... who had been for some time fondly supposing that Genji had given up thinking about her, appeared startled and embarrassed when she saw him; but, as a matter of course, the usual courtesies were paid. The younger lady, however (who was free from all such thoughts), was rather pleased at his appearance. It happened that, when the eyes of the younger were turned in another direction, Genji ventured to touch slightly the shoulder of his favorite, who, startled at the action rose suddenly and left the room, on pretence of seeking something she required, dropping her scarf in her haste, as a cicada casts off its tender wingy shell, and leaving her friend to converse with the Prince.
Ah! That reminds me of another insects-in-the-garden photograph:


"'When she sings the song Pi,' whose chorus is a recitation of the mathematical digits, 'she really brings the emotion to it.'"

"'She’s able to deliver things that on the surface seem odd.'"

From "An Encore 35 Years in the Making/Kate Bush Fans Travel to See Rare Concerts in London."

(Video of "Pi.")

"Are airstrikes against ISIS putting US on same side as Assad?"

"The Obama administration can't partner with Assad overtly at this time, but the logic and trajectory of White House policy in Syria leads in that direction...."

August 21, 2014

What if your employer gave you a Fitbit to wear and reduced your health insurance payments if you racked up the right number of steps?

"We think the device is easy to use, gets people aware of how little they are walking and helps trigger people to get active.... BP doesn’t see any of the data except in the aggregate." 

Yes, but isn't this creepy, the boss making you wear a bracelet that counts your steps? Meanwhile, Fitbit stands to do well if this catches on.

But how do they know who is wearing the device? You could snap that thing onto whichever family member is doing some exercise, including a dog running around in the backyard while you watch TV and eat potato chips.

You'll have to make the damned thing creepier to prevent cheating.

"It was a guy I knew a little bit about, and I didn’t like his reputation... I just kind of interposed myself..."

"... and started talking to her about something. The guy got the message and he took off," said Adam Erickson, a Yale sophomore, describing something he did at a party where a female seemed to be drunk and a male seemed to be sexually interested in her. Erickson is quoted in an article at Bloomberg titled "Hook-Up Culture at Harvard, Stanford Wanes Amid Assault Alarm."

I think Erickson sets a good example of the way we should be looking out for one another. I suspect it will be hard for most people to break couples up like this. It takes some judgment and skill, and you incur some risks. Are you your friends' chaperone? People tend to feel safer doing nothing than doing something and err on the side of inaction. But just as we should stop a drunk person from getting behind the wheel of a car, we can keep a drunk person from getting isolated by someone who could take advantage of the mental impairment. It's better not to get drunk at all, of course, but students obviously do, and it's right that the standard is becoming: Don't have sex when you or the other person is drunk. Instead of worrying so much about the consequences of after-the-fact characterizations of sexual intercourse, improve the social dynamic at parties. Let everyone in the group be pro-active like Adam Erickson and just kind of interpose yourself.

"I guess, all in all, I wish I wasn’t American."

Said James Foley, shortly before his beheading, quoted in "How the U.S. and Europe Failed James Foley/America doesn't negotiate with terrorists. Should it?"

Linked by Instapundit, who says, "The response to Foley’s beheading should have been a MOAB dropped on an ISIS-held town."

I have no idea what the right answer is. I am not a military strategist. I want ISIS defeated, but these kidnappings (and beheadings) are their strategy for luring us into their game. They might love us to obliterate one of their towns.

ADDED: The NYT reports
[ISIS] pressed the United States to provide a multimillion-dollar ransom for his release, according to a representative of his family and a former hostage held alongside him. The United States — unlike several European countries that have funneled millions to the terror group to spare the lives of their citizens — refused to pay....

Sensitive to growing criticism that it had not done enough, the White House on Wednesday revealed that a United States Special Operations team tried and failed to rescue Mr. Foley....
Paying ransom strikes me as a terrible strategy, funneling money to terrorists and inciting more kidnapping. As for the Special Operations activities, I infer that when they don't work, we don't hear about them, but the White House made an exception here, because disclosing failure seemed, in this case, like better PR.

FOR REFERENCE: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Assignments given to me in the comments.

1. "The hula hoop thing was github. Google github and hula hoop. It was a story with lots of hidden stuff, office romance, etc., so don't take any one article as definitive. I don't trust my memory enough to tell the tale, but my take away was that hiring the lady in question was a mistake. I'll add that the two women who did the hula hoops, did them at a company party and were not the ones who complained. The lady who complained cited it as a horrible example of the sexist atmosphere at the company when she quit."

2. "Go ahead and elaborate on your (brief!) 12:24 PM statement, and describe some scenarios and how you think they might play out under various levels of 'character' or the lack thereof." And, 2 days later after no response from me: "Yeah... so I guess when a student tries to give the professor an assignment, it doesn't usually work?"


"If you choose an answer to this question at random..."

"... what is the chance you will be correct?"

Poor Obama!

This is so mean:

There's that brilliant smile America fell in love with. The man is photogenic. Is that so wrong?! Maybe the beams of joy will go out to Foley's parents... and to ISIS... and to the people of Ferguson...


Smile though your heart is aching/Smile even though it's breaking./When there are clouds in the sky/you'll get by.... Light up your face with gladness/Hide every trace of sadness/Although a tear may be ever so near....

August 20, 2014

Spike Lee doesn't want "a riot." He wants an "uprising."

"Uprising" was the word that was used around here for the Wisconsin protests.

ADDED (the next morning): I was rushing out of the house as I posted this last night. (We went out to Spring Green to see the play "Travesties" (which includes, amongst the various characters, Lenin).) So I didn't have one extra minute to put a link on "Uprising" to the book "Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street." From the reviews at Amazon:
Reading this highly emotional and polemical account of the Wisconsin Act 10 controversy/crisis/uprising, the reader would never know that the "movement" Nichols writes about -- LOST!...

"Anonymous apps like Secret have played host to sexist conversations about women who work in technology."

So asserts Kristy Tillman, one of the 7 participants in a NYT forum of the topic "The War Against Online Trolls/Does anonymity on the web give people too much license to heckle and torment others?" Tillman is identified as a design director at the Society of Grownups, which identifies itself as "a sort of masters program for adulthood" and "A place to learn how to deal with adult responsibility without losing your soul or sense of adventure along the way."

Trolls and pseudonyms on line have been big topics for me for a long time. Click the tags on this post if you want to see what I've had to say. It's not why I'm posting now. Neither is the Society of Grownups, which sounds funny, but might actually be a cool name for something worthy. I haven't checked it out. I'm posting because of the link Tillman has on "played host to sexist conversations." It goes to a piece in Business Insider written by Alyson Shontell called "9 Stomach-Churning Posts From Secret That Show Awful Sexist Behavior In The Tech Industry." Stomach-churning? Awful? I steeled myself. But it was stuff like this:

Which is just cute (and I don't even know if it's "In The Tech Industry").

And this:

Which is just a lameoid confession about affirmative action. That might make you queasy. Not because it's sexist. Because it's the built-in downside of affirmative action (unless you're careful only to use sex as a tie-breaker).


Which I think is hyperbole intended as humorous criticism of women who want, inconsistently, to make a big display of themselves and then put men down for looking. That might be a bit sexist, but it's not awful or stomach-churning. And for all I know there really were 2 ladies with hula hoops who took offense when the men in the office seemed to enjoy their girlish fun in a way that wasn't the precise form of appreciation they sought. How terrible is it to want to secretly say to them: Lighten up?

Watching the video of the beheading of James Foley could be a criminal offense...

... in the UK.

"Help me out, Ann," says Barack Obama in his newest email.

"Ann -- Nothing has ever been more important than fighting for folks like you. You are my priority."

Me? Really? What about those people in Ferguson? What about the Yazidis? ISIS cut off a reporter's head yesterday.

"And right now, a focus of that fight has to be getting people who really care about making things better for you elected."

What fight? Oh... the fight for folks like me. You're focusing on the fight for folks like me by getting people elected who care about folks like me. Could you be anymore bland and generic?

ADDED: If he really cares about me, he should send me an invitation to stay at his compound on the Vineyard or at least to one of those 5-hour dinners served up by the hunky Sam Kass.

TPM says Chris Christie "Blows Up At Woman."

It's interesting that he's talking about Bruce Springsteen and going on about his friendship with the rock star, but I wouldn't call this blowing up:

Here's the author of the article, Tom Kludt. He doesn't look like he grew up in Newark, like Chris Christie. Can Chris Christie get away with talking to women like that? I don't know, generically. But I'm a woman, and I have no problem with that kind of vigor, I don't perceive it as losing his temper. But then I've spent some time in New Jersey.

AND: Kludt is a native of South Dakota, according to his TPM profile.

"Hippie Christmas."

In Madison.

Let's talk about Rick Perry's mugshot.

Do you think he had his own lighting people on the scene? It's got that portrait look, with one side of the face in shadow. Don't they normally shine a light right at you?

What advice do you think he was given on how to do a good mugshot? Smile. Seem confident, but not cocky. Try to look like you're posing for a normal photograph, like you're not in a mugshot.

I've seen the mugshot described as "defiant." Do you think he was advised to look "defiant"? Would you describe the expression as "defiant"? I wouldn't. People project. They think he should be defiant or is defiant, so they see defiant. But I don't think defiant is what you want in a mugshot. Randy Travis looks defiant in his DUI mugshot:

That's not what you want.

California lady who jumped a 3-foot fence at the Madison zoo and got kicked in the face by a giraffe doesn't think she should have to pay the $686 fine for harassing a zoo animal.

Amanda Hall says: "I got hit in the face by a giraffe... I had to deal with all that. That was a lot of pain to deal with already. I don’t need a fine and this on my record. I don’t 'harass' zoo animals. I’m an animal lover.... Obviously I won’t do it again... [The fence is] there for a reason. I just didn’t think twice about it. I just didn’t think it was a big deal."

So, she didn't think it was a big deal to climb into the giraffe enclosure, but a kick in the head that required "about 10 stitches" taught her a lesson, and now she doesn't see the reason for the $686 fine for harassing a zoo animal. She doesn't think it should be said that she harassed a zoo animal because she loves animals. This is someone who has a really hard time understanding the rules and how they apply to everyone. She needed a kick in the head to understand the reason for the fence, and she needs the $686 fine to understand that harassment of an animal isn't about your point of view. You did what you did to the animal and the fact that you had love in your heart is irrelevant. And we need her to pay the $686 fine to demonstrate that penalties apply equality and being (or posing as) a nice lady doesn't get you special treatment.

I'm putting my racial profiling tag on this post. Do you see why?

7 schools in Madison, Wisconsin get federally funded free meals for all students.

This is the Community Eligibility Provision, which funds meals at schools with a high percentage of students from low-income families.
Officials say eliminating the distinction will reduce the stigma associated with receiving subsidized meals and also improve the nutrition of students school-wide, which could improve academic performance....
Even assuming this is a good idea, how do they get the numbers to put into the calculation? I guess they don't have to force everyone to tell their income to the authorities, just enough to hit the percentage. Once everyone in the school is getting free meals, everyone has an interest in the continued flow of free food, which could end if X number of families begin to make too much money. That's a strange situation! How can they keep track?
Enrolling the schools in the federal program was one of several strategies the Madison district is deploying to make its food service budget more sustainable, and less dependent on the district’s general fund to remain balanced.
If it weren't for the bad punctuation, I'd think that was intended as comic writing. Next time you're dining out with a friend and the check arrives, sit calmly with your hands in your lap and observe that you are deploying a strategy to make your budget more sustainable. Maybe your dinner companion will laugh, but if he doesn't, and he pays, you ought to wonder what conditions are attached.

ADDED: A reader emails:
[At the Wisconsin school where I work, we] too are going to the totally free meals for our students (about 400). We currently have about 80% of our students on Free Lunch so from the perspective of reducing paperwork for our staff in makes real sense.

How it works is that about now as school starts, and then periodically through the year schools will submit a file to the state. That file will be matched against state data bases and return a file showing what students are eligible based on family enrollment in a variety of “welfare” programs. This is called Direct Certification. If parents are not identified as being eligible they receive a letter telling them they are not and allowing them to complete an application to demonstrate their eligibility. So to answer your early question of how they are determined, the bulk are from the Direct Certification process.

Once in the program I believe you are in for four years. At the end of those four years you will have to reapply based on the current situation of your families. Again, because the basic information come from the state based on enrollment in programs there it will be relatively easy to do.

I have mixed emotions about the program, but as a school official it would be malfeasance to not attempt to use a program that is eligible to us and would save us money....

"My husband's transition forced me to make emotional and sexual transitions of my own. As his breasts developed..."

"... I didn't want to touch my partner's chest anymore and the female hormones destroyed his libido.... The sexual side of our relationship faded.... While sex was a major part of our early relationship, we now rely on deeper forms of intimacy. We connect through deep discussions, mutual discovery and respect, caring and generosity. We focus on non-sexual ways of expressing love - cuddling, gentle caresses, holding hands. These interactions became more critical to our relationship than frequent sexual expression."

From "I’m a straight woman married to a woman. It hasn’t been easy. My husband became a woman and our marriage is stronger than ever." The author, Leslie Hilburn Fabian, is a social worker/psychotherapist. She reveals in the first paragraph that when she met the man she married, he was wearing makeup and a dress and it was at a "a gathering" — is that a party or something else? — hosted by an "expert on transgenderism." Those facts make this case quite different from a situation where someone is completely blindsided by her spouse and had previously shown no interest in the transgender movement.

August 19, 2014

Cool grass.


Cool dog.


Photos by me, not Meade. Just because it's a dog doesn't mean it's by Meade. But Meade has a new post up over at The Puparazzo. It's called "Plott Hounds." Notice Otis. And his companion Maeble. Over there. But here, it's good old Zeus, cooling off in the luscious, Meade-made lawn.

"Grumbling by lawmakers about a president is nothing unusual. But what is striking now is the way prominent Democrats’ views of Mr. Obama’s shortcomings..."

"... are spilling out into public, and how resigned many seem that the relationship will never improve," reports the NYT.
In private meetings, Mr. Reid’s chief of staff, David Krone, has voiced regular dismay to lawmakers and top aides about White House operations and competency across a range of issues, according to several Democrats on Capitol Hill....

Asked to characterize his relationship with the president, [Senator Joe Manchin III, of West Virginia], a centrist Democrat who has often been a bridge builder in the Senate, said: “It’s fairly nonexistent. There’s not much of a relationship.”

Few senators feel a personal connection to the president.
ADDED: This article is another sign that the media agenda refocused onto 2016 and Hillary Clinton. Note the 3 references to Bill Clinton:
Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said that compared with Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, Mr. Obama “is more self-contained, less gregarious.”...

Unlike Mr. Clinton, who worked hard as a candidate to court every Democrat he could...

Mr. Obama would never be a “creature of Washington” like Mr. Clinton. “I don’t think that was ever in the cards, and I still don’t,” Mr. Durbin said.

St. Louis police shoot and kill a man who yelled "Shoot me, kill me now."

This happened today, not far from Ferguson.

ADDED: Was this a "suicide by cop" situation? Did the knife-wielding man think that the police were so intimidated by the criticism after the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson that it had become possible to taunt the police in an exciting new way? Perhaps the police should have shown immense restraint here and even risked taking some knife-slashings for the sake of some good PR.

But I await a full, factual account.

AND: From the NYT report, a 21-year-old citizen is quoted saying: "Even if this is a legitimate shooting, they are going to capitalize on this and try to use it for their martial law agenda." But it must also be true that even if this is a legitimate shooting, those who are protesting the police will try to use it for their agenda.

"Why Obama won’t give the Ferguson speech his supporters want."

A headline for an Ezra Klein piece that really should have the second and third words reversed. It's a good question, but Ezra only poses as capable of answering it. I can think of 10 other answers to the question, but I'm writing this on an iPad.

ADDED: I've returned to my desktop, as you can see by the addition of tags, so I feel I should make good on my assertion that I have 10 other answers. I'll publish them as I proceed, beginning with one that is a tag.

1. Obama is bland. It's a tag on this blog that I've been using since April 21, 2009: "Yes. As in his campaign, Obama is very bland. For some reason — possibly vaguely racist — Americans liked the bland. But at some point, bland is not what you want." I have 55 posts with that tag. His fans may not want to believe it, but I've been observing it all along, and it's part of why I voted for him in 2008. I don't like demagogues.

2. Ezra speaks of Obama's 2008 "Race Speech" as the sort of speech that his opponents long for, but go back and read it. It's studded with lines like "The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons," and "Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity...." We may remember that speech as extremely powerful, but it was assurance of Obama's moderation. Supporters want what they feel they got in the past but their memory of the past is distorted.

3. The "Race Speech" was crucial to Obama's 2008 campaign. A lot of work went into crafting that speech: "... Obama dictated a lengthy draft of this speech to [Jon] Favreau, who edited the speech the next day. Obama stayed up until 3:00 a.m. Sunday night working on the speech, and continued to work on it Monday and in the early hours of Tuesday." Favreau isn't there anymore, and I don't think Obama has the time or motivation to put that much personal effort into a speech about Ferguson.

4. The Jeremiah Wright crisis in 2008 required a direct, decisive response from the candidate. There was no option of standing back and seeing whether things might work out all right without his intrusion and interference. But when he has the option to lead from behind, that's his style.

5. Obama doesn't want a replay of the Skip Gates fiasco, where he blurted out that the police "acted stupidly," when he didn't really know the the facts, and it turned out that what the police did was not stupid at all. In the case of the Ferguson incident, we don't know the facts. Today, I'm seeing: "Police sources tell me more than a dozen witnesses have corroborated cop's version of events in shooting #Ferguson." (Ezra Klein brings up Skip Gates, but doesn't mention that Obama got the facts wrong because he spoke too soon, only that "the White House no longer believes Obama can bridge divides.")

6. Michael Brown was no Trayvon Martin. Obama said "Trayvon could have been my son." And "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." But he can't (won't) say that about Brown. Yes, he could talk more generally about how racial profiling — real or feared — makes people feel and that's what the protests in Ferguson express and that matters even if Michael Brown strong-armed a shopkeeper and even if he threatened the police officer who killed him. But that's not the speech Obama supporters supposedly want. There is no cherubic boy with Skittles and iced tea. There's a very large, adult man with stolen cigars. It's harder to say deeply empathic things about Brown. And Obama cannot make that personal I-am-Trayvon kind of statement.

7. Obama must help his party in the Fall elections. I think this is the key graphic, the fight for the U.S. Senate. The toss-up states are Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisana, Michigan, and North Carolina. Whatever Obama says now must be calibrated for the effect in these states. Will emotive racial politics carry the Democratic Party through to November? Perhaps that seems like a risky bet.

8. Obama's tired.

9. "On December 11, 2006, I quoted Obama saying: 'I think to some degree I’ve become a shorthand or symbol or stand-in for a spirit....' I liked him for saying that. It was honest. I thought he'd have become something specific, and I'm amused to see that I added: 'Wouldn't it be funny if he didn't?'" I wrote that on February 18, 2008 in a post titled "Why I'm voting for Obama in the Wisconsin primary." It must get wearisome being America's shorthand or symbol or stand-in for so long, wearisome for all of us, and he knows it. Maybe not speaking is the best expression at this point in our long journey.

10. A truly brilliant speech about Ferguson — if he had the will and the time to craft the perfect statement — would not be what his supporters want, but something more difficult, challenging, and surprising.

"You have to focus on brain maturation... This generation of kids wants good brains; they want to get into better schools."

"Talk to a junior or senior about whether marijuana use shaves a couple points off their SATs, and they will listen to you."

"A rash of relatively convoluted, thoroughly unsexy political scandals involving governors is moving through the country."

A reader pointed me to what he called "A very intellectually dishonest column by Catherine Rampell of the Wash Post," and I'm stuck on the second sentence. A convoluted, thoroughly unsexy rash moving through the country.

I think Rampell's point is something like: Sex scandals are attention-getting and easy to understand, and complicated, unsexy matters are not, so governors accused of nonsexual misdoings have been getting away with things. 

She ignores the alternative that governors have opponents who would like to drag them down by making accusations that will wreck the governor's momentum whether there are any real crimes in that convoluted, unsexy mess or not. And ordinary people don't want to look at the convoluted, unsexy rash anyway, so the opponents are counting on the instinctive aversion. Ick! Find someone else. This guy is tainted.

(Criminalization of politics is a new tag, and I can't go back and add it everywhere it belongs.)

The trouble with photo IDs.

The people who check them aren't much good at telling whether the person they're looking at matches the photo. And:
Facial recognition is easier for some than others, and there's a broad range of ability. Many people don't even realize they have some degree of "face blindness" until they read a description of the neurological quirk, and others (myself included!) have notable difficulties with facial memory. But the idea that the agent checking passports might be unable to tell people apart is a bit worrisome. In response to this particular study, the Australian Passport Office now uses facial matching tests during its staff recruitment process.
Poor ability to recognize faces makes you seem uncaring, so I would think many people would deny that they have this problem and would develop strategies for avoiding letting it show — to others and even to themselves. If someone seems as though they recognize you, do you act like you probably know them and talk to them for a while to get some clues who they are? Do you have anxiety that a person of a different race may accuse you of thinking that black/Asian/etc. people all look alike to you and you won't sound credible saying that everyone looks too much alike to you?

There's such sympathy for the blind, but none for the prosopagnosiacs. But if it's real and there are no prescription glasses that can fix it, we should be open to ourselves and others about the condition. It's not like the ability to remember names, which really is evidence of uncaring. (Or is the inability to remember names a condition? If it is, the condition would have a name, and the people with the condition might forget it.)

Anyway, I think the linked article (in The Washington Post) is part of an agenda to defeat photo ID requirements. If professional passport officials aren't even good, why would those people who work at your local polling place be reliable? But I'm interested in the larger question of our different and hard-to-perceive disabilities. And now I'm perceiving a related subject: our different levels of ability to perceive that another person has a hard-to-perceive disability.

Anti-Paul Ryan bookstore mischief.

This arrived in my email inbox:
Erica Payne via
3:01 AM (5 hours ago)

to me
Hi Ann,

Just a heads up, Paul Ryan's new book comes out today and his publisher is furious! It turns out that they accidentally shipped it with the wrong cover, and they need your help to make things right.

We have the correct cover and it's up to us to get it on as many of his books as possible, as soon as possible. The real cover is right here. Just print it out, take it to your nearest bookstore, and place it over the book jacket. Rep. Ryan is counting on us, let's not let him down!

Remember to email us at with any pictures you take of the corrected covers, and share them on social media with the tag #SaveGranny. We'll let the publisher know you helped them out!


Erica Payne
Agenda Project Action Fund
At the link:

Here's the actual book (which you can buy at Amazon):

ADDED: The Agenda Project Action Fund was responsible for the ad — in the 2012 election — that showed Paul Ryan pushing a elderly woman off a cliff in a wheelchair:

What do you think of this in-store bookcover activism? (Check as many as you want.) free polls 

FINALLY: If this discussion sounds a little familiar, you may be thinking of our recent discussion of Instagramming in-store activism in protest of the Hobby Lobby decision.

BEYOND FINALLY: I checked that hashtag at Twitter and found that it's already being used for all manner of non-Paul-Ryan-related things like this:

August 18, 2014

The Rick Perry indictment is "not a joke, and it isn't a farce, and it's not a laughing matter."

"It is exactly what the Democrat Party is. It is exactly what the Republican Party's been up against for years and refuses to recognize, push back against, or do anything," says Rush Limbaugh.
When I first heard this over the weekend, I can't tell you how outraged I was.  Scott Walker, Chris Christie, and now Rick Perry. Three potential Republican presidential nominees, all smeared, all targeted via indictment and criminal charges simply because of political differences.  

The media will see to it that from now on, for the rest of his life, every news story featuring Rick Perry will have the word "indicted" in it. In the first paragraph. Every story, for the rest of his life! Every other headline: "The indicted governor, formally indicted. Acquitted, yes, but still indicted."  Remember, now, we're talking [a] presidential candidate.
I appreciated this outrage, because I could feel in myself a creeping sensation of: Oh, well, Rick Perry was never that good anyway. We marginalize someone, set him aside, consign him to the dustbin of damaged candidates. Since I didn't like Rick Perry anyway, it's easy for me to let him slide into irrelevance. But this criminalization of politics is really wrong, and every time it works to take out a candidate, it makes it more likely that it will be done again and again. So, as I said, I appreciated the outrage from Rush. It's not a joke, and it shouldn't be a joke even to people who think Rick Perry is a joke. I mean, I laugh at this every time:

But the criminalization of politics is not a joke.

The dean candidate who got kicked out in the middle of his job talk tells his story.

I was just asking "What's the whole story behind the anecdote that begins Paul Campos's Atlantic article 'The Law-School Scam'"? That now has this update:
David Frakt has a long blog post at The Faculty Lounge detailing what he said that day he was so rudely interrupted. Does it answer my question? He doesn't know what the faculty were texting and emailing or what Stone was thinking. What could have been perceived as "insulting"? In his account: "I explained that, according to my interpretation of LSAT scores... over half of the students in the 2013 entering class at FCSL [fell] in the 'extreme risk' of failure category." I don't know the precise words or tone of voice he used, but conceivably, the statistics are so horrible that it felt intolerably insulting just to hear the facts stated. Frakt said he "suggested that it was unfair, ethically questionable, and a potential violation of ABA standards to admit students with such poor aptitude for the study of law," and he predicted that the ABA might put the school on probation, which would drive students away and exacerbate the problem. That's pretty frightening, but it's still not enough to justify cutting off his talk. It may nevertheless make Stone's unwise reaction comprehensible.

This is a metaphor for something.

"Man Gets Stuck In A High Chair & Can’t Get Out, So He Takes Off His Pants...."

Comic manscaping.

The chest-hair bikini craze.

And for the ladies: fangs.

"But regardless of how strong the charges against Perry are, it is worth noting how fitting they are."

"Put simply, the case against Perry points to an aspect of his political persona that is well known in Texas but has too often been overlooked in the national portrayal of Perry."

From a piece at The New Republic titled "The Charges Against Rick Perry Are Thin. But They Are Also Clarifying." It's by Alec MacGillis, who's written numerous TNR articles about Scott Walker, including "The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker" (which is the only one I took the trouble to read and blog about).

ADDED: Thin but clarifying is like fake but accurate.

"A person claiming to be the thief who stole about $1 million worth of accessories and jewelry from Texas socialite Theresa Roemer's famous three-story closet..."

"... sent the Houston Press a package with a few items as proof. The burglar allegedly demanded $500,000 from Roemer after discovering that the goods were knockoffs."

1. So... a lady has a famous closet.

2. If the goods were, in fact, knockoffs, it wasn't "$1 million worth of accessories and jewelry," was it?

3. A burglar, it seems, has contacted his victim to extort money from her lest he expose her as a phony, flaunting expensive-looking goods that aren't what they appear to be, and he thinks his silence might be worth $500,000 to her? If she had that kind of money to throw around, why was she buying fakes? I guess the answer to that last question could be: Her game is quantity, not quality. Why else would you have a 3-story closet and do what was needed to make the closet famous? If you had genuinely expensive things, you probably wouldn't call attention to where you were storing them.

4. The top comment at the link is: "Sounds like an insurance scam heading south."

5. Newspapers seem to have settled on the term "she-cave," but I'm also seeing "female man-cave." Why not the parallelism of "woman cave." Looking back at material that predates the Roemer incident, I'm seeing a lot of repetitions of a joke in the form of asking: If men have something called a "man cave," what is the female equivalent? Answer: The rest of the house.

6. As I was typing in my search "what's the female equivalent of...," Google tried to help with the following suggestions: cockblock, a bromance, a neckbeard, and phallic.

7. Among the alternative terms for female man-cave: Ma'am Cave, Estrogen Den, A Room of One’s Own, and Ovarium. That's from a blog post that takes the idea of a special women's room seriously. That is, it's not just a big closet, a very nice bathroom, or the old "rest of the house" joke. But what is in that room? It seems to be either a room with feminine colors and furniture, set up for conversation or reading, or a space for doing Martha Stewart-type crafts. Not that some men don't love that sort of thing. Here's David Rakoff in "Martha, My Dear":
I have a cupboard in my living room, a freestanding armoire that holds, among a ton of other stuff, the following supplies. Six stamp pads, rubber linoleum printing blocks, seven boxes of Chinese flash cards, bindery fabric sample books from the garbage of the carpet and tile store on 20th, acrylic paints-- approximately 40 tubes-- rhinestones, pearl buttons, architectural balsa wood, pipe cleaners, and a tin cracker box of golf tees. Quantity, approximately 1,000 assorted colors.

I make stuff. Boxes, lamps, mirrors, small folding screens, painted jackets for kids, that kind of thing. It's what I do in my spare time. Some people need to exercise every day, my salvation lies in time spent alone with an X-acto knife and commercial-grade adhesive.
8. The female equivalent of cockblock is "clam jam." The female equivalent of bromance is "womance." The female equivalent of phallic is "Perhaps women are not so neatly summed up." And the female equivalent of neckbeard is:
If the neckbeard uniform is a fedora, a stanky Slayer tee, and cargo pants, I'd say the female equivalent is webbed fingerless gloves, an ill-fitting corset worn over a stained t-shirt, and anime pins on her backpack/cargo messenger bag. I think we've all went to school with this girl before.

"A feisty 82-year-old Uptown woman was hauled to court for spray-painting a fence built by her next-door neighbor — a high-ranking federal prosecutor..."

"... as part of a raging dispute over the property line between their brownstones."
Great-granny Sylvia Kordower-Zetlin has been warring with Arlo Devlin-Brown, the newly appointed chief of the Public Corruption Unit in the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office — but prosecutors say she crossed the line when she tagged the backyard fence that separates the properties on W. 113th St.
1. Who's right about the property line? I couldn't figure it out. Which side of the fence did she spray paint? Her side? I couldn't figure that out.

2. "Public Corruption Unit"? Where have I heard that phrase before?

3. Must every old person who stands up for herself be called "feisty"? It's as if old people are all Grampa Simpson — bursting with expressive emotion but without reliable alignment to the actual real-world facts. Is this old lady right that the fence is on her land or not?

4. If you have a confused octogenarian neighbor who's worked up about something you've done, something that you have a right to do, like put up a fence, how should you handle that? Would your answer be any different if you were "a high-ranking federal prosecutor"? (The old woman says: "I’m a widow and he works for the (government)... He should be protecting me, not getting me arrested." (What did the woman say that got translated into "government"?).)

5. Why does The Daily News say the woman has been "battling Arlo Devlin-Brown" and "warring with Arlo Devlin-Brown" when it has quotes not from Devlin-Brown but from his wife Daniela Kempf: "We have a beautiful home and we would enjoy it a lot more if she weren’t making our lives hell... She takes pictures of us whenever we come outside.... She gets on a ladder (and) yells, 'Bastards! Bastards!'" Something more newsworthy about an old widow fighting a federal prosecutor? Two women fighting seems trivial or ridiculous — a "catfight"?

6. The prosecutor's wife is a professor at Barnard. She teaches Public Speaking and Rhetorical Choices and has written a book called "Argument & Audience: Presenting Debates in Public Settings." I wonder what she thinks of the presentation of the debate about the fence: the forefronting of her husband's role, the way her own remarks look in print (especially the irrelevant "beautiful home"), the ability of the old lady to portray herself as a lovable underdog (posing for a photographs, including one displaying the spray can), the commenters at the news site, the lawprof blogging....

August 17, 2014

California lady comes to Madison, Wisconsin and gets kicked in the face by a giraffe.

Stay home, coastal people. It's just too dangerous up here in the hinterlands.

"A friend of mine who, early in her law school career, realized she hated law, but..."

"... was too failure-phobic to drop out, used to say, as we toiled away at document review and the like, that she gladly would have spent the three years she 'wasted' at the law firm to pay off her law school debts instead in a debtors prison, so long as they allowed her sufficient reading material. I found her logic difficult to refute."

That's a comment by Wasteland Fan on a post of mine — "Sometimes I envy people who are in prison simply because they have a lot of free time to read" — from October 2005. The post title is a quote from a blog that's not public anymore, so the link is dead. And I see that Meade – my now-husband, whom I would meet a few years later — is the second commenter on that thread.

Anyway, I was reading that post as a consequence of some searches I'd been doing this morning after embedding "Prisoner's Song" on a post about walls and open floor plans in interior design. "Prisoner's Song" is the one with the line "Now, if I had the wings of an angel/Over these prison walls I would fly/And I'd fly to the arms of my darling/And there I'd be willing to die."

"Once the definition of rape was expanded to include more than just penetration..."

"... it became clear that men and women were equally likely to be raped, and more importantly, equally likely to be rapists."

So much for expanding definitions.

"So Mr Joy, you say our tower is totally dodgy and might fall down, what is your solution?"

"An enormous angry owl."

From "Great Mistakes in English Medieval architecture." Via Metafilter.

"So strong was the allure of the loft..."

"... that even staid Upper East Siders could be found whacking down walls in their Gilded Age townhouses, installing hulking industrial ranges in full view of their delicate, plasterwork parlors...."
Classic layouts came to seem matronly by comparison, the sensible station wagon to the sleek speedster. To this day, it remains virtually impossible to turn on HGTV without seeing some design guru raving about how knocking down a wall or two will “open the place up.”...
But soon there will be episodes where the designer expresses dismay at the openness and instructs us about the wonderfulness of walls.

"Lawyers. We're like health insurance..."

We make terrible analogies.

Mark Steyn on the militarization of the police.

Here. Excerpt:
So, when the police are dressed like combat troops, it's not a fashion faux pas, it's a fundamental misunderstanding of who they are. Forget the armored vehicles with the gun turrets, forget the faceless, helmeted, anonymous Robocops, and just listen to how these "policemen" talk. Look at the video as they're arresting the New York Times and Huffington Post reporters. Watch the St Louis County deputy ordering everyone to leave, and then adding: "This is not up for discussion."

Really? You're a constable. You may be carrying on like the military commander of an occupying army faced with a rabble of revolting natives, but in the end you're a constable.