July 25, 2015

Donald Trump...

... circus peanut.

"What Your Parents Really Think About the Places You Take Them When They Visit."

"Raise your hand if this has happened to you: your parents/siblings/friends are coming to visit you in Los Angeles and despite having a full and happy day-to-day life here, you’re not sure what to do with them when they arrive."

So that's about L.A., and maybe it's a problem that's especially trying in L.A., but it's a generic problem. And it's not just a problem about how a resident deals with (and hears from) his parents (or siblings/friends). It's a problem you have with yourself when you travel.
Figuring out how to provide an authentic experience that isn’t challenging for visitors who aren’t intimately familiar with this city’s quirks is a true local struggle.... For my parents' most recent stay, I wanted to switch things up, focus less on tourist attractions and more on the places I find most interesting in Los Angeles.
See what I mean? When you travel, you don't know enough to get to the authentic experience (a phrase I, absurdly, feel I should put in quotes but cannot, not without creating the wrong impression, that I'm snarking on the idea of authenticity). You may wish you could just mesh with the citizenry, but you can't. Even if you wanted to avoid the tourist attractions, you're aware that you've got limited time and you feel you ought to be using it, consuming something. You can't just stay in and read one day. Every part of the day, it seems, must be optimized for getting at this place you've gotten to. If you do fill that time or some of it with the famous attractions, you can feel that you're not truly in the place, that it might even be better looking at photographs of the place, because the photographs are framed to exclude the people thronging about, the people who are not even the people of the place you came to see. They are outsiders, outsiders like you. If you want less of you, stay home, where you are the only you there.

Now that you've made it through my Paragraph of Assorted Musings, let me assure you that there's a funny enough list of "What I told them"/"What they said" items at the link. One of the items is Intelligentsia — "It’s a very nice place with kind-of annoying people and great drinks" — which is one of the places my son took me when I visited him in L.A. back in 2008. I don't remember what he told me or what I said, but I do remember taking what I think of as one of my best photographs:

Intelligentsia in Silver Lake

"I very much live in the now now... I mean, I have no real recollection of how I used to be..."

"... and no real interest in trying to preserve it or trying to go back there," says Richard Bandy, who woke up after surgery with no memory.

His wife has written a book about the experience of being married to a man who suddenly didn't remember their past together. She says: "His expression and experience in the hospital was nearly angelic. He was so neutral. He didn't appear like he was suffering pain at all, and he was able to write a few words, and he kind of kept writing the same questions over and over again to me."

So he became what looked to his wife like an angel and what feels to him, from the inside, like living in the now. Meanwhile, he's had to be informed of what he's done in the past:
I mean when I read it in the story — because I've read the story several times — it kind of always makes me cry, unfortunately. But — well I don't know if it's unfortunate or not. But when I read the stuff about myself and [my son] Joshua, I honestly could not believe that that had happened. I'm not sure that I actually remember, but I was physical with him. Pushed him down to the ground and pushed him out the door and that sort of thing, and, you know, was very intimidating to him, yelling at him, screaming at him, that sort of idea.
I guess he didn't have to be informed. She didn't have to write the book. If by chance, a devil becomes an angel, should the angel be told he wasn't always like this?

I'd say yes, if you want a high-quality angel. But perhaps no, if you want to protect a person who's suffered a great loss, knows it, and could be shown the mercy not adding the burden of the past, especially since he's disconnected from the past and disabled from connecting in the form of a true memory (as opposed to a memory of having heard about the thing that he doesn't directly remember).

But the son exists. Does it help the son for his father to learn what he did and (as the mother puts it) "make amends"?

Do these questions mean anything, considering that every time he learns about his past, he forgets it again, and can, at any point, opt out of the knowledge going forward? Another way of looking at it is that the wife has gone through a lot, and we shouldn't judge her for appropriating all this material to serve her interest in expression and to acquire money for the family.

Just because he woke up an angel, by chance, doesn't mean that she must herself choose to be an angel. But if she were to choose to be an angel, to match her accidentally angelic husband, should she not have written this book?

"Matt and Sweat weren’t very good criminals. They were blunt-instrument types."

"Unlike, say, Whitey Bulger, they weren’t the kind of criminal who gets away and lives for years off the fat of his crimes. They were the kind who gets caught and pays the price, and then gets caught and pays the price again."
Part of the reason for this is that people who have spent a substantial part of their life behind bars often don’t know how to function on the outside. Everyone knows the famous cases—Gary Gilmore, Jack Abbott—of parolees who commit terrible crimes for no understandable reason soon after getting out. They’re used to life in lockup, where there are rules for everything. Life without ubiquitous rules freaks them out....

It sounds glib to say that Sweat may have wanted to escape, but never really wanted to be free, at least if freedom means what it means to most of us: staying out of prison. But what would Matt and Sweat most likely have done if they had managed to get to Canada or Mexico or even Vermont?

Nelson Mandela, imprisoned, was told "Indians get trousers. Indians get socks. Boys get shorts."

He petitioned for long pants.

For the annals of Men in Shorts.

A woman sitting behind a couple at a baseball game photographs the wife's phone, which shows her texting to another man.

The woman passes a note to the husband: "Your wife is cheating on you. Look at the messages under Nancy! It's really a man named Mark Allen." They include a phone number for him to message if he wants the photograph of the wife's phone, and he does: "This is the guy you gave the message to at the ball game send me that pic please." He gets the photograph and the woman tweets a photograph of her holding her phone with his message asking for the photograph and her sending the photograph. Nice touch: Her iPhone has a classic cracked screen. And the tweet is drawing commentary:
"Yeah it sucks that she might have been cheating but it was really none of your business," @steelerfan1874 reacted. "You should have paid attention to the game instead of the people in front of you."

"No one safe out here any more," @PizzaPartyBen added.

July 24, 2015

One more day on Lake Wingra...

... possibly "the prettiest urban lake anywhere."


"A few weeks ago, in the country, far from the lights of the city, I saw the entire sky 'powdered with stars” (in Milton’s words)..."

"... such a sky, I imagined, could be seen only on high, dry plateaus like that of Atacama in Chile (where some of the world’s most powerful telescopes are). It was this celestial splendor that suddenly made me realize how little time, how little life, I had left. My sense of the heavens’ beauty, of eternity, was inseparably mixed for me with a sense of transience — and death. I told my friends Kate and Allen, 'I would like to see such a sky again when I am dying.' 'We’ll wheel you outside,' they said."

Writes Oliver Sacks, who is dying.
I almost certainly will not see my polonium (84th) birthday, nor would I want any polonium around, with its intense, murderous radioactivity. But then, at the other end of my table — my periodic table — I have a beautifully machined piece of beryllium (element 4) to remind me of my childhood, and of how long ago my soon-to-end life began.

Aerial photography of traffic interchanges.


"Criminal Inquiry Is Sought in Clinton Email Account."

That's the NYT headline, which Politico notes got changed from the original "Criminal Inquiry Sought in Hillary Clinton’s Use of Email."

The relationship between football players and fans at Ohio State.

Screen-grabbed by TPM, which seems to be celebrating Cardale Jones (the potential starting QB):

"Federal court officers have recommended a sentence of life in prison for a peanut company executive convicted of selling salmonella-tainted food..."

"... a move that attorneys on both sides called 'unprecedented' for a food-poisoning case."
"That recommendation is truly absurd," said Ken Hodges, an attorney on [Stewart] Parnell's defense team. "We hope the judge will see that Stewart Parnell never meant to hurt anyone. He ate the peanut butter himself. He fed it to his children and to his grandchildren."...

Parnell and his co-defendants were never charged with sickening or killing anybody. Instead prosecutors used the seven-week trial to lay out a paper trail of emails, lab results and billing records to show Parnell's company defrauded customers by using falsified test results to cover up lab screenings that showed batches of peanut butter contained salmonella....

Senator Ron Johnson mars an otherwise apt statement with the unfortunate phrase "idiot inner city kids."

"It’s unbelievable to me that liberals, that President Obama, of course he sends his children to private school, as did Al Gore, and Bill Clinton and every other celebrated liberal... They just don’t want to let those idiot inner city kids that they purport to be so supportive of… they don’t want to give them the same opportunity their own kids have. It’s disgraceful."

How does "idiot" pop out? How does that happen?

"Tennessee Is the Capital of American Jihad/And it didn’t start last week."

A Politico headline.

Obama rambles, dredging up his old line "I don't get too high when it's high and I don't get too low when it's low."

From the full transcript of the BBC interview:
You know the - it's interesting - that one of my - every president, every leader has strengths and weaknesses. One of my strengths is I have a pretty even temperament. I don't get too high when it's high and I don't get too low when it's low. And what I found during the course of the presidency, and I suppose this is true in life, is that investments and work that you make back here sometimes take a little longer than the 24-hour news cycle to bear fruit. So some of this is just some serendipity and convergence of a lot of things that we had been working on for a very long time coming together. But some of it is I also believe a recognition that the kind of gridlock and obstruction that that Congress and the Republicans in Congress too often have engaged in is something that we just can't afford at a time when the world is moving so fast and there are so many challenges. And the robust exertion of executive authority within the the lawful constraints that we operate under is something that we've been spending a lot of time thinking about....
 Here's my blog post from April 2008, "I don't get too high when I'm high, and I don't get too low when I'm low."
That's Barack Obama, on "Fox News Sunday," responding to the prompt: "What have you learned about running for President? What have you learned about yourself?" He says: "I've learned that I have what I believe is the right temperament for the presidency."
The line has one odd change. Back then, he said "when I'm high" and "when I'm low," and now he's saying "when it's high" and "when it's low." A meaningful change? The conditions of highness/lowness are now externalized, an "it." Before, he was referring to the low-to-high range within himself. But we can see that through all these years, he's treasured — or wanted us to treasure — this quality of temperament

A group of Swiss researchers published a paper in The Journal of Sexual Medicine that addresses the question 'What is a good-looking penis?'"

"Here Are Your Penis Beauty Standards."

"Few popular girls' names have had a sharper increase in popularity than Paisley."

"Less than a decade ago, Paisley was effectively unused. It debuted within the top 1,000 newborn female names in 2006 at 831."
Just a few years later, the name had jumped to 72nd in 2014, when it was more popular than ever. Parents who choose the name may be thinking of the Scottish village, or the floral pattern of the same name with Persian roots.
I'd be thinking: "Paisley Park is in your heart."

"Eminem spiraled into the demented depths of his brain and returned with an outrageous 6-minute freestyle... "

"... scorching Bill Cosby, Donald Trump, Caitlyn Jenner and more with characteristically grotesque grandeur."

The design defect of a stretch limousine....

... vividly illustrated:

July 23, 2015

Lake Wingra, today.


Jon Stewart, we're told, flipped out when the one black writer on "The Daily Show" criticized him for using a "Kingfish"-type voice to make fun of Herman Cain.

Wyatt Cenac was the only black writer on "The Daily Show" back in 2011, when Jon Stewart took to mocking the various GOP presidential candidates, including Herman Cain. In an interview with Marc Maron, Cenac said:
"Oh no, you just did this and you didn’t think about it. It was just the voice that came into your head. And so it bugged me.... I've got to be honest, and I just spoke from my place... I wasn’t here when it all happened. I was in a hotel. And I cringed a little bit. It bothered me.... [Stewart] got incredibly defensive. I remember he was like, What are you trying to say? There’s a tone in your voice. I was like, 'There’s no tone. It bothered me. It sounded like Kingfish.'"
That is, Kingfish, the old Amos 'n' Andy character.

According to Cenac, Stewart "got upset... stood up and he was just like, 'Fuck off. I’m done with you.' And he just started screaming that to me. And he screamed it a few times. 'Fuck off! I’m done with you.' And he stormed out. And I didn’t know if I had been fired." Cenac went outside and "I was shaking, and I just sat there by myself on the bleachers and fucking cried. And it’s a sad thing. That’s how I feel. That’s how I feel in this job. I feel alone."

ADDED: I hadn't finished listening to the podcast when I wrote this post, but now I have. It's important to recognize that Wyatt Cenac came across over the course of an hour-plus interview as a very unhappy man. When he was a kid, his father was murdered. He is estranged from his mother, who, based on his description, seems mentally ill. He avoids any contact with her and feels that she's been like a "stalker" in his life. Marc Maron told him that he has "a chip on your shoulder."

The material about Jon Stewart must be understood in this context. Look at what Cenac said in the interview. It does not reveal how Cenac expressed himself, other than that he used the "Kingfish" comparison. We can gather that Cenac perseverated on the subject and felt that, as the only black person on the writing staff, he had to represent black people and not let them down. That is, he seemed powered by righteous energy, and it sounds as though, after he was listened to, he just kept going, insisting that a bit they wanted to do should be dropped.

How long did that go on? Stewart did listen and was respectful up to a point, a point at which he snapped. I wish I could see a full transcript. I suspect, based on listening to over an hour of a very revealing interview, that Cenac tried everyone's patience, had some heavy psychological issues, and that he had to be squelched as they worked on the material for their daily show. I think they did have some empathy for Cenac and they respected his voice. That comes across in even in Cenac's subjective version of the story. But they could not give him the power to veto sketches and to drag down all the energy as they faced a deadline.

Here's the segment that Cenac wanted to stop them from airing. In it, you hear the original mocking of Cain, Fox News's use of it to portray Stewart as racist (and Fox News said "Amos and Andy" before Cenac arrived at his opinion), and Stewart's response, which was a whole big jumble of old clips of him doing various voices (including Jewish, Italian, Mexican, German, Donald Trump, and gay):

ALSO: Based on the interview, it's hard to believe that Cenac has a career in comedy. He wasn't funny and didn't try to be funny. Recently, I listened to the Marc Maron's interview with Robin Williams, which was recorded less than 4 months before Williams killed himself. Williams was far more upbeat than Cenac and made many funny observations. I don't remember Cenac saying anything even faintly amusing.

The argument that you have a right to buy and sell sex.

ReasonTV describes a lawsuit:

(This is very slow moving if you have some legal expertise.)

Too many mayflies.

"Biggest thing I noticed was after cars were stopped and sitting for so long while we’re trying to get cars moving again is they were probably piled knee high in front of their headlights from just sitting there... We had Iowa DOT came in with a snow plow and actually plow them off and then sand it because it was still pretty slippery. And then Illinois plowed their side...."

"Eminem has the biggest vocabulary in music..."

"... beating Jay Z and Bob Dylan."
Eminem came out on top having used 8,818 different words across his work, and takes a considerable lead over second place Jay Z, who has so far used 6,899 words.

Tupac Shakur placed third with 6,596 words, Kanye West is fourth with 5,069 words, while Bob Dylan is at five with 4,883 words.

"The Wisconsin Targets Tell Their Story/After victory in court, conservative activists talk on the record for the first time about their 21-month ordeal."

A must-read in The Wall Street Journal by Collin Levy. (No subscription? Google some text.)
One target did speak up in public in real time— Eric O’Keefe... The director of the Wisconsin Club for Growth knew that violating the gag order put him at personal risk, but he told me then that he had to fight because it was an assault on basic constitutional freedoms and “we have done nothing illegal.”... “I did not want to see the inside of a jail cell,” Mr. O’Keefe says, but “I didn’t want to shirk my duty to confront tyrannical behavior.”...

Now the 60-year-old Mr. O’Keefe is willing to provide more details about his decision. He says he talked it over with his children, and he and his wife, Leslie, discussed “how she should operate if I was arrested for contempt of court.” The maximum penalty in Wisconsin is a $10,000 fine and one year in jail. “She asked if she could bail me out of jail. My position was ‘no.’ ”...

"They were spying on people who were making it tough for them to retain their hold on state government,” Mr. O’Keefe says. “People often ask, ‘What were they investigating?’ That’s the wrong question. It wasn’t the what, it was the who.”

And the “who” happened to be political allies of Scott Walker, who was a political opponent of Messrs. Chisholm and Landgraf. While this story has a happy ending, it still required years of legal expense to fight back and expose the prosecutorial abuses. The targets have been vindicated, but a reckoning for prosecutors and the abusive John Doe machinery is still in order.

For the annals of creepiness.

"Another article about an top-tier MBA-grad that is supposed to represent millennial women?"

"What, you couldn't find a Yale Law School grad to further support your thesis? While it is interesting for approximately one second to contemplate the career paths of the Ivy League set, most women (and men) in this country do not have the 'choices' that these women make. While women are certainly more cognizant of work-life balance and those who can and are so inclined to are increasingly making choices to spend more time with their family, these women are not representative of a generation. Most people work whatever job they can to support their families, and struggle at that. I'm a graduate of a top law school and have taken a step back from a big law firm to spend more time with my kids, but at least I don't fool myself into thinking (or writing articles that imply) that's an option for everyone."

Comment on a NYT article titled "More Than Their Mothers, Young Women Plan Career Pauses."

I like the way the sun coaxed me to look at the flower from the other side.

I've looked at flowers from both sides now.

"Entrepreneur converts fleet of old campers, parks them around New York and charges $22 a night on Airbnb."

"... from tiny vans for just two people, with a limited amount of fittings, to fully-converted camper vans complete with a kitchen and seating area.... Guests cannot move the vans.... He insists they are in good neighborhoods that are quiet at night and surrounded by restaurants, bars and galleries...."

RELATED: "What It's Like To Live In Your Car On The Streets Of New York City."
"I shower at the gym... So I now have towel service and a locker where I can store some clothes — the rest are in plastic bins in my car... I had my windows tinted to the max that I could, which was something like 35%. And then after that I put Walmart cling on tints on in the back, where I sleep.... I never feel 100% safe, so I’m always kind of on edge, but I sleep pretty soundly and I’m pretty sure I could handle any situation that could arise..."

There seems to be a lion in Milwaukee.

"Whatever it is, it’s way out of its habitat... My wife is afraid of it. I was just concerned. I don’t want any kids getting hurt. What happens when it gets hungry? I’m not an animal rights advocate, so I hope they shoot the damn thing."

On Twitter: #MKELion.

"The austere lifestyle my people face of arranged marriages, strict segregation of genders, the wife shaving her head..."

"... the couple having sex with the wife wearing a bra in the complete dark.... If people were allowed to think, they would not be religious... Thinking analytically when it comes to basic life decisions is something new to me and something I still struggle with, 5 years after leaving."

Wrote Faigy Mayer, 30, the formerly Hasidic woman who killed herself by jumping from the 230 Fifth Rooftop Bar on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.

Selfies with wild animals.

People are fools.

"I’m the mom whose encounter with an angry Maine diner owner went viral. Here’s what happened..."

An annoying person gets a forum in The Washington Post. I'm only interested in reading the comments, of which there are over 5,000 in less than one day. Here's the "most liked" comment:
"I'll never forget the look of fear on my baby's face.."

So she's chill with listening to her kid be miserable for 30 min wait for table and 40 min wait for food -- and with letting other patrons share the misery -- but suddenly someone else's outburst and loud voice is simply unforgettably traumatic! 

Typical hypocritical, self-centered, entitled parent.
Second "most liked":
If someone had told me with a hungry 21-month old toddler that there would be a 30 minute wait BEFORE I could even order? I would have been oughta [sic] there pulling through a McDonalds drive thru or finding something faster.

Plus, just because you don't THINK anyone cares, doesn't mean they don't.

This parent is still clueless. 

Too many young parents think they don't have to adjust THEIR lifestyle or needs at all when a baby comes. Well, you do.
As soon as you were told it would be a 30-minute wait just for a table, you should have left. You're not hipsters anymore, you're parents. You don't take a hungry toddler out for brunch without a plan B. There are at least two good grocery stores within a few blocks of that diner and countless other places that might have had shorter waits. 

I agree with many of the other comments. Everything about this piece is about you. It's all about how wonderful and reasonable you are. I mean, thanks for telling us you left a 25% tip. Aren't you great?

"What happened to Curren is known as a 'tip over' — the term for when an everyday appliance or piece of furniture is knocked over and suddenly transformed into a deadly threat."

"According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, a child dies roughly every two weeks due to tip-over incidents. The vast majority of victims are under the age of five."

July 22, 2015

At the Black Coffee Café...


... you can get a lot done.

"India's share of the world economy when Britain arrived on its shores was 23%."

"By the time the British left it was down to below 4%. Why? Simply because India had been governed for the benefit of Britain. Britain's rise for 200 years was financed by its depredations in India."


"The volume of Arctic sea ice increased by around a third after an unusually cool summer in 2013."

"Researchers say the growth continued in 2014 and more than compensated for losses recorded in the three previous years."
The scientists involved believe changes in summer temperatures have greater impacts on ice than thought. But they say 2013 was a one-off and that climate change will continue to shrink the ice in the decades ahead....

Donald "I’m a nice person" Trump says he gave out Lindsey Graham's cellphone number "for fun."

"He’s got zero in the polls... I did it for fun, and everybody had a good time, and we had a packed house. We had a beyond-packed house. We had auditoriums next door that were packed. The place was amazing.... It seems to have gotten a lot of press... He calls me names, you have to fight back.... I’m a nice person...."

Trump has a way of stringing together 4 or 5 word phrases, with no connective material. I understand why people enjoy listening to that. Compare John Kasich's rambling and "guess what?"-ing through his announcement speech yesterday. Did you listen? Why?! Were you chained to a sofa out of reach of a remote control?
Kasich rambled through a 45-minute speech littered with stories about people he had met on the street during his life. It never seemed to coalesce into any sort of coherent takeaway or message... [H]is speech was so all over the place that it's hard to imagine undecided Republican voters will even know where to look or listen to find the central message of his candidacy. I watched the speech from beginning to end and I couldn't tell you what that message is.

Look. I get the appeal of speaking extemporaneously... But, there are limits to off-the-cuff-ness in the context of a presidential campaign. You can't -- as it appears Kasich did -- just get up and talk. It sounds great in the conference room: "Yeah, he's just got to be him. He doesn't need a bunch of talking points! Authenticity!"

It looks much less good in the actual delivery -- as Kasich proved today (and Donald Trump proves every day). There's a reason speechwriters exist. There's a reason teleprompters were invented.
That's WaPo's Chris Cillizza, and you see — I've boldfaced it — that he's saying Kasich and Trump are alike, but my point is Kasich and Trump are different. Trump creates excitement and entertainment — even thrills and danger — when he rambles. Many people compulsively listen and want more. They start rooting for him. He's shaking things up, and things need a good shaking right now. That doesn't seem fair, because other candidates who are scrambling for our attention are necessarily less fun to watch. They must avoid gaffes. Trump can live and soar on gaffes. Kasich isn't like Trump at all. You can't listen to him, and even if you do listen — Cillizza did —  you don't know what he said. He's a blabbering antithesis to the entertaining, infuriating Trump.

Of course, Trump is a ridiculous candidate, but saying that isn't going to make him go away. Calling him horrible and pointing to one supposed gaffe after another is only giving him energy. And yet you can't ignore him. It's quite a spectacle, his insistence on occupying the stage and nothing you can do will get rid of him.

The shadow and the wasp.

Zinnia with accidental wasp

Talk about whatever you like.

"It’s time to draft Al Gore: If Democrats want to win, it’s clear neither Hillary nor Sanders is the way."

A bit of amusement from Salon.
[Gore is] the one person on the left, apart from Clinton and Biden, with the cachet to bridge the establishment and progressive wings of the party...

1. Stature. Gore is a superstar with impeccable qualifications...
A full list of 4 points is available at the link. 

"Facebook Inc cannot challenge search warrants New York prosecutors used to get information from its site on hundreds of users suspected of Social Security fraud..."

The intermediate appellate court in Manhattan said yesterday.
The warrants, which applied to 381 users' photos, private messages and other account information, could only be challenged by individual defendants after prosecutors gathered evidence, the Manhattan-based court unanimously ruled.

Facebook was backed in the case by a group of large Internet companies including Google Inc and Microsoft Corp, which argued the case could set a troubling precedent giving prosecutors access to all kinds of digital information....

"BBC Culture polled film critics from around the world to determine the best American movies ever made."

"The results are surprising – Gone With the Wind appears at 97."

What's supposed to be surprising — that film critics from around the world put "Gone With the Wind" as low as 97 or that they put it on the list at all? We're talking about film critics. From around the world

And: "Critics were encouraged to submit lists of the 10 films they feel, on an emotional level, are the greatest in American cinema – not necessarily the most important, just the best."

Greatest, best, on an emotional level. What can that possibly mean? Scan the list and you'll get an idea. Or read this one critic's musings on how he thought about the task. Richard Brody (in The New Yorker):
None of the movies on my list were among my favorites in childhood, a time when I watched lots of movies, mostly on TV.... All are films that I discovered at or after the age of eighteen... The one ringer on the list is “Love Streams,” which isn’t the film by John Cassavetes that I have in fact watched most often (that would be “Husbands”); it’s the one in which several simple gestures and glances, the tilt of a head, the tone of a voice, even just the shadow on a face, move me in a trans-aesthetic, oddly intimate, utterly unconsidered way.
Oh, well, then, okay. I was a big John Cassavetes fan back when “Love Streams” came out (in 1984). It was mostly because I was deeply attached to "Husbands." But I avoided even seeing "Love Streams" because it got bad reviews and I'd loathed "The Killing of a Chinese Bookie" (in 1976) and that got good reviews. I never wanted to have that Killing-of-a-Chinese-Bookie feeling again. But maybe "Love Streams" deserves a viewing, on some rare occasion when, these days, I'm in the mood to sit through a movie. Frankly, these days, just about any movie gives me that old Killing-of-a-Chinese-Bookie feeling.

Movies! Ah, there's something to be said for Brody's target age of 18. All the movies I discovered when I was 18, back in 1969 and in the 10 to 15 years after that. Those are the movies that are structured into my brain — on an emotional level — but the idea that they are "best" is silly. Not that it's silly for BBC to make a list. People love lists. They're easy to read. They're provocative...  unless you can resist the provocation.

"It is an axiom of modern American life: Offer a new service that is wildly popular with the public, and sooner or later you will find yourself labeled an enemy of the people."

The first line of A Wall Street Journal column by William McGurn titled ""Uber Crashes the Democratic Party/The ride-share app is bringing out the inner Elizabeth Warren." (No subscription? Google some text.)
[NYC mayor Bill] de Blasio said he aims to freeze Uber’s expansion until his regulators can figure out how best to block any attempts to “skirt vital protections and oversight.”...

[Hillary Clinton] fretted that while the “gig economy” may be “exciting” and “unleashing innovation,” “it is also raising hard questions about workplace protections and what a good job will look like in the future.”...
McGurn takes a swipe that might impress you but doesn't work on me:
[I]nnovation by its nature challenges the inner-Elizabeth Warren in so much of today’s Democratic Party. However open Democrats may be to revolutionary new definitions of marriage, the thought that there might be some nonsexual for-profit contracts between consenting adults keeps progressives up at night....
To end the exclusion of gay couples from marriage — while marriage remained an option for heterosexual couples — was a matter of getting to equality, making the same options open to different kinds of human individuals. If the state of being married doesn't offer the benefits and protections a given couple wants, they don't have to marry. They can remain single. There's no finite number of married and single slots that people compete for. I know there's an argument that gay marriage diminishes the value of marriage for heterosexual people, and if you believe that argument — the "defense of marriage" argument — you can enjoy McGurn's comparison. But I think it's a very bad argument.

There is a much more realistic concern that traditional jobs — with desirable benefits and protections — will dry up as "gig economy" work structures grow. It won't be a matter of individual choice like staying single versus getting married.

But, it's certainly true that even those who love to pose under the banner "CHANGE" only like some changes, just as those who cry "TRADITION!" have plenty of tradition they'd be happy to dump.

New Quinnipiac poll puts Rubio, Walker, and Bush ahead of Hillary in Colorado, Virginia, and Iowa — all states Obama won in 2012.

Here's the new poll.

Here's the 2012 Electoral College map. Those 3 states are only 28 electoral votes, nowhere nearly enough to swing the election, which Obama won 332 to 206, but those are the swing states Quinnipiac polled and Hillary lost all of them, to each of the 3 Republicans who were polled. It's not as though Rubio, Walker, and Bush have become particularly strong in these places. It seems to be anti-Hillary:
Clinton gets markedly negative favorability ratings in each state, 35 – 56 percent in Colorado, 33 – 56 percent in Iowa and 41 – 50 percent in Virginia....

“Hillary Clinton’s numbers have dropped among voters in the key swing states of Colorado, Iowa and Virginia. She has lost ground in the horserace and on key questions about her honesty and leadership,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “On being a strong leader, a key metric in presidential campaigns, she has dropped four to 10 points depending on the state and she is barely above 50 percent in each of the three states.”

“Against three Republicans, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Secretary Clinton trails in six matchups and is on the down side of too-close-to call in three,” Brown added.

“That’s compared to the April 9 Quinnipiac University poll in which she was clearly ahead in five of the matchups and too-close-to-call in the other four.”
By the way, Bush has a negative favorability rating in Iowa and Colorado (but not Virginia). Rubio and Walker have positive favorability in all 3 states (possibly because they're less well known than Jeb and Hillary). 

This poll doesn't do a head-to-head between Clinton and Trump, but it did take a reading of Trump's favorability. It's terrible.
The worst favorability ratings for any Democrat or Republican in the presidential field belong to Trump: 31 – 58 percent in Colorado, 32 – 57 percent in Iowa and 32 – 61 percent in Virginia.

July 21, 2015

"Are you sure it's not white and gold?"

Asked Magson, wisely, in this morning's "Black and Blue Café."


And Lance said, "That bug is actually gold and white":

It's gold and white. photo goldwhite_zps5f3b4w9x.png

"Just chillin' in Cedar Rapids."

Via Legal Insurrection, which deems it "embarrassing" and "cringeworthy." I say it's one more permutation of the political artform pioneered by our great cultural benefactor, Richard Nixon, when he said "Sock it to me?"

"Twas April, as the bumpkins say/The Legislature called it May..."

Wrote William Cowper in "Fable" (1781), which I'm reading this morning (text below) because it's one of the historical examples the Oxford English Dictionary gives for the word "legislature," the meaning of which is crucial to the outcome of a Supreme Court case that I'm studying today because I'm doing a little presentation on it tomorrow (to a small faculty group). Here I am, settling in at my favorite café...


... which is a mile from my house, walkable in the length of time it takes to listen to one side of the oral argument through my iPhone earbuds. I'd have finished the other side walking home, but the text tone dinged and it was Meade saying "good morning," and a phone call ensued, dissipating my on-taskedness, which I'm trying to get back.

When the Constitution says "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof," can the people of a state, using the initiative, set up an independent commission to do the redistricting for federal elections? That is, can the people be the "Legislature" or is the legislature only that elected law-making body that we think of as "the legislature"? If a legislature is "'The power that makes laws' (Johnson); a body of persons invested with the power of making the laws of a country or state" (OED), then does that include the people acting through an initiative, which is a law-making process that states only began to adopt around the turn of the 20th century?

What do words mean? Cowper is almost as distracting as a text in the middle of an oral argument, since his poem does not direct our attention to a stable meaning of the word "legislature" but to the way legislatures have the power to destabilize the meaning of words:

"We’re interested in the color, shape and sizes of the vegetables from 400 years ago, compared to modern cultivars of the same vegetables..."

"... the deep sutures on cantaloupe in Italian art of the Renaissance or the lack of pigmentation in pictures of watermelon compared to today," says UW horticulture professor Jim Nienhuis, who teaches Hort 370, World Vegetable Crops.
"Vegetables are perishable (as opposed to grains), and were domesticated prior to photography, but Renaissance art saves the day."
Here's Giovanni Stanchi's Frutta e fiori con paesaggio marino (Italian, 15-16th century) overlaid by Nienuis with examples of modern counterparts:

At the Black and Blue Café...


... have it out.

In post #3 of the morning, we connect the themes of posts ##1 & 2.

IBM's  supercomputer, Watson, has a capacity called Cognitive Cooking which "can invent recipes out of a quintillion possible combinations of ingredients."
After the presentations, IBM toasted [it announcement last year] with a luncheon featuring several Watson-generated recipes and one Watson-concocted cocktail called the Blue Caribbean Hurricane...

Like many summer cocktails, the Big Blue Hurricane is sweet and fruity. Okay, the Big Blue Hurricane is very sweet and fruity. As such, the sort of complex flavor profile in Watson's cocktail recipe requires some slightly obscure ingredients that might be hard to find, ingredients like banana nectar and coconut cream...
I assume the better idea is to ask for things you can make with obscure ingredients you have taking up space in the cupboard. (What's the most puzzling item you're keeping around and would like to know how to use up as an ingredient in a cocktail?)

I love it. Robots helping you — you, not me, I don't need it — be more human.

"Yesterday, IBM announced the new 'Watson Tone Analyzer,' a helpful program designed to enlighten you about the way your messages come across to other people."
Like a robotic writing coach, the 'tone check' tool can analyze a chunk of text to provide insight about the emotion it conveys (cheerful versus angry), if it seems agreeable and conscientious, and whether it reads as confident or tentative (or, bonus: analytical). Designed for both personal and business use, the program will also point out suggestions for alternative word choices to tweak the tone of the message.
IN THE COMMENTS: Original Mike says:
So they've (re)invented the thesaurus.
It's the opposite of a thesaurus more than it's the same.

1. You have to decide when to go looking for alternate words in the thesaurus. The thesaurus won't pro-actively tell you where there's a good place for rewording.

2. The thesaurus deprives you of information about the tone and notoriously — dishonorably, opprobriously, shamefully! — lures naive users into screwing up their tone.

"A five-factor approach to characterizing 'types of drunks.'"

A scholarly paper in Addiction Research & Theory, PDF, by Rachel Pearl Winograd, Douglas Steinley, and Kenneth Sher of the University of Missouri-Columbia:
Results from finite mixture model clustering revealed a four cluster solution. Cluster 1, ‘‘Hemingway,’’ was the largest and defined by intoxication-related decreases in Conscientiousness and Intellect that were below average; Cluster 2, ‘‘Mary Poppins,’’ was defined by being high in Agreeableness when sober, decreasing less than average in Conscientiousness and Intellect and increasing more than average in Extraversion when drunk; Cluster 3, ‘‘Mr. Hyde,’’ reported larger drunk decreases in Conscientiousness and Intellect and smaller increases in Extraversion; Cluster 4, ‘‘The Nutty Professor,’’ was defined by being low in Extraversion when sober, increasing more than average in Extraversion and decreasing less than average in Conscientiousness when drunk. Cluster membership was associated with experiencing more alcohol consequences. Cluster membership was associated with experiencing more alcohol consequences. These results support use of the FFM to characterize clinically meaningful subgroups of sober-to-drunk differences in trait expression
Via New York Magazine, which seems to be missing the point with the headline "Which Awful Type of Drunk Person Are You?" I don't think the types are awful, though it may be awful to be a drunk person, in which point it's more a problem of redundancy and bad word placement. Mary Poppins isn't awful. He's your best drunk. From the article:
The... cluster... labelled ‘‘Mary Poppins,’’... was composed of a small number of drinkers (approximately 14% of the sample) who are particularly Agreeable when sober (i.e. embodying traits of friendliness), and decrease less than average in Conscientiousness, Intellect, and Agreeableness when intoxicated.... The Mary Poppins group of drinkers essentially captures the sweet, responsible drinkers who experience fewer alcohol-related problems compared to those most affected.
Gives new meaning to the old line "I'm the Mary."

July 20, 2015

At the 5Z Café...


... pick what you like to talk about.

Vox voxsplains "Why Martin O’Malley had to apologize for saying 'all lives matter.'"

I'm sure there are many answers to why, but let's start with the Vox approach.

Obviously, asking "why" contains a premise you might disagree with: O'Malley had to apologize.

But at least it's a fact that O'Malley thought he had to apologize or, strike that, apologizing was easier/better/whatever than doing anything other than apologizing.

The main thing I learned from Hillary's Facebook Q&A.

Which has been going on here, live, for the last 4 hours.

There's a thing called "The Everyday Pantsuit Tee"... 

... merchandise website for $30, here. Closeup:

"Everyday" is a reference to Hillary's "everyday people" theme (previously noted here). So she's got her trademark pantsuit, and you "everyday" people can wear a T-shirt printed to look like a 67-year-old woman's pantsuit. That's dedication.

What kind of campaign merchandise are you hoping to buy? 

"This is a man so polarizing and so intensely disliked in his home state that he can’t show his face in his own Capitol building."

"[Scott Walker] has to be smuggled in and out like 'El Chapo,' the Mexican drug lord who escaped from prison the other day through a drainage pipe," writes former Madison mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
This is totally contrary to the Wisconsin tradition. This reporter told me that he would often just wait around the East Wing until Walker’s predecessor, Jim Doyle, showed up for work and buttonhole him right there for an interview. He said Doyle always accommodated. And he told me that Doyle’s predecessor, Tommy Thompson, would go a step further, actually calling out to reporters through the rotunda when he wanted to do an interview.
Did anything like this ever happen to Doyle or Thompson?

Did you know John Kasich has an "anger management" problem?

Politico has a big article on the subject. 

I half suspect this as an effort by the John Kasich campaign to gin up some interest in the guy — get some of that Trump magic, maybe.

"In the 1970s, converting streets into pedestrian and transit malls was a 'popular notion' and was encouraged by the federal government through grants..."

"Few transit malls still exist today because most of them weren’t considered successful...." 

Yes, because what's the point of a nice pedestrian mall that has buses traveling up and down constantly? If cars and trucks are rerouted to other streets, why shouldn't the buses be on those streets? Why clear the streets for pedestrian strolling and shopping and then screw it up with buses? It's crazy, but like some other forms of crazy, we're still doing it here in Madison. Why?
Madison continues to receive grant money from the Federal Transit Administration for every mile of metro buses that travel a fixed path... In upcoming years, the city plans to study the effects of removing some, or all, metro buses from State Street, but will have to consider how much federal funding could be lost....
We're doing something that hurts pedestrians and hurts the businesses on the street and I don't think anyone likes because there's federal money in it. Come on, Madison, we're special, but I don't think doing it for the money is the brand of specialness we want.

"Ethical fur" — made from road-kill animals.

"It was a wasted resource and I decided after some deep thought that I could make a viable business out of this," says Pamela Paquin, of Petite Mort Fur.
"I started working with the Highway Department and animal control officers who would report them to me when they had an animal down. They took me seriously, thank God."

Now, when they hear of dead animals, they contact Paquin. She drives out to pick the animal up herself. And if it's possible, she skins the animal where she found it.

"I like to put the remains in the woods for other animals to have safely as a meal. It's like roadkill sushi, really, but it's in a safe place rather than having the scavengers go on the road and get hit as well."...

Each fur piece is adorned with a sterling silver badge that says what the animal was and where and when it was killed...

"A hacking group swiped mounds of data from Ashley Madison, the hookup service for adulterers, and is threating to leak users’ personal data..."

"The intruders, who call themselves 'The Impact Team,' claim to have completely compromised all of Ashley Madison’s records, stealing the information of 37 million affair-seeking subscribers."
The team immediately posted some of the pilfered records, which included users’ real names, contact information and financial data. The group —  furious that Ashley Madison’s promised full-delete function allegedly does not scrub data — threatened to release more sensitive records if its demands were not met....

“Full Delete netted ALM $1.7mm in revenue in 2014. It’s also a complete lie,” the hacking group wrote. “Users almost always pay with credit card; their purchase details are not removed as promised, and include real name and address, which is of course the most important information the users want removed.”

Vanity Fair on Rachel Dolezal: "Her cover’s blown, but that turned out not to matter. It was never a cover to her, anyway."

I know: Weren't Rachel Dolezal's 15 minutes of fame over? She's so last month!

But — you may remember — the discussion of Rachel Dolezal was abruptly cut short when another race-related news event suddenly, dramatically overwhelmed it and made it seem too stupidly trivial to talk about. That feeling  — that the Charleston massacre makes it wrong to talk about Rachel Dolezal — has worn off.

And, more importantly, Vanity Fair has put up a big article that plays right into the zone that we'd left unexplored, the concept that race, like gender, can be a matter of personal, inward identification:
Dolezal feels her outing was a big misunderstanding... Had she been able to explain her complicated childhood and sincere, long-time love for black culture to everyone before the blow up, all would have been forgiven.

“Again, I wish I could have had conversations with all kinds of people,” she says. “If I would have known this was going to happen, I could have said, ‘O.K., so this is the case. This is who I am, and I’m black and this is why.’”

How smart is Trump? Show us the transcripts!

I'm reading "What Donald Trump was up to while John McCain was a prisoner of war" in The Washington post and get to this:
... Trump attended Fordham for two years before transferring to the University of Pennsylvania, where he took economics courses at its famed Wharton School. (According to a book by Gwenda Blair, Trump was allowed to transfer into the Ivy League school because of family connections, and has exaggerated his performance at Penn.)
Let's see the transcripts! I won't say that all candidates should always show us the transcript, but there is special reason to make this demand of Trump:

1. Trump made a huge deal out of Obama's birth certificate. He's a show-me-the-documentation guy. Here he is in 2011:

2. Trump seems to enjoy saying that John McCain was last in his class at Annapolis, and he blithely equates class standing with intelligence: "Graduated last in his class at Annapolis--dummy!"

3. Trump points to his college background as proof of his own intelligence: "I went to the Wharton School of Business. I'm, like, a really smart person."

4. Trump wanted to see Obama's college transcripts: "I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?... I have friends who have smart sons with great marks, great boards, great everything and they can't get into Harvard... We don't know a thing about this guy. There are a lot of questions that are unanswered about our president."

5. As you can see from the quote in #4, Trump relied on the argument that a degree from a fine school doesn't mean so much if you got in through race-based affirmative action, and Trump himself is accused — in that Gwenda Blair book cited above and discussed at the link in #4 — of getting into Penn through wealth-based affirmative action. Let him disprove that by showing the Fordham transcripts.

6. There's some criticism of Trump that he "allowed the media to report that he graduated first in his class from Wharton," but "the commencement program from 1968 does not list him as graduating with honors of any kind." I don't know how much the inaction of "allowing" the media to report flattering untruths should count against Trump. It's the media's job to get things right, but there's some relevance to the point made at #3.

In short: Let's see Trump's transcripts!

July 19, 2015

"On May 10, 1884, midway through his 48th year, Samuel L. Clemens reluctantly 'confessed to age' by wearing glasses for the first time."

"That same day, the celebrated writer better known as Mark Twain sought to reclaim his youth by mounting a bicycle for the first time. Only one of these first tries succeeded. 'The spectacles,' Twain later recalled, 'stayed on.' Bodily contusions notwithstanding, Twain promoted the new sport of cycling with characteristic rhubarb tartness. 'Get a bicycle,' he urged readers. 'You will not regret it, if you live.'"

The beginning of a NYT article titled "The Bicycle and the Ride to Modern America," which became instantly bloggable to me when it was the first thing I looked at after doing an update to the previous post that by chance included Mark Twain. Mark Twain is in the air for some reason. That means something.

In other Mark Twain news:

1. "Mark Twain had positive view of Pittsburgh — except from atop the mount":
“With the moon soft and mellow … we sauntered about the mount and looked down on the lake of fire and flame... It looked like a miniature hell with the lid off."
2.  "Mark Twain Gave Good Advice About The Dangers Of Good Advice":
He had reached old age, Twain said, in the usual way: "By sticking strictly to a scheme of life which would kill anybody else.... My habits protect my life, but they would assassinate you."
3. "Big-walking small dog a perfect underdog":
Like Taran the Assistant Pig Keeper, Bingo is small in stature but super-sized in heart. Mark Twain probably said it best when he quipped, “It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
4. "Previously Unknown Mark Twain Descendant to Speak in Hannibal":
Mark Twain had one daughter who outlived him, Clara Clemens. Clara married concert pianist and symphony conductor Ossip Gabrilowitsch. Clara and Ossip had one child, Nina Gabrilowitsch (Mark Twain’s granddaughter). When Nina died in 1966 it was accepted that the Mark Twain line had ceased with no living descendants....

At the Actual Hollister Café...


... enjoy your Sunday morning.

ADDED: The post title is based on the title in the magazine on the table: "The Actual Hollister/A California town and its name." It's a nonfiction piece by Dave Eggers. You need a New Yorker subscription to read it. Excerpt:
The rise of the Hollister brand has been especially strange to me, because it was my great-great-grandfather T. S. Hawkins who helped found the town of Hollister. Growing up, I was confronted daily by his white-bearded face, in an old photograph that hung in our living room in Illinois. A few feet away, his rifle, which he carried from Missouri to California, rested over our mantel.

The real story of Hollister begins in Marion County, Missouri, twenty miles from Mark Twain’s home town of Hannibal, in 1836. This is when T. S. Hawkins was born, the eldest of nine children, his parents farmers, their people having travelled from Ireland and England and Scotland to the early Virginia settlements.

The Hawkins family lived in two adjoining log cabins with one roof covering both. The boys of the family slept in the attic, near the clapboard roof, and listened to the tapping of the rain in the summer. “The boards made a good roof to turn off the rain,” Hawkins wrote in his autobiography, “Some Recollections of a Busy Life,” self-published in 1913....
Love the double "L" in "travelled."

Is it possible to get "Some Recollections of a Busy Life"? Maybe!

Facebook quizzes that can't possibly test for the thing you're invited to exclaim about yourself.

That isn't my result. That's the result achieved by some guy on Facebook. It doesn't matter who.

Years ago, college freshmen were given a standardized test that produced a number that purported to show where each student was on a scale from male to female. It was referred to as the "raw carrot" test, because one of the true-false questions was "I prefer raw carrots." I guess you're more feminine if you like your foods softened. The final score was revealed to the school — I went to the University of Michigan — but not to the student.

Eventually, schools abandoned this test. It was regarded as plainly inconsistent with what was once understood as the obvious, consensus lesson of the women's movement: We are all individuals who deserve to be judged on our merit and not according to a stereotype.

But stereotyping is currently enjoying weird new popularity.

I don't know how popular that "true gender mix" test is, but it can't possibly give you an answer to that question. Quite aside from whether there is such a thing as your true gender mix, if you know it's a true-gender-mix test, your answers will be tainted by whatever it is you want to be. And just from the fine print in that "70% Female" result, you can see that the test is designed to lure males into identifying as female. Female apparently means "kind and understanding." If you strain to be seen as 100% male — if that's what you want to be — you're going to be told in the end that you're a dick.

Who said "I have tremendous respect for McCain but I don’t buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured. I thought the idea was to capture them. As far as I’m concerned he sat out the war"?

Al Franken! Back in 2000 in a Salon thing called "What's at stake in the 2000 elections?/Rosa Parks, David Duke, Steve Wozniak, Camille Paglia, Al Franken -- and dozens more -- talk about what inspires and frightens them about the political year ahead."

I wonder how many other old jokes are woven into the oddly woven head of Donald Trump.

I found that Salon piece via "Donald Trump Uses Old Al Franken POW Joke About John McCain/Franken 15 years ago: 'I don't buy the war hero thing. Anybody can be captured'" at Reason.com, where I went because of this tweet from Penn Jillette....

... which I got to from a Bizpac Review article titled "Penn Jillette praises Trump as genius with no filter; libs go nuts trying to spin", which I only noticed because of my Google alert on "bob dylan":

From the Bizpac thing:
“Thelonius Monk [sic], the great jazz piano player, said — and it’s not a well-known quotation, but I love it — [Jillette] said, ‘The genius is the one who is most like himself.’ That’s what I love with Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce, Tiny Tim — they were completely like themselves. Trump, for better or worse, is in that category... I have talked one-on-one with Bob Dylan, and I have talked one-on-one with Trump, and they do not have filters. They speak honestly and from the heart.”...
I'm sure there's a joke at this point about how that thing Trump wears on his head — his hair hat — could be used as filter, but let's be serious. Trump is some kind of genius. We can grant him that. But at the same time, it's pretty obvious, we don't want a genius President! Thelonious Monk, Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce, Tiny Tim... that's a hell of a list. Trump is flattered to be put on that list by as fine a man as Penn Jillette. But neither Thelonious Monk, Bob Dylan, Lenny Bruce, nor Tiny Tim belonged in the Presidency.

Who would have made the best President?

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