September 12, 2015

Meade rides my mountain bike across 3 stacked loops that have come to exist in our backyard.

The dog barks at 0:15 and every time I replay the video the dog (in real life) barks when he hears it.

Note the 6 well-placed arbor vitae. Those were delivered a few weeks ago...


... and left on the terrace. Meade single-handedly moved them to the backyard and planted them. Though the trees with those rootballs were 300 pounds each, he says the hardest part was digging the holes.

Donald Trump does pretty well with Jimmy Fallon (and Fallon's pretty good too).

"I don’t expect them to understand everything I do... But the fact that they don’t consult with experts and then charge me?"

"Put my family through all this? Damage my reputation? They shouldn’t do this. This is not a joke. This is not a game."

Said the physics professor, Xi Xiaoxing, who was charged with sending the schematics of a secret design to China. But the evidence, the blueprint he sent, was not the design of the thing that was secret, and the U.S. government has dropped the charges in "an embarrassing acknowledgment that prosecutors and F.B.I. agents did not understand — and did not do enough to learn — the science."
About a dozen F.B.I. agents, some with guns drawn, stormed Dr. Xi’s home in the Philadelphia suburbs in May, searching his house just after dawn, he said. His two daughters and his wife watched the agents take him away in handcuffs on fraud charges....

Temple University put him on administrative leave and took away his title as chairman of the physics department. He was given strict rules about who at the school he could talk to. He said that made it impossible for him to continue working on a long-running research project that was nearing completion.

Dr. Xi, who came to the United States in 1989 and is a naturalized citizen, was adamant that he was innocent. But it was only when he and his lawyers reviewed the government’s evidence that they understood what had happened. “When I read it, I knew that they were mixing things up,” Dr. Xi said....

"The defining feature of kitsch is that it preys on our desire to feel art succeed."

"It follows the formula of meaningful expression and exploits our willingness to manufacture the sensation of meaning. How wonderful, after all, to see a painting and be moved. As a species of contemporary kitsch, sarcasm takes advantage of our readiness to respond to actual wit. It, too, is mechanical and proceeds by formula. And online sarcasm is now industrially produced, thanks to the mass quantities of content that digital media must churn out each day. The style of Internet writing often called snark participates in sarcasm, typically by adopting the derisive tone of satire without the complex irony."

Writes Dan Brooks in a NYT article, "Banksy and the Problem With Sarcastic Art." You may not want any help deciding what to think about Banksy's "Dismaland," but, midway through, the discussion becomes "Sarcasm is our kitsch" and the problem with internet sarcasm — the derisive tone of satire without the complex irony.

Brooks gives an example from Wonkette: “George Kornec and Phil Nappo have a mining claim on federal land; they’ve put up a garage and a fence, and the dastardly government is pushing its weight around and being a big bully and being really terrible and stuff by telling Kornec and Nappo to take them down.” Writing like is completely lazy, leaning on the assumption that the reader will already agree that Kornec and Nappo are bad and the government's good.
There’s no insight here to raise this irony to the level of satire. There is only mockery, backed by certainty that the reader shares the author’s contempt. Sarcasm is a natural fit for partisan news aggregators, because it relies on a calculated appeal to shared attitudes.

Kitsch banks heavily on these shared attitudes. It substitutes them for artistic insights, and it relies on its audience’s agreement with them to produce a feeling similar to profundity. Sarcasm works best when people already know what you mean.
As I read Brooks's observations, I'm thinking that the problem is that people are now finding comfort in sarcasm. But sarcasm should feel bad. It should heighten your awareness of what's not right. Now, what can make you aware of what's wrong with low-quality sarcasm? You need to feel revulsion for the sarcasm, not short-cut into the contempt that the sarcasm nudges you to feel.

September 11, 2015

Yes, I could in the woods of Wisconsin.

At the Freedom Café...


... feel free to talk about anything.

"Large, ambitious and unavoidably, dizzyingly peripatetic, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event."

Release the crowds! The NYT has published its rave review of the "Museum of Modern Art’s staggering 'Picasso Sculpture.'"
Picasso was more completely himself in three dimensions: a magician, a magpie genius, a comedic entertainer and a tinkerer with superb reflexes. His many gifts — versatility, voraciousness, a need for constant reinvention — are more sharply apparent in real space and tangible materials. We can’t miss his consummate grasp of tactility and form or of the potential for found objects and materials to lead double lives.
Speaking of "staggering," I love photos of people stumbling and bumbling through art galleries, so don't miss the slide show at the link. And let me highlight this one with — amid the Picassos  — a choice "living sculpture" I'll call "Man In Shorts."

And, yes, of course, I know Picasso himself wore shorts and posed for pictures in shorts. Here's a selfie he pulled off circa 1915:

"The home of the New England Patriots, the team that has been accused on and off the record of just about every kind of football skulduggery, was the site of yet another controversy..."

"... Thursday night when the visiting Steelers’ headsets malfunctioned...."
If the system had totally failed for one team, the league would have shut down both teams’ sets for fairness. That apparently did not happen Thursday night.
The Steelers’ website’s account of the game hinted at sinister goings-on: “Strangely enough, whenever an N.F.L. representative proceeded to the New England sideline to shut down their headsets, the Steelers’ headsets cleared. Then, as the representative walked away from the New England sideline, the Steelers’ headsets again started to receive the Patriots’ game broadcast.”

"And sir, I just want to say I think your experience and your example of suffering and service is something that would be sorely missed in the race."

"Not that there aren't good people on both sides running. But I think we'd all be very happy if you did run. And if you don't, I know that your service to the country is something we should all salute. So thank you so much."

Said Stephen Colbert to Joe Biden on "The Late Show" last night, in a profound and moving interaction between 2 men who have suffered.
“My mom had an expression: What’s the use of being Irish if you don’t know your life is going to break your heart,” [Colbert] told Biden, while Biden—whose first wife and young daughter were killed 43 years ago in an automobile accident that grievously injured his sons Beau and Hunter—pointed out that his interviewer was himself no stranger to devastating tragedy.

When the 51-year-old Colbert was 10—exactly 41 years ago on September 11, two years after the then-30-year-old Biden lost half his family—Colbert’s physician-father and two of his school-age brothers died in a plane crash....

“I marvel at the ability of people who absorb hurt and just get back up,” Biden said. “You’re one of them, old buddy. Losing your dad when you’re a kid... It’s like asking what made your mother do it every day?”

Colbert chimed in: “She had to take care of me.”
But, Colbert continued, he really was the one who had to take care of her. She was shattered. That means that Colbert was to his mother what Hunter and Beau were to Joe Biden, who spoke of how his young sons supported him. I was moved at the realization that these 2 men were — and that point — like a parent and child to each other.

Biden never said he'd run for President and never said he wouldn't. Perhaps that's part of why he came across as so appealing. It did seem that he lacked the emotional wherewithal to run. There were long pauses and broken syntax. But that would be the candidate's presentation — reluctant, senior, suffering, but willing to serve, if we really need him. A couple times during the interview, asked about his suffering, he turned to the audience and wondered about their suffering, which in some cases, he observed, is worse and harder to bear. I chose that quote for the post title for a reason.

ADDED: Something I said a couple weeks ago: "It's very sad that Joe Biden lost his son Beau, but I'm very skeptical about everything Beau-related that's being thrown out in front of us to smooth the way for a presidential campaign.... His 'heart' and 'soul' are 'banged up,' but if he runs, it will be because he's determined that he has what it takes, that there's plenty of emotional fuel, there's fuel because of Beau, because he's worked through this tragedy and come out tougher, more determined than ever and because Beau wanted him to run... he's doing this for Beau! We're supposed to get caught up in this win-one-for-the-Gipper sentimentality. This is political propaganda. However real Joe Biden's pain may be — and I'm sure it is — I'm standing at a cold distance from this emotional politics. I'm more interested in how Hillary feels about it. You know, she has feelings."

"Notice how Letterman started out: 'If we are going to continue to do shows . . .' That seems like a silly thing to say now."

"But back then, he was invoking a serious concern: it didn't seem to make sense for anyone to do a comedy show anymore."
Everything seemed to have turned completely serious all of a sudden, and it was hard to imagine ever getting out of it. That's probably how people often feel in response to the death of a loved one — but that happens privately, not to the whole country at once.

It's interesting to compare how Letterman and Stewart dealt with the situation. In many ways, they were similar: they both highlighted inspiring Americans and lambasted the terrorists' way of life. But their emotional quality was different. Letterman was clearly rattled, but he also had a steadily controlled determination. Jon Stewart seemed absolutely raw and barely able to get through a sentence....

America under attack — 14 years ago, this morning.

September 11th news

September 11th news

September 11th news

(Photos, of my newspapers and magazines, taken 10 years ago.)

September 10, 2015

The very strange story of Kye Fortune.

"Gayle Newland, 25, has admitted creating a fake Facebook profile in order to meet girls, using a photo of a good-looking Asian man she called Kye Fortune..."
But she denies misleading a woman who claims she was sexually assaulted by Newman wearing a prosthetic penis after they had intercourse, during which the woman wore a blindfold. Newland denies five counts of sexual assault....

[T]he complainant said: “Every time I met up with Kye Fortune, I either had the mask on already or he would wait outside the door and I would put it on. I was so desperate to be loved. It’s pathetic, so desperate for love, so desperate."...

[T]he pair spent at least 100 hours together in person after striking up an intense online relationship over two years, and even became engaged. At each meeting, the complainant wore a blindfold, not just when they had sex but when they sunbathed or watched films together....

"Homo Naledi, New Human Species, Is Found in South African Cave."

"At a news conference on Wednesday, John Hawks of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, a senior author of the paper describing the new species, said it was 'unlike any other species seen before,' noting that a small skull with a brain one-third the size of modern human braincases was perched atop a very slender body. An average H. naledi was about five feet tall and weighed almost 100 pounds, he said."

"A researcher once played a recording of an elephant who had died. The sound was coming from a speaker hidden in a thicket. The family went wild calling, looking all around."

"The dead elephant’s daughter called for days afterward. The researchers never again did such a thing."

"Over the course of 10 days and several close-in encounters, I got to peer behind the scrim of his bluster and self-mythos and get a very good look at the man."

"What I saw was enough to make me take him dead serious. If you're waiting for Trump to blow himself up in a Hindenburg of gaffes or hate speech, you're in for a long, cold fall and winter. Donald Trump is here for the duration — and gaining strength and traction by the hour."

The Rolling Stone article by Paul Solotaroff.

The main thing that's getting quoted is the part about Carly Fiorina's face, and I want to copy that paragraph in full because it also has Scott Walker in it:
With his blue tie loosened and slung over his shoulder, Trump sits back to digest his meal and provide a running byplay to the news. Onscreen, they've cut away to a spot with Scott Walker, the creaky-robot governor of Wisconsin. Praised by the anchor for his "slow but steady" style, Walker is about to respond when Trump chimes in, "Yeah, he's slow, all right! That's what we got already: slowwww." His staffers at the conference table howl and hoot; their man, though, is just getting warm. When the anchor throws to Carly Fiorina for her reaction to Trump's momentum, Trump's expression sours in schoolboy disgust as the camera bores in on Fiorina. "Look at that face!" he cries. "Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!" The laughter grows halting and faint behind him. "I mean, she's a woman, and I'm not s'posedta say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?" 
Who doesn't make fun of the faces that come up on the television? Everyone makes fun of Trump's face. So what is it we're not "s'posedta" do? Theoretically, a candidate is supposed to be more careful, more filtered, but unfiltered is what's working for Trump, perhaps in part because we know we talk like that when we're hanging out with people we like and trust. Another way around the Carly's-face problem is to say that he never specified what's wrong with her face — never said she isn't pretty. In human culture, faces are a rich source of information about a person's character, humor, and honesty. "Would anyone vote for that?" is a perfectly good question. And it's a question we ask all the time about Trump's face.

"Don't Drop the Soap is a controversial prison-themed board game designed by art student John Sebelius as a 2006 class project at the Rhode Island School of Design."

"The game received criticism for its content, most notably for the game's treatment of prison rape. Sebelius also received notice for being the son of Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius and U.S. Magistrate Judge K. Gary Sebelius. The game officially went on sale on January 31, 2008 in Lawrence, Kansas and through Sebelius' personal website, and is considered to be similar to Monopoly in its gameplay."

Wikipedia entry
discovered in the context of researching my post "On the new 'Late Show' last night, Stephen Colbert facilitated an anal rape joke told by Elon Musk."

January 2008 — that was just as Kathleen Sebelius was going up for confirmation. The Washington Post had an article —  "Game Changer: John Sebelius" — quoting him: "We both recognize she has a job to do and I have a job to do. It’s reciprocal of being prideful of your family and making sure everyone knows where my intentions were with the game. There was no ill will when the game was created; that’s why the support was there. It’s definitely reciprocated. I don’t see her having a problem getting confirmed."

Trump asks "Who is [Ben Carson] to question my faith?" — "I’m a believer, big league, in God. I will hit back on that."

And he does hit back — here, talking to Chris Cuomo — and questions Ben Carson's faith.

Cuomo takes it on faith that religion is a "cornerstone" of Ben Carson's "existence," but Trump points out, quite correctly, that we don't know that.

Why is it the norm to accept that people sincerely hold the religious beliefs they assert? I like that Trump is challenging that where it really should be challenged: When someone (like Carson) is using religion to leverage a bid for political power. Why does Cuomo accept assertions of religion from Carson when Carson doesn't accept it for Trump and where Trump isn't forefronting religion as a reason why we should want Trump to have power?

Cuomo bolsters his belief in Carson with: "He's a 7th Day Adventist, I mean, it's something he talks about a lot." That's quite silly. What does affiliation with a particular sect prove about the depth or substance of one's faith? And what does talking about it a lot prove?

Trump refers to Carson's quoting the Bible about humility the other day "And it looked like he had just memorized it about 2 minutes before the quote." That's a pretty accurate observation! Check it out:

The quoted verse is: "By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life."

Hey, I'm glad I looked that up, because I kept reading Proverbs 22 and found: "The mouth of strange women is a deep pit: he that is abhorred of the LORD shall fall therein."

"Female cartoonist could have 12 year prison term extended for shaking her lawyer's hand."

"Charges of an 'illegitimate sexual relationship short of adultery' have been brought against [Atena] Farghadani and her lawyer Mohammad Moghimi amid allegations he visited her in jail and shook her hand - which is illegal in Iran."

"Seventy years ago, a farmer beheaded a chicken in Colorado, and it refused to die."

"Mike, as the bird became known, survived for 18 months and became famous. But how did he live without a head for so long...."
Mike was fed with liquid food and water that the Olsens dropped directly into his oesophagus. Another vital bodily function they helped with was clearing mucus from his throat. They fed him with a dropper, and cleared his throat with a syringe. The night Mike died, they were woken in their motel room by the sound of the bird choking. When they looked for the syringe they realised they had left it at the sideshow, and before they could find an alternative, Mike suffocated....

For a human to lose his or her head would involve an almost total loss of the brain. For a chicken, it's rather different. "You'd be amazed how little brain there is in the front of the head of a chicken," says [Dr Tom Smulders, a chicken expert at the Centre for Behaviour and Evolution at Newcastle University]....

Why those who tried to create a Mike of their own did not succeed is hard to explain. It seems the cut, in Mike's case, came in just the right place, and a timely blood clot luckily prevented him bleeding to death....

"Lenin's 3.5 tonne head will now be transported from the forest to west Berlin's Spandau Citadelle museum..."

"... to be included in an exhibition about German monuments. It is the only part of the statue to be excavated."

On the new "Late Show" last night, Stephen Colbert facilitated an anal rape joke told by Elon Musk.

Colbert invites Musk to talk about the Tesla, and a clip is shown of a device — a "snake charger" — that plugs itself into the car.

Musk chuckles, the first nudge to notice how phallic it is. As the tip of the snake approaches the insertion point on the car, Musk says, "This looks a little wrong." Colbert takes us away from the genitalia metaphor:  "That really looks like the thing that jacks into the back of Neo's head in 'The Matrix.'" Musk says: "Right."

But then Colbert sets up what you'll be able to tell is a planned joke: "Is that thing going to attack me in my sleep?" Watch Musk slimily squirming as he feels the approach of the joke. Musk struggles a bit — "Uh, it's, well, I wouldn't, for the prototype, at least" — then gets out the line I'm sure was planned: "I would recommend not dropping anything when you're near it."

That's a variation on "don't drop the soap," the overused (and should never have been used in the first place) prison-rape joke.

The entire interview was awkward and creepy, especially for anyone who isn't a sci-fi/hi-tech fanboy/girl sort of person and predisposed to embrace the smarmy, self-satisfied Musk. Colbert owns a Tesla, and he's interviewed Musk before. He's got him on the second episode of the new show, right after Scarlett Johansson — and he even made Scarlett Johansson talk about Elon Musk. Colbert needed to try to draw in those of us who are outsiders to Musk love.

Perhaps the thinking was: Let's show the lovable nerdy side of Colbert. He loves Tesla. Let's have a weird Steve-and-Elon nerd fest where they make quick references to sci-fi movies and enthuse about relocating to Mars and we can work in a titter over the penis-y movement of a robot. Figure out how to do that well! It's your new network show and you're trying to keep/win an audience.

How is it possible that nobody nixed the anal rape joke?

September 9, 2015

"The iPad Pro will get a Smart Keyboard and a stylus, which has been dubbed Apple Pencil."

"Perhaps to make us forget that Steve Jobs once mocked the stylus?"

"This sounds like so terrible an idea that it almost has to be a joke — parents seriously proposing to give their daughter a large amount of money because she's a girl..."

"... and thinking that this won't kill the relationship between the siblings plus render junior a lifetime MRA. Plus 'we have to give your sister a lot of money because the world beats up on women'... that seems like the privatization of a structural problem. I mean, you could say 'well, little boys are spoiled by the world, so who cares if he feels like his parents didn't love him as much? and men are largely useless as family members, so who cares if their relationship is ruined?' Or even 'the son has to accept his privilege and if he wants a relationship with his sister, he has to accept that his parents will be giving her investments to generate three million dollars — if he can't accept that, he's an [overprivileged] whiner.' But I just...I don't think that's how feelings work in families...."

Comment on a Metafilter post titled: "Saving for a daughter but not a son: This father is starting a fund to combat the the wage gap." Here's the underlying article at Elle, subtitled: "As Paul Ford's twins grew, he couldn't stand the fact that his daughter would always lag behind his son financially. Then he hatched a brilliant plan...."

"This is coming awfully close to a Girl, WHUT. The crazily contoured babyheads..."

"... the oddly placed and completely conspicuous 'illusion' netting, and the giant white arrow pointing to both of these situations... ye gods."

"I don’t think sexual assault is a gender issue as such, I think it’s very much it’s all around us now. It’s provoked by this pornography culture..."

"... it’s provoked by pop stars who call themselves feminists. Maybe they’re feminists on behalf of prostitutes – but they are no feminists on behalf of music, if they are selling their music by bumping and grinding and wearing their underwear in videos. That’s a kind of feminism – but, you know, you’re a sex worker is what you are. I think it’s provocative in a way that has nothing to do with music. I would say those women are responsible for a great deal of damage."

Said Chrissie Hynde.

"Homeopathy conference ends in chaos after delegates take hallucinogenic drug."

"The group of 'Heilpraktikers' was discovered at the hotel where they held their conference in the town of Handeloh, south of Hamburg... suffering from delusions, breathing problems, racing hearts and cramps, with some in a serious condition...."
Torsten Passie, a member of the German government’s expert commission for narcotics, told NDR: “It must have been a multiple overdose. That does not support the view that the people concerned took the hallucinogen knowingly. One has to assume that people were not told about the substance, its effects and risks before taking it.”
Aren't these homeopathy people known for pushing a substance that has absolutely no effect at all?
The British Government’s drug advisory service, Frank, describes 2C-E as a psychedelic and hallucinogenic stimulant that has effects “somewhere between ecstasy and LSD”. Anyone taking it experiences a buzz and feeling of being “alive and in tune with their surroundings”, their colours and smells. It can also cause hallucinations, sexual arousal, hypersensitivity and other effects that become “more intense and uncontrollable” with higher doses. The drug is classed as relatively new by Frank....
Frank! The British government named its drug advisory service the way you'd name a baby. Frank, indeed. What drug were they on? Did they think a druggy sort of humor would reach out to drug-addled Britons?

Escape artist nearly kills himself trying to replicate Houdini's old buried-alive-in-handcuffs trick.

After 9 minutes, Antony Britton's helpers dig him up, get the dirt out of his mouth and throat, and give him oxygen.
"All I remember is, literally your life goes before your eyes. Really. And then I just passed out. It was really weird because I’m not saying I heard noises but my family was talking to me. Just before I passed out I could see both my grandfathers talking to me as if I was a kid. It’s quite emotional when I think back what I went through. It fills me up. Then I just passed out and the next thing I know they dug me up and dragged me out."

"Lessig says he grew up a church-going 'right-wing lunatic Republican' and entered Trinity College at the University of Cambridge as a 'libertarian theist' in his early 20s."

"One year studying philosophy soon snowballed into three, and Lessig left England 'no longer much of a theist' despite the school’s Christian name and heritage. 'He came back a different person,' Lessig’s sister Leslie told Wired in 2001. 'His views of politics, religion, and his career had totally flipped.' Lessig has been vague on his personal faith in public interviews ever since."

From "5 faith facts about Lawrence Lessig: long shot, freedom fighter" in The Washington Post, under bullet-point 2: "He lost his faith in England." Later in the piece, it says: "Lessig may be mum on his own faith, but...."

What's up with "mum" and "vague"? Maybe "mum" and "vague" is a religion. Not all the mum-n-vaguers are atheists. No need to jump to the conclusion that Lessig is another one of the in-the-closet atheists who decline to participate in the public image of atheism, which is rather irritating and hostile and could stand some dilution.

ADDED: Grew up in "a church-going 'right-wing lunatic Republican'" what?  WaPo could use some editing. Presumably it's "family," but it could be "city." (He grew up in Williamsport, Pennsylvania.) Why would a candidate for President talk about his family/community with language like "right-wing lunatic Republican"? It's so divisive and abrasive. Maybe I was wrong to think that if he came out as an atheist, he'd mellow the existing atheist brand.

AND: Dialogue at Meadhouse.
MEADE (after reading the post): You say you lost your faith, but that's not where it's at.

ME: I was thinking about Bob Dylan too. I was thinking: "It's something I learned over in England."

MEADE (singing): You say you lost your faith, but that's not where it's at. You had no faith to lose, and you know it.

Stephen Colbert likens talking about Trump with eating Oreos...

... in a bit — from the new show — that begins with Trump's never-eating-Oreos-again routine.

That was pretty funny... and I'd like it more if the clips were embeddable.

Also, Jeb Bush was on the show. Here's the full episode. Jeb comes in about 10 minutes from the end. I thought Colbert handled it very nicely, even as, at one point, he outright tells Bush that there's no way he'd ever vote for him. That's one way to handle bias. Lay it out there. [CORRECTION: Actually, Colbert said there's "a nonzero chance" he'd vote for Bush. I missed the "non" on first hearing.]

Colbert also pointed out his own brother in the audience and got the brother to shake his head "no" to the question whether he agreed with Colbert politically. Colbert's points were: 1. We can get along and be good with each other even though we don't agree about politics, and 2. Jeb must be different from his brother in some ways too, right? Accepting the invitation to knock his brother, Jeb said that George spent too much money and didn't stay true to the GOP brand: limited government.

Other comments about the show:

1. Lovely filmed opening that began with the national anthem in the setting of a baseball game, proceeding to other places around the country, and ending on the baseball field with the ump saying "Play ball!" [IN THE COMMENTS: Mark says the umpire, whose face we only see in the end when he tears off the mask, was Jon Stewart. That punchline missed me. Looked like a generic grumpy old man.]

2. The band is weak, a bunch of pretty boys. I miss Paul Shaffer. And why did they move the band over to the right? Paul was always on the left. Band on the right is the "Tonight Show" set-up.

3. I was watching the show in the morning, having DVR'd it, because I go to bed early, so I particularly liked the interaction, via TV screen, with Jimmy Fallon, and Colbert demonstrating that he was TIVOing Jimmy's show. The 2 men aren't really in competition in the modern world, and who beats whom is a non-issue in the world of anyone with any technology at all. The old Leno-vs.-Letterman drama is passé.

4. Note the consistent theme of friendship and niceness.

5. George Clooney was the first guest but I jumped over those parts. I can't be sitting around watching television in the morning. I did see that George was looking quite orange, which should have been embarrassing after a couple of jokes, earlier in the show, about Donald Trump's strange orange coloration.

6. Mavis Staples, a good idea for the first guest, but she's not the singer she once was. The song was "Everyday People."  There were a bunch of other singers that we were supposed to recognize, but I couldn't.

7. I don't like to redo tags, as noted yesterday, so Colbert's show remains "The Colbert Report" in the Althouse tags.

September 8, 2015

The figurehead.


Seen today, on campus, near the law school.

A figurehead — according to the (unlinkable) OED is "A piece of ornamental carving, usually a bust or full-length figure, placed over the cut-water of a ship." It's also "Said depreciatingly of one who holds the position of head of a body of persons, a community, society, etc., but possesses neither authority nor influence."

From the NYT archive, 1889:

ADDED: Who was the Queen of Korea in 1889 and what was her costume?

"In the early morning of 8 October 1895, the Hullyeondae Regiment, loyal to the Daewongun, attacked the Gyeongbokgung.... Upon entering the Queen's quarters... the assassins 'killed three court [women] suspected of being the queen. When they confirmed that one of them was Min, they burned the corpse in a pine forest in front of the Okhoru Pavilion, and then dispersed the ashes.' She was 43 years old."

"The story is either 'transformative president' or 'subversive president,' but that nails you in the same direction, emotionally."

"It’s always either attack or defense, but on one issue. Everything was always channeled through the president. That’s why a great joke — and it worked every time — was 'Thanks, Obama.'"

Said Steve Colbert, toward the end of his answer to the question (from the NYT): "Given how you presented yourself on 'The Colbert Report,' do you think the political world might be concerned that 'The Late Show' won’t be welcoming to conservative guests?"

His stint as David Letterman's replacement begins tonight. I've set the DVR.

I'm just keeping my tag "The Colbert Report" for all things Colbert. I don't redo tags, hence "Bruce Jenner," etc. etc.

"A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples may leave prison..."

"... as long as she doesn't interfere with the licenses that her deputies have been granting since her incarceration last week."

But will she follow that condition?
Davis' attorney, Mat Staver, told NBC News that accommodation was unlikely to suffice. "We're back to Square One," Staver said. "She's been released, but there's been no resolution."
No solution, but some of the leverage of empathy for Davis is lost.

ADDED: Video from the NYT...

... where there are over 1800 comments already. Highest ranking comment:
I am deeply afraid for my religious freedom. I am an atheist. When an elected official can impose her/his religion on all citizens through their legal position, the first amendment is violated. "The congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion." Kim Davis' opposition to gay marriage is a religious belief and should not be imposed on others through her state position.

"Voters Show Little Sympathy for Jailed Clerk in Gay Marriage Spat."

A Rasmussen poll shows "just 26% of Likely U.S. Voters think an elected official should be able to a ignore a federal court ruling that he or she disagrees with for religious reasons.... 66% think the official should carry out the law as the federal court has interpreted it."

ADDED: Rasmussen's headline  — "Gay Marriage Spat" — seems rather disrespectful. It will amuse some people, but I don't think a pollster should telegraph its opinion. And the poll doesn't — I don't think — establish that there's "little sympathy" or that it's just a "spat." The poll is about which position should prevail in a conflict. I agree with the majority here and would have polled with the 66%, but I'm not without sympathy for Kim Davis and I don't think it's a trivial dispute.

Robots on the march.

1. The return of the automat: "Last week, I was in a fast-moving line and browsed on a flat-screen monitor the menu of eight quinoa bowls, each costing $6.95 (burrito bowl, bento bowl, balsamic beet). Then I approached an iPad, where I tapped in my order, customized it and paid. My name, taken from my credit card, appeared on another screen, and when my food was ready, a number showed up next to it. It corresponded to a cubby where my food would soon appear. The cubbies are behind transparent LCD screens that go black when the food is deposited, so no signs of human involvement are visible. With two taps of my finger, my cubby opened and my food was waiting."

2. The search for robots that can pick tomatoes and cut lettuce and spinach and shake almond trees: "Machines don't yet exist for these crops because there have been ample people to do the work, and because it's hard to design machines that can cut or pick the fruit or vegetables without squishing or damaging them too much.... 'There's an urgent need to develop engineering solutions for a lot of fresh-market fruit and vegetable crops,' Matthew Whiting, an associate professor and extension specialist at Washington State University who works with the sweet cherry industry, tells The Salt. 'The shortage of skilled harvest labor is on every grower's mind.'"

"Trump, the businessman, tells Americans how the financial system is rigged against them. Carson, the brain surgeon, tells them how they are being denied knowledge."

"It doesn’t seem to matter that he is a man of science who does not believe in evolution and has called climate change 'irrelevant': he is an ideologue with the trappings of a technocrat.... In lieu of specifics, Carson tends to say that as a surgeon he has experience 'doing complex things' and making snap life-or-death decisions."

From a New Yorker piece by Amy Davidson about Ben Carson. (Open to nonsubscribers.)

"The Pointless Banishment of Sex Offenders."

A NYT editorial. Excerpt:
Far from protecting children and communities, the California court found, blanket restrictions in fact create a greater safety risk by driving more sex offenders into homelessness, which makes them both harder to monitor and less likely to get essential rehabilitative services like medical treatment, psychotherapy and job assistance.

Residency laws often lead people to live apart from their families, obliterating what is for many the most stabilizing part of their lives....

[N]ot all people who have been convicted of sex offenses pose a risk to children, if they pose any risk at all. Blanket residency-restriction laws disregard that reality — and the merits of an individualized approach to risk assessment — in favor of a comforting mirage of safety.
And let me recommend this episode of the Freakonomics podcast, "Making Sex Offenders Pay — and Pay and Pay and Pay." Transcript here. Excerpt:
LEVITT: I think that the registry is really, if you are a sex offender, the registry is just a brutal way of making sure you can never hide. For most other crimes, you’re essentially anonymous. There’s no really easy way for people to know that you’ve done the crimes. And true, when you apply for a job, you’re supposed to say you’re a convicted felon, but nobody really does anyway, and the worst that could happen to you if you don’t say it, is that they just fire you after awhile when they find it out. But the registry is really a different kind of beast because the registry means that no matter where you go or what you’re doing, there are easy, virtually costless ways for people to find out who you are. And it’s hard to say, is that a good thing or a bad thing? I mean, from a deterrence perspective, you think it’s got to be a good thing. That if you know ahead of time that your entire life you’re going to be labeled as a sex offender, it’s got to have some effect in terms of trying to, you know, it’s gotta have some effect in terms of keeping you from doing the crime. But-

DUBNER: Well you said, “if it’s a good deterrent, then it might be worth it, as costly as it may be to the individuals.” What do you know about how much of a deterrent it is? The registry?...

"Chris Wallace Presses Cheney on Iran: Didn’t You ‘Leave President Obama with a Mess’?"

"Why no, no he didn’t. In fact, things were going so well as late as 2010 that the Obama Administration was bragging about Iraq as one of its big foreign policy successes.... Obama blew it in Iraq, which is in chaos, and in Syria, which is in chaos, and in Libya, which is in chaos."

"Kids are just different... They are more easily frustrated – often crying at the drop of a hat."

"She had also observed that children were frequently falling out of their seats 'at least three times a day,' less attentive, and running into each other and even the walls. 'It is so strange. You never saw these issues in the past.'"

Judy Carne — the English-accent counterpart to Goldie Hawn on "Laugh-In" — has died at the age of 76.

WaPo recounts "The tragic tale of Judy Carne, ‘sock-it-to-me’ girl of ‘Laugh-In'..."

"Sock it to me"... yes, it was a big thing, back in the 60s to sock a young woman — repeatedly.
The joke now seems as cruel — and as difficult to explain to millennials — as it seemed hilarious in the 1960s: A young, lithe woman, often in a miniskirt or less, stands onstage. She announces that it’s “sock-it-to-me time.” Then, she is hit with a bucket of water, or dropped through the floor, or otherwise clobbered in some form or fashion. Sure, Richard Nixon famously said the words — but he didn’t have his clothes ripped off.
Nor was he hit with anything. He subsequently won the presidency. Meanwhile, Judy Carne, unlike  Goldie Hawn, descended into a life of woe.
Between 1977 and 1978, Carne was arrested three times on charges that included drug possession and auto theft.... As Burt Reynolds became a star, Carne arguably became best known as his first wife — the pair were married from 1963 to 1966. When she faced legal trouble in the late 1970s, however, her calls to Reynolds, then on top of the world after his appearance in “Smokey and the Bandit,” were not returned. “At least he could have helped with the legal fees,” Carne said. “After all, I supported him when he was out of work, and I never asked for alimony.”...

“She was a bit of a recluse toward the end,” Jon Barrett, who confirmed her death to the New York Times, said.

“I’m a 1960s flowerchild who has refused to grow up,” she once said, as the Telegraph reported. “‘Mature’ and ‘responsible’ are words I don’t understand.”

Now, the Pope is changing the meaning of marriage.

Suddenly, it's easier to annul marriages.
Francis himself has said that obtaining annulments can be too cumbersome and costly, dragging on for years and costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

"Some procedures are so long and so burdensome," the pontiff said in 2014, "and people give up."
Some people give up on giving up on their marriages. Or should I say their marriages that are not really marriages because they are nullities and these poor people are deprived of the benefit of the formal recognition of the nothingness of the thing that prevents them from moving on and getting a real marriage?

"Putin won his war in Ukraine."

Did you notice?

"Those who are posting this kind of thing, as if to argue for more immigration-friendly laws, don't seem to have thought it through."

"Europeans ('illegally') immigrating to America had deleterious consequences for Native Americans. So why would the pro-immigration side want to emphasize the analogy between 1492 and America's current immigration debate?"

The "kind of thing" is a photograph of a Native American with the words: "You're all illegal."

I think the argument works, but perhaps only in a way those who favor more immigration would probably not be willing to say in words.

The image appropriated for the purposes of making this political argument is a photograph by Edward S. Curtis of a Nez Perce man, first published in 1899. I did a reverse Google search to find this out because I was aware of my own weakness in recognizing the various Native American historical figures and didn't want to accede to the use of this particular individual as a generic Native American. But this photograph doesn't seem to have ever had a particular individual's name attached to it, though we do get the name of a particular tribe, Nez Perce. I am also aware of my lack of knowledge of whether the Nez Perce in 1899 would think or say anything like "You're all illegal." I question whether those who are using this meme to push their policy preferences considered whether there was anything disrespectful or twisted about their appropriation.

("Nez Percé is an exonym given by French Canadian fur traders who visited the area regularly in the late 18th century, meaning literally 'pierced nose.'Today the Nez Perce identify most often as Niimíipu in Sahaptin. The tribe also uses the term "Nez Perce," as do the United States Government in its official dealings with them, and contemporary historians.")

"Why isn’t undermining one’s job from the inside, in the service of a larger moral goal, an acceptable form of revolution?"

Asks Sasha Volokh, in the context of the Kim Davis controversy. 

"Acceptable" is a weak word. It's not going to be acceptable to a court that has decided what the law is and ordered you to follow it, and Volokh isn't trying to say that it is. He's really only asking us to look at the Kim Davis problem from the perspective of those who think that the acceptance — there's that word again — of gay marriage is an evil on the scale of slavery or Nazi Germany.
Not that we have to agree with that view, but the question is whether the (possibly oath-based) proceduralist argument (“do your job or engage in revolution, but if you do that you have to quit, because OMG the oath”) should carry any logical weight with adherents of that view. While I think acceptable resistance against Nazis differs from acceptable resistance against liberal democratic governments, the reason I think that has nothing to do with oaths, and it’s not clear to me how an oath-based theory would successfully distinguish between the two situations.

Bottom line: I’m fine continuing to criticize Davis on substantive moral grounds. And I’m fine showing why Davis’s actions are illegal under the positive law; but once you get to the point where you’re making the illegality serve a normative goal, you have to confront issues of legitimate disobedience, and I’m not sure that a purely procedural (“quit or do your job”) argument will work to exclude Davis’s “keep your job but follow your ideals” strategy of disobedience.
Also at Volokh Conspiracy and getting much more attention (ranking high on WaPo's most-read list), is Eugene Volokh's "When does your religion legally excuse you from doing part of your job?," which focuses on law as it is, as opposed to morality, revolution, and disobedience.

I'm using my tag "civil disobedience," even though Sasha Volokh eschews the adjective and speaks only of "disobedience." I think "civil" is inappropriate because Davis is not a citizen resisting the government. She's a government official. "Civil" denotes a connection to ordinary citizens. There's something much fishier about someone working within the government, not following the rules.

Should we accept (there's that word again) IRS agents resisting tax-exemption applications from groups that represent politics they think are evil? Think of resistance from the inside by police officers, teachers, judges, social workers, prison wardens, and the rest of the immense cast of characters that make up the government and against whom we, the citizens, assert our civil rights. 

ADDED: For what it's worth, here's the (unlinkable) OED entry for "civil disobedience":
civil disobedience n. rebellion of the populace against a governing power; (in later use) spec. refusal to obey the laws, commands, etc., of a government or authority as part of an organized, non-violent political protest or campaign.

September 7, 2015

Sherman Alexie explains why he didn't oust a poem from The Best American Poetry 2015 after he found the author, a white man, had used a Chinese pseudonym.

As the guest editor of the annual volume, Alexie (a Native American) had some rules for himself in choosing the poems, including:
Rule #5: I will pay close attention to the poets and poems that have been underrepresented in the past. So that means I will carefully look for great poems by women and people of color....
Most of the rules — please read the whole thing — were about neutrality and not showing favoritism.  60% of the poems he chose were written by women, 40% by "people of color." One poem Alexie chose turned out to have been written by a white male, Michael Derrick Hudson, who'd adopted the pseudonym Yi-Fen Chou — in Alexie's words — "as a means of subverting what he believes to be a politically correct poetry business." Alexie only learned of the ruse after he picked the poem, and he was "angry at the subterfuge," but he decided to keep the poem in the anthology and to share his soul-searching over what to do about "this colonial theft." (The boldface below is mine.)

Krugman: "Trump Is Right on Economics."

That'll get links, including mine. Halfway into it:
So am I saying that Mr. Trump is better and more serious than he’s given credit for being? Not at all — he is exactly the ignorant blowhard he seems to be. It’s when it comes to his rivals that appearances can be deceiving. Some of them may come across as reasonable and thoughtful, but in reality they are anything but.

Mr. Bush, in particular, may pose as a reasonable, thoughtful type — credulous reporters even describe him as a policy wonk — but his actual economic platform, which relies on the magic of tax cuts to deliver a doubling of America’s growth rate, is pure supply-side voodoo.

And here’s what’s interesting: all indications are that Mr. Bush’s attacks on Mr. Trump are falling flat, because the Republican base doesn’t actually share the Republican establishment’s economic delusions....

"It's Labor Day At Last. More Americans than ever view Labor Day as it was intended..."

"... to honor working Americans - but few still regard it as one of the nation’s most important holidays...."

I regard it as a directive to get serious. Summer's over. Get to work. This is a very strong feeling for someone like me, beginning a new semester after a long summer break from classes.

But I must say that when I read the title of the piece — "It's Labor Day At Last" (at Rasmussen) — my thought was: Yes, finally, we can get serious about the presidential candidates. Everyone can stop saying "silly season" or taking any refuge in the explanation that this is the silly season.

Sometimes it's a relief to have to start getting serious. But there will be no relief if you were trusting that the arrival of seriousness would mean the exit of someone you were sure could not be taken seriously and he does not go away.

The New Yorker badly botches the juxtapostion of cartoon and text.

This is what I'm seeing at The New Yorker right now:

The article is a valuable, interesting piece by Patrick Radden Keefe called "The Worst of the Worst/Judy Clarke excelled at saving the lives of notorious killers. Then she took the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev." Seventeen of the Boston bombing victims are now amputees.

From a local news report on the trial:
"I heard 'please' and 'Martin' being uttered by Denise Richard," said Steve Woolfenden, who was lying on the pavement next to Martin and his mother after the second bomb exploded. "Just pleading with her son."...

Woolfenden's left leg had been sheared off below the knee. He described frantically trying to get his 3-year-old son, Leo, out of his stroller after he heard him screaming and saw he was bleeding from the side of his head. As he lay helpless on the pavement, he spotted Martin and Denise Richard.

"Kansas State University Marching Band Accidentally Performs Sex Scene."

"After a public apology, K-State's band director was ultimately forced to respond and explain how, no, they weren't trying to show a rival jayhawk fellating anything, it was supposed to be a sci-fi battle, and he provided the drill routine blueprint to prove it...."

"Is he Islamophobic? 'Yes, probably. One can be afraid,' he replies."

"I ask him again: you’re probably Islamophobic? 'Probably, yes, but the word phobia means fear rather than hatred,' he says. What is he afraid of? 'That it all goes wrong in the west; you could say that it’s already going wrong.' Does he mean terrorism? He nods. Some might say that’s a tiny percentage of people, I begin ... 'Yes, but maybe very few people can have a strong effect. It’s often the most resolute minorities that make history.'"

From a Guardian article titled "Michel Houellebecq: ‘Am I Islamophobic? Probably, yes'/Michel Houellebecq is the ageing enfant terrible of French literature. His new book imagines a France ruled by Islamists and he has been under 24-hour police protection since the Charlie Hebdo attack. Does he really hate women and Muslims or is he just a twisted provocateur?"

Here's the part about women:
Some French media have asked if the novel’s title ["Submission"] really refers to the position of women.... Houellebecq had originally thought feminists would take issue with it. “In fact, they haven’t taken it that badly,” he says. “That’s why people are unpredictable.”

Why does he think the issue of women in the novel hasn’t sparked a bigger response? “I don’t know. It’s possible that in truth there aren’t really that many feminists.” Is he a feminist? “No, no.” A misogynist, as has been levelled against him? “No, no, not that either,” he says. “But it’s possible that feminism has slightly disappeared from women too ... It’s been a long time since I’ve seen anyone expressing a feminist opinion. I can’t remember the last time. In France, anyway.”

"The simplest boat can be not much more than a rectangular box, open on the top, with just a little bit of curve to it to help it move on the water."

"How hard could it be?"
Not that I believed for a moment that it would be easy, especially for someone who hadn’t built anything out of wood in twenty-five years and even then only a barely passable book shelf. But possible. Possible. It must be possible if you studied up on how it was done, chose a simple and manageable plan and set about doing it. It must be doable if I set my mind to it. And from that moment, walking along the beach with my older son, the idea took hold of me....

"Obama paid a surprise visit Tuesday to Snow City Cafe, a hopping brunch spot in downtown Anchorage with a bit of hipster flair."

"Dressed down in a casual coat and sunglasses, he strolled past throngs of cheering crowds into the cafe, where it took just a few seconds for the cinnamon rolls to catch his eye. 'How many of those do you guys have?' Obama asked a bemused barista. 'I'm going to take all of those.'"

I don't know. Seems like a metaphor or something. Should we say the President should be in Washington working or not acting like a hipster or not getting in the way of local hipsters who were counting on getting a cinnamon roll at their hopping brunch spot? I really don't know. I just like the elements of the story, as my tags reveal. Sorry if you don't like "cake."

By the way, "bemuse" means "To make utterly confused or muddled, as with intoxicating liquor; to put into a stupid stare, to stupefy" (OED). Yeah, no one gets that from "bemuse" anymore. Did you know that "amuse" originally meant "To muse intently, gaze in astonishment" or "To cause to ‘muse’ or stare; to confound, distract, bewilder, puzzle"?

"Do you still see a dark vein of intolerance inside the Republican party today?" Chuck Todd asked Colin Powell...

... on "Meet the Press" yesterday. Without any hesitation, Powell said "Yes":
Yes. And people have said, "Why are you calling us racists?" I say, "No, I'm not calling the party racist. I'm just saying, if you look at it, you will see that there's some in the party who practice a level of intolerance that is not good for the party and is not consistent with American values."

Colin Powell explains how he handled his email as Secretary of State and tellingly refrains from opining about whether what Hillary did was wrong.

Follow the silences in the On "Meet the Press" transcript:
CHUCK TODD: Your name gets invoked a lot during this email controversy. Once and for all, can you explain what you did with your emails as secretary of state?

COLIN POWELL: You can read my book. I wrote a whole chapter about what I did in my latest book. It Worked for Me, Harper Collins, you can buy it on Amazon. But the point is I arrived at the State Department as secretary with a disastrous information system there. And I had to fix it. And so what I had to do is bring the State Department to the 21st century.
Obvious inference:  Hillary inherited the updated system and didn't need to fix anything to get started.
And the way of doing that was getting new computers. That gave them access to the whole world. And then in order to make sure that I changed the brainware of the department, and not just the software and hardware, I started to use email.  I had two machines on my desk. I had a secure State Department machine, which I used for secure material, and I had a laptop that I could use for email. And I would email relatives, friends, but I would also email in the department. But it was mostly housekeeping stuff. "What's the status in this paper? What's going on here?" So it was my own classified system, but I had a classified system also on my desk.
That's pretty hard to understand, actually. "Mostly" housekeeping? So, not all housekeeping (whatever counts as "housekeeping"!).  The reason to use email is to "make sure" that the "brainware" has been changed? What is it about email that gives special assurance that things have changed, and what's the point of using the strange word "brainware"? I assume he means something like "wetware" (jargon for human brains), but "brainware" does not Google (other than as the name of a software company). I can't get to any online definitions of the word, which also appears nowhere in the NYT archive (other than as the name of that company). Is Powell being obfuscatory or is this just how the man talks?

But what we want to know is what Powell thinks of the invocations of his name in the context of Hillary's email controversy. Is what he did the same or different? Chuck Todd invites him to help us out here by asking "Do you believe this is a serious issue for Secretary Clinton or not? But Powell won't answer:
COLIN POWELL: I can't answer that. You know, we now have two IGs working on it, we have the F.B.I. working on it. Mrs. Clinton and some of her associates will be testifying, or be going before inquiries with the Congress. And I think it's best for me to talk about what I know and not about what occurred under Secretary Clinton's jurisdiction.
Now, maybe what he's thinking is it's more dignified to keep silent and most useful for him to say what he did and let others figure out the comparisons. He has, after all, first hand knowledge of what he did, and it's only a matter of opinion how close that is to what Hillary did. And to state one's opinion is to undermine the value of that opinion, because everyone who's invoking his name seems to already be for or against Hillary. To say she only did what Powell did, more or less, is to reveal yourself as pro-Hillary, and to say what Powell did was different is to align with the anti-Hillary crowd. Therefore Powell has his best credibility if he keeps his silence.

But in that silence, there is enough material to see that Powell believes that what he did was different. The other machine was "on my desk" and a "classified system" in the State Department. Plus, he initially found himself in a "disastrous information system" and he "had to fix it." You don't need Powell to make additional statements that these are distinctions from what Hillary did.

"This is a new, very new generation of pope."

"Hopefully there will be a lot more interfaith cooperation, and just a more welcoming vibe overall."
"Well, he says, 'Who am I to judge?' But he's the one who can do something to change doctrine, and to change that the church carries out the things that it does," she says. "So he kind of is the one to judge, and to change the way that things are done."

"Visiting a shrine to pray is different from being religious..."

"It has nothing to do with religion. Most Japanese, including me, don’t think about whether we’re religious or not."

September 6, 2015

Harvard lawprof Lawrence Lessig announces he's running for President. "This stalemate, partisan platform of American politics in Washington right now doesn't work."

"And we have to find a way to elevate the debate to focus on the changes that would actually get us a government that could work again, that is not captured by the tiniest fraction of the 1 percent who fund campaigns and make it impossible for our government.... And also dealing with crazy way we have political gerrymandering where politicians pick the voters rather than the voters pick the politicians."

This morning on "This Week" (the Sunday show with George Stephanopoulos):
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, campaign finance reform, voting rights reform?... And you're saying that if you run, if you are running, if you win, if you become president and you pass that platform, you'll resign.

LESSIG: That's right. 
Reminds me of when Howard Stern ran for Governor of New York.  He said he'd fix 3 things and then resign. (His 3 things were: "pass the death penalty, let road crews work only at night, stagger highway tolls to prevent traffic jams.")

To me, this fix-something-and-quit idea reveals that the person is using the candidacy to promote the issue, getting leverage from the media's priority on covering candidates. But Stephanopoulos says: "That puts a lot of weight on who your vice president is."

So, after over a year, I finally went to the movies.

I was fated to go, as I told you last May — "I'm excited about it — even though I almost never go to the movies — because I love the book..." — and again last week — "I've listened to [Bill Bryson's] 'A Walk in the Woods' hundreds of times. And I will go out and see that movie as soon as I can, even though I haven't gone out to see one single movie in over a year."

And now, I've gone and done it. Seen a movie. Because I love the book. Because I, like millions before me, imagined that I would, through the magic of movies, really get to see what heretofore I'd only half seen — in the mind's eye. In my mind's eye, before I went to the movie, I saw the movie and it looked more vivid and real and panoramic than what the book made me see in my mind's eye. But now, I have seen that movie, and I know that what I saw on the screen was so far less than what the book made me see in my mind that I feel like a fool for not already knowing well, of course!

There are so many shots I could take at this movie. Robert Redford is too old — 79, when Bryson, in the book, is 44. The script departs from the story in the book in ways that are stupid and in ways that would might have been delightful if the movie, as originally planned, had reunited Redford with Paul Newman. There was intentional resonance with things like this:

But Newman died, and Nick Nolte took his place, and while I was amused by the I-think-intentional resonance with this...

... I was annoyed by all the forced buddy-pic humor that replaced the relationship that Bill Bryson described in the book. I expected the film to have the 2 men talking a lot, though in the book, it's quite clear that the men barely ever talk. But the banter was either boringly stupid — not the people in the theater didn't laugh on every cue — or stupidly profound — such as looking at the stars and deciding that we are very small. If only you could look at the protons, you could decide that you are quite huge. Or just read Bill Bryson's "A Short History of Nearly Everything:" and he'll make you see it in your mind's eye:
No matter how hard you try you will never be able to grasp just how tiny, how spatially unassuming, is a proton. It is just way too small. A proton is an infinitesimal part of an atom, which is itself of course an insubstantial thing. Protons are so small that a little dib of ink like the dot on this “i” can hold something in the region of 500,000,000,000 of them, or rather more than the number of seconds it takes to make half a million years. So protons are exceedingly microscopic, to say the very least.
"In my mind's eye" comes from Shakespeare. Here's a block of text from another Bill Bryson book, "Shakespeare":
Just a small sampling of phrases originally found in Shakespeare’s works include flesh and blood, bated breath, tower of strength, foul play, foregone conclusion, good riddance, dead as a doornail, fool’s paradise, heart of gold, Greek to me, fancy-free, devil incarnate, one fell swoop, for goodness’ sake, vanish into thin air, play fast and loose, eaten me out of house and home, elbow room, go down the primrose path, in a pickle, budge an inch, cold comfort, household word, full circle, salad days, in my heart of hearts, in my mind’s eye, laughing stock, love is blind, lie low, naked truth, neither rhyme nor reason, star-crossed lovers, pitched battle, pound of flesh, sea change, make short shrift, spotless reputation, set my teeth on edge, there’s the rub, too much of a good thing, what the dickens, and wild goose chase.
Must I get back to my list of many shots I can take at the movie "A Walk in the Woods"? They added sexual things (even though the movie is generally overly, stupidly "family friendly"). There was a sequence — completely made up — with Mary Steenburgen as the owner of a crappy motel, and she tries to put the move on Redford after he comes out of his room to the motel office to ask for towels. He's wearing a nice bathrobe and leather slippers. Who, going out on a months-long hike, would put a bathrobe and slippers in his backpack?! In the book-world of Bill Bryson, there is absolutely no chance that he would be unfaithful to his beloved wife or even that he would amuse us with the slightest thought of being unfaithful to her. The sexual temptation scene was just squicky.

The movie complicates the relationship with the wife — perhaps to give the actress Emma Thompson something to do. It has her opposing the trip and trying to scare him with gruesome information about things that could go wrong in the woods. But Bill Bryson, the author, absolutely loves to find out about terrible things that can happen and to amuse use with the details. It's almost the main thing he does, but the movie transplants that aspect of his character into his wife, making her seem like a female stereotype — fussy, fretting — and making him seem alienated from her — and like more of a male stereotype.

The movie is full of shallow references to a fear of death and even begins with a funeral — as if Bryson's reason for walking is that he's freaked out about dying and needs to act — act! — before it's too late. And Redford must act. He must act because he's an actor. We must see his face on the big screen, which is not as it appears in my mind's eye, but dominated by those awful Chicklet veneers that have replaced normal teeth among the pretty people and topped with something I want to call a "wig hat." I did not enjoy spending 2 hours surveying the landscape of his face.

I thought I was going to get to see the landscape of the Appalachian Trail — all those fine and varied views from mountaintops and within forests. Where was the detail? Where was the cinematography? What is the big screen for? As I said, there are so many shots I could take at this movie. But this is the deal breaker. Show me the Appalachian Trail!

At one point in the movie, early on, somebody disparages the idea of walking the Appalachian Trail by saying you could see the whole thing in a 4-minute video on YouTube. That's quite a taunt to us movie goers! We're stuck here for 2 hours and had to pay $10, and I bet that 4-minute video on YouTube gives us a better vision of the trail. What the hell am I doing here?

"Eight years ago I found myself screaming, alone and naked, in a woodland. I had inadvertently, accidentally, naively..."

"... urinated on a wasps’ nest and the wasps were giving me a damn good telling off about it. I had torn my clothes off. I had to. So intense was their rage, they were stinging and biting the fabric. I had to shake them off every single item of clothing I had. There were thousands of them. Passing hikers came gingerly over, attracted by my screams and eager to help me. I had to shout back 'I’m OK!' to encourage them to back away from seeing my nakedness. I wasn’t ok though. I really wasn’t. For starters, there were wasp stings all over my genitals. Honestly, all over them. Though my testicles looked satisfyingly large I was in a great deal of pain. I was for days...."

From "Wasps may have stung me in the testicles – but I love them anyway/You might expect me to hate wasps after this experience in the woods but, against all the odds, I find that I am becoming their staunchest defender."

University of Michigan student, tired of paying $800 a month for a dorm room, builds a "tiny house" (i.e., a trailer) — using instructions from YouTube.

"I wanted him to live somewhere safe and normal. I knew absolutely nothing about tiny houses. I started looking and found they were big out West, but in this area nobody had even heard of them here at the time. He had to convince me to let him do this. I made him do a cost-benefit analysis and do all the research ahead of time to see if it was going to be worth his while. When he was able to find a location that was a key part of it for me."

Said his mother.
Cheryl Cerk said her son didn't even know how to drive a nail into a piece of wood before he began researching tiny homes, but hundreds of hours of YouTube-watching walked him through the entire process....

The house, nearly finished but in livable condition, has steel double doors at the entrance, a compostable toilet, a shower and two 100-watt solar panels, which will supply enough power to charge his cellphone and laptop, light the home and provide fuel to power for his cook-top in the kitchen.
Here's the Daily Mail version of the story — that is, less text, more pictures (and — I know — man in shorts).

"How To Guarantee Your Resume Shows Up Correctly On Mobile (Because It Probably Doesn't)."

Just something really practical for you.

"Why can't members of the sexes be more alike? Why do so many irritating differences persist?"

"Feminists' answer has been: cultural and structural sexism. Societies train women to take second fiddle to men in work and relationships -- and then punish them for trying to break out of their assigned roles. No, say traditional conservatives: Women and men are different, and cultures reflect those differences. The conservatives may now be getting some support from a surprising source: transgender men...."

A Megan McArdle column. Second to the last paragraph:
So if we find out that women's brains really are different from men's, in ways that are driven not by the environment in which they are raised but the hormones suffusing their brain, we're going to need to start by rethinking the ways that we identify sexism in the first place -- and then start thinking about what sort of remedies might be appropriate. This is going to be an even longer, messier negotiation than the one we're having now.  
If it's hormones, and one can take hormones, should we have our choice of hormones, allowing us to go further in whichever direction we prefer?

"I called this place ‘America’s worst place to live.’ Then I went there."

From WaPo writer Christopher Ingraham (who "writes about politics, drug policy and all things data" and "previously worked at the Brookings Institution and the Pew Research Center"). It ends:
There's perhaps something amiss in a ranking that places Red Lake County at the absolute bottom of the nation when it comes to scenery and climate. As I noted in my original story, the USDA's index places a lot of emphasis on mild weather and a little less on true scenic beauty, which of course is harder to quantify. But there's no doubt that the Red Lake County region is flat-out gorgeous. In a phone interview, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar called it a "stark beauty," and I think she's right. And you can see that beauty everywhere, from the open farm country to the craggy bluffs and hills of the river valley.

For some of us, it takes a place as small as Red Lake County to drive home just how big this country really is.
Lists that take account of climate are going to systematically undervalue The North. That said, Ingraham did not visit in winter.

"David Galbraith, a Geneva, Switzerland-based tech entrepreneur and designer, tweeted an iconic black-and-white photo of Steve Jobs with the words: 'A Syrian migrants' child.'"

“I was prompted to post it after seeing the pictures of Aylan Kurdi. I could barely look as I have two beautiful young children of my own. It seemed to be that what the most precious thing in the world, a small child, was washed up on the sea shore like a discarded object of no value, when a child with a parent of the same nationality, given opportunity had created the largest company in the entire world. And here we are seeing an acrimonious debate, about stopping migrants.”