December 17, 2016

Nighttime Christmas lights.


The lights buried after another day of snow. Photo taken just now.

Illinois law forces hairdressers to take training — 1 hour every 2 years — in detecting evidence of domestic violence.

The NYT reports.
The rule was inspired by the spirit of camaraderie in hair salons, said State Senator Bill Cunningham, one of the chief sponsors of the amendment. For some women, those salons are a safe space, where they can sit among other women, drop their guard and confide about life as their hair is braided or colored, or their nails trimmed and painted....
So, it's a great place for government to plant informants. 
The final version of the law, which was signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner in August, does not require salon workers to act on their suspicions, but helps them to recognize warning signs and provides them with resources to pass on to victims so they can get help — such as safe houses or hotlines — get restraining orders or get access to legal professionals....

The curriculum emphasizes the importance of letting clients take the lead in disclosing details about their personal lives....
This gets my Big Government sounds like a creepy stalker tag.

It's interesting that the state doesn't require salon workers to report anyone to the police or to social services. It's not like the way psychotherapists must submit to compulsion. But the state does require the training, repeated training, and it is willing to deprive hairdressers of their license — their livelihood — if they don't comply.

And do I detect condescension in the NYT's attitude toward the sort of women who find "camaraderie" in hair salons?

"a single baked potato, stuffed with beluga caviar and sour cream, eaten once a day."

The Jackie Kennedy diet — from "The Five Worst Celebrity Diets."

The woman who invented the blow-drying method of hairstyling.

You used to "set" the wet hair in rollers and sit under a big hair-drying dome...

... but Rose Evansky — who has just died at age 94 — figured out the new way:
“I’d been wandering past a barbershop in Brook Street around the corner from our salon in North Audley Street, and I saw the barber drying the front of a man’s hair with a brush and a hand-held dryer,” she told W magazine in 2012. “And this image — of the barber with the dryer — flashed through my mind and I thought, ‘Why not for women?’”....

“I picked up a spiky plastic hairbrush and a hand dryer and started rolling a wet section of her hair around the brush, followed by warm air from the hand dryer held in my left hand,” she wrote in a memoir, “In Paris We Sang” (2013). “The more sections of wet hair I rolled over the brush, the easier it became, and soon part of [the customer's] curly hair looked smooth, as if it had been brushed through from a set. Exciting!”

One day by chance, Lady Clare Rendlesham, the editor of the British edition of Vogue, dropped by the salon and, witnessing a blow-dry in progress, stopped dead in her tracks. “What are you doing, Rose?” Mrs. Evansky recalled her shouting....
I'm sure blow-drying makes more sense than the rollers-under-the-dome approach, but I'm in love with the photos of women sitting under those absurd things. Here's an excellent collection — "a moment of reflection on our cultural loss: the importance of hair dryers in mid-20th century american life" from a blog called "finding jackie." In addition to pictures of ordinary women, we see Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Sophia Loren — each of whom reacts to the experience of going under the dome in precisely the manner we expect from her.

I couldn't figure out the name of the "finding jackie" blogger, but I got obsessed with finding a book I read long ago that I thought might have that title. Searching for a book on your shelves might be as passé as setting your hair in rollers and sitting under a dome dryer, but I discovered I am still able to do it....


"Watching #Calexit create a firestorm online reminded me of a book published in 1975 that predicted this very idea."

Writes Kate Ryan in "Whether Or Not Calexit Happens, Californians Can And Should Lead A Revolution/Welcome to the United State of California."
In Ecotopia, Ernest Callenbach tells the tale of a West Coast utopia that secedes from a nation consumed by capitalistic greed. According to Callenbach’s vision, Northern California joins Washington and Oregon in seceding from the United States, essentially writing off Los Angeles as a car-obsessed bubble of heathens. While maybe the car-obsessed thing hasn’t changed, the prevailing attitude of young Los Angelenos has...

Fast-forward to 2016, and much like the book prophesied, we have a state that is directly at odds with the rest of the nation....
That reminds me: "It's Official: Clinton's Popular Vote Win Came Entirely From California."
If you take California out of the popular vote equation, then Trump wins the rest of the country by 1.4 million votes. And if California voted like every other Democratic state — where Clinton averaged 53.5% wins — Clinton and Trump end up in a virtual popular vote tie.

"We are concerned that our brothers have been named publicly with reckless disregard in violation of their constitutional rights."

"We are now compelled to speak for our team and take back our program." has this, by Robby Soave: "University of Minnesota Football Team Boycotts ‘Unjust Title IX Investigation’/Ten students of color were suspended for sexual misconduct, even though the police said it was consensual."
[Team member Carlton] Djam told police that their sex was fully consensual. He produced three video clips taken on the morning in question that showed the woman was "lucid, alert, somewhat playful and fully conscious; she does not appear to be objecting to anything at this time," according to the police report. This satisfied the police and no charges were filed....

[But] the university has its own process for investigating sexual misconduct that is separate from the police. According to the Education Department, Title IX—a federal statute mandating equality between the sexes in public education—requires universities to adjudicate sexual misconduct internally.... [T]he Office for Civil Rights—the agency that ensures Title IX compliance—has instructed universities to use a lower standard of proof. OCR guidance also discourages administrators from allowing cross-examination, one of the most vital tools a defendant has to prove his or her innocent.

As a result of Minnesota's Title IX proceeding, 10 players were suspended. 
Soave proceeds to critique the NYT for failing to mention race in its piece "Minnesota Football Players Pledge Boycott Over Teammates’ Suspensions." 

All 10 of the suspended players are black.

IN THE COMMENTS: David Begley said:
The players are essentially saying: Hey, it's okay to for ten of our teammates to have sex with a single drunk woman.

Christmas lights in the new snow.


Just now.

I just realized that the David Friedman picked by Trump for ambassador to Israel is the David Friedman I went to law school with.

New York University School of Law (J.D., 1981).

I remember him as a young man. Vividly!

Strange to look at that old face and visualize the young man I knew. This blows my mind. "David Friedman" is such a common name that it took me a while — I've been reading news stories about him for days — even to consider checking to see where he went to law school.

Among the many news articles: "Trump Chooses Hard-Liner as Ambassador to Israel" (NYT):
President-elect Donald J. Trump on Thursday named David M. Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer aligned with the Israeli far right, as his nominee for ambassador to Israel, elevating a campaign adviser who has questioned the need for a two-state solution and has likened left-leaning Jews in America to the Jews who aided the Nazis in the Holocaust.

Mr. Friedman, whose outspoken views stand in stark contrast to decades of American policy toward Israel, did not wait long on Thursday to signal his intention to upend the American approach. In a statement from the Trump transition team announcing his nomination, he said he looked forward to doing the job “from the U.S. embassy in Israel’s eternal capital, Jerusalem.”

Through decades of Republican and Democratic administrations, the embassy has been in Tel Aviv, as the State Department insists that the status of Jerusalem — which both Israel and the Palestinians see as their rightful capital — can be determined only through negotiations as part of an overall peace deal.
What do I remember of the young David Friedman? It's hard to trust memory enough to want to say anything at all, but I believe I remember a young man who was strong and intense and happy to be different from the mass of NYU law students. 

December 16, 2016

"Why My Son Has My Wife's Last Name/I did what few men do, and my own father flipped out."

Writes a man whose last name is — of all names — Garner.
It was a personal decision because my wife's family name, LeFavour, was dying out. While I have a brother who has two sons, she and her sister were the last of an old line, one that stretches back to colonial times; her ancestors fought in the Revolutionary and Civil wars. We debated giving our children, Penn and Harriet, one of those double-barreled, hinged-at-the-middle last names: Garner-LeFavour. But it sounded ungainly, affected, and like the name of a forgotten Canadian trade bill.

At the time, our decision didn't feel like an act of defiance or cultural daring. It felt like us. We were young and living in a tiny (600-square-foot) apartment on Jane Street in Manhattan's West Village when we had our children....
Ah! Sounds like they lived in our old apartment!

Obama, tired, gets lost in a sentence and knows it.

It was a long press conference today.

Why can't a President, like an ordinary person say I lost my train of thought!?

Obama tags on this blog that have collected a surprising number of posts.

You can see all my Obama tags below the fold. I'll just list some I particularly like for various reasons — odd specificity, surprising usefulness, whatever:
Obama the mood elevator (74)
Obama the boyfriend (58)
Obama and manliness (24)
Obama's psyche (68)
Obama is everywhere (15)
Obama and irony (14)
Obama and pop culture (87)
Obama the father (19)
Obama the teacher (28)
Obama and the fly (13) (Let's see Trump catch a fly with his bare hand.)
Obama eats dog (12)
Obama attacked from the left (11)
Obama gets mad (3)
Obama is bland ( 63)
Obama's tired (5)
Obama is like Bush (78)
Obama is like Carter (15)
Obama is like Nixon (35)
Obama is like Reagan (4)
Obama is like Sarah Palin (4)
Obama's umbrella (5)
Obama says something strange (1)

Because we are stronger together...

"9 Ways to Oppose Donald Trump," by John Cassidy in The New Yorker.

I'm giving this my Trump derangement syndrome tag, even though I don't think it's precisely deranged. I just don't want too much tag proliferation.

When Trump first made noise about running for President, I just used my tag for "The Apprentice" and resisted making a tag even for his name. Now, I've got a bunch of Trump tags, and I'm trying to keep them from getting as ridiculously numerous as my Obama tags. I think I need to do a good culling of my Obama tags — maybe get rid of anything that didn't collect at least 4 posts.

Anyway, speaking of Trump derangement syndrome, Cassidy starts out:
Over the past few weeks, a number of anguished friends and acquaintances, and even some strangers, have got in touch with me to ask what they might do to oppose Donald Trump. Being a fellow sufferer from OATS—Obsessing About Trump Syndrome—my first instinct has been to tell people to get off social media and take a long walk. It won’t do anybody much good, except possibly Trump, if large numbers of people who voted against him send themselves mad by constantly reading about him, cursing him, and recirculating his latest outrages.
Well, that's pretty sensible. OATS is a little silly, but it does allow one to say "I'm feeling my OATS."

To feel ones oats means "to be lively; to feel self-important" — according to the Oxford English Dictionary. P.T. Barnum used it in his 1869 memoir "Struggles & Triumphs":
As I grew older my settled aversion to manual labor, farm or other kind, was manifest in various ways.... In despair of doing better with me, my father concluded to make a merchant of me.....  Of course, I "felt my oats." It was condescension on my part to talk with boys who did out-door work. I stood behind the counter with a pen over my ear, was polite to the ladies, and was wonderfully active in waiting upon customers.  We ketp a cash, credit and barter store, and I drove sharp bargains with women who brought butter, eggs, beeswax and feathers to exchange for dry goods, and with men who wanted to trade oats, corn, buckwheat, axe-helves, hats, and other commodities for tenpenny nails, molasses, or New England rum.
The art of the deal.

Of course, Trump has been compared to P.T. Barnum and he has embraced the comparison. From back in January:
Yesterday, on "Meet the Press," Donald Trump was presented with a list of characters he'd been compared to: "some people are calling you the Music Man of this race. Kim Kardashian. Biff, from Back to the Future. George Costanza. P.T. Barnum. What's - any of those do you consider a compliment?" Trump immediately said "P.T. Barnum."

"It took me three or four times to understand what was happening, that the birds would dive after they heard the dolphins."

"After that, I knew what to expect and could photograph the birds as they dove.... With remarkable eyesight, the gannets follow the dolphins before diving in a free fall from a hundred feet high, piercing the surface of the water headfirst at a speed of 50 miles an hour. They dive as deep as 30 feet to get their fill of sardines before returning to the surface. This type of sardine is the best to photograph because, when confronted by predators, they don’t move. Their instinct is to swim down as a group, but the dolphins keep them at the surface."

Said Greg  Lecoeur, who took the 2016 National Geographic Nature Photograph of the Year.

"By all means, stand with the Department of Energy as it protects civil servants whose work displeases the incoming administration."

"And when the time once again comes when government tries to silence deniers of climate change, stand with those deniers as well. It's a matter of principle, not just politics."

Writes Megan McArdle. I don't know if I agree with everything she says, but she opens up a topic I'd like to talk about. 

"It’s almost as if people in the intelligence community are carrying out a disinformation campaign against the President-elect of the United States."

"It’s absolutely disgraceful," said Congressman Peter King about the CIA's refusal to brief Congress about the idea that the Russians "hacked" the U.S. election.

Via Scott Adams, who says "CIA refuses to brief Congress about the Russian hacks? Fire the Director of the CIA TODAY and walk him out."

ADDED: If Obama does not fire the CIA Director, should we not infer that the CIA Director is doing what Obama wants?

2 annoying men annoy each other.

I watched this, but not so you don't have to. I want you to watch this and tell me who won:

Can you tell me, please, who won? free polls

"There are two reasons we shouldn’t shift away from a system where most calories come from staples and few from vegetables, even if we could..."

"Vegetables are too expensive, and they require too much land," writes Tamar Haspel, and oyster farmer and food-policy commentator (in WaPo).
For last month’s column on whether nutritious food is more expensive than junky food, I looked at the costs involved in growing broccoli and corn. One estimate from the University of California at Davis estimates the costs of growing broccoli at about $5,000 per acre, whereas corn is about $700. Factor in that corn delivers 15 million calories per acre to broccoli’s 2-ish million, and the cost to grow broccoli (25 cents per 100 calories) is 50 times larger than corn (half a cent per hundred calories). And that’s just the difference on the farm. After harvest, that broccoli needs to be refrigerated and transported to where it’s going before it spoils. Broccoli has nutrients that corn doesn’t, of course, so it’s a good thing that we eat some. But an all-vegetable, or mostly vegetable, diet is prohibitively expensive for most people.

The land issue is directly related. When you can grow many more calories per acre, you need fewer acres. The closer we get to maxing out our farmland, the more important that calculation becomes.....

The inescapable reality is that the inherent costs involved in growing, storing and shipping vegetables often make them a luxury food. The backbone of a diet good for both people and planet is whole grains and legumes: oats, barley, wheat, corn, beans, peanuts, lentils.
So is eat your vegetables terrible advice? I looked into the comments section over there for the answer I expected and found it as the second "most liked" one:
I think this is a valuable discussion when it comes to food security, aka making sure people aren't starving to death.... But if you're talking about the average American and those around the world with an increasingly American/western diet, I think it's a disservice to our health and economy to think that we can continue with grains and cereals as a nutritional backbone....
It's one thing to feed the billions of people in the world. Give them their oats, barley, wheat, corn, beans, peanuts, lentils....

... but we Americans expect better things — a well-balanced, nutritious, healthful, tasty, and virtuous diet. And please don't bother us with notions of virtue that demand that we live like those people out there somewhere in the world where it's a struggle to pack in enough calories to get by.

A video store full of nothing but VHS tapes of "Jerry Maguire."

It's an art exhibit by an art collective called Everything Is Terrible! The NYT reports:
The collective’s obsession with Jerry Maguire, which was released on VHS in 1997, the same year that DVD players began to arrive in American homes, is a product of the ubiquity of the VHS version of the film, as well as its status as a somewhat useless object.

The film “sort of called to us,” Mr. Maier said. “We kept seeing it over and over again.” (Wikipedia claims that itis [sic] the best-selling, non-Walt Disney VHS film ever. But according to a 1998 press release from Blockbuster, the film “Titanic” broke records in video home sales, surpassing several Disney filns [sic] as well as “Jerry Maguire.” )
Filns. It's some kind of commentary on where we are now, that on the day — yesterday — that was the 50th anniversary of the death of Walt Disney, there's no article about him in the NYT, just a mention of his name, lifted from Wikipedia, in an article about an art installation about a 20-year-old Tom Cruise movie, alongside the sad typo "filns."

Here's a little video conveying the off-handed art of Everything Is Terrible! Of course, it's terrible. They'd be lying if it were not terrible. Everything is terrible:

JERRY MAGUIRE VIDEO STORE! from Everything Is Terrible! on Vimeo.

The highlight of the video comes at 9 seconds, when the walking pile of "Jerry Maguire" videotapes passes by the Scientology building. The NYT article does not mention Scientology or allude to Tom Cruise's religious nonconformism, which may have been a reason for making him the butt of an art joke:
The Jerry Maguire Video Store at iam8bit Gallery will be a perfect re-creation of a video rental store circa 1996, but instead of carrying thousands of porn quadrilogies and action movie knockoffs, this store will carry only Jerry Maguire on VHS. Seeing thousands of Jerrys finally reunited will forever destroy the viewers’ previous perception of culture, waste, and existence as a whole. The Jerrys are a beautiful thing.

And this is only the beginning. At the Jerry Maguire Video Store, EIT! will be unveiling plans for the enormous, permanent pyramid in the desert where all the world’s Jerrys will live until the end of time....
See the satire of religion?

Disney's deathiversary did get the briefest notation in the NYT, which publishes the AP column "Today in History."
In 1966, movie producer Walt Disney died in Los Angeles at age 65.
Here's the obit the NYT published at the bottom of its front page 50 years ago:

Do you know that the mouse head weighs 8 ounces?

"During the campaign, Trump earned 59 Four-Pinocchio ratings, compared with seven for Hillary Clinton."

"Since winning the presidency, Trump has earned four more Four-Pinocchio ratings, and his staff has earned one, as well. Unfortunately, we see little indication that this pattern will change during his presidency."

Said Glenn Kessler, WaPo's Fact Checker, rounding up the year 2016:
There has never been a serial exaggerator in recent American politics like the president-elect. He not only consistently makes false claims but also repeats them, even though they have been proven wrong. He always insists he is right, no matter how little evidence he has for his claim or how easily his statement is debunked.
"He always insists he is right, no matter how little evidence he has for his claim or how easily his statement is debunked." Can we get a fact checker on that statement of Kessler's? It can be tagged false if there is even one example of Trump admitting that he was wrong about something! You'd think Kessler would be more careful with a dangerous word like "always" — speaking of things "easily... debunked."

Here you go: Trump admitted he was wrong about seeing a video of American officials delivering $400 million to Iran:

I'm not disputing that Trump has said a lot of things that lack factual support, like "I won in a landslide — and millions of people voted illegally for Clinton."

December 15, 2016

Do we really know how many people are going to want to shuttle between San Jose and Bakersfield in 2025.

I'm reading about that high-speed train line. That thing in California they've been working on so long, with a price tag that currently reads $64 billion.
A segment between San Jose and a station near Bakersfield is expected to begin operating in 2025. The target date for the San Francisco-Los Angeles line isn’t until 2029.
If it ever happens, that "high speed" trip from SF to LA will take 2 hours and 40 minutes. After waiting for 2029 to get here, that is.

You know, you can walk from San Francisco to LA in 138 hours.

"If Russia, or some other entity, was hacking, why did the White House wait so long to act? Why did they only complain after Hillary lost?"

Trump tweets.

It's cold in NYC, so the NYT springs into action to "to pre-empt the inevitable chatter about climate change that usually crops up when the thermometer drops."

Here's this patronizingly chatty article "Feeling a Chill? Blame the Polar Vortex. And Global Warming."

Kanye West is "at once a prop and, because Trump’s political calculations can’t be unsnarled from the narcissistic Trump Show playing in his mind, a bauble for the kingpin to gloat over."

Writes Katy Waldman in Slate in a piece with the drama-queen headline "Donald’s Beautiful Dark Fascist Fantasy/What do Trump and Kanye have in common? Totalitarian aesthetics and disconnection from reality."

How about all the times celebrities have appeared with Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton? Did you call them all props and baubles for a narcissist to gloat over?

Waldman goes on to talk about the "fascist undertone" of West's art. (She doesn't use the word "dark," by the way. That racially questionable adjective only appears in the headline.)
Mussolini’s favorite thinkers exalted the heroic, and curiously amoral, promise of man hurtling toward perfection; West speaks in similarly bombastic terms when he declares that, as a musician, “I can do whatever I want to do. … If I’m gonna take a stage and like, open up a motherfucking mountain I can do that.”... West and Trump’s dynamic—the artist and the strongman—evokes a traditional symbiosis between aestheticism and fascism. In the visually ravishing films of Leni Riefenstahl, the crisp goose-stepping of smartly uniformed troops, the propulsive fervor of futurism, we’ve seen politics married to the pursuit of the beautiful before.
Ironically, it's Waldman who is marrying ideas and images. If she's aware of how propaganda like Riefenstahl's films work, is she circumspect about what she herself is doing? It's not too aesthetically appealing, so there's little chance that it will sway large crowds, but it is, in its own tawdry way, propaganda.

IN THE COMMENTS: MadisonMan said:
So it's come to this. Slate writers assuming that Black entertainers are useful stooges to The Man.

Nothing racist at all about that assumption. 
It's the Clarence Thomas treatment. A black person is given less room to have opinions of his own.

The unbelievable "typo" story about how Podesta got phished.

Slate's Will Oremus examines the story, propounded by the NYT, that John Podesta relied on advice from an IT guy who wrote "This is a legitimate email" but says he'd made a "typo" and had meant "This is an illegitimate email." Oremus asks the obvious question: Did you also typo "a" for "an"?

The IT guy, Charles Delavan, told Podesta to change his password and to set up two-factor authentication, but he gave him a correct link to Google's website. Podesta reacted by clicking on the link in the original nonlegitimate email, which is a mistake that anyone using email should know about.
Asked about the a/an discrepancy, Delavan told me the Times had the wording wrong. Delavan had actually meant to type that it was “not a legitimate email,” but mistakenly omitted the word not. Are you sure, I asked? “Yes,” he said. I asked why, if Delavan knew the email was not legitimate, he still directed Podesta to change his password....  Delavan said he recommended the password change “out of an abundance of caution,” even though he knew the request was a scam.
There would have been no problem if Podesta hadn't gone to the bad link. Delavan's "abundance of caution" failed to take 2 steps of caution that could have helped save Podesta from his own personal witlessness. Delavan should have had that "not" and should have said don't click the link in that email.

Actually, I don't think Podesta was personally involved in any of this. Delavan interacted with Podesta's chief of staff, Sara Latham. Podesta looks like a fool, and there's this lame effort to shift the blame to Delavan. How about paying more attention to Latham? Are women just invisible?

Ah, I see this at Politico, from October 28th:
"John needs to change his password immediately, and ensure that two-factor authentication is turned on his account. He can go to this link: to do both,” the staffer said. "It is absolutely imperative that this is done ASAP."

His chief of staff, Sara Latham, wrote to another Podesta aide, Milia Fischer: "The gmail one is REAL Milia, can you change - does JDP have the 2 step verification or do we need to do with him on the phone? Don't want to lock him out of his in box!”...
So it was Milia Fischer who failed to use the correct Google link but went back into the original phishing email? How many layers of unsophistication did they have over there at the Clinton campaign?

Here's Milia Fischer's LinkedIn page. Photo:

And as long as we're shining a light on Milia Fischer, there's this Breitbart item from October 16th, "WikiLeaks Reveals Podesta’s Obsession with Aliens… Space Aliens!" in which we learn that Fischer once forwarded Podesta a message from Tom DeLonge (a pop singer, late of Blink-182).
“Please show Mr. Podesta this private teaser. Let him know that I am spending all afternoon interviewing a scientist that worked on a spacecraft at Area 51 tomorrow,” DeLonge wrote.
Fischer's forwarding message said that DeLonge seems to have met with Steven Spielberg about some project that he wanted to get Podesta in on. Here's Podesta enthusing about aliens:

Maybe aliens hacked the election. All that "Russians" business is code, you know.

ADDED: The underlying NYT article has mind-bending statements like:
While there’s no way to be certain of the ultimate impact of the hack, this much is clear: A low-cost, high-impact weapon that Russia had test-fired in elections from Ukraine to Europe was trained on the United States, with devastating effectiveness. For Russia, with an enfeebled economy and a nuclear arsenal it cannot use short of all-out war, cyberpower proved the perfect weapon: cheap, hard to see coming, hard to trace.
The story is about the idiocy of falling for phishing! How is that "hard to see coming"? And what's the point of tracing it? Just never fall for it and the problem is solved, wherever the hell it came from. The Russians don't deserve special credit for devious genius. The Clinton campaign deserves to be lambasted for its shocking stupidity. And these are people who wanted to be trusted with the nuclear codes and who relied on the argument that Donald Trump is a dangerous ignoramus.

"But sitting at a Taipei cafe behind a laptop computer with a sticker that read, 'When dictatorship is a fact, revolution is a duty'..."

"Mr. Lin acknowledged that Mr. Trump was an unlikely and perhaps unreliable ally."
"We are not naïve,” he said. “We don’t believe that the election of a new U.S. president will necessarily bring about huge changes. But if there’s an opportunity, we will definitely not give it up.”
Lin Fei-fan is a "protest leader" in Taiwan, quoted in a NYT article titled "Taiwan Is Both Exhilarated and Unnerved by Trump’s China Remarks."

December 14, 2016

"The longer Democrats are in denial, the longer their road to political recovery is going to be."

"They don’t have to like what happened, but for their own good, Democrats need to stop seriously entertaining arguments that Trump’s victory was invalid."

"But when it was announced that Bob Dylan had won the prize and accepted, it seemed no longer fitting for me to sing my own song."

"I found myself in an unanticipated situation, and had conflicting emotions. In his absence, was I qualified for this task? Would this displease Bob Dylan, whom I would never desire to displease? But, having committed myself and weighing everything, I chose to sing 'A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,' a song I have loved since I was a teen-ager, and a favorite of my late husband...."

Writes Patti Smith.

"I fell in love with him because he really talks about helping African-American, black people and that's why I'm here."

What about Huma?

"'Maybe I’m just pissed off, but I really don’t give a shit about what happens to Huma to be honest with you,' one close adviser to Hillary Clinton told me recently."

"If Mr. Trump had lost the Electoral College while winning the popular vote, an army of Republican lawyers would have descended on the courts and local election officials."

"The best of the Republican establishment would have been filing lawsuits and infusing every public statement with a clear pronouncement that Donald Trump was the real winner. And they would have started on the morning of Nov. 9, using the rhetoric of patriotism and courage."

That's by Dahlia Lithwick and lawprof David S. Cohen in a NYT op-ed, "Buck Up, Democrats, and Fight Like Republicans."

And that gets my things not believed tag.

Lithwick and Cohen offer as proof of their assertion the way the GOP fought in Florida in the 2000 election. But that had absolutely nothing with denying the fundamental constitutional structure that is the Electoral College.

"As Monday’s Electoral College vote approaches, Democrats should be fighting tooth and nail," they say. But what arguments could possibly be made? They say:
Impassioned citizens have been pleading with electors to vote against Mr. Trump; law professors...
Law professors!
... have argued that winner-take-all laws for electoral votes are unconstitutional; a small group, the Hamilton Electors, is attempting to free electors to vote their consciences; and a new theory has arisen that there is legal precedent for courts to give the election to Mrs. Clinton based on Russian interference.
Let's just hear from Chris Wallace:

"[In America], when prejudice is felt, it is open, obvious, blatant; the white man makes his position very clear..."

"... and the black man fights those prejudices with equal openness and fervor, using every constitutional device available to him.... The rest of the world in general and Britain in particular are prone to point an angrily critical finger at American intolerance, forgetting that in its short history as a nation it has granted to its Negro citizens more opportunities for advancement and betterment, per capita, than any other nation in the world with an indigent Negro population."

Wrote E.R. Braithwaite in 1959. The book was "To Sir, With Love." The author has died at the age of 104.

The deplorable notion that Twitter should kick out Donald Trump.

Addressed by the NYT's Farhad Manjoo in "Twitter Has the Right to Suspend Donald Trump. But It Shouldn’t."

If you think private entities should engage in censorship because they have a legal right to do it, you should be ashamed of your lack of free speech values.

This has been a big topic of mine for a long time. I'll just refer you to:

1. "When did the left turn against free speech?"

2. "The Bob Wright/Ann Althouse email exchange about what free speech means in the context of saying Roger Ailes needs to kick Glenn Beck off Fox News."

"It could be a prickly meeting. No other industry was more open in its contempt for Trump during the campaign."

"In an open letter published in July, more than 140 technology executives, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists skewered Trump as a 'disaster for innovation.'"

That meeting is today. But just yesterday, one tech guy — Bill Gates — who's already talked with Trump, said:
"A lot of his message has been about ... where he sees things not as good as he'd like.... But in the same way President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that.... I think whether it's education or stopping epidemics... [or] in this energy space, there can be a very upbeat message that [Trump's] administration [is] going to organize things, get rid of regulatory barriers, and have American leadership through innovation."

Trump in Wisconsin with Christmas trees.

Last night in West Allis.

You've got to scroll way in to get to the speakers. Politico has some text, describing election night (at 1:16:17 in the video):
“So it began with phony exit polls. And I got a call from my daughter at about 5 o’clock, and she was called by people in their business,” Trump began, referring to his daughter, Ivanka. “And her husband, Jared, great guy, he was called. Then they called me and they said: ‘I’m sorry, Dad. It looks really bad. Looks really, really bad.’” Trump recalled asking what the problem was and conceded that he “really assumed I lost” because, despite his constant rant against “phony” polls, he thought they had some credibility. “So I sort of thought I lost, and I was OK with that,” Trump admitted. “I wouldn’t say great. In fact, I called my vice president and I said, ‘It’s not looking good.'"

“So I go and see my wife. I say, ‘Baby, I’ll tell you what, we’re not gonna win tonight because the polls have come out and’ — you know, I always used to believe in those exit polls. I don’t believe in them anymore. ’It’s just looking bad. But, you know what, I’m OK with it because of the fact that I couldn’t have worked any harder... You can’t do any worse than that. I mean, I just couldn’t have done it. And if I lose, I lose. And you know what? If I lose, I lose and I’m gonna have a nice, easy life. We can all relax, together, right?’” ...

“So now the polls just closed, and they start announcing numbers,” Trump said. “And I say, ‘Oh, this is gonna be embarrassing.’ I’m trying to figure out what am I gonna do. And I have this ballroom that’s not that big because I didn’t know if I was gonna win or lose.” But what he did know is that if he was going to lose, “I didn’t want a big ballroom.” Trump reenacted the brisk concession he would have delivered, in which he would have thanked his supporters and said good night....

The last of the supermoon.


From the upstairs window, just now.

December 13, 2016

"'We’re gonna have to ask you to leave.' I said, 'For what reason?' He said, 'You look too much like Santa Claus.'"

"And I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ he recalled. 'I do not approach kids. The parents come to me.'"

"Shots like this are challenging because it’s tempting to jump to conclusions about her economic situation... but all that we do know is that she has a wonderful eccentricity."

"I don’t know what kind of comments are appropriate for a photo like this other than something like 'more power to her.' Photographers like Lissette Model and Diane Arbus made their careers shooting people on the fringes of society but I wonder if those type of photos today feel informative or exploitive?"

From the comments: "Were you unable to talk to her? I imagine that all of your questions would’ve have been answered or at least a simple conversation would’ve revealed a few things. I think you may have answered your own question about informative vs. exploitive."

"If Trump wins, future elections will hinge on who has the dankest memes."

Said Mary Beth, in the comments to my June 17th post "The message is clear: Don't even try to understand."

I had forgotten this video:

I just stumbled into that old post today. "If Trump wins..." Well, Trump did win. And it was one thing to watch that video last June, but how about now? Did you laugh? Did Al Franken laugh — Al Franken, who says Trump never laughs?

ADDED: Speaking of never laughs, Kanye West — who appeared at Trump's side todayhas long made a brand out of never smiling.
"... I saw this book from the 1800s and it was velvet-covered with brass and everything. I looked at all these people’s photos, and they look so real and their outfits were incredible and they weren’t smiling. People, you know the paparazzi, always come up to me, ‘Why you not smiling?’ and I think, not smiling makes me smile. When you see paintings in an old castle, people are not smiling because it just wouldn’t look as cool.'"
AND: In Trump's case, maybe he's not laughing because not to laugh fits his theme They're laughing at us...

ALSO: Here's a great example of Hillary relying on a laughing-it-all-off approach to dealing with a challenge — and Trump staying aggressively unjovial:

"Although the original creators may have intended Wonder Woman to represent a strong and independent 'warrior' woman with a feminist message..."

"... the reality is that the character’s current iteration is that of a large breasted, white woman of impossible proportions, scantily clad in a shimmery, thigh-baring body suit with an American flag motif and knee high boots –the epitome of a 'pin-up' girl."

Said the petition to reconsider the decision by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on October 21, 2016, to make Wonder Woman the new Honorary Ambassador for the empowerment of women and girls.

Today comes the announcement:
The United Nations has ended a campaign featuring Wonder Woman as an ambassador for women and girls, two months after the announcement was met with protests and a petition complaining that the fictional superhero was an inappropriate choice to represent female empowerment....

Jeffrey Brez, a spokesman for the U.N., disputed that the campaign had ended early or as a result of the protest, as some reports have suggested, citing other honorary ambassadorships with much shorter tenures.
So what is the correct feminist position on Wonder Woman? I've never liked her, but I just don't give a damn about super-heroes. She's scantily clad and has an idealized physique, but that's true of male super-heroes as well. It's a good idea, within super-herodom, to have female characters. Is that inspiring from a feminist perspective? Ms. Magazine has always liked the fictional lady. She was on the cover of the first issue:

I remember seeing that first issue bandied about in 1972 and dismissing it out of hand as old-fashioned and middle class. We had advanced beyond the boundaries of gender, I thought, so this was retrograde — embarrassing.

But Gloria Steinem has long promoted the buxom, hot-pantsed woman:
Wonder Woman's family of Amazons on Paradise Island, her band of college girls in America, and her efforts to save individual women are all welcome examples of women working together and caring about each other's welfare. The idea of such cooperation may not seem particularly revolutionary to the male reader. Men are routinely depicted as working well together, but women know how rare and therefore exhilarating the idea of sisterhood really is.... Wonder Woman symbolizes many of the values of the women's culture that feminists are now trying to introduce into the mainstream: strength and self-reliance for women; sisterhood and mutual support among women; peacefulness and esteem for human life; a diminishment both of "masculine" aggression and of the belief that violence is the only way of solving conflicts.
Wonder Woman has a band of American college girls? Seriously, I do not know the story of Wonder Woman. It really doesn't sound U.N.-appropriate. 

Trump and Kanye West — "We’ve been friends for a long time."

What did they talk about? “Life. We discussed life.”

West was recently hospitalized for a "psychological emergency" after concert performances that included a lot more talking than is the norm:
“Yeah, I’m taking his lead,” Mr. West said of Mr. Trump, after spending some time railing against the news media and praising Mr. Trump’s policy against political correctness.....

"That infamous line about impure blood is my favorite... That’s why I love the 'Marseillaise.'"

"In a moment in history where purity is used as a horrible goal by jihadists and right-wing fear mongers alike, I think it’s a cool line to keep in mind, reminding us that impurity is our own, and our strength."

From a NYT article about "La Marseillaise." This is, in France, The Year of the Marseillaise,  and there was a big conference about it, which much cogitation about the meaning of the words, which were written in 1792, during the French Revolution.

You can read the lyrics in French and English here. The "impure blood" part is:
To arms, citizens,
Form your battalions,
Let's march, let's march!
Let an impure blood
Soak our fields!
Also at that link (to Wikipedia), we see:
The English philosopher and reformer Jeremy Bentham, who was declared an honorary citizen of France in 1791 in acknowledgement of his sympathies for the ideals of the French Revolution, was not enamoured of La Marseillaise. Contrasting its qualities with the "beauty" and "simplicity" of "God Save the King", he wrote in 1796:
The War whoop of anarchy, the Marseillais Hymn, is to my ear, I must confess, independently of all moral association, a most dismal, flat, and unpleasing ditty: and to any ear it is at any rate a long winded and complicated one. In the instance of a melody so mischievous in its application, it is a fortunate incident, if, in itself, it should be doomed neither in point of universality, nor permanence, to gain equal hold on the affections of the people.

"Franken fell asleep at 2 a.m. on the night of the election and woke up with a migraine."

"For days, it was hard to think about anything besides Trump in the White House. 'There was a week or so when sleeping literally was a great thing,' Franken said. 'You go through a process of internalizing it.' In addition to the political shock, there was a broader despair over the cultural disconnect that the election laid bare. I kept thinking of an Onion headline that ran a few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks: 'A Shattered Nation Longs to Care About Stupid [Expletive] Again.' How long does it take a culture to forge a new sensibility, whether comedic or political? Franken seemed to be struggling with this a bit. There was similar confusion in the various liberal bubbles of Washington, New York and Hollywood, whose inhabitants were the supposed keepers of the American zeitgeist — the geniuses who so spectacularly dismissed the zeitgeist that elected Donald Trump."

From the NYT article "Al Franken Faces Donald Trump and the Next Four Years/The two-term Democratic senator, who once made a living satirizing politicians, envisions an unfunny future," by Mark Leibovich. I picked that quote out of the center of the long article, but you should know that the article begins with Al Franken's observation that Trump never laughs.

I was looking to see what else Mark Leibovich has written. He inserted himself into that Al Franken article — I kept thinking of an Onion headline — right into the paragraph about Franken's headache. That seemed unusually egoistic for a NYT writer.

I looked back at my own Mark Leibovich tag and found 2 things:

"President-elect Donald J. Trump on Tuesday officially selected Rex W. Tillerson, the chief executive of Exxon Mobil, to be his secretary of state."

The NYT reports.
In saying he will nominate Mr. Tillerson, the president-elect is dismissing bipartisan concerns the globe-trotting leader of an energy giant has a too-cozy relationship with Vladimir V. Putin, the president of Russia.

A statement from Mr. Trump’s transition office early Tuesday brought to an end his public and chaotic deliberations over the nation’s top diplomat — a process that at times veered from rewarding Rudolph W. Giuliani, one of his most loyal supporters, to musing about whether Mitt Romney, one of his most vicious critics, might be forgiven.
What was chaotic? That's a word they've been trying to stick on the transition from the beginning. A search in the NYT archive for trump transition chaos got 43 hits!

The Times forefronts this statement from John McCain:
“Vladimir Putin is a thug, bully and a murderer, and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying,” Mr. McCain said on Fox News.
Is that the language of diplomacy? If Trump had said "Vladimir Putin is a thug, bully and a murderer," he'd have been regarded as a lout who doesn't have any idea how to talk like a President. But here's McCain saying that anyone who doesn't use that kind of crude, brutal language is a "liar." You're a liar if you don't baldly insult the world leaders you're trying to deal with? Yet somehow Trump is portrayed as the off-the-rails hothead and McCain is the wise, elder statesman.

I'm just teasing, saying "somehow." I know how, and you do too. McCain got defeated in his bid for President. If he, a Republican, were running for President or had been elected President, his words would be presented as evidence — part of a swell of evidence — of his unfitness. Safely defeated, McCain is the quotable statesman — quotable because he usefully disparages the Republican who did get elected.

Now, I'm at the end of the article, and I see what I suppose is meant to support the assertion that the search for a secretary of state has been "chaotic." Trump looked first to Rudy Giuliani and then moved to Mitt Romney, and then Kellyanne Conway spoke openly about Trump supporters who opposed Romney. Thereafter:
Mr. Tillerson emerged as a contender on the strong recommendations of James A. Baker III, the secretary of state under President George Bush, and Robert M. Gates, the former defense secretary, according to a person briefed on the process.
Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon argued for Tillerson, then Trump met with him for 2+ hours on Saturday and made the decision. Is that "chaotic"? I can't help feeling that if Hillary Clinton were picking a Secretary of State through a process like that it would have been presented as methodical, careful, and beautifully indicative of a brilliantly competent presidency to come.

"I don’t think we want any foreign government trying to influence our election.... Conversely you had the leader of Scotland endorsing Hillary Clinton..."

"... and I don’t think leaders from other countries one way or the other, whether it’s for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or any other candidate — I think it’s best left to Americans to make those decisions."

Said Scott Walker, opining on the news that the Russians preferred Donald Trump and got involved in showing the public a bunch of embarrassing email messages that various Democrats sent to each other.

Is this a good analogy? And did the leader of Scotland endorse Hillary? The answer to the second question is easy. It's yes:
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon broke with international protocol when she wrote days before the election that she hoped Clinton would win.
But is it a good analogy? Sturgeon openly endorsed Hillary, but Putin's preference for Trump is merely a matter of guesswork. What Putin may have done about his preference is also a matter of guesswork, and it is connected to the illegal hacking into computers and the revealing of private communications that — through no action of his — contained statements that reflected badly on Hillary Clinton.

So the analogy doesn't match up on all points, but that's what's provocative about it. To the extent Sturgeon did something similar to what Putin is accused of, how bad is it? To the extent that it's different, is what Sturgeon did okay? And was it awful for Walker to compare these 2 things that are not entirely the same?
Jenni Dye, research director for liberal group One Wisconsin Now, called Walker’s comparing the two scenarios “simply jaw-dropping.” “Declaring one of these actions was not dramatically more serious than the other is either incredibly naive or the most disturbing example yet of Gov. Walker’s blind partisanship,” Dye said.
Key word: dramatically. I'm tired of the continual drama. I'd prefer to calmly compare the 2 things in the analogy. If you want me to be upset that somebody is a "blind partisan," don't sound like one yourself.

December 12, 2016

The NYT headline says "C.I.A. Judgment on Russia Built on Swell of Evidence" and I'm instantly skeptical about whether what's in the article supports that headline.

Because there's so much fake news these days.

Ever notice how cries of "fake news!" slip out of the news when the news outlets have some fake news to slip over? Oh, first let me show you Trump's new tweet:

Now, let's get down to the work of checking to see whether the NYT really presents evidence to justify that headline. I'm reading every word of the rather long article but will only give you the actual evidence offered for the proposition that the Russian government intervened in the U.S. election for the purpose of helping Donald Trump win. There's a lot of material in the article that is not about that at all. I'm excluding that, which is padding if the headline is the correct headline. Go to the link if you want to see what it is.

The first relevant material comes in the 16th paragraph: The DNC's servers and John Podesta's email account were hacked and a lot of damaging and embarrassing material was released onto the internet.

American intelligence officials believe that Russia also penetrated databases housing Republican National Committee data, but chose to release documents only on the Democrats. The committee has denied that it was hacked.
So here's the crucial disputed question of fact: Were the GOP servers also hacked? We're not told what evidence supports the belief that the GOP servers were also hacked, but the GOP says they were not. Yet some "intelligence officials believe" it was. Why? Where's the "swell of evidence" you were going to tell me about?

Even if that fact were nailed down, there would still be more leaps needed to get to the conclusion. First: Was there any embarrassing material? What? If I knew what, I could begin to think about the next question: Why would embarrassing material be withheld? All I can see from the supposed "swell of evidence" here is an assumption that if the DNC was hacked, the GOP committee was also hacked, and that if bad material was found in the DNC server, bad material would also be found in the GOP server, and since we only saw the DNC material, there must have been a conscious decision — by whom?! — to leak only the DNC things and that decision must have been made to help Trump win. That's not evidence itself, only inference based on evidence.

Finally, there are a few paragraphs about why "Putin and the Russian government" might be thought to prefer a Trump presidency to a Clinton presidency. Trump and Putin have given each other some compliments.

That's no swell of evidence! That's a lot of leaping guesswork. And this is nothing more than I already read in the article the NYT put out on December 9th, which I put effort into combing through and rejected for the same reasons I'm putting in this new post.

This might be the biggest fake news story I've ever seen!

Squirreled away at the end of the article is the admission that people at the FBI are skeptical about the conclusion. An unnamed "senior American law enforcement official" told the NYT that "the Russians probably had a combination of goals, including damaging Mrs. Clinton and undermining American democratic institutions" and that "any disagreement between the F.B.I. and the C.I.A., and suggested that the C.I.A.’s conclusions were probably more nuanced than they were being framed in the news media." The NYT observes that the FBI holds itself to "higher standards of proof," since its work is geared toward prosecuting criminal cases in court, but: "The C.I.A. has a broader mandate to develop intelligence assessments."

I'm staring at that headline again. You said there was a "swell of evidence." Shouldn't that satisfy the FBI's higher standard rather than the good-enough-for-the-CIA standard? I think I see the reason for the different standards. The CIA is concerned about what might happen in the future. But why are we trusting them in an FBI/CIA disagreement about what happened in the past?

The very end of the NYT article is about the FBI investigating "numerous possible connections between Russians and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, including former Trump aides like Paul Manafort and Carter Page, as well as a mysterious and unexplained trail of computer activity between the Trump Organization and an email account at a large Russian bank, Alfa Bank." This investigation began in the summer and seems to have played out by September and October — for reasons that are "are not entirely clear" and that the FBI won't talk about.

Speaking of embarrassing material... that headline, with that content... in the NYT. So awful.

I'm distracted into reading about the word "swell" in my dictionary (the OED). One usually reads of a swell of the sea or of music or emotion.  "Fenc'd no where from the least Surge or Swell of the Water," wrote Daniel Dafoe. "And up the valley came a swell of music on the wind," wrote Tennyson.  "Of all the actors who flourished in my time... Bensley had most of the swell of soul, was greatest in the delivery of heroic conceptions, the emotions consequent upon the presentment of a great idea to the fancy," wrote Charles Lamb.

But swell of evidence...

Swell is the talk of upwelling emotion and romanticism.

Swell is a tell.

"Listen, this is Jerusalem. We Muslims don’t complain when the Christians ring their church bells. We don’t complain about the Jews with their ram horns."

"This is religion. No one should interfere." Said one resident of Jerusalem, quoted in "Israel wants mosques to turn the volume way down" (at WaPo).
“You know what the call is? The call is to come and pray to God,” he said. “The Jews don’t want to hear this? Tell me why.”
One answer is: "In tense times, the call feels threatening... It’s like they’re trying to get inside your head."

Another is the high amplification, especially in the early morning: "The mosques would put their speakers right up near the homes of Jewish people and wake them up." That quote is from Motti Yogev, a member of parliament from the pro-settler Jewish Home party, who observes that in the old days there was only unamplified singing from the minarets (or knocking on doors): If it's okay to use modern equipment in the call to prayer, why not use phone apps and alarm clocks?

Some nice humor from Sarah Palin.

Christmas lights in the snow.


I noticed the time of the first deck-snow pic of the morning, but not this one. Maybe 7 a.m.

I love the way some of the lights are inside the snow and some are out of it.

"My students have been wearing their PJs to class for years... which used to bug me no end..."

"... but now I wear my PJs to walk my dog in my gated community at 5:30 in the a.m. Compared to electing Trump as President, this is hardly the end of civilization as we know it."

A comment on a WaPo article by Robin Givhan: "The fashion industry really wants you to wear pajamas on the street. Don’t do it!"

Givhan says:
To be clear, these are not pajama-style garments, nor trousers that simply borrow the loose fit and drape of sleepwear. Ostensibly, these are pajamas, promoted for both men and women....
What does that even mean?

Let me think...

... so even though the word "pajama" has been used over the years to refer to clothes that are not pajamas in the sense of being intended as sleepwear, these new clothes they want you to wear when you're out on the street and being seen by nonbedmates are in fact pajamas?
All of these garments have luxurious fabrics, elaborate patterns, saturated colors, comfortable silhouettes. They are, in fact, quite handsome. But they look precisely like what they, in fact, are: Pajamas.
You have fabric, cut in shapes and sewn together. What makes it "in fact" pajamas once you've eliminated the idea that this is something to wear only in and near bed? Are we getting philosophical or is the quick route out of this conundrum simply to recognize that fashion demands suffering? If that outfit looks comfortable, it cannot be fashion. Lines must be drawn, and the people who look comfortable must be excluded.

Now, let's get back to the subject of how everything is about Donald Trump and the Trump derangement syndrome raging within the soul of the lady with the dog who forgot to suppress the fact that she lives in a gated community. 

Apparently, the term "alt-right" has become unusable unless you actually mean to say "neo-Nazi."

So they were making this Cadillac ad:
And the casting notice said they were looking for:
Social media pounced. There were tweets like:
Super horrified that @Cadillac is planning on including neo-nazis in a "feel good" campaign featuring "all walks of life." Unacceptable.
Cadillac reacted quickly:
“The notice was drafted by an employee, who was immediately terminated for her actions,” the statement said. “Additionally an outside third party further altered the breakdown without our knowledge and posted it on social media. Cadillac unequivocally did not authorize this notice or anything like it, and we apologize to Cadillac for the ex-employee’s actions.”
If you're operating in the mainstream commercial world, take a lesson. You can't use "alt-right" as shorthand for guys with does-this-haircut-make-me-look-like-a-Nazi hair.

But quite aside from whether advertisers use the word "alt-right" in their casting calls, I think they are going for this look. I was watching the Packers game with Meade last night, and as the various car and beer and fast-food restaurant ads came on, I found myself quipping "Does this haircut make me look like a Nazi?"

And it's only looks that matter in these ads. No one will be expressing any political opinions in a Cadillac ad. And if they were, the opinions would be scripted, not the actual opinions of the actors. What does it mean to do a casting call asking for "REAL Alt-Right believers/thinkers"? It can only mean that you look like that sort of real person, not that you really are one.

No one cares what's actually in the actor's head.

Shakespeare had to wonder "Where am I going to get a human skull?" and, Bob Dylan says, "Some things never change."

Let me take you to the heart — the skull — of Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize speech. He says that when he got the "surprising news" that he'd won the Nobel Prize in Literature, he started thinking about William Shakespeare....
Well, Shakespeare, he’s in the alley
With his pointed shoes and his bells
Speaking to some French girl
Who says she knows me well...
That's just me, quoting a Bob Dylan song. That's not from the speech. Here's the speech, the part I want to show you:
I would reckon [Shakespeare] thought of himself as a dramatist. The thought that he was writing literature couldn’t have entered his head. His words were written for the stage. Meant to be spoken not read. When he was writing Hamlet, I’m sure he was thinking about a lot of different things: “Who’re the right actors for these roles?” “How should this be staged?” “Do I really want to set this in Denmark?” His creative vision and ambitions were no doubt at the forefront of his mind, but there were also more mundane matters to consider and deal with. “Is the financing in place?” “Are there enough good seats for my patrons?” “Where am I going to get a human skull?” I would bet that the farthest thing from Shakespeare’s mind was the question “Is this literature?”...

But, like Shakespeare, I too am often occupied with the pursuit of my creative endeavors and dealing with all aspects of life’s mundane matters. “Who are the best musicians for these songs?” “Am I recording in the right studio?” “Is this song in the right key?” Some things never change, even in 400 years. Not once have I ever had the time to ask myself, “Are my songs literature?”
That bit about the human skull got me thinking about something in "My Dinner with Andre," a movie in which 2 men talk mostly about theater. At one point, Andre Gregory is talking about directing the Euripides play "The Bacchae":
Pentheus has been killed by his mother [Agave] and the Furies, and they pull the tree back, and they tie him to the tree, and fling him into the air, and he flies through space and he's killed, and they rip him to shreds and, I guess, cut off his head. My impulse was that the thing to do was to get a head from the New Haven morgue and pass it around the audience. Now, I wanted Agave to bring on a real head and that this head should be passed around the audience so that somehow people realized that this stuff was real, see, that it was real stuff. Now, the actress playing Agave absolutely refused to do it.
And the songwriter Bob Dylan refused to show up and receive the prize. There are always questions about life’s mundane matters.  

Am I recording in the right studio? ≈ Is this speech meant for reading out loud in a Swedish ceremonial hall?

You've got to think about the right thing in the right place...

Well, he can be fascinating, he can be dull/He can ride down Niagara Falls in the barrels of your skull...

The snow-upholstered chair at 5 a.m.


... with Christmas lights.

December 11, 2016

At the Big Snow Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And if you're doing some shopping on Amazon, please consider going in through The Althouse Amazon Portal.

"This vaudeville-era poster of a man in blackface hung in my parents' living room."

"We never thought of it as racist – the man in blackface was my grandfather. My parents recently moved out of their house, and it was only when I presented the idea of hanging the poster in our own home to my husband that he looked at me in horror and said we could never do that. I’m ashamed I’ve been so willing to dissociate the family history in this object from the history of racism. Part of me was sad and conflicted about it never seeing the light of day again, but I’ve decided to donate it to the Jim Crow Museum where it can be contextualized, and people can learn from it."

From "Confronting Racist Objects" (NYT).

Here's a link to The Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia:
The Jim Crow Museum is the largest publicly accessible collection of segregation and racist artifacts in the United States. These objects are used to teach tolerance and promote social justice. The Museum is free and open to the public; therefore, the Museum is largely dependent on donations-financial and in-kind-to enhance its work.
Speaking of contextualizing racist objects reminds me of this scene in "Ghost World," which we were just watching the other day:

That time Jennifer Lawrence scratched her ass on a rock....

It's big news... because the rock (in Hawaii) is regarded (by some) as sacred and she seemed to think the story was amusing....
"You're not supposed to sit on them because you're not supposed to expose your genitalia to them... I, however, was in a wetsuit for this whole shoot so - oh my God, they were so good for butt-itching. One rock that I was butt-scratching on ended up coming loose. It was a giant boulder and it rolled down this mountain and almost killed our sound guy."
She had to apologize — not for almost killing a guy or thinking it was funny to almost kill a guy, but for calling attention to the religious significance of the rocks and then going for the humor of an ass-scratching fiasco. 
Marcia Ogasawara, from Hawaii, said she didn't find it funny, adding: "If she left the part of it being sacred out, then I wouldn't care; but knowing native Hawaiians built that for some significance and her talking like it's not a big deal, it's very disappointing."
What blinded Lawrence to the problem with her anecdote was the belief that if you are self-deprecating, there's some kind of immunity. Or so she tells it. I think it's more that if you've been given enough reason to think you are adorably lovable and you take yourself lightly, eschewing arrogance, everyone will receive what you have to give in the spirit you intended.

"We had a real hard time with Inky."

Said Kelly Sheffield, the coach of University of Wisconsin volleyball team, which lost to Stanford in the NCAA tournament regional final last night.
Redshirt senior Inky Ajanaku, who led the Cardinal (25-7) with 20 kills and 11 blocks and was named the tournament’s MVP, said her team was a “little flabbergasted” after the first two sets. But after she gave her youthful but talented teammates a pep talk at intermission, she could sense they were not about to give up.

“I looked in everybody’s eyes and I saw they were ready,” Ajanaku said. “They were ready to be there all night and they were ready to fight.”
AND: Isn't it strange that volleyball is the sport with the most violent lingo? Kills. Where's my trigger warning?

"The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States has effectively forked reality into two versions that are running in parallel."

"Clinton’s supporters believe they are living in a world that is a repeat of 1930s Germany, with Trump playing the part of Adolf Hitler. See this reaction for a typical example. Meanwhile, the other half of the country believes we elected a highly-capable populist who will 'drain the swamp' and bring a business approach to government along with greater prosperity. So how do you know which reality is the real one? The fast answer is that you can’t know. As I said, the human brain did not evolve to understand reality. But just for fun and education, I’ll tell you the best way dig down to the next layer of truth: Look for the Cognitive Dissonance trigger...."

Scott Adams is helping us understand the reality of our illusions.

" my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the room within emerged slowly from the mist, strange animals, statues, and gold - everywhere the glint of gold."

"For the moment - an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by - I was struck dumb with amazement, and when Lord Carnarvon, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, 'Can you see anything?' it was all I could do to get out the words, 'Yes, wonderful things.'"

From "Tomb of Tutankhamen," by Howard Carter, arrived at this morning after reading an article in my local paper, "Buttons, propeller caps and a straight jacket: UW begins archiving jokester Leon Varjian's hidden hoard" that begins:
A tall, tousled computer scientist, a university archivist and a curious New York retiree converged upon a warehouse off Cottage Grove Road on Madison’s East Side one day last August.

Scott Mindock, David Null and Doris Cross had never met, but they were about to share a Howard Carter moment, thanks to the hoarding instincts of the late Leon Varjian, the jokester who tapped Madison’s funny bone in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Carter was the Egyptologist who opened the Tomb of Tutankhamen in 1922. When he got the first peek inside, he was asked “Can you see anything?” Struggling for words, all he could say was “Yes, wonderful things.”

Patti Smith's performance of "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" is horrifically awkward.

I saw this yesterday and averted my eyes. As a diligent — dylangent — blogger of all things Dylan, I feel obliged to provide you with coverage of the Nobel Prize ceremony, which took place on a day when my writing about Bob Dylan consisted of 2 quotes from 60s-era Harvard-Square snobs insulting Bob for playing croquet badly and having green teeth.

I don't know if Bob Dylan wrote anything yesterday. I heard he was busy — too busy to attend the Nobel ceremony. Maybe he was busy writing songs, maybe he was busy with Nonattendance at Ceremonies, not following leaders, and watching parking meters.

But he sent Patti in his stead — Patti with her lifelong embodiment of Punk, Patti to sing one of the oldest, most serioso Bob Dylan songs for the throng in white tie. She chokes up around the 2-minute point, and you might think she's just so moved by the profundity of the words, but the truth is she's forgotten what comes after "I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’." The next line is "I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’," but she sings "I saw the babe that was left bleedin'" and then for the line after that — which should be "I saw a white ladder all covered with water" — she begins "I saw the babe...." Another babe!

When I heard this the first time, I believed she — just like a woman — was reacting to the suffering of babies. But Bob only put one baby into the song — "a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it" — and that baby had already been sung about, back before the black branch with blood that kept drippin’. Oh, Patti, you are in verse 2 of a song with 5 verses full of particular characters and images. Is it the poet or the clown who dies in the gutter? Does the white man give you a rainbow or walk a black dog? What about the pony? Where is that pony?

Is Bob Dylan watching this YouTube and feeling glad it ain't me, babe, bleedin' babe, cryin' in the alley, dyin' in the gutter, with ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’?

Has Bob Dylan ever performed for royalty or does he send back all of his invitations....