December 2, 2017

Sunset, just now, at Quarry Ridge.

Video by Meade.

"When I looked back to the ancient world about this, Romans in particular were always saying that women, in some way, are fake."

"The problem about a woman is that she’s always made up, she’s never what she seems. Reading your book, what was so interesting was that women in public life – and I’m happily removed from that – you’ve got to look the part and you’ve got to be authentic. And that’s impossible."

Said Mary Beard (whose book "SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome" I've paused in the middle of reading). That quote is in the middle of an interview with Hillary Clinton, who responds: "Well, that is the core dilemma. Like, today, I have makeup on. You don’t. But that is just part of the uniform that one wears in public life and politics, at least in my experience."

Beard says: "If I started to wear makeup now, I would get so abused on Twitter. I’m actually as trapped as you are, Hillary!"

And Hillary Clinton says: "Men can get a haircut; it doesn’t change their authenticity. They can grow a beard; they are still who they are. Whereas we are constantly held to that good old double standard, which is so complex and deep and charged with historical and mythological and cultural totems."

Totems, eh? I know I don't really have to try to understand bullshit. In one sentence she claims everything is simple and obvious and everything is exquisitely complicated.

"Totem" is a word that's only appeared maybe 6 times in the 50,000+ posts on this blog, so it hit me hard when it appeared the second time in a single day. The other time was in the post about about Emma Cline and Chaz Reetz-Laiol. I was quoting something from "Can the Plagiarism Charges Against Emma Cline Hold Up in Court?"  Emma Cline had written: “My mother spoke to Sal about body brushing, of the movement of energies around meridian points. The charts.” Reetz-Laiolo had written: “Laurel in the morning brushing her body on the patio with a body brush, slowly combing it up her legs towards her heart, up her arms towards her heart. Circling her belly. There was something totemic about her out there in the sun.”

What are we talking about here? Wikipedia says:
While the term totem is Ojibwe, belief in tutelary spirits and deities is not limited to indigenous peoples of the Americas but common to a number of cultures worldwide. However, the traditional people of those cultures have words for their guardian spirits in their own languages, and do not call these spirits or symbols "totems."

Contemporary neoshamanic, New Age and mythopoetic men's movements not otherwise involved in the practice of a tribal religion have been seen to use "totem" terminology for the personal identification with a tutelary spirit or guide....
So what, if anything, was Hillary Clinton trying to say? I did a search in her book, "What Happened," to see if she delved into the complex and deep topic of totems, but the word does not appear. I tried "makeup" and got 15 hits, including:
Once Bill entered politics, the spotlight on me was glaring and often unkind.... When he lost, and I heard over and over that my name—my name!—had played a part.... So I added “Clinton” to Hillary Rodham. I asked my friends for hair, makeup, and clothing advice. That’s never come easily to me, and until then, I didn’t care. But if wearing contact lenses or changing my wardrobe would make people feel more comfortable around me, I’d try it.

Later, when Bill was running for President for the first time, I stumbled again. I now had the right name, wore makeup, styled my hair. But I hadn’t tamed my tongue....
But we never did get comfortable around you, did we, Hillary? I don't see why we should be comfortable around any politician, and I appreciate that you admit you adopted phony devices in an effort to trick us into letting down our guard, but it's kind of funny that you turn around and lambaste us for not accepting your "authenticity."

At the December Walk Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want. It's a café post, so you can get to whatever topics I may have missed. I know I missed that tax bill. Important, but nothing for me to add today. Maybe you've got something interesting to say. In any event, maybe you've got some interesting shopping to do, in which case, I point you toward the Althouse portal to Amazon: here.

"Many of the male journalists who stand accused of sexual harassment were on the forefront of covering the presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump."

"Matt Lauer interviewed Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Trump in an official 'commander-in-chief forum' for NBC. He notoriously peppered and interrupted Mrs. Clinton with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later. Mark Halperin and Charlie Rose set much of the televised political discourse on the race, interviewing other pundits, opining themselves and obsessing over the electoral play-by-play. Mr. Rose, after the election, took a tone similar to Mr. Lauer’s with Mrs. Clinton — talking down to her, interrupting her, portraying her as untrustworthy. Mr. Halperin was a harsh critic of Mrs. Clinton, painting her as ruthless and corrupt, while going surprisingly easy on Mr. Trump. The reporter Glenn Thrush, currently on leave from The New York Times because of sexual harassment allegations, covered Mrs. Clinton’s 2008 campaign when he was at Newsday and continued to write about her over the next eight years for Politico. A pervasive theme of all of these men’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton was that she was dishonest and unlikable.... It’s hard to look at these men’s coverage of Mrs. Clinton and not see glimmers of that same simmering disrespect and impulse to keep women in a subordinate place...."

From "The Men Who Cost Clinton the Election," by Jill Filipovic in the NYT.

"I had to fire General Flynn because he lied... It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful."

The cat.

ADDED: I found that tweet via WaPo, which has photos of Max, various efforts to write the children's book that the original tweet said was halfway written, and details of the library's ordeal ("An employee is very allergic to cats, and some people worried Max would get locked inside"), and the news that Max isn't being allowed to free-roam outdoors anymore ("He’s going crazy. He cries and howls and paces around, looking out the windows. I’m really hoping he takes to walking on the leash").

"The tape, without question, is real."

Writes NYT reporter Daniel Victor in the NYT, about the "Access Hollywood" tape, which I assume is "real," but I still wonder how a reporter can say "The tape, without question, is real." It's an assertion, and what locks it down as beyond question (other than the desire to put an end to questioning)? I understand the reason to assert that the time for questioning is over. I'm practical. Life is short. We need to move on. We're sure enough.

But it just bugs me when a reporter makes a flat assertion like this, with no attribution: "The tape, without question, is real." How can he do that? To my mind, he opens the question up by writing like that.

At the time the recording emerged — October surprise time — Trump rushed into damage control and said "I said it, I was wrong and I apologize." And that, it seems, is the only basis for Victor's strong pronouncement.

But Trump's response doesn't prove that the tape is real. It only shows that Trump decided that under the circumstances that the best tactic was apology, and perhaps that an effective apology included owning the remarks that he was apologizing for. But it doesn't prove beyond question that the tape is real. Trump could have been lying. It's also possible that he didn't remember saying it, but hearing the tape convinced him at the time that he must have said it, but now he thinks maybe somehow he was fooled.

A more subtle point is that he may have been admitting that he said the words that we all heard, but not that the words were true. I assumed, the day I heard the "Access Hollywood" remarks, that "Trump's statement — which is itself only words — is a confession to behavior. Criminal behavior. Sexual assault."

But it wasn't a confession under oath — and even confessions under oath can be false — but a "confession" in a context where he might be joking and exaggerating or just lying. He'd still be on the hook for portraying himself as entitled to "just kiss" a beautiful woman, but he was posturing in the presence of another man. Who knows the real context of Trump encounters with beautiful women that involved "just kissing"? Was it "social kissing" (a short kiss hello) or putting his hand on the back of her head, mashing his lips against hers and aggressively sticking his tongue in her mouth?

Was it a Hollywood kiss?

As for the more vivid "grab them by the pussy," Trump didn't say that about himself, but about "you" — if "you're a star." That was a critique of women, their indiscriminate susceptibility to stars, but it wasn't a confession.

My point is, there's a lot going on in the "Access Hollywood" remarks, and I don't know precisely what the issue is when I'm hearing that there is some questioning (from Trump, allegedly) that the remarks are not "real."

Is it that the tape that we heard doesn't exist? (That would be absurd.)

Is it that the voice on the tape isn't Trump's or that the tape is doctored or edited in a way that makes it inauthentic? (In that case, Trump, with more time to reflect, might want to retract his earlier "I said it." If that's the issue, is there any evidence?)

Or is it that the words that he really did say speak of things that are not real — that he doesn't "just kiss women" and that stars can't grab women "by the pussy"?

I don't know! What is the real question about the unreality of the tapes?

See? I've got questions galore now. I wasn't even going to talk about Trump's alleged questioning of the "Access Hollywood" tape, but Victor's "The tape, without question, is real" has set me off.

"And so we traveled over five thousand miles with preschoolers to experience The Floating Piers, an artwork that would exist for only sixteen days...."

"Numerous international news sources reported it as a place to experience tranquility and elements of nature. The artwork was pitched as a chance to walk on water.... We imagined it as a place where we might feel the ground teetering not only with our feet but also with our souls. We arrived on the third day of the installation, and our hotel manager greeted us with a slew of gossip about how the neighboring towns were spinning in circles trying to keep up with the unexpected numbers of tourists. The artwork was estimated to hold eleven thousand people at one time. Fifty-five thousand people visited on the first day... We... heard that The Floating Piers was evacuated several times over the first three days, and the rumors about the bus and ferry lines were daunting.... Standing in the unseasonably hot sun and a long line with two preschoolers, we learned that the reservations don’t really work.... When we finally began walking on the section over the water, we paused to take it all in. As we were starting to find our space and relax, an official volunteer stopped us and told us to turn around as no children or elderly were allowed on the San Paolo island section at this time because there was a threat of evacuation due to the high temperatures and repairs that were being made to the anchors.... We tried hiking to a vista. We tried the ferry for a second time. But in both instances, things didn’t end up like we hoped. As the numbers of visitors soared to nearly 1.2 million people in sixteen days, the opportunities to get to the art installation became slimmer and slimmer...."

From an article at The Other Journal about visiting a Christo installation.

This is an extreme example of the problem with travel: The other people. If you don't go somewhere, you know you didn't go. You can look at a picture and feel left out. You should have gone. But if you do go — travel all that way — you may discover that you are not there. It's not like the picture you wanted to be in. That's a place you can't get to. You have an even more real experience of not getting to the place.

Now, the author of the quoted article, Karen Brummund, did eventually find a way onto "The Floating Piers," and she pronounces it to be "transcendence," mainly because her kids were able to enjoy it without being annoying.

But — look at the photograph and think about 1.2 million people in 16 days — the thing she intended to see was not there. It wasn't "a place to experience tranquility and elements of nature... to walk on water.... [to] feel the ground teetering not only with our feet but also with our souls." It was a huge mob of tourists. All of them wanting to be at this place caused it not to exist.

Well, not the wanting, per se. They could all have stayed home and longed to be in the place they could see in the pictures and in their mind. But because they attempted to realize their dream, they displaced the longed-for thing with a biomass of humanity.

The story of Emma Cline and Chaz Reetz-Laiol — what a plot!

I'm reading "Can the Plagiarism Charges Against Emma Cline Hold Up in Court?" by Lila Shapiro (in NY Magazine). Emma Cline wrote a well-regarded novel called "The Girls," which I'm just guessing you don't care about. But the question of what counts as plagiarism doesn't require that you care about the particular book, so pay attention.

You've got a writer who shared her life for a while with another writer, the delightfully named Chaz Reetz-Laiol. They were together, and then they broke up.

So they are each other's material, right? Have you ever been raw material for a writer who was also raw material for your writing? I have! More famously, there was that couple of all couples, Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald:
In 1932, while being treated at the Phipps Clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Zelda had a burst of creativity. Over the course of her first six weeks at the clinic, she wrote an entire novel and sent it to Scott's publisher, Maxwell Perkins.

When Scott finally read Zelda's book, a week after she'd sent it to Perkins, he was furious. The book was a semi-autobiographical account of the Fitzgeralds' marriage. In letters, Scott berated her and fumed that the novel had drawn upon the autobiographical material that he planned to use in Tender Is the Night, which he'd been working on for years, and which would finally see publication in 1934.
Zelda's book "Save Me the Waltz" came out first, but only after she'd complied with his demand to remove everything based on material that he was using in his book. Even though she used the material in her own way, she was scooping him on the stories. For various reasons, he got his way, she was silenced, and there was no litigation. F. Scott had accused her of plagiarism and of being a bad writer, and she never wrote another book. The crushing of Zelda's art was the subject of the 1970 biography "Zelda," by Nancy Milford, which was pretty much required reading for those of us who read "Sexual Politics" and "The Female Eunuch" back then.

But back to Emma Cline and her Reetz-Laiol. They had what looks like a bad relationship for about 4 years, beginning when she was 20 and he was 33. According to the NY Magazine article, she "installed spy software on her own computer — a computer that Reetz-Laiolo occasionally used," because she wanted to spy on him, and she later sold that computer to him and continued to spy on him through that spyware after they broke up.
Her complaint says she did this because she knew he was cheating on her, because he was abusive, because she "could no longer distinguish the truth from ReetzLaiolo’s [sic] constant lies." 
If you knew he was cheating on you and he was abusive and lying at least some of the time, why wouldn't you just be done with him? Why embark on a creepy spying exercise?

It was after they broke up that Cline asked Reetz-Laiolo to read a draft of her novel, and he found things he considered plagiarism:
According to [Orly Lobel, a professor of law at the University of San Diego], most of these examples [of plagiarism] would not hold up in court. One instance includes the mention of the body brush, a personal grooming implement. In an earlier draft of the book, Cline included this sentence: “My mother spoke to Sal about body brushing, of the movement of energies around meridian points. The charts.” Reetz-Laiolo claimed this plagiarized a sentence that appeared in his short story, “Animals,” in Ecotone magazine: “Laurel in the morning brushing her body on the patio with a body brush, slowly combing it up her legs towards her heart, up her arms towards her heart. Circling her belly. There was something totemic about her out there in the sun.”

But Cline’s complaint stated that she owned a body brush. “The law does not allow you to own those kinds of ideas for art,” said Lobel. “There’s no copyright infringement there. It’s very clear that our whole history of art, of writing, of literature is built on paying homage to previous authors, other authors, being in conversation, and that’s actually part of what art is.”
I certainly agree with Lobel about that, but perhaps New York Magazine singled out the feeblest example of plagiarism. And, more importantly, every example of plagiarism Reetz-Laiolo complained about got excised before publication. You'd think, in our day, the man wouldn't be able to silence the woman like that, and these people were hardly F. Scott and Zelda. And yet, the threat of litigation intimidates publishers, and I'm not surprised to see the publisher (here, Random House) cave.
But Reetz-Laiolo had also asked Cline to remove a small section of the text that his complaint alleged resembled a section of his screenplay, a script she could only have read if she did, in fact, remotely hack into his computer. If the case does go to trial, this will likely be at the center of it, since it is the only instance of alleged plagiarism that made its way into the published version of The Girls. Lobel was skeptical of the plagiarism charge here as well, but if Reetz-Laiolo’s legal team is able to prove that Cline hacked into Reetz-Laiolo’s computer, Cline may be charged with something, though likely not plagiarism.
It's something much worse than plagiarism!
It’s important to note that Reetz-Laiolo hired Harvey Weinstein’s former law firm, Boies Schiller Flexner, and that the law firm used a trove of Cline’s personal documents — captured by the spyware program she installed on her own computer — to threaten Cline.
Oh, here's a plot!  Look how carefully the plot point is revealed: Aggressive, expensive lawyers (tainted by the villainous Harvey Weinstein), the woman's "personal documents," the woman threatened. But she's hoist by her own petard: the spyware! She was looking at him, but the spyware was looking at everyone. She preserved the evidence, and, going after him, she unleashed a robot who spied without any allegiance to her. Unlike a novelist, the electronic spy had no point of view. It generated relentless raw material, from which any author could cull material to use to tell a story from any point of view. And that includes those oft-disparaged authors — we call them lawyers — who write legal complaints.
Reetz-Laiolo’s complaint is threaded with salacious and humiliating details about Cline that are completely unrelated to any charge of plagiarism.... According to The New Yorker, an earlier draft of the complaint contained even more salacious details, including naked selfies, explicit chat messages, and a section called “Cline’s History of Manipulating Older Men,” which began like this: “[E]vidence shows that Cline was not the innocent and inexperienced naïf she portrayed herself to be, and had instead for many years maintained numerous ‘relations’ with older men and others, from whom she extracted gifts and money.”...

As Cline’s complaint noted, this earlier draft of Reetz-Laiolo’s lawsuit “followed an age-old playbook: it invoked the specter of sexual shame to threaten a woman into silence and acquiescence.”
But she spied on him! She invaded his privacy, and she invaded her own privacy. What should be done with these two? Imagine if a man had installed software on a computer that he left in the possession of a woman, and she took that computer with her into her life after she got away from him, and he spied on her through it for years and collected her writings and appropriated her stories for a book of his, which won acclaim. Would we be saying the woman was shaming the man? If the spyware collected embarrassing sexual material about him, would we be outraged that it became public after she decided to fight him for what he did or would we be laughing at him and calling it just deserts?

The New Yorker article is "How the Lawyer David Boies Turned a Young Novelist’s Sexual Past Against Her," by Sheelah Kolhatkar:
Cline’s attorneys were outraged by what they regarded as Boies Schiller’s attempt to use embarrassing sexual material that had nothing to do with the heart of the legal dispute to push her to settle the case. “I’m not going to speculate about their motives, but it was content that was completely inappropriate and ludicrous, just based on how sexually graphic it was, to put in a complaint,” Carrie Goldberg, who specializes in representing victims of revenge porn and other forms of harassment, and is one of several attorneys representing Cline in the case, told me. “Legal complaints are public record, and, basically, they’re saying, ‘Hey, if you don’t give us what our client wants, we’re going to put this very personal information out into the open, and the whole world is going to know the inner workings of your sex life and your sexual history and every proclivity that you have.’ ”...

In an e-mail to me on Thursday, Cline wrote, “I never, in any scenario, could have imagined publishing a novel would have resulted in a bunch of lawyers combing through records of my porn habits, or choosing which naked photo of me to include in a legal document. Whatever independence I gained, as a writer and as a person, felt meaningless in the face of this kind of onslaught.”....
Why couldn't she imagine that? She's a novelist. It would be a great idea for a novel. But some novelists need to see the raw material out there in real life, and their art is about taking that and making it into something really interesting and revealing about human nature. And wow, this is some fabulous raw material.

Whatever independence I gained, as a writer and as a person... Isn't that insanely hypocritical when you installed the spyware?!

"When writing about [Woody] Allen’s recent movies, I haven’t addressed the over-all question of whether we can (or should) separate the artist from the art."

"I’ve always considered that idea absurd" — writes Richard Brody (at The New Yorker) — "because the very quality that makes movies worthwhile is how they express the personality, the character, the ideas, the experiences of their makers. The problem with learning about the artist from the art is that artists sometimes reveal themselves to be troubled, troubling people, and bring to light their ugly traits, ideas, or even actions. The depth of a complex work that deals with horrific but authentic aspects of life is sometimes found in the artists’ personal implications in those parts of life. There has always been something sexually sordid in Allen’s work...."

There has always been something sexually sordid about sex. Woody Allen famously asked and answered: "Is sex dirty? Only when it's being done right."

But Brody is tasked to review the latest Woody Allen movie. The ancient Allen — he's 82 — keeps cranking out a movie every year, with the help of the very best actresses — this time it's Kate Winslet — who don't shun him, presumably because the roles are luscious. The actresses must play the parts as written, but Brody can deviate from the usual movie reviewer stance, and this New Yorker piece is titled "Watching Myself Watch Woody Allen Films." So I find myself watching Brody watching. It's about Brody's feeling, his virtue, his being on the correct side of history, now that we're so obviously in the midst of The Reckoning.

Brody says he doesn't "remember reading about the accusations" that Allen had molested his daughter Dylan until he read Dylan's 2014 op-ed in the NYT.  He concedes:
It’s entirely possible that I had seen a headline or heard news back then but wrongly dismissed the allegations as the sort of rumor that’s spread during a bitter custody dispute.
I'm searching the NYT archive, and there were dozens of articles back in 1993, but yes, if you kept your distance, it looked like a bitter custody dispute. Notice how Brody inserts the word "wrongly." It was wrong to think, I will look away from this messy divorce, because now, in The Reckoning, you are supposed to care about what took place in private and respond when anguished women cry out for help.
Mia Farrow testified yesterday that her 7-year-old daughter, Dylan, was so distraught over the relentless attention of her adoptive father, Woody Allen, that she frequently screamed, "Hide me! Hide me!" when he came to visit her, and twice locked herself in the bathroom to keep away from him....

"He would creep up in the morning and lay beside her bed and wait for her to wake up," Ms. Farrow testified, as Mr. Allen sat a few feet away in the courtroom, scribbling notes and tearing pages from a legal pad. "I thought it was excessive. I was uncomfortable all along."
That's from "Farrow Says Daughter Became Distraught Over Allen's Relentless Attention," a NYT report from 1993.

In The Reckoning, you must show that you care, not just now, but in the past, when you thought it was okay to ignore what happened in private — who really knows? it's "he said, she said" (as people used to say all the time in the old days). So Brody knows to say it would have been wrong at the time to dismiss the allegations if he heard them, but he doesn't remember hearing them. But he must have heard them. There were dozens of articles in the NYT in 1993. He had to have actively looked away. Brody is still seeking cover for his past callousness. How severe is this Reckoning? Does Brody have cover enough?

Brody has written an awful lot about Woody Allen. Just last year, he published "The Existential Genius of Late Woody Allen" (New Yorker). How much pressure does he feel to disaggregate himself — at this late hour — from Woody Allen? In his new article, Brody looks back on many Woody Allen films and notes the various sexual themes. He then makes an important — but really very obvious — point about art:
Of course, the recognition of evil feelings and impulses isn’t the sole dominion of criminals, and guilt isn’t solely the torment of gross offenders; the virtuous are all the more likely to feel guilt on the basis of ordinary personal failings, the inherent tensions and conflicts of even constructive family relationships, romances, and friendships, ordinary compromises at work, a sense of responsibility for mere day-to-day passivity, willed indifference, self-delusion. An artist who can illuminate those powerful, ubiquitous, destructive, morally complex feelings and dramatize them in a range of public and private contexts, from professional to artistic to domestic, is one whose work is worth experiencing. 
And then Brody expresses his annoyance that the artist who's doing the best work might not be fully innocent or even a very good person:
It’s a horrible paradox that the modern filmmaker who explores those emotions most relentlessly, most painfully, and most compellingly is one who is accused of doing things that would give him good reason to feel them.
Paradox?! It's not a paradox. I agree that it's horrible though. The person whose art you want to consume is bad. That's not at all surprising. That tends to be the way it goes with artists. You'll have to swear off art, if you want to keep yourself pure.

But Brody is a film reviewer. He has to see these movies, and he must believe that the job is to write about the thing that appears on the screen, not your moral judgments on the people who caused the thing to exist.

The new thing is "Wonder Wheel," and it has its anguished woman crying out for help:
Scattered throughout the film are hints of torments, as when Ginny suggests that Humpty has an “unnatural attachment” to Carolina; when Ginny, in a crisis of jealousy, berates Carolina with angry and frantic questions: “Did he try anything? Did he touch you? Did he take your hand? Did he do anything? Did he kiss you?”... “Wonder Wheel” virtually shrieks with confessional anguish and is scarred with indelible regret.
How to listen to these women crying out from inside a work of art? Brody might want to say: I'm an art critic and this is art and it's my role to watch movies and tell you about them. But like a character in a Woody Allen movie, I've got a conscience, and I'm watching me watching Woody.

Like a movie, an article about movies needs and ending an here's what Brody gives us:
The world that [Woody Allen] depicts in his films is one in which the powerful abuse their power to prey upon the vulnerable and, until now, have, for the most part, gotten away with it. It’s also a world that, because of the courageous testimony of women including, crucially, Dylan Farrow, is now coming to light and, perhaps, to change.
Is that a satisfying ending for "Watching Myself Watch Woody Allen Films." No! The character, Richard Brody, absents himself from his own story. He endorses the "courageous... women" and retreats back into the dark, as if now, he's done enough, and he can get back to watching those movies without having to watch himself.

December 1, 2017

The December swim.


Labrador style:


"These new FBI documents show the FBI was more concerned about a whistleblower who told the truth about the infamous Clinton-Lynch tarmac meeting than the scandalous meeting itself."

"The documents show the FBI worked to make sure no more details of the meeting would be revealed to the American people. No wonder the FBI didn’t turn these documents over until Judicial Watch caught the agency red-handed hiding them. These new documents confirm the urgent need to reopen the Clinton email scandal and criminally investigate the resulting Obama FBI/DOJ sham investigation."

Said said Judicial Watch President Tom Litton, quoted in "Judicial Watch Releases 29 Pages of FBI Clinton-Lynch Tarmac Meeting Documents Previously Withheld by Justice Department."

"The block was symbolic of history, the history of art, which I am trying to free myself from."

"I discovered that it is not possible to free yourself from the history of art. It is a burden which I must always carry. That is the symbolic meaning of the marble."

Said the Belgian performance artist who was chained to a block of marble and spent 19 days chipping away at the marble before calling in his helpers to saw the chain.

I don't get the symbolism, which seems to be after the fact bullshit. He chose to get chained to the marble block, so he began free of it. And his ultimate escape came in the form of sawing the chain. What did the chain symbolize? He had 19 days to think about that. It seems to me that if he had succeeded in chipping the marble down to the level where the chain was freed, he'd still have the problem of being in chains and would have needed the same help getting out of the chains. But at least he could talk after an annoying 19-day experience.

Study blames law enforcement for the injuries and death at the Charlottesville protests.

USA Today reports:
“This represents a failure of one of government’s core functions — the protection of fundamental rights,” reads the 220-page report from Timothy Heaphy, a former U.S. attorney who reviewed the protest for the town's city council. “Law enforcement also failed to maintain order and protect citizens from harm, injury and death.”

Among the report's findings:

• Charlottesville police didn’t ensure separation between counter-protesters and so called alt-right protesters upset with the city council’s decision to remove the Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park.

• Officers weren’t stationed along routes to the park, but instead remained behind barricades in relatively empty zones.

• City police didn’t adequately coordinate with Virginia State Police, and authorities were unable to communicate via radio.

• State police didn’t share a formal planning document with city police, “a crucial failure.”

• Officers were inadequately equipped to respond to the clashes between the two groups, and tactical gear was not accessible to officers.

"Michael Flynn Expected to Plead Guilty to Lying to the F.B.I."

The NYT reports.

I think the expression is "shocked, shocked."

"Matt Lauer's ex-wife Nancy Alspaugh ‘shocked’ by sexual assault allegations."

You have to say the word twice.

The news in blackface.

1. "Men in blackface invade council meeting, school in support of racist Santa's helper Black Pete" (Daily News):
Tradition from the 19th century holds that Pete is a goofy and inept servant from Spain, with white Dutch people wearing blackface, painting their lips red to make them fuller and wearing curly wigs to simulate someone of African descent....

Larger cities such as Amsterdam have changed their parades to remove any racial signifiers to Pete amid debate over racism in recent years, with some creating a Soot Pete who has dirt on his face because he climbs down chimneys.

Demonstrators hold signs reading "Black Pete is Rascism" and "Free Black Pete" during a demonstration against Zwarte Piet in Amsterdam. But a group of men dressed as the “traditional” Black Petes have injected themselves into this year’s back-and-forth about the caricature by bringing it uninvited to a school in the city of Utrecht.
2. "Another Makeup Artist Did Black Face — And He Doesn't Think It's Wrong/Common sense is not that common these days" (Buzzed). "Russian makeup artist @notcatart uploaded a video where he goes from 'light to dark' because he 'loves skin of all colors'... and his dream is to have dark skin because he's 'fucking white'":
3. "On [the November 12th episode of] Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Kim faced backlash after fans online claimed she was in blackface in her KKW Beauty ads" (EW).
"Oh my gosh. I'm seeing these photos from the campaign, the ones that we took. And people online are saying that I'm doing blackface but I would never in a million years be disrespectful and do that," Kim said.
4. "A London-based tattoo artist is facing criticism online after deciding to cover her body completely in solid black tattoos...." (Allure).
Though [Belle] Atrix has referred to her body art as "a new black blanket of skin," she doesn't agree that the blackening of her skin constitutes racism: Following several commenters’ accusations on her July video, the freelance tattoo artist wrote, "Racist?? How the hell could it be interpreted as racist [emoji laughing faces] It’s a tattoo!"...

In an email to Allure, Atrix explained her interest in blackwork began as a form of therapy to get through a period of "deep distress" when her father was sick. "It became my only true form of comfort and solace and has really helped me a lot," she writes. "I love the ritualistic practice of it and the phenomenal strength and mental calm it brings me, a very powerful type of meditation which I have grown to love.... I think some people who aren't from the tattooing community aren't educated in the tribal origins of blackwork," she continues. "I'm from a mixed race family...."
5. "To this day, my pet peeve is when my skin tone is changed and my freckles are airbrushed out of a photo shoot," Meghan Markle told Allure. "For all my freckle-faced friends out there, I will share with you something my dad told me when I was younger: ‘A face without freckles is a night without stars.'" (I know this one is arguably off-topic, but it flows from the last sentence of #4, it talks about changing "skin tone," and I feel a special personal identification with people of freckle.)

"Wife says: WTF--next abusive men will decorate their cocks and call it 'innocent Christmas fun' as they expose themselves to women..."

"... and what the heck has it got to do with the celebration of Christ's birth people---Is everyone on this planet NUTS??? I have never commented before, but this really riled me...along with everyone using the word Bitch and thinking it's perfectly folks, it derogatory toward women--get a grip!!!!"

An apt comment at a Buzzfeed article titled (I'm not kidding), "18 Christmas Boobs That Are The Actual Reason For The Season/Deck the boobs with boughs of holly."

How does stuff like this persist in the era of #MeToo/The Reckoning?

Possibly related: "BuzzFeed Layoffs Could Be A Huge Bellwether For Digital Media/Jonah Peretti’s digital media empire is laying off 8% of its staff, a sign that some of its best efforts to diversify are not panning out as planned" (Fast Company).

ADDED: Of course, Buzzfeed has a woman doing the article, making it okay. The woman is Delaney Strunk (any relation to Strunk of Strunk and White?). I clicked on her name to see what else she's been providing to the Buzzfeed enterprise, and I had to laugh at "'Complicit' Has Officially Been Named The Word Of The Year And The Shade Is Thick." Complicit?! You're complicit.

Liberal media pats Jimmy Kimmel on the back for helping Roy Moore get elected.

That's not what they think he did. They think he was brilliant and really drove home the awfulness of Roy Moore. But that's what he did. I mean, if I know Alabamans, and I don't, really. Tell me if I'm wrong, but I think this kind of thing exalts Roy Moore in the eyes of the relevant electorate.

Emily Yahr, at Washington Post, does a phenomenal job of showing how it looks inside the liberal cocoon, in "Read Jimmy Kimmel’s scathing response to Roy Moore after their ‘Twitter war.'"

The Jimmy Kimmel show sent its comedian down to Alabama to disrupt a Roy Moore rally that was taking place in Magnolia Springs Baptist Church in Theodore, Alabama. That gave Roy Moore the opportunity to put up this tweet:

That tweet gave Jimmy Kimmel the opportunity to put himself at the center of the important Senate race, and he did it in a way that is powerfully viral to Moore haters:

Kimmel did a great job, within his own realm, playing to his audience, going viral through the Washington Post and other liberal media outlets, but I think it will help Roy Moore in Alabama. I don't want to say comedians should restrain themselves lest they skew an election. I want vibrant, vicious comedy that flies free from political practicalities. But I think Jimmy Kimmel just helped Roy Moore a lot.

Now, is the Washington Post stupid not to go into the political downside of Kimmel's comedy? Maybe not. Maybe it's choosing to amuse and soothe its readers, and it's all for the good of circulation. It's too late to undo what Kimmel did, and the clip is viral whether WaPo participates in the vitality or not, and if it doesn't, it risks looking dull and unaware of what's happening in pop-culture media. And anyway, they already knew by yesterday that Roy Moore had made it through his ordeal so it was okay to give up on trying to affect the election and move on to the painful enjoyment of hating the new Senator.

"If God were the ocean, you'd be a cup of God."

Sorry, I can't put that in context, because Oprah — who interviewed Russell Simmons into saying that — has taken down the 3 videos of Simmons that used to play on her SuperSoul page:

"Music mogul Russell Simmons openly admits that he first started taking yoga classes to flirt with attractive women...." But guess what he tells Oprah? You'll have to guess, because Oprah took the video down, but I bet it's some blather about the spiritual power of yoga. (Of course, if a man takes yoga to "flirt with attractive women," he's going to tell them he believes in the spiritual power of yoga. The "flirting" would only work if the women didn't think you were only there for access to them. I assume men who don't maintain the pretense of believing in yoga get kicked out of these classes.)

But what did Russell Simmons do? Here's Jenny Lumet's essay: "Russell Simmons sexually violated me." That came out after the L.A. Times published "Russell Simmons and Brett Ratner face new allegations of sexual misconduct" ("Keri Claussen Khalighi was a 17-year-old fashion model from a farm town in Nebraska when she met Brett Ratner and Russell Simmons at a casting call...").

And here's an Atlantic article "The Pierced Piety of Russell Simmons/The hip-hop mogul’s public righteousness pushed two women to tell stories of his alleged mistreatment of them in the ’90s."
Simmons is associated with two things in the public mind: the drive, grit, and party-hard lifestyle that accompanied the rise of hip-hop, and his newer public idealism involving spirituality, veganism, charity, and progressive politics. But [his 2 accusers] Khalighi and Lumet clearly saw something false, worryingly so, in the narrative Simmons had been peddling. His supposed commitment to the #MeToo movement already was revealed to have its limits when he told the actor Terry Crews to give “a pass” to an agent Crews accused of groping him. Now Simmons joins the growing list of men who have taken high-minded stances in public only to be accused of doing monstrous things in private.

Some Simmons supporters might respond to the allegations against him by saying that he is not the man he was in the ’90s. But even before these women came forward, Simmons cheerfully stood as an example of how publicly performed “consciousness” can fail to extend to matters of the flesh. For a 2012 Forbes profile that touched on his womanizing ways, he said, “It was the last problem for Lord Buddha before enlightenment. I go to the classes, but I’m still looking at asses.” The Los Angeles Times article about Khalighi highlighted a passage in his 2014 book Success Through Stillness that said he’d transcended his former identity as a man “constantly on a mission to make more money, have sex with more women, and snort more coke than the next man.” But, Russell had added, he was “still working on the women part.”
AND: Remember something I said last week, when we were talking about the question why so many men have been ruined over sex allegations, but Trump has held his ground. I put out 4 theories at the time, but here's the one that has special relevance in the case of Russell Simmons:
Many of the new targets of allegations are people who had seemed to be male allies of the women's movement, and it's the lying and the hypocrisy that bothers us the most. The accusations against Trump seem only to reinforce what we already saw on the surface of Trump: brash exuberance, wanting plenty of good things for himself, excitement over beautiful women, impoliteness. The new allegations don't take us back to the Trump allegations because Trump wasn't accepted as an ally of feminism. He seems to represent the old school, male chauvinism. That's a different category and not what we're paying attention to right now.

Why the man who shot the bullet that killed Kate Steinle was acquitted.

I'm reading "Have We Been Lied To About The Kate Steinle Case?," which relies heavily on the write-up in The San Francisco Chronicle.

I must admit that my mental picture — based on hearing Donald Trump and other politicians exploit the incident — was of a monster who just walked up to a young woman and shot her in the head.

But the defense — which only had to raise reasonable doubt  — presented a picture of a man who had just found a gun and a gun that went off accidentally. There was evidence that the gun was a type of gun that is easy to fire accidentally if you don't know how to handle it and that the bullet that killed Steinle was not aimed at her but ricocheted off the pavement. In this scenario, the randomness of the victim is no longer a reason to think of the man (Garcia Zarate) as a monster but more evidence that he didn't mean to do it.

November 30, 2017

At the Bittersweet Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

And shop all you want through the Althouse Amazon Portal.

Meade brought that bittersweet home, after helping a neighbor do some pruning. I clipped it into shape and got it into the vase, which was weirdly hard to do. Bittersweet gets entwined with itself, and the orange berries fall off if you try to disentangle it, get rid of the empty sticks, and coax things into an upright posture.

"Ann, I wonder if you and Meade believe it's worth it to stay in Madison now that you are retired."

"One of many reasons we left Seattle after my husband retired was for lower property taxes," writes mockturtle in the comments to my post about the GOP tax bill, where I mention that Meade and I pay more than $17,000 in property taxes on our house in Madison.

We're still here, so that means that so far with think it's worth it, but the high property tax does bother us, and when we think about where else we might want to live, taxation is a factor. But I care a lot about living somewhere that is interesting to me, and I want a house where I can walk out the door and, right from that point, have many interesting walks.

One of the places I'd consider is the one mockturtle says she left: Seattle. Washington State has the benefit of no income tax, but obviously the revenue must be found in some other way.

Sure, there are lots of places with low taxes, but name one where I'd enjoy living. We have many things here that we love, and I would not move to a worse place. $17,000 is a lot, but only the last $X thousand is spent on things I'd carve off the budget if I were given the power to structure the whole thing. And if they tried to hand that power over to me, I wouldn't even take it. That's not my line of work and not my expertise or my joy in life.

A community is a package deal. Some things you like and some things you don't. If it gets too off balance, you might leave, but only if somewhere else is better. You have to live somewhere. We've had a lot great times here. It's a beautiful neighborhood, and I can walk to 3 lakes from here. There are trees and nice architecture and shops and restaurants. I can walk to downtown. There are bike paths all over. Meade loves the mountain bike trails. We could look at the shortcomings, like the fact that the city is taking maybe an extra $500 a month from us to do things we would not do, but when we look at the good, it's close to paradise.

Maybe somewhere else is close to paradise too. Tell us about a place and maybe we will rent an apartment there and spend some time living there and give it a chance (and ultimately uproot ourselves and relocate). But we're not going to go somewhere just to improve our household budget by $500 a month (or even $2,000 a month). It's got to offer great walks, beginning at our doorstep, beautiful scenery, and a real sense of place.

Goodbye to Jim Nabors, the beloved Gomer.

Here's Gomer at his best (along with Barney Fife at his best):

The law's the law!

Nabors, who was 87, died peacefully at home with his husband, Stan Cadwallader.
"Everybody knows he was a wonderful man. And that's all we can say about him. He's going to be dearly missed," Cadwallader said.
ADDED: Gomer left Mayberry and joined the Marines, and let's not forget how his hilarious voice got super serious and elevated when he sang:

(This funny voice/serious singing combination has him mixed up in my head with Crazy Guggenheim.)

"We’re in the midst of a reckoning. It’s what toxic masculinity’s own medicine tastes like."

"And people should allow the consequences to unfold, regardless of how it affects those they consider to be friends. The only way to enforce seismic, cultural change in the way men relate to women is to draw a line deep in the sand and say: This is what we will no longer tolerate. You’re either with our bodies or against our bodies. The punishment for harassment is you disappear. The punishment for rape is you disappear. The punishment for masturbation in front of us is you disappear. The punishment for coercion is you disappear."

Writes Amber Tamblyn in a NYT op-ed... before going on to clarify that "no one is saying a disappearance from the public eye has to be forever." She's "not talking about banishment," just "about ceding the floor." These men just have to "disappear for the time being so that all women see and believe that consequences do exist." Harvey Weinstein can never come back, but Louis C.K. can:
When he goes back out on that standup tour someday, I’ll role [sic] my eyes and say, ‘All right, get on with it, then.’ But for now, his old power is over. He’s going to have to find a new power if he ever wants to come back.

Arrested for wearing a top hat.

From "Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature," by Marion Rankine:
People’s resistance to new ideas extended beyond umbrellas (and mackintoshes and, when the time came, windscreen wipers). As Lou Carver reports in Victoriana Magazine, when John Hetherington donned one of the nation’s first top hats in 1797, the reaction on the street was so extreme that the unfortunate gentleman was arrested and charged with wearing “a tall structure having a shining luster calculated to frighten timid people.” His hat had attracted such a crowd that women fainted, children screamed, dogs howled and an errand boy fell and broke his arm. Yet forty years later, no gentleman would be seen without one.

"I am a liberal, and liberalism is the politics of kindness. Liberals stand for tolerance, magnanimity, community spirit..."

"... the defense of the weak against the powerful, love of learning, freedom of belief, art and poetry, city life, the very things that make America worth dying for."

Those words of Garrison Keillor, from the book "Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts from the Heart of America." I'm reading that today — the day after Keillor's downfall — just by chance. I'm listening to the audiobook "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion," and the author, Jonathan Haidt, offers that Keillor quote as "captur[ing] the spirit and self-image of the modern American left." Haidt adds: "I’m not sure how many Americans have sacrificed their lives for kindness and poetry...."

I could talk about what a phony Garrison Keillor is — "plain thoughts," indeed — or go on at length about the excellence of Haidt's book, but what I did was Google "Who died for poetry?," and that got me to an article titled "The Man Who Died for Poetry":
When Osip Mandelstam died at age 47 in a Siberian work camp under the Stalin regime, he became one of twentieth-century poetry's most famous martyrs. Vastly talented and fearlessly subversive, he is perhaps best remembered for his scathing "Stalin Epigram," the poem that sealed his fate....

[Christian Wiman, the translator]: We think of Mandelstam as the quintessential twentieth-century European poet, hounded to death by an out-of-control state and writing poems of fierce, poignant protest. He was that, of course, but he was also, right up to the end, funny and friendly and crazed in the best sense. Poetry was fun for him.... Honestly, I think it's this pure and irrepressible lyric spirit that drove Stalin mad, even more than the famous poem that Mandelstam wrote in mockery of Stalin. Mandelstam—his gift and the untamable nature of it—was like a thorn in Stalin's brain....
Here's "The Stalin Epigram" (by different translators, W.S. Merlin and Clarence Brown):

"When Drake realized he had been caught on-camera pouring a delicious-looking can of pink-grapefruit Perrier into a cup at a Toronto Raptors game..."

".... did he panic because he realized he was, in that moment, inadvertently becoming a meme? Or did he panic in order to become a meme?"

I don't know, but... very charming, quite a talent:

When you get called to the principals office... @champagnepapi | #WeTheNorth

A post shared by Toronto Raptors (@raptors) on

"The White House has developed a plan to force out Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson, whose relationship with President Trump has been strained..."

"... and replace him with Mike Pompeo, the C.I.A. director, within the next several weeks, senior administration officials said on Thursday," the NYT reports.

"Tony Hovater, the white nationalist and Nazi sympathizer featured in a controversial New York Times article this weekend, said he lost his job..."

"... and would soon lose his home following a swift backlash over the article. Hovater, a 29-year-old Ohio resident, told The Washington Post on Wednesday that he has been fired from his job and that he and his wife, Maria, are in the process of moving out of their home in New Carlisle, Ohio, for financial and safety reasons. They could no longer afford to pay the rent, he said, and somebody had published their home address online. 'It’s not for the best to stay in a place that is now public information,' he said, adding later: 'We live alone. No one else is there to watch the house while I’m away.'"

Take into account that Hovater is pushing a GoFundMe page (but it's collected very little money). From that page: "Despite the incessant claims that the [NYT] was attempting to 'humanize' Mr. Hovater and paint him in a positive light, the article resulted in a smear campaign against Tony and his bride. Communists, Antifa, and general basement-dwelling ne'er-do-wells set to work immediately, identifying their place of employment and harrassing their management into terminating them. Unfortunately, as a result, the Hovaters are suddenly without an income and are going to have to leave their home."

If this is wrong, I'd like to see the NYT refute it.

ADDED: I think — I don't know — that the NYT is expressing concern about taxpayers who itemize and have a big state-and-local tax deduction. I'm one of those taxpayers, but I used an on-line calculator that showed that my household would save around $1000 a year under the GOP plan. And we pay over $17,000 a year in property taxes alone. The new standard deduction is that big. So it looks as though there are a lot of people who currently itemize, who'll just be better off taking the standard deduction. Then there are the many many people — the majority of taxpayers — who are already taking the standard deduction and who'll get a much larger standard deduction. Why isn't the NYT happy for these people? I suspect — again, I haven't figured it out — that the NYT is looking at all the people who just don't owe much income tax. Once you've got your taxable income down to nothing, it doesn't matter how much more you could have deducted. So those people get nothing out of the bigger standard deduction.

In 2012, the whole "Today" show gang made light of sexual harassment and impugned the motives of women who complain about it.

It's funny how not funny that is today, but I want to call attention to is the strange level of awareness/unawareness that seems to have prevailed at NBC. I suspect this little sketch grew out of the inside joke that Matt Lauer was a problem. There's something awfully creepy about the way the women on the couch play along and act delighted about the fun of it all.

And notice the lines given to Lauer, who is put in the female role in the encounter:
“I’m upset for a couple of reasons. One, that he denied it. I mean, why deny it? I mean, if you do it, own up to it. And secondly, since it happened, he hasn’t called, he hasn’t written. Nothing."
The interviewer prompts: "That may be the worst part of all." And Lauer says meaningfully (in a manner clearly intended to question the integrity of women who complain about sexual harassment): "The abandonment."

November 29, 2017

Donald Trump will tell you this in a nonbraggadocious way.

The crowd — at a rally in St. Charles, Missouri — gets him, eats it up. Unfathomable rapport.

Jump in.

Judge Roy Moore unleashes the hashtags.

"Scott Adams shows you how President Trump used visual persuasion to make CNN spread his persuasion."

Another liberal icon falls: Garrison Keillor.

"Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) is terminating its contracts with Garrison Keillor and his private media companies after recently learning of allegations of his inappropriate behavior with an individual who worked with him."
Last month, MPR was notified of the allegations which relate to Mr. Keillor's conduct while he was responsible for the production of A Prairie Home Companion (APHC). MPR President Jon McTaggart immediately informed the MPR Board Chair, and a special Board committee was appointed to provide oversight and ongoing counsel....

MPR will end its business relationships with Mr. Keillor's media companies effective immediately. By terminating the contracts, MPR and American Public Media (APM) will: end distribution and broadcast of The Writer's Almanac and rebroadcasts of The Best of A Prairie Home Companion hosted by Garrison Keillor; change the name of APM's weekly music and variety program hosted by Chris Thile; and, separate from the Pretty Good Goods online catalog and the website.
ADDED: Keillor created a folksy character for himself, but if I ever believed it was anything like his real-life self, I quit believing that in 1993 when Spy Magazine pranked him (click to enlarge and read):

ALSO: From the NYT:
In his statement on Wednesday, Mr. Keillor said he was “deeply grateful” for the saga of Lake Wobegon and for all his years doing his radio programs and his tours, as well as the friendships of musicians and actors.

"I’m 75,” he said, “and don’t have any interest in arguing about this. I cannot in conscience bring danger to a great organization I’ve worked hard for since 1969,” he said. He also apologized to “all the poets whose work I won’t be reading on the radio and sorry for the people who will lose work on account of this.”...

“‘Prairie Home Companion’ came on the scene just as public radio was trying to figure out what its identity was,” Ira Glass, the host of “This American Life,” told The New York Times last year. “The fact that here was such a visibly weird, funny, idiosyncratic show opened up the space of other weird, idiosyncratic shows, like ‘Car Talk,’ and our show.”
We still have Ira Glass.

With Matt Lauer ousted from "Today" over an allegation of sexual harassment, it's a good time to remember the furious political bias charges Hillary Clinton made against him...

... in her book "What Happened." It was so bad, she said "Trump should have reported [Lauer's] performance as an in-kind contribution":
It was disappointing but predictable that [Matt Lauer] had so quickly steered the supposedly high-minded “Commander in Chief Forum” to the subject of emails, months after the director of the FBI had announced there was no case and closed the investigation. I understood that every political reporter wanted his or her pound of flesh... If Lauer intended to ask Trump tough questions, he had to make a show of grilling me, too.

Of course, that isn’t balanced at all—because balanced doesn’t mean strictly equal. It means reasonable.... If Trump ripped the shirt off someone at a rally and a button fell off my jacket on the same day, the headline “Trump and Clinton Experience Wardrobe Malfunctions, Campaigns in Turmoil” might feel equal to some, but it wouldn’t be balanced, and it definitely wouldn’t be fair....

I launched into my standard answer on the emails... Instead of moving on to any of a hundred urgent national security issues... Lauer stayed on emails....

"Busy day at the CFPB. Digging into the details."

I'm glad Mick Mulvaney — who won a big lawsuit yesterday — has such an unprepossessing office.

That's the first time I've used the word "unprepossessing" in the entire 50,000+ posts on this blog. I did quote it once, in "A 'balding, blunt, unprepossessing, listed-at-5-foot-7 policy wonk would be a strong contender to take on President Barack Obama...." That was in 2010, and the unprepossessing guy — "the un-Obama" — was Mitch Daniels, whom I'd hope to see get the GOP nomination in 2012. I was interested in moving away from adulation of an icon and toward humility and modesty and workmanlike ordinariness. That didn't happen in 2012 and it sure didn't happen in 2016. I don't know why our politics has gotten so over-inflated and dramatic. I can't answer that. I'm just saying I like Mick Mulvaney's office. And by "office," I mean the physical place, not the abstraction of power.

"Praljak is not a criminal. I reject your verdict. I just drank poison. I am not a war criminal. I oppose this conviction."

Said the former Bosnian Croat general, Slobodan Praljak, pausing, after "I reject your verdict," to drink from a small brown bottle. The scene was a UN tribunal in The Hague. Praljak had just heard that his 20-year sentence for war crimes had been upheld.

Praljak died, The Guardian reports. What were the facts of the crime?
Praljak was charged with ordering the destruction of Mostar’s 16th-century bridge in November 1993, which judges in the first trial had said “caused disproportionate damage to the Muslim civilian population.”... In their ruling, the judges allowed part of Praljak’s appeal, saying the bridge had been a legitimate military target during the conflict. They also overturned some of his convictions, but refused to reduce his overall sentence....
Here is a photograph showing the bridge as it looked in 1974:

The bridge was rebuilt in 2004 to look like this:

Both photos are from the Wikipedia article, "Stari Most."

"A share bicycle graveyard viewed from the air in Xiamen, south-east China."

A fantastic photograph.

From "Chinese bike share graveyard a monument to industry's 'arrogance'/Future of dockless bicycles under a cloud amid concerns there are too many bikes and not enough demand" (The Guardian).

"There are two sides to this coin. We have to own up to the fact that women, since time immemorial, have gone out of their way to make themselves attractive."

"And unfortunately it has backfired on us — and this is where we are today. We must sometimes take blame, women. I really do think that. Although it’s awful to say we can’t make ourselves look as attractive as possible without being knocked down and raped."

Said Angela Lansbury, quoted by Gabriella Paiella in New York Magazine, who identifies her as "a veteran actress, a proud socialist, and an all-around international treasure" and informs us that she's getting trashed in social media. Paiella delivers Lansbury's age like a punchline: "In related news, Angela Lansbury is 92 years old."

There's just about exactly as much ageism in that last sentence as there is sexism in Lansbury's remark. But Paiella probably thinks the ageism is okay, because she's patting Lansbury on the head and defending her from the mean people on social media, but it's patronizing, and it's very similar to the traditional style of patronizing that women have long experienced, when were were marginalized and told — if we attempted to weigh in on a serious issue of the day — don't you worry your pretty little head.

"But David Letterman remains the man with the best timing on earth. I think they actually just did a tribute to him the other night!!"

Writes MayBee in the comments to the first post of the day, "Sexual harassment claim filed Monday night, and Wednesday morning, Matt Lauer is fired from his longtime job as co-anchor of the 'Today' show."

She's right about the tribute. Here's the announcement from the (aptly named!) Kennedy Center:
On Sunday, October 22, 2017, an outstanding lineup of entertainers gathered in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall to salute David Letterman, recipient of the 20th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The Prize, which is named to honor one of the world's greatest humorists, was given at a gala performance featuring some of the biggest names in comedy, and taped for broadcast nationwide.
Here, you can watch the whole effusive extravaganza. It was on PBS. I haven't watched it, so I don't know if there were any allusions or outright smirking about the outrageous sexual harassment story Letterman weathered in 2009, but it's all about timing in comedy, so it was very funny to see "Al Franken cut from PBS broadcast of David Letterman tribute."

Here's a Vanity Fair article from 2009, "Letterman and Me/One of the few women ever to write for Late Night with David Letterman, the author (a longtime V.F. contributor) remembers a hostile, sexually charged atmosphere. What’s to be done? Start by breaking late night’s all-male gag order," by Nell Scovell:
... Late Night was my dream job.... Without naming names or digging up decades-old dirt, let’s address the pertinent questions. Did Dave hit on me? No. Did he pay me enough extra attention that it was noted by another writer? Yes. Was I aware of rumors that Dave was having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Was I aware that other high-level male employees were having sexual relationships with female staffers? Yes. Did these female staffers have access to information and wield power disproportionate to their job titles? Yes. Did that create a hostile work environment? Yes. Did I believe these female staffers were benefiting professionally from their personal relationships? Yes. Did that make me feel demeaned? Completely. Did I say anything at the time? Sadly, no.

Here’s what I did: I walked away from my dream job.... On my last day at Late Night, Dave summoned me to his office and pressed me on why I was quitting the show. I considered telling him the truth, but with Dave’s rumored mistress within earshot, I balked. Instead, I told him I missed L.A. Dave said, “You’re welcome back anytime.”
ADDED: Here's how I handled the story at the time, in 2009, "Is it really so terrible that David Letterman has a bachelor pad in the building where he tapes his show?"

One week it's Charlie Rose, 2 weeks later it's Matt Lauer. The morning-show man left standing is George Stephanopoulos.

Do these shows need a man? A week ago, NY Magazine ran "How Will CBS Replace Charlie Rose?" which doesn't assume that a man must replace Rose. Perhaps to take that position openly is to embrace sex discrimination. Even if you think it, you shouldn't say it, especially during The Reckoning.

And yet these morning shows seem to be so much about emotionally bonding with these hosts. I'm saying that from a distance. I've never watched any of them (except in brief clips that occasionally make the news). Isn't it a question of who the viewers — mostly women? — want to wake up with? I believe that's the way these shows used to be talked about. But now, perhaps, that kind of discussion is politically incorrect.

The NY Magazine article does refer to gender at the very end, but only like this:
Letting O’Donnell and King handle the show themselves would also save money, no small thing in an age of ever-shrinking network bottom lines. Oh, and it would send a perhaps not-subtle message: Two women can do just fine anchoring a morning show themselves.

Sexual harassment claim filed Monday night, and Wednesday morning, Matt Lauer is fired from his longtime job as co-anchor of the "Today" show.

There is zero tolerance in The Reckoning. Lauer is just summarily out on his ass, with his co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, announcing the news and morning the "dear, dear friend":

“How do you reconcile your love for someone with the revelation that they have behaved badly?” Guthrie asks. Answer: You get in line with The Reckoning. Once the allegation is made, the diseased part of the corporate body must be lopped off like a gangrenous limb.

Here's the NYT article:
“On Monday night, we received a detailed complaint from a colleague about inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace by Matt Lauer,” Andrew Lack, the NBC News president, said in the memo. He said the allegation against Mr. Lauer “represented, after serious review, a clear violation of our company’s standards. As a result, we’ve decided to terminate his employment. “While it is the first complaint about his behavior in the over 20 years he’s been at NBC News, we were also presented with reason to believe this may not have been an isolated incident.”
Monday night to Wednesday morning — that's less than 2 days of investigation and opportunity for Lauer to defend himself. The interests of the entity, NBC, are put above any fairness to Lauer, because otherwise, what's the rush?

We're not even told what Lauer is accused of doing. NBC just wants us to know that it is clean. The problem is solved.

Meanwhile, President Trump isn't about containing the damage. He'd like to extend it:

ADDED: Maybe NBC was happy to get an opportunity to break its contract with Matt Lauer. He managed to get a 2-year deal — at 2018 — despite all the criticism he got for asking Hillary Clinton some tough questions NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum on September 8, 2016. Fortune reported on November 30th:
News of the deal follows a season of turmoil for the morning program, as well as for Lauer, who suffered heavy criticism after a disastrous interview with then-presidential candidate Donald Trump on NBC’s Commander-in-Chief Forum in September. (Lauer failed to push back on a series of false statements Trump made during that interview, which spurred a broader conversation about journalists’ responsibility to factcheck politicians.)
So the framing after the election was Lauer wasn't tough enough on Trump, but I remember people saying he was too tough on Hillary. And at the time, I blogged:
Trump won the coin flip and got to choose to go second. Matt Lauer offered a ground rule, that neither candidate should use his/her time to attack the other. Clinton broke the rule in the end, and Lauer called attention to that, both to Hillary and at the beginning of Trump's turn. She was a fool to open the door, and Trump walked right through it.

Lauer was harder on Trump, interrupting and getting harsh with him. But Trump didn't let that faze him, and compared to Hillary, who was ploddingly severe and robotic, he was very good.
And I'd also said (before watching the whole thing):
I think Lauer thinks he has what it takes to performatively demonstrate his confident, alpha-male TV show character. I've only watched clips from the forum, and I found it off-putting, because Lauer was so disrespectful — interrupting and bullying — and the difference in how he treated Trump and Hillary makes his lack of professional journalistic gravitas glare.

Why did he decided to act that way instead of adopting a neutral demeanor and working through serious, substantive questions that would expose Trump's limitations? Maybe:

1. Lauer doesn't have the wit and heft to play the role of serious journalist on TV.

2. Lauer genuinely believed he could win a round of that old TV game show "Quien Es Mas Macho?"
The confident, alpha-male TV show character is just not the style these days, and anyway, what good was it, if it couldn't take Trump down?

November 28, 2017

At the Sunset Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

And consider shopping at Amazon through the Althouse portal.

Jann Wenner "swears his bohemian mother once called him 'the worst child she had ever met.'"

From "The Licentious Life and Times of Jann Wenner," a NYT review of the book "STICKY FINGERS/The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine." Wenner also said that when divorcing, each of his 2 parents fought to get the other to take this terrible child. The mother took the 2 daughters and the father got stuck with the boy.

From the book:
Weiner began a campaign to get his parents back together.... "Your demand that Dad and I be something to each other that we're not, is basically a child's demand," she wrote to him in 1959, when Wenner was thirteen. "One stamps one's foot and says, 'Change the world and I will be all right!" and it's a nice comforting thought to have, or rather, only one thing that you can change, and that is yourself." ("Maternally yours," she signed the letter.)
I haven't read the book, just that part. I don't know if Wenner's mother really did call him "the worst child [I've] ever met." He said she did, but he seems like a liar or at least someone who'd put his own gloss on a story, but I think the funniest word in the phrase is "met" — as if her own child was one of a large number of acquaintances. It fits with the idea that he is "the worst," as if the comparison to the other children had nothing to do with her. She's just looking on and observing that Jann is the worst of the bunch. If he is the worst, surely her role in his formation — however small — was enough to make him worse than the next-to-the-worst.

But he's responsible for himself, she told him in that "Maternally yours" letter she wrote when he was 13. It takes a lot of nerve for a mother to say that. Most mothers, I think, feel that any badness in their children is our own badness, carried out into the world and doing damage that weighs on our reputation even as it is beyond our control.

Phrase I did not expect to read in The Washington Post.

"While I looked at the top of Blake’s dark-blond head between my knees..."

That's from an essay called "My life as a divorced woman is nothing like ‘Wild’ or ‘Eat, Pray, Love'" in a section of the paper called "Solo-ish."

What sane person would think the life a divorced woman is like "Wild" or "Eat, Pray, Love"? We don't need essays telling us that ordinary life is ordinary, so you have to tart up the obvious somehow, but I really didn't need to think about the author's perspective looking down on the top of Blake’s dark-blond head between her knees.

And I wonder what we'd think of a divorced man who wrote an essay about his life and began by sharing the thoughts he had as he looked down on the dark-blond head of some woman attending to his genitals.

"Don’t get in the elevator with him, you know, and the whole every female in the press corps knew that, right, don’t get in elevator with him."

"Now people are saying it out loud. And I think that does make a difference."

Said newswoman Cokie Roberts, speaking about John Conyers. The question, of course, is why didn't she or any of the other women in the press corps say it out loud? And what are you still not saying out loud? Are you just waiting until somebody else exposes one of the politicians you have been protecting or is there no one else you're just hanging back not talking about until the day comes when you'll be saying, once again, oh, yeah, we all knew that?

Pie in the face.

A reader, whom I won't identify, emailed me about the story (which I hadn't blogged) about the accusation that White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders had falsely presented a photograph of a pecan pie as her own. Here's the tweet that baited the Sanders haters:

The reader writes:
A blogger at something called the PalmerReport apparently did a reverse image search of the claimed "Huckabee" pie and came up with no matching images and therefore concluded that the allegation of April Ryan was false.

But look at the website of the Whaley Pecan Company...

Wtf? Is Sanders a colossal liar or the most unusual troll in Washington?
A couple hours later the same reader emails again:
I sent the email below from my iPhone. I've looked at the Whaley Pecan Company 9" pecan pie photo and it isn't Sarah Huckabee Sanders' photo. Extremely close, but not the same.
My response:
It was always obvious to me that Sanders's photograph was not done by a professional because the photographer's shadow is on the pie.
I guess other people are looking very closely at the arrangement of the pecans and the details of the crust crimping. Stare deeply enough into the face of a pecan pie and the pecans stare back at you.

"Indonesia closed the airport on the tourist island of Bali on Monday and ordered 100,000 residents living near a rumbling volcano spewing columns of ash to evacuate immediately..."

"... warning that the first major eruption in 54 years could be 'imminent.' The airport was closed for 24 hours from Monday morning, disrupting 445 flights and some 59,000 passengers, after Mount Agung, which killed hundreds of people in 1963, sent volcanic ash high into the sky, and officials said cancellations could be extended."

Reports Al Jazeera (which I chose from among several options for this story because it had the best photographs).

"Melania's Christmas Hall looks like the set of a psychological drama about a lady who went mad..."

I thought: