December 11, 2018

We are golden.

Just a David Crosby tweet I've been meaning to embed...

... and remembered today because I saw "David Crosby Only Sometimes Tweets While He’s High" at The Cut.

His mind exploded.


Trump "must have said the word ‘wall’ 30 times... It’s like a manhood thing with him — as if manhood can be associated with him — This wall thing."

Politico reports on what Nancy Pelosi said after her meeting today with Trump.

Also — incredibly — she said "I was trying to be the mom," and "it goes to show you: You get into a tinkle contest with a skunk, you get tinkle all over you."

During the meeting, in the Oval Office, with the cameras running, Trump got ahead of the Democrats' effort to blame a government shutdown on him. He acted like he wanted it: "If we don't get what we want ... I will shut down the government... I am proud to shut down the government for border security... I will take the mantle. I will be the one to shut it down. I won't blame you for it."

Person of the Year.



The article at TIME: "THE GUARDIANS AND THE WAR ON TRUTH." They couldn't just honor Khashoggi. I haven't combed through the article, but Trump's name is in there a lot, and I don't think he counts as one of the "guardians."

ADDED: I must add that I got there via the great Scott Adams tweet: "Fake News is Time's Person of the Year."

"The book treats us to the spectacle of a distinguished, gray-headed scholar... watching as a young artist commands her audience to spit Jell-O into her pantyhose."

"'I like to question the socially constructed notions of our sense of sex,' she declares. Our hapless sociologist-hero scribbles notes as a male art student screens hard-core pornography as part of his 'practice.' Another artist-in-waiting reflects: 'For me the vagina is the solution.'... The M.F.A. trains artists to talk about their work with slickness and flair, in conformity with the lexicon of the art world. The premise of M.F.A. education, Fine says, is 'helping students not only to be artists, but also to look the part.' Making art is not enough; aspiring artists must be able to articulate and defend the political and conceptual interventions their work performs. Learning to 'look the part' entails firm, sometimes punitive, lessons in self-presentation. This instruction takes place at the program’s central ritual: the critique.... One of the glorious features of contemporary art is that any material — tangled museum ropes, used lipstick tubes, untreated lumber — can be made interesting with the aid of a canny framing....  The ability to position one’s efforts as protest or satire, experiment or dream, is more than glib posturing. What the ritual of critique tests, however, is command of a particular vocabulary, one that emphasizes transgression, resistance, and rupture. An irony is that this insistence on verbal virtuosity privileges certain educational and class backgrounds."

From "Art-School Confidential/The expensive superficiality of M.F.A. programs" (Chronicle of Higher Education ) — a review in the book "Talking Art: The Culture of Practice and the Practice of Culture in MFA Education" by Gary Alan Fine.

As for the privileging of certain educational and class backgrounds — it also privileges a willingness to parrot, please, and bullshit. By the way, where's the transgression, resistance, and rupture if you're passing along your teachers' dedication to transgression, resistance, and rupture? It's such an obvious paradox. You'd need spirit and fortitude along with a determination to squander it. Do you get that with "certain educational and class backgrounds"? Maybe yes!

"Columbia University denounces student filmed harassing black students in 'racially charged' rant."

Yahoo News reports.

Video at the link, obviously taken out of context. I don't know what cranked this guy up to the level that's caught on video, the climax of which is: "White people are the best thing that ever happened to the world. We are so amazing. I love myself, and I love white people. Fuck you, white people! Fuck you, white men! White men! We did everything! I don’t hate other people, I just love my white men. I love white men!"

The inconsistent lines — "Fuck you, white people! Fuck you, white men!" — would support the theory that the rest of it is sarcastic. I don't know. Maybe when he says that he's switching to saying what he imagines the black students would say to him (or what they did say to him). I don't like video that begins in the middle of things, especially when it is offered for the destruction of a young person. [ADDED: I've listened to this way too many times, but a commenter is saying it's not "Fuck you," but "Fuck yeah." That would make more sense, but after multiple re-listens, I don't know for sure. And I think "Fuck yeah" could be heard as sarcastic too.]

I'll embed the video:

"This American Life" reveals more than you might expect about how Harvard discriminates against Chinese-American applicants.

I strongly recommend this 25-minute segment of "This American Life," "The Veritas Is Out There" (listen at that link or read the transcript). A propos of the lawsuit against Harvard, which alleges that Harvard discriminates against Asian-American applicants, a Chinese-American who did get into Harvard looks at his own admissions file and sees what the alumnus who interviewed him had to say. This student, Alex Zhang, is on Harvard's side in the lawsuit: He wrote an amicus brief supporting Harvard and he got the Chinese Students Association to sign another pro-Harvard amicus brief. He doesn't change sides when he sees what's in his file, but he is sorely challenged.

The interviewer wrote a very long memo, strongly pushing Alex, but you can tell that the interviewer believed that the way to do that is to distinguish him from other Asian-American applicants. At one point the interviewer wrote "was this a perfect for MIT mechanical engineer playing me?" The "This American Life" producer, Diane Wu editorializes: "Perfect for MIT, I guess, is code for too boring for Harvard."

The most telling line in Alex's file is about his mother: "She is far from the stereotypical 'tiger mother.'" Wu asks Alex how he feels about that, and he says "it's true." Wu pushes harder: "Is it weird to you at all that the interviewer is pointing to stereotypes that you aren't? Is he a perfect-for-MIT engineer playing me, or does he have a tiger mom?" Alex concedes, "That's a good point."

Wu knows she's pushing: "As soon as I asked the question, I felt like I overstepped, like I was planting the idea in Alex's head that something racial was going on. But when I heard tiger mother, I thought, there is the implicit bias they're talking about in the lawsuit in a way more explicit form than I was expecting."

Alex cannot resist too much or he'll forfeit credibility: "Yeah, that is really weird. I guess it kind of goes into a narrative like the Asian applicant has to disprove certain things to be considered viable for something ivy league."

Wu paraphrases: "In other words, if you want to get into Harvard, don't be too Asian."

Alex: "Hmm. That makes sense. I don't know what his motivations are, my interviewer's motivations. Maybe the interviewer was like, oh, I should distinguish him from other Asians, or maybe he just does it subconsciously."

Wu:
Alex's friends saw his screen grab [of his admissions file] saying tiger mom and perfect-for-MIT engineer and texted him back, oh, my god and that's kind of horrible. Tiger mom was actually a lot more explicit than any of the examples of bias that came up at the trial. It was really a fight over statistics and economic models, but a few stereotypes did come up. They were subtle. Things like Harvard referring to Asian applicants as one-dimensional or book smart.
So "This American Life" gets Alex talking to the alum who wrote the memo, Jim McCandlish (who is, according to Alex, "an old white guy" with a "Chinese wife"). McCandlish without obvious prompting, reveals an attitude that is — though he doesn't seem to notice — very damaging to Harvard's position in the lawsuit. This is McCandlish:
Most likely, at least certainly from a place like Oregon, the interviewer is Caucasian. And we know there are stereotypes. I'm just curious how that plays out. If you have an expectation that an Asian interviewee is going to have a drab personality or meek and mild, you may play into your stereotype and not develop the rapport that would defeat the stereotype or at least resist it. You're in a really gray area of human nature.
Alex asks him about "tiger mom," and McCandlish says, "Well, recall, I live with one" (that's how he refers to his wife, this man who went to Harvard).  He adds: "I live with a tiger mom and fight it all the time." (I'm not sure what "it" is. Does he fight the tigerish qualities of his own wife or is he fighting other people who hold negative stereotypes against persons of Chinese descent?)

Later, McCandlish says — and remember, he went to Harvard — "I use that term because I'm an Amy Tan fan." He must have meant Amy Chua, author of "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother." Amy Tan is another author, as Wu explains. Tan wrote "The Joy Luck Club." (But see this review of Amy Tan's memoir "Where the Past Begins" that says it would make sense to call it "Post-Battle Hymn Of The Damaged Daughter Of A Tiger Mother.")

In an interview with Wu that McCandlish didn't allow to be recorded, Wu says he admitted that he was trying to get Alex in by — in Wu's words — "overtly pointing out to the admissions officers that Alex was different from other Chinese-American applicants. That this young man did not fit whatever stereotypes that he or the admissions officers might have."

Later, we hear Alex wondering why having a "tiger mom" should count against you: "Is that not part of your upbringing and who you are now?... There seems to be these very negative connotations about the way Asians are raised or the way that they behave growing up. And it just seems like there's this very deeply ingrained prejudice and misunderstanding."

Ambiguous headline I read the way the Washington Examiner did not intend.

"Is Team Trump ready for Pelosi's 'death by a thousand cuts'?"

"The joke wasn’t funny to me anymore..."

From "Julia Louis-Dreyfus Acts Out/The actress on challenging comedy’s sexism, fighting cancer, and becoming the star of her own show" (The New Yorker)
Louis-Dreyfus, who is fifty-seven, had a memorable part in the 2015 sketch “Last Fuckable Day,” on the Comedy Central series “Inside Amy Schumer.” In it, Schumer is hiking through the woods when she happens upon Patricia Arquette and Tina Fey, feasting and drinking toasts to Louis-Dreyfus. “In every actress’s life, the media decides when you finally reach the point where you’re not believably fuckable anymore,” Louis-Dreyfus explains. “I’m thrilled. Ecstatic!” Then she guzzles a quart of melted ice cream, burps, and farts. “Who tells men when it’s their last fuckable day?” Schumer asks. The other women crack up.

“I don’t know why, exactly, but there was a moment while I was doing it in which I lost my sense of humor about it,” Louis-Dreyfus told me. “The joke wasn’t funny to me anymore, and I had this complete crisis of confidence.”
Here's the sketch. I could only get through the first minute and five seconds of what goes on for almost 5 minutes.  I get that the criticism is of "the media," and I don’t know why, exactly, but there was a moment while I was watching it in which I lost my sense of humor about it. It was 1:06.

ADDED: Who wrote that sketch? Amy Schumer? If so, this is Julia Louis-Dreyfus trashing Schumer. I looked it up and found "An Oral History of Amy Schumer’s 'Last Fuckable Day' Sketch/The inspiration, the improvised lines from Tina Fey, and the 'total dream day' when it all came together" (a Vanity Fair article by Bruce Handy from 2016):
Amy Schumer, executive producer, writer, star, Inside Amy Schumer: “Last Fuckable Day”—that was like Jessi’s and my baby....

Jessi Klein, executive producer, head writer, Inside Amy Schumer: This sketch had kind of been my white whale for a long time. It came out of a conversation we were all having one morning [in the writers’ room]. I think we were just talking about magazines, like Us Weekly. I don’t remember what the exact conversation was. Probably we were talking about Susan Sarandon, just because she’s had to carry the mantle of being the fuckable older actress for so long. Like is there that moment where it just stops? And someone—I don’t remember who—said, “Oh, what’s her last fuckable day?” And everyone was like, that’s such a funny idea. Like one day Halle Berry, I guess, will have a last fuckable day?...

Kent Alterman, president of original programming, Comedy Central: “Last Fuckable Day” was originally written for, I think, Sigourney Weaver and Susan Sarandon and, I can’t remember, one other actor. It was just always a scheduling problem. I think there was interest. It went through a couple seasons as a possibility.

Amy Schumer: Everyone said no—the actresses. They didn’t want to be in a scene called “Last Fuckable Day.” Jessi had to do a million rewrites, because we kept switching the actresses we were sending it to. Like, “O.K., we’re sending it to Julianne Moore. Change it so that it makes sense for her.” But we wound up getting the best cast. Like it was thank God that the first batch said no....
ALSO: "Fuckable" is such an ugly word, but it's in the Oxford English Dictionary, which shows it's been around a long time. The oldest example found in print:
?1889 ‘C. Deveureux’ Vénus in India II. 113 The poor man had at last outwitted his careful wife and obtained a much longed for, fuckable cunt.

Things to say cheerfully....

From "Your aging brain: Is it 'use it or lose it'?" (LA Times):
When older loved ones open a holiday gift of brain teasers, a chessboard or Sudoku puzzles, you can cheerfully remind them that such lifelong mental exercise will probably arrest their eventual mental slide at a slightly higher point than might otherwise be the case.

"She was being bullied the entire school year, with words such as ‘kill yourself,’ ‘you think you’re white because you ride with that white boy,’ ‘you ugly,’ ‘black b-tch,’ ‘just die.'"

Said an aunt, quoted in "9-year-old committed suicide after classmates taunted ‘kill yourself’: family."

"If I had the courage to come back to Waco and face my rapist and testify, you could at least have had enough respect for me to show up today."

"You both will have to live with this decision to let a rapist run free in society without any warning to future victims.... It must be horrible to be you... To know what you did to me. To know you are a rapist. To know that you almost killed me. To know that you ruined my life, stole my virginity and stole many other things from me."

Said the victim, quoted in "Accused of rape, former Baylor fraternity president gets no jail time after plea deal" (WaPo). She was addressing the prosecutors, who did not attend the hearing, and — beginning with "It must be horrible to be you" — the accused.

The WaPo article links to Star Telegram in "Ex-frat president at Baylor gets no jail time in rape case as judge accepts plea deal."

How to construct a crossword puzzle.



A nice demonstration by David Kwong, which I noticed because I was reading Rex Parker's write up of today's NYT puzzle, which included this delightful it-can't-be moment:

December 10, 2018

At the Winter Sky Café...

fullsizeoutput_2d9d

... you can talk about whatever you want.

And think about using the Althouse Portal to Amazon. If you want to buy what I bought, buy "Ninety-Nine Glimpses of Princess Margaret."

Watching TV naked... is that weird?

"I'm scared. I'm scared by him, by his possibility. And I do empathize with him. I can’t imagine what his 3 a.m. is like."

"There’s a gathering storm—everyone feels it, he feels it. His children are in jeopardy, and I feel that. I think, 'What if my children were in jeopardy?' I would do anything — anything — to get them out of trouble. So we should be afraid. That’s what I think."

Said Meryl Streep, quoted in "Meryl Streep on Why People 'Should Be Afraid' of Trump" (Hollywood Reporter).

"The Gathering Storm" is the title of the first volume of Winston Churchill's history of World War II. There are 2 films about Churchill with that title, one from 1974 starring Richard Burton and one from 2004 starring Albert Finney. Last year's movie about Winston Churchill, with Gary Oldman, was called "Darkest Hour." "Darkest Hour" is not the title of any of the WWII volumes. It's just "a phrase coined by British prime minister Winston Churchill to describe the period of World War II between the Fall of France in June 1940 and the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941 (totaling 363 days, or 11 months and 28 days), when the British Empire and Commonwealth stood alone (or almost alone after the Italian invasion of Greece) against the Axis Powers in Europe."

At least Meryl Streep didn't feel that it's our darkest hour. It could be worse.

Meryl Streep is one of the all-time great movie actors. So was Richard Burton. Here he is agonizing over the gathering storm in "The Gathering Storm." He's in his jammies, so it's easy to view this as a visualization of Trump at 3 a.m. (in case you, like Meryl, are trying to do that and face an impoverishment of imagination):



IN THE COMMENTS: Ken B said: "What starlet was in danger from Harvey Weinstein, when Streep knew about him, and kept his secret? What about her 3 a.m.?"

"What made Warhol thrilling in 1962 acquired a bitter aura in November 2016."

" As [Adam D. Weinberg, the director of the Whitney Museum] points out, Donald Trump has made admiring reference to Warhol and his dictum 'Making money is art, and working is art, and good business is the best art.' What to make, then, in an era of trash politics, of an art that celebrated trash? The exhibit follows him from a super-devout Catholic family in the Slavic ghettos of Pittsburgh—a boy who was cripplingly shy, ill-assimilated, and often confined to a sickbed; a boy for whom thought, expression, and narrative were pain—as he turned himself into Andy Warhol. What can this story tell us about our own anti-humanist swerve?... The less we push back on the idea that prurience and detritus represent the sum of it, the greater [Warhol's] powers of divination seem.... [It speaks] to the condition of all art, maybe all modernity, and with a retroactive power that rewrites everything that came before it. An inner life, a sense of vocation, a distrust of fame and a special loathing for speculative fortunes, a personal relationship with God (or nature) that the image may partake in but never supplant—Warholism negates it all. No wonder he has never been bigger."

From "Warhol’s Bleak Prophecy/What a new retrospective reveals about the artist, and about our swerve away from humanism" (The Atlantic).

I wonder what Warhol would mean if Hillary Clinton had been elected President?

"Fischbach is one of five gamers on this year’s [top 10 YouTube stars] list...."

"It pays to play: Compared with other common YouTube categories, such as scripted comedy or elaborate pranks, gaming clips can be produced and edited quickly; some gamers post new footage daily. More posts mean more viewers, naturally—and more ad dollars. (The going rate for top online talent, Forbes estimates, is about $5 per thousand views.) It helps, too, that the same young viewers who eschew television in favor of YouTube are bonkers for video games. 'Ten to 15 years ago, gaming wasn’t cool. You didn’t game because it was cool, you gamed because you loved it,' says David Huntzinger, a digital-talent agent at WME. 'Now you have Drake going on Twitch and playing Fortnite, and [professional] athletes in the locker room saying they can’t stop playing Xbox—it’s what these kids are living and breathing.'"

From "Highest-Paid YouTube Stars 2018: Markiplier, Jake Paul, PewDiePie And More" (Forbes).

"Celebrities including Beyoncé, Arianna Huffington, Sachin Tendulkar and Hillary Clinton have arrived in the Indian state of Rajasthan for the wedding of the daughter of country’s richest man."

The Guardian reports.

"I think lot of Korean women are wearing an 'appearance-corset.' They have this immense fear of the face they show to others."

"I heard that women feel especially shameful when they hear that they are ugly. I was like that as well. Certain people said stuff like, 'you're not even trying anyway' and 'a corset wouldn't even fit you.' There were even death threats saying that they will come find me and kill me."

Said Lina Bae, who was one of those make-up how-to YouTube stars, quoted in a BBC article.
Bae is part of a growing movement of young women in South Korea who are challenging long-held beauty ideals. They call themselves the "escape the corset" movement. Many shave off their long hair and go without make-up then post the results on social media.

Embeddable if only for the fantastic photograph.

"They operate like the mafia. If they pull your hechsher, you are screwed. They tell other places not to give you a hechsher."

Said Chaim Kirshner, the owner of a Kosher restaurant — a "hechsher" is kosher certification — quoted in "NYC kosher cops force restaurants to cancel bookings of lesbian Jewish comic" (NY Daily News).
[Leah] Forster’s life as a Jewish lesbian isn’t part of her act, but rabbis from the Vaad Harabanim of Flatbush, the kosher certification organization, still decided hosting her event would be a violation of Torah law.
And what about the city's anti-discrimination law? The Commission on Human Rights may look into the problem. Must the restaurant refrain from discrimination and forfeit its kosher certification (and thus be ruined as a business) or does the anti-discrimination law somehow forbid the kosher certification organization from pulling the certification on this ground? Notice how in this case — unlike the Masterpiece Cakes controversy — the business owner does not want to discriminate against the gay person: he wants a private organization to regard his business as properly religious and that organization demands discrimination.

"Tony Evers 'not particularly encouraged' by chat with Scott Walker on vetoing GOP lame-duck bills."

The Wisconsin State Journal reports. It's interesting that they did meet and talk. When Evers first asked for the talk, I thought maybe it would be difficult for Walker to sit there with Evers face to face and justify cutting back the incoming governor's power.
Taking to the national airwaves on NBC's "Meet the Press," Evers said in an interview airing Sunday morning that he "communicated with Gov. Walker over the telephone a few days ago."
Oh! It was not face to face.
"I made that pitch, and he was noncommittal," Evers said. "I know publicly he has said in other arenas he plans to sign most of all of it. So I'm not particularly encouraged at this point in time. But it's around Scott Walker's legacy. He has the opportunity to change this and actually validate the will of the people that voted on Nov. 6."

No "smocking" gun.


It's not a typo if you do it twice. The question is whether it's a deliberate misspelling to infuse the message with virality. "Smocking" is what makes this special.

By the way, the Urban Dictionary definition for "smock" is "small cock."

"Meet the Bottomless Pinocchio, a new rating for a false claim repeated over and over again."

Glenn Kessler, the WaPo "Fact Checker," is thoroughly exasperated.
Trump’s willingness to constantly repeat false claims has posed a unique challenge to fact checkers. Most politicians quickly drop a Four-Pinocchio claim, either out of a duty to be accurate or concern that spreading false information could be politically damaging.

Not Trump. The president keeps going long after the facts are clear, in what appears to be a deliberate effort to replace the truth with his own, far more favorable, version of it. He is not merely making gaffes or misstating things, he is purposely injecting false information into the national conversation....
It used to work, this fact correction power. What happened? Well, Trump happened....

ADDED: Jack Kerouac advised: "Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind" (previously quoted by me in July 2009).

December 9, 2018

Out on Lake Mendota today: trumpeter swans.



Video'd by me from the beach on Picnic Point.

It was 50 years ago today: "The Mother of All Demos."

"'The Mother of All Demos' is a name retroactively applied to a landmark computer demonstration, given at the Association for Computing Machinery / Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (ACM/IEEE)—Computer Society's Fall Joint Computer Conference in San Francisco, which was presented by Douglas Engelbart on December 9, 1968," says Wikipedia.
The live demonstration featured the introduction of a complete computer hardware and software system called the oN-Line System or, more commonly, NLS. The 90-minute presentation essentially demonstrated almost all the fundamental elements of modern personal computing: windows, hypertext, graphics, efficient navigation and command input, video conferencing, the computer mouse, word processing, dynamic file linking, revision control, and a collaborative real-time editor (collaborative work). Engelbart's presentation was the first to publicly demonstrate all of these elements in a single system. The demonstration was highly influential and spawned similar projects at Xerox PARC in the early 1970s. The underlying technologies influenced both the Apple Macintosh and Microsoft Windows graphical user interface operating systems in the 1980s and 1990s....

During the 90-minute presentation, Engelbart used his mouse prototype to move around the screen, highlight text, and resize windows. This was the first time that an integrated system for manipulating text onscreen was presented publicly....

Prior to the demonstration, a significant portion of the computer science community thought Engelbart was "a crackpot." When he was finished, he was described as "dealing lightning with both hands."

Snoop Dogg has some advice for Kevin Hart.



Addressing the ousting of Kevin Hart as Oscars host (because of some bad homophobic jokes years ago), Snoop Dogg says, "That ain't our kind of shit, no way. Oscars??! Yeah, right. Come do the BET Awards. Or Soul Train. They don't care. You're a comedian. Cracking jokes. Really? Y'all want me to host it now? Nah. I don't think so. I got shit to do. And I got way more customers before I get to you. Kevin Hart, smoke a blunt. Tell the Academy to suck a dick or die trying. Fuck 'em. We still love you... Fuck the Grammys too."

I enjoyed that little tirade, with very amusing comic pauses. It expresses something it's important to notice — the racial dimension of a strict enforcement of political correctness. As I said in the earlier post about the crushing of Kyler Murray's great moment — political correctness itself can be politically incorrect.

If you want to talk about Mueller and Trump...

... please feel free to use the comments here to link to things and discuss them.

I feel myself to be in a state of resistance. The headlines seem constructed to create anxiety and anger, and I decline to be sucked in. I'm tired of the dribblings from the investigation. Let Mueller come out with a complete report. Lay out all the evidence, and let Trump and his people provide their context and argument, and I will pay attention again.

"I used to be quite attractive — classically handsome male, some might say..."

"The 'yellow vest' protests have been 'a catastrophe' for the French economy, the finance minister says...."

"About 125,000 protesters took to the streets on Saturday, with more than 1,700 people arrested. Several tourist sites, including the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum, are closed this weekend... 'There was much more damage yesterday than a week ago' because Saturday's protests were more dispersed, deputy mayor Emmanuel Gregoire told local radio.... There are concerns that the protests could lead to a drop in tourism. Paris was visited by a record number of tourists in 2017 - more than 40 million.... The government has... agreed to scrap the fuel tax increase and has frozen electricity and gas prices for 2019. But protests have also erupted over other issues, including calls for higher wages, lower taxes, better pensions and easier university entry requirements. The movement's core aim, to highlight the economic frustration and political distrust of poorer working families, still has widespread support."

BBC reports.

"Here’s a thought experiment: where do you end? Not your body, but you, the nebulous identity you think of as your 'self.'"

"Does it end at the limits of your physical form? Or does it include your voice, which can now be heard as far as outer space; your personal and behavioral data, which is spread out across the impossibly broad plane known as digital space; and your active online personas, which probably encompass dozens of different social media networks, text message conversations, and email exchanges?"

From "Where is the boundary between your phone and your mind?/As our online existences become less distinct from ‘real life’, experts raise concern about the growing power of big tech" (The Guardian)(worth a click if only for the nice illustration).

"Some insist we’re a blank slate on which we write what we want/Others say we’re a Kindle book where all we can change is the font."

"I’m not slate nor tablet/I’m more hat and rabbit."

You win the Heisman Trophy and...



I googled the name because I wanted to get a link to somewhere other than The Washington Post for Kyler Murray's decision to go into a baseball, not a football, career. And I thought he sounded like a really sweet guy:
“This is crazy,” Murray said repeatedly during a brief and soft-spoken acceptance speech. He thanked teammates on either side of the ball for putting him in a position to win so many postseason honors. “You make me look so much better than I am,” he said....

Murray called his father, “a legend to me,” and added, “You taught me everything that I know about this game. I honestly feel like you should be up here with me.” He called his mother, “my best friend.”

He teared up while thanking Sooners Coach Lincoln Riley.... “You kept me going. You kept me focused,” Murray said, while Riley leaned forward in his chair in the audience with tears welling in his eyes.....
That was last night. This morning, the news of Kyler Murray was about his "homophobic tweets." Apparently, when he was 15, he used a word ("faggot"?) to taunt his friends. Murray (who's only 21 now) has apologized.

At some point, I think — and this is it — political correctness is itself politically incorrect.

I wish Kyler Murray well in his baseball career. Great choice: baseball!

"When I try to connect with [my 15-year-old daughter], it backfires. A few months ago she cued up 'The Rain Song' by Led Zeppelin..."

"... one of my favorites when I was her age. I told her so, and she didn’t respond. I made the terrible mistake of attempting to play it for her on the acoustic guitar when we got home. She was learning to play the guitar herself, and I thought maybe she’d want to know the chords. She barely stayed for the glissando intro and then fled upstairs. As far as I can tell, she hasn’t listened to Led Zeppelin since. I know. I know. I remember how I treated my mother at that age... But now that I had my own teenage girl, I realized for the first time that my mother was[... t]rying to catch a glimpse of the girl she had given birth to, the full-grown person she had nurtured who was now walking swiftly away from her. ... I no longer saw Paulina in her natural habitat, telling jokes or even crying with those she was close to...."

From "Rediscovering My Daughter Through Instagram/Paulina was as remote as a 15-year-old could be. And then I saw her photography" by Helene Stapinski (NYT).



I felt the coldness of my winter... These are the seasons of emotion....

The difference between reading a book and listening to an audiobook.

Analyzed by a psychology professor, Daniel T. Willingham (who wrote "The Reading Mind: A Cognitive Approach to Understanding How the Mind Reads"), in the NYT:
Although writing lacks symbols for prosody [the pitch, tempo and stress of spoken words], experienced readers infer it as they go.... But the inferences can go wrong, and hearing the audio version — and therefore the correct prosody — can aid comprehension....
That assumes a good narrator. I listen to many audiobooks, and I've found mistakes in prosody. When someone else is imposing their understanding of the meaning of the words, you have the added task — if you bother to do it — of judging whether the reader is getting the right meaning.
It sounds as if comprehension should be easier when listening than reading, but that’s not always true... Although students spent equivalent time with each format, on a written quiz two days later the readers scored 81 percent and the listeners 59 percent.... When we focus, we slow down. We reread the hard bits. We stop and think....
You can pause an audiobook (and rewind and relisten). If the material is difficult, you really should. I usually get the Kindle version of a book and add the audio version, and I listen to the audio while walking but I often then go to the text to find parts I want to experience in the visual form and to think about more (or blog about!). With an audiobook, you might treat it more like music and relisten. If the reader's performance is excellent, it can become like a favorite song. I have some audiobooks I've listened to a hundred times.
So although one core process of comprehension serves both listening and reading, difficult texts demand additional mental strategies. Print makes those strategies easier to use. Consistent with that interpretation, researchers find that people’s listening and reading abilities are more similar for simple narratives than for expository prose. Stories tend to be more predictable and employ familiar ideas, and expository essays more likely include unfamiliar content and require more strategic reading.

This conclusion — equivalence for easy texts and an advantage to print for hard ones — is open to changes in the future. As audiobooks become more common, listeners will gain experience in comprehending them and may improve, and publishers may develop ways of signaling organization auditorily....
The article begins and ends with a focus on something that I think is a silly concern: Whether it's "cheating" to listen to an audiobook.

December 8, 2018

Comey...

... transcript.

"I met men at hotels and at their homes in the hills. Then, I met a new guy at a bar in the Mission District, the perfect place to meet before a one-night stand. Except..."

"... I fell for him the moment he handed me a red Gerber daisy. I fell for the small gap between his teeth. I touched his hand by feigning interest in the ring he had made from a bicycle spoke. We loved the same obscure music. Days later, he waltzed with me on Berkeley Pier, my gloves arranged in his breast pocket like a kerchief. He created a rabbit out of a squeegee and a towel and made me laugh at its antics. The afternoon I chose to tell my husband, light streamed into our yellow kitchen. Our son was in his room, playing with Hogwarts toys...."

From "When a Boyfriend Joins the Marriage/They agreed she could have sex on the side as long as he didn’t have to know about it. Then she fell in love" (NYT).

"After completing the New Warrior Training Adventure, many men join Integration Groups, or I-Groups, where they continue, on a weekly basis..."

"... with the guidance of a trained peer facilitator, the 'work,' as it is called in MKP, that was started during those 48 hours. I-Groups are attended not just by woke, liberal elites on the coasts. Kansas City, Mo.; the greater Carolinas; Atlanta; Indianapolis; Milwaukee; Memphis; and Louisville, Ky., all have sizable groups, according to the organization. Evryman has a half a dozen groups in Montana and over 20 in the Northern Rockies. In March, one of its retreats will take place in Logan, Ohio, the first in the Midwest. The Evryman weekend is called the Open Source Retreat ($475 to $975, depending on accommodations) and brings together 50 men and eight leaders who have completed something called Men’s Emotional Leadership Training (MELT) 'to set aside cultural norms and be transparent, honest, and vulnerable with each other,' to quote from the company’s literature. The goal is to 'leave feeling like we shed 30 pounds of emotional baggage.'

From "These Men Are Waiting to Share Some Feelings With You/In meetings and retreats, chastened menfolk are working on their feelings" (NYT).

Things you might want to spend Saturday mulling over.



I'm not in the mood to pick this apart. All the links can be found here.

"While many of us are familiar with SAD, there are, in fact, people who get SAD in reverse."

"For a small group of people, the dark days of winter don’t elicit depression, but renewed vigor and improved mood.... While winter SAD is linked to a lack of sunlight, it is thought that summer SAD is due to the reverse—possibly too much sunlight, which also lead to modulations in melatonin production.... Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that serves to protect the brain. However, more importantly, melatonin’s immediate precursor is the neurotransmitter serotonin, a major player in regulating mood. By reducing melatonin production, SAD increases the risk for depression and other mood disorders.... [T]hose who experience reverse SAD will take comfort in knowing that the winter months can bring nothing but bliss with the gloriousness of gray skies, 15-hours of darkness, and bone-chilling winds."

That's from Psychology Today (in 2015). I'm reading that after someone on Facebook linked to "The Obsessed Ex-Fortysomething Runner: Brown eyes, SAD, and 'reverse' SAD."

I call the 30 days with the winter solstice in the center "Darkmonth," and it's just beginning. You might wonder why I'm not hot to move somewhere brighter than Wisconsin, now that I'm retired and could relocate anywhere. Maybe my preferences have to do with eye color.

Here's another article about the new study by a psychology professor at the University of South Wales. "[H]e found that those with brown eyes were significantly more likely to experience seasonal mood shifts than those with blue eyes... 'Individuals with blue eyes appear to have a degree of resilience to SAD'..."

As for "reverse SAD," it should be noted that you can wear sunglasses! I think a blue-eyed person artificially creates the equivalent of brown eyes in the summertime. So maybe the North is a good place for me....

Kirsten Gillibrand is "running for president, and invoking the language of critical gender theory, she seems to believe, will help her in the primaries."

I'm reading another section of the Andrew Sullivan column I already linked to in the previous post (NY Magazine). Sullivan notes Gillibrand's recent tweet: "Our future is female. Intersectional. Powered by our belief in one another. And we’re just getting started." What's going on there?
Gillibrand’s evolution... has been long in the works — and reveals, I’d say, where the Democrats are going. When Gillibrand was a member of Congress...
He means when she was a member of the House of Representatives, 2007-2009, before she became a Senator. We do use the term "Congressman" or "Congresswoman" for the representatives in the House, but the Senate is part of Congress, so you shouldn't say a Senator isn't a member of Congress. I have never before noticed this usage problem!
... she identified as a Blue Dog conservative Democrat. She once campaigned in defense of gun rights, was in favor of cracking down on illegal immigration, voted against the 2008 bank bailout, and opposed marriage equality...

She first reversed her previous anti-gay positions... By 2015, she invited Emma Sulkowicz to the State of the Union.... Gillibrand, who once opposed allowing illegal immigrants to get driving licenses, is also now a supporter of abolishing ICE.

And, of course, she famously engineered the resignation of one of the more talented Democrats in the Senate, Al Franken, because of a forced stage kiss, allegations of groping, and a photo of him pretending to grab a fellow USO entertainer’s boobs. We won’t ever get to the bottom of all that because Gillibrand demanded Franken’s resignation merely on the basis of allegations, and within a day, Franken had resigned, before the Senate Ethics Committee had finished an investigation. “Enough is enough,” she declared, invoking the “existing power structure of society” to end due process for Franken. 
Does this record explain that tweet? Is the explanation better if you assume she's setting up a run for President? I find that very hard to understand.

"It is Christianity that came to champion the individual conscience against the collective, which paved the way for individual rights."

"It is in Christianity that the seeds of Western religious toleration were first sown. Christianity is the only monotheism that seeks no sway over Caesar, that is content with the ultimate truth over the immediate satisfaction of power. It was Christianity that gave us successive social movements, which enabled more people to be included in the liberal project, thus renewing it. It was on these foundations that liberalism was built, and it is by these foundations it has endured. The question we face in contemporary times is whether a political system built upon such a religion can endure when belief in that religion has become a shadow of its future self. Will the house still stand when its ramparts are taken away? I’m beginning to suspect it can’t. And won’t."

Writes Andrew Sullivan in "America’s New Religions" (NY Magazine).

"It takes courage to admit that people hate your face, and it’s both sad and heartening to see Cruz do so after years of taunts to that effect."

"Stephen Colbert has called the senator a 'half-melted G.I. Joe.' The Kid Mero told him he looks like he eats mice. USA Today, the most boring and benign newspaper on the planet, once headlined a piece, 'Why You May Not like Ted Cruz’s Face, According to Science.' Cruz seemed impervious to such criticism, what with his nonstop grandstanding and that unrelenting dumb smirk. But apparently he took the feedback to heart, because now the dumb smirk is ever so slightly obscured by a moustache."

From "I’m So Sorry to Report that Ted Cruz’s New Beard Looks Great/Thoughts on the unwelcome semi-hotness of the Texas senator’s facial hair" (Slate).

The beard does look good, but what's more interesting here is how free people have felt to insult Ted Cruz for his looks. Generally, there seems to be a rule against disparaging people for looking bad. No looks shaming. I don't really like that rule, because the visual dimension of is so important, and we should talk about it, describe things, react emotionally. And a person's character, emotion, and inner life shows through the face. That's important to observe and bring to light. I'd say the rule should be to be tactful about the aspects of a person's looks that they were born with or cannot control, but go ahead and talk about things have to do with what kind of person lies behind that face.

As for beards, growing a beard is behavior, and one does it for a reason. Go ahead and speculate about the reason. Whether the reason is to affect our reaction to the man or not, go ahead and share your reaction.

December 7, 2018

At the Friday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And do remember to use the Althouse Portal to Amazon when you do your shopping.)

"Just how much of a Nazi was the most important American architect of the 20th century?"

"Per Mark Lamster’s new The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century, the answer is nothing short of astonishing, albeit only in the negative sense of the word," writes Armin Rosen in Tablet.
In 1934, the 28-year-old Johnson and one of his assistants left their posts as architectural curators at the Museum of Modern Art to begin a brownshirts-style discussion group and activist organization in Johnson’s Manhattan townhouse. Johnson had been enthralled by a Hitler Youth rally he attended in Potsdam in 1933 and wrote an article that same year lauding the Third Reich’s architecture; later he would witness two of the notorious annual Nuremberg rallies, in 1937 and 1938.....

Johnson wasn’t attracted to fascism for narrowly aesthetic or psycho-sexual reasons as he later claimed but because he actually seemed to believe in the idea. “It was easier to whitewash sexual desire than the egregious social and political ideas that truly captivated him,” Lamster writes—after all, Johnson was the kind of Hitler fan who had read Mein Kampf in the original German.

"The burial of former President George Herbert Walker Bush on the grounds of his presidential library and museum at Texas A&M University on Thursday raises a question."

"Is it possible for former President Barack Obama to be laid to rest at his presidential center in Chicago?"

The Chicago Sun Times comes up with that question.
For now, the answer is no, according to a Bill McCaffrey, a spokesman for the City of Chicago Law Department. Burials in Chicago can only take place in cemeteries, according to city ordinances. The 19.3 acres in Jackson Park to be the site of the Obama Presidential Center is not a legal cemetery.
Noted.

"Trump Will Nominate William P. Barr as Attorney General."

The NYT reports.
President Trump on Friday said he intended to nominate William P. Barr, who served as attorney general during the first Bush administration from 1991 to 1993, to return as head of the Justice Department.

“He was my first choice since Day 1,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he walked from the White House to a helicopter for a trip to Kansas City, Mo.. “He’ll be nominated.”
This gets Whitaker out of the way. Confirm Barr, and you don't have to worry about Whitaker.

Here's a NYT article from yesterday about Barr:
Mr. Barr, a Republican and corporate lawyer, has long advanced a vision of sweeping presidential powers.... Mr. Barr has criticized aspects of the Russia investigation, including suggesting that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, hired too many prosecutors who had donated to Democratic campaigns. Mr. Barr has also defended Mr. Trump’s calls for a new criminal investigation into his defeated 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton, including over a uranium mining deal the Obama administration approved when she was secretary of state.

Make better choices.



"It’s just so shocking... It’s an animal that has another animal stuck up its nose" (WaPo).
“They’re really quite long eels, and their diameter is probably close to what it would be for a nasal passage.... I struggle to think of an eel really wanting to force its way into a nose... It almost does feel like one of those teenage trends that happen... One juvenile seal did this very stupid thing and now the others are trying to mimic it.... We’re hoping it’s just one of these flukes that will disappear and never be seen again”...
I like the use of the word "fluke" — another fish.

"After Kevin Hart was announced as the host for the 2019 Oscars, old tweets and press comments of his surfaced that contained a litany of homophobic jokes and statements."

"(e.g. 'One of my biggest fears is my son growing up and being gay,' Hart said while promoting the movie Seriously Funny.) Two days after the hosting news broke and social media started circulating the comedian’s past remarks, Hart has posted a video on Instagram not saying he’s sorry for anything. He does say, however, that 'our world is becoming beyond crazy, and I’m not going to let the craziness frustrate me.' Hart adds in the video’s caption: 'I’m almost 40 years old and I’m in love with the man that I am becoming,' and, 'What’s understood should never have to be said.' So, if you didn’t know Kevin Hart has grown over the past 10 years, well, that’s on you."

Vulture reports.

UPDATE: "Kevin Hart says he won't host Oscars after furor over homophobic tweets" (CNN).
"I have made the choice to step down from hosting this year's Oscar's," Hart, who is currently performing in Sydney, Australia, announced late Sunday on Twitter. "This is because I do not want to be a distraction on a night that should be celebrated by so many amazing talented artists. I sincerely apologize to the LGBTQ community for my insensitive words from my past. I'm sorry that I hurt people... I am evolving and want to continue to do so. My goal is to bring people together not tear us apart. Much love & appreciation to the Academy. I hope we can meet again."
ADDED: From a column in Variety that went up before Hart stepped down — "Why Kevin Hart Was the Wrong Choice to Host the Oscars" by Owen Gleiberman:
The trouble with Kevin Hart’s words— the reason that, by and large, they’re terrible jokes — is that they express a spirit of extreme anti-empathy. They’re not just “cheap gags.” They’re overtly hostile and parochial; they basically demonize LGBTQ identifying people as The Other..... Hart’s spirit is, in fact, a bit Trumpian: superior and divisive, based on the falsity of exclusion.... The last thing that anyone needed on Oscar night was to be laughing at the the host and wondering, in the back of one’s mind, whether the cutting edge of his jokes was really the sharp blade of intolerance.
The swipe at Trump is stupid. It's the kind of overtly hostile and parochial demonizing Gleiberman impugns. I don't associate Trump with anything anti-gay, so why drag him in?

"In much of Wisconsin, 'Madison and Milwaukee' are code words (to some, dog whistles) for the parts of the state that are nonwhite, elite, different..."

"... The cities are where people don’t have to work hard with their hands, because they’re collecting welfare or public-sector paychecks. That stereotype updates a very old idea in American politics, one pervading Wisconsin’s bitter Statehouse fights today and increasingly those in other states: Urban voters are an exception. If you discount them, you get a truer picture of the politics — and the will of voters — in a state. Thomas Jefferson believed as much — 'the mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government,' he wrote, 'as sores do to the strength of the human body.' Wisconsin Republicans amplified that idea this week, arguing that the legislature is the more representative branch of government, and then voting to limit the power of the incoming Democratic governor. The legislature speaks for the people in all corners of the state, they seemed to be saying, and statewide offices like governor merely reflect the will of those urban mobs. 'State legislators are the closest to those we represent,' Scott Fitzgerald, the majority leader in the Wisconsin Senate, said in a statement after Republicans voted on the changes before dawn on Wednesday. They’re the ones who hold town hall meetings, who listen directly to constituents across the state. Legislators should stand, he said, 'on equal footing with an incoming administration that is based almost solely in Madison.'"

So writes Emily Badger in "Are Rural Voters the ‘Real’ Voters? Wisconsin Republicans Seem to Think So/A last-minute power grab by state lawmakers draws on an argument as old as the nation."

You see what she did there? Fitzgerald spoke of Madison, not because of the "urban" people of this city, but because it's the state capital, full of government workers. He was making an argument for rebalancing government with more weight in the legislative branch. Of course, he likes that now, because his party will continue to hold the legislative branch of state government, while the other party is taking over the executive branch after 8 years of the GOP's holding both branches. And it's fine to criticize that.

But it's a real twist to turn that into a RACIAL argument. Even if Fitzgerald were talking about the general population of Madison — as opposed to the government workers (the "incoming administration that is based almost solely in Madison") — he wouldn't be talking about RACIAL minorities. Emily Badger is a great name for someone who knows a lot about Madison, but did she even bother to look up the demographics before she lobbed her accusation of racism? Madison is overwhelmingly white — 78.9% White, 7.3% African American.

Badger seems to know she stretching it, because she adds:
Robin Vos, the Republican speaker of the Wisconsin Statehouse, drew this distinction even more explicitly after the midterm election.

“If you took Madison and Milwaukee out of the state election formula, we would have a clear majority,” he said. “We would have all five constitutional officers and we would probably have many more seats in the Legislature.”
What you have to click on the link to see is that the Vos quote was reported on November 8th, just after the election, and he was addressing the question of why the statewide elections went Democratic when the legislative majority came out Republican. There's a big lawsuit about gerrymandering in Wisconsin, and the Republican explanation for the way things are is that people who vote Democratic live in the geographically concentrated places, Milwaukee and Madison.

Even that wasn't calling city people a "mob" that can't be trusted with government! Vos was talking about the election results, not justifying the legislation that's been going on in Wisconsin this past week, and it's deceptive to use his quote for that purpose. How hard did Badger look for support for her theory before stooping to taking the Vos quote out of context? I assume she looked pretty hard, so using that quote — along with Fitzgerald's quote, which is only about Madison — reads like a confession that she couldn't find anything at all.

December 6, 2018

At the Mysterious Line Café...



... you can see things however you like.

[Bumped.]

"Unlike psychotherapists... underground [LSD] guides have no accredited educational institutions, no licensing and no way to publicly market their services."

"How, then, does one make a career as a guide? Steve was one of many guides I spoke to who described feeling spiritually 'called' to do this work. Like doctors who provided abortions pre-Roe v Wade, he breaks laws that he believes are unjust; he considers legal violations a risky but necessary part of his quest to alleviate people’s pain. He charges on a sliding scale that ranges from around $15 to $50 an hour. As is the case with most guides, his own psychedelic experiences convinced him the job was worth the risk. 'During an early guided psilocybin session, I realized I’d never adequately dealt with the pain caused by my parents’ divorce,' Steve says. 'There was clearly still this 11-year-old part of myself that was like, I want to be part of a coherent family unit. During the experience, I was given this vision – there’s no way to say this that doesn’t sounds silly – but there was this mother figure who was like, half-Vedic goddess, with a million arms and a million eyes, and half-space alien, with gray skin. She was this space mother, surrounded by this space family, and she just beamed to me this incredible welcoming feeling of, this is the divine family that you stem from.'"

From "Welcome to the trip of your life: the rise of underground LSD guides/Some Americans searching for alternative paths to healing have turned to psychedelics. But how does one forge a career as a guide when the substances are illegal?" (The Guardian).

"The ship of fools fully fraught and richly laden with asses, fools, jack-daws, ninnihammers, coxcombs, slender-wits, shallowbrains, paper-skuls, simpletons, nickumpoops, wiseakers, dunces, and blockheads."

That's a book title from 1668 — which I ran across looking up the word "nincompoop" in the OED. I was curious about this word because I don't think I had ever used it before, but I was writing something today and had "fool," then thought about it, and changed it to "nincompoop." Why after all these years — in which I've written "fool" thousands of times — did it occur to me that "nincompoop" is the right word? Some nuance?

"There’s an implicit apology expected of me for my participation in feminine beauty, but I can’t play into this false narrative that my sexuality is mutually exclusive from my power."

"My physical appearance, no matter how it affects others, is solely the responsibility of people around me. You know, male characters in movies included. It is their responsibility, not a woman’s. My sexuality, my femininity, in whatever way I want to express it, is mine and my own."

Said Amber Heard, using her own very special form of expression, quoted at Tom & Lorenzo.

"Elizabeth Warren Stands by DNA Test. But Around Her, Worries Abound."

A headline in the NYT.
Conservatives have continued to ridicule her. More worrisome to supporters of Ms. Warren’s presidential ambitions, she has yet to allay criticism from grass-roots progressive groups, liberal political operatives and other potential 2020 allies who complain that she put too much emphasis on the controversial field of racial science — and, in doing so, played into Mr. Trump’s hands....

"Folks, it's the internet. how he spells or chooses to spell on the internet has no connection to how smart he actually is."

"i'm a university graduate and i've gone on illegible keysmashes repeatedly. get off your soapboxes."

That's the top-rated comment on "A College Student In Florida Was Arrested For Threatening To Kill A Professor For Scheduling A 7 A.M. Final/Rafael Decomas told police he had no real intent to harm anyone" (Buzzfeed).

The tweet in question read, "Bey I gern fucking kill dis professor bey this is my confession to a premeditated murder."

I'll just leave it at that. I need another cup of covfefe.

"For years, [Tchiya] Amet had been trying to make the world listen to her account of a powerful man [Neil deGrasse Tyson] who had once assaulted her and derailed her life."

"Mainstream publications, including BuzzFeed News, were unable to adequately corroborate the events from so long ago, and did not publish her allegations. And internet commenters assailed her character and New Age lifestyle. Her claims may have stayed buried forever, if not for the women who saw in Amet’s story a shadow of their own. 'I saw that her credibility was being questioned in a way that honestly had a lot of racist and sexist and anti-religious undertones,' Allers said. 'I kinda figured if I had any credibility to lend to that so that she’s taken more seriously, I should do that.'"

From "Nobody Believed Neil deGrasse Tyson's First Accuser. Now There Are Three More/No one believed Tchiya Amet when she said Tyson had raped her in the 1980s. Now, three other women tell BuzzFeed News that he harassed them, including one who’s sharing her story publicly for the first time" (BuzzFeed).

What was the New Age religion that that seems to some people to discredit Amet? We're told that after the time of the alleged rape...
Amet would never return to science (though she tried, twice, to reenroll in graduate school, with a focus on historical African astronomy). She got married, homeschooled her two kids, moved into a small one-story house on an Indian reservation in Northern California, and then got divorced. She sang in a reggae band, and fully adopted a New Age way of thinking about the universe — rooted in energy, astrology, and ancient teachings, rather than science.

In 1995, as part of what she calls her spiritual healing, she changed her name to Tchiya Amet — which means “rebirth” and “truth” in Hebrew. “I did not want to identify with Staci — I wanted her to be dead,” Amet said.
Amet "wrote a rambling blog post, as fragmented and disjointed as her memories of the incident, titled “I Survived RAPE by Neil de Grasse Tyson; The Blue Lotus Speaks!”

From Neil de Grasse Tyson's own response:
For me, what was most significant, was that in this new life [30 years later], long after dropping out of astrophysics graduate school, [Amet] was posting videos of colored tuning forks endowed with vibrational therapeutic energy that she channels from the orbiting planets. As a scientist, I found this odd....
When does religion discredit a complainant? I don't think the answer should be when it seems flaky to people who would be deferential to a member of a mainstream, traditional religion. When a person adopts a new religion, it says something about what's been going on in that person's life, and a shift from centering in astrophysics to obviously unscientific ideas about planets and energy looks very significant, but which way is it significant? It could mean this person doesn't adhere to real-world facts, but can also raise inferences that something terrible happened to her and changed the course of her life. Whether the terrible something was Neil de Grasse Tyson is another matter.

"But the one-hour TV special was such a nonevent of excruciating cliches and non-sexiness that it’s not worth a cultural renovation. It’s a teardown."

"Or we could all just get out of the way and let it rot until it falls down on its own....  You’d think Victoria’s Secret would have made sure this show was exciting and captivating — a sort of good-faith argument in favor of its stubborn commitment to marketing-as-usual. Instead, executives produced a show in which the models paraded down the runway like dusty showgirls blowing kisses and drawing hearts in the air, with one model practically indistinguishable from another... If the show is all about empowered models, why not identify them by name when they appear onstage? Or is anonymity part of the fantasy? If some of these women can attract millions of Instagram followers just by posting selfies from elevators, imagine the thrill Victoria’s Secret might be able to gin up if it really made the show about connecting with these women — not in some earnest, substantial way, of course, but in a gleefully superficial, faux-intimate, social media-enhanced way that would be perfect for television. It takes an extraordinary amount of ineptitude, laziness and sheer disregard to make a show as stultifying and lifeless as the Victoria’s Secret one. It may be that the company was so focused on defending its casting against those who call it anachronistic that it forgot that the whole argument becomes moot if the show is so boring that it’s unwatchable."

Writes Robin Givhan in "The Victoria’s Secret fashion show is too boring to even argue about" (WaPo).

I've always assumed the show is unwatchable, and it seemed anachronistic to me all along. When did it begin? I have to look it up, because Givhan didn't mention it. I was not back in the days when bras and panties were called "unmentionables." It was 1995. The middle of the Clinton administration. The first season of "Friends." The Oklahoma City bombing. Mississippi ratified the 13th Amendment. "Forrest Gump" won the Oscar. O.J. Simpson went on trial. Maybe much of America saw this as a time to watch tall, fit women prance around in bras and panties from a mall store, but it seemed hopelessly old fashioned to me. It's boring and unwatchable now, Robin Givhan says, and I don't doubt it. But why was it ever watchable?

December 5, 2018

At the Wednesday Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

"Here’s How Facebook’s Local News Algorithm Change Led To The Worst Riots Paris Has Seen In 50 Years."

"The Yellow Jackets movement is what happens when you point Facebook's traffic hose at France's small towns. The question now is: How do you turn it off?" (BuzzFeed).
So, in less than two weeks, what you end up with is this: A Change.org petition with fewer than 1,500 subscribers gets talked about on a local radio station. The radio appearance is written up by a local news site. The article is shared to a local Facebook page. Thanks to an algorithm change that is now emphasizing local discussion, the article dominates the conversation in a small town. Two men from the same suburb then turn the petition into a Facebook event. A duplicate petition goes viral within the local Facebook groups. Then a daily newspaper writes up the original petition. This second article about the petition also goes viral. So does the original petition. And then the rest of French media follows.

George W. Bush gives the eulogy for his father.

"An all-male Princeton University a cappella group will no longer perform a song from Disney’s 'The Little Mermaid' because some students there complained that the performance promotes misogyny and 'toxic masculinity' and violates consent."

The NY Post reports.
The singers, known as the Tigertones, have for years performed the song “Kiss the Girl” by picking a man and a woman from the audience and encouraging them to smooch on the cheek, according to Inside Higher Ed.

In the animated movie, the tune is crooned by a Rastafarian crab to encourage a prince to kiss a mermaid — and features the lyrics, “My oh my/ Looks like the boy’s too shy/ Ain’t gonna kiss the girl.”...

“[It’s] more misogynistic and dismissive of consent than cute,” sophomore Noa Wollstein wrote in the Daily Princetonian on Nov. 26. “By performing the song multiple times each semester, the Tigertones elevate it to an offensive and violating ritual,” the piece, titled “Dear Tigertones, please stop singing ‘Kiss the Girl,’” proclaims....

“Such expressions imply that not using aggressive physical action to secure Ariel’s sexual submission makes Eric weak — an irrefutable scaredy-cat,” it adds. “These statements suggest that masculinity is contingent on domination of women. This attitude can catalyze violent tendencies toward, and assault against, women.”

"While you’re making marks and drawing, pay attention to all the physical feedback you’re getting from your hand, wrist, arm, ears, your sense of smell and touch."

"How long can your mark go before you seem to need to lift the pencil and make a different mark? Make those marks shorter or longer. Change the ways you make them at all, wrap your fingers in fabric to change your touch, try your other hand to see what it does. All these things are telling you something. Get very quiet inside yourself and pay attention to everything you’re experiencing. Don’t think good or bad. Think useful, pleasurable, strange. Hide secrets in your work. Dance with these experiences, collaborate with them. They’re the leader; you follow. Soon you’ll be making up steps too, doing visual calypsos all your own — ungainly, awkward, or not. Who cares? You’ll be dancing to the music of art. Carry a sketchbook with you at all times. Cover a one-by-one-foot piece of paper with marks. But don’t just fill the whole page border to border, edge to edge. (Way too easy.) Think about what shapes, forms, structures, configurations, details, sweeps, buildups, dispersals, and compositions appeal to you."

From "Lesson 6: Start With a Pencil" in "How to Be an Artist 33 rules to take you from clueless amateur to generational talent (or at least help you live life a little more creatively)" by Jeffrey Saltz (New York Magazine).

ADDED: If you're like me, your first thought was: Where can I get a sketchbook with square paper and does it have to be 12"x12"? What I bought, 3 minutes after putting this post up, is a Moleskine "sketch album" that is square, but is smaller — 7.5"x7.5". Here's the Amazon link. Bigger might be better, but you're less likely to imagine carrying it with you at all times. I'm not going to carry this 7x7 thing at all times, but I do look back fondly on the time before I had a camera and traveled with a sketchbook, and I do think things would have worked out differently if the paper had been square. In the old days, when I painted, I nearly always made square canvases. Something about the square, no?

"The Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate has passed a sweeping measure taking power away from the incoming Democratic governor and attorney general, and reducing how long early voting can take place."

"The measure was approved on a 17-16 vote with all Democrats and one Republican voting against it. The Assembly was expected to give final approval later Wednesday morning and send the measure to Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who has signaled his support. The bill would limit the governor’s ability to put in place administrative rules that enact laws and give the Legislature the power to control appointees to the board that runs the state economic development agency until Sept. 1. The legislation would also require legislative approval to withdraw from lawsuits, taking that away from the attorney general."

AP reports.

ADDED: "Lame duck" is an insult, not a requirement. The legislature and governor who are in power now were elected to a full term, not elected with a proviso that they go "lame" once the election has happened. Who says what can happen in that last part of a term of office? Look up what the 2010 Congress did after the election and how it was talked about in the press?

Here's a dialogue from yesterday at FiveThirtyEight, "Are Lame-Duck Sessions Undemocratic?" Excerpt:
perry: I think it’s worth considering that even if there is some Democratic precedent in the past, do we think Gov. Malloy of Connecticut or Gov. Brown of California would have cut the powers of the new governor if a Republican had been elected? I really, really doubt it. For example, Maryland Democrats did not do this in 2010. I think part of the issue is right now, in the 2010s, it seems like one party is regularly pushing the envelope.

natesilver: I think the literature is pretty convincing that it’s asymmetric. Asymmetric doesn’t mean that Republicans push the boundaries 100 percent of the time and Democrats do it 0 percent of the time. Maybe it means the GOP does it 70 percent of the time and Democrats do it 30 percent. 
Maybe it means....

Here's an enthusiastic article in The Atlantic in late 2010: "The Most Productive Lame Duck Since WWII -- and Maybe Ever."
Driven by the looming Christmas holiday and the upcoming change in power in the House -- not to mention the likelihood that Democrats will not again control both Houses of Congress and the White House until 2014 at the earliest, should Obama win re-election -- Democrats were moved to push forward aggressively on controversial legislation they'd punted on all year long.
Where did this "duck" business come from?
The phrase "lame duck" was coined in the eighteenth century at the London Stock Exchange, to refer to a stockbroker who defaulted on his debts. The first known mention of the term in writing was made by Horace Walpole, from a letter in 1761 to Sir Horace Mann: "Do you know what a Bull and a Bear and Lame Duck are?" In 1791 Mary Berry wrote of the Duchess of Devonshire's loss of £50,000 in stocks, "the conversation of the town" that her name was to be "posted up as a lame duck". In the literal sense, the term refers to a duck which is unable to keep up with its flock, making it a target for predators.
AND: The GOP has will still have a solid majority in both houses of the legislature in the new session:
Republicans held their majority in the 2018 elections for Wisconsin State Assembly, winning 63 seats to Democrats' 36. All of the chamber's 99 seats were up for election. At the time of the election, Republicans held 64 seats to Democrats' 35.... The Republican Party maintained control of the state Senate and Assembly but lost its trifecta in Wisconsin in 2018 as the Democratic Party flipped the governorship.

"Put simply, Americans miss [H.W.] Bush because we miss the WASPs — because we feel, at some level, that their more meritocratic and diverse and secular successors rule us neither as wisely nor as well."

Writes Ross Douthat in the NYT.
[In The Atlantic, Franklin] Foer suggests this nostalgia is mostly bunk, since the WASPs were so often bigots (he quotes Henry Adams’s fears of a “furtive Yacoob or Ysaac still reeking of the ghetto”), since their cultivation of noblesse oblige was really all about “preserving [a] place at the high table of American life,” and since so many of their virtues were superficial, a matter of dressing nicely while practicing imperialism, or writing lovely thank-you notes while they outsourced the dirty work of politics to race-baiting operatives....

However, one of the lessons of the age of meritocracy is that building a more democratic and inclusive ruling class is harder than it looks, and even perhaps a contradiction in terms.... [I]f some of the elder Bush’s mourners wish we still had a WASP establishment, their desire probably reflects a belated realization that certain of the old establishment’s vices were inherent to any elite, that meritocracy creates its own forms of exclusion — and that the WASPs had virtues that their successors have failed to inherit or revive.

Those virtues included a spirit of noblesse oblige and personal austerity and piety that went beyond the thank-you notes and boat shoes and prep school chapel going — a spirit that trained the most privileged children for service, not just success, that sent men like Bush into combat alongside the sons of farmers and mechanics in the same way that it sent missionaries and diplomats abroad in the service of their churches and their country....

"There is not a smoking gun, there’s a smoking saw."

Said Lindsey Graham, quoted in "Saudi Prince ‘Complicit’ in Khashoggi’s Murder, Senators Say After C.I.A. Briefing" (NYT).

Also: "Somebody should be punished, but the question is: 'How do you separate the Saudi crown prince from the nation itself?'" — Senator Richard C. Shelby.

"I’m a Democrat and a Feminist. And I Support Betsy DeVos’s Title IX Reforms."

Writes Lara Bazelon, the director of the criminal juvenile justice and the racial justice clinics at the University of San Francisco School of Law in a NYT op-ed. She is concerned about due process and "racial dynamics."
[In the law school clinic I direct,] we see what the Harvard Law School professor Janet Halley described in a 2015 law review article: “The general social disadvantage that black men continue to carry in our culture can make it easier for everyone in the adjudicative process to put the blame on them.” ...

We have long over-sexualized, over-criminalized and disproportionately punished black men. It should come as no surprise that, in a setting in which protections for the accused are greatly diminished, this shameful legacy persists.

“I’ve assisted multiple men of color, a Dreamer, a homeless man and two trans students,” Professor Halley told me. “How can the left care about these people when the frame is mass incarceration, immigration or trans-positivity and actively reject fairness protections for them under Title IX?”...

I know my allies on the left will criticize my position....

Conan O'Brien learns the extent to which he will be liked in Japan.

"I am a gaffe machine, but my God, what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth."

Said Joe Biden, quoted in "Biden on Biden: 'I'm the most qualified person in the country to be president'" (Yahoo News).

I'm wondering whether "I am a gaffe machine, but my God, what a wonderful thing compared to a guy who can’t tell the truth" is itself a gaffe or whether, more interestingly, it is an untruth. It feels like an old brain teaser: 2 men stood in front of 2 doors. One man is a gaffe machine. The other man is incapable of telling the truth. Behind one door is a happy future for America. Behind the other are dark days. You may ask one man to ask one question....

"The outside lawyers were told by multiple people that CBS had an employee 'who was "on call" to perform oral sex' on [CEO Les] Moonves."

"According to the draft report: 'A number of employees were aware of this and believed that the woman was protected from discipline or termination as a result of it.'... 'Moonves received oral sex from at least 4 CBS employees under circumstances that sound transactional and improper to the extent that there was no hint of any relationship, romance, or reciprocity.'"

From "‘Transactional’ Sex and a Secret Resignation Letter: Takeaways From a Report on Les Moonves/A 59-page draft report produced by lawyers for CBS’s board contains new details and allegations about Mr. Moonves, the company’s former chief executive" (NYT).

Is "transactional sex" a standard term? Here's a Wikipedia article, "Transactional sex":
Transactional sex refers to sexual relationships where the giving of gifts or services is an important factor. Transactional sex is a superset of prostitution, in that the exchange of gifts for sex includes a broader set of (usually non-marital) obligations that do not necessarily involve a predetermined payment or gift, but where there is a definite motivation to benefit materially from the sexual exchange. The participants do not necessarily frame themselves in terms of prostitutes/clients, but often as girlfriends/boyfriends, or sugar babies/sugar daddies. Those offering sex may or may not feel affection for their partners.
I've taken the moral position that one should only engage in sex where it is a sex-for-sex exchange. If the exchange must be sweetened on one side, with extras beyond the sex itself, then you shouldn't have sex at all. I'm not offering this as a legal standard, just my idea of what good people should do.

Anyway, "transactional sex" is an interesting term to me. I won't make a new tag, though. I'll just use the overarching term "prostitution." A lot of things are on what I would call the "prostitution continuum."

"There is no way to tell whether He’s work did any good."

#11 on a list of "the 15 most damning details" in "The CRISPR Baby Scandal Gets Worse by the Day/The alleged creation of the world's first gene-edited infants was full of technical errors and ethical blunders" (The Atlantic).

That "damning detail" caught my eye because it looked like grossly poor copyediting by The Atlantic, but the man's name is He — He Jiankui.

December 4, 2018

At the Tuesday Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"What’s novel about 'Friends,' or what must seem so to a certain subset of New York teenagers of whom so much is expected, is the absence among the six central characters of any quality of corrosive ambition."

"The show refuses to take professional life or creative aspirations too seriously. What does Chandler Bing actually do? I was never entirely sure. In the series’ ninth season he is an advertising intern. On 'Girls' you have writers who are trying to be Mary Karr; on 'Friends' you have actors who want to be on 'Days of Our Lives.' The dreamscape dimension of 'Friends' lies in the way schedules are freed up for fun and shenanigans and talking and rehashing, always. 'In the back of our minds we know it’s unrealistic,' Maggie Parham, a 15-year-old who lives on the Upper West Side, told me. The characters 'have nice apartments and lots of free time but there is something about that perfect lifestyle that is fun to watch,' she said, adding, 'They all work, but they seem to be able to get out of work easily.'... [A 17-year-old girl said] 'All they do is hang out in a coffee shop or a really nice apartment... It’s the ideal situation.'"

From "‘Friends’ Has New BFFs: New York Teenagers" (NYT). That's from 2015, but I'm reading it today because it's linked in a new article in the Times, "Netflix Will Keep ‘Friends’ Through Next Year in a $100 Million Agreement," which notes that "the show has found an especially receptive audience on Netflix, where it became available in 2015."

And here's a New York Magazine article rom 2016, “Is ‘Friends’ Still the Most Popular Show on TV?”
The world of Friends is ­notable, to modern eyes, for what it encompasses about being young and single and carefree in the city but also for what it doesn’t encompass: social media, smartphones, student debt, the sexual politics of Tinder, moving back in with your parents as a ­matter of course, and a national mood that vacillates between anxiety and defeatism...  Which is why you might expect that Friends, like similar cultural relics of that era, would be safely preserved in the cryogenic chamber of our collective nostalgia. And yet, astonishingly, the show is arguably as popular as it ever was — and it is popular with a cohort of young people who are only now discovering it....
I myself am just watching the show for the first time, going at a rate of about an episode a day, and just getting to the end of Season 3.