May 12, 2018

"The esteemed Manhattan theater in which I spent several hours on a recent Saturday night might as well have been a dormitory."

"Up and down the rows and aisles, people could be seen in various states of drowsy repose. A woman in the row ahead of mine had her head thrust all the way back, as if she were paying the audience member behind her to shampoo her hair.... Is every theater piece really that dull to some percentage of the crowd, I wonder, or are we just coming to public events ever more sleep-deprived?.... Do people attending plays and musicals have a moral obligation to the performers to try to stay awake?..."

From "Why pay $100 and more for a theater ticket if you sleep during the performance?" (WaPo).

The bike mountains of China.

"I need to make them look perfect for their family."

"Rich Lee, a grinder with dreams of turning his pelvis into a cyborgian vibrator, is in the front row."

"After he and his wife divorced in 2015, she sued for custody of their children. Mr. Lee has magnets inside his ears which act as headphones; shortly after his divorce, he attempted to implant his shins with foam armor, which ended in swelling, burst stitches and removal. His children, he wrote in a GoFundMe raising money for legal fees, 'used to think I was an awesome dad with super powers, but now they have been told I am a self-mutilating parent with a problem and that they are victims for seeing the stitches in my legs.'"

From "Magnet Implants? Welcome to the World of Medical Punk/'It’s not good enough to talk,' says Jeffrey Tibbetts, a registered nurse whose home plays host to Grindfest, an annual meetup of biohackers. 'You should be taking action. That’s kind of our ethos'" in The New York Times (which chose not to allow commenting on this crazy nonsense).

Maybe I'm weird, but here's something you can do that might be fun.

Go to Goodreads and search for a book you really like, scroll down to "community reviews," and select the filter "1 star." You might get boring non-reviews, like "I hated this book so much that I can't even talk about why." I saw that on a book I loved. It doesn't matter which one.

But I was looking for reviews of the book I'm reading now — "Men Without Women" by Haruki Murakami — which I'm immensely enjoying, and I stumbled into the "1 star" filter. Someone who goes by "Jack" wrote:
This review didn't begin so negatively because I hate the author and the kind of person who's attracted to his style; on the contrary, I've read his entire oeuvre, more or less, and enjoyed a decent majority of his works. The criticisms of Murakami's style are well-known at this point: he has a bag of narrative or aesthetic tricks, and there isn't a single thing in one of his stories he hasn't repeated somewhere else....

He's a casual read, uncomplicated but mostly superficially pleasing, like the bland emotionless sexual encounters in 95% of everything he writes. There's only so many times one can read about a relatively handsome Japanese man, in his late-thirties or maybe middle-age, who likes jazz and cooking and being a milquetoast zombie at once content and uneasy with his vapid life, without thinking that maybe Murakami isn't writing about some aspect of the human condition, or the plight of men, or something like that: maybe he's just putting himself into every novel, adding a weird dream or two, a cat, some sort of mundane fantastical event that goes unexplained, and repeating until the publishers phone up and say it's time for him to make them more money.

I became interested in Murakami's writing as a teenager because I was a big manga and JRPG nerd, and wanted to continue obsessing over Japan while gaining some sort of literary foothold that put me above the unwashed nerdy masses. He was an easy read while channeling an ineffable sensibility, and he was big into Anglo-American culture so I could understand most of his references. I might reread The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle sometime down the line and discover that there's still a lot in Murakami's style I enjoy.

For the most part, I can only conclude I've outgrown him. He didn't change; I did. By that line of thinking, maybe I shouldn't be making a value judgment of his work, if I've just come to a change of taste, right? Well, no. His prose is clunky at best, profoundly meaningless at its most infuriating. This is still a pretty bad short story collection, but if you like it, you're in luck! You'll like everything Murakami's ever written right up until the moment you realise you hate him. 
Ha ha. That was well written, and I don't think it will hurt my enjoyment of Murakami's writing... until (I guess) the moment I realize I hate him.

Why am I reading that book? Is it because of the incels in the news or the men-without-women amongst the commenters of this blog? No. There were 2 things:

First, I read a Murakami book last September. As described in a post titled "A song about singing off key," I was clicking around aimlessly and happened onto "15 sights that make Tokyo so fascinating" (HuffPo), and #7 was the Murakami novel "Norwegian Wood" ("For millions of readers around the world who've never been to Japan, it's been a way for them to experience in some small way, Japan's capital of the past").

Second, a reader familiar with my "Gatsby project" emailed to say, "I’m reading Murakami’s 'What I talk about when I talk about running.' I came to one paragraph (see attached) which made me think of you and which you might enjoy."

Here's the paragraph:
One other project I’m involved in now is translating Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, and things are going well. I’ve finished the first draft and am revising the second. I’m taking my time, going over each line carefully, and as I do so the translation gets smoother and I’m better able to render Fitzgerald’s prose into more natural Japanese. It’s a little strange, perhaps, to make this claim at such a late date, but Gatsby really is an outstanding novel. I never get tired of it, no matter how many times I read it. It’s the kind of literature that nourishes you as you read, and every time I do I’m struck by something new, and experience a fresh reaction to it. I find it amazing how such a young writer, only twenty-nine at the time, could grasp— so insightfully, so equitably, and so warmly— the realities of life. How was this possible? The more I think about it, and the more I read the novel, the more mysterious it all is.
I can't imagine translating Gatsby, because the sentences are so weird. Do you translate literally to preserve the weirdness, or do you make it sound natural and idiomatic so people won't say you don't know how to translate, or can you find similar ways to be weird that fit the translated-to language?

And if you're thinking of fighting my opinion that the Gatsby sentences are weird, please click on the "Gatsby project" link above. Each post is about exactly one sentence — such as "A tray of cocktails floated at us through the twilight, and we sat down at a table with the two girls in yellow and three men, each one introduced to us as Mr. Mumble."

When I heard about the Murakami translation of "Gatsby," my heart leapt but only for a half-second. I can't read Japanese! I almost studied Japanese long ago, and nothing prevents me from studying it or anything else even now. But it made me want to read Murakami again, and "Men Without Women" seemed to be the most recent fiction. I started in on that. After reading 5 of the 8 stories, I put the nonfiction "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" in my Kindle too. Don't want to overload on fiction. And the 5th story was really great.

By the way — "Men Without Women" is also the title of a story collection by Ernest Hemingway. "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love" is a story collection by Raymond Carver. And, obviously, "Norwegian Wood" is a Beatles song.

From the 5th story:
“Mr. Kino, you’re not the type who would willingly do something wrong. I know that very well. But there are times in this world when it’s not enough just not to do the wrong thing. Some people use that blank space as a kind of loophole. Do you understand what I’m saying?”

"If I said that phrase back then, quite some time ago, it was in a way to counter the Spielbergs and that lot who said a story had to have a beginning, a middle and an end, and so, as a joke, I said: 'not in that order.'"

Said Jean-Luc Godard, confronted with his old statement that films should not follow a conventional narrative arc, quoted in "Godard injects anarchic spirit at Cannes with small screen cameo." The 87-year-old filmmaker appeared via Facetime to promote his new movie "The Image Book," which is a collection of "clips from other films, stills, news footage and even Islamic State online videos, with a soundtrack often at odds with the images."

"I do not want to sit and make a nest and be comfortable, and I did feel so comfortable that I stopped being involved as a person and an artist and that is not something I want."

"I don't want to have comfort, I don't want to have a family, I don't want to have a flat — so I destroyed in a way everything I had in order to be able to build. It is almost like a delete button and you just want to start fresh."

So said Sergei Polunin, in 2012, when he was 22 and had suddenly quit the Royal Ballet, where he was the youngest dancer ever to have been made a principal.

I'm reading that today because it was presented as related by BBC News where I'd gone to read "Booed tenor quits La Scala's Aida/Top tenor Roberto Alagna has stunned opera-goers at La Scala in Milan by storming off stage in the middle of a performance after he was booed."

That's an article from 2006, which I was reading as a consequence of this search of my own blog archive:
I was looking at that because Meade had texted me a little video that made me think "La Scala" had some personal significance to us that I ought to have remembered — not that everything I should remember is collected in the blog archive.

How is Roberto Alagna doing these days?  The following year he performed in Aida at the Metropolitan Opera and got a standing ovation. I guess he's recovered from the hurt feelings he got being booed. I like the "Early years" section of his Wikipedia article:
Alagna was born outside the city of Paris in 1963 to a family of Sicilian immigrants. As a teenager, the young Alagna began busking and singing pop in Parisian cabarets, mostly for tips. Influenced primarily by the films of Mario Lanza and learning from recordings of many historic tenors, he then switched to opera, but remained largely self-taught....
That makes me think of the movie "Heavenly Creatures." Have you ever seen that Peter Jackson movie, where the girls (one of whom is played by Kate Winslet) go absolutely mad for Mario Lanza?

And what has become of Sergei Polunin? Well, at the end of the article quoted above, he says that ballet was his "childhood goal," and he achieved it at age 19, "And then I said 'what's next?' and I set myself a different goal at 19 to become an actor. I started watching movies more carefully, watching actors - the way they act, the way the movie is filmed, just as a hobby in a way, but also something to progress to maybe in the future." And here he is talking about his role in the 2017 film "Murder on the Orient Express":

"... into the tongue, into the mouse..."

At Mosey's Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

And think about using the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"'A plant on top of a brick and some plywood furniture,' Alegre said, jokingly, of the dominant Apartamento style..."

"... though it has nonetheless encouraged a generation of homeowners (or, just as likely, renters) to rethink what makes a good home and, perhaps by extension, a good life.... 'We built this house in a way that you almost don’t need any furniture,' he said. Apartamento, it seems, has given him an appreciation of emptiness.... The cork dining table... was covered with remnants of a long lunch that Alegre had hosted the previous Sunday afternoon. A wine key was still on the table. The contents of a wooden bowl formed an accidental still life: onion, shriveled lemons, coaster, light bulb. 'That’s the thing with a second home,' Alegre said. 'It doesn’t have to be nice all the time.'"

From "Inside an Artfully Imperfect Home in the Catalonian Countryside" (NYT).

Here's a link to the Apartamento site.

It's funny for me to read this today, because yesterday, I spent the whole day attacking clutter in this house. The only way "accidental still lifes" of the "onion, shriveled lemons, coaster, light bulb" kind are going to feel charming — to me, anyway — is if you do periodically clear everything out. Food clutter is a special problem. What if there is a bug on that onion and shriveled lemons still life? Not so still anymore.

I've never thought until just now about whether the category still life excludes images that contain moving life, such as insects. Having thought of the issue, I assumed insects on a pile of fruit would not cause us to refrain from calling it a still life.

Researching the question, I encountered Balthasar van der Ast (1593/94 – 7 March 1657)...
... a Dutch Golden Age painter who specialized in still lifes of flowers and fruit, as well as painting a number of remarkable shell still lifes... His still lifes often contain insects and lizards.... His lifetime of works was once summarized by an Amsterdam doctor who said, "In flowers, shells and lizards, beautiful."

"Sen. John McCain is 2,200 miles from Washington and hasn’t been on Capitol Hill in five months, but he showed this week that he remains a potent force in national politics and a polarizing figure within the Republican Party."

"From his home in Sedona, Ariz., where he is receiving treatment for an aggressive and typically fatal type of brain cancer, McCain has challenged and praised the Trump administration’s actions on national security — his voice limited to news releases and Twitter. But his declaration Wednesday in opposition to Gina Haspel, President Trump’s nominee for CIA director, has uniquely roiled the political scene. The denunciation has prompted reactions from fellow senators and a former vice president, as well as intemperate remarks from some Republicans aligned with Trump, including a White House aide. It has revived the fierce debate over torture and its effectiveness in extracting information in the years since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks — from a man who speaks from experience. McCain was held for 5½ years in a North Vietnamese prison, often deprived of sleep, food and medical care, after a jet he piloted was shot down over Hanoi...."

So begins "Speaking out on torture and a Trump nominee, ailing McCain roils Washington" (WaPo).

Also at WaPo: "John McCain is the single greatest political leader of our time" (by Dana Milbank). Excerpt:
McCain is still with us, and this is no obituary. But as Trump loyalists besmirch this good man, I thought I would put in writing what I have often thought over the years: John McCain is the single greatest political leader of our time. He is, in a way, not of our time, for his creed — country before self — is unfamiliar to many who serve in office and utterly foreign to the man in charge.

Only once during the nearly quarter of a century I’ve been covering politics did I think I could work for a politician, and that politician was McCain. I first got to know him in early 1999, when there were just a few of us driving around New Hampshire with him in an SUV, before the “Straight Talk Express” rolled. Had he beaten George W. Bush (he surely would have defeated Al Gore), and had he been president on Sept. 11, 2001, I know he would have done great things with the national unity Bush ultimately squandered....

Too literal?

"Keepin' Out of Mischief Now" is the song Elvis Costello says he'd like played at his funeral.

"When writing is our way of being in the world, it continuously asserts itself over the countless other aspects of life: love, study, a job."

"It insists even when there’s no paper and pen or anything, because we’re worshippers of the written word and our minds dictate sentences even in the absence of tools with which to set them down. Writing, in short, is always there, urgent, and distances even the people we love, even our children who ask us to play."

Writes Elena Ferrante in "If you feel the urge to write, there’s no good reason to put it off" (The Guardian.

May 11, 2018

At the Cattle Dog Café...


... I hope you're paying attention.

"Cave Found in Kenya in Which People Lived for 78,000 Years/Unique discoveries in tropical forest cave show gradual development of weapons and other skills, negating the theory of sudden spurts of innovation."

Haaretz reports.
Panga ya Saidi is actually a network of caves about a kilometer long in limestone hills: the main chamber is about 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) co-author Prof. Michael Petraglia of the Max Planck Institute tells Haaretz. It was used from the Middle Stone Age to this day, though people don’t live in it any more: now they use it for burials and rituals, he says. In any case, it was big enough to have supported hundreds of people....

At Panga ya Saidi, tools go back to the earliest occupation 78,000 years ago. But the occupants’ technology changed markedly 67,000 years ago, with smaller, finer implements appearing, reflecting changes in hunting practices and skills.

After that turning point, the archaeologists observed a mix of technologies rather than sudden changes. That argues against a series of cognitive or cultural "revolutions" theorized by some archaeologists, they write....

"I think that Twitter is a useful reporting tool sometimes, but an utterly toxic swamp that nonetheless I engage in more than I probably should."

"Look, it’s still a great way to promote stories. It’s also a great reporting tool in the sense that I’ll tweet a piece of information, and someone will contact me, and they’ll have more information. In that way, it’s great. But it’s just a time suck. Look, a lot of us need an editor, right? I need an editor. I don’t have an editor on Twitter. I have an editor in the paper, and so I tend to be less precise in 140 characters and sometimes I leave people confused as to my meaning. And then I make the mistake of engaging and trying to explain it, which just leads you down a rabbit hole. Less time spent there is probably better."

Says NYT reporter Maggie Haberman in an interview at Slate.

There seems to be a lot of hating of Twitter. I was just reading that Andrew Sullivan piece, blogged in the previous post, and it had a stray line of Twitter hate that stuck with me:
[A decade ago,] The Atlantic was crammed with ideological opposites... and our engagement with each other and our readerships was a crackling and productive one. There was much more of that back then, before Twitter swallowed blogging, before identity politics became completely nonnegotiable, before we degenerated into these tribal swarms of snark and loathing.
Twitter swallowed blogging.... yet blogging was better. Things have gotten uglier. I keep my distance from Twitter (and Facebook), but I think there's an idea that the interactivity is better on Twitter — so fast and intense. By comparison, blogs don't seem to happen. The very thing blogs did that was so exciting 10 years ago is what blogs just don't seem to do at all anymore. And yet people are powerfully unhappy with Twitter. Everything looks so ugly and cruel. And it's Trump's milieu. So painful for Sullivan, Haberman, et al.

Andrew Sullivan finds himself "instinctually siding with the independent artist" like Kanye West...

"... perhaps because I’ve had to fight for my own individuality apart from my own various identities, most of my life," writes Andrew Sullivan in  "Kanye West and the Question of Freedom."
It wasn’t easy being the first openly gay editor of anything in Washington when I was in my 20s. But it was harder still to be someone not defined entirely by my group, to be a dissident within it, a pariah to many, even an oxymoron, because of my politics or my faith....

I’m not whining about this experience, just explaining why I tend to side reflexively with the individual when he is told he isn’t legit by the group. In that intimidating atmosphere, I’m with the dissenter, the loner, and the outlier. I’m with the undocumented, the dude who has had his group credentials taken away.

And so I bristle at Ta-Nehisi’s view that West cannot be a truly black musician and a Trump admirer, based on the logic that the gift of black music 'can never wholly belong to a singular artist, free of expectation and scrutiny, because the gift is no more solely theirs than the suffering that produced it …What Kanye West seeks is what Michael Jackson sought — liberation from the dictates of that we.'

I bristle because, of course, Coates is not merely subjecting West to 'expectation and scrutiny' which should apply to anyone and to which no one should object; he is subjecting West to anathematization, to expulsion from the ranks. In fact, Coates reserves the worst adjective he can think of to describe West, the most othering and damning binary word he can muster: white.... Coates denounces West for seeking something called 'white freedom'....

I even feel something similar in a different way as a gay man in a straight world, where the general culture is not designed for me, and the architecture of a full civic life was once denied me. But that my own freedom was harder to achieve doesn’t make it any less precious, or sacrosanct. I’d argue it actually makes it more vivid, more real, than it might be for someone who never questioned it. And I am never going to concede it to 'straightness,' the way Coates does to 'whiteness.' As an individual, I seek my own freedom, period....

There is no gay freedom or straight freedom, no black freedom or white freedom; merely freedom, a common dream, a universalizing, individual experience. 'Liberation from the dictates of the we' is everyone’s birthright in America... A free artist owes nothing to anyone, especially his own tribe."
Sullivan focused on the same material in Coates's essay that I wrote about a few days ago: "I had to read it out loud to try to absorb the part where we can understand why West's idea of freedom is specifically white. It didn't work. Maybe because I'm white and that's making me think that complete freedom is every human being's birthright and that it would be racist to tell black people to adhere to a prescribed black form of freedom."

I'm interested in Sullivan's attention to the idea of the artist, even as he speaks of identifying with Kanye and "the independent artist." I don't think Sullivan regards himself as an artist, and I don't know about Ta-Nehisi Coates, but I suspect that Coates does see himself as an artist — as a literary genius of some sort. Certainly Coates hears himself spoken of that way, and his prose style — to my eye — reflects that self-image. Coates has made race his template, his brutally repetitive message. His artistic freedom has moved him to continually say that black people are not free. He's really not free to say anything else, is he? So he must say it about other artists, even as those other artists claim their freedom to say whatever they want too. Coates can only describe a prison. He can't put anyone else in it. He can only invite them to perceive the prison and themselves inside it.

International Studies.

Scan 55

"I'm going to give you some advice... Don't have children... That's it. Do not... You can write great books... Or you can have kids. It's up to you.... Poe. O'Connor. Welty. None of them had children. Chekhov. Beckett. Woolf."

So said an unnamed great writer to the novelist Michael Chabon, Chabon tells us in GQ.
“Put it this way, Michael,” the great man said, and then he sketched out the brutal logic: Writing was a practice. The more you wrote, the better a writer you became and the more books you produced. Excellence plus productivity, that was the formula for sustained success, and time was the coefficient of both. Children, the great man said, were notorious thieves of time. Then there was the question of subject matter, settings, experiences; books were hungry things, and if you stayed too long in any one place, they would consume everything and everyone around you. You needed to keep moving, always onward, a literary Masai driving your ravenous herd of novels. Travel, therefore, was a must, and I should take his word for it because he had made a careful study: Traveling with children was the world's biggest pain in the ass. Anyway, writers were restless folk. They could not thrive without being able to pick up and go, wherever and whenever it suited them. Writers needed to be irresponsible, ultimately, to everything but the writing, free of commitments to everything but the daily word count. Children, by contrast, needed stability, consistency, routine, and above all, commitment. In short, he was saying, children are the opposite of writing....
Chabon went on to have 4 children and 14 books.
Once they're written, my books, unlike my children, hold no wonder for me; no mystery resides in them. Unlike my children, my books are cruelly unforgiving of my weaknesses, failings, and flaws of character. Most of all, my books, unlike my children, do not love me back. Anyway, if, 100 years hence, those books lie moldering and forgotten, I'll never know. That's the problem, in the end, with putting all your chips on posterity: You never stick around long enough to enjoy it.
The linked essay is also in his new book "Pops: Fatherhood in Pieces," which comes out in 4 days.

"Bitcoin is a revolt against fiat [government-backed] money, and an all-meat diet is a revolt against fiat food."

"Once someone has grown capable of seeing beyond the lies and myths that experts peddle in one domain, it becomes easier to see beyond them in other domains as well."

Said Michael Goldstein, a “bitcoin and meat maximalist," who seems to eat nothing but steak — "very rare" rib-eye steak — and says non-meat foods "don’t even register in my brain as food" and likes not wasting any time getting food-shopping done.

He's quoted in "They mock vegans and eat 4lbs of steak a day: meet 'carnivore dieters'/An extreme, all animal-based diet is gaining followers in search of heightened productivity, mental clarity, and a boosted libido. But experts express doubts" (The Guardian).

After 8 years, we finally got our 7th Circuit judge — as the Senate votes in defiance of Tammy Baldwin.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
The Senate voted along party lines to confirm Milwaukee attorney Michael Brennan to fill an opening on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The tally was 49-46. The seat has been open for more than eight years, the longest ever for the nation’s appellate courts.

The Senate gives lawmakers a chance to weigh in on a judicial nominee from their home state by submitting a blue-colored form called the “blue slip.” A positive blue slip signals the Senate to move forward with the nomination process. A negative blue slip, or withholding it altogether, signals a senator’s objection and almost always stalls the nomination.

Until this year, it had been nearly three decades since the Senate confirmed a judge without two positive blue slips. Brennan’s confirmation marked the second time it has happened this year. Baldwin declined to return her blue slip.

"State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, issued a press release Wednesday with an image of Baldwin alongside Khalid Sheikh Muhammed... labeled Team Terrorists.'"

"The image includes photos of Vukmir and [Gina] Haspel with the label 'Team America," the Wisconsin State Journal reports. Baldwin is up for re-election this fall, and Vukmir is one of the GOP candidates. The primary isn't until August. According to the news article, Baldwin has not met with Haspel or taken a position on her confirmation.

What do you think of that ad? free polls

"Women! Do we love women? Women!"

May 10, 2018

At the Brain Space Café...

Scan 53

... you can off-load your useless knowledge.

Scan 54

And buy things through the Althouse Portal to Amazon, because Althouse needs new Lamy pens and Moleskine notebooks.

The catacombs of Indianapolis.

"Beneath Indianapolis’ Bustling City Market Lies a Forgotten Underground Expanse" (Smithsonian).
... I can’t help but notice the utter stillness that envelops me as I descend the only staircase leading to the City Market Catacombs... As we walk through the 20,000-square-foot expanse of brick-arched passageways, the exposed dirt floors crunching under our feet, [the tour guide] explains to me that the subterranean chambers are all that remains of Tomlinson Hall, a once sprawling music hall that opened in 1886 and later succumbed to a fire in 1958. (The only above-ground vestige of the original structure is a single archway.) The setting is spooky, but Manterfield is quick to point out that despite the name, the catacombs never held remains – at least not of the human variety. “See those hooks attached to the archways... Those were used for hanging meat to dry.”

"Goodson listened to the podcast alone in his bed. Every few hours, his wife would crack open the door to make sure he was OK."

"'I was just clusterfucked,' Goodson recalled. The hardest part to hear wasn't the sections about him—it was hearing his late friend's voice. 'Oh Lord. I probably bawled my eyes out through the whole thing,' Goodson said. 'Up until it got up to that fruity stuff. I don’t have nothing against homosexuals, but it was too much for me. I felt like they took that a little far.' Listening to the podcast was the first time he learned McLemore had intimate relationships with men. 'I had my thoughts, but it wasn’t none of my business on his sexuality and all that,' he said... Not much has changed in Woodstock, Alabama in the last year. 'It's still the same old shit town,' Goodson said. There have been visitors. Fans of the podcast will drop by the property he shares with his wife, four daughters, five-month-old son, grandmother and uncle to take a photo, which annoys the hell out of Goodson. 'It still gets aggravating when you got people coming up in your yard and wanting to take pictures all the time and that kind of crap,' he said."

From "'It’s the Same Old Sh*t Town': Tyler Goodson Explains How S-Town Changed His Life/One year and nearly 80 million downloads later, Tyler Goodson discusses life after a podcast" (Esquire).

I'm a big fan of the podcast "S-Town" (i.e., "Shit-town). A year ago, I wrote, "I've thought a lot about what will happen to Tyler. It seems inevitable that less scrupulous people than the 'This American Life' team will find him and want to use him for purposes that he may not competently evaluate. He's a young man and — you won't learn this listening to the podcast — unusually good looking. I can't believe there won't be offers to participate in filming a reality show. Wouldn't people love to see that house he's built out of scraps and wisteria vines and a horse trough? Wouldn't people love to hear him talk with Uncle Jimmy shouting 'Goddam right!' and 'Yes suh!' in the background? What is 'This American Life' doing to protect him? What can they do? What should they do?"

"But the problem wasn’t the unsexy sex, or not mostly. It was that, the 1960s and 1970s having passed, people began to notice..."

"... that Fosse didn’t really have many steps at his command—characteristically, he acknowledged this—or, in the end, many emotions. He remained very influential. In the 1980s, you could barely see a dance in a music video—let alone a TV commercial or a Cirque du Soleil number or a dancercise routine—that wasn’t filtered through his style. But an influence is not necessarily a good influence.... It is Fosse’s comment on both his fears of being second-rate and his cynicism about his ability to manipulate an audience. 'I hesitate about a movement and think: Oh no. They’ll never buy that. It’s too corny, too show-biz. And then I do it, and they love it.' So he does it again, and he hates himself, and hates them."

From "Crotch Shots Galore" a review by Joan Acocella of 2 books about Bob Fosse in the NY Review of Books.

"Are We Finally Getting Over the Belief That Periods Are Embarrassing?"

Asks Katha Pollitt at The Nation. Subtitle: "To fight for pads and tampons for all, we have to talk openly about menstruation." In case you were going to say why do we have to talk about it. That's Pollitt's answer. I'd like to talk about it because it entails embarrassment, and embarrassment is an important and interesting topic, but Pollitt doesn't talk about embarrassment. She talks about fairness and economics. It's all about menstruation supplies...
Pads and tampons cost women up to $120 a year—and that’s not counting pain relievers like Midol or Advil. Over a lifetime, it can add up to as much as $4,500.
Nature is not fair, so if you are a man, consider giving $120 a year to a charity like the Alliance for Period Supplies.

ADDED: Nature is unfair to men in that they die, on average, 5 years earlier than the average woman (in the U.S. (worldwide, it's 8)). But one way to spend less, a lot less, is not to live. Why do men live less long?
Men tend to take bigger risks... have more dangerous jobs... die of heart disease more often and at a younger age... be larger than women... commit suicide more often than women... be less socially connected... avoid doctors....
Note that some of those factors are things that will save you money before you die, notably that failure to go to the doctor. But some of those factors suggest that you will make more money — taking bigger risks and having more dangerous jobs. One thing will cost more: Having a larger body. You'll need more food for that, but perhaps men tend to buy less expensive food.

By the way, did you know that "Across many species, larger animals tend to die younger than smaller ones"? I'm not sure whether that means that the larger species have shorter life spans than the smaller species or just that within any species, the larger individuals have shorter life spans than the smaller individuals. It's very obvious that among dogs, the shortest-lived breeds are large and the longest-lived breeds are small. A chihuahua lives an average of 17 years and an Irish wolfhound only gets 7 years.

"As a chef, I saw [brunch] as a devil’s bargain in that it was irresistibly profitable but came at the cost of an unhappy kitchen staff."

"As a customer on my days off, I hated it because it was crowded, and my hate was only enhanced by my knowledge of the actual food costs versus the inflated menu prices. Later, as an unemployable drug addict, The only jobs I could get were as a brunch specialist (because no one else at good restaurants wanted to cook eggs) which is why the smell of home fries will always smell like shame and defeat to me... [A]ccess to unlimited mimosas seems to invite a crowd inclined to all varieties of douchery."

Wrote Anthony Bourdain, in email quoted in "Are We Done Hating Brunch?" (The New Yorker).

We were just talking about brunch in an April 28th post titled, "This article is sad to me. It looks like the patrons are mainly women desperate for something that can never be found," about a WaPo article called, "'You can never have too many mimosas’: How brunch became the day-wrecking meal that America loves to hate."

ADDED: Here's my best brunch... or at least the best brunch I ever photographed:

Brunch at the 4 Seasons

Blogged here in 2008.

"Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee released thousands of Russian Facebook ads on Thursday..."

"... offering the public its first in-depth look at the troubling messages used to heighten tensions among Americans during and after the 2016 U.S. presidential election," USA Today reports.
Some of the more than 3,000 ads denounced Donald Trump, others his Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton. Many of the ads, placed by Russians posing as Americans, didn't endorse a specific candidate but spread inflammatory messages on sensitive subjects such as immigration and race to amplify fault lines in American life, targeting users from specific backgrounds and tight races in key states such as Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Virginia. These negative appeals included a group called Fit Black, which urged people to attend “Black Fist Free Self-Defense Classes.” Another from the Army of Jesus encouraged voters to pick a president with “godly morals" with a picture of Jesus arm-wrestling Satan....

Patterns quickly emerge in sampling the ads. Many of the hundreds of ads placed in April 2016 targeted racial divisions in American society, encouraging African-American political activism by imitating the language and messaging of the Black Lives Matter movement with posts highlighting racist incidents and others the resilience and beauty of the African-American community. A smaller contingent that month targeted conservative Facebook users. Festooned with American flags, they sounded patriotic themes including reverence for the constitution. Still others contained calls for Americans to "take care of our vets, not illegals."...
I looked at a bunch of them. There's a slideshow of 31 at the link. It's a mishmash of stupid. But who knows what weird little thing might tip somebody's vote?

ADDED: If I believed these ads mattered, I would not support voting as a way to determine who exercises governmental power. But I'm thinking that the Democrats who are making such a big deal out of these ads really don't themselves believe in democracy. They have been going on and on for a year and a half about how Donald Trump shouldn't be President. Personally, I want to believe in democracy, and what I saw back in November 2016 is that the American people voted Donald Trump into office. I accept that he is rightfully President because he won the election. It bothers me tremendously that so many people won't do that. I think they do not believe in democracy. And I know they are leaning very hard into the argument that what happened wasn't real democracy. Look at those stupid ads they've made such a big deal about!

AND: Please don't tell me about Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote. What if Donald Trump had held rallies in upstate New York and various places in California, etc. etc.? He won the election that was held. She won an imaginary election that he wasn't competing in.

It's a date: Singapore, June 12th.

When's the last time you got soaked by rain?

For me, it was yesterday. Click to enlarge:

The Capital City Trail is a 20-mile bike ride. The stadium is Camp Randal Stadium, about .7 miles from our house.

About 2/3 of the way into the ride, I could see the dark part of sky encroaching and I hoped it would expand into someplace other than where I was. There was a good part of blue, and my paternal grandmother used to say, "If there's enough blue to make a pair of sailor's pants, it won't rain." I concentrated on riding fast. Put my e-bike on "Turbo" and the highest gear. I almost made it. But I completely made it in the sense that I did not get struck by lightning. When you're worried about lightning, getting wet is nothing. It was almost fun getting wet. My destination was home, where I would have changed my clothes immediately even if they were dry. It's the fear of lightning that stays with you. Oh! The lightning nightmare I had last night. The whole city caught fire.

"We just figured might as well. It came down to might as well see how it feels to kill someone before we kill ourselves. We didn’t see no reason not to, we were about to die, what did we care for?"

From "Two teens made a suicide pact. But first, they wanted to ‘see how it feels to kill,’ police said" (WaPo).

"John McCain Urges Senate To Reject Gina Haspel’s Nomination For CIA."

HuffPo reports.
In his statement, McCain said he understood “the urgency that drove the decision” to resort to torture as a method of interrogation after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. “But as I have argued many times, the methods we employ to keep our nation safe must be as right and just as the values we aspire to live up to and promote in the world.”

He continued: “I believe Gina Haspel is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense. However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying. I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”
ADDED: Here's the key discussion of morality:
Kamala Harris: So one question I have not heard you answer is, do you believe that the previous interrogation techniques were immoral?

Haspel: Senator, I believe that CIA officers to whom you refer—

Harris: It’s a yes or no answer. Do you believe the previous interrogation techniques were immoral? I’m not asking do you believe they were legal; I’m asking do you believe they were immoral?

Haspel: Senator, I believe that CIA—

Harris: It’s a yes or no answer.

Haspel: —did extraordinary work to prevent another attack on this country given the legal tools we were asked to use.

Harris: Please answer yes or no. Do you believe in hindsight that those techniques were immoral?

Haspel: Senator, what I believe sitting here today is that I support the higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to.

Harris: Can you please answer the question?

Haspel: Senator, I think I’ve answered the request, the question.

Harris: No, you have not. Do you believe the previous techniques, now armed with hindsight, do you believe they were immoral? Yes or no?

Haspel: Senator, I believe that we should hold ourselves to the moral standard outlined in the Army field manual.

Harris: Okay, so I understand that you have not answered the question, but I’m going to move on.

"This is a special night for these three really great people."

Said President Trump, quoted in "Trump greets Americans freed from North Korea" (NY Post).

ADDED: Extended footage:

"'Be best' at what?"

"The First Lady’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, casts the blurriness of the Be Best campaign as a strength, 'something unique.' 'She has not narrowed her platform down to just one topic, as has been done in the past,' Grisham said, on CNN. 'Mrs. Trump wishes to help the next generation by creating change through awareness on a variety of issues.' Be best: Is it a competitive challenge to kids? (Yikes!) A benediction? A Yoda-esque mantra? It has a Trumpian tinge, a view of life as a competition divided into winners and losers.... Donald Trump’s emptiness revealed itself over decades in the media glare. But Melania, a former model, has long embraced vacancy as an aesthetic. She has the creepy, objectified opacity of a doll, or a robot—a shimmer of the uncanny valley. Her willed passivity may be the strongest expression of her agency. She is an avatar of blankness, a mute queen. Standing behind a podium in the Rose Garden, her husband in the audience, Melania spoke slowly, with practiced inflections; she sounded like an actor reading from a script that she didn’t quite understand...."

From "The Childlike Strangeness of Melania Trump’s 'Be Best' Campaign" by Katy Waldman at The New Yorker.

I haven't read the "Be Best" booklet. Is it a booklet? A website somewhere? But I can honestly say I haven't a clue what it means other than some idea of striving for excellence. What's weird about it is the absence of "your" before "best." We can't all be best, even if lots of us are tippy-top excellent and we work really, really hard. That's not enough if we aren't the best? I'd say it's "best" to give up and not play that competition.

But if "your" were there, "be" would seem wrong. The colloquial expression — not that Melania has any feeling for colloquial English — is "Do your best." But I guess that didn't seem strong enough. I did my best is something we often say lamely. And it seems to provoke the response, "Sometimes your best is not good enough." Isn't that a famous quote? The internet seems to credit Winston Churchill with the line, "Sometimes doing your best is not good enough. Sometimes you must do what is required."

Do what is required. Maybe some future first lady will use that. No, of course not. In America, you'd get a first lady going with "Do your own thing" before "Do what is required." We prefer freedom to being told what to do. And yet, you could have your own personal goals, and "Do what is required" would be nothing more than a prod to figure out the means to that end — your end — and get it done.

But Melania's mystifying slogan doesn't have the action word "do." Her verb is "be." Maybe it's not about achieving at all. Just "be." Maybe it's more hippie that "Do your own thing." It's "Be here now." We can have a Be-In. The notion of "best" melts away. It's all best.

And that's how to be best at blogging.

May 9, 2018

"The Treasury Department’s inspector general is investigating whether confidential banking information involving a company controlled by President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen was leaked..."

WaPo reports.
Detailed claims about the company’s banking history were made public Tuesday by Michael Avenatti, an attorney for Stormy Daniels, the adult-film star who was paid $130,000 by Cohen’s company shortly before the 2016 election to keep quiet about her alleged affair with Trump.

Inspector General Eric Thorson, who operates independently of the agency’s political leadership, launched the probe in response to media reports, said counsel Rich Delmar. It might — or might not — answer a question that was the source of much speculation Wednesday: How did Avenatti come into hard-to-get information touching on some of the most sensitive issues before the White House, including the probe led by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III?

On Twitter, Avenatti circulated a dossier purporting to show that Cohen received $500,000 last year from Columbus Nova, the U.S.-based affiliate of Renova Group, a company founded by Russian billionaire Viktor Vekselberg. The business magnate attended Trump’s inauguration and has reportedly been interviewed by Mueller’s prosecutors. Columbus Nova confirmed the payment, saying it was for consulting on investments and other matters, but denied any involvement by Vekselberg....

"Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) said Wednesday that he will vote to confirm President Trump's nominee for CIA director, Gina Haspel."

"Why it matters: Several Republicans and outside groups were hoping they could get Manchin, a red-state Democrat, to fold on Haspel because, with his support, Haspel will go to the floor as a bipartisan nominee."

Reports Axios.

Manchin's statement (via CNN): "I have found Gina Haspel to be a person of great character. Over her 33 year career as a CIA operations officer, she has worked in some of the most dangerous corners of our world and I have the utmost respect for the sacrifices she has made for our country. She has earned the trust of her colleagues in the intelligence community and her intellect, steady temperament, vast knowledge of threats we face, and dedication to our country are undeniable. These attributes make her supremely qualified to serve as our next CIA Director."

I thought we were going to have an uproar about torture. How did that wither away into nothingness?

"Republicans can exhale now. Convicted coal magnate Don Blankenship’s surprise third-place finish in Tuesday’s West Virginia GOP Senate primary sidestepped yet another debacle..."

Sidestepped? Blankenship got less than 20% of the vote, and even the guy who came in second beat Blankenship by almost 10 percentage points.

I'm reading Politico's analysis of yesterday's primaries.

To sidestep is to avoid something by stepping to the side. The oldest usage of the word, according to the OED, is in football (so, I guess: soccer), when a player just steps to the side to avoid a tackle (is there tackling in soccer??). Figuratively, it means "To avoid or evade (an undesirable person, situation, or challenge); to avoid discussing or dealing with (a difficult or disagreeable issue)." So, something or someone is coming at you, and instead of engaging and fighting, you just step to the side, and it/they miss you. Seems like something that happens in cartoons... and — to be fair to Politico — that Blankenship thing did feel like a cartoon....
Blankenship was living in a Phoenix halfway house this time last year, after his conviction for conspiracy to skirt mine safety rules after an incident claimed the life of 29 miners at one of his facilities. He called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell “Cocaine Mitch” and made racially charged comments about McConnell’s family.
I've got to admit, I averted my eyes. Glad it's over. I still don't know what "Cocaine Mitch" was all about, but I've glanced at "The kooky tale of ‘Cocaine Mitch’" at WaPo's fact checker long enough to see that it got 4 Pinocchios... speaking of cartoons.

"I'm not dating anymore, but I did up until a couple of years ago. I'm 80. I've closed up shop down there!"

Said Jane Fonda.

"closed up shop"... Was she running a business?

"down there"... Is sex something you do only with the lower part of your body?

In Urban Dictionary, "down there" gets this:

25 years after her boyfriend hit her and she went back to him, Megan McArdle is trying to understand why.

Megan McArdle.

She's bringing this up (in her column at WaPo) because of the women who stuck with Eric Schneiderman. It's the old and widespread puzzle. Why do women — even smart, educated, free women — stay with a physically abusive man? If Megan McArdle stayed with a man like that, it seems that anybody would. And if you did, you'd probably be embarrassed to talk about it or still inclined to protect and forgive and excuse what the man did.
We understand why rape victims don’t come forward... But if a man hits a woman, he will not get far arguing that he thought she wanted him to.... And yet, there is shame. As witness the fact that I debated with myself about whether to write this column. In fact, I decided to write this precisely because of my discomfort, to prove that it is absurd....

I’m remembering the man, who was funny and brilliant. And who was, like Schneiderman, a staunch public feminist. There were many reasons I wanted to be with him, and none of them were simple, because neither was he. He was a human being....

Dividing the world into men and monsters makes it harder for women to explain why they sometimes continue contact with their abusers, and therefore harder for those women to speak. When they do speak up, this false division makes it harder to believe them because, after all, that guy doesn’t seem like a monster. And it leaves us flailing when we realize that some man we love or need has, whatever his other virtues, still done something monstrous, and we can’t be with him anymore.
Oddly, she came very close to explaining why we can be with him. He's not a monster. He's a human being. McArdle's funny, brilliant, feminist boyfriend had hit her once and never hit her again, and the hit may have been accidental, as he was was "gesturing wildly" in one of his "frequent, vehement rages."

Now, I think the reason to get away from that guy was that he had "frequent, vehement rages."  The one instance of making physical contact seems much less significant than the pattern of rage and all that it meant about what this person is really like inside. Maybe some day we'll have a #MeToo from the women (and men) who have been dominated and controlled by a man (or woman) full of bottled up and explosive rage.

"Thus the only plausible approach for Catholicism is to offer itself, not as a chaplaincy within modern liberalism, but as a full alternative culture in its own right — one that reclaims the inheritance on display at the Met, glories in its own weirdness and supernaturalism..."

"... and spurns both accommodations and entangling alliances (including the ones that conservative Catholics have forged with libertarian-inflected right-wing political movements).... [I]t’s the pope’s traditionalist adversaries who are more likely to don the sort of 'heavenly' garb being feted and imitated at the Met — while from his own simple choice of dress to his constant digs at overdressed clerics and fancy traditionalists, the pope believes that baroque Catholicism belongs in a museum or at a costume gala, and that the church’s future lies in the simple, the casual, the austere and the plain.... Francis and other would-be modernizers are right, and have always been right, that Catholic Christianity should not trade on fear. But a religion that claims to be divinely established cannot persuade without a lot of fascination, and far too much of that has been given up, consigned to the museum, as Western Catholicism has traced its slow decline.... [T]here is no plausible path [forward] that does not involve more of what was displayed and appropriated and blasphemed against in New York City Monday night, more of what once made Catholicism both great and weird, and could yet make it both again."

From "Make Catholicism Weird Again" by Ross Douthat (NYT).

Cannot persuade without a lot of fascination....

The etymology of "fascination" takes us back to a Latin word that means spells and witchcraft. The oldest meaning (now obsolete) is "The casting of a spell; sorcery, enchantment" (OED). Another old meaning is "The action and the faculty of fascinating their prey attributed to serpents, etc." (Example from 1848: "The fascination of the serpent on the bird held her mute and frozen.") The meaning we think of when we hear the word is "irresistibly attractive influence." Examples, from Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Marble Faun" (1860):
Donatello, of whose presence she was possibly not aware, now pressed closer to her side; and he, too, like Miriam, bent over the low parapet and trembled violently. Yet he seemed to feel that perilous fascination which haunts the brow of precipices, tempting the unwary one to fling himself over for the very horror of the thing; for, after drawing hastily back, he again looked down, thrusting himself out farther than before.

"President Trump declared a diplomatic victory on Wednesday by announcing that North Korea had freed three American prisoners..."

"... removing a bitter and emotional obstacle ahead of a planned meeting between him and the young leader of the nuclear-armed nation. The release of the three prisoners, all American citizens of Korean descent, was in some ways the most tangible gesture of sincerity shown by North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, to improve relations with the United States after nearly seven decades of mutual antagonism."

From "3 Americans Are Released From North Korea, Trump Says" (NYT).

Would "SNL" cast Aquaria as Melania Trump?

I see there's a petition...
Last week, we watched as Aquaria, a contestant on RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10, performed a skit as Melania Trump for the series' celebrity impersonation challenge: Snatch Game.

Aquaria nailed Melania's looks, was super funny, while being respectful of our nation's First Lady. Saturday Night Live has had some great Melania impersonators before, but Aquaria would be a cut above the rest.
I watch "RuPaul's Drag Race Season 10," and I picked Aquaria as my favorite in Episode 1 and I blogged last week about how much I enjoyed the performance as Melania.

But! "SNL" has had a long-running problem giving adequate representation to its female cast members. Through much of its history, it has been outright sexist, keeping the women cast members down and boosting the men. In recent years, things have been a lot better, and that progress is something "SNL" should want to protect. You might think that it would be a great way to scream PROGRESS!!! to put a drag queen on the show, but to do that for the role of Melania would be to take the role away from castmember Cecily Strong. Here, you can look at the clips of all 19 of her performances in that role. Unless they write a sketch based on the concept that there are somehow 2 Melanias, there will be a progressivism clusterfuck if Aquaria is given the Melania role.

"SNL" bumped castmember Taran Killam to give the Donald Trump role to Alec Baldwin, but Killam is a man — and thus a member of the group long favored by "SNL" — and Alec Baldwin is kind of a big deal, a biiiig, biiiiggg deal, the biggest, most beautiful deal that you have ever seen, believe me.

Now, one thing that so interesting about putting Aquaria in the role is that it mocks Donald Trump in a way that Cecily Strong cannot. It critiques his taste in women, possibly at the expense of transgender women, which Aquaria is not. Everything about Trump is fake, etc. etc. They could run with that and work in the 2 Melania's idea maybe.

"What North Koreans Think of America."

This is an excellent video, full of amazing detail (such as that North Koreans don't understand what the image of an American flag is). The YouTube channel is Asian Boss, which I looked up. I found this article from last summer in Tokyo Weekender, "How Asian Boss Is Exploding Cultural Stereotypes":
Using the street interview style, Asian Boss YouTube channel founders Kei Ibaraki and Stephen Park quiz people on how they feel about topics as varied as North Korean defectors and Japan’s death-from-overwork syndrome...

While recently the Asian Boss duo has amassed an enormous number of hits for their series on North Korean defectors, one of the subtler gems has been understanding public facades in Japanese society, which in turn perpetuate such negative cycles like sexism and homophobia. Polite, but gutsy, Ibaraki makes asking “why” an engaging spectacle when handed replies either too presumptive or general. Critical thinking is his core value. If somebody says something, why is it that they believe it to be so? “I mean, look, here’s the thing: where do stereotypes come from? They come from not knowing about something. So by getting people to talk you move towards building a greater understanding, you become inclusive.”

Kids do an impression of President Trump.

That's from last January, but this morning, I was looking for video of Trump saying "China." I found what I was looking for, but I also found this, in which one of the kids uses "China" as the word to say in his impression.

As my tag "using children in politics" shows, I've been censorious about the use of children in politics, so I acknowledge hypocrisy here. The whole clip is good if you're thinking of scrolling back to the beginning, but let me highlight this pro-Trump boy (who gets a word humorously wrong):

Trump "saved the world... from harmony."

"The caution that constrained President Trump for much of his first year in office has been cast aside, and an emboldened commander in chief..."

"... is finally reshaping foreign policy to reflect the 'America First' philosophy he promised during his campaign. Having shed or sidelined some of the top advisers who held him back in the past, Mr. Trump gives the appearance of a leader liberated at last to follow the china-breaking instincts..."

"... that have long animated his approach to the world even as they troubled diplomats and national security veterans of both parties. The president’s decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal on Tuesday may be only the start of a period of several weeks in which he repositions the United States in the world in a way that could last for years. After breaking with European allies over the Iran agreement, Mr. Trump will break with Arab allies on Monday with the formal opening of an American Embassy in Jerusalem. He has until the end of the month to decide whether to impose punishing steel tariffs on key American trading partners. He has said he hopes to forge a new trade deal with Mexico and Canada within weeks or blow up the North American Free Trade Agreement. Then he will test his theory that he can force the mercurial North Korea to surrender its nuclear arsenal through 'maximum pressure” coupled with threats of military action followed by high-stakes one-on-one diplomacy."

Writes Peter Baker in "No Longer Held Back by His Advisers, Trump Puts His Imprint on Foreign Policy" (NYT).

May 8, 2018

"Read Me!"


A book "Open to the Public" on a table in a café in Madison, Wisconsin. Many different people have written on the pages, many talking about lost love or loneliness...


"I am a thieving heroin addict."

"'Be Best!' Not 'Be the Best,' or 'Be Your Best,' or 'Be the Best You Can Be.' Not 'Be Better' or 'Be Safe,' or even 'Don’t Be a Jerk' (which is an actual campaign launched in New York to promote safe cycling)."

"'Be Best' just so plainly doesn’t hold up to the laws of English grammar, which require that a superlative adjective following an imperative verb be preceded by the definite article 'the.' Be good – be better – be the best: that’s the rule. In the 1990s, the British military ran a TV ad campaign that ended with the slogan: 'Army soldier: be the best.' Try it without the the. 'Army soldier: be best.' It sounds like you’re translating from the Sanskrit. How was the unfortunate name conceived? Could it have been [Melania] Trump, surrounded by administration flunkies, in a brainstorming session in Washington, floating 'Be Best' as a potential campaign name – and the assembled coterie being too polite – afraid, even – to correct her? Or was it some inside joke about [Melania] Trump’s English? (The first lady’s native Slovenian, like most Slavic tongues, Bulgarian and Macedonian excepting, has no definite articles.)"

From "'Be Best': does Melania Trump's oddly named initiative break the laws of grammar?/A Guardian copy editor unpacks the central grammatical flaw in the first lady’s new campaign. Is this [the] best the White House can do?" (The Guardian).

"Look what did I do? I wasn't shaming the girls. I wasn't putting women's menstruation out there just for the sake of getting sanitary pads. I was saying, 'Screw you, Museveni.'"

From "She Strips, She Swears, She Goes To Jail ... For The Good Of Her Country" (NPR). The country is Uganda.
[Stella] Nyanzi wrote that she refused to call the first lady "Mama Janet."

"What sort of mother allows her daughters to keep away from school because they are too poor to afford padding materials that would adequately protect them from the shame and ridicule that comes by staining their uniforms with menstrual blood?" she wrote. "What malice plays in the heart of a woman who sleeps with a man who finds money for millions of bullets, billions of bribes, and uncountable ballots to stuff into boxes but she cannot ask him to prioritize sanitary pads for poor schoolgirls? She is no Mama! She is just Janet!"...

When she disrobed, she found herself holding on to the burglar bars at the university and declaring herself a nalongo owenene — the mother of twins with the big vagina.... [C]onjuring tribal mythology, she also said that Janet Museveni had no power over her, because, as the mother of twins, she had endured a pain Museveni would never know. Her vagina was bigger and more powerful than Museveni's, Nyanzi said. She also denigrated the first lady using sexual, misogynist imagery that made Nyanzi unpopular with her feminist colleagues....

"For me, I don't have guns," she says. "I don't have money. I don't have clout. I have Facebook and I have language, and I think we can be polite and continue to suffer or we can step out and be rude and get some... Maybe they won't give us the sanitary pads or the public health services, but they will know that we know."

There have been worse blog posts...

... but "Why Your Vagina Gets Dark And How To Lighten It" sets a standard of badness against which other bad blog posts can be judged.

Just at the anatomical level, it's wrong. It claims your vagina gets dark from "friction" because you need to lose weight. Even if we correct the terminology to "vulva," that's stupid. But if we don't, it's just silly. Your vagina is dark for the same reason your esophagus is dark and your colon is dark: It's inside your body where it's not exposed to a light source.

"The last decade’s shift from film projection to digital has changed the way movies feel, transforming them into what Quentin Tarantino has called 'television in public.'"

"Even if the average viewer doesn’t perceive the difference in texture, the conversion has still robbed movies of what was specific and tangible about a theatrical presentation. No, I can’t blame anyone who prefers television in private."

From "Does It Matter if You See a Film in a Theater or at Home?" (NYT).

"It wasn’t just that [Eric] Schneiderman appears to have been a feminist in the brightness of day but a violent misogynist when the lights went down."

"The reality may be darker: that the power he derived from his role in progressive politics was intertwined with his abuse. He seems to have used his feminist-minded political work to advance his own career, to ingratiate himself with the women he would go on to harm, and to cover up his cruelties.... It’s impossible to know what exactly was going on in Mr. Schneiderman’s mind. But one has to wonder if his alleged actions were all part of the same pathological craving for the kind of ultimate power that makes one immune from consequence — that he got off on the simple fact that he had the ability to physically hurt women while being perceived as their noble champion. What greater sense of authority than knowing that you can rupture a woman’s confidence (and, reportedly, her eardrum) so thoroughly that she, upon your mandate, removes her tattoos, loses weight and comes back after you’ve hit her; that you can physically overpower and injure women and then scare them out of reporting it; and that you can also convince the feminist and progressive establishments to crown you one of their greatest leaders and strongest advocates? A man who derives satisfaction from riding in as a white knight fighting for women’s rights while he secretly abuses women: It’s so tremendously narcissistic it seems almost fictional.... So what are strong women to do if even the men who seem like good feminists might be misogynists, too? With right-wing men who oppose women’s rights, what you see is what you get. With these bogus male feminists, it can be crazy-making..."

From "The Problem With ‘Feminist’ Men" by Jill Filipovic in the NYT.

It wouldn't be so confusing and "crazy-making" if you hadn't indulged in politically convenient excuses back when Bill Clinton was accused of rape and sexual harassment. Stop giving Democratic Party men a pass and put the liberation of women first.

They've got some crazy little women there and...


(Link goes to Reddit. Post title is a song reference. )

"Plenty of writers are mothers, of course. But writing depends on hoarding time, on putting up a boundary (often at home)..."

"... between oneself and the immediate world in order to visit a separate one in the mind. A mother must make herself always available. A writer needs to shut the door. A number of books and essays in recent years have explored the tension between these two identities, and they are enough to strike fear into the heart of any writer who is contemplating motherhood...  In a harrowingly honest essay called 'Mother, Writer, Monster, Maid'... the novelist Rufi Thorpe describes the mind-numbing exhaustion of having no privacy at home, no time or space to herself. She is the body on which her infant depends. She can’t even find the energy to read; how could she write? 'Do I hate being a wife?' she asks herself. 'Do I hate being a mother?' She loves her husband and her young children with all her heart. 'And yet, I am profoundly unfree.'"

From "Sheila Heti Wrestles with a Big Decision in 'Motherhood'/How to reconcile the domestic responsibilities of parenthood with the Romantic notion of artistic vocation?" by Alexandra Schwartz in The New Yorker.

At the Infrastructure Café...


... you can rearrange your mind.

And purchase whatever worldly supplies you may need through the Althouse Portal to Amazon. Did you know that Mitt Romney bought his tuxedo for the Met Gala on Amazon? Here's the brand we're told he bought.

"Today, [Google is] announcing a new policy to prohibit ads that promote bail bond services from our platforms."

"Studies show that for-profit bail bond providers make most of their revenue from communities of color and low income neighborhoods when they are at their most vulnerable, including through opaque financing offers that can keep people in debt for months or years. We made this decision based on our commitment to protect our users from deceptive or harmful products, but the issue of bail bond reform has drawn support from a wide range of groups and organizations who have shared their work and perspectives with us...."

A Google press release.

Marginal Revolution reacts:
Google’s decision to ban ads from bail bond providers is deeply disturbing and wrongheaded. Bail bonds are a legal service. Indeed, they are a necessary service for the legal system to function. It’s not surprising that bail bonds are used in communities of color and low income neighborhoods because it is in those neighborhoods that people most need to raise bail. We need not debate whether that is due to greater rates of crime or greater discrimination or both. Whatever the cause, preventing advertising doesn’t reduce the need to pay bail it simply makes it harder to find a lender. Restrictions on advertising in the bail industry, as elsewhere, are also likely to reduce competition and raise prices. Both of these effects mean that more people will find themselves in jail for longer....

In addition to being wrong-headed, Google’s decision is disturbing because it is so obviously a political decision. Google has banned legal services like bail bonding and payday lending from advertising on Google in order to curry favor with groups who have an ideological aversion to payday lending and the bail system....

Google’s decision to use its code as law is an invitation to politicization. Moreover, Google is throwing away its best defense against politicization–the promise of neutrality and openness.
Isn't at least part of the problem here that Google's approach to serving ads would cause these ads to appear on the screens of black people and to feel racist? I mean, we've talked many times about what Google seems to think of us based on the ads they're giving us. I haven't been that offended, but I was bemused by Google's seeming impression that I am a crazy old cat lady, and some of my readers have wondered why Google was giving them Ashley Madison (adultery) ads. Imagine getting a bail bond ad and thinking the only reason for this is that I'm black. I suspect that's what Google is really concerned about.

"I really want people to go hard tonight. Beautiful foreheads stabbed by real thorns..."

"... Anna Wintour has sculpted her hair into a bishop’s hat with mousse, a cape made of Martin Luther’s skin, Benedict is here in a modest swimsuit. I want Miley to stick out her tongue and there’s a wafer on it. I want the Royal Baby to roll down the red carpet completely soaked with holy water. But so far it’s just like a rose, some lace, I’m carrying a book!... Jared Leto has dressed as Jesus. We hate him for doing it, but we would also hate him if he hadn’t! Imagine how gross it would feel to be healed by Jared Leto/Walk on the water and let it bathe you Jared Leto/Ya got holes in your feet because you were walking around barefoot in a parking lot Jared Leto... Bella Hadid looks like she’s going up to heaven to whip God’s horse...."

From "Patricia Lockwood (and Her Mom) Talk Jesus, Fashion, and Who Wore It Best at the Met Gala" in New York Magazine.

ADDED: Tom and Lorenzo flaunted their jadedness:
Everyone was all Hosanna-Heysanna over this look on social media last night, lauding Gucci Jesus for really sticking with the theme of the night. That’s great and all, but he pretty much dresses like this all the time, so it came off slightly less impressive to us.
Lots of pictures of Leto. And comments. E.g., "Isn't that the blouse that Jane Fonda wore in 9 to 5?"

Obamalove collides with Trump derangement syndrome.

I love this interchange in the comments to "Kanye West rebuked by Ta-Nehisi Coates in biting essay called ‘I’m Not Black, I’m Kanye’" (WaPo)(click to enlarge):

Careful with your thinking!

(We've already started talking about the Coates essay, here, so don't feel you need to start at square one with that.)

"Millions and millions of animals are killed on roads in the US every year. This is 99% ignored."

"Why are people surprised that there are animals on the roads? Perhaps this whole car/road system should be replaced. Cars are horrible killing machines of people and their fellow creatures, and a main reason for the massive environmental destruction in our country."

A comment on "Mom, 2 children die after striking alligator on South Carolina interstate, authorities say" (WaPo).

At the Wisconsin gala — the Bucky imagination.



Yesterday, around campus.

"I could have stood and studied one of those chasubles forever. The passion of our Lord — magnificent!” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the Met Gala...

... where the theme was "fashion and the Catholic imagination" and the setting was the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with its new exhibit of Vatican treasures. I'm reading the report in the NYT. So this year, the big gala had mixed celibates 'n' celebrities. The usual fashion-oriented celebrities were on hand — George and Amal Clooney, Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen, Madonna, Rihanna, etc. etc. — and they were tasked to dress up according to the theme "the Catholic imagination." A "chasuable" is the fanciest layer of the classic priestly get-up, and you can just imagine what counts as Metropolitan-Museum-worthy from the Vatican collection.

The Times got the Cardinal to comment on the Catholic-imagination clothing on the celebrities. He happened to say, "That I want to look at more closely," which I think he probably meant as I have been concentrating on the museum treasures and don't have anything to say yet about what these live people have on, but it came out — at least in this article — sounding like he was planning to gape at the live fleshly bodies on display. As if what's really going on in his Catholic imagination is that other passion — sexual passion. Magnificent!

Here's a series of 61 photos of the celebrities at the gala, in case you want to see how they interpreted "the Catholic imagination." Rihanna has a bejeweled bishop's mitre on her head. Lots of the ladies had headpieces that look like the stylized halo in a medieval icon. Katy Perry wore huge angel wings that insured that no one could stand next to her. Kim Kardashian had crosses on her body-as-a-chalice dress. Kanye approved of his wife:

What's more Catholic-imagination than 🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥?

"President Trump is expected to announce on Tuesday that he is withdrawing the United States from the Iran nuclear deal..."

"... European diplomats said after concluding that they had failed to convince him that reneging on America’s commitment to the pact could cast the West into new confrontation with Tehran," the NYT reports.
The senior European diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity when meeting with a group of reporters on Monday, called it “pretty obvious” that Mr. Trump would no longer waive American sanctions against Iran, as he has done since the start of his presidency to uphold the deal....

Should Mr. Trump withdraw from the accord, Iran could accurately claim that Washington was the first to violate it — a propaganda win. And Iran would be free, if it chose, to resume fuel production, according to diplomats who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive negotiations.

The mantra of the European negotiators toiling to retain the nuclear deal has been “to fix it, not nix it.” But Mr. Trump has come at the problem from a different perspective: He argues that the only solution is a clean slate....

“If America leaves the nuclear deal, this will entail historic regret for it,” President Hassan Rouhani of Iran said in a speech broadcast live on state television in recent days. “If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal,” Mr. Rouhani said....
Those 2 statements by Rouhani seem inconsistent. In the second statement, he seems to be saying that Iran is getting so much from the deal that it's worth continuing to abide by it just to get what the Europeans are giving, even if the Americans go forward with their sanctions. Why, then, would there  be "historic regret"? And wouldn't that set up the conditions "to fix it, not nix it"? The deal remains in place for Iran, and there is new pressure for Iran to make concessions. It suggests that Trump is right and Iran got far too much out of the deal and that it should be redone. It sounds as though the Europeans agree, or why would they want "to fix it, not nix it"? I'm just looking at the public theater, of course. I have no idea what is really going on.

UPDATE: The NYT reports that this morning, Trump told Macron that he's withdrawing from the Iran deal.

"If there was an assault, can we then have an investigation, a trial, and a verdict. This Crucible-like environment needs to stop..."

"... and we need to rationally and soberly get back to following the Rule of Law, where a person is innocent until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt, and stop convicting people in the Court of Public Opinion. If he did it, then he deserves to suffer the consequences prescribed for his crimes under the law, but he needs to be able to exercise his rights to a fair trial and to face his accusers in a Court of Law before we all jump to conclusions. And if he is innocent then he should be exonerated. #MeToo should not be about allowing anyone to make accusations about whoever they want to. It should be about providing a supporting environment where women and LGBTQ can seek justice under the law if they have been aggrieved. It should be about teaching men it is not okay to behave however they want. But it should not become Salem 2.0."

That's the top-rated comment on "Eric Schneiderman, Accused by 4 Women, Quits as New York Attorney General" at the NYT this morning. Schneiderman resigned the day the New Yorker article came out, detailing accusations.

Also in the NYT, "Before His Fall, Eric Schneiderman Defended Women and Took On Trump":
Recently, he pushed himself to the forefront of the #MeToo movement, announcing a lawsuit against the company once run by the former filmmaker Harvey Weinstein, who was accused of decades of sexual misconduct.

“We have never seen anything as despicable as what we’ve seen right here,” Mr. Schneiderman said at the time....

He had also raised his profile nationally by repeatedly taking on President Trump’s agenda in the courts.... Even before Mr. Trump took office, Mr. Schneiderman had filed a lawsuit against Trump University. And more recently, he had been pushing to change state law so his office could prosecute Mr. Trump’s aides if the president pardons them.

“Since November of 2016, Eric has led the fight to protect New Yorkers from the most harmful policies of the Trump Administration,” his biography says.... He successfully sued to block what he called President Trump’s “Muslim Ban.” He said he was taking the Trump administration to court over energy-efficiency standards. He said he was defending the rights of sanctuary cities in his state....
ADDED: As long as the witchcraft metaphor is in play, let me show you this, which I encountered after publishing this post: