July 7, 2018

At the Internet-Is-Changing-How-We-See-the-World Café...


... you can change or stay the same...


... as you talk about whatever you want.

The photos are from a show called "I Was Raised on the Internet" at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago.

And as long as you’re here with me, rising on the internet, if you've got some shopping to accomplish, please go into Amazon through the Althouse Portal.

"North Korea accused the Trump administration on Saturday of pushing a 'unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization' and called it 'deeply regrettable'..."

"... hours after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said his two days of talks in the North Korean capital were 'productive.' Despite the criticism, North Korea’s Foreign Ministry said the country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, still wanted to build on the 'friendly relationship and trust' forged with President Trump during their summit meeting in Singapore on June 12. The ministry said Mr. Kim had written a personal letter to Mr. Trump, reiterating that trust. The harsh North Korean reaction may have been a time-tested negotiating tactic...."

The NYT reports.

Speaking of "gangster-like" approach, I was just reading this editorial in the NYT, "Democrats: Do Not Surrender the Judiciary":
Barring some unforeseen development, the president will lock in a 5-to-4 conservative majority, shifting the court solidly to the right for a generation. This is all the more reason for Democrats and progressives to take a page from “The Godfather” and go to the mattresses on this issue....
So... gangster good or gangster bad? Which is it?

By the way, I thought "go to the mattresses" was a mistake and the expression was "go to the mat." But both expressions exist. "Go to the mat" comes from wrestling, but "go to the mattresses" is in "The Godfather."

From the book, page 250:


Wendi Winters "charged forward holding a trash can and recycling bin" and "shouted something like, 'No! You stop that!'..."

"... or 'You get out of here!' like she was warding off an unwanted dog. She may have distracted him enough that he forgot about me because I definitely stood up and was looking at the door... I’m sure he wasn’t expecting … anyone to charge him."

Said Janel Cooley, who survived the Capital Gazette shooting, quoted in "'Wendi Winters saved my life': Capital Gazette staff say their fallen colleague charged the shooter."
Weeks before the June 28 attack in Annapolis, Winters had taken active shooter training at her church, where a police officer presented the options: Run if you can run. Hide if you can hide. Fight only if you must. Winters fought....

From the details her family has of the attack, Winters’ son Phoenix Geimer said, “It sounds like her. She’s got four kids — she’s not going to take it from anyone”....

"The European Union has always been sold, to its citizens, on a practical basis: Cheaper products. Easier travel. Prosperity and security."

"But its founding leaders had something larger in mind. They conceived it as a radical experiment to transcend the nation-state, whose core ideas of race-based identity and zero-sum competition had brought disaster twice in the space of a generation.... [I]nstead of overcoming [feelings of national identity], European leaders pretended it didn’t exist. More damning, the entirely avoided [sic] mentioning what Europeans would need to give up: a degree of their deeply felt national identities and hard-won national sovereignty. Now, as Europeans struggle with the social and political strains set off by migration from poor and war-torn nations outside the bloc, some are clamoring to preserve what they feel they never consented to surrender. Their fight with European leaders is exploding over an issue that, perhaps more than any other, exposes the contradiction between the dream of the European Union and the reality of European nations: borders.... It is not easy for Europeans to abandon the old-style national identity, rooted in race and language, that has caused them such trouble. The human desire for a strong group identity — and for perceived homogeneity within that group — runs deep."

Writes Max Fisher in "Why Europe Could Melt Down Over a Simple Question of Borders" (NYT).

The most highly rated comment there is: "It's one thing to merge with other countries in Europe. It's another to feel like one is merging with the Middle East or Africa. the EU was not supposed to be about that." Second highest rated: "It is one thing for a nation like Germany to share a common market and porous border with Luxembourg or Belgium. It is quite another to share one de facto with Syria and Chad."

"President Trump’s lawyers set new conditions on Friday on an interview with the special counsel and said that the chances that the president would be voluntarily questioned were growing increasingly unlikely."

"The special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, needs to prove before Mr. Trump would agree to an interview that he has evidence that Mr. Trump committed a crime and that his testimony is essential to completing the investigation, said Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s lead lawyer in the case."

The NYT reports.
“If they can come to us and show us the basis and that it’s legitimate and that they have uncovered something, we can go from there and assess their objectivity,” Mr. Giuliani said in an interview. He urged the special counsel to wrap up his inquiry and write an investigative report. He said Mr. Trump’s lawyers planned to write their own summary of the case.

"This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain."

Oh! The Trump haters are having a great time with this passage from Trump's Montana rally. One of the many, many topics Trump touched on and skittered across was that the elite media won't admit he's a great speaker — "They never say I’m a great speaker" — and "Why the hell do so many people come? It’s got to be something. I guess they like my policy?"

An ordinary person, speaking spontaneously, would take that idea and run with it. Just off the top of my head, here's what I'd say: The media cannot deny the size of these crowds, so if they don't say I'm a great speaker, the only other explanation is that the people must love my policies, but they won't say that either, which proves they won't give me any credit for anything, even when pure logic requires it. They're so biased and dishonest.

But Trump seems to trust that he's already got that point across. No need to belabor it. And he's got something more fun to leap to. Look, it's Elton John! He has a thing to say that includes Elton John, and he doesn't even use the idea that he called Kim Jong-Un "Rocket Man" as a segue. He just plunges into it with this:
I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. And lots of other people helping. No we’ve broken a lot of records. We’ve broken virtually every record. Because you know, look I only need this space. They need much more room. For basketball, for hockey and all of the sports, they need a lot of room. We don’t need it. We have people in that space. So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments. This is the only musical: the mouth. And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.
If you hate Trump, that's a huge, insane word salad — especially if you go with the transcript and don't get into the flow of the performance. Here's the top-rated comment on that passage at Reddit:
I really would like to know what people get out of listening [to] him at these rallies. I mean, my brain hurt just trying to read that transcript. How can people listen to that? Do they even understand what he's talking about? Does he? Christ, he really needs to be psychologically evaluated because there's something seriously not right.
Note the assumption that a verbatim transcript should give more of a sense of coherence to spoken word. That's not true. On this issue, I always go back to this passage from Janet Malcolm's great book "The Journalist and the Murderer":
When we talk with somebody, we are not aware of the strangeness of the language we are speaking. Our ear takes it in as English, and only if we see it transcribed verbatim do we realize that it is a kind of foreign tongue. What the tape recorder has revealed about human speech — that Molière’s M. Jourdain* was mistaken: we do not, after all, speak in prose — is something like what the nineteenth-century photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s motion studies** revealed about animal locomotion. Muybridge’s fast camera caught and froze positions never before seen, and demonstrated that artists throughout art history had been “wrong” in their renderings of horses (among other animals) in motion. Contemporary artists, at first upset by Muybridge’s discoveries, soon regained their equanimity, and continued to render what the eye, rather than the camera, sees. Similarly, novelists of our tape-recorder era have continued to write dialogue in English rather than in tape-recorderese, and most journalists who work with a tape recorder use the transcript of an extended interview merely as an aid to memory—as a sort of second chance at note-taking—rather than as a text for quotation. The transcript is not a finished version, but a kind of rough draft of expression. As everyone who has studied transcripts of tape-recorded speech knows, we all seem to be extremely reluctant to come right out and say what we mean—thus the bizarre syntax, the hesitations, the circumlocutions, the repetitions, the contradictions, the lacunae in almost every non-sentence we speak. The tape recorder has opened up a sort of underwater world of linguistic phenomena whose Cousteaus are as yet unknown to the general public.
Quoting that passage in 2013 — before the ascendency of Trump — I said:
Now, I think some people do speak in unbroken, well-structured sentences that are free of grammatical errors that could be transcribed directly into excellent writing, but I don't think those stuck listening to them are very happy with it. We need the backtracking and disfluencies to feel comfortable....

I'd tend to be suspicious of anyone who seemed to be trying too hard to speak like writing or to write like speaking. I'd wonder what's up? What's the motivation? A speaker who strains to sound like writing might have an inferiority complex or a pompous, arrogant nature.
Reverse engineer that and you can see many things that could be true and appealing about Trump: He's talking straight from his head like me and my friends.

For someone who thinks like that, the mockery from Trump haters — like that " How can people listen to that?" at Reddit — is personally insulting, like being put in the "basket of deplorables." That only bonds Trump's fans more closely to Trump and makes them more likely to go to the next rally, where it's fun and funny and the stiffs can't laugh and don't understand.

Which brings me back to the subject of rock and roll. Let's look at the substance of the Elton John riff. I think that this is a riff he's done in private and he just can't do the whole thing in public. The pauses in the audio version makes this false start even more apparent.
I have broken more Elton John records, he seems to have a lot of records. And I, by the way, I don’t have a musical instrument. I don’t have a guitar or an organ. No organ. Elton has an organ. 
So that's a great set up for talking about male genitalia. There's no reason to bring up an organ unless that's where you want to go. Elton John does sometimes play the organ, like here, on my favorite Elton John song, "Daniel"...

... but he's far more closely associated with the piano. Trump chose to say organ because it's penis-y. In that view, it's hilarious to say "I don’t have... an organ. No organ." He pauses at that point. I laughed. Here's this man who was mocked during the presidential campaign for having a small penis (because, we were told by Marco Rubio, he has small hands), and now, he's riding so high he can have fun with saying he has no penis at all. This is a man who loves to have fun. And he talks like me and my friends. If only we could hang out with him, we'd hear a much, much funnier, dirtier version of the me-and-Elton riff.

Since he can't do the full "no organ" riff, after the pause, he adds another idea. It's just him and his mouth and his brain doing the whole act that the big crowd came to hear. There are no instruments and no other people doing the performance.
We don’t need it. We have people in that space. So we break all of these records. Really we do it without like, the musical instruments.
Notice how fiercely he avoids saying "I." It's always "we," even when the point he's making is that he's alone on the stage, doing the entire performance:
This is the only musical: the mouth. 
He's speaking so impetuously that he just says "musical" for "musical instrument." You know what he means. If you like him, that is. If you don't then it's ridiculous insanity: The only musical, The Mouth??? Now, opening on Broadway, the new musical — The Mouth!

I think Trump knew at this point that he was getting a little ridiculous. He couldn't follow through on that "organ" stuff and switched to nattering about the size of the room and all the people in it, so he finished off the topic with a little self-deprecation:
And hopefully the brain attached to the mouth. Right? The brain, more important than the mouth, is the brain. The brain is much more important.
I'm sure that if Trump were in private and he could work blue, he'd have opened up the subject of the brain as an organ that's "more important" than the other organ, the one he would have joked about earlier, but he just can't do it here... because his connected-to-his-mouth brain is telling him he can't say that, but he can show us enough to get into our brain-connected-to-our-ears that we can imagine what it would be like to hang out with Trump after the show. And then we are groupies.


* Malcolm refers to the famous line in the play "Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme": "My faith! For more than forty years I have been speaking prose while knowing nothing of it, and I am the most obliged person in the world to you for telling me so."

** Muybridge's The Horse in Motion, 1878:

"I don’t think there’s a single crew member that thinks, 'Oh, this is a great idea for a movie,' it’s just being treated as another job..."

"... but nobody really wants to go to work the next day. It’s summertime and people need work. A lot of people have quit, a lot of people have been fired. The thing about quitting or being fired is they’d just find another person to do it."

Said a crew member quoted in "Inside ‘Roe v. Wade’: A Disturbing Anti-Abortion Film Featuring Milo Yiannopoulos and Tomi Lahren/Currently shooting in New Orleans, the secretive project—the brainchild of heir Nick Loeb, most famous for his embryo battle with ex Sofia Vergara—has been mired in chaos" (The Daily Beast), which says "the cast and crew of Roe v. Wade have been quickly dropping out of the project" and seems designed to inspire mass exile from the project. There's the idea that the cast and crew are people who didn't realize what they were getting into...
[Many of the] members of the supporting cast and crew... were told that the film was a vaguely pro-life project tackling the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case “from another perspective,” only to arrive on set, view the script, and be shocked by the extremity of its point of view. “When I read the first two pages, I was like what the fuck is this?”...
... and the subtext I read is: We'll give you a graceful out if you quit now — you just didn't know what you were doing — but if you continue, you'll be a social and professional pariah.

Note: I support abortion rights, but I think the entire debate ought to be presented in public, and that it should never simply become an issue that we leave behind and say is already resolved. New generations deserve to see and understand what has been said and done and to form their own moral, legal, and political ideas on the subject.

Ironically, the constitutional right — which still seems threatened — is based on the idea that women actively think for themselves about the morality of abortion. Look at Planned Parenthood v. Casey (which changed the scope of the Roe v. Wade right in 1992 and then preserved what was left of it based on the principle already-decided cases should stay put):
These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State. 
That is, the Court characterized the decision to have an abortion as a deep contemplation that — like religion or philosophy — inherently belongs to the individual and not to the government. The woman's "personhood" must be preserved, and the question of the "personhood" of the unborn is something for her to think about and make a decision about. If the Court is right — and that's something we may be looking at very intensely in the coming years — then the question of the morality of abortion remains alive.

July 6, 2018

At the Drinker's Café...


... be convivial.

And think about shopping through the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"Edwin (Bennett), an innocent and shy young man, is hit by a nude man falling from a high-rise building while carrying a chandelier."

"Edwin's penis is mutilated in the accident and has to be amputated; the falling man is killed. Edwin becomes the recipient of the world's first penis transplant: he receives the very large penis of the womanizer killed in the same accident. With his new bit of anatomy (which he names 'Percy'), Edwin follows the womanizer's footsteps, meeting all his women friends, before settling happily with the donor's mistreated widow."

The plot summary of the 1971 movie "Percy," which I happened upon because I was reading the Wikipedia entry for the singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock — "Hitchcock was born in Paddington, London, England, son of novelist Raymond Hitchcock (writer of Percy)." I was reading about Hitchcock because his is one of the names on the list of upcoming shows at the Stoughton Opera House. I've been there only twice — to see Taj Mahal and then Jim Kweskin with Geoff Muldaur — and I'd like to make a better effort to notice shows I might like to see.

Do you think having the name "Hitchcock" makes it more likely that you'd write a story about having a penis sewn on — hitching a cock?

Friday afternoon thoughts. Do you have any? I feel like watching "Percy." For one thing, it has Elke Sommer and Britt Ekland. I've pretty much always thought they were the same person — Elk/Ekl... For another thing, it has a soundtrack by The Kinks!

But, wait. Here's the trailer. It looks terrible...

But at least I learned — I couldn't tell from Wikipedia — which one of the 2 penis-havers was carrying the chandelier. (Why a chandelier? Did it provide occasions to make jokes on the word "hung"?)

Fortunately, you can listen to the entirety of The Kinks' "Percy" on YouTube.

"Only two thirds of Generation Z identify as 'exclusively heterosexual.'"

The UK Telegraph reports.

Maybe they don't like the absolutism of the question.
Research by Ipsos Mori found that 66 per cent of young people, aged between 16 and 22, are "exclusively heterosexual" - the lowest figure of any generation.

Among millennials, 71 per cent say they are exclusively heterosexual, as do 85 per cent of those in "Gen X", and 88 per cent of baby boomers....

Researchers said the statistic showed that the youngest generation were "being affected by more open and fluid attitudes".
Why do pollsters think it's okay to ask about the sexual inclinations of people they don't even know? I'm giving this my "gender privacy" tag. The question might be experienced as retrograde or politically incorrect. The thought might be: These old people with their stupid categories. And then: I'll give the answer that most challenges their pathetic little minds.

That's how I thought when I was 20 (and kind of still do).

"It's very hot," said the naked man...

... questioned as he walked in downtown Burlington, Vermont.

"Wisconsin Supreme Court sides with Marquette professor John McAdams in free speech case, orders university to reinstate him."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
"The undisputed facts show that the University breached its contract with Dr. McAdams when it suspended him for engaging in activity protected by the contract's guarantee of academic freedom," said the opinion written by Justice Daniel Kelly....

Justice Ann Bradley [joined by Justice Shirley Abrahamson] wrote a dissenting opinion, saying the court majority erred "in conducting only half of the academic freedom analysis. It fails to recognize, much less analyze, the academic freedom of Marquette as a private, Catholic, Jesuit university," Bradley wrote. "As a result, it dilutes a private educational institution's autonomy to make its own academic decisions in fulfillment of its unique mission.... Apparently, the majority thinks it is in a better position to address concerns of academic freedom than a group of tenured faculty members who live the doctrine every day."...

Marquette issued a statement continuing to defend its actions. "At Marquette University, we are proud that we have taken a stand for our students, our values and our Catholic, Jesuit mission," it said.
I don't know what Marquette intends to do in the future, but it does have to give McAdams his job back, with back pay.

One of the rescue divers at the Thailand cave has died.

"Saman Kunan, 38, a volunteer and former Thai Navy Seal... died on his way out of the cave complex where he had been delivering air tanks to different locations along the treacherous submerged route that leads to the chamber some 2.5 miles from the main exit," the UK Telegraph reports.

After delivering oxygen, he ran out of oxygen.
The tragedy was a frightening reminder of how dangerous it would be to dive the boys, in a weakened state and some unable to swim, through a labyrinth of winding, dark passages which take even fit, expert divers five hours, using four oxygen tanks, to battle through strong currents.

“Inside the cave is tough,” said Thai Seal commander Rear Admiral Arpakorn Yookongkaew. But he added: “I can guarantee that we will not panic, we will not stop our mission, we will not let the sacrifice of our friend go to waste.”

"The Bush lives loudly in Kavanaugh."

Said former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli II, about Brett M. Kavanaugh, who is (supposedly) one of 3 finalists for the Supreme Court nomination, quoted in "Trump narrows list for Supreme Court pick, with focus on Kavanaugh and Kethledge" (WaPo).

Cuccinelli is making a very witty play on "The dogma lives loudly within you," which is something  Sen. Dianne Feinstein famously said to Amy Coney Barrett, who is another one of the 3 finalists.

Kavanaugh worked in the George W. Bush White House, and that counts as a negative, apparently, among Trump people. Cuccinelli also said, "He looks, walks and quacks like John G. Roberts Jr." I remember when John Roberts seemed like perfection in a Supreme Court nominee, but things have changed.

The 3rd potential nominee is Raymond Kethledge, and WaPo says "Kavanaugh and Kethledge have the 'inside track,' according to a person close to the president," because Coney Barrett has less than a year of judging to top off her 10 years of law professing. (I'll just note that Elena Kagan was mainly a law professor/dean and had not served as a judge at all before joining the Supreme Court.)

So... at the moment, it looks like Kethledge is the one. Here's a Politico article, "Kethledge gets 11th hour push as potential consensus pick for Supreme Court/Boosters for the Michigan-based judge are portraying him as eminently confirmable." I guess if "11th hour" things are possible, it could turn out to be someone we haven't been talking about yet, but I'll read this article anyway:
Former aides and supporters of Kethledge, a Michigan resident who moves outside Washington circles and is considered the least known of the leading contenders, are quietly circulating positive information about the judge’s personal life, political profile and reassuring record on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit...

Confidants also are sharing tidbits from what they describe as his encouraging early interactions with Trump, who is prioritizing personal chemistry and political magnetism along with a potential nominee’s legal record. “They just really hit it off,” said one Republican close to the White House....

Kethledge lacks Kavanaugh’s vast D.C. network and does not excite grass-roots conservatives in the same way as Barrett — a Roman Catholic, Notre Dame law professor and mother of seven who is electrifying the anti-abortion ranks....
What religion (if any) is Kethledge? I'm having a hard time finding an answer, though I see that Hugh Hewitt, pushing Kethledge in "Here’s who Trump should pick for the Supreme Court" (WaPo), called him "a man of faith." What faith? Is it possible that he's not Catholic, like every other Republican appointee?

Back to the Politico article:
Kethledge met his wife, Jessica, when they were only 13 years old. The couple have two children... Kethledge... once gave a speech at his alma mater, the University of Michigan Law School, which includes a somewhat unflattering comparison of himself to Bill Murray’s character in “Caddyshack.”
Golf. There's a point of affiliation. Hey, I found the "Caddyshack" quote, in this speech text, which begins:

"These delightful street 'carpets' by artist Arthur-Louis Ignoré (or Ali) of Rennes, France, overlays beautiful, abstract representations over an existing urban context..."

Treehugger reports — without more detail on that name "Ignoré." The word translates as "unknown." I assume it, like the acronym "Ali," are assumed names, chosen for a reason. I'd like more detail. Look at the photographs of the artwork at the link and weave your theories.

Note: It should be "overlay," not "overlays." And "overlay... over" is bad.

A post shared by Ali (@arthur_louis_ignore) on

AND: In the comments, SeanF very aptly says, “Note: It should be "is an assumed name," not "are assumed names." And "assume... assumed" is bad.”

"Pocahontas, to you I apologize. To the fake Pocahontas, I won't apologize."

Trump responds to the demand that he apologize for calling Elizabeth Warren "Pocahontas."

I watched the rally live last night and have that in my handwritten notes as something I wanted to blog, but I'm cutting and pasting it from a Fox News article that, as you can see from the headline, highlights something else: "Trump claims Maxine Waters' IQ in 'mid-60s,' slams 'fake Pocahontas' Elizabeth Warren in rally to unseat Jon Tester."

The reason for putting those 2 things together is obvious: He's attacking a particular individual — in both cases, it's a Democratic Party woman — and he's saying something that will make his antagonists feel he's being racist. His supporters will probably say, no, he's going after the individual, and Elizabeth Warren really did seek advantages by making claims about her probably nonexistent Native American ancestry, and Maxine Waters is being judged to be unintelligent because of actual stupid things that she has said. Trump knows all that, I assume, and he means to go right there and create political energy by enlisting supporters and antagonists into that endless argument.

The linked article has another quote that my notes remind me I wanted to tell you about: "Democrats want anarchy." That was part of a discussion of illegal immigration (in which he also said Democrats would let the gang MS-13 "run wild."

Trump is so endlessly pleased to have won Wisconsin, but he mixes it up with Minnesota.

Come on, Trump. We have feelings up here. Wisconsin isn't Minnesota.
“Take Wisconsin, I just left Wisconsin,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Montana.

“Reagan had his big win. He won every state except one, the great state of Wisconsin,” Trump said. “I won Wisconsin, first time since Dwight Eisenhower in 1952."
Of course, the one state Reagan didn't win in 1984 was Minnesota, the home state of his opponent Walter Mondale. How does Trump not know that? And it wasn't the first time he made the mistake:
Trump made a similar remark during an event in Wisconsin last week.

"And I won Wisconsin. And I like Wisconsin a lot but we won Wisconsin. And Ronald Reagan, remember, Wisconsin was the state that Ronald Reagan did not win,” Trump said at the time.
He made the mistake right here in Wisconsin! How did no one correct him?!

I'd thought that Trump was proud of his knowledge of the states. It's part of the story that he figured out the Electoral College path to victory as Hillary Clinton was blundering into thinking a majority vote of the whole was all you need and you could just hang out in New York, California, and Massachusetts with all your friends.

And it really makes me worry that Trump doesn't have people around him who can keep him informed even with respect to embarrassingly bad misstatements of fact that he's making in public.

You know, out there in New York, California, and Massachusetts, they may think of the Midwest as a big undifferentiated chunk of flyover country, but to those of us who live here, our state (and even our region within the state) is quite specific.

The Bob Dylan lyric that seems to say otherwise:
Oh my name it is nothin’
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I’s taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that the land that I live in
Has God on its side
But that song is making a big show of nonspecificity. He doesn't even care about his own name within the mood he's spinning there. But Bob's Minnesotan. And he does specificity within the Midwest: "So I watched that sun come rising / From that little Minnesota town"... "Thought I'd shaken the wonder and the phantoms of my youth / Rainy days on the Great Lakes, walkin' the hills of old Duluth"...

Kim Jong-Un told Trump he didn't know the song "Rocket Man," so Mike Pompeo is bringing him a CD.

The Chosunilbo reports that Kim Jong-Un had never understood that Trump's "Little Rocket Man" nickname as a reference to an Elton John song. When Trump and Kim met, "'Kim mentioned that Trump referred to him as "rocket man" when tensions ran high last year' after a series of nuclear tests and missile launches by the North. 'Trump then asked Kim if he knew the song and Kim said no.'
Trump remembered the conversation and told Pompeo to take a CD with the song for Kim. He reportedly wrote a message on it and signed it."

Kim could have been lying, but it's disturbing to think that he's so out of touch with our media that he didn't have people reading and interpreting what was being said about the President's statements about him. I'm not saying he or his people should already know the pop culture that might be referenced, just that he should be informed of what Americans are saying about things the President says.

And yet, if you google "little rocket man" and click to a mainstream media report on the President's insult, it might not mention Elton John. The first thing I clicked on (Newsweek, last September) didn't.

I have no idea what would work to reach Kim Jong-Un, but I'd like to think that it would help for the Secretary of State to present him with an Elton John CD, with Trump's Sharpied scrawl on it: To my favorite Little Rocket Man, love always, Trumpie.

July 5, 2018

Berklee School of Music students do an Arabic version of The Beatles' "Drive My Car" to celebrate Saudi Arabia's finally letting women drive.

From the school's website:
When rearranging the piece, [Naseem] Alatrash kept the energy and, well, drive of the original while lending it an unmistakably Middle Eastern character. To do this, he swapped out the Beatles’ piano, drums, guitar, and electric bass for the qanun, cello, violin, double bass, and Arabic percussion instruments, incorporating that culture’s melodic aspects, ornaments, and microtones. He also ditched the guitar solo for a traditional Arabic improvisational interlude.
They also had to change the lyrics:
The new version tells the story of a woman who’s in love with her newly granted freedom, and feels that marriage and family can wait. She sings, "Baby, I can drive my car/Yes, I’m gonna be a star/Baby I can drive my car/And maybe I’ll love you."
In The Beatles version, the woman is the one acting dominant, and she's deigning to allow the man to be her chauffeur. She has big plans. She's going to be a star. But she doesn't even have the car yet. What did that say about female empowerment? I always took it to mean that the woman was deluded and grandiose and the man was onto her and not going to be conned.

I see that at the Genius lyrics website, the song, by Paul McCartney, originally had the line "You can buy me golden rings" instead of "You can drive my car." Paul thought rings were awful: "‘rings’ always rhymes with ‘things’ and I knew it was a bad idea." Somehow they hit on "drive my car," and they liked it because, as Paul put it, "‘Drive my car’ was an old blues euphemism for sex, so in the end all is revealed.... This nice tongue-in-cheek idea came and suddenly there was a girl there, the heroine of the story, and the story developed and had a little sting in the tail like 'Norwegian Wood' had, which was ‘I actually haven’t got a car, but when I get one you’ll be a terrific chauffeur.'"

Sounds a little misogynistic, no? Paul and John do not like this woman and they're not going to serve her. But for Saudi Arabian purposes, the step up is not getting a driver but being freed from the need to have a driver.

"List of school pranks."

A Wikipedia article I'm reading as a consequence of the discussion of the idea of banning plastic straws, here, earlier this morning. The conversation turned to the disgustingness of paper straws, old memories of chewing on paper straws welled up, and I said "And that's how spitballing was invented!" If you got the paper to chew from a straw, the means to jet-propel it is right in your hand.

But oh! All those other pranks! Did you know all these? Example:
Kancho is a prank played in Japan; it is performed by clasping the hands together so the index fingers are pointing out and attempting to insert them sharply into someone's anal region when the victim is not looking. It is similar to the wedgie or a goosing. Kancho means "enema". In South Korea it is known as "ddong-chim" This prank is also played in Scotland, in this case known as a 'fishy' or 'jobbie jab'. In Brazil is known as Pula Pirata (literally, Jump Pirate), named after the name which the game Pop-up Pirate is known there.
The article ends with a link to "List of hazing deaths in the United States." That list goes back only to the 1800s. Here's something that happened at Yale in 1892:
A pledge was led blindfolded through the street during his fraternity initiation towards Moriarty's Cafe, a popular student hang-out. He was told to run and did so at top speed. He ran into a sharp carriage pole, injuring himself. He was rendered unconscious, but the injury was not thought to be serious at the time. He suffered an intestine rupture and died five days later of peritonitis.
Here's something that happened at the Loyal Order of Moose in Birmingham, Alabama in 1913:
Kenny and Gustin... were made to look upon a red hot emblem of the Order, then blindfolded, disrobed and had a chilled rubber version of the emblem applied to their chests, while a magneto was attached to their legs and an electric current was applied to them by a wire to their shoulders. The aim was evidently to make them believe that they were being branded. Both men fainted, but, as it was thought that they were feigning, the lodge officers did not stop the initiation until it was evident that the two were dying and the lodge physician was unable to revive them.

I have a very negative reaction to these pictures of Donald Trump Jr. showing off "his new girlfriend" Kimberly Guilfoyle

"Donald Trump Jr. has taken his new girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle to her first official White House event on the Fourth of July. Don and Kimberly have been dating since late March, around the time Trump Jr. and wife Vanessa, 40, announced their split. They have since made a number of public appearances together..."

The Daily Mail says, with lots of pictures.

Junior is not even divorced yet. He and his wife have 5 children.

He should be more discreet. Which, I know, obviously doesn't sound like a Trump concept.

I like to read the most-disliked comments at The Daily Mail. In this case: "I think they are a perfect couple! His soon to be ex wife seems stuck up and probably a liberal elitist," "Cutest. Couple. Ever," "They look cute together. It's working for them right now, and that's what matters."

"While Plato and Aristotle were concerned with character-centred virtue ethics, the Aztec approach is perhaps better described as socially-centred virtue ethics."

"If the Aztecs were right, then ‘Western’ philosophers have been too focused on individuals, too reliant on assessments of character, and too optimistic about the individual’s ability to correct her own vices. Instead, according to the Aztecs, we should look around to our family and friends, as well as our ordinary rituals or routines, if we hope to lead a better, more worthwhile existence.... When I speak about the Aztecs – the people dominant in large parts of central America prior to the 16th-century Spanish conquest – even professional philosophers are often surprised to learn that the Aztecs were a philosophical culture. They’re even more startled to hear that we have (many volumes of) their texts recorded in their native language, Nahuatl.... To explain the Aztec conception of the good life, it’s helpful to begin in the sixth volume of a book called the Florentine Codex... This particular section records the speeches following the appointment of a new king, when the noblemen appear to compete for the most eloquent articulation of what an ideal monarch should be and do. The result is a succession of speeches like those in Plato’s Symposium, wherein each member tries to produce the most moving expression of praise...."

From "Life on the slippery Earth/Aztec moral philosophy has profound differences from the Greek tradition, not least its acceptance that nobody is perfect" by philosophy professor Sebastian Purcell (Aeon).

"Apache woman, in odd twist, has key to new US border wall."

Yahoo News reports.
Since it was impossible to build the wall in the middle of the Rio Grande River, which marks the natural border with Mexico, US federal authorities built it a couple miles (kilometers) north of the riverbank. That meant some of the lands through which the wall already passes... are owned by native tribes and private farmers.

This is what happened almost 10 years ago to [Eloisa] Tamez, a nursing professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and a tribal rights activist....

When federal authorities installed their fence, they divided her land not exactly in half. Then they gave her a key to open the gate that allows her to access the other side of her ancestral land, three acres (1.2 hectares) of desert dotted with cactus and mesquite....

"It is not the first time that they violate our rights by taking away our land"....

Ahmed Burhan Mohamed, a Minnesotan teenager, "has become an overnight sensation in the Muslim world and a local celebrity after winning a prestigious international contest last month recognizing the best reciter of the Qur’an."

The Star Tribune reports.
During the grueling two-week competition, Mohamed was tested on proper pronunciation, voice and style as he recited from memory random verses from the whole Qur’an — not an easy feat, considering the Qur’an has more than 6,000 verses and spans 604 pages....

His triumph shocked members of the local Somali community, who have long doubted that a youth raised in Minnesota could compete with those raised in Muslim countries.

Mohamet “Hambaase” Ali, the former principal of the Islamic school at Abubakar As-Saddique mosque in Minneapolis where Ahmed trained, said Somali parents often dispatch their kids to Africa for what’s known as “dhaqan celis,” meaning to “rehabilitate kids,” so they are better accustomed to their culture and religion.

Most families, he said, are wary of their kids growing up in the West and losing their identity, which parents say makes youth vulnerable to all kinds of problems. But Ali believes that children can simultaneously maintain their American identity and meet cultural and religious expectations....

“I feel really proud to be the first American to win this,” Mohamed said. “They fear us now. They now know that we Americans are tough in Qur’an.”... 
Ahmed Burhan Mohamed plans to go to the University of Minnesota and study to become a doctor.

What those stories about the environmental impact of plastic straws aren't telling you.

I'm reading "Plastic straws aren’t just bad for the environment — they can be bad for your body" (WaPo).
An estimated 7.5 percent of plastic in the environment comes from straws and stirrers, according to an analysis by a group of pollution research nonprofits called Better Alternatives Now, which based its results on trash collected by volunteers around the world.
I'm dubious about the reliability of that count. How the hell do you collect trash "around the world," sift it down to just the plastic, and weigh/measure the percentage of "straws and stirrers"? Since the push is to ban straws in the United States, I really only care about the total volume of straws in the U.S. trash, not the weight of the straws relative to other things in the trash in Sri Lanka, Bolivia, etc.
A recent report by the World Economic Forum projects that by the year 2050, the plastic in our oceans will outweigh the fish.
Mm. Yeah. I guess I really only care about the U.S. straws that go out to sea and become part of this massive plastic enterprise of outweighing the fish. Who puts garbage out in the ocean? I don't think we do that, and if we do, we should stop, and that would solve the problem of straws in the ocean.

But, before logic sets it, WaPo wants to warn us that there are other problems with straws: swallowing air (leading to burping and farting), directing sugar at a too-specific part of your teeth, exposing you to polypropylene (which is food-safe, but you never know!), causing wrinkles around the month, and possibly inciting you to drink more than if you had to put the rim of the cup to your lips.

Did you notice what is not mentioned? Hint: It's something WaPo would normally go out of its way to notice and yell about. SEX DISCRIMINATION!

Straws are FOR WOMEN. The ban HURTS WOMEN. I happened to say back in 2016 "I absolutely loathe straws. The only reason for them is to pierce those plastic lids on take out cups. I especially hate seeing a man drinking from a straw." And I did some research:
Is this some weird quirk of mine or do I have support? I have support:

1. "After ordering a drink, do you take the straw out?"
I'd get a good chuckle out of seeing a man drinking his hard liquor through a tiny mixing straw.
2. "Real Men Don't Use Straws," by Malcolm Freberg:
I want you to think about the most macho movie characters imaginable. The ones who define hero, the ones your dad hero worships. James Bond. Indiana Jones. John McLane. Now think about any scene in which they drink anything, be it water or alcohol or exotic space poison. I bet your Luminosity-trained brain couldn't insert a straw into that scene if it tried.

Harry Stamper does not suck Sprite through a bendy straw. Bruce Wayne does not drink pina coladas with a crazy straw. Real men don't use straws.... Hollywood and society had a meeting in our collective subconscious and decided that straws are for sissies. Obviously no one's going to see you sipping a gin and tonic through a cocktail straw and yell, "Hey Sally, that guy looks like he's sucking a tiny dick!" You may not have even considered that straws look like penises until you read that. I'm sorry -- but knowing is better than not knowing.
3. "Why Men Hate Straws":

Now, let's examine whether it's true that the ban on straws HURTS WOMEN. To argue yes, you'd have to say, it is primarily women who use straws and benefit by looking cute using straws. Men either don't use straws or don't realize how bad they look using straws, so they are either unaffected or (without realizing it) helped by the straw ban. But I can see the no side of this argument. Women are helped because they are freed from the burden of having to see men drinking from straws. And let's be honest, a lot of us are annoyed by the looking-cute straw antics of other women (e.g., the woman in the video embedded above and the woman in the photograph at the top of the WaPo article).

To be clear: I would not ban straws. I would stress disposing of straws (and all trash) properly. I think straws are utilitarian in to-go cups with lids, though I'd like to see less on-the-go drinking. And I wish restaurants wouldn't put straws in drinks served in glasses. I've been getting fat plastic straws in ice water lately. I take it out and put it on the table. And by the way, when did straws get so fat? It used to be that those fat straws were only for thick drinks — shakes and malteds. Soda came with a very thin paper straw — usually with a red spiral stripe — and it was considered special to get a Coke with 2 straws. I dreamed of bending the straws in 2 directions and sharing that drink with a cute boyfriend. But that was only imagination. In real life, he'd be a male drinking from a straw, and that would not look right, though — on reflection, many decades later — I might have looked cute.

And that's the question: Do you care more about how you look or about how your love object looks? The stereotype for males and females — that women care about how they look and heterosexual men care about how women look — argues against banning the straws (unless you factor in the mouth wrinkles). But reinforcing the stereotypes is SEXIST, so I'll give that argument to the straw-banners. I'm not one of them — as noted above. My position on straws is: 1. I advise you to shun them unless you're in a situation where you need a lidded cup, 2. Remember that you probably look stupid drinking from a straw, especially if you're a man, 3. Dispose of straws and all the rest of your trash properly.

Just a catch... a catch and a dance of glee.


You may have noticed that I've had a problem with comment moderation. I hadn't been able to get to the page where the comments on posts older than 2 days wait for approval. Sometimes I could get through, but it was (and remains) totally unreliable. Yesterday, I figured out a work around. So, if you've been avoiding contributing to old threads — anything older than 2 days — please know that it's okay now. Your comments won't go up immediately, as they do with posts from the last 2 days, but I'll see the pending comment within a day (probably much sooner) and release it from limbo. I'll definitely read it too, which isn't true of the newer comments, which outpace my ability to read (though I do read a lot of them).

And let me just more generally thank you for commenting. It means a lot to me!

4th of July movie watched last night.

On Turner Classic Movies.

Some nice lines in there about following or not following the law, and I'd quote them here if I could copy and paste them from the text of the original play (by George Bernard Shaw), but I can't, even though — searching for "law" in text — I discovered that the play is much more about law than the movie.

Anyway, the movie unleashes 3 actors — Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, and Laurence Olivier — to emote against each other on the subject of revolution. And there's one woman — Janette Scott — whose task is to decide not whether to join the revolution but which hunky male she likes best. Spoiler alert: Initially her husband Burt leaves her cold and the devilish Kirk Douglas turns her on, but later when Kirk gets virtuous and Burt joins the revolution — and changes from clerical garb into a buckskin jacket — she goes running to Burt who hoists her up on his big horse.

The movie is "The Devil's Disciple," and here's the full text of the Shaw play. I'd like to see the stage play, and I think the movie could be remade. There's a lot of potential to redo the big fight scene in which the Burt Lancaster character single-handedly takes on a bunch of British officers in a room. With no weapons on him, he uses what he can, including a big flaming log he grabs out of the fireplace. How can he hold a flaming log? He swathes the metaphor in a metaphor — his black priestly coat — the one that had previously insulated him from what his smoldering wife had to give.

Ah! I see there is a version of the play with Patrick Stewart and Ian Richardson, available on Amazon Prime. That's a 1987 TV film, so... it's not likely to include a more convincing and exciting wielding of the flaming log. A quick search of the text of the play, however, makes me doubt that glaring phallic symbol was Shaw's idea.

July 4, 2018

At the Big Face Fountain...


... cool off!


It's the 4th of July!

"The actor who played Jar Jar Binks in the Star Wars franchise has revealed how the vicious backlash against the character left him close to suicide."

BBC reports.
At the time [Ahmed Best] was 25, and it was his first major film role.... Jar Jar Binks quickly became the most hated character in the Star Wars universe, and critics branded Best's cartoonish portrayal a dumbed-down exercise in child-pleasing - or worse, a racist stereotype with a misplaced Caribbean accent.

Best did not name the Star Wars films in his emotional post... "20 years next year I faced a media backlash that still affects my career today. This was the place I almost ended my life. It's still hard to talk about. I survived and now this little guy is my gift for survival. Would this be a good story for my solo show? Lemme know."...

Actor Frank Oz, a puppeteer who voiced the Jedi master Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983), declared that he "LOVED Jar Jar Binks", adding, "I just will never understand the harshness of people's dislike of him. I do character work. He is a GREAT character!"
I stopped watching "Star Wars" movies after "The Empire Strikes Back," but it's easy enough to find clips of this character who's obviously just supposed to be very cute:

Poor Mr. Best went all out with the cuteness assignment, and then (it seems) people got squicked out by their own racial stereotypes that were stimulated. That or they just got irritated by the overuse of cuteness.

But cuteness is a big part of the "Star Wars" formula. Here, Vulture ranks all of the non-human creatures one "Star Wars" movie ("The Last Jedi") in order of cuteness. There are 10 species on this list, so the straining for cuteness is very obvious. Vulptices are ranked #1, beating out Porgs, because "the Porgs are more conventionally cute, they lack the dreamlike majesty of the Vulptices." Whatever! Don't kill yourself over it.

"Police investigating after videos show dropped TV narrowly missing woman at UW-Madison fraternity."

Headline at the Wisconsin State Journal. Here's the video:

This girl was an inch away from death @5thyear

A post shared by Barstool Wisco (@badgerbarstool) on

"The president’s tweet merits Four Pinocchios, although we may revise this ruling if any corroborating evidence emerges."

Hmm. That's a strange approach to fact-checking at The Washington Post. Isn't the President in a position to know whether Obama's Iran deal included a grant of U.S. citizenship to 2,500 Iranian officials? Why would WaPo need more evidence to stop it from going all 4 Pinocchios?
Trump’s claim appears to have originated with Mojtaba Zonnour [an Iranian cleric who opposes the deal].... Trump said the Obama administration granted citizenship to 2,500 Iranians during the JCPOA negotiations, including government officials, but Zonnour’s claim is somewhat different....

The White House did not respond to our request for comment. The Homeland Security and State departments didn’t answer our questions.

We asked Ben Rhodes, who was a key figure in the Iran deal negotiations and deputy national security adviser to Obama, whether it was accurate to claim that 2,500 Iranians were given U.S. citizenship or green cards during the JCPOA negotiations.

“I have never heard that figure before,” Rhodes said. “It is certainly the case that it was not part of the Iran deal.”
Rhodes's statement sounds cagey! He just hasn't heard "that figure." Has he heard some other figure or heard about it but without a specific figure? And "It is certainly the case that it was not part of the Iran deal" could just mean that it was a side deal not intended to be seen by the public. And then, too, Rhodes could be lying. Why no Pinocchios for him? Why not 4 Pinocchios, subject to revision if any corroborating evidence emerges? There is this additional support rustled up for Rhodes (and attempts at getting support for Trump were not responded to):
“This is not something that would have been negotiated without it being super public at the time,” [a senior Obama administration officials who had authority over immigration matters said to Fact Checker]. “There’s no question that Iranians were coming to the U.S. as refugees, and they have been for a long time. There are high levels of political and religious persecution in Iran. We may have brought in some refugees that were government officials of some level. But somebody who was a government official would be subject to a very high level of scrutiny and in most cases would be barred from entering because of the connection to the regime....

“I have never heard any reference to this claim previously,” [said said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution]. “Frankly, if there is a single speck of truth to this, I’d be shocked.”...
The top-ranked comment at WaPo: "If trump says it, you know immediately that it is false. Very false. Bigly false. Yet, I would rather have 2500 Iranians in America than 1 trump."

At the Screen Time Café...


... is this how you want to live?

Get out there... into the world...


... before it's too late.

"But according to a person close to the president, Judge Kavanaugh, who has served 12 years on the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, is the leading candidate in the president’s mind..."

Writes Adam Liptak in the NYT.
Mr. Trump believes Judge Kavanaugh has been on the bench long enough to give the president a sense of where he stands on various issues and that Judge [Amy Coney] Barrett is fairly young and could use more judicial experience. 
She has less than 1 year of it!
The administration might want to keep her in reserve should Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85, leave the court.....

“A lot of social conservatives have coalesced around Amy,” said Jonathan H. Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, who said he knows and admires both judges. “The business folks and the D.C. folks tend to pull for Brett a little more.”

While Judge Kavanaugh, 53, has long been thought to be the front-runner and a favorite of Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, he has in recent days faced mounting opposition from social conservatives for aspects of his résumé.
Barrett got an immense boost from Dianne Feinstein, who uttered the memorably poetic phrase: "The dogma lives loudly within you." Feinstein meant to challenge and criticize, but this was a striking case of an intended insult making the person more appealing.

I wrote about "The dogma lives loudly with you" last September:
We're being asked to rely on the decisions that will come from the mind of this nominee. That mind must be tested, and it can't be tested enough. There are all sorts of biases and disabilities within any human mind, and the hearings can do very little to expose the limitations of an intelligent, well-prepared nominee.

To create a special immune, untestable zone is absurd.

A nominee with a mind entirely devoted to religion and intending to use her position as a judge to further the principles of her religion should be voted down just like a candidate who revealed that he'd go by "what decision in a case was most likely to advance the cause of socialism."

I'd like to think that a religious person has a strong moral core that would preclude that kind of dishonesty, but we're not required to give religious nominees a pass and presume they're more honest than nominees who are not religious devotees. That would be religious discrimination!

"The tradition of July 4 protest has been largely dormant for a generation now..."

"... These days, many Americans seem to disapprove of protests in general, and for them, demonstrations on the Fourth of July might seem particularly offensive, even worse than taking a knee during the national anthem. But this attitude fundamentally misunderstands the nature of the holiday. July 4 commemorates a protest so incendiary that its participants, the signers of the Declaration of Independence, risked execution as traitors to the crown. These dissidents came together to affirm their commitment to a political community based on equality, at least in theory. For a century and a half, social-justice activists honored this history by continuing it, trying to hold the nation to its own standards on the anniversary of the day they were declared. This July 4, on the heels of nationwide protests that mobilized hundreds of thousands of people in opposition to immigration policy, we ought to ask again, what does it mean to celebrate America now?"

Writes Holly Jackson — an English professor who is writing "a book about 19th-century radical movements in the United States" — in "How to Protest the Fourth of July" (NYT).

The most-liked comment over there is:
If we conduct ourselves so as not to offend Republicans or give them photo ops for November as you say, then we are as complicit as is the GOP who stay silent in the face of Trump’s daily assaults against our republic. If you can wave your flags, drink your beer, and eat your hot dogs while children are separated from their parents by our government, amongst other outrages, then you are a caricature of an American, hollow inside, and devoid of any true love of this country’s founding values.
What an insane idea: You must feel and express anger all the time or you are a hollow shell.

July 3, 2018

"Poland’s government carried out a sweeping purge of the Supreme Court on Tuesday night, eroding the judiciary’s independence..."

"... escalating a confrontation with the European Union over the rule of law and further dividing this already riven nation.... For years, the party has demonized judges as unreconstructed Communists and obstructionists. After taking power in 2015, it took control of the Constitutional Tribunal, which is tasked with ensuring that laws do not violate the Constitution, and gave authority over the country’s prosecutors to the Ministry of Justice.... Hours before the purge took effect at midnight, Poles again took to the streets in more than 60 cities and towns around the country. As the sun set in Warsaw, crowds gathered in front of a memorial dedicated to those who died in the city’s 1944 uprising against Nazi Germany, chanting an old but familiar refrain: 'Solidarnosc.'"

The NYT reports on a "new law passed by Parliament requires that judges retire when they turn 65 unless they appeal to the country’s president, Andrzej Duda, who has sole discretion over whether they can remain." Under this law, 27 of 72 Supreme Court justices were forced to retire.

72 Supreme Court justices?! Some American lawprof caught flak for suggesting enlarging the U.S. Supreme Court to 15.

"If we’re going to start having Republican parties and Democratic parties, that’s not what the Island has been about. It’s a tragedy that it’s come to the Island. This is supposed to be a place where you leave your politics at the door."

Alan Dershowitz told The Martha’s Vineyard Times, reported in The NYT, which highlights the mockery Dershowitz is getting in social media for complaining about a deficiency in his social life among the elite.
[H]e also responded to his critics on Twitter, saying he was “reveling, not whining” and “I’m proud of taking an unpopular, principled position that gets me shunned by partisan zealots. It’s not about me. I couldn’t care less about being shunned by such people.”...
The NYT also digs back into New York Magazine to show that Dershowitz himself has been a shunner. From that article:
Where: At his Martha’s Vineyard home
Table Seats: 12. “I like large parties, but my wife, Carolyn Cohen, prefers more intimate parties with six couples. That’s the one thing we argue about.”
Guest List: Harvey Weinstein, William Styron, Larry and Laurie David (“Larry’s from Brooklyn. Sometimes we’ll have theme parties where everyone’s from Brooklyn”)
Guest qualifications: “I rarely invite my academic colleagues,” says Dershowitz. “Most of them don’t make good dinner guests.”
Guest Testimony: “Alan’s guests are creative, interesting intellects, not necessarily intellectuals, but witty or wise or profound or comic,” says one guest. “What bedazzles at Alan’s parties is not the jewelry but the conversation that issues from their lips.”
The NYT article quotes the disrespect for "my academic colleagues." It seems to me that shunning is part of elites being elite. Why were you ever on the inside in the first place?

The NYT doesn't seem to know when that NY Magazine article was written. It just says "years ago." I wasn't able to figure it out either, except that I know William Styron died in 2006. Larry David and Laurie David broke up in 2007. Harvey Weinstein became a persona non grata last year. But Dershowitz doesn't shun him: "Alan Dershowitz Hired as Harvey Weinstein Consultant" (Hollywood Reporter, May 2018).

"Poor" Trump! He can't catch a break!


At the Skylight Café...


... make an impression.

"The Trump administration will encourage the nation’s school superintendents and college presidents to adopt race-blind admissions standards..."

"... abandoning an Obama administration policy that called on universities to consider race as a factor in diversifying their campuses," the NYT reports.
The Trump administration is moving against any use of race as a measurement of diversity in education. And the retirement of Justice Anthony M. Kennedy at the end of this month will leave the court without its swing vote on affirmative action and allow President Trump to nominate a justice opposed to a policy that for decades has tried to integrate elite educational institutions.

A highly anticipated case is pitting Harvard against Asian-American students who say one of the nation’s most prestigious institutions has systematically excluded some Asian-American applicants to maintain slots for students of other races. That case is clearly aimed at the Supreme Court.

“The whole issue of using race in education is being looked at with a new eye in light of the fact that it’s not just white students being discriminated against, but Asians and others as well,” said Roger Clegg, president and general counsel of the conservative Center for Equal Opportunity. “As the demographics of the country change, it becomes more and more problematic.”...
The NYT article is rather long, and I think it is designed to lure people into confusing the question of the legal permissibility of taking race into account and the policy judgment of whether race should be taken into account. The Supreme Court cases are about whether affirmative action is permissible (and they say that it is but only if you do it the right way, for the right reason). The executive branch decisions are about whether to encourage institutions to choose to do what they are permitted (but not required) to do.

"SF’s appalling street life repels residents — now it’s driven away a convention."

The San Francisco Chronicle reports.
“It’s the first time that we have had an out-and-out cancellation over the issue, and this is a group that has been coming here every three or four years since the 1980s,” said Joe D’Alessandro, president and CEO of S.F. Travel, the city’s convention bureau....

The doctors group told the San Francisco delegation that while they loved the city, postconvention surveys showed their members were afraid to walk amid the open drug use, threatening behavior and mental illness that are common on the streets....

Tourism is San Francisco’s biggest industry, bringing in $9 billion a year, employing 80,000 people and generating more than $725 million in local taxes — conventions represent about $1.7 billion of the business.

"This is the definition of art that has always most excited me: the feeling of being taken to the boundary of the universe, then beyond that boundary..."

"... into the surrounding darkness, and you’re the first person to ever be there. It’s not an experience that happens very often, but I’m willing to wait. I’ve never been someone who’s enjoyed music in general, or contemporary fiction in general, or films in general, or theater in general. I feel I’m standing on the runway waiting for the next big one to come in, carrying some of that outer darkness with it."

Said the writer Mark Haddon, commenting on the liner notes to the Miles Davis album "Bitches Brew," which read: "it’s not more beautiful, just different. a new beauty. a different beauty. the other beauty is still beauty. this is new and right now it has the edge of newness and that snapping fire you sense when you go out there from the spaceship where nobody has ever been before."

Haddon (the author of "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time") is quoted in "Art Should Be Uncomfortable/For the writer Mark Haddon, Miles Davis’s seminal jazz album Bitches Brew is a reminder of the beauty and power of challenging works" (The Atlantic, May 2016). The liner notes were written by Ralph J. Gleason.

I'm reading that article after googling "art should make you uncomfortable" — which is a phrase I wrote at the end of the post "The brown spot." I was moved to google my own words because my statement was challenged — "So that is a crucial component of art: making the viewer uncomfortable?" — and because I didn't think what I was saying was at all original. Perhaps I thought I could find some authority to back me up.

My challeger, the commenter Loren W Laurent, added "A conveyance of joy is thus outside of what art should do?" I answered: "Joy should make you uncomfortable. After a short while, you need to come down and want to move back to normal. If your brain doesn't work like that, you have a problem. You can't go about your life in a state of ecstasy."

Additional "comfortableness" topics I just got into a long conversation about:

1. Comedy. Should comedy make us uncomfortable? Doesn't the best comedy comedy make us uncomfortable? One criticism I have of the Kathy Griffin concert I saw in Chicago last Thursday is that the audience was treated as an in group, with shared values, and Griffin never challenged them. She only attacked people out there beyond the enclave of the theater. She had been exiled, so I understand her motivation, but she asked nothing from the audience except that they commit to her and be on her side, against those others out there. The audience adulated her, and she dished adulation back at them. It was a rally. I thought it was ironic: She hates Trump, but her show was like the stereotype of a Trump rally (more than an actual Trump rally is like that stereotype). I prefer comedians who makes their own fans uncomfortable. Andy Kaufman. Lenny Bruce. Etc.

2. Religion. I thought of Jesus:
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it."
3. Politics.

The Bean.





From the Wikipedia article on "Cloud Gate" (the official name of the sculpture also known as "The Bean"):
The sculpture has been used as a backdrop in commercial films, notably in the 2006 Hollywood film The Break-Up.... It is also prominently featured in the ending scene of Source Code. Director Duncan Jones felt the structure was a metaphor for the movie's subject matter and aimed for it to be shown at the beginning and end of the movie. The sculpture served as an aesthetic and symbolic setting for the 2012 film The Vow when the lead characters share a kiss under it. It also appears in the video to "Homecoming", a song by Chicago native Kanye West, featuring Chris Martin of the band Coldplay. The sculpture is also featured in the 2008 mumblecore film Nights and Weekends. It was also featured in the Bollywood film Dhoom 3 and the 2014 movie, Transformers: Age of Extinction, the fourth installment in the Transformers series. A modified reproduction of Cloud Gate is also included in Watch Dogs, a video game released in 2014 that takes place in Chicago. Unlike the real sculpture, the in-game replica is a curved, white torus. A movement to Windex the Bean was started in 2017, gaining the attention of over thirty thousand people on Facebook. The event took place on November 15th, 2017, because of a consensus that the Bean is dirty and needs to be cleaned.
By the way, that's the Trump International Hotel & Tower in the center of the 4th photograph.

What are "yelp ducks"?

I'm trying to read this headline: "Yelp Ducks Court Order to Remove Defamatory Posts."

So many words that could be either nouns or verbs: yelp, ducks, court, order, posts.

The only words that aren't a noun/verb are to, remove, and defamatory. (Remove can be a noun, but not with to in front of it.)

That headline had me picturing a type of annoying duck that was wooing... order???

As we've discussed before, Language Log calls this problem with compressed words in headlines a  "crash blossom" (because there was once a headline, "Violinist Linked to JAL Crash Blossoms").

Anyway, the story, from Courthouse News Serivce, is about a duck... I mean, a Bird — Ava Bird — who had a default judgment entered against her over a 1-star review posted on the website Yelp. The plaintiff — another great name — Dawn Hassell — took the judgment to Yelp, but Yelp wasn't a party to the lawsuit, and the California Supreme Court said the judgment couldn't be enforced against Yelp:
But writing for the 4-3 state high court on Monday, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye said the lower courts read the [federal] Communications Decency Act too narrowly in rejecting Yelp’s claim of immunity.

“Had plaintiffs’ claims for defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and false light been alleged directly against Yelp, these theories would be readily understood as treating Yelp as the ‘publisher or speaker’ of the challenged reviews,” Cantil-Sakauye wrote in the 33-page opinion. “In this case, however, Yelp is inherently being treated as the publisher of the challenged reviews, and it has not engaged in conduct that would take it outside section 230’s purview in connection with the removal order.”
Yelp's statement:
“Of course, Yelp has no interest in publishing defamation, which is not helpful to consumers, and our terms of service prohibit the posting of defamatory content. But defamation is more than just a label, and so Yelp studies court orders to ensure they are valid and actually make a showing that defamation has occurred, before Yelp removes reviewer content.”
I like Yelp's position and, of course, I love the Communications Decency Act and don't want to see it eroded by judges. Without it, I couldn't have a comments section on this blog.

The brown spot.

From "Through a Glass Darkly" by Lev Mendes (New York Review of Books):
I recently discussed [the Balthus painting] Thérèse Dreaming with an older woman, an architect and former museum conservator. She told me that one thing she disliked about the painting was the brown spot on the girl’s underwear, which guided the viewer’s attention in a way that felt manipulative. I wasn’t sure if she was bothered by the brownness of the spot—with its possible menstrual or scatological connotations—or just the spot’s function as a focal point that drew one in, that narrowed one’s attention (like the punctum of a photograph, in Roland Barthes’s phrase—the point of interest, “that accident which pricks me”). Whatever the case, I was highly skeptical—in fact, in complete denial. I had looked carefully at the painting and had never noticed a brown spot. The whole thing struck me as absurd. The spot, I told myself, must be a projection of her imagination onto the painting.

Feeling unsettled, however, about my own dismissiveness, I returned again to the Met and to Thérèse Dreaming. This time, I saw it, a sort of brown triangular shadow across the bottom of the girl’s panties and the slip of her skirt. I had been wrong after all about the absence of the spot. Still, it remained for me a rather incidental detail. I experienced no “prick”; it did not draw me in; it barely registered at all. Certainly I did not feel that I had been manipulated by Balthus.
Here's the painting...

... seen previously on this blog, last December, in "The Metropolitan Museum of Art declines to remove a painting that is — according to a petition — 'undeniably romanticizing the sexualization of a child.'"

ADDED: What's great about the painting is that it makes you aware of your own mind: What is it about this painting that is making me uneasy — that's making think strange things that I don't ordinarily think? 

You study the painting. You try to find what the artist did to inspire these sensations. You may think: It can't be me. It must be the artist. 

That's what so interesting about people like that architect lady who decided it was the brown spot.

You might wonder: Is this artist a genius for doing what he did to me with this image? Or is there something about me?!! 

And perhaps you get to this sort of reasoning: He must be a great artist or there's something wrong with me. So then... he's doing it, and that's so wrong of him! Punish him! You must punish him so that I may go free and get back to my comfortable life!

But art should make you uncomfortable, and it would be wrong to help you find your way back.

July 2, 2018

"White House officials declined to say which potential judicial nominees Mr. Trump talked with Monday morning, but the short list of candidates..."

"... is believed to include six federal appeals court judges: Thomas M. Hardiman, William H. Pryor Jr., Amul R. Thapar, Brett M. Kavanaugh, Joan L. Larsen and Amy Coney Barrett," the NYT reports.
“I had a very, very interesting morning,” Mr. Trump said as he met with Mark Rutte, the prime minister of the Netherlands....

At the Loom Large Café...


... expatiate.


"External testicles—which swing delicately outside the abdominal cavity in an exposed, thin-skinned sack—are sensitive, finicky, and make a glaringly obvious target for any enemies of men...."

"So it’s no surprise that the evolution of descended testicles has both baffled and bemused biologists for decades. A study published today in PLOS Biology offers an answer to one of the mystery’s biggest debates: did our earliest ancestors wear them up, or down? The researchers conclude that the first mammals already had this bewildering trait, with millennia of descendants thereafter inheriting the family jewels on full display. Yet strangely, it appears that since then, internal testes have evolved at least four separate times.... Scientists have known for years that one of the most important benefits of scrota is ventilation: mammalian sperm matures and stores better at temperatures 2.5 to 3 degrees Celsius lower than the rest of the body, and jettisoning these organs keeps them cool. But we are far less sure if this is the reason that scrota evolved. It’s a classic rooster-and-egg dilemma: testes may have fled the abdomen because temperatures got too toasty, or sperm may have adapted to love the chill because they had already been ousted for some other reason."

From "The Earliest Mammals Kept Their Cool With Descended Testicles/But if free-swinging sperm sacs are the norm, then why did undescended ones evolve four separate times?" (Smithsonian).

"I never would have wittingly called any black person… a monkey. I just wouldn’t do that. I didn’t do that. And people think that I did that, and it just kills me."

"I’ve made myself a hate magnet," said Roseanne Barr, quoted (from a podcast) at The Observer. And:
“Inside every bad thing is a good thing waiting to happen, and I feel very excited because I’ve already been offered so many things and I almost already accepted one really good offer to go back on TV and I might do it. But we’ll see."
Good. She was overpunished. I feel the same way about Kathy Griffin, whose new standup performance I saw in Chicago. I was disappointed that Griffin — as she worked hard to fight her own way back from exile — chose not to champion Roseanne. And Roseanne is someone she apparently knows and has cared about in the past.

"Twelve boys and their soccer coach have been found alive nine days after they were trapped by rising floodwaters in a cave complex in northern Thailand..."

The NYT reports.
Divers reached the group after enlarging a narrow, submerged passageway that was too small for them to get through while wearing their air tanks.

Earlier, a team of rescuers had used huge pumps to reduce the water level, and divers had placed guide ropes and air tanks along the route to reach the site of the trapped boys.

Getting the boys and their coach out in their weakened condition, and without training as scuba divers, will be the next challenge.

"A man whose overpowering odor caused a Transavia Airlines flight to make an emergency landing in Portugal last month has died from tissue necrosis..."

"The passenger has been identified as 58-year-old Russian rock guitarist Andrey Suchilin," CBS News reports.
"The tragic and comic component of this whole situation is that I caught a disease, which (let's not say how and why) makes a man quite stinky," Suchilin wrote, according to a translation from the original Russian....