July 28, 2018

At the Summer Night Café...

P1170808

... talk all you want.

And buy whatever you want from Amazon... using the Althouse Portal.

The painting detail is from "Woman in a Garden" by Berthe Morisot, photographed at the Art Institute of Chicago.

"WHOEVER possesses PIETY, HONESTY, TEMPERANCE, GRATITUDE, PRUDENCE, TRUTH, CHASTITY, SINCERITY...is entitled to Advance six numbers toward the Mansion of Happiness."

"WHOEVER gets into a PASSION must be taken to the water and have a ducking to cool him... WHOEVER posses[ses] AUDACITY, CRUELTY, IMMODESTY, or INGRATITUDE, must return to his former situation till his turn comes to spin again, and not even think of HAPPINESS, much less partake of it."

So read the rules of the board game The Mansion of Happiness.



From Wikipedia:
The Mansion Of Happiness was designed by George Fox, a children's author and game designer in England. The first edition, printed in gold ink "containing real gold" using one copper plate engraving and black ink using a second copper plate engraving, produced a few hundred copies. Water coloring was used to complete the game board, making a brilliant, colorful, and expensive product fit for the nobility. Later in 1800, a second edition was printed, probably for rich but common folk. Only one copper plate was used to print black ink and no water coloring was used....

The popularity of The Mansion of Happiness and similar moralistic board games was challenged in the last decades of the 19th century when the focus of games became materialistic and competitive capitalistic behavior.... ...The Game of Playing Department Store, for instance, being the player who carefully spent his money accumulating the most goods in a department store. Bulls and Bears: The Great Wall St. Game promised players they would feel like "speculators, bankers, and brokers"....

"An ethical way to continue teaching Wallace, Hayes-Brady suggested, would be to rigorously study the latent misogyny in his work, for what it can tell us about 'the texture of the world Wallace lived in.'"

"She spent the last stretch of her speech demonstrating exactly how that might be done, rigging a blacklight to an excerpt from Brief Interviews [with Hideous Men] and forensically analyzing the stains — say, the double-silencing of its female protagonist, whose rape is described solely by a man, to another female character who is never heard in the text. You could also, Hayes-Brady suggested, defuse and enhance Wallace’s work by studying him in tandem with thematically similar works by writers he influenced, like Porochista Khakpour and Zadie Smith. I thought these concepts were compelling, and mostly persuasive, but then I would think that, as would everyone else in the room. Hayes-Brady’s talk gave us exactly what we wanted; perhaps what many of us came to Normal to find: a cogent and nuanced permission structure within which to a) continue reading Wallace (none of us were ever going to stop doing this, anyway) and b) justify our continued reading to others — others who, like anyone with a political conviction in 2018, are fundamentally unpersuadable, and who either way wouldn’t take well to being accused of neoliberalist sympathies."

From "Academics Explain David Foster Wallace to Me/A report from the 5th-annual David Foster Wallace Conference, where the author’s most devoted readers are wondering how to approach him in 2018" by Daniel Kolitz. Explaining what's so bad about DFW the man, Kolitz writes:
Wallace taught at ISU for nearly a decade; he wrote almost all his major works there, including the 1996 behemoth Infinite Jest. He also liked to sleep with his students, was abusive to his girlfriend at the time, the writer Mary Karr (whom he’d tried to push from a moving car not long before moving to Illinois in the summer of 1993, and also once hurled a coffee table at), committed statutory rape while away on book tour (or at least told a friend he did), and wrote to his friend Jonathan Franzen to say that he sometimes thought he was “put on earth to put his penis in as many vaginas as possible.”
The essay title "Academics Explain David Foster Wallace to Me" is a play on the famous essay by Deirdre Coyle, "Men Recommend David Foster Wallace to Me."

That reminds me of an obligation that's been hanging over my head all year. Remember, back in January, I wrote:

"It was in stark contrast to the treatment Vice President Mike Pence received on attending 'Hamilton' in 2016, when he was 'booed like crazy.'"

HuffPo informs us, in "Hillary Clinton Showed Up To Watch ‘Hello, Dolly!’ And Bette Midler Couldn’t Cope."



I see no evidence in the article that supports the proposition "Bette Midler Couldn't Cope" and there's something about that locution — the form as well as the substance — that really annoys me. I'm not sure if I'm just really tired of websites that try to sound like overexcited teenage girls or if I'm still feeling uneasy about a language usage controversy that was big in the 1960s: Whether you can use "cope" without "with [something]."

Researching this old usage question, I learned that one meaning of "cope" (now obsolete) is to sew up the mouth of a ferret (which was done to keep them from biting rabbits they were driving from their holes). The word, with this meaning, was then used figuratively. For example (from the OED):
1601 J. Deacon & J. Walker Dialogicall Disc. Spirits & Diuels 214 It shall not be amisse to cope vp your lips a little....

1672 J. Eachard Mr. Hobbs's State Nature Considered 126 Roger has a vocal instrument..called a mouth, and being not muzled, gagged, or cop'd..May stretch it out as wide as he please.
"Cope" also has a meaning in falconry (to cut back the beak and talons) and in architecture (to cover with coping).

But the "cope" we're talking about in "Bette Midler Couldn't Cope" comes from "coup" in the sense of "coup d'etat" or "coup de grace," which means to deliver a blow. To cope was to compete in a well-matched physical fight, and that became figurative, as in "His nature was too gentle to cope with the bold and fiercer temper of his brother" (1847).

The usage without "with" — meaning "To manage, deal (competently) with, a situation or problem" — is traced back to 1934. You can see that it was originally intended to be jocose:
1934 E. Bowen Cat Jumps 248 Angela rang the bell wildly for someone to come and cope.
1955 Ess. in Crit. 5 62 More confidence might be placed in the writer did we not find on the same page a typical shift of tone to this, on Romeo and Juliet: ‘the kids get involved in a lively way, but then they cannot cope.’
1958 I. J. C. Brown Words in our Time 41 ‘She suffers from copelessness.’ I have heard this said of an unsatisfactory employee. The use of cope as a verb by itself to describe dealing with all kinds of situations is a recent usage. In my youth we tried, or were told to try, to cope with this or that problem. We were not required to cope in general.
I'm still trying to cope with cope in general.

"We looked at pictures of women with reconstructed breasts as well as photos of people who’d chosen to go flat."

"The photos of the reconstructed breasts didn’t resonate with me. We talked about it, and I told him that I couldn’t imagine not being able to feel him touching me. I worried the loss of sensation would leave me feeling disconnected from both him and my body.... Honestly, his support surprised me at first. Our culture puts so much emphasis on how much men are supposed to love women’s breasts, I worried he might not be sexually fulfilled.... Not having breasts gives me a sense of freedom I never knew I wanted. In some ways it feels like a new level of womanhood. I’ve grown into this person who isn’t defined by her breasts and that is really powerful. Then there are the practical things like I healed from my surgery quickly and was able to get back to living my life. And the little things, like I’ve got no more breast sweat and I no longer have to worry about whether or not they are hanging out of my shirt! Plus, I can go from a hot summer day into an air-conditioned store and my nipples aren’t don’t show!"

From an interview at The Daily Beast with Emily Hopper, a 32-year-old breast-cancer survivor.

ADDED: "aren't don't"... it's in the quote, so I won't correct it.

"A woman leaned back towards me and — I’m sorry — I coughed because her coat overwhelmed me with lavender and book."

"Some of the smells I can’t place. There’s one that smells a bit like burning cardboard but which my memory is constantly scraping itself to put a name to. There is sileage and rotting meat everywhere. I feel like a farm has gone off in my nose. To write this I’m breathing through my mouth because if I try my nose I can’t concentrate on the screen: fresh emulsion paint, lemons, urban snow, something acrid, something earthy. I’m not near any of this stuff. What’s my brain doing? Is it trying to recalibrate, or is it just telling me this is what I can smell?... I’m sorry, supermarket. I can’t eat your pizza. It tastes of donkey and blood and eggshell and leather jacket. Don’t sue me. I know it’s not true and it’s just my brain interpreting...."

From "I’m having my sense of smell switched back on, and it feels like a farm went off in my nose" by Jason Caplin (at Medium).

"Yes, for the head of a network you’re some good kisser... Well, this has been great. Thanks... I’ve got to go now."

Said the writer-actress Illeana Douglas to Les Moonves, at the end of this incident (described by Ronan Farrow in "Les Moonves and CBS Face Allegations of Sexual Misconduct/Six women accuse the C.E.O. of harassment and intimidation, and dozens more describe abuse at his company" (The New Yorker)):
When Douglas met with Moonves at his office, she began to raise concerns about the “Queens” script, but Moonves, she recalled, cut her off. “He interrupts me to ask me am I single,” she said. Douglas, whose nearly decade-long relationship with Scorsese was coming to an end, was caught off guard. “I didn’t know what to say at that point,” she told me. “I was, like, ‘I’m single, yes, no, maybe.’ ” She began talking about the script, but Moonves interjected, asking to kiss her. According to Douglas, he said that they didn’t have to tell her manager: “It’ll just be between you and me. Come on, you’re not some nubile virgin.”

As Douglas attempted to turn the focus back to work, Moonves, she said, grabbed her. “In a millisecond, he’s got one arm over me, pinning me,” she said. Moonves was “violently kissing” her, holding her down on the couch with her arms above her head. “What it feels like to have someone hold you down—you can’t breathe, you can’t move,” she said. “The physicality of it was horrendous.” She recalled lying limp and unresponsive beneath him. “You sort of black out,” she told me. “You think, How long is this going to go on? I was just looking at this nice picture of his family and his kids. I couldn’t get him off me.” She said it was only when Moonves, aroused, pulled up her skirt and began to thrust against her that her fear overcame her paralysis. She told herself that she had to do something to stop him. “At that point, you’re a trapped animal,” she told me. “Your life is flashing before your eyes.” Moonves, in what Douglas assumed was an effort to be seductive, paused and asked, “So, what do you think?” Douglas told me, “My decision was to get out of it by joking my way out, so he feels flattered.”

July 27, 2018

At the Late Night Cafe...

... you can talk all night.

It's the Era of That's Not Funny.

Some people are hot to destroy all the comedians who made us laugh by shocking us with their transgressions. I see Sarah Silverman is on the chopping block for tweeting, "Hey, is it considered molestation if the child makes the first move? I'm gonna need a quick answer on this." That was back in '09, when Obama was President, and people got the idea of a comedian posing as evil and not actually being evil. There was a word for it back in the old days. A "joke,"* we called it.

I was just by chance paging through a book written by one of our all-time greatest comedians, George Carlin, and I ran across this:



Click to enlarge and clarify and blow your mind.

The book is "Napalm and Silly Putty." The publication date is telling: July 1, 2001. Wait 2 months and 10 days and nothing will ever be funny again. Or at least that's what I, personally, thought on the morning of September 11th. And then I heard myself make a joke: "I guess we don't have to talk about Chandra Levy anymore."

__________________

* "Something said or done to excite laughter or amusement; a witticism, a jest; jesting, raillery...." (OED).
1670 J. Eachard Grounds Contempt of Clergy 34 To have the right knack of letting off a Joque, and of pleasing the Humsters....
1748 S. Richardson Clarissa VI. liii. 210 I..should not forbear to cut a joke, were I upon the scaffold....
1790 J. Beattie Elem. Moral Sci. I. i. i. 117 The practice of turning every thing into joke and ridicule is a dangerous levity of imagination.
Yes, and the practice of turning everything into a nonjoke is a dangerous gloominess of imagination.

"Humsters" in case you are wondering are people who express approval by humming. It's an obsolete word, and who needs it? Not until we revive the practice of expressing approval by humming.
[The ethnomusicologist] Joseph Jordania suggested that humming could have played an important role in the early human (hominid) evolution as contact calls. Many social animals produce seemingly haphazard and indistinct sounds (like chicken cluck) when they are going about their everyday business (foraging, feeding). These sounds have two functions: (1) to let group members know that they are among kin and there is no danger, and (2) in case of the appearance of any signs of danger (suspicious sounds, movements in a forest), the animal that notices danger first, stops moving, stops producing sounds, remains silent and looks in the direction of the danger sign. Other animals quickly follow suit and very soon all the group is silent and is scanning the environment for the possible danger. Charles Darwin was the first to notice this phenomenon on the example of the wild horses and the cattle. Joseph Jordania suggested that for humans, as for many social animals, silence can be a sign of danger, and that's why gentle humming and musical sounds relax humans (see the use of gentle music in music therapy, lullabies).

In The Nation, critique of "The Elite Fixation With Russiagate."

By Aaron Maté:
From the outset, Russiagate proponents have exhibited a blind faith in the unverified claims of US government officials and other sources, most of them unnamed....

"The utopian feminists are also eugenicists and anti-Semites; the men who dream of a perfect world where same-sex attraction is privileged also unconsciously mimic..."

"... the hierarchy of patriarchy, putting effeminate or cross-dressing 'Uranians' at the bottom of their ladder. The socialists are also sexists, and the far-seeing anarchists are also muddle-headed, mixed-up mystics."

Writes Adam Gopnik in "What Can We Learn from Utopians of the Past?
Four nineteenth-century authors offered blueprints for a better world—but their progressive visions had a dark side"
(a New Yorker article about the new book “The Last Utopians: Four Late Nineteenth-Century Visionaries and Their Legacy” by Michael Robertson).
Edward Bellamy is the first of Robertson’s nineteenth-century utopians. When his blandly written book “Looking Backward” appeared, in 1888, it created a now puzzling craze both in his native America and in England. Bellamy’s hero falls asleep in 1887—bizarrely, he’s been entombed in a specially built cell designed to help cure his insomnia—and wakes up in 2000. Instead of immediately rushing off to see “Mission: Impossible 2,” though, he enters a world of communistic order. As Robertson rightly sees, Bellamy offers a nightmarish vision of a hyper-regimented society in which everyone works for the government and retires at forty-five, and where the most fun you can have is to go shopping by picking out goods from a catalogue, ordering them from big depots via pneumatic tube, and then having them delivered at home. Where Wells’s “The Time Machine,” which came out not long after, gave us pale Eloi and proletarian Morlocks, Bellamy was chiefly prescient about Amazon Prime....

As Bellamy’s book progresses, power, brutality, and the capacity to dominate become all that matters. Rules are made and harshly enforced. Robertson chides Bellamy for being inconsistently feminist, which is true, but what is chilling in Bellamy is how much of the totalitarian imagination is already in place in his work, and how alluring it can seem. It’s the same phenomenon that we find in the Athenian intellectual’s idealization of Sparta: intellectuals always dream of a closed society even though they themselves can exist only in an open one....
Much more at the link. Gopnik complains about Robertson's "too facile identification of utopianism with 'progressive' causes" — "only left-wing utopias are recognized."

By the way, I learned from Gopnik that the word "dystopia" was first used by John Stuart Mill (in 1868). But when did that word catch on? I remember being in a conversation in the mid-80s with professors (and their spouses) where we were talking about science-fiction books and one of the male spouses (mine, actually) used the word "dystopia," and one of the professors (an unusually intelligent person) said he thought that was the condition where male genitalia grew inside the body. What was he thinking of? Ectopia? Or was that some weird humor? If the latter, it's not evidence that the word "dystopia" has caught on only fairly recently. I remember being surprised that this person didn't know the word, but over the years, I've leaned more in the direction of thinking he was pulling our undescended leg.

Here's the John Stuart Mill quote: "It is, perhaps, too complimentary to call them Utopians, they ought rather to be called dys-topians, or caco-topians. What is commonly called Utopian is something too good to be practicable; but what they appear to favour is too bad to be practicable."

To fussily correct the New Yorker — and only because of its longstanding reputation for fact-checking — Mill said "dystopian" (the adjective, not the noun "dystopia"). That's easily checked in the OED, where I learned that "dystopia" is first recorded in 1952:
1952 G. Negley & J. N. Patrick Quest for Utopia xvii. 298 The Mundus Alter et Idem [of Joseph Hall] is..the opposite of eutopia, the ideal society: it is a dystopia, if it is permissible to coin a word.
Mill also said "caco-topians," and the noun form of that was used in 1818 by Jeremy Bentham: "As a match for Utopia (or the imagined seat of the best government), suppose a Cacotopia (or the imagined seat of the worst government) discovered and described."

I'm seeing one and only one appearance of "cacotopia" in the archive at The New Yorker, in "With 'Black Mirror,' Our Dystopia Gets the Television Show It Deserves" by Troy Patterson (January 2018):
Cacotopia is a synonym for dystopia coined, in the eighteenth century, from the Greek kakós, meaning “bad.” It shares that root with kakistocracy, a word that denotes government by the worst persons, and which therefore has gained unprecedented prominence in the past year. Anthony Burgess, discussing “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” favored the term on account of its gagging acrid sound: “I prefer to call Orwell’s imaginary society a cacotopia—on the lines of cacophony or cacodemon. It sounds worse.” Some academics differentiate between dystopian fictions as those that primarily contend with political oppression and cacotopian ones as those that foreground moral decline, and the distinction has its uses.

"The U.S. economy had a blockbuster second quarter, with growth surging to a 4.1 percent pace..."

"... the Commerce Department said Friday. That was nearly double the first quarter rate of 2.2 percent and the strongest pace in nearly four years. President Trump has been steadfastly claiming that his policies will catapult the U.S. economy into a much higher rate of growth — 4 percent over the next few years. That would be about double the growth rate in recent years. And it would almost certainly mean a big boost in the standard of living for many Americans, with higher wages and better public services as the government raked in more tax dollars from a booming economy."

I'm quoting NPR.

"How Facebook Went So Wrong So Fast/There are four theories, and three of them are alarming."

Bloomberg analyzes.

What does the NYT know about me?

I'm looking at the front page of the NYT website right now. The sidebar has 3 lists of links under the headings "Most Emailed," "Most Viewed," and "For You." Here's what I'm seeing right now:







So how do you have sex in a canoe?
... Take out the removable center thwart, if there is one; you don’t want to get stuck under it in the event of a flip. (One old boat in the museum’s collection, called a “girling canoe,” features a detachable thwart and a record player.)... Be mindful of the fact that sound carries particularly well across still water. To avoid someone rushing to rescue you, keep some body parts visible above the gunwale. “A canoe with nobody in it raises alarm”...
ADDED:

Faye Dunaway in a Gucci ad might amuse you.



It made me laugh because of the surreal lolling about within extreme wealth and Dunaway's gently emerging grandmotherliness (which comes to full bloom when she goes out to play tennis). It's an effective ad (in my view) because it caused me to look up the price of the handbag and to be stunned at the lowness of the price (when it was about $2,300).

July 26, 2018

It took you a little while to realize that the sun rises in the east...

... but eventually you overcame your presumption that the first travel photograph must be a picture of leaving, not coming back. Here's a photo from a few days ago, texted home to me by Meade who went camping and mountain biking in Colorado...

IMG_1004

... beautiful, but at a challenge level above what works for me.

"My favorite part is when he yells 'Get me a Coke, please."



When you see the headline "Trump caught on tape: Get me a Coke, please" — at CNN — you may think slow news day but this is a very entertaining segment by Jeanne Moos — who has "carved out a niche with her off-beat, thoughtful reporting on the quirkier aspects of life." She strikes a nice tone and I think it works for Trump lovers and haters and — there are some of us — agnostics.

There's so much heavy, mean stuff out there. This piece is — to use Coke's 1929 slogan — The pause that refreshes.



I'm giving this my "getting used to Trump" tag, because this really is normalizing Trump. You wouldn't do a cutesy piece about how Hitler drank soda. I pause to google "did hitler like coke" and got "How Coca-Cola became Hitler’s drink of choice."

"They should spend time in a monastery. It's for their protection. It's like they died but now have been reborn."

Said Seewad Sompiangjai, identified as "grandfather of Night" in the BBC article "Thai cave boys ordained in Buddhist ceremony." Night is the name of one of the rescued boys.
The group will spend nine days living in a monastery, a tradition for males in Thailand who experience adversity....

This step is intended to be a "spiritual cleansing" for the group, and to fulfil a promise by the families to remember one of the divers who died in the rescue operation....

One of the boys, Adul Sam-on, will not be joining the rest of the "Wild Boars" football team as he is a Christian. Their coach Ekkapol "Ake" Chantawong, 25, will join them for the same period of time but as a fully fledged monk rather than a novice.

The coach had spent time in a monastery as a novice before this. Although he has attracted some criticism for taking the boys into the cave, he is also credited with helping them through the ordeal by reportedly teaching them meditation techniques to help them stay calm and use as little air as possible.
The NYT article on the ordination puts the focus not on the boys' spiritual journey but on the debt owed to Saman Gunan, the Thai SEAL who died:
Their ordination was full of reminders of the former Thai Navy SEAL member Saman Gunan, 38, a volunteer diver who died while placing oxygen tanks to be used in their rescue. A large portrait of Mr. Saman was displayed....

Phra Mahapaivan Worravanno, a Buddhist monk and writer from Wat Soi Thong in Bangkok, said.... “When it comes to these boys and their coach, they said they would ordain for Lieutenant Commander Saman Gunan, because the man is their benefactor; he sacrificed himself to help them,” Phra Mahapaivan said. “Ordaining for Lieutenant Commander Saman Gunan is the Wild Boars’ way to show their gratitude and thanks.”...

“For the Wild Boars, they will ordain to redeem vows that their parents made, and more important, they will ordain in order to consign merit to Lieutenant Commander Saman Gunan’s soul,” said Anyatida Musittavee, 32, an office worker in Bangkok. “I think this is a great thing.”
Any questions about religious freedom here or is knowing that the Christian boy was left out enough?

78% Hillary Clinton, 12% Donald Trump... that's where I am on the "Extremely Detailed Map of the 2016 Election."

If you're willing to let the NYT see exactly where you are, you can find out the percentage in your little world. You can see if you live in "a bubble." I sure do!





ADDED: I'm showing you screen selections but if you go to the link, you can close in even more on your precinct and compare it to other precincts in your area. There are Madison neighborhoods that are even more bubbly than mine, with the Hillary percentage in one place at 91% and another at 90% and quite a few in the 80%. That's the east side of town. When I moved here in the 1980s, I heard it called (with pride) "the politically correct east side." The west side (where I bought my house) was regarded as conservative. Ooh! A west sider. Almost toxic!

I-80, Iowa, 5:54 a.m.

IMG_1135

"To the feminists who have such interesting ideas for how boys and young men should adapt to the current times, thank you for your opinion."

"You are mostly wrong and more than a little bit presumptuous that you have something of value to contribute to the shaping of young men. Arrogant, actually. You have zero understanding of the challenges, the pressures, the id, the ego, the essence of what it means to be male. Zero. You have only your perspective on what a feminist would want a male child to become. You would be wise to consider your own reactions if men were to offer suggestions on how to prepare girls and young women for the rigors of the real world."

So says the highest-rated comment on a NYT op-ed by Jessica Valenti, "What Feminists Can Do for Boys/We fought for young women in the patriarchy first. But budding patriarchs could use some help too."

The second-highest-rated comment is:
How 'bout not referring to them as "budding patriarchs"?

You know, just for a start?

(Deep Thought: I'd love to elucidate for you how odiously sexist this term is, but it is so vile as to preclude any parallel which wouldn't be censored by the moderator, correctly, as hate speech.)

I never comment, but when I see someone attacking children...
For decades, I've heard feminists say they don't care what happens to boys  — their focus is on girls — and if their work in support of women and girls has an impact on boys, well, that's fair play turnabout for millennia of subordination. I have been on the receiving end of sharp words from feminists who don't even want to hear the argument — the one Valenti makes here — that you should at least be interested in boys doing well because it's relevant to whether girls do well.

By the way, the term "budding patriarchs" is in the subheadline and probably wasn't written by Valenti.

Long-term readers of this blog will remember that I got into an on-line squabble with Valenti and her supporters after I criticized her for posing happily in front of the well-known woman abuser Bill Clinton, when she and other bloggers were assembled to be massaged into blogging in the interests of the Hillary '08 campaign. I haven't kept up with the writings of Jessica Valenti over the years — it says in the NYT she is "the author of six books on feminism" — so I don't know if she's ever called Bill and Hillary to account for what they'd done to women.

Anyway... this new column doesn't have much to say about how feminists can serve — serve?!! — the needs of boys and whether they'd be any good at it. She thinks of relieving them of the obligation to be "strong and stoic" and of breaking "the silence" about male victims of sexual assault. She's more expressive about what she doesn't like: the "misogynist huckster" Jordan Peterson and "dangerous online extremist" "incel" support groups.

July 25, 2018

At the Camera Shop Café...

P1180107

... you can develop your thoughts.

I took the photograph at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. The image is a 2011 effort by Rodney Graham at reenacting a 1937 "Small Basement Camera Shop."

And if you like the art that is this blog, think about doing your Amazon shopping through the Althouse Portal.

ADDED: I liked the angled view of this large light box (because of the way it shows the corner of the room), but let me give you the head-on view so you can get a better sense of what it is. This is a still image — a "chromogenic transparency" — lit from the back, and it's a posed scene, set up to look like a place in the past. The man in the picture is the artist:

P1180101

It's about 5-foot square and made a big impact in person. It was fun to look at. And it's fun to think about. It's a photograph, but so much bigger and brighter than a normal photograph. It's a photograph of an old photo developer place, which would never have processed anything that came out at all big and bright, just those little grimy things people got out of their cameras. And it's a dingy little basement establishment, so grim and small, but so poppingly bright in this image. It's like a meditation on how you can't go back to the past, the images of the past are in your mind, and your mind is so powerful it can believe that YES!!! This was the past! And then you have that angst, that nostalgia, of the past, so lost, so beloved, but, hey, I wasn't even born then. I don't know places like that. And yet, I feel I do. I feel I could step into that world and climb through and out of that basement. It's the way I feel in dreams — the familiarity and the oddness, the real and the unreal.

"United States and Europe Forestall Trade War With Preliminary Agreement, Further Talks."

The NYT reports.
The announcement, made by Mr. Trump and the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, defused, for the moment, a trade battle that began with Mr. Trump’s tariffs on European steel and aluminum exports and threatened to escalate to its automobiles.

“We’re starting the negotiation right now, but we know very much where it’s going,” Mr. Trump said, standing next to Mr. Juncker at a hastily-scheduled appearance in the White House Rose Garden.

Mr. Juncker said, “I had the intention to make a deal today, and we have made a deal today.” He said both sides would hold off on further tariffs, and potentially drop the existing ones, unless they fail to agree on a deal to reduce tariffs, non-tariff barriers, and subsidies to zero.
Oh, no. Good news. There must be some way that it's actually bad news...

"'Rate my face.' 'I already know I’m ugly.' 'Dropped 7K on a nose job.' 'Candid photo of my profile reveals my subhumanity.'"

"'I don’t even leave the house anymore, I don’t want to be seen.' 'No Tinder matches in first 24 hours — is it over?' At one point, someone compares the skull sizes of Justin Bieber and Zayn Malik, carefully assessing which pop star has a more masculine-shaped head. Unhappy with how they look, thousands of young men are joining anonymous message boards such as Lookism.net to dissect their looks and exchange detailed tips on looksmaxing — their term for enhancing their appearance. Penis stretching, eyebrow botox, wrist enlargement, 'neck training,' nostril shrinking and 3D-printed skull implants are among the desired procedures and 'coping strategies' discussed at length on these sites."

From "Inside Incels’ Looksmaxing Obsession: Penis Stretching, Skull Implants And Rage/Thousands of 'involuntarily celibate' men in online forums are consumed by misogynist entitlement and a skin-deep quest for self-improvement" (HuffPo).

"Apparently it’s going to take 40 days..."



Video contains some amusing boinging.

Melania can watch "any channel she wants."

The NYT reports:
On the first couple’s recent trip overseas, Melania Trump’s television aboard Air Force One was tuned to CNN. President Trump was not pleased.

He raged at his staff for violating a rule that the White House entourage should begin each trip tuned to Fox — his preferred network over what he considers the “fake news” CNN — and caused “a bit of a stir” aboard Air Force One, according to an email obtained by The New York Times. The email, an internal exchange between officials in the White House Military Office and the White House Communications Agency last Thursday, also called for the ordering of two additional televisions to support Beam, a TiVo-like streaming device, to make sure the president and first lady could both watch TV in their separate hotel rooms when they travel.

At the end of the email chain, officials confirmed that tuning the TVs to Fox would be standard operating procedure going forward. On Wednesday, Mrs. Trump’s spokeswoman issued a statement to CNN saying that the first lady watches “any channel she wants.”
I think that last line is what the UPDATE at the top of the article is referring to when it says: "Updated July 25, 2018: This story has been updated with a response from the East Wing. Read more coverage about the first lady."

The "read more coverage" link takes us to "Melania Trump Can Watch Whatever She Wants on TV, the East Wing Says" (which doesn't really add much, other than a nice photograph of Melania, in spiffy clothes, a few words about what TV shows she does like, and a digression into the topic of that "I really don't care" jacket she wore the other day).

Morning sun.

IMG_2189

Up at 4 and with 4 posts up before 7, I got out early for a 3.4 mile walk along the lake. I love doing that in the summer. The temperature never rose above 68° — it's 79° now — and the early sun made the deep foliage come alive.

Adding tags, I realize I haven't used "written strangely early in the morning" in a long, long time. It just doesn't seem strange to me anymore. I love getting up early!

"We need to drink the red liquid from the cursed dark sarcophagus in the form of some sort of carbonated energy drink so we can assume its powers and finally die"

... says a petition at change.org that has 16,000+ signatures, according to "Scientists identify mystery liquid in Egyptian sarcophagus/A POOL of murky, red liquid found around three mummies in an Egyptian sarcophagus has been analysed by scientists."
Horrifying images of a trio of skeletons floating in the murky soup led to rumours the “mummy juice” contained medicinal or supernatural properties, with locals anxious to bottle the stuff....

Authorities... revealed the liquid was neither “juice for mummies that contains an elixir of life” nor “red mercury” but something far more pedestrian — sewage water.
As if the "authorities" would tell us if it were the elixir of life. I say bottle "the murky soup" and let people buy it. And caveat emptor... or however you say that in Archaic Egyptian.
ADDED:

Iconoclasm.

"Trump’s Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame Destroyed With Pickaxe" (Daily Beast).
"Multiple people—including police—tell me a man walked up with a guitar case and pulled out the pick axe. Then, it’s believed, he called police himself to report it, but left the scene before they got here. Now, he’s nowhere to be found."
Guitar case, eh? Reminds me of gentler times, when Woody Guthrie had a sign on his guitar, "This Machine Kills Fascists."



No, it wasn't really gentler times! It was 1941, and Woody was doing "Talking Hitler's Head Off Blues."

"This Machine Kills Fascists" has its own Wikipedia page. There, we learn that in later years, Pete Seeger had "This Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender" on his banjo — as he sang "Waist Deep in Big Muddy," protesting the Vietnam War.

And Donovan had "This machine kills" on his guitar — and explained that "fascism was already dead" and his "machine would kill greed and delusion." Delusion!? Yes, Donovan can help with delusions — Get together/Work it out/Simplicity/Is what it's about...

But today's news is of a pickaxe in a guitar case. The destruction is direct — smashing with a tool — not indirect like music that has to enter the human mind and motivate the action of others.

By the way, a submachine gun in a violin case is a TV Trope: "This has been done so much that nowadays when some people see a violin case, they assume it contains firearms." Jinx in "League of Legends" says, "What's in my violin case? Violence!"

Now, that guy with the pickaxe used his tool to destroy, but he didn't destroy a man. He didn't "kill fascists." He destroyed an inanimate thing. And that's iconoclasm:
Iconoclasm is the social belief in the importance of the destruction of icons and other images or monuments, most frequently for religious or political reasons....

"If, in a spirit of free intellectual and imaginative inquiry, you dared to suggest that a man who masturbated in front of a woman he barely knew without her consent..."

"... might have been acting out, in an attitude of aggressive contempt, his own shame and emasculation — if you tried to understand his actions, without justifying them — you would be shouted down and vilified. Imagine the outcry if you went further and speculated about why Harvey Weinstein allegedly manipulated some actresses dependent on his power into watching him while he was naked. Could it be that Mr. Weinstein, who reportedly had often been mocked for his appearance, wanted to dehumanize these women as well, while at the same time turning himself into a person who is watched and admired, like a person of beauty?... [I]n the realm of the free operation of intellect and imagination that is culture, let there bloom the suspension of moral judgment for the sake of a better understanding of our moral natures. It’s not because we owe anything to the likes of Harvey Weinstein; it’s because of what we owe ourselves."

Writes Lee Siegel in the NYT in "Whatever Happened to Moral Rigor?" — remembering the old days when James Baldwin, Truman Capote, and Norman Mailer engaged in the "imaginative inhabiting" of evildoers.

ADDED: Siegel writes:
Closer to our own time and place, Richard Wright’s Bigger Thomas accidentally kills a white woman in the novel “Native Son,” and then rapes and murders a black woman; Gore Vidal wrote with sympathy about Timothy McVeigh; and David Mamet composed “Oleanna,” a prescient play about sexual harassment, accusation, guilt and innocence that, famously, had no clear resolution.
But he seems to have missed the news (last February) that David Mamet says he's written a play about Harvey Weinstein.

"What financing?"/"We'll have to pay"/"pay with cash."

This way to the rathole that is the Trump/Cohen tape.

Slight nudge to foment discussion: It depends on what the meaning of "cash" is.

I give you the first paragraph of the Wikipedia entry "Cash" (as it looks right now):
In economics, cash is money in the physical form of currency, such as banknotes and coins. In bookkeeping and finance, cash is current assets comprising currency or currency equivalents that can be accessed immediately or near-immediately (as in the case of money market accounts).

"The minute the phrase 'having it all' lost favor among women, wellness came in to pick up the pieces."

"It was a way to reorient ourselves — we were not in service to anyone else, and we were worthy subjects of our own care. It wasn’t about achieving; it was about putting ourselves at the top of a list that we hadn’t even previously been on. Wellness was maybe a result of too much having it all, too much pursuit, too many boxes that we’d seen our exhausted mothers fall into bed without checking off. Wellness arrived because it was gravely needed. Before we knew it, the wellness point of view had invaded everything in our lives: Summer-solstice sales are wellness. Yoga in the park is wellness. Yoga at work is wellness... The organic produce section of Whole Foods. Whole Foods. Hemp. Oprah. CBD. 'Body work.' Reiki. So is: SoulCycle, açaí, antioxidants, the phrase 'mind-body,' meditation, the mindfulness jar my son brought home from school, kombucha, chai, juice bars, oat milk, almond milk, all the milks from substances that can’t technically be milked, clean anything. 'Living your best life.' 'Living your truth.' Crystals...."

From "The Big Business of Being Gwyneth Paltrow/Inside the growth of Goop — the most controversial brand in the wellness industry" by Taffy Brodesser-Akner in the NYT Magazine.

From having it all... to having little symbols of nonexistent meaning... essentially having nothing... but nothing in a graspable, tangible form. And it even has a face. The face of Gwyneth Paltrow.

ADDED: The "mindfulness jar" really is a thing kids are making. I did a search to make this image. Click to enlarge and read:

It's the Era of That's Not Funny: "After a fake interview of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez went viral, its maker said it was satire."

WaPo summons outrage for something that, to me, looks like an old comedy form — editing in new questions to make old answers ridiculous:



At Facebook, there's now an "Update: Yes, this is satire created from excerpts of the viral Firing Line interview with Ocasio-Cortez." But, come on, you have to be dumb not to see that Allie's questions were recorded separately and video of Ocasio-Cortez was selected to make her look ridiculous. Or maybe not so dumb, but just firmly embedded in what I've been calling The Era of That's Not Funny. It's especially "not funny" because the target of ridicule is a young woman. If the same technique had been used on Donald Trump or some other powerful, old, white guy, I suspect WaPo would have celebrated it. I can imagine it being played on "The Daily Show" or Stephen Colbert or John Oliver's show, and no one at WaPo would have cried fake news on it.

From WaPo:
Misinformation is not completely outlawed according to the [Facebook's] community guidelines — an issue that has caused plenty of discussion recently — and neither, of course, is satire, but the video appeared to fall into a confusing gap between the two before it was labeled....

And to many skeptical eyes, the video was obviously fishy and staged. But it appeared to be taken seriously after it was shared on some conservative-leaning pages on Facebook, and was viewed about 1 million times before the company posted the clarification to its caption.
If people become dependent on labeling, they'll lose the mental tools they need to perceive humor (and fakeness) on their own. Not only are we losing the joys of humor — as outraged demands for warning labels succeed — we are getting primed to become witless consumers of propaganda.
“If you have to do research to figure out that a video that blatantly absurd is satirical, you shouldn’t be on the Internet,” [Allie] Stuckey wrote....

The Verge’s Adi Robertson noted that “while the clips aren’t spliced all that realistically, it’s not clear that this is intentional. Without the disclaimer, it’s indistinguishable from an awkward attempt at smearing a political opponent.”...

July 24, 2018

At the Pink Café...

DSC05481

... you can talk, talk, talk.

"Oksana Shachko, one of the founders of the Femen feminist protest movement, has been found dead in her Paris apartment, the group has said."

"The 31-year-old Ukrainian was found on Monday with a suicide note next to her body, according to Femen activists," The Guardian reports.
Operating under the slogan “I came, I stripped, I won”, Femen quickly drew attention around the world with its bare-breasted demonstrations against sexism. Their protests also challenged authoritarianism and racism, with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, a particular target, along with France’s far-right Front National party....

In 2011, Femen said Shachko was among three members “kidnapped” by security agents and forced to strip naked in a forest after staging a topless protest mocking the Belarussian president, Alexander Lukashenko. The agents poured oil over the three women, threatened to set them on fire, and cut off their hair, Femen said. Shachko was abducted again by unknown assailants during a visit by Putin to Ukraine, according to the group....
I found this video that went up in 2011. It celebrates Shachko (and nudity is blurred out):

"Rattled by string of violent attacks, Toronto wonders if city is unraveling."

"As residents grapple with the latest attack to hit the city in recent months, some are asking whether it was becoming less safe" — The Guardian.
“Can’t believe the city I love is unraveling before my eyes because of the actions of a few sick people,” Liberal city councillor Norm Kelly wrote on Twitter on Monday....

“It’s painful to see because in every one of these shootings there was an intervention point, where a service agency didn’t do what they were supposed to do. A government institution didn’t do what they were supposed to do, or they delayed because the people weren’t living in the right postal code,” [said Toroto mayor John Tory].

"The Trump administration on Tuesday announced up to $12 billion in emergency relief for farmers hurt by the president’s trade war..."

"... moving to insulate food producers from looming financial losses that would be a direct result of President Trump’s policies. The aid to farmers, announced by the United States Department of Agriculture, will come through a direct assistance program, one designed to help with food purchase and distribution and one specifically geared toward promoting trade."

The NYT reports, embedding this presidential tweet:



Here's another tweet he came up with today (I don't know how he thinks of all this stuff):

"A focus of a snarky Instagram account, the uninspired grey fleece vest is an inescapable presence in cubicles around the country. So how did this ho-hum uniform overtake the suit as the corporate outfit of choice?"

That's the subtitle of the WSJ article "How the Fleece Vest Became the New Corporate Uniform," but I don't have a subscription, so I can't read that, but I'm going to assume I've got something better to read and that this is said "snarky Instagram account": midtown uniform.

Example of what you can find there:

A post shared by The Midtown Uniform (@midtownuniform) on

ADDED: From the WSJ text:
The trend has become self-perpetuating: People wear the vest because it’s what people wear. “Now it’s the new thing: It’s not suspenders and a bengal-striped shirt,” said Mr. Crowley. “It’s a Patagonia vest and a button-down shirt.” He added that the “bro-culture” of finance has helped reinforce this look, with its scores of men following the same path from prep school to the Ivy League to a job in finance. Looking like your peers is part of the package. Said Mr. Crowley, “If you want to be successful, part of it is wanting to fit in.”

"You know what I love to do?... I love to go to Target with Amelia and just spend the day there."

"We just wander around in there, look at the patio furniture, the pajama section. It’s like six hours of tuning out." Six hours?!! "Well, not just at Target. We go to BJ’s; we each have things we like to eat there. Then I get the socks I like at Macy’s.... It’s just a few hours, six hours that I don’t have to think about Mitch McConnell. That’s all I need."

Says Elizabeth Warren, "scissoring the bottom off a cheap sweater at her kitchen island," according to "Leader of the Persistence Elizabeth Warren’s full-body fight to defeat Trump" by Rebecca Traister in New York Magazine. Amelia is Warren's daughter, born when Warren, who is 69, was 22. The sweater is one of "a bunch of gauzy open-front cardigans to put over her uniform of black pants and a black tank top," that, we're told, "cost about $13 each" and are too long, which she is dealing with by cutting them and allowing the unhemmed bottom to roll up.

Open Secrets put Elizabeth Warren's net worth at $7,820,514 in 2015, but we're told she likes to spend her spare time poking around for 6 hours at Target and she wears $13 sweaters that she has to hack into the shape she wants.

Well, buying cheap clothing is priceless political theater. I challenge Elizabeth Warren to step away from the Rebecca Traister puff pieces — too much luxury! — and go full Scott Walker:



But Scott Walker actually is poor. (Last I looked.)

"Under Jim Rich, the editor who lost his job on Monday, The [NY Daily] News positioned itself as an unapologetically liberal counterpuncher..."

"... to Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post. Mr. Rich, who declined to comment for this article, transformed the front page... into a venue for criticizing and often ridiculing President Trump," the NYT writes, in the 6th paragraph of "Daily News Newsroom Cut in Half by [it owner] Tronc as Top Editor Is Ousted." The Daily News "was once the largest-circulation paper in the country." It used to be "the staple publication of the city’s working class" and it was the model for the fictional "Daily Planet" in the Superman stories.

But it has "lost millions of dollars" in what the NYT characterizes as the standard problems of a paper newspaper losing out to the internet. Tronc, the new owner, bought the newspaper last year for $1, and, we're told, "Mr. Rich breathed new life into the paper," because  "he regularly published front pages that captured the staccato energy of social media."

But if it's the staccato energy of social media that you want, why would you buy a newspaper? Just look at it as you walk by the newsstand (or glance at the website). Here's an example of a front page that the NYT shows us to convey the unapologetically liberal counterpunching that the NYT itself is too high-class to do:



Is that something you want to be seen reading on the subway?

"Following her exit... Guilfoyle’s enemies within Fox... have tried to plant negative stories and start whisper campaigns against her, accusing her of workplace misconduct..."

"... and allegedly abusive behavior toward Fox staff. Some sources still working at Fox have described some of the 'oppo' that’s been shopped on Guilfoyle as frivolous, inflated to sound more nefarious than it was—potentially to act as a public pretext for her dismissal. For instance, a source told The Daily Beast that one story involved Guilfoyle’s alleged 'abuse' of the network’s makeup staff. The Daily Beast has learned that this alleged 'abuse' entailed included asking makeup staffers to do her favors such as provide makeup for non-work-related activity...."

I'm just noticing "Fox News Goes to War Against Its Own: Kimberly Guilfoyle" (Daily Beast).

WaPo's Richard Cohen seems to be asking the right question, according to the headline, "Why people like Trump."

But very little of the column even attempts to tell us why people like Trump. Nearly all of it is about all the things that seemingly should have already made everyone loathe Trump — he said "shithole countries," he probably committed adultery, he failed to show faith in our intelligence community— and the confounding persistence of support for Trump.

A more accurate headline would be a question, "Why do people like Trump?," not what looks like a promise to answer that question. Elite media people like Cohen should finally come around to asking the question humbly, confessing to their abject failure even to admit that they've needed to ask it and rejecting their imperious concentration on telling people what they should think. Look at all these reasons to loathe Trump. Come on, you idiots, you're embarrassing yourselves by not loathing him yet. It hasn't worked, and yet you continue to do it.

Cohen has exactly one sentence that tries to say why people like Trump, and it's incredibly weak:
My guess is that it’s a low-boil rage against a vague and threatening liberalism — urbane, educated, affluent, secular, diverse and sexually tolerant. 
Yes, yes, I know. You're so sure you and your friends are the good people. Your unshakeable love for yourself and your friends is glaringly evident, as usual. By the way, if the Trumpsters are raging against the sexually tolerant, why are they they tolerating Trump's sexual behavior?

With the groundwork of that one lazy sentence, Cohen leaps to:  "It is, in other words, some of the same sentiment that once fueled European fascism."

Some of the same... This column is some of the same bland but hysterical lameness I've been reading about Trump for years. And yet it's #1 on WaPo's "most read" list. To give WaPo readers some credit, maybe they, like me, saw the headline and believed that someone at the newspaper was finally going to get serious and go deep in trying to understand how people really think and feel in the America that lies beyond the Northeast.

"Tuck students are nice, and invest generously in one another’s success. Share an example of how you helped someone else succeed. (500 words)."

That's part of the application at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business, described and questioned by Katherine Timpf at "Dartmouth Business School to Evaluate Applicants Based on ‘Niceness’/But wouldn’t jerks just lie and make up stories that make them seem like decent people?" at National Review. Timpf declares the search for "nice" students "admirable" and just finds it too hard to do.

But I wouldn't take this preference for "niceness" at face value.

First, whether the school can figure out who's nice, the message to students filling out the form is that the school cares about bringing together people who are compassionate and helping and not simply egotistical and grasping. That might make good candidates more likely to choose the school, and it may affect their outlook and their behavior once they get to the school.

These effects may serve the interests of the school even if the selection process is completely ineffective at figuring out (like Santa Claus) who's been naughty and who's been nice. If the students believe they've all passed the niceness test, the school's teaching method — emphasizing cooperation and teamwork? — may work better. Completely practical!

Second, on a much less sunny note, the "niceness" test may be a ruse — a way to reject applicants with great paper credentials. Just last month the NYT had an article, "Harvard Rated Asian-American Applicants Lower on Personality Traits, Suit Says":
Harvard consistently rated Asian-American applicants lower than others on traits like “positive personality,” likability, courage, kindness and being “widely respected,” according to an analysis of more than 160,000 student records filed Friday by a group representing Asian-American students in a lawsuit against the university.

Asian-Americans scored higher than applicants of any other racial or ethnic group on admissions measures like test scores, grades and extracurricular activities, according to the analysis commissioned by a group that opposes all race-based admissions criteria. But the students’ personal ratings significantly dragged down their chances of being admitted, the analysis found.

July 23, 2018

At the Cosmic Bucky Café...

DSC05479

... the sky's the limit.

"Can someone do an image of the Gadsden flag with the words 'Don't Meddle With Me'?"

I asked, in the comments this morning's post about Trump's all-caps tweet, which ends with me saying "Meddling. We openly meddle and yet demand not to be meddled with."

The commenter Rob came through:



Thanks!

Listen to David Sedaris explain why he thinks — and has a good, sympathetic basis for thinking — that Roseanne is mentally ill.

It's in this podcast with Marc Maron.

Begin around 28:00 to get to the point, but the whole interview with Sedaris is excellent, including the very end, which is on the subject of eyeballs popping out.

Body-shaming Tom Brady.

Strangely apt.

So wrong and yet so right.

"If I ever incarnate, I hate to be a human being any more.... Oh yes, I would like to be... a shellfish living on the rock-bottom of the sea."

A line that explains the movie title "I Want to Be a Shellfish." I'm reading the plot summary of this 1959 movie...
On a post-war peaceful day in Japan, Toyomatsu Shimizu, a barber as well as a good father and husband, is suddenly arrested by the Prefectural Police as a war criminal and sued for murder. According to the accusation by GHQ, Toyomatsu "attemped to kill a US prisoner," which was nothing but an order by his superior and failed after all with hurting the prisoner by weak Toyomatsu. Also, Toyomatsu was driven to corner at the trial by the fact that he fed the US prisoner some burdock roots to nourish him. Toyomatsu believes nothing but being not guilty, but he is sentenced to death by hanging. Prior to the execution, Toyomatsu writes a long farewell letter to his family, the wife and the only son: "If I ever incarnate, I hate to be a human being any more.... Oh yes, I would like to be...a shellfish living on the rock-bottom of the sea."
... because I saw the puzzling title in the NYT obituary, "Shinobu Hashimoto, Writer of Towering Kurosawa Films, Is Dead at 100." Hashimoto wrote the screenplay for the Kurosawa movies "Rashomon," "Ikiru," "Seven Samurai," "Throne of Blood," "The Hidden Fortress," and "Dodes’ka-den." I've seen all those films. Have you? "The Hidden Fortress" story was the basis for "Star Wars." "Rashomon" was the basis for a million invocations — something I wrote about at some length in 2000:

"The last thing I wanted was Western elite people going to the Salzburg opera and having a lot of fun seeing how ‘stupid’ the Arabs are."

"You must be very politically aware that we are not laughing about, but we are laughing with... What I believe is that, according to the political context you’re in, you must be very aware of the references you’re using and how you present human suffering or human madness, whether it’s a tragedy or a comedic opera... You must be very careful about whose side you’re on when you deal with characters in an opera. But you must also be very sure that you’re not turning your art form into a gourmet experience for vocal fudge-makers... The piece at its core, in a certain way, is a very Western take on Islamic culture, and normally Mustafa is portrayed as just stupid and ugly and the Italians are clever and very heroic... That was something I was not interested in at all. We had to find another story line to keep the genius of Rossini and the music and the libretto, and keep it as a real comedy, because it’s important to laugh. But comedy is serious business, and you must know what you are laughing about."

From a NYT article about a new production of the 1813 Rossini opera "The Italian Girl in Algiers," which is about a Turkish leader who rejects his own wife because she is a Muslim and therefore (as the NYT puts it) "too ingratiating and submissive," and seeks "the exciting temperament and sexual prowess of an Italian woman." The title of the article, strangely effacing the anti-Muslim problem, is "Taking On 19th-Century Opera Stereotypes for the #MeToo Era."

"Tragedy is when I stub my toe. Comedy is when you fall into an open manhole and die."

Said Mel Brooks, famously.

I'm thinking of that quote because I'm reading the comments on a WaPo article, "Woman impaled by beach umbrella in Ocean City" ("an umbrella was apparently uprooted and swept away by a gust of wind... the sharper end the umbrella shaft, which is used to plant it into the ground, impaled the woman in the chest"). This is what people have seen fit to write:
Obviously, time for common sense beach umbrella control.

I call for strict umbrella licensing and a 3 day waiting period.

Yes, we should of course do this, to the same extent every other advanced democracy does.

Thanks Trump!

Mary Poppins better learn how to park that thing.
By the way, there was another beach-umbrella impaling a week ago (in the foot, not the chest). And now, I'm googling "death by umbrella" and seeing, from last March, "How a beach umbrella fatally impaled a woman with 800 pounds of force":
The umbrella injured the left ventricle of the woman’s heart, and despite an emergency surgery, she died. “If this incident had gone unwitnessed, and the nature of the object was not recognized, the manner of this woman’s death may have been in question... This case provides confirmation that beach umbrellas may cause fatal penetrating blunt force trauma to the chest.”
There have also been cases of deliberate weaponizing of umbrellas, notably the assassination of the Bulgarian dissident writer Georgi Ivanov Markov in 1978:
On 7 September 1978, Markov walked across Waterloo Bridge spanning the River Thames, and waited at a bus stop to take a bus to his job at the BBC. He felt a slight sharp pain, as a bug bite or sting, on the back of his right thigh. He looked behind him and saw a man picking up an umbrella off the ground. The man hurriedly crossed to the other side of the street and got in a taxi which then drove away. The event is recalled as the "Umbrella Murder" with the assassin claimed to be Francesco Gullino, codenamed "Piccadilly".

When he arrived at work at the BBC World Service offices, Markov noticed a small red pimple had formed at the site of the sting he had felt earlier and the pain had not lessened or stopped. He told at least one of his colleagues at the BBC about this incident. That evening he developed a fever and was admitted to St James' Hospital in Balham, where he died four days later, on 11 September 1978, at the age of 49. The cause of death was poisoning from a ricin-filled pellet.
Here is Markov's description of life in Bulgaria in his time:
Today, we Bulgarians present a fine example of what it is to exist under a lid which we cannot lift and which we no longer believe someone else can lift... And the unending slogan which millions of loudspeakers blare out is that everyone is fighting for the happiness of the others. Every word spoken under the lid constantly changes its meaning. Lies and truths swap their values with the frequency of an alternating current... We have seen how personality vanishes, how individuality is destroyed, how the spiritual life of a whole people is corrupted in order to turn them into a listless flock of sheep. We have seen so many of those demonstrations which humiliate human dignity, where normal people are expected to applaud some paltry mediocrity who has proclaimed himself a demi-god and condescendingly waves to them from the heights of his police inviolability...
Speaking of paltry mediocrity, I am seeing — in a cheesy book called "Death by Umbrella! the 100 Weirdest Horror Movie Weapons" — that there were 2 movies in which an umbrella was a murder weapon: "Silent Night, Deadly Night 2" ("Ricky skewers Rocco... and even unfurls it") and "Stitches" (woman killed with an umbrella to through the back of her head, popping out her eyeball, and unfurling in a way that rains blood all over the place).



I give you that clip, but I myself could not watch it. I clicked off at 6 seconds. Let's look at this:


Monument to Georgi Markov in Sofia cc TodorBelomorski

A translation of the inscription: "The living close the eyes of the dead, the dead open the eyes of the living."

Trump's all-caps warning to Iran's Rouhani: "BE CAUTIOUS."


Rouhani's threat, directed at Trump, came in a speech on Sunday, reported in Al Jazeera:
"Do not play with the lion's tail or else you will regret it.... Peace with Iran would be the mother of all peace and war with Iran would be the mother of all wars."
Addressing Trump's sanctions affecting the sale of Iranian oil:
"Is it possible that everyone in the region sells their oil and we stand idly by and watch?... Do not forget that we have maintained the security of this waterway [Strait of Hormuz] throughout history. We have historically secured the route of oil transit. Do not forget it."
Addressing U.S. government encouragement of dissent in Iran: "You cannot provoke the Iranian people against their own security and interests."

From the NYT article on the tweet, there's this about a speech by Secretary of State Pompeo earlier in the day:
“Governments around the world worry that confronting the Islamic Republic harms the cause of moderates, but these so-called moderates within the regime are still violent Islamic revolutionaries with an anti-America, anti-West agenda... You only have to take their own words for it.”

Mr. Pompeo also sought to reach out to the people of Iran in his speech and messages posted online. “The United States hears you. The United States supports you. The United States is with you,” he tweeted Sunday in Persian and English.

Mr. Trump’s tough talk with Iran comes as he continues to face fierce criticism over his meeting last week with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and vacillating statements over whether he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Meddling. We openly meddle and yet demand not to be meddled with.

July 22, 2018

At the Lily Cafe...

DSC05482

... talk about anything you want.

I've called it The Era of That's Not Funny.

Here's my tag — "The Era of That's Not Funny" — which began on November 15, 2017 and, 8 months later collects 25 posts. The first post with that tag is a reaction to a NYT op-ed "Why Men Aren’t Funny," which I translated to Why Nothing Will Ever Be Funny Anymore.

Today, there's an article at Quartzy "'Nanette' and Why a New Wave of Comedians Don't Want to Be Funny":
In Hannah Gadsby’s highly acclaimed comedy special Nanette, she announces that she’s quitting comedy. Jokes are too simplistic, she says: they convert her trauma into humor and obscure the ugly truth of her story. Comedy, says Gadsby, has prevented her from evolving....

[T]he phenomenon of talk show hosts making earnest, quite un-funny political pleas is now so common that comedian Michelle Wolf recently did a skit parodying these monologues.

“I am gonna throw my pen down on the desk, and I’m gonna shake my head in crestfallen bewilderment. I’m gonna look you in the eye, and I’m gonna tell you that Trump is bad!,” she cried. “Children in cages, gun reform yesterday, nevertheless I persisted, this is comedy now. And finally, the meticulously crafted clippable GIFable takedown that will fix everything, change minds, and save the republic.”...

"The hormones made me more impatient. I had lots of female friends and one of the qualities they loved about me was..."

"... that I was a great listener. After being on testosterone, they informed me that my listening skills weren’t what they used to be. Here’s an example: I’m driving with one of my best friends, Beth, and I ask her 'Is your sister meeting us for dinner?' Ten minutes later she’s still talking and I still have no idea if her sister is coming. So finally, I couldn’t take it anymore, and I snapped and said, 'IS SHE COMING OR NOT?' And Beth was like, 'You know, you used to like hearing all the backstory and how I’d get around to the answer. A lot of us have noticed you’ve become very impatient lately and we think it’s that damn testosterone!' It’s definitely true that some male behavior is governed by hormones. Instead of listening to a woman’s problem and being empathetic and nodding along, I would do the stereotypical guy thing — interrupt and provide a solution to cut the conversation short and move on. I’m trying to be better about this...."

From "Crossing the divide/Do men really have it easier? These transgender guys found the truth was more complex" (WaPo).

ADDED: There's a lot more to that article that what I selected (because it jumped out on me). I know many of you won't click through to WaPo, so let me give you this one highly rated comment that sums things up:
Fascinating stories. The upsides of being male seem to be:
- respect from men and women,
- automatic assumption of functional competence,
- not interrupted by men when speaking,
- fewer internal inhibitions on ambition.

The downsides seem to be:
- less "common courtesy" from strangers,
- less emotional sharing from peer group (now male),
- less tolerance from others about hearing emotional issues,
- black males scare many people, especially police, by their skin color.

"Carter Page on Sunday called the accusations against him detailed in the foreign surveillance warrant application released by the FBI 'so ridiculous.'"

"'You talk about misleading the courts, it's just so misleading... It's literally a complete joke.'"

CNN reports on the interview that was on CNN's "State of the Union."

I have not attempted to read the long document that was released, but one of the commenters in last night café, Yancey Ward, did:
Believe it or not, I read the FISA applications in less than an hour. It is 90%+ redacted, so there are about 40 pages of actual material. The bulk of the material that is redacted appears to be nothing related to Page at all — it appears in procedures, minimization, and is connect otherwise to general descriptions of what Russia is thought to do in such areas- in other words, classified means and methods. Indeed, the only portions that are unredacted are the parts related to Page.

Here is the absolute truth — all of the applications rely on the Steele Dossier and the Isikoff story from September 2016 — a story that Steele himself was the source for. Those are the only two pieces of "evidence" the FBI supplied to the FISA court that could reasonably be inferred to assign probable cause that Page was a knowing Russian agent. The only other things mentioned in regards to Page are that he lived in Russia for a time, travels there sometimes as an energy consultant, and was approached by Russian agents in the past, one of whom Page himself helped to trap and convict by serving as a willing FBI informant. That last part is incongruous with designating him as a Russian agent, but is included any way as an attempt, not to exonerate him, but to tar him.

Also, if you do a page by page comparison of all four applications, there is little material added from one to the other —if you compared the applications side by side, practically every redacted section is identical in shape and length and page designations. In other words, in each of the renewals, it is apparent that the FBI got jackshit from the surveillance — there was nothing they could add to each application, and so just mostly copied the first application serially.

In addition, none of the applications told the court that the Clinton Campaign is the one who paid Steele and FusionGPS — not a single time. Indeed, the only mention in all the applications of "Candidate 2" is in the very last renewal, and that section wasn't discussing who hired the law firm, but was instead discussing some letters Page wrote criticizing the Clinton Campaign. The FBI knew who hired the law firm — they knew Steele (Source 1) was hired by Glenn Simpson (aka US citizen), and they knew Simpson was hired by a law firm- i.e. the FBI knew which law firm and thus it was the Clinton Campaign. The applications studiously avoid mentioning "Candidate 2" at every point they describe the chain of cutouts- always ending with "law firm".

Finally, it clear the FBI confirmed nothing of the Steele Dossier. At no point does it appear that Steele revealed his sources to the FBI- they are always described as "subsources"- this is FBI legalese for "we don't even know the name so that we can designate them by number".

The House Intelligence Republican memo was correct on all counts. The Democrat memo was extremely misleading — there is nothing else other than the Steele Dossier and the story Steele sourced to Isikoff.
I don't have the patience to read the thing myself, but that shows why government officials may chose to write long, evasive documents. Let me know if there's anything about Yancey Ward's description that you think is wrong and tell me exactly why. And don't be verbose! I'm suspicious of verbosity. It makes me feel that you are hiding something.

"While I am not prepared to defend bouts of 'She-Ra doesn’t give me boners anymore' extremism..."

"... I can see the kernels of the argument that sexuality shouldn’t be in diametric opposition to capability. There’s no reason female characters can’t be glamorous and sexy and also battle-ready, smart, and compassionate. It’s not unlike the ongoing debate about Wonder Woman’s appearance and whether her revealing uniform ultimately undermines her feminism. I’d argue that the most important thing about women superheroes in skimpy clothes is agency — what matters is that their costumes aren’t designed primarily for the sake of someone else’s erotic thrill."

From "The Fight Over She-Ra's Netflix Redesign, Explained/Some men are mad she isn’t sexier," by Alex Abad-Santos.

Cartoons are complicated!

Here's the old and the new She-Ra to help you understand:



I had to look up Tom Holland:



Apparently, he's Spider-Man these days. I think of Spider-Man as being that other guy, what's-his-name. Anyway, is Spider-Man's costume not in "diametric opposition to capability"? There's so much suspension of disbelief in the watching of superheroes, something I've just about never done — I've seen a few of the "Batman" movies — but a huge proportion of the world's population seems to love to do. What is the role of the costumes? It's nothing like If that was my work, that's what I'd wear to get my work done. I'm not even sure the extent to which the costume itself is magic. Does Superman fly because of the cape or is the cape kind of like those ribbons people attach to house fans to add drama to the wind flow?

But I do love this scene in "Batman Returns" where we see Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) putting together her costume for the first time:

A more accurate title would be "How to Spot a Minimally Competent Men's Haircut" but then I would not have watched this.



I like the way male anxieties about "high-end" haircuts are allayed by low-end junk on the floor in the salon's "barbershop" decor.

I put some effort into trying to find out what you have to pay to get a haircut from this expert, but I gave up. There's also a WSJ article accompanying the video. It's called "Your Haircut Is (Probably) Too Cheap/Certain CEOs won’t spend over $20 and contend that paying more is pointless. But, as barbershops evolve, spending a little extra can make a big difference. Inside the debate over the value of a man’s coiffure."

I like the locution "Your Haircut Is (Probably) Too Cheap." It stands in for "You Are (Probably) Too Cheap."

And I like the slap-in-the-face discordance of the last word: "coiffure." I looked it up in the OED: "A style or fashion of attiring the head and dressing the hair; head-dress, usually of women." Heh. Usually of women.
a1719 J. Addison Dialogues Medals in Wks. (1721) I. ii. 487 Methinks she is very particular in her Quoiffure.
1831 Cat's Tail 17 An old greasy night-cap, his morning coiffure.
1866 Mrs. H. Wood St. Martin's Eve II. xiv. 313 It's not once in six months that Madame Baret's coiffure is amiss.