July 27, 2019

At the Shyness Café...


... you can shine as you like.

"Yo, proletariat: If the Democratic Party is going to be against chocolate, high heels, parties and fun, you’ve lost me. And I’ve got some bad news for you about 2020."

"The progressives are the modern Puritans. The Massachusetts Bay Colony is alive and well on the Potomac and Twitter. They eviscerate their natural allies for not being pure enough.... The politics of purism makes people stupid. And nasty.... The progressives’ cry that they don’t care about the political consequences because they have a higher cause is just a purity racket. Their mantra is like that of Ferdinand I, the Holy Roman Emperor: 'Fiat iustitia, et pereat mundus.' 'Let justice be done, though the world perish.' The rest of us more imperfect beings don’t want the world to perish. And maybe justice can be done, without losing the White House, the House, chocolate, high heels, parties and fun."

From "Spare Me the Purity Racket" by Maureen Dowd (NYT).

The top-rated comment over there begins "No" and includes: "why do you care if your high heels, parties and chocolates are criticized?... Democrats shouldn't back down on anything. This just says nothing matters anymore, not the law, not morality, not norms, not decency.... Democrats must fight, fight, fight to save our country."

Dowd is fighting back after she was criticized for eating chocolate with Nancy Pelosi and saying something nice about Pelosi's shoes as if they were "decadent aristocrats reveling like Marie Antoinette."

"All over the world, there were people who, for reasons they could not quite articulate, had fallen into a kind of fugue state and dedicated their lives to digging underground — a whole case file of Mole Men."

"There was Lyova Arakelyan, a man in rural Armenia who, while excavating a potato cellar beneath his home, became transfixed, and spent the next three decades digging winding tunnels and spiral staircases. To those who asked why, he only explained that each night he heard voices in his dreams telling him to dig. And the entomologist Harrison G. Dyar, Jr., who excavated a quarter mile’s worth of tunnels beneath two separate houses in Washington, D.C. When the tunnels were revealed in 1924, after a car fell through the street, Dyar told the press, 'I do it for the exercise.' And an old man in the Mojave Desert, William 'Burro' Schmidt, who spent thirty-two years pickaxing a 2,087-foot-long tunnel into the side of a solid granite mountain. ('Just a shortcut, I suppose.') And a young man named Elton Macdonald, who covertly excavated a thirty-foot-long tunnel beneath a city park in Toronto, which caused a city-wide panic after the police announced the tunnel as a potential hideout for terrorists. When Macdonald revealed himself as the burrower, he could only explain, 'Digging relaxes me.' And then Lord William Cavendish-Scott-Bentinck, a nineteenth-century duke, who, along with a crew of laborers, hollowed out an entire tunnel metropolis beneath his estate, complete with an underground library, a billiards room, and a ten-thousand-square-foot underground ballroom made entirely of clay, which the duke used as a private roller-skating rink."

From "Underground: A Human History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet" by Will Hunt. I highly recommend this book, which I read right after another book with the same title, different subtitle, "Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche," by Haruki Murakami.

Is there some natural urge to burrow underground? Will Hunt writes: "Physiologically speaking, there is no environment so intolerable as a tight, dark, underground enclosure, where oxygen is scarce. To burrow is to experience claustrophobia in its most crystallized form, like enclosing yourself in a tomb. And yet, throughout history, in every corner of the world, we have burrowed...."

"Passenger in clown suit prompted mass cruise ship brawl..."

Headline at The Guardian.

Was it the clown suit per se or did the person who happened to be wearing a clown suit do something?

Let me read:
“One witness, part of a group involved in the trouble, explained to staff that things kicked off when another passenger appeared dressed as a clown. This upset one of their party because they’d specifically booked a cruise with no fancy dress. It led to a violent confrontation,” [wrote Richard Gaisford of ITV’s Good Morning Britain].

He added: “Britannia left Bergen at 14.30 on Thursday, the violence occurred 12 hours later after a black-tie evening. It followed an afternoon of ‘patriotic’ partying on deck, with large amounts of alcohol being consumed by many guests. The buffet area was immediately sealed off as medical teams went to help the injured. Staff told me they’d never experienced anything like it and those behind the violence were confined to a cabin for the last day of the cruise, waiting for police here in Southampton.”
So it was the clown suit per se! But it doesn't sound like clown suit guy "prompted" the brawl. I'd say the brawl was prompted by the ridiculous person who attributed so much meaning to having specifically booked a cruise with no fancy dress.

Seems like "fancy dress" has a special British meaning. Ah, yes: "Fancy dress is clothing that you wear for a party at which everyone tries to look like a famous person or a person from a story, from history, or from a particular profession." Well, was clown guy dressed as a particular clown? Pennywise or Bozo or something?

This story has a lot about specificity.

ADDED: From the OED:
fancy dress, n.

1. A costume arranged according to the wearer's fancy, usually representing some fictitious or historical character. Also attributive in fancy dress ball. Also figurative.

1770 F. Burney Early Jrnls. & Lett. (1988) I. 101 I was soon found out by Miss Lalause who..had on a fancy Dress..much in the style of mine....
1844 G. W. Kendall Narr. Santa Fé Exped. II. 51 Such variety of costume..would put to the blush..any..fancy-dress procession ever invented....

"When congressional staffers, prompted by repeated media inquiries, asked Mueller’s team about his cognitive acuity, they were told — three separate times — that he was okay...."

"After Mueller’s halting, sometimes confused testimony before two congressional committees Wednesday, some lawmakers are privately wondering whether there was some truth to the rumors — and whether they were right to force him to testify against his wishes....  Democrats lionized Mueller, believing his investigation to be their best hope at exposing wrongdoing by Trump.... After Mueller’s investigation concluded — and Democrats pressed him to testify — his staff communicated to Capitol Hill in no uncertain terms: Mueller did not want to do it.... For a time, Mueller’s team pushed for the hearings to take place behind closed doors, and they advocated aggressively to limit each of the hearings to two hours. Members also were perplexed that panel staffers wanted them to shape questions so they could be answered with a simple 'yes' or 'no.'...  Some Democrats recognized after the first hearing that Mueller was not as sharp as they would have liked. During a break, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), who sits on both committees, warned lawmakers on the second panel to slow down, shorten their questions and speak louder so Mueller could follow better.... Democratic lawmakers are divided about whether they made the right decision in forcing Mueller to appear. Some — and most committee staff members — say they had no choice. While saddened by the attacks on Mueller post-hearing, they say it will pay off in the long run for their investigations, as the public event allowed Mueller to publicly confirm unflattering facts about Trump that they can further explore."

From "Mueller’s team told Congress his acuity was not an issue. Some lawmakers privately worry it was" (WaPo)(relying on anonymous sources).

William F. Buckley discusses hippies with Jack Kerouac, Ed Sanders (of The Fugs), and a sociologist named Lewis Yablonsky.

"Are you a hippie, Mr. Sanders, and if not, wherein not?"

The year is 1968, and I believe I watched this at the time:

If you're not watching the whole thing, please just watch these 13 seconds, where the sociologist is droning and Kerouac comes alive:


"Internalizing my diagnoses as inscriptions of emotional destiny also alleviated my sense of personal blame for the inability to will away my black dogs."

"When the drugs failed to deliver the cure I’d been promised, I didn’t dare reveal my shameful secret: that maybe the issue wasn’t just with chemicals in my brain, but a bad and broken me. Nearly two decades later, I quake with anger at the wholesale failure of mental health care in America — a rigid and restrictive system that leaves even the reasonably privileged, like me, with little to work with, and so many others with nothing. The primacy of the chemical imbalance theory of mental and neurological disorders may be at the root of the problem. It is an oversimplification at best. A new book by the Harvard Medical historian Anne Harrington, 'Mind Fixers: Psychiatry’s Troubled Search for the Biology of Mental Illness,' argues that the 'tunnel vision' of modern psychiatry, with its fixation on wiring and fixed diagnoses, cannot adequately address what has yet to be understood about the human psyche."

From "It’s Not Just a Chemical Imbalance/Thinking of my mental illness as preordained missed many of the causes of — and solutions to — my emotional suffering," by Kelli María Korducki (NYT).

"Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset" is a disgusting click-bait headline...

... for a column by Dana Milbank that begins:
Mitch McConnell is a Russian asset. This doesn't mean he's a spy, but neither is it a flip accusation.
I'm not going to link to the article, because that kind of dreck should not be rewarded.

Here's a link to Memeorandum which links and collects links to the link.

"As a bookish indoor kid who hadn’t figured out his sexuality, I was a firm supporter of the middlebrow legal thriller."

"I eschewed bike riding, kissing girls (uh, see above), and learning how to smoke cigarettes for the clearcut satisfaction of a well-executed courtroom monologue, or Julia Roberts cryptically intoning that everybody she’s told about the brief is dead. The characteristics of the middlebrow legal thriller dovetailed so well with the tastes of a teen who imagined himself to be quite smart and sophisticated — they didn’t so much require a familiarity with the law but with the three or four legal concepts that particular film decided were important. In The Firm, the concept was 'billable hours.' In A Time to Kill, it’s 'change of venue.' Once you’ve got the concept down, the movies tend to be about chase scenes and tense cross-examinations. With Grisham, the Mob is very often involved, or else the government acting like the Mob. By the end, the two characters we care most about arrive at an understanding about each other. It ain’t Tolstoy, but it is deeply enjoyable."

From "The Death of the Middlebrow Legal Thriller" by Joe Reid (The Vulture), written on the crushingly boring occasion of the 25th anniversary of the movie "The Client."

I saw part of that movie. I was on a plane and I watched enough to decide this is a type of movie I hate and will never watch again: a plot based on putting a child in danger with many shots of the mother maternal woman worrying and anguishing.
[T]he real gem at the heart of this movie is Susan Sarandon, who milks her star turn for all its worth. Her scenes opposite Tommy Lee Jones as they face off over the fate of this young boy are the kind of crackling movie-star showdowns that rarely appear outside the action drama.... 
Could they please go crackle somewhere else and not inside the aluminum tube I'm trapped in? For me, that was most certainly not — to use Reid's phrase — "deeply enjoyable." I'm irritated by the notion that we're expected to enjoy children put in danger. In real life, it would be horrible, but having our emotions artificially leveraged because of our primal love of children, that's pleasure.

ADDED: I've corrected this post. Originally, I'd written "The Firm" for "The Client." The one I saw and the one marking its 25th anniversary is "The Client." "The Firm," also discussed in the linked article, came a year earlier. ALSO: I don't think Sarandon was the mother, just the lawyer and a woman (and therefore, conventionally, experiencing maternal pangs).

"... a legal maneuver that carries significant political overtones..."

Ah, the subtle humor of the NYT.

I'm reading "Raising Prospect of Impeaching Trump, House Seeks Mueller’s Grand Jury Secrets/In a court filing, House Democrats said they need access to secret grand jury evidence because they are weighing whether to recommend impeaching President Trump":
The House Judiciary Committee on Friday asked a federal judge to unseal grand jury secrets related to Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation, using the court filing to declare that lawmakers have already in effect launched an impeachment investigation of President Trump.

In a legal maneuver that carries significant political overtones, the committee told a judge that it needs access to the grand jury evidence collected by Mr. Mueller as special counsel — such as witness testimony — because it is “investigating whether to recommend articles of impeachment” against the president.

“Because Department of Justice policies will not allow prosecution of a sitting president, the United States House of Representatives is the only institution of the federal government that can now hold President Trump accountable for these actions,” the filing told the judge, Beryl A. Howell, who supervised Mr. Mueller’s grand jury.

Referring to the part of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to impeach and remove a president, the filing continued: “To do so, the House must have access to all the relevant facts and consider whether to exercise all its full Article I powers, including a constitutional power of the utmost gravity — approval of articles of impeachment.”

With the filing, the committee’s chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, was attempting to sidestep the debate raging inside the Democratic Party over whether the full House should hold a vote to formally declare that it is opening an impeachment inquiry. By declaring that his committee was in effect conducting such an inquiry, he was heading off a politically difficult vote in the committee or the full house to pursue impeachment....
... in effect...

July 26, 2019

At the Friday Night Café...


... talk about whatever you like.

"A federal judge in Kentucky Friday threw out a defamation lawsuit filed against The Washington Post by Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann..."

"... and his family over the paper's reporting of an incident between the young man and a Native American man this past January in Washington. The lawsuit, which was filed in February, sought $250 million in damages and accused the Post of practicing 'a modern-day form of McCarthyism' by targeting Sandmann and 'using its vast financial resources to enter the bully pulpit by publishing a series of false and defamatory print and online articles ... to smear a young boy who was in its view an acceptable casualty in their war against the president.'... In a 36-page ruling, U.S. District Judge William Bertelsman noted that the Post never mentioned Sandmann by name in its initial coverage of the incident, referring only to groups of 'hat wearing teens.' Bertelsman added that 'the words used contain no reflection upon any particular individual' and thus could not be constituted as defamation. The judge also ruled that the newspaper used language that was 'loose, figurative,' and 'rhetorical hyperbole which is protected by the First Amendment....  Judge Bertelsman said in the ruling that he accepted Sandmann's contention that 'when he was standing motionless in the confrontation with Phillips, his intent was to calm the situation...' But he noted that Phillips asserted that he was being blocked from passing, and Phillips' opinion was reported by the newspaper. 'They may have been erroneous ... but they are opinion protected by The First Amendment,' Bertelsman wrote."

Fox News reports.

We're told there will be an appeal, but I think there is good reason to believe the district judge got it right.

"The Supreme Court on Friday gave President Trump a victory in his fight for a wall along the Mexican border by allowing the administration to begin using $2.5 billion..."

"... in Pentagon money for the construction. In a 5-to-4 ruling, the court overturned an appellate decision and said that the administration could tap the money while litigation over the matter proceeds.... While the order was only one paragraph long and unsigned, the Supreme Court said the groups challenging the administration did not appear to have a legal right to do so. That was an indication that the court’s conservative majority was likely to side with the administration in the end..."

The NYT reports.

At that link, the text of Trump's tweet: "Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!”

More debates coming up next week. Try to predict which day will be more exciting. (And don't say they'll both be boring — that's boring.)

The Tuesday people:
Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana
Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana
Former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland
Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado
Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota
Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas
Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts
Author Marianne Williamson
The Wednesday people:
Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado
Former Vice President Joe Biden
Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City
Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey
Former Housing Secretary Julián Castro
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York
Sen. Kamala Harris of California
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington
Entrepreneur Andrew Yang
Here's a boring reason for picking Wednesday. Kamala Harris is positioned once again to take a shot at Joe Biden. Have you noticed her bounce (from the last debate) is fading? Will she try to do the same thing again? Will Joe fight back this time? Will he fight back enough to get in trouble? As for Tuesday, there's hope that Marianne Williamson will be especially weird. Ugh. Something better needs to happen. Maybe Andrew Yang's microphone will work.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ralph L said:
Yang is going to yell "Fuck!" evocatively.

Decisive troll ruling issued.


"It was a wild scene in New Jersey when a wayward tire rolled down the highway until it went flying into a moving vehicle."

You can see the video here, along with the story — which I didn't know when I first saw the video (on the aptly named subreddit on r/fuckyouinparticular) — that no one was seriously injured.

"Kipling Williams, a Purdue University psychologist, studied how people felt when a young woman walked by them and either made eye contact, made eye contact while smiling..."

"... or completely ignored them. Even brief eye contact increased people's sense of inclusion and belonging. 'Just that brief acknowledgment, that brief glance — with or without a smile — made them at least temporarily feel more socially connected,' Williams says. And it works both ways. Those that had been 'looked through' felt even more disconnected than the control group. So, how can we dodge the risks of loneliness and stop short-changing our own happiness? It might be easier than you think. 'It takes very little to acknowledge somebody's existence,' Williams says."

From "Want To Feel Happier Today? Try Talking To A Stranger" (NPR).

So people feel happier if a young woman smiles and/or makes eye contact. Does that suggest that all of us can make each other happier by making eye contact and smiling? More research is needed.

But I do like the idea of finding a way to acknowledge the existence of strangers — not every stranger along the way, but various people you encounter. We tend to put a lot of energy into the people who have an ongoing role in our life — family, friends, co-workers — but I think completely transitory relationships with random strangers are important. I think there's beauty and idealism in sharing something for a moment with absolutely no expectation of getting anything more.

"Is society's 'Man up' message fuelling a suicide crisis among men?"

A question asked at BBC.
"I felt I had to be part of it, to fit into the team. To be part of that, I had to have that laddish bravado - I think that's why men can struggle so much," James says. "Then I got caught in this whirlpool of despair - should I be laddish even if I didn't enjoy being laddish? I was trying to fit into how society thinks young men should act."...

Simon Gunning, chief executive of Campaign Against Living Miserably (Calm), told MPs masculinity was often equated with having what it took to put food on the table. "It has been defined as this strange conflation of stoicism and strength, meaning the strong silent type," he said....
IN THE COMMENTS: Fernandistein quotes "society's 'Man up' message" and asks:
"Society" has a message? If so, google ngram thinks that society's "man up" message has been declining since about 1920.
Here's the ngram:

That made me check out "laddish":

"Fattened up with acorns and chestnuts to the size of a cricket ball and then stuffed, baked and perhaps seasoned with honey and poppy seeds, the dormouse..."

"... was one of ancient Rome’s most popular delicacies. The Romans also adored dishes such as rabbit stuffed with figs, cockerel in pomegranate sauce, and terrines and mousses moulded in to the shape of chickens. A wealthy family reclining, not sitting, to eat their meal might start with snail, egg or fish appetisers before a goat or pig main course and then finish with a dessert, mainly fruit such as apples, plums, grapes, cherries, dates and figs. All liberally seasoned with fish sauce. And accompanied by gargantuan quantities of wine."

From "Baked dormouse and other Roman delicacies come to Oxford/Ashmolean Museum’s Pompeii exhibition includes food carbonised by eruption in AD79" (The Guardian).

Remember what the Dormouse said: Feed your head...

I looked up the old Jefferson Airplane lyric. Here's the annotation of that line at Genius:
[Lewis Carroll’s "Alice in Wonderland,"] the Dormouse never actually says “Feed your head.” Jefferson Airplane is either putting words in his mouth or introducing this sentiment as a separate thought.

The direct reference here is to Alice, Chapter 11, when the Mad Hatter is questioned before the court:
‘But what did the Dormouse say?’ one of the jury asked.
‘That I can’t remember’, said the Hatter.
‘You MUST remember,’ remarked the King, ‘or I’ll have you executed.’
This context gives an ominous spin to “Remember what the Dormouse said.” If you don’t “feed your head” (take drugs to tune in? expand your mind in general?), it could seriously cost you.

Alternatively, this might be a commentary on the apathy and nonchalance of the drug scene. The Hatter does not remember, or care about, an important detail; drugs, too, can cause listlessness and memory loss.
But doesn't "Feed your head" mean take a lot of drugs? It's a conundrum, no?

Anyway, the Romans were not using the acorn-and-chestnut-stuffed dormouse to feed their head, only their belly, but the sidetrack was irresistible to me as I go about feeding your head this morning.

"The thing is, there’s no way to watch the new Lion King and not think of the old one, even if the new one is the only one you’ve seen."

"Every time a clunker dropped, I wondered if there was a version of the movie where it actually worked. It’s weird, and eventually grating, the way John Oliver’s hornbill keeps hopping around as he blurts out one-liners, but maybe it would work better if the bird had arms, or at least cartoonish wings he could move like them?...  I didn’t need to have seen the original to know that the Beyoncé song jammed in over helicopter shots of capering animals and not sung by any of the characters was the one that had been added to the soundtrack so that Bey could get her Oscar nomination, although I turned to the person next to me and asked, 'Is this the new one?' just to make sure.... Without an immensely popular original to guarantee the new movie’s audience, the idea of making a musical about lions that also looks like a National Geographic special would have seemed insane.... You could destroy every print, every Blu-ray, every iTunes download of the original Lion King, and the new one would still feel like a copy."

Writes Sam Adams in "What It’s Like to See the New Lion King When You’ve Never Seen the Old Lion King/Even if you’ve never watched Disney’s animated original, you can tell something’s off" (Slate).

At some point, it's weird enough almost to make me want to see it for the extreme weirdness, and I have seen the original cartoon movie and the Broadway show, and I didn't like either of them. It's not that I expected to like them, by the way. I was accompanying children. I really dislike the idea that the lion is "king" of the jungle and that the other animals (the prey) are in love with the idea and the one animal who's irritated by royal succession is a horrible creep. Bleh! What a terrible idea for an story to inspire children. How about a "Wicked" style remake where we get the story from the point of view of the villain and the villain becomes the hero? No, that won't work, because the original story is too stupid and dull.

"I didn’t see my family again until 1978. By then, my father had died, we had two children of our own, and I was active in the women’s movement..."

"... and had become an English professor at Douglass, the women’s college of Rutgers University. Being disowned had given me the freedom to invent my life on my own terms: as an atheist, feminist, professor, and liberal. I initiated the reunion, but not because I missed my family or needed Jewish traditions to organize my life. It was because Adrienne Rich, my colleague at Douglass, had insisted to me that no woman could be an honest feminist who had not made peace with her own mother and sister. The family I rejoined was not the family I left. No one in my generation, none of my cousins, my uncles or my aunts, was untouched by those turbulent years of American history. Fifteen years is a long time, and while some of the emotional threads that were broken were mended over the years since, most were not. But that is another story. Still, I sometimes wonder if I should write a sequel called Chava Returns...."

From "'Fiddler,' Tevye’s Daughters, and Me" by Elaine Showalter (The NY Review of Books). In "Fiddler on the Roof," Chava is the daughter who finds love outside of the Jewish faith, and her father tells her to leave and never return. He declares "Chava is dead to us! We will forget her."
In the last scene, the Jews of Anatevka have been cast out by the edict of the tsar, and Tevye is forced to leave with his neighbors and take his family to seek familiar faces in the strange new land of America. But when Chava and Fyedka come to say farewell, he will still not speak to them, although he mutters “God be with you” under his breath....

For me, the story is personal. In June 1963, when I married a nominally Episcopalian professor of French, my parents disowned me, and so did my grandparents, all but two of my twenty-plus aunts and uncles, and all but three of my dozens of cousins. No one from my family came to our wedding, and I did not see them again for fifteen years....
You hear a lot about family love, not so much about familial estrangement.

"Why Corporations Want You to Shut Up and Meditate/Ron Purser’s new book McMindfulness examines how spiritual practices and self-care became tools for corporate compliance."

Headline at The Nation. Excerpt:
Rooted in a centuries-old Buddhist meditation practice, mindfulness, like the religion it originates from, is based on the Four Noble Truths, the first of which loosely translates to “Life is suffering.”...

Today’s corporatized mindfulness is largely a do-it-yourself practice (with countless books, meditation apps, podcasts, gurus, and seminars) filling the vacuum of a lonely culture obsessed with self-optimization, mind hacks, and shortcuts to self-care. Modern mindfulness is often sold as evidence-based, sanitized of any cultural baggage—neuroscience with a dash of what Jon Kabat-Zinn, known as the father of the modern-day mindfulness movement, calls “the essence of Buddhism.” It’s at once secular and clinical yet sacred....
The article is written by Zachary Siegel, who interviews Ronald Purser (author of "McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality"). Excerpt:
ZS: Your book chronicles various spiritual movements rising and falling in America—the rise of New Age in the 1970s and Transcendental Meditation in the ’90s. Who is behind the mindfulness boom?

"This asteroid wasn’t one that scientists had been tracking and it had seemingly appeared from 'out of nowhere'..."

"According to data from NASA, the craggy rock was large, roughly 100 meters wide, and moving quickly along a path that brought it within about 73,000 kilometers of Earth. That’s one-fifth of the distance to the moon and what [one scientist said was] 'uncomfortably close.' 'It snuck up on us pretty quickly,' said [another scientist] 'People are only sort of realizing what happened pretty much after it’s already flung past us.'... Information about its size and path was announced just hours before it rocketed past Earth.... Asteroid 2019 OK is a sizable chunk of rock, but it’s nowhere near as big as the ones capable of causing an event like the dinosaurs’ extinction. More than 90 percent of those asteroids, which are 1 kilometer or larger, have already been identified by NASA and its partners.  'Nothing this size is easy to detect'... 'It would have gone off like a very large nuclear weapon' with enough force to destroy a city, he said. 'Many megatons, perhaps in the ballpark of 10 megatons of TNT, so something not to be messed with.'... The last space rock to strike Earth similar in size to Asteroid 2019 OK was more than a century ago.... That asteroid, known as the Tunguska event, caused an explosion that leveled 2,000 square kilometers of forest land in Siberia."

WaPo reports.

I had to look up "Susan Collins is toast."

I found this:

Screen Shot 2019-07-26 at 6.28.28 AM

Thanks, Google. Thanks, Jennifer Rubin.

The use of "toast" to mean "A person or thing that is defunct, dead, finished, in serious trouble, etc." originated — if I am to believe the Oxford English Dictionary — with "Ghostbusters"!
1983 D. Aykroyd & H. Ramis Ghostbusters (film script, third draft) 123 Venkman..: Okay. That's it! I'm gonna turn this guy into toast.
As the OED explains with exquisite pedantry:
The lines in quot. 1983 do not in fact appear in the U.S. film Ghostbusters as released in 1985, since a considerable amount of the dialogue is ad-libbed. The actual words spoken by Venkman (played by Bill Murray) as he prepares to fire a laser-type weapon, are, ‘This chick is toast’; this is probably the origin of the proleptic construction which has gained particular currency.
"Proleptic use" means in phrases like "You're toast," "I'm toast," and "Susan Collins is toast."

I still don't know — and don't really care — what happened to Susan Collins.

iPhone feature detected the hard way.


I felt so bad about accidentally calling 911 that I'm afraid I may have conveyed the message that there really was an emergency and that some evildoer was coercing me to lie and say it's nothing. I profusely apologized for my mistake and the friendly, affable operate laughed and said, "It happens all the time."

It happens all the time!

July 25, 2019

At the Closeup Café...


... you can talk all night.

"President Trump was probably never going to be impeached by the House of Representatives before the 2020 elections."

"The testimony by Robert S. Mueller III, the former special counsel, makes that a near certainty," concludes Carl Hulse of the NYT:
The absence of an electrifying Washington moment in Wednesday’s two-stage testimony by Mr. Mueller not only deprived Democrats of the crystallizing episode they needed to drive public opinion on impeachment, but it also meant Republicans had no reason to budge from their anti-impeachment stance....

... Speaker Nancy Pelosi... has consistently said that she would allow the House to take it up only if there was bipartisan sentiment to open an inquiry. “Bipartisan” in that sense doesn’t mean most Republicans would have to be on board, but at least a few public backers would be required to give a bipartisan veneer to the highly charged proceedings.

Absolutely none surfaced after the hearings....

[T]he majority of House Democrats remain on the fence about impeachment — last week they split 137 to 95 against a symbolic impeachment vote. After the Mueller testimony, just one Democrat, Representative Lori Trahan of Massachusetts, immediately joined the call for at least beginning an impeachment inquiry, hardly the flood pro-impeachment lawmakers had hoped would be spurred by Mr. Mueller.

After a private party meeting, Ms. Pelosi pushed back against the argument by some of her colleagues that the stage had been set for beginning an impeachment inquiry. “I don’t know why they thought that,” said the speaker.... Privately, top Democrats said they viewed Mr. Mueller’s terse and occasionally halting testimony as a “nothingburger” that did not move the impeachment needle at all....

Unplanned journey.


"If Mueller didn’t write report, as his disastrous testimony made clear, who did?"

Texted Rudy Giuliani (reported at Axios).

Not only didn't he write it, but as Alan Dershowitz says, Mueller was not "really in charge" or "very familiar with the contents of the report":

Dershowitz holds up the book and says: "We should no longer call this 'The Mueller Report.' This deserves to be called 'The Staff Report.'"

Why did Mueller accept being used as a figurehead? His dignity and honor were appropriated (or handed over).

ADDED: This would seem too cruel, but considering the massive power entrusted to him, it is gentle:

What did Ricardo A. Rosselló have in his texts that was so bad he had to step down as Governor of Puerto Rico?

I keep reading about them, for example, at NPR:
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced his resignation amid a scandal over sexist, homophobic and otherwise offensive text messages he and his inner circle exchanged. The leaked texts set off mass demonstrations and widespread calls for his departure....

Protesters have flooded the streets since the July 13 publication of nearly 900 pages of profane messages on the messaging app Telegram showing Rosselló and his close aides insulting women, deriding gays and making fun of Maria victims. The scandal has come to be known as "Rickyleaks."...
I want to see the text of the texts. I don't trust characterizations anymore. People will call almost anything Trump says "racist," so I need the direct quotes these days, and that's partly because I want it on record what truly offensive stuff is, for comparison purposes.

There were no quotes at NPR, but here, I found some at Metro, "These are the Ricardo Rossello texts at the center of Puerto Rico's outrage":
In the texts, Rossello [calls] NYC Councilor Melissa Mark-Viverito... a "wh-re," and describes another female politician as "daughter of a b-tch." In one text thread about the management of Puerto Rico's financial crisis, Rossello wrote, "Dear oversight board, go f— yourself" followed by several of middle finger emojis....

In one particularly unsettling exchange, Rossello made fun of the victims of Hurricane Maria, which devastated the island in 2017, killing more than 3,000 people. Sobrino Vega, the former chief financial officer, made a joke about the number of bodies in the aftermath of Maria. Rossello responded, "Now that we are on the subject, don't we have some cadavers to feed our crows?"...

"Nothing says patriarchal oppression like Ricky Martin," he wrote."Ricky Martin is such a male chauvinist that he f—s men because women don't measure up. Pure patriarchy."
Big deal? In private texts? Obviously, if Trump had written such things, he would survive. He'd be trashed, but he would survive.

"When I first started comedy, my male comic friends would say, 'You have to focus on making the men laugh. The women only laugh if their date laughs.'"

Said Sarah Silverman, quoted in "For Female Comics, Peak TV Has Its Troughs" (NYT)... which is mostly about Kate Micucci, who you may know from Garfunkel and Oates. Lots of their videos at YouTube. Seems like everyone watched this one 7 years ago:

And here's one with over 13 million views (careful, it's a little disturbing):

A new Quinnipiac poll has only Biden beating Trump in Ohio.

Biden wins by 8 percentage points. Harris and Buttigieg pull off a tie, while Warren, Sanders, and Booker lose by 1.

Biden is up by 17 points over his next nearest rivals for the Democratic Party nomination.

"The words or the language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought."

"The psychical entities which seem to serve as elements in thought are certain signs and more or less clear images which can be ‘voluntarily’ reproduced and combined."

Said Albert Einstein, quoted in "The Weil Conjectures: On Math and the Pursuit of the Unknown" by Karen Olsson.

Einstein — participating in a study of the working methods of mathemeticians — was responding to the prompt: "It would be very helpful for the purpose of psychological investigation to know what internal or mental images, what kind of 'internal world' mathematicians make use of..."

Olsson writes more generally, not just of mathematicians: "If only we had more access to the untranslated thoughts, to the mystery of how the mind churns."

Yes, why don’t more novels have indexes? They’d be fun to read on their own.

"Evelyn Waugh owned a translation of Tolstoy’s novel Resurrection for which someone had composed 'a particularly felicitous index. The first entry is: "Adultery, 13, 53, 68, 70"; the last is "Why do people punish? 358." Between them occur such items as: Cannibalism, Dogs, Good breeding, Justification of one’s position, Seduction, Smoking, Spies, and Vegetarianism.'"

From "Futility Closet: An Idler's Miscellany of Compendious Amusements" by Greg Ross.

I invite you to write an index for a famous novel. Radically incomplete and thoroughly random entries are encouraged.

"Street dogs and people in India often have a kind of understanding. The dogs aren’t wild, but they aren’t owned either."

"Free-roaming dogs are often supported by the community, but nobody decides when and where they live, eat or mate.... Rahul Sehgal, the India-Asia director for the Humane Society International, who is based in Ahmedabad, said, 'In other places people don’t feed dogs.' But, he said, 'I haven’t seen a single place in India where dogs are not fed by individuals or community.'... There are about 35 million dogs in India... the dogs are mostly outside.... In North America and Western Europe, increasing wealth has led to a change in the status of dogs, which has certainly made rabies control by vaccination much easier. As Dr. Wallace put it, they move off the streets, 'into our yards, then our houses, then our beds.' In India, a big reduction in street dog populations would mark a significant cultural change.... As India becomes more urban and standards of living increase, he said, 'Suddenly people are intolerant of dogs.' People travel to other countries, he said, and 'they don’t see dogs in the street.' Over time, street dogs may disappear in the cities.... If so, that would be a very different India. Despite noise, feces, bites and the always present chance of rabies, the attitude of many Indians toward free-roaming dogs is still extraordinary tolerance."

From "Rabies Kills Tens of Thousands Yearly. Vaccinating Dogs Could Stop It/Sometimes the interests of humans and animals are the same, but humans have to save the animals first" (NYT), which tells about Mission Rabies, an effort to catch and vaccinate street dogs in India, where something like 20,000 people die of rabies every year. The vaccinated dogs are set free, and the vaccination lasts only one year. The vaccinated dog is marked with paint, but the paint lasts only "for a week or so."

ADDED: Something that I don't think is examined in the article: What benefits are provided by wild dogs roaming all over the place? I don't mean the sort of companionship that corresponds to the role of an indoor pet dog. Perhaps the rabies problem is tolerated because the dogs are controlling rats and consuming garbage. They're doing work that provides a greater health benefit — a greater good for a greater number. 20,000 sounds like a lot of loss, a lot of suffering, but it might be outweighed by other health benefits, quite aside from the love and companionship we automatically think of when we think of dogs.

"Two sources tell News 4 that [Jeffrey] Epstein may have tried to hang himself, while a third source cautioned that the injuries were not serious and..."

"... questioned if Epstein might be using it as a way to get a transfer. A fourth source said an assault has not been ruled out, and that another inmate was questioned. The inmate who investigators have talked to in Lower Manhattan facility has been identified as Nicholas Tartaglione, according to two sources. Tartaglione is a former police officer in Westchester County who was arrested in December 2016 and accused of killing four men.... The attorney for Tartaglione denied all the claims that his client attacked the financier, saying his client and Epstein get along well.... 'They are in the same unit and doing well,' said Bruce Barket, an attorney for Tartaglione. He said any claim that Tartaglione might have assaulted Epstein 'is absolutely not true.' Barket said Tartaglione and Epstein have been complaining about conditions inside the MCC including flooding, rodents and bad food."

From "Jeffrey Epstein Found Injured in NYC Jail Cell After Possible Suicide Attempt: Sources/Epstein was found semi-conscious with marks on his neck, sources said and investigators are trying to piece together exactly what happened" (NBC New York).

Add it all together and the most plausible theory seems to be that Epstein, wanting a transfer to a nicer jail (or release on bail), got his new friend Tartaglione to strangle him enough to make it look like a suicide attempt.

"Over the last weekend of June she had a full on 'Mommie Dearest' meltdown and demanded that staffers at the Huntington Theater get down on their hands and knees and scrub the floor of her dressing room..."

"...sources claim. She allegedly threw mirrors, combs and boxes of hairpins at the staff of the theater. She also pulled gray hairs out of her wig because she wanted to play a younger version of [Katharine] Hepburn than the playwright had written.... This is not the first time [Faye] Dunaway has displayed erratic behavior in a show. In the early 1990s she toured the country as Maria Callas in Terrence McNally’s 'Master Class.' She showed up an hour late for many performances. She had bellhops rearrange her furniture in her hotel suites in the middle of night because she didn’t like the 'flow' of the room. Once, a theater in St. Louis sent her a white limousine, and she reportedly had a fit because she hates white. She demanded a rental car from the hotel to get to the theater. The limo company sent a black car instead, but it was too late — Dunaway was racing to the theater, trailed by both the white limo and the black one. I managed to track her down back then and she was charming on the phone. 'Your story sounds like a Fellini movie,' she told me."

From "Faye Dunaway fired from Broadway-bound ‘Tea at Five’ for slapping crew member" by Michael Riedel (NY Post).

The requisite video clip:

That's Faye as Joan Crawford, back in 1981, 37 years ago. A decade after that, she did the raging diva routine again as Maria Callas. And now, at the age of 78, they installed her in the grand persona of Katharine Hepburn. Do it again, Faye. Be the imperious diva.

Some day, somebody will play the role of Faye Dunaway. The fantastically beautiful actress, snagged into playing another beautiful actress, typecast as the actress who plays actresses, actresses who age and resist their predicament, and she get pissed off about it and rages in a way that is ludicrously like the way she played another actress in that movie back in 1981. Ah, she was so young then! Now, she's 78, she's ruined her legendary beauty with plastic surgery, and she's shocked to discover the Katharine Hepburn she's been hired to play is Katharine Hepburn at the very end of her life and Katharine Hepburn lived to be 96.

Oh, that scene where she tenderly lifts the wig and soliloquizes about the depredations of age, absent-mindedly rearranging the strands, plucking a hair or two, then finally ripping out handfuls, ranting loudly and breaking into sobs. She buries her ruined face in the ruins of the Katharine-Hepburn-at-90 wig. Oscar-worthy.

As Faye Dunaway says, "Your story sounds like a Fellini movie." Speaking of Fellini, there's this in the Faye Dunaway Wikipedia article:
During the filming of A Place for Lovers (1968), Dunaway fell in love with her co-star Marcello Mastroianni. The couple had a two-year-live-in relationship. Dunaway wanted to marry and have children, but Mastroianni, a married man, could not bear to hurt his wife and refused, despite protests from his teenage daughter Barbara and his close friend Federico Fellini. Dunaway decided to leave him and told a reporter at the time that she "gave too much. I gave things I have to save for my work." She later recalled in her 1995 autobiography:
There are days when I look back on those years with Marcello and have moments of real regret. There is that one piece of me that thinks that had we married, we might be married still. It was one of our fantasies, that we would grow old together. He thought we would be like Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, a love kept secret for a lifetime. Private and only belonging to the two of us.
Mastroianni later told a reporter for People in 1987 that he never got over his relationship with Dunaway. "She was the woman I loved the most", he said. "I'll always be sorry to have lost her. I was whole with her for the first time in my life."
I gave too much. I gave things I have to save for my work....

July 24, 2019

At the Last Drop Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"We just built what we wished we had."

Boris and the Queen.

What's your favorite detail in that photograph? The Queen's handbag? The Dyson air purifier? The finger-clasp handshake? The pair o' parrots on the parapet??

"A stranger becomes you for 24 hours, what is one question they would ask you when the 24 hours is up?"

A question asked on Reddit.

Highest-rated answers:

1. "Why do you still work there?"

2. "Is there any way to turn the volume down on your thoughts?"

3. "Why don't you own any shoes?"


5. "Are your friends on holiday or something?"

6. "Nothing. They'd just walk away in silence while avoiding eye contact."

By the way, I love Reddit. It's become my favorite social media site (not counting my own blog). I use Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit. Facebook is people I know personally, Twitter is famous people, and Reddit is just a mass of people, I don't know who. I prefer the Reddit environment. It's a preference for a feeling. I get distinctly different feelings from Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit, and I prefer the Reddit feeling.

"According to witnesses, a group of approximately 50 people were within 5-10 feet of the bison for at least 20 minutes before eventually causing the bison to charge the group."

Said the news release from the National Park Service, quoted in "'Never approach animals': Video shows 9-year-old girl tossed in the air by charging bison at Yellowstone," a WaPo article about a video that went viral in social media.

I'll just add the text of the highest-rated comment:
I grew up about an hour outside of Yellowstone and have spent many happy years in the park. I now live on the east coast, but try to go back every few years. Every single time I'm in the park, I see people doing the stupidest, most dangerous things. The last time, I was leaving the Old Faithful Inn after supper and noticed a small herd of bison hanging around. (A very common sight) Not being a complete idiot, I decided to take a different path back to our campground, a path and would not take me near the bison. Then I noticed a man with his small child heading toward the herd. I stopped him and warned that he might want to stay away, particularly with his child. He told me to f-off and kept walking. I watched as he got very close to the first bison and then saw him pick up his child and start to try to put the kid on the back of the bison. A bunch of other people started shouting and I ran for a ranger. Thankfully, the ranger managed to stop the idiot before tragedy. Unusual? Not really!

"They became millionaires and retired at 31. They think you can do the same."

"The authors Kristy Shen and Bryce Leung are part of a movement called Fire that encourages people to save intensively to retire early" (in The Guardian).

"Fire" = financial independence retire early. The idea is to save a lot when you are young and retire incredibly early. I love the idea, which I encountered decades ago in "Your Money or Your Life: 9 Steps to Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Achieving Financial Independence" (which is still available, "revised and updated for 2018"). I think that originally came out in 1992, too late for me to really take advantage of the idea (since I was already 41 and a tenured law professor).

From the article in The Guardian:
Some people, says Shen, see what [Shen and Leung are] doing as “invalidating” because it challenges the status quo. “It really makes people question their lives and they don’t like that because it’s scary.”... Since retiring she is so much happier – at one point, her job made her so miserable she was on anxiety and depression medication – so much so that she wants to show others how to do it, too. She sees Fire as a remedy: “It’s almost like you see people get sick, you know what it feels like and it sucks to be sick and you want to give them the medication to help them feel better.”

So would they ever go back to their old jobs? Shen giggles drily. “I don’t think I would be very useful as an employee any more.” She has, she says, become too open-minded to obediently follow instruction. “Once you’ve been out of the matrix, you can’t go back into the matrix,” she says soberly. “You’ve already seen too much.”
Meanwhile, Leung opines: “[Donald] Trump’s rise to power was caused by economic fear, Brexit was caused by economic fear … If everybody was FI [financially independent], Trump wouldn’t have got elected.” I don't love that idea, because it's way too limited. If everyone were financially independent, everything would be different. What would the political parties be like? What would the issues be? Who would be the candidates? Impossible to work that out, but sure: no Trump. He wouldn't even have run for office, would he? Or he'd be a completely different person and not the Trump who troubles Leung.

At last, it's Muellerday.

ADDED: I watched for the first 40 minutes, then bailed. Too much yelling by congresspersons. Too much stammering and "will you repeat the question" from Mueller. Mueller's testimony is the report. He's said that before and he's saying it again, over and over. With such a dull central character, the theatrical routine is boring and annoying.

In or out?

Screen Shot 2019-07-24 at 7.32.41 AM

"This is one of the more bizarre articles I've read in a looong time, but not necessarily for the details (which are admittedly bizarre), but more because it's unclear to me why this article exists."

"The article title suggests that it's about how an 'expert' on judgment is still capable of making bad decisions. This led me to believe the rest of the article would expand on this concept, and perhaps offer some insights on the human condition or how all of us are fallible, etc. But it doesn't do that at all, it's more like an extremely detailed laundry list of unpleasant human behavior, but no real attempt at analysis. The punchline is 'Hay remains mystified about what the women really wanted from him.' Um, ok? And you're publicly revealing all this why?"

Writes jeremias at Metafilter, about "The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge/A Harvard Law professor who teaches a class on judgment wouldn’t seem like an obvious mark, would he?," which we've been talking about here and which I can't stop thinking about.

Answering jeremias's question is jam jam:
Since you won't say it jeremias, I will.

We are seeing this right now because so many people are so uncomfortable about the things women are saying about powerful men, and they are DESPERATE for any excuse at all to disbelieve those women.

And this story will give them that at an unconscious level.
Suddenly, "The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge" pairs up with that other article we've been talking about,"The Case of Al Franken/A close look at the accusations against the former senator."

July 23, 2019

At the Green Triangle Café...


... you can talk all night.

"'Pifflepafflewifflewaffle,' said Johnson to yet more confected shrieks and giggles. Given that Boris had had six weeks to write his acceptance speech..."

"... you might have expected something more than the usual glib, off-the-cuff bollocks. But Johnson is nothing if not predictably slapdash and he appeared to have dashed it off in a couple of minutes in the back of the car on the way to his coronation.... Johnson... dissolved into campaign patter. People have said the incoming leader has never faced such daunting problems, he declared. But are you daunted? Silence. Boris looked puzzled. He had expected everyone to shout 'No.' Maybe they weren’t quite as stupid as he had always imagined them to be. 'You don’t look daunted to me,' he continued, hesitantly. But they did to everyone else. Some were just beginning to realise they had made a hideous mistake. Then the race to the end. Pifflepafflewifflewaffle. Brexit would be delivered if only everyone closed their eyes and believed.... He concluded by saying he would be working flat out. Or two hours a day, whichever was the longer. His ambition is not matched by his work ethic."

From "Smug, needy, desperate: Johnson's coronation is a shameless Tory jobs fair" by John Crace (The Guardian).

"It's the most... evocative."

"Over the next four years, the [Harvard] law professor would be drawn into a 'campaign of fraud, extortion, and false accusations,' as one of his lawyers would later say in legal proceedings."

"At one point, [Prof. Bruce] Hay’s family would be left suddenly homeless. At another, owing to what his lawyer has described as the 'weaponiz[ation] of the university’s Title IX machinery against Hay' he would find himself indefinitely suspended from his job. He would accrue over $300,000 in legal bills with no end to the litigation in sight. 'Maria-Pia and Mischa want money,' Hay told me last summer, 'but only for the sake of squeezing it out of people — it’s the exertion of power'... When we met for pizza at his Sunday-night hangout one evening, he wondered aloud whether he might be 'on the spectrum.' That could help explain why warning signs that might have been obvious to many managed to elude a man who teaches a Harvard Law class on 'Judgment and Decision-Making,' which analyzes those elements of human nature that allow us to delude ourselves and make terrible decisions. 'Of course, now I feel slightly ridiculous teaching it,' Hay told me, 'given how easily I let myself be taken advantage of.'"

This is one of the craziest stories I have ever read: "The Most Gullible Man in Cambridge/A Harvard Law professor who teaches a class on judgment wouldn’t seem like an obvious mark, would he?" (New York Magazine). I have no idea how accurate this one-sided account is, but my inclination to feel sorry for Hay went to hell halfway through the story. I am not going to try to summarize. Please read it for yourself. It's really strange, but I warn you, it's annoying. When he got into this Maria-Pia and Mischa intrigue, Hay was living with his children and his ex-wife, and the suffering visited on the professor's family is mind-blowing. I'll just quote the sentence where my sympathy for Hay took flight:
After her confrontation with the women, [Hays's ex-wife Jennifer] Zacks realized she had to be more active in protecting herself and her children — especially after Hay told her about Shuman and Haider’s various proposals for selling their home and Zacks found on his desk an application for a $500,000 home-equity loan. 

"In those conditions high heat and high exercise, the body will overheat no matter how well hydrated. At at body temp of 105..."

"... Heat Stroke occurs and all manner of body systems fail. Bottom line, do not exercise in high heat days. Above 80 degrees F and 80 percent humidity and equivalent, the body cannot lose the heat it generates in exercise and will overheat. One function that goes first is judgement. We get hot and can not realize we are in danger."

A comment written by a doctor on "Hyperthermia contributed to death of woman, 32, hiking Billy Goat Trail, officials say" (WaPo). The Billy Goat trail is a 2-mile trail, and the woman had difficulty one half mile into it. She was given plenty of water — 4 bottles — one of the companions was a nurse, and 911 was called quickly. The temperature was in the high 90s, with a "feels like" temperature (including humidity) of 110 degrees.

Another commenter: "The park warned people. I was there that day and there were big signs at the Visitor Center as well as the trailheads saying to avoid the Billy Goat A trail due to the heat. Signs also advised carrying 2L water per person. A volunteer stationed at the trailhead advised people about the conditions. He said only 20% of hikers carried water. No matter how much the park warns visitors, some will walk around barricades, step over ropes, ignore signs, and blaze new trails to get around any kind of obstacle."

"Mr. Krassner was writing freelance pieces for Mad magazine in 1958 when he realized that there was no equivalent satirical publication for adults..."

"... Mad, he could see, was largely targeted at teenagers. So he started The Realist out of the Mad offices, and it began regular monthly publication. By 1967 its circulation had peaked at 100,000. 'I had no role models and no competition, just an open field mined with taboos waiting to be exploded,' Mr. Krassner wrote in his autobiography.... The Realist’s most famous article was one Mr. Krassner wrote portraying Lyndon B. Johnson as sexually penetrating a bullet wound in John F. Kennedy’s neck while accompanying the assassinated president’s body back to Washington on Air Force One. The headline of the article was 'The Parts That Were Left Out of the Kennedy Book,' and it claimed — falsely — to be material that had been removed from William Manchester’s book 'The Death of a President.' 'People across the country believed — if only for a moment — that an act of presidential necrophilia had taken place,' Mr. Krassner told an interviewer in 1995. 'The imagery was so shocking, it broke through the notion that the war in Vietnam was being conducted by sane men.'...  In 1967, Mr. Krassner, [Abbie] Hoffman and friends formed an organization to meld hippies and earnest political types. Mr. Krassner dreamed up the name Youth International Party — Yippie for short. Their theatrical shenanigans included streaming to Washington to 'levitate' the Pentagon and organizing a nighttime 'yip-in' at Grand Central Terminal to celebrate spring; it drew some 3,000 revelers, prompting nightstick-swinging police officers to charge the crowd and arrest 17 as protesters yelled 'Fascists!' The press seemed transfixed by their antics. 'It was mutual manipulation,' Mr. Krassner said, reflecting on his life in an interview for this obituary in 2016. 'We gave them good stories and sound bites, and they gave us free publicity.'"

From "Paul Krassner, Anarchist, Prankster and a Yippies Founder, Dies at 87" (NYT). What a towering figure in American culture!

And what a fantastic origin story:
Paul was a violin prodigy, playing a Vivaldi concerto at Carnegie Hall when he was 6, but he gave up practicing regularly because he found his instructor too controlling. Still, he traced his bent for humor to that Carnegie Hall recital. When in midperformance he tried to soothe an itch in his left leg by scratching it with his right foot, the audience burst out laughing, and he realized he loved that sound more than the applause for his playing.
By the way, in the first post of the morning, we were talking about a Nate Silver tweet that contained the line, "There are so many subtle ways that [Mayer's New Yorker article] seeks to manipulate the reader into taking Franken's side." Compare that to Krassner's line, "It was mutual manipulation," which I think we can assume is an intentional evocation of "mutual masturbation."

"It was mutual manipulation. We gave them good stories and sound bites, and they gave us free publicity" — Krassner was talking about the 60s but speaking in 2016. The NYT interviewed him for his obituary when he was 85.  I'd love to see the whole transcript!

"You'll be all right now, I know it w- AAAAAAAAAAAAA..."

"David Hedison, who starred in the original sci-fi classic 'The Fly' [1958] and appeared in two James Bond films, has died. He was 92" (Fox News).

ADDED: "Help me!" (Spoiler alert):

"Unlike Full Internet People, who grew up with the internet and never questioned its social potential, Semis tend to assume..."

"... that conveying the entire social meaning of a message is better accomplished by a voice conversation, whether in person or (to the barely disguised panic of Full Internet People) in a phone call.... But the phone itself was once a profoundly disruptive technology for the English language (and presumably for other languages, too, though this book’s focus is English). As [Gretchen] McCulloch explains [in 'Because Internet/Understand the New Rules of Language'], simply settling on a standard greeting made for acute confusion. What initially started as a battle between 'ahoy' and 'hello' (another contender was 'what is wanted?' — my new phone greeting) was eventually resolved in favor of 'hello'; the word has the same origins as 'holler,' and was used at the time as a call for attention. 'Hello' later became an acceptable greeting for all kinds of interactions, but it took a while for it to lose its whiff of impertinence. Now 'hello' is not just polite but even a bit formal, compared with a nonchalant 'hi!' or 'hey!'"

From the NYT book review "Why Has Language Changed So Much So Fast? 'Because Internet.'"

I don't think this looks like a particularly astute book (or review) but I'm blogging this because I thought it was funny to refer to people as "Semis" — I doubt if that will catch on — and because it got me looking up "Hello" in the Oxford English Dictionary. The adoption of "hello" as the word for answering the phone is traced back to 1877, when Thomas Edison wrote in a letter, "I do not think we shall need a call bell as Hello! can be heard 10 to 20 feet away. What you think?"

But "hello" — the word used to attract attention — is traced back to 1826 (and I love this quote):
1826 Norwich (Conn.) Courier 18 Oct. 4 Hello, Jim! I'll tell you what: I've a sharp knife and feel as if I'd like to cut up something or other.
The next quote also amuses me:
1833 Sketches & Eccentricities Col. David Crockett (new ed.) xiii. 168 I seed a white man walking off with my plate. I says, ‘Hello, mister, bring back my plate.’
The OED includes this modern-day example:
2003 R. Gervais & S. Merchant Office: Scripts 2nd Ser. Episode 1. 47 Sorry. Can I have a—hello—can I have a quick word with everyone?
Here's the full Davy Crockett context:

Screen Shot 2019-07-23 at 8.20.18 AM

Now, that's language!

A "master class in biased reporting"? Seems like pretty normal biased reporting to me.

One reason I rarely do Twitter is that it doesn't look right to me to make comments on things you don't link to or even cite. You just assume people know what you're talking about. It seems a tad mental. If you did this in real-life conversations, it would be weird.

Embedding these 2 tweets on my blog, I now feel that I should explain the context and link to the Jane Mayer article about Al Franken (yes, it's Al Franken, not some other Franken). Of course, if I were writing a mainstream news article, I'd have to say Al Franken, the former Senator from Minnesota who was... oh, it's too tedious to spell out.... I enjoy the freedom of not having to do that, but I resist the freedom of Twitter, to just blurt out my latest thought with no preface, no context.

Anyway, we talked about the Al Franken article yesterday, here. The idea that it wouldn't be biased never crossed my mind, so it's hard for me to see anything as subtle. The interesting question is therefore why Nate Silver chose this occasion to call out a journalist for using skill to manipulate readers. And Silver's tweet is just as much of a "master class" in bias, just as "subtle" in its effort to bias readers.

Silver sees the use of quotation marks around "zero tolerance" as a nudge to think of Kirsten Gillibrand as "sloganeering" or hypocritical, but did he even check to see whether The New Yorker is simply following its own convention of copy editing? I searched The New Yorker archive for "zero tolerance" and "#MeToo" and found:

"The Transformation of Sexual-Harassment Law Will Be Double-Faced," by Jeannie Suk Gersen (December 2017): "And, echoing their successful student counterparts over the past several years, the men will claim in court that the pressure to implement a 'zero tolerance' policy against harassment led employers to act without sufficient investigation or proper process, motivated by the employees’ male gender."

"Can Hollywood Change Its Ways?/In the wake of scandal, the movie industry reckons with its past and its future" by Dana Goodyear (January 2018): "In the past, men who got caught used a magic spell: 'I am an alcoholic/sex addict and am seeking treatment.'... [T]he magic spell no longer works. In its place is the righteous meme of 'zero tolerance.'"

Now, it might be that The New Yorker generally disapproves of a "zero tolerance" approach, but would that cause it to adopt quotation marks? The New Yorker has a special reputation for copy editing. I've read the copy editor's book, "Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen." Excerpt:
Lu taught me to do without hyphens when a word is in quotation marks, unless the word is always hyphenated; the quotation marks alone hold the words together, and it would be overkill to link them with a hyphen as well. (Capital letters and italics work the same way.) Eleanor once mystified me by putting a hyphen in “blue stained glass” to make it “blue-stained glass.”
That may explain why New Yorker articles about Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy leave off the quotation marks:

"What the Bible Really Says About Trump’s Zero-Tolerance Immigration Policy" by James Carroll (June 2018): "Attorney General Jeff Sessions invokes the Bible to justify the heinous zero-tolerance immigration policy, which incarcerates children."

"Will Anyone in the Trump Administration Ever Be Held Accountable for the Zero-Tolerance Policy?" by Jonathan Blitzer (August 2018): "The failure of the zero-tolerance policy has done little, if anything, to diminish the group’s standing; on the contrary, Miller has only seemed to gain allies in the government."

I strongly doubt that The New Yorker disapproves of Gillibrand's staunch feminism more than Trump's approach to illegal immigration.

But there is a fine point of punctuation here. When you write "zero-tolerance policy," you're using the phrase "zero tolerance" as an adjective, and — as the indented passage above explains — you need to "hold the words together." You could use either quote marks or a hyphen, and I think the idea is that the hyphen looks less fussy. But in the quote about Gillibrand — "a feminist champion of 'zero tolerance' toward sexual impropriety" — "zero tolerance" isn't used as an adjective, so a hyphen isn't an option — unless you reword it as "a feminist champion of a zero-tolerance policy toward sexual impropriety."

Since rewording is an option, it was possible to avoid the "air quotes" effect of making it seem as though Gillibrand is some sort of demagogue. But to switch to a hyphen would be to treat #MeToo non-tolerance the same as Trump's immigration non-tolerance. Would that improve the treatment of Gillibrand? Maybe these are 2 different ways of subtly attacking someone, and there's some sexism in the choice. Gillibrand is disparaged as ditzy — using a dumb slogan. Trump is disparaged as a cruel oppressor.

Enough of that. Here's something subtle that I think neither Silver nor Mayer considered. To champion "'Zero tolerance' toward sexual impropriety" is NOT zero tolerance! The word "impropriety" drains the absolutism from "zero." What are we going to call "improper"? It's subjective, and the answer can be: Whatever we won't tolerate at all. Flexible.

And since we've come this far, we might as well see the subjectivity and flexibility in "sexual" and "tolerance." Is intensely sniffy neck-nuzzling "sexual"? Analysis of Joe Biden's behavior toward young girls has generally led to the answer no. And "tolerance" can mean doing nothing at all. Suppose we eradicate "tolerance" — and I do take "zero" seriously. That could mean only that we stop doing nothing at all. We could end the state of tolerance by simply expressing disapproval, something as mild as: I see what you're doing and I find it unacceptable.

July 22, 2019

At the Ugly Flower Café...


... you do you.

"Me telling you to 'Go back where you came from. Did I say that? Is it on video?.... I called you a lazy b-i-t-c-h. That's the worst thing I said."

"This woman is playing the victim for political purposes because she is a state legislator. I'm a Democrat and will vote Democrat for the rest of my life, so call me whatever you want to believe. For her political purposes, make it black, white, brown, whatever. It is untrue."

I'm reading "State lawmaker, man she accused of verbally harassing her confront each other" (WSB-TV Atlanta).

I got there via Andy Ngo ("Media machine has been blowing up story of @itsericathomas, who claims a racist white man told her to 'go back where you came from.' Well, he returns during her presser to deny allegation. He says he’s a Democrat & she’s embellishing story for attention"). Erica Thomas is a member of the Georgia House of Representatives.

Here's the raw video:

Trump tweets a tweet to get the week started.

"Good erotica is hard to write; graceful and convincing audio drama is hard to produce; and the awkwardness of flawed attempts at both is excruciating."

"Think of the wrong-note sex scenes you’ve read in books, or in those bad-sex-writing awards that come out every year, or in excerpts from embarrassing novels by disgraced public figures. Reading them silently, you might chuckle and wince. Now imagine a stranger’s voice unctuously reading them right into your ears. The only appropriate response is heebie-jeebies. But there was a startling exception... Dipsea... [In one Dipsea story, the female character] sounds present, non-creepy; she avoids the pitfalls of over-obvious self-description... Her narration doesn’t use an 'Ooh—sex is around the corner!' tone.... The language is straightforward... You hear realistic, non-gross sex noises—the depressing yips and 'Oh, yeah's of porn are almost entirely absent on Dipsea.... Narrative balance and a well-imagined scenario can be hard to achieve in fantasy, even [when you're doing your own fantasizing]. The comedian Jen Kirkman, on her 2007 album 'Self Help,' articulates this in a bit called 'Underdeveloped Sexual Fantasies.' In sexual fantasizing, 'Guys need a visual,' she says. 'Women don’t need that. I need a story.' But if the story doesn’t work, she says, she gets confused and falls asleep. She tries fantasizing about a sexy movie star, but she can’t just think about him '“in some friggin’ vacuum that makes no sense'—How did she meet him? Why is he interested in her? 'I thought he was married. Is he still married? Because I don’t want to be an adulterer,' she goes on. 'I thought he lived in France. Is he visiting? Am I going to France?'"

Writes Sarah Larson in "The Audio App That’s Transforming Erotica" (The New Yorker).

"Those on the left have been going over how we’re supposed to feel about him for decades, but in the arguing about it, we have been asked to focus again and again on Clinton and his dick and what he did or didn’t do with it."

"The questions we’ve asked ourselves and one another have become defining. Are we morally compromised in our defense of him or sexually uptight in our condemnation? Are we shills for having not believed he should have resigned, or doing the bidding of a vindictive right wing if we say that, in retrospect, he probably should have?"

Writes Rebecca Traister, in "Who Was Jeffrey Epstein Calling? A close study of his circle — social, professional, transactional — reveals a damning portrait of elite New York" (a long compendium by the editors of New York Magazine). Traister continues:
Meanwhile, how much energy and time have been spent circling round this man and how we’ve felt about him, when in fact his behaviors were symptomatic of far broader and more damaging assumptions about men, power, and access to — as Trump has so memorably voiced it — pussies?
You wouldn't have spent all that time if you'd been consistent in the first place. Anyone who cared at all about feminism back then already knew the "far broader" picture! That is feminism. If you'd put feminism over party politics at the time, you'd have easily processed the Clinton story long ago.
After all, Clinton was elected president during a period that may turn out to be an aberration, just as the kinds of dominating, sexually aggressive behaviors that had been norms for his West Wing predecessors had become officially unacceptable, and 24 years before those behaviors would again become a presidential norm. So yes, Clinton got in trouble, yet still managed to sail out of office beloved by many, his reputation as the Big Dog mostly only enhanced by revelations of his exploits.
I don't understand the logic of this "After all... So yes" rhetoric. I feel that I'd need to rewrite those 2 sentences to begin to understand them. I invite your efforts. Here's mine: Although Clinton became President after America had officially rejected sexual harassment in the workplace, many people gave him a pass and even loved him more because he did it anyway.
But the election of Trump over Clinton’s wife, and the broad conversation around sexual assault and harassment that has erupted in its wake, has recast his behavior more profoundly.
Ha ha. What's "profound" about partisan politics? It's not profound. It's laughably shallow!
The buffoonery, the smallness and tantrums of Trump, has helped make clear what always should have been: that the out-of-control behavior toward women by powerful men, the lack of self-control or amount of self-regard that undergirded their reckless treatment of women, spoke not of virility or authority but of their immaturity.
To "undergird" is to fasten something securely from the under-side. According to this sentence, lack of self-control undergirded recklessness. When I see writing like this, my hypothesis is that the writer is declining to be straightforward. Here's my paraphrase: Things that are perfectly visible go in and out of focus depending on what you want to see.

"Holding his head in his hands, he said, 'I don’t think people who have been sexually assaulted, and those kinds of things, want to hear from people who have been #MeToo’d that they’re victims.'"

"Yet, he added, being on the losing side of the #MeToo movement, which he fervently supports, has led him to spend time thinking about such matters as due process, proportionality of punishment, and the consequences of Internet-fuelled outrage. He told me that his therapist had likened his experience to 'what happens when primates are shunned and humiliated by the rest of the other primates.' Their reaction, Franken said, with a mirthless laugh, 'is I’m going to die alone in the jungle.'... 'I can’t go anywhere without people reminding me of this, usually with some version of You shouldn’t have resigned,' Franken said. He appreciates the support, but such comments torment him about his departure from the Senate. He tends to respond curtly, 'Yup.' When I asked him if he truly regretted his decision to resign, he said, 'Oh, yeah. Absolutely.' He wishes that he had appeared before a Senate Ethics Committee hearing, as he had requested, allowing him to marshal facts that countered the narrative aired in the press.... A remarkable number of Franken’s Senate colleagues have regrets about their own roles in his fall."

Writes Jane Mayer in "The Case of Al Franken/A close look at the accusations against the former senator" (The New Yorker). Seven  of Franken’s Senate colleagues went on record with Mayer: Patrick Leahy, Heidi Heitkamp, Tammy Duckworth, Angus King, Jeff Merkley, Bill Nelson (“I realized almost right away I’d made a mistake. I felt terrible. I should have stood up for due process to render what it’s supposed to—the truth”), Tom Udall, Harry Reid (“It’s terrible what happened to him. It was unfair. It took the legs out from under him. He was a very fine senator”).

This is a long article. Let me just also excerpt the part where Franken weeps and Kirsten Gillibrand's new statements:

July 21, 2019

At the Deep Relaxation Café...


... sink in and get comfortable.


Don't think it came from our house.

"Delivering restaurant food has always been a hard, thankless job. With the apps..."

"... it is becoming more flexible and better paying — but in some ways less stable. This, said Niels van Doorn, an assistant professor of new media and digital culture at the University of Amsterdam who spent six months in New York studying app riders last year, 'is what happens with an already precarious work force — what happens to an already invisibilized work force — when these platforms come to town.'... My last day as a food courier began with an order on the East Side that included the notation 'Happy Birthday' next to the recipient’s name. I sang 'Happy Birthday' as I proffered her egg sandwich. 'Oh, thank you!' she said, laughing. (Tip: zero.) It ended 41 miles later in Brooklyn after a failed attempt at a four-delivery sprint that included an order getting taken away from me and assigned to another courier because I was late... In between came a lunch delivery to a Class A office building in Midtown. I was sent to a service entrance where a fellow deliveryman led me down a Dumpster-lined corridor to a crammed holding pen where couriers huddled in near-silence, food packs on their backs. I had stumbled through a dystopian portal. I thought of what a colleague had said the day before: 'You’re one step above an Amazon drone.' I thought of something Professor van Doorn had said, that the couriers’ real value to the app companies is in the data harvested like pollen as we make our rounds, data that will allow them to eventually replace us with machines."

From "My Frantic Life as a Cab-Dodging, Tip-Chasing Food App Deliveryman" by Andy Newman, a NYT reporter, whose "life as a... delivery man" consisted of a few days' work (using a borrowed electric bike). It amazes me that people order food delivered and then don't tip, but I'm not using these apps, and maybe people — especially young people — read the company's pitch as implying that the tip is built into the delivery price. Ah, yes, I'm looking at Uber Eats, and it lists for each restaurant a "delivery fee," which is $3 to $6 or so.

At the Orangeness Café...


... keep the chatter up. And don't worry — a "Café" post doesn't mean I'm done blogging for the day. Just done blogging for the session. It's 74° here in Madison, Wisconsin, after 2 of the hottest days of the year.

"Everybody, including Congress, was caught up in the adrenal rush of it all. But then, on the morning after, congressmen began to wonder..."

"... about something that hadn’t dawned on them since Kennedy’s oration.... It had been a battle for morale at home and image abroad. Fine, O.K., we won, but it had no tactical military meaning whatsoever. And it had cost a fortune, $150 billion or so. And this business of sending a man to Mars and whatnot? Just more of the same, when you got right down to it... Game’s over, NASA won, congratulations.... NASA’s annual budget sank like a stone from $5 billion in the mid-1960s to $3 billion in the mid-1970s.... As a result, the space program has been killing time for 40 years with a series of orbital projects ... Skylab, the Apollo-Soyuz joint mission, the International Space Station and the space shuttle.... [T]heir purpose has been mainly to keep the lights on at the Kennedy Space Center and Houston’s Johnson Space Center — by removing manned flight from the heavens and bringing it very much down to earth. The shuttle program, for example, was actually supposed to appeal to the public by offering orbital tourist rides, only to end in the Challenger disaster, in which the first such passenger, Christa McAuliffe, a schoolteacher, perished. Forty years! For 40 years, everybody at NASA has known that the only logical next step is a manned Mars mission, and every overture has been entertained only briefly by presidents and the Congress. They have so many more luscious and appealing projects that could make better use of the close to $10 billion annually the Mars program would require...."

Wrote Tom Wolfe, ten years ago, in "One Giant Leap to Nowhere," which I'm reading this morning because it was linked at Instapundit.

Wolfe thought that what was needed was "The Word" — inspirational speech about the "godlike" enterprise of space travel. Inspirational speech is what JFK had provided, with his famously effective challenge, "I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth." But Wolfe puts that in context. It was the Cold War, we were competing with the Russians, and they were impossibly ahead of us in space travel that orbited Earth.
The Soviet cosmo-champions beat our astro-champions so handily, gloom spread like a gas. Every time you picked up a newspaper you saw headlines with the phrase, SPACE GAP ... SPACE GAP ... SPACE GAP ... The Soviets had produced a generation of scientific geniuses — while we slept, fat and self-satisfied!
That's what was so inspiring, the fight with the Russians. And, yay, we won. And then the game was over. If it was a game, a sport, a battle... it was a feat to get a big majority of Americans caught up in it in the first place. But after it's over and won, what's to keep the crowd in the stadium? Wolfe's idea about new inspiration has nothing like the power of the old Cold War with the Russians. It's that one day the sun will burn out and human beings will need an alternative. That's 5 billion years from now! And it looks like the first billion years of that will still be okay for us. That's nothing like what JFK leveraged back in the 60s.

ADDED: Wolfe did not live to hear President Trump say NASA "should be focused on the much bigger things... including Mars." Since it was Trump who said that, I'm just going to guess that the Democratic Party candidates are all opposed to it. Has anyone said anything about it? I tried to google that, and the one thing that popped up was a tweet from — of all people — David Hogg:
I wonder if any of the presidential candidates support getting us to Mars by 2030

Projects like Apollo and others from NASA have to lead to the invention of tons of new products/technologies, employed over 400,000 Americans while doing so and helped unite everyday Americans.