August 31, 2019

At the Saturday Night Cafe...

... talk your Saturday night talk.

"Try to imagine yourself into the shoes of someone undecided on whether to support Trump in 2020. What argument against him do you think you'll find most persuasive?"

Asks Ben Wikler, Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, on Twitter, quoted by my son John on Facebook.

One answer John gives (at Twitter) is:
The worst argument is he’s “NOT NORMAL,” “violates norms,” etc. That argument itself isn’t normal; “politics as usual” is an insult, not a compliment. WI, MI, & PA residents voted for him knowing he’s far from a normal politician and unlikely to change. They liked that about him.

"At a time when both public and private universities are shifting resources away from the humanities... conservative state legislators and donors like the Koch Foundation and BB&T Bank... have stepped in."

"They have funded new professorships in topics like 'the history of capitalism' and poured money into speaker series and academic programs that propagate libertarian policy ideas. The organization UnKoch My Campus has tracked 'undue donor influence' in conservative philanthropy at schools such as George Mason University and Florida State University.... In some cases, conservative funders are, indeed, buying academic platforms to promote policy interests. The case of Arizona State is different. Its foundation was partisan to a troubling degree, but the outcome is a Great Books-style program that is not particularly oriented toward policy — instead, it emphasizes 'old-fashioned' intellectual methods. 'A big thing I like, as opposed to other political science courses I’d taken, is that they focus on teaching through classic literature, reading entire primary texts rather than textbooks or fragments of texts with other people’s analysis,' [one student] said.... [T]his approach is not inherently loyal to Republican ideology and can be an empowering course of study that liberals neglect at their peril. They often forget that plenty of Great Books are among the foundation stones of their own political tradition. Progressive heroes ranging from Jane Addams to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. were indelibly shaped by Great Books educations...."

From "Can We Guarantee That Colleges Are Intellectually Diverse?/Politicians and donors want to impose one set of solutions. Schools around the country are trying to find their own way" by Molly Worthen (NYT).

Will you join me in calling for a return to nylon stockings for women in skirts working in a high-level professional context?

In a context where men are wearing suits, shouldn't women look more polished?

I took that closeup screen capture from the photograph at "Trump's personal assistant fired after comments about Ivanka, Tiffany" (Politico).

I don't mean to body-shame anyone. I just think this is too casual for working in the White House and that it's a good idea for men and women to hit the same level of dressiness.

"Sirhan Sirhan, who is serving a life sentence for the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was stabbed in the neck and badly wounded at a San Diego prison."


Goodbye to Rhoda.

Remember the fabulousness:

"Rhoda, come on, I know you! You're not going!"

ADDED: From another episode with a lot of Rhoda — in the second half (the first half is heavy on the Phyllis — there's this fascinating moment when Mary lets us know she's not a virgin:

August 30, 2019

At the Kiteboard Café...


... talk about whatever you want.

And remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon, where you can buy whatever you want.

The little video clip was taken in Blooming Grove, Wisconsin, on the shore of Lake Waubesa, where we stopped as we were biking the Capital City Trail yesterday. It was quite windy, and the kiteboarders looked like they were having a great time. The wind made the biking much tougher than usual, but I flew along with my e-bike.

"Richard Linklater to Spend Next 20 Years Filming a Merrily We Roll Along Adaptation."

"... Linklater is indeed sticking to the show’s reverse chronology, meaning that he won’t film the beginning of the musical for at least another couple decades... [T]he director gives you no choice but to share in his optimism that, even though there’s a chance that the globe might be reduced to a broiling sphere of molten ash within the next 20 years, there’s also a chance —slim, but real—that there will also be a movie house screening the best version of Merrily We Roll Along..."

Slate reports.

Linklater, who still lives in Austin and has been with but unmarried to the same woman since the 90s, will be 79 years old 20 years from now.

"Across the globe, travel providers and government agencies are responding to overtourism with suggestions for less-crowded places and quieter seasons in hopes of producing a broader but lighter footprint."

"In Colorado’s case, the tourism office’s online Colorado Field Guide outlines 150 multiday itineraries with the goal of dispersing its 82 million travelers across the seasons and across the state.... Expanding when and where to go mirrors the rise of tourism, linked to the growth of the middle class in emerging markets. From 25 million travelers in the 1950s, tourist arrivals around the world grew to 1.4 billion in 2018, and the World Tourism Organization forecasts that number to rise to 1.8 billion by 2030.... A wave of travel companies — new and established — are lining up to help them make that choice in the interest of destination sustainability as well as peace of mind.... Pioneering new trips to obscure destinations has long been the virtual arms race of the travel industry waged by adventure and luxury travel companies...."

From "Cooler, Farther and Less Crowded: The Rise of ‘Undertourism’/Across the globe, travel providers and government agencies are responding to ‘overtourism’ with suggestions for less-crowded places and quieter seasons" (NYT).

"Undertourism" indeed! It's more and more tourism, dispersed to more and more places.

I'm interested in this idea that going to more "obscure destinations" was the strategy of "luxury" travel countries, and now the lower tiers of travelers are getting dispersed to these less great but less traveled-to places.

And is this "broader but lighter footprint" a serious confrontation with environmental impact? Do I need to give this article my "eco-shame-contortion genre" tag? I'm only giving it because I'm talking about it. The article isn't shame-focused enough. It's pretty shameless and bent on pushing travel travel travel for the readers who think of themselves as affluent and therefore in need of quality travel experiences.

"She was a spy from day one who sought to use her proximity to the president to curry favor with his detractors."

Said a "former official," quoted in "Trump's personal assistant Madeleine Westerhout abruptly resigns" (CBS).
During the president's vacation at his club in Bedminster, New Jersey earlier this month, Westerhout attended an off-the-record dinner with reporters at the Grain and Cane restaurant in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey. Sources with knowledge of the dinner told CBS she had been drinking and disclosed private details about the president's family. She also gossiped about TV news personalities seeking access to the president.

"Lee, if anybody shoots at you, I hope they are as good a shot as you."

Said James R. Leavelle to Lee Harvey Oswald minutes before Oswald was shot to death, as memorialized in a photograph without which there would not be a NYT obituary for Leavelle, "James R. Leavelle, Detective at Lee Harvey Oswald’s Side, Dies at 99."

We're told Oswald responded, "You’re being melodramatic."

"In the weeks I spent listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, I learned that lobsters have serotonin, that Elvis Presley suffered from parapraxis and that Mr. Gladwell adheres to a firm life rule that he drink only five liquids: water, tea, red wine, espresso and milk."

That's a fine first sentence. The article is "With ‘Talking to Strangers,’ Malcolm Gladwell Goes Dark/Read by millions — but savaged by critics — the author has a new book on police violence, campus rape and other bleak terrain" by Amy Chozick (in the NYT).

At 55, in clear-framed spectacles and a head of curls, Mr. Gladwell still has the spindly, featherweight look of someone who can break a five-minute mile on a casual weekend run. He lives in a two-story townhouse apartment in the West Village, brimming with books, vintage furniture and a set of eclectic paintings of the Ethiopian Army. We sat at a heavy wooden table as 90-degree August soup poured through the open windows....

Books take years to complete, but thanks to [podcasting], Mr. Gladwell’s typical reader — whom he has described as “a 45-year-old guy with three kids who’s an engineer at some company outside of Atlanta” — can partake in a virtuous cycle of Gladwell programming. The podcast teases interest in a souped-up “Talking to Strangers” audiobook, which builds an audience for more speeches, which stokes advertisers for the podcasts....
August souped-up?

It was a simple writing error to re-use the word "soup" there, and it amuses me, especially since neither use is about actual soup. "Soup" is conventionally used to refer to air that seems thick, mostly for fog, where the traditional expression is "pea soup fog." The OED traces that metaphor back to 1849, to an entry in a journal by Herman Melville: "Upon sallying out this morning encountered the oldfashioned pea soup London fog." That makes it sound as though people had been saying "pea soup fog" for a long time.

And what about the soup in "souped up"? The OED doesn't go into any detail here, but I think it's just an analogy to feeding human beings with the hearty, humble food provided to hungry poor people. The oldest uses are not about adding fuel, but tinkering with the mechanical works, readjusting the engines — of airplanes and cars... and jitneys:
Here come a flat-top, he was moving up with me
Then come waving goodbye in a little old souped-up jitney
I put my foot in my tank and I began to roll
Moaning siren, 'twas a state patrol
So I let out my wings and then I blew my horn
Bye-bye New Jersey, I've become airborne
No, that one wasn't in the OED. That's just what plays in my head. Chuck Berry. Wonder if he had parapraxis... or if I do... What is parapraxis?!
Parapraxis, the clinical terminology for “Freudian slips,” as the episode explains, means abnormal acts in speech, memory, or physicality....

Gladwell focuses on the parapraxis that seemed to occur during performances in the late 60s and early 70s of Elvis’s song “Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” which contains a minute-long spoken-word section aimed at a long-lost lover. Though Elvis performed the song many times, he consistently tripped over the interlude. His final sweat-soaked performance of the song is iconic for all the wrong reasons: the words are almost all gone . . . replaced instead by maniacal, uncontrollable laughter.

The spectacle is hard to explain....
Or easy to explain:

And so, as you sally out this morning, souped up on espresso or tea or milk, have some laughs, have some lobsters, and good luck with your parapraxis.

"My decision to accept an offer in Big Law was not driven by any allegiance to corporations or any Machiavellian analysis of whether it would be a springboard for future political ambitions."

"... Instead, it was a matter of practicality. To have enough money to pay off my student loan debt, which totaled more than $100,000 after three years of legal education, and send money home to support family members, I needed the six-figure salary that my firm was offering. Big Law offered an opportunity to earn enough money to lift myself, and by extension my family, out of poverty and into the middle class.... Many attorneys of color are in the same position...."

Writes Erika Stallings in WaPo, responding to "No More Corporate Lawyers on the Federal Bench/The next Democratic president should try nominating judges who haven’t been partners at big law firms" by Brian Fallon and Christopher Kang, founders of something called Demand Justice (in The Atlantic). Fallon was an aide to Chuck Schumer, and Kang was an aide to Dick Durbin.

As Stallings puts it, Demand Justice "believes that the number of judges with ['Big Law'] experiences creates an 'insular, back-scratching network of legal elites who work together to promote corporate interests.' But not everyone who works at a corporate law firm is the same. And in trying to purge corporate influence from the judiciary, Demand Justice risks making the ranks of judges more homogenous in another way: namely, whiter and richer."

From Fallon and Kang:
[O]ur point is not that corporate lawyers are incapable of becoming fair-minded judges. A judge’s legal background is not inherently predictive of how she will rule. Sotomayor herself is proof of that... Our point, rather, is that the federal bench is already filled with enough corporate lawyers, and that the law is being skewed in favor of corporations, giving them astonishing power. And for all the examples of progressive judges who spent time in Big Law, there are many more brilliant legal minds whose backgrounds too often, perversely, prevented their consideration for the bench. There are plenty enough highly qualified individuals with other backgrounds—civil-rights litigators, public defenders, and legal-aid lawyers—that the next president can afford to make identifying new types of candidates a priority.

In the coming weeks, Demand Justice will propose a list of potential judicial selections whom the next Democratic president should consider. We are confident that the exercise will prove there is no shortage of qualified picks who have chosen paths in public-interest work, labor law, academia, or other fields that deserve to be represented on the federal bench....

Democrats... must stock the federal judiciary with judges who have a more diverse array of experiences, who can help their colleagues more fully understand the competing perspectives on the law that come before them.
This is an interesting conflict. Stallings stresses the importance of racial and class diversity, things law schools take into account at the point of admission, and Fallon and Kang stress diversity in post-law-school experience. Stallings looks at the problem from the point of view of the career-seeking lawyer, and Fallon and Kang are talking about the way cases are decided.

August 29, 2019

At the Thursday Night Café...

... keep the conversation going.


It's a graphic depiction of exclusion!

But here's why it makes sense to leave Yang off:

The gap between Buttigieg and Yang is big and Yang is almost even with Booker and O'Rourke. Santens's image in the tweet shows the same chart of the polls but cuts it off before the Booker and O'Rourke columns.

"Former FBI Director James Comey violated FBI policies in his handling of memos documenting private conversations with President Donald Trump..."

"... the Justice Department’s inspector general said Thursday. The watchdog office said Comey broke bureau rules by giving one memo containing unclassified information to a friend with instructions to share the contents with a reporter. Comey also failed to notify the FBI after he was dismissed in May 2017 that he had retained some of the memos in a safe at home, the report said. 'By not safeguarding sensitive information obtained during the course of his FBI employment, and by using it to create public pressure for official action, Comey set a dangerous example for the over 35,000 current FBI employees — and the many thousands more former FBI employees — who similarly have access to or knowledge of non-public information,' the report says.... Comey said he considered his memos to be personal rather than government documents, and it never would’ve occurred to him to give them back to the FBI after he was fired. The inspector general’s office disagreed, citing policy that FBI employees must give up all documents with FBI information once they leave the bureau."

AP reports.

"But there’s nothing now — we can’t do anything, we’re helpless. Business has completely ended. Whoever comes just looks at the flies."

Said Muhammad Ismail Siddiqui, a vendor of traditional sweets, quoted in "A Plague of Flies Descends on Karachi: 'They’re Hounding People'" (NYT).

"There are huge swarms of flies and mosquitoes. It’s not just affecting the life of the common man — they’re so scary, they’re hounding people. You can’t walk straight on the road, there are so many flies everywhere... As a community, we also need to blame ourselves. We have collected these heaps of garbage" said Dr. Seemin Jamali, the executive director for the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center, noting the remains of sacrificial animals dumped in the streets.

"Americans left 768 million days of paid time off unused last year, according to research released by the U.S. Travel Association."

"The study found that 55 percent of Americans did not use all of their paid vacation time. Of the time they took, U.S. workers used nine days to travel. More than half of Americans did not take a leisure trip of more than four nights over the past year, according to a report from Allianz Global Assistance. The travel insurance company said millennials were leading the so-called micro-cation trend, with 72 percent taking at least one trip of fewer than five nights. Nearly 20 percent of those surveyed in May said their longest trip in the past year was three to four nights long. The same survey found that 28 percent of Americans did not take a leisure trip of any length."

From "What does America have against vacation?" (WaPo).

Not one word about the environment in that article. Why not celebrate the status quo? If we were traveling, WaPo should shame us for the impact on climate change, so why is the failure to travel treated like a problem? Maybe people like their day-to-day life — working, living at home, near friends and family, doing what is familiar. Isn't that what most people have done throughout human history and prehistory?

My idea of the perfect vacation.

"Visit 15 of Wisconsin's best state parks on this 9-day road trip" (Milwaukee State Journal).

I love state parks (and I don't even camp). The national parks are so dramatic. They can be crowded and — to me — scary (even from the car). State parks are beautiful in a mellower way. The ideal is to have a home in a good place and be able to get to a variety of state parks easily in quick drives through a nice countryside.

"No one will miss her. A self-promoter who destroyed Al Franken’s political career for no reason whatsoever. Good riddance."

The top-rated comment — with 1141 up votes — at "Kirsten Gillibrand Drops Out of 2020 Democratic Presidential Race/The New York senator anchored her candidacy in issues of women’s equality, but she was unable to gain traction and her failure to qualify for the next debate convinced her to withdraw" (NYT).

I keep reading comments, in order of up votes, and every single one is about Al Franken:

1073 Recommend: "She thought that taking down Al Franken would springboard her to national office. Not only was she wrong to silence one of the most effective progressive voices in the Senate, she badly miscalculated its effect on her political career."

998 Recommend: "Gillibrand’s insistence that denying due process to Al Franken was the right path demonstrates what a poor senator she is, and what a terrible president she would be. Franken deserved a hearing, not a lynch mob. He may have been found culpable, in which case he should have resigned. But Gillibrand instead forced fellow Democrats to pile on to her rush to judgement. I’m so glad to see her go."

994 Recommend: "To some this will sound terrible, but most likely, her assault on Al Franken doomed her candidacy from day one. In my ultra liberal household where both my wife and I plan to vote for Elisabefh [sic] Warren, we just did not believe her when she claimed that she felt morally obligated to insist on Franken resign from the senate. We both believe that her motivation was to make a national name for herself and Al Franken was nothing more than collateral damage. If you can’t convince people like us, the north east liberals that we are, of your authenticity, I don’t see how you stand a chance in a national contest."

835 Recommend: "Her entire career is now defined by what she did to Al Franken. So long Senator, don't let the door hit you on the way out."

669 Recommend: "Al Franken should move to New York State and primary her."

I read 15 more comments that are about Al Franken before I get to the first one that doesn't mention him.

"I think it's cool that even though her family went to Ivy League schools, she decided that UM was the caliber high enough to match that of an Ivy League school. We hope she finds her fit here just like we all have. We all love it here. We hope she does, too."

Said a sophomore at the University of Michigan, quoted in "Sasha Obama set to begin college career at University of Michigan" (Detroit News).

I don't know why Sasha Obama isn't going to a fancier school, but as a graduate of the University of Michigan and the daughter of a graduate of the University of Michigan and granddaughter of graduate of the University of Michigan, I'm happy to hear this news.

"Somebody Give This Theater Kid a Tony for Her Musical Parodies."

Vulture raves about and interviews Liva Pierce, "a rising college sophomore from Chicago by way of Maine" with "this week’s best Twitter video."

I showed you the video yesterday morning, and some (but not all) of you were amused.

"... soon my follow has officially turned into a hate-follow. Her feed is turning me off to things I once loved..."

"... like No. 6 clogs and Patagonia fleeces. Eventually, I’m closing my eyes and rubbing the bridge of my nose — which I do only when I really can’t handle life — and whispering to my phone, 'No, don’t ruin Negronis for me, too.' Meet the unfluencer, the person who makes me want to do the opposite of whatever she’s doing and throw out whatever I already own that she has posted about.... I have found myself compiling a brief list of things unfluencers have ruined for me, and they include wide-leg pants, most potted plants, Rachel Cusk, Aesop hand balm, the Met Breuer, being 'into Broadway,' the Marlton, all destination weddings, Barry’s Bootcamp, the brand Self-Portrait, rattan, P50 toner, pink mules, the superbloom, paella (homemade or ordered in a restaurant), and Maine. And I’ve never even been to Maine!... An unfluencer has the power to mess with your head, setting you off balance and making you question what you like and don’t like, what you know to be cool and what is corny. ... But my being provoked probably has less to do with the narcissism I perceive on the unfluencer’s part than with my own: I’m not as original as I wish to be; my taste is not as interesting and refined as I think it is. I can hear my mother’s voice in my head telling me, circa grade school, 'The things you hate are usually the things you do yourself.'"

From "Meet the Unfluencers" (The Cut).

"Sometimes [Maria] Qamar’s women are crying and lovelorn. Other times they’re glossy-haired containers of rage that leap colorfully, fantastically off the canvas."

"In the installation’s titular work, a bloody, disembodied male hand grabs a lavender-skinned woman by the arm. 'FRAAAANDSHIP?' he asks. The woman’s 'NO' reverberates through the gallery’s white walls.... 'Obviously there are parts of our culture that are deep and dark and that evoke rage. And then there are certain parts that are just silly. I like that it doesn’t have to make you cry all the time. That’s the motive of what I do. You can have fun. You can sit on a samosa chair and talk about patriarchy. The first step we should take is laughing in the face of adversity. Or devastation, rather. That’s how I deal with it.'"

From "The Artist Blending Pop Art and Indian Soap Operas" (The Cut).

"Alternative treatments, rituals and metaphysical organizing principles... Astrology and tarot cards... Sound baths and other forms of 'energy medicine'" — all are finding their way into the realm of the clinical psychologist.

I'm reading "Now Therapists Have to Figure Out Astrology, Tarot and Psychedelics/Patients are confronting psychotherapists with a fresh pile of really useful challenges" (NYT).
“A lot of things in psychology were once considered edgy and alternative,” said Charlynn Ruan, a clinical psychologist and the founder of Thrive Psychology Group in California, who said she is learning about different alternative treatments and approaches. “I’m not teaching it, but I’m not saying you can’t bring this into the room. That would be disempowering and arrogant.”...

In Los Angeles — likely the wellness capital of the world — plant medicine, shamans, astrology, reiki and sound baths come up frequently in sessions. “In L.A., you’ve always said, ‘My therapist says’ — that’s not a weird thing to say,” said Kristie Holmes, a therapist with Thrive in Beverly Hills, Calif. “But now name-dropping a shaman is normal.”...

According to many therapists who spoke to The New York Times, the patients bringing up these approaches in general tend to skew female, younger and more affluent....
The young, well-off females of California — so important in our culture.
When these topics do emerge, mental health professionals often see them as ripe for exploration....
I assume anything the patient thinks or believes is "ripe for exploration" to a therapist. The question is whether science-based therapists are accepting astrology, tarot, and the like as alternative medicine. Are the therapists supporting and reinforcing pseudoscience? Where is the professionalism?
[W]hile the American Psychological Association doesn’t have an official stance on alternative practices, it maintains an evidence-based practice policy, said Lynn Bufka, the associate executive director for practice, research and policy at the organization.
Why don't they have an official stance? I note that this NYT article doesn't allow comments. I'd like to read what NYT readers — especially professionals in the field — think of supposedly professional therapists using utter junk in their practice.
In Chicago, Nicolle Osequeda, a therapist and the clinical director of Lincoln Park Therapy Group, said that some of her patients who have lost loved ones are seeking out mediums to feel a connection. She also hears from clients who have seen intuitive healers and done reiki. “I don’t find them to be competing things,” Ms. Osequeda said. “I do very different things than a reiki practitioner does.” In general, she supports the use of any safe methods that her patients find helpful....
Well, anything might be helpful. Flipping a coin. A Magic 8 Ball.
“There are times when there are feelings that come out of nowhere, and I don’t know how to describe them,” said Abby Mahler, a 25-year-old [patient] in Los Angeles. During those moments in therapy sessions, she has found herself talking about tarot, as well as internet memes, to communicate. Ms. Mahler said her therapists have realized that “when I bring up tarot or a meme, it’s because I don’t have the verbal ability to describe what I need to and this is just a tool to do it.”

Tiana Clark, a 35-year-old in Nashville, has gone to therapy on and off for the past two decades. She became interested in crystals, online tarot readings and astrology apps like Co-star this year, after experiencing burnout and extreme anxiety. “You’re breaking down your thought patterns and behavior patterns in therapy, and that’s kind of what you do in astrology,” she said. “If something seems applicable, like if I read something on Co-star, I feel comfortable peppering in those details as I’m walking through certain traumas.” In the future, Ms. Clark said she may not need a therapist who “understands the healing power of crystals.” But for now, it feels right.
Are therapists open to this nonsense lest the clients walk away?

August 28, 2019

At the Candy Beer Café...


... open up the conversation.

(And open up the Althouse Portal to Amazon, where you can buy strange enough things.)

"In hypothetical matchups between President Trump and the top five Democratic presidential candidates, one key number is 40. It's the ceiling of support for Trump..."

"... no matter the candidate. It hovers close to his job approval rating, which has stayed in a tight range since being elected."

Said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Mary Snow, quoted in "All Top Dems Beat Trump As Voters' Economic Outlook Dims Quinnipiac University Poll Finds; Dem Primary Stays Stable With Biden Holding The Lead" (Quinnipiac).

I've often wondered about the correspondence between "approval" and voting behavior. I myself tend to disapprove of all the politicians, but I do pick one to vote for in the end. In 2016, I was forced to vote for a presidential candidate I disapproved of, and I expect to get stuck doing the same thing in 2020. But, here, Snow is saying that the 2 numbers really do correspond when it comes to Trump.

By the way, we were all talking about the 3-way tie — Biden, Sanders, Warren — in the Monmouth poll that came out the other day, but look how there have been 6 — or at least 5 — polls since then without any confirmation of the loss of Biden's lead:

My blog is Twitter-heavy this morning...

Could it be because Bret Stephens has deleted his account...

The text above should be performed in the style of a musical comedy character transitioning from speaking to singing.

"New species of bloodsucking leech with three jaws and 59 teeth found outside Washington."

A WaPo headline.

AND: In other worm news, "Ancient Britons had giant worms in their kidneys, study shows" (Fox News)("It was great to find the earliest evidence for fish tapeworm, giant kidney worm, and Echinostoma worm so far discovered in Britain"). And, "‘Like spaghetti’: Worm-slurping, hopping rats discovered in the Philippines" (Mongabay)(" Once they detect an earthworm, they quickly pounce. They then brush the dirt off and swallow the worm whole, 'like a long spaghetti,' according to the scientists").

"... when characters in musicals transition from speaking to singing..."

"Fox News isn’t supposed to work for you."

"Bret Stephens seems to think that his social status should render him immune from criticism from people like me."

"I think that the rewards of his social status come with an understanding that lesser-known people will say mean things about him online. Stephens reached out to me in the mistaken belief that I would feel ashamed. He reached out believing my university would chastise me for provoking the ire of a writer at The New York Times. That’s an abuse of his social station."

Writes Brian Karpf in "I Called Bret Stephens a Bedbug. Then He Tried to Squelch My Freedom of Speech. What a Day. This, after embarrassing himself on Twitter and on national television" (Esquire).

And here's the excellent response from the university's provost:

ADDED: Excellent except to the extent that the provost is still doing 2 spaces after a period. Come on! Also, there's no extra space before the new paragraph. That too much/too little combination is mildly infuriating.

Did Trump just call Bret Stephens a bedbug? No, you could "bring in" the infestation without being one of the bugs.

To quote the old Rolling Stones song:
To live in this town you must be tough, tough, tough, tough, tough!
You got rats on the west side
Bedbugs uptown
What a mess this town's in tatters I've been shattered
My brain's been battered, splattered all over Manhattan...

What kind of President...?

I never noticed that Facebook had a slogan, but...

... it just changed its slogan from "It's free and always will be" to "It's quick and easy" (Business Insider). It's not as though that means Facebook is about to charge. More like:
"Facebook is not free nor has it ever been," lawyer and digital law expert José Antonio Castillo told Business Insider (he was apparently one of the first to tweet about the change). "Facebook's currency was and still is it's [sic] users' personal data. It's never been free, though, because data is worth a lot of money."
Just erasing the the basis for a tricky argument that they're deceptive, I guess.

"First, we thought it was whale poop, but... there was way more of it than any normal sized pod of whales could come up with."

93 square miles of floating rock — pumice (from an underwater volcano).

From the NYT, "A Raft of Floating Rock Stuns Sailors. But Can It Save the Reef?"

"A Madison School Board member’s comparison of police to Nazis and of Dane County’s juvenile jail to concentration camps is drawing the ire of local law enforcement."

"In a Facebook post Saturday highlighting the plight of youth detained at the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center, Ali Muldrow said: 'I think that (it’s) important to talk about what it is like for the students who are arrested at school and end up in the Dane County Jail. We would not talk about the role of the Nazis and act as if the experiences people had in concentration camps is a separate issue.'... Muldrow didn’t back off her comparison Monday afternoon, saying in a Facebook message to the State Journal that 'the rounding up a specific demographics of people including LGBTQ folks and folks with disabilities, than institutionalizing them in locked facilities, is being done now in a variety of ways and was also done in Nazi Germany.'... One of the reasons using Jewish people as an example is important is because no one would ever dare say the Jewish community deserved to be detained during the Holocaust.... However, when black communities are targeted for incarceration the argument is often about their actions, not the state’s.'"

The Wisconsin State Journal reports.

"That’s why I don’t be coming out doing comedy all the time. I’m goddamn sick of it. This is the worst time ever to be a celebrity. You’re gonna be finished. Everyone’s doomed...."

"Doesn’t matter what I say. And if you at home watching this shit on Netflix, remember bitch, you clicked on my face. Celebrity hunting season. Doesn’t matter what I say, they’re gonna get everybody eventually. Like look, I don’t think I did anything wrong, but we’ll see."

Said David Chappelle, quoted in his new comedy special, "Sticks and Bones," quoted in "Dave Chappelle under fire for discrediting Michael Jackson accusers in Netflix special/Standup comedian also takes aim at callout culture that sees public figures held to account by audiences" (The Guardian).

We watched the show last night.

ADDED: I enjoyed the show and laughed while it was going on. Looking back on the whole thing, my primary observation is that Chappelle's humor is premised on no empathy — specifically a black man's withholding of empathy from everyone who's in a better position than a generic black man. Chappelle is able to make this funny for the general audience because he has us — most of us or some of us — convinced that he is good at heart. The clearest example of his no-empathy position was stated outright when he mocked white people on heroin and said that he had no more empathy for them than white people had for black people during the crack epidemic of the 80s. He even dramatized killing a white heroin addict — blowing him away with a shotgun.

August 27, 2019

At the Tuesday Night Cafe...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Although the Dalai Lama reassured me that he intends to live well past 100, speculation about succession is already rife."

"In what may be the world's only example of an atheist state extending its jurisdiction into the spirit world, Beijing has declared that any attempted reincarnation must 'comply with Chinese laws.' For his part, the Dalai Lama intends to be reincarnated, if at all, outside Chinese rule. He believes that in the long run his program of Tibetan autonomy under Chinese suzerainty can work, in part because sympathetic Han Chinese Buddhists will prod future, presumably more democratic Chinese governments to treat Tibet with greater sensitivity. In the meantime, the Tibetan national movement's goal of autonomy and its adherence to nonviolence despite Chinese provocation enables the Tibetan government-in-exile to function around the world and -- where Chinese pressure is not too severe -- to enjoy quasidiplomatic standing...."

From "A Visit With the Dalai Lama/He vows that Chinese law won’t govern the conditions of his reincarnation." (Wall Street Journal).

"Chappelle retains his killer timing and raconteur’s charms, but... he seems more interested in seeking the clapter of like-minded patrons than anything else."

"The comedian sells his self-centered worldview, hard: [Michael] Jackson didn’t molest any kids, because the singer didn’t target a prime candidate like Macaulay Culkin. [Louis] C.K. didn’t do anything wrong, because exposing himself to female colleagues isn’t a crime worthy of reporting to the police. The opioid crisis makes him understand how white people felt during the crack epidemic, because 'I don’t care, either.'"

From "Dave Chappelle’s Sticks & Stones Fights for the Rights of the Already-Powerful/In his new Netflix special, Chappelle rushes to the defense of the people who need it most: celebrities" by Inkoo Kang (in Slate).

"Clapter" is not a typo. In the text at Slate, the word is linked to "The Rise of 'Clapter' Comedy" (at Vulture). That's from January 2018, and you'll see Chapelle's name comes up:
[T]his portmanteau [of clapping and laughter]—evidently coined by Seth Meyers over a decade ago— to bemoan an identifiable strain of message-driven comedy that inadvertently prioritizes political pandering above comedic merit....

Monologue segments have turned into a series of repetitive jokes, middling impressions, and verbatim tweet recitals, but they nonetheless continue to elicit enthusiastic reactions from crowds, who can relate broadly to the overarching sentiment of “Holy shit, our president is bad.”

It’s telling, then, that one of the highest-profile examples of this phenomenon took place during Dave Chappelle’s SNL monologue the weekend immediately following Trump’s election. “America has done it; we’ve actually elected an internet troll as our president,” Chappelle said, parroting a well-wrought observation that had been made thousands of times leading up to the election. Even accounting for his comedy chops, it was a tepid and unoriginal joke that had every reason to fall flat. The crowd nonetheless laughed heartily, evidently looking for anything to latch their very palpable Trump resentment onto....

"The conservative op-ed website Quillette announced Monday night that controversial right-wing writer Andy Ngo is leaving his job as an editor at the site..."

"... an announcement that comes on the same day that a Portland newspaper published a story revealing that Ngo witnessed a far-right group planning violence but never reported it. Ngo, a photographer who was until recently a sub-editor at Quillette, became a celebrity on Fox News and other pro-Trump media outlets after he was attacked by left-wing demonstrators at a Portland political rally in June. Ngo then became prominent as an opponent of political violence, with most of his criticism aimed at the left."

The Daily Beast reports.

"Human Era Ending?"

That's how Drudge looks right now. The link on "human era ending" goes to "Cyborgs will replace humans and remake the world, James Lovelock says/'Our supremacy as the prime understanders of the cosmos is rapidly coming to end'" (NBC). As for big tech planning "social scores," the article is "Uh-oh: Silicon Valley is building a Chinese-style social credit system/In China, scoring citizens’ behavior is official government policy. U.S. companies are increasingly doing something similar, outside the law" (Fast Company).

ADDED: By "right now," I was referring to the page as it looked at 2019/08/27 Tue 07:47:10 EST. At 2019/08/27 Tue 07:48:10 EST, it did not look like that anymore. Accuracy achieved via the

"NY Times' Bret Stephens Vaguely Threatens—and Emails Boss of—Professor Who Called Him ‘Bedbug.'"

Mediaite reports.
The professor, Dave Karpf, who studies media and public affairs, published a screenshot of the email he received Monday night from Stephens, who claimed an unnamed “someone” had “just pointed out” Karpf’s insult to him, complained that the professor had “set a new standard” for poisoning the discourse. The Times columnist went on to effectively physically challenge Karpf, inviting him to “come to my home, meet my wife and kids, talk to us for a few minutes, and then call me a ‘bedbug’ to my face.”...

Karpf’s initial joke on Twitter, posted just hours before, was in response to news of a recent bedbug outbreak in the New York Times newsroom. "The bedbugs are a metaphor. The bedbugs are Bret Stephens."...

Stephens’ over-the-top response to a Tweet that notably did not use his Twitter handle, as well as the not-so-subtle attempt to get Karpf in trouble with the professor’s boss at the college, seemed to run counter to the proclaimed free speech champion’s disgust with thin-skinned “PC culture” and societal “safe spaces” where no one has a sense of humor anymore.... The tetchy, how-dare-you tone and speak-to-your-manager snitch move by Stephens came across as more than a little hypocritical to many media watchers online....
ADDED: "Bret Stephens is Deactivating His Twitter Account After Blowing Up at Man Who Called Him a Bedbug" (Mediaite).
“Twitter is a sewer. It brings out the worst in humanity,” Stephens posted. “I sincerely apologize for any part I’ve played in making it worse, and to anyone I’ve ever hurt. Thanks to all of my followers, but I’m deactivating this account.”

"Your great saints were child rapists. Your sacred texts are false alibis for a world-historic crime. That isn’t a hill your shining city sits upon..."

"... but the unmarked graves of men it condemned to unlived lives. The prosperity you saw as confirmation of God’s favor is actually proof of your complicity in theft; tucked beneath the bounty your fathers bequeathed you are a pile of unpaid debts. And the collective identity that gave you belonging – that freed you from the solitary confinement of your self, and commuted the death sentence that is your flesh – is a hateful lie that all non-racists are duty-bound to lay to rest. This is, ostensibly, what the typical white conservative hears when reading (or imagining what it would be like to read) the New York Times’ '1619 Project.'... But if the right’s catastrophizing response to the 1619 Project is incomprehensible in intellectual terms, it’s more understandable in psychological ones. The Times’s narrative does not delegitimize the U.S. nation-state, or American patriotism. But it very much does challenge the legitimacy of white American identity – and the secular saints and potted histories that lend that identity its substance. And for many white conservatives in the U.S., the idea of surrendering that identity is quite painful...."

From "The ‘1619 Project’ Isn’t Anti-American — It’s Anti-White Identity Politics" by Eric Levitz (New York Magazine).

August 26, 2019

At the Duck and Gull Café...


... you can hang around all night.

(And go in through the Althouse Portal to Amazon and buy whatever you want.)

I'm a longtime fan of "Renoir Sucks at Painting," and now here comes the New Yorker art critic, Peter Schjeldahl with "Renoir's Problem Nudes"...

... subtitled "An argument is often made that we shouldn’t judge the past by the values of the present, but that’s a hard sell in a case as primordial as Renoir’s." And I can see people at Instapundit getting exercised about about the political judgment of high art.

First, I must observe that Schjedahl doesn't mention Max Geller, called "the leader of a group called Renoir Sucks at Painting" in the 2015 Atlantic article "Why Absolutely Everyone Hates Renoir/The protestors in Boston who declared even God despises the maligned Impressionist might be on to something."

Schjedahl is speaking out now — 4 years after "Renoir Sucks" peaked — because there's a new exhibit, "Renoir: The Body, the Senses." He writes:
The reputation of the once exalted, still unshakably canonical, Impressionist has fallen on difficult days. Never mind the affront to latter-day educated tastes of a painting style so sugary that it imperils your mind’s incisors; there’s a more burning issue. 
The art historian Martha Lucy, writing in the show’s gorgeous catalogue, notes that, “in contemporary discourse,” the name Renoir has “come to stand for ‘sexist male artist.’ ” Renoir took such presumptuous, slavering joy in looking at naked women—who in his paintings were always creamy or biscuit white, often with strawberry accents, and ideally blond—that, Lucy goes on to argue, the tactility of the later nudes, with brushstrokes like roving fingers, unsettles any kind of gaze, including the male. I’ll endorse that, for what it’s worth.
Lucy makes the painting sound better than it is.  I don't see what's bad about a painter of nudes being sensuously involved with the fleshly characters he's depicting. Why leap to calling it sexist? My guess? It's way to justify the exhibition of this insipid stuff. It's not bad painting; it's bad politics — and that infuses the show with modern-day relevance.

Here, take a look:
Schjedahl writes, "Renoir’s women strum no erotic nerves in me," and he complains about "the carnal tapioca, the vacant gazes, the fatuous frolic." But:
Everything in Renoir that is hard to take and almost impossible to think about, because it makes no concessions to intelligence, affirms his stature as a revolutionary artist. 
"Almost impossible." The reason I find it hard to think about is that I'm not sure what is meant by making "no concessions to intelligence." It cannot be that Renoir is intellectually challenging! I think it must mean the opposite, that Renoir didn't have any intellectual aspirations.
He stood firmly against the past in art and issued a stark challenge to its future. 
Renoir doesn't seem firm and stark at all. He's more... gelatinous. But Schjedahl is probably just saying that Renoir distinguished himself from the earlier academic style and later artists distinguished themselves from Renoir.
You can’t dethrone him without throwing overboard the fundamental logic of modernism as a sequence of jolting aesthetic breakthroughs, entitled to special rank on the grounds of originality and influence. 
He belongs on the time line. That doesn't mean he belongs on a throne.

Did Trump say he wants to nuke — literally nuke — hurricanes?

ADDED: I am reminded of this passage from "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid," Bill Bryson's memoir of growing up in the 1950s:
Edward Teller, the semi-crazed Hungarian-born physicist who was one of the presiding geniuses behind the development of the H-bomb... and his acolytes at the Atomic Energy Commission envisioned using H-bombs to enable massive civil engineering projects on a scale never before conceived—to create huge open-pit mines where mountains had once stood, to alter the courses of rivers in our favor (ensuring that the Danube, for instance, served only capitalist countries), to blow away irksome impediments to commerce and shipping like the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.... They even suggested that nuclear devices could be used to alter the Earth’s weather by adjusting the amount of dust in the atmosphere, forever banishing winters from the northern United States and sending them permanently to the Soviet Union instead.... In short, the creators of the hydrogen bomb wished to wrap the world in unpredictable levels of radiation, obliterate whole ecosystems, despoil the face of the planet, and provoke and antagonize our enemies at every opportunity—and these were their peacetime dreams.
AND: Is that an accurate account of Edward Teller? From his Wikipedia page, under the heading "Operation Plowshare and Project Chariot":

"The poll finds a virtual three-way tie among Sanders (20%), Warren (20%), and Biden (19%) in the presidential nomination preferences of registered Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters across the country."

Monmouth reports.
Compared to Monmouth’s June poll, these results represent an increase in support for both Sanders (up from 14%) and Warren (up from 15%), and a significant drop for Biden (down from 32%). Results for the rest of the field are fairly stable compared to two months ago. These candidates include California Sen. Kamala Harris at 8% support (identical to 8% in June), New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at 4% (2% in June), South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg at 4% (5% in June)....

Biden... lost ground with white Democrats (from 32% to 18%) and voters of color (from 33% to 19%), among voters without a college degree (from 35% to 18%) and college graduates (from 28% to 20%), with both men (from 38% to 24%) and women (from 29% to 16%), and among voters under 50 years old (from 21% to 6%) as well as voters aged 50 and over (from 42% to 33%). Most of Biden’s lost support in these groups shifted almost equally toward Sanders and Warren....

UPDATE, the next morning: There's a new political poll from Politico that shows nothing of this new 3-way tie development. Biden's way ahead, as usual (with 33%), Sanders is firmly in second place (with 20%), and Warren is a solid third (with 15%).

"An agreement to transfer Greenland’s sovereignty must also serve the interests of our good friends, the Danes, and the 56,000 Greenlanders as well."

"Their considerations ought to include the fact that despite Greenland’s long-term potential, a lack of infrastructure and financing still hamstring the island’s economy today. Greenland’s economy is less than one-tenth of Vermont’s, America’s smallest state economy. Every year, Denmark transfers $670 million in subsidies to support the island. As the world’s largest economy, the United States could more easily assume support for Greenland’s communities while investing substantially in its future. The transfer of Greenland’s sovereignty would alleviate a significant financial burden on the Danish people while expanding opportunities for Greenlanders. Just look at what American sovereignty has meant to Alaskans compared with conditions in Siberia under Russian control.... Who today believes the acquisition of Alaska was 'Seward’s folly'? On the contrary, it has been a great blessing to Alaskans and all Americans. Our nation has much to gain, as do the Danes and Greenlanders...."

Writes Senator Tom Cotton in "We Should Buy Greenland/Trump isn’t the only one to recognize the country’s strategic importance. Beijing does, too" (NYT).

"He actually speaks very good English..."

I've got another example of the eco-shame-contortion genre.

Yesterday, we were looking at "How Guilty Should You Feel About Your Vacation?/And what can you do about it?" by Seth Kugel (in the NYT), which I called "a terrible, execrable column." And today, I'm confronted with another example of what I'm going to recognize as a genre because I'm expecting to see more and more of these awful columns. Progressives who want to claim that they are good when it comes to the problem of climate change want to resist what it really means for them as they live in this world with their desires and comforts and money and longing for their little corner of luxury. What's really causing them anxiety is flight shaming.

From today's example of the genre, "Most of us are hypocrites on climate change. Maybe that’s progress," Kate Cohen (in WaPo).
Greta Thunberg puts most of us to shame. The 16-year-old Swedish climate activist is en route to the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York, on a two-week, comfort-free journey by solar-powered sailboat. She doesn’t fly, because flying is bad for the climate. She helped popularize the Swedish movement of flygskam, or flight shaming, which asks Swedes to travel according to their beliefs....
That is to say: Don't fly. Come on. If you believe what you say you believe, you know damned well that you should not fly. Not for business. Not for pleasure. Nothing! The world is at stake. Stop. Just stop. But no. Articles must be written, and I intend to become a connoisseur of this ludicrous genre.
Greta’s like an emissary from the future calmly stating that now is the time to panic. Who could argue with that? Not me. I recently swore off plastic straws on account of my own 16-year-old’s disapproval, even though his straw-shaming (sugrörskam?) consisted only of a single, sharp “Mom!” and a slow, disappointed head shake as I plucked my absolute-last-plastic-straw-I-swear from a coffee shop counter. If Greta were my kid, I’d be a vegan now, too.
If you can't argue with that, what are you doing? It sounds like arguing with that. Or are you saying you know perfectly well that your behavior is immoral — no argument there — it's just that you're choosing to do it anyway?
But she’s not my kid. So although I believe that climate change is an urgent threat, I travel and eat without thinking much about my carbon footprint. According to Greta, I’m probably not evil; I just don’t know better: “People keep doing what they do because the vast majority doesn’t have a clue about the actual consequences of our everyday life.” That’s not quite right; we do have a clue. But believing one thing and doing another is how most of us behave.
You're not thinking much, but you are thinking out loud. In WaPo. And presumably not ashamed to say what you are saying.

The article goes into an anecdote about her father buying an SUV, even though he cared about the environment. He'd indulge himself unless the government outlawed SUVs, and he'd be happy to vote for someone who'd outlaw SUVs. The idea is don't ask people to be moral; impose what you think is moral on everyone. Cohen gave her father a hard time about his attitude:

The self-leveling spoon.

Via Reddit.

"In April of this year, a company called Coding Elite exposed an artificial intelligence (AI) program that took a substantial sample of my voice..."

"...which is easily accessible on the YouTube lectures and podcasts that I have posted over the last years. In consequence, they were able to duplicate my manner of speaking with exceptional precision, starting out by producing versions of me rapping Eminem songs such as Lose Yourself (which has now garnered 250,000 views) and Rap God (which has only garnered 17,000) as well as Rock Lobster (1,400 views). They have done something similar with Bernie Sanders (singing Dancing Queen), Donald Trump (Sweet Dreams) and Ben Shapiro, who also delivered Rap God. The company has a model, the address of which you can find on their YouTube channel, which allows the user to make Trump, Obama, Clinton or Sanders say anything whatsoever."

From "The deepfake artists must be stopped before we no longer know what's real/I can tell you from personal experience how disturbing it is to discover a website devoted to making fake audio clips of you — for comic or malevolent purposes" by Jordan Peterson (National Journal).

1. First, "garner." These videos don't just get views. They garner them.

2. How do I know this is really written by Jordan Peterson? It could just be the old-time, shallowfake of putting somebody's name on something that he didn't write.

3. Assuming it is Jordan Peterson, why should I accept what he's saying at face value? It could be the most common fake of all, an insincere opinion. I mean, look at the part I'm quoting above, with all the links to the fake version of him performing cool songs and prodding us to go listen and spend time within the wacky Jordan Peterson phenomenon. What's he really up to? What's it all about? He had that book where he went on about lobsters and now somebody got his voice performing "Rock Lobster." I've go to think this promotes his brand:

4. I can certainly understand wanting to stop deepfake versions of your voice and image (as well as the fraudulent use of your name), especially if it's done to trick people and to damage your reputation. Sometimes it's just having fun and no one is fooled (or is someone always fooled?... maybe you could think JP did "Rock Lobster," sort of like the way William Shatner did "Rocket Man").

5. What should we do about the deepfakes? Can they "be stopped before we no longer know what's real"? An effort to stop them could make the ones that are not stopped more convincing. We need to develop a better sense of what is real and can't count on the government to save us. The government is often the source of fakery. What about Facebook and YouTube and other social media? Should they take down all impersonations (or take down anything the impersonated person wants removed)? I don't know what the answer is here, only that I wouldn't want to stop satire and that there are negative consequences to purporting to protect people from fakery. We need to be the masters of our own mistrust.

"The hammock as an icon of America herself: engraving by Theodor Galle after Stradanus, ca 1630."

From the Wikipedia article "Hammock":
Spanish colonists noted the use of the hammock by Native Americans, particularly in the West Indies, at the time of the Spanish conquest. Columbus, in the narrative of his first voyage, says: “A great many Indians in canoes came to the ship to-day for the purpose of bartering their cotton, and hamacas, or nets, in which they sleep.”
 And here's "The Dream" by Gustave Courbet (1844):

August 25, 2019

At the Sacred Lake Café...


... you can settle in for the night.

"He is only 29 years old, but football has wrecked his body and stolen his joy. Over the past four years, his injuries have been brutal and relentless..."

"... shoulder sprain, torn cartilage in the ribs, partially torn abdomen, lacerated kidney, concussion, torn labrum in his right shoulder and now the calf and ankle problem that hasn’t healed.... 'For the last four years or so, I’ve been in this cycle of injury, pain, rehab — injury, pain rehab — and it’s been unceasing, unrelenting, both in-season and offseason,' Luck said Saturday night. 'And I felt stuck in it, and the only way I see out is to no longer play football. It’s taken my joy of this game away.' The delightful thing about Luck always had been his love for the sport. He graduated from Stanford with a degree in architectural design, and he could have been a great engineer (maybe he still will be). He didn’t play football out of necessity or simply because he was so good at it. He didn’t use the game as a way out of a tough life. He loved it, really loved it. He geeked out on football..."

From "For Andrew Luck, football had wrecked his body and stolen his joy" by Jerry Brewer (in WaPo).

"Eugen Kukla could not have made his feelings clearer as 120 drunken tourists thronged noisily past his home around midnight, rudely breaking the silence of a normally sedate city-centre residential street."

"'Fuck pub crawls, fuck pub crawls,' he repeated over and over again, while filming the scene on his smart phone. Some of the crowd reacted in amusement, smiling and waving into the camera. But Kukla, 55, a photojournalist, did not see the joke. 'It’s an expression of my personal feelings, a buildup of frustration over a long period of time, years and years and years,' he said.... [A] rising tide of visitors has flooded in, up from 2.62 million in the year 2000, to just under 8 million last year.... The trend is transforming Prague and risks pushing out long-term inhabitants of the city centre – historically considered a residential district – and turning it into a tourist-only zone.... The signs of such tourist-driven commercialisation are everywhere, seen in the spread of cheap souvenir shops, massage parlours painted in out-of-place garish colours – an example of what officials denounce as 'visual smog' – and the dancers in giant panda suits that proliferate in Old Town Square.... Also notorious are walking tours in Malá Strana, near Prague castle, which often culminate in visits to the Lennon Wall, a famous protest site during communist times that has since become a place of free expression for would-be graffiti artists, but is now being defaced with mindless spraying done at the urging of guides.... Tourists were pictured clambering on to outsize statues of babies designed by the Czech artist David Černý in Kampa Park and pouring beer into the mouths of two male figurines in the courtyard of the Franz Kafka museum...."

From "The fall of Prague: ‘Drunk tourists are acting like they’ve conquered our city’/As the Czech Republic capital launches a crackdown, the Observer joins one of the organised pub crawls that are blighting residents’ lives" (The Guardian).

"Why, exactly, elk calves die after human activity as mellow as hiking is not entirely clear."

"Some likely perish because the mothers, startled by passing humans and their canine companions, run too far away for the calves to catch up, weakening the young and making them more susceptible to starvation or predation from lions or bears. Other times it may be that stress from passing recreationists results in the mother making less milk."

From "Americans' love of hiking has driven elk to the brink, scientists say" (The Guardian).

"Seems like this advice, which will provide essentially no meaningful benefits to the world, is designed to achieve an exquisite balance..."

"... keep travelling but feel more virtuous by tweaking your usual routines with tiny sacrifices, while retaining some of the guilt and shame that appears necessary to be a genuine 'woke' person."

That's the top-rated comment on "How Guilty Should You Feel About Your Vacation?/And what can you do about it?" by Seth Kugel (in the NYT).

First, I highly recommend clicking through so you can see the fantastic illustration by Tim Enthoven (I see I recommended him before, here).

Now, to the text. Kugel is a travel writer. And the NYT makes money selling travel to its readers. The problem of air travel and carbon emissions is a huge conflict of interest for them, and it's painful or humorous to watch them try to writhe into a nonridiculous position.
So, O.K. How bad should we really feel? Well, first of all, no self-flagellation required for that week in Italy. It is true that your round-trip flight is probably the biggest single contributor to your carbon footprint this year (unless you moved from a studio apartment to a mansion or quit your job for the Nature Conservancy to become a coal lobbyist). But shame is the wrong emotion....
Why is shame the "wrong" emotion? And why does the text switch from "guilt" to "shame"? I thought the distinction was important! It's not even discussed. And the text goes on to suggest that the reason "shame" is "wrong" is because shaming isn't an effective way to get people to change what they are doing. It's not? Why not? Is that scientifically proven fact? You know, where you have the problem of people not wanting to believe the science about climate change, you ought to adhere closely to science, and yet you have nothing scientific about shaming (or guilt, which you unscientifically merge)!

It seems to me that shaming is often quite effective.

"The five members of HOWL's board... have begun weighing the possibility that their perfect place may not be long for this world."

"There are no clear inheritors of [The Huntington Open Women’s Land], which was designated a place for women and women only by a private donor in 1986.... Such stories of pending obsolescence are common among the living leaders of the womyn’s land movement, who began founding rural lesbian utopias in the 1960s. At the peak, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, there were an estimated 150 such intentional communities in the United States. The lands are now at risk of dying out, partly because of their virtues: They exist in remote, off-the-grid areas.... In the absence of the men, women often comfortably lounged around the premises in various states of undress. HOWL in particular was envisioned 'as a place where young women have role models of strong old women....'...  More recently, HOWL joined Hipcamp, an online camping booking platform, which has led to an uptick in visitors.... 'This is a business,' said Barbara Lieu, 74, who manages the properties. 'Some might say it’s not, but it is.... I don’t have a fantasy that young lesbians will want to come here. They have enough freedoms in the world that we never had. And they’re transitioning in all kinds of ways.'... Starting about a decade ago, HOWL began to welcome anyone who identifies as a woman. The move caused some longstanding members to bristle.... There have been rumors of new separatist communities springing up elsewhere. [There is word] of one run entirely by trans women in the South. The rumors place it on an alpaca farm...."

From "Why Doesn’t Anyone Want to Live in This Perfect Place?" (NYT).

"My first experience taking the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (M.B.T.I.) was at a job where it was mandatory."

"The company’s chief executive announced that all employees would take the test as part of a quarterly staff retreat. The assessment concluded that I was an I.N.T.J. (Introversion, Intuition, Thinking, Judgment.) At the retreat, we were all encouraged to share our results with one another as we participated in various team-building activities. I reluctantly revealed mine, as I wondered how this detailed profile of my personality traits and communication style would translate to my colleagues. Not only was I the sole black woman in the organization, a demographic notoriously misunderstood in the workplace, I now had the additional strike of being outed as an introvert, in the company of extroverts. Introverts have long been marginalized in professional environments. In American office culture, where break room small talk, brainstorming meetings and open office layouts are all commonplace, there seems to be little tolerance for the solitary nature of the typical introvert....  Before the Myers-Briggs team-building event, a few minor office conflicts had revealed that my reserved and independent work style didn’t mesh well with my manager’s, who preferred frequent updates and over-communication about projects. As the months passed, it became clear that I wouldn’t progress in a way that fit my career goals — or personality. Whether it was a self-fulfilling prophecy or a true ripple effect of the M.B.T.I., I left the job shortly after."

From "To Promote Inclusivity, Stay Away from Personality Assessments/Do personality tests like the Myers-Briggs help managers learn their team’s working styles, or just encourage them to hire and promote people like them?" (NYT).


After writing the last post and creating a new tag "littering," I launched into the enterprise of adding the tag retrospectively, through the whole 15-year archive of this blog. Soon enough, I saw I was creating a parallel tag. There already was a tag "litter," so I had to work to get rid of the new tag.

I don't want my blog littered with duplicative tags. So the tag — the good old tag — is "litter."

I hadn't used it consistently, since I'd forgotten I had it. Just now, I added it to a few old things, including that post about Professor Amy Wax 2 days ago, which included The New Yorker's paraphrase of her saying "that white people litter less than people of color."

What Wax actually said was that French children "wouldn’t dream of creating a ruckus, just like they wouldn’t dream of littering." Then the New Yorker interviewer, Isaac Chotiner, prodded her with the question "So white French kids wouldn’t dream of littering, you mean?" She answered in an indirect way that reinforced her position that she's talking about culture:
Well, certainly, in Germany, I don’t think they would. I’ve seen them being upbraided on the street for doing that by other people. I just think there are differences in behavior that track culture, that track nationality. They’re not perfect. There’s a range. If you want to deny that they exist, you know.... [Laughs.]
She didn't agree with the absurd idea that the tendency to litter is inborn and race-based! I remember back in the 1950s, I saw litter all along the roadways where I lived (in Delaware, amongst white people). I felt really bad about it, and it seemed hopeless. But Americans decided to turn things around and we did. And look at England. The American humorist David Sedaris frequently writes about his public-service work picking up litter near his home in England.

From "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls":
I find a half-empty box of doughnuts and imagine it flung from the dimpled hand of a dieter, wailing, “Get this away from me.” Perhaps the jumbo beer cans and empty bottles of booze are tossed for a similar reason. It’s about denial, I tell myself, or, no, it’s about anger, for isn’t every piece of litter a way of saying “fuck you”?
So click on the "litter" tag. There's some good stuff in there, including litter at the Wisconsin protests (and discussion of the folk belief that left wingers litter and right wingers leave a place cleaner than they found it), litter on Mount Everest, the old Arlo Guthrie song line "What were you arrested for?," the "Garden Spicer" project, and the concept of "hipster litter."

The etymology of "litter" is bed-related. "Lit" is the French word for bed. It's from a bed that you get to the sort of "litter" that you carry a person on...
... and the idea of a "litter" of animals. Picture the scraps of plant material that would be the animals' bed.

From there you get the plant "litter" — the bits of fallen leaves you can use as mulch or that might be involved in Finnish forest-raking. Once you see that, it's easy to see how "litter" became "Odds and ends, fragments and leavings lying about, rubbish; a state of confusion or untidiness; a disorderly accumulation of things lying about" (OED). That meaning emerged in the 18th century.

The verb "litter" begins with the idea of making a bed for an animal. By the 18th century, it could also mean "To cover as with litter, to strew with objects scattered in disorder." The oldest use with that meaning comes from Jonathan Swift in 1726:  "They found, The Room with Volumes litter'd round." Later, there's Charles Dickens, also talking about written material as litter: "A dingy room lined with books and littered with papers" ("A Tale of Two Cities, 1859). Indoor litter. Clutter. And, notably, books.

Today's digression got started with the discussion (in the previous post) of a comics artist depositing tiny scraps of writing around town. So I've cycled 'round to where I began. Literary litter. And oh, the scraps of writing I've strewn on this blog for 15 years! But there's no paper, no substance at all. Am I littering? Am I literary?

And no, "litter" and "literature" do not share an etymology. The "lit" in literature comes from a line that had another "t." The French is "littérature." It's not like the French "lit" for bed. Think of "letter."

Now, get moving...

"Gharib often forces herself to make a zine in five minutes, and she used that same approach when creating chapters for her book."

“The challenge and the beauty of the [comics and zines] format is practicing extreme restraint,” she said. “I had to condense down what I was trying to say in a set of words and meaningful images.'... You’re busy. We get it. But you can use small pockets of time to create. Gharib, for example, molded omelets and other foods out of leftover clay during work meetings. “If I don’t have any art materials and I get bored, I try to interact with whatever I have on me in the space I am in,” she said. “Sometimes I pick flowers and leave them places, or tear tiny bits of receipts or trash in my purse and write tiny messages on them and leave them around the city for people to find."

I was reading "How to Draw Yourself Out of a Creative Funk/Malaka Gharib, the author of the coming-of-age graphic memoir 'I Was Their American Dream,' shares her tips" (NYT) on my iPhone, where the Instagram images didn't display. I made a mental note to write a blog post titled something like "Littering?! The NYT endorses littering?" But this morning I'm on my desktop and I'm seeing the images and — is it just Morning Me versus Late-Night Me? — I'm presenting the Times text uncritically and clicking "Follow" at Instagram and thinking this littering is like the small category of graffiti that I'm happy to see.

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