October 19, 2019

Vegetable theater.

Another look at the dawn swamp.

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Is the glass half full or half empty?

Sunrise, as seen in the western sky this morning.

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The iPhone camera doesn't freak out the way it does looking straight into the east. This is a good metaphor for life. Don't forget to look west when the sun is rising in the east. Maybe the subtlety of reflected light is more your style. Another thing about sunrises — and I've been witnessing a lot of sunrises lately — is that it's not really the sun rising that you're looking for. And this, too, is a good metaphor for life. It's the clouds. The sun rising into a cloudless sky is simple and nice enough, but the interesting, dramatic sunrises are the ones with clouds. And the best part will probably be 10 or 15 minutes before sunrise. So don't focus too much on what everyone seems to think are the peaks in life. It may be better with clouds and better before the sun (or after the sun, to use a sunset metaphor) or turning your back on the sun and gazing the other way.

"Nice roll!"

If violence by women is not taken seriously, then women are not taken seriously. Look at this inept contribution to the subordination of women.

I don't think you could do this today... but here's a fantastic episode on "Candid Camera" (with Woody Allen).

The "victim" is so good, I had to wonder if we were not being tricked, and she was a brilliant comic actress in on the whole thing:



Anyway... I don't think I trick like that would be done for a mainstream audience today, because of our sensitivity about sexual harassment.

Pre-dawn, Lake Mendota...



The water level is still high, and the shore looked swampy.

ADDED: I took the video with the same iPhone that gave me this still a few seconds later:

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I didn't tweak the color. This huge difference is straight out of the iPhone.

Which is more like what I saw with my own eyes? The video, I think.

Paying attention is a subject I've been paying attention to for a long time.

Click my "paying attention" tag to see. There are almost 100 posts. I think a lot about the nature of paying attention, and I pay attention to my own paying of attention and analyze it. And, really, this blog is an archive of my paying of attention, because I only blog about what has caught and sustained my attention long enough to post about it. I've seized the freedom to live out my attention-paying in front of the world. You can see what catches me and what does not. I usually won't watch the news on television because I fixate on the visual and the emotional. All the facial expressions and gestures and styles and makeup! I love pausing and talking about it. In the old days, I used to pause it and draw the news characters (and then just grab some absurd snippet of what they were saying to put in a speech balloon).

Anyway... this morning, I'm reading "Why Aren’t We Curious About the Things We Want to Be Curious About?/You’ve been clickbaited by your own brain" by the psychologist Daniel T. Willingham. I resist the subtitle. I think it's a positive thing that you can't force your brain to pay attention. It's a free spirit. It rebels, and it should, and you'd be a ghastly bore if it didn't.

But I don't to be a complete Unwillingegg. Let's give Willingham a chacnce:

"Then there was a voice, unmistakably that of The Beach Boys’ mastermind, singing the chorus of ‘Your Song’: ‘I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind.'"

"We said hello. He stared at us and nodded. Then he sang the chorus of ‘Your Song’ again. He said we should come upstairs and meet his kids. It turned out that his kids were asleep in bed. He woke them up. ‘This is Elton John!’ he enthused. His daughters looked understandably baffled. He sang the chorus of ‘Your Song’ to them: ‘I hope you don’t mind, I hope you don’t mind’. Then he sang the chorus of ‘Your Song’ to us again. By now, the novelty of hearing the chorus of ‘Your Song’ sung to me by one of pop history’s true geniuses was beginning to wear a little thin. I was struck by the sinking feeling that we were in for quite a long and trying evening. I turned to Bernie and a certain look passed between us, that somehow managed to combine fear, confusion and the fact that we were both desperately trying not to laugh at the absolute preposterousness of the situation we found ourselves in, a look that said: what the fuck is happening?"

When Elton John met Brian Wilson, described by Elton John in "Me: Elton John Official Autobiography."



I'm picturing Brian Wilson singing "I hope you don't mind, I hope you don't mind" — just those words — on and on, a hundred times, and Elton John did mind, but he couldn't say so. Did he ever question the meaning of the song and begin to think the "you" to whom the song is addressed really would mind? I've heard the song hundreds of times, and I've never until now had the thought that "you" would hear the song and say, I actually do mind.

Acting presidential.

From "Trump’s Message: His Critics Are the Crazy Ones" by Amy Davidson Sorkin (The New Yorker):
“Being Presidential is easy,” Donald Trump, who seems, in fact, to find it very hard, said to the crowd at a rally for his reëlection campaign in Dallas on Thursday night. “All you have to do is act like a stiff—look!” Trump stepped to the side of the rostrum, buttoned his suit jacket, and, like a mannequin in motion, returned to the microphone. Adopting a theatrically stentorian tone, he said, “Ladies and gentlemen of Texas, it is a great honor to be with you this evening.” The ladies and gentlemen in the crowd cheered. Trump continued, in his own self-amazed voice, “And the media would love it! And everybody would be out of here so fast—you wouldn’t have come out here tonight, when it gets right down to it.”...

The day of the Dallas rally, Vice-President Mike Pence had met with Erdoğan; in the video of the meeting, Pence’s posture and expression are, as it happens, much like those in Trump’s imitation of political seriousness.
But you won't be surprised to learn that Pence's presidential style is bad too:
That is not to say that Pence actually comes across as Presidential; he, too, appears to be playing a role that is beyond his abilities to truly inhabit....
Apparently, being presidential is not easy...  not when you're a Republican, anyway, and when the media are describing you. Then, you're always a bad actor in the "acting presidential" game.

"There were dead bodies all over the place. There was one skeleton sticking out of the snow. And somehow I knew that was my father."

"I don’t know exactly how we communicated because I didn’t see anyone alive but I heard his voice. He came to me and I asked him a very important question, which was: 'why didn’t you say goodbye?' He said, he thought he could get out of it, and be back the same day, so why wake up little George? I asked a second question: 'Did you love me?'... I asked a second question: ‘Did you love me?'; [He pointed at the skeleton sticking out of the snow. The skeleton’s mouth hung open.] 'That’s my last breath. And with my last breath, I blessed you and I promised to guard you all your life.'... It changed my life completely."

From "Taking Ayahuasca When You’re a Senior Citizen/Some older adults are dabbling in this powerful psychedelic, which is mostly illegal in the United States" (NYT).

"So there is not the least bit of concern for what goes into the baby's body when being nursed by a man who has been pumped full of hormones?"

"It's now just another frontier of 'equality' to ensure that men can breast feed? I am appalled at the narcissism at the heart of this experiment, as well as the contortions that trans people put everyone else through in order to accommodate their feelings (non-gendered bathrooms, reinventing pronouns, etc.)."

A top-rated comment at "Are We Ready for the Breastfeeding Father?/He has intrigued and disgusted for millenniums. He has also remained largely hypothetical, until now" (NYT). The article features an illustration of hairy chested man breastfeeding a baby. Hair in the baby's food!

The article reports on...
... a peer-reviewed case report confirmed that a transgender woman, assigned male at birth, [who] was able to breastfeed her child after she was put on a regimen of hormonal drugs..... Before the treatment, the patient had been receiving feminizing hormones for six years. We don’t know how long it would take for a cis man to induce functional lactation. But “we have a pretty good idea of the types of hormone cocktails that would be needed,” said Tamar Reisman, an endocrinologist with the Mount Sinai Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery and one of the two authors of the case report....

“I just thought, ‘How cool if it would work!’” Mr. Bengtsson said. “Just imagine the extraordinary consequences it could have for our society.”
The article collects some interesting material on the subject of tales of men who were able to breastfeed (without any servings of "hormone cocktails"), not that you'll believe they were true:

"So if the class is reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and the teacher is reading the book out loud and it gets to the part where the N-word is, the teacher gets fired?"

"It has nothing to do with context, but it has everything to do with the actual word," said Marlon Anderson, quoted in "School Security Assistant Fired for Repeating Racial Slur Aimed at Him/Marlon Anderson told the student to stop referring to him by a racial epithet, which officials at a Wisconsin high school said violated a zero-tolerance policy on offensive language," a Madison, Wisconsin story reported in The New York Times,

Anderson said "n-word" when posing his question, but elsewhere in the article The New York Times spells it out.

Here's the statement from the school board president, Gloria Reyes: "We’ve taken a tough stance on racial slurs, and we believe that language has no place in schools. We have also heard from the community about the complexity involved — and our duty to examine it. As a board, we plan to review our approach, the underlying policies, and examine them with a racial equity lens understanding that universal policies can often deepen inequities. We will ask the community for help in that process. I have requested that this item be placed on our board agenda as soon as possible."

The NYT doesn't print the whole text of Reyes's statement, so I was surprised when I saw this additional material at the University of Wisconsin student newspaper (The Cardinal):
Although Reyes agrees with the district’s decision to follow protocol and use “best-practices” to remove Anderson, she sees this incident as an opportunity for the board to look more closely at the implications of existing policies, especially regarding cultural context.

“It is different when a white person says this term than an African American,” Reyes said. “This is an opportunity to move forward aggressively on what's the best way to deal with this.”
How can you have a policy that varies according to the race of the speaker?! It may be well understood in American society that black people have a special privilege to use this particular word, but the school is a government workplace. Picture the lawsuit from the white teacher who gets fired for reading that "To Kill a Mockingbird" passage out loud.

Also from The Cardinal:
Students who protested explained they did not necessarily want to abolish the zero-tolerance policy regarding the use of racial slurs on campus, but rather add steps to it, allowing the administration to look at all parts of a situation before making a final decision.
It's not zero tolerance if you add steps to it!

Elsewhere — "Wisconsin students walk out to protest racial slur firing" (WaPo) — I'm seeing that the high school students who protested were chanting "Hey-hey, hey-ho, zero tolerance has got to go!"

Here's an idea: Teach everyone, including the students, about the "use/mention distinction" and have the consequence for violating the zero tolerance policy depend on whether it was a use or a mention. You could still outlaw the word in the workplace, but make the penalty for mentioning it minimal.

October 18, 2019

"Hillary Clinton has warned that Russia, which interfered in the US election she lost in 2016, is 'grooming' a Democratic candidate for a third-party run next year..."

"... signalling congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard could fill the role. The goal of this would essentially be to divide the US electorate and help President Donald Trump win re-election, Clinton said. 'I'm not making any predictions but I think they've got their eye on somebody who's currently in the Democratic primary, and they're grooming her to be the third-party candidate,' the former secretary of state told David Plouffe in his 'Campaign HQ' podcast. 'She's the favorite of the Russians. They have a bunch of sites and bots and other ways of supporting her so far.'"

Yahoo News reports.

Is she just making this up? She thinks the Russians have a favorite and they have "ways of supporting her"? They have ways of supporting her but are they using these ways? The "so far" at the end insinuates that they are already using these ways, but maybe it only means that so far they have ways and of course they have "sites and bots" and Hillary "thinks" they can use them and if they did, they'd use them for Tulsi. If Trump came out with a theory like this, he'd be portrayed as a conspiracy-theory lunatic.

ADDED: Tulsi responds:

Cher offers to pay the legal expenses of that West High School security guard who got fired for saying the n-word in the context of telling a student not to call him that.



We talked about the controversy yesterday, here.

"It’s been … suggested that Turkey may have called America’s bluff, telling the president they are coming no matter what we did."

"If that’s so, we should know it. For it would tell us a great deal about how we should deal with Turkey, now and in the future.... Are we so weak and inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United States of America? Turkey!?... I believe that it’s imperative that public hearings are held to answer these questions, and I hope the Senate is able to conduct those hearings next week."

Said Mitt Romney, quoted in "Sen. Mitt Romney raises a troubling theory about Trump and Turkey" (WaPo).

If that’s so, we should know it... Is that so? How can we know it? Romney is talking about reading Erdogan's mind in the past. But, whatever... more hearings! I wonder why. I can't help thinking that the reason for more hearings is to keep up the pressure on Trump and to undermine him to the maximum extent possible. Trump's decision already happened, and maybe it was less good than something else that might have been done, but what's the best way to move forward? Is it making Trump look as "weak and inept" as possible?

ADDED: Here's Trump falling for another con:



UPDATE, 6:36 PM: Trump tweeted this within the last hour:

"Without ambitious projects to fill space... there is often a void that makes some of the bigger questions hard to avoid."

"The things you neglected are no longer drowned out by noise; they are the signal. It’s like facing the Ghost of Christmas Past."

Says a "life-hacking author and podcast star" named Tim Ferriss, quoted in "Why Don’t Rich People Just Stop Working?/Are the wealthy addicted to money, competition, or just feeling important? Yes" (NYT).

"To read in the service of any ideology is not, in my judgment, to read at all."

"The reception of aesthetic power enables us to learn how to talk to ourselves and how to endure ourselves. The true use of Shakespeare or of Cervantes, of Homer or of Dante, of Chaucer or of Rabelais, is to augment one’s own growing inner self. Reading deeply in the Canon will not make one a better or a worse person, a more useful or more harmful citizen. The mind’s dialogue with itself is not primarily a social reality. All that the Western Canon can bring one is the proper use of one’s own solitude, that solitude whose final form is one’s confrontation with one’s own mortality. We possess the Canon because we are mortal and also rather belated. There is only so much time, and time must have a stop, while there is more to read than there ever was before. From the Yahwist and Homer to Freud, Kafka, and Beckett is a journey of nearly three millennia. Since that voyage goes past harbors as infinite as Dante, Chaucer, Montaigne, Shakespeare, and Tolstoy, all of whom amply compensate a lifetime’s rereadings, we are in the pragmatic dilemma of excluding something else each time we read or reread extensively. One ancient test for the canonical remains fiercely valid: unless it demands rereading, the work does not qualify. The inevitable analogue is the erotic one. If you are Don Giovanni and Leporello keeps the list, one brief encounter will suffice."

From Harold Bloom, "The Western Canon" (which I'm reading on the occasion of Bloom's death).

Looking up the Amazon link for that, I came across "The White Man's Guide to White Male Writers of the Western Canon" (publication date November 5, 2019). That's by Dana Schwartz (a female "arts and culture" writer). From the description:
From Shakespeare's greatest mystery (how could a working-class man without access to an MFA program be so prolific?) to the true meaning of Kafkaesque (you know you've made it when you have an adjective named for you), the pages herewith are at once profound and practical. Use my ingenious Venn diagram to test your knowledge of which Jonathan—Franzen, Lethem, or Safran Foer—hates Twitter and lives in Brooklyn. (Trick question: all 3!) Sneer at chick-lit and drink Mojitos like Hemingway (not like middle-aged divorcées!).

He's going straight for the children.

The marmot lives forever.

His terror at the moment he sees his death becomes frozen-in-time slapstick comedy and the human with a camera wins 2019 Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

"I was very much afraid to sign... It said there that if I did not fulfill my task, or if I did not obey the rules, I would get the death penalty."

"The document stated that it was forbidden to speak with the prisoners, forbidden to laugh, forbidden to cry and forbidden to answer questions from anyone. I signed because I had no choice, and then I received a uniform and was taken to a tiny bedroom with a concrete bed and a thin plastic mattress. There were five cameras on the ceiling – one in each corner and another one in the middle. [For less privileged inmates:] There were almost 20 people in a room of 16 square meters [172 sq. ft.]... There were cameras in their rooms, too, and also in the corridor. Each room had a plastic bucket for a toilet. Every prisoner was given two minutes a day to use the toilet, and the bucket was emptied only once a day. If it filled up, you had to wait until the next day. The prisoners wore uniforms and their heads were shaved. Their hands and feet were shackled all day, except when they had to write. Even in sleep they were shackled, and they were required to sleep on their right side – anyone who turned over was punished."

From "A Million People Are Jailed at China's Gulags. I Managed to Escape. Here's What Really Goes on Inside/Rape, torture and human experiments. Sayragul Sauytbay offers firsthand testimony from a Xinjiang 'reeducation' camp" (Haaretz). There are much worse things in that article than what I've excerpted.

"I hate the news right now. Everyone seems to think the thing to talk about is Donald Trump, which strikes me as profoundly stupid."

"I watched 5-and-a-half Sunday morning talk shows yesterday, and I heard the same thing over and over. Trump has lost some unregainable portion of the women. He can never get them back, but he could never have won anyway, and really what he is is America's expression of anger. We're an angry, angry America, and this lout is, apparently, an embodiment of our collective id."

That's something I wrote on August 10, 2015. I'm encountering it now because I clicked on the "sunrise" tag in the previous post. I wanted to compare my sunrise photographs. I was stunned to see a post — "Dawn walk thoughts" — with exactly the theme that had arisen on the blog this morning, there plain as day 4 years ago.

The old post is a list of 6 "dawn walk thoughts," and what's quoted above was #3.

Sunrise, October 18th.

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I clicked on "I watched the debate with suburban white women from a key swing district. It got heated when they talked Warren" at WaPo...



... and I got:



I'll take the rainbow!

In the middle of nowhere.

The perfect example of the kind of headline I don't click on anymore: "The gravitational pull of Donald Trump’s downward spiral."

I'm not even making a link for that. It doesn't matter. Headlines like that seem to be all over the place this morning. I just assume there's nothing there, that it's the morning pablum for Trump haters.

None for me, thanks. I could elongate this post with other headlines of that type, but it's too boring. The gravitational pull of Donald Trump’s downward spiral will have to stand in for them all.

There is something intriguing about it. It feels bland and predictable — I called it "pablum" — but it's trying so hard to express anxiety and dramatic action. That brings out the cruel neutrality in me.

ADDED: "The gravitational pull of Donald Trump’s downward spiral" made me think of "The world line of a deep space tube sock."

AND: Here's another headline this morning: "Trump's unmatched sleaze: Grifters, women, trampling Constitution and now G-7 at Doral." Sorry. No. I'm not doing that. I'm not doing DORAL!! And I'm not doing MULVANEY!!! That's hitting me as the jibber-jabber of fake news. If it's real news, they blew their chance. It's too late to DORAL!! me.

Trump may have a gravitational pull for some of you, but I choose to live my life as a free citizen, not helplessly orbiting Trump.



ALSO: Here's a beauty: "3 Art Experts Analyze That Historic Nancy Pelosi vs. Donald Trump Photo."

"Not so long ago, the big, ambitious social novel, the novel that wanted to tell us about 'the way we live now' or 'the state of the nation'..."

"... enjoyed a prestige and cultural centrality that, in recent years, have come to seem distinctly suspect. Looking increasingly through the lens of identity, some critics have begun to see the universalizing impulse behind such books — their belief in their ability to write across differences of race and class and gender — as presumptuous if not outright aggressive, a kind of epistemological gate-crashing (especially when the author is a well-off white man). One result of this development is that readers have become skeptical when a novel about, say, a white Midwestern family bills itself, and is celebrated as, a novel about America at large. Another result is a spike in books of radical imaginative humility, in which a first-person narrator — usually a more or less transparent proxy for the author — disavows altogether the power to represent the wider world or inhabit the hearts and minds of others. Instead, these novels... center on a richly turbulent subjectivity, a welcome corrective to manly bloat and overreach."

From "To Decode White Male Rage, First He Had to Write in His Mother’s Voice/How Ben Lerner reinvented the social novel for a hyper-self-obsessed age" a book review by Giles Harvey (NYT).

The top-rated comment over there is this, from someone named Craig:
Reading this, I thought I might learn something about white male rage in the era of Trump. Instead, we get a blathering biographical narrative that wanders all around like an unguided missile, starting with a boy who wraps his genitals in chewing gum. Clearly an emotionally disturbed child, who becomes an emotionally disturbed adult, but - how does this weirdly tortured individual saga elucidate the rise of white male rage? What did I miss?
Hmm. He sounds angry.

The novel under review is "The Topeka School," and there's your Amazon link.

October 17, 2019

"Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday agreed to a deal with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that accepted a Turkish military presence in a broad part of northern Syria in exchange for the promise of a five-day cease-fire..."

"... completing an abrupt reversal of American policy in the Syrian conflict. Emerging from close to five hours of talks after a hastily arranged trip to Ankara, the Turkish capital, Mr. Pence hailed the agreement as a diplomatic victory for President Trump, calling it a 'solution we believe will save lives.' The agreement 'ends the violence — which is what President Trump sent us here to do,' Mr. Pence said at a news conference at the ambassador’s residence. Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, immediately contradicted the description of the agreement, saying it was not a cease-fire at all, but merely a 'pause for our operation.' He added that 'as a result of our president’s skillful leadership, we got what we wanted.'"

The NYT reports the deal U.S. reached with Turkey.

Of course, Trump's critics will not stand down or give him any credit for doing anything right, so I like Trump's approach:



He's acting like everyone supported him and congratulating everyone. This gets my "nice Trump" tag.

"People worry, and I worry deeply, too, about an erosion of truth. At the same time, I don’t think people want to live in a world where you can only say things that tech companies decide are 100 percent true. And I think that those tensions are something we have to live with."

Said Mark Zuckerberg, quoted in "Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says in interview he fears 'erosion of truth' but defends allowing politicians to lie in ads" (WaPo).

"Living in a state of enquiry, neutrality and uncertainty, beyond dogma and grand conviction, is good for the business of songwriting, and for my life in general."

"This is the reason I tend to become uncomfortable around all ideologies that brand themselves as 'the truth' or 'the way.'... This not only includes most religions, but also atheism, radical bi-partisan politics or any system of thought, including 'woke' culture, that finds its energy in self-righteous belief and the suppression of contrary systems of thought. Regardless of the virtuous intentions of many woke issues, it is its lack of humility and the paternalistic and doctrinal sureness of its claims that repel me.... [M]y duty as a songwriter is not to try to save the world, but rather to save the soul of the world. This requires me to live my life on the other side of truth, beyond conviction and within uncertainty, where things make less sense, absurdity is a virtue and art rages and burns; where dogma is anathema, discourse is essential, doubt is an energy, magical thinking is not a crime and where possibility and potentiality rule."

So said the songwriter Nick Cave, responding to a fan who wanted to know if he thinks of himself as "woke" (reported at Consequence of Sound).

ADDED: That phrase! "where... absurdity is a virtue and art rages and burns." I saw it in 1993 in Amsterdam, when I traveled with a fountain pen and a notebook:

Amsterdam Notebook

That's a detail from this larger page:

Amsterdam Notebook

"... this kind of stuff is just a really horrible look for you guys. frankly, it’s whiteness manifest..."

So wrote an aide to Kamala Harris, Mediaite reports, after a Buzzfeed reporter named Katherine Miller tweeted:
Hard to know if last night harmed or helped Warren, but think all can come together and agree a debate highlight was Warren telling Kamala Harris no about banning Trump from Twitter then just continuing with her point in the manner of shrugging off a Greenpeace clipboard person.
The Kamala Harris aide reacted to that by texting this to BuzzFeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith:
hey i have talked to her directly a few times when she’s tweeted out stuff like this, and i told her i was glad she deleted this tweet, but this kind of stuff is just a really horrible look for you guys. frankly, it’s whiteness manifest. if kamala shrugged off a warren critique of how she wasn’t with her on Facebook, we’d get raked and she would get lauded as taking on corporate power. the blithe mockery here of kamala, while lauding warren’s style, is just not up to par. i say this to you just to be super frank and because i really like your guys’ work, the platform, and your reporters. we work well together across the board. but this is a bit problematic.
Smith replied:
Do you seriously not have real problems? This text makes me think you are totally, totally unready for an actual presidential campaign.
And I guess that aide wasn't ready to see the text made public.

frankly, it’s whiteness manifest... What a phrase! I could see using it jocosely, but not by someone running for president.

"A black security guard at West High School said he was defending himself from a student who called him the N-word last week, repeating the word as he told the student not to use the slur..."

"... which led to his termination Wednesday. Marlon Anderson said he no longer works for the Madison School District after 11 years because of his response to a disruptive student calling him a 'flurry' of variations of the N-word. But Madison School District officials say there is a zero-tolerance approach to employees using racial slurs. 'I just don’t understand getting fired for trying to defend yourself,' Anderson, 48, said.... 'As a black man, I have a right not to be called that word.'... 'As you know, our expectation when it comes to racial slurs has been very clear,' [West High Principal Karen] Boran said. 'Regardless of context or circumstance, racial slurs are not acceptable in our schools.'... During his time at East and West, Anderson said he’s been called the slur by students 'many times,' and it’s resulted in 'restorative conversations' where he explains the history, context and meaning of the slur. Even if he hears students using the N-word in casual conversations with friends, Anderson said he’ll intervene to try and get them to stop, telling them: 'Don’t look at yourself like that. You are not that word.' Boran said the zero-tolerance approach on the use of racial slurs 'has been applied consistently and will continue to be applied consistently.'"

Madison's Capital Times reports.

And that's zero tolerance for you!

"Donald Trump's mixture of threats and locker-room banter infuriated Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan."

"His staff told the BBC that he threw the letter into the bin and launched the Syrian operation the same day. That could be proof there was no Trumpian green light. But ever since President Obama partnered up with the Syrian Kurds of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) against the jihadists of IS it was clear the arrangement would lead to problems with the Turks. That's because the SDF is very close to the Turkish Kurds of the PKK. Turkey says they are two halves of the same terror group. Presidents Erdogan and Trump discussed military action last December. Diplomatic sources here in Ankara suggest that Turkey's broader strategic objective was to detach the Kurds and the Americans. That, at any rate, has happened...."

BBC reports.

"Pointing is a gesture specifying a direction from a person's body, usually indicating a location, person, event, thing or idea...."

"Types of pointing may be subdivided according to the intention of the person, as well as by the linguistic function it serves. Pointing typically develops within the first two years of life in humans, and plays an important role in language development and reading in children..... The nature of pointing may differ for children who have autism or who are deaf, and may also vary by gender... Types of pointing are traditionally further divided by purpose, between imperative and declarative pointing. Imperative pointing is pointing to make a request for an object, while declarative pointing is pointing to declare, to comment on an object.... Types of communicative pointing may be divided by linguistic function into three main groups: Objective pointing - pointing to an object within the visual field of both the pointer and the receiver, such as pointing to a chair which is physically present; Syntactic or anaphoric pointing - pointing to linguistic entities or expressions previously identified, such as pointing to the chair which is not physically present; Imaginative pointing - pointing to things that exist in the imagination, such as pointing to a fictional or remembered chair...."

I'm reading the Wikipedia article "Pointing" a propos of Nancy Pelosi's pointing at Trump (as seen in my post "Political theater" earlier this morning).

Unfortunately, the Wikipedia article did not have what I'd hoped for, something that's often in a Wikipedia article, a history section. I had a feeling that there were famous examples of pointing, perhaps in painting. Googling didn't help. The first thing that came up was Michelangelo's painting of God creating Adam, and that's not really pointing, is it?!



I do have in my memory the final moments of Act I of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible," as performed here in Madison many years ago. The drama spiraled up until many girls were suddenly all pointing at the character accused of witchcraft and then the lights blacked out. Chills! Intermission. I don't have video of that, but from the text:
ABIGAIL: I want to open myself!... I want the light of God, I want the sweet love of Jesus! I danced for the Devil; I saw him; I wrote in his book; I go back to Jesus; I kiss His hand. I saw Sarah Good with the Devil! I saw Goody Osburn with the Devil! I saw Bridget Bishop with the Devil!...

Sunrise, October 17...

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The morning playlist continues:

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Political theater.



"Trump Is a Bad President. He’s an Even Worse Entertainer" — NYT headline for an op-ed by the actor John Lithgow.

The piece includes a drawing of Trump by Lithgow. Trump is dressed like a Shakespearean actor playing one of the king roles. A bad actor presumably. That invites us to opine that Lithgow is a bad artist, but it's not worth it, because it's cartoon style and an illustration, not something that got hung in a high-quality museum. But the illustration critiques Trump's entertainment skill by holding him to the standard of the most lofty and serious actors. So it's tempting!

From the text:
Think of Mr. Trump preening at his beauty contests, body-slamming Vince McMahon at W.W.F. events or holding rallies that resemble the arena gigs of an insult comic. These are the antics of a showman, not a statesman....

He reads scripted lines like a panic-stricken schoolboy at a middle school assembly. He mangles every attempt at irony, self-mockery or, God forbid, an actual joke. He cravenly fills the hall for every rally with a hopped-up claque drawn from his hard-core base....
"Hopped-up claque" sounds like an unfair insult, but if you look up the words you'll see the words are precisely right.
It is dispiriting to watch the wretched excesses of Mr. ­­­Trump’s slapstick presidency and the rabid audience he commands. But there may be an upside to his crude performance art. His relentless lies, impulsive acts and gassy pronouncements have emboldened American journalists and quickened their senses.
I've got to say this prose strikes me as pretty good. I went over to Lithgow's Wikipedia page to see where he got his education:
Lithgow is descended from Mayflower passenger and colonial governor William Bradford. Because of his father's job [as a theater director], the family moved frequently during Lithgow's childhood; he spent his childhood years in Yellow Springs, Ohio, where activist Coretta Scott King babysat him and his siblings... Lithgow graduated from Princeton High School in Princeton. He attended Harvard College, and graduated with an A.B. magna cum laude in 1967, in history and literature.... After graduation, Lithgow won a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art....
Impressively elite! And Coretta Scott King is in the story.

Back to the NYT op-ed:
Everyone loves a good villain onscreen and onstage. Shakespeare himself must have especially relished writing lines for Macbeth, Iago and Richard III. But coldhearted monsters in movies and plays are the stuff of fantasy. When we’re sitting in the audience, some part of us is reassured knowing that we are watching fiction.

Reality is a lot less entertaining and a lot more frightening. There has to be a way to rein in real-life villainy in public life....
Here's another difference between a play and real life. In a play, everyone in the audience can tell who the villain is. There's a playwright, and he wrote the villain into existence.  But the real world is not so easy. Is Trump a villain? Some people think it's obvious, but plenty of people think he's a hero.  You can put them in an imaginary basket labeled "hopped-up claque," but that's the sort of thinking that got him elected. If you want to rein him in, you'll need to put in a better performance. You have to reach those people. But you're playing to the crowd that's reading the NYT and that already loathes Trump. What have you got for the groundlings?

Elijah Cummings has died.

From the NYT obituary:
Representative Elijah E. Cummings, a son of sharecroppers who rose to become one of the most powerful Democrats in Congress and a key figure in the impeachment investigation of President Trump, died on Thursday in Baltimore, his spokeswoman said. He was 68.

His death resulted from “complications concerning longstanding health challenges,” the spokeswoman, Trudy Perkins, said in a statement, without elaborating on the cause.

As chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, Mr. Cummings, of Maryland, had sweeping power to investigate Mr. Trump and his administration — and he used it.

A critical ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mr. Cummings spent his final months in Congress sparring with the president, calling Mr. Trump’s effort to block congressional lines of inquiry “far worse than Watergate.” He was sued by Mr. Trump as the president tried to keep his business records secret....

In July, after Mr. Cummings attacked President Trump for the conditions seen in immigrant detention centers on the southern border, Mr. Trump struck back, calling the congressman’s district a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

October 16, 2019

Fall colors.

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"I’m into some cool sheet, some dark stuff."



From "Ronan Farrow’s Deranged Impressions on the Catch and Kill Audiobook, Reviewed" (Slate).

I think it's great that he does the voices! Both his parents are actors. Well, I guess it does make it comical... and the topic is dead serious.

You can get the audiobook here, at Amazon.

"[Felicity] Huffman will be expected to eat breakfast from 5:30 a.m. to 6:15 a.m., lunch from 10:45 a.m. to noon, and dinner after 4 p.m. When she’s not eating, Huffman can do a variety of things..."

"... including listening to music on a pre-approved device. She’s also allowed to work on one in-unit craft project at a time. This includes cross-stitch, drawing, card making, crotchet, origami, scrapbooking and watercolor. If she wants to spend time outside, which is open to her from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Huffman can engage in a series of sports, including basketball, volleyball, track, softball, and tennis. While at the prison, Huffman will be expected to wear an inmate uniform at all times. The uniform consists of khaki pants and a coordinating blouse with a brown t-shirt underneath, with the blouse tucked in and buttoned (minus the top button) at all times."

From the People Magazine account of the actress's living conditions in the minimum security prison where she's serving a 2-week sentence.

The noun "crotchet" means "A whimsical fancy; a perverse conceit; a peculiar notion on some point (usually considered unimportant) held by an individual in opposition to common opinion" (OED). It would be funny if that were considered a craft project to recommend to prisoners.

The "kind of knitting done with a hooked needle" — which is probably what People meant — is spelled "crochet."

ADDED: The prison — the Federal Correctional Institution, Dublin — is where Patty Hearst was held for 21 months. President Jimmy Carter commuted her 7-year sentence in 1979 and Bill Clinton pardoned her in 2001. And Sara Jane Moore — who tried to assassinate Gerald Ford — spent 32 years there. Moore got a life sentence but was released on parole.

"Hello, the men. My advice on modern masculinity would be to look at all those traits you believe are feminine and interrogate why you are so obsessed with being the opposite."

"Because this idea that to be a man you have to be the furthest away from being a woman that you possibly can is really weird. Why is everyone so scared of not being masculine? If you consider many of those in power, those who claim to be 'leading' the world at the moment, you've got a lot of hypermasculine man-babies, with terrible hair and no ability to compromise."

That's Hannah Gadsby, writing in (of all places) Gentleman's Quarterly.

With that "hypermasculine man-babies, with terrible hair," she's got to mean Trump. Right? But there's no way his hair is an attempt to be "to be the furthest away from being a woman." It's daringly unmanly. And so are a lot of things about Trump. In real life, watching Trump on TV, I am often exclaiming over his womanliness. He does these theatrical little bits with voices and gestures. No way does he seemed freaked out by approximating the feminine — not that I think he's attempting to imitate a woman, just that he's not trying to stay as far away from womanishness as he can. I think that's a source of his power — the combination of male and female.

Gadsby goes on:
So here's a thought experiment: What if you, the men, looked to traditional feminine traits and tried incorporating them into your masculinity?...
See, I think Trump is already doing that experiment! Not intentionally, but intuitively.

Now, I'm remembering this: "Donald Trump Talks Like a Woman/And strange as it sounds, it might be one of the reasons he’s done as well as he has" by Julie Sedivy in Politico, back on October 25, 2016. I blogged that at the time, here. I said:

The Kurds are "not angels," Trump said.

"They fought with us. We paid a lot of money for them to fight with us, and that’s OK. They did well when they fought with us. They didn’t do so well when they didn’t fight with us.... I viewed the situation on the Turkish border with Syria to be for the United States strategically brilliant. Our soldiers are out of there. Our soldiers are totally safe. They’ve got to work it out. Maybe they can do it without fighting."

Reported at The National Post.

Video and different quotes selected at NBC News:
"If Turkey goes into Syria, that’s between Turkey and Syria," he said while speaking to reporters in the Oval Office. "It’s not between Turkey and the United States, like a lot of stupid people would like us to — would like you to believe.... If Russia wants to get involved with Syria, that's really up to them... They have a problem with Turkey, they have a problem at a border. It's not our border. We shouldn't be losing lives over it."...

"Our soldiers are not in harm's way — as they shouldn't be — as two countries fight over land that has nothing to do with us. And the Kurds are much safer right now, but the Kurds know how to fight. And, as I said, they're not angels. They're not angels, if you take a look.... By the way, everybody hates ISIS... Some were released just for effect to make it look like ‘oh jee, we gotta get back in there.'"
Trump is always telling us to "take a look." But there's no way I can look at the Kurds and see them at all, let alone see — like God — everything they do and think to judge whether they are angels. Trump is always telling us to "look" at things we can't just look at. Either he's enthralled by television and the idiotic illusion that it lets you watch what's going on in the world or he really means I'm telling you what you would see if you could look.

"Mark Sanford kicked off his presidential campaign against Donald Trump in Philly. One person showed up."

Headline at The Philadelphia Inquirer. The reporter was the only person.
“Nobody knows me in Philadelphia. I get it,” Sanford said. “I think in life we all do what we can do, what’s within our power to have an effect. So we’re just sort of moving along as we go along.”
ADDED: This made me think of Pat Paulson.


Pat Paulsen For President from The Hammer Works on Vimeo.

"Dutch police found a father and six adult children hidden in the basement of a remote farmhouse where they had reportedly spent years 'waiting for the end of time'..."

"Local media said the family were found after one of the sons went to a nearby pub in a confused state, drank five beers and then asked for help, saying he had not been outside for nine years... Some of those freed 'had no idea that other people existed,' the station added.... '[The son who went to the pub] said he'd never been to school and seemed very confused. He spoke in a childish way,' said [the bar owner].... Upon investigation police discovered a hidden staircase behind a cupboard leading to a cellar where a man said to be the family's father and five others, believed to be his children, were hiding.... The family had no contact with the outside world and were completely self-reliant with a vegetable garden and a goat...."

Yahoo News reports.

Top rated comments:
I find the "drank 5 beers" part of this story a bit strange. If he hadn't been outside in 9 years, where did he get the money to pay for the beer? Did he get drunk? 5 beers would put me under the table since I don't drink. I would think the same would be for him, unless the father gave the kids beer while locked up in the basement. Lots of unanswered questions.
And:
They weren't in the basement the whole time. They were farming that land above ground. They tended to the goat above ground. It would be more accurate (but less sensational) to say they pretty much stayed on their property for 9 years.
And (my favorite):
I have been just living my life and driving to work and paying my bills and watching TV and, of course, spending way too much time on Yahoo and......waiting for the end of time. What else you going to do?
Yeah, isn't that an Elvis Constello song?


The man from the television crawled into the train
I wonder who he's going to stick it in this time?
Everyone was looking for a little entertainment
So they'll probably pull his hands off
When they find out his name
And then they shut down the power all along the line
And we got stuck in the tunnel where no lights shine
They got to touching all the girls who were too scared to call out
Nobody was saying anything at all
We were waiting for the end of the world
Waiting for the end of the world
Waiting for the end of the world
Dear Lord, I sincerely hope you're coming
'Cause you really started something...

"Turkey rebuffed U.S. calls for a cease-fire in northeastern Syria as it pressed ahead Wednesday with an offensive targeting Syrian Kurdish militants and demanded that the fighters lay down their arms...."

"Turkey launched the offensive last week to rout Kurdish-led forces it says pose a threat to Turkish national security. Erdogan rejected a U.S. offer to broker a truce, saying in a speech before parliament Wednesday that Turkey had 'never in its history sat down at a table with terrorist groups.' Turkish officials view Syrian Kurdish forces as terrorists for their links to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged a decades-long war for autonomy in Turkey. 'We are not looking for a mediator for that,' Erdogan said of talks with Kurdish fighters. He said Turkey and allied Syrian rebels plan to forge ahead to establish a buffer zone some 20 miles into Syria. 'Nobody can stop us,' he said.... 'He needs to stop the incursion into Syria,' [Secretary of State Mike] Pompeo said of the Turkish president. 'We need a cease-fire, at which point we can begin to put this all back together again.'"

WaPo reports.

ADDED: "Turkey-Kurd Conflict ‘Has Nothing to Do With Us,’ Trump Says." The NYT reports.

"You would think there is NO WAY that any of the Democrat Candidates that we witnessed last night could possibly become President of the United States. Now you see why they have no choice but to push a totally illegal & absurd Impeachment of one of the most successful Presidents!"

Tweeted Trump this morning.

Meade texted me that, and I said:
very funny. so true
and yet that's how most people felt about him in 2016
Meade responded:
Contrast: no one is now saying—well if Biden somehow does get elected, we’ll just impeach him

Nightmare.

"Thomas Chatterton Williams is the son of a black father and a white mother, but grew up identifying as black on the basis that even one drop of black blood..."

"... defines a person as belonging to that often besieged minority. His father claimed that his mother was a black woman at heart, and brought up his son to oppose the implicit racism of passing, though Williams has a complexion more tanned than sub-Saharan, and is often mistaken for an Arab in France, where he lives. Williams married a white woman and both their children were born with blond hair and blue eyes. Are they, too, black by the one-drop rule? In questioning their determinative race, he has plumbed not only his own but also the complexity of racial identity for people outside the prevalent white/nonwhite binary.... Williams’s solution to the 'invented category of blackness' is to cast it off. He speaks of a 'racial injury,' then explains, 'I can think of no better start than rejecting the very logic that created and perpetuates the injury in the first place.' He is ready to retire from race, 'stepping out of that flawed and cruel game.'... Some readers will find his rhetoric perfidious and reactionary, with its dismissal of identity politics and the concomitant particulars of the African-American experience. But he is so honest and fresh in his observations, so skillful at blending his own story with larger principles, that it is hard not to admire him...."

From "How Moving to France and Having Children Led a Black American to Rethink Race" a review, in the NYT, of the book "SELF-PORTRAIT IN BLACK AND WHITE/Unlearning Race."

"I'm going to leave that to best thoughts of the Speaker who I think is brilliant in the way that she conducts herself and does it in a way that appreciates that this is about..."

"... the very integrity of our system of justice and our democracy and that this must be conducted in a way that is not about political benefit but is about what is in the best interest of the integrity of our system which has been compromised because of Donald Trump and his administration."

On MSBC this morning, Kamala Harris was asked a perfectly cogent, significant question that deserved an answer — should the House hold a vote on whether to conduct an impeachment inquiry (rather than to continue its unvoted-for inquiry). After freezing for a while, she comes out with the long sentence transcribed above:



Kamala Harris seems to lack any instinct for leadership. Please note the pinched smile that appears on her face when she gets to her safe island — "the very integrity of our system of justice." I think she knows she's giving us nothing and the smile seems to say, there, I think I'm getting away with this. I've made it to the familiar incantation — "the very integrity of our system of justice and our democracy." She keeps rambling on and says "the integrity of our system" again.

Doesn't the integrity of our system require a vote of the House? That's the question. Is the answer that the "best interest of the integrity of the system" is just something "to leave to best thoughts of the Speaker"? Nancy Pelosi is "brilliant," so whatever she does is the answer as far as Kamala Harris is concerned?! You don't get to integrity by repeating the word "integrity." And you don't show leadership by having no answer other than whatever is in "best thoughts" of the Speaker.

And if you're questioning whether I left out the word "the" in "I'm going to leave that to best thoughts of the Speaker," I did not. Harris's initial response to the question was frozen silence, and she thawed out enough to get some words out but not to say the "the." She loosens up as she goes, as the smile reflects.

Morning playlist.

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"He’s old, but he looked energetic and spoke clearly. He made a few errors — who’s 'clipping coupons' in 'the stock market?' But in general..."

"... he was forceful and seemed knowledgeable. In particular, he nailed Sen. Elizabeth Warren on how her health care plan would increase taxes on the middle class. And he was surprisingly sensible in dismissing 'court-packing' schemes. His final remarks were a bit over the top, but after three hours I’d probably have been raving, too."

Writes Glenn Reynolds, declaring Joe Biden one of the "winners" of last night's debate (in USA Today).

A low bar for "surprisingly sensible"!

ADDED: Here's the transcript of the Court-packing part:

"Kamala Harris Tries and Fails to Make a Trump Twitter Ban an Important Election Issue/Harris repeatedly urged Warren to join her calls for Trump to be de-platformed, only to be met with a blunt response: 'No.'"

Headline at The Daily Beast. Watch the video to see how weak this made Kamala Harris look (and obviously, she's badly wrong on the merits and wrong in a way that shows she has dangerous instincts for a person to be trusted with great power):

Who won?

October 15, 2019

Debate about to happen.

...

My son John is live-blogging. Check it out!

ADDED: I walked away from the noise after an hour, realizing I’d entirely tuned out. I couldn’t take the artifice.

AND: I just don’t like hearing people talk about politics on television, and it’s particularly annoying when you have to hear so much from candidates who are polling at next to nothing. I don’t have to understand Beto!

I don't believe that a "Man walks out of San Francisco art gallery with Salvador Dali painting worth $20K."

But that's an NBC headline. I'm just going to guess that NBC doesn't know the difference between a painting a print. A Salvador Dali painting isn't going to cost so little. A Dali print might sell for that. Whether it's worth so much is open to question.

Here's ABC News: "Brazen thief caught on camera with stolen Salvador Dali etching 'Burning Giraffe' from San Francisco gallery." Key word: "etching." It's a print. How many copies of Dali's etching "Burning Giraffe" are there?

And, actually, that print seems to be called "Surrealistic Bullfight — Burning Giraffe."

Dali had a burning giraffe in a painting called "Burning Giraffe," and "Dalí first used the burning giraffe image in his 1930 film L'Âge d'Or (The Golden Age). It appears again in 1937 in the painting The Invention of Monsters. Dalí described this image as 'the masculine cosmic apocalyptic monster.' He believed it to be a premonition of war."

So let's not get too confused about the burning giraffe.

Here's the original (and incredibly dumb) appearance of Dali's burning giraffe in "L'Âge d'Or":



Here's a 1998 article from the NYT, "Putting Some Order To All the Dali Prints, Both Real and Fake":

Animal encounters in the wilds of Madison, Wisconsin within one 2-mile walk.

In chronological order:

1. Canine: A Boston terrier trots across the street toward me. He seemed friendly enough, took a sniff, and trotted on.

2. Avian: There was this melée:



3. Feline: A black cat did not cross my path. I crossed the path of a black cat. I thought that might be good luck.

"Dona Bolding, who was in [Elizabeth] Warren’s 1979 contracts class, recounted the time she was shopping at Loehmann’s, the discount department store known for its marked-down designer clothing..."

"... and ran into Warren standing in her underwear in the store’s communal dressing room. Bolding said she was 'mortified.' But Warren instantly made light of the situation. 'Oh Miss Bolding,' Warren called out. 'I see you love a bargain!'"

From "The transformation of Elizabeth Warren/She faced sexism, split with a husband and found her voice teaching law in Houston" (WaPo).

Lots more in that article, including the story of how Warren avoided accusing a University of Houston Law Center professor of "shut[ting] the door and lung[ing] for her... and as she protested... chas[ing' her around his desk." And then she was invited — after his request — to deliver the eulogy at his funeral.

"He said that he had 'not taken the pill' that is forced on young boys of '12 or 13 who are taught to take their emotions and tuck them away somewhere and act like a man.'"

"'Most of the violence and ill-will that our world has is linked to that moment,' he added."

He = RuPaul.

(Yahoo News.)

"Feels to me like living in some kind of Alice in Wonderland where you're up on the real world, then you fall down the rabbit hole and the president is the Cheshire cat asking you questions about crazy things that don't have any resemblance to the reality of anything that has to do with me."

Said Hunter Biden, deflecting questions about his foreign business dealings.



The relevant passage from "Alice in Wonderland" is this:
The Cat only grinned when it saw Alice. It looked good-natured, she thought: still it had very long claws and a great many teeth, so she felt that it ought to be treated with respect.

‘Cheshire Puss,’ she began, rather timidly, as she did not at all know whether it would like the name: however, it only grinned a little wider. ‘Come, it’s pleased so far,’ thought Alice, and she went on. ‘Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
The questions begin with Alice, and it's a sensible question. She gets a sensible answer:

But even the son of the vice president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked...

"Look, I'm a private citizen. One thing that I don't have to do is sit here and open my kimono as it relates to how much money I make or make or did or didn't," said Hunter Biden resisting the questions of Amy Robach, who had him crying by the end of the interview.

"This isn’t real stuff. It isn’t. It truly isn’t. That part of it, that Barnum and Bailey—you know, say anything, do anything you want, you know, I mean, like, you know, Donald Prince Humperdinck—Trump Jr. is not somebody that I really care about."

Said Hunter Biden (in the "Good Morning America" interview) embedded in the previous post. I had to look up the reference. I did understand the children's book reference he made to "Alice in Wonderland," but even though I've seen the children's movie "The Princess Bride," I did not remember this particular character name. Let's read the Fandom Wiki on Prince Humperdinck and see if we can understand what Hunter Biden was trying to get across:
Prince of Florin, he becomes betrothed to Buttercup (in the novel on the excuse that he will need to continue the royal line because his father is dying). He does not care who his bride is, as long as she is very beautiful....

The primary antagonist, Prince Humperdinck is incredibly intelligent, cocky and has excellent tracking and hunting instincts. He can track the location of animals, and is able to trace events that have happened in a particular place.
Buttercup herself says there is no greater hunter than him, proclaiming that he "Can track a falcon on a cloudy day."

Humperdinck is the prince of the fictional kingdom of Florin. He is the finest hunter in the world; his tracking abilities are so great that he is able to tell which of two sets of tracks belonged to the loser of an hours old swordfight, and to determine that a wrestling match had occurred between a man and a giant. Behind his princely demeanor, however, he is vain and cowardly, "with a heart full of fear."...
So... to Hunter, Trump Jr. seems like... the hunter? 

Oh, who knows what Hunter meant. Probably some combination of cartoonishly, pointlessly evil and the way he looks:

Hunter Biden takes an emotional roller coaster ride on "Good Morning America."

Halfway through this ordeal — video after the jump – I was saying that if an actor could copy this performance, he'd win an Oscar. The words and the gestures and facial expressions that conflict with them are utterly fascinating. I'm seeing dishonesty, pain, anger, fear, anxiety. We must have paused the interview a hundred times to exclaim and analyze. I could have made 20 interesting screen grabs, but here's the one facial expression that made me get out my iPhone and photograph the TV screen:



The "whistleblower" used to be so important, but now it's whistleblower? There's someone called the "whistleblower" that we should care about? Don't be silly!



Here's something I wrote on October 11th, when the news was about the whistleblower's request testify to Congress in writing and not in person in order to protect his personal safety:
Safety is important, but what about our interest in assessing this person's credibility? I want to look the person in the face and hear the voice. Is the person's identity to be kept secret, so that there's no opportunity to consider bias and political motivation? Why are we bothering with this person at all when we have the transcript of the famous telephone call? If it's not to put a face on the accusation, do we even care?
Now the Democrats seem to have arrived at my question why are we bothering with this person at all when we have the transcript. But Trump gives the reason to bother. The credibility of the whistleblower is an issue that he likes and that the Democrats say is nothing.

These pro-Trump "memes" are "meant to be trivial pieces of online ephemera that signal the president’s righteousness over the 'libs.'"

"CarpeDonktum, a stay-at-home dad from Kansas who popularized this style of pro-Trump meme and who has received multiple invitations to meet President Trump at the White House, described these memes to me as 'boomer humor,' aimed at aging, hyperaggressive political posters on Facebook. In other words, these memes are empty-headed hyperpartisan sharebait — grist for the algorithmic mills. And the rudimentary composition of these clips is a feature, not a bug. That the memes look childish provides a veneer of acceptability — so that they can be shared without getting pulled from social networks. The memes’ creators and sharers can giddily watch the president dispatching his enemies while claiming the video is just a funny gag. When confronted, they can throw hands up in the air and cry, 'Snowflake!' In their version of reality, the uproar over this video is more proof that overly sensitive liberals are 'triggered.'... Indeed, MAGAland began relentlessly mocking the Times report on the video within minutes of its publishing. '23 paragraphs, about a meme lol. Yikes this is psychotic,' someone wrote on Twitter. 'These types of articles is why the meme was made,' another replied.... Taking the meme video seriously does the unfortunate work of amplifying the clip.... Responding to the trollish world of MAGA memes is a lot like arguing with a child...."

From "The Violent Trump Video Is Dumb, and That’s the Point/The absurdity of memes like the one shared widely on Sunday evening gives cover to their creators" by NYT opinion writer Charlie Warzel, who ends with the assertion that these memes should be taken very seriously and analyzed prominently because they are part of one big phenomenon of "political tensions and polarization." If it's all one big thing, and the big thing is important, then any trivial component is also important.

There must be a Greek word for that kind of logic. It's not necessarily a fallacy.

Note: Though CarpeDonktum is quoted in that column, he's not the source of that very violent "Kingsmen" meme that is in the news this week.

"On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump called for an immediate ceasefire, announced increased tariffs on steel imports from Turkey, and imposed sanctions against Turkish government ministries and officials..."

"... in response to the ongoing military offensive in northern Syria that began after Trump withdrew U.S. forces in the area. Critics say Trump’s measures are just as likely to strengthen Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as they are to hurt him....  Meanwhile, the European Union is mulling its own approach to the Turkish incursion in Syria.... Turkey will consider both the drilling sanctions and the EU’s reaction to the Turkish invasion to be 'part of the same European and Western attempt to undermine Turkey,' Dario Cristiani, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, wrote in an email. While further economic sanctions could harm Turkey later, in the short term 'they will push Erdogan to be even more assertive and aggressive than he has been so far,' Cristiani said.... Vice President Mike Pence told reporters that Trump had demanded a ceasefire and said that he and National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien would soon travel to Turkey. Trump has also reportedly received a commitment from Erdogan that Turkish forces would not attack Kobani—a strategically significant city for the Kurds."

Foreign Policy reports.

There's a link to "Trump calls for cease-fire in northern Syria and imposes sanctions on Turkey" (WaPo). Excerpt:
Pence said that Erdogan and Trump spoke by phone on Monday and that the president “communicated to him very clearly that the United States of America wants Turkey to stop the invasion, to implement an immediate cease-fire and to begin to negotiate with Kurdish forces in Syria to bring an end to the violence.”...

The White House released a statement after the call that said Erdogan informed the president that Turkey “will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria” and that the United States did not support the move. The statement, however, made no mention of what Trump would do to oppose or stop Turkey’s aggression.

October 14, 2019

At the Pilates Café...

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... you can write what you want.

“Professor Bloom called himself ‘a monster’ of reading; he said he could read, and absorb, a 400-page book in an hour.”

“His friend Richard Bernstein, a professor of philosophy at the New School, told a reporter that watching Professor Bloom read was ‘scary.’ Armed with a photographic memory, Professor Bloom could recite acres of poetry by heart — by his account, the whole of Shakespeare, Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost,’  all of William Blake, the Hebraic Bible and Edmund Spenser’s monumental ‘The Fairie Queen.’  He relished epigraphs, gnomic remarks and unusual words: kenosis (emptying), tessera (completing), askesis (diminishing) and clinamen (swerving).”

From “Harold Bloom, Critic Who Championed Western Canon, Dies at 89/Called the most notorious literary critic in America, Professor Bloom argued for the superiority of giants like Shakespeare, Chaucer and Kafka” (NYT).

ADDED: From Bloom’s “The Western Canon”:
What Johnson and Woolf after him called the Common Reader still exists and possibly goes on welcoming suggestions of what might be read. Such a reader does not read for easy pleasure or to expiate social guilt, but to enlarge a solitary existence. So fantastic has the academy become that I have heard this kind of reader denounced by an eminent critic, who told me that reading without a constructive social purpose was unethical and urged me to reeducate myself through an immersion in the writing of Abdul Jan Mohammed, a leader of the Birmingham (England) school of cultural materialism. As an addict who will read anything, I obeyed, but I am not saved, and return to tell you neither what to read nor how to read it, only what I have read and think worthy of rereading, which may be the only pragmatic test for the canonical.

Penny the Pitbull.



I know Penny the Pitbull from TikTok (it's my favorite thing on TikTok). This is a compilation on YouTube that I hope you enjoy, but I do want to say that it's more enjoyable encountered in TikTok (as it comes up in the mix that TikTok serves up, by its mysterious process, in an endless upwardly swipeable sequence).

The sun and moon panorama.

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Click to get to an enlargeable image. And don't let the sun distract you from seeing the moon. I stood on a bench to get this view.

"Of course, you may still run into the smalltime scammers that vex and impress me..."

"... you can ask dudes to take fresh dick pics with an item of your choice in the frame (a tube of Chapstick, a quarter, a small note that you’ve dictated) to help ensure veracity. I want to also encourage you to continue to openly fish for big dick via your profiles. Why not ask guys if they’ve got what you want? If it’s off-putting, great. You’re filtering out the dick not up to your standards from the jump. Saves everyone time. I believe there’s nothing wrong with coming across as slutty or overexperienced, and anybody cool and/or hung will respect you as a woman who knows what she wants. Be proud of that."

From the "How to Do It" column at Slate. The questioner, "SQ," specified that she did not "want to come across as too slutty or overexperienced."

I like the "and/or" in "anybody cool and/or hung will respect you as a woman who knows what she wants." It's trying to enable SQ to sweep anyone who doesn't like this Chapstick approach out of the zone of men worth caring about. And I wonder whether there aren't a lot of men who might "respect you as a woman who knows what she wants" and want nothing to do with you, even if they have what you want.

The question made me think of the expression "pig in a poke" (which has been around since the 16th century). From the Wikipedia article on the phrase:
A pig in a poke is a thing that is bought without first being inspected, and thus of unknown authenticity or quality. A "poke" is a bag, so the image is of a concealed item being sold.

Starting in the 19th century, this idiom was explained as a confidence trick where a farmer would substitute a cat for a suckling pig when bringing it to market. When the buyer discovered the deception, he was said to "let the cat out of the bag," that is, to learn of something unfortunate prematurely, hence the expression "letting the cat out of the bag," meaning to reveal that which is secret.... 

"The Syrian government had been almost entirely absent from the northeast since it withdrew or was chased out by armed rebels."

"The Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led militia that worked with the United States to fight the Islamic State, soon became the region’s overarching political force. Although the Syrian Kurds did not declare Mr. Assad’s government an enemy, Mr. Assad distrusted their efforts to establish self rule and vowed to retake all of Syria’s territory. But he had no way to do so, especially as American troops remained in the area. President Trump’s decision last week to move those troops out of the way of a Turkish incursion gave Mr. Assad an opening, and his forces began to fill it on Monday. In some towns, they were welcomed by locals who chanted nationalistic slogans and carried Mr. Assad’s photograph. In other areas, trucks drove large numbers of Syrian soldiers into the area to take up positions."

From "Syria Live Updates: Assad’s Forces Move Into Area Hit by Turkey" (NYT).

I'm also seeing there that the European Union countries have unanimously agreed to stop selling arm to Turkey, even though "Like most European Union nations, Turkey is a NATO member."

"[S]ingling out Trump for the turmoil engulfing the country is possible only if you disregard the No. 1 contributor: the refusal of Democrats and most of the media to accept the results of the 2016 election...."

"That refusal has become, among many on the left, borderline psychotic. Nothing else compares to the damage it is doing to our ­nation’s fabric and global image. Trump’s irritating foibles and unorthodox ways pale in comparison. The continuing challenge to his legitimacy is a cancer on the republic."

Writes Michael Goodwin in "Madness of leftist zealots" (NY Post). I strongly agree with that opinion.  I am not a Trump supporter, but I have stood firm since the election on this point: Trump won, his supporters prevailed, and they are entitled to what they won. That's why we go to so much trouble over the election.

We're currently troubling ourselves endlessly over the 2020 election, but why should we if the new game is to destroy whatever victory is achieved? Do Democrats think they can sell the idea that when they win, they get to keep what they won, but if the other party wins, it's a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham?

I don't accept it, and I'm a moderate swing voter in a swing state.

"The 90-degree day did not appear to slow Warren: She bounded up the steps to the stage and gave a kinetic, full-body wave to the crowd."

"Without saying a word, the 70-year-old presidential candidate sent a message: Her physical stamina belies her age."

From "Elizabeth Warren, 70, flaunts her fitness as Democratic candidates’ health becomes a debate issue" (L.A. Times).

Impeachable!

He's trying to rig the vote on "Dancing with the Stars":



How about waiting until we've seen the actual dancing so you can at least pretend it's a judgment on the merits?

So unprincipled.

Somehow this made me think: I'd like to see Adam Schiff on "Dancing with the Stars."

"Turkey is an ally, the Free Syrian Army was an ally for seven years, and the Kurds have been allies in Syria, so it's a very complicated, messy situation."

"But I think a lot of people are not acknowledging that Turkey was coming in one way or another and 50 soldiers would simply be in the way, and be a tripwire to a much worse outcome. And so I think the president was right in moving 50 soldiers out of the way of an onslaught of tens of thousands of Turkish troops.... And the president made a judgment that I think most military commanders would agree with that you don't have 50 soldiers -- you don't go to war with 50 soldiers.... Once the Turks said they were coming, it would have been foolish to leave 50 soldiers in the wake of tens of thousands of people coming across the border.... Realize the president is asking is it in our national security interest to somehow figure out how the Kurds can live with the Turks? The other interesting thing that people don't mention is all the Kurds aren't the same. The Iraqi Kurds actually are cooperating with Turkey to turn in Kurdish Workers Party officials that they see as terrorists. So the Iraqi Kurds are actually turning over some of these Kurds that allied with the Syrians. So, realize that all the Kurds aren't the same on every side of every border.... [A]s we've gotten stability in Iraq and as the Kurds have a lot of self-control in governing sort of like a province, there is actually 1,800 Turkish businesses doing business in that part of Iraq that is controlled by the Kurds. It's a prosperous oil region, and there is back and forth between the Turks and the Kurds and it actually works pretty well. But these Kurds don't actually get along with the Syrian Kurds so well. And many of the Syrian Kurds have been trying to break off part of Turkey into an independent country. It's been going on for really close to 100 years. Many of the Kurds in Syria actually were expelled or exiled from Turkey back in the 1920s, '30s, and '40s. So there is this long history. And the question we have to ask is, and I have to ask, am I going to send the sons and daughters of America and mothers and fathers, and I'm to send them there to die to try to figure out how the Kurds and the Turks can get along? And I don't see that in our national interest. And we should vote on it. We should vote on it in Congress and declare war if that's what people want.... [M]y oath is to the constitution. My oath isn't as to some promise that somebody thinks we made for a Kurdish homeland. We should vote. And here's the reason why we won't vote, they don't know who to declare war on... And ultimately it's probably in the Kurds' best interests to be aligned with Assad. But as long as we continue to say Assad has to go, we're never getting to a peaceful situation. Assad is staying. And if Assad were aligned with the Kurds and the Kurds were given some semi-autonomy in their region, it could develop the way it is in Iraq currently....."

Said Rand Paul on "Meet the Press" yesterday (text with video at link).