December 28, 2019

At the Invisible Sunrise Café...


... you can talk all night.

"Plenty of women do the work of sex work without trading sex for money or capital. The work of sexual entertaining..."

"... as well as the many emotional labors of sex work. Every woman is expected or pressured in heterosexuality to do the labor that sex workers do, but not every woman is a sex worker. I think sex workers are strangely more equipped, though, to ponder the problem of romance, because we sell sex and love as our job, and have this strange distance and closeness with the theater of gender relations... Sex can be a vehicle for self-expression and it can be a theater; sex doesn’t have to be serious, and sex can be anything...."

From a New York Magazine interview with Rachel Rabbit White — "the writer, activist, and sex worker."

"Today I saw a thing and it said a lot of men…a lot of white men were committing suicide, and I almost thought, ‘Yeah, great,’ Then I thought about it little more and I thought maybe I shouldn't say that out in public."

News Center Maine provides some facts:
The Maine Democratic Party reacted to the video release with a statement, saying that [Richard Fochtmann, former State Senate candidate – and at the time - the Chairman of the Leeds Democratic Committee] was there as a private citizen and in no way represents the party....

Fochtmann said he regrets the joke. “It really wasn't funny, and I'm sorry that I did say that,” he said. “I just happen to be a passionate, outspoken person, and sometimes I just engage my mouth before I engage my brain.” He also said that after he finished speaking, a woman stepped up to the microphone and told him she was offended by his comments. He says that he later took the microphone again and apologized.

"In a rare show of bipartisan unity, Republicans and Democrats are planning to try to force President Trump to take a more active stand on human rights in China..."

"... preparing veto-proof legislation that would punish top Chinese officials for detaining more than one million Muslims in internment camps. The effort comes amid growing congressional frustration with Mr. Trump’s unwillingness to challenge China over human rights abuses, despite vivid news reports this year outlining atrocities, or to confront such issues globally.... 'There’s been a sense by some that the administration hasn’t prioritized human rights in its broader foreign policy,' said Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. 'I don’t think that’s necessarily accurate — but that sense has grown. There’s been a sense that Congress needs to step up.'... Although Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have criticized China on the persecution of Muslims, Mr. Trump has said nothing. In July, Jewher Ilham, the daughter of Ilham Tohti, a Uighur professor whom China sentenced to life in prison in 2014, joined other victims of religious persecution to meet with Mr. Trump in the Oval Office. When she tried to explain the camps to Mr. Trump, he appeared ignorant of the situation and simply said, 'That’s tough stuff.'... 'I’m a big fan of the president on many fronts, but on this, someone has to stand up,' Senator Rand Paul [said]."

From "Congress Wants to Force Trump’s Hand on Human Rights in China and Beyond/Lawmakers aim to pass veto-proof legislation in 2020 that would punish China over its treatment of ethnic Uighur Muslims" (NYT).

"The Islamic State’s project to establish a proto-state and expand its domain across a broad swath of Iraq and Syria attracted tens of thousands of foreign fighters from at least 80 countries..."

"Some security experts say it is crucial for countries to repatriate and prosecute their nationals if the jihadist movement is to be prevented from rising again. They add that due process also requires this. But the difficulties are many. Some governments don’t even know how many of their nationals are being held, who they are or how deeply they were involved in Islamic State atrocities. Many countries lack the laws to prosecute alleged fighters, and even if the laws are on the books, it is often unclear whether evidence from the battlefield would hold up in court. If they are convicted, they could radicalize others in custody and then be released after sentences as short as three years, leaving already overburdened police to keep unrepentant militants from turning to violence again. Western European countries, in particular, have been resistant to bringing the prisoners home, citing obstacles ranging from national security to domestic politics...."

From "After the Caliphate: Disarmed but not defused/The defeat of the ISIS caliphate left this Moroccan militant and about 2,000 other suspected foreign fighters detained in northeastern Syria. Will they pose a greater threat there or back in their home countries?" (WaPo).

"One can apply a prodigious intellect in the service of prosaic things — formulating a war plan, for instance, or constructing a ship.... Jewish genius operates differently."

"It is prone to question the premise and rethink the concept; to ask why (or why not?) as often as how; to see the absurd in the mundane and the sublime in the absurd. Ashkenazi Jews might have a marginal advantage over their gentile peers when it comes to thinking better. Where their advantage more often lies is in thinking different. Where do these habits of mind come from? There is a religious tradition that, unlike some others, asks the believer not only to observe and obey but also to discuss and disagree. There is the never-quite-comfortable status of Jews in places where they are the minority — intimately familiar with the customs of the country while maintaining a critical distance from them. There is a moral belief, 'incarnate in the Jewish people' according to Einstein, that 'the life of the individual only has value [insofar] as it aids in making the life of every living thing nobler and more beautiful.' And there is the understanding, born of repeated exile, that everything that seems solid and valuable is ultimately perishable, while everything that is intangible — knowledge most of all — is potentially everlasting."

From "The Secrets of Jewish Genius/It’s not about having higher I.Q.s." by Bret Stephens (NYT).

To answer the question is Stephens Jewish, here's Wikipedia: "Bret Stephens was born in New York City, the son of Xenia and Charles J. Stephens, a former vice president of General Products, a chemical company in Mexico. Both his parents were secular Jews. His paternal grandfather, Louis Ehrlich, was born in Kishenev (today Chișinău, Moldova) in 1901; he fled with his family to New York after a pogrom."

At Wikipedia, Stephens has 1 item under the heading "Controversy":

"Some 800 girls were said to have sought the part. When Ms. Lyon was cast, Mr. Nabokov, employing the word he used in the novel, called her 'the perfect nymphet'..."

"Ms. Lyon accumulated more than two dozen film and television credits from 1959 to 1980, but she was known primarily for one: Mr. Kubrick’s 1962 film of the Nabokov novel ['Lolita'], which was adapted for the screen by Mr. Nabokov himself.... The novel was scandalous when it was first published in English in 1955; the film, made when the restrictive Motion Picture Production Code still governed Hollywood, was less so — in part, some critics thought, because Ms. Lyon, whose character was aged slightly for the movie, seemed too mature. 'She looks to be a good 17 years old, possessed of a striking figure and a devilishly haughty teenage air,' Bosley Crowther said in his review in The Times. 'The distinction is fine, we will grant you, but she is definitely not a "nymphet."'"

From "Sue Lyon, Star of ‘Lolita,’ Is Dead at 73/She was 14 when she was cast in the title role of Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film of the Nabokov novel. It remained her best-known credit" (NYT).

December 27, 2019

At the Sunset Café...


... you can talk all night.

"In the more printable Imus lexicon, Dick Cheney was 'a war criminal,' Hillary Rodham Clinton was 'Satan,' Oprah Winfrey 'a fat phony,' Newt Gingrich 'a man who would eat roadkill'..."

"Ted Kennedy 'a fat slob,' Steve Forbes 'a meanspirited creep,' Dan Rather 'a loony,' Rush Limbaugh 'a drug-addled gas bag.' Many listeners detected the toxins of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Mort Sahl or Groucho Marx.... He was sued for defamation, denounced, ridiculed, shunned, hated and feared... After years on the edge of acceptable standards, however, Mr. Imus evidently went too far on April 4, 2007, when, in his trademark drawl, he referred to the Rutgers University women’s basketball team, which had reached the N.C.A.A. finals and was composed mainly of African-Americans, as 'rough girls' and 'nappy-headed hos.'... In 1996, at the correspondents’ dinner in Washington, he insulted President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, who were there, and later referred to it as 'The Speech From Hell.'"

From "Don Imus, Radio Host Who Pushed Boundaries, Dies at 79/On the air, he was an irascible, confrontational growler who led pranks and parodies that could be tasteless, obscene and sometimes racist, sexist or homophobic" (NYT).

Goodbye to Imus!

Here's that "Speech from Hell":

ADDED: "The toxins of Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Mort Sahl or Groucho Marx"?! Those guys were all geniuses. We were blessed to have them in our midst. How did the word "toxins" get in there?

"The circuitous quick trip, known as a mileage run, is not uncommon this time of year among a subset of frequent travelers looking to attain a certain level of airline status for the coming year...."

"Some frequent travelers have... expressed discomfort about adding long, arguably unnecessary flights in an era where concerns over carbon emissions have sparked a 'flight shame' movement.... [The CEO of a 'mileage run itinerary crafter' company] says carbon emissions aren’t really a consideration for his mileage run clients, who typically view the travel as a necessity. Their point of view, he said, is, 'I have a job, it requires me to travel, and I don’t want to sit in a middle seat all year so I need to get this done.'"

From "Mileage runs are last-minute dashes for airline status. But are they worth it?/In an era of lackluster loyalty programs and concerns over carbon emissions, even onetime fans question the merit" (WaPo).

From the comments over there: "Why someone would waste time, money and pollute the atmosphere, for ever-dwindling benefits of questionable value, escapes me. That the airlines treat everyday customers so horribly speaks volumes to the actual value one receives with this so-called status, or even the price of admission. The airline industry looks for ways to treat customers worse each and every year. Flying is a miserable, low-value experience and service for me. I avoid it whenever possible."

December 27th sunrise...


... as somber as sunrises get, I think. The dot in the middle is not the sun, but the state capitol building. There was little to see this morning... the only different thing was a black mouse-sized creature running across the trail. I didn't get close enough to really see.

The photograph was taken 2 minutes before the actual sunrise time.

"I guess Justin T doesn’t much like my making him pay up on NATO or Trade!"

ADDED: Speaking of Trump and movies... I wondered why Jon Voight is trending on Twitter today. It's this:

AND: That Voight clip was from a few days ago, but Voight is boosted today by this Trump tweet, which just says Voight is "fantastic" in a new TV role and in a bunch of old movies.

UPDATE: Apparently, the edit to "Home Alone 2" was made years ago, before Trump became President. So: false alarm.

The puzzling anger of Elizabeth Warren's brother.

I'm reading "Elizabeth Warren’s Brother Reportedly ‘Furious’ She Claims Their Father Was a Janitor" (Mediaite). I'm picturing him getting red in the face. His name is David Herring, so that would make him a red herring.
A red herring is something that misleads or distracts from a relevant or important question. It may be either a logical fallacy or a literary device that leads readers or audiences toward a false conclusion. A red herring may be used intentionally, as in mystery fiction or as part of rhetorical strategies (e.g., in politics), or may be used in argumentation inadvertently.  The term was popularized in 1807 by English polemicist William Cobbett, who told a story of having used a kipper (a strong-smelling smoked fish) to divert hounds from chasing a hare.
But let's chew over this fish that Mediate serves up today.

"[T]he winning Democrat will need to make Trump’s presidency seem insignificant rather than monumental — an unsightly pimple on our long republican experiment..."

"... not a fatal cancer within it. Mike Bloomberg has the financial wherewithal to make Trump’s wealth seem nearly trivial. Joe Biden has the life experience to make Trump’s attacks seem petty. Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar have the rhetorical skills to turn Trump’s taunts against him. As with most bullies, the key to beating Trump is to treat him as the nonentity he fundamentally is. Wouldn’t it be something if his political opponents and obsessed media critics resolved, for 2020, to talk about him a little less and past him a lot more? When your goal is to wash your hands of something bad, you don’t need a sword. Soap will do."

From "What Will It Take to Beat Donald Trump?/It’s not what the progressive left is talking about" by Bret Stephens (NYT).

1. Isn't this how they tried to defeat Trump the last time around? Diminish him. Insist that everything about him is small — hands, penis, brain, worldview. Donald Trump can't possibly be President! Isn't that less likely to work when Trump actually is President?

2. Biden can run by standing in place, embodying "life experience"?! He's "experienced" to the point of old age, and we're wondering if he currently has what it takes.

3. Who cares if Bloomberg is richer than Trump? I don't think Trump won because people simply admired him for his wealth. Bloomberg might be able to use his wealth to run ads that work to some extent, but those ads are likely to minimize the significance of his stature as a very rich man, not vaunt his wealth in comparison to Trump's — my pile of money is bigger than yours. If size matters, Bloomberg is the one who will look small compared to Trump when we see them on the debate stage together.

4. I find it very hard to believe that anyone could — in real time, on a debate stage — best Trump in a game of trading taunts, and it just seems silly to posit that Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar could do it because they have "rhetorical skills."

5. Talking about a human being as filth or disease... I thought we weren't doing that anymore. I thought you could get canceled for that. But Donald Trump can take it. He can take everything dished out against him. That's why these ideas about how to beat him feel like absolutely nothing.

"The predominantly white and male guardianship of the literary and intellectual high ground tended to view the essential American story as a solo confrontation with the wilderness..."

"... not a love triangle or intimate domestic saga. Nineteenth-century men of letters 'saw the matter of American experience as inherently male,' the literary critic Nina Baym wrote in her 1981 essay 'Melodramas of Beset Manhood.' It was a complete negation of women’s points of view, not just an artistic dismissal. That doesn’t mean American women’s fiction wasn’t popular — like 'Little Women,' Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 'Uncle Tom’s Cabin' could barely keep up with demand after its 1852 publication. But that widespread appeal was used to slight the genre out of hand and further relegate it to the status of mere entertainment. As Ms. Baym noted, Nathaniel Hawthorne, for one, complained in 1855 about the 'damned mob of scribbling women' whose inexplicably popular work he feared would hurt his own book sales. There’s some truth in the notion that women strove to write works that would sell — Ms. Alcott herself said she wrote 'Little Women' 'at record speed for money' while men toiled away on epics like 'Moby-Dick' that would fail to generate much income.... It may be that on its surface, 'Little Women' doesn’t seem as fresh and progressive, comparatively. Maybe men feel it’s too familiar — the book has been turned into a movie no fewer than seven times, including a little-seen version released just last year. But in an era when sequels and remakes clog the film landscape (many of them male-centered), it’s hardly an exception...."

From "Men Are Dismissing ‘Little Women.’ What a Surprise/The rejection of the latest screen adaptation of the beloved novel echoes a long-held sentiment toward women-centered narratives" by Kristy Eldredge (in the NYT). Eldredge is responding to a tweet by Janet Maslin, which read: "The 'Little Women' problem with men is very real. I don’t say that lightly and am very alarmed/In the past day have been told by 3 male friends who usually trust me that they either refuse to see it or probably won’t have time."

1. The media churn up this notion that you're supposed to see films. But, really, there doesn't need to be a reason not to see a film. There needs to be a reason to see a film. And films are aimed at particular sorts of people. It's absurd to criticize anyone, ever, for "rejection" of a film. Reject them all! The presumption is no. Then select only what feels right for you, what's worth your time and attention.

2. Almost no one needs to select another remake of "Little Women" as what they will allow to occupy their own precious mind for 2 hours. It doesn't matter that it's well made and the acting is good or whatever. Select it if it serves you. You don't owe Hollywood anything. Hollywood makes its offer to you, and you will be saying no to almost anything.

3. There's no reason for anyone to feel a gender-based obligation to see this or that. If something doesn't appeal to you, go somewhere else. The movie was made with intense conniving to appeal based on gender. "Little Women" gets the women that go to the movie in response to that appeal. Rather than say men ought to strive against their feeling of gender-based exclusion, I'd say women ought to strive against the pull of gender-based inclusion.

4. Louisa May Alcott herself had a distaste for what she was doing writing that book specifically for females! She wrote in her journal (quoted at "Girls adored ‘Little Women.’ Louisa May Alcott did not." (WaPo): "Mr. N wants a girls’ story, and I begin ‘Little Women.’ … I plod away, though I don’t enjoy this sort of thing. Never liked girls or knew many, except my sisters; but our queer plays and experiences may prove interesting, though I doubt it."

5. I wrote "females" under point #4 because you can see she was writing for girls — not women. It's a young adult novel. "Little Women" are "little" in the sense that they are very young. They're girls. It's horrifying that women are catered to with this story over and over again. Why is any adult interested in this material? Ask that, rather than ask why adult men are not interested.

6. Let people be interested in in the stories they're actually interested in. Don't push them to invent an interest to something that does not call out to them. It's awful to lose touch with what you really feel, who you really are, and to generate a false sense of interest in what you've been enticed to think you ought to like. That's a general problem in life, not specific to movies.

7. Does the question what is "the essential American story" have any serious meaning in the context of what movies people are choosing to go to see? Even if it's true that males dominate the activity of deciding what is "essential" and what is "American" — or what is "the intellectual high ground" — that has little relevance to the question of what's the next movie you're going to see. Let's assume "Moby-Dick" is that thing. I don't see any good film adaptations of "Moby-Dick"! The movies aimed at men don't come from an "intellectual high ground." They're low-culture stuff from comic books! Loads and loads of young-adult material.

8. "Moby-Dick" is not "a solo confrontation with the wilderness."

December 26, 2019

At the Sunrise Café...


... it's long after sunrise, but you can talk through the night, and if you do, there will be another sunrise.

I'm checking out for the night. We just watched a movie on TV, "The Sandpiper." That was some rich dreck.

"So I haven’t posted a tweet in nine months... Over the previous 10 years, I had written 180,000 tweets.... That’s 18,000 a year, 1,500 a month."

"I was putting out an average of 50 tweets a day — while holding down a full-time job editing a magazine, with two firm writing deadlines every week, and raising three children with a wife who works full-time... Over the course of this decade, my follower count rose from near zero to 141,000 people. The tweets helped garner audience for my writing and for articles in Commentary, the magazine I edit.... When I tweeted with my emotions engaged, especially when I responded to something out of anger, I could feel the dopamine rush. The tweet would resolve the emotion and bring me momentary and blessed relief.... I decided to quit Twitter this year after tweeting a joke about neutron-bombing a journalism school.... Nine months later, I still read Twitter.... If I could find a way to participate simply by tweeting out articles and gnomish would-be witticisms, I would. But... [Twitter] ­rewards bad rhetorical behavior, it privileges outrage of any sort over reason of all sorts, and it encourages us to misunderstand each other."

Writes John Podhoretz in "Why I quit Twitter — and you should, too" (NY Post).

First... "garner."

Second, his reason for quitting was not that he was writing 50 tweets a day, but that there was a danger of writing something every once in a while that got him in trouble.

Third, I don't see why I should quit Twitter too just because Podhoretz and others lose their mind and write something they regret every so often. But then, I hardly ever write on Twitter. I can see that it's a game where you try to score by racking up your numbers, and to play you have to play hard. Trying and trying 50 times a day on a website that doesn't pay you anything seems like a bad use of energy, and writing something crazy or nasty to grab for attention is a lowly business. In any case, I have my blog, and I've always done it in a way that fits my personal moods and interests and gives me a flow of intrinsic reward — whether other people link to me or get excited about me or not.

Fourth, it's interesting that he doesn't mention Trump. Trump seems to attract the most prescriptions for quitting Twitter. (I can't keep track of Podhoretz's position on Trump. I see that last April, he went from anti- to anti-anti- and I'm too bored to do any more research on the ultra-dull topic.) [CORRECTION: There are 2 Podhoretzes, and that article from last April is from the other Podhoretz.]

St. Stephen... "stoned to death... the patron saint of deacons, horses, coffin makers & masons."

"I refuse to participate in post-racial America. I refuse to say because we elected Obama that suddenly that means everything is ok, white people have changed."

"White people have not changed. Two-thirds of all white guys voted for Trump. That means anytime you see three white guys walking at you, down the street towards you, two of them voted for Trump. You need to move over to the other sidewalk because these are not good people that are walking toward you. You should be afraid of them."

From "Michael Moore: ‘White guys who voted for Trump ‘are not good people. You should be afraid of them’" (Red State).

"I remember seeing Mark David Chapman, Lennon’s assassin, sitting on the railing outside the porte-cochère that distinguished the Dakota as a gracious reminder of horse-and-carriage days...."

"As we settled down to watch the 11 o’clock news, a succession of loud detonations brought us to our feet. We ran to my studio window on 72nd and saw a black limousine in the driveway by the Dakota’s porte-cochère. Its lights were on, and a figure was lying by the open rear door. We identified John at a glance by his cowboy boots and round glasses, which reflected the bright lights of the entrance. He lay face up, slightly crumpled, with his feet pointing toward the street. The tremendous crashing that startled us had been the sound of the four or five gunshots reverberating within the passage.... There was a camera on the desk in my studio, and I instinctively grabbed it. For the record, it was a Nikkormat EL fitted with a telephoto lens, loaded with high-speed black-and-white film that I often used to snap photos out of the window and around town. The night was clear and the scene was lit up. With the camera cocked and my finger on the shutter release, I focused on John’s face, the face of a dying man. Then I said to myself, 'This isn’t my work. Whoever is there deserves a final moment of privacy.'"

From "The Photograph Not Taken: The Night John Lennon Died" by Robert Morgan (Princeton Alumni Weekly, December 2, 2015).

I'm reading that today because of a new item in the NYT: "The Hidden Perk That New York’s Mega-Rich Now Demand/The porte cochère, a covered entry, all but disappeared decades ago. High-end buildings catering to car owners are bringing it back." That ran in the Christmas Day paper edition with the headline, "A Revived Relic Hides the Wealthy From Prying Eyes." There's no mention of Lennon or even the Dakota.
The modern porte cochère is all about invisibility, or at least providing cover from prying eyes on city streets. Celebrities, V.I.P.s and ultra-high-net-worth types, especially those who are not regulars in the gossip columns, do not want to be seen coming and going. The porte cochère is their shield from photographers, professionals and fans or mere passers-by with cellphones held high.
Okay. The feeling of protection, sold to the rich, most of whom have forgotten or never knew "porte-cochère" in the context of the murder of John Lennon. To me, "porte-cochère" connotes a hiding place for a fiend lying in wait.

The NYT article is long, and it's one of the many articles that run counter to the usual leftish politics that otherwise permeate the newspaper. In the NYT, real estate drifts along in a dreamworld of envy and aspiration. What new thing can be ached for? Here it is, kids: a porte-cochère! It's the latest most retrograde amenity for your ugly urban palace. Now, scoot in there and read the NYT, which will tell you about the awful, filthy rich real estate mogul who cheated his way into the presidency.

Sunrise Althouse.


ADDED: The lighting there is adjusted to pull me out of the shadow. You can see the color of the sunrise as it really appeared in the iPhone screen I'm holding. Here's the picture I was taking:


AND: Here's Meade's photograph, adjusted to show the sunrise and leave me in the shadow:


"Joseph Goebbels didn’t die. He just got a job at Hallmark."

ADDED: The linked article at Salon is "Hallmark movies are fascist propaganda/Forget 'Triumph of the Will' — the most insidious authoritarian propaganda comes in the form of schmaltz" by Amanda Marcotte. Isn't this like what Jonah Goldberg did — from the right — in his book "Liberal Fascism"? Goldberg wrote:
For generations our primary vision of a dystopian future has been that of Orwell’s 1984. This was a fundamentally “masculine” nightmare of fascist brutality. But with the demise of the Soviet Union and the vanishing memory of the great twentieth-century fascist and communist dictatorships, the nightmare vision of 1984 is slowly fading away. In its place, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World is emerging as the more prophetic book. As we unravel the human genome and master the ability to make people happy with televised entertainment and psychoactive drugs, politics is increasingly a vehicle for delivering prepackaged joy. America’s political system used to be about the pursuit of happiness. Now more and more of us want to stop chasing it and have it delivered....

The history of totalitarianism is the history of the quest to transcend the human condition and create a society where our deepest meaning and destiny are realized simply by virtue of the fact that we live in it. It cannot be done, and even if, as often in the case of liberal fascism, the effort is very careful to be humane and decent, it will still result in a kind of benign tyranny where some people get to impose their ideas of goodness and happiness on those who may not share them...
Make people happy with televised entertainment... sounds like the Hallmark channel. So let's read the Amanda Marcotte thing, published jollily on Christmas at Salon:
When most of us think about fascistically propagandistic movies, we think of the grotesque grandeur of Leni Riefenstahl's films celebrating the Third Reich... even in Nazi Germany, the majority of movies approved by the Nazi minister of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels, were escapist and feather-light, with a Hallmark movie-style emphasis on the importance of "normality."

There's plenty of reason that empty-headed kitsch fits neatly in the authoritarian worldview. It's storytelling that imitates the gestures of emotion without actually engaging with real feeling... Hallmark movies, with their emphasis on returning home and the pleasures of the small, domestic life, also send a not-at-all subtle signal of disdain for cosmopolitanism and curiosity about the larger world, which is exactly the sort of attitude that helps breed the kind of defensive white nationalism that we see growing in strength in the Donald Trump era.
Both Marcotte and Goldberg are afraid of oppressive government and think cheap televised entertainment is softening the people up to accept it.

"Prison must agree with him...That's the least creepy he has looked in years."

The highest-rated comment on "EXCLUSIVE: Phil Spector is pictured sporting a goatee, bald head and hearing aids in his latest mugshot revealed a day before his 80th birthday after spending ten years behind bars and wearing a selection of wigs during his trial" (Daily Mail).

At the link, there are lots of photographs of Spector, including the different weird wigs he wore during his trial. A woman had died, it was a murder trial, so it was not an ideal occasion for lightweight mockery of wigstyles. I remember getting a call from someone at a TV or radio network. Blogging was a big deal, and I was a conspicuous blogger and law professor, and I would get calls from media and need to try to figure out what they thought they could get from me. I'm no expert on criminal law, but it became apparent that they wanted to fill out time with talk about Spector's hair. They were filling in their airtime and Spector was coming in with different wigs. Weren't they funny? But funny in the context of a murdered woman? Did they want to talk about that, how he was perhaps trying to make people think he was lovable or inept and whether he's deviously playing us? I asked, but I didn't get a straight answer... or an invitation to do on-air commentary. It was pretty obvious that what they wanted was to fill out time on the subject of hair: Wasn't it really weird and silly? Are you a source of multiple words that could more or less say that over and over for the amusement of our audience? If I'd spluttered out a lot of synonyms for "curly" and "big" and "weird" very quickly, I'd have gotten the part, and I could be regretting how dismally I leveraged my transitory blog-fame back in the '00s.

ADDED: I think the reason they called me was that I had blogged about Phil Spector. The post, from September 2007, was titled, "The news is a freak show":
We've got O.J. back in the news. Pushing him out of the headlines is upstart Taser-boy Andrew Meyer. Phil Spector is rearing his ugly head again as jurors cannot make up their minds about whether he's a murderer. Pictures of those 3 characters dominate the front page of The Drudge Report right now, with one more right in the middle: Hillary. This is what we are paying attention to now. Oh, we shouldn't be so hard on ourselves. The presidential candidates have been in the news too long. Are we really supposed to stop everything and study the provisions of Hillary's health care plan? Would we be more virtuous if we did?
But when they called me, it wasn't because they wanted my metacommentary on their commentary. They wanted me to be part of their freak show. Luckily, I couldn't do freak-show style on command, or my only defense would have been virtue.

So what was the Christmas present from Kim Jong-Un? Was it, as Trump guessed, a beautiful vase?

I saw the news 2 days ago:
President Trump did not seem concerned Tuesday when asked about the threat of a "Christmas present" from North Korea if the U.S. doesn't roll back economic sanctions on the country by the end of the year.

"Maybe it's a nice present," Trump told reporters at an event at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. "Maybe it's a present where he sends me a beautiful vase, as opposed to a missile test."
Christmas has come and gone, so what was it? A beautiful vase?
"We'll find out what the surprise is, and we'll deal with it very successfully. Let's see what happens. Everybody's got surprises for me — but let's see what happens," Trump said. "I handle them as they come along."
In other Trump-and-Christmas news: "Psychiatry expert says Trump’s rambling Merry Christmas rant includes three signs of serious mental impairment."

Here's the rant in question:

Do you see the signs? Let me help you. The signs are:
– slurred speech
– semantic paraphasia (inserting wrong word)
– phonemic paraphasia (combining words to form a likely nonsense word)
The purported "phonemic paraphasia" is right at the beginning. He says "And let me begin by wishing you a beautiful" and switches, in the middle of "beautiful" to "look, do you remember this?" If you just clip out the "beautiful" to "look" segment, it sounds like silly nonsense — abyooteefyoowoodlook....

... but it's rank dishonesty to view that as the kind of mental deficiency where a person is saying nonwords as if they were words.

I did enjoy looking up the word "paraphasia" in Wikipedia, because I learned:
The term was apparently introduced in 1877 by the German-English physician Julius Althaus in his book on Diseases of the Nervous System, in a sentence reading, "In some cases there is a perfect chorea or delirium of words, which may be called paraphasia".
I'm always happy to encounter another Althouse/Althaus.

December 25, 2019

Christmas sunrise.



"Wife Guy/Find him on: Instagram/With: A grid full of pictures of his wife."

"At some point, men realized that outwardly showing love to their wives is subversive and that they could score points by doing it. A wife guy is always posting online about how much he supports his wife even if others don’t. He thinks his wife is beautiful even though she doesn’t have the body of a supermodel. He doesn’t deserve credit for doing the bare minimum, but if you offer, he’ll gladly take it."

From "The Characters Who Dominated the Internet in 2019" by Brian Feldman (in NY Magazine). A nice set of characters... with excellent illustrations of each.

There's an internal link to "A Brief Guide to Wife Guys" (a NY Magazine article from last May). Excerpt:
In case you’re not familiar with the concept, Wife Guys are the men who make themselves famous for things their wives did, or qualities their wives have or had. “The wife is legitimizing for a male web celebrity, and particularly advantageous for a guy in the nerd-o-sphere, in the way a mid-century businessman benefited from the aura of stable matrimony.... In crasser terms, the Online Wife is a measure of the husband’s influence.”...
Over there, you'll find, among other characters, the harrowing phenomenon known as Cliff Wife Guy:

"I usually suggest Duke Ellington’s arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s 'Nutcracker Suite,' my favorite piece of holiday music..."

Writes the NYT columnist David Leonhardt in email that I could unsubscribe from, but this is clearly excellent enough to stay my hand for the nonce:

"The Sober October crew got together late last night for a recap, and to just have a really fucking fun time. We laughed until we cried and a few of us got naked."

"There were Cuban cigars, booze and over 3 hours of talking shit," writes Joe Rogan at Facebook. Here's the fantastic photo of the not too pretty male nudity.

Here's the whole show — 3 hours and 20 minutes of Christmas Eve talking about the sobriety challenges they undertook last October:

I've only just started listening, so I don't know what all is in there, but I do look forward to having the warmth of the male chattiness around me on my little household routines that pair well with podcasts.

"Through Mr. Obama, I have been hipped to the Congolese singer Jupiter Bokondji... His prose, always electric, assumes an extra whiff of fire when applied to music."

"'American history wells up when Aretha sings,' Mr. Obama wrote to The New Yorker in response to an email query about the artist in 2016.... 'That’s why, when she sits down at a piano and sings ‘A Natural Woman,’ she can move me to tears,' he said... United States presidents tend not to be celebrated for their groovy record collections. The current officeholder’s favorite Beach Boy is most likely Mike Love, which alone should qualify him for yet another impeachable offense. If this is a bewildering time to be an American, so, too, is it a disconcerting time to be a fan of rock and pop, among the country’s maddest and most characteristic concoctions. Barack Obama, music critic, has become an unlikely balm, his beautifully detailed lists acting as strange flickers of continuity and survival."

From "In Praise of Barack Obama, Music Critic/The former president’s annual year-end playlist never fails to delight" by Jim Ruttenberg in the NYT.

"Balm" is aromatic ointment. Is it strange to say that a person is balm? Perhaps it's wrong, more wrong than calling him a nonhuman animal. He's a gooey substance, to be spread on the skin, for comfort. So weird! But "balm" has long been used figuratively. It can be anything softly soothing. No one, even his fans, would call Donald Trump "balm."

Did you know that in Jamaica, "balm" is "A faith-healing ceremony typically involving drumming, dancing, and ritual feasting; a herbal bath or other treatment administered during this" (OED)? There is a sense that Obama had healing powers, and yet where was all the healing? Why did Obama lead to Trump? It's a strange mystery!

The link on "is most likely Mike Love" goes to "Mike Love to Trump: ‘You Tried Your Best to Help Whitney Houston’/You’ve always been a big supporter of some of the best music that America has ever made,' Beach Boys singer told president" (Rolling Stone, October 2018). Love was at the White House for Trump's signing of the Music Modernization Act, which aimed to protect the rights of artists in digital media.

I love the idea that loving Love is "another impeachable offense." It underscores Trump's characterization of impeachment as "Impeachment Lite." Everybody's doing it, defining impeachment downward. It seems peachier than ever. And now, we're adding Love.

I note that Ruttenberg did not say Trump's favorite musical act is The Beach Boys. He only said that Trump's favorite Beach Boy is probably Mike Love. If you pay attention at all to Trump's rallies, you would conclude that Trump's favorite music act is The Rolling Stones. Not only does he always end with "You Can't Always Get What You Want,"* the pre-speech song list of perhaps 22 songs may have 3 Rolling Stones songs — "Time Is on My Side," "Let’s Spend the Night Together," and "Sympathy for the Devil" — while having no repetitions from other artists, with exactly one exception, Elton John.

Hey, it's Christmas, so I feel I should say something Christmas-y... and that got me wondering whether it's true — as my instinct tells me — that The Rolling Stones have a never done a Christmas song. According to Showbiz Cheatsheet, I am right about that, but they did do this “Cosmic Christmas” in "a hidden coda" on "Their Satanic Majesties Request":

And their song "Winter" has this line: "And I wish I been out in California/When the lights on all the Christmas trees went out/But I been burning my bell, book and candle/And the restoration plays have all gone around."

And Mick Jagger, sans other Stones, recorded “Lonely Without You (This Christmas)." And before you say, But Keith Richards wouldn't do something like that, he recorded "Run Rudolph Run" in 1979.

Now, go slather yourself in balm and get some strange flickers of a merry Christmas!


* You know what I think about that. I wrote last year:
To me, this message, played at the end of a political rally, feels like a critique of all politics. Yes, I've stood here and promised the sky, but you must realize you might not get it, and what you do get may even be preferable. You're feeling your wants, and I'm stoking your wants, but I might have something else in mind, something that I think is good enough for you or actually better than what you want. And you really shouldn't be taking those drugs and drinking that wine or even drinking that soda. What kind of a thinking adult are you anyway, preferring "cherry red" soda? Grow up. You've had your fun at my rousing rally. Now, straighten up and try to see what you're getting as all you really need.

Merry Christmas!

I hope you get what you want.

December 24, 2019

At the Christmas Eve Café...


... you can talk all night.

The photo was taken at sunrise this morning — a negative-space sunrise, perhaps apt for Christmas Eve.

The Big Oak...

The Big Oak

... is not that tall, but it has amazing horizontality. It got that way by growing up without crowding from other trees. Nowadays, people make a point of removing any trees that would crowd it. It won the horizontality game on its own long ago, but we the people of today like what it did and want to preserve it for our gratification.

"Trump attacks on wind turbines, low-flow toilets and LED lightbulbs set up key campaign clash with Democrats."

The Washington Post notices.
“I’ve seen the most beautiful fields, farms, fields — most gorgeous things you’ve ever seen, and then you have these ugly things going up,” he said of the wind turbines. “And you know what they don’t tell you about windmills? After 10 years, they look like hell.”

The broad nostalgia encapsulated in Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan has become increasingly specific as he has zeroed in on consumer issues such as energy-efficient appliances, carbon-reducing fuel standards and plastic straw bans. Often operating from his own feelings rather than scientific evidence, the president has castigated Democrats’ environmental agenda as unworkable and counterproductive...

Trump has said he wants to campaign heavily against the liberal Green New Deal proposal, pledging to “rip that sucker” just two months before the election....

“I know windmills very much,” Trump said in his Saturday speech. “I’ve studied it better than anybody I know.... You know we have a world, right? So the world is tiny compared to the universe...”
There's a lot of laughing at Trump for saying things like that, but I think WaPo and other Democrats know that he's talking about the real-life experience of ordinary people who can't always be thinking about the climate of the distant future. You know they have a world — right? — a world now that they have to live in, with dishwashers and toilets and lightbulbs and straws.

"Emotionality has been weaponized against women for centuries to dismiss us, silence us, or prove our imagined, inherent weakness.... [T]he pulsar gathered force until, with critical mass, we disturbed the universe."

So writes the woman whose emotionality disturbed us before we were ready for pulsar intensity disturbance.

I'm reading "Monica Lewinsky on the Decade We Reclaimed Our Stories—and Ourselves/A timeline of women’s acts of reclamation, 2010–2019" in Vanity Fair.

I was just talking — yesterday, in off-blog life — about Monica Lewinsky. I have long taken the position — in real-world conversations — that Monica Lewinsky really loved Bill Clinton and would have done anything for him, would have continued to please him in the style of old-fashioned femininity, driven by love wherever it went. Her confidante, Linda Tripp, is often disparaged, but we should recognize her as an early exemplar of the #MeToo woman. She was the woman telling another woman to wake up and look at what is really happening. This isn't love. This is exploitation. Your emotionality has been weaponized against you, to diminish and control you, but it needs to gather force and disturb the universe.

"I don't have a Darrell Hammond tag and I'm not going to make one now, because if I do and he turns up randomly later this morning, I will have to reexamine my conception of reality."

I wrote in the comments to the previous post, in which I contemplated the reoccurrence of Sean Connery the second post of the day after he'd come up in the first post and I'd made a new "Sean Connery" tag.

So I didn't make that "Darrell Hammond" tag (yet!) but the threat to my conception of reality caused me to self-protectively do a Google News search for "Darrell Hammond." Is he lurking in the current news stories, about to pop out and scare me? I'll catch him first.

I find "The decade in Domino’s/Once a joke, in the ’10s the company became the biggest pizza chain in the world":
Domino’s Pizza used to be a joke. Consider the 2005 Saturday Night Live sketch in which Donald Trump (portrayed by Darrell Hammond), wears a giant pizza slice around his neck as he shoots a Domino’s advertisement: “Personally, I think it’s the highest quality pizza of the low-quality pizzas.” Sure, good shitty pizza may be better than some, but the point is that it’s still shitty....
All right then!

The world is bizarre, so much more bizarre than Sean Connery popping up twice in my morning's blogging. I feel safe and calm, knowing that I am not at the center of the vortex of bizarreness. That would be Donald Trump.

"No one encouraged me to be a cartoonist.... I showed my work and they just said, 'I didn’t know you were this unhappy.'..."

"My dream was to be a working cartoonist for the Village Voice... Because that was Jules Feiffer, Mark Alan Stamaty, Stan Mack. There was something very idiosyncratic, very New York, about them, all social comment and not a gag panel. And the New Yorker cartoon was a gag panel. I liked that, but I had no interest in doing that. I didn’t see myself as part of that. I submitted because I thought, Why not? I was working for the Voice and for the Lampoon, and I thought I should try The New Yorker. It’s cartoons—same deal. I think it was a Wednesday—I called up and found their drop-off day, and I left my portfolio. And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing ever since. I was absolutely flabbergasted and terrified when I found out I had sold something.... ... I went in to see [Lee Lorenz, the New Yorker’s art editor] and he pulled out a cartoon, and he said, ‘We want to buy this! Are you excited?’ ‘Yeah, I am,’ I said. I thought I might be dreaming. A little bit out of body. I noticed that the lights were very like my elementary school. I liked that it’s not exactly shabby but nothing trying to impress you. Places that are trying to impress me always scare me. They don’t impress me, but they scare me. He told me that Shawn [William Shawn, the magazine’s longtime editor] really liked my work. And I had no idea who Shawn was! I assumed it was a first name, someone named Sean, like Sean Connery, who somehow was allowed to like your work. I nodded. ‘That sounds good.’ I did meet him later, and he doffed his hat and I doffed mine, and I wondered why I was doing this."

From "Scenes from the Life of Roz Chast/In the past four decades, the cartoonist has created a universe of spidery lines and nervous spaces, turning anxious truth-telling into an authoritative art" (in The New Yorker).

Speaking of exciting scenes in the life of an artist, I selected that quote and cut and pasted it here before reading it to the end, and I was flabbergasted to see Sean Connery come up. It's so utterly random. The previous post, which I started writing because I was interested in Dennis Hopper's photography, moved through a sequence of things and ended up on Sean Connery. I'd just created a new tag for "Sean Connery" and added it retrospectively to 3 other posts. Sean Connery had popped up only 3 times in 16 years of writing on this blog, and now, this morning, in the space of a few minutes, he's popped up twice. All 5 of the Sean Connery appearances on this blog have been minimal and random. I'll list them in the order of importance — importance with regard to Sean Connery — with the least trivial thing at #1:

5. Roz Chast heard the last name "Shawn" and thought of the first name "Sean," as in "Sean Connery."

4. Darrell Hammond was identified (in 2011) as the SNL actor who impersonates "Al Gore, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and Sean Connery."

3. Dream-casting a movie based on a new Sandra Day O'Connor biography in 2005, one commenter pictures "a cameo appearance from Sir Sean Connery as Robert Bork, who turns out to have been the arch-villain all along!"

2. This morning's discussion of the 1995 Sean Connery movie "Just Cause."

1. My revelation that I haven't seen a James Bond movie since the last Sean Connery Bond movie, "Diamonds Are Forever" ("It was 1971, and we thought James Bond was absurdly passé").

"The picture of a plastic box containing a joint is a nice bit of stoner fun, but it also evokes the glass-cube sculptures of Larry Bell, another of the artists whose work Hopper..."

"... and Hayward collected (and whom Hopper photographed). A neon Motel Alaska sign, with a glowing index finger illuminating a nocturnal streetscape, echoes a Duchampian credo that Hopper was fond of, that the artist of the future will 'point his finger at something and say it’s art.' Pointing fingers recur in the tender image of two hands—one an adult’s, one a toddler’s—hovering over a mud puddle, a moving study of Hayward and Marin."

From "Dennis Hopper's Quiet Vision of Nineteen-Sixties Hollywood" in The New Yorker.

"Hayward" is Brooke Hayward, Dennis Hopper's first wife. "Marin" is the daughter of Hayward and Hopper, and she is the "energetic steward of [Hopper's] photographic legacy." I'll say! Getting a New Yorker article with sentences like those quoted above is kickass stewardship.

I looked up Brooke Hayward in Wikipedia. Oddly (and speaking of photographs), the only photograph of her there includes Groucho Marx:

It's a really nice photograph of Groucho too. He and Hayward starred in "The Hold Out" on General Electric Theater (on TV in 1961). It was a serious dramatic role for Groucho, and the look on his face is not Groucho being Groucho (and thinking the serious thought, this is a seriously beautiful woman) but playing the part of a man who (according to the caption) "disapproves of his teenage daughter's (Hayward) marriage." She's quite beautiful, but nothing about her says "teenager." In fact, the actress was 24. Today, you could be 54 and look like that.

Speaking of artist-name-dropping sentences in The New Yorker and wives named Brooke, I was continuing to read "The Art of Dying/I always said that when my time came I’d want to go fast. But where’s the fun in that?" by Peter Schjeldahl, and I came across what I will declare the best really long sentence I have read in the 16-year history of writing this blog:
I went back to college in Minnesota for a year, dropped out for good, returned to the Jersey City job for three months, unwisely married, spent an impoverished and largely useless year in Paris, had a life-changing encounter with a painting by Piero della Francesca in Italy, another with works by Andy Warhol in Paris, returned to New York, freelanced, stumbled into the art world, got a divorce, which, while uncontested, entailed a solo trip to a dusty courthouse in Juárez, Mexico, past a kid saying, “Hey, hippie, wanna screw my sister?,” to receive a spectacular document with a gold seal and a red ribbon from a judge as rotund and taciturn as an Olmec idol.
The unwise marriage was not to the wife named Brooke. She arrived later. Like Hopper's Brooke, Schjeldahl's Brooke was an actress. We're told she quit acting after her best line in a movie was edited out, perhaps because Sean Connery thought it was stealing the scene from him. The line was about how nonsmokers were "in the hospital dying of nothing."

December 23, 2019

The narrative arc of today's sunrise.





The photos were taken at 7:12, 7:15, 7:24, 7:35. The actual sunrise time was 7:27.

"The Hasidic Jewish community, in which men have a tradition of wearing fur hats or shtreimel, has also supported the fur industry, along with a group of African American ministers who described fur as a unique cultural symbol of achievement."

From "Fur is under attack. It’s not going down without a fight" by Robin Givhan (in WaPo).

Givhan quotes Kitty Block, president of the Humane Society of the United States: "I really take issue with the culture argument. Cruelty is not culture, and I think it’s kind of insulting."

Givhan adds: "Does culture have legal standing? Perhaps. Both California and New York have laws banning racial discrimination based on natural hairstyles."

If Hasidic Jewish men and African American ministers have a special cultural need for fur, should laws — like California's new law banning the sale of fur — be denounced as discrimination? Obviously, these laws are not intended to target Jewish men and successful African American ministers, so it's hard to picture a successful legal challenge.

It tends to be more effective to say that a law puts a burden on a religious practice, but the Hassidic shtreimel is perhaps not an obligation and as for African Americans and the outward display of success... well, you know what? I will get out of your way! Go ahead and argue that's religion.

But I doubt that Givhan means to hint that lawsuits against these anti-fur laws are plausible, only that the political push to get these laws passed can be met with a political argument that the urge to protect furry animals is outweighed by the interest in protecting the subjective preferences of people in minority groups that have experienced oppression.

"Ram Dass was the master of the one-liner, the two-liner, the ocean-liner."

Said Wavy Gravy, quoted in "Baba Ram Dass, Proponent of LSD and New Age Enlightenment, Dies at 88/Born Richard Alpert, he returned from a trip to India as a bushy-bearded, barefoot, white-robed guru and wrote more than a dozen inspirational books" (NYT).
Baba Ram Dass, who epitomized the 1960s of legend by popularizing psychedelic drugs with Timothy Leary, a fellow Harvard academic, before finding spiritual inspiration in India, died on Sunday at his home on Maui. He was 88....

He was particularly interested in the dying. He started a foundation to help people use death as a journey of spiritual awakening and spoke of establishing a self-help line, “Dial-a-Death,” for this purpose.

When Mr. Leary was dying in 1996 — and wishing to do it “actively and creatively,” as he put it — he called for Ram Dass. Over the years, Ram Dass had alternately been Mr. Leary’s disciple, enemy and, at the end, friend. In a film clip of the two men preparing for Mr. Leary’s death, Ram Dass turns to Leary, hugs him and says, “It’s been a hell of a dance, hasn’t it?”...

"President Donald Trump would have you believe we are 'far left.' Others have said we are not Bible-believing Christians. Neither is true. Christianity Today is theologically conservative."

"We are pro-life and pro-family. We are firm supporters of religious liberties and economic opportunity for men and women to exercise their gifts and create value in the world. We believe in the authority of Scripture.... American evangelicals have always been a loose coalition of tribes. We have fought one another as often as we have fought together. We at Christianity Today believe we need to relearn the art of balancing two things: having a firm opinion and inviting free discussion. ... We are far more committed to the glory of God, the witness of the church, and the life of the world than we care about the fortunes of any party. Political parties come and go, but the witness of the church is the hope of the world, and the integrity of that witness is paramount... Galli’s editorial focused on the impeachment, but it was clear the issues are deeper and broader.... The problem is that we as evangelicals are also associated with President Trump’s rampant immorality, greed, and corruption; his divisiveness and race-baiting; his cruelty and hostility to immigrants and refugees; and more. In other words, the problem is the wholeheartedness of the embrace. It is one thing to praise his accomplishments; it is another to excuse and deny his obvious misuses of power.... We... believe the evangelical alliance with this presidency has done damage to our witness here and abroad. The cost has been too high. American evangelicalism is not a Republican PAC.... It is time for evangelicals to have a serious discussion about how our identity as Christians shapes our activity as citizens. We will invite authors who represent a variety of viewpoints in a thoughtful and charitable manner. We will publish those essays in mid-January...."

From "The Flag in the Whirlwind: An Update from CT’s President/Why our editor in chief spoke out against Trump, and why the conversation must continue" (Christianity Today).

And that editor in chief, Mark Galli, says he's gotten a lot of support, The Hill reports,
"A stereotypical response is ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ with a string of a hundred exclamation points — ‘you’ve said what I’ve been thinking but haven’t been able to articulate, I’m not crazy,‘” Galli told MSNBC. “We have lost subscribers, but we’ve had 3 times as many people start to subscribe."

The eagle and the sunrise.

The eagle was perched on the same branch where I'd seen him before. Later, as I was leaving, I saw that he'd moved to the other side of his tree...


... and later, as I was running back toward the beach, he swooped across the path in front of me and flew ahead to perch in a tree where I imagined he intended to keep an eye on me. That does not mean that I imagine he likes me. I imagine he dislikes me. I visualize him dive bombing with outstretched talons and ripping off half my face. But the internet assures me that bald eagles never ever ever attack humans, so my visualization does not disturb me. It's just one more thought that flies through my brain and takes up a perch on a branch of a distant neuron.

"One would think that Mr. Murphy was given his freedom to leave the plantation, so that he could make his own decisions; but he decided to sell himself back to being a Hollywood Slave."

"[Stepin Fetchit plus cooning equals the destruction of Black Men in Hollywood.] Remember, Mr. Murphy, that Bill Cosby became legendary because he used comedy to humanize all races, religions and genders; but your attacking Mr. Cosby helps you embark on just becoming click bait," instagrammed Bill Cosby's spokesman, quoted in "Bill Cosby’s spokesman rips Eddie Murphy as ‘Hollywood Slave’ over ‘SNL’ jab" (NY Post)

The bracketed sentence is in the original Instagram but sanitized out of the NY Post story. The spokesman's quote reads like a garbled mess without that extra line. With it, I can remember Cosby's criticism of Murphy. If I hadn't dug a little deeper and seen the elided sentence, I'd have said that the statement was worse than saying nothing, because Murphy's joke was mild and contained no factual imperfections or even nastiness, and to criticize it is to make us read it again:
“If you would have told me 30 years ago that I would be this boring, stay-at-home house dad and Bill Cosby would be in jail, even I would have took that bet,” Murphy said.

“Who is America’s dad now?”
But with that extra line, I remember Cosby's old argument against black comedians continuing to use old racist stereotypes to amuse white people. And that is a good description of Murphy's old "SNL" characters, which he reprised unapologetically on last Saturday's show. (I blogged: "[The] Eddie Murphy material was full of racist stereotypes — Mr. Robinson, the criminal; Buckwheat, whose one joke is that he cannot articulate words; Gumby, the angry one; Velvet Jones, the pimp — and yet because these were reprisals of supposedly beloved characters by the show's biggest star from the distant past, they were apparently considered okay to present today.")

Here's Eddie Murphy in 1987 describing how Cosby criticized him, back when Cosby was "America's dad":

The indelible mark of impeachment.

I kept seeing that word — "indelible."

"‘It’s a horrible thing they did’: Trump now bears the indelible mark of impeachment" — headline in The Washington Post on December 19, the day after the House took that vote.

"Impeachment indelible stain on Trump’s legacy" — headline in The Boston Herald.

"The indelible stain on Trump’s presidency belongs to the entire Republican Party" — headline in The Colorado Independent.

This idea of the indelible mark works to downplay the knowledge that the Senate will acquit the President. He won't be removed from office, so wasn't impeachment futile? No, it matters! It's an indelible mark that will last forever, a stain that can never be removed!

The assertion of indelibility seemed really important for... what?... a day? And then along came the new idea that the President wasn't even impeached at all. Yes, that too, happened on December 19th. Noah Feldman — last seen somberly informing us that what Donald Trump did was oh, so impeachable — returned for Act 2 of Law Professors Tell You What the Law Is.

It's December 23, and I haven't talked about this show yet. I've been actively avoiding it. I don't want to see "Cats" or "The Rise of Skywalker" either. I did feel like watching vintage TV commercials about laundry products that miraculously eradicated stains. (Remember the Clinton impeachment with its "stained" dress that was only stained because of a conscious choice not to wash it at all?) I found these 2 old Wisk ads — one from the 1970s and another from 1983. They're amusing to watch in sequence because of the radical social change from one decade to the next:

So, what's the answer to the question is Trump impeached? Sorry, I don't play in the show called Law Professors Tell You What the Law Is. But if you want to know what "impeachment" is, I'd say the answer has to do with what Americans believe it is. Whether Trump was impeached is a manipulable concept, and so is whether impeachment dirties the President, even temporarily. Maybe it's a mark of distinction to the one who is impeached and an embarrassment to the impeachers.

Professor Feldman says impeachment is "a process" and it's not complete until the House formally tells the Senate that it has voted to impeach. Is that about what impeachment means or about what impeachment does? The latter question is what turns on the Senate's "sole power to Try all impeachments"? Is the vote enough or must the House tell the Senate about the vote? Do you think the House should have the power to vote to impeach and then to withhold the case from the Senate? If that question needs to be answered, it's the Senate that will give the final answer. But the Senate can just as well decide not to decide, and leave this impeachment where the House has stowed it —in the back of the closet like an unwashed dress...
... she said she initially thought the marks on her dress "could be spinach dip or something."... she didn’t notice the stain until she took the dress out for Thanksgiving. She tried it on for confidante Linda Tripp, who told her it made her look fat. When the two women figured out that the president’s semen was deposited on the blue Gap dress, Tripp — who was taping Lewinsky — encouraged her to keep it....
Just keep it around. You might want to use it. But for now, you know, it makes you look fat.

"[T]he overwhelming majority of journalists at so-called mainstream outlets — national magazines, newspapers, public radio, the non-Fox television networks — really are doing their best to treat both parties fairly."

"In doing so, however, they often make an honest mistake: They equate balance with the midpoint between the two parties’ ideologies. Over the years, many press critics have pointed out one weakness of this approach: false equivalence, the refusal to consider the possibility that one side of an argument is simply (or mostly) right.... There’s also the possibility that both political parties have been wrong about something and that the solution, rather than being roughly halfway between their answers, is different from what either has been proposing.... The abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, labor rights, the New Deal, civil rights for black Americans, Reagan’s laissez-faire revolution and same-sex marriage all started outside the boundaries of what either party favored.... Political and economic journalism too often assumes otherwise and treats the center as inherently sensible.... [C]entrist bias... helps explain why the 2016 presidential debates focused more on the budget deficit, a topic of centrist zealotry, than climate change, almost certainly a bigger threat.... Sometimes, people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are right. Even when they’re not, they deserve the same skepticism that other politicians do — no less, no more."

From "How ‘Centrist Bias’ Hurts Sanders and Warren/The media has a bigger problem than liberal bias" by David Leonhardt (NYT).

Did the part of the quote that I put in the post title wreck your openness to this argument? One word in particular — "non-Fox." The entire assertion — "the overwhelming majority of journalists at so-called mainstream outlets... really are doing their best to treat both parties fairly" — strikes me as wrong. But to create a big group — national magazines, newspapers, public radio, and television networks — and then to exclude only Fox is a plain display of liberal bias. I can't watch any television news, because it's all biased. If all those "non-Fox" networks "really are doing their best," then "their best" is not good enough.

There is a worthy point in Leonhardt's column however, and I would take it further. If these news outlets really were to start giving us the best coverage of American political news, they would cut themselves off severely from any support for either party, not simply accept the way the issues are presented by the 2 parties and balance between the 2 sides. I'm not talking about whether the claim of balance is honest and accurate. I assume it's not. It's that these 2 parties — neither of which is impressively virtuous and competent — are allowed to define the substance and scope of the coverage.

Leonhardt seems mainly to want more supportive coverage for the further left Democratic candidates and more of a challenge to the bland middling candidates like Biden. He briefly acknowledges that the media underestimated Trump in 2016 (and Reagan in 1980) and attributes this to "centrist bias." But how did Trump win in spite of this intense bias against him? He was too extreme even to be taken seriously by the mainstream media. The media were content to accept Jeb Bush as about right for the GOP, similar to the way they're passing Joe Biden along uncritically. Trump broke through on his own. He turned the media bias against him into a positive force. I don't see Sanders and Warren doing that.

December 22, 2019

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk all night.

And if you're still buying things, may I remind you about the Althouse Portal to Amazon?


That second photo was taken at 7:41, which was 14 minutes after the actual sunrise time. The photo 3 posts down shows 14 minutes before the actual sunrise time. Today's sunrise had an excellent narrative arc. The photograph at the top of this post shows how it looked at 7:31.

"My friend works as an extra in movies and does stock photography.... just saw him pictured as a sex offender on a bus in Florida."

A Reddit post, with a photograph of the bus.

From the comments: "This is... like Joey from Friends having his face used on the poster for venereal disease and he comes across it at the subway station when he’s hitting on a girl... 'What is Mario not telling you?' Or something like that."

The "Friends" video is located:

A tabletop demonstration of the difference between Baby Boomers and Gen Z.

Sunrise with moon.


At 7:13 this morning, 14 minutes before sunrise.

Yes, Eddie Murphy came back to "Saturday Night Live" and reprised his old characters — Mr. Robinson, Buckwheat, Gumby, Velvet Jones — but...

... here's what I think is the most important segment from last night's episode, this part of "Weekend Update," where I think you can see that the show knows that Trump himself is doing better comedy than they are and chooses to edit in clips of Trump's hilarious routine:

Yes, they've surrounded his material with their material, but their material isn't as funny. It mainly functions as packaging to protect Trump-haters from their own reflexive aversion to the toxic President. Now, they can enjoy his comedy. They have access to the bad orange man.

Speaking of color, that Eddie Murphy material was full of racist stereotypes — Mr. Robinson, the criminal; Buckwheat, whose one joke is that he cannot articulate words; Gumby, the angry one; Velvet Jones, the pimp — and yet because these were reprisals of supposedly beloved characters by the show's biggest star from the distant past, they were apparently considered okay to present today. This too is packaging. Take something funny that you can't do, do it anyway, but swathe it inside of something that seems to say that this isn't really what it is.

The cold open was the Democratic Debate, and there was no room for Eddie Murphy in that. Well, they could have had him as Deval Patrick barging into the debate, because they had Fred Armisen as Michael Bloomberg barging into the debate, but what would the joke be? With Bloomberg, they could billionaire-bash. He bought his way in. Obviously, that's not too funny either. So what did they do? They had Trump (Alec Baldwin) crash the debate. The SNL audience wants Trump... wants Trump because they want to hate him some more? Or is this love, packaged as hate? Let me start you 7 1/2 minutes in as Trump swaggers onto the debate stage and trash talks: "You think I'm nervous? What are they going to do, impeach me? Hey, losers! Impeach me outside. Okay? How about that?"

By the way, the Velvet Jones material was full of sexist material. To Jones, all women are whores. One of his many books is about pole dancing. Incredibly, that segment ran right before the music guest, Lizzo, performed a song with dancers who were pole dancing.

I think Lizzo is trying to present a character who's a very independent woman, but Velvet Jones had just been sleazily advising women to find independence through prostitution. Doesn't Lizzo have people to protect her from that sort of extremely disadvantageous framing? Talk about packaging. She got mispackaged by Murphy.

Coots (and a dog) in the sunrise.

Just now...