November 14, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk all night.

"The wheel's still in spin."


It's a podcast. 

Topics: "Coddling baby-adults, winning the culture war, Dylan’s losers, calling kids fat, walking the war out of your system, the museum’s accidental honoring of male supremacy."

No nudes is good nudes.

I'm reading this NYT article by Roberta Smith about the rearrangement of the various permanent galleries at the Museum of Modern Art. I see what's going on here:
The fourth-floor gallery, with a mix of what most people would recognize as Pop Art, was previously “From Soup Cans to Flying Saucers” and is now “Domestic Disruption.”... This gallery... is far less discombobulated than its previous iteration, corroborating more convincingly the internationalism that is a recurring subtext on this floor. Tom Wesselmann’s scaled up “Still Life #57” (1969-70) is one of his best installation paintings, not least for containing no nudes. It is in dialogue with Noah Purifoy’s “Unknown,” a balletic assemblage-painting in which a parasol armature radiates across saturated bands of green, yellow and red. To the other side stands Beatriz González’s “Lullaby,” a metal baby crib, painted enamel green with an appropriated image of mother and child.

"Still Life #57" — which you can see here — is a very large painting of a radio, an orange, and some daffodils. But longtime museumgoers almost certainly associate Wesselmann with vivid, forthright "Great American Nudes" like this one, "Great American Nude #75."

Now, the nudes are banished, the galleries are rearranged, Wesselmann will be known by an orange (instead of the orange's shape-mate, the breast), and it must be "in dialogue" with an African-American man's balletic parasol and a Hispanic woman's crib. 

I'm not looking at it, but it sounds like ham-handed inclusiveness. It sounds as though the white man is still the center of power: The arrangement seems like an exercise in diluting and offsetting him. That, ironically, is an expression of a deep, persistent belief in white male supremacy. 


Professor Tushnet and Justice Alito got me looking for the Dylan songs containing the word "loser." There are 4 such songs, and the one the worked for that post was "The Times They Are A-Changin'." 

What are the other 3 "loser" songs? 

"The very intensity of Justice Alito’s remarks seems to me to confirm my judgment about who won the culture wars. His are in fact the observations of a person who hasn’t come to grips with the fact that he’s been on the losing side of many culture war issues."

Said Harvard lawprof Mark Tushnet, quoted in "In Unusually Political Speech, Alito Says Liberals Pose Threat to Liberties/The conservative justice’s pointed remarks, which he made in a speech to the Federalist Society, reflected thoughts he has expressed in his opinions" (NYT). 

Tushnet is the Harvard professor that Alito was referring to in his speech (transcript):
The question we face is whether our society will be inclusive enough to tolerate people with unpopular religious beliefs. Over the years, I have sat on cases involving the rights of many religious minorities — Muslim police officers whose religion required them to have beards, a Native American who wanted to keep a bear for religious services, a Jewish prisoner who tried to organize a Torah study group.... 
A Harvard Law School Professor provided a different vision of a future America. He candidly wrote, quote, the culture wars are over, they lost we won. The question now is how to deal with the losers in the culture wars. My own judgment is the taking a hard line you lost live with it is better than trying to accommodate the losers, taking a hard line seem to work reasonably well in Germany and Japan after 1945. Is our country going to follow that course? To quote a popular Nobel laureate, "It's not dark yet, but it's getting there."

Alito seems to like to refer to people without naming them. The "Harvard Law School Professor" was Mark Tushnet. Who was the Nobel laureate? 


ADDED: Hey, Professor Tushnet, you say the war is over and you won and the other guy is the loser, but the Nobel laureate says
... don’t speak too soon 
For the wheel’s still in spin 
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’ 
For the loser now will be later to win 
For the times they are a-changin’

"I am quietly horrified by how fashionable it is to demean men in the academic setting and popular press. I heard a faculty colleague laughing about all the 'mediocre white men' in our shared course and it broke my heart, because even white men are people too."

Writes "a woman and an Assistant Professor at an R1 school" in the comments section of "I’m Tired of Babysitting Man-Babies at Work" (NYT). 

It's an advice column, and the chosen problem — from a woman who works "on a relatively diverse, gender-balanced team" at a job she says she loves — is that "the work itself does not feel fair" because "Within the project teams I’m a part of, it falls to women to take notes, organize their colleagues and make sure work gets done with regular check-ins and meetings."

The NYT's advice columnist is Roxane Gay, and she says: "If a natural, equitable system isn’t manifesting, assign people specific responsibilities. Stop assuming everything will fall apart if you don’t hold it together. Stop coddling grown men. Prioritize your own work and ambition more than you prioritize the man-babies you work with."

I don't really understand the answer, because it seems to me that to " ssign people specific responsibilities" is to assume you're the one that must "hold it together" and impose the proper order, the "equitable system" that didn't emerge "naturally." The problem seems to be the familiar "group project" problem, where some people hold back and let the more anxious over-achievers get most of the work done. That's the natural order — isn't it? — among the human beings.

And why does it just happen that it "falls to women to take notes, organize their colleagues and make sure work gets done with regular check-ins and meetings"? Is that "natural"? An underlying question is whether all the note-taking and meetings and regular check-ins really need to be done. 

You can look at this problem from different angles: 1. Women could be oppressing men by expecting work to be done with excessive meetings and documentation and bureaucracy. People who resist inefficiency are not necessarily babyish. 2. Men could end up coddling grown women if they get the message men violate gender equity norms when they don't go along with the expectation that work be done with lots of stultifying meetings and note-taking.

"The war on childhood obesity reached its zenith with the 2010 introduction of the national 'Let’s Move!' campaign, 'dedicated to solving the problem of obesity within a generation.'"

"It was a campaign against 'childhood obesity' — not specific health conditions or the behaviors that may contribute to those health conditions. It wasn’t a campaign against foods with little nutritional value, or against the unchecked poverty that called for such low-cost, shelf-stable foods. It was a campaign against a body type — specifically, children’s body types...."

From "Leave Fat Kids Alone/The 'war on childhood obesity' has only caused shame," an op-ed by Aubrey Gordon in The New York Times

This is the most negative thing about Michelle Obama I have ever seen in The New York Times. Not that the op-ed ever says the name Michelle Obama. I was going to check to see if the comments over there bring up Michelle Obama, but there are no comments on this piece. Perhaps that's to protect Michelle Obama, but probably also to protect the author of the op-ed from any of shaming, the op-ed being staunchly anti-shame.

Here's the Wikipedia article on "Let's Move." It begins: "Let's Move! was a public health campaign in the United States, led by Michelle Obama, wife of then-President Barack Obama."

"And their eyes — wow, it was like someone turned the lights on."

The image is from Earl Shaffer's Appalachian Hike Diary (1948), every page of which you can see at that link, at the Smithsonian website. 

I'm reading about Shaffer this morning in "Walking off the War on the Appalachian Trail," a new article at Gaia GPS. The author is Abby Levene.

Shaffer was the first person to through-hike the Appalachian Trail:
He travelled alone, walking around 17 miles a day. Shaffer packed light. He nixed a tent when he realized his poncho could double as a shelter. He mended his clothes, and cooked cornbread in a pan over an open fire. Shaffer made it over the rocks, roots, and rubble in just one pair of Russell Moccasin Company “Birdshooter” boots. He resoled them twice, and they were in tatters by the end. 
You can still buy Russell Moccasin Company “Birdshooter” boots. They're from Berlin, Wisconsin. 

The article says that Shaffer's motivation was to “walk the war out of my system.” The main focus of the article is Sean Gobin, a Marine veteran who through-hiked the Appalachian Trail and thinks it was good for his mental health:

November 13, 2020

At the Observatory Café...


... you can make all the observations you like.

"That's just an alabai."


It's a podcast.

Topics: "Elon Musk and COVID, my dream about Biden, Alito and the erosion of rights, colossal dog statue in Turkmenistan, the largest statues in the world, Meghan McCain mocks Trump, a cheeky interviewer in Nebraska, Trump adjust to losing, Harvard and affirmative action." 

Episode title appropriates a line from this:

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"A two-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit found that Harvard’s race-conscious admissions process does not violate civil rights law..."

"... when the university selects an incoming undergraduate class.... The plaintiff alleged that Harvard... intentionally discriminated against Asian Americans in ways that benefited applicants from other groups seeking entry to one of the world’s most competitive universities.... Judge Juan R. Torruella, who had also been on the panel reviewing the appeal, died last month.... The university says it adheres to Supreme Court rulings over decades that have allowed the use of race within certain limits.... The court’s new 6-3 conservative majority, cemented with the recent appointment of Justice Amy Coney Barrett to Ginsburg’s seat, could view the long-running controversy over race-conscious admissions in a new light.... Several states bar public universities from considering race. California voters on Nov. 3 rejected a ballot measure that would have repealed a ban on the use of race in public university admissions and other situations. But the politics of the issue are complex, as this year’s demonstrations for social and racial justice have shown the power of the Black Lives Matter movement...."

"Approximate heights of various notable statues."

"1. Statue of Unity 240 m (790 ft) (incl. 58 m (190 ft) base) 2. Spring Temple Buddha 153 m (502 ft) (incl. 25 m (82 ft) pedestal and 20 m (66 ft) throne) 3. Statue of Liberty 93 m (305 ft) (incl. 47 m (154 ft) pedestal) 4. The Motherland Calls 87 m (285 ft) (incl. 2 m (6 ft 7 in) pedestal) 5. Christ the Redeemer 38 m (125 ft) (incl. 8 m (26 ft) pedestal) 6. Michelangelo's David 5.17 m (17.0 ft) (excl. 2.5 m (8 ft 2 in) plinth)" 

From the Wikipedia article on the Statue of Unity, the tallest statue in the world. I got there from Wikipedia's list of tallest statues in the world, which I was reading because we're talking this morning about a 19 foot tall statue of a dog

That dog is in Turkmenistan, and it's quite big for a dog statue — the Balto statue in NY's Central Park is closer to actual-dog size — but a statue has to be at least 98 feet tall to get on the "tallest statues" list, so the Turkmenistan dog falls way short. 

Nearly all the statues on that list depict human beings (or dieties that look human). But there are a few nonhuman animals. If I read the list accurately, the tallest statue that doesn't have a human — or part-human — form is a merlion (in Singapore). No dog statues on the list.

Look how shrimpy the Statue of Liberty and Christ the Redeemer look juxaposed to the Statue of Unity and the Spring Temple Buddha. But in the real world, these statues are not near any other statues, so the sense of scale comes from the landscape (or harborscape) around them. 

I haven't visited too many colossi, and I don't know if I want to. I've gazed at the Statue of Liberty thousands of times, but I didn't care about taking a boat up to the island to get close to it and experience my tininess in contrast to the thing. I did it once, to go along with others. I'm resistant to exaggerated size. Make it beautiful before you make it big. Bigness as goodness, I reject.

"'He knows it’s over,' one adviser said. But instead of conceding, they said, he is floating one improbable scenario after another for staying in office..."

"... while he contemplates his uncertain post-presidency future. There is no grand strategy at play, according to interviews with a half-dozen advisers and people close to the president. Mr. Trump is simply trying to survive from one news cycle to the next, seeing how far he can push his case against his defeat and ensure the continued support of his Republican base. By dominating the story of his exit from the White House, he hopes to keep his millions of supporters energized and engaged for whatever comes next.... As a next step, Mr. Trump is talking seriously about announcing that he is planning to run again in 2024, aware that whether he actually does it or not, it will freeze an already-crowded field of possible Republican candidates... His mood is often bleak, advisers say, though he is not raising his voice in anger, despite the impression left by his tweets, which are often in capital letters.... Advisers have nudged the president to stop talking about 'fraud' because that has legal implications that his team has not been able to back up. So Mr. Trump has taken to pronouncing the election 'rigged'...."

Suddenly, everyone's interested in Leta Powell Drake — when people in Lincoln, Nebraska have watched her interview celebrities for 40 years.

She's gone big because of this tweet, collecting some of her sublime moments: Now, Vulture has a interview with her. Excerpts: 

So... humor has not died. I question whether it's "too funny." But who cares? At least we're not too uptight to make jokes... or at least only if they are anti-Trump...

Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov gave Vladimir Putin an alabai.

And now there's a 19-foot statue of a golden alabai in the center of a big traffic circle in Ashgabat. 

Here's video from The Guardian ("Turkmenistan leader unveils giant gold statue of local dog"):


 Here's weirder video: 


I like that there's a homophone for "alibi." And we've been talking about bad public monuments lately, so I must say a golden dog is not so bad. Maybe we'd do better here in the West with dog statues instead of the usual human beings and, alternatively, abstractions. But the antagonism toward public art is so great in the United States these days that a dog statue would probably be regarded as a monument to white supremacy and torn down by some high-minded citizens.

I finally had a dream about Joe Biden.

Have you ever had a dream about Joe Biden? I hadn't, not that my dreams are populated by celebrities. 

In the dream, Joe was giving a speech on television, and he became completely incoherent, but he struggled to go on and it got horrifically bad. He had a panicked, confused look on his face, and he seemed to want to believe that if he just kept going, it would straighten out well enough and the public would accept it, as we usually do, but it only got worse and worse. Jill was sitting beside him projecting the message that this was all just fine — nothing to see here — and then bit by bit letting it show that she knew this was a very real and obvious problem, that we were seeing the complete collapse of her husband. 

"The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty," said Justice Samuel Alito...

... in the keynote address at the national convention of the Federalist Society. The convention took place on line, which means we get video of something that ordinarily would not be recorded:


I found a transcript of the speech at Reason. Excerpt:
The pandemic has obviously taken a heavy human toll... The pandemic has resulted in previously unimaginable restrictions on individual liberty.... [W]e have never before seen restrictions as severe, extensive and prolonged as those experienced, for most of 2020.

For brevity, I'm editing out a lot of cautioning about not taking this the wrong way. He's cushioning these remarks. Don't think he's not sympathetic to the victims of the disease.

"Something extremely bogus is going on. Was tested for covid four times today. Two tests came back negative, two came back positive. Same machine, same test, same nurse" — tweeted Elon Musk...

... quoted in "Elon Musk, with cold symptoms, says his covid-19 tests are inconclusive" (WaPo).
When one follower asked if false tests could be driving the national surge in cases, Musk replied, “If it’s happening to me, it’s happening to others.”  When another follower suggested that “revenues from tests are likely not bogus & very consistent,” Musk replied, “Exactly.”...

WaPo goes on to say that Musk has been a coronavirus "skeptic" since last March, when he tweeted "the coronavirus panic is dumb." The panic is dumb. That doesn't mean he thinks the disease itself isn't serious! 

This reminds me of the way President Trump was treated at the end of February, when I was critical of headlines like "Trump rallies his base to treat coronavirus as a 'hoax.'" That was, I said at the time, a "hoax hoax." 

The WaPo article attributes what it calls his "fury" to his financial interests: "forced to shutter a California [Tesla] factory... he unleashed a heated rant" in an earnings call and said the government should give “people back their g — d--- freedom.” And: “To say that they cannot leave their house and they will be arrested if they do, this is fascist.... This is not democratic — this is not freedom.” He's called the lockdowns “fundamentally, a violation of the Constitution.” 

November 12, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


 ... you can talk all night.


"I'm on a Soviet radio."


It's a podcast. 

Topics: "Trump’s hot tweets, Trump’s forthcoming media empire, Obama’s possible America, the Soviet radio, the botched art restorations, the badness of public art, Elon Musk on Mars, living like it’s 1958."

Episode title is a play on this: 

Panorama at 6:57 — this morning on Lake Mendota.

IMG_1181 Click and click again to enlarge.

"Shall I be mean about British art? Okay. Realism and literature haunts almost all British art."

"I surmise that the capacious feel for language, narrative, and drama that seems to be inculcated in the British brain causes a lot of British art to fall into clever commentary, agitprop, or academicism — or be pulled back into realism. Great Britain’s is a primarily literary art; this doesn’t work well visually. I further surmise that abstraction is not foremost in the British mind. So much for my silly xenophobia. The real answer for why most public sculpture is bad — and why this keeps happening with art, much architecture, and too many governments — is bureaucracy and populism and the rule of the common denominator, a need to not offend, to please, to be liked (at least by the people making the choice), to be popular, and to not change. It defaults to the 'traditional values' of whatever white hegemony dominated that culture 150 years ago — at the apex of American and European colonialism. When it comes to public sculpture, this usually means hackneyed figurative art that claims to signify or represent an idea or person but really only represents lazy and regressive ideas."

 From "The Mary Wollstonecraft Monument in London Is Bad Kitsch Feminism" Jerry Saltz (New York Magazine). For more on the specific sculpture, listen to yesterday's podcast or read — and look at the pictures in — this post of mine. Saltz calls the sculpture "solemn, shallow, feebleminded, and homely" — and "a whirl of metal with a naked genie popping out of the top — strangely and inappropriately ejaculatory."

Living like it's 1958.

"A record-breaking surge in U.S. coronavirus cases is being driven to a significant degree by casual occasions that may feel deceptively safe... dinner parties, game nights, sleepovers and carpools."

"Many earlier coronavirus clusters were linked to nursing homes and crowded nightclubs. But public health officials nationwide say case investigations are increasingly leading them to small, private social gatherings. This behind-doors transmission trend reflects pandemic fatigue and widening social bubbles, experts say — and is particularly insidious because it is so difficult to police and likely to increase as temperatures drop and holidays approach."

It is so difficult to police the inside of people's homes.

From the comments at WaPo: "Here in rural Indiana, the mentality seems to be that as long as you know the people you are with, you don't have to worry. Doesn't matter that your friends or relatives could have picked up COVID from someone else, it's fine. A relative of mine has been in the hospital with a COVID infection that has been traced to the baby shower for her daughter-in-law. I'm sure they were all nice people."

6:58 a.m. — Lake Mendota — a picture of calmness.

"He plans to wreck Fox. No doubt about it."

Said a source quoted in "Scoop: Trump eyes digital media empire to take on Fox News" (Axios).

Make America Possible Again.

From "I’m Not Yet Ready to Abandon the Possibility of America" by Barack Obama (an excerpt in The Atlantic from his forthcoming book "A Promised Land"): 
What I can say for certain is that I’m not yet ready to abandon the possibility of America—not just for the sake of future generations of Americans but for all of humankind. I’m convinced that the pandemic we’re currently living through is both a manifestation of and a mere interruption in the relentless march toward an interconnected world, one in which peoples and cultures can’t help but collide....
Our divisions run deep; our challenges are daunting. If I remain hopeful about the future, it’s in large part because I’ve learned to place my faith in my fellow citizens, especially those of the next generation, whose conviction in the equal worth of all people seems to come as second nature, and who insist on making real those principles that their parents and teachers told them were true but that they perhaps never fully believed themselves. More than anyone else, my book is for those young people—an invitation to once again remake the world, and to bring about, through hard work, determination, and a big dose of imagination, an America that finally aligns with all that is best in us.

In this rhetoric, America is something that has never existed in reality, only as a set of ideals. The "America" of Trump's "Make America Great Again" was not only never great in the past. It was never even America. At some point in the future, the dream of America may come true. Obama has considered abandoning the hope that America will some day come into existence, but he's holding off. He's putting his faith in the people, especially the "next generation," which might be the Millennials, but could be Gen Z. 

And don't forget the babies — the "Alphas" — and what they'll be thinking, seemingly second nature, after 10 or 15 years of whatever the Gen X and the Millennials inflict upon us. Somehow, something known as "the best in us" — be best! — will align with Mars, then peace will guide the planets, and love will steer the stars.

With Veterans Day accomplished, Trump launches into a hot morning of tweeting.

From the last 14 hours (in reverse chronological order) on Trump's Twitter feed:
"OK, I’ve seen enough. What’s going to happen to these guys (McCabe, Comey & the gang of treasonous thugs)? @SenJohnKennedy @MariaBartiromo @TheJusticeDept They, and many others, got caught. DO SOMETHING!!!"
Who is he quoting?
From 200,000 votes to less than 10,000 votes. If we can audit the total votes cast, we will easily win Arizona also!
That's a comment on an azcentral politics story that says "Biden's lead in Arizona keeps shrinking, but not enough for Trump to overtake him."
Big Jim is the greatest!
That's a comment on the KDKA story, "West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice refused to acknowledge that Joe Biden won the presidential election."
It took long enough! What is taking North Carolina so long? Are they looking for more ballots to fix that one also? Now with a recount, we will win Georgia also. Pennsylvania & Michigan wouldn’t let our Poll Watchers & Observers into counting rooms. Illegal!
That's a comment on the AP story, "BREAKING: Donald Trump wins Alaska."
It attempted to alter our election and got caught?
That's a comment on a tweet that reads "What do we know about Dominion?" I don't know what that means! 
NOW 73,000,000 LEGAL VOTES!
Nobody wants to report that Pennsylvania and Michigan didn’t allow our Poll Watchers and/or Vote Observers to Watch or Observe. This is responsible for hundreds of thousands of votes that should not be allowed to count. Therefore, I easily win both states. Report the News!
I am pleased to announce that I have given my full support and endorsement to Ronna McDaniel to continue heading the Republican National Committee (RNC). With 72 MILLION votes, we received more votes than any sitting President in U.S. history - and we will win!
Everyone is asking why the recent presidential polls were so inaccurate when it came to me. Because they are FAKE, just like much of the Lamestream Media!
That's not including the retweeting, of which there is much at the link. 

I looked for an answer to my question about Dominion and think it's a voting machine company. Gateway Pundit, commenting on Trump's tweet, says: "We’ve reported that there were numerous instances in this election where votes were switched from President Trump to Joe Biden in states predominantly using Dominion voting machines.... Tonight the President responded that the Dominion voting systems were involved in election fraud and they got caught." 

Soviet visuals.

What's so amazing about this design is the commitment to rectangles where curves make so much more sense. Or is that just my Western point of view? If the radio is rectangular — they seem to have thought — then the dial should be rectangular and the knob should be rectangular. If you begin with something rectangular — and you're not going to have an oval-shaped radio — then you ought to square off everything else, no matter how natural the curve seems to be. It's the opposite of form follows function. It's form follows form.

At least in art restoration, you can see what's gone wrong when things have been handed over to people who don't know what they're doing.

Strangely, it doesn't just look awful. It looks awful in the same way that the most famous botched restoration looks awful: If I wanted to create a conspiracy theory, I would say that there's a secret sect that worships a god that looks like that — one eye up, the other eye down, mouth like a sucker (or sex doll). 

November 11, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

IMG_1135 ... you can talk all night.

"There is a high level of degenerate behavior with Elon. There’s a paranoia: Are you with me or against me? I genuinely want to leave the room sometimes when he walks in."

"All of these guys, I’ve spent time with them, Musk, Zuck, all of them; they all exhibit tendencies of total and complete pathological sociopathy. They don’t at their core give a flying fuck about you or me as individuals."  

Musk has a plan to colonize Mars to "save humanity, given that we will likely destroy Earth through climate change, or artificial intelligence, or some other cataclysmically awful human-inspired event." He thinks he can get 1 million people living there by 2050. Bilton envisions disaster because "Musk will be there too, and he will bring his extremes with him.... If Twitter works on the red planet, Musk will still be blocking people who don’t agree with him."

"The watery bejeezus."


It's a podcast. 

Topics: "Nude and naked sculptures, water meadows, the Oversoul, Trump declassifying secrets, Benford’s law, the Electoral College."

"A fellow ain't got a soul of his own, just a little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everyone."


That's the bit from "Grapes of Wrath" that I wasn't able to recite off the top of my head as I was recording my podcast yesterday and got to the item about the historian Jon Meacham, who'd helped write Joe Biden's victory speech.  Meacham has a book titled "The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels" and Biden's speech expressed a desire "to rebuild the soul of America." 

Here's the post I was reading in the podcast, and here's the podcast. At 21:40, I begin speaking extemporaneously: 

"I want to get into this idea of 'the soul of America'.... What do you think of the idea that a country has a soul?... I like to think of the idea that individual human beings have a soul, and when I hear of this composite soul of an entire country, I'm skeptical.... That's what makes me think of fascism.... especially if you're not acknowledging the soul of individual people, and so often, from the Democratic side, I get the sense that they view their opponents as being soulless... and I feel that they're also antagonistic to individualism. Everyone needs to think the same thing, and people should be cancelled if they don't all say the same thing.... I read that as a rejection of the sense that individual people have a soul, and then you come at this with the idea that America has a soul. There's just an Oversoul to America. I know you can go very deeply into that. It reminds me of that speech in 'The Grapes of Wrath'... and I know there's some Emerson stuff you could put there. But I'm not writing a post. I'm doing a podcast. So I can't get into the research and come up with stuff. But if I were reading and writing right now and not talking — and this is the advantage of reading and writing — I would research those things, and I would add a few little things,  but why don't you go do it? You go read that."

Here's the Ralph Waldo Emerson essay, "The Over-Soul." Excerpt:

"As the weaknesses of President Trump's legal cases to overturn Joe Biden's win become clearer, Republicans are talking more about the Electoral College..."

"... hinting at an extreme last-chance way for Trump to cling to power.... In this long-shot scenario, Trump and his team could try to block secretaries of state in contested states from certifying results. That could allow legislatures in those states to try to appoint new electors who favor Trump over Biden.... Trump has not directly said he would pursue this strategy. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo each noted on Tuesday that the election results don't become official until electors cast their votes next month...." 

It's very hard to imagine such a thing happening, but the Biden side needs to be prepared as long as Trump keeps the uncertainty alive, tormenting them. 

Axios has quotes from "one lawyer familiar with the process" — the process, not the Trump insiders who are planning to do anything like this, just the existence of this strange, mind-bending path to victory. 

This lawyer observes that Trump may be trying to "scare the living bejeezus out of everyone." Good guess. 

What is the argument that Trump ought to be doing what he can to calm us? I hear Biden and his people telling us they want to bring calm to the country, but they're declining the opportunity to just be calm themselves until the state officials certify the results of the election.

Personally, I feel calm about waiting for that. Why isn't that okay? It seems to me that as long as they choose to pressure Trump to concede before the vote certification, they're forfeiting the high ground of calmness above all, and I'm not going to worry about Trump's pot stirring. 

"President Trump’s senior military and intelligence officials have been warning him strongly against declassifying information about Russia..."

"... that his advisers say would compromise sensitive collection methods and anger key allies.... Trump and his allies want the information public because they believe it would rebut claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin supported Trump in 2016. That may sound like ancient history, but for Trump it remains ground zero — the moment when his political problems began.... CIA Director Gina Haspel last month argued strongly at a White House meeting against disclosing the information.... Haspel also met personally with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) Tuesday.... Haspel’s most unlikely defender has been Attorney General William P. Barr, who opposed a pre-election push to declassify the sensitive material, according to three current and former officials. At a showdown meeting at the White House, Barr pushed back against revealing the secret information.... The issue may have played a role in Trump’s surprise decision on Monday to fire Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper...."

Writes David Ignatius (in The Washington Post).

"I decided to befriend the crisis and give it a name — Locky Lockdown."

Said Maggi Hambling, in a May interview in the Times of London, which is popping up on my screen today because — as you can see, 2 posts down — we're talking about her sculptural tribute to Mary Wollestonecraft.  

Back then, she'd painted a self-portrait and called it "Angry" — her "lockdown self-portrait... about my rage at what’s happened, about the way every plan that I had has gone completely to pot.... We’re living under this dark threat... And yet at the same time we are aware of how good this time is; how the roads and the skies are not buggered up by cars and planes. And even as we are scared that we are going to die, we watch this lovely spring with its flowers and its leaves and its dawn chorus of birds. Life is always uncertain. But never more so than now. The uncertainty has been so concentrated, brought before our eyes in such a dramatic way. And, as a control freak, of course that at first made me furious. That’s why I painted that 'Self Portrait (Angry).'... Meanwhile, I’m still alive and time is all that I’ve got. Once I got to 60, even I who gave up arithmetic at the age of 11 had to realise that I was past the halfway mark."

And, I like this: "[I]n the 1990s a longstanding female admirer died and, much to Hambling’s surprise, bequeathed her a Suffolk cottage and its adjoining water meadows." Did anyone not a member of your family ever die and leave you anything — I mean, even $1,000? She gets a Suffolk cottage and adjoining water meadows?! 

To say "deviation from Benford’s Law does not prove election fraud took place" is not to say that it isn't relevant evidence.

Reuters does a fact check that begins by stating the proposition in an ultra-strong way:
Social media users have been sharing posts that say a mathematical rule called Benford’s Law provides clear proof of fraud in the U.S. presidential election. 

Here's how the proposition to be fact-checked could have been stated: Benford's Law is of some use in determining whether or not there there was fraud or error in the U.S. presidential election. Lawyers will recognize the test for whether evidence is relevant. 

Reuter's is asking whether this evidence, standing alone, will meet a burden of proof, which is a tricky shortcut through factchecking. In real life, we don't depend on one piece of evidence. We look at whatever might be useful as we make decisions about how much more to investigate. Does Benford's Law raise suspicions that would make a fair-minded person want to look more closely and to gather more evidence? 

But we don't really have fair-minded people! We have highly partisan people on one side who are eager to cast doubt on the election and on the other side who want to say Stop right now! Reuter's strikes me — the closest thing you're going to get to a fair-minded person — as falling in the second group. Why? Because of the way they stated the fact to be checked! 

Now, let's look at the experts consulted (and go to the article for a statement about what Benford's Law is):

"She likes jokes. She likes the one David Hockney told her once. It goes: 'The trouble with Van Gogh is if you tell him something it goes in one ear and stays there.'"

"She laughs again.... Maggi, I exclaim, you are smoking again! Didn't you give up five years ago? She says she did but last year, on her birthday, her large bronze sculpture of a rising wave was being erected, and it was fraught, and 'I thought: fuck it. It's my birthday. I'll smoke.'... She smokes with sensational gusto... I can't stand namby-pamby, take-it-or-leave-it smokers. I call them 'crap smokers' and Maggi is not a crap smoker.... 'I think I was once put forward to paint the Queen Mother but the word came back saying I was a bit risky, so it didn't happen.' Perhaps they thought you'd seduce her. 'She was very fond of gentlemen.' She could have painted Margaret Thatcher but didn't bother. Some big Conservative association wanted her to do it but she refused.... As a sculptor, Maggi's public works include her Charing Cross memorial to Oscar Wilde – it shows him rising from a sarcophagus.... Critics seem to loathe Oscar.... Would you have liked to have been a mother, Maggi? 'The thing of actually giving birth to this thing that's been inside you for nine months must be quite an event,' she says. 'And I've always said that if ever a painting was crying out in one room and a baby was crying out in another, I'm animal enough to go to the baby... it sounds corny but it's true... my works are my babies... '... Did your parents accept you being gay? 'My mother had a great problem with it... she hated saying the word lesbian, and I don't like it either. I prefer lesbionic or dyke....'" 

That's from 2010. I got there from Wikipedia, where I went because Hambling — whom I'd never heard of — is trending on Twitter this morning because....

"People Are Furious Over This New Statue of Pioneering Feminist Mary Wollstonecraft in London/The internet wishes she were a bit less nude" (ArtNetNew). Was Hambling's tribute to Oscar Wilde more respectful? He's rising out of a tomb.

November 10, 2020

At the Milkweed Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The Era of That's Not Funny."


It's a podcast.

Topics: "Biden’s historian and the soul of America; Trump appeals to Hispanic voters; Republicans won’t tell Trump to stand down; murder defendant kills himself; Joy Reid’s gaffe; Mick Jagger’s sarcasm; Anthony Burgess trashes Adrienne Rich’s apartment; Mike Pompeo cracks a joke."

Things that "can only be hinted at" in a short review of the new biography of the poet Adrienne Rich.

"How Louise Glück, the new Nobel laureate, was no admirer of Rich’s teaching practices at Columbia University when Glück was a student there. (Rich’s remarks on her students’ poems were often limited to a comment like, 'I don’t dig it.') How Anthony Burgess sublet Rich’s New York apartment, tore it up, then wrote a novel that satirized its feminist contents." 

That's Dwight Garner, writing in the NYT, who begins by telling us "Long before I read her, I disliked Adrienne Rich" — "She was a radical lesbian separatist who didn’t want men at her readings and would not respond to their questions... a humorless scold... perceived to have bent her sensitive talent on a political wheel." Garner also complains the the biography "makes it difficult for anyone to criticize Rich’s work, for any reason whatsoever, and not be thought complicit in the grinding machinery of misogyny."

I just want to know what Anthony Burgess did, what the "feminist contents" were, and how he satirized them. Here's the biography. From page 246: "[Burgess] cut a tornado's path of destruction through her home.... a mattress missing; a box spring ripped; bedroom tables dotted with cigarette burns; kitchen utensils missing, burned, or broken; a lamp broken; and a sofa and rug stained with spilled food." Rich sought reimbursement, and Burgess said his $475 security deposit ought to cover the "petty" damage, especially since he'd gotten the apartment wired for cable TV. 

The "misogynistic novel" was "The Clockwork Testament, or Enderby's End" (1974). Enderby ≈ Burgess. He's staying in the apartment of "a humorless, man-hating novelist" — ≈ Rich — "whose bookshelves bulge with treatises on race, gender, and revolution that Enderby views with distaste." The quotes are from the new bio, and they don't convey any spirit of satire. And unfortunately, you can't get "The Clockwork Testament" in a Kindle version, so I've reached a dead end.

I don't know why I'm convinced I get Mick Jagger, but this...

... this is sarcasm. I got there via Ed Driscoll at Instapundit who doesn't seem to be reading Mick's tweet as humor, but come on.

Goes to show just how wrong you can be.

To "shy" is "To take a sudden fright or aversion; to make a difficulty, ‘boggle’ about doing something; to recoil, shrink."

According to the OED, where I looked in an effort to understand the NYT headline "Who’s Going to Tell Him? Republicans Shy From Asking Trump to Concede." 

I get that Republicans are not telling Trump to concede, but I don't see the evidence that they are shying. Who's taking a sudden fright or aversion? Who's recoiling or shrinking?

You'd have to establish that there are Republicans who urgently desire to tell Trump to give up and just freaking out about it, like a horse spotting a snake. To "boggle" is "To start with fright, to shy as a startled horse; to take alarm, be startled, scared." The article identifies no one who's in this position. 

Are there even any Trump-allied Republicans who think it's past time for Trump to abandon his fight, when the votes are not yet fully counted and litigation routes remain open? Mitch McConnell acknowledged Trump's justification for continuing to question the results. Only 4 Senators have congratulated Biden, but all 4 are well-established in their antagonism toward Trump.

There's no suddenness, no fright and therefore no shying. Not that I can see from this article. Maybe somewhere in the dark indoor spaces of Washington, Republicans are cowering in fear, but even that has no suddenness about it. There's no shying. 

I'm going on about this because I am resisting getting drawn into the emotionalism. "Shying" is an absurdly overemotional word in that headline, and the appropriate assumption is not that emotions are raging everywhere among the Washington elite. It's that everyone is behaving strategically. The media's calling of the election when it did, the Biden supporters insisting on a concession now, the outrage that questions about voting are raised, the Trump's refusal to give up, the Republicans giving Trump his space to stir up his supporters — it's all cold, hard strategy. That's my assumption.


"It is no wonder, that men are generally very much unsatisfied with the world.... Either we are puffed up with pride, racked with desires, dissolved in pleasures, or blasted with cares; and, which perfects our unhappiness, we are never alone, but in perpetual conflict and controversy with our lusts. We are startled at all accidents; we boggle at our own shadows, and fright one another" — Seneca.

"If you’re going to work from home indefinitely, why not make a new home in an exotic place?..."

"It turns out there are drawbacks the trend stories and Instagram posts didn’t share. Tax things. Red-tape things. Wi-Fi rage things. Closed border things. The kinds of things one might gloss over when making an emotional, quarantine-addled decision to pack up an apartment and book a one-way ticket to Panama or Montreal or Kathmandu.... The anxious self-optimization pingpongs between 'Why aren’t I living my best life?' and 'Why aren’t I killing it at work?'... Ms. Smith-Adair’s office became a folding chair on the sidewalk outside whatever McDonald’s or Starbucks was nearby. It wasn’t exactly a peaceful commune with the redwoods. During one curbside conference call in Eugene, Ore., a nearby man with a weed whacker began roaring his motor. Ms. Adair-Smith told him that she was trying to salvage her career. He didn’t care." 

 From "The Digital Nomads Did Not Prepare for This They moved to exotic locales to work through the pandemic in style. But now tax trouble, breakups and Covid guilt are setting in" (NYT). 

This is a very amusingly written article by Erin Griffin. 

There's a photo with the wonderful caption: "After six months in Costa Rica, Austin Mao returned to the United States, where he has fewer opportunities to chop open coconuts knocked out of trees by monkeys." That's like the first line of a novel! I love the main character's name!
There's also the story of a guy stranded in Portugal with his visa expired who attempts to apply for asylum there: "I said, ‘Trump’s a dictator, my city is burning, and people are dying.'... They made a joke that I was the first person since the Vietnam War from America to ask for that." The Portuguese officials were nice anyway. They laughed at him, but extended his visa.

Strangely, in the comments over there, people are bitching about it. Why did the NYT even publish it? They regret reading. Oh! I see what's going on: "Are we supposed to feel sorry for these people who made selfish, ill advised decisions?" Unlike the Portuguese officials, they don't know how to laugh. 

"Terrence Miller, the 78-year-old man on trial for the murder of 20-year-old Jody Loomis 48 years ago, killed himself Monday, hours before a jury found him guilty of the heinous crime...."

"Loomis's death went unsolved for 47 years, until investigators connected DNA from the crime scene with information that Miller's relatives posted on genealogy websites.... His was arrested and charged with murder in April 2019 and later released on a $1 million bail.... Miller's lawyer tried to have his charges dismissed after learning of his death, but the judge overseeing the case overruled and the jury returned a guilty verdict Monday afternoon...."

Here's the NYT article, with some additional detail: 

Presidential historian Jon Meacham was speechwriting for Joe Biden and (apparently) did not disclose it to MSNBC.

And MSNBC has cut him off as a paid contributor, according to Fox News

Meacham worked on Biden's victory speech and then appeared on MSNBC commenting on the speech. MSNBC's Brian Williams asked him, "I’m not the historian that you are, and I don’t have the Pulitzer that you do, but do you concur that is the way we are used to hearing from our presidents?" To which Meacham responded, "Absolutely."

The implication of the question — as I see it there, out of context — is that Trump didn't speak in the conventional presidential way, and Biden restores the appropriate tone for the presidency. It's pretty awful to go on TV and comment on a speech that you wrote as if you were just hearing it.

Here's the NYT article from yesterday that made the disclosure of Meacham's speechwriting role: "Helping to Shape the Words of the President-Elect: A Presidential Historian/Jon Meacham, best known for writing about past presidents like Andrew Jackson and George Bush, has helped shape some of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s most significant speeches."

In [his victory speech], Mr. Biden spoke of a mission “to rebuild the soul of America, to rebuild the backbone of this nation, the middle class, and to make America respected around the world again” and was widely credited with striking the right tone about bringing the country back together. The language echoed the title of Mr. Meacham’s 2018 book, “The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels,” which has long served as a touchstone for Mr. Biden, who has reached out to Mr. Meacham in the past to discuss passages he liked....

It's very nice for Biden to read a book about America's soul and to want to get some of that high-flown rhetoric into his speeches, but the aspiration toward loftiness is shot to hell if Meacham goes on TV to admire what he's not telling us is his own work!

"The swing towards Trump in Hispanic areas across the country is extraordinary. It was hinted at in the preëlection polls."

"The polls always showed the President faring better among nonwhite, and particularly Hispanic, voters than he did four years ago, but the magnitude of the shift was way beyond expectations.... I think it could easily be a double-digit swing in the President’s direction. I have not crunched these numbers conclusively, and it’s still too early to do that. But that would be my initial gut sense, yes. The most obvious reason for this, I would assume, is the education divide in our politics manifesting itself across racial lines.... And I think this was not an election on immigration. Immigration was a major theme of the 2016 election.... So it makes sense to me that if we stop talking immigration and Hispanic voters start assessing the President without that in mind, that they might begin to shift in ways that are fairly similar to demographically similar white voters, but four years later...."

Said Nate Cohn, in "Nate Cohn Explains What the Polls Got Wrong" (The New Yorker).

I'm also seeing this today in The Washington Post: "Why Texas’s overwhelmingly Latino Rio Grande Valley turned toward Trump." Excerpt: 
“Hispanics have been acculturated in Texas over many generations and because of that, their perceptions are much more like that of the Anglo population,” said Jason Villalba, president of the Texas Hispanic Policy Foundation. 

University of Texas San Antonio political scientist Sharon Navarro said the conservatism of some Texas Latinos is nothing new, particularly in rural communities. The difference this year is that Republicans did the work to court these voters and tailor their message about the election around the economy and jobs. 

Republicans said they are convinced that the margins they won in the Rio Grande Valley and beyond is a sign that the region’s politics are trending in their favor....

November 9, 2020

At the Monday Night Café...

 ... you can talk 'til dawn.

"Let’s not have any lectures about how the president should immediately, cheerfully accept preliminary election results from the same characters who just spent four years refusing to accept the validity of the last election."

Mitch McConnell, the majority leader of the Senate, said today, quoted in the NYT

"President Trump is 100 percent within his rights to look into allegations of irregularities and weigh his legal options."

That's some big support for President Trump, and it severely undercuts all the news reports I've been seeing about various Republicans who've supposedly been leaning on Trump to concede. Only 4 Republican Senators have publicly congratulated Biden — Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, Lisa Murkowski, and Ben Sasse.

Here's something that occurred to me as I was recording my podcast today. (You can listen here.) I was reading this post — where I said I wanted "some clear-headed analysis of whether Trump's holding out and fighting will help or hurt the Republicans in the Georgia runoffs." 

"Lurking on a perch."

It's a podcast. 

Topics: "Alex Trebek, corrupt sommeliers, Buttigieg to the U.N., Democratic Party in-fighting, Trump can help keep the Senate red, Jake Tapper invites job discrimination."

Is this a general rule — resistance to acknowledging the winner of an election ought to affect a person's job prospects? Or is this just for those who want to wait for the Biden-vs-Trump process to play out?

At the Overlode Café...


... you take your 4.2 mile walk and I'll take mine.

"GOP leaders and confidants of President Trump tell Axios his legal fight to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s victory... could last a month or more, possibly pushing the 2020 political wars toward Christmastime."

Axios reports.
Axios is told an internal effort is underway to dissuade Trump from pursuing a blitz... that could mean three to six weeks of legal challenges, discovery and rulings — at the same time that Biden is talking daily about a message of healing....

A senior Republican who talks often to Trump said the president is "angry ... volatile ... disconsolate."...  Trump plans to hold rallies focused on the litigation, and brandish obituaries of people who were recorded as voting but are dead....

Republican operatives told Axios they worry that Trump's scorched-earth fight will divert money from the real remaining prize for the GOP — the twin Georgia runoffs on Jan. 5 that'll determine control of the Senate.... 

ADDED: I'd like to see some clear-headed analysis of whether Trump's holding out and fighting will help or hurt the Republicans in the Georgia runoffs. Axios — which obviously wants Trump to concede — is pushing the assumption that a concession will boost the Georgia GOP candidates. And I can see that. It's not just how much money is available but how important it is to keep the Senate. But you could say that Trump's diehard fighting is about the importance of keeping the liberals out of power, and if you really believe that, then if Trump fails in his effort, he will leave conservatives pumped up and that will fuel the fight for the Georgia Senate seats. 

"The chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers, Americas, resigned on Friday, after... 13 women went public with accusations of sexual misconduct in the court’s highest ranks."

The NYT reports.
All of the women who came forward to The Times have been candidates for the title of master sommelier, an honor conferred by the court after a long process of evaluations and exams, some of which are graded in secret. All of the men are master sommeliers who had the power to help, or hurt, the women’s progress.... 
At 25, [Marie-Louise Friedland] had passed the introductory exam, and joined a study group to practice for the next level, while also working full-time. Mr. Broglie offered to help her study for the tasting portion of the exam in private sessions at his home [which]... proved to be preludes to sexual invitations. 

"Remember, from the Democratic primary onward, party leaders warned against running on Medicare-for-all, a Green New Deal and other progressive ideas...."

"Instead, Democrats went small, focusing on saving the Affordable Care Act and providing a check on President Trump. But after the party lost House seats and failed to retake the Senate, the knives are out for the left anyway.... It’s understandable that congressional Democratic leaders want to blame something other than their own candidate recruitment process.... [I]t is simply false to claim that standing up proudly for policies such as Medicare-for-all and a Green New Deal hasn’t worked, when the truth is it hasn’t been tried. For decades, congressional Democrats have run every cycle with a moderate message engineered by moderate, high-priced consultants. When this plan succeeds, the party establishment trumpets their wisdom. Yet when it more frequently fails, the leadership and moderates blame the progressives they rejected the entire campaign."

Where will Biden put Buttigieg?

Buttigieg will get some important position, Axios tells us (with no acknowledgement that there's any uncertainty that Biden has indeed been elected President).

Biden officials have made clear to donors and party officials the question surrounding Buttigieg is not if, but where, he lands, Democrats close to Biden tell Axios.

The position Buttigieg wants, we're told, is ambassador to the U.N., and of course it makes sense that his background as mayor of a small city in the midwest sets him up well to deal with international affairs. 

One key question: How would Kamala Harris feel about having a potential 2024 rival lurking the Cabinet and building a donor base from a perch at the United Nations — and around New York City's big donors? 

I hope that doesn't become the key question at every turn — How would Kamala Harris feel? Ugh. I hope this isn't the beginning of a new phase of semi-conscious misogyny: Because the Vice President is a woman, we must think about the Vice President's feelings. Does anyone ever wonder how Mike Pence feels? 

As for the image of "lurking" from a "perch" — don't get me started. It's not possible to lurk on a perch. Lurking involves hiding — lying in wait. It's sneaky. A perch is a high place. It's about being conspicuous — showing off. How do images like this happen? I hope it's not homophobia — 2 stereotypes about gay men popping up in the same sentence. 

November 8, 2020

At the November Beach Café...


... you can talk all night.

"Healing and homesteading."

It's a podcast.

Topics: "Kamala explains Joe, Giuliani talks about litigation, Kamala’s ancestral village celebrates, Biden offers a rest period, calling your childhood phone number, Dave Chappelle feels our pain, AOC might quit politics."

Goodbye to Alex Trebek.

At the Sunrise Café...

IMG_1107 ... you can talk about whatever you like.

"I don’t even know if I want to be in politics. You know, for real, in the first six months of my term, I didn’t even know if I was going to run for re-election this year."

"It’s the incoming. It’s the stress. It’s the violence. It’s the lack of support from your own party. It’s your own party thinking you’re the enemy. When your own colleagues talk anonymously in the press and then turn around and say you’re bad because you actually append your name to your opinion. I chose to run for re-election because I felt like I had to prove that this is real. That this movement was real. That I wasn’t a fluke....  But I’m serious when I tell people the odds of me running for higher office and the odds of me just going off trying to start a homestead somewhere — they’re probably the same."

Said Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in an interview with the NYT yesterday.

Start a homestead? You mean something like this? — 


From "What Is Homesteading?" (Treehugger): "Ultimately, the broadest definition is that it is a lifestyle with a commitment to self-sufficiency. This can encompass growing and preserving food; providing your own electricity with solar, wind or water; and even making your own fabric and clothing. Some homesteaders aspire never to use money; they want to make or barter for everything they need...."

Wikipedia, "Homesteading": "Pursued in different ways around the world—and in different historical eras—homesteading is generally differentiated from rural villages or commune living by isolation (either socially or physically) of the homestead.... Modern homesteaders often use renewable energy options including solar electricity and wind power. Many also choose to plant and grow heirloom vegetables and to raise heritage livestock."

Is it strange that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is talking about homesteading? I hear in her statement something like: You people don't deserve me; I was made for better things. And I don't think that's arrogant or mere teasing. Who belongs in politics?!

"I would implore everybody who’s celebrating today to remember that it’s good to be a humble winner. Remember when I was here four years ago, remember how bad that felt?"

"Remember that half the country right now still feels that way. Please remember that. Remember, for the first time in the history of America, life expectancy of white people is dropping because of heroin, because of suicide. All the white people out there that feel that anguish, that pain, they mad because they think nobody cares — maybe they don’t — let me tell you something: I know how that feels. Promise you, I know how that feels. If you’re a police officer, and every time you put your uniform on, you feel like you got a target on your back, you’re appalled by the ingratitude that people have when you would risk your life to save them. Believe me, I know how that feels. Everyone knows how that feels. But here’s the difference between me and you: You guys hate each other for that, and I don’t hate anybody. I just hate that feeling. That’s what I fight, and what I suggest you fight. You gotta find a way to live your life. You gotta find a way to forgive each other. You gotta find a way to find joy in your existence, in spite of that feeling.” 

Dave Chappelle, hosting "SNL" last night.


"I was going to call my old, first phone number in the Bronx, and talk to whoever answered.... I would interview this person long enough to reveal our common humanity..."

"... and I would then tell his or her story with compassion; whatever differences we might have — cultural, political, whatever — would disappear with greater familiarity and understanding. Above all, we would, together, two ordinary people, prove that for all this country’s troubles, modernity does not have to be soulless. So I called. And got this recording: 'The next available service specialist will be with you momentarily. They will be happy to assist you with any inquiry.' Then I was put on hold, where I remained for 22 minutes, until I hung up." 

Story idea goes bad for Gene Weingarten, but he got a column out of it anyway: "Maybe the past is only a phone call away" (WaPo). They say you can never go home again, and, it seems, you can never phone home again. 


We were just talking about E.T. yesterday. Remember? "Like Steven Spielberg’s E.T., [Biden] seems to instinctually believe in the healing power of physical connection—even if that intimacy can sometimes feel a bit too close."

Everybody's trying to make a connection... but maybe nobody's there anymore. Weingarten's column made me think of Bob Dylan's "Talking World War III Blues":

"Biden lifted some — not all, but some — of the sadness and anger that hovered over the Black community, immigrants, Jews and others..."

"... as they’d watched the current administration allow white supremacy to grow freely and thrive. Biden was willing to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism not in theory, but in reality..... Black voters raised up Biden because he was the tonic they believed a divided and exasperated nation could accept and he was the reliable partner they could trust. He was a pragmatic choice, but that doesn’t lesson his value.... He didn’t come to this race with revolutionary goals that would fundamentally remodel this country. Perhaps there will be time for that. Biden promised to focus on the urgent need to right this country’s course. And in doing so, to give everyone the space not just to breathe — but to safely, thankfully and blessedly exhale." 

ADDED: This column has been up since 6:37 last night, yet no one has corrected the homophone typo "lesson" (for "lessen"): "He was a pragmatic choice, but that doesn’t lesson his value."

What is the "lesson" here? Givhan is saying that Biden's "value" is not lessened by his having been selected because he could partially alleviate the suffering of black people and that was, pragmatically, the best you could realistically hope for in systemically racist America. If that is the theory of his election, then what was he elected to do? If he just gives us a rest — a long gentle absence of badness — will he be regarded as a big success? Or is the suggestion that he got in on low expectations, but somehow he does owe the people something more in line with "revolutionary goals that would fundamentally remodel this country."

AND: Speaking of pragmatism, who exercised the pragmatism and at what point? We're invited to see meaning in the pragmatism, but whose pragmatism was it? Biden "was a pragmatic choice." Does Givhan mean that Biden was the pragmatic choice of Democratic Party insiders, who needed to find the best path for stopping Bernie Sanders and who put Jim Clymer forward to endorse Biden and leverage the black vote to give Biden some momentum at long last? Or does Givhan mean that black people were pragmatic in accepting Biden as the best chance they had in this systemically racist country?

"Women made rangoli and wrote, 'Congratulations Kamala Harris, pride of our village, Vanakkam (Greetings) America.'... Villagers... burst crackers..."

"The call for Joe Biden isn’t… Who was it called by? All the, Oh my goodness. All the networks. Wow. All the networks."

"We have to forget about the law. Judges don’t count. All the networks, all the networks, all the networks... thought Biden was going to win by 10%. Gee, what happened? Come on. Don’t be ridiculous. Networks don’t get to decide elections. Courts do.... Of course courts set aside elections when they’re illegal. In this particular case, I don’t know if there’s enough evidence to set aside the entire election. Certainly not around the country, maybe in Pennsylvania...."

Giuliani struggles to inspire hope in a coming barrage of litigation. (Transcript.)

"Joe is a healer, a uniter, a tested and steady hand, a person whose own experience of loss gives him a sense of purpose that will help us as a nation reclaim our own sense of purpose, and a man with a big heart who loves with abandon."

In that one crowded sentence, Kamala Harris — in her victory speech last night — stated the theme for Biden's presidency. 

I see the laying-on-of-hands concept that we were talking about yesterday. Remember? The writer in The Atlantic — Franklin Foer — talked about Joe's "effort to heal... to wrap himself around others in mourning." He saw "something religious in this laying-on of hands... an act of communion." Because we are "desperate" and Joe is the "parental figure," what is required of us is "an almost irrational faith in healing."

Kamala presents Joe the "healer" — using his "tested and steady hand." But she doesn't, like Foer, make it sound like any sort of miracle or anything religious. She grounds the power in Joe's real-life experience — "experience of loss " — and his "big heart." 

Now,  the word "healer" is problematic in speech. It has a homophone...


A fine dog, but you don't want to call your President a dog. Especially not a "heeler." To heel is not to lead. To whom is he heeling? 

Ah, but the dog that is called a "heeler" is not called that because he heels. The Australian cattle dog is nicknamed a "heeler" because he moves cattle along by biting at their heels! That's leadership of a sort.
It is good with older, considerate children, but will herd people by nipping at their heels, particularly younger children who run and squeal.... The ACD was originally bred to move reluctant cattle by biting, and it will bite if treated harshly. The Australian Cattle Dog's protective nature and tendency to nip at heels can be dangerous as the dog grows into an adult if unwanted behaviours are left unchecked.

You'd better train this dog! It's not time for "irrational faith."