November 28, 2020

Morning tablescape.


"I wish there were a single word for the smell of sawdust, motor oil and soil. That combination of 'manly' smells always makes me think of my father..."

"... who worked with his hands all his life. It is what I smell in his garage, 25 years after he has passed away. It makes me feel safe." 

Writes a 57-year-old Indianapolis woman, one of many individuals quoted in "Welcome to Our Museum of Smells" (NYT)("We asked New York Times readers what smells they would archive in their own smell museums, what scents are so alive for them that they have become part of them"). 

The best ones all seem to be older women talking about memories of men they loved. 

There's: "When I was growing up, my dad owned a concrete business. To this day, the smell of newly poured concrete at a construction site stops me in my tracks and I think he must be somewhere nearby." 

And: "My late husband had a particular scent, and it was strongest after he had been exercising, particularly under his left armpit. There was a smokiness to it, certainly, but also a pleasant tang, almost a citrus-like astringency, and I couldn’t get enough of it. My one word for it is 'raunchious,' which isn’t a real word, but I didn’t want to say 'raunchiness' as what I’m trying to get at is a combo of the words 'raunchy' and 'delicious.'"

IN THE COMMENTS: Eleanor said:
My grandfather died when I was two. I have no visual memories of him except from photos I've seen. One day as an adult, I was talking with my mother, and I said, "I don't know why but the smell of leather and peppermint make me feel safe." She started to cry. "When you were a baby, my father used to pretend to steal you by putting you inside his leather jacket. He always kept peppermint candies in the inside pocket."

"A socialist since college, Mr. Jacobs sees his family’s 'extreme, plutocratic wealth' as both a moral and economic failure."

"He wants to put his inheritance toward ending capitalism, and by that he means using his money to undo systems that accumulate money for those at the top, and that have played a large role in widening economic and racial inequality.... Any leftist trying to shake off an inheritance will, at some point, find their way to Resource Generation; all of the heirs in this article did. The organization, founded in 1998, is a politicization machine for wealthy 18- to 35-year-olds. The nonprofit offers programming that encourages members to see capitalism not as a market-based equalizer promising upward mobility, but as a damaging system predicated on, as Resource Generation puts it, 'stolen land, stolen labor and stolen lives.' In go young people knotted by tension between their progressive values and their wealth; out come determined campaigners with a plan to redistribute...."

"Carter Page sued fired FBI Director James Comey, fired FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe, the FBI, and others involved in the improper Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act snooping..."

"... on the former Trump campaign associate that relied upon British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s discredited dossier to obtain approval from the FISA court."

"The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh may not much have impact on the Iranian nuclear programme he helped build..."

"...but it will certainly make it harder to salvage the deal intended to restrict that programme, and that is – so far - the most plausible motive.... It would be a fair guess that Joe Biden would [like Obama] oppose such assassinations when he takes office on 20 January and tries to reconstitute the JCPOA – which has been left wounded but just about alive in the wake of Donald Trump’s withdrawal in 2018. If Mossad was indeed behind the assassination, Israel had a closing window of opportunity in which to carry it out with a green light from an American president, and there seems little doubt that Trump, seeking to play a spoiler role in his last weeks in office, would have given approval, if not active assistance.... Until now, Iran has been measured in its responses, both to Suleimani’s killing and to the waves of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in the wake of the JCPOA withdrawal. But can Tehran continue to hold its nerve? A retaliatory strike could make it even harder for a Biden administration to negotiate the complex steps the US and Iran would have to take to return to compliance with the JCPOA, and open talks on other issues."

"If there were a TV show that portrayed your family as a clueless bunch of snobs and philanderers who helped drive a mentally fragile young princess to despair, would you watch it?"

My answer is hell, yes. The question is posed in the first paragraph of a NYT article with a headline that also asks a question — "Royal Watchers Wonder: Do the Royals Watch ‘The Crown’?" 

So I assume the TV show in question is an extremely high-quality production with great writing and acting and cinematography that doesn't purport to tell a strictly accurate story but to dramatize everything for artistic purposes.

I'd love to watch. They're already using me and "I" am being consumed by the general public. That's going on anyway. On the other hand, I kind of stopped reading the question after "snobs." I think it would be great fun to watch a show that amped up the cluelessness and snobbery of me and everyone I cared most about. 

The linked article only has a few clues about whether the royals watch "The Crown" which I'll put below the fold. I think the question whether they would watch — that is, whether you'd watch, if it were you — is more interesting. 

November 27, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like. 

And please think of supporting this blog by doing your shopping through the Althouse portal to Amazon, which is always right there in the sidebar. Thanks!

The LORD is my Teleprompter and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me... except when He doesn't help me... and I'm sure He has His reasons....

"What do you do when the masses of minks that you hastily killed and buried because of covid-19 fears start rising up from the grave?..."

"The government had admitted that at least some of the minks killed improperly were also buried improperly. Two gravesites in Jutland, Denmark’s northern region and the home to most of its mink farm industry, have become points of concerns over risks that the decomposing animals could affect nearby water. Some dead minks have surfaced because the top soil above them was not heavy enough. The Danish press dubbed them 'Zombiemink.'... On Thursday, the Danish prime minister [Mette Frederikson] visited mink breeder Peter Hindbo at his now-empty mink farm near the city of Kolding. As she spoke to reporters at the farm, her voice wavered, and she fought back tears as she described the impact she had seen. Frederiksen said that the family of mink farmers had 'their life’s work shattered' in a very short period of time. 'It has been emotional for them, and … Sorry. It has for me too,' she told reporters." 

Burying minks "improperly";
MEAWHILE: "Parliamentarians in Taiwan have thrown pig guts at each other before coming to blows over plans to allow US meat imports" (Guardian):

"A gigantic spider and a car full of young ladies..."

There is a mountain.


Donovan's "There Is a Mountain" came up in my shuffled songs as I was running the other day, and I'd been thinking about it for a while. At the Genius annotation of the lyrics
“There Is A Mountain” by Donovan was released as a single in 1967. The lyrics reference a saying by Qingyuan Weixin. Here translated by D. T. Suzuki: "Before I had studied Chan (Zen) for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers."

Searching for the song this morning, Google gave me that Donovan clip — I love his shirt — and Bob Ross — just threw in Bob Ross like that. He's got a mountain too. A steep mountain. Okay. 

"Behind the frustration with 'The Crown' is a recognition that, right or wrong, its version of the royal family is likely to serve as the go-to narrative for a generation of viewers..."

"... particularly young ones, who do not remember the 1980s, let alone the more distant events covered in earlier seasons. 'They’ll watch it and think this is the way it was,' said Dickie Arbiter, who served as a press secretary to the queen from 1988 to 2000. He took issue with parts of the plot, including a scene in which aides to Charles question Diana about whether she is mentally stable enough to travel alone to New York City. 'I was actually at that meeting,' Mr. Arbiter said. 'No courtier would ever say that in a million years.' The biggest problem, said Penny Junor, who has written biographies of Charles, Diana and Mrs. Thatcher, is that 'The Crown'... poses a particular threat to Charles, who arguably comes off worst in the series.... 'It is wonderful television.... It is beautifully acted — the mannerisms are perfect. But it is fiction, and it is very destructive.'"

I'd avoided "The Crown," but in the last 2 weeks, I've watched the first 7 episodes of Season 4. After seeing the first 3 episodes, I subscribed to Netflix, something I'd been avoiding for years. I'm now a Netflix person, and I find it quite mesmerizing. I'll finally be able to cancel the cable service — which is so much more expensive and which I wasn't watching at all.

Anyway... historical fiction. What do you expect? You've got to criticize the inaccuracies but also realize that this is the way it's done. It's a much bigger problem that journalism is inaccurate and unprofessional. But it's completely professional for television and movie dramas to twist characters and events to make things exciting and interesting. How else can you do it?

I liked Junor's statement — "the mannerisms are perfect. But it is fiction, and it is very destructive." The "perfect" mannerisms — how can the be "perfect" and yet fictional? — belong especially to the Charles character. Are they "destructive" because they are true or "destructive" because they are false?

"Democrats have been quick to dismiss any Trump supporter as a racist, homophobe or redneck, but they all shared a common trait with him..."

"... an unapologetic love of America. The Republican success down-ballot and in state legislatures shows the folly of this condescension and sends a clear message that a majority of Americans are not ready for the socialist agenda favored by the radical left. Not only were there more Trump voters in 2020, there were more Hispanic and African-American voters backing Trump. The supreme irony here is that gradually the Republicans are becoming the party of the working class.... [T]o the media:... Your ratings and circulation are about to tank.... [T]o Fox News: Your not-so-subtle shift leftward is a mistake.... Watching the quick abdication of Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum following the election (joining an already hostile Chris Wallace) was like finding out my wife was cheating.... Maybe now is the time for Trump to move on. There should not be a run in 2024. He can start a media empire to replace an increasingly disappointing Fox News...."

 Writes Maureen Dowd's brother Kevin, taking over her column space for Thanksgiving.

"You can press Trump and the vote goes to Biden. All you have to do is play with a chip, and it’s shown all the time. All you have to do is play with a chip..."

"... and they played with a chip, especially in Wayne County and Detroit. You take a look. In Philadelphia, you take a look. We’ve had excellent meetings with senators from Pennsylvania, Republican senators and others, and they’re seeing things. They knew it was dishonest, but they didn’t know it was this dishonest. You’ll see it all. You’ll see it also, so we’ll see."

Said Trump, in the second half of what began as the Thanksgiving call to the troops. Here's the transcript. Video:

Did the reporters change the subject from Thanksgiving to the election results? The question was cleverly framed so that it can be staunchly denied that the reporter brought up the election: "Mr. President, do you have any big plans for your last Thanksgiving in the White House?" But that word "last" was, quite obviously, a dagger.

November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving sunrise.


It's as good as it is — no better or worse. You can choose to think about: 1. how much better it could be or 2. how much worse it could be or 3. what it actually is. Which is more Thanksgiving-y? 

First impressions maahttter.

"The most prosaic of routines can now deliver delight. Like a bona fide night of restful sleep. Or a prolonged moment of enriching silence. Or, say, the leather chair..."

"... that Al Jirikowic, 68, an art critic and former Adams Morgan bar owner, now sits in five hours a day because there’s nowhere to go. The Churchill, as his throne is known, is where Jirikowic meditates, contemplates the end of civilization and figures out what to eat for lunch. Whatever the case, he’s comfortable. 'I’m thankful I can sit here and space out,' he said. 'You learn to like your solitude. If you don’t, you go nuts.'" 

I love the photo of Jirikowic, sitting in "The Churchill," with all his junk strewn about, especially...

Peanut butter with a spoon. When you not only resist masking up and venturing out to the store but you don't even want to hoist yourself out of the chair and trudge to the refrigerator. You don't even want to spread the pasty goo on crackers. You just spoon it right into your mouth. Don't you?

Peanut butter's important. It's got its own tag on this blog. Here's a post with that tag from almost exactly 8 years ago that has some good resonance in the aftermath of the election. It's about a WaPo article titled "A detached Romney tends wounds in seclusion after failed White House bid." From the article:

Gone are the minute-by-minute schedules and the swarm of Secret Service agents. There’s no aide to make his peanut-butter-and-honey sandwiches. Romney hangs around the house, sometimes alone, pecking away at his iPad....

At least Trump gets to hang around the White House, and if he's lonely and tending his wounds, he could peck away at his iPad and wield the power that's still the greatest in the world. Is he despondent and detached? Or does he have hope — the audacity of hope?

"It is time — past time — to make plain that, while the pandemic poses many grave challenges, there is no world in which the Constitution tolerates color-coded executive edicts that reopen liquor stores and bike shops but shutter churches, synagogues and mosques."

Wrote Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, in his concurring opinion, quoted in "Splitting 5 to 4, Supreme Court Backs Religious Challenge to Cuomo’s Virus Shutdown Order/Justice Amy Coney Barrett played a decisive role in the decision, which took the opposite approach of earlier court rulings related to coronavirus restrictions in California and Nevada" (NYT).

It was 5 to 4, not 6 to 3, because Chief Justice Roberts voted with the liberal members of the Court. He wrote: “Numerical capacity limits of 10 and 25 people, depending on the applicable zone, do seem unduly restrictive... It is not necessary, however, for us to rule on that serious and difficult question at this time. The governor might reinstate the restrictions. But he also might not. And it is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic. If the governor does reinstate the numerical restrictions the applicants can return to this court, and we could act quickly on their renewed applications."

Unlike Roberts, Justice Sonia Sotomayor, joined by Justice Elena Kagan, reached the substance of the claim and found  no violation of rights:  “States may not discriminate against religious institutions, even when faced with a crisis as deadly as this one. But those principles are not at stake today. The Constitution does not forbid states from responding to public health crises through regulations that treat religious institutions equally or more favorably than comparable secular institutions, particularly when those regulations save lives.” 

That is, no one is saying that the government can discriminate between religion and nonreligion. It must treat comparable activities the same, but the question is what is comparable. They're disagreeing about whether religious services are like stores. That's what the parties were arguing about:

Traveling this Thanksgiving?

Oh... is this you?

November 25, 2020

Pilgrims and pardons.


Today's podcast arrives late — due to technical problem with my host (Anchor). 

But here it is! Topics — Pardons, pilgrims, vacuuming, canceling.... 

This isn't an open thread — go one post down for that. Comments here are just for the podcast!

At the Coot Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

Beautiful, terrifying.

"Prince Charles’s Most Punchable Moments in Season 4 of The Crown, Ranked."

"We’re merely here to marvel at the sheer punchability actor Josh O’Connor manages to convey as the fictional Prince of Wales on Peter Morgan’s work of fiction, The Crown" (Vulture). 

I've started watching "The Crown"... beginning with Season 4. The awfulness of Prince Charles is quite something. Anyway... this ranking is well done and conveys some of what's so amusing about this series.

"It seems to me pretty clear that progressive views need to be expressed within a Biden administration. It would be, for example, enormously insulting if Biden put together a 'team of rivals'..."

"... and there's some discussion that that's what he intends to do — which might include Republicans and conservative Democrats — but which ignored the progressive community. I think that would be very, very unfortunate." 

"Women can choose to knock each other down or build each other up. I choose the latter."

Said Ivanka Trump, ironically knocking the artist Jennifer Rubell, who'd made a performance piece called "Ivanka Vacuuming." 


Rubell said: "I truly did not intend the piece to be only a critique of her. I thought it was just as indicting of the viewer and all of us in our perception of her. I invited her to see the show. I was so naïve — I thought she would think it was kind of funny." 

Here's a WaPo article from February 2019, "The performance piece ‘Ivanka Vacuuming’ seems to irk the first daughter even more than ‘fake news’"

"He is an icon of hate speech and transphobia and the fact that he’s an icon of white supremacy, regardless of the content of his book, I’m not proud to work for a company that publishes him."

Said an unnamed employee, quoted in "Penguin Random House Staff Confront Publisher About New Jordan Peterson Book During a tense town hall, staff cried and expressed dismay with the publishing giant's decision to publish 'Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life.'" (Vice). 
Another employee said “people were crying in the meeting about how Jordan Peterson has affected their lives.” They said one co-worker discussed how Peterson had radicalized their father and another talked about how publishing the book will negatively affect their non-binary friend. 
“The company since June has been doing all these anti-racist and allyship things and them publishing Peterson’s book completely goes against this. It just makes all of their previous efforts seem completely performative,” the employee added. ... 
“I feel it was deliberately hidden and dropped on us once it was too late to change course,” said the junior employee who is a member of the LGBTQ community. The employee said workers would have otherwise considered a walkout, similar to what Hachette employees did when the publisher announced it would be publishing Woody Allen’s memoir; Hachette later dropped the book.... 
Peterson has maintained a very low-profile over the past year, as he has been dealing with serious health issues, which, according to his daughter, included a medically induced coma as he attempted to detox in Russia for a benzo dependence. In a subdued YouTube video released Monday, Peterson said he had been working on his 12 Rules sequel for the past three years.

Ah! Here's the video: 

"Arrogance" is trending on Twitter.

But if you click through to see what that's about — click here — it just seems to be different tweets on all sorts of subjects with the word "arrogance" somewhere in there. Random example:

"Like so many presidential flocks this one started in the great state of Iowa, in what can only be described as an act of blatant pandering and by the way..."

"... I love the state of Iowa. These two turkeys sought to win the support of Iowans across the state, by naming themselves Corn and Cob.... Look at that beautiful, beautiful bird. Oh, so lucky. That is a lucky bird. Corn, I hereby grant you a full pardon. Thank you, Corn. Iowa farm. I knew I liked you. Happy Thanksgiving to everybody. Thank you very much."

Said President Donald Trump, dealing with the turkey business for the last time and ignoring the shouted-out question: "Any pardons before you leave office? Will you be issuing a pardon for yourself?" (Transcript.)

I excerpted the humorous material, but there was also some serious talk about thanking God and the perseverance of the pilgrims. And something that completely surprised me: "This year our nation commemorates the 400th anniversary of the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock." 

What?! That's a gigantic anniversary — a centennial mark — and I'd heard absolutely nothing about it.
I found this op-ed by Tom Cotton from a few days ago, "It's the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims' arrival. Why haven't we heard more about it?" I'm guessing the reason is that we are not proud of American history anymore. The pilgrims have been problematized. Senator Tom says: 
[T]he Pilgrims have fallen out of fashion in elite circles. Just this week, The New York Times food section published an article that called the Pilgrim story, including the First Thanksgiving, a “myth” and a “caricature.” In place of these so-called “myths,” the liberal newspaper seeks to substitute its own, claiming the history of our nation is an unbroken tale of conflict, oppression and misery...  

"If you’re comfortable saying that it’s fine for politicians to be politically pragmatic in their approach to alcohol regulation, but that guns..."

"... are such a transcendent question of conscience that you can’t stomach it, I think you should examine where that’s coming from. I suspect that you drink alcohol yourself and that alcohol consumption is common in your social circle and in fact it’s woven into the rituals of communal life. And I can relate! That’s me too. Indeed a lot of people like me don’t realize that drinking is much less common among working class people. The point is that guns are just like this for a lot of other people. And while the centrality of booze and guns to people’s social and communal lives is not great for public health, basically everyone understands that with regard to alcohol you have to work within the confines of political reality. And guns fundamentally are just not different from that." 

He links to "Drinking Highest Among Educated, Upper-Income Americans" (Gallup, 2015): "Americans of higher socio-economic status... are more likely to participate in activities that may involve drinking such as dining out at restaurants, going on vacation or socializing with coworkers...."

I wonder how Yglesias is doing with this new project. He's put up a very long article, but some of that length is verbosity — really bad verbosity. That second-to-last sentence, above, needlessly trips up the reader: "And while the centrality of booze and guns to people’s social and communal lives is not great for public health, basically everyone understands that with regard to alcohol you have to work within the confines of political reality."  I got confused by "is not great." If the "centrality" "is not great," it's supposed to mean the "centrality" is harmful, but it could also mean the "centrality" is not a major factor or not really all that central. And "centrality" is a rather silly subject for that sentence. 

Least surprising scoop.

"Scoop: Trump tells confidants he plans to pardon Michael Flynn" (Axios).

November 24, 2020

At the Snowfall Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.


"Mystery metal monolith."

It's a podcast. Listen here... 


... if you haven't already subscribed on your podcast app. 

Topics: "Trump’s non-bombshell, Trump’s subversion, Rudy’s movie, kids and COVID, Madison’s #1, Hillbilly Elegy, Biden loyalists want taking care of, the monolith of the Canyonlands, Trump’s non-weird 90-second press conference."

Trump steps out to say that the stock market has hit the "sacred" number, 30,000.


He gives the good news, mentions the vaccines, and turns and leaves. 

What was bizarre?
CNN’s Jim Acosta said White House staff were suddenly shouting at journalists to get into their seats because the president wanted to walk into the briefing room. After Trump’s departure, a reporter was heard to say: ‘Well, that was weird as shit’.
Yeah, well, what was weird was all the times he did stand there and answer all your questions.

Do you see it? Right there in the middle? The monolith!

Screen Shot 2020-11-24 at 1.01.42 PM 

They weren't going to tell you exactly where it was. Somewhere in the desert in Utah. But the Reddit discussion pinpoints the place, and I made my screen shot from Google Maps "street view." 

The McCracken gallerist got involved because some people were saying it looked like something by McCracken. It's a 10-foot slab of metal standing upright in that wild landscape.

IN THE COMMENTS: rosebud asks, "Since 'lith' refers to stone, isn't a metal object by definition not a monolith?" 

You're right about "lith," but "monolith" is used figuratively to mean "Resembling a monolith; massive; immovable; solidly uniform." The OED traces this usage to 1922: "Between great monolith trees." More recently: "The monolith approach..was the doctrine of all-inclusiveness" (1988). 

And "monolith" is used in engineering to refer to "A large solid block, generally of concrete, sunk in water, and used esp. as a foundation in the building of a harbour or dock wall." 

"The Obama staffers are now cutting out the people who got Biden elected. None of these people found the courage to help the VP when he was running and now they are elevating their friends over the Biden people. "

"It’s fucked up.... There’s real doubt about whether they will be taken care of...People are pissed.... I think I’m going to be taken care of but I have not been taken care of yet. I am really interested to find out how you even find out how you got a job in this White House."

Said a Biden adviser quoted in  "'People are pissed': Tensions rise amid scramble for Biden jobs/Veterans of the Democratic primary campaign fear they're being squeezed out of plum posts by later arrivals" (Politico). 
The current fears about the transition being taken over by the previous generation of Obama staffers who make up Washington’s permanent establishment are coming from a younger set of Biden true believers who chose to work for him in early 2019 even when all of the cool young operatives were flocking to Beto and Bernie and Warren. Even then, there was a disconnect between the brain trust at the top of the campaign, which is now seamlessly moving to the top of the White House, and the Biden proletariat that made up the bulk of the campaign operation. The fear from the proles is that the brain trust doesn’t understand that they are being left behind.  

Why wouldn't they be left behind? They're not cool. 

ADDED: The real trick will be Phase 2 — leaving Biden behind. He's not cool.

"'Hillbilly Elegy,' published in June of 2016, attracted an extra measure of attention (and controversy) after Donald Trump’s election."

"It seemed to offer a firsthand report, both personal and analytical, on the condition of the white American working class/ And while the book [by J.D. Vance] didn’t really explain the election... it did venture a hypothesis about how that family and others like it encountered such persistent household dysfunction and economic distress.... He suggests that the same traits that make his people distinctive — suspicion of outsiders, resistance to authority, devotion to kin, eagerness to fight — make it hard for them to thrive in modern American society.... The film is a chronicle of addiction entwined with a bootstrapper’s tale.... The Vances are presented as a representative family, but what exactly do they represent? A class? A culture? A place? A history? The louder they yell, the less you understand — about them or the world they inhabit. The strange stew of melodrama, didacticism and inadvertent camp that [director Ron 'Opie' Howard] serves up isn’t the result of a failure of taste or sensitivity. If anything, 'Hillbilly Elegy' is too tasteful, too sensitive for its own good, studiously unwilling to be as wild or provocative as its characters. Such tact is in keeping with the moral of its story, which is that success in America means growing up to be less interesting than your parents or grandparents."

From A.O. Scott's review — in the NYT — of the movie "Hillbilly Elegy." The movie has a 26% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

I watched the trailer and suffered tremendously from the music, which is emphatically not hillbilly music:

I mean, the point seems to be that other people are unsophisticated, and that swelling, heavy-handed soundtrack is as unsophisticated as you can possibly get. And how about that ham acting? I don't know about the real-life people Vance wrote about in his best-seller, but these Hollywood folk are awfully backward!

And I tried to read his book. I meant to get back to it, but I never got past page 40:
Destroying store merchandise and threatening a sales clerk were normal to Mamaw and Papaw: That’s what Scots-Irish Appalachians do when people mess with your kid. “What I mean is that they were united, they were getting along with each other,” Uncle Jimmy conceded when I later pressed him. “But yeah, like everyone else in our family, they could go from zero to murderous in a fucking heartbeat.” 

That’s what Scots-Irish Appalachians do... ? I can get by without getting that sort of thing hammered into my head a thousand times. 

Madison, Wisconsin ranks #1 in Money Magazine's new "10 Best Places to Retire in America."

[W]ith tons of recreational activities and natural beauty, Madison, Wis. — a metropolitan area sandwiched between two lakes — has taken the top spot on our list.... The city’s median home price, $292,000, is one of the lowest of all our winners.... People aged 60 and older can also audit courses at the university for free... During a typical weekend, people can stroll in the university Arboretum and the Lakeshore Nature Preserve on campus. 
Weekend? You're retired. Weekdays are even better. You can stroll or walk briskly or run in the Arb and the Lakeshore Preserve. Or just around so many beautiful, interesting neighborhoods — all "sandwiched between two lakes" — and yet there are 5 lakes, not just the bread-in-the-isthmus-sandwich lakes, in Madison, Wisconsin.

"Spring will come. There will be teachers again with eyes on kids and in-person social workers and doctors and librarians."

"They will help do the job of paying attention, of answering questions. There will be a vaccine. This period, like a war, will end. And like a war, its effects will linger, too. Children will tell their children about what it was like to grow up now, in the year of no school, no parties, no playdates, no kissing. Kids are resilient. It is possible to reverse the destructive effects of toxic stress on the developing brain. Astonishing research on child soldiers in Sierra Leone has shown that even after years of conscription, forced participation in murder and rape, half of kids mostly recover. Structure and routine help... 'I keep telling parents, "One week at a time. Wednesday we’re having pizza. Every day we’re going to put on clothes, not stay in our pajamas,"' said Harold Koplewicz, director of the Child Mind Institute in New York. 'You have to try to model calm, and when you’re not feeling calm, you say it: "I’m feeling stressed right now. I’m going to read a book. I’m going to sit with my thoughts. I’m going to walk outside or do jumping jacks."'"

"Democrats aways talked about things getting better. Republicans did whatever they could to make them better."

That's trending on Twitter. 

The quoted line has a powerful sexual effect on the woman that is truly hilarious — whatever your political predilections. The movie is from 2003 and the female character, played by Penelope Ann Miller, is Donna Hanover, who was married to Giuliani from 1984 to 2001.

"President Trump’s government on Monday authorized President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to begin a formal transition process after Michigan certified Mr. Biden as its winner..."

"... a strong sign that the president’s last-ditch bid to overturn the results of the election was coming to an end. Mr. Trump did not concede, and vowed to persist with efforts to change the vote, which have so far proved fruitless. But the president said on Twitter on Monday night that he accepted the decision by Emily W. Murphy, the administrator of the General Services Administration, to allow a transition to proceed. In his tweet, Mr. Trump said that he had told his officials to begin 'initial protocols' involving the handoff to Mr. Biden 'in the best interest of our country,' even though he had spent weeks of trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud. Hours later, he tried to play down the significance of Ms. Murphy’s action, tweeting that it was simply 'preliminarily work with the Dems' that would not stop efforts to change the election results."

The NYT reports. That's a harsh way to put it: "trying to subvert a free and fair election with false claims of fraud." It comes close to reporting from the inside of Trump's head. What was he "trying" to do? Do we know enough to say as a fact that it was "a free and fair election" and that the claims of fraud — all of them? — were false? Or do we merely have good reason to think the election was fair enough and not so infected with fraud that we must accept that Biden has won? Trump may have believed that there was enough uncertainty that what he was doing was not "trying to subvert" the election. He might have genuinely believed that he was working to get to the truth. If so, I wonder, how strongly he would resist admitting that he was wrong, that he did not have the kind of evidence that could change the outcome. If you're fighting for what you believe is the truth, at what point do you lose your claim to a good motive and deserve it when the NYT reports it as fact that your motive was to subvert the election?

"You call a gigantic press conference like that, one that lasts an hour, and you announce massive bombshells, then you better have some bombshells."

"There better be something at that press conference other than what we got.... They promised blockbuster stuff, and then nothing happened. And that’s just not good. I mean, if you’re gonna promise blockbuster stuff like that, then there has — now, I understand — look, I’m the one that’s been telling everybody, this stuff doesn’t happen at warp speed, light speed the way cases are made for presentation in court, but if you’re gonna do a press conference like that with the promise of blockbusters, then there has to be something more than what that press conference delivered. Now Sidney Powell is supposedly out, jumped the shark, got out over the skis.... I got a note from a very learned friend who was so let down by that press conference. He said, 'Man, Rush, after that press conference, I was expecting the evidence. I was expecting something to blow this thing to smithereens. I mean, you don’t go out and do a press conference like that with all of those promised bombshells and then zip, zero, nada? So I was expecting there to be some kind of computer expert or hacker who was then going to provide evidence and an example of what they were talking about that was blockbuster, but there was nothing.' And he said 'my real problem with this is it’s making Trump look like he doesn’t know what he’s doing. It’s making Trump look like he’s floundering away out there.'"

November 23, 2020

At the Only-You Café...


... you can talk about anything. 

"The brain is not for thinking."


It's a podcast. 

Topics: "Biden is boring, Biden and the media, Washingtonians want to party again, Trump’s failing fight, the brain isn’t for thinking, Tom Cotton for President, and the 'Floor Frame' sculpture in the Rose Garden."

It would be nice if you'd subscribe to the podcast. You can find it at Spotify — here — at Google — here — at Pocket Casts — here — at iTunes — here — or at Radio Public — here.

"For the last four years, the tone from the White House was contemptuous of Washington, dismissing the permanent establishment..."

"... the longtime politicians and former administration officials who call it home — as the 'swamp' or 'deep state.' The social arbiters, traditionally respectful of a new administration, quickly found themselves between a Trump and a hard place: To invite or not to invite?.... Trump went to a handful of galas but his attendance — even the prospect of it — often brought controversy and protests.... Without Trump, the White House correspondents’ dinner — typically a night of mutual good will between the administration and the press that covers it — became an awkward defense of the First Amendment.... Back to normal will mean more state dinners, a prestigious and glamorous way of reestablishing global ties. And it means that Washington events traditionally attended by the president and first lady for the better part of five decades — the Honors, the Alfalfa dinner, the Gridiron, Ford’s Theatre gala and the correspondents’ dinner — will likely return to their former glory."

From "Washington’s establishment hopes a Biden presidency will make schmoozing great again" by Roxanne Roberts at WaPo. Another way to say that is: Washington's establishment hopes a Biden presidency will make Washington great for Washington again. 

The columnist assumes what we like is insiders coming together in a mutual love fest — with glamorous, prestigious parties and helping each other feel good about themselves. What's "great" for them is great for us? And isn't it kind of disgusting to be enthusing about gala socializing when We the People are told we can't even do a humble Thanksgiving dinner with our deplorable relatives?

I'm happy to see the commentariat at WaPo resists. The top-rated comment is:

"This was a fair election... Unfortunately, Carrots refused to concede and demanded a recount."

My poll, my options — do your own poll if you don't like the constraints.

Trump voters only please: If you had to pick the 2024 GOP nominee right now: free polls

ADDED: Cotton won!

"Melania Trump on Friday announced that a work by the sculptor Isamu Noguchi would be installed in the White House Rose Garden..."

"... a gift to the national collection that would be the first work by an Asian-American artist to be included in it. The sculpture, Noguchi’s 1962 'Floor Frame,' highlights 'the beautiful contributions of Asian-American artists to the landscape of our country,' Ms. Trump said in a statement." 

The NYT reports. Noguchi is a highly respected sculptor — one of the greats, recognized for many decades. It's weird to see him talked about as if he's mostly a representative of a mass — "Asian-American artists" (with their "contributions... to the landscape"). 

Anyway, I've been critical of so many public sculptures lately, so it's satisfying to see something completely aesthetically pleasing. And I like how utterly low-to-the-ground and solidly stable it is. It would be hard to topple... not that I think the statue topplers will ever get into the Rose Garden.

The NYT focuses not on the aesthetics of sculpture, "Floor Frame," but Noguchi's time in an internment camp in World War II. We are reminded of what Trump said (in 2015) when he was asked about the U.S. government's internment policy: “I certainly hate the concept of it. But I would have had to be there at the time to give you a proper answer.”

Interestingly, Noguchi himself was not subject to the order that put Japanese-Americans into camps. He didn't live on the west coast, but in New York. He chose to spend time in one camp because he wanted to work on the design: "Instead of a place defined by its barbed wire enclosures, he envisioned a school, community center, botanical garden and even a miniature golf course in one blueprint." That never happened, but imagine detention camps where you'd want to live. 

Here's a picture of "Floor Frame" at the Noguchi website. The artist is quoted: 
Thinking of the floor, I made Floor Frame. I made many other pieces in relation to floor space at that time, but this seemed to best define the essentiality of floor, not as sculpture alone but as part of the concept of floor. 
So... it's all about the floor, but they are putting it in the garden. Ms. Trump's statement informs us that the sculpture represents a tree and its roots! And the NYT attributes that meaning to Noguchi. Such lazy and easily refuted propaganda. I could just as well say that the relocation of the floor sculpture to the garden symbolizes the relocation of Japanese-Americans in WWII.

"Consider what happens when you’re thirsty and drink a glass of water. The water takes about 20 minutes to reach your bloodstream, but you feel less thirsty within mere seconds."

"What relieves your thirst so quickly? Your brain does. It has learned from past experience that water is a deposit to your body budget that will hydrate you, so your brain quenches your thirst long before the water has any direct effect on your blood. This budgetary account of how the brain works may seem plausible when it comes to your bodily functions. It may seem less natural to view your mental life as a series of deposits and withdrawals.... Every thought you have, every feeling of happiness or anger or awe you experience, every kindness you extend and every insult you bear or sling is part of your brain’s calculations as it anticipates and budgets your metabolic needs.... [E]very mental experience has roots in the physical budgeting of your body. This is one reason physical actions like taking a deep breath, or getting more sleep, can be surprisingly helpful in addressing problems we traditionally view as psychological.... If you feel weary from the pandemic and you’re battling a lack of motivation... [y]our burden may feel lighter if you understand your discomfort as something physical.... [A]cknowledge what your brain is actually doing and take some comfort from it. Your brain is not for thinking. Everything that it conjures, from thoughts to emotions to dreams, is in the service of body budgeting."

"A federal district court opinion issued in Pennsylvania Saturday laid bare both the dangerousness and vacuousness of Mr. Trump’s litigation strategy."

"Rudy Giuliani, acting as one of the president’s lawyers, failed to persuade Judge Matthew Brann — an Obama-appointed Federalist Society member and former Republican official — to disenfranchise nearly seven million Pennsylvania voters and to let the state legislature name a slate of presidential electors. The court held that the Trump campaign offered a 'Frankenstein’s monster' of a legal theory and that the complaint was full of nothing more than 'strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence.'... Dilatory tactics like delaying certification or recounts will be rejected by courts or governors, and not even a single state legislature (much less three) seems eager to incur the wrath of the American people through a power grab that would violate the rule of law, trigger massive street protests and call the legislators’ own elections into question.... By the time President-elect Biden takes the oath of office, millions of people will wrongly believe he stole the election.... Mr. Trump’s false claims will delegitimize a Biden presidency among his supporters.... Mr. Trump’s litigation strategy also will make things worse when it comes to voting rights.... These unsuccessful lawsuits will... provide a false narrative to explain how it is that Mr. Biden declared victory and serve as a predicate for new restrictive voting laws in Republican states...."

"[Biden] spent most of his career as a bit of an outsider to Washington’s social world, his face pressed against the glass."

"The cool kids, including President Barack Obama, occasionally mocked him behind his back for his cornball earnestness. Mr. Trump’s obsession with the media took the form of constant, obstreperous complaints and news-making leaks, a style Mr. Biden has suggested he finds merely embarrassing. Mr. Biden sought their approval with a more diligent and solicitous approach. As vice president, for instance, he was particularly attentive to the wise men of Washington, especially the foreign policy columnists David Ignatius of The Washington Post and Thomas L. Friedman of The Times. Mr. Biden liked nothing more than a wide-ranging, high-minded conversation about world affairs after he had returned from a trip to China or India. It seems that what Donald Trump did for the once-dying industry of cable news, Joe Biden may do for the dusty old newspaper column.... Mr. Trump has also gotten us all used to an extraordinary, if inadvertent, level of transparency. He rarely resisted answering shouted, timely questions, and his leaky White House offered journalists and their audience an X-ray portrait of a government running off the rails...."

I've been reading traditional media all along and can't stand cable news. I've followed Trump directly, reading his tweets and watching his rallies and press conferences. But will the people who've binged on cable news switch back to traditional print media like Newsweek and The New York Times just because Biden isn't keeping cable news fueled with hot tweets and video clips? It's not as though people need to consume news. They can pick video games or super-hero movies. There's all kinds of fast food for the mind. And if for some reason people want something more sober and intellectual, there are all kinds of heavier TV shows — "The Crown"! — and an endless supply of substantial books — Obama's memoir! 

We don't need the latest news — especially when it's dull — to be analyzed more deeply or pseudo-deeply. We're free to branch out to more interesting things. And we can still listen to Trump, who is likely to become even funnier and wilder. 

"Mr. Blinken has been at Mr. Biden’s side for nearly 20 years, including as his top aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later as his national security adviser when he was vice president."

"In that role, Mr. Blinken helped develop the American response to political upheaval and instability across the Middle East, with mixed results in Egypt, Iraq, Syria and Libya. But chief among his new priorities will be to re-establish the United States as a trusted ally that is ready to rejoin global agreements and institutions — including the Paris climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal and the World Health Organization — that were jettisoned by Mr. Trump." 

I'm pleased to see such boring choices. Remember — a couple weeks ago, the news was that Pete Buttigieg wanted the U.N. ambassador job? I was sarcastic about that: "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."

IN THE COMMENTS: Rocketeer said:
So will I be the first to start referring to the VP, SOS, and POTUS as Winkin', Blinken and Nod?

Meade read that out loud to me and I immediately recited... 

Wynken, Blynken, and Nod one night
Sailed off in a wooden shoe--
Sailed on a river of crystal light,
Into a sea of dew.
"Where are you going, and what do you wish?"
I couldn't continue verbatim and I couldn't free-style rhymes about Biden and Harris, so I'm not bragging about my poetry expertise. Just saying I loved those Eugene Field poems when I was a child. I'm just seeing now that Eugene Field's father was the lawyer who represented Dred Scott: 
His father was Roswell Martin Field, an attorney who once represented Dred Scott, an African American man known for the 1857 U. S. Supreme Court case in which he sued for his freedom. Many believe the denial of Scott's bid by the court prompted the U. S. Civil War.

And here's the poem done with animation by Disney and music by Donovan: 

November 22, 2020

At the Sunday Night Café...


... you can write about anything you like.

"A mamlish memento"/"A less mamlish memento."

It's a podcast in 2 forms! 

Topics: "A transgender writer dies, 2 Latin words, a little Shakespeare, a Bible story about Hell, a NYT spelling game, the bad word 'nappy,' the mysterious word 'mamlish,' what’s new in Pompeii, the desire for a crisply clear election result, and the love of a soft misty morning." 

The first form — "A mamlish memento" — has music! 3 full-length songs. But you can only listen to this on Spotify — here. Consider subscribing! 

The second form has the music left out, so I'm calling it "A less mamlish memento," and you can listen here: 

That has me mentioning the music that's about to play. I was learning how the music function works. I'm not sure many people want the intrusion of music, so it was just an experiment.

You can also subscribe to the podcast (without the music) at Google — go here — at Pocket Casts — here — at iTunes — here — or at Radio Public — here.

At the Soft Morning Café...


... you can write until late afternoon.

"There’s nothing to damage, they’re already ruined."

Said Vladimir Putin when asked if his declining to congratulate Joe Biden might damage U.S./Russian relations — Bloomberg reports

Putin's position on the election is lucid: "We will work with anyone who has the confidence of the American people. But that confidence can only be given to a candidate whose victory has been recognized by the opposing party, or after the results are confirmed in a legitimate, legal way."

Is "nappy" a racial slur?

It's censored in the New York Times "Spelling Bee" game today:
The "Help" page only says: "Our word list does not include words that are obscure, hyphenated, or proper nouns. No cussing either, sorry." So "nappy" must be a "cuss." I've noticed in the past that "coon" is off the word list, even though the word "coon" can mean "raccoon" (or, though there's not much occasion to say this anymore, a member of the Whig party). "Nappy" can also mean "diaper." And it can describe the surface of some velvety fabrics. 

It seems that Spelling Bee eliminates a word when one meaning is an insult — a particular sort of insult, aimed at members of a group that has, historically, experienced subordination. 

But is "nappy" an insult? It almost seems insulting to think of "nappy" as an insult.

I found this article from last year (at NPR) — "The Racial Roots Behind The Term 'Nappy.'"  

"I'd like a crisply clear result to come into focus as soon as possible, and I'd like gracious winners and losers, all united in love for our beautiful country."

I wrote before going to sleep on election night. 

I was thinking about that this morning, after remembering a phrase I'd used in yesterday's podcast. I had some empathy for Trump, who's been so focused for so long on winning winning winning, and I thought of the idea that he can still win — if only to "win at losing." 


"The victims were probably looking for shelter in the cryptoporticus, in this underground space, where they thought they were better protected."

From "Bodies of man and his slave unearthed from ashes at Pompeii" (AP). 
Judging by cranial bones and teeth, one of the men was young, likely aged 18 to 25, with a spinal column with compressed discs. That finding led archaeologists to hypothesize that he was a young man who did manual labor, like that of a slave. The other man had a robust bone structure, especially in his chest area, and died with his hands on his chest and his legs bent and spread apart. He was estimated to have been 30- to 40-years-old, Pompeii officials said. Fragments of white paint were found near the man’s face, probably remnants of a collapsed upper wall, the officials said. Both skeletons were found in a side room along an underground corridor, or passageway, known in ancient Roman times as a cryptoporticus, which led to to the upper level of the villa....

Here's the Wikipedia article "Cryptoporticus" — with various photographs, none from Pompeii.

"Morris lived for many years with her gravestone standing in the corner of her library, the ne plus ultra of memento moris."

"She was an inveterate traveler but also prized her house in the Welsh village of Llanystumdwy; she wrote often about its snuggly, hyggelig qualities. Death for her may be something akin to merely being in, to borrow the words of the novelist Joshua Cohen, a bed with a lid. 'I am attracted to decline, to the melancholy spectacle of things that get old and die,' Morris told Leo Lerman in a Paris Review interview. She also joked that when she departed, the headlines would read, 'Sex Change Author Dies.' Jan Morris was born James Humphrey Morris on Oct. 2, 1926, in Somerset, England. From 1964, when she began taking hormone pills, to 1972, when she had the surgery, she transitioned to female from male, a process documented in 'Conundrum' (1974), her critically and commercially successful memoir. She wrote more than 40 books, the bylines nearly evenly divided between James and Jan.... She wrote a fair amount of doddle later in her life; not all of her stuff is worth the investment. (If you can make it through her books on Lincoln and Canada, you are a hardier person than I am.)"

From the obituary by Dwight Garner in the NYT, which distinguishes itself with a headline — "Jan Morris, a Distinctive Guide Who Took Readers Around the World" — that does not say the thing that Morris joked would be the one distinction in the headlines for her obituary. In place of the distinction "transgender," the Times gives Morris the distinction "distinctive." 

I was intrigued by Garner's phrase "the ne plus ultra of memento moris." One's own gravestone is indeed the ne plus ultra of memento moris.

I mulled over whether "ne plus ultra" and "memento moris" should be italicized as foreign language words and looked them up in the OED. 

"Ne plus ultra" — the furthest attainable point or peak of perfection — has been in use in English since the 1600s. A restoration era play has the line "Now Madam, you have seen the ne plus ultra of Art."

"Memento mori" has the distinction of appearing first in a work of William Shakespeare: 
Bardolph: Why, Sir John, my face does you no harm.  
Falstaff: No, I’ll be sworn; I make as good use of it as many a man doth of a death’s head, or a memento mori. I never see thy face but I think upon hell-fire and Dives that lived in purple – for there he is in his robes, burning, burning’. (Henry IV, Part 1 3.3. 24 – 28)

Falstaff makes good use of Bardolph's face. It looks like the face of a man burning in Hell and thus serves as a memento mori, a sobering reminder of death.

ADDED: I was fascinated by this quote from Morris: "What I can’t stand is being patronized by men.... Treated as a second-class citizen. Just because I’m a woman, there are people now who think I haven’t got a mind any more. Sometimes even those who’ve known me before." Presumably, "before" refers to the various treatments she received, including hormone therapy. Did the hormones change how she wrote? "She wrote a fair amount of doddle later in her life," the author of the obituary opines, and I imagine that sounded okay to write because the decline seems to have to do with age and not the hormone therapy. It's politically incorrect even to ask the question whether the female hormones had a negative effect on the writing.