December 5, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can write about anything you want. 

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 Trump rally in Georgia.

You can watch here:

"The fashion pendulum inevitably swung away from giant sunglasses into almost comically tiny territory, which means it's just about time for that bug-eyed look to return."

Fashionista explains fashion succinctly. 

Everything that goes out of style is just waiting around in exile until its badness has ripened into oblivion and somebody cool can then wear it and make it sing again. In this case, with the giant bug-eye sunglasses, we've got the Olsen twins looking just perfect and making you think you can wear those things again. 

Meanwhile, what's been in style becomes seeable as ridiculous, which it always was, and the least cool people are the last to notice, which sends these things off into exile where they can wait until they're forgotten again. So save your "comically tiny" sunglasses — if you were ever in fashion enough to have acquired them — because you'll get the cue some day that they're snazzy again.

James Corden denounced for doing "gayface" in the Netflix movie of the Broadway show "The Prom."

Gone are the days when a nongay actor won praise for playing a gay person. I guess this is like the way they don't stage "Othello" with a white actor in dark makeup and that old-time performance would be called "blackface." A nongay actor playing gay is doing "gayface." 

But what's the gay equivalent of dark makeup? Arguably, it's worse than a white actor putting on dark makeup to play a black person, which is mimicking an objective, outward trait. It's an affectation of stereotypical gestures and speech patterns and so forth. 

What do you need to do to read as gay? Has the answer become just don't do it?

I'm reading "James Corden Under Fire For ‘The Prom’ Performance: 'The Worst Gayface in a Long, Long Time'" (Decider). Here's the trailer. Corden is the actor playing a fat gay man. I don't think he's in what might be called "fatface" (that is, he's actually fat and not wearing a fat suit, I believe).


Here's the Vanity Fair review by Richard Lawson: "James Corden Should Have Been Banned from The Prom/Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman are merely wasted in Netflix’s Broadway musical adaptation—but Corden's performance is insulting." 

Corden, who is straight, is so bad in The Prom—somehow both appalling and terminally bland—that it had me thinking maybe the hardliners were right along. Forget the whole case-by-case thing: No more straight actors playing gay men until the sins of The Prom are properly atoned for. [The director, Ryan] Murphy, a gay man, has led some straight actors into fertile gay territory before.... But Corden, flitting and lisping around in the most uninspired of caricatures, misses all potential for nuance, and thus never finds even a hint of truth in the role. And this is in a movie that’s supposed to be about empowering queer people!

It's hard to believe that the era of straight actors playing gay people is over. Look at all the actors who have in very recent years won awards for doing just that. Maybe the problem is the stereotypical gay character. It's one thing for Rami Malek, a straight man, to play Freddie Mercury, a gay man — a grand narrative about a specific person — but quite something else to have a generic gay guy clowning for cheap laughs.

"California certified its presidential election Friday and appointed 55 electors pledged to vote for Democrat Joe Biden, officially handing him the Electoral College majority needed to win the White House...."

"The electors named Friday will meet Dec. 14, along with counterparts in each state, to formally vote for the next president. Most states have laws binding their electors to the winner of the popular vote in their state, measures that were upheld by a Supreme Court decision this year. There have been no suggestions that any of Biden’s pledged electors would contemplate not voting for him. Results of the Electoral College vote are due to be received, and typically approved, by Congress on Jan. 6. Although lawmakers can object to accepting the electors’ votes, it would be almost impossible for Biden to be blocked at that point." 

Why is ice hockey the one youth sport producing outbreaks of coronavirus?

"One critical way hockey differs from other contact team sports is how players do line changes — substitutions of groups of players — and are expected to sprint for nearly the whole time they are on the ice. Experts say it probably leads to heavier breathing, resulting in more particles being exhaled and inhaled. Jose-Luis Jimenez, an air engineer at the University of Colorado, speculated that the spaces occupied by rinks keep the virus suspended, perhaps six to nine feet, just above the ice. Similar outbreaks have been documented in other chilly venues — meat processing factories and at a curling match earlier in the pandemic. 'I suspect the air is stratified,' he said. 'Much like in a cold winter night, you have these inversions where the cold air with the virus which is heavier stays closer to the ground. That gives players many more chances to breathe it in.'...... Surrounded by plexiglass not only to prevent errant pucks but also to keep the airflow stable so the ice can remain cold, there’s little ventilation and humidity by design in ice rinks.... In higher humidity, the virus attaches to bigger droplets that drop faster to the ground, decreasing the chance that someone will inhale them. The drier the air, the faster droplets will evaporate into smaller-size particles that stay in the air, increasing the concentration..."

December 4, 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.

"The old Southern Democrats maintained the allegiance of poor whites by making sure those poor whites felt they could look down on blacks."

"The modern Democratic Party maintains the allegiance of ­upper-middle-class whites by making sure they can look down on lower-class whites. By ­humanizing those lower-class whites, Netflix’s 'Hillbilly Elegy' calls the whole enterprise into question. Humanizing the working class was once what Democrats were about. But no longer.... In America, class war is disguised as cultural war, and cultural war is often waged under the guise of fighting racism. Thus, the Deplorables had to be cast as racists...."

"This might have been a holy-shit speech, but it came in the 'yeah, whatever' phase of Trump’s lame-duck Presidency...."

"The temptation is to look away, to move on, to cringe and avert your gaze. That is exactly what the Republicans in the Senate, who have stood by Trump through impeachment and other ignominies, have done this week, pivoting so seamlessly into bashing the new Biden Administration that they never even stopped to acknowledge its existence.... Do Republicans think they have a free pass to pretend that the past four years never happened? Do they think they can simply return to the partisan status quo ante, complaining about nasty tweets and potential conflicts of interest, without anyone bringing up the current President? I don’t think this was what Biden meant when he said, during the campaign, that his Presidency would mark a return to normal."

With Kamala Harris looking on and imperiously smiling, Biden reveals a plan to suddenly "develop some disease and say I have to resign."

I don't want to criticize a bona fide speech impediment, but it is valuable to notice what triggers an intense bout of stammering. It's right when he's about to reveal too much.

The elegance of Edward Snowden.

"START THE DAY HERE: Hackers are targeting the vaccine supply chain. Iran eyes boosting uranium enrichment. Purple coffee goes viral."

CNN tells me where to start the day. Too late. I'm already 2 cups of nonpurple coffee into the day. Just getting around to looking at a tab I opened up an hour ago: "CNN Exclusive: Biden says he will ask Americans to wear masks for the first 100 days he's in office." 

Apparently, Joe Biden did an interview (with Jake Tapper) on CNN yesterday, and that's the hottest news item that could be extracted — we will be requested to wear a mask, but only for 100 days, and only beginning over a month from now. Why not start now? Because Biden isn't President yet? But he's just going to ask for our cooperation, so what's the difference?!

There's also new info about Biden's foot:
"The little pup dropped the ball in front of me for me to grab the ball ... and I grabbed the ball like this, and he ran, and I was joking running after him to grab his tail. And what happened was that he slid on a throw rug, and I tripped on the rug he slid on. That's what happened," Biden said with a smile. "Not a very exciting story."

Don't grab a dog's tail! Isn't that one of the first this you teach children about how to behave around a dog? Yes:

It’s probably one of the first things you learn when you are introduced to a dog: don’t pull his tail! A dog’s tail is an appendage, not just a bunch of hair shaking from side to side like a cheerleader’s ponytail....

Oh! And I was just thinking about Biden going after the hair of young women!

"Christ is king in this country. We don’t want illegal aliens from Mexico or outer space. So let’s tear this bitch down."

Says the man in the video that I found through Vice, which says "Mysterious Monolith Update: Racists Destroy California Monolith, Proclaim Christ Superior to Space Aliens/A group of men shouting 'Christ is King' and 'America First' destroyed a new monolith and replaced it with a wooden cross."

Notice that this was not the Utah monolith that we were talking about recently. It's a different monolith, in California. And I don't know how to tell whether these are real racists or pranksters. To my ear, the words I've quoted in the post title seem like a joke, and who would make such a joke... while tearing down a dumb sculpture in the desert? 

Vice calls them "a group of right-wing young men."

"Based on your risk profile, we believe you’re in line behind 118.5 million people across the United States. When it comes to Wisconsin, we think you’re behind 2.1 million others who are at higher risk in your state."

"And in Dane County, you’re behind 150,900 others. If the line in Wisconsin was represented by about 100 people, this is where you’d be standing...." 

I took the survey at "Find Your Place in the Vaccine Line" (NYT). Here's a portion of the line they've visualized for me:
I would not have put myself ahead of essential workers, teachers, and prisoners, because I am free to self-isolate.

December 3, 2020

"It's getting better all the time."


It's a podcast. 

Topics: "An old aphorism, comic strips, John Lennon, toxic positivity, Biden’s rhetoric, Biden’s dogs, Cher’s elephant, emotional support animals, COVID restrictions on religious schools and figures on New Yorker covers." 

Listen above or — better yet — go to your usual podcast place and subscribe.

At the Waning Gibbous Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want, including the same old topics you've been clinging to. You don't have to snap out of it. I'm not doing toxic positivity. I am giving you a place under the moon where you can be as boring as you like.

"By appointing Durham as a Special Counsel, Barr contradicted news reports before the election that Durham was frustrated and found nothing of significance...."

"Under the Justice Department regulations, Barr had to find (and Durham apparently agreed) that there is need for additional criminal investigation and '[t]hat investigation or prosecution of that person or matter by a United States Attorney's Office or litigating Division of the Department of Justice would present a conflict of interest for the Department or other extraordinary circumstances.' He must also find the appointment in the public interest.... Presumably, the conflict is not in the current administration since it would have required an earlier appointment. The conflict would seem to be found in the upcoming Biden administration...The list of the names of people falling within that mandate is a who’s who of Washington from Hillary Clinton to James Comey to . . . yes . . . Joe Biden.... From a political perspective, the move is so elegantly lethal that it would make Machiavelli green with envy.... Durham['s] replacement or the termination of his investigation would be viewed as an obstructive act. Indeed, when Trump even suggested such a course of action, he was accused of obstruction by a host of Democratic politicians and legal experts.... Moreover, with the Mueller report, virtually every Democratic leader demanded that the report be released with no or few redactions. The Trump administration waived most executive privileges and released most of the report.... The Durham appointment will now force Democrats to answer why they do not support the same public release of the report so that voters can 'draw our own conclusions.'"

Biden (and the NYT) fail to notice ambiguity.

I'm reading "I feel like I’ve done something good for the country by making sure that Donald Trump is not going to be president for four more years" quoted in "Biden Made Sure ‘Trump Is Not Going to Be President for Four More Years’/Here’s what Joe Biden had to say about the future in our interview" (Thomas Friedman column in NYT).

I'm sure Biden only meant to say that he kept Trump from getting reelected in 2020, but the words can just as well mean that it will be 4 more years before Trump can become President again. 

"'What happens to us while we are making other plans,' per Allen Saunders" — what?!

So... that's from today's mini crossword in the NYT, and I and — I guess — a million mini-puzzlers are saying who the hell is Allen Saunders and how have I gone so long attributing this witticism to John Lennon?


Wikipedia says: 
Allen Saunders (April 24, 1899 – January 28, 1986)[2] was an American writer, journalist and cartoonist who wrote the comic strips Steve Roper and Mike Nomad, Mary Worth and Kerry Drake. 

He is credited with being the originator of the saying, "Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans" [published in Reader's Digest] in 1957. The saying was later slightly modified and popularised by John Lennon in the song "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)".

Mary Worth! Is there anything less John-Lennon-like than Mary Worth?

"Toxic positivity."

I encountered a new term in "As stay-at-home restrictions rise, here are ways to cope" (WaPo): 
Although a positive mind-set can be a valuable coping skill, experts caution against going overboard. Such an approach — known as “toxic positivity” — can be harmful to yourself or others. Research has shown that accepting negative emotions is more beneficial to mental health than avoiding or dismissing them. So, next time you find yourself wanting to tell someone to “look on the bright side,” try instead to acknowledge their pain and ask what would be helpful. This doesn’t mean you can’t be positive, clinical health psychologist Natalie Dattilo told reporter Allyson Chiu. “It’s okay to have a positive and optimistic outlook and feel sad at the same time,” she said. “Both of those are necessary for a healthy outlook and sense of well-being.”

When is positivity "toxic"? "Toxic" is an overused word. I don't like calling other people "toxic." But I understand the various problems when one person in a family takes too much responsibility for injecting positivity into things. It can be silencing and annoying. It can be shallow. It can backfire. But is that person "toxic"? 

The Wikipedia article on "Positive psychology" has a section on "Toxic positivity":

Divided government is "a ticket to obstruction and the very sort of partisan brawling that moderate voters can’t stand."

Argues E.J. Dionne in "The destructive myth about divided government."

I am a moderate voter — a voter who abstained this year — and I believe that divided government is a safeguard against extremism. I eagerly clicked on the column because of the title. I'm perfectly ready to have my belief challenged. 

The Dionne column is very short. His main point is that the GOP leadership is "committed to preventing a Democratic president from governing successfully — even when that president is willing and eager to compromise."

But what is the "myth" that Dionne is supposedly debunking? I had to go back and search for the word "myth." 

Here: "The belief that divided government guarantees moderate outcomes might once have been true when there was a solid moderate bloc in the Republican Party. But it should now be clear that it’s a destructive myth." The word "guarantees" makes Dionne's "myth" a strawman. Who believes in a guarantee like that?! Divided government can be a safeguard whether it's a perfect safeguard or not. The question is whether it's better than the alternative. Which risk would you rather take? 

The assertion I put in the post title uses a similar absolutism: "a ticket to obstruction and the very sort of partisan brawling that moderate voters can’t stand." If you want to know something this moderate voter can't stand, it's writing like that. 

"Barack Obama continues his rather strange mission to confront and correct young liberal activists...."

" Wednesday morning on Peter Hamby’s Snapchat show, 'Good Luck America,' Obama said this: 'If you believe, as I do, that we should be able to reform the criminal justice system so that it’s not biased and treats everybody fairly, I guess you can use a snappy slogan like "Defund the police," but, you know, you lost a big audience the minute you say it, which makes it a lot less likely that you’re actually going to get the changes you want done.' It was not the first time Obama had taken aim at these young activists. Last year he also took a swipe at wokeness and 'call-out culture,' saying, among other things: 'If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.'... [T]he politician navigates the system, while the activist defies it. The politician builds a coalition by using middling philosophy and policies that appeal to the most and offend the fewest. The activist is driven more by purpose, morality and righteousness.... Obama is a good man and a great politician. History will always record him as such. But he is not an activist.... His presence as president was his greatest symbol of change: a smart, competent Black man, devoid of personal scandal, who brought class and professionalism to the White House.... That simple act, him doing his job well, was monumental in the quest for racial progress. But none of that negates the legitimate cries of the activist that much more must be done, that Obama altered a racial image, for the better, but wasn’t able to alter the system of oppression.."

My tag for this is "Obama attacked from the left."

"Airlines no longer will be required to accommodate travelers who want to fly with emotional support animals such as pigs, rabbits and turkeys..."

"... under a final rule announced Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Transportation.... Emotional support animals aren't considered service animals under the new rule.... Over the years, airlines have had to accommodate a growing variety of animals as the definition of what is considered a service animal expanded to include animals that travelers said they needed for emotional and psychological support when flying.... Service animals are those that have been trained to perform a certain function, and under the Americans With Disabilities Act, reasonable accommodations must be made for a person using one. However, no training is required for emotional support animals, which has led some to question their legitimacy. Before the rule change, federal law didn't address the issue of emotional support animals, so airlines had little recourse but to accommodate them.... 'This final rule will ensure that untrained pets will never roam free in the aircraft cabin again.'"

I'm happy to see this rule. Click on my "service animals" tag to see what I've written on the topic over the years. I'll just highlight this 2018 post that was based on a David Leonhardt column in the NYT, "It’s Time to End the Scam of Flying Pets" (NYT). Here's the quote from Leonhardt that began the post:
The whole bizarre situation [of emotional support animals on airplanes] is a reminder of why trust matters so much to a well-functioning society. The best solution, of course, would be based not on some Transportation Department regulation but on simple trust. People who really needed service animals could then bring on them planes without having to carry documents. Maybe a trust-based system will return at some point. But it won’t return automatically. When trust breaks down and small bits of dishonesty become normal, people need to make a conscious effort to restore basic decency.
Leonhardt did not want a rule! He imagined people working through the problem on our own! I'm inclined to resist overregulation, but I thought his "best solution" was a pipe dream. I wrote:
The best solution...

Voltaire said: The best is the enemy of the good. ("Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.")

I don't see how we're supposed to get to trust, when in a huge system, like airline transportation, you're always going to get some cheaters and it doesn't take many — 1%? — to create a problem like the one symbolized by Dexter the emotional-support peacock (picture at the NYT link).

And I'm not convinced trust is the answer. People need to be observant and skeptical.

I'll quote John Stuart Mill now: "Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing."

Sometimes you need rules. 

"For the right, the kamikaze are a symbol of traditional virtues and a spirit of self-sacrifice that they believe is woefully absent from modern Japan."

"For the left, they are part of a generation destroyed by Japanese militarism, and a powerful reminder of the importance of maintaining the country’s postwar pacifism.... [In October 1944] Japanese officers explained to Mr. Odachi and his cohort the plan to use suicide missions and asked for volunteers. They were met with stunned silence. Only when the officers began to harangue them did the first few men reticently volunteer, he wrote. 'We were essentially cajoled into committing suicide,' he recalled.... Mr. Odachi’s Zero... was loaded with an 1,100-pound bomb, weighing it down so much that it would be impossible to outmaneuver the enemy. When American fighters spotted him, he jettisoned his bomb into the ocean and managed to escape. On his next sortie, his group failed to find a target. The next six missions also ended in failure. After each attempt, he would wait for weeks for new orders. Every night, the officers announced who would fly into battle the next day. It 'felt like the conferral of the death penalty, and it was stomach-turning,' he wrote. But by the end, he said, 'we had become indifferent to matters of life and death. Our only concern was making the final moment count.' That moment, however, never came. On his final mission, his plane was preparing to take off when a member of the ground crew ran onto the runway, shouting and waving for the squadron to stop. The emperor, Mr. Odachi learned, had just announced Japan’s surrender. He was going home.... 'We were the same age as today’s high school students and college freshmen,' he said. 'There wasn’t a single person among us who would have decided on their own to die.'"

December 2, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk all night. 

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!

Trump teases 2024 run: "It's been an amazing four years. We're trying to do another four years, otherwise I'll see you in four years."

The cough is an unnice touch.

There's a point in this Lou Dobbs rant where — if you been paying attention — you'll cry out loud "He" — Barr — "didn't say that!"

The expressive bridge.

"Though [Betsy] DeVos has been mostly stymied... her legacy will still be far-reaching and long-lasting. This is not a result of what she made, but of what she broke..."

"... a bipartisan federal consensus around testing and charters that extended from the George H.W. Bush administration through the end of the Obama era.... In response to Ms. DeVos’s polarizing influence, moderate Democrats including President-elect Joe Biden recommitted to teachers unions and adopted more skeptical positions on school choice that were out of the question just a few years ago.... Yet Ms. DeVos has also elevated the education policy agenda of the far right, giving voice and legitimacy to a campaign to fundamentally dismantle public education.... More than three decades ago, conventional Republicans and centrist Democrats signed on to an unwritten treaty. Conservatives agreed to mute their push for private school vouchers, their preference for religious schools and their desire to slash spending on public school systems. In return, Democrats effectively gave up the push for school integration and embraced policies that reined in teachers unions.... As Republicans continue to work to defund and privatize school systems, both Democratic governors and the incoming Biden administration can draw a sharp policy distinction, boldly defending public education in a way that resonates with voters...."

"Britain gave emergency authorization on Wednesday to Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, leaping ahead of the United States..."

"... to become the first Western country to allow mass inoculations.... Britain beating the United States to authorization — on a vaccine codeveloped by the American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, no less — may intensify pressure on U.S. regulators, who are already under fire from the White House for not moving faster to get doses to people. And it has stirred up a global debate about how to weigh the desperate need for a vaccine with the imperative of assuring people that it is safe. 'Help is on its way with this vaccine — and we can now say that with certainty, rather than with all the caveats,' the British health secretary, Matt Hancock, said on Wednesday, as the government exulted in the authorization."

"How is Face Recognition Surveillance Technology Racist?... How is face surveillance an anti-Black technology?"

Question answered at the ACLU website. 
First, the technology itself can be racially biased.... Buolamwini and Gebru’s 2018 research concluded that some facial analysis algorithms misclassified Black women nearly 35 percent of the time, while nearly always getting it right for white men.... These error-prone, racially biased algorithms can have devastating impacts for people of color.... 
Second, police in many jurisdictions in the U.S. use mugshot databases to identify people with face recognition algorithms....  Across the U.S., Black people face arrest for a variety of crimes at far higher rates than white people. Take cannabis arrests, for just one example... 
Third... the entire system is racist.... Surveillance of Black people in the U.S. has a pernicious and largely unaddressed history, beginning during the antebellum era.... [There is] spying that targets political speech, too often conflated with “terrorism,” and spying that targets people suspected of drug or gang involvement. In recent years, we learned of an FBI surveillance program targeting so-called “Black Identity Extremists,” which appears to be the bureau’s way of justifying domestic terrorism investigations of Black Lives Matter activists.... Racial disparities in the government’s war on drugs are well documented.

I was reading that because of this vote in my city last night: "Madison City Council bans city agencies from using facial recognition technology" (Wisconsin State Journal).

December 1, 2020

At the Sunlight Café...


... you can shine all night. 

(Photo of me, by Meade.)

"The male is barricaded inside and not answering the door. Everyone else is outside the house. They are trying to get him to open up."

Said the dispatcher quoted in "Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh was 'barricaded' in a shed when blaze broke out, as colleagues suspect his addiction to burning candles, Grey Goose vodka, and nitrous oxide whippets triggered the explosion that led to his death" (Daily Mail). 
Recently... nitrous oxide had become his drug of choice, taking it in the form of 'whippets' straight from the cartridge of a whipped cream dispenser. 'He would take dozens of them a day,' the colleague said. 'He lived a crazy, eccentric life. The drugs often made him hallucinate, he became paranoid — that could explain why he barricaded himself in,' he added. 'Tony was very fond of candles. He liked to set the atmosphere.' 'The guess is that he managed to ignite one of the nitrous oxide canisters which caused a small explosion that killed him.'... 

"To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have affected a different outcome in the election" — said Attorney General William Barr.

 Speaking to AP News. 
The issues Trump’s campaign and its allies have pointed to are typical in every election: Problems with signatures, secrecy envelopes and postal marks on mail-in ballots, as well as the potential for a small number of ballots miscast or lost. But they’ve also requested federal probes into the claims....

Barr didn’t name [Sidney] Powell specifically but said: “There’s been one assertion that would be systemic fraud and that would be the claim that machines were programmed essentially to skew the election results. And the DHS and DOJ have looked into that, and so far, we haven’t seen anything to substantiate that,” Barr said.

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 "modal" black person.

I'm reading this because it's being criticized on Twitter by some people I follow (Titania McGrath and James Lindsey). Graham identifies himself as an Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology and Coordinator of Old Dominion University's Cybercrime Program.

That's 1/15, so let me just quote the rest. Boldface added and paragraph breaks changed. "Modal" in sociology — according to the OED — means "representative" or "typical":


Post title explanation:

Is the new New Yorker cover shockingly depressing?

Simonson also tweets: "This woman is alone, living in squalor and drinking." Prescription drugs too. (Click on the image to see the full cover. There's lots of stuff on the floor.)

Simonson adds: "People say it’s meant to be dark but this interview with the artist doesn’t make that clear." And he links to this piece in The New Yorker, an interview with the artist Adrian Tomine. 

And I must say that before I read the interview, I went to Amazon and bought a hardcover book of his, "The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Cartoonist." That's how much I love that beautifully drawn cover.

I think the cover is about the built-up effects of the lockdown on a young person in a small apartment and how it remains nonetheless possible to present a pulled-together image within the frame of a video call. The woman is struggling with the long ordeal of isolation but still looking out into the world for social interaction. She has a pretty cocktail in her hand, so it must be a social, not a business call. She's got her polished looks — lipstick, ruffled blouse, earrings. She's ready to move forward, optimistic. Outside of the frame of the call, the place is a mess, but it's a homey mess, with kitty cats and snack containers. She's comfortable, in shorts and fluffy slippers. And now that I'm looking closely, unshaved legs. The expression on her face is a serene smile.

Now, I'm reading the interview. The book on the floor — lower right — is the book I just bought. Nice. The artist was influenced by Edward Hopper. Here's the closest thing to a statement about the darkness/nondarkness of the cover: 

"Why can a 12-year-old go to the movies along with two dozen other people, but she can’t watch the Greatest Story Ever Told with a smaller group in Bible class?"

"Why can Kentuckians cheer on their favorite NCAA basketball teams indoors, attend a size-restricted wedding, or keep up Black Friday shopping traditions, but children can’t gather for school chapel?"

Questions asked by Danville Christian Academy and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, quoted at "Christian school in Kentucky asks justices to intervene in dispute over in-person classes at religious schools" (SCOTUSblog). 

Cameron is a Republican. He's joined the school's lawsuit challenging the COVID order put in place by Governor Andy Beshear, a Democrat. The school won at the district court level. Beshear won in the 6th Circuit, which said it was enough that the Governor's order treated all schools alike. 

ADDED: To avoid violating the Free Exercise clause, it's important — in crafting a government policy — not to draw a line between religion and nonreligion. Beshear got that part right. But if Governors are unusually hesitant to open public schools, does that justify holding back private schools? Should religious private schools have a special privilege to extricate themselves from the Governor's order that is not available to nonreligious private schools?

Biden's rhetoric is too bland to pay attention to. It's not meant to be paid attention to. But if you do pay attention...

I guess that's supposed to make us feel good and safe and protected. Coming next January: Sanity and soundness. 

Should we try to understand the words?

1. "My administration won’t just build back to the way things were before — we’re going to build back better." In the future, things will be the same as the past and different from the past. Please feel free to think that everything that you liked about the past will be restored and be forewarned that we're also going to change things. All the changes will be improvements. 

2. "We’re going to ensure every single American has a fair shot to get ahead." I'm always skeptical of assertions that politicians are going to "make sure" something happens. It's a tic that has a tag here on the Althouse blog. And it's not physically possible for everyone to "get ahead" over everyone else. But he doesn't say that we will, only that we will all get "a fair shot" in the big competition, which sounds ultra-conservative, doesn't it? 

"Catturd" is trending on Twitter because the President of the United States is retweeting someone who calls himself Catturd.

There are at least 2 other Catturd retweets in Trump's Twitter feed. I do see that there's a way to claim that this is a deviously clever move.... It does cause his antagonists to retweet his retweeting... It's the first thing I found bloggable this morning, and I've passed on about 50 things at this point.

November 30, 2020

At the Monday Night Cafe...

.. you can talk about whatever you want.

"If Joe Biden succeeds in empowering someone like Neera Tanden without extreme opposition from supposedly adversarial journalists..."

"... not only Democrats but also these media outlets will lose whatever lingering credibility they have to denounce conspiracy theories and to defend the legitimacy of U.S. elections. And they will deserve that fate. You can’t run around expecting people will take you seriously when you warn of the dangers of toxic, moronic conspiracy theories when you yourself embrace, elevate and promote the most prolific and reckless purveyors of them."

I know my immediate reaction was I don't believe this had anything to do with a dog.

ADDED: Writing tip: When you're writing about a dog, avoid beginning a sentence with the verb "Spot" as in "Spot details..." Made me think of details about a dog named Spot. The Biden dog in question is "Major." He has another dog named "Champ." They're German Shepherds, by the way. 

ALSO: Remember back in 2002 when we were told, "Bush Faints While Eating A Pretzel" (WaPo). Why did they specify a pretzel, hmm? Why'd they specify the food? I ask the question out loud and Meade says it's not equivalent to today's Major the dog story, which is like "if they'd said he choked on a Snyder's pretzel."

IN THE COMMENTS: Mr Wibble said:
This is the beginning of a modified limited medical hangout 

"He took a minor fall. The doctor is precautionary measure." 
"He took a minor fall. There was a small fracture in his foot." 
"Ok, so there was a minor concussion." 
"He's going to take a week's rest." 
"About that head injury..."

You can't travel, but Cher can travel to Pakistan to help an elephant travel to Cambodia.

And Cher is celebrated for this: 

"Pop music icon Cher was in Pakistan over the weekend to join a lonely elephant on his long-awaited journey to salvation. Kaavan, dubbed the world's loneliest elephant, finally escaped the meager confines of a zoo in Islamabad and was well on his way to a wildlife sanctuary in Cambodia on Monday" (CBS News). 

What is the carbon footprint of Cher's showy elephantarianism? There isn't one word about global warming in this lengthy article (which reads like a PR release from Cher's team). 

And the only reference to the pandemic — which keeps you from galavanting around the globe — is to laud Cher for "Pulling it all off during a global pandemic." There were "unique challenges, but fortunately Kaavan's pre-flight COVID-19 test came back negative, and arrangements for a 30-day quarantine in Cambodia were in place."

If you cluster the women in one place, you foster the opinion that this work is women's work.

Communications... you know how women are. 

We men will make the decisions and hash out the difficulties of policy. The women will put our thoughts into words that the little people will understand. 

You know how good women are with little people — children... the weak... the deplorable. 

ADDED: This is an important correction to that "first time in history" business, but it reinforces and heightens the feminist point that I made:

George Clooney has been cutting his own hair for 25 years — with a Flowbee!

He didn't have to adapt for the lockdown. He was pre-adapted. Part of the adaptation, of course, was being devastatingly handsome. And having hair "like straw."

ADDED: For a less absurd — less elaborate — self-cutter, try this.

November 29, 2020

"First, there is a monolith, then there is no monolith."


It's a podcast. 

Topics: "A Zen mountain, the 'vanishing' monolith, Trump’s wall likened to a Christo project, the fiction of ‘The Crown,’ David Brooks’s notion of the 'rotting' GOP mind, lax grooming in COVID times, learning from hermits in COVID times, and the memory of smells."

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want. 

The photo above is today's sunrise, taken at 7:13. I never got around to showing you yesterday's sunrise, so let me put that here too, because I have a certain feeling about completeness and want to document all the sunrises that meet me at my sunrise run. This was also done at 7:13:


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!

"Legs have bristled beneath the embrace of thermal leggings. Chins have sprouted solitary hairs, like lone flags atop the summit of Everest..."

"... fluttering proudly in the wind. It was not a strike, per se, but a nationwide grooming hiatus.... Practical  reasons alone cannot explain why so many women have opted to grow out their hair colour, or rewild their eyebrows. 'The pandemic has uprooted all of our ways of being in the world,' says Jaclyn Wong of the University of South Carolina, an expert in gender and attractiveness. 'The fact that women aren’t doing this beauty work is exciting to me, because it represents a disruption of how they normally comply with our society’s expectations of femininity.'... 'When I stopped shaving,' says Georgia Collier, 26, from London, 'it started out because I wasn’t leaving the house, so there didn’t seem to be much point. But then it changed.... When everything else was spinning out of control.... I stopped trying to control my body. I decided to just be who I am.'"

"A Donald Trump supporter who donated $2.5m to help expose and prosecute claims of fraud in the presidential election wants his money back after what he says are 'disappointing results.'"

"Fredric Eshelman, a businessman from North Carolina, said he gave the money to True the Vote, a pro-Trump 'election ethics' group in Texas that promised to file lawsuits in seven swing states as part of its push to 'investigate, litigate, and expose suspected illegal balloting and fraud in the 2020 general election.' But according to a lawsuit Eshelman filed this week in Houston.... True the Vote dropped its legal actions and discontinued its Validate the Vote 2020 campaign, then refused to return his calls when he demanded an explanation."

"They can live anywhere, but tend to reside in modest dwellings and avoid moving around unnecessarily. Nevertheless, a hermit..."

"... should also not be confused with a recluse. The difference... is that hermits do not exit society because of misanthropy. 'I would define a hermit or a person who chooses solitude as one who chooses solitude for spiritual reasons... and we do accent the spiritual, but it can be any form of spiritual.'... The Fredettes began creating YouTube videos to help hermits and hermit-curious people deal with isolation.... [T]he Fredettes and other hermits believe that anyone could benefit from incorporating some eremitic fundamentals — such as being rooted in place, practicing austerity and committing to a daily schedule that prioritizes prayer or meditation — to help them make sense of their isolation into their lives, regardless of personality type, religiosity, or life circumstances... 'We have a rock, a huge rock, that’s sticking out of the mountains... Her name is Petra. And we have a path that leads right out to Petra. And when things are difficult I go out and I lean on Petra, and I say, "Give me some guidance."'"

From "What We Can Learn From Solitude/Contemporary hermits are reaching out to people struggling with isolation. Their message: Go inward, and get outside" (NYT). The internal quotes above are all from Karen Karper Fredette who is married to a former Catholic priest. She's 78, and she "spent 30 years in a monastery after high school before leaving to live as a hermit in a cabin in West Virginia." At the link, there's an excellent photograph of the 2 of them standing on that rock. 

"Why would the internet have corrupted Republicans so much more than Democrats, the global right more than the global left?"

"My analysis begins with a remarkable essay [by] Jonathan Rauch [who] pointed out that every society has an epistemic regime, a marketplace of ideas where people collectively hammer out what’s real. In democratic, nontheocratic societies, this regime is a decentralized ecosystem of academics, clergy members, teachers, journalists and others who disagree about a lot but agree on a shared system of rules for weighing evidence and building knowledge. This ecosystem, Rauch wrote, operates as a funnel. It allows a wide volume of ideas to get floated, but only a narrow group of ideas survive collective scrutiny. 'We let alt-truth talk,' Rauch said, 'but we don’t let it write textbooks, receive tenure, bypass peer review, set the research agenda, dominate the front pages, give expert testimony or dictate the flow of public dollars.'... [M]illions of people have come to detest those who populate the epistemic regime, who are so distant, who appear to have it so easy, who have such different values, who can be so condescending.... [Trump] and his media allies simply ignore the rules of the epistemic regime and have set up a rival trolling regime."

From "The Rotting of the Republican Mind/When one party becomes detached from reality" by David Brooks (NYT). Brooks goes on to blame distrust of experts and anxiety about social and economic conditions, but never explains why this would happen on the right but not the left, nor does he attempt to demonstrate that the problem does in fact belong to the right and not the left. That is, ironically, he himself does not follow "a shared system of rules for weighing evidence and building knowledge"!

And it's so ugly to speak of "rotting" minds. You'd better be sure there's no rot in your own before you express that kind of emotive contempt and disgust. What makes you so sure you and your friends constitute an epistemic regime that ought to be deferred to by the people you obviously regard as deplorable? It's right there in the open. And you assume that the non-elite people of the left are already in full deference mode. Why?!

"The multimillionaire former CEO of online shoe store Zappos died on Friday, nine days after he was dragged unconscious by firefighters from a blazing Connecticut house..."

"... in the middle of the night. Tony Hsieh, who was worth an estimated $840 million, had retired three months earlier from the billion-dollar business he helped found, and was just 46 years old. The alarm was raised at 3:30am on November 18 and firefighters forced their way into the New London home after being told someone was trapped inside.... He insisted on a $36,000 annual salary... and he sat in an unassuming cubicle among the other employees. When Zappos set up a new warehouse in Kentucky, the paper said, he packed a pickup truck with materials, drove to Kentucky and got to work bolting together shelves and unpacking shoes.... Hsieh, who had a passion for llamas and alpacas, had a pet alpaca named Marley and dog Blizzy. He lived in an Airstream trailer, part of a village... known as Llamapolis... [I]n 2014, he transformed a parking lot in the city into a 'micro-living oasis', made up of around 30 RVs. He also had two pet llamas which lived in the trailer park community with him. As of 2020, he was still living in the tiny trailer, unmarried and with no children."

Here's a view inside Hsieh's Airstream:

The $2 bill.

"President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has said he hopes to halt construction of the border wall, but the outgoing administration is rushing to complete as much wall as possible..."

"... in its last weeks in power, dynamiting through some of the border’s most forbidding terrain. The breakneck pace at which construction is continuing all but assures that the wall, whatever Mr. Biden decides to do, is here to stay for the foreseeable future, establishing a contentious legacy for Mr. Trump in places that were crucial to his defeat. In southeastern Arizona, the continuing political divisiveness around the president’s signature construction project has pitted rancher against rancher and neighbor against neighbor.... The region is emerging as one of the Trump administration’s last centers of wall building as blasting crews feverishly tear through the remote Peloncillo Mountains, where ocelots and bighorn sheep roam through woodlands of cottonwoods and sycamores.... 'This isn’t just heartbreaking but totally pointless,' said Diana Hadley, a historian whose family’s ranch includes much of Guadalupe Canyon. She said natural barriers had long served as a deterrent against crossings in the remote area.... Karen Hasselbach, who lives on another stretch of the border in Arizona near the San Pedro River... had begun likening the border wall, which she despises, to the work of Christo, the Bulgarian-born conceptual artist known for epic-scale environmental projects. 'I try to look at it as a temporary art installation.... My hope is it gets torn down.'"


I question whether the monolith has vanished. If you're with me in a room, then you leave and come back a week later, and I am not there, it would be a gross failure to follow Occam's Razor to say that I had "vanished." In all likelihood, I walked out, and I continue to exist. I've gone somewhere else. You just don't know where. The question is who extracted the 10-foot-tall steel slab from its precisely hewn hole in the rock and where have they taken it. 

My guess is that the same art installation folk who set it up in the first place have precision-cut a new hole and moved the slab to a new place so the process of discovering the "monolith" can happen once again. I assume the thing is still in the Utah desert, in a new and different location.

First, there is a monolith/Then there is no monolith/Then there is.

The performance art continues. Perhaps you'll be the one hiking around the Utah desert who'll discover the new location.

It makes me think of the old "Traveling Gnome prank":