December 12, 2020

At the Big Snow Café...

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 ... you can't read the signs...

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... so make some footprints.

"If Santa knows when kids are naughty or nice then he knew Rudolph was being bullied."

Santa knew!

"Time's Person of the Year should have been the Monolith... no — Plywood."

From the list of things I've said out loud this morning.

"Think-tank Brookings has posted pie charts of previous administrations’ appointees (white, black, Asian, Hispanic, Indian and Arab), the better to keep track of whether Biden will beat his predecessors in the race race."

"Last week, the NAACP and black Congressional leaders voiced their disappointment that only one of the eight cabinet appointees whom Biden had so far announced was black — despite the fact that black Americans constitute just about exactly one-eighth of the population (if we’re going to be that way — and it seems we are).... Races, sexes, sexual identity cadres and the disabled are being incentivized to operate like trade unions or lobbying factions, whose interests are mutually exclusive and whose relations are therefore, if you will, structurally hostile. We’ve grown so numbly accustomed to raising category over character that we’re forgetting how depressingly regressive this primitive tribal mindset is." 

"If you can’t annoy somebody … there’s little point in writing" —Kingsley Amis/"Whatever they criticize you for, intensify it" —Jean Cocteau.

A couple quotes that jumped out at me from "Garner's Quotations: A Modern Miscellany," a book I'm enjoying immensely. Garner is Dwight Garner, a NYT book critic. It's a very smart sequence of quotations. 

Just a few more:

"I don’t care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do. The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it."—William S. Burroughs 

"Thank God for books as an alternative to conversation" —W. H. Auden 

"Almost nobody dances sober, unless they happen to be insane" —H. P. Lovecraft 

"A monster is a person who has stopped pretending" —Colson Whitehead, “A Psychotronic Childhood”

"When I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split" —Raymond Chandler

"If you removed all of the homosexuals and homosexual influence from what is generally regarded as American culture you would be pretty much left with Let’s Make a Deal" —Fran Lebowitz, in The New York Times 

"Don’t own anything you wouldn’t leave out in the rain" —Gary Snyder 

"All I want to do is sit on my ass and fart and think of Dante"—Samuel Beckett 

I hope that annoyed some of you or what's the point?

"For 51 years, one of the Zodiac Killer’s puzzling codes he sent in letters to newspapers in the late 1960s and early 1970s has confounded the cryptography community..."

"But the Bay Area killer’s 340-character cipher mailed to the San Francisco Chronicle has been cracked by an international team of code-breakers... verified by the FBI," WaPo reports.

Here's the video announcing the cracking and explaining the lengthy process. 


Don't get excited about the message. 
I HOPE YOU ARE HAVING LOTS OF FUN IN TRYING TO CATCH ME THAT WASNT ME ON THE TV SHOW WHICH BRINGS UP A POINT ABOUT ME I AM NOT AFRAID OF THE GAS CHAMBER BECAUSE IT WILL SEND ME TO PARADICE ALL THE SOONER BECAUSE I NOW HAVE ENOUGH SLAVES TO WORK FOR ME WHERE EVERYONE ELSE HAS NOTHING WHEN THEY REACH PARADICE SO THEY ARE AFRAID OF DEATH I AM NOT AFRAID BECAUSE I KNOW THAT MY NEW LIFE IS LIFE WILL BE AN EASY ONE IN PARADICE DEATH

The English words— revealed at long last — feel banal in comparison to the page full of mystifying symbols. What if all the great mysteries are grander left in the form of mystery? 

But yes, hooray for nerds who figured it out, and I'm glad they demystified this murderer who somehow captivated so many people for so long and made a complicated code but didn't know how to spell "paradise."

"The hardline former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says that the hijab law in Iran must be compatible with most people's wishes."

"Speaking to Mehdi Nasiri, the former editor-in-chief of an ultraconservative daily close to Iran's Supreme Leader, Ahmadinejad posed the question, 'If the parliament has passed a law, but the majority of the people rejected it, can one say that I would apply it at any cost?'"

"An Iranian woman who posted heavily distorted images of herself online has been sentenced to 10 years in jail..."

"... her lawyer has said, a year after she was arrested over her social media activities.... She was charged with corruption of young people and disrespect for the Islamic Republic.... The charges against Tabar first included blasphemy, inciting violence, gaining income through inappropriate means and encouraging youths to corruption. She said she had been cleared of two of the four charges against her, but did not want to comment further because she was still hoping for a pardon. Iranian state TV broadcast her confession in late October last year. Her expressions of remorse drew a great deal of sympathy."

From "Iranian teenager who posted distorted pictures of herself is jailed for 10 years/Instagram star Sahar Tabar [Fatemeh Khishvand] says she is still hoping for a pardon after conviction for corrupting young people" (The Guardian).

This beautiful woman made her face up to look shocking (but also strangely, hauntingly beautiful). This is what caused popularity on Instagram and outrage among Iranian authorities:

I hope she gets that pardon, but I understand that fear that images like that corrupt youth. Here's what seems to be an Instagram site preserving her images, which were, I believe, done with makeup and Photoshop and not plastic surgery. See Wikipedia, which adds:

[Iran] has the highest rate of nose surgery in the world. A pointed up nose – or just wearing a nose bandage – is widely seen as fashionable, both among men and women, and among progressives and conservatives. Apart from beauty standards, the motivation for surgery may include expression of social status, marriage chances, self-expression, or simple boredom in a country with otherwise restricted dress code.

For all that repression, why is all that cosmetic plastic surgery allowed? Perhaps because it's generally done in pursuit of a generic look — the idealized beauty standard — and not to deviate from the shared norm. Tabar's images make an implicit argument that looking very different and weird is good. What if all the beautiful young people got it in their head to maximize creepy strangeness? What if instead of seeking traditional married life they wiled away their time in front of the mirror and made their face as weird as possible with the goal of maximizing "likes" on line?

I can only try to approximate the fear and punitiveness that has arisen in the mind of Iranian authorities.

December 11, 2020

At the Friday Night Café...

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... you can write about whatever you want.

"The Supreme Court on Friday rejected an audacious lawsuit by Texas that had asked the court to throw out the presidential election results in four battleground states..."

"The court, in a brief unsigned order, said Texas lacked standing to pursue the case, saying it 'has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.' The move, coupled with a one-sentence order on Tuesday turning away a similar request from Pennsylvania Republicans, signaled that the court has refused to be drawn into President Trump’s losing campaign to overturn the results of the election last month. There will continue to be scattered litigation brush fires around the nation from Mr. Trump’s allies, but as a practical matter the Supreme Court’s action puts an end to any prospect that Mr. Trump will win in court what he lost at the polls."


ADDED: Here is the order in full: 
TEXAS V. PENNSYLVANIA, ET AL. 
The State of Texas’s motion for leave to file a bill of complaint is denied for lack of standing under Article III of the Constitution. Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections. All other pending motions are dismissed as moot. 
Statement of Justice Alito, with whom Justice Thomas joins: In my view, we do not have discretion to deny the filing of a bill of complaint in a case that falls within our original jurisdiction. See Arizona v. California, 589 U. S. ___ (Feb. 24, 2020) (Thomas, J., dissenting). I would therefore grant the motion to file the bill of complaint but would not grant other relief, and I express no view on any other issue.

"The state isn’t exactly scrupulous in the evidence it musters. It contends that Biden had less than a one in a quadrillion chance..."

"... of winning any one of these battleground states after Trump established a lead on election night. The chance of winning all four, per the suit, was less than one in a quadrillion to the fourth power. But the calculation assumed that every batch of ballots would have roughly the same partisan breakdown, despite there never having been any real-world expectation of this. It was predicted that Trump would establish an early lead in states that counted in-person ballots first, and then Biden would gain as the states began to count mail-in ballots, which were heavily Democratic. The last-counted ballots were universally understood to be the Democrats’ turn at bat, given who they were and where they came from...."

From "Texas Unleashes an Absurd Kraken" by the Editors of The National Review.

Also in The National Review, "Texas’s Frivolous Lawsuit Seeks to Overturn Election in Four Other States" by Andrew McCarthy. Excerpt:

"The president was very displeased by the black rivulets of sweat running down Giuliani's face at the press conference."

"But the president has a very long relationship with Rudy Giuliani; he's never going to cut ties with him. He's really not. And Giuliani has convinced the president that it's activist judges or it's this one or it's that one who are thwarting them — and not that it's at all Giuliani's fault. Giuliani is saying to the president what the president wants to hear, which is that the president was robbed."

Said Maggie Haberman, quoted in "'It Is Roiling Him': Reporter Maggie Haberman Unpacks Trump's Refusal To Admit He Lost" (NPR)(from an episode if "Fresh Air").

"Barr Worked to Keep Hunter Biden Probes From Public View During Election/The attorney general knew for months about investigations into Biden’s business and financial dealing?

The Wall Street Journal reports (and I got in without a subscription). 
Attorney General William Barr has known about a disparate set of investigations involving Hunter Biden’s business and financial dealings since at least this spring, a person familiar with the matter said, and worked to avoid their public disclosure during the heated election campaign.... 
On Thursday night, Mr. Trump tweeted his frustration about the Justice Department and the FBI’s failure to disclose the Hunter Biden investigation earlier. “Why didn’t the Fake News Media, the FBI and the DOJ report the Biden matter BEFORE the Election,” he wrote. Justice Department guidelines advise investigators against taking overt actions in a run-up to an election so as not to be seen as affecting the outcome....

AND: "Investigation of His Son Is Likely to Hang Over Biden as He Takes Office/Unless the Trump Justice Department clears Hunter Biden, the new president will confront the prospect of his own administration handling an inquiry that could expose his son to criminal prosecution" (NYT)("If [Biden] refuses to appoint a special counsel and his Justice Department opts not to prosecute his son, many will invariably suspect favoritism").

"Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) introduced legislation in the House on Thursday that would bar schools from receiving federal funding if they allow transgender girls and women and non-binary people..."

"... to compete on sports teams consistent with their gender identities. The bill — co-sponsored by Republican Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma — was met with immediate outrage from transgender activists and allies who labeled the legislation 'blatantly transphobic.' The 'Protect Women’s Sports Act' seeks to clarify that Title IX protections for female athletes are 'based on biological sex,' Gabbard and Mullin said in a statement.... Explaining her support for the bill, Gabbard ― who’d previously claimed she supported LGBTQ rights ― said she wants to protect 'Title IX’s original intent which was based on the general biological distinction between men and women athletes based on sex. Title IX was a historic provision… to provide equal opportunity for women and girls in high school and college sports. It led to a generational shift that impacted countless women, creating life-changing opportunities for girls and women that never existed before... Title IX is being weakened by some states who are misinterpreting Title IX, creating uncertainty, undue hardship and lost opportunities for female athletes. It is critical that the legacy of Title IX continues to ensure women and girls in sports have the opportunity to compete and excel on a level playing field.'" 

"Rush Limbaugh isn’t saying he wants the country to split into red and blue factions as a result of conservative fury over the election results."

"As he attempted to make clear Thursday, he’s just saying that other people are saying it. 'I know that there’s a sizable and growing sentiment for people who believe that’s we’re headed to, whether we want to get there or not, secession,' he said on his nationwide radio program. 'Now, I didn’t advocate for it. I never would advocate for secession. I’m simply repeating what I have heard.'... He didn’t say where he’s heard anyone float the notion of states seceding, let alone spell out how such a neo-Civil War separation might take place. But Limbaugh’s ambiguous flirtation with the idea may be his special contribution to conservative media’s rock-solid support of Trump’s baseless claims of election fraud. 'I actually think that we’re trending toward secession,' he said on Wednesday’s show. 'I see more and more people asking what in the world do we have in common with the people who live in, say, New York?'" 


I agree with WaPo that it's a ridiculous notion, but there ought to be some acknowledgment that people on the left have been out there talking about the west coast seceding from the Union. 

AND: Here's a BBC article from April 2019, "What if California seceded from the US?" ("For the past few years, divides both within the state, and between California and the rest of the US, have sparked at least six initiatives aimed at breaking California into smaller states or cleaving it entirely from the rest of the country").

ADDED: Writing this post, I saw a little sidetrack into the Cascadia independence movement

Time wasted my time.

I'm so annoyed that I bothered with Time's "Person of the Year" finalist list yesterday, when it turns out Time picked an option that was not on the list

I'm not linking to their article this time. Please go to the update on yesterday's post if you want to understand the source of my irritation.

"It’s going to be the same old crap, frankly. It’s going to be people coming in without direct knowledge... giving some kind of hare-brained charge that can’t be validated."

"And we’re going to continue to do this. And every time we do it, every time we do something like this, as a country, as a state, as individuals, we’re taking more people out of the system. They’re going to say, 'This is crazy, I’m not going to vote anymore.' So yeah, there’s a hell of a lot of damage going on."

Said Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, referring to the hearing about the 2020 voting irregularities scheduled for today in the Wisconsin legislature. He's quoted in The Wisconsin State Journal.

The headline isn't about the state governor and the state legislature, but about the U.S. Senator: "Sen. Ron Johnson called 'delusional scum' for considering challenge to election." I thought that was a very strange headline. People are always insulting prominent individuals, so why is the fact that somebody hurled one particular epithet the subject of a headline? If the insult-hurler isn't important enough to name in the headline, why put one nasty insult in a headline? It would be different, perhaps, if thousands of people were using the word "scum" in reference to Ron Johnson or if "scum" — like "liar" or "thief" — constituted a specific factual allegation.

But The Wisconsin State Journal decided to make an article that featured not the Governor's statement — which only goes as far as "crap" and doesn't call any person "crap" (just the hearing) — out of this tweet:
Who is Hong? The article just says she "was elected in November to represent Madison’s Downtown district." Elected to represent Madison’s Downtown district where? I had to look it up. The answer is in the state assembly. 

And why didn't The Wisconsin State Journal headline also call our attention to "45's asshole"? Hong's idea of where Johnson is crawling seems at least as newsworthy as her opinion of what he is made of. 

By the way, it's a mixed metaphor. Scum can't crawl. 

December 10, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

IMG_1671 

... you can write about whatever 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!

"How could a computer possibly know you sound like a Debbie Downer? Amazon said it spent years training its tone AI..."

"... by having people categorize voice recordings. The company held internal trials and says it tried to address any biases that might arise from varying ethnicity, gender, or age. In our experience, the Halo could detect ups and downs in our voice, but seemed to misinterpret situations regularly. And some of the feedback feels, ironically, a bit tone-deaf — especially when judging a woman’s voice. Our sample size of two isn’t sufficient to conclude whether Amazon’s AI has gender bias. But when we both analyzed our weeks of tone data, some patterns emerged. The three most-used terms to describe each of us were the same: 'focused,' 'interested' and 'knowledgeable.' The terms diverged when we filtered just for ones with negative connotations. In declining order of frequency, the Halo described Geoffrey’s tone as 'sad,' 'opinionated,' 'stern' and 'hesitant.' Heather, on the other hand, got 'dismissive,' 'stubborn,' 'stern' and 'condescending.'... The very existence of a tone-policing AI that makes judgment calls in those terms feels sexist. Amazon has created an automated system that essentially says, 'Hey, sweetie, why don’t you smile more?'"


I think it would be cool to have a wristband that informed me what my tone was... and even cooler to have a conversation with a trusted companion while we both had these tone-police wristbands on and could see each other's display. But wait... why do we need wristbands? Why can't I have this AI in my iPhone and monitor the tone of anybody I happen to be talking to, and why shouldn't I assume that anyone listening to me can be generating this information? Is this alarming? 

If it's alarming, is it because we're going to be off-loading our human judgment that makes us so brilliantly sensitive to the infinite tones of the human voice? Is it because a machine will seem objective, so that you won't just wonder whether someone is being condescending to you, you'll have a scientific/"scientific" verification of condescension or whatever? Is it because you'll figure out how to train your voice to get words you like to appear on the screen and you won't quite be you anymore? Is it because you won't know the extent to which others have trained their voice to disguise their real intentions and the value of our gift for the understanding of speech will crash? 

Oh, by the way, I'm an Amazon Associate, so when — if — you buy a Halo wristband, I'd appreciate it if you'd use this link.

Mars and masculinity.

"Curiously, the media maintains that Feinstein was declining mentally for years but neither reporters nor members noted it before her recent election."

"President-elect Joe Biden expressed skepticism about his powers to implement his agenda by executive action Tuesday in a private virtual meeting with civil rights leaders..."

"...according to a recording reported Thursday by The Intercept. Biden told a group of seven leaders of civil rights organizations that some progressive Democrats are urging executive actions that are 'way beyond the bounds' of a president's legal authority.... In the meeting, Biden said he planned to roll back everything President Donald Trump has done through executive action, rather than with the approval of Congress. He said he would use his powers 'to undo every single damn thing this guy has done by executive authority.' 'I am not going to violate the Constitution. Executive authority that my progressive friends talk about is way beyond the bounds,' he said."

CNN reports.

Here's the Intercept article. Let me give you the whole Biden quote, which I like a lot because of the respect for separation of powers:

"Not surprisingly, Warnock’s beliefs have already been widely mischaracterized in coverage of the Georgia Senate runoff. Conservative pundits claim..."

"... they inject politics into the pulpit. They appear to be completely unaware that the 'politics' of the Black church tradition are rooted in the words of Jesus, who called for every Christian to be a champion of the poor. Warnock’s preaching has also been branded as 'anti-American.' But he is following Jesus — and in the footsteps of the best-known articulator of the Black church tradition, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who believed poverty, racism and militarism were the triple evils that threatened America’s democratic ideals. Both Jesus and King said that people of faith must serve God with all our heart, mind and soul — and that placing service to a government above the embodiment of love is an act of idolatry. Far from being new or extremist, this belief has been preached from pulpits and hush harbors since Black people began worshiping in this country without the infringement of White overseers.... As senior pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church — where King and his father were both pastors — Warnock has devoted himself to the social-justice demands of his Christian faith. He has said that, as a senator, his priorities will reflect the moral imperatives central to Black theology."

From "Raphael Warnock is the man to bring the gospel back into public life" by the Rev. Otis Moss III senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago (WaPo).

A "hush harbor" was a place where American slaves congregated in secret to practice religion:
Christianity was the prominent religion of the African Slaves after being transported to the Americas.... The hush harbors served as the location where slaves could combine their African religious traditions with Christianity.... The songs created by slaves were known to contain a double meaning, revealing the ideas of religious salvation and freedom from slavery. The meetings would also include practices such as dance. African shouts and rhythms were also included. Slaves would suffer punishments had they been caught in a hush harbor meeting.....

"In her teens and twenties, she tried embracing conventional notions of womanhood just to avoid what she calls 'social harassment' before abandoning it in disgust."

"'I pretended to act the way I thought a cute woman should act, with an excess of femininity, but it was a horrible experience. I felt like I’d lost my will,' she says. In a relationship with a convenience store manager 15 years her senior, she found she was expected to cook morning and evening and do his washing. 'It felt like being physically and mentally exploited. I mean, I hate food and cooking – I keep a vase on top of my cooker,' she says, laughing.... Murata says she starts with her characters and doesn’t know the ending of her novels until she writes them. That might explain why Earthlings turns from whimsy to surrealist horror."

From "Sayaka Murata: 'I acted how I thought a cute woman should act - it was horrible" (The Guardian). I've finished the book now, so I'd like to discuss the ending. I'll put the spoilers — which are extreme — after the jump. Please consider reading the book — "Earthlings" — before reading more of this post.  Or skip the next section — the indented part — and the stop reading when I give the next big spoiler alert. And don't read the tags.

"A New York Story --On Sunday, I was walking in West Chelsea, and I saw what looked like a gaggle of paparazzi outside a brownstone...."

 So begins an 8-part tweet and I'll just embed part 6:

"Who Will Be TIME's Person of the Year for 2020? See the Shortlist."

Time has 4 options and one contains what I had considered the top 2 options back before the shortlist was announced: "Frontline Health Care Workers and Dr. Anthony Fauci." 

If both are 1 option, clearly, that's going to be it. 

The other item on the shortlist that is plausible is "Movement for Racial Justice" ("In the midst of a worldwide pandemic, protesters took to the streets, demanding action to fight racial injustice at the hands of police and any entity that embodies systemic discrimination"). 

The other 2 options on the shortlist are Biden and Trump — not lumped together but separate. No. Way.

UPDATE: How perfectly annoying! Time did not pick one of the 4 options on the list it suckered me into blogging about. It picked Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. This was the option as presented yesterday:

Tiny-house boat a sunrise.

At first, I thought it was an ice shanty out there...

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 ... but there's no ice. 

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If it's a houseboat, it's a tiny-house boat. It looked pretty out there in the morning light.

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"YouTube to Forbid Videos Claiming Widespread Election Fraud."

The NYT reports. 

The company said it was making the change because [this past] Tuesday was the so-called safe harbor deadline — the date by which all state-level election challenges, such as recounts and audits, are supposed to be completed.

Why does reaching the "safe harbor" deadline make any difference? Is there no free-speech interest in talking about something you think is going wrong because it might be too late to do anything? 

YouTube’s announcement is a reversal of a much-criticized company policy on election videos. Throughout the election cycle, YouTube, which is owned by Google, has allowed videos spreading false claims of widespread election fraud under a policy that permits videos that comment on the outcome of an election.

That makes it sound as though YouTube wanted to change the policy and is using the "safe harbor" date as an excuse, to make it seem as though they didn't think their policy was wrong or that they wanted to appease critics without needing to say that the critics were right all along. 

They're not, however, taking down videos uploaded before the "safe harbor" date, which makes me think the motivation is to appease critics. People can still watch the already-uploaded videos. What's the point of preventing more of the same? All I can think is that there's a concern that as the legal options for challenging the election become closed off, there will be a new and more desperate expressions about what possibly could be done.

Here's YouTube's statement, which went up on Wednesday. It says its policy was violated all along by misleading allegations of "widespread fraud or errors" that "changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election," but that they are going to "begin enforcing" the policy now. The "safe harbor" date just seems to work as a milestone. It seems as though it might work to make some people believe that YouTube didn't change anything, but that date arrived.

Here's YouTube's last paragraph — projecting friendly corporate responsibility while repelling any effort to actually read it:

December 9, 2020

At the Wednesday Night Café...

IMG_1644 

... you can write about whatever you want.

"When I found the treasure, it ended the hopes of the many people around the world who wanted to one day find it."

"I understand both the disappointment and disbelief many have and are experiencing and do not take personally the vitriolic comments made about me or the conspiracy theories that some seem to find comfort. But, to be clear, I am not and was never employed by Forrest, nor did he 'pick' me in any way to 'retrieve' the treasure. I was a stranger to him and found the treasure as he designed it to be found.... I do not see myself as being better than anyone else who searched for the treasure because I found it. I do not think more or less of anyone based on how close they were to its location, and I don’t think anyone else should either. This treasure hunt was not a referendum on anyone’s intelligence or abilities. Rather, it was a fun challenge based on figuring out what the words of a poem meant to the elderly man who wrote them, and nothing more than that. I do not care to spend my time disputing anyone’s convictions about where the treasure was. Everyone is entitled to their opinion in the United States of America. But when they sue me, they cross a line. This is an abuse of the court system...."

"Lloyd Austin retired from military service more than four years ago. The law states that an officer must have left the service at least seven years..."

"... before becoming secretary of defense. But I hope that Congress will grant a waiver to Secretary-designate Austin, just as Congress did for Secretary Jim Mattis.... I respect and believe in the importance of civilian control of our military and in the importance of a strong civil-military working relationship at DoD—as does Austin. We need empowered civilians working with military leaders to shape DoD’s policies and ensure that our defense policies are accountable to the American people."


For those who opposed the waiver for Mattis, it is easy — almost mandatory — to oppose the waiver for Austin. Senator Elizabeth Warren said yesterday: "I have great respect for Gen. Austin. His career has been exemplary, and I look forward to meeting him and talking to him more, but I opposed a waiver for Gen. [James] Mattis, and I will oppose a waiver for Gen. Austin."

It's hard to see how Republicans who voted for the waiver for Mattis can deny a waiver for Austin. It will seem as though reciprocity is required and to deny it will open them up to accusations of racism. (Austin is African American.) Their only defense would entail disparaging Trump — he somehow needed special help and lacked options. 

Some defense experts questioned why Gen. Austin should receive a waiver, given that his expertise is the Middle East and the incoming administration says that China is emerging as the main threat to U.S. interests. Mr. Biden didn’t mention China in his Atlantic article defending his decision to pick Gen. Austin.

"President Trump just retweeted this. Whatever this is."

Trump didn't retweet that. He responded to a tweet that had that image as part of it. Let's keep our Twitter terminology straight. It's weird either way, and Gura, an NPR journalist, ought to maintain strict accuracy. He made it seem as though Trump had just passed along a post and the post was nothing but that image of Amy Coney Barrett with light streaming out of her eyes.

As for the President, he's so far from acting in the manner we call "presidential" that I see little value in pointing out and bemoaning the various examples of things that are below the dignity of the office. He came into office dancing to "My Way"...

 

... and he's going out his way too. He's not going to stop and become more dignified as the defeat becomes more incontrovertible than it already is. 

For what is a man, what has he got?/If not himself, then he has naught/To say the things he truly feels/And not the words of one who kneels....

It's absurd, but the presidential dance is almost over....

By the way, that image of Amy Coney Barrett reminds me of Gort from "The Day the Earth Stood Still":

December 8, 2020

At the False Indigo Café...

IMG_5004 

... you can write about whatever you want.

"Because he thinks the computer can lend 'half-baked thoughts the mask of tidiness,' he writes his first drafts longhand on yellow legal pads..."

"... the act of typing it into the computer essentially becomes a first edit. He says he is 'very particular' about his pens, always using black Uni-ball Vision Elite rollerball pens with a micro-point, and adds that he tends to do his best writing between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.: 'I find that the world narrows, and that is good for my imagination. It’s almost as if there is a darkness all around and there’s a metaphorical beam of light down on the desk, onto the page.'"


Suddenly hot to buy an Obamapen? Go here (Amazon Associates link). Now, get out your yellow pad and may your world narrow, may darkness encompass you, and may the metaphorical light beam down upon you.

"I think the riskiest kind of novel is the one that tries to rescue us from mundane existence—by taking a closer look at mundane existence."

"If the tone falls flat, than the action is simply a series of discrete encounters, recreated on the page. In the best of these novels—from the work of Haruki Murakami to Albert Camus—the writer finds a tiny gap between the simple nature of things, and how they appear to us."

From "In Praise of Sayaka Murata/John Freeman on a Young Japanese Writer We Should All Be Reading." 

That review — in Literary Hub — was written 3 years ago, when the current Murata book was "Convenience Store Woman," which I thought was great. I'm reading it today because I'm reading her new book "Earthlings" and I don't want any spoilers to that.

ADDED: Sample text from "Earthlings":
“Deep down everyone hates work and sex, you know. They’re just hypnotized into thinking that they’re great.” My husband was always saying that. 

His parents, his brother and his wife, and his friends sometimes came to spy on us. My and my husband’s womb and testes were quietly kept under observation by the Factory. Anyone who didn’t manufacture new life—or wasn’t obviously trying to—came under gentle pressure. Couples that hadn’t manufactured new life had to demonstrate their contribution to the Factory through their work. My husband and I were living quietly in a corner of the Factory, keeping our heads down.

The first person character regards her town as a "factory for the production of babies." 

"John Lennon died at age 40, 40 years ago today. I did this blog post 12 years ago, linking to both of my parents' memories..."

"... of being in the same city where he died on December 8, 1980. Both of their posts mention that they named me John when I was born 99 days later. Now I'm almost 40 and I'm living on the Upper West Side, not far from where it happened on West 72nd Street. I've walked by there many times, always thinking about it, never quite believing it really happened here." 

Writes my son John (on his blog). Here's his old post, written in 2008, which links to his father's post, written in 2005, and to my post, also written in 2005. 

I wrote: 
On the day I heard that John had died, I was a law student at NYU. I remember dragging myself in to the law review office and expecting everyone there to be crying and talking about it, but no one was saying anything at all. I never felt so alienated from my fellow law students as I did on that day. I was insecure enough to feel that I was being childish to be so caught up in the story of the death of a celebrity long past his prime. I didn't even take the train uptown to go stand in the crowd that I knew had gathered outside the Dakota. What did I do? I can't remember. I probably buried myself in work on a law review article.... 
How I regret not going uptown to be among the people who openly mourned John Lennon! How foolish I was to think I was foolish to care and to put my effort into blending in with the law review editors who, I imagined, were behaving in a way I needed to learn!

Looking back at that reaction, I realize I was influenced by the shame I'd felt in 1977 when I showed my feelings about the death of Elvis Presley. Did I ever blog about that? It's something I've thought about lately, as I've reflected on my life. It turns out I blogged about that in 2005 — August 2005:

"So why is it clear that the president lacks the power to pardon himself? There are three reasons."

"The language of the pardon power itself is ambiguous in the face of a constitutional expectation of clarity if the Framers intended to invest the president with such extraordinary power.... Second, the Framers clearly contemplated in the impeachment provisions of the Constitution that the president would not be able to violate the criminal laws with impunity.... And last, but not least, a power in the president to pardon himself for any and all crimes against the United States he committed would grievously offend the animating constitutional principle that no man, not even the president, is above and beyond the law. In contemporary constitutional parlance, the Framers more likely would have regarded a self-pardon not as an act of justice, grace, mercy and forgiveness, as they did presidential pardons of others. They would have viewed a self-pardon as a presidential act more akin to an obstruction of justice for criminal offenses against the United States by a president, the prosecution for which can be brought, at least according to the Justice Department, only after a president leaves office."

From "No, President Trump can’t pardon himself" by the former federal judge J. Michael Luttig (WaPo). 

Luttig has a strong conservative reputation. He was a law clerk to Justice Scalia, appointed to the the 4th Circuit by George H.W. Bush, and often mentioned as a potential Supreme Court nominee when George W. Bush was President. Per Wikipedia: "Luttig was the leading feeder judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, with virtually all of his law clerks having gone on to clerk with conservative justices on the Supreme Court, a total of 40, 33 of whom clerked for either Justice Thomas or Justice Scalia."

Of course, the issue whether the President can pardon himself is an open question. We will only get the answer if and when a President pardons himself and there's a case that a court has to decide. Is prosecution more likely or less likely if there is a pardon to be presented as a defense? Luttig's argument should have influence with Trump, and there were already good political and legal reasons why Trump should resist pardoning himself. 

Will Trump pardon himself? Should he? Would the pardon hold up in court?
 
pollcode.com free polls

"[T]he fact that Biden did not lead his party to a landslide will... give him certain political advantages. He will not be permitted..."

"... to re-enact the New Deal or the Great Society, but neither will he be tempted into ideologically driven debacles like Bill Clinton’s failed health care push or even Donald Trump’s failed attempt to repeal Obamacare. Having Joe Manchin and Susan Collins as the most powerful figures in the Senate will not be good for progressivism’s policy objectives, but it could be very good for Biden’s popularity, enabling him to chart a moderate course while telling the left, sorry, but my hands are tied.... Science should guide the coronavirus response, [Xavier] Becerra is a peculiar choice [to run Health and Human Services]: a partisan politician from a deep-blue state whose health care experience is mostly in legal battles with the Trump White House over Obamacare.... It’s less odd, though, if you anticipate using your cabinet agencies the way the Obama White House did in its otherwise-gridlocked second term — as aggressive instruments of partisan policymaking... [such as] immigration amnesties and gun-control executive orders... [and] college sexual-assault policies and school-bathroom regulations... [and forcing] the Little Sisters of the Poor to cover contraception.... ... Biden won the presidency in part because he was more popular than his party (to say nothing of the press), and deploying his bureaucracy aggressively for liberal ends would be the easiest way for him to squander some of that advantage...."

Like former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, Biden's choice for Secretary of Defense, Lloyd J. Austin III, will require Congress to waive a law that excludes former military officers from serving in that position until they've been retired for 7 years.

"'The law was put in place to make sure there was a separation between the civil and military authority,' said Charles Allen, a retired Army colonel and scholar on civil-military relations at the Army War College.... [F]our years ago, Mattis was widely viewed as a necessary exception due to the concern that Trump and his team were inexperienced and the revered retired Marine would provide some stability. But the circumstances are different now. 'What I found distressing about Austin,' [said Peter Feaver, a former National Security Council official in the George W. Bush Administration and scholar on civil-military relations at Duke University], 'is that everybody understood it was problematic to issue the waiver for Mattis. But it made sense to do so given the extraordinary situation. We are supposed to be in a return to normalcy... The really unusual thing was how prominent senior retired military were in the landing teams... That is a very political post and almost always is done by civilian political people.'... If this trajectory continues it could have a detrimental effect on the military's ethical standing, said Marybeth Ulrich, a retired Air Force colonel who specializes in civil-military relations. 'You don't want people lobbying for these jobs — still on active duty or even retired,' she said. Or for the presidential candidates or their campaigns signaling to the senior officer ranks that 'you give me your support now, I give you a job.'"

"The recently released fourth season of 'The Crown'... has been criticized for not laying out that much of the drama is fictionalized..."

"... causing online trolls to attack the Duchess of Cornwall, so much so that Clarence House has restricted Twitter comments. Seemingly in response to commentary over the new season, Netflix promoted their documentary 'Diana: In Her Own Words" which uses the recordings she made for Andrew Morton’s tell-all biography," says ET Canada, pointing at this devastating 3-minute clip: The Times of London wrote about the documentary a couple weeks ago: 

Asserting the intent to make the Olympics "more gender balanced, more youthful and more urban," they've added the sport of breakdancing.

 The Guardian reports.

Breakdancing – or breaking as it is known – evolved in New York in the 1960s and 70s as a way for rival street gangs to fight for turf. It made its Olympic debut at the 2018 Summer Youth Games in Buenos Aires. The IOC has confirmed it will be staged at a prestigious downtown venue [in Paris in 2024], joining sport climbing and 3-on-3 basketball at Place de la Concorde.... 

"Although golf — the game of choice of most presidents, especially Donald Trump — is obviously the great signifier of wealthy indolence, tennis is not far behind."

"Until comparatively recently, and sometimes still today, it has been among the whitest of sports, a game of country clubs with restrictive admissions policies. And, weirdly enough, this is not the first time it has caused a presidential public-relations headache. In 1978, James Fallows — then a White House aide, now a longtime Atlantic contributor — described Jimmy Carter’s poor management skills with an anecdote about the president’s signing off on every appointment booked at the White House tennis court. (Carter denied it on-camera, but there’s a paper trail.) It became a memorable encapsulation of Carter’s flawed presidency: focused on trivia while the big sweeping visions and crises over the Middle East and the economy went unaddressed."



I see the pavilion was privately funded, but there's a pandemic, so it's supposed to be an outrage. That is, there's a pandemic, and Trump is President. If the pavilion went up during the Biden presidency, the stories would be about Joe's impressive physical fitness that inspires us all to keep in shape, which is so especially important in Covid times. And if Obama were President, the pavilion would inspire people of all colors to take up the ancient sport, heretofore associated with white people. But it's Trump, so it's reprehensible — unempathetic and... racist, because who can think of any black tennis players

How ancient is tennis anyway? There was something like tennis in the 12th century and the use of a racket and playing within lines evolves by the 15th century.

December 7, 2020

At the Monday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"I'm beginning to see the light."

 

 It's a podcast. 

 Topics: "Dolly Parton, Tony Hsieh, Shel Silverstein, children’s books, luck, Buffalo Bill Cody, mediocre white men, Netflix murdering movie theaters, the collective mind, the Spelling Bee puzzle, the word 'headpiece,' Darkmonth."

Listen here or — better yet — use the iTunes app and subscribe. Or use one of the other podcasting apps and subscribe.

Blogging and serendipity.

It's my favorite thing about blogging, and today's occurrence was just about exactly perfect. 

Following my normal approach to blogging, I found a NYT piece about Dolly Parton and wrote about her interest in the children's book "The Little Engine That Could." I said: "It's the book she wants all kids to read. I can't imagine a left-leaning person saying that."

3 posts later, I was writing about the deceased ex-CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, whose friend declared that he was like The Giving Tree. I didn't think that was quite right: "The Giving Tree was giving — sacrificing to provide the boy with benefits. Hsieh's sacrifices did not give anyone else anything but merely pared away from the person making the sacrifices." 

These are 2 quite different children's books, but look. Shel Silverstein — author of "The Giving Tree" — wrote his own version of "The Little Engine That Could." I love when things come together like that.

You can read the text here, but he delivers a vivid reading:


Silverstein's engine goes through the same "I think I can" chant that works so well to convince kids they can achieve if they work hard and believe in themselves. You know, the right-wing ideology. The optimism. But Silverstein has a darker take. The 4th stanza inflicts reality:
He was almost there, when — CRASH! SMASH! BASH!
He slid down and mashed into engine hash 
On the rocks below... which goes to show 
If the track is tough and the hill is rough, 
THINKING you can just ain’t enough!
AND: Less serendipitous but very interesting is this Eminem song that uses "The Little Engine That Could": 

 

The writing is plainly brilliant, but it's very dark. Lyrics here. Key line: "I think I can, I think I can/I know I can, psycho I am."

"It creates a little mystique about the city... It creates great curiosity about the city — people coming by all the time wanting to know what is going on, tell me about your city.""

"Wilmington has always been on I-95 between Washington, Philly and New York, you know."

He compared its famously dull, corporate vibe to the unvarying “Mad Men” uniform worn by the legions of lawyers and chemical engineers who once populated its downtown: “a white shirt, a sincere tie and 12-pound wingtips.” 
“It was not a creative culture,” he said. “It was pretty predictable, stay within the guard rails.” 
The main mystery about the place seems to be identifying something, anything, that distinctly says “Wilmington.” Ask residents to name a unique feature and the universal response is a long pause....

This mayor is kind of annoying! How do you get to be mayor with such a sadsack attitude toward your city. I left there more than a half century ago, and I wouldn't take that tone. And I don't like the knee-jerk putdown of lawyers and chemical engineers. My father was a chemical engineer, and I don't think you should be overly obsequious about the "creative culture." Plus, it makes no sense to say "stay within the guard rails." Guard rails are put up to keep reckless people from going over the precipice. If people are actually acculturated to follow rules and norms, the trite expression might be "color within the lines." But everyone stays within the guard rails. That's the idea of guard rails! This man bothers me. Feeding quotes like that to the NYT! Your city finally catches the eye of the world and you have nothing to offer. 

I like that the NYT article begins with a photograph of the Charcoal Pit — even though the picture shows the sign with the first 3 letters burnt out. The caption calls it a "local favorite" of Joe Biden's. It is the Wilmington restaurant for me. I've written about it from time to time, including the when Joe Biden confused Delaware's declaration of independence from Pennsylvania with Delaware's ratification of the Constitution. He said: "We declared our independence on December the 7th." Which just by chance is today. Delaware Day. (It's also Pearl Harbor Day.) How could you grow up in Delaware and not know about Delaware Day? At the time, I said, "Maybe he was seated at the next table [from young me] at the Charcoal Pit."

Headpiece.

What kind of word is that? I'll withhold my reason for asking about it for now. Don't want to spoil any current puzzles, but I thought that was too obscure. 

A little googling lets me see that its current usage mostly has to do with bridal costumery. Maybe something between a headband and a headdress that somehow doesn't seem like a tiara? 

But it made me think of "headcase" and "thinkpiece."

One of the definitions of "headpiece" in the OED — and there are 8 — is "The head or brain considered as the seat of mental activity; intellect, brains, sense. colloquial in later use." 

It's in the 1740 novel "Pamela": "You have an excellent Head-piece for your Years." And I like this dialog from "Jazz" (2003 J. Murray): "She has brains, I swear, nearly as big as my own"/"Some headpiece that must be. I wonder what you two great minds choose to talk about?"

Ha ha. I like it. I'm going to try to remember to use "headpiece" like that. You can also use "headpiece" to mean "A clever or intellectual person." Example:  "Of all the head-pieces that were there, he was thought to give the strongest reasons" (1657 T. Burton Diary).

By the way, "headcase" is in the OED. Defintion: "A person whose behaviour is violent and unpredictable, or markedly eccentric; (often hyperbolically) such a person characterized as mentally ill or unstable." The first observed us is in the 1965 movie "Flight of Phoenix": "They ain't gonna let no head-case run a drilling operation." I love the trailer:

 

"The price was not disclosed, but is estimated at more than $300 million."

It says at "Bob Dylan Sells His Songwriting Catalog in Blockbuster Deal/Universal Music purchased his entire songwriting catalog of more than 600 songs in what may be the biggest acquisition ever of a single act’s publishing rights" (NYT). 

$300 million is not enough. 
Dylan’s deal includes 100 percent of his rights for all the songs of his catalog, including both the income he receives as a songwriter and his control of each song’s copyright. In exchange for its payment to Dylan, Universal, a division of the French media conglomerate Vivendi, will collect all future income from the songs. 
Scary!

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm Full of Soup said... 
Dylan has obviously been warned Biden is threatening to raise the capital gains tax by 100% from the current rate of 20% to about 40%. If Dylan waited til that happened, it'd cost him $60MM more in added taxes on his $300MM.

"He was entranced by fire — with a real-estate agent recalling seeing an estimated 1,000 candles in Hsieh’s Park City, Utah, home..."

"'[He] explained to me that the candles were a symbol of what life was like in a simpler time'.... The quirky entrepreneur... also liked to use a heater in his girlfriend’s shed to decrease his oxygen level, sources told the media outlet. Hsieh also inhaled nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, a k a whippets, to try to decrease his oxygen use.... But playing with his oxygen intake was only one part of Hsieh’s manipulation of his body. Hsieh would go on a 26-day alphabet diet, in which he would only eat foods starting with a single letter each day, such as 'a' the first 24 hours, 'b' the second, and so on, nearly fasting by the letter 'z'.... He got down to 100 pounds at one point.... Hsieh also would see how long he could go without urinating.... A pal told the Journal that Hsieh was like 'the Giving Tree' — the selfless character in the Shel Silverstein kiddie classic that gives so much of itself that it is left with nothing."


The Giving Tree was giving — sacrificing to provide the boy with benefits. Hsieh's sacrifices did not give anyone else anything but merely pared away from the person making the sacrifices. You'll have to imagine an alternative children's book called "The Giving Up Tree." 

Even in "The Giving Tree," we question whether the tree — that is, the person represented by the tree — should have given everything. Shouldn't the boy — at some point — have learned about giving from the tree and become a giver himself? Shouldn't he have given back

But "The Giving Up Tree" is not going to become a children's classic. Decreasing oxygen intake, resisting peeing, eating quince and quinoa on the 17th day of a highly conceptual diet. 

Well, I admit that alphabet books are popular with children. Maybe there already is a book that begins "On the first day, X ate applesauce and angel hair pasta...." and ends "On the 27th day, he was dead."

Oh! I know where I got that line. I was given "Struwwelpeter" when I was a child, and I remember "The Story of Augustus, Who Would Not Have Any Soup":
Augustus was a chubby lad; 
Fat ruddy cheeks Augustus had: 
And everybody saw with joy 
The plump and hearty, healthy boy. 
He ate and drank as he was told, 
And never let his soup get cold. 
But one day, one cold winter's day, 
He screamed out "Take the soup away! 
O take the nasty soup away! 
I won't have any soup today." 

Next day, now look, the picture shows 
How lank and lean Augustus grows! 
Yet, though he feels so weak and ill, 
The naughty fellow cries out still 
"Not any soup for me, I say: 
O take the nasty soup away! 
I won't have any soup today." 

The third day comes: Oh what a sin! 
To make himself so pale and thin. 
Yet, when the soup is put on table, 
He screams, as loud as he is able, 
"Not any soup for me, I say: 
O take the nasty soup away! 
I WON'T have any soup today."  

Look at him, now the fourth day's come! 
He scarcely weighs a sugar-plum; 
He's like a little bit of thread, 
And, on the fifth day, he was—dead! 
Go to the "Struwwelpeter" link to see the illustrations of the rapid weight loss that befalls anorexic Augustus. And look for the also-relevant "Dreadful Story of Harriet and the Matches":
...But Harriet would not take advice: 
She lit a match, it was so nice! 
It crackled so, it burned so clear— 
Exactly like the picture here. 
She jumped for joy and ran about 
And was too pleased to put it out....

"Struwwelpeter" is a powerfully memorable book. It was written — in German — in 1835 — by a psychiatrist.  

Would you give that to your sweet little child? Is it more or less dangerous than "The Giving Tree"? 

I wonder what books influenced Tony Hsieh. 

He, himself wrote a book, "Delivering Happiness." It was a best-seller in its time. Who will read it now? Here's a 1-star review at Amazon, written before Hsieh's untimely death:

For full transparency I only read the first third of this book before I took it to Goodwill. I just couldn't take anymore. It's written at a very low educational level which goes to show, you don't really need brains to be rich or even be a billionaire, what your really really must have is Luck and a lot of it....

Even when you have a lot of luck, you can run out. 

Who should be TIME's "Person of the Year"?

 I saw this poll — at "Nominees for Time’s Person of the Year: Politicians, celebrities, essential workers" (KIRO7) — and I thought the answer was obvious and clicked...

If you look back on recent winners, however, you'll see that the "Ebola fighters" — a broad array of health care workers — won in 2014. So that might tip the scale to Fauci. Celebrate an individual. 

It's funny how little Joe Biden gets in that survey, but at least he got more than Kamala Harris. It would be ridiculous to give it to Kamala Harris, in my view. And surely the opportunity will arise next year, after Biden steps down and she becomes the first woman President. 

I have discovered the true meaning of TikTok.

This is it — the quintessence of TikTok.

"If Dolly Parton were organizing a literary dinner party, which 3 writers — dead or alive — would she invite?"

This answer is amusing because she's so openly declining to answer the question in terms of setting up an excellent conversation:
First would be James Patterson because, since we are both in entertainment, we could write it off as a business expense. (Ha!) Second would be Fannie Flagg — she’s a friend and a very funny author, so I know she would be a guaranteed good time. Third would be Maya Angelou because she would definitely have wonderful stories and spoke and wrote so poetically. As a bonus, I’d ask Charles Dickens to join us — for the street cred. 
That's from a NYT piece with a headline — "Dolly Parton Likes to Read by the Fire in Her Pajamas" — that forces me to crack a Groucho Marx joke — How the fire got in her pajamas, I don't know.

 

Anyway, she names 4, not 3, and Patterson seems only to be there as part of a tax avoidance scheme. Does Dolly Parton ever let her political opinions show? She flaunts her resistance to taxation. That might be conservative. The other thing in that piece that strikes me as conservative is that she expresses — twice — her love of the book "The Little Engine That Could." It's the book she wants all kids to read. I can't imagine a left-leaning person saying that. 


I've already read between the lines. A devoted promoter of the "The Little Engine That Could" must be conservative or libertarian. But let's read this:

December 6, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...

IMG_1583 

... you can talk about whatever you like.

At last night's rally in Georgia, Trump said that the "big tech" companies are "vicious and violent and untruthful." Violent?!

Maybe he just slipped and got his "v" words mixed up. He said "vicious" and maybe he was reaching for another alliterative adjective, but he said "violent." 

From the transcript, here's the jumbled context:

And by the way, tell our senators end Section 230. End Section 230. Put it in. We put it in. I want it in the defense bill. Put it in because it’s a national security problem. It’s a big national security. So hopefully, Mitch and the senators will put it in. But it’s the one chance we have to bring big tech, who are vicious and violent and untruthful, to bring big tech … It’s the only thing they fear is that we’re going to end Section 230. So hopefully, we will do it. It happens to be a politically very popular thing to do, by the way.

Here's a NY Post article on the issue, "Trump doubles down on veto threat for defense bill over Section 230." 

I just wanted to call attention to the strange allegation that the big tech companies are violent.

"For over a century, film was at its core a theatrical art form: While it’s true that movies could be watched on TV, the primary cinematic experience was immersive viewing in a theater surrounded by strangers."

"Now there is a push to make the movie theater merely one platform among others, offering an experience deemed no more meaningful than watching the same feature-length visual narratives on a home entertainment system, a laptop, or even a cell phone." 

Writes Jeet Heer in "Movie Theaters Aren’t Dying—They’re Being Murdered/The Covid-19 pandemic is providing a perfect cover for media giants bent on replacing theatrical moviegoing with streaming at home" (The Nation).
As media giants like Netflix, Disney, and Warner Media try to downgrade the moviegoing experience, it’s important to articulate how essential immersive theatrical watching is. When we watch a movie at home, or on an airplane, or on a treadmill at the gym, the movie is a small part of the environment. It’s easy to be distracted from the movie by everything else all around us, even if we have a giant wall-screen TV. When we watch a movie in a theater, the movie isn’t part of the environment; it is the environment. We’re enveloped in the movie and taken away from our humdrum existence.

Our humdrum existence! It's the big screen that makes us feel like the little people out there in the dark. 

But even as theatrical moviegoing is more all-encompassing, it is also more social. At home, we watch a movie alone or with people we know. In a theater, we watch a movie with strangers, who are as immersed in the narrative as we are.

Except when they're not, which ruins the effect. Maybe we could get a virtual crowd to stream within our headset device. Make them perfect movie companions. Couldn't we have beautiful, witty partners sitting on either side of us, whispering perfectly apt comments and learning our sense of humor and our comfort with interruptions? 

"Trump’s story of what happened in the 2020 election bears all the hallmarks of McCarthyite myth: conspiring elites, hidden corruption, even the threat of an imminent socialist takeover."

"And though Trump will no doubt leave office on Jan. 20, that story — and the powerful sense of grievance behind it — is sure to thrive in the years ahead. Trump has all but vowed to run again in 2024. Even if he doesn’t, he will continue to sell the tale of his martyrdom through Twitter and cable news and talk radio and conspiracy sites — forms of direct public communication that McCarthy would have envied. After 1954, when media gatekeepers such as Edward R. Murrow turned against him, McCarthy was hard-pressed to find mainstream outlets willing to tell his side of the story. Trump now has an entire right-wing media universe at his disposal, while social media allows him to bypass the gatekeepers altogether.... Even in the unlikely event that Trump himself disappears or retreats or, like McCarthy, succumbs to despair, this vast swath of citizens who love and admire him will still be here, better organized than they were four years ago, now with a martyr’s tale for inspiration. Today’s Republican establishment may ultimately repudiate the man who has held it in thrall — and in fear — for four-plus years. But it is Trump’s base, and their interpretation of his ouster from Washington, that will determine the future of Trumpism."

Pamela Tiffin helps Paul Newman eat a sandwich.

 

They don't make them like that anymore.

Goodbye to the 60s starlet Pamela Tiffin — "Pamela Tiffin, model, actress and 1960s movie ingénue, dies at 78" (WaPo).

Here's my old post where I wrote about her in the 60s beach pic "For Those Who Think Young."

It's Buffalo Bill Cody on horseback....

 

I'm reading about him this morning. 

Here's something he said about his wife: "I often feel sorry for her. She is a strange woman but I don't mind her—remember she is my wife—and let it go at that. If she gets cranky, just laugh at it, she can't help it." He tried to divorce her after almost 40 years of marriage. He said that when he was away and she was at their ranch [in North Platte, Nebraska], she would "feed the men too much and talk violently about Cody and his alleged sweethearts ... and that she was seen putting something into his coffee." To deal with her, he said he needed to "get drunk and stay drunk." The judge and the public sided with the wife. 

Here's a nice picture of the couple:

The reason I'm reading about Cody this morning is that I got served an ad for this book:

That's a great cover — whether you find it offensive or not. I decided to read some reviews of it and found "In America, Is Power in the Hands of Too Many 'Mediocre' Men?" in The New York Times.

"Today, it’s Netflix and other major streaming services that play the role which studios did in the nineteen-thirties and forties..."

"... like the studios, streaming services control the spigot of viewing, and, like the studios, the major services are vertically integrated, controlling both the means of production and the means of distribution. Netflix both produced 'Mank' and is the place where the film will be seen—the company, in effect, owns a thousand-screen multiplex, present in every subscriber’s home. If Fincher, in 'Mank,' looks so ruefully at the intersection of media power and political power, it’s because, in the age of streaming, the reign of behemoth studios and their monopoly has, in effect, returned."


The movie is about Herman J. Mankiewicz, who wrote the screenplay for "Citizen Kane," and the story is told in the same manner as "Citizen Kane." 

Now that I have at long last subscribed to Netflix, I have to consider whether to watch these things that are only on Netflix. Before, I was saved a lot of trouble. Some of these shows feel like assignments. And before I was a subscriber, I was able to look on calmly and know that I'm not taking that course. I don't have to do that homework. 

I did watch the first 5 minutes of "Mank." Yeah, this bed frame is way up in my face and I know why — because it's something like what Orson Welles did in "Citizen Kane." And, oh, yeah, that's Gary Oldman in the bed, and he's supposed to be such a great actor. And who are all these other characters bustling about the room supposed to be and why should I care... or just answer the second question first and if you can't answer you don't have to answer. It's like a bad dream where you can't do the work and then wake up and realize you don't have to do that work. It was never your work to begin with. So let's just watch another episode of "The Crown," the show I subscribed to Netflix because I wanted to keep watching.

But if "Mank" were a movie in the theater, I'd only be watching the first 5 minutes because I got motivated to leave my house and to buy a ticket just for that one thing, and now I was in my seat and settled in for what I'd made a tangible commitment to. So I'd do the work of paying attention and trying to get interested and figure out why everything happening is important and meaningful. That's nothing like Netflix.

"Althouse captures the exact moment the light pierces the center of the dome — the sign ushering in the season of Brumalia?"

Said Ingachuck'stoothlessARM in the comments to last night's open thread, which had my photograph of a view across Lake Mendota that showed the Wisconsin state capitol building at daybreak. 

There's a moment at this time of year when the sun aligns with windows on either side of the dome and it looks, from the distance, as if there's a blazing fire inside. It's just a tiny dot in the photograph, and I was glad to see it noticed. 

The commenter cites Brumalia:
Brumalia (Latin: Brumalia [bruːˈmaːlɪ.a], "winter festivals") was an ancient Roman, winter solstice festival honouring Saturn/Cronus and Ceres/Demeter, and Bacchus in some cases. By the Byzantine era, celebrations commenced on 24 November and lasted for a month, until Saturnalia and the "Waxing of the Light". The festival included night-time feasting, drinking, and merriment.... The short, cold days of winter would halt most forms of work. Brumalia was a festival celebrated during this dark, interludal period. It was chthonic in character and associated with crops.... Farmers would sacrifice pigs to Saturn and Ceres. Vine-growers would sacrifice goats in honor of Bacchus.... 

My word for this time of year is "Darkmonth," and today marks the first day of Darkmonth. I put the solstice in the center — it's December 21st — and count back 15 days to get to the first day, and that is today, the 6th. We have not yet reached the coldest month-long period of the year — and you never know exactly when that's going to be (and it's very rarely 30 consecutive days). But we have reached the 30 darkest days of the year, and by the first day of winter, we'll be halfway through the darkest month. 

I can see that Saturnalia is a more optimistic idea, because you're not saying only 2 more weeks of the darkest month, but it's the waxing of the light. Each day is a bit more light — even as the coldest days are yet to come. 

Here's the first post where I talked about Darkmonth — in the first year of this blog, 2004. I like that Meade shows up and makes the first comment — in 2009, the year that we met. By the way, it was Meade who first saw the dot of sunrise light burning up the inside of the capitol and made me see it too. 

Song cue:

 

Some people work very hard/But still they never get it right...

Like Brumalia to Darkmonth, there's also this other song with the same title.

"This is classic Act V behavior. The forces are being picked off and the tyrant is holed up in his castle and..."

"... he’s growing increasingly anxious and he feels insecure and he starts blustering about his legitimate sovereignty and he starts accusing the opposition of treason.... If there are these analogies between classic literature and society as it’s operating right now, then that should give us some big cause for concern this December. We’re approaching the end of the play here and that’s where catastrophe always comes."