December 26, 2020

Wild ice morning.


"As retro as a shelf of books might seem in an era of flat-panel screens, Books by the Foot has thrived through Democratic and Republican administrations..."

"... including that of the book-averse Donald Trump. And this year, the company has seen a twist: When the coronavirus pandemic arrived, Books by the Foot had to adapt to a downturn in office- and hotel-decor business—and an uptick in home-office Zoom backdrops for the talking-head class.... If an order were to come in for, say, 12 feet of books about politics, specifically with a progressive or liberal tilt... one of [the] more politics-savvy staffers to the enormous box labeled 'Politically Incorrect' (the name of Books by the Foot’s politics package) to select about 120 books by authors like Hillary Clinton, Bill Maher, Al Franken and Bob Woodward. The books would then be 'staged,' or arranged with the same care a florist might extend to a bouquet of flowers, on a library cart; double-checked by a second staffer; and then shipped off to the residence or commercial space where they would eventually be shelved and displayed (or shelved and taken down to read).... A lover of books who professes to never want to see them destroyed, [Wonder Book President Chuck Roberts said] 'Pretty much every book you see on Books by the Foot [is a book] whose only other option would be oblivion'...."

All those political books — you see that they are published, and you see that they are calling cards for their authors to go on talk shows, but are they ever read? At least they have one more purpose, sitting on a shelf, a shelf that will be seen, a constituent of an extra-thick wall. How much bigger would rooms be without these for-show books? One more foot wide for every bookcase you can scuttle. But here are people shipping books in, books they have no intention of reading.

Meanwhile, a lot of people are trying to declutter, and books are a whole category for "tidying up" within the Marie Kondo system (which only has 5 categories). That system requires you to pile all your books on the floor and one one by one subject them to a test that has a strong presumption against keeping any given book:
The criterion is, of course, whether or not it gives you a thrill of pleasure when you touch it. Remember, I said when you touch it. Make sure you don’t start reading it. Reading clouds your judgment. Instead of asking yourself what you feel, you’ll start asking whether you need that book or not. Imagine what it would be like to have a bookshelf filled only with books that you really love. Isn’t that image spellbinding?...  [F]orget about whether you think you’ll read it again or whether you’ve mastered what’s inside. Instead, take each book in your hand and decide whether it moves you or not. Keep only those books that will make you happy just to see them on your shelves, the ones that you really love.... There’s no need to finish reading books that you only got halfway through. Their purpose was to be read halfway. So get rid of all those unread books....

Imagine touching a book "by authors like Hillary Clinton, Bill Maher, Al Franken and Bob Woodward" and feeling "a thrill of pleasure." I don't have to touch these books to know I would not be thrilled! I can't even imagine another person who could be thrilled. It's a difficult feat of imagination, and I cannot do it. 

"All of a sudden, Ms. Duke, a vocal critic of 'mommy wine culture' and a member of the Sober Mom Squad, a virtual community created during the pandemic, was fielding questions..."

"... about alcohol from friends and acquaintances. Was two bottles of wine a night a bit over the top? How much was too much?... 'No one is talking about glasses of wine anymore,' said Ms. Duke, who works for a dog grooming app and lives in Manhattan with her two teenage sons. 'People are measuring by the bottle,' she continued. 'That scares me. I know too many women who went from one or two glasses to two bottles of wine to vodka in your coffee cup.'...  'Being inside all these months was extremely confining,' said [Natalie Silverstein, a marketing manager in media who lives in the East Village]. 'I needed something to relax. I looked forward to drinking because it broke the barrier.' For her, a glass of wine signaled the end of the day. Anxious, tired and stressed, it helped her sleep. It also helped her socialize and connect. 'In New York, drinking was an activity. In isolation it helped us gather,' she said. 'My team would do Zoom happy hours, and everyone had wine or a cocktail. That became habitual. It felt like drinking was the one thing holding us up.'"

Are you drinking more because of the pandemic? free polls

ADDED: The linked article was published yesterday, Christmas, in the New York Times. On the same day, in the same newspaper, there is also this: "8 Things We Hated About New York Until 2020 Happened/New Yorkers are world-famous kvetchers. But when we got something real to complain about, we changed our tune." The 8th thing is "Drinking at 5 p.m":  
Hard-driving New Yorkers do not drink at an hour many consider the afternoon. Cocktails at 5 o’clock is for Cheever stories. In New York, the custom was to knock back later. If you were drinking at 5, it was probably at 5 in the morning, when you finished your shift. But the pandemic changed our sense of time, especially in the early days of winter and again now when the light fades so early.
AND: Here are the poll results:

How the word "how" has become the most deceptive word in the history of headlines.

I'm sure some "how" headlines sit atop articles that really explain how to do something, but I must cry out against the infestation of "how" in headlines. 

I'm seeing headline after headline that would be more accurate if you just crossed out the "how," because the article isn't really going to tell you how X happened. It's only going to tell you that X happened.

I've been meaning to rail about this for quite some time. What pushed me over the edge this morning was this, in Rolling Stone: "How Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ Brilliantly Mingled Sex, Religion." No, you don't know how he did it! You only know that he did it. Or, at best, the manner in which he did — i.e., "brilliantly." 

Just keep an eye out for "how" headlines. That's all I'm saying. Sometimes they are good, and I'm guilty of deploying "how" to lure readers, but as a reader, I am among the potential victims, and I'm trying to heighten my distaste for bait.

"At French Resorts, Skiing Has Become an Uphill Sport/The government closed ski lifts, fearing they might spread the coronavirus. The skiers came anyway."

The NYT reports. 
“When you go out skiing in the cold, the first thing that happens is your nose starts to run,” said Miles Bright, an English mountain guide based in Chamonix. “And what do you do? You wipe your nose. So your gloves are covered in snot, you join in the lift queue, you touch things.” 

“I just can’t see how it can be hygienic, getting in and out of the ski lifts,” he added. “But for the nation’s health, I think it’s absolutely essential.” 
Bright, like the rest of skiers on the mountain, was ski touring — ascending the mountain using skins attached to his skis, then detaching them to descend normally. He estimated it would take him four times as long to go up than to ski down.

Will you ever think about a ski lift the same way again? 

"Every day these people would wake us up. At first, I was polite and asked them to please be quiet. Then after a few days I was shouting, and my husband was like: 'Stop it! You can’t do that.'"

Said Kyle Luker, whose window — on Manhattan's Upper West Side — is just above where people line up for an hours-long wait to get into Trader Joe’s. He's quoted in "Anything You Say in This Trader Joe’s Line May Be Used Against You/These neighbors’ signs respond to loud shoppers: 'We are so sorry your wife is leaving you,' one read. 'And we are SURE the "Everything but the Bagel" Seasoning will help.'" (NYT).

I think Trader Joe's opens at 8 a.m., so what time were people talking right under his window? 6? 5? One solution is to become an early riser. You'd be better off anyway. Another is to get some noise-cancellation earbuds or extra-strong earplugs. But obviously, telling person after person to be quiet isn't going to work. You have to be awake already to do it, and there are new people arriving into your zone continually.

The adaptation Luker — close to "lurker" — used is to lean into the eavesdropping that life had imposed upon him and to make signs transcribing what he hears. The NYT calls it "a Covid-19 version of 'Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies,' the beloved 1970s and ’80s column in the Village Voice." Oh! "Stan Mack’s Real Life Funnies" — I loved that. I am one of the sources of love that made that a beloved comic (or "column," as the NYT puts it). 

Anyway, Luker hangs his signs from his first-floor brownstone window, and he also photographs the signs and posts the photos on Instagram. Go to that link to read them all. I'll just cherry-pick one:

ADDED: I like the gender stereotype reversal with that couple in the cherry-picked sign. He's got the feeling — for produce — and she's got the thinking skill — checking the meat facts. He prioritizes the relationship — staying together — and she's coolly efficient — saving time, division of labor. And he cheerfully subordinates his preference and accepts the leadership she offers. He requests/expects a material reward for his deference.

"It would be nice if the wall-to-wall marathon showings of A Christmas Story on TBS and TNT led to a rediscovery of Jean Shepherd's other work..."

"... and even to a revival of the radio arts, but given that people have so many other things to occupy themselves nowadays, that it's unlikely." 

I've never seen "A Christmas Story," though I am one of Jean Shepherd's biggest fans. For years, in the 1960s, I used to get in bed in time to hear the "Call to Post" — which, today, sounds like something about blogging — on my radio tuned to WOR. And then...


Listening to those Jean Shepherd radio shows in the dark, night after night, was the pop culture highlight of lifetime. Of course, I heard him read "A Christmas Story" ever year. That was a tradition. But better than that was any random show on whatever he decided to talk about that night — another story of his childhood (back in Indiana) or some odd trail of musings.

From Wikipedia
Shepherd's oral narrative style was a precursor to that used by Spalding Gray and Garrison Keillor. Marshall McLuhan in Understanding Media wrote that Shepherd "regards radio as a new medium for a new kind of novel that he writes nightly." In the Seinfeld season-six DVD set, commenting on the episode titled "The Gymnast", Jerry Seinfeld said, "He really formed my entire comedic sensibility—I learned how to do comedy from Jean Shepherd."... 
Shepherd was an influence on Bill Griffith's Zippy comic strip, as Griffith noted in his strip for January 9, 2000. Griffith explained, "The inspiration—just plucking random memories from my childhood, as I'm wont to do in my Sunday strip (also a way to expand beyond Zippy)—and Shep was a big part of them." 
In an interview with New York magazine, Steely Dan's Donald Fagen says that the eponymous figure from his solo album The Nightfly was based on Jean Shepherd. 
Though he primarily spent his radio career playing music, New York Top-40 DJ Dan Ingram has acknowledged Shepherd's style as an influence. An article he wrote for the March–April 1957 issue of MAD, "The Night People vs Creeping Meatballism", described the differences between what he considered to be "day people" (conformists) and "night people" (nonconformists).

A few days ago, in conversation on Facebook, I reconsidered my lifelong policy of averting my eyes from the film version of "A Christmas Story." Just to present my own comments: 

I've never seen "A Christmas Story" because I am too devoted to Jean Shepherd and the original story as told over the radio....

I know [you hear Shepherd's voice-over narration in the film], but I don't want to see the ideal replaced by a literal acting-out of the story by human actors. The adult's voice creates the kid feeling. I don't want to see a real boy acting out the emotions for the camera. It's radio, the ultimate in radio, and not film...

I think I need to change my position. "A Christmas Story" is a deviation from Shepherd's usual show, because he was reading a story — not riffing in real time — that had been published in a book and a magazine (Playboy). So it wasn't the pure radio ideal that I'm so staunch about. It is not one of his stories about his own youth, because he says before reading the story that the boy is *not* him. 

So did I finally watch the movie? No. Not yet, anyway. But I was motivated to listen to a random old show — something about midwestern drug stores. Nothing to do with Christmas, but I was listening on Christmas. 

I don't think of Shepherd as Christmas-y, and it annoys me a bit that so many people do. The radio show should be much more important that that one film version of a story he used to read on the radio. Should be, and perhaps is, as its influence is deeply woven into many things we actively enjoy today. It's baked into this blog.

Factoid: "Shepherd's friend Shel Silverstein likely wrote the Johnny Cash song 'A Boy Named Sue' because of him...."

Here's the podcast where I found my random old show yesterday. Here's a webpage with a lot of the old shows.

December 25, 2020

At the Christmas Café...

Hand-sewn Christmas stockings

 ... you can write about whatever you want. And I hope you got whatever you wanted.

Hand-sewn bear 

ADDED: These are photographs that I originally blogged in 2006, in "Things made by children for Christmas long ago." The objects, which I still have, were made more than 60 years ago. 

I see that in the comments here and back in 2006, someone asks if my name is really Jo Ann. No. Jo Ann was a doll's name — and I still remember which doll. The stockings — which are about the size of the image in the photograph — are doll's stockings. We made Christmas stockings and gifts for a family of dolls.

"Our vaunted capacity for abstract thought often gets us (or others) into trouble. We may be the only species to pursue scientific inquiry..."

"... but we’re also the only species that has consciously perpetrated genocides. Cats, unlike humans, don’t trick themselves into believing they are saviors, wreaking havoc in the process. 'When cats are not hunting or mating, eating or playing, they sleep,' Gray writes. 'There is no inner anguish that forces them into constant activity.'...We are human supremacists whose vanity and moralism and tortured ambivalence make us uniquely unhappy and destructive. 'While cats have nothing to learn from us,' he writes, 'we can learn from them how to lighten the load that comes with being human.'...  Liberals like to think that empathy is a great virtue, he says, and that progress is not only possible but morally necessary, but people would be better off cultivating a catlike indifference.... He marvels that cats are 'arch-realists' who know when not to bother: 'Faced with human folly, they simply walk away.'"

The neutrality of cats. I'll call it mewtrality. And, no, it's not cruel mewtrality. From the book:

Christmas TV.

ADDED: Speaking of British TV: My answer is always when it's British TV.

Except most of those things we can't do right now, Bob....

Happy Christmas!

ADDED: From Craig Brown's "150 Glimpses of the Beatles":
Alone of all the Beatles, Ringo possessed no talent for composing. But one day, in a sudden flash of inspiration, the germs of a song entered his head, as if from nowhere. He worked on the song for three hours, and presented it to the other three the next day. After an awkward silence, they felt obliged to point out that it had already been written and recorded by Bob Dylan.

Brown doesn't say what Dylan song this was. But what song could it have been? It would have to have been something simple. But what? I try to think of a simple Bob Dylan song from the 1960s, and I think "I Want You," because that's a simple sentiment: "I want you/I want you/I want you/So bad." 

I have somewhere else I want to go with this post, but writing out the chorus like that, I'm smacked in the head with the realization that a non-Ringo Beatle did in fact write — and record — that very song originally written by Bob Dylan, same title and all: "I Want You." Lyrics: "I want you, I want you so bad." 

Did no one feel obliged to tell John Lennon that Bob Dylan had already written and recorded that song? No, obviously not. And it's not as if Lennon fleshed out the song. His "I Want You" hardly has any lyrics. It's just "I want you so bad/It's driving me mad" repeated.

Originally, I was going to say that Ringo couldn't possibly have believed he'd written "I Want You" because it has complicated Dylanesque lyrics: The guilty undertaker sighs/The lonesome organ grinder cries/The silver saxophones say I should refuse you... But Lennon's "I Want You" shows how Ringo might have done it. Just use the chorus. The chorus is perfectly simple.

December 24, 2020

At the Christmas Eve Café...

Christmas Eve

... you can talk about anything you want.

"Now Ann has baited me into promiscuously spiking my anxiety stew with carnalized onions..."

Ha ha ha. My favorite kind of comment — taking an ingredient from an old post and adding it to the material in the post under discussion. It's fusion commenting, like fusion cooking... and the metaphor in the comment is cooking.

And I love that I've got a tag for "onions," though I see various posts with onions that did not get the tag, including posts with the tag "onion rings," onion rings being a special, niche topic here on the blog. Remember these carnalized onion rings? And of course, these ("I doubt if any blogger will disagree with my assertion that, coming from Bill Clinton, the 'O' of an onion ring is a vagina symbol").

Speaking of comments, I can see some of you are saying I'm not giving you the kind of post you like anymore. There are at least 4 reasons for that:

1. The world is locked down, so things don't just happen anymore, not the kind of things that delight and intrigue. The usual places still have their articles, but they're filling space. They're doing what they have to do, and I can smell the fakeness, the ennui. I have my standard, and I'll read until something crosses the line for me. 

2. The standard on this blog is not big over small. I'm not here to repeat headlines about what the President just did. In fact, if the headline is big, I'd rather go small.

3. I'm not interested in throwing my weight onto one side or the other, and if I have nothing to add, there's no reason to write about these things. With Trump, I have distanced myself from the relentless haters, but I'm in no mood to encourage him either. I'm waiting for the next few weeks to pass, hunkering down. I could spring out and denounce him, but I don't join mobs. 

"I’ve honestly started wondering if this is just how men’s minds actually work in real life and now instead of being uncomfortable about passages like these, I’m uncomfortable about life."

 A comment at the subreddit menwritingwomen.

The commenter is reacting in general to snippets of writing that have been posted in that group and specifically to this one:

Of course, the NYT "loves" this... if love includes loving the virality of something so clickable and sharable.

Click and reclick the image to read the full comment that begins "It all depends on your attitude."

Now, Joe Gabriel Simonson withholds a link to the NYT, so he's onto their game and refusing to play... and he himself is using a woman's sex tale about her daughter to get links for himself... including this one from me. Reading the comments on his tweet, I see that no one believes the story, but they sure do find it hilarious. 

I don't mind giving the NYT the link they deserve. Here's "The Joys of Frivolous Sex/The pandemic has brought out a nasty puritanism" by Megan Nolan. 

Looking through the NYT-selected comments, I don't see the story that's in Simonson's screenshot. Maybe the woman — who used what might be her real name — took her comment down. If she really has a daughter, did she realize it was wrong — even if hilarious — to appropriate her daughter's identity for her own purposes?

The third-highest comment over there is "Read the whole thing again pretending it's written by a man." I'll be reading the column for the first time, and I don't need that prod. I always do the gender switcheroo when I read sex things. 

Let's read:
In early lockdown, I spent most evenings in the front room of my mother’s house, drunk, staring at a computer, reeling at the prospect of my body being deprived indefinitely of touch.... Only weeks earlier, I was in New York for an extended visit, recently single and pleasantly crazy with the desire to date far and wide. My romantic and sexual value seemed higher then and there than it had ever been anywhere else.... [One man] looked fondly down at me in a hotel room and inexplicably exclaimed, “I love New York!” at the sight of my body.


And then in March came the shutdown. ... I was urgently trying to recast the concept of pleasure as something that could occur without other people.... I made the mistake in this period of suggesting in a Facebook post that single people, especially those living alone, could not be expected to go an unlimited amount of time without socializing or close contact. Some people reacted to this as though I had proposed an orgy on every street corner, pandemic be damned, but that wasn’t what I meant. What I meant was that human beings can’t be expected to endure the sudden and total loss of social comfort.... 
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out a nasty puritanism in some people.... One doesn’t even need to actually break a rule to earn their disgust, only to express dismay over things they consider unimportant or, worse, hedonistic. To even complain about what it feels like to live alone and not be able to date right now is regarded as unseemly, dismissed as trivial.... 
Most of society does not really believe that casual, nonmonogamous encounters can actually hold meaning, rather than simply serve as crude ways to blow off steam. I know that they can. Living as a purposefully single and promiscuous person was one way to know others, one way to find joy in the world, and it’s gone for now. Single people have lost something important, and should be allowed to bemoan it.

This is a very well-written and impressive statement of a point of view that should be part of the discussion! She's not saying her desire for physical love is more important than children going to school and elderly people staying alive. She's saying the interest in living real life is important too. 

Now, Nolan invites attacks by calling other people names. Her antagonists are puritans — and nasty ones at that. And she makes their argument easier by using the word "promiscuous" to describe the interest she wants us to take seriously. 

Back to the comments. I see this from Low-Notes-Liberate, who says he's a musician and thus "supposed to be wildly frivolous in general." But he prefers "long-term intimacy."

After the initial hide and seek of bodies is, for me, when the real adventure begins. Who is this person, who am I, who are we together. It is perhaps more a journey into the mind through the body. Not to say that love simmering like carnalized onions in an iron skillet, animal nature is incredibly sexy.

Carnalized onions! 

But I like the journey taken over time. That said, I can easily relate to the horrifying ten months of deserted island sexuality many of us have endured. I was happy to see this article because it needs to be discussed and out in the open. What is a life of masturbation? Videos? Amazon brown boxes arriving with the hopes of a new variation on the same old theme?

December 23, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

"The combination of half-listening and overdramatization of the facts by the media creates an anxiety-driven stew."

Said Gale Ridge, an entomologist at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven, quoted in "Rumors of a ‘murder hornet’ apocalypse may have been exaggerated" (ScienceNews).

"Suddenly, overlooked local wasp and hornet species… hanging around in corners of people’s backyards for millennia become the subjects of panic-driven calls," she said. The solution, she says, is: "One creates a fresh storybook of information on which callers can relax, feel comfortable and thrive." 

I was just wondering, whatever happened to the murder hornets. I was pleased to get an answer and even more pleased to encounter Gale Ridge, who has a way with words: 

half-listening and overdramatization... anxiety-driven stew... a fresh storybook of information... 

Such helpful phrases! I must remember to use them. Have you been half asleep? Have you been half-listening? Someday you'll create a fresh storybook! But for God's sake stop slurping the anxiety stew!

"Rough Old-Time Mountain Folk Make The Best Music."

"I was 12 years old in the 9th grade - younger than my classmates, and (as you may possibly be able to imagine) pretty awkward, shy and nerdy.

"And I had a crush on Patrice Y., the girl who sat directly in front of me in math class (because the seats were all arranged in alphabetical order for some arbitrary reason)...."

John McWhorter calls bullshit on civility.

A perfect storm of gender privilege + celebrity privilege.

1. Celebrity privilege — Sorvino openly states the belief that she is different from other ladies: If only Pete knew she was Mira Sorvino, a famous person, he would get how sweet and kooky and funny it was for her to "stalk" and "sidle" up to him in a car.

2. Gender privilege — Switch the gender around. It's easy to see how terrible it would be for 2 males in a car to "stalk" and "sidle" up to a female in a car and yell "We love you" and say her name. What male would tweet that he'd done this and think that it was cute? If a famous man did this to a famous woman, it's more likely that the woman would call him out with accusations that could wreck his life.

By the way:

1. Pete Davidson has a very serious mental health condition — borderline personality disorder — so doing something that confuses and intimidates him when he's out in public alone is particularly bad.

2. Mira Sorvino — though she often plays a ditsy character (see "Might Aphrodite" and "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion") — is one of the most intelligent, educated actors in the U.S. She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard.

Credit/blame for saying the right/wrong number.

December 22, 2020

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

"We've been educated, we've got liberated/And had complicating matters with men.../Oh we burned our bras and we burned our dinners/And we burned our candles at both ends..."


"K.T. Oslin... has died, according to a statement from the Country Music Association. She was 78. Oslin became the first woman to win the CMA Award for song of the year... for '80 Ladies.'" (CNN). She won the award in 1988.

You can read the full lyrics here

"The man and woman never did settle in, and as Flight 462 began to taxi out to a runway, the man stood up, ignoring a flight attendant’s order to sit, saying that he had post-traumatic stress disorder..."

"A short time later... the plane shudder[ed] to a stop.... The man had forced open a cabin door, activating an emergency slide, and then he, his female companion and their [large service] dog slid their way out of the plane, officials said.... This was not the first time a panicky passenger has pulled such a maneuver at a New York-area airport, but neither Delta, the F.A.A. nor the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates La Guardia, could say on Monday just how unusual it was for someone to make such an escape... [R]ecently, a traveler aboard a Florida-bound flight at Newark Liberty International Airport fled through an emergency exit and down an inflatable slide while the plane was still at the gate in February 2018....  yelling that he did not belong on the plane because it was not his flight...."

ADDED: These cases seem ridiculous, but claustrophobia is a real anxiety disorder. Wikipedia says: "Being enclosed or thinking about being enclosed in a confined space can trigger fears of not being able to breathe properly, and running out of oxygen.... Most claustrophobic people who find themselves in a room without windows consciously know that they aren't in danger, yet these same people will be afraid, possibly terrified to the point of incapacitation, and many do not know why." It says here that 5 to 10% of people have severe claustrophobia, so the wonder is that it is so rare to see anyone panicking on a plane. Perhaps every plane has passengers who are experiencing panic but — "terrified to the point of incapacitation" — nothing shows on the outside and taking action — like opening the emergency slide — is not an option. 

"I wish I could make it so that people were more thoughtful and kind toward each other. It’s something that I think about a lot as I move through life."

"In Japan, for example, we have priority seating on train carriages, for people who are elderly or people with a disability. If the train is relatively empty, sometimes you’ll see young people sit in these seats. If I were to say something, they’d probably tell me: 'But the train is empty, what’s the issue?' But if I were a person with a disability and I saw people sitting there, I might not want to ask them to move. I wouldn’t want to be annoying. I wish we were all a little more compassionate in these small ways. If there was a way to design the world that discouraged selfishness, that would be a change I would make." 

 From "Shigeru Miyamoto Wants to Create a Kinder World/The legendary designer on rejecting violence in games, trying to be a good boss, and building Nintendo’s Disneyland" (The New Yorker)("In 1977, Shigeru Miyamoto joined Nintendo, a company then known for selling toys, playing cards, and trivial novelties. Miyamoto was twenty-four, fresh out of art school. His employer, inspired by the success of a California company named Atari, was hoping to expand into video games. Miyamoto began tinkering with a story about a carpenter, a damsel in distress, and a giant ape...").

"I thought it was delicious. Is that because I love McDonald’s too deeply? Or is something wrong with my taste?"

Wrote someone identified as Feifei Mao Enthusiast on the Sina Weibo microblog service, quoted in "In China, McDonald’s serving Spam burger topped with Oreo crumbs...." 

In the Chicago Tribune, which observes, "Global brands from restaurants to automakers sometimes roll out offbeat products to appeal to Chinese tastes in the populous and intensely competitive market."

How deep is your love for McDonalds?
That's just Spam, mayonnaise, and crumbled Oreos, on a hamburger bun, so it would be easy to make that at home. No need to go to China!

December 21, 2020

3 hours and 24 minutes after the solstice....


... the darkness had resolved into this.

"Across the United States, many areas with large populations of Latinos and residents of Asian descent, including ones with the highest numbers of immigrants, had... a surge in turnout and a shift to the right, often a sizable one."

"The pattern was evident in big cities like Chicago and New York, in California and Florida, and along the Texas border with Mexico, according to a New York Times analysis of voting in 28,000 precincts in more than 20 cities..... [T]he red shifts, along with a wave of blue shifts in Republican and white areas, have scrambled the conventional wisdom of American politics and could presage a new electoral calculus for the parties.... And over all, Mr. Trump, whose policies and remarks were widely expected to alienate immigrants and voters of color, won the lion’s share of the additional turnout....  ... Mr. Trump lost ground in white and Republican areas in and around cities — ultimately leading to his election loss — he gained new votes in immigrant neighborhoods.... 'The Latino conservatives feel a lot of momentum,' said Geraldo L. Cadava, a professor at Northwestern University and author of a book on Latino Republicans. They had argued that Mr. Trump could win Latino voters, not with the Bushesque strategy of moderation on immigration, but with a Reaganesque message of personal responsibility and hard work, he said.... Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress, said he worried before the election that Democrats’ focus on racial justice issues came at the expense of outreach about easing the lives of hard-pressed workers. 'In general, it suggests that Democrats’ theory of the case — that their electoral problems were all about race rather than class — was incorrect.'"

"Undercutting Trump, Barr says there’s no basis for seizing voting machines, using special counsels for election fraud, Hunter Biden."

 WaPo reports.

"What item of clothing was the emphasis on? What is the most risky piece of clothing?"/"Underpants... The insides, the crotch."

From "Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny dupes spy into revealing how he was poisoned" (CNN).
Toxicologists consulted by CNN say that if applied in granular form to clothes, the [lethal nerve agent] Novichok would be absorbed through the skin when the victim begins to sweat....

"The standard does not appear necessary to ensure that the product meets consumer expectations, and the F.D.A. has tentatively concluded that it is no longer necessary to promote honesty and fair dealing in the interest of consumers and may limit flexibility for innovation."

Announced the FDA, quoted in "F.D.A. Wants to Stop Regulating French Dressing/The federal agency said it was seeking to revoke its definition for the carrot-colored dressing, effectively erasing a government-required list of ingredients at the request of an industry group" (NYT). 

Marion Nestle — "a professor emerita of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University" — called bullshit on the FDA : "They want to do it because they want less fat than what’s in the standard of identity, and they want to put more junk in it. And their argument is everybody knows what these things are, and everybody knows what they’re buying." 

Whatever. It's not as if the FDA ever protected us from the deception that is labeling this stuff "French."
The dressing was originally a simple vinaigrette made of oil and vinegar, but it gradually became the gooey, sweet, tomato-inflected dressing we recognize today, [said Paul Freedman, a professor of history at Yale, and the author of “American Cuisine: And How It Got This Way"]. Unlike the French, who tend to relegate sugar to dessert, the dressing reflects Americans’ love of all things sugary, from honey mustard to bacon slathered in maple syrup, he said.

"Among jurists I have encountered in the United States and abroad, Shirley Abrahamson is the very best."

"As lawyer, law teacher and judge, she has inspired legions to follow in her way, to strive constantly to make the legal system genuinely equal and accessible to all who dwell in our fair land."

Said Ruth Bader Ginsburg, quoted in "Shirley Abrahamson, longest-serving member of Wisconsin Supreme Court, dies at 87" (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel). 

Goodbye to Shirley Abrahamson.

Maybe just do the same thing but with a pseudonym.

December 20, 2020

At the Sunday Night Cafe...

... you can write about whatever you want. 

"Have you ever heard of 'pronoid'?" — I ask.

Meade says: "I've heard of 'noid.'"

I say: "What is that, some R. Crumb thing?"

Meade says, yes, and I look it up. 

I'm surprised. How could we both independently think "Noid" was an R. Crumb character and it not be true? "No, 'The Noid' was a character in old Domino's Pizza ads" — I say.

The slogan was "Avoid the Noid." In 1989, a man named Kenneth Lamar Noid, who believed the character had to do with him, took hostages in a Domino's restaurant in Chamblee, Georgia. The hostages survived, and Noid was committed to a mental institution. 

"Why did we both think of R. Crumb?" — I wondered. I google "noid" and "R. Crumb" and exclaim "Snoid!" 

Wikipedia quotes a description of the Snoid as "a short-statured asshole, and many people believe that Snoid, with his fetishes, sex cravings and disdain for materialism, is little more than an alter ego for Crumb."

Yes, but what's "pronoid"? It's the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day. It's a recent word, created as an antonym for "paranoid." It means: "Characterized by the belief (especially when viewed as irrational) in the goodwill of others or the pervasiveness of serendipity."

The oldest usage found was from 1982: "I am interested in the manifestations of pronoia and in the conditions that encourage or produce pronoid behavior." 

From the 1997 movie "Fierce Creatures":  "You've heard of paranoid, right? It means you think that everybody's out to get you. Well pronoid is precisely the opposite."

"I grew up in the former Soviet Union and in a late, flaccid, totalitarian state, the idea that 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions' was particularly obvious."

"For seventy years, the rhetoric of the Soviet state was always about happiness for all, a better future for all, equality for all—bullshit rhetoric that was like a paper bag thrown over a bomb. But apart from learning about how the genocidal state operates, you also learn instantly to recognize this idea, in whatever guise it comes at you, that someone else knows what you need to be 'happy,' and that this knowledge is certain and enforceable. You see it miles off. It emits a special stink even before you know it’s there.... When I was growing up in Ukraine, a line from Antoine de Saint-­Exupéry’s The Little Prince seemed to capture the ethics my family was teaching me without teaching it to me didactically: 'You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed.' And if you can’t handle forever, then please don’t start. Just don’t.... The idea that doing something is always better than doing nothing is very dangerous, I think.... So much work and deliberation need to happen before you actually do anything that is ethically grounded and not fundamentally self-­serving."

Says Maria Tumarkin in "Unethical Reading and the Limits of Empathy" (Yale Review).

Here's Tumarkin's book — a collection of essays — "Axiomatic."

"Once You Get The COVID-19 Vaccine, Can You Still Infect Others?"

From FiveThirtyEight: 
There’s a hypothetical mechanism that could allow this to happen biologically, said Deepta Bhattacharya, a professor of immunobiology at the University of Arizona. And that mechanism is … well … it’s boogers and phlegm. 
“So, the virus enters in through the upper respiratory tracts, either through your nose or your throat. And those are protected by a mucous layer. And so that mucous layer is good at slowing things down from getting into you. But it also acts as a barrier for things like antibodies, and certainly for cells from getting out and meeting the virus as it comes in,” he said. 
[Your immune cells] might not be able to neutralize the ones resting in your nose, on the other side of your mucous barriers. Those COVID-19 viruses wouldn’t hurt you, but they still might be able to replicate and shed — coughed back out of your nose and mouth....

"Where and by whom 'Latinx' is used has helped spur the complaints that it may alienate working-class Latino communities (especially those that speak Spanish)..."

"... or at least fail to reflect their preferences. 'I keep thinking, people who are watching this, do they identify with that term?' asks Richard T. Rodríguez, an associate professor at the University of California at Riverside, of political messaging during the pandemic that has used 'Latinx.' 'The x is jarring, kind of like biting in glass.' (Rodríguez also pointed out that even though 'Latinx' is often used in solidarity with the trans community, a transgender person who has fought for his or her gender identity to be publicly recognized can also be marginalized by the term.) "

From "'Latinx’ hasn’t even caught on among Latinos. It never will. The term is an English-language contrivance, not a real gesture at gender inclusivity" (WaPo). Did the headline writer understand the article? The word "even" doesn't belong. It's the opposite of the point. 

The term is used — as it says in the first paragraph — by "[o]pponents of transphobia and sexism" in  "social media posts, academic papers and workplace Slack chats," "[l]iberal politicians," "[c]ivil rights litigators," "[s]ocial scientists," and [p]ublic health experts." 

The top-rated comment over there — by someone who identifies himself as "a Latino" — is "'Latinx' was created in America by people apparently not happy that Spanish is a gender-specific language. It’s a fake-Spanish word that wasn’t created by and isn’t used by Latinos to describe themselves. It’s a shortcut used to identify a huge and very diverse group of people. That term is offensive and people need to stop using it."

"Latinx" is doomed. The people who are using it seem especially vulnerable to the charge that it's offensive