December 31, 2021

Goodbye to Betty White.

"Pointless," I said out loud...

... as I did my sunless sunrise run this morning. 


I needed to remember a distinctive word in the passage I wanted to blog from the audiobook I had in my earphones. 


I search the Kindle version. Ah, here it is:
Mittens has graciously deferred to Gary; Leo couldn’t care less about power; and the dog just finds the whole thing, and, in fact, everything in life, exciting. So what are these two creatures fighting about? I trust in the fact that animals are pure in their hearts, efficient in their emotions. I admire that they don’t seem to waste time hating each other if there isn’t a specific purpose to it. Food, shelter, dominance, and love affairs seem to be the things that matter, and once those are sorted out, what else is there to say? Could it just be a personality conflict? Does Gary find Mittens unlikable? What a disappointment that would be. It would mean that animals are just as flawed as we are, susceptible to petty grievances and pointless conflict and capable of making awful sounds at each other when we really have nothing to say.

The book is  "On Animals" by Susan Orlean. The "creatures" — Mittens and Gary (and Leo) — are cats. 

"We could not imagine that Trump would become President, that he would sow disinformation and denial about a deadly virus, that he would attack the legitimacy of American democracy itself..."

"... rather than concede defeat. Over the past year, Biden has struggled with his own set of unimaginable challenges that became intractable realities. I lived in Russia for four years, where decades of life under the Soviet Union had taught a cynical population a truth that Americans only now seem to be learning for themselves: it can always get worse."

"Chinese social media has been engrossed in an eye-popping debate over ads depicting alleged Western beauty ideals for Asian women, including the usage of makeup to create stereotypical 'slanted eyes.'"

According to "Mercedes-Benz removes ad with Chinese model over ‘slanted eye’ backlash" (NY Post). Photos over there show the makeup. The alleged "Western beauty ideals" are not to make Chinese models look less Chinese, but to accentuate the Chinese features. 
Mercedes-Benz has reportedly removed a recent video advertisement published on Chinese social network Weibo on Dec. 25, after the brand was criticized for doing up a model’s face to give her exaggerated sloping eyes. 
“Is there any beauty in this makeup?” one critic wrote. “It is not [open for] interpretation. No Chinese will think this kind of ‘beauty’ is attractive,” another added....

This is an interesting problem of subjectivity. Should each racial group be the judge of whether its own features should be minimized or exaggerated with makeup? 

Earlier this week, Gucci was similarly called out for a new handbag ad that uses “discriminatory” Chinese features. 
Communication-law professor Zhu Wei, of the state’s China University of Political Science and Law, said in a statement to the Global Times regarding Gucci’s ad, “This is extremely disrespectful to our culture. The disgust and revulsion expressed by the whole society toward this kind of insult should be heard.”

Here's the photograph he's denouncing (which looks beautiful to me (ugly handbag, though)):

"The Taliban have ordered a series of mannequin beheadings, telling clothes shops to remove the heads of dummies that offend Islam...."

"Aziz Rahman, the head of the local department of the [Ministry for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice in the western Afghan province of Hera], described the mannequins as 'statues' and claimed that they were being worshipped, which is prohibited under Islam. Despite shopkeepers’ pleas that they needed their dummies, Rahman said he 'ordered that they [the mannequins] should have their heads removed' and warned there would be severe punishment if they violated the ruling...."

The London Times reports.

"There’s a tremendous amount of information she has on some very important people. Now that she’s been convicted she may be more eager to discuss."

"She certainly should, in my mind, because a lot of people skated here, while she bore the brunt of the government’s full wrath."

Said Jeffrey Lichtman, "the defense attorney who represented the Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán at trial two years ago," quoted in "Speculation grows that Maxwell may try to cut a deal for reduced sentence/Experts say any deal depends on whether US government believes it is worth investigating network that may have been involved" (The Guardian).

"A wind-fueled grass fire in Colorado burned hundreds of homes in a matter of hours and forced thousands to evacuate Thursday... as flames rapidly spread..."

"... through a region that has seen an unusually dry December. Whole neighborhoods were engulfed in flames as the fire advanced through Superior and Louisville, two towns about eight miles outside Boulder. In the Sagamore subdivision, 370 homes were believed lost... while another 210 were feared destroyed in another part of Superior.... 'We’re potentially talking about over 500 homes'... That is likely to make it the most destructive fire in state history, according to local tallies. Earlier in the day, the National Weather Service warned the situation was 'life-threatening' — urging residents of Superior and Louisville to immediately leave. The towns have a combined population of over 34,000, and the evacuations triggered frantic escapes and long traffic lines during the height of the holiday season.... Jason Fletcher, a 36-year-old Colorado native who was at a Chuck E. Cheese in the town with his family.... 'It was a typical morning. Blue skies,' Fletcher said, before he and his family started to smell something. A few minutes later, dark smoke began to drift outside."

Here's the scene at Chuck E. Cheese. Look how quickly it escalates — and how, at one point, it looks as though they are locked in, but it's just the powerful wind against the doors:

This is a big day for those of us who've been watching the gradual unfolding of "What a Wonderful World" — one letter at a time.

The fabulous moldogaa has done 20 of the 26 letters, one day at a time, a new recording for each letter, piled on top of all the preceding letters. She's been withholding the vowels, and — with the exception of "w" (which much be last, obviously) — she accomplished the last consonant yesterday:

December 30, 2021

Sunrise — 7:35.


Talk about anything you want in the comments.

"When you run out of ideas, just write down a list. Readers love lists."

Says a character — an author who teaches writing — in a novel I'm reading, "Our Country Friends" (by Gary Shteyngart).

I'd highlighted that line when I read it, and it popped to mind as I was listening to the audiobook of the other book I'm consuming this week, "On Animals" (by Susan Orlean), and I got to the last paragraph of the essay "Lost Dog." The dog (Coby) was found and it seemed as if we were closing in on the miscreant who stole the car that contained the dog (and a viola da gamba)...
At this point, the police certainly knew the thief’s name. After all, it was on the pawn voucher and in the detention records from his previous lockup with Chris Walker, and there were fingerprints on the Volvo, the viola da gamba, the pawn voucher, and probably on Coby. But the man was still at large. Before the car was towed to a wrecking yard, [the dog owner] went through it one more time to see if there were any last belongings of his or [his wife's] still inside. There was nothing of theirs, but the thief had left behind some of his clothes, a bunch of computer parts, notes from his girlfriend, poetry he had written, and a stack of address labels bearing someone else’s name.

... some of his clothes, a bunch of computer parts, notes from his girlfriend, poetry he had written, and a stack of address labels bearing someone else’s name — a list! Just write down a list. Readers love lists. 

The next thing that the reader wanted to happen was the capture of the thief, but it's a true story, and that didn't happen. So how do you tie it up satisfyingly? Out of the blue, there's a list, miscellaneous items, indicative of miscellaneous things — the man had a girlfriend, he wrote poetry.... 

I appreciated the essayist's artistry. And oh! how pleased I am that I have a tag for this: lists.

"At least a dozen cities have set homicide records this year. The scale of the killings is recapitulating the worst moments of the United States’ 20th-century urban crisis."

"And if we can’t stop it, we’ll also end up with the kind of over-the-top political response that we have spent decades regretting. That was the era when Bernhard Goetz, the 'Subway Vigilante,' became a New York folk hero for shooting a group of young men who demanded $5. Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton left the presidential campaign trail to be home for the execution of a severely brain-injured convict. A few years later, as president, Clinton would help spearhead passage of the infamous 1994 crime bill, which ended up dogging both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden during their presidential runs because the modern era blames it (somewhat unfairly) for mass incarceration. The younger progressives who called out Biden and Clinton tend to view the law-and-order politics of that era as pure sadism — or else as a racist, 'New Jim Crow' backlash that served to keep Black Americans separate and unequal.... Crime control is arguably a prerequisite for many items on the progressive policy agenda. Want people to support higher immigration? Reassure them that foreign gangs are not going to reassemble on American streets. Want people to move to dense, walkable urban neighborhoods where their carbon footprint will be smaller? Those neighborhoods won’t be very attractive if there are many criminals walking around, too. And of course, people are most likely to support a reformist criminal justice agenda when crime is low. If many people you know have been victimized, you tend to err on the side of keeping offenders in jail."

"Kuachua Brillion Xiong, 25, of Merced was pulled over for driving aggressively on Interstate 80 in Cass County, Iowa, on Dec. 21. He had an AR-15-type rifle, ammunition and a grappling hook, among other items...."

"He told a sheriff’s deputy that he disapproved of the government and President Biden and that he was traveling to Washington, D.C. He was carrying a 'hit list' of targets saved from TikTok videos.... Authorities described Xiong’s vehicle as 'lived in,' with several empty cans of Red Bull energy drink.... Police also found money in the vehicle 'earmarked' for Xiong’s funeral expenses, and his GPS was set for the White House.... 'Xiong believes that he is the only person remaining who can free the United States of evil and it is necessary for him to kill those in positions of power,' Special Agent Justin Larson with the Secret Service said in the affidavit.... Targets included former Presidents Clinton and Obama, White House medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci and Meta Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg.... He also detailed his plan to get into the White House through what he described as a 'weak spot' and how he would use a grappling hook to climb over the perimeter fencing...."

From "Merced man arrested on way to White House with rifle, ‘hit list’ compiled from TikTok" (L.A. Times).

Ostracon and ostraconophobia.

Ostraconophobia is the fear of shellfish.[1]

NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin has this phobia. On July 16, 2017, after winning the Overton's 301 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, he was given a 44-pound lobster by crew chief Mike Wheeler (a trophy that is traditionally given to winners at the track), and Hamlin attempted to leap away. "I have a lobster phobia. I don't know why. I just don't like them," Hamlin stated. "I cannot eat dinner if someone beside me is eating lobster. I can't look at it. So as far as I'm concerned, they need to put it back in the water and let it live."[2]
An ostracon (Greek: ὄστρακον ostrakon, plural ὄστρακα ostraka) is a piece of pottery, usually broken off from a vase or other earthenware vessel. In an archaeological or epigraphical context, ostraca refer to sherds or even small pieces of stone that have writing scratched into them. Usually these are considered to have been broken off before the writing was added; ancient people used the cheap, plentiful and durable broken pieces of pottery around them as convenient places to place writing for a wide variety of purposes, mostly very short inscriptions, but in some cases very long....

In Classical Athens, when the decision at hand was to banish or exile a certain member of society, citizen peers would cast their vote by writing the name of the person on the shard of pottery; the vote was counted and, if unfavorable, the person was exiled for a period of ten years from the city, thus giving rise to the term ostracism....

What's going on here? The etymology of "ostracon" (from the OED) explains it: 

Etymology: < ancient Greek ὄστρακον earthen vessel, potsherd, hard shell < the same Indo-European base as the word for bone (see osteo- comb. form), with an -r- suffix (shown also by ancient Greek ὄστρειον oyster n.).

"[V]irtual reality plunges people into an all-encompassing digital environment where unwanted touches in the digital world can be made to feel real and the sensory experience is heightened...."

"Meta has asked its employees to volunteer to test the metaverse, according to an internal memo viewed by The New York Times. A stranger recently groped the avatar of one tester of a Meta virtual reality game, Horizon Worlds, a company spokeswoman said... ... Mari DeGrazia, 48, of Tucson, Ariz., said she saw harassment and assault happen in Population One 'two to three times a week, if not more.'... 'I’m not going to stop playing, because I think it’s important to have diverse people, including women, playing this game,' she said. 'We aren’t going to be pushed out of it, even though sometimes it’s hard.' In July, Ms. DeGrazia wore a haptic vest — which relays sensations through buzzes and vibrations — to play Population One. When another player groped her avatar’s chest, 'it felt just awful,' she said. She noted that Mr. Zuckerberg has described a metaverse where people can be fitted with full-body suits that let them feel even more sensations, which she said was troubling."

From "The Metaverse’s Dark Side: Here Come Harassment and Assaults/As Meta and other companies bet big on an immersive digital world, questions about its harms are rising" (NYT).

I've never used virtual reality, but shouldn't it be possible for the user to flick a switch that turns off the haptic vest so that the other player can't impose the feeling of touching on you? Also, it seems to me that most video games put you in the role of a fighter, with enemies coming at you. How does the haptic vest work when the enemy is winning?

"I feel like a woodland creature or like a Laura Ingalls Wilder girl.... I think the brown hair brings out my hardworking and serious side, which is good for the winter — like the fable of the ant and the grasshopper."

Said a 25-year-old software engineer/swimsuit designer, quoted in "Why Is Everyone Going Brunette?/Warming, feel-good colors like chocolate milk, gingerbread and sable will be big in 2022, stylists say" (NYT). 

And one hairdresser says her clients "feel like brunette gives them more power and strength." That color theory reminds me of dumb TV shows of the 1970s like "Three's Company" and "Charlie's Angels."

Moving more deeply into this NYT update on hair-color trends, we learn that "On TikTok, blond hair was declared 'cheugy,' in the neologism of Gen Z." 

Is being blonde, like, cheugy?

December 29, 2021

Sunrise — 7:18, 7:20, 7:25, 7:36.




Talk about whatever you like in the comments.


"Four men accused of breaking Covid-19 restrictions were marched through the streets of a Chinese city in a 'shaming parade.'"

"A large crowd watched as the accused, wearing masks and white hazmat suits and carrying placards with their names and photographs on, were paraded through the city of Jingxi in the Guangxi region yesterday.... The men were accused of transporting illegal migrants while China’s borders remain largely closed because of the pandemic.... However, the harsh disciplinary exercise, reminiscent of public humiliation sessions during Mao’s Cultural Revolution, provoked anger across the country.... China banned public shaming of suspects in 2010 after campaigns by rights activists and the wider public disgusted by 'shaming parades,' which by that time were mostly being used to humiliate suspected sex workers during crackdowns on prostitution."

"Ghislaine Maxwell convicted of trafficking girls for Jeffrey Epstein."

 WaPo reports.

At trial, prosecutors argued that the teenagers, who were as young as 14 during their encounters with Epstein, expected Maxwell to be a buffer and chaperone between them and the much older multimillionaire. Instead, Maxwell facilitated massage appointments and gave instructions on what Epstein liked, the now-grown women said. She also sometimes arranged their flights and other travel details when they visited his homes.

"Where was men’s outrage while women were poisoning themselves with pills and scarring their reproductive organs with IUDs and abortions?"

"Answer: They were bystanders. Most men, other than dedicated pro-lifers, weren’t about to protest. If women were willing to terminate their pregnancies, male culture was, like, Okay, honey, whatever you want. It’s your decision. So, forgive me if the sudden rush on vasectomy clinics fails to bestir my gratitude. Too much water under my bridge, I guess, but I wonder: Are men really acting out of concern for women who might suffer without Roe v. Wade? Or is it because, as documentary filmmaker Jonathan Stack ('The Vasectomist') let slip, 'The quality of life for millions of men will be adversely affected if this (abortion) right is taken from women'?... So, step right up, you Men-Who-Love-Your-Wives: Have a vasectomy if you like.... But it does seem to me that nature’s life force is flickering a bit these days. When manning up means terminating one’s ability to reproduce — and woman’s power resides in the destruction of her unborn — you have to wonder, wherefore art we?"

Writes Kathleen Parker, in "Men want to have vasectomies now? What took them so long?" (WaPo). She's reacting to that article from a few days ago: "Men across America are getting vasectomies ‘as an act of love’/With the right to abortion under threat, men say they want to play a role in reproductive planning to support their partners" (WaPo). You may have noticed that, and you may even have noticed my failure to blog it. My reaction to the "act of love" framing was more cynical than I was in the mood to type out. So I was glad to see Parker do the work.

Watching the sun rise...


... with dog...


... with moon...


"As a little girl, I shared a bedroom with my sister. And I got to sleep on the side of the bed facing the outside wall, so there was a window, and I would look out at the stars."

"I thought if I ran into a Martian and the Martian said, 'Who are you?' what would my answer be? The only answer could be 'I am an Earthling.' I realized — and have continued to realize — that it would be illogical if I were to tell the Martian I’m a Black woman. That’s because a Martian doesn’t know what Black is, and they don’t know what a woman is. So we know that race is illogical. It is a construct that is destructive. So I’m watching, for example, the transgender kids now, and I think they’re doing something wonderful, because they’re saying about their gender what I had already recognized — and I’m not the only one; don’t misunderstand — about race. They’re saying they will not be blocked by what somebody else thinks they are. That’s a hell of a step. And if I could start Earth all over again, I would always make sure that if you had to answer the question, 'Who are you?' then you’d have to say, 'I’m an Earthling.' That way you don’t get trapped in what somebody thinks is your gender and your race. If Earth survives — there’s a good chance we’ll blow ourselves up — gender and race are going to go."

Said the poet Nikki Giovanni, quoted in "Nikki Giovanni Has Made Peace With Her Hate" (NYT).

"Russia’s Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that the nation’s most prominent human rights organization must close..."

"Shutting down Memorial is also another step in Mr. Putin’s effort to recast Russia’s legacy as a series of glorious accomplishments and soften the image of the often-brutal Soviet regime. While the state opened a comprehensive Gulag history museum in Moscow and Mr. Putin laid flowers at a new monument to the victims of Soviet repression, the increasingly emboldened Kremlin has moved aggressively to remove alternative interpretations of Russian history by organizations it does not control.... In recent years, Mr. Putin has shown a keen interest in shaping interpretation of Russia’s history, publishing his views in lengthy articles about the Soviet Union’s key contribution to the victory over Nazism and 'the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians.' His viewpoint includes a renunciation of the democratic steps taken in the 1990s, which included reforms, self-criticism and social and economic upheaval.... 'There’s an old, banal formula that whoever doesn’t know the past is doomed to repeat it,' [said Jan Z. Raczynski, chairman of the board of Memorial International.] “The situation of the past decade shows we are moving in that direction.... The general prosecutor said we try to portray the Soviet Union as a terrorist organization... Well, we don’t have to try. The Soviet Union was a terrorist organization. In no other country were so many citizens imprisoned under false political accusations.'"

ADDED: The formula is "banal" because it's oft-repeated. It's a repetition about repetition. Yes, but who said it first?
Variations on the repeating-history theme appear alongside debates about attribution. Irish statesman Edmund Burke is often misquoted as having said, “Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it.” Spanish philosopher George Santayana is credited with the aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” while British statesman Winston Churchill wrote, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

AND: What are we doing now that is a repetition of the past that we don't know is a repetition because we haven't learned history?

"Lower-court rulings... disregarded the broad scientific consensus that covid-19 poses a major public health threat requiring a strong emergency response..."

"... indeed, the public health emergency has only become more acute in recent weeks.... For the employer mandate, OSHA issued an emergency standard which can be implemented rapidly. For the rule involving health-care workers, [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] waived the normal period for taking public comment into consideration before issuing final regulations.... Both had good reason for acting swiftly.... The Occupational Safety and Health Act empowers OSHA to mitigate 'grave' workplace dangers through emergency measures... Career agency professionals have the expertise — and can act more quickly with more flexibility — than the legislative process allows... especially... in a health emergency.... Justices should defer to the judgment of agency professionals, which represents the unquestioned scientific consensus. Vaccines offer the best, possibly the only, way to curtail the covid-19 pandemic."

From "The Supreme Court must uphold Biden’s vaccine mandates — and fast" by Lawrence O. Gostin, professor at Georgetown University and director of the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law; Jeffrey E. Harris, emeritus professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and practicing physician at Eisner Health; and Dorit Rubinstein, law professor at University of California, Hastings College of the Law. (WaPo).

"No, this was not a conspiracy in the strictest, most intentional sense (it didn’t need to be!), but it did kill thousands of people and manipulate our politics. . . . C’mon, people, let’s not be afraid to admit this one."

Said Tyler Cowen, quoted at Instapundit.

"Ashley, who transitioned in 1960 aged 24, was a dancer in Paris, a top fashion model in London, a nightclub owner in Marbella and a Knightsbridge restaurant owner."

"Her lovers are said to have included the INXS singer Michael Hutchence, the actors Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, Polish counts and English noblemen. She was admired by Elvis Presley — 'he always sent me champagne' — and had advances from Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí. The break-up of her marriage to Captain Arthur Cameron Corbett in 1970 became a landmark case after a judge declared it could be annulled due to Ashley’s birth certificate registering her as male.... She was publicly outed as trans in the Sunday People in 1961, leading to all her bookings being cancelled overnight and people assaulting her in the street."

From "April Ashley, trans pioneer, dies at 86" (London Times).

Who was Captain Arthur Cameron Corbett? His claim to fame is merely that he got that marriage annulled. Other than that, he was some British aristocrat — 3rd Baron Rowallan. He met Ashley in 1960, the year of her transitioning, and just before the public outing, and married her in 1963. He had to know what he was doing, and when the marriage broke down, there was alimony to avoid paying.

British mumbo-jumbo from Corbett's Wikipedia page: "Dexter a salmon Proper holding in its mouth a jewelled ring Or sinister a seal Proper."

That's Corbett with his first wife. Not Ashley.

"Amazon has updated its Alexa voice assistant after it 'challenged' a 10-year-old girl to touch a coin to the prongs of a half-inserted plug."

"The suggestion came after the girl asked Alexa for a 'challenge to do.'... The girl's mother... said: 'We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier. Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one.'"

Alexa just looked on the web and found one — the "penny challenge" that had been a thing on TikTok a while back. The girl said "challenge" and the web had that as a "challenge," so....

We're hearing about this because the mother happened to be there. 

"She just wanted another one" — famous last words.

"He was raised in almost Dickensian circumstances in tiny Searchlight, Nev.: His home had no indoor plumbing, his father was an alcoholic miner who eventually died by suicide..."

"... and his mother helped the family survive by taking in laundry from local brothels.... [H]e wielded an irreverent sense of humor, but could be brusque, often not even saying goodbye to colleagues at the end of a phone call.... He deemed President George W. Bush 'a loser' while addressing a group of high school juniors in Nevada in 2005, mused about the body odor of Washington’s tourists a few years later and, when Mr. Obama first ran for president, in 2008, said the country’s first Black president could be elected because he spoke 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.'... It was Mr. Reid who saw Mr. Obama’s potential for a successful run at the White House when many Democrats were rallying behind Hillary Clinton.... [H]e sought to undermine Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy in 2012 by repeatedly, and without evidence, claiming that Mr. Romney had gone a decade without paying income tax. Mr. Reid was even more contemptuous of former President Donald J. Trump, calling him 'a racist' and 'sexual predator' who achieved prominence only because of the fortune he had inherited. Being born into wealth was, of course, alien to Mr. Reid. At the end of his career — after great financial and political success and raising five children, one of whom became an elected official in Las Vegas — he relished showing visitors his dusty hometown.... '[B]e proud of who you are, you can’t escape who you are,' Mr. Reid said in his Senate farewell speech, adding... 'Harry Reid, the guy from Searchlight.'"

From the NYT obituary for Harry Reid.

December 28, 2021

"Having the humility to acknowledge that there’s a lot that no one knows and is unknowable right now is going to be really important."

Said David O’Connor, a virologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, quoted in "The C.D.C. significantly lowers its estimate of Omicron’s prevalence nationwide" (NYT).

Sunrise — 7:29.


A dark and icy morning. Yesterday's slushy snow got trampled into thousands of footprints that hardened overnight, making the worst surface for running I've ever encountered on my beloved trail. And then my car — which had started at home — wouldn't start away from home. Fortunately, I had my Micro-Start XP-3, but unfortunately, I couldn't get the key to work in the door. It was one of those situations where you hear the voice of the Universal Father in your head and he's saying Don't force it. But eventually, gently and repeatedly sort of forcing did the trick, and we easily jumped the car with the XP-3 and got out of there.

Speaking of yesterday, yesterday afternoon we took a walk around Frautschi Point in the Lakeshore Preserve and right away we saw 2 big bald eagles swooping around in our path. They made a noise that surprised me, not loud dominant squawking but lightweight chicken-y chuckling. Then we saw other even larger birds — seemingly in a territorial conflict with the bald eagles. I tried to memorize their markings so I could research what they were. Golden eagles? Based on this, I'm guessing that they were juvenile bald eagles (that is, lacking the distinctive white head). What a loud, long, expansive show they put on for us — one of the best bird experiences I've ever had. Sorry, no video. This was very much in the moment.

"Alex Jones’ wife Erika Wulff Jones allegedly struck the far-right conspiracy theorist 'over 20 times' and threatened to hit him in the head with a stone ball, causing him to 'fear for his life'..."

"... according to police documents reviewed by The Daily Beast... According to the Travis County arrest affidavit, during an initial 911 phone call with police, Jones told an emergency operator that his wife had struck him over the head multiple times and was 'holding a polished club in her hand' and attempting to 'hit him with it.'... According to Jones, Erika had accused him of 'cheating on her,' leading to a violent altercation as the duo bathed their child.... Police located a stone, weighing approximately five pounds, in the primary bedroom... Jones told police that she never hit him with the stone, but 'threw it at his head, missing by inches.'... Jones insisted that she took down two police officers at their Austin home on Friday night after striking him '30 times,' mostly in the back of the head. 'So that’s what happens when someone has a chemical imbalance after surgery and the medication they had mixes together,' Jones said, 'and they literally go to cuckoo world, cloud cuckoo.'"

"do blurry edges make them soooooooo afraid?"

A question I wasn't asking, but I'd like to know.

"On any given afternoon, Bongino might read advertisements for survivalist food rations ('Act now, and your order will be shipped quickly and discreetly to your door in unmarked boxes') and shotguns and massage chairs and filet mignon and holsters..."

"... 'custom-molded to fit your exact firearm for a quick, smooth draw.' In between, he supplies listeners with a tight rotation of political hits—a jab at the 'pino' ('President in name only'), followed by a savaging of the press ('Don’t ever call me a journalist, that’s an insult')—interspersed with dispatches from the culture wars (a ruckus over the use of 'jedi' as an acronym for 'justice, equality, diversity, and inclusion,' which prompted Bongino to cry, 'They can’t cancel "Star Wars"!').... Bongino, like other prominent [Trump] supporters, seems to put increasing stock in what researchers refer to as 'blue lies,' the kinds of claims that pull believers together and drive skeptics away....  Bongino is also adept at the 'accusation in a mirror' approach—co-opting the language and strategies of his opponents.... Nothing, though, has proved more potent than the constant regeneration of fear.... 'These people want you dead,' he said, and offered a call to action. 'The activism has to be dialled up times ten. These people are crazy....'...  In his punditry, Bongino talks about fear all the time. 'Fear has always been the Democrats’ coin of the realm,' he told podcast listeners in June. 'How else are they going to coax you into delivering them your civil liberties and freedom? They do it through things like coronavirus.' In a mock orator’s voice, he said, 'Give up your right to assemble!'"

I don't think I'd ever noticed the term "blue lies" before. Here's an article from 2017 in Scientific American — "How the Science of 'Blue Lies' May Explain Trump’s Support/They are a very particular form of deception that can build solidarity within groups." We're told it's "a psychologist’s term for falsehoods, told on behalf of a group, that can actually strengthen bonds among the members of that group":

"Crippled by a spinal cord injury, Grandmother Bolling was confined to bed. Edith had the responsibility to wash her clothing, turn her in bed at night, and look after her 26 canaries."

"In turn, Grandmother Bolling oversaw Edith's education, teaching her how to read, write, speak a hybrid language of French and English, make dresses, and instilled in her a tendency to make quick judgments and hold strong opinions, personality traits Edith would exhibit her entire life....  When Edith was 15, her father enrolled her at Martha Washington College (a precursor of Emory and Henry College), a finishing school for girls in Abingdon, Virginia.... Edith proved to be an undisciplined, ill-prepared student. She was miserable there, complaining of the school's austerity: the food was poorly prepared, the rooms too cold, and the daily curriculum excessively rigorous, intimidating, and too strictly regimented. Edith left after only one semester. Two years later, Edith's father enrolled her in Powell's School for Girls in Richmond, Virginia.... Unfortunately for Edith, the school closed at the end of the year after the headmaster suffered an accident that cost him his leg. Concerned about the cost of Edith's education, William Bolling refused to pay for any additional schooling, choosing instead to focus on educating her three brothers. While visiting her married sister in Washington, D.C., Edith met Norman Galt (1864–1908), a prominent jeweler of Galt & Bro. The couple married on April 30, 1896... In 1903, she bore a son who lived only for a few days. The difficult birth left her unable to have more children. In January 1908, Norman Galt died unexpectedly at the age of 43. Edith hired a manager to oversee his business, paid off his debts, and with the income left to her by her late husband, toured Europe. In March 1915, the widow Galt was introduced to recently widowed U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the White House by Helen Woodrow Bones (1874–1951)... the president's first cousin....Wilson took an instant liking to Galt and proposed soon after meeting her...."

From the Wikipedia article on Edith Wilson (née Bolling, formerly Edith Bolling Galt).

Edith Wilson died 60 years ago today.

Some people say she was President of the United States!

Here's an announcement — in the NYT, October 7, 1915 — of the marriage engagement:

December 27, 2021

Finally, some snow.


Snow and a borrowed dog...

"But they all didn’t just quit their jobs. They also posted a video about their decision, some of the very moment they resigned, on the popular social media site TikTok.

"And by doing so, they joined countless others who have turned the 'Great Resignation' — the pandemic-era phenomenon of record numbers of Americans quitting their jobs, more than 4 million a month since July — into a communal online experience. The TikTok videos, often raw, sometimes profane and always emotional, show how the pandemic has exacerbated the stresses of work in America and revealed how some workers are using this moment to reevaluate what they want out of life. But why post about quitting on TikTok? And if the videos show how much these TikTokers craved something better, what actually comes next? These five TikTokers told us their stories...."

From "#IQuitMyJob These 5 TikTokers wanted more from work. So they quit — in a very public way" (WaPo).

Here's the page at TikTok collecting all the #IQuitMyJob videos.

"During the Second World War, a pigeon was cited for bravery by the U.S. Army. During a storm, the bird, known as U.S. 1169, carried a distress message..."

"... from a foundering Coast Guard vessel and alerted rescuers. Between 1943 and 1949, the Dickin Medal—a British award for animal bravery—was bestowed on thirty-two pigeons, nearly twice the number given to hero dogs."

From the book "On Animals" by Susan Orlean.

Here's the Wikipedia page for the Dickin Medal, where you can see the details of what these pigeons — and other creatures — did. And by "other creatures," I mean dogs, mostly. 18 of them. The only other creatures were 3 horses and — incredibly! — 1 cat. He was a ship's cat named Simon:

"They are really looking for a unicorn... They want someone who is going to fight — but not too hard, because they don’t want it to be ugly and bickering."

Said an unnamed former staffmember of "The View," quoted in "POLITICO Playbook: ‘The View’ struggles to find a Republican." 
At the same time, the anti-Trump conservative can’t be seen as too chummy with the other co-hosts, as the network’s market-research shows that the audience wants to see the women spar. Sources said that this has hurt the chances of ANA NAVARRO.... It doesn’t help that there’s a perception that whoever sits in the conservative host slot is on borrowed time, with prominent Republican former co-hosts like NICOLLE WALLACE, ELIZABETH HASSELBECK, ABBY HUNTSMAN and [Meghan] McCain leaving the show with claims of being bullied by their co-hosts and ABC executives on-set and off, while veterans like [Whoopi] Goldberg and [Joy] Behar have thrived. Sources said that the show was eager to recruit young libertarian KAT TIMPF, but she turned them down because of the show’s reputation for treating conservatives poorly and her contract with Fox....

How is a libertarian right for the Republican Party position? I don't watch the show, but it seems to me that the problem is they've got a panel with 3 on one side and only 1 on the other. There should be 2 to oppose the 3 — at least. Or make it 2 to 2. Have a libertarian and a conservative Republican. Why wouldn't that make a better show (unless bullying the outsider really is the narrative)?

"In Agra in Uttar Pradesh, members of right wing Hindu groups burned effigies of Santa Claus outside missionary-led schools...."

"'As December comes, the Christian missionaries become active in the name of Christmas, Santa Claus and New Year. They lure children by making Santa Claus distribute gifts to them and attract them towards Christianity,' said Ajju Chauhan regional general secretary of Bajrang Dal, one of the right wing Hindu outfits leading the protest.... 'Let only Christian celebrate Christmas,' said one of the men, in a video filmed during the disruption. 'We are against Hindu boys and girls participating in Christmas function … it hurts our sentiments. They dress up in church and everyone sings Merry Christmas. How will our religion survive?'...  A Christmas event that is held every year at Matridham Ashram in Uttar Pradesh was also targeted by a Hindu vigilante group who stood outside shouting slogans such as 'stop conversions' and 'missionary murdabad,' meaning 'death to missionaries.'"

From "Jesus statue smashed in spate of attacks on India’s Christian community/Amid growing intolerance to India’s Christian minority, several Christmas events were targeted by Hindu right wing groups" (The Guardian).

Kamala, actually.

From the transcript of Kamala Harris on "Face the Nation" yesterday:
But let's not forget our individual power to actually do something about it…. And that is again, where every individual has it within their ability and- and many may argue within their responsibility to actually take on these- these- accept the tools that are available to do something about this issue…. When we talk about the economy, the average person in America is going to measure the economy based on can they actually just afford to get through the day and through the month…. And- and Goldman Sachs just today said that actually, we know that Build Back Better will strengthen the economy. And so, I think there is without any question, room for discussion about what actually will be the impact to the economy…. But it actually makes economic sense to do that and it brings down the cost of living…. we have the ability to actually alleviate the burdens that people are carrying that make it difficult for them to get through the day or in the month…. Every- I read it every day. I read it every day, and then most days the president and I actually do it together with our IC- with the intelligence community…. I think that, you know, I actually wrote a book many years ago, and I do believe that it is important for us to have a cyber doctrine…. I mean, and I actually mean that sincerely for a number of reasons…. People are- people have a right to know and believe that their government actually sees and hears them. … And it has actually been part of my lifelong career to deal with tough issues and this is no different.

It's quite obvious that the word as she's using it has the opposite effect of its literal meaning. She must want to stress the reality and practicality of what she's saying, but it undercuts her credibility. It's the equivalent of asserting "I'm telling the truth," over and over. Who does that? Someone who's insecure about her believability. A good liar would know better. A secure truth-teller wouldn't run into the problem in the first place.

"I think of Roe v Wade as a house that’s sitting on the edge of a beach, where the water is coming under it and taking the sand out. The house is still standing there, but it is more and more in danger of collapsing in the water."

Said Sarah Weddington, back in 1998, quoted today in her obituary, "Roe v Wade lawyer Sarah Weddington dies aged 76" (London Times).

"But on closer inspection, his pictures of idealized pies, spaghetti entanglements of highways and gumball machines rimmed in blue halos required unpacking."

"A rustling of unexpected sadness occasionally crept into the paintings after that initial leaping rush of joy — an unsentimental nostalgia for a bygone era or some long lost love.... ... Mr. Thiebaud’s pictures were the opposite of mechanical-looking, their slathered surfaces as rich and thick as the icing on his painted layer cakes. This tactile luxuriousness was one of the things that separated him from classic Pop painting.... 'It has never ceased to thrill and amaze me,' he said, 'the magic of what happens when you put one bit of paint next to another. I wake up every morning and paint.... I’ll be damned but I just can’t stop.'" 

"The way C.K.’s flirtations with the offensive and the taboo work, at least historically, is by making himself a temporary stand-in for the bad guy."

"He ventriloquizes everything a pedophile might be thinking in exceptional detail, for instance. Or take the bit in Sorry about a Black woman picking out bananas....The success of such a joke depends heavily on the audience trusting that the comic beneath the 'creep' persona isn’t horrible. That by so precisely articulating such a perspective, it’s implicitly a critique. That meta layer is the safety net I’m talking about: For most of C.K.’s career, the 'real' Louis C.K.—a genuinely good guy troubled by demons but with a compassionate and decent core—has functioned as an authorizing alibi of sorts for the special’s boundary-violating experiments.... The Real Louis C.K. was the hapless, kind of dirty, but conscientious guy who bought a Girls Gone Wild DVD after his divorce but couldn’t jack off to it because he kept—as a dad—getting mad at the girls for making stupid choices. The revelations have made it harder to believe in that version of him; to a lot of his former fans, one horrifying thing about the allegations was that he turned out to be the very creep we thought he was lampooning. The joke we thought we were laughing at wasn’t a joke at all."

Writes Lili Loofbourow, in "What Louis C.K. Has Really Lost" (Slate), about Louis C.K.'s new special "Sorry" (which you can pay $25 to watch at his website). [Only $10 to watch the one special.]

This is a very well written essay, and it shows that Louis C.K. has a new foundation for humor. Loofbourow notes that before the scandal, he was having difficulty playing the part of the "loser," which had been his original comedy persona: "by no longer being an underdog, he’d lost something he needed to really make his act work. Well, he has again what he was missing then. Abjection is Louis C.K.’s medium; it suits him, and he thrives in it." 

We're seeing how he works from this new position — without the ability to retreat to the safe place of being the loser. He'd already lost loserdom before the scandal, so what has he "really lost"? He's gained! I think the headline writer didn't understand the essay... or the editorial position of Slate is that you've got to perpetually kick Louis C.K. around.

"Finally, here comes omega (ω). Everybody knows it signals the end. Although we are still near the middle of the alphabet, albeit on the downhill side, people are noticing that Greek has two 'O's."

Writes Mary Norris, in "A Linguistic Look at Omicron/What is this penchant for using Greek to designate disasters?" 
Omega means “big O.” (Get it? O-mega?) Omicron means “little O.” O-micron. The Greek micro, or “small,” has given us “microbes,” “microscopes,” and “microminis.” Mega, Greek for “big,” has come into English in “Mega Millions,” “mega-threat,” and “megalopolis.” If the repercussions from little old omicron have been so catastrophic, what are we to expect from big bad omega? 
Before panic sets in, a note on pronunciation: “small O” and “big O” refer less to the size and shape of the written letters (omega is an omicron with big feet: Ω) than to their sounds. They are vowels with short and long values. Though there is no universal agreement about it, many American classicists pronounce omicron with a short “o,” as in “om,” and omega with a long “o,” like an Irish surname: O’Mega. 

Norris links to a Mother Jones article from a few weeks ago, "I Asked Seven Classics Experts How to Say 'Omicron.' Come Down the Rabbit Hole With Me." Excerpt:

My first call was to David Sider, an American scholar with a terrific Bronx accent, in whom I found an equally frustrated ally. “You’ve called the right person!” he exclaimed. “I was driving in a car the other day, listening to the radio, and hit two different people on two different episodes say ‘ah-ma-CRON. And that’s wrong.”

“Kind of like the French president?” I asked. “Ah, Macron!

“Yes, yes, exactly,” he said. “I’ve been bothered.”

December 26, 2021

Sunrise — 7:36.


Write about anything you want in the comments.




"1. No, the Taliban did not seize $85 billion of U.S. weapons.... Note: This was the most popular article in The Fact Checker’s 14-year history."

From "The most popular fact checks of 2021" by Glenn Kessler, "The Fact Checker" in WaPo.

"She was the lead voice on 'Don’t Mess With Bill' and other songs written by Smokey Robinson, who said she 'had this little voice that was sexy to me.'"

From the NYT obituary for Wanda Young, who has died at the age of 78.
Among the other Robinson songs that featured Ms. Young’s voice were “I’ll Keep Holding On,” a 1965 release that peaked at No. 34 on the Billboard chart; “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game,” which rose to No. 13 in 1967; and “My Baby Must Be a Magician,” which hit No. 17 in 1968.

Here's the History of Rock Music in 500 Songs episode about The Marvellettes:

"These were not men who would necessarily raise a Black Power fist or quote Stokely Carmichael or Angela Davis, but were activists nonetheless, who doubled down..."

"... on the ideas of Black respectability and Black excellence as counters to the racial stereotypes that circulated widely in American media and popular culture. Cornielius himself was hypersensitive to negative racial stereotypes; in the program’s popular word-scramble segment, he wanted to make sure participants actually knew how to spell—even sharing the word beforehand—to guarantee that they wouldn’t show up on national television reinforcing ideas of Black illiteracy."

"In the past decade, millions of Pakistanis have been caught up in the religious fervor of an anti-blasphemy campaign..."

"... launched after a liberal politician named Salman Taseer was assassinated by his own bodyguard for his denunciation of the harsh legal punishment of a Christian peasant woman accused of blasphemy. The anti-blasphemy group built a cult around the bodyguard, Mumtaz Qadri. After he was hanged for murder in 2016, they declared him a martyr for Islam, built a shrine near the capital, Islamabad, and formed a new political party, Tehrik-e-Labbaik Pakistan... Labbaik’s leaders have repeatedly declared that they do not condone violence, yet they also preach that blasphemers deserve to die, and their crusade has inspired incidents of murder and arson. At a college campus in northwest Pakistan, a secular student was accused of blasphemy and beaten to death by classmates in 2017. A few days before the Sialkot attack, a mob burned down a police station in the northwest after officials refused to hand over a prisoner accused of blasphemy."

From "The mob killing of a factory manager in Pakistan comes amid surge in anti-blasphemy violence/This religious crusade is rapidly gaining popular support and could threaten the country’s stability" (WaPo). The factory manager, "preparing to repaint the walls for a visiting delegation, had taken down some religious posters that praised the prophet Muhammad and tossed them in the trash," and "several hundred workers chased him onto the factory roof and then dragged him into the yard, where they beat, stoned and kicked him to death, then set his crumpled corpse on fire."

December 25, 2021

A Christmas morning panorama.


An 7:23 a.m. — 5 minutes before the official sunrise time.

Arsenic and old wallpaper.

"For years my mother bought me perfectly nice sweaters of a kind that I never wear: sweaters with patterns, 'Cosby Show' sweaters, suburban dad sweaters."

"I felt she was attempting to dress me as a big sexless teddy bear rather than a man living in New York City and still hoping, in middle age, to attract a mate. The most memorable of these was bright red, with a gold crest on its breast, like the sigil of the kind of hoity-toity prep school I did not attend, and drooped so hugely on me I looked like a small boy dressed in his father’s clothes. My girlfriend charitably suggested that I 'loomed large' in my mother’s mind.... My friend Boyd and I have an aphorism: All mothers live in palaces built of lies. When Mom gave me a gray-and-white snowflake-pattern sweater one Christmas, I took it across the country with me to Seattle, where I staged photographs of myself wearing it with friends.... Later that afternoon, we returned the sweater to Macy’s.... A few years ago, I finally wore a sweater that Mom gave me 10 years earlier to visit her in the memory care unit at her retirement home. Although she no longer remembered the sweater, she did go out of her way to admire it, and I got to tell her that it was from her...."

1. "All mothers live in palaces built of lies" — Ironically, that's a lie that the son is telling himself. The mother in his mind lives in a palace made of lies he's telling himself about what must be in her mind. 

2. He doesn't even have his lie-palace built straight. He won't commit to whether his mother wanted him to look unlovable ("sexless") or lovable ("hoping... to attract a mate") or go too deeply into whether he's thinking of the interior of his mother's mind or his own. 

3. Maybe his mother was playfully participating in the Ugly Christmas Sweater meme and waiting for him to overcome his politeness and call her out. He's a humorist. Did he not get some/any of his humor from her? 

4. Do sons stereotype their mothers as Mothers? I won't say all sons stereotype their mothers as Mothers, but the ones who begin sentences with "All mothers..." certainly do — unless they're just kidding.

5. I learned a new word: "sigil."

"How must it feel to have your name airbrushed from the $8 billion film franchise born of your scribbling in a coffee shop, penniless, while your baby napped?"

"Or to watch the trio of child actors you chose and nurtured 20 years ago recall the stories which made them many times richer and more celebrated than their ho-hum talents deserve, yet not once uttering your name? Or have fools who run around with broomsticks up their backsides in college leagues change the name of quidditch, the sport you invented for wizards?... Just as Galileo refused to bow to the Inquisition and affirm the Earth is the centre of the universe, many women just don’t, won’t, can’t believe gender is real but sex is not...."

"In one of her first moves, Ms. Mirabella had the red walls of Vreeland’s office repainted in shades of beige — her favorite color."

"She jettisoned Elizabeth Taylor and Cher from the cover of Vogue in favor of models such as Lauren Hutton, Patti Hansen and Lisa Taylor, who wore little makeup and had natural, unfussy hairstyles. Hutton’s gaptoothed smile replaced the closemouthed gaze and white eyeliner of Vogue models of the 1960s. 'It was make-believe, the wilder shores of love,' Ms. Mirabella said of the magazine she inherited from Vreeland. 'I was a great fan of hers, and I followed her around like a bird dog. But when I took over, that wasn’t wanted anymore.' Ms. Mirabella occupied a front-row seat at the fashion shows in Paris and New York, but her sense of couture leaned more toward outfits that women could wear at work or at parties. She had little interest in passing trends. Rather than looking to Europe for fashion cues, she preferred the straightforward approach of American designers such as Bill Blass, Geoffrey Beene, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan.... 'She’s a very practical woman in her point of view, and she thinks of women in their clothes and how they’re wearing them,' Beene once said of Ms. Mirabella. 'She’s been sort of a martyr for modern women.'"

From the WaPo obituary for Grace Mirabella, who edited Vogue from 1971 to 1988. She replaced Diana Vreeland, when Vreeland was abruptly ousted, and she herself was ousted, replaced by Anna Wintour. 

It was during the Mirabella years that I read Vogue — read it because it was one of the scores of magazines that I read every month (for a job I had back then). It seemed as though fashion had come to rest in that natural, human place occupied by Lauren Hutton and Patti Hansen — the models who laughed and seemed freewheeling, not pissed off or haunted or abused and in bondage. 

In retrospect, this is too plain and ordinary to last as a fashion magazine concept:

That's Patti Hansen, who absolutely exemplified the look of that time — "pretty!" She's still pretty, at the age of 65, living with her husband, Keith Richards, in Connecticut.

"Biden says ‘I agree’ when dad drops ‘Let’s Go, Brandon’ on NORAD Santa call."

The NY Post reports: 
President Biden got a visit from a Christmas troll Friday when a father participating in the annual White House NORAD Santa-tracking call used the phrase “Let’s Go Brandon,” the slangy stand-in for “F— Joe Biden.” 
The dad, identified only as Jared from Oregon, wished the president and first lady Jill Biden a merry Christmas before adding the anti-Biden phrase at the end of his family’s portion of the call. “Merry Christmas and let’s go Brandon,” the father said as he signed off. 
“Let’s go Brandon, I agree,” Biden said without missing a beat.

Video below. Maybe Presidents shouldn't be doing these sentimental holiday shows, and obviously they're straining for good press, so they're kind of inviting trolls. You'd think the call screeners would ensure that nothing hateful or humiliating gets through. I suppose some of you roared with laughter when you saw this or cynically muttered that Biden deserved it because of whatever bad things you think he's done, but it just made me feel sorry for Biden.

If your question is whether Biden even knows what "Let’s Go Brandon" means, maybe you're the one who needs to get tested for dementia.

Are you home for Christmas? Is home where you usually live, or did you need to go home?

If you're not home for Christmas, is it because you got deprived of your way to get home — perhaps at the last minute, as thousands of flights got cancelled? There are all the people who go somewhere other than home for Christmas, perhaps to some vacation spot or maybe just to someone else's home? And then, what is home? Maybe you feel that the place where you live is not a home — in which case, a special Christmas wish to you. And maybe you feel that wherever you hang your Santa Claus hat is home — lucky you!

December 24, 2021

Christmas "Eve" sunrise at 7:17.


A silent, misty morning.

Ah! It's finally here: "Yelp Reviews of Xmas" by David Sedaris.

I heard this story read aloud when Sedaris did his show here in Madison 2 weeks ago. He said it would be in The New Yorker "next week," so I've been looking and looking. Finally! I love the whole thing, but the part I've been wanting to quote is beyond humor and startlingly dark.

Oh! The part I've been waiting to tell you about is not in the short bit that The New Yorker published. It was about abortion. It's hard to explain how a harsh view of abortion could have fit into the comical idea of Yelp reviews of Christmas, but let me try. 

The fictional Yelp reviewer criticized Christmas for causing the abortion clinic to be closed and, from there, manifested her outrageously self-centered character. She wanted the abortion for Christmas so she could — am I remembering this correctly?! — give it as a present to her ex. 

It was way over the top, to the point where it would upset pro-abortion readers, because it wasn't just the usual refraining from discussing what is happening to the child as murder. The woman reveled in murdering the child. I thought: I need to see this in print. 

From the version of the story that made it into The New Yorker, there's a 1-star review: "I like Christmas, except it has too many nuts in it and I’m allergic. There are nuts in the cookies—not all, but some—and even in the songs! I don’t think this is fair to people such as myself. Christmas needs to be more inclusive." 

"I’m glad we have Biden. I’m really, really glad. That’s because I haven’t forgotten whom and what he replaced. It’s because I remember how we started the year..."

"... with an amoral, would-be autocrat in the White House — versus how we’re finishing it. It’s because I don’t measure my presidents solely by the price of gas, the firmness of their grip on their political party or their odds of re-election. There is more to life, and to leadership, than that. Is Biden’s performance in the presidency superior to what another Democrat’s would be? I can’t say. It’s indisputably flawed.... But that doesn’t change the fact that what our country needed a little over a year ago was an end to President Donald Trump, and what Biden provided was just that.... To go by polls, Americans are judging Biden harshly, and many have soured on him.... But that doesn’t erase Biden’s fundamental decency. That doesn’t eliminate his capacity for empathy. Did his predecessor possess either? Not that I could tell. And as I try, in the spirit of the holiday season, to point you away from gloom and toward something, well, merrier...."

Frank Bruni dispenses wan Christmas cheer (in the NYT).

Readjust your expectations for Biden, and he's just fine. I note that it's a readjustment back to what he purported to be when he was running for President. I'm glad to see the bigger ideas shelved. Settle down and appreciate the good-enough.

The NYT publishes an essay by JK Rowling, "J.K. Rowling on the Magic of 'Things.'"

And here I thought she was canceled. 

I do note that there are no comments allowed over there, and I suspect that's because readers would harp on the cause for cancellation and fail to discuss the essay itself.

Which, now that I think about it, is exactly what I'm doing.

I own a cuddly tortoise sewn by my mother, which she gave me when I was 7. It has a floral shell, a red underbelly and black felt eyes. Even though I’m notoriously prone to losing things, I’ve managed to keep hold of that tortoise through sundry house moves and even changes of country. My mother died over 30 years ago, so I’ve now lived more of my life without her than with her. I find more comfort in that tortoise than I do in photographs of her, which are now so faded and dated, and emphasize how long she’s been gone. What consoles me is the permanence of the object she made — its unchanging nature, its stolid three-dimensional reality. I’d give up many of my possessions to keep that tortoise, the few exceptions being things that have their own allusive power, like my wedding ring....

She has a new book, we learn,  "The Christmas Pig" — "a story of objects lost and found, of things beloved and things unregretted."

It's the day before Christmas. Are you thinking about things — things to give and receive, to want and not want?

How powerfully do you imbue things with magic — or do you have anything going amongst your possessions that you could even vaguely term "magic"?

"A few months after Didion’s review [of Woody Allen's 'Manhattan'] appeared, the NYRB published a selection of responses from readers. These readers were not pleased."

"Randolph D. Pope of Dartmouth College, no stranger to sarcasm, congratulated Didion on providing 'a perfect example of how a mind too full with culture is unable to understand humor.' Roger Hurwitz (MIT) advised that she would 'do better to be alarmed by than morally superior to the attitudes, concerns and mores Mr. Allen’s characters reflect.' John Romano (Columbia) spent 647 words chastising her for — among other offenses — treating Allen’s characters’ brand of self-absorption as tiresome and distinctly contemporary, rather than placing them in an intellectual lineage that stretched back centuries. The NYRB also published Didion’s response to these letters. It reads, in its entirety, 'Oh, wow.'"

From "Joan Didion’s Greatest Two-Word Sentence/The power of an ice-cold, unflinching gaze" by Molly Fischer (The Cut).


The first official video of the old song — from Joni Mitchell, released yesterday.

December 23, 2021

Sunrise — 7:22, 7:35, 7:36.




Write about whatever you like.

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

Goodbye to Joan Didion.

This was a writer I truly admired, so I will give you my “Joan Didion” tag and go back and read what I’ve said about her over the years.

"Fonda kept insisting on telling people that he knew what it was like to actually be dead, in a misguided attempt to reassure George Harrison, who he wrongly believed was scared of dying..."

"... and insisted on showing them his self-inflicted bullet wounds. This did not go down well with John Lennon and George Harrison, both of whom were on acid at the time. As Lennon later said, 'We didn’t want to hear about that! We were on an acid trip and the sun was shining and the girls were dancing and the whole thing was beautiful and Sixties, and this guy – who I really didn’t know; he hadn’t made Easy Rider or anything – kept coming over, wearing shades, saying, "I know what it’s like to be dead," and we kept leaving him because he was so boring! … It was scary. You know … when you’re flying high and [whispers] "I know what it’s like to be dead, man."' Eventually they asked Fonda to get out, and the experience later inspired Lennon to write ['She Said, She Said']. Incidentally, like all the Beatles songs of that period, that was adapted for the cartoon TV series based on the group, in this case as a follow-the-bouncing-ball animation. There are few things which sum up the oddness of mid-sixties culture more vividly than the fact that there was a massively popular kids’ cartoon with a cheery singalong version of a song about a bad acid trip and knowing what it’s like to be dead."

From "Episode 139: 'Eight Miles High' by the Byrds" (on the podcast "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs"). I excerpted something about The Beatles, but the episode is ostensibly about The Byrds. That said, there's also plenty about John Coltrane and Ravi Shankar. And Sonny and Cher.

"During his COVID blather, Biden went on to claim that if he had said in November it would spread as rapidly as it has, people would have replied, 'Biden, have you been drinking?'"

"While that would be one explanation for why he slurred every third word in the speech, in fact, no one would have thought he was drinking had he said this — since that’s what everybody was saying would happen. The truth is that he and his people didn’t do anything about testing then because — well, who knows why he didn’t? We need a Bob Woodward book to explain it to us in a year’s time. For now, it’s enough to say Biden didn’t act — and right now, nationally, you cannot get your hands on a home antigen test to save your life. Go ahead. Give it a try. Go to every website in America. Here’s what you’ll see. 'Out of stock.' 'Sold out.' 'Delivery by Jan. 10.' Trust me. I spent an hour at it Monday and two hours at it Tuesday. They’re all gone. Poof. And guess what the television COVID-hysteric doctors are all blathering about? They’re all saying, 'Look, if you want to hang out with your family on Christmas, you’d better get tested first!' Oh, really? Where the hell are you supposed to get tested? I got tested Sunday. In Times Square. In the cold rain. I got there at 8:45 a.m. I was done by 10:45 a.m. When I left, the line was probably 300 people long. My two hours were going to be six hours for them. Judging from what I saw on New York streets Tuesday morning, testing lines are beginning to approach gas lines during the oil embargoes in 1973 and 1979."

Podhoretz is raving. Why can't people face what Omicron is? It's very contagious (but apparently relatively mild). Deal with it people. It's always the President's miserable fault when the President is in the party that's not your party. For Podhoretz, a Republican, Biden is an outrageous idiot. Democrats support their President, so, needing to blame people, they blame Republicans — all those Republicans who won't get vaccines and won't follow the rules. 

But it's a virus, which has no party affiliation and no capacity for good and evil. Just deal with it. Adapt to changing circumstances. One thing that would solve the problem of all these line-waiters in New York City would be to just give up your travel plans. But Christmas!!! Are you all a bunch of babies? Unfortunately, the President doesn't have the nerve to tell people to stop traveling. He's reduced to "blather" — and "total bull" — because he can't steal Christmas from the adult kiddies of America.

The tests seem like the magic answer. Free tests! The office of the President came up with the idea of a present: 500 million tests! Coming soon, in the mail! No sacrifice for you. Beneficence from above. Up on the rooftop, Santa's coming. No he's not. But you still want to believe he will, so our frail President told you he will. And now, you're so mad at him, you have a tantrum in the New York Post. Ridiculous!

"Under the cover of darkness early Thursday, authorities in Hong Kong tore down a public sculpture dedicated to the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre..."

"... accelerating a campaign to erase the crackdown from public recollection and stamp out dissent in a city that until recently was one of Asia’s freest. The 26-foot-tall artwork, known as the 'Pillar of Shame,' had stood at the University of Hong Kong for nearly a quarter-century and honored the hundreds, if not thousands, of students and others killed on June 4, 1989, when the Chinese military crushed pro-democracy protests. The sculpture, depicting naked bodies twisted together, some in mid-scream, was created by Danish artist Jens Galschiot and was one of the last remaining Tiananmen commemorations on Chinese soil. Each year on the anniversary of the massacre, students would scrub and clean the memorial.... 'The decision on the aged statue was based on external legal advice and risk assessment for the best interest of the university,' [the university] said in a statement, adding that... the institution could be in violation of colonial-era laws if the sculpture remained."

"For two years now, Aline, a 30-something graduate student in Ohio, has diligently — desperately, even — protected herself against the coronavirus."

"Vaccinated and boosted, she took a test last week ahead of holiday travel to Atlanta. She was stunned when it came back positive.... 'I feel very embarrassed and dumb,' she says, and upset that she’s causing her family stress. 'It’s eye-opening that I feel so much shame from it. I’m realizing how much judgment I was secretly harboring against people who got it before.'"

The headline seems to misstate why Aline feels shame! It's not shame over getting the disease despite following the rules. It's shame for having been so judgmental toward other people. 

Here's how I imagine her mindset. I'm not claiming accuracy, just sketching out a possible thought pattern: Because she trusted in the precautions she devotedly took, she developed the idea that those who got the disease must not have done their part to avoid it. They were the disgusting others — the deplorables. Looking down on those people was part of believing in the worth of her efforts and the safety she was acquiring for herself, but now that she's one of the people she used to find disgusting, her options are to find herself disgusting or to realize she was wrong when she thought they were disgusting. 

There's shame involved either way. Shame over being ill or shame over having thought ill of her fellow human beings. 

Like the headline, the article — which begins with the Aline anecdote — assumes the shame is the first kind, shame about being ill. Don't be embarrassed if you catch the disease! Read the article if you want to hear expert advice on dealing with that kind of shame. "Practice self-compassion," etc.

But what about feeling shame for the way you thought about other people who were ill? Maybe you should feel ashamed! There's no advice in the article about that kind of shame, which Aline says she feels. I'll just say: Practice compassion toward others. You can start before you get the disease.

December 22, 2021

“With COVID-19 cases surging across the country, the Supreme Court fast-tracked two disputes over the Biden administration’s efforts to expand vaccinations.”

"In an unusual move, the justices announced on Wednesday night that they will hear oral arguments on Jan. 7 on two federal policies: a vaccine-or-test mandate for workers at large employers, and a vaccine mandate for health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding. The cases came to the court last week on an emergency basis, and the formal question in both disputes is whether the government should be allowed to enforce the policies while litigation challenging them continues. But the justices’ views on whether to grant emergency relief will likely be influenced by their views on the merits of the underlying challenges themselves."

SCOTUSblog reports.

"A Madagascan minister swam 12 hours to the shore of the island after a helicopter that was taking him to the site of a shipwreck off the island’s northeast coast crashed..."

ADDED: Perhaps there are many examples of human beings swimming that long and longer — even much longer — but never finding land. We never learn of their heroic effort. If you are stranded miles out at sea, and you don't drown, all you can do is stay in one place or move. You might swim until you die of thirst. You can rest and even sleep while floating, but why wouldn't you continue swimming whenever you could, especially if you knew the direction to find land? I think the main answer depends on whether you believe people know that you are stranded and are searching. 

ALSO: If you found yourself stranded at sea and you didn't know which way to swim, what could you do to choose a direction?
Look at the water around you and as far as you can see, if there is lighter colored water that indicates shallow water and land is usually right by shallow water. Wave patterns can also be observed, waves refract as they approach land. Lastly, birds! If you see many birds together flying towards a certain direction, then that can be your key back to land!

How far away can you see? When you are at sea level, you can see other things at sea level only up to a distance of 2.9 miles (because of the curvature of the earth). So the answer would depend on the elevation of the land.