September 24, 2021

"One night I was at party and was introduced to a woman named Reparata, so..."

"... I mentioned this record and group and she said, 'Yeah; that was me. I'm Reparata.' I thought I'd smoked something funny at the party, but she and I ended up talking about music and it was quite apparent she indeed was Reparata! She was very cool."

From the comments at...


Here's the Wikipedia page for Reparata and the Delrons. "Whenever a Teenager Cries" came out in 1965, and I don't know why it's not familiar to me, since I listened to everything on the radio in the actual year 1965 and have spent many hours listening to the 60s satellite radio channel in the last 20 years. 

I stumbled into that song as I was researching the great song from 1960, "Angel Baby," originally by Rosie and the Originals. Looking that up on Spotify, I saw there was a version by Reparata and the Delrons. With a name like that, I thought they were some sort of tribute to or spoof of girl groups, maybe from the 1970s. But no, they were a real 60s group:

That's Mary "Reparata" Aiese on the right.

They asked Mary Aiese to choose a stage name to make the group name more interesting and marketable. She chose Reparata, her confirmation name, which she had taken from one of her favorite teachers at Good Shepherd Catholic grammar school.
Reparata sounded vaguely punk to me, but in fact, it is a saint's name

"It's like a prison being an adult."

Here is the most brilliant child tantrum I have ever witnessed. 

This little girl is crying because she is realizing, deeply, that childhood will end, that she can only live on to become an adult, and from what she can tell, it's no good being an adult. It's like a prison! 

"I don't even want to be a teenager!... I just want to be a kid!" 

If you wanted to search for Plato with a 7-year old, what would you do?

I'm reading "Searching for Plato With My 7-Year-Old" by Thomas Chatterton Williams — in the NYT — and I see from the photo and the subheadline that he's not doing what I would do. 

The subheadline is: "In Athens with his daughter, Thomas Chatterton Williams could finally pay homage in person to the classical education his own father gave him." 

I wouldn't take a 7-year-old halfway around the world, spending time in airplanes, hotels, restaurants, and ruins and walking long distances through confusing, complicated environments. What does that have to do with philosophy? (I ask, Socratically). Even for an adult, but especially for a little child, the scale is all wrong.

I would take the little child on child-scale walks on the sidewalks of our town and in the nearby woods, and I would gently and subtly offer simple philosophical questions of the sort that would occur to a child. What is the best life for a child? And I would listen to the child's answers and form new questions, challenging myself to do what is best for the child.

People are telling Scott Adams to "kill his cat."

September 23, 2021

At Kurt's Kaffe...


... you can write about anything you want in the comments.

I took that photo of my favorite Indianapolis mural when I was in town last weekend.

"Franzen’s position is a common one among liberal intellectuals: He concedes the threat to free speech norms on the left is real, but..."

".... insists it is too insignificant to merit criticism....  Franzen’s position, a common one on the left, implicitly concedes that there could be a point at which the problem grows to a level that it does merit criticism... Franzen takes the clarifying step of making that level explicit: when 'people start being sent off to Lubyanka' — the headquarters of the Soviet secret police — 'for having said the wrong thing to the wrong person.' I would suggest that, once we have gotten to, or anywhere near, the point at which stray comments result in abduction, torture and execution, it will be a bit late to speak out. Yet that is apparently the point at which Franzen is willing to start complaining publicly... Franzen’s mind seems to have particular difficulty calibrating and ordering multiple problems; the same befuddlement once inspired him to argue that environmentalists should focus on saving birds because mitigating climate change is hopeless."

Franzen refused to sign a letter. I'm not going to accept Chait's characterization of why he refused, because I can see that Chait is misinterpreting the Lubyanka statement, which I'd read as hyperbole. People who say "It's not the end of the world" don't mean it's not worth worrying about if it's not the actual end of the world. 

And I suspect Franzen doesn't like signing his name to other people's writing. He seems to prefer to craft his own very particular statements. I've read a couple books of his essays, including one where he takes on the critics of his remarks about birds and climate change, and I don't think he would appreciate Chait's paraphrase — befuddlementization — of those remarks. 

I won't purport to paraphrase it myself, but here's what Franzen wrote in The New Yorker in 2019, "What If We Stopped Pretending?/The climate apocalypse is coming. To prepare for it, we need to admit that we can’t prevent it." It begins:

"What do you do when a big swath of Americans believe things that are demonstrably false...?"

"Are we a nation of lunatics...?... We’re told to trust the voters because ordinary folk know what’s what, but how can you trust the voters if so many of them think their paranoid delusions are reality?... My friend Alan, a Marxist historian... compares our present moment to the world described by Johan Huizinga in The Waning of the Middle Ages. As feudalism began to break up in the 1300s and 1400s... [p]essimism, fear, and a sense of cultural exhaustion prevailed.... Maybe, Alan suggested... [w]hites and Christians feel their cultural preeminence slipping away, and they just can’t handle it, especially if superpatriotism, racism, and male supremacy were all they had to begin with. Well, maybe. It would be better for Alan’s theory if present-day irrationalists were, like the members of other right-wing movements, disproportionately young white men enraged by their downward mobility and lack of girlfriends. But according to The New York Times, QAnon appeals to a much broader swath—'health-conscious yoga moms,' for example.... It’s as if the Internet is bringing together all existing forms of credulousness: Covid denialism, Trumpism, health nuttery, hyperlibertarianism, New Age woo-woo, fundamentalist Christianity, and an unhealthy fixation on exaggerated or imaginary dangers to children."

"Anti-vaxxers in the Taconics-Berkshires region include local organic farmers, members of homeschooling and alternative-education communities, anti-war hippies...."

"The anti-vax faction here has its roots in the left-libertarian politics of the Back to the Land movement, which flooded the area with the disaffected urban upper-middle class in the 1970s and ’80s. That influx of hippies and students, most of whom came from New York City, brought with it a political belief in naturopathy and a mistrust of institutional authority.... Enid Futterman, a local journalist and Bernie Sanders supporter... told me she finds the idea that COVID is caused by 5G cellphone towers more believable than person-to-person transmission. 'I’ve read both sides, and that’s what makes sense,' Futterman said.... Traditional left-wing concerns about corporate influence mesh well with anti-vax fears that the pharmaceutical industry pushed federal regulatory agencies to sign off on the COVID-19 vaccines before they were truly ready. Skepticism about the safety of genetically modified food can easily blend into worries about mRNA vaccines....  Futterman told me she sees no contradiction between her views on vaccines and public health and her lefty Democrat political positions, citing the 'open-minded' approach of liberalism... 'I do see a disconnect between me and a lot of Democrats, which is sort of shocking, but true.'"

I am person, hear me roar make a sound associated with a non-human animal..

"Now a team of scientists in New York say they have pinpointed the genetic mutation that may have erased our tails."

"When the scientists made this genetic tweak in mice, the animals didn’t grow tails, according to a new study that was posted online last week... Darwin shocked his Victorian audiences by claiming that we descended from primates with tails..... 'This question — where’s my tail? — has been in my head since I was a kid,' said Bo Xia, a graduate student in stem cell biology at N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine. A bad Uber ride in 2019, in which Mr. Xia injured his coccyx, brought it back to his mind with fresh urgency. 'It took me a year to recover, and that really stimulated me to think about the tailbone,' he said.... [H]e compared the DNA of six species of tail-less apes to nine species of tailed monkeys. Eventually, he discovered a mutation shared by apes and humans — but missing in monkeys — in a gene called TBXT.... The mutation that Mr. Xia discovered had not been observed before. It consisted of 300 genetic letters in the middle of the TBXT gene.... Even if geneticists are beginning to explain how our tail disappeared, the question of why still baffles scientists. The first apes were bigger than monkeys, and their increased size would have made it easier for them to fall off branches... It’s hard to explain why apes without tails to help them balance wouldn’t have suffered a significant evolutionary disadvantage.... 'That’s the next outstanding question: What on earth would the advantage be?'"

ADDED: I continued reading the article blogged in the previous post and I ran into this, which I want to put here:
I thought, early on, I would’ve loved to have been a singer. But I realized that, at a certain point, the audience makes a pact. I remember this guy, his name was George Kirby, I saw him on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” He did the greatest impersonations of everybody. And one week, on “Ed Sullivan,” he just was going legit. He was just going to sincerely sing. And I’m going, “Is there a sandbag that drops on him at one point? You’re breaking your contract with us.” Lorne Michaels has this thing where he says, “You go to the zoo and you see the monkeys and they have a right to be reflective, but if they’re not swinging by their tails and jumping around, we go, ‘I’ll come back later.’ Marty, you’re one of the monkeys.”

"During the fight—which Short notes was about nothing at all, as most relationship squabbles are—Nancy did something unexpected."

"She asked to speak with Ed [Grimley] rather than with Martin. Short immediately transformed into his alter ego. When Nancy asked 'Ed' what her boyfriend’s problem was, he suggested that Martin was 'jealous of your beauty and wisdom and saddened by his own tragic limitations.' He then added, 'Although his endowment has certainly been blessed by the Lord.' Nancy thanked Ed and told him to go away. Argument over."

ADDED: Something I learned reading that interview: This is the first appearance of Ed Grimley:

"Is a snake the Devil?"

The Biden administration's dubious effort to solve the "Havana Syndrome" mystery.

Read this NBC News article about the resignation of the person the State Department put in charge. Pamela Spratlen was a retired ambassador to Uzbekistan: Why was she chosen in the first place? 
At the time, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said she would “help us make strides to address this issue wherever it affects Department personnel and their families.” 
What I'm thinking now, after reading the whole article, is that "to address the issue" did not mean to discover the cause of the syndrome, but to get those affected by it to accept that they would never receive an answer.  Those people "lost... confidence" in her:
Diplomats suffering from Havana Syndrome  this month in a tense phone call with Blinken and Spratlen over continuing stigma and disbelief within the U.S. government about their injuries, more than four years after the incidents began in Cuba.... On the call, Spratlen responded to a question about an FBI study that found no evidence of an attack and determined that the staffers were most likely to be suffering from mass psychogenic illness, or mass hysteria. 
Spratlen responded by saying she had read the study but did not indicate that she agreed or disagreed with its findings — a response that sufferers on the call later described as “invalidating.”

That sounds like her role was to get them to accept their predicament. I suspect that she was appointed to deliver that message, and the "sufferers" don't like it. Here, read her Wikipedia page. What relevant expertise does she have... other than as an appropriate person to inspire quiet acceptance of the FBI study?

Marc Polymeropoulos, a former senior CIA officer who says he was hit by Havana Syndrome in Russia in 2017, wrote Tuesday on Twitter that declining to rule out the “mass hysteria” theory was “insulting to victims and automatically disqualifying” from leading the task force.

At least tell us we're not crazy. 

ADDED: Here's the Polymeropoulos tweet:

September 22, 2021

The western view at 6:52 a.m.


Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"As 'Norwegian Wood' played faintly on a crappy stereo, Courtney led me down a short hallway to the bedroom."

"I got to the door and opened it to find Kurt lying in a little bed in a little room, his back against the wall, facing the doorway, his shocking blue eyes gazing at me through the subdued lighting. His bare feet stuck out past the bedsheets, and his toenails were painted a rosy hue. The smell of jasmine flowers wafted through the screen of the window above his head. To this day, whenever I smell jasmine I’m transported to that moment. 'Hi,' he said, and two things struck me instantly. The first was: oh, wow, I know this guy. He wasn’t some sort of rock-and-roll space alien—he was actually like a lot of the stoners I went to high school with. (I was kind of a stoner in high school myself.)... I asked Kurt what he was like as a kid, and he said something about being small for his age. I stood up, unfurled my wiry five-foot-six-inch frame, and said, in a theatrically manly voice, 'I don’t know what you’re talking about!' We exchanged smiles, and our bond grew from there. Somehow I got to talking about Arlo Guthrie’s 'The Motorcycle Song' and how I’d play it on the family record player and run around the house pretending I was a motorcycle. And Kurt said, 'I did that, too!'"

"Biden slips into political quicksand amid Haitian migrant buildup."

A clickbait headline at Politico. 

From the article: 
The White House condemned footage of Border Patrol agents on horseback appearing to use reins to deter Haitian migrants, which drew blowback from the agents themselves. 
In sharply visceral terms, the national Border Patrol union blasted the White House on Tuesday, characterizing it as inept for failing to have a plan in place to deal with the influx of some 15,000 migrants that left agents overwhelmed.... 
“We’re outnumbered by 200 to one. We’re put into a situation where we’re in between people — there’s a propensity for violence when there’s large crowds. We’re expected to control that,” [Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council] said. “We don’t strike anybody. We used the tactic we were trained with — and the White House vilified us.”

"There is a whole vein of British music that usually gets called 'music hall' when bad critics talk about it..."

"... even though it owes nothing to the music that was actually performed in actual music halls. But what it does owe a great deal to is the work of Anthony Newley. One can draw a direct line from him through Davy Jones of the Monkees, Bowie, Syd Barrett, Ray Davies, Ian Dury, Blur… even a performer like John Lydon, someone who would seem worlds away from Newley’s showbiz sheen, has far more of his influence in his vocal inflections than most would acknowledge. Every time you hear a singer referred to as 'quintessentially British,' you’re probably hearing someone who is either imitating Newley, or imitating someone who was imitating Newley."

From a bonus episode of "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs," "'Strawberry Fair' by Anthony Newley."

This was a surprisingly interesting episode. It just came up in the order of things, and I was in no mood to get interested in Anthony Newley, but I let it run. Here's an old video I dug up on my own in which he and Joan Rivers are discussing whether it's good to be a rock star:

"In theory — or in a kindlier, alternative universe — exercise would aid substantially in weight loss."

Writes Gretchen Reynolds in "Your Workout Burns Fewer Calories Than You Think/Our bodies compensate for at least a quarter of the calories we expend during exercise, undermining our best efforts to lose weight by working out" (NYT).

Only someone who has lived a most privileged life could imagine that the world would be kinder if human bodies shed weight rapidly when working hard. It is kindly of the universe to have created bodies that compensate — conserve energy — when we exercise. 

In Reynolds's imagined kindly universe, all the many human beings — throughout history and prehistory — who have struggled to find sufficient food would have had a harder time staying alive and putting strong effort into hunting, gathering, farming, and food storage and preparation. She's simply forgotten about these people and is thinking only of us privileged people of today who have all the food we want and put so little energy into acquiring it that we force ourselves into exercise programs solely to burn off the extra fat we no longer see as protection from starvation. 

Ironically, if Reynolds's kindlier universe had existed all along, it's likely that someone —ages ago — would have died and ended the line of ancestry that resulted in her — and all of our — existence. 

Let us honor the universe that has given us bodies with this wonderful capacity to compensate when we increase our energy consumption. And if we feel inclined to bemoan the extra fat we carry around and can't easily exercise off, let us recognize the immense privilege that fat represents. We live in luxury. 

The statues that were torn down last summer — "Forward" and Hans Christian Heg — were restored to the Wisconsin state capitol square yesterday.

 From the Wisconsin State Journal: 

[O]n June 23, 2020, as protesters battered the “Forward” statue. A deep boom followed as the roughly one-ton bronze piece fell to the ground. Hundreds cheered. Shortly after, protesters tore down the Heg statue....
The night of unrest was prompted by the arrest of a local Black activist earlier that day after he walked into a restaurant carrying a baseball bat and swore at customers through a bullhorn.... 
The “Forward” statue, a replica of the original that is stored in the state archives, suffered abrasion damage from being pulled through the street, and some of the figure’s fingers broke off when the statue initially fell, [bronze fabricator Jay Jurma] said. The replica was also covered in red paint, a challenge to remove. 
The Heg statue was “far more severely damaged,” Jurma said. When protesters pulled it down, one of the legs detached from the rest of the statue, the base became twisted and the whole statue became crooked, as if Heg were leaning forward. At some point the statue’s head came off. What remained of the statue was filled with mud from Lake Monona. 

I did not realize the statues were about to be reinstalled. I'd been seeing the empty plinths, covered in plywood, for so long and felt outraged that the restoration had not yet occurred. Why wasn't it more of a political issue? What an awful sight — that blank plywood. What dismal symbolism.

That said, I do understand the protest. In that video and elsewhere, there are expressions of the idea that the protesters were ill-informed about the meaning of the statues and therefore made a mistake in targeting them. Quite aside from whether it's bad to destroy art and to damage public property, the protesters picked the wrong statues because Hans Christian Heg fought and gave his life for the abolitionist cause and "Forward" symbolizes the state's progressive values.

But the protesters had a theory of systemic racism, so the outward appearance of progressivism is part of the problem. To tear down the statues expresses outrage at the veneer of enlightenment that disguises and therefore facilitates the underlying evil. 

September 21, 2021

Heavy cloudscape at 6:46 a.m.



"For many years, Yusuf Islam has been pretending he didn’t say the things he said in 1989, when he enthusiastically supported the Iranian terrorist edict against me and others."

"However, his words are on the record, in print interviews and on television programs. … I’m afraid Cat Stevens got off the peace train a long time ago.”:

Fishman, who is a culture writer, and who clearly wants to be able to indulge himself in the pleasures of listening to the wonderful old Cat Stevens recordings, goes on to say:

"... I’ve got a calling in life. And that is to inspire Americans to venture beyond Orlando. The practical goal is to get people who have been to Disney World four or five times to try Portugal. It won’t bite you...."

"I make dad jokes, and I’m a sucker for alliteration. I think people want to be put at ease. Like, it’s O.K. to be a little dorky. It’s O.K. to laugh in a museum. You can be looking at the 'PietĂ ' and you can still laugh.... For a lot of people, their default is, 'O.K., I want to drink, and my favorite drink is this Martini.' Well, you’ve got to get away from that when you’re travelling, O.K.? The question is not, Where can I get my drink? but, What do local people drink here?... When I’m in Greece, I go for a glass of ouzo. I never come home after a long day of work in Seattle and think, I’d like a nice cloudy glass of ouzo. That’s almost ridiculous.... When I’m in Belgium, I like a milkshakey, rich, monk-made beer. When I’m in Prague, I like a nice refreshing Pilsner. When I go to Tuscany, it’s a full-bodied glass of vino rosso. I don’t think I’ve ever made a pot of tea here in my house. It makes no sense to me. But when I’m in England, a spot of tea after a nice day of sightseeing feels just right. When I’m in Scotland, I have a little shot of whisky each night. This is a very beverage-forward world philosophy."

He's saying to timid Americans that they can be "cultural chameleons," and what does it really matter if they blend in from the point of view of the people of the traveled-to environment? They're getting tipsy — getting woozy — on the local beverage and with the encouragement of the ultra-accessible travel writer, their drink is a magic potion. Disney serves up the magic in Florida, but you can — you really should — go to Europe and drink your mind into a magical state....


What's the difference really — where you go or what you do to manipulate your mind? You could stream a Disney movie right there on this screen — why not that one in the clip? It's set in Scotland. Sip a glass of Scotch and travel the glens and moorlands of your mind.

"My teachers were always, like, ‘Who’s going to wear this? Who’s your customer?’ And I would say, ‘I hope I don’t know who my customer is, because they shouldn’t exist yet.'..."

"Reed describes himself as gender fluid: 'Not bang-smack in the middle of male and female, but fluid—literally anywhere on the pendulum.' Though Reed had been calling himself gay since he was nine, he began to struggle with the identity in London: 'I didn’t feel like I was a gay man. I didn’t feel like my gender fit. I didn’t feel represented by it.' For the first time, he had friends who were transgender or pansexual. 'I started meeting all these people that felt so confident expressing themselves in different ways,' he said. 'That’s when I came into the idea that being gender fluid suited me.' He adopted 'they/them' pronouns, though he was flexible. 'If I was doing stuff in Russia, it would be "she,"' Reed told me. 'If I was doing things in Latin America, it would be "he." And in very woke America and England it would always be
"they."' Embracing gender fluidity as an identity allowed Reed to preserve indeterminacy while also rejecting stereotypical categories of masculinity and femininity as they pertain to power and beauty....  Earlier this year, Reed returned to going by 'he/him.' He had grown concerned that the concept of gender fluidity, rather than being a liberation, might be its own limiting categorization.... Switching back to masculine pronouns was occasionally fraught; Reed discovered that some people were more certain about how he should be referred to than he was. But he held firm: 'I was, like, "I don’t owe anyone fucking anything—I’m just me."'"

ADDED: Notice the idea that the fluid gender flowed differently within different human cultures — Russian, Latin American, and Woke America. That makes sense. 

Gender doesn't exist within the individual alone: It's a relationship you have with the world around you. It's not possible to feel you are male or female without examples out there of other human animals expressing themselves in ways they are calling male and female, and the humans do that differently in different places, at least as Reed experienced it. 

Of course, he is also a participant in commerce, and in the commerce of fashion, the designer is integral the sales pitch, and it's savvy to vary the pitch for the customer... even when you're saying enigmatic things like My customer shouldn’t exist yet

Shouldn't! That's funny. Absurd authoritarianism.

"Just hours after the Spanish island of La Palma rumbled and the volcano erupted, a theory about its wider repercussions began to gain strength, again."

"And despite the fact that the authorities, professionals, the Instituto VulcanolĂłgico de Canarias and geologists from the National Geographical Institute deny it, the aftershocks of these claims continue to be felt.... According to the theory, if the island were to split in two, it would create a wall of water that would reach the coast of Portugal and southwestern Spain, which both lie to the north east. The waves could be up to 25 meters high, and would even cause damage to the south of England further north and then to the west they would reach the North American coast, as well as 'destroy the West African coast with waves of up to 100 meters,' according to the research."

"The plumber placed the camcorder he used to record the beating up for auction last July for $225,000."

"Though it is unclear if it ever sold, [George] Holliday said that he never profited from the video...."

Have you been following the news? They say an Indiana man kept calling 911 to say that he is tired.

Are you tired? 

"This T-shirt has a straightforward message: 'i put ketchup on my ketchup.'"

"Now, that’s the statement of somebody who is seriously in love with ketchup. It kind of teases those Americans who put ketchup on everything, but I find it interesting that one of the companies that distribute these shirts is none other than Heinz. A little self-deprecatory humor going on here, but you can’t help feeling the American spirit in it, the optimistic, cheerful lack of introspection that says, 'Who cares about being sophisticated! I’m gonna do what I want!'"

I appreciate Murakami's appreciation of Americans, and I just used the rhetorical device the T-shirt uses. It's something I talked about before, back in 2019, prompted by a quote from Walt Whitman: "I live here in a ruin of debris—a ruin of ruins." 

I blogged that because I'd recently seen the idea of a cult following with a cult following:
This could be the kind of joke I've seen many times over the years. I remember hearing it long ago when some character on TV (I think it was Gidget's unattractive female friend [Larue]) said she was so excited her "goosebumps have goosebumps." 

That made a big impression on me when I was a teenager — "My goosebumps have goosebumps." Even at the time, I think, I wondered Is this a good template for humor or is it too dumb? 

One answer is Who cares about being sophisticated! I’m gonna do what I want!

September 20, 2021

A walk around Lockerbie Square.

I'm back home now, but I was in Indianapolis for a few days. Some photos from the Lockerbie Square Historic District. The last picture is the home of the "Hoosier Poet" James Whitcomb Riley (which got me to recite "Little Orphant Annie," something I've known by heart for more than 60 years):






"In his later years, however, he spoke and wrote at length not only about his belief in God but also, with more reluctance, about his opposition to abortion."

"('I don’t like saying it because it’s unpopular,' he said on Dennis Miller’s radio program.)... His comedy was remarkably free of malice, and in recent years it was marked by startling displays of mercy and humility.... By the end of his life, Mr. Macdonald seemed to have abandoned even his well-known animus against O.J. Simpson. 'All he’s guilty of to me,' he said on a Comedy Central program in 2019, was of being 'the greatest rusher in the history of the N.F.L. Maybe I was the greatest rusher — to judgment.'... Perhaps the most obviously Christian element of Mr. Macdonald’s legacy was his quiet acceptance of what we now know were nine years of cancer, from which he died without acknowledging his illness in public.... Unlike secular ethical systems — stoicism, for example — Christianity almost uniquely invites its adherents to find value in suffering because it allows us to unite ourselves with Christ in his Crucifixion.... In the early centuries of the church, Christians were mocked by their pagan fellow citizens for a kind of blithe silliness that reminded them of drunkards. Even in his final years of pain, Mr. Macdonald, too, exhibited an almost Falstaffian joie de vivre. 'At times, the joy that life attacks me with is unbearable and leads to gasping hysterical laughter,' he told his Twitter followers in 2018. 'How could a man be a cynic? It is a sin.'"

From "Norm Macdonald’s Comedy Was Quite Christian" by Matthew Walther (NYT).

"Little People, Big Dreams is series of illustrated books for kids of five and over that tells the life stories of what it considers history’s admirable men and women..."

"... Darwin, Mary Shelley, Marie Curie, Malala, Elton John, RuPaul… The books imagine what these high-achieving adults were like as children: bright-eyed and bravely refusing to be cowed. The back of each book explains the conceit: 'All of [these people] achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.'... It’s just plain untrue to say that the men and women of history started out by fantasising about some great achievement. Marie Curie didn’t spend her time hankering for a Nobel Prize, she just got on with studying the science. In no possible world was John Lennon 'the boy from Liverpool who dreamed of peace.' Lennon as a child, in his own words, ‘did my best to disrupt every friend’s home.' What unites great men and women isn’t a capacity to dream big but a love of what they do and a capacity for sheer graft.... [There's a] weird 21st-century idea that childish things are especially virtuous, and that it’s noble, not deluded, to dream of greatness...."

From "Is it cruel to crush your child’s dreams?" Mary Wakefield (The Spectator).

"A woman who speaks 'perfect English' has been found on a rock in the sea off a Croatian island but is unable to say who she is or how she got there."

"The woman, thought to be in her sixties, was covered in cuts and bruises when she was spotted by a fisherman on the craggy outcrop on the isle of Krk. She was on her own crying.... Officials said she had no passport, papers or phone....  A resident who lives near by [said]: 'It’s weird that she was in the area at all. It is an extremely inaccessible part of the bay with terribly sharp rocks — literally razors that cut the rubber on your shoes. There is no life or animals except maybe wild boars or bears which know how to swim here in search of food, but this is a rarity because there is no food, nothing. A woman that age certainly could not swim that distance, it needs exceptional strength.'"

"A man in his 50s with red hair and a beard allegedly approached another man to ask him if he wanted to help him 'take people.'"

"The man called the Kalispell Police Department to report the redhead who didn’t give any other specifics. A very intoxicated man seen lying on the ground reportedly turned down a bartender’s offer to call him a cab after they closed up for the night. The man did not want help from law enforcement either.... A white car containing a dog had reportedly been parked near garbage cans for two days and someone claimed they didn’t see the dog let out once.... Someone asked officers to check on the welfare of a teenage hitchhiker they picked up on the bypass and dropped off at a bike path. They said he was on a skateboard and was trying to get to Lakeside. Officers made contact with the skateboarder who was OK."
I don't know. There doesn't seem to be much news this morning. I'm reading The Daily Interlake police report and feeling vaguely encouraged.

"The Indictment of Hillary Clinton's Lawyer is an Indictment of the Russiagate Wing of U.S. Media."

 Writes Glenn Greenwald (at Substack).

The FBI... quickly concluded that there was no evidentiary basis to believe any of it.... The central role played by the U.S. media in perpetuating this scam on the public — all with the goal of manipulating the election outcome — is hard to overstate....

September 19, 2021

At the Confabulation Café...

... have a seat and talk all night.

The notion that it's an unfair burden on the black students of Madison to attend a school with the name Madison on it.

One of our high schools here in Madison is called James Madison Memorial High School, and, because Madison owned slaves, the School Board set up a committee to change that name — the name of the school not the name of the city. 

Now, the Wisconsin State Journal reports on the 4 finalists in the naming process. Those behind the petition to change the name were pushing for Vel Phillips Memorial High School. Vel Phillips, a black woman, was successful in Wisconsin politics. But Vel Phillips Memorial High School is listed 3rd in the committee's ranking.

In first place is Bruce Dahmen Memorial High School. Who was Bruce Dahmen? He's a white man, so you might think that would exclude him. But he was the school's principal from 2004 until his death in 2014. I suppose we'll need to hear all about this man's character and reputation, including from those who are pumping for Vel Phillips. 

In second place is Memorial High School. Of all the effrontery! Just not honoring anyone at all! I like that solution. I've always heard the school called Memorial High School, and the other high schools here have neutral names — West High School and East High School. Memorial High School solves the stated problem — eliminating the recognition of James Madison. 

A physician in Texas has violated the new abortion law and he wants his action to be public knowledge.

Alan Braid explains why in The Washington Post:
Newly graduated from the University of Texas medical school, I began my obstetrics and gynecology residency at a San Antonio hospital on July 1, 1972.... At the hospital that year, I saw three teenagers die from illegal abortions. One I will never forget. When she came into the ER, her vaginal cavity was packed with rags. She died a few days later from massive organ failure, caused by a septic infection....

"The painted zebra rug needs to stay - It really ties the room together."

Says a commenter — referencing "The Big Lebowski" — at "What a Spectacularly Decrepit Greenwich Village Apartment" — a New York Magazine piece about "a totally decrepit one-bedroom, for an asking price of $685,000, on West 11th Street... a gut-reno kind of place."

I say buy it and live in it just how it is. Cherish it.

What if they gave a riot and nobody came?

I'm seeing this in the NYT:
Fewer than 100 right-wing demonstrators, sharply outnumbered by an overwhelming police presence and even by reporters, gathered at the foot of the Capitol on Saturday to denounce what they called the mistreatment of “political prisoners” who had stormed the building on Jan. 6.
It was, we're told, "peaceful." Maybe it wouldn't have been so small and so peaceful if only the government hadn't prepared so well:
Where only movable metal barriers stood between a mob and the Capitol on Jan. 6, layers of newly erected fence and dump trucks lined end to end guarded the building. Mounted police, absent eight months ago, now stood at the ready. Riot shields were stacked at Capitol entrances, and law enforcement from the capital region, including the Virginia State Police and the police departments for Fairfax County in Virginia and Prince George’s County in Maryland, arrived with armored cars. One hundred National Guard troops from the District of Columbia were also on alert. 

Was that ridiculous or a demonstration of why they say "If you want peace, prepare for war." 

My post title is a variation on another old saying: "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" 

I went down a rathole looking for the source of that saying, which I just remember from common speech in the late 60s/early 70s. I won't bore you with the arguments that it originated with Allen Ginsberg, Bertolt Brecht, or Carl Sandburg. I'll just say that the attribution to Brecht is the most scurrilous — written in German, mistranslated. And the Sandburg reference is the oldest, though not verbatim: "Sometime they'll give a war and nobody will come."

"It is almost as if President Franklin D. Roosevelt had stuffed his entire New Deal into one piece of legislation, or if President Lyndon B. Johnson had done the same with his Great Society, instead of pushing through individual components over several years."

Writes Jim Tankersley in "Biden’s Entire Presidential Agenda Rests on Expansive Spending Bill/A plan for the economy, education, immigration, climate and more binds disparate Democratic lawmakers, but the proposal risks sinking under its own weight" (NYT). 
If Mr. Biden’s party cannot find consensus on those issues and the bill dies, the president will have little immediate recourse to advance almost any of those priorities.... Republicans say the breadth of the bill shows that Democrats are trying to drastically shift national policy without full debate on individual proposals.... 
Ted Kaufman, a longtime aide to Mr. Biden who helped lead his presidential transition team, said the core of the bill went back much further: to a set of newsprint brochures that campaign volunteers delivered across Delaware in 1972, when Mr. Biden won an upset victory for a Senate seat.... 
Margie Omero, a principal at the Democratic polling firm GBAO, which has polled on the bill for progressive groups, said the ambition of the package was a selling point that Democrats should press as a contrast with Republicans in midterm elections. “People feel like the country is going through a lot of crises, and that we need to take action,” she said....

You know the old saying: Do something, everything. Including whatever was in those 1972 Delaware newsprint brochures. Come on, man! Biden's waited half a century to do whatever it was he claimed he wanted to do when he was 30. We've got to just do it in one fell swoop or none of it will ever get done. It's all or nothing. Take it or leave it. Don't you love it when your options are presented to you so clearly?

“This is our moment to prove to the American people that their government works for them, not just for the big corporations and those at the very top,” Mr. Biden said on Thursday. He added, “This is an opportunity to be the nation we know we can be.”

I'll accept his assurances if he'll explain what's in the bill and proves that he knows what he's talking about. And what is "the nation we know we can be"? Other than the one that is governed by people who support what they don't even begin to understand, because why not just combine everything into one inscrutable package? Actually, I do know we can be that, and it scares me.

By the way, it was only last April that I blogged a NYT article with this passage:

Invoking the legacy of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mr. Biden unveiled a $1.8 trillion social spending plan to accompany previous proposals to build roads and bridges, expand other social programs and combat climate change, representing a fundamental reorientation of the role of government not seen since the days of Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and Roosevelt’s New Deal.
The Times used the same comparison to LBJ and FDR and it was only $1.8 trillion. It's $3.5 trillion now! Who knew you could equal the Great Society or the New Deal spending a mere half of what they're proposing now? This new thing is like the Great Society PLUS the New Deal. 

September 18, 2021

At the Wildflower Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"A few years ago, after Mr. Probst noticed some contestants blaming producers for their 'bad edit,' he wrote a 'Survivor' mission statement that he and his team still consult."

"'Our job is to tell the most authentic version of each person’s story in an electric, visceral, dramatic, and entertaining way,' it reads. 'But it must be authentic.'... Authenticity, 'Survivor' fans have come to know, means warts and all. It means the show can’t, per Mr. Probst’s directive, change the intent of someone’s words during editing. It’s meant watching one contestant demand another remove her fake teeth during a tribal council as payback for a blindside. It’s even meant watching a gay contestant out a trans tribemate, equating his choice not to disclose his transness with deception."

ADDED: The top-rated comment over there:
No mention of Probst’s mentor Mark Burnett foisting Trump on us, and getting rich , via his other show the Apprentice. Don’t know about you but that proximity to evil would bother me. Like having your tv parents also make napalm in their other job. Maybe being far away in Fiji helps.

"Robert Durst Found Guilty of Murdering Friend."

Questionable use of the word "friend" in a NY Magazine headline.
Real-estate scion Robert Durst was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury in California on Friday for killing a close friend...

There's that word again. 

... over 20 years ago. The crime is one of three murders Durst is suspected of over nearly four decades — all of which he apparently confessed to in the HBO documentary series The Jinx, six years ago.

"Calling American and Australian behavior 'unacceptable between allies and partners,' France announced on Friday that it was recalling its ambassadors..."

"... to both countries in protest over President Biden’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. It was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations. The decision by President Emmanuel Macron reflects the extent of French outrage at what it has a called a 'brutal' American decision and a 'stab in the back' from Australia....  Australia on Wednesday canceled a $66 billion agreement to purchase French-built, conventionally powered submarines, hours before the deal with Washington and London was announced."

"Is Harry and Meghan’s Time profile a parody?"

Asks Joanna Williams (at The Spectator), looking at Time's "100 most influential people of 2021," which has a silly photo of them on the cover.
Harry and Meghan, we are told, ‘turn compassion into boots on the ground’. They ‘give voice to the voiceless’, ‘mental-health support to Black women and girls’ and feed ‘those affected by natural disasters’. Okay so maybe not with five loaves and two fishes, but ‘hand in hand with nonprofit partners’. In short, ‘They run toward the struggle.’ Or should that be fly? They fly toward the struggle, right? And the ‘struggle’ is a charity polo match in Aspen and the flight is a £45million private jet. The ‘voiceless’ now being given a hearing can surely only refer to the Duke and Duchess themselves: certainly it’s the case that since leaving the royal family they rarely miss an opportunity to remain silent. And the ‘springing into action’ must mean firing off a quick text to Netflix or Oprah, or, more likely, their lawyers.... 

"The University of Wisconsin Smears a Once-Treasured Alum."

A column by John McWhorter (NYT). 

The alum is Fredric March, an actor most people going to school today probably don't remember. Try streaming "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946). He was important enough to the University of Wisconsin that they put his name on some theater buildings.

He's been attacked for an obvious reason: He belonged to the Ku Klux Klan! But it wasn't that Ku Klux Klan. It was back in 1919/1920 and there was an interfraternity group that called itself the Ku Klux Klan. To think that means something awful is to be historically ignorant, McWhorter explains:

September 17, 2021

6:28 a.m.




"Life, as it is often called, was conceived as a modern take on a board game designed in 1860... called the Checkered Game of Life..."

"By 1960, the Checkered Game of Life had disappeared from most American game tables. It had been replaced by such as entrants as Monopoly, which rewarded winners with riches, punished losers with penury and became one of the top-selling board games in the United States during the Depression. Mr. Klamer’s task, as assigned by the Milton Bradley Co., was to create a game to mark the company’s 100th anniversary.... With the assistance of colleagues... Mr. Klamer updated [the Checkered Game of Life] for the aspirations of contemporary players. For instance, players of the new version would choose between a 'business' route, which afforded an immediate salary, and 'college,' which promised a larger but delayed one.... To board game enthusiasts, the Game of Life was a beauty: a marvel of topography with raised roads that players traversed in their station-wagon game pieces. According to the volume 'Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them,' by Tim Walsh, Life was 'the first three-dimensional game board using plastic.'... Destinations in the 1960 version included 'Millionaire Acres' — or the 'Poor Farm.'" 

I played that game when it was new in the 1960s, and I guess those 3-dimensional aspects and the built-in spinner were pretty exciting. But what a drag it made life seem! You're a peg in a car and you gather family members to fill the hole in the car and keep driving till you get to the end. At least the end wasn't called "Death." 

And it seems that this is where we Baby Boomers learned we'd better go to college. The game had determined the income difference. But you didn't even have any fun in college or learn anything deep. You just upped your earning potential, and the point of life/Life was to make the most money. What an awful game!

"I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference."

"So if they think you are antiabortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out. They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician.... That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions." 

He's saying what they all say whenever they are out and about.
In recent weeks, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, during a book tour, has emphasized that he and his colleagues are not “junior league” politicians. Last week, the court’s newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, told a crowd in Kentucky that justices are not a “bunch of partisan hacks” and that their divisions are based on competing judicial philosophies, not partisanship. 

ADDED: I wish just once one of these Justices would have the nerve to approach the subject with a steel man argument for their attackers. They've been pummeling the same straw man so long. 

"Thousands of migrants were crowded under a bridge outside the border community of Del Rio on Thursday, part of a massive surge in migration across the Rio Grande this week..."

"... that has overwhelmed the authorities and caused significant delays in processing the arrivals. The U.S. Border Patrol said that more than 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, were being held in a temporary staging area under the Del Rio International Bridge as agents worked as quickly as they could to process them.... The shaded area under the bridge, the Border Patrol said, was to 'prevent injuries from heat-related illness' while migrants were waiting to be taken into custody. The scene — of dense crowds sleeping on dirt or milling about in triple-digit heat amid conditions of deteriorating sanitation — drew condemnations from local officials. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas ordered the state police and the National Guard to assist border agents in Del Rio, saying the federal response had not been enough to quell the surge in crossings. 'The Biden administration is in complete disarray and is handling the border crisis as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan,' he said...."

September 16, 2021

Sunrise, 6:42.


Early fall color, 6:54.


"Updated Covid Guidelines: A Flow Chart Wrapped in a Riddle Shrouded in a Clusterfuck."

McSweeney's answers the question "Should you wear a mask?"

The era of reality shows is over? Now, everybody gets a prize.

I'm reading "Controversial new TV show 'The Activist' drastically revamped after backlash/The format will now be more of a documentary feature rather than a competition" (The Hill).
The reality and competition style of the show drew criticism that it would promote performance activism and distract from actual social issues....
“... [I]t has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day,” the statement [from the producers] began. “As a result, we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special (air date to be announced).” 
Six activists will be featured on the revamped show, and will automatically be given a cash grant to the organization of their choice rather than compete for a prize money.

I don't know if many people would have watched this show in the multi-episode competition format. How could it have worked? It's like "The Apprentice," but without the forthright motivation of greed. The contestants were still after money, but for their cause. I guess that's like "Celebrity Apprentice." But without celebrities. It was a dog of an idea. 

By making it one episode — a "special" — they're cutting their losses. And they're still trying to look altruistic. They're going to give all the erstwhile contestants a prize, as if that's magnanimous of them. To me, it seems as though they've slipped into the world of everybody gets a trophy

I'm looking forward to the new season of "Survivor," which begins in a few days, on the same network that nixed "The Activist." Imagine watching "Survivor" if all the participants were simply given the same amount of money!

"The White House has invited me & I think it’s a step in the right direction. Yes, I’m going. I’ll be dressed in all pink like Legally Blonde so they know I mean business. I’ll ask questions on behalf of the ppl who have been made fun of for simply being human."

Tweeted Nicki Minaj, quoted in "Nicki Minaj hits back at Biden White House after it claims vaccine-related phone call, not visit, was offered/Earlier this week, Minaj faced backlash after she wrote a tweet asserting that a friend of her cousin's became impotent from the vaccine" (Fox News). 

Also quoted: Terrence Deyalsingh, Trinidad's health minister, saying he'd government had "wasted so much time" over Minaj's tweet about someone in Trinidad experiencing swollen testicles: "There is absolutely no reported such side effect or adverse event of testicular swelling in Trinidad."

"I remember going to China and they were telling us you know, you cannot speak out against, you know, the people in power, there, etc," Minaj said in an Instagram Live video on Wednesday night. "Don't y'all see that we are living now in that time where people will turn their back on you … but people will isolate you if you simply speak and ask a question."

AND: It will be interesting to see who, ultimately, wins Minaj. 

"The case against [Michael] Sussmann centers on the question of who his client was when he conveyed certain suspicions about Mr. Trump and Russia to the F.B.I. in September 2016."

"Among other things, investigators have examined whether Mr. Sussmann was secretly working for the Clinton campaign — which he denies.... A spokesman for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who has the authority to overrule Mr. Durham but is said to have declined to, did not comment.... The accusation against Mr. Sussmann focuses on a meeting he had on Sept. 19, 2016, with James A. Baker, who was the F.B.I.’s top lawyer at the time... Because of a five-year statute of limitations for such cases, Mr. Durham has a deadline of this weekend to bring a charge over activity from that date.... Mr. Baker, the former F.B.I. lawyer, is said to have told investigators that he recalled Mr. Sussmann saying that he was not meeting him on behalf of any client. But in a deposition before Congress in 2017, Mr. Sussmann testified that he sought the meeting on behalf of an unnamed client who was a cybersecurity expert and had helped analyze the data. Moreover, internal billing records Mr. Durham is said to have obtained from Perkins Coie are said to show that when Mr. Sussmann logged certain hours as working on the Alfa Bank matter — though not the meeting with Mr. Baker — he billed the time to Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign."

"If The New Yorker is going to make gaffes like 'deadbeat,' I'm going to have a lot more trouble going along with things like 'lambent.'"

I'm quoting something I just wrote because I want to let you know there's a big new addition to this post from yesterday.

Also: "There's a part of me that wants to admire the writer's way with words and a part of me that's about to blurt — to paraphrase George W. BushWhat the fuck are you talking about, lambent?"

That link about Bush goes back to a post I wrote in May 2004, when this blog was 4 months old and William Safire was still writing "On Language" columns in the NYT.  Oddly enough, Safire was talking about a passage in the new Bob Woodward book

Some things pass away and some things stay the same. From Safire:
"The Homeland Security bill was being blocked in the Senate by a filibuster,'' writes Woodward. ''Calio told the president that they were about to 'vitiate' the filibuster."

George Bush's reaction —"What the f**k are you talking about, vitiate?" — was the first time I'd written "fuck" on this blog, albeit with asterisks. I was puritanical about it, saying it was a word "which I ordinarily never write, but consider importantly quotable in this context." Ha ha.


Deevs said:
Lambent. A word I learned from playing the Gears of War video game over ten years ago. Maybe that's also where the New Yorker writer learned the word, and his pretentiousness is actually a demonstration of his own low-brow hobbies, past or present.
"The Lambent are mutated Locusts who have been infected by Immulsion. A yellow liquid-based parasite used as a fuel source by the Human population of Sera..."

It was a special time, we had a President who was crazy, and General Milley's behavior must be understood in that context.

I'm paraphrasing the pro-Milley argument to be found in "Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript September 15":
Jonathan: ... A new book reports that near the end of the Trump presidency, Chairman Milley had two conversations with his Chinese counterpart promising the countries would not go to war and that he would give an early warning if something were to happen. In a statement just minutes ago, Chairman Milley did not dispute this account. On this, does the president feel that these calls were appropriate? Does he have confidence in the chairman? And some Republican senators have called for Chairman Milley to be dismissed. Is he going to keep his job? 

September 15, 2021

"No one was better at stringing out a joke between its setup and its punch line. The purest instance of the skill might be his famous 'moth' routine..."

"... in which he took a lame stock joke ('A moth goes into a podiatrist’s office . . .') and, by delivery alone, built a three-minute meta-gag on top of it, working his audience all the way. We weren’t far into our interview when I realized I had made the rookie mistake of taking Macdonald’s deadbeat persona as his real world view. It was and wasn’t. Early on, he charmed me by noting, in an offhand way, that he’d needed glasses all his life but, after losing his first childhood pairs, stopped bothering. ('I guess if I put on glasses now everything would be high-def,' he said—the description of normal human vision as a decadent TV feature being the Macdonaldian turn.) But I was caught off guard by how sensitive he was to creative work generally: he was a serious and studious reader, especially of the Russians, keen to get into the weeds with me about Tolstoy....."

Here's the moth thing (and notice the Tolstoy influence):

FROM THE COMMENTS: Sean Gleeson said:
The bit about "Macdonald’s deadbeat persona" feels like an error to me. Did he really pose as a man who refused to pay his debts? Does "deadbeat" have some other meaning? Did he mean to write "deadpan"?

He couldn't write "deadpan," because he'd just used the word 3 sentences ago — "his zonked-seeming deadpan," in a paragraph I didn't quote. I'm dismayed when The New Yorker gets any language usage wrong. I subscribe in part because for half a century I have looked to it as an exemplar of high-quality writing. 

And there's this aspirational stretching toward words that the reader might not even know yet. For example, the very next sentence after what I quoted is: "And he gave off lambent joy about his art." That's asking us to trust them and to get better at language and not to call bullshit. There's a part of me that wants to admire the writer's way with words and a part of me that's about to blurt — to paraphrase George W. BushWhat the fuck are you talking about, lambent?

If The New Yorker is going to make gaffes like "deadbeat," I'm going to have a lot more trouble going along with things like "lambent."

"Lambent," from the Latin word for "licking," evokes a licking flame. It's a word you can use instead of "radiant"... if you want to seem fancy or you'd like to make less learned readers feel as though they don't belong here. 

In context, I'd say Heller wanted to sound effusive praising Macdonald — to give him a tongue bath. But if you want me to give a sympathetic reading to your pretentious usages, don't make mistakes like "deadbeat."

"In the last 15 years, less than 0.01% of print features and critical pieces [in The New Yorker] were edited by a Black editor."

"More women were able to publish profiles in the magazine between 1925 and 1935 than between 1990 and 2000. And over the last 30 years, spanning 1990 to 2020, zero reviews of cinema, the fine arts, or classical music were published by either women or writers of color....  Erin Overbey, the magazine's own archive editor [tweeted]: "Let's talk about racism! Most white people at prestigious magazines don't ever want to talk about race or diversity at all. Why? It's primarily because they've been allowed to exist in a world where their mastheads resemble member registries at Southern country clubs circa 1950."

This strikes me as very odd. I subscribe to The New Yorker and read it all the time, and I had the impression that the magazine was going out of its way to bring in black writers and women writers.

"Cunhaporanga’s father was hesitant. Pinõ Tatuyo had been an early and enthusiastic advocate of bringing the Internet to the village."

"He felt the digital age had arrived and there was no going back. His people had to embrace technology to connect to the world — and teach it who they were. He himself had done a YouTube video in full headdress — 'A little presentation about who I am!' he named it — and created an Instagram account, where he eventually attracted 12,000 followers. But Cunhaporanga’s TikTok story was different. This wasn’t a few thousand people. This was millions."

From "Taking Indigenous culture viral" (WaPo) — about a 22-year-old woman, Cunhaporanga Tatuyo, who lives a traditional native life in the Amazon rainforest and has 6 million followers on TikTok. 

Lots of embedded video at the link, including one where she eats a fat, writhing larva. Here's her account at TikTok, where you can see all her videos, and you can follow her (as I too am doing now). I'll just embed one. 

A trailer for the Stephen Spielberg "West Side Story."


I've watched the old version recently, and I'm not sold on this from the trailer, which suggests that idea is to heighten the sentimentality. Notice how the only song we get to hear is "Tonight." 

I'm going to read some reviews of the trailer, but let me leave you with this "SNL" parody from 1996, featuring the beloved and recently departed comedy star, Norm Macdonald:

"Yet with Republicans preparing to use their control of states like Texas, Florida and Georgia to pile up a dozen or more new red seats, Democrats seem intent..."

"... on using New York’s laws to their advantage. [One elections analyst] said that New York’s gains would likely be greater than others whose process was under single-party control, such as Texas, because those states have already been more thoroughly gerrymandered."

Here's the highest-rated comment over there: "If the Republicans want to stop this kind of gerrymandering then they need to support the voting rights legislation being proposed by congress. However, should Republicans succeed in stopping that legislation the Democrats can’t unilaterally disarm. They must use everything the current system allows to attempt to further their agenda including gerrymandering."

6:39 a.m.


Write about anything you want in the comments.

"Led by Harvard Medical School biologist George Church, the plan is to edit mammoth hair and tendencies into elephant DNA and produce mammoth embryos..."

"... within several years.... Some researchers suggest that wooly mammoths helped transformed the now-mossy tundra into a fertilized grassland; if the Frankenstein version were able to achieve this feat again, the tundra could serve as a buffer against erosion and a potential carbon-dioxide sink to combat global warming.... 'Is it humane to produce an animal whose biology we know so little about? Who gets to decide whether they can be set loose, potentially to change the ecosystems of tundras in profound ways?'... 'You don’t have a mother for a species that — if they are anything like elephants — has extraordinarily strong mother-infant bonds that last for a very long time... Once there is a little mammoth or two on the ground, who is making sure that they’re being looked after?'"

It not really about introducing them into the wild though, is it? It's more of a P.T. Barnum thing — creating something for us to gape at.

Either way, it's ethically wrong. It's easy to see.

"If the story of 'Dumbass' General Mark Milley... is true, then I assume he would be tried for TREASON..."

"... in that he would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President’s back and telling China that he would be giving them notification 'of an attack.'... The good news is that the story is Fake News.... Remember, I was the one who took out 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. Milley said it couldn’t be done! For the record, I never even thought of attacking China—and China knows that...."

Wrote Donald Trump (on his website). 

"So intent was Pence on being Trump’s loyal second-in-command — and potential successor — that he asked confidants if there were ways he could accede to Trump’s demands and avoid certifying..."

"... the results of the election on Jan. 6. In late December, the authors reveal, Pence called Dan Quayle, a former vice president and fellow Indiana Republican, for advice. Quayle was adamant, according to the authors. 'Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away,' he said. But Pence pressed him, the authors write, asking if there were any grounds to pause the certification because of ongoing legal challenges. Quayle was unmoved, and Pence ultimately agreed, according to the book. When Pence said he planned to certify the results, the president lashed out. In the Oval Office on Jan. 5, the authors write, Pence told Trump he could not thwart the process, that his role was simply to 'open the envelopes.' 'I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this,' Trump replied, according to the book, later telling his vice president, 'You’ve betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing.'"

"Milley, for his part, took what the authors describe as a deferential approach to Biden on Afghanistan, in contrast to his earlier efforts to constrain Trump."

"The book reveals recent remarks the chairman delivered to the Joint Chiefs in which he said, 'Here’s a couple of rules of the road here that we’re going to follow. One is you never, ever ever box in a president of the United States. You always give him decision space.' Referring to Biden, he said, 'You’re dealing with a seasoned politician here who has been in Washington, D.C., 50 years, whatever it is.' His decision just months earlier to place himself between Trump and potential war was triggered by several important events — a phone call, a photo op and a refusal to rule out war with another adversary, Iran. The immediate motivation, according to the book, was the Jan. 8 call from Pelosi, who demanded to know, 'What precautions are available to prevent an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or from accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike?' Milley assured her that there were 'a lot of checks in the system.' The call transcript obtained by the authors shows Pelosi telling Milley, referring to Trump, 'He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy. … He’s crazy and what he did yesterday is further evidence of his craziness.' Milley replied, 'I agree with you on everything.'"

"And while large accounts specifically known for spreading anti-vaccine messages can be identified and taken down, it’s harder for TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook (which owns Instagram) to police..."

"... tens of thousands of smaller accounts that might mix in one or two anti-vaccine messages among their normal wellness posts.... Evie Kevish, a CrossFitter and 'certified juice therapist,' who frequently posts on Instagram about which vegetables and fruits she’s juicing, wore a shirt emblazoned with 'VACCINES ARE POISON' in a video she posted on June 27. Tania Khazaal, known online as 'Tania the Herbalist,' often posts self-portraits with long captions about eating non-GMO foods and refusing any ingestible products that contain fluoride, alcohol and aluminum. She encourages her nearly 50,000 followers to 'eliminate pills and introduce plants.' She’s also been posting vaccine-skeptical content since April 2020. In an email, Khazaal said she wasn’t against vaccines, but believed that skeptical voices were being silenced. 'I’m not anti anything. I’m pro-choice and pro-freedom,' she said.... [I]t’s those with anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 followers — sometimes known as 'microinfluencers' — who are believed within the marketing industry to have an especially outsize impact on their followers.... [S]ocial media users 'don’t trust celebs or experts with more than 100,000 followers anymore.' Micro-influencers, on the other hand — and their even more niche cousins, nanoinfluencers, with fewer than 10,000 followers — can seem less sold-out and more authentic, approachable or relatable.... "

From "How wellness influencers are fueling the anti-vaccine movement/For years, the wellness world has been entangled with vaccine hesitancy. Amid covid-19, the consequences are starker than ever" (WaPo).

So the pressure is on to censor the successful bloggers. You can use the term "microinfluencers," but having 10,000 to 50,000 followers as a blogger is great. And those <10,000 places are important too. 

I blog at Blogger, where I don't see a "followers" number, only the number of actual readers each day, so I don't know how my size in the sphere of social media compares with people like Tania the Herbalist, but I consider that level of readership tremendously import in social media. And you can see from that WaPo article that those with great consolidated power in media feel threatened by the free market in information and opinion that comes from all these unruly, free-wheeling speakers. 

The vaccine is such a useful foothold in the censorship effort. You can point to statements that are clearly  wrong and get a lot of leverage for arguing that vast harm is occurring. These earnest assertions and stray musings are killing people! 

I'll just earnestly muse that the idea is to soften up the general population to censorship. How hard will it be to get ordinary Americans to see the microinfluencers and nanoinfluencers as vermin mucking up the purity of the information supply we've all got to consume?

Ironically, it's a purity fetish that drives anti-vaxxers. I'd say: Don't let purity freaks freak you out. 

September 14, 2021

6:51 a.m.


Write about anything you like in the comments.




"I think he had an idea in his head of what he wanted it to sound like, but he couldn't describe it. He couldn't express it. And he was waiting for somebody to bring it out of the air."

Said Shiela Bromberg, whose obituary I blogged 3 days ago

The quote appears in the center of the interview embedded below, which a reader called to my attention.

Bromberg was the harpist on The Beatles' "She's Leaving Home." The "he" is Paul McCartney: 

ADDED: If you love Ringo, be sure to watch the video through to the end.

The new Wes Anderson movie has sentence diagramming!


I made that screen shot from the trailer:

I already blogged about the new movie — "The French Dispatch" — in the first post of the day, here, but I had to open up a new post because... sentence diagramming!

This is one of my favorite topics. I've blogged about it many times... including the one where a reader took up my challenge to diagram a 46-word sentence by Camille Paglia, the one where a reader took up my challenge to diagram a 153-word sentence from "Paradise Lost," and this one, where I'd written a long sentence and somebody called it a "doozy," and I said "Diagram it. It looks really cool diagrammed," and when no one stepped up to that challenge, I did it myself and made a video of the diagram so you could see for yourself how cool it was:

And now there is a movie, not entirely about sentence diagramming, but with some vivid sentence diagramming in it. I don't think there's a film documentary about sentence diagramming. I wish there were. But that's okay. I am hoping that because of the great love so many people have for Wes Anderson, this movie will inspire a renaissance of sentence diagramming!

It might go nicely with the expanding home school movement.

AOC at the Met Gala.

I see Jonathan Chait is trying to help AOC with her PR problem: "What is the clearest and best articulation of the view that AOC has done something hypocritical or wrong by attending the Met gala in a 'tax the rich' dress?" 

Chait is ostensibly soliciting attacks on AOC, but I assume this is in the spirit of making a steel man argument: What are the strongest arguments for the position I want to disagree with? Get those all out in the open so I can work on my argument against them. Or just give me a basis for declaring that there is no good argument on the other side.

I'm not going to read every answer to Chait's tweet, but mostly I'm seeing support for AOC. That is, people aren't answering the question. The fact that the gala is full of rich people certainly doesn't establish that she's a hypocrite. She's telling the rich folk to their face that they ought to be taxed. 

 Of course, they are taxed. She didn't even say "Soak the rich" or "Tax the hell out of the rich," but even if she had, she'd be forthrightly advocating policy change in front of the people who'll get stuck with the burden. That makes her more brave than hypocritical. But it still wouldn't be especially brave. I'm sure that socially these rich folk would endorse the notion that they ought to bear a heavy burden of taxation.