April 10, 2021

6:27 a.m.

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"Like everyone else, introverts are excited about seeing family and close friends in person, dining in restaurants, traveling and all the other pleasures of a good life."

"But most are not interested in facing the forced small talk, the big parties, the noisy open offices and all the demands of extroverts who think more is more and introverts should try harder.... Many people believe introverts are cold, shy or socially anxious — but those stereotypes are misleading. They love people, but in small doses.... There’s some brain science to explain the behavior: Extroverts are less sensitive to dopamine, the 'feel-good' chemical that affects the brain’s pleasure center, and require more stimulation to be happy and energized. For introverts, a little dopamine goes a long way, and too much of anything can be exhausting. When restrictions were imposed last year, 'I had extrovert friends who were just losing their minds'.... But introverts were finally getting the uninterrupted time they craved.... Many professionals are questioning the value of returning to the 9-to-5 office — introverts because they prefer to work alone, extroverts because their lives would be simpler. Is getting dressed, enduring a commute and sitting at a desk really necessary?... Now introverts have colleagues — including plenty of extroverts — advocating to work from home part or full time. What happens next might depend on who’s in power. Extroverted bosses like the hustle and bustle of a traditional office. Introverted bosses may be more open to a hybrid workplace...."

From "Meet the introverts who are dreading a return to normal" (WaPo). 

Here's a perfect little TikTok I happened upon yesterday. It expresses some of what you see in that article:

The moment when she noticed.

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CORRECTION: Apparently, what she noticed was bees.

"Today’s ballet teachers and company directors know that they can no longer simply instruct their dancers to lose weight. But that doesn’t mean they’ve relinquished their rigid, narrow vision..."

"... of what a 'good' ballet body looks like: They simply swathe that ideal in the gauzy, feel-good messaging of today’s fitness culture.... In the 1990s, ballet’s high-pressure and eating-disorder-friendly culture came in for some unwelcome attention.... The bad old days of American ballet teachers and company directors telling their dancers to eat nothing, or telling them exactly how many pounds they should lose, are largely over... [B]ecause of the new cultural injunction against explicitly telling dancers to lose weight, gatekeepers have developed a suite of euphemisms that all amount to the same message: slim down.... When [a] dancer used a dangerous and unsustainable crash diet to become skinnier than he had ever been [t]he company’s decision-makers said he looked 'longer.'... In 2019, [the message was] phrased differently: to 'lengthen.'... In ballet, 'long' is the new skinny, but skinny still reigns supreme."

From "Ballet directors talk about ‘fitness.’ That’s still code for rail-thin dancers" (WaPo).

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I don't think it's hard to understand at all... but it's also easy to understand that you're tired of it... and yet you claim to desire to understand.

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Liberals have ruined the movies with their depressing wokeism... according to Bill Maher.

 

This is a rock-solid comic rant.

It's not just "Nomadland." It's everything nominated for an Oscar this year.

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"[T]he way in which trans ideology doesn’t only seek to protect trans kids, but to abolish the idea of biological sex altogether and to teach kids they have a choice over whether to be a boy or girl..."

"... should be kept out of the classroom. It takes the experience of less than one percent of humanity and tries to make it explain the 99 percent of their peers. It’s nuts; and it will confuse children, particularly gay kids. If I had been told by my parents or teachers that my fear of contact sports or my love of theater as a child suggested I was actually a girl inside, I don’t know how my 8-year-old self would have responded. But it is not unimaginable I would have believed them. My worry is that gay kids in particular could be swept up in this, and mistakenly make irreversible decisions they will later regret, as so many young lesbians have."

Writes Andrew Sullivan, in "A Truce Proposal In The Trans Wars/There is a compromise available. Here's one version" (Substack). 

Read the whole thing. There are other elements to the proposed "truce," and Sullivan concedes that the radicals of the right and left are unlikely to accept his compromise position.

Also very interesting is this essay Sullivan links to: "Keira Bell: My Story/As a teen, she transitioned to male but came to regret it. Here’s how it felt to enter history in the trans debate" Excerpt:

By the time I was 14, I was severely depressed and had given up: I stopped going to school; I stopped going outside. I just stayed in my room, avoiding my mother, playing video games, getting lost in my favorite music, and surfing the internet.

Something else was happening: I became attracted to girls. I had never had a positive association with the term “lesbian” or the idea that two girls could be in a relationship. This made me wonder if there was something inherently wrong with me. Around this time, out of the blue, my mother asked if I wanted to be a boy, something that hadn’t even crossed my mind. I then found some websites about females transitioning to male. Shortly after, I moved in with my father and his then-partner. She asked me the same question my mother had. I told her that I thought I was a boy and that I wanted to become one....

FROM THE EMAIL: A reader in Madison writes:

The description of schools teaching very young children (3rd grade) that when they grow up they get to choose whether they want to be a girl or boy is happening in Madison. It was taught in our daughter's classroom. She came home and told us that "when you turn 18 you get to choose girl or boy." She was clear and matter of fact about this. I thought about this for a bit and said, you know that's not really true. It's just not that simple and you will understand these things as you grow up, but for now you just need to be you. I arranged a meeting with the gender curriculum coordinator before the 4th grade started because I wanted to explain that I did not think the curriculum was age appropriate, especially for an autistic that is developmentally behind her peers. I said I wanted a copy of the teaching materials ahead of time and wanted the option of opting out. Those running this show make parents like me feel like a bigot if you disagree with their approach. Bigotry never entered the equation. But that's not how the schools see it AT ALL.... 

I think the most upsetting part for me was that the curriculum coordinator could not understand that my concerns were from the perspective of a parent of a disabled child. She just put her blinders on, convinced that she was saving Madison's children from the terrible bigoted parents in our neighborhood. And then I start thinking of the kids that do not have supports outside of the school system. The VERY system that is supposed to protect the kids who need the school for support is the system that is harming them. The other thing I will say, and you'll obviously remember this from raising children, is that they are very impressionable. Not every idea a kid dreams up is from the inside. As a society, we are not letting kids be kids. I actually spent a fair amount of time researching this. The curriculum is from the Human Rights campaign -- and there's a Q&A for schools to answer parent concerns. That document says that there is no need to get parental consent because they are not teaching human sexuality, but instead teaching about discrimination. Let that sink in.

Here's the curriculum the reader is referring to. She says: "Madison citizens are not aware of what’s being taught — parents barely are advised."

"Hey, Dad, I was just wondering if you wanted to go outside and toss around... the..."

Tragi-comic TikTok:

I have a thing about headlines that begin with the word "how."

You may remember my post from last December, "How the word "how" has become the most deceptive word in the history of headlines": "I'm sure some 'how' headlines sit atop articles that really explain how to do something, but I must cry out against the infestation of 'how' in headlines." 

Since it is my self-imposed task to be on the alert for "how" headlines, I must bring you this from today's Washington Post: "How the forces inside the GOP that pushed out John Boehner led to Matt Gaetz." 

I doubt that this piece (by Paul Kane) is really going to tell me how these "forces" led somewhere. I expect to find only an assertion that the moderates who used to have the GOP under control have lost their grip. But I'll give Kane a chance. Show me the forces and show me how they "led to Matt Gaetz" (whatever that means).

Reading, I see Kane is reviewing Boehner's memoir, which, Kane admits up front, hasn't got one word about Matt Gaetz. 

Boehner writes about his distaste for immoderate politicos within both parties: They are self-promoters who "claim to be true believers and purists, like the right-wing Freedom Caucus or the left-wing Squad, but really they are just political terrorists." There were always people like that in Congress, and Boehner supposedly wanted to tame them.

Kane writes: 

Justice Kagan makes a watermelon wisecrack: "[T]he law does not require that the State equally treat apples and watermelons."

That's from the dissenting opinion in Tandon v. Newsom, which came out just last night. 

I'm amazed to see the gratuitous insertion of watermelon in a Supreme Court case. It's a play on the old "apples and oranges" expression generally used to assert that things are too different to compare to each other. To switch from oranges to watermelons is to say these 2 things are ludicrously different, because watermelons are even more different from apples than oranges are. They're so large. 

It's not hard to get the idea, just as it was not hard to get what Joe Biden meant when he said "This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle." Eagles are bigger than crows. Watermelons are bigger than oranges. But Biden was talking about something he wanted to portray as racial — the new Georgia voting law. The Tandon v. Newsom case is not about race but religion: Did California discriminate against religion when it banned religious gatherings in private homes? The question depends on how California treated other gatherings. Did it treat like gatherings alike?

From the majority opinion:

This is the fifth time the Court has summarily rejected the Ninth Circuit’s analysis of California’s COVID restrictions on religious exercise. It is unsurprising that such litigants are entitled to relief. California’s Blueprint System contains myriad exceptions and accommodations for comparable activities, thus requiring the application of strict scrutiny. And historically, strict scrutiny requires the State to further 'interests of the highest order' by means 'narrowly tailored in pursuit of those interests.' That standard 'is not watered down'; it 'really means what it says.'

Kagan's point is that all those exceptions were for activities that were not comparable — they were the apples in comparison to which the private-home religious meetings were watermelons. In that view, no strict scrutiny is needed, because there's no discrimination in seeing apples as apples and watermelons as watermelons. 

Is the fruit analogy helpful? Is the watermelon joke worthwhile? If race were anywhere in the picture, the mention of watermelon would provoke outrage. But the sensitive topic here is religion, not race. Nevertheless, I would have thought that racial sensitivity is so great that you'd never mention watermelon in a court case unless there were actual watermelons in the facts of the case.

Here's the NYT article by Adam Liptak, "By 5-4 Vote, Supreme Court Lifts Restrictions on Prayer Meetings in Homes/The court shifted direction in cases on Covid-related limits on religious services after Justice Amy Coney Barrett replaced Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg." 

The Supreme Court late Friday night lifted California’s restrictions on religious gatherings in private homes, saying they could not be enforced to bar prayer meetings, Bible study classes and the like.... The majority said California had violated the Constitution by disfavoring prayer meetings. 
“California treats some comparable secular activities more favorably than at-home religious exercise, permitting hair salons, retail stores, personal care services, movie theaters, private suites at sporting events and concerts and indoor restaurants,” the opinion said....
In dissent, Justice Elena Kagan, joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, said the majority had compared in-home prayer meetings with the wrong kinds of activities.

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April 9, 2021

Trout lilies.

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"At the risk of becoming Mr. and Mrs. Intense, we directed dinnertime chats with friends away from trivialities like vacation plans and house purchases, and..."

"... toward issues of happiness, love, and spirituality. This deepened some of our friendships, and in other cases showed us that a more fulfilling relationship wasn’t going to be possible—and, thus, where to put less energy.... The key to building perfect friendships is to see relationships not as stepping stones to something else, but as boons to pursue for their own sake. One way to do this is to make friends not just outside your workplace, but outside all of your professional and educational networks. Strike up a friendship with someone who truly can do nothing for you besides caring about you and giving you good company.... One of the great paradoxes of love is that our most transcendental need is for people who, in a worldly sense, we do not need at all."

From "The Best Friends Can Do Nothing for You/If your social life is leaving you unfulfilled, you might have too many deal friends, and not enough real friends" by Arthur C. Brooks (The Atlantic). 

FROM THE EMAIL: A reader named Elizabeth writes:

I have few very close friendships. They are based on love, loyalty and the bonds of time. They are unconditional and not perfect. I faced a relationship conflict with someone recently, someone who struggles to want to retain relationships with those who think differently politically. (In plainer words, she struggles whether to keep friends who voted for Trump. She does, but it’s a struggle.) I was speaking to a friend of mine about it... we are both Christians. And she pointed out a key, monumental truth of our faith. The only thing eternal is human relationships. Ponder the implications of that and see what impact it has.

"I understand and partially support your decision to remove comments from your website but if you persist in this effort you need to quit asking questions that beg a comment. State your opinion and let the chips fall where they may."

A reader named Carl emails.

I don't think he's trying to be funny, but that made me laugh. Questions are a literary device — often found in books, where there's never a comments section — unless you scrawl marginalia. I would never undertake to squelch the questions in my writing. They come up naturally as I'm thinking in real time. 

To form a question is to get somewhere into thinking about a topic. It's progress. It's a thought, not merely a failure to complete a thought. Not every question demands an answer. It might be a rhetorical question. But even when it's a question that would be good to answer, it doesn't need efforts to answer it right underneath. 

It can go into the reader's head and work the magic of giving rise to thoughts. It doesn't need other people immediately chattering. The reader might do better thinking independently. And surely you don't need me answering all my own questions. To say "State your opinion" is to assume I always have an opinion, but why would I? And I think a framed question is a kind of opinion. It's the opinion that this is a question. It's a statement of the issue.

And what is "let the chips fall where they may" supposed to mean? That I'm somehow withholding the answers to my questions out of fear of consequences?! 

I think questions are exciting, so I don't feel that I'm withholding answers. I like to open things up and create potential. That can go well with a comments section, but it's certainly not the case that it can't go without it.

FROM THE EMAIL: A reader named Ron writes:

It’s a guy thing. When a woman asks a question we think we have to come up with an answer. In fairness, we have learned this from a lot of “are you listening?” when we don’t “answer.”

Late afternoon sky.

Me, with my old iPhone, photographed by Meade with his new iPhone 12:

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I love the ability to get the wide angle — though it makes me look bizarrely tall — and the color and detail in the clouds clearly surpasses what I got with my iPhone XS: 

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"I feel like it’s fucked up they have so much power they can get shoes cancelled. Freedom of expression gone out the window."

Said Lil Nas X, quoted in "Lil Nas X Satan Shoes will be recalled as part of settlement with Nike/Nike sued MSCHF Product Studio for trademark infringement over the black-and-red, devil-themed sneakers" (The Guardian). 

Can't you make shoes out of shoes — decorate them, bedazzle them — and then sell them? We won't get an official legal answer, because Lil Nas settled the case. Nike retains the threat of litigation over anyone who tries to use their shoes as a foundation for a fashion/art project. 

Lil Nas loses nothing other than the opportunity to fund litigation to establish the principle he speaks as though he cares about. But the shoes that were made — all 666 pairs of them — were sold in the first minute, and anyone who bought the shoes can now get a refund of the purchase price — $1018 — but no one will do that, because they're notorious, and they are clearly more valuable now that they've become so famous.  I see on eBay that a pair recently sold for $5,000, so only an ignoramus would participate in the recall.

Did anyone ever really believe that devil-themed sneakers were outrageous? Kids wear devil costumes at Halloween. The devil is not a big enough villain to make anything edgy in 2021... or in 1951. 

But Big Sneaker put its foot down, and ooh!, it's almost illicit to possess these things.

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"When Lou swims naked in the river, he begins to 'run his long, ridged tongue up and down her wet back.'"

"The bear is 'like a dog, like a groundhog, like a man: big.' One night, by the fire, he begins to lick her with a tongue 'capable of lengthening itself like an eel,' and 'like no human being she had ever known it persevered in her pleasure. When she came, she whimpered and the bear licked away her tears.'  Lou becomes lyrical and hazy with love for the bear; a sort of delirium descends on her. She wants him to devour her, but he is good, and gentle, 'once laid a soft paw on her naked shoulder, almost lovingly.' Can Lou get what she wants – from a man, or a bear? Eventually, the bear, by sheer dint of being of a bear, injures her.... When Bear was first published [in 1976], to great acclaim and some controversy, the feminist and women’s liberation movements had been burgeoning for some years in North America and Europe.... Just how linked to sex should feminism be? And what kind of sex, for that matter? The 'sex wars' of the 80s were on the horizon, and heterosexual feminists were grappling with men as objects of desire who can nonetheless always pose a threat. [The author] is playful, slyly winking on these questions; riffing, for example, on age-old misogynistic associations of women’s genitals with fish, as when Lou buys fish for the bear, which repels her."

From "Animal attraction: Bear, the controversial story of one woman’s sexual awakening/First published in the 70s, Marian Engel’s novel about a lonely librarian’s relationship with a bear interrogates boundaries between men and women, humans and animals" (The Guardian). 

That's on the occasion of a new edition of the book, but I'm only seeing an old (expensive) edition on Amazon for us United Statesians.  

From the quotes in the article, I'd say that the book is comic erotica. 

I like the question "Just how linked to sex should feminism be? And what kind of sex, for that matter?" The answer to the second question can't be with a bear. But it can be literary fantasy.

This gets my "pornography" tag because I want the tags to be neither too broad nor too narrow. I collect things that are useful to think of together, and that includes all sorts of thoughts about why the things the tag gathers together are different from each other.

IN THE EMAIL: A reader named David writes: 

"These hefty sums are a far cry from how lethal injections were initially envisaged. The use of medical drugs to kill prisoners was pioneered in 1977..."

"... in Oklahoma where officials were convinced it would be both humane and cheap – they predicted it would cost only $10 per execution." 

 From "Revealed: Republican-led states secretly spending huge sums on execution drugs/Documents obtained by the Guardian show three states paying astronomical amounts to skirt – almost certainly illegally – a ban on pharmaceuticals for lethal injections" (The Guardian). 

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"A software mistake caused a Tui flight to take off heavier than expected as female passengers using the title 'Miss' were classified as children, an investigation has found...."

"An update to the airline’s reservation system while its planes were grounded due to the coronavirus pandemic led to 38 passengers on the flight being allocated a child’s 'standard weight' of 35kg as opposed to the adult figure of 69kg. This caused the load sheet – produced for the captain to calculate what inputs are needed for take-off – to state that the Boeing 737 was more than 1,200kg lighter than it actually was.... It was programmed in an unnamed foreign country where the title 'Miss' is used for a child and 'Ms' for an adult female." 

The Guardian reports.

69kg is 152 pounds. Think that's a good guess about what a female adult weighs? 35kg is 77 pounds. That's not that low.

"Even though he has not yet announced that he is running, and I certainly hope he does, I am giving my Complete and Total Endorsement to Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin."

"He is brave, he is bold, he loves our Country, our Military, and our Vets. He will protect our Second Amendment, and everything else we stand for. It is the kind of courage we need in the U.S. Senate. He has no idea how popular he is. Run, Ron, Run!" 

Said Donald Trump, the former President of the United States, quoted in Politico

Wisconsin is one of Democrats best pickup opportunities on the Senate map after President Joe Biden carried it in November. But Johnson won an upset victory in 2016 for a second term despite being considered a longshot in his rematch against former Sen. Russ Feingold. In a twist, some Democrats are hoping he runs again after Johnson has aligned himself with Trump and made headlines for controversial statements about the election and the insurrection at the Capitol. 

Who might the Democrats run in Wisconsin? That's the question I was trying to answer when I dug up this Trump article. Ah, here:

Several Democrats are already in the race, including Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson and Milwaukee Bucks Executive Alex Lasry. State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes are also seen as potential candidates.
(If you'd like to comment, email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email and with the use of your first name only.)

"As the only Asian American woman on the academic faculty, I can’t imagine any other faculty member would be treated with this kind of disrespect and utter lack of due process."

Writes Yale Law School professor Amy Chua. Megyn Kelly reacts: At Lawyers, Guns, and Money, lawprof Paul Campos goes on the attack in a blog post that begins "Rules are for the little people, chapter infinity":
Meanwhile Chua and [her husband lawprof Jed] Rubenfeld continue to get paid collectively close to a million bucks a year to basically not do their jobs any more, but apparently being asked to at least avoid getting drunk around the kiddies is just too much to ask of our best and brightest.

I can't possibly know exactly what the facts are. I've read Chua's letter, and I don't think the law school has put out its version of the facts. As a law school professor, I was never someone who invited students to my home, so I tend to admire the lawprofs who do extend this kind of sociability to their students. I would find it very difficult to do, and I assume that, generally, students would love this kind of festivity. 

But I could imagine professors inviting students into their home for the wrong reasons. There could be the Harvey Weinstein of law professors. I visualize a continuum of motives for professorly parties, from unselfishly magnanimous to utterly monstrous. But where's the line on the continuum where the professor should know this isn't right and the law school should intervene and say no more parties for you? Why did Yale intervene? I think it intervened and entered into some sort of no-parties agreement with Chua and Rudenfeld, and now, it seems, the question is whether the agreement has been violated. That's the basic factual question here. I'm not looking at the agreement, but Chua does seem to say that she has continued to have students over to her house. 

In her letter (embedded in the tweet, above), Chua justifies what she did based on anti-Asian violence and racism. She's the Asian-American female law professor, and students in her diversity category need support, so... there's an implied exception to the agreement? Or... interpret the agreement properly, and there's no violation? I'd have to see the agreement and know what, exactly, she did. 

Does the agreement refer to "parties" and define parties? Is the law school dean following the students' interpretation of the agreement? Do the students even have the text of the agreement?

IN THE EMAIL: Tank writes:

"Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II for more than 70 years, has died at age 99."

Entertainment Weekly reports.

"I evaluate my potential dates based on eight traits. Five of those traits I try to learn about before the date."

"The remaining three I think about after the date. Before the first date, I try to determine the following: Does he make me laugh via text? Does he live in LA? Does he like his job? Is he down to go backpacking? Will he get on the phone? After the first date, I ask myself: Does he like himself? Is he curious? Is he kind? It’s a little crazy, imperfect and, yes, judgmental. My systematic approach may well be weeding out someone who could make me my happiest self. But the leaving-it-up-to-fate alternative of relying on chemistry, physical attraction and serendipity haven’t led me to that person either. I would prefer to have something to work on. Tasks to do and cards to sort, as opposed to waiting around in Whole Foods for some dude and me to magically lock eyes as we reach for the same carton of oat milk...." 

From "My Ridiculous Dating System Totally Works!/There’s just one catch" by Alex Kruger (NYT). 

I was going to leave out the subtitle. It detracts from the excerpt I chose. It's read-the-whole-thing bait... but I'll just tell you, the catch is that the person who checks all your boxes might not want you. Actually, I don't like the first part of the headline either. It's too gushy, and it wrongly makes you think the system isn't good. But it's fine. Kruger is trying to save himself from pursuing mere physical attraction, though he doesn't clearly say that. 

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"The boars snooze in people’s paddling pools. They snuffle across the lawns. They kick residents’ soccer balls and play with their dogs.

"They saunter down the sidewalks and sleep in the streets. Some eat from the hands of humans, and they all eat from the trash.... 'It became like an everyday thing,' said Eugene Notkov, 35, a chef who lets his dog play with the boars that putter around the local parks. 'They’re a part of our city'.... Bumping into one is 'like seeing a squirrel.'...'I wish we could all in Israel learn to live like they live in Haifa,' said Edna Gorney, a poet, ecologist and lecturer at the University of Haifa. 'It’s an example of coexistence — not only between Arabs and Jews, but also between humans and wildlife.'... 'They are controlling the streets now,' said Assaf Schechter, 43, a port worker confronted recently by a boar on his porch. 'It’s a very crazy situation.'... 'At night, I would go out, after a drink, and recycle the beer,' Professor Malkinson said. 'It’s two for the price of one — you fertilize the trees and you try to deter the wild boars... Essentially the conflict is between those who oppose having wild boars in the city and those who don’t... It’s not an ecological problem... It’s a social problem.'"

From "Where Boars Hog the Streets Groups of boars have become an unavoidable presence in Haifa/Some human residents are charmed, but others are annoyed or frightened and now carry sticks on walks" (NYT) 

To comment, email me here.

FROM THE EMAIL: Temujin writes: 

April 8, 2021

Daffodils.

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"A neopronoun can be a word a created to serve as pronoun without expressing gender, like 'ze' and 'zir.'"

"A neopronoun can also be a so-called 'noun-self pronoun,' in which a pre-existing word is drafted into use as a pronoun. Noun-self pronouns can refer to animals — so your pronouns can be 'bun/bunself' and 'kitten/kittenself.' Others refer to fantasy characters — 'vamp/vampself,' 'prin/cess/princesself,' 'fae/faer/faeself' — or even just common slang, like 'Innit/Innits/Innitself.'... For those unfamiliar with the culture surrounding neopronouns right now, it’s likely impossible to distinguish between what’s playful, what’s deeply meaningful and what’s people being mean.... 'I’m not going to call u kitty/kittyself or doll/dollself just bc u think its cool,' one TikToker wrote in a video caption. 'Pronouns are a form of identity not an aesthetic.' But what’s the difference between an aesthetic and an identity anyway?... [A] social media bio will often include a link to an identity résumé on Carrd, often with a pronoun usage guide. (One sample: 'Bug likes bugs.' 'Those things belong to Bug.' 'Bug wants to work by Bugself.')... The neopronoun community comprises mostly internet-native young people, and is agile when it comes to facing down criticism and mockery. Social media posts affirming the validity of neopronoun identities are a constant refrain: 'If you use neopronouns, you are extremely valid and I love you,' one person wrote on Twitter."

From "A Guide to Neopronouns/Are you a person, place or thing? We have good news" by Ezra Marcus (NYT). 

If you want to make a comment, you simply email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email. I note that the NYT article doesn't allow comments on this column, and it's not hard to figure out why. 

"You might be getting tired of hearing about the Great Comments Decision of 2021 but here are my two cents after thinking about it for the past few days."

Writes a reader named Chris.

I’ve been following your blog for a long time having come over from Instapundit probably in the early 2000’s. I’m not a commenting kind of person but I do read a lot of them. I love it when people who are knowledgeable about the article or post weigh in and add value to the discussion. That is what a great comments section can do.

Lately I’ve been seeing both in your comment section and others something I came to recognize back in the 1990’s.

New flowers.

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The tiniest word that is recognized as a word — in the sense that there's an OED entry — is "fancyette."

It's a noun made out of the noun "fancy" — meaning fantasy or figment of imagination — and the ending "-ette" — meaning a small version of something. The OED defines it as "A little fancy" and says it's "Apparently an isolated use." The one example of the use — perhaps the only example — is:
a1834 S. T. Coleridge Marginalia in Blackwood's Edinb. Mag. (1882) Jan. 125 [Two Fancyettes, as Coleridge names them, at the end of a volume of Fichte].

So the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote marginalia in a magazine 140 years ago, and no one else has picked up this word. It's a wonder anyone ever saw it. Imagine scribbling your opinion in the margin of a magazine, adding an ending to an existing word, and having your passing fancy — your fancyette — preserved in the eminent dictionary. Just you, that one night, reading Fichte or whatever.

It's strange. How does that get to be a word? It's a wordette. See? I can make a word with a noun and an "-ette." It's easy to do. We do language tricks like that all the time. But how does it get into the OED? Is it a little joke? A jokette? ("Jokette" is not in the OED. "Wordette" is not in the OED.) Or is it something big? — massive reverence for Coleridge.

FROM THE EMAIL: A reader named Iain writes:

"I can say he’s a good kid — he was a good kid, and I think the football messed him up. He didn’t talk much and he didn’t bother nobody."

Said the alleged killer's father, quoted in "AP source: NFL player Phillip Adams killed 5, then himself" (AP). 

Dr. Robert Lesslie, 70, and his wife, Barbara Lesslie, 69, were pronounced dead at the scene along with grandchildren Adah Lesslie, 9, and Noah Lesslie, 5, the York County coroner’s office said.... 

Allison Hope, who lives across from the Adams’ modest one-story brick home, about a mile down the road from the Lesslies, said police... spent hours negotiating with Adams, using a loudspeaker....

“This is something I can’t grasp yet. I can’t put it all together and I’m trying to, and I witnessed it,” Hope said. “I feel bad for him because if it was mental or something going on in his life or whatever, you know, he needed help, and that’s the sad part.” 

 [There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here.]

Before we get too deeply into mocking Kirsten Gillibrand for her expansive definition of "infrastructure," we need to look into the history of how "infrastructure" found its way into political jargon.

You've probably seen articles like "‘Unicorns are infrastructure’: Sen. Gillibrand mocked for definition of Biden plan" (NY Post): 

[I]n a push for President Biden’s massive $2.3 trillion tax-and-spend plan, the New York Democrat attempted to pave a new meaning, tweeting: “Paid leave is infrastructure. Child care is infrastructure. Caregiving is infrastructure.” ...

“Unicorns are infrastructure. Love is infrastructure. Herpes is infrastructure. Everything is infrastructure,” Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro wrote on Twitter....

Ben Domenech, publisher of The Federalist, wrote: “Brunch is infrastructure. Kendall Jenner is infrastructure. The Snyder Cut is infrastructure.”

Biden argued... [infrastructure] “has always evolved to meet the aspirations of the American people and their needs. And it is evolving again today.”

The mocking is funny, but it takes for granted that the word "infrastructure" has a solid meaning. But it's an abstract concoction, made up of a prefix, "infra-," that just means "beneath," and the familiar word “structure.” So “infrastructure” is, literally, a structure under a structure, a substructure. Quite abstract and generic. The only reason the scope of the word matters is because it's taken on power within political discourse. So the question needs to be how and why. 

It's not as though there's a constitutional text that says the federal government can or should spend money on infrastructure. It's just a word that makes people feel something about the proposed spending. Then it seems to be a shortcut to arguing that we need to buy these things. Oh? It's infrastructure? Then, yes, we need it. It's a propaganda word. 

I searched the New York Times archive to see how this word took hold in American political discourse. Interestingly, it appeared for the first time in July 1950, then did not appear again until July 1951. Starting at that point, it became a very frequent word, and its new buzziness was remarked upon. 

There was a piece by Arthur Krock in September 1951, "In The Nation; Bringing the Political Lexicon Up to Date Among the Administrators At the Capitol." Krock wanted to alert readers words politicians used to con people. He wrote: “Infrastructure. An N.A.T.O. term designed to make sure that the United States will foot the entire bill.”

And in February 1952, there was "Use of 'Infrastructure" Is Baffling to Acheson": “One thing I can’t explain to you is how these facilities came to be called by the name ‘infrastructure.’” [ADDED: That little article also calls "infrastructure" "a favorite bureaucratic morsel in the language of European defense."]

It’s a propaganda word to the core. Don’t give it special power to immunize spending proposals from scrutiny — whether they fit in the broad or the narrow sense of the word.

***

There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email.

"Because Trump is now effectively living at a private club perpetually littered with wealthy supporters desperate to show off their close, personal friendships with the former president..."

"... we can actually construct a pretty decent picture of his daily routine. It’s a life full of powerful visitors, grim sycophants, and ecstatic worshippers at every turn. In short, it’s Donald Trump’s wildest dreams come true. "

Trashberg shows the story. 

FROM THE EMAIL: A reader named Warren writes:

Do we believe this is any different than the way the Obamas are living on Martha’s Vineyard? Except it’s probably more wealth and more ecstatic worshipping by liberals on MV. I’ve always chuckled at the almost all-white Martha’s Vineyard, each home littered with Range Rovers, sporting massive “Black Lives Matter” signs.

One thing that's different is the photos and video of Obama's daily life are not making it onto social media. I'd love to see Obama get the Trashberg treatment and would definitely link to it. What Trump seems to be doing is both elite and not elite. If it were truly elite, it wouldn't get all leaked out the way we're seeing.

Scott Adams gets into a conversation with China state-affiliated media.

FROM THE EMAIL: A reader named Mike writes (and I haven't fact checked the history): 

"Harvey thinks Michael is a soulless, tasteless, lying prick."

From "How Harvey Weinstein Survived His Midlife Crisis (For Now)," a 2004 article in New York Magazine. The "Michael" in question is Michael Eisner. If you care. 

I'm seeing that quote because it is in the Oxford English Dictionary, the most recent example of the use of the word I looked up, "soulless." That is, most recent for meaning 2a: "Of a person: lacking spirit, sensitivity, or other qualities regarded as elevated or human; (now esp.) lacking in human warmth, feeling, or sympathy; cold, heartless." 

I'm actually more interested in meaning 1, "Having no soul," because I was having a real-life conversation about the notion that some people don't have a soul, and whether, if that could be true, the soulless person could acquire a soul, and whether a person who regards another person as soulless has a moral or intellectual obligation to look inside himself and seriously examine whether he himself has got a soul.

I read the news today....

"Legendary Drummer Nick Barker Thinks Modern Death Metal Has Become Soulless "There's very little artistic merit these days'" (Metal Injection).

"Millionaire Sandbanks residents are at war with developers over £250m plan to build 'soulless' block of 119 flats on site of Victorian hotel where radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi set up wireless station in 1898" (The Daily Mail).

"Internet slams ‘idiot’ senator who tweeted graphics attacking infrastructure bill" (Raw Story)("Each of you Republican Senators is just a soulless husk void of a heart, morals, or any ideas of value-- mere grifters and racists willing to say and do anything for money, the future be damned. What a legacy"). 

"Justin Bieber Continues to Gush on the Soulless ‘Justice’" (The Emory Wheel).

 "Godzilla vs Kong Review – Soulless CGI MonsterFest" (NerdFest).

"Safaree Samuels Explains How Social Media Creates Culture of Soulless Materialism and Vanity: ‘The Reality Is Nobody Shows the Struggle’" (Atlanta Black Star)("Social media got 22-year-olds wanting to off they selves cause they don’t make 6 figures and drive a 7 series. S–t is terrible. Got Women thinking if you can’t afford a Chanel bag, you doing bad in life and offer them nothing. Got dudes thinking a good 9-5 is slavery. Nobody likes their body, nobody like their home. Just a mass group of people wanting what others have. Or pretend to have"). 

***

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A+ on the Joe Biden Quiz.

"Say f*** it, put on a your string bikini, and imagine that you're a golddigger who created your own happy ending and is now giving all the cash you scored to the resistance behind your conser[v]ative husband's back."

That's a photo caption by Lena Dunham that appears with a photo in "Lena Dunham's most body-positive photos on Instagram" (NY Post). 

It's an interesting collection of photos with captions straining at humorousness. Though the Post assumes it's all body positivity because Dunham is, we're told, a "vocal advocate of body positivity," the text and pictures don't show unalloyed positivity. Unalloyed positivity would be inane. And inconsistent with comedy.

If inane, uncomic expression of the experience of female embodiment is what you want, read this other NY Post article, "Khloé Kardashian breaks silence, talks body image struggles after unwanted photo saga." 

Kardashian has a problem with the publication of a photograph of her in a bikini looking like a reasonably nice, ordinary woman. It runs counter to her public image as a beautiful woman, part of a beautiful-women family. How can she fight that without expressing negativity about her body, making the ordinary women of the world feel bad about themselves, and looking like she's on the wrong side of the body-positivity movement? Here's the quote she (or her people) came up with:

"The photo that was posted this week is beautiful. But as someone who has struggled with body image her whole life, when someone takes a photo of you that isn’t flattering in bad lighting or doesn’t capture your body the way it is after working so hard to get it to this point — and then shares it to the world — you should have every right to ask for it to not be shared — regardless of who you are."

FROM THE EMAIL: A reader named Roz writes: 

I've been monitoring men in shorts for a long time, and I have my standards... my evolving standards...

So what am I to make of this? At the link:
The 85-year-old Libertarian inadvertently gave the glimpse of his liberally cut short shorts in the last seconds of a video chat on political issues with host Doug Casey. The men had finished discussing the future of personal liberty, when Paul rolled his chair back from the camera and showed just how much liberty his tiny jeans allowed his slightly tanned, thighs to enjoy.
First, I'm more bothered by the comma after "slightly tanned" — "his slightly tanned, thighs." My guess is they had another adjective after "tanned" but they took it out for some reason. Maybe it was "slightly tanned, skinny thighs" or "slightly tanned, hairy thighs" and they backed off, ashamed of their body shaming. "Tanned" was okay, but the rest — I imagine they decided — was the kind of judgementalism that could get them in trouble. But the telltale comma remained.

Second, I'm going to give Ron Paul a pass. It's a totality of the circumstances analysis: 1. He's 85, so I give him extra room to find whatever ways he can to greater physical ease. 2. He's at home, not out in the world displaying disregard for the aesthetic experience of others. 3. He didn't intend his lower body to be seen, but he refrained from outright nakedness or mere underpants. 4. He's a libertarian, so his theme is freedom, and the shorts express his idea of freedom (though if I were looking for freedom in a pair of shorts I'd pick something more pliable and flowy). 5. He amused us.

***

There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email and I'll identify you with your first name only. 

IN THE EMAIL: A reader named Julie writes: 

Best men in shorts post to date! Not only has it been a funny little joy for us all to have you share this shorts obsession with us for years, but also because we COVID weary souls in our home offices totally relate with Ron Paul. I spend hours every week in video conferencing, often with executives I have never met before. Whenever the mood at the start of a video call is bright enough and I am looking for an ice breaker, I make a joke of the fact that my professional on-camera blouse does not match my fraying sweatpants off camera. EVERY SINGLE TIME the professional on the other side reveals a similar predicament and we have a good laugh. It's become a new form of rapid trust building.

April 7, 2021

6:39 a.m. and 6:41 a.m.

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Campus today.

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Note the forsythia in the background. There's lots of forsythia blooming around campus, so if yellow is your favorite color, now is your time:

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And I got my own view of the brutalist building that dropped a slab of concrete on that walkway: 

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"I had to email you, because the photo you posted of Meade catching you 'wandering off' bears an uncanny resemblance to the park in Antonioni's great film Blow-Up."

"In the film, the protagonist surreptitiously photographs a rendezvous in the park. And then as he keeps 'blowing up' the prints, i.e. zooming in, he starts to think he's witnessed a murder. I thought you'd appreciate the similarity of the images! By the way, I've been reading your blog every single day for years and years. Huge fan. I love that you never skip a day, even holidays. Also by the way, I completely agree with the decision to stop comments. The commenters were often rude and obnoxious, and to the extent they drew you into conflicts and took your attention away from other things, that was a waste of your time. And your time matters to your audience -- us! I agree with the person who emailed you saying the comments had become male-dominated (I would say misogynistic). Which seems to be a theme in online comments sections. Those commenters were a tiny sliver of your audience, and frequently an unsavory sliver. Thanks for everything you do! Please don't stop! The Althouse blog is a daily delight."

That's email from someone with the first name Paul. Thanks, Paul!

Here's the shot from "Blowup":

And here's Meade's shot of me: 

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"Greetings, Ms. Althouse. I've just shown up to your blog to discover you've stopped comments. And while my opinion is, like most, certainly meaningless..."

"... I thought I'd drop you a note just in case. I haven't even scrolled down further to see how long ago you made this change or why. To be honest, I was coming here less and less. And I do believe that is because of the comments. I am one of your left-leaning readers. And to be honest, I would try to slog through the comments because I think it is good for us to hear the opinions of the other side. This seemed a somewhat 'safer' way to do that rather than engaging my right-leaning parents or friends. I do not of course want to end up in an argument with them. This was like eavesdropping on someone else's family political argument. But sadly-- the number of higher quality, sober and informed comments/ opinions had seemed to plummet. And it had become a complete drag. I certainly could just choose to NOT read the comments. But I must say-- I was disturbed by the people you seemed to attract. Which I suppose is just to say that I'm disturbed by the level of our society all around. So-- all this to say, I will likely visit MORE often without the comments. You lean more to the right than I, and so I believe I will still get that 'other side' benefit. And while it would be nice if more of your followers were as interesting as you, we're just not! And while we all, including you, benefit from the interactions some times... I'm certain all this was a FAR bigger drag for you. So I agree with your lawlizard commenter-- please yo self! And thank you!"

Email from Andrea.

“I don't think that you need to rehash ending comments any further, but I just thought of this. There is a Grateful Dead documentary on Prime..."

"... and the last episode, when the Dead were carrying on the show for the fans, the fans who were becoming increasingly rowdy, BTW. The show was killing Jerry, and did kill him. The Deadheads wouldn't even buy tickets for the show, but just would show up 'for the party.' The band was getting kind of sick of it an had no way to control it. Anyway, there was a lot about that final episode that reminded me of your blog. Like I said, you have stated your reasons clearly enough, so I am not asking you to use this in any way, but just credit it to 'Tim' if you should choose to do so."

That's (obviously) from the email. Here's the Amazon Prime series, "A Long Strange Trip." I've watched some of it, but not the last episode. Now, I will watch it. I have thought about my problem with the comments with an analogy to having a party at my own house.

6:33... oversaturated.

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"I’m not surprised that without any of that background information or context that voters would not support these changes."

Said Eileen Harrington, "former chairperson of the now-dissolved Task Force on Government Structure," quoted in "Madison voters widely support City Council term limits; reject full-time body, longer term lengths" (Wisconsin State Journal). 

[Harrington's] work prompted the advisory questions.... In a report to the council in early 2020, the task force concluded the current system is “fundamentally unfair,” particularly for people of color and low-income residents, and one that favors people with the time, resources and knowledge to participate.

Harrington said she felt there wasn’t a “meaningful effort” from the council to educate the public on the task force’s work before the vote. Among its various recommendations, the task force suggested moving to a full-time, 10-member council with members paid $67,950 annually and elected to four-year terms.

The one thing that passed — by a lot (71% to 29%) — was the proposal for term limits. The article doesn't make it clear, but I don't think term limits was one of the committee's ideas. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks like everything the committee wanted was soundly defeated. [CORRECTION: The committee did recommend term limits.]

And I think what Harrington is implying is that the Madison voters hadn't gotten the message that we needed to vote for the proposals to be anti-racist. We weren't meaningfully educated, so we just ambled into the polls, read the referendum questions as written, and decided city council members shouldn't have higher pay and 4-year terms. And then we went for term limits!

Was that racist? The article quotes former mayor Dave Cieslewicz: “I hope Madisonians don’t just see this as something they rejected but also as something they support. I hope there’s a renewed appreciation for their neighbors who step up to work on the council for little money or recognition, but just to serve the community.” 

As a CRT-steeped Madisonian, I've got to ask: Is that white supremacy? Is the low-pay, part-time service ideal part of whiteness? And would we have voted the other way if only we'd been sufficiently educated on that score? Or did we know we were voting for systemic racism and that's why we did it?

***

There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here.

FROM THE EMAIL: Noting the language from the article that I quoted above — "the task force concluded the current system is “fundamentally unfair,” particularly for people of color and low-income residents, and one that favors people with the time, resources and knowledge to participate" — Greg writes:

"I don’t think I’d need to give up football to do it. They film 46 days a year. I worked 187 this year in Green Bay. That gives me 178 days to do Jeopardy!"

"So I feel like I could fit 46 into that 178 and make it work. It would be a dream job for sure, and I’m not shy at all about saying I want the job. That’s how I went into it. I want an opportunity to be in the mix.” 

Said Aaron Rodgers, quoted in "Aaron Rodgers Says He Wants to Be the Permanent Host of 'Jeopardy!'" (Inside Hook).

“I feel like I bring something different to the stage — I’m the youngest of any of the guest hosts, I’d be the youngest host of just about any major game show, I bring an audience from the NFL, and I feel like I appeal to nerdy people, too, because I was a nerd in high school and got caught in that weird phase of wanting to be a jock and an athlete and also really caring about getting good grades. And at the same time, there’s not many bigger fans of the show than me. I’ve been watching it for years and years and years. I respect the show and appreciate the history of it, and also there’s my background of stepping in for a legend and their footsteps. I feel like all that combined makes me a pretty good candidate.”  

I love the forthright, heartfelt, humble/proud submission of an application for the job. He's such a huge sports hero, and he wants to come home to nerddom. So appealing!

***

There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email. 

FROM THE EMAIL: Mary Ann writes:

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said something very obvious about Supreme Court authority.

But he's authoritative, and he's pushing back liberal politicos, and he said it in a speech at Harvard Law School, so it's news, reported here, at "Justice Breyer says expanding the Supreme Court could erode trust" (WaPo). 

In remarks prepared for a speech at Harvard Law School, Breyer wrote that the court’s authority depends on “a trust that the court is guided by legal principle, not politics.”

He added: “Structural alteration motivated by the perception of political influence can only feed that perception, further eroding that trust.”

Some Democrats and liberal activists say that adding seats to the court is the only way to blunt the court’s conservative majority. They contend it is a proper and logical response to what they say was a form of court-packing by Senate Republicans....

In other words, "some Democrats" have made it clear that they want to use the Court as a political tool, and that's exactly why it would undermine the Court's authority. These Democrats are not the counterweight to Breyer's point. They are the foundation!  

6:17 a.m.

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"This is an Earth-built landscape millions of years in the making. When you crush, excavate and finally smother this land with fill and concrete..."

"... you destroy forever an entire interlocked, respiring and breathing community, the home for thousands of organisms living deep in the soil up to the treetops. You don’t get it back.” 

Said the wildlife biologist Sam Droege, quoted in "A maglev would be a speedy option over protected land. But research and wildlife might suffer" (WaPo). 

The question is whether there should be a magnetic levitation train connecting Washington and Baltimore. The 40-mile trip could be accomplished in 15 minutes instead of whatever it takes using the existing roads. 

I have a lot of trouble understanding why it is so important to facilitate trips between Washington and Baltimore. Driving is not the only alternative to a high-speed train. There's also the alternative of not going. If the train would make the trip take half as long, I propose going from Washington to Baltimore half as often. 

Haven't we learned, during Covid, how to minimize the need to shuttle from place to place? We need to reevaluate travel and commuting. It's not a rock-solid need that must be accommodated. Put less weight there, more on environmentalism.

FROM THE EMAIL: Matureteach writes:

I had to laugh when I read your article about the proposed mag-lev train between Baltimore and Washington. When I first met my husband, he was part of the planning team to design a mag-lev train for that route. My husband and I have been married over 50 years now, and it seems to me that if this high-speed train had been deemed feasible then or at any point since, someone would have built it by now.

The same Donald Trump pudding.

In "The Trump media era ends not with a wow but a whisper" (WaPo), Philip Bump observes that Trump was on TV yesterday, but probably almost nobody watched:

"You probably missed it, because it was Donald Trump offering the same pudding of rhetoric we’ve heard so often to an anchor on the far-right network Newsmax."

Did you probably miss it because it was the same pudding? Or did you probably miss it because it was on a pretty obscure news channel and you didn't notice it was on because all the big burly news sources and social media sites have joined forces to freeze Trump out? What was on those big channels yesterday? I'll bet it was their own brand of a pudding of rhetoric that we've heard so often. Or are they serving up meat? Theirs is the real news commentary. Trump's is the pudding. And you're not getting any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?

***

If you want to publish a comment, you need to email it to me — here. I'll use your first name only, unless you say you want no name or some other form of name.

April 6, 2021

We took a walk in the Arboretum today.

Meade caught me wandering off: 

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I was sticking to close-ups:

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"Long-time reader, first time commenter. I love the café style blog you created and have spent way too many hours reading you and your commenters over the past eleven years."

Writes a reader who calls herself lawlizard. The email continues: 

I was sad to see that you ended comments, but having had some time to think about it, I would offer the following. I think the comment section had become less of a café to offer freewheeling conversation and thoughtful opinions and was more like a bar.

For the regulars, everybody knows their name, but they also had gotten boring. I could read your post and often it would spark interesting ideas and then read the comments and too often they were just rehashing the same opinion, but tied to the latest topic.

"How Ron DeSantis’s critics are turning him into a hero for the right"

A WaPo column by Aaron Blake. 

Over the past year, DeSantis has repeatedly found himself targeted for his coronavirus response, sometimes in overwrought ways. The culmination came Sunday in a “60 Minutes” piece that cast a spotlight on his decision to run Florida’s coronavirus vaccination program through the grocery store chain Publix, which had donated $100,000 to his campaign in the weeks prior....

Even Florida officials with ties to the Democratic Party have defended the decision to use Publix, which is the state’s most popular grocery chain and has also donated to Democrats and progressive causes. Palm Beach County Mayor Dave Kerner (D), whose city was a focal point of the “60 Minutes” report, said flatly that the reporting was “intentionally false” and that “60 Minutes” had declined his offer to provide a counterpoint. He said it should be “ashamed.”...

"... I was sensitive to the way my body had not been allowed its own autonomy, growing up as a girl. I began to realize that even [for] a boy, it doesn't mean all is open and everything is game."

"So when we used to play this lovely game called 'the mama clinch,"' where I would hold on to him and he was supposed to kiss me in order to free himself. And I used to love that, and he loved it as a child. And then when he was about 8 or 9, he started to not really enjoy that game and he would not jump into it. And I realized, 'Oh, he's growing up and he wants his own autonomy' and picking up on those cues. And I talk in another chapter about how important it is for us to pick up on those cues from our kids, and then that way they learn to pick up those cues from others."

Says Sonora Jha, quoted in "Memoir Offers Advice On 'How To Raise A Feminist Son'" (NPR). 

The feminist son rightly resists forced kissing. Interesting that the feminist mother had to learn her feminist lesson, and fascinating to face up to the strange reality of how much kissing is forced on babies and children. 

Is it right, this soppy smooching? Dr. Spock's classic childcare book, from 1946, famously reacted to this advice from 1930: 

"Never, never hug and kiss them, never let them sit in your lap. If you must, kiss them once on the forehead when they say goodnight. Shake hands with them in the morning.... Try it out. In a week’s time you will find how easy it is to be perfectly objective with your child and at the same time kind. You will be utterly ashamed of the mawkish, sentimental way you have been handling it."

That fell so far out of favor. But maybe we should reconsider being perfectly objective — and kind — to our children. Oh, but no one believes perfect objectivity is even possible. You'd just be fooling yourself. Still, I don't like that "mama clinch" game. I'm a bit surprised Jha talks about that openly.

***

There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email.

The new Murakami book is out today.

"First Person Singular" — a story collection. I put the text in my Kindle and the audio in my iPhone. It was already a great afternoon for a walk, and now....

Here's an interview with Haruki Murakami (at NPR). Excerpt:

When I'm really focused on writing, I get the feeling that I shift from this world to the other world, and then return to this world. Kind of like commuting. I go there, and come back. Going is important, but coming back is even more important. Since it'd be awful if you couldn't return.

At the beginning of the ninth century there was a nobleman in Kyoto named Ono no Takamura. During the day he worked in the imperial palace, and it was rumored that at night he'd descend to hell (the underworld) and serve there as secretary to Enma Daio, the ruler of hell. Commuting, as it were, every day between this world and the other. His passageway to travel back and forth was an old well, and it still exists in Kyoto. I love that story. Though I don't think I'd ever like to climb down inside that well.

***

There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email. I'll use only your first name unless you let me know you want something else.

"The comments section had become very man-centered.... Most posts contained a slur against you, particularly as a woman."

After I added an emailed comment to yesterday's post — "The thing that's complicated about the body positive movement..." — I received email from a woman who does not want to be named:

The person you chose to quote yesterday, Mary, wrote something similar to what I was thinking and considered emailing you about. Th[at] post strikes me as a woman's topic -- aging and acceptance as beauty fades -- and I began to wonder if your blog would become more of a woman's space.

I'm one of the 77 who voted to stop comments and change to email.

She's referring to the poll, the results of which you can see here.

The comments section had become very man-centered. Every post contained someone, often the same someone, disparaging women and how they think. Most posts contained a slur against you, particularly as a woman.

I was considering just not reading the comments anymore when you proposed your change. I restricted my interaction with your blog because I was intimidated by the men. I would not want this comment quoted on your blog. Too soon.

I wrote back — saying she was putting into words something I had been thinking — and she did give me permission.

I wanted to write as a show of support for the change you've made, and also to let you know that I'm curious to see what the blog becomes when some of the toxic interactions are removed.

I'm curious too!

I know you're indomitable....

That's just a public persona. One reason to do the blog is to push myself into the practice of something like indomitability. I actually looked up the word in the OED so I could reflect on whether I possess this quality. It means: "That cannot be overcome or subdued by labour, difficulties, or opposition; unyielding; stubbornly persistent or resolute. Usually approbative."

... but did that constant drip of misogyny impact your blogging? We shall see.

I always thought the misogyny was its own argument against itself, and it could not touch me. That I allowed it meant, to me, that I was strong and didn't need or even care to exclude it. It's reprehensible, but reprehensible on its face. So why not allow it to show its face? I don't think it changed what I wrote, but then again, it could have affected me to see so many comments saying things like "Who cares?" whenever I put up posts like the "body positivity" one you and Mary responded to. And if women, particularly, feel intimidated — your word — about mixing with the men in the comments, then everything is skewed. 

So, yes, we shall see. And thanks for the email!

The sun, found at 6:36 a.m.

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"Why Is the Supreme Court Hesitating on Abortion?"

Asks Ed Kilgre at Intelligencer. 

Mississippi petitioned for SCOTUS review [in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] last June, of course; the whole point of the state’s provocative law [banning abortion after 15 weeks] was to invite the Court to [overrule] or significantly modify Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the landmark decisions establishing and affirming a constitutional right to abortion.

Speaking of brutalism... when the concrete falls off and crashes onto the walkway, you do not want to be there.

I'm reading "Concrete slab falls from third-floor patio of Van Hise Hall on UW-Madison campus" (Wisconsin State Journal).

I've always hated this ugly and very prominent building on campus, and now the ugly thing is expressing hate back at us.

Wikipedia says it's the second tallest building in Madison, the tallest being the state Capitol, but because it's on a hill, it's the highest building in the city. I see it's "slated to be demolished in 2025." Maybe take it down as soon as possible. It's trying to kill us.

When I think of a hateful building trying to kill us, I think of "Life and Times of Thomas House," by Mark Beyer (click image for much better clarity):



"Arrgh I'm so frustrated. Expressing hostility toward humans isn't going to help my situation," says Thomas, and we can only hope that Van Hise Hall has that level of insight.

***

There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email.

"We heard a bullet hit a branch above us and we could hear the whistling sound of the bullet as it was going through the air. The other hikers turned to us..."

".... and asked us if we had also heard the same thing that they did, because we all kind of were just in shock....Just running and not knowing whether the person knew that there were people nearby or not and worried that a bullet would be lower and hit one of us, it was truly terrifying." 

Says somebody quoted in "Gunfire narrowly misses hiking family in Lodi, mother shares terrifying experience" (WMTV). 

They were hiking on the Lodi Marsh segment of the Ice Age Trail, a completely normal place to go hiking. It was probably someone hunting or doing target practice, according to the police. How much we trust people with guns to know what they are doing!

FROM THE EMAIL: Ray writes:

This happened to me in Massachusetts back in the 1980’s when I was in college. I was hiking through the woods and across a field when I heard this whistling sound go past my ear and then a loud "thwack" as it hit the trees behind me. It took me a moment to register what it was, and then I just flattened myself on the ground and waited. I didn’t hear anything else, so I eventually got up and went on my way. Never did find out whether it was someone hunting or doing target practice, whether they knew I was there, whether they meant to hit me and missed, or purposely missed just to scare me. (I’ve always assumed it was the last option – purposely missed just to scare).

MORE EMAIL: JustSomeOldDude writes:

I fail to see any evidence that anything happened other than some people heard sounds that appeared to be shooting. A person's disposition can create of a bullet shot in their direction, but that's just an opinion of events.

That made me go back and reread the article. There doesn't seem to be a point where they search the trees and find bullets, and the way the police deal with it is consistent with a judgment that these people were wrong. I don't know. It was important enough that a news article was written, but what does that mean?!

Looking for the sun — 6:36 a.m.

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"A conscious neck restraint by policy mentions light to moderate pressure. When I look at exhibit 17..."

"... and when I look at the facial expression of Mr. Floyd, that does not appear in any way, shape, or form that that is light to moderate pressure." 

 From "Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo Testimony on Use of Force in Derek Chauvin Trial Transcript" (REV).

Perhaps you've noticed that I've eliminated comments on this blog.

If you want to understand why I've made this change, go to this momentous post from Sunday and search the comments for contributions from me. I did not believe when I put that post up that I was about to end comments, but the comments — ironically, the comments insisting that I keep the comments — convinced me that I needed to let go of the blogging-with-comments game.

You can still comment on posts. You just have to send me email. Use this address. I'll presume you want to be quoted in an update to the post, but I'll be very selective about that. To see the first example of a post update with a quote from the email, go back to this post from yesterday.

"To me, this is something you do, ideally, zero times. You never experience the impulse to do it, and you lead a pleasant life."

"You travel. You eat lunchmeat sandwiches. Maybe you do a marathon, or climb something. You lead a blithe existence for many decades, you die in your bed in your mid-nineties surrounded by your cherished relatives, and in all that time, you never walk up to a colleague on the floor of the House of Representatives and out of nowhere present him with a nude photograph of someone you claim to have had sex with. But if you can’t do it zero times, then ideally it happens only once. It happens only once, because the moment you do it, the person you show it to responds the way a person should respond. You produce your photograph to your colleague, and your colleague looks at you and says, 'Never show that to anyone, ever again. Go home and rethink your life. I do not feel closer to you. If anything, I want to have you removed forcibly from my presence by strong gentlemen whose biceps are tattooed with "MOM." The fact that you thought this would make us closer makes me question every decision in my life that has led me to this point. Leave now and never come back.' But we can probably suppose that this is not what happened, because life is regrettably unstingy with moments like this, when a small awkward 'no' seems too costly. Perhaps the person to whom this was shown emitted a sort of uncomfortable, nervous laugh, and this was viewed as acceptance enough. Or worse, he leered at it, encouraged it. Or, still worse (a scenario alleged to have existed during Gaetz’s time in the Florida state House), he joined a fun little club with Gaetz and others to assign themselves conquest points."

Writes Alexadra Petri in "Opinion: This should not happen more than once" (WaPo). 

She's talking about the way Matt Gaetz "used to wander around and show his colleagues nude photos of people he had slept with." Strange use of the word "people." These were all pictures of women, I think. I don't know why Petri would want to downplay that this is something a man was doing to women. 

Perhaps a new political correctness urges her to refrain from assuming that the human beings you're talking about are the sex they appear to be. But that diffidence drains power from feminism: We're all just people. In a culture that rejects colorblindness as the answer to racism, it's inconsistent to structure sex-blindness (gender-blindness?) into the discussion of issues of sexism. 

Petri is calling for good men — and men who'd like to think of themselves as decent enough to deserve the company of women — to say "no" to the male camaraderie that comes in the form of nudging to casually enjoy the graphic depiction of the naked female body. In that view, it's up to all men to create the environment where somebody doing what she's saying Gaetz did would get the message that he's a creep. 

Petri, perhaps unintentionally, points to a way out of cancel culture. The colleagues don't have the credibility to encapsulate and excise just the one person. They're all responsible. They must change. 

But I don't know what Matt Gaetz did. Consider this, by former Congresswoman Katie Hill: "Matt Gaetz Defended Me When My Nudes Were Shared Without My Consent/Now He's Accused of Doing Just That/Matt and I forged an unlikely friendship in Congress, and he was one of the few colleagues who spoke out after a malicious nude-photo leak upended my life. But if recent reports are true, he engaged in the very practice he defended me from—and should resign immediately" (Vanity Fair).

***

There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email.

April 5, 2021

Looking away from the sunrise.

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"See that smile? Ron had slipped up. He knew it and I knew it."

Via "A QAnon revelation suggests the truth of Q’s identity was right there all along/The extremist movement’s leader had purported to be a top-secret government operative. But a possible slip-up in a new documentary about QAnon suggests that Q was actually Ron Watkins, the longtime administrator of the 8kun message board" (WaPo):

The evidence is circumstantial, and no proof affirms Watkins’ role. Watkins, for his part, messaged his 150,000 subscribers on the chat service Telegram late Sunday, “Friendly reminder: I am not Q. Have a good weekend.”

"The thing that’s complicated about the body positive movement is it can be for the privileged few who have a body that looks the way people want to feel positive."

"We want curvy bodies that look like Kim Kardashian has been up-sized slightly. We want big beautiful butts and big beautiful breasts and no cellulite and faces that look like you could smack them on to thin women. I have a big stomach, I always have. That’s where I gain my weight — especially after early menopause, I have a straight-up gut, like an old man —and that’s not where anybody wants to see flesh. It’s not like if I posted a sensual nude of myself on Instagram, people would be marveling at my beautiful derrière.... There’s so much judgment around bigger bodies, and I think one of the judgments is that bigger women are stupider. They eat too much and don’t know how to stop. Thin women must be discerning and able to use their willpower. Bigger women must be limited in their understanding of the world, and they keep doing things that are bad for them. The amount of people who have written to me on my page: 'You’re promoting obesity. Don’t you understand you’re killing yourself. Are you stupid? Why are you doing that?'"

Said Lena Dunham, quoted in "Lena Dunham and the Spanx Liberation Movement/The actor-writer-director-controversy creator is back with a new project: a plus-size clothing line. The whole body positivity thing? She has thoughts" (NYT).

I was interested in this concept of negativity within positivity — that the much-vaunted "body positivity" isn't really generally accepting the full range of fatnesses, but only okays manifestations of fat that fit a feminine ideal of voluptuousness, curvaceousness. If the fat has overtaken you in the way it would beset a man — "a straight-up gut, like an old man" — the radiations of positivity do not reach you.

***

There is no comments section anymore, but you can email me here. Unless you say otherwise, I will presume you'd enjoy an update to this post with a quote from your email. 

FROM THE EMAIL: A reader, Mary, writes:

Your blog post today "The thing that’s complicated about the body positive movement…” got me thinking about an Instagram post I saw a few days ago by Paulina Porizkova, because it’s not just shaming women for their body shape and size, there’s also the issue of shaming women for how they age. 

Here she says “As a woman, you are shamed if you look your age and you’re shamed if you do interventions to not look your age. Jane Fonda , who has been absolutely honest about her ways of coping, will go on a talk show to promote a new movie and all she’s asked is about her facelift.  Is it any wonder that many celebrities would prefer not to have to defend their choices every single day? What if you went to your office and was always introduced as “Jenny, who has Botox in her forehead and had a lower facelift” when you’re there to pitch a great new idea, or sell off on a deal, or just sign contracts? Would you be so keen on letting everyone know if it is then becomes what defines you as a person, rather that your abilities and talent and personality?” 

This is mostly celebrity looks issues, but I think we all feel it to some degree. I’m 55 years old and when I look in the mirror and see my neck, oh man, what the fuck happened! I’m seeing my age and it all seems to be happening so fast now. It’s like I’m pruning overnight! Should I wake up in the middle of the night and drink a gallon of water? I don’t know. 

But I do understand most women are going through some sort of…"do I look good?” shit. And really it’s more important that we feel good about ourselves. Regardless of age, belly fat, boobs, because none of that matters if you’re not happy with who you are on the inside. I guess that sounds corny and sort of Sesame Street, but it’s not. It actually matters. 

How long throughout history has there been such an emphasis on women’s looks? I don’t think this is ending any time soon.

I read that immediately after looking at pictures of myself... with a completely judgmental eye. And I'm 70!

MORE EMAIL:

I will be 60 this year. The thing that is most disturbing to me is the "old man pot belly" which I definitely have now. You can kind of hide it with loose tops (and of course something that shows more cleavage might distract from the belly). It is good to make sure your hair looks nice when you go out, do your nails, put on some makeup and jewelry, etc. But I am not competing with 20 year old's, that would be ridiculous. I just want to feel pretty even though that is kind of bending to the patriarchy. Also it's kind of funny, with the advent of mid-rise jeans, my pants size has not changed at all. I just have to wear a belt to keep my pants from falling down. By the way your hair looks great.

Thanks!