May 1, 2021

Restaurant... museum... we're coming out of the lockdown!

Just this week, we enjoyed the food and the highly wholesome conditions at Graze...


And we browsed around at the Chazen Museum...


"Of 70 people bailed out of jail since last May by six social-justice activists, 25 have been charged with 108 felonies and 49 misdemeanors or municipal code violations alleged to have occurred after they were freed..."

"... a far higher re-arrest rate than typically seen among people released on bail nationally," The Wisconsin State Journal reports

“I don’t know of any research that examines the issue of who posts a defendant’s bail on the likelihood of committing new crimes,” said Danielle M. Romain Dagenhardt, an assistant professor of criminal justice at UW-Milwaukee. “I would imagine that it could be the case that an individual who posts bail from an outside source’s money would have less-vested stake in continuing to appear or comply with release conditions, however, I’m not sure how often that actually occurs.”

[Pilar Weiss, director of the Community Justice Exchange, which administers the National Bail Fund Network] rejected the notion that the source of bail money has any relation to the likelihood of re-arrest. “People aren’t like, ‘Oh, great, somebody else got me out of jail’” and subsequently feel the need to go out and put their lives at risk, she said....

Local bail funds are... encouraged not to identify which inmates are most “worthy” of release based on their past criminal records, Pilar said, since she and other incarceration- and bail-abolition activists see defendants as having been “targeted and criminalized by police” and the victims of a “racist criminal legal system.” 


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.

"But if SNL thinks it can brighten or dim the star power of its host, Musk poses a particularly risky challenge."

"He’s a black hole, a rare figure who absorbs attention, good or bad. He’s already downplayed the latest news about Tesla, involving the deaths of two people in a driverless car in Texas, claiming that autopilot was not enabled, and moved on to reiterating his calls for turning humanity into a 'multi-planetary species.' His power does not depend on cultural support from the likes of SNL; he can be disliked, but not 'canceled.' None of his scandals have substantially altered his influence on the tech industry or his online following. Unlike a typical SNL host, he has nothing to lose. The show has effectively invited into the hallowed halls of 30 Rock a walking, talking, breathing meme with a net worth of $172.1 billion as of this writing."

From "Elon Musk’s SNL Hosting Gig Is a Trap By the time you understand the billionaire’s motives, you’ve already been trolled" (The Atlantic). 

I can't really understand why it's supposed to be so bad for Musk to be an SNL host. I also read "'SNL' cast won’t be forced to appear with controversial host Elon Musk" (at Page Six), and I couldn't figure it out. I understand some cast members have an objection, but what it the objection based on?

It seems to me he's an interesting persona, and everything depends on the sketches they build around him. They're not just going to genuflect to his wealth and his purported genius, I presume. It's going to be more about his oddness, his screwiness. Maybe there's just a fear that the show will enhance his power, even if they do what they can to mock him, as it did for Trump.

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"Granted, I surprised myself with the ire that bubbled up over the course of writing this essay; I hadn’t realized how much lingering resentment I had..."

"... toward those men—and later, toward the female-orgasm industrial complex in which I saw the self-interest of such men reflected—who made me feel deficient and ashamed for a situation out of my control, and one that I had long ago made peace with. As grateful as I am to Dr. M and Justin for their support, moreover, for offering a safe space in which to further explore the frontier of my own body, I find myself wondering, when I think too hard about it, whether their professed 'calling' is actually just more male selfishness in disguise. ('Do you work with men?' I asked Justin before he left. 'No, only women,' he said. 'I’m not trained in the lingam.' Shocking, I couldn’t help thinking.) Yet I refuse to believe that there aren’t at least a few men out there with the necessary confidence and generosity to want me regardless of whether or not I ever come, and Justin made a good point: How will I ever find something authentic if I am inauthentic from the start?"

From "The Tyranny of the Female-Orgasm Industrial Complex/What one woman’s quest for sexual satisfaction reveals about desire, hysteria, feminism, and capitalism" by Katharine Smyth, who has never had an orgasm (The Atlantic). 

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"Weirder still, one vaccine in particular—from Pfizer—has somehow become the cool vaccine, as well as the vaccine for the rich and stylish."

"Slate’s Heather Schwedel recently discussed the 'Pfizer superiority complex' at length. As one source told her: 'One of my cousins got Moderna, and I was like, "That’s OK. We need a strong middle class."' On Twitter, the vaccinated are changing their usernames to reflect their new personal identities: There are Pfizer Princesses and Pfizer Floozies and Pfizer Pfairies and at least one Portrait of a Lady on Pfizer.... Many high-end fashion brands are named after people, like Pfizer (Fendi, Prada, Kenzo), and many are two syllables, like Pfizer (Fendi, Prada, Kenzo). Second... Pfizer is a 'cool word' because of the F and Z sounds, which are what linguists call 'fricatives.' Fricatives 'are really fast-sounding,' which is why you might want to include them in the names of cars, or drugs that are marketed as fast-acting—or vaccines that don’t require you to wait a full month between doses. Moderna, meanwhile, has a lot of sounds called 'stops'—the M, the D, the N—which make the word seem 'slow and plodding'.... It’s also very literal, like a budget brand would be. 'Do you really have to call yourself modern if you’re selling pharmaceuticals that are in fact based on cutting-edge technologies?...No, you’d be more cool about it.;" 

From "The Hot-Person Vaccine/The internet has decided that Pfizer is significantly cooler than Moderna—but why?" (The Atlantic). 

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April 30, 2021

5:52 a.m.


"A senior judge has ruled it is lawful for carers in specific circumstances to help clients find and pay for sex."

"The ruling found it would be wrong to stop them helping a 27-year-old man with mental disabilities fulfilling a natural desire.... The Court of Protection, which made the ruling, is dedicated to taking decisions for people who lack the mental capacity to live independent and safe lives. The young man at the centre of the case, known only as C, is fit and healthy but lives with carers because he needs daily help with many parts of his life. He has autism and a genetic disorder - but Mr Justice Hayden said that after speaking to C, he found that he was happy and well-supported. The court heard that C knew he would probably never find a girlfriend but he nevertheless wanted to experience sex - and so he had asked his carers if they could find him a sex worker who would be paid for their services...." 

From "Carers can help vulnerable clients visit sex workers" (BBC).

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"Seeing people who are so excited to welcome me into the community, it’s like, I want to go there."

Said Jennifer Hill Booker, quoted in "Want to Move to Our Town? Here’s $10,000 and a Free Bike/With offers of cash, housing and a budding talent pool, smaller cities and states hope to get in on the ground floor of a new era for remote workers" (NYT). 

The Fayetteville region — including Bentonville, best known as the home of Walmart’s global headquarters — is one of several smaller metro areas and states across the country, from Georgia to Hawaii, trying to lure high-net-worth workers who can increasingly do their jobs remotely. The idea is that they’ll shop in local stores and pay real estate taxes, but they won’t take jobs away from locals. For regional economic development organizations, it’s an effort to build communities with high skill sets to attract start-ups and larger companies in the future. For the migrating workers, it’s a chance to try out an up-and-coming place alongside other newcomers. 


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.

"There was talk, at one point, of calling Aidy Bryant's show 'fat bitch'... the studio and network were like, 'Uh, no'...."

"But being fat is part of what the series is about. 'Shrill' is based on Lindy West’s memoir, sparked by her viral 2011 column, 'Hello, I Am Fat'... West’s story resonated with Bryant.... 'It is a descriptor and, like, I am fat,' says Bryant, 33. 'To me, it’s like taking the power out of it. It doesn’t have to be so loaded. It’s just true, and sitting with that, it makes it easier for me. It just feels a little less frightening.'... Will 'Shrill' leave a lasting impact on how fat people are treated in comedy? [Producer Lorne] Michaels was reminded of several popular, old SNL bits, including John Belushi gnawing on a chicken breast while playing Elizabeth Taylor and Chris Farley’s shirtless Chippendales dance. The late Farley’s sad description of his style was often 'fatty falls down.' 'How things change is really who’s doing the talking,' Michaels says. 'If it’s someone they trust as much as they trust Aidy, I think they’re much more willing to take what she says seriously. And that’s a good use of a comedy platform.'"

From a WaPo article about Bryant's TV show "Shrill." 

As I've said for many years, "fat" should not be treated as a bad word. We call people "skinny" — often as a compliment — and "fat" is the corresponding word on the other side of "normal." I know, you can attack "normal," but I'm thinking of those BMI charts that show a range called "normal," meaning that's what you ought to shoot for if you want your best health. 

Anyway... there's a long history to the comedy of fatness. There's good reason to have characters who just  happen to be fat and don't do much if anything comical with their bodies. But the body is an instrument that can be deployed comically, and there are special things that can be done with a fat body. Here's Fatty Arbuckle: 

(To comment, you can email me here, and I might publish what you write in an update to this post. Pithy, interesting comments that add something new to the conversation are most likely to make it.)

"There is little countries can do to lift their native-born birthrates; nor is it even clear why the U.S. fertility rate, which now stands substantially below the replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman, is so low."

Says the Editorial Board of The Washington Post in "The 2020 Census is a clarion call for immigration."

I was just saying that President Biden's plan to vastly increase support for families with children could be justified by the need to inspire Americans to keep having children. Here's what I wrote 3 days ago: 

There was some concern expressed yesterday over the "remarkable slackening" in population growth seen in the 2020 census. What will it do to the economy going forward if Americans don't maintain the long human tradition of robust reproduction? I was inclined to say, don't worry about it, less population growth is good for the environment. But if you took the other side of that debate... you'd better worry about women declining the option to undertake childbearing and men and women passing on the potentially fulfilling endeavor of child-rearing. It's terribly expensive!... [Y]ou're going to have to incentivize reproduction a little bit. The old scheme of locking women into childbirth as a consequence of indulging in sex failed long ago, and you sound like a fool talking about it now, especially if you attempt to stand on the foundation of love for babies, when what you are doing is justifying freeing rich folk — people who make over $1 million a year — from paying a 40% capital gains tax. Can't dishearten them in their enthusiasm for investing? What about the young people who are disheartened about having children? Worry about them.

But the WaPo editors have nothing to say about these new children-friendly policies. They just say there's little that can be done to motivate Americans to choose life with children. They go right to immigration: 

This nation’s prosperity, pluck, ambition and effervescent character are the products of more than 100 million immigrants who have sought better lives in the United States since its founding.

It's probably true that these children of Americans who are not getting born would probably be dull slackers compared to the plucky, effervescent immigrants. 

FROM THE EMAIL: Temujin writes: 

"Banning menthol cigarettes is a racial justice issue."

Says a headline to an editorial in the L.A. Times, and I haven't read the text yet, but I don't know which way it's a racial justice issue.

I know black people who smoke are more likely than white people to prefer menthol cigarettes, and that previous efforts to ban flavored tobacco products have made an exception for the flavor menthol. They won't just ban all tobacco products, but they could attack what was purportedly aimed at children — flavored-added things. But they made an exception for the traditional flavor menthol. I think now there's a move to ban menthol too, and that will have a disparate impact on black people.

But which way does "racial justice" cut? I thought that the exception for menthol favored black people, so maybe banning menthol cigarettes is a racial justice issue because it would deprive them — more than white people — of something they've been choosing for themselves. But it could also be a racial justice issue because it would deter them from using a harmful product, since they — more than white people — will be deprived of the form of the product that they prefer, so maybe they'll cut back or quit. 

Now, I'll read the editorial. Excerpt:

The African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council and other public health groups sued over the government’s failure to regulate menthol, despite compelling evidence of its harm. In November, a judge rejected the government’s bid to dismiss the case, and Thursday’s announcement was the settlement. It’s a victory for public health nonetheless, no matter what the American Civil Liberties Union says. The ACLU and other civil rights groups sent a letter Monday to U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock arguing against a menthol ban, claiming that it would perpetuate overpolicing in Black communities. But the FDA ban would not criminalize possession of menthol cigarettes, just remove them from the market.... ...Black public health advocates contend, and we agree, that the bigger injustice is allowing tobacco companies to continue to push their deadly product on communities of color.

So it's a racial justice issue because there are racial justice issues on both sides, but the L.A. Times has decided that there's more racial justice in taking away what black people choose for themselves than in letting them decide. It's paternalism. And it's infantilism, because the editors won't credit black consumers with the power to make their own choices: the tobacco companies are pushing their product on "communities of color," so the choice is not real choice.


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.

"Many of us view the practice of pronoun declaration as asking us to sign on to an ideology we do not share: that we all have an internal gender identity..."

"... which may or may not 'match' our sex, and that the third-person pronoun someone uses to describe us should reflect this identity rather than our sex. People call me 'she' because that is the third-person pronoun we generally use to describe female humans (and other animals), and I take that to mean nothing more than that they have correctly recognized me as female. However, announcing that 'my pronouns are she/her' would mean something very different: an indication that 'woman' represents my identity rather than simply my bodily reality; in other words, that I identify in some way with the social role of 'woman' or with stereotypical femininity (which I do not). People who have transitioned should of course be addressed with courtesy, but imposing the idea of 'gender identity' with corresponding pronouns on all of us is regressive and coercive. Not to mention that women in particular have good reasons for not wanting to foreground 'gender' in our interactions with others, particularly in a work setting."

That's a comment on a NYT advice column titled: "Do I Really Need to State My Pronouns?/A reader asks whether a workplace policy actually makes trans and nonbinary people feel more included." 

The reader was someone who worked in sales and had experienced losing a sale to a customer who said he was "turned off by the pronoun thing." The advice columnist only gave a vague answer. The commenter made a brilliant point and put it quite well. It fits my tag "gender privacy."

(This is a post about a comment over at the NYT, a comment that interested me more than what the NYT advice columnist wrote. But how, you might wonder, can a reader comment on this Althouse post? The answer is — because some trolls made open comments impossible — you have to email me here.)

FROM THE EMAIL: Lyssa writes

I’ve often thought that the gender concept is functionally a religion - the idea that there’s some deeper, non-biological concept of “man” or “woman” is non-falsifiable, a matter of faith which is, at least for some, deeply and sincerely held. Like a religion, it’s not appropriate for me to disrespect, or to point out my disagreement with its dogma outside of an open discussion. I won’t stop you from praying to say you’re doing it wrong, or “correct” you if you make a benign statement about your faith with which I disagree. But when you expect me to pray with you, to personally declare the beliefs of your faith, that’s a bridge too far.

I have 2 responses to that. First, being required to declare your faith at all — even your own true faith or lack of faith — is a fundamental violation of your privacy. This is the domain of your thoughts, and it belongs to you and deserves respect.

Second, the conjunction of religion and your experience of the meaning of your own body can be seen Supreme Court's understanding of the right of privacy, as articulated in the most important opinion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which declared: "At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." 

AND: Another emailer, who requests not to be named, writes: 

April 29, 2021

Sunrise — 5:53, 6:10.



"That was exciting. He was so puffed up."

Cornered by a direct question, Kamala Harris says "I don’t think America is a racist country."

But you have to hear her say it, so click through to "Kamala Harris: ‘I Don’t Think America is a Racist Country’ BUT…" (Mediaite).

As the "BUT" in the headline indicates, she moves on as quickly as possible to what amounts to an assertion that America is a racist country: "But we also do have to speak truth about the history of racism in our country, and its existence today." 

I'm sure there's a way to make a distinction to save her from the charge of incoherence. The term "racist country" can be defined narrowly so that a country with a lot of racism in it is still not a "racist country."

But it's the way she sounds saying it that gets me. The pitch changes and the laughing scream insincerity. [ADDED: Prompted by an emailer, I rewatched and saw that there was no laughing. There is some smiling, but also an effort to maintain a serious face. Not laughing.]

And here's the transcript of Tim Scott's speech from last night, in which he asserted "America is not a racist country." Context:

Today, kids again are being taught that the color of their skin defines them — and if they look a certain way, they're an oppressor. From colleges to corporations to our culture, people are making money and gaining power by pretending we haven't made any progress. By doubling down on the divisions we've worked so hard to heal. You know this stuff is wrong. Hear me clearly: America is not a racist country. It's backwards to fight discrimination with different discrimination. And it's wrong to try to use our painful past to dishonestly shut down debates in the present.

Aside from the "America is not a racist country" incantation that was foisted on Kamala Harris, it's easy to see that Harris and Scott differ about what to teach schoolchildren about America. Will it be love for country and optimism about their potential to flourish here or will it be critique and wariness?


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.

Sheltie love.

I encountered these incredibly beautiful dogs yesterday (at Devil's Lake State Park):







They could not have been sweeter. Could they have been more beautiful? I have to say yes, because there was a third one, the prettiest of the bunch, but I didn't catch him on camera.

I love the way the one in back comes to the fore. And I love the way the black one has a swath of white across the chest that continues onto the leg.

"It’s ridiculous. Obviously they’re very ungracious people. I did the vaccine. They like to take the vaccine. But even the fake news isn’t giving them credit for that."

"We did the vaccine, saved tens of millions of lives throughout the world by coming up with a vaccine. If I weren’t president, vaccine, you wouldn’t have a vaccine for five years, three to five years would be the minimum. I got it done in less than nine months. And that’s only because of me."  

Said Trump on Fox News this morning, talking to Maria Bartiromo, who asked him how he feels about "how they’re blaming you on everything and they do not attribute the successes that you had to your administration" (Mediaite).

Did Trump give Obama credit for any accomplishment? Did Obama give George W.? I could go back further, but I think it wasn't always this bad, but it's been bad — this extreme partisanship and crude blaming and refusal to give credit — and Trump contributed to the badness. Obviously, he knows it, and he's simply committed to doing his own P.R.

"The single worst part of this was where the totally unfathomable 'word' from a non-famous Queen song title was sitting right next to a 'high-earning Tik-Tok personality' (there's not one word of that phrase that isn't glistening with inanity)..."

"... and then both of those ran straight through The Crucial Word in the damn 'poem' (i.e. HAIKU). The very worst fill at the most important point in the puzzle—again, winning. I resent this kind of self-indulgent, no-concern-for-solving-pleasure, make-your-theme-work-at-all-costs construction. I would've been somewhat quicker getting through this section if I could've remembered SERRANO sooner (31A: Pepper between jalapeño and cayenne on the Scoville heat scale), but the real added difficulty whammy came from *two* wrong answers that seemed to fit their clues perfectly: ICE for 28D: Finalize, as a deal (INK) and (worse) SHYER for 38A: Less forward (COYER)." 

Rex Parker is so right about what's wrong with today's NYT crossword. That was exactly my experience, down to the "ice" and the "shyer." 

I have a long streak of finishing all the NYT crosswords, and I thought today was the day I'd have to break it. I made it in the end, though. Damned Thursdays. My favorites are Fridays. So, move on...

"I began to evaluate what I really enjoyed doing and what I valued about interactions with friends."

"I did not like standing for prolonged periods of time, for almost any reason. I did not like waiting in line for food. I did not like anything that included the word 'networking.' I did like getting drinks or dinner in a place where we could really talk, or lounging in someone’s living room, or going to a party if there were going to be lots of people I knew there and ample seating room.... Especially now that people are making plans with frenzied abandon, saying yes to all manners of activities without a second thought because they are so starved for socializing. Yes to that group sound bath! Yes to the wine-cooler tasting! Yes to the early morning rave! Oh honey, no. No. No. Be honest with yourself. If you like the energy of a big crowd, say no to that intimate coffee and parry with a trip to a concert. If you hate going out, invite people to come over. Tell people the real reasons you’re saying no for things you say no to. This has two benefits: it will give you deeper intimacy with friends who will know you for the true crank you really are. And it will mean that they stop inviting you to things that you really don’t like to do."

From "If You Don’t Want to Go, Say No/Most social obligations would be best left in the Before Times" by Jessica Grose (NYT).

I had to look up sound bath — here ("I Tried a Sound Bath — Here's What This Meditative Practice Is Really Like" (Allure)).

Anyway... Grose gives some good advice. It's advice I figured out for myself — half a lifetime ago, when I was in my 30s, and at the time, I was rather amazed that I hadn't noticed the precise problem earlier. But I realized that I had mixed together what people in general tend to like and what I specifically liked. You get a strong message from the culture that there is fun to be had and that group activities are highly gratifying. You may need to force yourself to ask, yes, but do I like that? 

Grose speaks of "deeper intimacy with friends who will know you for the true crank you really are," but that might be too rosy. What if these friends/"friends" decide they don't like this new crank you've revealed yourself to be or they decide you don't really belong in their group? You don't like parties. You're not fun-loving.

That's why facing up to the question what do I really like? isn't that easy. It takes courage. You can lose what you — by merging your preferences with the group's — were trying to keep. I'd say, do it anyway, but if you don't, it's easy to see why you don't.

"The question before the court on Wednesday was whether the Supreme Court’s 1969 ruling in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, holding that public school officials can regulate speech that would substantially disrupt the school’s work..."

"... applies to speech by students that occurs off campus. Arguing for the school district, lawyer Lisa Blatt told the justices that Tinker should apply off campus because off-campus speech can also cause disruption, particularly when it comes to social media. 'Time and geography are meaningless' when it comes to the internet, Blatt emphasized.... Justice Stephen Breyer described [the student's Shapchat] as using 'unattractive swear words' off campus. But, Breyer continued, he didn’t see evidence that the snap caused the kind of 'material and substantial disruption' that Tinker requires. If Levy can be punished for this snap, he suggested, 'every school in the country would be doing nothing but punishing.'... The court, Alito proposed, could reiterate that Tinker applies in school, without saying more about a school’s power to discipline off-campus speech. And the court could make clear that although the comments in Levy’s snap are 'colorful language,' they 'boil down' to disliking the cheer team and her private softball team, and the school can’t discipline Levy for having no respect for the school...."

From "Justices ponder narrow ruling in student speech case" (SCOTUSblog).

Here's the transcript. 

FROM THE EMAIL: rrsafety writes:

I think Kavanaugh is asking the right questions here. This case is about coaches, not schools. School athletes have often been told they will be held to a higher standard of behavior than other students and are responsible for doing their part in support of team unity and team chemistry. Off-field behavior has always been part of a coach’s calculus and the courts should (generally) not intervene.

I notice you said "behavior." We're talking about freedom of speech, and the young woman only wrote something. Searching the transcript, I notice that only Amy Coney Barrett used the term "behavior":

Highly recommended — "The Father" (the film Anthony Hopkins won the Oscar for).


We watched this on Amazon Prime last night (paying $20 for the privilege). If anyone is wondering why the Oscar went to Hopkins, they need only watch the movie. 

This is a very cleverly structured depiction of elderly dementia, where what we see is the point of view of the person whose perceptions are deeply impaired. I won't say more than that other than it does the opposite of insulting your intelligence. It's not a heart-warming, sympathetic portrayal of unfortunate disease. I saw one review that criticized it for relying on horror movie tropes. There's truth in that, but it should not be a criticism, but high praise.

FROM THE EMAIL: Leland writes:

This is straight from Florian Zeller’s own play Le Pere. It provides an uncomfortable and thought-provoking evening under all circumstances. Remy Bumppo Theater in Chicago did a fantastic production of the play a few years ago with David Darlow in the leading role. In each scene there was less furniture in the room, and actors appeared in new roles as the father’s memory slipped away. 

The play is a landmark in the Theater of Unease.

Thanks! We knew it was based on a play and talked a lot afterwards about how it might have been done on stage. The changes in the set design — reflecting the deterioration of the mind — were fascinating to watch. I feel I need to watch it again before my $20 rental expires. Also, I'm buying the text of the play.

What's the "boyfriend loophole"?

In his big speech last night, Biden proposed legislation to "close the boyfriend loophole to keep guns out of the hands of abusers." I'd never noticed the phrase before, and I can't understand it from the context. He was talking about amending the Violence Against Women Act, and he added:
The court order said this is an abuser, you can’t own a gun. It’s to close that loophole that exists. You know it is estimated that 50 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner every month in America, 50 a month. Let’s pass it and save some lives.

But what is the loophole? This doesn't read like a written script. I had to look up the term "boyfriend loophole." It has its own Wikipedia page.

The term boyfriend loophole refers to a gap in American gun legislation that allows access to guns by physically abusive ex-boyfriends and stalkers with previous convictions. While individuals who have been convicted of, or are under a restraining order for domestic violence are prohibited from owning a firearm, the prohibition only applies if the victim was the perpetrator's spouse, cohabitant, or had a child with the victim. The boyfriend loophole has had a direct effect on people who experience domestic abuse or stalking by former or current intimate partners.

FROM THE EMAIL: Owen writes:

I guess one lesson is that whenever you see “loophole” you know that it’s the rhetorical warm-up move to justify some big new demand. (Previous similar usage: “gun show loophole,” “bump stock loophole,” “private transfer loophole.”) Emotionally “loophole” is catnip because who wants a hole in their cabin wall? Even if it was deliberately made to allow you to defend yourself from attackers?

Good point. And you made me think about the original meaning of "loophole" for the first time!

I didn't watch Biden's speech last night.

I see — reading the NYT this morning — that he made "costly proposals" that "amount to a risky gamble that a country polarized along ideological and cultural lines is ready for a more activist government." Was that something America voted for last autumn? Obviously, not. It doesn't seem fair to spring this on us now.

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.

He should have had to run on that plan. Why did he beat Bernie? If this was to be the plan, we deserved a chance to vote for Bernie — or not. But the moderate, Biden, was pushed to the fore, pushed out in front of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who forthrightly represented this kind of government. Maybe one of them would have beaten Trump, but the Democratic Party edged them aside and gave us the seemingly innocuous Biden. It was an offer to get us back into balance, back to normal. It was a con. 

Oh, but perhaps, everyone knew it was a con, so America really did vote for this.

“We have to prove democracy still works, that our government still works and we can deliver for our people,” Mr. Biden said in his first nationally televised address to a joint session of Congress.

Prove democracy still works by only doing what you told us you'd do, back when we voted.  

Senator Mitt Romney of Utah, one of the more moderate Republicans that Mr. Biden needs if he has any hope of forging bipartisan support, used another metaphor. “Maybe if he were younger, I’d say his dad needs to take away the credit card,” Mr. Romney told reporters.

(To comment, you can email me here.)

April 28, 2021

Devil's Lake.




"The feminist rage that fuels The Handmaid’s Tale is still omnipresent, as is the harrowing depiction of the torture inflicted by the authority figures of Gilead."

"In the third episode, the first of three this season directed by [Elisabeth] Moss, June is subjected to some especially intense punishments that avoid tipping over into torture porn, but just barely.... While the last two seasons meant sitting through a lot of ugly conflict with no relief, this season brings some truly emotional rewards...

From "The Handmaid’s Tale Gets Its Mojo Back" — a Vulture review of the new seasons — the 4th season — of "The Handmaid's Tale." Did you realize that was still on?! 

The key phrase in that review summarizes why I have never wanted to watch: torture porn.

The review — purporting to resist "spoilers" — gives no information on what the "emotional rewards" might be. Not the titillation of torture porn, one presumes. But what? 

When a person has focused for so long on escaping an oppressor, what do they do when they finally emerge and get to breathe real, liberating oxygen again? That quandary taps right into the “what now?” vibe of 2021, when the Trump era is (at least in theory) behind us and we’re starting to see signs of light at the end of our pandemic tunnel.

The signs I'm seeing are that people don't want to "breathe real, liberating oxygen" when it is available, that they'll go out of their way to construct restraints out of nothing. When people are really locked down, they can long — convincingly — for freedom. But set them free, and they long for captivity.

FROM THE EMAIL: Whiskey Mike — reading the last 2 sentence of this post — sends me this Biblical quote, Numbers 14:1-4

And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.

"What would move a man to say you have to play it 840 times to be complete?"

Garry Moore asks John Cale in this 1963 episode of "I've Got a Secret":


How cerebral TV game shows were back then!

I'm noticing this today because I was emailed by Jeff Gee, who'd read this post of mine about a 24-hour-long film montage. He said:

I am reminded of Erik Satie's "Vexations," which has the notation "In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities." Turns out 840 times = 18 hours, which is how long it took a battery of pianists (every description of it I've seen says "battery," except the Wikipedia article) to perform it at The Pocket Theater in 1963. John Cale, who was one of the pianists, appeared on "I've Got a Secret," and so did the single spectator who made it all the way through (tho Wiki says he was "present" which doesn't mean necessarily awake) I think the Satie scribble is a (good) joke, like the Ring Lardner stage direction that so-and-so exits "as if smuggling waffles," and nicely deadpan. Not sure about "the clock."

"The Clock" is the subject of that earlier blog post.

Markley seems sort of grimly earnest, but maybe he's another nutty guy with a great deadpan...

And let me add — as if smuggling waffles — that John Cale is so handsome in his little quiz show appearance. 1963 is one year before he participated in the creation of The Velvet Underground. His role predominates in things like "Lady Godiva's Operation." Audio at the link. Lyrics here. Excerpt: "Doctor arrives with knife and baggage/Sees the growth as just so much cabbage/That must now be cut away/Now come the moment of Great! Great! Decision!/The doctor is making his first incision." Cerebral!

ADDED: I clicked on my "John Cale" tag to see if I'd ever used it before. I had. Twice. Including once where I updated to add that same "I've Got a Secret Clip" (after a commenter linked to it). I don't like to see a repetition. I take some pride in not repeating myself, but there are 62,935 posts on this blog, and it's delusional to believe I know everything in all of them, especially in the updates inspired by comments, which I would characterize as afterthoughts. The post proper was about a current interview with Cale, wherein he was "reclaim[ing] and reconfigur[ing] his dispair," supposedly.

"Just as several readers predicted would happen, other corporate journalists responded to this article by engaging in a rank-closing defense of [Natasha] Bertrand...

"... principally by accusing me of misogyny for publishing this critique of her reporting. Unlike me, they evidently view adult professional woman in highly influential media roles (such as Bertrand) as too fragile to endure critiques of their journalism, unlike adult men, who they apparently believe are strong enough to handle criticisms: a regressive view of the sexes right out of the 1950s. They also apparently skipped over the entire first section of this article detailing how Jeffrey Goldberg and Ken Dilanian — both men — were the pioneers of the CIA-serving career trajectory Bertrand is now following. But the oddest aspect of this media reaction, the only one that makes it worth noting here, is that misogyny allegations against me for this article were led by GQ's own Russiagate fanatic Julia Ioffe, even though Ioffe herself, in 2019, publicly accused Bertrand of a rather serious ethical violation that probably should be added to the list...."

Writes Glenn Greenwald in an update to his piece "CNN's New 'Reporter,' Natasha Bertrand, is a Deranged Conspiracy Theorist and Scandal-Plagued CIA Propagandist/In the U.S. corporate media, the surest way to advance is to loyally spread lies and deceit from the U.S. security state. Bertrand is just the latest example" (Substack).

In 1998 — the year of "Titanic" — 57 million people watched the Oscars. This year, only 9.85 million watched.

In 1998, The Hill tells us: "The great Billy Crystal served as host of the show," but this year

There was no movie anyone was buzzing about. No household-name stars were nominated unless Anthony Hopkins – who won his last Oscar 30 years ago – counts. There wasn't even a host for the show, because the Academy thought it was a great idea to eliminate the position for reasons unclear when a raw, unfiltered talent such as Ricky Gervais would have been just the person to lift our spirits.

Oh, come on. If they'd picked anybody to host, that person would have been skewered for one thing or another. Billy Crystal is still alive, but I'll bet he wouldn't even want to be invited back. It's better for him to be remembered as the great Oscars host of his time than to be set up as a target. Not only would people say why him and not a person of color, he's vulnerable to cancellation for having boldly and repeatedly performed in blackface:


That wasn't at the Oscars, of course. Remember when Whoopi Goldberg hosted the Oscars in whiteface?


Those were simpler times. More racist times? 

ADDED: I'm just kidding about "simpler times." I think those were more complex times. We're simpler now. And it's not a compliment.

"W.W. Norton said in a memo to its staff on Tuesday that it will permanently take Blake Bailey’s biography of Philip Roth out of print..."

"... following allegations that Mr. Bailey sexually assaulted multiple women and behaved inappropriately toward his students when he was an eighth grade English teacher. The announcement came after the publisher decided last week that it would stop shipping and promoting the title, which it released earlier in April. It wasn’t immediately clear what would happen with existing copies of the book or the digital and audio version.... Norton’s president, Julia A. Reidhead... said that Norton would make a donation in the amount of the advance it paid to Mr. Bailey, who received a mid-six-figure book deal, to organizations that support sexual assault survivors and victims of sexual harassment." 

 The NYT reports. 

What insanity. 

Here's the NYT book review by Cynthia Ozick that calls the biography a "narrative masterwork."

A biographer’s ingenuity, and certainly Bailey’s, is to mold mere chronology — a heap of undifferentiated facts and events — into more than trajectory: into coherent theme. As in a novel, what is seen at first to be casual chance is revealed at last to be a steady and powerfully demanding drive. A beginning attraction may be erotic happenstance; its fulfillment in marriage can be predictable hell... Yet to apply platitudes such as épater la bourgeoisie as either a dominating motive or a defining motif of Roth’s work is to fall into undercooked language. His overriding intent is nothing less than to indict humanity’s archenemy, whose name is Nemesis (also the title of Roth’s final novel). “No,” Roth’s fictional avatar argues in “Operation Shylock,” “a man’s character isn’t his fate; a man’s fate is the joke that his life plays on his character.”

"Some collectors questioned the idea of owning art without exclusivity. 'Why pay $69 million for something anyone can see online?'"

"... said Peter Kraus, chairman and chief executive of Aperture Investors, a New York advisory firm, who collects with his wife, Jill, a trustee at the Museum of Modern Art. Their acquisitions include one of six existing versions of 'The Clock,' Christian Marclay’s 24-hour-long video collage showing thousands of clips from movies throughout history. 'Scarcity is worth something; it’s about owning something that you think is beautiful and can’t be seen in anybody else’s house,' Kraus added. 'There has to be some clarity around what it is that you are owning as a collector.'" 

From "As Auctioneers and Artists Rush Into NFTs, Many Collectors Stay Away/Auction sales show a schism in the market: speculative buyers flock to crypto art while blue-chip collectors hold back, fearing legal gray areas and copyright issues" by Zachary Small (NYT). 

The NYT put a link on "The Clock," but it did not go to the full "24-hour-long video collage," only to a short video with where we hear from Siri Engberg, the senior curator of visual arts at the Walker Center in Minneapolis.

She seems weirdly lit up — those eyes! — and asserts: "Marklay has brilliantly wove together clips to give us this sense of artificial cinematic time." Yes, "has... wove together."  Somehow that solecism makes me feel that Engberg isn't really thinking the thoughts that go with the words coming out of her mouth. 

What Markley has done is take movie clips showing clocks and watches and displayed them so that if you start his montage at the right time, the time displayed in his video is — for the whole 24 hours — the time it really is in your time zone. 

Did you notice that I used the word "montage" and the NYT wrote "video collage"? That sets off my bullshit detector. The NYT write has got to know the word "montage." The only reason to say "video collage" instead is if you're stretching to make Marklay seem like an important visual artist and hoping to distract us from thinking about all the people who labor in conventional film editing. And by conventional, I mean they make films people will watch through to the end.

Kraus, the investor adviser quoted in the beginning of this post, questioned buying NFTs when anybody can look at this art on line, but the funny thing about "The Clock" is that no one will watch 24 hours of showing watches and clocks. Hearing the idea alone is enough to get the concept. The 2-minute video I've embedded is probably more than anyone needs to sit through. So how could there possibly be someone who will pay $69 million for the NFT of it?

The question answers itself! Owning the NFT isn't about looking at the art. It's about owning a unique token of the art. You're not so much owning art — like some aged plutocrat with paintings on his wall — as you are owning ownership. It's a perfect celebration of nothing. 

FROM THE EMAIL: A reader named Kay sends me a link to this: "In a horrifying, Orwellian plot twist, the upcoming auction for an NFT of a drawing by Jean-Michel Basquiat will allow the winner to destroy the original artwork." I regard this as a publicity stunt, nothing that will ever happen, but, as they say, when you talk about destruction, you can count me out.

April 27, 2021

Trout lilies.



In Governor Nelson State Park today.

Rose McGowan goes on Fox News and says Democrats are in "a deep cult" — "They masquerade as the helpers."



"Have you read a less sincere 'apology' than that uttered by Madison WI public schools for its Whites Only and Blacks Only policy?"

Asks David Blaska. 

“This message did not convey our intention in a manner that supports our core values. Our wording in the communication we sent lacked clarity,” said Madison West high school principal Karen Boran. (More here.) 

No, your wording was very clear, madame principal. What’s more, it perfectly conveyed your core values — troubling though they be. You segregated by race school-sponsored discussions of “all the police brutality and violence that is going on in our country and or [sic] communities and even after the verdict on Derek Chauvin and the murder of another young Black female.” 

Further, you indoctrinate political views and woe be any voice raised timidly in dissent.... Madison’s public schools take as a given that America is racist, police are “brutal,” and the police officer who likely saved two black girls from being stabbed to death in Columbus OH is a murderer. 

You “apologized” (if that is what it was) only when threatened with a federal civil rights lawsuit by the WI Institute for Law & Liberty....

"You ever get the sense that people in faculty lounges in fancy colleges use a different language than ordinary people?"

"They come up with a word like 'Latinx' that no one else uses. Or they use a phrase like 'communities of color.' I don’t know anyone who speaks like that.... This is not how voters talk.... Wokeness is a problem and everyone knows it. It’s hard to talk to anybody today — and I talk to lots of people in the Democratic Party — who doesn’t say this. But they don’t want to say it out loud.... I think it’s because large parts of the country view us as an urban, coastal, arrogant party, and a lot gets passed through that filter.... And maybe tweeting that we should abolish the police isn’t the smartest thing to do because almost fucking no one wants to do that. ... People always say to me, 'Why don’t Democrats just lie like Republicans?' Because if they did, our voters wouldn’t stand for it. But I’m not saying we need to lie like they do. I’m saying, why not go after Gaetz and Jordan and link them to Hastert and the Republican Party over and over and over again? We have to take these small opportunities to define ourselves and the other side every damn time. And we don’t do it. We just don’t do it...."

Said James Carville, in "Wokeness is a problem and we all know it/James Carville on the state of Democratic politics" (Vox). 

Despite the headline, most of the interview is a mishmash of political strategy, mostly about how the Democrats need to hit Republicans harder. It's a lot of babble, including raving about child molesting. He'd have the Democrats talking about Dennis Hastert and tying him various Republicans, and not about how Democrats have gone way too far with wokeism. He wants the talk to be about perverted sex, sex, sex. It works for Q Anon! 

I'd say Carville is himself "urban, coastal, [and] arrogant." He looks down on the people. He's not really criticizing Democratic insiders, just saying they're on a higher level than the voters and they need to step down from that to win votes. But don't lie! The would-be Democratic voters won't stand for lying! Just run with that child molesting story and pound Republicans with it over and over and over again.

"To be sure, we don’t have access to the counterfactual world in which capital-gains tax rates sat at 40 percent over the past four decades."

"It is theoretically possible that growth would have been lower under such a scenario. But even in the most generous assessment, the impact of low capital-gains tax rates on economic growth is unclear. What’s more, the actual policy being debated here is not what the capital-gains tax rate should be, but rather, whether it is worthwhile to raise the capital-gains rate in order to invest in universal prekindergarten, public child care, a child allowance, free community college, and paid family and medical leave." 

From "Rich Investors Make a Poor Case Against Biden’s Tax Plan" (NY Magazine). 

There was some concern expressed yesterday over the "remarkable slackening" in population growth seen in the 2020 census. What will it do to the economy going forward if Americans don't maintain the long human tradition of robust reproduction? I was inclined to say, don't worry about it, less population growth is good for the environment. 

But if you took the other side of that debate — and plenty of readers emailed to instruct me on the need for newly bred Americans to maintain our economic well-being — you'd better worry about women declining the option to undertake childbearing and men and women passing on the potentially fulfilling endeavor of child-rearing. It's terribly expensive! But people are supposed to plunge into it as part of the love-struck romance of youth. Damn the financial incentives. But, oh!, rich folk need plenty of incentives to keep investing. 

Sorry, rich folk coddlers, you're going to have to incentivize reproduction a little bit. The old scheme of locking women into childbirth as a consequence of indulging in sex failed long ago, and you sound like a fool talking about it now, especially if you attempt to stand on the foundation of love for babies, when what you are doing is justifying freeing rich folk — people who make over $1 million a year — from paying a 40% capital gains tax. Can't dishearten them in their enthusiasm for investing? What about the young people who are disheartened about having children? Worry about them.

(To comment, you can email me here.)

Peers gagged.

The London Times reports on the progress of free speech in the U.K. 

Peers including Lord Heseltine and Baroness Boothroyd have been forbidden to speak to the press by the House of Lords after they failed to attend anti-bullying, discrimination and sexual harassment workshops. 

Sixty peers have fallen foul of the Lords authorities because they have not completed “Valuing Everyone” training. Boothroyd, 91, recently underwent heart surgery, and Heseltine, 88, is recovering from a knee operation. The peers, who maintain that they were unaware of the need to undergo the training, are now facing an investigation into their conduct...

Heseltine... questioned the need for the training. “To believe that people who actually indulge in prejudice or bullying or womanising are going to have their behaviour changed by reading a set of platitudes is naive and to a degree irresponsible,” he said....

Ludicrous. Embarrassing. 


Am I talking about the censorship, the workshops... or the House of Lords?

Elon Musk makes the phallic nature of space travel — which was never subtle — explicit.

I'm reading "Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos in Twitter spat over Nasa moon funding/Musk has attacked Bezos on Twitter after a protest about Nasa awarding SpaceX $2.9bn to build a space rocket, Tom Knowles writes" (London Times): 

Blue Origin, the space rocket company founded by Bezos, has filed a lengthy protest against Nasa’s decision to award $2.9 billion to Musk’s SpaceX team to build the rocket that will return astronauts to the moon by 2024. 

In response, Musk has tweeted that Bezos “can’t get it up (to orbit) lol”, and told reporters that the businessman, who will step down as chief executive of Amazon later this year, should be more involved in Blue Origin.

It's revolting to see these adolescent men taunting each other over billions of our money.

"Hello coneheads🌋!"

Just one comment at the live feed "Volcanic eruption in Iceland!" 

"With a software update that arrived this week called iOS 14.5 and iPadOS 14.5, Apple is finally forcing apps to come clean about a kind of surveillance they’ve been conducting on us for the past decade...."

"Some apps, such as The Sims, Venmo and Shake Shack have been seeking permission to track for a few weeks now. Facebook and its sister app Instagram began asking permission on Monday and the company says it will roll out the pop up — and a screen arguing why you should allow it to track — over the next few weeks. Facebook and other apps that make money by collecting our data and showing us hyper-targeted ads aren’t happy about having to ask permission. Mark Zuckerberg and friends have deluded themselves into thinking people enjoy feeling as though Facebook is eavesdropping on their conversations. (It doesn’t really need to because it’s already spying on our apps and websites.)"

From "Facebook now has to ask permission to track your iPhone. Here’s how to stop it. With the new iOS 14.5, apps have to seek your permission to track you. Here’s what to tap, and two privacy settings to change immediately" by Geoffrey A. Fowler (WaPo).

Good for Apple. 

I wish WaPo would be more attentive to principles of journalism. "Mark Zuckerberg and friends have deluded themselves into thinking people enjoy...." That's not right! Don't go beyond the facts you know. Fowler has absolutely no way to know whether Zuckerberg and his friends have deluded themselves! Is this a mere slip? He should have written something like: Zuckerberg and friends claim that people enjoy....

If I had to guess about the inner life of Mark Zuckerberg, I would assume he wants wealth and power, and that involves continuing this practice, so he makes the best argument for it that he can. To say he's deluded is sort of sympathetic: He means well, but he just doesn't understand people accurately. That's a ludicrous sort of sympathy, and it's also insulting: He's dumb. He doesn't understand the human. I think he understands us all too well. He's the one with Facebook. He's the one with 100 billion dollars.

"The reality TV ordeal of a Russian who joined a Chinese boy band show by accident – and made it to the final despite urging fans to vote him off – has finally ended..."

"... after nearly three months. Vladislav Ivanov, a 27-year-old from Vladivostok, was kicked out of the Produce Camp 2021 on Saturday after viewers ignored his pleas to leave and backed him all the way to the final. Ivanov, who speaks Mandarin, joined the show as a Chinese translator. But he said he was invited to sign up as a contestant after the directors noticed his good looks.... He appeared to regret his decision almost immediately but could not leave without breaching his contract. His lack of enthusiasm played out in half-hearted singing, rapping and dancing alongside the other, more eager contestants. 'Becoming a member of a boy band is not my dream as I can’t sing and dance,' Ivanov said in Chinese on the show.... 'I hope the judges won’t support me. While the others want to get an A, I want to get an F as it stands for freedom.'... 'Don’t love me, you’ll get no results,' he said on one episode. But viewers took to his dour persona and kept him in the running for nearly three months....  Ivanov appears to have struck a genuine chord as an anti-hero for Chinese audiences. Fans, some earnest and some ironic, called him 'the most miserable wage slave,' and celebrated him as an icon of 'Sang culture,' a popular concept among Chinese millennials referring to a defeatist attitude toward everyday life. 'Don’t let him quit,' one viewer commented on a video of a dejected-looking Ivanov performing a Russian rap. 'Sisters, vote for him! Let him 996!' another fan commented, using the Chinese slang for the gruelling work schedule that afflicts many young staff, especially in digital startups."

The Guardian reports.

I feel challenged to attempt to understand the Chinese through this story. What? Are they excited by the idea of forced work — titillated by slavery? Did they like it because he was not Chinese? Because he was Russian? Was his unhappiness — his "dour persona" — fun for them? 

Did they somehow think it was an act — a comic persona — and enjoy playing along? Was it like the way Americans, watching "American Idol" would target contestant who wasn't too good and keep voting for him? Why did we do that? The prank was called "Vote for the Worst." I wrote about it in 2007, when Howard Stern was openly promoting ruining the show by voting for the worst contestant. I actually liked this person, a sweet young man, Sanjaya Malakar, and I think many viewers voted for him because they genuinely liked him.

April 26, 2021

Frivolous tree in a dark mood.


"'Vibe' as slang, referring to an aura or feeling, emerged in the sixties, in California, and gave the word its enduring hippie associations."

"The underground paper Berkeley Barb made frequent use of it as early as 1965. The following year, the Beach Boys hit 'Good Vibrations' exposed the slang to broader audiences.... In some ways, the rise of digital life allowed for a vibe revival....  Whereas Instagram’s main form is the composed tableau, captured in a single still image or unedited video, TikTok’s is the collection of real-world observations, strung together in a filmic montage....  TikTok’s technology makes it easy to crop video clips and set them to evocative popular songs: instant vibes.... When I watch a morning-routine TikTok from 'an herbalist and cook living in a Montana cabin,' I take in the mood of December sunlight, coffee in a ceramic mug, a vegetable rice bowl, tall pine forest, with a slowed-down Sufjan Stevens soundtrack—a nice creative-residency or hipster-pioneer vibe. After absorbing a dozen such videos at a stretch, I look up from my phone and my own apartment glows with that same kind of concentrated attention, as if I were seeing it in montage, too. The objects around me are lambent with significance. I can take in the vibe of my home office: hibiscus tree, hardwood desk, noise-cancelling headphones, sixties-jazz trio, to-go coffee cup. I suddenly feel a little more at home, as if the space belonged to me in a new way, or I had found my place within it as another element of the over-all vibe, playing my part."

From "TikTok and the Vibes Revival/Increasingly, what we’re after on social media is not narrative or personality but moments of audiovisual eloquence" (The New Yorker). 

ADDED: Speaking of hippies, I've been rereading Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test," which was published in 1968. It never uses the word "vibe," but "vibrations"/"vibrating" appears 61 times: 

Speaking of movies, here's something on Netflix I watched recently and absolutely loved.


Great storytelling; beautiful hyperreal photography; fantastic action, comedy, landscapes, melodrama. 6 separate and entirely distinct episodes so you can't get tired of anything. I'm not much of a reader of the old-time Western stories, but even I was highly amused by all the Western elements they managed to squeeze in — singing cowboy, sharp-shooting, shootouts, saloon brawls, poker game, hanging, cattle-rustling, prospecting for gold, wagon train, Indian attack, mountain man, stage coach. It had a light touch, and yet it went deeper than those movies that try all along to drag you through the depths. You know, those depressing, somber movies that win Oscars these days. I like when there's fun and then depth in surprising places — as opposed to a long, lugubrious slog.

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

"Over the past decade, the United States population grew at the slowest rate since the 1930s, the Census Bureau reported on Monday, a remarkable slackening..."

"... that was driven by a leveling off of immigration and a declining birthrate. The bureau also reported changes to the nation’s political map: The long-running trend of the South and the West gaining population — and Congressional representation — at the expense of the Northeast and the Midwest, continued, with Texas gaining two seats and Florida, one. California, long a leader in population growth, lost a seat for the first time in history.... 'This is a big deal,' said Ronald Lee, a demographer who founded the Center on the Economics and Demography of Aging at the University of California at Berkeley. 'If it stays lower like this, it means the end of American exceptionalism in this regard.' It used to be clear where the country was headed demographically, Professor Lee said — faster growth than many other rich nations. But that has changed. 'Right now it is very murky,' he said."

The NYT reports. 

Why isn't a "remarkable slackening" in population growth a good thing? I thought we were concerned with global warming? Or is that only every other day?

(To comment, email me here.)

"Terms like Op-Ed are, by their nature, clubby newspaper jargon; we are striving to be far more inclusive in explaining how and why we do our work."

"In an era of distrust in the media and confusion over what journalism is, I believe institutions — even ones with a lot of esteemed traditions — better serve their audiences with direct, clear language. We don’t like jargon in our articles; we don’t want it above them, either. A half century ago, Times editors made a bet that readers would appreciate a wider range of opinion. We are making much the same bet, but at a time when the scales of opinion journalism can seem increasingly tilted against the free and the fair, the sober and honest. We work every day to correct that imbalance."

From "Why The New York Times Is Retiring the Term ‘Op-Ed’" by Kathleen Kingsbury, the opinion editor of the NYT.  

Was the term "op-ed" unclear? Well, it was misunderstood. The original meaning of the term — coined in 1970 — was that was material on the page that was physically opposite to the editorial page. Even before we all switched to reading on line, the "op" was mistaken as meaning "opinion" or "opposed" in the sense of being the opposite of what the NYT editors believed. On line, the idea of physically opposing pages doesn't apply at all.

The new term is "guest essays." Dull, but not confusing. Just flatfootedly obvious. 

Isn't it embarrassing to tout that as "far more inclusive"? Why aren't they more worried that their claims of inclusiveness are backhanded insults to the people they are purporting to include? It reminds me of the argument that law professors should switch to "explicit instruction" to be more inclusive. You're implying that the people you want to include have lower powers of cognition!


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.

"You've run out of free articles. Try your first month of Slate Plus for just $1..."

Uh, no. I will not do that. Ironically, the article I would have kept reading is "How Berries Became the Juiciest Battle of Kid-Food Instagram/Fun to eat, but paying for them … not so much." 

This is about parents complaining — or faux-complaining (with cute pictures) — about all the berries their children will eat. Like a whole $4 box in one sitting. I don't know where this story goes, but I'd tell these Instagram ladies to stop giving a little kid the whole box. And stop with the humblebragging. 

I'm very far removed from having little kids to take care of, and I do remember the pride you can take in the way your child eats, but I did not have the temptation of social media as a place to display this screwy pride. So I don't care what Slate Plus has to say. I say: Control your child with portion control — e.g., 2 strawberries, 10 blueberries. And: Control yourself by never exposing your little kids — and your pride — to the creepy eyes of the internet.


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.

"What are they in line for? Is there, like, a celebrity here or something?"

ADDED: "Williamsburg" refers to the state of mind or the fashion or something — not the actual location of this popular photo-op.

AND: I thought of the song "I'm in a New York State of Mind." There's this idea that your mind could be in a particular place where your body is not. Actually, that song is about being in the mood to go to New York — physically — so it's not the right idea. Sure the idea was out there, I googled "i'm in a (blank) state of mind." 

That took me down a different rathole, to the psychological phenomenon of a blank state of mind: "Mind-blanking: when the mind goes away" ("when our minds are seemingly 'nowhere'"), "Blank Mind Syndrome – What to Do When You Have No Thoughts" ("Here’s a simple exercise you can perform to figure out if your mind is blank or not").

Suddenly, on my own, one example occurred to me: 


God, I love that song. And I love the idea that the place is in your mind, that the place is even more real if your mind is truly there that if your body could be there. I believe there are many other examples of songs (or poems) about being in a place where you are not. I'm trying to think of more, and I welcome suggestions, but don't name near-miss examples, such as merely dreaming of home or wishing to be in this other place. It must be the idea that the place as it is in your mind is the true place, and the actual place falls away as a meaningful destination. You don't want to go there. You are there. In your mind.

" The Supreme Court said on Monday that it would review a New York law that imposes strict limits on carrying guns outside the home... its first major Second Amendment case in more than a decade...."

"The Supreme Court has turned down countless Second Amendment appeals since it established an individual right to keep guns in the home for self-defense in 2008 in District of Columbia v. Heller. Since then, lower courts have generally sustained gun control laws. But they are divided on the fundamental and open question posed by the new case: whether states can stop law-abiding citizens from carrying guns outside their homes for self-defense unless they can satisfy the authorities that they have a good reason for doing so....  The new case is a challenge to a New York law that requires people seeking a license to carry a gun outside their homes to show a 'proper cause.'"

Reports Adam Liptak in the NYT.


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"If the article shows your home or apartment, says what city you’re in and you don’t like it, you can complain to Facebook. Facebook will then ensure..."

"... that nobody can share the article on its giant platform and, as a bonus, block you from sending it to anyone in Facebook Messenger. I learned this rule from a cheerfully intense senior Facebook lawyer... who... was trying to explain why the service had expunged a meanspirited New York Post article about a Black Lives Matter activist’s real estate purchases.... The policy sounds crazy because it could apply to dozens, if not hundreds, of news articles every day — indeed, to a staple of reporting for generations that has included Michael Bloomberg’s expansion of his townhouse in 2009 and the comings and goings of the Hamptons elites. Alex Rodriguez doesn’t like a story that includes a photo of him and his former fiancée, Jennifer Lopez, smiling in front of his house? Delete it. Donald Trump is annoyed about a story that includes a photo of him outside his suite at Mar-a-Lago? Gone."

Writes Ben Smith in "Is an Activist’s Pricey House News? Facebook Alone Decides. The New York Post has complained that Facebook is blocking and downplaying its stories. But the platform doesn’t pay any special deference to journalists" (NYT).

Smith is surprised that the journalists don't get special treatment on Facebook. The rules are the rules, and they apply to NY Post and NYT reporters just as much as they apply to a random private citizen. A good way to build respect for a system of rules is to have no exceptions — to make them neutral and generally applicable. That's something everyone instinctively understands... at least before they get distracted into thinking about how they or somebody they like really is special and deserves privilege.

Here's Smith:

A decision by The Post, or The New York Times, that someone’s personal wealth is newsworthy carries no weight in the company’s opaque enforcement mechanisms. Nor, Facebook’s lawyer said, does a more nebulous and reasonable human judgment that the country has felt on edge for the last year and that a Black activist’s concern for her own safety was justified.... The point of Facebook’s bureaucracy is to replace human judgment with a kind of strict corporate law....

Corporate! I think the big concept that rules are rules — no exceptions! — extends way beyond the corporate setting. Smith complains that Facebook is using "its own, made-up rules rather than exercising any form of actual judgment." 

The judgment is in making a rule that you are willing to apply across the board. That's the test of a good rule! This is basic ethics. Yes, you get a "made-up rule," but you've made it up using sound ethics!

No wonder the Facebook lawyer was "cheerfully intense"! She understood exactly why her interpretation was admirable. I'd have been cheerfully intense explaining that too. I'm feeling cheerfully intense just writing this!


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"When I talk to school administrators, they consistently tell me that off-campus speech bedevils them, and the lower courts desperately need some guidance in this area."

Said lawprof Justin Driver, quoted in "A cheerleader’s Snapchat rant leads to ‘momentous’ Supreme Court case on student speech" (WaPo). 

The case is about a 14-year-old girl's Snapchat that said, "Fuck school, fuck softball, fuck everything." She got suspended from the cheerleading squad. 

From the article:

The [school] district, supported in the Supreme Court by the Biden administration, poses a number of problems: the student who publishes answers to the test; the player who undermines the coach with an avalanche of tweets about his play-calling; the disruptive student across the street with a bullhorn.

More seriously: “The laws in the District of Columbia and at least 25 states require schools to address off-campus harassment or bullying that substantially disrupts the school environment or interferes with other students’ rights,” the brief states. “Students who encourage classmates to kill themselves, target black classmates with photos of lynchings, or text the whole class photos of fellow students in compromising positions, do not limit their invective to school hours.”

It sounds as though school officials feel a lot of pressure to reach way beyond the school. This is where a strong free-speech doctrine from the Court could really help. Make it clear when the schools can't act and deprive these officials of the power to yield to this pressure. Let the schools teach the kids when they're in school — including teaching good behavior and how to speak intelligently and respectfully — and take away their weapon of punishing children for their out-of-school speech.


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"The other drag queens hated Divine, because they thought he was making fun of them. And he was!"

"He was making fun of that whole scene of being so serious about it and trying to imitate the worst of women — the most unliberated ones — where Divine was beyond. Divine was not trans. Divine never walked around dressed as a woman. He didn't want to be a woman.... It wasn't like Divine was trapped in the wrong body or anything. Divine was a feminine gay man. But he was proud to say he was a drag queen. He was an actor. And he played a man, woman, he would've played the dog in 'Pink Flamingos' if I'd let him."

Says John Waters, on the new episode of Marc Maron's podcast. Waters is a fantastic guest, one of the best conversationalists I've ever heard on a podcast, so listen to the whole thing. I chose this one piece to transcribe because it says so much... with direct detail and plenty of open-ended implication. Waters is so pro liberated women and pro feminine gay men that there's some hostility to drag and transgenderism. That takes nerve. And vivacity.

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"Bob Dylan shopping for shoes..."

"The Academy believes in the movies so much, they made Best Picture the third-to-last category of the night ('Nomadland' won). The producers clearly assumed..."

"... the late Chadwick Boseman would win Best Actor, the final award presented, and it would be moving and historic. Well, he didn’t. The night ended without a winner’s speech from Anthony Hopkins ('The Father'). Imbeciles."

From "Oscars 2021 tortured viewers for more than 3 unbearable hours" by Johnny Oleksinski (NY Post). 

I used to follow the Oscars very closely. Used to simul-blog the whole show. But now I just assume it will be 3+ unbearable hours and don't even try to watch. So that NY Post headline jumped out at me. Even though it's not exciting. It's what we expect from the Oscars. Maybe we shouldn't say "tortured" like that. Torture is a serious matter in this world, and no one in the "viewers" category was victimized in any way, other than by their own failure to snap off the screen or — for those truly sapped of vigor — move on to another channel.

Anyway, the Oscars felt so predictable that they switched up the usual order of things and gave the Best Picture award before the 2 main acting awards. But then the one unpredictable thing that happened was the last award going to Anthony Hopkins, the elderly British white man, instead of to Chadwick Boseman, the American black man who died at the age of 43. 

And Hopkins wasn't there to accept the award. Not that Boseman could have been there, but the person accepting for Boseman would have been well-chosen and well-prepared to install the right thoughts and emotions in our head. No one was designated to accept for Hopkins on the off chance that he'd win, so the presenter of the award, just said thank you and winced an awkward smile: 

That's Joaquin Phoenix. I guess that means he won Best Actor last year. What did he win for? Had to look it up: "The Joker." Remember when that was a big deal? Remember that other time an actor played the Joker and won an Oscar? Heath Ledger. He played the Joker, then died, then won the Oscar.

You know, it's very sad that Chadwick Boseman died, but it is better that those who make decisions stick squarely to merit. It's an award for acting, not for dying. The movies make us feel, and death makes us feel, but those who vote on awards shouldn't give an acting award for things a person did that made us feel. 

Perhaps Boseman did deserve the Oscar. It's possible that the presumption — the presumption based on death (and race) — was so overplayed that Academy voters reacted and gave it to Hopkins.

Hopkins is a fine old actor, and here he is, getting around to thanking the Academy and giving a tribute to Boseman:

ADDED:  Someone emailed to tell me it's "Joker," not "The Joker." I feel the faint echo of things that felt important in the fall of 2019. Part of me is just annoyed, on the verge of derisive, like when people insist that you not call Ohio State Ohio State but The Ohio State. Because my name is Ann — pronounced the same as "an" — I'm rather sensitive to this matter. Why am I "an" Althouse instead of The Althouse? I guess the Joker in "Joker" was not the definite article, the definitive Joker, but just one of the man jokers out there. Is that what it mean, the leaving off of the "the"? 

I looked it up. Here's "It’s Just Joker, Not The Joker" (Vulture):

Joker is a movie about jokes and loneliness and jokes about loneliness, but it’s also about the absence of a certain “the.” So Vulture has put together a handy photo-essay guide to the name of the movie’s main character. Call him by his name — Joker — and hope he doesn’t call you anything at all.
The idea seems to be that his name is Joker. You don't put an article — definite or indefinite — in front of a proper name. I thought I was going to find a more philosophical answer to my question.