May 8, 2021

5:53 a.m.


The official sunrise time this morning was 5:41. Earlier today, I posted pictures taken at 5:35, 6 minutes before sunrise, when things looked much redder — as if some horrible disaster were taking place on the opposite shore. But this photo, 12 minutes after sunrise, is mellower, the red replaced by gold. 

The season of the days of the longest light has just begun. Picture the summer solstice in the middle of a 3-month period and you'll see that we're just entering this period. This is something I talked about — squirreled away in the comments — on March 7th of last year:

We're in the part of the year when day and night are balanced. It's already almost 12 hours between sunrise and sunset — and of course the light begins before the actual sunrise time and lasts after the sunset time. It's still winter, and it was a bit cold this morning, but the light is now completely spring.

I think the seasons are wrongly divided. They shouldn't begin with an equinox/solstice, but should have the equinox/solstice put right in the middle. That would correspond to how I feel about the seasons: It's about light, not temperature. Winter should have the solstice as its center and should end by mid-February and so forth.

Using that terminology, I'd have to say that summer has just begun. Perhaps it's better to pick different names, with the season that begins now called Light.

As I write this post, it's 7:58, and the sun hasn't set. Sunset time is 8:06 p.m. today, so I'm looking out on sunset colors, though not from a great vantage point.

FROM THE EMAIL: John writes: 

[I]n Ireland, the year is divided differently than here in the states. The winter months are November, December, and January; the spring months are February, March, and April. May, June, and July make up the summer; and, of course, August, September, and October are the autumn. The Irish names of September and October mean, respectively, “Middle of the harvest” and “End of the Harvest.” 
Now, Ireland is much further north than us and has a much greater variation in the amount of daylight between midsummer and midwinter, so such a way of ordering the year might make more sense than the way we do it here. I’d say it definitely makes more sense than defining summer by bracketing it between two federal holidays!

"Musk is the first person from the business world to host SNL since Donald Trump in 2015...."

"Such unorthodoxy could give both Musk and [SNL producer Lorne] Michaels what they want: an important new audience for Michaels, and a humanization of Musk during a time of fierce anti-1-percenter sentiment. It also could blow up in their faces.... Musk will arrive on SNL just a week after four astronauts aboard a SpaceX Dragon capsule successfully splashed down at night in the Gulf of Mexico.... Musk has also garnered notice for his quixotic tunnel plans, his cryptocurrency investments, an unexpected move to Texas, an infamous Joe Rogan podcast appearance, a more infamous cybertruck failure, his belief that pandemic lockdowns were ‘fascist,’ and skeptical comments about the coronavirus vaccine, though he later walked those back.... 'I think Lorne recognizes if he just keeps playing to liberals on the coasts, his audience will wither,' said a late-night television veteran familiar with his thinking who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve a relationship with the producer. 'So he’s trying something.' But those efforts are fraught; previous attempts at audience expansion have backfired. In 2019, Michaels hired the working-man’s comic Shane Gillis in part to appeal to Middle America but had to let him go just days later when it was revealed Gillis had used racist and homophobic slurs. Another bid for red-state audiences came last October with the naming of the young country star Morgan Wallen as musical guest. That blew up, too, when Wallen was seen partying maskless in an Alabama bar...."

Writes Steven Zeitchik in "Elon Musk is being brought in to save SNL’s sagging ratings. He could sink the show in other ways. In the entertainment and business worlds, there is an argument in favor of the unorthodox host — as well as plenty of warnings" (WaPo).

Zeitchik seems way overinvested in preserving "SNL" as a bastion of liberal/woke politics. Or is he beset with flashbacks over that 2015 Trump appearance? That all seemed like good fun — even a good way to hurt Trump — and then look what happened! 

And I can't let this go without mention: "Musk has also garnered notice for his quixotic tunnel plans." He doesn't just get notice. He garners notice. That is he saves up the notice in garners — a "garner" being a granary or a storehouse for corn. "Garner" was a noun for centuries before it was a verb, and as a verb it's a dead metaphor, but some of us — me, chiefly — remember the dead. 

If I worked on this post all day, I could figure out a way to connect garnering to "quixotic," because the reference is to Don Quixote, and Don Quixote famously tilted at windmills, so you have 2 things connected to grain — mills and garners. But I have some restraint. I'll just show you this fantastic Gustave Doré illustration:

Somehow Trump remains the top news story.

Here's what the top left corner of the NYT website looks like right now:

Who's really "marooned"? Trump at Mar-a-Lago? Or the media cut off from Trump?

That said, I love the photograph, and I approve of the front-page positioning of this story if only to give prominence to this fantastic shot.

When the landlord drops by to photograph your apartment for presentation on the Internet...

... and — I guess! — can't touch your stuff but wants the photographs anyway, the rest of us get to see you live like this.

It doesn't seem quite fair. Maybe you shouldn't look. I think it's funny... and real... both the way the tenant is living and the ludicrous landlord's representation that it's "Just renovated," with "new paint and carpet."

Look how they're advertising single malt whisky these days.

I'm finding that photograph so funny, because I like to take a bath and read a book, and I could be lured into bringing a glass of whisky into that scenario and to put it on a spindly table right by the tub. And I could see getting out of the tub, wrapping my head in a towel and putting on a satin robe and then picking up the book again, but under no circumstances can there suddenly be a big dog in that recently vacated bath... a dog with halfway shampooed hair, no less. That dog and all that glass... not just the whisky on the spindly table but all that extra glass on the ledge behind the dog. The message becomes: Whisky is a disaster waiting to happen. 

Also, I want my legs to remain attached to my pelvis. The faceless model has a leg that comes out of nowhere.

Speaking of reading — is that model really reading? it seems to be a travel guide — I wanted to quote something else from that 2000 article about Philip Roth that I talked about yesterday. This is something I was thinking about during my sunrise run today (as I realized I didn't finish reading "The Human Stain" by getting to the end of reading all the words on all the pages but that I'd only gotten into the position where I can begin to read it):

"Everybody’s strength is their weakness, in politics as in life... [Biden's] strength is he’s always spoken his mind. There’s a genuineness to that."

"There’s also a danger. In politics as in sports, you want to maximize your principal’s strengths and minimize his weaknesses. They’ve effectively maximized his earnestness and decency. They’ve not allowed him to be in situations where he can stray.... I was frustrated [not being able to book Biden for an interview]. But stepping back from my own selfish interests, I understood and admired their discipline. They were going to control his interactions. Their job is not to serve us. Their job is to serve him.

Said David Axelrod, quoted in "How the White House Polices Language in Washington" by Olivia Nuzzi (NY Magazine). After that quote, Nuzzi adds:

This reminded me of something William Safire once wrote describing how the administration of George H.W. Bush had screwed him over to neuter a damaging story: “What a joy it is to see really professional media manipulation.” 

Another quote from Nuzzi: 

During the Trump years, it was amusing how often it was possible to report with a straight face that the president said one thing while the White House said another, as though he was just some guy who happened to hang around there. But this odd dynamic persists into the Biden era.
That's terribly funny, the idea of the President as just some guy who happens to hang around in the White House. What if it's always been like that and the odd thing is that it took Trump to make us see?

"She can paint a compelling portrait of what the inside of the Democratic Party activist bubble looked like, but shows no awareness that there is anything outside of the bubble..."

"... or even that she was inside of one. Warren does deal extensively with campaign questions about her electability. But she treats these as largely, and even axiomatically, sexist.... But sexism alone has a hard time explaining why Warren took the lead in national polls of primary voters before collapsing in the fall of 2019. Surely, the reason many of the voters who were prepared to nominate her changed their mind is not that they learned her gender.... At the outset of her campaign, Warren staked her ground closer to the ideological center of the party.... [But] the competition with Sanders pulled her farther and farther left.... In February 2020, at a moment Biden’s campaign was bottoming out... the balance of power within the Democratic primary was held by voters with 'somewhat liberal' views. Warren’s campaign, though, has spent a year sprinting away from those voters, as if the party was actually torn between social democracy and democratic socialism.... [She should have learned] to treat the cadres of activists on Twitter and in academia as just one small yet vocal constituency within the party, not the party itself.... [T]he same misread of the electorate tripped up most of the field, with the famously Not Online Joe Biden being an exception."

From "Elizabeth Warren’s Book Shows She Has No Idea Why Her Campaign Failed" by Jonathan Chait (NY Magazine).

The FBI releases its (very mundane) file on the death of Kurt Cobain.

Read it here

Here's the Billboard article on the long-secret file. It tells us that the 10-page file contains 2 letters — both from people who were concerned — based on what they'd read in book or seen in a movie — that the death was not a suicide but a murder. The file also contains the letter the FBI sent in response to each letter, telling them that murder is usually a matter of state and local law and that without "specific facts... to indicate... a violation of federal law," there's no basis for an FBI investigation.

There's a little bit more to it, but basically that's it. 

ADDED: What stationery do you use when you write to the FBI?

5:35 a.m.



"[A]ll the job gains in April went to men. The number of women employed or looking for work fell by 64,000...."

I see, reading several paragraphs into "It’s not a ‘labor shortage.’ It’s a great reassessment of work in America. Hiring was much weaker than expected in April. Wall Street thinks it’s a blip, but there could be much deeper rethinking of what jobs are needed and what workers want to do on a daily basis" (WaPo).

The author of the analysis, Heather Long, presumes the difference is attributable to "child-care issues." But that goes counter to the notion that we've got "a great reassessment of work." Maybe the idea is that if we get the schools open and functioning once again as our childcare centers, then the difference between men and women will go away, and we'll be left with a gender-neutral problem — the great reassessment of work. 

But what is the great reassessment of work?

The coronavirus outbreak has had a dramatic psychological effect on workers, and people are reassessing what they want to do and how they want to work, whether in an office, at home or some hybrid combination.

A Pew Research Center survey this year found that 66 percent of the unemployed had “seriously considered” changing their field of work, a far greater percentage than during the Great Recession. People who used to work in restaurants or travel are finding higher-paying jobs in warehouses or real estate, for example. Or they want to a job that is more stable and less likely to be exposed to the coronavirus — or any other deadly virus down the road. Consider that grocery stores shed over 49,000 workers in April and nursing care facilities lost nearly 20,000.

Economists describe this phenomenon as reallocation friction, the idea that the types of jobs in the economy are changing and workers are taking awhile to figure out what new jobs they want — or what skills they need for different roles.... In some cases, the problem is a mismatch in skills....

May 7, 2021



"For a long time, Roth kept two small signs near his desk. One read, 'Stay Put,' the other, 'No Optional Striving.'"

"Optional striving appears to be a category that includes everything save writing, exercise, sleep, and solitude.... 'That act of passionate and minute memory is what binds your days together—days, weeks, months—and living with that is my greatest pleasure. I think for any novelist it has to be the greatest pleasure, that’s why you’re doing it—to make the daily connections. I do it by living a very austere life. I don’t experience it as being austere in any negative sense, but you have to be a bit like a soldier with a barracks life, or whatever you want to call it. That is to say, I rule everything else out of my life. I didn’t always, but I do now.... I have to tell you that I don’t believe in death, I don’t experience the time as limited. I know it is, but I don’t feel it.... I could live three hours or I could live thirty years, I don’t know. Time doesn’t prey upon my mind. It should, but it doesn’t. I don’t know yet what this will all add up to, and it no longer matters, because there’s no stopping.'"

From a 2000 article in The New Yorker, "Into the Clear/Philip Roth puts turbulence in its place." 

I'm reading that because the recent talk of the new — and out of print! — biography of Roth led me to read his novel "The Human Stain," which came out in 2000, so I was reading contemporaneous articles about that. 

I chose that quote for blogging because it's about heroic isolation and dedication to writing — writing and staying alive. Here's a passage that I found in "The Human Stain" that goes into the same subject:

Sunrise — eastern and western view.

At 5:48, looking right into the sun: 


At 5:55, looking west: 


The western view shows something that I've mostly ignored all my life: The spring foliage on the trees is varied in color like fall foliage. It's not just green. There's gold, orange, and brown along with a wide range of greens.

"Maybe paying people more to be unemployed than to work has consequences? I've been out to eat with 2 waiters working an entire establishment."

"No one wants to work now. Same thing with Lyft and gig work. Bring back proof of looking for employment and curtail unemployment benefits when we have this many job openings. Helicopter money is temporary, not permanent."

That's a high-rated comment at "The Jobs Report: The Boom That Wasn’t/April’s anemic job creation was so out of line with what other indicators have suggested that it will take some time to unravel the mystery" (NYT). 

From the article: 

Employers added only 266,000 jobs last month, the government reported Friday morning, not the million or so that forecasters expected. The unemployment rate actually edged up, to 6.1 percent.... These numbers are consistent with the story many business leaders are telling, of severe labor shortages — that demand has surged back but employers cannot find enough workers to fulfill it, at least at the wages they are accustomed to paying....

Back in 2010, the Obama administration introduced one of the more unfortunate economic messaging concepts of recent decades, announcing that a “Recovery Summer” was underway. It became a punchline, because while the economy was expanding, Americans were still far worse off than they’d been before the 2008 recession, and improvement was coming very slowly. That’s one outcome the Biden administration desperately wants to avoid.

"In the span of two years, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has gone from one of President Joe Biden’s most prominent surrogates — important enough to get vetted as a potential VP pick..."

"... to abandoning what once was considered a shoo-in re-election bid.... [A] 60% spike in homicides and accusations that she had become disconnected from the community seriously complicated her chances.... [Bottoms's statement] lacked... any sort of explanation about why she isn’t running. So her allies are filling the void. They say she genuinely believed she could have won a second term, but passed because she felt her motivation sapping.... Will she run for another office? Bottoms didn’t rule it out, and several statewide offices are up for grabs next year. Your Insiders are skeptical of this possibility. If she faced a tough citywide re-election bid this year, a statewide race with a more conservative electorate would objectively be an even heavier lift."

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. 

Here's an AJC article from January: "Atlanta’s deadliest year in decades has city on edge and demanding change"

Influencers strive to explain their decision to euthanize Bowser after he bit their 1-year-old child.


It's all very influencer-style — not the sort of thing I'd ordinarily watch — but I'd read "Family Vloggers Euthanize Their Dog, Prompting Collective ‘Why?’" at New York Magazine... 

Several influencers, including Jaclyn Hill, Jeffree Star, and Tana Mongeau, have commented on the situation. YouTuber LaurDIY, who also owns a bull terrier, posted an entire reaction video, in which she says, “They failed to set boundaries for their child and their dog, who has obvious past, unaddressed trauma that was their responsibility to correct and rehab.”

... and I just wanted to say that this couple did the right thing in putting the dog down. Whether they should have made this long video reenacting their angst is another matter.

"Mr. Gates was already working on his dream home before marrying Ms. Gates in 1994.... The place was 'a bachelor’s dream and a bride’s nightmare'..."

"... with 'enough software and high-tech displays to make a newlywed feel as though she were living inside a video game.'... After six months of discussions about whether the entire project should be scrapped, Ms. Gates decided to influence further construction by incorporating her preferences — and insisted on making the place a home for a family and not a lone tech wizard.... Perhaps Mr. Gates may now recommit himself to designing and building a smart house (though that may not be a challenging project for him today, now that connected devices are everywhere). Because despite the changes she made to the couple’s home, Ms. Gates recently expressed misgivings about continuing to live there. 'We won’t have that house forever....I’m actually really looking forward to the day that Bill and I live in a 1,500-square foot house."

From "Who Gets Xanadu 2.0, the Gates Family Mansion? Melinda Gates, at least, has been open about her desire to live in a smaller house" (NYT).

A 1,500-square foot house. I guess I can give this post my "tiny house" tag. How big is the "Xanadu" mansion? 66,000 square feet. That's 44 times the size of the house she purported to dream of. In a house so big, why worry about your estrangement from the other person? So easy to avoid them. Even hard to find them. Or I guess there were electronic devices to help you find them — in case you ever want them. It's beyond separate bedrooms. You're living in a place the size of a small town. Go live in another part of that town.

"Frustrated by the lack of drugs available to carry out lethal injections in their state, South Carolina lawmakers are on the cusp of a controversial solution..."

"... forcing death row inmates to face the electric chair or firing squad when lethal injection is not possible. A bill proposing that change, approved by the State House this week, appears almost certain to become law in the next few days, and is being lauded by Republicans, including Gov. Henry McMaster, who have been vexed by pharmaceutical companies’ refusal to sell states the drugs needed to carry out lethal injections. The lack of drugs, they say, is a key reason South Carolina has not executed anyone in 10 years. Opponents are appalled by the bill, which would make South Carolina the fourth state — along with Mississippi, Oklahoma and Utah — in which death by firing squad is an option for the condemned.... The firing squad measure was proposed by State Senator Richard A. Harpootlian, a Democrat and former prosecutor, who argued that it was more humane than the electric chair.... 'an extraordinarily gruesome, horrendous process... where they essentially catch on fire and don’t die immediately.'"

The NYT reports.

May 6, 2021


In the Arb...



MIT News presents a robot to brush your hair.


We're told: "With rapidly growing demands on health care systems, nurses typically spend 18 to 40 percent of their time performing direct patient care tasks, oftentimes for many patients and with little time to spare. Personal care robots that brush hair could provide substantial help and relief." 

So you've got someone who can't brush her own hair. You're going to need to position her next to the robot. I can't believe that's not harder than just brushing her hair directly. But maybe there's a robot to move the patient around into range of the hair-brushing robot.

By the way, I have hair, and I brush it, and I can tell you for sure that hair-brushing robot isn't accomplishing hair-brushing at all in that video:

The robot is equipped with a camera that helps it “see” and assess curliness, so it can plan a delicate and time-efficient brush-out. 

Yes, that's the problem. It's too wary and timid about getting into the hair!

"You are … irritating and unbearable, and I consider it most difficult to live with you. No one can tolerate being reproved by you, who also still show so many weaknesses yourself..."

"... least of all in your adverse manner, which in oracular tones, proclaims this is so and so, without ever supposing an objection. If you were less like you, you would only be ridiculous, but thus as you are, you are highly annoying."

Wrote Arthur Schopenhauer's mother to her 19-year-old son. Quoted at the beginning of "How Adult Children Affect Their Mother’s Happiness/Plenty of moms feel something less than unmitigated joy around their grown-up kids. Make sure yours feels that she’s getting as much out of her relationship with you as she gives" by Arthur C. Brooks (The Atlantic). 

The two-century-old letter amazes not just for its mix of archaic diction and sick burns, but also because it violates some of humanity’s most basic assumptions about how mothers feel about their children.... Research suggests that plenty of mothers, while perhaps not as up-front as Johanna, feel some resentment toward their adult progeny, especially when the relationship feels unequal....

Researchers studying mothers have also found that almost 54 percent said their relationship with their adult child or children was ‘‘intimate but also restrictive,” that they had “mixed feelings” about the relationship, or some other ambivalent statement.... [T]he biggest predictor of interpersonal stress between adult child and mother was her affirmative answer to the question ‘‘Do you feel that you give more than you receive in this relationship?’’...

The next time you call your mother... ask her about something going on in her life that doesn’t involve you at all but that you know is important to her. Ask for details, listen, and then offer your thoughts.... Don’t take her for granted, and treat her with the attentive love she deserves.

"Advocates of cluttercore... 'admit that they have a lot of stuff but that they're going to take pleasure in that and arrange [their items] in ways they like. As a counter aesthetic to the minimalist hegemony...'"

"'... that makes sense to me.'... Cluttercore turns ordinary people into curators. It takes real creativity to think about what goes where and what each item says about the other. Plus, decluttering can possess bleaker undertones. 'I have a running list of theories... People organise and declutter to distract themselves from the seriousness of living in the Anthropocene and its existential threats – a burning planet, the Sixth Great Extinction – inoculating us against the pandemic of anxiety.' You'll never tidy your house in the same way again. And there are yet other benefits to maximalism. Richer nations throw away tons of stuff every year, often dumping unwanted items on poorer countries who lack the infrastructure to dispose of them properly, decimating local landscapes. In this context, cluttercore becomes a revolutionary riposte to the explosion of 'stuff'..."

From "'Cluttercore': the anti-minimalist trend that celebrates mess" (BBC).

Order and chaos — you've got to find your own balance and notice when order/chaos is out of balance. Those who push order will provoke the agents of chaos, and those who create chaos energize the order freaks. Get somewhere in the middle and verge in the direction that feels good to you, but not too far.

I remember the lovely minimalism that was mid-century modern. The coolest house on our block in the early 1960s was 100% "Danish Modern." I saw the reaction: hippie/bohemian patterns and all sorts of overlapping rugs and tapestries and 50 year old dark wood furniture from junk shops. The minimalism was declared "uptight" and "sterile." We wanted real-life rooms that looked the way those minimalist rooms looked when we were on LSD. What a chaotic jumble we wanted for a while there. Then, in the late 70s, a look called "high tech" called out to us — glass, metal. 

I've been through enough cycles that I'm content to wait out anything I don't like. The other day, I blogged a photograph that showed the cabinets in our kitchen, which are natural maple, and someone in the comments — I had comments at the time — now, you need to email me, — felt moved to say they had the same cabinets and they were painting them white. You want me to paint the natural wood?! Because kitchens must be white these days? Did you read that a non-white kitchen is dated? Google it, and you'll see that now the white kitchen is what's old. 

Minimalism hit so deep and hard that it produced anti-minimalism. But don't worry. Go whichever way you like. The anti-minimalism will bring back minimalism.

Here's a Pinterest collection of 280 hippie kitchens. Example:

Wildness in one's own yard.

I just needed to walk around to the back... 


The Ideal City.

That's "The Ideal City" by Fra Carnevale, c. 1480–1484. 

This post was created to front-page something that appeared after the fold on another post today, so if you care about context, read through to the "FROM THE EMAIL" section of the post that went up at 7:09 a.m.

I like it out of context too. The image itself seems out of context — idealized.

"Could you clarify the purpose of this kind of post?"

David emails:

Your blog post today: about a NYT article contained: 

  • A pull quote from the article
  • A link to the article 
  • No content from you. 

Since you disabled comments on your blog, I have been trying to understand how you view the blog's purpose.

This particular post, which contained no original content from you, is the kind of thing you used to post in order to elicit discussion. But because that is no longer possible, I do not understand your intent. Do you now see yourself as an unpaid advertiser for the NYT? I hardly think they need your support, and simply reposting NYT content seems pretty weak.

Could you clarify the purpose of this kind of post? Maybe a post explaining it would be helpful.

My emailed response:

"Could you clarify the purpose of this kind of post?"


Think your own thoughts.

ADDED: I hope you remember that I got rid of the comments because of a round-the-clock problem with some very destructive trolls. I could not handle the work. Otherwise, I'd have left the comments on. But there is a type of comment I feel much better off without, and that is people who'd say — over and over — things like: Why do you read the NYT? She's still reading the NYT. What do you expect, it's the NYT? When are you going to stop reading the NYT?

ALSO: Why did David think I had to explain my purpose when elsewhere he assumed he knew my purpose? He wrote, "This... is the kind of thing you used to post in order to elicit discussion." If you could read my mind then, why not read my mind now? A lateral-thinking guess is that he was never really interested in my purpose only in whether my posts worked the way he liked. If a post prompts people to comment, then it also prompts people to think, and each person's thinking takes place whether they get to share their thoughts in writing or not. That's why I said "Think your own thoughts." 

Do you get better thoughts if you have to do your own thinking and cannot immediately scan other people's instant reactions? 

Here's another idea: Read the post out loud to your companion and have a conversation about it in your real-life space. That's something we here at Meadhouse do all the time.  

AND: "That's something we here at Meadhouse do all the time." It's also something people did in the old days, when there was only one copy of the paper newspaper. I remember my paternal grandfather, Pop, reading the paper in his living room, mostly silently, but now and then reading something out loud. You can still do that!  

Caitlyn Jenner's campaign ad — complete with images of Bruce Jenner winning the Decathlon and the ancient voice-over "He wants the world record."

Here's how I ran into the ad: Here's a screen shot I made:

That's not a fleeting glimpse of the past. There are repeated images from the stellar 1976 Olympic performance and of Caitlyn today looking feelingly at the gold medal. 

We hear Jenner's voice: California needs "new leaders... who are unafraid to challenge"  —  pause — "and to change" — pause — "the status quo." At that first pause, right before "and to change" — we see 2 magazine covers, side by side, one with Bruce Jenner celebrating winning the gold and one showing Caitlyn Jenner. That is, Jenner is "unafraid to challenge and to change the status quo," as demonstrated by breaking the world record in the Decathlon and then — in a second bodily achievement — coming out as transgender. 

I wonder how hard it was to decide whether to elevate or obscure the Jenner of the 1970s.

"Paper architecture has often had a real utopian or critical underlying agenda to it... [It] was often explicitly anti-capitalist, and emphasized the possibilities of a post-revolutionary society."

"Today’s C.G.I. interiors, on the other hand, offer a fantasy of individual consumption and relaxation, but suggest a certain amount of political indifference. 'This seems like there’s no plan, no societal vision, no critique....Taking a historical view, to have anything appropriating fictional utopian architecture with no utopian vision is a bit depressing.' The earlier part of the twenty-tens saw an explosion of 'cabin porn' on Tumblr: a nostalgic, earthy aesthetic of Obama-era hipster Americana—all wool blankets and gas lanterns and flannel jackets—which, in hindsight, may have channelled a growing uneasiness about accelerating digitization. By contrast, the aspirational, hyperrealistic interior-design imagery on Instagram—some call it 'renderporn'—isn’t wary of digital life.... 'There might be a way in which C.G.I. architecture is appealing because it completely disavows the reality of scarcity—monetary, planetary.... There’s this fantasy of freedom, where the real pinnacle of freedom is doing whatever you want without any material constraints.'..."

From "The Strange, Soothing World of Instagram’s Computer-Generated Interiors “Renderporn” domesticates the aspiration and surreality of the digital age" by Anna Wiener (The New Yorker). A random example of what she's talking about:

This had me thinking about the "layouts" in "The 3 Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch." The Wikipedia plot summary begins:

The story begins in a future world where global temperatures have risen so high that in most of the world it is unsafe to be outside without special cooling gear during daylight hours. In a desperate bid to preserve humanity and ease population burdens on Earth, the UN has initiated a "draft" for colonizing the nearby planets, where conditions are so horrific and primitive that the unwilling colonists have fallen prey to a form of escapism involving the use of an illegal drug (Can-D) in concert with "layouts." Layouts are physical props intended to simulate a sort of alternative reality where life is easier than either the grim existence of the colonists in their marginal off-world colonies, or even Earth, where global warming has progressed to the point that Antarctica is prime vacation resort territory....

Maybe people are using drugs with those "Renderporn" images. 

Interesting to think of these trips into Instagram as an alternative to travel in a world wrecked by global warming and disease and violence and excessive tourism. If the places don't really exist, there's nowhere to travel to and no one is able to get any closer to this unreal idea than you are. Instant equity. 

I think a better use of your mind would be to look at the Renderporn and not feel dreamily pulled in but to see it as insipid and disgusting. Resist the fake.

Which reminds me — the author of the New Yorker article — has a book titled "Uncanny Valley." I think it's a good idea to retain whatever aversion to the fake you've managed to preserve thus far.

FROM THE EMAIL: Policraticus says:

When I browsed the work of Fournier on Instagram I was immediately struck by how much they evoke the Renaissance paintings of the "Ideal City". The imposition of art upon nature can often be beautiful, but it is always seems sterile. Like the man who was disappointed in his modernist architect, I have to ask, "where do I hang my coat?"

Here's the Wikipedia article, "Ideal City" ("An ideal city is the concept of a plan for a city that has been conceived in accordance with a particular rational or moral objective"). Here's a painting from the 15th century:

May 5, 2021

A fallen sprig of very young oak leaves.

Photographed by Meade: 


I like the fleshy, sugary look of them.

"The expanding reach of the technology is enough to make a person want to wear a mask indefinitely. We won’t, of course."

"With a spell of warm spring weather in New York City, masks are starting to come off and the smiles are returning to the faces—just as George Harrison once had it—and it really does feel like years since they’ve been here. To be unmasked feels good, natural, free, human. And yet, as covid-19 recedes in this country, the human face will be more vulnerable than ever. Unmasked, we’ll find that our faces have become common property. For technology, faces equal identity; we are our faces, but they are no longer ours alone."

From "Mask Mandates Are Easing, but the Way We Look at Faces Has Changed Forever/Monitoring the human face through technology has become the default mode of public encounter" (The New Yorker).

" It is not permissible for Facebook to keep a user off the platform for an undefined period, with no criteria for when or whether the account will be restored...."

"In applying a vague, standardless penalty and then referring this case to the Board to resolve, Facebook seeks to avoid its responsibilities. The Board declines Facebook’s request and insists that Facebook apply and justify a defined penalty.... Within six months of this decision, Facebook must reexamine the arbitrary penalty it imposed on January 7 and decide the appropriate penalty. This penalty must be based on the gravity of the violation and the prospect of future harm. It must also be consistent with Facebook’s rules for severe violations, which must, in turn, be clear, necessary and proportionate." 

From the full text of the Facebook Oversight Board's opinion.

FROM THE EMAIL: Gregory Ogden writes: 

The excerpt that you posted on your blog is very similar to the language that would be used by an appellate court reviewing the decision of an administrative agency under the arbitrary and capricious standard of review that is recognised in the Federal APA, 5 USC Section 706(2)(A). While courts give broad discretion to agency penalty determinations, those determinations are in the context of specific adjudicatory decisions by that agency under the federal APA. This may be too much law professor inside baseball but it seems to me that this board is using some of the rhetoric that courts will use in APA contexts. This could be a good thing if you accept the premise that .tech companies have the right to censor political speech. I don't accept that premise because it goes against american values and prevents robust debate.

"Ms. Toogood... introduced a bed for Birkenstock... with sides and a headboard so voluminous it could be mistaken for a crash mat. 'It’s part of my softgoods obsession,' Ms. Toogood said. We need that comfort and softness at the moment.'"

From "Like Sweatpants, Squishy Furniture Is In/Versatility is not the only reason blobby sofas and chairs are back in style" (NYT). 

I love the name Ms. Toogood — Faye Toogood — and I'm amused by the blobular furniture. I'm having severe 70s flashbacks, but it's not that nightmarish. It's pretty amusing. I think it's funny that Birkenstock makes beds now — blobby beds. I see they're on a cork base, like the famous shoes.

I'm not convinced furniture like that is actually comfortable. You might look at it and get a message of comfort, but try getting up after sitting in it for a couple hours. As for the likeness to sweatpants — yes, this furniture is of the opinion that you are fat. 

I once bought an armchair that I liked the look of only to bring it home and decide it was built for someone 2 or 3 times my size. And the comfort was all in my head. In that light, I advise you to look at the photographs in the linked article and not to think at all about buying any of that stuff — that stuffed stuff.

Here's a picture — from 2012 — of that chair I thought I'd enjoy sitting in:


"An early trickle of retirements from House members in competitive districts is often the first sign of a coming political wave."

"In the 2018 cycle, 48 House Republicans didn’t seek re-election — and 14 of those vacancies were won by Democrats. Now Republicans are salivating over the prospect of reversing that dynamic and erasing the Democrats six-seat advantage." 

From "Why Democratic Departures From the House Have Republicans Salivating/A growing number of Democrats in battleground districts are either retiring or leaving to seek higher office, imperiling the party’s control of the House and President Biden’s expansive agenda" (NYT).

ADDED: An emailer wanted to know the purpose of a post like this, devoid of explication of what to think about the NYT. You can read the email and my response in this new post.

ALSO: I do wish I'd given this my "saliva" tag. I'll add it now. Maybe that will prod David along in his personal thinking.

"Scotland goes to the polls Thursday in a vote that could eventually lead to a truly historic event: the crackup of the United Kingdom."

"The independence movement has gained momentum in the wake of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit. And the pandemic has further encouraged the idea that Scotland might be better off going its own way, with policies determined in Edinburgh viewed more favorably by Scots than those pronounced at Westminster. As a result, the Scottish National Party, led by the popular First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, 50, is expected to perform well in Thursday’s vote for seats in the regional Parliament, with pro-independence parties winning a solid majority of the 129 seats in Holyrood. The talk shows, political magazines and news columns in Britain are full of speculation about a looming breakup...."

WaPo reports.

"Last year was not normal. There was stress snacking and procrasti-baking. There was no shedding for the wedding..."

"... in a year when most weddings were postponed or drastically downsized; no pre-high-school-reunion crash diet or worrying if Grandma would body-shame you at Thanksgiving.... But research from a company that makes internet-connected scales... found that people actually lost weight in 2020, or were more likely than in other years to hit their weight-loss goals, if they had them.... In any case, the weight-loss industry isn’t going to let a lack of data dull its zeal to convince Americans that yes, we got fat, and that now we need to get up off our couches and get back into shape.... I have one word for you: resist. As we should all know by now, diets don’t work. Studies show that 41 percent of dieters gain back more weight over the next five years than they lost, and that dieters are more likely than nondieters to become obese over the next one to 15 years. For some, the language of diet culture can be downright dangerous, contributing to life-threatening eating disorders. There’s nothing wrong with taking action to improve your health. Want to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet, or get back to regular workouts? Go for it. Get outside, now that we can do that again. But you don’t need to enroll in a program, download an app or buy frozen meals to do any of this...."

Writes Jennifer Weiner in "The Weight-Loss Industry Is Coming for Our Post-Lockdown Bodies" (NYT). 

"Diet" is just a word, and we all have a diet. Whatever you eat is your diet! But we've made it an unpleasant word. Anyway, Weiner is talking about the businesses that sell weight loss. Don't fall for them. But I don't think that should mean don't even try to lose weight. It is hard to overcome the natural urge to load future fuel into your body. We're all here because our ancestors weathered hard times by eating what they could. It doesn't work anymore for us, because even in this time of covid hardship, we've got plenitude. The food supply flow never constricted. 

I feel as though I ought to add some weight-loss advice here, but I'll just say, make your own little plan

"Facebook’s oversight board has upheld the company’s decision to restrict Donald Trump’s access to the social media platform."

The Guardian reports. (To comment email me here.) 

UPDATE: Full text of the opinion here.

ADDED: I'm not surprised. If the decision had gone the other way, Facebook could have found some new offense and banned him again.

AND: From the NYT article gives some details about the decision, which is not as harshly anti-Trump as it may have first looked:

Facebook’s Oversight Board, which acts as a quasi-court to deliberate the company’s content decisions, said the social network was right to bar Mr. Trump after he used the site to foment an insurrection in Washington in January. The panel said the ongoing risk of violence “justified” the suspension.

But the board also said that Facebook’s penalty of an indefinite suspension was “not appropriate,” and that the company should apply a “defined penalty.” The board gave Facebook six months to make its final decision on Mr. Trump’s account status.

“The Board insists that Facebook review this matter to determine and justify a proportionate response that is consistent with the rules that are applied to other users of its platform,” it said in a statement.

AND: Let me quote from Trump's new blog, a post dated April 30:

Twitter stock “plunged” as results are no longer cutting it for investors. Shares are off 15% today. Bad forecasts are hurting the outlook but more importantly, in my opinion, it has become totally BORING as people flock to leave the site. Michael Nathanson stated, “the math doesn’t make sense” as he lowered his price target. I guess that’s what happens when you go against FREEDOM OF SPEECH! It will happen to others also.

By the way, Trump calls his new blog "From the Desk of Donald Trump," which we were laughing about, because it's like the old personalized memo stationery about which jokes were made as far back as — going on my personal memory — the 1970s. The classic joke angle was to take it literally and imagine that the memo came from the piece of furniture. I'll bet there's an old New Yorker cartoon with just a desk — no person — and the desk somehow has an arm and a hand that's holding a pen writing on a paper headed "From the Desk of William Q. Smyth." I'm just using "William Q. Smyth" as a stand-in for whatever name The New Yorker would have cooked up for this cartoon. That's not part of my bet! I'm sure I'd lose that kooky bet. "William Q. Smyth" was just me trying to come up with the "Joe Blow" of businessmen of the sort who might read The New Yorker.

Trump discovers blogging.

Yesterday, I read "Trump launches new communications platform months after Twitter, Facebook ban The space will allow Trump to post comments, images, and videos" (Fox News).

But it's not a "new communications platform" other than in the sense that he's new to communicating in this old way, the way that I love and hold dearest. It's a blog. 

The platform, "From the Desk of Donald J. Trump" appears on  

Fine. But why didn't he set up a page like this as soon as he got dumped from Twitter and Facebook? By the way, the Facebook Oversight Board is issuing its opinion on Trump this morning, so he might get back onto Facebook. [UPDATE: Trump lost.]

I can think of 2 good reasons why Trump might have delayed putting up a blog. First, he was actively arguing that Twitter and Facebook were oppressing him. If he has an easy work-around, it undercuts his argument. Second, he may have wanted to create something that really would be a new communications platform, something more like Twitter (or Parler), where millions of microbloggers could pour in and react back and forth to each other, creating waves of passionate chitchat and the seeming newsiness of trends. But it just didn't work. It was hard to design and keep running or too expensive or legally problematic. After months of experimenting, they gave up and went utterly minimal, with a blog — a blog that could have been put up the day Twitter banned him.

I see many people are mocking Trump for blogging. It's just a blog! The mockery makes sense aimed at Fox News and anyone else who calls it a "communications platform," but don't mock the blogger. The blog is sublime! I don't mean Trump's blog in particular, but The Blog, in the abstract and in my experience (which is 17 years of daily blogging). 

Will Trump's blog be sublime? We shall see. If he blogs the same way that he tweeted, it might not work. He doesn't even have comments, so where's the dynamic? His style is to attack things and on Twitter, you have more of the sense of hitting someone who's there with you, and then your followers retweet that and get something going, back and forth. It's a game to be played. By contrast, the blog just sits there, more like a book. Want to read it? Where's the sport in that? 

Trump had millions of followers on Twitter, and all they had to do was show up at Twitter and his little nibbles of quips and carps popped instantly into their heads. Do these people have the kind of heads that will go to Trump's blog and maybe copy the text and maybe the link and go back to Twitter to try to propagate the man's latest words? Or did Twitter — with Trump — ruin those heads, make them so dependent on little yummy word snacks that they can't pull it together to read a blog anymore?

Possible solution: Read books! It's retro, like Billie Eilish in a corset. No no, not like Billie Eilish in a corset. Books are not squeezing you smaller in the places convention designates as needing to be as small as possible. That's more like Twitter. Twitter and your brain.

As for blogs... well, it all depends on the blog.

(You can email me here. I don't have comments anymore. I have email! Speaking of retro.)

FROM THE EMAIL: Alex writes: 

I have to wonder if Facebook's decision, and Trump's move to a blogging platform, won't backfire on the anti-Trump establishment. Without the stream of consciousness of Twitter, Trump may be forced to slow down and replace instant, brief, commentary with something that is still relevant, but a bit longer and more nuanced. This risks making him look respectable and even *gasp* dignified and statesman-like. Well... ish. As for comments, I'd think the first step is getting into a rhythm regarding publishing his thoughts on the new platform, as well as deciding how to deal with issues such as the inevitable trolls and nutjobs. I wouldn't be surprised if eventually there's a deal to integrate Gab or Parler as a means of commenting.

"Billie Eilish wants you to know she is in charge, brash and self-assured enough to scrap the raffish image that helped garner her a world of fans in favor of something a little more … adult....."

"The singer... swapp[ed] her trademark sweats for a style more domme than deb: pink Gucci corset and skirt over Agent Provocateur skivvies, accessorized with latex gloves and leggings. The choice was her own, Edward Enninful, the magazine’s editor in chief, wrote in the June issue. 'What if, she wondered, she wanted to show more of her body for the first time in a fashion story?' Mr. Enninful recalled. 'What if she wanted to play with corsetry and revel in the aesthetic of the mid-20th century pin-ups she’s always loved? It was time, she said, for something new.' To that end Ms. Eilish embraced the shopworn trimmings of female allure, offering the camera, without apparent irony, a nod to the sirens of golden age Hollywood and some of more recent vintage: Taylor Swift, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion among them." 

Writes Ruth La Ferla in "On That Bombshell Billie Eilish Cover for British Vogue/The pop star known for defying gender stereotypes got a glamour makeover with a corset. Not everyone is happy about it" (NYT). 

First, "garner" — she garners her fans. Doesn't just get them and doesn't quite win them. She garners them, so picture her storing them in silos, like grain. 

If you've already garnered a "world of fans," what do you do next? Maybe offload some of them. Offend. Disappoint. She was the girl who covered up her body with big, heavy tracksuits — which she said she wore so people wouldn't focus on her body — so the opportunity was there, inside the suit, to put the body on show. 

Enninful's quote challenges our credulity. It was all her idea. And it was "play"! Oh, was it? The NYT critic, La Perla, says she went for "the shopworn trimmings of female allure... without apparent irony." If it was play, why does it look so unplayful? Maybe the photographer's attempts to make it seem playful looked staged and creepy, and the glum face — hostage face — seemed at least arguably sophisticated. 

Let's break the Enninful quote in half. The second half is believable:

May 4, 2021

We walked 6.6 miles in New Glarus Woods State Park today.

Brilliant green after yesterday's rain: 


Does this fungus suggest the presence of sponge mushrooms nearby?




5:45 a.m.


"Alex Lugger, 32, a boat marketer in Springfield, Mo., said that she self identifies as a bit cheugy.... 'We were basic in our 20s and now we’re cheugy in our 30s'...."

"Cheugy is just the latest in a long line of niche identifiers that have gained traction on the internet, where people relentlessly categorize highly specific archetypes in starter pack memes and videos. It’s no coincidence that cheugy gained traction on TikTok, a platform that has functioned as an escape from Instagram’s once dominant aesthetic, which is the pinnacle of cheugy.... [W]hat is and isn’t cheugy is highly subjective and changing quickly. 'It’s really easy to identify cheugy things on TikTok because TikTok is so fast paced and there’s so many trends that come and go.... '... 'I think millennials have noticed that some things we used to consider cheugy are coming back in style and aren’t cheugy anymore... When I was first introduced to the word in 2015, low rise jeans were cheugy. Now, six years later, low rise jeans are back in style and I don’t think they’re cheugy anymore.'"

Yeah, I'm thinking the word "cheugy" is itself cheugy, because why am I reading about it in the New York Times — in "What Is 'Cheugy'? You Know It When You See It. Out of touch? Basic? A new term to describe a certain aesthetic is gaining popularity on TikTok"

It means out of style — recently in style. It reminds me of the 1950s-era insult "so last year" — as in, "That dress is so last year." You have to have cared about style to have tried that item in the first place, and now you've stuck with it too long. Just don't care in the first place, and you'll never have to worry about cheuginess.

 (To comment, email me here.)

ADDED: I certainly hope the NYT checked its sources, because remember when it got hoaxed about Grunge slang? They need to be careful they're not cob nobblers in the tom tom club. Such a harsh realm!

"One reason demographic change has failed to transform electoral politics is that the increased diversity of the electorate has come not mainly from Black voters but from Hispanic, Asian-American and multiracial voters."

"Those groups back Democrats, but not always by overwhelmingly large margins.... The new census data’s finding that the percentage of non-Hispanic white voters in the country’s electorate dropped by about two percentage points from 2016 to 2020 might seem like a lot. But with Hispanic, Asian-American and multiracial voters representing the entirety of the increase, while the Black share of the electorate was flat, the growing nonwhite share of the electorate cost Mr. Trump only about half a percentage point over a four-year period. Another factor is the electoral map. The American electoral system rewards flipping states from red to blue, but many Democratic gains among nonwhite voters have been concentrated in the major cities of big and often noncompetitive states. By contrast, many traditional swing states across the northern tier, like Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, have had relatively little demographic change.... White voters still represent more than 80 percent of the electorate in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, according to the new census data. The nonwhite population in these states is predominantly Black; their share of the population has been fairly steady over the last few decades. But Mr. Biden won these states so narrowly that the relatively modest demographic shifts of the last few decades were necessary for him to prevail in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. It’s just hard to call it a Great Replacement if Mr. Trump could have won in 2020 if only he had done as well among white voters as he did in 2016."

From "Why Rising Diversity Might Not Help Democrats as Much as They Hope/Voters of color make up an increasing percentage of the United States electorate, but that trend isn’t hurting Republicans as much as conservatives fear" by Nate Cohn (NYT). 

The "Great Replacement" theory is referred to elsewhere in the article, here: "Contrary to what Tucker Carlson says repeatedly on Fox News about the rise of 'white replacement theory' as a Democratic electoral strategy, the country’s growing racial diversity has not drastically upended the party’s chances." That's carefully worded. It doesn't say that the Democrats do not have that strategy, only that it hasn't worked as well as you might think. If it's an odious strategy, then it's bad whether it works or not. If it's not odious, then you'd go right to open discussion of how well it works. So I'm inclined to think that the NYT doesn't think it's odious or doesn't want us readers to think it's odious. If the latter, it would seem that the NYT is trying to quell concern about about "replacement": it's not really happening, not that much, and even if it were that would be okay too, and if you feel at all worried about it, then you're in the Tucker Carlson camp, and you'd better get out of there.

(To comment, you can email me here.)

To be fair, it does sound delicious.

"An adjunct professor teaching her first-ever course at a California college was placed on leave this week after she ripped a student during a class presentation because he said he regards police officers as 'heroes.'"

"The unidentified Cypress College educator was apparently triggered Wednesday during 19-year-old business major Braden Ellis’ Zoom presentation on cancel culture in the US, in which he noted how even animated kids TV shows such as 'Paw Patrol' have come under fire from unhinged cop-haters.... 'You’re saying police officers should be revered, viewed as heroes? They belong on TV shows with children?'" 

The NY Post reports. 

Here's the video: 

ADDED: The teacher says that if she were experiencing a home invasion, she would not call the police. Asked what she would do, she's at a loss, and seems to be realizing that she'd have no way to defend herself. By contrast, in mere conversation, she's extremely defensive. She can't seem to relax and allow the student to make his presentation and to use questioning to teach, to help him develop his mind. I think that's a fascinating combination — to be so defensive in your professional role toward someone who isn't even attacking you, but coming to you for education, and then to be so without any defense at all when you are the victim of violence. It's utterly ass-backwards.

"Debate Erupts at N.J. Law School After White Student Quotes Racial Slur/A Rutgers Law student repeated an epithet from a legal case, and now Black students at the New Jersey school are calling for a policy on slurs — and apologies."

The NYT reports. 

The controversy began on Oct. 28, after a criminal law class all first-year students are required to take. In discussing the circumstances under which a criminal defendant could be held liable for crimes committed by his co-conspirators, the student repeated a quote from a defendant that appeared in an opinion written by a former State Supreme Court judge, Alan B. Handler. “He said, um — and I’ll use a racial word, but it’s a quote,” the student said, according to a summary of the incident written by professors. “He says, ‘I’m going to go to Trenton and come back with my [expletive]s.” 

That led to a petition from a group of black students calling for a policy that would ban saying a word that is printed in the text of the case under discussion and extracting apologies from the student who said the word and from the professor who either didn't notice or failed to express disapproval. The NYT article isn't at all supportive of the petitioners' demands.

The comments at the NYT — at least the ones I've read, the top-rated ones — are quite strongly opposed to the petitioners: 

1. "As a criminal defense attorney for over thirty years, I can't even count the times racial or obscene words have been quoted in legal proceedings. They might relate to an element in the case or a motive for a particular witness, victim or police officer. It's not so much about free speech as it is about presenting the complete picture for a jury to make a decision. I might also note that if the appellate court cited the word in the published opinion, it must have been critical to the case." 

2. "The students taking issue with the quoting of the word appear unable to consider context of its use or intent of the person quoting it. They can’t practice criminal law if they can’t consider context and intent. Universities need to push back against this garbage. If enough people will actually show some courage, then it will stop. These students will have difficulty getting jobs after they graduate." 

3. "How can any student or professor discuss legal cases if they aren’t allowed to directly quote the cases themselves? Considering the word is still used frequently in our culture, it must appear in documents from time to time. Surely students can consider context and apply some understanding to its infrequent use in a classroom setting? How does one approach First Amendment cases focusing on hate speech if you have to censor the speech being discussed?" 

(To comment, you can email me here.)

"In 1993, when I was living in New York and still fresh off the boat, 60 Minutes featured a segment on Finland, which opened with this description..."

"... of Helsinki pedestrians going about their business: 'This is not a state of national mourning in Finland, these are Finns in their natural state; brooding and private; grimly in touch with no one but themselves; the shyest people on earth. Depressed and proud of it'” As far as facial expressions of the Finnish people, not much has changed since then. We are still just as reserved and melancholy as before. If happiness were measured in smiles, Finnish people would be among the most miserable in the world.

From The Grim Secret of Nordic Happiness/It’s not hygge, the welfare state, or drinking. It’s reasonable expectations" a Slate article by Jukka Savolainen (reacting to a study that rated the Finns the happiest people on earth).

"Consistent with their Lutheran heritage, the Nordic countries are united in their embrace of curbed aspirations for the best possible life. This mentality is famously captured in the Law of Jante—a set of commandments believed to capture something essential about the Nordic disposition to personal success: 'You’re not to think you are anything special; you’re not to imagine yourself better than we are; you’re not to think you are good at anything,' and so on.... If I had to pick a Scandinavian word to capture the correct cultural ingredient in Nordic happiness, it would probably be the Swedish and Norwegian term lagom, which can be translated as 'just the right amount,' i.e., neither too much nor too little."

FROM THE EMAIL: Paul writes: 

I'm a German-American Lutheran, and I find this unrecognizable. Martin Luther was, famously, an irascible sort who enjoyed the beer his wife, Katie, brewed; teaching; preaching; music (he composed several famous hymns, of which "A Mighty Fortress Is our God" is the best-known); and wrote, and published, pamphlet upon pamphlet upon pamphlet, often in explicitly scatological terms. Whatever you might say about Luther—and there's plenty to be said, and has been—"curbed aspirations for the best possible life" are not among them. On a guided bus tour of New Orleans, in fact, our guide told us that when the Lutherans arrived in New Orleans, they were declared "honorary Creoles," because, unlike the Protestants of America's Second Great Awakening, they liked to drink and dance and have a good time. So whatever is going on in the Nordic countries, it doesn't have anything to do with Lutheranism.

"The Bidens are GIGANTIC. I had no idea."

ADDED: That picture is mindbending. Fortunately, The Guardian investigated: "Why do the Carters look so tiny alongside Joe Biden and his wife Jill in this picture?/You don’t need special gear to create this optical trickery. If you have an iPhone 11 or 12 you too can loom large over a former US president." 

What amazes me is that the picture was chosen for sharing. It looks like it was the Carter Center that tweeted it. I think that showed poor judgment, but maybe they knew it was hilarious and wanted to amuse us.


FROM THE EMAIL: Nancy links to this famous Diane Arbus photograph and says: 

This was the first image that came to mind when I saw the Tiny Carter’s. (Finally, a name for my new band.) 

Perhaps The Carter Center has a good, slightly twisted sense of humor as this also reminded me of the story of Jimmy battling the giant rabbit.

I see "Jimmy Carter Rabbit Incident" has its own Wikipedia page.

"The social media bans bit hard into Trump’s visibility. But instead of reconstituting his following with the sort of show business flash and sparkle he brought to his White House years..."

"... and the 2016 campaign—rallies, press conferences, televised appearances—the former president spent most of his exile in the minimum security prison that is Mar-a-Lago, where he keeps a vigil over the banquet table, gives half-hearted speeches to tens of supporters about the 'stolen election,' exposes his kissable ring to the lips of supporters and golfs... Trump’s half-hearted attempts at gearing up his movement suggest he doesn’t really care as much about returning to Facebook as he lusts, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, to be a member of a club that doesn’t want him as a member. This half-heartedness informs almost every Trump move since the Biden victory was certified by Congress and the new administration took over. As Gabby Orr and Meridith McGraw reported for POLITICO in mid-March, Trump has been adrift during his exile, indecisive, meandering and dawdling. Former CNN White House reporter Jim Acosta put it best by describing the Trump post-presidency as a 'sad old Elvis act,' adding, 'It’s like he’s an animatronic character, spewing out this stuff all over again like he has a string you pull behind him and replace the batteries when they’re low inside.' Trump’s sad old Elvis act has been performed with a limp and a hobble.... Although Trump’s Facebook account was popular... he never extolled it the way he did Twitter. ... Twitter was always Trump’s favorite child... his social media venue of choice. He will welcome Facebook reinstatement, of course, but will consider the honor a runner-up trophy. Twitter made him...."

From "Facebook Can’t Cure Trump’s Chronic Low Energy/It was Twitter that always gave him a reason to get up in the morning" by Jack Shafer (at Politico). 

Facebook's Oversight Board will announce its decision tomorrow morning. Trump could win, but — we're assured — that won't rouse him out of his pathetic malaise. He needs Twitter. He was Twitter. Without Twitter, he's a sad puppet...

An animatronic character, spewing out this stuff... like he has a string you pull behind him.... That's what they're saying he is now, and what he will be... unless he could get Twitter back. But the Twitter decision to oust him — unlike Facebook's decision — is permanent and unreviewable. So pathetic little man running out of batteries he is... unless he isn't.

FROM THE EMAIL: Alexander writes:

"Corporate News Outlets Again 'Confirm' the Same False Story, While Many Refuse to Correct it/Journalists with major outlets know they spread a false, retracted story..."

"... about the FBI and Giuliani but refuse to remove it, because their real job is spreading disinformation."  

Writes Glenn Greenwald at Substack. 

When one large news outlet publishes a false story based on whispers from anonymous security state agents with the CIA or FBI, other news outlets quickly purport that they have “independently confirmed” the false story, in order to bolster its credibility (oh, it must be true since other outlets have also confirmed it). 

This is an obvious scam — they have not “independently confirmed” anything but rather merely acted as servants to the same lying security state agents who planted the original false story — but they do it over and over, creating the deceitful perception that a fake story has been "confirmed” by multiple outlets, thus bolstering its credibility in the public mind. It was the favored tactic for spreading debunked Russiagate frauds and is still used....

(To comment, you can email me here.)

"So TMZ’s confident declaration that 'there is NO PRENUP' might not be correct. As Bill Clinton famously quipped..."

"'... It depends upon what the meaning of the word "is" is.' Maybe there 'is' no prenup, but there was a prenup, and it just got superseded — fancy legal-speak for 'supplanted' or 'replaced' — by a separation agreement."

Writes David Lat in "Bill And Melinda Gates Are Divorcing; Do They Have A Prenup?/The answer is... it's complicated." (Substack). 

There's a petition for divorce that has a section on "Written Agreements" and then lists only a separation agreement. Lat explains why you can't conclude that there was never a pre-nup agreement.

(To comment, email me here.)

May 3, 2021

"Staff... have been encouraged to... wear rainbow lanyards on campus to show solidarity with the transgender community."

According to "Edinburgh University lecturers given list of ‘microinsults’ and guidance on transgender issues" (London Times). Rainbow lanyards! 

FROM THE EMAIL: Lloyd points me to this:

"Why do people feel the need to label their sexuality with such specificity? As if a 'demi-sexual' is a thing you are and always have been and always will be."

"So short-sighted. Why pressure people into fitting into a sexual 'tribe'? Once we label, we sort ourselves, and then we're in a tribe, and then we reinforce tribal culture within that tribe. So if you join the 'asexual' tribe, then your asexuality will be reinforced and you'll stop going through the normal changes that most of us experience over our lives. Once you classify yourself, you ossify yourself."

Asks PatHMV, emailing me about yesterday's post about "Platonic" — sex-free — marriages

I myself was critical of what I called "picky terms" — like "asexual, aromantic, pansexual, demisexual" — but PatHMV elaborates some of the problem with this pickiness, this specificity. How do you know that's what you are — as a type of entity — as opposed to it's just your effort to express what you feel now? And I really wonder — when we are talking about life partners who don't have any sex at all — is this really who they are or is this a way to arrive at mental peace when you've found yourself in a relationship that has some but not all of what you want? 

In one of the updates at yesterday's post, a reader named Peter spoke of his long marriage that has turned into a sexless marriage in recent years. This is something that happens — a lot, I presume — and I don't think it would be accurate to think that Peter or his wife discovered that he/she is asexual.... or would it?

PatHMV said — pithily — "Once you classify yourself, you ossify yourself." But in cases like Peter's, it seems that both had classified themselves as heterosexual, but at least one of them morphed into asexuality. But — no! — we don't talk about it like that. It's conventional to think that both are heterosexual, but they just got older or more jaded and sex became unimportant. They're still heterosexual. If so, then these picky specifications aren't really sexual orientations.

And yet, if people like thinking of these various concepts as their sexual orientation, well, that's an intellectual orientation. If it makes your circumstances in life more pleasurable or more tolerable or more exciting or more rational to you, then go ahead — What's the harm? To classify is to ossify? But you can reclassify. 

And maybe staying put once you marry is an important commitment to your mate. If you present yourself as heterosexual, your mate is counting on that — counting on your being ossified! If you say, you've come to the realization that your true self is asexual, that's going to be a disappointment. But if you find yourself to have become asexual, must you — should you — continue to play the role of a heterosexual? Put yourself in your spouse's position: If you knew your partner wanted no sex at all, would you want him/her to provide sex for you anyway? If yes, would you prefer that with the truth hidden or revealed?


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.