May 15, 2021

"All of us, more or less, wear masks. Because without masks we can’t survive in this violent world."

"Beneath an evil-spirit mask lies the natural face of an angel, beneath an angel’s mask lies the face of an evil spirit. It’s impossible to have just one or the other. That’s who we are. And that’s Carnaval. Schumann was able to see the many faces of humanity—the masks and the real faces—because he himself was a deeply divided soul, a person who lived in the stifling gap in between the two."

From the story "Carnaval" by Haruki Murakami, in his new short story collection "First Person Singular."

If this post makes you want to listen to "Carnaval," you may be interested to know that there are 2 characters who decide that "Carnaval" is the greatest piece for solo piano. They meticulously study recordings of "Carnaval," and one, the man, decides the very best is Arthur Rubinstein’s RCA recording, which you can listen to here. The other person, the woman, takes the position that the best is Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, available here.

My reason for posting this isn't really to push the Schumann piece on you or to get you trying to figure out which is the best interpretation. Of course, I'm more interested in the subject of wearing masks. Masks come up in the story because masks are worn at the pre-Lent festival called Carnival (AKA Carnaval). Notice the "carn" — "Carnival is literally the festival of thankfulness for meat, and a farewell to it, as Lent begins." Is there some connection between masks and the loss of meat? The face is meat? 

I'm simply offering this as something to add to your reflection on the subject of mask wearing.

"The lack of women in tech is a complicated problem. Attacking or ignoring one book written by a misogynist won’t solve it."

"However, rejecting the book as a typical narrative of our industry might be a good start. The book tells the story of an uninspiring, morally questionable individual in tech, who stands out only for the way he disparages people of minorities. It’s not 'a guide to the spirit of Silicon Valley' as the author and his publisher try to present. Men don’t have to be like the author, and women don’t have to work with, even tolerate, men like the author to fit into the tech world." 

Wrote Chip Huyen, a writer and computer scientist, in "A simple reason why there aren't more women in tech - we're okay with misogyny" (at her own blog). She wrote that 2 years ago, criticizing Antonio García Martínez for his memoir, "Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley." It was March 2019, and García Martínez had just been hired to write at Wired. Huyen wanted people to know that he'd displayed himself as an out-and-proud sexist. 

Huyen quoted this passage from the book:

“Most women in the Bay Area are soft and weak, cosseted and naive despite their claims of worldliness, and generally full of shit. They have their self-regarding entitlement feminism, and ceaselessly vaunt their independence, but the reality is, come the epidemic plague or foreign invasion, they’d become precisely the sort of useless baggage you’d trade for a box of shotgun shells or a jerry can of diesel.”

I was reading that because I was sent there by Axios, in a new article, "Apple parts ways with employee amid backlash." García Martínez had moved on to a job at Apple, and some employees there put together a petition, stating "We demand an investigation into how his published views on women and people of color were missed or ignored, along with a clear plan of action to prevent this from happening again."

"The larva of the cicada on attaining full size in the ground becomes a nymph; then it tastes best, before the husk is broken. At first the males are better to eat..."

"... but after copulation the females, which are then full of white eggs." Wrote Aristotle, quoted in "How to Cook Cicadas, According to 3 Richmond, Va., Chefs/Cicadas are swarming the East Coast, and three Southern chefs are cooking them up every which way. Kung pao bugs, anyone" (Bon Appétit). 3 recipes at the link, plus this revelatory tip:
After all, if cicadas [are] the shrimp of the dirt, they should stand in just fine for their pink cousins...

... in whatever shrimp recipes you've got.

Since the word "shrimp" has popped up, let me drop in this song I chanced into yesterday when I was researching the question what are the greatest melodies? 

 

How many shrimps do you have to eat/Before you make your skin turn pink?

In case the idea of Don Lemon leaving CNN is distressing you, Don Lemon says "Relax! I'm not leaving," smiles a charming smile, and says he'll explain everything on Monday.

Okay. That's what I got from clicking on the Twitter sidebar. Here's the NY Post article on the subject:

Lemon shocked viewers by ending his news show Friday with... “It’s been really, really great. This is the last night that will be ‘CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.'” he said. “So, I appreciate all the years of ‘CNN Tonight with Don Lemon,’ but changes are coming, and I will fill you in.”

No NYT article yet, but I see something there from a month ago: "CNN Is in a Post-Trump Slump. What Does That Mean for Don Lemon?/The prime-time host on the future of cable news, the urgency of conversations about race and whether CNN is a boys’ club." It's a podcast interview. Excerpt: 

"I feel the need to continue wearing my mask outside even though I’m fully vaccinated because the inconvenience of having to wear a mask is more than worth it to have people not think I’m a conservative 😬."

 Tweets activist David Hogg. (I got there via Instapundit.)

This tweet is so perfect that I thought it might be a fake David Hogg making fun of lefties, but it's the blue check mark David Hogg, so I'm trusting Twitter that it's really him. I'm saying it's "perfect" because it sounds exactly like someone without much comic talent doing some heavy-handed, obvious political humor. It seemed like what right-wing people imagine left-wing people are thinking. But it's the left-wing person himself, and I guess he thinks he's being funny.

"Some fun fact about these little creatures: In Vietnam we eat them"/"How dare you come here and say that. Oh nonooooooo."

"those were delicacies in someplace in VN,some are just plain street food,some are expensive high class dishes, I’m sadly have to announce to you that." 

 From "A Little Vietnamese Mossy Frog" (Reddit).

ADD: There's a truly adorable photo at the link, which is the reason I'm blogging this. Please don't think I'm blogging this to attack the animal-eating choices of people in a foreign country. Unless we're vegetarians, we eat the animals we're used to eating, and we don't give a reprieve for cuteness. We eat lambs if we like lamb. Here's video of a lamb dreaming, presumably not of becoming a chop.

May 14, 2021

Redbud petals in the lawn.

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Warnings.

Several readers have emailed me to say they're getting a warning when they try to come to my blog. I haven't done anything different, so I'm assuming it's some transitory glitch that will be gone soon.

ADDED: I don't see a warning when I try to go to my blog — either in Safari, Foxfire, or Chrome — so I have trouble taking this problem seriously. I know there's a rigmarole that I could go through.... checking for malware, requesting review.

Redbud.

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Meade texted that to me from the backyard yesterday. 

I responded...

charming 
i like the way the tree looks like a bent arm wearing a very old sweater

Biden "will often snap" — says the NYT, based on interviews with "more than two dozen current and former Biden associates."

I'm reading "Beneath Joe Biden’s Folksy Demeanor, a Short Fuse and an Obsession With Details/As Mr. Biden settles into the office he has chased for more than three decades, aides say he demands hours of debate from scores of policy experts" by Michael D. Shear, Katie Rogers and Annie Karni. 

Before making up his mind, the president demands hours of detail-laden debate from scores of policy experts, taking everyone around him on what some in the West Wing refer to as his Socratic “journey” before arriving at a conclusion. Those trips are often difficult for his advisers, who are peppered with sometimes obscure questions. Avoiding Mr. Biden’s ire during one of his decision-making seminars means not only going beyond the vague talking points that he will reject, but also steering clear of responses laced with acronyms or too much policy minutiae, which will prompt an outburst of frustration, often laced with profanity.

Let’s talk plain English here, he will often snap....

Is transparent propaganda not even propaganda?

There really is another choice.

It's incoherent to demand that people follow science and to misrepresent the options. There's also the choice to avoid both the mask and the vaccination. Everyone knows that. If I had to defend the President, I'd say it's so obviously not true that no one takes it as true, so it doesn't count as a lie.

The Cal Ripken of television.

Maher has tested positive for Covid, but he's symptomless — and vaccinated — so it may be a false positive. In any case, I know from listening to him on the Joe Rogan podcast that he takes great pride in doing an hour-long live show, done without commercial breaks, in which he's actively involved in every segment. 

It really is an impressive achievement, and I wish he could just do his show — do it with distance. But I guess the show made a rule — everyone must be tested and test negative — and rules are rules. No exceptions. 

The lawyer in me says just make a rule where you're not within the rule: Every guest must be tested and test negative. The host is not within the rule. But you'd have to justify exposing the guests to the positive-testing host.

Still: What if all the guests are vaccinated? And distance is maintained. And Maher wears a mask? It might be hard to sell. First, Maher looks like an example of the vaccinated person who still catches the disease. Second, Maher needs to be funny, and he could bomb trying to be funny from behind a mask. We wouldn't see his smirk!

"Microaggressions at the office can make remote work even more appealing/Extended remote work during the pandemic has highlighted how much energy people of color, women, and people with disabilities expend dealing with microaggressions in the office."

A headline at WaPo. From the text:

In a Twitter discussion on office microaggressions, people said working at home has largely spared them from having to deal with such incidents as:
  • having colleagues touch their hair 
  • being mistaken for another colleague of the same race (a problem solved by having names displayed in video meetings) 
  • overhearing insensitive commentary on or being pressured to discuss traumatizing news events such as racist violence or coronavirus outbreaks in their home country 
  • fielding comments from passersby on their “angry” (actually focused) expressions....

Allowing people to work in an environment where they don’t feel the need to keep their guard up means “releasing that mental burden from people who are … getting paid to think"....

Notice the potential for a legal argument: Denying the work-at-home option constitutes race/sex discrimination. There's also new reason to see a failure to accommodate the disabled:

"I’m terrified... Terrified, and I do not scare easily."

I'm reading the top-rated comment at the NYT article, "Hundreds of Epidemiologists Expected Mask-Wearing in Public for at Least a Year/The C.D.C. said Thursday that vaccinated Americans no longer needed masks in most places. Other disease experts recently had a different message: that masks were necessary in public." 

The NYT seems to be stimulating fear in reaction to the CDC announcement. The survey the headline refers to was taken before the CDC took its new position, so these epidemiologists — 723 of them — were, I suspect, passing along the party line. Did they do their own studies? Even if they did, do they study the costs of the restrictions or simply, endlessly default toward caution?

Here's the full comment: 

This is a horrible, horrifying decision. There’s no way to prove who’s vaccinated and who isn’t. People are going to lie about their status. We were out shopping today and my husband saw a woman wearing a mask that said “This mask is as useless as my Governor.” Does she seem trustworthy? Does she maybe seem like someone who’d doff her mask at the first chance, whether she’d been vaccinated or not, because she’s an imbecile and has no regard for the lives of others?

What difference does it make? If you know you're vaccinated and you believe vaccines work, you're fine without your mask, and only the unvaccinated are at risk. Why are you obsessing about the mind of a stranger?

The only thing to freak out about is freaking out itself.

I'm reading From "Opinion: Don’t freak out about inflation yet" by Catherine Rampell (WaPo). Key point:
If everyone interprets recent price spikes as temporary shocks that will disappear as the economy reopens and production ramps up, then inflation and overheating concerns should fade. But if people start to freak out about inflation, then inflation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Businesses start preemptively raising prices and wages, because they expect everyone else to do so, too.

So if there's inflation, it will be our fault. Calm down, settle back. It's only going to be a problem if you make it a problem. 

ADDED: It's all in the mind, so....

He's my Congressman!

I wasn't expecting to get such a laugh when I clicked on the headline "Anti-Israel Congressman You Never Heard Of Whines About Why No One Is Attacking Him On Social Media" at Instapundit and landed at Legal Insurrection, where the subheadline is "After Rep. Mark Pocan noted that he condemned Israel but no one criticized him, people responded that they never heard of him."

The tweet that post is about is: "I'm seeing a lot of right-wing extremists criticize my wonderful colleague, @IlhanMN, because she rightly condemned the murder of Palestinian children & Israel's violence against Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrar & at Al-Aqsa. I did the same, wonder why they're not criticizing me?" 

You see what's going on there: He's insinuating that the criticism of Ilhan Omar is anti-Muslim. Otherwise the critics would go after him too. The taunting response to his insinuation is that he's not famous. Legal Insurrection embeds many tweets with the same you're-not-famous answer to Pocan's "wonder why they're not criticizing me."

May 13, 2021

Patchwork garden.

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"A few weeks ago, I met my first Millennial grandparent. I was interviewing a woman in her late 30s..."

"... about President Joe Biden’s new child-tax-credit proposal, and she mentioned that it would benefit not just her two young kids but her older son’s kid too. The incidental meeting was a reminder both that Millennials are getting older and that they are doing so without growing up, at least not in the way that many of them might wish. The woman I interviewed does not own a home, nor is she anywhere close to affording one. She has nothing in the way of savings. Nevertheless, she is a grandmother, catapulting into middle age."

From "Why Millennials Can’t Grow Up/ Today’s economic conditions are not just holding Millennials back. They are stratifying them, leading to unequal experiences within the generation as well as between it and other cohorts" by Annie Lowrey (The Atlantic).

ADDED: How did anyone "grow up" in the past? We had "economic conditions" back then too. I'm not blogging this article because I agree with it. I just thought the notion of millennials as grandparents was interesting. I myself am still not a grandparent, but I had to stop and think that my sons are old enough to be grandparents, and I am therefore old enough to be a great grandparent!

"In a sharp turnabout from previous recommendations, federal health officials on Thursday advised that Americans who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus may stop wearing masks or maintaining social distance in most indoor and outdoor settings, regardless of size."

The NYT reports. 

“The science is clear: If you are fully vaccinated, you are protected, and you can start doing the things that you stopped doing because of the pandemic,” the C.D.C. said in a statement on Thursday.

The new advice comes with caveats. Even vaccinated individuals must cover their faces and physically distance when going to doctors, hospitals or long-term care facilities like nursing homes; when traveling by bus, plane, train or other modes of public transportation, or while in transportation hubs like airports and bus stations; and when in prisons, jails or homeless shelters.

In deference to local authorities, the C.D.C. said vaccinated Americans must continue to abide by existing state, local, or tribal laws and regulations, and follow local rules for businesses and workplaces....

Great. I hope my locality takes the cue.  

It's about time that those of us who've taken the vaccination get a return on our willingness to participate. The tables need to turn, so that those who are holding back are incurring the burden. There's no difficulty getting a vaccine for yourself now, so it's become unreasonable to demand that the vaccinated limit our freedom for the sake of the unvaccinated. Incentivize progress.

UPDATE: Our local newspaper says:

Dane County’s local COVID-19 mask order will remain in effect at least until May 18 as officials review new guidance from the the Centers for Disease Control that loosened masking rules for vaccinated people. 

It takes 5 days just to think about this — this, the same thing they've been thinking about for months. I'd say it shows they don't care how much they hold back commerce, social life, and individual freedom. They should have been ready to receive the new CDC report and declare an end to the mask mandate immediately. If they could think of the idea that we need to wait until at least May 18th, they could think of the idea of ending the mandate. It's not complex, given all this time and the new CDC report. Pathetic!

Iris.

IMG_4684

"But what I’ve been learning through TikTok is it’s always better when you keep it simple. There’s this balance of having enough stuff in there that it’s layered..."

"... so it has rewatchability, but not so much that you don’t know what to look at. For this video, we shot it first and then tried to figure out what we would green-screen behind me. I searched some different 3-D-asset websites to find a horse. We decided to have the horse grow and shrink to inject humor into the drama. It could have worked as a PNG that scales up and down, but I wanted that feeling of it getting bigger above us, so I learned just enough on Blender, a 3-D program. With each video, I watch a few more tutorials. I feel like a TikTok try-hard. I wish I could just do a quick thing. Maybe one day I’ll get there."

Said Lubalin, quoted in "12 Video Creators on Their Hardest Edit Ever/It’s all fun and games until you need to shrink a horse" (NY Magazine). 

Here's the video he's talking about, "15,000 pound horse" (from his brilliant "internet drama" series, which appropriates text from other people's random internet conflicts and sets them to music).

"The guest was initially stopped because her shorts exposed a significant portion of her buttocks. She was given multiple opportunities to change or cover up..."

"... but refused. Instead, she responded with profanity and offensive conduct, including further exposing her buttocks." 

Six Flags responds to the woman who Facebooked her outrage at being asked to leave the amusement park because her shorts were extremely short. 

From the Facebook post: "Then [the park police officer] proceeded to follow me and grabbed my shoulder to turn me around and proceeded to tell me my shorts were 'too short.' I committed no crime and proceeded to walk to my boyfriend as I am autistic and have a hard time talking to officers. She followed me yelling and calling for backup... [W]e were about to leave and were blocked by your female officer from leaving and she pulled out her cuffs and demanded my ID. When we asked for probable cause their answer was 'because they are the police.'"

Video clip at the link, showing part of the interaction with the cop. Without the full context, I'm not going to opine on what the cop did. I'm wary of these videos that begin after conflict has escalated. But I support the park's requirement that guests keep their buttocks in their pants! By the way, the woman with the shorts is a petite and pretty white woman. The cop is a large black woman. Whatever the buttock exposure policy is at Six Flags, it has to be the same for whites and blacks, for the slim and the fat. Enforcing the policy on this woman is, I think, evidence that Six Flags is treating all its guests the same. Rules are rules. No exceptions.

"Those who are least engaged are very comfortable working from home. Those who are überly engaged with the company want to go to the office two-thirds of the time, at least."

Said Sandeep Mathrani, the C.E.O. of WeWork, quoted in "WeWork’s C.E.O. says ‘least engaged’ employees enjoy working from home" (NYT).

So even the "überly engaged" only want to go in 2/3 of the time?

Having people show up at the office is a good way to test dedication — make sure you've got the right kind of people working for you. Not these balky people — people with a life of their own, working intermittently — efficiently — and doing what-all with their extra time. In the office, claiming any time of your own takes craft and stealthiness. I mean how often do you have sex or take a nap or whatever? If you're really "engaged" with your work, you just lock in and go like a machine, until 8, 10, 12 hours fly by. Obviously, the boss wants the engaged worker, and don't you want to be one too? Don't you want the non-engaged gone from your workplace? Another way to phrase that is: Would you hire yourself?

Backyard protractor wheatfield.

IMG_4692 

Yes, it's our backyard. Yes, it's a wheatfield. Obviously, it's in the shape of a protractor — an old-time-y open-center protractor.

"Found this on the side of the road in my neighborhood. Thought it was a brain, then dissected it and now I have no idea."

"Lots of small lobes, fuzzy inside, rubbery?... The dark part almost looked like fabric, although it could have picked that up from the ground. It did not smell like formaldehyde, it smelled kind of sour. It was rubbery and stayed together fairly well, but soft and easily crumbled into the 'lobes.' Found in a residential neighborhood."  

Said the man who posted on the whatisthisthing subreddit, only to find out the thing he'd become fascinated by was dog shit.

And isn't that a metaphor for life itself? 

Well, maybe but don't talk about that on r/whatisthisthing. The moderators will crack down on you: "This thread is locked because the hundreds of now removed comments discussing 'how amazing this thread is' are not considered helpful, and thus violate our rules. The item has been identified and there's not much else to say about it."

It's a subreddit for identifying the item, not for taking off and having fun with your random bullshit, even when the item is shit.

"We are closed" is trending on Twitter.

For the Annals of Lateral Thinking: Ohio makes vaccinating into a million-dollar lottery.

Governor Mike DeWine announces on Twitter: 

Two weeks from tonight on May 26th, we will announce a winner of a separate drawing for adults who have received at least their first dose of the vaccine. This announcement will occur each Wednesday for five weeks, and the winner each Wednesday will receive one million dollars.

The pool of names for the drawing will be derived from the Ohio Secretary of State’s publicly available voter registration database. Further, we will make available a webpage for people to sign up for the drawings if they are not in a database we are using. The Ohio Department of Health will be the sponsoring agency for the drawings, and the Ohio Lottery will conduct them. The money will come from existing federal Coronavirus Relief Funds.

To be eligible to win, you must be at least 18 years of age or older on the day of the drawing. You must be an Ohio resident. And, you must be vaccinated before the drawing. We will have further, specific details tomorrow and in the days ahead.

I know that some may say, “DeWine, you’re crazy! This million-dollar drawing idea of yours is a waste of money.” But truly, the real waste at this point in the pandemic -- when the vaccine is readily available to anyone who wants it -- is a life lost to COVID-19.

You could spend $5 million on ads cajoling people — or shaming them — into getting vaccinated. One way or another, it costs money to complete the vaccination project. The great thing about the lottery idea is that it's an effort to reach minds that are not primarily oriented to science — people who are emotional and transrational.

Am I making up the word "transrational"? I had to look it up. I can't credit myself with coinage. There's a whole Wikipedia article, but let's see if it means what I — in my thwarted word-coining effort — had in mind:

May 12, 2021

Peony.

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"Liz Cheney is a bitter, horrible human being. I watched her yesterday and realized how bad she is for the Republican Party."

"She has no personality or anything good having to do with politics or our Country. She is a talking point for Democrats, whether that means the Border, the gas lines, inflation, or destroying our economy. She is a warmonger whose family stupidly pushed us into the never-ending Middle East Disaster, draining our wealth and depleting our Great Military, the worst decision in our Country’s history. I look forward to soon watching her as a Paid Contributor on CNN or MSDNC!" 

So blogs Donald Trump. I got there via Memeorandum, not because I check Trump's blog with regularity. The link went to the post page, not to the blog proper, and I was thrown for a moment by the words just above the post: "back to feed."

Those words appear right next to an image of Trump bent over a table, and, without looking more closely, I thought: He's back to feed — feed upon the other politicians, upon the journalists, upon random tidbits of American culture. We're all a grand feast for him! I think of Robert Bork's "I think it would be an intellectual feast...."

But of course, "back to feed" was a hot link, a place to click, that would get you back to his "feed," that is, his blog. If you're on an individual post page of my blog, the hot link to click on says "Home." It would be weird if it said "feed." But this is an out-and-proud blog, and Trump's blog is trying to seem like Twitter. Arguably, Twitter is a blog — "micro-blogging" — but it's different from a blog because all the blogs are interwoven in one humongous feed. There we feed/we are the feed.

Gazumping.

I learned a new word just now. Seeing it in a headline — "Clooneys gazumped me for French vineyard, rival buyer says" (London Times) — I thought it might be a made-up word. But the OED identifies it as a slang word that goes back to 1928:
1928 Daily Express 19 Dec. 2/7 ‘Gazoomphing the sarker’ is a method of parting a rich man from his money. An article is auctioned over and over again, and the money bid each time is added to it. ...
1934 P. Allingham Cheapjack xv. 189 Grafters speak a language comprised of every possible type of slang... Quite a number of words are Yiddish. These include ‘gezumph’, which means to cheat or to overcharge. 
1971 Guardian 8 Nov. 13/2 ‘Gazumping’—a system of profiteering by double selling and pushing prices up—is creeping into the property market... The word is car trade slang for selling to one buyer and then, as values rise, to a second buyer.

It means "To swindle; spec. to act improperly in the sale of houses, etc."

As the Times article notes, gazumping violates French law.

Guy Azzari, the buyer’s lawyer, alleges his client had agreed a price of €6 million (£5.14 million) in August for the six-bedroom 18th-century bastide set in 172 hectares that include woodland, an olive grove, a vineyard and an ornamental lake.

The seller is accused of raising the price after the offer was accepted, and it says here that there's "no suggestion that the Clooneys did anything unlawful, or indeed knew of the alleged gazumping." 

"Gazumping" should not be confused with "galumphing," which is one of the many words coined by Lewis Carroll in "Jabberwocky." "Galumphing" is clumsy, heavy walking. And we know the dashing George and the lovely Amal would never do that.

He left it dead, and with its head/He went galumphing back....

That's got nothing to do with celebs attaching their names to the trendiness of rosé wine.

"I picture 5 people in a barrel... A table made of bread etc... Green garbage-less grass stretching in yoga poses..."

Meade writes, in a text that quotes this:
"A group of five people sat around a campfire in a barrel next to a table of bread, donuts, oranges, graham crackers and water. Green grass with no garbage stretched out between the clusters of tents.”

The quote comes from an article in The Wisconsin State Journal, "City softens approach to close homeless camp, explores options for men's shelter site."

I had to read the quote carefully to see what was so funny about Meade's interpretation and then I laughed a lot. 

A group of five people sat... in a barrel next to a table of bread.... Green grass... stretched out.... 

Of course, the problem of homelessness isn't funny, though if you have the patience to read the linked article, you might find the slow-moving confusion of city officials something to laugh at.

FROM THE EMAIL: Douglas is reminded of the 3 Wise Men of Gotham. Here's the nursery rhyme:

Three wise men of Gotham,

They went to sea in a bowl,

And if the bowl had been stronger

My song would have been longer

But what's the story behind that? Wikipedia explains

"I do miss the quiet, the strange peace, the empty streets, the feeling of solidarity among those of us who stayed, who don’t have country houses or parents or fancy friends with guest rooms."

"Perhaps this is because it reminds me of the East Village I moved into 40 years ago, when streets were deserted at night; when you could make out on your doorstep for an hour and not a soul would pass to catcall; when you knew your neighbors, knew the shopkeepers. We’re all in this together, that was the feeling. Despite the dirt, the rampant crime (one block west boasted one of the city’s highest murder rates, as drug gangs fought for turf), we were a community. Just by buying bread at the bakery around the corner (sturdy semolina, nothing fancy), I was invited to dinner at Phyllis’s, the counterwoman’s, house and later to her granddaughter’s wedding. The block was bustling with seemingly indestructible old women—Polish, Sicilian, Irish, Spanish—who would, before sunset, drag folding chairs to the sidewalk to watch another day dwindle.... This is how it felt during lockdown. Passers-by might be few, but those of us remaining, we were in it together. Fear of crime might be replaced by fear of contagion, but if fear doesn’t drive people apart, it can drive them together."

From "'Sometimes I Miss the Lockdown' On silence, solidarity and a feeling, a year later, of life on thin ice in the city" by Thomas McKean

"But wasn’t this all just a big con? Nakajima had tricked people with a 'cool girl' stereotype to boost his Twitter numbers."

"He hadn’t elevated the role of women in motorcycling; if anything, he’d supplanted them. And the character he’d created was paper thin: Soya had no internal complexity outside of what Nakajima had projected, just that eternally superimposed smile.... But some of Soya’s followers have said they never felt deceived: It was Nakajima — his enthusiasm, his attitude about life — they’d been charmed by all along. 'His personality,' as one Twitter follower said, 'shined through.' In Nakajima’s mind, he’d used the tools of a superficial medium to craft genuine connections. He had not felt real until he had become noticed for being fake.... Nakajima said... he’s grateful for the way [Soya] helped him feel: carefree, adventurous, seen."

From "A ‘beautiful’ female biker was actually a 50-year-old man using FaceApp. After he confessed, his followers liked him even more. The middle-aged father’s big reveal sparked a debate over identity in the Internet age: ‘The only thing I’m creating is … my appearance. Everything else is me’" (WaPo).

Cheney defiant.

There's only one word for it — defiant

The word "defiant" is based on the root "fi" — which means "faith." The oldest meaning has to do with renouncing faith — such as renouncing allegiance to the king and declaring hostility or a state of war. But it's long meant to challenge and resist power openly. 

In the Liz Cheney situation, she's losing her own position of leadership as the group chooses a different leader. I don't think complaining about losing the support of the group is defiance. The group always had power to pick the leadership it wants, so the allegiance remains the same, to a process of choosing leadership. Is Cheney saying there's something wrong with that? She just thinks they're making the wrong choice. 

It's funny that all the press outlets are choosing the same word, "defiant," when it's not the right word. I understand that the word is often used loosely, just to mean staunch and feisty, but when everyone picks the same loosely applicable word, there's something fishy. 

But what's fishy? I think it's a desire on the part of the press to imbue Cheney with some sort of righteous entitlement to leadership. They have allegiance to her. They feel defiant. By rights, she ought to lead the Republicans. That's not factually true, of course. I'm spelling this out to expose it as ridiculous.

ADDED: "No one outside of Wyoming, except Peggy Noonan, cares a whit about Liz Cheney. The question is whether the NeverTrumpers, abetted by the Democrats, can kill Trump’s chances of a political resurrection" — writes Conrad Black, in "Liz Cheney and the ‘Big Lie’/When the No. 3 House Republican gets the high jump this week, the real loser will be the attempt to suppress any real examination of what happened in the last election" (American Greatness.)

"I didn't even vote. Out here in California, it's like, why vote for a Republican president? It's just not going to work. I mean..."

"... it's overwhelming. It was voting day, and I thought, the only thing out here in California that I worry about, which affects people, is the propositions that were out there. And I didn't see any propositions that I really had one side or the other. And so it was Election Day. And I just couldn't get excited about it. And I just wound up going to play golf and I said, eh, I'm not doing that." 

Said Caitlyn Jenner, quoted in "Jenner says she didn't vote in 2020. But records show she did." 

Oh, the fakery! I guess she didn't realize this was a fact that could be checked. 

And as for the propositions — there were 12, including things having to do with future of cash bail, affirmative action, gig workers, rent control, and criminal sentencing. But she didn't "see" any that she "really had [a] side" on, so she went eh, not doing that and played golf. Which would be bad enough, but it wasn't even true. That's the bullshit she made up.

Either she just doesn't care and doesn't respect her audience or she doesn't want to say how she voted on these things. She wants to be free to equivocate.

"I loved this story. In a precise, concise exercise the question exposed the empty verbiage of people who dare to think they can govern or worse, think they can lead."

"The truth exposes their credentials vs knowledge. Political candidacy has become formulaic even shallow. This simple query sifted the chaff from the wheat. It works as short hand test for cities across the US."

Top-rated comment at the NYT for a story titled "It’s a Home in Brooklyn. What Could It Cost? $100,000? Shaun Donovan and Raymond J. McGuire, candidates for mayor of New York, were way, way off when asked to estimate the median home price in the borough."

Shaun Donovan was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama Administration and housing commissioner in the Bloomberg Administration. His answer was "In Brooklyn, huh? I would guess it is around $100,000." How could he be so out of touch?

Only Andrew Yang got the answer right: $900,000. 

How did Donovan get his high positions when he's that clueless? I looked at Wikipedia: 

He holds three degrees from Harvard University: an A.B. in engineering sciences from Harvard College in 1987, a Master of Public Administration degree from the John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1995, and a Master of Architecture degree from the Graduate School of Design in 1995.

Credentials! I know I'm impressed. Amazing when one question ruins a candidate — amazing, yet entirely justified. For the record, afterwards, he tried to explain it away as based on a belief that the question referred to the tax assessment value of the houses. Please follow up on that. Are the assessments out of whack? Are $900,000 houses assessed at $100,000?

May 11, 2021

Rose Marie Magnolia.

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"I want these fat guys off my detail. How are they going to protect me and my family if they can’t run down the street?" — said Donald Trump.

From "Trump family members got ‘inappropriately close’ to Secret Service agents, book claims Concerns over bonds involving Trump’s then daughter in-law Vanessa and daughter Tiffany revealed in Carol Leonnig’s Zero Fail" (The Guardian). 

The book also says that Tiffany Trump, "began spending an unusual amount of time alone with a Secret Service agent on her detail" and Secret Service leaders "became concerned at how close Tiffany appeared to be getting to the tall, dark and handsome agent."

"Under the new junk food controls, people will be rewarded with shopping vouchers for losing weight and exercising more under a 'fit miles' incentive scheme to encourage healthier living...."

"[T]he Queen’s Speech promised a 'total ban online' for junk food. Food companies will be limited to factual claims about such products, such as price, ingredients and nutritional content, and will be unable to publish sponsored social media influencing about cakes, sweets, burgers and other unhealthy foods. Paid-for displays, web searches and promotional emails and text messages will also be banned. Advertisers believe that all social media posts about unhealthy products could be banned, although details have yet to be set out.... Critics say advertisements for avocados, smoked salmon, hummus, butter, cheese and some fruit could be banned if the rules are drawn too tightly."

From "Queen’s Speech includes ban on online junk food ads to curb obesity" (The London Times). 

Here's the text of the speech. She actually refers to "obesity": "Measures will be brought forward to support the health and wellbeing of the nation, including to tackle obesity and improve mental health." 

Do American politicians ever tell us we're too fat? I think not, even though obesity has been a huge factor in coronavirus deaths. They're so much more comfortable telling us how close we should be to our loved ones than broaching the big bigness topic.

Black Obsidian Sound System (BOSS) — a collective of "queer, trans and non-binary Black and people of colour involved in art, sound and radical activism" — critiques the art industry that nominated it for the Turner Prize.

The London Times reports in "Turner Prize nominee paints Tate and awards culture as villains":  

It said the art industry failed to financially reward collectives, had an “in-built reverence” towards individuals, and regarded “black, brown working class, disabled and queer bodies [as] desirable, quickly dispensable, but never sustainably cared for.”...

In a statement released this week BOSS said that while arts institutions were “enamoured by collective and social practices” they were not “properly equipped or resourced to deal with the realities that shape our lives and work.”...

The Turner Prize jury were passionate about the work of all the collectives they shortlisted, recognising that these collaborative practices reflected the solidarity and community demonstrated across the UK in response to the pandemic....

I'm enamored by this phrase "an 'in-built reverence' towards individuals." I know it's meant as a criticism, but it seems like a good thing — an in-built reverence towards individuals. "In-built" sounds like a synonym — a good substitute — for "systemic." And I like "in-built" better than "built-in." I would have written "built-in," but it's perfectly easy to understand "in-built," and it feels like the familiar English words "inborn" and "inset."

I wonder if the criticism makes BOSS more likely or less likely to get the award. It sounds like the jury wanted credit for nominating a collective and the collective called bullshit on using them that way. It's not an honor just to be nominated.

"Banana skins have been trendy among vegans since at least 2019, when online recipes began circulating for treating the peels like bacon."

"At around the same time, the pulled not-pork had its first brush with internet fame, courtesy of the Canadian blogger Melissa Copeland, who published an explainer — and recipe — on her site the Stingy Vegan along with a video on Facebook. She’d developed it after learning that vegans in Venezuela use bananas’ outer jackets for an alternative to carne mechada (shredded beef), and in Brazil a similar swap is popular in a dish known as carne louca (or 'crazy meat')." 

 From "Think Outside the Banana. Eat the Peel. After the British chefs Nadiya Hussain and Nigella Lawson developed recipes using banana skins, the British cooking public is perplexed" (NYT). 

Speaking of crazy, the NYT article fails to mention that commercially grown bananas have a lot of pesticide in the peels. When I've seen discussions of eating banana peels elsewhere, there's always been a prominent warning that you've got to use organically grown bananas. 

There's very little reason to eat banana peels (unless you're desperately starving). A caption there says banana peels are "[c]onsidered useless scraps by many home cooks," but many other home cooks know that they're great for composting... and growing some vegetables that are genuinely tasty. 

What's the point of eating the skins? That they're "trendy"?! If that's your reason, you're a mark. Good luck! There's also the idea that you should make a fetish out of not wasting anything. One of the "cooks" discussed in the article is said to be "an expert on no-waste cuisine," but what her expertise has led her to, when it comes to banana peels, is puréeing them and sneaking the resulting goo into cake batter and smoothies.

Is there a flavor contribution of any significance?

In truth, the flavor of the cooked skins isn’t too pronounced — it’s subtle, with a polite suggestion of bitterness, and a slight floral note on the finish.

The answer to my question is, apparently, no, but points to the NYT author for coming up with "a polite suggestion of bitterness." That's funny, and I get the point, which I take it is: Don't eat banana peels.

"Do we at least get some royalties out of this? I don’t remember signing away my life rights for your little song. What if I was going to use this as material for my novel?"

Said Paul, a real estate novelist, quoted in "BILLY JOEL PLAYS “PIANO MAN” FOR THE FIRST TIME AT THE BAR HE BASED THE SONG ON" (McSweeney's).

5:37, 5:43 a.m.

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"In Athens... the puppet will befriend a minotaur and they will explore the city together. In Naples she is tired, has had enough..."

"... and will have a tantrum which, Vesuvius-like, releases energy, which will bring hundreds of dancers and musicians to join her. In Cologne, Amal will share apple pie with elderly people and hear their stories of growing up after the second world war."

From "Puppet of refugee girl to ‘walk’ across Europe along 12-week arts festival trail/Three teams of four puppeteers will accompany Little Amal from Turkey to Manchester to celebrate refugees" (The Guardian).

"I know of no study that more elegantly gets across a subtle but determinative difference between how black and white kids tend to process the school thing."

"A study in 1997... found that among eighth and ninth graders, most white kids said they did schoolwork for their parents while most black kids said they did schoolwork for the teacher.... For the black kids, school is something 'else,' something for 'them,' beyond the comfort zone; for the white kids, it is part of the comfort zone. This is not something the kids would consciously be aware of, but being really good at school – and this would include tests – requires that it becomes a part of you. To hold it at half an arm’s remove all but guarantees that you will only ever be so good at it. Now, because Clifton Casteel’s study wasn’t about racism, the usual suspects see it as their responsibility to argue away such work.... [Casteel] is a black man... deeply devoted to helping the black community. Casteel’s study pointed up a quieter aspect of something richly documented nationwide – a sense among black teens that school is 'white; and that real black kids don’t hit the books. Black academics and media people tend to dismiss this as a myth, but based solely on an impatience with addressing black problems as due to anything but racism. The facts are plain: the idea that 'acting white' is a myth is, itself, a myth."

From "CAN WE PLEASE DITCH THE TERM 'SYSTEMIC RACISM'?/As a linguist I know we can't, but systemic racial inequities can almost never be undone by 'getting rid of the racism'" by John McWhorter (Substack).

"In 2016, during a trip to Zagreb, Croatia, he wandered into the Museum of Broken Relationships."

"As he studied the remnants of strangers’ failed romances—photos of hookup spots; a diet book that a woman received from her fiancé—West came up with an idea for a museum dedicated to failed business products and services. A year later, in Helsingborg, Sweden, he opened the Museum of Failure.... One example on display at the museum was the Newton, a personal digital assistant released by Apple in 1993... also... Bic for Her, a line of pens... DivX, a 2003 trademark for 'self-destructing' DVDs that could be watched for only forty-eight hours.... West realized that if the experience of failure had expedited human innovation, then the experience of disgust was potentially holding us back. Could that aversion be challenged or changed? 'I just wanted to know, Why is it that even talking about eating certain things makes my skin crawl?'... The planning for the [Disgusting Food Museum] began with a more basic question: What counts as food?...Disgust may have originated as a food-rejection system, Paul Rozin, a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told me, 'but it has expanded into a vehicle for perceiving the social and moral world.' Rozin is the pioneer of a subfield called disgust studies. His favorite experiment involves dropping a cockroach into a glass of juice. Most people, of course, refuse to drink the juice, citing the dirtiness of cockroaches. 'What’s amazing is that even if you disinfect the cockroach and convincingly demonstrate that the juice is harmless, people still won’t want to drink it,' Rozin said." 

From "The Gatekeepers Who Get to Decide What Food Is 'Disgusting'/At the Disgusting Food Museum, in Sweden, where visitors are served dishes such as fermented shark and stinky tofu, I felt both like a tourist and like one of the exhibits" by Jiayang Fan (The New Yorker).

"And that’s all pretty ironic considering Franco was cultivating a kind of gender bender semi-gay gestalt to his audience."

Observes Roger Friedman in "The Astonishing Collapse of James Franco’s Career Cemented Now by Former Pal Seth Rogen in UK Interview" (Showbiz 411). 

There are allegations that Franco has engaged in sexual misbehavior. He's been "sued by ex students, and railed against in public by young actresses on a variety of unsavory issues."

Friedman dopily muses that Franco may have "cultivat[ed] a kind of gender bender semi-gay gestalt" in order "to seem harmless to women while secretly on the prowl." 

I haven't followed Franco enough to have any idea what sort of "gender bender semi-gay gestalt" he gave off, but why bother to do all that to trick women into thinking you're "harmless" when you are "secretly on the prowl"? Just seem like an ordinary man, look like James Franco, and what more would you need to do?

"Hugh says that if we ever get separate bedrooms that’s it — he’s finished. I know this works for a lot of couples..."

"... they’re happy being down the hall from each other, but I couldn’t bear such an arrangement. 'This is what I’ll miss after you’re dead,' I tell him as I turn out the light, meaning, I guess, the sensation of being dead together."

 There's a new David Sedaris story at The New Yorker.

"[T]he Biden White House frequently demands that interviews with administration officials be conducted on grounds known colloquially as 'background with quote approval'..."

"[T]he information from an interview can be used in the story, but in order for the person’s name to be attached to a quote, the reporter must transcribe the quotes they want and then send them to the communications team to approve, veto or edit them.... At its best, quote approval allows sources to speak more candidly about their work. At its worst, it gives public officials a way to obfuscate or screen their own admissions and words. The Biden White House isn’t the first to employ the practice. Many reporters say it’s reminiscent of the tightly controlled Obama White House. The Trump White House used it, too. But reporters say Trump’s team did so less frequently than Biden’s team — which also used the tactic during the campaign — and a number of current White House reporters have become increasingly frustrated by what they see as its abuse.... 

From "Reporters fume at White House 'quote approval' rules" (Politico).  

The article quotes NYT White House correspondent Peter Baker, explaining that the practice originated with reporters: “What started out as an effort by reporters to get more transparency, to get people on the record more, to use fewer blind quotes, then got taken by the White House, each successive White House, as a way of taking control of your story. So instead of transparency, suddenly, the White House realized: ‘Hey, this quote approval thing is a cool thing. We can now control what is in their stories by refusing to allow them use anything without our approval. And it's a pernicious, insidious, awful practice that reporters should resist.”

Zoom is ruining conversation because it's much harder to interrupt.

I'm reading "How the Zoom era has ruined conversation." (WaPo) Maybe you think it's better to disempower the interrupters. If so, you need to hear from those who understand the importance of overlapping conversation — collaborative conversation:
Suppose someone is speaking and another person, eager to express agreement, chimes in at the end of their sentence. Over Zoom, this tends to derail the discussion or narrative.... Then there’s the turn-waiting....
[S]ociolinguist Deborah Tannen... describes cooperative overlap as “talking along to show enthusiasm, as a way of encouraging the other person to keep speaking rather than cutting them off.” Her initial research focused on the difference between Jewish New Yorkers with an Eastern European background (who were inclined toward talking over) and Californians of a Christian background (who tended to feel interrupted).

Well, there you have it. California is winning.

Meanwhile, for people who don’t particularly like the idea of fighting to be heard, the Zoom era — which creates more orderly queues for commenting during conversation — has been a boon.

The article doesn't mention Justice Thomas at this point, but should. He didn't speak at oral argument for a decade, and now, he's a full and equal participant. 

ADDED: Despite the usual eagerness to talk about race, this WaPo article avoids the subject. Because the idea is that overlapping, collaborative conversation is good, there's an avoidance of the possibility that it's part of white supremacy.  Thus we have Christian Californians on the anti-interruption side and Jewish New Yorkers as their opposite. Where are the black people?

May 10, 2021

Kale at Meadhouse.

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"Maybe it’s because I’m a New Yorker or maybe it’s because I always feel like I have to present my best self to the world, but it has been such a relief to feel anonymous. It’s like having a force field around me that says 'don’t see me.'"

Says Francesca, a 46-year-old professor, quoted in "The people who want to keep masking: ‘It’s like an invisibility cloak’/More than a year into the pandemic, some people prefer to keep wearing their face mask – even outdoors in public" (The Guardian). 

There's also this, from a 25-year-old bookstore worker near Chicago: "It’s a common consensus among my co-workers that we prefer not having customers see our faces. Oftentimes when a customer is being rude or saying off-color political things, I’m not allowed to grimace or ‘make a face’ because that will set them off. With a mask, I don’t have to smile at them or worry about keeping a neutral face. I have had customers get very upset when I don’t smile at them. I deal with anti-maskers constantly at work. They have threatened to hurt me, tried to get me fired, thrown things at me and yelled ‘fuck you’ in my face. If wearing a mask in the park separates me from them, I’m cool with that."

And from a 33-year-old tech worker in San Francisco: "I 10,000% plan on wearing it for the foreseeable future. After a full work day of worrying and not being able to focus on my actual job, it just feels nice to blend in. Simply put, I’m sick of being perceived."

"Glass bridges are a popular tourist attraction in China, with the most famous in Zhangjiajie national park, Hunan province, which stretches 430 metres across a canyon, 300 metres in the air."

From "China tourist left clinging to 100m-high bridge after glass panels smash/Man rescued after sudden gusts shattered panels on bridge in Longjing city" (The Guardian). 

He was rescued. Resume tourism.

"But she wasn’t interested in a rational discussion. She interrupted me mid-sentence, launching into a monologue about John Bolton..."

"... the former Ambassador to the United Nations and a fellow at AEI (and subsequently National Security Advisor to President Trump). Bolton, my friend insisted, was a loathsome, hateful, racist, neo-conservative warmonger. The list went on and on until eventually she said that he looked like a walrus with a moustache. You could tell by his physiognomy, she explained, that he was a psychopath. 'But what about the policies?' I responded, trying to redirect the conversation away from personalities. The more she spoke, the more I recognised her broad disposition as something I had experienced earlier in my life. Her attitude was almost entirely tribal. Two things, in particular, stood out: an almost blind hatred of a particular group (Republicans); and secondly, the use of deeply personal attacks on individual researchers to justify that hatred."

From "Tribalism has come to the West/Hostile and polarised, today's America reminds me of my Somalian clan" by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who worked at AEI at the time of that conversation).

The puzzling intensity of bile.

Let's take a closer look at that bile. Is there bile at all?
I would like to thank this headline/byline combo for helping me set a record for the quickest "gross, pass" I've ever uttered in my life.

Bile is anger. "Gross, pass" is disgust.  One might perhaps base an entire career on examining the anger/disgust distinction, but I think the key distinction is the direction of the negative emotion. Anger urges you to take aggression at the source of your outrage. Disgust sends you away. You shun. It's the difference between wanting to attack what you hate and wanting to make sure you don't get any of that on you. Marcotte experiences disgust — "gross" — and immediately shuns — "pass." Her measure of the intensity of disgust is the shortness of the space between the emotion and the reaction. She's open and proud of the absence of rational thought. It's a feeling and a decision all at once — "gross, pass."

Having decided not to expose herself to the text of the article, Marcotte is free to enjoy herself: "The funniest part" — funniest part of the headline — "is framing 25 like it's some daringly young age. The average age of first childbirth is 26." Is that really funny? I haven't read the op-ed yet myself. I saw it, did a quick skim, and decided it wasn't bloggable, but I didn't think — like Marcotte — that my rejection of it was bloggable (i.e., tweetable). I'm going to read it in a minute, but I want to say that Marcotte comes off as privileged. I'm guessing that if the average age is 26, that includes a lot of very young women who are not spending their late teens and early 20s acquiring higher education and beginning career, that is, are not the sort of women who are reading NYT op-eds about timing their reproductive life. 

"Italy is a republic, having abolished the monarchy 75 years ago for its disastrous support of Mussolini, and Italians have approximately zero interest in a royal restoration."

"'Never say never,' said Vittoria’s father, Emanuele Filiberto, an Italian television personality who claims the title Prince of Venice, which is also the name of his Los Angeles restaurant and former food truck.... Emanuele Filiberto is currently creating a Crown-like series about his grandmother, Queen Marie-José. 'Totally antifascist,' he said. 'A great antifascist,' echoed Vittoria, who called her a role model. Emanuele Filiberto notes that many of Europe’s remaining monarchs are women, starting with Queen Elizabeth in Britain. Their royal houses have a much better track record of female empowerment than Italy’s Parliament, where women are notoriously underrepresented, he said. 'Monarchies,' he said, 'at least we give the power to the women.'... Like her great-grandfather’s great-grandfather, Vittorio Emanuele II, who united Italy, Vittoria is much more comfortable in French than Italian. When asked if she wanted to be Italy’s queen, she called the concept 'abstract' and said she is just trying to figure out what she wants to do in life. She spends her days studying for finals, modeling midriff shirts on Instagram, dancing with friends and gossiping about Prince Harry and Meghan at school."

From "Paris Teenager’s New Gig: Would-Be Queen of Italy. A Nation Shrugs. The son of Italy’s last king has tapped his teen granddaughter to eventually lead the House of Savoy, pretenders to Italy’s defunct throne. 'Totally illegitimate,' says a rival clan" (NYT).

May 9, 2021

5:22, 5:42 a.m.

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Pink and white.

In the UW Arb today... pink redbud and white redbud... 

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Pink and white magnolia... 

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Me, in pink and white... 

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"One of the reasons I built [my house] was to express my artistic vision through another medium, in addition to the scarless rhinoplasty and facial enhancement."

Says one of the plastic surgeons quoted in "Cosmetic Surgeons Are Building L.A. Megamansions, and the Results are Over-the-Top/Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Alex Khadavi is listing his 21,000-square-foot Bel-Air property, which includes space to show off your NFT artwork, as well as a DJ booth, an outdoor tequila bar and a car museum" (WSJ). 

Another says: "In order to be great you have to dare to be bad. You have to take risks.... There are these tech and cryptocurrency guys who are still young and who want to have fun."

I wonder if they feel that way about faces too — In order to be great you have to dare to be bad. That would explain some of the things I see in the subreddit Botched Surgeries.

"In the final months of his life, when it was clear that he wouldn’t recover, Atwater lamented the dirty, divisive campaigns he’d run, and apologized far and wide for them."

"His memoir calls on politicians to instead follow the Golden Rule. Roger Stone, who formed an early consulting and lobbying firm in the Washington area with Atwater, along with Paul Manafort and Charles Black, remains unconvinced about Atwater’s spiritual awakening. 'Lee was a great storyteller,' Stone told me in a recent interview. 'But, in the end, he was just grasping at straws. The Atwater family disagrees and has no doubt that he became a Christian. But at that point he was also Buddhist, Hindu, and everything else.'... In Stone’s view, however, Atwater was more of an opportunist. 'We both knew he believed in nothing,' Stone told me. 'Above all, he was incredibly competitive. But I had the feeling that he sold his soul to the devil, and the devil took it.'"

Writes Jane Mayer in "The Secret Papers of Lee Atwater, Who Invented the Scurrilous Tactics That Trump Normalized/An infamous Republican political operative’s unpublished memoir shows how the Party came to embrace lies, racial fearmongering, and winning at any cost" (The New Yorker).

Gah! Why don't I have a "Lee Atwater" tag? I have about 10 old posts with his name. I'll bet every time I thought something like: No, he's a secondary character from a bygone age, not likely to come up enough to deserve his own tag. Meanwhile, I've got hundreds of tags for individual names that I've only used once. Atwater comes up a lot because his name is synonymous with "dirty tricks" and because he supposedly regretted it all when he came face to face with Death.

So that explains why I'm blogging this snippet from The New Yorker: It casts doubt on the deathbed conversion story. But it's just Roger Stone. We never actually believe Roger Stone. Then again, does it matter? Does it matter that a man regrets his evil deeds when he's no longer in a position to benefit from them? He took all his advantages when it worked in his favor, but he tells you to follow the Golden Rule. What's the basis for believing him?

FROM THE EMAIL: Richard writes: 

"That's Boris... That's a beautiful black bear."

(Language warning.) UPDATE: The next episode — Anthony takes things too far.

"Musk, dressed in all black, began with an admission: 'I’m actually making history tonight as the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL—or at least the first to admit it.'"

"'So, I won’t make a lot of eye contact with the cast tonight. But don’t worry, I’m pretty good at running "human" in emulation mode.' (Though a brave admission, Musk is not the first person with Asperger’s to host SNL—Dan Aykroyd, a former cast member, also has Asperger’s and returned to host the show in 2003.)" 

From "Elon Musk’s Deceptive and Deeply Awkward SNL Monologue" (The Daily Beast)(video of the monologue at the link). 

Wow! That's some shocking disregard for Dan Aykroyd, but The Daily Beast seems to slough that off, even as it purports to show that the monologue was "deceptive and deeply awkward." 

The silly use of the word "deeply" was noted on this blog in 2014, in a post titled, "Deeply... it's such a poser word."

Here's the 2013 article in The Daily Mail: "'I have Asperger's - one of my symptoms included being obsessed with ghosts': Under the microscope with Dan Aykroyd." 

"I was accustomed to thinking of most novels the way Nabokov wanted me to, or as Flaubert did—he once wrote that the most beautiful books depend 'on nothing external . . . just as the earth, suspended in the void, depends on nothing external for its support.'"

"Then something happened to change my thinking. I realized that the real world is full of people who, presumably, have feelings about being appropriated for someone else’s run at the Times best-seller list.... Is moving someone down the existence scale from 'human person' to 'character' anything like murder?... I thought that I recognized my past in a stranger’s words... Yet perhaps I was exaggerating the similarities, getting paranoid, self-absorbed.... Who owns a story? In writing my original piece, I lifted the lives of my parents and sister.... If Hall did use my text in some way, perhaps she only turned me from a superpowered narrator back into a character... 'My'... ends up a desiccated, unlovable, insect-like creature; her twin sister dies young.... Interrogating [my] anger now, I find it fascinating. It scans as an authorial fury. My essay was not just a personal history; it was an attempt to reckon with literary and societal representations of anorexia..."

From "Who Owns a Story? I was reviewing a novel. Then I found myself in it" by Katy Waldman (in The New Yorker). This article is from 2019. It came up in a search I was doing this morning (about a book that's mentioned in a different part of the essay).

In asking "who owns a story," Waldman isn't asking for a discussion of copyright. It's about art and ethics. Personally, I've been somebody else's fictional character. More than once. It's a complex matter to be used like that. You may enthusiastically support it, at least some of the time. You might want your story told... but perhaps not quite like that. And if it's told once, is it still there for you to tell it? 

"Post-Quarantine Conversation" — this is excellent... and Elon Musk did a good job (in the role of a normal, awkward person).