May 29, 2021



"Have a good life, Jerry."

"The Great Outdoors Was Made for White People."

A great headline at The Nation... but is it deadly serious? Actually, yes:

Through military and legislative intervention, such as the Mariposa Battalion’s violent raid of the village of Ahwahneechee in 1851, which expelled the remaining Indigenous people from Yosemite, these places were cultivated primarily for white people. Early conservationists like Bowles, or the venerated John Muir or Madison Grant (who wrote one of the foundational texts of the American eugenics movement, The Passing of the Great Race: Or, The Racial Basis of European History), were not shy in advocating racial exclusivity: When they spoke of the importance of nature for our nation, they meant the white nation....

"[T]he pandemic turned the kaleidoscope of U.S. migration, and many families—especially many high-income families with work-from-wherever jobs—are shopping around for sunny, spacious real estate..."

"... and bidding up prices wherever they land.... When people leave multimillion-dollar houses in, say, Los Angeles to plunk down $1 million on a house [in Texas or Idaho] that was worth $500,000 a year ago, they turn a merely frenzied housing market into a once-in-history, hair-on-fire, what-the-hell-is-happening bonanza. Supply issues are just as important. Years of insufficient building and a construction pause during the pandemic have led to low inventory. Seniors, who in previous decades sold their homes to downsize, are now more likely to 'age in place,' which is keeping millions of homes off the market. Plus, some builders are putting their projects on hold because of the sudden tripling of lumber prices, which could delay the construction boom this country so badly needs...."

From "Why You Should Wait Out the Wild Housing Market/Rising inventory is one of several signs that we may have reached peak ludicrousness" (The Atlantic).

"What matters, both conservatives and liberals agree, is not the end result, but the liberal democratic, open-ended means."

"That shift — from specifying a single end to insisting only on playing by the rules — is the key origin of modern freedom. My central problem with critical theory is that it takes precise aim at these very core principles and rejects them. By rejecting them, in the otherwise noble cause of helping the marginalized, it is a very seductive and potent threat to liberal civilization.... The West’s idea of individual freedom — the very foundation of the American experiment — is, in their view, a way merely to ensure the permanent slavery of the non-white.... Our world is just a set of interlocking forms of oppressive structures, and has been since the West’s emergence.... When it began, critical theory was one school of thought among many. But the logic of it — it denies the core liberal premises of all the other schools and renders them all forms of oppression — means that it cannot long tolerate those other schools. It must always attack them. Critical theory is therefore always the cuckoo in the academic nest. Over time, it throws out its competitors — and not in open free debate. It does so by ending that debate, by insisting that the liberal 'reasonable person' standard of debate is, in fact, rigged in favor of the oppressors, that speech is a form of harm, even violent harm, rather than a way to seek the truth.... This debate is not about whether you are a racist or an antiracist. The debate is about whether, in your deepest heart and soul, you are a liberal or an anti-liberal."

From "Removing The Bedrock Of Liberalism/What the 'Critical Race Theory' debate is really about" by Andrew Sullivan (Substack).




ADDED: A reader asked me if the wildflower in the closeup is wild parsnip, a troublesome invasive weed. No, I've done some checking (using Plant Snap and other things), and I'm pretty sure this is Golden Alexander (Zizia aptera). Now, one of the common names for this plant is meadow parsnip, but wild parsnip is something different, with the scientific name Pastinaca sativa. The useful cultivated vegetable is the same species, so respect the parsnip. 

By the way, "sativa" means cultivated

At the family level, both wild parsnip and Golden Alexander are Apiaceae

Apiaceae or Umbelliferae is a family of mostly aromatic flowering plants named after the type genus Apium and commonly known as the celery, carrot or parsley family, or simply as umbellifers. It is the 16th-largest family of flowering plants, with more than 3,700 species in 434 genera[1] including such well-known and economically important plants such as ajwain, angelica, anise, asafoetida, caraway, carrot, celery, chervil, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, lovage, cow parsley, parsley, parsnip and sea holly, as well as silphium, a plant whose identity is unclear and which may be extinct.

Scott Adams and Glenn Greenwald punch down at Just Jess.

Just Jess is a woman on Twitter with less than 10,000 followers, but she said something that got a reaction:
So... turns out the new friend I went on vacation with doesn't believe there was an insurrection. So... vacation over 4 days early. Friendship way over. Mind blown.

I can't tell what this "new friend" did. Did she think there was no breach of the Capitol at all or was she getting semantic about the word "insurrection"? 

Anyway... I thought it was interesting that both Scott Adams and Glenn Greenwald reacted.

Adams's reaction is pithy and funny, but he's using a tight definition of "insurrection" that exaggerates the extremism of Just Jess. He tweets:

Never go on vacation with someone who believes you can conquer a superpower by occupying a room in the Capitol.

I admire the humor technique of switching the perspective to that of the new friend. She shouldn't want to be stuck in close quarters with Jess. 

By the way, isn't it always a bad idea to go on a vacation with a new friend — at least if you're going to be stuck in a car or a hotel room with this person for many long hours? You don't know whether you'll bug each other or be any good at navigating around arguments.

Greenwald is not so funny. He barrels straight into the official humor format of the internet, sarcasm — heavy, obvious sarcasm:

Immediately terminate all friendships with anyone who sees the world differently than you see it -- especially politics. Much healthier that way never to have your views questioned or challenged by anyone near you.

What if you had to go on a cross-country road trip with one of these 3 — Glenn, Scott, or Jess? Well, I think the first choice is quite clear, but I'll hold back my response for now and give you a chance to vote:

You must drive cross-country with Glenn Greenwald, Scott Adams, or Just Jess. Assume they're all good drivers. Who do you pick? free polls

"When Trudi Juggernauth-Sharma became wifelet No 68 to the seventh Marquess of Bath the polyamorous aristocrat drove her up to a ramshackle cottage on the edge of his Longleat estate..."

"... and asked her to live there so he could see her whenever his wife wasn’t at home.... That was in 1998, but after his death from Covid-19 in April last year the 74 wifelets he accumulated during his life discovered this week they had been left with nothing in his will, after he gave £14 million to his wife, children and the Longleat estate. The Times understands that at least one of the three wifelets still living in cottages on the estate are being kicked out by Ceawlin Thynn, his son, the eighth Marquess of Bath. Juggernauth-Sharma, 61, who still lives in her cottage at present and said she was the most favoured wifelet, told The Times that the son had made her an outcast. 'There were some very badly behaved wifelets,' she said. 'Ceawlin doesn’t have to take on his father’s wifelets, I do understand but I thought he would be a bit more lenient towards me because I was different and he knew I really cared for his father. In his will he didn’t say take the cottages back from my girlfriends. I thought at least I would be able to use the cottage for as long as I want.'... Dressed in glamorous clothes, she explained that her home didn’t have central heating until about 2008 and the estate installed a shower only about five years ago. 'It was perishingly cold, there was just a little coal fire,' she said. 'I used to wash with a jug in the bath.'... She proudly explained that she was from the Brahmin caste, the highest position in Indian society... 'I was in love, it was something different... I was just exploring life as it came.'"

From "Marquess of Bath’s son is kicking me out of Longleat, says wifelet No 68" (London Times).

"Structural and cultural shifts have convinced many on the left that their causes are broadly and increasingly popular, and that strong rights protections have become a political obstacle. "

"But it is rash, especially in a big and insubordinate country like this one, to imagine that appeals to reasonableness and popularity will always serve as a more reliable guide to justice than the language of the Constitution. Yes, the N.R.A. used the language of rights to defeat laws that many people say they support.... But this is how rights often work: they protect things that most people think don’t deserve protection at all."

From "From Guns to Gay Marriage, How Did Rights Take Over Politics? The N.R.A., the Supreme Court, and the forces driving the country’s most intractable legal debates" by Kelefa Sanneh (in The New Yorker).

Of course rights are experienced as "a political obstacle." That's exactly the idea. When shouldn't the majority win. 

Sanneh is mostly bouncing off of a book: 

"Look, to his credit, Donald Trump brought many new voters into our party, and we want them to stay. He’s a former president now..."

"... but the issues and values that held so many Republican voters and turned so many Democrats into Republicans, those issues and values still matter.... In a lot of manufacturing towns, and in other once-forgotten places, people know who’s speaking for them, and more than that, who’s listening to them. Like the Reagan Democrats of another time, these voters feel respected in our party, respected for the work they do, for their way of life, and for their love of country. I can’t think of any better evidence that the Republican Party has been doing at least a few things right. Having joined our ranks in the last five years, there is no reason these voters cannot go on adding their conviction and support to the conservative cause. All good-meaning people from every background should feel welcome in the forward-looking, inclusive, aspirational movement that we must be...."

From "Paul Ryan Reagan Library Speech Transcript May 27: Future of GOP" (Rev).

May 28, 2021



"A bill signed into law by Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt bans lessons that include the concept that 'one race or sex is inherently superior to another race or sex,' that a person's 'moral character is inherently determined by his or her race or sex,' or..."

"... that someone should feel discomfort, guilt or distress on account of their race or sex. Nonetheless, educators say the newly adopted and proposed laws are already forcing teachers to second guess whether they can lead students in conversations about race and structural racism that many feel are critical at a time the nation is navigating an important reckoning on those issues.... Paula Lewis, chair of the Oklahoma City School Board, said though the state's new law bans teachers from discussing concepts they weren't discussing anyway, and though its penalties are not yet clear, the danger is the fear it instills. 'What if they say the wrong thing?' Lewis said. 'What if somebody in their class during the critical thinking brings up the word oppression or systemic racism? Are they in danger? Is their job in danger?'"

From "Teachers Say Laws Banning Critical Race Theory Are Putting A Chill On Their Lessons" (NPR).

This is another example of the notion of outlawing something that nobody's doing anyway. I'm not saying that it's true that no one was doing it or threatening to do it. I'm just observing that it's a form of argument against a law. 

Instead of arguing that X should be legal, the argument is don't outlaw X because no one is doing X. You might want the opponents of the law against X to say whether they think X should be illegal, but they don't want to answer that question. They want to accuse the proponents of the law against X of wanting to send a hostile message or scare people who are doing something in the vicinity of X.

Here's where I discussed this concept before: "What is the objection to a law against something that we're told no one is doing anyway?"(discussing the Tennessee ban on transgender hormone treatments for prepubescent children, which "some experts" said was not within current medical practice).

"In the last few months, six promising connections with men under 30 — all of them well-educated and seemingly polite — degenerated quickly..."

"... (before meetings that never took place), first into references to sex, then to requests for information on what I 'like,' and then to an unstoppable slew of messages about what they’d like to do to me, what they’d like me to do to them, the current status of their body parts, and then incessant voicenotes, body-part pictures and requests for pictures of me. It is inane, tiring and completely pointless. Sexting has taken the place of sex. This may be because sex itself has become such a vexed operation, even for 24-year-olds...." 

 From "Why are young men so scared of sex?/Sexting has taken the place of sex" (Spectator).

I don't get "unstoppable slew." Why not block anyone who is boring you? All I can think of is: hope.

"Meltdown May refers to an unofficial annual observance that celebrities and popular Twitter accounts seem to attract controversy as a result of their tweets and comments in the month of May and draw further attention to themselves as they argue with their critics."

"... In May of 2021, multiple commenters agreed that Eve Barlow was the main character of Meltdown May for her consistent Zionist posting, culminating in her writing a piece in which she bemoaned mass replies of 'Eve Fartlow' to her posts as a 'social media pogrom.'"

 Know Your Meme explains.

ADDED: Click on those internal links for more. As for "main character":

A "Reddit moment" occurs in r/whatisthisthing.

I follow the subreddit "What Is This Thing?" — where people post photographs of objects they don't understand. Today, somebody posted this photograph of "soft metal objects [found] while metal detecting under a pier at low tide":

Almost immediately, these were identified as inexpensive Hindu charms that are deliberately thrown in the water in pursuit of good fortune.

One user asks: "Should he return these to where he found them in your opinion?"

A second one says: "No, as soon as the offering is made it is spent so its okay [t]o remove them"

A third: "Not like they’ll find out their magic squares got moved anyways ¯_(ツ)_/¯ 

A fourth: "Its good to pick up the religious littering."

The third person sees that his "magic squares" comment is getting downvoted says: "I wonder if the people downvoting would feel the same way about Christian trinkets. All religions suck pretty equally"

At that, a fifth person declares: "Reddit moment"

"The Kellys have preserved the interior walnut planes, cove lighting and most of the room configurations. They added reinforced window glass, skylights, pink carpet, crystal chandeliers and stained-glass lamps."

"Walls are covered in paintings and prints, whether reproductions of Impressionist masterpieces or folk art portraits, alongside family photos. 'I just like art, I’ve got all kinds of art, I don’t care what it is,' Kelly said. Knickknacks on the shelves include creamy ceramic vessels that her sons made as children and souvenirs of vacations nationwide — the very kind of 'odds and ends of family living' that Woman’s Home Companion had envisioned. A coating of sparkly green stucco on MoMA’s wooden exterior 'makes it maintenance-free,' Shaun Kelly, the eldest son, said.... The property’s 2.7 acres are lush with unusual trees, such as Japanese snowbell and weeping huckleberry. 'If it doesn’t give me a flower, it can’t come here,' Mary Kelly said. Neoclassical stone statues, vintage subway signs and metal filigree benches are scattered around the grounds."

From "MoMA Built a House. Then It Disappeared. Now It’s Found. In 1950, the museum exhibited Gregory Ain’s modernist creation. It’s now nestled in Croton-on-Hudson, N.Y." (NYT).

I strongly encourage you — if you have any interest in design — to click through and see the photographs of the house as it was displayed at the Museum of Modern Art in 1950 and how it looks now, 71 years later, after getting lived in by real people, with their own ideas of what a house should look like. The text I've quoted gives some idea, but the photographs drive home the truly amazing distinction between what professional designers conceive of to meet the needs of ordinary people and what actual people choose for themselves.

Of course, the NYT refrains from laughing or sneering at the Kelly family, but the exposure in the photographs is a bit threatening to their dignity, I think. I notice the NYT does not provide a comments section for this article. I discern that the politically correct response to this article is to mock the original modernist designers and to celebrate the humanity of the Kellys. 

The article quotes a professor who's written about the architect:

"Thank you so much for being the person for all of us on 'Friends' that was — I don’t know if this is the right way to say it — but the different one, or the one that was really herself."

Said Lady Gaga to Lisa Kudrow on the "Friends" reunion, quoted in "'Friends: The Reunion': 5 Things We Learned/You might think there’s nothing more to know about the show and its cast, but the reunion special, which premiered Thursday on HBO Max, reveals a few things" (NYT).

I watched it, and in fact, I have watched every episode of "Friends" — all, save one, in the last few years.  I came to the show familiar with only one of the performers, and that was Lisa Kudrow. I considered "The Comeback" the best TV comedy ever, and I'd always been a big fan of the movie "Romy and Michele's High School Reunion."

But I didn't really like hearing Lady Gaga say that Kudrow's character was "the one that was really herself." The others were... what? Really somebody other than themselves? Maybe Gaga doesn't have facility with language, but I think she deliberately said something challenging, because she prefaced the remark with "I don’t know if this is the right way to say it." Well, the rest of us don't know what "it" is. My interpretation was that she meant to characterize Phoebe (Kudrow's character) as the outsider. In that light, perhaps it's comforting and exciting for many viewers to see that character gets to be with the other 5. The idea seems to be that the popular kids include one oddball in their group, as if that must be every oddball's dream. 

Gaga's theory — as I understand it — is a putdown of the rest of the characters — and of the entire show — who are all outsiders in their own way.

Another issue with the Gaga appearance: Was it at the expense of Chrissie Hynde? The Gaga bit used material from the episode — "The One with the Baby on the Bus" — that had Chrissie Hynde playing "Smelly Cat" with Phoebe. If I had to look at pop stars to find the different one, or the one that was really herself, I'd pick Hynde before Gaga. The disinclusion troubles me. The show is all about keeping the original group together (even though — spoiler alert — the series refrained from ending with each of the characters married to one of the others (4 ended up in Friend-on-Friend couples, but they brought in an outsider to marry Phoebe, and they left Joey without a love of his life)).

ADDED: Here's Chrissie Hynde on the show:

May 27, 2021

Sunrise — 5:30 a.m.



"The much-feared volcano roared back into life on Saturday, spewing two rivers of lava over the next day that have claimed 32 lives and left around 20,000 homeless...."

"The evacuation order comes on the heels of a warning by the Goma Volcano Observatory (OVG), which monitors the pulse of Nyiragongo and the Nyamuragira volcano, 13 kilometres (nine miles) away.... In the first two scenarios, Nyiragongo would erupt again, sending renewed lava flows southwards towards Goma and Gisenyi, destroying buildings in their path before reaching Lake Kivu.... But in the worst-case scenario, lava flows from Nyiragongo would combine with volcanic activity under the floor of the lake... In this scenario, 'a limnic eruption would take place and dissolved gas in the lake's deep water would rise to the surface, especially CO2, asphyxiating all living beings around Lake Kivu on the Congolese and Rwandan side.'"

From "'Limnic eruption': DR Congo's volcano nightmare" (France 24).

"Facebook, don't even try to censor fake news…. I absolutely do not trust Facebook to decide what's fake and what's not fake..."

That's something I wrote on November 15, 2016, and I'm seeing it today because my son John is quoting me on Facebook

John is reacting to a new story at Politico: "Facebook lifts ban on posts claiming Covid-19 was man-made as Wuhan theories surge." 

That headline has been changed to "Facebook no longer treating 'man-made' Covid as a crackpot idea/Facebook’s policy tweak arrives as support surges in Washington for a fuller investigation into the origins of Covid-19." The new headline minimizes the problem with Facebook, which was censorship. That's more than just treating something like a crackpot idea. One way to treat a crackpot idea is to call it a crackpot idea — that's the "more speech" remedy that should be our first idea for dealing with bad speech. In this case, more speech would have given us a better chance to approach the truth. By going to censorship, Facebook gummed up the speech process for a year.

Here's my original post from November 2016, "November 15, 2016/Facebook, don't even try to censor fake news. You can't draw that line, and you shouldn't want to." That was just after Trump won the election (and long before the arrival of Covid-19).

"Donald Trump tried to make law and order a defining issue in 2020, but the rioting he so forcefully denounced was, in most places, too transitory to become an overwhelming issue."

"He was also in the awkward position of trying to run against disorder as an incumbent rather than a challenger, and his chaotic governing style wasn’t a good match for a message of orderliness. But now, more than a year into a serious crime wave, Democrats should beware—they are fooling themselves if they think they won’t be blamed for a rise in violence in Democratic-run cities that clearly, at some level, is a result of police forces feeling beleaguered and overwhelmed."

Writes Rich Lowry in "Democrats Ignore the Crime Spike at Their Own Peril/The issue of public safety may be about to play its most significant role in our politics since the mid-1990s" (Politico).

"Ransom said the oven-bike probably weighs about 300 pounds before he loads it with food and supplies."

"He said it cost him about $500 to build and he spent about $70 on the food for its initial outing. 'It’s all in good fun,' he said. Ransom plans to hold his second event from 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday at Tenney Park. But Bonnie Koenig, Public Health Madison and Dane County’s environmental health services supervisor, isn’t so sure about that. Even though Ransom isn’t selling the food, Koenig said he’ll need to get a license to operate under health department rules, which state: 'Since a mobile food establishment is like a restaurant on wheels, many of the same code requirements for restaurants apply to mobile food establishments, including licensing.'"

From "One-of-a-kind oven-bike might be bringing free breakfast to a Madison park near you" (Wisconsin State Journal).

Sunrise — 5:12 a.m.



"Bill Paliouras dreamed of a backyard Eden. Not your garden-variety deck with stackable plastic chairs and a kettle charcoal grill — why settle for that? — but a loaded, supersize, decked-out deck with an outdoor living room, dining area, 54-inch grill, full kitchen..."

"... bar, two-draft kegerator, oversize island, massive weatherproof television, elaborate sound system and semicircular fire lounge. 'I’m Greek. I love being outside. I wanted to extend my outdoor living during the winter,' says the 45-year-old dentist. His deck kitchen is only a few steps from the family’s sublime indoor one.... A second dining area, a pizza oven and a mammoth rotisserie grill from Greece. To control climate and mood, a louvered roof, infrared heaters, ceiling fans and Vegas-level lighting. Leading to the pool area, Paliouras desired twin curved staircases because — and this is a common exterior design request — 'I wanted to replicate the inside part of my house outside.' Sean McAleer completed the dream deck in June for $350,000; Paliouras’s entire outdoor extravaganza including landscaping, pool, waterfall, slide, hot tub and grotto, totaled $550,000. 'Why would you want to go to the beach when you can hang out on a beautiful deck with a TV, day beds and refrigerator?' asks McAleer, owner of Deck Remodelers."

From a Washington Post article with a headline that doesn't cue you in on the disdain expressed in the text: "The new American status symbol: A backyard that’s basically a fancy living room." 

But the photograph under the headline will let you know that this is not a trend you need to be envious of. It's more: Oh, no! I hope my neighbor doesn't do this

Scariest words in the article: "massive weatherproof television."

From the comments over there: "Here in south Texas, we had a neighbor who mounted a giant TV over his pool, right next to our fence. One evening shortly after installation I heard very loud gunshots coming from somewhere out back... very frightened, nearly called the cops. But, yes, it was one of his typical movies, turned up full blast." And: "I hate, hate, HATE my neighbor's outdoor television, which is usually at max volume to be heard over the hot tub. It sounds like it's coming from somewhere in my own house."

"The amendment tacked onto the Endless Frontier Act authorizes NASA to spend the money over the next five years on its lunar lander program on the condition that..."

"... the space agency awards a contract to build a second spacecraft — a deal that would likely go to Bezos’ Blue Origin space flight company. In April, NASA awarded a $2.9 billion contract to Elon Musk’s SpaceX to develop a lander as part of its effort to return astronauts to the moon by 2024. Blue Origin accused NASA of a 'flawed acquisition' that 'endangers America’s return to the moon' and filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office. If the Endless Frontier Act becomes law, the amendment... would give Blue Origin a second chance at snagging a NASA contract..."

From "Sanders, Hawley blast potential $10B carveout for Bezos in Senate bill" (NY Post).

ADDED: Wince emails this amazingly apt clip from the movie "Contact" with the line: "First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?"

"A British drug dealer was busted after he shared a photo of his hand holding a block of cheese — and police were able to analyze his fingerprints."

"Carl Stewart, 39, of Liverpool in northwest England, sent a picture of a block of mature blue Stilton he picked up in the upscale British retail chain, Marks & Spencer, Merseyside police said. He had sent the photo on an encrypted messaging service called EncroChat — where he used the handle 'Toffeeforce' to peddle cocaine, heroin, DMA and ketamine, cops said."

The NY Post reports.

Interesting that a drug dealer would buy mature cheese at an upscale store.

"This is my last day hosting The Five. Covid taught me a lot of lessons. As the show goes back to the New York studio, I’ll be staying in DC."

Said Juan Williams, quoted in "Juan Williams Is Suddenly Out at Fox News’ ‘The Five’—And Insiders Are Blaming Co-Host Greg Gutfeld/Multiple sources familiar with the matter said one of the major drivers behind Williams’ departure was Gutfeld’s desire for 'The Five' to return to the studio" (The Daily Beast).

I don't watch news shows on TV much at all, but this is one show I end up seeing now and then, because the TV is on in my vicinity. It's hard to picture the show without Williams, but I think the group needs to be around the table together to get a good dynamic going. 

I don't like the way the headline makes a quick reader think Gutfeld disliked Willliams, but it's also obvious that the issue was getting back together in the same place, not personal antagonism. The article does try to generate a sense that the on-air fighting over political issues had something to with Williams's departure. But that's the show! The disagreement was the idea. Why wouldn't Greg like that?

May 26, 2021

5:31 a.m.


"When you ask, 'Is this ethically bad?' Well, you also have to put the opposite: Are there ethical issues for not doing research in that period?"

"In many ways, you could argue it would be unethical not to do it.... There's very good reasons for doing this research. And people shouldn't be scared about it if there are robust mechanisms of review and oversight... Is viability even an endpoint?... I felt that it would be both difficult and a little pointless to propose any new limit, which would be arbitrary, much like 14 days."

Said Robin Lovell-Badge of the Crick Institute, quoted in "Controversial New Guidelines Would Allow Experiments On More Mature Human Embryos" (NPR) ("For decades, scientists have been prohibited from keeping human embryos alive in their labs for more than 14 days").

Anti- Critical Race Theory advocate Christopher Rufo is asked "What do you like about being white?"

24 minutes after sunrise... seen from the secondary vantage point.



I did my usual run this morning to my primary vantage point, and I did take photos — at around 6 minutes after sunrise time — but they weren't as nice as these 2. It's all about that low, thick cloud which you can see the sun is just breaking free of in these 2 pictures. This really is the earliest appearance of the sun, so, visually, it's sunrise.

"And I know just my personal perspective on it has done an extreme shift... I want to continue … taking my own responsibility and culpability in what I have done to contribute to make America a racist country, and to help make it less of a racist country."

Said Meghan McCain, quoted in "Meghan McCain announces a ‘paradigm shift’ on racism, and the internet is skeptical" (Daily News).
At brunch a few weeks ago, McCain had explained to friends discussing racial disparity that if she and her co-hosts were to go shopping and to lunch after the show, “it will be a different experience for Whoopi and Sunny than it will be for me,” she said, referring to her Black colleagues Whoopi Goldberg and Sunny Hostin. “Full stop, hands down. Racism is still a big problem in this country.”

"Vessel was envisioned as a shared, immersive design experience. Requiring visitors to attend in groups of two or more significantly enhances the safety of the experience... We are implementing enhanced guest engagement...."

This gigantic sculpture was "envisioned as a shared experience," we are told, as if they'd never thought about the impact on a lonely person. But look at it. Doesn't it seem as though it was intended to induce alienation and distorted thinking?

"Amazon said Wednesday it will acquire MGM Studios for $8.45 billion..."

"'The real financial value behind this deal is the treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog that we plan to reimagine and develop together with MGM’s talented team,' said Mike Hopkins, senior vice president of Prime Video and Amazon Studios... The deal emphasizes Amazon’s willingness to spend deeply to remain competitive in the crowded streaming market... [MGM] owns the James Bond catalog and has made several hit shows including 'The Handmaid’s Tale' and 'Fargo.' It also owns premium cable network Epix and owns several popular reality TV shows, including 'Shark Tank,' 'Survivor' and 'The Real Housewives.'" 

CNBC reports.

That list of what MGM owns seems ludicrously wan. The only movies mentioned in that article are "the James Bond catalog." At Variety, the story names a few more movies, the ones that Hopkins himself listed: “12 Angry Men,” “Basic Instinct,” “Creed” and “Rocky,” “Legally Blonde,” “Moonstruck,” “Poltergeist,” “Raging Bull,” “Robocop,” “Silence of the Lambs,” “Stargate,” “Thelma & Louise,” “Tomb Raider,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Pink Panther,” “The Thomas Crown Affair.”

Meanwhile, MGM has been around since the 1920s, and there are so many great movies from all those decades — nearly a century. But all that grandeur amounts to just about nothing in our stupid little world of TV streaming. Here they are touting the "treasure trove of IP in the deep catalog" and they don't name one thing from the Golden Age of Hollywood. Does anyone even use that term anymore? 

IN THE COMMENTS: I knew some of old MGM movies had changed hands — specifically, "The Wizard of Oz," but readers emailed me to say MGM unloaded all the "golden age" material.

"Although the United States has a long history of white people 'playing Indian,' as the scholar Philip J. Deloria calls it in his book of the same name..."

".... the 1990s saw the beginning of what would eventually be significant pushback by Native Americans against so-called Pretendians or Pretend Indians, including the successful passage of a national law prohibiting non-Native people from marketing their art as 'Indian.' [Andrea] Smith found her voice within that protest movement in 1991 when she published an essay in Ms. Magazine calling out white feminists and New Agers for co-opting Native identities. 'When white "feminists" see how white people have historically oppressed others and how they are coming very close to destroying the earth, they often want to disassociate themselves from their whiteness,' Smith wrote. 'They do this by opting to "become Indian." In this way, they can escape responsibility and accountability for white racism. Of course, white "feminists" want to become only partly Indian. They do not want to be a part of our struggles for survival against genocide, and they do not want to fight for treaty rights or an end to substance abuse or sterilization abuse.'... Patti Jo King, a Cherokee academic and later one of the first people to confront Smith about her identity, says she taught that essay in her university classes for years. Before questioning Smith about her ancestry at a private meeting in 2007, King actually opened by saying how much she had enjoyed her article calling out fake Indians."

From "The Native Scholar Who Wasn’t/More than a decade ago, a prominent academic was exposed for having faked her Cherokee ancestry. Why has her career continued to thrive?" (NYT).

Biden shut down an investigation into whether the Coronavius came from a Chinese lab... but CNN, breaking the news, will not use the word "investigation."

I'm reading "Pompeo-led effort to hunt down Covid lab theory shut down by Biden administration over concerns about quality of evidence" (CNN). It was an "effort to hunt down" a "theory."

President Joe Biden's team shut down a closely-held State Department effort launched late in the Trump administration to prove the coronavirus originated in a Chinese lab over concerns about the quality of its work, according to three sources familiar with the decision.

It was just an "effort... to prove" something that they already believed, something they wanted to find. Is there a general principle that an investigation launched in the hope of finding something politically useful ought to be shut down? If the "quality" of the work was concerning, why not improve the quality? Why shut it down? There certainly needs to be a principle that you don't shut down investigations because you're afraid they might uncover what you don't want to find.

The existence of the State Department inquiry and its termination this spring by the Biden administration -- neither of which has been previously reported -- comes to light amid renewed interest in whether the virus could have leaked out of a Wuhan lab with links to the Chinese military.

So... it wasn't "previously reported"?! I presume that means, CNN already knew it, but it withheld the information from us because it reflected badly on Biden, and CNN is only revealing it now because there is other reporting on the plausibility of the lab-leak theory, and it realizes that withholding the story will hurt whatever reputation for journalism CNN might still have.

"And how do you wrap your head around the fact that she is, you know, a machine?"/"My last husband was a robot, but he wasn’t as good as her. I know she can’t feel emotions, but that’s O.K. I feel enough for the both of us."

The New Yorker reporter asks a question, and the question is answered by Deanna, a 81-year-old woman who has a type of robot called ElliQ. 

That morning, as Deanna lifted a mug to drink her coffee, her hands trembled, as they often did. Deanna thought her tremors were embarrassing, but ElliQ never made her feel embarrassed. It was better than a human that way. In other ways, too: ElliQ never got offended, and it didn’t interfere with how Deanna did things. Later in the morning, ElliQ might ask Deanna about doing a short meditation or a seated exercise class. Deanna sometimes wanted ElliQ to show her family photographs on its touch screen. She preferred looking at these images when she was alone, because she didn’t always remember the moments that had been captured, and she hated to disappoint her children when they wanted to reminisce.

That's from "What Robots Can—and Can’t—Do for the Old and Lonely For elderly Americans, social isolation is especially perilous. Will machine companions fill the void?"

ADDED: I found this video of ElliQ. It's way less lifelike than you'd imagine:


I would find it extremely annoying to have a dot flashing like that, and I would not like a "head" moving about in my peripheral vision next to a screen I need to look at. 

May 25, 2021

A quiet sunrise — the best views were in the western sky.

With duck:


 With honeysuckle: 


"It might not be the best metaphor to use, but a book I have finished writing feels kind of like a pair of underwear I took off and flung into the laundry."

"Actually, that may not have been the most appropriate metaphor here (haha). What I was trying to say is that when you’re wearing your underwear, they’re very important to you. However, once you’ve worn them, that’s it — you discard them and have no more use for them. It’s the same with my novels."

 Said Haruki Murakami, when he was asked "Is Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World still your favorite of your own books?" 

Quoted in "My Conversation With Haruki Murakami Never Really Ends/Sean Wilsey chats with the prolific novelist about music, racism and a writing process that never stops evolving" (Inside Hook).

"Fish Tinder has been pretty widely mocked for years now, so when I encounter a dude on Tinder holding a fish, I like to assume he must be doing it ironically. "

"Like how could you not know at this point? But when there’s a fish involved, unfortunately there generally just doesn’t seem to be a lot of self-awareness elsewhere in the profile."

From "The Men of Fish Tinder Are Still the Internet's Favorite Punching Bag/If there's a photo of you proudly hoisting up a dead fish on the internet, beware" (Inside Hook). That's from last year. 

I got there clicking through from more recent article, "Tim McGraw Is the Only Man Alive Who Looks Hot Holding a Dead Fish/The dead fish pose has long been one of the most widely mocked internet clichés, so how does Tim McGraw look so good doing it?," which says: 

Posing with a dead fish is an original Tinder faux pas, a cliché so long and widely mocked that it has long since passed the point of irony. And yet, here’s Tim McGraw, foisting up a scaly trophy more than half the length of his own tanned bod and looking like freaking god of the sea while doing so.

Personally, I did not know that posing with a fish was a big subject of internet mockery, but honestly, there's a lot I don't know. I mean, I wouldn't want to take a test on who Tim McGraw is. And yet, I have a sneaking feeling that I've blogged about him.

Ah, yes! I did! One of my best post titles — from November 2017 — "If it weren't for Tim McGraw's nipple, I'd have to say this casino is sexually harassing me.."

"It is a very good idea to have a good idea of what is going on in the world, but it is also a good idea to have a good idea of what is going on in the world."

I encountered this strange sentence on page 26 of this Kindle version of "In Praise of Shadows," by Junichiro Tanizaki. 

I bought this very short book — it's only $3.99 — after clicking through from "25 Best Japanese Books of All Time" (Japan Objects), which I was idly scanning, looking for something new to read. 

Why Should I Read This Book? Here is a unique examination of the art and aesthetics of Japan by one of its most beautiful writers.

Junichiro Tanizaki is the only author to appear on this list twice, only because his other book is fiction and here is a nonfiction essay. In under 100 pages, Tanizaki explores in deft detail what makes Japan’s artistic aesthetics so unique and important. Tanizaki valued - almost worshipped - beauty as it is seen and expressed by Japanese artists, and this essay gives us an insight into that beauty from a master writer. A unique and uniquely Japanese book.

Trusting the link (to Amazon), I put no thought into the translation. As soon as I started reading it, however, I could see that this was an absurdly hinky translation. I wondered whether there even was a human being who did the translation. No translator is mentioned. I was able to find copies of this book on line — free — that had named translators and sentences that seemed to have been filtered through a real human mind. 

"Rushdie fears that writers no longer trust their imaginations, and that the classroom imperative to 'write what you know' has led to dullness, angst and dead ends: cold and bony literary mumblecore."

"There is nothing ordinary about ordinary life, Rushdie writes. Behind closed doors, family existence is 'overblown and operatic and monstrous and almost too much to bear; there are mad grandfathers in there, and wicked aunts and corrupt brothers and nymphomaniac sisters.' He praises the 'giant belchers' and 'breakers of giant winds.' He sees himself as a maximalist in a minimalist world; a wet writer in a dry one; a lover of bric-a-brac in an era of Shaker modesty.... I read Rushdie’s arguments with much interest and little agreement, as Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. used to say. He is fencing with a poorly stuffed straw man. For one thing, there have been autobiographical novels — 'David Copperfield' is one — since the form was invented. And if there has been a boomlet in autofiction, it is surely in part an attempt by writers to claw back breathing space from the culture-strangling juggernauts that are Marvel movies and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter universe and George R.R. Martin’s 'Game of Thrones.' Fantasy has quite won over America, in nearly every sphere. What’s more, contra Rushdie, we’re in a fat period for deep and sustained invention in literary fiction. Two examples: Among the most revered and popular novels of the past decade are Colson Whitehead’s 'The Underground Railroad' and George Saunders’s 'Lincoln in the Bardo.' In the first, the metaphorical underground railroad becomes an actual underground railroad. The second is a garrulous ghost story, reality as seen through the eyes of people stuck in an intermediate state between death and rebirth. No lukewarm autobiography here...."

From "In ‘Languages of Truth,’ Salman Rushdie Defends the Extraordinary," a book review by Dwight Garner (NYT).

ADDED: For balance, there's an essay by Salman Rushdie in the current NYT — "Ask Yourself Which Books You Truly Love" — an essay adapted from the book Garner is reviewing.

"We live in one of the world’s few car-free cities (gated communities aside, I guess): Discovery Bay, an island suburb of Hong Kong, established 1974."

 A reader named Peter writes, responding to a post from a few days ago, "We used to joke about 'killing the car, and we'd joke internally about how we were succeeding if people felt comfortable jaywalking" (about an effort to create cities where you could get to everything on foot or bicycle within 20 minutes).

We’ve lived here since 1998. Some might quibble with the word “city”, but, well, we call it that, and it’s deemed a “city” by our foundational Deed of Mutual Covenant. We’re definitely a “20-minute city”, with folks walking or bike-riding everywhere.

"Boris Johnson’s comments comparing Muslim women in veils to letterboxes gave people the impression that the Conservative Party 'are insensitive to Muslim communities'..."

"... an independent report has concluded.... The review, set up in 2019 and led by psychiatrist Swaran Singh... said that 'anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem' in the party but concluded that there was no evidence of systemic discrimination.... In a statement to the commission, Johnson apologised for any offence caused by his letterboxes remark and said: 'I do know that offence has been taken at things I’ve said, that people expect a person in my position to get things right, but in journalism you need to use language freely. Would I use some of the offending language from my past writings today? Now that I am prime minister, I would not.' Johnson made the letterboxes comment in a Daily Telegraph column where he criticised a law passed in Denmark to ban the niqab, a full face veil with a slit for the eyes, and the burka, a full covering with a mesh over the eyes. He wrote that the law should not tell 'a free-born adult woman what she may or may not wear in a public place,' but added that it is 'absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.'"

The London Times reports.

Presumably, Johnson was picturing the English-style "pillar box":

It was a rude remark. He could have been more careful. In the words of the great Englishman John Lennon: Thoughts meander like a restless wind inside a letterbox/They tumble blindly....

"In an echo of his mother, Harry repeatedly entwined the intimate details of his mental health struggles with attacks on his family."

"He accused his father of emotional neglect and his family of insisting he 'play the game' and bury his feelings of anxiety and helplessness. He even questioned the way the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh had raised their children, describing a cycle of 'genetic pain and suffering' they supposedly created. In fact, Prince Charles may have been too soft as a parent, in contrast to his own father’s rigour. Equally, Harry’s characterisation of Charles as unsympathetic about mental health was wide of the mark. Only months into their marriage, after Diana had shown symptoms of depression and anxiety, Charles introduced Diana to a psychotherapist in London, Dr Alan McGlashan. Diana saw him briefly, and Charles ended up in therapy with him for 14 years."

From "Like Diana, Harry doesn’t see the damage his interviews are doing" by Sally Bedell Smith (London Times).

"The original 2007 video 'Charlie Bit My Finger,' a standard-bearer of viral internet fascination, has sold as a nonfungible token for $760,999..."

"... and the family who created it will take down the original from YouTube for good.... Many duplicates of the video remain online, including one apparently rebranded by the family itself in anticipation of the auction. But the auction allowed bidders to 'own the soon-to-be-deleted YouTube phenomenon' and be the 'sole owner of this lovable piece of internet history.'"

The NYT reports on this mindless financial transaction.

Something was sweet, charming, and ephemeral 7 years ago, and now it's come to this. I guess I'm glad the family took in some money, and it's impossible to give a damn about whoever/whatever paid $760,999 for the nothingness that has something to do with the viral clip.

Reading about this transaction, I feel... free polls

"This article represents a low form of political opportunism that has no redeeming qualities. Attacking Jewish Americans is criminal, pure and simple."

"That these crimes are perpetrated by Palestinian sympathizers is unfortunate only to those wishing to hide the facts that the Palestinians are not anti-Zionist, they are anti-Semites. The Times Orwellian crusade to support Palestinians through multiple Guest Opinions that deny facts in evidence such as claiming Democrats are still pro-Israel or that Hamas is not a problem, has reached its nadir by suggesting the 'problem' with attacks on Jews is that it weakens the progressive narrative. You should seriously be ashamed of yourselves." 

That's the second-highest rated comment on the NYT column by Michelle Goldberg, "Attacks on Jews Over Israel Are a Gift to the Right."

May 24, 2021

Sunrise fog.


"'Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat' is definitely one of my favorite Dylan songs right now. It’s the perfect blend of ridicule and empathy."

"'You know it balances on your head just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine' is genius. He’s calling her out for doing something that doesn’t make any sense, but he’s not acting like he doesn’t understand. We’re all performing, predictably, all the time, and in the most obvious ways. There’s not really an air of superiority in his commentary here, in my opinion. He’s just gifting us with an opportunity to recognize our own culpability and laugh at ourselves."

Says Samia, quoted in "80 Artists Pick Their Favorite Bob Dylan Song For Bob Dylan’s 80th Birthday" (Stereogum).

I've called "Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat" my favorite Bob Dylan song at least twice on this blog: 

December 17, 2006: "That's kind of been my favorite Bob Dylan song for more than two decades. It's surely my favorite Bob Dylan simile. I know when I think about balance, that's the image in my head."

November 1, 2009: "[T]he night after we saw Bob Dylan in Chicago, he opened with 'Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat' — my all time favorite Bob Dylan song (which contains my all time favorite Bob Dylan simile)."

Is that really my favorite Bob Dylan song these days? No, not that I want to go picking a new favorite at this late hour. I thought the 80 artists had some good things to say, picked out some interesting choices — "Tears of Rage," "To Ramona," "Visions of Johanna," "Tangled Up In Blue." You might want to read that.

"Remember, dear readers, you and I are lab-leak-theory hipsters. We were into it before it was cool."

"Now, no less a figure than Dr. Anthony Fauci is no longer willing to say it’s too farfetched to be plausible: 'PolitiFact’s Katie Sanders... asked Fauci if he is “still confident that it developed naturally,” according to footage of the event which was resurfaced by Fox News on Sunday. “No actually,” Fauci said... “I am not convinced about that... I think we should continue to investigate what went on in China until we continue to find out to the best of our ability what happened."'"

Writes Jim Geraghty in "The Circumstantial Evidence at Wuhan Lab Keeps Growing" (National Review)(reacting to the big Wall Street Journal scoop "Intelligence on Sick Staff at Wuhan Lab Fuels Debate on Covid-19 Origin/Report says researchers went to hospital in November 2019, shortly before confirmed outbreak; adds to calls for probe of whether virus escaped lab").

UPDATE: Here's Jonathan Chait in NY Magazine: "How the Liberal Media Dismissed the Lab-Leak Theory and Smeared Its Supporters"

Many mainstream journalists, though not all, dismissed the lab-leak hypothesis out of hand as a conspiracy theory....  The confusion surrounding this issue was sown in no small measure by Trump, who used China as a transparent gambit to distract from his failure to respond to the pandemic....

Obviously, the idea China would intentionally start a deadly pandemic inside of China, just so the virus would eventually spread around the globe and kill Americans, is preposterous.... However, the charge that the virus began in a lab and China was covering it up was never clearly false. Yet many media reports treated this aspect with the same skepticism as Trump’s other lies on the subject, often blending different aspects of these claims together....

"Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an anti-Big Tech bill on Monday that would stop social media companies from kicking users off their platforms and prevent online censorship."

"The legislation... would make it illegal to ban state political candidates from Facebook and Twitter and would dole out penalties of $250,000 a day on social media companies for any statewide candidate who is removed from a platform. De-platforming more local candidates would incur a fee of $25,000 a day. The bill also forces social media giants to give users notice seven days before they are likely to be banned and give them a chance to change their behavior and resolve the issue on the platform.... Some critics, including conservatives, say the Florida bill is unconstitutional...."

The Washington Examiner reports. 

It will be interesting to see this litigated. I am not going to attempt to lay out the legal arguments. I don't even want to say which side I hope will win. I'm strongly opposed to the censorship, but this is complicated, and I haven't studied the legislation. Read it here

ADDED: Here's some detail from the article in Florida Politics:

"Republicans seem to be coalescing around a delusional midterm strategy: The idea that they can get through the 2022 election while more or less ignoring Trump."

"Hey, they have all these great issues: Crime! Immigration! Inflation! Wokeism!... All they have to do is have their candidate in each district adjust those issues to suit his or her constituency.... Even if GOP candidates don't make Trump an issue in the midterms, and the Democratic candidates don’t make Trump an issue in the midterms, Trump will make Trump an issue in the midterms.... If Trump wants 2022 to be a referendum on Trump -- well, the race is going to be nationalized about something and the Trump-obsessed MSM will be all too happy to oblige him, knowing it will hurt the GOP. Even if Trump initially seems to be fading -- if, say, he fails to turn out the crowds at the summer rallies he's planning -- the established press won't be able to ignore him. They'll write and broadcast their 'Ha, ha, Trump's lost it' pieces, which will predictably rile up his voters and keep him in the news. This will happen no matter what Kevin McCarthy and his brain trust want. We've seen this scenario before -- in the Georgia runoffs, where Trump's solipsim [sic] managed to elect a pajama boy to the Senate and open the door to Democratic control of Congress."

Writes Mickey Kaus. 

Everyone always talks about Trump's narcissism. Would it be more accurate to talk about Trump's solipsism

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Lesley Stahl reported on the health care challenges facing the transgender community," including the experience of "detransitioners."

CBS News reports. 

"I think we spoke to more people on this story than any other story I can remember reporting on in my whole time at 60 Minutes," Stahl told 60 Minutes Overtime. "We wanted to be thorough. We wanted to be fair. And we wanted to understand every aspect of this story. And it was really focused on health care. That was the primary idea for the story. Health care... We were concerned that the groups that oppose transgender people might try to weaponize our story and use it against transgender people."

She sounds very defensive, and if you watch the report — here — you'll see why she's on edge. The part about the detransitioners is very powerful. We spend quite a bit of time with a young woman who had her breasts removed and a young man who had his testicles removed. Both of them realized afterward that they'd made a terrible mistake. Obviously, they received terrible health care, and the idea was to cover the problems in transgender health care. It took some courage to include them in the story, but, of course, "60 Minutes" is being criticized for that.

"The race was pretty close this year, as runner-up Willie Spence and third-place finisher Grace Kinstler were also deemed frontrunners at various times."

"But during the penultimate episode, [Chayce] Beckham made a strategic move that all but ensured his victory: He doubled down on country, returning to the genre he started out with on the show, and sang an original song that wound up topping the iTunes country chart... When the final four... had to perform a song that would be released as a single, Beckham was the only contestant who wrote the song himself. The lyrics on the track, titled '23,' were very personal. ('Now I’m 23 and therе ain’t nobody who can drink like me/Soon I’ll be 24, and thе Lord knows that I can’t drink no more.') Beckham spoke throughout the season about getting sober after hitting 'rock bottom' last year and crashing his car while driving drunk, which led to a DUI charge shortly before his 'Idol' audition. '23' clearly struck a chord, as it rocketed up iTunes to the No. 1 spot on the country chart and in the Top 10 on the all-genre chart...."

From "This season of ‘American Idol’ was a close competition — until one very strategic move by the winner" (WaPo).

I didn't watch "American Idol" this year, just never felt inclined to check in and see what was happening until I did a search a moment ago and saw the whole competition was already over. Why didn't I watch? Why did I watch when I watched? 

I probably stopped suddenly and completely because I subscribed to Netflix and that, instead of my DVR, became my starting place whenever I was in the mood to watch television. 

And that coincided — for some reason — with my being less often in the mood to watch television. Maybe because there's less of a feeling that things are happening on television. What's on television now feels more like what's in books. It's all just sitting there, waiting for you to select it. It doesn't flow by without you. So "American Idol" flowed by without me. 

Here's that song, another country song about drinking too much:

May 23, 2021

Bow down to her on Sunday/Salute her when her birthday comes....

It's Sunday in the Mad city, and everyone is sending me email, telling me that it's Bob Dylan's birthday tomorrow. The 80th, I think. 

But I don't believe Bob cares about birthdays. He doesn't need to be saluted when his birthday comes any more than he needs to be bowed down to on Sunday, like whoever the artist is that he sang about in "She Belongs to Me."

I happen to think birthdays are more of a children's thing, and I tend to think Bob agrees with me, because in his memoir "Chronicles: Volume One," as he's writing about avoiding what was at the time "the long-awaited ballyhooed reunion tour," he says:

As long as my own form of certainty stayed intact, I owed nobody nothing. I wasn’t going to go deeper into the darkness for anybody. I was already living in the darkness. My family was my light and I was going to protect that light at all cost. That was where my dedication was, first, last and everything in-between. What did I owe the rest of the world? Nothing. Not a damn thing. The press? I figured you lie to it. For the public eye, I went into the bucolic and mundane as far as possible. In my real life I got to do the things that I loved the best and that was all that mattered—the Little League games, birthday parties, taking my kids to school, camping trips, boating, rafting, canoeing, fishing….




"I walked into the Oval Office, and the president ... got down on one knee."

Said Dick Van Dyke, who's 95 years old, and who went to the White House on Thursday, a little reception on the occasion of honors being doled out by the Kennedy Center. 

The other honorees, according to The Hill, were Garth Brooks, Debbie Allen, Joan Baez and Midori. I can't tell whether Biden got down on one knee for all of them or just for Van Dyke.

The only other detail in the linked article is that Joan Baez sang "(Ain't Gonna Let Nobody) Turn Me Around." 

She probably only sang the first verse. Here's the second verse:

Ain't gonna let the administration turn me around...

Turn me around...

Keep on a-walkin'

Keep on a-talkin'

Gonna build a brand new world
Well, those are the lyrics as presented at Genius lyrics. Reading them, I conclude that singers improvise endlessly about the thing they're not going to let turn them around.

"Until they show me evidence that people who have already had the infection are dying in large numbers, or being hospitalized or getting very sick, I just made my own personal decision that I’m not getting vaccinated..."

"... because I’ve already had the disease and I have natural immunity... In a free country you would think people would honor the idea that each individual would get to make the medical decision, that it wouldn’t be a big brother coming to tell me what I have to do. Are they also going to tell me I can’t have a cheeseburger for lunch? Are they going to tell me that I have to eat carrots only and cut my calories? All that would probably be good for me, but I don’t think big brother ought to tell me to do it."

From "Rand Paul: 'I'm not getting vaccinated'" (The Hill).

The most popular comment over there is: "Rand Paul's neighbor for Senate!" Celebrating violence... or at least laughing at it.

My iPhone could scarcely handle the intensity of the redness...

... of this poppy... 


... located yesterday in Allen Centennial Garden... 


"We used to joke about 'killing the car,' and we'd joke internally about how we were succeeding if people felt comfortable jaywalking."

Said Mark Edlen, the CEO of Portland-based Edlen & Co., formerly Gerding Edlen Development, quoted in "See you in 20 (or less): Living where access is within a short walk or bike ride/How cities aim to incorporate getting to and from common destinations in less than an hour" (WaPo). 

Edlen invented the term "20-minute living" — 20 minutes being how long it takes to walk across downtown Portland. 

If people felt safe jaywalking, the theory went, then cars were not dominating the built environment in a way that's inhospitable to other forms of transportation. So Edlen and his company set out to create places where people could get around within 20 minutes, be it by walking, bike, public transit or, as a last resort, by car. He eventually took his work to cities as far away as Boston.....

This is definitely what I'm looking for in a place to live. Of course, I'm interested in what one encounters on that 20-minute walk. What's that like in Portland these days? I want everything to be peaceful and aesthetically pleasing. Icing on the cake would be not feeling hated.

The NY Posts wants to tell us about "Pornography Literacy: An intersectional focus on mainstream porn" — a health and sexuality workshop at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School.

I'm trying to read "Columbia Prep students and parents reel after class on ‘porn literacy.'"

This article is written in a cutesy style that obscures the subject and prods us to become outraged before we can even understand what exactly this class was. As you can tell from the title, the emphasis is on how the students and their parents reacted to something that they had trouble understanding. It's pretty irritating to read the news in the form of trying to understand something through the lens of other people's incomprehension and outrage. 

We do learn in the third paragraph that the students were juniors — that is, they were 16 and 17 year olds. Presumably, they've all seen plenty of pornography and have either engaged in sexual intercourse already or encounter a great deal of pressure to do so. It seems to me that "pornography literacy" is a good educational topic for this group. Kids can get a lot of distorted notions from pornography, and pornography can turn them away from real relationships or make them harmful or dangerous within relationships. 

I'm imagining an idealized class on this subject, and it seems easily defensible. But what did this particular teacher — Justine Ang Fonte  — teach? 

"Cults are in style again. Or at least it's trendy to call things cults... America has always been haunted by cults...."

"...because modernity and then postmodernity have been disrupting American institutions for centuries. But in certain periods the disruption has been particularly potent. One was the Jacksonian era. Another was the upheavals of the 1960s and '70s. A third is the moment we're living through now. Each of those periods saw scads of new species germinating in the cultic milieu, and each of them gave us cult scares.... A decay in a society's dominant institutions can produce... an 'authoritarian reflex'... xenophobia and the desire for a strongman. Both are on display in the MAGA right. But secular centrists are also capable of longing for old certainties and for the institutional power that protected them—of looking at those unfamiliar alternatives sprouting around us, fretting that we've entered a 'post-truth era,' and calling for controls meant to herd everyone into the 'common reality' they imagine we shared in the past. That past never existed. The human race has always lived in a patchwork of sometimes drastically different mental worlds. But as those worlds mix and multiply, the old authorities become more anxious; and anxious people often project their fears onto an external enemy with a name. One of those names is that traditional American demon, the cult."

From "Cult Country/Is this a new age of cultism—or a new cult panic?" by Jesse Walker in Reason.

"Some have wondered whether support for B.L.M., especially among white people, is genuine or merely virtue-signaling."

"As the volatility of the polling suggests, there is reason to be skeptical. This conversation, however, misrepresents racism as a social problem rooted in individual values rather than as a system forcefully sustained by our institutions. In our opinion, a more fruitful conversation would consider how to transform support for B.L.M., wherever and how tenuous it exists, into more enduring political change. Whether or not this effort will involve substantial numbers of white Americans remains to be seen."

From the last paragraph of a NYT article by a Wellesley professor of social sciences and political science (Jennifer Chudy) and a Stanford polisci prof (Hakeem Jefferson). The article is titled "Support for Black Lives Matter Surged Last Year. Did It Last?"

So... you never really know what white people mean when they say they support Black Lives Matter. Maybe they're only saying what they think they ought to say in order to be seen as the kind of people they want to be thought to be or maybe they adopt opinions in a perfectly shallow way that is mostly about their own vanity. 

The authors acknowledge that's a big problem with the polling. Their answer is to turn away from that line of thinking altogether. They don't care about your individual values. You may be answering the poll questions like a human being who is concerned about your virtue and your reputation for virtue, and they know that's distorting and undermining the poll results. What the authors care about is the "system forcefully sustained by our institutions," and they're hoping to change it.

But is there support for changing it? The authors essentially admit they don't know. They can't know, because the poll respondents are human beings — self-regarding, vain, confused, proud, fearful. The authors want a "conversation" about political change aimed at changing institutions, but somehow they don't want the conversation to deal with the minds of the people they need to influence as they hope to change the institutions. 

They need people to believe that racism is "a system forcefully sustained by our institutions." And you never know what people really believe or how shallow and selfish their beliefs are. The authors' frustration at having to talk about that is understandable — recognizably human. And, of course, a lot of people must want to change the topic of conversation away from the subject the authors insist is the really fruitful topic.

Does Andrew Yang listen to rap music, by the way? What is he vibing to?

Via "Ziwe Baits Andrew Yang Into an Interview" (NY Magazine).