June 5, 2021

Sunrise, 5:08 a.m.



"White women love dinner parties more than anything. It’s their safe space to talk about how much they hate their husbands, how their kids are super annoying..."

"... how crazy busy they are, the latest school auction they’re raising money for. You turn the place where they typically unleash their entire sea of whiteness into somewhere where you can actually have safe, not shameful, conversations around racism.... They start recognising how they’ve been cocooned in whiteness... White people have perfected their performance. We’re watching 'White Women, the Musical' playing to a shut-down Broadway every night... They have the language. They have lots of yard signs. My God, they have so many yard signs and T-shirts and books. It’s checking boxes but what has changed? Nothing."

Said Saira Rao, quoted in "Ladies, your $5,000 ‘racism supper’ is ready — don’t choke on the guilt new/Dinner parties designed to teach white women about their privilege are serving up lessons on injustice in America" (London Times).

No topic is off limits, but crying and angry outbursts at the table are forbidden; irate diners who don’t excuse themselves will be sent off to calm down, as will anyone weeping. 

You'll be given a time out.

“We all know about white women’s tears. It has caused the death of hundreds, maybe even thousands, of black people. And it’s still a weapon,” says [Rao's Race2Dinner partner, Regina] Jackson. Crying derails the conversation, adds Rao: “White women cry, and everything stops and shifts back to your fragile white womanhood.”

Racism — it's what's for dinner.

"See-through socks?" — Joe Rogan tries to keep up with David Lee Roth and David Lee Roth just barrels along.


You can scroll back to the beginning to watch that whole 12-minute clip. I actually listened to the entire 3+ hours of the podcast on Spotify. Roth is such a motor mouth, but it's all pretty interesting. He did leave Rogan in the dust, though. The main thing Roth got across — if you take the 3 hours as a whole — is that he's internalized the lesson his father taught by asking — every night at the dinner table — what did you contribute

In case you're wondering, Roth will be getting a new tooth. I forget how he said he got that one knocked out.

Speaking of Spotify, I like that — at the age of 70 — I've been able to hear something new now and then and genuinely adopt it as a personal favorite. When I was a teenager, it was so easy to accept new musical artists and really love them — internalize them. Now, it's an amazing delight when something leaps into the place in my head that was so open when I was young. Yesterday, I clicked on this and immediately took it to heart:

That's the live version, obviously. The version on the album is what especially appealed to me.

"But anyone who has spent a small amount of time with Mr. Zuckerberg knows that he’s uncomfortable with his immense power..."

"... he agonizes deeply about his every step. In my innumerable conversations with him over many years — often late at night over a phone, giving them the feel of a college-dorm jaw session — he maintained that he trusted Facebook’s larger community to clean out the vile, often-toxic dreck that flowed over his ever-larger platform. Mr. Zuckerberg believes in the perfectibility of man. I have studied the use of propaganda in Nazi Germany and during China’s Cultural Revolution. I told him that there is no low that some people will not sink to if it is in their interests to do so. Once, when Mr. Zuckerberg was still talking to me, we argued about some much-less-serious violation of rules on Facebook, issues that now seem quaint in comparison. Trying to lighten the mood, I invoked the old journalism bromide: He should trust, yes, but always verify. 'If your mother says she loves you, check it,' I said to him, trying to convince him that he could not rely on the community or algorithms or anything else but his own decision making when push from bad actors inevitably came to shove. He did not get the joke at all. He also missed my larger point that the world was an ugly place and that he had handed some very bad people in it a potent weapon of destruction. They would take advantage of his belief that the truth will always out. Even now, I have a hard time describing the blank stare on his typically blank face. It was as if I was talking in another language to another species on another planet."

From "The Terrible Cost of Mark Zuckerberg’s Naïveté" by Kara Swisher (NYT).

Notice what she's saying — that the traditional liberal principles of freedom of speech are stupidly naive.  I think! She isn't fairly representing Z's side of the conversations (the "jaw session," as she calls it), but I think his position was the classic belief in the marketplace of ideas, where all the ideas come out and are heard and responded to and people make their choices about what to believe, rejecting what is bad and selecting what is good. That's what I'm guessing is behind Swisher's assertion "Mr. Zuckerberg believes in the perfectibility of man" and "his belief that the truth will always out." 

The most obvious response to the marketplace of ideas concept is that people are not necessarily shopping for truth and even if they are, they might be distracted into making an impulse purchase of something more exciting or soothing, like the way you go into the grocery store thinking of buying fresh fruits and vegetables and end up buying Coke and Tostitos. But that doesn't mean that everyone who's sticking with free speech and citing the marketplace of ideas theory is naive. The nonnaiveté lies in the understanding that the alternative approaches are worse. 

Swisher seems to be saying that because the world is "an ugly place" with "some very bad people," censorship is better than free speech. She's just as open to an accusation of naiveté as he is. What depth of understanding is she showing about the harms of the suppression of speech? The question isn't what's perfect, but what's better. And instead of facing that, which I would call the real world, Swisher reverts to the standard bashing of Zuckerberg: he seems like "another species on another planet." He doesn't seem normal

Here, there's room on the couch with these guys:

"In the late 1950s, not long after his daughter, Jennifer, was born, Arthur W. Staats turned what had been a more or less random parental punishment into a staple of behavioral psychology and a household phrase."

"He called it a 'time out.' Exhaustive experiments conducted by Dr. Staats (rhymes with 'spots') and his collaborators found that removing a child from the scene of improper behavior, and whatever had provoked it, ingrained an emotional connection with self-control and was preferable to punishment. As a bonus, it gave frustrated parents a short break. Dr. Staats emphasized that children needed to be warned of the consequences of their behavior in advance, and that the 'time out' tactic had to be applied consistently and within the context of a positive relationship between parent and child....."

From "Arthur Staats Dies at 97; Called ‘Time Out’ for Unruly Kids/A behavioral psychologist, he advised that it was more productive to briefly isolate a misbehaving child than to spank or yell. Thus a household phrase was born" (NYT).

Unique sunrise.

I've been doing my daily — almost daily — sunrise runs since September 2019, and this is the first time I've seen this:


ADDED: My first thought, on seeing this scene at my usual sunrise vantage point, was that — because everyone was paying attention to one woman and there were at least 2 other women off to the side — this was an example of men behaving in a shallow and unkind way. Then I noticed that one man was doing a lot of talking, toward the woman and to one of the other men, and it was hilariously obvious that I was witnessing a wedding.

"This is one of those where I read the title and went 'I can't imagine how you could not be the asshole' and then read the post and went '....oh.' "

"NTA. I am not normally a scene-making person, but this is the kind of thing that making a scene is for. I am not normally one for publicly shaming someone but this is what public shame is for. Sometimes someone's behavior is so far beyond the pale that the kindest and most righteous act for everyone else involved is to make a goddamn scene."

Top-voted comment at "AITA for telling my SIL no [one] cares that she’s pregnant" at the subreddit "Am I the Asshole?"

June 4, 2021



"He failed to keep Patty Hearst, the kidnapped publishing heiress, out of prison for her role in a bank robbery. He fell short..."

"... in his insanity defense of the confessed Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, and could not save himself from contempt of court citations, humiliating handcuffs and disbarment in 2001 for misappropriating millions. By then, however, his reputation had long been secured with triumphs that began soon after his law school graduation in 1960 with the Torso Murder Case. George Edgerly, a Lowell, Mass., auto mechanic, was accused of dismembering his wife and dumping her parts in a river. He had failed a lie-detector test, complicating the defense. But when the lead lawyer had a heart attack, Mr. Bailey took over and, raising the specter of reasonable doubt, won an acquittal. (Edgerly was later convicted in another murder.)"

From "F. Lee Bailey, Lawyer for Patty Hearst and O.J. Simpson, Dies at 87/With theatrical courtroom flair, he was involved in a host of notorious criminal cases, including those of the Boston Strangler and a Vietnam War massacre" (NYT).

"Kind of like Subaru. I don’t want to say it’s a cult, but Subaru people love Subarus. There’s this base of loyal customers who say, 'Wow, we’re really into this, this is our thing.' And that’s what Crocs has become."

From "Love them or hate them, Crocs are back/Sales have surged during the pandemic and the brand’s signature foam clog is turning up everywhere. 'I would wear them to the Met Gala'" (WaPo).

"[R]esidents of the John Knox Village senior community got a trip via computer to the International Space Station in the kickoff to a Stanford University study..."

"... on whether virtual reality can improve the emotional well-being of older people. Donning 1-pound (470-gram) headsets with video and sound, the four could imagine floating weightless with astronauts and get a 360-degree tour of the station. In other programs, residents can take virtual visits to Paris, Venice, Egypt or elsewhere around the globe; attend a car rally, skydive or go on a hike.... The goal is to see whether virtual reality can improve their mood, strengthen their relationships with staff and make them more receptive to technology."

 From "Can virtual reality help seniors? Study hopes to find out" (WaPo). 

I liked this comment: "VR does wonders for seniors. My friend an I spent 4 days straight protecting the world from Zombies. Felt great. We must of shot a million of 'em. And for the anxiety, the beer helped a lot."

Virtual travel sounds great to me, and not just for old people. Able-bodied, able-minded people should, perhaps, be encouraged to see the world this way. Compare the carbon footprint of real world travel and virtual travel. And with virtual travel, you're immediately transported to all the best places, with no time (and money) spent on airplanes, no exposure to disease and crime, no jet lag. And your view of the place is free of other tourists. You can have only local people there, and they can (be programmed to) enjoy meeting you and talking to you. They'll show you around and pursue subjects — history, architecture, fashion, cars, politics — geared precisely to you.

"The project at the heart of the controversy asked a fifth-grade class to write biographies from the perspective of historical figures who 'personify good or evil'..."

"Students were asked to discuss how their subject may have rationalized their actions, the board said. The short essay on Hitler was displayed in the school among others from the project for weeks, but after an image of the essay was shared online, parents and other community members expressed outrage. However, some groups, such as the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, have called for tempers to calm, saying the child and their family had no antisemitic intentions, and noted they have suffered from an outpouring of 'misdirected' vitriol, which spread on social media."

From "Tenafly teacher, principal placed on paid leave after student's controversial Hitler report" NorthJersey.com).

Here's the image — shared by one parent on Facebook — showing the essay with statements like: "My greatest accomplishment was uniting a great mass of German and Austrian people behind me," "I was pretty great, wasn't I?," and "My belif [sic] in antisemitism drove me to kill more than 6 million Jews."

Don't invite children to write from the perspective of an evil historical figure if you don't want them to compose material like this. It was dumb to print "Accomplishments" on the form and hang it on the wall where it would be seen and judged by many people who don't understand what the assignment was. It's good that no one seems to be going after the child here.

"In his classic essay, 'The Inner Ring,' C.S. Lewis warned about 'the delicious knowledge that we — we four or five all huddled beside this stove — are the people who know.'"

"Lewis lectured rising British university students that 'from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care,' that they would be driven by the desire to be within the Inner Ring. It is, of course, a fallacy; there is no special knowledge that emanates from such bonfires. Lewis went on to describe the perilous dangers such an illusion carried, dangers to the soul if not necessarily someone’s career. 'It may end in a crash, a scandal, and penal servitude; it may end in millions, a peerage and giving the prizes at your old school,' he argued. 'But you will be a scoundrel.' 'Of all the passions,' he added, 'the passion for the Inner Ring is most skillful in making a man who is not yet a very bad man do very bad things.'"

From "Opinion: The sad self-importance of journalists" by Hugh Hewitt (WaPo).

The C.S. Lewis material is good, but Hewitt doesn't do enough with it, and it's hard not to laugh along with the top-rated comment: "Self-important 'journalist' writes about self-importance of journalists..."

"Facebook plans to end its controversial policy that mostly shields politicians from the content moderation rules that apply to other users..."

"... a sharp reversal that could have global ramifications for how elected officials use the social network. The change, which Facebook is set to announce as soon as Friday, comes after the Oversight Board — an independent group funded by Facebook to review its thorniest content rulings — affirmed its decision to suspend former President Donald Trump but critiqued the special treatment it gives politicians, stating that the 'same rules should apply to all users.'... The changes are notable for Facebook since it historically has taken a hands-off approach to what elected officials say on its service.... For the past few years, Facebook has maintained a list of political accounts that aren’t subject to the same fact-checking or content moderation processes that apply to other users...."

The Verge reports.

They had an exception and they made an exception to the exception. The new approach is to eliminate that exception to which they succumbed to the temptation to make an exception. Same rules for everybody is the soundest approach. Everyone instinctively understands it. We can deal with exceptions too, though it takes some sophistication and trust, but when you proceed to make an exception to your exception, we're properly suspicious.

June 3, 2021

Until tomorrow.


"American intelligence officials have found no evidence that aerial phenomena witnessed by Navy pilots in recent years are alien spacecraft..."

"... but they still cannot explain the unusual movements that have mystified scientists and the military, according to senior administration officials briefed on the findings of a highly anticipated government report. The report determines that the vast majority of more than 120 incidents over the past two decades did not originate from any American military or other advanced U.S. government technology, the officials said. That determination would appear to eliminate the possibility that Navy pilots who reported seeing unexplained aircraft might have encountered programs the government meant to keep secret. But that is about the only conclusive finding in the classified intelligence report, the officials said. ... [S]enior officials briefed on the intelligence conceded that the very ambiguity of the findings meant the government could not definitively rule out theories that the phenomenon observed by military pilots might be alien spacecraft."

The NYT reports.

The moment of sunrise — 5:21 to 5:22.




"Several studies suggest education is detrimental to critical thinking. As students progress through their degrees, they get better at supporting their own arguments..."

"... but don’t improve at looking for evidence that might undermine their opinions and help them come to a more balanced point of view. I did my undergraduate degree at Oxford, an institution which obsesses this country’s elite. While the university undoubtedly rewarded many highly intelligent students, I also came to believe the other principal factor for getting ahead was a bland adherence to the academic value system of hard work and a consuming preoccupation with grades.... For some reason, I spent most of a term studying 17th-century sermons. That is a wonderfully eccentric use of a 19-year-old’s time and one of the reasons I hope English degrees flourish for ever but I hesitate to assert that it buys me the right to feelings of moral or intellectual superiority."

From "Academic intelligence is absurdly overvalued While previous societies admired courage or manual dexterity, we judge only on exam results" by James Marriott (London Times).

If you, like me, wondered what's in 17th-century sermons, here's a big page of links to English sermons from the 17th century. Lots of John Donne sermons here. Sample:

If I were but mere dust and ashes I might speak unto the Lord, for the Lord's hand made me of this dust, and the Lord's hand shall re-collect these ashes; the Lord's hand was the wheel upon which this vessel of clay was framed, and the Lord's hand is the urn in which these ashes shall be preserved. I am the dust and the ashes of the temple of the Holy Ghost, and what marble is so precious? But I am more than dust and ashes: I am my best part, I am my soul. And being so, the breath of God, I may breathe back these pious expostulations to my God: My God, my God, why is not my soul as sensible as my body?

"For years I’ve told people I have seasonal affective disorder in the summer. I dread the heat..."

"... and especially the humidity. I can’t stand the feeling of being sweaty. Small talk about the weather often feels as political as politics. And almost no one, other than my father and one of my daughters, is in my weather party. My husband recently pointed out, while I was considering in incredulity the ubiquity of saunas in Finland, that maybe many people enjoy perspiring. I cannot even begin to imagine such a state. Are there people who actually enjoy feeling overheated?"

Says a commenter at "Seasonal Affective Disorder Isn’t Just for Winter/Feeling blue even though everyone seems to be basking in perfect summer weather? There might be a good reason for that" (NYT).

We are animals, and we're suited to an environmental niche. As humans, we have a lot of freedom to choose where to live, but we don't have complete choice and the choices we make are not entirely based on where we, as a physical entity, feel best. Where is exactly the right place for you — and do you really have the time to figure that out before you settle somewhere or other? 

I feel pretty physically comfortable in Madison, Wisconsin — comfortable enough to feel wary about going elsewhere. The NYT commenter dreads humidity, but I'm afraid of dryness! From a distance, the American West has long attracted me, but when I've found myself there, physically, I've felt assaulted by the glaring sunlight and aggressive aridity. I'm an animal. The place affects the mind — and the mind can call that "seasonal affective disorder" or whatever — but it's the body in the place that causes the mind to react. You're not disordered, you are an animal designed to survive.

"I was like, I want to dance with Audrey, because I wanted it to be another Black woman... And I want to be in love. I want a Juliet and Juliet... Seeing a choreographer say women aren’t supposed to lift men — well what if they can, though?"

From "Lesbians in Ballet: ‘Has Anyone Like Me Ever Walked These Halls?’/Ballet’s strict gender norms put pressure on women to conform. But dancers who don’t are finding they’re not alone" (NYT).

Inside the creative process... God:

... a brilliant TikTok...

"Mocking an ideologically-based group can’t be made a basis for denying academic privileges in any open society worthy of respect. If accurate, this report shows Stanford Law School to be unworthy of treatment as an academic institution."

Tweeted Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe, quoted in "A Stanford student bashed the Federalist Society with a satirical flier. He nearly missed getting his diploma" (WaPo). 

Stanford reversed its position after getting excoriated on the web yesterday. Below, you can see how the flier looked. It is subject to being mistaken as the real notice for the event, but that's how satire is done, and it's not as though there was a risk of anyone doing anything harmful if they were foolish enough to believe the "fake news." 

And why should Stanford Law strain to protect its community? It can't be that it thinks they're dumb. Maybe it decided to respond to the complaint of the Federalist Society — a conservative group — so it could bank credit for political neutrality as it bumbles boldly forward in the culture wars.

"Is Glenn Greenwald the New Master of Right-Wing Media?/The leftist scribe has become 'a practitioner of manufactured controversy' for outlets like Fox News, say his stunned former colleagues."

The Daily Beast goes after Glenn Greenwald. 

Besides obsessively repurposing Greenwald’s complaints about other media personalities—sometimes publishing multiple Greenwald-related pieces in the same day—[Fox News] also creates entire outrage cycles from Greenwald tweets, transforming tiny kernels into the media equivalent of a bag of popcorn…. 

“I did not see this coming,” said The Nation’s national affairs correspondent, Joan Walsh, who was editor-in-chief of Salon more than a decade ago when Greenwald gave up practicing law to spend five-and-a-half years as a star writer there. “It’s kind of sad. He won awards for us. He was a beacon during those dark days [of the Bush-Cheney military adventures and Barack Obama’s first term]. He was a lovely colleague, he really was. The difference between the cantankerous guy we sometimes had to wrangle with—it wasn’t all roses—and this person? Who’s this?”

June 2, 2021

The moon, just before sunrise.


"Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail..."

"... a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze... If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humor or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason."

From "Orthodoxy" by G. K. Chesterton.

Fisherman in Yemen haul in a dead sperm whale and discover, inside it, ambergris worth $1.5 million.


On the topic of ambergris, there is this from Herman Melville's "Moby Dick":

How can you be small when it's your reputation to be huge? Better to be nothing.

5:05, 5:23 a.m.



"President Biden's budget proposal fulfills a campaign promise to remove a longstanding ban on federal funding for most abortions known as the Hyde Amendment...."

"Biden, a lifelong Catholic, supported Hyde for decades — as did many other Democrats, often as a compromise position with Republicans.... During the lead-up to the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, Biden reversed his longtime position on Hyde, joining other Democratic hopefuls in saying he would work to overturn it....  Biden said his position had changed in response to changing circumstances, including increasing efforts by Republican lawmakers to restrict abortion. 'It was not under attack,' Biden said. "As it is now.'"

NPR reports.

"She planted fragrant perennials close to the paths to give visitors something more interesting than their feet to look at (and smell)..."

From "Little Island Won Me Over" — a New York Magazine article about this new 2.4-acre artificial island on the west side of Manhattan. It has trees and other plantings and various footpaths. The whole thing was dreamed up and paid for by the billionaire Barry Diller — who's been a media mogul since the 1960s and has a list of pop culture credits that is too impressive to begin to list here. 

But anyway... that "island"... I can't talk about the impression it makes in person. (I know "in person" isn't the right phrase for encountering plants in real life, but what is?) So I'll just say I wonder if the plants and trees will really thrive there or if it is and always will be stuff grown elsewhere and installed there, to be replaced when it goes bad. It's just a matter of whether the people of New York like it, not for me, 100s of miles away in Wisconsin, to glance over and decide it's unsophisticated or in poor taste. 

But I did want to highlight that one quote you see in this post title — "something more interesting than their feet to look at (and smell)...." Because feet are interesting to smell, and yet, I don't think anyone is ever so in need of something to pay attention to that they smell their own feet while they are walking.

"Is it more important for me to tell a basic historical truth, let’s say, about racism in America right now? Or is it more important for me to get a bill passed..."

"... that provides a lot of people with health care that didn’t have it before? And there’s a psychic cost to not always just telling the truth... using your prophetic voice as opposed to your coalition building political voice. And I think there were times where supporters of mine would get frustrated if I wasn’t being as forthright about certain things as I might otherwise be. And then there are also just institutional constraints that I think every president has to follow on some of these issues. And it was sort of on a case by case basis, where you try to make decisions."

Said Barack Obama, answering a question on the Ezra Klein podcast at the NYT about how he decided it was worth it, politically, to refrain from accusing people of racism.

The question, asked by Klein, specifically referred to the Tea Party, and Klein asserts, based on reading Obama's book, that it was clear that the Tea Party was "at least partly" racist. Obama had been musing about understanding people and bringing us together, and Klein, seeming to want to bring some edge to the discussion, asked "How do you decide when the cost of that kind of truth outweighs the value of it?"

I've edited down the answer, but if you look at the whole thing, you'll see that what I left out was blander than what I quoted. Obama referred to the "basic historical truth... about racism," then immediately turned to political expediency. He acknowledged the "psychic cost to not always just telling the truth," by which I think he meant the cost to himself personally in devaluing truth-telling. And he strangely equated truth with "using your prophetic voice as opposed to your coalition building political voice." Prophetic voice? 

CORRECTION: This post originally said Obama was wrong to say "Sarah Palin... was sort of a prototype for the politics that led to the Tea Party, that in turn, ultimately led to Donald Trump, and that we’re still seeing today." I was wrong. He has the chronology right.

ADDED: I wish Klein had pursued Obama about the slippage between telling the truth and speaking in a prophetic voice! Maybe it's developed in his book, but I'd say, just offhand, that prophesy relates to the future, and, normally, when we talk about telling the truth, it relates to the present and the past. 

AND: I don't think the book uses the idea of the "prophetic voice," because I'm not seeing that phrase in connection with the book title. What I can see is that Obama's early speeches, when he first ran for President, were discussed in terms of a "prophetic" tradition among black Americans. I suspect that Obama conflated telling the truth about racism with speaking in the lofty, inspirational style associated with Martin Luther King, Jr.

June 1, 2021

More sunrise.



Sunrise — 5:24


It just goes to show how wrong you can be.

(video autoplays, so it's after the jump:)

"In which academic discipline is this circular, naive, deer-caught-in-the-headlights response to a basic and urgent question considered insightful or excellent?"

"I think people aren’t returning because restaurant work sucks, is underpaid or provides no upward mobility or benefits. The pandemic has laid bare this reality, and people just don’t want to do it anymore. Ever."

Said New Orleans chef Jason Goodenough, quoted in "Opinion: Those $300 pandemic checks aren’t the only reason restaurant employees might not want to go back to work" (WaPo).

Also at WaPo "There’s a massive child-care worker shortage and the market can’t fix it/Unlike restaurants and other industries, child-care centers can’t raise pay to attract and retain workers — and President Biden’s American Families Plan doesn’t go far enough to address the problem." 

Child care is about the last sector in which you want to see high churn and programs scraping for warm bodies.... Child-care programs don’t obey the classic rules of supply and demand; many experts consider the sector a failed market.... Unless we want child care to become a luxury good or a low-quality morass, public money is necessary.... Do we really want programs caring for toddlers and their rapidly developing brains to be competing for staff with fast food joints and big box stores...? Do we want market forces determining whether parents have viable, quality options for their care/work arrangements?

"Cycling through rural China is 'actually easy' now.... with expanded ranks of English speakers plus phone translation, mapping and booking software."

"He says there are a few areas where foreigners aren’t allowed, such as around military sites, 'but you normally just get politely turned out.' Overall, 'people are extremely helpful and nice to people on bikes here.'" 

Says the Washington Post, in "What it’s like to solo cycle through rural China/Three cyclists share their stories."

The most-liked comment over there fixates on the 4th sentence of the article: "Now 40, Rosenberg has a collection of tattoos joining the scars she incurred at 20 years old when a swimming pool explosion shattered her leg."

The commenter says: "Wait, what? Swimming pool explosion? You can’t just gloss over that."

Others: "That's exactly what I said!"/"Maybe a chlorinator mixing incident?? I’m also curious!"/"Yeah I saw that in your other comment. I want know the story in this specific case." 

There's a link to an article at the National Library of Medicine: "Explosion risk from swimming pool chlorinators and review of chlorine toxicity."

FROM THE EMAIL: DanTheMan writes: "The author doesn’t mention that Chinese GPS is purposely distorted, and thus it would be rather hazardous to rely on your phone for navigation. It's s like the old Soviet Union, where accurate city maps were considered state secrets." He links to this: 

May 31, 2021


Wild geranium.


"China said on Monday that it would allow all married couples to have three children, ending a two-child policy that has failed to raise the country’s declining birthrates and avert a demographic crisis."

"The announcement by the ruling Communist Party represents an acknowledgment that its limits on reproduction, the world’s toughest, have jeopardized the country’s future. The labor pool is shrinking and the population is graying, threatening the industrial strategy that China has used for decades to emerge from poverty to become an economic powerhouse. But it is far from clear that relaxing the policy further will pay off. People in China have responded coolly to the party’s earlier move, in 2016, to allow couples to have two children.... China’s family planning restrictions date to 1980, when the party first imposed a 'one-child' policy to slow population growth and bolster the economic boom that was then just beginning. Officials often employed brutal tactics as they forced women to get abortions or be sterilized, and the policy soon became a source of public discontent. In 2013, as Chinese officials began to understand the implications of the country’s aging population, the government allowed parents who were from one-child families to have two children themselves. Two years later, the limit was raised to two children for everyone."

And now it's 3 — but only 3 and only for married couples.

The NYT reports.

"Seriousness is not a virtue. It would be a heresy, but a much more sensible heresy, to say that seriousness is a vice."

"It is really a natural trend or lapse into taking one's self gravely, because it is the easiest thing to do. It is much easier to write a good Times leading article than a good joke in Punch. For solemnity flows out of men naturally; but laughter is a leap. It is easy to be heavy: hard to be light. Satan fell by the force of gravity."

A quote by G.K. Chesterton that I bumbled into this morning as I attempted to research the hypothesis: Seriousness is not serious. But what is the source of this hypothesis?, you may ask. Ha ha. You probably have many other questions, and yet you have no reason to think I will answer them.

"The reason we’re still watching Bond movies after more than 50 years is that the family has done an extraordinary job of protecting the character through the thickets of moviemaking and changing public tastes."

"Corporate partners come and go, but James Bond endures. He endures precisely because he is being protected by people who love him. The current deal with Amazon gives Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson, who own 50 percent of the Bond empire, ironclad assurances of continued artistic control. But will this always be the case?... The Bond movies are truly the most bespoke and handmade films I’ve ever worked on. That’s why they are original, thorny, eccentric and special. They were never created with lawyers and accountants and e-commerce mass marketing pollsters hovering in the background. This is also why they can afford to be daring."

Writes John Logan in "I Wrote James Bond Movies. The Amazon-MGM Deal Gives Me Chills" (NYT).

So... keep James Bond James Bond, right? Think again! Here's Logan's favorite thing that happened in the making of "Skyfall":

Sam Mendes, the director, and I marched into Barbara and Michael’s office, sat at the family table and pitched the first scene between Bond and the villain, Raoul Silva. Now, the moment 007 first encounters his archnemesis is often the iconic moment in a Bond movie, the scene around which you build a lot of the narrative and cinematic rhythms.... Well, Sam and I boldly announced we wanted to do this pivotal scene as a homoerotic seduction. Barbara and Michael didn’t need to poll a focus group. They didn’t need to vet this radical idea with any studio or corporation — they loved it instantly. They knew it was fresh and new, provocative in a way that keeps the franchise contemporary. They weren’t afraid of controversy. In my experience, not many big movies can work with such freedom and risky joy.

"Task-driven, repetitive, monotonous but immersive, often very frustrating, it’s exactly like having a bullshit job."

"The best thing about childhood, the bit that makes up for people constantly telling you what to do and where to be, is that you have those years outside the productive economy, where no one thinks to measure your worth by the net value you create, where all you have to do is grow and be endearing. While it remains the case that none of them is creating any value, in every other respect they are at the coal face, wage slaves without the wages. I’m worried that the kids have a seriousness of purpose, a rigidity of application totally out of whack with the task in hand, that nobody should rightly learn until their mid-20s...."

From "Video games have turned my kids into wage slaves – but without the wages" by Zoe Williams (The Guardian).

May 30, 2021

I'll end the blogging day, once again, with the sunrise.


"The humor in 'Seinfeld' is a bit too gritty and New York-specific... while 'The Big Bang Theory' could come across as too much of a 'scientific nerd thing.'"

"'Other shows do work,' [said someone who teaches how to speak like an American]. 'Friends’ just seems to have the magic something that is even more attractive.' Fans and educators on three continents echo the sentiment, saying that 'Friends' is a near-perfect amalgam of easy-to-understand English and real-life scenarios that feel familiar even to people who live worlds away from Manhattan’s West Village. Kim Sook-han, 45, known in South Korea for her YouTube videos about teaching herself English, said that the show helped her understand the basics of American culture, including which holidays are celebrated in the United States, as well as how people there deal with conflicts between friends and family members."

From "How ‘Friends’ Helps People Around the World Learn English/Language teachers say the show is a near-perfect amalgam of easy-to-understand English and real-life scenarios that feel familiar even to people who live worlds away from the West Village" (NYT).

Here's something linked in the article: speech instructor Rachel Smith using Rachel Green to demonstrate how to sound American (or, for us Americans, how much we know instinctively about how to sound like ourselves):

Smith has many videos, but that one concentrates on a few lines spoken by Jennifer Aniston. You learn how letters are dropped and stress and pitch are used. Very interesting! It's easy to figure out on your own why Aniston is used as a model. She sounds like a real American speaking normally. Imagine teaching non-English speakers how to talk like an American by using Jerry Seinfeld. That would be hilarious. And very wrong. Similarly, however, you could get in trouble talking like the Friends — especially if you handled stress and cadence like Chandler. Actually, all the men talk in a comically strange way. 

As for learning the culture of America by watching "Friends," that's pretty tricky too! The Friends actually do a lot of things that are socially unacceptable — notably, sexual harassment in the workplace — and because they are all nice looking and mutually supportive — and because it's 20+ years in the past — you could get the wrong idea about how to act like an American.

And yet "Friends" models a very mainstream American view of how life should be lived. You struggle with your job and your love life when you're in your 20s, but then you find a good career that you like and that establishes you firmly in the middle class, and you find someone to marry who becomes the center of your life — a life with children. "Seinfeld" did not have that. It had outsiders who actively repelled conventional love, and the only one who had job satisfaction was the one whose job was to stand apart as an outsider and make comic observations about all those normal people whose lives he did not envy or admire in the slightest.

FROM THE EMAIL: Justin points me to this old Conan O’Brien clip that seems to embody the exact point I was making in my last paragraph:

5:24 a.m.


"The flagship commemoration event to mark the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre was scrapped after three survivors demanded $1 million each to appear."

"Monday's Remember & Rise event - which was also set to feature John Legend and Stacey Abrams - was called off on Friday after survivors Viola Fletcher, 107, her brother Hughes Van Ellis, 100 and Lessie Benningfield Randle, 106, upped their appearance fee from $100,000 each to $1 million each."

The Daily Mail reports. 

Pandemic?! Don't you mean the riots?

I'm seeing this headline on the front page of the NYT website: "Pandemic Fuels Surge in U.S. Gun Sales ‘Unlike Anything We’ve Ever Seen.'" Clicking through, I see the headline "An Arms Race in America: Gun Buying Spiked During the Pandemic. It’s Still Up. Preliminary research data show that about a fifth of all Americans who bought guns last year were first-time gun owners." 

It's absurd to state — as if it's a fact — that the pandemic "fueled" the surge when there were riots and the police stood down and did not protect the citizens! I personally got trained to use a gun last summer, and I fired a gun for the first time in my life. That had nothing to do with the pandemic. It was about civil disorder threatening my neighborhood and the manifest unwillingness of the city to keep order. You're on your own, we were told, quite plainly.

Let's see how obtusely the article avoids taking self-defense seriously. Guns aren't a way to defend yourself from the pandemic, so we look like idiots arming ourselves against that. I'd like to see if the NYT respects those of us who are actually thinking rationally about self-defense.

Paragraph 3 of the article alludes to the riots, but look how the NYT strains to undermine the rationality of decision to own a gun:

While gun sales have been climbing for decades — they often spike in election years and after high-profile crimes — Americans have been on an unusual, prolonged buying spree fueled by the coronavirus pandemic, the protests last summer and the fears they both stoked. 

Not "riots," not even "disorder" — "protests." As if the gun purchasers are afraid of ideas that were expressed. Buying guns was a "spree" — "spree" sounds irrational — and it was "fueled" — as if it's a fire — by "fear" — and that fear sounds irrational, because it's a reaction to "protests" and the pandemic — 2 things that are not properly addressed by owning a gun.  

In the sixth paragraph, we see some very interesting facts:

"Someone must explain why celebrities running for office is a recurring nightmare we cannot seem to shake. The Rock, Caitlyn Jenner, Matthew McConaughey, Randy Quaid."

"They all have suggested lately that when it comes to running the country, they have what it takes. And they do: malignant narcissism," said Bill Maher on his show Friday night: 

"The last four years was a warning, not an inspiration. You were supposed to see that and think, 'I guess high-level government jobs should go to people who have trained for it and know what they're doing.'..." 

The problem with that is that we don't think people in politics know what they are doing. 

"Let me put it bluntly to you and all of these show biz candidates. You're not good enough, you're not smart enough, and, doggone it, it completely doesn't matter that people like you. They like you now because you're an entertainer and thus largely uncontroversial. Governing is the opposite. If you think you can unite the country, you're delusional."

I didn't personally transcribe that. I relied on the transcription at The Hill, but I made one correction: "doggone it." The Hill has "dog on it," which made me laugh... then made me wonder what "doggone it" represents. Are we supposed to see the word "gone"? It's not as though "dog gone it" makes sense. 

Grammarphobia writes: 

"Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head"/"Hooked on a Feeling."

Goodbye to B.J. Thomas, who has died at the age of 78. 

It seems that every headline about his death identifies him as either the "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" singer or the "Hooked on a Feeling" singer.

You must pick one:
pollcode.com free polls


ADDED: A reader named Christopher emails:

I don't know how rough a time he had recently--it sounds pretty rough--but a scant four years ago, he was still able to sing like this. 
Also of some note, key lyrics are a changed from what I recall of the original, replacing the doomed drag racer with perhaps a simpler portrait of a man beautifully in love.


Beautiful song and performance. He sounds — and looks — great there. And I love the Larry's Diner set.

I love the original Beach Boys song, but here at Meadhouse, we have a special love for the Ronnie Spector version. She goes ahead and sings those drag racing lines, without changing them at all, so that the woman is the drag racer.