June 26, 2021

Let me end the blogging day with another Tower of Babel.

This is an engraving by Coenraet Decker for a scholarly work called "Turris Babel" by Athanasius Kircher, published in 1679. According to Wikipedia, Kircher applied modern science to the account in the Book of Genesis. He wrote that it was impossible to build a tower that would reach Heaven:

He explained that the distance from the earth to the lowest celestial sphere, that of the Moon, was twenty-five earth diameters. There were not enough building materials in the world to construct a tower so high, and if it had been built it would have pulled the entire planet over out of its equilibrium at the centre of the universe, causing darkness and extreme climate change in many parts of the world.

"At that time my lord Marduk told me in regard to E-temen-anki, the ziqqurrat of Babylon, which before my day was (already) very weak and badly buckled, to ground its bottom..."

"... on the breast of the netherworld, to make its top vie with the heavens.... I had them shape mud bricks without number and mould baked bricks like countless raindrops. I had the River Arahtu bear asphalt and bitumen like a mighty flood. Through the sagacity of Ea, through the intelligence of Marduk, through the wisdom of Nabû and Nissaba, by means of the vast mind that the god who created me let me possess, I deliberated with my great intellect, I commissioned the wisest experts and the surveyor established the dimensions with the twelve-cubit rule. The master-builders drew taut the measuring cords, they determined the limits.... I fashioned representations of my royal likeness bearing a soil-basket, and positioned (them) variously in the foundation platform. I bowed my neck to my lord Marduk. I rolled up my garment, my kingly robe, and carried on my head bricks and earth...."

From the inscription by King Nabopolassar at Etemenanki, the "temple of the foundation of heaven and earth," built in Babylon some time between the 14th and the 9th century BCE. 

It may have been the basis for the Biblical story of the Tower of Babel, which I was reading about this morning not because of the fall of the Champlain Tower in Florida — blogged here at 5:43 a.m. — but because of "The Tower" by Frank Gehry — blogged here at 6:21 a.m. — which reminded me of an especially familiar painting of the Tower of Babel, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder.

I'll embed the Bruegel again...

... so you can compare it to a model of Etemenanki:

Bruegel imagined a circular building, which Wikipedia tells us was based on the Colosseum in Rome. The 1927 movie "Metropolis" has a Tower of Babel sequence — watch the crisp clip here — that uses the Bruegel design. "Metropolis" emphasizes the extreme division between the elite who thought up the design and the workers who built it. The building falls because the workers revolt. By contrast, according to that inscription at Etemenanki, the King himself rolls up his sleeves and gets to work carrying bricks. 

But that's propaganda, isn't it? An inscription. Perhaps the King showed up at the wall one day and carried a few bricks the way a President of the United States might pick up a shovel and do a ground-breaking photo op.

"Is the Forced Contraception Alleged by Britney Spears Legal?/The United States has a dark history of court-sanctioned sterilization, but more recent rulings and legislation suggest it would violate a basic right."

A NYT article by Jan Hoffman: 

The scant law on the question in conservatorship indicates what an outlier the Spears case may be. In 1985, the California Supreme Court denied the petition of guardian parents of a 29-year-old woman with Down syndrome who wanted her to undergo a tubal ligation.

Typically, a conservator has temporary control over the finances and even medical care of an incapacitated person... If a guardian fears that a ward will make financially unwise choices, “the remedy is not to say they can’t procreate,” said Sylvia Law, a health law scholar at New York University School of Law. “It’s unspeakable.”

According to experts in trust and estate law, the handful of cases in which a guardian, usually a parent, has asked a court to order contraception involved severely disabled children. “Such a child would lack the capacity to understand that a penis and vagina could make a baby,” said Bridget J. Crawford, an expert on guardianship law at Pace University law school. “And that certainly is not the Britney Spears case.”

Britney Spears is 39-years-old, so the conservator's decision that she cannot remove the IUD is very close to a determination that she can never have another child. She does have 2 sons, and the breakdown that led to the conservatorship happened right after she lost custody of them. I'm seeing that she was led to believe at the time that the conservatorship would help her regain custody. They are teenagers now, 15 and 14, so the time for living closely with them is also ending:

"We wanted to evoke the local, from Van Gogh's Starry Night to the soaring rock clusters you find in the region.... The manner in which Van Gogh rendered Les Alpilles influenced the development of the exterior cladding of the building."

Said Frank Gehry, quoted in "Frank Gehry unveils The Tower, a stainless steel-clad arts building for Luma Arles" (Dezeen). Here's Gehry's new building:

Here's Van Gogh's rendering of Les Alpilles:

Did Gehry evoke Van Gogh to good effect?
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ADDED: Gehry's Tower reminds me of the depiction of the Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (from 1563):



"Surfside’s mayor, Charles W. Burkett, said on Friday that he was worried about the stability of the north building but did not feel 'philosophically comfortable' ordering people to evacuate."

I'm reading "Engineer Warned of ‘Major Structural Damage’ at Florida Condo Complex/A consultant in 2018 urged the managers to repair cracked columns and crumbling concrete. The work was finally about to get underway when the building collapsed" (NYT).

In retrospect, we naturally feel that the building should have been evacuated, and it seems perverted for the mayor not to have felt "philosophically comfortable" with ordering evacuation. 

But how many mayors right now are on notice of major structural damage equivalent to that 2018 report on Champlain Towers? Will they order people to evacuate? Or will the "philosophical comfort" remain on the side of letting people stay in their homes?

We're built to feel secure in the sense that things will remain as they are. We get into our bed at night and — most of us — trust that we'll arise in the morning. A meteorite or tornado or heart attack might make this night drastically different, but we need to expect another typical night. What a mess we'd be if we didn't. We'd be full of cracks and crumbling. 

So do you think now the mayors of America will be ordering the condo dwellers out of their homes whenever there are reports of cracks and crumbling at the level Burkett saw in the Champlain Towers?

FROM THE EMAIL: Kylos writes:
Reading your post about the mayor’s comments, I thought his opposition to evacuation came before the tower’s collapse. But reading the article, it seems he is opposed to now evacuating a nearby tower built at the same time that is nearly identical to the one that collapsed. I’m not sure if the mistake is just mine but thought it was worth mentioning.
Wow! You are right, and I am surprised to see that. I guess that answers my questions. Mayors will not be ordering evacuations.

"In 1968, he bought his first Bob Dylan album, 'John Wesley Harding,' and worked backward from there."

"He and his friends would sit around for hours nodding along to Dylan’s obscure lyrics as though they understood every word. It was like a microcosm of adolescence, he told me, pretending to know while knowing nothing. Ishiguro wasn’t just bluffing, though. From Dylan, as well as Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell, he learned about the possibilities of the first-person: how a character could be summoned into being with just a few words.... 'You probably work harder at your job than I do,' Ishiguro said one evening in early December.... 'Speaking of his comparatively small output, Ishiguro said: 'I don’t have any regrets about it. In some ways, I suppose, I’m just not that dedicated to my vocation. I expect it’s because writing wasn’t my first choice of profession. It’s almost something I fell back on because I couldn’t make it as a singer-songwriter. It’s not something I’ve wanted to do every minute of my life. It’s what I was permitted to do. So, you know, I do it when I really want to do it, but otherwise I don’t.':

From "Kazuo Ishiguro Sees What the Future Is Doing to Us," a NYT article about the Nobel laureate by Giles Harvey, published last February. I'm reading it this morning because I'm getting around to listening to things I saved in my Audm app. 

You probably work harder at your job than I do... I’m just not that dedicated to my vocation....

It's so rare to get that from a highly accomplished person. Usually what we hear is that success is mostly about the very hard work you put on top of whatever basic talent you have. Ishiguro has written only 8 novels. He works very intensely at times, but he also takes lots of time off. 

Between the lines in that article, I'm reading that he's as good as he is because of all the refreshment time and because writing novels is not where he set his ambition when he was young. He wanted to be a singer-songwriter. It's the reverse of Leonard Cohen. 

As for Dylan, there are many here among us who spent our early years absorbing his influence. We all started somewhere. Ishiguro's entry point was the album "John Wesley Harding." I went in through "Bringing It All Back Home."

June 25, 2021

"Fragile! Turtle nest site! Stay clear! Curb your dog!

The little white flag is a nice touch:


I found this makeshift turtle protection by the bike path along the shore of Lake Mendota.

"The government still has no explanation for nearly all of the scores of unidentified aerial phenomena reported over almost two decades and investigated by a Pentagon task force..."

"... according to a report released on Friday, a result that is likely to fuel theories of otherworldly visitations. A total of 143 reports gathered since 2004 remain unexplained, the document released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said. Of those, 21 reports of unknown phenomena, involving 18 episodes, possibly demonstrate technological capabilities that are unknown to the United States: objects moving without observable propulsion or with rapid acceleration that is believed to be beyond the capabilities of Russia, China or other terrestrial nations. There is no evidence that any of the episodes involve secret American weapons programs, unknown technology from Russia or China or extraterrestrial visitations. But the government report did not rule out those explanations."

The NYT reports.

Let's assume they're not lying when they say it's not some secret American technology....

What do you *want* the answer to be?
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"In Auschwitz, Mr. Wisnia became a privileged prisoner when his Nazi captors discovered his talent and forced him to sing for them."

"In spite of the horrors of the death camp, Mr. Wisnia found clandestine moments of love with another privileged prisoner, an older woman known as Zippi. This was Helen Spitzer, a graphic designer from Bratislava, Slovakia, who he would learn decades later had saved his life on numerous occasions. In hidden nooks where she arranged for them to meet, the two sang to each other and found moments of humanity. As the Allies drove the Nazis into retreat, Mr. Wisnia and Zippi were forced apart: She was ordered on a death march north to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, and he marched south to Dachau. He soon escaped and stumbled upon a regiment of American soldiers with the 101st Airborne Division who adopted him, using him as an interpreter. By the time Mr. Wisnia and Zippi (who escaped from the Nazis in May 1945) reunited 72 years later in Manhattan, the two had lived long, diverging lives… Mr. Wisnia sang to the very end of his life…. ‘Always singing.’”

From “He Sang for His Captors at Auschwitz. 75 Years Later, He Sang There Again/David Wisnia, whose tale of endurance and love during the Holocaust touched readers around the world, has died at 94” (NYT)

"We regard the Lesbian Avengers bomb logo and activist history as the intellectual and moral property of the Lesbian Avengers."

"No individual or member has the legal right to license it for profit. Our organization and movement then as now oppose the commodification and co-optation of our lives and history, what some today call 'Rainbow Capitalism.' We oppose commercial licensing of the Lesbian Avenger name, logo, or history – then, now and in the future."

From "AN OPEN LETTER from the NY 90s LESBIAN AVENGERS to the GAP" (PDF dated June 18, 2020), which I learned about reading "The Lesbian Avengers Will Not Be Commodified/At least, not by the Gap" (NYT).

The Gap has taken the shirt off its website, but it should be noted that it didn't simply appropriate the design. It bought it from the designer, Carrie Moyer. Moyer said:

"To be honest, at first, I didn’t even think they were going to want to use it because it’s more provocative than how they’re attempting to depict gay people."

Yes, the usual idea is the rainbow. A bomb with a lit fuse is pretty inconsistent:

But it's a bomb from women, so sexism — the idea that women are gentle and sweet — pads the message.

The Lesbian Avengers have been around since 1992. "Avengers" was chosen out of love for the Diana Rigg, star of the TV show "The Avengers." 

Moyer saw the little bomb icon at the bottom of a leaflet that somebody else designed for the group. Moyer then chose to put the bomb in the center of a logo with the lettering of the group's name around it. The group voted to adopt the logo. It had more to do with wanting to look like they had a sense of humor than that they were threatening violence. 

Quite aside from the issue of the group wanting to control its own logo, the Gap shirt has the names of the founders of the group on the back. I suppose the Gap people thought these women would just appreciate the support and publicity! 

The Gap "bypassed love-is-love platitudes to sell a memory of a community’s radical roots — for $34.95." Presumably, it's worth lots more now that it's been withdrawn. And yet the logo is out there everywhere, and anyone can get it printed on a white T-shirt for a lot less than $35. What failed was the Gap's attempt to put that branding on itself. Why the Gap would want to be associated with vengeance and bombing can only be answered by understanding sexism: It's just girls fighting.

"We are, all of us, in a constant stage of negotiation with the political and cultural forces attempting to shape us into simple, translatable packages."

"Trans people, by necessity, are more aware of these forces; that fluency is a strength, and it has afforded us an opportunity to question the stories about the 'biology' of gender that are so foundational to American culture: Do we all really want to co-sign the notion that a uterus, and thus reproductive potential, is how we define womanhood? When a nonbinary person births a child, why must the birth certificate dictate that the person who gave birth is a 'mother,' and what does being a 'mother' even mean, exactly? What might it mean for all parents if 'mother' and 'father' were not such distinct categories in child-rearing? Who benefits from their continuing separation?"

Writes Thomas Page McBee in "What I Saw in My First 10 Years on Testosterone" (NYT).

"Staving Off G.O.P. Attacks, Democrats Show New Urgency on Crime/A strong showing by Eric Adams in the New York mayoral race and President Biden’s announcement of a new crime-fighting agenda signal a shift by Democrats toward themes of public safety."

The NYT reports. 

The article calls Biden's speech his "the most muscular response so far." If he hasn't been tough on crime all along, it's silly to refer to his new speech as "the most muscular."  

The Democratic Party is, we're told, suddenly shifting to "themes of public safety." They're going to "to lean hard into that issue in the coming month." 

"Lean hard" after "most muscular" seems to be ludicrously straining toward macho masculinity. The article even says that Biden's speech happening at the same time as Adams's achieve caused an "artificially sudden climax." That is, the Democratic Party had intended to arrive at this new postition in a more slow and elegant fashion, but Adams's performance made it so crudely obvious and intense. 

Adams "derid[ed] 'Defund the Police' activists as a collection of affluent whites and accus[ed] a progressive rival, Maya Wiley, of focusing on left-wing sloganeering 'at a time when Black and brown babies are being shot in our streets.'" 

ADDED: Interestingly, Adams did well in the black neighborhoods that the "Defund the Police" activists portray themselves as wanting to help. Wiley was the Defund the Police candidate, and she did best among the affluent people who are asked to give up their white privilege for the sake of others.

"Now, after the building suddenly pancaked in the first hours of Thursday, at least 99 people were missing, presumed to be in the rubble..."

"... feared to be crushed under the unfathomable weight of a 55-unit wing of the condominium tower. They were aging denizens of Miami Beach and affluent Latin Americans whose condominiums by the sea were part-time homes. They were snowbirds who hadn’t quite made it back north for the summer and year-round residents hunkered down for South Florida’s stickiest months. They lived in a 40-year-old beachfront building that offered views of the ocean and the Intracoastal Waterway, of sunrise and sunset.... The building crumpled at 1:30 a.m. It fell in less than 10 seconds. The sound was horrific. The earth shook. Many of the residents, most presumably asleep at that hour, have not been heard from.... 'I called her a million times today and she doesn’t pick up, you know what I mean?'"

From "Asleep in their beachfront condos, they vanished into a mountain of rubble" (WaPo).

June 24, 2021

Sunrise, 5:23.


Actual sunrise time today: 5:19.

"Pure left-stereotyping of gay people."

"Are the reasons you believe that people should not be telling Breyer to retire substantive as much as practical? In other words, is your fear solely that telling him to retire will make him want to do the opposite so as not to appear political, or do you also think that there are good reasons that he should not retire immediately?"

Sometimes one just slams right up against the horrific shallowness of legal scholarship, and you can only hope to have kept enough of your wits about you to feel a slight pain. And so I twinge as I read Isaac Chotiner in The New Yorker. That's his question above, all multilayered but still paper-thin. Tiresomely, he called up a law professor — Noah Feldman — to produce a transcript, thereby creating a text that must look substantial to some readers.

"Last winter, Britta Grace Thorpe was in bed at her parents’ home, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, in the depths of a late-night TikTok binge..."

"... when one video broke the reverie. Soft harp sounds played, and then a female voice began a gentle but insistent monologue: 'You have to start romanticizing your life. You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character. ’Cause if you don’t, life will continue to pass you by.' Onscreen, an overhead shot showed a young blond woman sprawled on a blanket on the beach, looking up at the camera, surrounded by friends who are oblivious to the lens. Sparkles from a TikTok filter bedazzle the footage. The woman gazes serenely skyward, as if wholly satisfied with her life. The ethereal video played the same role for Thorpe that an antique sculpture did for Rainer Maria Rilke in his poem 'Archaic Torso of Apollo': It instructed, 'You must change your life.' 'It was a wake-up call,' Thorpe, who is twenty-three, said, adding, 'Everything made sense in that moment, and I was, like, Wow, I’m doing it wrong, I’m living my life incorrectly.'"

So begins "We All Have 'Main-Character Energy' Now/On social media post-pandemic, everyone is ready to become a protagonist" (The New Yorker). 

The linked video was made by a 26-year-old named Ashley Ward in May 2020, and The New Yorker doesn't miss that there already was a "main character" meme on TikTok. I get the feeling the article was written before that discordant reality was noticed and inserted — minimally. So let's switch over to Know Your Meme, which calls Ward's video "sincere." And:

The first main character TikTok video is unknown. On May 11th, 2020, Twitter user and TikToker @lexapro_lesbian posted the first known main character TikTok that sparked the surge in the trend. @lexapro_lesbian reposted her original TikTok video of herself singing about how it's time to walk around her neighborhood because she's the main character (shown below).

Yes, I love the little song and the lighthearted satire:

And for you upscale characters, here's the Rilke poem:

"So, for the new study, which was published in April in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the Texas scientists recruited eight healthy young men and women and asked them to spend a full day at the lab seated..."

"... rising only to eat or visit the bathroom. The next morning, the volunteers returned to the lab for a high-fat breakfast of melted ice cream and half and half, while the scientists monitored their bodies’ metabolic response during the next six hours. Then, on a separate day, the volunteers sat again, except for a few seconds each hour, when they sprinted." 

From "The 4-Second Workout/Intense bursts of exercise throughout the day may have surprising metabolic benefits" (NYT).

1. That was mean, melting the ice cream.

2.  So... I guess you can give up your long wholesome outings running and hiking and just sit slumping over your computer all day, every day if — every time you need to go get some food or pee — you just run like hell. 

3. Clear the pathways to the kitchen and bathroom so you don't stumble and fall, undoing the health benefits.

Glenn Loury talks to Charles Murray about the "shift away from racism as a moral issue to accusations of racism as a kind of attack on [white people] as people."

"So, this morning, the baby woke up, and she had some kind of violence in her heart.... Stop trying to make her feel better. Stop responding to her tears. It's so interesting to see the conditioning of people responding to white girl tears..."

"We have to unlearn this whole business that women crying is going to get them what they want in life, because... that ain't it."

June 23, 2021



"The control he had over someone as powerful as me — he loved the control to hurt his own daughter 100,000%. He loved it...."

"I worked seven days a week, no days off, which in California, the only similar thing to this is called sex trafficking. Making anyone work against their will, taking all their possessions away — credit card, cash, phone passport — and placing them in a home where they work with the people who live with them. They all lived in the house with me, the nurses, the 24-7 security. There was one chef that came there and cooked for me daily during the weekdays. They watched me change every day — morning, noon and night. I had no privacy, I get eight gallons of blood a week... ... I’ve lied and told the whole world 'I’m okay. And I’m happy.' It’s a lie. ...I’ve been in denial. I’ve been in shock. I am traumatized. You know, fake it till you make it. But now I’m telling you the truth. Okay? I’m not happy. I can’t sleep. I’m so angry. It’s insane. And I’m depressed. I cry every day...."

From "Read Britney Spears’ Full Statement Against Conservatorship: ‘I Am Traumatized’" (Variety).

"Antivirus software tycoon John McAfee apparently hanged himself in a Spanish jail cell on Wednesday — just hours after a court ruled he would be extradited to face federal charges in the US."

 NY Post reports.

"If Black lives really matter, it can't only be against police abuse - it has to be against the violence that's ripping apart our communities."

Said Eric Adams, quoted in "Defying 'defund police' calls, Democrat Adams leads NYC mayor's race" (Reuters). 

His success could offer clues about where Democratic voters stand on policing issues ahead of next year's congressional midterm elections. With Republicans preparing to blame Democrats and the "defund" movement for a spike in homicides across U.S. cities, the Democratic Party could be forced to navigate progressive calls to reduce police budgets with combating rising crime.

"Mommy!! I won!!! Mommy, I'm the mayor of Buffalo!!! Well, not until January, but yeah. Like, yes. Yes, mom."


"India B. Walton, the community activist barely known to many Buffalo voters just months ago, shocked four-term incumbent Byron W. Brown in Tuesday's Democratic primary for mayor in what may rank as the most historic upset in the city's political history.... Her victory followed a left-leaning campaign that built surprising strength in finances and organization in its closing days. While Brown, 62, aired soft TV ads that seemed to reflect strength and confidence, Walton jabbed the mayor as out of touch with average voters, under investigation by a federal grand jury, and a pawn of 'billionaire' donors unwilling to relinquish his 16-year grip on City Hall" — The Buffalo News reports.

I'm no fan of left-wing mayoring, but that video makes me cry!

The NYT article points out that Walton will be "the first socialist mayor of a major American city since 1960, when Frank P. Zeidler stepped down as Milwaukee’s mayor."

"Supreme Court Rules Against... a unique state regulation allowing labor representatives to meet with farm workers at their workplaces for up to three hours a day for as many as 120 days a year."

"Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said that 'the access regulation grants labor organizations a right to invade the growers’ property.' That meant, he wrote, that it was a taking of private property without just compensation. The decision did away with a major achievement of the farmworkers’ movement led by Cesar Chavez in the 1970s, which had argued that allowing organizers to enter workplaces was the only practical way to give farmworkers, who can be nomadic and poorly educated, a realistic chance to consider joining a union.... Supreme Court precedents draw a distinction between two kinds of government takings of private property — those that physically claim a property interest and those that impose a regulatory burden. The first kind — 'per se' takings — requires compensation even if the property interest in question is minor. But regulations amount to takings only where the economic effect is significant. Chief Justice Roberts wrote that the access regulation was a per se taking...."

Writes Adam Liptak in the NYT.

Here's the opinion, Cedar Point Nursery v. Hassid. It's a 6-3 decision, with the Justices dividing in the way you'd guess.

"Young people need to have the ability to express themselves without worrying about being punished when they get to school."

"I never could have imagined that one simple snap would turn into a Supreme Court case, but I’m proud that my family and I advocated for the rights of millions of public school students."

Said Brandi Levy (now an 18-year-old college student), quoted in "Supreme Court sides with high school cheerleader in free-speech dispute over profane Snapchat rant" (WaPo).

The decision is 8-1, with only Justice Thomas dissenting, and Justice Breyer writing the opinion about Levy's barbaric yawp: "Fuck school, fuck softball, fuck cheer, fuck everything."

From the WaPo article (by Robert Barnes):

"He was so afraid of girls that he made a secret study of them, and the more he studied them, the more he feared them."

So reads an intertitle 1 minute and 19 seconds into the 1924 Harold Lloyd movie "Girl Shy" (which I watched because my son John identified it as his favorite movie of that year). 

The character is what these days we might call an "incel." He's also, essentially, a pornographer, to the extent such a person could appear in a mainstream movie in 1924. He is writing "The Secret of Making Love" by thinking up a stereotypical female and dictating the right approach for the male to gain the quickest possible sexual access...


The access is indicated by his putting a check by her name in his little book. If you watch that clip, you'll see his visualization of the seduction of, first, the "vampire" (i.e., the vamp) and, second, the flapper. In case you'd like to know this pathetic little man's imagined mode of conquest, the vampire is seduced by ignoring her (negging?), and the flapper responds to his acting like a "caveman" (domestic violence?). 

Of course, this is played (successfully!) as comedy, and of course, our little man — Harold Meadows — finds a real woman to love. Here, he tries to tell her about his book, gets carried away in rhapsodizing about the new direction of his next chapter, and is thwarted by a turtle who slowly drags him into the muck where he becomes embarrassingly gooey and sticky. He's sitting on the turtle, which I have to say represents his genitalia:

So you want to celebrate Juneteenth? What foods do you serve?

An IKEA store in Georgia sent out this email, the NY Post reports

“To honor the perseverance of Black Americans and acknowledge the progress yet to be made, we observe Juneteenth on Saturday, June 19, 2021. Look out for a special menu on Saturday which will include: fried chicken, watermelon, mac n cheese, potato salad, collard greens, candied yams.”

That, we're told, was "intensely problematic." But what foods would be right? Or is the whole idea of a food-based celebration problematic? Is it enough just to exclude the watermelon? Or is it also the fried chicken? Or is it everything?

We pretty much all know — don't we? — that Juneteenth isn't going to be like St. Patrick's Day. We like to say: "Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day." There's exaggerated Irishness everywhere, and everyone is encouraged to eat the most stereotypically Irish foods and to drink Irish drinks to stereotypically Irish excess. Maybe that needs to be problematized. 

But whatever... obviously Juneteenth isn't going to work like St. Patrick's Day. I hesitate even to type the phrase "Everyone is black on Juneteenth." It's so wrong.

Still: We've got a new holiday. There needs to be a way to celebrate it, unless it's going to be a extension of Black History Month — a somber observance. To celebrate, we'll need foods. But if the attitude is worrying about giving offense, how will it be a celebration? It really is intensely problematic.

"Four Saudis who took part in the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi are reported to have received paramilitary training in the US."

"The training was provided by the security company Tier 1 Group, which is owned by the private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management, under a contract approved by the State Department, according to The New York Times. Louis Bremer, a Cerberus senior executive, said that the training was 'protective in nature' and took place in 2017, a year before the murder of Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist and critic of the Saudi government. It is said to have included 'safe marksmanship' and 'countering an attack' as well as surveillance work and close-quarters fighting."

The London Times reports.

"Nassib could be recruited to star in ads for outspoken brands such as Nike or Gillette, which have previously produced commercials that address racial justice and harmful masculine stereotypes...."

I'm reading "Brands could flock to Nassib after historic coming out announcement" (Reuters). 

So... some companies are going to want to use Nassib, but — according to some marketing expert — they need to be concerned about looking like that's what they're doing. He says: "Rainbow-washing is real."

Rainbow-washing. I'd never noticed that term before, but Googling it, I see it's all over the place. I'll just choose one article: "Rainbow-washing is all the rage among the big corporations this month" (Mic):

Scrolling through your social media feeds, you're likely spotting more and more rainbow avatars as everyone celebrates Pride Month. Some change their avatars to signal they are part of the LGBTQ+ community, others to show their love and support. And then others — read: massive corporations that often have a history of discriminatory policies or affiliations with anti-LGBTQ+ politicians — try to use the rainbow flag as a Band-Aid to cover up all their insidious behavior during the rest of the year. There's a word for this: rainbow-washing.

So, originally the term referred to the rainbow visuals. It's a variation on the familiar term "white-washing," which, of course, isn't about white people but has to do with covering something with a layer of white paint. It's superficial and doesn't deal with deeper problems.  

The marketing expert in the Nassib article is using the term to go beyond rainbows to similarly superficial things.

"Peter now needs constant supervision and does not appear to remember his second wedding."

"Soon Lisa will probably have to place him in a care home, but for now they can still live together. 'My mantra has always been to have no regrets,' said Lisa, who worked in radio advertising. The couple met in 2001 after both went through divorces while neighbours in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They have five children between them. When Lisa joined her husband to exchange vows for the second time, his delight was clear for all to see. 'It was just magical — straight out of a fairytale,' she said. She said the second wedding created indelible memories. As they danced while guests looked on, Lisa said her husband whispered a few words in her ear. 'Thank you for staying,' he said."

From "Husband with Alzheimer’s forgot he was married, so he did it again in Holyoke, Massachusetts" (London Times).  

Here's my earlier post about this couple, with video of the "wedding." I had to put "wedding" in quotes, because if it were a real wedding, it would be wrong, for at least 2 reasons. First, you can't marry when you are already married, which they were. Second, he lacks the cognitive power to agree to marriage. What's beautiful about this story is that the couple is already married, the woman is devoted to whatever she can still find in him, and the man is still alive enough to keep reaching out to her. 

The man has early-onset Alzheimer's and is only 58 years old.

June 22, 2021

Sunrise, 5:21 to 5:25.




"I will order their arrest. To protect the people, I have to sequester you in jail. Now choose — get vaccinated, or I’ll lock you up in a cell."

"If you don’t want to be vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and have the vaccine shot into your [buttocks]... If you don’t get vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want, or somewhere, America."

Said Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, quoted in The Washington Post.

"Either take the eye out, or she may not live"/"Allah is kind to have saved one of my eyes."

From "The deadly black fungus striking India’s recovering covid patients/Mucormycosis has killed hundreds in India and forced many to have an eye removed" (WaPo).

"I think for a lot of marginalized groups who’ve never had their stories told in the mainstream, the atomization has been pretty affirming."

"Because what kind of stories were we getting when there just were a few big hits? Too many that were interesting just to straight, white males.... There’s just no mechanism for reassembling all these more representative stories into a larger whole."

Said Laura Grindstaff, a sociology professor at University of California, Davis, who studies popular culture, quoted in "The TV hit isn’t just dying — it’s already dead/Astute observers of television say that the idea of a unifying show on even a modest scale is gone. In its wake are a hundred Twitter niches — and a dangerous lack of common culture" (WaPo).

What pushed me over the line to blog this is that name — Laura Grindstaff. Wow. It's like a character in "Hard Times" by Charles Dickens. Speaking of shared culture and white men and all that....

"It’s terrible. They’re laying on the ground. This is clearly a terrorist act against the LGBT community. This is exactly what it is. Hardly an accident. It was deliberate, it was premeditated."

Said Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis, an eyewitness to the incident, quoted in "Fort Lauderdale mayor apologizes after calling Pride Parade crash ‘terrorist attack’" (NY Post).

It turned out that Saturday’s deadly crash at the Stonewall Pride Parade in Wilton Manors was an accident, according to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, caused by a 77-year-old man who wanted to take part in the event but had physical ailments that prevented him from walking. The man’s 2011 Dodge Ram pickup truck accelerated unexpectedly at the beginning of the parade, striking two people and coming close to plowing into a car carrying Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-Fla.)....

The mayor didn't properly apologize, because he didn't say he did something wrong. 

"I was an eyewitness to the horrifying events. It terrorized me and all around me."

He's presenting himself as a victim, terrorized — which sounds like an excuse for not thinking clearly. It's his job to think clearly and to rely on facts.

"I reported what I saw to law enforcement and had strong concerns about what transpired — concerns for the safety of my community."

He didn't just express "strong concerns." He made explicit factual assertions to the public. He said it in a way that admitted no doubt —  "This is exactly what it is." He chose to stir up fear and anxiety. And he's not at all apologizing for doing that.

 “Law enforcement took what appeared obvious to me and others nearby and investigated further — as is their job...."

As if he did his job. But he didn't.

"A team of emergency rescue divers was flummoxed after responding to the scene of a nude 'drowning woman' ..."

"... only to discover that it was actually a floating life-sized sex doll.... [P]hotos show multiple fire and rescue brigades, police, and an ambulance working to dredge the dummy from the water in front of a crowd of onlookers."

The NY Post reports.

"Building a brand starts with creating a culture. Play with rituals, memes, catchphrases, and inside jokes that'll consistently delight both old and new fans."

YouTube sends me advice. From my email:

I brushed it off as stupid, but it also made me think. Are people enjoying the rituals, memes, catchphrases, and inside jokes around here? Do I have enough rituals, memes, catchphrases, and inside jokes?

Blogging is its own ritual, but there's also the ritual of the sunrise. As for memes, catchphrases, and inside jokes, there's... what?... men in shorts, the word "garner"...

"The next morning, I return to Viroqua for a stroll through the town’s vaunted bookstore, Driftless Books, housed in another massive tobacco warehouse."

"The walls are covered floor to ceiling in secondhand books. Framed custom portraits hang from the rafters. A moose head. A rusting sousaphone... 'So yeah, one thing led to another, and a guy gave me this building,' says owner Eddy Nix, a community fixture in Viroqua. He is wearing a loose sweater and patched denim, and he wraps used books in donated paper bags as I pepper him with questions about the store. 'Literally just gave it to you?' I ask. 'He was like some guerrilla philanthropist,' he says. They met when Nix was running the first iteration of his shop in nearby Viola. A stranger walked in one day looking for Richard Brautigan’s 'Trout Fishing in America.' Nix sold him a copy, along with a preorder for 'Wake Up,' Jack Kerouac’s posthumously published biography of the Buddha. And that was that — until a year later, when Nix grew obsessed with this empty old warehouse in Viroqua and finally contacted the owner, who asked whether the Kerouac book had arrived yet. 'It was the same dude!' he says. 'And then like five months later, after forcing me to read the complete commentaries of Gurdjieff and all this metaphysical hoodoo, he gives me the building, like out of the blue.'"

Oh, no! The Washington Post has discovered Wisconsin! 

I'm reading "In southwestern Wisconsin, the bucolic Driftless Area is an overlooked gem."

My favorite comment over there is from Owen Caterwall:

Please, please don't come here. Don't bring your crappy coffee shops, your whiney tourists, your behemoth vehicles, your brassy loud voices, your unsolicited opinions, and your bored witless kids. People live here. It's not quaint, or cute, or charming, or fey. It's where we live and conduct our lives. It's not a museum or gawkers' paradise. Go to Disneyland. You'll have more fun.

"It is disingenuous and dangerous to play on the very real and legitimate fears of bigotry and voter disenfranchisement by pretending it’s present where it’s not."

Said New York public advocate, Jumaane Williams, quoted in the new Michelle Goldberg column about the New York mayoral election. 

The column has a distracting title — "Only the Women Can Save Us Now"— but the real point is that the candidate Eric Adams may be laying the groundwork for arguing that the election was rigged against him, that is, against the black man. 

Under the new ranked voting system, Adams could win the most first-place votes and still lose the election. He needs a majority of first-place votes to win without counting the second- and third-place votes, and he's likely to win a plurality but not a majority. So the second- and third-place votes will probably determine the outcome, and if they don't lead to his winning, he'll challenge the outcome and — he's already indicated — he'll portray it as a manifestation of structural racism.

It's not just that the ranked system is confusing, it's that Andrew Yang started campaigning with Kathryn Garcia and urging his supporters to put her in second place on their ballots. That led Adams to say, "For them to come together like they are doing in the last three days, they’re saying we can’t trust a person of color to be the mayor of the City of New York."

By "person of color," he means black. Yang is a "person of color," Goldberg points out. 

Anyway, a new IPSOS poll came out today. Adams leads not just in the first-place position, but also in the second- and third-place positions. So it looks as though he'll fail to get the majority, but will still win. He's the law-and-order candidate, by the way.

I'm surprised to read that this is a first — an NFL player comes out as gay.

"What’s up, people? I’m Carl Nassib. I’m at my house here in West Chester, Pennsylvania. I just wanted to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay." 



It's momentous. I had to read it in the newspaper to know that it was momentous — and not just another moment — a "quick moment" — as life goes on around us. I'd seen the clip yesterday, but moved on, thinking, okay, fine. Thanks for the info, not that I knew who you were or need to rearrange any of my mental furniture. 

But this morning I see in WaPo, "Carl Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay." The article mentions Michael Sam, and the name rings a bell and reminds me why I thought the gay-in-the-NFL issue played out long  ago.

[I]n 2014 — and shortly before he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams — Missouri defensive end Michael Sam publicly announced he is gay. Sam did not play an NFL snap — he was cut by the Rams before the start of his rookie season and was on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad for a month....

So Sam was never an active NFL player. And in June 2014, he withdrew from football for what WaPo calls "mental health reasons." 

It took 7 more years before another NFL player to come out as gay! But now, at long last, there's Carl Nassib, who just wanted to take a quick moment to say he's gay. Now, let the other gay NFL players take their quick moment and make it obvious that Nassib isn't alone. 

Thanks to Carl Nassib!

June 21, 2021

The NCAA "seeks immunity from the normal operation of the antitrust laws" — and loses.

In the new Supreme Court case, NCAA v. Alston. It's unanimous. Gorsuch writes the opinion. A snippet:

From the start, American colleges and universities have had a complicated relationship with sports and money. In 1852, students from Harvard and Yale participated in what many regard as the Nation’s first intercollegiate competition—a boat race at Lake Winnipesaukee, New Hampshire. But this was no pickup match. A railroad executive sponsored the event to promote train travel to the picturesque lake..... He offered the competitors an all-expenses-paid vacation with lavish prizes—along with unlimited alcohol. The event filled the resort with “life and excitement,” N. Y. Herald, Aug. 10, 1852... and one student-athlete described the “‘junket’” as an experience “‘as unique and irreproducible as the Rhodian colossus’ ”...

Life might be no “less than a boat race,” Holmes, On Receiving the Degree of Doctor of Laws, Yale University Commencement, June 30, 1886... but it was football that really caused  college sports to take off....

Man with Alzheimer's proposed to the woman he doesn't remember is his wife, and they have a wedding.

"Peter Marshall, 56, has early onset Alzheimer’s disease....In January, her husband’s mind began declining at a faster pace. And so 20 years after their romance began, with her husband’s recent proposal, it seemed like perfect timing to renew their vows... 'It was just magical — straight out of a fairy tale... There wasn’t a dry eye, and I was over the moon... I hadn’t seen Peter that happy in a long time'" —WaPo reports:

"The Washington Post's @laurameckler spent three weeks preparing a hitpiece against me."

"In this thread, I will expose five flat-out lies, from the fabrication of a timeline to multiple smears that are easily disproven by documentary evidence." 

So begins a Twitter thread by Christopher Rufo. 

Here's the WaPo piece he's attacking: "Republicans, spurred by an unlikely figure, see political promise in targeting critical race theory." From that article: 

Critical race theory holds that racism is systemic in the United States, not just a collection of individual prejudices — an idea that feels obvious to some and offensive to others. Rufo alleged that efforts to inject awareness of systemic racism and White privilege, which grew more popular following the murder of George Floyd by police, posed a grave threat to the nation. It amounts, Rufo said, to a “cult indoctrination.”...

“We have successfully frozen their brand—'critical race theory’—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category,” Rufo wrote. “The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think 'critical race theory.’ We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans.”

Rufo said in an interview that he understands why his opponents often point to this tweet, but said that the approach described is “so obvious.” “If you want to see public policy outcomes you have to run a public persuasion campaign,” he said. Rufo says his own role has been to translate research into programs about race into the political arena.

Rufo, in his Twitter thread, says: "The Washington Post falsifies a direct quotation, claiming that I said it is 'so obvious' that my strategy was to 'conflate' unrelated items with CRT. I never said this and challenge the Post to produce the audio recording to support their claim—or retract it." The word "conflate" is WaPo's. It's a characterization of Rufo's idea of putting "various cultural insanities under" the CRT "brand." Whether he said "so obvious" or not, doesn't he to want to take responsibility for putting CRT at the center of the analysis of all sorts of "crazy" things we're hearing about?

"Now there’s a lot of fuss being made over it, but there wasn’t initially. The most feedback that I got was that I had gone too far and was exposing too much of myself."

"I couldn’t tell what I had created, really. The initial response I got was critical, mostly from the male singer-songwriters. It was kind of like Dylan going electric. They were afraid. Is this contagious? Do we all have to get this honest now? That’s what the boys were telling me. 'Save something of yourself, Joni. Nobody’s ever gonna cover these songs. They’re too personal.'"

From "Joni Mitchell opens up to Cameron Crowe about singing again, lost loves and 50 years of ‘Blue’" (L.A. Times). 

Much more at the link — where I was able to read without a subscription by putting my browser in "reader view." There's the backstory on Cary ("Carey") (was he really "a mean old daddy"?) and the snuggliness of her relationship with Graham Nash ("Sometimes I get sensitive or worried, and it might bother the man I was with. But not Graham. He just said, 'Come over here to the couch; you need a 15-minute cool-out.' And then we would snuggle" (very much not a mean old daddy)).

"An artist whose work was withdrawn from a gift shop at London’s Royal Academy of Arts after she was accused of transphobia has said she could pursue legal action if she is not given an apology."

"The academy said that it would no longer stock works by De Wahls and thanked campaigners for bringing to its attention 'an item in the RA shop by an artist representing transphobic views.' On the Today programme on BBC Radio 4, De Wahls said: 'They frantically tried to call me the day they realised that was a really bad PR decision. They contacted me the day after they posted it on social media. There was no point to that conversation... I don’t know what they were looking for..... I might [pursue a legal remedy]. But, to be honest with you, right now, I have the feeling that there is a hope within that institution, which is mind-boggling to me, that this just will go away... my inbox and the feedback I’ve been getting from the general public is quite the opposite. This isn’t going away. This is a conversation that needs to happen, it needs to happen in public. They will have to talk eventually."

From "'Cancelled' artist Jess De Wahls could sue unless Royal Academy apologises" (London Times).

Here's what she wrote that led to that campaign against her — from her blog, back in 2019 : "I have no issue with somebody who feels more comfortable expressing themselves as if they are the other sex (or in whatever way they please for that matter). However, I cannot accept people’s unsubstantiated assertions that they are in fact the opposite sex to when they were born and deserve to be extended the same rights as if they were born as such." 

Her art trades in feminism: She makes "textile pieces... involving women, ovaries and flowers." I see she had a show called "Big Swinging Ovaries." She came up with an image — embroidered — of fallopian tubes giving the finger. That info is in the London Times column, "Anatomy of a cancellation by the culture Stasi/The Royal Academy’s decision to ban an artist’s work over her views should be a test case for anti-discrimination laws." That column also has this: 

"Throughout most of the ’60s and ’70s, [Brigid Berlin] dragged her Polaroid 360 and a bulky cassette recorder everywhere, though she once said, 'No picture ever mattered, it was the clicking and pulling out that I loved.'"

"Running out of film, she insisted, was worse than running out of speed. Warhol became equally addicted to documentation and, though his pictures became more well known, hers are arguably as revelatory, often the product of double exposures and lighting both flat and vivid, and featuring such friends as Lou Reed, Roy Lichtenstein, Dennis Hopper and Cy Twombly.... Her recordings — there are more than 1,000 hours of tape... — range from the mundane (chatter about her near-constant doctors’ appointments) to the historic (Rauschenberg ranting at the Cedar Tavern). The original cassettes, with Berlin’s typed and handwritten labels affixed to each plastic case, are stored in a black flip-top handled case in her walk-in closet. 'Brigid wanted to melt them down and turn them into a sort of audio John Chamberlain piece.... but I convinced her that was insane.' It was her 1970 recording of the Velvet Underground, scratchy background noises and all, that was remastered into the band’s first live album, 'Live at Max’s Kansas City.'"

From "Brigid Berlin, Andy Warhol’s Most Enduring Friend/Berlin, who died last year, was a great artist in her own right, and her New York apartment, which is being sold, is a window into a bygone era in the city’s history" (NYT). Worth clicking for cool photographs of the idiosyncratic apartment.

Years ago, John Chamberlain was a reference everyone understood. He was a sculptor best known for welding together parts of banged up automobiles. In the 1960s, "modern art" was a hot topic and his name came up a lot. I doubt if younger people know or care about him.

As for "Live at Max’s Kansas City," I've still got my half-century old copy of the thing. How about you? From the 1972 Rolling Stone review

June 20, 2021

5:21 a.m.


"We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate... "

"We are eager to tunnel under the Atlantic and bring the old world some weeks nearer to the new; but perchance the first news that will leak through into the broad flapping American ear will be that Princess Adelaide has the whooping cough.”  

Wrote Henry David Thoreau. I'm quoting that now, because of that post earlier today about a telegram and because it seems to relate to our current predicament living on the internet.

In case you're wondering about Princess Adelaide, she does look interesting:

ADDED: A reader questions whether I have the right Princess Adelaide. There's also this Princess Adelaide, a granddaughter of King George III. She was born in 1833, and was portrayed like this in 1846:

Age and photography rendered her less cute:

5:12 a.m.


"It was Yang’s answers on homelessness and mental health at the final debate that finally settled it for me."

"Every other candidate spoke of homelessness as a disaster for the homeless. Yang discussed it as a quality of life problem for everyone else. 'Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights?' he asked. 'We do: the people and families of the city.' For Yang, I suspect, a successful mayoralty would mean restoring Michael Bloomberg’s New York, an extremely safe, pleasant place for tourists and well-off families like mine, but one where many poorer people were financially squeezed and strictly policed. Even if Yang could, as a political novice, stand up to the N.Y.P.D., he’d have little reason to, since his remit would be safety at almost any cost."  

Writes Michelle Goldberg in "Eric Adams Is Awful. I’m Putting Him on My Ballot" (NYT).

The passage I've quoted gets very strong pushback in the comments at the NYT. I'll just quote one:

The big piece of evidence Michelle Goldberg uses against Yang is an answer to the homeless crisis that I happen to agree with, and I'm a liberal Democrat. Of course, the homeless need to have workable options of where to go. But progressives are just wrong to defend the rights of the "unhoused" against anybody who would dare challenge their apparent belief that they can set up camp on any square of sidewalk that they declare to be their own. I can't be the only non-conservative person in America who would like to stop the trashing of our public spaces. I mean, is that really the worst you can say about Andrew Yang? Seriously?

Me, at sunrise.

Video by Meade:

"Think of Pearl Street in Boulder, with its winding paths, large trees, public art, live music and abundant outdoor cafes."

"That’s the kind of exciting destination that could help bring back [Madison's] State Street — and go beyond what it has been. Instead of a river of concrete for buses to rumble down, State Street could be a walkable park for people, who would be prioritized over vehicles. The mayor last week brushed off support among Downtown business owners for taking buses off State Street, calling them desperate and willing to try anything. That might be true, given how devastating the pandemic, weak economy, protests against police, smashed windows and looting were for store owners last year. But just as likely is that business owners have a better sense for what will work than the mayor. Rhodes-Conway also cited changing retail trends, with more people shopping online. But why is that a reason to run buses down State Street?... The mayor wonders aloud if keeping buses off State is an attempt to keep poor people away.... The mayor isn’t about to bring back regular vehicle traffic to State, she said. So in that sense, she does support a pedestrian mall the entire length of State Street — as long as it’s centered around buses. That vision is stale and unexciting compared to the popular and long-standing idea of creating a grand promenade and park."

From "Don't pit fast buses versus a State Street promenade — Madison can have both," an editorial in the Wisconsin State Journal).

I've lived in Boulder as well as Madison, and I love Pearl Street and have long wished that State Street could be like Pearl Street, especially since State Street is already halfway there, closed to almost all traffic... other than these giant buses that must barrel down the street, disrupting the playful, peaceful mood. 

But it should be conceded that State Street is a very different place from Pearl Street. State Street has the University of Wisconsin at one end and the State Capitol at the other. Pearl Street is a few blocks away from campus (the University of Colorado), and there's nothing like a state capitol anywhere in the city. So there are far more intersecting interests connected to State Street. 

Pearl Street is a nice little enclave over there, a place for visitors and city residents to shop and eat and fool around. There are some people who prefer a funkier downtown, and State Street is absolutely, centrally downtown.