July 24, 2021

The sunrise at 5:46...


... and 5:48...


... and 6:05...


"She identifies as queer because the word is ambiguous and less-restricting than something like lesbian, which she dismisses as 'too gendered.'"

"She isn’t transgender and doesn’t want to be called 'they' or 'them,' nor does she like the term 'nonbinary,' though she knows it is likely how people see her in her androgynous clothes and beanies and ball caps. 'I think it’s a preference of what words feel comfortable,' she says. 'Why does the word "woman" make me feel uncomfortable, but "girl" always feels fine? Female feels fine. I mean, it’s just like some words I like and feel like me and make me not have to think, because on a normal day I just don’t really like thinking about myself in these adjectives or descriptive-like columns.'"

From "Olympics/She has an MIT degree and doesn’t think skateboarding’s a sport. But she plans to win a medal" (WaPo). 

"She" is Alexis Sablone, and the sport is divided into men's and women's events. The plan to medal is as a woman. 

It's interesting to see this hint of a comeback for the word "girl," and I can understand a young person's feeling that "woman" seems overly mature and stodgy. 

And I'm going to look out for the eclipsing of homosexuality. Is it going to go out of fashion and become, once again, the love that dare not speak its name... this time because it's "too gendered"?

The Lincoln Project celebrates intrusive rudeness.

The location is Dan Bailey's Outdoor Company, which has put this message on the front page of its website

"On July 23, a well-known television personality, Tucker Carlson, was affronted while shopping at Dan Bailey's Outdoor Company. Coincidentally, the person engaging Mr. Carlson was a local resident named Dan Bailey. This person has no affiliation with our business, other than he shares the same name as our founder, who passed away in 1982. To be clear, we treat every customer equally and respectfully. Our staff was professional and cordial to Mr. Carlson, as we are with all of our customers."

"This was the beginning of the reopening, and we had a line of takeout orders. Her husband stood at the doorway and was like, ‘She's hungry! She needs her food right now!’"

"People who were already nice prior to the pandemic are super nice, and people who were a little bit difficult to deal with pre-pandemic are now completely just unbearable to even serve." 

Said the owner of Vanessa’s Bistro in Berkeley, quoted in "SF Bay Area restaurants are still struggling. Returning customers don't see that" (SF Gate). 

And there's this, from the founder of Misfits Bakehouse in Palo Alto: "I’ve been seeing a huge rise in people just forgetting to be human. People have been staying at home for a year and a half, but everyone in the service industry has been busting our butts ... and this is what we’re getting now."

"Mike will literally lick my face if I am not giving him affection when he desires it."

Says Amber Lee, a matchmaker, about her husband Mike Lee, a life coach and matchmaker. She adds: "This playfulness helps me to loosen up and helps him to get the attention he desires from me as we laugh and enjoy each other."

Quoted in "Are You in an ‘Inter-Intimate’ Relationship? For some couples, having different nonsexual intimacy preferences can be a strain on the relationship. Here’s how to meet in the middle" (NYT). 

I guess the key word there is "nonsexual." This article is about cuddling. He's not licking her face because she's withholding sex. The article would have a completely different vibe if that were the situation. He's licking her face to get nonsexual physical intimacy. Somehow, in that situation, the licking is supposed to make us feel that Amber's husband is adorkable. 

“Proper communication about affection wants and needs should occur often in the relationship,” Ms. Sampson, the social worker, said. “Rituals should be clearly identified in order to foster and maintain equilibrium. Couples may want to kiss good morning and good night, embrace one another upon greeting or ensure there is cuddling before or after sexual intimacy....”... 

Emily Grace Bergh, 39, a publicist, and Colter Reid Bergh, 33, a software engineer,... have been together for three years.... Ms. Bergh requires more affection.... Mr. Bergh actually sets an alarm on his phone for cuddle time every Thursday night to meet his wife’s expressed need....

"So, I know we're all making fun of this. But, I think there should be a much stronger push back against Biden claiming that mainstream Republicans are trading in blood libel."

Highest-rated comment on "Biden Denies Sucking The Blood Out Of Children" (r/Conservative). The post links to "Biden Denies Sucking The Blood Out Of Children" (Guardian Gazette). 

I found that comment because I was looking to see if anyone was saying what I wanted to say. I'm seeing the usual fun-making over Biden gibbering nonsense. But it didn't sound like nonsense to me. It's garbled, but I think he's essentially saying the Republicans are libeling Democrats the way the Nazis libeled the Jews. 

Here's background: "What does blood libel mean?" (BBC). That article is from 2011, taking Sarah Palin to task for saying, after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords, "Within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn."

And here's Biden talking:

AND: There is another Biden blood-sucking clip, so he clearly means to get this meme out there:

"For Democrats, who see him exiled to Mar-a-Lago, stripped of his key social media platforms and facing determined prosecutors, his future seems risible if not pathetic."

"But this is Donald Trump, always ready to strike back harder than he has been struck, to blame anyone but himself, to silence any doubts with the sound of his own voice, to take what he believes is his and, most of all, to seize all available attention. Sound the alarm."

From "Why I’m Sure Trump Will Run for President in 2024" by Michael Wolff (NYT). The highest-rated comment over there — with over 1600 recommendations and full of typos — is: 

What else is he goingt to do? He doesnt' read. He has no interest in music, dance, movies, TV, theater, or art. He could care less about science. He doesnt' like to travel. He has no firends. He's not interested in helping people. He's not religious. He has no sense of humor. He's not loyal to any sport teams. He has no imagination, no curiosity. He craves junk food. He's the most boring person on the planet. of course, he's going to run. It's all he has left.

So many wacky propositions there! The one I find the funniest is that he can be disparaged for his lack of interest in dance. Has anyone else ever been disparaged for lack of interest in dance? In any case, we've seen him dance and he seems to love it!


It was a whole dance craze! On TikTok!

But the least true statement in that comment is... oh, I don't know. It's a competition between "He has no sense of humor" and "He's the most boring person on the planet."

Maybe people have to lie to themselves about how entertaining Trump is so that can resist rooting for him simply because it's so fun and funny. You know, like they did last time:


Yes, the "future seems risible," but which way is it risible?

ADDED: Trump danced — with a sense of humor and unboringly — on "Saturday Night Live":

Of course, when that NYT commenter faulted Trump for his lack of interest in dance, he meant dance as something that fits in set of things he listed — "music, dance, movies, TV, theater, or art." Smell the elitism. He meant ballet and the kind of modern dance that you watch with quiet awe from a cushy seat.

AND: It's absurd to say he's not interested in TV, when he starred in a TV show for 14 years.

"Though most sports regulate the clothing of competitors — they’re called 'uniforms' because they’re the same for everyone — we are accustomed to seeing male athletes customize their kit."

"Male swimmers can choose cuts ranging from brief to nearly knee-length. Basketball players wear supportive garments under their uniforms that may be hidden or may go to their wrists and ankles. Baseball players maintain a lively diversity in the length of their pants, from the high-stockinged look of José Altuve to the grass-skimming cut preferred by Shohei Ohtani. No great imagination is needed to see where the handball honchos are coming from. Their rather obscure sport is a close cousin to beach volleyball, which made its official Olympic debut in 1996 in Atlanta and immediately caught the male gaze with its bikini-clad female athletes.... But the handball authorities are learning the wrong lesson. To grow the popularity of beach volleyball, the ruling federation of that sport has empowered women with more uniform choices, not fewer. Women are free to continue wearing two-piece uniforms with minimal briefs... [or] long-sleeved uniforms preferred by some Muslim athletes and an assortment of styles in between...."

From "Opinion: Bikinis, shorts, long sleeves — let female athletes wear what they want" by David Von Drehle (WaPo).

WaPo columnist lives in a partisan bubble and he likes it.

I'm reading "Opinion: I live in a Democratic bubble. Here’s why that’s okay" by Perry Bacon Jr. 

I live in a partisan bubble, according to an interactive New York Times feature that lets you enter your address to find out the political-party breakdown of the [1,000 voters closest to you]. Only 18 percent of my neighbors in the Highlands area of Louisville are Republican. There is an area only four miles away that is balanced between the parties. I ain’t moving there. Being “in a bubble” is generally considered a negative in our culture, while diversity is a positive.....

Only 18% are Republican? How terribly un-diverse. But I'm not going to pester you with the details of why Bacon likes where he is, thinks it's actually diverse in its own way, and doesn't need more input from the kind of people who think such things as Biden didn't really win the election. 

What I am going to do is, go over to the New York Times and find out what percentage of my neighbors are Republican. Maybe you'd be interested to know where I'm writing from when I say I'm in my remote outpost in the Midwest.

The percentage of Republicans in my neighborhood is... ONE!

July 23, 2021

Forest path with mushrooms.


Here's the video — narrated by Tom Hanks —  in which the Cleveland Indians reveal their new name: the Guardians.

ADDED: Here are the graphics: A closer look at that logo:

I think the feathers are reminiscent of a Native American feathered headdress, but the Indians old "Chief Wahoo" logo was aimed the other way — with a face rather than a baseball — and wore a single feather. The new feathers could be associated with angel's wings, which fits with "Guardians" if you think of guardian angels. 

But if the baseball seems like a head rather than an entire body, then the wings make us think of the winged helmets of various warriors and ancient gods. If so, the name "Guardians" feels one step away from "Warriors," one of the names that — I presume — the Indians considered. I know the Washington football team — transitioning from "Redskins" — rejected "Warriors" because it contained too much of a residue of Indians. 

ALSO: As discussed in the comments, there's this:

"I want to make sure that this U.S. Senate seat is retained in Republican hands.You see what the media’s doing to me. I may not be the best candidate."

"I wouldn’t run if I don’t think I could win, if I don’t think I was the best person to be able to win.... This is an incredibly frustrating place here... Having come from the private sector, running a successful business. Being able to accomplish things. When you just see the dysfunction that is Washington, D.C., it can be pretty frustrating.... I feel really bad that I’ve been here now probably 11 years and we’ve doubled the debt.... Obamacare’s still in place, and we’ve doubled the debt. I don’t feel like my time here has been particularly successful."

Said Ron Johnson, quoted in "US Sen. Ron Johnson: 'I may not be the best candidate' for 2022" (Wisconsin State Journal).

"The paradox for [Cuban President Miguel] Díaz-Canel, who is said by people who know him personally to want to be a reformer, is that he is boxed in by circumstances."

"Having been embarrassed by the Cuban uprising, he must show strength in order to preserve order. But to placate the public’s rising frustrations, he must also signal moderation, which he has belatedly tried to do; in a second address, on Wednesday, he acknowledged that his government bore responsibility for the issues that had sparked the protests, including both the shortages and the rising prices of food and medicine. But to call for dialogue, or else to 'open up,' as many outsiders—the European Union and Pope Francis, among others—have urged him to do, could telegraph weakness to the boldest Cuban dissidents, and provoke new demonstrations. In any event, it seems a certainty that the unrest in Cuba has not ended. So far, despite widespread expectation that the Biden Administration might engage in a renewed diplomatic opening, it has taken a tepid approach toward Cuba.... The United States, for its part, should make it abundantly clear that it stands ready to assist Cuba and its people, but that it is opposed to violence and bloodshed, both of the kind the Cuban government has used against its protesters and the kind some Cubans, mostly from the safe distance of Miami, are calling for against their government."

From "Is Cuba’s Communist Party Finally Losing Its Hold on the Country?/Historic protests across the island cast doubt on the regime’s staying power" by Jon Lee Anderson (The New Yorker).

"4. Wearing an accessory on my head doesn’t feel like a huge cost to me."

From "4 Reasons I’m Wearing a Mask Again" by Katherine J. Wu (The Atlantic).

"Overall, cancel culture is quite unpopular among all cohorts, with each generation viewing it more negatively than positively."

"Millennials appeared to be most supportive of cancel culture: 19 percent said they had a positive view of it, while 22 percent were neutral, 36 percent were opposed to it, and 22 percent said they had no opinion. ... Gen Z was the cohort most opposed to cancel culture: 55 percent said they had a negative view of cancel culture, 8 percent were supportive of it, 18 percent were neutral, and 19 percent had no opinion. Moreover, it’s the youngest cohort within Gen Z—currently ages 13 to 16—who are most opposed to cancel culture, with 59 percent having a negative view of it.... Gen Z... has grown up immersed in the internet and social media. To them, the barrier between what’s personal and what’s public is fluid, and many Americans of this age don’t find it particularly unusual to broadcast everyday life and thoughts to the entire world. A puritanical mindset that seeks to persecute people over the expression of their beliefs is hard to reconcile with a world where so much of what was once private is now public.... Gen Z has first-hand knowledge of this Panopticon-like environment and how suffocating it can be." 

Writes Zaid Jilani in "The End of "Cancel Culture"?/Young Americans may return us to a culture of compassion and forgiveness" (Persuasion)(relying on a Morning Consult poll).

Gen Z... and don't forget the Alphas... or, as I call them, the babies. I'm counting on the babies to save the world. 

The BBC "Reality Check" team examines whether U.S. money funded "gain-of-function" research in China.

That is, who's right, Rand Paul or Anthony Fauci?

There's no decisive answer at the link, but room to argue that either or both are right. I can't do an excerpt, because I can't figure out what to leave out, so read the whole thing. Personally, I don't side with either man or care about designating one and not the other as a liar.

"A bear followed me in the woods for several hours on a trail outside Skagway, AK, one not-too-fun night."

"I'm from Manhattan, and was young at the time... ignorant. My first thought when I heard it was: 'Oh, there's heavy machinery digging up a tree here,' because it sounded like a crane. Then nothing. Then it knocked over another tree. But of course, there was no heavy machinery up there. The only useful thing I'd learned was to yell like hell at them. My curses ranged from Brooklyn to the Bronx that night. This kept it at bay for long enough for me to walk my sorry-self out of there. Funny thing is, I'd been a gun-control advocate. Maybe five minutes of that bear following me, and I wanted a bazooka. Context is everything. The largest Brown Bear discovered in Alaska was 13 feet tall, weighing roughly 1500 lbs. Each pound of muscle is roughly 25x stronger than your muscles. Oh, and they can sprint 35mph, so you can't run. But at least they teach us to curse in NY."

That's a comment someone put up on a NYT article that has the headline, "A Grizzly Bear Terrorized a Man for Days in Alaska. The Coast Guard Saw His SOS. Down to his last rounds of ammunition, with bruises and a leg injury, the man was rescued by a helicopter crew that just happened by." 

Here's another comment, displaying some first-class cynicism: "He probably just needed a ride home. Air taxi, courtesy of the USA." Oh, you thought that too, didn't you? No? What an angel you are!

“At some point, a bear had dragged him down to the river,” Lt. Cmdr. Jared Carbajal, one of the pilots of the Coast Guard helicopter, said in an interview on Wednesday. “He had a pistol. He said that the bear kept coming back every night and he hadn’t slept in a few days.”

Did the bear want him or not?!

“We don’t really come across people in the middle of nowhere,” Lieutenant Hammac said. “He was kind of struggling. When we came around, he was on his hands and knees waving a white flag.” Lieutenant Hammac said the man’s leg was taped. “He definitely looked like he had been out there for a while,” he said.

"[B]ut there is a ferocious headwind, like having a blow dryer in your face. Everyone runs on the white line, because the asphalt can melt your tennis shoes."

Said one runner, quoted in "'They’re a little crazy’: the ultramarathon runners crossing Death Valley – in a drought" (The Guardian). 

The race is 135-miles long, to be completed within 48 hours. Death Valley reached 130° on July 9th, but it wasn't quite that hot. It was 110 to 115°. 

And it's not like they're abandoned out there or forced to tote all their own water: "Each runner is trailed by their own support crew in an air-conditioned minivan, which leap-frogs their progress, stopping every few miles to provide them gushes of water from spray bottles, electrolytes, ice cubes, snacks and extra changes of shoes."

Kind of cushy, almost, no? Whatever. Personally, I love Death Valley. Haven't been out there in 4 years. It's a rough landscape!


That's my photo of the part of Death Valley called the "Devil's Golf Course." It's not all that rugged, and anyway, the ultramarathoners are running on the paved road. That's where the relatively cool painted white lines are.

July 22, 2021

5:41 a.m.


"This is a lie to history, it's a lie about history, of the Sex Pistols' history, and so I am always going to find that as an issue you cannot compromise on."

"If you allow this to happen you are allowing people to alter and rewrite your history, thus making your real history a lie by the contradiction supporting that and accepting money for that, that's something I could never be a party to. I cannot compromise in selling my integrity. I know what's what and far too often it's the examples in the press and the media of history being rewritten that causes real damage to the truth.... The show's original offer was, well, it was a misuse of us completely."

Said John Lydon — Johnny Rotten — quoted in "The Crown wanted to show punks throwing bottles at The Queen on jubilee but I refused to let them use Sex Pistols' 'God Save The Queen', claims Johnny Rotten in court battle/Paul Cook & Steve Jones suing punk group's lead singer..." (The Daily Mail).

"Blackfishing is when White public figures, influencers and the like do everything in their power to appear Black."

"Whether that means to tan their skin excessively in an attempt to achieve ambiguity, and wear hairstyles and clothing trends that have been pioneered by Black women.... Instead of appreciating Black culture from the sidelines, there's this need to own it, to participate in it without wanting the full experience of Blackness and the systemic discrimination that comes with it. " 

Said journalist Wanna Thompson, quoted in "What 'Blackfishing' means and why people do it" (CNN).

"Giant Balloon Face Floats Over Tokyo/The eerie aerial piece was created by the artist collective 目 ("Mé") and features an anonymous face chosen from over 1,000 submissions...."

"The work has been met with a mixed reception, ranging from humor to more subversive interpretations. Some have likened Mé’s piece to The Hanging Balloons, a story by the Japanese horror mangaka Junji Ito in which floating heads with metal nooses set out to kill their human doppelgangers."

Hypoallergenic reports.

"Pornhub vows to guide viewers swiftly past 'all the prude paintings' and take them 'directly to the good stuff' on a dedicated website and app..."

"... which features hardcore reenactments of sexy works housed in six major museums by an amateur couple known by the monicker MySweetApple. In their riff on Edgar Degas’s 'Male Nude' (1856), in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Impressionist painter’s sprawled sitter gets a blowjob.... Kitagawa Utamaro’s 'Fujin sogaku jittai' (1802-1803), according to Pornhub, is 'a woodblock print of a girl washing her hair so blissfully that she hasn’t noticed the monumental nip-slip.'... The Met and the National Gallery have both said they do not plan on pursuing legal actions against the company for featuring images of their works on 'Classic Nudes.' 'The museum’s Open Access program provides public access to hundreds of thousands of images of works in our collection, and we generally do not seek to regulate the wide range of uses of these images,' Kenneth Weine, chief communications officer at the Met, told Hyperallergic."

From "Uffizi Is Suing Pornhub After It Turns Masterpieces Into Live Porn/The company’s 'Show Me the Nudes' initiative turns classic paintings from international museums into live pornography" (Hyperallergenic).

This gets my "lawsuits I hope will fail." 

Here's the Degas that's at the free-speech-loving Metropolitan Museum of Art and that Pornhub captions "Like most dick pics, there’s really no storyline here":

"Five speech therapists were arrested this morning by Hong Kong’s national security police, accused of conspiring to share 'seditious' children’s books."

"The arrests, during which hooded suspects were led away by officials, came after three books, published by the General Association of Hong Kong Speech Therapists, described Hong Kong’s pro-democracy activists as sheep who were protecting their village by fighting a pack of wolves. Pro-Beijing newspapers and politicians have called the books an attempt to 'poison' the minds of children by promoting freedom from Beijing in the territory. A senior Hong Kong education official claimed that they had used fables to spread political propaganda. The two men and three women arrested, who are aged between 25 and 28, are accused of 'inciting hatred among the public, especially small children, against the Hong Kong government and Hong Kong judiciary, inciting the use of violence, and encouraging disobedience of the law,' according to the police."

The London Times reports.

"If we accept that biography, as Julian Barnes once wrote, is, at best, 'a collection of holes tied together with string,' how does one go about writing a biography of a person allergic to personhood?"

"That Pessoa’s name is Portuguese for 'person' must have given him perverse satisfaction, he who wrote the word 'me' in quotation marks. 'I’m beginning to know myself. I don’t exist,' he wrote. 'I’m the gap between what I’d like to be and what others have made of me.' Or he was 'the naked stage where various actors act out various plays.' Or, he wrote in a poem, 'merely the place / Where things are thought or felt.' His heteronyms were addicted to their obscurity, vain about their privacy and pained when forced to 'publish' their work. It’s the self conceived as a lump of sugar; it must be dissolved to be tasted."

From "‘Pessoa’ Is the Definitive and Sublime Life of a Genius and His Many Alternate Selves" a review of "Pessoa: A Biography" in the NYT. 

"His heteronyms" refers to the personas Fernando Pessoa adopted in his writings.

Here's the masterpiece: "The Book of Disquiet: The Complete Edition." I put it in my Kindle. Excerpt:

All pleasure is a vice because seeking pleasure is what everyone does in life, and the worst vice of all is to do what everyone else does. 

I do not dream of possessing you. What would be the point? It would be tantamount to translating my dream for the benefit of a plebeian. To possess a body is to be banal in the extreme. To dream of possessing a body is perhaps, were such a thing possible, even worse; it would mean dreaming oneself banal — the supreme horror.

"If cash were replaced with a digital dollar... the Fed could impose a negative interest rate by gradually shrinking the electronic balances in everyone’s digital currency accounts..."

"... creating an incentive for consumers to spend and for companies to invest. A digital dollar would also hinder illegal activities that rely on anonymous cash transactions, such as drug dealing, money laundering and terrorism financing. It would bring 'off the books' economic activity out of the shadows and into the formal economy, increasing tax revenues. Small businesses would benefit from lower transaction costs, since people would use credit cards less often, and they would avoid the hassles of handling cash..... A digital dollar could threaten what remains of anonymity and privacy in commercial transactions — a reminder that adopting a digital dollar is not just an economic but also a social decision.... With proper preparation and open discussion, we should embrace the advent of a digital dollar."

From "Cash Will Soon Be Obsolete. Will America Be Ready?" by trade policy professor Eswar Prasad (NYT).

Do you still use cash? I carry around some cash, but it seems to be the same cash I've had for the past year. It was an unusual year, but still.... 

A highly rated comment over there comes from hb in the Czech Republic: 

Cash is essential for privacy. Without privacy, there is no freedom. Thankfully Sweden recently backtracked on it's march to go cashless, citing the needs of the poor, the elderly and the non-tech savvy. I don't want to live in or bequeath to future generations an Orwellian world where the government and corporations and every hacker knows every time I buy a pack of gum.

"After a long day of fighting Republicans in real life, I don’t always feel like fighting with hobgoblins in a game, even though the digital versions are at least bound by rules and artificial logic."

"So the game I keep coming back to, for well over a decade now, is the one that gives me ultimate control over every little detail of my virtual life: The Sims....I picked a neighborhood and moved all the prepackaged Sims out. I moved my Sim family and Sim friends in. I have to be around Sims that I want to be happy, after all. No Republicans are allowed in my game. I’ve even deleted the files of prepackaged Sims that give me any kind of Republican vibe.... The friends I do put in the game are people I really like in real life, people I’m happy to be reminded of as my Sim-self jogs through town... My world is much browner and, well, gayer than what I started with. That’s just what happens when you let Sims flirt with whomever they want and marry people who share their interests. But I do occasionally have to add a family I don’t personally know just to decrease the chances of inbreeding: So, the Obamas are in my game. Sasha grew up and married my grandson. I’m buried in their backyard. Frankly, I couldn’t write a better utopian postscript for myself: a founding member of a brown, gay, rainless world that banished Republicans who is buried under the kiddie swing of his progeny.... Sometimes, I just need the terrible world to leave me alone with my doll." 

 Writes Elie Mystal in "In My Own Private Utopia, There Is No Rain—or Republicans/In The Sims, one of my favorite video games, my goal is for everyone to be as happy as possible" (The Nation).

July 21, 2021

The photo makes all the argument anyone should need.

"The Swedes had knocked the Americans out of the previous Olympics, and over the last five years their rivalry had only deepened."

"Rather than getting revenge against Sweden, the United States saw its unbeaten streak fall as it suffered a 3-0 loss, stunning not for the result but for the thoroughness. In U.S. Coach Vlatko Andonovski’s major tournament debut, Sweden left no doubt about which team deserved to win.... 'We got our asses kicked,' Megan Rapinoe said. 'Didn’t we?'... 'It’s not just the result,' Andonovski said. 'It’s a tough situation to be in. I don’t think this team has ever been in a situation like this. In recent history, I don’t remember this team losing 3-0. So it’s a little bit of a shock.'"

WaPo reports.

"Speaker Nancy Pelosi stunned the GOP on Wednesday by vetoing two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's choices for a select panel investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack..."

"... a move all but guaranteed to spark a Republican boycott of the probe. Pelosi rejected Rep. Jim Banks (R-Ind.), who was tapped to serve as ranking member, and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), both of whom voted to challenge certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral wins earlier this year. Her decision sent shock waves through the House and is likely to galvanize House Republicans against any participation in the investigation.... McCarthy issued a scorching reply that made clear he would yank his other three picks if the speaker didn't walk back her veto of Banks and Jordan, a move she's highly unlikely to make."

Politico reports.

Scott Adams deploys his 4-point test for lying.

ADDED: If you click through to Weinstein's series of tweets, you'll read a very sensible interpretation that seems right to me:

"Why is the sun red? Wildfire smoke from a continent away spreads to New York."

From the NYT:
By late afternoon, the Air Quality Index for New York City had reached 170, well above average. The concentration of microscopic particulate pollution called PM2.5 was nine times above exposure recommendations from the World Health Organization. In a statement, the Department of Environmental Conservation noted that while it was not rare for traveling wildfire smoke to reach the New York region, the smoke usually stayed high in the atmosphere. But in this case, “data showed that the smoke is extending down to the ground level,” since much of it is coming from relatively nearby fires in western Ontario and eastern Manitoba.

If you click on my "sunrise" tag, you'll see the series of red suns we've had lately. Ordinarily, once the sun becomes partly visible, you can't keep looking at it and you can't get a good photograph of it. But lately, I've been watching and photographing the sun minutes after it's fully visible. 

Here's what Madison looks like this morning. I can see that NYC is far worse off with an Air Quality Index of 170, but this 83 for us is really unusual. I'm used to seeing us fully in the green:

The idol-on-idol gaze.

"If you thought they were gazing at the earth, and feeling small, and reflecting on the trouble the planet and its inhabitants are in, they weren't. They were trying to catch skittles in their mouths."

A comment at a Facebook post by the NYT: "Watch Jeff Bezos and his fellow passengers on the Blue Origin flight play with Skittles and experiment with gravity on their trip to space on Tuesday."

What if you had to argue: The Skittles-catching foolery in space was the best form that philosophical inquiry could take under those circumstances.


If the "what if you had to argue" game seems alien, read my 2012 post "What if you had to argue that it's good for children to play 'What if you had argue?'"

Here's a similar game — I just thought it up — "What if you had to write a book about...?" To play the game, you don't have to write the book. You just sketch out ideas about how this subject could fill an entire book. Now: What if you had to write a book about candy and philosophy?

The Skittles company — the aptly named Mars — must be pleased to get this relatively jaunty moment in the limelight — lime, not green-apple — after the unpleasant associations that have come its way in recent years. See "Skittles can’t seem to escape political controversies" (WaPo 2016). 

First, there was the incidental presence of Skittles in the possession of Trayvon Martin (whose killing riveted the country in 2012). Then there was an absurd Donald Trump Jr. tweet "'If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful?'/This image says it all. Let's end the politically correct agenda that doesn't put America first."  

Much better product placement this time, Skittles.

July 20, 2021

"Most of the words in movies aren't worth hearing anyway, and you forget them — they're like words on television — dramatic shows. It's no great loss if you don't get all the dialogue...."

Says Pauline Kael in 1971, here:


She's fighting for a particular movie — Robert Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" — that got trashed by some critics for it's hard-to-hear soundtrack. But watch as the camera pulls back and reveals that sitting next to her is Rod Serling, whose "Twilight Zone" was a television dramatic show and it absolutely did expect you to get every word. There was no random chitchat that you could let drift by and be satisfied to think of a component of the general ambiance.

I respect Kael's staunch defense of a great movie that needed saving from oblivion, but that gratuitous swipe at television writing while sitting next to Rod Serling? Painful.

Here's Robert Altman himself — shortly thereafter, on the same TV talk show (Dick Cavett) — explaining that the soundtrack of "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" really had a technical problem. It wasn't an artistic choice. 


Altman doesn't bullshit and fight for himself the way Kael fought for him. He's more of a bumbler, like a character in one of his films. Ironically, Kael, the appreciator of the messy workproduct, is crisply delineated, like a character on "Twilight Zone."

Sunrise with airplane.


That happened at 5:42. 

4 minutes after that, I was walking away, but turned and walked back to the shore line, because there were reflections in the water that needed capturing:


"I miss the momentum of already being out of the house when the workday ends, so I don’t have to overcome the inertia of the couch to head out somewhere else."

"I miss industrial-strength Wi-Fi that always works. I miss the daily reminder that my work takes place in a real world full of people and places, not an imaginary world within my computer. And I’m sick of taking from my own cache of toilet paper when I use the bathroom during the workday. Sure, the stuff in the office restroom isn’t exactly plush. But I’m not there to linger over the pleasures of lavish bathroom supplies. I’m there to work—in a place where my employer subsidizes my trips to the toilet, just as the heroes of the labor movement intended." 

From "Why I Still Love the Office/An unapologetic defense" by Christina Cauterucci (Slate).

"The purple tomato is the first she designed to have more anthocyanin, a naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compound."

"'All higher plants have a mechanism for making anthocyanins,' Martin explained when we met. 'A tomato plant makes them as well, in the leaves. We just put in a switch that turns on anthocyanin production in the fruit.' Martin noted that while there are other tomato varieties that look purple, they have anthocyanins only in the skin, so the health benefits are slight. 'People say, Oh, there are purple tomatoes already,' Martin said. 'But they don’t have these kind of levels.' The difference is significant. When cancer-prone mice were given Martin’s purple tomatoes as part of their diet, they lived 30 percent longer than mice fed the same quantity of ordinary tomatoes; they were also less susceptible to inflammatory bowel disease. After the publication of Martin’s first paper showing the anticancer benefit of her tomatoes, in the academic journal Nature Biotechnology in 2008, newspapers and television stations began calling.... She considered making the tomato available in stores or offering it online as a juice. But because the plant contained a pair of genes from a snapdragon — that’s what spurs the tomatoes to produce more anthocyanin — it would be classified as a genetically modified organism: a G.M.O."

From "Learning to Love G.M.O.s/Overblown fears have turned the public against genetically modified food. But the potential benefits have never been greater" by Jennifer Kahn (NYT).

"Jack and Ben both love to look at and talk about and think about—and, yes, gratuitously touch—what they refer to as their 'dicks.'"

"Here, American navel-gazing has slipped a few inches and landed at the crotch. Both men toss out humor and insight just before jumping gleefully off one or another high moral cliff. Other writer-actor types have played the upper-middle-class intellectual as a kind of sheepish hero, all the while hiding, or prettifying, or justifying the dark interiors that often accompany that seemingly benign performance. Shawn turns this kind of character inside out and shows the demon within, then offers a tour of the kind of hell he can create."

I'm reading The New Yorker: "The Class Distinctions of Wallace Shawn/In new podcast versions of his plays 'The Designated Mourner' and 'Grasses of a Thousand Colors,' Shawn turns the upper-middle-class intellectual hero inside out to show the demon within," by Vinson Cunningham. Cunningham is a young black man, by the way. He was a staff assistant in the Obama White House. He teaches in the MFA writing program at Sarah Lawrence College.

I was interested in his prose, specifically, and I'm interested to see that he teaches essay writing. One course is titled, "Nonfiction Craft: Emersonians and Montaignians: Two Approaches to the Essay." I'd sign up for that, and, without reading more, I'm sure I'm a Montaignian!

The primary word of wisdom uttered in the Bezos-in-space extravaganza: "Woohoo."

The land-based announcers: "Wow!"

ADDED: Oh, what am I saying? Do I think that going into space ought to produce intellectual insight? I'd be like Prince Philip — as depicted in "The Crown" — meeting the astronauts:


Why would they say anything but "woohoo"? "Woohoo" is the insight to be acquired, and you know that before you go and whether you go or not, just as you know "wow" is the word for those watching from a stationary position.

"The political philosopher Isaiah Berlin turned an obscure fragment by the ancient Greek poet Archilochus ('The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing') into..."

"... an intellectual’s cocktail-party game.... Karl Marx was a supreme hedgehog: Everything, for him, was about the conflict of economic classes. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a restlessly improvising fox. The world’s hedgehog population tends to expand in times of stress and change. Lately it has exploded in the U.S. Hedgehogs are thick on the ground, all of them advancing One Big Thing or another—each peering through the lens of a particular obsession. At the moment, the biggest One Big Thing is race—the key, it seems, to all of America, to the innermost meanings of the country and its history....  Beware a hedgehog claiming the immunities of an innocent victim. Beware when victimhood is his One Big Thing. The victim wants revenge, and who is more justified in committing any crime or injustice than a blameless victim acting in historic retaliation? Virtue, feeling vengeful and tasting power, grows manic—dogmatic, dangerous. Critical race theory ends by fostering the evil it professes to combat—racism and the hatred that comes with it. 'Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return,' W.H. Auden wrote. The 20th century taught the lesson over and over again, but it seems to be wasted on the 21st."

 From "The Hedgehogs of Critical Race Theory/They start with important truths—slavery was wicked—and get carried away into monomania," by Lance Morrow, who is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (WSJ).

Surrealistic oversmoking.

They've mostly removed smoking from movies and TV, so it was striking that the Bob Dylan special, "Shadow Kingdom," was full of smoking — as quoted in last night's post: "a timeless twilight zone, where every single person in the tiny audience, man and woman alike, was smoking like a chimney to a degree that seemed less like period specificity and almost like comedy." 

Shortly after I completed the journey through Bob Dylan's timeless twilight zone, I settled in to rewatch the 1973 Bob Altman neo-noir flick "The Long Goodbye." I don't think there is a character in all of film who's more cigarettecentric — and I've seen Bette Davis — than Elliott Gould as Philip Marlowe in "The Long Goodbye":

July 19, 2021

"The 50-minute performance special was set in a fictional, stylized nightclub, possibly in the 1940s or ’50s or just a timeless twilight zone, where every single person in the tiny audience, man and woman alike, was smoking like a chimney..."

"... to a degree that seemed less like period specificity and almost like comedy.... The setlist did lean almost entirely toward ’60s and early ’70s songs.... The wrinkle was that all of these vintage songs looked and sounded like they were being performed by a drummer-less Americana band in a roadhouse.... Reportedly, the real location was somewhere in Santa Monica, but the end credits helpfully hinted that the location shoot had really been at the Bon Bon Club in Marseille. (There’s no such place, naturally.)... Usually we’d be perched behind the Black woman in the front row, who might get up to go get a beer, or to indulge in a slow dance with another patron. On one occasion, breaking the fourth wall, she and another bar-goer flanked Dylan on either side, facing the camera (pictured above), as if about to break into a background vocal that never came. The wall AC unit made cameo appearances...."

From "Bob Dylan Gets Smoke in His Eyes, but Not So Much in His Excellent Vocals, in Lynch-esque ‘Shadow Kingdom’: Stream Review" by Chris Willman (Variety).

Here's a trailer for the show, which plays through tomorrow:

We watched. Quite enjoyed it, even after the hassle of creating a Veeps account, paying $30, and figuring out that I couldn't play it through Roku but would need to do screen mirroring from my iPhone. Something finally pushed me over the line to learn to do screen mirroring.

5:58 a.m.


"He appears to be a machinist, at least by avocation and possibly professionally. He has access to very good tools: a lathe, a sandblasting cabinet, a milling machine, drill bits he keeps intimidatingly sharp."

"He must have obsessive tendencies, but somehow he wears them lightly, at least onscreen. (We never see him except for his hands.).... He abhors any rough edge.... We periodically see him heat brass parts with a blowtorch (captioned '300°C,' in case you needed to know the exact temperature) and then dunk them into oil to give them a smooth brown-black coating. Most significant of all, though, are his level of craft and his eye for the smallest detail work. If a part is too far gone, he will often give up on straightening it out, and reproduce it exactly (and I mean exactly) out of a billet of brass or steel. In the brief explanatory captions he adds to his video, he usually shows the wrecked piece, explains that it was beyond fixing, and then appends the phrase 'I make a new one.' (His English is the only thing in these videos that is the least bit bent.) Those words have reached the catchphrase level; he now sells T-shirts that read I MAKE A NEW ONE."

From "Watching Perfectionist Restorers As They Work Is Incredibly Soothing" (NY Magazine). 

Example highlighted in the article, which I watched in its 17-minute entirety is "Rusty Deadlocked Vise - Perfect Restoration":

"No, you beg."

What a great cover! The article is: "No, You Beg/Adopting used to be a good thing that good people could do. These days, you’re probably not good enough." Excerpt:

"Mayor Bowser’s graffiti is made permanent with our tax dollars, while Black children die from increasing Black violence in DC ever more frequently."

"Most recently, a six-year-old girl yesterday. Priorities reassessment needed, Mayor Bowser. Black lives mattering shouldn’t be about memorializing your political stunts."

That's the top-rated comment on a WaPo article that begins: "Construction to make Black Lives Matter Plaza a permanent art installation will begin Monday, with 16th Street NW between H and K streets closing to vehicle traffic. The mural spelling 'Black Lives Matter' down 16th Street will be on brick pavers, and there will be a dedicated pedestrian plaza throughout the center of the street. There will also be landscaping and lighting...."

Another highly rated comment: 

I guess it is easier for Bowser to waste time and money on this BLM vandalism project then it is for her to actually try and solve some of the city's problems. She probably thinks she is doing some thing productive when in fact this project is nothing but a boondoggle. Shouldn't the road crews be out fixing pot hole instead of wasting time on this? Bowser has to understand that not everyone in DC is black and not everyone DC in supports the BLM Marxists. Hopefully some future mayor will rip the whole thing out.

"Public opinion polls in the 2020 presidential election suffered from errors of 'unusual magnitude,' the highest in 40 years for surveys estimating the national popular vote..."

"... and in at least 20 years for state-level polls, according to a study conducted by the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR). The AAPOR task force examined 2,858 polls, including 529 national presidential race polls and 1,572 state-level presidential polls. They found that the surveys overstated the margin between President Biden and former president Donald Trump by 3.9 points in the national popular vote and 4.3 percentage points in state polls. Polls understated the support for Trump in nearly every state and by an average of 3.3 percentage points overall. Polls in Senate and gubernatorial races suffered from the same problem.... 'Identifying conclusively why polls overstated the Democratic-Republican margin relative to the certified vote appears to be impossible with the available data,' the report states."

From "2020 presidential polls suffered worst performance in decades, report says" by Dan Balz at WaPo.

"And so how would you build that policy to eliminate the racial wealth gap?"/"So that’s not something that I know."

That's a super-short exchange that takes place at the end of a podcast full of long-winded exchanges between Ezra Klein and Ibram X. Kendi.

In transcript form at "Ibram X. Kendi on What Conservatives — and Liberals — Get Wrong About Antiracism/A challenging discussion on the hard, and sometimes unanswerable, questions around racism and public policy" (NYT).

July 18, 2021

5:38 a.m., 5:42 a.m.



"On Nelson Mandela’s birthday, ruined South Africa mourns his vision."

There is a truly sad headline, in the London Times. Excerpt:

The violence was triggered by the jailing last weekend of the former president Jacob Zuma, 79, for contempt of court. The only Zulu to lead South Africa, he was forced to step down in 2018 and had refused to take part in a Commission of Inquiry set up to investigate his eight years in office. Billions of rands disappeared from the state coffers during his tenure. His supporters infiltrated and undermined virtually every state institution....

Taking advantage of the fanatical support for Zuma among Zulus in his heartland of KwaZulu-Natal, his acolytes effectively launched a low-level coup. In the early days of the unrest, communication towers and water supplies were sabotaged. Agents provocateurs sent messages to the masses telling them which particular mall would soon be hit. In a country where 50 per cent of the population lives under the poverty line and the official unemployment rate is 32 per cent, messages declaring that “shopping with no money” would soon be possible fell on fertile ground....

"Covering New York’s Outsider Art Fair the year after [Jim] Carrey’s debut there, in 2020, I encountered Quebecois figurines discovered by an American antique picker; an artist who learned to tool leather in a Southern prison; and a former bus driver who moved to Chelsea to paint."

"I knew these backstories because the dealers made a point of sharing them, and I included them in my review both as explanatory context and because I found them interesting. But while the figurines and leather were certainly more accomplished than Carrey’s cartoons, the basic components on offer — an art work and its story, or an object and its personality — were exactly the same. And any type of backstory gives you an entry into the work. The Quebecois artist, Cléophas Lachance, built an entire miniature village in his Lafontaine backyard, and Jim Carrey starred in 'The Mask.'"

Writes art critic Will Heinrich in "Art is an object plus a story. Even for Hunter Biden’s pricey paintings. The way a work is talked about and identified is always part of the way we experience it" (WaPo).

There is a big difference between Carrey — and other famous people (including Bob Dylan) who leverage celebrity to access art buyers — and Hunter Biden. Heinrich acknowledges this difference in one sentence tucked away as inconspicuously as possible: 

A concern for the Bidens — and the rest of us — is that collectors might attempt to buy influence along with their art; the White House has tried to deal with this by drafting an agreement with the gallery to keep buyers’ identities secret, even from the artist. 

But that's not what he wants to write about. His topic is the way "ethics aside, many people simply object to the idea of a neophyte artist making so much money — or gaining recognition and what looks like legitimacy — just because he’s already famous."

"Upspeak is not a proud signifier of womanhood. It's not even a harmless quirk. It signifies submission just as clearly as a dog rolling over to display its belly."

"Women and girls use it the same way they use their constant smiles: to appease men, to demonstrate that they represent no challenge to the latter's superior status. If the first LW really wants to fight the patriarchy, she can help her protegee learn to speak in firm, declarative sentences. That's not 'acting like a man.' It's acting like an adult with agency and power."

 Says a commenter at the NYT, to an advice column LW — letter-writer — who mentors a younger woman and wonders whether it would be appropriate to advise her on "style issues," including upspeak. The mentor is also female, and she's worried that this kind of advice would "reinforce patriarchal nonsense." 

The official NYT adviser says to "find that sweet spot between idealism and a realistic understanding of the workplace." I say "sweet spot"?! Isn't that reinforcing patriarchy? Why must the women dilute straight talk with sweetness?

And there's no need to email me to tell me that "sweet spot" is a technical term relating to sports equipment like tennis rackets. The NYT advice columnist did not use "sweet spot" in a way that relates to the center of a racket. She's visualizing it as a midpoint between extremes. To say "sweet" like that is more like saying put sugar in it.

"... Madison may soon act to preserve a limited view of Lake Mendota from the lone Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home Downtown — a home that can barely be seen by the public.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports. 

The city, which has rarely if ever acted to preserve the view from a private property, may change its Downtown height map and reduce the allowable height of adjacent properties to preserve the view to the lake from the top floor of the three-story home, which Wright designed for his lifelong friend Robert Lamp and which originally captured views of lakes Monona and Mendota and the Capitol.

The owner of the Lamp House, which is now surrounded by other homes and much taller buildings, contends the view isn’t worth saving and that doing so could preclude a larger redevelopment that could involve moving the landmark out from the middle of the block to a more visible spot, while providing additional housing Downtown and boosting the property tax base....

The owner is Apex Property Management, which seems to be more interested in a proposal Frank Lloyd Wright Building Conservancy to move the building "as part of a larger redevelopment." Obviously, that owner doesn't want restrictions on development. The chairman of the company, Bruce Bosben, says:

“I think it it is irresponsible to curtail development of Downtown real estate merely to preserve a view from a private house... There is no other such view preserved in Madison.”


I'm skeptical of this CNN headline: "Half of the US believes a deadly conspiracy theory."

This is labeled "Analysis by Harry Enten." Now, let's get a close look. I'll put to the side for now the question what makes a theory deadly. You don't die just from believing something. Presumably, people who believe something might do something that could kill themselves or others. 

Let's see what this theory is:

The two most monumental events of the last year in the US were the election of Joe Biden to the presidency and the introduction of Covid-19 vaccines. Yet there are those who falsely believe Biden won only because of fraud or that they shouldn't get a vaccine. 

Oh. It's 2 theories. Don't tell me Enten is going to add the percentages together to get to "more than half"!

Having either belief is dangerous -- for either the health of society or the health of the republic. 

It's "deadly" to think the election result wasn't legit? How many people died from believing there was Russian collusion in the 2016 election? Trusting the reported results of the election is like getting immunity from a deadly disease? That's histrionics. Deadly histrionics. Just kidding. It's annoying, bullshit histrionics.

But back to the math. Enten, are you going to add these 2 percentages together?!

Out in the sunrise at 5:43.

Meade gets a picture of me and the sun: 


The mayor of {city name} is tweeting.


That's been up for 17 hours, and it's been mocked on Reddit (at the Madison subreddit) for the last 8 hours. A screenshot is preserved at Reddit, and I'll just put it below the jump for safe-keeping, on the theory that the tweet will be deleted and replaced.

Somebody at Reddit — in a post rated minus 2 — defends the Mayor:

I’m pretty sure it’s intentional, the point being every city is benefiting from the credit so you can insert any city’s name. But I do think it’s funny how the people who misunderstand the posting are playing this “gotcha” game like they’re just sooo much smarter than the Mayor! LOL

By the way, I loathe the overuse of "smart" in political discussions. It's not about IQ or education. It's about paying attention.

"When I arrived I was told I should leave political correctness back in the UK, because in Denmark you have the right to say whatever you want, whenever you want and however you want... In Denmark, you can hear the N-word or you can see a Nazi gesture in the name of fun."

Said global studies professor Michelle Pace, who moved from Britain to Denmark 15 years ago. She's referring to the way, in Demark, people joke about race and say you don't have a sense of humor if you object. Using that Danish term "hygge" — for a Danish sort of coziness — Pace calls this "hyggeracisme" (that is, cozy racism).

Quoted in "After jumpers and hygge, ‘cosy racism’ may be Denmark’s next big export/Asylum requests have fallen dramatically thanks to policies that belie the country’s liberal image. No wonder Priti Patel is watching closely" (London Times).

That bit about hyggeracism is a very limited part of an article that is overwhelmingly about Demarks efforts at controlling immigration. Priti Patel is the British home secretary, and she's spoken of fixing Britain's "broken asylum system."

Despite Pace's prompt, the comments at the Times are generally supportive of freedom of speech and restricting immigration.