August 28, 2021

"Get me out of Afghanistan with my staff and my animals. I served for 22 years in the Royal Marine Commandos. I am not taking this bollocks from people like you..."

"... who are blocking me. You’ve got ’til tomorrow morning. I’m on Sky News around about 7.45 and your name will be the only name people are talking about.... So here’s the deal, buddy. You either get me that f***ing Isaf number and you get me permission to get onto that f***ing airfield, or tomorrow morning I’m going to turn on you and the whole f***ing country, and everybody else who’s invested in this rescue, is going to know it’s you — YOU — blocking this f***ing move. Alright?"

Lake Mendota, 9:06 a.m.


"Legal experts and the media have avoided the obvious implications of the two reviews in the Babbitt shooting."

"Under this standard, hundreds of rioters could have been gunned down on Jan. 6 — and officers in cities such as Seattle or Portland, Ore., could have killed hundreds of violent protesters who tried to burn courthouses, took over city halls or occupied police stations during last summer’s widespread rioting. In all of those protests, a small number of activists from both political extremes showed up prepared for violence and pushed others to riot.... Babbitt is considered by many to be fair game because she was labeled an 'insurrectionist.'... Like many, I condemned the Jan. 6 riot.... But that doesn’t mean rioting should be treated as a license for the use of lethal force, particularly against unarmed suspects."

"The unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangahar Province of Afghanistan. Initial indications are that we killed the target. We know of no civilian casualties."

Said Navy Capt. Bill Urban, a U.S. military spokesman, quoted in "U.S. says drone strike killed ISIS-K target as embassy warns Americans to leave airport 'immediately'" (WaPo).
Urban said the target was “an ISIS-K planner,” but did not say whether the person played a role in organizing or carrying out the airport attack.

I'll just do a survey: 

My confidence in the accuracy of this strike and this report about it is: free polls

ADDED: My confidence in my own wording of this poll is low to non-existent. What "report" — Capt. Urban's or WaPo's?  I think WaPo has built in the doubt. And so, for that matter, has Capt. Urban, because he doesn't say why the person killed was the target, only that a person was killed and that person was the target. Were non-targets also killed? He doesn't say no. He says he doesn't know. Why doesn't he know? How do you know you surgically precisely got one imprecisely identified man, but you didn't hit anyone else? Oh, but he doesn't claim we didn't hit anyone else, just that they didn't hit anyone else that they knew to be civilians. 

"Thirst trap."

You might have noticed the phrase "thirst trap" in the previous post. I have to start a new post because I don't want to sidetrack my own post, but there's a great and long Wikipedia article, "Thirst trap."

This is a slang term of recent origin — it's only about 10 years old — but somehow it has an entry as long as what you'd expect to find for a modestly significant historical character. I'm also recommending that you click through to see the one photograph, captioned "A woman taking a selfie." That's just perfect. 

To the text:

"But there was one thing TikTok was getting wrong: TikTok thought I was … a lesbian?"

"If you happen to be unfamiliar with the app, know this: You are no match for TikTok’s algorithm. By way of sorcery, TikTok learns your every interest, tendency, and pattern based on how you interact with its content, even if that’s just watching a video mostly through. What that means is TikTok knows you better than you know yourself. And it will show you more of what you like, even if you didn’t know you liked it yet. For me, I can only assume it started with lingering on a video of a gay pop star. So? I like her music. Then came the thirst traps, then the thrift hauls. I mean, I also like rocking a secondhand Carhartt pant, so?! Next came the the 'Disaster Bisexuals,' 'Gay Panics,' and 'Hey Mamas.' All of a sudden, almost every video on my For You page included a 'Woman Loving Woman' hashtag. I was confused and yet somehow … more addicted than ever? I’m not gay, I thought, but these lesbians are like…  really hot. Then one fated night... the Most Subtly Pornographic Video ever.... Our protagonist sits at a pottery wheel, drops a mound of clay on its surface, and begins molding it into a cup or hollow vessel of sorts. She looks seductively at the camera, mouth ajar, as we cut to a close-up of her hands where she slowly (extremely slowly!) shoves two fingers into the too-wet clay. I let the video loop again and again....  Painful as it is to think doom-scrolling AI-selected content was the thing that alerted me to my years of internalized homophobia and vicious cycle of self-hate, boy am I thrilled I downloaded that stupid fucking app."
From "TikTok Made Me Gay" by Emma Turetsky (The Cut).

"Even the experts have trouble saying how to pace your spending so you can enjoy retirement without exhausting your savings before you die."

"You can’t know for sure how long you’ll live, whether you’ll suffer a costly illness or how markets will perform.... Decumulation isn’t just a tough financial problem. It can be an emotional strain to flip a switch from saving to dissaving.... Do you keep a big nest egg, or do you convert your savings into a stream of monthly checks? The smart but psychologically difficult choice is to at least partly annuitize — that is, buy a financial product that provides a monthly income. When you buy a life annuity, the seller takes on the risk that you will live to age 110. That’s a big load off your mind. What makes it hard on your psyche is that to get a decent-size annuity, you have to turn over a big chunk of your life savings to the seller, usually an insurance company. For most people, especially younger retirees, some exposure to stocks makes sense. But grasping for high returns to compensate for years of undersaving is unwise. Do you lose sleep when the market plunges — or, worse, sell your shares and lock in big losses? Then you’d be better off in something safer...."

Of course, it's tricky. You're mixing actual finance with the most intensely personal emotions, and the biggest factors are immense and disturbing uncertainties: What will the markets do and when am I going to die?

Anyway... I learned 2 new words: "decumulation" and "dissaving."

"The biggest blow to theocracy has been when political Islamists have actually come to power."

"The 'Islamic Republic of Iran,' which once marketed itself as some kind of Muslim utopia, has devolved into little more than a third-world, tinpot dictatorship. The 'Islamic State' in Iraq and Syria was little more than a meth-fueled orgy of torture and killing. The rule of the 'Justice and Development Party' in Turkey, once so promising, has devolved into little more than the megalomaniacal rule of a typical Middle Eastern strongman (Erdogan) and his corrupt relatives. In America, theocracy will shrivel in the same way - by winning power and showing its true colors. I am predicting right now that after the Supreme Court overturns (or guts) Roe v. Wade in 2022, banning abortion across America will be a long-term political disaster for the Republican Party."
Writes a commenter named Michal Zapendowski, responding to a David Brooks column in the NYT, "This Is How Theocracy Shrivels." 

Brooks says something similar, though without equating American Republicans to political Islamists: "When political Islamists tried to establish theocratically influenced rule in actual nations, their movement’s reputation was badly hurt. In one of extremism’s most violent, radical manifestations, the Islamic State’s caliphate in Iraq and Syria became a blood-drenched nightmare."

"As the Taliban swept through Afghanistan in August, a Gen Z alt-right group ran a Twitter account devoted to celebrating their progress."

"Tweets in Pashto juxtaposed two laughing Taliban fighters with pictures meant to represent American effeminacy. Another said, the words auto-translated into English, 'Liberalism did not fail in Afghanistan because it was Afghanistan, it failed because it was not true. It failed America, Europe and the world see it.' The account, now suspended, was just one example of the open admiration for the Taliban that’s developed within parts of the American right. The influential young white supremacist Nick Fuentes... wrote on the encrypted app Telegram: 'The Taliban is a conservative, religious force, the U.S. is godless and liberal. The defeat of the U.S. government in Afghanistan is unequivocally a positive development.' An account linked to the Proud Boys expressed respect for the way the Taliban 'took back their national religion as law, and executed dissenters.'... The tragic journey of the last two decades began with the loudest voices on the right braying for war with Islamism and ended with a right-wing vanguard envying it.... 'They don’t hate their own masculinity,' [Tucker Carlson] said shortly after the fall of Kabul. 'They don’t think it’s toxic. They like the patriarchy. Some of their women like it too. So now they’re getting it all back. So maybe it’s possible that we failed in Afghanistan because the entire neoliberal program is grotesque.'"

From "The Right-Wingers Who Admire the Taliban" by Michelle Goldberg (NYT).

"I really do believe any prisoner who is found to be not a threat to themselves or the world should be released."

Do you believe that? I don't. 

And here's quote from Robert Kennedy Jr.: "My father, I think, would be really happy today. My father believed in compassion. The ideals of our justice system are the possibility of redemption and the importance of forgiveness. He didn’t believe the justice system was just about revenge."

Not all of the offspring of RFK are happy about the decision. Six of them — Joseph P. Kennedy II (D-Mass.), Courtney, Kerry, Chris, Maxwell, and Rory Kennedy — put out a statement that sounds right to me:
"We are devastated that the man who murdered our father has been recommended for parole. We adamantly oppose the parole and release of Sirhan Sirhan and are shocked by a ruling that we believe ignores the standards of parole of a confessed, first-degree murderer in the state of California."

Sirhan was originally sentenced to death. "When California eliminated the death penalty, Sirhan was resentenced to life. California has since reinstated the death penalty, but has a labyrinthine appeals process and rarely executes anyone."

The decision of the parole panel doesn't set him free. It must be reviewed by the parole board and then the governor. The governor's decision will take place well after the recall election, which is on September 14th.

August 27, 2021

Vertical panorama — a very hazy sunrise.


"I woke up at 6 a.m. feeling the kind of ambient half-hunger that I always tolerate for way too long."

"Not to be dramatic, but this is something I genuinely hate about myself — I always wait too long to eat, and I inevitably get into a bad mood before finally fixing the problem. My wife Alice rescued me with yogurt. She put all kinds of stuff in there that would never occur to me, like honey, almond shavings, plum slices, and a syrupy jam made out of sour cherries....  I got hungry for lunch around noon, but again waited like 90 minutes to do anything about it. Once I hit a breaking point, I needed something fast and potent, so I made myself three soft-boiled eggs using a Japanese device my friend David gave me...."

"The show’s soothing rhythm is so sacred that when I adopted an unorthodox strategy of frenetic hops about the board rather than a stately march down the selected category..."

"... during my 11-game stint, I went viral as a 'Jeopardy! villain.'... Now, I’m struggling to keep watching. 'Jeopardy!' is changing, and the show threatens to destroy its own appeal by abandoning the unvarying formula we’ve come to depend on and sidelining the people who most make it succeed. It all started with the loss of Trebek. At my tapings, Trebek told us that if he were ever to retire, his one piece of advice to his successor would be, 'Stay out of the way, and let the contestants be the stars.'... When Trebek died... most fans expected for a replacement already to have been named and, after a bit of welcoming fanfare, for the show to return to normal as soon as possible. Instead, 'Jeopardy!' trampled over Trebek’s directive. The hunt for the new host became a public circus of 'on-the-job tryouts' featuring a glamorous roster of A-listers, and the star of the show became the week’s celebrity guest host. Each episode, their followers tuned in to root for them, not the actual contestants."

"Nuclear power may be safer than the public believes, but the public’s beliefs matter a great deal in a democracy."

"Solar and wind power are extremely popular with Americans, but nuclear power is viewed unfavorably, with more people opposing its expansion than supporting it..... 'It’s absurd to be "pronuclear" or "antinuclear" on an ideological/identity basis,' David Roberts, an energy and climate journalist, said last year. 'The world should build whatever carbon-free options are fastest and (with all costs considered) cheapest. Nuclear doesn’t currently fit that bill, but new reactor designs might change that. If so, build them; if not, don’t.'"

From "Is There a Nuclear Option for Stopping Climate Change?" by Spencer Bokat-Lindell (NYT).

Back in 2019, Biden's idea about brain cancer in veterans failed a fact-check, yet he repeated that idea yesterday.

From yesterday's speech
Being the father of an Army major who served for a year in Iraq, and before that was in Kosovo as a US attorney for the better part of six months in the middle of a war, when he came home after a year in Iraq he was diagnosed like many, many coming home with an aggressive and lethal cancer of the brain and we lost.

I think Biden was reading his speech, but it's hard to believe this line was written and edited. Many veterans returning from Iraq had aggressive brain cancer? 

Here's a piece from from December 2019, "Biden Exaggerates Science on Burn Pits and Brain Cancer."

Although future studies may eventually come out to change scientific opinion, there is no direct evidence that burn pits cause brain cancer, and no indication that Iraq War veterans are especially affected by brain cancer, as Biden claimed.

"The eldest by a minute, she is the only heterosexual in our family; her twin is a lesbian and so are her two Moms...."

"... Because I grew up in an Irish-Catholic household where sexual feelings were at best contained, at worst annulled, I took particular pleasure in allowing hers to flourish. The boyfriend’s parents... had been raised in other faiths and had converted to Islam. They insisted on strict compliance with religious laws. Meaning: Their boy with the luxurious hair was not allowed to date.... I became complicit in their circumventing his parents’ prohibitions.... [M]y own family’s disapproval of my lesbian desire fueled this indecorous behavior on my part.... Of course, they got caught.... [My daughter's boyfriend's parents] proposed a temporary marriage between my 13-year-old and theirs, although I would not know about this until moments before the ceremony.... The ceremony took place in a local Mexican coffee house.... I thought I was simply coming along to meet the mother. My eldest whispered the relevant details in my ear as they walked through the door.... The boy’s mother was strikingly beautiful and at least a decade younger than me. After we had all gotten our hot chocolates, she took out her Quran and explained that temporary marriage was a way for our children to have some limited physical contact without jeopardizing her son’s soul.... I assented without calling home to consult my partner of 20-something years.... ...I didn’t want my daughter to be prevented from touching the boy she loved. I didn’t want what had been done to me to be done to her. So I assented, and the boy’s parents read the ritual phrases in Arabic, and the children nodded along and, without my understanding a word, they were married.... Their temporary marriage lasted until they broke up a year later...."

1. The parents — all 3 of them — were actively facilitating sexual intercourse between 13-year-olds. Is this not criminal behavior? 

2. Oh, but the boy and his mother were beautiful! Beauty privilege. Step back naysayers! Beautiful people are moving forward, claiming what they want.

3. Chocolate was had. That makes everything more palatable.

4. The mother does not concede that the 2 teenagers ever had sexual intercourse, and lets us know that her daughter regards your curiosity about this as "disturbingly invasive, and, indeed, exoticizing." That is, you are the creep, not these parents who got their kids "temporarily married."

5. Imagine taking a vow that was read to you in a language that you don't understand. Imagine sitting by sipping hot chocolate while your exuberant daughter nods assent to what sounds like gibberish to her but you know is deadly serious to the person who is reading the vows. 

6. Are the vows deeply meaningful or utterly meaningless? What is "temporary marriage" anyway? Maybe it's a debasement of marriage — if marriage means something deep to you. But it's a step up from the cheap vowless love the mother approved of before the boy's parents caught on to the relationship she was eagerly enabling. 

7. The mother sees herself in her daughter, and she's proud of this merged identity. The mother's grudges against her own mother and against society are reenacted through her daughter, whom she touts in the pages of the New York Times.

8. The author has a whole memoir coming out, so the daughter's story is, apparently, thoroughly appropriated by the mother. Talk about "disturbingly invasive."

"I’ve instructed the military, whatever they need, if they need additional force, I will grant it. But..."

"... the military — from the chairman of the joint chiefs, the commanders in the field — have all contacted me one way or another, usually by letter, saying they subscribe to the mission as designed, to get as many people out as we can within the timeframe that is allotted."

 Said Joe Biden yesterday.

"That is the best way they believe to get as many Americans out as possible and others. And with regard to finding, tracking down the ISIS leaders who ordered this, we have some reason to believe we know who they are, not certain, and we will find ways of our choosing without large military operations to get them wherever they are."

"[W]e should continue the airlift as long as we can. But that won’t be forever, as conditions deteriorate... and not everyone who desperately wants to get out will be able to do so."

"That is tragic. But it would be true, I believe, whenever and however the U.S. mission ended. The images we’re seeing from Kabul are shocking, heartbreaking and embarrassing. But the real stain on our national honor was in making promises to Afghans that we never had the intention or even the ability to keep. Twenty years of U.S. blood and treasure gave Afghanistan not a secular democracy but its flickering illusion. And history will see this withdrawal, painful as it is to watch, not as ignominious but as inevitable."

I'm quoting this because it's what I assume is the administration's position, though they won't say it to us so bluntly. It can be put more bluntly: It's going to be a nasty few days, but we'll get past it, and Americans have permission to look away and not agonize over the details.

AND: To put it more inanely, "I want to talk about happy things, man." That's a quote from Biden, something he said on July 2d, when reporters pressed him on the withdrawal from Afghanistan, and his idea was to talk about the economy. Because it's always the economy. You can count on Americans to recenter ourselves on the economy. As they say in politics, "It's the economy, stupid." They're talking to us. 

August 26, 2021

Sunrise, 6:20.


"Two blasts struck near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Thursday, the Pentagon confirmed..."

"... just hours after Western governments warned of a security threat there and urged people to leave the area immediately... One Afghan health official said at least 30 people were confirmed dead and at least 120 wounded. Another health official said at least 40 were dead and 120 wounded.... A Pentagon spokesman, John F. Kirby, said in a statement that 'a number of U.S. service members were killed' in the attack, and that 'a number of others' were wounded. In one part of one hospital alone, a New York Times journalist saw dozens of severely wounded or killed people....."

Thursday's panorama.


"The mainstream media certainly gave Trump harsh and even overtly hostile coverage. But..."

"... the mainstream media only describes roughly half the media landscape. The other half of the media is a right-wing messaging apparatus that makes no effort to follow traditional journalistic norms.... If you want to understand the strange difficulty that Joe Biden’s sane, competent administration has in yielding measurably higher approval than Trump’s insane, incompetent presidency, the asymmetrical relationship between the two parties and their respective media environments is the most important place to start.... On Trump’s worst days, the Fox News chyrons depicted him as a triumphal leader. On Biden’s best days, the conservative media was still giving him hell. In recent days, CNN and MSNBC looked a lot like Fox News, all hyping chaos in Afghanistan 24/7. That is the kind of comprehensive media hostility Trump never had to worry about. Of course, never having to worry about the media turning your base against you means not holding yourself to any standard of performance other than standing firm with your own base. Republicans have the freedom to dismiss negative revelations as the liberal media, a luxury Democrats don’t have."

Writes Jonathan Chait in support of the hard-to-believe thesis "Why the Media Is Worse for Biden Than Trump" (NY Magazine).

If it were my job to write a column supporting that proposition, I'd take an entirely different tack. I'd say the media always opposed Trump, and he built his political success fighting against his opponents. He was a great counterpuncher, and he got energy from these attacks. Whatever they did to him "proved" they were "fake news," and he used whatever was thrown his way to his advantage. Thus, the media was never bad for him. 

But Biden has been boosted all along by the media, spared criticism, spared even any serious questioning. Coddled for so long, he's now exposed as utterly vulnerable. The media have been so good to him that when there's anything bad, it is very bad for him. So, clearly, the media are worse for Biden than for Trump. Key word: for

If the media had treated Biden and Trump equally badly all along, Biden would never have been the Democratic Party candidate in the first place. 

"Goblincore: the fashion trend that embraces ‘chaos, dirt and mud’/Sales of clothes and accessories featuring mushrooms, snails, frogs and worms are booming, but why now?"

Headline at The Guardian. 

Yes, I know this isn't the most important thing going on in the world right now, but maybe that's why we've got Goblincore. I remember a similar enthusiasm for mushroom and frog motifs in the early 1970s.
[Goblincore] “romanticizes the ugly, lesser appreciated parts of the natural world.” Its trappings include animal skulls and earthworms... [I]t is about “chaos, dirt and mud.”... “I’ve been tagging some of my pieces as goblincore for over 18 months but recently it seems anything frog, snail, moss or mushroom related has exploded,” says Jane Geloso, owner of the Palm Tree Etsy store.... 
[I]t can be tied to queerness and anti-capitalism. In relation to queerness in particular, she says, “there’s something incredibly freeing about goblincore. Mushrooms are huge in the community and some species of fungi have thousands of sexes – it’s just about vibing and existing, not fitting into a mould.”... 
A close but more feral cousin to cottagecore, a trend for a stylised, agrarian way of life and its aesthetic – prairie dresses, jam tarts, thatched cottages and strawberry motifs – that was big last year, goblincore is... more “rough around the edges.” 
“Wildflowers and white linen dresses are wonderful but goblincore is staining that same dress with mud and moss and watching snails and slugs eat the wildflowers”....

Isn't it just hippies all over again? And then it's just a question of how much of a "dirty hippie" you are — either really, because you're poor or you've lost track of hygiene, or as a matter of style, a funky aesthetic. 

Now, please gaze upon these vintage cannisters (from 1976). Maybe you remember the strange era in America where people put stuff like this in their kitchen:

I believe if you stare at that image for 60 seconds, thoughts of the actual important news stories of the day will rise up within your brain and dance about to the maddening music of tinkly harps and flutes:

"[Bob] Ross’s hair, a holdover from the free-love era, wasn’t naturally curly—he had it permed every few months, a process that he called having his 'springs tightened.'"

"As a nature-loving aesthete, he didn’t seem to have much mind for business matters, which, for better or worse, he left up to the Kowalskis. The documentary treats him as a spiritual healer, somewhere in the family of the Dalai Lama, but it’s more accurate to place him alongside Julia Child, Richard Simmons, and other lovable oddballs who found a niche in mass media and burrowed their way into popular culture.”

I watched a bit of the documentary, but I turned it off. The "true crime" style is ludicrous. The lurid "Betrayal & Greed" just refers to marketing the Bob Ross brand after his death. 

Do I need to know about "the Kowalskis"? I think not. But here's a quote from Annette Kowalski describing Bob Ross's technique — not painting technique, but his speaking-while-painting technique — “He pretends like he’s talking to one woman in bed. He practiced. He was trying to be a little sexy.”

Things garnered recently.

"The racial breastfeeding gap has garnered tremendous popular and academic interest in recent years." 

"One of the world’s fastest roller coasters, the Do-Dodonpa can hurtle from a standstill to 112 miles per hour within 1.56 seconds."

"But local government officials at the Yamanashi Prefecture said last week that the roller coaster would shut down for safety inspections after four passengers reported neck and backbone fractures.... Kimie Konishi, a Fuji-Q Highland spokeswoman, said... that all passengers were instructed to maintain contact with head and back rests, but some of the injured passengers told park employees that they might have leaned forward during the ride.... ... Fuji-Q Highland is known for its memorable advertising plea last year when it reopened with new pandemic-related restrictions: 'Please scream inside your heart.'"

August 25, 2021

At the Sunset Café...


... you can talk all night.


"Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of Robert F. Kennedy assassination, seeks parole with no opposition from prosecutors/Attorneys say that 53 years behind bars is sufficient punishment for the 77-year-old; Kennedy family declines to weigh in."

The Washington Post reports. 
Newly elected Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón told The Washington Post shortly before his inauguration in December that he was creating a sentencing review unit to revisit the cases of about 20,000 prisoners for possible resentencing, analyzing both the fairness of long sentences and the cost savings for releasing low-risk or older inmates.... 
In Sirhan’s case, Gascón’s office is remaining neutral....Kennedy is survived by his wife, Ethel Kennedy, and nine children, many of whom declined to comment....

Ethel Kennedy is still alive. She's 93 and has never remarried. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for some reason has come to believe that Sirhan was not the killer, and he's met with Sirhan and told him so.

Under California law in effect in 1968, a life sentence with parole would have made Sirhan eligible for release after seven years. He has had no disciplinary violations since 1972, and although he claims not to remember the act of shooting Kennedy, he has expressed remorse in parole hearings since the 1980s.... 
ADDED: "Ethel publicly stated that she still considered herself married to Bobby and would not marry again, instead devoting herself to furthering his work and legacy."

Sunrise panorama.


 6:27 this morning.

"Office workers who were sent home during pandemic lockdowns often sought refuge in nature, tending to houseplants, setting up bird feeders..."

"... and sitting outdoors with their laptops. Now, as companies try to coax skittish employees back to the office and building owners compete for tenants when vacancy rates are soaring, many have hit on the idea of making the office world feel more like the natural world. The effort seeks to give office workers access to fresh air, sunlight and plants, in tune with the concept of biophilia, which says humans have an innate connection with nature. Designs that include nature are shown to promote health and wellness. Some of the more unusual nature-themed offering include 'treehouse' lounges and vegetable plots that let desk workers dig in the dirt. Beekeeping programs — complete with honey tastings and name-your-queen contests — are, ahem, all the buzz. One upcoming project in Texas will include a bird blind, allowing workers to peek out at other winged creatures."

It seems like kindergarten — honey tastings and name-your-queen contests. Would you respond to an office that tried to manage your mood like this? I would be coaxed into an office space that was beautifully designed overall, as a matter of architecture, but vegetable gardens and beehives seem like a distraction catering to other people.

If you are or were an office worker, would you be lured into the office building by beehives, vegetable gardens, and bird blinds? free polls

"In Kabul on Wednesday, women in parts of the city with minimal Taliban presence were going out 'with normal clothes, as it was before the Taliban'..."

"... said a resident named Shabaka. But in central areas with many Taliban fighters, few women ventured out, and those who did wore burqas, said Sayed, a civil servant," the NYT reports in "A Taliban spokesman urges women to stay home because fighters haven’t been trained to respect them" (NYT). 

The spokesman said "We are worried our forces who are new and have not been yet trained very well may mistreat women" and "We don’t want our forces, God forbid, to harm or harass women" and advised women to stay home "until we have a new procedure."

The Times quotes someone at Human Rights Watch: "They’re trying to look normal and legitimate, and this will last as long as the international community and the international press are still there. And then we’ll see what they’re really like again....This announcement just highlights to me that they don’t feel like they need to wait."

"It’s true that the Afghan Army lost its will to fight. But that’s because of the growing sense of abandonment by our American partners..."

"... and the disrespect and disloyalty reflected in Mr. Biden’s tone and words over the past few months. The Afghan Army is not without blame. It had its problems — cronyism, bureaucracy — but we ultimately stopped fighting because our partners already had. It pains me to see Mr. Biden and Western officials are blaming the Afghan Army for collapsing without mentioning the underlying reasons that happened.... First, former President Donald Trump’s February 2020 peace deal with the Taliban in Doha doomed us. It put an expiration date on American interest in the region. Second, we lost contractor logistics and maintenance support critical to our combat operations. Third, the corruption endemic in Mr. Ghani’s government that flowed to senior military leadership and long crippled our forces on the ground irreparably hobbled us..... They could sense victory and knew it was just a matter of waiting out the Americans. Before that deal, the Taliban had not won any significant battles against the Afghan Army. After the agreement? We were losing dozens of soldiers a day. Still, we kept fighting. But then Mr. Biden confirmed in April he would stick to Mr. Trump’s plan and set the terms for the U.S. drawdown.... Our sense of abandonment and betrayal was equaled only by the frustration U.S. pilots felt and relayed to us — being forced to witness the ground war, apparently unable to help us. Overwhelmed by Taliban fire, my soldiers would hear the planes and ask why they were not providing air support. Morale was devastated. Across Afghanistan, soldiers stopped fighting."

"The Supreme Court on Tuesday night rejected the Biden administration’s plea for a reprieve from a district-court order requiring it to reinstate a Trump-era program known as the 'remain in Mexico' policy..."

"... which requires asylum seekers to stay in Mexico while they wait for a hearing in U.S. immigration court.... The decision means that the Biden administration must resume enforcing the policy 'in good faith' while litigation continues in the lower courts.... [Texas and Missouri] contend that, without the policy, large numbers of migrants can enter the United States based on dubious asylum claims, imposing costs on the states....  The states rejected the administration’s argument that requiring it to reinstate the policy would lead to 'chaos at the border'... Indeed, the states noted, news reports have indicated that the Biden administration itself has 'privately discussed' reviving the policy because of the problems at the border.... In a brief unsigned order issued shortly before 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, the court explained that the Biden administration was not likely to succeed – one of the criteria for obtaining this kind of request for emergency relief – in showing that its decision to end the policy was not 'arbitrary and capricious' – that is, reasonable and reasonably explained. The order cited the court’s 2020 ruling in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California, which rejected the Trump administration’s efforts to terminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, an Obama-era policy that protected people who were brought as children to the U.S. without authorization. In Regents, the court held that the Trump administration had not properly explained its decision to end DACA."

"At least 24 students from the Cajon Valley Union School District in El Cajon [California] and 16 parents are stranded in Afghanistan after taking a summer trip abroad."

The L.A. Times reports. 

This is terrible, but who would take American students on a trip to Afghanistan this summer?!
Cajon Valley Supt. David Miyashiro... said that the families are on special visas for U.S. military service and that the Department of Defense considers them allies.... Cajon Valley School Board member Jo Alegria said the students were in Afghanistan on summer vacation with their families.  

"Spencer Elden, who appeared as a naked baby on one of rock music’s most iconic album covers – Nevermind by Nirvana – is suing the band, claiming he was sexually exploited as a child."

The Guardian reports. 
.... Elden alleges the defendants produced child pornography with the image, which features him swimming naked towards a dollar bill with his genitalia visible.

If that's child pornography, a hell of a lot of people are in possession of child pornography!  

Elden, who was four months old when the image was made, says he has suffered “lifelong damages” from the 1991 album cover, including “extreme and permanent emotional distress with physical manifestations”, plus loss of education, wages, and “enjoyment of life”. The lawsuit claims the image is “sexually graphic”, and says it makes Elden resemble “a sex worker – grabbing for a dollar bill”.

Is a naked penis "sexually graphic"? The photo is framed to draw attention to the baby's penis. There's also that "sex worker" theory: The baby is portrayed as money hungry, reacting to the dollar bill that's the bait on a fishhook. But he's only trying to grab the dollar, not required to do anything sexual to get the dollar. We're asked to believe that if you do something while naked, you're doing something sexual. 

It claims Elden was never paid for appearing on the cover, and that his parents never signed a release form for the image, which was shot specifically for the album cover. It has previously been reported that Elden was paid $250. Elden is seeking damages of at least $150,000 from each of the 15 defendants, plus costs, and asks that the case be tried with a jury.

Oh, pay the model! Good lord, must this poor man spend his entire life reaching out for the money you dangled in front of him? And yet, millions of people have loved the Nevermind baby, and I presume would have celebrated Elden and loved his status as former naked baby. Did he suffer? Extreme and permanent emotional distress? 

In 2016, Elden... said: “Recently I’ve been thinking, ‘What if I wasn’t OK with my freaking penis being shown to everybody?’ I didn’t really have a choice.”

We are all former babies who didn't have a choice in all sorts of things — posed in all kinds of photographs — often naked. It dilutes the meaning of pornography to throw in all nudity. The great art museums are full of nudity, including the nudity of babies (notably Jesus).

They revoked Andrew Cuomo's Emmy, and the first question is why did Andrew Cuomo win an Emmy?

Here's an NPR article from last November: "Andrew Cuomo To Receive International Emmy For 'Masterful' COVID-19 Briefings." 
The International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences announced Friday that it is breaking with tradition and awarding its International Emmy Founders Award to a real politician who is currently in office....

They went out of their way to create a new concept for an award just to adulate Cuomo.

"The Governor's 111 daily briefings worked so well because he effectively created television shows, with characters, plot lines, and stories of success and failure," the academy's president and CEO, Bruce Paisner, explained in a statement announcing the decision.... 

When you go to the URL for the statement, you can't read the full text with all its original effusiveness. You just see this, dated yesterday:

The International Academy announced today that in light of the New York Attorney General’s report, and Andrew Cuomo’s subsequent resignation as Governor, it is rescinding his special 2020 International Emmy® Award. His name and any reference to his receiving the award will be eliminated from International Academy materials going forward.

I was going to dig the original statement out of the usually reliable Wayback Machine but look — it only records what happened there yesterday:

The Wayback Machine becomes the Memory Hole! So does Google's "cache." Hey, keepers of the web, don't help these award-givers hide their embarrassment. Preserve history for us!

I wanted to get to the original statement to see the full text of the sentence that called Andrew Cuomo "masterful." Why would a man think he could do the things Cuomo is accused of doing? He's responsible for whatever he did, even if other people encouraged and enabled him, but I want to express disdain for the ostensible adults who gave a politician an award for being "masterful." 

Think about it what it means to praise a politician for being "masterful" in his use of media to massage minds and to control behavior. Let me help you by quoting from the OED's definitions for "masterful"

Having a master's character or disposition; accustomed to or insisting upon having one's own way; imperious, wilful, overbearing. Of an action: high-handed, despotic... Having the qualities of a master; powerful and able to control others; commanding, vigorous in rule....

If a politician is the master, we the people are the slaves.  

ADDED: The ceremony presentation is still available — because it's in Cuomo's own YouTube account. Enjoy the tongue bath:

August 24, 2021

6:19 a.m.


This is just a photograph to document that I went for a sunrise run. You can write about anything in the comments. 

"The Wisconsin rock episode was a textbook demonstration of the difference between sincere activism and playacting..."

"... out of a desire to join the civil rights struggle in a time when the problems are so much more abstract than they once were. The true fault here lies with the school’s administration, whose deer tails popped up as they bolted into the forest, out of a fear of going against the commandments of what we today call antiracism, which apparently includes treating Black people as simpletons and thinking of it as reckoning. True wokeness would have been to awaken to the tricky but urgent civic responsibility of, when necessary, calling out Black people on nonsense. Yes, even Black people can be wrong.... To pretend this is never the case where racism is concerned is not to reckon but to dehumanize.... Likely: the authorities caved in so that students wouldn’t call them racists on social media. This entailed a basic dismissal of these students’ mental and moral capacity: Having the rock removed showed that these people apparently didn’t expect that Black kids were capable of distinguishing, reflection, sense..... [T]he rock episode was... performance art... it’s fake, it’s self-involved, and it helps no one. Yes, racism persists in our society in many ways, and administrators serving up craven condescension as antiracism are fine examples of it."

Interestingly, the NYT prints out the word "n***erhead," which I won't spell out here. The rock was known to have been called that ONCE, back in the 1920s, in the Wisconsin State Journal, and that was the basis for removing the rock. So it's very bold for the NYT to print the word. I presume McWhorter insisted on it, and perhaps he will write about that.

More importantly, McWhorter accused the University of Wisconsin administration of racism. It was racism, he says, to behave as if the students were making sense when they were not. 

"He stayed courtly and soft-spoken. The Stones would go out regularly, playing larger and larger shows...."

"Watts remained himself, observing life from the drummer’s chair. 'To have to live with being some teenybop idol for Charlie is very difficult, because he’s not like that at all,' [Keith] Richards wrote of Watts. 'Charlie Watts to me is the most honest man in the world — to himself, to everybody. He never even wanted to be a pop star. It still makes him cringe.'.... Watts didn’t survive the Stones’ famously toxic environment entirely. He is said to have eschewed drugs from the start; but during the 1980s (during the dark years of Jagger’s solo efforts), he began drinking and ended up a heroin addict.... He dressed well; by the 1990s. he might wear a bespoke double-breasted suit onstage, and ultimately he ended up in Vanity Fair’s International Best-Dressed Hall of Fame. But he didn’t flail the drums or mug for the crowd; the idea of a Charlie Watts drum solo at a Rolling Stones concert was unthinkable. He just did his job; he never missed a show in his entire career drumming for the band...."

From "Charlie Watts Held the Rolling Stones Together for Half a Century" by Bill Wyman — the journalist, not the Rolling Stones bass player — in New York Magazine.

"The Taliban said on Tuesday that they would block Afghans trying to leave the country from traveling to Kabul’s airport and would reject any plans to extend the deadline for American troops to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of this month."

“The road that ends at the Kabul airport has been blocked. Foreigners can go through it, but Afghans are not allowed to take the road,” [Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman] said... 
He urged the crowds of Afghans thronging the airport in hopes of leaving the country to instead go home, saying that the Taliban would “guarantee their security,” and noted that there was no list of people targeted for reprisals.... 
President Biden’s deadline for the U.S. evacuation of its citizens and allies in Afghanistan — Aug. 31 — is one week away....  The U.S. military has helped secure the evacuation of 58,000 people since Aug. 14....  The Biden administration has been unable to pinpoint how many people are in need of evacuation.

It should at least be an either/or situation: Either they let people get to the airport OR there is no valid deadline. 

But I expect silence from the Biden administration about that and presume that they will evacuate until the deadline, then credit themselves with having evacuated so many people so quickly and meeting the deadline. That's what I expect, so I'm not surprised that the Taliban have the gall to declare the deadline in force even as they obstruct access to the airport.


6:37 a.m.


Meghan Murphy explains — to Joe Rogan — how she got censored for saying the wrong thing about transgender women.

Accents, apes.


Kamala Harris is fully aware that as she stands there today that the eyes of many around the world are on Afghanistan...


"We are laser-focused on the task at hand," she says, her arms flapping nervously, as if she would like to fly away. 

Last week on this blog, we were talking about comic actors doing characters. Remember? I thought a particular woman who was being made fun of might herself be a comedienne doing a character. 

Freeman Hunt said, "But you usually try to take it just over the edge, amplify it a little. Therein lies the humor." 

I responded, "Some of the best comic actors do not amplify it. Think of Charles Grodin and Phil Hartman." I was quite sure I'd heard a brilliant comic actor — who? — say that his trick was to copy the person exactly. Don't amplify. And watching Harris, just now — at 7:00 to 7:15 — I thought: That's it, that's what you copy. Copy that exactly. The words, the eye movements, the pauses, the arm jerks — everything. Resist all amplification. That would be hilarious. Painful too, but hilarious.

Maybe it has something to do with our socialization and inhibition. We're polite enough to refrain from laughing at real people trying to get through whatever they've got going for them, using whatever talent they have. But that restraint takes its toll, and when a comic actor takes the place of that real person, what a relief. It's finally okay to laugh.

But a comedian stepping up and giving us a chance to laugh at Kamala Harris won't bring much relief. She really is too dangerous. She's about to become President, and here she is on her Southeast Asian trip to show off her readiness to become President, and she does not project gravitas or even minimal sincerity. She seems afraid and insecure. The President is supposed to protect us, not require our protection. 

UPDATE: Here's the press conference from yesterday — video, transcript. Asked whether she was "satisfied" with what was being done in Afghanistan —  "not the decision itself, but the operational steps that were taken" — she repeated her one talking point — the administration is "focused" on "the task at hand" (evacuating people) — and swiveled to the fact that she was standing there in Singapore:

"For the young, social media filters that smooth skin and inflate their eyes’ proportions are almost ubiquitous, like a popular 'Pixar' filter on Snapchat..."

"... that made its users look like the cartoons of their youth, or the popular Facetune app. It is a short leap to 'Facetuning' in real life. Patients used to approach surgeons with photos of celebrities; now it is more likely of their own filtered face. 'It’s exceptional now to see a photo on social media without a filter,' [says Dr Olivier Amar, one of London’s leading cosmetic surgeons]. 'Patients are comparing themselves to something that doesn’t exist. And because they may only ever see themselves on a phone, using their phone as a mirror, they may not even recognise themselves in a real mirror. If they get these treatments they feel they can have the life as people seem to have online.' Why, then, has this 'bug-eyed' face emerged ahead of all the other cultural standards of beauty? David Bainbridge, a reproductive biologist at the University of Cambridge, wrote in his book Curvology that females are more evolved than males: humans have smaller teeth, flatter faces, smaller chins and less hair than primates, especially females. Many of these qualities are emphasised in 'Instagram face,' the distinctive narrow-nosed 'heart-shaped' face. 'We do not know why women should be more "modern-looking" than men,' Bainbridge writes, 'but it has been suggested that many of the characteristics men find attractive are the same as those which make them look distinctively human.'"

The term "alien face" is used in the article. It's a reference back to cheesy 1950s movies and has to do with "diagonally pulled-up eyes... narrow nostrils and a glazed, expressionless stare" or something like "the image on the front of Space Raiders crisps, this kind of overbuilt cheek, overbuilt temple, skeletonised, sharp features that just didn’t look correct."

It's interesting to take that observation and extrapolate a reason why so many people would decide that's the most beautiful look. So Bainbridge offers his theory, that we somehow aspire to more and more evolution and are projecting into the future, trying to look like humans a million years from now. How do you know where evolution will take us? 

It seems as though you take your cliché image of a caveman, imagine what is needed to get from that to standard human being of today, then whatever you just did to the caveman, do it again to the person of today, and that's the ultra-evolved human being. Or — to follow Bainbridge's idea — you accept that a woman of today already has that "more evolved" look, so you plot a straight line from modern man to modern woman and keep going. What do you see? Now, get a plastic surgeon to translate that fanciful vision onto your actual face. 

Won't you look weird? Not if you've been using your phone as a mirror.

August 23, 2021

"Captain is part of the governor's family and for your nameless ill-informed source to imply they've been trying to give him away is untrue."

"Someone offered to watch him for a few days while the transition was ongoing but for that to be weaponized and morph from a game of telephone into the pages of your paper is absurd — now excuse us we're preparing for a major storm."

Said a spokesman for Andrew Cuomo, quoted in "Cuomo's dog Captain left at mansion after governor departed" (Times Union). 

The dog is "a high-strung mix of shepherd, Siberian and malamute" who "has nipped a few people since Cuomo adopted him in 2018." 

These politicians and their fake dogs.

ADDED: Wikipedia has a nice list of all the Presidents "pets." I put pets in quotes because they're all animals but not all pets. Included on the list are horses used in battle and silkworms, whose silk was spun by Louisa Adams, the wife of John Quincy Adams. 

Quincy Adams also had an alligator — "Said to have belonged to Marquis de Lafayette and housed for two months in the East Room." Emphasis on "said." Andrew Jackson kept fighting cocks. Thomas Jefferson had 2 grizzly bear cubs — a gift from Captain Zebulon Pike:

"Here's the whole world in colorful miniature. All the pavilions have exciting differences, but over them all, there's exciting oneness...."

"But I say, this is the greatest rally in the history of our country, this is the greatest movement in the history of our country.... And it’s probably the greatest movement in the history of our world...."

"Call it, make America great again, call it America first, call it what you will. I believe it’s the greatest movement probably in the history of the world. It’s just starting. It’s just starting. We are one movement, one people, one family, and one glorious nation under God. So with love of our nation, swelling in our hearts, and it does swell in your hearts. That’s why you’re standing here in the rain, listening to this person. You’re saying, 'Darling, it’s raining. Let’s go home.' But nobody is leaving all the way back hundreds and like football fields behind, football fields. 'Darling, it’s raining,' but they say, 'We’re not going home because we love our country.' But with swelling in our hearts, the spirit of America is stirring ourselves. And I say these words to you, and you’ve heard these words before, in some cases many times before, we will make America powerful again. We will make America wealthy again. We will make America strong again. We will make America, despite what you’re seeing today so sad and so pathetic, we will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And you know what it is, we will make America great again. Thank you Alabama. God bless you all."

Donald Trump dished out hearty helpings of intense hyperbole and corny warmth at his August 21st rally in Alabama. The transcript is now out: here

The hearts are swelling —  swelling! — and the rhetoric is wholly swollen: It's the greatest movement the history of our world — probably. 

Despite what you’re seeing today so sad and so pathetic, we will make America proud again... and don't people want to feel proud? How easy is the other side making it for Trump when they're pushing shame — imposing shame. It's obvious that Trump is running for President, running hard, though he can't say it yet for legal reasons having to do with campaign finance law. 

I'd say it will be hard for any Democrat to run against his hugeness and his logic-transcending emotional power, and yet we just saw Joe Biden run against him, run against him and win, using a minimalist, barely-there approach. 

"The museum appeared at first to be a collection of capitalist artifacts. A large figure of the Jolly Green Giant flanked Poppin’ Fresh, of Pillsbury fame... shared space with... the Michelin Man."

"But Ms. Weis’s intent was to link our conceptions of these pop-culture figures to the human need to mythologize; she asserted that our Fates, Furies and giants were not left behind in Greece or Egypt, but rather transposed to our own culture.... One of her favorite pieces in the museum was a plastic model of Elsie the Cow, the character used to sell dairy products in advertisements for the Borden Dairy Company, which later branched out into chemical products, including glue. Elsie then acquired a husband, Elmer, who sold the well-known white glue named after him. Their domestic squabbles formed the background of 20th-century ad campaigns selling Borden products. Mr. Whiting compared their dynamic to that of Hera and Zeus in Greek mythology, the archetypical contentious marriage. 'We’re not saying they’re deities,' Ms. Weis said... 'But the same relationship holds. They will live beyond their generation because people revere their character by buying the product.'"

As I mentioned on this blog in its first year, there's a member of my family who, when he was rather young, believed for quite a while that the image on the cans of Green Giant peas and corn in the cupboard was God. I had to ask him why did you think that was God? It's not as if anyone ever encouraged him to think the Jolly Green Giant was God, and he'd never questioned the adults about who this laughing green entity is supposed to be. The image itself conveyed the sense that this is God

Which image? It was the 1980s, so pick out 1980s Giant:

Yes, he's depicted with a scarf there. I'm going to presume that's the image for frozen vegetables. The "God" impression came from cans. I believe the giant stood spread-legged above a sunny farm field, wearing only his leafy tunic, crown of leaves, and elf shoes. Does that say "God" to you?

By the way, I fear for the human woman he took up with in 1945. The God Giant needs to stay in his heaven, presiding over the crops, and not consort with mortals. Those ears of corn and pea pods are far too large for the lady, whose head is the size of one of those peas.

And the 1970 giant is so 1970s, clearly influenced by the hippie movement. Imagine a God who follows transitory, regional human trends... and who's squirmily bashful about his achievements. A modest God!

Very like a whale.


Nice. Irrelevantly, that got me thinking of the cloud-gazing in "Hamlet":
Hamlet: Do you see yonder cloud that’s almost in shape of a camel? 
Polonius: By the mass, and ‘tis like a camel, indeed. 
Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel. 
Polonius: It is backed like a weasel. 
Hamlet: Or like a whale? 
Polonius: Very like a whale.

Yonder dialogue is almost in the shape of an activist talking to a wokester....

Why so many people find Jennifer Rubin an easy target.

She writes columns like "Why so many people find Biden an easy target" (WaPo). 
If Biden had known the intelligence community estimate for how long the Afghan government would last was wildly wrong, they argue, he could have started a mass evacuation sooner. But they cannot explain precisely how an earlier mass evacuation would not have brought down the Afghan government even sooner. The Biden administration made specific errors.... Nevertheless, expecting a flawless exit from a quagmire one perpetuated over two decades is unfair — and cowardly. Reporters who have themselves been spun about the war’s progress might be more candid about what the administration is achieving despite the chaos. Ah well, it seems there’s no market for that message during a pile-on.

But the media had been protecting Biden for so long, so uncritically, and the media, including Rubin, piled on Trump for his entire presidency, whether things were looking chaotic or he was pushing back chaos.

"UFO skepticism can sometimes be mistaken for anthropocentrism, a kind of biological arrogance...."

"The believer says to the skeptic, 'So you think in all the universe, among billions and billions of galaxies, each with billions and billions of stars and untold numbers of planets, we humans are the only form of intelligent life?' An adjunct to this is the assertion that, among intelligent beings in the universe, humans are likely relatively primitive, since we’ve only been around for, what, 100,000 years or so, and the Old Ones out there may be billions of years ahead of us. It would actually be reassuring, at a deep existential level, to know that interstellar space travel is possible. That it’s something we might do someday. Alien visitors by their mere existence would imply that we can overcome our worst instincts (war, hatred, pollution, Twitter) and survive. It would be nice to know that the kind of intelligence humans possess, and which gives rise to technological civilizations like ours, won’t always backfire, that it’s not only a nifty evolutionary adaptation in the short run but something that’s durable. The aliens give us hope. In fact, in many UFO narratives that’s why they’re here, to help us along and save us from ourselves. They’re a little bit like angels. What’s more anthropocentric is to assume that human beings are so fascinating that aliens want to visit us and study us. The aliens seem a bit obsessed with us.... Some UFO narratives imagine that we have something the aliens are missing. Like: feelings....."

"Most older Americans want to age in place, and many can’t, or won’t, move to big cities with dense transportation networks and nearby grocery stores."

"Of course we should be working, in general, to put everything closer together so nobody has to get behind the wheel at the age of 95 — or 55, for that matter. But there’s going to end up being some in-between territory as well, and giving everyone (not just seniors) access to something like a golf cart, at minimal cost, as well as safe enough streets to operate them, could go a long way."

From "There’s One Thing We Can Learn From the Villages’ Success" (NY Magazine). The Villages is a planned community in Florida that was designed by former Disney Imagineers. 130,000 people live there, and it's grown 40% in the last 10 years. The "one thing" NY Magazine likes about it is the mobility by golf cart. There are other things NY Magazine does not like:
[F]or this overwhelmingly conservative population — the Villages went two-to-one for Trump — the very thing that may be attracting those who want to “Make America Great Again” are its pseudo-suburban neotraditionalist aesthetics, as James Brasuell wrote in Planetizen last year, asking whether “the village ideal is actually inherently conservative, and a vehicle for segregation.” (The Villages remains 98 percent white, even as the surrounding counties grow more diverse.) So, yes, there’s a lot wrong with the Villages.

"Is it possible to be nostalgic for the earlier version of a social-media interface?"

"No matter how often we use these platforms or how much we rely on them, we have no control over when they will change and what will be different. This conundrum makes me think of Walter Benjamin’s essay 'Unpacking My Library,' from 1931, in which he recounts removing his books from storage boxes and rearranging them on shelves. As he goes through the very physical process, he recalls where the books came from and what they symbolize to him, knowledge either obtained or aspired to. 'Ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects,' Benjamin wrote. 'Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them.' In other words, we find our identities in the artifacts of the culture that we keep around us. But, when interfaces keep changing according to the profit incentives of vast technology corporations, it’s hard to feel that the things we publish and collect in our digital spaces really belong to us."

I hadn't noticed the change in Twitter, so I was inclined to make fun of the loftiness here, but then I thought of the place that really is deeply intertwined with my sense of myself, this blog. For many years, I've kept the same format for the page that you see, but the page where I write changed dramatically a while back, and I lost a feeling of fluidity and belonging. I'm a writer in exile from a place I remember and romanticize. 

I wanted to read Walter Benjamin’s "Unpacking My Library," and, not finding the full text on line, I searched Amazon:

A colossal foot rasp! That will be good for my colossal foot:

"We instantly recognize the financial despair and destruction this will cause our community. We brace ourselves for the crisis this will likely cause."

That's a statement from the Adult Performance Artists Guild, quoted in "Five OnlyFans Creators on the Company’s Porn Ban and What Comes Next" (NY Magazine). 

From one of the "creators":

August 22, 2021

At the Late Night Café...


 ... you can talk all night.

"For all the apparent ease with which their voices blended together and the talk of the ineffable power and artlessness of fraternal harmonising, Phil said..."

"... their singing was a complex, intricate, high-wire act based around diatonic thirds, with his older brother – who tended to sing the leads – very much in charge. 'He’s so good, I have to pay attention every second with my harmonies... It’s like playing tennis with someone who is really great. You can’t let your mind wander for a nanosecond.'... Paul Simon called them 'the most beautiful-sounding duo I ever heard,' Bob Dylan claimed 'we owe these guys everything – they started it all,' while Neil Young suggested his entire career was based on trying and failing to sound like them...."

I wrote about the Everly Brothers back in January 2014, when Phil died:

"In the United States, Black activists, writers and thinkers are among the clearest voices articulating this spiritual malaise and its solutions..."

"... perhaps because they’ve borne the brunt of capitalism more than other groups of Americans. Tricia Hersey, a performance artist and the founder of the Nap Ministry, an Atlanta-based organization... says she discovered the power of naps during a draining year of graduate school at Emory University, an experience that inspired her to bring the gospel of sleep to fellow African Americans whose enslaved and persecuted ancestors were never able to properly rest. She argues that rest is not only resistance, it is also reparation. Ms. Hersey now leads events across the country focused on the transformative power of rest, and she has influenced other Black intellectuals, including Casey Gerald, the author of the transcendent essay 'The Black Art of Escape.' In it, Mr. Gerald reflects on a year he spent in what he calls a 'disappearing act,' lying flat in Texas, ignoring the calls of friends and admirers to join them in the fray of protest politics, which he’d come to view as a sure path to self-annihilation. 'Claim your inheritance,' Mr. Gerald enjoins. 'Miss the moment. Go mad, go missing, take a nap, take the day, drop a tab. You’re free!'"

From "Work Is a False Idol" by Cassady Rosenblum — "a writer who recently quit her job as a producer at 'Here & Now,' a National Public Radio news program, and is living with her parents in West Virginia" —  (NYT).

Objectively, on the substance, this post would get my "laziness" tag, but I'm wary of connecting it to a racist stereotype. Does that mean the essay has a racism problem? Or does that reveal that the stereotype is propaganda that manipulates people into not using their power to resist?

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

"Do you think that General Patton was woke? I don't think he was too woke. I think he was the exact opposite. You know what woke means? It means you're a loser. Everything woke turns to shit."

 Said Trump at his rally in Alabama last night. That got a huge cheer from the crowd.

"These are exploitation films to a degree (exploiting the audience’s willingness to view 'surviving' a film as tantamount to a badge of honor as much as exploiting the actors’ willingness to play at debasing themselves)..."

"... but they are also, and more importantly, meditations on the nature of the freak. If there can be said to be some kind of philosophical import to ['Female Trouble'], it is this: [John] Waters executes a dialectical examination of the freak through an immanent analysis of the outsider, following its internal movements toward a negative critique of society (that is, an exposition of the intrinsic contradictions upon which society operates), but ultimately demonstrating that the liminality of the freak is an integral part of the social whole. By marking the perimeters of the acceptable, by opening a threshold onto the chaos of madness and the entropy of unchecked deviance, the freak in Waters’ works performs a social service, thus qualifying its vaunted difference and reflecting society itself in the funhouse-mirror of its own self-obsessions....  [T]he aberration is the engine behind the Darwinian understanding of evolution... Evolution... requires an anomaly that slips the traces of conformity.... The sudden veer that marks the evolutionary leap is the byproduct of the one impacting the many. The 'freak,' when successful, charts the path of the future of the normative."

I'm reading that because I'm watching "Female Trouble" because I've just recently subscribed to the Criterion Channel, and I'm catching up on various old films. 

Also watched recently: "The Color of Pomegranates"...