September 18, 2021

At the Wildflower Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"A few years ago, after Mr. Probst noticed some contestants blaming producers for their 'bad edit,' he wrote a 'Survivor' mission statement that he and his team still consult."

"'Our job is to tell the most authentic version of each person’s story in an electric, visceral, dramatic, and entertaining way,' it reads. 'But it must be authentic.'... Authenticity, 'Survivor' fans have come to know, means warts and all. It means the show can’t, per Mr. Probst’s directive, change the intent of someone’s words during editing. It’s meant watching one contestant demand another remove her fake teeth during a tribal council as payback for a blindside. It’s even meant watching a gay contestant out a trans tribemate, equating his choice not to disclose his transness with deception."

ADDED: The top-rated comment over there:
No mention of Probst’s mentor Mark Burnett foisting Trump on us, and getting rich , via his other show the Apprentice. Don’t know about you but that proximity to evil would bother me. Like having your tv parents also make napalm in their other job. Maybe being far away in Fiji helps.

"Robert Durst Found Guilty of Murdering Friend."

Questionable use of the word "friend" in a NY Magazine headline.
Real-estate scion Robert Durst was convicted of first-degree murder by a jury in California on Friday for killing a close friend...

There's that word again. 

... over 20 years ago. The crime is one of three murders Durst is suspected of over nearly four decades — all of which he apparently confessed to in the HBO documentary series The Jinx, six years ago.

"Calling American and Australian behavior 'unacceptable between allies and partners,' France announced on Friday that it was recalling its ambassadors..."

"... to both countries in protest over President Biden’s decision to provide nuclear-powered submarines to Australia. It was the first time in the history of the long alliance between France and the United States, dating back to 1778, that a French ambassador has been recalled to Paris in this way for consultations. The decision by President Emmanuel Macron reflects the extent of French outrage at what it has a called a 'brutal' American decision and a 'stab in the back' from Australia....  Australia on Wednesday canceled a $66 billion agreement to purchase French-built, conventionally powered submarines, hours before the deal with Washington and London was announced."

"Is Harry and Meghan’s Time profile a parody?"

Asks Joanna Williams (at The Spectator), looking at Time's "100 most influential people of 2021," which has a silly photo of them on the cover.
Harry and Meghan, we are told, ‘turn compassion into boots on the ground’. They ‘give voice to the voiceless’, ‘mental-health support to Black women and girls’ and feed ‘those affected by natural disasters’. Okay so maybe not with five loaves and two fishes, but ‘hand in hand with nonprofit partners’. In short, ‘They run toward the struggle.’ Or should that be fly? They fly toward the struggle, right? And the ‘struggle’ is a charity polo match in Aspen and the flight is a £45million private jet. The ‘voiceless’ now being given a hearing can surely only refer to the Duke and Duchess themselves: certainly it’s the case that since leaving the royal family they rarely miss an opportunity to remain silent. And the ‘springing into action’ must mean firing off a quick text to Netflix or Oprah, or, more likely, their lawyers.... 

"The University of Wisconsin Smears a Once-Treasured Alum."

A column by John McWhorter (NYT). 

The alum is Fredric March, an actor most people going to school today probably don't remember. Try streaming "The Best Years of Our Lives" (1946). He was important enough to the University of Wisconsin that they put his name on some theater buildings.

He's been attacked for an obvious reason: He belonged to the Ku Klux Klan! But it wasn't that Ku Klux Klan. It was back in 1919/1920 and there was an interfraternity group that called itself the Ku Klux Klan. To think that means something awful is to be historically ignorant, McWhorter explains:
The later 20th century Klan emerged gradually in the wake of the racist film “The Birth of a Nation” in 1915, and only became a national phenomenon starting in 1921. In Wisconsin in 1919, when March was inducted into his group, it was possible to have never heard of the Ku Klux Klan that was later so notorious.... 
Even Madison’s chancellor, Rebecca Blank, has written that March had “fought the persecution of Hollywood artists, many of them Jewish, in the 1950s by the House Un-American Activities Committee” and that March “took actions later in life to suggest (he) opposed discrimination.”...

So... it was 4 years after "The Birth of a Nation." And "it was possible to have never heard of the Ku Klux Klan"? But why was it called "the Ku Klux Klan"? McWhorter says there's "no evidence" that it's the same Ku Klux Klan. But the name is some evidence, and the lack of any other explanation of the name, and the fact that "The Birth of a Nation" had been out for 4 years are at least some evidence.

I agree with McWhorter that March shouldn't be tarred as a racist for something he did for a year as a young man and that might have been genuinely racist. But the question is whether his name should be used to name the campus theaters. We have a much more important theater-related alum — Lorraine Hansberry. I'd put her name on the theaters. Update the honoring.

Back to McWhorter:

This witch-burning mentality is something most of us less concur with than fear.... The students who got March’s name taken off those buildings made a mistake, as did the administrators who again caved to weakly justified demands, seemingly too scared of being called racists to take a deep breath and engage in reason. The University of Wisconsin must apologize to March and his survivors. His name should be restored to both of the theaters now denuded of his name, including the Madison building, which he in fact helped bring into being and funded the lighting equipment even before the building was named after him. This must happen in the name of what all involved in this mistake are committed to: social justice — which motivated March throughout his life.

ADDED: As someone who has taught the law school course called Evidence, I rankle at the phrase "no evidence." Evidence is anything that makes a fact of consequence either more likely to be true or less likely to be true. There is clearly some evidence that March affiliated himself with a racist group. It's fine to say there's not enough evidence to justify removing March's name from these buildings, especially when we also have evidence that March was an anti-racist. That's all you need to say. 

AND: This isn't a trial of March where his accusers must meet a burden of proof and the question is whether he ought to be convicted of racism. That ought to fail because he has a constitutional right to be a racist. We wouldn't even go to trial. But if it did, there wouldn't be enough evidence to convict him. But the important point here is that the question in issue is whether his name ought to be on campus buildings today. What should the burden of proof be and is it met? That's the way to analyze this controversy.

September 17, 2021

6:28 a.m.




"Life, as it is often called, was conceived as a modern take on a board game designed in 1860... called the Checkered Game of Life..."

"By 1960, the Checkered Game of Life had disappeared from most American game tables. It had been replaced by such as entrants as Monopoly, which rewarded winners with riches, punished losers with penury and became one of the top-selling board games in the United States during the Depression. Mr. Klamer’s task, as assigned by the Milton Bradley Co., was to create a game to mark the company’s 100th anniversary.... With the assistance of colleagues... Mr. Klamer updated [the Checkered Game of Life] for the aspirations of contemporary players. For instance, players of the new version would choose between a 'business' route, which afforded an immediate salary, and 'college,' which promised a larger but delayed one.... To board game enthusiasts, the Game of Life was a beauty: a marvel of topography with raised roads that players traversed in their station-wagon game pieces. According to the volume 'Timeless Toys: Classic Toys and the Playmakers Who Created Them,' by Tim Walsh, Life was 'the first three-dimensional game board using plastic.'... Destinations in the 1960 version included 'Millionaire Acres' — or the 'Poor Farm.'" 

I played that game when it was new in the 1960s, and I guess those 3-dimensional aspects and the built-in spinner were pretty exciting. But what a drag it made life seem! You're a peg in a car and you gather family members to fill the hole in the car and keep driving till you get to the end. At least the end wasn't called "Death." 

And it seems that this is where we Baby Boomers learned we'd better go to college. The game had determined the income difference. But you didn't even have any fun in college or learn anything deep. You just upped your earning potential, and the point of life/Life was to make the most money. What an awful game!

"I think the media makes it sound as though you are just always going right to your personal preference."

"So if they think you are antiabortion or something personally, they think that’s the way you always will come out. They think you’re for this or for that. They think you become like a politician.... That’s a problem. You’re going to jeopardize any faith in the legal institutions." 

He's saying what they all say whenever they are out and about.
In recent weeks, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, during a book tour, has emphasized that he and his colleagues are not “junior league” politicians. Last week, the court’s newest member, Justice Amy Coney Barrett, told a crowd in Kentucky that justices are not a “bunch of partisan hacks” and that their divisions are based on competing judicial philosophies, not partisanship. 

ADDED: I wish just once one of these Justices would have the nerve to approach the subject with a steel man argument for their attackers. They've been pummeling the same straw man so long. 

"Thousands of migrants were crowded under a bridge outside the border community of Del Rio on Thursday, part of a massive surge in migration across the Rio Grande this week..."

"... that has overwhelmed the authorities and caused significant delays in processing the arrivals. The U.S. Border Patrol said that more than 9,000 migrants, mostly from Haiti, were being held in a temporary staging area under the Del Rio International Bridge as agents worked as quickly as they could to process them.... The shaded area under the bridge, the Border Patrol said, was to 'prevent injuries from heat-related illness' while migrants were waiting to be taken into custody. The scene — of dense crowds sleeping on dirt or milling about in triple-digit heat amid conditions of deteriorating sanitation — drew condemnations from local officials. Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas ordered the state police and the National Guard to assist border agents in Del Rio, saying the federal response had not been enough to quell the surge in crossings. 'The Biden administration is in complete disarray and is handling the border crisis as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan,' he said...."

September 16, 2021

Sunrise, 6:42.


Early fall color, 6:54.


"Updated Covid Guidelines: A Flow Chart Wrapped in a Riddle Shrouded in a Clusterfuck."

McSweeney's answers the question "Should you wear a mask?"

The era of reality shows is over? Now, everybody gets a prize.

I'm reading "Controversial new TV show 'The Activist' drastically revamped after backlash/The format will now be more of a documentary feature rather than a competition" (The Hill).
The reality and competition style of the show drew criticism that it would promote performance activism and distract from actual social issues....
“... [I]t has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day,” the statement [from the producers] began. “As a result, we are changing the format to remove the competitive element and reimagining the concept into a primetime documentary special (air date to be announced).” 
Six activists will be featured on the revamped show, and will automatically be given a cash grant to the organization of their choice rather than compete for a prize money.

I don't know if many people would have watched this show in the multi-episode competition format. How could it have worked? It's like "The Apprentice," but without the forthright motivation of greed. The contestants were still after money, but for their cause. I guess that's like "Celebrity Apprentice." But without celebrities. It was a dog of an idea. 

By making it one episode — a "special" — they're cutting their losses. And they're still trying to look altruistic. They're going to give all the erstwhile contestants a prize, as if that's magnanimous of them. To me, it seems as though they've slipped into the world of everybody gets a trophy

I'm looking forward to the new season of "Survivor," which begins in a few days, on the same network that nixed "The Activist." Imagine watching "Survivor" if all the participants were simply given the same amount of money!

"The White House has invited me & I think it’s a step in the right direction. Yes, I’m going. I’ll be dressed in all pink like Legally Blonde so they know I mean business. I’ll ask questions on behalf of the ppl who have been made fun of for simply being human."

Tweeted Nicki Minaj, quoted in "Nicki Minaj hits back at Biden White House after it claims vaccine-related phone call, not visit, was offered/Earlier this week, Minaj faced backlash after she wrote a tweet asserting that a friend of her cousin's became impotent from the vaccine" (Fox News). 

Also quoted: Terrence Deyalsingh, Trinidad's health minister, saying he'd government had "wasted so much time" over Minaj's tweet about someone in Trinidad experiencing swollen testicles: "There is absolutely no reported such side effect or adverse event of testicular swelling in Trinidad."

"I remember going to China and they were telling us you know, you cannot speak out against, you know, the people in power, there, etc," Minaj said in an Instagram Live video on Wednesday night. "Don't y'all see that we are living now in that time where people will turn their back on you … but people will isolate you if you simply speak and ask a question."

AND: It will be interesting to see who, ultimately, wins Minaj. 

"The case against [Michael] Sussmann centers on the question of who his client was when he conveyed certain suspicions about Mr. Trump and Russia to the F.B.I. in September 2016."

"Among other things, investigators have examined whether Mr. Sussmann was secretly working for the Clinton campaign — which he denies.... A spokesman for Attorney General Merrick B. Garland, who has the authority to overrule Mr. Durham but is said to have declined to, did not comment.... The accusation against Mr. Sussmann focuses on a meeting he had on Sept. 19, 2016, with James A. Baker, who was the F.B.I.’s top lawyer at the time... Because of a five-year statute of limitations for such cases, Mr. Durham has a deadline of this weekend to bring a charge over activity from that date.... Mr. Baker, the former F.B.I. lawyer, is said to have told investigators that he recalled Mr. Sussmann saying that he was not meeting him on behalf of any client. But in a deposition before Congress in 2017, Mr. Sussmann testified that he sought the meeting on behalf of an unnamed client who was a cybersecurity expert and had helped analyze the data. Moreover, internal billing records Mr. Durham is said to have obtained from Perkins Coie are said to show that when Mr. Sussmann logged certain hours as working on the Alfa Bank matter — though not the meeting with Mr. Baker — he billed the time to Mrs. Clinton’s 2016 campaign."

"If The New Yorker is going to make gaffes like 'deadbeat,' I'm going to have a lot more trouble going along with things like 'lambent.'"

I'm quoting something I just wrote because I want to let you know there's a big new addition to this post from yesterday.

Also: "There's a part of me that wants to admire the writer's way with words and a part of me that's about to blurt — to paraphrase George W. BushWhat the fuck are you talking about, lambent?"

That link about Bush goes back to a post I wrote in May 2004, when this blog was 4 months old and William Safire was still writing "On Language" columns in the NYT.  Oddly enough, Safire was talking about a passage in the new Bob Woodward book

Some things pass away and some things stay the same. From Safire:
"The Homeland Security bill was being blocked in the Senate by a filibuster,'' writes Woodward. ''Calio told the president that they were about to 'vitiate' the filibuster."

George Bush's reaction —"What the f**k are you talking about, vitiate?" — was the first time I'd written "fuck" on this blog, albeit with asterisks. I was puritanical about it, saying it was a word "which I ordinarily never write, but consider importantly quotable in this context." Ha ha.


Deevs said:
Lambent. A word I learned from playing the Gears of War video game over ten years ago. Maybe that's also where the New Yorker writer learned the word, and his pretentiousness is actually a demonstration of his own low-brow hobbies, past or present.
"The Lambent are mutated Locusts who have been infected by Immulsion. A yellow liquid-based parasite used as a fuel source by the Human population of Sera..."

It was a special time, we had a President who was crazy, and General Milley's behavior must be understood in that context.

I'm paraphrasing the pro-Milley argument to be found in "Press Secretary Jen Psaki White House Press Conference Transcript September 15":
Jonathan: ... A new book reports that near the end of the Trump presidency, Chairman Milley had two conversations with his Chinese counterpart promising the countries would not go to war and that he would give an early warning if something were to happen. In a statement just minutes ago, Chairman Milley did not dispute this account. On this, does the president feel that these calls were appropriate? Does he have confidence in the chairman? And some Republican senators have called for Chairman Milley to be dismissed. Is he going to keep his job? 

September 15, 2021

"No one was better at stringing out a joke between its setup and its punch line. The purest instance of the skill might be his famous 'moth' routine..."

"... in which he took a lame stock joke ('A moth goes into a podiatrist’s office . . .') and, by delivery alone, built a three-minute meta-gag on top of it, working his audience all the way. We weren’t far into our interview when I realized I had made the rookie mistake of taking Macdonald’s deadbeat persona as his real world view. It was and wasn’t. Early on, he charmed me by noting, in an offhand way, that he’d needed glasses all his life but, after losing his first childhood pairs, stopped bothering. ('I guess if I put on glasses now everything would be high-def,' he said—the description of normal human vision as a decadent TV feature being the Macdonaldian turn.) But I was caught off guard by how sensitive he was to creative work generally: he was a serious and studious reader, especially of the Russians, keen to get into the weeds with me about Tolstoy....."

Here's the moth thing (and notice the Tolstoy influence):

FROM THE COMMENTS: Sean Gleeson said:
The bit about "Macdonald’s deadbeat persona" feels like an error to me. Did he really pose as a man who refused to pay his debts? Does "deadbeat" have some other meaning? Did he mean to write "deadpan"?

He couldn't write "deadpan," because he'd just used the word 3 sentences ago — "his zonked-seeming deadpan," in a paragraph I didn't quote. I'm dismayed when The New Yorker gets any language usage wrong. I subscribe in part because for half a century I have looked to it as an exemplar of high-quality writing. 

And there's this aspirational stretching toward words that the reader might not even know yet. For example, the very next sentence after what I quoted is: "And he gave off lambent joy about his art." That's asking us to trust them and to get better at language and not to call bullshit. There's a part of me that wants to admire the writer's way with words and a part of me that's about to blurt — to paraphrase George W. BushWhat the fuck are you talking about, lambent?

If The New Yorker is going to make gaffes like "deadbeat," I'm going to have a lot more trouble going along with things like "lambent."

"Lambent," from the Latin word for "licking," evokes a licking flame. It's a word you can use instead of "radiant"... if you want to seem fancy or you'd like to make less learned readers feel as though they don't belong here. 

In context, I'd say Heller wanted to sound effusive praising Macdonald — to give him a tongue bath. But if you want me to give a sympathetic reading to your pretentious usages, don't make mistakes like "deadbeat."

ADDED: Nathan Heller responded in email that he's given me permission to publish:

Dear Ann, 
I am an intermittent reader and a big admirer of Althouse, and am always thrilled to see something I've written mentioned there. I'm also a huge fan of pedantic posts about language usage, so I read your criticism of the way "deadbeat" and "lambent" were used in a recent New Yorker remembrance of Norm Macdonald with an enjoyment verging on glee. Imagine my surprise to find that I was the author of the offending text. I was about to write myself a sternly worded note; then I looked in the dictionary. 
Merriam-Webster's first definition of a deadbeat is a "loafer." This is also, in slightly different terms, the first definition in the New Oxford American and the second definition in the American Heritage. The Oxford English Dictionary—which has the disadvantage of being British but the advantage of being pretty comprehensive—defines "deadbeat" as "a worthless idler who sponges on his friends; a sponger, loafer; also (originally Australian), a man down on his luck." 
Now, whether Norm Macdonald's comic persona was that of a loafer; a sponger and a loafer; a sponger, a loafer, and a worthless idler; or simply a man down on his luck is a matter I'll gladly turn over to the authorities. (On the sponging charge, I might note that Macdonald has insisted, at the mic, that he goes to parties solely for the cocktail sandwiches.) What seemed clear to me when I wrote that sentence, however, is the same thing clear to me now, which is that "deadbeat" is an exact term for the family of qualities in question. It is true that many people know, or think they know, the meaning of "deadbeat" from the phrase "deadbeat dad." But the dictionaries are clear that debt-related concerns are a narrow sub-case, not the meaning of the word. The O.E.D. gives "deadbeat dad" an entry of its own. 
After identifying the "gaffe" of "deadbeat," you go after my use of "lambent." You fret that this term reflects "aspirational stretching toward words that the reader might not even know yet." (To say that in a less high-flown way: the reader might—of all things—have to look it up.) "Lambent," as you note, comes from the Latin for licking, but dictionaries make clear that it's most often associated with certain qualities of light. Here's Merriam-Webster: "1) playing lightly on or over a surface: flickering; 2) softly bright or radiant; 3) marked by lightness or brilliance especially of expression." Here's the O.E.D.: "1a) Of a flame (fire, light): Playing lightly upon or gliding over a surface without burning it, like a ‘tongue of fire’; shining with a soft clear light and without fierce heat. . . . 1c) By extension, of eyes, the sky, etc.: Emitting, or suffused with, a soft clear light; softly radiant. . . . 1d) Figurative: Of wit, style, etc.: Playing lightly and brilliantly over its subjects; gracefully sportive. . . ." 
I used it in the phrase "lambent joy." Joy is a bright thing normally, but I was trying to describe the joy of Norm Macdonald. As anyone with any exposure to Norm Macdonald knows, his joy was not of the blazing, luminous variety. (He was, in fact, a comic with a small repertoire of suicide-related jokes.) If you had to describe the quality of joy in Norm Macdonald, you might call it dim but pure, playful, gentle, flickering in and out of view. I didn't call it "lambent" because the word seemed passable. I called it "lambent" because the word is precise. 
I, too, am dismayed when The New Yorker gets any language usage wrong. Fortunately, there are a lot of us—writers, editors, and copy editors—living our days on high alert to make sure it happens as rarely as possible. In any case, thanks very much for reading, and, as ever, for your post. 
Staff writer 
The New Yorker Magazine

"In the last 15 years, less than 0.01% of print features and critical pieces [in The New Yorker] were edited by a Black editor."

"More women were able to publish profiles in the magazine between 1925 and 1935 than between 1990 and 2000. And over the last 30 years, spanning 1990 to 2020, zero reviews of cinema, the fine arts, or classical music were published by either women or writers of color....  Erin Overbey, the magazine's own archive editor [tweeted]: "Let's talk about racism! Most white people at prestigious magazines don't ever want to talk about race or diversity at all. Why? It's primarily because they've been allowed to exist in a world where their mastheads resemble member registries at Southern country clubs circa 1950."

This strikes me as very odd. I subscribe to The New Yorker and read it all the time, and I had the impression that the magazine was going out of its way to bring in black writers and women writers.

"Cunhaporanga’s father was hesitant. Pinõ Tatuyo had been an early and enthusiastic advocate of bringing the Internet to the village."

"He felt the digital age had arrived and there was no going back. His people had to embrace technology to connect to the world — and teach it who they were. He himself had done a YouTube video in full headdress — 'A little presentation about who I am!' he named it — and created an Instagram account, where he eventually attracted 12,000 followers. But Cunhaporanga’s TikTok story was different. This wasn’t a few thousand people. This was millions."

From "Taking Indigenous culture viral" (WaPo) — about a 22-year-old woman, Cunhaporanga Tatuyo, who lives a traditional native life in the Amazon rainforest and has 6 million followers on TikTok. 

Lots of embedded video at the link, including one where she eats a fat, writhing larva. Here's her account at TikTok, where you can see all her videos, and you can follow her (as I too am doing now). I'll just embed one. 

A trailer for the Stephen Spielberg "West Side Story."


I've watched the old version recently, and I'm not sold on this from the trailer, which suggests that idea is to heighten the sentimentality. Notice how the only song we get to hear is "Tonight." 

I'm going to read some reviews of the trailer, but let me leave you with this "SNL" parody from 1996, featuring the beloved and recently departed comedy star, Norm Macdonald:

"Yet with Republicans preparing to use their control of states like Texas, Florida and Georgia to pile up a dozen or more new red seats, Democrats seem intent..."

"... on using New York’s laws to their advantage. [One elections analyst] said that New York’s gains would likely be greater than others whose process was under single-party control, such as Texas, because those states have already been more thoroughly gerrymandered."

Here's the highest-rated comment over there: "If the Republicans want to stop this kind of gerrymandering then they need to support the voting rights legislation being proposed by congress. However, should Republicans succeed in stopping that legislation the Democrats can’t unilaterally disarm. They must use everything the current system allows to attempt to further their agenda including gerrymandering."

6:39 a.m.


Write about anything you want in the comments.

"Led by Harvard Medical School biologist George Church, the plan is to edit mammoth hair and tendencies into elephant DNA and produce mammoth embryos..."

"... within several years.... Some researchers suggest that wooly mammoths helped transformed the now-mossy tundra into a fertilized grassland; if the Frankenstein version were able to achieve this feat again, the tundra could serve as a buffer against erosion and a potential carbon-dioxide sink to combat global warming.... 'Is it humane to produce an animal whose biology we know so little about? Who gets to decide whether they can be set loose, potentially to change the ecosystems of tundras in profound ways?'... 'You don’t have a mother for a species that — if they are anything like elephants — has extraordinarily strong mother-infant bonds that last for a very long time... Once there is a little mammoth or two on the ground, who is making sure that they’re being looked after?'"

It not really about introducing them into the wild though, is it? It's more of a P.T. Barnum thing — creating something for us to gape at.

Either way, it's ethically wrong. It's easy to see.

"If the story of 'Dumbass' General Mark Milley... is true, then I assume he would be tried for TREASON..."

"... in that he would have been dealing with his Chinese counterpart behind the President’s back and telling China that he would be giving them notification 'of an attack.'... The good news is that the story is Fake News.... Remember, I was the one who took out 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. Milley said it couldn’t be done! For the record, I never even thought of attacking China—and China knows that...."

Wrote Donald Trump (on his website). 

"So intent was Pence on being Trump’s loyal second-in-command — and potential successor — that he asked confidants if there were ways he could accede to Trump’s demands and avoid certifying..."

"... the results of the election on Jan. 6. In late December, the authors reveal, Pence called Dan Quayle, a former vice president and fellow Indiana Republican, for advice. Quayle was adamant, according to the authors. 'Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away,' he said. But Pence pressed him, the authors write, asking if there were any grounds to pause the certification because of ongoing legal challenges. Quayle was unmoved, and Pence ultimately agreed, according to the book. When Pence said he planned to certify the results, the president lashed out. In the Oval Office on Jan. 5, the authors write, Pence told Trump he could not thwart the process, that his role was simply to 'open the envelopes.' 'I don’t want to be your friend anymore if you don’t do this,' Trump replied, according to the book, later telling his vice president, 'You’ve betrayed us. I made you. You were nothing.'"

"Milley, for his part, took what the authors describe as a deferential approach to Biden on Afghanistan, in contrast to his earlier efforts to constrain Trump."

"The book reveals recent remarks the chairman delivered to the Joint Chiefs in which he said, 'Here’s a couple of rules of the road here that we’re going to follow. One is you never, ever ever box in a president of the United States. You always give him decision space.' Referring to Biden, he said, 'You’re dealing with a seasoned politician here who has been in Washington, D.C., 50 years, whatever it is.' His decision just months earlier to place himself between Trump and potential war was triggered by several important events — a phone call, a photo op and a refusal to rule out war with another adversary, Iran. The immediate motivation, according to the book, was the Jan. 8 call from Pelosi, who demanded to know, 'What precautions are available to prevent an unstable president from initiating military hostilities or from accessing the launch codes and ordering a nuclear strike?' Milley assured her that there were 'a lot of checks in the system.' The call transcript obtained by the authors shows Pelosi telling Milley, referring to Trump, 'He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy. … He’s crazy and what he did yesterday is further evidence of his craziness.' Milley replied, 'I agree with you on everything.'"

"And while large accounts specifically known for spreading anti-vaccine messages can be identified and taken down, it’s harder for TikTok, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook (which owns Instagram) to police..."

"... tens of thousands of smaller accounts that might mix in one or two anti-vaccine messages among their normal wellness posts.... Evie Kevish, a CrossFitter and 'certified juice therapist,' who frequently posts on Instagram about which vegetables and fruits she’s juicing, wore a shirt emblazoned with 'VACCINES ARE POISON' in a video she posted on June 27. Tania Khazaal, known online as 'Tania the Herbalist,' often posts self-portraits with long captions about eating non-GMO foods and refusing any ingestible products that contain fluoride, alcohol and aluminum. She encourages her nearly 50,000 followers to 'eliminate pills and introduce plants.' She’s also been posting vaccine-skeptical content since April 2020. In an email, Khazaal said she wasn’t against vaccines, but believed that skeptical voices were being silenced. 'I’m not anti anything. I’m pro-choice and pro-freedom,' she said.... [I]t’s those with anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 followers — sometimes known as 'microinfluencers' — who are believed within the marketing industry to have an especially outsize impact on their followers.... [S]ocial media users 'don’t trust celebs or experts with more than 100,000 followers anymore.' Micro-influencers, on the other hand — and their even more niche cousins, nanoinfluencers, with fewer than 10,000 followers — can seem less sold-out and more authentic, approachable or relatable.... "

From "How wellness influencers are fueling the anti-vaccine movement/For years, the wellness world has been entangled with vaccine hesitancy. Amid covid-19, the consequences are starker than ever" (WaPo).

So the pressure is on to censor the successful bloggers. You can use the term "microinfluencers," but having 10,000 to 50,000 followers as a blogger is great. And those <10,000 places are important too. 

I blog at Blogger, where I don't see a "followers" number, only the number of actual readers each day, so I don't know how my size in the sphere of social media compares with people like Tania the Herbalist, but I consider that level of readership tremendously import in social media. And you can see from that WaPo article that those with great consolidated power in media feel threatened by the free market in information and opinion that comes from all these unruly, free-wheeling speakers. 

The vaccine is such a useful foothold in the censorship effort. You can point to statements that are clearly  wrong and get a lot of leverage for arguing that vast harm is occurring. These earnest assertions and stray musings are killing people! 

I'll just earnestly muse that the idea is to soften up the general population to censorship. How hard will it be to get ordinary Americans to see the microinfluencers and nanoinfluencers as vermin mucking up the purity of the information supply we've all got to consume?

Ironically, it's a purity fetish that drives anti-vaxxers. I'd say: Don't let purity freaks freak you out. 

September 14, 2021

6:51 a.m.


Write about anything you like in the comments.




"I think he had an idea in his head of what he wanted it to sound like, but he couldn't describe it. He couldn't express it. And he was waiting for somebody to bring it out of the air."

Said Shiela Bromberg, whose obituary I blogged 3 days ago

The quote appears in the center of the interview embedded below, which a reader called to my attention.

Bromberg was the harpist on The Beatles' "She's Leaving Home." The "he" is Paul McCartney: 

ADDED: If you love Ringo, be sure to watch the video through to the end.

The new Wes Anderson movie has sentence diagramming!


I made that screen shot from the trailer:

I already blogged about the new movie — "The French Dispatch" — in the first post of the day, here, but I had to open up a new post because... sentence diagramming!

This is one of my favorite topics. I've blogged about it many times... including the one where a reader took up my challenge to diagram a 46-word sentence by Camille Paglia, the one where a reader took up my challenge to diagram a 153-word sentence from "Paradise Lost," and this one, where I'd written a long sentence and somebody called it a "doozy," and I said "Diagram it. It looks really cool diagrammed," and when no one stepped up to that challenge, I did it myself and made a video of the diagram so you could see for yourself how cool it was:

And now there is a movie, not entirely about sentence diagramming, but with some vivid sentence diagramming in it. I don't think there's a film documentary about sentence diagramming. I wish there were. But that's okay. I am hoping that because of the great love so many people have for Wes Anderson, this movie will inspire a renaissance of sentence diagramming!

It might go nicely with the expanding home school movement.

AOC at the Met Gala.

I see Jonathan Chait is trying to help AOC with her PR problem: "What is the clearest and best articulation of the view that AOC has done something hypocritical or wrong by attending the Met gala in a 'tax the rich' dress?" 

Chait is ostensibly soliciting attacks on AOC, but I assume this is in the spirit of making a steel man argument: What are the strongest arguments for the position I want to disagree with? Get those all out in the open so I can work on my argument against them. Or just give me a basis for declaring that there is no good argument on the other side.

I'm not going to read every answer to Chait's tweet, but mostly I'm seeing support for AOC. That is, people aren't answering the question. The fact that the gala is full of rich people certainly doesn't establish that she's a hypocrite. She's telling the rich folk to their face that they ought to be taxed. 

 Of course, they are taxed. She didn't even say "Soak the rich" or "Tax the hell out of the rich," but even if she had, she'd be forthrightly advocating policy change in front of the people who'll get stuck with the burden. That makes her more brave than hypocritical. But it still wouldn't be especially brave. I'm sure that socially these rich folk would endorse the notion that they ought to bear a heavy burden of taxation. 

"Similar to the 5-inch inseam short craze that took over the video-sharing app in the summer of 2020..."

"... TikTok users are now getting all hot and bothered over men sporting another simple, unpretentious piece of garb: the backwards baseball cap. In a recent viral trend, users are sharing videos of their boyfriends and husbands in baseball caps backed by the popular TikTok sound called 'I like you have a cupcakke,' which is used to share a user’s personal preferences. The format goes like this: words flash across the screen indicating things that a user likes as a child’s voice repeats the words, 'I like you, have a cupcake.' Then, abruptly, the sound is interrupted by the rapper Cupcakke’s song 'Vagina,' at which point a final phrase appears on the screen, this time indicating the thing the user likes most of all, trumping all else. In the baseball hat videos, women film their significant others wearing normal, forward-facing caps and then no caps... then...  wearing their caps backwards."

The relevant TikTok videos are embedded at the link, so I won't put them here. I don't know if I noticed the shorts craze last summer. Maybe not. Was I using TikTok then? It's something I like to look at these days. But whatever. I had never heard of the rapper Cupcakke, nor of the song "Vagina," which sounds rather obvious, but I will read the lyrics

Okay. I've accomplished the task I assigned myself. I was surprised to see that it was by a woman. Isn't that weird? I thought a man was contemplating the mysterious genitalia of the other, but it turns out Cupcakke is female, and it's another one of those songs bragging about one's own genitalia. And really, it's absolutely mere chance that I've got 2 posts in a row with prominent genitalia.

As for hats... did you know that Freud thought hats were a phallic symbol? From "The Intepretation of Dreams":

"[T]he study suggests that roughly half of all the hospitalized patients showing up on COVID-data dashboards in 2021 may have been admitted for another reason entirely, or had only a mild presentation of disease."

"This increase was even bigger for vaccinated hospital patients, of whom 57 percent had mild or asymptomatic disease. But unvaccinated patients have also been showing up with less severe symptoms, on average, than earlier in the pandemic: The study found that 45 percent of their cases were mild or asymptomatic since January 21.... [T]he latter finding may be explained by the fact that unvaccinated patients in the vaccine era tend to be a younger cohort who are less vulnerable to COVID and may be more likely to have been infected in the past.... [S]ome COVID patients are in for 'soft' hospitalizations, where they need only minimal treatment and leave relatively quickly; others may be on the antiviral drug remdesivir for five days, or with a tube down their throat.... [T]his study suggests that COVID hospitalization tallies can’t be taken as a simple measure of the prevalence of severe or even moderate disease, because they might inflate the true numbers by a factor of two."

In case you haven't seen her tweet — which would be funny if it weren't so consequential — here it is: Don't laugh that off. She has over 22 million followers on Twitter, and the fear that she's stimulating is very likely to determine decisions about whether to get the vaccine. How do you feel "comfortable with ur decision" if there's a possibility of impotence (which also reminds you that you've also heard that infertility could be a side effect)? She wants you to "pray" — which is a different method than science — and resist bullying.

 And Minaj is out there defending herself. Here she is pushing back Joy Reid:

"In considering the setting for his movie, [Wes] Anderson wanted something like Paris, but a version that doesn’t exist anymore outside of cinema..."

"... like the one of wonder captured by 'The Red Balloon,' and one of whimsy captured by Jacques Tati. One of the film’s producers, Jeremy Dawson, said that Anderson was looking for a place 'with nooks and crannies, corridors, passages, staircases, layers and ramparts.' The filmmakers began their scouting search on Google, digitally navigating the streets of towns that might fit the bill. Then they hit the road to visit a few of them. While in Angoulême, they came across a plaza with a small cafe. Dawson recalled that Anderson suggested grabbing lunch at the cafe. 'When he said that, I knew he’d picked this town,' Dawson said. Angoulême, in the southwest of France with a population of about 42,000, is no stranger to invasions; during the Hundred Years’ War, it was the site of battles between the French and English. These visitors were much more benign. During the shoot, the crew came up with various ways to give the town’s old-world collection of buildings, streets and facades a bit of an Andersonized touch — a cute little vintage vehicle parked here, a peppy striped awning set up there. And sometimes miniatures were used to help enhance the setting...."

I like that they scouted for the location using Google "street view." At no cost, we can all scout for locations for our movies. What's yours? You have an idea of a foreign place, and, instead of researching and learning what that place is really like, you search for the real place that's closest to that image in your head. Is there something wrong with that?

The NYT excerpt has links to 2 trailers of old films — both of which have been on my list of selected films at the Criterion Collection for about as long as I've been a subscriber (2 months). There's "The Red Balloon":


And that "whimsy captured by Jacques Tati" is "Playtime":

I'm about a third of the way through "Playtime." Something I texted someone while I was watching it: "possibly the most artistic and sophisticated thing I’ve ever seen."

September 13, 2021

After the storm — 8:36 a.m.


 Write about anything you want in the comments.

Separated at birth?

"My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks."

That's funny — intentionally funny, I presume — because "this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks" is just what a partisan hack would say, and "My goal today is to convince you that" is just the intro that an elite partisan hack would use to butter up an elite audience.

The quote is from "Justice Amy Coney Barrett argues Supreme Court isn't 'a bunch of partisan hacks'" (USA Today).

I'm not calling Barrett a partisan hack. I just want to say that these speeches are so unnewsworthy. Supreme Court Justices always say the same thing — they're not partisans, not political. Justice Breyer is out and about these days — he's got another book — and he's saying the same thing. They need to say it, and I understand why. It's central to their legitimacy. But it's an assertion that they are not abusing their power. What's the good of saying it over and over? You're getting into "protests too much" territory. 

By the way,  I remember when educated people made a point of using "comprise" correctly. Is that over? Is it the new "nauseous" — a word you can only use wrongly or people won't get what you mean?

"If you remember, when I was president, there were literally lines of people wanting to take [the vaccine]... Now, you have a different situation, and it’s very bad...."

"Of course, they famously said, if Trump came up with it, I’ll never take it. They disparaged the vaccine, and now they wonder why people aren’t wanting to take it?... It’s a disgrace..."

The avian situation on Lake Mendota at 8:34 a.m. — after a massive thunderstorm.

"On the continent, 'pro-Europeans' believe they have something in common with other Europeans that separates them from the rest of the world..."

"... they think of Europe as what the Germans call a Schicksalsgemeinschaft, or community of fate. Few remainers think in this way; many are genuine cosmopolitans.... It is particularly odd, when you think about it, that identifying with 'Europe' should be thought of as an expression of cosmopolitanism. Europe is not the world and supporting the EU, or thinking of yourself as European, does not make you a 'citizen of the world,' let alone a 'citizen of nowhere,' as Theresa May famously suggested in 2016. Rather, it makes you a citizen of a particular region – one that happens to be the whitest on earth... [W]hile the EU was based on learning the lessons of centuries of conflict within Europe that culminated in the Second World War, and gradually also came to incorporate the collective memory of the Holocaust into its narrative, 'pro-Europeans' did not even attempt to learn the lessons of what Europeans had done to the rest of the world and never had anything to say about the history of colonialism.... [T]he fragile civic identity that emerged during the postwar period seems to be giving way to a more cultural or even ethnic identity – defined, in particular, against Islam. In other words, whiteness may actually be becoming more, not less, central to the European project."

"Into this lacuna created by non-naming come degrading, disgusted terms for labia – 'beef curtains,' 'fanny flaps'” – that reinforce the sense that squeamishness is warranted..."

"Second-wave feminists [had] consciousness-raising women’s groups where everyone would examine their vulva with a hand mirror. That fell out of fashion in the 90s and 00s – surfing a post-ironic, anti-earnest wave, feminism was suddenly fine with the hidden, private vulva. Any public notion of what a vulva looked like was created by pornography, starting with complete hairlessness..... [There is a] digital native generation that [looks at pornography and thinks] 'Oh my God, that is not what I look like' [and doesn't want] to talk to anyone about it, because that would be mortifying.'... The artist Jamie McCartney produced The Great Wall of Vagina – 400 plastercast vulvas – in 2011... (He knows that the casts he has made are of vulvas, not vaginas, but the word play doesn’t work so well.)... 'While casting, I discovered that loads of women.... would look at other casts and say: "This one’s so neat," or: "I wish mine looked more like that." I was incredulous – there really wasn’t any sense in my mind that some were good and some were defective. And this ideal was created in my name, apparently, because that’s what men like. I just thought: "Fuck that."'...  On social media, even the most conceptual works of feminist visual representation often have to be taken down due to nudity or 'community' guidelines...."

ADDED: I'm trying to grasp "post-ironic, anti-earnest." Seems contradictory, but maybe that's what they were. I do remember finding the consciousness-raising era feminism too earnest. But I don't really know when feminists were not earnest. As for irony, if the later feminists were post-ironic, when was the ironic era in feminism? I lived through the whole thing and observed it, through my own varying levels of irony and earnestness.

"Well, this article just crossed the line to bloggable for me. They sent out the Althouse signal."

I say, out loud, as I'm reading "Trump Talked as Holyfield Got Pummeled. Just Another Day in Boxing’s Absurd Summer. Of course it was a circus — the kind that makes sense in boxing these days" in the NYT:
Boxing is no stranger to farces, to fights that never should have been approved or to events built much more around absurdity and car crash-like allure than around actual fighting. The entrance of Triller and YouTube stars into boxing over the last year, and the way they have sometimes garnered much more attention than the biggest and best fights — as in articles like this one — could have been an occasion for garment-rending and teeth-gnashing, for fears that this is just what boxing is now.

That garnered my attention. Got my attention, as we say in normal speech. 

But in conversations over the last few months, key people around the sport have mostly focused on the positives. One promoter said he wished his fighters could promote themselves even partially as well as Jake Paul and Logan Paul do. In the grand scheme of things, boxing is just content that can be watched online....

This content — which cost $50 to watch on TV — involved watching a 58-year-old man (Holyfield) lose very quickly and a 75-year-old man — the ex-President of the United States, Donald Trump — do commentary. 

What I wanted from this article was quotes from Trump, but there's only one: "They say there is a lot of people watching. I can’t imagine why."

I can't believe Trump did this for the money. He must have thought he'd reach the right people for his power-seeking purposes. I assume he's got some weird instinctive political genius, so maybe there's some reason why this appearance made sense. At least he wasn't risking permanent brain damage, like that other old man, Evander Holyfield.

September 12, 2021

Panorama at 7:08 a.m.


Click to enlarge. It's nice to see the tinge of fall color in the trees to the right (though hard to see if you don't enlarge).

6:40 a.m.


"A Ms Great Britain contestant who was bullied at school over her appearance is to enter the competition make-up-free to 'empower young women.'"

"Elle Seline, 31, said she used make-up as a mask when she was a teen and was ridiculed for having more body hair due to her mixed Greek/English heritage. She wants her entry in the national pageant to inspire the next generation. 'There may be a young girl at school who sees it and feels that, actually, I'm good enough as I am,' she said." 

Based on the photograph she provides, I think she looks far better with no makeup...

... but it's not really such an all-or-nothing thing — heavy makeup or no makeup at all. And yet, for publicity purposes, going bare is a good move.

I lived through the "space race" of the 1960s, and I would never have thought that I'd ever see a headline like this.

"Elon Musk is dominating the space race. Jeff Bezos is trying to fight back."

What kind of a world would I have imagined if I'd gotten the news from the future in the form of just that one headline? Answer: A much worse world than the one we've got.

"Elvis went over and started noodling on the piano. This immediately caused Jerry Lee Lewis to start showing off."

"He went over to Elvis and said 'I didn’t know you could play.' Elvis responded 'I can’t,' at which point Jerry Lee said, 'Well then, why don’t you let me sit down?' Elvis just replied 'Well, I’d like to try,' and carried on noodling.... [T]he majority of the [Million Dollar Quartet session] consists of Elvis on acoustic guitar or piano, Jerry Lee on piano when Elvis isn’t playing it, and them all singing together, with Elvis or Jerry Lee taking most of the lead vocals.... Both Elvis and Jerry Lee were brought up in the Assembly of God, a Pentecostal 'holy roller' church.... ['Jesus Walked that Lonesome Valley'] is interesting, as even though it’s a call-and-response song and starts with Elvis taking the lead and Jerry Lee doing the responses, by the first verse Jerry Lee has already taken over the lead and left Elvis echoing him, rather than vice versa. You can hear there exactly how this friendly rivalry was already working. Remember, at this time, Jerry Lee Lewis was nobody at all, someone who had one single out which had been out a matter of days. But here he is duetting with the 'King of Rock and Roll,' and seeing himself as the person who should naturally be taking the lead."

From "Episode 51: 'Matchbox' by Carl Perkins" in Andrew Hickey's phenomenal podcast "A History of Rock Music in 500 Songs."

Here's full recording of the session on Spotify.  

You can listen to the recording of "Jesus Walked that Lonesome Valley" on YouTube here

And here's a link to the Wikipedia page for Lewis, where I went because I wanted to check my belief that he's still alive. He is. But I also saw: "On November 22, 1976, Lewis was arrested outside Elvis Presley's Graceland home for allegedly intending to shoot him... 'Elvis, watching on the closed-circuit television, told guards to call the police... The cops asked Elvis, "What do you want us to do?" And Elvis told 'em, "Lock him up." That hurt my feelings.'" Elvis avoided death that night, but proceeded to die on his own, 8 months later.

"It’s amusing to see Democrats respond by demanding respect for the office, and the separation of politics and sport. Too late guys. Enjoy the new rules you made."

 Writes Glenn Reynolds, responding to the trend of chanting "Fuck Joe Biden" at football games.

This is precisely what gets my "civility bullshit" tag. Click the tag and explore.

I've been writing under the tag "civility bullshit" for years, documenting the phenomenon. I stated the thesis long ago: Calls for civility are always bullshit. 
Certainly in the area of politics, calls for civility always come out when the incivility is hurting your people. When somebody is deploying incivility effectively for your side, you hold your tongue and enjoy the damage.... Nobody bellyaches about incivility when it's working as a weapon for their side, and the charge of incivility is another political weapon, whipped out when the other side is landing incivility punches on you.

Don't misunderstand me. I love civility. It should be the default for public behavior. Deviate when you have good cause or great satire. That would be my rule. But it needs to be a neutral principle, and it's not, so I call bullshit on calls for civility. 

As for college football games, you've got a bacchanalian atmosphere, so I question whether "Fuck Joe Biden" has much if any political meaning. In my neighborhood football stadium, Camp Randall, the kids have been chanting "Fuck you" and "Eat shit" back and forth from one section to another for many years. I think they're just having fun, being mischievous, and not expressing any actual opinions.

Here's a letter to the student newspaper from 2015: "Letter to the editor: ‘Eat shit, Fuck you’ must go to maintain UW reputation/Thirty-five percent of season ticket holders said it disrupted their experience; chant gives outside community negative impression."

"At a time when religious bigotry might’ve flowed freely, I saw Americans reject prejudice and embrace people of Muslim faith. That is the nation I know."

"At a time when nativism could have stirred hatred and violence against people perceived as outsiders, I saw America’s reaffirm their welcome to immigrants and refugees. That is the nation I know. At a time when some viewed the rising generation as individualistic and decadent, I saw young people embrace an ethic of service and rise to selfless action. That is the nation I know. This is not mere nostalgia. It is the truest version of ourselves. It is what we have been and what we can be again."

ADDED: "It is what we have been and what we can be again" ≈ "Make America Great Again."

The cat and the flag.

Commentary and context: "Whomever [sic] is bringing a cat into this is a horrible human and should be arrested and charged with animal cruelty"/"Sad thing about this, no matter what, there will be some people out there that will say this was just all a setup for a photo-op. It was placed there so this 'miraculous' thing happened today and in what better venue. God Bless America #NeverForget911 #NeverForget"/"There was other footage of the cat hanging from the balcony. People were reaching to try to grab him/her before it fell."

"It's a Tesla! It's a Tesla!"

"During this time, I convinced myself that women were too damn difficult...."

I had to wonder who that teacher was, going public with misogyny (even if it was misogyny in the past). 

Looking for an answer, I found this 2018 article by Katie Herzog, "The Lesbian Who Taught Me What My Problem Was/I thought I hated my teacher. Turns out, I hated myself" (The Stranger). Had you forgotten to consider that the author might be a woman? I had. Excerpt: