October 9, 2021

Sunrise was 7:05, but sometimes you have to wait. These photos are from 7:16, 7:23, and — first sight of the orb and the patient couple gone — 7:28.

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Quasi-troll.

Overheard at Meadhouse:
"There are some people who are quasi-trolls." 
"Everyone is a quasi-troll — including you."

"When we were living in our house, if the kids got upset with one another, they’d just storm off into their separate rooms and not speak."

"Now they’ll gather themselves together, rationally discuss their issues and make peace, because they know they can’t get away from one another on the camper." 

We're told that's something "Dub said with a laugh" in "What is ‘roam schooling’? ‘Skoolie’ families teach their kids on the road" (NY Post). 

Dub is the father in a family with a father, mother, and 3 kids — who home school and do "van life" in their RV.

The TikTok hashtag for this is "#skooliekids" — so you can watch some videos and test your credulity. I'll put a few that I've selected below the fold.... 

UPDATE: The embedded video was hinky, so I took it out. Just go to the TikTok link and scroll around to see what's there.

"When my husband listened to tapes of the interviews, he seemed almost shell-shocked at how much Trump hopped around from one topic to the next."

"While I like to think I’m an excellent listener, I’m not a fan of the interview style that requires badgering a source for a preferred outcome. As in the other interviews I had with him, I was just as curious about what he wanted to focus on as what I needed to find out from him. At one point, he noticed a large bandage on my forearm, which covered a burn I received while cooking dinner for my children. 'Did you have a tattoo put on?' he asked, in the midst of listing off detailed election irregularities in Pennsylvania and Michigan. 'Mollie’s going into the tattoo stuff? Whoa, that’s a big step.'"

She's saying she accepted that he jumped around and did not try to foist her orderly approach on him, but I think that fails to credit him with deploying a technique. It's easy to assume he's got an attention deficit and insufficient appreciation for other people's preference for order, but I would presume that he is shifting around as a way to gain an advantage over his interlocutor. It's something lawyers do in cross-examination to trip up a witness. 

Hemingway's husband was "almost shell-shocked"? Maybe that was the idea. It would be hard — if he were lying or distorting or had a hidden agenda — to get the better of Trump. And notice how Trump did not merely hop around, he moved from professional to personal. It's disarming —  no pun intended! — to suddenly be talking about Mollie's arm. He sees the bandage — there's a whole story under that bandage, and why merely talk about it, make up a story about it — is that a tattoo? 

That opens up so much potential. He can learn a lot about her by how she reacts to that. Hemingway doesn't tell us what she said, but she could have overdone denial — of course she's not that kind of person — or she could have playfully thought up an answer that could amuse him — Oh, yes, it's a tattoo of you!

"The film, sponsored by the [Chinese] government, depicts an against-all-odds American defeat in a battle known in the United States as the Battle of Chosin Reservoir."

"Mr. Luo’s crime was to question the legal justification of China’s intervention when North Korea’s troops were on the verge of defeat after invading the South. 'Half a century later, few Chinese people have reflected on the justifiability of the war,' he wrote on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, before referring specifically to a doomed Chinese military unit featured in the film 'that did not doubt the "wise decision" of the top.'"

Statement from the People’s Liberation Army: "Some individuals still try to completely deny the War of Resistance against the United States and Aid Korea, question the justice of sending troops, and try to erase the great victory. No matter how they distort, obliterate, falsify, tease and denigrate the facts, history is written in the hearts of the people.'"

Meanwhile in Norway: "Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitri Muratov are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize" (NYT): "Seeking to bolster press freedoms as journalists find themselves under increasing pressure from authoritarian governments and other hostile forces, the Norwegian Nobel Committee on Friday awarded the Peace Prize to two journalists... Maria Ressa of the Philippines and Dmitri A. Muratov of Russia, were recognized for 'their courageous fight for freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.' 'They are representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions'....'The fight against the media is not a fight against the media,' Mr. Muratov said in a radio interview on Friday. 'It is a fight against the people.'"

"Instead of trying to carpet the world, put on slippers."

Said a commenter, at WaPo, on an "Ask Amy" column about a letter from a woman who wanted another woman's husband to stop talking so much and so obnoxiously on Facebook. 

The larger issue is the way people expect the wife to control her husband and think it's a wife's job to be an intermediary on their behalf. It's always the woman's job to tend to social harmony. A secondary issue is that people who are unhappy with interactions occurring on Facebook don't seem to realize you can just click a button — "snooze" or "unfollow" — and you don't have to see that person anymore. 

But the line "Instead of trying to carpet the world, put on slippers" was so good, I figured it's unlikely to be original with that commenter. Google gives over 9 million hits, rephrases it — "It's easier to put on slippers than to carpet the whole world" — and attributes it to...

"I’ve always said that if you want to win an election, you have to win it on election night, okay?"

"But look, I don’t pretend to know the intricacies of how every state counted mail-in ballots and how they were certified. I don’t. But I do know that when you’re running for president, you have to have these legal challenges ready to go. Much as Bush did in 2000. The Trump folks wanted to exhaust every means. But at some point I think Joe Biden’s president."

Said Laura Ingraham, answering the question "Who do you think won the 2020 election?," in an interview in The Washington Post.

That was very well put. I don't watch her show — I don't watch any of the TV news analysis shows — but I can see why she belongs on TV. It's hard to nail down such an amorphous position in short punchy sentences.

From the comments over there: "Pathetic puff piece … the only honest thing she said is that half the country hates her guts. She’s a parasite." And: "Stop giving this lying garden utensil print. She is just another lickspittle for an ignorant, incompetent liar. She has no shame. Hope she and her kids don't get covid from some mask hole."

People have gotten so ugly. I've gotten so I just stand back, observe, and wonder. I do need to give that second commenter credit for the "don't." How did that get in there? A ray of hope.

"The Justice Department said Friday that it would not seek federal criminal civil rights charges against police officer Rusten Sheskey of Kenosha, Wis...."

"... in the shooting of a Black man last summer that reignited social-justice protests.... 'After a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced federal prosecutors determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the KPD officer willfully violated the federal criminal civil rights statutes,' the department said in the statement...." 


This is not surprising, because there was evidence that the man, Jacob Blake, had a knife, tasering hadn't stopped him, he was getting into a car that had children inside, and (based on the call to the police and prior incidents) it was a domestic abuse case. 

October 8, 2021

7:09 a.m. — unseen sunrise, fog, paddleboarder.

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Talk about anything you want in the comments.

Has Kurt Vonnegut's rule against using semicolons turned into a pro-semicolon rule?

Here's a passage from Kurt Vonnegut's "A Man Without a Country"
Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.
That came to my attention this morning because it was the answer to an old Wall Street Journal acrostic I just did. I had the book in my Kindle, so I looked it up. It ends a half-page bit at "location 222" that appears under the heading "Here is a lesson in creative writing." 

There's more to that quote. This is the lead-in:
If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable.
But the first thing under that heading is: 
First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.

It's considered bad form these days to be averse to sexuality that's not manifested as clearly masculine or clearly feminine. And "transvestite" and "hermaphrodite" are disfavored and inappropriately pejorative. Nowadays, it's unseemly to pressure anyone to get into one camp or the other. You can be "nonbinary." That's not "nothing." So the Vonnegut rule against semicolons is nullified. Don't disrespect the semicolon because it's neither a period nor a comma. Celebrate the semicolon!

"Democrats are winning more college-educated white voters and fewer non-college white voters, as pollster shorthand puts it, and Donald Trump supercharged this trend...."

"[T]he sorting that educational polarization is picking up... puts Democrats at a particular disadvantage in the Senate, as college-educated voters cluster in and around cities while non-college voters are heavily rural.... This is why Shor believes Trump was good for the Republican Party, despite its losing the popular vote in 2016, the House in 2018 and the Senate and the presidency in 2020. ... Shor has built an increasingly influential theory of what the Democrats must do to avoid congressional calamity.... To avoid it... they need to internalize that they are not like and do not understand the voters they need to win over.... Democrats should do a lot of polling to figure out which of their views are popular and which are not popular, and then they should talk about the popular stuff and shut up about the unpopular stuff.... [O]ne difference between 2016 and 2012 is that Romney was complicit in making economics the center of the campaign. Like Obama, he preferred to argue over tax policy and spending cuts and was plainly uncomfortable talking about immigration or race. He ran, self-consciously, as a former management consultant who would govern on behalf of America’s makers rather than its takers. Trump descended a golden escalator to call Mexican immigrants criminals and rapists. What was Clinton supposed to do?"

"Understand is so plainly odd that even people who don't think about word histories notice it. In form it is a compound of under + stand (v.)..."

"... and it has been so since Old English. Likewise the sense has not shifted since King Alfred's day: 'to comprehend, grasp the idea of, receive from a word or words or from a sign the idea it is intended to convey; to view in a certain way.' But what does 'standing beneath' have to do with any of that?... One guess about the compound is that the notion is less 'standing under' and more 'standing in the midst of' (truth, facts, meaning, etc.). .. [T]he enemy-word of understanding, superstition: Latin superstitio 'dread of the supernatural, religious belief based on fear or ignorance and considered incompatible with truth or reason.' It is literally 'a standing over," from superstare 'stand on or over.'"

From "Superstitious Understanding" (Etymonline).

Standing over expressed dominance, but superstition seems more like something outside of you is looming over you and intimidating you, so it's hard to... understand... how the concrete idea of standing figures into this meaning. Literally, standing under something — unless it's a structure like a bridge — is hard even to picture. 

"Thousands of people are expected to pack the stands at the Iowa State Fairgrounds on Saturday. Organizers expect this to be Trump's largest crowd in Iowa yet."

KCCI Des Moines reports. 

That links to a new poll showing that Trump is more popular in Iowa than he's ever been: 

The poll shows a majority of Republicans in Iowa, 91%, view Trump favorably. That’s compared to just 7% who view him unfavorably, and 2% who are not sure. Independents in Iowa are split on Trump, with 48% viewing him favorably, 49% unfavorably and 3% unsure. Democrats in Iowa are united in their view of Trump, with 99% viewing him unfavorably, and just 1% viewing him favorably.

You might think it's ludicrous that there's still anyone who's unsure whether they view Trump favorably or unfavorably, but it makes sense to me. They have mixed feelings! It's a love/hate relationship. And I think if Americans were perfectly honest, we'd all confess to having a love/hate relationship with the guy.

By the way, only 31% of Iowans approve of the job Joe Biden is doing. None of these numbers tells us what people would do if confronted with another election with Biden and Trump going head to head. That's your choice again. How do you like it? Make that a poll question. I bet over 90% would say they don't like it. Give me a better choice!

Anyway, back to that first link. I see that people started lining up on Thursday for that Saturday rally:

Richard Snowden came from Delaware. He is part of a group called the "Front Row Joes." They're the people who consistently wait at his rally sites days in advance. "It's a great way that we can give back to Mr. Trump, show him support, and give him back certain love, because he has, sadly, had so much hate directed towards him," Snowden said. 

They think Trump needs love, and they travel across the country and wait in line for days to bestow this gift of love upon him. If the haters would back off, would the love cool? People are so mean to Trump that it does make some people think you need to go out of your way to counterbalance that hate — including going out of your way from Delaware to Iowa.

Fog on Lake Mendota at 7:19 a.m.

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"Poland’s top court ruled Thursday that its national laws can trump those of the European Union...."

"The Constitutional Tribunal in Warsaw ruled that parts of E.U. law were not compatible with the country’s constitution. They include an article that says that laws from Brussels have primacy over conflicting national legislation and another relating to the binding nature of decisions of the European Court of Justice. Those principles are essential to how the union functions legally.... 'It’s at the core of the union,' said Didier Reynders, the European Union’s justice commissioner.... Poland’s justice minister, Zbigniew Ziobro, described the decision Thursday as 'historic,' saying it set the 'constitutional limits' of E.U. 'interference' in Polish cases.... The move puts the country on the path to 'Polexit' said Jeroen Lenaers, justice spokesman for the largest political bloc in the European Parliament.... 'Enough is enough. The Polish government has lost its credibility.'"

"On Sunday, Sepúlveda, who considers herself a devout Catholic, plans to become the first person in Colombia without a terminal prognosis to die by legally authorized euthanasia."

"Colombia’s constitutional court ruled in July that the right to euthanasia.... applies... to those with 'intense physical or mental suffering from bodily injury or serious and incurable disease.'... An estimated 73 percent of the population is Catholic.... Eduardo Díaz Amado, director of the Bioethics Institute at Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogotá, traces the development to the country’s long civil war and the violence wrought by drug lord Pablo Escobar. In 1991, in response to the country’s instability, Colombia rewrote its constitution. Unlike its 'paternalistic' predecessor, Díaz said, the new constitution expanded individual rights, emphasized 'the respect of human dignity' and underscored the separation of church and state.... In 2014, the court ordered the government to issue guidelines so that hospitals, insurers and health professionals would know how to proceed with euthanasia requests. The movement for euthanasia rights has drawn unexpected allies: Catholic priests. Alberto Múnera, a theology professor and Jesuit priest at the Pontifical Xavierian University in Bogotá, lectures his students on the 'exceptions' to the 'absolute value of human life' in church teaching. When Catholics follow their own consciences, even when that means choosing to end their own lives, he argues, they will 'behave well' in the eyes of God...."

"Facebook, whistleblower Frances Haugen says of her former employer, is this generation’s Big Tobacco, 'hooking kids' on its products and lying about its business practices...."

"'It’s just like cigarettes,' Haugen said this week in testimony before a Senate Commerce subcommittee. 'Teenagers don’t have good self-regulation. They say explicitly, "I feel bad when I use Instagram, and yet I can’t stop."'... Society doesn’t have an interest in keeping children away from these technologies entirely as it does with cigarettes; rather, there is a public interest in preventing predatory targeting of minors and a countervailing interest in protecting free expression and encouraging innovation.... Haugen, a product manager until she resigned in the spring, argued that Facebook is even less transparent than tobacco companies in their heyday. For instance, outside scientists could independently invalidate claims about the safety of filtered cigarettes. By contrast, Facebook’s secret algorithms and refusal to fully cooperate with academic researchers protects the company from independent review. Haugen called for Congress to make them open up their black box...."

Recognizing the imperfection of the analogy only gets you so far. Clearly, "It’s just like cigarettes" is manifestly false. But then what? That doesn't establish that Facebook must show us its secret algorithms! Hohmann is saying that it's not like cigarettes in one way — cigarettes are physical objects that can be tested independently — so let's legislate to improve the analogy and force Facebook to reveal its secrets. He's clinging to the importance of working with the cigarette analogy. But why?!

Terry McAuliffe is flummoxed by the question my father used to defeat me in arguments when I was a teenager.

The challenge is: Define your terms. 

Here's a local news article about the Virginia gubernatorial debate: 

"'If this is what being canceled is like, I love it,' the 48-year-old said in response to a standing ovation...."

"'Fuck Twitter. Fuck NBC News, ABC News, all these stupid ass networks. I’m not talking to them. I’m talking to you. This is real life.'"

That quotes this, from his Netflix special, The Closer: " I don’t hate gay people I respect the shit out of you. Not all of you... I’m not that fond of these newer gays — too sensitive, too brittle. I miss the old-school gays … the Stonewall gays. They didn’t take shit from anybody...."

To be "brittle" is to be "Hard but liable to break easily." That's the definition from the OED, which gives this example from 2005, from the Globe & Mail (Toronto): " A ‘promatorium’ is a building where the dead body of your loved one will be frozen, submerged in liquid nitrogen until brittle and then shattered."

I thought that was a joke at the expense of people who think freezing the body after death may lead to some future resurrection — "cryonics." But it's actually a method for intentionally turning a dead body into a powder.

In any case, as a living person, you don't want to be brittle. You may think it's good to be hard, but you're vulnerable to shattering. 

ADDED: Stevie Wonder spoke out: “What we need to cancel is hate. What we need to cancel is fear because we have to have love, and we should never cancel that. I want us to cancel the idea of feeling that we don’t want anyone to laugh because if we don’t laugh, we cry. And I don’t believe that was God’s intention — ever.”

October 7, 2021

Lawn mushrooms.

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Talk about anything you want in the comments. 

No sunrise photo today. It was raining, and it continues to rain. It's been a very low key day. Highlights: going to the dentist, napping.

"The median sermon examined in the first survey was thirty-seven minutes long; Catholic homilies were the shortest, with a median of fourteen minutes."

"Not even that brevity satisfies Pope Francis, who recently advised clergy members to keep their sermons short: 'A homily, generally, should not go beyond ten minutes, because after eight minutes you lose people’s attention.'... By contrast, Pew found that the sermons at historically Black churches were the longest, at more than three times that length, with a median of fifty-four minutes. These sermons had only a few hundred more words than those from within the evangelical tradition, a detail that suggests oratorical style or musical interludes might be contributing to their length. The religion scholar Albert J. Raboteau wrote about this patient style of preaching, sometimes known as the 'black folk sermon' or 'old-time country preaching,' tracing its origins back to the eighteenth century in rural, Southern prayer meetings and revivals.... Vocabulary analysis by Pew revealed how common some language is across these four major Christian traditions—words like 'know' and 'God' appeared most often, not surprisingly—but also how distinctive certain words are within each of those traditions. Evangelicals referred most often to 'eternal Hell,' 'salvation,' 'sin,' 'Heaven,' and 'the Bible'; mainline Protestants relied more on the words 'poor,' 'house,' 'Gospel,' and 'disciple'; historically Black Protestants were most likely to hear 'hallelujah,' 'neighbor,' and 'praise.'... The appearance of certain words is hardly a sophisticated metric of anything, including sermons.... And even if Pew were able to parse the language of sermons in ways that shed more light on the views of preachers, it would not be able to illuminate the most fundamental question of preaching—when, whether, and why a sermon moves a congregant to new or deeper beliefs." 

From "What American Christians Hear at Church/Drawing on newly ubiquitous online services, Pew has tried to catalogue the subject matter of contemporary sermons," by Casey Cep (The New Yorker).

"'If you’ve never had an orgasm pre-surgery, and then your puberty's blocked, it's very difficult to achieve that afterwards... I consider that a big problem, actually.'"

"'It's kind of an overlooked problem that in our ‘informed consent’ of children undergoing puberty blockers, we’ve in some respects overlooked that a little bit.'... [Dr. Marci Bowers] can build a labia, a vaginal canal and a clitoris, and the results look impressive. But, she said, if the kids are 'orgasmically naive' because of puberty blockade, the clitoris down there might as well be a fingertip and brings them no particular joy and, therefore, they’re not able to be responsive as a lover. And so how does that affect their long-term happiness?" 

From "Top Trans Doctors Blow the Whistle on ‘Sloppy’ Care" by Abigail Shrier (at Common Sense with Bari Weiss).

Also: "[I]n natal males, early blockade might lead to 'non-normal pubertal phallic growth,' meaning that 'the genital tissue available for vaginoplasty might be less than optimal.' But... [m]any American gender surgeons augment the tissue for constructing neovaginas with borrowed stomach lining and even a swatch of bowel. Bowers draws the line at the colon. 'I never use the colon,' she said. 'It’s the last resort. You can get colon cancer. If it’s used sexually, you can get this chronic colitis that has to be treated over time. And it’s just in the discharge and the nasty appearance and it doesn’t smell like vagina.'"

"The focus on possible health risks from stoves is part of the broader campaign by environmentalists to kick gas out of buildings to fight climate change."

From "We need to talk about your gas stove, your health and climate change" (NPR).

"Oh! The Nobel Prize in Literature! Who is it? Look, this is NPR. It doesn't say, just observes it's a black guy."

I say out loud as I read the NPR home page. My screen grab:

 

So disrespectful! 

Who is he? "Novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah wins the Nobel Prize in literature." 

He's from Zanzibar and is honored "For his uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism and the fate of the refugee in the gulf between cultures and continents."

"Last Friday, Netflix premiered a filmed, eerily audience-less performance of Diana, a new musical about the late Princess of Wales that was set to open on Broadway in 2020 before the pandemic scuttled its plans."

"Though it will finally make its bow on the Great White Way later this fall, those champing at the bit to see a singing, occasionally dancing Diana and QEII and Camilla Parker Bowles can simply watch Diana at home. The question, then, is this: has Diana ruined it for [the indie 'arthouse' movie] Spencer? Quality wise, no. Spencer offers a compelling new take on the lore of Princess Di, depicting her in intimate and probing closeup as she makes perhaps the biggest decision of her adult life...."

Who can say when the hunger for all things Diana will end? I don't think one crappy musical will spoil it. And musicals always have people singing and dancing in ways that don't really fit the events the story depicts.

My problem with the musical Diana is right there in the photograph at the link. Diana looks cut off at the knees. In real life, Diana and Charles were the same height, 5'10", but in this show he's a head taller. Here, I made some tiny screen shots to show the difference in height (which just happen also to show a big difference in emotion):

"Justice Clarence Thomas, who very seldom voiced inquiries from the bench before the pandemic, asked the first questions of both of the main lawyers in the case."

Wrote Adam Liptak of the NYT, in "One Justice Missing and Only One Masked, the Supreme Court Returns/As a term packed with major cases begins, much has changed since the last in-person arguments took place in March 2020." 

The justices asked questions in the familiar free-for-all fashion that has long been their practice. But they supplemented such free-form questioning with an opportunity for justices to ask questions in order of seniority one by one after each lawyer argued, replicating the format the court used in the telephone arguments while it was exiled from its courtroom.

Interesting. I wonder if they worried that the free-for-all was systemic racism. I think they need to, even though they only have the ultra-small sample of one black person in the group. 

***

Who was that masked Justice? Sonia Sotomayor. 

***

That article went up on Monday, but I'm only just getting around to reading it this morning. The first day of the Supreme Court term feels much less eventful to me than it used to. The break between the end of one term and the beginning of the next seems short. And they do weigh in on things during the interval. Do we miss them when they're (more or less) gone? 

***

Justice Breyer — my favorite Justice based on the way he talks — asked a question about San Francisco fog:
“Suppose somebody came by in an airplane and took some of that beautiful fog and flew it to Colorado, which has its own beautiful air. And somebody took it and flew it to Massachusetts or some other place. Do you understand how I’m suddenly seeing this and I’m totally at sea?"

"2 senators cannot be allowed to defeat what 48 senators and 210 House members want."

Tweeted Bernie Sanders, quoted at Newsweek

Who's doing the "allowing"? All 100 Senators were elected in their state and each holds 1/100 of the power. It's not 2 against 48 but 52 against 48. There's no "allowing" going on, just an accumulation of total votes. The 2 are most certainly allowed to vote the way they choose, representing their state, and it's offensive to speak of not allowing them. 

Speaking of Sanders, here's something from Axios: 
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) withheld support for a joint statement condemning last weekend's protests against Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) because it also wouldn't include a rebuke of her political views, Axios has learned.....

An email exchange between Senate Democratic leadership aides, obtained by Axios, reveals Sanders withheld his name from a joint statement declaring protesters who followed Sinema into a bathroom — and filmed her while using the restroom — as "plainly inappropriate and unacceptable."

Was Sinema filmed using the toilet? I thought she'd retreated into the space to get away, but find it hard to believe she'd use the toilet under this pressure, unless she had a physical emergency. I realize it is possible in most public bathrooms for someone outside the stall to hold a camera over/under the wall/door of the stall and photograph a person inside. Did that happen to Sinema?

Back to Axios:

October 6, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...

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... you can talk all night.

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"When, this morning, Benjamin List received a call from a Swedish number, he was sitting with his wife in a café."

"'We were about to have breakfast,' the Max Planck Institute professor said. 'We looked at each other in disbelief, jokingly.' Was this, they laughed, the call? 'I went outside. And it was the call.'"

I like that he went outside to answer the phone. Nobel-quality people don't just answer the phone inside the café. 

I learned a new word.

I was reading "Dave Chappelle’s Endless Feedback Loop" (New York Magazine), a review of the new Netflix special, "Closer," which we watched last night. And I get to this:
He speaks about Black and queer struggles as if they are strictly in competition, not always entangled. He has the textbook edgelord ally’s arrogance. He swears he knows how to fix things for you, but he’s just asking for you to take up less space, to usher in progress by giving other people time to come around to you.

Edgelord. I had to look it up. Urban Dictionary says:

A poster on an Internet forum, (particularly 4chan) who expresses opinions which are either strongly nihilistic, ("life has no meaning," or Tyler Durden's special snowflake speech from the film Fight Club being probably the two main examples) or contain references to Hitler, Nazism, fascism, or other taboo topics which are deliberately intended to shock or offend readers. 
The term "edgelord," is a noun, which came from the previous adjective, "edgy," which described the above behaviour. 
Nietzsche was an edgelord before it was cool.

Here's a Reddit discussion from 2 years ago that uses the word in talking about Chappelle:

"The great state of South Dakota was stolen in 1743 by the French in the person of Louis-Joseph Gaultier de La Vérendrye."

"La Vérendrye—who very grandly called himself Le Chevalier—was a fur trapper and explorer acting on behalf of his father, Pierre, commandant of New France. (Nepotism is a South Dakota tradition.) The precise Native American tribe from whom South Dakota was stolen is not certain, but Le Chevalier called them the Gens de la Petite-Cerise or 'People of the Little Cherry,' and probably they were the Arikara, a Plains Indians tribe that had broken off from the Pawnee. This is the rare instance in human history in which the theft of somebody’s little cherry was commemorated on a chiseled plaque. That was a hunk of lead dug up in 1913 and known today as the Verendrye Plate. Bearing the inscription of King Louis XV, the plate had been engraved in Latin by Le Chevalier’s père (who, incidentally, is not the same Pierre after whom South Dakota’s capital city is named). Le Chevalier scattered similar lead plates along his journey, chortling in his journal about one of these that 'the savages … did not know of the tablet of lead that I had placed in the earth.'"


"Who would be a muse, eh? Loads of people, that’s the thing. Dante wrote about his childhood crush Beatrice di Folco Portinari in The Divine Comedy."

"Jane Austen used an old flame as inspiration for Mr Darcy. Charles Dickens based numerous characters on his lover Ellen Ternan. It was all fine and nobody minded. So what changed? Two words: the internet. Online, everybody gets to create a bubble where they are the star of their own finely honed story. So when someone else mines their life for a different story, it feels more like a violation. Also, who’s to say that Ternan enjoyed being written about? She couldn’t complain on Facebook. Does this story have a moral? Yes: it’s that writers are terrible people and you should cut them all from your life immediately."


The "viral article" is "Who Is the Bad Art Friend?/Art often draws inspiration from life — but what happens when it’s your life? Inside the curious case of Dawn Dorland v. Sonya Larson" by Robert Kolker (NYT). I haven't read that, but The Guardian — after calling it "punishingly long" — summarizes it as "a woman donated her kidney to a stranger, and then a second woman wrote a story about donating a kidney to a stranger." 

At the NYT, one commenter puts it this way:

"Singapore has trialled patrol robots that blast warnings at people engaging in 'undesirable social behaviour'..."

"This includes smoking in prohibited areas, improperly parking bicycles, and breaching coronavirus social-distancing rules. During a recent patrol, one of the 'Xavier' robots wove its way through a housing estate and stopped in front of a group of elderly residents watching a chess match. 'Please keep one-metre distancing, please keep to five persons per group,' a robotic voice blared out, as a camera on top of the machine trained its gaze on them.... Digital rights activist Lee Yi Ting said...  'It all contributes to the sense people ... need to watch what they say and what they do in Singapore to a far greater extent than they would in other countries'...."

"Anybody Fighting Joe Biden Is Helping Trump’s Next Coup/All Republican politics is now functionally authoritarian."

There's an incendiary headline! But it shows too much, I think. It's demanding that everyone quiet themselves and act as though the current regime is good. Isn't that what they do in North Korea? And yet if you criticize Biden, you're the fascist. Functionally. 

Where is that headline? New York Magazine. On a column by Jonathan Chait

Is "coup" the word we're using now for anytime the wrong candidate wins an election?

I'll read the article. Highlights:
Robert Kagan, a prominent neoconservative and formerly influential Republican adviser, seized the attention of the intelligentsia by warning in a Washington Post essay that the constitutional crisis had already arrived. Trump is likely to win the party’s presidential nomination; ergo, the Republican Party is presumptively a vehicle for Trump’s authoritarian ambitions. 
Therefore — and here was the sharp end of the argument — anything advancing the Republican Party is a vehicle for Trump’s attack on the Constitution. Kagan’s provocation irritated his former allies because it closed off any pretense that Republicans engage in normal politics without endangering the republic...

What's "normal"? This is an argument of labels. Trump is "authoritarian." Democrats engage in "normal politics." 

Zero Republicans have even entertained joining with Democrats to support a bill to protect voting or elections from the subversion campaign Trump’s allies are energetically carrying out in various red states. Their apparent calculation is that even if they still harbor private concerns over the party’s direction, “normal” Republican partisanship remains completely kosher....

"Normal" gets quote marks there because Republicans act as if they can be considered normal but they cannot. Chait dictates.

The reason you can’t cordon off Trump from the rest of the party is that we now live in something functionally resembling a parliamentary system.

Chait likes that word "functionally." When things aren't what you want to say they are, just add "functionally."

Biden leads the governing party. Trump is the leader of the opposition. To oppose the one is to support the other....

No, that's not how America works. You were just scaring us about "Trump’s attack on the Constitution," but now you're assuming the Constitution out of existence, kicking it to the curb, and we're not supposed to notice, and if we do, we'd better be quiet... or we're functionally authoritarian.

It is true that some of the weapons at [Trump's] disposal last January will be in Biden’s hands in January 2025. But many of the state officials who resisted him last time have been replaced with more pliant figures; Trumpist Republicans seem likely to gain control of the election apparatus in Michigan, Arizona, and Georgia. In any case, Trump might well win the election fairly — and then what?

Well, then it's not "Trump's next coup." It's Trump's second election, like the one in 2016, and it will be your obligation — if you actually do care about the Constitution — to accept the results of the election and aim at winning the next election. That's democracy, and if you don't like that, who's "functionally authoritarian"?

... Does the probability of a catastrophic outcome like the end of American democracy actually need to exceed 50 percent before we take firm action to stop it? While conservatives like [Ross] Douthat are correct that Trump is not a Hitler, that is setting the bar for action rather low. Trump doesn’t need to be a potential Hitler, or even a Mussolini, to justify suspending our normal rules of political conduct.

Again, who's the functional authoritarian? You're openly justifying suspending our normal rules of political conduct!

ADDED: Think a bit more about this idea that "some of the weapons at [Trump's] disposal last January will be in Biden’s hands in January 2025." I'm seeing this at The Atlantic: "Kamala Harris Might Have to Stop the Steal/Constitutional scholars are already worrying about another January 6 crisis, and they warn that the next election might be harder to save" by Russell Berman: "How would [Kamala Harris] handle a certification from a Republican governor or secretary of state that appeared to subvert the popular vote in that state? What if, in other words, it were up to her to stop the steal?"

Coke saves the world.

 

I ran into that at the subreddit r/cringe, where the top-rated comment is: 
“Think people! How do we appeal to the younger generation while sending a positive message?"  
“Let’s make a video game character become sentient at the sound of a coke being opened in the real world in the middle of a bloody battle and have him lay down his arms in the name of peace.”  
“Fuck yeah.”  
How in the fuck did that ever make it past initial pitch? 
I was reading that subreddit after we got into an extended debate about the word "cringe" as it's used in discussing comedy.

We were talking about the new Dave Chappelle comedy special, which I consider a genius work of art, but I see Fast Company calls it "boring, transphobic." I guess "fast" means "dumb" now.

October 5, 2021

Clouded sunrise with a view of the Capitol through the trees.

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What was the first image ever displayed on this blog?

It's an Althouse blog trivia question. Answer below the fold:

"Saying they used [the song 'Memory'] to calm [Trump] down! In his rages. It helped me understand what’s baffled me about its appeal to him."

"The literal aspect of it is about this old cat who’s dead and dying, but beneath the beautiful music and beautiful poem is such a longing to connect! So, like, Trump was a handsome kid, but his dad was a bully, so he became a bully, just trying to impress Daddy. I can’t win with charm, he thought . . . and he’s always felt outside. In his heart of hearts, there’s this tremendous need, an insatiable need, to be loved, the love he never received from his father or mother. So that is in that song: that incredible longing to belong, to connect, to not be rejected, that’s what this whole thing is. All these years, I had no clue why that song touched him, but now, with this [Stephanie Grisham] book . . . I get it, I get it!"

Said Betty Buckley, who played Grizabella, the cat who sings "Memory," in the original Broadway production of "Cats," quoted in "How to Explain Trump’s Love for the Musical 'Cats'/To unlock this mystery, we went straight to the source: Betty Buckley, the actress who sang 'Memory' in the original New York production of 'Cats'" (The New Yorker).

"The patriarch is Apollo, the matriarch is Athena, and my very best friend is Ajax... Then there’s Drop Foot, Little Big One, Hope, Wolverine, Tuna, Tiny."

"The newest, four weeks old, that’s Gizmo. Whiskers, Crooked Head because he’s got a crooked head. Let’s see — who’s left? Tiger, Love, Momma, and Homer. I don’t think I left anyone out."

Said Curtis Sliwa, the Republican candidate for New York City mayor, in "POP QUIZ 8:00 A.M./We Asked Curtis Sliwa to Name All 16 of His Cats" (NY Magazine).

More impressive than the speed at which he scrolled through the directory was that he immediately repeated the feat, à la Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting riffing through the names of his 12 (made-up) brothers.

"If you ask a young person, it’s something you deal with on a daily basis....You don’t need this research to tell you this."

Said Vicki Harrison, director of the Center for Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing at Stanford, quoted at "Teenage girls say Instagram’s mental health impacts are no surprise" (NYT). 

Who needs research? You see what's happening out there, what the kids are saying. It fits so well with what you already intuited. 

But there was some "internal research" at Facebook, revealed in the documents the whistle-blower, Frances Haugen, disclosed, supposedly showing that "Instagram made body-image issues worse for one in three teenage girls." But: "Facebook has responded that the research did not show a causal link and that a majority of teenage girls experiencing body-image issues reported that Instagram either made their body image better or had no impact."

This NYT article should tell us the nature of the "research" we're talking about, not refer to it with no basis for assessing it and switching us to quotes from someone who might be an expert — we're not told her credentials — who says we don't need research. 

I followed links and got to the Wall Street Journal article, "Facebook Knows Instagram Is Toxic for Teen Girls, Company Documents Show/Its own in-depth research shows a significant teen mental-health issue that Facebook plays down in public," but you'll need a subscription to read that. Let's see what it says about the research:

Something is interfering with the blog format.

The previous post caused the sidebar to shift to the bottom of the page. I tried un-publishing it, but the problem remained. Individual post pages don't have the problem. Any ideas?

UPDATE: I solved the problem.

"Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., is unhappy that a group of progressive activists followed her into a bathroom over the weekend."

"Leaving aside that Sinema doesn’t get to set the terms of how her constituents hold her accountable, you know who would have likely applauded those activists’ tactics? A young Kyrsten Sinema, the one who didn’t mind calling out Democrats who are more interested in obtaining power than in using it to advance their values.... "

From "Kyrsten Sinema's bathroom protest was a long time coming/The Kyrsten Sinema of 2003 would have been among the activists protesting her at Arizona State University" by Hayes Brown (MSNBC).

There's a big difference between "calling out" politicians and hounding them physically until they retreat into the dead-end space of a bathroom stall. That's a nightmare, and anyone who's proud of doing that to her ought never to claim to understand the problem of violence against women. Not that it's acceptable to treat a man like that. But getting trapped in a small, interior space by people who are yelling at you and coming at you is a woman's nightmare.

It's here at last!

Today is the publication date of the new David Sedaris book, "A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries (2003-2020)"

I am, I think, the world's biggest fan of the first volume of David Sedaris's diaries, "Theft by Finding," so this is a huge event for me. I've been watching the calendar for months. 

This is funny — It's #1 (and #3) on Amazon's "Best Sellers in Classic Greek Literature":

"Citing an increase in harassment, intimidation and threats of violence against school board members, teachers and workers in our nation’s public schools, today Attorney General Merrick B. Garland directed the FBI and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices..."

"... to meet in the next 30 days with federal, state, Tribal, territorial and local law enforcement leaders to discuss strategies for addressing this disturbing trend.... According to the Attorney General’s memorandum, the Justice Department will launch a series of additional efforts in the coming days designed to address the rise in criminal conduct directed toward school personnel....  The Justice Department will also create specialized training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators. This training will help school board members and other potential victims understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats, how to report threatening conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and how to capture and preserve evidence of threatening conduct to aid in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes."

Feels like a gesture at answering the question I asked a week ago: "Why don't schools call the police when crimes are committed in school?"

"I can’t pinpoint exactly when it started, but sometime in the past month, my 11-year-old daughter started talking about pronouns and identities."

"At first it was one conversation about a friend who identifies as a 'demigirl.' Next, it was stories of her friends talking about transitioning. Then it was tales about her schoolmates announcing their queer status or 'they/them' pronouns.... I wanted to get this 'right,' whatever right looked like. To start, parents should realize that searching for pronouns that feel accurate isn’t some kind of emo phase.... I listened. Every day. Every time. I asked questions. I offered my daughter books.... I sympathized with her frustrations and provided every resource I could find for identity or allyship. And when it felt frustrating and urgent for her to sort out, I told her it was absolutely okay to let all this marinate, evolve and emerge for her and her friends on their timeline. And when those friends visiting us tell me their preferred pronouns, I use them. And when I slip up, I apologize and correct it. We haven’t come to any conclusions here, but that doesn’t change what I would tell any parent, boss, teacher or colleague: Just buckle up and deal with it."

From "How to parent in our new, awkward age of pronouns" by Tracy Moore (WaPo)(https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/04/does-your-kid-want-to-change-her-pronouns-read-this/).

From the comments over there: "Suspend disbelief and listen to the kids. They are definitely on to something, and it's very interesting."

ADDED: The link to this article interfered with my blog format for some reason (causing the sidebar to shift to the bottom of the page). That's why you just see the URL now. As the current URL reflects, the headline for the column has been changed to "Does your kid want to change her pronouns? Read this." What's the subtle mood change from "How to parent" to "Does your kid want"? I'd say the new headline — "Does your kid want" — contains more of a suggestion that you need to be the adult in the room and provide guidance, but that's not the message of the column. The more mysterious headline "How to parent" sets you up to hear the advice that you need to listen to the child and learn... and "buckle up and deal with it."

"But some Portlanders came to see the demonstrations as a threat to the city’s appeal to tourists and investors."

"'Lenders and purchasers have for all intents and purposes blacklisted Portland,' said John Russell, a longtime Portland real estate developer. Dramatic clashes between protesters and law enforcement provided the opportunity for right-wing politicians and media to depict the city as besieged by violent anarchists and, as Donald Trump claimed, 'ablaze all the time.'... Far-right groups had turned the city into a culture war battleground.... 'I just have no sympathy for people who speak with visceral disgust about the city. It’s human people who are really struggling, and you haven’t even actually seen them,' said Lisa Bates, associate professor of urban studies at Portland State University, which is located downtown.... There has been genuine debate among Black organizers and community leaders about protest tactics and the extent to which activists with an antiestablishment agenda and a penchant for property destruction undermined a more focused racial justice movement.... 'The conversation about the city’s major issues is, in my view, reprehensibly putting the blame on poor people, Black people, and allies of Black civil rights for essentially every ill that’s happening in the city right now,' Bates continued. The result is a narrative that insists 'the only way we can save us is more cops; get out of the way of my development; juice at the top so high-income tourists come back.' To acknowledge that Portland’s greatest challenges have little to do with anarchists would mean having a more difficult conversation about the city’s future. It would mean asking, 'Who is this city for?'"

October 4, 2021

From a walk in the rain at 5:43 in the evening.

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Talk about anything you want in the comments.

"Biden’s overall job approval ratings are bad enough....That alone makes Biden less popular at this stage of his presidency than any president in the past 40 years except for Donald Trump."

"Among independents, however, Biden is about as unpopular as Trump was at this stage in his presidency. An average of only 39 percent of independents approved of Biden’s performance in the three polls taken between Sept. 18 and 26 that made data available for those voters; 52 percent disapproved. Trump’s comparable numbers among independents in three polls taken between Sept. 22 and 27, 2017, were 38 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval. That means Biden’s minus-13 net job approval among independents is statistically identical to Trump’s minus-12.... The CIVIQS poll, conducted for the progressive website the Daily Kos... estimates Biden’s net approval rating to be minus-17 in Arizona and at least minus-10 in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina, all of which have Senate seats up for grabs in 2022. Biden’s abysmal standing with independents spells disaster for Democrats in the midterm elections if it does not substantially improve.... Biden won independents by 13 points in 2020. To go from plus-13 to minus-13 in less than a year is an epic disaster. Republicans are standing by, ready to pick up the pieces from a crumbling presidency."

I'll just pick one hole in that. A poll asking about approval isn't the same as an election where you have to pick one or the other candidate. Obviously, Biden got many votes from people who weren't saying they approved of him, only that they preferred him to Trump.

"Facebook and its family of apps, including Instagram and WhatsApp, went down at the same time on Monday..."

"... taking out a vital communications platform used by more than three billion people around the world and adding heat to a company already under intense scrutiny. Facebook’s apps — which include Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Oculus — began displaying error messages around 11:40 a.m. Eastern time, users reported. Within five minutes, Facebook had disappeared from the internet. Hours later, the sites were still not functioning.... Two members of its security team, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly, said it was unlikely that a cyberattack had taken place because one hack was unlikely to affect so many apps at once."

UPDATE: Problem seems to have been solved. Facebook is up. Instagram is up.

"Doctors have successfully treated a woman with severe depression using a groundbreaking 'neural pacemaker' device that detects and resets negative brain activity."

"The device can recognise the pattern of electrical activity in the brain that gives rise to depressive thoughts. It then intervenes by delivering a tiny targeted electrical pulse via an implant.... The treatment involves placing an implant under the skull with electrodes travelling deep into the brain.... The system was tailored to Sarah with the researchers first monitoring her brain activity for a week while asking her to describe her mood regularly. An algorithm was used to identify a pattern of activity in the amygdala region of the brain that corresponded with her worst depressive symptoms. The researchers then located another area of her brain, the ventral striatum, where a very small, six-second pulse of electricity produces a near-instantaneous result. The device intervenes like this about 300 times each day. The only sensation, Sarah said, was a slight feeling of alertness."

Too little, too late.

I'm reading "A Botched Circumcision and Its Aftermath/The constant discomfort of a genital injury creates a covenant of pain. It is impossible to think about anything else" by Gary Shteyngart (The New Yorker):
Most poorly performed circumcisions stem from two misjudgments on the part of the circumciser: either too much or too little foreskin is removed. In my case, it was too little (and, one might add, given that I was seven years old instead of the eight days prescribed by the Torah, too late). After the infection had subsided, the shaft of my penis was crowded by a skyline of redundant foreskin that included, on the underside, a thick attachment of skin stretching from the head to the shaft of the genital, a result of improper healing that is called a skin bridge. A small gap could be seen between this skin bridge and the penis proper. In texture and appearance, the bridge reminded me of the Polly-O mozzarella string cheese that got packed in the lunchboxes of my generation. It produced no pain on its own after the infection had died down and the two years of difficult urination were over, but the strangeness of my penile appearance—and the manner in which it was brought about—became lodged in my consciousness....

Andrew Yang announces he's now officially an independent and not a Democrat.

I know he's out and about pushing a new book that I can't believe anyone cares about reading, so the cynical part of me thinks he had to come up with something of interest. I'm still taking the bait. Let's see if he says anything useful on the subject of why he wants the only political affiliation I myself could put up with. Excerpt:
[O]ur system is stuck. It is stuck in part because polarization is getting worse than ever....  The key reform that is necessary to help unlock our system is a combination of Open Primaries and Ranked Choice Voting, which will give voters more genuine choice and our system more dynamism. It will also prevent the spoiler effect that so many Democrats are concerned about, which is a byproduct of a two party system with a binary contest and simple plurality voting.... I’m not very ideological. I’m practical. Making partisan arguments – particularly expressing what I often see as performative sentiment – is sometimes uncomfortable for me....

October foliage just after an overcast sunrise on my perfect path for running through the woods.

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"When they got rid of civic integrity, it was the moment where I was like, 'I don't trust that they're willing to actually invest what needs to be invested to keep Facebook from being dangerous.'"

Said the Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, interviewed on "60 Minutes," summarized at CNN


If I understand this correctly, Haugen is in favor of greater censorship at Facebook and critical of the company for going as far as it does in supporting freedom of speech. She has a very self-righteous demeanor, so I'm afraid it can cause casual listeners to think she's on the good side in a battle of good versus evil, so pay close attention.

The term "civic integrity" is baffling, but I think it's a euphemism for censorship. Please correct me if I am wrong. There was a unit within the company called "civic integrity," and it was broken up after the election and its work was, it seems, reassigned. That's the sense in which it can be said "they got rid of civic integrity," but it sounds as though she's saying they got rid of the abstract ideal, integrity.

ADDED: Here's the full transcript. Here's the gist of what Haugen has to say:
Facebook has realized that if they change the algorithm to be safer, people will spend less time on the site, they’ll click on less ads, they’ll make less money.... People enjoy engaging with things that elicit an emotional reaction and the more anger that they get exposed to, the more they interact and the more they consume.... Facebook has demonstrated, they cannot act independently. Facebook, over and over again, has shown it chooses profit over safety. It is subsidizing, it is paying for its profits with our safety.

"The biggest point we drove home was that he doesn’t want to own the midterms if we don’t win back the House or Senate."

Said an unnamed informant, quoted in "Trump, talked out of announcing a 2024 bid for now, settles on a wink-and-nod unofficial candidacy" (WaPo).
Some of his advisers were concerned that Democrats might use his announcement in their effort to frame the midterm elections around his candidacy, potentially boosting their own turnout and hampering his plans if Republicans fall short next year. Advisers also argued that he could be more effective electing like-minded Republicans next year if he was not an official candidate himself.... 

"Amid a record hot summer in large parts of the Northern Hemisphere, beset by devastating fires, floods and hurricanes, Antarctica was mired in a deep, deep freeze...."

"The average temperature at the Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station between April and September, a frigid minus-78 degrees (minus-61 Celsius), was the coldest on record, dating back to 1957. This was 4.5 degrees lower than the most recent 30-year average at this remote station.... The extreme cold over Antarctica helped push sea ice levels surrounding the continent to their fifth-highest level on record in August.... Matthew Lazzara, an expert on the meteorology of Antarctica and scientist at the University of Wisconsin, monitored the South Pole temperatures in recent months from his office in Madison with awe. In an interview, he said it was around minus-100 degrees on numerous occasions.... Scientists stressed that the record cold over the South Pole in no way refutes or lessens the seriousness of global warming. Antarctica is notorious for its wild swings in weather and climate, which can run counter to global trends." 

"It's a kind of imperial wedding. A remembrance of eternal Russia — of sacred czars and patriarchs and church."

"In an age of 'cancel culture,' when everybody in the West tries to forget your own identity — your own history — Russia offers an alternative process, we are trying to return to our roots." Said Alexander Dugin, the "nationalist philosopher," quoted in "After a century of waiting, Russians witness a royal wedding once more" (NPR). 

Some great photos at the link, especially the one of the Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna. She's the mother of the groom, Grand Duke George Mikhailovich Romanov, the great-grandnephew of the last czar, Nicholas II. 

From the groom: "My first language was Russian even though I was born in Spain and raised in France. My grandparents raised me on Russian history and culture and poetry. It's always been in my soul." 

If there were to be a restoration, would George Mikhailovich Romanov be the czar? He says so, but Anton Bakov, head of the Russian Monarchy party, purports to know the technical rules and says it's somebody else. 

From an onlooker, Viktor, in the crowd outside the church: "Without an emperor, Russia can't exist. Russia needs a czar, not a Soviet premier or a president." 

From Viktor's wife: "We always knew the Romanovs would return. We've waited and now it's finally happened." 

Another man, Oleg, said: "We already have Mr. Putin. I'm not sure he needs the Romanovs." 

NPR gives the last word to the nationalist philosopher: "It's very unlikely that George Romanov would play some political role in the future of Russia, but who knows? But we cannot say never. Never is not Russian."

"Jane was never embarrassed, and for a pretty specific reason. The way she grew up — she was Methodist — she was taught you are not the center of the universe..."

"... which made her feel free, like no one was watching. 'To be embarrassed would be to assume that anyone in this room or anyone who witnessed this actually spends more than 5 seconds thinking about me. And they don't. Why would you think anyone but God gives a shit about anything you're doing, ever? They don't. Like, you are nothing. You mean nothing in the world. It's obnoxious, basically, to think that, like, any of your actions — that anyone is actually looking in your direction.' This worldview, that others weren't judging her, helped her not judge herself. Those thoughts just didn't occur to her."

From Episode 749 of "This American Life," "My Bad" (about embarrassment).

I've thought a lot about embarrassment, and I sometimes wonder what might life could have been if I'd found my way to immunity from embarrassment when I was a child. When you're a really young child, learning to speak, learning to walk, babbling nonsense, falling on your ass every other minute, it's all in good fun, and you never get the idea that everyone's laughing at me and I keep making a fool of myself. You have to learn to be embarrassed, but some people learn not to be embarrassed. 

Can Methodism help? 

"The Swedish cartoonist Lars Vilks, who was under police protection after his controversial drawing of the Prophet Muhammad in 2007 led to a series of death threats..."

"... has been killed in a car crash. Vilks died after the civilian police vehicle in which he was travelling near the town of Markaryd in southern Sweden collided with a lorry on Sunday.... Two police officers who were in the vehicle with the 75-year-old artist were also killed."

The cartoon that elicited the death threats — which seems unconnected to this car crash — depicted the head of Muhammad on the body of a dog.

From 1997 to 2003, he was a professor in art theory at the Bergen National Academy of the Arts. As an art theorist, Vilks was a proponent of the institutional theory of art.... 
The link on those last 4 words goes to another Wikipedia page says: "The institutional theory of art... holds that an object can only become art in the context of the institution known as 'the artworld." 

Back to the main Vilks page:
In 1980 Vilks created two sculptures, Nimis and Arx, the former made entirely of drift wood and the latter of concrete and rock, in the Kullaberg nature reserve in Höganäs, Skåne. In 1996, the small area where the sculptures are located was proclaimed by Vilks as an independent country, "Ladonia"
Nimis was sold to Joseph Beuys as a means to circumvent the Swedish building code laws concerning unlawful building process. The sculpture of Nimis was owned by the late conceptual artist Christo....
Vilks' long-standing controversies with different authorities due to his activities in the nature reserve Kullaberg, where Nimis, Arx, and Landonien are all located, received significant attention in Swedish media, which for the most part portrayed Vilks' work as specifically designed to be provocative. This attention has turned the area into something of a tourist attraction. 
In Vilks' activity as an art theorist, he commented on his own artistic activities in the second or third person..... He described himself as an "equal opportunity offender" in his critical depictions of religion. 
In 2007, Vilks caused an international controversy when he depicted Muhammad as a roundabout dog...

What is a roundabout dog? Wikipedia has a page for that:

In Sweden, especially around 2006, people put dog sculptures like that in roundabouts (a roundabout being what we tend to call a traffic circle or a rotary).

What is the meaning of a roundabout dog and what does it have to do with Muhammad? Is it chiefly meaninglessness — just something that's there... to delight or bother you, depending on who you are?

October 3, 2021

Good night.

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"Three separate marches — all tackling different elements of the abortion debate — filled Capitol Square with thousands of people Saturday afternoon."

"A group of individuals chanting 'abortion is a human right, not just for the cis(gender) and white,' led the charge up State Street, while a larger group, attendees of the 'Bans Off Our Bodies' march trailed about a block behind. At the Capitol, the two groups were met by the tail end of a march organized by Pro Life Wisconsin. Pro-choice and anti-abortion protestors thrust signs at one another, but aside from some shouting between individuals, there was little confrontation."


It so happened I walked down to the Capitol — the Wisconsin Capitol — yesterday at about noon. I only saw the pro-life rally, so that's what you see in my photographs:

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IMG_7570 

I wasn't deliberately highlighting men's bodies, so don't imagine that I intended any sort of satire or was angling for some "men in shorts" humor. I simply walked straight up the stairs and stood where I wasn't in the group or intruding on them and tried to include signs. 

"I grew up in Iran where [arranged marriages] occurred and many turned into good and long-lasting relationships. So, why couldn’t a similar arranged approach work for friendship?"

"About three years ago, I asked some women I knew and several I had just met if they wanted to join me in an experiment. They all said yes. We started with nine people and had a commitment ceremony, where among other things we described the attributes and strengths we perceived in each person. Since then, we have met regularly as a group and done activities one-on-one or in smaller configurations. Our arranged friendship has survived the pandemic, while others have been destroyed.What makes it work are key elements borrowed from arranged marriages: commit first, lean on structure, and allow for fun and intimacy to emerge and sustain the relationship. This experiment is reproducible because the stakes aren’t as high as a marriage, and the framework provides a container within which friendships can thrive. Plus, the arranged bit takes the guesswork out of finding friends."

Scroll past the first minute to skip the bad new stuff and get to the good old stuff.

A new season of "SNL" begins — the cold open is all about the Democrats — and they've got a new guy playing Joe Biden.

 

I watched the whole thing and — maybe it's just me — I didn't find anything funny. The new Biden is James Austin Johnson. He doesn't look much like Biden and isn't leaning into making him ridiculous enough. The real Biden is already someone you can just watch and laugh at, so what are you going to do with it? 

 The second sentence of his very short Wikipedia page is: "He has garnered attention for his impression of former President of the United States Donald Trump, sometimes being referred to as 'the best Trump impersonator.'"

He doesn't just get attention. He garners it! 

Okay, so maybe this Biden impersonation is a fake out until they get to what they hired him for. Check this out:
How will they do debates if their Trump guy is also their Biden guy? I guess they're planning to worry about that when the time comes. It's really not too likely that Trump and Biden will ever debate each other again, but that would be far down the road. There will be years of running up to the primaries, with Democrats fighting Democrats and Republicans against Republicans, and Biden probably won't make it to his party's 2024 nomination. Trump probably will. 

So good luck to James Austin Johnson — with his Biden and his Trump. He does have a big problem looking like either of them, what with his huge nose. You can fake a large nose on a comedian with a small nose, but you can't fake small out of large. You have to rely on raw talent.