December 18, 2021

A very dull sunrise.

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The dullest! 

But it was nice to see the fallen tree cleared away:

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Glanced up from my work and saw a fox in the backyard, grabbed my camera, and caught him pouncing — twice!

 

ADDED: Got up from my reading chair and looked out the window. The fox was back. I like his style, how he waits and thinks — looks around — then hightails it:

"North Koreans have been banned from laughing for 11 days as the totalitarian country commemorates the 10-year anniversary of the death of Kim Jong Un’s father and predecessor, Kim Jong Il..."

"Meanwhile, the slimmed-down despot dusted off his trendy black leather trench coat Friday to wear again as he stood beneath a large red banner emblazoned with an image of his dad, who died in 2011.... On Friday, multiple newspapers — all tightly controlled by the government — published articles praising Kim Jong Il. 'He is, indeed, the greatest man and the great sage of the revolution all the people on this land follow with their deep affection and sincerity,' the ruling party’s Rodong Sinmun paper said....  Meanwhile, Kim has reportedly banned citizens from copying his fashion choices by wearing leather coats. RFA has reported that actual fashion police have patrolled the streets to confiscate the jackets from sellers and any citizens wearing any knock-offs."


No laughing. And no leather coat-wearing.

"At one point, a woman hid them in a haystack; at another, Mr. Orenstein secreted himself in an oil drum. The Nazis 'were actually hunting people' like animals..."

"[T]he Orensteins escaped a roundup of Jews by taking shelter in a neighboring house, where a hideaway had been fashioned for them between two walls. They were eventually forced to surrender to the Nazis when they ran out of food. Separated from their children, Mr. Orenstein’s parents were executed over a pit in the local cemetery. Along with his siblings, Mr. Orenstein was deported for forced labor. He survived five Nazi concentration camps. At the Budzyn camp located in Poland... he heard a camp official call for 'all Jewish scientists, engineers, inventors, chemists and mathematicians.' Drawing upon his ingenuity, he decided to take a chance. Although only one brother was a doctor, Mr. Orenstein attested that he and all his siblings met the qualifications for the select group, which was ostensibly tasked with aiding the German war effort. In fact, the prisoners detailed to the operation did little but operate adding machines, performing meaningless mathematical operations, and other useless tasks. 'It was a cover-up on both sides!... German professors created this project to keep themselves from being drafted into the army. If they told the Gestapo that we were faking, we would have been killed, but they would have been drafted into the German army. … So they decided to fake the whole thing. Lucky for us.'"

"Billie Eilish began watching porn aged 11 to be cool, 'one of the guys.' But the brutal, abusive scenes she encountered gave her nightmares and in her first sexual relationships..."

"... she complied with acts she hated 'because I thought that’s what I was supposed to be attracted to.' Porn, she said this week, 'destroyed my brain.' Yet already Eilish, who only turns 20 this weekend, is being censured for her 'anti-porn tirade.' Her lush voice, dark lyrics and seven Grammys can’t save her from being branded a Swerf (Sex Worker-Excluding Radical Feminist), a slur applied to any woman who dares challenge the global sex trade. For a decade the supposed progressive position on pornography has been that it is liberating and 'sex positive.'... In her recent book 'The Right to Sex', the Oxford professor Amia Srinivasan describes teaching her students the work of 'second wave' feminists Andrea Dworkin and Catharine MacKinnon, who argued that porn writes the script for male oppression. Srinivasan assumed undergraduates would find their position as outdated and repressive as she did. Instead they were electrified, agreeing with 1970s feminists that porn objectifies women, ignores female pleasure and, like Eilish, that it groomed them into sex acts they didn’t enjoy. Srinivasan reflects that at 36 she only encountered porn as an adult, while 'sex to my students is what porn says it is.'... A generational shift is under way.... Younger people, whose childhoods were defiled, will agree with Billie Eilish who says with a fearlessness born of pain: 'As a woman, I think porn is a disgrace.'"

Writes Janice Turner in "Porn apologists are running out of excuses/The pop star Billie Eilish will be an inspiration to many young people in rejecting grotesque images of sexual violence" (London Times).

Here's Eilish's song on the subject:

"In traditional science, you start with a 'null hypothesis' along the lines of 'this thing doesn’t happen and nothing about it is interesting.'"

"Then you do your study, and if it gets surprising results, you might end up 'rejecting the null hypothesis' and concluding that the interesting thing is true; otherwise, you have 'no evidence' for anything except the null. This is a perfectly fine statistical hack, but it doesn’t work in real life. In real life, there is no such thing as a state of 'no evidence' and it’s impossible to even give the phrase a consistent meaning. EG: Is there 'no evidence' that using a parachute helps prevent injuries when jumping out of planes? This was the conclusion of a cute paper in the BMJ, which pointed out that as far as they could tell, nobody had ever done a study proving parachutes helped. Their point was that 'evidence' isn't the same thing as 'peer-reviewed journal articles.'... [T]he folk concept of 'no evidence' doesn't match how real truth-seeking works. Real truth-seeking is Bayesian. You start with a prior for how unlikely something is. Then you update the prior as you gather evidence.... Some people thought masks helped slow the spread of COVID. You can type out 'no evidence' and hit 'send tweet.' But... it seems intuitively obvious that if something is spread by droplets shooting out of your mouth, preventing droplets from shooting out of your mouth would slow the spread...."

"Real-life quidditch, inspired by the magical game in 'Harry Potter,' is changing its name, citing author J.K. Rowling's 'anti-trans positions in recent years.'"

NBC News reports. 

I can't imagine why anyone who doesn't love JK Rowling would want to play this game, which looks perfectly idiotic without that love. These people are holding messy, ragged brooms between their legs. Take away the author's magical aura and you've got to think, what the hell are we doing?!
“For the last year or so, both leagues have been quietly collecting research to prepare for the move and been in extensive discussions with each other and trademark lawyers regarding how we can work together to make the name change as seamless as possible,” Major League Quidditch Commissioner Amanda Dallas said in the release. 
Oh! So they stole the intellectual property?
The leagues say there are a few reasons for the name change. Among them is that the name "quidditch" is trademarked by Warner Bros., which produced the "Harry Potter" movies, and as a result the sport's expansion has been limited in its sponsorship and broadcast opportunities....

They just took the name, appropriated the author's reputation, and now they'd like to look virtuous as the drop it, but they need to drop it because they never legitimately acquired it in the first place. Just give up, people. 

This must have started as lighthearted fun, but it's all over now. Take your silly brooms and sweep yourselves off the public stage. 

December 17, 2021

Sunrise — 7:12.

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Write about whatever you want in the comments. 

And please think of supporting this blog by doing your shopping through the Althouse portal to Amazon, which is always right there in the sidebar. Thanks!

"These middle-aged and retired Chinese women, who take over public parks and plazas around the country to engage in synchronized shimmying, will soon face new restrictions on their right to boogie."

"Under legislation to update China’s noise pollution ordinances, to be sent to lawmakers next week, dance enthusiasts will face limits on the volume of their music and times that they are allowed to occupy public spaces....The practice had its origins in collective public dances during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s and 1970s, and later in the economic overhauls of the 1990s that left many city dwellers jobless and in need of low-cost entertainment.... Over the years, their presence has become increasingly polarizing as reports of conflicts between dancers and noise-sensitive residents have become more common. In 2013, a sleep-deprived 56-year-old man fired a shotgun into the air and loosed a Tibetan mastiff on a group of dancers. In Wuhan that same year, dancers were reportedly pelted with feces thrown by angry neighbors.... The coming restrictions, the first on a national level after years of attempts by local governments to regulate the dancing, were welcomed online. 'Rejoicing!!!' one user wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform, in response to the news. 'The law should stop people taking their joy from other people’s pain,' another posted."

From "The jig is up for China’s dancing grannies under new noise pollution law" (WaPo).


This story made me think of the famous Emma Goldman quote: “If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution.” 

By the way, I was surprised to see the expression "the jig is up" in a headline at The Washington Post. There is a folk belief — mentioned here, for example — that "jig" refers to black people and therefore that "the jig is up" refers to the lynching of black men. I remember a popular novel of some years back — I can't remember which one — which made humor out of the phrase in the context of a black astronaut. There's no question that "jig" can be used as a racist insult, though it clearly refers to a type of dance, but I'd avoid using it where it doesn't specifically apply. The Chinese women in the article were not dancing a jig, and their predicament isn't funny, so I'd resist the low-quality humor of "the jig is up." 

Oh, those thorny babies!

I'm reading "Medical advances saving premature babies pose thorny issues for abortion rights advocates/Babies are surviving earlier in pregnancy than ever before, complicating the debate over fetal viability at issue in the Mississippi abortion case before the high court" (WaPo).
Many hospitals have held firm to a 23- to 24-week line, and, as a matter of policy, do not provide lifesaving care to babies under that gestational age, arguing it’s unethical to subject a baby, parents and medical providers to such procedures, only to have the child die. But a growing number are offering aggressive treatment to babies in that difficult 22- to 23-week “gray zone,” — or even younger...

"I regularly wished aloud for a mental health version of Dr. Fauci to give daily briefings. I tried to normalize the wide range of intense emotions people felt; some thought they were truly going crazy."

Said clinical psychologist Lakeasha Sullivan, quoted in "We Asked 1,320 Therapists What They’re Hearing From Patients" (NYT). 

If there were "a mental health version of Dr. Fauci," how could he legitimately acquire the information? How bizarre would these daily briefings sound? Could we see color-coded maps of the country, with blobs of sadness and paranoia? 

But surely the pandemic is raging in the mental realm. One therapist said: "A 10-year-old boy I work with came up with ‘sad panic mode’ to describe his feeling of overwhelm. I now use this phrase with other kids, and it resonates."

"It’s just cringe-making... I look like a bloody clown," says the Beatles' recording engineer Glyn Johns, who's 79 years old now.

Quoted in "Glyn Johns Doesn’t Get Why People Like His Look in ‘Get Back’/The long-lost outfits of the Beatles sound man have made him an unwitting fashion favorite, five decades later" (NYT). 
His yeti-like goatskin coat. His dandyish Oscar Wilde jackets. His Capri-ready neck scarves and Janis Joplin sunglasses... with his flair for accessories and slinky-pants-cool, Mr. Johns has found a new round of appreciators a half century after the fact. 
“Glyn Johns is the late ’60s fashion icon I didn’t know I needed,” tweeted Katie Irish, a costume designer who worked on “The Americans.” 
“Glyn Johns in the fluffy jacket is my look for the rest of winter,” said Emma Swift, an Australian singer and songwriter, on Twitter.... 

I love that people are using the film to get excited about some weird clothes from the 60s. Fashion was so much fun then. I had the good fortune to be a teenager then and to truly fall in love with all that crazy stuff. I got to shop at Paraphernalia. I had no idea the succeeding decades would be so boring. So unfun. Please be inspired by Glyn Johns in "Get Back," o, young people of today. Slough off your normcore and rejoice.

"In a fast-moving world of first impressions, where conversations have been replaced by 'likes,' our relations with others are governed by the skin."

"We speak with the skin: We get tattoos, we sit in the sun for a nice, deep tan, we cover up or show ourselves off, we get piercings or smear ourselves with expensive creams or go for Botox treatments in an attempt to remain eternally young. ...  And yet, at the same time, we pretend we don’t care about it. Skin-related issues — apart from those that affect politics, like racism — aren’t generally deemed worthy of writerly reflection.... Nobody cares about the feelings of shame experienced by those with skin conditions.... I never considered writing about my psoriasis because I resisted the very idea that it was a problem. It wasn’t part of me. My body wasn’t part of me; I existed purely in what was noncorporeal, in my writings, my intellect. All the itching, the patches of peeling, flaky skin — these were private problems....  I would sometimes come across historical figures and writers who suffered the same illness as I do. Joseph Stalin, for example. And Vladimir Nabokov. Their biographies would barely mention it.... But... the skin problems of these people had a considerable influence on their lives and work. Their skin was instrumental in shaping their ways of perceiving, understanding and relating to the world, which was almost always from a position of shame and rage. Studying Stalin’s life, I began to entertain the notion — I’m a writer, it’s my job to exaggerate — that the gulags were a kind of revenge for all the intolerable itching."

Writes Sergio del Molino, the author of "Skin," in "What Makes Me a Monster" (NYT).

I thought of Marat...

Not discussed in the column, but here's a bit — an itchy flake — from the book "Skin":

"'Peanut butter Oreos are the best,' said Jim Webster, Rat Trap Distribution’s director of operations, while installing the contraption outside of Casa La Femme."

"The scent of the cookies, crumbled and placed in the top compartment of the two-part trap, along with sunflower seeds, acts as a lure. For a week or so, rodents will be free to crawl through the device’s holes and snack as much as they want. Once the rats become regulars and 'get comfortable,' Mr. Webster said, the device will be turned on, and a platform will drop them into the lower part of the contraption, which serves as a catch basin not unlike a dunking tank at a carnival booth. Mr. Webster emptied four jugs of a mysterious blue 'proprietary' formula into the bottom part of the machine. He said the formula was mostly alcohol and had vapors that 'knock the rat unconscious.' He topped the solution off with sunflower oil to 'eliminate odor' from decomposition."


I'm blogging this because I think it's absurd that the city and the NYT imagine this is some brilliant new "high-tech" machine. We're told that Mayor-elect Eric Adams has declared the traps "amazing."

There's nothing new about the idea of drowning small animals.... whatever the "proprietary' formula" might be.  And you've got rats running in and out of the thing for "a week or so" before you do anything but feed them. Maybe the NYT is laughing at Webster, but this is about tormenting living creatures, so think about how you'd feel suddenly — at your favorite restaurant — dumped into some "proprietary" liquid.

Credit to the NYT for getting me to click by using the word "Oreo." I became irascibly skeptical when I saw that the drowning machines didn't use Oreos at all but peanut butter Oreos.

The comments over there are all about feral cats! There's your better rattrap, they're all saying.

Christmas Cher with Buddha and cat.

Why I skip the morning run when it's very windy, as it was yesterday.

This morning, I saw the aftermath:

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That is my path — or so I might arrogantly call it — but it was much more the tree's path, as it fell to its doom:

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December 16, 2021

"MAYBE just a crazy woman..."

ADDED: "Cher took a random photo of a 'beautiful couple' and Twitter found them/Cher continues to be the most chaotic celeb on Twitter" (etalk)("Omg! That's me, and it was my birthday! Wow! I can't believe it! 🥰"). 

AND: Don't bother seeing the new "West Side Story"... or even the old. Cher has the whole thing covered:

Josh Marshall elevates the bad comedy of a man with 51 Twitter followers. Josh assumes it's not comedy so he can take an incredibly low-quality cheap shot.

AND: Yes, I believe it is possible to take a high-quality cheap shot. I have some respect for cheapness, done right. 

UPDATE: The man with 51 Twitter followers seems to have deleted his tweet.

John Cleese did not lose his temper, but he is depressed about this kind of crap...

I'm seeing this just now: I don't know what that was about, but I went back into his tweets and put this together:

A new video on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the release of "My Sweet Lord."


 
 
AND: I put the video up before watching it. Now, I've seen it, and what did it mean? The lyrics of the song are clearly about looking for God. So we see a pair of investigators with scanning devices in a library/bookstore, searching, and then in a crowded movie theater, searching. 

I had to presume they were looking for God. But it turned into looking at celebrities, and this was kind of a mystery too, not the profound mystery of the search for God, but a mystery nonetheless, because all the celebrities I have a shot at recognizing are old and radically changed from the version I know, and all the ones appearing in their famous form, the young ones, are not famous to me. 

But perhaps that's the message: If you were looking at God, would you see Him? I really wanna see you, Lord... 

In the end, the investigators tell each other that they didn't even hear what song was playing. That is, they didn't hear the lyrics about searching for God. But they turn on the car radio — streaming device? — and "My Sweet Lord" is playing there too. The song is everywhere. God is everywhere. It takes so long... it won't take long.

Goodbye to bell hooks, the feminist author who died yesterday. This would be a good time to review her theories, but we are distracted, as usual, by the lower-cased name.

I don't want to give in to the very overdone distraction, but staring me in the face is "Why bell hooks didn’t capitalize her name/Born Gloria Jean Watkins hooks was looking for a way to honor her maternal great-grandmother" by Clyde McGrady:
Author bell hooks opted not to capitalize her name, hoping to keep the public’s focus on her work.

Did she ever admit that this strategy backfires, that this effort at minimizing her name maximizes her name? It's like the old saying if you want people to listen to you, whisper. Maybe that's what she wanted! Why not? 

But over her decades at the forefront of Black feminist writing, the punctuation choice became a constant curiosity....

McGrady's word choice is a curiosity. "Punctuation"? Capitalization isn't punctuation.

Early on, hooks, born Gloria Jean Watkins, wanted a way to honor her maternal great-grandmother while detaching herself from her work. She wrote dozens of books using her great-grandmother’s name but didn’t capitalize it.

I think this means that the great-grandmother's name was bell hooks. But McGrady is forcing me to guess... and then go to Wikipedia to check and I see that the great-grandmother's name was Bell Blair Hooks. An excellent name, and much cooler than Gloria Jean Watkins... though perhaps there's a feminist issue in the preference for Bell Blair Hooks over Gloria Jean Watkins. What's in a name? A lot, when you're a wordsmith!

What does "detaching herself from her work" mean?

"Religion gave us not just an afterlife, but a beforelife, too. God creates people as souls first and then gives them physical shape."

"'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,' God says to Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5). 'Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be,' David says to God (Psalm 139:16).... Well, if you believe that people exist before they exist, that they’re waiting out there with God somewhere before they are 'heaven sent' into someone’s womb, then of course you’re going to put the needs of that (still pure and precious) person ahead of the needs of the (sinful) womb-holder.... To those of us who don’t believe in God, this sounds fantastical... Human lives, when seen this way, inhabit a strange kind of solidity even in the abstract: Before they live — even if they never live — these people were meant to be.... Reasonable people can disagree about when a developing fetus has rights that must be considered. And people who are happily pregnant might assign complete personhood to a pea-size clump of cells from the moment the pregnancy is confirmed. But how we feel about that clump is not the same as how it feels....  [E]veryone who asks how abortion advocates would feel if they had been aborted, as if unborn people hover about ruing their nonexistence — remind us that religion is driving our abortion debate. Religion — not reason and not compassion for people who already exist in this earthly realm." 


I'm just blogging, not writing a book, so I'm not going to engage with all of that. I will only make a few points:

1. If you don't believe in any world beyond our world, it's indeed easy to say you'd feel nothing if you were aborted. But what's the answer to the question what would you feel if you — you who who believe only in this life — were murdered? You get the same answer: Nothing! 

2. The belief that there is no life beyond this life is also a religious belief. You might want to stand apart from the openly religious people and claim that you — and not they — have true reason and true compassion, but you too are engulfed in belief.

3. I subscribed to the Disney Channel so I could watch the Beatles documentary, but I've used my access to check out some other things, one of which was the 2020 animated film "Soul." This film shows a man who gets off track to the afterlife and finds his way into the place where souls are formed before they can make their way into bodies. It's not presented within a specific religion's framework, but it's an extensive visualization of life before birth:
The filmmakers animated the souls featured in the film in a "vaporous", "ethereal", and "non-physical" way, having based their designs on definitions about souls given to them by various religious and cultural representatives. At the same time, they did not want the souls to look overly similar to ghosts, and adjusted their color palette accordingly.... Animators created two designs for the souls in the film; one for the new souls in "The Great Before", which animation supervisor Jude Brownbill described as "very cute, very appealing, with simple, rounded shapes and no distinguishing features just yet", and one for mentor souls, which do feature distinctive characteristics due to having been on Earth already.

This was a big Pixar film designed to appeal to everyone, not just believers in conventional religions that have doctrine relating to the creation of souls. 

4. The desire to believe in soul is very deeply embedded in the human mind, and if you're a person of reason and compassion, you should not find it easy to slough off.

"WaPo: Please stop publishing pictures of trump. He is no longer president. Publish pictures of what he is talking about if you must publish a photo."

"If you must use a photo of trump, use a current one (again, he is NOT president so he should not be pictured as president). It should reflect what he is today, a loser who spends his time golfing."

That's the top-rated comment, published 15 hours ago, on a Washington Post article that looks like this right now:


Did The Washington Post take instruction from readers?

I will commend WaPo for choosing a photograph of a shower head with the kind of water flow that frustrates anyone attempting to shampoo thick hair. The bald/thin-haired elite are making the decisions.

The dribbly shower is such a dull thing to look at that one's eyes quickly relocate to that Rolex watch... which seems to be claiming to save the planet. It's a watch for the elite. Not the hairy deplorables.

December 15, 2021

A very warm and foggy day by the lake at sunrise.

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If not for the fog, you'd see the lake shoreline cutting straight through the middle of this photo:

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"This attempt to detach a female author from her own creative achievement is astonishing but it is just the latest episode in a long history of women being erased."

"It won’t work. Not only is JK Rowling renowned for creating the world of Harry Potter, she is now a hero to women all over the world for speaking up in the face of intimidation and abuse."

Said Kiri Tunks, co-founder of the campaign group Woman’s Place UK, quoted in "JK Rowling written out of her own Fantastic Beasts film" (London Times). 

Rowling is "written out" in the sense that the trailer begins with the words "Warner Bros invites you" while the earlier film, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, used the words "JK Rowling invites you." The earlier film's trailer informed us that she'd written and produced the film, and for this new film, her name appears only in a tiny copyright notice at the end of the trailer.

I watched the trailer. I was struck by the line of dialogue: "The world as we know it is coming apart." 

"An Associated Press review of every potential case of voter fraud in the six battleground states disputed by former President Donald Trump has found fewer than 475..."

"... a number that would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election. Democrat Joe Biden won Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and their 79 Electoral College votes by a combined 311,257 votes out of 25.5 million ballots cast for president. The disputed ballots represent just 0.15% of his victory margin in those states. The cases could not throw the outcome into question even if all the potentially fraudulent votes were for Biden, which they were not, and even if those ballots were actually counted, which in most cases they were not. The review also showed no collusion intended to rig the voting. Virtually every case was based on an individual acting alone to cast additional ballots.... Contacted for comment, Trump repeated a litany of unfounded claims of fraud he had made previously, but offered no new evidence that specifically contradicted the AP’s reporting. He said a soon-to-come report from a source he would not disclose would support his case, and insisted increased mail voting alone had opened the door to cheating that involved 'hundreds of thousands of votes.' 'I just don’t think you should make a fool out of yourself by saying 400 votes,' he said."

"'The average length may be shorter than you think!' reads the caption to the revelatory clip, which [Dr. Anthony] Youn posted Tuesday in response to another video in which a woman said..."

"... she preferred the 'average length' of 5 inches to something bigger. 'Studies show that the average length of a man’s erect junk is 5.15 inches,' explained the TikTok doc, who has over 7.3 million followers on the platform. 'But the real length is probably less than that because most men with small wieners probably wouldn’t consent to being involved in those studies.'" 

 From The NY Post, keeping track of social media for you.

"I don’t know, and I’m not going to try to read her mind. Maybe she was just bored coming out of her jail cell. I know her sister sometimes also sketches in court. Maybe the Maxwell family just likes to sketch in their free time."

Said Jane Rosenberg, the courtroom artist who found herself on the receiving end of drawing by Ghislaine Maxwell, quoted in "'My life is weird': the court artist who drew Ghislaine Maxwell drawing her back" (The Guardian). 
She and another artist, Liz Williams, were sketching Maxwell one day during a pre-trial motion when they noticed that Maxwell, armed with a pen or pencil, was returning the favor. 

It made me think of the phrase, "When you gaze long into the abyss the abyss also gazes into you." 

There's no gazing like the gazing required for drawing. 

"He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster . . . when you gaze long into the abyss the abyss also gazes into you." 

When you draw the monster, the monster draws you.

The artist puts a light spin on it — maybe it was just boredom or she likes to draw. I don't think so. I think Maxwell is speaking silently, saying: You're looking at me? I'm looking at you. You see evil in me? I see it in you.

"I ordered a chartreuse Eglu complete with four red hens. The Eglu came via UPS. A few days later, the hens were delivered to my local post office."

"'You have a package here,' the postal clerk said when she called, 'and it’s clucking.' I rushed into town and picked up the package. It was heavier than I had expected, smaller than I had pictured, as noisy as I had been warned. At home, I opened the box and decanted the hens into the wire pen that attaches to the Eglu. They were young Rhode Island Red hybrids called Gingernut Rangers, with bright brown eyes and rich red feathers speckled with white. Their combs were small and pink and their knobby legs were bright yellow. Within six weeks or so, their combs would redden, and their legs would pale—signs that they were about to start laying. The knock on chickens has always been that they’re stupid. Even some chicken fanciers hold this opinion. I recently read an online comment from someone who announced cheerily that her chickens were 'extremely entertaining due to the fact that they are dumb as stumps!' But my hens didn’t seem stupid. They explored the pen with that stop-action motion that makes chickens look like cartoon characters, but with a brisk alertness and sharp curiosity. Right away, I figured out that 'pecking order' isn’t just a figure of speech. They adhered to a strict social system, with each hen taking her turn at the feeder and corrective nips doled out to any chicken that stepped out of line."

I'm reading "On Animals" by Susan Orlean.

Here's the website for the Eglu, a plastic chicken coop, which Orlean found by googling "cool-looking chicken coops" and "modern design chicken house" after rejecting the usual "design that was half doghouse, half toolshed, and gigantic."

In case you want Rod Stewart's body for Christmas...

 ... I found this awfully charming and ridiculous:

"The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association, no longer includes hypochondriasis — also called hypochondria — as a diagnosis."

I discover, reading the Mayo Clinic website, which I'm doing this morning after reading "Omicron spreading rapidly in U.S. and could bring punishing wave as soon as January, CDC warns" in The Washington Post. 

And — also in the Post — "Anger, emotional upset could trigger a stroke" — "Anger — such as road rage and the simmering displeasure of the ongoing pandemic — is the watchword for 2021. But be careful — those big emotions could trigger a stroke." Smart, top-rated comment over there: "This suggests I should stop reading the news."

Of course, I believe the diseases we're talking about are real, but when is the focus and obsession with them a disease in itself? There will always be diseases, and we can always take more and more and more care, but at some point the care-taking is crazy, pushing out what is valuable in life. So let's be scientific about the disease that is no longer called hypochondriasis.

The Mayo Clinic tells us the proper term these days is "illness anxiety disorder." Symptoms:
Being preoccupied with having or getting a serious disease or health condition
Worrying that minor symptoms or body sensations mean you have a serious illness
Being easily alarmed about your health status
Finding little or no reassurance from doctor visits or negative test results
Worrying excessively about a specific medical condition or your risk of developing a medical condition because it runs in your family
Having so much distress about possible illnesses that it's hard for you to function
Repeatedly checking your body for signs of illness or disease
Frequently making medical appointments for reassurance — or avoiding medical care for fear of being diagnosed with a serious illness
Avoiding people, places or activities for fear of health risks
Constantly talking about your health and possible illnesses

Frequently searching the internet for causes of symptoms or possible illnesses
I used the boldface for the symptoms that might support the notion that the whole country is suffering illness anxiety disorder.

"If we're so beautiful and so treasured, why is it that we're never touched?"

This is brilliant, but I must put it below the fold because TikTok video disrupts some browsers:

"She was sitting in an office with other parents and their children when one of the mothers 'accidentally' spilled coffee on Grimes’s dress just before she went in for her interview."

"'It might have intimidated some little girls, but it gave me something to talk about,' she said. Capra, who 'handpicked every single person in that film,' according to Grimes, hired her." 

From "As ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ turns 75, Karolyn ‘Zuzu’ Grimes reflects on the film that belatedly changed her life" (WaPo).
Grimes played George Bailey’s youngest daughter, Zuzu, the “little ginger snap” with the petals, who in the film’s profoundly soul-stirring climax, says perhaps the film’s most-quoted line: “Look, Daddy, teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.” 
“I had no clue whatsoever those words would be so special to so many people,” she said. “I’m thrilled I got to say them and that I got to be a part of that scene and that movie.”
Every time you spill coffee on somebody, an angel gets the part you were trying to deny her.

December 14, 2021

Sunrise — 7:13.

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"Donald Trump's son sent the White House chief-of-staff frantic texts calling for his father to intervene during the Capitol riot on 6 January...."

"'He's got to condemn this shit ASAP,' the younger Trump wrote, according to US lawmaker Liz Cheney, vice-chair of the committee investigating if the former president had foreknowledge of the riot."

BBC reports.

"Here are some things at which this book looks askance: alcopops, the Alexander Cocktail (for those 'who have just been taken off stick candy,' one guidebook said), blenders (unless in careful hands)..."

"... stunt garnishes (i.e. skewered cheeseburgers on a Bloody Mary) and hot buttered rum, overrated because... 'the butter often leaves a slick.'... Among the things this book admires: Laird’s Bonded Apple Brandy; using dense, very cold ice; knowing how to 'spank' an herbal garnish; understanding the variety of ways to shake and stir and roll and toss; having a firm handle on muddling, layering, swizzling."

From "An Encyclopedic New Guide to Cocktails Stirred, Shaken, Rolled, Tossed, Swizzled, Muddled..." by Dwight Garner (NYT)(reviewing "The Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails"). 

I read this article because the teaser on the front page was "A new book helps you convince yourself 'that your interest in getting wasted is an academic pursuit,' our critic writes."

Don't read beyond the jump if you care about today's Spelling Bee puzzle and haven't finished with it and don't want a hint....

Sounds? I listened to the sound and paid no attention to the substance, and the answer is clearly "no."

Did Governor Hochul go too far using religion in her health-policy rhetoric?

Yesterday we were talking about Justice Gorsuch's dissenting opinion in Dr. A v. Kathy Hochul. In finding a right to a religious exemption from a vaccine mandate in New York, he focused on Governor Hochul's statements using religion to justify the mandate and to criticize opponents of the mandate.

I was particularly struck by what Governor Hochul said when she attended a service at the Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn on September 26, 2021: "All of you, yes, I know you’re vaccinated, you’re the smart ones, but you know there’s people out there who aren’t listening to God and what God wants. You know who they are." I wanted to read more of that speech and see how much Hochul used religion to deliver a health/politics message. 

Here's the transcript of that speech. It might be worth keeping in mind that the Christian Cultural Center is evangelical, the litigants who want a religious exemption are Catholic (with their own interpretation of what opposition to abortion requires), and Hochul comes from a Catholic family (but is pro-choice on abortion).

Here's the excerpt, showing the most religious parts of the speech:
I am humbled and just as Reverend Bernard and First Lady Karen were called to the ministry to leave their lives and serve way back in 1979 I feel that God has tapped me on the shoulder as well because everything I have done in life has been because of the Grace of God leading me to that place and now God has asked me to serve humbly as your servant, as your Governor, and yes it is the first female governor.... Thank God for President Joe Biden. He sent money to us to help people... Get this money out to the people... God let you survive this pandemic because he wants you to do great things someday. He let you live through this when so many other people did not and that is also your responsibility. But how do we keep more people alive? We are not through this pandemic. I wished we were but I prayed a lot to God during this time and you know what - God did answer our prayers. He made the smartest men and women, the scientists, the doctors, the researchers - he made them come up with a vaccine. That is from God to us and we must say, thank you, God. Thank you. And I wear my 'vaccinated' necklace all the time to say I'm vaccinated. All of you, yes, I know you're vaccinated, you're the smart ones, but you know there's people out there who aren't listening to God and what God wants. You know who they are. I need you to be my apostles. I need you to go out and talk about it and say, we owe this to each other. We love each other. Jesus taught us to love one another and how do you show that love but to care about each other enough to say, please get the vaccine because I love you and I want you to live... I will use the inspiration of God in my life and fight for you every single day as your governor and beyond....

Some people think political office holders ought to get religion out of their rhetoric entirely, but that is an extreme position, and it's not followed. 

Others, notably Justice Scalia, celebrate the use of religion in speeches by political figures: The politicians are expressing themselves and should feel free to use religion. They're not requiring others to follow their religion, and it's fine for them to have a religious reason for adopting a policies and to speak openly about that rather than to sanitize it out of the public discourse.

The Gorsuch opinion held Hochul's statements against her because she declared what is orthodox in religion and impugned the religious position of those who wanted an exemption. She said they hadn't listened to and understood God. 

One problem with politicians using religion in their rhetoric is that it can cheapen religion. Who believes what Hochul said to the Christian Cultural Center congregation was sincere?! Does she believe God tapped her on the shoulder and made her Governor? Does she believe God made the scientists come up with the vaccine? It was — as it looks to me from halfway across the country — insipid pablum for a megachurch full of African-American Brooklynites. It's patronizing. 

You know there's people out there who aren't listening to God and what God wants. You know who they are. Give me a break!

December 13, 2021

At the Sunrise Café...

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... you can write about the topics of your choice.

And please think of supporting this blog by doing your shopping through the Althouse portal to Amazon, which is always right there in the sidebar. Thanks!

"These applicants are not 'anti-vaxxers' who object to all vaccines... Instead... they cannot receive a COVID–19 vaccine because their religion teaches them to oppose abortion in any form..."

"... and because each of the currently available vaccines has depended upon abortion-derived fetal cell lines in its production or testing.... [N]o one questions the sincerity of their religious beliefs... On August 23, one day before Governor Hochul took office, the State’s Public Health and Health Planning Council... proposed a revised mandate, this time with no religious exemption.... Governor Hochul acknowledged that 'we left off [the religious exemption] in our regulations intentionally.' Asked why, the Governor answered that there is no 'sanctioned religious exemption from any organized religion' and that organized religions are 'encouraging the opposite.' Apparently contemplating Catholics who object to receiving a vaccine, Governor Hochul added that 'everybody from the Pope on down is encouraging people to get vaccinated.' 

"In a nod to George Orwell’s 1984, Rowling tweeted: 'War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength. The Penised Individual Who Raped You Is a Woman.'"

"Rowling was mimicking the dystopian novel’s 'doublethink,' the ability to hold two opposing ideas in one’s mind simultaneously, designed to prevent citizens from thinking rationally and from challenging the state."

Her intervention came as Police Scotland confirmed they would log rapes by offenders with male genitalia as being carried out by a woman if the accused identified as female, regardless of whether they had legally changed gender.

According to the article, the Scotland criminal code "defines rape as non-consensual penetration with a penis." In the United States, the criminal code tends to be written so that one can be guilty of first degree sexual assault without having a penis. In any case, in Scotland, the person accused of "non-consensual penetration with a penis" does not escape conviction by identifying as a woman, so what does it matter if the forms designate that the accused is a woman? 

Is Rowling trying to say that the accusation of rape ought to deprive the individual of the otherwise applicable courtesy of calling people by the gender they say they are? But the criminally accused have rights, and in any case, women can be malevolent.

ADDED: I like the Times's summary of Orwell's issue, government's effort "to prevent citizens from thinking rationally and from challenging the state." And that is not what is going on here. What you have is 2 private citizens with autonomy interests — the complainant, who alleges that her bodily autonomy has been violated, and the accused, who wants autonomy in gender identification. The government isn't trying to disrupt rational thinking in order to strengthen its own power and control. It is only trying to enforce the criminal law, which protects the complainant's autonomy interest, and this doesn't really conflict with preserving the autonomy interest of the accused, which the government has also undertaken to respect. 

Sunrise — 7:13.

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"Musk is easily cast as a hubristic supervillain, lumped in with the tech bros and space playboys, for whom money is scorekeeping and rockets are the ultimate toy."

"But he’s different: he’s a manufacturing magnate—moving metal, not bytes. His rockets, built from scratch on an autodidact’s mold-breaking vision, have saved taxpayers billions, reinvigorated America’s space dreams and are launching satellites to expand Internet access across the globe. If Tesla delivers on its pledges, it has the potential to strike a major blow against global warming. The man from the future where technology makes all things possible is a throwback to our glorious industrial past, before America stagnated and stopped producing anything but rules, restrictions, limits, obstacles and Facebook. 'He is a humanist—not in the sense of being a nice person, because he isn’t,' says Robert Zubrin, founder of the Mars Society, who met Musk in 2001, when the young, newly minted dot-com millionaire sent a large unsolicited check to the organization. 'He wants eternal glory for doing great deeds, and he is an asset to the human race because he defines a great deed as something that is great for humanity. He is greedy for glory. Money to him is a means, not an end. Who today evaluates Thomas Edison on the basis of which of his inventions turned a profit?'"

From "TIME/2021 Person of the Year/Elon Musk."  

I didn't spend any time this year wondering about who the person of the year would be. This one just snuck up on me. I'll just say, I'm always glad to see someone other than a political leader getting the honor. Elon Musk genuinely looks like the greatest human being on earth right now. So... good.

"Good luck, Fox News, trying to find someone to replace [Chris] Wallace. The Sunday political shows are places where the networks have traditionally slotted broadcasters with established credentials."

"It’s not a tryout sort of gig. That means the network must attempt to find a heavy hitter who has compiled years of experience in Washington — meaning, someone who’s fully aware of Fox News’s descent into anti-democratic Carlsonian madness. Perhaps a nine-figure contract will help that someone look the other way. Or it could turn to Baier, the veteran host of the nightly 'Special Report.' Beyond that, the Fox News payroll is thin on potential successors — which is what happens when you fork over your corporate identity to a flamboyant conspiracy theorist."

Writes Eric Wemple in "Chris Wallace bolts Tucker Carlson’s Fox News" (WaPo).

"First of all, if it’s a perfect simulation, maybe we’ll never know that’s what it is. But if we did come to discover that we’re in a simulation?"

"It depends on what kind of simulation we’re in. If we suddenly were to start communicating with our simulators, who tell us they’re only going to upload us for eternal life if we worship them in appropriate ways, then maybe our lives would be transformed in the same kind of ways as it would be transformed by discovering that there’s a God. But if we come to discover that it’s just a simulation churning away in the background then, yeah, maybe our initial reaction would be shock, and there’d be a lot of hand-wringing, but I think I’d say, 'Well, life goes on.' Some people say that if we were to discover this, it would mean that nothing is real and this is all a delusion. I want to resist that idea. I think even if we are in a simulation, we’re still living in a real world and we can still have a meaningful life." 

Says David J. Chalmers, professor of philosophy and neural science, interviewed on the occasion of the release of another "Matrix" sequel, in "Can We Have a Meaningful Life in a Virtual World?" (NYT).

"I didn’t like Christmas in part because the steel mill where my father worked had closed.... The ads seemed to suggest that the more stuff you got, the better person you were."

"I learned through those commercials that good people got presents and that my family was trash.... Each year around this time, I find it more difficult to balance the awful things we see happening the rest of the year with the joy I’m supposed to drum up near the end of it.... There have even been years when I have skipped Christmas completely, taken advantage of the fact that the whole country is shut down and silent, and spent the day watching horror movies alone and eating Chinese take-away.... For those who hate the holidays, I stand with you. I understand and know what you’re going through. If you are like me, you are strapping in again, steeling yourself for the onslaught the way others might for a hurricane. I just try to ride it out."


Of course, every year, there must also be essays like that one. Is it really such a struggle, skipping Christmas? I pretty much skip Christmas, but I don't make a thing out of that. I just continue as usual, living in the day, respecting all the days as equal. I don't like feeling that a particular day is special. It detracts from the dayness of the day. 

An annoying thing about Christmas is that it's more than a day — it's a season. It reaches out and catches up many other days. And that's just greedy. 

If you're genuinely religious about Christmas, I'm not talking about your Christmas. But I will just note that there are many Christians who don't celebrate Christmas.

Spielberg's "West Side Story" remake flopped at the box office on its opening weekend.

Variety reports.

Though every new movie musical has struggled to entice audiences in COVID times, it’s worrisome for both theater operators and traditional studios that “West Side Story” — one of the most beloved stories in musical theater history and under the direction of Hollywood’s most commercially successful filmmaker — sold fewer tickets in its initial weekend than “In the Heights” ($11.5 million debut), a lesser known song-and-dance property that premiered simultaneously on HBO Max. “West Side Story” at least earned more than Universal’s recent “Dear Evan Hansen” adaptation, which premiered to $7.4 million, but that’s not exactly a high bar considering “Dear Evan Hansen” was skewered by critics. And, “In the Heights” and “Dear Evan Hansen” cost far less to make than “West Side Story.”

The article doesn't mention the lack of subtitles for the Spanish dialogue, but it's a topic in the comments over there. Somebody says "I actually wanted to check it out but when I heard there were no subtitles on purpose, I decided it wasn’t for me," and he gets pushback, e.g.: "What a fragile square." "Now you understand the gist of exclusion that many have endured on the screen for 100 years in American movies and theater!"

I wonder if they're considering adding the subtitles now. I don't see how they can after making the withholding of subtitles into a meaningful gesture. It is meaningful. But some people — the fragile squares? — don't like the meaning.

ADDED: Isn't the point of "West Side Story" to appeal to our fragility and squareness? Peace and quiet and open air/Wait for us somewhere....

December 12, 2021

Sunrise — 7:17.

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Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"When Kao Lee Yang received a nomination from her university for the Gilliam Fellowship by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and math, she was thrilled...."

"... Yang said she was 'blindsided' when HHMI emailed her academic adviser saying she wasn't eligible for the fellowship because she didn't meet their requirements for who is considered underrepresented. 'I was dumbfounded,' Yang said. 'I did wonder how HHMI came to that determination when I have had such a hard time finding other Hmong American scientists and scientific spaces.'...  Janelle Wong, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland... has been advocating for data disaggregation in the Asian American community for years. Disaggregation would involve collecting more specific data on Asian sub-groups so that a person's country of origin is apparent, rather than just grouping people together from the entire continent. The data would show specifically if someone was Vietnamese American, or Cambodian American, for example, rather than simply classifying them as Asian."

NPR reports.

Chris Wallace is leaving "Fox News Sunday" to work on CNN's new streaming platform, CNN+.

NBC News reports. 
"I want to try something new to go beyond politics, to all the things I’m interested in. I’m ready for a new adventure."...  He noted that when he joined the network, he was promised by Fox News executives that they would not interfere with his work and that they have "kept that promise."...

Jeff Zucker, CNN chairman, described it as a rare opportunity to bring someone of Wallace's "caliber" to such a new project.... 

"'The statue came down. That’s one thing. I felt like our voices were definitely heard'.... But the pedestal and the space around it 'felt like home'... Seeing it go is kind of sad for me."

"'That’s where we met up before protests. That’s where we felt like family, we felt like we could come together and be understood when the world couldn’t quite understand us.'"

Said Paris Somerville-Cox, 35, quoted in "Protesters transformed Richmond’s Robert E. Lee memorial. Now they mourn the loss of their most powerful icon of resistance" (WaPo). 

They're talking about the empty plinth. They got the statue of Robert E. Lee removed, but now they miss this meaningful space, the place where they protested.
“That space has a lot of meaning to it,” said Princess Blanding, who became an activist and third-party gubernatorial candidate after her brother, teacher Marcus David Peters, was killed by Richmond police during a mental health crisis. “By removing that pedestal,” she said, “it’s a way of completely erasing it and making it as if none of that ever happened.”...

“This was our altar space. This was where we came to be together and do the uprising, you know?” said Lil Lamberta, 40....

“I’m glad the pedestal is coming down,” said Janice Hall Nuckolls, whose home looks out at the site. “As important as the base is to people of the [Black Lives Matter] movement, it is also a lighting rod for other people that are offended by the hateful and profane graffiti. The statue is gone. The novelty has worn off. The base just looks tired and bit of an eyesore now.”.

The Overture Center's "Evening With David Sedaris," originally slated for April 27, 2020, finally took place last night.

I adore David Sedaris — and listen to his audiobooks probably more than anyone — so I'd bought 2 tickets, for me and Meade. But when the rescheduled date finally came around, there was some new fine print: "All who enter building must wear a face mask and show proof of vaccination or negative COVID-19 test with a photo ID." 

It's stuffy inside that mask, and it's harder to laugh out loud. Some of the laughing in an audience is social. You want to be seen to be laughing, enjoying yourself, but if your mouth isn't seen, you don't have to bother with that. You can just laugh in your head, the way you do when you're traipsing around the city, listening to David Sedaris through headphones.

But it was the second part of that fine print that was truly irksome, and that caused the seat next to me to be empty. I was willing to show my papers — photo ID and vaccination card — but Meade was not. We went up to the gate together. I thought we might both make it through, but the gatekeepers performed the duty imposed on them, and Meade stayed behind. We reunited after the show. 

Sedaris did a Q&A with the audience at the end, but I didn't have the nerve to raise this issue with him. He did at one point talk about how he's been traveling since September and has seen 60 different American cities on this tour. Things are different in different places. Milwaukee, he said, was completely open. No masks. But he didn't say what he thought of the sea of masked faces he had to look at here in Madison. He did say — more generally about Covid — that 700,000 Americans had died, and — mournful pause — he didn't get to pick any of them.

About Madison, he said he'd walked along the shore of Lake Mendota and loved the sound of the ice clinking against the shoreline. Here's a video I made on December 20, 2014, recording that sound:


Sedaris said he'd like it if that sound replaced all the Christmas music.

Speaking of delicate smallness replacing vigorous bigness, I loved seeing the diminutive author alone on a stage designed to accommodate operas and Broadway shows. He did nothing to make the show any bigger than an author reading from papers — other than that one point when he stepped out from behind the lectern to display his unusual outfit. It looked like he had an extra jacket or 2 tied around his waist under the jacket he was wearing as a jacket but was really just one multi-layered jacket, all sewn together. He opened the jacket to display his culottes. It seemed like something from a very small-scale circus, an elegant sad-clown costume. Again, one very small man in the spotlight on a huge, dark stage.

The material he read had a lot about his father, who recently died at the age of 98. Sedaris came right out and said he was happy his father had died, and that — except for the last year of his life — his father was always mean. He endured his father's meanness, suffering inside for decades, but eventually got to the point where he found this big audience to laugh and confirm his perceptions of his father. I was glad to help him alleviate the lifelong pain, even if my smiling mouth could not be seen and my dear husband was stranded in the lobby.

So now it's "torture" for children to eat outside when it's 40°?

I'm seeing this over at Instapundit:

Here's the underlying Not the Bee article, showing that the outdoor lunch-eating happened in 40° weather:

Stunning footage circulated around the Internet this week of a school in Portland, Oregon forcing young children to eat their lunches outside, in 40-degree weather, on buckets, because school administrators were afraid of a COVID outbreak or something.

The kids had coats on. Outdoor eating is healthy. Hardiness is good! I remember when the right mocked the left for making kids into "snowflakes." 

"Snowflakes" is a bad metaphor for this issue — since real snowflakes do better in the cold — but you know what I mean. They melt in heat. Personally, I'd rather sit outside and eat when it's 40° than when it's 90°, but yeah, temperatures vary, and we need to adapt to the weather as it cycles around. Kids are strong and resilient. They even play in snow until their cheeks turn rosy. If you let them.

There's no way this outdoor lunch is torture or child abuse.

ADDED: "How to plan a snow picnic."

AND: The coolest kids are into snow picnics: