October 2, 2022

"The dominant reaction from all the threads I’m in is Everyone looks fucking dumb."

"It’s been a general Is this really how business is done? There’s no real strategic thought or analysis. It’s just emotional and done without any real care for consequence."

Said a former social-media executive, quoted anonymously in "Elon Musk’s Texts Shatter the Myth of the Tech Genius/The world’s richest man has some embarrassing friends" (The Atlantic). The court in the Twitter case released a bunch of texts to and from Musk.

"In its natural state, most of Florida was such a soggy mush of low-lying marshes that mapmakers couldn’t decide whether to draw it as land or water."

"The Spaniards who arrived in the 16th century told their king the peninsula was 'liable to overflow, and of no use,' and white people mostly stayed away until the U.S. Army chased the Seminole Indians into the Everglades in the 19th century. The soldiers forced to slog through its mosquito-infested bogs described it as a 'hideous,' 'diabolical,''repulsive,' 'pestilential,' 'God-abandoned' hellhole. The story of Florida in the 20th century is about dreamers and schemers trying to get rid of all that water and drain the swamp. Eventually, they mostly succeeded, transforming a remote wilderness into a sprawling megalopolis, replacing millions of acres of wetlands with strip malls and golf courses and sprawling subdivisions, building the Palmetto and Sawgrass Expressways where palmettos and sawgrass used to be.... Cape Coral is Florida on steroids, a comically artificial landscape featuring seven perfectly rectangular man-made islands and eight perfectly square man-made lakes. It was built by two shady brothers who made their fortunes selling scammy anti-baldness tonics, then used their talent for flimflam to sell inaccessible swampland to suckers.... 'You can even get stucco,' the land-swindler played by Groucho Marx quipped in Cocoanuts. 'Oh, how you can get stuck-oh!'"

Writes Michael Grunwald in "Why the Florida Fantasy Withstands Reality/Cape Coral is a microcosm of Florida’s worst impulse: selling dream homes in a hurricane-prone flood zone. But people still want them" (The Atlantic).

The season premiere of "SNL" seems to be about how the show is sick of itself.

I say "seems" only because I couldn't force myself more than halfway through the 7+ minutes:

 

I also skimmed the NYT review, "‘S.N.L.’ Season Premiere Weighs in on Its Own Trump Sketch." Yeah, they did a Trump sketch.

"Sorry, but no. This essay wants to sell the notion that students are to blame for rejecting a party that has..."

"... embraced election lies, rejection of science and public health, vaccine hysteria, and an attitude towards the public that is so mendacious, you cannot get most republican members of Congress to simply say that it is wrong for someone to remove classified documents from the White House and treat them as personal property. There aren't two equal parties now. repubicans [sic] have become secular creationists. There isn't a good reason to normalize their propaganda."

The top-rated comment on a WaPo op-ed by Joshua Park, "College students hate our broken politics. But we’re partly to blame." Park is "a junior studying history at Harvard University," who observes that students won't attend events presented by Republicans.

"[T]here is a feeling that the conservative Justices could make a landmark ruling out of almost any case."

"Sackett v. Environmental Protection Agency, the first case of the term, may seem to address a narrow question—the definition of 'navigable waters'—but it could become a vehicle for dismantling a wide range of regulations.... The Court will also adjudicate a suit, brought by Texas and Louisiana, claiming that the Biden Administration has, in effect, broken the law by focussing its border-enforcement efforts only on certain categories of migrants, such as those deemed a 'threat to public safety.' Notably, some Republicans have raised the possibility that, if the G.O.P. takes control of the House after the midterms, they may impeach President Biden on similar grounds...."

Writes Amy Davidson Sorkin, in "The Supreme Court’s Big New Term/There is a feeling with this Court that the conservative Justices could make a landmark ruling out of almost any case" (The New Yorker). 

"On the one hand we have the blandest pap imaginable — superhero movies and Adele — and on the other we have Netflix and its mindless death porn...."

"It feels, actually, as if we’re going backwards. The playful cheesecake Marilyn of the 1950s — a confected blonde bimbo that this film clearly despises — seems infinitely preferable to the Marilyn of 70 years later: a haggard, weeping cipher and shivering perma-victim who is obsessed with the contents of her womb. In an attempt to 'explain' Marilyn, the makers have simply created another pathetic object: a woman who spends the entire film either naked or in tears, or both.... She can barely touch a drink without getting wasted; barely get in a car without crashing it.... Is this where victim culture has led us.... Schoolgirls are told that they ought to be crippled by their periods. Female celebrities scramble to be defined by menopause, the horrors of pregnancy or, even better, miscarriage. On podcasts, in interviews and in articles otherwise intelligent, capable women moan about their lives collapsing, or being unable to cope with even the tiniest sliver of adversity: they are all like Marilyn on a date with DiMaggio at a perfectly nice restaurant: 'I’m afraid of some of the people here.' Marilyn had more power when she was a plain sex object, giggling on the cover of Playboy." 

Writes Camilla Long, in "Every generation has its own Marilyn. Our one gets drugged and raped. Thanks, Netflix" (London Times).

"We tell each other on the scene where and when we would gather next time. But mostly you know where people would gather..."

"... and you do not need to arrange anything.... We will continue until they kill every single one of us.... They fired teargas directly at us the other night, my eyes were burning, I could not sleep all night, but still I went out the next night, with my tears and pain in my eyes." 

Said one woman named Nasheen, quoted in "'Women are in charge. They are leading': Iran protests continue despite crackdowns/People, determined to defy violence by security forces and online blackout, are resorting to old-fashioned methods to organise unrest" (The Guardian).

Also, from a woman named Negar: "Much of the time the men are just watching. Women organise and do everything. It’s completely different from previous times. Women are in charge. They are leading."

ADDED: Those 2 quotes seem to present a paradox — leaderless leading. Here's something in The New Yorker, "How Iran’s Hijab Protest Movement Became So Powerful," quoting the Iranian scholar Fatemeh Shams: 

October 1, 2022

Sunrise.

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Talk about whatever you like in the comments.

"Of course, leaning into ugliness — or at least less obvious curation — is still an aesthetic choice, intended to signify an irreverence or a rejection of norms...."

"As Alicia Kennedy writes: '"Bad" photos are in, but the thing about them is that they’re not really bad or even insouciant: They’re just a different approach, less big bright lighting, a little grainy, still beautifully plated.'... This trend toward DIY-looking food also opens up the door to greater inclusivity... For disabled and neurodivergent people who have trouble with fine-tuned decoration or people with disabilities who live with inaccessible kitchens where it’s hard to cook, much less stage a meal, 'the shift to DIY helps with the pressure'.... [S]eeing other people... unafraid to make work that looks amateur, imperfect, and unprofessional has given me a sense that it’s okay to do the same.... The pressure of showing the 'right' thing on Instagram isn’t entirely alleviated, but I’ve found a space where it’s okay to have realistic ambitions...."

From "The Great Food Instagram Vibe Shift/The food blogger aesthetic has given way to something more realistic and DIY: Laissez-faire Instagram food is here" (Eater).

It's nice to see social media trending toward what is comfortable and doable rather than strainingly aspirational. This article is about food and photography, but I think it's a more general trend, reminiscent of the late 60s, early 70s, when naturalness and ease felt like the essence of beauty and meticulous striving looked awful.

I mean, just to poke around at Eater, here's "Best Dressed/What Are We Wearing to Restaurants Now, Paris? At Folderol, a combination natural wine bar and ice cream shop in Paris, neighborhood block party vibes feel distinctly Parisian." 

A French woman — complimented for looking "quite put together" — says "The cap was brought from the U.S. by a friend of mine, which is why I like it so much. These are my new Nikes and they are the most comfortable sneakers on earth; I feel like I have a marshmallow on each foot."

Remember when Americans were told that we stand out as obvious Americans in France because we wear sneakers? There are many photos at that link and most of the Parisians are wearing sneakers. And none are wearing try-hard shoes. I'm seeing Doc Martens and Birkenstock clogs.

What is a blonde?

Here's something from 1963 in the NYT that I chanced into as I was looking for the review of the new Netflix film titled "Blonde":

 

Who knew there were women's groups back then taking aim at such minor intrusions on female freedom? It seems more like something that would come up today.

"Supermarket shoppers have been left baffled and annoyed by changes to store layouts that have made it harder to find their groceries."

"Chains have been hastily reorganising their aisles to meet the rules.... The regulations restrict the areas in which supermarkets may place products deemed to be high in fat, salt or sugar. Arguably the simplest rule is that no unhealthy food or drink can be displayed within two metres of a checkout or queueing area. But similar restrictions have been imposed on 'gondola displays' at the end of shopping aisles, island bin displays and other easy-to-reach spots. A formula based on floor size dictates unhealthy products’ proximity to the entrance, meaning there are different rules for each shop. The minimum distance is calculated by the square root of the area of the store multiplied by 0.03...."

The London Times reports.

The square root of the area of the store multiplied by 0.03?! They'd never try that in America — not just fat-shaming us by requiring math. Even just bringing up the concept of square roots is unthinkable in the land of the free. 

"[T]he dictatorship of the Western elites is directed against all societies, including the peoples of the Western countries themselves."

"This is a challenge for everyone. Such a complete denial of man, the overthrow of faith and traditional values, the suppression of freedom acquiring the features of a 'reverse religion' – outright Satanism. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ, denouncing the false prophets, says: By their fruits you shall know them. And these poisonous fruits are already obvious to people – not only in our country, in all countries, including many people in the West itself...."

Said Vladimir Putin, in his speech at the "annexation ceremony." I'm reading the full transcript, here.

"‘Why are you shipping these immigrants up north? We need them to pick the crops down here."

Said Nancy Pelosi, quoted in "Nancy Pelosi Argues Red States Should Let Illegal Immigrants Stay to 'Pick the Crops'" (Yahoo News).

"Russian forces withdrew from the strategic eastern city of Lyman on Saturday, just a day after President Vladimir V. Putin’s internationally derided declaration that..."

"... the region where it lies and three others in Ukraine were now part of Russia. The battle for Lyman, a city in Donetsk Province with a pre-war population of 20,000, is particularly poorly timed for the Kremlin after it illegally declared its annexation of swaths of Ukraine and Kyiv’s stunning victories in the country’s northeast last month.... A senior Ukrainian military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that Lyman was 'already liberated.' 'A mop-up is ongoing,' the official said. 'The Russians have nowhere to run.'... Confirmation of the withdrawal staved off a potential worst-case scenario for the Kremlin in which Russian troops are trapped in the city."

 The NYT reports.

Does "mop-up.... nowhere to run" conflict with the idea that the Russians are withdrew and are not trapped in the city?

ADDED: Here's how it looks at WaPo: "Ukrainian forces say they have surrounded thousands of Russian troops in the eastern city of Lyman, pressing their counterattacks in a region that Moscow now claims as its own. Ukrainian forces moved on the transport hub overnight even as the Kremlin hosted an elaborate ceremony and pop concert celebrating its annexation of Ukrainian territory."

Will the U.S. help Cuba after Hurricane Ian? Cuba is asking.

The Wall Street Journal reports:
“If Cuba asks for humanitarian aid and the U.S. gives it to them, that would be a real breakthrough,” says William LeoGrande, an expert on Cuba at American University in Washington. 
On other occasions when Cuba has suffered from hurricanes, the U.S. has offered humanitarian aid, but Cuba has turned it down.

"In recent weeks, so many people have called Bill Crain’s Hudson Valley farm rescue to surrender their ducks and chickens — many purchased at the height of the pandemic lockdown..."

"... that he finally marched into a local farm store and demanded to speak to a manager. His plea: Stop selling chicks and ducklings.... 'It’s a crisis that people are abandoning these animals,' he said. One of the slim silver linings of the pandemic’s earliest days was the addition of animals to many families. Some people, decamping from virus-besieged cities for the countryside, stoked a craze for backyard fowl.... Socially distant and lonely, or with kids to entertain, many cleared pet store shelves of gerbils and lizards, chinchillas and snakes....Why families are holding onto cats and dogs but relinquishing smaller animals like guinea pigs may have to do with human attachment, several experts said. On Staten Island, Jade said she was able to bear parting with her guinea pig because Honey was less interactive than her dog and cats. 'They look adorable, but I think people have this misguided conception they are going to be able to provide this companionship and fill a void that the are looking for,' said Allie Taylor, the president of Voters for Animal Rights.... On Wednesday, a box containing 22 guinea pigs of all ages was found abandoned in the lobby of a Staten Island apartment building...."

From "The Great Guinea Pig Giveaway Has Begun/From geckos to chinchillas, small pets were a pandemic balm. Now shelters across the country say they are being surrendered" (NYT).

The solution is, clearly, to eat these animals. You don't need a rescue sanctuary. You need meat processors. Ducks and chickens are obviously edible. Eat them, and the problem is gone.

But what about the guinea pigs? What about them?! Look it up. They're especially good. They've even — like pigs/pork and cattle/beef — got their own name when they are converted into meat: cuy (or cavy).

Here's a Modern Farmer article, "Is America Ready for Farm-to-Table Guinea Pig? The ubiquitous kids' starter pet / lab animal could soon be raised at a farm near you":

"What do you do when neither spouse is happy with the working and income-generating grind?"

"My husband and I had an agreement that when each of our children were born, I would take my maternity leave and then he would take a leave of similar length when I returned to work. We are finding now, after the arrival of our second baby, that neither of us wants to go back. I earn more money, and thus I have to return to work, but I am equally unhappy with the weekly grind...."

From a letter to the WaPo advice columnist.

This shows that the perverse privilege inherent in systematically paying women less. It preserves the traditional structure of man out in the world, woman in the home.

What can you say to this woman except welcome to reality? Well, I'd say that it doesn't have to be the higher earner who goes to work. Who has the more satisfying job? Who has the job that makes a greater contribution to the world? Maybe at some point, you'll hit upon the factors that let the wife have her wish of avoiding the difficulties of work.

Also, consider that you might also not be happy with the childcare "grind." It's all grind when you have a bad attitude, isn't it?

September 30, 2022

Sunrise — 6:37, 6:55, 6:57.

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Write about whatever you want in the comments.

Now, I'm thinking I have 2 kinds of readers: the ones who are saying why should I know or care about the Madison Public Market and...

... the ones who are saying yes, that's the thing that Althouse questioned that one time and Paul Soglin, the Mayor of Madison, instead of engaging respectfully, decided to attack her big time, so she was forced to resort to reason and mockery?

I'm reading "Madison Public Market all but scrapped, as officials make one last plea to alders for funding" (WKOW).

Here's the post I wrote on January 10, 2017:

Here you go: 9 TikToks, carefully curated. Some people love them.

1. When you think you've arrived at the beach.

2. Put the baby outside... in Denmark.

3. Put your lips away.

4 What are you going to be for Halloween?

5. She's got the energy.

6. Grandma doesn't want to replace her frappe with protein drink.

7. Medieval hairstyles for men.

8. What's the difference between a boy and a girl?

9. Does this photographer know what he's doing?

NYT headline: "Ginni Thomas Denies Discussing Election Subversion Efforts With Her Husband."

Subheadline: "In a closed-door interview with the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack, Ms. Thomas reiterated her false assertion that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald J. Trump." 

"Election Subversion Efforts" is quite a phrase. You could discuss a lot of things and still deny that any of it was "subversion." But I presume the actual interviewers did not restrict themselves to such an extreme topic.

During her interview, Ms. Thomas, who goes by Ginni, repeated her assertion that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald J. Trump, Mr. Thompson said, a belief she insisted upon in late 2020 as she pressured state legislators and the White House chief of staff to do more to try to invalidate the results....

I wouldn't call that "election subversion." If you believe the election was already subverted, then in pushing for more procedural paths, you're trying to un-subvert it. If you think the announced results are invalid, you're trying to get to the true results, not "invalidate the results." It's very hard to wade through these loaded terms. I wish the NYT would play it dead straight.

"I think that since it’s told in this first-person perspective, it works somehow for the film to be a traumatic experience."

"Because you’re inside of her – her journey and her longings and her isolation – amidst all of this adulation... [W]hether it’s an extreme depiction or not – it’s honoring the extreme chasm between the public’s perception of the fame and the glory of Hollywood’s most famous, iconic actor, and the reality of that individual – the loneliness and emptiness and mental turmoil and abuse of that individual."

Said Adrien Brody, who plays Arthur Miller in the new Netflix movie about Marilyn Monroe.

Quoted in "Adrien Brody says ‘Blonde’ is ‘fearless filmmaking,’ meant to be a ‘traumatic experience’" (NY Post).

I wonder how Arthur Miller is depicted. 

"Chloë Grace Moretz opened up about suffering from body dysmorphic disorder after a 'horrific' 'Family Guy' meme of herself went viral, admitting she became a 'recluse.'"

The NY Post reports.

I'm unfamiliar with whatever it is that makes Chloë Grace Moretz a celebrity, but she was photographed in a very silly outfit that got made into a meme put alongside this truly hilarious "Family Guy" lady:

 

Why not laugh at what's clearly funny? To react by becoming recluse and then openly shaming the humorists is to reinforce the dynamic that has given us The Era of That's Not Funny.

We're being intimidated into believing that ridiculous things should not be laughed at because people may have mental conditions like "body dysmorphic disorder" that may be worsened by a failure to coddle them with kindness.

If you're photographed in a bad outfit, try to wear a good outfit next time you're out and about delivering pizza of whatever it is you do that's made you famous. This wasn't a case of mocking the shape of her body. It was her own choice to wear terrible clothes. And by the way, I think the choice of clothes is hostile to women. That she did it to herself is actually sad.

Asked what he does for a living, the Apple exec said "I have rich cars, play golf and fondle big-breasted women but I take weekends and holidays off."

Tony Blevins, Apple’s vice president of procurement, was answering a question asked by TikTok/Instagram personality Daniel Mac. Mac's thing is to ask drivers of expensive cars, "What do you do for a living?"

For his sin, Blevins has had to resign, The NY Post reports

It's so off-brand for Apple:

You just don't picture Apple management looking and acting like that.

"Can you imagine Jared and his skinny ass camping? It’d be like something out of 'Deliverance.'"

Said Donald Trump, who proceeded to imitate the "Deliverance" the banjo music, quoted in "Donald Trump Belittled Jared Kushner In Front Of Aides With ‘Deliverance' Jibe: Book/It was one of a series of disparaging comments the then-president made about his son-in-law, according to New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman" (HuffPo). 

The topic was a proposed RV camping trip for Jared and Ivanka, and we're told that Jared was in the room. I can't tell how "belittling" the remark was without understanding the larger context. Did Jared mock Trump too? What's their relationship? Did both men laugh about remarks about skinniness and fatness? Was Trump also self-deprecating, saying, perhaps, he'd never go camping — and he's afraid of rapists?

Who knows? The remark belongs somewhere on a continuum between just plain nasty and the funniest thing ever, or I guess that's more of a matrix than a continuum.

Anyway, Haberman was choosing how to present the nuggets she gathered, and I wouldn't trust her to recreate the real feelings of the human beings involved. 

And this anecdote does present the old problem of not taking the rape seriously when the victim is male.

September 29, 2022

Sunrise — 6:54.

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Write about whatever you want in the comments.

The WaPo Fact Checker fact-checks Stacey Abrams's denial that she was ever an election denier.

I scrolled immediately to see how many "Pinocchios" this got, but somehow this gets to be one of the statements that eludes the rating. Let's figure out why:

[A] review of numerous interviews shows that Abrams subsequently used language denying the outcome of the election that she now appears to be trying to play down.

For instance, Abrams at various times has said the election was “stolen” and even, in a New York Times interview, that “I won.” She suggested that election laws were “rigged” and that it was “not a free or fair election.” She also claimed that voter suppression was to blame for her loss, even though she admitted she could not “empirically” prove that. While she did acknowledged Kemp was the governor, she refused to say he was the “legitimate” governor.... 

"Dave Smith Breaks Down the Reasons Russia Invaded Ukraine."

"Seemingly superficial generations like an 'avocado chair' showed that OpenAI had built a system that is able to apply the characteristics of an avocado..."

"... to the form factor and the function of a chair.... The avocado-chair image could be key to building AGI that understands the world the same way humans do. Whether the system sees an avocado, hears the word 'avocado,' or reads the word 'avocado,' the concept that gets triggered should be exactly the same, she said. Since DALL-E’s outputs are in images, OpenAI can view how the system represents concepts."

From "AI can now create any image in seconds, bringing wonder and danger" (WaPo). 

DALL-E is now open to all, without a waiting list, so prepare your requests. I'd put my name on the waiting list, but now that I can waltz right in along with anybody and everybody, I can't think of anything I want AI to turn into an image for me. A few weeks ago, I was interested in a TikTokker who was using DALL-E to generate images. I clicked the "follow" button and caused him to come up in my scrolling, but in the last couple weeks, as soon as I see him I immediately swipe him up out of my view. I just don't care what the computer coughed up. It was pointless weirdness.

But if you get the right request, it might be vaguely intriguing:

"As I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I take a look at my life and realize there’s nothin’ left."

Coolio has died, at the age of 59.

 

From the NYT obituary:

He told The Independent in 1997 that as a child, he would play board games with his single mother, to whom he later dedicated his success. After a turbulent youth — the bookish, asthmatic child became a teenage gang member, juvenile offender and drug addict — Coolio worked as a volunteer firefighter.

In his 20s, he moved to San Jose to live with his father and fight fires with the California Department of Forestry.... There, he became more spiritual. He later credited Christianity for helping him overcome his addiction to crack....

“Gangsta’s Paradise” had a vast cultural imprint, even spawning a parody in Weird Al Yankovic’s “Amish Paradise” that replaced the streets with pastoral lyrics about churning butter and selling quilts.

"I’m from ribbons of pasta drying on the linoleum counter in my grandmother’s Italian kitchen, tomato sauce bubbling on the stove."

"I’m from five sisters, glued together, messy rooms and borrowed jeans and standing up to bullies who lived on our block. I’m from running through the yellow street lights on hot July nights, feeling like summer would never end."

Said Jill Biden, displaying her own poetry, of the kind that she teaches to her students, from the transcript, "First Lady Jill Biden Honors the Class of 2022 National Student Poets Program at the White House."

Her poem follows the model of "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon, which she says she uses to begin each semester of her writing course.

September 28, 2022

Sunrise.

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This may look like a nondescript sunrise, but it was unique in the 1,000+ sunrises I have witnessed. Just a second or 2 or 3 before I took this shot, I saw the sunrise completely green. This must have been the "green flash" I've heard about!

 ***

Open thread in the comments.

"Do you think we’d raise a six-year-old child in a Versailles-like palazzo? We’ve already got a house."

Said Andrea Giambruno, quoted in "Giorgia Meloni will turn down PM’s palace to stay in the family home, says partner" (London Times).
Meloni, 45, will stay in her house in Mostacciano, a suburb of the capital, and will not move to the 16th century Palazzo Chigi in the heart of the city that prime ministers normally use as an office and residence.
Giambruno is Meloni's partner.
Meloni has praised Giambruno as being “one of the few men in the world capable of not suffering if they have a successful woman next to them”. They met when Meloni appeared as a guest on a programme Giambruno worked on. Just before she went on air, he whisked a banana she had been eating out of her hands to save her from embarrassment.

 I had a moment of confusion, having forgotten that, in Italy, Andrea is a man's name.

"Hurricane Ian is on the cusp of Category 5 strength with maximum sustained winds of almost 155 mph..."

"... ahead of an expected Wednesday afternoon landfall. The National Hurricane Center warned that 'catastrophic storm surge, winds, and flooding' are imminent in the Florida Peninsula — the center said in its noon advisory that the ring of destructive winds, or eyewall, around Ian’s calm center is moving onshore at Sanibel and Captiva Islands in Southwest Florida. More than 300,000 customers are without power midday Wednesday as conditions continue to deteriorate.... 'This is going to be a nasty, nasty day,' Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said in a news conference early Wednesday. In neighborhoods from Tampa to Key West, locals were seeing water at their doorsteps — some making last minute efforts to evacuate...."

WaPo reports.

"The study compared two groups of patients ranging in ages from 14 to 24: one group of 36 patients received top surgery..."

"... and a control group of 34 patients received gender-affirming care, but did not get top surgery. Three months after surgery, the patients who had the procedure experienced significantly less chest dysphoria than they had prior to surgery, while patients in the control group experienced around the same levels of chest dysphoria as they had at the start of their care. Prior studies have also shown that chest dysphoria is a pervasive issue for trans and gender non-conforming youth.... American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Chase Strangio went viral on Twitter Monday after sharing his own experience with top surgery, which he received in his mid-20s. 'There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about how it was the best thing I have ever done for my survival,' the tweet read."

From " U.S. /Top surgery drastically improves quality of life for young transgender people, study finds" (CBS News).

Biden dances 30,000 feet above the hurricane.

The goofy Politico headline caught my eye: "Biden's delicate midterm dance." 

I clicked, wondering what kind of absurd credit is he getting now, but I see it's pre-boosting him as the hurricane approaches:

The storm bearing down on Florida forced President Joe Biden to scrap plans to deliver a politically-charged speech in the state. But he campaigned anyway, from behind a podium* in the Rose Garden.... 

Trump, in a 2016 practice debate, purportedly drew a "blank stare" from "the group," when he said "Cocked or decocked?"

From a Daily Beast article, based on the forthcoming Maggie Haberman’s book "Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America"

According to an excerpt obtained by The Daily Beast, a week before the second debate unfolded in St. Louis in 2016, Trump’s close adviser at the time, Reince Priebus, presented the aspiring political figure with a question on same-sex bathrooms. 

In playing the role of a female transgender student, Priebus asked Trump whether this hypothetical student could still use the girl’s bathroom. 

Without missing a beat, Trump said he had a question. “Cocked or decocked?” Trump asked. 

September 27, 2022

Sunrise — 6:49, 6:52.

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Open thread in the comments.

"If you find yourself mad as hell and you don’t want to take it anymore—for the sake of what you hold dear, stand down."

Writs Liberal Guy, addressing Republicans, at "Don’t Take the Bait" (The American Mind)
You should be suspicious of anyone calling for kinetic action. There is good reason to think that that person is an FBI agent. Big Tech and the FBI are watching, waiting, and enabling. They want a super-sized Ruby Ridge. Don’t give it to them. 
An eyes-wide-open understanding of this asymmetrical distribution of power calls for a civil disobedience response—peaceful, nonviolent resistance. Let them show their illiberal nature. Don’t give them a diversion that distracts from the consequences of their horrible policies. 
This is the path to short- and long-term Republican gains. For all that we have at stake, please commit to this path. We rise and fall together.

"At one point before she got married, however, she nearly became a nun."

"As a teen, she applied to join the convent and was accepted. Despite her hope for a large family, 'I just felt I had a vocation,' said Koller, explaining that she is a person of faith and a Catholic. It was her mother and then-boyfriend (who later became her husband of 66 years), who convinced her to get married instead and, in hindsight, she’s glad they did. Her family, she said, is her greatest source of pride. In 1942, Koller married William Koller, a World War II veteran.... The couple was not sure at first how many children they wanted, but once they got started, 'we just kept going,' Koller said, adding that her life was never lonely again."


Why is The Washington Post publishing this story? Pure pro-natalism. How does this serve the WaPo agenda?

"As time passed, I began subtly trying Woebot’s exercises out on my parents, a captive audience during lockdown."

"Could I reframe my way to a better relationship with my dad? Woebot would get me to try to articulate my own feelings more clearly, and to recognize my own role in our conflicts. Easier said than done; still, I did try. One evening over dinner my dad was clearly agitated. He was barely speaking, and when he did it was to interrupt my mother. I started to cut him off in return, but then I remembered what Woebot had taught me. It was shortly after our family member had died. 'Dad, we’re both upset. I can tell something is up. I mean, you must be grieving. Are you OK?' He slammed his hands on the table and stormed out of the room. 'I don’t know how to be vulnerable!' he screamed on his way out the door. I looked at my mum and we burst out laughing. 'Is this … a breakthrough?'"

From "My Therapist, the Robot," about Woebot, an A.I. chatbot therapist, by the anthropologist Barclay Bram.

"I thought the memo had gone out that the word 'luminous' had been banned from book reviews."

I wrote in December 2009, recalling a wonderful 2007 essay by Joe Queenan.

In "Astonish Me," Queenan wrote:
Several years ago, overwhelmed by the flood of material unleashed annually by the publishing industry, I decided to establish a screening program by purchasing only books that at least one reviewer had described as ''astonishing.'' 

Previously, I had limited my purchases to merchandise deemed ''luminous'' or ''incandescent,'' but this meant I ended up with an awful lot of novels about bees, Provence or Vermeer. The problem with incandescent or luminous books is that they veer toward the introspective, the arcane or the wise, while I prefer books that go off like a Roman candle. When I buy a book, I don't want to come away wiser or happier or even better informed. I want to get blown right out of the water by the author's breathtaking pyrotechnics. I want to come away astonished. 

He was making fun of the absurd overuse of the verb "astonish" in book promotions.

"[I]f the garden variety American liberal as represented by New York Times readers is almost universally against this, who is pushing it and why do they have so much power?"

Someone writes in a Reddit discussion of the NYT article "More Trans Teens Are Choosing ‘Top Surgery,'" which I blogged yesterday, here.

I've read a lot of the NYT comments myself, and I agree with the Redditor that "It's amazing how many of the reader comments on this article are basically horrified by all this...."

Other Redditors try to answer the question "why do they have so much power?"

One says: "Because the Garden Variety American Liberal As Represented By New York Times Readers will fold like a cheap suitcase when publicly called a bigot or even told that they are kinda sorta maybe sounding like a conservative, even if holding private misgivings."

Another says: "Political dynamics in the US is that the GOP is a moderate party beholden to extremist voters and the Dems are an extremist party beholden to moderate voters. It's a very odd dynamic."

Another question about these people with "so much power" is whether they will lose power if the NYT publishes articles like "More Trans Teens Are Choosing" that collect comments from "its garden variety American liberal" readers that clearly point in a different direction. 

ADDED: Is it "fold like a cheap suitcase"? I thought it was "fold like a cheap suit" — though I can't think why a cheap suit would fold any more readily than an expensive one. Fortunately I found a Grammarphobia post on the topic: What is the "X" in the phrase "fold like a cheap X"?

September 26, 2022

Sunrise — 6:54, 6:55, 6:56.

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Open thread in the comments.

Here are 10 TikToks to amuse you for a few precious moments. Some people love them.

1. Painting invisibility.

2. What the hell is the internet?

3. One by one, he's eliminating the least popular state and merging it with a neighboring state.

4. One by one, they're replacing family photos with photos of Danny DeVito until Mom notices.

5. The man deserves a medal for all the years he's patiently listened to his wife tell stories like this.

6. Chef Reactions judges the French grandfather's making of lunch.

7. "Have you ever wondered what items in your place just give men 'ick'?"

8. "We're going to go look at wedding dresses."

9. My favorite music-and-the-child video of all time.

10. Finally, the dolls.

"The pre-TikTok era of social media was a genuine, full-spectrum privacy disaster. It was, however..."

"... a disaster constructed by domestic companies and exported to the rest of the world (although notably not to China). Digital privacy is a notoriously difficult concept around which to mobilize politically. Nationalism, less so. With TikTok at the center of the discourse, we can expect to encounter the former through the distorting lens of the latter with the help of politicians who, despite a prior blindness to matters of privacy, will have a point.... TikTok is a platform of targeted content and loose ties — a post-social social network that doesn’t rely on your friends to keep you engaged and entertained but rather on 'recommendation,' which is the flip side of surveillance.... Compared to Facebook’s rise, TikTok’s was dazzling but impersonal, the product of a supreme emphasis on content over connections, on breaking out of networks rather than formalizing them. Users’ sense of obligation to one another, though, is what bought Facebook more time at the top. To quit Facebook, however little one uses it, is to sever some sort of contact, and to leave Instagram, however dull it has become, is to know a little less about your friends. A bored or restless TikTok user, however, can simply watch less — only TikTok will notice they’re gone."

"Snowden is not a traitor. He did not betray the interests of his country. Nor did he transfer any information..."

"... to any other country which would have been pernicious to his own country or to his own people. The only thing Snowden does, he does publicly."

Said Vladimir Putin, in 2017, when the filmmaker Oliver Stone prompted him with "As an ex-KGB agent, you must have hated what Snowden did with every fiber of your being."

"This brief provides a rare and important opportunity for federal Supreme Court justices to receive direct input from their peers who sit on state supreme courts."

"State justices have a central stake in this case because, in our federalist system, they typically have the final say over the meaning of state law, and here they can directly explain to their federal counterparts why their traditional state role is worthy of protection."


The state judges are fighting for their own power against the "independent state legislature theory." According to the theory, the federal constitutional text — “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives, shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof” — means that state legislatures have the final say about state law, with no interpretive role for the state judges.

Liptak writes:

"For a home lacking interior walls, at least structural ones, the dome feels surprisingly cozy; where the plaster-finished gypsum room dividers don’t extend all the way..."

"... to the curved ceiling, panes of soundproof glass have been added for privacy. From the kitchen, the heart of the structure, a hallway leads past a space-themed arcade game into a bright living room with cork flooring. Another hall, lined with a fully stocked candy bar, leads to a self-contained screening room accessible through a folding garage-type door. There are two guest bedrooms — both with a view of 'Toxic Mickey' (2017), a bronze fountain sculpture by the American artist Bill Barminski that depicts a man chest-deep in a punctured oil drum, wearing a gas mask in the shape of Walt Disney’s beloved mouse."

If you should be so lucky as to receive an overnight invitation from Mr. Downey and his lovely wife, you'll have a beautiful room with a view of this:

"I think it’s so groovy now that people are finally gettin’ together...."

Sang Jim Post — along with his wife Cathy Conn — known as Friend & Lover, on their one hit which was known on the record label as "Reach Out of the Darkness," though anyone who listens to the song can hear that it's "Reach Out in the Darkness."

Here's the NYT obituary for Post, who died at the age of 82.

Post and Conn urged us to reach out and get together and be so groovy in the summer of 1968. 

 

And in the interest of getting back to all the things that were groovy, here's another version of the song, from 1970, with Mama Cass and Lulu and Ray Stevens:

"On Monday, NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test spacecraft, or DART, is set to collide with Dimorphos, a small asteroid..."

"... that is the moon of a larger space rock, Didymos. While these two near-Earth objects pose no immediate threat to our world, NASA launched DART last year to test a technique that could one day be used for planetary defense.... While the agency is searching the heavens for deadly space rocks, it also is developing methods for responding to a threat, should one emerge. The DART mission isn’t like the movie 'Armageddon.' Blowing up an asteroid generally would not be a good thing to do. Rather, the mission is a proof-of-principle demonstration that hitting an oncoming asteroid with a projectile can nudge it into a different orbit....."

"Because breasts are highly visible, they can make transitioning difficult and cause intense distress for these teenagers, fueling the demand for top surgeries."

"Small studies have shown that many transgender adolescents report significant discomfort related to their breasts, including difficulty showering, sleeping and dating. As the population of these adolescents has grown, top surgery has been offered at younger ages....  As demand has grown, Dr. Gallagher... has built a thriving top surgery specialty. The doctor frequently posts photos, FAQs and memes on Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, proudly flouting professional mores in favor of connecting with hundreds of thousands of followers. Her feeds often fill with photos tagged #NipRevealFriday, highlighting patients like Michael whose bandages were just removed. On her office windowsill sits a framed nameplate with one of her best-known catchphrases on TikTok: 'Yeet the Teet,' slang for removing breasts."

"[W]e are like monkeys at a tea party. All of us. What’s more, we are in denial. We finesse and accessorize our self-image..."

"... but those very accessories (in Arbus’s world they may be leopard-skin pillbox hats, strings of pearls, Halloween masks, tight jeans, tattoos, tidy bourgeois interiors, boaters, bow ties or even brazen, dare-you-to-object nakedness) are continually giving away the game. Bob Dylan once mockingly sang that a leopard-skin pillbox hat 'balances on your head just like a mattress balances on a bottle of wine.' But to Arbus, who began as a fashion photographer, the various forms our denial takes were not contemptible. They were strange, riveting, poignant. Arbus was as averse to sentimentality as she was free from disgust or contempt. Her insight was not in itself original. Nonetheless it deepened in her hands in unique ways. That she was a photographer and not a painter or sculptor was crucial to her expression of the 'we’re-all-monkeys-at-a-tea-party' idea."

So writes Sebastian Smee, in "Diane Arbus was accused of exploiting ‘freaks.’ We misunderstood her art. Fifty years on, Arbus’s photographs look very different in this ingenious gallery exhibition" (WaPo). 

A gallery in NYC is recreating the Museum of Modern Art show — "the posthumous retrospective that established the Arbus legend" — that was immensely well attended 50 years ago. I attended. And I, like many others, bought the book of photographs. But I'm not going to quibble with Smee's idea that "we misunderstood" at the time. There was plenty of varied opinion then, and it's patronizing to hear someone who was a newborn baby at the time characterize what we were all saying and thinking back then.

The reason I'm not going to barrel down that conversational highway is I'm getting off at the exit marked "Bob Dylan."

"At least 13 people were killed, including nine children, when a gunman wearing a T-shirt with a red swastika, opened fire on Monday in a school..."

"... in the central Russian city of Izhevsk, Russia’s Investigative Committee reported. The gunman, reportedly armed with two weapons, also killed himself.... Two pistols near his body had braided cords with the words Columbine, Dylan and Eric, a reference to the 1999 Columbine school massacre.... Putin has insisted that the war in Ukraine is intended to eliminate 'Nazis' from eastern Ukraine.... Russia, however, has long had far-right, neo-Nazi elements within its own population.... School shootings in Russia are relatively rare in comparison with the United States but may be becoming more common, with three mass shootings at educational institutions since May last year. Just over a year ago, an 18-year-old university student, Timur Bekmansurov, killed six people and wounded 47 at Perm State University. In May last year, Ilnaz Galyaviev, 21, killed nine people at a school in Kazan, Tatarstan, including seven children. In 2018, a fourth-year student at Kerch Polytechnic College, Vladimir Roslyakov, killed 21 people and injured 67 in Russia’s worst school shooting...."

"For many Mormons in Utah... the concept of being a good steward is wrapped up in a pioneer nostalgia that favors an artificial, irrigated landscape..."

"... over the natural desert environment. This Mormon version of Manifest Destiny is at the heart of why Utahns suck up so much municipal water... more municipal water than any state in the country, except for Idaho. And why the state has long supported a heavily subsidized water pricing system and zoning laws that encourage, if not flat-out demand, a yard full of well-tended grass. When trying to explain the near-religious devotion to irrigated landscapes, Mormons often quote a verse from the Old Testament (Isaiah 35:1-2) that inspired their 19th century pioneer ancestors who settled in Utah: 'The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.'... For Marlene and Emron, both professors at Brigham Young University who live in a historic, tree-lined neighborhood in Provo, 45 miles south of Salt Lake City, letting their lawn die was an expression of their faith. 'I want to be a better Christian steward of the place where I live,' says Marlene. 'Why not let the desert bloom as a desert?'"

"Maybe this will end the 'Dennis the Menace' reign of terror. I've read it every day for fifty years and haven't laughed yet."

That made me laugh, from the comments section of "Is the print newspaper comics page in trouble?" (WaPo).

That comment prompts someone else to say: "Insert GenX rant about 'Family Circus' from the 1999 movie 'Go.'" Okay, I will insert it:


Ha ha. That reminds me of a famous thing somebody once said about the comic strip "Nancy": "It's harder not to read 'Nancy' than to read it."

The article has some material about Scott Adams — whose strip was cut from 77 Lee Enterprises newspapers and who has had individual daily strips censored in other newspapers. 
Adams had recently satirized environmental, social and governance (ESG) policies and workplace diversity efforts, and had introduced a Black character named Dave who identifies as White....
Some commenters are taking shots at him, including this: "To be fair, Scott Adams also went crazy seven years ago and stopped being funny when he started being political... not unlike Charles Schultz stopping being funny when he started being religious, or the Family Circus guy stopping being funny when he drew his first comic, which has been repeated twice a week for the last century." 

"In conversation with fellow actress-director Maggie Gyllenhaal for Interview magazine, Olivia Wilde asked, 'You know the incels?'"

"She was explaining to Gyllenhaal how she based a character in her latest film, 'Don’t Worry Darling,' on Jordan Peterson, a professor-turned-proselytizer whom Wilde described as 'this pseudointellectual hero to the incel community.' Gyllenhaal responded with a concise, 'No.' She did not know the incels...."

September 25, 2022

A cloudy sunrise this morning.

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Open thread in the comments.

Here are 9 TikToks, carefully curated for you. Some people love them.

1. Réttir — sorting out the sheep in Iceland.

2. The woonerf — a type of street.

3. The Finnish way to live through winter — on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

4. If Arabic were English.

5. Choosing the boring life.

6. Overnight evolution.

8. Talking to the salad.

9. Hello, darkness, my old friend....

"Kyoto’s famously polite residents began to express their displeasure with uncharacteristic bluntness."

"In Nishiki, signs popped up among the [market] stalls admonishing tourists not to eat while walking, a pet peeve in Japan. Neighborhood shoppers, tired of the crowding and commotion, began going to supermarkets, and some long-established sellers closed. Even Buddhist monks lost their cool. In autumn and spring, when the streets became clogged with tourists gawping at pyrotechnic bursts of maple leaves and cherry blossoms, 'people couldn’t even leave their houses. The city was barely livable,' said Kojo Nagasawa, the secretary general of the Kyoto Buddhist Federation.... At the beginning of the pandemic, 'people in the city were saying, "We’ve returned to the old Kyoto, isn’t that great?"' said Toshinori Tsuchihashi, the director of the city’s tourism department. But, as the economic damage mounted, residents 'have come to recognize tourism’s importance.'... With no legal options for instituting hard limits on visitors.... the initiatives mostly consist of soft measures like trying to educate visitors in Kyoto’s traditional 'morals' and hoping for the best. In that spirit, Nishiki market has decided it will try to encourage tourists instead of admonishing them, exchanging its list of 'don’ts' for a list of 'pleases.'..."

"Unlike Germany, which was clearly on the wrong side of history and made facing and remembering its Nazi past a national project woven inextricably into the postwar fabric..."

"... of its institutions and society, Italy had one foot on each side, and so had a claim to victimization by Fascism, having switched allegiances during the war. After Rome fell to the Allies, a civil war raged between the resistance and a Nazi puppet state of Mussolini loyalists in the north. When the war ended, Italy adopted an explicitly antifascist Constitution, but the political emphasis was on ensuring national cohesion in a country that had succeeded in unifying only a century earlier. There was a belief, the Italian writer Umberto Eco wrote in his classic 1995 essay 'Ur Fascism,' or 'Eternal Fascism,' that the 'memory of those terrible years should be repressed.' But repression 'causes neurosis,' he argued.... [Now, Giorgia] Meloni is poised to take charge. Her proposals, characterized by protectionism, tough-on-crime measures and protecting the traditional family, have a continuity with the post-Fascist parties, though updated to excoriate L.G.B.T. 'lobbies' and migrants.... [T]he left sees in her crescendoing rhetoric, cult of personality style and hard-right positions many of the hallmarks of an ideology that Eco famously sought to pin down despite Fascism’s 'fuzziness.' She evinces what Eco called an 'obsession with a plot, possibly an international one' against Italians, which she expresses in fears of international bankers using mass migration to replace native Italians and weaken Italian workers....."

"Bring Your Whole Self to Work" — "it means being able 'to fully show up' and 'allow ourselves to be truly seen' in the workplace."

"[According the author of a book with that as a title,] it’s 'essential' to create a work environment 'where people feel safe enough to bring all of who they are to work.' Bringing the whole self is a certified buzzphrase at Google and encouraged at Experian. An entire issue of the Harvard Business Review has been devoted to the subject. In this new workplace, you don’t have to keep your head down and do your job. Instead, you 'bring your whole self to work' — personality flaws, vulnerabilities, idiosyncratic mantras and all... In recent years, the 'whole self' movement has gained momentum in part because it dovetails with fortified corporate diversity, equity and inclusion (D.E.I.) programs...."

From "Do Not Bring Your ‘Whole Self’ to Work" by Pamela Paul (NYT).

Paul (obviously) doesn't like the idea. She recommends "that old-fashioned thing we used to call 'being professional.'" But isn't "being professional" another way of saying acting like an upper middle class white person? You have to acknowledge that it's a much easier way of being for some people than others. 

But Paul doesn't acknowledge it. She amuses NYT readers. It should be easy to act "professional": "Heck, it’s the you you were for your entire corporate history, until the prevailing H.R. doctrine abandoned buttoning things up."

The you you were is an interesting phrase. When do you feel like you? In a corporate setting, some people feel exactly like themselves and others don't feel like themselves at all. There's a continuum of you-ness to be felt. Now, you might say, even if I don't really feel like myself, I'd at least appreciate being relieved of the experience of needing to be around other people who are being themselves.

So could we all agree that there's a way to be and then act like that? Actually, no! We can't. 

“I failed, failed and absolutely failed to understand just how exhausted by and disgusted with the perpetual representation of Muslim men and women as terrorists or former terrorists or potential terrorists the Muslim people are."

Said Abigail Disney — grandniece of Walt Disney, "a titan in the documentary world" — who was the executive director of “Jihad Rehab,” called it “freaking brilliant” in an email to the director, then disavowed it.

She is quoted in "Sundance Liked Her Documentary on Terrorism, Until Muslim Critics Didn’t/The film festival gave Meg Smaker’s 'Jihad Rehab' a coveted spot in its 2022 lineup, but apologized after an outcry over her race and her approach" (NYT).

Advised by a PR firm to apologize, the director Meg Smaker said "What was I apologizing for? For trusting my audience to make up their own mind?"

Smaker spent 16 months inside a Saudi rehabilitation facility interviewing former Guantánamo detainees.

The attacks came from what  the NYT characterizes as "the left":

Arab and Muslim filmmakers and their white supporters accused Ms. Smaker of Islamophobia and American propaganda. Some suggested her race was disqualifying, a white woman who presumed to tell the story of Arab men.

The filmmaker Assia Boundaoui, said: "To see my language and the homelands of folks in my community used as backdrops for white savior tendencies is nauseating. The talk is all empathy, but the energy is Indiana Jones."

September 24, 2022

An overcast sunrise today.

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Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, long entwined, continue on vile parallel paths: They would rather destroy their countries than admit they have lost."

"They have each created a scrim of lies to justify lunatic personal ambition.... As our ancestors did, the Ukrainians are fighting an abusive overlord, against all odds, for democracy. It’s especially inspiring as a split screen with Trump and his MAGA forces trying to bulldoze democracy and rip away women’s rights. The Ukrainians are battling for a luminous ideal — unlike Trump and Putin, who are smashing a luminous ideal for their own benefit, driven by their dread of being called losers. Both thugs are getting boxed in, Trump by a bouquet of investigations into his chicanery and Putin by an angry public pushback against his bloody vanity war.... Both Putin and Trump are famous for accusing everyone else of their own sins.... It would be poetic justice to think the walls were closing in on Putin and Trump at the same time, because at some point, all this will become unsustainable...." 

Maureen Dowd, in "Solo Soulless Saboteurs" (NYT).

Would it be poetic justice for the walls to close in on Putin and Trump at the same time for the same reasons?

From Wikipedia:

"[T]he incident once again highlighted the increasing man-animal conflict in India."

Economic Times reports on this viral video:

"I don’t know that there should be a common Latinx identity. This identity is rooted in land and geography when it should..."

"... be rooted in understanding settler colonialism in the Americas. I would be invested in a political Latinidad that first and foremost fought for indigenous sovereignty and black liberation. If it doesn’t do that, I don’t see the purpose...."

Said Alan Pelaez Lopez, a Zapotec cultural critic, artist, and academic, one of the 6 participants in a conversation at "The Problem With Latinidad/A growing community of young, black, and indigenous people are questioning the very identity underpinning Hispanic Heritage Month" (The Nation).

"Racial preferences should now be thought of like chemotherapy, a cure that can cause side effects that should be applied judiciously."

"We’ve applied the cure long past that point, and have drifted toward an almost liturgical conception of diversity that makes less sense by the year. In a 2003 Supreme Court ruling, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, writing for the majority, said, 'we expect that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences' in the university admissions context 'will no longer be necessary.' That was considered resonantly wise at the time. But now we have only about six years to go. Folks, it’s time."

Writes John McWhorter in "Stop Making Asian Americans Pay the Price for Campus Diversity" (NYT). 

McWhorter is anticipating the Supreme Court cases Students for Fair Admissions v. President & Fellows of Harvard College and Students for Fair Admissions v. University of North Carolina. Oral argument in those cases is scheduled for October 31st — Halloween.

"Has anyone ever won an Oscar for showing so little expression?"

"[Nurse Ratched as played by Louise Fletcher ] was not — as Nurse Ratched was in the book — an embodiment of matriarchy and women's repression of men. She was horrible, cold, and controlling, but she also had some humanity. She was in a predicament trying to deal professionally with some very trying individuals. She made all the wrong decisions, but she was recognizably human. The actors who played those patients did a fine job portraying seriously ill men and making them dramatically effective and immensely entertaining. We felt free to laugh at them a lot without getting the nagging guilty feeling that we weren't showing enough respect for the mentally ill. There's bonus entertainment in the fact that two of them are actors we came to love in bigger roles: Danny Devito and Christopher Lloyd. 'If they made this movie today, they'd ruin it with music,' I said halfway through. There was scene after scene with no music, other than the occasional record that a character in the movie played.... There was never any of that sort of movie music that instructs us on how to think and feels our emotions before we get a chance to feel them for ourselves. When Nurse Ratched puts a syrupy, soporific version of 'Charmaine' on the record player for the ritual of dispensing the psychotropic drugs, what we feel is in counterpoint to the music...."

I wrote that on Christmas Day in 2006, the morning after the last time I watched "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." 

I'm reading that old post this morning because I see the news that Louise Fletcher has died. She was 88.

Here's the scene where Nurse Ratched keeps the men from watching the World Series game (and McMurphy is an election denier):

I understand why Biden said "We go back a long way. She was 12, I was 30."

I'm seeing the puzzlement — or feigned puzzlement and eager seizure of an opportunity to remind us, once again, of Biden's history of nuzzling young girls.

As an older person, I recognize what went on in the old President's head. It's something that used to be very common in the generation that preceded Baby Boomers. There was this deeply embedded cultural norm of acting as if older women are not actually old. There were expressions like "A lady never reveals her age" and "A woman of a certain age" and lighthearted misstatements of age. It was considered rude even to imply that a woman is old.

Within that ethic, Biden's statement "We go back a long way" created an awkwardness that prompted a joke to undo the implication that he had called a woman old. He'd suggested that they were contemporaries. They'd worked together long ago, so she must be about as old as he is. He wanted to cancel the implication, and, long ago, he was about 30, so he made her as much younger as he could — a ludicrously young age 12.

"As what one might call a celebrity emotion, empathy is often simplified and caricatured. It’s hardly an entirely positive attribute."

"Being able to feel what another person is feeling can also allow someone to manipulate or injure another person. Sadists can be as empathetic as therapists. Iago is the most empathetic figure in literature—he feels every nuance and degree of Othello’s insecurity and plays on them to destroy him. Yet in a democratic society, where individual freedom abounds at historically unique levels, empathy is indispensable. In a dictatorship, it doesn’t matter if you’re aware of another person’s inner state; the regime regulates relations between people. In a democracy, however, the people themselves regulate the relations between them.... In a democracy, [Toqueville] writes, 'each [man] may judge in a moment of the sensations of all the others; he casts a rapid glance upon himself, and that is enough....' If it is true that the essence of a functioning democracy is the ability of its people to feel empathy for one another, then the widespread reliance on antidepressants.... is like some cruel joke. Add to the pharmacological cultivation of emotional blunting the emotionally blunting effect of lives lived increasingly online, and you have a democracy resting on a fundamentally anti-democratic way of life."

"While these are beautiful objects and tell important stories that need to be known, it's disappointing to see the MET giving legitimacy to Crystal Bridges Museum."

"The museum is open-to the-public storage for the personal art collection of some the Walton heirs of Wal-Mart fame — known for paying their employees so little that as of 2022 they are reported to be the biggest recipients of food stamps and Medicaid in most states."

September 23, 2022

Sunrise — 6:38, 6:48.

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The Menominee North Pier Lighthouse.

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"The Menominee North Pier lighthouse is located in the harbor of Menominee, Michigan. The station was first lit in 1877. The current structure and its still operational light was lit in 1927, and automated in 1972. It is also sometimes called the 'Menominee (Marinette) North Pierhead Light."

I took those photographs on September 19th.

"I’m attracted to things like pointillism or a Jasper Johns ‘numbers’ work because they come out of breaking something down into its components, like bytes or numbers..."

Said the late Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft, quoted in "Opening Paul Allen’s Treasure Chest/It’s been a closely guarded secret which masterworks in the Microsoft co-founder’s collection will be auctioned at Christie’s in November. Here, highlights of a billionaire’s bounty" (NYT).

This isn't a Jasper Johns "numbers" work, but it is the Jasper Johns in the soon-to-be-auctioned collection. It's called "Map":

"Kripke challenged the notion that anyone who uses terms, especially proper names, must be able to correctly identify what the terms refer to."

"Rather, people can use terms like ‘Einstein,’ ‘springbok,’ perhaps even ‘computer,’ despite being too ignorant or wrong to provide identifying descriptions of their referents. We can use terms successfully not because we know much about the referent but because we’re linked to the referent by a great social chain of communication.” 

Similarly Errol Morris, the filmmaker, a friend of Kripke’s said: “Are we living in some subjective reality where truth is irrelevant, where truth is relative? Saul came up with this idea of ‘rigid designation.’ It sounds arcane. But he is saying our words attach to things in a way that is far more permanent than we ever thought.” 

The philosopher Richard Rorty said: “Before Kripke, there was a sort of drift in analytic philosophy in the direction of linguistic idealism — the idea that language is not tuned to the world.... Saul almost single-handedly changed that.”

"Totenberg’s confounding book, subtitled 'A memoir on the power of friendships'... always comes back to friendships...."

"[A]s the pages go by, and Totenberg and her friends become more powerful, the theme becomes increasingly uncomfortable — and increasingly revealing.... [S]he seems to accept and share her insider friends’ worldviews. In this universe, it seems, we’re all on the same team. The jurists Totenberg spent her career covering, for instance, are invariably portrayed as thoughtful stewards of the Constitution, even when they err.... One theory about Ginsburg’s decision to stay on the court was that, sharp as she was, she lived in a bubble that left her unable to appreciate how mean and extreme politics had become. If so, the convivial vibe depicted by Totenberg didn’t do much to clear things up. In fact, Totenberg became part of the RBG hype machine. As the justice became an unlikely celebrity, she and Totenberg developed a sort of stage act, conducting public interviews before ticketed audiences. Totenberg would share questions in advance. The responses were more thoughtful that way, which it seems was really what the evenings were trying to show. With its odd, priestly culture, the court is particularly susceptible to this sort of veneration."

Totenberg's book is called "Dinners With Ruth."

"Could you imagine a congressional reporter doing a book called Dinners With Harry Reid, tracing shopping excursions and intimate family moments with the late majority leader, who died the year after Ginsburg?"

"You do your best, you know, and maybe people will agree. And maybe they don’t. And maybe you’ll win. And maybe you’ll lose."

"And then what you do is you think about it for a while. Go on to the next thing, so that you can do a decent job on the next thing. And just keep going."

Said the retired Justice Breyer, quoted in "Breyer warns justices that some opinions could ‘bite you in the back’ in exclusive interview with CNN’s Chris Wallace" (CNN).

Breyer seems to have adopted the catchphrase "And there we are." He's quoted using it 3 times in this short summary of the interview. 

He used it after stating the he tried to change the outcome in Dobbs, describing the mood at the Court after the Dobbs leak, and after declining to criticize either Ginni or Clarence Thomas.

Breyer's "And there we are" made me think of Kurt Vonnegut's "So it goes." In "Slaughterhouse-Five":
[Vonnegut] uses it as a refrain when events of death, dying, and mortality occur or are mentioned; as a narrative transition to another subject; as a memento mori; as comic relief; and to explain the unexplained. The phrase appears 106 times.

Is Breyer's "And there we are" like Kurt Vonnegut's "So it goes"? "And there we are" feels lighter, more like "It is what it is" or "Whaddayagonnado."

"If I am simultaneously bankrupting and killing myself to make karate happen for one child, uptown, at 4pm, and French, downtown, for the other..."

"... I want to see results. Fun is an inadequate metric.... I want some kind of externalised measure of success. The business model for child activity centres in the city understands and exploits this intuitively.... What was this compulsion to furnish them with a suite of accomplishments like tiny Regency ladies in a Jane Austen novel? Why not needlepoint? We quit violin. (Take the feeling you get when someone cancels a dinner and quadruple it.) We opted out of taekwondo (initial enthusiasm, followed by endless weekly foot-dragging). We’re about to exit dance (loved it, then didn’t love it). I put it into Google: 'What’s the opposite of a tiger?' Google suggests jellyfish. Jellyfish parenting – boneless, diaphanous, endlessly flexible. I’m almost there...."