January 15, 2022

Walking slowly to take in the last moments of a nice 4-mile walk in the UW Arboretum this afternoon...

... I'm surprised to find Meade taking video...


... or I'd have walked more jauntily.

And here's a picture I took of the Big Spring:

And one Meade took of me:


Talk about anything you like in the comments.

And if you want Kahtoola MICROspikes like mine to make your 4-mile hike on ice and snow secure, you can buy them here. For running shoes, I go with Kahtoola NANOspikes, here. Thanks for using those Amazon links that give me a commission, and here's the Althouse portal link, which is always also in the sidebar.

"Any suggestion that there isn’t gratitude for the institution, anything that could lead anyone in the public to think that senior members of the royal family aren’t grateful for their position, [William thinks] is really dangerous."

Said a source close to Prince William, quoted in "It wasn’t just the Queen: the whole royal family knifed Prince Andrew/After years of indecision, the Firm finally acted against the duke — and all his siblings were involved" (London Times).
Friends of Andrew say he has been doing “a lot of thinking and work on himself”.... There is much more thinking to be done as Andrew, who once described himself as “an ideas factory”, contemplates a permanent retirement devoid of flummery. Some in royal circles believe a safe option would be for him to run one of the Queen’s estates. Others, including the royal historian Hugo Vickers, think he should devote himself to a life of charitable rehabilitation.

“Prince Andrew needs to start up an animal sanctuary and work there, Profumo-style,” Vickers said. “The British love animals.”

Retirement devoid of flummery... "Flummery" is one of those words that gets my attention. Oddly enough, I have a tag for "flummery." I'm not sure how that happened. My favorite word is "flummox," as I've mentioned a few times on this blog. And yet I don't have a tag for "flummox," only for "flummery." It makes you wonder, what is flum? Is it like phlegm?

As I've discussed before — here — the OED calls the word "flummox" colloquial or vulgar and suggests it's onomatopoeic, "expressive of the notion of throwing down roughly and untidily." 

But what about "flummery"? That's not connected to "flummox." According to the OED, "flummery" originates as the name of a food — a "coagulation of wheatflour or oatmeal." From there, it got figurative: "Mere flattery or empty compliment; nonsense, humbug, empty trifling" or "Trifles, useless trappings or ornaments."

Yes, we don't need any of that from Andrew.

"And studios are loath to send out screening links because they... can see how we watch the movies via the links they send us."

"They can see where we pause, how many times we rewind, how often we start again altogether. Most tellingly, they know when a critic checks out completely: said critic lets the movie play all the way through the credits. No one watches a (non-Marvel) movie all the way through the credits.Watching at home just encourages bad habits. It introduces kids, laptops, pets, phones, doorbells, Twitter, bathroom breaks, endless distractions.... But studios and filmmakers are correct to counter writers’ desire for greater convenience with the fact that watching films at home is simply inferior to doing so safely in a theater."

From "No more home screeners. Critics should watch movies in theaters like everyone else" by Sonny Bunch (WaPo).

The most depressing part of that was "(non-Marvel)."

Top-rated comment: "Any movie worth a damn can withstand the slightly 'atomized' experience of a home theater. This is 'old man yells at cloud'-level nonsense." What about all the old men who can't sit through a whole movie without going to the bathroom? 

"He’s so lost in the snows of yesteryear that he is continuing his Amtrak Joe nearly-every-weekend commute to Delaware, albeit with better wheels, trading in the train for Marine One."

"We want the president to rise above it and be an inspirational figure. We don’t want the incremental updates of his negotiations with Joe Manchin. We want to see Covid under control. We want to see the sacred right to vote protected. We want the grocery shelves stocked with affordable milk and meat. We want a president who tells us that we will get through this and we will be stronger for it."

Writes Maureen Dowd in her new column, and she sounds just as "lost in the snows of yesteryear" if she thinks Biden telling us "we will get through this and we will be stronger" would be anything at all at this point.

As for "the snows of yesteryear" — here's the old poem you may — like me — remember from high school French class. It's about women.

"An unusual thing happened in the conversation about transgender identity in America this week."

"The New York Times conceded that there is, indeed, a debate among medical professionals, transgender people, gays and lesbians and others about medical intervention for pre-pubescent minors who have gender dysphoria. The story pulled some factual punches, but any mildly-fair airing of this debate in the US MSM is a breakthrough of a kind. Here’s the truth that the NYT was finally forced to acknowledge: 'Clinicians are divided' over the role of mental health counseling before making irreversible changes to a child’s body. Among those who are urging more counseling and caution for kids are ground-breaking transgender surgeons. This very public divide was first aired by Abigail Shrier a few months ago on Bari’s Substack, of course, where a trans pioneer in sex-change surgery opined: 'It is my considered opinion that due to some of the … I’ll call it just 'sloppy,' sloppy healthcare work, that we’re going to have more young adults who will regret having gone through this process.' Oof."

Also: "What the trans movement is now doing, after this comprehensive victory, is not about rights at all. It is about cultural revolution. It’s a much broader movement to dismantle the sex binary, to see biology as a function of power and not science, and thereby to deconstruct the family and even a fixed category such as homosexuality. You can support trans rights and oppose all of this. But they want you to believe you can’t. That’s the bait-and-switch. Don’t take it."

ADDED: I just want to print out the top 3 highest-rated comments at the NYT article (linked in Sullivan's piece):

But do they have a button?

I'm seeing "Frustrated Democrats Call for ‘Reset’ Ahead of Midterm Elections" (NYT).

If I were a Democrat — and I hasten to say I'm not a Republican either — I would banish the word "reset" from my vocabulary. But it was spoken by Representative Cheri Bustos, a Democrat from rural Illinois, who is not running for reelection: “We really kind of need to reset at this point... I hope we focus on what we can get done and then focus like crazy on selling it.”

That is too painful to watch! I had to switch it off.

"The premise of The Denial of Death is that human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality..."

"... which in turn acts as the emotional and intellectual response to our basic survival mechanism. [Ernest Becker, the author of this Pulitzer Prize-winning 1973 book] argues that a basic duality in human life exists between the physical world of objects and biology, and a symbolic world of human meaning. Thus, since humanity has a dualistic nature consisting of a physical self and a symbolic self, we are able to transcend the dilemma of mortality by focusing our attention mainly on our symbolic selves, i.e. our culturally-based self esteem, which Becker calls 'heroism': a 'defiant creation of meaning' expressing 'the myth of the significance of human life' as compared to other animals.... Humanity's traditional 'hero-systems,' such as religion, are no longer convincing in the age of reason. Becker argues that the loss of religion leaves humanity with impoverished resources for necessary illusions. Science attempts to serve as an immortality project, something that Becker believes it can never do because it is unable to provide agreeable, absolute meanings to human life. The book states that we need new convincing 'illusions' that enable us to feel heroic in ways that are agreeable...."

From the Wikipedia article, "The Denial of Death," a book title that sprang to mind when I saw the news that the U.S. government is going to stop requiring daily reports of the number of Covid deaths.

This is the book Alvy Singer wanted Annie Hall to read:

Remember when Biden cured cancer?

Relive the good times — replete with Bruce Springsteen soundtrack:


To be fair, we really have conquered cancer in the sense that when you think about what disease is really bothering you, you don't go straight for "Cancer!" anymore.

"Has political satire lost its power? Or has reality become so absurd that it’s now beyond parody?"

That's from the intro to "Why Are People So Mad About Don’t Look Up? Climate change is a tough subject for any film, let alone a satire."

It's a podcast — audio and transcript at the link — with various Atlantic staff people (Kevin Townsend, Sophie Gilbert, David Sims, and Spencer Kornhaber). I have seen the movie, by the way.

I think the quote I put in the post title is trite and foolish. The difference between the present and the past is the present is where you're living now. It's self-involved to believe that in the past, you could do parody and satire, but now — now! — things are already so absurd that there's nothing to add, no way to exaggerate, and we're suffering in some extreme new way that makes comedy impossible.

But let's see what these people have to say:

"Until this fall, the National School Boards Association was a noncontroversial, bipartisan lobby group. Then its leaders wrote President Biden a letter."

"It alleged that the threatening and aggressive acts against school board members across the country might be a form of 'domestic terrorism' and asked for federal law enforcement intervention. Now, the association is at risk of total collapse....  If the school board association’s goal was to tamp down conservative parent protests, it had the exact opposite effect, galvanizing a movement that coalesced last fall around the idea of parental rights.... In one email, an NSBA board member wrote that [its interim director Chip] Slaven had said the letter had been requested by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona for use by the White House. In another, Slaven wrote that the letter included 'additional information on some of the specific threats,' as requested by the White House.... Five days after the NSBA letter, Attorney General Merrick Garland responded. He directed the FBI to work with U.S. attorneys across the country to convene meetings within 30 days with federal, state and local leaders to discuss strategies for addressing threats to school personnel...."

From "National School Boards Association stumbles into politics and is blasted apart/Its leaders compared aggressive school protests to ‘domestic terrorism.’ The backlash was fast and severe" (WaPo).

"I mean, Season 2 should be the easiest and best of anything..."

"... because usually when you write something, you do the best job and you cast it, and you try and find the people that are right for it. But then with Season 2, you know who you’re writing for, you bring in their physicality, you know what their strengths are, you know [who's] good at ad-libbing and who isn’t. You hit the ground running. That was the case with this but it didn’t apply so much, because I asked people it before I wrote it. I’ve been around for a while, so I was casting all the people I knew that were right for it. It’s always an easy shoot with my stuff because I’ve already lived with it for a year. I use the same crew. I use the same ensemble of actors or I find someone new that fit in. If someone handed me Mission: Impossible 8 and said we’re filming this next week, I’d panic, but with this show, it’s like with boxers: the hard bit is the training, the rest is easy."

Said Ricky Gervais, in an interview at Deadline, as the third season of his show "After Life" begins on Netflix. 

1. I wrote "[who's]" instead of "whose [sic]" because it's an interview. He was talking. It's no fun snarking at the transcriber.

2. "It’s like with boxers: the hard bit is the training, the rest is easy" — I have no idea if he's talking about the dogs or the humans with gloves, the men in shorts.

3. We watched the first episode of Season 3 last night. It's only about 25 minutes, but there's lots of detail, even though you can also get the sense that nothing happens and nothing can change, this is a random collection of bumbling, sad people. Obviously, that's why you shouldn't binge watch, shouldn't take the bait when Netflix starts its little timer down in the lower right corner, ready to fling you into the next episode. 

4. Resisting, we switched over to the 2010 Coen brothers movie "True Grit," which we'd paused halfway through the other day. We stuck with that to the end. I've never watched the John Wayne "True Grit," so I had no basis for comparison with the old film, whether Wayne shambled and mumbled better than Jeff Bridges. Nor can I compare the young actresses selected from obscurity to play the 14-year-old girl who somehow begins with true grit and teaches each man she encounters something about it. I wondered what happened to this actress in the next dozen years, and I was dismayed to run smack into "EXCLUSIVE: Pink-haired Hailee Steinfeld goes braless in a chainmail mini while posing in the shower before rocking a red wig and flashing her abs in latex in sizzling new shoot" (Daily Mail).


5. RICKY: "I’m fascinated with ego and narcissism and vanity and fame. The last 10 years we’ve seen the rise of the narcissism; I think all the bad things in the world are about narcissists, usually men, wanting to rule the world. Now we’ve got Instagram where it’s people standing next to a boat with their shirt off. It’s not even their boat, sometimes it’s not their abs. You see it mostly in entertainment, acting and modeling and so on. But what is the worst job to be a narcissist? When you should be listening to someone else. I thought I’d make [the therapist character] a narcissist, mixed in with toxic masculinity. I remember telling Paul Kaye about all the lines and I said, 'Do it like a football hooligan who works in the city.'"

6. If you read that whole interview, you'll see something that might make you think that sounds like something Althouse said about aging the day after her birthday — here. So you should know that I was influenced by re-listening to an old Ricky Gervais podcast where he made that point — that as you age each day is a larger percentage of the number of days you have left to live. He's repeating himself in this interview, but I offered an observation without saying I heard something like that in his podcast somewhere, that has no transcript to search. I do prefer to link!

January 14, 2022

Sunrise — 7:23.


Talk about whatever you like in the comments. 

Bonus picture from yesterday, captured by Meade:

"Tumblr was founded by David Karp and launched in New York City, in February of 2007... It was built to be a simple, social blogging platform..."

"Users could design their own home pages; post text, images, gifs, or videos; and follow a feed of others doing the same.... In 2013, when Tumblr had seventy-three million accounts, Yahoo acquired it for more than a billion dollars. But, in 2016, the company did a writedown of seven hundred and twelve million dollars... [In 2019] Automattic, the commercial arm of the content-management system WordPress, acquired the site for a reported three million dollars. It was easy to assume that Tumblr was dead.... It’s one of the few social networks where users can still publish entries that resemble blog posts. The Tumblr users I spoke to, both new and returning, cited a few unfashionable aspects that keep them using the platform. Tumblr’s main feed doesn’t shuffle posts algorithmically based on what it determines might appeal to a user. It’s 'a good, old chronological river'... 'It’s the periphery of the internet; nothing important is happening there.'... What makes Tumblr obsolete, for the moment, are the same things that lend it an enduring appeal. The fact that it maintains a following should remind us that we use social-media services by choice; no platform or feature is an inevitability. As Karina Tipismana, the student, told me, 'People say stuff like, "I wish we could still use Tumblr." It’s there, it’s there!'"

From "How Tumblr Became Popular for Being Obsolete/The social-media platform’s status as a relic of the Internet has attracted prodigal users as well as new ones" by Kyle Chayka (The New Yorker).

Tumblr predates the places that are not obsolete — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok. The point here is that the obsoleteness is what's so good. If there's nostalgia for blogs, if there's something inherently appealing in blogs that is lost in these other places, let's remember not only Tumblr, but also Blogger, which has been around since 1999.

I thought I was getting into blogging late when I began this blog 18 years ago. Blogger had already existed for 5 years. I didn't want to miss out on blogging entirely, though part of me thought, it's too late. And I remember when Tumblr was the new thing, 3 years later. I remember all the others — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok — when they were new. But I'm still here with the old, still blogging old school. I don't need to look back to the time when blogging was blogging, like it's something quaint, from simpler times

I've stuck to the discipline, daily blogging, absolutely no skipped days in 18 years. I've got to make the announcement every year, and it's that day again, my bloggiversary. I'm not stopping now. And thanks to everyone of you. If you've got this far, you haven't stopped reading.

"China is the world’s oldest surviving civilization, and yet very little material of its past remains—far less than in Europe or India."

"Through the centuries, waves of revolutionary iconoclasts have tried to smash everything old; the Red Guards, in the nineteen-sixties, were following an ancient tradition. The Chinese seldom built anything for eternity, anyway, nothing like the cathedrals of Europe. And what survived from the past was often treated with neglect.... As Jing Tsu, a scholar of Chinese at Yale, observes... China had long equated writing 'with authority, a symbol of reverence for the past and a talisman of legitimacy.' This is why mastery of classical Chinese used to be so important. To become an official in imperial China, one had to compose precise scholarly essays on Confucian philosophy, an arduous task that very few could complete. Even Chairman Mao, who incited his followers to destroy every vestige of tradition, proudly displayed his prowess as a calligrapher, establishing himself as the bearer of Chinese civilization.... The classical style of the language, elliptical and complex, was practiced by only a small number of highly educated people.... A linguist, Qian Xuantong, famously argued that Confucian thought could be abolished only if Chinese characters were eradicated. 'And if we wish to get rid of the average person’s childish, naive, and barbaric ways of thinking,' he went on, 'the need to abolish characters becomes even greater.'... Dictatorships shape the way we write and talk and, in many cases, think.... I still shudder at the memory of reading, as a student in the early nineteen-seventies, Maoist publications in Chinese, with their deadwood language, heavy Soviet sarcasm, and endless sentences that sounded like literal translations from Marxist German—the exact opposite of the compressed poeticism of the classical style."

From "How the Chinese Language Got ModernizedFaced with technological and political upheaval, reformers decided that Chinese would need to change in order to survive," by Ian Buruma (The New Yorker).

"Male puberty makes you taller, confers greater muscle and bone mass, larger heart and lung capacity relative to your size, and more hemoglobin...."

"Most people will never have what it takes to compete at the elite levels of high school, college or professional sports. That’s not an argument for kicking the genetically blessed out of the league so that those of us who are slower and weaker can experience the thrill of victory. One might add that it is particularly not an argument for kicking out people who face as many other disadvantages in their lives as trans athletes do. But if you like that answer, you should probably ask whether women’s sports should exist at all. After all, we didn’t create separate leagues to reinforce the special feminine identity of female athletes; if anything, women’s athletics was supposed to break down such divisions. The separation is a nod to biology: After puberty, biological women can’t compete with similarly gifted biological men.... [Do we] think it’s important for cisgender women to have a place where at least a few of us can experience the thrill of victory. Maybe that isn’t an important social goal. Or maybe it is, but just not as important a goal as trans inclusion. Either way, that question will have to be asked and answered — out loud, where everyone can hear it."

Writes Megan McArdle in "We need to be able to talk about trans athletes and women’s sports" (WaPo). 

The easiest solution is not to talk about it. Not only does it seem undesirable to say anything that could feel hurtful toward transgender people, but it's also quite unpleasant to need to say anything about the physical inferiority of women. The only way even to consider excluding transwomen from women's sports is to forefront the athletic inferiority of the female body. To have this conversation is to be transformed into a bunch of Bobby Riggses. But to fail to have the conversation is to say we don't need a special category for the female body and the whole women's sports movement was about nothing.

I thought maybe it would facilitate the conversation to speak of "the female body" instead of "women" or "ciswomen" or "natural women." As McArdle points out, women's sports isn't about how much "like a woman" the athletes feel inside. Indeed, it seems probable that many of them don't identify with what the culture traditionally considers feminine. And the women's sports movement was about transforming traditional gender roles: You could feel very very boyish and you're as womanly as the girl who revels in girliness. Isn't that the ideology of the women's sports movement?

The separate category exists because of the bodily differences and not at all because of inward feelings.... or does it? Maybe sports is really only about how people feel inside. You have to do something outwardly for it to be sports, but you do it for the feelings. If the women's sports movement was about boosting the feelings of women — women, who are inherently inferior at sports! — then how can you turn around and be unkind to the transgenders?

"Mr. Sirhan’s assassination of Senator Kennedy is among the most notorious crimes in American history."

"After decades in prison, he has failed to address the deficiencies that led him to assassinate Senator Kennedy. Mr. Sirhan lacks the insight that would prevent him from making the same types of dangerous decisions he made in the past." 

Said Gavin Newsom, quoted in "Gov. Gavin Newsom rejects parole for Sirhan Sirhan, convicted of killing Robert F. Kennedy" (L.A. Times).

""[Biden's Georgia speech] was aggressive, intemperate, not only offensive but meant to offend. It seemed prepared by people who think there is only the Democratic Party..."

"... in America, that’s it, everyone else is an outsider who can be disparaged. It was a mistake on so many levels.... If a president is rhetorically manipulative and divisive on a voting-rights bill it undercuts what he’s trying to establish the next day on Covid and the economy. The over-the-top language of the speech made him seem more emotional, less competent. The portentousness—'In our lives and . . . the life of our nation, there are moments so stark that they divide all that came before them from everything that followed. They stop time'—made him appear incapable of understanding how the majority of Americans understand our own nation’s history and the vast array of its challenges. By the end he looked like a man operating apart from the American conversation, not at its center...."

Writes Peggy Noonan, in "Biden’s Georgia Speech Is a Break Point/He thought he was merely appealing to his base. He might have united the rest of the country against him" (Wall Street Journal).

"Your 7-year-old has perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the moment. Righting wrongs — and there are always more than enough to choose from — is virtuous..."

"... if sometimes humorless. But inventing infractions merely to put people in the wrong is not." 

The advice columnist "Miss Manners" answers a woman whose daughter chided her for using the automatic door button when she is not disabled.

The words "Your 7-year-old has perfectly captured the zeitgeist of the moment" feel humorous, and I hope the girl has a frivolous foible that she will outgrow. Or maybe she has a sense of humor and the mother is the humorless one who's overly afflicted by the zeitgeist. But it's terrifying to think that Generation Alpha is going to be grimly looking for meaningless micro-offenses.

I've said it before — I'm investing my hope in the babies — "those who will be born over the next 5 years, and kids up to the age of 10": "What are these people going to be like — after living through the lockdown and witnessing the heightened, hysterical, hypocritical empathy of the millennials." I said: "I was hoping they rebel against the prudery and the repression of the millennials."

But what if they lean into the worst tendencies of the millennials and Gen Z?

"A newborn baby who was found abandoned in an egg box in Siberia during temperatures as low as minus 20C is doing well..."

"The baby girl was discovered by a group of teenage boys on a remote snowy road near the village of Sosnovka in Russia’s Novosibirsk region. She was wrapped in an old rag and there was a feeding bottle next to her. 'We thought it was a doll at first.... It was a shock.'... It was initially feared that she could have suffered frostbite and would not survive, but doctors warmed her up by carefully rubbing her arms and legs... The discovery came on January 7, the date that Russian Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day. Anna and Dmitry Litvinov, whose teenage son was one of the baby’s rescuers, have said they would like to adopt the child, but they will have to wait to see if any relatives can be traced first...."

The London Times reports.

 ADDED: That's -4 Fahrenheit.

"'Hispanics' are underrepresented as attorneys, but are such subgroups as Cuban, Argentine, or Spanish Americans underrepresented?"

"'African Americans' are underrepresented, but is that true of, say, Nigerian Americans, who have among the highest incomes of all American groups? 'Asian Americans' overall do very well in educational achievement, but that's primarily because of the success of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, and Korean Americans. Are Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, Bangladeshi, Pakistani Americans well represented in the American legal profession? I doubt it. In the white category, how many Appalachians wind up as attorneys are legal faculty? Cajuns? Yemeni, Iraqi, and Egyptian Americans (contrary to popular belief, all Arabs are counted as white)? If the ABA is truly concerned about underrepresented ethnic groups, is there a sound reason why someone of Argentine or Spanish descent should be of special interest to law schools because they (justifiably) check the Hispanic box, but not someone of Hmong or Yemini descent?"

From "The American Bar Association's Problematic Proposed 'Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion' Rules for Law Schools" by David Bernstein (The Volokh Conspiracy).

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"The best blogs are idiosyncratic, unmediated expressions of an individual sensibility, a notion which tends to make old-media executives squirm, so much so that many print-media publications refuse to let their employees blog."

I'm reading my old posts about Terry Teachout, because he has died. Read "Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal Drama Critic, Dies at Age 65/Missouri-born author and musician wrote biographies of Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and H.L. Mencken" (WSJ).

I had the pleasure of spending an evening with Terry Teachout when he came to Madison to see the play "Rembrandt's Gift" at the Madison Repertory Theater in 2005 and — simply based on knowing this blog — invited me to join him. 

He was devoted to visiting theaters around America, choosing carefully, rejecting productions of "The Santaland Diaries, Tuesdays With Morrie, and anything with the word 'magnolias.'" And he was eager to see "The Beauty Part, The Cocktail Party, The Entertainer, Hotel Paradiso, Man and Superman, Rhinoceros, Six Characters in Search of an Author, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Visit, What the Butler Saw, or anything by Jean Anouilh, Noël Coward, Terence Rattigan, or August Wilson."

He was gentle when regional theater productions — such as "Rembrandt's Gift" — were flawed, and he gave important recognition where it was done well:

Teachout called [American Players Theater] "America's finest classical theater festival, unrivaled for the unfailing excellence of its productions." Teachout hated a 2015 Broadway production of "A View From the Bridge." He called it a "flatulent exercise in Eurotrashy gimmickry." He called this APT production "a masterpiece of sustained tension" and "of the two best Miller revivals I've ever seen."

January 13, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

"It has been exciting to watch as more men embrace vulnerability.... But my hope has begun to diminish as I’ve watched male vulnerability curdle into something toxic."

"Let’s call it petulant vulnerability. Think of the boyfriend professing loneliness to ensure his partner never sees their friends. Or the hundreds of texts and anecdotes of so-called softbois collected on the @beam_me_up_softboi Instagram account — men who express their feelings the way avalanches share snow, often as a form of manipulation or passive aggression.... The aftermath of last year’s Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol was a festival of petulant vulnerability. While the attack itself was violent and wrathful, many in the mostly male mob, who screamed obscenities or threw heavy objects at police officers that day, later wept as they expressed shame, offered excuses or complained about jobs and friends they lost.... If true vulnerability means accepting change, personal fallibility and the human condition of reliance on others, petulant vulnerability feigns emotional fragility as a means of retaining power.... What if, on Jan. 5, 2021, a man upset by Donald Trump’s electoral defeat had confessed to friends and loved ones that he was afraid and that he felt he was losing control in a world he believed no longer valued him? What if he had sat with those feelings, cried if he wanted to and discussed how to chart his path in a changing landscape? That would have been vulnerable."

From "This Isn’t Your Old Toxic Masculinity. It Has Taken an Insidious New Form" by Alex McElroy (NYT). We're told "Mx. McElroy is the author of the novel 'The Atmospherians,' about two friends who start a cult to reform problematic men." 

"Stewart Rhodes, the leader and founder of the far-right Oath Keepers militia, was arrested on Thursday and charged with seditious conspiracy for organizing a wide-ranging plot to storm the Capitol..."

"... last Jan. 6 and disrupt the certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s electoral victory, federal law enforcement officials said.... Mr. Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper who went on to earn a law degree at Yale, has been under investigation for his role in the riot since at least last spring when, against the advice of his lawyer, he sat down with F.B.I. agents for an interview in Texas. He was at the Capitol on Jan. 6, communicating by cellphone and a chat app with members of his team, many of whom went into the building. But there is no evidence that he entered the Capitol.... In an interview with The New York Times this summer, Mr. Rhodes expressed frustration that several members of his group had 'gone off mission' by entering the Capitol on Jan. 6, quickly adding, 'There were zero instructions from me or leadership to do so.' But at least four Oath Keepers who were at the Capitol that day and are cooperating with the government have sworn in court papers that the group intended to breach the building with the goal of obstructing the final certification of the Electoral College vote...."

"Sinema reiterates opposition to eliminating filibuster, probably dooming Democrats’ voting rights push."

WaPo reports.

[T]he circumstances in which she reiterated it — as Senate Democratic leaders prepared to launch a decisive floor debate and less than an hour before President Biden was scheduled to arrive on Capitol Hill to deliver a final, forceful appeal for action — put an exclamation point on her party’s long and fruitless effort to counter restrictive Republican-passed state voting laws.

We're told that she wore "purple, a symbol of Washington bipartisanship." There's always interest in what this Senator is wearing. So here — you can look at her as she stands in the breach:

"The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers..."

"... dealing a blow to a key element of the White House’s plan to address the pandemic as cases resulting from the Omicron variant are on the rise. But the court allowed a more modest mandate requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated. The vote in the employer mandate case was 6 to 3, with liberal justices in dissent. The vote in the health care case was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh joining the liberal justices to form a majority...."

Here are the opinions — NFIB v. OSHA and Biden v. Missouri.

From the OSHA case:

Sunrise panorama.


Time: 7:21.

"A plan announced in 2015 to replace Founding Father Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill was reversed a year later, due in part to the massive success of Broadway musical 'Hamilton.'"

"Instead, the Treasury Department announced that a vignette of suffrage movement leaders would appear on the back of the currency — a redesign that will not enter circulation until 2026. Another effort under the Obama administration to replace Andrew Jackson, the president responsible for the 1830 Indian Removal Act, with abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill was shelved by the Trump Administration. After taking office last year, President Biden pledged to revive the plan and 'speed up' the process, but Tubman is still not set to appear on the bill by the end of Biden’s first term, or a potential second term, The Washington Post reported. Production for new paper currency faces major holdups, driven by a need for new anti-counterfeiting features and court injunctions calling for bills to include 'meaningful access' for people who are blind or visually impaired. Coins, on the other hand, have seen frequent redesigns...."

The "heads" side of the coin still has George Washington (as is legally required), though they've switched to a version of him facing in the other direction — sculpted by a woman. So these new images of women are on the "tails" side. I hope this doesn't lead to any arguments over coin flips. Call "heads" to be safe.

Did the week-long commemoration of January 6th boost Joe Biden's popularity?


Multiple polls have measured opinion post-Jan. 6, and the ratings continue to decline. 

"Just as an MSNBC anchor is saying, 'We're also watching the Supreme Court. It could be a big day'"/"And just like with the Texas abortion cases, SCOTUS has faked us all out. No more opinions today"/"SCOTUS is definitely trolling us..."

 Commentary at SCOTUSblog just now.

"And I should have told him, 'No, you're not old.'/And I should have let him go on, smiling, babywide."


"Lather" came up in the "Rock Mix" that Spotify made especially for me today, as I was smiling — babywide? — on my morning run today, the day after my birthday, my 71st birthday, or as I like to put it, the first day of my 72nd year.

Lather's friends in the song — who've "stopped being boys" — are 33 and 27. I mean one (the banker) is 33 and the other (the commander of his "very own tank") is 27. They're not each 33 + 27. But I can see that those numbers add up to 60, and I am 11 years old than that. "Lather" is a song facing the confusion of becoming 30ish. Lather himself has just turned 30, and he seems to be clinging to outright babyhood, as the band suggests maybe that's just fine... or good enough for Lather anyway.

It's a whole other matter breaking into the decade that begins with a 7, which I like to come out and say is the 8th decade of life. Speak plainly! And look for what is good. Some people — the glass-half-empty folks — say that as you get older, with more of your days behind you, each day is a smaller percentage of the total time you have lived, and thus, the days seem insubstantial and short. But the other way to see it is that is that each day now is a bigger percentage of the time you have left. Today might be 1% of the rest of your life. It might be 100%! Are you giving today what it deserves? It is so much.

As I listened to the old rock songs that Spotify had strung together for me, I visualized myself — I was running through the woods — looking over at the me who existed at the time I first heard a particular song — it was "Too Many People" — and I waved at myself in the 70s and sent the message that everything will be fine when you are in your 70s. You'll be able to run — in the woods! — and you'll have this music in your ears because a computer — an "electronic brain," as you call it — will know you like it and will pump it directly into your head. 

And you won't care so much about your birthday, because 2 days after your birthday will be something called your "bloggiversary." There will be something you do for the first time on January 14, 2004, and you will proceed to do it every single day for 18 years and counting....

Althouse is productive, you know....

"[Stacy] Abrams hasn’t specified what led her to bypass Biden’s event... Her decision triggered speculation... that she was avoiding the president’s souring approval ratings."

"But that narrative hasn’t reflected her strategy. She has closely aligned herself with Biden, campaigned to be his running-mate and launched her bid [for governor] with a promise to back the president’s agenda.... While Georgia Democrats typically celebrate a Democratic president’s visit to the state, Biden’s trip was met with complaints from activists and party officials. Some grumbled about the lack of coordination with local Democratic leaders and the timing of an event scheduled a day after Georgia played in the college football championship game in Indianapolis. Others questioned why Biden didn’t hold a fundraiser for Georgia candidates during his trip and lamented that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris made the trip at all given that the Democratic U.S. senators who needed to be convinced to relax filibuster rules were in Washington."

Here's the transcript of the event, with the text of the speeches given by Biden and Harris. Did anyone even mention the glorious victory of Georgia's football team the day before? A tremendously uplifting event had occurred. It wasn't political. It was special to Georgia. 

But the Washingtonians descended upon the state with dramatic, racialized negativity. They insisted on setting the tone, their tone, and it wasn't jubilation. And not one speaker mentioned football. How could they? It would spoil their message of joylessness. It would offer discordant evidence that Americans can come together, and life isn't all about politics.

"You could not invent a better advertisement for the legislative filibuster than what we’re just seeing, a president abandoning rational persuasion for pure, pure demagoguery."

"A president shouting that 52 senators and millions of Americans are racist unless he gets whatever he wants is proving exactly why the framers built the Senate to check his power." 

I didn't watch Biden's speech — I can read the transcript — but I did overhear it, and I said out loud, What is he yelling about? Why is he scolding us? He's using a ridiculous "tough guy" voice. 

You can criticize me for not attending to the substance, but he wasn't trying to use substance. He was using emotive sound effects. It was like a Trump rally — but no. A Trump rally would have humor and fun. 

And I don't think Trump ever relied on the argument that you're a racist if you don't agree with him. The anti-Trump rejoinder: Trump never called his opponents racists, because his between-the-lines message was always come all you racists and follow me. 

January 12, 2022

Goodbye to Ronnie Spector.

Icy Lake Mendota in the morning and afternoon.

It finally warmed up enough to do the sunrise run...


... about 30° at 7:27 when I took that photograph. 

Later, we drove out to a place in Madison that I'd never even noticed before, Governor's Island:


This is land that had belonged to a governor in the 19th century, that became the Wisconsin Hospital for the Insane, later called Mendota Mental Health Institute. It's where Ed Gein lived out his last years. 

We enjoyed our sojourn around the beautifully scenic location. It was about 40° at 3:20, and we walked out onto the Lake Mendota ice... just a little way...

"British users of a viral internet word puzzle were up in arms this morning after the American spelling of [I'M NOT TELLING] was revealed as an answer...."

"There was yet more discord when Americans started referring to English as 'British English.' The anger was perhaps all the more intense because the designer of the game is British... Americans omit the u in words such as colour, honour, humour, labour, neighbour and splendour.... Instead of our –re spellings, Americans go to the theater, eat more fiber and wield a saber.... Double consonants are very confusing between the two conventions. Americans do not double consonants in some past participles (eg we are dishevelled, but they are disheveled). However, they do so in some infinitices (eg to appal is English, but it is to appall in the US).... Noah Webster, the American lexicographer, sometimes dropped the silent e which came from French 'loan words.' This could also involve dropping an extra consonant. For instance, grille became grill, annexe became annex, gramme became gram and tonne became ton... A number of 
'simplifications' in American English have appeared in common usage in the UK. We may still cash cheques rather than checks but we don’t have 'get out of gaol free' cards, while some have been known to plow through the snow and others complain of a chilly draft...."

From "Wordle puzzle provokes war of words with American spelling." That's at a news site that calls itself "The Times" that I'm more aware than usual would probably not appreciate my calling it "The London Times."

"Infinitices" — Is that a word or a typo? It's not in the OED, and they do seem to be trying to say "infinitives."

It took me half a minute to understand what was meant "some have been known to plow through the snow and others complain of a chilly draft." It means that the traditional British spelling would be "plough" and "draught."

"I’m well aware of the stereotypes of white parents choosing the private-school option when the going gets tough at public schools."

"I told myself that prioritizing being a 'good leftist' at the expense of my son’s well-being wasn’t good parenting, but as a red-diaper baby myself, the white guilt dies hard... Sending my kid to private school was accompanied by a lot of angst....  The pandemic, and the school-reopening debate in particular, has thrown me into an ideological mid-life crisis, questioning all my prior political assumptions. I’m still attempting to hold onto the progressive label while calling out the policies I see as antithetical to it, but the longer fellow progressives support new school closures and other policies that restrict kids’ lives in order to allay the anxieties of adults, and have been shown to cause far more harm than benefit, the more alienated I feel."

From "How School Closures Made Me Question My Progressive Politics/I’ve never felt more alienated from the liberal Democratic circles I usually call home" by Rebecca Bodenheimer (Politico).

Trump does a 15-minute interview with NPR.

Full text here. It begins on the subject of covid: 
The vaccines, I recommend taking them, but I think that has to be an individual choice. I mean, it's got to be individual, but I recommend taking them. Many people recommend them. And if some people don't want, they shouldn't have to take them. They can't be mandated, as the expression goes. And I think that's very important. Personally, I feel very comfortable having taken them. I've had absolutely no reverberation....

But then it's all about the 2020 election results, with Trump sticking to his attack on the election and the interviewer, Steve Inskeep, pressuring him until  Trump cuts it off. A few highlights:

Why did Republican officials in Arizona accept the results then?

Because they're RINOs, and frankly, a lot of people are questioning that....

"It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it’s a shot in the dark, but it’s my last choice."

Said the man with the pig's heart, quoted in "In a First, Man Receives a Heart From a Genetically Altered Pig/The breakthrough may lead one day to new supplies of animal organs for transplant into human patients" (NYT).

I wonder why they finally got around to doing this. I've heard about it for decades.

The doctor said: "It creates the pulse, it creates the pressure, it is his heart. It’s working and it looks normal. We are thrilled, but we don’t know what tomorrow will bring us. This has never been done before.... The anatomy was a little squirrelly, and we had a few moments of ‘uh-oh’ and had to do some clever plastic surgery to make everything fit."

The pig anatomy was squirrelly. 

If Trump is coming back, why not Hillary too? Let's relive 2016 in 2024. Wouldn't that be great?

I'm lured into this absurd clickbait at The Wall Street Journal: "Hillary Clinton’s 2024 Election Comeback/Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have become unpopular. It may be time for a change candidate" by Douglas E. Schoen and Andrew Stein.
A perfect storm in the Democratic Party is making a once-unfathomable scenario plausible: a political comeback for Hillary Clinton in 2024.

Several circumstances—President Biden’s low approval rating, doubts over his capacity to run for re-election at 82, Vice President Kamala Harris’s unpopularity, and the absence of another strong Democrat to lead the ticket in 2024—have created a leadership vacuum in the party, which Mrs. Clinton viably could fill....

So the point is, the Democrats somehow have no one. "Viable" means capable of living. The party is so bereft of life that it might dig up Hillary and run her again. That said, I remember "The New Nixon," the 1968 Nixon. She's in the same position: Lost an election, sat out the next election, and then came back and won/could win. And Nixon always seemed unappealing.

The authors of the WSJ piece never mention Nixon. Because he is so unappealing. But he's the accurate comparison if you want to argue it can be done, which they do.

In a recent MSNBC interview, Mrs. Clinton... took a veiled jab at the Biden administration and congressional Democrats in an effort to create distance: “It means nothing if we don’t have a Congress that will get things done, and we don’t have a White House that we can count on to be sane and sober and stable and productive.”

Did she mean to say that Biden is not sane, not sober, no stable, and not productive? 

Hillary Clinton remains ambitious, outspoken and convinced that if not for Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey’s intervention and Russian interference that she would have won the 2016 election—and she may be right.

It's good to be reminded of her similarity to Trump: She never accepted the results of the election. 

If Democrats want a fighting chance at winning the presidency in 2024, Mrs. Clinton is likely their best option.

"Best" = they've got nothing better.

January 11, 2022

At the Black Ice Café... you can talk about whatever you want.

It finally warmed up enough that I could take an afternoon walk. I hadn't seen the lake in 7 days, and those very cold days had transformed the lake:


There's some beautiful glassy-clear ice on the lake. Look out there:


2 ice skaters with 2 dogs:


Higher up, the prairie and the sunset:


"From Cotswolds car parks to the golf clubs of Dorset, smiling young women have been approaching wealthy older men on the pretext of charity fundraising, but ultimately walking off with their Rolexes."

"In many cases they offer a hug or a kiss of gratitude after a petition has been signed, then depart, having removed their victim’s expensive watch from his wrist. The Times can reveal that the women — none of whom has been traced — struck nearly 70 times last year across the home counties and the southwest."

The London Times reports.

Watch out for smiling young women who offer hugs and kisses.

"The Pope has criticised 'cancel culture,' claiming it suffocates freedom of expression, rewrites the past and eliminates 'all sense of identity.'"

"In a strongly worded speech yesterday to diplomats gathered at the Vatican, the Pope said 'a kind of one-track thinking is taking shape, one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it.'... The Pope said the trend was influencing diplomacy, creating 'a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples.' The result, he said, was 'a form of ideological colonisation, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the "cancel culture" invading many circles and public institutions.'... 'Under the guise of defending diversity, it ends up cancelling all sense of identity, with the risk of silencing positions that defend a respectful and balanced understanding of various sensibilities.'"

The Pope's words are translated from the Italian, but he said "cancel culture" in English.

Doesn't the Pope have to oppose cancel culture? Whether he says so outright or not, he must defend the Catholic Church, and the Catholic Church is a very conspicuous target of the culture.

Here's the full text of the speech.

ADDED: I'd trust the Pope when he identifies "ideological colonization." It takes one to know one!

Judged by a wasp — "This tiny individual was judging me."

I'm reading Jordi Casamitjana interview: I’m a vegan thanks to Franco and wasps/An ‘ethical vegan’ fired by a charity has changed the law for his fellow animal lovers. His campaign began with a nest of insects" (London Times):
Something life-changing happened while Jordi Casamitjana was working on his PhD on the social behaviour of wasps. He was observing a nest when one of the insects turned and looked straight at him. “My heart was thumping,” he recalls. “This tiny individual was judging me. And it decided ‘you’re fine’ and didn’t raise the alarm [to the rest of the nest].” He vowed that day to devote his life to helping animals....

[His] devotion to his beliefs led a judge to rule... that ethical veganism is a philosophical belief and therefore a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010...

"Question: When will we put Dr. Seuss on the twenty?"

That's a question I wrote in this page of the sketchbook I drew when I was in Paris. (It was some time in the 1990s. I forget when. I blogged this page in 2004, the first year of this blog, after St. Exupéry's plane was found in the Mediterranean Sea, 60 years after he crashed and died.)


I loved that France had put an artist on its money, and I felt a little sad that we Americans don't put our artists first. So I must feel elated that we've done it at last. We've put an artist on our money:

I got my wish, so I'm just going to be happy about an artist on the money, not argue about the particular artist chosen. 

When I wrote in my sketchbook, I picked the name Dr. Seuss not only because he wrote accessible words and drew charming drawings, which is what St. Exupéry did. I picked it because I thought virtually all Americans could get behind the choice of Dr. Seuss. We all know him and have enjoyed his work. Who can't like him? But 18 years have passed, and... is Dr. Seuss cancelled? He's somewhere on the road to cancellation.

So I couldn't get my precise wish.

When you wish upon a Star-Bellied Sneetch/Makes no difference who you reach/Something like your heart desires/Will come to you....

So I got my wish imprecisely. I got Maya Angelou! 


Like a songbird, her legs are invisible as she flies, arms outstretched/Darting into the slots of vending machines/Across America.

Who wins and who loses if the political divide on Covid breaks down — as it seems to be breaking down because of Omicron?

I'm reading "Why More Americans Are Saying They’re ‘Vaxxed and Done’/COVID has always divided Americans. The Omicron wave is even dividing the vaccinated" (The Atlantic).
Some 2022 Democrats are sounding like 2020 Republicans. In spring 2020, many Republicans, including President Donald Trump, insisted that COVID was hardly worse than the flu; that its fatality risk was comparable to an everyday activity, like driving in a car; and that an obsessive focus on cases wouldn’t give an accurate picture of what was going on in the pandemic.

That's not exactly how I remember it (and I watched Trump's Covid show every day). I accept the use of "comparable" but not "hardly worse." But those who loathed Trump agonized over every comparison to the flu because it seemed he wasn't taking things seriously enough. I think he was trying to steel us for the fight and avert panic, but anti-Trump people were already in a panic over Trump and — in that election year — they wanted Trump to fail. So I see why people split politically over something that wasn't inherently political.

In the current Omicron wave, these Republican talking points seem to have mostly come true—for most vaccinated non-senior adults, who are disproportionately Democrats....

January 10, 2022

Here’s a place for you to talk about whatever you want.

 And again, no photograph. It was another super-cold day here in The North.

"I have a lot more in common with liberals in terms of creativity, music and all that stuff — Republicans are always seen as staid and stodgy."

Said Greg Gutfeld — who likes punk rock and metal — quoted in "Greg Gutfeld has risen to the top at Fox News — and that’s no joke" (WaPo).

Also from the article (and this has nothing to do with Gutfeld's purported commonality with liberals):
The rare panelist inclined to regularly push back against Gutfeld is Tyrus, a 6-foot-8-inch, 365-pound Republican actor and professional wrestler, who towers over the 5-foot-4-inch host. “He’s never asked me to share his vision,” Tyrus says in an interview. Tyrus, who is African American, is a central figure in the show’s relentless lampooning of woke culture. He appears in regular skits as “The Angry Black Male” to mock activists who he and Gutfeld believe overuse and misuse assertions of racial inequities.

"Born into a real estate dynasty that ranked with the Trumps, Zeckendorfs and Helmsleys in New York, Mr. Durst had been a deeply troubled outlier of the family since his youth."

"He fought constantly with his younger brother Douglas, who went on to head the family empire. When Robert Durst tried joining the button-down real estate world, he failed miserably. He was socially awkward, muttered to himself, belched noisily in public and urinated in office wastebaskets. In other settings, he could be smooth, urbane and enormously generous. He gave thousands of dollars to friends, attended the ballet and partied at Studio 54 and other Manhattan hot spots. A master of disguises and aliases, he maintained a stash of wigs and masks and assumed false identities.... In the final episode of the six-part HBO series, he is heard muttering to himself during a bathroom break, apparently unaware that a microphone attached to his clothing is still live: 'What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.'"

From "Robert Durst, heir to New York real estate fortune and convicted murderer, dies at 78" (WaPo).

Are any of you trying to watch "Don't Look Up"?

I'm trying to watch it, but what I've been doing is watching maybe 20 or 30 minutes and stopping, then starting again on another day. I think I've had 4 bites of it on a sequence of days, but I'm still far from the end.

I'm interested, but I get annoyed. I think it's badly written and badly directed. The timing is wrong. I don't know. I'm fascinated by the character who talks like Jordan Peterson — Mark Rylance as Peter Isherwell. I think Jennifer Lawrence is good as the "We're all gonna die!" girl. Leonardo DiCaprio's character is interesting enough, and Meryl Streep is reasonably funny as the ditzy President.

Here's some of what Mark Rylance does:

UPDATE: I finally got to the end. The end was handled well. Spoiler alert: The meaning of life is to sit down to dinner with your family, say grace, and show the love. 

"Omicron Makes Biden’s Vaccine Mandates Obsolete/There is no evidence so far that vaccines are reducing infections from the fast-spreading variant."

Commentary by Luc Montagnier and Jed Rubenfeld (in The Wall Street Journal)("Dr. Montagnier was a winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering the human immunodeficiency virus. Mr. Rubenfeld is a constitutional scholar").
It would be irrational, legally indefensible and contrary to the public interest for government to mandate vaccines absent any evidence that the vaccines are effective in stopping the spread of the pathogen they target. Yet that’s exactly what’s happening here.

The government's mandates came out when the concern was Delta, not Omicron, and therefore its "findings are now obsolete."

"Marilyn Bergman, who with her husband, Alan Bergman, gave the world memorable lyrics about 'misty watercolor memories' and 'the windmills of your mind' and won three Academy Awards..."

"... died on Saturday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 93. A spokesman, Ken Sunshine, said the cause was respiratory failure.... For many years their words were also heard every week over the opening credits to hit television shows like 'Maude,' 'Good Times' and 'Alice.'.... In 1956 she fell down a flight of stairs and broke her shoulder.... Unable to play the piano because of her injury, she recalled many years later, she could not compose and so decided to write lyrics instead."

"The brandy snifter portrait is as American as hip-hop, acid-washed jeans and plastic-covered sofas."

"A photo in that style could conjure the same feelings that oversize shoulder pads or a Jheri curl would: cringe. In 2001, the motif was spoofed by 'Saturday Night Live' in a skit that featured Alec Baldwin and Jimmy Fallon, called 'Put It in a Brandy Snifter.' But in the 1980s and 1990s, the brandy snifter photo was an innovative, attainable luxury, and it became ubiquitous in some communities. Its cultural significance is closely tied to the ambitions of the American working class. Mr. Adams’s tribute to his mother also honored the countless other people who see that image and immediately recognize and identify with it, as I did. I wore my peach Easter dress from earlier that year. My mother tied my hair in a ponytail and curled my bangs to the side. My siblings wore polo shirts. The day before, I had applied a glow-in-the-dark, temporary tattoo I got in a box of Rude Dudes bubble gum to my cheek. My face has never been scrubbed harder than Mom scrubbed it clean that day...."

Writes Sandra E. Garcia in "What New Yorkers See in This Portrait of the Mayor’s Mother/Dorothy Mae Adams-Streeter posed for a portrait at her 75th birthday party. Her image, floating in a brandy snifter, has a powerful resonance" (NYT).

Watch the SNL skit here. It crudely mocks low-class white people who think that superimposing a brandy snifter on a photographed portrait is gorgeous and elegant. But now we're asked to show respect for black people who've been admiring the same photography. Fine.

I am encountering brandy snifter photography for the first time, and I'm completely distracted by the inaptness of the association with drinking alcohol. Why would you want the image of your child or your elderly mother inside a brandy glass?! But I can see that people have been doing this for 40 years, and I'm showing that I don't know any of them well enough to have seen that these are their treasured family portraits. The new mayor of New York City is displaying one of his mother, and I am not going to make fun of that photograph. 

"Is there such a thing as 'Trumpism without Trump'?... I understand those who argue that asking for Trumpism without Trump is a bit like asking for sunshine without the sun...."

"I understand the concern about Trump’s vaunted 'divisiveness.' But... [t]he tsunami of hatred and vitriol that washed over Donald Trump since before he assumed office until the present moment was nothing if not 'divisive.'...  We now know that the whole Russia collusion delusion was invented lock-stock-and-barrel in the fetid skunkworks of the Clinton campaign. We know, too, that it was seized upon and pumped up by an irresponsible media and the rancid outposts of the administrative state and its so-called intelligence agencies. Trump was cooked before he set foot in the Oval Office.... I think it likely that, should Trump be the nominee, and should he be reelected in 2024, the forces arrayed against him will suffer a nervous breakdown that will make the anti-Trump hysteria of 2016-2020 look like an Oxford Union debate.... [J]ust a week or so back, [Liz] Cheney said an important goal of the congressional committee investigating the January 6 Capitol protest was to demonstrate that Donald Trump is 'clearly unfit for future office, clearly can never be anywhere near the Oval Office ever again.'... There might be some positive good achieved if the Left and the NeverTrump neither-Left-nor-Right were to suspect that they might themselves be the object of the sort of hysteria they have visited upon their opponents. There might be something salutary in making that sort of intimidation reciprocal."

Personally, I'd prefer way less craziness — from both sides. But I understand the idea of rejecting unilateral disarmament.

The star of my all-time favorite TV sitcom has died.

I'm sad to hear that Bob Saget has died. He was only 65. But this post is about Dwayne Hickman, who died yesterday at the age of 87.

His show, "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," was on TV from 1959, when I was 8, to 1963, when I was 12.

From the NYT obituary:
For all its well-scrubbed chastity, the series marked a quietly subversive departure from the standard television fare of the day. It was among the first to place the topical subject of teenagerhood front and center by recounting the story from a teenager’s point of view. It broke the fourth wall weekly, opening with a monologue in which Mr. Hickman, seated in front of a replica of Rodin’s “Thinker,” gave viewers a guided tour of his gently angst-ridden soul.

Many well-known actors received early exposure on the series, notably Bob Denver as Dobie’s best friend, Maynard G. Krebs, a scruffy junior beatnik who yelps “Work!” at the merest suggestion that he seek gainful employment.... Tuesday Weld was seen regularly as the beautiful, avaricious Thalia Menninger, the financially unattainable object of Dobie’s affections; Warren Beatty had a recurring role early in the run as a blue-blood classmate. 
Dobie’s cantankerous, tightfisted father and sweet, harebrained mother were played by the characters actors Frank Faylen and Florida Friebus. His deeply intellectual classmate Zelda, aflame with unrequited love for Dobie, was portrayed by Sheila James. (Under her full name, Sheila James Kuehl, she became, in 1994, the first openly gay person to be elected to the California state legislature.)

They forgot to mention Chatsworth Osborne Jr., the ridiculously snobby rich kid. 

And why did they call Zelda "deeply intellectual"?! Seems to me Zelda was sexually harassing Dobie, failing to accept that no means no, insisting that he'd end up with her because their names on the alphabetized class roster were right next to each other — Gillis and Gilroy. Thalia was at least as smart — and much more rational. 

I really don't think anyone on that show was intellectual, and certainly not "deeply intellectual." Deeply! Where does the NYT get that? From the fact that the actress turned out to be gay? Here's the Wikipedia article on Zelda:

Zelda especially irritated Dobie by wrinkling her nose at him. He always wrinkled back; he claimed it was a reflex action (often admonishing her "Now cut that out!"), while she took it as proof that he loved her but didn't realize it yet. Zelda assured Dobie that he would eventually come to realize his love for her through the influence of "propinquity": because he was Gillis and she was Gilroy, they were always going to be seated together through high school and college and would eventually fall in love.
Here's a full episode — complete with opening theme, musing by "The Thinker," and plenty of Thalia:

January 9, 2022

Here's a place where you can talk about whatever you like.

One more day without a sunrise picture. Once again it was bitterly cold and windy.

“President Reagan warned that freedom is fragile, always one generation away from extinction.”

"As I have told crowds since my first Tea Party speeches in 2010: This is a fight for freedom. This is not someone else’s fight, this is our fight, and it’s a fight we absolutely must win. I believe America is in peril. Much as I’d like to ease into a quiet retirement, I don’t feel I should. Countless people have encouraged me to run, saying they rely on me to be their voice, to speak plain and obvious truths other elected leaders shirk from expressing—truths the elite in government, mainstream media and Big Tech don’t want you to hear.... We face powerful forces that desire even more power and control over our lives. Their path, paved with false hope and greater dependency, always leads to tyranny."

"Or take a young couple who are able to have children but who, for whatever reason — lack of affordable housing, usually — have decided to delay doing so and to get a rescue dog instead."

"How is that selfish, rather than prudent and responsible? You can’t go dropping babies everywhere just because you’re fertile, and, besides, women aren’t brood mares. Cat first, baby if and when the time is right is a perfectly reasonable approach."

From "Pets deserve worship, whatever the Pope says/Having dogs or cats instead of children isn’t selfish: it enriches our existence" by India Knight (London Times).

I think Pope Francis meant to reject exactly that "perfectly reasonable approach." That's not the meaning of life, to be prudently responsible and to wait until all your material conditions will make children comfortably manageable.

"Over the past decade a number of studies have found a significant decline in sexual activity around the world..."

"... the latest example of this being a recent US-focused study showing declines from 2009 to 2018 in all forms of partnered sexual activity and a decline in adolescent masturbation. The researchers, by the way, looked at self-reported information from government surveys among people 14-49 years old.... So what’s going on with young and youngish people these days?... There’s increasing social media and video game use, of course. A decrease in alcohol use could be another factor. Perhaps most interesting and worrying, however, is the researchers’ hypothesis that the mainstreaming of extremely rough sex could be putting a generation of young people off sex altogether.... Pornography has played a big role in this, but women’s magazines and popular culture (50 Shades of Grey, for example) have also helped to make rough sex 'trendy.'"

Writes Arwa Mahdawi in The Guardian.

It's like in the old days: People decide sex is bad.

The WaPo Fact Checker gives Sonia Sotomayor 4 Pinocchios!

She said, "Those numbers show that omicron is as deadly and causes as much serious disease in the unvaccinated as delta did. … We have over 100,000 children, which we’ve never had before, in serious condition and many on ventilators.”

She left some major weasel room: What does "serious" mean? She didn't say 100,000 children were on ventilators, just that "many" were. So I'm surprised Glenn Kessler went the whole 4 Pinocchios on her.

Let's read:
That’s wildly incorrect, assuming she is referring to hospitalizations, given the reference to ventilators. According to HHS data, as of Jan. 8 there are about 5,000 children hospitalized in a pediatric bed, either with suspected covid or a confirmed laboratory test. This figure includes patients in observation beds. So Sotomayor’s number is at least 20 times higher than reality, even before you determine how many are in “serious condition.”

Kessler notes the special importance of accuracy for Supreme Court Justices. This isn't a place to show special respect. And her number was "absurdly high." So, "She earns Four Pinocchios."

By the way, Kessler also absolves Justice Gorsuch off the accusation that he got a number absurdly wrong. The official court transcript has him saying: “Flu kills — I believe — hundreds of thousands of people every year.” Kessler listened to the audio verifies that Gorsuch said, “flu kills, I believe, hundreds, thousands of people every year.” Wow. Correct the transcript, people. Or is correcting the transcript a dangerous, endless exercise?

The OED word of the day is "ghostbuster."

And "Who ya gonna call? (Ghostbusters!)" is not the first quote on the OED list, though it is there. It's second. The first quote is from 1930, and it's used in reference to Harry Houdini:

What was "deeply good" about Harry Reid?

"Few people have done more for this state and this country than this driven, brilliant, sometimes irascible, deeply good man from Searchlight, Nevada."

Said Barack Obama, quoted in the Washington Post account of yesterday's memorial service for Reid.

It's the "deeply" that gets you. It draws so much attention to "good." We might have let it go — was Harry Reid good? — if "deeply" hadn't forced us to stop and stare.

I haven't used my "deeply (the word!)" tag since last May.

Here's the original post — in 2014 — where I created the tag.
There are so many trite usages — deeply in love, deeply disappointed, deeply religious, thinking deeply, deeply troubled, deeply concerned, deeply offended, deeply regret — and "deeply" is deeply embedded in constitutional law doctrine with the phrase "deeply rooted in this nation's history and tradition."
I went back into my own archive to see how I had used it over the years and, funnily enough, the first thing on my list was about something Obama famously said about Kamala Harris:
1. "Beauty is a system of power, deeply rooted, preceding all others, richly rewarded," wrote Garace Franke-Ruta, explaining "Why Obama's 'Best-Looking Attorney General' Comment Was a Gaffe."...

Oh, what's not a gaffe these days? 

But back to the memorial service. Biden and Pelosi spoke too, and both of them told a joke premised on the reputation Reid had for being untalkative. 

Here's Biden joke : "Harry and I both liked to talk a lot... I’m just testing whether you’re asleep yet."

Here's Pelosi's: "He was a man of few words — and he wanted everyone else to be a person of few words."

They kept it light. There was an opportunity to go much lighter on the man-of-few-words theme — man of even fewer words now, ha ha — or to go much more deeply....

But I won't end with the end of Hamlet. I will lighten up and give Chuck Schumer the last word, because who doesn't love kissing and because I have a "saliva" tag that I get a kick out of using:
It was election night 2006, when Democrat Claire McCaskill won her race in Missouri, a victory that gave control of the Senate to Democrats, and Reid rushed over and kissed McCaskill through the television screen.

“His lips remained attached to the TV screen for a full 10 seconds,” Schumer said. “I had to get up and wipe the copious spittle off the TV screen.”

"I’d see the entire city of Newark unemployed before I allowed one single teacher’s aide to die needlessly."

Said John Abeigon, the Newark Teachers Union president, quoted in "As More Teachers’ Unions Push for Remote Schooling, Parents Worry. So Do Democrats. Chicago teachers have voted to go remote. Other unions are agitating for change. For Democrats, who promised to keep schools open, the tensions are a distinctly unwelcome development" (NYT).
Labor officials say that many of their critics are acting in bad faith, exploiting parents’ pandemic-related frustrations to advance longstanding political goals, like discrediting unions and expanding private-school vouchers....

If periods of remote learning this winter hurt the Democratic Party, “that’s a question for the consultants and the brain trusts to figure out,” said Mr. Abeigon, the Newark union president. “But that it’s the right thing to do? There’s no question in my mind.”

You can't open the schools without the teachers, and Democrats can't win without teachers.