January 29, 2022

At the Bird Finial Café...

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... you can talk all night.

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I did not put those bird finials there. I just photographed them.

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"So as Spiegelman read the record from the board’s meeting, he focused on their stated issues with stark imagery, as well as strong language."

"Spiegelman’s mother died by suicide when he was 20, and in 'Maus,' he depicts how his father discovered her lifeless body, unclothed in a bathtub. Spiegelman also laughs in reaction to a board member bringing up the author’s past comics contributions to Playboy magazine when assessing the anthropomorphic nudity in 'Maus,' which includes stripped-down concentration camp prisoners. Spiegelman acknowledges that the voices who spoke at the meeting weren’t 'monolithic by any means.' One instructional supervisor spoke of “Maus” as an anchor book to begin teaching the Holocaust to children: 'I am very passionate about history, and I would hate to rob our kids of this opportunity.' The member also noted: 'Mr. Spiegelman did his very best to depict his mother passing away.'"

From "Art Spiegelman sees the new ban of his book ‘Maus’ as a ‘red alert’" (WaPo).

Background: "A school district in Tennessee banned the use of 'Maus,' a Pulitzer-winning graphic novel about the Holocaust, in its middle school classes, citing the work’s profanity and nudity in a 10-to-0 vote. As leaders in conservative areas across the country push for more control over the way history is taught, the McMinn County school board expressed concern that the expletives in 'Maus' were inappropriate for eighth-graders. Members also said Art Spiegelman’s illustrations showing nudity — which depict Holocaust victims forced to strip during their internment in Nazi concentration camps — were improper."

"I’ve decided to remove all my music from Spotify. Irresponsible people are spreading lies that are costing people their lives."

"I stand in solidarity with Neil Young and the global scientific and medical communities on this issue." 

Said a statement at the website of Joni Mitchell, quoted in "Joni Mitchell pulls music from Spotify, saying she stands with Neil Young in covid protest" (WaPo).

Spotify did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Washington Post but in a statement a Spotify spokesperson told The Post earlier this week regarding Young: "We want all the world’s music and audio content to be available to Spotify users. With that comes great responsibility in balancing both safety for listeners and freedom for creators. We have detailed content policies in place and we’ve removed over 20,000 podcast episodes related to covid-19 since the start of the pandemic."

Neil is a big loss, and Joni is an even bigger loss — much bigger — for us Spotify users. To boycott for censorship — to withhold yourself to gain withholding from others — it's a nasty business. Once you get started, where do you end? Freedom of speech is the better choice, perhaps more understandable to Americans than Canadians, but Americans have been losing our grip on the concept in recent years. 

Did Joni make this decision personally? Is she really doing this sort of thing these days? I remember when she was so busy being free.

John McWhorter says "It’s Time to End Race-Based Affirmative Action."

 That seems very important! Let's read:

When affirmative action was put into practice around a half-century ago, with legalized segregation so recent, it was reasonable to think of being Black as a shorthand for being disadvantaged, whatever a Black person’s socioeconomic status was.... I think a mature America is now in a position to extend the moral sophistication of affirmative action to disadvantaged people of all races or ethnicities, especially since, as a whole, Black America would still benefit substantially....

Whether we're mature or not, the legal basis for upholding affirmative action in the higher education admissions process has been "diversity." And McWhorter attacks this concept. For one thing, his own children have led an upper-middle-class, privileged life.

And I will never forget a line from a guidebook that Black students at Harvard wrote two decades ago: “We are not here to provide diversity training for Kate and Timmy.”...

“Diversity” has become one of those terms (and ideas) that makes us feel cozy inside, like freshly baked blueberry muffins and “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” But how would you feel about looking a Black undergraduate in the eye and saying, “A lot of the reason we wanted you here, on our campus, is your differences from most of the other students and the life lessons they can learn from them”?

Someone says, “I want my kids to interact with Black students before they go out into the world.” I ask, “Just what was it about Black people that you were hoping your kids would learn?”

Yes, it's quite clear — if you look straight at it — that the diversity rationale for affirmative action is about the benefit to the whole student body, that is, to the mostly white students who are admitted. The black students are used as a means to an end, and the end is something quite vague and — as McWhorter demonstrates — actually embarrassing to say clearly.

He ends with this question:

How would you feel about your kids being admitted to a university because of their “diverseness” from other kids rather than, well, their selves?

"The traditional understanding of [feminism] as a movement for women’s rights is, alas, tainted by the fact that only very embarrassing and uncool people would..."

"... use the word 'woman' in its ordinary sense these days. (In Penny’s moral universe, one of the worst criticisms you can make of something is that it’s 'embarrassing.') So Sexual Revolution cycles through ungainly formulations such as 'women and femmes,' 'women and queer people,' and 'people who can become pregnant.' Roughly translated, these mean 'women and anyone who wears make-up,' 'women and anyone who claims to be mildly kinky,' and 'the people formerly known as women.' In what sense these groupings make a plausible political class is never explained... When there is an attempt at a concrete description of what a 'woman' is, the result is inadvertently appalling: 'To traditional conservatives, everyone who has a uterus is a woman, and therefore someone whose sexuality is by definition subject to state control.' So that’s what a woman is: someone whose sexuality is by definition subject to state control. Who would want to be one of those? Not Penny, or at least not now there are more exciting labels to opt into. 'I identify as genderqueer myself,' we are informed.... Because whatever you’re doing, it’s important to remember that Penny is doing something much more exciting and avant-garde.... Penny claims not to be a woman, and claims furthermore that women have no shared qualities as a group, so why identify with feminism at all?"

From "Sexual Revolution by Laurie Penny review — feminism with the women cut out/This blogger’s book is a modish muddle, says Sarah Ditum" (London Times).

"[Y]oung girls and old women have exactly the same style aesthetic: they just don’t give a f***."

"Obviously some older women prefer to be 'chic' or 'athletic' or 'sexy.' But for me, the classic older woman – the one I plan to be – is walking around in a purple dress, leggings and thermally insulated boots, topped with a large, ratty leopard-skin hat that looks as if it might have a robin’s nest in it. She may or may not be pushing an elderly dog in a pram. That well-established Grey Gardens/eccentric old lady/Mad Cat Woman vibe is generally regarded to be one of the lowest-status looks a woman can assume.... For me, however, it’s actually the highest status look – it’s someone who is absolutely done with trying to look 'put together,' fashionable or sexy. It’s someone done with caring what anyone else thinks and who has returned, in their old age, to the freedom they had when they were four, five or six. Other people’s voices – fashion editors, other girls, boys – haven’t got in their head yet. Or – 60 years after they made a 7-year-old girl suddenly want to get a crop-top from Brandy Melville 'because that’s what all the other girls are wearing' – they have finally been exorcised."

From "Caitlin Moran: Vogue’s fashion tips are all wrong/My style icons are little girls and old ladies" (London Times).

I had to look up Brandy Melville. It's a clothing store. Here. It doesn't look particularly challenging. Indeed, it would be easy to put together a Grey Gardens/eccentric old lady/Mad Cat Woman look from the things on offer there.

January 28, 2022

At the Friday Night Cafe…

 … you can talk about whatever you want.

"Like Judge [Ketanji Brown] Jackson, Justice [Leondra] Kruger has a dazzling résumé.... The main differences are that she’s younger and..."

"... likely to be more moderate on SCOTUS than Judge Jackson, at least based on her record on the California Supreme Court, where she has sided with Republican appointees more often than her fellow Democratic appointees. Some observers also see Justice Kruger as 'intellectually stronger' or boasting more 'intellectual firepower' than Judge Jackson. [UPDATE (3:06 p.m.): For some important clarification of the preceding sentence, please see my Twitter thread.] The youth and moderation cut both ways. Yes, the Biden Administration favors young nominees. But on the other hand, Justice Kruger is young enough that she’ll be a viable SCOTUS pick for another five to ten years, so she could be 'saved' for a future vacancy (just as Justice Barrett was passed over for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy’s seat so she could be “saved” for Justice Ginsburg’s). The moderation makes Justice Kruger easier to confirm, which is useful in a closely divided Senate. But on the other hand, it has made some on the left somewhat cautious about or even opposed to her."

Writes David Lat at "Handicapping President Biden's Supreme Court Shortlist/Here are my odds on the leading contenders—and some interesting historical analysis" (Original Jurisdiction). Lat gives Jackson a 40% chance of getting the nomination and Kruger a 30% chance.

I prefer moderate Justices, so I hope it's Kruger. And I would add 2 things: 

Michelle Goldberg thinks "mandatory school masking should end when coronavirus rates return to pre-Omicron levels."

I'm reading "Mandatory School Masking Should End After the Omicron Surge" (NYT). 

Otherwise, I fear that, at least in very liberal areas, a combination of extreme risk aversion and inertia means that school masking will persist indefinitely....

This strikes me as a very realistic fear. People in places like where I live (Madison, Wisconsin) will never let go of the safety precautions now that they've taken hold. In fact, it's hard to see why the end of the Omicron surge will give them enough reason to stop being extra-careful.

I suspect that the real reason to justify backing off on the restrictions is that elections are coming up and it seems that the masking of children is going to hurt Democrats, but there isn't a whiff of political analysis in the linked column.

"Soon Mustafa launched into a conversation about self-improvement, mentioning that he regularly listens to talks by Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson, a person he 'looks up to.'"

"'I did not know who that person was,' Hibbah said. She assumed Peterson... preached kindness. When she looked him up after the date, she found Peterson’s views to be 'very political, kind of right-wing.' She told me it’s 'a very particular point of view and line of thought that I do not subscribe to, and I was very surprised.' During their discussion, Mustafa focused on Peterson’s book '12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos' and how he has used it to improve himself. While she valued his sincerity, Hibbah didn’t have much to contribute. 'I’m just more of a private person,' she said. Self-improvement '“is not something I would share with someone on a first date.' Mustafa asked Hibbah whom she most admires. She said she looks up to writer Tara Westover and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor."

This is the latest episode of WaPo's "Date Lab" — where they match 2 people up for a date, then get separate reports and ratings from the participants — "Date Lab: He made it clear that his end goal was marriage." 

He gave the date a 4 (on a 5-point scale) and she gave it a 2. I thought it was truly hilarious that he brought up his interest in Jordan Peterson. It's one thing to bring up marriage on a first date, but to bring up Jordan Peterson... that's really sticking your neck out.

"Republicans would be wise to lay low, knowing that whomever Biden puts on the court, the conservative majority remains intact."

"But in today’s scorched-earth political environment, I’m not sure that ambitious GOP senators will be able to restrain themselves, especially if the party’s — scratch that, I mean the cult’s — unhinged leader, Trump, eggs them into fighting a battle they cannot win.That, of course, would only outrage and further motivate the Democratic Party’s base.... Momentum matters in politics, and so does enthusiasm. For no good reason, Democrats have sunk into a sour, defeatist mood. The chance to name Breyer’s successor on the Supreme Court is an opportunity to change the narrative...."

Eugene Robinson — in "Breyer’s retirement is an opportunity for Democrats to rally. They shouldn’t squander it" (WaPo) — offers Republicans advice. He doesn't want to help them though, obviously, so is it presumptively bad advice. 

So what's the good advice?

"According to a study published in October in the Journal of Travel Medicine, 379 people died while taking selfies from January 2008 to July 2021."

"Deaths have occurred after people tried to snap photos near dangerous animals, in front of waterfalls and while wielding dangerous weapons.... The average age of the people who died was 24, with the largest group under the age of 19. The most deaths, 100, occurred in India, while 39 people died in the United States and 33 died in Russia. Falls from high places were the primary cause of death, claiming 216 people. Another 123 deaths were transportation-related, the study found. Others died by drowning or injury from weapons, electricity or animals." 

 From "A 21-year-old hiker fell hundreds of feet to his death while taking a selfie: 'A very tragic accident'" (WaPo). Distance fallen: 700 feet.

The article quotes someone who did a study of selfies: "What worries me the most is that it is a preventable cause of death, If you’re just standing, simply taking it with a celebrity or something, that’s not harmful."

Oh, it depends on the celebrity. 

By the way, if you do stand on the edge of a cliff and slip and die, you'll at least give your loved ones sound footing to utter the cliché — as was done in the case reported at the link — you died doing what you loved. 

You will have died looking at your own face in your camera-phone — presumably, what you loved. Do you see the expression on your own face as you realize what has happened and where you are going? Do you hold onto the camera? Do you try to take another picture? It takes 6 seconds to fall 700 feet.

Cat brain.

Speaking of cats, I see Biden got a cat... brought a cat into the mix of mammals prowling about the White House.... maybe not getting quite so bored as a cat in your apartment....
“Willow made quite an impression on Dr. Biden in 2020 when she jumped up on the stage and interrupted her remarks during a campaign stop,” wrote [Jill Biden's Michael] spokesman LaRosa in a news release. “Seeing their immediate bond, the owner of the farm knew that Willow belonged with Dr. Biden.”

How small does your brain need to be to buy that tale of cat love?

"everyone: you can’t dance to bob dylan... me:"

"' I think it’s just about finished,' he says. 'It looks pretty good, doesn’t it?' He shows me dancers doing ballet poses on green backgrounds...'"

"... a series that follows his recent 'Calvin Klein Girls' and 'Coca-Cola Girls.' The latter is a collection of blonde women in white dresses, dancing freely across cherry-red canvases and currently on view at Timothy Taylor gallery in London. Katz didn’t go to the opening. 'I’d rather stay home and paint,' he says. The thing about Alex Katz is that he never fitted in. His parents immigrated from Russia to a New York neighbourhood with just one other Jewish family; he says he was known as 'that crazy Katz kid.' When he found his style, about a decade after art school, it was also out of joint: 'I didn’t fit in with the old Realists, I didn’t fit in with the Abstract Expressionists, I didn’t fit in with Pop Art,' he says.... And while Andy Warhol and Jasper Johns introduced politics into their art, Katz painted the lake and trees around his summer home in Maine. So now, looking back, is he glad he never fitted in? 'Yeah... I think it worked out great!... I painted nice pictures in the ’50s, and people didn’t like them. So I thought, I’m going to stick a big face of my wife in your living room and it’s going to kill everything, and you’re going to have to throw out some furniture.... When I met Ada, she said something very unforgettable. She said, "You know something? You are very bright." I don’t think anyone got that about me. They knew I was bright, but not very bright.... I said, Oh. This girl’s got my number.'"

I'm reading "Artist Alex Katz: ‘I’m 91, for Chrissakes, and I’m cranking out paintings’/Over Bellinis in New York, the outsider of American art talks about screaming patrons, making masterpieces and not fitting in," a Financial Times article from November 2018 (and I checked, he's still alive). 

The reason I'm reading this is that in a post this morning, I wrote about a man who's suing Madison for allegedly discriminating against him in its effort to hire a "police monitor," and I linked to an article that has a photograph of him that looks, to my eye, like an Alex Katz painting

Blow it up 10 feet high — look! — and attach it to a museum wall. 

But quite aside from that initial reason for my looking for Alex Katz, that 2018 article is just completely wonderful.

"Well, you know, he's a bland, older white guy."

Says Adam Liptak about Justice Stephen Breyer. Liptak was asked, on the NYT "Daily" podcast — at 8:48 — why it is that Breyer is the Supreme Court Justice people have the least opinion about (according to a poll).

Breyer, we're told, took into account — in deciding when to leave the Court — a desire not to have his "legacy" undone by the person who replaces him, and that raised the question what is his legacy? Maybe the podcast listeners don't know. In an effort to enlighten them, Liptak began with the notion that Breyer is "a bland, older white guy."

Now, let's be clear. Liptak didn't say that because a person is male, old, and white he's bland. He piled "bland" onto the list of things that supposedly cause people not to have an idea of what Justice Breyer is about. But the suggestion is there: to be white is to be bland. Of course, Liptak isn't saying that white people are bland, only that people, seeing a white person, may get no further than to perceive him as bland.

I can see the argument that this perception is good. Let's begin, when we see a person, with a presumption of blandness. Nothing special about this person. A blank. We'll see if he does anything to distinguish himself. Until then: bland. And don't let that be white privilege. Give everyone this privilege. Until you know something about this individual, leave an open space. If they never put anything in that space — that space in your head — let them remain an enigma, nothing but potential. You do not know them, and maybe you never will.

That conversation at Meadhouse at 5:22 a.m.

I'm downstairs about to make my second cup of coffee, and this text is the first sign that Meade is awake:

Here's the article he was texting me about: "After failed search for police monitor, Madison oversight board opts for recruiting help" (Wisconsin State Journal). 

The search for someone to fill this newly created position was deemed to have failed "after the person recruited and selected by the board, with help from the city’s Human Resources Department, took himself out of the running amid revelations that he’d discriminated against a woman he’d been having an affair with and violated state licensing requirements at a company he ran more than 15 years ago." 

We're told the position will pay $125,000. I can't picture it ever being properly filled, yet apparently now we're going to pay people to try to fill it, because God knows, they can't back down.

ADDED: More about Eric A. Hill's lawsuit here

"Joseph Frank Keaton spent his youth in his parents’ knockabout vaudeville act; by the time he was eight, it basically consisted of his father, Joe, picking him up and throwing him..."

"... against the set wall. Joe would announce, 'It just breaks a father’s heart to be rough,' and he’d hurl Buster—already called this because of his stoicism—across the stage. 'Once, during a matinee performance... he innocently slammed the boy into scenery that had a brick wall directly behind it.' That 'innocently' is doing a lot of work, but all this brutality certainly conveyed a basic tenet of comedy: treating raw physical acts, like a kick in the pants, in a cerebral way is funny. 'I wait five seconds—count up to ten slow—grab the seat of my pants, holler bloody murder, and the audience is rolling in the aisles,' Keaton later recalled. 'It was The Slow Thinker. Audiences love The Slow Thinker.' A quick mind impersonating the Slow Thinker: that was key to his comic invention. The slowness was a sign of a cautious, calculating inner life. Detachment in the face of disorder remained his touchstone.... It was only when Joe started drinking too hard and got sloppy onstage that, in 1917, the fastidious Buster left him and went out on his own. It was the abuse of the art form that seemed to offend him."

From "What Made Buster Keaton’s Comedy So Modern?/Whereas Chaplin’s vision was essentially theatrical, Keaton’s was specific to the screen—he moved like the moving pictures" by Adam Gopnik (The New Yorker).

January 27, 2022

At the Healing-in-Progress Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want. 

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Yes! I was able to get out and do my sunrise run this morning. Photos taken at 7:23 and 7:25. Unfortunately, there was 100% cloud cover, but the temperature was a nicely warmed up to 20°. The next 2 days are going to be too cold again — 2 below tomorrow at sunrise and 1 below on Saturday — but then it looks like there will be a stretch of sunrise-runnable days — at least until next Thursday or Friday. By then, we'll be launched into February, and February won't be as cold as January... probably. Plus, it's short. I can already feel the spring approaching. Certainly, the darkest 20% of the year is over. We're entering the most balanced days, in terms of light and darkness, and I like that.

I'm old enough to remember....

Descendant.

"If you’re in a wheelchair I get your point — ramps all round! But it is ludicrous for those voluntarily on two wheels rather than..."

"... forced to be on four to act all aggrieved. It’s pedestrians and drivers who need protection from them.... When I was growing up, bikes were for kids to play on and working-class people to get to work on. Their image was so mild that — along with cricket grounds and warm beer — John Major evoked George Orwell’s image of ‘old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist’ in a rather laughable and desperate attempt to persuade us that his Tories were a wholesome bunch, rather than sneaking around having extra-marital dalliances with each other. Or bikes were amusing things ridden by clowns.... [A]ggressive young men on two wheels would have been written off as ton-up boys in the past; but because they know how to pronounce quinoa, this new lot are planet-savers, a shining example to the rest of us gas-guzzlers...."

From "The ceaseless self-pity of cyclists" by Julie Burchill (Spectator).

It was in a 1993 speech to the Conservative Group for Europe that the prime minister, John Major said, "Fifty years on from now, Britain will still be the country of long shadows on county [cricket] grounds, warm beer, invincible green suburbs, dog lovers, and—as George Orwell said—old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist." 

The George Orwell essay is "England, Your England" (1941): 

"Over the past 10 years, hundreds of thousands of men have traveled to Qatar to build these structures. Migrants from all over the world — from Mozambique to Nepal, from Egypt to the Philippines..."

"... worked hard 10-hour days, six days a week, to raise stadia out of the desert, but also to build luxury residential developments, construct museums and cultural spaces, and lay down new geometric islands in Qatar’s glistening bay. Day after hot day, scaffolders hauled tons of scaffolding pipes, planks and clamps up the lattice structures they fixed together. Cladders and rope artists craned huge panes of aluminum and glass into the air and then balanced off the edges of buildings to attach the panels. Welders torched metal to create the curved joints of buildings, wrapping their workspaces in fire retardant tarps against the desert wind and enclosing themselves in an excruciating whirlwind of fire and sparks. Workers tore up the ground to excavate deep foundations for towering high-rises or to bore tunnels for Doha’s new metro network, which aims to be the fastest driverless system in the world.... I know because I spent a year on construction projects in Qatar interviewing them and shadowing them on-site. They described the fear that stalked them as they scaled the skeletons of buildings. They spoke about the way the extreme heat — averaging highs of more than 105 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer months — seemed to melt the air and made them feel as if they were drowning. They recounted the rage they swallowed at being asked, under threat of deportation, to do things that violated their company’s safety regulations and that they knew would put them at risk of injury...."

From "Opinion: In Qatar’s glittery World Cup, the poor toil for the thrill of the rich" by Natasha Iskander (WaPo).

That tab was open in my browser, and it was open, unread, when, earlier today, writing a post about the new Supreme Court nomination, I needed to see the percentage of women in the American population — it's 50.5 — and I ended up on this World Bank site that shows the percentage of women in all the countries of the world. I clicked to sort the countries from the smallest to the largest percentage. How low do you imagine that percentage goes and what country do you think is at the top of this column? The country is Qatar and the percentage is 24.8.

24.8?! What could possibly be happening? Are they killing their women? Is there an insane rate of death in childbirth? The abortion of females? No, I thought, it is most likely the importation of extra men, used for work, and, seeing this article now, I think that was the right guess.

Qatar has, by far, the lowest percentage of women, and it's the only country with a number in the 20s. There are a few countries in the 30s: United Arab Emirates (30.9%), Oman (34.0%), Bahrain (35.3%), Maldives (36.6%), and Kuwait (38.8%).

An "elite destination"?

I'm trying to read Axios: "MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios." 

Did Brian Williams ever even achieve the comeback he needed? I didn't watch closely, but I don't even understand the claim that he created an "elite destination" out of the MSNBC 11 pm time slot. 

It could mean that very few people watched. Is Axios snarky like that?

But "elite" doesn't mean just small — unless you're talking about type size. It means "exclusive, select" (OED):

1962 G. Murchie Music of Spheres ii. 24 The most elite of the elite new breeds grew powerful antigravity muscles and air gills called lungs.

1985 P. W. On & C. H. Persell in P. W. Cookson & C. H. Persell Preparing for Power i. 28 Janitors pick up the litter of the elite students and the dogs.

2014 G. Tholen Changing Nature of Graduate Labour Market ii. 45 Recruitment practices for elite graduate positions may not deliberately be unmeritocratic.

White people and men have always been represented on the Supreme Court out of proportion to their portion of the American population.

If Biden keeps his pledge and nominates a black woman, and if she is confirmed, then, for the first time, the percentage of black people on the Court (22.2%) will exceed the percentage in the population (12.1%).

Women will still be underrepresented in proportion to the population — 44.4%, instead of 50.5%.

Does 22.2% seem like too much representation for black people on the Court? Consider that there has never been even one Asian American or a Native American nominated to the Supreme Court. But also consider that many people believe that Clarence Thomas, because he is conservative, doesn't represent black people at all. 

Look how clearly Thurgood Marshall stated that position as he vacated the seat Thomas took (scroll to 2:30):

See the top right corner of every page of this blog? It says "Create blog."

If there's something I'm not accepting that you want to say, you can hit that button and immediately acquire a place for yourself to say what you want.

What I'm not accepting in the comments: Things that don't fall within the scope of my post, things that I believe were written in bad faith (that is, with the purpose of harming or degrading this blog), low-effort peevish junk.... I can't complete this subjective list, but to quote the Supreme Court Justice who was my favorite back when I was in law school — I graduated in 1981 — I know it when I see it.

A blog is a triumph of subjectivity and exquisitely limited personal power, and I intend to keep it that way.

January 26, 2022

At the Gold Bird Café...

... you can talk all night.

That's titled "Bird Finial," and it's in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum. It's from the Zenú culture of the "5th-10th century." I ran across it today because I was searching for finials, after the icy, snowy weather formed what looked like finials on the railing posts of the deck. Something about the birds on the deck had me looking for bird finials, and I was delighted to find this gold ornament.

"Spotify sides with Joe Rogan after Neil Young ultimatum."

The Hill reports. 

Spotify is removing Neil Young’s music after the musician gave the streaming service an ultimatum, saying it could not provide a platform to both him and Joe Rogan due to the podcast host’s “fake information” on COVID-19 vaccines. “I want you to let Spotify know immediately TODAY that I want all my music off their platform. They can have [Joe] Rogan or Young. Not both,” Young wrote in a letter earlier this week to his record label and management team....

Well, of course, Spotify should side with Joe Rogan. The person who makes an ultimatum like that should lose. It's ridiculous. If that worked, there'd be an obnoxious celebrity throwing his weight around every day. 

So much for "rocking in the free world," Neil, you big jerk.

"Oh? I'd forgotten that he'd pledged to choose a black woman. Isn't that inconsistent with his 3 reasons for not giving us a list?"

"There can't be that many potential choices if he's got the type of person narrowed down like that. Who are the under-60 black female federal judges appointed by Democratic Presidents? Won't they all be influenced in their decisions — reason #1, [below] — even though their names are not on a list? Aren't they all just as vulnerable to 'unrelenting political attacks' as the individuals on Trump's list (reason #2)? And are you not violating reason #3 by making this pledge? You are trying to gain favor in a partisan election campaign, and when it's over, you'll be locked into that limitation and not able to make the sober, nonpolitical analysis you want us to think you will make. And isn't your pledge to appoint a black woman — just a black woman, not the person with the greatest skill and integrity — more political than Trump's list of real people, whose skill and integrity we can investigate?"

I blogged on September 20, 2020, after Biden gave 3 reasons why he would not, like Trump, give voters a list from which he'd choose his Supreme Court nominees.

The 3 reasons were:

Breyer will retire!

Big news! 

I'm reading the report in the NYT:

Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the senior member of the Supreme Court’s three-member liberal wing, will retire, two people familiar with the decision said, providing President Biden a chance to make good on his pledge to name a Black woman to the court.

Oh, so there's a "pledge" and he'll need to "make good" on it. 

ADDED: We've already got affirmative action on the Supreme Court's agenda this year as we move toward the elections, and if Biden fulfills this pledge, it will intensify the political theater. He already fulfilled a black-woman pledge in selecting his Vice President, and there's a fair amount of disappointment in her. (She's got worse poll numbers than he does.) But that doesn't mean he should violate his pledge. (I'm assuming it is, indeed, a pledge.) He should elevate an extraordinarily impressive black female judge, so that the political theater is highly supportive of this kind of selection process, and the resonance with the pending cases helps the pro-affirmative-action side win favor with the people. 

ALSO: At WaPo, Neal Katyal, the former Solicitor General and a former law clerk to Breyer, has an op-ed that was all ready to go: "Breyer’s act of listening will pave the way to a healthier democracy." I thought the "act of listening" was going to be the act of listening to people who were telling him he needed to retire to give Biden a chance to nominate somebody before Republicans took back the Senate, but no, it's about judging cases:

A deep part of his listening practice was to pay attention to experts in the field. He often said federal judges are not experts on national security, or the environment, or the economy, and that a deep part of wisdom was deference to expertise. Breyer’s path was to triple check his personal impulses, and particularly so if they conflicted with the views of true experts on the question before him.

That's pretty sober and lofty, but here's how Katyal brings it in for a landing:

Consider just how different that is from the political debates today, where extremist ideology has attacked things that should be noncontroversial, from wearing masks to taking vaccines, from addressing global warming to protecting voting rights.

America stands at a crossroads. On one path is more toxic extremism, the culmination of which we witnessed on Jan. 6. Despite that armed insurrection, the path remains just as seductive as ever to many.

Armed insurrection?

The other path is quieter and more difficult to practice. It is a path forged by Breyer: respect for others, reverence for the law, and most of all, a commitment to listening to and learning from one another.

You know, if you want to be quieter and reverent and committed to listening to and learning from one another, you wouldn't have written "armed insurrection." Or "toxic extremism." This gets my "civility bullshit" tag.

And why shouldn't we be able to debate wearing masks and the best way to protect voting rights and whether we're getting accurate reports of the science about vaccines and global warming? We are not deciding cases and dictating what other people must do, the way the Court does. We're exchanging opinion in the public forum, debating and expressing ourselves! 

That's not "toxic extremism." It's toxic extremism to say that it is!

AND: From right before the 1980 election: "Reagan Pledges He Would Name a Woman to the Supreme Court" (WaPo). In June 1981, Potter Stewart announced his retirement, and Reagan got his slot to fill. I had just graduated from law school, and I remember telling my father that I was excited about the first woman on the Supreme Court. My father scoffed and said he didn't expect Reagan to make good on his pledge. He confidently asserted that the nominee would be William French Smith.

"What is it like to be you?"

 

Joe Rogan does a good job with Jordan Peterson — putting on the brakes now and then and questioning assertions and checking them on the spot but mostly letting Peterson expatiate in his inimitable style I'm just putting up the longest clip currently available. The episode is over 4 hours long. I'm well past the midpoint, so I'm proud of my stamina on this one.

"They were very, very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White, but you’re still telling the story of ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' You’re progressive in one way … but you’re still making that … backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave. What … are you doing, man?"

Said Peter Dinklage, on the Marc Maron podcast, quoted in "Peter Dinklage slams Disney’s plans for ‘Snow White’ remake: ‘Backward story about seven dwarfs living in a cave’" (WaPo). 

From the comments over there: "I listened to the podcast before reading this article. The editors that picked the title should ask themselves whether they deliberately feed th[e] media hyperventilation. Dinklage didn’t 'slam' anything. He calmly discussed the issue and critiqued it in a thoughtful way. Stop ginning up controversy where there need be none."

In any event, Disney responded: "To avoid reinforcing stereotypes from the original animated film, we are taking a different approach with these seven characters and have been consulting with members of the dwarfism community. We look forward to sharing more as the film heads into production after a lengthy development period."

It seems to me that the original animated film made a big point of giving each dwarf an individualized characteristic — Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Sneezy, etc. — so isn't that the opposite of stereotyping? Or is it stereotyping to say that in this category people have one and only one outstanding characteristic — these are a one-dimensional — or 2-dimensional, if you count dwarfism — kind of person.

I remember a times when saying "dwarf" and "dwarfism" was considered politically incorrect and one had to use a euphemism, and I'd happily — not grumpily — do that if I were not taking the lead from The Washington Post and Disney. I don't know exactly when that changed.

"Frank Zappa once said 'the world is rudderless.' I like yours SO MUCH better."

Said RideSpaceMountain, about my phrase "there's a choke point somewhere, controlled by idiots," in the comments to this post about the outsider artist Lee Godie. 

I'd wanted to embed a trailer for a documentary about the artist, and the Vimeo page gave me the HTML code, but then, on publication, it wouldn't display, and there was a reference to some privacy policy. I said: "That seems so out of keeping with the spirit of the artist, so there's a choke point somewhere, controlled by idiots." 

I was just putting up this new post — because I want to encourage the world to adopt the line, "there's a choke point somewhere, controlled by idiots" — when RideSpaceMountain re-commented: "Correction: Alan Moore made that quote, no[t] Zappa." 

"Do they really believe that the Black voters who formed the base of the Democratic Party think like Ibram X. Kendi, or the leaders of BLM? Are they crazy?"

"I mean, how can they not understand there’s enormous sort of diversity among the worldviews of people within the Black community? They vary by class, they vary by age, they vary in all kinds of ways. And the idea that they are sort of all on board with this crusade against the superficial aspects of so-called systemic racism, that that’s really what they care about, is fanciful, really." 

Said Ruy Teixeira, quoted in "Confessions of a Liberal Heretic/Ruy Teixeira was co-author of one of the most influential political books of the 21st century. Now, he says, Democrats are getting its lessons all wrong" (NYT). 

Teixeira's influential book was "The Emerging Democratic Majority," predicting, in 2002, that the process of demographic change would pile up votes on the side of the Democratic Party.

Interviewed about that idea now, he says that even back then he (and his co-author) "very specifically said — and this is widely ignored — that for this majority to attain and exercise political power, you have to retain a significant fraction of the white working class." And he admits that they didn't recognize how much the "professional-class hegemony in the Democratic Party... would tilt the Democrats so far to the left on sociocultural issues" and lead to positions on immigration and crime and systemic racism that are alienating to many white working class voters.

"For almost 25 years, Godie lived mostly outdoors and slept on park benches, even during subzero temperatures. She stashed her possessions..."

"... in rented lockers around the city. Her studio was wherever she happened to be — an alley, a bridge, atop a deli counter.... In the 1970s, she took hundreds of self-portraits in photo booths at the Greyhound bus terminal and in the train station. In these black-and-white snapshots — which she often embellished with paint or a ballpoint pen — she portrayed her many sides: a coquette; a Katharine Hepburn look-alike; a rich lady flashing a wad of cash; and above all an uncompromising artist whose work can be found today in American museums.... [A]t 60, [Godie] suddenly appeared on the steps of the majestic Art Institute of Chicago, declaring herself a French Impressionist who was 'much better than Cézanne.'... 'She lived in a fantasy world... In her mind she was a world-famous artist. And everything was about France.'... There were recurrent figures, including a woman in left profile with a topknot and bared teeth, the so-called Gibson Girl...; Prince Charming, or Prince of the City, a patrician figure with a bow tie and parted hair, often portrayed in front of Chicago’s John Hancock Center; and a waiter, a mustachioed man with sideburns, based on a real waiter whom Godie found handsome. Some of her female figures resembled the actress Joan Crawford. Other common motifs were birds, leaves, insects, grape clusters and hands playing piano. Godie sometimes wrote on her canvases too: 'Staying Alive' and 'Chicago — we own it!' appear with the frequency of personal mottos.... She reportedly earned as much as a thousand dollars a day, which she squirreled away in her shoes, underwear and hidden pockets of her coat. On brutally cold nights, she splurged for a $10 room at a flophouse."

From "Overlooked No More: Lee Godie, Eccentric Chicago Street Artist/A self-described Impressionist, she hawked her art on Michigan Avenue in the 1970s and ’80s and lived mostly outdoors. But her work is in museums" (NYT).

The tallest mountain in the world — most of which is underwater — has been ascended — bottom to top — for the first time.

SF Gate reports on the climbing of Maunakea, which is 33,500 feet tall, with 19,698 feet of that underwater.

Mountain climber and underwater explorer Victor Vescovo teamed up with Native Hawaiian scientist Cliff Kapono to scale Maunakea Volcano from its base at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to its peak.... The historic voyage included descending to the bottom of the ocean, kayaking to shore, then biking and hiking to the peak.

Oh, this isn't what it sounded like from the headline. They didn't go up the mountain in some underwater trek. Then went straight down to the starting point but then came straight up and kayaked over to the starting point on land:

Big and small headlines at WaPo on crypto.

1. "Crypto collapse erases more than $1 trillion in wealth, forcing a reckoning for everyday investors." 

2. "Melania Trump auctions off her hat, and has become the latest victim of the cryptocurrency crash." 

I'm glad to see that on the "most read" list in the sidebar, the big story is ranking above the big hat story:

Actually, it's the Melania story I choose to read, because it's hard to understand how accepting cryptocurrency hurts her. It's only a hat she doesn't want that's going out in the world. What difference does it make to her — the "I really don't care, do u?" lady — how the cryptocurrency bids translate into dollar amounts? She restricted the bids to cryptocurrency — for whatever reason — but since there are different cryptocurrencies, aren't all the bids presented at the bidding site in dollar amounts? No, she's only accepting one cryptocurrencies — Solana — so that simplifies things. Its value has fallen 40% in the last week, but wouldn't that cause people with Solana who want the hat to pour a lot more of this declining stuff into the quest for the hat? How is Melania a victim? 

Oh, I'm sure people could put together a list of ways in which Melania is a victim. Make a list and rank it, with the Solana-for-a-hat problem on it. If it ranks high, then good for Melania. But I'm laughing at the Washington Post readers who are drooling over the news that Melania is suffering.

 WaPo snatches the hat and runs with it:

January 25, 2022

Coffee time!

@kjetilkrogstad Coffee time! ☕️ #coffeetime #dancingguy ♬ Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke

"The legendary Jeff Goldblum reviews impressions of Jeff Goldblum."

"Adele described the pool as a 'baggy old pond' and refused, point blank, to stand in the middle of it. The intention was to fill it with water on the set as she was lifted up on a crane-type mechanism, creating the illusion she was floating on water."

From "ROLLING IN THE DEEP END/Adele cancelled her Las Vegas residency after furious rant over swimming pool stunt" (The Sun). 

"What the Trump Documents Might Tell the Jan. 6 Committee/Following last week’s Supreme Court ruling, the House panel has received material that it hopes could flesh out how the attack on the Capitol came about."

This is an article in the NYT, which I'm reading because what I hope is that the material will show that Trump wasn't involved in planning or promoting breaking into the Capitol or committing any illegal acts. And isn't that what everyone should hope? 

So I'm reading this article and setting to the side everything that is about Trump's belief that he really did win the election, his search for a legal path to victory, and his desire for a big, exciting rally showing strong support for this cause. 

So, what does the NYT list? I've copied and pasted the whole text into my compose window, and I will now cut out everything I just said I was setting to the side:

 

 

 

Okay. Now that I've done that... feel free to check my work. Maybe you'll say that the talk of seizing voting machines indicated a willingness to pursue a path that wasn't clearly legal, but it was only considered and then not done. Wasn't it part of brainstorming about what could be done if an election actually were being stolen? 

Let's consider the question hypothetically: What if an American presidential election were stolen? What could be done? What if it looked about like the 2020 election, but it really was a fraud? 

One answer might be: In the event of such a calamity, it would be best to go forward and treat the ostensible winner as the winner in order to maintain confidence in the system and to avoid the trauma of revealing and delving into the chaos beneath the surface. The true winner of the election should see the profound national interest in moving forward with a new President in office and fully in power — free of any cloud of uncertainty. The true winner should do nothing more than to offer strong support to his erstwhile opponent and to celebrate the beauty of democracy.

"My first thought was 'wow.' My second thought was 'what a clever way for someone to acquire things over the objections of their partner -- get it all set up and let the toddler hit 'place order.'"

Writes one commenter, on "A New Jersey toddler spent nearly $1,800 using his mom’s phone. She didn’t know until packages started arriving" (WaPo). 

From the article:

Although she’d loaded the items into her online Walmart shopping cart while browsing for the family’s new home in Monmouth Junction, Kumar knew she hadn’t purchased any of them.... While playing on his mom’s phone, the 22-month-old had gone rogue, buying nearly $1,800 of furniture that was in the cart. When the Kumars realized what had happened, they tried to cancel the remaining orders but were too late....

"When the court considers the Harvard and UNC cases, it would do well to reject the 'diversity' rationale entirely, or at least subject it to much tougher standards of review...."

"As one expert in an amicus brief supporting the plaintiffs pointed out, the 'Hispanic' or 'Latino' category lumps together such varied groups as Argentinians, Cubans, Mexicans and immigrants from Spain. 'Asian Americans'' include racial and ethnic groups that cover more than half the world’s population, such as Chinese people, Indians and Filipinos, among others. Such distinct groups as Arab Americans, native-born white Protestants and recent immigrants from Bulgaria are all classified as 'white.' 'African American' combines native-born Black Americans with immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. Needless to say, these groups have vastly different histories. Lumping them into a few crudely defined categories makes a mockery of the idea that universities are genuinely pursuing diversity as opposed to engaging in gross stereotyping. Perhaps even worse, the diversity rationale could be used to justify all kinds of racial and ethnic preferences.... For many schools, however, the diversity rationale for racial preferences is likely a smokescreen for the real purpose: compensating minority groups that are victims of long-standing discrimination, particularly African Americans. This justification, which has largely been rejected by the Supreme Court, is much more logically compelling than the diversity theory."

Writes Ilya Somin at "Supreme Court affirmative action cases challenging Harvard, UNC policies are overdue/The Harvard suit features extensive evidence that the school’s admissions system discriminates against Asian American applicants" (NBC News). 

Somin says he has has "considerable sympathy" for the alternative rationale, but it's hard to imagine the Supreme Court switching from diversity to compensation for past discrimination, which it rejected as a basis for affirmative action long ago (in the 1970s). 

[T]o my knowledge I was the only Russian Jewish immigrant in my class at Yale Law School. Would 'diversity' justify Yale using ethnic preferences to make sure there was another the following year?

The words "make sure" load that question, but I think — as someone who has served on my law school's admissions committee many times — that it would be perfectly fine to read an applicant's file, find yourself on the line between yes and no, see that this person is a Russian Jewish immigrant, and go with yes. And that yes would be based on what the current doctrine requires — a prediction that this person's contributions will be beneficial to the class as a whole. It would not be based on the idea that Russian Jewish immigrants have been discriminated against in the past. 

How could I possibly assess all the various harms of the past and funnel the urge to compensate into this one applicant? There's no expertise to defer to. With diversity, there is a notion, however hazy, that the school's file-readers have some special intuition about putting together a good student body and making the classroom lively and full of challenging viewpoints. There's a mystique, a magic, a black box that the Court can decide to leave closed. I know many of you are scoffing at that box. But the easiest answer is to leave it closed, not to move to another rationale for affirmative action.

"Do you think inflation is a political liability in the midterms?"/"It’s a great asset. More inflation. What a stupid son of a bitch."

The conversation everyone's talking about. A question from Fox News reporter Peter Doocy, and an answer from President of the United States Joe Biden.

Do you have a problem with any of it? It all makes sense to me. All I can see is that if anybody has a problem with it, but they also called out Donald Trump, in his presidential days, for his lack of "civility" when he made equivalently rough statements, then it's an occasion for my "civility bullshit" tag. Otherwise it's idle chitchat. Don't be distracted.

I need to give a link for the statement. I saw it yesterday multiple places, but I'm reviewing it at 4:45 in the morning at "Caught on a Hot Mic: Biden Uses a Vulgarity to Insult a Fox News ReporterThe president later called Peter Doocy and 'cleared the air,' Mr. Doocy said" (NYT).

Doocy didn't need an answer to that question. He was just publicizing an issue that obviously hurts Biden. Biden was presidential enough not to say "Fuck you," which would have been a completely justified and normal response. And if I am to believe the NYT, both men are engaged in a lengthy political dance:

Mr. Doocy is a reliable needler of Mr. Biden, although the president often appears more amused than angered by their jousts. Their sometimes spiky exchanges have become a regular feature of Mr. Biden’s public appearances.

Here's the video:

ADDED: As tim maguire says in the comments, since Donald Trump was criticized for lacking civility, it becomes necessary to criticize Biden too, in order to avoid using the kind of hypocrisy I call "civility bullshit." I still want the tag "civility bullshit," because it's a discussion of the problem of the double standard, and because I don't think Biden is roundly denounced for lacking civility, for degrading the public discourse. I think his roughness is largely tolerated, and it isn't characterized as a deplorable trend.

January 24, 2022

At the Backyard Fox Café...

IMG_9029 

... you can talk about whatever you want.


IMG_9030D

"The Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear challenges to the admissions process at Harvard and the University of North Carolina..."

"... presenting the most serious threat in decades to the use of affirmative action by the nation's public and private colleges and universities.... In the latest case, groups backed by a longtime opponent of affirmative action, Edward Blum of Maine, sued Harvard and UNC in federal court, claiming that Harvard's undergraduate admissions system discriminated against Asian American students and that UNC's discriminated against both Asian American and white students.... The challengers in both cases, Students for Fair Admissions, urged the justices to overrule the court’s 2003 decision on affirmative action, which upheld the University of Michigan's use of race as a plus factor and served as a model for similar admissions programs nationwide...."

NBC News reports.

"Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work."

Said Gustave Flaubert.

I'm reading that this morning because it popped up in the end of a New Yorker article about — of all things — Led Zeppelin:

If the predetermined task of rock gods and goddesses is to sacrifice themselves on the Dionysian altar of excess so that gentle teen-agers the world over don’t have to do it themselves—which seems to be the basic rock-and-roll contract—then the lives of these deities are never exactly wasted, especially when they are foreshortened. Their atrocious human deeds are, to paraphrase a famous fictional atheist, the manure for our future harmony.... [S]urely all kinds of demonic and powerful art, including many varieties of music, both classical and popular, have been created by people who didn’t live demonically. What about Flaubert’s mantra about living like a bourgeois in order to create wild art? In Led Zeppelin’s case, the great music, the stuff that is still violently radical, was made early in the band’s career, when its members were most sober. The closer the band got to actual violence, the tamer the music became.

Yes but who is the "famous fictional atheist" and how can I reverse the paraphrase "atrocious human deeds are... the manure for our future harmony"? Oh, I managed to do that.

The NYT tries hard to get Temple Grandin to talk about vaccines and the fear of autism, but she won't go there.

They get an interesting interview out of her anyway — "Temple Grandin Wants Us to Think Differently About Kids Who Think Differently" — but it starts off incredibly awkwardly: 

During the pandemic, there has been a lot of discussion about who’s vaccinated and who’s not, and historically, a fear of autism is one of the things that antivaxxers — I will make only one comment: I have two Pfizers and a booster and a flu shot. That’s all I’m going to say.

Well, if it’s OK, I have another couple of questions about vaccines and autism, and you can choose if you’ll answer or not. That’s a subject where that’s pretty much all I’m going to say. I am glad that I have my vaccinations. I don’t have to worry about going to the hospital. I’ll leave it at that.

In the past, you’ve expressed openness about people who felt skeptical about vaccines because of — No comment.

Is it your understanding that the concern that certain parents have with vaccines is — No comment.

OK, I’ll move on for now...

"When the snow melts in the spring, fields can get so muddy in the plains of Eastern Europe that Russians have a word for it: Rasputitsa, or 'the season of bad roads.'..."

"If Russian President Vladimir Putin orders his forces to invade, analysts believe it would come before the spring thaw. 'The best time to do it is winter because it's going to be a mechanized advance and the mechanized divisions need hard frozen ground'... At a news conference Wednesday marking his first year in office, President Joe Biden warned Putin against an invasion, threatening a strong response by the US and NATO, but waffled over what would happen if Russia made a 'minor incursion,' in an awkward statement he sought to clarify afterward. 'The Russian dictator has not been subtle or secretive about what he wants. He might as well make the national anthem the Beatles' "Back in the U.S.S.R.,"' wrote Max Boot, in the Washington Post. 'He definitely wants to resurrect the Soviet empire, thereby undoing what he has called "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe" of the 20th century. And that requires bringing back into the fold the second-largest former Soviet republic (by population) — the independent state of Ukraine.'"

From "Putin confronts the mud of Ukraine" (CNN).

*** 

From a 2011 post of mine, collecting mud quotes: 

"We sit in the mud... and reach for the stars." — Ivan Turgenev 

"I have tried to lift France out of the mud. But she will return to her errors and vomitings. I cannot prevent the French from being French." — Charles de Gaulle 

"Let us settle ourselves, and work and wedge our feet downward through the mud and slush of opinion, and prejudice, and tradition, and delusion, and appearance..." — Thoreau 

"My own brain is to me the most unaccountable of machinery - always buzzing, humming, soaring roaring, diving, and then buried in mud. And why? What's this passion for?" — Virginia Woolf

Russian, French, American, British.

ADDED: Thank God we have a mentally competent President. He understands the seasons — "First comes spring and summer, but then we have fall and winter. And then we get spring and summer again.... Yes, there will be growth in the spring!"

January 23, 2022

At the Snowfall Café...

IMG_9015D

... you can write about whatever you want. 

IMG_9016D

"What's Up With The Ignorant Tattoo Style?"

I learned a lot from this fascinating video:

 

I became aware of this phenomenon yesterday, when I saw this and this at the subreddit r/shittytattoos.

Here's video of the "[c]reator of the famed Ignorant Style tattoo style, Fuzi... a street art legend."

And here's an Instagram collection of Ignorant Style tattoos.

I'm pretty amused by the concept and, especially, the name — though I think most examples of this sort of thing are a mistake. Many years ago, probably in the 1990s, I saw a young woman on campus that had a tattoo of a bathtub on her neck. Just a dark line drawing of an old-time claw-footed bathtub with the pipe extending upward for the shower head. I felt so bad about it. And I love bathtubs. But now I can see that it was an early example of the Ignorant Style!

ADDED: Back in 2009, I blogged about a tattoo artist that did things that he might characterize as Ignorant Style. It's at least adjacent to Ignorant Style. I said "I love these scribbly tattoos!" You can see a lot of his things at Instagram, here.

"Could we have had a more unsuitable man in charge? Sloppy, lusty, blind to details..."

"... just look at the piteous footage of Boris Johnson as he apologised to the Queen last week, nearly weeping, entirely out of self-pity. Nobody, he moaned, told him the massive party he had personally attended was 'against the rules.' If it wasn’t a 'work event,' he said, he couldn’t 'imagine why on earth it would have gone ahead.' I can tell him why: it went ahead because no one at Downing Street ever gave a toss about the rules. Not a single one of the scores of entitled, cashmere-hoodie-toting Tinder-swiping gin-in-a-tin-chugging junior staffers who flocked to the basement disco gimpfest the night before Prince Philip’s funeral gave a second thought about what was happening in the rest of the country. It says everything that even when Johnson came out of hospital, one of the earliest things he did wasn’t to tell Carrie to tone down the fire-pit heart-to-hearts; he went to what one MP described as a 'welcome back' party in his garden. He ignored Covid and nearly died from it but came back and still ignored it and licked everything. Who does that?"

From "Keeping up with the Johnsons is exhausting — life is lived at 10,000 miles a minute" by Camilla Long (London Times).

I do enjoy reading The London Times. The writing is different from what we get here in America. Apparently, in the U.K., a classy paper will print the word "gimpfest." And every other sentence makes me want to diagram.

"To celebrate his birthday, he had also brought along his mandolin, foie gras and champagne...."

From "French adventurer, 75, dies in attempt to row across the Atlantic/Jean-Jacques Savin, a former paratrooper, wanted ‘to laugh at old age’ but got into difficulties off the Azores" (The Guardian).

I don't much celebrate birthdays — do you? — but I don't think I'd even consider celebrating my birthday while alone, and if I did, I might come up with the idea of champagne and some special food, but not of picking up a musical instrument and serenading myself. 

It's so charming — don't you think? — that mandolin, foie gras, and champagne. I look to see — when was his birthday? Did he get to that birthday before the deathday popped up in the timeline of fate? Yes, he did. His birthday was January 14th. He died on the 21st.

"Some senators get so whacky in the national spotlight that they can’t function without it."

"Trump had that effect on Republicans. Before Trump, Lindsey Graham was almost a normal human being. Then Trump directed a huge amp of national attention Graham’s way, transmogrifying the senator into a bizarro creature who’d say anything Trump wanted to keep the attention coming. Not all senators are egomaniacs, of course. Most lie on an ego spectrum ranging from mildly inflated to pathological. Manchin and Sinema are near the extreme. Once they got a taste of the national spotlight, they couldn’t let go. They must have figured that the only way they could keep the spotlight focused on themselves was by threatening to do what they finally did last week: shafting American democracy."

Writes Robert Reich in "Where egos dare: Manchin and Sinema show how Senate spotlight corrupts" (The Guardian). 

Is it "whacky" or "wacky"? The author of "Common Errors in English Usage" says:

"Curriculum transparency bills are just thinly veiled attempts at chilling teachers and students from learning and talking about race and gender in schools."

The ACLU tweets, quoted in "The ACLU Suddenly Reverses Its Support For Transparency/The long-time civil liberties organization continues its partisan transformation" (Inquire).

The ACLU tweet links to this NBC News article, "They fought critical race theory. Now they’re focusing on ‘curriculum transparency.' Conservative activists want schools to post lesson plans online, but free speech advocates warn such policies could lead to more censorship in K-12 schools." From that article: 

"But his themes are part of the inheritance of modernity, ones that he merely adapted with a peculiar, self-pitying edge and then took to their nightmarish conclusion..."

"... the glory of war over peace; disgust with the messy bargaining and limited successes of reformist, parliamentary democracy and, with that disgust, contempt for the political class as permanently compromised; the certainty that all military setbacks are the results of civilian sabotage and a lack of will; the faith in a strong man; the love of the exceptional character of one nation above all others; the selection of a helpless group to be hated, who can be blamed for feelings of national humiliation. He didn’t invent these arguments. He adapted them, and then later showed where in the real world they led, if taken to their logical outcome by someone possessed, for a time, of absolute power. Resisting those arguments is still our struggle, and so they are, however unsettling, still worth reading, even in their creepiest form."

From "Does 'Mein Kampf' Remain a Dangerous Book?" by Adam Gopnik (The New Yorker).

In this short article, Gopnik uses variations on the word "creepy" 5 times: "not so much diabolical or sinister as creepy.... The creepiness extends toward his fanatical fear of impurity.... Creepy and miserable and uninspiring as the book seems to readers now.... Putting aside the book’s singularly creepy tone.... it contains little argumentation that wasn’t already commonplace still worth reading, even in their creepiest form."

That suggests that, if we readi the book, we will feel an instinctive revulsion against the writer, even as the writer was endeavoring to inspire revulsion against designated others. Is it good to rely on this instinct to deliver us from evil?

"The indictment [for seditious conspiracy] describes some Oath Keepers’ belief that 'the federal government has been coopted by a cabal of elites actively trying to strip American citizens of their rights.'"

"That [Stewart Rhodes, the leader and founder of the Oath Keepers], the leading defendant, graduated from one of the country’s most élite law schools, Yale, is more than just a fun fact. He developed his views on the Constitution as a law student eighteen years ago, and won a school prize for the best paper on the Bill of Rights. His paper argued that the Bush Administration’s treatment of 'enemy-combatants' in the war on terror was unconstitutional. Rhodes wrote that 'terrorism is a vague concept,' and that 'we need to follow our Constitution’s narrow definition of war and the enemy.' The argument would have found much support in liberal legal-élite and civil-liberties circles.... [I]n order to convict the defendants of seditious conspiracy, the government will have to prove that they planned their storming of the Capitol with the purpose of opposing the lawful transfer of Presidential power.... Rhodes’s seeming belief that his plan for January 6th was resistance to an unconstitutional process may seem wholly unreasonable.... But, if the case goes to trial... [s]ome jurors may find it difficult to convict Rhodes and others of seditious conspiracy if they find that sincere views about reality informed the defendants’ purpose.... Such an outcome might have the effect of adding legal legitimacy to the big lie.... Now that talk of potential 'civil war' occurs not only among extremist groups but in the mainstream press, a public trial of alleged seditionists will showcase the central fissure that could lead us there."

Writes Jeannie Suk Gersen in "The Case Against the Oath Keepers/Members of the group face seditious-conspiracy charges for their roles in the January 6th insurrection. Can a sincere belief that the election was stolen protect them?" (The New Yorker).

Gersen highlights the risk the government is taking, forcing public attention onto the seditious conspiracy charge: Americans will put effort into understanding the defendants' arguments, some unknown segment of us will agree with them, and many more will think the government has overreached because it cannot prove that they were insincere.

Why Ayn Rand is trending on Twitter under the heading "Sports."

I thought this was odd:

 

But I clicked through and saw that it was no mistake:

Yes, I blogged Aaron's bookshelf gesturing — back on January 4th... in happier days....