March 26, 2022

At the Saturday Night Cafe…

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"President Biden delivered a forceful denunciation of Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion of Ukraine on Saturday, declaring 'for God’s sake, this man cannot remain in power'..."

"... and casting the military clash in Europe as the 'test of all time' in a decades-long battle to defend democracy. In a speech from a castle that served for centuries as a home for Polish monarchs, Mr. Biden described the face-off with Mr. Putin as a moment he has long warned about: a clash of competing global ideologies, of liberty versus oppression.... 'Don’t even think about going on one single inch of NATO territory,' Biden says to Russia, raising his voice in his most animated moment of the speech. But he draws a familiar line in the sand, saying that American troops will not go into Ukraine, which is not a NATO member."

The NYT reports.

"[A] toxic obsession with 'normal birth'— fuelled by targets and pressure from the NHS to reduce caesarean rates — became so pervasive that life-or-death decisions..."

"... became dangerously distorted for nearly two decades. Mothers were routinely overmedicated with drugs to bring on contractions to lead to vaginal birth. Many endured traumatic labour, with doctors using forceps and excessive force to deliver infants. Many newborn babies were left with fractured skulls and broken bones. Others were starved of oxygen and left with life-changing disabilities. Hundreds were stillborn, died shortly after birth or left permanently brain-damaged.... In 1985 the World Health Organisation (WHO) stated that countries should aim for a caesarean section rate no higher than 10 to 15 per cent. By the time the WHO had backtracked on its statement, the damage had been done. Professional medical bodies in the UK had started to see it as part of their mission to reduce the rate of caesarean sections.... Not all doctors were comfortable with the new ideology. David Harding, a consultant neonatologist who retired after 25 years in the NHS in 2019, said he felt women were increasingly being 'brainwashed' into believing that they should be having a natural birth at all costs."

From "Three hundred babies lost to a fixation on natural births/An NHS campaign in Shrewsbury to avoid caesareans distorted vital medical decisions, ruined families’ lives and created the worst maternity scandal in its history" (London Times).

I watch TikTok so you don't have to. I've got 5 selections for you today.

1. A man impersonates various celebrities by showing only how they sneeze.

2. A little girl dances with awe-inspiring grace.

3. Comic lip-synching to the sound of Nancy Pelosi praising Joe Biden.

4. Woman who has no idea what's going on keeps referring to everything that's going on right now.

5. A comedienne dedicates a performance "to all the wealthy brooklyn moms i've met before." ("It's like, what's the point of naming him Atticus if he's not gonna be....")

Piers Morgan gently rebuffs Sinead O'Connor (whose 17-year-old son died in January).


"Vladimir Putin has claimed the West is trying to 'cancel' Russia for its traditional views, much as it did to JK Rowling for her views on trans rights."

"'They cancelled Joanne Rowling recently. The children’s author — her books are published all over the world — fell out of favour with fans of so-called gender freedoms, just because she didn’t satisfy the demands of gender rights. Today they are trying to cancel a thousand-year-old country,' Putin said during a televised meeting with Russian winners of cultural prizes. 'I am talking about the progressive discrimination against everything connected with Russia, about this trend that is unfolding in a number of western states, with the full connivance and sometimes with the encouragement of western elites.... We remember the footage when they were burning books.... It is impossible to imagine such a thing in our country and we are insured against this thanks to our culture. And it’s inseparable for us from our motherland, from Russia, where there is no place for ethnic intolerance, where for centuries representatives from dozens of ethnic groups have been living together.'"

The London Times reports.

Putin also got in on our what-is-a-woman debate: "If someone thinks that women and men are the same thing, then be my guest. But there is common sense.... I stick to the traditional approach that a woman is a woman, a man is a man, a mum is a mum, and a dad is a dad.'"

"Psychologists, academics and librarians reached by The Washington Post said they see value in introducing children to books that contain challenging material, including of the sexual kind, provided it is done with appropriate context, care and tact."

I'm reading "Schools nationwide are quietly removing books from their libraries/Meet the librarians fighting bans and scrambling to preserve children’s freedom to read" by Hannah Natanson (WaPo).

Research shows there is an association between children reading certain kinds of explicit texts — those that depict sexual violence, degrade women or do not discuss boundaries or consent — and engaging in risky sexual behaviors, as well as sex at an early age, according to Amy Egbert, a research fellow in Brown University’s Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior.

But, Egbert said, she doesn’t believe that those types of books are available in school libraries. The books being challenged, she said, are often those that deal with difficult topics, featuring a main character struggling to understand their own sexuality or experiencing some kind of racial tensions or racism.

Removing those books is an obstacle to children’s development, she said, pointing to research — including on abstinence-only sex education — that shows that not talking about subjects with children does not change their behavior.

So... Egbert said there are the good and the bad sort of books with sex for children and she doesn't believe that the bad sort are available in school libraries. Wouldn't that be because librarians are vigilant about which sex books they keep in the school library? Now, there may be a dispute about where the line is between what's bad for kids and what's good, but who should decide? I think the article is saying that librarians are being proactive precisely because they don't want to have to get into a big public debate with parents. 

Why the quiet removal of books?

"The less-than-enthused dog sitters, or those who outright refuse to do it, exist, though they can be hard to pin down."

"In the course of reporting this article, I heard from plenty of people who wanted nothing to do with the doggy care business, but the minute they were asked to go on the record, they immediately rescinded. A number of people told me they leaned on their 'allergies' when declining requests. 'You can’t tell people you don’t like dogs,' said Melanie Nyema, 41, a performer who lives in New York City. 'They automatically think it makes you some kind of psychopath. You may as well have said you like to kick babies.'... Jason Duffy, 48, a producer in Los Angeles said dog sitting was akin to 'driving a friend to LAX. I love you, but woof'...."

From "It’s a Dog’s Life, if You Want It/As travel returns, so are requests for dog sitting — after all, those pandemic puppies aren’t taking care of themselves" by Glynnis MacNicol (NYT).

"It’s an insane spot! And a huge piece. A few people have asked me if it was commissioned because they couldn’t believe someone could get away with painting that type of spot."

Said Luna Park, "a photographer and author who documents graffiti culture in New York City," quoted in "Artist Spray-Paints Massive Graffiti on New Museum/It’s unclear how 'Acer,' as the anonymous artist is known, evaded the museum’s security officers and surveillance cameras" (Hyperallergenic).

Yeah, I have the same question. What's the answer?

The black, white, and red graffiti spells the moniker “Acer” in large block letters on the museum’s third level, facing Bowery Street. The graffiti was painted a few feet above artist Glenn Ligon’s installation “A Small Band” (2015), which features the writing “blues blood bruise.”

It's useful publicity, so I'm skeptical.

"Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins has died at age 50, reportedly from an overdose of some kind...."

"Hawkins was in the band from 1997 until his death — 25 years — and he played on their last 8 albums. I'm particularly sad about this news because I was really getting into his new supergroup, NHC. The H stands for Hawkins. The N stands for Dave Navarro, the legendary Jane's Addiction guitarist. NHC has only a few songs on Spotify, but I've been listening to one of them over and over: 'Lazy Eyes.' It's partly hard rock but partly more experimental. Hawkins does some amazing drumming on the song, and he handles the vocals well as the lead singer. I especially like the part that goes: 'Are we in love? What the hell does that mean anyway, if you start to hate me?' See my comment for the music video. Hawkins also played drums on Alanis Morissette's 18-month world tour for her beloved breakthrough album, 'Jagged Little Pill.' This is a terrible day for rock music."

Writes my son John at Facebook. 

"A Maryland judge ruled on Friday that Democrats in the state had drawn an 'extreme gerrymander' and threw out the state’s new congressional map..."

"... the first time this redistricting cycle that a Democratic-controlled legislature’s map has been rejected in court. The ruling by Senior Judge Lynne A. Battaglia of the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County found that the map drawn by Democrats had 'constitutional failings' and ignored requirements of focusing on 'compactness' and keeping similar communities together. 'All of the testimony in this case supports the notions that the voice of Republican voters was diluted and their right to vote and be heard with the efficacy of a Democratic voter was diminished,' Judge Battaglia wrote in her opinion.... The congressional map drawn by Democrats would have most likely guaranteed them at least seven of Maryland’s eight House seats, or 87 percent of the state’s seats. President Biden carried the state with 65 percent of the vote in 2020.... Judge Battaglia... was appointed by former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat.... She also served as chief of staff to former Senator Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat.... Doug Mayer, a spokesman for [Fair Maps Maryland, a Republican-aligned group, said,] 'Judge Battaglia’s ruling confirms what we have all known for years — Maryland is ground zero for gerrymandering, our districts and political reality reek of it....' The decision was also praised by outside groups that have sought to overhaul the country’s redistricting process."

The NYT reports.

Here it is, on camera, Ginni Thomas explicitly and emphatically telling Trump not to concede under any circumstance. "Don't give an inch," she says, invidiously. Be "relentless," she advises, shamelessly.


It had never crossed my mind, in 18 years of blogging, to use the compound word "tittle-tattle." I've occasionally used the word "tattle." For example, in 2007, I wrote "Who decided on this occasion to tattle on a few of the words that were spoken at a closed-door meeting?" (John McCain had yelled "Fuck you!" at another Senator.)

But it was not until just this moment, when I read Chris Cillizza's twitter-tweet, that I ever felt like writing "tittle-tattle." What is achieved through the compounding of a word with another similar sound? I just wrote "twitter-tweet" to get the feel for what's going on with that sort of thing.


See? What's that? "Chit chat"? Why not just say "chat"? It's a little childish. I'm thinking "doggy woggy" and "pussy wussy." But don't say "fuzzy wuzzy" — that's racist. Ah, maybe don't say "doggy woggy" or "pussy wussy" either. Oh, but you only do that when you're talking to the baby? This is how we get racist babies!

Anyway, I'm driven to the OED to find out how deep are the historical roots of "tittle-tattle." Is that some modern chitchattiness? No. It's old:

"There were nonstop parties and subsequent break-ins. People would vandalize the hallway and pull the fire alarm. Sometimes they’d steal; other times..."

"... they’d fight in the lobby and leave pools of blood. Eventually, people came and went so fast, it was hard to tell who actually lived there and who didn’t. 'One time I wanted to cook something and found the kitchen occupied by some Russians drying Ketamine in the oven.... This kind of thing was very common.' And the people who actually did live there — mostly DJs — would loudly play music late into the night. One time, when [one resident] asked a roommate to turn it down, they replied, 'Asking me to turn down my music is like telling a painter to use less red paint.' ... Nearly a decade later, [another former resident] views San Francisco like an ex: a person whom she has a special connection with but won’t ever go back to. 'Like, I love you, but I’m not in love with you.... But we had our time together, and I wouldn't be the person that I am without you, but you changed.'"

From "Sex, drugs and dry wall: Life inside one of the last artist communes on San Francisco’s Market Street" (sfgate).

Remember when you wanted to live in a commune?

"Everything about the act of writing seems to invite [substance] abuse — its solitary nature, its interiority, the misery of sharing yourself with an often indifferent audience."

Writes M.H. Miller, in "Where Have All the Artist-Addicts Gone? For much of the 20th century, before the dawn of our own wellness-focused era, madness and substance abuse were often considered prerequisites for great art" (NYT).

Artist-addicts continue to inspire curiosity and obsession, but as we move farther from the 20th century and toward a reinterpretation of substance abuse that places it in the context of wellness and mental health, this figure seems increasingly a relic of a different era, like beehive hairdos or fallout shelters....

By the ’90s, the question of whether artists abused their bodies more than the general public had gained additional layers: What came first, the art or the abuse? Could the art even exist without the abuse?... 

Our culture now is one in which artists are less troubled geniuses than they are public figures, generally expected to respond uncontroversially on their various platforms to whatever the news cycle might bring. The compulsion for everything to be civil and inoffensive is now reflected in our curious relationship to drugs and alcohol....  [T]he act of becoming intoxicated... has largely become a question of self-optimization....

Everything and everybody — even while using heroin — must be bland and inoffensive... The junkie artist has become, if not entirely passé, then at least less visible.....

Lots of discussion of particular writers at the link. I've excerpted the high-level abstraction. The actual article is long — with many famous names and details about their substance abuse and how the culture used to relate to these tortured souls who were our artists. The thesis is: We don't do that any more. 

We've got something else now, and maybe we miss those messed up artists as we live with writers who don't seem to have interesting, conspicuous problems. Are these people who expect us to read them cowed by the cancel culture? Has social media put them in a worthless dulled state where all they do is "respond uncontroversially"?

Where have all the geniuses gone? We — as a group, a stupid group — decided we preferred bland inoffensiveness.

March 25, 2022

Sunrise — 6:55, 7:09.



Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"Unless Sinema wigs out..."

Bring in the dancing police!

Elon Musk polls Twitter about Twitter.

ADDED: Is this poll defective because it dictates a strong premise — "Free speech is essential to a functioning democracy" — and never asks whether you believe it, only whether "you believe Twitter rigorously adheres to this principle”?

I don't think Musk is trying to do a conventional, professional poll. If he were, he'd deserve to be accused of push polling. He's doing something consistent with tweeting — expressing himself and seeking engagement. 

The loving husband and daughter.

"[M]illennials and Gen Z in particular seem wedded (old monogamy alert!) to the idea that the 'normal' way of doing things is almost always oppressive and must be either reclaimed or disavowed."

"Especially in the sexual realm, anything that could be viewed as traditional or average is passé. As the lecturer and essayist Phil Christman wrote in a Substack post, his students 'have a bias, so strong that I wonder if it’s hard-wired, to believe that complexity itself is new. In the past, people were drones who acted on the tenets of Religion, or Society, or The Way Things Were Then, whereas now people think about what they do.'... So for generations coming of age today... unprotected sex becomes the appropriately mysterious (if vaguely nauseating) 'fluid bonding.' If you need an emotional bond to want sex with someone, it sounds more inscrutable, and thus tolerable, if you call yourself 'demisexual.'... And monogamy, the most old-fashioned arrangement of all, must be smuggled into acceptability via the label 'radical.'"

Writes Christine Emba in "How radical is ‘radical monogamy,’ really?" (WaPo). 

She's bouncing off this Vice article by Nick Levine, "What Is 'Radical Monogamy'?" Levine tells us there's "reflexive monogamy" — "blindly accepting that it is somehow morally superior to have just one sexual partner" — and then there's "the more informed and conscious choice" of monogamy that gets the spicy label "radical monogamy." 

Levine quotes an activist, Jericho Vincent, who declares that the "old monogamy of our parents and grandparents [that] doesn’t really work today.... because it is often predicated on heteronormativity and misogyny and very frequently breeds boredom, disloyalty and stagnation."

“Radical monogamy works for me because I've always wanted a gigantic love. I wanted to be one person’s joy and delight and I wanted them to be mine,” they say. "Then I grew up and I was told that was ridiculous, unrealistic and unhealthy, so I gave up on monogamy and practised polyamory. But now I’ve come around to believing that all those other people’s messages were wrong. If approached with intentionality, effort and a willingness to grow, it is possible to have a love that’s big and magical.”

I spent some time trying to figure out who "they" referred to before realizing that Levine was still quoting Vincent and Vincent must use "they" as their pronoun. That was confusing! Apparently, the notation that an individual goes by "they" is now dispensable. That was boring! Vice has moved on to demanding that the reader step up and figure it out. 

But about the substance of that indented quote. It made me laugh because of the way it ended with the dream of "a love that’s big and magical." In the end, for all that straining to be radical, it comes back around to a puffy romantic vision. 

I don't want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! 

It's okay, you can still have your "intentionality." The intentional pursuit of magical love!

"It's very hard to make art in an occupied city when you don't have canvasses... In city where you can't get canvas, burned tanks best canvas.... "

"All my life before the war was just painting. After the war starts, I keep creating and making some good things [for] the people because people really going crazy in the city because of humanitarian catastrophe." 

Said Max Kilderov, quoted in "Ukrainian artist turns abandoned Russian tank into resistance art" (CBC).

March 24, 2022

The snowflakes today were the biggest I've ever seen — like Queen Anne's Lace flowers.

I took this video a few minutes before the flakes maximized... 


... and I don't think video ever really shows falling snow quite realistically.

So take my word for it! Biggest snowflakes ever!

Write about whatever you want in the comments. Feel free to weigh in on your level of enthusiasm for extra-large snowflakes. Mine is sky high.

"What is ‘Type II fun,’ and why do some people want to have it?"

A WaPo headline asks a question I didn't have but now want to know how to answer.   

According to REI Co-Op, "Type 2 fun is miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect. It usually begins with the best intentions, and then things get carried away. Riding your bicycle across the country. Doing an ultramarathon. Working out till you puke, and, usually, ice and alpine climbing." 

The WaPo article says: 

On this scale, Type I fun is an activity you’re sure you’ll enjoy, and you do. Think: sharing a nice meal with friends, going to the beach....

Type III fun? It’s actually not fun at all. It’s often described as “harrowing,” like getting dangerously lost in the wilderness or trying to swim across the Atlantic....

But Type II fun? That’s the sweet spot. It challenges you without putting you in danger — and it’s often uncomfortable but in ways that also make you feel alive.

I'm reading this just as I'm trying to get my mind around going out for several days in our new camper, which is Type I fun for Meade, but Type II for me:

"I’m at the AMC cinema....The projector is broken.... A woman in the audience has decided to get up, go to the front and try out her stand up comedy on us..."

Just related to some famous people and looking like Ozzy Osbourne.

"But if we can all agree what the GOP agenda has been, I remain utterly mystified by the Democrats. They have the votes to confirm [Ketanji Brown Jackson]..."

"So what are they afraid of? I wrote earlier this week about the utter failure on the part of Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats to connect this hearing to what is going to be a catastrophic series of progressive losses at the Supreme Court this term, and the almost staggering inability to lay out any kind of theory for progressive jurisprudence, or even a coherent theory for the role of an unelected judiciary in a constitutional democracy. My colleague Mark Joseph Stern wrote today about a broadside attack on the whole idea of unenumerated rights, substantive due process, and the entire line of cases that protect Americans from forced sterilization, indoctrination of their children, and penalties for using birth control, and afford them the right to marry whom they want. More mysterious than this coordinated GOP project... was the almost complete silence from Senate Democrats on these issues of substantive due process, privacy, and bodily autonomy. On the simplest level, the hearing might have been an opportunity to explain why Roe v. Wade is in fact the tip of the constitutional iceberg [sic].... I understand that the decision was taken to just get the nominee confirmed. Take the win. But for those of us watching and waiting to see Democrats support and back the nominee, there was an immense sense of underreaction."

Writes Dahlia Lithwick in "Cory Booker Aside, Democrats Stranded Ketanji Brown Jackson" (Slate). 

Here's the Cory Booker performance:


Do I need to explain my "[sic]" on "the hearing might have been an opportunity to explain why Roe v. Wade is in fact the tip of the constitutional iceberg [sic]"? Lithwick cannot have wanted to characterize Roe and related cases as the iceberg. Aren't we rooting for the ship?

ADDED: I think I can solve the mystery of what the Democrats are afraid of. They're afraid of the electorate and that to lay out a "theory for progressive jurisprudence" would only alienate people. It's better to hold back, blandly honor the historic!!! nominee, and wait for the Republicans to create the opportunities to call them meanies. I strongly suspect that Lithwick knows this very well.

"I’m fairly certain womenfolk everywhere saw themselves in that statement and felt something deep inside their souls."

Writes Michele L. Norris, in "The timeless truth Ketanji Brown Jackson said out loud" (WaPo). 

Here's the statement in question (part of Jackson's opening statement): "I know it has not been easy as I have tried to navigate the challenges of juggling my career and motherhood. And I fully admit that I did not always get the balance right. But I hope that you have seen that with hard work, determination, and love, it can be done."

Norris's statement struck me as ludicrously sententious. I've steeled myself for all the usual boosting of a President's nomination, so I would normally slough this off. But something about that "womenfolk" and "soul" combination bothers me. Is there some talking down going on that's related to Jackson's race? (I can see that Michele L. Norris is identified as African American.)

It's quite odd to say "womenfolk" other than jocosely. I searched the WaPo archive for recent uses and came up with:

1. "Why is it that the guys who look as though they’ve never so much as pushed a lawn mower are always the ones who want to saddle up and save the womenfolk?" (from "Opinion: Josh Hawley is unfit to raise the flag on behalf of males" by Kathleen Parker, November 12, 2021).

 2. "Owners and general managers, apparently, don’t want to hire a guy who looks like he’s about to pillage a hamlet and steal the pigs amid the lamentations of the womenfolk" (from "Sports Thursday: Brady better than Manning?" by Joel Achenbach, January 16, 2014).

3. "These will be the womenfolks’s gifts until 2015, and I am TOTALLY the favorite, I’ve gotten all the big ones so far" (from "Carolyn Hax Holiday Hootenanny Guide to: Gift-giving" by Jessica Stahl, December 12, 2013).

"A Manhattan prosecutor who investigated Donald Trump’s financial dealings wrote in a resignation letter that he believed Trump 'is guilty of numerous felony violations'..."

"... and blasted the new district attorney [Alvin Bragg] for not moving ahead with an indictment... Mark Pomerantz... wrote that the team of lawyers investigating Trump had 'no doubt' he had 'committed crimes' and that Bragg’s decision not to move ahead with prosecuting Trump 'will doom any future prospects that Mr Trump will be prosecuted for the criminal conduct we have been investigating.' 'His financial statements were false, and he has a long history of fabricating information relating to his personal finances and lying about his assets to banks, the national media, counterparties, and many others, including the American people,' Pomerantz reportedly wrote."

The Guardian reports.

Here's the letter (acquired by the NYT).

When Ketanji Brown Jackson said "Can I provide a definition? No. I can't... Not in this context I can't."

You can listen to the video here. Take note that the Republican National Committee Research gives us a distorted transcript, omitting key words and not using ellipses to show that there were omissions:

"Can I provide a definition? No. I can't... Not in this context I can't."

I find these omissions quite deceptive, though the video is there, so the deceptions stare you in the face. I suspect that if you're rooting for the GOP here, you think this is a fabulous gotcha and you won't absorb what I'm about to say. If you're rooting for the Democrats, keep reading an you might find a new perspective on this troublesome clip that's delighting your antagonists.

Blackburn asked "Can you provide a definition of the word 'woman'?" And Jackson's response — listen to the video — stressed the word "provide": "Can I provide a definition?" Jackson shows a judicial temperament: Instead of jumping to giving an answer, she inspects the question, its precise wording. What does it mean to provide a definition? 

I know I'm restraining myself from looking up the words "provide" and "definition" and spending the next 10 minutes contemplating whether providing a definition of a word is substantially different from saying what a word means. And then, can you ever really say what a word means?

"It is emphatically the province and duty of the judicial department to say what the law is," wrote Justice John Marshall in Marbury v. Madison. "Those who apply the rule to particular cases, must of necessity expound and interpret that rule."

Judges say what words mean when they have particular cases — concrete disputes to resolve — that require the understanding of words. Their powers of understanding unfold within a real context. They don't — like a dictionary — yield instant definitions of words. They refrain from giving answers in the abstract. 

Thus, it was entirely appropriate for Jackson to expand with "Not in this context I can't." I think that means: As a judge, I wait until I am presented with a real dispute that can only be resolved by determining what the word "woman" means. What would that context be? 

If I'd been in the Jackson's position, I wouldn't have made myself vulnerable by saying "I can't," and I certainly wouldn't have laughed at Blackburn in a manner that can read as contemptuous. I'd have turned the questioning back on Blackburn: When would a real case depend on finding the meaning of that word? As a judge, I need a concrete and particularized dispute to resolve. I have no expertise in defining words outside of that judicial role. 

Jackson gestured at that when she said "I'm not a biologist." Would it have been better to say "I'm not a lexicographer"? Yes, because she was asked to "provide a definition." By saying "I'm not a biologist," she suggested that if she were confronted with a real case that depended on the meaning of "woman," the expert she'd most want to hear from is "a biologist." That might have disappointed some people on the left. Is there a whiff of transphobia?

Is there any Senator who would would want to follow up with a question like "Biologist?! You're saying that biology determines who is a woman and who isn't?" It never rose to that level of sophistication, but it's obvious to me that the right answer is: It would depend on the relevant facts and legal texts in the particular case or controversy before the court, and multiple areas of professional expertise may very well come into play.

"'Someone could have filing cabinets in their office, but why not get the back of a VW bus, cut it off, put it on the wall and use it as a filing cabinet?'"

"To find just the right bus, the elder Van Peebles scoured salvage yards. Then he figured out a way to make real steam blow out of the tailpipe jutting from the wall. (The bird droppings on the skylight coffee table were fake.) 'He had this fanciful, wily sense of humor, and a love of the everyday.'"

From "MELVIN VAN PEEBLES/B. 1932/The artist filled his 'Blue Room' with scenes from everyday life and turned them into sculptures" (NYT)(excellent photograph at the link).

I hadn't known about the sculptures. I was familiar with Van Peebles as a film director. I watched his movie "Watermelon Man" on the Criterion Channel last month, as noted here. His movie "Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song" seems to be much more famous, but I found it unwatchable as we were expected to be highly amused by a woman having sexual intercourse with a boy. 

"The surrealists, that group of Paris-based painters and writers who reached deep into the newly fashionable unconscious for inspiration..."

"... were eager to claim the most famous artist of the day for themselves. The figurative but distorted forms that Picasso was producing resonated powerfully with the dreamscapes that paid-up surrealists such as Salvador Dalí and André Breton were producing. While Picasso was not generally a joiner, he agreed to design the cover for the first issue of Minotaure, the influential magazine of the movement that was launched in 1933. The mythical figure of the minotaur – part-man, part-bull – functioned more personally as an alter ego for Picasso, representing all his lasciviousness, guilt and despair."

From "A Life of Picasso: Volume IV by John Richardson review – stranger things/The final volume of biography by Richardson, who died before finishing it, is a thrilling survey of Picasso’s surrealist era" (The Guardian).

ADDED: The unconscious was once "fashionable," but it's rare these days — isn't it? — to hear anyone talk about the unconscious. And yet, in some ways, we're inclined to give priority to our dreams.

March 23, 2022

At the Wednesday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"'There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other."

A quote I blogged here, in February 2016, which I'm reading now as I review my posts with the Madeleine Albright tag.

Albright died today at the age of 84. Here's the NYT obituary, "Madeleine Albright, First Woman to Serve as Secretary of State, Dies at 84/She rose to power and fame as a brilliant analyst of world affairs before serving as an aggressive advocate of President Bill Clinton’s policies."

The obituary does include the women-in-hell quote:

In 2016, Ms. Albright again supported Mrs. Clinton for the presidency. At a campaign stop for the New Hampshire primary, Ms. Albright told a crowd, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other.” The line went viral. She had used it previously without objections. But some voters now found it offensive, taking it as a rebuke to younger women who supported a Clinton rival, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

An ardent feminist, Ms. Albright apologized in an opinion article in The Times. “I did not mean to argue that women should support a particular candidate based on gender,” she wrote. “But I understand that I came across as condemning those who disagree with my political preferences. If heaven were open only to those who agreed on politics, I imagine it would be largely unoccupied.”

"Several people told me that it is considered bad form to talk about politics in Margaritaville. 'Many people here strive for no politics'..."

"... Murphy had said. 'All you have to do is look at the fucking Villages. Leave it at the front gate, you douchebag.' During the 2020 election, this standard was tested. The residents eventually passed an ordinance against lawn signage. Still, I encountered a range of opinions about the current President and his predecessor. There was at least one golf cart flying the blue-line American flag, in support of the police. Some rolled their eyes when it passed; others waved."

From "Retirement the Margaritaville Way/At the active-living community for Jimmy Buffett enthusiasts, it’s five o’clock everywhere" by Nick Paumgarten (The New Yorker).

“Who knew people wanted to live in Margaritaville?” Buffett told me. “I thought for a while it was a myth.”

ADDED: We were just talking about The Villages 11 days ago, here.

"Thousands of Afghan girls were left distraught at school gates today after the Taliban’s last-minute decision to ban girls aged over 12..."

"... reversing their promises that education would be open to all. Afghanistan’s new rulers have decided against opening schools to girls beyond grade six, a Taliban official said today, the first day of the new school year. Only days ago, a statement by the education ministry had urged 'all students' to come to school. 'We were refused entry,' said Sumaya Mohsini, 15, as she stood outside Zarghona high school in central Kabul with friends. 'I’m devastated. I was so happy as I got ready for school and packed my bag, but to come here and be told we cannot return to our lessons, it’s just the worst feeling. I spent the first five months [following the Taliban takeover] barely leaving my home. Eventually I began attending a private course and then I heard we’d be allowed to go back to school — I was so excited, so was my father. My dream is to become a surgeon but that dream is slowly slipping away.'"

The London Times reports.

"The appointed billboard was above a Sunglass Hut, just a few paces from an Armed Forces recruiting station. Times Square was doing its Times Square thing..."

"... total sensory overload. Capitalism on cocaine. It was 8:15 p.m. I waited. Was this actually going to happen or was it some kind of conceptual art prank? And who even is Yoko Ono?

Writes Sebastian Smee in "No matter what the haters say, Yoko Ono was always about peace. Now her message is on a Times Square billboard" (WaPo). The billboard is pink and just says "Imagine Peace."

Answering his question "who even is Yoko Ono?," Smee continues:

Ono had a gift for “event scores” that were by turns mundane, poetic and (poetically) impossible.... [for example] “Disappearing Piece,” which simply commands: “Boil water” (the piece ends when the water completely evaporates) and “Clock Piece,” which instructs: “Make all the clocks in the world fast by/ two seconds without letting anyone know/ about it.”

You can easily imagine one that says: “Sit next to John Lennon throughout the recording sessions for a Beatles album. Do nothing — except when you scream.” Or one that says, simply: “Imagine Peace.”...

Smee discusses Ono's "Cut Piece," from 1964, which I embedded on this blog 11 days ago, here. Ono sits silently and quietly while members of the audience do what she's instructed: Pick up scissors and cut pieces of her clothing away. My embedding had to do with some current fashion that looked as if someone had taken scissors to a woman's ordinary clothes and left them disturbingly lopped off. Smee connects it to her long history of peace activism:

"Supreme Court nominee Jackson says she would recuse herself from Harvard affirmative action case."

WaPo reports.

This was predictable. She's on Harvard's Board of Overseers, and her vote wasn't going to change the outcome of the case, given the 6 conservatives already on the Court.

"In a per curiam (unsigned) opinion on the shadow docket, over the dissent of Justices Kagan and Sotomayor, the Supreme Court has rejected a redistricting plan that a divided Wisconsin Supreme Court had adopted..."

"... for drawing state assembly and senate districts.... The [Wisconsin] court adopted the [Democratic] Governor’s maps, and those maps added another majority-minority district around Milwaukee. The governor added this district saying it was required by the Voting Rights Act... The Supreme Court’s opinion today says either the Governor or the Supreme Court misapplied the Supreme Court’s VRA and racial gerrymandering precedents... The state supreme court should have considered under strict scrutiny 'whether a race-neutral alternative that did not add a seventh majority-black district would deny black voters equal political opportunity.'... [T]he Court used a case in an emergency procedural posture to reach out and decide an issue.... It decided these issues in ways hostile to minority voting rights without giving a full opportunity for airing out the issues and pointing out how this will further hurt voters of color."

Writes Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog.

Here's the opinion. 

Why do only Sotomayor and Kagan dissent? What about Breyer? From "The Supreme Court’s Astonishing, Inexplicable Blow to the Voting Rights Act in Wisconsin" by Mark Joseph Stern at Slate

Only Sotomayor and Kagan noted their dissents; it’s possible that Justice Stephen Breyer dissented as well, but chose not to note it. (This opacity is a perennial problem with the shadow docket.) He may have simply decided not to publicize his disagreement—choosing, perhaps, not to rock the boat months before his retirement. It is difficult, if not impossible, to believe that Breyer agreed with the majority, since he has publicly opposed its approach to the VRA in innumerable cases.

"I’m not a fucking TERF. No reasonable person could think I’m a TERF. It’s actually quite easy to find out whether or not I’m a TERF."

"All you have to do is ask me, or spend two minutes scrolling my twitter timeline. Sandra Newman isn’t a TERF either, something that can be easily discovered by the same methods. I have to assume the jury for the Lambda Literary Prize did neither. Nobody talked to me and I wasn’t asked. I was informed last week that my nomination was withdrawn. To be clear, Lambda Literary, an organization founded to champion queer writers, to preserve queer culture, to bring attention to queer writers who might otherwise never receive recognition by mainstream literary organizations, withdrew the nomination of my book, because when I saw my friend being piled-on by people making assumptions about a book they hadn’t read, I responded. A literary award was withdrawn because I told people… to read a fucking book. I am a queer woman, and I was silenced most of my life. I found my voice, but if my nomination is being withdrawn for using it, what the fuck is the point of Lambda Literary?"

Writes the author Lauren Hough in "A question for Lambda Literary/Who gets to have a voice anyway?" (Substack). 

I got there through this NYT article: "Lauren Hough Loses Lambda Prize Nomination After a Twitter Feud/Her essay collection was removed from contention in the category of best lesbian memoir after she went on Twitter to defend a forthcoming Sandra Newman novel from charges that it was transphobic." 

Here's Hough's memoir, "Leaving Isn’t The Hardest Thing." It's about being a lesbian serving in the Air Force during the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" period.

The NYT article doesn't contain the acronym "TERF." It does use the phrase for which TERF is an acronym: "trans-exclusionary radical feminist."

Here's Newman's novel, "The Men," which has a cover image of XX and a publisher's description that also refers to chromosomes: "a dazzling, mindbending novel in which all people with a Y chromosome mysteriously disappear from the face of the earth." I think the TERF accusation is all about equating "men" with "Y chromosome."

"The end of the Soviet Union disoriented Russia’s elites, stripping away their special status in a huge Communist empire.... One of the most alluring concepts was Eurasianism."

"Emerging from the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, this idea posited Russia as a Eurasian polity formed by a deep history of cultural exchanges among people of Turkic, Slavic, Mongol and other Asian origins. In 1920, the linguist Nikolai Trubetzkoy — one of several Russian émigré intellectuals who developed the concept — published 'Europe and Humanity,' a trenchant critique of Western colonialism and Eurocentrism. He called on Russian intellectuals to free themselves from their fixation on Europe.... Suppressed for decades in the Soviet Union, Eurasianism survived in the underground and burst into public awareness during the perestroika period of the late 1980s. Lev Gumilyov, an eccentric geographer who had spent 13 years in Soviet prisons and forced-labor camps, emerged as an acclaimed guru of the Eurasian revival in the 1980s. Mr. Gumilyov emphasized ethnic diversity as a driver of global history. According to his concept of 'ethnogenesis,' an ethnic group could, under the influence of a charismatic leader, develop into a 'super-ethnos' — a power spread over a huge geographical area that would clash with other expanding ethnic units.... But Eurasianism was injected directly into the bloodstream of Russian power in a variant developed by the self-styled philosopher Aleksandr Dugin.... Russia had always been an empire, Russian people were 'imperial people,' and after the crippling 1990s sellout to the 'eternal enemy'.... In 2013, [Putin] declared that Eurasia was a major geopolitical zone where Russia’s 'genetic code' and its many peoples would be defended against 'extreme Western-style liberalism.' In July last year he announced that 'Russians and Ukrainians are one people,' and in his furious rant on the eve of invasion, he described Ukraine as a 'colony with a puppet regime,' where the Orthodox Church is under assault and NATO prepares for an attack on Russia."

Writes Jane Burbank, a professor in Russian history, in "The Grand Theory Driving Putin to War" (NYT).

The resistance of the Ukrainians is a profound rebuttal to the theory. But theories can be revised and must be revised to incorporate undeniable events in the real world. Assuming Burbank's analysis is correct, how can Putin adapt his ideology and extract Russia from its predicament? Destroying everything in Ukraine and making Ukrainians hate Russia is completely inconsistent with the theory.

"Masculine Women! Feminine Man!"

I just stumbled into this song from 1926 with lyrics like "Masculine women, feminine men/Which is the rooster, which is the hen?/It's hard to tell 'em apart today" and "Knickers and trousers, baggy and wide/Nobody knows who's walking inside!"

The audio here is the Irving Kaufman version, from 1926, and the visual is a lot of pictures from movies of the 1910s/1920s/1930s (and from "Some Like It Hot," which is set in the 1920s): 


I wasn't looking for transgender-adjacent popular songs. What happened was, I was reading about various 1960s pop stars and saw this about Tiny Tim:

In a 1968 interview on The Tonight Show, he described the discovery of his ability to sing in an upper register: "I was listening to the radio and singing along; as I was singing I said 'Gee, it's strange. I can go up high as well.'" In a 1969 interview he said he was listening to Rudy Vallée sing in a falsetto, and "had something of a revelation – I never knew that I had another top register," describing it as a religious experience.

Through Spotify, I found the key Rudy Vallée recording, "Deep Night." I have listened to that recording a hundred times in the last month. I'm trying to understand all the mysterious elements that make me love that song. It's because of "Deep Night" that I've been delving into 1920s playlists on Spotify. That's what put me in a position to notice "Masculine Women! Feminine Man!" And I thought you'd enjoy the diversion.

Here's an instrumental version with an excellent collection of photographs of less famous people — presumably centering on the 1920s and showing many women dressed as men and men as women (or, perhaps, transgender men and women):

Here are the full lyrics, written by Edgar Leslie/James V. Monaco:

"'Literal grooming.' You can make your points without such anti-gay bigotry."

March 22, 2022

At the Tuesday Night Cafe…

… you can talk about whatever you want. 

Let's watch Ted Cruz question Ketanji Brown Jackson.

I doubt if much of any great interest can happen at the confirmation hearing. The President has made his choice, and the Senate's role is going to be predictable theater (unless it isn't). But the NYT play by play coverage made me think that things got somewhat lively when Ted Cruz got his go at her:


ADDED: It continues — with the discussion of the children's book "Anti-Racist Baby." Cruz was challenging her statement that "Critical Race Theory" is not taught in schools. The book isn't teaching theory. It's a product of theory. I think they all know that's the distinction, but watch if you want to see the exquisite struggle:

ALSO: Even though Biden selected her only because she fell within the pool of possible candidates by being a black woman, I am uncomfortable with subjecting her to special questions premised on her status as a black woman. She is the nominee, and the President's basis for singling her out says nothing about her worthiness of confirmation. Presumably, there are hundreds or thousands of individuals who could have been nominated. It was the President's role to select one. Criticize him if you like. But she deserves exactly the same treatment that would have been given to any of those others, not some special black woman questioning.

"Several large shareholders have urged BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti to shut down the entire news operation...."

"BuzzFeed News... has about 100 employees and loses roughly $10 million a year.... The digital media company went public via a special purpose acquisition vehicle in December. The shares immediately fell nearly 40% in their first week of trading and haven’t recovered.... Rather than shut down BuzzFeed News, Peretti is attempting to make the division profitable. He has a ready-made template: He made the decision to lay off 70 HuffPost staffers last year after acquiring the company from Verizon Media...."

CNBC reports.

BuzzFeed — I haven't blogged about Buzzfeed since Ben Smith ran the place and Jake Tapper criticized him for being "‘Irresponsible’ For Publishing Trump Dossier." That was bloggable because Tapper wrote (in private email) "Collegiality wise it was you stepping on my dick."

"[T]he presumption of the policy... is that there is an existing problem... that requires further state government intervention."

Those are conservative words, spoken by Gov. Eric Holcomb, a Republican, quoted in "Bucking Republican Trend, Indiana Governor Vetoes Transgender Sports Bill/Gov. Eric Holcomb nixed legislation that would have blocked transgender girls from playing school sports. Eleven states have enacted similar bills" (NYT). 

It's a basically conservative approach, and it's also politically wise. To pass this law would shift the attention to the new law — how it works awkwardly or has unintended consequences, the real individuals who feel the effects and deserve empathy, and what's wrong with the meanies who voted for it. 

To decline to legislate is to leave the problem in the hands of the authorities who run the sport, who will have to struggle to find solutions that will never be perfect and never free of criticism.

So, hooray for Holcomb.

"[I]n the last couple of chapters of The End of History and the Last Man... I said that there is this side of the human personality that the Greeks called thymos. It’s the pridefulness..."

"... and the desire for respect that sometimes conflicts with your rational pursuit of self-interest. One of the problems in a liberal society is that it doesn’t give you a source of striving for higher ends if you simply have peace and prosperity. And I think that you can see this both on the left and the right today, where, in the United States we're having a lot of disputes over mask wearing and vaccination mandates. And protesters are wearing stars of David, saying that their requirement to get vaccinated and to wear masks is like Hitler's treatment of the Jews. And I think that's a perfect example of complacency. You're living in a liberal society. The government is not asking very much of you, but even the slightest imposition on your individual freedom, you compare it to the worst tyrannies of previous ages. You can only do that in a society that's really forgotten what real tyranny is like. And I think that one of the things that has happened with Putin's invasion of Ukraine is to remind people what real tyranny looks like...."

From "Francis Fukuyama on Ukraine, liberalism and identity politics/‘Vladimir Putin is going to be remembered as one of the fathers of the Ukrainian nation’" (Spectator). Fukuyama is promoting his new book "Liberalism and Its Discontents."

Fukuyama also says this about Ukraine, declaring that "Vladimir Putin is going to be remembered as one of the fathers of the Ukrainian nation when this is all over with":

Here's a well-drawn cartoon. My question: Who's the most gullible?

The funniest answer to my question is: the woman. She thinks the Russians are gullible (though they’re just stuck with the media they can get) and she’s (apparently) married to that guy. She's gulled into joyless endurance while her partner is getting it on with Tucker. 

Hillary something!

"Porn star Stormy Daniels loses appeal in Trump case, owes former president almost $300,000."

 CNBC reports. 

In its decision Friday, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said it had no jurisdiction over Daniels’ appeal of the attorneys’ fees issue because she failed to file a notice of appeal within a 30-day deadline of a federal judge granting the fees to Trump....

The amount Daniels owes Trump in the case is about the same amount she was swindled out of by Michael Avenatti, her former lawyer....

Trump commented: "The lawsuit was a purely political stunt that never should have started... Now all I have to do is wait for all of the money she owes me."

It's hard to remember what this lawsuit was about, isn't it? 

Daniels sued Trump when he was president in 2018, seeking to void the nondisclosure agreement with Cohen. While Trump later agreed not to enforce the agreement, a judge in 2020 ordered him to pay Daniels more than $44,000 for her legal fees in that case.

Later in 2018, Daniels sued Trump again, claiming he defamed her when, in a Twitter post, he scoffed at a police sketch artist drawing of a man who Daniels said had threatened her in 2011 over her allegation of having had sex with Trump.

Trump called the sketch a “con job” about a “nonexistent man.”A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit later in 2018, saying Trump’s statements were protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution.

I wanted to see that police artist drawing again. I'd forgotten. I'll just link to my Google search because I see the drawing, signed "Lois," presumably the police artist, is emblazoned with "© Michael Avenatti, Esq."... and he's litigious. But he's not an "esquire" anymore. And he's in prison.

Despite the clear image of the face — which is so generically good-looking it's funny — the height is given as 5'9" to 6'. Who doesn't know the difference between a 5'9" guy and a 6' guy? I guess if you think he's 5'10 or 5'11" the police say 5'9" to 6'.

"Jews built Hollywood. So why is their history erased from the Academy’s new museum?"

That was the headline in The Forward, last fall, quoted in "After Criticism, Film Museum Will Highlight Hollywood’s Jewish History/The new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, which tried to present an inclusive history of film, overlooked the role Jewish immigrants played in creating the industry" in the NYT. 

“We want to ensure that we are taking an honest, inclusive and diverse look at our history, that we create a safe space for complicated, hard conversations,” the museum’s director, Bill Kramer, said the day after the museum opened as he welcomed guests to a panel discussion titled “Creating a More Inclusive Museum.”

But one group was conspicuously absent in this initial celebration of diversity and inclusivity: the Jewish immigrants — white men all — who were central to founding the Hollywood studio system. Through dozens of exhibits and rooms, there is barely a mention of Harry and Jack Warner, Adolph Zukor, Samuel Goldwyn or Louis B. Mayer, to list just a few of the best-known names from Hollywood’s history....

Some historians said the omission appeared to be the latest example of Hollywood’s strained relationship with its Jewish history. “You have to understand that Hollywood in its very inception was formed out of a fear that its founders — and those who maintained the industry — would be identified as Jews,” said Neal Gabler, the author of “An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood,” a book about the Jewish studio heads. “It’s almost fitting that a museum devoted to the history of Hollywood would incorporate in its very evolution this fear and sensitivity.”

I think the omission was based on a real concern that calling attention to the participation of Jews in the industry would feed anti-Semitism and could very well be perceived as anti-Semitic. The achievement of this group is so strong and so long-standing that it is downplayed, not celebrated. The conventions of present-day inclusiveness were designed to hearten — and appease — groups that have not done well in the past. If you emphasize that Jews were the studio heads, won't you look as though you are blaming Jews for the exclusion you are dedicated to stressing? 

The NYT article doesn't address this obvious problem. I'd say it pushes the insight farther from the reader's view in the third sentence: "But one group was conspicuously absent in this initial celebration of diversity and inclusivity: the Jewish immigrants — white men all — who were central to founding the Hollywood studio system."

White men all! 

ADDED: It was only last month that Whoopi Goldberg got scathed for saying Jews are white.

ALSO: Will the museum's tribute to Jewish studio heads include Harvey Weinstein?

March 21, 2022

Sunrise — 7:29, 7:33.



You can talk about anything you like in the comments.

"The trigger-warning crowd does not make fun. I’m actually for going further: We should have fecal mobs go out and perform turd terrorism to prove that we’re serious about policing pronouns."

Said John Waters, adding that "The Jan. 6 people, they [expletive] in Nancy Pelosi’s office. So maybe we should go even crazier politically correct the other way and have fecal flash mobs going out there." 

The quote is in the NYT — "John Waters Is Ready to Defend the Worst People in the World" —  so that's why "shit" is written "[expletive]."

The NYT adds a footnote: "One of the men charged in conjunction with the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol was accused of defecating on Speaker Pelosi’s office desk." 

I did not know that. Did I know and forget or was that just not fit to print until it was needed to explain what the hell John Waters is talking about.

He continues: "I’m just saying humor is how you fight. It’s how you make people change their mind. Everything I’ve ever done is about using humor as a weapon. I don’t think I’m mean, but everything’s touchy now. When things are touchy, isn’t that when comedy gets more exciting? Always, I was trying to satirize the rules of the world I lived in. At the same time I was trying to make you laugh and to see, What are the limits?"

"Don't blame men. It's not our fault that men make better women than women do."

Quips Instapundit, linking to "Women's opportunities are being taken away by 'womxn'/Biological men that identify as women are invading the area created specifically for women and are not only doing a disservice to the women but themselves as well" (Campus Reform). 

I'm not blogging this to engage on the issue whether transwomen belong in women's sports. But I will say, as I've said before, that I think women's sports has to do with the physical body, and not with the mind. Transgenderism radically prioritizes the mind over the body. Each of us holds dominion over our own mind, and that includes power to think of yourself in gendered terms and to give any meaning you want to the idea of what it means to be a woman. In your mind, you can believe it refers only to the body or only to the mind or to something in between or to nothing at all.

The reason I'm blogging this is to extract an unexamined question from "men make better women than women do." And that is: What makes a woman?

If you Google that question, the first thing you'll see is probably the Katy Perry song with that title:


Katy says you "could spend your whole life, but you couldn't describe what makes a woman/She’s always been a perfect mystery... and that's what makes a woman to me." That is: It's a mystery! There's no answer — even if you spend your whole life looking for the answer. There's a problem with the question! There is nothing that "makes a woman." 

"There are strong philosophical arguments for opposing Judge Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court. And she may in fact be too solicitous of criminals. But..."

"... the implication that she has a soft spot for 'sex offenders' who 'prey on children' because she argued against a severe mandatory-minimum prison sentence for the receipt and distribution of pornographic images is a smear."

Writes Andrew McCarthy in "Senator Hawley’s Disingenuous Attack against Judge Jackson’s Record on Child Pornography" (National Review).

"Jackson’s rulings have been detailed, methodical and left-leaning."

The NYT reports today, as the confirmation hearings are about to begin. 

A review of a substantial sample of Judge Jackson’s roughly 500 judicial opinions suggests that she would be about as liberal as the member of the court she hopes to replace, Justice Stephen G. Breyer. That would make her a reliable member of what would continue to be a three-member liberal minority on a court that is dominated by six conservative justices....

Those opinions are diligent and exceptionally thorough, exhibiting a sure command of both the facts before her and the relevant legal materials. But they are often less illuminating than appeals court rulings that establish precedents and bind other judges.

In Judge Jackson’s eight months on the appeals court, she has issued just two majority opinions, and they have been crisp and forceful....

So, we're told she's "left-leaning" but only "about as liberal" as Justice Breyer.

"By the way: Did you read The Times’s account of the government’s investigation into Hunter Biden’s tax and foreign-business affairs?"

Bret Stephens asks Gail Collins in their conversation in the New York Times, "It’s Never a Good Time for the Hunter Biden Story." The transcript continues:

Bret: The news here has less to do with Hunter himself and more with the fact that those emails recovered from the discarded laptop were his, despite the best efforts by Twitter and other social media and news media companies to bury or not look closely enough at that fact on the eve of the 2020 election.

Gail: I’m so glad our colleagues are still doing strong reporting on this story — Hunter Biden’s scummy business dealings shouldn’t be swept under the rug any more than anyone else’s.

Did Collins just admit that her colleagues were,  at one time, sweeping it under the rug? Or does "still doing strong reporting on this story" preclude that interpretation? Stephens had some careful locution himself: Was the NYT part of the "best efforts... to bury or not look closely enough"? He leaves a loophole. Maybe it was those other "news media companies."

"Oh I hate myself for my first reaction to this...."

From the top of the comments section at the Washington Post article, "Justice Clarence Thomas hospitalized with infection; Supreme Court says he’ll miss some oral arguments this week."

March 20, 2022

At the First Day of Spring Café...


... you can write about anything you want. 



I took these photos at 6:58, 7:00, and 7:15 AM.

"One expects a person’s face in front of a sunlit window to appear darkened, for instance, since a traditional camera lens, like the human eye, can only let light in through a single aperture size..."

"... in a given instant. But on my iPhone 12 Pro even a backlit face appears strangely illuminated. The [in-phone] editing might make for a theoretically improved photo—it’s nice to see faces—yet the effect is creepy. When I press the shutter button to take a picture, the image in the frame often appears for an instant as it did to my naked eye. Then it clarifies and brightens into something unrecognizable, and there’s no way of reversing the process.... On the 12 Pro, 'I shoot it and it looks overprocessed.... They bring details back in the highlights and in the shadows that often are more than what you see in real life. It looks over-real.'... [T]he truth is that iPhones are no longer cameras in the traditional sense. Instead, they are devices at the vanguard of 'computational photography'.... Each picture registered by the lens is altered to bring it closer to a pre-programmed ideal.... The device 'sees the things I’m trying to photograph as a problem to solve'...."

From "Have iPhone Cameras Become Too Smart? Apple’s newest smartphone models use machine learning to make every image look professionally taken. That doesn’t mean the photos are good" By Kyle Chayka (The New Yorker).

I've commented about this problem many times on this blog. I have an iPhone 12 Pro, and with virtually every photo I take, I need to turn down the brightness. I've been doing that on my computer, in the Photos program, but I just figured out how to change the setting in the camera.

I'm not upset that the camera processes things, just that it imposes Apple's ideal. It's okay, for me, that it sees what I'm pointing at as "a problem to solve," but it's just systematically mistaken about where I want to go. It wants everything bright!

Now, I hypothesize that the tech companies are engaged in a grand plan — whether they're terribly conscious of this or not — to socialize us into interdependent elements of the group. Within that plan, we are supposed to be extroverts gathering friends and winning their favor. And therefore the phone's "camera" works best when you are taking pictures of human faces. It loves group portraits inside restaurants. The ancient problem of low-light interiors is banished.

But if you are outdoors, taking pictures of plants and landscapes and clouds, the phone just doesn't understand what you want at all. Where are the faces? What dark spots might be brightened in the hope of discovering a human face? The phone seems to nudge endlessly: Go where the people are! Find your place among them!! What are you doing out here?! It makes no sense!

"I was often told that I wasn’t doing enough, or that I wasn’t doing anything, so this became a complex for me. I decided to take advantage of this and make it into a business."

Said Shoji Morimoto, 38, quoted in "Rent-a-stranger: This Japanese man makes a living showing up and doing nothing" (WaPo). 

He charges 10,000 yen (about $85) per session.... Morimoto often finds that his clients don’t want to burden people they care about with their needs.

“I think when people are feeling vulnerable or are in their intimate moments, they become more sensitive toward people that are close to them, like how they will be perceived, or the kind of actions they will take for them,” he said. “So I think they want to just reach out to a stranger without any strings attached.”...

The lifestyle works well for Morimoto, who is not that talkative or expressive even when he’s not working. He wears his signature blue hat and a hoodie — and a blank stare — so that clients can easily recognize him, but dresses up when the situation requires him to be more formal.

I like this a lot. It seems that Morimoto is sincere in his orientation as a person who performs nothingness. I'm sure this quip has already been quipped: He has nothing to give. And I think there are people who need and benefit from this service, especially if it comes with high-quality assurance that the service-provider is fulfilling his mission in life as he understands it.