April 30, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


 ... you can talk about whatever you want.


"Therapy can certainly help the person better understand their own relationship to their body.... I think sometimes patients can feel pathologized when a therapist says, 'Oh, we have to get rid of your desire for surgery.'"

"If a therapist can pull back and see the desire for surgery not so much as a pathology, but as a means of trying to correct something that doesn’t feel right, I think that’s a useful approach."

Says Dr. Ellen Katz Westrich, a clinical psychologist who works with a stature-lengthening surgeon, quoted in "He Was 5'7". After Surgery, He’ll Be 5'10". Originally designed to correct mismatched length in legs, limb-lengthening surgery has become increasingly popular for men looking to permanently increase their height" (BuzzFeedNews). 

The surgeon, Dr. Shahab Mahboubian says: "You can do as much therapy as you want... but you can’t change people’s perception of you.... It’s not going to stop the jokes.... This is the one type of surgery that can actually get rid of the psychological impacts that come with being short."

The patient profiled in the article said: "No amount of anti-anxiety medication or verbal talk therapy could get the world to stop treating me like this. I could have a great session for five hours, and I would still go on the internet and see 'Men below this height shouldn’t have rights.'... A lot of therapists I saw said, 'I never thought about it like that.' I’m paying for them to help me, and a lot of times, I would be opening their eyes to the whole situation."

The surgery involves breaking both femurs and installing a metal device that gradually expands, as much as 3 inches. The patient in the article was 5'7", which is 2" shorter than the average American man.

Visual misreading.

This beard!


Shatner is staying.

One response:

"The Tesla founder was reportedly attracted to Heard’s 'edginess' and that she wasn’t 'frightened about being different.'"

"A separate source claimed to People at the time, 'She doesn’t get easily intimidated. She is very focused and loves to learn.'" 

From "Amber Heard and Elon Musk: A complete timeline of their relationship" (NY Post). 

"loves to learn" — Loves to learn what? Loves to learn a man's weaknesses so she can torment him... in precisely the way that he finds "edgy" and fearless? So hot.

Paulina Porizkova does not appreciate rickaroo777's theatrical feeling of her pain.

AND: This puts Porizkova in a much worse light:

"A day after an SEC filing revealed that Elon Musk must avoid insulting Twitter or its agents in the deal to purchase the company..."

"... the Tesla tycoon tweeted a meme on Wednesday that appeared to mock Twitter and its policy chief top lawyer, Vijaya Gadde. The meme shows YouTube host Tim Pool having an imaginary conversation with Gadde about Twitter's alleged left-wing bias. The conversation circles a logo of The Joe Rogan Experience... a reference to a 2019 podcast episode on the show featuring Gadde, Pool, and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. The three discussed Twitter's rules against the abuse and harassment of transgender people on the platform, and Pool said most of the accounts Twitter bans lean conservative. Musk's critics quickly dinged the Tesla tycoon for tweeting the meme, saying he's bullying the company and putting its employees at risk.... Musk quickly defended himself and said he was asking Twitter to stay politically neutral. 'For Twitter to deserve public trust, it must be politically neutral, which effectively means upsetting the far right and the far left equally,' he tweeted."

Reports Yahoo Finance, in "After 'no insult' pact, Elon Musk appears to mock Twitter and its policy chief with a Joe Rogan meme and says the platform has to be 'politically neutral,'" about this:

"I tried to convince people to slow down — slow down AI — to regulate AI. This was futile. I tried for years. Nobody listened. No one..."

"Normally the way that regulations work is very slow — very slow indeed. So usually, there'll  be something — some new technology — that will cause damage or death. There will be an outcry. There will be an investigation. Years will pass. There will be some sort of insight committee. There will be rulemaking. Then there will be oversight — eventually regulations. This all take many years.... If you look at, say, automotive regulations: How long did it take for seatbelts... to be required?... This timeframe is not relevant to AI. You can't take 10 years from the point at which it is dangerous. It's too late...."

Said Elon Musk, talking to Joe Rogan, in September 2018 (Episode #1169, embedded below). 

That part came right after a discussion of the way Google, Instagram, and Twitter have us "plugged in like the nodes on the network, like leaves on a big tree." Using these services, he said, we become "one giant cybernetic collective." We're "fueling this thing that's constantly around us all the time and it doesn't seem possible that people are going to pump the brakes."

He said we seem to be following "an instinct," as if we're "the ants that build the anthill." "It feels like we are the biological bootloader for AI." Because we're acting on instinct, the resulting AI is "our id writ large." It is a "projection of our limbic system" — all the "things that we like and hate and fear." This "combination of electronics and biology" is "a cyborg," "a sort of an organism."

At this point, he brings up that Instagram — with more images and video and consequently more engagement — has more "limbic resonance" than Twitter.

I listened to all of that to extrapolate what Musk intends to do with Twitter. We keep talking about how he wants to rid it of censorship and bias and institute freedom of speech. But that would be "our id writ large." And, at least back then, he sounded as though he was deeply worried about what we were creating and doing to ourselves and how terribly hard it is to regulate. The people who work at Twitter now are furiously regulating, but it's not the right kind of regulation. They're just more ants, projecting their limbic system. They don't see the larger phenomenon, as Musk does. 

Maybe Musk just wants to be the consciousness of this "cyborg" while the rest of us are blithely behaving like instinct-driven ants. Maybe he's a benefactor who genuinely wants to figure out how to make AI develop in a way that is good for humanity and not dangerous.

April 29, 2022

A bit of red at sunrise....


... and some deer kept us company... 


Write about whatever you want in the comments.

"I’ll accept it because the fans vote. When I said that, it was always my belief that the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame was for people in rock music."

"I have found out lately that it’s not necessarily that. But if they can’t go there to be recognized, where do they go? And so I felt like I was taking away from someone that maybe deserved it certainly more than me, because I never considered myself a rock artist. But obviously, there’s more to it than that."

 Said Dolly Parton, quoted at The Vulture. Last month, she had declined to be considered for the honor.

"In the past, I would simply have shut down inappropriate discussions, but I’m no longer legally allowed to do so....

"My question, then, is whether it’s ethical to continue to teach material I know will expose students to bigoted, racist speech from their classmates, with whom they will then be expected to maintain a collegial working relationship. In a nutshell, if teaching the poet and activist Audre Lorde means forcing Black, queer and female students to endure racist, homophobic, misogynistic comments from their classmates, is it still ethical to teach Audre Lorde?"

A question to the NYT "Ethicist," Kwame Anthony Appiah, in "How Can I Teach When I’m Not Allowed to Shut Down Trolls?/The magazine’s Ethicist columnist on how to navigate new state laws restricting classroom discussions."

"In The Broken Constitution, Noah Feldman argues that the Confederate states had a constitutional right to secede and that Lincoln violated the Constitution in forcing them back into the Union and freeing the slaves."

Here's the NYRB review of Feldman's new book "The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America." 

From the review, by James Oakes:

"As Princeton University Professor Sam Wang described, the DeSantis plan will result in ‘one of the most extreme gerrymanders in the country’ — precisely the result Florida voters sought to eradicate in passing the Fair Districts amendment."

Says the complaint in the case reported in "DeSantis congressional map draws lawsuit as governor quietly signs it into law" (Louisiana Illuminator). 

That was published a week ago. I'm noticing it this morning because I was doing a Google News search for "Sam Wang" to find this article I was reading last night: "Princeton University investigating Sam Wang for research misconduct, toxic workplace issues/Head of Princeton Gerrymandering Project faces probe over data manipulation, retaliating against staff" (New Jersey Globe).

"Twitter executives who created the rules said they had once held views about online speech that were similar to Mr. Musk’s...."

"But Twitter’s power as a tool for harassment became clear in 2014 when it became the epicenter of Gamergate, a mass harassment campaign that flooded women in the video game industry with death and rape threats.... In September 2016, a Russian troll farm quietly created 2,700 fake Twitter profiles and used them to sow discord about the upcoming presidential election between Mr. Trump and Hillary Clinton.... In 2017... women boycotted Twitter during the #MeToo movement, and Mr. Dorsey... announced a list of content that the company would no longer tolerate: nude images shared without the consent of the person pictured, hate symbols and tweets that glorified violence. In 2018, Twitter banned several accounts linked to the hack-and-leak operation that exposed Mrs. Clinton’s campaign emails, and it began suspending right-wing figures like Alex Jones from its service because they repeatedly violated policies.... The next year, Twitter rolled out new policies that were intended to prevent the spread of misinformation in future elections, banning tweets that could dissuade people from voting or mislead them about how to do so.... In preparation for the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Twitter banned manipulated videos known as 'deepfakes' and forbade users to share material obtained through hacking campaigns. That policy was tested when The New York Post published an article containing emails purportedly obtained from the laptop of Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s son Hunter. Fearing that the materials came from a hack-and-leak operation, Twitter blocked the article from being shared on its platform...."

A quick history of Twitter's shift away from free speech, excerpted from "Inside Twitter, Fears Musk Will Return Platform to Its Early Troubles/Content moderators warn that Elon Musk doesn’t appear to understand the issues that he and the company will face if he drops its guardrails around speech" (NYT).

It seems that the earliest motivation was to protect women and to keep them from avoiding the site. But then it turned into assisting the Democratic Party.

"It is possible to overstimulate the economy.... Law and order is not just a racist dog whistle.... Don’t politicize everything.... Border security is not just a Republican talking point.... 'People of color' is not a thing.... Deficits do matter.... The New Deal happened once."

Those are the "Seven Lessons Democrats Need to Learn — Fast" — according to David Brooks (in the NYT).

I think the Democrats do know all these things, they are just too deeply invested in portraying Republics as toxic and can't easily concede that Republican concerns are not bugaboos.

"Likelihood of Trump Indictment in Manhattan Fades as Grand Jury Wraps Up."

The NYT reports. 

At least three of the witnesses once central to the case have either not heard from the district attorney’s office in months, or have not been asked to testify, according to people with knowledge of the matter.... And the remaining prosecutors working on the Trump investigation have abandoned the “war room” they used to prepare for their grand jury presentation early this year, the people said, leaving behind an expansive office suite and conference room on the 15th floor of the district attorney’s office in Lower Manhattan.

The grand jury’s expiration at the end of the month does not preclude prosecutors from impaneling another jury.... But impaneling a new grand jury could create challenges for any potential case. Mr. Trump’s lawyers could argue — and a judge might agree — that prosecutors were inappropriately hunting for a more favorable group of jurors.

April 28, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

Jack Dorsey called Elon Musk the "singular solution" to Twitter's problems and said "I trust his mission to extend the light of consciousness."

"Dorsey’s exaltation of Musk evoked 'great man' thinking — a theory of history in which individual heroes direct world affairs through force of will and intellect. Antiquated among academic historians, 'great man' theory has enjoyed a renaissance in the technology industry.... What 'great man' thinking obscures is that technological breakthroughs invariably build on the work of others.... Of course Musk can’t build cars or rockets or a social network without help. But the importance of the teams he assembled at Tesla and SpaceX has been overlooked by many, including Dorsey, in assessing his takeover of Twitter. In short, Musk can’t transform Twitter, or even keep it moving forward, without a workforce of highly capable developers, designers, product and policy thinkers who truly believe in his plans for the company. And that is exactly what, by all accounts, he does not have at Twitter right now.... He could try to win over Twitter’s existing employees.... On Tuesday and Wednesday, he issued a series of tweets critical of both Twitter as a company and individual Twitter employees, including its top policy executive, Vijaya Gadde. Those tweets have helped to fuel an ugly, and at times violently racist, harassment campaign against her...."

From "Elon Musk and tech’s ‘great man’ fallacy/Jack Dorsey called him the 'singular solution’ to Twitter’s problems. But no leader can go it alone" by Will Oremus (WaPo).

There's no link on any part of "ugly, and at times violently racist, harassment campaign," and I do not know what it refers to. I went to Musk's Twitter feed, but am I supposed to sift through all manner of crazy stuff like this...

"That workers who attended college would be attracted to nonprofessional jobs at REI, Starbucks and Amazon is not entirely surprising...."

"The companies appeal to affluent and well-educated consumers. And they offer solid wages and benefits for their industries — even, for that matter, compared with some other industries that employ the college-educated. More than three years after he earned a political science degree from Siena College in 2017, Brian Murray was making about $14 an hour as a youth counselor at a group home for middle-school-age children. He quit in late 2020 and was hired a few months later at a Starbucks in the Buffalo area, where his wage increased to $15.50 an hour. 'The starting wage was higher than anything I’d ever made,' said Mr. Murray, who has helped organize Starbucks workers in the city.... [T]he gap between the expectations of college graduates and their employability has led to years of political ferment. A study of participants in the Occupy Wall Street movement, which highlighted income inequality and grew out of the 2011 occupation of Zuccotti Park in Manhattan, found that more than three-quarters were college graduates, versus about 30 percent of adults at the time...."

From "The Revolt of the College-Educated Working Class/Since the Great Recession, the college-educated have taken more frontline jobs at companies like Starbucks and Amazon. Now they’re helping to unionize them" (NYT).

"But I offered [my daughter] a bit of unsolicited advice, too: Next time you want to skip school, don’t tell your parents. Just go."

"Browse vintage stores, eat your favorite snack (onigiri), lie on your back in Prospect Park and stare at the clouds. Isn’t that the point of skipping school, after all? To sneak around, to steal time and space back from the arbitrary system that enfolds you? To hell with permission! That’s being a teenager — carving out a private life for yourself under the noses of the authority figures who surround you. Sasha said no, she would not be doing that. Not because she’s a Goody Two-shoes but because she’s too lazy to plan the subterfuge...."

Writes Matt Gross, in "Your Kids Can Handle Dangerous Ideas" (NYT).

"A few hours after publishing an apology for the hateful language in this column, The D.O. also removed the name of the columnist to prevent them from receiving backlash because The D.O. gave a platform to them in the first place."

From the second disclaimer on a Daily Orange column, titled "SU’s campus is becoming saturated with inappropriate sexual events" (via Instapundit).

The first disclaimer called the column "hateful speech." Notice what's going on: Opposition to the sexualization of public spaces is being characterized as a focused attack on LGBTQ people. Using the same kind of reasoning and interpretation, that characterization itself could be called hateful speech. Why would you portray LGBTQ status as having to do with sexualization? Heterosexuals and nontransgender people are also involved and interested in sex. I remember when excessive sexualization of public spaces was considered a mechanism of male supremacy and an oppression of women!

"I'm watching this trial. It's a cautionary tale. It's a cautionary tale about believing in bullshit. Like: forming a narrative in your head, like: We're rebels together!"


ADDED: A similar, but different analysis:

"How Women’s Sports Teams Got Their Start/As the 50th anniversary of Title IX arrives in June, historians are reflecting on the legacy of women’s sports teams and whether it’s time to stop segregating some sports by sex."

 This is a column by Maria Cramer in the NYT.

In the late 19th century, female educators in American high schools and colleges began forming teams for girls and women to play sports like softball and basketball... Rules were modified so that women would “adhere to stricter social norms... to make sure there wasn’t too much contact and too much exertion.... There was a real concern that they would hurt their [reproductive] organs.”... 

Critics “raised the question whether a woman would become masculine.... Would women defeat men and the male sense of superiority?”... “Women’s sport exists as a category because the dominance of men athletes was threatened by women competing".... 

Since Title IX was passed, women have been competitive with men at the elite level in fields like rock climbing, surfing and endurance sports, like ultra running and biking. Their achievements have led some to ask, Should we start integrating more professional sports?... “If a greater opportunity to participate has led to greater performance, why won’t we allow females to participate with males to further explore the ceilings of performance?”

I think the reason we don't want to "explore the ceilings" is that we expect the ceiling to be very low.

Should we explore this particular ceiling?
pollcode.com free polls


"Sometimes the game isn't necessarily fair, because me and her are playing a whole nother mental game that they don't even know — that when you are a person of color..."

"... and you're the only one — that you have to play. And that's something they don't even have to worry about. Everybody can just be themselves. We have to be ourselves, but then hold back a little bit."

From "Survivor 42 recap: Drea and Maryanne take a stand/The complicated history of race on reality TV leads two players to take an emotional stand" (Entertainment Weekly).

ADDED: Here's how the racial discourse looked on last night's episode:

April 27, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


 ... you can talk about whatever you want. 


"You think we imprison people on a whim? No, if you think our humanistic system capable of such a thing, that alone would justify your arrest."

Says a Stasi interrogator in the 2006 film "The Lives of Others." The "humanistic system" was East Germany.

I just watched for the first time, on the urging of my son John, who warned me that it was about to leave the Criterion Channel. John chose that movie as the best movie of 2006, noted on his blog about the best movies from 1920 to 2020.

William F. Buckley Jr. said it was "the best movie I ever saw."

The director, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, got the idea for the movie from Maxim Gorky's description of a conversation he had with Lenin about music:

And screwing up his eyes and chuckling, he added without mirth: But I can't listen to music often, it affects my nerves, it makes me want to say sweet nothings and pat the heads of people who, living in a filthy hell, can create such beauty. But today we mustn't pat anyone on the head or we'll get our hand bitten off; we've got to hit them on the heads, hit them without mercy, though in the ideal we are against doing any violence to people. Hm-hm—it's a hellishly difficult office!

In the movie, a character quotes Lenin — about Beethoven's "Appassionata" —"If I keep listening to it, I won't finish the revolution."

Here is my new selection of TikTok videos — 8, this time — hand-selected by me, with my preferences, which are mostly, but not entirely, for delight.

1. Kiss the hand.

2. Bear on a wire.

3. Approximating the English expression "skyscraper." 

4. The cat plays rhythm.

5. Did he call her fat?

6. Impression of a decomposing fox.

7. A gentle Alzheimer's patient shows great interest in meeting her daughter's mother.

8. A memorial to the smoke the rose within Grand Central Station over the years.

"Twitter takes the rich, numerous and subtle values that we bring to communication and quantifies our success through follower counts, likes and retweets."

"Slowly, what Twitter rewards becomes what we do. If we don’t, then no matter — no one sees what we’re saying anyway. We become what the game wants us to be or we lose.... There is a reason that Donald Trump, with his preternatural gift for making people look at him, was Twitter’s most natural and successful user. And he shows how the platform can shape the lives of those who never use it. From 2017 to 2021, the White House was occupied by what was, in effect, a Twitter account with a cardiovascular system, and the whole world bore the consequences.... But I count myself, still, as a cautious believer in Musk’s power to do the impossible — in this case, to expose what Twitter is and to right-size its influence. In fact, I think he’s the only one with the power to do it.... He will be Twitter. He will have won the game. And nothing loses its luster quite like a game that has been beaten."

Writes Ezra Klein, in "Elon Musk Got Twitter Because He Gets Twitter" (NYT).

"What exactly does [Elon Musk] believe can’t be said on [Twitter] right now?"

"It certainly doesn’t take long to find discredited race science, arguments that women are intellectually inferior, antisemitism, defenses of white supremacism and transphobic comments that remain on the platform even under current policy. It is easy to assume that the banned speech that Mr. Musk is standing up for is worse even than that. As the comedian Michael Che put it on 'Saturday Night Live,' the $44 billion deal shows 'how badly white guys want to use the N-word.' All of this is a moral and ethical case for keeping moderation policies in place...."

From "Let’s Be Clear About What It’s Like to Be Harassed on Twitter" by Elizabeth Spiers (NYT).

"It is easy to assume" a lot of things! It's also easy to splatter opinion columns with the idea that Musk is a racist, sexist pig and that to declare that you've made "a moral and ethical case" for censorship... and — paradoxically — that you're fighting misinformation.

It's interesting how much free speech the opponents of free of speech already have.

"Yesteryear’s 'ball-point pen' became the 'ballpoint,' 'wild-flowers' evolved into 'wildflowers,' and 'teen-age” found acceptance as 'teenage' in most outlets..."

"In modern times, the hyphen has sown controversy. [Pardis Mahdavi, author of 'Hyphen'] tells the story of how Teddy Roosevelt, in his outrage at losing the Presidency to Woodrow Wilson, in 1912, appealed to Americans’ xenophobia. He was an 'anti-hyphenate.' Mahdavi writes, 'Referring to the hyphen between the name of an ethnicity and the word "American," hyphenism and hyphenated Americanism was seen as a potentially fracturing and divisive force in an America on the brink of war.' Irish-Americans, German-Americans, Jewish-Americans, and Chinese-Americans were all suspect. In 1915, Teddy Roosevelt made some remarks that formed 'a turning point in how the hyphen became demonized both orthographically and politically.' He said, 'The man who calls himself an American citizen and who yet shows by his actions that he is primarily the citizen of a foreign land, plays a thoroughly mischievous part in the life of our body politic.' (Victims of anti-hyphenism might be gratified to know that during the pandemic the equestrian statue of Teddy Roosevelt was removed from in front of the Museum of Natural History.)"

From "How to Use (or Not Use) a Hyphen/Plus: a brief digression into why The New Yorker hyphenates 'teen-ager'" by Mary Norris (The New Yorker).

Those are 2 very different issues with the hyphen. One has to do with the evolution of a compound word. It's about helping readers see what they're looking at. There must have been a time when people, looking at "wildflower" might have taken an extra moment to decide the second part is "flower" and not "lower" (what are "wildfs"?) The second issue is whether we're going to use this concept at all. To prefer "American" to "Irish-American" is to cast aside the Irish part. It's more like deciding we'll just call all these things "flowers" and not pay attention to whether they are "wild" or not... speaking of xenophobia!

What makes a flower "wild" anyway? All flowers are rooted somewhere and incapable of emigrating:

"Wildflower" is not an exact term. More precise terms include native species (naturally occurring in the area, see flora), exotic or, better, introduced species (not naturally occurring in the area), of which some are labelled invasive species (that out-compete other plants – whether native or not), imported (introduced to an area whether deliberately or accidentally) and naturalized (introduced to an area, but now considered by the public as native).

It's the human point of view or activity that creates an occasion for the concept of wildness. 

In the Dolly Parton song "Wildflowers," the "wildflower" is able to migrate: "So I uprooted myself from my homeground and left/Took my dreams and I took to the road...."

I thought I remembered a Disney cartoon that had flowers that pull themselves out of their place and dance around. I'm surprised I found it — "Flowers and Trees" — because the flowers are what these days we'd call racist:

"The vanishing of nature is also romanticized: the lonely polar bear on an ice shelf. Romanticism has trickled down through Walt Disney..."

"... and now we have the Disneyfication of landscapes, of human existence, of storytelling, of our relationship with wild nature. The bears are cuddly and you have to hug them and you have to sing to them. That’s the tragedy of Timothy Treadwell, in 'Grizzly Man,' a tragedy of misguided philosophy. When somebody espouses New Age ideas, I always lower my head and charge."

Said Werner Herzog, quoted in "Werner Herzog Has Never Liked Introspection/A conversation with the filmmaker about the place of literature, the toll of war, and the conviction that his writing will outlast his movies" (The New Yorker). I see he has a book coming out soon, called "The Twilight World" that is, in part, the true story Hiroo Onoda, a Japanese soldier who fought, from a position on an island in the Philippines, for 3 decades after WWII had ended.

Herzog met Onoda in real life. He was in Japan, and had actually turned down an invitation to meet the Emperor. He didn't want to see the Emperor, because he would have been required to "speak only in formulas and polite, prefabricated dialogue." So who did he want to meet? He said, “Onoda.”

A dismaying headline in The New Yorker.

This is just sad — or maybe it's funny — "How Congress Can Prevent Elon Musk from Turning Twitter Back Into an Unfettered Disinformation Machine/A new European Union law is a road map for how to put the onus on social-media companies to monitor and remove harmful content, and hit them with big fines if they don’t."

I remember when the big issue was about whether Twitter could censor the writers who used it. Twitter was a private company, it was urged, so it wasn't bound by the First Amendment, and that made it almost impossible for its users to claim a legal right to free speech. Back in the day, I got into arguments — notably, this one — about whether "free speech" has any meaning other than as a right against what the government might do. 

Now, Elon Musk is making Twitter even more private, the possession of one man, and he's doing it ostensibly to provide the people with more freedom of speech. Now, the argument shifts from saying there's nothing you can do about the speech-freedom choices of a private entity — too bad, government is helpless! — to saying that government ought to step up and constrain Musk and his free-speech agenda.

I said this back in 2011: 

Remember when lefties were all about free speech? When did that change? Why did that change? Perhaps the answer is: Free speech was only ever a means to an end. When they got their free speech, made their arguments, and failed to win over the American people, and when in fact the speech from their opponents seemed too successful, they switched to the repression of speech, because the end was never freedom.

By the way, the New Yorker article is by John Cassidy. His bio says he grew up in Leeds, West Yorkshire and graduated from Oxford, so the lack of appreciation for American free-speech values is less disturbing. But what is the European answer he's vaunting?

April 26, 2022

At the Tuesday Night Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"One photo shows a crisp red t-shirt with a swastika on it, inexplicably laid out next to three copies of the video game 'The Sims 3.'''

From "Russia appears to confuse ‘The Sims’ for SIM cards in possible staged assassination attempt" (NY Post).

"Without after-work drinks, coffees breaks or office drop-ins, suck-ups suffered. They were eager to return to in-person work..."

"... where they could arrive early, leave late and spend a lot of time looking busy. ... 'I remember in the early stages of the pandemic when a client said to me, "Without the office, how will I pretend to work?"' Some bosses don’t believe people are really productive unless they see them at their desks — which infuriates remote employees who want their work to be what counts...) At the beginning of the pandemic, [Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of business psychology at Columbia] thought remote work would be a great opportunity for managers to focus on performance and not on office politics. Now he’s worried that hybrid work will create a two-tiered system. 'Those who are optimizing for politics are going to be back at work, and those who are not able to leave their homes or they enjoy focusing on output are inadvertently punished.... Because, even though you say that it doesn’t matter where you are, there’s still a premium for being in the right place at the right time, telling the right things to the right person. And so who’s going to be at the office? More likely men than women, more likely majorities than minorities, more likely high-status or rich people, more likely extroverts than introverts, and more likely people who are ruthlessly focused on advancing their career.'"

From "The pandemic was hard on office suck-ups. Now they’re back and ready to schmooze" (WaPo).

I almost didn't read this article because the illustration, which you'll have to click through to see, is so absurdly and earnestly racist. And you can see from the bit I chose to excerpt that there is a racial analysis to this question of sucking up at the office. It's easy to just guess that it's a white-male strategy to make a show of catering to the boss rather than actually working. It's what you see on the TV show "The Office," and it's what the professor of business psychology at Columbia tells us is "likely." That's the kind of cheap prejudice we're fed these days. The article identifies a real problem: The kind of people who thrive working in the office might be the ones who put on a show and don't really work. But I don't like seeing this gender-and-race material thrown in as if the basic problem isn't spicy enough and women and minorities are useful excitement.

"This particular mess is due to Wapo having seen fit to accept Heard as a credible voice against domestic violence, and to publish her cynical screed as something positive and truthful for the world."

"Sure they both suck, but how bout a little more due diligence next time, Post?"

That's the top-rated comment at the Washington Post article, "Depp’s cross-examination wraps up with rehash of texts, audio clips."

Thanks, Dave.

People I've never heard of are making a show of deactivating their Twitter account, and Libs of TikTok is amplifying their voice (which, I guess, is annoying to them).

Of course, self-censorship is a tic of the left. 

It's also characteristic of the left to want to avoid having to hear from the other side. The preference is to censor the other side, but they would prefer to up and move than to have to be confronted with things they don't agree with. (I have personal experience with this phenomenon: It explains my comments section.)

Does Trump mean it when he says he doesn't want to get back on Twitter?

That's a big topic in the news this morning, but I'm not just catching up with it. Meade and I hashed it all out in text at 6:20 last night after Meade sent me a screenshot of a comment from RMc on yesterday's post about the Twitter board accepting Elon Musk's offer:


RNc's comment is funny because so many people — including me — immediately jumped from seeing that Elon got his way to wondering when Trump would be back. I responded to Meade's text with a WaPo article that had come out at 6:02 PM, saying that Trump says he won't come back.

I added — and I'll correct 2 glitches inserted by the iPad handwriting-to-text function — "Trump needs a special invitation to come back - he's not going to be in the position of asking and risking rejection."

Meade took Trump's rejection of Twitter seriously: "I think he wants to be re-elected and tweeting helped him in 2016 but would only hurt him in 2024."

I admit that I want him back on Twitter because I enjoy his pithy contributions to the national conversation: "Good! I like him as a tweeter who isn't President." For me, if tweeting hurts Trump's potential for getting reelected, that's another reason to want him back on Twitter. But I've undercut my skepticism that he's serious about not wanting to come back.

But I said if. And I don't think tweeting will hurt his bid for reelection. He's the genius of Twitter. Of course, he needs to reassume his reign there. He won't turn it down because he also wants to reassume his reign in the White House. He wants both. Look at all the things Elon Musk has amassed. Is Trump a lesser man than Musk? The big men need to look as big as possible. 

In that light, Trump won't ask to return and be dependent on Musk allowing it. There must be an invitation and a loud demand for Trump to return. It will be an entire drama with a narrative arc. We're in the will-he-won't-he stage of the drama. 

But Meade said: "He has his own platform. That’s all he needs to get his message out. I think he’ll move on from his battle with the media. Claim victory, move on."

His own platform is bad. It's dead. He can't want to rule over that. It's too small. And the great fun of Twitter is — or was and will be again — that everybody's there in the same arena and if you say something, you get reactions, including negative reactions. And Trump gets tremendous energy from his enemies' negativity.

April 25, 2022

I'm café-ing out early.

Here's today's sunrise pic (from 6:11): 


Write about whatever you like in the comments. My plan is to put the computer to sleep and snuggle up with the movie that came in the mail today, "Unfaithfully Yours."

ADDED: “If it was me, I'd never have them tailed. I'd just be grateful for whatever they was willing to give me — a year… a week… an hour….”

"Asked about his high points as [NYT] executive editor, Baquet cited the [Harvey] Weinstein investigation and the Pulitzer-winning 1619 Project."

"Both efforts, said Baquet in an interview, became 'bigger than newspaper stories. They changed the whole conversation'.... Another high point for Baquet was the [Bill] O’Reilly exposé.... O’Reilly was dethroned as king of cable news.... Routine political coverage in Baquet’s Times occasionally showered undue respectability upon false and authoritarian pro-Trump talking points.... A Harvard study found that coverage in the final months of the 2016 campaign was a feast of false equivalency in which Trump’s controversies received slightly less attention than Hillary Clinton’s controversies...."

Writes Erik Wemple in "Dean Baquet’s hands-on Times run is coming to a close" (WaPo).

Labyrinthine sentence of the day.

"It’s now much harder for progressives to depict, say, support for enforcing immigration law or opposition to defunding the police as inherently racist when it’s clear the communities supposedly offended by those positions support them."

From "Political Correctness Is Losing" by Jonathan Chait (NY Magazine).

I feel challenged to rewrite that so that the word "support" doesn't appear twice. I especially hate the complexity of supporting opposition to defunding. If you oppose supporting defunding, you just support funding.

I think Chait's point is that many black people oppose defunding the police, and many Hispanic people want immigration law enforced, and that makes it inopportune for progressives to call these positions racist.

I was going to blog everything in that article, but it's an effort at expressing optimism, and it feels like a con. Don't worry about wokeness. It's on its last legs. Is it? Chait's main reason why it's played out is that it's hurting the Democratic Party's quest for power.

"Twitter’s board has accepted an offer from billionaire Elon Musk to buy the social media company and take it private, the company announced Monday."

CNBC reports. 

ADDED: From the company's statement:

"Free speech is the bedrock of a functioning democracy, and Twitter is the digital town square where matters vital to the future of humanity are debated," said Mr. Musk. "I also want to make Twitter better than ever by enhancing the product with new features, making the algorithms open source to increase trust, defeating the spam bots, and authenticating all humans. Twitter has tremendous potential – I look forward to working with the company and the community of users to unlock it."

 Defeat the bots. You've got to be human. And if you are human — be free.

This is a pretty good list (at Vulture): "The 101 Best Movie Sequels of All Time."

What impressed me enough to blog it was that it didn't do what I thought was inevitable and put "The Godfather II" at #1. 

I think this link will work without a subscription, so check it out.

Another thing I like is that it didn't get too stuck in the last 20 or 30 years, though there is a lot of Superman/Batman/Spiderman dross. It's got some old-timey trashy stuff, notably "Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy" (#96). And it's got "The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years" (#74), "O Lucky Man!" (#66), "Return to Oz" (a surprising #20), and — at #11 — the movie that had me texting "possibly the most artistic and sophisticated thing I’ve ever seen" — "Playtime."

Fun with Scott.

"We are seeing lots of non-BDSM people coming in for all kinds of fetishwear and collars for dance parties,' says Lolita Wolf, manager of Purple Passion, a BDSM, fetish clothing, and adult-toy store...."

"She says they’ve also seen an increase in sales for chest harnesses and leg/hip harnesses in particular, including a popular vegan leather harness.... 'You become a little bit less human, because you’re more like a mannequin,' says Mistress Iris, [a] professional dominatrix.... 'You might be objectified more, and a lot of people may not enjoy that feeling, but some people might find a little freedom in that anonymity.'.... In general, both Mistress Iris and Mistress Marley are encouraging when it comes to the 'vanilla world' embracing their aesthetic. 'I’m definitely not a gatekeeper. I think it’s great that it has become popular,' says Mistress Iris.... 'I think it is important to highlight, for those who are not aware, that the people they are inspired by are being silenced,' says Mistress Iris of other doms like herself.... 'The sad reality is that people who inspired this get erased from the public, while people who kind of appropriated it get to keep existing,' she notes. 'It’s like, Okay, you want to utilize what we do and what we wear. But at the same time, you’re not donating to our community; you’re not donating to sex workers; you’re not standing up for our rights. So sometimes we do feel like we’re just being used as an aesthetic and no one’s taking us seriously,' says Mistress Marley...."

From "Dominatrices Weigh In on ‘Fetish-Core’/There has been a spike in interest in recent months" (NY Magazine).

The top-rated comment over there: "I’m still doing WFH and wearing sweatpants. The thought of wearing hard pants exhausts me. But you do you! Have fun and tell me all about it later!" ("WFH" is "work from home." "Hard pants" is hilarious.)

ADDED: "Hard pants" might sound sexual — for 2 different reasons — but it's just any kind of pants that aren't comfortably stretchy. Here's a Seattle Times article from a year ago: "How COVID-19 has changed what we wear and how we feel about clothing":

"But I had watched earlier as a young man wearing slippers and no shirt, with a four-foot metal pipe resting on his shoulder, walked up to the magazine stand on the downtown B/D/F/M platform..."

"... stared the manager in the face, grabbed a bag of Utz chips, and walked away. The manager asked him to give back the bag. The man idly swung the pipe through the air. A group of 20-somethings edged farther down the platform. The manager, an older South Asian man, went back to his stand and opened a thermos to pour himself a drink. After the thief wandered elsewhere, I asked the manager if this happens regularly. He shrugged. What was he supposed to do? And what should a thoughtful New Yorker want for the subway system? More police or fewer? More social workers to better serve the unhoused population, or more forced evictions from stations to get the rest of the city moving more freely again? And was it embarrassing, antisocial, racist, and a betrayal of your city to admit you’d rather pay for an Uber? One of the proudest New Yorkers I know told me she now avoids the subway after 10 p.m. She didn’t feel great about it but couldn’t take it anymore. She had finally seen one too many penises."

From "Who’s Afraid of the Subway? Riding every line in the days after the Sunset Park shooting" (NY Magazine).

"But where is the martini coming from? Complete blowback from the pandemic.... Suddenly, six months ago, the martini was wiping everything out. I was like, ‘Oh my God, we did 71 martinis last night?..."

"I recently turned to my business partner and was like, ‘I guess we’re just a martini bar now.’ I watch these kids hammering martinis and I’m like, good Lord.... I think it is a perfect pressure valve for everything people are feeling. Everywhere you look you see war, you hear ‘keep your mask on,’ or ‘don’t keep your mask on’ — people are tired of toeing lines. They’re just like, 'Give me something that transgresses the bounds'.... The martini harkens back to so many things that were so solid and representationally correct. You don’t have to think about it. It’s a big solid punch in the face and sometimes that’s just what you need."

Said Brooklyn bar owner Toby Cecchini, quoted in "Wellness Is Dead. Long Live the Martini. 'I watch these kids hammering martinis and I’m like, good Lord'" (NY Magazine).

1. If you'd told me 50 years ago that in 2022, young people, wanting to transgress the bounds, will do what my parents did — sit around drinking martinis — I'd have cued up "America Drinks and Goes Home" and cried.

2. Cecchini has a way with words, but it's "harks back," not "harkens back," and how you transgress by doing what is solid and representationally correct? It sounds cool though, and it gives you something to think about, but then so does a big solid punch in the face.

3. Is "wellness" dead? Ironic if all these precautions in the name of health led to a higher and higher tolerance for alcohol.

"Am I, as a new columnist for The Times, allowed to weigh in on anything other than a narrow sliver of Gen X white woman concerns?"

"Not according to many of those who wish to regulate our culture — docents of academia, school curriculum dictators, aspiring Gen Z storytellers and, increasingly, establishment gatekeepers in Hollywood, book publishing and the arts. It’s the ultimate litmus test: Only those whose 'lived experience' matches the story are qualified to tell the tale... Here’s the argument: The dominant culture (white, male, Western, straight) has been dictating the terms for decades, effectively silencing or 'erasing' the authentic identities and voices of the people whose stories are being told. The time has come to 'center' these other voices.... If we followed the solipsistic credo of always 'centering' identity when greenlighting a project, we’d lose out on much of journalism, history and fiction. Culture is a conversation, not a monologue. The outsider’s take, whether it comes from a journalist, historian, writer or director, can offer its own equally valid perspective.... Privileging only those voices with a stake in a story carries its own risks.... You may find it harder to maintain a critical distance.... You may become blinded to ideas that contradict your own or subconsciously de-emphasize them. You may have an agenda...."

From "The Limits of ‘Lived Experience’" by Pamela Paul (NYT).

"Twitter is nearing a deal to sell itself to Elon Musk, two people with knowledge of the situation said...."

"Twitter’s board was negotiating with Mr. Musk into the early hours of Monday.... The two sides were discussing details including a timeline to close any potential deal and any fees that would be paid if an agreement were signed and then fell apart, they said. The discussions followed a Twitter board meeting on Sunday morning to discuss Mr. Musk’s offer.... An agreement is not yet final and may still apart, but what had initially seemed to be a highly improbable deal appeared to be nearing an endgame...."

The NYT reports.

April 24, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

(I'm using the word "sunrise" metaphorically. The photo was taken at 11:36 a.m.)

"... I can understand some of the sentiments animating the 'Unmask Our Toddlers' demonstrations. But the protesters at these events are predominantly white women..."

"... and, in a city as diverse as ours, it’s worth pausing over why that might be. I think it’s a reflection, at least in part, of the disproportionate toll of the coronavirus. Black and brown families... are more likely to have lost a loved one to covid and more likely to have suffered financial hardship, school disruptions, and child-care crises.... According to data from the Harvard Medical School, a Black child is more than five times as likely as a white child to die of the coronavirus. These statistics are not necessarily front of mind for the people who gathered outside the Ethel Barrymore Theatre to yell at the city’s Black mayor about his covid policies for kids. The toddler mask mandate in New York City will almost certainly end soon, which will count as a victory, however belated, for the parents who have been protesting against it. One might hope that some of them can use that momentum to pursue a more holistic and inclusive brand of advocacy for health and safety standards in schools, one that does not necessarily zero in on a single policy for a single age group."

From "Why Are Preschoolers Subject to the Strictest COVID Rules in New York City? Masks are no longer required at sporting events, in offices, or on planes, but toddlers still have to wear them at school" (The New Yorker). The article is written by Jessica Winter (who, if I may judge from the illustration, is a white woman).

"But after [Musk] disclosed last week that he now has $46.5 billion in financing, Twitter is taking a fresh look at the offer..."

"... and is more likely than before to seek to negotiate, people familiar with the matter said.... Twitter is still working on an all-important estimate of its own value, which would need to come in close to Mr. Musk’s offer.... The two sides are meeting Sunday.... Mr. Musk said he sees no way Twitter management can get the stock to his offer price on its own, given the issues in the business and a persistent inability to correct them.... Twitter’s board should engage with Mr. Musk since its stock has 'gone nowhere' since the company went public eight years ago, said Jeff Gramm, a portfolio manager with Bandera Partners LLC...  Mr. Gramm said Twitter’s board can’t walk away from Mr. Musk’s offer without providing an alternative that gives real value to shareholders. 'I’m not sure what that can be at this stage besides finding a higher bid,' he said."

Writes Cara Lombardo in The Wall Street Journal.

"French President Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right leader Marine Le Pen to win re-election Sunday, with projections as polls closed showing him winning 58% to 42%."

 Axios reports.

"I had a mild case of covid-19 this past week. I was stuck at home for a week. I'm fine now."

"There are 3 thoughts I take away from the experience..."

Writes my son John (at his blog).

"Although US consumption of beef fell from about 80 pounds annually per capita in the 1970s and early ’80s to a low of 54 pounds in 2017, it’s steadily rebounded since then to 58.6 pounds in 2021."

"Yes, we are eating more beef today than we did five years ago, despite plant-based 'Impossible' meat and Beyond Burgers taking over American menus and even McDonald’s."

The NY Post reports.

"Putin is said to bathe in the blood extracted from deer antlers, which are hacked off while they are growing and still full of fresh blood..."

"The sickening 'antler baths'... are an alternative therapy in the Altai region of Russia, which borders Khazakstan and Mongolia. Believers say the baths improve the cardiovascular system and rejuvenate the skin,"

From "Bloated Vladimir Putin video heightens theories Russian leader is sick" (NY Post).

Here's a long article from 2015 in The Siberian Times: "Would you take a blood bath to boost potency, restore beauty or hold back ageing?" Lots of detail and photographs. I'll just do a few highlights:

"This guy was my friend. He meditated with our sangha. This act is not suicide. This is a deeply fearless act of compassion..."

"... to bring attention to climate crisis. We are piecing together info but he had been planning it for at least one year."

Wrote Dr. K. Kritee, Buddhist priest from Boulder, quoted in "Wynn Bruce dies after lighting himself on fire outside Supreme Court" (NY Post).

Here is the Wikipedia article "Self-immolation." From the "History" section:

"[R]esearchers... gathered 40 young, healthy, male mice. Then, using electrical stimulation of the animals’ lower legs to contract their calf muscles repeatedly..."

"... they simulated, in effect, a prolonged, exhausting and ultimately muscle-ripping leg day at the gym.... [T]hey gathered muscle samples from some animals immediately after their simulated exertions and then strapped tiny ice packs onto the legs of about half of the mice, while leaving the rest unchilled. The scientists continued to collect muscle samples from members of both groups of mice every few hours and then days after their pseudo-workout, for the next two weeks. Then they microscopically scrutinized all of the tissues, with a particular focus on what might be going on with inflammatory cells.... They... noted, in the tissue that had not been iced, a rapid muster of pro-inflammatory cells. Within hours, these cells began busily removing cellular debris, until, by the third day after the contractions, most of the damaged fibers had been cleared away. At that point, anti-inflammatory cells showed up, together with specialized muscle cells that rebuild tissue, and by the end of two weeks, these muscles appeared fully healed. Not so in the iced muscle, where recovery seemed markedly delayed....."

From "Ice for Sore Muscles? Think Again. Icing muscles after strenuous exercise is not just ineffective, it could be counterproductive, a new study in mice suggests" (NYT).

Lots of the comments over there object to the cruelty to the mice.

Elon Musk is fat-shaming Bill Gates (and "moving on...").

I made this screen capture of the top 2 tweets in Elon Musk's feed:


The image next to Gates is the new "pregnant man" emoji from Apple.

I don't know what "Moving on..." refers to.

ADDED: The Gates/pregnant man image is only funny because of the happenstance of the blue shirt.

Also, on reflection, I think Musk is just "Moving on..." from the fuss over the pregnant Gates tweet — a fuss that he's mocked like this:

"Mr. Kondo... has long known that he didn’t want a human partner. Partly, it was because he rejected the rigid expectations of Japanese family life."

"But mostly, it was because he had always felt an intense — and, even to himself, inexplicable — attraction to fictional characters.... Mr. Kondo sees himself as part of a growing movement of people who identify as 'fictosexuals.'... He wants the world to know that people like him are out there and, with advances in artificial intelligence and robotics allowing for more profound interactions with the inanimate, that their numbers are likely to increase...."

I'm getting the sense that it's not going to be enough that we regard him with empathy and refrain from saying this is trivial or mentally disordered. "Fictosexuals" will demand full respect.

Or so I'm thinking, as I read the long NYT article "This Man Married a Fictional Character. He’d Like You to Hear Him Out. Akihiko Kondo and thousands of others are in devoted fictional relationships, served by a vast industry aimed at satisfying the desires of a fervent fan culture." 

[T]he idea that fictional characters can inspire real affection or even love may well have reached its highest expression in modern Japan, where the sentiment has given rise to a highly visible subculture and become the basis for a thriving industry. The Japanese word for the feelings those characters inspire is “moe,” a term that has become shorthand for just about anything that is viscerally adorable. ...