May 14, 2022

Sunrise series.





As you can see in picture #3, I had a lot of company this morning. University students, I presume. There's lots of graduation activity in Madison today. Maybe these kids had been out all night, because they were firmly in place when I arrived at the location at 5:25. I wasn't trying to eavesdrop on them. I had AirPods in and music playing, but I couldn't help picking up that they were snacking on Cinnamon Toast Cheerios and discussing other cereals — specifically Cap'n Crunch and Lucky Charms.

Speaking of lucky and music and the sun, as I write this, I'm listening to...

"Every generation has had an apocalyptic view of their lives... We’re not wired to save.... We’re wired to consume."

"If you have an exciting vision of the future, those are the people who aggressively save for retirement. If you have an apocalyptic vision of the future, why would you save for it? Of course you wouldn’t."

Said Brad Klontz, a financial psychologist, quoted in "The World’s a Mess. So They’ve Stopped Saving for Tomorrow. Many adults under 35 are throwing financial caution to the wind. It’s all about saving less, spending more and pursuing passions" (NYT).

"TikTok has no interest in your friends. Instead, it has developed an artificial intelligence-based recommendation engine that divines your desires..."

"... by interpreting the most subtle of clues. They range from how long you watch a video to whether you share it, and what the content contains.... In 2020, TikTok raced past Facebook and Instagram in terms of how much time users spend on the platform. This year it is set to overtake YouTube.... Mark Zuckerberg this month announced a monumental shift in how the core Facebook and Instagram experiences will function, moving away from the social graph and investing heavily in an AI-powered recommendation engine that will serve up the most viral posts from across its network — just like TikTok.... Zhang Yiming, 39, the son of civil servants, founded ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, in a Beijing flat ten years ago.... [TikTok is] the first and only company from Communist China to make a dent in the West. Maria Bridge of the ethical campaign group Center for Humane Technology said: 'TikTok is a propagandist’s dream: profile someone’s tastes and opinions, then use an algorithm to subtly nudge them in whatever direction you choose. Point that tech at a generation of teens and it’s terrifying in anyone’s hands.'"

From "How TikTok became the phenomenon you can’t afford to ignore new/The video app is making a billion dollars a month and leaving rivals in its wake — it’s not too late to take it seriously, says Danny Fortson" (London Times).

"'They can’t win,' Ira said. 'They can slaughter us but they can’t win.' Max nodded, calm despite the chaos."

"I’d met him a few weeks before the war when he was working as a translator for another journalist. He had black hair swept off his face, a tattoo under his Adam’s apple that referenced the American poet Walt Whitman and he looked as though he hadn’t slept in days. We were the same age, 31, and I liked him straight away.... Since Berlin had been colonised by tech bros, the centre of gravity for European hedonism had shifted eastwards to the Ukrainian capital.... There were warehouse raves in abandoned buildings, queer-friendly spaces with art installations and a club known only by the mathematical symbol ∄ (meaning “does not exist”), which had a dark room and wipe-down banquettes.... ...Kyiv had come alive through adversity, a fight for freedom against authoritarianism.... Kyiv’s freedom had been hard won, thought Max and his friends, and it shouldn’t be wasted.... Before [the war] the Kyiv party scene had been targeted by far-right, antigay thugs who had broken into nightclubs and beaten up ravers. Now, Max told me, one of his friends had put out a eulogy when the head of one of these groups had been killed in battle. As the Russians rolled closer, the ravers had stepped up. The dark room at Kyrylivska became a bomb shelter.... Max was lyrical with happiness that he had stayed, risking his life for his city again, as he and his friends had done during the Maidan protests...."

From "From hedonism to war: meet the young ravers of Kyiv/Before the Russian invasion Kyiv was the rave capital of Europe. That changed in a single night. Louise Callaghan joins a group of young artists caught in the chaos" (London Times).

"[Hunter S.] Thompson... rightfully looms large for demolishing the idea that covering a campaign has to be objective day to day, or with the winner automatically cast as the hero..."

"... a la Theodore White’s 'The Making of the President' books. Along with unabashed drug taking, hoaxing other reporters, and honing a cultivated but nonetheless genuinely menacing edge, Thompson quickly grasped the fact and advantage of being shunned by press corp heavyweights. 'Thompson’s determined to turn liabilities into assets: 'I’m not gonna do what everyone else is doing. I’m gonna write about what I see, present the unvarnished truth as I understand it'.... That truth still resonates... and is perhaps best summed up in this from Thompson’s 1994 obituary of Richard Nixon in Rolling Stone: 'Some people will say that words like scum and rotten are wrong for Objective journalism — which is true, but they miss the point. It was the built-in blind spots of the Objective rules and dogma that allowed Nixon to slither into the White House in the first place. … You had to get Subjective to see Nixon clearly, and the shock of recognition was often painful.'"

From "The gonzo journalist who forever changed political campaign coverage" by Jason Vest (WaPo). Vest discusses the new book "Savage Journey: Hunter S. Thompson and the Weird Road to Gonzo" (by Peter Richardson).

The notion that "rotten" is an especially bad word called to mind a passage in the delightful old movie "Design for Living"

"I'm going to jump up and down on your ego. I'm going to criticize you with a baseball bat. I'll tell you every day how bad your stuff is 'til you get something good, and if it's good, I'm going to tell you it's rotten 'til you get something better."

The 2 male artists she's talking to protest and defend their work only to hear her repeat the 1-word criticism "Rotten!" And much later, at the end, after various high jinks that take them apart and get them back together, they ask her "Can you still say 'rotten'?" and she says "Rotten!"

"'Hardness' has not been in our century a quality much admired in women, nor in the past twenty years has it even been in official favor for men."

"When hardness surfaces in the very old we tend to transform it into 'crustiness”' or eccentricity, some tonic pepperiness to be indulged at a distance. On the evidence of her work and what she has said about it, Georgia O’Keeffe is neither 'crusty' nor eccentric. She is simply hard, a straight shooter, a woman clean of received wisdom and open to what she sees. This is a woman who could early on dismiss most of her contemporaries as 'dreamy,' and would later single out one she liked as 'a very poor painter.' (And then add, apparently by way of softening the judgment: 'I guess he wasn’t a painter at all. He had no courage and I believe that to create one’s own world in any of the arts takes courage.')... The men talked about Cezanne, 'long involved remarks about the "plastic quality" of his form and color,' and took one another’s long involved remarks, in the view of this angelic rattlesnake in their midst, altogether too seriously. 'I can paint—one of those dismal-colored paintings like the men,' the woman who regarded herself always as an outsider remembers thinking one day in 1922, and she did: a painting of a shed 'all low-toned and dreary with the tree beside the door.' She called this act of rancor 'The Shanty' and hung it in her next show. 'The men seemed to approve of it,' she reported fifty-four years later, her contempt undimmed. 'They seemed to think that maybe I was beginning to paint. That was my only low-toned dismal-colored painting.'"

From the essay "Georgia O'Keeffe" in Joan Didion's "White Album" (1979).

Sunrise composition.


That's my composition, but not my bike (so don't come after me for the transgression of the no-bikes rule that prevails at this location).

"Understandably, not everyone can live at home. They’ve moved away for a job, or the home situation is too toxic or overcrowded. But space and sanity willing..."

"... consider the savings young adults could amass if they continued to live in the family home. With inflation at a 40-year-high, it just makes economic sense for adult children to live at home for several years.... I feel for the men who are ridiculed for still living at home — and for the daughters who feel pressured to leave. My husband and I have taken a different tack with our children. We have begged them to live at home. We want them here at least until their 30s.... My husband and I agreed not to charge any of our children rent as long as they are saving, so that when they finally launch they will have a substantial cushion that should keep them from boomeranging back home.... A decade at home starting in their 20s, and saving most of their income rather than paying rent for all those years, could put young adults on the path to homeownership that could end with a smaller mortgage or no mortgage at all. That would be a financial game changer."

From "With higher inflation, living with your parents makes economic sense/Let’s stop joking about young adults living in their parents’ basement/Financial independence doesn’t have to come with a monthly rent payment" by Michelle Singletary (WaPo).

Singletary is a personal finance columnist. She has virtually nothing to say about the social development of young adults, and her son and daughter — in their 20s — seems to be diligently working and squirreling away money. Presumably, they behave within a range that fits the parents' conventions, and the financial boom would be lowered if they did not. But, she says, her son is "lovely" and he walks the dog. There's no adjective like "lovely" attached to the daughter, perhaps because it's presumed that daughters will be docile, perhaps because mom wanted to elbow her toward increased loveliness.

Singletary assures us that kids in this phase are not suffering from "arrested development," but who knows how they'd develop if they lived outside of the surveillance of their parents? But, sure, privacy and independence may pale in comparison to painful economic need. And now I'm picturing devious politicians swarming in the backroom, celebrating these economic hard times.

Sentence of the Day.

This is the last sentence of a NYT T Magazine article by Nick Haramis titled, "What’s Behind Fashion’s Rediscovery of the Bare Midriff? It might be that in exposing the waist, designers are also revealing their hope for a bolder and better future." 

Are you ready to diagram (or at least think about diagramming)?

As much as this procession of bare midriffs was a form of immediate wish fulfillment in a time of isolation, uncertainty and protective layers, it was, too, an invocation for the future — an attempt to manifest, by exposing one of our most defenseless, most provocative zones, a future in which we might once again let our guards down and see our bodies not as vessels for disease or targets for injustice but as sources of power.

It's easy to get started:


It's a lot of work to complete the diagram, but feel free to jump right into the meaning... if you can. I can get you started on that too. Your midriff is defenseless and provocative — though I have not seen your particular midriff, and it may provoke something quite different from what the toned, sleek runway-model midriffs provoke — but it means something different in the future from what it meant in the past, because in the past we had the isolation of the lockdown, and moving into the future, we're trying to reengage with social life. It's one thing to dream about a defenseless and provocative midriff when you're home alone and can't go out, quite another to venture into the world again — it's hard enough with a fully covered torso — with your bare belly exposed. But what if we could take our defenseless and provocative midriff out in public with a better, stronger attitude, as a source of power? Then it might help us get over our dismal feeling that our body is a vessels for disease or a target for injustice. Maybe! It's all in the mind. Expose the space from the bottom of your breasts to the line reached by low-rise pants. Just get it out there. Think: power!! And then maybe you too will have emerged — truly emerged — from the lockdown.

"With particularly dystopian flair, the formula shortage came to a head around the same time that a draft opinion leaked from the Supreme Court that would overturn Roe v. Wade."

"On one hand, women would be forced to birth children. But on the other hand, once those children arrive, there might not be food to feed them. A footnote from Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that gained some traction this week was about adoption. The footnote quoted a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which had noted that the 'domestic supply of infants relinquished at birth or within the first month of life and available to be adopted has become virtually nonexistent.' The inclusion of the study in an opinion that would overturn Roe seemed to suggest that there was no need to have an abortion as there were plenty of American couples who wanted children but not enough American babies for them to adopt.... [W]hat it tells me is: You have no idea. No idea how hard pregnancy is on a body. No idea that don’t worry, you can give it away does not respond to the reasons that many abortion seekers might be seeking abortions to begin with. The opinion’s biggest problem isn’t that it was cruel, it’s that it was incurious. It did not attempt to understand pregnancy or motherhood. It was the 98-page equivalent of, 'Why don’t you just embrace your womanhood and nurture your children?'"

From "A lot of powerful people seem to have no clue what motherhood means/The formula shortage is a reminder of why being a mom — even when it’s a choice — is hard in ways some powerful people don’t seem to get" by Monica Hesse (WaPo).

"Wall Street Journal investigative report this week underlines just how frivolous were the claims in the Steele dossier, and how nonexistent was the attempt..."

"... by Christopher Steele, the vaunted British ex-spy, to verify or even vet them. The sources for many of the Steele allegations consisted of three people 'brought together over a minor corporate-publicity contract,' not one of whom had any inside knowledge of Kremlin politics or the Trump campaign.... To be emphasized with extreme prejudice is Mr. Steele's studious incuriosity about the sourcing of the garbage he passed on to the Clinton campaign, with the only interesting question being how cognizant was the Clinton campaign or did it also not care.... Whatever the Kremlin's own six-figure investment in Facebook and Twitter memes or even its trafficking in stolen Democratic emails, nothing in Vladimir Putin's bag of tricks inflicted one-millionth the damage on American life that the Steele fabrications did.... Mr. Trump may be a compendium of human vices but he will always be the president who withstood the most insidious, organized slur in modern memory. His enemies did that for him, not least among them a largely cretinous media that showed its true colors, which turned out to have nothing to do with fearless and searching concern for the truth...."

Writes Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. in "What Did the Steele Dossier Hoax Cost America? Along with the press, what about the Russia ‘experts’ who played along or failed to oppose the collusion lie?" (Wall Street Journal).

Annoyingly, the WSJ has the wrong link for the investigative report. It goes to a column Jenkins wrote in 2017, something he refers to elsewhere in this new column. But it should go to the May 9th article, "Three Friends Chatting: How the Steele Dossier Was Created/Report that rattled the political world often echoed talk among three acquaintances, including the main investigator and an old schoolmate."

"The highly anticipated decision concerned three separate cases in which men had consumed drugs and then committed violent offenses."

"In one, a man ingested magic mushrooms and then, proclaiming to be doing God’s will, broke into his father’s home, stabbed him to death and grievously wounded his father’s partner. The defendants argued that they had essentially been rendered automatons — incapable of voluntary action or of forming intent to commit the act — and that the law barring such a defense violated their constitutional rights to the presumption of innocence and to life, liberty and security of the person."

From "Suspects can use extreme intoxication as defense, Canadian court says" (WaPo).

"It contravenes virtually all the criminal law principles that the law relies upon to protect the morally innocent,” Justice Nicholas Kasirer wrote for the court. “It enables conviction where the accused acted involuntarily, where the accused did not possess the minimum level of fault required, and where the Crown has not proven beyond a reasonable doubt the essential elements of the offense."

May 13, 2022

I've got 9 TikTok selections for you tonight. Let me know what you like best!

1. Man painted as a man.

2. A perfect "Immigrant Song."

3. What boys say when asked what girls want, and how does that line up with what girls say they want?

4. A dramatic vocal rendering of an interoffice memo.

5. Exactly how to deal with a catcaller.

6. And what to do when you hear that sound outdoors.

7. The teacher who thinks you have a right to know.

8. Whaddya need a man for?

9. "The hate crime is coming from inside the house."

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.




"Kindergartners sent home with masturbation assignment."

Reports Libs of TikTok, with an image of what is said to be the worksheet that the school gave to a 4 year old. 

ADDED: I wrote the post the way I did to convey some skepticism, but I want to underscore that by adding the tag "I'm skeptical."

"A ban on 'buy one get one free' deals on unhealthy snacks and a 9pm watershed for junk food advertising have both been ditched..."

"...  as Boris Johnson aims to cut the cost of living and boost growth. The prime minister has delayed the policies for at least a year and may axe them completely as he aims to focus on creating jobs and scrapping 'un-Conservative' ideas. The U-turn was immediately condemned by health campaigners as failing children.... Johnson came to power deriding 'nanny state' measures but underwent a Damascene conversion after his brush with death from Covid, blaming his own weight problem for the virus hitting him so hard."

The London Times reports.

The politics of fat. We got very little of it here in America, despite the Covid connection, because we're ultra-sensitive. About some things. Surely, not all things.

We also rarely say "Damascene conversion," so it struck me. Not enough to change my religion/politics, but enough to make me want to end this post with a graphic depiction of Paul's conversion. There are so many. I'll just pick my favorite:


"We're at war."

Gad Saad talks with Joe Rogan about Marcus Aurelius.

ADDED: Joe takes a druggy off-ramp midway through.

"During the first night, in a rustic hot spring resort where the talk of the town was an owl that had taken residence in a tree..."

"... I came to terms with the fact that this was indeed going to be uncomfortable. I’d once lived outside for a month in a Thai Buddhist permaculture commune, slept in countless hostels, and meditated for 100 hours over 10 days in the Southern California desert. Living in a van when nightly temperatures dropped to 30 degrees would be another notch on the belt, I thought. Caity was astonished by my equanimity in the face of hundreds of opportunities to complain. Discomfort is inevitable, I’ve learned, but suffering is optional. I shivered and smelled, but there was no use resisting what I couldn’t change." 

From "#VanLife, From the Passenger Seat/When Caity Weaver wanted to try living out of a van as research for an article, she recruited her friend Michael Arnstein to come along for the ride. He shares what it was like to ride shotgun for a week" (NYT).

"If factory made baby formula is in short supply, health authorities need to do better than telling parents not to DIY."

"This is just another 'abstinence only' model that won't work. If babies are hungry, parents are going to feed them, guidelines be damned. The appropriate response then is for pediatric nutrition experts to publish safe recipes for emergency nutrition supplementation with explicit warnings to not deviate from the recipe with clear descriptions of the consequences that can result from doing so. If this is an emergency, treat it like one, with emergency stop-gap measures." 

That's one of many comments making the same point — the point I made 2 days ago — at the NYT article "Why Doctors Don’t Recommend Homemade Baby Formula/Amid a nationwide formula shortage, some parents are D.I.Y.-ing recipes. But pediatricians strongly advise against it."

The most absurd thing in the article is an anecdote about a baby that had a heart attack after consuming only formula made from coconut water, sea moss, and chia seeds! Just tell people the best mixture that's based on canned unsweetened evaporated milk. That's what the Baby Boomers were fed, and nothing went haywire.

They're afraid people will do it wrong, but they're withholding advice on what would be best! They don't want responsibility, but that's just forcing people to use their own judgment about the best recipe. It’s not that hard. It's not mastering the art of French cooking.

"For the last two years, the phrase 'romanticize your life' has emerged on social media as a call to action.... It asks us to appreciate what we have right in front of us..."

"... and to live with intention, no matter how mundane our daily rituals might be.... Although some of the content appears aspirational — not all of us can afford a quick trip to Italy or run off to a field full of flowers, dressed in flouncy spring fashion — most of it rejects the type of messaging that pushes people to acquire material things. And it likewise renounces the 'that girl' aesthetic that promotes a one-size-fits-all path to well-being, replete with green juices, journaling and working out. One Reddit commenter found joy even while washing coffee pots at work. 'After putting a little soap in the pot, I gently squeeze the bottle to blow bubbles out... I love bubbles.'... The trend draws wisdom from different domains, like mindfulness, positive psychology and the Danish custom of hygge.... Intertwined in the online conversation about 'romanticizing your life' is the 'main character' trend.... In [Ashley] Ward’s TikTok video.... 'You have to start romanticizing your life,' the narration begins. 'You have to start thinking of yourself as the main character. Because if you don’t, life will continue to pass you by. And all the little things that make it so beautiful will continue to go unnoticed. So take a second, and look around, and realize that it’s a blessing for you to be here right now.'..."

From "The Mundane Thrill of 'Romanticizing Your Life'/A trend that took off early in the pandemic encourages people to appreciate life’s simple pleasures, a philosophy that resonates just as strongly two years later" by Christina Caron (NYT). 

ADDED: I was more familiar with the "I'm the Main Character" song on TikTok (explained here, at Know Your Meme).

There are many versions of it, but this is the original:

"Twitter deal temporarily on hold pending details supporting calculation that spam/accounts do indeed represent less than 5% of users."

Tweeted Elon Musk, quoted in "Elon Musk tweeted that Twitter deal is temporarily on hold/The Tesla CEO, who has been seeking Twitter investors as his EV company sheds $400 billion in value, later says that he’s 'still committed’ to the acquisition" (WaPo).

The problem of Twitter bots also isn’t new to Musk. He has cited ridding the social media site of spam bots, or automated accounts that often promote products or schemes, as one of his main focuses for improving Twitter. 

"I don’t think that the women who are staunchly against plastic surgery are worried about women’s health or self-esteem..."

"... I think they are motivated by fear that their pretty privilege — the benefits they get to enjoy for meeting those standards without the help of a doctor — is at risk. If beauty becomes democratized by more people simply paying surgeons for it, the proverbial finish line gets pushed further away. But upholding a limited body ideal and rewarding the cluster of folks closest to it isn’t the solution. Embracing autonomy and a variety of body aesthetics is. The notion of beauty is fueled, in part, by exclusivity. Those relatively few who have it are revered.... People with marginalized bodies are acutely aware of the consequences of not meeting the standards of physical beauty.... Fatphobia, transphobia and ableism are part of our daily realities, especially for women of color.... A 'natural body' movement that doesn’t include all of us is the real danger. We need to make room for weave, highlight and contour alongside wheelchairs, fatness and full 360 liposuction with Brazilian butt lifts."

From "What Women Who Criticize Plastic Surgery Don’t See/The 'natural' body movement is unfairly exclusive" by Sesali Bowen (NYT). 

This was published March 4, 2020. I'm blogging it this morning because of this earlier post, about black women getting Brazilian butt lifts. I wanted to add something about what I believed was the conventional wisdom — that surveys show that black women are generally happier with their bodies than white women are. 

I stumbled into this essay, and I wanted to make it a separate post, mainly because it's critical of the position I tend to take and I wanted to discuss it separately. I think people who want to look better ought to adopt wholesome, healthy habits and pursue physical and mental health, and feel free to express themselves individualistically. Don't spend money and go under the knife and strive to look more like some lady who has provoked your envy!

"I stole it — I would have paid a lot more. For certain segments of America, it’s more famous than the 'Mona Lisa.'"

Said Bill Perkins, quoted in "Ernie Barnes’s ‘Sugar Shack’ Painting Brings Big Price at Auction/An iconic image sells for $15.3 million at Christie’s to Bill Perkins, an energy trader, who says he’s been waiting his whole life to buy that work of art" (NYT). 

Ernie Barnes’s most famous painting, “The Sugar Shack,” an exultant dancing scene that was featured on the cover of Marvin Gaye’s album “I Want You” and during the closing credits of the TV sitcom “Good Times,” sold for a whopping $15.3 million at Christie’s 20th Century auction on Thursday evening to the energy trader Bill Perkins. It was 76 times its high estimate of $200,000.... 

“What if Oprah shows up? What if P. Diddy shows up?” he recalled thinking. “I’m not going to be able to buy this piece.... I’ve been waiting like 40 years for this moment,” he said. “I’m not going to let it pass.”


ADDED: "Sugar Shack" is the dream of a great night out — everyone is dancing and transported by the music. When you go out at night, you can only hope to find a place like that, or, no, you probably cannot even hope!

It made think of the Edward Hopper painting, "Nighthawks," which is also like a dream, but of an iconically bad night out — nowhere to go, no one to relate to at all: 

"Most recovery houses offer transportation services following surgery, often a minivan with the passenger seats reclined to make space for an inflatable mattress..."

"... where patients, who are not supposed to sit down or lie on their backsides for at least two to four weeks, can lie on their stomachs during the ride. When they arrive, the beds they’ve booked — usually two to a room — can cost anywhere from $80 to $400 a night. Some recovery houses have nurses on site who can check vitals and provide massages that they claim help with healing. But some women complain that they have experienced poor service and unsanitary conditions at recovery facilities, like toilets that don’t work and inedible meals.... A whole host of things can go wrong; most notably, the repurposed fat can travel through veins in the buttocks to pulmonary arteries and chambers of the heart, causing fat embolisms. Transferred fat can also migrate beneath the muscle, tearing gluteal veins. According to some recent surveys, for every 13,000 B.B.L.s performed in the United States, one results in death."

From "Butt Lifts Are Booming. Healing Is No Joke. Beauty, pain, race and money play out in Miami’s post-surgical recovery houses" (NYT).

Lots of photographs at the link. All of the women pictured appear to be black, and the reader is assumed to find this puzzling, because we are offered this explanation: "For Black women, many of whom have always possessed a version of the B.B.L. body, it is difficult to square this popularity with the fact that their natural bodies have been denigrated for generations." But "the B.B.L. body" is in style and seen on social media, and "Black women aren’t immune to wanting a seemingly quick way of acquiring the figure that defines desire today." 

We're not told if white women are getting this gruesome surgery in the same proportion, so it's hard to think in terms of feminism, but I see that the top-rated comment blames men: "Yet another example of how men convince women to engage in body dysmorphia to meet their approval." Can women take some responsibility for their approval-seeking... if that's what's happening here? And isn't this approval-seeking a matter of women trying to get the jump on other women? I'd say more, but since the article is exclusively about black women going for this horrible surgery, the present-day convention is to mind one's own business. 

And yet, if I'm supposed to butt out of this butt butchery, why is The New York Times presenting all these close-up color photos of the sliced-up, bloody butts of women of color? For titillation? To boost the egos of its white women readers? The article writer, Sandra E. Garcia, appears to be black, so I suppose it is not my place to detect systemic racism.

"Readers of Michael Pollan or Amanda Little understand that it’s morally indefensible to purchase Chilean blueberries or, God forbid, New Zealand lamb."

"But even a humble loaf of sourdough requires the equivalent of about 5.5 tablespoons of diesel fuel, and a supermarket tomato, which Smil describes as no more than 'an appealingly shaped container of water'... is the product of about six tablespoons of diesel. 'How many vegans enjoying the salad,' he writes, 'are aware of its substantial fossil fuel pedigree?'... One must further account for the more than three billion people in the developing world who will need to double or triple their food production to approach a dignified standard of living. Then add the additional two billion who will soon join us. 'For the foreseeable future,' writes Smil, 'we cannot feed the world without relying on fossil fuels.' He performs similar calculations for the world’s production of energy, cement, ammonia, steel and plastic, always reaching the same result: 'A mass-scale, rapid retreat from the current state is impossible.' Smil’s impartial scientist persona slips with each sneer at the 'proponents of a new green world' or 'those who prefer mantras of green solutions to understanding how we have come to this point.'... He finds a worthy target in the inane rhetorical battle, waged by climate activists (and echoed by climate journalists), between blithe optimism and apocalyptic pessimism.... Smil’s book is at its essence a plea for agnosticism, and, believe it or not, humility...."

From "Everything You Thought You Knew, and Why You’re Wrong" by Nathaniel Rich (NYT), reviewing "How the World Really Works/The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going" by Vaclav Smil.

The highest rated comment over there quotes something Smil said in an interview last month:

May 12, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...

IMG_0405 2

... you can talk all night.

"[T]he term 'sustainable fashion'... is an oxymoron. 'Sustainable,' after all, implies 'able to continue over a period of time'...."

"'Fashion,' on the other hand, implies change over time.... So we are going to use 'responsible fashion': a term that refers to a world in which all players, from the consumer to the C.E.O., the manufacturer and the farmer, take responsibility for their part in the supply chain and the creative process, and for the choices they make... [T]here is no simple answer to solving fashion’s role in climate change. Even the obvious one — don’t make, or buy, any new stuff, and don’t throw away any old stuff — has negative implications for employment, know-how and self-definition. (After all, people have been adorning themselves to express themselves for pretty much as long as they have understood themselves as 'selves.')... How big does a company really need to be? How do you scale upcycling when there are limited resources?... How do you decide whether leather counts as a byproduct or a bad product?"

 From "Redefining 'Sustainable Fashion'/At its heart, the term, which can leave us feeling as if we’re chasing an impossible ideal, is a contradiction" by Vanessa Friedman (NYT). 

I added the link on "upcycling." It just goes to Wikipedia. There, you'll see a photo of "Food cans upcycled into a stool." That's either a joke or begging for a joke.

Friedman is the NYT fashion writer. She's another person with an interest in preserving the onward flow of fashion. It would be very easy to make a moral issue out of buying as few clothes as possible and making them last. You could save a lot of time and money by not bothering to shop and by figuring out how to define yourself without the use of ever-changing swathes of fabric. 

Speaking of "selves"...

A selvage (US English) or selvedge (British English) is a "self-finished" edge of a piece of fabric which keeps it from unraveling and fraying. The term "self-finished" means that the edge does not require additional finishing work, such as hem or bias tape, to prevent fraying.

Link. If fabric can be self-finished, your self can be self-finished without fabric. I'm not saying go nudist. Just have a nice little set of things to cover up and keep warm with and don't worry about it anymore. Have an edge that does not require additional finishing work. A self edge. Prevent fraying.

"What mystery? She fell in love with a murderer and he took advantage of it."

That's the top comment on "A jailer ran off with a murder suspect. Her death deepened the mystery" (WaPo).

"As second-wave feminism bled into a third, women seemed to rack up nothing but wins."

"First, in the ’70s, women saw a series of legal victories in addition to Roe: Title IX was passed (1972), housing discrimination was outlawed (1974), the pregnancy-descrimination ban was passed (1978).... By the ’90s, we could 'do it all'... Feminism, by this point, had traded in its quest for 'liberation of women' to fully pursue parity with men, all while attempting to remain appealing to them. In short, both professionally and privately, we were chasing victories defined on male terms. (Little defines this era so clearly as feminists confidently siding with Bill Clinton in the Monica Lewinsky affair.) Since then, the language may have changed—there were the sexual-empowerment aughts where we could have 'sex like men' (think: Sex and the City), then the career-empowerment teens (think: #Girlboss). But ultimately, each decade finds us led by a feminism that has abandoned ameliorating the struggles of our collective lives as women in lieu of chasing individual wins on playing fields drawn up by men.... The language of feminism is not working for us, not in the arena of the patriarchy or even in our own private lives.... We need to regroup and reframe our language away from 'defending' the individual and toward protecting the collective. Because yes, protecting women’s reproductive rights benefits me, but equally important is that a pro-woman reproductive policy benefits us all: men, children, our economy, and our national security."

Writes Xochitl Gonzalez in "Patriarchal Feminism Led Us to This Moment. The feminist conversation around abortion rights has gotten women nowhere. We need a new language" (The Atlantic).

Xochitl Gonzalez, a novelist, is 44. I had to look that up to get a sense of how much radical feminism she might have lived through. A lot of the linked essay is about what the mainstream women's magazines have been saying to women. Who doesn't know those things are a con? If you have any true feminist spirit, you should hypothesize that whatever the mainstream is pushing is a patriarchal scheme, especially if it's boosting women's spirits and bolstering their alliance with men.

The last sentence quoted above sounds like the very women's-magazine boosting and bolstering that she seemed to be criticizing. The sentence before that sounds like raw left-wing politics that isn't centered on women at all but simply promises incidental benefits. How is that not patriarchal?

Trout lilies and rue anemone yesterday at sunrise.

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This morning, they were gone.

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"'States rights' was always a cover for segregation and harsh discrimination. The poor – both white and people of color – are already especially burdened by anti-abortion legislation..."

"... because they can’t afford travel to a blue state to get an abortion. They’re also hurt by the failure of red states to expand Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act; by red state de facto segregation in public schools; and by red state measures to suppress votes. One answer is for Democratic administrations and congresses in Washington to prioritize the needs of the red state poor and make extra efforts to protect the civil and political rights of people of color in red states.... Blue states have a potential role here. They should spend additional resources on the needs of red state residents, such as Oregon is now doing for people from outside Oregon who seek abortions....  California already bars anyone on a state payroll (including yours truly, who teaches at UC Berkeley) from getting reimbursed for travel to states that discriminate against LGBTQ+ people. Where will all this end? Not with two separate nations. What America is going through is analogous to Brexit – a lumbering, mutual decision to go separate ways on most things but remain connected on a few big things (such as national defense, monetary policy and civil and political rights).... The open question is like the one faced by every couple that separates: how will the two find ways to be civil toward each other?"

Writes Robert Reich, ending with a question that undercuts the click-bait headline, in "The second American civil war is already happening/America will still be America. But it is fast becoming two versions of itself. The open question is: how will the two be civil toward each other?" (The Guardian).

Does this deserve my tag "civility bullshit"? It's a close call. I'll add it because now I'm talking about it, but I don't think Reich deserves it, because he is calling for his own side to be civil. Those who click on that headline will probably mostly be people who are hot for battle and hating their adversary and — because it's Reich and The Guardian and because of the incipient overruling of Roe v. Wade — on the left.

I hear Reich saying settle down and think of specific, practical things that can be done through the ordinary processes of government, which include, in the United States, federalism. Let's take a moment to sneer at federalism — AKA "states rights" — and then let's calm down and diligently use it.

"The book contains statements and cartoon pictures regarding bodily anatomy, bodily functions and removing clothing to expose private areas of the body in various positions."

"[It] described butts in various colors, shapes and sizes (example: fireproof, bullet proof, bomb proof)." 

From "Mississippi school district upholds teacher’s firing for reading I Need a New Butt! to kids/Toby Price, an assistant principal who plans to pursue an appeal with the chancery courts of Mississippi, was fired in March" (The Guardian). 

We discussed the original decision 2 months ago, here.

Jane Goodall is in an underwear commercial.


I noticed that through "G-strings in the mist: ‘You wouldn’t expect Jane Goodall to be fronting a campaign for underwear’/Renowned primatologist ‘had a laugh’ at the idea she’d be surrounded by models wearing Australian bamboo fabric brand Boody" (The Guardian).

“It’s interesting,” says Associate Prof Michal Carrington, a researcher in ethical consumption at Melbourne University. “Because you wouldn’t expect Dame Jane Goodall to be fronting a campaign for underwear.... This ad campaign doesn’t really give that sense of moral shock, or that sense of why … The sense that people in their own actions are implicated.... While it’s great to see companies taking responsibility themselves and developing [more sustainable] products… how much responsibility do we want to place on the consumer? From a cynical perspective you could say 'Well why isn’t there legislation out there to stop the harmful effects of clothing?'"

May 11, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...

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 ... you can write about whatever you want. 

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Hope you like these 9 TikTok videos I picked out for you today.

1. "Where are the fruit trees?"

2. Grandparents have had the same bathroom wallpaper since the 1970s.

3. A strange cleaning tip.

4. When you give your wife marriage advice from the 1950s. Does she laugh or get mad?

5. When you perform an extended imitation of the way your wife acts when she gets home from work. Does she laugh or get mad?

6. More analysis of Amber Heard's witness-stand acting from that actor-scholar actor.

7. Take off those ugly socks.

8. Sitting at home, eating snacks.

9. "Maybe the only reason you think you're not good enough is..."

"Take initiative and don’t assume that friendships just happen organically... But be judicious."

"Spending time with friends you feel ambivalent about — because they’re unreliable, critical, competitive or any of the many reasons people get under our skin — can be bad for your health.... [O]n average, very close friendships tend to take around 200 hours to develop. Quantity and quality go hand-in-hand. To a tired introvert like me, the effort that requires just sounds exhausting.... [F]inding three to six friends 'isn’t a magic number' for everyone. 'Your personality and the characteristics of your life are going to make a difference'...."

From "How Many Friends Do You Really Need?/Social circles were shrinking even before the pandemic. Here’s what the science says about the number of close friendships we should have" (NYT).

From one of the most-recommended comments:

"I wanted to go to trial, but the prosecutors if I [went] to trial they would put a felony on me, so I think this is probably the better route. I believe I'm innocent... but they're saying if I go to trial they're going to hit me with a felony."

Said Anthime Joseph Gionet, AKA Baked Alaska, quoted in "Judge nixes Jan. 6 plea deal after right-wing streamer 'Baked Alaska' declares himself 'innocent'/Anthime Joseph Gionet, otherwise known as "Baked Alaska," said he had only agreed to take the deal because he was worried he’d be charged with a felony" (NBC News). 

Here's the larger context: "More than 285 people have pleaded guilty in connection with the Jan. 6 attack, and nearly 800 individuals have been charged. As NBC News has reported, the FBI has the names of hundreds of additional Capitol rioters who have not yet been arrested. The Biden administration is seeking millions in new funds to prosecute hundreds of Jan. 6 rioting case."

This too is a leak, and, again, it’s from Politico.

"Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe is still the only one circulated inside Supreme Court."

"An author’s online essay on why she used plagiarized material in a novel pulled earlier this year has itself been removed after editors found she had again lifted material."

The Guardian reports on Jumi Bello’s essay, "I Plagiarized Parts of My Debut Novel."

In her essay, Bello writes about her determination to finish her novel, about a young Black woman who becomes pregnant. She remembers wanting to add “literary descriptions” of pregnancy, which she had not experienced, and seeking outside material. 

“I tell myself I’m just borrowing and changing the language. I tell myself I will rewrite these parts later during the editorial phase. I will make this story mine again,” she wrote. “I would have told myself anything at that point. I would go to sleep at 8am because of keyed-up nerves and wake up at midnight. I stay up all night, writing through the days. I just want to get through it, to a place where I can sleep again. Looking back on this moment, I ignored my instincts. I ignored the voice inside that said quietly, this is wrong wrong wrong."

Plagiarizing your writing about plagiarism — very meta.

"Superglue"? Really? I'd use Elmer's Glue.

I'm seeing this in The Washington Post: "Incensed by the 'senseless upcharge' at Starbucks for nondairy milk, 'Succession' and 'Babe' actor James Cromwell and other members of PETA, where he serves as an honorary director, staged a protest Tuesday at a Midtown Manhattan location of the coffee chain.... As he reads his statement, the masked baristas behind him generally appear to continue working as if there isn’t a 6-foot-7 Oscar-nominated actor attached to the counter — and later they continue to as he leads the other protesters in chanting, 'Save the planet, save the cows. Stop this vegan upcharge now.' Eventually, the police arrive and tell customers the Starbucks is closed — though they can still pick up any outstanding orders. Cromwell and the other glued protester detach their hands from the counter and leave." 

I assume the vegan milks are more expensive than cow's milk, but Starbucks could average it out and adjust all the prices and thereby avoid giving people a money reason to choose cow's milk.

But I want to question whether it was "superglue."

"If you wanted to kill a bunch of MAGA voters in the middle of the heartland, how better than to target them and their kids with this deadly fentanyl?..."

"It does look intentional. It’s like Joe Biden wants to punish the people who didn’t vote for him and opening up the floodgates to the border is one way to do it." 

Said J.D. Vance, quoted in "J.D. Vance’s claim that Biden is targeting ‘MAGA voters’ with fentanyl," a WaPo Fact Checker piece by Glenn Kessler.

I know this is a "4 Pinocchios" review, but I haven't read it yet. I just want to make some observations of my own before seeing how Kessler frames this.

"Across the country, many mothers say they are rationing food for their babies as they search for more formula."

"Some are driving several hours, only to find more empty shelves. Online, private sellers are gouging prices, marketing cans for double or triple their normal price, and many large retailers are sold out altogether. Since the shutdown of Abbott Nutrition’s Sturgis facility, other manufacturers have struggled to quickly increase production because their operations are geared toward a steady level of consumer demand, according to Rudi Leuschner, an associate professor of supply-chain management at Rutgers Business School. 'Some industries are very good at ramping up and ramping down,' Dr. Leuschner said. 'You flip a switch and they can produce 10 times as much. Baby formula is not that type of a product.' On top of the broader supply-chain issues that have emerged during the coronavirus pandemic, such as labor shortages and difficulty securing raw materials, the problem may be compounded by panic-buying, Dr. Leuschner said. Abbott Nutrition said it was doing everything it could, including increasing production at its other U.S. plants and shipping products from its facility in Ireland.... Some parents are researching homemade infant formula recipes on the internet, although health experts have warned that such formulas can lack vital nutrients or present other dangers."

From "A Baby Formula Shortage Leaves Desperate Parents Searching for Food/Some parents are driving hours at a time in search of supplies. Others are watering down formula or rationing it, hoping for an end to the shortage" (NYT).

Is President Biden doing anything to help? I searched the page for "Biden" and all I came up with was:

Republicans have seized on the widening anxiety among parents to blame President Biden, arguing that the administration has not done enough to ramp up production. On Tuesday, Senator Mitt Romney of Utah sent a letter to the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture, asserting that federal officials have been too slow to respond.

Is that the President's argument, that Republicans are politicizing something that he's helpless about? I suspect that if Trump were President, the NYT would craft its language to blame Trump. 

I'd like to hear more about the homemade formula recipes? I looked and saw things that I know my own mother followed in the 1950s, with the key ingredient of canned evaporated milk. The NYT article conveys a warning that "such formulas can lack vital nutrients or present other dangers." Can? What nutrients can be missing? What dangers are there? How about printing the best recipe for homemade formula? 

Breastfeeding is discussed in the article, but the NYT puts a social-justice spin on it:

The shortage has been a challenge for families across the country, but it is especially palpable at grocery stores and food banks in San Antonio, a Latino-majority city in South Texas where many mothers lack health insurance and work at low-wage jobs that give them little opportunity to breastfeed.

You'd think that would activate Biden and the Democrats! 

May 10, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

A name has been named, but I am not saying it.

Elon Musk said he will reverse Twitter's permanent ban on Donald Trump and that he opposes permanent bans generally....

... because they "just fundamentally undermine trust in Twitter." He said: "If there are tweets that are wrong and bad, those should be either deleted or made invisible, and a suspension — a temporary suspension — is appropriate, but not a permanent ban.'"

Intelligencer reports. 

Musk was speaking at a conference in London.

Trump, it should be remembered, has said he won't return to Twitter, but I suspect he'll change his mind

Here's the video. Note that Musk says the decision to ban Trump was "morally bad and foolish in the extreme": 


ADDED: Here's a much better video clip: 

"The last time Yahoo News/YouGov asked about confidence in the court was in September 2020, a few days after liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died..."

"... and a few days before Trump nominated conservative jurist Amy Coney Barrett to replace her. Back then, 70% of registered voters said they had either 'some' (50%) or 'a lot' (20%) of confidence in the court, and 30% said they had either 'a little' (23%) or 'none' (7%). But the new survey of 1,577 U.S. adults, which was conducted immediately after the leak, found that... just half of voters still express some (37%) or a lot (14%) of confidence in the court, while the other half now expresses either a little (24%) or none (26%).... ...Americans are divided over whether the leak is a 'good thing' (30%), a 'bad thing' (37%) or something they’re not sure about (33%).... [F]ar more Republicans consider the leak bad (59%) than good (19%), and far more Democrats consider it good (50%) than bad (20%)."

Yahoo News reports.

Surprising that there isn't more disapproval of the leak, isn't it? Well, actually, I'm not surprised, because I, myself, felt rather impassive about it. I'm sure I'd have said the leak was "bad" if they'd polled me, but I'm unmoved by the histrionics about it, and I'm not that roused by the sanctimony about the Court's entitlement to dead secrecy.

"Remember when sports were political?... It seemed we were entering a new age of sports activism...."

"But I think it’s fair to say the activism surge has at least slowed a little bit. Just look at the sports world’s reaction to the leak that the Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe v. Wade.... Leagues are like any other corporation: They will support a cause if they think it will benefit them, and they won’t if they think it won’t.... They’re run, and played, mostly by men.... And it’s fair to say the unity, such as it was, that we saw in sports after the murder of Floyd will be difficult to replicate when it comes to abortion. People are exhausted. All over sports, there is an undeniable sense of gratitude that the pandemic is over (at least in the eyes of the people who run and play sports) and that 'normal' seasons are back. Increasingly, 2020 is seen as an anomaly in all senses. For all the activism of that year, decades of powerful inertia is still pushing sports to focus solely on the games themselves.... It might be a shame — for all of us — that they’re returning to those comfort zones. But it’s not difficult to understand why."

From "Why Athletes Are Ignoring Roe v. Wade" by Will Leitch (Intelligencer). 

It's not really that complicated, is it? People are truly divided on abortion. Some have very deep beliefs and many are permanently torn and don't know what position to take. Compare the George Floyd protests: Virtually everyone opposes racist police and police brutality. The differences are about how pervasive the problem is and what form activism should take.

"Ferdinand Marcos Jr., son of the late dictator whose family plundered billions of dollars, was elected president of the Philippines by a landslide..."

"... according to preliminary results, only 36 years after his father was ousted in a historic revolution. For critics, it marks a further backward slide for a nation — once admired as one of the few democracies in Southeast Asia — that continues to trudge down the path of populism....The excesses of the Marcos family were in full view during their rule decades ago, with frequent jet-setting, spending sprees and, famously, Imelda’s thousands of pairs of shoes — boxes of which have since fallen victim to mold and termite infestations. Under martial law at the time, reports of human rights abuses were rampant, including arbitrary arrests, forcible disappearances, torture and killings."

WaPo reports.

The article quotes University of Chicago sociologist Marco Garrido: "The faith they had in liberal democracy has dried up … and they’ve developed this taste for illiberal rule over the course of the Duterte administration. This nostalgia for the Marcos period wouldn’t make sense unless you put it in the context of 36 years of disappointment."

"My breasts were even bigger than I imagined them.... As the surgeon moved his computer mouse, they changed shape. With a twitch of his finger, they rose on the disembodied torso..."

"... and shrank into the breasts I had fantasized about for more than 25 years. Until age 11, I was a confident, athletic child.... Then, my breasts arrived.... I stopped playing sports, stopped playing outside altogether. Worse, I was dogged by boys and loathed by girls.... ... Kathy Davis, the foremost contemporary feminist theorist on the subject, wrote in a 1991 article in the journal 'Hypatia,' that cosmetic surgery was 'regarded as an extreme form of medical misogyny, producing and reproducing the pernicious and pervasive cultural themes of deficient femininity.' The woman who yielded to the desire to commit such violence to her body was a 'cultural dope,' afflicted by false consciousness, believing she made a personal choice while actually yielding to a system that controls and oppresses women.... My conception of feminism... permitted me to cover myself in tattoos, pierce just about every flap of skin on my body and stretch inch-wide holes in my earlobes.... [But t]o change my body through cosmetic surgery... was unnatural and irreversible, perverting my God-given form in too extreme a fashion.... It seems clear to me now that any feminist position on cosmetic surgery that doesn’t take women’s relationships to their own bodies into account actually objectifies them. I’d hated my body for years, felt both obscured and exposed by it, and subjected it to many acts that others wanted irrespective of my desires... The assumption about cosmetic surgery is that it will give the patient something she didn’t have before, but I’ve found the greater gift to be what it removes. My body’s meaning has consolidated and is less contingent on the perceptions of others."

From "The Feminist Case for Breast Reduction/My body had been objectified for as long as I could remember. So I decided to change it" by Melissa Febos(NYT).

This is a very long article, and I understand the motivations to write long articles about feminism and one's personal choices. But I don't think the question of breast reduction is difficult. If you have uncomfortably large breasts weighing you down and restricting your activity, go ahead and have the surgery. The author obsesses over the difference between "cosmetic" surgery and surgery to correct a "deformity," but I don't see why feminism should adopt that line. Improving your comfort and functionality is easily justifiable, and I don't see anyone out there objecting to this kind of surgery.

"Immediately following the story’s publication, John and Cindy McCain both lied to the American people."

Wrote Steve Schmidt, quoted in "Former Top McCain Aide Says He Lied to Discredit a Times Article/'John McCain’s lie became mine,' Steve Schmidt wrote about Senator John McCain’s relationship with a female lobbyist" (NYT).

Defending his long silence on the matter, Mr. Schmidt said in his post that he “didn’t want to do anything to compromise John McCain’s honor.” His post then questioned Mr. McCain’s judgment in choosing the relatively unknown governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin, as his running mate and accused Mr. McCain of cowering before her — “terrified of the creature that he created,” he wrote. 

In an interview on Monday, Mr. Schmidt said he was motivated to speak up now in part because he felt he had been unfairly associated for nearly 15 years with Mr. McCain’s choice of Ms. Palin, which he called “a burden.”

Speaking of honor, you should have unburdened yourself while the man you accuse of lying was still alive. Now, it looks like you just can't get enough of kicking Sarah Palin around. Go away.

"Liberalism, she said [in the late 1960s], rather than speaking to the common man and woman as it had in the past, was veering off the tracks into 'a general assault in the culture against the way ordinary Americans had come to live...."

"She argued that the real revolution that allowed women to have careers was not the women’s movement but the availability of modern forms of birth control. To Ms. Decter, women had a biological destiny to be wives and mothers, and those who tried to escape it evinced self-hatred. In her 1972 book, 'The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women’s Liberation,' she wrote that women’s 'true grievance' is not that they are 'mistreated, discriminated against, oppressed, enslaved, but that they are — women.' She offered a solution: Single women should remain chaste, because women are naturally monogamous. And withholding sex, she said, was a form of power over men...."

From "Midge Decter, an Architect of Neoconservatism, Dies at 94/As a writer and intellectual, she abandoned liberal politics, challenged the women’s movement and championed the Reagan Republican agenda" (NYT). 

I remember reading about Midge Decter for the first time back in 1972 when "The New Chastity and Other Arguments Against Women’s Liberation" came out. I wish I could find that article now, not just to be able to revisit the reaction to the book, but to see the illustration, which I remember as a sequence of drawings of a woman reading the book calmly, then reading the book with an expression of developing anger, then kicking the book in the air. It neatly conveyed the message: Don't read this book. Midge Decter is toxic.

I did find the contemporaneous review in the NYT, "The argument of Women's Liberation, Midge Decter says, is with liberation" (October 15, 1972). The reviewer, George Stade, an English professor, writes:

"That we largely associate love scenes or depictions of the less fortunate in films — or any scene evoking tears or strong emotions — with the sound of the violin is largely due to Seidel."

Wrote Adam Baer, quoted in "A Violin From Hollywood’s Golden Age Aims at an Auction Record Played in 'The Wizard of Oz' and other classic films, Toscha Seidel’s Stradivarius could sell for almost $20 million" (NYT).

Baer dismissed the notion that the Hollywood pedigree of the “da Vinci” might curb its value at auction. While he conceded Seidel did not record the most intellectually rigorous music, he added that “the fact he was a Hollywood performer shouldn’t diminish the value at all.” 

“He was a great classical musician before he came to Hollywood,” Baer added. “And ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a pretty big deal.”

Here's Baer's article "The Sound of Tinseltown/Toscha Seidel made a nation fall in love with the violin" (American Scholar).

"His gender dysphoria was manageable. He felt fine about his sex life. Though he had read about 'bottom surgery' online..."

"... the final outcomes did not seem good enough for him to justify the risks. People were comparing the results to soda cans, he recalls. 'They were saying they weren’t functional. You couldn’t pee out of them. You couldn’t feel anything.'... Though phalloplasty cannot yet produce a penis identical to the one most men are born with, it can provide for many of the classic penile pastimes: standing urination, penetrative sex, orgasm (without ejaculation), changing in a locker room.... In the United States, there are two common types of phalloplasty: radial forearm flap (or R.F.F., which uses the forearm as a skin-flap donor site) and anterolateral thigh (or ALT, which uses the thigh). These flaps form the shaft and can be combined with various other procedures in pursuit of four major post-op priorities: standing urination, aesthetics, erectile function and sensation. Most surgeons begin by asking patients to rank these priorities.... Ben’s primary goal was standing urination. He decided his next goals were penetrative sex and aesthetics.... At 4-foot-10 and 97 pounds, he felt he had certain disadvantages. 'Women don’t like short men,' he said. 'I kind of had to give myself all the edge up on the competition I could get.'... I wondered aloud if the point of surgery was to grant him the freedom to stop thinking about his penis. 'No,' Ben said, correcting me. 'I think about it all the time. Touch it all the time. Look at it all the time. It’s my favorite thing to do.'" 

From "How Ben Got His Penis/Phalloplasty — the surgery to make a penis — has grown more popular among trans men. But with a steep rate of complications, it remains a controversial procedure" (NYT).

"Women don’t like short men"... but do women like men who think about their penis all the time and touch it and look at it all the time?

"I have a Rolls-Royce, I have three homes, I have everything I could possibly want, but I was still depressed. The way I look at this is: This is my face, and it’s going everywhere I go."

Words of semi-wisdom by Hilda Back, 63, quoted in "And Now, the $200,000 Face-Lift/Luxury cosmetic procedures reach next level prices" (NYT).

The doctors touting their “designer” face-lifts insist that their advanced technique, elevated aesthetic sensibilities and experience allow them to charge these rates. Dr. Lara Devgan, a plastic surgeon in Manhattan, likened what she does to “commissioning an artist to make a very beautiful painting for you.” Dr. Devgan charges up to $200,000 for a face-lift.

“At first blush, it may seem like a big number, but I think of this as a question of value, not of cost,” Dr. Devgan said. “Your face is your job, it’s your love life, it’s your identity.”

I agree with the doctor. Skill levels vary, and there is scarcity. Why isn't it millions of dollars to get the best plastic surgeon to rearrange your face? How many times more would you have to pay to get Ed Sheeran to sing at your party as opposed to some random local singer?

As for rich people who are "still depressed"... who cares? Let them buy what they want. They're not purporting to tell you what you need to do to find happiness. One can easily infer that it's not to come up with $200,000 for a facelift, but maybe not to bother striving for the Rolls-Royce and three "homes."

ADDED: What does all that striving do to your face? If only you could buy happiness — would you pay $200,000 — it would probably make your face look pretty good. In a pinch: Smile!

BUT: Not a pinched smile:

Research shows the lines that arch above our cheeks from the corners of our eyes are viewed as a more sincere indicator of happiness. They come out when we are laughing or overjoyed. It's called a Duchenne smile, after French anatomist Guillaume Duchenne, who studied emotional expression by stimulating various facial muscles. Those lines put people more at ease than a quick pinched smile that doesn't shift other parts of the face.

May 9, 2022

Sunrise at 5:43 and 6:01.



Talk about whatever like in the comments.

And here's the picture Meade took of me at 5:43. It was very windy. I like the way a big strand of my hair seems to want to be part of the sunrise:


"White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday on Twitter that President Biden abhors 'violence, threats, or vandalism,' and that judges 'must be able to do their jobs without concern for their personal safety.'"

"This was a welcome clarification of the noncommittal statement Ms. Psaki made Friday. A Montgomery County ordinance permits protest marches in residential areas but bars stationary gatherings, arguably such as those in front of the Roberts and Kavanaugh residences. A federal law — 18 U.S.C. Section 1507 — prohibits 'pickets or parades' at any judge’s residence, 'with the intent of influencing' a jurist 'in the discharge of his duty.' These are limited and justifiable restraints on where and how people exercise the right to assembly. Citizens should voluntarily abide by them, in letter and spirit. If not, the relevant governments should take appropriate action."

Writes the Editorial Board of The Washington Post in "Leave the justices alone at home."

One thing the editorial doesn't mention is that this physically threatening activism is detrimental to the abortion rights cause. 

Many, perhaps most, Americans are conflicted about abortion, and this violent or violence-adjacent behavior may make it harder for them — for us — to take refuge in the intellectualized principle of personal autonomy that makes it possible to understand abortion as an individual right. If abortion is just a cause for a battle of wills — if there is violence or the threat of violence — the fact that what is demanded is an entitlement to commit violence against the unborn might draw those who have been so conflicted to the anti-abortion side.

In which I curate TikTok so you don't have to scroll. Tell me which of today's 10 filmlets delight you.

1. In the 90s, you had to wear a thong.

2. Asking Irish people to do an American accent.

3. Present day celebrities who look uncannily like somebody in a photo from the distant past.

4. Things he's apologized to his wife for.

5. An actor and scholar of acting explains what's so wrong about Amber Heard's testimony.

6. A clear aerial view of Rich Strike's impossible Derby win.

7. The alien welcomes you to space.

8. A man in his 20s with "the social life of a pensioner."

9. Trainspotting in Miami.

10. The insufferable vocal fry of indie films.

The NYT changed the word it had planned for today's Wordle, calling it "outdated," because it "seems closely connected to a major recent news event."

And The Hill finds out what exactly that meant: The word was "fetus."

According to the Times, the connection to the leaked Supreme Court opinion was "entirely unintentional and a coincidence." We're told "today’s original answer was loaded into Wordle last year." And: "At New York Times Games, we take our role seriously as a place to entertain and escape, and we want Wordle to remain distinct from the news." 

That's a good policy! But I'd say, in that light, "fetus" should never have been chosen as the answer. It's never going to be good entertainment and escape.

Searching for a notebook I wrote in the early 1970s, I dragged 3 dusty cardboard boxes down from the attic and into the place we call "the orange room"...

... even though it's not orange anymore. Last month, I'd moved one big attic box into that room and spent a day searching for the notebook, then left the "orange room" looking like a stage set at the end of Act I. The character (me) has been rooting around for the notebook and flinging old manuscripts on the floor.

After yesterday, as the curtain opens on Act II, the set looks like this:


Time has passed. The character is still looking. But the truth is, when I sat down in that chair to do a new session of rooting and flinging, I took the first item off the top of the pile on the table, and — lo and behold — it was the notebook! 

I was thrilled to find the notebook, which is 139 handwritten pages of the effort I made, when I was in my early 20s, to preserve my memories of childhood. I might tell you some more about that some time. The entries are numbered. There are 130 of them. Are they like blog posts? Yes and no. In blogging, I'm much more cagey about how much I let you see into my private life.

As the orange room continues in that Act II condition, I'm at my table in the room we call "the big room" on what is the 6,690th day of writing this blog. The blue notebook is at my elbow, expecting to be read. Now that I've found it, I know where it is and don't need to wolf it down suddenly. I want to observe myself reading it. Are these the memories I remember? Is this an unremembered thing juxtaposed to an intact memory?

Meade wasn't around when I dragged the boxes out of the attic and into the orange room, but this morning, he found a little scrap of newsprint that had flown free of one of the boxes and landed on the hallway floor. One can only guess how this snippet got to survive in our attic all these years, but I'm sure it never expected life would end so good:


ADDED: Here's the source of that snippet: "Nursing Home Patients Take Moving Day in Stride" (NYT, March 15, 1972). Cutting that out was like the first step in blogging, "cutting" something from a news article. But, unlike in blogging, there was nowhere to "paste" it. It got mixed in with papers and waited 50 years and got discovered along with whatever new things I was blogging yesterday, and at long last, it got "pasted" in the form of that photograph.

"New human remains were found at Lake Mead in Nevada over the weekend, days after a decomposed body was found in a metal barrel at the lake's shrinking shoreline...."

"The discovery comes nearly a week after remains were found in a barrel at Lake Mead on May 1, exposed by receding water levels. That victim was believed to have been killed between the mid-1970s and the early 1980s based on clothing and footwear the victim was found with, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said....."

NBC reports.

The shrinking water exposes decades-old murders, and the date is estimated based on a police assessment of whatever was left of the fashion. Was the skeleton wearing platform shoes?

"... Democrats, nationally and in Wisconsin, [are] divided over how much to emphasize their own police-friendly credentials and how much to stick to the racial justice movement..."

"... that erupted anew in 2020. [Governor Tony] Evers, for example, has unilaterally funneled more than $56 million in federal funds to law enforcement, a move that enables him to circumvent a legislative maze controlled by Republicans who some Democrats worry are hesitant to give Evers a win in an election year.... But Rep. David Bowen, a Democratic state legislator who represents Milwaukee and is running for lieutenant governor... worried that moving too quickly away from police accountability would sour voters on Democrats who promised change... The National Republican Senatorial Committee recently attacked Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes — one of the Democrats who hopes to challenge Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in the fall — for refusing to say whether he still supports cash bail.... The ad said Barnes 'also refuses to oppose defunding the police.' Barnes’s campaign declined to comment for this article. One of the earliest campaign ads for Rebecca Kleefisch, one of the Republicans trying to unseat the state’s Democratic governor, begins with an image of Kenosha in flames. 'One year ago, Kenosha burned while Tony Evers failed to lead,' Kleefisch says in the ad, at one point walking past a boarded-up business. 'Lives were lost, and small businesses were burned because our governor sided with rioters over the people of this community.' Strategists for both sides say it is too early to predict for certain which issues will be salient in a midterm election six months from now and whether crime will still be a top concern."

From "In Wisconsin, a complex debate on crime foreshadows a midterm fight" (WaPo).

What's the difference?

It's interesting, the differences that matter to people, the endless quest to distinguish alligators from crocodiles and psychopaths from sociopaths, but what I wanted to know was the difference between vandalism and terrorism. 

May 8, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


 ... you can write about whatever you want.



"Vandals set a fire inside the Madison headquarters of the anti-abortion group Wisconsin Family Action late Saturday or early Sunday..."

"... police and an official with the group said Sunday. Investigators are calling the fire an arson.... [T]wo staff persons from the group arrived at the office... to find shattered glass from a broken window covering a corner office riddled with burned books.... A Molotov cocktail, which did not ignite, was thrown inside the building, according to police. It also appears a separate fire was started in response, police said.... [Democratic Gov. Tony Evers tweeted] 'We condemn violence and hatred in all forms, including the actions at Wisconsin Family Action in Madison last night... We reject violence against any person for disagreeing with another’s view.... We will work against overturning Roe and attacks on reproductive rights by leading with empathy and compassion. We will defend what we believe in with our words and our voices — in the streets, in halls of government, and at the ballot box.'"

From "Madison anti-abortion headquarters hit by apparent Molotov cocktail, vandalism, graffiti" (Wisconsin State Journal).

The terrorists left graffiti on the outside of the building — the words "If abortions aren't safe then you aren't either" and the anarchy symbol alongside the number 1312 (which stands for the slogan "All Cops Are Bastards").

"The New York Times is looking to add to its list of 132 Pulitzer Prizes — by far the most of any news organization — when the 2022 recipients for journalism are announced on Monday. Yet the war in Ukraine..."

"... has renewed questions of whether the Times should return a Pulitzer awarded 90 years ago for work by Walter Duranty, its charismatic chief correspondent in the Soviet Union. 'He is the personification of evil in journalism," says Oksana Piaseckyj, a Ukrainian-American activist who came to the U.S. as a child refugee in 1950. She is among the advocates for the return of the award. 'We think he was like the originator of fake news.'"

NPR reports.

I've got 6 TikTok selections today. Let me know which ones you like.

1. Making "breakfast coffee" — from the 1950s — involves egg whites.

2. What meaning can a 3-year-old find in the song "Under the Bridge"?

3. A fly breaking up with a fly.

4. Peter Doocy saying goodbye to Jen Psaki.

5. A lesson in awful restaurant conversation.

5. What are the guys in the office getting their mother for Mother's Day? (There's a clear winner.)

6. A mother remembers.

The pro-abortion side should forefront and elevate women's rights, not stir up violence and anti-Catholic bigotry.

ADDED: This is so detrimental to the cause of women's rights that I want to explore whether this is a "false flag" message. Here's the Ruth Sent Us web page. It's not very informative.

MORE: When I do a search of Google News for the group, the hits all seem to be at conservative news sites. I don't believe the group has ever been mentioned in the NYT, and I find only one mention in The Washington Post, 3 days ago, in "The Trailer: Four ways the leaked draft abortion opinion has altered the midterms," by David Weigel:

Since Monday, the liberal group Ruth Sent Us has published the public addresses of conservative Supreme Court justices, urging protesters to walk by them, and ShutDownDC has endorsed a walk-by “protest for reproductive freedom.

If this group "published the public addresses of conservative Supreme Court justices," that's a pretty good sign that they really are radically hostile to conservatives. I wouldn't use the word "liberal" to describe this behavior.

It's peak fritillaria time at Meadhouse.


Thanks to Meade for planting these after I noticed them somewhere and expressed delight in the checkerboard pattern.