May 28, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about anything you want.



I have 9 TikTok selections for your amusement tonight. I think they're all just exactly right, but you can tell me what you like best.

1. A strange device for popping popcorn.

2. A father's amazing skill at earthquake detection.

3. Hospice Nurse Julie went on a terrible date.

4. The self-dramatizing horse.

5. Son House sings "Death Letter Blues."

6. The first guy who comes up with the idea of going to the beach as an activity.

7. The cat on the Fancy Feast catfood can isn't fancy enough. (Later: Purina expresses thanks for the new design.)

8. Getting your hair braided in Ghana.

9. The rosy maple moth.

"Two blazes that grew into New Mexico's largest ever wildfire were both started by the U.S. Forest Service..."

"... the agency said on Friday.... Forest Service investigators determined the Calf Canyon Fire was caused by a 'burn pile' of branches that the agency thought was out but reignited.... That blaze on April 22 merged with the Hermits Peak Fire, which the USFS started with a controlled burn that went out of control on April 6, the agency previously reported.... Blazing a more than 40-mile-long... path up the Sangre de Cristo mountains, the fire has destroyed watersheds and forests used for centuries by Indo-Hispano farming villages and Native American communities."

Reuters reports. 

A disaster and a metaphor. What is presented by the government as "controlled" goes wildly out of control.

"The Daily Beast issued an apology to the laptop repairman who first obtained Hunter Biden's computer after the liberal blog erroneously alleged the device was ‘stolen.'..."

"The apology came as Mac Isaac launched a defamation lawsuit against the Daily Beast as well as CNN, Politico and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., over how they portrayed him while pushing the narrative during the 2020 presidential election that the content from Hunter Biden's laptop was the product of Russian disinformation... It is unclear if the apology is tied to any resolution to Mac Isaac's suit against the Daily Beast."

From "Daily Beast issues apology to laptop repairman amid lawsuit after claiming Hunter Biden's laptop was 'stolen'/John Paul Mac Isaac filed a defamation lawsuit against the Daily Beast, CNN, Politico, Adam Schiff" (Fox News).

Maybe it's just a coincidence. Maybe the Daily Beast just suddenly felt stricken by its conscience and wanted to atone, to square up with the truth, to commit anew to the grand tradition of journalistic professionalism.

"We stopped teaching values in so many of our schools. Now we’re teaching wokeness, we’re indoctrinating our children with things like CRT..."

"... telling some children they’re not equal to others, and they’re the cause of other people’s problems. I think CRT has been going on under the radar for quite some time as well. Wokeness has been. Liberal indoctrination has been. This is a much larger issue than what a simple new gun law is gonna – it’s not gonna solve it. It’s not gonna solve it."

Said Ron Johnson, quoted by Chris Cillizza, in "This Republican senator thinks ‘wokeness’ is the cause of mass shootings" (CNN).

I don't like the headline, because Johnson didn't say "wokeness is the cause of mass shootings." He said there's a failure to teach "values." Values have been supplanted by these other things. The word "values" is vague, but I think it at least conveys the desire to accentuate the positive. A problem with teaching the lessons of CRT is that you're inculcating children with negativity: It's a bad old world, kids — hatred larded into everything. That might explain why some of them hit the chaos of adolescence and veer into nihilism.

But Cillizza might not have written the headline. He riffs a few lines. Let's read:

"Despite the camp absurdity of her scenes, she is not a clown, and despite her nakedness, her work doesn’t straightforwardly concern..."

"... either masochism or self-love. Instead, fat stigma is toyed with, embodied, and satirized, sometimes through sexualized caricatures of gluttony. 'Good Morning' shows her—with her underpants pulled down and stuffed with a loaf (or more) of sliced white bread—holding a knife and a jar of Nutella.... A fat woman is by cultural default already an object of ridicule; inviting laughter by clenching a baguette between her legs, or ironing a pizza to her chest, could easily spin out of her control. Perhaps Susiraja’s blank affect is the key to her peculiar power to retain the upper hand. Indifference is one of the purest forms of defiance, but her disciplined impassivity, her refusal to cue the viewers’ reaction, is more than that. Her unwillingness to feed us meaning is more provocative, and disquieting, than an obvious dare, and it leaves a more lasting impression."

Writes Johanna Fateman, in "Iiu Susiraja’s Self-Portraits Are More Than a Dare/The photographer uses her own body without straightforward interest in either masochism or self-love" (The New Yorker). Lots of stunning/hilarious photos there. Perhaps a paywall will stop you, but here's her webpage. You can see the same photos there — and even more.

Wait. How do we know "she is not a clown"? It can't be the "blank affect." One of the prime ways of clowning is to do ridiculous things while maintaining a flat facial expression. There's a special and well-known word for it: deadpan.

The OED tips me off that "pan" was once American slang for "face" or "mouth." To quote "Great Comics" (1924): "Open yer pan afterwards about this and you'll be in stir for the next thousand years."

And I see that Nathanael West used "dead pan" in "Miss Lonelyhearts":

"There is such a bias toward glorifying hot weather and vilifying cold, though a lot of people strongly prefer winter to summer."

"I don't really get depressed in the summer, but I dread it because of the extreme discomfort & nothing to do for it but stay indoors. Winter, on the other hand, is completely manageable by dressing properly."

Says a commenter on "Seasonal Affective Disorder Isn’t Just for Winter/Feeling blue even though everyone seems to be basking in perfect summer weather? There might be a good reason for that" (NYT).  

That was originally published a year ago, but it's on the NYT home page today, presumably because it's great Memorial Day weekend topic: Some of us don't love summer. If you suffer in winter, you have lots of vocal company. And if you enjoy winter, other people are always interfering with the pleasure by openly complaining about it. But there's an excessive celebration of the greatness of summer. If you feel bad in the summer, you might feel harassed by the pressure to join in all this purported fun.

Here's another comment from over there:

May 27, 2022

Today, I encountered my favorite place at 5:39 a.m. and again at 5:15 p.m.


It's where we like to go. What can I say? 


Write about anything you want in the comments.

I've handpicked 7 TikToks. Let me know what you like best.

1. A scary tower (in Sri Lanka).

2. Nipa palm fruit.

3. Preschool Trump calls "fake news" on the teacher's announcement of "last day of school."

4. Life inside the Arctic Circle — sunlight in the middle of the night.

5. The street artist encounters a drain.

6. "you're breaking up with me but there's a squirrel outside eating at the squirrel table."

7. Hey, everybody, hi... it's the toast rack.

"Canada’s supreme court has ruled that life sentences without the chance of parole are both 'cruel' and unconstitutional..."

"The court unanimously determined on Friday that sentencing killers to lengthy prison terms with little hope of freedom risked bringing the “administration of justice into disrepute.'... Acknowledging the heinous crimes of those serving multiple life sentences, Chief Justice Richard Wagner wrote that the ruling 'must not be seen as devaluing the life' of innocent victims. 'This appeal is not about the value of each human life, but rather about the limits on the state’s power to punish offenders, which, in a society founded on the rule of law, must be exercised in a manner consistent with the Constitution.'"

The Guardian reports.

"How can we amend the law for those who sell their personality for the sake of benefits? Be responsible for your own life, Salmons!"

Said somebody quoted in "Taiwanese people stuck with the name ‘Salmon’ after sushi promotion Parliament debates law that bans people from changing their names more than three times after stunt leads to unforeseen consequences" (The Guardian).

In March 2021 restaurant chain Sushiro ran a promotion offering free all-you-can-eat sushi for a whole table to anyone with the Chinese characters for salmon, “gui yu”, in their name.... 

Once the two-day promotion ended, most returned to their normal names, but... the government only allows people to change their names three times....

“It’s a serialized, Dickensian way of looking at and distributing filmed media.”

From "Ways to Describe a Limited or Prestige Series Without Saying It’s 'Like a Six-Hour Movie'" (The New Yorker).

"When specially equipped federal immigration agents arrived at the elementary school in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday, the local police at the scene would not allow them to go after the gunman..."

"... who had opened fire on students inside the school, according to two officials briefed on the situation."

The NYT reports.

Also: "[P]olice leaders struggled to answer questions about the horrific hour it took to halt a gunman who opened fire on students and teachers inside Robb Elementary School. No school police officer confronted the gunman before he went into the school, a state police spokesman said...."

ADDED: If the police don't arrive and save us from violence, how can this event support the argument for restricting guns? This is the very situation that makes the most responsible people want to own guns. It reminds me of the summer of 2020, when there were riots, and the police stood down.

AND: I've always remembered this passage from Justice Breyer's dissenting opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller:

Insofar as the Framers focused at all on the tiny fraction of the population living in large cities, they would have been aware that these city dwellers were subject to firearm restrictions that their rural counterparts were not. They are unlikely then to have thought of a right to keep loaded handguns in homes to confront intruders in urban settings as central. And the subsequent development of modern urban police departments, by diminishing the need to keep loaded guns nearby in case of intruders, would have moved any such right even further away from the heart of the amendment’s more basic protective ends.

"White House officials are currently planning to cancel $10,000 in student debt per borrower..."

"The White House’s latest plans called for limiting debt forgiveness to Americans who earned less than $150,000 in the previous year, or less than $300,000 for married couples filing jointly.... Wiping out $10,000 of debt per borrower could cost roughly $230 billion.... The White House has been looking for economic measures it can enact without congressional approval since the collapse of Biden’s Build Back Better economic agenda at the end of last year.... The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget estimated that roughly 70 percent of the benefit will go to those in the top half of the income spectrum. Critics of debt forgiveness also say it does nothing to address college costs or the troubled lending system. It’s not clear whether people who need to borrow to start college this fall, for instance, would be eligible to have brand-new loans forgiven."

 WaPo reports.

"We’ve run plenty of stories about people who have been the target of mobs... What we’ve rarely heard—here or anywhere else—is what it’s like for the person who loves the mob’s target."

"What it’s like to watch someone you love being torn to pieces. Solveig Gold is one of those people." 

Writes Bari Weiss, at Common Sense, introducing "What Princeton Did to My Husband/My alma mater is not the school I once loved. But Joshua Katz is exactly the man I knew I married."

ADDED: Gold is now 27, or so I read recently in the NYT, and her essay says she entered Princeton as a student in 2013. So, it seems she met Katz when she was 18 and he was 44. There was a huge age and power difference between them. They began living together in 2019, when she was perhaps 24 and he was 50. She is currently a PhD candidate in Classics, his discipline. 

When Gold met Katz: "He was a balding nerd with a belly, and I adored him, but not like that. I adored him because he saw and brought out the best in me as a student and scholar.... Everyone at Princeton adored Joshua, male and female alike."

She continues:

Who's playing/not playing at the NRA convention?

"When a male cockroach wants to mate with a female cockroach very much, he will scoot his butt toward her, open his wings and offer her a homemade meal..."

"... sugars and fats squished out of his tergal gland. As the lovely lady nibbles, the male locks onto her with one penis while another penis delivers a sperm package. If everything goes smoothly, a roach’s romp can last around 90 minutes. But increasingly, cockroach coitus is going really, weirdly wrong.... [T]hese new cockroaches seemed to have no affection for a form of sugar called glucose.... So when one of these glucose-averse females takes a bite of the male’s nuptial gift, it literally turns bitter in her mouth, and she bolts before he can complete the double barrel lock-and-pop maneuver."

From "Cockroach Reproduction Has Taken a Strange Turn/In response to pesticides, many cockroach females have lost their taste for sweet stuff, which changes how they make the next generation of insects" (NYT)(with very explicit video of cockroaches mating). 

Those... things on the end of a cockroach are 2 penises?!

You might think that if the females have lost their taste for this sugar, there will be less mating and therefore fewer cockroaches, but the article says no. It's a problem because we humans have been relying on sweetness to deliver poison. The cockroaches themselves will find a way.

"You might expect a defamation trial pitting one movie star against another to unleash a fire hose of debased memes in both directions..."

"... but that’s not what’s happening here. The online commentary about the trial quickly advanced from a he-said she-said drama script to an internet-wide smear campaign against Heard.... Seemingly harmless YouTube channels and TikTok accounts dedicated to legal commentary or body-language analysis have pivoted to pro-Depp content en masse.... The pool camera system, which is operated by Court TV, films the proceedings from multiple angles... The sheer amount of material recorded each day enables viewers to examine every inch of the courtroom with a conspiratorial zeal, as empty gestures and meaningless asides are whipped into dubious case clues, spliced into humiliating Heard reaction GIFs or leveraged to build a charmingly unbothered bad-boy court presence for Depp.... [M]any TikToks are soundtracked with the circuslike theme from 'Curb Your Enthusiasm,' trapping Heard in the role of sad clown... [L]ike Gamergate, which took an obscure gaming-community controversy and inflated it into an internet-wide anti-feminist harassment campaign and a broader right-wing movement, this nihilistic circus is a potentially radicalizing event. When the trial ends this week, the elaborate grassroots campaign to smear a woman will remain, now with a plugged-in support base and a field-tested harassment playbook...."

Writes Amanda Hess in "TikTok’s Amber Heard Hate Machine/Television turned the celebrity trial into a 24-hour tabloid spectacle. Social media made it into a sport" (NYT).

"Persuading Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to take the invasion danger seriously wasn’t easy, initially."

"Blinken spoke to him at the COP 21 climate summit in Glasgow in early November and provided a summary of intelligence about Russia’s plans. 'I basically had the task of telling him that we thought it was likely that his country was going to be invaded,' Blinken recalled. Zelensky was skeptical, according to a State Department official.... [I]n December, Blinken and his colleagues began seriously discussing with allies what steps they would take.... As a result, [Blinken] said, “when the aggression actually happened, we were able to move immediately.”... The Biden administration’s organization of this coalition to support Ukraine may look simple in retrospect. But it was a complicated coordination of diplomatic, military and intelligence resources that pulled together dozens of nations at what may prove to be a hinge point in modern history. Putin thought he could roll through Biden and the West to an easy victory in Kyiv. The Russian leader made a catastrophic mistake in overvaluing his own strength and underestimating the resolve of Biden and his team."

Writes David Ignatius, based on "new details" "Blinken and other officials gave me... this week," in "The secret planning that kept the White House a step ahead of Russia" (WaPo).

"The inclusion of a transgender personality for kids and adult doll collectors alike is groundbreaking. This is bigger than even Laverne Cox herself. This would ripple down many generations to come."

Said Tinu Naija, "a New York-based Barbie enthusiast [who] ordered the Cox doll," quoted in "Laverne Cox is first trans woman to have Barbie doll modeled after her" (WaPo). 

Cox herself said: "I hope all the kids who are feeling stigmatized when their health care is being jeopardized, whose ability to play sports [is curtailed], I hope they can see this Barbie and feel a sense of hope and possibility."

ADDED: I had an additional thing I was going to say. Then I checked out the comments over there and saw the top comment is pretty close to what I'd self-censored : "I thought Ken was the first transgender Barbie doll. Look in his pants."

Ha ha. I got the original Ken doll when it came out, and I was quite interested to see what was in his pants. It was 1961. I was 10. Should Mattel have dangled that in front of me?

May 26, 2022

A somber sunrise this morning.


This is 5:14 — 10 minutes before the official sunrise time.

Write about whatever you want in the comments.

I've got 7 little TikToks for you today. Enjoy! And tell me what you liked best.

1. Thought it was a clown, but it was just a guy.

2. Making friends as an adult.

3. Box hair.

4. "Oh, madam, I will tie your garter..."

5. Johnny Depp — Day 1 versus Day 20.

6. An elegant 150-year-old puzzle.

7. "Que Sera, Sera."

"It doesn’t matter which of these jokes is intended, because Gervais has already rejected the counterargument that a hateful joke is only 'ironic' when everyone is in on it..."

"... and when no one is secretly having their actual bigotry reinforced by the cruelty at the center of said irony. Toward the end of the show, he drags out an appalling sketch full of racist Sinophobic stereotypes, which he insists isn’t racist because it’s 'ironic.' Doesn’t matter that this kind of 'irony' is what allows white supremacists to operate in plain sight. Doesn’t matter that five minutes into SuperNature an audience member audibly laughs at a mention of rape, which might indicate that perhaps Gervais’s audience isn’t as ironically humorous as he wants them to be. No, Gervais seems to have decided that because words aren’t literal physical violence, nothing he says can cause harm.... We’re expected to speak his lingua franca of bad jokes and meet him halfway by agreeing that 'identity politics' should be just as susceptible to mockery as everything else...."

Writes Aja Romano in "With Ricky Gervais’s new special, Netflix yet again suffers transphobic fools/Does Netflix even care that Ricky Gervais’s SuperNature is rife with transphobic TERF ideology?" (Vox).

I love Ricky Gervais, but I have to agree with some of what Romana is saying here. In his new show, Gervais relies too heavily on just saying what he knows are terrible things to say and topping it off with a reminder that it's a joke. It's like something an unfunny uncle might do at an unbearable family gathering. He's taking license to say all the transgressive things, but ha ha doncha know it's a joke. I found that repetitive and tiresome, and at some point you really do wonder whether the laughter is based on a different understanding — not that we all know it's untrue but that we secretly think it is true. That's an especially nagging concern when the topic is transgender people.

"And if we dare to protest, if we dare to express our rage, if we dare to say enough, we are lectured about the importance of civility."

"We are told to stay calm and vote as an outlet for our anger. Incivility runs through the history of this country, founded on stolen land, built with the labor of stolen lives. The document that governs our lives effectively denied more than half of the population the right to vote. It counted only three-fifths of the enslaved population when determining representation. If you want to talk about incivility, let us be clear about how deep those roots reach. The United States has become ungovernable not because of political differences or protest or a lack of civility but because this is a country unwilling to protect and care for its citizens.... When politicians talk about civility and public discourse, what they’re really saying is that they would prefer for people to remain silent in the face of injustice.... The Washington Post editorial board [called] for civility, but the definition of civility is malleable and ever-changing. Civility is whatever enables them to wield power without question or challenge...."

Writes Roxane Gay, in "These Are Desperately Uncivil Times. We Are Disgracing America" (NYT).

I've edited this down to exclude the particular issue about which she does not want to be civil so that it will stand as a general statement that is in accord with my position that calls for civility are always bullshit. I'm not going to try to look up whether there are other occasions where she has been the one calling for civility. She's not calling for it here. This post gets the "civility bullshit" tag because she's talking about calls for civility, and she, like me, is rejecting them.

"Black smokers prefer menthol products, and the Biden administration's decision to ban menthol cigarettes will inevitably fuel an already well-established, lucrative, and violent illicit market."

"This will criminalize the behavior of Black communities and lead to more interactions with law enforcement, not less."

Said Richard Marianos, a former senior official with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, quoted in "How Biden’s Menthol Ban Endangers Black Bodies" (Washington Free Beacon).

Biden's move to criminalize menthol cigarettes would violate his goals of eliminating disparate impact—supposedly neutral policies that disproportionately affect minority communities—in law enforcement.... Such disparate impact is why Biden's menthol ban has earned criticism from left-wing civil liberty activists, such as the American Civil Liberties Union....

Who started this use of "cis-" as the opposite of "trans-"? In English, it seems to be Thomas Jefferson!

I doubt if I am the first person to point this out, but I am arriving at this observation independently — independently, with access to the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Latin root is clear — "cis" was the opposite of "trans" — notably used to refer to the landscape. You could refer to this side of the mountains — cis-montānus — or the other side of the mountains — beyond or across the mountains — trans-montānus.

The oldest recorded use in English is in Jefferson's 1785 "Notes on Virginian":

"You don’t often hear people referring to their Date Lab outings as 'normal.'..."

"[I]n the dozens of interviews spanning the years that I’ve written for this column, only about three people have called their dates 'normal'.... You... might say that it is, in fact, abnormal to describe your time meeting someone completely blind while knowing that anything you say can and will be printed in The Washington Post as 'normal.' 'It was just … normal,' said Ethan Hovanic, 27, of his meal at Farmers & Distillers in Mount Vernon Square with 28-year-old Stacy Fleming. Her assessment that she arrived at independently: 'It was kind of normal, maybe?'"

From "Date Lab: He put his number in her phone. It was one digit off" (WaPo).

"We don’t often hear abortion stories from cisgender men like Mr. Lavallee, even though they are responsible for the overwhelming majority of the world’s unplanned pregnancies, and so often benefit when an abortion occurs...."

"What’s the effect on men who co-conceive and then the pregnancy ends in abortion? And who even are these men?... A man might not necessarily know he helped cause an abortion. Moreover, amid continuous attacks on abortion rights, the urgency among researchers has logically been to demonstrate the benefits of abortion access for those who can become pregnant. Despite this gap in the literature, the data we do have on male abortion beneficiaries indicates that the benefits extend well beyond the person having the abortion."

Writes Andréa Becker, a medical sociologist, "Men Benefit From Abortion. Why Do We Mostly Study Women?" (NYT).

Becker is intent on using the words "benefit" and "beneficiaries." But when a woman gets an abortion, it's because she's chosen it, which probably almost surely means she believes she will benefit. What's the basis for assuming that the man benefits? But Becker hammers "benefit" and "beneficiaries": 

Vulture ranks the stools in stand-up comedy.

"The 100 Greatest Stools in Stand-up Special History." There are photos — in one case a video — with explanations, e.g.:


The one example is the last-place Joe Rogan. You can go directly to the NSFW video at YouTube, here. That is declared the least-funny thing not just among stools, but in comedy generally. 

What ended up at the top?

There's Marc Maron at #4:

Marc Maron explores the fusion of man and stool. Both lead to equally mind-bending results. Maron treats his stool like a performance-enhancing body-mod; when he sits on it, slouched and confessional toward his audience, knees pulled up to his chest like a wise cartoon toad, his neuroses and humor fold in on themselves. The stool closes up his posture and opens him up to the audience. Maron is a philosopher king, and the stool is his throne.

And Paula Poundstone at #3:

Look at Poundstone’s form, straddling this stool! With one foot over the seat and the other sprawled back, she’s a sprinter in suspended motion. Poundstone rides this thing like a Valkyrie, constantly shifting into new and strange configurations. Stand-up comedy is a fine dance, and the stool is her partner in the tango. 

That happened in 1989, and I saw it back then and always remembered it. She worked that stool. They only have a still photo at the link, but this one deserves video, so I found it for you:

May 25, 2022

At the Star-Flowered Café...


... you don't have to be a star to comment on this blog.


The flower in the photo, photographed on May 17th, is, I believe, "Maianthemum stellatum (star-flowered, starry, or little false Solomon's seal, or simply false Solomon's seal; star-flowered lily-of-the-valley or starry false lily of the valley; syn. Smilacina stellata)... a species of flowering plant, native across North America."

I've assembled 10 TikToks for your delectation. Let me know what you like best.

1. What Ricky Gervais said that got some tweeters calling him transphobic. 

2. And Ricky Gervais explaining cancel culture.

3. "I love Franch."

4. A man imitates his introverted wife (she's filming and laughing).

5. What's really going on this painting?

6. One too many turtles.

7. "The frog is not available...."

8. When The Band was The Crackers.

9. That nod!

10. Inside the twee cabin.

"The gunman in Tuesday’s elementary school massacre was a lonely 18-year-old who was bullied over a childhood speech impediment..."

"Santos Valdez Jr., 18, said he has known [Salvador Rolando] Ramos since early elementary school.... They used to play video games such as Fortnite and Call of Duty. But then Ramos changed. Once, Valdez said, Ramos pulled up to a park where they often played basketball and had cuts all over his face. He first said a cat had scratched his face. 'Then he told me the truth, that he’d cut up his face with knives over and over and over,' Valdez said. 'I was like, "You’re crazy, bro, why would you do that?"' Ramos said he did it for fun, Valdez recalled. In middle school and junior high, Ramos was bullied for having a stutter and a strong lisp, friends and family said....  'He would get bullied hard, like bullied by a lot of people,” [said Stephen Garcia, who considered himself Ramos’s best friend]... 'Over social media, over gaming, over everything..... One time, he posted a photo of himself wearing black eyeliner, Garcia said, which brought on a slew of comments using a derogatory term for a gay person.... When Garcia [moved away], Ramos dropped out of school. He started wearing all black, Garcia said, and large military boots. He grew his hair out long.... [Garcia said,] 'I think he needed mental help. And more closure with his family. And love.'"

From "Gunman was bullied as a child, grew increasingly violent, friends say/Relatives, classmates describe fraught relationship with mother and a troubling pattern of acting out" (WaPo).

"Miller still remembers her shock at receiving a phone call, five years ago, from a New Mexico antiques dealer who discovered that the estate-sale painting he had just placed in his shop was in fact 'Woman-Ochre.'"

"The dealer, David Van Auker, had bought the canvas as part of the estate of Jerry and Rita Alter, retired schoolteachers who lived nearby with the painting for decades. They had hung it in their bedroom in an odd spot, obscured by the bedroom door whenever it was open. As shown in the colorful, caper-like new documentary 'The Thief Collector,' all signs point to the Alters having stolen the painting for their own private enjoyment, from photographs that place the couple in the area the day before the crime to police sketches that match their features. (According to an FBI agent in the film, the investigation is no longer active.)"

 From "Sacred or Sexist? After a Brazen Theft, Seeing de Kooning in a New Light/When 'Woman-Ochre' goes on view at the Getty Museum after its conservation, the painting will have a new mystique. But competing interpretations remain" (NYT). 

Miller = "Olivia Miller, the exhibitions curator at the Arizona Museum of Art, [who] acknowledged the artwork’s aggressive content but also argues that it has acquired a new mystique because of the theft... [and] discussed it as a 'sacred object' when asked to speak in a religious studies class.'"

The question whether this painting is sexist is so old that I'm not in the mood to talk about it. Form your own opinion:

"As the water level drops, formerly sunken boats are emerging in the mud, and other vehicles are getting newly stuck...."

"And on Monday the National Park Service shared several photos on Twitter that showed trucks stuck in the mud around the lake – a shoreline that looks deceivingly stable, but acts more like quicksand."

CNN reports — with photos showing the kind of truck that makes you think you can go where those other vehicles can't.

Interesting to see the old quicksand! threat making a comeback. From a 2010 Slate article:

For now, quicksand has all but evaporated from American entertainment—rejected even by the genre directors who once found it indispensable.... Quicksand once offered filmmakers a simple recipe for excitement: A pool of water, thickened with oatmeal, sprinkled over the top with wine corks. It was, in its purest form, a plot device unburdened by character, motivation, or story: My god, we're sinking! Will we escape this life-threatening situation before time runs out?... Time was, a director could sink a man in the desert and still win the Oscar for best picture. Today, that gimmick has been scorned in third-rate schlock.

Here's the comedian John Mulaney joking about his childhood concept that quicksand was going to be a big threat.

"Protest is a kind of theater, as abortion rights activists who dressed as characters from 'The Handmaid’s Tale' outside the home of Justice Amy Coney Barrett know."

"The performance is not just for the target of the protests but also for anyone who sees it via news images or video or social media. The fact is, a group of people targeting just one person, at home, particularly at night, appears menacing.... Florida’s lawmakers went so far as to ban 'picketing and protesting' at any person’s private residence.... I believe such bans to be unconstitutional. The right of all Americans to peacefully assemble must be protected. But that doesn’t mean that protesting at the homes of public officials is effective.... I expect that those who gathered outside my home also felt shut out from power when they screamed at me [in December 2020]. But showing up at my home to shout falsehoods about an election because they didn’t like the results did not help their cause.... These protesters attempted to bully me into abdicating my duty to protect the will of the people of Michigan. But the people who made me fear for my family that night also emboldened me to do my job with integrity.... [P]rotesting outside an official’s home is rarely if ever effective at achieving the goals of those gathering — and oftentimes, it backfires."

From "Protesting at Judges’ Homes Must Remain Legal. That Doesn’t Make It Effective" by Michigan secretary of state Jocelyn Benson (NYT).

If sensible people realize that a protest outside of a public official's home is likely to backfire, then we may infer that people who protest outside a public official's home are irrational. That's an idea you might want to use if you need to argue that the bans on these protests are constitutional. Benson makes a good argument, but if it works, it won't work on 100% of the protesters who would otherwise take to the street right outside someone's house. The ones that are left are those who are least likely to care about lawful, peaceful persuasion.

But also: Protests are not really about rational persuasion. They're about stirring up emotion, and emotion is inextricably intertwined with even the most earnest efforts at rational decisionmaking. I assume that the elite, educated, accomplished Ms. Benson endeavors to "do [her] job with integrity," but I don't believe she can exclude all feeling. In the case of the pro-Trump protesters screaming at her house, she felt "emboldened" — that is emotional. The protesters stirred up her fighting spirit. Yes, it backfired for them, but — by her own report — she was not impassive and solidly grounded in neutrality.

"So the Russians are taking these losses and they are taking a hit from the Ukrainian Army with the best weaponry in the world, supplied by the West. But we are not in position to inflict any damage back on NATO."

Said Andrei Soldatov, an expert on the Russian intelligence bureaucracy, interviewed in "Putin’s Pivot to a 'Really Big War' in Ukraine/As his invasion enters its fourth month, the Russian leader is preparing for the long haul. Meanwhile, the military is chattering about its losses, and putting out calls for supplies on Telegram" (The New Yorker).

The Russian Army suffered some big, disastrous casualties, and, to be honest, I’ve been following how people reacted to that internally.... Pro-Russian military bloggers started talking about the losses and asking why nobody was held responsible for these losses.... 

Maybe I’m too optimistic, but I think we have some new factor here in that [the messaging app] Telegram is such a big thing in Russia, that it is probably the very first war where we have, if you can call it, some public opinion of the Russian military and some sort of discussion about the military....

"Nordic larpers... 'are emotional junkies.... Most of us larp because we can feel it and smell it with our bodies.' 'Nordic larps—they’re not for everybody'...."

"Some of them 'can be intense experiences, and that is probably not what we want to offer to our mainstream audience.'"

That's just an isolated snippet from "LARPing Goes to Disney World/On a 'Star Wars' spaceship, the company has taken live-action role-play to a lavish extreme. Guests spend days eating, scheming, and assembling lightsabres in character" by Neima Jahromi (The New Yorker).

LARP = live-action role play. 

We're told that in the "Nordic larp scene," they prefer "games with deep emotional involvement and few rules." Nordic designers of LARPs were inspired by Dungeons & Dragons, but they rejected the idea of using actuarial tables to determine who wins and loses a fight. That "didn’t really fit the culture here.... Nordics are way more collaborative than adversarial." 

I'm not at all familiar with Dungeons & Dragons, but it was funny to read that it's based on insurance underwriting. 

Anyway, the article is mostly about a big Disney/"Star Wars" production. I had trouble understanding this. My point of reference was a Renaissance Faire, not that I'd ever attended one, but I've seen that phenomenon discussed and mocked for decades, most recently in episode 5 of "Love on the Spectrum U.S." Isn't this LARPing like going to a Renaissance Faire?

I've been on immersive Disney World rides like "Pirates of the Caribbean," where they load you into a fake boat and pull you though various scenes, but you're still a passive member of an audience. I did that only in the context of amusing my children. I can't imagine wanting further immersion with the pressure of being part of the show. But I will put some effort into trying to understand what other people are finding rewarding. 

And does this mean I'm a standoffish observer in life, missing out on the fun? I'm standoffish about manufactured things that you're supposed to get caught up in. If there's one thing that makes me feel like a separate individual, it's being in the midst of people who are having an emotional group transformation.

"While serving as then-President Barack Obama's vice president, Biden was tasked in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting to lead the administration's effort to enact tougher gun control laws..."

"... but in the nearly decade since the nation mourned for Newtown, no action on gun control has passed at a federal level."

From "Biden addresses nation on 'horrific' Texas school shooting: 'We have to act'/Just a week ago, he mourned victims of the mass shooting in Buffalo" (ABC News).

May 24, 2022

At the Tuesday Night Cafe…

 … you can talk about whatever you want.

"Bankman-Fried is an adherent of Effective Altruism, a utilitarian philosophy which promotes ideas like earning lots of money in order to give it all away."

"He went into finance and started donating large portions of his paychecks long before he made his first billion and still lives fairly modestly, with roommates and a Toyota Corolla, with a stated goal of giving away the vast majority of his fortune as he makes it. Critics, however, question the motives behind Bankman-Fried’s increasing involvement in politics, noting that the crypto industry has been stepping up its lobbying in Washington as lawmakers and regulators look to apply new rules to the largely unregulated industry that has likely destroyed more fortunes than it has made. He’s one of several crypto donors who have started spending large amounts of money in politics seemingly out of nowhere, just as the industry comes under scrutiny."

From "Crypto billionaire says he could spend a record-breaking $1 billion in 2024 election/Democratic cryptocurrency exchange founder Sam Bankman-Fried says he expects to spend 'north of $100 million' in 2024, with 'soft ceiling' of $1 billion" (NBC News).


"Peoplehood is the spiritual practice of connected conversation. Our Gathers are 55 minute group conversation experiences led by trained Guides in our digital sanctuary."

Says the Instagram page of Peoplehood, quoted in "From the founders of SoulCycle, a new (flawed) kind of church." 

The link goes to a column by Christine Emba in WaPo. She writes:

Peoplehood’s tone is studiously nondenominational and stringently open-ended, without a hint of judgment or expectation.... The occasional Martin Luther King Jr. quote shows up, signaling social justice bona fides without being too alienating. “The problem isn’t you,” Peoplehood’s website coos, “it’s just life.” 

Here’s the thing: The religious structures Peoplehood is attempting to emulate kindle purpose by asking things of their adherents — hard things. They cultivate meaning by providing ethical frameworks and moral visions to strive for that are not solely opt-in consumables.... 

For all its trendy branding, Peoplehood’s commoditized church is merely religion in an impoverished, attenuated form. If it succeeds? It’ll only confirm the depth of our collective desperation.

But a lot of people do traditional church in a lightweight fashion. I think I'd be more upset by a bullshit commoditized church that did ask hard things of its devotees.

I will say that I find the use of "gather" as a noun irritating. It's easy to see what it means, but I sense some weird pride in cutting the "-ing" of "gathering" and offering what you're doing as something deeper and cooler.

Here's a doggedly uncool alternative:

"[I]n 2019, the tensions between local landowners and [mountain] bikers came to a head.... [A] visiting biker yelled at a landowner for riding a horse on her own property...."

"[When] three landowners pulled their property out of the trail network... which was well within their rights, [it] bifurcated the trails on Darling Hill, and... Kingdom Trails immediately shifted all its marketing efforts into education. It adopted a maxim from a nearby trail network, 'Ride with Gratitude,' to encourage good behavior, and remind visitors that it’s a rare privilege to ride on pristine private land — one they shouldn’t screw up...."

From "In Northern Vermont, Trying to Smooth the Ride for Mountain Biking/The Kingdom Trails Association has built a popular network of biking paths using private land. Now it’s trying to make sure the community is happy, too" (NYT).

It's an interesting process: Old logging roads were connected by making trails across privately owned land. There was a tradition of owners allowing hunters and hikers to use their land, so it was easy, initially, to get permission to make these trails. By 1994, they had "100 miles of carefully built biking routes across 104 landowners’ properties," and it became a vacation destination. That led to tourist-oriented business — bars and cafés and AirBnbs and so on — which caused inflation and didn't really benefit the landowners that the whole system depended on.

How do you inspire all the outsiders who are dropping in for a cute vacation to "ride with gratitude" and value the participation of the landowners?

"Princeton University’s board of trustees voted Monday to fire Joshua Katz, a tenured professor in the classics department..."

"... for failing to fully cooperate with a sexual-misconduct investigation that his supporters say is retaliation for his viewpoints.... [Samantha] Harris, Katz’s attorney, said the university’s actions could have a chilling effect on free speech on college campuses. 'The message to other people who might want to speak out is the price is having your personal life turned inside-out looking for information to destroy you,' Harris said. This is 'someone who was previously an award-winning, highly-respected professor, but from the moment he published that article onward he became a relentless target until he was fired.' [Gene A.] Jarrett, the faculty dean, pushed back against the assertion that Katz’s views were the catalyst for the investigation in a November report on the probe, saying 'the current political climate of the university, whether perceived or real, is not germane to the case.'" 

WaPo reports.

Here's my earlier post on this case.

The top-rated comment at the new article is: "I work at a university and it is a pretty clear policy and clearly understood that engaging in a relationship with a student will get you fired no matter what your politics or rank."

Okay, but then it had better be the case that every single one of these having-sex-with-students professors has been fired. No mercy. Zero tolerance. Yet, Katz's case itself shows that's not the policy, because the University looked into this very relationship in 2018: "He was suspended without pay for a year for violating school policy banning sexual relationships between faculty and students, and placed on three years’ probation."

"Friends enjoying music on speaker during rooftop party at terrace against sky."

Ludicrous caption for "The pleasure principle: How the left wins the abortion wars/The right wants to punish sex — so the only way to win the abortion wars is make sex fun again." 

That's a Salon article by Amanda Marcotte. It's a stock photograph, and they just used the stock photo description. I guess they needed a photo of people having fun sex. 

 How idiotic does this look?


I'm certain Salon is fine with offending those who morally oppose abortion. In fact, this article aims to insult them. It says so in text: They're not really about saving babies. They "want[] to punish sex." I'm saying the photo (and caption) are ludicrous because they represent Salon's idea of inviting its readers into the world of sex as fun.

Look at those models. They're so beautiful yet slightly drunk. They're sitting on the edge of the roof. They're ecstatic about a miniature speaker. They have a black friend, tucked away as far back as possible, with his head slightly bowed. The man in this foreground — Is he stretching in joy over whatever music emanated from the elongated rectangle wielded by the central figure? Is he the drunkest of the lot? Or is he lying there, arms outstretched, as our flight path into sex? Girl in Hat gazes back at us: Yes, we can join them. We can experience pleasure.

May 23, 2022

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk all night.


These 2 photos — taken at 5:32 — complete the sequence begun in the previous post.

Sunrise — 5:26, 5:29, 5:30




The end of the world as we knew it.

"The stuff about the connection between baseball and American life, the 'Field of Dreams' thing, gives me a pain. I hated that movie."

"It's mostly fake. You look back into the meaning of old-time baseball, and really in the early days it was full of roughnecks and drunks. They beat up the umpires and played near saloons. In 'Fields of Dreams' [sic] there's a line at the end that says the game of baseball was good when America was good, and they're talking about the time of the biggest race riots in the country and Prohibition. What is that? That dreaminess, I really hated that." 

Said Roger Angell, quoted in this August 2000 Salon article, which I'm seeing today because it's partially quoted "Roger Angell, Who Wrote About Baseball With Passion, Dies at 101/In elegantly winding articles for The New Yorker loaded with inventive imagery, he wrote more like a fan than a sports journalist" (NYT). That obituary, by Dwight Garner, was published 3 days ago, but it's linked in a new "Conversation" between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens. Stephens calls Garner a "magnificent writer" writing about another magnificent writer.

Among the Angell quotes that Garner cherry-picked for the obituary: 

"The aggressive war unleashed by Putin against Ukraine, and in fact against the entire Western world, is not only a crime against the Ukrainian people, but also, perhaps, the most serious crime..."

"... against the people of Russia, with a bold letter Z crossing out all hopes and prospects for a prosperous free society in our country. Those who conceived this war want only one thing — to remain in power forever, live in pompous tasteless palaces, sail on yachts comparable in tonnage and cost to the entire Russian Navy, enjoying unlimited power and complete impunity. To achieve that they are willing to sacrifice as many lives as it takes. Thousands of Russians and Ukrainians have already died just for this. I regret to admit that over all these twenty years the level of lies and unprofessionalism in the work of the Foreign Ministry has been increasing all the time. However, in most recent years, this has become simply catastrophic. Instead of unbiased information, impartial analysis and sober forecasting, there are propaganda clichés in the spirit of Soviet newspapers of the 1930s. A system has been built that deceives itself.... It is all about warmongering, lies and hatred.... I studied to be a diplomat and have been a diplomat for twenty years... But I simply cannot any longer share in this bloody, witless and absolutely needless ignominy."

Writes Boris Bondarev, Russia’s Counsellor to the United Nations in Geneva, quoted in "Exclusive: Senior Russian Diplomat at U.N. Defects" (U.N. Watch).

"I am really curious about this pronoun business in business communication. Who decided that the new law of the land is that everybody gets to pick their pronouns..."

"... however misaligned they may be to their publicly visibly persona, and everybody else needs to learn this and memorize? Who has time for this?"

That's a comment in response to the second question in the business advice column in the NYT. It's the most-liked comment that deals with that letter, which is about a workplace where it's an option to list your pronoun preference alongside your email signature.

One person in the place added pronouns other than the traditional he/she, but no one picked up the cue and started using those pronouns when talking about this person. The letter-writer, a supervisor, wanted to know how to "fix this situation." Nobody was acting disrespectful. They were just all failing to proactively use "they/them" (or whatever the preference was).

I'll skip the columnist's answer. You can probably guess what a NYT columnist's answer would be. What I think is notable is that a NYT reader made such a flat-footedly sensible, out-of-it comment and that so many readers up-voted it.

"Understand the difference between 'ask' and 'guess' cultures."

I suggested, in the first of 9 TikTok links I posted last night. The link went to this short video by Mary Robinette Kowal. She's a Hugo, Nebula, Locus award-winning author of SF and fantasy, and her videos are presented as writing tips.

Several of my readers singled out that video as their favorite of the 9 I'd selected, and it may have been my favorite too. I put it first on the list, which doesn't mean I like it best, but does mean I think it may draw you in.

One commenter, tim maguire, said:

Guess culture is obnoxious. Just say what you want and don’t make the other person try to figure it out. “The cereal box is too high” could mean you want help getting the cereal, but more logically it means “we need to reorganize the kitchen.” 

"'What are you doing, George?' I asked him plainly and calmly. I got the same answer every time... You work for a madman, George would say in a loud, sinister voice...."

"Night after night, I would come home from a busy day at work ... While I was minding dishes, dogs, laundry, managing adolescent dramas and traumas, George would be just steps away from me, tucked away in his home office, plotting against my boss and me."

Writes Kellyanne Conway, in her new book "Here's the Deal," quoted in "Kellyanne Conway memoir: Husband's attacks 'sneaky, almost sinister'" (Axios). 

Is it weird that those 2 are still married?

"But while I identify as a female, through the show I’ve learned that we probably need to stop focusing on the two sexes and expand it to equality of all human beings."

"Absolutely I’m a feminist. I support women. I want us to all succeed. But we need to expand that concept to humans in general because there are a lot of communities that are not being given an equal chance. So yes, feminism, but let’s broaden that conversation past just women.... Gender is so fluid, and everyone needs to get on board with that evolution. I don’t have all the answers. I am trying to learn.... When I got my braces off, got on Accutane, slapped some hair dye on and I started playing soccer and growing muscle... all of a sudden people started treating me differently because I was a hot chick. I felt like, Wow, that’s all it took? I still feel like the little ugly awkward girl in middle school. For a while I had to fake confidence and convince myself I was confident when I wasn’t. Knowing I’ve gone through that in my life, I can teach other women to fake it till you make it...."

From "Alex Cooper Is Coming for Joe Rogan’s Spot" (NYT).

This long piece that went up 3 days ago only has 1 comment. Isn't that strange? The article is all about how contagiously popular she is. 

The one commenter is concerned with the same thing I quoted:

"So yes, feminism, but let’s broaden that conversation past just women." When Alex Cooper talks about being a woman and a feminist, she feels a need to qualify it and basically say that feminism shouldn't just be about women. It seems incongruous that Ms. Cooper speaks this way about feminism when women's rights are currently being threatened in a very frightening way by the supreme court and state legislatures.....

Right. This is the problem I've been discussing under my tag "women (the word!)" and in posts like "If you won't say 'women,' you are embracing the self-subordination of weak political speech."

"You didn’t want to get involved in the Ukraine conflict militarily for obvious reasons. Are you willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if it comes to that?"

A reporter asked President Biden (in Japan this morning), the NYT reports

“Yes,” Mr. Biden answered flatly. 

“You are?” the reporter followed up.

“That’s the commitment we made,” he said. 

"The idea of elite capture has been around for decades and typically describes how the most advantaged people in a group take control of benefits that are meant for everybody..."

"Táíwò’s innovation is applying this idea to identity politics, the concept devised in 1977 by the Black radical feminists of the Combahee River Collective. He argues that their project has been hijacked. 'We believe that the most profound and potentially most radical politics come directly out of our own identity,' they wrote, because organizing around what was good for people at the bottom of social hierarchies would be good for all oppressed people. But rather than using personal identity as an entry point to building radical coalitions, as these innovators intended, elites are using it as a tool to advance their own narrow interests. He gives recent examples: when Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser had the words BLACK LIVES MATTER painted on a street days after her police force was brutalizing protesters in 2020, and the 'Humans of CIA' video series, in which the agency tried to attract new recruits by appealing, for instance, to their queer identities. Both were efforts to pacify dissent or to rebrand violent institutions using the symbols of identity politics.... Táíwò proposes a 'constructive politics' — a shift in focus to specific results. To him, this means redistributing resources and power downward to the people most negatively affected by the status quo. That may seem frustratingly general, and Táíwò is up front about not offering a how-to guide for equality....."

From "What’s Wrong With Identity Politics?/Philosopher Olúfemi O. Táíwò’s new book reclaims the concept from elite power brokers" by Zak Cheney-Rice (NY Magazine).

The headline got my attention, but the article itself left me with nothing useful, but Táíwò is "up front about not offering" anything useful... other than that he seems to be advising progressives to think about doing what is actually useful.

Kellyanne Conway "depicts Trump as a feminist who repeatedly supported and promoted her, allowing her to make history as the first woman..."

"... to manage a winning presidential campaign. 'Donald Trump had elevated and empowered me to the top of his campaign, helping me crack glass ceilings that had never even been dinged before,' she writes, adding that 'angry feminists' should “have at least once in their lives a "girl boss" as generous, respectful, engaging, and empowering as Donald Trump was to me and my other female colleagues.'"

From "In new book, Kellyanne Conway takes aim at many targets — except Trump Part personal chronicle and part political journey, the book is filled with the sorts of barbed one-liners and bon mots that she dispensed on cable news" by Ashley Parker (WaPo). 


In the waning days of his presidency, Conway also writes that, during a discussion with Trump on pardons and clemency, he turned to her and asked, “Do you want one?” 

“Do you know something I don’t?” Kellyanne asked Trump, she writes. “Why would I need a pardon?” 

“Because they go after everyone, honey. It doesn’t matter,” Trump replied, according the book.

They go after everyone....

The top-rated comment over there is:

"Why would anyone care what this lying harpy has to say? An admitted dispenser of 'alternative facts' her screechy voice made her an assault on both eyes and ears."

That gets some feminist pushback: 

"I detest her but your comment reeks of ugly misogyny. The term harpy and pointing out her voice for special loathing. It's possible to find someone detestable without venting sexism." 


"Logged on to say the same thing. Harpy and screechy voice are sexist as hell. Men do this often. I’m no fan of hers, but it’s because of her placating TFG and being a phenomenal hypocrite. Stay away from physical attributes next time."

I had to google "TFG." The first hit is a Gail Collins column in the NYT, published February 17, 2021 — "Trump’s Dreaded Nickname"

Sitting in disgraced, double-impeached political purgatory, Trump has been trying to retrain the world to refer to him as “the 45th president” during his unwelcome retirement. (If you are lucky enough to get a mass email from him, the return address will be “45 office.”) How cool would it be if he had to sit in front of the TV listening to people talk about “the former guy?” 

D.J.T. = T.F.G.

Perhaps the "dreaded nickname" caught on in some quarters, but I don't remember hearing it before. Collins's dream of what would be cool was not to be. We still hear Trump, Trump, Trump, and it's only going to get louder as we move into the 2024 election season which the disgraced, double-impeached Trump already dominates.

May 22, 2022

A woodland walk.


Talk about anything you want in the comments.

I've hand-picked 9 things from TikTok for you. Let me know what you like best.

1. Understand the difference between "ask" and "guess" cultures.

2. In a 1-bedroom apartment, the "bedroom" doesn't need to be the bedroom.

3. Just a guy falling. [UPDATE: Link removed because the video is no longer available.]

4. Photographing birds.

5. Your iPhone photo app has a built-in plant identification function.

6. A Southern etiquette lesson. 

7. Here's a way to make a cheeseburger — an insane way, but a way nonetheless.

8. Dolly Parton talks to Oprah Winfrey about losing weight and goes on for 4 full minutes.

9. A cover of "Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall."

Sunrise — 5:30.


Write about anything you want in the comments.

"It was sometime during the 2012 season when Alcides Escobar of the Kansas City Royals grabbed a bottle from his locker and sprayed some of its contents..."

"... onto Salvador Pérez. Caught off guard, Pérez warned his fellow Venezuelan and close friend not to mess with him, punctuating his emotion with some colorful language in Spanish. Hours later, though, Pérez was far from bothered. He collected four hits that day and smelled great in the process. The mysterious substance in the bottle, from his point of view, had become a performance-enhancer: women’s perfume. 'From then on, I bought all the Victoria’s Secret there was,' Pérez recalled recently in Spanish.... 'If I don’t have perfume on, I feel strange,' said Seattle Mariners third baseman Eugenio Suárez, a Venezuelan.... Even though most players are often several dozen feet away from each other on the field, Suárez said he likes hearing that he smells good. Pérez said he can sometimes pick up the aroma of Luis Severino, a Dominican pitcher for the Yankees who uses a women’s body splash, despite Severino being 60 feet 6 inches away when facing him. 'I’m a catcher so I sweat a lot,' Pérez said, pointing to all his gear. 'So a little perfume helps. The umpires say, "Oh Salvy, you smell good." I say, "Thank you. Give me some strikes."'"

From "Look Good, Feel Good, Play Good. Smell Good? Baseball is full of traditions and superstitions. For numerous players, a heavy dose of cologne or women’s perfume is the unlikeliest of performance enhancers" by James Wagner (NYT).

I don't know what the "colorful language in Spanish" was. Something not fit to print. But what was the Victoria's Secret perfume? I'm guessing Bombshell. But maybe it's Amber Romance perfume. I see something from 2019 about the LSU baseball team and their use of Amber Romance to repel gnats. (And, yes, I know there's an MLB team called The Gnats.)

ADDED: "Amber Romance" — I'm not picturing hurled baseballs but hurled vodka bottles that shatter and cut off your fingertips.

"The next time you’re with a dining companion, consider what might be different if you were a party of one."

"While breaking bread together has its benefits, only dining with others means you’re missing out on one of the greatest joys of travel — eating alone at a restaurant. This is especially true while traveling, when it is easy to get immersed in a semi-predictable dialogue at the dinner table. There’s the rehashing of the day’s events, discussing details of tomorrow’s itinerary and lamenting how sore your feet are from walking on cobblestones. This isn’t a diss to your companion(s); it’s just the realities of traveling with someone else. Eating by yourself provides an opportunity to hone in on details as they happen — all in real time. You will be more likely to notice the intricate font on the menu or the server’s delicate placement of the bread basket on the table...."

Writes Chris Dong in "Dining solo is one of the great joys of traveling/No offense to your travel companions, but they’re holding you back from a culinary journey" (WaPo).

Most articles about dining alone are about dealing with the predicament of being alone and wanting or needing to eat in a restaurant. But this article has you contemplating an actual preference for being alone while you are with someone else.

It reminds me of that old LSD experiment where the doctor asks the subject — who seems to be having a sublime experience — "Is it all one," and she says "It would be all one if you weren't here." 

But isn't this always the problem with the company of others?

"Depp fans resemble Trump fans in their blind loyalty and willingness to set aside ugly facts about their hero..."

"Like Trump fans, Depp fans act like they’re in a cult. They call Heard’s claims of domestic violence a hoax and cheer on Depp lawyer Camille Vasquez, in a sort of online Roman coliseum, whenever she asks a tough question of Heard.... Whatever the jury decides, a man who was once the King of Cool now seems like a washed-up, abrasive shell of his former self.... And Depp stans at the courthouse will hear no evil about Captain Jack Sparrow. All across the world, customized facts are the rage. Truth has left the building."

Writes Maureen Dowd in "Johnny Depp and Other Pirates" (NYT).

I bet Trump loves this column: If Depp is like him, then he is like Depp. When people love you, they are loyal.

But, Dowd asks, what about Truth? Isn't it terrible that people aren't loyal to Truth?

I would ask: How do you know that your loyalty is to Truth and the other side's loyalty is a cult?

"With brain science steadily adding to that evidence, there is a sense — at least for many in the education establishment — that the debate over early reading instruction may be ebbing."

"Phonics is ascendant.... [F]unctional magnetic resonance imaging of the brain demonstrates that humans process written language letter by letter, sound by sound. Far from being automatic, reading requires a rewiring of the brain, which is primed by evolution to recognize faces, not words. But that finding — by cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists — is often disconnected from the work of training teachers and producing classroom materials.... Professor [Lucy] Calkins became a revolutionary leader in education... training educators in New York City schools, prompting them to give children 'writers’ notebooks' to chronicle their lives.... At workshops on Columbia’s idyllic campus, educators were encouraged to see themselves and their students as intellectuals.... A goal was to help children to build a joyful identity as a reader.... For children stuck on a difficult word, Professor Calkins said little about sounding-out and recommended a word-guessing method, sometimes called three-cueing... [directing] children’s attention away from the only reliable source of information for reading a word: letters... In a 2020 video, a teacher tells children to use a picture to guess the word 'car,' even though simple phonics make it decodable. Professor Calkins said word-guessing would not be included in her revised curriculum.... Professor Calkins does not believe she has anything to apologize for.... And, she asked, shouldn’t the phonics-first camp apologize? 'Are people asking whether they’re going to apologize for overlooking writing?' she said."

From "In the Fight Over How to Teach Reading, This Guru Makes a Major Retreat/Lucy Calkins, a leading literacy expert, has rewritten her curriculum to include a fuller embrace of phonics and the science of reading. Critics may not be appeased" by Dana Goldstein (NYT).

The top-rated comment is from someone who has taught in a NYC public school for 21 years where they use Calkin's "Units of Study": "The degree to which we have had to supplement them with other approaches and sources is immense. Most kids would not learn literacy with these curricula alone. There really has been a sort of cult of personality around Lucy Calkins. The professional developers she hires parrot her ideas and demeanor. Regardless of her claim that she wants to support and respect teachers, the message was always 'Lucy knows best.'"

"That in the 19th century, men of the Nez Perce tribe of the Pacific Northwest who wore their hair long in the back faced pressure from Christian missionaries..."

"... to abandon the style in favor of something more 'civilized' tells us about the evils of cultural erasure, but also about conformity more broadly. In much of the Western world, mullets have largely been seen as a thwarting, whether one celebrated or feared, of convention. Take David Bowie, who wore chalky white makeup, psychedelic jumpsuits and a coiffed orange mullet to debut his otherworldly alter ego Ziggy Stardust in 1972. Not long after this glamorous alien emerged came a more working-class punk subculture for which rebellion was a raison d’être. And as much as torn clothes, safety pins, chains and piercings — the stuff of 'confrontation dressing,' as Vivienne Westwood called it — the mullet played a large part in the aesthetics of the movement. For one, the ragged style was purposefully ugly.... Perhaps, the mullet elicited such strong reactions because it refuses to be any one thing, sitting at the midpoint between long and short, masculine and feminine and tasteful and tacky. But if an inability to categorize causes discomfort in some, this sort of in-betweenness is just what some are looking for, especially at a time when gender and taste both feel, rightfully and crucially, so fluid. No wonder, then, that over the last five years the mullet has experienced a relative resurgence."

From "What the Mullet Means Now/The subversive hairstyle has found its way to runways and red carpets once again. But is there anyone left to shock?" by Megan Bradley (NYT).

Speaking of fluidity, the essay writer flowed from the concept of confrontational ugliness to the notion of "in-betweenness" and connecting the concept of being neither long nor short with the concept of being neither male nor female. I can see why in-betweenness can be unsettling to some people and why the refusal to commit to male or female can read as ugly — to some people — and feel confrontational.

It's almost possible to say, completely objectively, that a mullet is ugly. But it can look cool to wear something ugly if you can sell the idea that you're doing it on purpose and you love it. That it bothers fussy people is part of the energy you're absorbing and reflecting. That's another way of saying that if you don't like how other people are expressing themselves, you might want to deprive them of a reaction. Because — as my mother used to say — you'll only encourage them.

Men in shorts.

I'm reading this NYT wedding story: "Step by Step, Embracing a Future With Each Other/Doug Lockwood and Linda Murphy met in 2019 as members of a support group for people who had lost longtime spouses. A year later came a series of walks that eventually led them to the altar." 


... Mr. Lockwood suggested they meet for a stroll that October. Though unsure of his intentions — the two had never interacted outside of their support group setting — Ms. Murphy agreed. “I was intrigued and curious and thought, ‘Well, why not?’” she said. 

Ahead of their outing, Mr. Lockwood got a haircut, took his dog Penny, a corgi and Cavalier King Charles spaniel mix, to the groomer and bought a new polo shirt and shorts.

ADDED: Speaking of fashion, at the wedding, the bride wore a dark blue dress, and there's a link to this other recent NYT article, "Saying Goodbye to the Plain White Wedding Gown/As couples seek to plan nuptials that feel more personal, many are eschewing tradition. But this may be the most visible break yet." Judging from the photos over there, black is the most popular alternative color — black lace. 

About that dog — "a corgi and Cavalier King Charles spaniel mix" — yes, there's a photo of the dog, which sounds like something concocted for the purpose of pleasing women. The photo shows the dog at the wedding, wearing flowers on her collar.

"y’all ever hear ~12,000 people laugh at a transphobic joke, while you’re a trans person in the audience who didn’t know..."

"... the transphobic comedian would make a surprise appearance at the John Mulaney show? yeah. wasn’t fun. fuck you D.C."

Tweeted someone named "rae (spookiest version)," quoted in "John Mulaney Draws Criticism for Having Dave Chappelle Open, Tell ‘Transphobic Jokes’ at Ohio Show." 

That's in Variety, and I appreciate its putting "transphobic jokes" in quotation marks, but I think we need to see the actual jokes. I'm just going to assume that this was more material like what we saw in "The Closer," which some people characterized as transphobic and others did not. 

And there is something odd about going to see one comedian and getting surprised by the appearance of somebody you would actively boycott because you see him as picking on people like you. You're sitting there in a big group of people with whom you were expecting to feel camaraderie, and there they are, all around you, laughing, and you're thrown into a horrible feeling of alienation, which isn't what you paid your money for and what you anticipated as you went out for a good time that night.

Should comedians make people uncomfortable? That's asking the question at a high level of generality. Maybe comedians should make people uncomfortable but only the people who are too comfortable and never at the expense of the people who are already uncomfortable. 

And maybe audiences who pay to see a comedian who doesn't deal in discomfort should be spared being subjected to a comedian who does. Variety says John Mulaney "tends to stay away from political or social issues" — whatever that means. So maybe this is a case of that. People who expected not to get challenged got challenged. 

Mulaney obviously chose to do that to his crowd, so readjust what you think of his tendencies. Why did he inflict Dave Chappelle on his audience? He had to want to do that. 

ADDED: TMZ gives some idea of one of the jokes. You know how Chappelle was attacked on stage by a man who was carrying a knife that folded up into a fake gun: 


Chappelle seems to have called that "a gun that identifies as a knife" (or was it "a knife that identifies as a gun"?)