November 5, 2022

At the Deaf Ear Café...


... you can talk all night.


It was rainy and windy today, so I did not leave the house... other than to open the door and take in a package of a few random things ordered from Amazon. So I decided to put up a photo I took on October 23rd, when we stopped for a while in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

"Cotton Mather called them 'The Hidden Ones.' They never preached or sat in a deacon’s bench. Nor did they vote or attend Harvard."

"Neither, because they were virtuous women, did they question God or the magistrates. They prayed secretly, read the Bible through at least once a year, and went to hear the minister preach even when it snowed. Hoping for an eternal crown, they never asked to be remembered on earth. And they haven’t been. Well-behaved women seldom make history; against Antinomians and witches, these pious matrons have had little chance at all."

That's from "Vertuous Women Found: New England Ministerial Literature, 1668-1735," a 1976 article by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a professor of Early American history at Harvard. I'm reading that at Professor Buzzkill because I wanted to know the source of the line I put in boldface, which is a pretty common feminist slogan.

Some people think that quote originated with Marilyn Monroe (or one of many others), but no, it was Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

Anyway, the old saying popped into my head when I saw that title of a new NYT op-ed, "The Unruly Heirs of Sarah Palin" by Rosie Gray. Let's read:

"He writes for five hours a day and spends the evening at home listening to music. On top of this he gets up at dawn to run every morning...."

"... 'To keep writing for 30, 40 years is not easy,' he says. 'It’s very difficult to keep up your standards. I did everything to keep on writing books, so I sacrificed other things in order to do that. Other pleasures — for instance, nightlife. I didn’t make so many friends, especially in the literary world. I don’t want those relationships and connections. I don’t like dinner parties.... I try to imagine there’s another Haruki Murakami... He’s famous and popular and has many fans. But I’m a different Haruki Murakami and I live a quiet life. Most of the time I forget that I’m a famous writer. I ride the subway or take a bus and go to some used record shop or bookstore, and in those times I’m just nobody. When I write fiction I’m somebody else, but when I’m not writing I don’t feel any ego. Ego is a kind of burden to man, and I don’t like those burdens. I just want to live lightly.'"

From "Haruki Murakami: ‘Ego is a burden’ new/For decades the Norwegian Wood novelist rejected fame. In a rare interview he reveals why he has quit the quiet life and answers accusations of misogyny in his writing" (London Times).

I see there is a new Murakami book coming out in 3 days — "Novelist as a Vocation." 

We watched "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story."

Just watch the trailer and you'll easily see if this movie is for you:

We laughed a lot. I especially liked the big scene early on that had a lot of celebrities — including Andy Warhol (played by Conan O'Brien) and Salvador Dalí. Rainn Wilson plays Dr. Demento, and Jack Black plays Wolfman Jack. Madonna is an important character — played by Evan Rachel Wood. Al is played by Daniel Radcliffe, and Weird Al himself plays a stern record executive. 

We streamed it on the Roku Channel, and it was interrupted by commercials — as you might expect, a ton of political commercials. I don't know how I put up with it, because I normally watch zero commercials — other than in front of YouTube videos, like that embedded clip itself. I saw an absurd number of commercials related to Mandela Barnes... and don't remember a damned thing about them. Why would I vote based on commercials?

When AI does Thanksgiving: "It's doing it without emotion. There's no context. I don't feel anything... It feels very machine-generated. There's no backstory."

A NYT food editor, Priya Krishna, asks AI to generate Thanksgiving recipes, then follows the recipes to the letter: 


This was an interesting project, well presented, so just a few comments: 

According to Elon Musk, the misinformation (malinformation?) is in the mainstream press.

RCP's midterm prediction for the Senate.


Compare FiveThirtyEight here. And betting odds here.

"A bill to permanently 'spring forward' has been stalled in Congress for more than seven months, as lawmakers trade jabs..."

"... over whether the Senate should have passed the legislation at all. House officials say they’ve been deluged by voters with split opinions and warnings from sleep specialists who insist that adopting permanent standard time instead would be healthier, and congressional leaders admit they just don’t know what to do."

 From "Clock runs out on efforts to make daylight saving time permanent" (WaPo).

Great! I wish there'd be more of this admitting that they just don't know what to do. 

I don't want to spoil the Sunday NYT acrostic, so I'll just say was that just a coincidence...

... or did they hurry this one out?

"Devastating cuts to Twitter’s workforce on Friday, four days before the midterm elections, are fueling anxieties among political campaigns..."

"... and election offices that have counted on the social network’s staff to help them combat violent threats and viral lies.... The layoffs included a number of people who were scheduled to be on call this weekend and early next week to monitor for signs of foreign disinformation, spam and other problematic content around the election... [A] representative from one of the national party committees said they are seeing hours-long delays in responses from their contacts at Twitter, raising fears of the toll workplace chaos and sudden terminations is taking on the platform’s ability to quickly react to developments. The representative spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the matter’s sensitivity...."

From "Twitter layoffs gutted election information teams days before midterms/With half of the company gone, political campaigns are gripped with anxiety over how to address election misinformation and potential threats" (WaPo).

I wonder which "national party" is expressing this anxiety to The Washington Post — which party relied on Twitter moderation to protect its interests in the run-up to the elections. 

"My mother is Circassian, her great grandmother was brought from the Caucasus to Istanbul as a concubine in Sultan Mahmud II's harem."

"The concubines were removed from the Ottoman court after Mahmud II's death in 1839 and she was married to the imam of a local mosque."

Said Dr. Oz, back in 2012, quoted in "Dr Oz, Meryl Streep related through Ottoman harem." 

He said he learned about the common ancestry after Meryl Streep said "What's up cousin?" to him and, we're told, a DNA test confirmed the story, which I originally encountered at the Wikipedia page for Oz

Who are the Circassians?

November 4, 2022

Sunrise — 7:33.

IMG_3782 2

"If Wisconsin Democrats lose several low-budget state legislative contests here on Tuesday... it may not matter who wins the $114 million tossup contest for governor ..."

"... between Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, and Tim Michels, a Republican. Those northern seats would put Republicans in reach of veto-proof supermajorities that would render a Democratic governor functionally irrelevant.... The Republican leaders in the Wisconsin Legislature say they will bring back all 146 bills Mr. Evers has vetoed during his four years in office — measures on elections, school funding, pandemic mitigation efforts, policing, abortion and the state’s gun laws — if they win a supermajority or if Mr. Michels is elected."

From "Wisconsin Republicans Stand on the Verge of Total, Veto-Proof Power/In a 50-50 battleground state, Republicans are close to capturing supermajorities in the State Legislature that would render the Democratic governor irrelevant even if he wins re-election" (NYT).

The northern seats are "three counties in Wisconsin’s far northwest corner make up one of the last patches of rural America that have remained loyal to Democrats through the Obama and Trump years... Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland Counties."

Large hail the size of small hail.


Just now, in Madison, Wisconsin.

"At 80, Streisand isn’t going out of her way to listen to music she’s already made. By her own admission, she’s too busy worrying about the state of the country..."

"... to fuss over her work. But what she heard surprised her. 'I didn’t realize, actually, that my vocals were that good ’til they played me the new one,' she said, before laughing. 'I thought, "Oh my God. That girl can sing."' That, of course, is the shock of 'Live at the Bon Soir.'"

From "Barbra Streisand on Her Pristine Early Recordings: ‘That Girl Can Sing’/'Live at the Bon Soir,' a restored set of songs from November 1962, allows listeners today — and Streisand, herself — to rediscover the sounds of a star being born" (NYT).

Wow! This is fantastic! And who needs Streisand fussing about the state of the country rather than "fuss[ing] over her work"? Art is not a frivolous "fuss"!

Jon Stewart treats a Democratic Congresswoman as if she's brilliant because she came up with the phrase "No shit, Sherlock."

"Republicans are so close to power that they can smell it. In Washington, the spoils are being preëmptively divvied up."

"There are lists of who gets what committee, and lots of reporting on whether, if, and when Republicans will seek vengeance by seeking to impeach President Biden; the Secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas; or others. One can only imagine what a Jim Jordan-chaired House Judiciary Committee would do.... The entire Republican ticket this fall, up and down the ballot, is filled with hundreds of election deniers.... There is no non-Trump faction of any significance in today’s G.O.P.... I have a bad case of election dread right now...."

Writes Susan B. Glasser in "I’ve Got a Bad Case of Election Dread/Whether or not there’s a red wave, it’s clear where this thing is going" (The New Yorker).

There wouldn't be so much dread if the Democrats hadn't spent the last 2 years using their narrow majority so aggressively. They set an example, and you're afraid to see that example followed. If the situation were reversed, wouldn't you be saying it's payback time? 

"Look for Trump to take credit for Republican victories across the board —including those he propelled with his endorsements, and even those he had nothing to do with."

From "Scoop: Trump team eyes Nov. 14 announcement" (Axios).

"Writing a song like this can be deceptively easy. First you assemble a laundry list of things people hate."

"For the most part, people are not going to like war, starvation, death, prejudice and the destruction of the environment. Then there’s the trap of easy rhymes. Revolution/evolution/air pollution. Segregation/demonstration. John Lennon got away with it by using his cheeky sense of humor to create a postmodern campfire song all about bag-ism and shag-ism. But in less sure hands one might as well write about the periodic table of elements with built-in rhymes about calcium, chromium and lithium."

Writes Bob Dylan, in "The Philosophy of Modern Song" (p. 78). 

The song under discussion there is "Ball of Confusion"....


... which he connects to "Give Peace a Chance"...

"Having no options but to be dead, criminal or a parent is not a sane or moral argument for parenthood..."

"... and it’s also pretty different than having certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Also, now that abortion is unavailable under almost all circumstances in Texas and other states, it’s an economic justice issue in that those with the financial capacity to take time off, travel in search of care and pay for it out of pocket are not affected the way those who cannot do so are. And those who can afford to get an abortion under these circumstances are also those who can afford to defend themselves against possible criminal charges...."

Writes Rebecca Solnit in "Abortion is a bread-and-butter economic issue. We need to treat it that way" (The Guardian).

Which half of your employees would you keep? How would you weigh the sleeps-in-the-office factor? Not catnapping, but sleeping overnight on the floor?



Esther Crawford's Twitter profile says: "early stage products @twitter. previously ceo @squad (acq'd by @twitter in 2020 which was acq’d by @elonmusk in 2022). raising 3 humans w/ @bobcowherd." 

Background: "Elon Musk to Lay Off About 3,700 Twitter Employees on Friday: Report" (Gizmodo):

November 3, 2022

Sunrise — 7:28.

IMG_3780 2

"Prime Minister Yair Lapid of Israel conceded Israel’s election on Thursday evening to Benjamin Netanyahu, paving the way for him to return as prime minister..."

"... at the helm of one of the most right-wing governments in Israeli history.... The far right’s strong showing was linked to fears among right-wing Jews about perceived threats to Israel’s Jewish identity and to their personal safety. A wave of interethnic riots in May 2021 unsettled their sense of security, a feeling that was compounded months later by the inclusion — for the first time in Israeli history — of an Arab party in the coalition government...."

The NYT reports.

"Female beauty pageants are allowed to exclude transgender women, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled."

"The case stems from a complaint filed by Anita Green, a transgender contestant in several Miss United States of America pageants.... Mandating Miss USA allow Green to be in the pageant would amount to forcing the pageant to say that transgender women are included in a vision of ideal American womanhood and that would amount to compelled speech, the court held. 'Given a pageant's competitive and performative structure, it is clear that who competes and succeeds in a pageant is how the pageant speaks,' wrote the judges. 'Put differently, the Pageant's message cannot be divorced from the Pageant's selection and evaluation of contestants.'"

Reason reports in "Miss USA Has First Amendment Right To Exclude Transgender Women, Court Says."

The Reason writer, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, opines: "I don't think the court is wrong about what allowing transgender contestants implies, though it is a shame Miss USA doesn't broaden its horizons a bit. Being more inclusive seems like not only the right thing to do but also a way it could shed some of its old-fashioned, intolerant image and help with its lack of resonance with today's audiences."

Me, I don't care about helping beauty pageants gain "resonance" with more people. They are inherently old-fashioned. They're into outward manifestations of femaleness, and that puts them on the same wavelength as transgender women, ironically. But it's all expression, and there's a problem with using someone else's platform of expression to amplify your own expression.

Here's the text of the court opinion.

Satire? How is that satire? Stop puffing. It's simply wrong. If some people found it funny it's not because the art of satire was at play.

I'm reading a Reuters fact-check on what looked like a screenshot of a CNN report that Trump had died. It was a fake headline, and should have just been called false.

But somehow Reuters credited it as "satire."


How is that satire? The only levity comes from the reader's internal state of wanting to see Trump dead.

IN THE COMMENTS: Readering says: "'Cause of death autoerotic asphyxiation.' So satire. Also pathetic."

That text is in tiny print under the photo. I wrote this post without noticing that. If the Reuters fact-check had even mentioned that, I would have written a different post, but it does not. So I still reject the Reuters analysis, but I agree with Readering that it does count as satire — and that it's pathetic. Low skill, low effort, overall lowliness.

"I rent out my husband to do odd jobs for women — the business is booming."

From The NY Post. 

Laura Young’s spouse James has skills in general DIY, painting, decorating, tiling and carpet laying, so they’ve created a lucrative handyman business called “Rent My Handy Husband.”

James, 42, is currently booked up for the month of November on jobs, for which he charges $44 per hour and about $280 for a day rate.

Their business has become so popular, they said, that they even had to turn down jobs. “I never expected it to take off as much as it has,” Laura told Southwest News Service.

She can't hire more handymen because they wouldn't be her husband.

Judges ought to write in a way that "ordinary citizens can understand" because it "constrains the power of politicians or talking heads to shape or warp the narrative."

Said Stephanos Bibas, a Trump appointee on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, quoted in a Reuters article with, ironically, a headline that's hard to understand, "'Judges gone wild': Trump-appointed judge says too many write for Twitter." 

I thought, from that headline, that some judges were actually posting on Twitter and going wild there! 

But Bibas was talking about opinion-writing. He objected to...

"Museums are indeed the churches of progressive-minded people, since they celebrate just the qualities that fanatics and dogmatists want to quelch..."

"... the vigorous acceptance of uncertainty that lets us ask new questions and leaves us unsure about which way is up. Not knowing which way is up is indeed part of the point. 'If I turn the work around, I risk destroying it,' the curator in charge of the exhibition where the Mondrian was to be shown said... adding that 'maybe there is no right or wrong orientation at all?'... Abstract art was meant to interrogate premises... The reason that pictures of Mondrian’s kind are inestimably precious to the human spirit... is that they are the last place where individual purpose and human pluralism are so ferociously honored. The values that are most important—and ones which progressives are most inclined to honor—are those which empower the greatest range of people to self-expression with the greatest possible individuality."

Writes Adam Gopnik in "The Case of the Upside-Down Mondrian/A great work of art always produces a vital disorientation" (The New Yorker).

Why does Gopnik keep saying "progressive"? It doesn't sound like the so-called "progressives" in American politics today.

To view the "vigorous acceptance of uncertainty" as the central quality of progressivism runs directly counter to the idea Biden proclaimed in his speech last night. Am I progressive if I vigorously accept that we can never really know who won the 2020 election or am I a dark demon of chaos? Is Biden a fanatic or dogmatist for wanting to quelch those who won't embrace the "right" answer?

"Even Greenpeace has finally acknowledged the truth: recycling plastic makes no sense."

"This has been obvious for decades to anyone who crunched the numbers, but the fantasy of recycling plastic proved irresistible to generations of environmentalists and politicians.... The Greenpeace report offers a wealth of statistics and an admirably succinct diagnosis: 'Mechanical and chemical recycling of plastic waste has largely failed and will always fail because plastic waste is: (1) extremely difficult to collect, (2) virtually impossible to sort for recycling, (3) environmentally harmful to reprocess, (4) often made of and contaminated by toxic materials, and (5) not economical to recycle.' Greenpeace could have added a sixth reason: forcing people to sort and rinse their plastic garbage is a waste of everyone’s time. But then, making life more pleasant for humans has never been high on the green agenda...."

Writes John Tierney in "On Second Thought, Just Throw Plastic Away/Even Greenpeace now admits the obvious: recycling doesn’t work" (City Journal).

"One topic that the no one brought up at Monday’s Supreme Court oral argument on affirmative action was mismatch."

"Of the six conservative justices, not one was willing to bring up the research that suggests that students who receive an affirmative action leg up are actually made worse off by that supposed benefit. I think I know why: When Justice Scalia brought it up (very inartfully) at the 2015 oral argument in Fisher v. University of Texas, he got clobbered for it in the media. The last thing they wanted was a media frenzy like the one Scalia had to endure."

Writes Gail Heriot (Instapundit).

I'm posting this for discussion. I haven't studied the very long transcript and can't say for sure that any given thing was not discussed. And I wouldn't assume I know the reason why something wasn't said.

Here's my contemporaneous discussion of Scalia's clumsy use of the "mismatch" idea. Scalia speculated that classes at the higher ranked schools might be "too fast" for some students who would be better off at "slower-track schools."

I said, "By pointing at the mismatch argument crudely, Scalia gave supporters of affirmative action a lavish gift."

"We the people must decide whether we’re going to sustain a republic where reality is accepted, the law is obeyed, and your vote is truly sacred."

Said President Biden in his speech last night. 

I'm reading the transcript. He's talking about the midterm elections and he's saying the main issue is — not the economy, not crime, not abortion — but democracy itself, as if we can vote for democracy.

We participate in democracy when we vote. But how do you vote for democracy? Is he trying to say a vote for a Democrat is a vote for democracy, and a vote for a Republican is a vote against democracy?

We the people must decide whether the rule of law will prevail or whether we will allow the dark forces and thirst for power put ahead of the principles that have long guided us.

Is that on the ballot? I'd like "a republic where reality is accepted," but my President is raving about "dark forces." I presume he means that anyone who questions the accuracy of the voting procedures and vote counts is failing to "accept reality" and maybe also that people who think like that are part of the "dark forces."

November 2, 2022

Sunrise with ducks — 7:31.


"And while Musk remains a darling of the right wing in America, European regulators are watching closely."

"NPR reports that 'The European Union’s competition czar has a message for Twitter’s new boss Elon Musk: We are watching you.' The report quotes Margrethe Vestager, the European Commission’s executive vice president overseeing digital policy, who warned: 'There is a European rulebook, and you should live by it. Otherwise, we have the penalties. We have the fines. We have all the assessments and all the decisions that will come to haunt you.' She doesn’t sound like someone Musk wants to mess with. MAGA Republicans in the United States might be celebrating Musk’s takeover as a triumph of 'one of their own,' but Democrats might be in power in the years to come. They might be tempted to repeal Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, the federal provision that protects social media platforms from liability for content published on their sites. (Even eliminating such protections for the owners of the platform could bring the curtain down on the Musk show.)"

Writes Jennifer Rubin in "Musk can trash his sandbox. The rest of us don’t have to play there" (WaPo).

I guess Rubin loves the "European rulebook" and the idea that the Democratic Party will act aggressively to push back free speech. That's rather awful. It has really been sad to see the "right wing" label slapped on everything. In my little world, I've had it happen to me. It's really awful. What does it take to make a person "right wing" these days? It seems to be only a strong position in favor of free speech! I remember when "free speech" was a left-wing battle cry. 

"So I woke up with something that’s literally Black Hairy Tongue. People, including my doctor, seem to think it’s no big deal, and will go away soon, but it certainly is gross."

That was Julie Powell's last tweet, quoted in "Julie Powell's Last Tweet Before Her Death at 49 Causes Confusion Among Fans/The popular author of Julie and Julia tweeted she had 'black hairy tongue' the day before she died" (Gizmodo).

The Mayo Clinic’s website describes black hairy tongue as a “buildup of dead skin cells” that accumulate on the tongue, explaining that while it can look alarming, “typically it doesn’t cause any health problems, and it’s usually painless.”

Photograph of the horrid condition at that Mayo Clinic link.

Going back further into Powell's tweets, you see that she had Covid in September:

“Decided to take a nap and woke up sick like a dog. This is how the covid hits, I guess. All of a sudden like,” Powell tweeted on September 10. A few days later she shared another tweet about how painful it was living with covid-19. “Weirdly, my Covid is getting worse. Terrible headache, cough, probable fever, fatigue,” Powell tweeted on September 13.

Lest readers speculate, Gizmodo tells us the speculation is "right-wing" and goes on to minimize the significance of some deceased person's last social media posting. After all, Chris Cornell's last tweet — "#Detroit finally back to Rock City!!!!" — gave no clue that he was about to commit suicide.

Why are Democrats so unenthusiastic about the midterm elections? Is it about abortion?

I'm reading this CNN report on its new poll:
Overall, 27% of registered voters say they are extremely enthusiastic about voting this year, down from 37% just ahead of the 2018 midterm elections, and the decline in enthusiasm comes almost entirely among Democrats. Four years ago, 44% of Democratic registered voters said they were extremely enthusiastic about voting; now, just 24% say the same. Among Republicans, the number has dipped only narrowly, from 43% to 38%.

I wouldn't say a loss of 5 percentage points is "narrow," but the Democrats have lost 20 percentage points. That's enormous. What's going on?!

You know what they always say: The only Halloween that matters is Election Day.

Let me just screen-shot my ramblings on Facebook (where I only talk to a few friends and family and don't want new friends):

"The Department of Homeland Security is quietly broadening its efforts to curb speech it considers dangerous..."

"... an investigation by The Intercept has found. Years of internal DHS memos, emails, and documents — obtained via leaks and an ongoing lawsuit, as well as public documents — illustrate an expansive effort by the agency to influence tech platforms. The work, much of which remains unknown to the American public, came into clearer view earlier this year when DHS announced a new 'Disinformation Governance Board': a panel designed to police misinformation (false information spread unintentionally), disinformation (false information spread intentionally), and malinformation (factual information shared, typically out of context, with harmful intent) that allegedly threatens U.S. interests. While the board was widely ridiculed, immediately scaled back, and then shut down within a few months, other initiatives are underway as DHS pivots to monitoring social media now that its original mandate — the war on terror — has been wound down...."

From "TRUTH COPS/Leaked Documents Outline DHS’s Plans to Police Disinformation" by Ken Klippenstein and Lee Fang (The Intercept).


All of us? Or all except you?

I think this is his theory of why we're going to want to pay $8 a month to use Twitter. But maybe not. Maybe he deplores our love of pain and aims to lead us out of our lowly condition. Or is it meaningless chatter — alluringly enigmatic?

ADDED: I created the tag "masochism" for this post, then added it retrospectively to many posts in the archive. I found a few interesting things, and I'll excerpt them here, because it may shed some light on today's Muskism or spark some creative thinking:

November 25, 2008: Christopher Hitchens accused Obama of "foolhardiness and masochism" for selecting Hillary Clinton — "the unscrupulous female" — as Secretary of State.

January 19, 2011: My commenters were redesigning the Gadsden flag and Dr. Weevil — quipping "Here's my submission" — came up with this: 


November 1, 2013: I found what I called "a frisson of masochism" in something Ana Marie Cox attributed to Hillary Clinton.

May 28, 2015: I quoted Bernie Sanders, writing in 1972: "Many women seem to be walking a tightrope now. Their qualities of love, openness, and gentleness were too deeply enmeshed with qualities of dependency, subservience, and masochism." 

February 2, 2018: I quoted William Safire, writing in 1970: "A spirit of national masochism prevails, encouraged by an effete corps of impudent snobs who characterize themselves as intellectuals." 

October 30, 2018 — a study showed that Republicans and Democrats have different sexual fantasies: "The largest Democrat-Republican divide on the BDSM spectrum was in masochism...."

November 1, 2022

Sunrise — 7:35.



"Julie Powell, the writer whose decision to spend a year cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking' led to the popular food blog..."

"... the Julie/Julia Project, a movie starring Meryl Streep and a new following for Mrs. Child in the final years of her life, died on Oct. 26 at her home in Olivebridge, in upstate New York. She was 49. Her husband, Eric Powell, said the cause was cardiac arrest.

From the NYT obituary. 

"Mrs. Child never saw the film — she died in 2004 — but she was familiar with Ms. Powell’s project. Russ Parsons, a former Los Angeles Times food editor who was among the first to report on the blog, sent Mrs. Child, then in her 90s, some excerpts. She took the project as an affront, not the self-deprecating romp that Ms. Powell intended, and told Mr. Parsons that she and others had tested and retested the recipes so they would be accessible to cooks of all skill levels. 'I don’t understand how she could have problems with them,' he recalled her telling him. 'She just must not be much of a cook.'"

Very sad to die so young. I admire the specificity of her blogging project and loved seeing my favorite format — blogging — used with such focus and panache. You know how to make panache, don't you? Just kidding. Panache/ganache... what's the difference?

"Audiences have different orientations toward humor and political talk. Those orientations have some underlying psychological needs."

"And styles of comedy have political and cultural histories. Bluntly, scholars who study political communication and humor often find that liberals are ironic smart alecks and conservatives are outraged moralists. Some of us are a bit of both, but most of us have a psychological need to be one over the other.... Unfortunately, outrage makes more money, and today’s conservative media is much better at outrage."

Writes Tressie McMillan Cottom in "In the Political Talk Show Race, Outrage Is Winning" (NYT).

"And there I was in Lincoln’s bedroom, asleep, fallen asleep in the bosom of Abraham himself. He just woke me up and laughed. President laughed his head off."

Writes Bono, quoted in "Bono: I woke up in Abraham Lincoln’s bedroom after boozing with Obama" (NY Post).

"Sorry, Harvard, but 'visual diversity'—having a campus that looks like a Benetton ad—isn't a compelling state interest."

Writes David Lat (at Substack).

In the UNC argument, Justice Thomas said this to Ryan Park: “I've heard the word ‘diversity’ quite a few times, and I don't have a clue what it means.”

Justice Thomas, I can explain to you exactly what “diversity” means to Harvard and UNC. Allow me to share a story....

"At the point of 'Pump It Up,' he obviously had been listening to Springsteen too much. But he also had a heavy dose of 'Subterranean Homesick Blues.'"

"'Pump It Up' is a quasi-stop-time tune with powerful rhetoric, and with all this, Elvis [Costello] exuded nothing but high-level belligerence.... With tender hooks and dirty looks, heaven-sent propaganda and slander that you wouldn’t understand. Torture her and talk to her, bought for her, temperature, was a rhyming scheme long before Biggie Smalls or Jay Z. Submission and transmission, pressure pin and other sin, just rattled through this song. It’s relentless, as all of his songs from this period are. Trouble is, he exhausted people. Too much in his songs for anybody to actually land on. Too many thoughts, way too wordy. Too many ideas that just bang up against themselves. Here, however, it’s all compacted into one long song."

Writes Bob Dylan in "The Philosophy of Modern Song" (published today).

Here's the song — with a very cool video (I want to stand on my feet like that):


I was listening to the audiobook as I went on my sunrise run, and as soon as I heard the title of the song Bob was about to discuss, I called on Siri to play it for me. Listening, I thought, this is so much like "Subterranean Homesick Blues" — if Bob praises it, is he praising himself?

"I wish she were still alive to write a mordant and illuminating essay on the auction of her personal belongings."

The top-rated comment on "Joan Didion’s Life in Objects/Hundreds of the writer’s furnishings and personal items will be sold at auction next month, offering fans the opportunity to acquire a piece of her legacy" (NYT).

"[I]n 1960, more than 9 in 10 Americans accounted for in the census were White — and of the remainder, the overwhelming majority were Black..."

"In 1960, schools could have given underrepresented minorities a boost, allowed some minorities such as Asian Americans to be overrepresented, while retaining a representative White majority. But today, Harvard University’s own internal research has suggested that Asian Americans would make up 43 percent of an admitted class if only academics were considered. Allowing Asian numbers to grow in accordance with their academic overperformance, while keeping affirmative action in place, would presumably have left the White majority substantially underrepresented. That might be morally justified on various grounds, but it is politically untenable.... America can ask some members of the White majority to step aside in favor of underrepresented minorities with lower grades and test scores. And in the name of procedural fairness, America can ask disappointed White applicants to suck it up when they were outcompeted for university places by overperforming minority groups. But America cannot ask both those things at once — not when the numbers get so big and the stakes so high."

Writes Megan McArdle in "Why the architecture of affirmative action was always destined to collapse" (WaPo).

"You can be embalmed with formaldehyde and placed in a coffin underground; cremated in a furnace; left out in the open air..."

"... liquefied in an alkaline solution; composted under a pile of mulch; frozen in a cryogenic container; mummified; planted at the roots of a sapling. Ed Bixby, who owns 13 cemeteries around the country, said a new technique of treating dead bodies comes into fashion every year or so. Would you rather not have your ashes compressed into a diamond? Then how about freeze-drying your body and vibrating it into dust? But, Mr. Bixby added, nothing has managed to outlive cremation and embalming and burial: 'Everyone just goes with the norm because that’s what’s normal.'"

 From "The Fading Art of Preserving the Dead/A dwindling group of professionals is tasked with navigating the often fraught passage from life to death" (NYT).

"Bob, he's a genius. He's like Picasso. He sees the angles and planes in what, for you, is ovoid."

I wrote, discussing Bob Dylan's analysis of "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves." 

And then I saw something my son Chris sent me from across the sea, from the coast of Barcelona — a photo:

"The government had a high-profile witness on its side with the author Stephen King, who testified that the merger would be especially harmful..."

"... to writers who are just starting out, and took a contrary position to his own publisher, Scribner, which is part of Simon & Schuster. On Monday night, Mr. King said in an email interview that he was 'delighted with the outcome.' 'Further consolidation would have caused slow but steady damage to writers, readers, independent booksellers, and small publishing companies,' he said. 'Publishing should be more focused on cultural growth and literary achievement and less on corporate balance sheets.'...  The Justice Department’s focus on author earnings, rather than harm to consumers, marked a shift in how the government applies antitrust law. Antitrust policy has largely been guided for decades by an effort to prevent large corporations from imposing higher costs on consumers, rather than focusing on the impact a monopoly might have on workers, suppliers or competitors.... 'The Biden administration wants to be aggressive to protect the overall market, and not necessarily to just protect consumers,' said Eleanor M. Fox, an antitrust expert at N.Y.U. School of Law...."

From "Judge Blocks a Merger of Penguin Random House and Simon & Schuster/The government’s case blocked the merger of two of the United States’ largest publishers and reflected a more aggressive approach to curbing consolidation. It was closely watched by the publishing industry" (NYT).

Trump's Truth Social is "a vibrant right-wing ecosystem increasingly brimming with activity."

According to a NYT piece by Stuart A. Thompson and Matthew Goldstein, "Truth Social’s Influence Grows Despite Its Business Problems/The right-wing social network faces two federal investigations and an uncertain financial future. But it has still managed to outpace its rivals." 

The site has become a key organizing platform for election deniers ahead of the midterms, stoking concerns about voter fraud and spreading rumors about problems at the polls.... Mr. Trump has used the site... to shape Republican talking points and boost candidates running in close races. And he has embraced messages and imagery from QAnon....

The real test for Truth Social may arrive in the coming months, as initial excitement around the app fades and the problems with its financing possibly come to a head. The site shows few signs of courting a wider mix of users from across the political spectrum, which would be necessary to reach lofty targets set by the company before the app launched....

ADDED: I don't think the term "election deniers" should be used until voting has been completed and the usual legal procedures of challenging and contesting elections have played out. The Times seems to be adopting this term to refer to anyone who is worried about the security and accuracy of voting — but only when the worriers are on the right. That's not a good position for the New York Times.

"Beyond Mr. Netanyahu, the election is also a referendum on the kind of society Israelis seek to build."

"His coalition partners include ultra-Orthodox lawmakers who oppose teaching math and English to their children, and far-right settlers who frequently antagonize Israel’s Arab minority and seek to remove checks and balances on the parliamentary process. To Mr. Netanyahu’s backers, his victory would shore up Israel’s Jewish character. It would reassure certain right-wing Jewish Israelis who fear that the unprecedented involvement of an Arab party in the departing government has threatened the country’s Jewish identity and endangered their personal safety. To his opponents, a win for Mr. Netanyahu would endanger the integrity of Israeli democracy — particularly after Mr. Netanyahu’s allies announced plans for sweeping judicial reform — and make it even harder for the country’s Jewish and Arab communities to get along."

From "Here’s what’s at stake as Israelis cast their ballots" (NYT)(Netanyahu, the current opposition leader, faces "the governing alliance of right-wing, left-wing and centrist parties that share little beyond their opposition to the former prime minister").

"People of no ethical background for you are easy prey, and they’re your line of business—patronizers, snobs and highbrows, whoever they think they are."

"But you understand them as geometrical bodies, with solid angles and planes, and you know how to make them see wonderful things, and you can make music that drives them mad. You’ve got the character of Saturn and the spirit of Venus. Passion and desire, you give it to them under the counter. Your guidelines are simple, and you rule nothing out. Strip yourself bare and dance the sword dance, buck naked inside of a canvas tent, fenced in, where the town royalty, the top brass and leading citizens, bald as eggs throw their money down, sometimes their entire bankroll."

From Chapter 47 of Bob Dylan's "Philosophy of Modern Song." 

That's Bob, talking about — what songs did you think he was going to talk about? — "Gypsies, Tramps & Thieves."

In the song the men of the town would lay their money down. But for Bob, they throw it down, those bastards. And they're all bald. As eggs. But they are understood as geometrical bodies, with solid angles and planes. You try doing that with an egg. Bob, he's a genius. He's like Picasso. He sees the angles and planes in what, for you, is ovoid.

Bob Dylan's "The Philosophy of Modern Song" is out today.

Here. I've put it in my Kindle.

Also out today, Quentin Tarantino's "Cinema Speculation." I just put that in my Kindle too.

Is that too much pop culture to read all at once?  I guess I did not think so. Better to read whatever Genius 1/Genius 2 have to say about songs/movies than the last gasps of politicos hankering for next week's elections.

It's too late for October surprises. It's November — remember.

October 31, 2022

Sunrise — 7:13, 7:33, 7:37.

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"Your story 'Princess' reimagines the fairy tale 'Goldilocks and the Three Bears' as a contemporary home invasion."

The New Yorker interviews T. Coraghessan Boyle.

(You can listen to the author read the story on "The Writer's Voice" podcast. I listened twice (and also read the story).)

Boyle says he just happened into a true tale in which "a girl came into [a] house in the middle of the night, turned on the lights, flushed the toilet, and fell asleep in the back bedroom until the police were summoned to remove her.... Who was this girl? What did she want? Why didn’t she take anything? And what was with the barbecued ribs she brought with her?"

"By the end of five hours of vigorous and sometimes testy arguments, a majority of the justices appeared ready to reconsider decades of precedents and to rule that the programs were unlawful."

 Writes Adam Liptack in the NYT.

ADDED: You can read the transcripts for the 2 cases here (University of North Carolina) and here (Harvard).

AND: From Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow in The Washington Post: "Conservative Supreme Court justices on Monday seemed open to ending decades of precedent allowing race-conscious admission decisions at colleges and universities, repeatedly expressing doubt that the institutions would ever concede an 'endpoint' in their use of race to build diverse student bodies." 

"Her disability was not a dealbreaker — we didn’t even talk about it for the first couple of dates. We really connected. And of course, I thought she was very beautiful."

Said husband Rudy Izzie, quoted in "Defying odds, quadriplegic woman in Virginia has twins/Since Dani Izzie got pregnant, she’s had to deal with strangers saying she’s selfish and she can’t possibly take care of her babies" (WaPo).

From Dani Izzie: "I had some insecurity and doubt, wondering, ‘How am I going to take care of a baby if I can barely take care of myself?’... Everyday life was already challenging.... People rarely see disabled people represented in caregiving roles. I want them to see me and realize that disability is just a normal part of life.... Everybody has their challenges, whether they have a disability or not."

"Mr. DePape was looking for Ms. Pelosi, who was in Washington at the time, to interrogate the speaker on an unspecified political matter, according to the federal complaint."

"If she told the 'truth,' he would let her go, but if she 'lied,' he intended to break her kneecaps — forcing her to be wheeled into Congress as a lesson to other Democrats, Mr. DePape told police officers in an interview. He had 'a roll of tape, white rope, a second hammer, a pair of rubber and cloth gloves, and zip ties' according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of California, which filed the charges."

From "Intruder Wanted to Break Speaker Pelosi’s Kneecaps, Federal Complaint Says/Federal prosecutors filed charges on Monday against the man the police said broke into House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s San Francisco home and struck her husband with a hammer" (NYT).

"The swift action by the Justice Department in bringing federal charges — on the same day the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office was expected to file its own charges against Mr. DePape — reflects the department’s urgency in addressing what it sees as a politically motivated crime shortly before the 2022 midterm elections. There has been a surge in threats and attacks against figures of both political parties in recent years, and Ms. Pelosi, in particular, has long been the subject of vilification and threats."

ADDED: Here's the criminal complaint. It's worth noting that DePape spoke to the police and revealed his plot to question Nancy Pelosi and to break her kneecaps if she lied, which he expected her to do. Also, he was not dressed in underpants, but shorts, and he had a large backpack and quite a few supplies, including the hammer we've heard so much about. He is alleged to have broken the window next to the door handle and to have found Paul Pelosi in his bedroom, in bed. 

Also: "DEPAPE stated he wanted to tie Pelosi up so that DEPAPE could go to sleep as he was tired from having had to carry a backpack to the Pelosi residence.... DEPAPE explained that he did not leave after Pelosi’s call to 9-1-1 because, much like the American founding fathers with the British, he was fighting against tyranny without the option of surrender."

"Even a holiday which celebrates debauchery, irreverence, and immature or dark humor should have no place for words or actions of hate."

"This deranged individual was looking to create fear and anxiety. We don't believe that he is a student, rather an outside provocateur."

Said Rabbi Mendel Matusof said, quoted in "UW-Madison releases statement after Adolf Hitler costume seen on State Street" (WKOW).

Here's a Reddit discussion — replete with a photograph of the person wearing a Hilter costume on State Street. I found that via this other Reddit discussion, where somebody says, "If it's any consolation, I was told by a bartender on State Street that the dude got his ass kicked."

UPDATE: Channel 3000 quotes the police report, which makes 3 important points:

1. Wearing a Hitler costume is protected speech, so no crime has been reported. 

2. Even though "no reports received by MPD rise to the level of a prosecutable crime," it nevertheless identified the person and interviewed him. 

3. It turns out that this person "has a cognitive impairment due to a past traumatic brain injury."

ALSO: Who called the police on a guy in a bad costume? Did anyone call the police on the person who beat up this mentally impaired person?

Would it be "good to see" all this?

"Doug Greene, 34, bought a 200-year-old rowhouse in Philadelphia five years ago, and after doing a gut renovation, found he didn’t want to bring mass-produced furniture..."

"... into a space he’d so painstakingly restored. So he taught himself how to make furniture, and he and his girlfriend, Ashley Hauza, now have a home where he handcrafted nearly every stick of furniture from solid wood. There’s a western red cedar waterfall bench. There’s a white oak bed frame with a hand-cut bridle joint."

From "'Fast Furniture' Is Cheap. And Americans Are Throwing It in the Trash. The mass-produced furniture that sold furiously during the pandemic could soon be clogging landfills" (NYT).

Is the NYT shaming the people who need or choose to buy inexpensive items for their home? After all, you could learn to "handcraft" your own furniture and spend oodles of time transforming "solid wood" into chunky items like that western red cedar waterfall bench. I suspect the wood alone would cost more than an equivalent bench from IKEA. The idea seems to be that cheaply bought stuff is readily thrown in the trash, whereas if you invest your time in crafting things or just spend a lot of money on expensive things, you'll be keeping them around, moving them arduously to your next apartment and the apartment after that.

These are all headlines on the front page of the Washington Post website right now. Did I put them in the right order?

"Craving brains and hangry: Zombie behavior demystified by scientists."

"The sun was ‘smiling’ in a NASA photo. It might be a warning for Earth."

"Don’t blame ‘both sides.’ The right is driving political violence."

"Assault of Paul Pelosi was attack on democracy. The risks keep growing."

Listening to the oral argument in the Supreme Court's affirmative action case.

The most delightfully layered accusation of fake news.

He doesn't favor the NYT with a link, just a screen grab.

To read the actual NYT article, here: "Elon Musk, in a Tweet, Shares Link From Site Known to Publish False News/The tweet on Sunday, which was later deleted, posted an article that made baseless allegations about the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband."

First, I have a problem with the phrase "baseless allegations." You shouldn't add the word "baseless" to "allegations" unless you have determined that the allegations are based on nothing. Has the NYT done that? Or is it simply showing its bias?

October 30, 2022

Here's the rest of the sunrise — at 7:27...

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... and, a little later, at noon, here's the picture Meade caught of me walking the Over Lode Trail (at Blue Mound State Park):


That was over 17,000 steps for the day.

Sunrise — 7:16.

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"The private individual is not a proper name—not 'Virginia Woolf' or 'Elizabeth Hardwick,' not 'Joan Didion' or 'Zadie Smith' or whoever it is you consider your favorite personal essayist to be."

"Rather, it is the idea that animates all these figures, the powerful, unobtrusive concept that gives the personal essay the appearance of ventriloquizing a singular and spontaneous subjectivity. Most essayists and scholars who write about the personal essay agree that its 'I' is, by necessity and choice, an artful construction...."

Writes Merve Emre in "The Illusion of the First Person/A historical survey of the personal essay shows it to be the purest expression of the lie that individual subjectivity exists prior to the social formations that gave rise to it" (NYRB).

"What really irked [Jerry Lee] Lewis was the non-reaction to Elvis’s similar behavior. 'I don’t want to sound disrespectful to the dead,' he said..."

"... 'but fuck Elvis.' In Lewis’s analysis of the situation, he had been condemned even though nobody seemed to mind that Elvis had started dating Priscilla Ann Beaulieu, in Germany, when she, too, was underage. When someone mentioned that Priscilla had been fourteen, and not Elvis’s cousin, Lewis grew angry. 'Stop right there,” he said. “He was not married to her. I was married, because I was an honest, God-fearing man.'"

From "Jerry Lee Lewis’s Life of Rock and Roll and Disrepute/A thrilling performer with a volatile persona, Lewis always knew he was playing the devil’s music" (The New Yorker).

DePape blogged about meditating, playing video games at the library, and buying "a fantasy miniature salamander" on Etsy.

He blogged about not buying "a fairy house on Etsy" because — as WaPo puts it in "Alleged assailant filled blog with delusional thoughts in days before Pelosi attack" — he "was frustrated that the doors were painted and so could not be used by a fairy."

In DePape's words: “They have lots of fairy houses but NONE of them are MADE for fairies,” he wrote. 

WaPo casually defames Jordan Peterson:

In late August, DePape became engrossed in the decision by Twitter to ban Jordan Peterson for his posts about transgender people. The Canadian psychologist turned conservative podcaster had once said that being transgender was comparable to “satanic ritual abuse.”

Jordan Peterson did NOT say that "being transgender was comparable to 'satanic ritual abuse.'" Peterson  compared the belief that one is transgender to the belief that one has been a victim of satanic ritual abuse. He did not suggest that transgender people are like satanic abusers! He was discussing the phenomenon of "social contagion."

Back to WaPo:

DePape published six posts in support of Peterson and then continued with his own caustic takes on transgender people, saying they should not be a protected group. “They were not BORN a freak. They are not INHERENTLY a freak threw no fault of their own. … They are CHOOSING to be FREAKS,” he wrote in one post.

DePape also misunderstood Peterson, but not as badly as The Washington Post misunderstood Peterson.

"With his usual level of class, Donald Trump put out a message of sympathy to the family of Jerry Lee Lewis, 'the Killer' of rock ’n’ roll, who died Friday at age 87, but said nothing all day about the Pelosi family."

Maureen Dowd takes a ridiculously cheap shot at Donald Trump, in "The Pelosis and a Haunted America" (NYT).

There is no general principle that if you talk about anything, you must talk about everything in proportion. It's a fake principle relied on only to criticize people you want to criticize anyway. 

But even if it were a general principle, Trump was at least arguably following it. Jerry Lee Lewis was a great cultural icon, and nothing is bigger than Death. 

"Behind her, she heard people yelling, 'Hey, push! We’re stronger! I’ll win!' Then the flow of the crowd suddenly stopped."

"[Seon Yeo-jeong, a South Korean YouTuber] described 'being swayed back and forth as if in a tug of war' before temporarily losing her vision and being squeezed from front and back. 'If my friend hadn’t held me and helped me,' she said, 'I think I would have passed out and fallen to the ground.'"

From "Seoul Live Updates: As Nation Mourns, a Focus on How a Festive Night Turned Deadly/A crowd surge during a Halloween celebration in a nightlife district killed at least 153 people. Witnesses say police presence was scant, even through people were thronging the streets" (NYT). 

When Quentin Tarantino was 8 and his mother's black boyfriend took him to see 2 movies about black people in a theater with an all-black audience.

Great storytelling from Tarantino here: 


"The first movie is sort of a message-y movie... and the crowd hated it" — Bill Maher prompts.

Listen to the whole story, and you may be curious about this movie the audience jeered at, "The Bus Is Coming" (1971).

I went looking for something about it and easily stumbled into the entire movie:

I've only watched the first 3 minutes, and I won't presume to know what the crowd back then found worth shouting down for the entire length of the movie. Maybe it's just that it's slow-moving and un-slick, or maybe it's that it was just much more fun to talk back to the movie. Tarantino makes it sound very fun.

I take it the mother's boyfriend — who, we're told, was an L.A. Rams football player — thought the "message-y" movie would be good for the boy, but Tarantino, like the rest of the audience, greatly preferred the second movie, a slickly entertaining film starring Jim Brown. Or maybe the football-player boyfriend wanted the Hollywood movie featuring a man like him to win young Tarantino's admiration. 

The anecdote comes from Tarantino's new book "Cinema Speculation." The link goes to Amazon, and I think I'll buy it. I'd like to hear the rest of the story. I'm guessing the "speculation" is about why the commercial Jim Brown movie is superior to the the earnestly arty "The Bus Is Coming."