December 10, 2022

At the Saturday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The 'Twitter Files' Is What It Claims to Expose."

Asserts Eric Levitz at Intelligencer. 

All right. We have seen the "nothingburger" response to the Twitter Files. This is the I'm-rubber-you’re-glue response: You are the very thing that you denounce.

Let's see how we'll this argument works. I'll cut as close to the core as I can for this excerpt:

"One player told The Post via Twitter DM that they changed their computer’s clock to do the Wordle early and avoid breaking a 90-day streak."

 From "Wordle players break streaks to support New York Times union walkout While it might be a small sacrifice, breaking a streak can be tough. Here’s why" (WaPo).

Other players weren’t aware of the union’s call to skip the daily puzzle. On the Wordle subreddit, some lamented not knowing about the call sooner. On social media, other players declined to break their streak consciously, with some claiming they didn’t see the point, and others not interested in taking such an action....

As The Cut explored in 2019, people can become attached to their streaks, and the bigger a streak grows, the more a person might feel they have to lose by breaking it....

Do you have any streaks that you're truly attached to, that you feel you'd lose a lot by breaking?

I really only have one: this blog. I'm coming up on 19 years of blogging every single day. The longer it gets the more unbreakably magical it feels. Or... no. That's not really true. Going the whole first year without missing a day felt far more significant than the completion of any other year. Now, it's just normal. But don't misunderstand me: I love normal. I'm very happy to have something that feels so good that I get to do every day. 

What's the tag for this? I had to think for a second: It's "superstition"!

"In a well-covered incident at the tournament, Wahl was detained by Qatari security guards at a stadium when he arrived to a game wearing a rainbow soccer ball T-shirt."

"Homosexuality is illegal in Qatar. Wahl, on his Substack, wrote that security guards refused to let him in, held him for 25 minutes and demanded he remove his shirt."

From "U.S. soccer journalist Grant Wahl dies after collapsing at World Cup match" (WaPo). 

Wahl, 48, had written about some of his health issues in Qatar in the days leading up to his passing. Earlier this week, he wrote: “My body finally broke down on me. Three weeks of little sleep, high stress and lots of work can do that to you.”

He said he had a cold turn into something more serious on the night the United States played the Netherlands. “I could feel my upper chest take on a new level of pressure and discomfort,” he wrote.

ADDED: The Daily Mail puts it far more luridly: "Grant Wahl complained of 'death rattle' cough day before his shock death at World Cup and received 20 minutes of frantic CPR before dying in hospital: Gay brother suggests he was murdered."

"In Sinema’s 2009 book... she described giving up shrill partisanship, which was making her unhappy, for a vaguely New Age ethos..."

"... that prized inner tranquillity. One chapter was called 'Letting Go of the Bear and Picking Up the Buddha,' with the bear representing fear and anger. 'Picking up the Buddha (becoming a super centered political actor) makes you a stronger, more effective you,' she wrote. 'To be your most fabulous political self, you’ll need to learn to recognize the bear and learn to let go of it in your work.' Transcending fear and anger is an excellent spiritual goal. But becoming a more centered and fabulous person is a political project only when it’s directed toward aims beyond oneself. With Sinema, it’s not remotely clear what those aims might be, or if they exist. (Another chapter in her book is 'Letting Go of Outcomes.')"

Writes Michelle Goldberg in "Kyrsten Sinema Is Right. This Is Who She’s Always Been" (NYT). 

I had to look to see if Sinema is a Buddhist. She's not, so I'm giving this post my "cultural appropriation" tag. "Picking Up the Buddha" — is that an expression, some New Age cant? Or did she come up with this image of picking up and putting down entities that are not, if real life, picked up and put down?


Here's a NYT article from 2012, "Politicians Who Reject Labels Based on Religion"

Although raised a Mormon, Ms. Sinema is often described as a nontheist — and that suits the activists just fine....

But a campaign spokesman rejected any simple category for Ms. Sinema. “Kyrsten believes the terms ‘nontheist,’ ‘atheist’ or ‘nonbeliever’ are not befitting of her life’s work or personal character,” the spokesman, Justin Unga, said Thursday in an e-mail. “Though Sinema was raised in a religious household, she draws her policy-making decisions from her experience as a social worker who worked with diverse communities and as a lawmaker who represented hundreds of thousands.”

Furthermore, Ms. Sinema “is a student of all cultures in her community,” Mr. Unga said, and she “believes that a secular approach is the best way to achieve this in good government.” In rejecting not only religious labels but irreligious labels, too, these politicians resemble the growing portion of Americans who feel that no particular tradition, or anti-tradition, captures how they feel about God, or the universe, or what the theologian Paul Tillich called “ultimate concern.”

"The secrets of Hunter Biden’s laptop spell trouble for Joe/When a trove of emails raised questions about the lucrative business dealings of the Biden family, America’s tech, media and intelligence elites stifled the story."

A very substantial article — by Douglas Murray —  in The London Times.


"The fact that Zelensky was a performer and is so good at presenting himself, the first reference I have to that is Reagan."

"The master communicator and professional actor. Right? And Trump, the entertainer recast as something. When did you get the sense that Zelensky was genuine?"

Asks the interviewer, Geoff Edgers, in "David Letterman on his surprise Ukraine trip and Zelensky interview A special episode of the former late-night king’s Netflix show, ‘My Next Guest Needs No Introduction,’ grew out of his admiration of the Ukrainian president during the ongoing war with Russia" (WaPo).

"Within the Justice Department, officials have long chafed at some of the prisoner exchanges pushed by the State Department..."

"... in part because law enforcement officials tend to believe that authorities should adhere to a 'like for like' rule, in which only individuals of equal status or criminal history should be exchanged. For example, exchanging spies for spies has long been an accepted practice at both the State Department and the Justice Department — but federal law enforcement officials frequently object to proposed swaps of convicted criminals for people who committed relatively minor offenses.... Robert Zachariasiewicz, a former DEA agent who was involved in the case against Bout, said... 'We just showed that it is really useful to have an American in your back pocket because you never know when you need them to trade'....

From "In freeing Griner, Biden faced resistance abroad and at home/The president faced opposition from the Justice Department, which viewed a one-for-one swap involving WNBA star Brittney Griner and the notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout as a mistake" (WaPo).

The OED word of the day is "bambi" — the interjection

This is a word in Ugandan English that expresses "a variety of emotions, such as surprise, wonder, sympathy, etc."

Based on the examples given, it seems about like "oh, dear": 

"Implicitly antiestablishment and insinuatingly revolutionary, Art Nouveau spoke to the period’s endemic unease about a new century..."

"... that would surely be nothing like the old one. The style’s wavering contours conveyed sensations of constant movement, persistent instability, uncertain boundaries, and inevitable change. By the time its popularity began to wane—around 1910, when it was replaced by a reactionary resurgence of Neoclassicism—the globe had been figuratively encircled in its seductive embrace."

Writes Martin Filler in "Whips and Vines Martin/Recent books and exhibitions reveal that behind its undulating lines and swirling excesses, Art Nouveau was far more complex and nuanced than we once believed" (NYRB)(reviewing 6 books about Art Nouveau).

And then Art Nouveau was so popular in the 1960:

Sixty years ago Art Nouveau came to be seen once again as excitingly rebellious by the proponents of a youthful counterculture who emphasized its joyous sensual abandon. That can be discerned in such Sixties favorites as the tornadic ceramic-inlaid architecture of the Catalan Antoni Gaudí, the kinky black-and-white drawings of the British Aubrey Beardsley, the refulgent multicolored glassware of the American Louis Comfort Tiffany, the curlicued bentwood furniture of the Austrian Thonet brothers, and the radical white-on-white interiors of the Scottish couple Charles Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh, all of whom again found acclaim after their reputations had languished through decades of posthumous oblivion....

This 60s-looking thing — "The Kiss" by Peter Behrens — is from 1898:

December 9, 2022

At the Friday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

No photo today. The cloud cover was 100% at sunrise, and I didn't want to add my car to what were very snowy roads here in Madison.

Matt Taibbi is back with another set of tweets, this time focusing on Donald Trump.

Start here.

1. THREAD: The Twitter Files/THE REMOVAL OF DONALD TRUMP/Part One: October 2020-January 6th....

4. This first installment covers the period before the election through January 6th. Tomorrow, @Shellenbergermd will detail the chaos inside Twitter on January 7th. On Sunday, @BariWeiss will reveal the secret internal communications from the key date of January 8th.


The best 6 TikToks for right now, I sincerely believe.

1. Find someone who matches your energy.

2. How to photograph a stranger.

3. What does the squirrel say?

4. A seagull and his meatballs.

5. We need a GPS voice for the sensitive souls.

6. The ginger Christmas countertenor.

From absolutely not to everybody already knew that..

"One iconic moment was predictably included in the Netflix show to underline Diana’s supposed superiority as a parent."

"During a 1991 trip to Canada, Diana raced along the deck of the royal yacht Britannia with arms open wide and scooped up William and Harry with a huge hug in a blaze of camera flashes. She had, in fact, deliberately run ahead of Charles when they approached the ship, leaving him to catch up. He, too, publicly gave his sons hugs and kisses, but only one photograph of his affectionate embrace appeared in the press, while newspapers around the world led with Diana’s radiant display."

 From "Prince Harry’s attacks on King in Netflix series may mean no way back/The criticism of Charles was insidious and he was given no credit for what he did as a father" (London Times). 

"Twitter has long been referred to as a 'hell site,' but the weeks that followed Elon Musk’s acquisition of the company marked a nadir for social media..."

"... or perhaps a climax, depending on how prone you are to Schadenfreude. The majority of discourse on the platform focussed on the platform itself and its theoretically impending doom. The situation called to my mind Théodore Géricault’s 1819 painting 'The Raft of the Medusa' which pictures the aftermath of an infamous shipwreck with the few living sailors struggling to climb up a mound of corpses on a decaying raft. In this case, no one was coming to the rescue, especially given that Twitter’s content moderation and safety staffs had been decimated by layoffs."

Writes Kyle Chayka in "The Year in Apps I Gave Up On/In 2022, the entire Internet began to feel something like a dying mall populated only by stores we don’t want to visit" (The New Yorker).

How does the Twitter situation look in your head? Please express yourself metaphorically, citing a work of art — e.g. "The Raft of Medusa":

Background story (from Wikipedia): 

She waited until Warnock won, but Kyrsten Sinema just left the Democratic Party.

CNN reports. 

"The management of the nation’s most elite, center-left news organization, which, in its opinion pages, supports unionization at places like Amazon and..."

"... endorsed Elizabeth Warren for president in part because she would 'give workers more ability to bargain collectively,' is now telling its impecunious staff to quit clanking their tin cups. The workers want raises that keep up with inflation, and the company is on track for an annual operating profit of more than $300 million...."

Writes Shawn McCreesh in "Just What Did the [New York] Times Walkout Change?" (NY Magazine).

"All you media clowns and goons and nuts who told me I was the crazy conspiracy theorist, tell me we live in a free country...."


Did Jack Dorsey lie to Congress?

Here's how the NY Post is reporting it:

"Part of the beauty of Kelvin-Helmholtz clouds is... how, like waves in the ocean, the atmosphere moves and responds to the environment around it. The air is effectively rising up and tumbling over on itself."

Said the BBC weather man, quoted at "Kelvin-Helmholtz: Rare wave clouds amaze sky-watchers in Wyoming" (BBC).

Click to see a photo of the clouds that look like cartoonish waves.

"Is this the end-end of Trump... Or merely another moment when the false hope of Trump’s imminent demise is indulged for a few days or weeks...?"

"I thought back to one of the signs I saw displayed in front of the White House by a jubilant anti-Trumper after the 2020 election was called for Biden. 'The End of an Error,' the sign read, though it turned out not to be. Instead, Trump lived on as a zombie political force, defeated but not really gone. Here we are, two years later, and the unhappily exiled ex-President is running unopposed for reëlection while calling for the termination of the Constitution. And it was not just Trump but the Republican Party leadership that endorsed such a manifestly unfit candidate as Walker.... The Washington Post has found that a hundred and seventy-eight adherents to Trump’s 2020 election lie won their races for House, Senate, or key statewide offices last month. In the House, a small faction of the most rabid maga members looks poised to pick the new Republican Speaker—and exert powerful leverage over him. Ascendant Republicans include Marjorie Taylor Greene... and DeSantis, who, while being the non-Trump flavor of the month among the Fox News set, is probably better viewed as one of Trump’s heirs than as his antithesis...."

 Writes Susan B. Glasser in "Trump’s 2024 Campaign So Far Is an Epic Act of Self-Sabotage/But is this really the end of an error?" (The New Yorker).

"Why it matters: Musk has framed the 'Twitter Files' as an effort to show that his predecessors at Twitter engaged in censorship. Others, including experts in online platforms..."

"... say the documents just depict Twitter executives imperfectly but conscientiously struggling to apply complex policies in difficult cases."

Says Axios, seemingly trying to present things in a fair and balanced way. 

But who are these experts who are offered to counterbalance Weiss? And what did they say? Weiss presents evidence of her position, showing specific examples and methods. 

No experts are named or quoted.

If you genuinely believe there is something that shouldn't be talked about...

... you can't break your silence to talk about how other people are talking about it.

December 8, 2022

Bari Weiss is tweeting the next set of “Twitter files.”


Sunrise — 7:18, 7:38.



I've got 9 TikToks for you tonight — all things I liked. I invite you to appreciate them too.

1. The crochet genius.

2. A Kardashian Christmas.

3. The joy of Neptune.

4. The importance of routine during the long polar night.

5. The importance of layers when dressing for winter.

6. Let a girl show you how to approach a girl.

7. Celine Dion explains her rare disease — stiff person syndrome.

8. He gets AI to write a folk song about his dog dying.

9. AI envisions the cast of "The Office" as babies.

"'El Polaco' is the second of Coetzee’s novels to appear in Spanish first, but he began privileging translations much earlier..."

"... in his career: in the past twenty years, he’s seen to it that many of his books be made available in Dutch before any other language. Fêted in Amsterdam in 2010, Coetzee expressed appreciation at being 'read in a language in which I feel myself to be a somewhat more humorous writer than in the original English.' 'Humorous' is far less commonly applied to his writing than adjectives like 'cold,' 'austere,' 'rigorous,' 'spare'; Martin Amis famously described his style as 'predicated on transmitting absolutely no pleasure.' But to his enthusiasts Coetzee transmits a great deal of pleasure—in his outwardly severe, circumscribed manner—and exhibits an abiding if vanishingly subtle sense of humor...."

Writes Colin Marshall in "J. M. Coetzee’s War Against Global English/What lies behind the celebrated South African writer’s decision to publish his latest novel in Spanish before making it available in English?" (The New Yorker).

But it's not all about humor. In fact, it seems more like that predication on absolutely no pleasure that Amis talked about: 

"It feels gross that someone could say to a computer, 'I want a portrait of Alex Jones in the style of Frida Kahlo'..."

"... and the computer would do it without moral judgment. These systems roll scenes, territories, cultures—things people thought of as 'theirs,' 'their living,' and 'their craft'—into a 4-gigabyte, open source tarball that you can download onto a Mac in order to make a baseball-playing penguin in the style of Hayao Miyazaki. The people who can use the new tools will have new power. The people who were great at the old tools (paintbrushes, cameras, Adobe Illustrator) will be thanked for their service and rendered into Soylent. It’s as if a guy wearing Allbirds has stumbled into a residential neighborhood where everyone is just barely holding on and says, 'I love this place, it’s so quirky! Siri, play my Quirky playlist. And open a Blue Bottle on the corner!'... Prominent bloggers who experimented with having an AI illustrate their writing have been chastened on Twitter and have promised not to do it again. AI companies are talking a lot about ethics, which always makes me suspicious, and certain words are banned from the image generator’s interface, which is sad because I wanted to ask the bot to paint a 'busty' cottage in the style of Thomas Kinkade...."

 Writes Paul Ford in "Dear Artists: Do Not Fear AI Image Generators /True, new systems devalue craft, shift power, and wreck cultures and scenes. But didn’t the piano do that to the harpsichord?" (Wired).

A Blue Bottle is this type of coffee shop — spookily corporately minimalistic. In their own insanely empty words:

Our cafes are designed to be spaces that pair with your coffee. Just like any food or scent, the aesthetics around you should heighten your experience. Whether you’re gathering with friends or searching for solitude, stepping into a Blue Bottle cafe turns each coffee into a meaningful moment.

I was wondering which blogger used AI to "illustrate their writing" and got "chastened on Twitter" — chastened on Twitter, there's a category of pain for you to contemplate — so I did a Google search. And look. I didn't find what I was looking for, but I had to laugh:

Now that President Biden has brought Brittney Griner back home — how do you think she will/should behave — obeisant to authority or as free as she wants to be?

In our first conversation about the news of the homecoming of Brittney Griner, Meade and I entered a bet about how she will behave.

The antithesis of strike breaking: Streak breaking.

"My mother has a large jar of pot gummies that she uses as a sleep aid. She doesn’t know that I know about them. She told a friend..."

"... whose daughter told me. I have been keeping an eye on the jar. She doesn’t seem to use many of them. Can I take a few gummies to sell to school friends (over-18 only) to pay for Hanukkah gifts for my family?"

A question addressed to the NYT ethicist. 

Hilarious, but it's fake, isn't it? Maybe, but not as fake, and not as hilarious — as this got-to-be-fake question addressed to WaPo's advice columnist:

"Will and Kate came over and I met her for the first time, for dinner, I remember I was in ripped jeans, I was barefoot."

"Like, I was a hugger. I’ve always been a hugger. I didn’t realize that is really jarring for a lot of Brits."

From "Harry and Meghan series, likely to anger British royals, drops on Netflix" (WaPo).

That quote is at the end of the article, which has just 2 more lines:

She described how the royals’ “formality on the outside carried on to the inside.”

This is a developing story.

It's breaking news? Presumably there will be updates. About what, you wonder? About other things to be found in this 6-part Netflix documentary that just — as they say — "dropped." 

ADDED: I don't believe for one minute that an American-based "hugger" doesn't understand that not everyone accepts being hugged on first meeting. It may be more disturbing for some "Brits," but she well knew that Kate and William weren't just random Brits. They are people who expect special deference. It you want to deny them that, that's your business, but don't expect us to believe you just didn't know, you're just brimming with hugginess, and that's American. Maybe that plays more believably to Brits, who might think we Americans are mindlessly casual. Maybe we are, but we're not ignoramuses.

"[H]ealth experts are renewing recommendations to wear a high-quality medical mask on public transportation, in airports and on planes, while shopping and in other crowded public spaces."

The Washington Post alerts us.
What’s notable is that the mask recommendations this time aren’t just about avoiding the coronavirus. Masks are advised to protect against what is being called the “tripledemic” — a confluence of influenza, coronavirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) that already is straining hospitals and forcing parents to miss work in record numbers.

Respiratory syncytial virus? I learned a new disease — and a new word. Syncytial... but I'm cynical. 

And "tripledemic" too? 

December 7, 2022

At the Wednesday Night Café…

... you can talk about whatever you want.

The Beatles have a new music video — "Here, There and Everywhere."

Just 4 TikToks to amuse you this dark afternoon.

1. Wolves at night, in the forest.

2. Skijoring.

3. He found an eagle.

4. Random generosity.

Time's Person of the Year was easy to predict — especially since Elon Musk was last year's Person of the Year.

Volodymyr Zelensky.

Jonathan Franzen is not going to try to disinvent Twitter.

From 2015:

I like the part where they're talking about the word "although." Franzen, who loves complicated sentences, says it's hard, on Twitter, to write a sentence with the word "although." Colbert, after blurting out a super-short sentence with the word "although," and getting minor resistance from Franzen, switches to the absurd and asserts that he's always thought the worst name for a clown would be Altho — Altho the Clown.

This unsettles me, because I've be aware for a long time that Altho is a simple, straightforward nickname for Althouse. Can I get people to use it? It's no use! (Get it?)

Do I need a post about Warnock winning?

You knew he was going to win.

"The question at the trial was: What did Weinstein do? But its subtext is an argument about female ambition: What should a woman want?"

Writes Dana Goodyear in "Harvey Weinstein, the Monster of #MeToo/If Weinstein is acquitted in L.A., it will be tempting to conclude that #MeToo is over. But, even if he is convicted, some may reach the same conclusion" (The New Yorker).

The jury has been deliberating for 3 days so far. Today is Day 4, so the prospect of acquittal is real.

Things screamed by Chris Christie's niece as she was dragged off a Spirit Airlines flight.

I'm reading "Chris Christie’s niece shouted ‘Do you know who I am?’ during violent plane meltdown" (NY Post).

The niece, Shannon Epstein, had confronted some other passengers, presumably because they looked Hispanic, and asked them if they were smuggling cocaine.

I just want to note some things she's accused of yelling:

"The provisions are generally broadly and vaguely formulated.... This is a trend in Indonesian lawmaking. In Indonesian we call it pasal karet, which means ‘rubber clauses.'"

Said Ken Setiawan, a senior lecturer in Indonesian Studies at the University of Melbourne, "Indonesia’s sex ‘morality’ laws are just one part of a broader, chilling crackdown on dissent/Analysis: the moralistic aspects of the new criminal code risk obscuring wider concerns about a stifling of protest and criticism of the state" (The Guardian).

“When something is grey, or slippery, or nebulous,” said Eve Warburton, the director of Australia National University’s Indonesia Institute, it makes it difficult to know how an individual’s behaviour will be interpreted or where the boundaries are. “And I think that is precisely the point.”

“Laws that criminalise political dissent or criminalise critiquing heads of state or government don’t have to be used in a systematic way, they can be used in a very ad-hoc, unpredictable way,” Warburton said. “The effect is the same: it intimidates opponents, it chills dissent, because it increases the risk of being thrown in prison for your political opinions.”

"The presentation of great historic works such as The Nutcracker... should send a powerful statement that Tchaikovsky – himself of Ukrainian heritage – and his works speak to all humanity..."

"... in direct and powerful opposition to the narrow and nationalistic view of culture peddled by the Kremlin."

Said a spokesperson for London’s Royal Ballet. 

Quoted in "Ukraine calls on western allies to boycott Russian culture Minister defends step in ‘civilisational battle’ but says it would not amount to ‘cancelling Tchaikovsky’" (The Guardian).

David Butcher, the chief executive of Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra — which will soon perform Stravinsky and Shostakovich — said: "I don’t think it’s appropriate as a pioneering creative organisation to cancel, pause or self-censor, in our case, great music which deserves to be performed and heard."

The spokesperson for the BBC did not take the clear pro-art position: "We continue to carefully look at programming linked to Russia, considering everything on a case by case basis." What weaselhood!

I wonder: During World War II — and World War I — did orchestras stop playing Beethoven?

December 6, 2022

Sunrise — 7:07.


"Anyone who thought there could possibly be a 6.5% riskless (or even low risk) return in 2022 conjures an old saying - 'a fool and his money.'"

"I feel sorry for them, but yet I'm not sympathetic. Some people took their life savings into a casino and bet it all. Jeez.... The fact that people are millions 'investing' in so called cryptocurrencies tells us that we have a woefully inadequate financially educated populace. Using real money to buy fake money has got to be the most obvious con in history. And yet here we are."

From the top-rated comment on "Ordinary Investors Who Jumped Into Crypto Are Saying: Now What?/Many small investors who piled into cryptocurrencies on FTX, BlockFi and other platforms are recognizing the perils of investing in an unregulated industry" (NYT).

The article begins with an anecdote about "a 43-year-old father of two [who] put $600,000 — much of his life savings — into an account at BlockFi" because it was "marketed... as risk free, yielding 6.5 percent interest, more than [he] could get anywhere else." 

As they say: If it's too good to be true, it probably is.

"It answered a lot of questions for me. I was a pretty able person. I wasn’t looking for something like that."

"But I wanted to get rid of the barriers keeping me from what I wanted, to be an actress. It’s just part of my life."

Said Kirstie Alley, in 1992, when asked why she became a Scientologist, quoted in "Kirstie Alley, Emmy-Winning ‘Cheers’ Actress, Dies at 71 She also starred in the NBC sitcom 'Veronica’s Closet,' which aired from 1997 to 2000" (NYT).

She was born on January 12, 1951 — also the date of my birth. And Rush Limbaugh's.

ADDED: From Rolling Stone, "How Kirstie Alley Lost Herself in Scientology The late Cheers actress rose up the ranks to become a top Scientologist who lashed out at the controversial religion’s critics":

"The elk problem is really interesting. I do feel that there has to be population control both on the part of humans and animals."

"Now, the available methods of contraception for animals are not always good.... But humans and animals have to limit our own population growth in order for the world to be minimally just. With the elk, there are things that have been tried: shooting them in cold blood; some kind of population control;  introducing wolves to tear the elks limb from limb. People say that’s better because it’s nature. I don’t like that argument. For the elk, a bullet to the brain — if the person knew how to shoot, which a lot of hunters don’t — would be a lot better than the wolf’s tearing them apart...."

Said Martha Nussbaum, quoted in "Do Humans Owe Animals Equal Rights? Martha Nussbaum Thinks So" (NYT).

"Twelve years after Javier Álvarez erected a billboard outside his winery featuring a painting of a woman, he received a threatening letter from the Ministry of Equality."

"The painting... presents a woman who is wearing a bikini gazing out to sea, her hands resting on her hips.... An official document from the ministry warned him: 'This way of using women’s bodies as an advertisement favours the perpetuation of discriminatory attitudes. Infringing Article 8 of the general law on advertising, which declares unlawful advertisements that present women in a degrading way by using their bodies as objects unrelated to the product they are trying to promote.'... His winery... replied to the warning... 'Whoever sees something sexual or sexist in that painting has a problem. It is an image of absolute innocence. The sun, the sea and a woman in a bikini stamped with hearts. She transmits the freshness that we wanted to radiate for our white wine.'... Sales of his wine bearing the image of a woman in a bikini have rocketed."

From "Spain orders bikini poster to be taken off pilgrimage route" (London Times).

The ministry, we're told, is run by Podemos, "a radical left-wing party."

Is the painting "an image of absolute innocence"? Here it is:

December 5, 2022

Sunrise — 7:09.


I've got 9 carefully curated TikToks for you this evening. That is, these are all things I liked.

1. Some have FOMO, but a lot of us have FOPU.

2. A lobster has been seen in real life.

3. Kayak camping and the coconut crab.

4. The L.A. conversation.

5. What does Dolly Parton think about prostitution? 

6. I remember when I lost my mind.

7. When David Bowie shouted out "It's great to be in Cincinnati..."

8. The different generations react to they/them pronouns.

9. Unclogging the drain.

"Since Michael Avenatti has been sentenced to 14 more years in jail...."

He was once God on Earth, and now.... But look how happy he made Jake Tapper:

"The court came to Monday’s argument equipped with hypotheticals — mall Santas who might refuse to take photographs with minority children, political speechwriters..."

"... who might be forced to write for the opposition, newspapers or websites told they could not choose which wedding announcements to publish. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson brought up the mall Santa, wondering whether a photographer who wanted to create the ambiance of the movie 'It’s a Wonderful Life' might be able to exclude Black children. Alito countered by conjuring up a Black Santa at the other end of the mall who wanted to be free to refuse a photograph to a child wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit. When Justice Elena Kagan said that Santa could refuse anyone wearing such an outfit, regardless of their race, Alito said it would be unlikely that his example would be a Black child.... Colorado Solicitor General Eric R. Olson said Smith was conflating speech with commerce. A store would be free to sell only Christmas items if it wanted to, Olson said. But it couldn’t post a sign that said 'No Jews allowed.'"

From "Supreme Court seems to side with web designer opposed to same-sex marriage/Colorado’s Lorie Smith says being forced to create websites for gay couples would violate her right to free speech" by Robert Barnes , reports on the oral argument in 303 Creative v. Elenis in The Washington Post.

For more background on the case, see the post I wrote this morning, before the argument, based on the NYT article by Adam Liptak.

"Human composting — or, as it’s sometimes referred to, natural organic reduction — fulfills many people’s desire to nurture the earth after dying."

"It owes much of its present form to Katrina Spade, a Washington-based designer and entrepreneur who told me that her goal is to see 'composting overtake cremation as the default American deathcare in the next couple of decades.' In 2015, as an architecture student, Ms. Spade launched a nonprofit called the Urban Death Project, envisioning strolling past the brownstones of Brooklyn and coming upon a municipal human composting facility. Here, passersby would reflect on mortality and the cycle of life, feeling a sense of connection to the earth, past and future — the way urban cemeteries like Green-Wood were designed to make repose in death a harmonious part of city life..."

From "If You Want to Give Something Back to Nature, Give Your Body" by Caitlin Doughty (NYT).

But we're told the New York State Catholic Conference has said this process “is more appropriate for vegetable trimmings and eggshells than for human bodies.”  

"In a 2009 interview with Maui Times, Fleetwood, now 75, said the original pair [of wooden balls] were 'lavatory chains' he stole from a toilet while drunk."

"'I came out — and I must admit I had a couple of glasses of English ale — and came out of the toilet with these, I ripped them off the — you know, I was very destructive — I ripped them off the toilet and had them hanging down between my legs'.... Although he would later lose that pair at a gig, he had a replacement pair made by a carpenter for the cover of Rumours. 'The original, original ones I do not have — but the ones that I have are very, very old. I won’t say they’re as old as me. But, it starts getting into X-rated commentary here, my balls are quite old,' said Fleetwood. "

From "Mick Fleetwood’s wooden balls from Rumours cover auctioned for $128,000" (London Times).

"[Lorie] Smith... sat near a plaque that echoed a Bible verse: 'I am God’s masterpiece.' She said she was happy to create graphics and websites..."

"... for anyone, including L.G.B.T.Q. people. But her Christian faith, she said, did not allow her to create messages celebrating same-sex marriages. 'When I chose to start my own business as an artist to create custom expression,' she said, 'I did not surrender my First Amendment rights.' Phil Weiser, Colorado’s attorney general, countered that there is no constitutional right to discriminate. 'Once you open up your doors to the public, you have to serve everybody,' he said. 'You can’t turn people away based on who they are.'"

Writes Adam Liptak in "A New Clash Between Faith and Gay Rights Arrives at a Changed Supreme Court A Colorado graphic designer says she has a First Amendment right to refuse to create websites for same-sex weddings despite a state anti-discrimination law." (NYT).

The oral argument is today.

If you're trying to remember why this is still a live issue after the wedding-cake case:

Impossible things before breakfast.

He's writing in a place he asserts doesn't exist. 

He's also writing badly: "... everyone shifted to Mastodon; I used to like posting there." Don't write it like that unless "there" means Mastodon. You're writing one damned sentence and I have to do the editing work in my head.

You know, if he'd given a link, I'd have checked out his writing on Mastodon. I even tried googling his name and Mastodon, and I couldn't find it. I found the — a? — Mastodon site and searched for his name and got 4 links. I clicked on all 4 and found no content.

Somehow "everyone" is there, but I see no one.

UPDATE: Commenters are telling me it's sarcasm. I don't know why I wasn't more attuned to the kudzu of the internet.

The New York Times finally put up a story about the Twitter files. (Really, it's a story about the reaction to the release of the files.)

This went up yesterday. It doesn't have a time stamp, but I believe it went up in the evening, that is, 2 days after the files were released:

"Elon Musk, Matt Taibbi, and a Very Modern Media Maelstrom/A release of internal documents from Twitter set off intense debates in the intersecting worlds of media, politics and tech," by Michael M. Grynbaum.

Let's do a close read: 

It was, on the surface, a typical example of reporting the news: a journalist obtains internal documents from a major corporation, shedding light on a political dispute that flared in the waning days of the 2020 presidential race. But when it comes to Elon Musk and Twitter, nothing is typical. The so-called Twitter Files, released Friday evening by the independent journalist Matt Taibbi, set off a firestorm among pundits, media ethicists and lawmakers in both parties.

Even more atypical was the way the NYT contributed nothing at all.

December 4, 2022

At the Sunday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"After opening the choice of Word of the Year up to English speakers for the first time in its history, over the last two weeks more than 300,000 people cast their vote.... And the winner is... Goblin mode."

"‘Goblin mode’ – a slang term, often used in the expressions ‘in goblin mode’ or ‘to go goblin mode’ – is ‘a type of behaviour which is unapologetically self-indulgent, lazy, slovenly, or greedy, typically in a way that rejects social norms or expectations.’ Although first seen on Twitter in 2009, goblin mode went viral on social media in February 2022, quickly making its way into newspapers and magazines after being tweeted in a mocked-up headline. The term then rose in popularity over the months following as Covid lockdown restrictions eased in many countries and people ventured out of their homes more regularly. Seemingly, it captured the prevailing mood of individuals who rejected the idea of returning to ‘normal life’, or rebelled against the increasingly unattainable aesthetic standards and unsustainable lifestyles exhibited on social media...."

So says Oxford Languages (the publisher of the Oxford English Dictionary).

Sample quote from The Guardian: “Goblin mode is like when you wake up at 2am and shuffle into the kitchen wearing nothing but a long t-shirt to make a weird snack, like melted cheese on saltines.” 

Here's an Axios article from last April: "Musk's 'goblin mode' is here to stay":

"South Korea recently broke its own record for the world’s lowest fertility rate. Figures released in November..."

"... showed the average number of children a South Korean woman will have in her lifetime is down to just 0.79. That is far below the 2.1 needed to maintain a stable population and low even compared to other developed countries where the rate is falling, such as the United States (1.6) and Japan – which at 1.3 reported its own lowest rate on record. And it spells trouble for a country with an aging population that faces a looming shortage of workers to support its pension system.... [M]ore than $200 billion has been spent trying to boost the population over the past 16 years.... A monthly allowance for parents with babies up to 1-year-old will increase from the current 300,000 won to 700,000 won ($230 to $540) in 2023 and to 1 million Korean won ($770) by 2024.... Government-funded nurseries are free..."

From "South Korea spent $200 billion, but it can’t pay people enough to have a baby" (CNN).

"The reining in of expectations is perhaps best encapsulated by a phrase ubiquitous in China’s Covid restrictions: 'Unless necessary.'"

"Officials have instructed citizens: Do not gather 'unless necessary,' do not leave home 'unless necessary.' Many Chinese who had learned to dream of progress — even luxury — suddenly have been told, again, to expect only the essentials. Still, some hold onto hope that the retreat is a blip. For all the present difficulties, the years of extraordinary growth are still fresh in many minds...."

From "The Chinese Dream, Denied/The world’s harshest Covid restrictions exemplify how Xi Jinping’s authoritarian excesses have rewritten Beijing’s longstanding social contract with its people" (NYT).

Xi Jinping... has tied the success of “zero Covid” to his own legitimacy as ruler, and enforcing it has taken precedence over nurturing the freewheeling spirit that made... China, so vibrant.

The shift strikes at the party’s longstanding social contract with its people. After violently crushing pro-democracy demonstrations at Tiananmen Square in 1989, Beijing struck an implicit bargain: In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort....

ADDED: What percentage of Americans do you think would take that bargain: "In exchange for limitations on political freedoms, the people would get stability and comfort"?

I think there are plenty of Americans who are saying right now that they want this bargain. It wouldn't even need to be forced. They proactively want it.

They don't even worry about the potential for the "shift" the article describes: After the loss of freedom, the stable comfort you bargained for may be reduced to what is "necessary" — whatever that turns out to be.

"We have to create conditions where no actors dependent on the aggressor state will have an opportunity to manipulate Ukrainians and weaken Ukraine from within.... We will never allow anyone to build an empire inside the Ukrainian soul."

Said Volodymyr Zelenskiy, quoted in "Zelensky declares war on an enemy within the Ukrainian Orthodox Church new/Kyiv fears a Russian fifth column is operating inside one of the country’s oldest and most powerful institutions" (London Times).

"'Fuck Biden,' 'Don't Tread on Me,' and a Wisconsin Death Trip for Our Times."

"The author knocks on the doors bearing the darkest symbols, behind which lie guns, ammo, antisemitism, antiabortion dogma—and a belief in the coming civil war."

A long article by Jeff Sharlet in Vanity Fair.


When does a dog get a NYT obituary?

When he was a TikTok star: "Noodle, Pug Known for ‘Bones’ or ‘No Bones’ Days on TikTok, Is Dead at 14/The pug’s videos served as a safe space and a distraction on an often divisive internet." 

If Noodle stood up for a few seconds upon waking up, it was a “bones day,” which meant good things were ahead or that it was a time to be ambitious. It was a “no bones day” when he plopped back onto his bed — not necessarily a bad day, but more of a slow, low-key day....  Noodle, who had 4.5 million followers on TikTok, would at times “crumple with ennui”....

You can scroll through all the videos here.

"Iran has abolished the morality police, according to an announcement by the attorney general carried on state media..."

"... following months of protests set off by the death of a young woman who was being held by the force for supposedly violating the country’s strict Islamic dress laws. The decision, reported by state news outlets late Saturday night, appeared to be a major victory for feminists who have sought for years to dismantle the force and for the protest movement ignited by the death of the young woman, Mahsa Amini, 22, in September. The unrest has amounted to one of the biggest challenges in decades to Iran’s system of authoritarian clerical rule and the decision to scrap the morality police was the government’s first major concession to the protesters. The morality police 'was abolished by the same authorities who installed it,' the statement by Attorney General Mohammad Javad Montazeri said...."

The NYT reports.

Very good news!

And the more conventional news improves its signal to noise ratio, the less relevant Twitter becomes.


Let new media and old media compete in the marketplace of ideas. At least theoretically, that will bring us closer to an understanding of what is true and good. In reality, who knows?

"A Massive Fraud of this type and magnitude allows for the termination of all rules, regulations, and articles, even those found in the Constitution."

Wrote Donald Trump, at Truth Social, quoted in "White House rebukes Trump’s suggestion to suspend Constitution over 2020 election" (WaPo).

The post came a day after Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, claimed he would expose how Twitter engaged in “free speech suppression” in the run-up to the 2020 election. But his “Twitter Files” did not show that the tech giant bent to the will of Democrats. 

Trump's "truth" is so hyperbolic and disrespectful of the rule of law that it's idiotic clickbait, only worthy of attention because the man is running for President, and apparently, as polls go, the leading candidate. Sorry, I'm not going to spend every day agonizing over that. We will move on... I hope... I trust... He's so over-criticized that I don't see the point of jumping on him one more time. That doesn't work, and it drives some dedicated believers more deeply into his sphere.

I want to move on to the link in the indented quote — on "did not show" — which goes to "Elon Musk’s ‘Twitter Files’ ignite divisions, but haven’t changed minds/The company’s new chief executive detailed Twitter’s decision-making around a controversial story" (WaPo). 

Yesterday morning, I was critical of The Washington Post for not having an article on the "Twitter files," but by the end of the day, they had that. Let's read:

"By comparing MRI scans of a group of 128 children, half taken before and half at the end of the first year of the pandemic, the researchers found growth in the hippocampus and amygdala..."

"... brain areas that respectively control access to some memories and help regulate fear, stress and other emotions. They also found thinning of the tissues in the cortex, which is involved in executive functioning. These changes happen during normal adolescent development; however, the pandemic appeared to have accelerated the process, [Professor Ian] Gotlib said. Premature aging of children’s brains isn’t a positive development. Before the pandemic, it was observed in cases of chronic childhood stress, trauma, abuse and neglect. These adverse childhood experiences not only make people more vulnerable to depression, anxiety, addiction and other mental illnesses, they can raise the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other long-term negative outcomes...."

From "Teen brains aged faster than normal from pandemic stress, study says/The study, which measured brain age after about 10 months of lockdown, showed that teen brains had aged at least three years in that time" (WaPo).

There's also this anecdote (have you seen cases like this?):

"The idea that human rights encompass a right to self-destruction, the conceit that people in a state of terrible suffering and vulnerability are really 'free'..."

"... to make a choice that ends all choices, the idea that a healing profession should include death in its battery of treatments — these are inherently destructive ideas. Left unchecked, they will forge a cruel brave new world, a dehumanizing final chapter for the liberal story."

Writes Ross Douthat in "What Euthanasia Has Done to Canada" (NYT). 

I'll put the next sentence after the jump because it's a surprising change in topic (but I bet you can predict it if you know how these things go these days):

How many people should be traveling to Antarctica every year? Was that "rogue wave" a wake up call?

I've already blogged about the rogue wave that killed one cruise passenger, but I want to take up the question whether Antarctica ought to be visited at all anymore — or at least not routinely by bucket-listers on cruise ships.

I'm reading "Rogue Wave Strikes Cruise Ship, Killing a Passenger and Injuring 4 Others/The passengers were hurt after a large, unpredictable wave hit the ship, which was traveling toward the Antarctic, Viking Cruises said" (NYT):

Tourism to the Antarctic has steadily increased in the last 30 years, with 74,401 people traveling there in the 2019-20 season, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. Roughly 6,700 people traveled there in the 1992-93 season, according to the association....