December 17, 2022

At the Winter Café...



... you can talk about whatever you want.

"The FBI and other law enforcement organizations treated Twitter as a 'subsidiary,' flagging numerous accounts for purportedly harmful 'misinformation'..."

"... since January of 2020, according to the sixth installment of the 'Twitter Files' released Friday. Independent journalist Matt Taibbi described the FBI’s relationship with Twitter as having a 'master-canine quality' with 'constant and pervasive' contact between the bureau and the social media giant.... Friday’s Twitter Files also revealed that the company participated in monthly meetings with not only the FBI and Department of Homeland Security, but also with the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.... Instead of chasing child sex predators or terrorists,' Taibbi summed up in a tweet following the file drop, 'the FBI has agents — lots of them — analyzing and mass-flagging social media posts. Not as part of any criminal investigation, but as a permanent, end-in-itself surveillance operation. People should not be okay with this.' The FBI told the Post on Friday that it... 'regularly engages with private sector entities... [which] independently make decisions about what, if any, action they take on their platforms and for their customers after the FBI has notified them'...."

The NY Post reports.

ALSO: There's this other article in the NY Post: "Twitter’s top ranks riddled with ex-FBI employees" ("More than a dozen former feds flocked to the company in the months and years prior to Elon Musk’s purchase of the social network in October").

"[T]he Trump cards will feature... the former president’s face grafted onto reasonably fit male bodies, clad in various costumes of masculine bravado..."

"... including sporting garb, a sheriff’s duster and lots of blue suits.... We can look to some of the darker trends in the contemporary art market... when seemingly trivial or worthless objects... are repurposed as art and treated as both intellectually substantial and commercially valuable.... What matters here is... how closely Trump’s attempt to market amateurish iconography parallels the way artists, critics and collectors have used laughter to establish the boundaries of the art world. Simply put, if you can’t take Duchamp or conceptual art seriously, you are a philistine, by the definition of the art world. It proves that you are unwilling or incapable of a basic set of thought exercises and mental calisthenics that are essential to the appreciation of contemporary art. One of the hallmarks of Trump’s art, and the work of other artists who have attempted to market Trump imagery as art, is the expectation that elites will laugh at it. Those who laugh are immediately outsiders to Trump world, where a taste for the tawdry is established as a fundamental shibboleth of loyalty and belonging. Call it inverse philistinism: the use of intentionally bad imagery, perhaps with a wink, to create an 'us-them' dynamic...." 

Writes Philip Kennicott in "Trump NFTs are not art. Unless you consider grifting an art form. These $99 trading cards are laughably bad. That’s the whole point" (WaPo).

Hey, that got surprisingly intellectual!

"It’s a bit like having sex with yourself. If you don’t have fun, it’s your own damn fault."

Said Robin Miles, quoted in "How a Great Audiobook Narrator Finds Her Voices/Robin Miles was looking for stage and screen roles when she began reading books for the blind. She’s become one of the country’s most celebrated narrators" (The New Yorker).

One of the things discussed in the article is the likelihood that AI voices will take over the work. I don't think AI can convey the right expression — not that human readers always get the narration right. I listen to a lot of audiobooks (and articles) and I can, from time to time, tell that the reader has misunderstood the text. But AI obviously does not understand. There is no mind to understand. And the human ear repels the voice that has no mind behind the words. The AI cannot "have sex with itself" and experience pleasure in the reading of the words. There is no pleasure to be had.

"Putin, having been shaped by a Cold War-era K.G.B. that specialized in manipulating U.S. racial tensions, was almost certainly aware ..."

"... that a perception that [Brittney] Griner might receive insufficient attention could be used to his advantage. The activism that resulted from that perception no doubt helped push the Biden Administration to make a deal rather than to risk repeating the miscalculations of the Reagan Administration. Still, the Griner affair may yet reiterate a crucial lesson of December, 1983—that inequality, or even the appearance of inequality, is not only a liability at home but an impediment in foreign affairs. The irony is that Putin, in the most cynical way possible, has demonstrated that Black lives really do matter, by highlighting just how much you can achieve by placing one in jeopardy."

Writes Jelani Cobb in "Brittney Griner and the Role of Race in Diplomacy/Griner’s release recalls the lessons of the effort to free Robert Goodman, an African American Navy navigator, from Syria" (The New Yorker).

"Cat eyes, like leopard print and red lipstick, always seem to cycle in and out of fashion. But, this year, the cat eye—a sinuous black line..."

"... drawn across the top of the lid which flicks up at the corner—left the confines of a makeup trend and became ubiquitous, boomeranging from runways in Paris to red carpets in Venice and across the cultural landscape... on television and in film, trending on TikTok and Instagram.... Usually, a cat eye feels nostalgic, even a bit cliché, evoking... Edie Sedgwick, or... Sophia Loren.... In the past year, though, the style evolved into something much more dynamic and confrontational. Suddenly, there were spiky cat eyes, reverse cat eyes, double-winged cat eyes, bejewelled cat eyes, smoky cat eyes, and more—the bolder the line, the better... Why this year? Our body is a battleground, as Barbara Kruger famously warned us, thirty-three years ago. The cat eye might be an attempt, however superficial, to draw a line...."

Writes Thessaly La Force in "The Year in Cat Eyes How a retro beauty trend left its mark on 2022’s TV shows, TikTok videos, and Taylor Swift lyrics" (The New Yorker). 

We're told the 2022 "cat eyes" — the  "much more dynamic and confrontational" kind — are "Less Jean Patchett on the cover of Vogue in 1950, more Dua Lipa in bustier minidress, fishnets, and rhinestones." There a lot of photos at the link, but not of that particular contrast. So, here, I've dug out the 2 images:

Try to understand the difference. To me, the 1950 woman seems mysterious, sophisticated, and haughty, and the 2022 woman looks looks weary and about to barf.

"People are awful; these beautiful creatures have a right to thrive in their habitats. Seriously, the planet didn’t need 8 billion people."

"It’s not like a high percentage of them especially in the US are smart, compassionate and empathetic."

That's one of the most recommended comments at "What Should You Do When the Bear Is Cinnamon? Scientists have uncovered a genetic mutation that makes it dangerously difficult to distinguish a black bear from a grizzly" (NYT).

Let me — without compassion or empathy — point out that the commenter is herself lacking in compassion and empathy. I presume she regards herself as compassionate and empathetic because she only withholds compassion and empathy from those who are not compassionate and empathetic.

December 16, 2022

Lake Mendota — late morning.


Write about anything you want in the comments.

"But as I’ve called around to C-suite executives and influential investors in Silicon Valley over the past few weeks, I’ve been surprised by how many are rooting for Mr. Musk ..."

"... even if they won’t admit to it publicly.... They see his harsh management style as a necessary corrective, and they believe he will ultimately be rewarded for cutting costs and laying down the law.... Tech elites don’t simply support Mr. Musk because they like him personally or because they agree with his anti-woke political crusades.... Rather, they view him as the standard-bearer of an emergent worldview they hope catches on more broadly in Silicon Valley."

Writes Kevin Roose in "Elon Musk, Management Guru? Why the Twitter owner’s ruthless, unsparing style has made him a hero to many bosses in Silicon Valley" (NYT).

"I was trying to be respectful.... They made it in front of us, squeezing the juice out of these massive tree roots... I was OK for 10 to 15 minutes and then I thought, 'ooooh, OK.' ... I went cross-eyed."

Said Michael McCormack, quoted in "'I went cross-eyed': Australia’s former deputy PM taken to hospital after drinking entire bowl of kava/Michael McCormack paid a high price for downing, not sipping, the sakau during a Pacific tour, later stating: 'I was trying to be respectful'" (The Guardian).

In Pohnpeian folklore, sakau was a gift from the gods... [I]t is usually served in a coconut shell, the state symbol of Pohnpei. It is made by pounding on the root of the kava plant and then straining it through the bark of the sea hibiscus tree. It’s known for being one of the stronger kavas – hence the sipping recommendation – as there is very little water added to the roots when making the drink.... McCormack said next time he would 'absolutely' sip and not down the drink in one go.

There are different ways of making kava, and McCormack had just had "five shells of kava in Vanuatu the day before" he arrived in Pohnpei.

I wonder how funny it was to the people he was "trying to be respectful" to.

"[S]everal key Senate Democrats... say they’re at least open to a blanket ban on TikTok in the U.S. which keeps lawmakers up at night worrying about..."

"... Chinese agents scraping data and their children up at night watching lava fail to melt ice.... [W]hile Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa. wanted more time to review the bill, he suggested lawmakers should be prepared to get out of their comfort zone with more aggressive legislation.... The idea of banning TikTok, which is owned by Chinese parent company ByteDance, was born during the Trump administration, when the former president tried to muzzle the social media app by executive order. A court halted it and Biden ultimately revoked the executive order when he took office, instead conducting talks with TikTok about a potential deal to address their concerns.... You can hold off on breaking the sad news to the Gen Zers in your life, a full TikTok ban is still unlikely, in part because it would spur substantial pushback from Americans among whom the app is very popular....."

Writes Liz Hoffman in "Democrats are dancing around a TikTok ban" (Semafor).

Not banning social media is considered a Democratic Party "comfort zone"? Well, at least there's that, but they're taunting each other into being "more aggressive."

An effort at — I think! — self-deprecation went horribly wrong.

"A freestanding cylindrical aquarium housing about 1,500 exotic fish has burst in Berlin.... 1m litres of water poured out of the 14-metre-high tank...."

"There was speculation that freezing temperatures of as low as -10C (14F) overnight had caused a crack in the tank, which then exploded under the weight of the water.... Operators say the aquarium has the biggest cylindrical tank in the world... The aquarium, which was last upgraded in 2020, is a big tourist attraction in Berlin. A 10-minute elevator ride through the tank was one of the highlights of the attraction."

The Guardian reports.

Has the biggest cylindrical tank in the world? Had the biggest cylindrical tank in the world.

I suspect there is good reason for not building large cylindrical glass water tanks and would love to hear expert opinion on water pressure inside a cylinder.

Twitter's problem with real-time location doxxing.


Jake Tapper's "14-year-old daughter, Alice, almost died as a result of a misdiagnosis."

December 15, 2022

"Twitter has suspended the account of prominent liberal journalist Aaron Rupar as well as reporters from CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post."

"Rupar, who has more than 788,000 followers, had his account suspended the day after Twitter suspended then restored an account that followed the movements of the billionaire’s private jet. 'I never posted anything Elon Jet related or that could violate the policy about disclosing locations. Unless the policy is that you criticize Elon and you get banned,' Rupar told CNN’s Oliver Darcy. And it came on the same day that Twitter suspended the account of social media rival platform Mastodon."

The Independent reports.

After the big snow — 7:49 and 7:52 a.m.



Open thread in the comments.

"Donald Trump walked into a comic-book universe of internet mockery on Thursday, when in a carefully trailed announcement he introduced his 'official Donald Trump Digital Trading Card' collection..."

"... with a picture of himself in superhero costume, cape and 'Trump Champion' belt.... In what with hindsight appeared a clue that the forthcoming announcement might not be in the traditionally dignified vein of statements from former presidents, that video featured Trump saying 'America needs a superhero' over an animation of himself standing outside Trump Tower, ripping open his suit to reveal a superhero costume and shooting lasers from his eyes. Some social media users thought Trump might announce a bid to be speaker of the US House, an outlandish if theoretically possible gambit pushed by some rightwing Republicans."

The Guardian reports.

"Lots of us have read this book called 'Into the Wild'....We’ve all got this theory that we’re not just meant to be confined to buildings and work. And that guy was experiencing life. Real life. Social media and phones are not real life."

"When I got my flip phone, things instantly changed.... I started using my brain. It made me observe myself as a person. I’ve been trying to write a book, too. It’s like 12 pages now."

Said Lola Shub, a senior at Essex Street Academy, quoted in "'Luddite' Teens Don’t Want Your Likes/When the only thing better than a flip phone is no phone at all" by Alex Vadukul (NYT).

The founder of the Luddite Club, Logan Lane, 17, said she got so consumed by social media during the lockdown that she put her iPhone "in a box." She started reading library books. She wrote something she called the "Luddite Manifesto."

"Why Zelenskyy made a Jewish joke in his Netflix interview with David Letterman."

The Jewish newspaper Forward explains.

We watched the Netflix show last night, and I didn't really see the point of making it a Jewish joke (other than I know that's a format for jokes, a format that has been out of favor in the U.S. for a long time):

“Two Jewish guys from Odesa meet up,” Zelenskyy said...  One Jew asks the other about “the situation,” and the other tells him that Russia is fighting NATO. Things are going badly for Russia. 70,000 dead Russian soldiers, depleted missile supplies, damaged equipment.

“What about NATO?” the Jew seeking news asks.

“‘What about NATO? NATO hasn’t even arrived yet!’”

A funny attack on the Russians, but why were the 2 Ukrainian men Jewish? 

"About her pronouns, when I asked, she said: 'Prefer she/her, don’t mind he/him, so no one can get it wrong.'"

"It was such a breezy, practiced statement that I thought she was done until she added: 'And I didn’t change them. The world changed them.' What’s this? 'I was on a program. They said, "Do you want she/her or he/him?" I went, "Ahh, oh, she." I’d been thinking of changing them. And then the program went out, and the whole world changed them. Two days.' She made a sound effect like a series of detonations. 'All news outlets... "She/her now." And I went, "Oh, OK.".... I thought it was a great honor.... I’ve been promoted — promoted to she. That’s how it was. But I didn’t actively have a campaign about it. It just happened. You know, I came out 37 years ago."

From "Eddie Izzard Plays Which Part in ‘Great Expectations’? All of Them. The British comedian and actor is now performing her solo take on Dickens’s coming-of-age drama Off Broadway. It’s 'pure storytelling,' she said" (NYT).

"Video Footage of Attack on Paul Pelosi Shown at San Francisco Hearing."

The NYT reports. 

Arriving at the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, two officers find an intruder and Ms. Pelosi’s husband, Paul, standing calmly, each with a hand on a hammer that the police demand they drop. Just then, the video shows, the intruder takes control, wields the weapon over his head and slams it with full force....

Why I don't read Breitbart.

I have avoided Breitbart for so long that I wanted to test my feeling that it's not for me. I got this far on the front page:


I cannot read this stuff. It's written to titillate people who are not me. Both of those headlines give off a (deniable) homophobic vibe.

December 14, 2022

A dark afternoon.


Photo by Meade.

Open thread in the comments.

I've found 7 delightful/disturbing TikToks for you today. Let me know what worked for you.

1. His wife wants to go out to lunch dressed like that — like Edgar Allan Poe.

2. This man could not be more impressed than by the Thom Brown Pre-Fall 2023 fashion show. He shan't return to regular life after this.

3. An autistic person's insightful tip on how to bond with neurotypical people at work: Just tell them what day of the week it is. They love it. She's right! I hadn't really noticed it before, but it is true. People love to hear what day of the week it is.

4. A baby is truly amazed at the first experience of eyeglasses.

5. Jordan Peterson delivers some very specific advice about how husbands had better treat their wives or else — or else you will become isolated and lonely and if you don't fix it you'll end up divorced and fixing it for the rest of your life.

6. Sinister Pond Babe explores Sac City, Iowa.

7. Speaking of sinister... these birds!

"You can’t insist that the immediate economic benefits of ending a pregnancy should be counted in Roe v. Wade’s favor, but any of the larger negative shifts in mating and marriage..."

"... and child rearing associated with abortion can’t be considered as part of the debate.... [Consider a] world clearly shadowed by the effects of family breakdown and social atomization, with loneliness and despair stalking young and old alike... population aging, population decline, childless cities and empty hinterlands and a vast inverted demographic pyramid on the shoulders of the young.... [And look at] the most influential voices in our aging, unhappy, stagnation-shadowed society — the most educated and impassioned and articulate, the most self-consciously devoted to the idea of progress — committing and recommitting themselves to the view that nothing is so important as to continue ensuring that hundreds of thousands of unborn lives can be ended in utero every year.... ... I beseech you to consider that you are making a mistake."

Writes Ross Douthat in "Does American Society Need Abortion?" (NYT).

"There are many ways for a person to be questionable... and men found every single one this year. There were the men with an unbearable lack of self-awareness, screaming..."

"... 'cancel culture' to an audience of millions. There were the men whose long history of abuse allegations did nothing to dissuade people from coming to their defense or giving them MTV VMA cameos. Did you know Louis C.K. won a Grammy this year?... It was a particularly embarrassing year for men with too much money. Over the summer, Jeff Bezos reportedly wanted to pay to disassemble and reassemble a bridge in the Netherlands so his big stupid boat could pass through.... [F]or reasons unbeknownst to humankind, Musk tweeted a picture of his bedside table.... ... Drake decided his collaborative album with 21 Savage was a good time to claim that Megan Thee Stallion lied about being shot by Tory Lanez....  [There] were the cringey men — men who embodied 'the ick.'... There was the Try Guy cheating scandal that validated our cultural suspicion of Wife Guys.... [There were] Whiny Little Baby-Men. These are the men who had to overcome such adversity as omelets and pens.... [T]here are men who are still making hypermasculinity their whole thing. These range from supplement-scamming Liver Kings to men who proudly embrace the title 'King of Toxic Masculinity.'... Then there are the truly sinister men.... They have either been a guest on Alex Jones’s podcast or are Alex Jones himself..... [There are] Ricky Gervais, Matt Gaetz, Brad Pitt, Tom Brady...."

Writes Mia Mercado in "The Year Men Flopped" (The Cut).

I love the way she got through all that without naming Trump. We really have moved on! And now, 2022 is about to expire, and we can move on from all the scoundrels she did name. Let's move on once again, to the — hopefully — much better masculinity of 2023.

"Fallen crypto billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried is being held in a Bahamian jail known to be overrun with rats and maggots..."

"... one so bad that a warden has called it 'not fit for humanity.' The accused fraudster, once estimated to be worth $32 billion, is being held in the island’s only correctional facility, Fox Hill Prison, until at least Feb. 8 after failing to get bail while fighting against extradition to the US. The jail was the focus of a damning report last year by the US Department of State into possible human rights violations, including violence and abuse by staff. 'Inmates removed human waste by bucket,' the government report noted of the jail where often six inmates are crammed into tiny cells that are only 6 feet by 10 feet. 'Some inmates developed bedsores from lying on bare ground,' the report said...."

The NY Post reports.

"By my lights, it is about as important for modern kids to learn cursive as it is for them to know their Roman numerals."

"The latter are kind of fun, and you have to know them to … well, for me they were for reading what the year was on 'Looney Tunes' opening credits, and I guess one might want to be able to know what year a building was constructed without having to ask someone. But just as those aren’t enough to impose learning Roman numerals on all schoolchildren, cursive’s time is up, now that all people will spend so much less time writing by hand."

Types John McWhorter, in "What’s the Point of Teaching Cursive?" (NYT).

"You are invisible as an old person. It helps to accept that. I like to be invisible."

"I was in India with my son and some friends, about seven years ago. And I was often alone in the dining room, since my son and the others would go off. And there was a loneliness that was interesting to me. People didn’t strike up conversations with you. Or they try to flee. Maybe they think you’ll latch on to them and bore them. I think the old woman sitting alone at the restaurant or the cafe table is in some sort of strange bubble of her own. Invisibility is a form of freedom that I do cherish most of the time."

Said Judith Thuman, quoted in "Fluent in the Language of Style/For over three decades, Judith Thurman has captured the often ineffable pull of fashion and beauty like few others" by Rhonda Garelick (NYT).

"As with the book itself, which mixes homey anecdotes with advice on how to handle anxiety, pressure and self-doubt, the clothes seem personal..."

"... the wardrobe of someone who has shrugged off the filters and decided to dress for herself as opposed to dressing to please (or maybe just not to upset) the largest possible constituency. Like the fits or not, there’s no denying that Mrs. Obama seemed to be having fun with what she was wearing.... Yet given how strategic Mrs. Obama was about her wardrobe choices during her husband’s administration... given how aware she has been that her every look is followed... it’s impossible not to think that the current shift is about more than just physical comfort. It’s also about the comfort of being at ease with your own self. And in that, it is a deliberate statement of intent. Of freedom. Mrs. Obama is setting her own rules, defining herself according to her own expectations, as opposed to the expectations of the role she has to fill. Who wears the pants? At this point, she does."

Writes Vanessa Friedman in "Michelle Obama’s Fashion Declaration of Independence/The former first lady dressed with a new sense of freedom on her book tour" (NYT).

It's fine for Michelle Obama to wear pants, and I like some of these new looks, notably the "Versace zebra stripes," but, good Lord, can we stop saying "Who wears the pants?" This is a retrograde sexist slur. I'm sure Friedman didn't mean it that way, but why does anyone ever feel the call to use a cliché? It's supposed to be funny and lighthearted because — what? — she actually is literally wearing pants?

That's been a stale twist for decades — flipping a well-worn metaphor back to its original meaning.

So why do it — especially where it necessarily entails sideswipe at Barack Obama's masculinity? It puts Friedman in a set with some of the lowest political humor on the internet, which portrays Michelle as the man and Barack as the woman.

"During Tuesday’s testimony, [Megan Thee Stallion] described the rap game as a 'boy’s club' and said she knew she would be hated because she was 'telling on one y’all’s friend.'"

From "‘Going through torture’: Megan Thee Stallion testifies against Tory Lanez/Rapper takes stand in case against Canadian-born musician, emotionally recounting night when she was shot" (The Guardian).

The Texas-born rapper, whose real name is Megan Pete... described how the attack left her with constant pain in her feet and said the reliving the incident in the public eye had been “torture.”

“I don’t wanna be on this Earth,” Pete said at one point during a daylong testimony. “I wish he woulda shot and killed me if I knew I would go through this torture.”...

"Now that we know that this is here, we know what it looks like, we know there’s erectile tissue with nerves – we can’t help but think: why wouldn’t this be for pleasure?"

"I think it’s worth opening up those questions for snakes."

Said  Jenna Crowe-Riddell, a postdoc in neuroecology at La Trobe University, quoted in "Snakes have a clitoris: scientists overcome ‘a massive taboo around female genitalia’/Researchers say previous studies mistook the organs on female snakes as scent glands or under-developed versions of penises" (The Guardian).

"'Road sleeping' deaths soar in Tokyo... Authorities concerned that death toll from people being hit by cars while sleeping on roads will increase further as end-of-year party season begins."

The Guardian reports. 

Bonenkai – literally “forget the year” parties are supposed to be an opportunity for colleagues who spend hours together in the workplace to get together for an evening of nomunication, a portmanteau of the Japanese verb to drink, nomu, and communication.

Tokyo is not the only part of Japan struggling with alcohol-fuelled somnolence, with other regions reporting a rise in “road sleeping” at weekends and at the end of the year, when people tend to drink more. In 2020, police in Okinawa reported more than 7,000 cases of rojo-ne – literally sleeping on the road – the previous year, a phenomenon some attribute to the southern island’s balmy weather and enthusiastic consumption of awamori, a strong local spirit.

December 13, 2022

Sunrise — 7:15.


"While 31% of Republican and Republican-leaning independents want Trump... 61% say they would rather have DeSantis..."

According to the new he USA Today/Suffolk University, reported at the NY Post.

I know you Trumpsters are brooding and scoffing about the so-called "Republican-leaning independents" who are diluting these numbers. Call me when you have the numbers on actual Republicans. Right? That's what you're thinking, isn't it?

Anyway, the poll also has Trump lagging 7 points behind Biden and DeSantis 4 points ahead of Biden.

The power of boo.

"Fentanyl is highly, highly addictive, and it’s basically ridding our country of heroin. There’s very little heroin on the streets of America anymore...."

"Fentanyl has essentially outcompeted it. Both [fentanyl and meth], together and alone, make it so that people will literally refuse treatment, will literally refuse housing even when they’re living in tent encampments, even when they’re living in feces, in lethal temperatures, beaten, pimped out, because  [fentanyl and meth] do such a masterful job in potency and in supply of keeping, of thwarting that instinct to self-preservation...."

From "How Frighteningly Strong Meth Has Supercharged Homelessness" (NY Magazine).

"[N]o one took the idea that a life of the boundless mind was reflected in a life freed from petty concerns like clothing further than Mr. Bankman-Fried..."

"Not for him the physical cage of a suit and tie. Instead, the T-shirt, cargo shorts and sneakers, often worn with white running socks scrunched down at the ankle. And not just any T-shirt and cargo shorts, but what could seem like the baggiest, most stretched out, most slept in, most consciously unflattering T-shirts and shorts; the most unkempt bed-head. While the look may have evolved naturally, it became a signature as he rose to prominence, a look he realized was as effective at pushing the Pavlovian buttons of the watching public (and the investing community) as the Savile Row suits and Charvet ties of Wall Street.... 'It’s the ultimate billionaire white boy tech flex: I’m so above convention. I’m so special I am not subject to the same rules and propriety as everyone else.'"

Writes Vanessa Friedman in "Hey Silicon Valley, It’s Time to Wear a Suit Sam Bankman-Fried’s choices may signal an end to the schlubby mystique" (NYT)(internal quote by investor/podcaster Scott Galloway).

Federal prosecutors said... that they expect evidence to show that Mr. Bankman-Fried 'defrauded FTX customers by misappropriating their funds for his personal use..."

"... including to invest for his own account, to make tens of millions of dollars of political contributions, and to cover billions of dollars in expenses and debts of Alameda Research, a cryptocurrency hedge fund also founded by the defendant."

The NYT reports. 

"Living apart can be a way for women to reap the benefits of marriage — love, commitment, support — while avoiding the burdens that traditionally come with being a wife..."

"... including the disproportionate amount of work that tends to fall on them at home. Sana Akhand, 33, who lived a 30-minute walk from her husband in New York City from October 2021 to June of this year, said that living apart allowed her to create the life she aspired to since girlhood, which included having a successful career in addition to finding love.... She said she [had begun] to lose her 'rebellion and independent nature' and 'just fell into super-traditional roles and paths of life, like being the wife.... Being a wife is subconsciously really draining, because you’re just thinking about this other person, their well-being,' Ms. Akhand said.... There are many factors that appear to contribute to making the model more socially acceptable. One is the growing visibility and acceptance of relationships that don’t look like the traditional heterosexual marriage, with all its attendant pressures and stereotypes..."

From "The Wife Left, but They’re Still Together/After a pandemic dip, the number of married couples 'living apart together' has started to rise again. And women, in search of their own space, are driving the increase" (NYT).

"[T]here’s a wide range of ways in which people can relate to time in their lives. 'Some people live in narrative mode'... and others..."

"... have 'no tendency to see their life as constituting a story or development.' But it’s not just a matter of being a continuer or a divider. Some people live episodically as a form of 'spiritual discipline,' while others are 'simply aimless.' Presentism can 'be a response to economic destitution—a devastating lack of opportunities—or vast wealth.”... There are lotus-eaters, drifters, lilies of the field, mystics and people who work hard in the present moment. . . . Some people are creative although they lack ambition or long-term aims, and go from one small thing to the next, or produce large works without planning to, by accident or accretion. Some people are very consistent in character, whether or not they know it, a form of steadiness that may underwrite experience of the self’s continuity. Others are consistent in their inconsistency, and feel themselves to be continually puzzling and piecemeal.'..."

Writes Joshua Rothman in "Are You the Same Person You Used to Be? Researchers have studied how much of our personality is set from childhood, but what you’re like isn’t who you are" (the internal quotes are from Galen Strawson).

"By this time, I had some sense of the plot [of Jean-Luc Godard's 'King Lear']... The narrative was now roughly this: The world has been destroyed, post-Chernobyl..."

"... and a puckish little man named William Shakespeare Jr. The Fifth is tasked with re-creating his famous ancestor’s work. The avant-garde opera director Peter Sellars was cast as Shakespeare’s descendant, and Godard inserted himself in a role that doesn’t appear in any Shakespeare play: Herr Doktor Pluggy—an inventor who wears a contraption on his head, with cables dangling, doing research in pursuit of something called 'the image.'.... One day, Godard sneaked into [the room of the actor playing King Lear, Burgess Meredith] and short-sheeted his bed. I noticed that the director seemed to derive satisfaction from provoking people... Toward the end of the shoot, Godard mentioned that he deemed everything I did in the film completely authentic except for one moment.... I asked him which one. 'I’ll tell you when it’s over,' he said.... When I finished my scenes, I approached him to ask which moment, and he told me that it was the scene in which Cordelia lies next to her father, dead. This was completely nonsensical, since it was the last scene that I filmed—it hadn’t even been shot when he made the comment."

Writes Molly Ringwald, in "Shooting Shakespeare with Jean-Luc Godard/The actress and writer recalls working with French cinema’s enfant terrible" (The New Yorker).

"First thought; Can I work/live there? Maybe it will help me grow back my lost hair from all the stress of 'normal daily life :)"

"Seriously, look at all these folks beautiful hair! Am I the only one that dreams of just dropping everything and moving to a forest and living off the land and selling goods the 'old fashioned' way... you know, actually selling things you physically make? Maybe I just need to move out of New Jersey. Anyway, thank you for sharing this story with us folks stuck in cyber-world tending to our keyboards, twiddling our fingers on plastic buttons, growing roots out of our posteriors." 

A reader comments on the NYT article, "Taking to the Woods With Maine’s ‘Tree Tippers’/Generations of Mainers have made a living working seasonal, nature-based jobs. Harvesting the balsam used to make wreaths is one of them."

The old hippie dream is always there, waiting for revival — replete with hair... long beautiful hair.

"Despite his best efforts, Jake has recently hit a wall in his career and personal life. He feels stuck..."

"... and unfulfilled, and has begun to question whether the path he has chosen is really the right one for him. Jake is intelligent and resourceful, but he can also be impulsive and reckless. He has a tendency to act without fully thinking things through, which has gotten him into trouble in the past. Jake is good-looking and charming, but he has never been able to settle down in a committed relationship. He has had many casual flings and short-term relationships, but has never found someone who truly understands him. Overall, Jake is a complex and multifaceted character who is struggling with a deep sense of uncertainty and disillusionment. He is at a turning point in his life, and the events of the story will force him to confront his fears and doubts, and to ultimately make some difficult decisions about his future."

That's A.I., responding to a fiction-writer's request for a good fictional character, quoted in "Could an A.I. Chatbot Rewrite My Novel? As a young fiction writer, I dreamed of a technology that would tell me how to get my characters from point A to point B. Could ChatGPT be it?" by Jay Caspian Kang (The New Yorker).

It's terrible — isn't it? — or do I just need it to be terrible because I don't want any machine-written fiction? But am I clinging to a desire to love real, human fiction-writers? Maybe A.I.'s idea of a good fictional character is bad, and it's actually as good as what the humans do? If so, my desire to hate any machine-written fiction could lead me to hate the human fiction writer.

Here's what the real human writer — who needs us to continue to want him (and perhaps has never found someone who truly understands him) — has to say:

"The Branch Covidians."

Screen shot of the top of Musk's feed, taken just now.

"The Branch Covidians" is quite an epithet. Do you think it's like Trump's namecalling? Or is something very different going on here? The analogy to the Branch Davidians is hinky. They were a sect that cut themselves off from reality, but they were not exercising governmental power and they were the victims of a shocking overreach of governmental power. But the Branch Davidians were said to have abused children, and I suspect that Musk intends to say that Fauci, et al., were abusing children.

"Twitter on Monday night abruptly dissolved its Trust and Safety Council...."

The Washington Post reports, characterizing the move as "the latest sign that Elon Musk is unraveling years of work and institutions created to make the social network safer and more civil."

Twitter first formed the Trust and Safety Council in 2016, as social networks were coming under greater scrutiny for their role in amplifying hate, terrorism, child exploitation and other problematic content online. The council convened a wide range of civil society groups, think tanks — and even some of Silicon Valley’s biggest critics....

Last week, three members of the Trust and Safety Council resigned, warning that the “safety and wellbeing of Twitter’s users are on the decline.” Musk responded to replies to their tweet announcing their resignation, writing, “It’s a crime that they refused to take action on child exploitation for years!” ....

Midway through the article, the topic switches to something that is in the url for this article — "musk-twitter-harass-yoel-roth/":

December 12, 2022

"Sam Bankman-Fried, the disgraced founder of the collapsed cryptocurrency exchange FTX, was arrested in the Bahamas on Monday…”

“… after U.S. prosecutors filed criminal charges, according to a statement by the government of the Bahamas," the NYT reports.
Lawyers involved in the case were surprised at the suddenness of the news, which came the evening before Mr. Bankman-Fried was scheduled to testify in a House committee hearing.

Minimal sunrise with diminished snowman.


When Twitter banned Trump.

What was Elon Musk doing at a Dave Chappelle concert?


Chappelle tries to improvise his way through the booing, but what the hell? Why should a comedy audience appreciate a non-comedy guest cameo on the stage? Was there some sort of reliance on the idea that Musk is a free-speech hero, so the crowd would cheer? 

Gizmodo describes the scene — and quoted Musk's tweet about it: "Technically, it was 90% cheers & 10% boos (except during quiet periods), but, still, that’s a lot of boos, which is a first for me in real life (frequent on Twitter). It’s almost as if I’ve offended SF’s unhinged leftists... but nahhh."

"'There’s nothing more futile than trying to explain a cartoon to someone who doesn’t get it,' Mr. Lorenz said."

"He cited an illustration by Mr. Ziegler of a man standing at the counter of the Bureau of Missing Toast as he tearfully shows a clerk a photo of a well-done slice of bread. ‘It didn’t seem like the craziest thing we’d ever run, but I had people come up to me and say they did not get it — or like it,' Mr. Lorenz said. 'On the other hand, Jack got a half dozen pieces of toast in the mail.'"

From "Lee Lorenz, 90, Cartoonist and Gatekeeper at The New Yorker, Dies/Over 40 years at the magazine he drew hundreds of cartoons and covers and served as art and cartoon editor, recruiting new talent and deciding who got published" (NYT).

Ezra Klein learned from the Quakers that you need to shut up.

I'm reading "The Great Delusion Behind Twitter" (NYT).

Midway into that diatribe against Twitter, Klein takes what he calls "a weird turn" and starts talking about the Quakers:

Do you use Facebook?

If you do, how do you feel when you read what's new over there? I mean, be honest. Is there a discrepancy between what you think you ought to feel and how you actually feel? I'm trying to understand my own experience, and I wonder if my feeling is entirely idiosyncratic.

They made a Broadway musical out of the movie "Some Like It Hot," and some say they made it too "woke."

Spoiler alert for the movie and the musical. In the movie, when Jack Lemmon takes his wig off and announces he's a guy, the man who fell in love with him says "Well, nobody's perfect." Famous ending for a famous movie. In the new musical, in the same situation, the last line is "You're perfect."

But that's not all, as the Guardian critic, Alexis Soloski writes

"A recount in a political race in Massachusetts has flipped a state house of representatives election from Republican to Democrat by a single vote. "

"Democrat Kristin Kassner won against her Republican opponent and five-term incumbent Lenny Mirra earlier this week after a recount that shrunk the candidates’ narrow vote deficit to one.... In response to that outcome, Mirra said that he will 'absolutely' challenge the result.... 'Some [ballots] were filled out in pencil, some were filled out with different colored ink, some had stray marks. Some had a name written in the write-in and then an oval filled out.'...  Meanwhile, Kassner believes that there was no foul-play in the voting process...."

The Guardian reports.

"Those 51 intel agents that signed a letter that said the Hunter Biden information was all wrong, was Russia collusion, many of them have a security clearance."

"We’re going to bring them before a committee. I’m going to have them have a hearing​,​ bring them and subpoena them before a committee. Why did they sign it? Why did they lie to the American public?... Why did you use the reputation that America was able to give to you … but use it for a political purpose and lie to the American public?"

Said Kevin McCarthy, the likely Speaker of the House, come January, quoted in the NY Post.

Elon Musk defends his tweet that just said "My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci."

My reaction, yesterday, was just "Yikes" — the post title — and, in the comments: "I'm more shocked that he made a casual 'pronouns' joke than that he expressed a desire to see F prosecuted (and without naming the crime or citing any evidence)."

Today, I'm seeing:

Now, it's getting complicated. Musk started the conversation — on 2 topics — with something so short it was flippant and seemed mean.

"I spent the afternoon yesterday at Twitter HQ at the invitation of @elonmusk to find out more about the trend 'blacklist' that twitter placed on me & more."

Tweets Dr. Jay Bhattacharya.

Twitter 1.0 placed me on the blacklist on the first day I joined in August 2021. I think it was my pinned tweet linking to the @gbdeclaration that triggered the blacklist based on unspecified complaints Twitter received.

Twitter 1.0 rejected requests for verification by me and @MartinKulldorff . Each time the reasoning (never conveyed to us) was that we were not notable enough. They should have asked Francis Collins -- he would have vouched for our standing as "fringe epidemiologists."

It will take some time to find out more about what led Twitter 1.0 to act so imperiously, but I am grateful to @elonmusk, who has promised access to help find out. I will report the results on Twitter 2.0, where transparency and free speech rule.

It's a little melodramatic but I'll admit that the first thing that flashed into my head was the scene in "The Lives of Others" — spoiler alert — when the main character enters the Stasi Records Agency and is able to read his file. How exciting to enter the domain of the entity that has persecuted you, to be treated with respect and deference, and to be handed the written record of what they had been doing to you in secret!

Here's a news report on the Stasi Files (not from the movie): 

A monument to transparency.

"I thought it was a data-driven company but actually it is one man's gut feeling and emotions-driven. Nobody can overwrite his decision." 

Said a Meta employee, quoted in "Meta staff are hitting out at Mark Zuckerberg in Blind reviews because they think his metaverse obsession will 'single-handedly kill' the company" (Business Insider).

The quoted person self-identified as "a senior technical program manager," and also said: "Poor leadership is on track to sink this ship.... No accountability at and above Director level. VPs and Directors are here to just milk the company without adding any value."

"Arizona’s Republican governor.... Doug Ducey is driving a project that is placing double-stacked old shipping containers through several miles of national forest, attempting..."

"... to fill gaps in Donald Trump’s intermittent border fencing. The rusting hulks, topped with razor wire and with bits of metal jammed into gaps, stretch for more than three miles through Coronado national forest land, south of Tucson, and the governor has announced plans to extend that up to 10 miles, at a cost of $95m (£78m). The area, with mountain ranges rising abruptly from the desert and a diverse environment of plants and animals, is federal land maintained by the US Forest Service."

The Guardian reports, in "Arizona governor builds border wall of shipping crates in final days of office."

If it's federal land, maintained by the federal government, why doesn't the federal government stop this ramshackle building project? Is this just another side of the federal government's inability/unwillingness to control the border?

It turns out, there is a lawsuit:

December 11, 2022

At the Deep Snow Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

(The photo is by Meade.)

"Oh, no, I have been in prison for 10 months now listening to Russian."

Said Brittney Griner to Roger Carstens, special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, quoted in "Griner ‘compassionate, humble’ after release from Russia/‘We talked about everything under the sun,’ says the special presidential envoy for hostage affairs" (WaPo).

Carstens had gotten her to her seat on the plane home and told her: "Please feel free to decompress. We will give you your space." They "ended up talking for about 12 hours out of the 18-hour flight." And she also went up to everyone on the plane “looked them in the eyes, shook their hands and asked about them, got their names, making a personal connection with them.”

“We talked about everything under the sun.... I was left with the impression that this is an intelligent, passionate, compassionate, humble, interesting person, a patriotic person, but, above all, authentic."

"We exit the movie theater to a bright realization: our films are exactly as overlit as our reality."

"As our environment has become blander, it has also become more legible — too legible. That’s a shame, because many products of the new ugliness could benefit from a little chiaroscuroed ambiguity: if the world has to fill itself up with smart teapots, app-operated vacuum cleaners, and creepily huge menswear, we’d prefer it all to be shrouded in darkness. For thousands of years, this was the principle of illumination that triumphed over all others. Louis XIV’s Versailles and Louis the Tavern Owner’s tavern had this in common: the recognition that some details are worth keeping hidden. But now blinding illumination is the default condition of every apartment, office, pharmacy, laundromat, print shop, sandwich shop, train station, airport, grocery store, UPS Store, tattoo parlor, bank, and this vape shop we’ve just walked into.... After New York replaced the sodium-vapor lights in the city’s 250,000 streetlamps with shiny new LEDs in 2017, the experience of walking through the city at night transformed, almost . . . overnight. Forgiving, romantic, shadowy orange gave way to cold, all-seeing bluish white.... [T]he city has been estranged from itself: the hyperprecise shadows of every leaf and every branch set against every brick wall deliver a Hollywood unreality. New York after hours now looks less like it did in Scorsese’s After Hours and more like an excessive set-bound ’60s production." 

From "Why Is Everything So Ugly? The mid in fake midcentury modern" (N+1 Magazine).


"Lighten up! What is this?"

"If you lived through the 1980s there’s a decent chance that, at some point, you crossed paths with raspberry vinaigrette, pesto, and arugula."

"By the end of the decade, they had become part of the atmosphere hanging over American society, like a giant cloud of Aqua Net holding up so many teased bangs. Many loved these foods; many others derided them as pretentious yuppie garbage. But the source of their popularity, at least in home kitchens, was all but undisputed: The Silver Palate Cookbook, originally published in 1982, more than 2.5 million copies sold. The cookbook was a product of its time and place: New York’s Upper West Side in the late 1970s and early ’80s. A world synonymous (at least in the mind of the average moviegoer) with Woody Allen and then Nora Ephron. You can bet that before they were forced to play Pictionary at that dinner party, Harry and Sally were fed salmon mousse and chicken Marbella or maybe osso bucco. (Ephron was a Silver Palate fan.)"

From "‘The Silver Palate Cookbook’ Changed Home Cooking (and Pesto Consumption) As We Know It/Published in 1982, it brought verve to entertaining and taught a generation of American cooks to trust in bold flavors, fresh herbs, and the joys of improvisation" (Eater).

Yeah, I had 2 "Silver Palate" cookbooks on my kitchen cookbook shelf for more than 30 years. In fact, they made such a permanent impression on my eyeballs that I just went over to look at them. But no, they're gone. Some time in the last 10 years, I realized I hadn't opened them in more than 15 years and gave them the heave-ho. Maybe it was back in that year when we were all looking at things and asking if they "sparked joy." You can ask if it's time yet to oust that sparking-joy book, but that was never anything but a Kindle text. 

Here's the Kindle text of the "Silver Palate Cookbook." It's only $3. Eat like the 80s.

"An artist goes to the studio to work. Not when the spirit moves you. You go every day and work. Just plain work...."

"[Then] the tools are put away at night, and the studio is swept down, and the things you want for tomorrow morning are placed out." And, in the morning: "Everything is clean, is nice. You are very happy. You start working."

Said the sculptor Louise Nevelson, when she was in her 70s, quoted in "What powers artists who reach old age? The work" (WaPo).

Phoniness is inherent in the nature of the enterprise. The real question is whether she has chosen the best way to play the game.

"The most intrusive animation is a train that twice interrupts the mathematician Moon Duchin, who is reflecting on what it would mean for a mathematical object like infinity to 'exist.'"

"The second appearance of the train blocks her entirely from view and rumbles over her thoughts, as though the underlying ideas aren’t interesting enough on their own. As a mathematician, I may be biased, but I think that they are. Is the universe as infinite as we might imagine it to be?"

Writes Dan Rockmore, in "'A Trip to Infinity' and the Delicate Art of the Math Documentary/One of the most captivating concepts in mathematics is now on Netflix" (The New Yorker).

We watched that documentary last night. That is, we watched half of it. Tonight, we might watch the other half. But if we only watch half of what's left, and we keep doing that, night after night, we will never get to the end of it.

Here's the trailer — which will help you decide if you want your math enlivened/tarted up with graphics:

"They’re surprisingly flexible animals, and they twist and turn and their flukes get entangled. The lobster lines can then tighten..."

"... around their caudal peduncle – the tail stock – causing it to necrotise... a horrible slow death...."

Says Philip Hoare, author of Leviathan," quoted in "Save whales or eat lobster? The battle reaches the White House/Fishing gear used by Maine lobstermen is killing right whales. Will boosting a $1bn industry trump protecting an endangered species?" (The Guardian)(The White House served lobster at a recent state dinner).

In his effort to stir up an appreciation for whales that outstrips our taste for lobster, Hoare stresses their "very long sessions of foreplay of three or four hours." 

Males possess the biggest testes of any animal on the planet, and the mating often involves several males and a single female – a “socially active group” in scientific terms. “You see them rolling around in shallow water in a very sensual way, stroking each other with their flippers. There are a lot of animals involved, and it’s clearly erotic. They seem so caught up in the moment.”

When you think about how far you would go sacrificing your own interests for the sake of saving an animal from suffering and needless death, how much are you counting their sexual performance? What counts more — the size of their testicles, the amount of time devoted to insuring that the female has an orgasm, or the extent to which they seem to be having what the humans call "fun"?


"Elon Musk, ever a bundle of contradictions and inconsistencies, has long made his politics tricky to pin down."

The NYT — ever a bundle of [fill in the blank] — has been avoiding the "Twitter Files" but is delving into The Mind of Musk in "Critics Say Musk Has Revealed Himself as a Conservative. It’s Not So Simple. Elon Musk has tweeted about political topics regularly since taking over Twitter, often belittling some liberal causes. But what he stands for remains largely unclear" by Jeremy W. Peters.

In The Twitter Files, Part 4, Michael Shellenberger looks at "The Removal of Donald Trump: January 7."

"As the pressure builds, Twitter executives build the case for a permanent ban." 

Sorry I missed this last night. I mean, I'm not really sorry. Sometimes I'm not hanging around on line looking for the next thing. 

ADDED: Shellenberger's summary:

On Jan 7, senior Twitter execs: 

 - create justifications to ban Trump 

- seek a change of policy for Trump alone, distinct from other political leaders 

 - express no concern for the free speech or democracy implications of a ban

MORE: On Jan 7, senior Twitter execs: - create justifications to ban Trump - seek a change of policy for Trump alone, distinct from other political leaders - express no concern for the free speech or democracy implications of a ban 


"Before I get to the meat of the puzzle, a word about the title. Well, three words: I hate it. Like, viscerally."

"It's a vicious, stupid, and ultimately inapt title," writes Rex Parker, about the NYT Sunday Crossword, which is titled "Step on it."

Click to spoil the theme of today's puzzle.