December 24, 2022

Christmas Eve...

 ... keep warm. Don't slip on the ice. Feel free to use this space to talk about anything that catches your fancy.

"And as the Christmas season comes and goes over the next eight or nine days, composting down into a farty mulch of colourless, stodge-based meals..."

"... eaten at weird times, afternoon sleeps in hot telly rooms, and leftovers swallowed between slices of white bread with a large glass of Christmas table 'mine sweep' (three parts prosecco to one part port, one part advocaat and two parts 'grandma spat that coffee out because she thought it was tea'), we will be seeing an awful lot... [about] Detox January, New Year/New You, and all that tired old annual post-party guff."

Writes Giles Coren in "Get fit next year with the Benny Hill Sprint/Forget the Body Coach, it’s all about the silly walk — or another of these fun-packed workouts from our slapstick greats" (London Times).

1. He's reacting to a Times article called "A ‘Ministry of Silly Walks’ workout could burn 100 calories in minutes" ("Adopting a John Cleese-style silly walk for 11 minutes a day could, a study suggests, be the key to achieving the amount of vigorous physical activity recommended for most adults by the NHS.")

2. I'm mostly blogging this because I was intrigued by the word "stodge." I know "stodgy," but what's a "stodge-based meal"? The OED says "stodge" is colloquial and means "Food of a semi-solid consistency, esp. stiff farinaceous food; spec. heavy and usually fattening food (often with little nutritional value)." I think in America, we'd say "glop."

3. The adjective "stodgy," when used to mean "Dull, heavy; wanting in gaiety or brightness," is figurative. The original meaning was to describe the kind of food that would be called "stodge." The oldest recorded example of the figurative use of "stodgy" is  from Laura Troubridge, "Life amongst Troubridges" (1874): "We had meant to play Rats and Ferrets, but we had to begin a stodgy game of Old Maid."

4. Now, the most useful thing I have to offer you is that "stodge" can be used figuratively, to refer to things that are stodgy — "stodgy notions" (as the OED puts it). Instead of saying, "Your ideas are so stodgy!" for example, you can say, "Spare me this stodge!" 

5. What are you planning to eat on Christmas and through New Year's — stodge?

Upstairs to downstairs texting at Meadhouse.


I need to contextualize that last remark. It all goes back to something I reminisced about and blogged in 2014:

The phrase "jacking up" normally goes with opposition to taxes, so it's a humorous flip to use it when you're actually in favor of more taxes. I'll never forget the time, back in 2010, when we watched the Obama rally from the TV set up on the Union Terrace, in a big enthusiastic crowd of mostly students. I wished I'd caught this one guy on video. Upon some mention of taxes, he stood up facing the crowd and yelled "Taxes?! I say jack 'em up!!!" He did this with a big, clownish, full-body gesture that ended with arms aloft and thumbs up. Meade and I have been imitating that guy for years. For the drunk-on-beer/drunk-on-Obama Terrace crowd, maybe it all seemed like a dream or a joke. Need money? Get money! Jack 'em up!

"Perhaps no single male fashion accessory provokes as much emotion as the bow tie."

"People who wear them fall in and out of love with them or bear them as a burden for life. People who have to look at them can find them irritating or worse. The presence of a bow tie always seems to draw comment and the phrase 'bow tie-wearing' in certain contexts can sound like a slur.... To its devotees the bow tie suggests iconoclasm of an Old World sort, a fusty adherence to a contrarian point of view. The bow tie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned, and sometimes suggests technical acumen, perhaps because it is so hard to tie. Bow ties are worn by magicians, country doctors, lawyers and professors and by people hoping to look like the above. But perhaps most of all, wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.... Another class of bow-tied men is comprised of comedians who wear them ironically, like Mark Russell [and] Pee-wee Herman.... [George] Will said he started wearing a bow tie in the 1960's as a statement 'when things started going crazy.'..."

From a 2005 NYT article by Warren St. John: "A Red Flag That Comes in Many Colors."

"If I go looking for something I usually don’t find it. In fact, I never find it. I walk into things intuitively when I’m most likely not looking for anything...."

"Obscure artists, obscure songs. There’s a song by Jimmy Webb that Frank Sinatra recorded called, 'Whatever Happened to Christmas,' I think he recorded it in the 60s, but I just discovered it...."

Said Bob Dylan, recently.


Questions for discussion:

1. What's the use of looking for something? You'll have better luck walking intuitively while not actually looking. That is, don't look where you're going. That's exactly what doesn't work.

2. Frank Sinatra is hardly an "obscure artist," but there are many recordings of Frank Sinatra singing an obscure song. What's your favorite obscure Frank Sinatra song?

3. Even Jimmy Webb is not obscure, but how many songs has he written, and what percentage of them are non-obscure? But don't talk about them. Talk about a Jimmy Webb obscurity.

4. Whatever happened to Christmas? Remember how love was all around? Whatever happened to you?

5. What have you found, Bob Dylan style, by walking into it intuitively? 

"Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona agreed on Wednesday to tear down a makeshift border wall built out of old shipping containers..."

"... ending a divisive border security effort that sparked protests and legal challenges. The agreement came as part of a lawsuit filed last week by the Biden administration... [arguing] that Mr. Ducey’s wall was constructed illegally on federal land... The project, funded by the Republican-controlled State Legislature, has cost at least $82 million...."

The NYT reports.

But that's not a child.

"Hiring Mr. Syed at this point is, at best, premature and I am deeply concerned that Georgetown is placing the value of celebrity over the Jesuit values that made the school what it is today."

Said Steve Kelly, lawyer for the family of the murdered teenager Hae Min Lee, quoted in "Georgetown hires Adnan Syed after court tossed his murder conviction/Prosecutors have acknowledged Syed, subject of the true-crime ‘Serial’ podcast, was wrongly convicted" (WaPo).
Kelly said in a statement that he applauded Syed’s efforts to improve himself by getting a degree, but as a Georgetown graduate himself he was also “appalled that Mr. Syed has been deemed an ‘exoneree’ based on a deeply flawed process in which his victim’s family had no voice and at which no evidence of actual innocence was presented.”

December 23, 2022

It's Christmas Eve eve...

 ... after another day of staying inside out of the cold and wind. 

So, again, no photo. Tomorrow, we're told, it will be "much warmer," but that means only that it will go up to 8° (which will, they say, feel like -11). But the days are getting longer. Today was 6 seconds longer.

All of this is just to say: Write about anything you want in the comments.

"There seems to be genuine confusion over what a well-meaning person can say without offending someone."

"According to Pew, a majority of Americans believe there isn’t any agreement on what language is considered sexist or racist of late.... You might find yourself wondering: Can I use that word? Am I not supposed to say that anymore?... [W]e enlisted the help of the polling firm Morning Consult to survey a representative sample of over 4,000 Americans...."

This is a very useful and entertaining exploration by the New York Times. Let me just highlight — uplift and highlight — a few things that stood out for us here at Meadhouse: 

First, the overview:

"In the weeks while the House select committee to investigate the insurrection at the Capitol was finishing its report, Donald Trump, the focus of its inquiry, betrayed no sense of alarm or self-awareness...."

So begins "The Devastating New History of the January 6th Insurrection/The House report describes both a catastrophe and a way forward" by David Remnick, in The New Yorker.

I'm not reading this article. (It would take a lot to get me to read a January 6th article at this point.) I just thought that was a very funny sentence.

What would it take for Donald Trump to "betray" a "sense" of "alarm" or "self-awareness"? Why doesn't David Remnick betray a sense of alarm or self-awareness? Are we, generally, supposed to betray a sense of alarm or self-awareness? Is that something good people do? I guess it's something guilty people do, if they're good people who are not good at being guilty.

But it's just hilarious to imagine a Donald Trump who: 1. Feels that he is guilty and 2. Cannot cover up his feeling. How would we even begin to recognize such a creature to be Donald Trump?

I'm considering becoming the blogger who finds articles that I refuse to read, then reading just the first sentence, and blogging that and only that.

"It is not clear what is more chilling: the menacing role played by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in Twitter’s censorship program..."

"... or its mendacious response to the disclosure of that role. This week saw another FBI 'nothing-to-see-here' statement to the release of files detailing how it actively sought to suppress the Hunter Biden story before the 2020 election, gave millions to Twitter, and targeted even satire or tiny posts that did not conform with its guidelines. The releases document what some of us have long alleged: a system of censorship by surrogate or proxy. The FBI has largely shrugged and said that there is nothing concerning about over 80 agents working on the censoring of posters, including many American citizens...."

Writes Jonathan Turley.

"'The men and women of the FBI work every day to protect the American public. It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.' What is striking about this statement is that the FBI is now adopting the language of pundits on the left that any objections to its role in censorship is a 'conspiracy theory.' Rather than acknowledge the concerns and pledge to work with Congress to guarantee transparency, it is attacking free speech advocates who are raising the concern that Twitter had become an agent of the government in censorship."

"Sitting across from [Kamala] Harris had me thinking about how I’ve devoted a good deal of my life to analyzing how the media, and Americans more generally, treat powerful women."

Writes Molly Jong-Fast in a Vanity Fair piece with a long title: "KAMALA HARRIS, A VERY TURBULENT YEAR IN AMERICA, AND THE CHALLENGE OF BEING FIRST/In an interview with Vanity Fair, the vice president discusses protecting abortion rights post-Roe and tackling immigration, along with how, as a woman of several firsts—from DA to AG to VP—she hopes to 'create a path and widen the path for others.'"  

It sounds as though, in the middle of the interview, she's ransacking her own mental archive in search of any substance to use in this big Vanity Fair piece she's supposed to write.

And here is the most powerful woman—quite literally one heartbeat away from the presidency....

Oh! The despair in those words! Here you are, given special access, and you don't just trot out the old cliché — "one heartbeat away from the presidency" — you pad it with the ludicrous amplifier "quite literally." I am quite literally rolling on the floor laughing my ass off.

At this point, I am sure Jong-Fast found absolutely nothing of interest in this interview — nothing, that is, that she wanted to use.

"Kareem Rahma, a New York–based comedian, hops in the back of a cab with two camerapersons.... 'Take me to your favorite place'..."

"... Rahma instructs the man behind the wheel as a percussive score strikes up, 'and keep the meter running.'... As they break bread, [Kareem] Rahma peppers the cabbies with questions about how long they’ve been driving and where they’re from... Rahma, who has a thick mustache, rogue curls, and a Nolita Dirtbag–lite aesthetic, is always curious, never pretentious, and often funny. At the end of each episode, he takes out a wad of cash and doles out hundreds of dollars to each driver—a welcome sight to taxi drivers after the siege of Uber and Lyft—topped off with a generous tip. ... Keep the Meter Running... quickly became one of my favorite new shows of 2022."

Vanity Fair shares. 

Feel free to watch "Keep the Meter Running" — but I'm warning you: It's on TikTok!

December 22, 2022

At the Ice Cold Café...

 ... you can curl up and chat all night.

"Bankman-Fried to be released on $250 million bond, live with parents."

WaPo reports. 

Bankman-Fried’s appearance comes as two of his closest former colleagues pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges. The two associates — Caroline Ellison, the former chief executive of Alameda Research, Bankman-Fried’s hedge fund, and Gary Wang, co-founder of FTX and its former chief technology officer — are cooperating with federal prosecutors, a development that spells deepening legal peril for Bankman-Fried....

Ellison, who was at times romantically linked to Bankman-Fried, pleaded guilty to seven counts that mirror a significant portion of Bankman-Fried’s indictment....

"'I don’t see anything while he’s writing,' Gottlieb says. If he has any idea when the book will issue from Caro’s Smith Corona..."

"... he isn’t saying. (Gottlieb himself uses a Mac.) Turn Every Page plays up the drama of the editing process, emphasizing the (offscreen) sparring between the two men on subjects great and small. (There were, apparently, many blowups about punctuation, most especially the semi-colon: Caro for, Gottlieb against.) According to Gottlieb, these contretemps barely count. 'I would say if there were any real disagreements between us,' he says genteelly, though I doubt he would tell me or anyone. The men did allow Lizzie to film them working together side by side — but only with the sound off. This hands-on, cheek-by-jowl editing, once rare, is now basically extinct. 'Publishing has grown more and more corporate,' he says. 'I think it’s all changing. Luckily, I don’t have to deal with any of that.'"

From "Bob Gottlieb Is the Last of the Publishing Giants/The 91-year-old editor waits for his 87-year-old star writer, Robert Caro, to turn in his book" (NY Magazine).

"It’s worth thinking about what the world would look like today if Mr. Putin had crushed Kyiv within days..."

"... as he and U.S. intelligence services expected. Russian forces would now control nearly all of Ukraine and man the border of Poland and other frontline NATO states. If an insurgency broke out in Ukraine, Mr. Putin would be blaming those countries for aiding the 'terrorists,' whether they did or not, and threatening retaliation. Moldova would have been next to fall to Russia, and one or more of the Baltic states would be in his sites [sic]. NATO would be divided over how to respond for fear of Mr. Putin’s wrath.... The cost of shoring up NATO, with Russian tanks on its doorstep, would arguably have been even greater in the long run. U.S. credibility also would have suffered another blow, compounding the damage from the Afghanistan retreat...."

Writes The Editorial Board of The Wall Street Journal.

"Should Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, 68 and 62, respectively, do what Ginsburg would not?"

Asks Ian Millhiser in "Sotomayor and Kagan need to think about retiring/The US Senate is a fundamentally broken institution. Democratic judges need to account for that in their retirement decisions" (Vox). 

Is this a ludicrous suggestion? Millhiser has no news of ill health from either Justice (though "Sotomayor has diabetes"). His main worry seems to be that the Democrats are going to lose power — and for a long time. But at least they have the Senate and the presidency for these next 2 years. They could slot in 2 reliable liberal Justices — young Justices, 20 years younger than Sotomayor and Kagan. So give them the chance to do it while they can. That's my paraphrase of Millhiser's position. 

Millhiser has a dark view of the Democrats' chance in 2024:

"The more I push[ed] for policy change, the more resistant the leadership became. It was a highly macro-aggressive environment."

"I couldn’t take the necessary steps that were needed to lay the groundwork for innovative equity work in the department.... It’s been fairly traumatic for me.... It created such a hostile work environment for me that I literally could not return to the office... I was hospitalized because of just how stressful the work environment became and I had little support...." 

Said Jordan “JT” Turner, who resigned from his position as Princeton's first Associate Director of Athletics for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), quoted in "3 Princeton DEI staff members resign, alleging lack of support" (The Daily Princetonian).

"[W]omen have the bad habit, now and then, of falling into a well, of letting themselves be gripped by a terrible melancholy..."

"... and drown in it, and then floundering to get back to the surface—this is the real trouble with women. Women are often embarrassed that they have this problem and pretend they have no cares at all and are free and full of energy, and they walk with bold steps down the street with large hats and beautiful dresses and painted lips and a contemptuous and strong-willed air about them...."

Wrote Natalia Ginzburg in 1948, quoted in a new New York Review of Books piece, "On Women: An Exchange Natalia Ginzburg and Alba de Céspedes, introduction by Ann Goldstein."

"In blunt terms, Mr. Zelensky pleaded for more military assistance from the lawmakers, who are poised to approve $45 billion in additional aid by the end of the week..."

"... bringing the total over a year to nearly $100 billion. His message: Your support has kept President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia from overrunning our country. Now keep it coming. 'We have artillery, yes, thank you,' he said. 'We have it. Is it enough? Honestly, not really.' The money, he added, was not charity. 'It’s an investment,' he said. Mr. Zelensky’s visit to Washington — kept secret until the eve of his arrival for security reasons — was a dramatic show of confidence by Ukraine’s leader, who had not left his country since Mr. Putin began his assault 300 days ago."

From "U.S. Aid Is ‘Not Charity,’ Zelensky Tells Congress as a Lengthy War Looms/President Volodymyr Zelensky described military assistance for Ukraine as an investment in global security and democracy in the face of Russian aggression" (NYT).

There were "two hours of closed-door meetings with President Biden at the White House, where both men reaffirmed their determination to defend Ukraine against Russian forces."

"Standing side by side in the East Room with Ukraine’s flag hanging next to gleaming Christmas decorations...."

“So there can’t be any just peace in the war that was imposed on us,” [Zelensky said].

Mr. Biden pledged a united front with Mr. Zelensky, promising that “we will stay with you for as long as it takes.”

So we are committed to an endless war... with Russia?! 

December 21, 2022

At the Wednesday Night Café...

 ... you can talk your way through the storm.

Here in Madison the winter storm warning says we're getting snow through the night, with wind "on the lighter side overnight, but... quickly ramp[ing] up on Thursday behind a cold front with gusts of 40 to 50 mph Thursday night and Friday. Wind chills will plummet on Thursday, dropping to 25 to 35 below zero for late Thursday afternoon through Friday night."

All right then. We will snuggle up inside.

"It is unclear how meaningful stepping down as chief executive would be. The billionaire owns Twitter... and will remain its proprietor."

"On Sunday, he tweeted that he had no successor and suggested that there were no qualified candidates to lead Twitter. 'No one who wants the job can actually keep Twitter alive,' he posted. As soon as Mr. Musk took ownership of Twitter on Oct. 27, he fired its top executives. Other senior leaders have since been fired or resigned, leaving the executive suite vacant.... [Musk] has borrowed employees from his other companies, including Tesla and the Boring Company, a tunneling start-up, to join him.... Mr. Musk has also relied on Tesla and SpaceX employees to deal with technical matters, as layoffs and resignations have decimated Twitter’s engineering ranks.... Mr. Musk, who was in Qatar for the World Cup final this weekend with Jared Kushner, is also seeking new investment in Twitter.... On Friday night, the company began another round of layoffs.... Twitter, which had about 7,500 employees when Mr. Musk took over, has lost roughly 70 percent through layoffs, firings and resignations. The Information earlier reported the most recent round of cuts."

From "Elon Musk Says He Will Resign as Twitter C.E.O./When He Finds Successor Mr. Musk, who asked his Twitter followers on Sunday if he should step down as head of the service, will remain the company’s owner" (NYT).

It's such an ordeal to feel better in the style of Joe Rogan.

Did you feel it?


ADDED: Thanks to everyone in the comments who let me know I was displaying the 2024 solstice info. I've swapped in the right image. I don't think you could feel last night's event any more than you could feel the event that's 2 years in the future, but I'm not sorry I asked "Did you feel it?"

PLUS: It's still in the future. I'm only now seeing the "PM." For all my tracking of the sun and frequent thinking about the darkest day, I don't understand the concept that the solstice is at a particular minute. And why is it in the afternoon? I'd never noticed until now.

Biden called Trump "very gracious and generous" and — shocked by his own generosity? — changed it to "Shockingly gracious."

I'm reading the Politico report on a new book about Biden, "The Fight of His Life" (by Chris Whipple).

DONALD TRUMP followed a tradition carried out by several of his predecessors and wrote Biden a letter before leaving the Oval Office. Biden’s reaction? “That was very gracious and generous…Shockingly gracious.”

Any graciousness is shocking these days. 

Biden caught himself uttering a bit of graciousness about Trump — calling him "very gracious and generous" — but he couldn't let it stand. It required immediate poisoning. It had to become an occasion for commentary on how Trump is generally to be considered a man incapable of graciousness and generosity. Trump, we all must know, is, overall, a boorish lout.

That perfectly kind letter, following the standard etiquette, had to be repurposed as an occasion for comment on how awful and abnormal Trump is on seemingly every other occasion.

What was more shocking — that Trump left an appropriate and traditional letter or that Biden uttered a simple compliment acknowledging Trump's act? What's not shocking at all is that Biden immediately and impulsively tainted his own compliment.

"In the first months of his presidency, JOE BIDEN vented his frustration about Vice President KAMALA HARRIS, telling a friend that she was 'a work in progress.'"

Politico reports on what's in a new book ("The Fight of His Life," by Chris Whipple). 

[W]ord got back to [Biden] that second gentleman DOUGLAS EMHOFF had been complaining about Harris’ policy portfolio — which her allies felt was hurting her politically....

“[Biden] hadn’t asked Harris to do anything he hadn’t done as vice president — and she’d begged him for the voting rights assignment.”...

Well, why wasn't Harris given what she wanted? Why didn't they try to help her build her reputation? If they thought she was a "work in progress," why didn't they help her progress? Did Biden make her Vice President to impede her progress? 

December 20, 2022

Midafternoon — with woods, snow, and bald eagle.




"In dreams (Coleridge writes), images take the shape of the effects we believe they cause."

"We are not terrified because some sphinx is threatening us but rather dream of a sphinx in order to explain the terror we are feeling. If this is the case, how can a simple account of such imaginings communicate the dread and the thrills, the adventure, anxieties, and joys conjured by last night's dream? I am going to attempt to do this all the same.... It took place in the Humanities Building, at dusk.... We were electing people to committees... Suddenly we were assaulted by the racket of a street band or a demonstration.... A voice cried: 'Here they come!' then: 'It's the Gods!'..."

Wrote Jorge Luis Borges, in "Ragnarok."

I'm reading that this morning because it's in an Ask Metafilter discussion about something that happened to me last night: dreaming that you are very sleepy, struggling with sleepiness within the story that is the dream.

I'm blogging it because I find it very cool when a subject recurs within a blogging session, and I had already blogged about Coleridge this morning.

"On Christmas Day in 2010, a short, bespectacled 27-year-old Chinese programmer named Zhang Yiming logged onto Douban, a Chinese hybrid of Rotten Tomatoes and Goodreads..."

"... to share his thoughts on a movie he had just watched. Zhang used his Douban account as a chronicle of his personal development, recording the books he wanted to read ('What Would Google Do?' 'Catch-22' and 'The Road to Serfdom') and the movies he’d seen ('The Departed,' 'Good Will Hunting,' 'Inception'). The movie Zhang watched that Christmas was 'The Social Network.' The movie was of particular interest to Zhang.... Born in 1983 as the only son of a librarian and a nurse, Zhang came of age in a China flush with reform and newfound connections to the West.... Zhang loved the freedom that technology offered and displayed a fondness for the West, politically as well as culturally. In 2009, when Chinese authorities blocked access to several websites, he took to his personal blog to voice his disapproval, according to a Wall Street Journal profile. 'Go out and wear a T-shirt supporting Google,' he wrote. 'If you block the internet, I’ll write what I want to say on my clothes.'..."

Much more about Zhang and the app he created in "How TikTok Became a Diplomatic Crisis/A Chinese app conquered the planet — and now the U.S. is threatening to shut it down. Can the world’s biggest virality machine survive?" (NYT). 

"Sex crimes differ from other crimes both in how they happen and in what it takes to prove them."

"Often, you don’t have witnesses to a crime committed behind closed doors, and sometimes in the context of an intimate relationship. But what you may have are other victims, who can echo and corroborate a victim’s account of violence. This is critical because, even today, jurors come to court steeped in sexist biases — for example, that 'real' rape victims fight back physically against their attackers and report sex crimes immediately. These cultural prejudices cast doubt on the individual accuser. A group of accusers is harder to dismiss.... The central insight of the #MeToo movement has been described as 'the power of numbers across time' — in other words, the strength of a chain connecting one victim’s experience to another’s."

From "Weinstein’s Prosecutors Brought His Past Into the Courtroom. Good" by Tali Farhadian Weinstein, a former federal and state prosecutor in New York, and Jane Manning, director of the Women’s Equal Justice Project and former sex crimes prosecutor.(NYT).

"'If equal affection cannot be,' W.H. Auden wrote, 'let the more loving one be me.'"

"In the romantic quest to find a person with whom to share a life, though, we really do seek someone who will fully reciprocate our feelings. We’re warned, accordingly, not to press ourselves on someone who, in the old formula, is 'just not that into you.' Friendships are different; they come in a variety of intensities. Romantic love, if you’ll indulge the caricature, has a toggle switch; friendships come with a dimmer switch. Some friendships have the 'one soul in two bodies' intensity that Montaigne wrote about. Other friendships involve vague good will and an actual conversation every other year. You seldom see each other, but you have a blast when you do. Is there any real friendship between you two?"

So begins an answer from the NYT "ethicist," Kwame Anthony Appiah, answering a question from a person who "pretend[s] to like" someone who considers him a friend. He sees this person as unpleasant and depressed but continues to get together with him, seemingly out of pity for him. 

Here's the Montaigne essay, "Of Friendship." 

"Why the DOJ Might Have a Tough Time Proving Trump Committed 'Insurrection'/It would take a very aggressive prosecutor to take the risk involved in pursuing it.

A Slate article by Dennis Aftergut, a former federal prosecutor.

"In many ways, you can interpret 'cope' as a political reflection of the verb 'seethe,' which was frequently deployed by the energized class of MAGA YouTubers and podcasters..."

"... to roast rank-and-file liberals who were horrified by Trump’s buffoonery and malice throughout his administration, and to celebrate their impotent anger. (This picture of a young woman screaming in agony at the 2016 inauguration became something of a stand-in for the typical seething Democrat.)... [T]o command someone to 'seethe' was part of owning the libs. But the libs themselves have slowly started to appropriate the confrontational, 4Chan-poisoned language of a post-Trump internet—we currently inhabit a country where sitting senators are sharing Dark Brandon memes...."

From "The Audacity of Cope/Laughing at other people’s politics-related sadness is fun, actually" by Luke Winkie (Slate)(click through if only for the illustration).

"I changed the door panels on an old 56 Chevy, and replaced some old floor tiles, made some landscape paintings, wrote a song called 'You Don’t Say.'"

"I listened to Peggy Lee records. Things like that. I reread 'Rime of the Ancient Mariner' a few times over. What a story that is. What a poem. If there’d been any opium laying around, I probably would have been down for a while. I listened to The Mothers of Invention record Freak Out!, that I hadn’t heard in a long, long time. What an eloquent record. 'Hungry Freaks, Daddy,' and the other one, 'Who Are the Brain Police,' perfect songs for the pandemic."

That is what Bob Dylan (says he) did during the lockdown.

Let's all read "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" for Bob.

And I had done a hellish thing,
And it would work 'em woe:
For all averred, I had killed the bird
That made the breeze to blow. 

As for Zappa, he was alerting us to "The emptiness that's you inside" ("Hungry Freaks, Daddy") and raising the question whether the people we know are melted plastic and soft chrome ("Who Are the Brain Police?").

The perfection for the pandemic of "Brain Police" must have to do with the long middle section repeating "I think I'm gonna die" and "I'm gonna die." It's interesting to picture Bob grooving on that and thinking How eloquent... perhaps while laying floor tiles.

"I think these [social media] sites bring happiness to a lot of people. Some people even discover love there. I think it’s a wonderful thing."

Said Bob Dylan, making me imagine that Bob read that New York Times article about Meade and me. 

He says: "These sites can bring pleasure and infinite joy to millions. It’s like opening a window that’s been shut forever, and letting the light in. It’s fantastic if you’re a sociable person; the communication lines are wide open. A lot of incredible things you can do on these forums. You can refashion anything, blot out memories and change history. It’s boundless. But they can divide and separate us, as well. Turn people against each other."

"I never watch anything foul smelling or evil. Nothing disgusting; nothing dog ass. I’m a religious person."

"I read the scriptures a lot, meditate and pray, light candles in church. I believe in damnation and salvation, as well as predestination. The Five Books of Moses, Pauline Epistles, Invocation of the Saints, all of it."

Said Bob Dylan, asked if he streams movies on Netflix to relax.

But that word "relax" did not resonate with him. He's already relaxed — "too relaxed... like a flat tire; totally unmotivated, positively lifeless." So he says. But that doesn't mean he's looking for things to stimulate him, because it "takes a lot to get me stimulated" and he's "excessively sensitive," so he's liable to go from totally inert to "restless and fidgety." There's no "middle ground." 

On or off. One extreme or the other. Maybe that works for someone who performs on stage and then must spend so much time in a travel routine. He can fall asleep "at any time." He also says "I can write songs anywhere at any time."

He muses — comically — about songwriters who have a routine: "I heard Tom Paxton has one. I’ve wondered sometimes about going to visit Don McLean, see how he does it."

"I’m unaware of the current debate about separating the art from the artist. It’s news to me. Maybe it’s an academic thing."

Said Bob Dylan, asked about "the current debate separating the art from the artist."

That will give the academics studying Bob something to think about. 

December 19, 2022

At the Monday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

(Too cold today to go out and get a picture.)

The reason to stay out the road is that "it’s a perfect way to stay anonymous, and still be a member of the social order."

"You’re the master of your fate. You manipulate reality and move through time and space with the proper attitude. It’s not an easy path to take, not fun and games, it’s no Disney World. It’s an open space, with concrete pillars and an iron floor, with obligations and sacrifices. It’s a path, and destiny put some of us on that path, in that position. It’s not for everybody."

Said Bob Dylan, quoted in an interview the Wall Street Journal's Jeff Slate published at

"Sam Bankman-Fried Said to Agree to Extradition After Chaotic Hearing."

The NYT reports. 

Wearing a navy blue suit and a white shirt unbuttoned at the cuff, he slumped in his seat, with his head down and his leg shaking. Soon the proceedings were thrown into turmoil. “Whatever trail got him here this morning, it did not involve me,” [SBF's lawyer Jerone] Roberts told the judge in front of a packed courtroom. He said Mr. Bankman-Fried’s court appearance had happened “prematurely” and without his involvement.

After 10 days, a jury has found Harvey Weinstein guilty of rape, forced oral copulation and a third sexual misconduct.

WaPo reports. 

This was the former Hollywood producer’s second criminal trial; he is currently serving a 23-year sentence in New York state prison, though he was granted an appeal earlier this year. The convictions were related to one victim. The jury was unable to reach a verdict on three other counts, and Weinstein was acquitted of a sexual battery allegation made by another woman....

"The House Jan. 6 committee voted Monday to recommend the Justice Department pursue a batch of criminal charges against former President Donald Trump..."

 CNN reports the unsurprising news. 

"[T[he committee's co-Chair, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., said... that "among the most shameful" findings of the committee was that Trump sat in the White House watching the violence unfold on TV on Jan. 6, but did nothing, even as advisors and allies begged him to call off the rioters. "This was an utter moral failure," Cheney said of Trump's inaction. "No man who would behave that way, at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again. He is unfit for any office."

"They’re unable to see properly, they’re confused, they’re having hallucinations. And we’re talking about scary hallucinations; it’s nothing that’s fun."

Said Darren Roberts, quoted in "How Can Tainted Spinach Cause Hallucinations? A food recall from Australia sheds light on an unusual aspect of brain chemistry" (NYT).

The belief is that there's some other plant in there with the spinach and that it's "'anticholinergic syndrome,' a type of poisoning mainly caused by plants in the Solanaceae family, which includes nightshade, jimson weed and mandrake root."

"The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol will hold its last public meeting on Monday afternoon..."

"The panel is... expected to vote on referring Mr. Trump to the Justice Department on charges of insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding of Congress and conspiracy to defraud the United States.... Referrals against Mr. Trump would not carry any legal weight or compel the Justice Department to take any action, but they would send a powerful signal.... In a statement, Steven Cheung, a spokesman for Mr. Trump, dismissed the committee’s planned actions on Monday as those of a 'kangaroo court' that held 'show trials by Never Trump partisans who are a stain on this country’s history.'...

The NYT reports.

"Bidin' My Time."

That amazing video was entirely new to me and just uncovered as a consequence of getting involved in the word "abide" — see the first post of today — after Elon Musk used it in a tweet that polls about whether he should step down as "head of Twitter."

And please note: I had absolutely no thought — until I began this sentence — of gesturing — even in the slightest — at the homophonic name of the President of the United States. But feel free to rewrite the Gershwin lyrics... or just leave them as is:

Next year, next year
Somethin's bound to happen
This year, this year
I'll just keep on nappin'

"A confrontation between a member of Elon Musk’s security team and an alleged stalker that Musk blamed on a Twitter account that tracked his jet..."

"... took place at a gas station 26 miles from Los Angeles International Airport and 23 hours after the @ElonJet account had last located the jet’s whereabouts. The timing and location of the confrontation cast doubt on Musk’s assertion that the account had posted real-time 'assassination coordinates' that threatened his family and led to the confrontation...."

WaPo reports. 

It depends on what the meaning of "abide by" is.


That came right after: "Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes. My apologies. Won’t happen again."

How can that work? He said "there will be a vote" not that he will do whatever wins, and he can have changes without a vote by deeming them non-major. Now, he did specify — in the vote about whether he should step down as "head of Twitter" — that he "will abide by the results," but what does it really mean to "abide by" the results of a poll? Where's the wiggle room?

December 18, 2022

At the Sunday Night Café…

 … you can talk about whatever you want.

Recently, I threw some books in the trash... well, the recycling bin... but you know what I mean: I threw books out.

I wanted to tell you to help you. I'm prompted by "We’re drowning in old books. But getting rid of them is heartbreaking. 'They’re more like friends than objects,’ one passionate bookseller says. What are we to do with our flooded shelves?" by Karen Heller (WaPo).

Book lovers are known to practice semi-hoardish and anthropomorphic tendencies. They keep too many books for too long despite dust, dirt, mold, cracked spines, torn dust jackets, warped pages, coffee stains and the daunting reality that most will never be reread. Age rarely enriches a book.

"[Putin] spiraled into self-aggrandizement and anti-Western zeal, leading him to make the fateful decision to invade Ukraine in near total isolation..."

"... without consulting experts who saw the war as pure folly. Aides and hangers-on fueled his many grudges and suspicions, a feedback loop that one former confidant likened to the radicalizing effect of a social-media algorithm.... The Russian military, despite Western assumptions about its prowess, was severely compromised, gutted by years of theft.... Once the invasion began, Russia squandered its dominance over Ukraine.... It relied on old maps and bad intelligence to fire its missiles, leaving Ukrainian air defenses surprisingly intact.... Russian soldiers, many shocked they were going to war, used their cellphones to call home, allowing the Ukrainians to track them and pick them off in large numbers."

From an excellent NYT article, "Putin's War: The Inside Story of a Catastrophe."

"Today San Francisco has what is perhaps the most deserted major downtown in America."

"On any given week, office buildings are at about 40 percent of their prepandemic occupancy... [The] downtown business district — the bedrock of its economy and tax base — revolves around a technology industry that is uniquely equipped and enthusiastic about letting workers stay home indefinitely.... Business groups and city leaders hope to recast the urban core as a more residential neighborhood built around people as well as businesses but leave out that office rents would probably have to plunge for those plans to be viable...."

From "What Comes Next for the Most Empty Downtown in America/Tech workers are still at home. The $17 salad place is expanding into the suburbs. So what is left in San Francisco?" (NYT).

From the comments over there, which I will characterize as left and right, politically:

The left-wing view: "The Techies came to town, made their money, drove up real estate prices and left. They strip-mined the culture, leaving behind a shell of what was once the most vibrant city on the West Coast. There was a time when you could work part-time in a book store and live in San Francisco. That brought depth and texture to the city, but those people are gone. It became all about money. And what's a book store, anyway?"

The right-wing view: "Homelessness receives a passing reference in this article. Crime is basically ignored. But these are significant quality of life factors contributing to the exodus of companies and office workers away from major US cities, including SF. Post-2020 life in our country is a lot different than before, in many ways not for the better."

"Taraneh Alidoosti, one of Iran’s most famous actors, has been detained by security forces in Tehran days after she criticised the state’s use of the death penalty against protesters...."

The Guardian reports. 

In her last Instagram post, the actor said: “His name was Mohsen Shekari. Every international organization who is watching this bloodshed and not taking action, is a disgrace to humanity.”

Shekari was executed on 8 December after being charged by an Iranian court with blocking a street in Tehran and injuring a member of the country’s security forces with a machete....

"I think it's a lazy response to say that Twitter’s a private company. That may get you a good grade in high school..."

"... but everyone who's taken a constitutional law class knows that. The point is, of course, they're a private entity. The question then becomes, What is the responsibility of private entities to democracy and the public sphere? If The Washington Post or The New York Times had a policy to say we aren't going to print any progressive politicians op-eds, that's their right, but we would be critical of that. And they don’t have as much of a reach as Twitter in terms of users or followers. The debate should be about what you think a good public forum looks like and less about what the specific legal requirements are on Twitter."

Said Ro Khanna, quoted in an interview with Bari Weiss titled "The Twitter Files and the Future of the Democratic Party/With Silicon Valley's Congressman Ro Khanna on why we should be skeptical of Big Tech's power" (The Free Press).

"We are fighting for the gay community, and we are fighting and fighting hard" — said Donald Trump.

Quoted in "Scenes from a celebration of the same-sex marriage law — at Mar-a-Lago/'We are fighting for the gay community, and we are fighting and fighting hard,' Donald Trump told a Log Cabin Republicans gala" (Politico).

Hundreds of guests in tuxedos of all styles — sequined, quilted, velvet — and colorful gowns sipped on Trump-branded champagne and martinis [and]... danced to “YMCA” and “Macho Man”....

Thursday night’s Log Cabin Republicans’ “Spirit of Lincoln” gala in the main ballroom of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago beachfront club was a joyous celebration of gay rights....

Throughout the evening, speakers praised Trump for his embrace of the gay community....

I'm reading that because Chuck linked to it in the previous post and said: "I always contended that Althouse was right when she declared (during the 2016 Presidential campaign) that she thought that 'Trump is pro-gay but he’s being cagey about it.'"

Yeah, I did say that, back in July 2016, in the comments section to my post "Donald Trump may think Pence is a safe choice."