January 28, 2023



"That... section was tough not just because I didn't know WTF [that one word] was, but because it gets really tight in there..."

"... and there are only a few clues to help you out with [that word], and those are either cross-referenced or vague."

Writes Rex Parker, about today's NYT crossword, about what was the last word I got. Maybe you haven't done the puzzle yet, so I'm putting a page break before the spoilers, but what follows is of interest even if you don't do the puzzle:

"One of the sad facts about anti-Black racism is that Black people ourselves are not immune to its pernicious effects."

Writes Van Jones in "The police who killed Tyre Nichols were Black. But they might still have been driven by racism" (CNN).
Society’s message that Black people are inferior, unworthy and dangerous is pervasive. Over many decades, numerous experiments have shown that these ideas can infiltrate Black minds as well as White. Self-hatred is a real thing. That’s why a Black store owner might regard customers of his same race with suspicion, while treating his White patrons with deference. 
Black people can harbor anti-Black sentiments and can act on those feelings in harmful ways. Black cops are often socialized in police departments that view certain neighborhoods as war zones. In those departments, few officers get disciplined for dishing out “street justice” in certain precincts — often populated by Black, brown or low-income people — where there is a tacit understanding that the “rulebook” simply doesn’t apply.... 
Back in 1989, the rap group NWA highlighted the problem in a classic hip-hop anthem, in which Ice Cube rapped: “But don’t let it be a Black and White (cop)/ Coz they’ll slam ya/ Down to the street top/ Black police showing out for the White cop.”...

Some people are over-reacting to this column and seem as if they were hoping that because the 5 police officers who killed Tyre Nichols are black, we can proceed directly to color-blindness. Too soon! Too easy! Let's look straightforwardly at reality and not coddle ourselves.

"Figuring out how odor perception emerges from brain activity is a complex decoding problem, but there may be multiple ways to re-create important aspects of smell for people with anosmia."

Said Mark Richardson, director of functional neurosurgery at Massachusetts General Hospital, quoted in "'Bionic nose' may help people experiencing smell loss, researchers say/Two scientists are working on a neuroprosthetic that may help millions with anosmia, such as those who lost their sense of smell because of covid" (WaPo).

I have this problem myself and would love a cure, but there is no way I would accept an implant in my head to solve this problem. We're told this device would be analogous to the cochlear implants that give people with deafness a way to have something like hearing:
Hearing through a cochlear implant is different from normal hearing and takes time to learn or relearn. However, it allows many people to recognize warning signals, understand other sounds in the environment, and understand speech in person or over the telephone.
Why would you want something like that to replace smelling — want it enough to have something surgically implanted within your skull? The WaPo article talks about an anosmia patient who misses nostalgic smells like Christmas tree, but I doubt that kind of subtlety is coming.

If you want to help me sense dangers like fire and smellable toxins, just invent a wearable device — a wristband — that gives off an alert that I can hear/see/feel. I don't need some kind of fake smell-like sense intruding into my natural experience of the world. 

January 27, 2023

At the Deep Snow Café...


... you can write about whatever you want.

The Louis CK argument for open borders: "It shouldn't be so great here."

"I've never seen the video. But what I’ve heard is very horrific, very horrific. And any of you who have children, please don’t let them see it."

"To the five police officers that murdered my son, you also disgraced your own families when you did this. I’m going to pray for you and your families, because at the end of the day, this shouldn’t have happened. This just shouldn’t have happened. We want justice for my son, justice for my son.” 

Said RowVaughn Wells, Tyre Nichols’s mother, quoted in "Tyre Nichols Live Updates: Memphis to Release ‘Appalling’ Police Video/People who have seen the footage say it shows five police officers, who have been fired and charged with murder, beating Mr. Nichols, who died three days later. His family and officials have called for peaceful protest" (NYT).

"What’s with all this whingeing about the raising of the retirement age? Ye gods, what a bunch of..."

"... lazy, workshy, good-for-nothing, stay-at-home, Deliveroo-scoffing, unproductive, couch potato cry-babies we have become. Well, you have become. I’m fine. Work is good! Work is fun! Work is what you were made for! What the hell else do you think you’re supposed to be doing with your time: surfing the internet for good deals on comfy tracksuits, posting your lunchtime sarnie on TikTok and nipping up to Scotland every three months to flip genders on a whim?... What do you want to do when you’re old, anyway? Work is the only thing. You want to play golf or bridge or mahjong all day or go on some awful cruise? Or sit alone in the pub staring into the bottom of one of the three pints you can afford, that you have to make last all afternoon?...  Come off it. We all know what happens when you retire: you die. Because the cessation of work famously accelerates the decline of physical and cognitive functioning...."

"Transgender rapist Isla Bryson moved to men's prison."

BBC calmly reports.
Isla Bryson was remanded to Cornton Vale women's prison in Stirling after being convicted of the rapes when she was a man called Adam Graham.... Bryson decided to transition from a man to a woman while awaiting trial... She was taken to a male wing of HMP Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon... after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that Bryson would not be allowed to serve her sentence at Cornton Vale.
The Scottish Parliament passed legislation last month aimed at making it easier for people to change their legally-recognised sex, but Ms Sturgeon has said the changes did not play any part in the Bryson case. 
J.K. Rowling reacts with fury:

Painful to see — but here is the attack on Paul Pelosi you'd been trying to visualize.

"A new sculpture has become the first female figure to adorn one of the 10 plinths atop a powerful New York appellate courthouse in Manhattan."

"The plinths have been dominated for more than a century by now weathered statues representing great lawgivers throughout the ages — all of them men. Standing among Moses, Confucius and Zoroaster is the shimmering, golden eight-foot female sculpture, emerging from a pink lotus flower and wearing Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s signature lace collar. Shahzia Sikander... 53, the paradigm-busting Pakistani American artist behind the work... 'She is a fierce woman and a form of resistance in a space that has historically been dominated by patriarchal representation... The sculpture is located at the courthouse of the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court at 27 Madison Avenue."

Here's the NYT article about the sculpture: "Move Over Moses and Zoroaster: Manhattan Has a New Female Lawgiver/The artist Shahzia Sikander calls the eight-foot sculpture she has placed atop a New York courthouse an urgent form of 'resistance,'" which explains why there is an empty plinth:

These turning-the-tables arguments don't always work out the way the table-turner thinks.

Via Gail Heriot on Instapundit

Now, that's a screen shot, not a working embedded tweet, and there are lots of Twitter accounts named "Women in Power." There's no "@" line. Did someone make a screen shot, then erase the "@" part?

I suspect that "Women in Power" is copying someone else's nicely drawn, well-conceived comic. Where is the artist's name? Also erased?

Anyway, isn't Heriot right that a lot of men would get a charge out of hearing these stray, lame compliments? But what happens next?! I'm predicting a shit show. 

ADDED: I searched Google images until I found one that identified the artist. It is Kasia Babis.

What is the book Albie is reading 20 minutes into "In the Sandbox," Episode 4 of Season 2 of "The White Lotus"?

This is a key moment in the story, so I especially wanted to know what book it is...

... but I'm generally very interested in what books characters are reading in all episodes of both seasons of "The White Lotus." There's so much reading in these things, often "performative reading." The characters are on vacation, usually reading out in the sun by the pool. The writer/director, Mike White, is clearly big on reading

We see the back cover of Albie's book, and it's partly covered up, but I figured out that it said "Or, What Is the Power of Shit?," which is the second part of the title of "The Architecture of Closed Worlds: Or, What Is the Power of Shit?"

"The tale may seem like a throwback to 'Never Been Kissed' and 'Hiding Out,' PG-13-rated movies that featured the high jinks of adults impersonating high school students..."

"... to report a news story and hide from the Mafia. But students at New Brunswick High School said they were worried that [Hyejeong] Shin’s behavior suggested that her motives were far less comical.... Students told a New Brunswick Today reporter, in a video posted to YouTube, that Ms. Shin had requested to meet at least some people she met at a location outside of school. One teenage girl, who identified herself as Tatiana, said that the night before the woman’s arrest she got a text from Ms. Shin that left her feeling frightened for her safety. 'All I wanted to do was make her feel comfortable in a new school,' she said."

Here's that video. 

It's surprising this sort of thing doesn't happen more often. The school doesn't want to make a new student feel excluded. And there must be many lost and lonely young adults who wish they could regain the structure and camaraderie of teenagerhood. The person is not necessarily a predator.

Maybe some people are genuinely confused and feel that they "identify" as a teenager. I'm actually giving some thought to whether I'm being insensitive to transgender people by putting "identify" in scare quotes and by using the word "confused."

January 26, 2023


Snow erased the line between the water and the sky at sunrise:



Those are my photos from this morning. Later, Meade went out and caught the sunset:


"If I run, there are forces within the Democratic Party who would be trying to invisibilize me."

"I think they will have an easier time invisibilizing me if I run third party. If I do run, and I run as a Democrat, I will be more inconvenient to the people who need to be inconvenienced."

I love the quote. Great repetition of 2 cool words beginning with "i" — "invisibilize" and "inconvenien- t/ced." Invisibilizing as the defense to inconveniencing. And the way to fight invisibility is to be more inconvenient. Another way to fight invisibility is to say intriguing, interesting things.

"Our exaggerated reverence for the creative impulse derives from the romantics of the early 19th century... and filtered through from intellectual bohemia..."

"... to the upper middle classes.... Now, quite banal instances of human creativity are preposterously overvalued. Witness the often conceited superiority of those in only tangentially creative professions. Why should a newspaper columnist or an advertising copywriter feel himself to be more interesting than a banker or a cleaner? I have lawyer friends who complain of the rictus countenances and slipping eye-contact they get from artistic types at parties. But I know those parties. And I know my lawyers are the most interesting people in the room. ... [Some] argue that AI cannot be creative because it lacks internal understanding, is merely a 'king of pastiche'.... But this is close to what those original artists were doing too — the artist’s great struggle, the critic Harold Bloom argues, is confronting and overcoming the influence of predecessors. And does it even matter what’s going on internally now that human audiences fail to distinguish between a composition by a robot and one by Bach...?...  AI should disillusion us of the spurious glamour of creativity. It will be good for those who have suffered the social condescension of 'creatives.'"

"Driving 100 Miles in an EV Is Now More Expensive Than in an ICE/Deadhead miles and opportunity costs make electric vehicle ownership dramatically more expensive..."

"....than just your average car powered by a gas engine.... Combustion drivers pay about $11.29 per 100 miles on the road. EV drivers who charge up at home spend about $11.60 per 100 miles. The price difference is more dramatic for those who mainly recharge at stations. Frequent charging station users pay $14.40 per 100 miles.... [given] the deadhead miles to reach stations and the opportunity cost of waiting for vehicles to charge at stations. The difference highlights the lackluster coverage for electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the United States."


"At first, the suggestions my lover made were just funny. Right away he told me that I should be wearing much tighter clothes, sporting necklines that showed off my boobs..."

"... and dressing in brighter colors—that I should be, essentially, more gender-conforming. I told this to a female friend, who sighed, 'I’ve run that experiment before with men: "Be my stylist! What do you like seeing me in?" And the result is always, always being sexualized.' I had hoped for high fashion (strange knits, elegant linens, statement…. vests, I don’t know!), not 'How To Be A Pretty Lady 101.'" 

 Writes Blythe Roberson, in "I Let My Boyfriend Dress Me For an Entire Year/When I asked my stylish sweetie to help me dress better, it sometimes felt like negotiating with the patriarchy in real time. But now, I have a new understanding of what it means to feel desired and understood—and a killer wardrobe, too" (Esquire).

"It’s not that I dislike the royals themselves; I don’t know them personally and really don’t think about them much."

"But I do think about race, class, power, and postcolonial inequalities quite a bit, and so I harbor an unwavering contempt for an institution that stood at the pinnacle of empire and places inherited privilege at the very heart of the British establishment. There is also, if I’m honest, a lack of understanding on my part. I have never fully comprehended the monarchy’s popular appeal. Why would hundreds of thousands of people queue for hours and miles for a glimpse of the coffin of a leader they never elected, or get excited about the wedding of two wealthy people they are never going to meet? But while I loathe the monarchy, I love the Netflix series The Crown...."

Writes Gary Younge in "Heavy Is the Head/The British Royals in the age of streaming" (The Nation).

"Successfully marketing a product so that it feels local everywhere is an art. I’ve started calling this crucial step in a product’s development 'smallwashing'..."

"... i.e., when a brand positions itself as a small business and shows up on shelves as if it were small, even though it has probably been through at least one comfy fundraise and a hotshot General Catalyst VC sits on the board.... It’s up to the actual companies to decide on their values — Will the jarred condiment be woke, aligned with a cool chef, or 'artisanal' in some way? — but regardless of the chosen messaging, Instagram then takes over, drilling its users with targeted ads that help build a company’s story (Omsom lets you cook faster, for example; Momofuku’s noodles let you cook like David Chang). By the time a customer discovers an Instagram brand in a shoppy shop for the first time, it may even feel like a mirage: This chile crisp really exists just for me — it’s not only a story on my phone!"

The term "shoppy shops" refers to shops that sell these "smallwashed" products. We're told that the packaging is often designed by this place: Gander. Should you click and take a gander at Gander? Yes, the design of the design firm's page includes big pictures of everyone on The Team, and it seems oddly humorous, like a Wes Anderson movie credits sequence.

January 25, 2023

The woods at midday.


It was 12:36 p.m. and snowing when I took this picture today. This is a full color photograph, with absolutely no adjustments made to it. It looks so black and white, but there is a slight blue cast to the snow and some brownness to the twigs.

I laughed at this WaPo headline: "Biden’s devious plan to break the MAGA fever just might work."

That seems like more of the usual fluff. But it turns out the "devious plan" is to spend "enormous amounts" of federal money. That's not crediting Biden with cleverness — as I was expecting. 

But "devious" doesn't mean devilish. It means by way of a winding path — circuitous, rambling, deviating. The "-vi-" is key. It's the Latin "via" (that is, "way").

Here's how Robert Louis Stevenson used it:

"Late in Anna Karenina, in a period of self-imposed social exile in Italy, Anna and her lover, Vronsky, are treated to a tirade on..."

"... the destructive superficiality of the 'free-thinking' young men—proto-disrupters, if you will—who populate the era and have been steeped in 'ideas of negation.' 'In former days the free-thinker was a man who had been brought up in ideas of religion, law, and morality, and only through conflict and struggle came to free-thought,' Vronsky’s friend Golenishchev observes. 'But now there has sprung up a new type of born free-thinkers who grow up without even having heard of principles of morality or of religion, of the existence of authorities.' The problem then, as Tolstoy presents it, was that such an ambitious young man would try, 'as he’s no fool, to educate himself,' and so would turn to 'the magazines' instead of 'to the classics and theologians and tragedians and historians and philosophers, and, you know, all the intellectual work that came in his way.'"

Writes Thomas Chatterton Williams, in "The People Who Don’t Read Books/Identifying as someone who categorically rejects books suggests a much larger deficiency of character" (The Atlantic). Williams is aggrieved that Kanye West called himself "a proud non-reader of books."

"The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box."

"But that does not mean there are no limits to what people can say on our platform. When there is a clear risk of real world harm — a deliberately high bar for Meta to intervene in public discourse — we act."

Said Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, quoted in "Meta to Reinstate Trump’s Facebook and Instagram Accounts/Donald Trump had been barred from the social media platforms after the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol. Twitter reinstated him last year" (NYT).

I agree that "The public should be able to hear what their politicians are saying — the good, the bad and the ugly — so that they can make informed choices at the ballot box." But why did it suddenly become true for Clegg? I've got to presume Meta recalculated its interests. 

Clegg hedges, reserving the power to kick Trump and others out again, when the calculation changes, but at least he said "clear" — "clear risk of real world harm" — and acknowledges a "high bar." 

ADDED: Here's where the exception swallows the rule: "harm." It could encompass hurt feelings and lost economic opportunities — and lost elections. The modifier "real world" doesn't keep "harm" from including the ordinary consequences of effective speech. Then, "clear risk" isn't much of a limitation. You could have a clear 5% risk. I appreciate the Clegg at least mouthed a commitment to free speech and purported to set a high bar, but there really is no assurance at all. There are words to be thrown in his face the next time Meta kicks out somebody we care about, but he'll have words to use to say they followed their commitment to the letter.

The NYT focuses on the Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

I'm reading "2023’s Biggest, Most Unusual Race Centers on Abortion and Democracy/The election for a swing seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has huge policy stakes for the battleground state. Cash is pouring in, and some of the candidates have shed any pretense of judicial neutrality" by Reid J. Epstein.
The seat is nonpartisan in name only, with officials from both parties lining up behind chosen candidates. Indeed, the clash for the court is striking because of how nakedly political it is. ...

"[I]t wasn’t hard to spot Russian literature in the discourse surrounding the war—particularly in Vladimir Putin’s repeated invocations of the 'Russian World' ('Russkiy Mir')..."

"... a concept popularized by Kremlin-linked 'philosophers' since the fall of the Soviet Union. The Russian World imagines a transnational Russian civilization, one extending even beyond the 'triune Russian nation' of 'Great Russia' (Russia), 'Little Russia' (Ukraine), and 'White Russia' (Belarus); it is united by Eastern Orthodoxy, by the Russian language, by the 'culture' of Alexander Pushkin, Leo Tolstoy, and Fyodor Dostoyevsky—and, when necessary, by air strikes. In early March, I wasn’t altogether surprised to learn that a number of Ukrainian literary groups, including pen Ukraine, had signed a petition calling for 'a total boycott of books from Russia in the world!'—one that entailed not just cutting financial ties with publishers but ceasing to distribute or promote any books by Russian writers. Their rationale was similar to the one I’d encountered in 2019: 'Russian propaganda is woven into many books which indeed turns them into weapons and pretexts for the war.'..."

Writes Elif Batuman in "Rereading Russian Classics in the Shadow of the Ukraine War How to reckon with the ideology of 'Anna Karenina,' 'Eugene Onegin,' and other beloved books" (The New Yorker).

"Some fans tried to mount a 'Save Splash Mountain' campaign, even urging opponents of the switch to enlist the help of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R)."

"Others acknowledged they would miss a classic but were looking forward to a new chapter for the ride. Still others argued that it was past time for the original to go, given its source material."

Splash Mountain was based on "Song of the South," the "1946 film set in post-Civil War Georgia that has been under fire since its release" and that Disney CEO Bob Iger has said is "just not appropriate in today’s world." Is he right? Who can say? Who has seen this movie? 

I've only ever seen the "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" sequence. 

Speaker McCarthy pithily states why Schiff and Swalwell will no longer serve on the House Intel Committee.


The questioner tries to make it about Santos — a ridiculous distraction that McCarthy rebuffs: the lies of Schiff and Swalwell are more relevant and consequential. McCarthy doesn't get sucked into trying to minimize Santos's lies. He just maximizes Schiff and Swalwell's lies. Maximizes or right-sizes.

"By this time four years ago, the Democratic presidential campaign was in full swing, with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Kirsten Gillibrand..."

"...  all having opened exploratory committees or announced runs. This go around, the Republican field is frozen in place. Those preparing to challenge Donald Trump in the GOP’s presidential primary are taking their time.... An adviser to one potential presidential candidate has discussed with members of at least two other potential candidates’ teams the advantage of multiple candidates announcing around the same time, according to one Republican strategist briefed on those talks...."

From "Frozen: Trump’s primary challengers balk at jumping into the unknown" (Politico).

That makes it sound as though they're intimidated by Trump's strength — a strategist uses the phrase "safety in numbers" — but the piece goes on to say Trump is doing a good enough job defeating himself on his own:

"When you ask Americans how they save energy at home, 'turn off the lights' has been at the top of the list since the 1980s."

"But when it comes to actual savings, it doesn’t even crack the top 10. Like most conventional wisdom about how to reduce household energy and emissions, much of what we believe about our homes and appliances is wrong."

Writes WaPo's climate advice columnist Michael J. Coren, in "We still use appliances like it’s 1970. There’s a better way."

I formed the habit, back in the 1970s, of turning off lights as I exited any room and only keeping lights on in rooms that were occupied. I grew up in the 50s and 60s, when it was the norm to have the lights on all over the house in the evening. We didn't think about the pros and cons of leaving them on, but I imagine that we'd have thought it would deprive us of a feeling of coziness and optimism if the house were not lit up at night. From the outside, our house and our neighbors' houses looked warm and happy and alive.

"If you just sit tight, sometimes that renovation you wanted becomes something you would now want to un-install."

I'm reading "Want to break up with your gas fireplace? Here’s how to convert it/With pressure growing to ban natural gas in the home, experts explain what it takes to change a gas fireplace to wood-burning or electric" (WaPo). 

We live in a house that is 100 years old, and it has the original wood-burning fireplace. It's never been fiddled with, but we'd been talking about installing one of those gas-fueled, push-button gizmos that look quite realistic.

Now, it seems, these expensive improvements are becoming something a prospective buyer is going to think about needing to pay to replace. Or will they think, great, the gas fireplace is grandfathered in?

January 24, 2023

Sunrise — 7:29.


"It was like flipping a switch. I would look at food and it wasn’t even appealing, and I am someone who loves food!"

"I almost had to remind myself to eat. It just took away all the cravings.... I remember looking in the mirror, and it was almost like I didn’t even recognize myself,” she said. “My body looked great, but my face looked exhausted and old."

It's crazy to lose weight by making food completely unappealing. Wouldn't you want to still get pleasure from the food that you do eat while eating in a way that reduces weight? And then on top of that, it makes your face look old — older, apparently, than just the usual way too much weight loss makes you look hollowed out and haggard.

And there's an additional problem: This off-label use is creating a shortage of a medicine that people with diabetes need. At least their moral failing is causing them to look bad. I know, it's also a moral failing to enjoy seeing people get their just deserts.

And, yes, it's "just deserts," not "just desserts" (though feel free to call your cake shop Just Desserts).

Is China doomed?

"Benjamin Franklin, who is often inaccurately said to have discovered electricity, once shocked himself while trying to electrocute a turkey."

"Franklin believed that 'birds kill’d in this manner eat uncommonly tender,' although modern poultry research... appears to indicate that the flesh of birds killed by electricity might actually be tougher. Franklin’s testimony is one of the earliest accounts of what it feels like to touch the wrong wire. 'I have lately made an experiment in electricity that I desire never to repeat,' he wrote to his brother. Witnesses told him that 'the flash was very great, and the crack as loud as a pistol; yet, my senses being instantly gone, I neither saw the one nor heard the other.' Of the shock itself, he wrote that he felt 'what I know not how to describe—a universal blow through my whole body from my head to my foot, which seemed within as well as without; after which the first thing I took note of was a violent, quick shaking of my body.' As a boy I once shocked myself severely by plugging in a light for my fish tank while my hands were wet. The current that traveled up my arm seemed to make its own path. When it was over, I thought, I’m still here."

Things that must be done "within one yard of a woman."

I'm reading "'Must be within one yard of a woman': Proud Boys trial reveals group’s strict 'no wanks' rules/The group's official handbook places strict conditions on masturbation, testimony reveals" (Salon).

Here's the text of the rule: "A Proud Boy may not ejaculate alone more often than once every thirty days. That means he must abstain from pornography during that time and if he needs to ejaculate it must be within one yard of a woman with her consent. The woman may not be a prostitute."

"In academia the Soviet Jew has long been seen as an ideological suitcase ripe for stuffing."

"Whether as an idealistic but ultimately failed Communist, a Zionist in training, an eternal refugee, or a Tevye-like throwback for his nostalgic American brethren, the Soviet Jew wanders across the imagination with a counterfeit passport always in need of stamping....  The inability to conform to either traditional Jewish practice or the nascent Bolshevik state, matched with the ability to 'play them off one another' in true trickster fashion, is perhaps the central conceit of How the Soviet Jew Was Made.... " 

Writes Gary Shteyngart in "Beyond the Pale/After the Russian Revolution, Jews left behind the shtetl and had to navigate a modern identity: New Soviet Man" (NYRB)(reviewing "How the Soviet Jew Was Made" by Sasha Senderovich).

"The first time I saw Bob, I was still a folk singer and Bob was still a folk singer. He was playing at one of the big clubs in the Village...."

"I sat there and I listened to him and I said, 'Well, shit, I can sing better than that.' Then it penetrated to me what he was singing. I listened to the words. Then I thought seriously about just quitting the business and taking up another line of work. I knew I couldn’t match that...."

Wrote David Crosby, one of 80 artists quoted in the "80 Artists Pick Their Favorite Bob Dylan Song For His 80th Birthday" (Stereogum, 2021). 

Wanda Sykes, guest-hosting on "The Daily Show."

She goes after Biden and she goes after Trump.

Most interesting to me was something that wasn't a joke — before becoming a stand-up comedian, she worked for the NSA for 7 years. I had to look it up to make sure it was not a joke. Wikipedia: 

The Oscar nominees were just announced.

 Here's everything (all at once).



This morning, at dawn.

By its own account, "Cubik is 'a deeply human organization' that 'seeks personalities before skills" — "you don’t just work at Cubik, you 'Be Cubik.'"

"An online quiz prompts you to discover your Cubik profile: Reflection, Action, or Relation. 'Cubik’s V.I.P. drinks have hardly begun and you’ve already talked to all the guests,' the description for the last category reads. 'You now know at which sport Jean-Yves is unbeatable, where Joëlle will spend her vacations, and that Antoine has planned to cross Slovenia on a tandem bicycle.' Whew. Jean-Yves, Joëlle, and Antoine might be having the time of their lives. Or they might be frantically texting the babysitter or wishing they were at yoga class. Cubik boasts, 'Because we are proud of our culture, we have many rituals for getting together.' These include an annual corporate retreat just before the summer holidays, 'to celebrate the past season and take a step back from working.'"

Can the capacity to have fun be made one of your professional responsibilities? It's one thing to be allowed to have fun or even encouraged to have fun or rewarded for bringing your delightful spirit of fun to the workplace. But it's quite another to fire you because you're no fun. But what is this "fun"? An employer's idea of fun can be distorted and burdensome. Isn't that what the TV show "The Office" is about? I don't know, I don't watch it, because I can't stand that sort of thing even vicariously.

January 23, 2023

The woods in early afternoon.


Spokescandies — one more item for my list of things I'd never heard of until I heard they were going away.

What did they do wrong? I feel uneasy, because these imaginary beings embody only rejection. Rejection by whom and for what reason? It's free-floating anxiety in candy form. Yeah, the M&Ms company is "tricking" me into doing viral marketing for them.

According to The Daily Beast, Tucker Carlson is responsible for the polarization over the candy's shoes. See for yourself:

"[T]he rapid liberation of women and the labor-market shift toward brains and away from brawn have left men bereft of... 'ontological security.'..."

"Things have become so bad, so quickly, that emergency social repairs are needed. 'It is like the needles on a magnetic compass reversing their polarity,' [writes Richard V. Reeves, a British American scholar of inequality and social mobility]. 'Suddenly, working for gender equality means focusing on boys rather than girls.'... 'As far as I can tell, nobody predicted that women would overtake men so rapidly, so comprehensively, or so consistently around the world,' Reeves writes.... Reeves offers a wide menu of policies designed to foster a 'prosocial masculinity for a postfeminist world.' He would encourage more men to become nurses and teachers, expand paid leave, and create a thousand more vocational high schools. His signature idea, though, is to 'redshirt' boys and give them all, by default, an extra year of kindergarten."

"It’s estimated that some fifty million new things get classified each year, and the more than two million people with security clearances, military and civilian, can potentially add to the pile..."

"... by one route or another. Presidents do not have the power to declassify documents psychically, as Trump has suggested, but their power to do so in other ways is surprisingly broad and ill-defined, governed largely by executive orders and precedent. That reality had complicated the legal case against Trump even before Biden’s lawyers found the first documents. The President has not yet said for sure if he will run again in 2024. The affair of the documents may prove something of a stress test. Republicans would no doubt like to see all these story lines—the documents, Hunter, the Corvette, Communists—merge into a lurid fog that obscures the real line between Trump’s case and Biden’s. They are not the same, and that is something worth emphasizing. But the fact that these two very different men, for different reasons, both had classified documents in their homes should be cause for reflection about our system of secrecy, too."

"I just feel like there must’ve been a time when the world had more, you know? Like mystery or something."

"And now you come somewhere like this, and it’s beautiful, and you take a picture, and then you realize that everybody’s taking that exact same picture from that exact same spot and you’ve just made some redundant content for stupid Instagram."

Said my favorite "White Lotus/Season 2" character, Portia, quoted in "How to Redeem Social Media in One Easy Step" by Margaret Renkl (NYT). 

Renkl bemoans the bane of social-media-driven photography:
My son and daughter-in-law, who are frequent campers, have seen people queued up at least 50 deep to take phone selfies at popular national park waterfalls and rock formations.... 

"Sam Smith has expressed their disappointment that women have been snubbed from the gender-neutral category at the BRITs this year."

"No women are nominated for Artist of the Year at next month's ceremony, which has sparked fury among music fans. The BRITs changed their format last year to remove the gendered awards, which Adele issued a jibe at as she picked up its first ever non-gendered gong. While Sam welcomed the axing of the gendered awards - which came some years after they came out as non-binary - the Gloria hitmaker has branded the lack of female talent celebrated in the category 'frustrating.'"

The Mirror reports.

If Adele won last year, what's the problem? Why should music be divided into male and female?

Here's Sam Smith singing "Gloria" on "Saturday Night Live" 2 days ago: 


Somehow, somebody decided they needed a woman's body sprawled out in the foreground while Smith sang, and somehow that body ended up being Sharon Stone.

The hell? What's progressive? It's totally retrograde.

January 22, 2023

Sunrise — 7:33.


"One of the biggest problems with TikTok is knowing what the biggest problem with TikTok is."

"Most TikTok hawks have focused on the surveillance of user activity that the app could conduct and the user data the company can access, or what could be called information collection.... Many experts believe that information manipulation, including censorship of user posts as well as the dissemination of propaganda and disinformation, is actually the greater threat TikTok poses.... The right way to approach TikTok is the right way to approach all foreign investment: assess a company’s susceptibility to undue influence from an adversary; gauge the likelihood that susceptibility will lead to a specific harm; and determine whether the government can reduce that likelihood through measures short of an all-out ban. The same goes for global trade generally. The United States should promote the dynamism and prosperity that result from international exchange, curtailing it only in cases of glaring need."
From "Don’t ban TikTok. Make it safer for the country" by the Editorial Board of The Washington Post.

I felt honored to make the first footprints in the new snow.

It was sunrise time...


... and I walked/ran 1.6 miles — out to the vantage point and back to the gate...


... before I encountered another human being. It was beautiful seeing — and making an imprint on — all that fresh snow.

I did see the occasional Year-of-the-Rabbit rabbit tracks along the way.

"It’s politically weird to be a very liberal Democrat and find yourself shoved in bed with, like, the governor of Texas. Am I supposed to listen to Tucker Carlson?"

Said one parent, quoted in "When Students Change Gender Identity, and Parents Don’t Know/Educators are facing wrenching new tensions over whether they should tell parents when students socially transition at school" (NYT).
[D]ozens of parents whose children have socially transitioned at school told The Times they felt villainized by educators who seemed to think that they — not the parents — knew what was best for their children.... Although some didn’t want their children to transition at all, others said they were open to it, but felt schools forced the process to move too quickly, and that they couldn’t raise concerns without being cut out completely or having their home labeled “unsafe.”... 

They made a movie out of that New Yorker story "Cat Person" — you know, the story everyone was talking about...

... the last time everyone was talking about a short story.

Remember? It was December 2017, and my first post on the subject was: "I was drawn in by the creepy close-up and started reading before 'Cat Person' became an internet phenomenon." Ha ha. I didn't want you to think I'd just follow a trend. I said:

It's getting harder and harder to speak news alerts out loud these days.

My grandfather — Pop — used to read the front section of the evening newspaper and — upon finding something interesting — would read the headline to the rest of us who were either waiting to get our hands on the front section or didn't really care about reading the news at all.

And nowadays, I still participate in spoken news alerts. Here at Meadhouse, we're both often reading the web miscellaneously, and we each like the keep the other up to date on the latest items of interest. 

But lately we're calling out nonsense like this:

"TikTok and ByteDance employees regularly engage in 'heating,' a manual push that ensures specific videos 'achieve a certain number of video views'..."

"... according to six sources and documents reviewed by Forbes," says Forbes, in "TikTok’s Secret ‘Heating’ Button Can Make Anyone Go Viral."
For years, TikTok has described its powerful For You Page as a personalized feed ranked by an algorithm that predicts your interests based on your behavior in the app. But that’s not the full story....

I'll have to give some more thought to how nefarious this is. 

Cory Doctorow seems to think it exemplifies the awfulness of all sorts of things: "Tiktok's enshittification."

"Could the governor who is battling to turn a progressive state college into a 'Hillsdale of the South' really be a tedious Establishment Republican who wants to cut the Social Security checks of righteous churchgoing Republican retirees?"

Asks Ed Kilgore in "Could Trump Run to DeSantis’s Left in 2024?" (New York Magazine).

On a host of issues, Trump and his lieutenants are itching to portray DeSantis as the “establishment” figure — the one who is preferred by the supposedly squishy party bigwigs like Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell. One of Trump’s biggest impacts on the GOP was largely shelving the budget-slashing austerity economics of former Speaker Ryan and ushering in a free-spending, debt-ballooning era that combined tax cuts for the rich, with a rhetorical cease-fire on threats to the bennies of the masses — ranging from Social Security to Medicare.

I'm interested in that phrase "bennies of the masses." It's like "opium of the masses." That's got to be intentional — using "bennies" to mean benefits when "bennies" has been slang for benzedrine — i.e., amphetamine — since the 1950s.

From Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" (1957): "There’s another photo of Joan simpering over a cookpot; her hair is long and unkempt; she’s high on benny and God knows what she’s saying as the camera is snapped…'Don’t point that nasty old thing at me.'"

"Opium of the people" — also translated as "opium of the masses" — has its own Wikipedia article:

The full sentence from Marx translates (including italics) as: "Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."... 
In [Marx's] view, religion... reduced people's immediate suffering and provided them with pleasant illusions which gave them the strength to carry on.... [B]y focusing on the eternal rather than the temporal, religion turns the attention of the oppressed away from the exploitation and class structure that encompasses their everyday lives.... In Marx’s view, once workers finally overthrow capitalism, unequal social relations will no longer need legitimating and people’s alienation will dissolve, along with any need for religion. 

Assuming Rolling Stone intended to refer to Marx's analogy of religion to opium, we're prodded to think about whether government benefits are like amphetamine. Do things like Social Security and Medicare give us "euphoria, change in desire for sex, increased wakefulness, and improved cognitive control"? If we get too much, do we experience "psychosis (e.g., delusions and paranoia)"?

If they cut our "bennies," what do we do? Without "opium," in Marx's view, we'd have more clarity and energy, and maybe we'd revolt, but without "bennies," we have less energy and are less excited about crazy things.

In which case, what? What would we do in that newly dulled, enervated condition? Choose DeSantis over Trump?