February 11, 2023

At the Saturday Night Café...

... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Just six miles away, across the border in Turkey, thousands of tons of relief poured in; support teams from as far away as Taiwan..."

"... answered the Turkish government’s call for help. But Syria, divided against itself and isolated from much of the world, was left to pick up the pieces alone, as it has again and again over more than a decade of war and dislocation. In the shattered town of Jinderis, at least 850 bodies had been recovered by Friday morning. Although hundreds are still missing, few believed there were any lives left to save. 'We needed help here, we asked for help here,' said the town’s mayor, Mahmoud Hafar. 'It never came.'..."
From "In earthquake-battered Syria, a desperate wait for help that never came" (WaPo).

"On a rare visit to this Syrian enclave, controlled by Turkish-backed armed groups, The Washington Post found communities gripped by shock and bewilderment, and very much alone. In Jinderis, fathers stood watch over the remains of their homes and told of waking up to find their wives and children dead. As hulking excavators clawed the rubble, searching for a 13-year old boy, a man asked reporters to help him contact the United Nations for help. 'Maybe they don’t know what happened in Jinderis,' he said. 'No one could see this and not come here.'"

Matt Bai knows he "should care more about Hunter Biden," but he just doesn't.

And he's telling you why in The Washington Post:
... I find it hard to get too worked up over all this, the way I did over the egregious conflicts of Donald Trump’s family during the last administration.

At least he's noticing it and admitting it publicly and feels the need to explain it (or sees some advantage in purporting to need to explain it). Whether the reasons given are sincere, we can judge for ourselves: 

What's on the Disney Channel?

Here's the Rotten Tomatoes page. From the critics reviews:

"Talk about Polar Vortex! Material from a northern prominence just broke away from the main filament & is now circulating..."

"... in a massive polar vortex around the north pole of our Star. Implications for understanding the Sun’s atmospheric dynamics above 55° here cannot be overstated!"

Said Tamitha Skov, a space weather forecaster, quoted in "Piece of sun breaks off, stuns scientists: ‘Very curious'" (NY Post).

Policing the "overcalculated playfulness" of actors wearing fashions that might not align with their sexual orientation.

I'm reading "Is Celebrity ‘Queer Baiting’ Really Such a Crime? Even as gender and masculinity are more fluid than ever, it can still rankle when male stars co-opt traditionally gay codes and styles" by Mark Harris (NYT Style Magazine).

"The Pentagon said it shot down an unidentified object over frozen waters around Alaska on Friday at the order of President Biden...."

"U.S. officials said they could not immediately confirm whether the object was a balloon, but it was traveling at an altitude that made it a potential threat to civilian aircraft.... The Friday shootdown showed Mr. Biden taking direct and forceful action far more quickly than he did last week, when some Republican lawmakers criticized him for letting the spy balloon linger over the United States for several days before destroying it. But that period of observation last week allowed American officials to collect intelligence about the spy balloon, while in the episode on Friday, officials seemed unsure about what exactly they shot down."

 The NYT reports.

The explanation about Balloon #1 — the "period of observation... allowed American officials to collect intelligence about the spy balloon" — is undercut by the action on Balloon/"Balloon" #2. The only difference seems to be the experience of getting criticized by "some Republican lawmakers." That shouldn't make any difference (unless the question isn't national security).

"Each student read from a prepared statement about how the seminar perpetuated anti-black violence in its content and form, how the black students had been harmed, how I was guilty..."

"... of countless microaggressions, including through my body language, and how students didn’t feel safe because I didn’t immediately correct views that failed to treat anti-blackness as the cause of all the world’s ills. This might be just another lament about 'woke' campus culture, and the loss of traditional educational virtues. But the seminar topic was 'Race and the Limits of Law in America.' Four of the 6 weeks were focused on anti-black racism (the other two were on anti-immigrant and anti-indigenous racism). I am a black professor, I directed my university’s black-studies program, I lead anti-racism and transformative-justice workshops, and I have published books on anti-black racism and prison abolition. I live in a predominantly black neighborhood of Philadelphia, my daughter went to an Afrocentric school, and I am on the board of our local black cultural organization...."
From "A Black Professor Trapped in Anti-Racist Hell" by Vincent Lloyd (Compact). This is a long article, well worth reading.

Lloyd has a recent book, "Black Dignity" (paid link), highly recommended in by this essay in Sojourners:

February 10, 2023

Sunrise — 7:07, 7:08.



Madison, Wisconsin ranks #4 in this list of "minimalism-oriented cities."

I'm reading "The Midwest and South Are Home to Clusters of Minimalism-Oriented Cities but Salt Lake City Is the Nation’s Minimalist Heaven" (RentCafe).



Just say no.


The moon at 7:08 a.m.


"Mr. Fetterman suffers from auditory processing issues, forcing him to rely primarily on a tablet to transcribe what is being said to him."

"The hearing issues are inconsistent; they often get worse when he is in a stressful or unfamiliar situation. When it’s bad, Mr. Fetterman has described it as trying to make out the muffled voice of the teacher in the 'Peanuts' cartoon, whose words could never be deciphered. The stroke — after which he had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted — also took a less apparent but very real psychological toll on Mr. Fetterman. It has been less than a year since the stroke transformed him from someone with a large stature that suggested machismo — a central part of his political identity — into a physically altered version of himself, and he is frustrated at times that he is not yet back to the man he once was. He has had to come to terms with the fact that he may have set himself back permanently by not taking the recommended amount of rest during the campaign. And he continues to push himself in ways that people close to him worry are detrimental...."

It sounds like a heroic effort. I have great admiration for him as he steps up to this immense challenge.

With respect, I offer this example of the Peanuts teacher's voice:

"Four trans children on one block in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? I think not."

One of the commenters at a NYT column titled "The Relentless Attack on Trans People Is an Attack on All of Us":

I am a gay man, but I think there needs to be a step or two back taken from what has become the politicization of medical treatment for children who may be transgender. Several years ago, a family living on a street in my neighborhood announced by way of a transgender flag that appeared on their porch that their eight-year-old until then son had recently informed them that he is trans. Since then, children of three other families living on our block have had such an epiphany. Four trans children on one block in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania? I think not.

ADDED: Is the commenter misinterpreting flags? I haven't been able to find an image of a flag that specifies that a transgender child lives in the house where the flag is displayed. There is a transgender flag. Here's a Wikipedia article about it. I would think it is used simply to support transgender people, not to identify the people living in the house. One particular block could have a bunch of flags because the people know each other and are rallying their support, perhaps for one child.

Please don't comment "meow" as some of you did on yesterday's post about what Majorie Taylor Greene wore to the SOTU.

That would be sexist.

I'm reading "Melanie Lynskey Responds to America's Next Top Model Winner Adrianne Curry's Critique of Her Body in The Last of Us/'I am supposed to be SMART, ma’am. I don’t need to be muscly,' the actor tweeted" (Vanity Fair):
On Wednesday, the America's Next Top Model cycle 1 winner responded to a photo of the actor, critiquing her appearance as not being befitting of her role in the post-apocalyptic TV series The Last of Us. She wrote in a since-deleted tweet, “her body says life of luxury...not post apocolyptic [sic] warlord.” She added, “where is Linda Hamilton when you need her?,” referring to the Terminator star. Lynskey saw the social media message before the model deleted it, screenshotting the exchange and tweeting it out with the caption, “Firstly—this is a photo from my cover shoot for InStyle magazine, not a still from HBO’s The Last Of Us.” She added, “And I’m playing a person who meticulously planned & executed an overthrow of FEDRA. I am supposed to be SMART, ma’am. I don’t need to be muscly. That’s what henchmen are for.”

"FEDRA" is an acronym. You need to know the show to get it. Or look it up

"SMART" not an acronym. Lynskey is just yelling. I recommend not yelling that you're smart. It's too...

"It’s a real pain to carry a pad around, and I have found that once I have jotted something down I tend to relax and forget it."

"If I toss the bits into my mind, on the other hand, what needs to be remembered stays while the rest fades into oblivion. I like to leave things to this process of natural selection. This reminds me of an anecdote I’m fond of. When Paul Valéry was interviewing Albert Einstein, he asked the great scientist, 'Do you carry a notebook around to record your ideas?' Einstein was an unflappable man, but this question clearly unnerved him. 'No,' he answered. 'There’s no need for that. You see I rarely have new ideas.' Come to think of it, there have been very few situations when I wished I had a notepad on me. Something truly important is not that easy to forget once you’ve entrusted it to your memory.'"

Writes Haruki Murakami in "Novelist as a Vocation" (Amazon link).

Speaking of notebooks... my other favorite writer, David Sedaris, carries a small notebook everywhere and writes something in it about 10 times a day. In "Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls," we see him explaining his practice to a 7-year-old boy. When he encounters a headline, "Dangerous Olives Could Be on Sale," and writes it down in his "a small Europa-brand reporter’s notebook," the boy asks why, and he says, "It’s for your diary.... You jot things down during the day, then tomorrow morning you flesh them out." Of course, the 7-year-old boy still asks "why?" The reader knows why!

Speaking of memory... I've been working on a Spotify playlist I named "Memory"):

The songs need to have something to do with memory and to be things I'd enjoy listening to in sequence... in case you're thinking of making suggestions for my list, which you can see is very small.

Alternatively, tell me what you think Einstein would have on his Spotify playlist.

As for Murakami, I'm picturing this.

ALSO: Here's the Einstein playlist I made (based on "The story of Albert Einstein and the music he loved"):
Einstein quote about music: "If I were not a physicist, I would probably be a musician. I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music... I get most joy in life out of music."

Consider the white supremacy of requiring cooks to switch from gas to electric.

I'm reading "Will most chefs ever trade gas stoves for induction? It’s complicated" (WaPo):
The art of Chinese stir-fry cooking is difficult, if not impossible, to replicate with induction burners, even those specifically designed for woks, in part because heat transference occurs only when the pan is in contact with the electromagnetic cooktop. The way flavors are developed — such as oil singed as flames lick up and around the pan — are virtually unique to stir-fry cooking, especially those dishes that call for wok hei, a kind of charred quality that occurs when ingredients are tossed in a well-seasoned wok. For these reasons and more, chefs who specialize in stir-fry cooking will probably never surrender their high-Btu gas burners.... 'It’s kind of like asking, "Why can’t a guy doing Texas barbecue just use an electric stove instead of a wood fire?" Well, that’s not going to happen because that’s really the essential part of the flavor of the dish'...."

Disparate impact. 

February 9, 2023

At the Thursday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"When one makes the decision to wear an all-white outfit to a gathering where many will have defaulted to a dignified dark or jewel tone, one makes a choice..."

"... not just to be the de facto center of attention, but to invoke something pure, even holy. There’s a reason guests aren’t supposed to wear white to a wedding; there’s also a reason Jesus is so often pictured in white. When Marjorie Taylor Greene wore a white coat with a fur collar while heckling the president during his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, many on social media saw Cruella de Vil.... Greene’s outfit Tuesday — a white, knee-length dress paired with an ecru Overland alpaca wool coat with an alpaca fur trim on the hood and collar — was surprising for a handful of reasons. Not only is a white ensemble an unusual choice for the wintry, business-formal State of the Union (and a coat an unusual choice for an indoor event), but the silhouette itself, luxe, frothy and hyperfeminine, was somewhat outside the norm for Greene, who tends to opt for clean lines and often wears black or red."

1. White is not an unusual fashion choice for winter. There's a term for it: "winter white." It's classic and has been for decades.

2. As the columnist concedes, the Democratic women in Congress wore white to Trump's SOTU in 2019.

"In my plan, I suggested the following: All federal legislation sunsets in five years. If a law is worth keeping, Congress can pass it again."

Said Senator Rick Scott, quoted in "Scott doubles down on sunsetting all federal programs after Biden’s jab" (The Hill).

"Biden's jab" was "instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans, some Republicans want Medicare and Social Security to sunset."

I'd avoid the metaphor "jab." Clearly, the reference is to boxing. A quick, sharp blow. But "jab" has been such an important word in the delivery of the vaccine, and there, somehow, it's supposed to signify that it won't hurt at all.

BUT:  Yahoo News says: "President Biden, while still a senator for Delaware, introduced legislation to sunset all federal programs, including Social Security and Medicare.... Biden doubled down on his legislation in the '90s, saying on the Senate floor that his bill would affect Social Security.... 'When I argued that we should freeze federal spending, I meant Social Security, as well,' Biden said. 'I meant Medicare and Medicaid. I meant veterans’ benefits. I meant every single solitary thing in the federal government.... And I not only tried it once, I tried it twice, I tried it a third time, and I tried it a fourth time." 

To be fair to Biden, we should note that he must know the meaning of Scott's proposal, since he himself embraced it and, presumably, understood what it meant.

"SpaceX has taken steps to prevent Ukraine's military from using the company's Starlink satellite internet service for controlling drones in the region..."

"SpaceX's Starlink satellite internet service, which has provided Ukraine's military with broadband communications in its defense against Russia's military, was 'never never meant to be weaponized,' Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX's president and chief operating officer, said.... 'However, Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement,' she said.... Ukraine has made effective use of unmanned aircraft for spotting enemy positions, targeting long-range fires and dropping bombs. 'There are things that we can do to limit their ability to do that.... There are things that we can do, and have done.'"

 Reuters reports.

"The Chinese spy balloon shot down by the U.S. military over the Atlantic Ocean... was part of a fleet of surveillance balloons directed by the Chinese military that had flown over more than 40 countries..."

"... across five continents, the State Department said Thursday. The United States used high resolution imagery from U-2 flybys to determine the balloon’s capabilities, the department said in a written announcement, adding that the balloon’s equipment 'was clearly for intelligence surveillance and inconsistent with the equipment onboard weather balloons.' The agency said the balloon had multiple antennas in an array that was 'likely capable of collecting and geo-locating communications.' Solar panels on the machine were large enough to produce power to operate '“multiple active intelligence collection sensors,' the department said. The agency also said the U.S. government was 'confident' that the company that made the balloon had direct commercial ties with the People’s Liberation Army, the Chinese military, citing an official procurement portal for the army. The department did not name the company...."

"I am a 42-year-old St. Louis native, a queer woman, and politically to the left of Bernie Sanders...."

"I have spent my professional life providing counseling to vulnerable populations: children in foster care, sexual minorities, the poor. For almost four years, I worked at The Washington University School of Medicine Division of Infectious Diseases with teens and young adults who were HIV positive. Many of them were trans or otherwise gender nonconforming, and I could relate: Through childhood and adolescence, I did a lot of gender questioning myself. I’m now married to a transman.... All that led me to a job in 2018 as a case manager at The Washington University Transgender Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital.... The center’s working assumption was that the earlier you treat kids with gender dysphoria, the more anguish you can prevent later on. This premise was shared by the center’s doctors and therapists. Given their expertise, I assumed that abundant evidence backed this consensus...."

The great songwriter Burt Bacharach has died. Let's talk about our favorite Burt Bacharach songs.

The man lived to be 94, so there's nothing to cry about. Let's talk about the beauty of the songs. 

WAIT: That Spotify list I embedded can't be right! Be Bop a Lula?! Here's Wikipedia's list of his songs. I'll try to find a better playlist to embed.

ADDED: This looks good:

Bajillion jobs? Brazilian jobs? ???

"ChatGPT Is a Blurry JPEG of the Web/OpenAI’s chatbot offers paraphrases, whereas Google offers quotes. Which do we prefer?"

That's the most effective headline I've read in a long time.

The article, in The New Yorker, is by Ted Chiang. Excerpt: 

"Once I’d finished this brief summary of my impostor syndrome... my dinner companion, another white female academic, replied curtly, 'That’s such a white-lady thing to say.'"

Writes Leslie Jamison, in "Why Everyone Feels Like They’re Faking It/The concept of Impostor Syndrome has become ubiquitous. Critics, and even the idea’s originators, question its value" (The New Yorker).
In the wake of her comment, the table quieted a bit as people sensed—the way a constellation of strangers often can—the presence of some minor friction. My seatmate and I turned to the only woman of color at the table, a Black professor, so that she could, presumably, tell us what to think about the whiteness of impostor syndrome....

Yikes. You're not supposed to do that! Bad etiquette! 

Heard just now: the rain drops became tiny ice pellets.

It's a gentle transition, barely audible.

Here's how it looked on the radar map:

The cloud cover is 100%, so I'm skipping the sunrise — 7:05 today — and perhaps waiting for some of the 5 to 8 inches of snow to prettify the landscape. It isn't cold. It's 34°, but it's windy and the National Weather Service is saying the snow will be "wet" and "heavy." So it's a good time to get clobbered by a falling tree or tree branch. 

I'm only noticing now — and only because "Madison" is trending on Twitter — that Joe Biden flew into Madison yesterday.

I wrote "flew into Madison" because the plane landed in Madison, but the event was at the LiUNA Laborers' Training Center in DeForest. 

Know your Madison-area landscape:

February 8, 2023

Sunrise — 7:06, 7:09, 7:10, 7:12.





"In my considered opinion, anyone with a quick mind or an inordinately rich store of knowledge is unlikely to become a novelist."

"That is because the writing of a novel, or the telling of a story, is an activity that takes place at a slow pace—in low gear, so to speak. Faster than walking, let’s say, but slower than riding a bicycle. The basic speed of a person’s mental processes may make it possible to work at that rate, or it may not... .This is quite a roundabout way to do things.... Someone whose message is clearly formed has no need to go through the many steps it would take to transpose that message into a story. All he has to do is put it directly into words—it’s much faster and can be easily communicated to an audience. A message or concept that might take six months to turn into a novel can thus be fully developed in a mere three days. Or in ten minutes, if the writer has a microphone and can spit it out as it comes to him.... In the final analysis, that’s what being smart is really all about. In the same vein, it is unnecessary for someone with a wealth of knowledge to drag out a fuzzy, dubious container like the novel for his purposes...."

Writes Haruki Murakami in "Novelist as a Vocation" (Amazon link). 

"We’d go around, do this dog and pony show, and I would open up for him, singing, and people would all get together to hear David Harris talking about how we’re going to change the world."

Said Joan Baez, quoted in "David Harris, Leader of Vietnam Draft Resistance Movement, Dies at 76/An activist who went to jail for refusing to serve in the military, he teamed with and married Joan Baez and later became a journalist" (NYT).

AOC goes after Libs of TikTok.

ADDED: For a wider view of what's happening there, read Jonathan Turley, "Congress is set to expose what may be the largest censorship system in U.S. history" (The Hill).

"Americans have long admired the raucous debate in the British Parliament."

"John McCain even ran for president promising to bring Prime Minister’s Questions to the United States. On Tuesday, at President Joe Biden’s State of the Union, America got a window into what that would be like. During an 80-minute-long speech, Biden was repeatedly heckled by House Republicans and even went back and forth with the hecklers at various points. It was a vast departure from American tradition, which views the State of the Union far more like the monarch’s speech in the U.K.... This wasn’t that.... It seems pretty clear that the traditions are changing. After all, until a century ago, presidents wouldn’t appear in person to give their State of the Union address. It was considered too monarchial.... Presidents only started regularly appearing before Congress when Woodrow Wilson, an admirer of parliamentary politics, showed up to deliver his annual address in person.... It’s unclear how the State of the Union will evolve in the future, but the formality of the recent past is gone. If this latest version speaks to what’s ahead, the State of the Union has become more of an interactive experience...."

From "The Hecklers Have Won: The Polite State of the Union Is Dead" (NY Magazine).

Headstone cleaner?!

We're repainting the rooms in the 100-year-old part of our house, and — instead of, once again, painting around the brass hardware on the windows and in the closets — for the first time, these various pieces got removed. Every time the trim had been repainted, the painter had slopped some paint onto the metal, and each painter, it seems, felt as though they were only following the paint-slopping tradition. On the window handles, I myself had recently chosen to close up the gaps and paint the entire surface.

But all those hooks in the coat closet looked like a lot of trouble to paint around, and we got the idea to unscrew everything. Was this going to involve paint stripper? No! I looked it up on the internet, and it turns out what you need is a crockpot. So we did unscrew all the window and closet hardware — 30 items, plus over 100 screws — and cook them overnight in water and Dawn detergent. 

"Beyond the question of what she’d had done, however, lay the more interesting question of why she had done it."

"Did Madonna get sucked so deep into the vortex of beauty culture that she came out the other side? Had the pressure to appear younger somehow made her think she ought to look like some kind of excessively contoured baby? Perhaps so, but I’d like to think that our era’s greatest chameleon, a woman who has always been intentional about her reinvention, was doing something slyer, more subversive, by serving us both a new — if not necessarily improved — face and a side of critique about the work of beauty, the inevitability of aging, and the impossible bind in which older female celebrities find themselves.... [W]hatever her intentions, the superstar has gotten us talking about how good looks are subjective and how ageism is pervasive. In the end, whether she meant to make a statement or just to look younger, better, 'refreshed,' almost doesn’t matter. If beauty is a construct, Madonna’s the one who put its scaffolding on display."
Writes Jennifer Weiner in "Madonna’s New Face Is a Brilliant Provocation" (NYT).

If you don't know what Weiner is talking about, see "Fans 'so confused' by Madonna’s ‘new face’ at Grammys 2023" (with photos).

"North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has given the clearest signal yet that he is positioning his middle-school-aged daughter as his successor..."

"...  analysts say, after a raft of official photos showed the girl holding center stage in a banquet hall full of military top brass.... The photos show Ju Ae, who is believed to be about 10 or 11 years old, in the middle of all the photos — a spot usually reserved for the leader himself. The girl’s hair is styled to look like the do worn by her stylish mother, first lady Ri Sol Ju, and she wears a no-nonsense black skirt suit and sensible shoes. As they walk into the banquet hall, military leaders, their jackets bedecked with medals, stand to applaud. At the table, top generals stand behind the first family, beaming with wide smiles."

Good thing we have analysts who know the significance of sensible shoes.

If you'd asked me, I'd have said those were the only possible shoes she could have worn. If she were not the intended successor, could she have worn stilettos? Something pink? Loafers? I can't picture any other shoes, in any circumstances. Maybe something without the Mary Jane strap, like the mother's shoes? No: She's 10. (Or 11.) But I am not a professional analyst of the politics of children's footwear.

Here's a link to the text of the State of the Union.

From the White House website: "Remarks of President Joe Biden – State of the Union Address as Prepared for Delivery."

I didn't watch. I don't spend my time like that. Why watch when you can read? What do you think could happen? If the Speaker of the House tears up the speech, there will be a video clip. Did somebody shout out "Liar!" again? I'd rather hear about it after the fact than sit there watching and waiting for something to go wrong. I don't want anything to go wrong, and I don't believe anything useful will be said. If it is, I'll read about it the next day. That's much faster.

Stray quotes from the transcript:

We’re seeing these fields of dreams transform the heartland....Urban. Suburban. Rural. Tribal. And we’re just getting started.... American-made lumber, glass, drywall, fiber optic cables.... Let’s face reality.... Let’s give public school teachers a raise.... I’ve never had to have the talk with my children – Beau, Hunter, and Ashley – that so many Black and Brown families have had with their children.... I’ve made clear with President Xi that we seek competition, not conflict.... [L]ast year Jill and I re-ignited the Cancer Moonshot that President Obama asked me to lead.... My fellow Americans, we meet tonight at an inflection point.... We must be the nation we have always been at our best.... We are a good people, the only nation in the world built on an idea. That all of us, every one of us, is created equal in the image of God... As I stand here tonight, I have never been more optimistic about the future of America. We just have to remember who we are....

We just have to remember who we are... cue the dementia jokes.

Outrage was predicted, and I said "Predicted outrage, the stupidest form of outrage."

And: "I suspect most Christians know not to get triggered by every celebrity jackass who announces they're going to yank your chain tonight. Sam Smith will be dressed up as Satan. Why, that's as outrageous as a 5-year-old on Halloween!"

But the theater of outrage had to go on. I'm just making a screen shot, not linking to the predictable noise from public figures. I think silence and restraint are the better response, but the temptation is so intense:

What a cool art project: A realistic-looking action-figure set of The DiGrasso Men from "The White Lotus."

At Reddit, someone asks "What's your method here? Kit bashing other toys or are you like molding yourself? Either way this is such cool art!" 

The artist answers "They're 3d sculpts that I do in Blender and then 3d print and paint. The heads are entirely my own designs and then the bodies are usually scans of existing toys that I alter(I like to call that digital kitbashing haha)." 

The execution is great, and I love the idea that there would be action figures of the characters from "The White Lotus," though the comedy of unusual choices for action figures has been around for decades.

By the way, I am such a "White Lotus" fan that I not only rewatched both seasons and watched both seasons of Mike White's earlier show "Enlightened," I rewatched the season of "Survivor" where he was a contestant, and I've started reading books I see recommended in "Mike White's Top 10 Books." I chose the book that someone I know in real life has leaned on me to read. Him, I resisted. But somehow Mike White wants me to read it, and I believe. 

February 7, 2023

At the Sunrise Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.

"But what makes her an unusual star for the high fashion industry... is the fact that Ms. Kortleve is a U.S. size 8 to 10 — or 'midsize'..."

"... as the middle ground between petite and plus size is increasingly known. 'Straight' size, or under a U.S. size 2, remains, overwhelmingly, the fashion industry norm. Plus-size models, typically those above a U.S. size 12, have become better represented in high fashion. 'Curve' models like Paloma Elsesser, Precious Lee and Ashley Graham have thriving careers. For years, however, Ms. Kortleve has been one of the only midsize models of note.... [T]he ordinary has long been rejected by high fashion, a world that loves to shock through visual extremes. Bony ribs (ideally) or ripples of undulating flesh (occasionally) on a runway or campaign shoot somehow seem preferable to highlighting a body that’s reflective of a more 'boring' middle ground...."

Midsize last size they want to show you, and it's the healthiest, most reasonable place to be. People want excitement, but whatever happened to feeling good?

Reminds me of politics: People don't want to hear from the boring middle or to feel balanced and at ease. They want extremes and extreme emotions — glee and anger. 

Or so it looks on line. Maybe in real life, people are serene and midsize or trying to get to serene/midsize.

I have no idea what the problem is supposed to be, but I see a man in shorts.

Current pop music is so uninteresting to me that I can't tell what's supposed to be bad from what's supposed to be good. But I do feel qualified to say this shorts look exemplifies the men-in-shorts problem. It is not the shorts per se. It is the grown man dressed as a little boy — the enlarged little boy. 

In other news, Post Malone arrives at the Sydney airport in green pajamas. What's that print? Teddy bears.

I have no plans today, but I still have no time to watch the State of the Union Address.

I set out to skim the White House press release, "The White House Announces Guest List for the First Lady’s Box for the 2023 State of the Union Address," but couldn't even skim to the bottom... though I did skim to the Bono. I don't have time for this.

I do have time to write out that I remember when David Foster Wallace observed the foolishness of press releases that announce that a press release announces something.* That is, it's silly to have an announcement phrased as if it's pointing to something else, when it is the very thing it is announcing. 

Here, we've got "The White House Announces Guest List...." when it really means "Here Is The White House Guest List." 


* In "Big Red Son," Wallace quoted a press release from Adult Video News that said "The nominations for the 15th Annual AVN Awards were announced today," then dropped a footnote: "The passive mood here’s a bit disingenuous — the release itself is announcing them." A bit disingenuous... ha ha.

"Over the years, Rushdie’s friends have marvelled at his ability to write amid the fury unleashed on him."

"Martin Amis has said that, if he were in his shoes, 'I would, by now, be a tearful and tranquilized three-hundred-pounder, with no eyelashes or nostril hairs.' And yet 'Victory City' is Rushdie’s sixteenth book since the fatwa.... During the pandemic, Rushdie... was already toying with an idea for another novel. He’d reread Thomas Mann’s 'The Magic Mountain' and Franz Kafka’s 'The Castle,' novels that deploy a naturalistic language to evoke strange, hermetic worlds—an alpine sanatorium, a remote provincial bureaucracy. Rushdie thought about using a similar approach to create a peculiar imaginary college as his setting. He started keeping notes...."

I don't like seeing Elon Musk flaunting this kind of hostility.

ADDED: Musk's tweeting this is ambiguous. He could mean I am this person. But he could mean Guys like this are pathetic and dangerous. Presumably, he intends the ambiguity. And the simplest interpretation is that he wants us to heat up Twitter with debate about what the hell this means. 

"As NORAD commander, it’s my responsibility to detect threats to North America, I will tell you that we did not detect those threats."

"And that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out."

Said Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, quoted in "U.S. military failed to detect prior Chinese incursions, general says/The Pentagon’s disclosure that previous balloon flights over the U.S. occurred during Trump’s time in office was met with surprise by the former president and his advisers" (WaPo).

Does that mean Trump could not have known? 

John Kirby, the National Security Council strategic communications coordinator, said, "I can’t speak to what awareness there was in the previous administration. I can tell you that we discovered these flights after we came into office." He said those other flights were "brief" and "nothing like we saw last week."

If VanHerck and Kirby are telling the truth, then any discussion of what Trump did should be about why his administration did not do a better job of threat detection and not about how he dealt with the balloon and only Biden is on the hook for how he handled the balloon after it was detected.

Have all the Trump-did-the-same-thing and only-Biden-shot-it-down tweets been deleted?

February 6, 2023

At the Icy Morning Café...


... you can talk all night.


Sunrise — 7:13.


Temperature: 6°.

The man famous for being shot in the face by Dick Cheney has died.

There is a NYT obituary for Harry Whittington, who was, otherwise, simply "a wealthy and well-connected lawyer" who — it says here — "typified the breed of Texan known as the good ol’ boy." 

The unfortunate event occurred in 2006. He lived 17 more years and died at the age of 95.

I blogged about the event at the time, mainly because Cheney was getting criticized for not going on camera and apologizing. A Republican defended Cheney, saying Cheney keeps his personal feelings to himself and doesn't care what the public thinks.

I said:

"Most Democrats interviewed, who insisted on anonymity to avoid alienating the White House, said flatly that they did not think Ms. Harris could win the presidency in 2024."

"Some said the party’s biggest challenge would be finding a way to sideline her without inflaming key Democratic constituencies that would take offense. Now with Mr. Biden appearing all but certain to run again, the concern over Ms. Harris has shifted to whether she will be a political liability for the ticket...."

"If he wants to run, I think everybody will be 100 percent unified behind him. I mean, maybe 99.9999, but we’re the most unified we’ve been in a very long time."

"Eventually, the party’s going to have to move to younger people being in more control, and that’s natural, but this doesn’t feel like the moment yet."

That is so terribly depressing, but I was cheered up substantially by reading that Bauman is Bowzer from Sha Na Na!

Anyway, we seem to be hurtling toward a rematch of Biden versus Trump. Neither party seems able to break out of the spell cast by its ridiculous old man. On the Democratic side, they've got the incumbent, and they've got the problem of Kamala Harris waiting for her turn. They are locked in. 

You'd think the Republicans have more hope of breaking out of the predicament. But the Republicans have Trump, a unique and perplexing problem. And the recent polls show Trump beating Biden:

"The highest-profile scholar of misinformation is being forced out at Harvard’s premier public policy school..."

"... and interviews and internal documents reviewed by Semafor illustrate the institution’s discomfort with her high-profile and politically charged work. Joan Donovan, Research Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, is a defining and combative voice in the study of how false information travels on the internet. She became a prominent commentator after the 2016 election of Donald Trump, when many Democrats blamed misinformation on social media for his election. Her departure is tangled up in the arguments over whether misinformation is an academic pursuit or a partisan one, and it played out inside a cautious, American institution trying to hold a shrinking political center."

That's the beginning of the article, and my first question — after I absorbed the idea that "misinformation"  is a field of scholarly study — was which way does this "politically charged work" lean? Too left? Too right? Too in-between? 

How far must I read to get to an answer? Without an answer, I feel misinformed by this article about misinformation.

"A powerful 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked wide swaths of Turkey and Syria early Monday, toppling hundreds of buildings and killing more than 1,300 people. "

"Hundreds were still believed to be trapped under rubble, and the toll was expected to rise as rescue workers searched mounds of wreckage in cities and towns across the area. On both sides of the border, residents jolted out of sleep by the pre-dawn quake rushed outside on a cold, rainy and snowy night. Buildings were reduce to piles of pancaked floors, while major aftershocks, some nearly as strong as the first, continued.... It struck a region that has been shaped on both sides of the border by more than a decade of civil war in Syria. On the Syrian side, the swath affected is divided between government-held territory and the country’s last opposition-held enclave, which is surrounded by Russian-backed government forces.... 'There are so many other people who are also trapped,” [Huseyin Yayman, a legislator from Turkey’s Hatay province]. 'There are so many buildings that have been damaged. People are on the streets. It’s raining, it’s winter.'"

 AP reports.

February 5, 2023

Vanishing shoreline — 7:20 a.m., western view.



(Write about anything you want in the comments.)

"After my young husband died... I was bereft. I thought I'd never go out again, much less all alone."

So begins a comment on an advice column dealing with a letter from somebody who felt disturbed by restaurants hosts who asks "Just one?"

The columnist, Miss Manners (in WaPo), though the letter-writer was imagining more negativity than the hosts really intended to express.

But I'm interested in this comment. It continues:

For the Annals of Unnecessary Polling.

I'm reading "Few Americans are excited about a Biden-Trump rematch, Post-ABC poll finds/Most say they would feel dissatisfied or angry if either wins the general election" (WaPo). 

I wish both of them would step back and let other candidates emerge. But it is worth noting that Biden's numbers are even worse than Trumps:

At the Grammy Awards tonight, there will be a performance that will "make a lot of people very upset" and "I guarantee there will be calls to CBS from outraged Christians."

The "I" is an unnamed source, presumably someone with an interest in jacking up ratings for the show.

I'm reading "Sam Smith, Kim Petras 'Unholy' Grammy Performance Expected To Spark Outrage: 'I Guarantee There Will Be Calls to CBS From Outraged Christians'" (Decider).

Predicted outrage, the stupidest form of outrage. I suspect most Christians know not to get triggered by every celebrity jackass who announces they're going to yank your chain tonight.

Sam Smith will be dressed up as Satan. Why, that's as outrageous as a 5-year-old on Halloween!

ADDED: I listened to the song on Spotify and read the lyrics at Genius. It's about a man having sex with a prostitute, and we're told that this sex is "unholy" and that the man is a "dirty, dirty boy." 

AND: It seems as though Sam Smith has embraced the old Woody Allen answer to the question "Is sex dirty?"

"If the revised framework for the Advanced Placement course in African American Studies had been the pilot program all along..."

"... Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wouldn’t have objected and the proposal wouldn’t have become national news. But the College Board, which designs and administers AP classes and exams, felt the need to wave a red flag by including such 'topics' as intersectionality, queer studies and Black Lives Matter in what should have ostensibly been a high-concept history class.... [I]f you’re... going to have an AP African American Studies course, what would you put in it? Probably what can now be found in the revised framework, with units on (1) early African societies, (2) the slave trade and abolition, (3) Reconstruction and black codes, and (4) the civil rights movement and modern black culture. You don’t need an education doctorate to recognize that you shouldn’t give trendy topics like 'intersectionality and activism' and 'the reparations movement' as much space as weighty aspects of the American experience like 'disenfranchisement and Jim Crow laws' and 'HBCUs and black education'—which is what the initial framework did. The original idea was surely to advance theory and ideology, not history and culture...."

"My channel was as raw and honest as I would have been in my diary. That’s part of the culture."

"Being known as you are — and praised for it — lures in those of us with a deep desire to be seen. But another part of the culture is to make yourself into a product and figure out how to sell that product. Success is measured in views and subscriber counts, visible to all. The numbers feel like an adrenaline shot to your self-esteem.... When done right, YouTube can quickly become a lucrative career. But maintaining it is a delicate balancing act... In 2018, I impulsively released a video about my struggle with burnout.... [I]t brought me even more attention.... I kept making videos.... I was entering adulthood and trying to live my childhood dream, but now, to be 'authentic,' I had to be the product I had long been posting online, as opposed to the person I was growing up to be.... Changing an online persona is something at which few have been successful.... Staying unchanged brings its own challenges — stagnancy, inauthenticity, burnout.... But to those who will walk the path I did, I hope you will learn... [to] use these platforms to open opportunities, but not at the cost of giving all of yourself away."

From "YouTube Gave Me Everything. Then I Grew Up" by Elle Mills (NYT).

Here's that 2018 video:   

Sunrise with new iPhone.



I'm extremely happy with the camera in the iPhone 14 Pro. It solves a problem I had with the iPhone 12, which was that it made sunrise pictures too bright and I had to figure out how to adjust the camera or tweak things afterwards. The iPhone 14 figured it out automatically. 

The photos above were taken at 7:13 a.m. This is 3 minutes later:


ADDED: Actually, it was this picture — taken at 7:21 — that made me exclaim out loud. I'm pointing the camera straight at the risen sun and it's not blowing out everything. The sun is handled, looks charming, has interesting light around it, and the trees are sharp and dark, and there is subtlety to the light on the snow in the foreground:


"It’s like asking New York to move the Statue of Liberty from New York to Florida. I mean, that’s not going to happen. And it’s not going to happen that we’re going to change state law."

The headline says the Democrats have already done the upending, overhauling, and radical reshaping, but isn't it merely an offer that the states may accept or decline? Is it an offer-they-can't-refuse type of offer? 

I'm seeing shaming of New Hampshire. One D.N.C. member scoffed at that idea that New Hampshire has a "divine right of privilege" to go first.  What matters is "what the party says it wants in its process." Yes, but they want the state to run a primary. Do they think they have a "divine right of privilege" to tell the states when to schedule votes?

The new first state would be South Carolina — a state that hasn't gone blue in a presidential election since 1976 — chosen because it's Joe Biden's preference. It was the state that saved his candidacy in 2020. Its legislature is solidly dominated by Republicans. 

"I can't believe I'm Joe's Osama," says the shot-down Chinese balloon.

"How would you like it if someone measured your width in buses?"