February 25, 2023

"What do you stand for?"

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Another photo from my trip to lower Manhattan, from which I returned 3 days ago. It's been cold, snowy, and overcast here in Madison, but I expect to get back to my sunrise routine soon.

Please use the comments section to write about whatever you want.

"Newspapers across the United States have pulled... 'Dilbert'... after the cartoonist called Black Americans a 'hate group' and said White people should 'get the hell away from' them...."

"The once widely celebrated cartoonist, who has been entertaining extreme-right ideologies and conspiracy theories for several years, was upset Wednesday by a Rasmussen poll that found a thin majority of Black Americans agreed with the statement 'It’s okay to be White.'... [O]n his YouTube show Saturday... [Scott Adams] offered a long, quasi-Socratic defense of his comments, which he said were taken out of context, and seemed to define racism as essentially any political activity. 'Any tax code change is racist,' he said at one point in the show. He denounced racism against 'individuals' and racist laws, but said, 'You should absolutely be racist whenever it’s to your advantage. Every one of you should be open to making a racist personal career decision.' In the same show, Adams suggested that he had done irreparable harm to a once-sterling career. 'Most of my income will be gone by next week,' he told about 3,000 live-stream viewers. 'My reputation for the rest of my life is destroyed. You can’t come back from this, am I right? There’s no way you can come back from this.'"

Here is today's episode, the one with what WaPo calls "a long, quasi-Socratic defense." You can judge for yourself:

""Look at what they’ve done to their own people. They’re destroying family, national identity, they are abusing their children."

"Even pedophilia is announced as a normal thing in the West.... And they’re recognizing same-sex marriages.... That’s fine that they’re adults. They’ve got the right to live their life. And we always, we’re very tolerant about this in Russia. Nobody is trying to enter private lives of people, and we’re not going to do this.... However, we need to tell them, but look at the scriptures of any religion in the world. Everything is said in there. And one of the things is that family is a union of a man and a woman.... Anglican Church is planning to consider the idea of a gender-neutral God.... What can you say here? Millions of people in the West understand that they are being led to spiritual destruction."

Said Vladimir Putin, in a speech, quoted by E.J. Dionne Jr., in "Putin pitches the American right with an ungodly invocation of God" (WaPo).

Why just a warning?

"Britney Spears has received a warning from animal control after her Doberman, Porsha, escaped her California mansion and bit an elderly cyclist. Porsha - who was gifted to Spears by husband Sam Asghari with the promise that she will be trained to protect his wife from 'any motherf****r with bad intentions' - got out of the couples' $7.4 million Thousand Oaks home on Thursday... Sources told the outlet the dog came across a man in his 70s who was getting off his bike in the area and bit him before a member of Spears' security team got a hold of the pooch."


Meanwhile, in San Antonio: 

"Man, 80, is killed and three others are injured in 'horrific' San Antonio pit bull dog attack: Firefighters forced to use pickaxes and metal poles to fight off the savage animals" (Daily Mail): "Neighbors say they had reported bites occurring in the past with multiple calls to the city's 311 complaint line. The dogs had been previously impounded for a 'mild bite' in 2021. Other calls made by neighbors within the past two years were concerns about animal neglect and aggression."

Are you really confused if what's playing in your head is Aretha Franklin?

 

"Who's Zoomin' Who" came out in 1985, so it's a bit funny for Biden to say it's a song of "my generation." Even "My Generation" — which came out 20 years before "Who's Zoomin' Who" — was not a song of Biden's generation! 

"Lady Gaga is being sued by the woman charged with the theft of her two French bulldogs."

"Jennifer McBride said that Gaga, 36, made it clear that she would pay the person who returned her dogs $500K, 'no questions asked.'... McBride reportedly wants the $500K and also wants the court to triple the damages to $1.5 million for posting the misleading reward."


Think this through carefully. McBride was charged with receiving stolen property and as an accessory after the fact. She knew the men who took the dog, and motivated by the offer of a reward, she got the dog back to the owner.

Do we want people to believe that offers of rewards like this will be enforced in court? Won't that cause more dog snatchings? Maybe it should be illegal to offer a reward like this. It's a kind of encouragement of crime, and it hurts other people.

Ben Shapiro weighs in on today's "National Day of Hate."

How is this even possible?

From the WaPo article about that tweet:
According to internet detectives, the takeout in question was from Glasgow Airport’s Frankie and Benny’s, a United Kingdom-based “family friendly American Italian restaurant” chain that’s “the home of spaghetti, meatballs, pizza and birthday parties.” Tolland’s neighbor appears to have ordered their “Smoky Ultimate BBQ Ribs” with a side of “skin-on” fries and a half an ear of corn slathered in “mayo and Italian cheese.”

A lot of the discussion is about the fact that he's doing this in the middle seat. But I think that counts in his favor. Middle seaters are the oppressed class of the airplane cabin. 

"What I care about more than anything else is people in power having power and doing things properly..."

"... and not just sort of in-fighting and dicking about. And so Boris Johnson lost me the minute he started fucking it all up. I was like: All right, fuck off. I don't care who's in charge, as long as they're actually in charge."

I was moved to transcribe that, from the "Go nuts for squirrels" episode of the podcast "Giles Coren Has No Idea."

The statement was made by the co-podcaster, Coren's wife, Esther Walker, and it's the closest I think I've ever heard to how I react to politics. Now, of course, it's hyperbole. I was thinking of saying I only feel like that up to a point, but she herself must only feel like that up to a point.

The last sentence is especially good, and she's squeezing it in as her husband is well into his next overlapping statement: "I don't care who's in charge, as long as they're actually in charge."

You might think it's hard to listen to, a husband and wife talking over each other and trying to get a word in edgewise, but Giles and Esther show how to do it right.

February 24, 2023

Ralph Nader vs. Elon Musk.

Street portraits.

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I'm back in Madison now, but here are 3 shots I took in Manhattan a few days ago.

Write about whatever you want in the comments.

"For days, television footage of helmeted officials peering and prodding at the sphere had led to comments about a possible unidentified floating object, or perhaps an egg produced by something large..."

"... lurking far below. One Japanese public figure of sorts, a cheeky mascot named Chiitan, went so far as to essentially say, 'C’est moi.' 'An iron ball about 1.5 meters in size, found in Shizuoka,' the mascot’s handlers wrote on Twitter. 'It could be me.'"

"Some critics who have called Rowling’s positions anti-transgender — a sentiment she denies — called for a boycott of Hogwarts Legacy...."

"The back-and-forth over Rowling’s positions grew particularly heated in the gaming community, where members tend to be deeply invested in online controversies and harassment can run rampant. Although Hogwarts Legacy quickly broke one million concurrent viewers on the streaming site Twitch, some streamers refused to play it, and a few websites devoted to gaming coverage decided not to review it.... On forums dedicated to Hogwarts Legacy, the topic was front and center, with moderators seeking to tamp down talk about Rowling in favor of the game itself.... "

I've sometimes thought I could set up AI to keep writing this blog after I can no longer go on.

 It seems James Taranto had a similar idea...

"It’s a darkness retreat... It’s just sitting in isolation, meditation, dealing with your thoughts. It stimulates DMT, so there can be some hallucinations in there..."

"... but it’s just kind of sitting in silence, which most of us never do."

February 23, 2023

At the Library of Distilled Spirits...

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... you can talk about anything.

"Publicly and privately, signs are growing that the Transportation secretary’s usual Eagle Scout patience is giving way to frustration."

It says here in Politico, in "Buttigieg world frustrated at GOP attacks over train wreck/'Pete Buttigieg has taken a lot of bullets for the president on this,' one senior Democrat said."

I think Politico means this to be taken for serious analysis. 

"When I graduated with a medical degree in 1973, a Black woman in a class of mostly White men, there was a real sense that the days of obsessing over skin color..."

"... and making race-based assumptions about our fellow human beings was finally fading — and, hopefully, soon gone for good. Apparently not. That racial obsession has come rushing back — in academia, politics, business and even in my beloved medical profession. But now it’s coming from the opposite direction...."

"Today, nearly half a billion people qualify as Indigenous. If they were a single country, it would be the world’s third most populous...."

"Exactly who counts as Indigenous, however, is far from clear. A video for the U.N. Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues begins, 'They were always here—the original inhabitants.' Yet many peoples who are now considered Indigenous don’t claim to be aboriginal.... Conversely, being first doesn’t seem to make you Indigenous. A handful of Gaelic monks and then the Vikings were the first people to arrive in Iceland (they settled there earlier than the Maori arrived in New Zealand), yet their descendants, the Icelanders, are rarely touted as Indigenous. Farther east, modern-day Scandinavians can trace most of their ancestry to migrations occurring in 4000 and in 2500 B.C., but it’s the Sami reindeer herders, whose Siberian ancestors arrived in Scandinavia closer to 1500 B.C., who get an annual entry in the 'Indigenous World' yearbook...."

"I don’t want to read bot stories. I want to read stories that come out of actual imagination and experiences, and their own impulses."

"[Bot writing] does not sound like natural storytelling. There are very strange glitches and things that make it obvious that it’s robotic."

"But as he visited the small Ohio town of East Palestine on Wednesday, former President Donald J. Trump sought to hammer home a message just by showing up..."

"... that his successor and the man he’s seeking to replace, President Biden, had been ineffective in responding to a domestic crisis after a train derailed and spewed toxic chemicals early this month. Mr. Trump had arrived on the ground before either Mr. Biden or the transportation secretary to a train derailment many Republicans have turned into a referendum on a lack of federal concern with the needs of red-state America.... [Trump] suggested the administration had shown 'indifference and betrayal' and he talked about how truckloads of his name-brand water would be distributed to residents.... Shortly before Mr. Trump’s visit, federal officials announced that the transportation secretary, Pete Buttigieg, planned to visit East Palestine on Thursday.... He previously said he did not want his visit to be a distraction and would wait until the federal response in East Palestine moved past the emergency phase."

The NYT reports.

Buttigieg had said "he did not want his visit to be a distraction"? That didn't work when George W. Bush said it about Katrina (and it was more believable that he would indeed have been a distraction).

"[Emily] Kohrs, 30, said she was trying to carefully follow the rules for jurors set out by the judge, Robert C.I. McBurney...."

"Judge McBurney has not barred the jurors from talking, though they are restricted from discussing their deliberations. [Trump's lawyers], however, said that Ms. Kohrs, in discussing the case, had in fact divulged a number of matters that they believed constituted 'deliberations,' including details about some witnesses’ invoking of the Fifth Amendment under questioning, and jurors’ discussions about 'who to call, why to call them' and 'what battles they wanted to fight'.... But in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Judge McBurney said he told jurors that deliberations are only 'the discussions they had amongst themselves when it was just the grand jurors in the room.' By contrast, if a witness or prosecutor was in the room, 'that’s not deliberations,' he said. 'They’re not prohibited from talking about that, nor are they prohibited from talking about the fruit of their deliberations, which would be the final report.'" 

This will have an immense impact: "The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling."

"'The Witch Trials of J.K. Rowling' is an audio documentary..."

AKA, a podcast, here.

"... J.K. Rowling speaks with unprecedented candor and depth about the controversies surrounding her—from book bans to debates on gender and sex.... Chapter 1: Plotted In Darkness Chapter 1: Plotted In Darkness/Host Megan Phelps-Roper writes a letter to J.K. Rowling—and receives a surprising invitation in reply: the opportunity for an intimate conversation in Rowling’s Scottish home.... Chapter 2: Burn The Witch Chapter 2: Burn The Witch As Harry Potter becomes an international phenomenon, it coincides with the culture wars of the 1990s. In the backlash from Christians across America, author J.K. Rowling is accused of mainstreaming witchcraft and poisoning children’s minds...."

Megan Phelps-Roper grew up in the Westboro Church, which reviled Harry Potter from an extreme Christian Evangelist position. 

I've listened to the first episode. It's very well done. Both Phelps-Roper and Rowling have gentle, expressive voices. At the beginning of episode one, Phelps-Roper asks various young adults why Harry Potter was important to them and they all say, more or less, you identify with him when you feel like and outcast and you believe in the great courage that lies within you. 

February 22, 2023

Blues from an airplane...

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... landing just before the storm.

"Could the Georgia grand jury forewoman’s media tour cause problems?"

Asks Aaron Blake (WaPo).

She has provided a window into which witnesses were cracking jokes, whether they seemed happy to be there (Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp did not) and how forthcoming they were. She noted that she swore in a witness while holding a Ninja Turtle Popsicle....

"I don’t want it to feel like a TED Talk," said Jessica Chastain about her new, pared-down Broadway go at "A Doll's House."

"I’m such an advocate, I’m so outspoken, so even putting me in the part, we’re already doing something, right? So how can I as an actor approach it in a way that doesn’t feel like I’m here to give everyone in the audience a lecture?"

Quoted in this NYT article.

The idea she says she wants in this lecture that shouldn't feel like a lecture is that the wife is responsible for her own enclosure in a "doll's house":

"In a bid to prevent a surge of migrants at the southern border when a pandemic measure is lifted in May, the Biden administration on Tuesday announced its toughest policy yet..."

"... to crack down on unlawful entries. The proposed rule... would presume that migrants are ineligible for asylum if they entered the country unlawfully, a significant rollback in the country’s traditional policy toward those fleeing persecution in other countries. It would allow rapid deportation of anyone who had failed to request protection from another country while en route to the United States or who did not notify border authorities through a mobile app of their plans to seek asylum. Administration officials said the policy would take effect on May 11 with the expected termination that day of Title 42.... Many migrants do not apply for asylum in Mexico, preferring to try their luck in the United States. The new policy was expected to erect a formidable barrier to those hoping to submit U.S. applications."

The NYT reports. 

"The general election for the swing seat on Wisconsin’s Supreme Court, a momentous contest that will determine whether Republicans maintain or lose their iron grip on the state’s politics..."

"... will feature a liberal Milwaukee County judge against a conservative former justice of the state’s high court. Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal from the Milwaukee suburbs, and Daniel Kelly, a former Supreme Court justice who lost his seat in a 2020 election, advanced in a Tuesday primary to the April 4 general election.... If Judge Protasiewicz prevails in six weeks, it would tip the balance of the state’s seven-member Supreme Court, which has been controlled by conservatives since 2008. The court would have a four-member liberal majority that would be likely to overturn the state’s 1849 law forbidding abortion in nearly all cases, redraw Wisconsin’s heavily gerrymandered legislative and congressional maps, and influence how the state’s 10 electoral votes are awarded after the 2024 presidential election."

The NYT reports.

February 21, 2023

"Make Love Great Again."

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Photographed yesterday in the East Village.

Write about whatever you want in the comments.

"Not only were women inside-out men, but in the medieval theory of bodily 'humors,' men were sanguine, rational, hot and dry..."

"... while women were phlegmatic, lascivious, cold and moist. Eager to be warmed up by sexual contact, they were forever trying to lure the poor rational male into fornication (the current idea that women have a lower sex drive than men would have been news to Aquinas). Viewing the female body through a medieval lens instantly exposes how transitory, not to say absurd, all such androcentric ideas are. While modern western culture is fixated on large breasts and tiny waists, in the Middle Ages... the ideal woman had small breasts and a pot belly.... For a long time, bushy eyebrows were in... but then went out of fashion thanks to the French scholar Matthew of VendĂ´me... [who] raved about... red cheeks and the 'white and clear' space between her eyebrows where 'the separated arches do not allow the hairs to run rampant.' Soon, everyone had ditched the monobrow in favor of rouging and plucking."

"When the Trump-era press secretaries Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Kayleigh McEnany joined Fox News, liberals cried foul about a 'revolving door'..."

"... and claimed the Murdoch-owned network was an extension of the Trump White House. Those voices have said little about Ms. Psaki’s migration to MSNBC, nor that of another Biden White House alumna, Symone D. Sanders, who also hosts a weekend show on the channel. For her part, Ms. Psaki said MSNBC viewers can expect to see her authentic self — and that 'I am not going on television to be a mouthpiece.'"

"What is real to me is a painting to you. The artist was depicting history, but it’s not his history to depict."

Said Maia Young, a second-year student, quoted in "In Vermont, a School and Artist Fight Over Murals of Slavery/Created to depict the brutality of enslavement, the works are seen by some as offensive. The school wants them permanently covered. The artist says they are historically important" (NYT).

As for the lawsuit: "The case turns on language in the federal law that says artists can seek to prevent modification of their work if the change would harm their 'honor or reputation.' The law school says that covering the murals, even permanently, is not a modification if it leaves no mark."

The murals are, of course, anti-slavery, but they are intended to make viewers feel bad. Should the students have more control over when they need to think about disturbing things? It's one thing to teach about slavery, another to have a big slavery mural always on view. But it seemed like a good idea to the people in power at the law school in 1993.

A second-year student, Yanni DeCastro said, "If someone is saying to you, 'How you’re depicting me is racist,' for you to live in your own ignorance, and further aggravate the situation — now you’re showing us who you are."

"Live in your own ignorance" — it's what we all do, one way or another. 

A New York doorway (photographed yesterday).

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"What we’re seeing is a kind of standard practice of conservatives and conservative reactions to Black political movements — to weaponize the words and concepts..."

"... they’ve used to undermine efforts of social movements. History shows that you can rally voters around issues of difference, issues that suggest that people are losing power, issues where their values are being challenged."

Said Duke polysci prof Candis Watts Smith, co-author of "Stay Woke: A People’s Guide to Making All Black Lives Matter," quoted in "Republicans use ‘wokeism’ to attack left — but struggle to define it/Conservatives attach the term to a host of policies they oppose, from transgender rights to climate change measures to socially responsible investing" (by Ashley Parker and Liz Goodwin in WaPo).

I thought that was an interesting quote because it so obviously applies in the opposite direction. Conservatives would, I think, have been willing to put "issues of difference" off limits and to proceed color-blind. They are a "reaction," as she says, and it's a reaction to the weaponization of "words and concepts" and the rallying of "voters around issues of difference."

This really deserves my "civility bullshit" tag, because it is essentially a call for one side to stand down and stop talking in those extreme and emotive ways.

Most of this article, though, is just the typical perseveration about the word that irks them: "woke." But it's their word. And that's how words work. Your opponent uses your word and turns it around. That's rhetoric. 

"Whatever the truth of the messy circumstances, [James] O’Keefe has left [Project Veritas] after a two-week period of turmoil."

"During that time, Project Veritas has been divided between a group of O’Keefe loyalists and a large group of dissenters on the staff and board who chafed at the founder’s erratic management style, spending, and penchant for costly confrontation with ideological adversaries and his own employees. O’Keefe was placed on paid leave in early February after what people close to the organization described as a blowup in which he summarily fired a pair of top employees, including the group’s chief financial officer...."

New York Magazine reports.

"'Dansk' is like when you sell vodka in the USA. You use its Russian name and you kind of keep the original letters on the bottle and brochures."

Said Jen Quistgaard, quoted in the book, "Jens Quistgaard: The Sculpting Designer," which is reviewed in The New Yorker, in "Dansk and the Promise of a Simple Scandinavian Life/A new monograph documents how Scandinavian design charmed America" (The New Yorker)

The book "seeks to disentangle the man from the brand..."

"Huddled aboard the anonymous train were President Biden and a skeleton team of advisers accompanied by armed and edgy Secret Service agents...."

"... embarking on a secret mission to visit Kyiv. As far as the world was concerned, Mr. Biden was back in Washington, home for the evening after a date night at an Italian restaurant. In fact, he was on a journey unlike any other taken by a modern American president. In an audacious move meant to demonstrate American resolve to help Ukraine..."

February 20, 2023

"Zeus"/"He smiles..."

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Photos from an East Village walk today.

Sometimes the menu suggests a process of elimination.

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Seen yesterday in Hell's Kitchen.

You know, in English, we use the word "noodle" for the body part that is the brain. But other body parts are more noodly!

"In a recent memoir, the actor Matthew Perry, of 'Friends' reveals that his parents spent the hours before his birth playing the board game Monopoly."

"It was an unhappy marriage, Perry writes, and they divorced when he was a baby.... Most aficionados agree that Monopoly, if not a bad game, is at the very least designed to embitter its players.... But in... a new PBS documentary, we learn that... [t]he game... originally designed in 1903, by Lizzie Magie, a charismatic feminist, actor, and poet... Stephen Ives, [the] documentarian ...was once eager to introduce his children to Monopoly. 'It’s like the early Beatles or Disneyland or something....When are they going to be ready? What you don’t really realize is that you’re performing this ritualistic introduction to raw, unbridled American-style capitalism. You’re saying, "This is how society works. This is how you have fun, and crush other people."'... Games are systems, and... a shrewd designer can steer players toward a particular viewpoint through their experience of that system.... The game disguises luck as skill, misrepresents the American Dream, and promises wealth and power at the expense of others. Only in its final moments do we see the victor’s most enduring reward: isolation

Even as the "shrewd designer can steer players toward a particular viewpoint," the shrewd documentarian will steer viewers toward a particular viewpoint.

"Founded at the pinnacle of the British Empire, the [Manchester Museum] is now undergoing a rethink..."

"... led by its director Esme Ward. In her post since 2018, Ward wants to make the free-of-charge institution more inclusive, imaginative and caring. She has repatriated 43 ceremonial and sacred objects to Aboriginal communities in Australia, and appointed a curator to re-examine the collections from an Indigenous perspective.... 'All of us in museums have a responsibility to really think about who they are for, not just what they are for,' Ward said in a recent interview in her office, which has a velvet sofa and a framed poster reading 'No Sexists, No Racists, No Fascists.' Calling museums 'empathy machines,' she said their mission extended beyond caring for objects and collections to 'caring for beliefs and ideas and relationships,' and being 'a space that brings people together.'"


Empathy machines.

Empathy machines.

Empathy machines.

What if there were a machine that could manufacture empathy? It would be a torture device! What did your literal mind — if you have one — picture? I thought first of the machine in Kafka's "Penal Colony," then of the device strapped to Malcolm McDowell's head in "A Clockwork Orange."

But, you may say, a museum that's an empathy machine cannot be a torture device because nobody is forced to go to the museum or to stay there, but that's not true. Kids are forced. 

Why would someone who loves art — does Ms. Ward love art?! — think of the museum as a machine? To help you think about her thinking, here's art about a machine, Paul Klee's "Twittering Machine":


Extra background:

"President Biden... traveling under a cloak of secrecy into a war zone..."

"... to demonstrate what he called America’s 'unwavering support' of the effort to beat back Russian forces nearly a year after they invaded the country. Mr. Biden arrived unannounced early Monday morning to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky, and the two stepped out into the streets of Kyiv even as an air-raid siren sounded...."

"Mr. Biden joined Mr. Zelensky for a visit to St. Michael’s monastery in downtown Kyiv, where the sun glittered off the golden domes as the air-raid alarm wailed...."

Biden wore sunglasses, not mentioned in the text of the article, which does say that Zelensky wore "his signature black sweatshirt with dark green pants and beige boots." Are not the sunglasses Biden's signature sunglasses? Or were they not particularly wanted but especially needed because the sun glittered off the golden domes.

"You live as if without history, as if you throw no shadow behind you."

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Saw a play.

From the New Yorker review:
The first scene is a welter of references to Viennese thought and art—Freud, Mahler, Klimt—and the coming destruction of that golden culture is one of the tragedies of the play. Over whiskey, Hermann and his mathematician brother-in-law, Ludwig Jakobovicz... argue about Hermann’s blithe disregard of Austrian anti-Semitism. Hermann is joining the Jockey Club and—a mathematician, you say? Your inner Stoppard gong should ring at that; this is the playwright who taught us chaos theory and probability. When Ludwig later tries to demonstrate coördinate geometry using a cat’s cradle, we can see that one of Stoppard’s famous Knowledge Metaphors is twisting itself into view. And, indeed, like the knots on Ludwig’s cat’s-cradle string, family members change positions yet maintain their connection.
Not just connection but — in the cat's cradle configuration — distance.

February 19, 2023

At the Sunday Afternoon Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

"Bashar al-Assad is laughing. Four days after an earthquake devastated northwest Syria, President Assad and his wife Asma visited sites of destruction..."

"... and survivors in regime-held Aleppo. This was Assad’s first public appearance after the natural disaster struck. He was not solemn. He was literally laughing."

"Many of the changes to Dahl’s books seem minor: 'I’d knock her flat' becomes the much more diplomatic 'I’d give her a right talking to,' for instance."

"'You saucy beast!' becomes 'You trickster!' Other changes are just patronising. The Witches once imagined a woman 'working as a cashier in a supermarket or typing letters for a businessman.' Now she might be 'working as a top scientist or running a business.' Are there no women cashiers now? Rather than going  white as a shee,' the Queen’s maid in The BFG now goes 'still as a statue.' Dahl can’t even poke fun at a tortoise any more. In Esio Trot, tortoises can only read backwards because they are 'very backwards creatures.' How rude! Now they can only read backwards ... just because. And when Boggis, Bunce and Bean set out on their tractors to destroy the foxes’ home once and for all in Fantastic Mr Fox, the animals once noted in terror that 'The machines were black. They were murderous, brutal-looking monsters.' The tractors are no longer black, just in case a fox was being racist."

Writes Laura Hackett, in "Censoring Roald Dahl? I’ll be keeping my original copies/The author’s books have been edited for fear of offending. Kids should be allowed to read them in their full, nasty, colourful glory" (London Times).

I already blogged about this travesty yesterday. I'm blogging again because this has new examples of the awful wreckage.

Why was this thing in a position to be knocked into and shattered? Seems like a publicity stunt and it's working.

I'm reading "Art Fair Visitor Breaks a Jeff Koons Balloon Dog Sculpture/A woman accidentally knocked over a bright blue dog sculpture at Art Wynwood in Miami, causing the $42,000 artwork to shatter, witnesses said" (NYT).

The small, $42,000 version of the famous dog art isn't unique, is it? Aren't there as many of these as the artist chooses to authorize? Placing the damn thing unsecured on a pedestal in a gallery where people walk all around it answers those questions. The only unanswered question is whether they actively sought this publicity.

The NYT article doesn't ask my questions. It's padded with cute crap about sweeping up the shards and selling them as if the destruction is more art — unique art, publicized in the NYT.

The Koons balloon sculptures look like they're made of balloons, but, as the breakage attests, they're not. Nevertheless, I'm giving this post my "balloon" tag, because balloons have been in the news lately, and there's a frisson of delight in the variation on a theme. 

ADDED: "Erased de Kooning" was interesting — 70 years ago. Shattered Koons is bullshit.

"Even though medical experts expect their baby to survive only 20 minutes to a couple of hours, the Dorberts say their doctors told them that because of the new legislation...

"... they could not terminate the pregnancy.... 'The doctors already told me, no matter what, at 24 weeks or full term, the outcome for the baby is going to be the same.' Florida’s H.B. 5 — Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality... bans abortion after 15 weeks with a couple of exceptions, including one that permits a later termination if 'two physicians certify in writing that, in reasonable medical judgment, the fetus has a fatal fetal abnormality' and has not reached viability. It is not clear how the Dorberts’ doctors applied the law in this situation. Their baby has a condition long considered lethal that is now the subject of clinical trials to assess a potential treatment. Neither Dorbert’s obstetrician nor the maternal fetal medicine specialist she consulted responded to multiple requests for comment...."

I'm reading "Her baby has a deadly diagnosis. Her Florida doctors refused an abortion. Florida abortion ban includes exception for fatal fetal abnormalities. But her doctors told her they could not act" (WaPo).

I wonder... are the doctors interested in getting the chance to figure out how to treat the condition, which is Potter syndrome?

There are 5 places in the world where people are exceptionally long-lived. We could try to eat like them.

I'm reading "Want to live a longer life? Try eating like a centenarian" (WaPo).

The 5 places are: 1. the Nicoyan Peninsula (in Costa Rica); 2. Loma Linda, California (with a high population of Seventh-Day Adventists (vegetarians)), 3. Okinawa (Japan), 4. Sardinia (Italy), and 5. Icaria (Greece).

I cooled on this topic when I saw that it was based on a new cookbook and that the first idea was: eat peas, lentils, or beans every day. That "every day" is such a downer!