May 13, 2023

Sunrise — 5:38.


Northern view.

Open thread in the comments.

"There are those who demonize and pit people against one another. And there are those who will do anything and everything, no matter how desperate or immoral..."

"... to hold onto power. That’s never going to be an easy battle. But I know this — the oldest, most sinister forces may believe they’ll determine America’s future. But they are wrong. We will determine America’s future. You will determine America’s future."

Said Joe Biden, quoted in "Biden Warns of 'Sinister Forces' Trying to Reverse Racial Progress/The president’s commencement address at Howard University, a historically Black institution, came as Democratic strategists have expressed concerns about muted enthusiasm for Mr. Biden among Black voters" (NYT).

That quote is creepily generic. Who's he talking about? The article presents this as the context:

"Democrats have a much broader spectrum to cover, from those that are in what I would call the immigration advocacy community, to those who I would consider the pragmatic moderates and everything in between."

"There are those who believe sincerely and honestly that the United States should not deport people. And there are those who believe that’s not realistic nor does it fully respect the sovereignty of the United States."

I think she means that "Democrats have a much broader spectrum to cover" than do Republicans, but is that the case? If I am reading her statement correctly, the spectrum goes from Democrats who think there should be no deportations at all and Democrats who think there should be some deportation. The width of the spectrum would depend on how much, and the failure to be more specific makes the quote almost meaningless. Meanwhile, the Republican spectrum goes from people who think illegal immigration is destroying the country and who will go to extremes to stop it to people who think open borders and massive immigration would benefit the country. That's a much broader spectrum!

"[Jordan Neely] was on a list informally known as the Top 50, a roster of people in a city of eight million who stand out for the severity of their troubles..."

"... and their resistance to accepting help. The list is overseen by a task force of city agency workers and social-service nonprofits; when homeless-outreach workers see someone in the subway who is on the list, they are supposed to notify the city and try to get that person to a shelter. Despite that, and an open arrest warrant, Mr. Neely was out on his own on May 1, when he began ranting at passengers. A Marine veteran, Daniel Penny, grabbed him and choked him to death; Mr. Penny has now been charged with manslaughter.... At a news conference on Thursday, Councilwoman Pierina Sanchez, referring to Mr. Neely’s presence on the list, said: 'Our city knew exactly who Jordan was, where he was and what his history was. And yet we failed him.'... The goal of the list is to connect disparate bureaucracies across a vast city...."

The city failed more than just Jordan Neely. It failed everyone who felt threatened by him, including the one who felt called to apply force to stop him and who now may go to prison for misjudging the extent to which the law permits the application of force, and everyone who sees what is happening to Daniel Penny and feels constrained, going forward, about taking any action in the presence of a threat and who must nevertheless go underground and shut themselves into subway cars that may or may not carry a "Top 50" person and who are given only the insulting comfort of the knowledge that the city's disparate bureaucracies are connected.

"Does the mere fact of his large following in an increasingly radicalized and extremist Republican Party require that news organizations broadcast his views to millions?"

Asks Susan B. Glasser in "Don’t Say You Haven’t Been Warned About Trump and 2024/CNN’s awful town hall with the former President heralds a disastrous election year to come" (The New Yorker).

Here's my radical idea: Give up on attacking Trump, the person, and engage with the substance of his policy arguments. Act as if he's a completely ordinary politician — pose as if you felt neutrality toward him personally — and engage with the ideas. 

You really do need to take him seriously. He's presumptively the Republican nominee, and he's got an even chance of getting re-elected to the presidency. You can freak out about that, but you've been freaking about about him for 8 years, and it hasn't fazed him. His supporters tune you out.

Reset. Be normal, and treat him as if he were normal. Give up on trying not to "normalize" him. Forefront the substantive issues, treat all the candidates equally, and let us see how each of them holds up to a thorough grilling. If you're neutral, you can be cruel. We'll watch.

I infer that Glasser would tell me that Trump doesn't do substance. She wrote:

"'Are you Brian Wilson?' he asked. 'Yeah,' I said. 'Hi,' he said. 'I’m Bob Dylan.'"

Posted by the official Brian Wilson Facebook account.

This story is bloggably interesting to me, not merely because I've loved both these guys for half a century, but because it has: 1. Bob Dylan saying "Hi, I'm Bob Dylan" (it doesn't seem that he should ever need to do that, but here he is just "this guy" to Brian Wilson until he identifies himself), 2. Brian Wilson (or Brian Wilson's account) wanting us to know he thinks Bob Dylan is kind of short (Bob is 5'7", Brian is 6'2"), 3. Bob Dylan's broken thumb (which Bob once characterized as "ungodly injured"), 4. The anecdote presented outside of of time (but according to Bob, the thumb was "ripped and mangled to the bone" in 1987), 5. Brian's bizarrely flat mode of expression ("We talked about ideas we had. Nice guy." Why tell a story at all if you're going to tell it like that? It's as if Brian was coerced to tell it).

May 12, 2023

The miscalculated sunrise run.

I didn't think there'd be much color today, so I stopped at the alternative vantage point and caught this picture at 5:31: 


I re-parked my car and headed out toward the primary vantage point, but I was deep in the foliage when the great blaze of color came at 5:44:


I got to the primary vantage point at 5:50, and here's how it looked, almost exactly like the 5:31 pre-sunrise view from the secondary vantage point, just slightly dingier:


I timed that wrong. It would have been fine if I hadn't opted to stop at the secondary vantage point, but, based on experience, I believed that was my best chance to catch peak color.

(Open thread in the comments.)

"The man you were so disturbed to hear from last night, that man is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president."

"And according to polling, no other Republican is even close. That man you were so upset to hear from last night, he may be president of the United States in less than two years. And that audience that upset you, that's a sampling of about half the country. They are your family member, your neighbors, and they are voting.... Maybe you've been enjoying not hearing from him thinking it can't happen again. Some investigation is going to stop him. Well, it hasn't so far. So if last night showed anything, it showed it can happen again. It is happening again. He hasn't changed, and he is running hard. You have every right to be outraged today and angry and never watch this network again. But do you think staying in your silo and only listening to people you agree with is going to make that person go away?"

Said Anderson Cooper last night (transcript and video at RCP).

ADDED: And here's what Trump saw fit to post at Truth Social:

AND: Just after he passed along that humor, he put up this very serious ad, which makes it crushingly clear how vulnerable Biden is to Trump:

"‘Mommunes’: Mothers Are Living Single Together/Women are joining forces under one roof, using the age-old power of sisterhood to split the household bills and raise their children."

A NYT article.
All over the world, women are joining forces under one roof, sharing the load of child care and household bills through the age-old power of sisterhood.... 

"It’s not unreasonable to think Carlson’s Twitter move could work awfully well. It could also further tweak the meaning of 'show.'"

"That word once described the thing you saw on TV as you sat on your sofa. Now it means podcasts and YouTube series and Twitch livestreams. But what is a show by cable’s formerly biggest star on a site that was once known strictly as a place for microblogging? It could be a long video posted every day; it could be short clips posted all the time; it could be something like a Twitter Space, an interactive conversation with fans; it could be some new format entirely.... Carlson’s Fox News show attracted an audience of about 3.3 million viewers per night last year.... [H]is Twitter video sent out this week to announce the new show... has been viewed more than 25 million times.... [If] Carlson charges his fans $5 a month; he’d need only about 330,000 subscribers — about a tenth of his average nightly TV viewership — to match his earnings at Fox.... Carlson could very well become Twitter’s... such superstar.... Carlson on Twitter could be more popular, more pernicious and more powerful than ever before. Yikes."

The most TikTok critique of TikTok.

"Don’t whinge, don’t poke, don’t pick the scab of Time. / How long we’ve got, the loving gods won’t say."

Wrote Horace in Ode 11, Book 1, as liberally translated by James Parker in "An Ode to Writing Odes/When the universe gives you a gift, send a thank-you note" (The Atlantic). Parker writes a feature in The Atlantic called "The Odes."

In his ode to odes, he writes about his project:
[O]de-writing is a two-way street. The universe will disclose itself to you, it will give you occasions for odes, it will blaze with interest and appreciability, but you’ve got to be ode-ready.... Respond to the essence with your essence... [I]t gets results. Squirrels have treated me differently since I wrote an ode to squirrels: They give me the nod, those little fiends. And I see odes everywhere now. I see them boiling up from the ground where my dog squats to do his business. I see them poking down through the clouds in fingers of divine light. Your odes, too—can you see them?

From the above-linked ode to squirrels:

"[S]he interrogates her love of the flowered Czech dishes she inherited and then realized bear some resemblance to ones that belonged to Hitler’s companion, Eva Braun."

Writes Lily Meyer in "A Better Way of Buying—And Wanting—Things/A new book argues that we should honor our material desires rather than feeling ashamed of them" by  (The Atlantic)(reviewing the book "The Ugly History of Beautiful Things" by Katy Kelleher).

"I found the mom rage compelling, and gave into it freely, screaming in my car with the windows up and going on 'rage walks'...."

"But when the rage subsided, I was no closer than I was before to being a person who didn’t need to cover her ears and yell 'I CAN’T!!!' at the dinner table on a regular basis.When I wasn’t mad, I was deeply depressed about how little I could manage the mothering with which I was being tasked. After an older neighbor found me sobbing in the driveway one day, explaining, through my snotty tears, that it was just so hard to put on a good face for my kids every day, he kindly nodded in understanding and suggested 'maybe you don’t have to.'... I began to imagine a kind of mother who spent her time in ways that actually led to an expansion of herself: the Wild Mom...."

I feel like averting my eyes, but maybe you choose to worship all that is Dolly.

Sample lyric: "Don't get me started on politics/Now how are we to live in a world like this?/Greedy politicians, present and past/They wouldn't know the truth if it bit 'em in the ass...."

"The sun would appear green if your eye could handle looking at it."

"Basically, when you look at the sun, it has enough of all the different colors in it and it’s so bright that everybody’s eyes are firing like crazy and saying, 'It’s too bright for me to tell you what color it is.' That’s why the sun looks white to us... 'Essentially, it’s a green star that looks white because it’s too bright, and it can also appear yellow, orange or red because of how our atmosphere works.... 'The sun is at its midlife, and it still has quite a lot of years before it changes colors.... It still hasn’t dimmed out one bit.... When astronomers say color, they really mean temperature.... But to anyone in the public, color just means the color you see and how you make sense of the world."

Said W. Dean Pesnell, project scientist of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, quoted in "Is the sun white or yellow? It’s a hot debate, and everyone’s wrong. Plot twist: It’s green" (WaPo).

According to the article, some people on social media are discussing whether the sun used to be yellow and now it's gone white.

It seems to me you need a foundation of expectation before you can declare something a "disappointment."

It's fake-newsy to proclaim that something you wanted to fail has indeed failed when it could just as well be declared a success. 

At a time when CNN has been struggling to turn around viewership decline, the telecast proved to be a ratings disappointment, with Nielsen reporting just 3.1 million viewers overall. That was a big boost over CNN’s typical 8 p.m. telecast, but a smaller audience than CNN’s town hall with President Biden last summer (3.7 million) and six previous Trump town halls carried by Fox News — calling into question both CNN and Trump’s drawing power.

"What is she thinking? That’s not a promotion, not even a lateral move. Then you still have Musk owning Twitter..."

"... and in a lead role. You’ll be his puppet and designated fall girl."

That's the top-rated comment on "Who is Linda Yaccarino, Elon Musk’s reported pick for Twitter CEO?" (WaPO). The job she's leaving is NBCUniversal ad sales chief.

May 11, 2023






"But just as [Heather] Armstrong created possibility for women on the internet, she collided early with its dark side."

"When hers became one of the first personal websites to accept display advertising, she faced vitriol from readers.... Anonymous members of the site [GOMI (Get Off My Internets)] criticized Armstrong about her parenting, hairstyles and weight loss. They mocked her mental health struggles, and more recently, her relationship with Pete Ashdown, a successful Utah businessman and former U.S. Senate candidate, with whom she shared a home from August 2018 until her death this week. In an interview yesterday, Ashdown said he blamed the hatred and a sea change in the blogging landscape for Armstrong’s descent into depression in 2015. She took a break from the blog because, as she said at the time, she was tired of the harsh comments and of the need to create artificial situations in which her children could highlight sponsors’ products."

Since Donald Trump talked about E. Jean Carroll again, she might sue him for defamation again.

The NYT reports.

She was asleep and did not learn of his comments calling her claim of a decades-old sexual assault “fake” and a “made-up story” until Thursday morning, when her lawyer sent her a transcript, she said.

The comments were made at the CNN town hall last night. Here's the transcript. Here's the section that might contain material that could become the basis of another defamation suit:

"Daniel Penny, the 24-year-old Marine veteran who choked and killed a homeless man on the subway last week, will face a charge of second-degree manslaughter..."

"The police interviewed Mr. Penny, but initially released him without charging him. The struggle on the F train was captured in a four-minute video showing Mr. Penny choking [Jordan] Neely and holding on for an additional 50 seconds after Mr. Neely stopped struggling. The video set off protests, and the Manhattan district attorney’s office began investigating soon afterward."

"Left-leaning politicians criticized Mayor Eric Adams for his muted initial response to the killing. But on Wednesday, the mayor gave a speech in which he said Mr. Neely’s 'life mattered' and that his death was a 'tragedy that never should have happened.' He did not make any references to Mr. Penny, however, and a spokesman for his office did not immediately comment on the district attorney’s decision to charge him."

Sun worship.



If you're conversant with negative Commerce Clause doctrine — AKA the "dormant" Commerce Clause — then you know why the Supreme Court split the way it did.

The case that came out this morning is National Pork Producers Council v. Ross.

Gorsuch announces the judgment. Much of what he says is joined by the conservatives Thomas and Barrett and by the liberals Sotomayor and Kagan, and some of what he says is joined only by Thomas and Barrett. The Chief Justice concurred in part and dissented in part, and he was joined in that dissent by the conservatives Alito and Kavanaugh and also by the liberal Jackson. There are some additional opinions by Sotomayor, Barrett, and Kavanaugh.

The Commerce Clause — which empowers Congress — has been interpreted to bar the states from discriminating against interstate commerce and, more controversially, from putting too much of a burden on interstate commerce. The California law in question in the case forbids the sale, in California, of meat from pigs that have been raised, anywhere, in a manner California deems cruel. 

The split among the conservatives seems to be between those who favor judicial restraint and federalism and those who want more freedom from regulation.

"Thanks Althouse. You read the liberal/left crap, so I don't have to...."

Commented rcocean, after I posted a massive block of links to articles about the Trump/CNN town hall. 

Maybe rcocean was referring to things I do elsewhere — I blog mainstream news every day — but I didn't read any of that analysis of the town hall. I watched the town hall myself, and I stayed tuned for some of the CNN panel discussion afterwards, but I was getting nothing out of it — it seemed like pro forma outrage — and turned in for the night, slept until time for the sunrise run, and, finally approaching the blog at 6:30 a.m., wrote that post to distance myself from the yammer about the town hall

I don't subject myself to an ordeal of reviewing liberal media. I follow my own interests, which, you can see, had to do with a song I'd heard on my run/walk and some feathers strewn on the trail before I posted that block of links, which I called "an image of outrage," about the town hall. It was a snapshot of something seen only from a distance.

What's striking to me now, writing this post, is what's not in those headlines: There was no one terrible thing Trump said that everyone's talking about.

There's just generic stuff about how Trump is awful. It's hard even to think of an answer to the question: What would you use if you had to choose one thing from the town hall to attack Trump?

"Who has clear plastic and fish tubing laying around the house?"

Once there was journalism — some people think — but then came the decline... who knows when it began?

Did CNN cut the Trump town hall short — by 20 minutes?

I didn't know how long the show was supposed to be, but when it ran over the hour, I figured it would go 90 minutes, and then it ended at 10 minutes after the hour? Was that the plan?

I see Newsweek has a piece this morning titled "CNN Cutting Donald Trump Town Hall Short by 20 Minutes Raises Questions." It begins:
Questions have been raised as to why CNN appeared to cut a town hall broadcast with Donald Trump on Wednesday evening short by as much as 20 minutes....
If you go deep enough into that article, you'll see:
A CNN spokesperson told Newsweek it had gone on record "days ago" that the town hall would last "roughly an hour" with "a little room to bleed over." 

I believe that, because, seen live, the ending didn't look abrupt, Trump didn't act surprised or outraged, and the moderator, Kaitlan Collins, didn't seem to be acting ungracious or punitive. She had been prodding him about his lies/"lies" throughout, and to give up before the planned end time would seem as though her pushback had been inadequate, which is not something CNN would want to concede. Of course, Trump bulled ever onward. That was predicted and prepared for. Nothing went wrong, and it would have been wrong to pull the plug early. 

"Jeopardy" will never accomplish a total destruction of the human spirit, but...

You can see an image of outrage....

... if you go to Memeorandum right now, but I've saved it for you:

I did watch the Trump/CNN town hall last night.

Watched it live, in fact. But must I write about it first thing in the morning? I've already missed that window. I've been up for 2 hours. I've been out to my sunrise vantage point. Near the entrance, at 5:16, I saw 2 feathers:


I did not touch them. I'm under the impression that it's illegal to gather feathers, and I'm the sort of person that follows even the rules that I merely think might be rules. Having witnessed the sunrise — which was attended by many others, who arrived by running, walking, and biking (even though the entrance has a sign that forbids bikes and a zigzag fence to make it hard to manipulate a bike through) — I got back to the site of the feathers at 6:06:


I'm not sure if the feather that remained is the larger or the smaller feather. The light has changed radically, and I've spent a lot of time comparing the details in the photographs. In person, based on size, I believed it was the smaller of the 2 feathers, and that makes it more likely that someone picked up a feather and less likely that one but not the other blew away. 

Google quickly confirms my belief that it's illegal to collect a feather. Yesterday, I saw multiple bikes at my vantage point and a police officer and he didn't seem to be concerning himself about the bikes. I strongly doubt that the government is tracking down the rule-oblivious folk who pick up feathers. 

The "Me And" Songs.

 A playlist inspired by "Me & Magdalena":

May 10, 2023


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"Heather Armstrong, the breakout star behind the website Dooce, who was hailed as the queen of the so-called mommy bloggers..."

"... for giving millions of readers intimate daily glimpses of her odyssey through parenthood and marriage, as well as her harrowing struggles with depression, died on Tuesday at her home in Salt Lake City. She was 47. Pete Ashdown, her longtime partner, who found her body in the home, said the cause was suicide."

"As the blogging boom approached its zenith in 2009, Ms. Armstrong was a blog powerhouse....  'I looked at myself as someone who happened to be able to talk about parenthood in a way many women wanted to be able to but were afraid to.'... The topics grew darker.... In 2009, Ms. Armstrong chronicled her struggle with postpartum depression.... Few readers were ready, however, when she and her husband....broke the news in 2012 that they were splitting. The breakup of the family outraged many Dooce loyalists, who had come to cherish her portrayal of a charmed marriage and family life. It also seemed to embolden the anonymous critics on internet forums who had long spewed hateful resentment over her seemingly idyllic life and financial success....."

ADDED: Here's Lyz Lenz, writing at WaPo:


The western view:

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And the better-attended eastern view:

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The most-read national stories at The Washington Post all speak to the fear of hidden evil.

"Biden is using his executive authority to offer hundreds of thousands more migrants per year an opportunity to come to the United States legally..."

"... in the hope that he can dissuade millions more from crossing unlawfully," WaPo reports in "Biden’s border plans face a major test as Title 42 restrictions end."

But: "His campaign promises of a more welcoming approach at the border have been repeatedly stymied by new waves of people crossing illegally, and former officials say he has become visibly angry at times behind closed doors as his aides sparred over whether tougher measures might stem the flow.... The president wanted to create a path to U.S. citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants who have lived for years in the shadows. Biden also said he did not want mass migration and havoc at the border. But illegal crossings along the southern border reached 2.4 million last year, the highest ever."

"Santos is in custody in the federal courthouse. He was charged with seven counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering..."

"... one count of theft of public funds, and two counts of making materially false statements to the House of Representatives."

Such a big roll.

Trump is doing a live "town hall" show on CNN tonight.

Let's see how the major news media are handling this story the morning of:

The New York Times: Media correspondent Michael M. Grynbaum asks, "Should a leading presidential contender be given the opportunity to speak to voters on live television?" Wow. That suggests it could be considered unethical to give air to the horrible man.

Joy Reid, an anchor on rival MSNBC, derided the event as “a pretty open attempt by CNN to push itself to the right and make itself attractive and show its belly to MAGA.” Her colleague Chris Hayes called the town hall “very hard to defend.” Critics asked why CNN would provide a live platform to someone who defended rioters at the United States Capitol and still insists the 2020 election was rigged. Those objections intensified on Tuesday after Mr. Trump was found liable for the sexual abuse and defamation of the writer E. Jean Carroll. “Is @CNN still going to do a town hall with the sexual predator twice impeached insurrectionist?” Alexander S. Vindman, the Army colonel who was a witness in Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial, wrote on Twitter.... 

Politico: The headline is "Trump world booked CNN hoping for a big audience. Now, they’re in the thick of it/The former president will fundraise off the E. Jean Carroll verdict. But he also has to get through a televised town hall where it will come up."

"Tucker Carlson, two weeks after being ousted by Fox News, accused the network Tuesday of fraud and breach of contract..."

"... and made a host of document demands that could precede legal action.... The aggressive letter from his lawyers to Fox positions Carlson to argue that the noncompete provision in his contract is no longer valid — freeing him to launch his own competing show or media enterprise...."

It would be a loathsome position for Fox News to take: They've fired an important speaker from their platform and then they want to prevent him from speaking anywhere else. Many people want to hear from Tucker Carlson, and Fox would need to argue they've purchased his silence for the next 2 years. 

May 9, 2023

Sunrise — 5:49.


Tucker Carlson says he's back.

"Starting soon, we'll be bringing a new version of the show we've been doing for the last six and a half years to Twitter."

"Weirdest thing you had to ban and why?"/"A puppet show where the puppets were made out of weed."

From "I’m a content moderator for a very famous short video social media"/"Ask Me Anything" (Reddit).

The Washington Post Editorial Board closes in on Biden: "Biden no longer does press conferences. That’s not acceptable."

"Mr. Biden is turning into a news media evader, and it’s harmful to his presidency and the nation.... (A news conference involves the president taking questions from multiple reporters; a one-on-one interview with a handpicked journalist doesn’t count.) So far in 2023, Mr. Biden has done zero solo news conferences.... It is widely known that Mr. Biden is gaffe-prone and that news conferences are not his forte. But as he runs for a second term, he should be eager to show he can handle all aspects of the job. Pick up the microphone, Mr. President. The media is not your enemy."

That last sentence is true. The media want to support him. I don't think you have to convince him of that. The extraordinary thing is that he knows he has their support and he still won't even approach a normal amount of contact with them.

But why this editorial now? The new Washington Post/ABC poll seems to have lit a fire under them:

"A Manhattan jury on Tuesday found former President Donald J. Trump liable for the sexual abuse of the magazine writer E. Jean Carroll..."

The NYT reports.
The jury has found that Carroll did not prove Trump raped her, but they did determine that he had sexually abused her. The jurors also found that Trump had defamed Carroll when he called her accusations false. They awarded her $5 million damages....
Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said that for the jury to establish that Trump raped Carroll, she had to prove that Trump engaged in sexual intercourse with her, and that he did it without her consent. The judge said that sexual intercourse includes “any penetration of the penis into the vaginal opening.”...

This means that the jury did not believe part of her testimony. They somehow found her story credible enough to believe partially but not totally. Was this a compromise verdict? 

"We could go further and read the dominance of crunchy and creamy in American diners’ preferences as metaphor: a sly enactment of the dynamic of conquest and submission..."

"... historically a favored American mode of interacting with the other. But sometimes a potato chip is just a potato chip. You can enjoy a good crunch without channeling imperialism. And imperial ambitions have hardly been confined to America."

When the manners expert is unaccountably snooty... and wrong.

Miss Manners, at WaPo — answering some question about how to eat haricot verts and informing us that haricots verts means string beans — adds a snarky parenthetical: "(Considering the number of people who think 'RSVP' is a noun, Miss Manners is not going to trust that everyone passed high school French.)"

First, passing a high school course doesn't signify much knowledge. What do you have to do to fail? Surely not enough to ensure you know the phrase underlying the initialism "RSVP." I'll bet you could pass without even knowing how to say "please."

But more importantly, is there anything about French that makes it wrong for a person speaking English to use "RSVP" as a noun? I find my answer in the Oxford English Dictionary:

When you're dying of thirst and the only beverage is wine, should you drink it?

I'm reading "Lost woman survives 5 days in the wild on a bottle of wine" (WaPo), and I'm glad the lady survived, but did the wine help?

"The journalist’s need to humanize everything in sight can be useful, even revelatory, but it can also obscure."

"[Zappos' 'founder' Tony] Hsieh, in the end, was a rich guy who, early in his career, used his Harvard connections and some seed money to buy a series of lotto tickets in the tech boom, and then used his expanding wealth and influence to spread a bunch of marketing, in the form of pseudo-psychology, into the world. He slept with his employees and terrorized his closest friends. His descent into addiction and his untimely death were certainly tragic, but I couldn’t find much to admire about Hsieh in 'Wonder Boy,' nor did I understand why I was reading dozens of meticulously reported, almost snuff-film-like pages about his journey into ketamine addiction and mania.... [We never learn] how and why so much of the press and the public got suckered in by Hsieh’s generation of tech evangelists."

Is there a "journalist’s need to humanize everything in sight"? I hadn't noticed. Once you decide to write a whole book about someone, you're committed to "humanizing" that one human being, I suppose. There's always the question: Why write a book about this person?

A biographer has got to feel pretty sensitive as he struggles with the dullness of the facts he's got to inflate to book length. This is the story of a shoe saleman! He took drugs, but drug stories are basically alike. Why read about a tech exec on drugs when there are so many episodes of "Behind the Music" to watch?

There is one extraordinary thing about Hsieh, his fiery death. I'm guessing the book puts that scene in the beginning so the reader — the creepy reader — doesn't get impatient waiting for it. Is that humanizing — waiting for a man to be consumed by flames?

So... they're doing this in the New Yorker crossword.

That's today's puzzle. Clue: "What kind of white nonsense..." Answer: "The Caucasity!"

It's good wordplay — a twist on "the audacity!" — but not anything I'd seen before, and the clue suggests this is a phrase in ordinary speech these days rather than a new joke. 

It really is white supremacy, in my view, which is — as advised yesterday by WaPo's Philip Bump — not to be too "rigid" about the meaning of "white supremacy." Bump, you will remember, argued that "white supremacy" could be understood to include promotion of the "structures of power that largely benefit Whites." So, if you like just about anything the way it is, you may be a white supremacist.

I had thought that The New Yorker would refrain from using racial taunts in its crossword! Why did it seem okay? Answer: White supremacy. You don't understand my point? To quote Philip Bump, "This confusion... stems from overly rigid understanding[] of... 'white supremacist.'"

May 8, 2023

At the Rainy Day Café...

 ... you can write about whatever you want.

"Why non-White people might advocate white supremacy."

Philip Bump feels called to explain (at WaPo) after a man named Mauricio Garcia killed 8 people in a shopping mall in Texas. There's reason to think that Garcia held white supremacist/neo-Nazi beliefs because he wore a patch with the letters "RWDS," which, we are told, stands for "Right Wing Death Squad."

Maybe the letters don't really mean that or maybe Garcia didn't know the meaning, and maybe Garcia was white, but the point of Bump's column is to assume, based on the name, that Garcia was non-white and that he wore the patch because he was a white supremacist and then to try to explain why.

"There are no witnesses to call to prove a negative."

Trump's lawyer said in his opening statement, quoted in "Jury in Carroll's civil case against Trump to hear closing statements" (WaPo). Closing statements are expected to begin today.

On Thursday, even after his attorney had said Trump would not testify, he made comments to reporters in Ireland suggesting he might make a surprise appearance at the trial after all.

"Solitude is the profoundest fact of the human condition."

"Man is the only being who knows he is alone, and the only one who seeks out another. His nature – if that word can be used in reference to man, who has 'invented' himself by saying 'no' to nature – consists of his longing to realize himself in another. Man is nostalgic and in search for communion. Therefore, when he is aware of himself he is aware of his lack of another, that is, of his solitude."

Wrote Octavio Paz in "The Labyrinth of Solitude." 

I wasn't reading that book. I encountered the first line of the quote in a puzzle just now and went looking for more context. I became aware that the sentence was alone and experienced a longing that it realize itself in a paragraph. 

"It’s all for education. Both my dad and mom were deprived of education, so he worked hard in the mountains."

Said Tenzing Sherpa, the eldest son of the famed Everest guide Apa Sherpa, quoted in "'I See No Future': Sherpas Leave the Job They Made Famous/Perils of the job and a scant safety net are pushing climbing guides to leave the industry and ensure the next generation has other options" (NYT).

Apa Sherpa, 63, moved, with his family, to Utah in 2006. Tenzing Sherpa is an accountant at a biotech firm.

How many young Utahns dream of working as mountain guides and would never consider becoming an accountant?

"It does not appear that any riders intervened to help Mr. Neely; at least two other riders appeared to help pin him down...."

Asked what New Yorkers should do in a similar situation, Mr. Adams [a former transit police officer] focused on Mr. Neely’s presence on the train, and did not discourage people from seeking to restrain someone. Every New Yorker has a story of witnessing an outburst or a violent episode on the subway and struggling over how to respond: To confront or flee; to intervene when two riders are at odds; to call for a police officer, or to look away. Many have grown worried about safety on the subway after experiencing violence or reading about it in the news. Others are so accustomed to conflict that they ignore it.... Karim Walker, 41, [who] often rode the trains when he was homeless... encouraged New Yorkers who see a person in crisis on a train to help by calling for emergency services. 'We’re all wired to do fight or flight, but approach the situation with as much impartiality as possible,' said Mr. Walker."

From "A Subway Killing Stuns, and Divides, New Yorkers/After a homeless man was killed on the subway, New Yorkers and elected officials are mourning his death and debating how the city should address mental health and public safety" (NYT).

The article says "There is no indication that he was violent or that he made any direct threats," but the most highly rated comments over there object to that way of putting it:

"An author might know nothing about writing, which is why he hired a ghost. But he may also have the literary self-confidence of Saul Bellow..."

"... and good luck telling Saul Bellow that he absolutely may not describe an interesting bowel movement he experienced years ago, as I once had to tell an author. So fight like crazy, I say, but always remember that if push comes to shove no one will have your back. Within the text and without, no one wants to hear from the dumb ghostwriter. I try not to sound didactic. A lot of what I’ve read about ghostwriting, much of it from accomplished ghostwriters, doesn’t square with my experience. Recording the author? Terrible idea—it makes many authors feel as if they’re being deposed. Dressing like the author? It’s a memoir, not a masquerade party. The ghostwriter for Julian Assange wrote twenty-five thousand words about his methodology, and it sounded to me like Elon Musk on mushrooms—on Mars. That same ghost, however, published a review of 'Spare' describing Harry as 'off his royal tits' and me as going 'all Sartre or Faulkner,' so what do I know? Who am I to offer rules?"

It occurs to me that another reason not to record "the author" is that you don't need verbatim quotes. You are also the author, and the whole idea is to put it in your words as if those were the author's words. So not remembering the author's words is an advantage. Those inadequate words are lost, but you have notes on the stories, and then, to write the memoir, you must reconstruct the account and you will, naturally, use your own superior form of expression.

"The Inflation Reduction Act... will help accelerate the growing private ownership of U.S. infrastructure...."

"The consequences for the public at large, whose well-being depends on the quality and cost of a host of infrastructure-based services, from energy to transportation, are unlikely to be positive.... Biden’s laws will radically overhaul this culture. Informed by what Brian Alexander, a writer for The Atlantic, in 2017 described as a profound recent change in philosophy among U.S. policymakers about 'how to build and maintain America’s stuff,' the modus operandi of... is principally to subsidize and catalyze private-sector infrastructure investment.... [I]n political-economic terms Mr. Biden, far from assuming Roosevelt’s mantle, has actually been dismantling the Rooseveltian legacy. The ultimate upshot will be a wholesale transformation of the national landscape of infrastructure ownership and associated service delivery...."

Peanut butter is a liquid.

I'm reading "Don’t Try to Board a Plane with Peanut Butter/Sticky and solid as it may seem, the spread is technically a liquid" (The Atlantic).

The author, Ted Heindel, a mechanical engineer who studies fluid flows, explains why it made sense for the TSA to subject a jar of Jif to the 3.4-ounce rule about "liquids." It may seem wrong, but how much do you really know about what is a liquid?

May 7, 2023

At sunrise — 5:43 — fog erases the lake shoreline.

IMG_1254 2

IMG_1252 2

"US First Lady Jill Biden was caught on camera inspecting her cheese and pickle sandwich at Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's coronation lunch today."

Ha ha ha. Thanks, Daily Mail.

Who hasn't wanted to look into the mysteries of a foreign sandwich?

You travel all the way to Britain and the Prime Minister serves you some hinky sandwich?!

The old fool asked, "Do we not know that art is art?"

The enigmatic, paradoxical rhetoric of Ramaswamy.

A screenshot of recent texting at Meadhouse:

At Twitter, you'll find video and the completion of that last sentence: "The Administrative state more effectively controls its puppets when they are hollowed-out husks of themselves."

"Title 42, the policy that has allowed the swift expulsion of many migrants at the southern border, will lift on Thursday."

The NYT reports on how "Officials are bracing for a new immigration surge."
When the pandemic-inspired restrictions end, border officials will resume an immigration system that has largely failed for decades, but with the added pressure of three years of pent-up demand. About 35,000 migrants are amassed in Ciudad Juárez, another 15,000 in Tijuana and thousands more elsewhere on the Mexican side of the 2,000-mile-long border....The federal government is expecting as many as 13,000 migrants each day immediately after the measure expires, up from about 6,000 on a typical day.

Meanwhile, Republicans are poised: 

"The decision to publish the Steele dossier originated with the reporter Ben Smith, then the editor-in-chief of BuzzFeed News...

"In Smith’s telling, the laws of Web traffic, shaped by social media and their ability to disseminate material at exponential, 'viral' rates, unseated old power structures. An old news outlet held its authority by retaining a fixed audience and standing on its record of success. A new one, such as BuzzFeed News, won largely by being linkable and first. When it came to the Steele dossier, which a number of news organizations had in hand, Smith’s concern that someone else would beat him to the link made him feel physically unwell. His site wanted the traffic. And, when the CNN anchor Jake Tapper summarized the contents on air one day, Smith knew that viewers would be Googling for the goods. He and his colleagues, snatching the keyboard back and forth, composed a brief introduction that noted the dossier’s 'specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations' then posted the document itself, in PDF form. In his book, Smith recalls meditating on 'the viral power of an object... something that readers would fixate on and pass hand to hand.'"

So Smith had a temporary grip on clickbait, but can the man write a book? I see the hardcover, released last Tuesday, is #2,216 at Amazon. But who'd buy that in hardcover? Anyone interested in Smith's musings on virality would go with the Kindle, don't you think? I know I would, because I'd want to be able to cut and paste, using my own skill for presenting something you'd find delectable. But the Kindle version is at #5,107. I'm not interested in reading Smith's insights. Who wants the deeper thoughts of someone who figured out how to ride the moment for thrills? 

So I'm sticking with The New Yorker, which operates in the middle ground between clickbait and books. Nathan Heller pulls some quotation from the book:

"After Ms. Holmes was convicted, Rupert Murdoch, who invested $125 million in Theranos..."

"... emailed The Wall Street Journal, a newspaper he owns, calling himself 'one of a bunch of old men taken in by a seemingly great young woman! Total embarrassment.' I am not a smarter or more astute observer of human behavior than Mr. Murdoch or George Shultz, the former secretary of state who helped end the Cold War, or James Mattis, the retired four-star Marine Corps general and former defense secretary, both of whom were Theranos board members and investors. So, how could I be sure that 'Liz' wasn’t another character that Ms. Holmes had created?"

"I was admittedly swept up in Liz as an authentic and sympathetic person. She’s gentle and charismatic, in a quiet way. My editor laughed at me when I shared these impressions, telling me (and I quote), 'Amy Chozick, you got rolled!' I vigorously disagreed! You don’t know her like I do! But... something... had been gnawing on me since I first met Ms. Holmes. How do you have an honest conversation with a person whose fraud trial has played out so publicly? I tried to ask Ms. Holmes this directly. How do I believe you when you’ve been convicted of (basically) lying? But how could I ask someone who was nursing her 11-day-old baby on a white sofa two feet away if she was actually conning me?"

Go to the link to read the long article and try to figure out how much of what Holmes wanted Holmes got from the NYT.