November 18, 2023

At the Saturday Night Café...


... you can talk about whatever you want.


Photos by Meade.

"A group of about 20 neo-Nazi demonstrators waved swastika flags and used the Nazi salute in downtown Madison on Saturday, Nov. 18, 2023."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (with video).

From the madisonwi subreddit:

Caution: Nazis on state street
byu/LogisticsRecruiter inmadisonwi

Top-rated comment at Reddit: "Carl! We said black pants! Why did you wear urban camo? Nobody’s gonna take us seriously now!" Second: "Looks like someone forgot to bring their solid red or black shirt to their nazi dress-up party and had to wear a flannel. Soooo embarrassing!"

More comments from over there: "Can you imagine being as much of a loser as these guys? This is probably the most pathetic thing you could possibly spend your time doing on a Saturday in Wisconsin"/"I keep laughing about this. It’s just a beautiful fall day, it’s hunting season, there’s a football game. You could just walk around Madison and be normal, and people would give you beer! But these guys chose to put on masks, pile into a Uhaul like it’s a clown car, and drove to downtown Madison to waltz about waving Nazi flags and acting menacingly toward families and college students. There is nothing you could possibly be doing today that would be a sadder life decision than that."

Is there any good reason why this was withheld?

I was going to say Elon Musk needs to have a clear idea of what things mean before he re-tweets them with anything like approval.

But I didn't think it was my job to untangle the meaning that other people purported to understand and deplore.

Then, I decided to give Elon Musk the respect he deserves and assume he knows what he's doing and means to do it, and, in this case, I think that means he knew some people would make a hostile interpretation and others would present counter-interpretations and there'd be an extensive debate about good and evil.

That is: He knew there would be virality to something on X and that's exactly what he wanted. Clarity and restraint would not have given him what he wants, which is to make things happen, intensely, on X, to crank up the debate.

Meanwhile, what's up with that rocket?

"Some people call these ‘folk songs.' Well, all the songs that I’ve heard in my life was folk songs. I’ve never heard horses sing none of them yet!"

Said Big Bill Broonzy, in 1956, as he was performing "This Train (Bound for Glory)" alongside Pete Seeger to an audience of college students.

"Folk," meaning people in general, goes back to Old English.

The Oxford English Dictionary traces it back as far as 999: "Þa elkede man fram dæge to dæge, & swencte þæt earme folc þe on ðam scipon lagon." Chaucer used it, in Middle English, c1405, that's surprisingly readable: "Vp on thise steedes, grete and whyte Ther seten folk."

And here's Alexander Hamilton, with American terseness: "There were Folks killed in 1723." That made me think of Ilhan Omar's "Some people did something."

IN THE COMMENTS: James K said:
Incidentally, the Alexander Hamilton who said "There were Folks killed in 1723" is not the Alexander Hamilton who co-wrote the Federalist Papers. It was some other guy with the same name.

And I see at the link that the other Alexander Hamilton was not an American, but a Scot. So that must be Scottish terseness. And I am retrospectively less reminded of Ilhan Omar.

Is anyone watching the new season of "The Crown"?

I was excited about the premiere of the new season on November 16th, and I started to watch episode 1.

I got about 15 minutes into it and impulsively switched over to the Criterion Channel, where I browsed the "Pre-Code Divas" collection, picked one almost at random, and watched it straight through to the end.

I tried watching the rest of that "Crown" episode the next day and only got through about another 15 minutes before giving up. Turned the TV off entirely.

Why is it so unwatchable? I'm not even up to the really bad thing that I've seen spoiled in various reviews. And by "really bad thing," I don't mean that Diana dies in a car crash. That can't be spoiled, and the show puts that first, before the opening credits, so at least you're spared wondering how they will depict that. (They show the car entering the tunnel, and you hear a crash.)

No, what I saw spoiled is this, so don't go there if you're avoiding spoilers. I'll just say I hate that device, but I hadn't got there yet. Should I force myself to watch to the end of the series because I've come so far?

"If Trump manages to escape conviction in Jack Smith’s Washington case, which may be the only criminal trial that ends before the election, that’s going to turbocharge his campaign."

"Of course, if he’s convicted, that could turbocharge his campaign even more. It’s a perfect playing field for the maleficent Trump: He learned in the 2016 race that physical and rhetorical violence could rev up his base. He told me at the time it helped get him to No. 1 and he said he found violence at his rallies exciting. He has no idea why making fun of Paul Pelosi’s injuries at the hands of one of his acolytes is subhuman, any more than he understood how repellent it was in 2015 when he mocked a disabled Times reporter. He gets barbaric laughs somehow, and that’s all he cares about...."

Writes Maureen Dowd, in "The Axe Is Sharp" (NYT)

"The Axe" refers to the person Biden calls a "prick," David Axelrod.

Trump mocked a disabled reporter, but he did not, as Dowd may want readers to falsely remember, make fun of his disability.

If we could read Trump's mind, would we find that he has "no idea why making fun of Paul Pelosi’s injuries is subhuman"? But we can't read his mind.

November 17, 2023

Sunrise — 6:55, 7:01.

IMG_4327 2

IMG_4329 2

Sunrise — 6:46, 6:51.

IMG_4322 2

IMG_4325 2

"What is happening at TikTok is it is creating the biggest antisemitic movement since the Nazis."

Said Sacha Baron Cohen, quoted in "Jewish Celebrities and Influencers Confront TikTok Executives in Private Call/TikTok faces escalating accusations that it promotes pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel content. 'Shame on you,' Sacha Baron Cohen said on the call" (NYT).
“If you think back to Oct. 7, the reason why Hamas were able to behead young people and rape women was they were fed images from when they were small kids that led them to hate,” Mr. Cohen said in the meeting. He accused TikTok of feeding similarly incendiary content to young people....

"There’s a classic Gen Z nihilism. My generation has spent a lot of time in a sort of destabilizing, regressive wave."

Said Rayne Fisher-Quann, 22, "an independent writer focused on girlhood and identity."

I can see how efforts to maintain a "riotous sense of fun" would tend to devolve into "a destabilizing, regressive wave."

"I’ve said this before, so I haven’t been fired for saying it, but I’ll say it again. I would make up the report sometimes, because..."

"... the coach wouldn’t come out at halftime, or it was too late and I didn’t want to screw up the report. So I was like, 'I’m just gonna make this up.' Because first of all, no coach is gonna get mad if I say, 'Hey, we need to stop hurting ourselves, we need to be better on third down, we need to stop turning the ball over … and do a better job of getting off the field.' They’re not gonna correct me on that. So I’m like, 'It’s fine, I’ll just make up the report.'"

Said Charissa Thompson, a Fox Sports commentator, in a recent podcast, quoted in "Why Charissa Thompson’s comments on making up sideline reports are so damaging" (The Athletic).

The columnist, Richard Deitsch, makes much of a response from another female sideline reporter, Laura Okmin, who just said the obvious thing — it's not okay to make up reports. Now, Okmin seems to be acting as though she's terrified at being thought of as a mean girl:

"I felt like I was permanently hung over, drunk, high and in a brain freeze all at once."

Said Emmanuel Aguirre, "a 30-year-old software engineer in the Bay Area [who] had Covid at the end of 2020," quoted in "Can’t Think, Can’t Remember: More Americans Say They’re in a Cognitive Fog/Adults in their 20s, 30s and 40s are driving the trend. Researchers point to long Covid as a major cause" (NYT).

We're told Aguirre "stopped dating, playing video games and reading novels, though he managed to keep his job, working remotely."

And look at this graph:

Assuming this change is real, is it from Covid? Why would Covid damage the brains of the young but not the old?

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. — Winston Churchill was never more right."

That's the most up-voted comment — by a lot — at "We Talked to Some Kamala-but-Not-Joe Voters. Here’s What They Said. A slice of voters would vote for Vice President Harris but not President Biden, reflecting his challenges and opportunities" (NYT)(based on interviews with voters who, in a poll, said they would vote for Harris but not Biden).

A few of the things the Kamala-but-Not-Joe voters said: "her skin color is like my skin color," "I just think she has a lot more to offer than the standard straight old white dude," "I like the idea of a female lawyer," "just to see a female, a woman in power, being that I was raised mostly by females," "I feel like she would probably do more for us, because I feel like there’s not enough being done for Black people."

I read the top comment and decided to blog it before I read those quotes. Now, I feel unsettled that so many NYT readers voted for it. It's too close to regretting that black people have the right to vote. 

The headline doesn't mention the support shown for Trump

November 16, 2023

Part 2 of today's sunrise — 6:42, 6:53, 6:55.




Sunrise time today was 6:51, and this was the kind of sunrise...

 ... where you are at great risk of missing the best part. I only got these pictures because I made it to a vantage point 16 minutes before the sunrise time:



I have more pictures, from this morning, taken around the actual sunrise time, but they don't have the red that was so prominent at 6:35. And before you quote me that "red sky in the morning" business, there is approximately 0% chance of rain today.

Open thread in the comments.

"Travel back in time and solve a puzzle from every year of [Will] Shortz’s career at The Times."

"These puzzles will be available for free until Nov. 30. When solving, remember the context of the year you’re solving in. Some facts and figures have changed since the year each puzzle was originally published."

So it says, in "Will Shortz’s Life as a ‘Professional Puzzle Maker’/The New York Times Crossword editor celebrates his 30th year in a job many would love to have" (NYT).

I'll give you the links to those free puzzles... as the dealer tries to hook you. This is a good way to learn the levels of difficulty on the various days of the week. Me, I like Friday best (and then Saturday):

"Meeting with President Biden for the first time in a year, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, reiterated his determination to unify with Taiwan..."

"... but stopped short of mentioning the potential use of force. He denounced what he called futile American efforts at containing China, but also acknowledged that U.S. tech restrictions had taken a toll. And he broadcast that China had global ambitions for its influence — while also trying to reassure the world that those ambitions did not have to lead to conflict with the United States...."

 From "In Talks With Biden, Xi Seeks to Assure and Assert at the Same Time/China’s depiction of Xi Jinping’s U.S. visit reflected his sometimes-contradictory priorities: to project both strength and a willingness to engage with Washington" (NYT).

"Mr. Xi also struck a softer tone than usual at the banquet dinner with American business leaders.... Mr. Xi spoke about the American pilots known as the Flying Tigers who aided China during World War II against Japan. He hinted at the prospect of China’s sending new pandas to the United States. And he reminisced about the time he lived with an American family in Iowa in 1985 as part of an agricultural exchange...."

"A day after the Israeli military took control of Gaza’s largest hospital, soldiers ... were still combing the site that Israel has said concealed a secret Hamas base..."

"... but had yet to present much evidence supporting that claim to the public. An Israeli military spokesman said that the search of the hospital grounds would take time because 'Hamas knew we were coming' and had made off with or hidden traces of their presence there. Since invading Gaza 20 days ago, Israel has presented the hospital, Al-Shifa, as one of its primary targets, saying it sits atop a network of subterranean fortifications installed by Hamas.... Israel’s ability to prove its claim could be key to whether its foreign allies continue to support its military response to Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.... A spokesman for the Israeli military, Maj. Nir Dinar, said... 'It takes time because Hamas knew we were coming, and they’ve tried to hide evidence of their war crimes.... They’ve messed up the scene, they’ve brought in sand to cover some of the floors, and they’ve created double walls.'"

From "Israel’s military searches Gaza’s largest hospital, which it says hid a secret Hamas facility" (NYT).

AND: Here's the corresponding article in The Washington Post: "Israeli troops scour Gaza’s al-Shifa Hospital for evidence of Hamas presence."

"The slight stench of arsenic that emanated from his clothes; the tickly whiskers and glittering glasses..."

"... the manic bursts of energy which left him white and sick with exhaustion; his geyser-like garrulousness, choked by stammers which would inevitably explode under the pressure of more words boiling up inside him; his exuberant hopping on the dance-floor, so perilous to lace pantaloons; the bloodcurdling stories of wolves and bears; the black eyes from boxing, the nervous diarrhea, the alarming hiss of asthma in his lungs—these were not the things a girl of polite background dreamed about, except perhaps in nightmares. Yet Alice could not help being intrigued by him...."

I'm reading "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt" by Edmund Morris (Amazon Associates link/commission earned).

November 15, 2023

Sunrise — 6:55.



"Is Nikki Haley aware that the Federalist Papers were written by founding fathers using pseudonyms?"

The NYT game "Connections" was pretty funny today.


Play here.

IN THE COMMENTS: tcrosse asked, "Is it possible to get three and then miss the fourth?"

It depends on the meaning of "miss" for you. Once you have 3, the 4th must be the remaining 4 items. But until you select them and press "enter," you can still try to discern what the connection is. You know those 4 are connected, but why? If you press "enter," you'll be given the answer. The machine has no way to know whether you figured out the connection, so it will treat you the same if you did or you didn't. That's a bit of a flaw in the game or, if you prefer to see it this way, a matter of private self esteem.

"Even if belief in invisible watchers has its social uses, if such beings don’t exist it’s a pretty odd thing that societies the world over..."

"... have converged on the belief that we share the cosmos with them. To say nothing of the specific doctrines and miraculous claims associated with that belief: For instance, if Christianity disappeared from everyone’s memory tomorrow, it would be odd indeed for a modern Western thinker seeking meaning amid disillusionment to declare, 'what we need here is the doctrine of the Trinity and a resurrected messiah with some angels at the tomb.'..."

Writes Ross Douthat, in "Where Does Religion Come From?" (NYT). Douthat is contemplating the reaction to Ayaan Hirsi Ali's announcement that she has converted to Christianity. Does she really believe? She said, as Douthat puts it, "that atheist materialism is too weak a base upon which to ground Western liberalism" and "she found 'life without any spiritual solace unendurable.'"

Some critics were Christians who noticed a failure to say that Christianity is true, and some critics were atheists who were sorry she didn't see the truth that is atheism. 

Douthat goes on at great length and quite a bit of it is about UFOs and, more generally, weirdness.

"There has always been a certain ambivalence on the part of many liberals regarding the actual implementation of affirmative action."

"I thought that it would ultimately be done in by the sheer collapse of the categories such as 'white' or 'Black,' and the impossibility of clearly defining who counts as 'Hispanic' or 'Asian.'"

Emailed lawprof Sanford V. Levinson to Thomas V. Edsall and quoted in Edsall's NYT column "The Liberal Agenda of the 1960s Has Reached a Fork in the Road."

The column is about "the strikingly different public responses to two recent Supreme Court rulings, one on abortion, the other on affirmative action." The idea of a "fork in the road" suggests a need to pick one or the other option, but liberals could forefront both issues. They're not mutually exclusive. They've simply chosen to use the abortion issue and forget about affirmative action, and the reason is obvious. Polls show that a big majority of Americans — including a big majority of Democrats — support what the Court did with affirmative action. 

I just wanted to pull out that Levinson quote, because I remember thinking — for a brief while, back in the 1990s — that affirmative action "would ultimately be done in by the sheer collapse of the categories." But I couldn't seem to find other lawprofs who saw that problem. Applicants identified themselves by race, and we took their word for it. Then there's no "impossibility of clearly defining who counts" as what. It's completely clear: You are what you say you are. What could go wrong?

About that "fork" (if there is a fork):

And "Fork in the road" has a Wikipedia article. Excerpt:

"My decades of experience in the region taught me that Palestinian and Israeli parents may say different prayers at worship but they share the same hopes for their kids—just like Americans, just like parents everywhere."

"That is why I am convinced Hamas must go.... Hamas does not speak for the Palestinian people...."

Clinton begins with an account of her brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas back in 2012, a cease-fire that Hamas violated in 2014. Now, she tells us: "Cease-fires freeze conflicts rather than resolve them.... Cease-fires can make it possible to pursue negotiations aimed at achieving a lasting peace, but only when the timing and balance of forces are right."

She wants change not only in Gaza, but also in Israel: "Going forward, Israel needs a new strategy and new leadership. Instead of the current ultra-right-wing government, it will need a government of national unity that’s rooted in the center of Israeli politics and can make the hard choices ahead...."

ADDED: The first 2 sentences are too rich not to quote: "One morning in November 2012, I knocked on the door of President Barack Obama’s suite in the Raffles Hotel in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, so early that he was barely out of bed. I had an urgent question that could not wait for the president to finish his morning coffee: Should we try to broker a cease-fire in Gaza?"

Can't he just sip his Raffles coffee?

AND: That last question references this: "At diner, Obama brushes off question on Hamas. Says, 'Why can’t I just eat my waffle?'"

Yes, Obama's famous "Why can’t I just eat my waffle?" was a reaction to a question about Hamas.

November 14, 2023

Sunrise — 6:51, 6:55.



"A judge on Tuesday ruled Donald Trump can appear on the primary ballot in Michigan, delivering the latest setback..."

"... to those who contend Trump sparked an insurrection Jan. 6, 2021, and is barred from running for president again as a result... The case mirrors those in other states that contend Trump can’t run because of a provision of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment that bars officials from holding office if they engage in insurrection. State Judge James Robert Redford wrote that courts don’t have the authority to determine whether someone is eligible to run for office under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. In addition, Redford ruled that Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson (D) does not have the authority under state law to remove candidates from the ballot based on that provision."

"Well, stand your butt up then"/"You stand your butt up."

"There is no next book. We’re only reading one book. Forever."

 From "'It never ends: the book club that spent 28 years reading Finnegans Wake/The group in Venice, California, started the difficult James Joyce book in 1995. They reached its final page in October" (The Guardian).

The book took 17 years to write, but there are book clubs that continue to meet, going at a rate of 1 or 2 pages per weekly meeting, and going back to the beginning every time they reach the end.

"The last sentence of the book ends midsentence and then it picks up at the front of the book. It’s cyclical. It never ends."

"The audible portions of the Fulton recordings reviewed by The Post do not appear to directly implicate Trump."

"At one point in [Sidney] Powell’s interview, she said Trump really believed he had won — a statement that could help his defense."

They looked, and they did not find what — I presume — they were looking for.

Much more at the link. I cherry-picked — that is, I found what I was looking for.

"Undeniably, the public has soured on President Biden’s handling of [illegal immigration]."

"Voters trust Trump on it by wide margins, support making asylum harder and even back his border wall. This has pundits opining that the issue now favors Trump. But let’s be clear on why this is happening and what it really means for 2024. Recall that Trump’s handling of immigration was also deeply unpopular. In April 2019, another time when migrant arrivals dominated the news, large majorities opposed Trump’s approach, and very small minorities supported a border wall and wanted to make it harder to apply for asylum.... While the mere promise of a better-managed border would be a formidable argument against Biden, Trump... seem[s] determined to telegraph unbridled nativist savagery, which could well constitute political overreach in 2024...."

I'm trying to read the Greg Sargent column "Trump’s plan for giant detention camps points to a brutal 2024 reality" (WaPo).

Ah! Let me translate that. Trump can win on the immigration issue, but the way he can lose is if people perceive that his immigration policy is fascist and cruel. Therefore, Trump's antagonists are on notice that they must make the most of whatever evidence they have that Trump's ideas about immigration come from something truly evil. 

For example, just in this column, there's this:

"In all four of the criminal trials Mr. Trump is facing, he has opted to pursue a strategy of creating noisy conflict to obscure the legal issues at play..."

"... and has persistently used the proceedings to amplify the message of victimhood and grievance that sits at the heart of his re-election campaign. His relentless attacks on the judges, court staff members and prosecutors involved in the cases — in Washington, D.C.; New York; Georgia; and Florida — have resulted in two separate gag orders being imposed on him. And Mr. Trump has been promising that if he is re-elected he will use the criminal justice system as a weapon of retribution against his enemies. [Counsel for the prosecution] warned Judge Chutkan that granting Mr. Trump the 'spectacle' of a televised trial would place him 'beyond the rules and above the law' and allow him to further intimidate people involved in the case."

I'm reading "Federal Prosecutors Object to Trump Request for Broadcast of Election Trial/The office of the special counsel said that televising the proceeding would create a 'carnival atmosphere' and allow the former president to divert attention from the charges he faces" in the NYT.

It's written by Alan Feuer, who, we're told, "covers extremism and political violence for The Times." Trump's wanting a televised trial falls into the "extremism and political violence" category for the NYT? That tells you something. 

Look, Trump is the leading candidate for President of the United States. Everyone in the country has a vital interest in keeping an eye on him and seeing him as he really is. The judge has tools enough to control her courtroom. Let us see the proceedings! There's an overwhelming public interest in access to this event. Of course, Trump will use the opportunity to reach out beyond the courtroom and appeal to the general public, but we, the people — some of us anyway — suspect that the prosecution is using the court to reach out to the general public and affect the 2024 election. Let us watch and decide for ourselves what we think of these prodigious power seekers.

Do you have to follow the instructions of the flight attendant if you're a Grammy nominee and the Lord is telling you to sing?

Answer below the fold.

The best-seller list is "a little susceptible to artificial intelligence because the books on it are written without any particular gift in the nature of their expression."

"Stephen King is susceptible to artificial intelligence. Danielle Steel is even more susceptible to artificial intelligence. The worse the writing, the more susceptible it is to artificial intelligence. I was talking to Salman Rushdie in Frankfurt, and he told me that someone had instructed ChatGPT to write a page of Rushdie. He said it was hilariously inept. I’ve had a couple of anxious emails from authors saying should I be concerned about artificial intelligence. It’s out there, and no one knows quite how to deal with it, but it’s not relevant to the people that we represent. It is relevant to other people who tend to be very popular."

Said the literary agent Andrew Wylie, quoted in "When Ruthless Cultural Elitism Is Exactly the Job" (NYT). The NYT interviewer, David Marchese, had prompted him to talk about A.I. 

I'm amused by Wylie's blithe snobbishness: That's got nothing to do with those of us who deal in literature.

I asked ChatGPT to write a blog post in the style of Salman Rushdie and assigned a topic — the subject of the previous post on this blog — home schooling. Here's the result, which I presume Rushdie would find hilariously inept:

The president of the American Federation of Teachers performs vague surprise that "the reply-guys" wanted to blame her for the flight from public schools.

If you're not seeing the replies there — I know I'm not — then read "Randi Weingarten gets educated about exactly who is to blame for the rise in homeschooling/The American Federation of Teachers union boss shared an article on 'What's behind the increase in homeschooling'" (Fox News).

Is there some way "Twitter" empowers users to undisplay the responses to their "tweets"?

"If he is gay, I wish he'd been open about it all along, but what can he do now?"

"We're talking about a 57-year-old man who's promoted traditional sexual morality, not a younger man, like Pete Buttigieg, who is married and ostensibly monogamous."

That's the last paragraph of a post I wrote on September 12th, one of only 2 posts I've written during the 2023 presidential campaign that had the "Tim Scott" tag.

The other one was a September 28th post, published the morning after a GOP debate that I said I only watched for 3 minutes: "A moderator asked an absurdly long question about the auto strike, and then Tim Scott started talking and acted as though we were dumb to take something stupid he'd said literally. And I was gone."

And that's my answer to a question asked by rcocean in last night's open thread: "No post on Senator Tim Scott dropping out?"

What a terrible candidate! I was going to avert my eyes, but you asked. 

November 13, 2023

Sunrise — 6:52.

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"With his own lawyers questioning him, [Donald Trump Jr.'s] testimony adopted a rhapsodic tone that aimed to create a parallel universe..."

"... from the one that operated in the previous six weeks of the trial, when the attorney general’s office laid out its case. Whereas [Letitia] James’s office presented spreadsheets, emails and financial statements, Mr. Trump’s lawyers showed him dozens of pictures of luxury properties, and he opined about them lovingly and at length....  The judge who will decide the nonjury case, Arthur F. Engoron, has often been impatient with the Trumps and their lawyers.... But on Monday, Justice Engoron brushed aside objections from state lawyers to Mr. Trump’s testimony, saying, 'Let him go ahead and talk about how great the Trump Organization is.' Mr. Trump began at the beginning, describing his great-grandfather developing hotels in the Yukon during the gold rush.... ... Justice Engoron was patient and seemed to find something of a rapport with Mr. Trump. Several times, Mr. Trump turned his head and body toward the judge and spoke directly to him, often prompting the judge to smile...."

Hmm. That smiling. Is the judge falling (a little) in love with Trump or is the judge getting off on the prospect of depriving this man of his New York properties?

"There is a lot of sex in 'Fear of Flying,' but the novel is rarely sexy. Intercourse, relentlessly anatomized..."

"... fails to delight Isadora, much less the reader. 'I longed to have orgasms like Lady Chatterley’s,' she sighs. 'Why didn’t the moon turn pale and tidal waves sweep over the surface of the earth?'... Jong [fought in] the struggle for women’s pleasure... during that fleeting moment when sex struck some feminists as the thing that would set us once and forever free. The decades have proved them wrong.... Today every woman is Isadora. Or maybe none is. Americans are lonely — marrying less, partnering less, even having less intercourse than ever.... The marriage plot, the abortion plot, the screw-me-sideways-without-a-zipper plot: Each has run its course without effecting the longed-for revolution. Many of today’s feminist narratives wallow in pain more than pleasure...."

I'll just quote Bob Dylan:
Then she says, “You don’t read women authors, do you?”
Least that’s what I think I hear her say
“Well,” I say, “how would you know and what would it matter anyway?”
“Well,” she says, “you just don’t seem like you do!”
I said, “You’re way wrong”
She says, “Which ones have you read then?” I say, “I read Erica Jong!”

"The Supreme Court announced on Monday that it had issued an ethics code for the justices...."

"In a statement by the court, the justices said they had adopted the code of conduct 'to set out succinctly and gather in one place the ethics rules and principles that guide the conduct of the members of the court.' 'For the most part these rules and principles are not new,' the court said, adding that 'the absence of a code, however, has led in recent years to the misunderstanding that the justices of this court, unlike all other jurists in this country, regard themselves as unrestricted by any ethics rules.' Left unclear was how the code will be enforced."

Is it unclear? It seems clear to me. The Justices agree these are the "rules and principles." That's it.  

Sweet blindness.

This is from the "Francis Albert Sinatra Does His Thing" TV special, in November 1968:

Also from 1968, the same Laura Nyro song, from Liza Minelli on "The Ed Sullivan Show":

I'm watching these old videos because I just finished listening to Andrew Hickey's podcast, "500 Songs Bonus: 'Stoned Soul Picnic" by Laura Nyro'" on Patreon (which you need to subscribe to and really should).

"A struggle ensued, with the crocodile attempting to pull Deveraux into the billabong, while Deveraux in turn, he said, tried to kick the creature..."

"... with his left foot. He was pulled deeper into the water and onto his knees. Then, in a move he described as 'half-accidental,' his teeth caught on the animal's leathery eyelid. 'I managed to have a bite,' he said, adding: 'I jerked back on his eyelid and he let go.'"

I'm reading that because it comes up in the dialogue between Gail Collins and Bret Stephens, a regular Monday morning feature in the NYT. Collins brings up the crocodile story because it reminds her of the GOP presidential candidates who are stuck fighting Donald Trump. 

Collins, like a lot of people in elite media these days, are pushing the idea of Nikki Haley as the one who ought to take on Donald Trump. But why? 

The Collins/Stephens dialogue begins with Stephens saying he's been "devoted almost entirely to outrages and tragedies in the Middle East: 
But I couldn’t help smiling for a second when Nikki Haley called Vivek Ramaswamy “scum” at last week’s G.O.P. debate, after he raised the subject of her daughter’s use of TikTok.


I'm trying to read "Holly Herndon’s Infinite Art/The artist and musician uses machine learning to make strange, playful work. She also advocates for artists’ autonomy in a world shaped by A.I." (The New Yorker):
While Herndon applied lipstick and Dryhurst packed a diaper bag, I sat alone with Link in the living room, administering a bottle of milk. As he turned his head, he looked first like one parent, then like the other—a quality Dryhurst called “heridescence.” I thought about the ways that parenthood forced and foreclosed on multiplicity. What was more of a fork than a baby?... [Later, at the gallery, s]trobe lights periodically illuminated three large heaps of compost, flecked with humus; a machine puffed artificial fog. Speakers played recordings of a compost pile.... The sounds of worms and microorganisms at work emerged as the honking peals of a saxophone.... In a side room, a sheaf of poems, printed on edible paper, sat on a spotlighted pedestal. Visitors were invited to eat them. It was hard to know how to be. “Let’s go somewhere else,” a small child said to her father.

What was more of a fork than a baby?

November 12, 2023

Sunrise — 6:51, 6:54 , 6:55, 6:56.

IMG_4251 2




"We pledge to you that we will root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical left thugs that live like vermin within the confines of our country that lie and steal and cheat on elections."

Said Donald Trump, in a speech yesterday, quoted in "Trump calls political enemies ‘vermin,’ echoing dictators Hitler, Mussolini/On Veterans Day, the former president vowed to 'root out' his liberal opponents, drawing backlash from historians who say his rhetoric is reminiscent of authoritarians" (WaPo).

Timothy Naftali, a senior research scholar at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said: "The language is the language that dictators use to instill fear. When you dehumanize an opponent, you strip them of their constitutional rights to participate securely in a democracy because you’re saying they’re not human. That’s what dictators do."

"As an adult, I’ve found myself often feeling out of place around my fellow parents, because parenthood, as it turns out, is a social environment where people usually want to model conventional behavior."

"While feeling like an interloper among the grown-ups might have felt hip and righteous in my dad’s day, it makes me feel like a tool. It does not make me feel like a 'cool mom.' In the privacy of my own home, I’ve got plenty of competence, but once I’m around other parents — in particular, ones who have a take-charge attitude — I often feel as inept as a wayward teen."

Writes Kathryn Jezer-Morton, in "Does Anyone Feel Like an Actual Adult?"  (The Cut).

Perfect ice skating conditions — on Rabbit Lake, in Alaska.

"Although [Graham Chase] Robinson won the case, she may find it hard to work in Hollywood again."

"'Personal assistants often handle sensitive information, making discretion paramount,' says [Stacy Jones, founder of Hollywood Branded, a marketing agency]. 'The media attention from the trial could be seen as contradictory to this need for privacy.' Or, as De Niro’s Goodfellas gangster Jimmy Conway famously put it: 'Never rat on your friends and always keep your mouth shut.'"

I'm reading "How much did Robert De Niro’s trial tell us about the man behind the movie tough-guys? The actor’s ex-assistant was awarded $1.3m for gender discrimination. Details from the trial suggest a blurring of boundaries between his tough-guy movie persona and his real character" (London Times).

She won. I see that. I have no idea what the terms of her job were, but it paid $300,000 a year. And: "A Hollywood assistant’s remit is tricky to define — it’s not a straightforward, 9-5 gig.... In the trial, claims emerged that the actor made crude jokes about his Viagra prescription; suggested Robinson use a male colleague as 'sperm donor'; called her a 'b****' and a 'f***ing spoilt brat'; would ring her while he was urinating; and asked her to 'imagine him on the toilet.'"

"... music, dancing, gigs, parties, festivals, films, TV, sport, fashion, fame, brightly coloured plastic things, sex, food, kissing, singing, YouTube, social media, talent shows, online hook-ups...."

"These are the things that over the past hundred-odd years have been increasingly invested with importance by a cultural superstructure bent on working the population to death in miserable jobs, by fooling us into thinking that the rest of the time we are having 'fun.'... These are the activities that, because I do not enjoy them, have always led me to believe that I am not having a fun life myself. For I do not dance and will not dance and have never been to a gig or festival. I don’t like parties and I can’t watch films and the company of other people is mostly disappointing to me. And fashion and fast food and casual sex, although I’ve dabbled, have only ever depressed me. With the result, of course, that I tend to feel I have missed out terribly. That I 'haven’t had much fun in my life.'"

Writes Giles Coren, in "If Barbra Streisand hasn’t had fun, who has?/Sad truth is that parties, festivals and casual sex are passports to misery, and true happiness lies in the mundane" (London Times)(addressing Barbra Streisand's statement, as she promotes her memoir, "I haven’t had much fun in my life").

Madison Square Garden, filled with people who cheer for Donald Trump.

Wasn't that a security nightmare?

On "SNL," Trump makes an appearance at the Republican debate.

Good impressions. Who was that "eggo" Trump kept talking about, the cast-member playing Vivek Ramaswamy? That was Ego Nwodim (a woman).

I thought that was a very well-written cold open. The Trump impersonator, James Austin Johnson, is so good they must worry he's going to cause the audience to kind of love Trump. We haven't faced such a risk since Charlie Chaplin impersonated Hitler.

Here's an article about Johnson, from last summer, in the Chicago Sun-Times. Johnson is opposed to Trump's political positions, but realized that, to do a successful impersonation, he needed to like something about Trump:

"In August, Francis criticized the 'strong reactionary attitude' among some American Catholics over his leadership of the church."

"He described them with an apparently self-created word — 'indietristi,' or backward-looking people — and argued that they don’t understand how faith and morals can evolve. 'Those American groups you talk about, so closed, are isolating themselves,' the pope said.... 'Instead of living by doctrine, by the true doctrine that always develops and bears fruit, they live by ideologies.'..."

You can compliment Ivanka Trump as "the picture of gentle, pulled-together professionalism and good will" — but only after saying she "emerg[ed]" from "bowels."

I'm reading an article by the NYT fashion critic Vanessa Friedman, "Trump Family Trial Style/Ivanka Trump and her siblings dress for court — and the cameras" (dated November 9th):
She was the focus of this week’s final scene, flying up from her home in Florida, emerging from the bowels of a black town car to make her entrance in a navy wool coat and navy pantsuit, a black leather tote clutched in one hand, tiny pearl studs in her ears and with her blond hair falling in soft waves around her face, the picture of gentle, pulled-together professionalism and good will.

I've boldfaced the metaphor in which Ivanka Trump is likened to shit

It's not as though the car's resemblance to bowels was so precise and striking that the intestinal metaphor was simply irresistible. Ivanka Trump was apparently perfectly dressed for the occasion, and the fashion critic wanted to say so, but she couldn't just say that. She entertained us NYT readers with the giddy comfort of the absurd visualization of automotive defecation. 

Dancing across the blurred lines of appropriateness along the legal landscape and shifting social tapestry.

You may wonder why I moderate the comments. If only they could just flow freely, like the thoughts in your head late at night. It's not just the trolls. It's also the spam that the spam filter doesn't always catch. And nowadays, it can use AI to compose the compliment that's supposed to provide camouflage for the link it wants to post. This came in overnight: