December 23, 2023

At Tomorrow's Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you want.

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"The two biggest 'Housing First' initiatives for the homeless in Madison don't have enough money to continue operating and could be closed...."

"[T]he 60-unit Rethke Terrace project for homeless singles and veterans on the East Side and the 45-unit Tree Lane Apartments for homeless families on the Far West Side... ran into trouble, and [were] declared  chronic nuisances due to a high volume of police calls, which often involve nonresidents, a lack of security and other issues.... Now come the challenges of determining exactly how long the projects will stay open, supporting tenants and figuring out what happens if or when the projects are shuttered and sold...."

From "2 biggest Madison homeless projects could close within months, leaving city scrambling" (Wisconsin State Journal).

"Therapy llamas patrol Portland airport to relieve passenger stress."

 WaPo reports.

Airports around the globe use a variety of methods to inject some Zen into one of the busiest travel periods of the year. They decorate their halls in holiday lights, host carolers and concerts, and bring in therapy dogs for group canine counseling.

Portland does all of the above. True to the city’s quirky spirit, it also invites local camelids to the airport to canoodle with passengers....
Canoodle!!

Traipsing around Austin.

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"Empire creates a greater potential for revolution than did the modern regimes of power..."

"... because it presents us, alongside the machine of command, with an alternative: the set of all the exploited and the subjugated, a multitude that is directly opposed to Empire, with no mediation between them."

Wrote Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt, quoted in "Antonio Negri, Philosopher Who Wrote a Surprise Best Seller, Dies at 90/He became famous twice: first in 1979, for his imprisonment related to the murder of a former Italian premier, and then 20 years later, for his influential book 'Empire'" (NYT).

"Meet the biggest and baddest new power broker in the 2024 presidential contest: an unelected and unenthusiastic U.S. Supreme Court."

"If this thought sits a bit uneasily, blame the lawfaring leftists who engineered the sandbagging of the nation's top jurists.... Embittered by electoral losses, unwilling to trust the will of voters, the left now routinely turns to extraordinary legal action in hopes of pressing the courts to impose its political objectives by judicial fiat. Every party to these high-stakes, highly speculative cases knew exactly where this would end. And not one cares a whit for the consequences for the high court.... The biggest question now is whether the three liberal justices understand the grave risks of this lawfaring agenda... Do they sign up for the campaign with opinions that justify novel legal theories and the judicial usurpation of elections -- in the process inviting more special counsels, more rogue court decisions, more litigation? Or do they recognize this game for what it is, acknowledge the sound legal reasons for why no one has attempted such reckless prosecutions and lawsuits before, and send a message it needs to stop?"

Writes Kimberley A. Strassel in "Sandbagging the Supreme Court" (Wall Street Journal).

"Trump denied that he intended any racist sentiment with his 'poisoning the blood' comments, and he pointed to his strong poll numbers with African American and Hispanic voters."

"Asked again specifically about the Hitler comparisons, Trump said: 'First of all, I know nothing about Hitler. I’m not a student of Hitler. I never read his works. They say that he said something about blood, he didn’t say it the way I said it either, by the way, it’s a very different kind of a statement.'"

From "Trump: ‘I’m not a student of Hitler’" (The Hill)(summarizing things Trump said on Hugh Hewitt's radio show yesterday).

They say that he said something about blood.... Trump opponents should find the Hitler quotes about "blood," put them next to Trump quotes about "blood," and compare the meaning — seriously and accurately. There's a great anti-Trump argument to be made, if the material aligns very well. If the argument is not made, I'm going to presume it can't be made. I put a little effort into this task myself, and the Hitler "blood" quotes I saw were about interbreeding and mixed race children. The Trump "blood" quotes seem to be about immigrants who don't speak English and don't share — or want to learn — our values. I'm wary of the Trump-is-Hitler propagandists, but if they do the hard, honest work of developing their argument, I will listen. If they don't, I'm holding it against them.

"He really is willing to stop at the current positions. He’s not willing to retreat one meter."

Said a "former senior Russian official... relaying a message he said the Kremlin was quietly sending." 

"This has been the mystery of the Trump era — every time we think this is the final straw, it turns into a steel beam that merely solidifies his political infrastructure."

Said Eliot Spitzer, a man who resigned for nothing more than using prostitutes.


I think the reason Spitzer — and let's throw in Al Franken — didn't stand their ground and fight is that they were beholden to their political party. Trump never was in thrall to other Republicans. He took over the party. Who holds sway with him? 

The article also has this quote from Trump: "Other people, if they ever got indicted, they’re out of politics. They go to the microphone. They say, ‘I’m going to spend the rest of my life, you know, clearing my name. I’m going to spend the rest of my life with my family.' I've seen it hundreds of times.... I can tell, you know, it’s backfired on them."

Maybe some of these others — Spitzer, Franken — would have prevailed if they'd fought. But it's hard to believe that other beleaguered politicians will fight like Trump. The Trump example shows that by fighting, you attract endless woes — multiple impeachments, felony charges, efforts to confiscate all of your wealth, the most miserable smears on your character. But Trump fights, and it's an amazing spectacle.

"[Trump] was such a bro and so cool and so with it. I think he's... upper 70s. I couldn't believe how smart and sharp the guy was."

Said UFC Fighter Bo Nickal, about golfing with Trump: I'm just exploring why "Joe Rogan" is trending on X. There's also this, with Tim Dillon, discussing how much Hunter Biden has gotten away with: There's also Joe attributing a Trump glitch to Biden — quickly corrected and probably caused by a video clip where Biden is quoting Trump:

December 22, 2023

In the land of LBJ.

We drove out into the hill country to see the birthplace of President Lyndon Johnson:
 
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"It has always been inconvenient that Harvard’s first Black president has only published 11 academic articles in her career and..."

"... not one book (other than one with three co-editors). Some of her predecessors, like Lawrence Bacow, Drew Gilpin Faust and Lawrence Summers, have had vastly more voluminous academic records. The discrepancy gives the appearance that Dr. Gay was not chosen because of her academic or scholarly qualifications, which Harvard is thought to prize, but rather because of her race...."

Writes John McWhorter, in "Why Claudine Gay Should Go" (NYT).

"The Supreme Court declined on Friday to decide for now whether former President Donald J. Trump is immune from prosecution on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election."

"The case will move forward in an appeals court and most likely return to the Supreme Court in the coming months. The decision to defer consideration of a central issue in the case was a major practical victory for Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have consistently sought to delay criminal cases against him around the country.... Jack Smith, the special counsel prosecuting Mr. Trump, has asked the justices to move with extraordinary speed, bypassing a federal appeals court."

No justice dissented.

Smith had argued: "The public importance of the issues, the imminence of the scheduled trial date and the need for a prompt and final resolution of respondent’s immunity claims counsel in favor of this court’s expedited review at this time."

Trump’s lawyers argued: "Importance does not automatically necessitate speed. If anything, the opposite is usually true. Novel, complex, sensitive and historic issues — such as the existence of presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for official acts — call for more careful deliberation, not less."

"A Proclamation on Granting Pardon for the Offense of Simple Possession of Marijuana, Attempted Simple Possession of Marijuana, or Use of Marijuana."

From Joe Biden.

My intent by this proclamation is to pardon only the offenses of simple possession of marijuana, attempted simple possession of marijuana, or use of marijuana in violation of the Federal and D.C. laws... This pardon does not apply to individuals who were non-citizens not lawfully present in the United States at the time of their offense....

"Migration sells.... My public is a public that wants a dream."

Said Manuel Monterrosa, who "set out for the United States last year with his cellphone and a plan: He’d record his journey through the dangerous jungle known as the Darién Gap and post it on YouTube, warning other migrants of the perils they’d face."

I'm reading "Live from the Jungle: Migrants Become Influencers on Social Media/TikTok, Facebook and YouTube are transforming global migration, becoming tools of migrants and smugglers alike" (NYT).
In his six-part series, edited entirely on his phone along the way, he heads north with a backpack, leading viewers on a video-selfie play-by-play of his passage across rivers, muddy forests and a mountain known as the Hill of Death. He eventually made it to the United States. But to his surprise, his videos began attracting so many views and earning enough money from YouTube that he decided he no longer needed to live in America at all.

So, Mr. Monterrosa, a 35-year-old from Venezuela, returned to South America and now has a new plan altogether: trekking the Darién route again, this time in search of content and clicks, having learned how to make a living as a perpetual migrant....

The journey is everything. 

"It tires me to talk to rich men. You expect a man of millions... to be a man worth hearing; but as a rule they don’t know anything outside their own businesses."

Said Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in "Theodore Rex" by Edmund Morris (commission earned). 

Context:

Feliz Navidad.

"I do not believe Donald Trump should be prevented from being president of the United States by any court. I think it’s bad for the country."

Said Chris Christie, whose campaign for the nomination is based on despising Trump.

Quoted in "Disqualifying Trump may be legally sound but fraught for democracy, scholars say/Experts say there’s a strong basis for the Colorado Supreme Court’s decision to bar Trump from the ballot, but the larger political context makes the question one of the thorniest in recent memory" (WaPo).

I'm not going to touch the bait "Experts say." You don't need to point it out. I see it.

I've already said what I want to say, but because I hear my own opinion in Christie's, I'm going to reprint what I wrote on January 26, 2021, when Democrats were impeaching the former President and defending it on the ground that a conviction would provide a basis for disqualifying him from running again. Of course, the Senate did not convict Trump, and today's disqualification effort would make a lot more sense if it had. 

At the time, I wrote:

[I]t's extremely important to remember that there is a "fundamental principle of our representative democracy . . . 'that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.'" 

I'm quoting the Supreme Court case rejecting term limits for members of Congress, which was quoting a case about Congress's power to exclude someone the people have elected. 

The internal quote — "the people should choose whom they please to govern them" — comes from Alexander Hamilton, arguing in favor of ratifying the Constitution

After all, sir, we must submit to this idea, that the true principle of a republic is, that the people should choose whom they please to govern them. Representation is imperfect in proportion as the current of popular favor is checked. This great source of free government, popular election, should be perfectly pure, and the most unbounded liberty allowed.

I think the presumption should always be against a constitutional interpretation that would restrict the power of the people to choose whom they please. 
The Senate would need to strain the other way to disqualify Private Citizen Trump from running for office again, and that betrays a lack of respect for the people, for the "fundamental principle of our representative democracy." 
Enough fretting that the people can't be trusted evaluating Trump as one of our options. Let the members of Congress get on with proving that they deserved the trust we the people put in them.

And, now, let the various candidates for President prove we ought to trust them and not Trump.

The people should choose whom they please to govern them.

"I wake up in the morning and sometimes I look at myself and I give myself the finger!"

That's tweeted by RNC Research, and I guess they think this hurts Adams, but I think it's charming and cool. The NYC mayor must make difficult choices, and there's no way to make everyone happy. Mayor Adams feels your pain. This story is a trifle, but Adams's antagonists are trying to use it against him. (Here's The Washington Examiner straining to make something of it.) It's nothing. Why blog it? Because I have a tag for "the finger."

"A raunchy celebrity-filled party in Moscow has drawn the ire of Russian politicians and fervent Christian Orthodox activists..."

"... who are urging law enforcement to punish the event’s guests and organizers for violating laws prohibiting 'gay propaganda' — the latest testament to the country’s sharp shift toward a closed-off, conservative society at the behest of President Vladimir Putin."

From "Raunchy celebrity party in Russia draws outrage over ‘nude illusion’ theme" (WaPo).
The party, a costume ball with a “nude illusion” theme hosted Wednesday night by one of Russia’s most popular Instagram influencers, Anastasia Ivleeva, was attended by some of the most prominent Russian celebrities who have remained in the country since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, including some who have not supported the war.

The guests paid a hefty entrance fee of about $11,000 to frolic in outfits of flesh-colored mesh, lace and lingerie, with Ivleeva wearing a diamond body chain worth about $250,000 and one guest, the rapper Vacio, paying homage to a 1980 Red Hot Chili Peppers record cover featuring the band members wearing nothing but a sock.

Some of the outrage comes from a desire to maintain a somber demeanor during wartime, and some of it, we're told, is about disapproval of homosexual behavior. What does the illusion of nakedness have to do with homosexuality? Perhaps it's just the appearance of sexual liberation, but we're told that men were seen kissing.

WaPo provides some background, which I think is written to encourage readers to disapprove of American politicians and commentators who argue for traditional values (they're like Putin):

"The desire of Saint Mary’s College to show hospitality to people who identify as transgender is not the problem. The problem is..."

"... a Catholic woman’s college embracing a definition of woman that is not Catholic. I urge the Board of Trustees of Saint Mary’s College to correct its admissions policy in fidelity to the Catholic identity and mission it is charged to protect and to reject ideologies of gender that contradict the authoritative teachings of the Catholic Church regarding the human person, sex and gender."

Wrote Kevin Rhoades, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of South Bend, Indiana, quoted in "Catholic women's college reverses plan to admit transgender biological men" (Washington Examiner).

December 21, 2023

At the Austin Café...

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... you can write about whatever you want.

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"Once again, Democrats find themselves looking toward American institutions to stop Mr. Trump, whom they view as a mortal threat to democracy."

"For many, it may be more pleasant to think about a judicial endgame that stops Mr. Trump than envisioning the slog of next year’s likely rematch against President Biden. And this time, with Democrats now well aware of how easily he can bend the country’s fragile guardrails — and of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, which includes three Trump appointees — their optimism is tinged with trepidation."

I'm reading "Democrats Keep Hoping It’s Curtains for Trump. He’s Still Center Stage," by Reid J. Epstein, in the NYT. Subtitle: "As Donald Trump faces a new threat to his political future, this time over the question of ballot eligibility, Democrats again find themselves looking toward American institutions to stop him."

I'd like to think that passage was written with a sense of humor: Democrats out to save democracy long for a solution to Donald Trump that is anything other than defeating him democratically. The judiciary is supposed to swoop in and rescue Democrats from the task of winning the votes of the people. But the Supreme Court isn't stacked with judges who lean in the political direction that disfavors the candidate they loathe. So their hope for a nondemocratic alternative to the next election is pre-crushed.

Is there evidence in that article that the humor is intentional? There are some quotes from Democrats that made me laugh. Especially this, from Biden: "It’s self-evident. You saw it all. He certainly supported an insurrection. No question about it. None. Zero." 

"Always get a kick out of fellow boomers declaring how much younger they look. Many even assign flattering ages: I'm 80 but look 65. Doubtful."

"My experience is yes, there can be considerable differences in how people age. But most people do look their age, it's just that you can look good or not so good at any given age over 50. Try to take care of yourself, stay current and lose the 'I look so much younger' bit."

That's a comment at the NYT article, "What’s Your ‘Biological Age’? New tests promise to tell you if you have the cells of a 30-year-old or a 60-year-old. Here’s what to know about them."

For some reason — vanity — the comments are sidetracked into the question how young you look. The article is about "tests for around $300 that [purport to] calculate your biological age by analyzing your blood or saliva and comparing changes in your epigenome to population averages."

Anyway... there's a difference between declaring how young you look and simply quietly admiring what you subjectively perceive as your relatively youthful appearance.

"Are the Secret Service okay with the polar bears?"

My last post linked to my "I'm for Boring" tag, and I clicked on it and read a bunch of old posts. The ones from the last few years are nearly all about Biden.

Feel free to check them out. I just wanted to quote one thing I wrote in a post on March 3, 2020:
By the way, I had a dream about Donald Trump last night. I was at some sort of artsy song and spoken-word performance, in an intimate pink room with long comfy sofas. There were several polar bears reclining on a sofa, along with Donald Trump. This was right next to me, and I wanted to get some personal conversation with Trump, something I could remember and talk about. He was enjoying the show and singing along, being quite charming and talking to everyone. I leaned over and asked him, "Are the Secret Service okay with the polar bears?"

"The neutral-tinted individual is very apt to win against the man of pronounced views and active life."

Wrote Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in "Theodore Rex" (available atAmazon, whence I earn a commission).

He was referring to Alan B. Parker, who became his adversary in the 1904 presidential election, and I quote the passage from the book in full because it seems to have something to do with how we react to candidates today and because I have liked colorless politicians (and judges) — perhaps too much:

December 20, 2023

Views of Austin.

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Talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"But there are good reasons modular housing has remained the next big thing for a long time."

"One basic problem is that houses are large objects, and unlike cars or airplanes, they are not designed to move. The result is that the savings from factory production are partly offset by the cost of transportation. (Some companies reduce transportation costs by shipping homes in smaller pieces, an approach pioneered by Sears and other retailers of 'build your own home' kits in the early 20th century, but that just shifts the cost from transportation to assembly.)"

I'm reading "Why Do We Build Houses in the Same Way That We Did 125 Years Ago?" (NYT).

What's the connection between sounding like Hitler and having read "Mein Kampf"?

I'm reading "Trump, Attacked for Echoing Hitler, Says He Never Read ‘Mein Kampf'" (NYT).
But he said on Tuesday night in a speech in Iowa that undocumented immigrants from Africa, Asia and South America were “destroying the blood of our country,” before alluding to his previous comments.

“That’s what they’re doing. They’re destroying our country,” Mr. Trump continued. “They don’t like it when I said that. And I never read ‘Mein Kampf.’ They said, ‘Oh, Hitler said that.’”

If not having read "Mein Kampf" were an excuse for those who don't want to be considered Nazi-like, then a lot of Nazis would be off the hook. Here's what William L. Shirer wrote in  "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" (p. 81):

Not every German who bought a copy of Mein Kampf necessarily read it. I have heard many a Nazi stalwart complain that it was hard going and not a few admit— in private— that they were never able to get through to the end of its 782 turgid pages.

Who's read "Mein Kampf"? It doesn't mean anything one way or the other not to have read "Mein Kampf." There are Nazi stalwarts who haven't read it and Nazi opponents who should have. To continue with the Shirer quote:

"Will the U.S.Supreme Court Keep Donald Trump Off the Ballot ? Some Initial Thoughts."

From Rick Hasen at Election Law Blog. 

It is... imperative for the political stability of the U.S. to get a definitive judicial resolution of these questions as soon as possible. Voters need to know if the candidate they are supporting for President is eligible....

In the end the legal issues are close but the political ramifications of disqualification would be enormous.... 

Voters need to know if the candidate they are supporting for President is eligible.... and voters need to know if they need to fight for the candidate they are supporting on the substantive merits and not just rely on his opponent's being "disqualified" on some wild legal theory.

December 19, 2023

"The Colorado Supreme Court has issued an unsigned opinion disqualifying Trump from the ballot...."

From the NYT article about the case:
The Colorado Supreme Court is the first court to find that the disqualification clause applies to Mr. Trump, an argument his opponents have been making across the country. Similar lawsuits in Minnesota and New Hampshire were dismissed on procedural grounds. A judge in Michigan ruled last month that the issue was political and not for him to decide, and an appeals court affirmed the decision not to disqualify him. The plaintiffs there have appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. 
The cases hinge on several questions: Was it an insurrection when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, trying to stop the certification of the 2020 election? If so, did Mr. Trump engage in that insurrection through his messages to his supporters beforehand, his speech that morning and his Twitter posts during the attack? Do courts have the authority to enforce Section 3 of the 14th Amendment without congressional action? And does Section 3 apply to the presidency?....

Sunrise — 7:12, 7:15, 7:25.

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Write about whatever you want, and please do your Amazon shopping through the Althouse Portal. It's a way to divert a commission to me as you go about spending your money.

"A federal judge in New York has ordered a vast unsealing of court documents in early 2024 that will make public the names of scores of Jeffrey Epstein's associates."

ABC News reports.

The documents are part of a settled civil lawsuit alleging Epstein's one-time paramour Ghislaine Maxwell facilitated the sexual abuse of Virginia Giuffre. Terms of the 2017 settlement were not disclosed.

"Already hampered by problems at the Panama Canal, shipping companies are now steering clear of the Suez Canal to avoid being attacked in the Red Sea."

The NYT reports.

The Houthis, an armed group backed by Iran that controls much of northern Yemen, have been using drones and missiles to target ships since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.... [T]aking the Cape of Good Hope route could add roughly $1 million, or around a third, to the cost of a round trip from Asia to Europe... A portion of that additional cost could be passed on to consumers just as inflation is slowing in the United States and Europe. The attacks have already appeared to push up the price of oil.... The economic impact has increased the pressure on the United States and other countries to stop the attacks by the Houthis....

The problem with the Panama Canal is entirely different: "The lack of rain has reduced the amount of water available to fill the locks."

"Poll Finds Wide Disapproval of Biden on Gaza, and Little Room to Shift Gears/Opinion is split between those wanting the war to end and those pressing for a definitive Israeli victory, and the divide is starkest among older and younger generations."

The NYT reports.

The war is such a disaster that it seems puny to say what a disaster for Biden. But this is the top story at the NYT right now. It's a new poll, and the results are stark.

On the up side, since there is no position that will please the disparate factions, Biden may find his most opportune political position is to do what he believes is right. Does he know what that is?

ADDED: Some excerpts:

"One​ of the abiding mysteries in presenting music from the past is what the singers sounded like."

"There is no evidence for it, apart from written descriptions, all of which fall far short of telling us anything precise. What is one to make of this description of the singing in the Chapel Royal in 1515, written by the Venetian ambassador to Henry VIII’s court and included in Andrew Parrott’s The Pursuit of Musick? ‘More divine than human; they were not singing but jubilating [giubilavano].’ The exact meaning of ‘giubilavano’ has been long debated, to no avail. Or what does this résumé of national styles, written in 1517, tell us? 'The French sing; the Spaniards weepe; the Italians, which dwell about the Coasts of Genoa, caper with their Voyces; the others bark; but the Germanes ... doe howle like wolves.'"

From "Hickup over the Littany" (London Review of Books).

I don't remember ever seeing the spelling "hickup" before. If you'd asked me for a variant spelling of "hiccup," I'd have written "hiccough." It's not an American-vs.-English distinction: The OED presents "hiccup" as the main spelling... with "hiccough" secondary. The OED offers this ancient advice:
1626 It hath beene obserued by the Ancients, that Sneezing doth cease the Hiccough.
F. Bacon, Sylua Syluarum §686
By the way, before "hiccup," long ago, the English word for the unsettling spasms was "yex" — or "yox," "yucks," "yicks," "yecks," "yokes," "yesk." "Yucks" seems to have lasted:
1888 Why Tommy, you've a-got the yucks—drink some cold water.
F. T. Elworthy, West Somerset Word-book at Yucks

"Yucks" is our word for laughs. Oddly enough, "yex" started out meaning a sob.  

"If I'm going to rebrand myself, it would be maybe 'America's shaman' because the QAnon label has been stigmatized with the number of sub-labels or subcategories..."

"... conspiracy theories, white supremacists, terrorists.... I don't want to be associated with anything that the media has already maligned."

A shaman is someone who — to quote Wikipedia — "interact[s] with the spirit world through altered states of consciousness, such as trance."

Chansley is apparently interacting with the media to receive his messages and inspiration. The media are not the spirit world. Alignment with whatever the media tell you — dissociating yourself from everything the media have maligned — is not a special state of consciousness. I wish it were. 

ADDED: The OED entry for "shaman" led me to a 1979 piece in the London Review of Books, "'Darkness Visible' is William Golding’s first novel for twelve years/John Bayley thinks it is his best, and thinks of him as a magician":
Borges​ has written (and it is certainly true of Borges) that the writer is like a member of a primitive tribe who suddenly starts making unfamiliar noises and waving his arms about in strange new rituals.

"So, in Poor Things, Emma Stone’s character is basically a woman with a child’s brain. And in this particular scene, she’s encountering dance and music for... the first time."

"How did you start to develop this dance? It’s such an interesting concept."



The choreographer answers: "It’s described in the script as a dance that is really going off because she’s just finding out [about dance]. So, with that in mind, I tried to create. [The director] was not convinced about some things; it looked too much like acting. When we passed it to the actors, then it grew and took shape. Emma Stone also had really good suggestions about her character because she was working, already, on this way that she moves. She brought in locking the knees. That gave shape to this dance as well."

Stone's character is a Frankenstein creation, so we may well compare the dancing to the Frankenstein in "Young Frankenstein":

December 18, 2023

At the Monday Night Café...

 ... you can't talk about whatever you want.

No photos today. It was too windy for traipsing through the woods. But I hope you will nevertheless send me Amazon commissions by doing your shopping through the Althouse Portal.

"I'll just say it: Biden's too old.... We need... mental competency tests for politicians...."


Who would you trust to devise and administer the "mental competency test"? 

The mental competency test for politicians is the one we, the People, impose through our demand that politicians speak publicly and submit to serious questioning. We individually judge whether the candidate has failed the test when we vote. 

I'm more concerned about the mental competency of voters, but there's no mental competency test for voting and no politician daring to suggest that there should be.

"Audiences fell in love with The Crown because its early seasons evoked a lost time and explored a single question."

"At only 25 years old, a woman born before the invention of television—a woman born into a dying empire, who never went to school, who grew up in a castle during wartime—became the ruler of a fractious kingdom, in a world that was just about to invent miniskirts, pop music, and the concept of the teenager. Would she, and the monarchy, survive? But as The Crown’s scope has drawn closer to the present, it has lost the useful distance of history as well as its grandeur, and its sense of permission...."

Writes Helen Lewis, in "The Crown Has Nothing Left to Say/The final season has swans, ghosts, and King Tony Blair, but it doesn’t have a message" (The Atlantic).

Phrase in the article that I thought no one would use anymore: "makes an honest woman of." (Context: "Prince Charles finally makes an honest woman of Camilla Parker Bowles.")

"Should he feel another stone coming on, he tells us, he won’t 'take some bothersome precaution … He who fears he will suffer, already suffers from his fear.'"

"Montaigne will instead do just as he pleases, right up to the last moment, and his refusal to let his pain prevent him from enjoying himself remains endearing—and more than a little inspirational for those in a similar position."

Montaigne, writing about kidney stones in the 16th century, is quoted in "Seven Books That Actually Capture What Sickness Is Like/These titles aren’t interested in sticking to a simple narrative about sickness and health—they explore the textures of human life" (The Atlantic).

It's a great line, applicable to so much more than kidney stones: "He who fears he will suffer, already suffers from his fear."

"The Vatican had long said it could not bless same-sex couples because it would undermine church doctrine that marriage is only between a man and a woman."

"The new rule was issued in a declaration by the church’s office on doctrine and introduced by its prefect, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, who said that the declaration did not amend 'the traditional doctrine of the church about marriage,' because it allowed no liturgical rite that could be confused with the sacrament of marriage."

From "Pope Francis Allows Priests to Bless Same-Sex Relationships/A church official said the blessings amounted to 'a real development' that nevertheless did not amend 'the traditional doctrine of the Church about marriage'" (NYT).

MEANWHILE: "With a Deadline Looming, the United Methodist Church Breaks Up/A quarter of the denomination’s churches have left, as the faith divides over L.G.B.T.Q. policies" (NYT)("America’s second-largest Protestant denomination is in the final stages of a slow-motion rupture that has so far seen the departure of a quarter of the nation’s roughly 30,000 United Methodist churches...").

This isn't really news, unless the news is that Biden is sentient.

Or is this the news: Biden is a weak leader, bereft of ideas, capable only of "frustration" when met with an important challenge? 

Obviously, the poll numbers are "dismal," and anyone in his position would feel bad about it. Why is this news? I expect my readers to be gearing up to opine that the news outlet in question — The Washington Post — is simply executing its own plan to induce Biden to give up running for reelection.

"At one point in his show, he said the real divide in the country was not between rich and poor, Democratic or Republican, but between 'the insane' and 'the insufferable.'"

"The insane include the people who stormed the capitol. He calls them nuts, before adding: 'but fun.' Then he grew more animated describing the insufferable by their 'NPR tote-bag energy' and 'hall monitor' tendencies.... Minhaj... repositions him[self] less as a righteous political comic than a more self-questioning, personal comic, a move he had already begun to make; this scandal may have accelerated the shift...."


Zinoman likes that Minaj isn't "playing the victim," like "seemingly everyone" these days, including Elon Musk and Taylor Swift. And Zinoman, in a sidetrack, praises the filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli, and gives a tip about a new movie I might want to see:

"Palestine is a central case, and a central cause, within decolonial studies, an academic field that has 'exploded' in the past twenty years or so...."

"A rising generation of scholars identifies with a new subfield, settler-colonial studies, and a new journal was created to explore this framework, which posits that powerful nations resettle new peoples in conquered territories in order to permanently alter their character and make use of their resources. These ideas have gained significant traction in the academic disciplines that have expressed the most support for Palestine: associations for American studies, critical ethnic studies, Indigenous studies, and several others have voted to support the B.D.S.—or Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions—movement, which aims to end international support for Israel. As these younger scholars have crafted syllabi and designed courses on these subjects, their students have helped their ideas make the jump into the popular imagination. In the hands of activists, dense concepts are transformed into digestible slogans, with terms like 'settler colonialism' sliding easily into Instagram posts. When I spoke with students involved with S.J.P., they insisted that what’s happening in Gaza is not 'complicated.' Instead, they cited these academic concepts as evidence that Israel—'the Zionist entity'—can be understood solely as an oppressive, colonial power, settled by a non-Indigenous population at the ongoing expense of native Palestinians...."

December 17, 2023

At the Sunday Night Café...

 ... you can talk about whatever you want.

(And please consider using the Althouse Portal into Amazon to do you Christmas — and other — shopping. You'll be sending me a commission. Thanks!)

"A majority of young Americans said they believe Israel should 'be ended and given to Hamas,' according to a shocking poll."

"... Harvard-Harris polling found 51% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 24 said they believed the long-term answer to the Israel-Palestinian conflict was for 'Israel to be ended and given to Hamas and the Palestinians.' Only 32% said they believed in a two-state solution, and just 17% said other Arab states should be asked to absorb Palestinian populations...."

The NY Post reports.

"'Tranq tourism'.... A low-income area has become ground zero for the dangerous sedative xylazine – and an ‘exploitative’ type of content creation."

 The Guardian reports.

Since 2021, Kensington, a low-income neighborhood in North Philadelphia, has been ground zero for a new and dangerous sedative called “tranq”... a side-effect of this drug can be struggling to stand upright.... In viral videos uploaded to social channels... tranq users are filmed when they are in a physical state in which they are unlikely to be able to consent. In some, they are asked questions about their private life or situations in a probing way that plays on their vulnerability..... Some believe their videos are the only way to support or are an effective mode of shining light on the reality of what’s happening in Kensington....

"There is a certain tension that reads as the aftereffect of the violence that prompted the memorial, latent in the way Koons’ arm juts out diagonally from its base."

"It is this remarkable mix of benevolence and tension in Koon’s gesture that marks his ‘Bouquet’ as an important artwork."

In an email message, the artist’s representative, Lauran Rothstein, wrote to Golan: “You refer to Jeff’s passive gesture of offering as one of violence.” She added that Golan’s essay had aligned Koons “with extremely negative connotations.”

Golan, the author of “Modernity and Nostalgia: Art and Politics in France Between the Wars,” which explored the interaction of art and ideology, said she was surprised that the Koons studio had not understood that her essay was complimentary. “What I say about Koons is actually positive,” she said.
Legal angle: To interview Koons, Golan had signed a release that gave Koons the right to “view and approve any footage, still images and/or promotional material that are proposed for use.” Would that include this essay?

Whether it does or not, it was enough to motivate the journal to require her to share her essay with Koons and to decline to publish it when Koons rejected it. It was not enough to stop the NYT from embarrassing the art journal and Koons by writing the article I've linked. 

How stupid of Koons — on so many levels.

"Australia is drowning in wine, with the equivalent of more than 2.8 billion bottles, enough to fill more than 850 Olympic swimming pools..."

"... swilling around in storage tanks or barrels. The cost of its key ingredient has collapsed, particularly for red grape varieties such as cabernet and shiraz.... Much of the wine languishing in giant tanks had been destined for [China], which had developed an insatiable thirst for its red wine. This market virtually disappeared in March 2021, when Beijing, furious at calls from Scott Morrison, then the prime minister, for a UN inquiry into the origins of Covid, imposed 200 per cent tariffs on Australian wine.... The market in China had already been contracting. As in many other countries, there has been a general drop in alcohol consumption.... Oenophiles hoping winemakers will be flooded with cheap Australian shiraz are likely to be disappointed. While the price of grapes has plummeted, other overheads, such as energy, labour and shipping costs, have surged. Vintners are also worried that cutting the price of their posher wines will damage the credibility of their brand...."

From "Australia is drowning in 3bn bottles of wine. Any takers?" (London Times).

"The first time Microsoft tried to bring A.I. to the masses, it was an embarrassing failure."

"In 1996, the company released Clippy, an 'assistant' for its Office products. Clippy appeared onscreen as a paper clip with large, cartoonish eyes, and popped up, seemingly at random, to ask users if they needed help writing a letter, opening a PowerPoint, or completing other tasks that—unless they’d never seen a computer before—they probably knew how to do already."

"The fatal shooting by Israeli soldiers in Gaza of three unarmed men who turned out to be Israeli hostages could give momentum to those pushing for a new cease-fire..."

"... to allow for more hostages to be released. Critics of how Israel is prosecuting its war in Gaza also seized on the event, in which Israeli soldiers fatally shot three shirtless men who were waving a white flag, as an example of its military’s failure to live up to its promises to protect civilians.... The Israeli government has vowed not to stop its operations in Gaza until the military has destroyed Hamas.... "

From "Friendly-fire killings of hostages may force Israel to reconsider Gaza strategy" (NYT).

"It’s more fun to go somewhere physical and look around, versus sitting at home and one person is clicking and another is like ‘No, no’ and it just becomes annoying."

"Here, it’s a hands-on experience, it’s a different environment. You don’t feel like you’re connected to this big, giant internet system. You can just disconnect, put something in and not look at your phone for a while."

Said Jaime Munoz, 39, browsing in a retro video rental store called Whammy!, quoted in "With VHS and video stores, ‘tapeheads’ are fueling an analog revival" (WaPo).

Are you nostalgic for the old-time experience of wandering around a video store and deciding on something you'd commit to watching and would need to rewind and bring back to the store in time to avoid late fees?

"James Biden’s dealmaking caught on FBI tapes in unrelated bribery probe/While Joe Biden campaigned in Mississippi, his brother planned to build a powerful consulting business -- a deal that brought him to the periphery of a federal case."

This is a long, detailed article by Michael Kranish in The Washington Post.
Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, a famed Mississippi trial attorney, was tantalizingly close to a historic deal to force tobacco companies to pay billions of dollars — but there was one last hurdle. A divided Congress had to sign off. And Scruggs had identified one of the most skeptical senators, Joe Biden, as a key to winning the vote.

Scruggs turned to Biden’s younger brother James, an old acquaintance who ran a D.C. consulting firm with his wife, Sara. Scruggs paid the firm $100,000 in 1998 for advice on passing the bill, Scruggs said in an interview at his office here — the first time he has disclosed the amount. “I probably wouldn’t have hired him if he wasn’t the senator’s brother,” Scruggs said....

"When a larger version of the tobacco settlement finally reached the Senate floor," Joe Biden went "from being one of its biggest critics to becoming one of its leading defenders."