March 30, 2024

At the Saturday Night Café…

 … you can talk about whatever you want. 

"[I]f you’re not completely sympathetic to its pro forma progressivism, you may come away... alienated by its relentlessly right-on wall labels."

"These seem to have been generated from a dutiful checklist of issues that includes Indigenous rights, race, abortion, disabilities, ecological destruction, gentrification and gender fluidity. The issues are important.... But their articulation in the work is, in most cases, feeble, perfunctory and completely illegible without the accompaniment of convoluted, brain-draining texts. Some of these veer into self-parody. Carolyn Lazard’s medicine cabinets filled with Vaseline, we’re told, are the products of an 'artistic practice [that] traces everyday encounters of Blackness, disability, and opacity, focusing on the daily acts of maintenance we hold in common, in and against the privatization of life itself.'..."

Writes Sebastian Smee, in "A superb Whitney Biennial, marred by flimsy politics/The 81st edition of this closely watched survey of contemporary art is the best in a decade" (WaPo)(free access link).

Bees are back.

"After almost two decades of relentless colony collapse coverage and years of grieving suspiciously clean windshields, we were stunned to run the numbers on the new Census of Agriculture (otherwise known as that wonderful time every five years where the government counts all the llamas): America’s honeybee population has rocketed to an all-time high...."

Writes Andrew Van Dam in "Wait, does America suddenly have a record number of bees?" (WaPo)(free access link).

"'It is absolutely not a good thing for native pollinators,' said Eliza Grames, an entomologist at Binghamton University, who noted that domesticated honeybees are a threat to North America’s 4,000 native bees, about 40 percent of which are vulnerable to extinction.... 'You wouldn’t be like, "Hey, birds are doing great. We’ve got a huge biomass of chickens!" It’s kind of the same thing with honeybees,” she said. 'They’re domesticated. They’re essentially livestock.'..."

"Goal for 2024: 400 books. Last year I did 388. The year before I did 350. So I’ll just see if it’s possible to do 400. I think I’ll make it...."

Says a retired man in Los Altos named Paul Scott, quoted in "Want to finish more books? Super readers share their tips" (WaPo)(free access link).
People say to me, “Are you playing a lot more golf since you retired?” But now that I can golf every day, what I’d rather do is read. The pandemic crystallized how I wanted to spend my spare time. There was nothing on TV. All of a sudden I had this time from 4:30 to 8:30 in the morning, and I thought, “Gosh, I should really spend more time reading.”...

His tip:

James Taylor sings and comments on the old Chock Full o' Nuts coffee jingle.

Found this morning while searching, unsuccessfully, for an old Chock Full o' Nuts commercial (the one with the American woman going through French customs ("I have seen this coffee many times, in many suitcases")).

Alternatively, here's an operatic Chock Full o' Nuts commercial from 1991:

"Donald Trump is presenting himself as the Man on the Cross, tortured for our sins."

"'I consider it a great badge of courage,' he tells crowds. 'I am being indicted for you.'... In January, he put up a video on Truth Social about how he is a messenger from God, 'a shepherd to mankind.'... 'All Americans need a Bible in their home, and I have many,' Trump barked. 'It’s my favorite book.' Maybe the Bible has replaced that Hitler book Trump’s ex-wife said he kept by his bed. But it’s all a scam. Running for president is about enriching himself....  If there is one thing Trump knows how to do, it’s exploit chaos he creates.... Declining faith in religion and rising faith in conspiracies create fertile ground for a faker like Trump...."

Maureen Dowd meowed, in "Donald Trump, Blasphemous Bible Thumper" (NYT).

If they hadn't leaned so hard into persecuting him, he wouldn't have the foundation to make the comparison to Jesus Christ.

And — to repurpose Dowd's phrase — if there is one thing Trump knows how to do, it’s to exploit the chaos his haters create for him. 

ADDED: Whatever you think of Donald Trump, should you use the term "Bible thumper"? Isn't it a looking down on people who follow religions worthy of respect? The OED designates the term "derogatory," and here's a discussion in the subreddit r/Christianity. Someone writes:

March 29, 2024

At the Friday Night Café…

 … you can talk about whatever you want. 

"... I’m an asshole. Much like Sacha Baron Cohen is an asshole. Although unlike Sacha, I labour under no illusions about my assholeishness..."

"... and am fully resigned to my status. Sacha, on the other hand, is so sure that he is not an asshole that his 'representatives' have been trying to stop publication of a memoir by the Australian actress Rebel Wilson in which she claims that he is one. It’s classic Hollywood. Just the sort of classy bantz Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn got up to. Indeed, Wilson claims that Baron Cohen is more than just an asshole. She claims he is a 'massive asshole.' Which, to be fair, is no laughing matter. I think I am right in saying I am widely perceived only as 'a bit of an arsehole' (to anglicise the trope).... This story has perhaps gained the traction it has because of Wilson’s initial decision not to name Baron Cohen, but merely to reveal that her forthcoming memoir would contain tales of 'an asshole' with whom she once worked, followed by the later revelation that 'now the asshole is trying to threaten me … He’s hired lawyers … but the book WILL come out,' before finally revealing: 'The asshole that I am talking about in one chapter of my book is: Sacha Baron Cohen.'"

Writes Giles Coren, in "The real Sacha Baron Cohen has always been on show/Rebel Wilson may be right about the Borat creator, but being an ‘asshole’ is part of what makes him a comedy great" (London Times).

I'm giving this my "Streisand effect" tag!

"But state officials worried about terrorism had focused on bombs and bad guys in small boats, not an errant 95,000-gross-ton container ship...."

"And after [the Interstate 35 bridge collapse in 2007], the focus wasn’t on building the kind of massive and costly barriers that might have had even a chance of stopping a ship like the Singapore-flagged Dali from sending the Key Bridge crumpling into the Patapsco River, said the former senior transportation official. 'It never occurred to anybody,' he said.... At the time of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge accident, the Baltimore Sun reported that a top state engineer said the Key Bridge couldn’t withstand a similar collision. 'I’m talking about the main supports, a direct hit — it would knock it down,' the official said."

From "Officials studied Baltimore bridge risks but didn’t prepare for ship strike" (WaPo).

They knew the problem. "It never occurred to anybody"... please. The necessary precaution, the bridge having the limitations they knew it had, was to ban ships that size from passing there. That's how I see it, as a layperson. Prove me wrong.

"That its plot makes no sense is not really the problem with 'Tommy.'"

"When it first appeared as a concept album, in 1969, it was, after all, billed as a rock opera. And let’s face it, if you’ve ever paid attention to its story unstoned, you’re going to have some questions, just as you might with 'The Magic Flute.'... That’s why I find it more profitable to think about 'Tommy' not as a chain of events but as a dream you are watching from a perch inside someone’s amygdala. That person would of course be [Pete] Townshend, who... recently told The Times that 'Tommy' is probably 'a memoir in which I work out my childhood stuff.'... [H]is abuse, he said, was at the hands of his 'awful' grandmother, not his 'neglectful and careless' parents.... 'Sickness will surely take the mind/Where minds can’t usually go'....  [Townshend's] avatar... finds that 'freedom lies in normality.' This is the opposite of rock’s countercultural pose; in the end, the one to whom Tommy sings the anthem 'Listening to You' is not a crowd of admirers but his mother. [The new Broadway] production does not traffic in such subtleties.... You will be overwhelmed.... [W]hen everything’s an effect, no matter how brilliant, none can be special."

Writes Jesse Green, in "'Tommy' Goes Full Tilt in a Relentless Broadway Revival/Will the Who’s rock opera about a traumatized boy hit the jackpot again?" (NYT).

"If nothing else, reflecting on the social roots of your political opinions and behavior should prompt some humility."

"Even if you hold the 'correct' political beliefs, you may not deserve to congratulate yourself for them; your moral righteousness could be an accident of birth or a product of good social fortune. So on what grounds are you permitted to feel snidely superior to your peers who — simply because of their different life circumstances — wound up on the other side of the political aisle?... The contingency of our own positions also raises the distinct possibility that others’ opinions contain overlooked elements of truth."

Writes sociology professor Neil Gross, in "When It Comes to Politics, Are Any of Us Really Thinking for Ourselves?" (NYT).

Another occasion to roll out the old adage, "All the assholes are over on the other side":

"The 25 Most Defining Pieces of Furniture From the Last 100 Years."

"Three designers, a museum curator, an artist and a design-savvy actress convened at The New York Times to make a list of the most enduring and significant objects for living."

It's the 29th day of the month, but I still have 1 — and only 1 — free access link to the New York Times to give to you: HERE

#1 is the original beanbag chair, the Sacco chair.

#3 is something I actually have: the Le Corbusier Chaise Longue à Réglage Continu. The designers say things like "it addresses how our bodies are meant to sit" and "it’s also comfortable," and that's what I thought looking at it, but the truth is, I almost never sit/recline in it. It doesn't properly take account of how the body sits. Do you want your arms hanging over the edges, like Alexander the Great in his coffin?

Check out the whole list — I bet you have #15 — all on one page, with lots of pictures and explanations.

I want #21 — "Yes, they’re little peens."

Laughed out loud at #22.

Possibly the best furniture article. Better than an entire coffeetable book... about coffeetables (and other tables and chairs and sofas).

It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap....

"Inside the hall, the three presidents sat in matching white armchairs and took the stage to strains of 'Born to Run' by Bruce Springsteen, the unofficial bard of the Democratic Party...."

I'm reading "4 Presidents, 2 Events and a Preview of Campaign Clashes to Come/President Biden raised $25 million at a Radio City Music Hall event, adding to his huge cash edge, after Donald Trump pushed his law-and-order message at a wake for a police officer killed on duty" (NYT).

Three Presidents were sitting in white armchairs before people who'd paid up to $500,000 apiece to sit in the audience in the most beautiful theater in the country. The comments over there are mostly about the fourth President. That guy, Mr. Trump, steals focus from everything.

Also stealing attention were the protesters at the 3-Presidents event. They were shouting "blood on your hands." Obama chided them: "You can’t just talk and not listen. That’s what the other side does." Seems to me protesters on Obama's side have interrupted more speeches than those on the other side. But it's subjective, and the old adage is as true as ever: All the assholes are over on the other side.

"I’ve cried and prayed every night for over six years straight that I would remain a free Black woman."

"I was thrown into this fight for voting rights and will keep swinging to ensure no one else has to face what I’ve endured for over six years, a political ploy where minority voting rights are under attack."

Said Crystal Mason, quoted in "Woman Who Received 5-Year Sentence in Voter Fraud Case Is Acquitted/A Texas appeals court reversed its earlier opinion that had upheld the conviction of Crystal Mason, who was found guilty of illegally casting a provisional ballot in 2016, even though she claimed she hadn’t known she was ineligible to vote" (NYT).

Mason, a convicted felon, was ineligible to vote, and the question was whether the prosecution needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she knew she was ineligible.

Was Mason used in a political ploy? Did blackness matter? She says yes to both questions, and your opinion may depend on whether you're a Republican or a Democrat. If so, doesn't that tend to prove it was a political ploy? But who has the burden of proof on that? Nobody. And no one will ever definitively answer that question. You already know what you believe. And in that fog, who wants to see Crystal Mason spend 5 years in prison? Not the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

March 28, 2024

At the Thursday Night Café…

 … you can talk about whatever you want 

"[His mother] said he had no interest in small talk but would 'engage passionately and relentlessly with ideas to the point that can exasperate and exhaust others.'"

"In middle school Bankman-Fried became interested in utilitarianism and began to wrestle 'systematically and globally' with the question of how to alleviate the suffering of others, she said. It caused him to become vegetarian and then vegan. He battled with depression and they later learnt that he suffered from 'anhedonia' — an inability to experience pleasure — she said. 'He has never felt happiness or pleasure in his life and does not think he is capable of feeling it,' she said. When she questioned him on this, asking him about a photograph she had up on the mantelpiece showing him grinning broadly, he replied that he was not happy at the time but had 'learnt how to pretend for the sake of others.'... 'He told us he didn’t care about himself,' she wrote. 'All he cared about was living long enough to make a significant difference in the world.'"

From "Sam Bankman-Fried: ‘awkward nerd’ lied at trial, judge tells sentencing/Crypto investors lost $8 billion and prosecutors call it one of the biggest financial cons in history. His defenders — especially his lawyer parents — see it differently" (London Times)

UPDATE: Sam Bankman-Fried was sentenced to 25 years, the NYT reports. He'd faced a maximum of 110 years. Prosecutors had recommended 40 to 50 years, and defense lawyers asked for 6 1/2 years. 

"Modesty garments — multiple layers of underwear, flesh-colored shorts and fabric with genital-shaped silicone barriers..."

"... make contact without direct contact possible, and, along with having bathrobes on standby, help provide a modicum of security, further differentiating between character and actor.... Managing sweat and jiggly phallic simulacrums are all part of the grab bag of a body-centric show. A lake scene means water shooting into mouths and splashing into eyes; and fake blood often splatters onto faces and hair — and even onto the front row (choose your seats wisely!). That balance of levity and reverence lives at the heart of intimacy direction, a serious job with, at times, an absurdist bent. 'We’re still adults telling a story about vagina dentata... If it’s not making us laugh, we’ve somehow missed the boat.'"

From a NYT article called "Death by Genitalia? How an Intimacy Director Made Those ‘Teeth’ Work. Creating the sex scenes for the horror musical required close attention to detail, extra communication and some strategically placed silicone."

jiggly phallic simulacrums... "Simulacrums" is fine, but I prefer the plural form "simulacra." Simulacra feels more like genitalia, and I usually say "genitalia," even where "genitals" will do. I have tags for "genitalia" and "simulacra," and I didn't just create them for this post.

"Mr. Trump ended the first day of public trading $4.6 billion richer on paper...."

I'm reading "Trump’s Social Media Company Opens New Avenue for Conflicts of Interest/Ethics experts say Trump Media, now a publicly traded company, would present a new way for foreign actors or others to influence Donald J. Trump, if he is elected president" (NYT).

Isn't it funny how his haters got him kicked off Twitter and — only because of that — he made his own website and 3 years later, it makes him $4.6 billion?

Anyway, this new Times article, by Sharon LaFraniere — "an investigative reporter currently focusing on Republican candidates in the 2024 presidential campaign" (I love the plural) — casts shade on Trump's insanely good fortune. 

"He keeps repeating the argument that 'purpose-related tools' can make 'our democracy more workable.'"

"The word 'workable' is used so many times in the book that it becomes a poignant refrain — that of an optimistic, pragmatic liberal jurist who wants to believe that if only he is clear enough, he can get his fellow justices to recognize that they are ultimately committed to the same thing. Does Breyer, who is so attuned to the irreducible complexity of the world outside the Supreme Court, truly believe that the world inside is so simple? Given his decades of experience, I find it hard to imagine he does — but then he still seems flummoxed by the Supreme Court’s right-wing turn. At his most baffled, he starts firing off strings of rhetorical questions, asking plaintively how anyone could ever want 'a world in which no governmental effort is made to cure environmental, medical or safety-related ills?'"

"I think if work is asked to be accommodating, to be subservient, to be useful to, to be required to, to be subordinated to, then the artist is in trouble."

Said Richard Serra, quoted in "For Richard Serra, Art Was Not Something. It Was Everything. He was known as the Man of Steel. But the sculptor was also an eternal poet, reshaping our perception of space, says our critic" (NYT).

The Times critic Michael Kimmelman begins:

 It continues:

"As the sky darkens, light-sensitive cells in human eyes become more sensitive to blue and green hues than to reds and oranges."

"This shift in color perception is known as the Purkinje effect, after a 19th-century Czech scientist, and is typically seen at twilight. To take advantage of the Purkinje effect, wear green clothes or a contrasting combination of greens and reds. Blue-green colors (shorter wavelengths) will appear brighter, while red colors (longer wavelengths) will appear to recede into the darkness."

From a NYT article about the solar eclipse, coming to a city near you on April 8th.

Do you have plans to locate yourself appropriately? Had you thought about what to wear? The pleasing coordination with the Purkinje effect is to wear red and to go dark along with the sun, but the NYT is prompting you to steal focus from the sun by wearing green. I hope I'm nowhere near anyone attempting to take photos to be captioned, "Me and the solar eclipse."

March 27, 2024

Sunrise — 6:52.


"The majority of the financial fallout is likely to lay primarily with the insurance industry...."

"Industry experts told FT that insurers could pay out losses for bridge damage, port disruption, and any loss of life. The collapse could drive 'one of the largest claims ever to hit the marine (re)insurance market,' John Miklus, president of the American Institute of Marine Underwriters, told Insurance Business.... The Dali is covered by the Britannia Steam Ship Insurance Association Ltd.... Britannia... told FT it was 'working closely with the ship manager and relevant authorities to establish the facts and to help ensure that this situation is dealt with quickly and professionally.' Britannia is one of 12 mutual insurers included in the International Group of P&I Clubs, which maintains more than $3 billion of reinsurance cover...."

From "Here's who could be responsible for paying for the Baltimore bridge disaster" (Business Insider).

Despite all that insurance, Joe Biden was quick to say — please tell me why — "It is my intention that the federal government will pay for the entire cost of reconstructing that bridge, and I expect Congress to support my effort."

By the way, isn't it amazing to think of a bridge standing all these years — since 1977 — when a crash into one pier was always capable of bringing the whole structure down? Think of all the ships that passed through without hitting either pier. The bridge was always vulnerable.

"The Ronna McDaniel Debacle and the Test for Talking Heads."

"I made the move from political operative to media analyst. Here’s how it can actually work."

Writes Jeff Greenfield, at Politico. Greenfield is "a five-time Emmy-winning network television analyst" who moved from political operative to media analyst way back in the 1970s.

"Users frequently leverage TikTok features to add commentary to his posts in mocking ways. After the campaign posted a video..."

"... of Mr. Biden criticizing Mr. Trump, saying, 'Over my dead body will he cut social security,' some users responded with videos that called attention to the president’s age — receiving more views than the original."

From "Biden’s TikTok Challenge: Reach Gen Z, Without Drawing Its Wrath/For his campaign, navigating the platform has meant encountering over and over some of the thorniest issues plaguing Mr. Biden’s re-election bid" (NYT).

You can't say anything on TikTok without helping your antagonists punch back twice as hard. 

"The seventeenth-century friar Joseph of Cupertino flew so often, so extravagantly, so publicly, that he forced everyone around him..."

"... to confront the boundary between the inexplicable and the impossible... Crowds of people came to see the spectacle... So many came to see him that the friars had to remove tiles from the roof so the masses could watch him fly during the liturgy. He levitated constantly, understandably annoying his fellow friars—what with the shrieking, the soaring, the streaming crowds. He eventually annoyed the Inquisition, too, and was charged with feigned sanctity. He levitated on the way to his trial. The examiners gave him a stern warning, and the Inquisition would monitor him for the rest of his life.... Joseph understood his body as his medium. He starved it, whipped it, abused it violently for decades. Did he starve himself into lightness, with his diet of beans and rotting vegetables? According to hagiographers, when he was dying he called his body asino, or 'jackass.' During his final illness: 'The jackass has now begun to climb the mountain.' On the brink of death: 'The jackass has reached the top of the mountain. He can no longer move. He will have to leave his hide here.'..."

Writes Erin Maglaque in "Wings of Desire/A gullible new book raises the question of how we should interpret the history of the supernatural in early modernity" (NYRB). The book under review is "They Flew: A History of the Impossible" by Carlos M.N. Eire.

Maglaque continues:

It's a trap, and they fall into it.

That's from Memeorandum's display of current headlines.

I say it's a trap — and they fell into it — because although Trump is raising some money — campaign merchandise — he's getting free PR from his antagonists. Not only are they raising awareness of this buyable item, they are displaying their own disgust — if not horror — at the sacred object.

Read more about Trump's Bible, here, at Axios. Oh! I see Trump isn't raising money: "None of the money garnered from the Bible will go toward Trump's presidential campaign, the website states."

Only because the eagle swooped over my head before landing up there did I see him at all and notice the second eagle.


"Never before had an alliance been conducted in so personal a fashion: two aristocrats, both gifted amateurs exuding..."

"... a sense of having been born to rule, shared their thoughts and actions, pleasures and worries, badinage and anger, with the sovereign self-confidence which came naturally to both as they juggled with the fates of a score of nations."

From a 1977 review of "2 books with nearly identical titles" — "Roosevelt and Churchill 1939-1941: The Partnership That Saved the West" and "Roosevelt and Churchill: Their Secret Wartime Correspondence."

I encountered that in The New York Review of Books this morning as I was indulging in The Althouse Review of Badinage. 

Do we have anyone like that today — a gifted amateur exuding a sense of having been born to rule, capable of sharing their thoughts and actions, pleasures and worries, badinage and anger, with a sovereign self-confidence that comes naturally?

"Trump is America’s biggest comedian. His badinage is hardly Wildean, but his put-downs, honed to the sharpness of stilettos..."

"... are many people’s idea of fun. For them, he makes anger, fear, and resentment entertaining. For anyone who questions how much talent and charisma this requires, there is a simple answer: Ron DeSantis. Why did DeSantis’s attempt to appeal to Republican voters as a straitlaced version of Trump fall so flat? Because Trumpism without the cruel laughter is nothing. It needs its creator’s fusion of rage, mockery, and poisoned imitation, whether of a reporter with a disability or (in a dumb show that Trump has been playing out in his speeches in recent months) of Joe Biden apparently unable to find his way off a stage. It demands the withering scorn for Sleepy Joe and Crooked Hillary, Crazy Liz and Ron DeSanctimonious, Cryin’ Chuck and Phoney Fani. It requires the lifting of taboos to create a community of kindred spirits. It depends on Trump’s ability to be pitiless in his ridicule of the targets of his contempt while allowing his audience to feel deeply sorry for itself. (If tragedy, as Aristotle claimed, involves terror and pity, Trump’s tragicomedy deals in terror and self-pity.) Hard as it is to understand, especially for those of us who are too terrified to be amused, Trump’s ranting is organized laughter. To understand his continuing hold over his fans, we have to ask: Why is he funny?"

Asks Fintan O'Toole, in  "Laugh Riot/To understand Trump’s continuing hold over his fans, we have to ask: Why do they find him so funny?" (NYRB).

Maybe that's behind a paywall, and you can't read O'Toole's answer. Maybe you can answer his question on your own. I can't quote the whole thing.

I'll quote 2 beefy sentences:

March 26, 2024

At the Tuesday Night Café…

… you can write about whatever you want.

Judicial restraint rears its head at this morning's abortion-pill oral argument.

"Trump social media stock skyrockets in first day of trading."

NBC News reports.

ADDED: From the NYT article on the subject: "Before the merger, shares of the shell company... had long behaved as something of a proxy for investor sentiment about Mr. Trump.... By most traditional measures, Trump Media’s valuation is inordinately high. The company took in just $3.3 million in revenue during the first nine months of last year, all from advertising on Truth Social, and recorded a loss of $49 million."

So... overvaluation seems to be a theme with Trump. Here the market is doing the valuation. It's not Trump's valuation his own property and the DA's alternative valuation— the subject of the New York lawsuit.

Any hope of characterizing the buying of the stock, bidding up the price, as an illegal campaign contribution? It's handing billions of dollars to Trump.

"Mr. DeSantis had vetoed a previous bill that would have banned social media accounts for 14- and 15-year-olds even with parental consent."

"The governor said the earlier bill would impinge on parents’ rights to make decisions about their children’s online activities. The new Florida measure is almost certain to face constitutional challenges over young people’s rights to freely seek information and companies’ rights to distribute information."

From "DeSantis Signs Social Media Bill Barring Accounts for Children Under 14/A new Florida law also requires apps like TikTok and Snapchat to obtain a parent’s consent before giving accounts to 14- and 15-year-olds" (NYT).

"Independent presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. intends to announce Tuesday that Nicole Shanahan, a wealthy attorney and..."

"... entrepreneur in the San Francisco Bay Area, will be joining his campaign as his vice presidential selection, according to two sources familiar with the Kennedy campaign's plans. Shanahan, who like Kennedy has never run for elected office, has contributed to his campaign and said she gave to his super PAC...."

NBC News reports.

"This case is a retribution. It is a signal to all of you that if you expose the interests that are driving war they will come after you..."

"... they will put you in prison and will try to kill you. The Biden administration should not issue assurances. They should drop this shameful case that should never have been brought."

"No matter how much one disapproves of Mr. Trump, or wishes that his presidential ambitions fail, every defendant deserves due process, including recourse to appeal...."

"Seeking appeal should not be effectively impossible, or expensive to the point of imposing vast and irreparable harm, particularly when a defendant has a colorable argument before appellate judges, as Mr. Trump appears to have...."

That's the Editorial Board of The Washington Post.

"Mr. Malinin started skating to the 'Succession' theme last fall, but he has yet to watch the show. 'I don’t have a subscription to HBO'..."

"... he said in an interview. 'But if I did get it, I’d definitely watch.' The network’s programming has influenced his performances before: Last season, he performed a free skate program set to a selection of music from the series 'Euphoria.' 'I didn’t watch "Euphoria" either,' he said, 'but I’ve heard it’s a really good series.'"

From "'Succession' on Ice/Ilia Malinin, an American teenager, won the men’s World Figure Skating Championships with a performance set to the theme of the HBO series" (NYT).

For my post with videos of Malinin's amazing performance, go here.

ALSO: From the NYT article: "In the coming months, Mr. Malinin plans to 'take the time to mentally prepare for the idea of trying' the quint jump, he said. 'I like to push the boundaries of physical abilities and the boundaries of this sport.'"

The article headline is "'Succession' on Ice," but Malinin isn't in any way interpreting the story or the characters from the show. It's completely abstract music to him (and his choreographer), I presume. For a viewer of the show, however, the music calls up those associations. It's not just music. It's a particular, awful family... that has nothing to do with Malinin.

I wasn't going to go out of my way to watch Trump's press conference, but now it's the next thing I'm going to do.

I'm even motivated to post the entire thing:

"A major bridge in Baltimore collapsed after being struck by a cargo ship early Tuesday, sending vehicles plunging into the water...."

"It was not immediately clear how many people were on the span — the Francis Scott Key Bridge, which is part of Interstate 695 — when the cargo ship struck. Baltimore’s fire chief, James Wallace, told a news conference that officials were searching for 'upwards of seven people' and that two others had been pulled from the water....."

They're using sonar to detect the vehicles in the water — the Petapso River. What of people who escape from vehicles into that water? What was the height of the roadway? Is the fall survivable?

Here's the video, showing the ship hit the bridge and the bridge collapse. Scroll to find the crash:

ADDED: If you didn't on your own wonder if this could have been intentional, the denial will put the idea in your head:

March 25, 2024

At the Monday Night Café…

 … you can talk about whatever you want.

"A state appeals court ruled that Donald Trump and his co-defendants in the New York civil fraud case have 10 days to post a $175 million bond..."

"... down from the $464 million judgment that was originally due Monday. The 11th-hour ruling from a panel of state Appellate Division judges, all appointed by Democratic governors, is a major victory and relief for the former president, whose attorneys had said coming up with the larger bond was a 'practical impossibility.' The ruling also means state Attorney General Letitia James’ office cannot yet begin collecting on the judgment...."

ADDED: From the NYT article: "The ruling by a five-judge panel of appellate court judges was a crucial and unexpected victory for the former president, potentially staving off a looming financial disaster.... In a statement, Mr. Trump said he would 'abide by the decision' and post either a bond from an outside company or put up the money himself. He added that the appellate court’s decision to reduce the bond 'shows how ridiculous and outrageous' the $454 million judgment is."

"Here, Rogan plays for Haidt what turns out to be an edited clip of [T]rump’s 'bloodbath' comment."

"In this edited clip, it sounds bad. Haidt comes to a conclusion based on this erroneous piece of evidence. Having formed that initial reaction, despite the fact that they realize it was an edited clip and not the original statement, it is virtually impossible for Haidt backtrack on that original impression. This is exactly how fake news works."

Tweets Viva Frei, displaying this Joe Rogan clip:
I watched the whole Joe Rogan episode — it's free on YouTube, here — and I was disappointed in Haidt, who is out and about this month pushing a new book about taking smart phones away from kids. Haidt presents himself as a source of wisdom and good sense in our supposedly crazy world, but in that clip, you see him mentally failing, in real time.

"Nineteen-year-old American superstar Ilia Malinin scored a record 227.79 in the free skate, winning his first world title by landing the best collection of jumps..."

"... in one program in figure skating history. Malinin landed a quadruple Axel, quad Lutz, quad loop, quad Salchow, another quad Lutz and a quad toe loop, then finished his four-minute skate with a a triple Lutz-triple Axel finale."

And all to the "Succession" theme:

"I would have a very low opinion of myself as well."

"In Finland, swinging your arms and other unnecessary sudden hand gestures are quite commonly interpreted as a sign of aggression, which should be avoided unless you want to get your ass kicked."

Writes someone in Finland in a Reddit discussion, "Do Europeans ever use their hand[s] to make 'Air Quotes' in a conversation, for example, to express sarcasm or a euphemism?"

Someone in Slovakia says "If you can't express sarcasm or a euphemism by you voice and tone, you shouldn't be allowed to do it. (I haven't seen it here, but maybe somebody does it.)"

An American says: "I did it in Italy once, and my little Italian cousins absolutely lost it laughing so hard, bc they didn't know why I was wiggling my fingers around (which I understand would look very, very strange if you don't know the meaning)." 

Someone in Italy answers: "We don't do it in Italy. Some people may know what it means because of American movies and TV series."

I know the TV series! It's "Friends":

"She said that her boss once asked her to wear something sexier to work, but that she had ignored his request."

"In addition, she has for the first time started to turn down work assignments she doesn’t want to do. After going through years of unpredictable lockdowns, quarantines and the fears of getting sick during the pandemic, Ms. Chen said all she wanted now was to live in the moment with a stable job and a peaceful life. She is not worried about promotions or getting ahead. 'Just be happy every day and don’t impose things on yourself,' she said."

From "Furry Slippers and Sweatpants: Young Chinese Embrace ‘Gross Outfits’ at Work/The social media movement is the latest sign that some of China’s young people are resisting the compulsion to strive" (NYT).

March 24, 2024

At the Sunday Night Café…

 … you can talk all night.

"When asked how many cats he had, I think he said it was like counting bubbles in boiling water."

Said a spokeswoman for the British Columbian SPCA, quoted in "Charity steps in to rehome 300 cats from ‘overwhelmed’ man in Canada/Man says he ended up in ‘a crazy situation’ after he began taking in cats abandoned during Covid pandemic" (The Guardian).

"My version of feminist, queer, trans-affirmative politics is not about policing. I don’t think we should become the police. I’m afraid of the police."

"But I think a lot of people feel that the world is out of control, and one place where they can exercise some control is language. And it seems like moral discourse comes in then: Call me this. Use this term. We agree to use this language. What I like most about what young people are doing — and it’s not just the young, but everybody’s young now, according to me — is the experimentation. I love the experimentation. Like, let’s come up with new language. Let’s play. Let’s see what language makes us feel better about our lives. But I think we need to have a little more compassion for the adjustment process."

Says Judith Butler, quoted in "Judith Butler Thinks You’re Overreacting/How did gender become a scary word? The theorist who got us talking about the subject has answers" (NYT).

Butler — author of the very influential book "Gender Trouble" — has a new book, "Who’s Afraid of Gender?"

I liked that line: "I don’t think we should become the police. I’m afraid of the police." (And note that the word "afraid" is in the new book's title.) 

"The horse appears to be digitally composed because its front and hind legs do not represent any phase of natural movement at the walk, trot, canter, or gallop."

"Based on its leg position the horse appears to be trotting with his hind legs and cantering with his front!"

So says a commenter at the NYT Style piece, "Dissecting the ‘Cowboy Carter’ Cover: Beyoncé’s Yeehaw Agenda/On Tuesday, the pop star revealed her new album’s cover, a constellation of country signifiers reminding fans of her Texas roots."

The "Style Desk" writers are saying things like "I love how she and the horse have matching hair," "she’s clearly been trying to reinscribe images of Black women into the history of the cowboys and the West," and "Beyoncé is looking directly into the camera with her face forward and it really feels like a reclaiming" and "Beyoncé seems to believe she has to position herself as a cowgirl on a horse, wearing red, white and blue, holding the American flag on an album cover to drill it into people’s heads that her interest in country isn’t a fad."

Here's the photo/illustration under discussion:

"[O]ur upstairs neighbors acquired an emotional support dog for their teenager. The dog runs back and forth for 30 minutes at a time."

"At least three nights a week, it scratches a bedroom rug, waking us up throughout the night. We have shared our concerns with the neighbors, asking them to crate the dog at night and walk him when he’s rambunctious. They seemed receptive, but the problem persists. How can we balance the rights of people to have emotional support animals with our right to live peacefully?"

A woman who had heretofore enjoyed 37 years of pleasant life in her condo sends a question to the NYT real estate adviser.

I won't quote any of the answer. It boils down to: NOTHING.

I should add that "boils down" was not intended as any sort of reference to the last lines of the previous post. You can do nothing, nothing, nothing about that dog that is scraping at the other side of your ceiling all night long. You should have thought of this possibility when you chose to take up condo life 4 decades ago. Dog people good. Dog haters bad. Bad bad bad haters. You deserve to lie awake all night for your failure to love.

"Mr. Haidt has a metaphor... Our emotions are like a galumphing elephant, and our conscious reasoning..."

"... is the rider on top. We may think it’s the rider steering the elephant, but more often it’s the other way around. Our emotions land somewhere, and then we try to rationalize why. 'Almost every social thing I’ve ever tried to do, we had to speak to the elephant, change people’s minds, change their hearts,' Mr. Haidt said. 'This is the first time I haven’t had to do that. Almost everybody’s elephant is already leaning my way.'"

The "idea for fixing Gen Z" is "no smartphones before high school, no social media before age 16 and no phones in schools."
“When you have a system which everyone hates, and then you have a way to escape it, it can change within a year, and that’s what happened in 1989,” Mr. Haidt said. “It’s different from the fall of communism but I expect it to be about as fast as the fall of communism. Because it’s a regime that we all hate.”

We all hate smartphones... or, I guess, kids with smartphones? I went to look up whether Haidt's name is pronounced "hate," and I ended up running into his dissertation: "Moral Judgment, Affect, and Culture, or, Is it Wrong to Eat Your Dog?":

A family's dog was killed by a car in front of their house. They had heard that dog meat was delicious, so they cut up the dog's body and cooked it and ate it for dinner.

"If I became a writer and artist of children’s books... it was not because I had in mind to create children’s books."

"I wanted Babar to live on (or, as some will say, my father to live on). I wanted to stay in his country, the elephant world which is both a utopia and a gentle satire on the society of men.... Babar and I both... take the same care to avoid over-dramatization of the events or situations that do arise. If we take the correct, efficient steps, we both believe that a happy end will come.... [T]here is a message in the Babar books, a message of nonviolence."

Babar was invented by Laurent de Brunhoff's mother, Cécile de Brunhoff. It was a bedtime story, told to Laurent when he was 5, and retold to his father, Jean de Brunhoff, who took the story further in words and drawings. Jean created the first 7 books, then died of tuberculosis at age 37. Laurent continued his father's world — the elephant world, where he wanted to stay.

The obituary links to a NYT book review from 40 years ago. The book is "What the Lone Ranger, Babar, and Other Innocent Heroes Do to Our Minds," which explains how "Babar's story is a lesson in colonialism with racist overtones." We're told: "[The author, Ariel] Dorfman explicates these episodes and stories at academic length. He even deciphers the racial and sexual symbolism of Zephyr the monkey and Silver the stallion. For authority, he cites such authors as Gyorgy Lukacs, Antonio Gramsci and Frantz Fanon, blending in the psychoanalytic leaven found in much Marxist writing."

Babar racist? It's an easy shot. The elephant is a big target.

"LSU coach Kim Mulkey on Saturday threatened legal action against The Washington Post in a four-minute tirade..."

"... about a story that she said the newspaper was reporting about her. It was not immediately clear what the story was about or when it might publish, but Mulkey said in comments to open a news conference ahead of her team’s second-round game in the NCAA Tournament that she was expecting a 'hit piece.' ;I’m fed up, and I’m not going to let The Washington Post attack this university, this awesome team of young women I have or me without a fight,' Mulkey said. 'I’ve hired the best defamation law firm in the country, and I will sue The Washington Post if they publish a false story about me.'... Mulkey has come under fire in the past for reportedly encouraging former players to keep quiet about their sexuality...."

The Athletic reports.

“But you see, reporters who give a megaphone to a one-sided, embellished version of things aren’t trying to tell the truth. They’re trying to sell newspapers and feed the click machine. This is exactly why people don’t trust journalists and the media anymore. It’s these kinds of sleazy tactics and hatchet jobs that people are just tired of.”

"What I didn’t tell the guard... is that I’m tired of hiding from my country—and that I want to trade one form of hiding for another."

"I have conducted my adult life as if censorship and propaganda were my natural enemies, but now some broken part of me is homesick for that world. I want to be deceived, to forget that there is a war going on...."

Writes Vadim Shyslov, in "Give Me Propaganda or Give Me Death/When Russia went to war, I faced a choice: Flee to a world where the truth might kill me—or seek peace in censored oblivion" (Wired).
Masha Borzunova, a journalist who fled Russia... walked me through a typical day of Russian TV: “A person wakes up to a news broadcast that shows how the Russian military is making gains. Then Anti-Fake begins, where the presenters dismantle the fake news of Western propaganda and propagate their own fake news. Then there’s the talk show Time Will Tell that runs for four, sometimes five hours, where we’ll see Russian soldiers bravely advancing. Then comes Male and Female.... Then more news and a few more talk shows, in which a KGB combat psychic predicts Russia’s future and what will happen on the front. This is followed by the game show Field of Miracles.... And then, of course, the evening news.” 
I had gone from being infuriated by this kind of hypnosis to envying it. The free flow of information had become for me what a jug of water is to a severely dehydrated person: The right amount can save you, but too much can kill....