January 23, 2018

"Let me get this straight. You’re saying that we should organize our societies along the lines of the lobsters?"

From "Why Can't People Hear What Jordan Peterson Is Saying?/A British broadcaster doggedly tried to put words into the academic’s mouth" by Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic.

The quote in the post headline is what Cathy Newman said after Peterson said:
There’s this idea that hierarchical structures are a sociological construct of the Western patriarchy. And that is so untrue that it’s almost unbelievable. I use the lobster as an example: We diverged from lobsters evolutionarily history about 350 million years ago. And lobsters exist in hierarchies. They have a nervous system attuned to the hierarchy. And that nervous system runs on serotonin just like ours. The nervous system of the lobster and the human being is so similar that anti-depressants work on lobsters. And it’s part of my attempt to demonstrate that the idea of hierarchy has absolutely nothing to do with sociocultural construction, which it doesn’t.
Lots more quotes from the interview and analysis of what's going on at the link. I just want to quote something from the movie "The Lobster":
HOTEL MANAGER — The fact that you'll turn into an animal if you don't manage to fall in love with another person during your stay here is not something that should upset you... Have you decided what animal you would like to be if you end up alone?

DAVID — A lobster.

HOTEL MANAGER — Why a lobster?

DAVID — Because a lobster lives to be over 100 years old, has blue blood just like an aristocrat and stays fertile all its life. And I like the sea very much. I water-ski and swim quite well, ever since I was a teenager.

HOTEL MANAGER — I must congratulate you. Usually the first thing people think of is a dog and that’s why the world is full of dogs.* Very few choose to become unusual animals, which is why they are endangered. Rarely does someone choose to be a tuna fish, due to the dangers it faces, or a polar bear, due to its adverse living conditions. A lobster is an excellent choice.
And here's the great David Foster Wallace essay "Consider the Lobster." Excerpt:
Still, after all the abstract intellection, there remain the facts of the frantically clanking lid, the pathetic clinging to the edge of the pot. Standing at the stove, it is hard to deny in any meaningful way that this is a living creature experiencing pain and wishing to avoid/escape the painful experience. To my lay mind, the lobster’s behavior in the kettle appears to be the expression of a preference; and it may well be that an ability to form preferences is the decisive criterion for real suffering. The logic of this (preference p suffering) relation may be easiest to see in the negative case. If you cut certain kinds of worms in half, the halves will often keep crawling around and going about their vermiform business as if nothing had happened. When we assert, based on their post-op behavior, that these worms appear not to be suffering, what we’re really saying is that there’s no sign that the worms know anything bad has happened or would prefer not to have gotten cut in half.

* Notice that "the British broadcaster doggedly tried..."

"The mess that the airlines are in today... this dope filled world —— get in a long tube with a bunch of demons —— and it's deadly"/"And it works on your heart."

Evangelists explain why they need to fly in private planes:

"We got a dyin' world around us, Jesse. We got a dyin' nation around us. And we can't even get there on no airlines...."

Yeah, I don't like the airlines either.

I watched the Oscar nominations show so you don't have to.

I'll just say if the job consists of reading a Teleprompter, hire someone who can read a Teleprompter.

Here's the full list of nominations.

"He told me he was freaked out, but I guess when you think you’re dying because your entrails are shooting out your bottom and you find out it’s not you, but something else, that’s probably a good thing."

Says a doctor quoted in "How the sushi boom is fuelling tapeworm infections/As eating raw fish has become more popular, gruesome tapeworm tales have emerged. But how worried should sashimi lovers be – and how else might we become infected?"

"It is not like this case is about national security or corruption. Right?"

"Stuckie the dog is eternally grasping for freedom that will never come."

Half a century ago, a dog ran up the center of a hollow tree. The tree that killed him preserved his body, and both tree and dog are on display in the Southern Forest World Museum, Newsweek reports.


Speaking of dead bodies preserved in action and just to balance the beast/human respect for the dead, there's also this in the news today: "Buddhist monk ‘still smiling’ two months after his death."

ADDED: The tree preserved the dead dog, and the dog preserved the dead tree.

Is Melania angry with Trump? Suddenly, we hear she's not going with him to Davos this week.

At the last minute — one day before the scheduled departure — her people tell us she has "scheduling and logistical issues."

Not wanting to be around somebody is, euphemistically, a "logistical issue."
Melania Trump has not made a public statement since January 12, when news of a possible payoff from her husband's lawyer to porn star Stormy Daniels to cover up an alleged affair was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

The first lady did, however, depart with the President later that day to Mar-a-Lago for the long holiday weekend, although she was not spotted with him during two evening dinners hosted by Trump, one with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani and another with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
And look at how she tweeted on the anniversary of her husbands inauguration — an image and message utterly devoid of Trump:

Many wonderful moments and at least one nonwonderful moment.

The announcement that Melania would not accompany her husband to Davos came on what was their wedding anniversary — their 13th.

Joining Melania in her wrath, Nature dumps 6 feet of snow on Davos. (NYT.)

"A few weeks ago, fourteen Russian first-year air-transport cadets made a parody of a fifteen-year-old music clip, and now it’s all a lot of Russians can talk about."

"This is a story of spontaneous solidarity, self-organization, and, ultimately, just possibly, the triumph of freedom over bureaucracy," writes Masha Gessen, in The New Yorker, showing us New Yorker readers this:

We're told they didn't mean for that to go up on line. Whatever. But when it did, the air-travel ministry said it would “investigate all circumstances and causes of this outrageous incident.” That led Russian news TV to entertain the Russian people by showing the clip over and over and pointing out the "clear expressions of homosexuality." That led to lots more #Satisfaction clips, which The New Yorker helpfully links to and instructs us to watch in order — "construction, agricultural... emergency services... jockeys... stable boys... theatre troupe... nurses... women’s biathlon team... Medical... Deep-sea divers... mixed-gender group shot in a sauna... retired women of St. Petersburg...."

What does it all mean? Gesson says:
Given Russia’s official and highly politicized homophobia, these parodies are pure protest, raunchy and playful. They demonstrate that Russians can still form horizontal connections, despite the state’s monopoly on the public sphere, and despite the threat of harsh penalties for protest in general and “propaganda of homosexuality” in particular. Each clip is at once a show of solidarity with a group of young strangers and a show of ordinary people’s ability to organize and act together—an ability that the state would seem to have stamped out....
The original video has a power tools theme...

... and Gesson ends with a "power tools" witticism: "Performing homoeroticism is, as it turns out, the real power tool when it comes to sticking it to the authorities."

January 22, 2018

At the Macaroon Café...


... you can talk all night.

And remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

I can't watch the TV news without getting completely distracted by the hair and makeup on the women.

Sometimes I've wondered why I write almost continually about the news but almost never watch it on television. Today, I saw the answer with great clarity.

Reading, I saw that the Senate was voting on the shutdown and decided this was one of those real-time events that I'd watch live. It wasn't really too lively. I immediately saw the vote tally on CSPAN-2, but instead of turning it off, I switched to one of the cable news shows to see what they were saying. I won't name the channel or the 2 women whose looks I'm going to talk about, but I was immediately saying: "Oh! X didn't have time to go through hair and makeup! You can see how she really looks. That's so weird." Etc.

The vote came up suddenly enough, it seemed that X had not undergone the full processing that normally forms her into the being I'm accustomed to seeing on camera. She looked like an ordinary woman, yet being on TV, she looked completely bizarre. Her hair was lank, her face red and ill-defined. And yet, she looked like the women I see on the street in my walking-around life.

Later, there was a panel discussion that included a woman, Y, who had, I think, gone through full processing and attained what I theorized was the post-#MeToo look for women. She wore a fully covered-up black get-up, something like what Frances McDormand wore at the Golden Globes...
... and she had very long, parted-on-one-side, dark hair — a style of the sort that was once associated with elementary-school girls. Her makeup was a no-makeup look and her mannerisms and speech were, I thought, exactly the same as the male panelists.

It's not that I didn't listen to what she and others were saying. I did. They said the same 3 or 4 things about the shutdown over and over again. If I were reading, I'd have it thoroughly skimmed in 20 seconds. Locked into the TV show's idea of time, I search for things to pay attention to, and I find myself plunging into the visual dimension, which you might consider shallow, but I find deeper than who voters will blame and whether Schumer can negotiate with Jello.

I got very chatty about how Newswomen of the Future will dress and act, and then I had to turn the flashy pictures off and get back to my iPad. The low-battery alert was taunting me, so I set that aside, laced up my hiking boots, got my umbrella, and went out for a late-January walk. I had my earbuds in so I could listen to the latest edition of the New Yorker. The story was "When Barbie Went to War with Bratz/How a legal battle over intellectual property exposed a cultural battle over sex, gender roles, and the workplace" by Jill Lepore. I made a mental note to show you this:
It’s no accident that #MeToo started in the entertainment and television-news businesses, where women are required to look as much like Barbie and Bratz dolls as possible, with the help of personal trainers, makeup artists, hair stylists, personal shoppers, and surgeons. Unfortunately, an extrajudicial crusade of public shaming of men accused of “sexual misconduct” is no solution, and a poor kind of justice, not least because it brooks no dissent, as if all that women are allowed to say about #MeToo is “Me, too!” The pull string wriggles.

Shutdown-blame update.

AND: "Senate Votes Overwhelmingly to End Government Shutdown" (NYT).

"Was Lynch coordinating with Comey in the Clinton investigation?"

Asks Sharyl Attkisson (at The Hill).
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch knew well in advance of FBI Director James Comey's 2016 press conference that he would recommend against charging Hillary Clinton, according to information turned over to the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday.

The revelation was included in 384 pages of text messages exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and it significantly diminishes the credibility of Lynch's earlier commitment to accept Comey's recommendation — a commitment she made under the pretense that the two were not coordinating with each other.

And it gets worse. Comey and Lynch reportedly knew that Clinton would never face charges even before the FBI conducted its three-hour interview with Clinton, which was supposedly meant to gather more information into her mishandling of classified information...
Read the whole thing.


A nice Roz Chast New Yorker cover:

My January calendar has 4 positive dates. 2 are personal to me, my birthday (12) and my bloggiversary (14). But I also have 2 others that we all share and that are very important, I believe, psychologically, especially if you live in a northern latitude where you must deal with the short days and long nights.

January 5: The End of Darkmonth. Darkmonth is the darkest monthlong period of the year, that is, the period with the winter solstice at the center. The solstice was December 21st, so I put the last day of Darkmonth on January 5th.

The second day of note, following this line of reasoning, is January 20th, which marks the end of the darkest 2-month period. I don't have a name for the 15 days on either side of Darkmonth — Nonconsecutive-Second-to-Darkest-Month.

But we just got past that, and in 2 more weeks, the darkest 3 months will be over. So even though it will only be February 5 (or 6th), which seems a long way from the end of winter, if your problem with winter is, as it is for me, the darkness, you should see winter as over.

What does the old actor William H. Macy have to say to "the younger guys" about how they should behave in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp?

He's fielding the question on the fly after winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for his role in the TV show "Shameless." I like the somewhat scattered quality of the collection of ideas:

"In what we do for a living, we’ve got to be free to speak the unspeakable and try things. So I don’t want it to throw a wet blanket on things, and I don’t feel that it will, because half the business is women and they’re smart and they’re hip. It’s a good time to be a girl. I’m proud of this business, because such things as safety in the workplace, that’s done. We’re not going back. It’s changed. It changed in an instant and it’s not going back. When it comes to equality in pay, it’s inevitable. It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen quickly. My hat’s off to our business.... It’s hard to be a man these days. I think a lot of us feel like we’re under attack and that we need to apologize, and perhaps we do.... We had a meeting. A bunch of guys got together under the auspices of Time’s Up. That’s good for men. Men don’t talk enough. Men don't talk to other men. And we talked. What the hell, a little bit can't hurt you."

The first thought is: Preserve the men's freedom of expression. He starts down that road. Perhaps he's thinking that male vitality must rage on or the work product will go to hell. And who will choose to go into film? How can it work?

But he self-censors and shifts to praising women. They're smart and they're hip.

Then he promotes "the business." He's "proud" of it. And he's even eager to credit it with already having solved its problem, because the culture has changed. We're not going back. Hats off! Yay, business!!

Then he gets back to the question. He must feel some obligation to the questioner, now that he's done the necessary promoting of The Business and genuflected to The Women. But what can he say? It's hard. We feel attacked. We feel that we're asked to apologize. We can talk. Well, we were wrangled into a talk session by Time's Up, so we talked. We can talk. It could happen. A little bit anyway. We can talk a little bit without feeling entirely emasculated.

In the future, shopping in a store will look like shoplifting.

BBC reports on the Amazon Go store that's being tested in Seattle:
On entering the store, shoppers walk through gates similar to those in the London underground, swiping their smartphones loaded with the Amazon Go app. Then they are free to put any of the sandwiches, salads, drinks and biscuits on the shelves straight into their own shopping bags.

There's no need for a trolley or basket, since you won't be unpacking it again at the till... With the help of sensors on the shelves, items are added to customers' Amazon Go account as they pick them up - and delete any they put back. And an electronic receipt is issued as they exit....
Does it really work?
But there were some... problems with correctly identifying shoppers of similar body types - and children moving items to the wrong places on shelves, according to an Amazon insider.

Pictures of Jupiter.

NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran © CC NC SA

More here.

Via CNN ("[T]wo citizen scientists, Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran, have enhanced the images by manipulating the color and contrast... encouraged by NASA's JunoCam project...").

"If Bears were in charge..."

I found that because I was intrigued by the HuffPo headline "Neil deGrasse Tyson Has A Haunting Question About Bears." It's worth clicking on that link if only to make sure the quip you're about to make hasn't already been done. For example:

Also: Why did he capitalize "Bears"? I wasted time thinking about the football team.

The sexual harassment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Recounted in "‘It’s about time’: Ruth Bader Ginsburg praises #MeToo, recounts harassment in Sundance talk" (WaPo):
[When] Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a young, studious college kid taking a chemistry class at Cornell University... One day, as she was preparing for a test, she told her professor she felt uncomfortable with some of the material.

“He said, ‘I’ll give you a practice exam,'” Ginsburg recalled in an interview Sunday with NPR’s Nina Totenberg at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

When Ginsburg went to class the next day, she discovered that the professor had actually just slipped her an advance copy of the real test. “And I knew exactly what he wanted in return,” she said. “And that’s just one of many examples.”
I need more context to accept that inference,* though of course I'm making an inference. She's saying that her Cornell chemistry professor — a real person, whose name could be looked up — on his own motivation, imposed the means of cheating on an exam on her, expected her to discover what he had done and meant for her to interpret it as obligating her to have sex with him? I'm too wary of inferences to say I know exactly what RBG means, even as she's alive today and subject to further questioning, but she is very sure of herself and knows exactly what this now-safely-dead man meant 60+ years ago.

I'm imagining a context where I would, like her, be exactly sure. When Professor X hands her the real exam and says "I'll give you a practice exam," he says the word "practice" with a strong "if you know what I mean" inflection, and there would also have had be sexual innuendo in the surrounding conversation or in his gesturing toward her — or maybe in something she said. But if it was so obvious, why did she take the exam? Why didn't she say, "No, thank you. I don't need the 'practice' exam. I need to see what I can do on my own"?

What did she do when she realized she had unwittingly (wittingly??) cheated on the exam?
“I went to his office and I said, ‘How dare you? How dare you do this? And that was the end of that.”
Is that really enough to undo the advantage you accepted over the other students?

To the extent that this is a sexual story, I do want to see it in the context of its time. I think it was accepted as part of the culture that professors could chose students to draw into sexual relationships with them, that it was considered a perk of the job, and that professors were proud of what they got.


* WaPo isn't withholding any context, as you can see from the video, which I've clipped to the relevant spot:

50 years ago today: Season 1, episode 1 of "Laugh-In."

Here is the cocktail party scene, which was to be a regular segment on the show. Nearly everything in this sequence is about sex and race, and it's so awful by today's standards. The show presented itself as being on the cutting edge of American culture, but there was always something retrograde about it — an early 60s mentality trying to be relevant in the late 60s.

January 21, 2018

"Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants."

Harsh words from a new ad at Donald J. Trump for President: