December 31, 2017

At the New Year's Eve Café...

... what are you seeing in that crystal ball?

Carl Bernstein unwittingly reveals that he believes Trump is innocent of whatever it is that Mueller is investigating.

I was stunned by this amazing slip this morning on CNN's "State of the Union." The moderator Dana Bash had this question:WOODWARD: You have to look at the crimes.
[T]he investigation has been going on for over a year, at least in the Justice Department, the FBI. We still don't know about any evidence that the president knowingly colluded with Russia. Does that give the president's claim that this is a witch-hunt some credence?
Bernstein's answer:
He believes it's a witch-hunt. There's no question he believes it's a witch-hunt.
What?! The only way that Bernstein can make those assertions about what Trump believes is if Bernstein is sure Trump is not lying. Trump knows what he did with respect to Russia, but he's saying it's a witch-hunt. Trump's saying that it's a witch-hunt could happen if: 1. He knows there's nothing there (i.e., Mueller is searching for for something, like a witch, that doesn't exist), or 2. He's worried about something that he did and he wants to hide it. Bernstein's remark excludes #2. But Bernstein doesn't have access to the inside of Trump's head, so why did Bernstein say that? I'd say Bernstein, on his own, knows that there's nothing there, and he blurted out an answer without thinking about what he was saying about what's in his own head.

I know: It's also possible that Bernstein is a careless bullshitter.

ADDED: Here's how the CNN website covers the same appearance I am writing about: "Bernstein: Trump's lawyers tell him what he wants to hear on Russia." CNN's writers tell audience what they want to hear about Trump.

"Blood was spurting everywhere. Blood was hitting the ref's face and turning into red icicles. It's a sight I'll always remember."

It was 50 years ago today — The "Ice Bowl"!
In the Cowboys' locker room, players were in a daze, praying that NFL Commis­sioner Pete Rozelle would postpone the game.... The stadium was packed with 50,861 hearty souls who braved the 48-degree below zero wind chill factor with ski masks, blankets and flasks full of brandy....

"I'll always remember (tight end) Marv Fleming being in the huddle and how cold he was and he was trying to keep his hands warm," said Forrest Gregg, who was the Packers' right offensive tackle. "Sometimes when we were out there and time was out, I'd have him put his hands under my arms and I'd clamp down on them trying to keep his hands warm."

The method worked, and suddenly the Packers' huddle had a strange look to it. All the wide receivers and running backs on one side were sticking their arms and hands out so the linemen on the other side could stick them under their armpits.

"When I wasn't doing that, I was sticking my hands down in my crotch area," said run­ning back Donny Anderson....
Much more at the link!

"Electric cars struggling to cross the ‘valley of death’ in Colorado."

The Denver Post reports, explaining the term "valley of death." It's not a geographical place, like Death Valley. It's the predicament where "new technologies to struggle to win public acceptance, especially if different trends need to come together at the same time."

I'd never seen that term, and for once, when I find myself in that situation,* there isn't already a page for it at Wikipedia. Wikipedia's "Valley of Death" page refers only to "any of the numerous landforms named Death Valley" (perhaps because of "the valley of the shadow of death" in Psalm 23), a Nazi mass grave in Poland, the place of the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Gettysburg Battlefield landform of Plum Run, the nickname for a very polluted city in Brazil, the title of a book about Dien Bien Phu, the title of an influential 1970 article about Vietnam, and an alternate title for a horror movie you don't need to watch.


* It isn't uncommon to hear of something for the first time and to go to Wikipedia and to see that there is already a page for it. There's even a name for it — the antechamber of enlightenment.

"I wonder if you might comment on Drudge FP photo of him and the missus. It's pretty cool and pretty provocative. (Also her dress alone deserves a blogpost) 2PM in Paris."

Emails a reader, presumably from Paris. Here's the referenced pic, which I screen-grabbed minutes before Drudge bumped it to highlight the story in the previous post:

I don't know where or when that photograph was taken, but it has a great New Year's Eve look, and Melania perfectly embodies Trump's well-known taste for gold. I love the dress. Is the photograph (with that headline) "provocative"?

How, if at all, are you provoked? free polls

ADDED: Results:

"A man has been arrested on multiple charges after police located a small arsenal of guns on the top floor of the Hyatt Regency on Louisiana Street downtown..."

"... Houston police said. Police at the hotel called for backup around 1:30 a.m. Sunday after they attempted to arrest the man for being intoxicated and trespassing... The Hyatt is preparing its own New Years Eve celebration at the hotel with a 50,000 balloon drop at the stroke of midnight, its website said...."


"Of All the Blogs in the World, He Walks Into Mine."

A NYT article, published yesterday, not to be confused with the NYT article about me and Meade, from April 3, 2009.

From the new article:
It was just before 5 p.m. and Mr. Kurtz, living in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, ordered a pizza. As one does, when one is 24 and living amid a generation of creative people whose every utterance and experience might be thought of as content, Mr. Kurtz filmed and posted to Tumblr a 10-minute video showing him awaiting the delivery.

Among those who liked the video was a stranger Mr. Kurtz had already admired from afar. It was a guy named Mitchell who didn’t reveal his last name on his Tumblr account, just his photographic eye for Brooklyn street scenes and, on occasion, his face. Mr. Kurtz had developed a bit of a social-media crush on him. “I would think, ‘He’s not even sharing his whole life, that is so smart and impressive,’” Mr. Kurtz said....

"Nancy Casey, 41, a nurse practitioner in Portland, Ore., isn’t fazed by garbage. ('Eh, I’m up in vaginas all day.')"

"Still, it’s her husband’s job. 'I do everything else,' Ms. Casey said. Trash night in Portland is especially taxing, she said, because it occurs only once every other week. Moreover, the standard bin is half the size of the compost and recycling, which are picked up weekly. 'It’s the liberal hippie thing. There must have been some kind of movement,' said Ms. Casey, who grew up in Chicago."

From "Taking Out the Trash? That’s Still a Man’s Job, Even for the Liberal Coastal Elite" in — can you believe it? — The New York Times.

I said "can you believe it?" because I'm surprised to see the NYT expressing disgust about vaginas. #NotMyFeminism.

I'm surprised in a more positive way to see the "liberal coastal elite" called "liberal coastal elite" and mocked for hypocrisy.

An NPR juxtaposition: Blitzed on cocaine and adrenaline.

I made this screen shot of my iPhone as I was reading in bed this morning. The article, at, was "The 10 Most Popular 'Fresh Air' Interviews Of 2017":



December 30, 2017

"Death to the dictator”/“Clerics should get lost."

Shout the protesters in Iran, the NYT reports.
Others chanted: “Shame on you, Seyyed Ali Khamenei,” using an honorific for the supreme leader. “Let the country go.” Some protesters burned a banner with an image of his face.

Video shared on social media on Saturday showed Iranians directly calling for Mr. Khamenei to step down, and also chanting, “Referendum, referendum, this is the slogan of the people.” (After the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic was established with a referendum.)
The Times includes this Trump tweet:

And the Times has a new op-ed, "How Can Trump Help Iran’s Protesters? Be Quiet."
One reason to worry that Mr. Trump may try to seize the moment by championing the protesters is that it has become an article of faith among President Barack Obama’s critics than in 2009 he missed a golden opportunity to do just that, when many Iranians took to the streets after a disputed election result. But it was never clear what difference American rhetorical support would have made then, other than allowing the Iranian government to depict the protesters as American lackeys, giving the security services more of a pretext to crack down violently.


I told you how I love reading a book in Kindle because words and phrases are like signs for off ramps, and you can take them anytime you want. Highlight the text and make it a Google search and you're out of the main thing and poking around the side roads.

You might remember that I was reading the David Foster Wallace story "The Suffering Channel" when I took an off ramp marked "squunched."

Well, I am still trying to get to the end of the highway called "The Suffering Channel," but today I took the off ramp at "CONSCIOUSNESS IS NATURE’S NIGHTMARE" — all caps in the original — which was said to be the "Registered motto of Chicago IL’s O Verily Productions."

I thought what a great aphorism and wondered what people had said about that. The first thing I saw was a song (from 2016) with that title by "a certain especially bizarre avant-garde black metal band: one of the most prolific one-man projects in metal, Jute Gyte." (What is "black metal"?)

I did not slow down for that, but the second hit, "Emil Cioran - Wikiquote"...
... drew me in for hours. "Emil Cioran (8 April 1911 – 20 June 1995) was a Romanian philosopher and essayist, who published works in both Romanian and French." The corporate motto from the David Foster Wallace story — "Consciousness is nature's nightmare" — began as an aphorism in Cioran's "Tears and Saints" (1937).

What a phenomenal collection of aphorisms on this page!

"One of the greatest delusions of the average man is to forget that life is death's prisoner." That's from "On the Heights of Despair" (1934).

Sounds like they beat them all the time...

"... the No. 5 Buckeyes beat No. 8 Southern California, 24-7..."

At the Bicycle Café...


... get a hot drink and sit down and talk about anything — the weather, the Orange Bowl, your resolutions, the best 4-shops-in-a-row in your town...

And shop Amazon, through the Althouse Portal.

"[Roseanne] Barr has been a Trump supporter on Twitter for some time. She said she voted for Trump to 'shake up' the status quo."

"She also believes he's 'draining the swamp,' likes Jews and is going after child sex traffickers. 'let's help to awaken our leftist brothers and sisters about child sex trafficking in America and the world, and how our @Potus is battling it like no Pres b4 him-send links, thanks!'... [S]omething set her off so on Friday she struck back... 'do not expect to hear anything more from me. Its a waste of time to oppose fascists here. bye!'... 'the only way to WIN is not to play the game and I will not play.'... 'have you been threatened by fans of HRC? Tell us about it-#MeToo.'... 'shabbbat shalom, earth's ppl!'"

USA Today reports on Roseanne's Twitter doings. Meanwhile, her sitcom is returning in March (and the episodes have already been filmed, so her signoff, whatever it means, will not stop the show).

Nepal bans blind people, double amputees, and solo individuals...

... from climbing Mount Everest (The Guardian reports).

The idea is to cut down on all the dying up there, but there are some complaints, e.g., by a soldier who'd lost both his legs in a war.
One veteran climber, Alan Arnette, said the ban on amputee and visually impaired climbers was prejudiced, ignorant and irrational. “If this is about protecting people from their own ambitions, then over half of the annual climbers should be banned each year as they lack the experience to safely climb Everest,” he wrote on his blog. And where does this stop – people with asthma, diabetes, hemophiliacs or cancer? All of these have recently successfully summited Everest with no problems.”

"I think Trump is being funny, and we laughed a lot as I read that out loud, but I'm sure Trump haters cry out in horror at the lies and insults."

I told you that at 9:08 yesterday morning, and boy, was I right.

At the top of Memeorandum right now (click to enlarge):
If you listened to me and shared my expectations, you saved a lot of time reading utterly predictable stuff.

"Those fidgeting buds I had been staring at earlier are enlarged because they are sexually frustrated female plants hungry for male pollen."

"While the science is still out, it makes a natural kind of sense that a horny female plant would be a place to look for a sexual enhancer for women. Yes!"

So concludes Lester Black in "A Friday Night with Weed Lube, a Dominatrix, and a Bunch of Horny Plants."

And while we're perusing the oeuvre of Lester Black, here's his new piece about THCa crystalline:
A couple of weeks ago, I did something that looked remarkably similar to smoking meth. I used a blowtorch to heat up a glass pipe, dropped a white crystal-like rock into it, and inhaled a cloud of vapor that sent me into a deeply stoned state. Every muscle in my body relaxed like I was floating on a cloud, and I could feel each mellow beat of my heart. My mind moved from one idea to another in a disorienting spin.

The crystals I smoked don't resemble the leafy green buds of cannabis, but they're actually a highly concentrated form of weed. What I was dabbing is called THCa crystalline, and it's the crème de la crème of the cannabis concentrate world, where dabbable extracts routinely test over 90 percent THC, but only crystalline reaches the 100 percent mark....
Expect lots more journalism like this. Black is writing from Seattle, where pot is now legal, but on the stroke of the new year, pot comes to the most beautiful people in the world:
Will anyone find anything intelligent to say on this subject? I don't think pot will help anyone say anything interesting. I expect a fall off in the quality of commentary, such as endless banalities about how Donald Trump is a reason to use drugs.

Whining about "whining."

I am so tired of Pajama Media stuff like this.
One of the nice things about being a writer in 2018 is that SJWs will continue to find new and absurd ways to get their feelings hurt. Even if nothing else is happening, I can always count on a group of SJWs providing me with something to write about. This time, a horde of them provided me a gift by taking to Twitter to express their dismay at a photo of chopsticks accompanying a New York Times story about a new Japanese restaurant....
The NYT deserved the ribbing it got in tweets that were not "whining" but well-aimed gibes like:

The phrase "inspired by Asia" — which really is ridiculous — was in the NYT restaurant review. Asia's a big place. And the photograph is ludicrous, and to mock it is not to be an SJW or an absurdly easily hurt snowflake.

Where is the diner supposed to sit, and how do you eat that steak without a fork and a big knife? It reminds me of the May 6, 1990 entry in David Sedaris's diary:
A man at the IHOP tonight lifted his entire steak with his fork and held it before his mouth, chewing off hunks of it.

What if a great-looking actor showed off his dedication to his craft by gaining a lot of weight for a role...

... but you were just watching the movie not particularly knowing who that was and wondering throughout what's the deal with his pot belly? I mean, we're watching this movie (on TV) last night, and the main character strips down to his underwear early on and we are getting closeups of his distended belly. It's an unpleasant sight. Why are they showing us this? Later, we see him walking around with that belly straining against his too-tight shirt. Much later, there he is, walking — on another long trek from the forest to the city — and I'm so mystified at the unexplained importance of this belly that I'm saying out loud: What's up with the pot belly? It's like it's a character in the movie that nobody talks about. And who is this actor anyway? Is that supposed to be Colin Farrell?

The movie came out last year. I remember that it got a good review in The New Yorker, so I'd put it on my Amazon Prime playlist, but I'd forgotten what it was I was supposed to be watching and why it was said to be good and even how good it was said to be. This morning I see that it had a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that was indeed Colin Farrell, and he'd deliberately packed on 43 pounds to do that role:
Yeah, I ate like my life depended on it. I put on quite a pile in eight weeks. About 43 pounds.

What was the motivation behind that?

Well, he [the character in "The Lobster"] wasn’t written that way. He wasn’t written with any physical definition at all. But myself and [director] Yorgos [Lanthimos] had spoken about it and because this world was so unusual I wanted to have some physical separation from what I was used to. I’ve messed around with my body for roles, whether it was losing a load of weight or bulking up for action films. And so Yorgos and I talked about me dropping a bunch of weight and looking quite famished. But then I said, “I bet this guy was something of a comfort eater.” He’s probably not someone who ever realized that there was such a term as “let yourself go,” because there really is no consideration of the self. But he might’ve liked his grub.
Well, I had never seen a Colin Farrell movie before, but I understand he's a very nice looking man. But I don't have any particular feeling about him, and I certainly wasn't watching the movie thinking that's the famous actor Colin Farrell who was so dedicated to his craft that he discerned that a character written without "any physical definition at all" was a man who "might’ve liked his grub" and undertook the drastic (yet common) stunt of getting fat for a movie role.

I've asked this question before: If a movie calls for a fat actor, why don't they just hire a fat actor? Is it some kind of anti-fat statement, that the audience needs to know this person is not really fat? There's a great-looking guy in there. Well, I didn't know. The stunt was lost on me. I didn't have the psychological boost of "seeing" the unseen handsome guy inside the artificially pot-bellied man. I was just distracted wondering why the filmmaker insisted on all the hey-look-at-his-belly shots.

And it could have been a plot point. Because this movie was about the formation of male-female relationships based on a single corresponding trait — a "defining characteristic." Much is made of a woman who gets nose-bleeds and a man who bashes his head on things so he'll have nosebleeds and thus be able to couple with her. But our main character does not attempt to couple by matching his pot belly to some woman's pot belly. His defining characteristic is that he needs glasses — he's "short-sighted." And the woman he finds is also short-sighted* and has no discernible potbelly whatsoever.


* SPOILER ALERT: And ultimately, she is beyond short-sighted — blind — and the man must decide whether to blind himself too so he can maintain the paired defining characteristic. See? "The Lobster" is a big old claw-snapping allegory.

It's -1° here in Madison, Wisconsin and creeping toward -6 when the sun finally rises (hours from now)...

... and edges things up to a high of +1 before (predictably) abandoning us once again.

Not complaining. Just observing. Steeling myself and observing.

Yes, we could get in the car and drive, drive into this....

I had the idea yesterday of just turning up the heat. Heat the place up until we take off one layer at a time. (My indoor layers include leg warmers.) Let the temperature rise until I'm barefoot and wearing just a T-shirt and light skirt, and we can watch a movie about summer....

We didn't do that. I just warmed myself to the core in a hot bath, and we watched a ludicrously sadistic, dreary, purportedly "beautiful" comedy/drama that I will say something about in the next post.

December 29, 2017

At the Hearing Things Cafe...

... you can listen to each other talk all night.

How Laurence Tribe hears things.

"... out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y."

From the NYT obituary for the mystery writer Sue Grafton, who began with “A Is for Alibi" in 1982:
With the publication of her latest book in August, Ms. Grafton’s alphabetical series had reached “Y Is for Yesterday.” She had said she was planning to conclude it with “Z Is for Zero.”

“She was adamant that her books would never be turned into movies or TV shows,” her daughter wrote, “and in that same vein, she would never allow a ghost writer to write in her name. Because of all of those things, and out of the deep abiding love and respect for our dear sweet Sue, as far as we in the family are concerned, the alphabet now ends at Y.”

"We live in a culture that reveres self-confidence and self-assuredness, but as it turns out, there may be a better approach to success and personal development..."

"... self-compassion. While self-confidence makes you feel better about your abilities, it can also lead you to vastly overestimate those abilities. Self-compassion, on the other hand, encourages you to acknowledge your flaws and limitations, allowing you to look at yourself from a more objective and realistic point of view. Both have merits, but many experts believe that self-compassion includes the advantages of self-confidence without the drawbacks.... Dr. Kristin Neff, an associate professor of educational psychology at the University of Texas, [says] 'Self-compassion is treating yourself with the same kindness, care and concern you show a loved one.... We need to frame it in terms of humanity. That’s what makes self-compassion so different: "I’m an imperfect human being living an imperfect life."'"

From "Why Self-Compassion Beats Self-Confidence" by Kristin Wong (in the NYT).

ADDED: Etymologically, "confidence" has the prefix "con-" (meaning with) and the root based on fidere (meaning to trust). "Compassion" has "com-" (which also means with) and root based on "pati" (which means to suffer). These are just words, and as you go forward taking advice from psychologists, you can use them any way you want. It seems to me that you can have too much or to little trust in yourself or sympathy for yourself. The trick is to get the right balance (or at least not to be too delusional about where the right balance is).

"Across Africa, daily shipments of recycled clothing, sent largely from the US, UK and Canada, fuel a multimillion-dollar informal industry that employs thousands of local retailers..."

"... who turn a profit reselling the items..... Rwanda has made huge economic progress in the past 25 years. But officials argue that the ubiquity of recycled apparel – known as chagua – has stifled the growth of its nascent textile industry and has dented national pride. 'The objective is to see many more companies produce clothes here in Rwanda,' says Telesphore Mugwiza, an official at Rwanda’s ministry of trade and industry. 'It is also about protecting our people in terms of hygiene. If Rwanda produces its own clothes, our people won’t have to wear T-shirts or jeans used by someone else. People need to shift to [this] kind of mindset.... People will shift from secondhand to new clothes. What will change is just the type of product but not the business.'"

From "'It's about our dignity': vintage clothing ban in Rwanda sparks US trade dispute/Secondhand garments are stifling the country’s fashion industry, officials say, but the ban has dismayed local traders – and reportedly imperils 40,000 US jobs" (in The Guardian).

Baby Rose Marie — The Child Wonder.

That's Rose Marie, who you probably, like me, think of as Sally Rodgers from “The Dick Van Dyke Show."* But she was in show business since the age of 3 — she was born in 1923 — in vaudeville and and on the radio. From the NYT obituary (she died yesterday):
Her initial success was met with some skepticism: Baby Rose Marie belted her songs (some of them with very grown-up lyrics) in a mature, bluesy voice, and many listeners did not believe she was a child. To prove that she was indeed a young girl and not a petite adult, NBC organized a national tour for her. She sang at RKO movie theaters across the country, trying to dodge child labor laws as she went. In her memoir, she said her father was arrested more than 100 times for breaking such laws. In 1929 she performed three songs in an early sound film, the eight-minute Vitaphone short “Baby Rose Marie the Child Wonder.” 
As for those "very grown-up lyrics" — from the second clip above ("Sentimental Gentleman from Georgia"): "When it comes to lovin' he's a real professor, yessir! Just a Mason Dixon Valentine... Hey hey, no doubt/You were about/The sweetest man in Dixieland! I'll say he's hot/He's got just what/It takes to make a lady smile!... Sentimental gentleman from Georgia, yowzah yowzah!/Georgia Georgia, yowzah yowzah, Georgia...."


And here she is, as Sally Swing, alongside Betty Boop:

"Another reason that I’m going to win another four years is because newspapers, television, all forms of media will tank if I’m not there because without me..."

"... their ratings are going down the tubes... Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times.... So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K."

That's Donald Trump, talking to a NYT reporter (in an impromptu half-hour interview at the Grill Room after a golf game).

I think Trump is being funny, and we laughed a lot as I read that out loud, but I'm sure Trump haters cry out in horror at the lies and insults.

"Everything Donald Trump Ate in 2017."

LOL. From Eater.

Okay, here's what you actually need to know about how much I hate headlines like this.

"Okay, Here's What You Actually Need to Know About Bitcoin."

As we used to say back when we lived in the real world: La la la I'm not listening!

Is there any reason that headline begins with "Okay"? To my eye, it reads: We're visualizing you already irritated at having to see another article on this subject, but we're going to cater to your impatience and give you something dumbed down to the level of stupidity where your ridiculously low attention span has taken you.

Ironically, they're reminding me that I have no patience at all for this sort of thing. And frankly, I think all I actually need to know about Bitcoin is nothing. In fact, I believe I'm better off knowing nothing than just a little something, especially something served up by somebody who tells me this is all I need to know.

"The CBC canceled a broadcast of the documentary 'Transgender Kids: Who Knows Best?' just hours before it was scheduled to air after complaints from activists."

"The BBC documentary questions whether transitioning is the best path for every child with gender dysphoria. Activists said that was harmful," writes Hit & Run, linking to "CBC's decision against airing Transgender Kids doc should leave everyone unsettled/Ideology is now taking precedence over science" at CBC News.

From the CBC News piece:
In actuality, the documentary offers a rare and factual perspective on the politicization of gender therapy by featuring interviews with Dr. Kenneth Zucker, a psychologist and international research expert on gender dysphoria in children....

What was so controversial about Zucker's approach? In short, he did not blindly follow the current popular dogma of affirming young children who say they want to transition to the opposite sex. Instead, Zucker's therapy was informed by research that shows that the majority of gender dysphoric children desist by puberty.

Indeed, across all 11 studies conducted on this topic, including research published in the last five years, about 60 to 90 per cent of gender dysphoric children grow up to be gay in adulthood, not transgender....

"Here’s something Milo Yiannopoulos probably wasn’t expecting when he filed a lawsuit against Simon & Schuster for breach of contract for canceling the publication of his controversial book...."

"Public mockery of his manuscript and its edits.... On Wednesday, writer Jason Pinter tweeted a screenshot of Simon & Schuster’s rebuttal. And on Thursday, software engineer Sarah Mei, after realizing that the documents filed in the case were now publicly available, paid a visit to the New York county clerk’s website for herself and shared even more scathingly choice editorial nuggets online, to the delight of Twitter....."

So begins "The Most Scathing Editor Comments From Milo Yiannopoulos’ Manuscript" at Slate.

This is a excellent setup for a comic/serious exercise. Instead of hating on Milo (if you hate him) or (more tediously) defending him (if you like him), imagine editorial comments on some other book, some book you think is great.

Many of these editorial comments are more normal than you may realize. For example: "This is definitely not the place for more of your narcissism." I'm certain that the greatest books ever written could have elicited this comment from an editor (and I mean a serious editor who was trying to make the book as good as it could be).

It's too bad Milo didn't stay with his publisher and try to meet the challenges presented by these comments. I have tried to read the rushed-out book he self-published. It's a brainstorm of a rough draft. I scanned it with some thought of blogging it. I don't think I got one blog post out of it, and I tried.

It needed way more work, and I assume he knows that, but he needed to cash in early, and he got his payday. I don't really care, and I think it is indeed funny when a lawsuit lays bare things you'd rather keep hidden. When this phenomenon besets lefties, righties like to say "Streisand effect."

"I’m a misogynist. I’m a black man who likes to think of himself as a feminist. I’m a progressive. I’m gay."

"Hopefully, I’m a relatively decent guy; I certainly mean well. Still, I’m also a misogynist. How could I not be?"

So begins Kai Wright in "The Misogynist Within/Sexual harassment expresses power dynamics from which all men benefit" at The Nation.

"How a Liberal Scholar of Conspiracy Theories Became the Subject of a Right-Wing Conspiracy Theory."

A New Yorker article (by Andrew Marantz) about Cass Sunstein. It begins:
In 2010, Marc Estrin, a novelist and far-left activist from Vermont, found an online version of a paper by Cass Sunstein, a professor at Harvard Law School and the most frequently cited legal scholar in the world. The paper, called “Conspiracy Theories,” was first published in 2008, in a small academic journal called the Journal of Political Philosophy. In it, Sunstein and his Harvard colleague Adrian Vermeule attempted to explain how conspiracy theories spread, especially online. At one point, they made a radical proposal: “Our main policy claim here is that government should engage in cognitive infiltration of the groups that produce conspiracy theories.” The authors’ primary example of a conspiracy theory was the belief that 9/11 was an inside job; they defined “cognitive infiltration” as a program “whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of believers by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups.”
ADDED: Sunstein became the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in 2009. In 2010, Glenn Greenwald wrote, "The reason conspiracy theories resonate so much is precisely that people have learned—rationally—to distrust government actions and statements. Sunstein’s proposed covert propaganda scheme is a perfect illustration of why that is."

AND: Word I looked for in the text that wasn't there: "dossier."

ALSO: My favorite sentence in the article is: "He grabbed three packets of Splenda, tore them all open at once, and stirred them into his coffee before tasting it." What kind of a man???

Drexel professor resigns, citing "harassment by right-wing, white supremacist media outlets and internet mobs."

George Ciccariello-Maher, a professor of politics and global studies, says his "situation has become unsustainable," and "Staying at Drexel in the eye of this storm has become detrimental to my own writing, speaking, and organizing," CNN reports.

He became a target after he tweeted this joke last December: "All I Want for Christmas is White Genocide." What's funny about that joke, he explains, is that racists are paranoid about white genocide, which, in fact, "does not exist."

He also tweeted that when he saw someone on an airplane give up a first-class seat to a soldier, he was "trying not to vomit." People should have understood that he meant that he opposed the killing of civilians in the Iraq war.

Now, he says, "the forces of resurgent white supremacy have tasted blood and are howling for more," and universities should "refuse to bow to their pressure, intimidation, and threats." But he himself is resigning. If I assume Ciccariello-Maher is rational, I infer that he means to imply that his university did not support him enough.

ADDED: On reflection, I identify with this guy (or at least with one image I have of him). He leaves his university job because he wants to be free to speak in a challenging way, using sarcasm and surprising concision. You have to stop and think: What's he really saying? Or: Not sure exactly what he means, but here's what he's making me think. Or: He's making me so mad but if I try to say why he's got a way to tell me I'm wrong.

Trump does similar things, but he won't withdraw to a safe distance from which to freely gibe.

December 28, 2017

"One of the more overlooked Turtle records and probably my favorite...."

That's Flo & Eddie (in 1975), who were in The Turtles in 1969 when "You Showed Me" was a hit. The song was written in 1964 by Gene Clark and Jim (Roger) McGuinn, before they were Byrds. I've embedded a live version because there's real film (and I thought you might be horrified by the Jim Morrison imitation that happens at the beginning). But here's the studio version, the 1969 hit that's so beautiful. Here's The Byrds' version. I love The Byrds, but The Turtles are better on this one. The Byrds version is annoyingly fast, but that's the original idea, and the slowed down version only happened because The Turtles learned the song from a guy who had to play slowly because his harmonium was malfunctioning. It's not as though they didn't know it was meant to be fast. It was better slow.

I learned that reading Wikipedia, which says it was sampled on "The Playboy Mansion" (U2) in 1997 and in 1989 on "Transmitting Live From Mars " (De La Soul). The Turtles sued De La Soul for using the music without permission. Here's the "trip hop" version by The Lightning Seeds from 1996 (very similar to The Turtles). Here's Lutricia McNeal in 2002. Kanye West used it in 2010 in his song "Gorgeous." And here's Salt 'n' Pepa in 1990:

What's your favorite movie that depicts the work you do?

WaPo has 24 answers, e.g., Cal Ripken picks "Bull Durham." Too obvious? Not as obvious as the cable guy who picks "The Cable Guy," because "it’s the only movie we have." At least you have one. I'm sure there are many kinds of employment that never show up in movies because the people who make movies just don't think of people working in all sorts of areas. Most movies go back to the same few occupations: cop, criminal, cowboy, actor, business executive, astronaut, prostitute, gambler, bartender, lawyer, teacher, shopkeeper. "The Cable Guy" is an example of choosing a rarely looked at type of work for the purpose of presenting us with a weird character. I'm sure you can think of some other areas of work where there's just one movie with a person who does that.

"Awkwafina: ‘I was just rapping about my genitalia – not making a feminist message.'"

"New Yorker Nora Lum, AKA Awkwafina, has been going places since My Vag went viral on YouTube – now she’s playing a scrappy wingman in the movie Ocean’s 8," reports The Guardian.
... Lum has, since childhood, had an effortless ability to make people laugh. (When asked which characters she would have loved to play, she names My Cousin Vinny, “because we have a similar body type.”)... [But she] has precisely one viral hit, one album, and one high-profile collab under her belt: respectively, 2013’s My Vag, 2014’s Yellow Ranger and 2016’s Green Tea, with the standup comedian Margaret Cho.... My Vag, the viral hit [is] an epic boast battle that – with bonkers rhymes – pits her bits against a rival’s.... The track understandably caught people’s attention – not all gleeful; some feminists took exception – and gave the rapper a greater understanding of the platform she had stumbled on.
The 2 linked videos were new to me and Meade and we laughed a lot.

"I'm the man in the box..."

"Buried in my shit/Won't you come and save me?/Save me...."

That's song that played in my head, when I saw this in the Washington Post:

The author of the song, Layne Staley, is not a man in a box. He died (at the age of 34) and was cremated.

You can see that WaPo article is topping the most-read list in the "Lifestyle" section.
[Getaway, a rental cabins business,] presents a dire vision of urban life, and then offers itself as the antidote. It evokes the Japanese practice of forest bathing, and disconnection, and a little curative isolation... and not a single wine glass... absolutely no WiFi....

It’s ridiculous, but I expect to feel some instant woodsiness that never materializes. Even though I play Bon Iver on the Bluetooth radio, and then take the provided torch outside to our fire pit and sprinkle the (provided) firestarter over the (provided) logs, and light our first campfire and make some (provided) s’mores.

Drudge and the devil doll.

Right now, at Drudge:

The resurgence of 2017.

A sidebar screen shot, taken just now:


The first thing I saw this morning.

What a life I live, brimming with memories!

"Some philosophers argued that vagueness was a form of ignorance: that there is a precise number of grains separating a heap from a nonheap..."

"... but we don’t know what it is. Others argued that vagueness was a result of semantic indecision: that there are lots of possible things we could mean by 'heap,' each of which would establish a precise number of grains for heap-hood, but we haven’t taken the trouble to specify that meaning. Still others, looking to avoid a sharp distinction between heaps and nonheaps, sought to develop nonclassical or 'fuzzy' logics, which experimented with degrees of truth... Fara’s theory [was] that vagueness was an expression of our ever-changing purposes: that there is a precise point at which a heap becomes a nonheap, but it 'shifts around' as our objectives do. In fact, because the act of considering two comparable heaps accentuates their similarity, 'the boundary can never be where we are looking.' No wonder we think it doesn’t exist."

From the entry Delia Graff Fara in the NYT compilation of essays, "The Lives They Lived," about people who died this year.

"Vanity Fair 'Regrets' Video Telling Hillary Clinton To Take Up Knitting, Drop Politics."

"It was an attempt at humor and we regret that it missed the mark."

But they haven't taken the video down. Here:

That's from a humorous, feather-light series called "Six New Year's Resolutions for ______________." It's very mild. The one about Donald Trump proffers resolutions about his hairstyle, his soda drinking, and watching television.

The Hillary one included "Take up a new hobby in the New Year: Volunteer work, knitting, improv comedy – literally anything that will keep you from running again."

The no-sense-of-humor/no-sense-of-lightweightness Hillary crowd cried sexist about knitting.

And that criticism is, frankly, anti-knittist.

Roy Moore won't go away.

He's filed a complaint in the Circuit Court of Montgomery, Alabama and is trying to stop the certification of the election results (which is supposed to happen today). Moore wants a new special election, CNN reports.

Alleging voter fraud, Moore says that out-of-state residents voted and that there was an "anomalous" turnout in Jefferson County (which is 43% black and had a 47% turnout).

Moore lost by 21,311 votes, in case you're wondering how many bad votes he'd need to locate. Imagine a new special election! Who benefits from Roy Moore staying in the news? I'd say: Democrats.

UPDATE: Maybe now he's gone away:

"'Nobody ever came from nowhere more completely,' Welles says, drawing a big studio-audience laugh..."

"... with this description of not just Latka but Kaufman as well. Asked how he came up with such a distinctive character voice, Kaufman says only that he 'grew up in New York, and you hear a lot of different voices in New York' ('You don't hear that one,' replies Welles). He also cites the accents of a high-school friend from South America and a college roommate from Iran."

Open Culture (via Metafilter) about this 1982 interview (in which Andy Kaufman seems almost to hypnotize Orson Welles into doing all the talking):

Welles was obviously not a natural interviewer, and he did not — despite how this looks — have his own talk show. Orson Welles was a very common talk show guest in his later years, and on this occasion he was subbing for the regular host, a man who was a natural interviewer, Merv Griffin.

I wish I could show you a wonderful example of Merv interviewing Orson in which you'd see comfort and pleasure replace awkwardness and confusion, but — like the way Andy Kaufman wanted to do wrestling — Orson Welles wanted to do magic tricks:

But wouldn't we all be better off quitting our career — whatever it is — and becoming a magician? 

And if you were reading this blog in its 5th week, maybe you'll realize why I'm nudging you like that. Here, from February 23, 2004:
I saw Get to Know Your Rabbit when it was shown, pre-release, in 1971, to a test audience in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I and it seemed like everyone else in that theater experienced it as the funniest movie we had ever seen. Somehow, even though it was directed by Brian De Palma and has Orson Welles in its cast, it fell into oblivion. I still have never come close to laughing as much at a movie as I did that night....
Here's Orson Welles schooling Tommy Smothers in showbiz magic:

Asking "how."

Google put out a glossy video based on the Google searches beginning with "how" that people did in 2017:

I watched it this morning because there was a Metafilter post about it, here, where people said things like:
When I type "how" into Google, the first auto-complete which comes up that I know isn't mine is, "how to hard boil eggs".

Thanks, Google. I know that some of my other searches may put me into "can't tie his own shoes" categories, but I do know how to hard boil eggs. I'm slightly less useless than that.
But there are fine points to hard-boiling an egg. You might want to check unless you already know whether to put the egg in at the beginning or only after the water boils. Do you really know the exact number of minutes to go after the water boils and is that with the water continuing to boil or with the heat turned off? Now that I think about it, I bet if you Google, you'll find your method of tying your shoes called into question.

Speaking of which... "how to tie a tie" — along with "how to make slime" — is one of the most common search completions on Google. Another Metafilter commenter said:
Top three "how" autocompletes for me are:

"how to tie a tie"
"how to lose weight"
"how to kiss"

I think Google has a misapprehension about me. I bloody hope so.

I blame the fact that I'm on the Internet connection at my parents' new vicarage where they've only just moved in, so maybe this is a picture of the single vicar who was here before?
So I did my own "how to..." search, and Google gave me:
how to tie a tie
how to make slime
how to buy ripple
How to buy Ripple?! You mean how to stumble into a low-rent liquor store?

I prefer this song about Ripple:

And for you "Sanford and Son" fans, here's a full glass.

Ah, but I'm living in the 1970s. Google is right now, kicking 2017 to the curb and moving on to 2018. And Ripple, I learn this morning, is another cryptocurrency, that is, another subject that fails to convince me to ground myself in the present.

"Ripple is huge in Japan and Japanese interest in crypto currencies in general has skyrocketed (based on trading volume) over the past six months... Ripple has been one of the first cryptos to really recover from the Christmas doldrums... Ripple is still a buy-and-hold.... Disclosure: I own some Bitcoin, Bitcoin Cash and Ether."

Ether... to get back to the 70s....
This is the main advantage of ether: it makes you behave like the village drunkard in some early Irish novel ... total loss of all basic motor skills: blurred vision, no balance, numb tongue – severence of all connection between the body and the brain. Which is interesting, because the brain continues to function more or less normally ... you can actually watch yourself behaving in this terrible way, but you can't control it.

December 27, 2017

At the Christmas Flower Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

And please consider doing some Amazon shopping through the Althouse Portal.


In last night's Snow Walk Café, I wrote:
I love trying to read a book in Kindle — after hours of reading this and that on the web — and arriving at a word — in this case “squunched” — clicking on it and, via Google, escaping back onto the web, going here and there, liberated by “squunched,” defying the order of things once again, not reading a book, unless you call that reading a book. But I will squunch myself back in there, in that Kindle book, just playing at trying to read until I see the sign for the next off ramp.
What I was reading was — as mentioned yesterday — "The Suffering Channel" (found in this collection):
They often liked to get two large tables squunched up together near the door, so that those who smoked could take turns darting out front to do so in the striped awning’s shade.
When you take the off ramp marked Squunch, you get to a discussion of another sentence by the same author, and I have that other book in Kindle too and can tell you "squunch" comes up in 3 sentences. Taking a gander at the first of the 3 sentences should give you a feeling for why I read fiction looking for off ramps.

"One of the dangers of the internet is that people can have entirely different realities. They can be cocooned in information that reinforces their current biases."

That's Barack Obama, sounding like he's been reading Scott Adams's book.*

Obama was getting interviewed by Prince Harry... so it was When Harry Met Barack.

Obama bounced from his observation that we live in "entirely different realities" to groping for a solution. He got as far as articulating "the question":
“The question has to do with how do we harness this technology in a way that allows a multiplicity of voices, allows a diversity of views, but doesn’t lead to a Balkanization of society and allows ways of finding common ground.”
Harness this technology? Is that a euphemism for censorship?

Diversity without Balkanization, common ground with multiplicity... It's much easier to articulate that abstraction than to do anything to get there. I myself like the middle ground, but I think few people do. Most people go to one side or the other, and I think that's basically how human society works. There's a tendency toward dualism.

* One of the main ideas in Scott Adams's book "Win Bigly" is "Two Movies on One Screen... the phenomenon in which observers can see the same information and interpret it as supporting two entirely different stories." For example:
When the presidential election of 2016 was over, reality split into two movies. Trump supporters believed that they had elected a competent populist to “drain the swamp” and make America great again. Their preferred media sources agreed. But anti-Trumpers had been force-fed, by both the mainstream media and Clinton’s campaign, a fire hose of persuasion that said Trump was the next Hitler. In effect, the Trump supporters and the anti-Trumpers woke up in different movies. One movie is a disaster movie and the other is an inspirational story.

The fascinating thing about this situation is each of us can operate in the world and do the things we need to do to survive. You and I can both go shopping, both drive cars, both have jobs and friends. Living in completely different realities is our normal way of living....
ADDED: I'm using the word "dualism" not in sense of mind and body, but simply "The condition or state of being dual or consisting of two parts; twofold division; duality." That's the OED, which points me to Ralph Waldo Emerson, who wrote:
POLARITY, or action and reaction, we meet in every part of nature; in darkness and light; in heat and cold; in the ebb and flow of waters; in male and female; in the inspiration and expiration of plants and animals; in the equation of quantity and quality in the fluids of the animal body; in the systole and diastole of the heart; in the undulations of fluids, and of sound; in the centrifugal and centripetal gravity; in electricity, galvanism, and chemical affinity. Superinduce magnetism at one end of a needle, the opposite magnetism takes place at the other end. If the south attracts, the north repels. To empty here, you must condense there. An inevitable dualism bisects nature, so that each thing is a half, and suggests another thing to make it whole; as, spirit, matter; man, woman; odd, even; subjective, objective; in, out; upper, under; motion, rest; yea, nay.

"In a few days I am going to lose two World Champion titles - one by one. Just because I decided not to go to Saudi Arabia."

"Not to play by someone's rules, not to wear abaya, not to be accompanied getting outside, and altogether not to feel myself a secondary creature. Exactly one year ago I won these two titles and was about the happiest person in the chess world but this time I feel really bad. I am ready to stand for my principles and skip the event, where in five days I was expected to earn more than I do in a dozen of events combined. All that is annoying, but the most upsetting thing is that almost nobody really cares. That is a really bitter feeling, still not the one to change my opinion and my principles. The same goes for my sister Mariya - and I am really happy that we share this point of view. And yes, for those few who care - we'll be back!"

Said Anna Muzychuk, writing on Facebook.

Puzzlingly violent illustration on NYT op-ed criticizing Trump's judicial nominees.

What is this supposed to mean?

I haven't read the column yet. What I see in the the illustration (which is by Chris Kindred) is a large hammer — a judge's gavel — slamming into a man's face and cracking it up. The cracked up face seems to have been fragmented even before the hammer hit. Perhaps the pre-smash fragment is intended to look like the state of Kentucky. The man seems to have the Confederate stars and bars in one eye, and he has some other symbol in front of his other eye, perhaps crossed swords or some kind of cross. I simply do not understand connecting the idea of face-shattering with this issue. Who is supposed to be wielding the gavel?

The column is titled "William Barber II: Trump’s Terrible Choice for Judge," so I'm guessing the man with the shattered face is William Barber II, and the idea is that he's a Trump nominee and he's terrible, presumably because of something connected to the Confederacy. I suppose the column argues that he shouldn't be confirmed, but does that mean he should be bashed in the face with a hammer? Why would you want to associate your opinion with murderous violence?

Now, who's the author of this piece? Oh! It's William Barber II. He's not "Trump’s Terrible Choice for Judge." Somebody else is. Ha ha. Eventually, I'm going to read this piece, but I've gone from being outraged by the depiction of violence to amused by the horribly ambiguous headline.

All right. I'm reading it. The "terrible" nominee is Thomas Alvin Farr, and he's from North Carolina, so that shape really is a state, and the shattering interfered with my state-shape perceptions. The "tails" — the unshattered parts — are very similar. The front ends differ, but North Carolina is the one with the straight-edge on top. Kentucky has the straight-edge on the bottom.

Barber connects Farr to Jesse Helms and Helms to "white supremacist causes." Helms was a Senator from 1973 to 2003, and you can look at his long career and pick out some terrible things (and also some good things), but the question now is what do we think of Farr?
When Mr. Farr graduated from law school, Mr. Helms and [lawyer Thomas] Ellis brought him into their fold. Mr. Farr joined the small law firm of Maupin, Taylor & Ellis, where all of the named partners were openly hostile to civil rights....

Most recently, Mr. Farr has carried on Mr. Helms’s legacy by helping North Carolina’s Republican-led Legislature create and defend in court discriminatory voting restrictions and electoral districts, which were eventually struck down by numerous federal courts that found them to be motivated by intentional racism. In fact, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit found that the state’s 2013 voter suppression law was aimed at blacks with “almost surgical precision.”
Put on that abstract level, it does indeed sound terrible, but a balanced presentation would specify that the subject is mostly voter I.D. laws, which have been upheld by the Supreme Court. It will be interesting to see whether the confirmation hearings on Farr will rest heavily on the voter I.D. issue. Polls have long shown that the great majority of Americans support voter I.D. laws. But you can tell all these people they're racists — deplorables! — and see how that works.
Senators from both sides of the aisle must condemn the experience Mr. Farr brings with him... Every senator who condemned the racism on display in Charlottesville must vote to prevent it from having power in the federal judiciary.
So the illustration means that the Senate holds the gavel and it "must" smash Thomas Alvin Farr in the face with it. I understand it now. It's very crude, violent, and ugly. And somebody at the NYT decided it belonged on that column.

Demonizing Melania over the Jackson Magnolia.

Fake news from Newsweek. You can see all you need to see at Mediaite.

Don't reward Newsweek with clicks. The best Newsweek can say for itself about that headline — "Melania Trump orders removal of the near-200-year-old tree from the White House" — is that it's technically correct and the negativity is only in the mind of the reader, who Newsweek predicted would click on anti-Melania bait. I'm sure many people who don't click just go forward with a hateful false belief acquired from the headline.

A similar story — also at Mediaite — is about the TV actress Jenna Fischer's tweeting — with many retweets — "I can't stop thinking about how school teachers can no longer deduct the cost of their classroom supplies on their taxes...something they shouldn't have to pay for with their own money in the first place. I mean, imagine if nurses had to go buy their own syringes." 2 days later, having gotten the message that the new law didn't change this deduction — she tweets a correction, but that gets few retweets. I'm sure many people go forward with that fake news in their head — because where do people get their news? Much of it comes from TV stars on Twitter.

To be fair, the President of the United States is himself a TV star on Twitter. Many of us have the vague (or acute) feeling that it's fake news all the way down.

December 26, 2017

At the Snow Walk Café...


... keep the conversation going.

(And if you've got post-Christmas shopping to do, please think of going to Amazon via The Althouse Portal.)

"Friends and allies literally roll their eyes when they hear the New York City mayor is trying to go national again..."

"... and his own aides have become experts in stalling when he asks to do more, or at throwing distractions or making up excuses for why they weren’t able to pull something together. They hate it. They wish he would stop."

From "What’s Bill de Blasio’s Problem?/Democratic insiders can’t stand the progressive New York mayor and want him to pipe down, despite his record of real accomplishment back home. What gives?" in Politico.

"There is darkness in 'Child Star,' of course. The passage that I clung to as a child, like a favored, glamorous nightmare..."

"... was about a woman whose daughter died the hour Shirley [Temple] was born. In 1939, the woman tried to assassinate Shirley while she was singing 'Silent Night' on a live radio show, under the logic that the star had swiped her daughter’s soul and shooting her would unleash it. 'The tale seemed understandable to me,' Temple writes. When I first read 'Child Star,' perched by the cold cuts at one of my sister’s swim meets, I loved the idea that Shirley Temple’s soul was endlessly transferrable, and as sought-after as the Maltese Falcon. I remember eating a slice of ham so ribbony and translucent that you could bird-watch through it, and wondering whether couples across America were timing their childbirths to synch with Temple’s death.... So my sister and I joined the legions of Shirley mimics—like Andy Warhol, who became obsessed with her after seeing 'Poor Little Rich Girl' and... aped her mannerisms 'for the rest of his life…folding his hands in prayer and placing them next to his cheek, or twisting them together and holding them out to the right just below his waist.' This remains Temple’s peculiar feat: she makes children want to be adorable and sickly sweet and dull, to flatten their emotions out. It’s hard to imagine any subsequent child star surviving an assassination attempt and thinking simply, 'The tale seemed understandable to me.' (In 1981, Jodie Foster would respond to the Hinckley incident by sinking into depression, demanding to read all her hate mail, and ironically hanging an enormous photo of Reagan getting shot in her kitchen.)"

From "Shirley Temple's Strange Loot" by Matt Weinstock, which appeared in The New Yorker in April 2013.

There's so much going on in that paragraph. I love the way Andy Warhol shows up... and then Jody Foster. And ham.

That makes me want to quote this one sentence from a David Foster Wallace story I've been reading, because of the way it goes on and on from one thing to another, yet all connected, making sense:
The lone time that Atwater had believed he was seeing his own father smile, it turned out to have been a grimace which presaged the massive infarction that had sent the man forward to lie prone in the sand of the horseshoe pit as the shoe itself sailed over the stake, the half finished apiary, a section of the simulation combat target range, a tire swing’s supporting limb, and the backyard’s pineboard fence, never to be recovered or even ever seen again, while Virgil and his twin brother had stood there wide eyed and red eared, looking back and forth from the sprawled form to the kitchen window’s screen, their inability to move or cry out feeling, in later recall, much like the paralysis of bad dreams.
That's from the story "The Suffering Channel" (which you can find in the collection "Oblivion").

The Jackson Magnolia — planted in front of the White House by Andrew Jackson to honor his wife Rachel — must come down.

"The overall architecture and structure of the tree is greatly compromised and the tree is completely dependent on the artificial support. Without the extensive cabling system, the tree would have fallen years ago. Presently, and very concerning, the cabling system is failing on the east trunk, as a cable has pulled through the very thin layer of wood that remains. It is difficult to predict when and how many more will fail.... Around 1970, it's believed one of the leaders broke off from the other two and was removed, and its cavity was exposed, leaving the entire tree susceptible to decay. As such, the cavity was filled in with cement, a procedure not advisable today, but which at the time was deemed the proper course of action. The concrete did irretrievable damage and in 1981, it was removed and replaced with a large pole and cable system, which remain today, holding up the remaining leaders."

CNN reports.

Rachel Jackson died just after her husband's election, before he took office, and Jackson blamed his opponent for her death:
According to Ann Toplovich, executive director of the Tennessee Historical Society, John Quincy Adams' presidential campaigns targeted Jackson's "passion and lack of self-control" in both 1824 and 1828, "making it central to the argument that he would devastate the integrity of the Republic and its institutions." One newspaper ran an article asking, “‘Ought a convicted adulteress and her paramour husband to be placed in the highest offices of this free and Christian land?’”

The publicity surrounding her and the public knowledge of what was considered a very private matter caused Rachel to sink into depression. She reputedly told a friend “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of God than live in that palace in Washington.”... She died suddenly on December 22, 1828, probably of a heart attack.... That her death came immediately before Jackson left for Washington was... crippling. He held her body tightly until he was pulled away, and he lingered at the Hermitage until the latest possible date. Even though her maladies began as early as 1825, Jackson always blamed his political enemies for her death. "May God Almighty forgive her murderers," Jackson swore at her funeral. "I never can."
Today, on Twitter, the man whose shocking upset victory seems comparable only to Jackson's, is savaged for the death of the tree, e.g., "Trump is so filth ridden he's rotting out iconic White House Magnolia trees that have been there for hundreds of years. A dying tree is representative of Trump's brutal attack on Mother Earth & science. How Bout they leave the Iconic White House tree and remove trump"; "A rotten dying Iconic White House tree is representative not just of Trump's brutal attack on Mother Earth & science, but it's symbolic of everything that Trump has done to our sacred Democracy since taking office."

The pro-Trump side is not unrepresented, e.g., "The rotting Iconic White House tree is a symbol of the decay of Washington D.C. and liberal politics in general. Drain the swamp, remove the legacy of the Obama's presidency and 'Make America Great Again.'"

Tweets about the 2 investigations.

I watched all 8 episodes of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel."

I don't usually bother even trying to get interested in a TV series, so this is a high recommendation from me. Have you seen it? You can watch it (free) on Amazon Prime.

Here's the trailer:

Sending flashdrives via balloon into North Korea.

"The Flashdrives for Freedom campaign aims to show those living in the rogue state that life really is a lot, lot better on the outside.... In the South Korean city of Paju, thousands of balloons have been silently floated into the skies to catch the winds and blow over the border.... [T]he appetite for entertainment within the hermit kingdom ranges from popular films such as Titanic and music from Gangnam Style megastar Psy to news and documentaries. The content is chosen by those lucky enough to have already escaped the dictatorship...."

The Sun reports.

"The miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia that left the United States vulnerable to Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election trace back to decisions made at the end of the Cold War..."

"... when senior policymakers assumed Moscow would be a partner and largely pulled the United States out of information warfare. When relations soured, officials dismissed Russia as a 'third-rate regional power' that would limit its meddling to the fledgling democracies on its periphery. Senior U.S. officials didn’t think Russia would dare shift its focus to the United States. 'I thought our ground was not as fertile,' said Antony J. Blinken, President Barack Obama’s deputy secretary of state. 'We believed that the truth shall set you free, that the truth would prevail. That proved a bit naive.'"

From "Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options" in The Washington Post. Weird headline, no? It's a long article, and it's #1 on WaPo's most-read list right now. It's a little annoying to untwist what they are trying to say, which I don't think is that "trolls" move quickly on the internet, but that the Obama administration was caught sleeping on the job.

AND: Note that "decisions made at the end of the Cold War" means things that Bill Clinton did:
The United States and the Soviet Union engaged in an all-out information battle during the Cold War. But the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the Bill Clinton administration and Congress in 1999 shuttered America’s preeminent global information agency.

“They thought it was all over and that we’d won the propaganda war,” said Joseph D. Duffey, the last director of the U.S. Information Agency, which was charged with influencing foreign populations....

The strange fear of infuriating Trump.

"Government mandarins are urging Prince Harry not to invite the Obamas to his wedding for fear of infuriating Donald Trump," The Sun reports.
There are deep fears among senior Foreign Office and No10 officials that another perceived national snub will make it impossible for Theresa May to meaningfully engage with Trump.

A senior government source said: “Harry has made it clear he wants the Obamas at the wedding, so it’s causing a lot of nervousness.

“Trump could react very badly if the Obamas get to a Royal wedding before he has had a chance to meet the Queen. “Conversations are ongoing about and ministers will eventually have to decide. If the PM lays down the law, Harry will just have to suck it up.”
Sounds more like the Queen might be infuriated. I don't get the idea of Trump being infuriated at not getting invited to Harry's wedding. That seems absurd, but then I don't get the idea of Trump as a short-tempered hothead.

ADDED: Here's a list of people who went to Prince William's wedding. William is much more important than Harry. The United States was represented by our ambassador, not by a President. There's no idea here that President Trump should be invited to Harry's wedding, just that an ex-President might attend and would need to get some disorienting special treatment. But why would that infuriate Trump? Isn't it a step down for Obama, being a wedding guest? It's the normalization of Obama. He's a friend of Harry's. And that's confusing for other Brits.

December 25, 2017

At the Sunny Christmas Café...

... we can have a cozy chat.

Why I'm reading the Wikipedia article, "History of poison."

1. Here's the article. Excerpt: "Grooves for storing or holding poisons such as tubocurarine have been plainly found in [ancient] hunting weapons and tools.... Once the use and danger of poison was realized, it became apparent that something had to be done. Mithridates VI, King of Pontus (an ancient Hellenistic state of northern Anatolia), from around 114–63 BC, ... was paranoid to the point that he administered daily amounts of poisons in an attempt to make himself immune to as many poisons as he could.... Pliny the Elder describes over 7000 different poisons. One he describes as 'The blood of a duck found in a certain district of Pontus, which was supposed to live on poisonous food, and the blood of this duck was afterwards used in the preparation of the Mithridatum, because it fed on poisonous plants and suffered no harm.'"

2. What made me look up the history of poison was a passage in "The Tricky Art of Co-Existing: How to Behave Decently No Matter What Life Throws Your Way" by Sandi Toksvig:
3. That quote about tasting food for poison just happened to come up on the same page as the phrase I was googling, "the size of a baby's head," which I remember being much more common years ago. Whatever happened to that comic trope? I was thinking about it because I read the phrase used to describe an apple fritter eaten by Bill Clinton in 1994, in the 1994 NYT piece, "Did Clinton Slip on Astroturf?"

4. That piece about Bill Clinton was dredged up looking for this: "Ever since he spoke last week of his fond recollections of his El Camino pickup, his audience at a Louisiana truck plant and those who watched his comments replayed on television have been left in titillated confusion. Mr. Clinton confided that he had lined the truck bed with Astroturf, adding with a sly grin, 'You don't want to know why, but I did.' On a New York talk radio program this morning, Mr. Clinton jokingly tried to put the speculation to rest. 'It wasn't for what everybody thought it was for when I made the comment, I'll tell you that,' he protested. 'I'm guilty of a lot of things, but I didn't ever do that.'"

5. I was interested in Bill Clinton's El Camino with astroturf because somebody I know on Facebook said that if he had $40,000 to spend on a bed it would be a $500 mattress in the back of a new Chevy pickup truck.

6. The subject of a $40,000 mattress came up because I'd written (on Facebook): "How much would you pay for a new mattress? I found what I wanted, but there was no price tag attached. I was saying things like 'I could see paying $4,000, but not 10,000.' Later, deeply into the explanation of horsetail hair and hand-crafting, I kept a straight face at the number $40,000 and proceeded to compare buying a bed to buying a car. $40,000 is what I paid for my Audi TT 12 years ago. But I wasn't even joking about a bed as expensive as the most expensive car I ever bought. I was seriously thinking about the argument that going for high quality in a bed makes more sense than paying extra for a more comfortable, beautiful car."

How tall was Jesus?

Not baby Jesus. I know it's Christmas, but I'm thinking about the grown man Jesus.

I had never until yesterday thought about how tall Jesus was. The question arose yesterday, when I was blogging about a NYT article that described a man as having "Christ-length hair." Some commenters brought up the question whether we know the length of Christ's hair, but to my mind, the grammatical construction "Christ-length hair" means (unintentionally) hair the length of Christ.

That's ludicrously long hair, whether Jesus was tall as the actors who've portrayed him in the movies — such as Diogo Morgado who is 6'3" or Max von Sydow, who was 6'4" — or as short as the average man in the time and place where he lived — which might be 5'1":
From an analysis of skeletal remains, archeologists had firmly established that the average build of a Semite male at the time of Jesus was 5 ft. 1 in., with an average weight of about 110 pounds.” I admit that it feels a bit strange to think of being over a foot taller than Jesus! But it’s good to have our cultural preconceptions—even prejudices—challenged....

We do know that in the writings, Jesus and people in his area sustained themselves on bread and fish.... Jesus height probably we stunted by his diet. Plus, we know that Jesus also practiced the art of fasting like so many other religions... [T]he average roman male was probably between 5′ 3″- 5′ 5″. Jesus was alive during that time, but he was not roman, and he did not live the same life. The 2 inches of difference which would result from the lifestyle difference and the hardship of his life suggest the value by archeologists is quite accurate. In conclusion, I would say that the real height of the historical Jesus Christ was probably between 5’0- 5′ 2″.
In yesterday's post, when I said "I looked up how tall was Jesus and saw the estimate that he was only 5'1"," a commenter (Darrell) retorted: "He is God--and He could be any height that pleased Him." Are we to infer God, taking on the life of a man, would definitely want to be tall? What's more sacrilegious, imputing a height preference to God or assuming Jesus was within the bell curve of height for men of that time and place?

One answer is do not think about the height of Jesus. I've lived twice as long as Jesus and had not thought until yesterday about how tall he was.

But I went looking for Biblical text on the subject of how Jesus looked, and I found this useful page, with verses from the Old and New Testaments.
For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
That's Isaiah 53:1-12. I would interpret "he had no form or majesty that we should look at him" to mean that Jesus was not tall.

On the subject of whether we should be thinking in terms of what height God would choose for himself, there's also Isaiah 55:8-9:
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.