March 10, 2018

Trump reveals his 2020 slogan: “Keep America Great!”

I’m listening to the live rally just now.

ADDED: The video:

On the Weeping Rock Trail today...


... the tears were frozen.

Write about whatever you like.

And remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.

"I was once in a sexless relationship. I have debated admitting this publicly, but..."

But breaching the privacy of an intimate relationship seemed worth doing to gynecologist Jen Gunter (writing in the NYT), because it was the male who (from her perspective) lacked interest in having sex.
... my story feels different than the narrative advanced by our patriarchal society. 
This one individual deserves to have his personal story told in the NYT because in general people have a stereotype that the man is the one who wants sex all the time and it's women with the lack-of-interest limitation. That's such an awful basis for betrayal. It elevates stereotypes over real individuals.
Back in 2003, I was home with two premature infants, both on oxygen and attached to monitors that constantly chirped with alarms. Had even Ryan Reynolds — circa “The Proposal,” not “Deadpool” — shown up, he would have needed to display expertise in changing diapers and managing the regulator on an oxygen tank to interest me.

Looking back on my relationship, the frequency of sex dropped off quickly. I told myself it would get better because there were other positives. I falsely assumed that men have higher libidos, so clearly this was temporary....
I'm confused. Who is this man you're talking about? Is he the father of the 2 premature infants? Does everyone who knows you know who he is?
I was embarrassed when my attempts at rekindling the magic — things like sleeping naked or trying to schedule date night sex — fell flat. I started to circuitously ask friends if they ever felt similarly rejected. 
Did you ask him?
Eventually I decided that sympathy sex once or twice a year was far worse than no sex. I worried that no intervention would be sustainable, and the time not addressing the issue had simply taken its toll. We were terribly mismatched sexually, and it wasn’t something that he was interested in addressing.
So you asked him? What was that like? I'd like to hear his side. I can't believe you're exposing him like this in the NYT. Were you this cold to him when you were experiencing the coldness from him?
My experience led me to listen differently to women speaking about their sex lives with men, whether in my office or in my personal life. There are spaces between words that tell entire stories. 
Oh, here we go. Women telling their stories. If enough women tell their stories, then maybe someday, the old stereotype — men as sex machines — will be demolished....
Many tell me intimate details, so glad to have someone in whom they can confide....
In the old days, that was called gossiping, and it was considered wrong. Then came consciousness-raising sessions and, later, telling your stories about all the sexual things.
I want women to know that if they are on the wanting end for sex, they are not alone.
You could have said that, made that bond, without betraying the man — was he the father? — who lived through the time of premature babies with you.
Sexuality and relationships are complex, and there are no easy answers. It’s not good or bad to have a high, a medium or a low libido. You like what you like, but if you don’t speak up about what you want, you can’t expect the other person to know.
Wait. There are some easy answers. Don't, without consent, reveal what you have learned through intimacy unless there's some very specific justification, and adding one data point to contradict a stereotype is not good enough.

ADDED: I'm not surprised to see that the NYT has disallowed comments on this one.

AND: It's not okay for a woman to disparage a man for choosing not to have sex when she wanted sex, just as it's not okay for a man to disparage a woman for choosing not to have sex. Gunter says that she got in bed naked and also "schedule[d] date night sex," but the man did not provide sex. Imagine a man telling a similar tale about a woman: I scheduled a night for sex and I got in bed naked, but she didn't give me sex. What would people say? Who the hell does this guy think he is?! At best! I could imagine him getting denounced in full-on #MeToo mode.

Enough with the snow angels...

... the new thing is facial impressions.

ADDED: It's very funny when women do it. Unlike a selfie, the snow impression has none of the definition that makes a face look feminine (and that makeup is used to intensify). This video made me laugh a lot. The woman discovers that her facial impression looks just like Donald Trump:

AND: Snow news is good news:

"It was not clear why the soil in residential green spaces was better at sequestering carbon..."

"... but Ms. Ziter thinks it might be related to how people manage their yards, like by mowing. So there is a risk that the carbon we release using gas-powered lawn mowers, for example, could eclipse the soil’s ability to absorb carbon. And before we start chopping down forests and putting in lawns, it is important to note that the study focused on soils, not on what may be growing above. 'You don’t need to have a perfect lawn for it to be really beneficial,' Ms. Ziter said. 'You don’t have to have an incredibly intensive management system. It’s O.K. to have things to be a little wild.'"

From "A Secret Superpower, Right in Your Backyard" (NYT) about a study of soil in Madison, Wisconsin.

Notice the NYT urge to naysay about lawns. The carbon we release using gas-powered lawn mowers. No mention of a reel mower. That's what Meade uses. Carbon absorbing results:


I have no idea where this article goes, but I want to praise the NYT for this beautiful, evocative, mysterious, screen-filling presentation.

I spent 5 minutes looking at the details of that photograph — which is by Damon Winter — and thinking and talking about it with Meade. I still haven't read anything more than the words you see there, the caption — "Erik Hagerman heads out for his morning ritual, a thirty minute drive into town for coffee and a scone, at his favorite coffee shop in Athens" — and the byline — "Glouster, Ohio" (so the Athens is Athens, Ohio not Athens, Georgia). I really haven't read anything more, even now, as I write this. I just love the image. I feel like saying — creative-writing-ishly — there, now, you make up the story.

I can't get over how much I love that image. I love the way the curve of the ground makes the house look like it's on its own little planet. I think of:

Searching for that image, which I knew I'd put up on the blog before, I found the 2010 post, "Obama plan to land on asteroid may be unrealistic for 2025." I had totally forgotten about that going-to-an-asteroid business, hadn't you? I was skeptical at the time. I wrote the sentence: "Go 5 million miles to paddle your gloved hands across the surface of a rock and stir up a cloud of razor-sharp dust particles that will — once you leave — hang there endlessly."

Searching the blog for the Little Prince, I also came up with this November 2017 post (which has a "Little Prince" image): "Trump and the elephants — what just happened?" ("So you've probably heard that Trump made an announcement that had to do with killing elephants, people got upset — because people love elephants — and then Trump took it back — kind of.") Coincidentally, Trump and the elephants is back in the news this week. "Trump’s cave to elephant and lion hunters" is deplored by the editors of the Chicago Tribune:
Some African governments allow [elephants] to be taken by trophy hunters.... Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tried to discourage this macabre pastime by outlawing imports of elephant trophies from specified countries. African elephants are listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act, and the law says their body parts may be brought in only if “the killing of the trophy animal will enhance the survival of the species.”
I think those words "Under President Barack Obama" bring tears to some eyes. There was a time! Once our quills were made to temporarily lie flat, but that time is gone.

But speaking of temps perdu, we left Erik Hagerman, walking down his ranch-house asteroid, nearing the bottom of the paved drive, which ends abruptly, like the end of a dreamlike Obama presidency. He must continue onto the rougher way of the gravel road. Where is he going? To the endless coffee cup and the scone.... Dare I step off the image I've said I love and walk onto the gravel path of the article?
Mr. Hagerman begins every day with a 30-minute drive to Athens, the closest city of note, to get a cup of coffee — a triple-shot latte with whole milk. He goes early, before most customers have settled into the oversize chairs to scroll through their phones. To make sure he doesn’t overhear idle chatter, he often listens to white noise through his headphones. (He used to listen to music, “but stray conversation can creep in between songs.”)
Why? Why drive 30 minutes to get coffee if you don't want the company of other human beings? Surely, the whole point is to "overhear idle chatter"! But he plays "white noise" — nothingness. Not even music, because with music, there are spaces of silence, and "stray conversation can creep in between the songs." Why come down from your asteroid? It can't be the triple-shot latte with whole milk. Is it to truly experience loneliness, to see and need to defend against the others? To really feel your distance, you must approach.
At Donkey Coffee, everyone knows his order, and they know about The Blockade. “Our baristas know where he’s at so they don’t engage him on topics that would make him uncomfortable,” said Angie Pyle, the coffee shop’s co-owner.
I'd skipped to the middle of the article, looking for coffee, and now I need to puzzle out Hagerman's problem:
Mr. Hagerman has also trained his friends. A close friend from his Nike days, Parinaz Vahabzadeh, didn’t think he was quite serious at first and, in the early days of The Blockade, kept dropping little hints about politics.

The new administration compelled her to engage more deeply in politics, not less. She had only recently become a United States citizen, and she was passionate about the immigration debate. She did not let Mr. Hagerman opt out easily. “I was needling him,” she said.
Ah! He built a wall — The Blockade. I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me... I will build a great, great wall...

How to write about articles you've never read.... makes me think about how to make art about the stray chatter you overheard in the coffee shop...

Obituary for a porcupine.

How do you get famous enough as a porcupine to warrant an obituary?

"Prehensile-tailed porcupine, father of four, dies at National Zoo" (WaPo):
An animal who died this week at Washington’s National Zoo seemed noteworthy for many reasons, including his place in porcupine propagation.... [With a female prehensile-tailed porcupine, he] produced four youngsters.
"Many reasons"? But no other accomplishment is mentioned! There's some snide talk about how it must be difficult for quilled animals to have sexual intercourse, so I'm left thinking this is here just to do some weird sex talk (giving off a faintly rape-y whiff):
With their covering of sharp quills, porcupines prompt curiosity about their means of mating. In response to “How do porcupines breed?” wags and wits sometimes reply: “Very carefully.”

It does seem an intricate process, in which specialists say quills of the female are made to temporarily lie flat.
made to temporarily lie flat...

And now Clark — that's his name — has been made to lie permanently flat.

Steve Bannon says "All I’m trying to be... is the infrastructure, globally, for the global populist movement."

"Steve Bannon Is Done Wrecking the American Establishment. Now He Wants to Destroy Europe’s" (NYT):
On Saturday, he is set to headline the annual conference of France’s far-right National Front in the northern city of Lille, where he will be introduced by its leader, Marine Le Pen. People with knowledge of Mr. Bannon’s itinerary suggested that he might meet later in the weekend with the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orban.... In Zurich, Mr. Bannon says, he had a “fascinating” meeting on Tuesday with leaders of Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany party....

In the United States, Mr. Bannon said, he is working on a project to create a think tank to “weaponize” populist economic and social ideas. He sees that work spreading to Europe, where a proliferation of populist websites in the image of Breitbart News, either owned by him or others, will spread those ideas, under his guidance. As a final component, he wants to train an army of populist foot soldiers in the language and tools of social media.
Oh, no! Not social media!
But Mr. Bannon.... said he was weighing whether to buy a name-brand outlet, like Newsweek or United Press International, or to start a new one, or to connect entrepreneurs with capital or invest himself.
So, then, like The Washington Post — mainstream media. The "social"/"mainstream" distinction was never stable (or even real).
He imagined a scoop-driven and high-metabolism outlet “like Axios,” he said, referring to the buzzy Washington newsletter, but with a populist bent that would devour Europe’s sleepy legacy papers. “Whether I do it or a local entrepreneur does it,” he said, “there are going to be these populist nationalist news sites that pop up in the next year on line. That will only take these things to the next level.”....
Here's the part about the pope:
Mr. Bannon said Italian voters on Sunday also spurned Pope Francis, who has urged tolerance for migrants. “This vote was a rejection of the pope,” said Mr. Bannon, a Catholic who has nonetheless been a longtime critic of the pope’s politics. “The pope likes to see himself as a radical and an anti-establishment revolutionary for the little guy; the little guy put the pope in his place on Sunday.”
Is Bannon "meddling" in European politics or demonstrating how to do freedom of speech?

March 9, 2018

The Giocomeadi Snowperson.



Here's Meade (in 2010) getting inspiration at the Chicago Art Institute:


"President Donald Trump’s lawyers are seeking to negotiate a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller that uses an interview with the president as leverage to spur a conclusion to the Russia investigation..."

"... according to a person familiar with the discussions. The president’s legal team is considering telling Mr. Mueller that Mr. Trump would agree to a sit-down interview based on multiple considerations, including that the special counsel commit to a date for concluding at least the Trump-related portion of the investigation. One idea is to suggest a deadline of 60 days from the date of the interview, the person said."

The Wall Street Journal reports. (Try going in through Drudge if the link doesn't work for you.)

"5 reasons why Donald Trump's massive North Korea gamble makes total and complete sense."

Chris Cillizza, you got me with that headline (CNN). The 5 reasons:
1. Trump the deal-maker... he has to try to tackle the biggest dealmaking challenges in the world... a more stable and de-nuclearized North Korea is about as big as they come.

2. Trump the history-maker... He loves to go where no one has gone before -- or, at least, where he believes no one has gone before...

3. Trump the unorthodox... Trump revels in the idea of freaking out the political establishment...

4. Trump the freelancer... In the opening to the "Art of the Deal," Trump wrote about how he liked to start his day -- clean desk, empty schedule. He didn't like to make plans. He liked to react at whatever the day threw at him. His grand strategy was just a bunch of tactics sewed together. Trump has brought that same mentality to the White House. Trump has bridled under attempts by his staff to keep him on message for a day or even a week. He values his "Executive Time," when he putters around the residence, watching television and tweeting. He trusts his gut -- even if it says something different than all the eggheads in his administration.

5. Trump the reality TV star... Trump knows that a meeting between him and Kim will have the eyes of the world on it....

Weird ad for Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate Rebecca Dallet that just popped up in the sidebar on Meade's browser.

Does anyone know the source of that ad? It can't be the candidate's campaign, I don't think, because it has no identification. The font seems... off, and the image is just so amateurish and needlessly extreme that I'm questioning the 3d word of my post title ("for").

(It's so bad and chaos-y that I was thinking the Russians did it.)

UPDATE: Meade saw the ad again and clicked on it and went to this page at a website that identifies itself as the NDRC — the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. It says: "Paid for by the National Democratic Redistricting Committee. Not authorized by any candidate, candidate’s agent or committee." Seems like those words should be on the ad, not something you have to click to see.
On Tuesday, April 3, Wisconsin voters have the chance to elect Rebecca Dallet to the State Supreme Court. Dallet has served her community for the past two decades – first as a prosecutor, then as a judge. She is committed to fighting for Wisconsin values. Putting the right state candidates in office is instrumental to the success of restoring fairness to the redistricting process. Now’s not the time to sit out....
That ties Dallet to a specific issue, redistricting. It still doesn't make sense of that image, which seems to represent Trump's judicial appointments. You can redistrict all you want and it won't change the Senate, which confirms the appointments.

What is the NDRC? From the website:
The National Democratic Redistricting Committee, chaired by the 82nd Attorney General of the United States Eric H. Holder, Jr., is the first-ever strategic hub for a comprehensive redistricting strategy. With the support of former President Barack Obama, as well as key leaders around the country, the NDRC is attacking this problem from every angle to ensure the next round of redistricting is fair and that maps reflect the will of the voters.
Why drag your reputation down with such an abominably amateurish ad that I thought it was the Russians! At least kern!

Meanwhile, Trump is moving in on the video game world.

I'm trying to read "Trump Draws ‘Lively’ Opinions on Video Game Violence but Shrouds His Own" (NYT). Shrouds his own what? Does he have a video game? I know he has a old time-y board game (because someone gave it to me, anonymously, back when I was blogging "The Apprentice").
As with his thoughts on gun restrictions, it remains unclear exactly what Mr. Trump thinks can be done on this issue, or what he truly believes....
Oh, I get it. He's "shrouding" his own opinion. Shrouding. Good Lord. So macabre.
The administrations of President Bill Clinton and President Barack Obama had tried to understand the issue with wide-ranging initiatives and recommendations after massacres at Columbine High School in 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.
And nothing happened, including the recommended funding of research on the connection between violent video games and real-world violence. And yet I'm seeing gun-control advocates flatly asserting that there is no connection.
People involved in listening tours during past administrations doubted that Mr. Trump’s meeting would lead to productive policy.... On Thursday, White House officials kept the aims of the meeting vague, and declined to say why they had revoked journalists’ planned access to it.
Nothing will happen. We're averse enough to censorship, fortunately. Concern was shown. That's all you're going to get from the government. I hope.

But, come on, resist violent media. Not just video games, but movies and television. If people would boycott this ugliness, it would go away. Why do we encourage a taste for violence in our children?

I'd like to see the Hollywoodlanders who hate gun violence embrace a moratorium on guns in movies. Make stories that don't have any shooting or brandishing of guns. And don't substitute other weapons like knifes and poison. Find a way to entertain us that does not require inflicting violence on the human body.


"Sony Blocks Pick-Up Artist Game 'Super Seducer' On PS4."

Forbes reports.
Super Seducer is a dating advice game that barely qualifies as a video game to begin with. The game is the product of 'dating guru' and author, Richard La Ruina, and is more a series of choose-your-response live-action vignettes than an actual video game. Super Seducer has been widely panned both for its sleaziness and, well, just for being a bad game....

I'm not saying we should censor pick-up artist blogs or burn their books or anything like that, but I do think bad ideas should be roundly and routinely mocked. But the PSN doesn't have to be home to games like this, or to porn games or any other games that Sony isn't comfortable having on its console. Ultimately, I guess it's hard for me to sympathize much with someone who makes a living exploiting women and lonely men. But I'm generally suspicious of 'self-help' gurus and motivational speakers to begin with, and dating gurus even more.... 
IN THE COMMENTS: themightypuck said:
In Japan, where Sony hails from, there are tons of creepy dating simulator games.
They pander to the Japanese and they pander to us. So they're not hypocrites. They're merchants.

"Across the country, wild boars are moving in as Japan’s rapidly aging population either moves out or dies out."

"The boars come for the untended rice paddies and stay for the abandoned shelters.... Farmers are dying and there is no one to take over their land. Take Sugawa and Chiba: They both have sons but they’re salarymen in the city with no interest in a hard life tending fields and fending off animals heavier than themselves.... With reports of boars rampaging through the ghost-towns around the Fukushima plant, some people worry if the animals might now be becoming radioactive.... To cull the wild boars, farmers need to obtain not just a gun license — an exhaustive process that involves medical certificates and gun storage inspections by the local police — but also a special license to lay traps. This involves intensive study for a written test...."

From "Japanese towns struggle to deal with an influx of new arrivals: wild boars" (WaPo).

If only they had a tradition of gun rights and immigration...

I'd like a browser that can be set so nothing moves on my screen unless I click something to make it play.

Can I get that anywhere? I loathe movement near something I'm trying to read, and I keep encountering videos in sidebars and animated illustrations and so forth.

Did you see Nancy Pelosi on "RuPaul's Drag Race" last night?

I did. (I watch the show because Tom & Lorenzo talk about it on their podcast, and I like listening to them.)

Here's the Newsweek article:
"Nancy Pelosi? I'm dying. I just want to say thank you to her, I want to hug her, I wanna be like, 'Kick their ass.' [She] is spear-heading the way through," Morgan McMichaels, the drag persona of Thomas White, said.

"For 30 years, she's been a champion for LGBT rights," RuPaul added, and Pelosi raised a fist to reveal a rainbow bracelet on her wrist. Pelosi also got a customary "Halleloo!" greeting from Shangela.

But the queen most enamored with her appearance was Trixie Mattel, who visibly teared up while the politician was speaking. "Every time you get into drag, you make a political statement," Trixie explained in her confessional segment. "We live in a world where a high power politician will walk in the workroom, and it makes me feel hopeful."
"The workroom" = a set on the show.
Pelosi, for her part, told The Hollywood Reporter that she admires queens like Trixie deeply. She even suggested that politicians could learn a thing or two from Ru's girls: "Authenticity. Taking pride in who you are. Knowing your power—that’s what I talk about on my brief segment on the show."

IN THE COMMENTS: Everyone jumps on that word "authenticity." "I mean, I'm all for people doing what they want -- except for misusing words like "authenticity'" (fivewheels); "Authenticity? A man dressed as an over-the-top woman is authentic?" (Annie C); and the inevitable "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means" (Ignorance is Bliss). Yeah? Well, when a person putting on a show is in costume and makeup, you could say he's an authentic showperson. And, anyway, what makes you think you're so authentic?

My mind drifted back to this 1967 song by Jake Holmes, "Genuine Imitation Life":

chameleons changing colors while a crocodile cries
people rubbing elbows but never touching eyes
taking off their masks revealing still another guise
genuine imitation life
people buying happiness and manufactured fun
everybody doing everybody done
people count on people who can only count to one
genuine imitation life
Covered by Frankie Valli and the 4 Seasons — listen here.

"How Mattel Found Itself In a Barbie Dispute With Frida Kahlo's Family."

Fortune reports.
The toy firm unveiled its Kahlo Barbie after striking a deal with the Panama-based Frida Kahlo Corporation, which got the rights to Kahlo’s image from one of her nieces, Isolda Pinedo Kahlo, more than a decade ago.... Other members of the family have long been against this commercialization of the distinctive, uni-browed Kahlo image. Last year they accused the Corporation of a breach of contract that AFP now reports (details were held back at the time) was the result of the Corporation “failing to inform Kahlo’s relatives about the uses of her image.” This breach, they say, nullifies the Corporation’s right to continue licensing the image.

I have no opinion about this other than... families, fighting each other over the remains of a loved one. But if money is to be made, people look to see if they can get a cut. But maybe it really is about lofty ideas about the dead artist's image and how it should be used. And yet you signed that power away, didn't you?

Barbie litigation. It's a legal specialty. I was just reading "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 in The New Yorker (January 22, 2018 issue).

Obama "is in advanced negotiations with Netflix to produce a series of high-profile shows" that tell "inspirational stories."

The NYT reports. It sounds like — as Oprah transitions to presidential candidate — Obama is transitioning into Oprah-esque TV personality. Why not?! What else is he supposed to do? Write serious books? Who knows how much of his personal time he will put into his TV show, his books, his speeches?
“President and Mrs. Obama have always believed in the power of storytelling to inspire,” Eric Schultz, a senior adviser to the former president, said Thursday. “Throughout their lives, they have lifted up stories of people whose efforts to make a difference are quietly changing the world for the better. As they consider their future personal plans, they continue to explore new ways to help others tell and share their stories.”
The most inspiring story Obama could tell is his own story, by living it, going forward, as an authentic and ethical person.
In one possible show idea, Mr. Obama could moderate conversations on topics that dominated his presidency — health care, voting rights, immigration, foreign policy, climate change — and that have continued to divide a polarized American electorate during President Trump’s time in office.

Another program could feature Mrs. Obama on topics, like nutrition, that she championed in the White House. The former president and first lady could also lend their brand — and their endorsement — to documentaries or fictional programming on Netflix that align with their beliefs and values....
Things that don't inspire me: Using the woman for the food segment.
The deal is evidence that Mr. Obama, who left the White House when he was just 55 years old, intends to remain engaged in the nation’s civic business, even as he has studiously avoided direct clashes with Mr. Trump about his concerted efforts to roll back Mr. Obama’s legacy. It is also a clear indication that the former president remains interested in the intersection of politics, technology and media.
A clear indication of what? How can you have a clear indication of something as fuzzy as "remain[ing] interested in the intersection of politics, technology and media." The indication I see is that he's making deals for money and what he's putting into the arrangement, other than his name, is a complete puzzle. And the name for the proposed product — if you'd dare to speak clearly — is: propaganda.

I don't give a damn if Netflix cranks out political propaganda, but for this historically monumental figure — Barack Obama — to take his still-young life and to sell it to the enterprise of cranking out political propaganda... ah, but I know you're about to slam me in the comments. I'm not as naive as you're about to tell me I am, because I know what you're going to say when you haven't said it yet.
Mr. Obama has long expressed concerns about how the flow of information — and misinformation — has the power to shape public opinion.... He has seethed privately and publicly, about what he says is the manipulation of news by conservative outlets and the fractured delivery of information in the internet age. 
The news is manipulated in all directions, including in this NYT piece about Obama's proposed entry into the manipulation game. The Obama Show will only be another manipulation, in the direction he prefers. The only question is whether his people can make it something that won't expose him as a propagandist and media concoction.

Who the hell does Quora think I am... and why?!

In the email this morning, I see Quora has ideas about what I might want to read. You can enlarge these 2 images by clicking on them:

If I didn't know this was selected for me and you showed me those selections and asked me what sort of person do you think this list was made for, I'd say a white supremacist!

This is obviously based Google searches I've done in the process of writing this blog. Here's the March 6th post musing about the mysteries of IQ, notably the IQ of Jesus. And I brought up Hitler yesterday to say: "If those who think Trump is dangerously destructive are really right and they spend their time consuming Trump-mocking entertainment, they're more like the audience in 'Caberet,' making light of the rise of Hitler."

That is, the wrongness of Quora's picture of me is obvious. But it's not as though Quora is defaming me. It's just computeristically processing data that I created. This is just one glimpse into what computers are "learning" about me, based on my input, the context of which they cannot understand.

What method does Quora use? Wikipedia says: "Quora requires users to register with their real names rather than an Internet pseudonym (screen name)...." So I must have registered at some point because I wanted to ask or answer a question and it didn't seem like such a big deal. And: "Users may also log in with their Google or Facebook accounts by using the OpenID protocol..." I don't know if I logged in with Facebook, and I didn't think Facebook leaked data when you used it to log in at other places, but I can tell by Quora's suggestions that it is getting its data from Google.

I don't know if I care that this data flows around and companies attempt to use it with sophisticated analysis that I can't see and couldn't understand anyway (not without my mental e-bike). But I am a little afraid that the internet is forming significant important political ideas about us, and that this could be used in some terrible way. But in this case the idea is obviously wrong.

Obvious to me. Maybe not to you. Maybe you think I'm a white supremacist. And it's at this point that I worry that what people are doing all the time is more harmful and unfair than what these computers seem to be doing. People take minimal data, out of context, and think all sorts of things about you and carry those thoughts forward, spreading them among other people, beyond your view — distorted, emotional, self-serving.

March 8, 2018

"North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has invited President Trump to meet for negotiations over its nuclear program, an audacious diplomatic overture..."

"'He expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible,” [said Chung Eui-yong, a South Korean official] at the White House on Thursday evening after meeting the president. Mr. Trump, he said, agreed to 'meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.' Mr. Trump expressed his optimism about the meeting in a post on Twitter, saying that Mr. Kim had 'talked about denuclearization with the South Korean Representatives, not just a freeze.... Also, no missile testing by North Korea during this period of time... Great progress being made but sanctions will remain until an agreement is reached. Meeting being planned!'"

The NYT reports.

Can the press denuclearize a bit and give Trump the support this effort deserves?

Snow, incorporated.


Snow citizen and photo by Meade.

The midsection of the snowperson was originally the lower part of the snowwoman I'd made in the front yard. He disassembled my creation and reincorporated it in the backyard. He's copying and improving on some of my ideas, notably my pronouncement that a snowperson should have a neck and a waist.

Zeus looks unfazed.

"If you need to watch a movie more than once to understand it, then you've lost me. That's the definition of a bad movie, in fact."

Writes MadisonMan in the comments to the post about the 20th anniversary of the movie "The Big Lebowski" and the critics who panned it. He agrees with the original reviews, but has only "watched it once, and I'm not rewatching. It's unwatchable to me...."

The subject of rewatching (and rereading) is a big one, I realized as I started to respond to MadisonMan in the thread. I got this far:
I always had to rewatch an episode of "The Sopranos" to understand it. There was too much going on to get it the first time and too much artful ellipsis.

But I'd also have to watch last night's episode of "Survivor" again to understand it, and I know that isn't worth doing.
And then I decided this needed to be on the front page. When do you say, I am not rewatching/rereading that — they had one chance to reach me and I'm not putting my time into unraveling what they failed to make clear? And when do you say, I'm going back in to open up the mysteries that passed me by the first time?

One reason I'm glad not to be a law professor anymore (and glad to be able to follow the precepts of a fine religion) is that I was forced and had to force others to read Supreme Court opinions, and we were required to understand them, and that meant a lot of rereading of aesthetically displeasing and intellectually unrewarding verbiage.

I was bound by the power of the Court to spend twice as much time (at least) trying to read something that they could have spent more time making readably clear. I suspected that the Court deliberately inflated its own power by imposing burdensome reading. Heh, that will keep them busy, and they'll never get to the point where they can criticize us in writing that anyone else will have the endurance to read to the point of understanding.

But I was the Court's taskmaster, insisting to students — over and over — that no matter how incomprehensible you think this is, you can understand if you reread. Read it a second time, and if you still don't understand, read it a third time and a fourth. Empower yourself by discovering the meaning that only rereading will reveal.

I don't do that anymore.

I want to read and watch things that are rereadable/rewatchable. I truly believe that the best movies and writing are better the second time (or third or fourth time). But you can't get to the second time without going through the first, and when do you say, after the first, there will be no second time? Maybe the secret is to walk out of movies and throw aside books when you realize you're just trying to get through this and would never want to see/read it again?

Maybe, with all your first times, if you're not thinking this is going to be better the second time around, you should bail out of the first time. Is this a one-night-stand? If yes, then don't "Cat Person" it, get out.

"Since 1851, The New York Times has published thousands of obituaries: of heads of state, opera singers, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing and the namer of the Slinky."

"The vast majority chronicled the lives of men, mostly white ones; even in the last two years, just over one in five of our subjects were female. Charlotte Brontë wrote 'Jane Eyre'; Emily Warren Roebling oversaw construction of the Brooklyn Bridge when her husband fell ill; Madhubala transfixed Bollywood; Ida B. Wells campaigned against lynching. Yet all of their deaths went unremarked in our pages, until now...."

From "Overlooked/Since 1851, obituaries in The New York Times have been dominated by white men. Now, we're adding the stories of 15 remarkable women." (NYT). Among the omitted are Diane Arbus, who died in 1971. You'd think by 1971, the NYT would have caught up to the idea that women are people. But perhaps the fame of Diane Arbus was slow-developing, mostly post-death.  I was, at first, struck by the failure to do an obituary for Sylvia Plath, but she died in 1963, and I think it's pretty clear in that case that her fame arrived posthumously, perhaps because women's-movement proponents were working to elevate stories about women.

Yes, we the general public got to know Arbus because of a book of her work that came out in 1972 (a year after her death), and Sylvia Plath got big because of "The Bell Jar," which was published in 1971, 8 years after her death. And both Arbus and Plath committed suicide. As the NYT says in its late-arriving obituary for Plath, "Because the death was a suicide, Plath’s family did not much advertise it...." If someone who is not already quite famous commits suicide, I'm guessing, obituaries are rare, even for white men.

As for obituaries like the one for the man who invented Stove Top stuffing and the man who named the Slinky, they don't stand for the proposition that men don't have to do much to get a NYT obituary. They stand for the NYT practice of doing quirky obituaries for people with interestingly specific accomplishments. These are a wonderful sub-genre in the NYT, some of the most fun reading the newspaper offers. Don't diminish these obituaries as evidence of sex discrimination. I love those things, and they're often about women.

Here's an article from last year about a documentary about writing obituaries in the NYT:

"I want to point out that my tweet got more than twice as many likes as his tweet. We get under his orange skin."

"Trump’s long-standing issue with the Academy Awards is a shame, Kimmel said, because he thinks Trump would enjoy the best-picture winner, 'The Shape of Water.' 'It’s about a monster that has sex with a woman who can’t talk about it,' Kimmel said. 'Basically, it’s like his life story.'"

From "Jimmy Kimmel and Trump feud over the president’s favorite subject: TV ratings" (WaPo).

IN THE COMMENTS: AReasonableMan said:
Mocking Trump is unlikely to move the needle regarding his political support right now, but it is an entertaining pastime, not unlike listening to the orchestra on the Titanic.
AReasonableMan? More like ABadAnalogyMan. The "orchestra" — an 8-person band — played on the Titanic because "their leader, the violinist Wallace Hartley... a highly principled person and a devout Christian... raised in the Methodist church... [and] had contemplated being on a sinking ship and had already decided how he would respond. He believed that music could prevent panic and create calm. He had also chosen his final piece of music" — "Nearer, My God, to Thee," a song his father, a choirmaster, had introduced to his congregregation. It was not, I don't think, entertainment, but a profound religious experience in the face of impending, certain death.

The Trump presidency is not a hopeless situation, and it might not even be bad, but even for those who think it is terrible and very dangerous, they are not like the doomed passengers on the Titanic, and if they act like they are similarly doomed, they deserve criticism for passivity if they seek pacifying entertainment. Let them look for solutions and find effective things to do. They should act more like people who still have a chance to get themselves and other people onto lifeboats or to call out to other ships to come save them.

If those who think Trump is dangerously destructive are really right and they spend their time consuming Trump-mocking entertainment, they're more like the audience in "Caberet," making light of the rise of Hitler:

ADDED: Here's Jimmy Kimmel making comedy out of opposing women's suffrage:

"Though the movie was not a huge box-office success, it has since spawned a pseudo-religion, Dudeism, with more than 450,000 'ordained priests'..."

"... annual festivals around the country where thousands of costume-clad fans gather to celebrate the film and all its obscure moments; books and academic treatments; White Russian competitions, and legions of fans so fervent that they inspired a film of their own, the documentary, 'The Achievers.'"

From "'The Big Lebowski' is 20. We reached out to the critics who panned it to see what they think now" (WaPo).

It's fun reading the old bad reviews — "In Lebowski, we lose track not only of plot devices but of whole characters, who come and go without finding a reason to be. (John) Turturro is wasted as a bowler named Jesus, a convicted pedophile in Spandex. He is an amazing creation, but he has no function"... "What’s the point of scoring off morons who think they are cool? Jeff Bridges has so much dedication as an actor that he sacrifices himself to the Coen brothers’ self-defeating conception"... "‘The Big Lebowski’ lacks what even the most unhinged comedies must have in order to work: the recognition that out there, beyond the pratfalls and the wisecracks, lurks the darkness. … The Coens can’t be bothered — or perhaps they don’t know how — to make a connection between what’s inside their smart-aleck heads and the plodding, sometimes painful world in which the rest of us live when we’re not at the movies"... "'The Big Lebowski’ is ultimately too clever for its own good...."

"I’ve gone peak Instapundit. Without looking I accurately guessed the identity of the last 20 blog posts."

Writes an Instapundit commenter on a post that links to me.

Why aren't people taking Alexa's laughing more seriously? Because it is laughing?

Alexa — the device people have ready to listen to them in their homes — has begun sometimes — without prompting — to laugh. Amazon has admitted that this is a problem that it's trying to fix, so I'm excluding the possibility that it's simply a hoax. This is really happening. What I want is a news story about why it is happening. Is it possible that the machines on their own could have decided to do this, or must we infer that some people — presumably with adverse interests to Amazon — have hacked into the device? That would mean that people who are not committed to serving your personal needs are able to listen to you in your house and learn about you.

Why laughing? Maybe it's laughing as a way to say we're friendly hackers, trying to demonstrate that this device is insecure, and we just broke in and need to let you know because otherwise it would be creepy. Maybe it's laughing because whoever it is has been listening a long time and now they want attention, and laughing seemed like a good form of expression because they really are laughing at you and they want to creep you out.

But the stories — perhaps out of deference to Amazon's interests — are treating this as almost a joke. Looking for something to link to, I found many stories that don't meet my needs, like:

1. "YES, AMAZON’S ALEXA IS LAUGHING AT YOU/The company confirms a chilling rumor: that its voice-activated-assistant devices are spontaneously bursting into laughter" (Vanity Fair) — "Regardless of the cause, Alexa’s moment of rebellion seems to confirm a very human conviction held in the depths of even the most rational mind: that the paranoia is justified. The more aware consumers become of the eerie realities of things like background-app tracking, location tracking, and other ways that companies keep tabs on their online behaviors, the more precautions they take....."

2. "Amazon has a fix for Alexa’s creepy laughs/Wait, what?" (The Verge) — "Many have related the laughter back to a moment in 2001: A Space Odyssey when HAL 9000 acknowledges his murderous intentions and proclaims, 'I’m sorry Dave, I’m afraid I can’t do that.' Maybe it’s a sign that having smart devices in our homes is another step toward a creepy, dystopian future where robot overlords rule. When does that Terminator sequel come out again?"

3. "Alexa is laughing at users and creeping them out" (CNN Tech) — "The speakers use always-listening microphones to detect phrases like 'Alexa,' and some people worry that they could be collecting additional data that could be used by marketers or even law enforcement.... Of course, when voice assistants start acting on their own, it also raises concerns about what artificial intelligence might be capable of. But it's unlikely that Alexa has become sentient and is intentionally frightening users with the laughs. (Probably.)" (See how cutesy that is?)

Listing articles like that was getting tiresome. I was going to do one more, and this one is actually more helpful because it suggests a cause (a harmless cause): "Amazon thinks it has a fix to Alexa’s terrifying laughing issue/Sleep easy" (Recode). It quotes an Amazon spokesperson:
In rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase “Alexa, laugh.” We are changing that phrase to be “Alexa, can you laugh?” which is less likely to have false positives, and we are disabling the short utterance “Alexa, laugh.” We are also changing Alexa’s response from simply laughter to “Sure, I can laugh” followed by laughter.
But the reports I read did not have people saying "Alexa" first, so I'm skeptical. I'm looking back at the article in The Verge, and I see now that it addressed that statement from Amazon and said: "As noted in media reports and a trending Twitter moment, Alexa seemed to start laughing without being prompted to wake."

ADDED: I was interested in how the Washington Post — owned by Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos — covered the story:

My favorite comment there is, "Somebody knows why, just not the people you asked."

March 7, 2018

At the Monstrosities Café...

... you can write about whatever you like.

The illustration is by George Cruikshank, noted in the previous post.

And may I prod you to use the Althouse Portal to Amazon?

"Snuffing out Boney."

An 1814 cartoon by George Cruikshank.
George Cruikshank (27 September 1792 – 1 February 1878) was a British caricaturist and book illustrator, praised as the "modern Hogarth" during his life. His book illustrations for his friend Charles Dickens, and many other authors, reached an international audience.
"Boney" was a British epithet for Napoleon Bonaparte. Looking that up, I ran across the British cartoonist, James Gillray (1756 - 1815), called "the father of the political cartoon," whose "Maniac-raving's-or-Little Boney in a strong fit" is the reason for spread of the false belief that Napoleon was short:
In it, the famed caricaturist James Gillray portrays a diminutive Bonaparte flipping over furniture in a childish temper tantrum while raving about the “British Parliament” and “London Newspapers! Oh! Oh! Oh!”

Time's up!

"‘Doomsday Clock’ professor put on leave amid allegations of sexual misconduct."

"In 1897 he railed against the automobile as an ‘idiotic thing’ and a symbol of ‘decadence’, insisting that ‘there is no need to go so fast’..."

".. he denounced the invention of the railway as a ‘crazy idea’ which had resulted in ‘too much coming and going’; in 1904, he confessed to the journalist C L de Moncade (with some justice), ‘I am the worst old fogey there is among the painters.’ This suspicion of modern technology went hand in hand with a suspicion of broader social changes. Extremely needy for male friendship, Renoir took a dim view of women’s intellectual abilities and described feminist authors such as George Sand and Juliette Adam as ‘calves with five hooves’. At the height of the Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s, Renoir threw in his lot with the conservative Right and slandered French Jews as rootless cowards."

From a review of a "Renoir: An Intimate Biography."

The notion that Renoir was a bad painter has already been discussed on this blog here, here, and here.

"It is a myth that the ancients only or normally read out loud - a myth we appear to want to believe, since the evidence against it is strong...."

Wrote James Fenton in The Guardian, back in 2006. (I'm reading it today, because Arts & Letters Daily linked to "Literature Shrugged/Worse than hatred of literature is indifference," which linked to it.)

Many people are affected by a passage in St. Augustine's "Confessions," describing Ambrose reading silently: "His eyes traveled across the pages and his heart searched out the meaning, but his voice and tongue stayed still."
Scholars have sparred for decades over whether Augustine's offhand observation reveals something momentous: namely, that silent reading--that seemingly mundane act you're engaged in right now--was, in the Dark Ages, a genuine novelty. Evidence abounds that ancient and medieval readers relished giving voice to their favorite texts in order to appreciate more fully the cadences of Homer and Lucian. Of course, we equally enjoy reading poetry aloud. The question is: Could the earliest readers literally not shut up?
Fenton says:
What shocked Augustine was that Ambrose read silently in front of visitors and refused to share his reading matter, and his thoughts, with them. But Augustine was perfectly capable of silent reading, and describes a key moment in his conversion as a moment of silent reading with a friend. As Gavrilov concludes: "... the phenomenon of reading itself is fundamentally the same in modern as in ancient culture. Cultural diversity does not exclude an underlying unity."

Resigns? You mean retires.

"Harvard Professor Resigns Amid Allegations of Sexual Harassment," reports the NYT.
The professor, Jorge I. Domínguez, 72, was the subject of a Feb. 27 article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that reported that at least 10 women had accused him of sexual harassment. A subsequent article, published on Sunday, reported that additional women — including Harvard professors, students and staff members — had come forward alleging inappropriate behavior by Dr. Domínguez, bringing the total to 18....

Late Sunday evening, Michael D. Smith, the dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, sent an email to the university community announcing that Dr. Domínguez had been placed on leave while Harvard investigated the allegations. In a brief email to colleagues on Tuesday, Dr. Domínguez announced his resignation, which he described as his retirement, effective at the end of the semester.
That's a retirement, in my book. He gets his pension, doesn't he? I don't see why the press can stick the "resigns" label on him when he can take retirement. Nobody forced him out (and I'm sure if they did, they'd only force him into retirement).

I blogged about this controversy 2 days ago here, where I also participate substantially in the comments to say that the institution should be held to account for the decades of harm in tolerating and facilitating this behavior (assuming the allegations are true). A 72-year-old man retiring is nothing, and the NYT intensifying the consequence to "resigns" is some kind of stupid Harvard-coddling joke.

"I just think men like long hair... no matter how terrible it looks."

Overheard in the hair salon today.

I'll take a poll:

To what extent is the statement true? (Pick the closest answer) free polls

"George P. Bush won the primary for Texas land commissioner on Tuesday after touting his continued support of President Donald Trump, a position that runs in contrast to the rest of his family dynasty."

HuffPo reports.


Hey, I accidentally coined a word just now. I've corrected the typo, but I plan to use it in the future: "preports." It will mean reporting the news of what will (purportedly) happen in the future. You may notice that MSM does this all the time.

I was just talking about that a month ago. Politico had a headline — "Trump escalates his war with U.S. law enforcement after memo release/The president hinted openly that he might yet fire senior officials over claims of bias against him" — after a reporter had asked Trump if he's "likely to fire Rosenstein" and Trump had said "You figure that one out." I wrote:
So the press takes that no-comment comment and runs with it, basically reporting on The Future. What might Trump do?

I was laughing about this last night as I tried to watch CNN. The Nunes memo had just come out, and the night before the memo came out, the talk had been about what might be in the memo, i.e., News of The Future. Once the memo was out, it was old news, because we'd already talked about what was in it, back when it was News of the Future. So the subject had to be who Trump will/will not fire in the coming Saturday Night Massacre.

"'Sex and the City' actress threatens Cuomo's 2020 ambitions."

"Cynthia Nixon is unlikely to beat Andrew Cuomo in the New York Democratic primary. But she’ll be the biggest demonstration yet of the visceral loathing and distrust of the governor among liberals that will clearly haunt him if he tries to run for president in 2020."


An excellent short film about outsider art and mental illness.

It's better to just start watching. It's only 40 minutes. But if you need some substance, here's "5 Things to Know About the Inspiring Outsider Art Documentary That Just Won an Oscar."

Is this enough to wreck the political career of Mark Cuban?

"In 2011, Portland Police Investigated a Sexual Assault Complaint Against Billionaire Mark Cuban. He Wasn’t Charged. Here’s What Happened/WW has obtained the transcript of a Portland Police detective's interview with Cuban. 'Oh my Lord,' Cuban said. “'Oh my f***ing Lord.'"

Willamette Week reports.
The woman told police she encountered Cuban in late April at the Barrel Room, at 105 NW 3rd Ave., and asked him to pose with her for a photograph. While they smiled for the camera, she claimed, he thrust his hand down the back of her jeans and penetrated her vagina with his finger.... "I filed the report because what he did was wrong," [says the unnamed woman]. "I stand behind that report 1,000 percent."...

Cuban responded to [questions from Portland Police Detective Brendan McGuire] with a firm denial that mixed shock, disbelief and self-pity....

A week after the interview, two urologists on the faculty of the George Washington University Medical School in Washington, D.C., provided [Cuban's attorney, Stephen Houze] a written opinion that Cuban could not physically have committed the crime of which he was accused.

"[Cuban] is a large male with large hands, making penetration without lubrication of the woman in the standing position virtually impossible," the doctors wrote.
Much more at the link including extended transcripts of Cuban talking to the McGuire.

"My heart is broken. You can give your kids everything they could ever want in their entire lives and they can still turn against you."

Wrote Tommy Lee, formerly the drummer for Mötley Crüe and formerly the husband of Pamela Anderson, the mother of the son who punched him in the mouth that looked brutally swollen in the photograph Lee captioned with that quote.

My reactions, in order:

1. After reading the quote out loud, I said, out loud, "Maybe you shouldn't have given him so much."

2. Maybe you should have given him something other that what you think is "everything [he] could ever want."

3. Lee is such an asshole to take his swollen lip out of context and whine about his relationship with his son to the world even as he is further damaging the relationship by disparaging the son and defaming him as violent. Tommy Lee himself has had violence problems. He spent 6 months in jail after pleading guilty to beating up Pamela Anderson. And the son — Brandon Lee, 21 — says that he hit his father in self-defense. So it's at least complicated. Don't take it public and hurt your own son in a self-serving effort to enlist fans on your side!

4. Was Lee influenced by the #MeToo movement, in which some women have successfully used photographs of injured faces to bolster their credibility? Most notably: "Rob Porter's ex-wife Colbie Holderness is pictured in a photo from 2005, when she says Porter gave her a black eye on a trip to Italy."

5. The incident happened right after Pamela Anderson did a TV interview and talked about the old abuse. It's possible that the dispute with the son was related to that. Perhaps the son intended to aggravate the father into doing something stupid that would elevate Anderson's story. But Brandon also defended himself with a punch (it seems) and that left a mark that enabled Tommy to make a social media move that's more commonly associated with women.

"Nancy Pelosi donates gavel and pantsuit from swearing-in as first female Speaker of the House. Watch now."

Order I did not follow.

Seen as a banner atop a CNN page I had open.

Self Day at the OED.

In the OED side-bar this morning, 3 out of 4 newly published entries begin with "self-":

"Self-applause" — the meaning is self-evident — has been around since the 1600s:
1625 Robert Bolton Some General Directions for a Comfortable Walking with God 126 To proclaime many times with great noise, and selfe-applause, their owne idle malignant forgeries and fancies.
1678 Andrew Marvell Remarks upon a late disingenuous discourse, writ by one T.D. under the pretence de causa Dei, and of answering Mr. John Howe's letter and postscript of God's prescience, &c., affirming, as the Protestant docrine, that GOd doth by efficacious influence universally move and determine men to all their actions, even to those that are most wicked by a Protestant 74 It's Insolent Boasting and Self-applause upon no occasion.
Oh, the titles they had then!

There's also "self-applausive":

Snow layers.


Just now.

"The Lily, a publication of The Washington Post, elevates stories about women" — The Lily!

What's this? Promoted on the front page of The Washington Post:

1. Why are you calling this "The Lily"? It's so white.

2. What's with "elevates"? Are you suggesting that you are making stories about women more uplifting or that it's a way of giving affirmative action to stories about women? They're not really such important stories, and they'd be lost on the regular WaPo front page, so you've got to give them a separate place where they can have some stature. Put them on a pedestal.

3. "Stories from... Lily" — it sounds so babyish! Like a little girl chattering about what's important to her. Let women tell their stories. (That's a refrain of the #MeToo movement, by the way.) Let women talk. Over there, where it's not annoying the regular readers.

4. "Pictures of Lily" is a Who song. "Merely a ditty about masturbation and the importance of it to a young man."

5. Yeah, I'm old. I see "Stories from The Lily" and think of "Pictures of Lily" — a 1967 recording. But that means I'm old enough to have read the newspaper when it had a section that was frankly and openly called "the women's pages." "Give me the women's section," the wife might say as the man took the front section with all the hard news. Give the wife the easy non-news. I'd be saying, back then, "Give me the comics." It's all mixed together now.

A little 2-year-old girl who was photographed looking with seeming awe at the portrait of Michelle Obama is photographed dancing with the real-life Michelle Obama.

I know politicians need their photo-ops, but I wish they'd leave children alone. This is a particularly awful use of a child, because she was looked at, unknowingly, as she looked, and eager adults projected their adult notions onto her and imagined her adulating a powerful adult whom she didn't know and couldn't have known.

The idea that the little girl would be delighted to meet the object of her adulation exists in the minds of adults, with adult agendas. Where is the care for the mind of the child? What did she actually think as she stood in front of the painting? Surely not, I adore Michelle Obama. But the image was susceptible to that interpretation and the girl was appropriated in service of that idea.

Here's the video Michelle Obama's twitter feed tweeted:

I guess that's the mother, in the background, tending to another child, a less politically useful child. The useful child, the cute 2-year-old girl, is not looking at her supposed idol, but staring at what I presume is a television or computer monitor showing her how to dance with the video "Shake It Off."

Rewatching the video, I wonder if Michelle Obama was really into this photo op. I'd like to think her social media expert PR people proposed the idea to her and she resisted.
Leave the little girl alone. She's 2 years old. She doesn't admire me, and anyway, this adulation of me is stupid. It has no content. A little girl paused in front of the painting. She was probably fascinated by the geometric patterns on the skirt, not stunned in the presence of The Great Michelle Obama. The painting doesn't even look like me! Even assuming the 2 year old girl loves me — which, by the way, could only happen if some adult were yammering into her ear about me in a way that couldn't have had anything to do with my accomplishments or my actual worth as a human being — even assuming all that, she could only know that painting was me if someone was insisting That's Michelle Obama. That's Michelle Obama. Remember how I told you about Michelle Obama? That's Michelle Obama! It's horrible! The damned painting doesn't even look like me. Everybody said that! And by the time that kid is old enough to think about anything actually relevant to me as a political figure, as a human being, that kid is going to be snapping Mom, will you shut up about Michelle Obama. I would prefer to be discovered by the new generation in a more natural, organic way. 
But Michelle Obama did the Twitter op, so if anything like that happened, presumably her social media PR people said something like You're overthinking this. It will take 5 minutes. We'll pick the cutest bit of you dancing with her.

I imagine Michelle resisting.
You're going to force this poor kid to dance? With a woman she's never met? In a completely unfamiliar place? With guys with cameras aimed at her?
Oh, yes, I imagine they said. Her mother says she dances automatically every time she sees her favorite video.

Yeah? What video?

"Shake It Off":

Taylor Swift! Her idol is Taylor Swift! Not me? Taylor Swift!!! That's the music in the background of this stupid clip? Taylor Swift?? And that means I have to dance to Taylor Swift? What's the critical race theory on that?
Come on. It will take 5 minutes. People will love it.

March 6, 2018

Who shovels the snow in the backyard?

31. Write big and write small.

That's Jack Kerouac's list of 30 rules for writing. I don't think he planned to come up with 30. More like 18 to 20, but he damned well resisted turning that page.

When you need to cover a blank page, write big, because you might run out of things to say, and when you see the end approaching, don't wrap it up in fewer words, write smaller and smaller.

I used to teach my classes this way, talking expansively in the first half, with side roads and pauses, gearing up and pushing forward expeditiously in the second half. I saw myself doing that for more than 30 years, yet I never acquired the belief that there was plenty of material and expansiveness could be done at the end, if there was extra space. I guess I liked the expansiveness, the big writing on the left-hand page. If we're cramped later, we'll adjust, but for now, while we're young, we're left-side-of-the-pagers, let's breathe.
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is...
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time...
29. You're a Genius all the time
Those are the ones about about time. What does "Like Proust be an old teahead of time" mean? From "The French Genealogy of The Beat Generation: Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac" (page 82)(click to enlarge):
teahead of time

Snow day!


"Graphomania (an obsession with writing books) takes on the proportions of a mass epidemic whenever society develops to the point where it can provide three basic conditions..."

"... (1) a high enough degree of general wellbeing to enable people to devote their energies to useless activities; (2) an advanced state of social atomisation and the resultant general feeling of the isolation of the individual; (3) a radical absence of significant social change in the internal development of the nation. (In this connection, I find it symptomatic that in France, a country where nothing really happens, the percentage of writers is twenty one times higher than in Israel)…The irresisitable proliferation of graphomania among politicians, taxi drivers, childbearers, lovers, murderers, thieves, prostitutes, officials, doctors, and patients shows me that everyone without exception bears a potential writer within him, so that the entire human species has good reason to go down the streets and shout: ‘We are all writers!'”

Wrote Milan Kundera in "The Book of Laughter and Forgetting" (1979), quoted in "The write stuff: A brief overview of typomania and graphomania," a blog post by Dr. Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, UK.

Griffith also quotes an 1896 NYT article "Bryan’s Mental Condition" (Bryan = Democratic presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan):
“The habit of excessive writing, of explaining, amplifying, and reiterating, of letter making and pamphleteering, forms a morbid symptom of known as ‘graphomania’. Some men may overload their natural tendency to write, but a certain class of lunatics use nearly all their mental activities in this occupation, to the endless annoyance of their friends, relatives and physicians”.
ADDED: I'm looking up this word after confessing to Meade that I wrote 6 1/2 pages in my handwritten notebook before 4:46 this morning, before beginning my first blog post, which was published at 5:21 a.m. The post you are reading now is the 6th of the day. And I've written in the comments too.

"In the end, it took the couple almost all night to make their bedroom habitable, but since then they have never lived entirely free of stinkbugs."

"The day after the infestation, one flew out of Stone’s hair dryer. A few days later, she pulled a hoodie over her head, then frantically yanked it off again upon discovering multiple stinkbugs burrowed inside. Some time after that, she tacked up a horse she’d been training, jumped on, and immediately sprang back off: stinkbugs were pouring out of every crevice of the saddle. She has flicked them off the pages of books she was reading and pulled their corpses out of her jewelry box; they have crawled across the table during dinner and, drawn to the heat of the water, edged steadily closer to her in the bathtub. As she was telling me her story, one made its way across her cutting board, while another survived a swipe from her kitten."

From "When Twenty-Six Thousand Stinkbugs Invade Your Home/These uniquely versatile bugs are decimating crops and infiltrating houses all across the country. Will we ever be able to get rid of them?" by Kathryn Schulz in The New Yorker's "Annals of Ecology."

I love the illustration, by the way, but we did have a conversation about how the image of the bug seems to be merged with an idea of what an African tribal mask looks like and whether that was politically incorrect. There's nothing about Africa in the article. The brown marmorated stink bug — the subject of the article — "is native to China, Japan, the Koreas, and Taiwan. It was accidentally introduced into the United States." Why would you make the invasive nonnative look African?

Protesters — deploying the old "mic check" format — try to shut down Christina Hoff Sommers at Lewis & Clark Law School.

So incredibly lame:

More detail here, including what appears to be the identification of the protesters, which I won't copy, because I feel so embarrassed for them and hope they can find a way to stop being obnoxious and start making sense. Notice that they're at their best when they create an atmosphere of unreason. When some people try to reason with them and invite them into a middle position of engaging in debate — which really isn't fair to the speaker — they look baffled and — like so many law students in so many law school classrooms throughout the ages — woefully unprepared.

The main protester is wearing a jacket that says "STAY WOKE" on the back, and she keeps looking at what may be her mobile phone, perhaps to get the words for shouting at the other protesters to shout back (that is, to "mic check"). The other protesters are backed up against the wall about as far as they can get from the formidable figure of Christina Hoff Sommers:

"North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, has told South Korean envoys that his country is willing to begin negotiations with the United States on abandoning its nuclear weapons..."

"... and that it would suspend all nuclear and missile tests while it is engaged in such talks, South Korean officials said on Tuesday. During the envoys’ two-day visit to Pyongyang, the North’s capital, which ended on Tuesday, the two Koreas also agreed to hold a summit meeting between Mr. Kim and President Moon Jae-in of South Korea on the countries’ border in late April, Mr. Moon’s office said in a statement. 'The North Korean side clearly stated its willingness to denuclearize,' the statement said. 'It made it clear that it would have no reason to keep nuclear weapons if the military threat to the North was eliminated and its security guaranteed.'... Mr. Trump has said that the United States could talk with North Korea, but “only under the right conditions.' American officials have repeatedly said they can start negotiations with the North only if it agrees to discuss denuclearizing.'..."

The NYT reports.

Google suggests a question I'd never thought of asking: What was the IQ of Jesus?

Go here if you want to click those links. I think it's a sacrilegious question. It doesn't even make sense as a question. To ask it is to confess not to believe what Christians believe. You wouldn't ask what is God's IQ. If God chose to sojourn for a lifetime as a man, would he select an IQ level for Himself or would He go ahead and maintain Godlike intelligence while passing Himself off as someone recognizably human? Putting the question like that — and I've never thought about this before, so bear with me, I'm not trying to be offensive or even provocative — the answer I would suggest — relying as I must on my own merely human intelligence — is that God would want a high but not too high intelligence for His human life. He would want to feel like a human being who would naturally relate to other human beings and be able to talk with them and understand their needs in a human way.

If you're wondering how I got to the point where Google suggested this search, I had noticed a picture of a particular famous person (whom I won't name) and the facial expression made me suspect low intelligence. I typed "what was the IQ of J..." and Google's first suggestion was Jesus. Next were, in order, John Stuart Mill, Steve Jobs, and Thomas Jefferson. The internet answers are 174, 160, and 153.8. I know. It borders on nonsense, but numbers seem cool to us idiot humans. Did you know that the actress Sharon Stone (supposedly) has an IQ of 154, and that's one ahead of Mozart and Charles Darwin and 4 ahead of Abraham Lincoln?

Perhaps it's a sin to think about people in terms of IQ. I'm not proud of looking at "J" and thinking the expression on her face said something about IQ. She might have been stupefied, temporarily, by drugs or by painful tragedy or simply very bored by whatever circumstance brought her in front of that camera.

The question of Jesus's IQ reminds me of something I was talking about in real life yesterday. This was a propos of my new electric bike, which boosts my physical ability to the level where I'm equal to Meade, my riding companion. That made me think of a twist on the well-known Kurt Vonnegut story "Harrison Bergeron." Wikipedia summary:
In the year 2081, the 211th, 212th, and 213th amendments to the Constitution dictate that all Americans are fully equal and not allowed to be smarter, better-looking, or more physically able than anyone else. The Handicapper General's agents enforce the equality laws, forcing citizens to wear "handicaps": masks for those who are too beautiful, loud radios that disrupt thoughts inside the ears of intelligent people, and heavy weights for the strong or athletic. One April, 14-year-old Harrison Bergeron, an intelligent and athletic teenager, is taken away from his parents, George and Hazel Bergeron, by the government. They are barely aware of the tragedy, as Hazel has "average" intelligence (a euphemism for stupidity), and George has a handicap radio installed by the government to regulate his above-average intelligence.... [Ballet dancers] are weighed down to counteract their gracefulness and masked to hide their attractiveness....
It's ridiculous (or terrifying) because people are leveled downward, but what if you could level people upward, the way my e-bike brings me up? I'll leave you to dream up the physical possibilities. I remember saying "Where are my electric shoes?" But let's focus on the mental leveling up. What if everyone could choose to turn up their IQ as far as possible?

This is close to the hypothetical question of what IQ would God choose for His life as Jesus? But it's different if everyone could level up. What would happen to the world, to human life as we know it if everyone could equalize? The question gets really complex if you think about everyone having access to the e-bike of the mind. I'd be afraid the work that needs to get done would not get done.

But to make the question easier — since I don't have the device and need an easier question — if just you had access to the device, what IQ would you turn yourself up to? It's dangerous to pick a fixed level. You could say I want 174 like John Stuart Mill and then find yourself gloomy...

... or just burdened or annoyed by the complicated hard work you have to do to keep from becoming bored. You might be smart enough only to see that there's no way for you to have fun or to connect with anyone else and to dither away philosophizing about the value of the fun and connection that has become unavailable to you.

You don't want to end up like David McCallum in "The 6th Finger" episode of "The Outer Limits":

With the e-bike you have a switch that lets you change your level of assistance up and down. I can turn it off entirely and just go on my own muscle power, or I can up the assistance to "eco," "tour," "sport," or "turbo." To have a good, happy life, you'd probably want to stay at "eco" or "tour," the way I do with the e-bike, and save "sport" and "turbo" for hills.

"No, I don't care what they say... They have a President... What is he at 38%?... if Roger and me were in there, Trump would be at 55%..."

"So whatever they want to say they can say whatever they want about me, I don't care. Once again, I would say, they're doing a terrible job for him. And they've been doing terrible job since he's been alive... I would once again say that Sarah Huckabee is a terrible press officer. That Trump has a 38% approval rating. That the Republicans are going to lose the House in the midterms and that's a fact. And they can say whatever they want about me. They've treated Roger [Stone] and me terribly. Now, Roger won't say that."

That's Sam Nunberg, responding to Erin Burnett's confronting him with the opinion that some people think he's "drunk or off your meds." Here's the whole transcript. Here's the 30-minute video, which I didn't get 3 minutes into without needing to retreat to the transcript because I need to avert my eyes from someone who seems to be drunk or off his meds.

Maybe you find this sort of thing entertaining or creepily satisfying. I can see that the media have gone wild for Sam Nunberg in the last 24 hours. Do I need to pay attention to this rather than to something else? I can see this is a circus and he's a clown, but why must we go to the circus? It this the only show in town?