August 25, 2016


The documentary about Anthony Weiner is available now. We watched it last night. I think it's a bit overpraised. Check out the blurbs:

But we enjoyed it quite a bit. The filmmakers did well with the material they had, which was the implosion of Weiner's mayoral campaign. It was interesting to be a fly on the wall for some painful moments for Anthony Weiner, but you're not really a fly on the wall. As Weiner himself says to the filmmaker at one point: Why is the fly talking? 

Oh... that sounds wrong. The fly. Seems like the fly on his trousers! Poor Weiner! He means the documentarians are supposed to be a fly on the wall but they nevertheless prompted him sometimes, obviously trying to get better material. You'd like to know what he's thinking.

And as for those scenes with Huma Abedin, she clearly doesn't want to reveal her thoughts. She rarely says anything. She's just appearing as the long-suffering wife, but you know very well that she's got plenty to say when the cameras aren't around. At one key point, we see the camera shut down because she needs to have an argument with him.

There's no getting to the real Huma. I mean, we paused it many times and speculated about what she must be thinking and the nature of their relationship. Does she love him? He seems to be heavily infused with testosterone — is that working out well for her on some level? Were they always just a fake couple, put together for show and for the acquisition of political power?

You can't tell from the movie. Did Weiner do that sexting because it seemed like trivial fun and he probably won't get caught or was he trying to bust loose from the stifling grip of the ravenous political ambition of Huma Abedin?

Who knows?! I have an odd soft spot for Anthony Weiner. He's a human being. And she's Huma Abedin.

"To members of the liberal class, the Democratic Party offers constant reminders that the technocratic order whose upper ranks they inhabit is rational and fair..."

"... that whether they work in software or derivative securities they are a deserving elite; creative, tolerant, enlightened. Though it is less tangible, the moral absolution in which Democrats deal is just as important. It seems to put their favorite constituents on the right side of every question, the right side of progress itself. It allows them to understand the war of our two parties as a kind of cosmic struggle between good and evil— a struggle in which they are on the side of light and justice, of course.... And what is rightest and most inspiring about it is the Democrats’ prime directive: to defeat the Republicans, that unthinkable brutish Other. There are no complexities to make this mission morally difficult; to the liberal class, it is simple. The Democratic Party is all that stands between the Oval Office and whomever the radicalized GOP ultimately chooses to nominate for the presidency. Compared to that sacred duty, all other issues fade into insignificance.... The Democrats posture as the 'party of the people' even as they dedicate themselves ever more resolutely to serving and glorifying the professional class. Worse: they combine self-righteousness and class privilege in a way that Americans find stomach-turning. And every two years, they simply assume that being non-Republican is sufficient to rally the voters of the nation to their standard...."

This calls to mind something I just read in Thomas Frank's book  "Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People?"

"Let's stay on the Democratic Party plantation, recommends Donna Brazile..."

Writes Glenn Loury.
Unfortunately, Ms. Brazile -- the veteran Democratic strategist, who personifies the enduring legacy within the Party of Jesse Jackson's presidential aspirations from the 1980s -- makes no reference in her piece to the substantive policy issues -- jobs and education -- where her party's establishment has repeatedly failed to foster the interests of poor urban blacks....

By sweeping such difficult issues under the rug, Ms. Brazile misses the key point: it's a "Negotiation 101"-level observation to note that a credible threat to withhold our votes from the Democrats gives black people more leverage WITHIN the party, as it endeavors to manage what are the necessarily conflicting interests of its varied constituencies...

This commonsense observation is not a plug for Donald Trump (though Democratic party leaders will hope blacks construe it that way, the better to avoid accountability and to silence dissenting voices like my own...)....


The first minute of this is very funny:

The rest is too long and too damned jaunty, but it might work for you if you are strongly inclined to find young women as cute as they seem to think they are.

The topic of "hanger" — the word and the phenomenon — was explored on this blog 11 years ago, so for me, it's not a new word, it's an old word that tried and failed to go big and if you watch the whole video you'll probably see why that happened. Or let me just quote from my old post:
[A]bout this new social trend of adults excusing themselves for the babyish weakness of losing control when hungry... Oh, lord, these people sound annoying. Do you have a cute slang term for getting cranky when people impose too much information about their private physical needs on you?...
In general men do not seem to suffer hunger-related moods as frequently as women do, or at least they are not as likely to admit it....

[Blogger] Cherie Millns [writes] "My mother told my husband before we got married to make sure he always carried a banana with him, in case of a sudden cranky-pants emergency," Ms. Millns wrote. "It might just save his life."
"Cranky-pants"? Banana?... [W]hat's wrong with these people? It's one thing to get hungry and to deal with it by eating something, but it's quite another to make a conspicuous production out of it or, worse, to let it become a major issue in your love relationships. And to have your mother tell your husband how to care for you in the very way you'd care for a toddler? Is this really what's going on around America in 2005?

Why do you text and drive?

ADDED: This video is very affecting and has an important message, which I don't mean to diminish, but I'm just going to appropriate it for a couple seconds to make a nonverbal argument about what is surely a less important matter, but it is something I've been talking about for a long time: men in shorts:

"If there are guns in your bags, there will be dildos in mine. If you pack heat, we’re packing meat! We’re going to make you as uncomfortable as we are."

So shouted a University of Texas student, rallying a crowd protesting what is, in Texas, a right (when licensed) to carry a gun into the classroom.

What interests me most here is how the protesters have suddenly forgotten the interest all students have in being free from sexual harassment. They are making a big in-your-race display of the graphic sculptural depiction of the erect penis.
Event organizer Ana López said protesters are fighting absurdity with absurdity, and she placed blame for the campus carry law on “reluctant legislators,” the National Rifle Association and others.

“I have a huge dildo strapped to my backpack because these people believe it is their God-given right to carry a weapon into my classroom,” she said. “Let me tell you something. I don’t think that those who drafted the Bill of Rights thought that a well-regulated militia started in my organic chemistry classroom.”
Putting the organ in organic. 

When a deaf person has an encounter with the police.

On Facebook, my son John links to "Deaf man fatally shot by North Carolina cop was ‘afraid’ of police, devastated brother says."

That made me wonder about how deaf people think ahead about what they will do if they have to interact with the police, something I discuss in the comments at John's post. And I found this useful Marlee Matlin video that I want to post here.

"Here are REAL COMMENTS students have made to me about their exams. What I say to them is in quotations, and what I’m thinking is in italics."

"I’m not so proud of my thoughts in these times.  I very clearly need to work on practicing my patience."

That's from "Lawprofblog" who, I guess, is a real law professor, writing at Above the Law. I'm assuming it's a real law professor based on the reputation of Above the Law, not because I as a law professor identify with the experience, which I actually don't.

The University of Chicago picks vibrant free speech over insulating sensitivities.

It's getting celebrated on the internet for this letter it sent new students:
Welcome and congratulations on your acceptance to the college at the University of Chicago. Earning a place in our community of scholars is no small achievement and we are delighted that you selected Chicago to continue your intellectual journey.

Once here you will discover that one of the University of Chicago’s defining characteristics is our commitment to freedom of inquiry and expression. … Members of our community are encouraged to speak, write, listen, challenge, and learn, without fear of censorship. Civility and mutual respect are vital to all of us, and freedom of expression does not mean the freedom to harass or threaten others. You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement. At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort....

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so called ‘trigger warnings,’ we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.
Nice branding, University of Chicago!

"Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine/How a strange new class of media outlet has arisen to take over our news feeds."

That's the headline at the New York Times. Think about why the NYT wants to alarm us about that terrible money-making company, Facebook.

My hypothesis is that the NYT is losing readers and advertising money to the "strange new class of media outlet" and would like its readers to cling to old media, where it's not strange and insane, but safe, gigantic by design, and subtle in its partisanship.

The article — written by John Herrman — is especially concerned about "political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook... like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more"*:
Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people. On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times, or openly ideological web operations like Breitbart or Mic. And unlike traditional media organizations, which have spent years trying to figure out how to lure readers out of the Facebook ecosystem and onto their sites, these new publishers are happy to live inside the world that Facebook has created. Their pages are accommodated but not actively courted by the company and are not a major part of its public messaging about media. But they are, perhaps, the purest expression of Facebook’s design and of the incentives coded into its algorithm — a system that has already reshaped the web and has now inherited, for better or for worse, a great deal of America’s political discourse.

*Just when the NYT is looking to reassure me of its comfortable normality, it unleashes a fistful of inexplicable semi-colons.

"A case can be filed against men who stare at women for more than 14 seconds."

Said Rishiraj Singh, an "excise commissioner" in Kerala, India.

ADDED: 14 seconds is a long time to look at someone.  Singh sounds ridiculous mostly because he specified a number and it's not a more normal-seeming number like 10. (I checked the Wikipedia article on the number 14 to see if 14 might be special in India, but the closest I'm seeing is the number of years of Rama's exile in the forests.)

If you look at articles on making eye contact with people, you'll see that even a quarter second can make the difference in moving a glance to an expression of interest. Example:
My man tells me that construction workers in Canada are told to obey the "3 second rule" by their employers... So basically it's one second to look at the girl, another second to study her and decide if she is pretty, and another second to enjoy the view, before returning eyes to the task at hand.  Anything beyond that is creepy and likely dangerous in some way.  I would agree....

Subway staring is a big problem where I live (Toronto). It is often the result of "DeathFace", which is a common syndrome out here affecting the overworked, causing them to forget they are in a subway and stare off blankly into what they mistakenly think is space, but usually is people.... I am often the victim of these types but have learned to ignore them. I pity them, actually....
AND: "Staring into someone’s eyes for as little as 10 seconds can be an intense experience of connection, or one of discomfort.  So what happens when you look into a person’s eyes for 10 minutes?... A new Italian study finds that when people look into each other’s eyes for a long period of time, they often experience symptoms of dissociation — including feelings of detachment from one’s body and from reality — and full-on hallucinations."

"With her short long pants and her long short skirts, she could put the haunting hemline question to rest."

From a 1973 fashion article about the "outrageous things" Sonia Rykiel could get away with.

Linked to in the NYT obituary for the designer who "made fashions for women who, like herself, were proud of their pregnancies, sophisticated about sex and too busy to fuss over the latest designer fads — women who wanted to look smart, but needed to get on with their lives."
[A] dramatic, sparrowlike woman, always in black, with a pale powdered face engulfed in a mass of Titian flame hair and bangs that fell to heavily mascaraed green eyes. She looked a bit like Édith Piaf, France’s national chanteuse.

“My color is black,” she once told an American fashion editor. “And black, if it’s worn right, is a scandal.”...

“I think creativity is inside you,” Ms. Rykiel told The Times Magazine in 1982. “If you have something to tell, you expose it. I never went to any design school. I was so strong in my thinking and my way of seeing fashion, I knew exactly what I wanted. I said to myself, ‘I have no limits.’ ”

August 24, 2016

I finally learned how to notice goldfinches in time to not flush them.

Got this picture today.


Took one more step to try to get a better picture, and they flew away. They're always in twos.

The picture makes it clear why they're so hard to see, despite the bright yellow. The dark portions seem like dark leaves or other background.

"He doesn't mean we're going to make America great again. He means: We're going to make America straight and and and white."

Said Cher to an adoring, raucous audience at a Hillary fundraiser in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I've already blogged about this here, focusing on what Cher said about Hillary. This new post is about what she said about Trump. The transcription (from this video) is mine.
"He wants the crowds. He wants the adulation. He doesn't give a shit about the world.... He doesn't mean we're going to make America great again. He means: We're going to make America straight and and and white.... He just says the weirdest shit in that kind of bizarre thing..." 
Cher made the observation — as have others — that Trump said "LGBTQ" as if he'd only recently learned that letter sequence and she leaps from that straight to: "I just think he's a fucking idiot." The crowd erupts in laughter, applause, and even quite a bit of squealing and screaming.

Then Cher wants to tell us about who Trump reminds her of. At first she thought: "Oh, despots. You know: Stalin, Hitler." But that wasn't quite it, even though Hitler did say he was "going to make Germany great again." The comparison she that seemed perfectly apt to her was Patty McCormick in "The Bad Seed."
"Consummate liar, doesn’t care who she hurts, insane and, you know, sociopathic narcissist."
The feminine pronouns are confusing. Don't forget we're talking about Trump, not Hillary. Patty McCormick in "The Bad Seed" is female and Trump is like her. To remind us this is about Trump, she blurts out a death wish:
"I just wish he’d fall off the face of the earth."
Did you think death wishes weren't allowed? Well, Cher's audience roared with approval. Whether they knew the old movie, I don't know. It's from 1956. (You can watch the whole thing on line, here.) It's kind of a cult movie, and they probably know Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, which might be named after "The Bad Seed."

It's the classic movie about an evil child, but the child is a blonde girl, a girl who lacks any warmth, so it's beyond me why Cher would bring it up in the vicinity of Hillary and expect us to think of Trump... other than that she's with an adoring audience within the embrace of Provincetown. It must all feel so good to her.

She finishes with:
"I know that if he got into office, our world would be the worst place. I don’t think we could imagine how bad it could get. If breaking news ever happened and he had to go to the podium, we would just all go... fuck."
Big laugh. The irony of rough speech to denounce a man who's mostly denounced for his rough speech is beyond the realm of the Cher comfort zone.

Facebook thinks I'm a liberal.

From "Liberal, Moderate or Conservative? See How Facebook Labels You" (in the NYT):
Go to on your browser. (You may have to log in to Facebook first.)

That will bring you to a page with your ad preferences. Under the “Interests” header, click the “Lifestyle and Culture” tab. Then look for a box titled “US Politics.” In parentheses, it will describe how Facebook has categorized you, such as liberal, moderate or conservative.

(If the “US Politics” box does not show up, click the “See more” button under the grid of boxes.)

Facebook makes a deduction about your political views based on the pages that you like — or on your political preference, if you stated one, on your profile page. If you like the page for Hillary Clinton, Facebook might categorize you as a liberal....

Even if you do not like any candidates’ pages, if most of the people who like the same pages that you do — such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream — identify as liberal, then Facebook might classify you as one, too.
I've never "liked" any political candidate or political party or political cause on Facebook. According to Facebook: "You have this preference because we think it may be relevant to you based on what you do on Facebook."

Shy crushed pulled-in Hillary, working for you every moment of every day and why don't see how fun and warm she really is?

The NYT reports on Cher's speech at a very Cher-friendly fundraiser in Provincetown, Massachusetts. And I watched the full video here and did my own transcription.

Cher is talking about getting to know Hillary through much experience doing teas with her, and Cher says she told Hillary, "You are so much fun and you are so warm and you are all these things I've never seen when you speak."

Cher asked Hillary why and, as Cher tells it:
She said because she got so crushed — I hope she doesn't mind my telling this story — too late now!— and she said because she got so crushed by the G.O.P., just for trying to set up health care, and she never thought it would be so personal, and she said it made her kind of pull in and she's shy, so it was difficult, and so she kind of kept that with her, but, you know, she is shy, and she's not the greatest speaker in the world, but...and this is what I believe, and this is what I know: She will work every moment of every day.... This chick is just tougher than Chinese algebra.
So she's tougher than Chinese algebra, but she got so crushed when the GOP opposed her health care plan. Which is it? Maybe she's tough in private, after she kind of pulls in. She's so shy and kind of kept that with her. Kept what with her? That crushed, pulled in feeling that she got when Congress didn't go along with that plan she worked so hard on?

She might not be that good at speaking, but she'll pull back into herself and work every moment of every day. Work work work! She may not talk too much — and we know she won't take questions from the press. It's just so crushing when they don't go along with everything she worked so hard on. But she will pull in and turn that crushing into hours and hours of work work work and if only you really knew her, as Cher does, you would know she's so much fun and so warm and... all these things.

But let's take a closer look at that Chinese algebra. Is that racist? Is that sexist? Math class is tough...

... as Barbie said long ago, outraging feminists. And I guess you throw "Chinese" on top of that and get some kind of reference to the stereotype that Chinese students are especially good at math. Why carelessly throw "Chinese" around to try to be funny?

But Cher didn't put those 2 words together all on her own. "Chinese algebra" is enough of an expression that it has an Urban Dictionary definition going all the way back to 2003: "a hard type of math." But I don't know if it was ever used to talk about math. It seems all along to have been a way to talk about erections. It looks as though the original use of the word was from Tom Waits, back in 1976, "Pasties And A G-String":
She's a-hot and ready, creamy and sugared
And the band is awful and so are the tunes
Crawlin' on her belly, and shakin' like jelly
And I'm gettin' harder than Chinese algebra-ssieres...
So Cher thinks Hillary is as hard as Tom Waits watching an erotic dancer. But shy, too! Very very shy. Shy and crushed and pulled in. It's so difficult! So keep it all deep within you and work — work every moment of every day.

Mocking the sexual desire of a 100-year-old tortoise.

I clicked on the clickbait: "100-year-old tortoise walks 6.5 miles for romance with plastic dome" ("A 100-year-old tortoise that escaped her owner's California yard was found 6 1/2 miles away attempting to romantically court a small dome.")

But I disapprove of laughing at the creature's sexuality. We cannot comprehend the longing of 100 years. We cannot know how it feels to be so separated from your fellow species that something in the rough shape of what feels like your counterpart fixates you.

And the euphemism "attempting to romantically court" is quite disgusting. I encounter that after reading the NYT story about Cher's anti-Trump speech to a crowd in Provincetown, Massachusetts, which includes such dirty-word avoidance as "'I just think he’s' an idiot, Cher said of Donald J. Trump, adding a decidedly unprintable modifier."

It's not "unprintable." It's quite printable: fucking. See? The NYT merely chooses not to print it. "Unprintable" is a cornball expression. "Fucking" is a crudeness that bothers some people, but where is the concern for people like me who are bothered by the prissy way you posture to avoid it?

"Unprintable" is a word that was created to express the idea that something is "Not fit to be printed" because it is "too shocking to appear in print; obscene, rude." I'm quoting the (unlinkable) OED, which finds the earliest appearance in print in 1830, in something called "Age": "A sham improvisatore held up to the ridicule of society by the excellent but unprintable jeu d'esprit of James Smith."

What is an "improvisatore"? The OED says: "A poet who composes or performs verse extemporaneously." James Smith seems to have been one of the freestyle rappers of his day, mocking some unnamed other one as a sham. It was excellent but unprintable... so we can't read whatever it was.

Improvisatore... improviser. When we don't have a script — when we don't want a script — if we want anything to happen at all, we must improvise, like a tortoise with his sham tortoise, the plastic dome.

IN THE COMMENTS: CJ points us to an episode of "Futurama" that treats the sexual needs of a 100-year-old with excellent humor and quality profundity:

"I haven't seen a female of my kind in well over 100 years!"

"E' un dramma. Il paese non c'è più."

Said the Mayor of Amatrice, reported in the Italian press.

From the NYT:
Strong earthquakes struck a mountainous stretch of central Italy early Wednesday, killing at least 38 people, the Italian news media reported, trapping scores under debris and setting off tremors that awakened residents in Rome, nearly 100 miles to the southwest.

The first, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake, struck at 3:36 a.m. near the town of Accumoli, which the Civil Protection Department identified as among the hardest hit, along with the nearby towns of Amatrice and Arquata del Tronto.

August 23, 2016

At the Goldenrod Café...


... soldier on.

"Jolen cream bleach turns the mustache on your upper lip to the exact color of Richard Gephardt's hair, which is better than its looking like Frida Kahlo's mustache, but it's still slightly hairier than you mean it to be."

Wrote Nora Ephron, a while back.

I'm finding that this morning, because Dick Gephardt is in the news today, blogged here, where William asked "How did Gephardt spend so many years in public life without being relentlessly mocked for his orange hair. I guess back then people were more tolerant of orange hair...."

Also, Bob Shrum, in "No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner," describes a Dukakis ad (in 1988) that mocked Gephardt by showing a "gymnast with comically dyed orange hair dressed in a suit... trampolining and tumbling forward and back and forward and back again" with the voice-over describing Gephardt's various flip-flops.

So orange hair got mocked, even in the old days. It's not just something invented recently to attack Trump. I certainly remember Reagan's hair getting mocked, especially since he denied dyeing it. The much-repeated joke attributed to Gerald Ford was: "Ronald Reagan doesn't dye his hair, he's just prematurely orange."