May 4, 2015

"There's a fine line between genius and insanity. I have erased this line."

Said Oscar Levant, in what is (by far) the most popular of his quotes at goodreads. I'm noticing Oscar Levant this morning, because the composer Philip Glass, interviewed about books here, is raving about his Levant's "Memoirs of an Amnesiac." ("It’s a hilariously funny book... What was it like to be in Hollywood in the 1930s and ’40s? You have to read Oscar Levant, I tell ya.")

Other Levant quotes at goodreads:
“The only difference between the Democrats and the Republicans is that the Democrats allow the poor to be corrupt, too.”

"In some situations I was difficult, in odd moments impossible, in rare moments loathsome, but at my best unapproachably great."

"Every time I look at you I get a fierce desire to be lonesome."

“Ballet is the faeries' baseball.”

Ludicrous headline at The Daily Beast: "Why Do Bi Women Smoke So Much Weed?"

Subhead: "Excluded by both straight and lesbian peer groups, bi women face one of the most challenging psychological spaces."

It's tough to face space. It's challenging to me to face the space of the compose window on this post, because look at the crash up of things we're supposed to believe: 1. People smoke marijuana to deal with their problems (not just for fun or to relax), 2. Being bisexual is a problem, 3. It's okay to talk about sexual orientation as a problem, 4. It's probably the bisexuality causing the marijuana smoking, not the marijuana causing sexual experimentation or a person's liberal-mindedness and pleasure-seeking causing both.

And the "so much" in that "so much weed" is just any marijuana use in the last year. It really should say, at best, "Why Do So Many Bi Women Smoke Weed?"  The statistics are: 38% of bisexual women "reported marijuana use in the last year," compared to 20% for lesbians and 5% for straight women. My hypothesis would be that the women who say they are bisexual are just more likely to try different things, to be more adventurous.

But, no, here's a "research scientist," from the Ontario HIV Treatment Network, Dr. Margaret Robinson, "who is herself bisexual": "[B]isexual women are exposed to sexism as well as biphobia and homophobia. It could be something about the anxiety we feel living at the intersection of multiple oppressions that instigates such elevated use of cannabis.”
Anxiety does indeed seem to be a strong undercurrent of bisexual life. The high prevalence of anxiety disorders among bisexual women, in particular, is a well-known psychological truism. Several studies have found that bi women have worse mental health outcomes than straight and lesbian women, including higher rates of anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders. One 2010 study suggests that the poor mental health of bi women could result, in part, from enduring the “psychic toll” of biphobia without having an “identifiable community” to provide support.
Robinson is "skeptical of previous research that suggests that bisexual women’s marijuana use could be ascribed to their 'sensation seeking.'" Why? "We have to look at trends in a broader context and the context for bisexuals is generally one of high stigma and social isolation. People rarely thrive under those conditions." I guess it has to be a problem.

"We put together some good seasons. I enjoyed my time here. It’s a great city, a great ballpark to play in. The fans are great."

"My wife and I really enjoyed it here. That’s something I’m going to miss," said Ron Roenicke, who got fired last night.

"I have one very specific reason I have a relationship with Bill Clinton: I admire what he does, and I want to be part of it."

"But I’ve never asked him for a damn thing," said Frank Giustra, who has given the Clinton Foundation over $100 million. He's described — in WaPo's "The Clintons, a luxury jet and their $100 million donor from Canada" — as a "Canadian mining magnate and onetime Hollywood studio owner.
Last week, the Clinton Foundation acknowledged that an affiliated Canadian charity founded in 2007 by Giustra kept its donors secret, despite a 2008 ethics agreement with the Obama administration promising to reveal the New York-based foundation’s donors.

The foundation said the arrangement conformed with Canadian law. But it also opened a way for anonymous donors, including foreign executives with business pending before the Hillary Clinton-led State Department, to direct money to the Clinton Foundation.

For Giustra, the partnership with Bill Clinton provided an introduction to the world of international philanthropy at the highest levels — a feel-good, reputation-enhancing effort that he said he finds more personally satisfying than amassing wealth.

At the same time, Giustra continued to expand his business empire, closing some of the biggest deals of his career in the same countries where he traveled with Clinton.
According to Giustra, you can believe that Bill Clinton didn't get involved in any of those business dealings, because Bill Clinton is utterly bored by that sort of thing: "He doesn’t care about that stuff. His eyes would glaze over." Even if that is to believed, Giustra could still have used the appearance of connection to the ex-President to leverage his business dealings.

As for Giustra's believability, consider that he also says that when Bill Clinton saw that that Giustra was carrying a biography of Julius Caesar, Clinton not only began talking about the book, he began "quoting whole passages of it from memory."

May 3, 2015

Funchu Tamang, 101 years old, pulled alive from the wreckage of his collapsed house...

... 7 days after the earthquake in Nepal.

Things it seems we should know by now.

1. The name of the princess baby.

2. The cause of the death of Sheryl Sandberg's husband. David Goldberg "died suddenly," last Friday, at the age of 47.

"Wow, I hate everything about this."

A much-favorited comment in a Metafilter thread titled "WHAT KIND OF HAT IS IT? I call it a fedora" about a NYT piece called "The Men of Condé Nast Photographed in Their Natural Habitat."

Strange but true fact: I happened to be wearing a fedora when I ran across that.

Purely for a practical reason, by the way. Stops the light from the window from interfering with my computer-screen vision.

You wouldn't treat an adopted child like that.

"Will you brats keep quiet? How do you expect me to concentrate?"

No mice were harmed in the making of this film, which I became aware of and interested in via "Laurel and Hardy: 40 memorable moments." I love the illusion of the adult men in a room with the miniature versions of themselves.

"Everywhere the same voice, its odd Eastern accent, which in anyone else would have irritated Midwesterners."

"You could follow without missing a single word as you strolled by. You felt joined to these unknown drivers, men and women smoking their cigarettes in silence, not so much considering the president’s words as affirming the rightness of his tone and taking assurance from it."

Wrote Saul Bellow in "In the Days of Mr. Roosevelt," quoted in a Martin Amis essay about Bellow's nonfiction, collected in a new book titled "There Is Simply Too Much to Think About," which I just added to my Kindle. I can give you some more context:

Emily Bazelon is critical of Jon Krakauer's book about campus rape.

A review in the NYT of "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town":
The university had used the standard of “preponderance of the evidence” (or more likely than not) to find Johnson culpable, but the standard for a criminal conviction is higher — beyond a reasonable doubt.... Krakauer presents [the acquittal] not as a reflection of the differing evidentiary standard, and a jury’s best effort to resolve a difficult and confusing set of facts, but as a bitter failure of the adversarial process....

"It was as if people secretly wished we could stow our child in cargo so that we would not disrupt their game of Candy Crush.'"

Writes the novelist Reif Larsen in a NYT op-ed about traveling with a little baby. That prompts what is most-favorited comment over there:
No, it is because everyone on that plane knows your child will be screaming for the next seven hours, because you decided that you must continue your pre-child life, at any expense to others. Small children like to be around familiar surroundings and get nothing whatsoever from their parents endless traveling.

Parents used to understand that having children came with sacrifices and did not entitle you to ruin the days of every person you came in contact with, whether in a confined space or at a pub or restaurant.

Just stop thinking you and your child are the center of the universe.

FYI: I say this as a mother of two.
The title of the op-ed is deceptive: "How Doing Nothing Became the Ultimate Family Vacation." Doing nothing would be staying at home and not working. Hang around. Take some walks. Read. Cook some food.

There is a bit about liking one trip to an all-inclusive hotel in Florida when the baby was 3 months old.
A part of me felt bad that he was coming into consciousness poolside, surrounded by overweight and sunburned Americans lightly drooling to Jimmy Buffett tunes, but hey — the world ain’t all pretty, kid.
I guess that's funny writing, but all I could think was: You can't expose a little baby to sun. What the hell were you doing?
I found myself desperate to feel like an adult again, even if only for an hour. Strange that adulthood equated to collecting about three towels too many from the towel boy, then elbowing my way to a prime spot on the deck so that I could slurp an overpriced piña colada and roast my pasty flesh while staring at the same page of a book for 20 minutes. And you know what? It was awesome.
You're drinking, avoiding the baby, avoiding your spouse, and getting sunburned. And this is presented as something that was done because of the baby, his usual preference being for the sort of vacation that enables you to claim to be "travelers and not tourists."

Yes, he rolls out that old trip tripe the first sentence. (For my extended discussion of the traveler/tourism cliché, see "What do you think the difference is between a tourist and a traveler?")

"I would like to talk about ‘Sleeping Beauty’ and ‘Swan Lake,’ about my battements and my handsome partners..."

"But whichever way I look at my childhood, it all revolves around politics and Stalin’s terror," wrote the great ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who has died at the age of 89.
Her father was shot to death in 1938 in Stalin’s purges. (Ms. Plisetskaya learned the date of his death only in 1989.) Her mother was arrested and sent to a labor camp with her infant son, then exiled to Kazakhstan....

Ms. Plisetskaya was... restricted by the Bolshoi’s rigid Soviet guidelines on choreography, which viewed the very movement of dance through the prism of ideology, yet she was able to infuse stultified, literal movements with much deeper meaning....

“I danced all of classical ballet and dreamed of something new,” she said. “In my time, it was impossible.”
I'd like to hear more specifically how ballet movements could be thought to contain political ideology. I once met a woman in Madison who had learned a difficult craft that produced a type of ordinary object — a lovely version of something quite utilitarian. She expressed anguish in not yet having found a way to make these objects political. I said I thought that loading politics into art tended to make bad art. I dreamed of interesting conversations in Madison. Many years later, I started this blog.

ADDED: I don't like tag proliferation, so I'm using my "merging politics and showbiz" for this. It seems wrong to call ballet "showbiz," but think about it. Why is it wrong? It isn't!

Ah, but I remember I also have an "art and politics" tag. I remember that tag as I think of the conversation with the Madison artisan. Why did those crafted objects prompt me to think "art" when ballet did not? Because I thought of art school.

May 2, 2015

"If he says he’s a woman, then he’s a woman."

"My responsibility as a human being is to love and accept everybody. Not to criticize people for who they are. I can criticize, and I do, for what people do, for their behavior. But as far as for who they are, you have to respect everybody, and these are obviously complex issues for businesses, for society, and I think we have to look at it in a way that is compassionate and respectful of everybody."

Said Rick Santorum.

"The city’s birthrate is steadily declining, but not among the affluent, and that rise is changing the feel of the city."

So says the teaser on the front page of the NYT that takes us to "Baby Boom Among New York’s Affluent," which is illustrated by this startling ad — anti-birth propaganda from the city:

"What happens to me?" = words the government puts in the mouth of the unborn child, who presumably has the opinion that she should not be born. And try to wade through the race-and-class politics of this:
Between 2004 and 2013, of all the racial groups that the city’s Health Department measures, birthrates increased only among whites. Beginning around 2010, as birthrates among whites started steadily to climb up, birthrates among blacks began to go down. In 2013, blacks had a birthrate of 12.7, the lowest of any group in the city, with the abortion rate four times as high among black women as among white women...

For decades there were factions on the right worried about poor minorities “overbreeding” and taxing the city’s resources. Historically, there has been far less panic about the affluent having a lot of children, and yet they change the feel of the city, driving family-size S.U.V.s and generating a more suburban sensibility. The main complaints have come from well-off people themselves, as they worry about overcrowding in affluent school districts and rising numbers of children attending private school, making admission even more impossible....
So the affluent white people end up sick even of themselves — or especially of themselves — and the NYT tries to amuse its affluent-white-female readership with this kicker:
Perhaps those ads could be recast and targeted at TriBeCa mothers with small children, warning them of the tough realities: “You may think you want a fourth child. But what if your husband never buys you that four-bedroom apartment and never says yes to the weekend nanny?”
ADDED: Two things:

1. Why pick on "factions on the right" who worried about "poor minorities" breeding when you've got an ad that plainly reveals that the city government — liberals — were actively fighting exactly that?

2. It's quite politically incorrect to portray a woman as looking to her husband to buy her a home and and a servant. Don't these upscale, affluent types have egalitarian marriages these days? I would have thought that TriBeCa mothers are equal partners in decisionmaking within their marriages. Why did that sexist stereotype suddenly appear? When does the NYT let its guard down?

"The top 10 Senate races of 2016, ranked."

By Aaron Blake and Chris Cillizza at The Washington Post. Wisconsin is #2:
Assuming [former Senator Russ] Feingold runs -- and we assume he does -- Sen. Ron Johnson (R) is in deep trouble. The only two polls conducted in this race show Feingold with leads of nine and 16 points, which is a very tough place for any incumbent to start. Republicans' best hope may be that Feingold ran an atrocious campaign against Johnson -- when the Democrat was the incumbent -- in 2010, and maybe he will do the same again this time. (Previous ranking: 3)
Do you remember what was "atrocious" about Feingold's campaign in 2010? I don't. I had to go back into my archive to see what I noticed at the time. I found this post about an early October debate between Feingold and Johnson, where both candidates were asked how close they were to be the beliefs of the Tea Party: "Watch Russ Feingold confidently assert that he represents Tea Party values."

Going back into September, I see that Feingold decided to distance himself from the Democrats. He had an ad that showed him eating alone because he had no friends in Washington. And when President Obama came to Madison to do a huge rally, it was questionable whether Feingold would even show up:
The media had predicted Feingold wouldn’t show up at the event, suggesting he didn’t want to be tied to the increasingly unpopular Obama. You wouldn’t know it from his passionate speech. “I’ll tell you something, Mr. President,” he booms, “you are my friend!”

Hey, I made it to page 1 of Google returns...

... on the word "rectumtude." I especially like that I've beaten out "Unfortunate Baby Names," which seems serendipitous/fortuitous on a day when the whole world is waiting to hear what the Duke and Duchess are going to name the new princess. Do you think Serendipity is a good baby name? If you ever have twins, a girl and a boy, feel free to use the names I just thought of: Serendippity and Fortuitus. I tweaked the spelling to get an ancient Roman look for the boy and, for the girl, some silly cuteness. You can call her Dippy, as in "Epistle to Dippy":

"I get pity links from Instapundit."

Says Mickey Kaus. (Nice to see him on Bloggingheads again. And here's his blog, where he seems to really care about getting visitors, so, please, go pity-visit him.)

"A Pewaukee man faces a disorderly conduct charge after a woman walked in on him and his girlfriend having sex in a bathroom at the Waukesha Public Library last month."

A few questions about this story.

1. Why was only the man arrested? Answer: The woman didn't have a prior arrest. She received a citation. (Double meaning intended.)

2. If I walked in on private business in a bathroom where the door was accidentally left unlocked, I'd just quickly apologize, close the door, and try to forget about it. Wouldn't you?

3. Those "family bathrooms" — which, I take it, are completely enclosed rooms with a toilet and a sink — what are the limits of what you're allowed to do in private in there? Obviously, they must anticipate that some people are going to use them for sexual purposes. If you don't make noise that can be heard outside the room, leave any mess, or take too long and you do successfully manage to get the door locked, would anything stop you?

If anything would stop me, it would be... free polls

"Police 'deeply troubled' by artwork in Madison Central Library."

"The piece entitled 'Don't Shoot' by artist Mike L'Roy aims to 'startle, shock, and interrupt your reality.'...[and] to "empower black individuals who are feeling angry, forgotten and demonized by the mainstream narrative.'"
Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association Jim Palmer released a joint statement Friday with Madison Professional Police Officers Association President Dan Frei saying... "While we appreciate that the anti-law enforcement sentiment expressed in this piece represents the feelings of some, this 'stormtrooper' portrayal of police officers who appear to threaten a small child only serves to advance patently negative law enforcement stereotypes at the expense of the important and selfless jobs that our dedicated officers perform."...

The organizations said they are not demanding the display be taken down, "as we do not view that as an appropriate response to this expression of speech." They stay instead that they are "voicing the collective reaction of Madison's officers who find this publicly-sponsored art display as offensive and indicative of terribly poor judgement."