April 29, 2016

Today at Lake Wingra...

... we saw some sandhill cranes:

Feel free to talk about whatever you want in the comments.

"Manly Health and Training" — a 47,000-word set of essays by Walt Whitman discovered by a grad student searching for Whitman's pseudonyms in a digitized newspaper database.

The University of Houston student, Zachary Turpin, found the pen name "Mose Velsor" in the database for The New-York Daily Tribune on Sept. 11, 1858, referring to something that was about to appear in The New York Atlas. Turpin ordered microfilm of The Atlas (which had not been digitized) from the relevant time period and saw that there were 13 installments: "It took about 24 hours for it to sink in."
“Manly Health,” with its references to “inspiration and respiration” and the importance of “electricity through the frame,” also echoes the language of earlier poems like “Song of Myself” and “I Sing the Body Electric,” recasting their themes in the more concrete spirit of a self-improvement manual....

Whitman’s first installment strikes a vatic, exclamatory note: “Manly health! Is there not a kind of charm — a fascinating magic in the words?” he writes, before outlining the path to “a perfect body, a perfect blood.”

That torrent of advice that follows touches on sex, war, climate, bathing, gymnastics, baseball, footwear, depression, alcohol, shaving and the perils of “too much brain action and fretting,” in sometimes rambling prose....
“One of Whitman’s core beliefs was that the body was the basis of democracy,” [said Ed Folsom, the editor of The Walt Whitman Quarterly Review]. “The series is a hymn to the male body, as well as a guide to taking care of what he saw as the most vital unit of democratic living.”
That's quoted from The New York Times, under the dismayingly lightweight headline "Walt Whitman Promoted a Paleo Diet. Who Knew?"

The Times flags a possible racism issue:
Whitman... includes a racially tinged discussion of the advantages of “our Teutonic ancestors” and other people of the northern climes. “While Whitman doesn’t state openly that a great America is a white America, he does suggest these other races will fall away,” Mr. Turpin said.
There's a hefty excerpt here. I liked: 

A fine animal man!

It's tough to predict what will happen in Indiana — "the toughest factor is the state’s own essential strangeness."

"What do I think, as a native son? I think Trump will do better here than most pundits predict. But I also think those pundits should spend less time talking about Trump and more time trying to understand our complicated, diverse, historically messy (and yet ultimately endearing) 50 states."

Writes Craig Fehrman at FiveThirtyEight.

ADDED: An old post of mine about Indiana: "In which of the states is it easiest to talk to strangers?" 

"Jerry Lewis just turned 90. It isn't trending on Facebook. Or Twitter."

"Because nobody on social media cares about or knows who the hell he is. To people my age, he's known as the guy who monopolized CBS affiliates all Labor Day weekend with his telethons for muscular dystrophy. To my dad's generation, he teamed with Dean Martin to be as big as the Beatles or Elvis.... But what isn't known is his influence in film[m]aking to legends from Spielberg, Tarantino, Eddie Murphy, just to name a few. He influenced me greatly 'look what Jerry Lewis does---he helps these folks out, and its a big person who gives back when they don't have to.' It's a huge reason why I try to get involved and help out as many wonderful non-profits (on a 1/100000th scale) it's important to give back. Its too bad as time goes on, he is slowly being forgotten. Happy 90th birthday, Mr. Lewis!"

Writes Andy Garcia.

It's funny, I read that just after writing a post about John Wayne's upcoming non-milestone birthday and, earlier this morning, having a discussion with Meade about another post — about the movie comedy that will depict Ronald Reagan with Alzheimer's disease — that including the use Jerry Lewis as an example. I was defending comedy that reaches into subjects that are not funny at all, not because I like everyone making light of what is serious, but because I recognize the special genius involved in successful transgression. Not that everyone agrees about what has been successful.

"I don’t know why they hacked my account. I didn’t do nothing to nobody. I’m harmless."

"I’m ready to play football, man. It’s a love for the game. It’s not all about the money."/"Man, it was a mistake. It happened years ago. Somebody hacked my Twitter account, and that’s how it got on there."

Said Laremy Tunsil, who might have been a #1 pick in the NFL draft, but "a bizarre video was posted on his Twitter account minutes before the start of the draft [that] showed a person smoking from a mask equipped with a bong."

"Opposing the John Wayne Day resolution is like opposing apple pie, fireworks, baseball, the Free Enterprise system and the Fourth of July!"

Said California state assemblyman Matthew Harper (a Republican), who "sought to declare May 26, 2016, as John Wayne Day to mark the day the actor was born" and encountered opposition:
He had disturbing views towards race," objected Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, leading off a 20-minute debate. Alejo cited a 1971 interview with Playboy in which Wayne [said] "I believe in white supremacy until the blacks are educated to a point of responsibility. I don't believe in giving authority and positions of leadership and judgment to irresponsible people"....

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, cited his comments defending white Europeans' encroachment on American Indians who Wayne once said "were selfishly trying to keep it for themselves."
The article — at Fox5ny — nudged me to assume that we were approaching the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Wayne, which skewed me against the Alejo/Gonzalez position. But I caught myself, Googled for info, found out John Wayne was born in 1907, and must come down against Harper. Let it go. The second-most-liked John Wayne quote at Good Reads is: 
"Tomorrow is the most important thing in life. Comes into us at midnight very clean. It's perfect when it arrives and it puts itself in our hands. It hopes we've learned something from yesterday."
Think about it, Pilgrim.

For reference, here's the full text of the Playboy interview — PDF. Key passage:

"People who like milk chocolate have slightly different microbes in their intestines than those who prefer their chocolate dark

"... although researchers do not know why. Significant differences in the so-called microbiome are also found in individuals based on whether or not they eat a lot of fiber or take certain medications—such as the diabetes drug metformin, female hormones or antihistamines."

From "Findings from the Gut—New Insights into the Human Microbiome/A preference for dark versus milk chocolate, among other things, shows up in the kinds of healthy germs found in the gut" (in Scientific American).

"State court partly blocks Seattle trash recycling/composting requirements, because of risk of unconstitutional searches."

Eugene Volokh notes the case of Bonesteel v. City of Seattle.
Now you, learned reader, are doubtless wondering, “But what about California v. Greenwood, in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that Fourth Amendment protections don’t generally apply to garbage?” And of course you’re right to so wonder; Greenwood concluded that....
Ha ha. I love the rhetorical device — must be a Greek name for it — of heading into something lofty or deep by portraying the reader as someone who's already thinking about it on that level.

Volokh explains Greenwood and proceeds to State v. Boland and makes the inconclusive conclusion of imagining "that searching materials turned over for disposal to determine whether they fit the rules about what qualifies for disposal might be different from searching such materials for evidence of unrelated crimes."

Live-streaming webcam of bald eagles' nest shows the birds arriving with dinner consisting of a cat.

That upset some people.


1. You're watching eagles do what eagles have evolved to do, just normal life.

2. Look to your own nature: Why are you peeping on the private life of animals? If anything's disgusting, you're disgusting for peeping. Turn your squeamish outcry against yourself.

3. It's poetic justice. Cats kill birds. Those who let their pussies run wild should remember that the nonnative species they set loose is ravaging the birds who are trying to get along in what is the ecosystem they earned through long years of evolution. Your feline pets are killing 3.7 billion birds annually. The turnabout seen in the webcam is small recompense for the damage done.

"I saw... that you intend to portray my father in the throes of Alzheimer’s for a comedy that you are also producing."

"Perhaps you have managed to retain some ignorance about Alzheimer’s and other versions of dementia. Perhaps if you knew more, you would not find the subject humorous. Alzheimer’s doesn’t care if you are President of the United States or a dockworker. It steals what is most precious to a human being — memories, connections, the familiar landmarks of a lifetime that we all come to rely on to hold our place secure in this world and keep us linked to those we have come to know and love. I watched as fear invaded my father’s eyes — this man who was never afraid of anything. I heard his voice tremble as he stood in the living room and said, 'I don’t know where I am.' I watched helplessly as he reached for memories, for words, that were suddenly out of reach and moving farther away. For ten long years he drifted — past the memories that marked his life, past all that was familiar…and mercifully, finally past the fear.... Perhaps you would like to explain... how this disease is suitable material for a comedy."

Patti Davis writes an open letter to Will Ferrell.

There are many movies — many plot lines — that involve a character with memory loss. Usually, it's more abstract than Alzheimer's — the sort of hit-on-the-head amnesia we've never seen in family or friends. Alzheimer's seems to belong in drama, and the movie business makes things like "Away From Her," "Iris," etc. etc. But why not comedy? Some of the saddest, darkest, most sensitive matters make great comedy. There's no better comic movie than "Dr. Strangelove," which is about all of humanity dying in a nuclear holocaust.

Is there something unforgivably cruel about the comic portrayal of a particular human being who really did suffer through Alzheimer's? But this man was President of the United States. Disrespecting authority is central to comedy and central to the life of a democracy. To be President of the United States is to be President of a place that speaks freely and disrespectfully about anyone who takes on a position of political authority and especially about the President of the United States.

Now, the script had better be good. It can't just be laughing at a person suffering from a disease. Here's a little insight into what it is:
[Beginning at] the start of Reagan’s second term... [t]he movie follows a dementia-addled Reagan as a White House intern tries to convince him that he is an actor playing the president in a movie....

The script was first debuted on the Black List, an annual catalog of top un-produced Hollywood scripts, and it was so popular that a table reading was scheduled last month with actress Lena Dunham, who played Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, along with “Star Trek” actor John Cho.

But, according to YAF program director Amy Lutz, who attended the reading... “Although I was impressed with the talent of the actors participating in the table read and the occasional wit of the script... the entire screenplay is detached from reality.... [The movie portrays Reagan] as a caricature that college professors often paint of him... a bumbling, forgetful man, wrestling in the throes of Alzheimer’s and beholden to ‘devious’ advisors. The screenplay, though written to be a humorous satire, rather makes light of Alzheimer’s and undercuts President Reagan’s accomplishments in his second term."
Some people might prefer a respectful presentation of the grand old President, but surely there is room for a comic exploration of the hypothesis that President Reagan, while still in office, had lost his mental faculties and the people around him were covering for him in terrifyingly absurd ways. Do it well, and it's a great comedy. They'd better believe they are doing it well. The stakes are high because they're appropriating the character of an American hero. We'll see what they do with it.

UPDATE: Will Ferrell has backed out of the project.
A source told us of the Reagan movie, “It wasn’t a complete project because there was no financing, and no director attached. Will considered the movie, but ultimately decided not to do it.”

Reps for Ferrell would not confirm if his decision not to proceed with the “Reagan” movie was a direct result of the outcry from the Reagan family.

Do you have an old movie that you feel you've watched many times...

... and then you channel-surf into into it one day, somewhere past the middle, and you start watching it and realize that all those other times you watched it — except, perhaps, the first — you didn't put up with watching it to the end, so you take advantage of the opportunity to see the part you've rarely seen and it's just way less good than the first part, the part you're familiar with, the part upon which your positive opinion has been based all these years?

That happened to me last night. What movie? I'll just give you a clue. The lead male character was played by an actor who was born in the same year as the actress who played his mother — his pathetically unattractive mother. Not long after that, this actress was offered a part in another movie where she would be playing the mother of a character to be played by Frank Sinatra, and she was 10 years younger than Sinatra. She declined.

April 28, 2016

The "meternity" leave.

It's maternity leave without having a baby — me... -ternity.
Women are bad at putting ourselves first. But when you have a child, you learn how to self-advocate to put the needs of your family first. A well-crafted “meternity” can give you the same skills — and taking one shouldn’t disqualify you from taking maternity leave later.

As for me, I did eventually give notice at my job and take a “meternity” of my own.... Ultimately, what I learned from my own “meternity” leave is that any pressure I felt to stay late at the office wasn’t coming from the parents on staff. It was coming from myself. Coming back to a new position, I realized I didn’t need an “excuse” to leave on time....
That's from Anna Davies, who has a book. Meanwhile, Arianna Huffington, who also has a book, is making herself about sleeping
“I want to rekindle our romance with sleep,” said Ms. Huffington, 65, in a lullaby voice as soothing as her floral perfume. “It’s a central part of life and a gateway to our dreams.”

Tiger nuts, "one of the absolute worst weeds in the world," want to be your new health food.

At NPR, "Loathed By Farmers, Loved By Ancients: The Strange History Of Tiger Nuts."

"One pair of [separated-at-birth] twins both suffered crippling migraines, owned dogs that they had named Toy, married women named Linda..."

"... and had sons named James Allan (although one spelled the middle name with a single 'l'). Another pair—one brought up Jewish, in Trinidad, and the other Catholic, in Nazi Germany, where he joined the Hitler Youth—wore blue shirts with epaulets and four pockets, and shared peculiar obsessive behaviors, such as flushing the toilet before using it. Both had invented fake sneezes to diffuse tense moments. Two sisters—separated long before the development of language—had invented the same word to describe the way they scrunched up their noses: 'squidging.' Another pair confessed that they had been haunted by nightmares of being suffocated by various metallic objects—doorknobs, fishhooks, and the like."

From "Same but Different/How epigenetics can blur the line between nature and nurture," by Siddhartha Mukerjee in The New Yorker.

"In the southeastern Chinese city of Quanzhou, a well-known Buddhist monk named Fu Hou has been mummified and encased in gold leaf."

"[T]he monk's body was washed, treated by two mummification experts, and sealed inside a large pottery jar in a sitting position... The monk's body was then sterilized and painted. The final step – gilding with gold leaf – started on March 16...."

The cardinal's nest.


Photo by Meade, who did not disturb the mother bird.

View of the eggs here.

"On Wednesday afternoon, professors at George Mason University protested the recent renaming of the law school after the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia."

"At a meeting full of angry student activists, the school’s faculty senate voted 21-13 to reopen the naming process."
The vote took issue with Scalia’s “numerous public offensive comments” about black people, women, and LBGT individuals, as well as his role in “the polarized climate in this country.” The professors also opposed the $30 million in donations from the Charles Koch Foundation and an anonymous donor that came along with the renaming, money that is supposed to be used for injecting economic analyses into interpretation of pollution laws.

Ted Cruz is "Lucifer in the flesh," said John Boehner.

"I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life."

ADDED: He also said: "Don’t be shocked … if two weeks before the convention, here comes Joe Biden parachuting in and Barack Obama fanning the flames to make it all happen."

"There are few sights more disconcerting during a Supreme Court argument than smart justices playing dumb."

Linda Greenhouse expresses dismay over the Justices' [feigned] difficulty over the "lawfully present"/"legally present" distinction in immigration law.

"She is a woman, she is playing the woman card left and right. Frankly, if she didn’t, she would do very poorly."

"If she were a man and she was the way she is, she would get virtually no votes," said Donald Trump about, obviously, Hillary Clinton.

Now, of course, ironically, Trump — whose very name suggests a card game — is playing the woman card. He's playing the woman card on her, even as she, of course, plays the woman card over and over. He's trying to get the power out of the card, by making the playing of the card have the meaning: This is the only card I've got.

The question is whether this is a good move for Trump. I'm seeing some columns playing with Trump's statement — is there, literally, a card? But it might be a good move. He's setting it up so that every time she tries to excite us with the idea that we could have the supposedly great thrill of the first woman President, he'll be positioned to say: There she goes again — it's all she's got. Or he won't even have to say it. We'll think it.

Here's the joke Hillary's people wrote for her in response: "Mr. Trump accused me of playing the 'woman card.' Well, if fighting for women's health care and paid family leave and equal pay is playing the 'woman card,' then deal me in." Interesting key word: deal. That's the key word of Trump's campaign and Trump's life.

I must say that — whatever happens in this crazy Trump v. Clinton phase of the game — I think that in the long historical run, the women's hand will win the political game, and the interests of women in getting secure economic support from the government will prevail. In fact, I will not be surprised to see Trump undercut Hillary in the Women card game.