September 2, 2014

"When parents reported their daughters missing, it could take 24 hours for the police to turn up...."

"Some parents, if they called in repeatedly, were fined for wasting police time. Some officers and local officials told the investigation that they did not act for fear of being accused of racism. But [Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work who was commissioned by the Rotherham Council to carry out an independent investigation] said that for years there was an undeniable culture of institutional sexism. Her investigation heard that police referred to victims as 'tarts' and to the girls’ abuse as a 'lifestyle choice.' In the minutes of a meeting about a girl who had been raped by five men, a police detective refused to put her into the sexual abuse category, saying he knew she had been '100 percent consensual.' She was 12.... During an interview at her home outside Rotherham, [one victim] recalled being questioned about her abuse by police officers who repeatedly referred to the main rapist as her 'boyfriend.'"

The NYT reports on the Rotherham rape scandal.

Climbing out to precarious, vertiginous places toward Instagram fame.

Beautiful, unsettling pictures.

What could go wrong?

"My casual choice to use the word 'smarter' really provoked a reaction!"

"I could just have easily written 'I prefer LD's tweet.' But people are so touchy about anything that suggests an actual comparison of IQs. A lot of pride and anxiety at that location, I suspect."

Said I, commenting at 5:01 AM at what is at the moment the end of a comments thread on a post where I'd called Lena Dunham's tweet about the naked-celebrity-pics leak "smarter" than the tweet by Ricky Gervais.

I didn't even say I thought Lena is smarter than Ricky, though it sure would be fun to watch them go head to head on the LSAT.

ADDED: Ricky's subtextual message to readers of his tweet was: It's okay to look at the pictures. Lena's overt message was: "It's not okay." That's the basis for my preference.

September 1, 2014

50 years ago this month: the first time Pete Townshend destroyed his guitar as part of an on-stage performance.

"Pete Townshend said it was an accident the first time he smashed his guitar. He was playing with The Who in a small cramped room at the Railway Hotel in Harrow, west London. The ceiling was damp with condensation, the room smoky, a smell of sweat and stale beer. The Who were playing 'Smokestack Lightning,' 'I’m a Man,' and 'Road Runner' when..."

I don't think the precise day is known, so I can't say "50 years ago today" as I normally do, and it wasn't a planned action, so this is an ambiguous milestone. Later, Townsend would do it on purpose. But even if it was intentional, it was long after the first planned performance of instrument destruction. I don't know what was the first, but Wikipedia has an article titled "Instrument destruction," which gives the honor to a performance that took place in 1956, amazingly enough, on the Lawrence Welk TV show. It was Rocky Rockwell, doing an Elvis Presley impersonation, and it looked a little something like this:

Maybe because that was comical, it shouldn't count. Rockwell wasn't sincere in his Elvisosity, so the destruction expressed only a rejection of the music he was inviting us to laugh at and reject. And they say Jerry Lee Lewis set his piano on fire in the 1950s. Charles Mingus famously got mad at someone and broke his $20,000 bass.

But there's some restriction of the definition of the feat that puts Pete Townsend first. Here's Jeff Beck aping Pete's routine in the 1966 movie "Blowup":

"Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on the computer."

Tweeted Ricky Gervais, after a big naked-celebrity security leak at iCloud.

He's getting reamed for saying that.

A smarter tweet from Lena Dunham: "Remember, when you look at these pictures you are violating these women again and again. It’s not okay. Seriously, do not forget that the person who stole these pictures and leaked them is not a hacker: they’re a sex offender."

And: "Also sad I can’t make one joke about having shown my t*ts on purpose without a massive qualitative tit debate. Some of y’all, dang. The 'don’t take naked pics if you don’t want them online' argument is the 'she was wearing a short skirt' of the web. Ugh."

IN THE COMMENTS: John Nowak said:
I wish people would stop saying "the Cloud" and replace it with "Someone else's server."

I think that would make some decisions more clear for what they are. 
I don't think people realize that they may have their iPhone set to store photos automatically on Apple's servers. Many lovers just fool around with the phone camera. Are you smart enough to know how stupid you need to be to make the "Jennifer Lawrence mistake"?

"To me, bad teachers don’t do anybody any good. So the unions need to recognize that parents are not going to stand for it anymore."

Said Whoopi Goldberg today, Labor Day.

In the buff.

"What color is buff?" I was asked recently, after I mentioned that the English dandy Beau Brummel mostly only ever wore the colors white, blue-black, and buff.

I answered "in the buff," as if the color is the color of a random naked person, but I looked it up in the OED, and the relevant meaning is "Of the colour of buff leather; a light brownish yellow." Buff leather is buffalo leather, and from that comes the meaning that "buff" is naked skin and "in the buff" means naked. I'd never thought of the the nakedness usage of "buff" as having anything to do with "buffalo." The word "buff" meaning an enthusiast — as in "film buff" — comes from the enthusiasm for going to fires, in that NYC volunteer firemen at one time wore buff-colored uniforms.

I guess Americans don't use the color name "buff" so much anymore. We do have a tendency to identify light brownish colors as "tan." Obama's summer suit, much-discussed last week, was almost invariably called "tan." Some said "khaki," which the OED calls a "dull brownish yellow." As for "tan," the OED calls it "The brown colour of tan; tawny," "tan" being a cocoction made from oak bark, used in tanning leather. I've long been influenced by the Crayola crayon that was labeled "tan" (at least in the 1950s and 60s), so I see this more as the color of a suntan. Of course, back then, Crayola had a crayon labeled "flesh." That got re-named "peach" in 1962. We knew the Civil Rights Movement had momentum.

Is it only an accident that the subject of race has arisen in the context of what to call the color of Obama's suit? Is the concern about the color of his suit unconscious displacement of concern over the color of his skin? Consult this chart:

Here's the suit:

Buff? Maybe it depends on whether you're an Obama buff. "Buff" also means — referring to a man — "muscular, well-toned; physically attractive." A Google image search for "Obama's buff suit" turns up pictures of him in a bathing suit, presumably in admiration of his bare chest, but perhaps because he's partially in the buff. Be careful though. The etymology all goes back to "buffalo." Remember the infamous "Water Buffalo Incident" of 1993?

On a lighter note, it's Labor Day: Don't wear white after Labor Day.

That was the biggest hunk of bait I've ever seen on this blog...

... the first comment, totally off topic and saying obscene things about the Christian religion. Admirably, you talked about what I'd invited you to talk about, Ted Cruz saying "Sadly, the state of the world is the Russian bear is encountering the Obama kitty cat."

Said troll arrived just as Meade and I were leaving to go to the theater, another drive out to Spring Green to the American Players Theater, this time to re-see "Travesties," that Tom Stoppard play that has Vladimir Lenin and James Joyce as characters and uses elements of Oscar Wilde's "The Importance of Being Earnest." We saw the Wilde play on Friday, dodging lightning. And that made the second viewing of "Travesties" more different from the first than most re-seeings. Re-seeings are always different though, in good ways. Anything I like enough to see a second time I prefer to see with the experience of having seen it before. The surprises are gone, and undistracted by predicting and looking for surprises, you notice everything that's been planted along the way to make the coming surprises surprising. It's at least different. Do you agree that it's better?

At the elite level, the Supreme Court cogitates about the subtle psychological pressure to pray when a private chaplain performs an invocation at a government meeting.

Here, for example, is Justice Kagan dissenting in the Supreme Court case Town of Greece v. Galloway:
A person goes to court, to the polls, to a naturalization ceremony — and a government official or his hand-picked minister asks her, as the first order of official business, to stand and pray with others in a way conflicting with her own religious beliefs. Perhaps she feels sufficient pressure to go along — to rise, bow her head, and join in whatever others are saying: After all, she wants, very badly, what the judge or poll worker or immigration official has to offer. Or perhaps she is made of stronger mettle, and she opts not to participate in what she does not believe — indeed, what would, for her, be something like blasphemy. She then must make known her dissent from the common religious view, and place herself apart from other citizens, as well as from the officials responsible for the invocations. And so a civic function of some kind brings religious differences to the fore: That public proceeding becomes (whether intentionally or not) an instrument for dividing her from adherents to the community’s majority religion, and for altering the very nature of her relationship with her government.
At the non-elite level, say Winter Garden, Florida, the mayor himself performs the invocation, calls out a citizen who fails to rise on his order, chastises the citizen who quietly cites his desire and right to decline to participate, and — when the man also declines to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance kicks the man out of the meeting. Witness Mayor John Rees:

"Why Uber must be stopped/The touted start-up is proving to be the embodiment of unrestrained hyper-capitalism. What happens when it wins?"

Hysterical headline at Salon, illustrated by a photoshop of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko and Leonardo Di Caprio as the Wolf of Wall Street, together at last, glaring at us rapaciously.

Here's Power Line's attack on Salon.

August 31, 2014

"Sadly, the state of the world is the Russian bear is encountering the Obama kitty cat."

Said Ted Cruz.

Bella De Paulo — author of "Singled Out" — notices her role in causing the marriage of Althouse and Meade.

"Weirdest Thing Ever – at Least in My Life/How could a book on single life lead to this?"
Now here's something else weird.... My first idea for the title was, "Weirdest thing ever – at least in my uneccentric life." I think of my life as fairly ordinary and innocuous...

But as many of you know, I'm also single, and at 60, I have been single all my life and I plan to stay single for the rest of my life – by choice....
Yeah, that's what I thought too. I was 57 at the time of my diavlog with Bella and 58 when I married Meade. So just think how weird it would be if Bella's Meade arrived over there in her comments.

ADDED: By "that's what I thought too," I meant that I'd been single so long and to such an advanced age that my mindset was that I would be single for the rest of my life. But I got married in 1973 at the age of 22, and we separated in 1987 and later divorced.

In the thunderstorm theater.


There we were, Friday night, out under the open, darkening sky at 8 p.m. in Spring Green, Wisconsin. The play was "The Importance of Being Earnest," and the weather forecast was: thunderstorms. As the winds stirred up the surrounding foliage, we of Row O had to strain to catch the Wildean witticisms. Lightning flashed, seemingly synchronized with emotional outbursts on stage. A particularly striking strike perfectly accompanied one of Cecily's exclamations, perhaps "Horrid Political Economy! Horrid Geography! Horrid, horrid German!"

The play continued, the actors utterly ignoring the wind and the lightning and even the rain, until the lights came up and a voice over a loudspeaker announced that a rain break was needed, at which point the actors halted, the audience wildly cheered them, and we all filed out to our separate shelters. The actorly voice on the loudspeaker radiated assurance of knowledge of the weather patterns: The break would be short. And it was. The play resumed, overlapping with the last minute or 2 of what we'd just seen. Perhaps Lady Bracknell repeated the advice "Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon.  Only people who can’t get into it do that."

We didn't get very much further, only to Miss Prism's breakdown into tears. The loudspeaker voice knew that the lightning was about to get dangerous. I guess it wasn't before, when I'd taken comfort in the thought that the big lighting towers would take the hit and not some random audience member like me, not that I'd have enjoyed the play so much if someone else had taken the jolt, even that lady in the red shirt who got back from intermission late and walked across part of the downstage as Act II began. The happy ending for all was in sight, and it was after 11 p.m., but no one seemed willing to leave. Was it camaraderie with the actors or the fear that if we took the woodland walk from the theater down to the parking lot, we'd make good targets for that dangerous lightning?

We got back to our wet seats, and Miss Prism had to redo her waterworks. "In a moment of mental abstraction, for which I never can forgive myself...." And soon all the mysteries were solved, the 3 sets of lovers had embraced in true love —  "At last!" — and Jack (AKA Ernest) had realized for "the first time in [his] life the vital importance of being earnest." The audience was overjoyed, not just at the perfectly happy ending but at the heroic thunderstorm performance of the actors, and we gave a loud, elated — wild/Wilde — standing ovation for everyone, including ourselves. Did we not deserve it too, we who sat in the rain, strained to hear through the rustling of leaves, we who stood around for 2 intermissions and 2 storm breaks? We were kind of heroes too, heroes of a passive sort, and we were giddy by then, after midnight.

We tripped down the woodland path to the car and fiddled with the radio to get the baseball game  from the Pacific Time Zone to keep us going for the hour-long car ride home. It's the 6th inning. What's the score? The Giants already have 16 hits!

It was a good night to get out to the theater.


"What shall we do after dinner? Go to a theatre?"/"Oh no! I loathe listening."

"Mickey Mouse is not a mouse. If you look very closely at him, you can see that he wears gloves."

"Mice do not have the capability, nor the desire, to put gloves on their hands. He also is depicted wearing a pair of shorts with large buttons, which a mouse would be unable to fasten given its mental limitations, not to mention the fact that it has claws without opposable thumbs. Furthermore, the viewer should not be misled into thinking that Mickey is a mouse because he uses the name 'Mouse.' This is merely Mr. Mouse’s surname, and is not intended to confer any mouselike qualities upon him. If you met a man who was named, say, Alan Bird, you would not assume that he was a member of the avian family, even if he happened to have a beak instead of the traditional mouth-and-nose combination seen in most humans, would you? Obviously, Mr. Mouse is simply a man with a loving wife, Mrs. Mouse (a female human), and a normal Homo sapiens existence, just like the rest of us. He even owns a dog called Pluto! How many mice do you know who own dogs?"

Reaction to "Hello Kitty is not a cat..."

ADDED: There! This is the post that pushed me over the line to make a Hello Kitty tag. Going back into the archive to do the necessary retrospective tagging, I find 4 other posts:

1. January 3, 2006: "Cute!" looked at Natalie Angier's "The Cute Factor." She said:
Experts point out that the cuteness craze is particularly acute in Japan, where it goes by the name "kawaii" and has infiltrated the most masculine of redoubts. Truck drivers display Hello Kitty-style figurines on their dashboards....

Behind the kawaii phenomenon, according to Brian J. McVeigh, a scholar of East Asian studies at the University of Arizona, is the strongly hierarchical nature of Japanese culture. "Cuteness is used to soften up the vertical society," he said, "to soften power relations and present authority without being threatening."
Watch out for cute.

2. June 24, 2007: "Is it wrong to tattoo your dog?"
On the positive side: The dog was under anesthesia. On the negative side: It was a tattoo of a cat, and not just any cat -- Hello Kitty.
Yeah, I need to update that, with the news that Hello Kitty is known to be not a cat, but a little girl. Good news for that dog. Also at that old post: links to the Hello Kitty Hell blog and the Hello Kitty text, which I might want to re-take to try to get a better score, i.e., better than self-centered and evil.

(From the anti-Hello Kitty blog, Hello Kitty Hell, found via Metafilter.)

(And take the Hello Kitty test, which is cute and which told me people must think I'm self-centered and evil.)

3. July 17, 2013: "Does anyone in the Bible ever say 'hello'?" Somehow the last paragraph of this post is:
"Heil Hitler" is translated as "Hail Hitler." It's not "Hello Hitler," which seems edgily absurd. You could sing it to the tune of "Hello, Dolly," which has a comma, I might note, unlike Hello Kitty.
By the way, I put my fascism tag on this post after writing about the 2006 post.

4. April 25, 2014: "Avril Lavigne picked a bad week to go all racist." Someone at Vox had written:
"RACIST??? LOLOLOL!!!," Avril tweeted. "I love Japanese culture...." In her defense, this kind of makes sense. Japanese pop does have a pretty camp vein running through it, one that "Hello Kitty" apes.
And I said:
"Hello Kitty" apes? I love those 3 words together, because I can picture "Hello Kitty" Apes... just like I can picture "King Kong" Kitties, but do not market a product called King Kong Kitties. That would be racist.
King Kong is not an ape. He is a... I want to say: He is a little boy. But I google "is King Kong fascist." That turns up a lot, including a book called — I know — "Sartre and Adorno: The Dialectics of Subjectivity," which quotes Theodor Adorno:
"While appearing as a superman, the leader must at the same time work the miracle of appearing as an average person, just as Hitler posed as a composite of King Kong and the suburban barber."
AND: I considered googling "Is Mickey Mouse fascist," but switched to "did Hitler like Mickey Mouse." I found many references to the Art Spiegelman's "Maus," a graphic memoir about his father, a Holocaust survivor, in which the father's memories have the Jewish characters drawn as mice and the Nazis as cats. The second volume of "Maus" begins with a quote from a German newspaper article from the mid-1930s:
Mickey Mouse is the most miserable ideal ever revealed.... Healthy emotions tell every independent young man and every honorable youth that the dirty and filth-covered vermin, the greatest bacteria carrier in the animal kingdom, cannot be the ideal type of animal.... Away with Jewish brutalization of the people! Down with Mickey Mouse! Wear the Swastika Cross!
ALSO: Here's "A Guide For the Purrplexed/How Maimonides explains the Hello Kitty controversy":
“Know that likeness is a certain relation between two things and that in cases where no relation can be supposed to exist between two things, no likeness between them can be represented to oneself,” the old master wrote in his Guide For the Perplexed. “Similarly it behooves those who believe that there are essential attributes that may be predicated of the Creator—namely, that He is existent, living, possessing power, knowing, and willing—to understand that these notions are not ascribed to Him and to us in the same sense. According to what they think, the difference between these attributes and ours lies in the former being greater, more perfect, more permanent, or more durable than ours, so that His existence is more durable than our existence, His life more permanent than our life, His power greater than our power, His knowledge more perfect than our knowledge, and His will more universal than our will.”

And that, of course, is wrong, because God is nothing like man. He hasn’t a face or a temper or anything else we might recognize....

To paraphrase Maimonides, it behooves those who were outraged this week over Sanrio’s revelation and who believe that there are essential attributes that may be predicated of Hello Kitty—namely, that She is existent, living, possessing power, knowing, and willing—to understand that these notions are not ascribed to Her and to us in the same sense.

August 30, 2014

Houses made from bricks made of mushrooms.

"The mushroom brick is 'grown' by mixing together chopped-up corn husks with mycelium."

Wake me up when you actually grow a house. Right now the mushroom house is in the courtyard of an art gallery in NYC. So I think I'll just get very small and curl up for a long rest on my cushiony toadstool:


Here's a reading from R. Gordon Wasson, "The Hallucinogenic Fungi Of Mexico/An Inquiry Into The Origins of The Religious Idea Among Primitive Peoples" (1961):

"If the hate-crimes law is used to punish intra-religious crimes, it could change from a shield to protect minorities into a weapon against them."

"Religious groups whose beliefs pervade their whole world view see everyone in terms of religion. Any assault they commit might be considered a federal crime," writes Noah Feldman, defending the 6th Circuit's reversal of the conviction in the Amish beard-cutting case.
The defendants in the Amish case asked the appellate court to rule that the law never applies to intra-religious disputes. This might have made sense as a matter of policy, but not as a legal matter in the case at hand. As the law is written, it covers hate crimes by co-religionists. The court instead pragmatically restricted the law’s reach to cases where a religious motive predominates.
How do we know when people are co-religionists? Seemingly co-religionists have been attacking each other for thousands of years. Some of the worst disputes are over the scope of the religion — who's the heretic? — and the outsider's perception that they're in the same religion ignores the nature of the fight. Is it the same religion or different? It would be unwise to interpret the federal hate crime statute to force judges and juries to determine whether criminal defendants and their victims belong to the same religion. It's too close to having trials about religious orthodoxy. That's not what we do in America.

"A lost chapter of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, deemed too wild, subversive and insufficiently moral... has been published for the first time."

"In the chapter Charlie Bucket – accompanied by his mother, not his sprightly grandfather – and the other children are led into the Vanilla Fudge Room, where they face the sinister prospect of the Pounding and Cutting Room."
"In the centre of the room there was an actual mountain, a colossal jagged mountain as high as a five-storey building, and the whole thing was made of pale-brown, creamy, vanilla fudge," the chapter reads. "All the way up the sides of the mountain, hundreds of men were working away with picks and drills, hacking great hunks of fudge out of the mountainside...  As the huge hunks of fudge were pried loose, they went tumbling and bouncing down the mountain and when they reached the bottom they were picked up by cranes with grab-buckets, and the cranes dumped the fudge into open wagons."...

"The Wanderer..."

"... sings the blues."

"The Weirdest Story About a Conservative Obsession, a Convicted Bomber, and Taylor Swift You Have Ever Read."

"Benghazi, Robin Williams, Islam, Twitter, and a convicted bomber from the 1970s came together in a court case against right-wing bloggers."

Thanks to David Weigel for presenting this story, which I've avoided blogging because of its complexity and moral ambiguity. Where do you start? I've only copied the Daily Beast's headline and subheadline here, and it's an odd list of things. Robin Williams and Taylor Swift aren't actually important, but passing references. "Islam" is much more generic than "Everyone Draw Mohammad Day" (which I always said was a bad idea, but, of course: free speech). And the word "pedophilia" doesn't even appear on the list, but it's at the core of this defamation case.

When he called McCain to the stand, Kimberlin handed McCain a print-out of a 2009 blog post about how to get traffic, and asked him to read tip number four: “Make some enemies.” Kimberlin, having made his point—this guy was starting a fight to make money—tried to take back the document. McCain snatched it and kept reading.

“At the same time, however, don’t confuse cyber-venom with real-world hate,” said McCain, giving a drawled, dramatic reading of one of his favorite posts. “Maybe Ace of Spades really would like to go upside Andrew Sullivan’s head with a baseball bat, I don’t know. But at some point you understand it’s just blogging about politics, and you start wondering if maybe it shares a certain spectator-friendly quality with pro wrestling. For all we know, Ace is spending weekends at Sully’s beach shack in Provincetown.”

McCain plunked the document back on the witness stand. “A sense of humor is not a crime in this country,” he said.
The right-wing bloggers win in the end, and when they win, they look like this.

"The problem is I'm black.... No it really is because I didn't do anything wrong."

"I'm not sitting there with a group of people. I'm sitting there by myself… not causing a problem with anyone."