April 30, 2016

"Yes, that’s the (totally classy) cover to the book, which is one of a 2-part volume retailing for $1700.00..."

"Such dear, dear friends. That last shot doesn’t look so much like an airkiss as it does a very slow assault...."

Hey, yeah. It reminds me of this.

Acrostic clue that I don't think began that way.

Tomorrow's NYT acrostic has one clue that reads: "How Abraham Lincoln and Jimi Hendrix died." I'm pretty sure that "Jimi Hendrix" was a last minute substitution.

Here's a piece from 3 days ago in the Wall Street Journal: "What Prince and Abraham Lincoln Have in Common."

Why oust Prince from that clue and replace him with a longer-dead rock-music icon? Spoiler alert. The answer to the clue is: intestate. The NYT is pretty punctilious about the accuracy of puzzle clues, and though no Prince will has surfaced yet, it could happen. And perhaps there is an element of taste. The quote in the solution — again, spoiler alert — comes from "Bring Up the Bodies," and we might not want to think of the recently lost Prince in such graphic terms.

Does the title of "Bring Up the Bodies" refer to buried human bodies?
The title of Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies, we learn late in the narrative, is a legal phrase, the command to court officials instructing them to deliver to their trial men who, because they are accused of treason, are regarded as already dead: “The order goes to the Tower, ‘Bring up the bodies.’” But the phrase is suggestive too of the march to death, specifically to the scaffold, that is undertaken by many of the book’s characters. Bring Up the Bodies is a sequel to Mantel’s Booker Prize–winning Wolf Hall and in both novels she ambitiously attempts to reconstruct in fictional but credible form a series of crucial events in English history, specifically here those leading up to the execution of Anne Boleyn....

"In our view, if nine-tenths of all the various culinary preparations and combinations, vegetables, pastry, soups, stews, sweets, baked dishes, salads, things fried in grease, and all the vast array of confections, creams, pies, jellies, &c...."

"... were utterly swept aside from the habitual eating of the people, and a simple meat diet substituted in their place... the result would be greatly, very greatly, in favor of that noble-bodied, pure-blooded, and superior race we have had a leaning toward.... The effect of nearly all of these highly artificial dishes is to stimulate and goad on the appetite, distend the stomach, thin the blood, and prepare the way for some form or other of disease. They do not harden a man in his fibre, nor make him any the better in wholesome flesh—as it is often to be noticed of such articles that the greatest eaters of them are by no means the fattest, but often lean and scraggly.... We have been flooded in America, during the last fifteen or twenty years, with vast numbers of doctors, books, theories, publications, &c., whose general drift, with respect to diet, had been to make people live altogether on dry bread, stewed apples, or similar interesting stuff....  [Especially in New England,] the people are prone to be too intellectual, and to be 'ashamed of the carnal body'—running very much to brains, at the expense of the brawn and muscle of their limbs... Let the main part of the diet be meat, to the exclusion of all else...  for all the northern and eastern states. We say less about hotter climates, because in those regions of perpetual fruits, there are other points to be considered. And it may be as well to add, that by meat diet, we do not mean the eating of meat cooked in grease and saturated therewith—or in any made dishes—but meat simply cooked, broiled, roasted, or the like. This is the natural eating of man and woman...."

Advice on what to eat, from the newly discovered writings of Walt Whitman, "Manly Health and Training, With Off-Hand Hints Toward Their Conditions" (1858).

"It may sound strange that so harmless a liquid as water may require to be guarded against, but it is even so."

"Drenching the stomach with it just before, or during a hearty meal, plays the mischief with the digestions, and in most cases with the personal comfort. And yet it is a common practice.... The drink we recommend, and not too much of that, is water only. By a proper choice of food, much thirst may always be avoided.... As to the appetite for ice-water, for instance, in the hot weather, it is an artificial one; simple cool water, and not too cool, is much more wholesome."

Advice on what to drink, from the newly discovered writings of Walt Whitman, "Manly Health and Training, With Off-Hand Hints Toward Their Conditions."

"We went under a fence and through a fence, and oh, boy, it felt like I was crossing the border, actually."

Said Donald Trump and even though I just got done writing that Donald Trump doesn't use metaphor, I thought he was talking about the way he got into the Republican Party and became its presidential front-runner. But he was talking about how he got to his rally yesterday, when he had to get out of his car and walk across a field and up an embankment — surrounded by Secret Service agents — because of the protesters who foolishly believed they could block access and stop the event and ended up making him look hearty and game.

"I have a lot of experience dealing with men who sometimes get off the reservation in the way they behave and how they speak."

"I’m not going to deal with their temper tantrums or their bullying or their efforts to try to provoke me. He can say whatever he wants to me. I could really care less."

Said Hillary Clinton. Fine. I'll just say:

1. I'm glad she's irritating the people who would like you to know that you're supposed to say "I couldn't care less." I enjoy imagining that the people who say "I could care less" mean to call attention to the smidgen less caring that remains possible.

2. I don't think Donald Trump needs the say-anything permission she gave him: "He can say whatever he wants to me." The key word is "wants." And he does say anything he wants. We're often surprised that he wants to say what he says, but Hillary may have some power to change what he wants to say, if she can figure out how. I assume she'd like her status as a woman to exerts some pressure on what he wants to say.

3. I'm surprised she used the phrase "off the reservation." I know Donald Trump has been attacking "political correctness," but he doesn't gratuitously use figures of speech that relate to groups that have been oppressed in American history. His political incorrectness is plain speech about current problems, not metaphor. For reference, here's an NPR.org piece from 2014 explaining "off the reservation":
In its literal and original sense, as you would expect, the term was used in the 19th century to describe the activities of Native Americans:
"The acting commissioner of Indian affairs to-day received a telegram from Agent Roorke of the Klamath (Oregon) agency, dated July 6, in which he says: 'No Indians are off the reservation without authority. All my Indians are loyal and peaceable, and doing well." (Baltimore Sun, July 11, 1878)

"Secretary Hoke Smith...has requested of the Secretary of War the aid of the United States troops to arrest a band of Navajo Indians living off the reservation near American Valley, New Mexico, who have been killing cattle, etc." (Washington Post, May 23, 1894)

"Apaches off the reservation...killing deer and gathering wild fruits." (New York Times, Sept. 7, 1897)
Many of the news articles that used the term in a literal sense in the past were also expressing undisguised contempt and hatred, or, at best, condescension for Native Americans — "shiftless, untameable...a rampant and intractable enemy to civilization" (New York Times, Oct. 27, 1886)....
 4.  "I have a lot of experience dealing with men..." would be a great intro into Hillary's generally good stance, which is that she's tough and experienced and she's going to just keep barreling ahead toward her longstanding goal. But it made me think of Bill Clinton. He's the man she's had the most experience with. With that in mind, "the way they behave" sent my mind reeling off topic....

"My last name is Zappa; my father was Frank Zappa. But I am not allowed to use the name on its own."

"I’m not allowed to use a picture of him. I’m not allowed to use my own connection with him without some sort of deal to be struck."

Under duress from the Zappa Family Trust, after the death of his mother, Dweezil Zappa has to change the name of his decade-old music project from Zappa Plays Zappa to Dweezil Zappa Plays Frank Zappa. This isn't just a set of bickering siblings. It's an interesting position within copyright law:
The family trust argues that for a show consisting largely of Frank Zappa’s music, performers cannot rely on the standard performing-rights licenses that music venues typically get from agencies like Ascap or BMI, but instead need special permission from the estate for “grand rights,” a term that usually applies to theatrical presentations....

What makes a piece of music dramatic is not clearly stated in copyright law, but Conrad M. Rippy, a lawyer who has worked in both theater and music, said that it generally needed to meet several criteria. “Is it performed in a place where you generally would perform a theatrical work? Are people wearing costumes? Does it advance a narrative story line?” Mr. Rippy said. “The closer you get to answer those questions ‘Yes,’ the more it looks like that’s a grand right. A tribute band playing a Frank Zappa song in a club meets none of those tests.”

Dweezil Zappa said that while his mother charged him an “exorbitant fee” to use the name Zappa Plays Zappa, he has never paid for a grand rights license....

"I used to write a comedy show. The letters I got were pretty awful — sexist, violent, rude."

"Some of them I still remember word for word. I wrote back to every person and responded very nicely. I asked them if they wanted to write an episode, and I said I would be really happy if they did and I would work with them. It was amazing how my putting a human face on the correspondence changed the tenor of it. Many responded to me. Some apologized. All were sheepish."

That's a letter from SAS in Newton, Massachusetts that the NYT received in response to its article — which we discussed here — about 2 women sportscasters who'd made a video of themselves listening to men reading their hate mail to them.

SAS's response reminds me of an episode of This American Life: "If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS."
So I did what you're not supposed to do. I fed the troll. I wrote about [him on line].

The morning after that post went up, I got an email. "Hey Lindy, I don't know why or even when I started trolling you.... I think my anger towards you stems from your happiness with your own being. It offended me because it served to highlight my unhappiness with my own self....

I'm done being a troll. Again, I apologize. I made a donation in memory to your dad. I wish you the best."
The episode continues with a phone conversation with the apologetic former troll, who says, among other things: "You know, it's like you stand on the desk and you say, I'm Lindy West, and this is what I believe in. Fuck you if you don't agree with me. And even though you don't say those words exactly, I'm like, who is this bitch who thinks she knows everything?"

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.

But:

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.”