February 22, 2017

At the Crack-Up Café...


... it's time to break the ice.

(And buy some stuff for yourself at Amazon — using The Althouse Amazon Portal. You know you deserve it — and so do I.)

Bill Maher proclaims himself the "sunlight" that served as the best "disinfectant" to Milo Yiannopoulous.

Here's the interview with Maher (in the NYT).
I said, specifically, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Then we had Milo on, despite the fact that many people said, “Oh, how dare you give a platform to this man.” What I think people saw was an emotionally needy Ann Coulter wannabe, trying to make a buck off of the left’s propensity for outrage. And by the end of the weekend, by dinnertime Monday, he’s dropped as a speaker at CPAC. Then he’s dropped by Breitbart, and his book deal falls through. As I say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. You’re welcome.
I think Maher is wrong. I watched the show and thought he made Yiannopoulos look good. My observation at the time was that Maher saw something of himself in Yiannopoulos. Maher's boosting of Yiannopoulos may have contributed to the timing of the release of the edited audio recording that crushed Milo, but that's all. Speaking of "emotionally needy," Maher is taking credit he doesn't deserve.

The Times interviewer does challenge him: "Could there have been more accountability in your segments with him? For instance, it seemed like he was allowed to grossly understate his role in harassing Leslie Jones on Twitter." Maher went easy on himself:
It’s not my job to hold him accountable to everything he’s ever said or done. I had eight minutes with him, on the show itself. Sorry I don’t have time to go over everything everybody else would want to do.
And he kind of goes easy on Milo:
I don’t think he frankly knows what he’s going to say half the time, or knows what his philosophy is. But to see him as this monster is a little crazy. You know what he is? He’s the little impish, bratty kid brother. And the liberals are his older teenager sisters who are having a sleepover and he puts a spider in their sleeping bag so he can watch them scream.
ADDED: And now Maher has smoked out this disastrous old video in which he actively supports a woman "who is in jail, because she is in love." "That's how I view it," he says about a 35-year-old woman having sex with a 14-year-old boy. Maher announces that that the women — who is having a second baby with this boy — is being punished because "she won't conform to what society feels should be the perfect American family."

Nice to see Henry Rollins talking sense... as Maher mocks him for siding with a conservative woman on the panel. The woman calls it "rape," and Maher scoffs at her: "How can a woman rape a man?" (Yes, "man," to refer to a 14-year-old boy.)

"But let’s be clear what is happening here. This is a cynical media witch hunt from people who don’t care about children."

"They care about destroying me and my career, and by extension my allies. They know that although I made some outrageous statements, I’ve never actually done anything wrong. These videos have been out there for more than a year. The media held this story back because they don’t care about victims, they only care about bringing me down. They will fail. I will be announcing a new, independently-funded media venture of my own and a live tour in the coming weeks.... Don’t think for a moment that this will stop me being as offensive, provocative and outrageously funny as I want on any subject I want.... I’m proud to be a warrior for free speech and creative expression."

From the transcript of Milo's press conference.

I blogged the press conference yesterday, here, with just the video, and there are 200+ comments over there. I'm blogging again because I'm seeing a transcript for the first time, and I wanted to forefront that passage.

And let me propose a thought experiment, in the style of my Trump hypotheticals, 2 posts down.

What if there were a young, handsome, smart, funny provocateur who'd spiked into popularity spouting left-liberal politics, stirring up young people on college campuses and irking older liberals who didn't think he knew enough or had served his elders long enough to deserve his place in the spotlight? And what if then his antagonists dropped some edited audio of late-night podcasts he'd recorded some years ago in which he revealed that when he was 14 he'd had a sexual relationship with a 24-year-old priest but that he refused to think about himself as the victim and he displayed his rationalization of the victimhood experience by characterizing himself as the sexual aggressor and by claiming that the priest had actually helped him?

How would Leftist Milo be treated?

"His office conversation was permeated by sexual imagery. 'Take that tie off,' he would tell one of his male staffers. 'That knot looks like a limp prick.'"

"Standing in the middle of the outer-office desks, he retied the tie in the Windsor knot, wider and more shaped than the traditional four-in-hand, which was becoming fashionable in 1949, and then stepped back to admire his handiwork. 'Look at that!' he said. 'He’s got a man’s knot now, not a limp one.' And assignments to his staff were sometimes made in the same tone. When, during his presidency, a woman reporter wrote critical articles about him, he would tell White House counsel Harry McPherson, 'What that woman needs is you. Take her out. Give her a good dinner and a good fuck.' And, McPherson would learn, the President wasn’t kidding. Joseph A. Califano Jr., to whom McPherson related the incident, writes that 'Periodically the President would ask McPherson if he’d taken care of the reporter. Every time she took even the slightest shot at the President, he’d call Harry and tell him to go to work on her.' Lyndon Johnson was never kidding when he gave such instructions."

From "Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson III" by Robert A. Caro, quoted at the suggestion of John Henry in the comments to my post about the NYT op-ed about Donald Trump's necktie.

Imagine if Donald Trump had talked about female journalists like that. 

"What I saw was all those unique, offbeat character names" — Wigglesworth, Smytthe, and Jack Engle — "That was the moment I knew it was something."

"I said some unprincipled words, and I immediately told my wife. Well, I sort of couldn’t get words out, so she asked, ‘Good or bad?’ And I said, 'Good.'"

From "Texas graduate student discovers a Walt Whitman novel lost for more than 150 years."

Trump haters: Please do these 2 thought experiments.

1. Imagine a President Trump whose policies all accord with your own. Substantively, he's like, perhaps, Barack Obama. He'll appoint the Supreme Court Justice who will give the liberal faction a decisive 5-person majority. He's very accepting of undocumented immigrants, committed to Obamacare, etc. etc. — whatever it is that you like. But he has all the personal characteristics of Donald Trump. He entered politics from a successful business career, funded his own campaign using his private wealth, and figured out how to do politics on the fly, making mistakes and correcting his course. He got knocked around in the press and by party insiders who wanted to stop him, but he kept going, overcoming 16 opponents. He had his own way of talking and he took it straight to the people, with hundreds of rallies, and he especially connected with working class people. They just loved him, as the elite shook their heads, because he didn't have the diplomacy and elegance they'd come to expect from a President. Be honest now. How would you like this man? How would you speak about his personal style?

2. Imagine a President Trump with all of the substantive policies of the real Donald Trump — all of them, exactly the same. But this Donald Trump meets your stylistic ideal. He looks, acts, and speaks the way you picture a perfect President. He never seems at all rude or crude or imprecise in his words. His tone — you know the word 'tone'? — is well-modulated. His sentences are the right length, his vocabulary large without verging into show-offiness. He seems confident, but not arrogant. He's nice looking and the right age, perhaps 58, and his wife, who's only exactly as good-looking as he is, is almost the same age. He's got what everyone regards as a "good temperament." He's on task and organized — his administration is up and running like a fine-tuned machine — and putting through all these policies that you loathe and dread. What would you be saying about this Donald Trump?

"So many people think you have to look like a man, play like a man to get respect. I was the opposite."

"I was proud to a be a woman, and it didn’t fit well in that culture," said Candice Wiggins, speaking about the culture within the Women's National Basketball Association. She's abandoning her stellar career 2 years early, because of her "mental state." She says she was bullied for her femininity and heterosexuality.
"I didn’t like the culture inside the WNBA, and without revealing too much, it was toxic for me. … My spirit was being broken.... Me being heterosexual and straight, and being vocal in my identity as a straight woman was huge,” Wiggins said. “I would say 98 percent of the women in the WNBA are gay women. It was a conformist type of place. There was a whole different set of rules they (the other players) could apply..... People were deliberately trying to hurt me all of the time. I had never been called the B-word so many times in my life than I was in my rookie season. I’d never been thrown to the ground so much. The message was: ‘We want you to know we don’t like you.’... It comes to a point where you get compared so much to the men, you come to mirror the men,’ she said. “So many people think you have to look like a man, play like a man to get respect. I was the opposite.... There were horrible things happening to me every day...."
I don't know how much of that to believe. I don't understand the nature of the razzing that goes on behind the scenes in sports, whether Wiggins was unusually sensitive or arrogant, and what sexual orientation had to do with it. The other women are not telling there side of the story, so I feel compelled to imagine it.

If you read the story at the link, you'll see that Wiggins is writing a book, so she has a motive to stir up interest in her story. I'm interested in seeing how well this angle plays — this notion that she had more femininity than those other ladies and that there's something especially brutal about lesbians.

There's also the problem that the WNBA is just not popular, and that's what's really bothering Wiggins, who said: "Nobody cares about the WNBA. Viewership is minimal. Ticket sales are very low. They give away tickets and people don’t come to the game." And she's switching over to beach volleyball —where she sees a "celebration of women and the female body as feminine" — which people do seem to like to watch (perhaps because we only watch it every 4 years when the Summer Olympics come around).

When the law professor writes about Trump's necktie.

A Stanford law professor wrote a 700-word essay — published in the NYT — about the neckties Trump wears. The professor — Richard Thompson Ford — is "writing a book about dress codes," so he may not be going too far out of his way to analyze Trump at the fashion level. Obviously, we know Trump wears a plain, wide red tie and he ties it so it hangs very long. You could either search for the reason he has chosen that and sticks to it (he must intend the result) or you can find fault with that (why doesn't he learn how to tie the tie correctly?).

Ford takes the latter approach: "The putative leader of the free world cannot tie a necktie properly." And he justifies his attention to the seemingly trivial by asking if it might "reflect weightier issues of self-discipline, competence and integrity?" And we, the readers, might ask if a law professor's enterprise of seeking meaning in the President's necktie might reflect "weightier issues of self-discipline, competence and integrity?" That is, does the professor begin with the necktie and find meaning in it, or did the professor begin with an opinion of the President and then ascribe that meaning to the necktie? What would the necktie mean if you loved President Trump? If the meaning would be different, then you're not analyzing the necktie.

Ford gets into some good detail:
Perfectly symmetrical knots with centered dimples betray an obsessive-compulsive personality. The Italians have mastered the insouciance of the slightly off-center knot — some even leave the narrower end a bit longer, letting it peek out from behind the thicker one in front, as if to say, I really couldn’t be bothered to redo it.
And political self-awareness:
Trump partisans may well complain: Why is the Italian imperfect tie-knot considered chic and the presidential idiosyncrasy déclassé? Isn’t this a double standard set up by liberal elitists?
I'd say double standards are an important part of the perception of fashion. The right stylish person can take something low class and make it elegant. And something stylish, widely adopted by gross people, can become horrible. I don't think elitists are imposing the standards. It's more about who's wearing what. That's why new fashions look so good: You only see them on models and styled-up stars. When that stuff finds its way onto the bodies of ordinary people, it looks dowdy and sad. Of course.

Ford's theory is that "the Italian" is showing "an aristocratic disdain for the trappings of masculine potency," but Trump's "symmetrical but overlong tie stands out like a rehearsed macho boast, crass and overcompensating." The Italian is high-class ("aristocratic") and not hung up on masculinity, while the billionaire betrays his low-class grasping at machismo. Does this theory save Ford from the "liberal elitist" charge? Why the love for a quality that feels to him like Italian aristocracy? Why the attitude about the wrongness of too much masculinity?

Ford does not progress that deeply into the subject. I guess the NYT reader is imagined to accept the notion that that "Italian" has it just right. There's only a picture of Trump at the link, so The Italian is a picture in your head. And doesn't he look excellent, your stereotype, this Italian?

The picture of Trump shows him exiting a plane with the tie flying backward in the wind, revealing, on its underside, an X of cellophane tape:
This is the opposite of the Italian’s devil-may-care. It betrays a devil who cares too much — and about the wrong things. Whereas the slightly imperfect tie knot demonstrates nonchalance, the badly tied and taped tie suggests a desperate but failed bid to look “correct.” It’s not only a failure, but also a fraud, a paper moon artlessly stuck over a cardboard sea.
So it's both haphazard — artless —and too careful? What's fraudulent about taping something in place? And why isn't that damned Italian considered overcareful in his taking the trouble to "master" the "slightly off-center knot"? The answer is easy: It's all in your head. You like this Italian, and you don't like Trump. Ask yourself, Professor Ford, if you caught a glimpse of the underside of Barack Obama's tie and there was tape, would you not find that "insouciant" and "devil-may-care"? It's like those models who make clothes feel like fashion: The person creates the mood. The perception is in your head.
Mr. Trump’s neckties tell us something about his social and political ties. He has made the persona of the loud, tacky mogul a sort of trademark. 
Oh, come on! It's the other way around! Trump's persona caused you to think about his tie the way you did. Here's Bernie Sanders in approximately the same tie:

What does it mean now?

February 21, 2017

Tonight's sunset.


Once again, I saw the color from my northern window, grabbed the camera and went out front for the western viewpoint... and crouched in the middle of the street to include the reflections on the street.

Milo speaks, embracing victimhood, seriousness.

Profligate De Blasio.

From "The Second Avenue Subway Is Here!/THE SECOND AVENUE SUBWAY IS HERE!/The début of New York’s newest train line took place at noon on New Year’s Day—ninety-seven years after it was first conceived" (in The New Yorker):
De Blasio, for his part, downplayed the advent of the new subway, even though its northern terminus is three blocks from Gracie Mansion, the Mayor’s residence. Technically, the state runs the subways, so his deferral to Cuomo makes sense in terms of structure, if not exposure. The Mayor has so far declined to work the Q into his commute to City Hall. This is in large part because he chooses to travel most mornings by chauffeured S.U.V., under police escort, from the Upper East Side to the Y.M.C.A. in his old neighborhood of Park Slope, Brooklyn, in order to work out. Afterward, he is driven back across the East River to City Hall. His exercise regimen is reportedly a half hour on a stationary bike. The geographical illogic smarts. He might as well make a side trip to Staten Island for an egg-and-cheese.

"The first time I took LSD was in 1969, when I was seventeen.... The older people were drinking, and three or four of us teen-agers were tripping."

"For what I recall as a long time, I stood in front of a closet door by a washing machine. In the door’s grain I saw, to my astonishment, the span of history, as if on a scroll that was unwinding. I’d bring people to stand in front of the door with me, and I’d point out Jesus, and Charlemagne, and soldiers with lances riding elephants, and I’d say, 'See!'... Very few songs influenced by a drug reproduce the sensation of taking the drug, but 'She Said She Said' comes close. It’s a solemn song, and seems to coil snakelike in on itself... 'She Said She Said' is a witness song. A piece of theatre. You’re listening to an argument, a dialectic. 'I know what it’s like,' one character says. 'No, no, no, you’re wrong,' the other says.... I would listen over and over to the song while looking at the cover.*... Somewhere in the psyche is everything we can imagine. Cities we have never visited, characters, landscapes, circumstances that will appear in dreams, all brought into being by some agency we don’t fully understand and can’t summon easily in waking life. Alone in my room, 'She Said She Said' seemed to me like a bulletin from the other side of the fence** (even though I didn’t yet know there was a fence), and it still does."

From "My Obsession with a Beatles Song" by Alec Wilkinson (in The New Yorker).


* The "Revolver" cover is one of the 6 framed album covers on the living room wall at Meadhouse.

** That bit about he fence made me think about this video I saw on Facebook today:

It made me think: Something there is that doesn't love a fence....

At the Staircase Café...


... find some higher ground.


Or... you can shop, using The Althouse Amazon Portal (if you want to encourage me to keep up this 13-years-and-going project).

"This Abstract Image Test Will Determine Your Dominant Personality Trait."

Kind of cool.

I got: Wisdom.

"This tour [of the National Museum of African American History and Culture] was a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms."

"The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are a painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil."

AND: "Such an odd way of speaking, not just the announcement of a fact in the future (that is outside of his control and unlikely) — 'It's going to stop' — but putting the future before the present — not 'It has to stop and it's going to stop,' but the other way around."

"The media is in a trance. They are concentrating on seeing 'Trump the idiot' or 'Trump the liar'..."

"... and no one sees the dancing bear."

AND: Here's Scott Adams discussing what's up with Donald Trump and the Sweden comments (and using some software I'm interested in getting and using something like this):

ADDED: There's a problem with the media, granted. I am looking at that. But there's also a problem with Trump that I see in "you look at what's happening last night in Sweden." I understand the explanation. He meant that if you looked at TV the previous night, you could have seen a segment on Tucker Carlson that was about Sweden. That eliminates the confusion caused by his slightly screwy language that had lots of people wondering about something that supposedly had just happened in Sweden. But it does show a problem with Trump that's worse than his somewhat word-salad-y approach to speaking. It shows how TV-oriented he is.

Trump did not instinctively, easily notice that he needed to say I saw a TV show about something last night. He comes across as having the delusion that when you look at the TV, you're looking through a window onto the world. I'm not saying he actually has that delusion, but he naturally falls into figurative speech and would say — un-self-consciously — I'm seeing X when he's only watching X on TV. And I am worried that he's not keeping reality securely separate from what is seen on TV. (Remember when Trump said that he "watched... thousands and thousands of people... cheering" in Jersey City as the WTC fell?)

Trump criticizes the media as fake and distorting, but then he seems to be the guy staring at the screen to see what's going on in the world. Notice how often he uses phrases like "you look at what's happening." I can't look at what's happening outside of my immediate surroundings. I have to watch TV, which I wish were more precise and fact-based. But I maintain my awareness that I'm getting these words and pictures through a filter. Does Trump not maintain his awareness? Is he just choosing the filter he likes and staring inanely through Tucker Carlson's window?!

BUT: What if Trump's TV is some freaky Twilight-Zone thing and he can see the future?
Just two days after President Trump provoked widespread consternation by seeming to imply, incorrectly, that immigrants had perpetrated a recent spate of violence in Sweden, riots broke out in a predominantly immigrant neighborhood in the northern suburbs of Sweden's capital, Stockholm....

"Rambling and long-winded anecdotes could be an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease..."

"... according to research that suggests subtle changes in speech style occur years before the more serious mental decline takes hold."
“Ronald Reagan started to have a decline in the number of unique words with repetitions of statements over time,” [said Janet Cohen Sherman, clinical director of the Psychology Assessment Center at Massachusetts General Hospital]. “[He] started using more fillers, more empty phrases, like ‘thing’ or ‘something’ or things like ‘basically’ or ‘actually’ or ‘well’.”

Worsening “mental imprecision” was the key, rather than people simply being verbose, however. “Many individuals may be long-winded, that’s not a concern,” said Sherman.
What about a blog that rambles on for 13 years?
Sherman and colleagues had initially set out to test the “regression hypothesis”, the idea that language is lost in a reverse trajectory to how it was acquired during childhood, with sophisticated vocabulary being the first thing to go.
I wonder what would happen if the words of this blog were analyzed in a computer — the growing/shrinking/stable vocabulary, the frequency of repetition, the drift to or from imprecision. You'd first have to extract all the quoted material....

As I said 4 years ago — oh, no, I'm repeating myself — if I got Alzheimer's, I'd blog right through it, like the man in this Washington Post article. Ah! Now, I'm looking to see whatever happened to this man — he's a retired doctor named David Hilfiker — and I see he published this a year ago:
I stopped writing this blog in October 2014 because I'd discovered that I did not, in fact, have Alzheimer’s disease.... Cognitively I've been stable now for almost two years and over the past six months certain abilities have actually improved: I'm able to concentrate a bit more, and I don't get confused as much as I did.  I still have significant deficits in memory, in word-finding, in organizing my thoughts, in multi-step cognitive processing, and in certain kinds of computation.  Aside from my memory decline and my difficulty word-finding, however, most people don't recognize anything wrong or they think that it's just a result of aging.  I believe it has to be more than aging, but whether it is or not is no longer important to me....

ADDED: Maybe the blogging cured him. The blog was titled "Watching the Lights Go Out." Maybe the real/secret title is Keep Turning Lights On.

"Because of a recent copyright dispute, Bulgarian National Radio, the public broadcaster for the country, has been limited to airing music recorded before 1946."

"And... [t]he station had a 20 percent increase in listenership in January, the first month in which the change was in effect, over December’s numbers...."
“We had some concerns but people keep calling to tell us that they really enjoy the music,” said Nikoleta Elenkova, Bulgarian National Radio’s spokeswoman.
Musicautor — which controls the distribution rights for "millions of Bulgarian and foreign songs" — had raised its fees from $271,000 to $978,000 and got its bluff called.

What if you had to forgo everything copyrighted and were limited to what's in the public domain? It's hard to limit yourself, but what if it were forced on you? After a month on that diet, you might think this is great.

"Cassidy’s revelation follows a roller coaster of personal ups and downs that the actor has faced in the past decade..."

"... including a show in Agoura Hills, California, this past weekend where Cassidy repeatedly struggled to remember lyrics to songs he had been singing for nearly 50 years."

David Cassidy — one of the classic teen idols — has Alzheimer's disease dementia.

"Have you ever woke up with your lips stuck together? It didn’t hurt and it was kinda fun."

"All you had to do was to wet your lips from the inside with saliva and they became unstuck. This is the principle behind Mensez...."