April 29, 2017

Trump's secret weapon: We don't want to be bored.

An intuition that arose from seeing these 2 articles in quick succession today:

1. In the NYT (top center of the front page): "Our White House Reporters Recall Their Most Vivid Moments of Trump’s First 100 Days/Covering the Trump White House can be exhilarating, maddening, exhausting — but never boring. The New York Times’s White House correspondents recall memorable moments from their first 100 days on the beat."

2. On WaPo's front page, a link to an opinion by Kathleen Parker: "Disliking Trump is getting very boring." ("The 24/7 news cycle has jumped the shark with its incessant critique of the first 100.... Disliking Trump, even for all the right reasons, is exhausting and unsustainable. It’s also boring. With 265 days still left of Trump’s first year — talk about exhausting — our highest calling is to encourage wiser men and women to prevail, to ignore most of what Trump says....")

At the time of the rise of the Tea Party, in the spring of 2010, "Bannon went through 'a visible transformation,' a friend said."

"'In his days in business, he dressed like an investment banker from Connecticut—shirt and jacket, tie or not, boring men’s shoes, a short, conventional men’s haircut. But he couldn’t show up at the Tea Party dressed like that. He started dressing more casually. There was this other side of him—he was from the South, he could be in a sports bar in West Virginia, and he would be accepted... He never fit in in the world of investment banking—he was this gauche Irish kid. Never fit in in the Hollywood world—his politics were much too conservative. Never fit in in the mainstream Republican world—he wasn’t uptight like them. But then he got embraced by the Tea Party world. He really started playing that role, and he came into his own. He loved being on TV.'"

From "HOW HOLLYWOOD REMEMBERS STEVE BANNON/He says that, before he became a senior adviser to the President, he was a successful player in the film industry. But what did he actually do?" by Connie Bruck (in The New Yorker).

Also about clothing:
In 2011, Bannon released a documentary about Sarah Palin, “The Undefeated.”... The real star of the movie was Andrew Breitbart... Over footage of a young man wearing a fitted suit in a corporate office, Breitbart says, "When you go to Washington, D.C., and you meet with the conservative movement, it’s as if they’ve read the exact right books, taken the right tests, met the right people, are wearing the right outfits, wearing the right tie—and you almost feel like an outsider, even though you’re in the actual conservative movement."
To pick up that topic of books, let me just pull out 2 things:
1. "By the early aughts, the former Hollywood colleague recalled, '[Bannon] was sitting on Canon Drive, in his fabulous office, his bookshelves lined with military and history books, and he would take meetings all day with people, some of whom came to him for money for their movies."

2. "When the girls were ready to start kindergarten, Bannon and his ex-wife visited a number of schools. During an interview at one of them, she wrote in a court filing, Bannon 'asked the director why there were so many Chanukah books in the library.'"

"Claiming total certainty about the science traduces the spirit of science and creates openings for doubt whenever a climate claim proves wrong."

"Demanding abrupt and expensive changes in public policy raises fair questions about ideological intentions. Censoriously asserting one’s moral superiority and treating skeptics as imbeciles and deplorables wins few converts. None of this is to deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences. But ordinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism.... Perhaps if there had been less certitude and more second-guessing in Clinton’s campaign, she’d be president. Perhaps if there were less certitude about our climate future, more Americans would be interested in having a reasoned conversation about it."

From Bret Stephens's first NYT column, "Climate of Complete Certainty."

The commenters are trashing him for comparing the deficiencies of the Clinton campaign's use of data analytics with the science of climatology and for not seeing why action is sometimes needed even when you don't have absolute certainty about what's going to happen in the future.

But Stephens is trying to get people to understand how to talk with each other. I'm giving this my new "separatism" tag — invented in the previous post after something the film director John Waters said: "You know, I'm not a separatist, I'm friends with some people who voted for Trump, not many."

ADDED: Is "scientism" an annoying word? I noticed MadAsHell in the comments complaining about it — along with "traduces," "censoriously," "overweening," and "certitude." It's funny, where one's tipping point is, when you get that thesaurus-y feeling. I definitely get it at "traduces," but swallow "censoriously," "overweening," and "certitude" easily.

"Scientism," though, is a weird word. Why do we need it in addition to "science"? What's the work of the "-ism"? It makes "science" into an insult, like you're being too science-y, to the point where it's not even science at all, but a religion with the trappings of science. I looked up the word in the OED, and that got me into this George Bernard Shaw opus, "Back to Methuselah (A Metabiological Pentateuch)":
Let the Churches ask themselves why there is no revolt against the dogmas of mathematics though there is one against the dogmas of religion. It is not that the mathematical dogmas are more comprehensible. The law of inverse squares is as incomprehensible to the common man as the Athanasian creed. It is not that science is free from legends, witchcraft, miracles, biographic boostings of quacks as heroes and saints, and of barren scoundrels as explorers and discoverers. On the contrary, the iconography and hagiology of Scientism are as copious as they are mostly squalid. But no student of science has yet been taught that specific gravity consists in the belief that Archimedes jumped out of his bath and ran naked through the streets of Syracuse shouting Eureka, Eureka, or that the law of inverse squares must be discarded if anyone can prove that Newton was never in an orchard in his life. When some unusually conscientious or enterprising bacteriologist reads the pamphlets of Jenner, and discovers that they might have been written by an ignorant but curious and observant nurserymaid, and could not possibly have been written by any person with a scientifically trained mind, he does not feel that the whole edifice of science has collapsed and crumbled, and that there is no such thing as smallpox. It may come to that yet; for hygiene, as it forces its way into our schools, is being taught as falsely as religion is taught there; but in mathematics and physics the faith is still kept pure, and you may take the law and leave the legends without suspicion of heresy. Accordingly, the tower of the mathematician stands unshaken whilst the temple of the priest rocks to its foundation.

"Saturday Night Live" is "incredibly brilliant activism, I think and I'm for that, it's using humor again as terrorism like the Yippies did..."

"... to make fun of the enemy until they squirm in embarrassment and that's fair, that's good terrorism to me. You have to make each other laugh. If you just go out there and are preaching, no one's going to listen. You know, I'm not a separatist, I'm friends with some people who voted for Trump, not many. Nobody has the nerve to tell me, but a few have."

Said John Waters, who seems to have a lot of friends.  I enjoyed his use of the term "separatist."

Oh, that reminds me of something I wanted to show you, this Heineken ad. It's anti-separationist:

"The 70 Best Magazine Covers of the '70s."

I doubt if these actually are the best, and the ranking seems haphazard, but I was in the mood to reminisce about magazines in the 1970s. Here, I picked out 4 to show you. Kind of working on a theme:

"These pants embody a masochist aesthetic. They are ostensibly 'chill' and yet they are not comfortable..."

"... high waist, no stretch, devious center seams. At their most extreme they have the potential to be punishing both physically (you don’t feel good) and visually (you don’t look so good, either), which seems like a remarkable achievement. We have arrived at wide-leg pants that are somehow more restrictive than the typical tight ones. These pants propose a pants-strategy that is the exact inverse of jeggings."

From "Succumb to the Siren Song of Unflattering Pants."

To augment your understanding: "11 Pairs of Unflattering Pants That Will Make You Look Ugly-Cool."

You have to think about the idea that to look ugly is to be cool. You might never believe that idea, but just get your head around it. Put yourself in the shoes of — inhabit the pants of — somebody who believes that, yes, it's true. Hmm. Jeesh. Levi's has pants called "Wedgie Icon Jeans." Wedgie! This is what's so interesting here. Pants that are not ugly because they're nice and comfortable. They are ugly and uncomfortable. If you're wearing something odd looking, you don't want people to infer that you're wearing it because you don't care about fashion and just want to be comfortable. It's humiliating to wear something that elicits the noncompliment "That looks comfortable."

By the way, many years ago, in the 1970s, before I went to law school, when I fancied myself an artist, I had a day job that consisted of reading all the magazines, including all the fashion magazines. (All is only a slight exaggeration.) For 2 years, I saw the trends come and go, and the insight I remember 40 years later is that some designs are brought forward and promoted as good mostly so that a year later it could be trashed as "suddenly" looking awful. The funniest lines in the intro from the editor in chief of Vogue were making fun of something that I knew very well Vogue had quite recently, mischievously told us looked exactly right "today."

I was reading Vogue in the Grace Mirabella years, and now I feel like reading her book, "In and Out at Vogue."

What's the life span of a social media app?

I don't know. Maybe some are immortal. But Yik Yak ended.
The app, by its design, was problematic from its inception. A platform where people can say whatever they’d like without disclosing their identity? What could possibly go wrong?...
Mean things were said. Bullying. Hate speech. Threats. The company tried to deal with it:
The company tried introducing handles to make the app safer and more enjoyable for users, but this backfired and translated to more targeted harassment. Last August, the company required all users to disclose their identities in order to use the app, but it ultimately wasn’t enough to keep its user base from ditching the app. RIP, Yik Yak. You were a real beast.
I've blogged about Yik Yak before. A year or so ago, I read it pretty often trying to see what terrible things might be going on around here in this forum that had been — until they tried to fix it — optimized for uninhibited speech. I never participated, but only eavesdropped, and I found the opposite of meanness and bullying. From my old posts:

1. December 28, 2015: "So I downloaded Yik Yak, because I wanted to see what the students around here are talking about. The #1 thing seems to be that the professors haven't put their grades in yet."

2. March 6, 2016: "By the way, I downloaded Yik Yak after I read that it was full of horrible racist and sexist things. I never see that here. I see, in addition to jokes, people who are trying to get up the nerve to talk to somebody they like, concern about doing well in school, and expressions of joy at having seen a dog."

For anybody around here, I believe, Yik Yak would have worked as a cure for the feeling that other people are mean. It would have made you feel that other people are busy, often shy, and pretty damned nice. But it's gone now, because some tiny percentage of the speech amounted to something that people could point to and call hate. 

"They overlooked so many very basic things. And baby, they forgot to make me sign an NDA."

Great closing line to an article in New York Magazine titled "I Worked at Fyre Festival. It Was Always Going to Be a Disaster."

April 28, 2017

I'm so tired of all the 100-days-of-Trump articles, especially the idiotic assigning of grades...

... but I like where Glenn Reynolds came out in this USA Today roundup of grades for Trump:
President Trump was elected in no small part because he was not Hillary Clinton, and he's done an A+ job of not being Hillary Clinton during his first 100 days.... And, I'm happy to say, I expect President Trump to go on not being Hillary Clinton for the next four (or eight!) years. A+ job, Mr. President!
That reminds me of a conversation we had on this blog on April 1st, when I raised the topic, "Trump is down to the last month of his first 100 days/How do you think he's doing?" I copied this colloquy I'd had with a commenter in an earlier post:
David Begley said:
Trump has accomplished more POSITIVE things in less than 100 days than Obama did in 8 long years.
I reacted to that:
I like the way Trump has accomplished NEGATIVE things.

Less doing. More nothing. That's what I want.

I give him credit for what he has NOT done. Where are the big bungles? He DIDN'T get that health thing done. That was good, no? Nothing military has happened. No foreign affairs blowups. Etc.
David Begley said:
Item one: Trump has begun to tear down the CAGW scam. That single positive thing will save billions.
I reacted to that:
Notice how that is SUBTRACTIVE and further supports my argument that his accomplishments are NEGATIVE.
That got The Cracker Emcee to say:
Every single day he's been in office, Hillary has not. You can't get more positively subtractive than that.

The NYT profile of Rupert Murdoch’s sons, James and Lachlan, seems to have spurred talk about starting a new conservative cable news channel.

"The piece struck fear into the minds of some Fox News’ hardcore conservatives with talk of the sons wanting to rid the company 'of the old-guard culture on which their father built his empire' and bringing 'a warmer and fuzzier workplace' that would move away from an 'anti-politically correct environment,'" Mediaite reports.
Could the new channel include stars like the ousted Bill O’Reilly, who didn’t waste much time hitting the podcast waves after he was fired amid a sexual harassment scandal? Could Tomi Lahren, the conservative mega star, who was recently sidelined at The Blaze also take on a prominent role?...

“I just don’t see Fox News and Sean [Hannity] aving a long relationship. If Sean becomes available, you have 100 percent turnover in primetime and a huge opportunity,” a television executive, who didn’t want to be identified, but is involved in some of the talks, told Mediaite.

“I’m working on it (the new conservative channel) hot and heavy,” the source said. “It’s live, it’s real.” The new channel could come to fruition within the next 10 to 12 months, the executive said.
Would you like to see this new cable channel happen?
pollcode.com free polls

The return of "Roseanne."

Not just the delightful comedienne, the Lucy of the 90s. The actual sitcom, with the whole original cast (at least for 8 episodes).

What will the characters be up to after all these years? Perhaps what Roseanne herself sketched out on her website in 2009:
Roseanne and Jackie opening the first medical marijuana dispensary in Lanford; Dan reappearing alive after faking his death; DJ being published; Mark dying in Iraq; David leaving Darlene for a woman half his age; Darlene coming out, meeting a woman and having a baby with her; Becky working at Walmart; Arnie befriending the governor of Illinois and remarrying Nancy; Bev selling a painting for $10,000; Jerry and the grandsons forming a boy band; and Bonnie being arrested for selling crack.

At the Dropping Out Café...


... I'm finding the morning news unreadable, unclickable. You say something, won't you?

"A Bahamas festival backed by a host of A-list models and with packages costing up to £10,000 ($13,000) has descended into chaos..."

"... amid reports guests have been stranded at an unfinished site overrun by feral dogs. The boutique Fyre Festival, due to start today and run over two weekends, was billed as a 'cultural moment created from an alchemic blend of music, art, and food'... While the website promised 'chef-curated culinary pop ups' one reveller posted a picture of a basic cheese sandwich served out of a polystyrene box. Paying guests were told they could expect to stay in 'modern, eco-friendly, geodesic domes.' But some online likened the 'cabanas' to disaster zone relief tents...."

Reports The Daily Mail.

Why is that so much fun to read? The top-rated comment there with 980 up votes and only 9 down votes is just, in its entirety, "LOL."

"The president took us to every room and looked at every painting and talked about every bed and every carpet and every rug and every bulletproof glass."

A quote from Ted Nugent is the jumping off point for a WaPo style piece titled "Alone in the White House, Trump is enjoying the perks of his new home." The WaPo writer, Krissah Thompson unleashes the inferences:
But the fact that Trump entertained Nugent’s party, which included Sarah Palin and Kid Rock, for four hours on a Wednesday night may indicate his hunger for company. Trump currently has more than 20,000 square feet to himself in the official residence on the second and third floor of the East Wing — at least until his wife, Melania, and son Barron move from New York to Washington....
It is weird to think of him being alone there. I'd watch that movie. But he's not alone if you count the staff. There are "95 full-time ushers, butlers, chefs, housekeepers and other workers." I'm picturing something like the old TV show "Benson" — "Benson" on steroids, because Trump is the President, not just a governor, and he doesn't just have one butler, but 95 butlers and other servants. And the Governor in "Benson" may have had no spouse, but he had a daughter. The Governor did have some other staff (including, for a while, a delivery boy, Frankie, played by Jerry Seinfeld).

Here's 12 minutes from first season of "Benson," in case you'd like to visualize a TV show about lonely Trump, shot in the style of "Benson."

ADDED: I know there was show with the President in the White House done like an old-time sitcom, Trey Parker and Matt Stone's "That's My Bush!"
The duo were "95 percent sure" that Democratic candidate Al Gore would win, and tentatively titled the show Everybody Loves Al. It was, essentially, the same show: a lovable main character, the sassy maid, the wacky neighbor. Parker said the producers did not want to make fun of politics, but instead lampoon sitcoms. 
And there was a full-size family, as in so many sitcoms, and the idea involved cutting the President down to the size of an ordinary sitcom dad. I want something about a full-size President, who is lonely and rattling around in the spooky old mansion, trying to get different D-list celebrities to come by and then making them uneasy by showing them every bed and talking about it.

"Foreign countries and companies might appreciate the idea that they can more easily handle Donald Trump if they lavish his daughter with attention..."

"... this is a common enough practice when dealing with authoritarian governments. But it should at least cause a little unease here at home," writes Amy Davidson in "The Global Effort to Flatter Ivanka" (in The New Yorker). She's writing about that panel discussion about women and entrepreneurship that happened at the W20 conference, where Ivanka Trump got to share the stage with Angela Merkel, Queen Máxima, Christine Lagarde, and Chrystia Freeland.
And one saw, again... how the perceived need to pander to Ivanka Trump can distort almost any conversation. At one point, Freeland, the Canadian Foreign Minister, while making a point about the important role that fathers play in their daughters’ progress, said, as she looked at Ivanka, who nodded in agreement, that behind “every successful woman” was a very supportive father.
So it's Ivanka's fault that the Canadian Foreign Minister said something plainly wrong and obviously damaging to the self-esteem of millions of women?!
The moment played less as a shout-out to men in the developing world (which was likely what Freeland intended) than as a validation of the First Daughter concept.
Why does Freeland get the benefit of charitable interpretation and Ivanka get the blame for the negative aspect of a remark she did not make?
And it left little room for the fatherless, or for the defiant, or even for the sort of complexity experienced by, say, Queen Máxima, who is originally from Argentina, where her father was a member of the junta that ran that country’s Dirty War. Whatever their relationship, Máxima went along with the decision not to invite him to her wedding to the Crown Prince of the Netherlands, in deference to Dutch public opinion. Even royalty has to listen, sometimes.
Even royalty? Here you have Davidson complaining about the stature acquired by the daughter of a U.S. President, and somehow simultaneously viewing royalty as lofty. Ivanka may have her position by birth but the U.S. President was elected by the people. Royalty gets its power by birth and by marriage.

By the way, did Davidson ever critique the global effort to flatter Barack Obama's wife (not to mention the truly insane effort to flatter Bill Clinton's wife — which is the main reason we've got Ivanka Trump's father as President).

"... the Old Vic's upcoming production of Girl From the North Country which is written and directed by Conor McPherson with music and lyrics by Bob Dylan."

"Brought to life by a 20-piece company of actors and musicians, award-winning playwright Conor McPherson beautifully weaves the iconic songbook of Bob Dylan into this new show full of hope, heartbreak and soul."

IN THE COMMENTS: AReasonableMan said...
From their web site:

"Duluth, Minnesota. 1934. A community living on a knife-edge huddle together in the local guesthouse. The owner, Nick, owes more money than he can ever repay, his wife Elizabeth is losing her mind and their daughter Marianne is carrying a child no-one will account for. And, when a preacher selling bibles and a boxer looking for a comeback show up in the middle of the night, things start to spiral beyond the point of no return…"

I guess they ran out of cliches at that point, the 'point of no return'.

April 27, 2017

"Am I taking this too seriously? The casual racism of the Asian salad stems from the idea of the exotic — who is and isn’t American is caught up wholesale in its creation."

"This use of 'Oriental' and 'Asian' is rooted in the wide-ranging, 'all look same' stereotypes of Asian culture that most people don’t really perceive as being racist.... [T]he language of the Asian salad is revealing of the dangers of bland, disembodied generalization: When you fail to see countries and cultures as discrete entities, what kind of consideration could you be expected to give to individual people?"

From a NYT column titled "Why Is Asian Salad Still on the Menu?"

In the comments over there, a lot of people are answering that question "Am I taking this too seriously?" They're all saying yes. And the highest-rated comment is:
I'm just going to go out on a limb here and credit the "white audience" with the smarts to know that the Asian salad isn't any more Asian than the Ortega tacos are Mexican or the SpaghettiOs are Italian. I'm pretty liberal and Asian, but this is the kind of crying wolf - whining wolf actually - that makes people tune out when we complain about actual racism. Gimme a break.

"Several years ago, I lost my power of smell. So I can't smell anything...."

Says Scott Adams at the beginning of this video (which someone who knows I have the same disempowerment alerted me about):

ADDED: Adams makes 2 surprising claims:

1. His sense of taste is unchanged. I'm not going to say he's lying, but I don't believe him. I think he's right when he says he may be delusional about it, that his brain has filled in the experience of tasting. You've got the part of taste that isn't smell, so you're still getting salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and whatever (umami), and you're enjoying the texture and temperature and appeasement of hunger and you've learned to see that as enough. If you say it's the same, it's perhaps because you've forgotten what it used to be. Or perhaps your inability to smell is located in your brain (rather than your nose) and you have become unable to think of what smell is, so you literally don't know what you are missing.

2. He doesn't want his sense of smell back — even though once his house was filling up with leaking natural gas and he had no idea — because there are more bad smells than good. Of course, it's subjective which smells are bad and good — especially when it has to do with other people's bodies — and you have some choice about what you put near your nose — whether to live in a polluted city, how clean to keep your house and your clothing, what to cook, whether to use cologne, and so forth. But even if we assume he's right and there's more bad than good, a lot of what's bad is important information — about what not to eat, whether a place is safe, when to clean. And I don't think what smell gives you is just plus and minus, with zero being a good setting. Smell is an integral element of emotion and memory and the feeling that the world is real and alive.

"Does Le Pen have a chance of winning French presidency?"

"Since his impressive first-round victory on Sunday, Mr Macron is still at least 20 points ahead, which sounds an unassailable lead.... So what could go wrong for him?"
All she needs is to advance a little more in the polls, and this is how she could do it.

"If she gets 42% of the vote, which isn't impossible, and Macron gets 58%, normally she loses the election," physicist and Sciences Po political expert Serge Galam told RMC radio. "But if 90% of people who said they would vote for Le Pen do it, and at the same time only 65% of people who declared they would vote for Macron actually do it, then it's Marine Le Pen who wins the election with a score of 50.07%."

Under Serge Galam's mathematical formula, he gives three examples of how Marine Le Pen can win, where she is candidate "A turnout x" and Emmanuel Macron is "B turnout y" with a Turnout (T). He calls this model "differentiated abstention."

Movie review that I literally almost blogged.

"The Circle literally plays as if it has been written by a bunch of elites that have spent a little bit too much time on their phones, decided that the world has become too dependent on technology, and now they're going to make a film that saves people from themselves. It's smug, condescending, and completely without incident. In fact, The Circle is the reason why people hate Hollywood. It feels like a decree laid down to 'the people' from those up in their ivory towers, a call to arms for everyone to put down their keyboards and just come together in peace, love, and heart-emojis, but which unfolds in an overly heightened and sensationalized world with barely a semblance of reality. There's literally no complexity to the characters...."

That's where I stopped reading this movie review by Gregory Wakeman at Cinema Blend, which I'd arrived at via Rotten Tomatoes, where I looked to see what critics were saying about the movie made from a novel I read a few years ago.