April 16, 2014

Is Scott Walker the front-runner for the GOP nomination in 2016?

Power Line asks, after a new poll shows him with a 16-point lead in his reelection campaign.
Revealingly, Walker fares well in an electorate that does not seem particularly conservative and that, if anything, appears to be slightly to the left of American voters in general...

The buzz among Republican accompanying a big Walker victory [in November 2014] would probably dwarf the considerable buzz that followed Chris Christie’s runaway win in New Jersey. 
Walker may do very well here in Wisconsin, but is he ready for the national scene? Power Line says Walker has "more humility and less bravado" than Christie and presents this as a reason he's "a less inviting target than Christie." Of course, Walker is completely different from Christie, but if he's the front-runner, he's the target. No invitation needed. He'll be attacked, just not in the same way as Christie. Christie is the loud-mouth braggart from the East Coast, which rubs many Americans the wrong way. But the modest, nice-enough guy from the Midwest... does America get that?

Here's Walker's newest ad. Check it out. He's barely even in it:

"How the President Got to ‘I Do’ on Same-Sex Marriage."

A big NYT Magazine article by Jan Becker. Excerpt:
Despite the president’s stated opposition, even his top advisers didn’t believe that he truly opposed allowing gay couples to marry. “He has never been comfortable with his position,” David Axelrod, then one of his closest aides, told me....

“The politics of authenticity — not just the politics, but his own sense of authenticity — required that he finally step forward,” Axelrod said. “And the president understood that.”
Much more at the link.

ADDED: The Politics of Authenticity? Is that anything like the Politics of Meaning?
Mrs. Clinton recently criticized the way American society rewards selfishness and stigmatizes idealism, publicly embracing my call for a politics of meaning that addresses the way this society thwarts our deepest ethical, spiritual and psychological needs.
"Recently" = 1993.

The SAT is obviating obscure words.

"Instead, the focus will be on what the College Board calls 'high utility' words that appear in many contexts, in many disciplines — often with shifting meanings — and they will be tested in context."
For example, a question based on a passage about an artist who “vacated” from a tradition of landscape painting, asks whether it would be better to substitute the word “evacuated,” “departed” or “retired,” or to leave the sentence unchanged. (The right answer is “departed.”)
ADDED: The new form of question is quite good... unless the intent is to take away an advantage held by young people who grow up with parents who speak well. It is relatively easy, I would think, to study lists of difficult vocabulary words and tricks about how to figure out the meaning of a word — e.g., matutinal — from its parts. It is much harder to study the way words appear in context. Yes, you can pick that up through reading a lot of well-written material, but words in context fill the environment of young people with educated, articulate parents present in the home, having conversations. The way words appear in context is, for them, deeply ingrained, easy, and natural.

Perhaps the idea of the change is to disadvantage the overachieving, drudge-like student.

"Why isn't this the subject of a post?"

Asks Unknown in yesterday's "April snow," and I say:
I'm not a news feed. And I don't post on everything about Dylan.

It didn't hit the level of interestingness that I was demanding at the point in my blogging day when I saw the story.
What is the sound of one hand clapping? And what is a post about posting about not posting and my posting about not posting and then posting that? Unknown!

ADDED: If I was going to do a post about Bob Dylan, it would be "Check Out Bob Dylan's NSFW Magazine Cover Designs."

"A song like 'Under the Bridge,' really loud, on a loop, is torturous... Maybe some people think our music's annoying. I don't care, but you know...."

The Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith was confronted in a parking lot and pushed to opine on a news report (which you can read here) that the CIA used Red Hot Chili Peppers music — looped and loud — to torment the Guantanamo detainee Abu Zubaydah.

This is my own transcription from the video at the first link. Smith starts out slow and inarticulate:
"I heard that they they they like used like more you know like industr- like hard rock like metal you know like like or just you know that's that's I'm mean that whole thing just..." 
The reporter gets him to talk straight with the question "Do you approve?"
"No! Of course not! Our music's positive, man, it's supposed to make people feel good and that's that's that's it's very upsetting to me. I don't like that at all."
The reporter pushes him to go on the offense against the government, perhaps in a copyright infringement mode, with "You guys should have to sign off on something like that." Smith is merely resigned:
"It's the government."
The reporter tries another angle: "What song could they have possibly used?"
"A song like 'Under the Bridge,' really loud, on a loop, is torturous... Maybe some people think our music's annoying. I don't care, but you know, it's a poor use of..."
Smith stops in the middle of his thought, nods his head about 5 or 6 times, and concludes:
"They shouldn't do that, they shouldn't be doing any of that shit. It's horrible. Ugh. I just ate. I don't wanna like throw up."

Finland issues stamps honoring an artist whose "sleek sado-masochistic drawings with abundant amounts of beefy male nudity" portrayed "a sensual life force and being proud of oneself."

The first quote in this post title is the way the NYT described the work of Touko Laaksonen, AKA Tom of Finland, and the second quote is from someone in Finland who chose the particular images for the stamps, who added: "There is never too much [sensual life force and being proud of oneself] in this northern country."

I'm showing more of the stamps than the NYT saw fit to print in its pages, though it did link here, where I got this:

The NYT just had a cropped image of the man on the left, in the center. The cropped image includes the emphatically glistening nipple. As for the image on the right, the NYT says it "depicts a mustachioed man staring out from below a pair of muscled naked buttocks." 

Staring out from below, indeed. "Why is that mustachioed man staring at us from behind a naked ass, Mommy?," I imagine a child asking, as she picks up the mail somewhere in Finland. Mommy says: "Why, darling, it's because we're living in a northern country, and our government cares very much about our life force and our pride in ourselves. Doesn't this make you feel alive and proud, sweetheart, in spite of having to live in Finland?"

I'm sorry. That's a very unrealistic scenario. No child would use the NYT-y phrase "mustachioed man staring out from below a pair of muscled naked buttocks." 1. "Mustachioed" is a silly word, particularly silly when — from what I've seen so far — every man Tom of Finland depicted has a mustache. 2. Are those buttocks particularly "muscled," or is the NYT just mindlessly crediting Tom with making his men even more attractive than he was obviously straining to make them? 3. The bodiless head isn't really in a "staring out from behind" relationship with the headless body. It's more of a surreal image in which the head takes the place of what would be a very large scrotum.

Those are my insights from the northern country of Wisconsin, where blogging random items early in the morning is enough to stir my sensual life force and make me proud of myself.

"I was always told that art was good for me, but until recently I didn’t know what it was good for. What is good?"

"What is good in the U.S.A. is health and health products," wrote Alexander Melamid, who opened art-health storefront clinic back in 2011. You need to think about whether you are getting the right dosage of art and the right art for your particular ailment:
“[W]hen you go to a museum.... you have to be very discreet. You don’t want overexposure — that’s as dangerous as to take too many medicines. Art needs to be taken in moderation and according to a specialist who can prescribe the right dosage.”...
“If you have hay fever, you go to see Claude Monet, that’s for sure. For your problem I would recommend Paul Cézanne. When you go to the museum, don’t look around much. Go direct to Paul Cézanne. It’s very powerful painting, but in a way it’s also pacifying.”

For some additional, on-the-spot relief, Mr. Melamid zapped the patient right on the forehead with a projection of one of Modigliani’s reclining nudes. “Close your eyes,” he instructed. “Naked girl, beautiful girl. But will not arouse your emotions, because it’s elongated.”

April 15, 2014

Dogs, dogs, dogs.

Check out Dogging Meade, Meade's new blog with lots and lots of dog photos. All dogs all the time.

"Now that we know the basic probabilities of individual tags... how often do a deciduous tree and a coniferous tree appear in the same painting?"

"We know that 57 percent of paintings contain a deciduous tree and 53 percent of paintings contain a coniferous tree. According to our data set, 20 percent of paintings contain at least one of each.... We know that 44 percent of Ross’s paintings contain clouds, 9 percent contain the beach and 7 percent contain both the clouds and the beach. We can use this information to figure out two things..."

So here's FiveThirtyEight endeavoring, as promised, to help us understand things through statistical analysis, and I can use this "A Statistical Analysis of the Work of Bob Ross" to figure out 2 things: 1. Calmly coasting cozily with expertise applied where it doesn't really matter can provide observers with relaxing comfortable lightweight pleasure, and 2. It doesn't really matter whether I'm talking, as I blog comfortably, cozily, floatingly, about Bob Ross or FiveThirtyEight.

The actor Liam Neeson defends horse-drawn carriages in Central Park: "I can’t help but see the proposed ban as a class issue."

"A majority of carriage drivers and stable hands are recent immigrants, often raised on farms in their home countries."
They love their jobs and their horses, and they take pride in being ambassadors for this great city. I can’t help but see the proposed ban as a class issue: Their livelihoods are now at risk because the animal-rights opponents of the industry are well funded by real-estate interests, which has led to speculation that this powerful lobby wishes to develop the West Side properties occupied by the stables.
Interesting class politics. Neeson's target is NY's left-wing mayor, Bill De Blasio, who Neeson says should at least "come down to the stables and see how the horses are cared for" and "meet the working men and women whose jobs are at stake."

The linked op-ed is in the NYT, where the comments seem to be running against De Blasio.

Dick Morris says Bill Clinton "hated" Janet Reno but wouldn't oust her because he feared "she would tell the truth about what happened in Waco."

"Reno threatened the president with telling the truth about Waco, and that caused the president to back down."
"Then he went into a meeting with her, and he told me that she begged and pleaded, saying that . . . she didn't want to be fired because if she were fired it would look like he was firing her over Waco... And I knew that what that meant was that she would tell the truth about what happened in Waco.

"Now, to be fair, that's my supposition. I don't know what went on in Waco, but that was the cause. But I do know that she told him that if you fire me, I'm going to talk about Waco."
Morris was on TV to discuss the Cliven Bundy incident. What bad luck for Hillary: It has people needing to talk about Waco again.

Which we were already getting back to because of that Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker, "Sacred and Profane: How not to negotiate with believers." But that Gladwell article doesn't mention Bill Clinton or even Janet Reno, and certainly not Hillary.

By the way, Janet Reno still walks the face of the earth. It's not too late to tell whatever truth she may have suppressed to keep her job. What is Morris saying? First, the point seems to be that Reno convinced Clinton that to oust her would give rise to inferences that he believed his administration had done something wrong in Waco. Then Morris adds his inference of what he "knew" it "mean": that there was some "truth" that had been suppressed that would come out.

But Reno's argument didn't require that there be anything more to tell, and Morris knows that, because he goes right to his "to be fair" remark. He doesn't know. And if there was some suppressed truth Reno could tell, why hasn't she told it yet? One answer is that she doesn't want to tell on herself, but that would have been true at the point when she was begging and pleading to keep her job.

"No, what we need as the Republican nominee in 2016 is a man of more glaring disqualifications. Someone so nakedly unacceptable..."

"... to the overwhelming majority of sane Americans that only the GOP could think of nominating him. This man is Rand Paul, the junior senator from a state with eight electoral votes. The man who, as of this writing, has three years worth of experience in elected office. Barack Obama had more political experience when he ran for president. That's worked out well."

Bret Stephens gets very sarcastic in The Wall Street Journal.

"Yet Another Law School Is Offering Buyouts To Its Tenured Professors."

"Which law school put this offer on the table, and how many professors are expected to take it?"

"We were actually strategizing to put all the women up at the front... If they are going to start shooting..."

"... it’s going to be women that are going to be televised all across the world getting shot by these rogue federal officers."

"I was having the best beaver experience of my life and I was not about to leave it early."

Even with his wife standing over there, watching him through binoculars.

Via Metafilter.

BUT: Remember: "'Man tries to take photo of beaver; it kills him.' Take a lesson, men."

April snow, sunrise.

It was Meade, not I, who ventured out into the 22° air to catch the first light.

Responding to a customer complaint, the official US Airways Twitter feed sends out a picture of a naked woman holding a toy plane.

"The tweet was deleted after approximately an hour but not before it had been retweeted hundreds of times."

I'm linking to BBC.com, where the story is ranked as #1 on the sidebar "Most Popular" list under the teaser "US Airways apologises for porn tweet."

Come on, the tweet was incredibly foolish — and a good reminder of the inherent danger of relying on some lower-down writer-drudge to man the Twitter feed — but it was not porn. A photograph of a naked person isn't porn.

Wait! I was relying on the BBC description of the photograph: "a naked woman and a toy plane." Then, I went looking for the photograph. I must say that it is porn. (NSFW: here.) The woman is holding the plane in a very special place.

ADDED: And by NSFW, I mean not safe for anybody.

"It is the right of every human being to choose their gender."

Said the Supreme Court...

Tax morning, snowfall.

The view from 3 floors up:

April 14, 2014

"Glow in the dark road..."

"... unveiled in the Netherlands."
"I thought that was updating an old idea, and I forced them to look at movies of jellyfish. How does a jellyfish give light? It has no solar panel, it has no energy bill. And then we went back to the drawing board and came up with these paints which charge up in the daytime and give light at night."