August 25, 2016

"Inside Facebook’s (Totally Insane, Unintentionally Gigantic, Hyperpartisan) Political-Media Machine/How a strange new class of media outlet has arisen to take over our news feeds."

That's the headline at the New York Times. Think about why the NYT wants to alarm us about that terrible money-making company, Facebook.

My hypothesis is that the NYT is losing readers and advertising money to the "strange new class of media outlet" and would like its readers to cling to old media, where it's not strange and insane, but safe, gigantic by design, and subtle in its partisanship.

The article — written by John Herrman — is especially concerned about "political news and advocacy pages made specifically for Facebook... like Occupy Democrats; The Angry Patriot; US Chronicle; Addicting Info; RightAlerts; Being Liberal; Opposing Views; Fed-Up Americans; American News; and hundreds more"*:
Individually, these pages have meaningful audiences, but cumulatively, their audience is gigantic: tens of millions of people. On Facebook, they rival the reach of their better-funded counterparts in the political media, whether corporate giants like CNN or The New York Times, or openly ideological web operations like Breitbart or Mic. And unlike traditional media organizations, which have spent years trying to figure out how to lure readers out of the Facebook ecosystem and onto their sites, these new publishers are happy to live inside the world that Facebook has created. Their pages are accommodated but not actively courted by the company and are not a major part of its public messaging about media. But they are, perhaps, the purest expression of Facebook’s design and of the incentives coded into its algorithm — a system that has already reshaped the web and has now inherited, for better or for worse, a great deal of America’s political discourse.
___________________________

*Just when the NYT is looking to reassure me of its comfortable normality, it unleashes a fistful of inexplicable semi-colons.

"A case can be filed against men who stare at women for more than 14 seconds."

Said Rishiraj Singh, an "excise commissioner" in Kerala, India.

ADDED: 14 seconds is a long time to look at someone.  Singh sounds ridiculous mostly because he specified a number and it's not a more normal-seeming number like 10. (I checked the Wikipedia article on the number 14 to see if 14 might be special in India, but the closest I'm seeing is the number of years of Rama's exile in the forests.)

If you look at articles on making eye contact with people, you'll see that even a quarter second can make the difference in moving a glance to an expression of interest. Example:
My man tells me that construction workers in Canada are told to obey the "3 second rule" by their employers... So basically it's one second to look at the girl, another second to study her and decide if she is pretty, and another second to enjoy the view, before returning eyes to the task at hand.  Anything beyond that is creepy and likely dangerous in some way.  I would agree....

Subway staring is a big problem where I live (Toronto). It is often the result of "DeathFace", which is a common syndrome out here affecting the overworked, causing them to forget they are in a subway and stare off blankly into what they mistakenly think is space, but usually is people.... I am often the victim of these types but have learned to ignore them. I pity them, actually....

"With her short long pants and her long short skirts, she could put the haunting hemline question to rest."

From a 1973 fashion article about the "outrageous things" Sonia Rykiel could get away with.

Linked to in the NYT obituary for the designer who "made fashions for women who, like herself, were proud of their pregnancies, sophisticated about sex and too busy to fuss over the latest designer fads — women who wanted to look smart, but needed to get on with their lives."
[A] dramatic, sparrowlike woman, always in black, with a pale powdered face engulfed in a mass of Titian flame hair and bangs that fell to heavily mascaraed green eyes. She looked a bit like Édith Piaf, France’s national chanteuse.

“My color is black,” she once told an American fashion editor. “And black, if it’s worn right, is a scandal.”...

“I think creativity is inside you,” Ms. Rykiel told The Times Magazine in 1982. “If you have something to tell, you expose it. I never went to any design school. I was so strong in my thinking and my way of seeing fashion, I knew exactly what I wanted. I said to myself, ‘I have no limits.’ ”

August 24, 2016

I finally learned how to notice goldfinches in time to not flush them.

Got this picture today.

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Took one more step to try to get a better picture, and they flew away. They're always in twos.

The picture makes it clear why they're so hard to see, despite the bright yellow. The dark portions seem like dark leaves or other background.

"He doesn't mean we're going to make America great again. He means: We're going to make America straight and and and white."

Said Cher to an adoring, raucous audience at a Hillary fundraiser in Provincetown, Massachusetts. I've already blogged about this here, focusing on what Cher said about Hillary. This new post is about what she said about Trump. The transcription (from this video) is mine.
"He wants the crowds. He wants the adulation. He doesn't give a shit about the world.... He doesn't mean we're going to make America great again. He means: We're going to make America straight and and and white.... He just says the weirdest shit in that kind of bizarre thing..." 
Cher made the observation — as have others — that Trump said "LGBTQ" as if he'd only recently learned that letter sequence and she leaps from that straight to: "I just think he's a fucking idiot." The crowd erupts in laughter, applause, and even quite a bit of squealing and screaming.

Then Cher wants to tell us about who Trump reminds her of. At first she thought: "Oh, despots. You know: Stalin, Hitler." But that wasn't quite it, even though Hitler did say he was "going to make Germany great again." The comparison she that seemed perfectly apt to her was Patty McCormick in "The Bad Seed."
"Consummate liar, doesn’t care who she hurts, insane and, you know, sociopathic narcissist."
The feminine pronouns are confusing. Don't forget we're talking about Trump, not Hillary. Patty McCormick in "The Bad Seed" is female and Trump is like her. To remind us this is about Trump, she blurts out a death wish:
"I just wish he’d fall off the face of the earth."
Did you think death wishes weren't allowed? Well, Cher's audience roared with approval. Whether they knew the old movie, I don't know. It's from 1956. (You can watch the whole thing on line, here.) It's kind of a cult movie, and they probably know Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, which might be named after "The Bad Seed."

It's the classic movie about an evil child, but the child is a blonde girl, a girl who lacks any warmth, so it's beyond me why Cher would bring it up in the vicinity of Hillary and expect us to think of Trump... other than that she's with an adoring audience within the embrace of Provincetown. It must all feel so good to her.

She finishes with:
"I know that if he got into office, our world would be the worst place. I don’t think we could imagine how bad it could get. If breaking news ever happened and he had to go to the podium, we would just all go... fuck."
Big laugh. The irony of rough speech to denounce a man who's mostly denounced for his rough speech is beyond the realm of the Cher comfort zone.

Facebook thinks I'm a liberal.

From "Liberal, Moderate or Conservative? See How Facebook Labels You" (in the NYT):
Go to facebook.com/ads/preferences on your browser. (You may have to log in to Facebook first.)

That will bring you to a page with your ad preferences. Under the “Interests” header, click the “Lifestyle and Culture” tab. Then look for a box titled “US Politics.” In parentheses, it will describe how Facebook has categorized you, such as liberal, moderate or conservative.

(If the “US Politics” box does not show up, click the “See more” button under the grid of boxes.)

Facebook makes a deduction about your political views based on the pages that you like — or on your political preference, if you stated one, on your profile page. If you like the page for Hillary Clinton, Facebook might categorize you as a liberal....

Even if you do not like any candidates’ pages, if most of the people who like the same pages that you do — such as Ben and Jerry’s ice cream — identify as liberal, then Facebook might classify you as one, too.
I've never "liked" any political candidate or political party or political cause on Facebook. According to Facebook: "You have this preference because we think it may be relevant to you based on what you do on Facebook."

Shy crushed pulled-in Hillary, working for you every moment of every day and why don't see how fun and warm she really is?

The NYT reports on Cher's speech at a very Cher-friendly fundraiser in Provincetown, Massachusetts. And I watched the full video here and did my own transcription.

Cher is talking about getting to know Hillary through much experience doing teas with her, and Cher says she told Hillary, "You are so much fun and you are so warm and you are all these things I've never seen when you speak."

Cher asked Hillary why and, as Cher tells it:
She said because she got so crushed — I hope she doesn't mind my telling this story — too late now!— and she said because she got so crushed by the G.O.P., just for trying to set up health care, and she never thought it would be so personal, and she said it made her kind of pull in and she's shy, so it was difficult, and so she kind of kept that with her, but, you know, she is shy, and she's not the greatest speaker in the world, but...and this is what I believe, and this is what I know: She will work every moment of every day.... This chick is just tougher than Chinese algebra.
So she's tougher than Chinese algebra, but she got so crushed when the GOP opposed her health care plan. Which is it? Maybe she's tough in private, after she kind of pulls in. She's so shy and kind of kept that with her. Kept what with her? That crushed, pulled in feeling that she got when Congress didn't go along with that plan she worked so hard on?

She might not be that good at speaking, but she'll pull back into herself and work every moment of every day. Work work work! She may not talk too much — and we know she won't take questions from the press. It's just so crushing when they don't go along with everything she worked so hard on. But she will pull in and turn that crushing into hours and hours of work work work and if only you really knew her, as Cher does, you would know she's so much fun and so warm and... all these things.

But let's take a closer look at that Chinese algebra. Is that racist? Is that sexist? Math class is tough...



... as Barbie said long ago, outraging feminists. And I guess you throw "Chinese" on top of that and get some kind of reference to the stereotype that Chinese students are especially good at math. Why carelessly throw "Chinese" around to try to be funny?

But Cher didn't put those 2 words together all on her own. "Chinese algebra" is enough of an expression that it has an Urban Dictionary definition going all the way back to 2003: "a hard type of math." But I don't know if it was ever used to talk about math. It seems all along to have been a way to talk about erections. It looks as though the original use of the word was from Tom Waits, back in 1976, "Pasties And A G-String":
She's a-hot and ready, creamy and sugared
And the band is awful and so are the tunes
Crawlin' on her belly, and shakin' like jelly
And I'm gettin' harder than Chinese algebra-ssieres...
So Cher thinks Hillary is as hard as Tom Waits watching an erotic dancer. But shy, too! Very very shy. Shy and crushed and pulled in. It's so difficult! So keep it all deep within you and work — work every moment of every day.

Mocking the sexual desire of a 100-year-old tortoise.

I clicked on the clickbait: "100-year-old tortoise walks 6.5 miles for romance with plastic dome" ("A 100-year-old tortoise that escaped her owner's California yard was found 6 1/2 miles away attempting to romantically court a small dome.")

But I disapprove of laughing at the creature's sexuality. We cannot comprehend the longing of 100 years. We cannot know how it feels to be so separated from your fellow species that something in the rough shape of what feels like your counterpart fixates you.

And the euphemism "attempting to romantically court" is quite disgusting. I encounter that after reading the NYT story about Cher's anti-Trump speech to a crowd in Provincetown, Massachusetts, which includes such dirty-word avoidance as "'I just think he’s' an idiot, Cher said of Donald J. Trump, adding a decidedly unprintable modifier."

It's not "unprintable." It's quite printable: fucking. See? The NYT merely chooses not to print it. "Unprintable" is a cornball expression. "Fucking" is a crudeness that bothers some people, but where is the concern for people like me who are bothered by the prissy way you posture to avoid it?

"Unprintable" is a word that was created to express the idea that something is "Not fit to be printed" because it is "too shocking to appear in print; obscene, rude." I'm quoting the (unlinkable) OED, which finds the earliest appearance in print in 1830, in something called "Age": "A sham improvisatore held up to the ridicule of society by the excellent but unprintable jeu d'esprit of James Smith."

What is an "improvisatore"? The OED says: "A poet who composes or performs verse extemporaneously." James Smith seems to have been one of the freestyle rappers of his day, mocking some unnamed other one as a sham. It was excellent but unprintable... so we can't read whatever it was.

Improvisatore... improviser. When we don't have a script — when we don't want a script — if we want anything to happen at all, we must improvise, like a tortoise with his sham tortoise, the plastic dome.



IN THE COMMENTS: CJ points us to an episode of "Futurama" that treats the sexual needs of a 100-year-old with excellent humor and quality profundity:



"I haven't seen a female of my kind in well over 100 years!"

"E' un dramma. Il paese non c'è più."

Said the Mayor of Amatrice, reported in the Italian press.

From the NYT:
Strong earthquakes struck a mountainous stretch of central Italy early Wednesday, killing at least 38 people, the Italian news media reported, trapping scores under debris and setting off tremors that awakened residents in Rome, nearly 100 miles to the southwest.

The first, a 6.2-magnitude earthquake, struck at 3:36 a.m. near the town of Accumoli, which the Civil Protection Department identified as among the hardest hit, along with the nearby towns of Amatrice and Arquata del Tronto.

August 23, 2016

At the Goldenrod Café...

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... soldier on.

"Jolen cream bleach turns the mustache on your upper lip to the exact color of Richard Gephardt's hair, which is better than its looking like Frida Kahlo's mustache, but it's still slightly hairier than you mean it to be."

Wrote Nora Ephron, a while back.

I'm finding that this morning, because Dick Gephardt is in the news today, blogged here, where William asked "How did Gephardt spend so many years in public life without being relentlessly mocked for his orange hair. I guess back then people were more tolerant of orange hair...."

Also, Bob Shrum, in "No Excuses: Concessions of a Serial Campaigner," describes a Dukakis ad (in 1988) that mocked Gephardt by showing a "gymnast with comically dyed orange hair dressed in a suit... trampolining and tumbling forward and back and forward and back again" with the voice-over describing Gephardt's various flip-flops.

So orange hair got mocked, even in the old days. It's not just something invented recently to attack Trump. I certainly remember Reagan's hair getting mocked, especially since he denied dyeing it. The much-repeated joke attributed to Gerald Ford was: "Ronald Reagan doesn't dye his hair, he's just prematurely orange."

About those 4 "half-naked" men who broke into a school office in Humpty Doo and released saltwater crocodiles.

This stupid vandalism took place in Australia, but it's getting attention in America, including a substantial article in the NYT. Presumably, we're supposed to be amused. But why?

1. Crocodiles are scary. But if you watch the video, you'll see that they are tiny crocodiles, and you'll hear that they'd been out of water for a long time and were actually in bad shape and suffering. The story isn't really about scary animals — at a distance, for our safe horror — but animal abuse, and abusing animals isn't funny.

2. Humpty Doo is a very funny name for a town. I'll give you that.

3. Half-naked men. It sounds racy at first, but wait a minute? Which half is naked? These are just men without shirts. These are men in shorts.

ADDED: Wikipedia says the name was originally Umpity Doo, perhaps based on "umpty" used by the Army to mean a Morse code dash or a corruption of an Aboriginal original word "Umdidu," but if the "h" was always there, the name could be slurred pronunciation of the English word "two" as "doo" and the idea that this was the second of more than one hump, and "humpty doo" might have been slang for "upside down." The Wikipedia article on Humpty Doo doesn't mention Humpty Dumpty, but he's a character in a nursery rhyme that's been around since at least 1797:
Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Four-score Men and Four-score more,
Could not make Humpty Dumpty where he was before.
That's not the version we're familiar with, just the oldest. Some people think Lewis Carroll created the character, but he just appropriated and repurposed him. "Through the Looking-Glass" doesn't come out until 1872. Humpty Dumpty appears in a great little vignette, a favorite of lawyers and law professors. I'll boldface the part most likely to be quoted and cited in a law review article or judicial opinion:
"I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't—till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "

"But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master—that's all."

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. "They've a temper, some of them—particularly verbs, they're the proudest—adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs—however, I can manage the whole lot! Impenetrability! That's what I say!"

"If this judge isn't careful, he might determine the course of the election and discredit the judiciary branch..."

"... as the Supreme Court did with its election of Bush even against the popular count. Judges should stay out of the political process and let the people decide how much honesty or bombastery they want."

That's the most-liked of the NYT-picked comments on the NYT article, "Hillary Clinton’s 15,000 New Emails to Get Timetable for Release." The article begins:
The dispute over Hillary Clinton’s email practices now threatens to shadow her for the rest of the presidential campaign after the disclosure on Monday that the F.B.I. collected nearly 15,000 new emails in its investigation of her and a federal judge’s order that the State Department accelerate the documents’ release.

As a result, thousands of emails that Mrs. Clinton did not voluntarily turn over to the State Department last year could be released just weeks before the election in November. The order, by Judge James E. Boasberg of Federal District Court, came the same day a conservative watchdog group separately released hundreds of emails from one of Mrs. Clinton’s closest aides, Huma Abedin, which put a new focus on the sometimes awkward ties between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department....
That is, the timetable is what it is because Clinton didn't turn over all the email. It's not as though the judge is synchronizing the email with the eve of the election to try to affect it. It's more as though he's endeavoring to get through his work in time to thwart what looks like a scheme of depriving us of material we need until after the election.

And I love the way the opening line of the NYT article is structured to eclipse the human actor: "The dispute over Hillary Clinton’s email practices now threatens to shadow her for the rest of the presidential campaign...."

Is Hillary the person even there? The subject of the sentence is the "dispute." Better watch out for the active and dangerous character called The dispute. It "threatens." What does it threaten to do? To shadow her. The dispute is a creepy stalker! Hillary is there in the sentence. Not where her name is. That's the possessive, modifying "practices," which is what the dispute is about. Hillary the person is there as the "her," the victim of the creepy stalker that is the dispute.

"Consultant Raised Cash for Hillary Clinton, Used Access to Seek Meeting for Coal Giant, Emails Reveal."

Reports The Intercept.

The "Coal Giant" is Peabody Energy.  The political consultant is Joyce Aboussie, who wrote to Huma Abedin:
“Huma, I need your help now to intervene please. We need this meeting with Secretary Clinton, who has been there now for nearly six months,” Aboussie wrote. “It should go without saying that the Peabody folks came to Dick and I because of our relationship with the Clinton’s,” she added.
Dick is Dick Gephardt, who was House Majority Leader from June 6, 1989 to January 3, 1995 and House Minority Leader from January 3, 1995 to January 3, 2003. That is, he led the Democrats in the House of Representatives during the entire Bill Clinton administration. Gephardt started a lobbying firm in January 2006, the month he left office.

Gephardt ran for President in 1988 and 2004, and he was considered a strong candidate for VP in 2004. There was even a New York Post cover saying that John Kerry had picked him:



(Kerry picked the now-disgraced John Edwards, who had better hair.)

IN THE COMMENTS: EDH said:
“It should go without saying that the Peabody folks came to Dick and I because of our relationship with the Clinton’s,” she added.

Huma must have rolled her exotic eyes and thought "what kind of amateurish influence peddler so consciously violates the rules of pay to play omertà?"
I imagined her rolling her eyes over something else — the illiteracy of "to Dick and I" and "the Clinton's." In my hypothetical scenario, she's saying:
How stupid is Peabody to pay big money to a guy who can't avoid making rank grammatical errors and sending them to me? To me! It's one thing to be married to a man who impulsively sends dick pics to skanky women, but to craft to-Dick-and-I email and send it to me! Ugh!

August 22, 2016

Red and yellow.

What Meade texted me from his bike ride:

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What I texted Meade from my walk:

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"I need to move out of my place before I viciously murder my roommates."

Tweeted a man who, days later, confessed to shooting his roommate to death.

"Included among the Abedin-Band emails is an exchange revealing that when Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain requested a meeting with Secretary of State Clinton..."

"... he was forced to go through the Clinton Foundation for an appointment. Abedin advised Band that when she went through 'normal channels' at State, Clinton declined to meet. After Band intervened, however, the meeting was set up within forty-eight hours. According to the Clinton Foundation website, in 2005, Salman committed to establishing the Crown Prince’s International Scholarship Program (CPISP) for the Clinton Global Initiative. And by 2010, it had contributed $32 million to CGI. The Kingdom of Bahrain reportedly gave between $50,000 and $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. And Bahrain Petroleum also gave an additional $25,000 to $50,000."

From "New Abedin Emails Reveal Hillary Clinton State Department Gave Special Access to Top Clinton Foundation Donors."

At the Purple-and-Red Café...

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... you can talk about whatever you like.

"He had a wild urge to consume metal. Even for us, the experienced surgeons, it was frightening."

"He says he swallowed some knives folded, and some unfolded. When we took out the knives -- some were found folded, some were open, and some had even started rusting and were broken."

That would be 40 knives. Why did he swallow them? He said: "I just enjoyed its taste," he "developed a taste for metal," and he "loved the way blades tasted."

No, no, absolutely not.

The Coiling Dragon Cliff skywalk in China with a glass floor through which you can look down 4,600 feet.

The view seems like the view from a plane. Would you enjoy riding in a plane with a clear floor?