April 19, 2015

"The last man to shoot an American president spends most of the year in a house overlooking the 13th hole of a golf course in a gated community."

"He likes taking walks, plays guitar and paints, eats at Wendy's and drives around in a Toyota. Often, as if to avoid detection, he puts on a hat or visor before going out...."
For the past year, under a judge's order, [John] Hinckley [Jr.] has spent 17 days a month at his mother's home in Williamsburg, a small southeastern Virginia city. Freedom has come in stages and with strict requirements: meeting regularly in Williamsburg with a psychiatrist and a therapist, volunteering. It has all been part of a lengthy process meant to reintegrate Hinckley, now nearing 60, back into society.

Court hearings are set to begin Wednesday on whether to expand Hinckley's time in Williamsburg further — possibly permanently....

The perception that "unisex" fashion arrived in the 60s then went away and came back.

Here's "A Brief History of Unisex Fashion" in The Atlantic:
In her new book Sex and Unisex: Fashion, Feminism, and the Sexual Revolution, the University of Maryland professor Jo Paoletti revisits the unisex trend....

As far as the American fashion industry was concerned, the unisex movement came and largely went in one year: 1968. The trend began on the Paris runways, where designers like Pierre Cardin, Andre Courreges, and Paco Rabanne conjured up an egalitarian “Space Age” of sleek, simple silhouettes, graphic patterns, and new, synthetic fabrics with no historical gender associations....

The unisex movement may have made women’s clothes more masculine, but it never made them unfeminine; furthermore, “attempts to feminize men’s appearance turned out to be particularly short-lived,” Paoletti notes....

Paoletti traces the end of the unisex era to the mid-1970s. In 1974, Diane von Furstenberg introduced her wrap dress, a garment that combined femininity and functionality....

Since the 1990s, however, fashion has been blurring gender lines once again. A recent New York Magazine story traced modern androgyny to grunge: Women donned flannel lumberjack shirts and combat boots while Kurt Cobain posed in ballgowns and housedresses.... Indeed, unisex everything appears to be back with a vengeance....
As fashion, unisex must cycle in and out. Things must look new and then old and, eventually, new again. But not all unisex clothing is part of fashion trending. Once everyone decided we could wear jeans (and other workmanlike trousers) and T-shirts (long and short sleeved), that was always an option, not because of fashion, but for functionality, cheapness, and simplicity. Fashion sometimes taps into this anti-fashion work-and-poverty ethic, so it seems to go in and out, but it's really always been there. It's a separate question whether anyone is specifically attempting to project the message: I am neither male nor female. A subquestion is: Among those who choose to project a neither-male-nor-female message, which ones are expressing his/her true identity and which ones are trying to be cool/cute? Subsubquestion: Which ones even know?

"By glamorizing a limited budget in a piously frugal 'look what you can do with it' sort of way, it suggests that people who aren’t eating as beautifully are doing it wrong and deserving of additional scorn."

"This isn’t an exercise in actually eating what SNAP recipients can eat, and it creates false impressions of what this lived reality actually is, making it easier for people to make false comparisons to their own situation."

A former nutritionist named Stephanie Jolly told Darlena Cunha, a home-based parent and former television producer. Cunha has an article in WaPo titled "How Gwyneth Paltrow hurt America’s poor and hungry/Her uber-privileged food stamp challenge obscures the many obstacles low income people face."

We were just talking about Paltrow's food-stamp challenge here. There are lots of good comments in there. And Dan from Madison has his own blog post, here:
I decided to go to my local grocery store to see if I could get enough food to live on for one week for $29.... Vegetables, frozen, are a great deal.... The chicken thighs were an easy choice for protein.... The mayo cost us $1.59 - but that will help stretch all of that tuna that only cost us .625 per can (there was a deal at 4 for $2.50).  I would plan on tuna fish sandwiches or that PB and J for lunches at my job, and would bring an apple or banana along.  The bread was only .89 for the loaf.  For breakfast I could imagine a fried egg atop toast with a little yogurt and/or fruit on the side.  The cans of chicken noodle soup were an astounding .49 each.  For dinners, I imagined rice (.99 for the bag - and that is a lot of rice), and chicken with vegetables.... So the total for all of this food above was $23.99...
To that, Dan added a "flask of Shellback Spiced rum... $4.19." He declares: "I think I pretty conclusively proved that one person could easily eat for $29 for a week and still have money left over for bad habits like drinking."

Does that count as the "scorn" Stephanie Jolly was talking about? And, more importantly, will Dan be "eating beautifully"?

"Beards of Ministry/A field guide for pastoral facial hair."

An informative graphic.

(Via WaPo.)

"How have we gotten so crazy that what was just a normal childhood a generation ago is considered radical?"

Asks Danielle Meitiv, a prominent mother in the "free range children movement," quoted in a WaPo article titled "'Free-range' flap in Maryland fans flames of national debate on parenting." Answering Meitiv's question, WaPo says:
Sociologists date an increasing perception of dangerousness to some highly publicized child abductions in the 1970s and ’80s, including 6-year-old Etan Patz, who was headed to a bus stop in New York City.

That terrifying disappearance, now the focus of a jury trial, led to the creation of the Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the faces of missing children showing up on milk cartons across the country....

“Most of what gets reported to CPS does not get substantiated” because the evidence is uncertain, [said David Finkelhor, who directs the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire], noting that the substantiation rates are around 25 percent to 30 percent, depending on the kind of maltreatment. “So the question is, do these cases involve families where there is some need, or is this just an overreach on the part of the state?”

Maureen Dowd says Hillary Clinton "can’t figure out how to campaign as a woman."

That's a statement that is sexist IF the assumed proposition is true: that Hillary Clinton is trying to "campaign as a woman."

So, does Dowd establish the necessary proposition? Dowd points to Hillary's 2008 campaign and asserts that "Hillary scrubbed out the femininity, vulnerability and heart" because: 1. Mark Penn (her chief strategist) had written that voters look to the President as "the 'father' of the country," not a "first mama," and 2. Bill Clinton’s post-9/11 advice to all Democrats was that it works better to be "strong and wrong than... weak and right." Consequently, Hillary was too pro-war on Iraq, or, as Dowd puts it: Hillary "act[ed] like a masculine woman defending the Iraq invasion" and lost out to the "feminized man" who denounced it.

Yes, that's right: Dowd calls Obama a feminized man and equates resistance to war as feminine. So far, Dowd is looking utterly and confidently sexist.
After losing Iowa and watching New Hampshire slip away to the tyro, Barack Obama, Hillary cracked. She misted up, talking to a group of voters in New Hampshire when a woman asked her how she kept going, while staying “upbeat and so wonderful.”

... [I]t was a triumph because she seemed real. As The Washington Post’s Dan Balz wrote in his campaign book, it “let a glimmer of her humanity peek through.”

Hillary always overcorrects. Now she has zagged too far in the opposite direction, presenting herself as a sweet, docile granny in a Scooby van....

[I]sn’t there a more authentic way for Hillary to campaign as a woman — something between an overdose of testosterone and an overdose of estrogen, something between Macho Man and Humble Granny?...
Hillary is a woman, so why talk about what it means to campaign "as a woman"? Hillary is a specific person. We all know her very well. If she's dialing weakness and strength up and down for political reasons and we can see it, she seems dishonest and devious. Dowd's word "authentic" hits that problem. To equate weakness and strength to femininity and masculinity is sexist stereotyping.

Dowd doesn't take responsibility for her sexism. In fact, she ends the column by projecting that sexism onto Republicans. Hillary's "Republican rivals...  are coming after her with every condescending, misogynist, distorted thing they’ve got." I predict that the GOP candidates will go out of their way to seem gender-neutral and to avoid giving Hillary and her supporters material they can use to do more War-on-Women politics. It's Dowd who's plying misogyny right now, using stereotypes like "granny" and the masculinized woman.

Hillary's real problem is inauthenticity. Dowd's saw that and admitted it as she rambled along the gender track, where she needed to be to get where she wanted to go: Those Republicans are terrible.

April 18, 2015

In Madison, Wisconsin, the Farmers Market returned to the Capitol Square today.

The farmers were there...

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And the deep-fried cheese curds...

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And the proponents of peace...

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And the Walker-haters...

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"Did punk begin with 'I'm Henry The 8th I Am'? The minimal production, the basic drums, the snotty sloppy carefree vocal delivery..."

"... the directly Ramones-inspiring, 4th wall breaking cry of 'Second Verse, same as the first'.. to what extent could this track be considered an overlooked antecendent of the punk rock movement?"

That's an internet discussion I encountered after reading jr565's comment — "in regards to Henry Viii - now we know where the Ramones got their 'second verse, same as the first' from" — on last night's post about the #1 songs of 1965.

Here's how the song looked as interpreted by Patty Duke (in her Cathy persona) on her old TV show in 1965:



Here's the adorable original Peter Noone (in his Herman persona):



Actually the original is Harry Champion (it's really a British music hall from 1910):

"Gay Events That I, Marco Rubio, Would Go To."

A comic piece at The New Yorker — #1 on The New Yorker's "most popular" list — that riffs on a WaPo item that reads:
Presidential candidate and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos on Wednesday that he would attend a gay wedding of someone he was close to — while qualifying that he wouldn’t condone the union itself.
It's a good comic idea, which is why I and, I assume, many others clicked on it, which is all that is needed to be "popular" for the purposes of climbing an internet "most popular" chart. The execution of the comic idea is another matter. But that's subjective, and it's going to depend on whether you feel empathy for politicians who need to adopt a namby-pamby pose on gay marriage.

I stopped to contemplate the quality of my own humor. Should I say "a namby-pamby pose"? To help decide, I did a Google image search on the phrase "a namby-pamby pose." #1:



My question is answered. The god Serendipity has spoken.

UPDATE: Speaking of gods speaking, no sooner do I publish this post than my doorbell rings. Though I don't normally answer the doorbell, I go to the door. It's 2 men in suits and a little boy. They've got copies of The Watchtower. Here's how I reacted:



Ah! It's such a perfect day today! I believe in The Universe!

"One virtue of appointing federal appellate judges to the Court is that these highly judicialized folk are already masters at applying Supreme Court doctrine."

"After all, this is what circuit-court judges do every day: they study and apply what the Supreme Court has said about one legal issue or another. One problem, however, is that Supreme Court precedent can be dead wrong. Sometimes, in fact, it is baloney. And lower-court judges, who daily slice and eat this doctrinal baloney, may be ill-equipped to see it for what it is. Specifically, they may be inclined to think that judges are more right than they really are, and other branches of government, more wrong. A lower court’s job is to follow the Supreme Court’s precedents, whether right or wrong. But the Supreme Court’s job, in certain situations, is to correct its past mistakes—to overrule or depart from erroneous precedents. (Brown famously and gloriously abandoned Plessy v. Ferguson’s malodorous 'separate but equal' doctrine.) Someone who has not spent his or her entire life reading Supreme Court cases — who has instead spent time thinking directly about the Constitution and also spent time in a nonjudicial branch of government with its own distinct constitutional perspectives and traditions — may be particularly good at knowing judicial baloney when he or she sees it."

Writes lawprof Akhil Reed Amar in "Clones on the Court/A Supreme Court that once included former senators and governors is populated today by judges with identical résumés. Here's why that's a mistake."

"I grew up with: midcentury furniture, and I still get a sense of rightness from living with it."

"I don’t think it’s only because of a generational memory; 60 years later, some of these objects still seem unsurpassed. I have two chairs designed by Gio Ponti the year I was born [1952], which are really perfect."

Said the artist David Salle, responding to a prompt (in bold face) from The Wall Street Journal, which includes pictures of various things including a chair, but not the Gio Ponti chair he declared perfect. I'm going to guess — consider the possibilities — it's this:



Salle also praises the book “Several Short Sentences About Writing,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg, which (I see) says things like:
Why short sentences? They'll sound strange for a while until you can hear what they're capable of. But they carry you back to a prose you can control...
Dot dot dot because that sentence actually turns out to be long and I'm transcribing and don't want to transcribe it all. Do you need to learn to control your prose? Did you forget about the usefulness of short sentences? Do you need a book to remind you?

Salle also has this:
A transformative technology can: change how you hail a cab, but I’m not sure it changes the structure of things that are really important to me. When I was in art school, the first portable black-and-white video cameras were introduced and quickly became part of the artist’s tool kit. There was a lot of talk then about how they would fundamentally transform art. And of course they did no such thing.
When I was in art school, circa 1970, we were invited to become entranced with a dot matrix printer that could only print letters and numbers but which could produce a crude image of, say, a face because of the way various letters and numbers read as darker or lighter from a distance. Is this where we were going?

"Being exposed to sweat produced under happiness induces a simulacrum of happiness in receivers, and induces a contagion of the emotional state."

"Somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness."

"They weren’t thinking about me, just about my mother. They just ripped me out and tossed me aside," said Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra was a gigantic baby, the year was 1915, the setting was the family's kitchen, and the midwife had to call for the doctor, who arrived, with forceps, to save the mother. 
The doctor cut the cord and laid the boy - huge and blue, bleeding from his wounds, and apparently dead - by the kitchen sink, then quickly shifted his efforts to ­saving the nearly unconscious mother’s life.

The women all leant in, shouting advice in ­Italian. At the back of the scrum, one of them looked at the seemingly lifeless baby, picked up it up and, just in case, ran ice cold water from the sink over it and slapped its back. It snuffled and began to howl....

In a nightclub with a lover named Peggy Connelly, he flinched when, in the dark, she caressed his left cheek and her fingertips touched his ear. Though she had barely noticed the deformity, he told her how sensitive he was about it....
Connelly recalled: ‘There was no ­outburst of emotion, just a ­lingering bitterness about what he felt had been a stupid neglect of his infant self to concentrate on his mother, otherwise his torn ear might have been tended to in time.’
As for the mother, Dolly Sinatra:
After Frank was born, there were no more babies, possibly because the birth rendered Dolly unable to have any, but more likely because she ­simply decided — and she was one of life’s deciders — she didn’t want to go through that again.
But she compensated for her trauma in the strangest of ways. She chose to become a midwife and an abortionist, for which ­illegal activity she got the ­nickname ­Hatpin Dolly and a ­criminal record.
The link goes to an excerpt from the book "Frank: The Making Of A Legend" by James Kaplan. I ran across that this morning because last night we were watching the new HBO documentary "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All," which isn't based on Kaplan's book, but goes through the same story of the birth and contains that brief, startling fact: Sinatra's mother was an abortionist.

We were watching the Sinatra documentary because we'd gotten tired of that other, much more noticed HBO documentary "Going Clear," which is based on the Lawrence Wright book "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief." I'm sure the book is much more worth your time. The movie is just too dumb for my taste. In the part I put up with, there were too many boring people on camera stating that they were indeed taken in. But why? Some of the clips of L. Ron Hubbard were interesting. He was brilliant/crazy/devious. He's a good character. The rest of the cast... well, one wonders what they would have done with their lives if they hadn't entered the "prison of belief" in Scientology.

I was surprised to see that both documentaries were made by the same guy, Alex Gibney. If he could have been allowed to stay with the interesting character in "Going Clear," I might have liked it as much as "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All." But left to delve into the mystery of ordinary people getting and staying inside of religious belief, he had little insight. At least not in the part I put up with.

Maybe I'll finish it at some point... or, more likely, switch to Wright's book or just Wright's New Yorker article, "The Apostate, Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology." I could get interested in Scientology's complicated legal problems, but I don't want to hear long accounts of dumb people getting trapped in "the Prison of Belief." Why are other people's beliefs a "prison"? If some beliefs are prisons, what beliefs are not prisons? Now, if the point is, the organization threatens and bullies anyone who tries to leave, then it's not belief that is the prison.

ADDED: Lawrence Wright goes on the podcast "Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin" which I was in the middle of listening to when I tried to watch HBO's "Going Clear." This morning, having given up on "Going Clear," I went back to the podcast and was surprised to get to hear Alec Baldwin complain that what the movie was missing was just about exactly what I'd thought. Go to 23:32. Baldwin had seen the movie, and he said: "There wasn't any sense, to me, of: What are the people who are in Scientology, who remain in Scientology, who are dedicated to this, what do they perceive they're getting out of it?... What does it do for them? Why are they there?" Baldwin suggests "maybe it's in the book," and Wright is able to give some answers — but these are answers that make me want to ask whether the motivations are different from what brings people into other religions.

By the way, at the "Here's the Thing" site, the title of Wright's book is misstated as "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Unbelief." That's a good (if unwitting) response to my statement (above) it's not belief that is the prison.

April 17, 2015

"In 1965 there were a ton of deserving No. 1 songs on the Billboard charts..."

"... and two silly novelty ones."

ADDED: The discussion about The Ramones that begins in the comments continues here.

"There was the story about a man bringing a gun to an Easter church service – which went off when it got caught on his pants."

"Then we had a guy accidentally shooting his mother-in-law through the wall of her trailer when his target was actually an armadillo ('That bullet couldn’t have taken a more American journey if it had punctured a Kraft single, ricocheted off a Nascar trophy and got lodged in a painting of Elvis and Jesus holding hands at a rodeo,' observed Williams). But neither of these news stories could even come close to the report that succeeded in taking home the 2015 'Mercun Award crown..."

From a WSJ report on "The Daily Show"'s  awards based on the "popular social-media meme #Murica." The WSJ's link on the hashtag goes not to Twitter but to the Urban Dictionary, which defines the term in an openly bigoted manner: "The way un-educated Americans (generally rednecks, hicks, republicans, or very patriotic people) say America" and "The term 'murica' is the way how many people with extremely thick, American accents, pronounce 'America'. The term is used to denote extreme, extreme nationalism and patriotism, but not necessarily facism. It is generally seen as a derogatory yet humorous way to describe most Americans: fat, lazy, gunwielding, war loving, horse riding, saloon fighting, beer drinking, sex wanting or etc."

"The swing member of the state Supreme Court lashed out at a lawsuit brought by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson over how the court's leader is selected..."

Justice N. Patrick Crooks said: "I think it's not only sad, it's unfortunate. I won't give you my view of the merits of that lawsuit, but I will tell you I think it's something that should not have been done. We've become a little bit of a laughingstock, or at least she has."
In the interview, Crooks said he was considering seeking the position of chief justice himself after some of his colleagues talked to him about it. He declined to name them. The 76-year-old justice also held out the possibility of running for re-election next year, despite suggesting to his colleagues last year that he would not seek another 10-year term.
In case you've forgotten, Abrahamson has been chief justice for a long time under the old seniority rule, a part of the Wisconsin state constitution which the voters amended. Now, the justices are to vote to select the chief, and Crooks seems to be positioning himself for selection — and for reelection if he wants to run again. Calling Abrahamson "a laughingstock" is awfully harsh, even if it's what he genuinely thinks (as opposed to what's politically opportune). If the idea is to restore the dignity of the court, it's a bit strange. But perhaps the unnamed colleagues who've talked to him include Abrahamson:
Crooks distanced himself from Abrahamson, saying he had a "very different" judicial philosophy than her. Regardless, he argued the decision on who should lead the court should be about who is best able to bring members of the court together, not a "philosophical tug of war." He said he felt he could serve that function.

"I view the job of chief justices I think very differently than Justice Abrahamson does," he said. "I think that the chief justice is a first among equals. I think the approach that's appropriate is that you're a team player and you try to get everyone involved in the team."
If I were in Justice Abrahamson's position masterminding the coming election, that's exactly what I would advise him to say. And by the way, call me "a bit of a laughingstock" so it won't look like I'm colluding with you.

"Should You Get Married (Or Divorced) For Tax Reasons?"

Do the math.
Whether you get a tax bonus by being married or end up paying the marriage penalty depends on how much income you and your partner make and how it’s divided between you. Type your own numbers in [at the link] to see how marriage affects your taxes.
The link goes to FiveThirtyEight, where I love the update:
In response to comments on Twitter, we’ve changed the color scheme of these graphics from green-and-red to blue-and-red to make it possible for people with red-green colorblindness to read them clearly.

"For all the righteous concern people expressed about the welfare of my children, what most of them failed to understand was that taking those pictures was an act separate from mothering."

"When I stepped behind the camera and my kids stepped in front of it, I was a photographer and they were actors, and we were making a photograph together. And in a similar vein, many people mistook the photographs for reality or attributed qualities to my children (one letter-­writer called them 'mean') based on the way they looked in the pictures. The fact is that these are not my children; they are figures on silvery paper slivered out of time. They represent my children at a fraction of a second on one particular afternoon with infinite variables of light, expression, posture, muscle tension, mood, wind and shade. These are not my children at all; these are children in a photograph. Even the children understood this distinction...."

Writes Sally Mann, whose very arty photographs of her (sometimes naked) children were published to much elite acclaim in 1992 and — simultaneously — intense criticism as “manipulative,” “sick,” “twisted,” “vulgar” — in part because of what Mann calls the "cosmically bad timing" of coinciding with the controversy about Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs. Mapplethorpe had "included images of children along with sadomasochistic and homoerotic imagery," and: "Into this turbulent climate, I had put forth my family pictures."

From the comments there (at the NYT):
There is absolutely no question that Sally Mann is a photographic artist of great stature. There is also no question that were she not, she would have had her children taken from the home decades ago, and probably would have been jailed. If the father down the block from Mann took similar photos and made them public, he would have been thrown under the jail house. She was, and remains, ethically tone deaf - at best. To use one's children, who cannot possibly understand the ramifications of what they are doing, as one's subjects to create sexually charged images, is the grossest violation of the concept of informed consent. and is inexcusable.

"But what exactly is civility—and is it a prerequisite for a vibrant intellectual climate?"

Asks Joan W. Scott in "The New Thought Police/Why are campus administrators invoking civility to silence critical speech?"
As with all polemic, tweets can be satirical, ironic, blasphemous, outrageous. To read them literally is often to misread them, as was the case with one of the tweets most often invoked to indict [Steven] Salaita as an anti-Semite...

The medium of Twitter is complicated because it provides a public space for private, personal expression. In one sense, it is no different from a speaker’s rostrum at an antiwar rally or any other highly charged political event....

Twitter disrupts this careful separation of the hidden and the acceptable, blurring the boundaries by offering a public forum for venting private feelings. In so doing, it makes the hidden visible and seems to reveal the “true” nature of the tweeter—the reality ordinarily concealed by the rules of decorum and politesse. They may not realize it, but those... who take tweets to be indicators of the “real” nature of the tweeter (and so the ultimate proof of his or her unfitness as a teacher and colleague) are also acknowledging the limits, if not the inauthenticity, of civility as a form not only of political but also of intellectual exchange. For some members of the UIUC faculty, as for the chancellor, the tweets exposed the underlying premises of Salaita’s scholarly work, the hidden transcript of his articles and books. The tweets became not an easily compartmentalized instance of extramural speech (and so of the First Amendment right of the scholar as citizen), but the key to the entire body of his work and to the unacceptability of the politics that informed it....
Much more at the link (which goes to The Nation).

"In interviews, Ryan has characterized his #BottomForHillary movement as 'just a fun way for people to show support for a presidential candidate'..."

"... but many gays aren’t laughing. A Huffington Post commenter decried the phrase, writing, 'we do not need this type of exposure, as it does not help our LGBT community at all,' and Zach Stafford has penned a screed against the thing in the Guardian, declaring that it relies on a logic of 'bottom-shaming,' the essentially misogynistic notion that bottoming is more effeminate—and therefore a lesser act—than topping. Stafford’s point is well-taken (I definitely share his dislike for the way bottom-shaming often creeps into gay men’s discourse), but I wonder if it’s totally fair...."

From a surprisingly long piece at Slate by J. Bryan Lowder called "Should Gays Bottom for Hillary?"