January 22, 2018

I can't watch the TV news without getting completely distracted by the hair and makeup on the women.

Sometimes I've wondered why I write almost continually about the news but almost never watch it on television. Today, I saw the answer with great clarity.

Reading, I saw that the Senate was voting on the shutdown and decided this was one of those real-time events that I'd watch live. It wasn't really too lively. I immediately saw the vote tally on CSPAN-2, but instead of turning it off, I switched to one of the cable news shows to see what they were saying. I won't name the channel or the 2 women whose looks I'm going to talk about, but I was immediately saying: "Oh! X didn't have time to go through hair and makeup! You can see how she really looks. That's so weird." Etc.

The vote came up suddenly enough, it seemed that X had not undergone the full processing that normally forms her into the being I'm accustomed to seeing on camera. She looked like an ordinary woman, yet being on TV, she looked completely bizarre. Her hair was lank, her face red and ill-defined. And yet, she looked like the women I see on the street in my walking-around life.

Later, there was a panel discussion that included a woman, Y, who had, I think, gone through full processing and attained what I theorized was the post-#MeToo look for women. She wore a fully covered-up black get-up, something like what Frances McDormand wore at the Golden Globes...
... and she had very long, parted-on-one-side, dark hair — a style of the sort that was once associated with elementary-school girls. Her makeup was a no-makeup look and her mannerisms and speech were, I thought, exactly the same as the male panelists.

It's not that I didn't listen to what she and others were saying. I did. They said the same 3 or 4 things about the shutdown over and over again. If I were reading, I'd have it thoroughly skimmed in 20 seconds. Locked into the TV show's idea of time, I search for things to pay attention to, and I find myself plunging into the visual dimension, which you might consider shallow, but I find deeper than who voters will blame and whether Schumer can negotiate with Jello.

I got very chatty about how Newswomen of the Future will dress and act, and then I had to turn the flashy pictures off and get back to my iPad. The low-battery alert was taunting me, so I set that aside, laced up my hiking boots, got my umbrella, and went out for a late-January walk. I had my earbuds in so I could listen to the latest edition of the New Yorker. The story was "When Barbie Went to War with Bratz/How a legal battle over intellectual property exposed a cultural battle over sex, gender roles, and the workplace" by Jill Lepore. I made a mental note to show you this:
It’s no accident that #MeToo started in the entertainment and television-news businesses, where women are required to look as much like Barbie and Bratz dolls as possible, with the help of personal trainers, makeup artists, hair stylists, personal shoppers, and surgeons. Unfortunately, an extrajudicial crusade of public shaming of men accused of “sexual misconduct” is no solution, and a poor kind of justice, not least because it brooks no dissent, as if all that women are allowed to say about #MeToo is “Me, too!” The pull string wriggles.

Shutdown-blame update.

AND: "Senate Votes Overwhelmingly to End Government Shutdown" (NYT).

"Was Lynch coordinating with Comey in the Clinton investigation?"

Asks Sharyl Attkisson (at The Hill).
Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch knew well in advance of FBI Director James Comey's 2016 press conference that he would recommend against charging Hillary Clinton, according to information turned over to the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Friday.

The revelation was included in 384 pages of text messages exchanged between FBI officials Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, and it significantly diminishes the credibility of Lynch's earlier commitment to accept Comey's recommendation — a commitment she made under the pretense that the two were not coordinating with each other.

And it gets worse. Comey and Lynch reportedly knew that Clinton would never face charges even before the FBI conducted its three-hour interview with Clinton, which was supposedly meant to gather more information into her mishandling of classified information...
Read the whole thing.


A nice Roz Chast New Yorker cover:

My January calendar has 4 positive dates. 2 are personal to me, my birthday (12) and my bloggiversary (14). But I also have 2 others that we all share and that are very important, I believe, psychologically, especially if you live in a northern latitude where you must deal with the short days and long nights.

January 5: The End of Darkmonth. Darkmonth is the darkest monthlong period of the year, that is, the period with the winter solstice at the center. The solstice was December 21st, so I put the last day of Darkmonth on January 5th.

The second day of note, following this line of reasoning, is January 20th, which marks the end of the darkest 2-month period. I don't have a name for the 15 days on either side of Darkmonth — Nonconsecutive-Second-to-Darkest-Month.

But we just got past that, and in 2 more weeks, the darkest 3 months will be over. So even though it will only be February 5 (or 6th), which seems a long way from the end of winter, if your problem with winter is, as it is for me, the darkness, you should see winter as over.

What does the old actor William H. Macy have to say to "the younger guys" about how they should behave in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp?

He's fielding the question on the fly after winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for his role in the TV show "Shameless." I like the somewhat scattered quality of the collection of ideas:

"In what we do for a living, we’ve got to be free to speak the unspeakable and try things. So I don’t want it to throw a wet blanket on things, and I don’t feel that it will, because half the business is women and they’re smart and they’re hip. It’s a good time to be a girl. I’m proud of this business, because such things as safety in the workplace, that’s done. We’re not going back. It’s changed. It changed in an instant and it’s not going back. When it comes to equality in pay, it’s inevitable. It’s going to happen and it’s going to happen quickly. My hat’s off to our business.... It’s hard to be a man these days. I think a lot of us feel like we’re under attack and that we need to apologize, and perhaps we do.... We had a meeting. A bunch of guys got together under the auspices of Time’s Up. That’s good for men. Men don’t talk enough. Men don't talk to other men. And we talked. What the hell, a little bit can't hurt you."

The first thought is: Preserve the men's freedom of expression. He starts down that road. Perhaps he's thinking that male vitality must rage on or the work product will go to hell. And who will choose to go into film? How can it work?

But he self-censors and shifts to praising women. They're smart and they're hip.

Then he promotes "the business." He's "proud" of it. And he's even eager to credit it with already having solved its problem, because the culture has changed. We're not going back. Hats off! Yay, business!!

Then he gets back to the question. He must feel some obligation to the questioner, now that he's done the necessary promoting of The Business and genuflected to The Women. But what can he say? It's hard. We feel attacked. We feel that we're asked to apologize. We can talk. Well, we were wrangled into a talk session by Time's Up, so we talked. We can talk. It could happen. A little bit anyway. We can talk a little bit without feeling entirely emasculated.

In the future, shopping in a store will look like shoplifting.

BBC reports on the Amazon Go store that's being tested in Seattle:
On entering the store, shoppers walk through gates similar to those in the London underground, swiping their smartphones loaded with the Amazon Go app. Then they are free to put any of the sandwiches, salads, drinks and biscuits on the shelves straight into their own shopping bags.

There's no need for a trolley or basket, since you won't be unpacking it again at the till... With the help of sensors on the shelves, items are added to customers' Amazon Go account as they pick them up - and delete any they put back. And an electronic receipt is issued as they exit....
Does it really work?
But there were some... problems with correctly identifying shoppers of similar body types - and children moving items to the wrong places on shelves, according to an Amazon insider.

Pictures of Jupiter.

NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran © CC NC SA

More here.

Via CNN ("[T]wo citizen scientists, Gerald Eichstädt and Seán Doran, have enhanced the images by manipulating the color and contrast... encouraged by NASA's JunoCam project...").

"If Bears were in charge..."

I found that because I was intrigued by the HuffPo headline "Neil deGrasse Tyson Has A Haunting Question About Bears." It's worth clicking on that link if only to make sure the quip you're about to make hasn't already been done. For example:

Also: Why did he capitalize "Bears"? I wasted time thinking about the football team.

The sexual harassment of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Recounted in "‘It’s about time’: Ruth Bader Ginsburg praises #MeToo, recounts harassment in Sundance talk" (WaPo):
[When] Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a young, studious college kid taking a chemistry class at Cornell University... One day, as she was preparing for a test, she told her professor she felt uncomfortable with some of the material.

“He said, ‘I’ll give you a practice exam,'” Ginsburg recalled in an interview Sunday with NPR’s Nina Totenberg at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.

When Ginsburg went to class the next day, she discovered that the professor had actually just slipped her an advance copy of the real test. “And I knew exactly what he wanted in return,” she said. “And that’s just one of many examples.”
I need more context to accept that inference,* though of course I'm making an inference. She's saying that her Cornell chemistry professor — a real person, whose name could be looked up — on his own motivation, imposed the means of cheating on an exam on her, expected her to discover what he had done and meant for her to interpret it as obligating her to have sex with him? I'm too wary of inferences to say I know exactly what RBG means, even as she's alive today and subject to further questioning, but she is very sure of herself and knows exactly what this now-safely-dead man meant 60+ years ago.

I'm imagining a context where I would, like her, be exactly sure. When Professor X hands her the real exam and says "I'll give you a practice exam," he says the word "practice" with a strong "if you know what I mean" inflection, and there would also have had be sexual innuendo in the surrounding conversation or in his gesturing toward her — or maybe in something she said. But if it was so obvious, why did she take the exam? Why didn't she say, "No, thank you. I don't need the 'practice' exam. I need to see what I can do on my own"?

What did she do when she realized she had unwittingly (wittingly??) cheated on the exam?
“I went to his office and I said, ‘How dare you? How dare you do this? And that was the end of that.”
Is that really enough to undo the advantage you accepted over the other students?

To the extent that this is a sexual story, I do want to see it in the context of its time. I think it was accepted as part of the culture that professors could chose students to draw into sexual relationships with them, that it was considered a perk of the job, and that professors were proud of what they got.


* WaPo isn't withholding any context, as you can see from the video, which I've clipped to the relevant spot:

50 years ago today: Season 1, episode 1 of "Laugh-In."

Here is the cocktail party scene, which was to be a regular segment on the show. Nearly everything in this sequence is about sex and race, and it's so awful by today's standards. The show presented itself as being on the cutting edge of American culture, but there was always something retrograde about it — an early 60s mentality trying to be relevant in the late 60s.

January 21, 2018

"Democrats who stand in our way will be complicit in every murder committed by illegal immigrants."

Harsh words from a new ad at Donald J. Trump for President:

At the Music Hour Café...


... you're on.

(Remember the Althouse Portal to Amazon.)

"If stalemate continues, Republicans should go to 51% (Nuclear Option) and vote on real, long term budget, no C.R.’s!"

ADDED: I'm trying to read the NYT article on the shutdown, "Bitter Bickering Muddies the Path to Ending the Government Shutdown."
The immediate cause of the shutdown, which began at 12:01 a.m. Saturday after Senate Democrats blocked consideration of a House-passed stopgap measure, was a dispute over spending. But it was a stalemate over immigration policy, the topic that propelled Mr. Trump’s political rise and has dominated his first 12 months as president, that snarled the negotiations, as the president vacillated over what approach he should take and advisers including Mr. Kelly counseled a harder line.
Wait. The immediate cause of the shutdown was... Senate Democrats blocked consideration of a House-passed stopgap measure. What's all that other material?! The Democrats blocked the vote that would have avoided the shutdown. That's clear, and one answer is, go to majority voting so this chaos isn't inflicted on us. Or is the shutdown just political theater that doesn't really mean anything?

Bill Maher wonders how he's supposed to be a comedian in this time that I call The Era of That's Not Funny.

"I'm down with #MeToo. I'm not down with #MeCarthyism. Something is way off when Senator Kirsten Gillibrand can go unchallenged saying 'when we start having to talk about the differences between sexual assault and sexual harassment and unwanted groping, you are having the wrong conversation.' Can't we just be having an additional conversation? Can we only have one thought now? I get it that Al Franken had to become roadkill on The Zero Tolerance Highway — a highway, it seems, only Democrats have to drive on — but do liberals really want to become The Distinction Deniers, the people who can't tell or don't want to see a difference between an assault in a van and a backrub by the watercooler? Masturbation is normal and healthy. But not in the park. Giving up on the idea that even bad things have degrees? That is as dumb as embracing the idea of 'alternative facts.' I get it when Trump's side doesn't want to talk. He only knows 88 words. But we are supposed to be The Conversation People. Justice requires weighing things. That's why Lady Justice is holding a scale, not a sawed-off shotgun. Senator Gillibrand went on to say, 'You need to draw a line in the sand and say none of it is okay.' Yes. Agreed. But we can't walk and chew gum anymore? We can't agree that groping and rape are both unacceptable and one is worse?..."

"One year into the Donald Trump administration, Oklahomans generally seem happy with the results, even if they don’t always appreciate the president’s style."

"'I thought he would really be good for the economy, and I feel like he’s got that off to a good start,' said Sage Smith of Claremore, who was interviewed near downtown Tulsa last week. 'A lot of people feel like his antics on Twitter go a little too far,' Smith said. 'It doesn’t bother me that much. But, being president, he probably shouldn’t do some of that.'"

The view from Oklahoma, recounted in "'He's done some amazing things': One year into his presidency, Trump remains a favorite in Oklahoma" (Tulsa World).

Why is Althouse reading Tulsa World? Is she traveling? No, I stumbled into Oklahoma as a result of the images searches done for the previous post, which got me to "Table Talk: Tulsa's 'Rosie the Riveter' to speak at VFW brunch" ("The 94-year-old [Marina] Metevelis was 16 when Pearl Harbor was bombed in 1941. She applied for a job at the Wichita (Kansas) aircraft plant where B-17 Flying Fortresses were manufactured, and she became a riveter her senior year in high school").

That's from October 2016, back when TV news-talk-show people were telling us the election was over, and Hillary had won...

Confession: I rewatch videos like that frequently.

AND: Michael Moore's "5 Reasons Why Trump Will Win" was the most prescient thing anyone had to say before the election. I think people thought he was just kidding and trying to be provocative to get attention.

"Get Congress back. Everything is at stake… we can do it. Time is up!"

Said Jane Fonda, quoted in "Jane Fonda, Gloria Allred, Tessa Thompson Slam Trump at Sundance Women’s Rally" (Variety).

It seems like every day I see headlines about various people slamming Trump. Has anyone ever been so slammed? And to so little effect? And yet, Fonda and her ilk assert we can do it. Did you see the "We Can Do It" sign in the photo at the link?

Not terribly well drawn. She almost looks like she's hugging him, when clearly what is intended is a murderous chokehold. Through Google image search, I found this better-drawn version of the idea:

ADDED: The artist on the well-drawn version of the idea appears to be Kevin Karstens.

AND: Look at this other poster that came up on my "we can do it trump" search: A "We Can Do It"-type woman carving up Trump's head on a plate.

"Reading about [Aziz Ansari], I realize how lucky I am that so much of my sex ed came from Harlequins."

Says chick-lit writer Jennifer Weiner in "We Need Bodice-Ripper Sex Ed" (NYT).
Because these books were written for and consumed by women, female pleasure was an essential part of every story.... Shirley Conran’s “Lace” features a heroine telling her feckless husband that she’d used an egg timer to determine how long it took her to achieve orgasm on her own and that she’d be happy to teach him what to do. At 14, I never looked at hard-boiled eggs the same way again.

The books not only covered blissful sex but also described a whole range of intimate moments, from the awkward to the funny to the very bad, including rape of both the stranger and intimate-partner variety. Beyond the dirty bits, the books I read described the moments before and after the main event, the stuff you don’t see in mainstream movies, where zippers don’t get stuck and teeth don’t bump when you’re kissing; the stuff you don’t see in porn, where almost no time elapses between the repair guy’s arrival and the start of activities that do not involve the clogged kitchen sink....

Porn, necessarily, cuts to the chase: a little less conversation, a little more action.

Talking’s not sexy, people complain.

But when you don’t know how to ask, when you can’t bring yourself to tell, when you don’t possess the language with which to talk about desire, that’s when you can end up with crossed wires, missed signals, mixed messages, a guy who goes to sleep thinking, “That was fun!” and a girl who goes home crying in an Uber.
Talking's not sexy? I'd say, depends on the talking. I think there can be a lot of talking during sex, and not just instructions and continuing updates about the level of consensuality. Who are these people who complain that talking during sex is not sexy? If the thoughts in your head would be unsexy if vocalized, maybe you shouldn't be having sex. If you continually withhold your thoughts during sex out of concern that they're not sexy, why are you having sex? At one end of the bed, the genitals are interlocked, and at the other, you've got 2 heads that are 2 separate planets.

ADDED: I reacted to the subject of talking and not much to the proposal that reading romance novels is helpful. I've never read these things. So let me quote the top-rated comment at the NYT:
No. Just no. Romance novels give women an unrealistic view of sex and romance and are not remotely empowering. The woman is nearly always "saved" by a man in some way. Things always manage to "work out" in the end. Women's bad behavior (playing hard to get, expecting men to read their minds) never has consequences.

Romance novels are fine for adult women that have already experienced the reality of dating, romance and sex, but for teen girls? They should be off-limits. Teenagers should be reading books, fiction or non, that focus on females being independent, of having agency, of discovering things, having careers and thoughts of their own.
This makes me think of Tina Brown's excellent book "The Diana Chronicles," which quotes the romance writer Barbara Cartland: "The only books she read were mine, and they weren't very good for her." And please read page 26 (click to enlarge):

January 20, 2018

Trump displays kindly humor and good will toward a protest intended against him.

Nice! It's almost like something from a children's story. A hated character doesn't realize that he is hated and greets his haters with warm wishes and imagines their expressions of anger against him to be a celebration in his honor. Of course, Trump is under no delusion, but I love this upbeat sunniness as a way to acknowledge the protest and maybe coax a smile from the women who can't all want to stay angry, one year into the ordeal of a presidency that, after all, hasn't really hurt just about any of them.

Scott Adams is, he says, shocked surprised to see this comic got published.

Coffee break...


... keep the conversation going.