January 25, 2015

"This city of over two million people was attacked beginning late Saturday night from at least two directions by the militants from the Islamist insurgency..."

"... which effectively controls the territory surrounding the city. Loud explosions were heard in the center of the city, and small-arms fire and artillery in its suburbs."

Boko Haram in Maiduguri, Nigeria.
The attack on Maiduguri coincided with a visit by Secretary of State John Kerry to Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, for meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan and his challenger in the coming presidential election, Muhammadu Buhari, a retired general. Mr. Kerry was expected to focus in part on the Boko Haram threat amid mounting friction between the United States and Nigeria over how best to deal it....

After a meeting with his British counterpart, earlier this month, Mr. Kerry said that the attacks by Boko Haram constituted war crimes and asserted that the United States was planning a “special initiative” to counter the group. But Mr. Kerry has not provided details of what that initiative is, when it might be undertaken or how the cooperation between the American and Nigerian militaries might be improved.

The NSFW Rick Owens Fall 2015 Menswear Collection.

Scroll through the whole thing.

From the comments:
This is deeply unerotic.

Yes, and that may be partly the point.

Interesting, in light of all the flesh that female models are made to expose. I like a lot of the ideas here and wonder how they'd translate to ready-to-wear. This is timely, too, after the discussion on the Gucci post about androgyny in fashion. This is far more innovative and thought-provoking than pussy bows and lace on men.

I've never seen penis look so unappealing. Well, next to the Brett Favre penis pics.

I've never though that when womens genitalia are on display in shows it was supposed to be erotic. Why was this supposed to be?

I call it sick! 
ADDED: NYT fashion writer Guy Trebay handled the genitalia with exquisite delicacy:
[I]t was the flashing that the show will be remembered for, even though it came at a time when in art or movies or onstage genital display has largely lost the power to shock. Seldom in memory have traditional notions of what constitutes gender been so strenuously contested. By deliberately exposing a few pendant bits of flesh, Mr. Owens seemed to be suggesting how tenuous and vulnerable are the basis for what we think of as masculinity.
So gender is contested because the few pendant bits are tenuous and vulnerable.

50 years ago today: Annie Lee Cooper punched Sheriff Jim Clark in the face.

"In January 1965, Cooper stood in line for hours outside the Dallas County Courthouse to register to vote until Sheriff Jim Clark ordered her to vacate the premises. Clark prodded Cooper in the neck with a billy club until Cooper turned around and knocked the sheriff in the jaw. Deputies then wrestled Cooper down as Clark continued to beat her repeatedly with his club. Cooper was charged with 'criminal provocation' and was escorted to the county jail, and then held for 11 hours before being allowed to leave. She spent the period of her incarceration singing spirituals. Some in the sheriff's department wanted to charge her with attempted murder."

"They are animals. Never delude yourself for even a moment that animals exist for anything other than the support of, and use by, Humans."

"That's it. They are tools humans use. Like all tools they need to be cared for, respected, and most important, used...by humans, at their discretion. Any attempt by a person to impart human attributes on animals, signals that persons slip from reality."

Says iowan2 in the comments to the post about using cats in medical experiments.

And I say:
Ah, but you're missing something: imparting human attributes to animals and slipping from reality are also purposes we have for animals. When we make the dog our baby or whatever, we are using it. That IS the use of pets. So I think you are mostly just disapproving of one of the uses. Is fantasy wrong? Children play with dolls and imagine them to be alive. We read books and identify with the characters described in the words. We take LSD and turn the world into a surreal fantasy land. It's one of the main things people do. You can say it's bad, but it is something we do, and we do it with animals a lot of the time.

"Is this barbershop quartet or doo wop? "

"Seems more like doo woo to me and that the term 'barbershop quartet' is whipped out because they are old. But doo wop people are old!"

How to transform your selfies with drawing.

S├ębastien Del Grosso has this tutorial, with some cool examples that are in a rather slick "Take On Me" style that I would recommend deviating from.

"Why the Saudi King Was Buried in an Unmarked Grave."

"King Abdullah was laid to rest in an unmarked grave in a modest cemetery in Riyadh. It's all in keeping with the traditions of Wahhabism, a strict branch of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia."

"In predominantly African-American neighborhoods of U.S. cities, far too many killers have gotten away with far too many crimes for far too long, fueling a disastrous murder epidemic."

"Solving these murders and other serious crimes of violence in black communities should be a top goal for law enforcement—and it deserves to take priority over much more widely discussed issues such as racial profiling and the excessive use of force by police in black neighborhoods, from Ferguson to Staten Island."

So begins a Wall Street Journal article titled "The Underpolicing of Black America/Despite controversies like Ferguson, police are better at stopping African-Americans at random than at halting an epidemic of murder."

"If I had to do it all over again, I'd be a schoolteacher... Probably Roman History or theology."

Said Bob Dylan.

MEANWHILE: In Wisconsin:
Gov. Scott Walker on Thursday announced that he is proposing that people with work experience be allowed to take a competency test to gain a teacher license. Walker's spokeswoman says the Department of Public Instruction will be charged with creating a competency exam that will allow someone with "real life experience" to gain a teacher license.
It's not too late, perhaps, for Bob and all the many others who look at their career and say "If I had to do it all over again, I'd be a schoolteacher..." You never have it to do it all over again. You can only do the next thing. How many people with real life experience would like to take that experience and bring it into the classroom? Too many, of course, but if we have the right exam (and other screening), maybe some highly competent and skilled individuals could flow into teaching.
A spokeswoman for the statewide teachers union... did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

"The unfulfilled promise of the Crock-Pot, an unlikely symbol of women’s equality."

That's a Washington Post headline for a piece written by Max Ehrenfreund — "a blogger on the Financial desk [who] writes for Know More and Wonkblog." Didn't you assume they'd have a woman writing such a thing? This promise-of-the-Crock-Pot stuff is under the heading "Wonkblog," which I think of as Ezra Klein, but Ezra Klein relocated to that place that I've forgotten the name of... oh, yes, Vox. I wonder what's... cooking at Vox?

I have no idea who ever took the Crock-Pot seriously as a "symbol of women’s equality," and the idea that it made a promise — like a political candidate — is truly silly, though I feel as though I've seen political cartoons depicting a candidate for office as an inanimate object, a toaster perhaps. In Bill Bryson's wonderful memoir about growing up in the 1950s, he talks about the simple, post-war enthusiasm for household appliances that took on a certain anthropomorphism:
Suddenly [Americans] were able to have things they had never dreamed of having, and they couldn’t believe their luck. There was, too, a wonderful simplicity of desire. It was the last time that people would be thrilled to own a toaster or waffle iron. If you bought a major appliance, you invited the neighbors around to have a look at it. When I was about four my parents bought an Amana Stor-Mor refrigerator and for at least six months it was like an honored guest in our kitchen. I’m sure they’d have drawn it up to the table at dinner if it hadn’t been so heavy.
But what did the refrigerator say? Did it make any promises, like the upstart appliance from the 1970s, which aped the spirit of the time and boasted of its activism in the Women's Liberation Movement?

The Wonkblog piece is kind of all over the place, not focused on the "unfulfilled promise" and "unlikely symbol[ism]" in the silly headline. There's quite a bit about how much men like to use slow-cookers. But the most interesting thing about the Crock-Pot is its origin in Judaism:
Nachumsohn, who went by the surname "Naxon," invented the slow cooker to be able to cook cholent, a traditional stew eaten by Jews in eastern Europe on the Sabbath. Since they were forbidden from cooking, the Jews would bring pots of stew to a nearby bakery the day before. They would cook slowly in the residual heat from the ovens, his daughter Lenore told NPR last year.
So a Crock-Pot was immensely useful for people with a religious need not to work during the part of the day when they wanted a nice, hot meal. With no such need myself, I never believed fussing with an appliance and dinner foods was a good use of time in the morning. You can cook quick dinners in the evening right before you want to eat — all that pasta and stir frying. Come on. That was easier than paying attention to what you were going to eat long before you were going to eat it. I like stew and pot roast too, but that was always easy to make the night before and then reheat.

I never bought a slow cooker in my life. I always thought of it as another junky appliance to clutter up the counter. The 1970s were the heyday of countertop appliances — a device that did nothing but heat hot dogs, the ludicrous "Salad Shooter," the (cannibalistic?) "FryDaddy." Who believed these things would fulfill any promises of liberation?

Does The Washington Post think we women of the 1970s imagined that smoking a menthol cigarette would change the weather?

"PETA's campaign and the intense public pressure it brought to bear on UW-Madison have ended this horrendous laboratory's legacy of cruelty at last."

Said the PETA press release on the occasion of the closure of UW's cat research lab, which was "quietly closed" last month.
Neuroscience professor Tom Yin had run the lab for nearly 40 years, and said it closed Dec. 1 when his research funding ran out. Yin said he is on a path to retirement and did not apply to renew his research grant from the National Institutes of Health. Yin researched how auditory and visual stimuli affect the brain....

The university issued a statement Friday that said the closure had nothing to do with PETA. Yin said he simply decided to retire for personal reasons.

"That was actually a regret I had when I decided to retire, that they would think they had forced me to close down," Yin said of PETA. "Nothing could be farther from the truth."
At the link — to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel — there's a photograph of a man, but it's not Professor Yin. It's the actor James Cromwell, who was arrested in 2013, protesting at a meeting of the university's Board of Regents. There's also a photo of a Madison bus with a bus-sized ad featuring a cat and the words "I am not lab equipment."

There is no photo of Professor Yin or a word of explanation as to why cats were the animal of choice for neuroscience research. Let's look elsewhere for that. Here, in Isthmus, we learn that Yin studied hearing, and cats and human beings have similar auditory systems. The question was whether deaf human beings would benefit from having 2 rather than one cochlear implants, and the cats were deafened and fitted with cochlear implants. Much more at that link about the details of the experiment and the aggressiveness of the PETA campaign.
Eric Sandgren, director of UW-Madison's Research Animal Resource Center, says what is happening to Yin is a case study in the outsized power of activist groups like PETA.

"Underpinning this whole story is this tremendous pressure that PETA put on the regulatory agencies and UW-Madison," he says. PETA "besmirched" the UW's reputation, he adds, and "did so in a way that had no basis of fact.... Animal researchers are less willing to participate in [the UW-Madison Forum on Animal Research Ethics] or any similar public event in the face of PETA's misleading public campaign."
Sandgren says he received a razor blade in the mail recently.... "The letter inside said 'Doctor Sandgren, UW School of Veterinary Torture -- Use this razor blade to slit your wrists.' "I work with activists, I talk with activists and I try and have this dialogue, acknowledging the things we have in common... It's just sad when it comes to this.""

January 24, 2015

50 years ago today: "The great figure who embodied man's will to resist tyranny passed into history... He was 90 years old."

"The world had been watching and waiting since Jan. 15, when it was announced that Sir Winston had suffered a stroke. The last authentic giant of world politics in the 20th century was going down." Wrote Anthony Lewis in the NYT.
For nine days the struggle went on. Medical experts said that only phenomenal tenacity and spirit of life could enable a man of 90 to hold off death so long in these circumstances.

But then those were the qualities that had made Winston Churchill a historical figure in his lifetime. His pluck in rallying Britain to victory in World War II saved not only this country but, in all likelihood, free nations everywhere.... With almost all of Europe under or about to fall under the Nazi jackboot, it was Sir Winston who flung this challenge at the enemy:

"We shall not flag, or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God's good time, the new world, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old."

Governor Nelson State Park/Today 2:22.

IMG_0136

For the annals of unintended consequences.

Mosquito nets — "widely considered a magic bullet against malaria" — used to fish:
Nobody in his hut, including his seven children, sleeps under a net at night. Instead, Mr. Ndefi has taken his family’s supply of anti-malaria nets and sewn them together into a gigantic sieve that he uses to drag the bottom of the swamp ponds, sweeping up all sorts of life: baby catfish, banded tilapia, tiny mouthbrooders, orange fish eggs, water bugs and the occasional green frog....

[T]he unsparing mesh, with holes smaller than mosquitoes, traps much more life than traditional fishing nets do. Scientists say that could imperil already stressed fish populations, a critical food source for millions of the world’s poorest people.

"Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) delivered a fiery speech in Iowa on Saturday, wowing the conservative crowd with a passionate argument for small government and his own lengthy resume."

The Hill reports.

AP says: "Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is holding up his 'go big and go bold' attitude as something Republicans need to emulate in Washington."

National Journal:
He paced the stage here without notes and without a jacket, in blue shirtsleeves and a red tie, joking that the mass of squatting photographers would struggle to keep up as he moved about... As he bled past the allotted 20 minutes, Walker almost didn't seem to want to leave the stage, as he tacked on applause line after applause line to the end of his speech. "In America, we value our independence from the government and not our dependence on it," he said. "We need leaders who will stand with our allies against radical Islamic terrorists," he said to some of the day's biggest applause.


AND: Here's what Byron York said about Walker — this morning, before the speech:
Scott Walker doesn't have to be great on the stump to do well. As a lot of Republicans see it, the Wisconsin governor is the most accomplished candidate in the race. Who can match his achievement staring down the mighty public-sector unions and then winning a recall and re-election in a blue state? For Republicans, those are simply huge victories. Now, as the campaign begins, Walker's record means GOP voters will cut him a little slack in the charisma and oratory department. It's fair to say that Walker does not electrify a crowd. But his GOP cred as the man who took on the unions and the armies of the left means he can win over an audience even if he can't speak like Ted Cruz.
But Walker apparently did electrify the crowd.

"Even by the standards of Yemen, where violence, uncertainty and a weak central government are endemic, the power vacuum has produced a serious crisis..."

"...  that threatens to tear the country apart, allow a resurgent Qaeda room to expand and accelerate a sectarian conflict between the Houthis, who are a Shiite sect, and Sunni tribes and militants."
It also may undermine the United States’ antiterrorism operations in the region, since the ousted president was an ally of Washington.

Still, the mood here remained calm, almost festive at times, as hundreds of Houthi supporters — bitter opponents of Al Qaeda — gathered in the district of Al Juras, their main stronghold in the capital, to condemn the caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad that were published in the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. It was the local Qaeda franchise that claimed credit for planning the attacks at the newspaper and a kosher market that left 17 dead in Paris this month.

“God is great, death to America, death to Israel, damnation to the Jews, victory to Islam," scattered groups chanted as they strolled back to their cars.
It's only Yemen. Are you paying attention to what is arguably — as opposed to 11 deflated footballs — the most important news story of the week?

"Catherine the Great had a room decorated with penises and vaginas."

"The furniture has vanished, but some pictures (NSFW) remain."

A Metafilter post, linking to here, where you can see the photographs of some pretty amazing furniture. Be sure to click on the thumbnail images. Don't miss the one with the Devil.

The Guardian gives its British readers an introduction to Scott Walker — "polarising figure in arguably the most polarising state in the US."

I'm highly amused by this piece — "Could Scott Walker be the elusive 2016 contender Republicans are looking for?" — because Meade and I have followed the Scott Walker story from here in Wisconsin, from the beginning. It's funny to see how outsiders are brought up to speed on the "polarising" that's been going on here in The North. The Guardian begins:
It’s midday in the Wisconsin state capitol in Madison, and that means it’s time for a Solidarity Singalong. A circle of protesters have filled the central rotunda of the venerable building and are singing lustily to the tune of I’ll Fly Away, their voices spiralling up into the dome overhead.
We’re not going away, oh Scotty!
Until the day when justice holds sway.
You might think our mighty cause is lost, but
We’re not going away.
The singers aren’t here just for the harmonies – they really mean it. They aren’t going away. Though their numbers are down to a meagre 15 from the thousands that overran the capitol at the height of Wisconsin’s union battles almost four years ago, they have stuck it out. Every weekday since 11 March 2011, without a break – 1,006 days and counting – they have turned out to sing songs of defiance against the man they call “Scotty.”
I read this out loud to Meade and say "I don't even know the song 'I'll Fly Away," and Meade immediately — putting the Meade into immediately — launches into a few verses of the song, with the original words about dying and going to heaven. Meade sounds a little like this:



When I heard it sung like that, I remembered the old gospel song. Wikipedia says it may be the most-recorded gospel song. It was written in 1929 by Albert E. Brumley, who said he thought of it as he was working on the farm and "humming the old ballad that went like this: 'If I had the wings of an angel, over these prison walls I would fly,' and suddenly it dawned on me that I could use this plot for a gospel-type song."

That is, he took a secular song — "The Prisoner's Song" — and saw how it could be made into a religious song. The dream of flying out of prison became the vision of flying as an angel away from earthly life. That takes some of the edge off my criticism of the Solidarity Singers' appropriation of the religious song for a secular purpose. "I'll Fly Away" originated in the heartfelt but secular wish to escape from prison, and they've got their heartfelt desire to be free of Scott Walker. I guess that feels like prison to them.

Meade says "The Solidarity Singers are a little bit mental — I think that's what the British press is politely trying to say."

"He was the nicest human being I have ever met. It was like being friends with God."

Wrote Bill Bryson about Ernie Banks in "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir":
My dad was a sportswriter for The Des Moines Register... Baseball, like everything else, was part of a simpler world in those days, and I was allowed to go with him into the clubhouse and dugout and onto the field before games.... Once on a hot July afternoon I sat in a nearly airless clubhouse under the left-field grandstand at Wrigley Field beside Ernie Banks, the Cubs’ great shortstop, as he autographed boxes of new white baseballs (which are, incidentally, one of the most pleasurably aromatic things on earth, and worth spending time around anyway). Unbidden, I took it upon myself to sit beside him and pass him each new ball. This slowed the process considerably, but he gave a little smile each time and said thank you as if I had done him quite a favor. He was the nicest human being I have ever met. It was like being friends with God.
Ernie Banks died yesterday at the age of 83.

Entheogens?

A reader emails: "A local 'institute' steps into the New Age mumbo jumbo." She links to the website of Usona Institute, "a medical research organization." Its "affiliates and collaborators" include The University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and University of Wisconsin – Madison School of Pharmacy. The first link goes to a page headed "about," which has a fuzzy photo of a woman silhouetted against a mountain ridge and the following text:
When those we love are in pain, human nature compels us to help. We try conventional methods to show our compassion, but sometimes they fall short. So we search for answers outside traditional boundaries to respond to those situations that are deeply challenging.

Our immediate goal is simple. We want to help people with a life-threatening cancer diagnosis lift their anxiety and depression with the therapeutic, guided use of entheogens* which can serve as a potential adjuncts to currently available treatments. We’ve witnessed this unique experience and have seen how many patients have attained a richer, more meaningful quality of life. It’s an experience that may help them achieve what every person desires before they breathe their last breath—closer interpersonal relationships and inner peace.