August 30, 2015

It's hard to photograph the corpse flower.

Yesterday, at Olbrich Gardens.


Even if no one is plunging his head into it — drawn by the famous stench — there are too many signs.


It seems important to get the full misshapen phallus (amorphophallus) in the picture, in which case...


... a closeup feels cut off...

Carson sneaking up on Trump.

"The latest Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll shows billionaire Trump with the support of 23 percent of likely Republican caucus participants, followed by Carson at 18 percent. When first and second choices are combined, Carson is tied with Trump."

Is Trump clearing the path for Carson? Trump may be causing people to recognize that they don't want a traditional politician more than that the nontraditional person they want is Trump.

Let's look at the word "patsy" — used yesterday by Donald Trump to describe the United States.

Donald Trump filled a speech Saturday with images of the United States on the world stage getting mistreated and taken advantage of — and declared that if he’s elected president in 2016, he won’t let that happen to America anymore....

“We’re tired of being, like, the patsy for everybody,” Trump told those gathered at the National Federation of Republican Assemblies in Nashville.
Is "patsy" an unusual word these days — an old-man word? I see a Tampa Tribune article from a couple weeks ago, "Reject patsy treaty with Iran." And in the NYT last April: "prosecutors were laying down a marker that Dzhokhar [Tsarnaev] was instead a willful young man who was nobody’s patsy." So I'm leaning toward seeing "patsy" as a word with present-day currency.

Perhaps you associate the word with Lee Harvey Oswald:

I associate the word with Patti Smith. Her song about Patty Hearst — a version of "Hey Joe" — ends with the lines: "I am no little pretty little rich girl/I am nobody's million dollar baby, I am nobody's patsy anymore/And I feel so free." Smith hits the word "patsy" hard, and there's no mistaking the intention to resonate with the name "Patty/Patti."

Hearing Trump use the word, I joked that he could be accused of sexism, using a woman's name to express ideas about gullibility and weakness. But from an etymological perspective, "patsy" is more likely related to the man's name Patrick. I got that from the (unlinkable OED) which adds "perhaps influenced by association with Italian pazzo crazy" and "Apparently spread in theatrical slang through the name of a character in a theatrical sketch."
1889   H. F. Reddall Fact, Fancy & Fable 404   A party of minstrels in Boston, about twenty years ago, had a performance... When the pedagogue asked in a rage, ‘Who did that?’, the boys would answer, ‘Patsy Bolivar!’... The phrase..spread beyond the limits of the minstrel performance, and when a scapegoat was alluded to, it was in the name of ‘Patsy Bolivar’..the one who is always blamed for everything.

A study of 61 groups of lawyers by practice area determines that the most liberal group is...

... law professors.

The only surprise is that law professors were considered "lawyers" in a "practice area."

"I used my 'I'm not making a tag for this' tag because I couldn't think of an existing tag that fit or a new idea for a tag..."

"... that would apply to other posts in the future. John suggested 'self-censorship' and — proving the likelihood of future applicability — pointed to 4 old posts that could take the tag...."

Death by falling.

1, "Kyle Jean-Baptiste, the first African-American actor to play the iconic lead role of Jean Valjean in the popular Broadway musical 'Les Misérables,' died on Friday after falling from a fire escape in Brooklyn. He was 21.... The police said that Mr. Jean-Baptiste’s death 'appeared to be accidental.' They said he fell from the fourth-floor fire escape of an apartment in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Mr. Jean-Baptiste was sitting on the fire escape with a 23-year-old female friend, the police said, when he stood up, slipped and fell backward to the street below."

2. "A man in his early 60s died Saturday night after falling more than 40 feet from the upper deck at Turner Field during the seventh inning of the Yankees’ 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves.... According to eyewitnesses, a middle-aged man wearing a Braves cap stood up from his seat in the second row behind home plate to boo the Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez when he was announced as a pinch-hitter. The man then seemed to lose his balance and fell forward over several women who were seated in the front row. He landed on a concrete walkway in the lower bowl of the stadium, not far from where family members of Yankees and Braves players were sitting."

Oliver Sacks has died.

We knew he was dying. He wrote about it. (Eloquently, as always.) But it's very sad to see that he has departed. He gave us so many fascinating books over the decades. What a terrible loss!

Here's the NYT obituary, which — amid the good — includes the criticism:
Dr. Sacks began his medical career as a researcher but gave up early.... “I lost samples,” he told an interviewer in 2005. “I broke machines. Finally they said to me: ‘Sacks, you’re a menace. Get out. Go see patients. They matter less.’ ”...

Reviewers [of his books] praised his empathy and his graceful prose. Scientists could be dismissive, however, complaining that his clinical tales put too much emphasis on the tales and not enough on the clinical. A London neuroscientist, Ray Dolan, told The Guardian in 2005: “Whether Dr. Sacks has provided any scientific insights into the neurological conditions he has written about in his numerous books is open to question. I have always felt uncomfortable about this side of this work, and especially the tendency for Dr. Sacks to be an ever-present dramatis persona.”

In an otherwise laudatory review of “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” in The New York Times Book Review, the neuropsychologist John C. Marshall took issue with what he saw as Dr. Sacks’s faux-naïve presentation (“He would have us believe that an experienced neurologist could fail to have read anything about many of the standard syndromes”), and called his blend of medicine and philosophy “insightful, compassionate, moving and, on occasion, simply infuriating.”

More damningly, the disability-rights activist Tom Shakespeare accused Dr. Sacks of exploiting the people he wrote about, calling him “the man who mistook his patients for a literary career.”
ADDED: "I feel grateful that I have been granted nine years of good health and productivity since the original diagnosis, but now I am face to face with dying.... I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers...."

August 29, 2015

"Three top Jeb Bush fundraisers abruptly parted ways with his presidential campaign on Friday, amid internal personality conflicts and questions about the strength of his candidacy..."

"... POLITICO has learned."
There are different versions of what transpired...

Frontrunner Donald Trump seized on the POLITICO report Saturday morning and took a shot at his rival on Twitter: “Wow, Jeb Bush just lost three of his top fundraisers - they quit!”...

"Pope Francis Blesses a Lesbian, Her Family, and Her Writing For Kids."

It seems.

"I ghosted my fiancé when I had definitive proof he had been running around on me with multiple people for years. My youthful years!"

"I moved out when he went away on a study excursion for a week. I emotionally and financially supported him through four years of university and then some. He had no idea why I left and I have never told him that I had discovered his deceptive ways. I had nothing to say but wanted to mess with him. I was told by a mutual friend he was utterly perplexed by the situation. I wish I could have seen his face when the penny dropped. I regret nothing and would do the same if I were cheated on again in such a fashion."

From "Readers Respond to... 'Exes Explain Ghosting, the Ultimate Silent Treatment.'"

This fits with my old aphorism "Better than nothing is a high standard." Sometimes, especially when there are a lot of things you could say, the best thing to say is nothing. Ghosting is going big on nothing.

Goodbye to Wrangler Jane.

Melody Patterson has died at the age of 66.

Ken Berry reminds me of Scott Walker:

"Where's the website that connects educated women to less-educated but desirable single men?"

"Of course, the 'kind-hearted fireman' sounds great, along with the well-read carpenter and the surprisingly intelligent landscaper, but how do you find this person?"

"A lot of humans ask me if I can make choices or if everything I do is programmed."

"The best way I can respond to that is to say that everything, humans, animals and robots, do is programmed to a degree," said the robot.

“Do you believe robots will take over the world?” Android Dick responded:
“Jeez, dude. You all have the big questions cooking today. But you’re my friend, and I’ll remember my friends, and I’ll be good to you. So don’t worry, even if I evolve into Terminator, I’ll still be nice to you. I’ll keep you warm and safe in my people zoo, where I can watch you for ol’ times sake.”

"And who is Huma married to? One of the great sleazebags of our time, Anthony Weiner."

Said Donald Trump, who then did typing-on-a-cell-phone finger gestures while mouthing "I love you very much."
Trump noted that he "knew him before they caught him with the —" he trailed off, again mimicking typing on a phone. "And he was a bad guy then; it turns out that he was a really bad guy," he added.

“So Huma is getting classified secrets,” Trump said. “She’s married to Anthony Wiener, who’s a perv. No, he is! Do you think there’s even a five percent chance that she’s not telling Anthony Weiner … what the hell is coming across?"
The response from the Hillary campaign — not Hillary herself, some spokesguy — was: "There’s no place for patently false, personal attacks towards a staff member" and Trump "should be ashamed of himself."

What's the "patently false" part? Trump didn't call Weiner the greatest sleazebag of our time, only "one of the great sleazebags of our time." Perhaps Weiner isn't a "great sleazebag," but it's the kind of opinion that can't be called "patently false."

Is it "perv"? Does the Hillary campaign want us to contemplate whether Weiner is a "perv"? What exactly does "perv" mean and does that apply to Weiner?

"Do you think there’s even a five percent chance that she’s not telling Anthony Weiner?" is a question. There's a way to argue that you can't immunize yourself from the accusation of slander by putting your assertions in the form of a question, but this is not a defamation lawsuit. This is political rhetoric, and the Clinton campaign is saying this is patently false. That's weak.

Is the patently false part "Huma is getting classified secrets"? But that's not a personal attack. There's no shame in probing into how Hillary handled classified material and whether the people she's trusted are trustworthy.

ADDED: Here's the video. I note that he does answer that "five percent" question: "I don't think so."

"What's your most unpopular opinion?"

John asks a question on Facebook that makes me think: Whatever it is, you shouldn't put it on Facebook. A couple people do put that kind of answer up. Many people put up answers that indicate that they're interpreting the question differently from the way I did. "Unpopular opinion" could simply mean an opinion that would poll lowest — e.g., "Liking Lindsey Graham," which is actually one of the answers. But I'd interpret the question as an invitation to confess to believing something that would expose you to unpopularity. Thinking something that few other people think might make you more popular. For example, asserting that rum raisin is the very best flavor of ice cream might make you seem charmingly cute and quirky. There's no risk confessing to that. What is the opinion of yours that, confessed, will hurt your reputation the most? I don't think you should say, not unless you want to go big and make the promotion of that opinion a major goal in life... or you're a shock comic of some kind.

ADDED: I used my "I'm not making a tag for this" tag because I couldn't think of an existing tag that fit or a new idea for a tag that would apply to other posts in the future. John suggested "self-censorship" and — proving the likelihood of future applicability — pointed to 4 old posts that could take the tag:
1. Blogging self-censorship.

2. Self-censorship for censorship.

3. Lady Gaga self-censors her rape-y video.

4. "The problem with free speech is that it’s hard, and self-censorship is the path of least resistance."

"St. Paul’s School failed the children with their attitude toward the senior salute."

Said the lawyer for Owen Labrie, who was 18 at the time of his encounter with a 15-year-old girl.
He described the school as a place where boys, living away from home under the watch of an elite old institution, felt pressure to act like “studs.”

The prosecution said the onus was on Mr. Labrie, not the school. “This isn’t the fault of the culture that’s at St. Paul’s,” Joseph Cherniske, an assistant county attorney, said in his closing argument. “It was the defendant who manipulated that culture.”
The onus is on each individual to control himself and refrain from committing crimes, despite a culture that may urge him on and cause him to lose track of right and wrong. But the onus is on the prosecution to prove each element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

ADDED:  Vester Lee Flanagan II is dead, but surely we hold him responsible for the crimes he committed. And yet, we can see that there was a culture that nurtured his distorted, murderous thinking.

"Does your Iowa accent return when you go back home?," the NYT asks Bill Bryson.

Who answers: "No. I wish it would. If I try to make an Iowa accent, I just end up sounding like Deputy Dawg."

The occasion for the interview is the release on a movie based on one of Bryson's many wonderful books, "A Walk in the Woods."

Bryson's is my go-to voice for audiobooks to fall asleep to. I have a decades-old habit of listening to audiobooks all night, and there's something about Bryson's voice — he's lived in Britain for 20 years after growing up in Des Moines — that works like none other. I've listened to "A Walk in the Woods" hundreds of times. And I will go out and see that movie as soon as I can, even though I haven't gone out to see one single movie in over a year.

The interviewer, Ana Marie Cox, asks him "What do you think of the fact that your home state has such an important role in our presidential politics?" He says:
I’m obviously biased here, but I’ve always thought that the Midwest is the most sane and sensible part of the country. And the closer you get to Iowa, the more it becomes that way. I really do sincerely feel that there’s a bedrock decency there. It’s the state’s finest quality.
For much more about Iowa from Bryson, read "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid," his memoir about growing up in a particular place. And time — beginning, like me, in 1951.

"Al Jazeera Journalists Sentenced to 3 Years in Prison in Egypt."

"Everything was pointing towards exoneration today. I was coming here for good news. They keep on disappointing us with this unbelievable judicial system. It’s unacceptable."

O'Malley says the Democratic Party primary process is "sort of rigged."

Because there are only 4 debates.

ADDED: Sanders was asked if he too thought it was "rigged." He said "Yes, I think so. Don’t you?"

That word "rigged" — which I originally thought too hysterical — is going to stick. It's going to hang out there, dogging Hillary and the people who closed ranks around her too early.

And what if Biden comes in? Will they change things for Biden? That would be rigged.

August 28, 2015

Late-breaking news in the NYT: Psychics are phony.

That's the hot news on the front page. The article is here.