September 16, 2014

The Scotland/England relationship, understood in romantic terms.

By John Oliver. This is long but I recommend the whole thing:

September 15, 2014

"Do you know how many times I’ve been called, the cops have been called … just because we’re black and he’s white."

"You can take me down to the court office and I can make a scene about it. You know that I have a publicist and I work as an actress," said the actress.

"I’m mildly interested, I’m mildly interested that you have a publicist...Thank you for bringing up the race card. I never hear that," said the cop.

"Daddy, Daddy, I can’t believe it — all the things that are happening with the cops right now. I can’t even make out with my boyfriend in front of my f–king studio without getting the cops called on me. I don’t have to give him my ID because it’s my right to sit on the f–king street corner and make out with my boyfriend! That’s my right!" Said the actress to her father, via phone.

"Keep yelling, it really helps, it really helps. I’d already be gone [if you'd show an ID], just so you know, I’d be gone,” said the cop.

"I have to live with the fact that when I disciplined my son the way I was disciplined as a child, I caused an injury that I never intended or thought would happen."

"I also understand after meeting with a psychologist that there are other alternative ways of disciplining a child that may be more appropriate."

Said Adrian Peterson.

What now for Adrian Peterson?
 
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"Urban Outfitters apologizes for its blood-red-stained Kent State sweatshirt."

"As outrage spread, Urban Outfitters issued an apology for the product on Monday morning, claiming that the product was 'was purchased as part of our sun-faded vintage collection."
The company added that the bright red stains and holes, which certainly seemed to suggest blood, were simply “discoloration from the original shade of the shirt and the holes are from natural wear and fray.” The statement added: “We deeply regret that this item was perceived negatively.”
That's actually not an apology at all, of course. 

Only Condoleezza Rice can save football.

Right?

"These students are rebelling to the point of basically wearing undergarments."

Said one dad, who — can you figure this out? — doesn't support the enforcement of the dress code and is thinking of suing the school because "Scarmato is a total control freak." Scarmato is Joseph Scarmato, the new principal of Tottenville High School in Staten Island, who exercised his discretion to impose a new "Dress for Success" policy that put 200 students, mostly girls, in detention. Currently, we're told, the students are in rebellion.

I think there should be a dress code and the parents should support the principal, but I confess that when I was a teenager, I was the first girl in line to break the dress code. The issue back then wasn't shorts. We girls weren't even allowed to wear pants (including the new "pantsuits" for females that had just become stylish and that nowadays a woman is considered perfectly dressed up in and could even wear to deliver the State of the Union Address). In 1965, the issue was miniskirts, and the requirement was that the skirt reach midknee. Do you have any idea how unfashionable that looked at that time?

Why, I remember the vice principal, to whose office I'd been sent, musing out loud about the difficulties these skirts caused for the boys and what would happen if the girls came to school in bikinis. I found that exasperating, because the school was requiring me to wear a skirt. I wasn't attempting to wear a less-appropriate item of clothing to school. Let me wear pants if the issue is the sexual troubling of the boys. But don't make me wear a skirt and force me to wear a bad-looking skirt.

See? I'm still arguing with the vice principal from 50 years ago, so you might think I should support these booty-shorts girls. But I don't. They have plenty of stylish choices to make within the range of what is permitted and shows a decent respect for the classroom. I hear that the school isn't air-conditioned, but it can't be especially comfortable to have the bare flesh of the entire length of the back of your thighs sticking to the chairs all day.

"Most Pakistani men, in Rotherham or elsewhere, do not, of course, turn to criminality or become child abusers."

"But Rotherham’s abusers found that their ethnicity protected them because they belonged to a community few wished to challenge."

Writes Sarfraz Manzoor, who grew up in the UK within what he calls the "a Pakistani bubble."

Here's Manzoor's memoir, "Greetings From Bury Park, " which is described at Amazon like this:
Sarfraz Manzoor was two years old when, in 1974, he emigrated from Pakistan to Britain with his mother, brother, and sister. Sarfraz spent his teenage years in a constant battle, trying to reconcile being both British and Muslim, trying to fit in at school and at home. But it was when his best friend introduced him to the music of Bruce Springsteen that his life changed completely. From the age of sixteen on, after the moment he heard the harmonica and opening lines to “The River,” Springsteen became his personal muse, a lens through which he was able to view the rest of his life....

Bill Clinton says (about Republicans): "They’re trying to get you to check your brain at the door, start foaming at the mouth."

"The last thing they want you to do is think."

Emotional politics. He recognizes what he knows very well.

My "Meet the Press" conspiracy theory.

"Meet the Press," the conspicuous Sunday morning talk show, has had a regular practice, for as long as I can remember — and I've been blogging stuff from the show for 10+ years — of posting a same-day transcript. The text is up in the early afternoon, at which point I often have watched the show and written down a couple words that I can use for a search to get me to the part that I want to blog. Yesterday, I scribbled the words "ship" and "potentially," I also made a note, in my words: "blandification of the election." All day checked the MTP transcripts page, and now it's Monday morning and still no the transcript. Why?!

Yesterday was Chuck Todd's second time as host. Last week, his first time, the show was heavily larded with an interview with Barack Obama. That means yesterday's show was the first example of a normal show. Are they ashamed of it? They've put video up, including neatly captioned segments, like "James Baker: We Need People on Ground in Mideast." ("People," is that what we're calling "boots" now?) The preference for lots of little videos, with writing only in the form of captions that very briefly paraphrase what some guest supposedly said, makes me suspicious. I want to see the specific quotes, and I want to pick them apart.

Why deprive us of the words? Maybe it's just a device to make us watch an ad before we can get to the material. Maybe it's exactly what's frustrating me: They want to pick the bits they like and present them in their terms, with their paraphrase, controlling passive viewers and thwarting active commentators. Or maybe the new presentation is an effort to make Chuck Todd's MTP feel new and different, or at least not disappointingly dull.

Kira Kazantsev, the new Miss America, for her talent bit, sat on the floor and sang "Happy"...

... accompanying herself doing percussion on the iconic drinking vessel, the red plastic cup.

From the Wikipedia entry for Solo Cup Company:
The red plastic cups are notably used in American college and university games such as beer pong and flip cup. This usage is referenced in Toby Keith's song "Red Solo Cup." The red party cup outsells the blue variety by a wide margin.
Here's a Slate article on the subject:
Should you doubt the cup’s cultural significance, I would point you toward a brand new Toby Keith song titled “Red Solo Cup.” The song opens with these lyrics: “Red Solo cup is the best receptacle for barbecues, tailgates, fairs, and festivals. And you, sir, do not have a pair of testicles if you prefer drinking from a glass.” The tune’s admirably forthright chorus: “I love you, red Solo cup. I fill you up. Proceed to party. Proceed to party.”
Should you doubt the cup’s cultural significance, I would point you toward Miss America, Kira Kazantsev.

That cup percussion business wasn't Kazantsev's invention. It's an internet craze (I just found out this morning). Here's a popular iteration:

September 14, 2014

It's The Plants...

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... previously stalled in the doorway, now advancing on the home front.

"Daniele Watts, who played 'CoCo' in and currently stars as Martin Lawrence's daughter on the FX show 'Partners,' says she was wrongfully arrested on September 11th after being mistaken for a prostitute!"

"How is this possible?  She was dressed in 'short shorts,' a t-shirt and sneakers, which is the same outfit plenty of people wear to live out their day.  And she was spotted sharing a PDA moment with a white man -- HER HUSBAND."

"It's craziness. Originally, it was a joke that he was going to be nominated for homecoming princess, but he got a lot of nominations."

"And now there are a lot of upset girls because a spot was taken from them. I’m very sympathetic that he’s transgender, but he should be on the boys’ side, not the girls'," said the grandmother of a student at Sand Creek High School, where Scarlett Lenh, 16, won the vote for homecoming princess.

And a student said: "I think it’s wrong because he’s actually a guy, he’s not a girl, and he hasn’t been doing this his entire life — he’s only been recently doing it." Doing it? What is it? Dressing and acting and ??? like some stereotype of a female? This implies there's an "it" that biological females are compelled by nature to do, but what, exactly, is "it" supposed to be?

It seems to me that the biological compulsions — menstruation and the capacity to become impregnated — are precisely the ones that the biological male cannot do. The things that can be adopted by a male can also be rejected by a female, and, anyway, what is the relationship between those things and being a homecoming princess? If that's some sort of achievement in princessiness, shouldn't the male who chooses to participate in the competition get the most credit?

And when did homecoming queen become homecoming princess? Is this part of the Disney-related obsession with princesses? Has "queen" become pejorative? If so, why? Is it because the queens in the movies these days are evil? Is it because we don't really want the little girls to lean in and lead? Or is it because of the old association with gay men and the lack of fit with the present-day conception of "transgender," about which even the resistant grandmother has learned to be "very sympathetic"?

"I was not here in the run-up to Iraq in 2003. It would have been fascinating to see the momentum and how it builds."

Said President Obama to an unnamed set of persons just before his ISIS speech last week, according to some unspecified persons within that set, according to Peter Baker in the NYT.

It would have been fascinating... That's so professorial and distant. And read between the lines: He's seeing the momentum and how it builds now, in 2014, and he's projecting himself into the mind of George Bush, who experienced the momentum then and made the decision that seemed so wrong at the time to Barack Obama when he was not here in the White House.

Baker's source tells us:
Obama told his staff... not to evaluate their own policy based on external momentum. He would not rush to war. He would be deliberate.
I can't tell whether Obama thinks or meant to suggest that Bush responded to "external momentum," "rushe[ed] to war," and was not "deliberate." But I suspect that Obama remembers the way he judged Bush back in 2003, and he doesn't want to be what he thought George Bush was.
In forming a plan to destroy the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria using airpower and local forces, but not regular American ground troops, he searched for ways to avoid the mistakes of the past. 
Another way to put that is: Obama feels like George Bush, yet he must not be George Bush. Obama feels compelled to go to war in Iraq, but it must not be the same as what George Bush did. So he's grasping at distinctions: 1. He's taking it more slowly, being deliberate, and thoughtful. (Remember: Bush had no brain and was a cowboy.) 2. He doing it all from the air, so lofty and elevated. (Remember: Bush put boots on the ground. Ugh! Boots, so brutal! The ground, so lowly and filthy!)
“This will be a problem for the next president,” Mr. Obama said ruefully...
Ruefully.... see? Obama is not like Bush, he and his friends in the press are desperate to have you know. I've long seen "ruefully" an absurd adverbial boost to the good old verb "said." (Ask my ex-husband, the novelist, who I don't think ever used "ruefully" again after that one time I pointed it out, though I adopted "he said ruefully" to add punch to subsequent conversations. By the way, one of Elmore Leonard's 10 rules for writers was: "Never use a verb other than 'said' to carry dialogue." I'd add: Especially not "ruefully.")
“... and probably the one after that.”

But he alternated between resolve as he vowed to retaliate against President Bashar al-Assad if Syrian forces shot at American planes, and prickliness as he mocked critics of his more reticent approach to the exercise of American power.

“Oh, it’s a shame when you have a wan, diffident, professorial president with no foreign policy other than ‘don’t do stupid things,’ ” guests recalled him saying, sarcastically imitating his adversaries. “I do not make apologies for being careful in these areas, even if it doesn’t make for good theater.”
I laughed and laughed when I got to that line. Doesn’t make for good theater! But he is doing theater, the theater of thoughtfulness, the theater of reticence. He said "theater" because he was aware he was in a theater. Like an actor breaking the fourth wall, talking to the audience about the play within which he finds himself.

If we shadows have offended... That's Shakespeare. I'm trying to think of some 20th century play where an actor turns to the audience and says something close to I'm afraid this doesn’t make for good theater. It's a well-worn theatrical move. It's called "meta-reference."

And I know there's a Greek term for rhetoric like "I do not make apologies for being careful...." He's complimenting himself within the guise of self-criticism. Or are we just saying "humblebrag" these days?

"David was most alive and enthusiastic in his humanitarian roles."

Said his brother, Mike Haines.
David Haines worked for the Royal Mail, then joined the Royal Air Force. He later worked with the United Nations in the Balkans, where "he helped whoever needed help, regardless of race, creed or religion," according to his brother.

"During this time, David began to decide that humanitarian work was the field he wanted to work in," Mike Haines said. "... David was most alive and enthusiastic in his humanitarian roles."
Having chosen what made him feel most alive, he was chosen to be the next in line in the one-by-one beheadings performed by ISIS for the world audience.
He was abducted in March 2013 near a refugee camp in Atmeh, Syria, where he was working to arrange for the delivery of humanitarian aid to people staying at the camp. He had previously worked on aid operations for victims of conflict in the Balkans, African and other parts of the Middle East, according to an ACTED spokesman.

"His joy and anticipation for the work he (did) in Syria is, for myself and family, the most important element of this whole sad affair," Mike Haines said. "He was and is loved by all his family and will be missed terribly."
Why select a man like this? Is it in the hope of getting money, a ransom scheme? Or is there focused antagonism on foreigners who arrive with offers of help and claims of humanitarianism? In the video of the beheading, the executioner warns about "another bloody and unwinnable war" and tells those "who've entered this evil alliance of America against the Islamic State to back off and leave our people alone." Presumably, he knows that the beheadings are aggravating America and our allies and bringing us closer to war. Choosing a man who has our sympathy — the humanitarian — makes the war-averse among us more likely to fight.

Or so it looks to me. I don't know how it looks to ISIS. I can see that our government and the British government do not ask us to understand ISIS. We're told flatly that this is "pure evil." Did I just dream that Barack Obama once invited us to understand how America's enemies thought about what we were doing in the world?

September 13, 2014

At the dog park today.

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I took that one! Meade was photographing the same dog, so we'll see what he got later.

At the door...

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... it's the plants.

"This might be the worst week in the history of the NFL, with another despicable act by a privileged player taking Roger Goodell’s league to an unfathomable low."

Writes Gary Meyers in The Daily News.
Goodell can begin to make up for his mishandling of the [Ray] Rice case by immediately suspending [Adrian] Peterson for the season and then throwing him out of the league....

The personal conduct policy does not require a conviction in order for Goodell to impose discipline. One of the circumstances that allows Goodell to punish Peterson is "conduct that imposes inherent danger to the safety and well-being of another person."...

Peterson reportedly called the tree branch a “switch,” and the [4-year-old] boy suffered bruises to his back, buttocks, ankles, legs and scrotum and defensive wounds to his hands... According to police reports, the child told authorities that “Daddy Peterson hit me on my face.” He also said he had been hit with a belt and “there are lots of belts in Daddy’s closet.”

The radio station reported that in an interview with police, Peterson appeared to believe he did nothing wrong. “Anytime I spank my kids, I talk to them before, let them know what they did, and of course after,” he said. Reportedly, Peterson regretted his son did not cry because he then would have known the switch had done more damage than intended.
The boy did not cry, and the boy calls his father "Daddy Peterson." Peterson smiles in the mug shot and claims to have experienced the same form of discipline when he was a child. The term "switch" — which Meyers treats as odd and deceptive — is traditional:
Switches are most efficient (i.e., painful and durable) if made of a strong but flexible type of wood, such as hazel... or hickory; as the use of their names for disciplinary implements...

Making a switch involves cutting it from the stem and removing twigs or directly attached leaves. For optimal flexibility, it is cut fresh shortly before use, rather than keeping it for re-use over time. Some parents decide to make the cutting of a switch an additional form of punishment for a child, by requiring the disobedient child to cut his/her own switch.
Here's Richard Pryor: "Anyone here remember them switches?"



And this was once the norm in school:
One of the most common punishments was getting a whipping with a hickory switch or a birch rod. Sometimes the strapping was so severe that students went home with red marks across their legs....

Are you too young to remember the ‘good old days’ when “Readin’ and writing’ and ‘rithmetic were taught to the tune of the hickory stick?”
That last line quotes the 1907 song "School Days" ("Dear old golden rule days...").

I'm not recommending or excusing disciplining children with switches or sticks, just observing that it is an old tradition. As a culture, we have abandoned that tradition, and it's hard to believe that Peterson hadn't noticed, but that's his story. It's a story that will be harder to sell coming immediately in the aftermath of the Ray Rice incident, and commentators like Gary Meyers are demanding that Peterson's punishment include punishment for what Ray Rice did.

Isn't it ironic that outrage at the unfair punishment inflicted by Adrian Peterson distorts thinking about how to punish him? Emotional overpunishment — it's the problem, not the solution.

"Call it hipster or call it art, rogue taxidermy’s popularity in New York and London is making its way to other urban locations in the United States..."

"... where young and creative people have taken to reinventing the centuries-old process of removing and rearranging the skin of a dead animal."

The Washington Post trend-spots.

No mention of the Dead Pals of Sam Sanfillippo. Madison, Wisconsin was so far out ahead of this hipsterism it isn't even funny.