September 16, 2014

Martin Amis sets his novel in a Nazi concentration camp and his European publishers reject it.

The don't get the Englishman's humor or they think he might be construed as sympathetic to the Nazis or they're squeamish and scared or... it's just not that good.
In France, the storied house Gallimard declined to publish the novel because “it wasn’t very convincing,” said Marie-Pierre Gracedieu....

Mr. Amis said his German publisher, Carl Hanser Verlag, had told him that there were “inconsistencies in the plot” and that it had found the main character, Golo Thomsen, an SS officer, too sympathetic to the Nazi cause...

Piero Salabè, Mr. Amis’s editor at Carl Hanser Verlag, said... “Our decision was based on the book’s contents as well as on economic considerations... [It had] nothing to do with the Holocaust being a sensitive issue in Germany.”....

“The problem with the novel lies in his uninhibited English perception of humor, at least for some German readers,” [wrote the London correspondentfor Allgemeine Zeitung].
Here's the book, "The Zone of Interest." See for yourself... unless you think we're being played by a publicity stunt.

Why won't Kirsten Gillibrand name the men she says harassed her?

She writes in her book that a male labor leader said "You're too fat to be elected statewide" and a male colleague said she was getting "porky," another said she's "even pretty when [she's] fat," and yet another made physical contact and said he liked "chubby" girls. But she won't name names. Let's analyze the possible reasons.

1. She wants to focus attention on the general problem of "how women are treated in the workplace... undervaluing women... and chronically paying them less and treating them poorly and not valuing them." This is the answer she gives, and as a politician, it makes sense to think that she has her issues and she wants issues seen as issues, so individual incidents are supposed to work as examples of the sort of thing that's happening. Specific details would distract us from the big problem and would enable those who oppose her solutions to that problem to find ways to distinguish what happened to her from what she's presenting as the big problem to be solved with the legislation that she, as a politician, would like to promote.

2. She wants to present herself in a good light, so she's filtered the story so that people see her as an ordinary woman who struggled with her weight and got harassed about it, rather than as an extraordinary woman who received an appointment to her seat in the Senate in part because she was a woman — because she was replacing a woman, Hillary Clinton — and because she had excellent feminine attractiveness. Did any male even have a chance? Which fatter, homelier women did she perhaps beat out? But, no, men commented on her post-pregnancy weight gain and that was good material to use to help us relate to her and to think that she understands us and our problems.

3. If she named the men, she'd have to tell the whole story, and we'd have to see things from their perspective too. The nameless men were mean to her, but if she named them, she might seem mean. Was she unfair? What was the actual context? Maybe it was a friendly, chummy environment where everyone teases everyone else and it was part of being considered one of the guys. Maybe she had drawn attention to her weight gain and expressed worry about it and they were mirroring her remarks supportively or just saying they like her however she looks. Fat is good too! As for the "too fat to be elected statewide," she got the Senate seat by appointment, and she had to be planning for the election, thinking of things she could do, and the subject of doing what she could to improve her appearance would have come up, as it does for all candidates, male and female. We openly talk about whether Chris Christie is too fat to get elected President. Maybe she was getting equal treatment. If we knew the details, we could probe into this, and any dishonesty in her presentation of the incidents could hurt her now.

4. She wants to protect the men she hasn't named. They're her political allies, perhaps quite well-known characters. I think we can assume that they are all Democrats, since we haven't heard otherwise and she probably would have taken the opportunity to ding Republicans, and since Republicans would be more likely to maintain formal politeness with her and not to assume that they could take liberties.

5. Maybe it didn't happen. There are no names named because there are no names to name.

Pick all that you think are probably true.
 
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"This week my kids have been outside until it’s time for bed, just playing, being kids, like I remember after school."

"When you come home from work, most people don’t want to work. That’s what the kids need to do."

Marlon Brando's Tahitian atoll will become a posh resort.

You can stay in one of the private cottages for $4,000 or so a night.
"Marlon felt that everyone in Hollywood wore a mask,” says Richard Bailey, Managing Director of the hotel company, Pacific Beachcomber, that built and operates The Brando. “But Tahitians don’t wear masks. There’s no hypocrisy. He loved that. He felt Tahitians had something to teach the world about how to lead a happy, balanced life.”
So come buy a Tahitian mask of your very own. Then you can wear the mask of no mask. There's no hypocrisy!

"The great promise of YouTube was its ability to cut out Hollywood-style intermediaries..."

"... but there are now more than 20 agencies and management companies competing to represent YouTube personalities, at least triple the number of three years ago...."
“Money changed everything,” said Naomi Lennon, president of Lennon Management, which focuses on YouTube personalities. Exploitation is now “an issue with our industry,” she said, because a lot of inexperienced video creators “are just believing everything these people are telling them.”

"We've gotta dispense with calling guys who are effeminate or who throw like girls 'sissies.' You know why?"

"Because that diminishes women... We've got to stop this making fun of guys. I think part of it's to protect Obama, because he's the one that's well known for that," Rush Limbaugh said (sarcastically) yesterday, in the midst of a monologue that centered around something an ESPNW columnist, Kate Fagan, said about the problem of violence in football. She said:
Holding NFL's feet to the fire should mean getting men to throw the kitchen sink at domestic violence...
What's up with the anti-violence lady using 2 violent metaphors?
... to invest millions of dollars in grassroots organizations, in going into middle schools and high schools and colleges and talking to young men about dealing with anger, about how they treat women. I think that's where you're gonna see change. Going into the school systems and the younger spaces and really reprogramming how we raise men.
Rush made much of the word "reprogramming." His transcript headline paraphrases Fagan's statement as "We Must Reprogram Men." His monologue goes on to paraphrase her repeatedly like this:
We have been in the process of reprogramming men and the way they are raised for a long time... we need to reprogram the way we're raising men... it's the guys that have to be reprogrammed... I've never run across anybody who suggested that women need to be reprogrammed. I don't think I've even come across anybody who wanted to teach a girl how to throw right. They just accept it is what it is. But honestly, folks, it's always reprogramming men... this effort to reprogram men has been going on a long time.
But Fagan didn't say "reprogramming men." She said "reprogramming how we raise men." Who's getting reprogrammed? Which human beings are analogized to computers and capable of programming? It's got to be those who are raising men, which is mostly women — mothers (more than fathers) and early childhood educators (mostly women). So in fact, in Fagan's statement itself, Rush was encountering what he says he never runs across: a suggestion that women need to be reprogrammed. He doesn't notice it when he sees it, perhaps because reprogramming women is so deeply embedded in the culture that it just looks natural. Feminists continually pressure for the reprogramming of women. That's what the "lean in" campaign is all about.

Maybe during the commercial break somebody pointed out the discrepancy in the paraphrase, because when Rush came back, he was more accurate, referring to "this business of reprogramming the way we raise men" (before detouring into the topic of Ohio State's description of what consent to sex means, which is funny/disturbing because it seems to demand that couples agree about "why" they are doing what they're doing), and "We have got to reprogram the way we raise men" (which relates to expecting men to "think with their brains" rather than their other "head," as Rush frat-boyishly put it). 

You know, I hate all the human-as-computer metaphors, including speaking of how people are "wired." It's dehumanizing, to men and to women. Fagan was trying to talk about what parents and teachers can do to raise good children. Conservatives should agree that boys and girls should be raised into adults who have good character, who understand right and wrong, and who embrace virtue and avoid vice. That's not controversial at a high level of abstraction. As to the details, is Rush saying that the best way to raise boys to be good men is to mock them by calling them "sissies" when they do something in a way that seems stereotypically female?

Does Rush embody and project ideal masculinity? Is he a good role model for boys? Is he carrying on some fine, old, valued tradition of raising boys to manhood? He has no children of his own, and he seems to have a lot of opinions about how parents and teachers — mostly women — are attempting to do well as they shape the new generation of Americans. They're doing many things wrong, it may be presumed, because anyone who tries to do something that difficult will get many things wrong. But how do you do it right?

The Scotland/England relationship, understood in romantic terms.

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



ADDED: I think Oliver wants Scots to vote "no" on independence, but he lays out the reasons for their grievance with the relationship with England and gets the audience identifying with them to the point where they burst into a huge cheer with a big Scottish flag unfurls (at 14:52). The emotions of nationalism are strange and powerful. With the right manipulation, an audience that doesn't even possess that nationality can feel the nationalism of others.

AND: Why do flags have such a powerful effect on the human mind? I'd like to see some serious research on this subject? Did you know that the study of flags is called "vexillology"? Here's the flag of the International Federation of Vexillological Associations:

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...

Untitled

... 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?