November 26, 2014

"Close friends of Darren Wilson have called for the star witness in the Michael Brown shooting to be charged for lying about what he saw."

"They say that [Dorian Johnson] made up the claim that Brown had his hands up which kickstarted the ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ protest movement."
In his TV interviews Johnson said that Wilson shot Brown in the back at which point he turned round with his hands up saying: ‘I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!’...
If Johnson lied, he did horrible damage. What is the (nonpatronizing) argument for not holding him accountable?

"Speaking as a person who went and got a degree in creative writing for some fool reason..."

"... I always get squicked out hearing about MFA programs and writer's colonies. Like, I dunno. How can you make Real Art when you're enjoying a free vacation and a kindly old man is leaving treat baskets outside of your door. You should be writing in your underwear in a filthy apartment with roaches crawling up your walls and nothing to eat but cigarettes and bottom-shelf whiskey. Bah, I'm romanticizing."

(A commenter on a Metafilter post.)

"The genre of Obama race speeches has always been bounded by the job he was hired to do."

Says Ta-Nehisi Coates in "Barack Obama, Ferguson, and the Evidence of Things Unsaid":
Specifically, Barack Obama is the president of the United States of America. More specifically, Barack Obama is the president of a congenitally racist country, erected upon the plunder of life, liberty, labor, and land. This plunder has not been exclusive to black people. But black people, the community to which both Michael Brown and Barack Obama belong, have the distinct fortune of having survived in significant numbers. For a creedal country like America, this poses a problem—in nearly every major American city one can find a population of people whose very existence, whose very history, whose very traditions, are an assault upon this country's nationalist instincts. Black people are the chastener of their own country. Their experience says to America, "You wear the mask."...
Creedal... chastener... yeeesh....

I expect to read the genre of reading the genre of Obama race speeches for the rest of my life. I only wish my friend Barack Obama could go meta and talk about the talking about what he has to say about race. If only — if only! — Obama — when he's out of office — would bust loose and tell us everything he really thinks, transcend this sententiousness, and tell us the truth... as it looks to him.

I retreat, white-ladylike, into the OED and look up "creedal." "Of, relating to, or characterized by a creed." I bounce straight to the relevant Obama speech:
It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can. It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can....
Remember how beautiful that once was?


"Do you think you’re taking a big risk by making this show without knowing for sure..."

"... whether Adnan Syed, the man convicted of killing his former high-school girlfriend in 1999, is guilty?"

"I’m not being fake-naïve or something, but I really don’t — the end was never the thing of it for me. It does not keep me up at night."

Sarah Koenig takes questions about her ultra-popular podcast "Serial" (which I've started listening to).

AND: Rereading the question, I assume it's no risk at all but that the energy comes from actually not knowing. This is hours and hours of peeling the layers away. Why expect us to watch you peel if we know where you are going?

At the Snowbound Café...

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... if you can't dig out, dig in.

"I regularly see cases that feel just as important to me as any case I see in the news."

"I work on a lot of felony cases; many are murder cases.... They feel anything but routine."
They contain so much vivid detail and emotion and meaning, that it can be jarring to stop and think that this was an everyday occurrence. Only a few people paid any attention to it, and everyone else went about their business. I don't understand why the 1-in-a-million case becomes a cause célèbre, when other cases of horrible crimes don't. The fact that the alleged perpetrator was white and the alleged victim was black in the cases we care about, and there was a different racial configuration in most of the cases we don't care about, would seem to be a very poor criterion. It's certainly not a reason to reach a national consensus that a man is guilty before we've afforded him due process.

How to draw and paint like Paul Klee.

As I said the other day, I found the notebook I wrote as I studied an exhibition of paintings and drawings by Paul Klee. (It was "Paul Klee: The Nature of Creation" at the Hayward Gallery in March 2002, intelligently reviewed here in The Guardian.)

Here's the first page of notes — Lessons 1 and 2 — extracting how-to instructions from a painting and a drawing:

How to paint like Paul Klee, Lesson 1

Text, with links to the artworks from which I extracted the instructions:
• draw ink lines almost with a straight edge horizontally all over bristol board. Vertically: some straight lines perpendicular & some angled. Not evenly spaced. Indications of steepled buildings & a few skeletal trees. Oil paint w/o blue. Some zebra columns. Landscape With Yellow Steeple

• draw a funny man in the center of the page in ink, then draw horizontal straight but not evenly spaced lines all across bending at the contours of the man — Rider Unhorsed & Bewitched
From the above-linked Guardian article:
In his last years Klee was afflicted by scleroderma, a horrifying disease that slowly mummifies its victims. All his lithe mobility impeded, he relied more and more on pure abstraction to articulate his visions. The brush becomes broader, the colours more dazzling. The language is liberated into a grand and commanding song. 
Scleroderma is the disease that killed my maternal grandmother.

ADDED: I've given you the links to the images I used to make my instructions, but the point of the instructions is to give you an idea of something to do to produce your own artwork, which isn't supposed to copy the original. Check out the original, but then forget the original and just follow the instructions. I chose to write the instructions in this very concrete and mechanical way so you — so I — could make a completely different artwork. And I consider the instructions themselves to be an independent artwork.

A 26-year sentence for a TV show with a song and dance about the wedding of Muhammad's daughter.

The sentence of Mir Shakeel-ur-Rehman, owner of Geo News, the largest media group in Pakistan, will be appealed.

From the end of the linked article:
Pakistan's blasphemy law allows anyone to file a complaint alleging their religious feelings have been hurt for any reason. The punishment for blasphemy is death. Rights groups say the law is increasingly being used to settle personal scores. This year has seen a record number of blasphemy cases and increasing violence against the accused.

When you're tired of all that political fakery...

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... dogs are reliably spontaneous and ingenuous. Photographed by Meade at The Puparazzo, the cure for your political malaise.

"Though I understand why you might have yelled at me a month ago... it doesn't make much sense to yell at me now..."

Says Obama, appeasing a heckling crowd that was supposed to be good scenery for his immigration action.



Or was the heckling from the left a planned part of the show? Were these people meant to be scenery or were they meant to step up into bit parts?

I don't know anymore. Anything political might be theater — scripted drama — even the heckling from the right, in places like The Weekly Standard, which features that clip for the line "I just took an action to change the law" and pedantically informs us of the supposed rigidity of the separation of powers: "The United States Constitution says the legislative power is held by Congress, not by the president."

I'm just going to guess that President Obama decided to triangulate on immigration, and he anticipated and sought this drama from the left and the right as he strutted back and forth a few times on the political stage.

"Building a jail is building hate."



Closeup from a photograph of the Ferguson-related demonstration that took place in Madison, Wisconsin yesterday. See the whole photograph here, at the Wisconsin State Journal. The caption says that speakers at the demonstration talked not only about Ferguson but also about a proposed new jail here. From the article:
“It’s about Mike Brown, but it’s also about, more broadly, state violence against black communities,” said M Adams, a member of the Young Gifted and Black Coalition. “As a city with a progressive characteristic, it is often easy for us to look to other places and say, ‘Ferguson is terrible’ ... and ignore the ways in which we act out state violence here in our own communities,” Adams said.

The coalition, which organized Tuesday’s protest, opposes the construction of a new jail, saying money for that project should instead be spent on programs in black communities. After the march, protesters packed a meeting of the Dane County Public Protection and Judiciary Committee to discuss the proposal.

The coalition has also called for the release of people incarcerated for what members call “crimes of poverty”....
This message — incarceration as racial oppression — has been cultivated by some who are dedicated to issues of racial justice. Those who are reacting to Ferguson by engaging in criminal violence are stepping on that message.

"All you’ve got is a girl with high cheekbones."

Said Joni Mitchell, scoffing at the idea of a biopic about her with the impersonation done by Taylor Swift.  Joni doesn't like the story of her life as a material either:  "It’s just a lot of gossip, you don’t have the great scenes. There’s a lot of nonsense about me in books, assumptions, assumptions, assum­p­tions."

So, do it like "The Rose." Make it a fictional character and use the best of the nonsense and assumptions and punch it up even more. Taylor with her cheekbones will provide some allusion to Joni for those who care.

Personally, I loathe all these musical biopics. They should have stopped at "Coal Miner's Daughter" (1980), as far as I'm concerned. But actors seem to get extra credit for impersonating someone recognizable, especially where they do the singing themselves. But movies aren't made for people like me, who rarely if ever go to the movies.

"In some ways, Hagel was the President’s Republican doppelgänger: skeptical of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan..."

"... eager to bring home U.S. troops, and reluctant to get the United States embroiled militarily elsewhere in the Middle East," writes John Cassidy in The New Yorker.
If the primary goal was to complete Obama’s agenda of disengaging from Iraq and Afghanistan, then having Hagel at the Pentagon seemed to make sense. In the past year or so, though, the policy of disengagement has been superseded.... There is no suggestion that Hagel opposed either of these policy changes. Indeed, he was one of the first senior U.S. officials to warn that ISIS represented a serious danger to American interests, which was said to have irked Obama’s aides at the time...

... President Obama appears to have decided that, with the U.S. stepping up its military involvement in various parts of the world, he needed a more hands-on, and on-message, figure at the Pentagon. That’s understandable. But so is the widespread skepticism about the official version of Hagel’s departure, including Republicans’ eagerness to make hay of it. “Secretary Hagel did not believe that the foreign policy is working or is going to work,” Republican congressman Peter King, of New York, told CNN.

That statement reeks of overstatement, which is typical of King. But it underscores that Obama, having just enjoyed his best few weeks as President in a long time, has just refocussed attention on an area, foreign policy, where his enemies sense vulnerability.
"His enemies"? That confused me. I'm pretty sure what Cassidy means by "his enemies" is Republicans. But he was just talking about ISIS, an actual military enemy. That shift in focus was abrupt and telling, especially following the acknowledgment that Hagel had been useful because he was a Republican.

By the way, the picture at the link is just perfect.

November 25, 2014

"In our song, the stereotype image of a serious political leader has been changed into someone who can connect with ordinary people."

"This will make people have an emotional connection to the couple."

Soon, you too will be singing "Uncle Xi [Chinese President Xi Jinping] loves Mother Peng [his wife, Peng Liyuan]":



Meade just said: "It also reminds me a lot of Bruce Springsteen. All that growling, grunting singing." That insight makes it 5 times as funny to me.

Late afternoon.

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Lake Mendota.

"Academics who don’t retire are greedy, selfish, and bad for students."

Writes a professor who retired at 66 after accepting a bonus to retire early. Wasn't that greedy and selfish? Seems to me her argument would be stronger if she retired simply because she reached what used to be called "retirement age."

"I felt like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan."

"Hulk Hogan, that’s just how big he felt and how small I felt just from grasping his arm.”

"The Constitution is not a math problem, but..."

The beginning of a NYT article by Adam Liptak titled "In Same-Sex Marriage Calculation, Justices May See Golden Ratio."

From the Wikipedia article "Golden ratio":
In mathematics, two quantities are in the golden ratio if their ratio is the same as the ratio of their sum to the larger of the two quantities.

Do the math!

Bob Dylan plays a concert for just one man.

"The incredible concert was part of an ongoing Swedish film series Experiment Ensam (Experiment Alone), where people experience things completely alone that are usually reserved for large crowds."
[41-year-old Bob Dylan superfan Fredrik Wikingsson said that on the day of the show] "I was a fucking wreck... Part of me was thinking, 'Maybe this won't happen and it'll be for the best. I don't want to impose on Mr. Dylan. I don't want him to stand there and be grouchy, just hating it.'"...

"I thought the first row might freak him out... I was like a guy picking the next-to-most expensive bottle of wine in a restaurant, which is a very Swedish thing to do. I figured the second row would be ideal. Malcolm Gladwell would probably have all sorts of theories about this."...

At the end of "It's Too Late (She's Gone)" Dylan performed a harmonica solo. "I always detest people that automatically holler and applaud every time he breaks out the harmonica," says Wikingsson. "But I found myself almost weeping when he played the solo. He could have just ended the song without the solo, he wanted it to be great."

Why was I born?

Make 2 lists of 5 reasons why you were born, based on real-world facts about why events occurred that leading to your conception. No metaphysical speculation about God's plan or some needed function you are destined to serve. Just things that happened in the days, years, or moments before you happened.

List 1 should be terrible things that you would only feel bad about were it not for the brutal truth that without them you would not be here to experience the value of their nonoccurrence. Then amuse yourself with List 2 — nice things, things you can independently feel good about, quite aside from the fortuity that they led to you.

I'm working on my list and thought you might find it engaging to join me.