31 May 2023

Image cropped for size from the one at the nocontextpics subreddit.

Road trips in (average) 70-degree weather

I like the "interior route" because it heads north from Madison, Wisconsin through Minneapolis to Duluth and then right past Leech Lake in northern Minnesota in the first week of June.  Perfect.

Those who live at these latitudes know that not only is the weather perfect then, but the twilight extends to way late in the evening.  For Leech Lake at the summer solstice, "civil twilight" extends to 9:45 pm, "nautical twilight" until 10:30, and "astronomical twilight" until midnight !

An outlet that will never again be built into houses

Identification at the HomeMaintenance subreddit.

One way to improve a "Little Library"

Via Twitter.

Vines are "smart"

This pipevine (planted seven years ago in a so-far-futile attempt to lure Pipevine Swallowtails) has extended above the adjacent trellis.  It used to grab hold of a tree branch and continue climbing but I pruned that branch off.  A single stem of the vine is too flexible to reach very high, but this one has braided itself using several strands, achieving a semi-rigidity that is enabling it to go ever higher looking for a grabbable site.

28 May 2023

"Il Silenzio" (Maastricht 2008, Melissa Venema)

This captivating 2008 performance of "Il Silenzio" features a 13-year-old Dutch girl, Melissa Venema, backed by André Rieu and the Royal Orchestra of the Netherlands.
In a cemetery about six miles from the Dutch city of Maastricht lie buried 8,301 American soldiers who died in "Operation Market Garden" in the battles to liberate the Netherlands in the fall and winter of 1944–5. Every one of the men buried in the cemetery, as well as those in the Canadian and British military cemeteries, has been adopted by a Dutch family who tend the grave and keep alive the memory of the soldier they have adopted. It is the custom to keep a portrait of "their" foreign soldier in a place of honour in their home. Annually on "Liberation Day", Memorial Services are held for the men who died to liberate the Netherlands. The day concludes with a concert, at which "Il Silenzio" has always been the concluding piece.
Reposted for Memorial Day 2023.

Remembering the animal casualties of war

The sculpture in the photo is the Animals in War Memorial in Hyde Park.
The memorial was inspired by Jilly Cooper's book Animals in War, and was made possible by a specially created fund of £1.4 million from public donations of which Cooper was a co-trustee. The memorial consists of a 55 ft by 58 ft (16.8 m by 17.7 m) curved Portland stone wall: the symbolic arena of war, emblazoned with images of various struggling animals, along with two heavily-laden bronze mules progressing up the stairs of the monument, and a bronze horse and bronze dog beyond it looking into the distance.
The memorial focuses on service animals, but wartime also takes a substantial toll on pets:
The government sent out MI5 agents to watch animal rights activists, considered the mass euthanasia of all ‘non-essential animals,’ sponsored a clandestine anti-dog hate campaign and sanctioned the criminal prosecutions of cat owners for giving their pets saucers of milk.

The day Hitler invaded Poland, a BBC broadcast confirmed it was official policy that pets would not be given shelter. Panic-stricken people flocked to their vets’ offices seeking euthanization for their pets. That night, distressed animals cast out by their owners roamed the blacked-out streets, and five days of mass destruction followed.

London Zoo was also decimated. The black widow spiders and poisonous snakes were killed, as were a manatee, six Indian fruit bats, seven Nile crocodiles, a muntjac and two American alligators. Two lion cubs were put down, too.
The Animals in War Memorial has two separate inscriptions.  The large one reads:
"This monument is dedicated to all the animals
that served and died alongside British and allied forces
in wars and campaigns throughout time"
A second, smaller inscription notes:
"They had no choice"


Reposted from 2013 to accompany a standard Memorial Day post. 

26 May 2023

Dolly Parton for President

Seriously.  Dolly Parton is the only person who can unite the brutally divided partisan voters of this country.  She is eminently qualified to represent the values this country claims to hold dear.

Allow me to anticipate the potential objections:

"She wouldn't have the right qualifications for being president of the country"
Constitutional requirements for the president:  a natural-born citizen at least 35 years old and a resident of the country for at least 14 years.  Box checked.  Moving on.

Duties and responsibilities of the President, as defined at the U.S. Senate site:
As chief executive, the president presides over the cabinet and has responsibility for the management of the executive branch. With the advice and consent of the Senate, the president also has the power to make treaties and to appoint ambassadors, U.S. officers, and judges to federal courts. He is also the commander in chief of the armed forces. The president signs laws and can veto bills that have passed Congress.
Details at the link.  We all know that every previous President has delegated those duties or fulfilled them based on recommendations from advisory committees (although Eisenhower may have been a real-life commander-in-chief).  No problems there.
"She has no political experience"
Exactly.  An asset, not a deficiency.  Dolly is the antithesis of a politician.  

"She is not part of a political party"
Exactly.  She has carefully avoided aligning herself with either the Democratic or Republican party.  She turned down the Presidential Medal of Freedom offer from Trump (twice) and from Biden; she felt that if she accepted it she "would be doing politics."

Here's a discussion of her recent "World on Fire" song lyrics:
“Don't get me started on politics, Now how are we to live in a world like this, Greedy politicians, present and past, They wouldn't know the truth if it bit 'em in the ass.”
These are the words read back to Dolly [by a host on the Today Show], who laughs as a response. She’s then asked which politicians she’s talking about.

All of them. any of them.” She replies, plainly.

She then adds, “I don’t think any of them are trying hard enough… They worry more about their party than they do about the people.”

Dolly added the better approach would be “If we just do what we felt was the right thing rather than who’s going to lose or who’s going to win this, or who’s going to look better if they do this.”
Absofuckinlutely right.  Here's the video of that conversation. And most Americans will agree with her.

This comment about her own politics, as cited in Woman and Home:
As for her own political views, she knows what they are and that’s good enough for her. “I’ve got as many Republican friends as I’ve got Democrat friends and I just don’t like voicing my opinion on things,” she says.

“I’ve seen things before, like the Dixie Chicks. You can ruin a career for speaking out. I respect my audience too much for that, I respect myself too much for that. Of course, I have my own opinions, but that don’t mean I got to throw them out there because you’re going to piss off half the people.”
Here's the full video of her performance of "World on Fire" at the American Country Music Awards.  Listen.

She gets a standing ovation from a room full of cowboy hats after performing what can reasonably be described as a climate change anthem.

"Liar, liar the world’s on fire

Whatcha gonna do when it all burns down?

Fire, fire burning higher

Still got time to turn it all around."

It’s difficult to say whether Dolly explicitly intended “World on Fire” as a climate song, though people are hearing it as such. But that’s how many of Dolly’s more “political” statements and artistic work come across — they tap into the zeitgeist without making any explicit political statements. Dolly is an expert at this.
Note also that the performance is a crossover of country music and rock and roll.  Dolly bridged that gap like no performer in history, recently accepting induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after a lifetime of country music and Grand Old Opry.

Her new album, due out later this year, will include a cover of Prince's Purple Rain and duets with Sting, Steven Tyler, and Elton John, as well as a combined performance of "Let It Be" with McCartney and Ringo (see video above).  This from the most acclaimed "country music" artist of all time, because she believes in music and the lyrics of music, not in the politics of country vs. rock

This was Dolly Parton's comment regarding the Trump/Clinton presidential debates many years ago:

Let’s talk about what we really need — taking care of us. I think people just want to have a feeling of security. It’s just like political terrorism right now, they got us all scared to death about everything,’ Parton said.
A pause in this nomination post.  Anyone who has ever written anything knows that it is easier to write the long version rather than a concise version.  I'm going to take the easy way out for the moment because I have so much to present, by inserting extended extracts from a variety of sources I've bookmarked over the years.  Later I'll need to come back to weed, summarize, correlate etc.  So here we go with some of the source material...

She is beloved across so many demographic groups because she really transcends politics,” said Lance Kinney, an advertising and public-relations professor at the University of Alabama. “And her magic lies on being a cipher onto which you can graft whatever political agenda you prefer.”

The allure that rings from honky-tonks in the rural South to gay bars in large coastal cities has everything to do with the persona Parton has meticulously cultivated since the 1950s, Kinney said. On the one hand, there’s the conservative-appealing story of Parton’s origins — or how she managed to pull herself up by her bootstraps after growing up poor in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. On the other, there’s the glitz and glamour of her towering wigs and acrylic nails, and the feminist anthem she created with “9 to 5,” an iconic song about workplace discrimination.

In recent years, Parton has turned the Imagination Library, her literacy-focused nonprofit, into a 2 million-book-a-month international operation and also helped fund Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. She has supported the LGBTQ+ community and endorsed the Black Lives Matter movement — breaking with “the guardrail in country music of not talking about racial injustice in the present,” said Joel Schwindt, a music history assistant professor at Berklee College of Music.

“Dolly Parton, much like country music, is a paradox,” Schwindt said. “But I think she can get away with it because of her authenticity and also because she’s reached founders’ status in country.”
Regarding controversial issues, per Gizmodo:
She’s acknowledged, for instance, the role of the LGBT community in inspiring her stage persona. Yet when Tennessee banned public drag performances, she kept quiet. She publicly attested her support for Black Lives Matter with a spate of other country musicians as artists reckoned with the genre’s long silence on racial justice. Her speaking up came two years after she changed the name of her long-running dinner show from Dixie Stampede to Dolly’s Stampede after much criticism of its Confederate nostalgia. Parton insisted the original name was chosen out of “innocent ignorance.” (This move did divide some fans.)

In interviews, Dolly has certainly expressed support for environmental causes, in her down-home oratory style. “We’re just mistreating Mother Nature,” she told National Geographic last year.“That’s like being ugly to your mama.” ...

But Wilkerson feels that Dolly, and her companies, don’t own up to their part in damaging the region’s climate resilience or contributing to environmental catastrophe through the cumulative impact of all those cars and private jets. “It’s been the ruination of the Smoky Mountains,” Wilkerson said bluntly. 

From Vox in 2021:
But Parton knew what she was talking about when she suggested to the New York Times last fall that people were starting to get sick of her. She has now achieved the sort of hysterical and highly trendy adoration that can shade into overexposure in the blink of an eye — even for a legend with a reputation as durable as Dolly Parton’s. The pressure on Dolly Parton to be the single person who can unite a fractured America is so high, there is a slow and uneasy creep of incipient backlash all around her...

But in recent decades, everything that makes Dolly Dolly has swung back into trend. “One reason Parton’s approval rating is so high, though” Lindsay Zoladz posited in the New York Times in 2019, “is that all the attributes that used to set her up for criticism — the outrageous, hyper-femme style; the unapologetic business savvy needed to pull off her late-70s pop crossover; even the so-what acknowledgment of her own cosmetic surgery — are no longer taboo.”

Dolly Parton often explains that she modeled her look after the town tramp, who as a small child she thought was the most beautiful person she’d ever seen, and that she knows straight men don’t find it attractive and doesn’t care. “If I was trying to really impress men or be totally sexy, then I would dress differently,” she told Playboy in 1978. But why bother? “I’m already married and he don’t mind how I look.”..

For decades, this acknowledgment played as tacky or trashy. But in the 2010s, it came to be seen as empowering, even feminist: Dolly dresses for herself, not the male gaze. And Dolly’s self is a celebration of the artificiality of femininity and glamour, a finding of authenticity in what is fake. That’s downright avant-garde...

In 2008, Roger Ebert returned to his 1980 Dolly Parton profile, noting that it had missed something he considered very important: her presence, which he writes “enveloped” him. “This had nothing to do with sex appeal,” he says. “Far from it. It was as if I were being mesmerized by a benevolent power. I left the room in a cloud of good feeling.”

Ebert adds that when he spoke with his writing partner Gene Siskel about Parton the next day, Siskel reported the same feeling: “This will sound crazy,” he said, “but when I was interviewing Dolly Parton, I almost felt like she had healing powers.”
Lots more good information at that Vox article, including insights into the Dollywood Dixie Stampede dropping the term "Dixie" at her request, her refusal to join Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda in disrespecting Donald Trump, and the weaknesses inherent in embracing both sides of an argument.

In 2020 The New York Times offered "The Grit and Glory of Dolly Parton":
Only as an adult did I see how widely and warmly (if sometimes ironically) Parton has been embraced by people with little else in common. Her ability to navigate social and conceptual divides helps explain why this is: She is country without being retrograde; a friend to the outcast whose basic political philosophy, that people should get paid to do what they do best, is uncontroversial. She is beautiful without making beauty look easy; feminine but not fragile; white but not precious; principled but not hardened or fixed...

Most accounts of her life, of which there are many, begin with Parton’s humble origins as the fourth child of 12 born to an industrious sharecropper and a musical mother in the mountains of East Tennessee. Extremely poor, but confident and creative, Parton wrote her first songs at age 5 or 6, got her first guitar at age 8 and appeared on a local radio and television show at age 10. The morning after her high school graduation in 1964, Parton left her small town for Nashville. That day, she met her husband, Carl Dean, to whom she has been married for 54 years...

Parton addresses the wealth she has amassed through these ventures with predictable nonchalance, but she clearly knows the value of money, in a way familiar to those who have grown up without it. She supports several family members (she does not have children), and has donated millions to the Imagination Library, the literacy program she founded in 1990; to East Tennessee residents whose homes were destroyed by a 2016 wildfire; and, this spring, to Nashville’s Vanderbilt Medical Center, for Covid-19 vaccine research...

The word that you’re going to have to use over and over when describing her is ‘work,’” Summers tells me. I admit I have gleaned this from Parton’s description of how she “gets more done than most people do all day” by working every morning from 3 to 7 a.m. on her spiritual practice and any one of several projects she keeps lined up in plastic bins before her workday officially begins. Parton says she “lives on creative and spiritual energy” — and the more she talks about “rising above” her physical self to meet the demands of each day, I see she means this literally: She subsists on energy instead of typical amounts of sleep (she gets no more than six hours a night, and is fine on three)...

Even her gleaming exterior can be seen as a function of her working girl’s pragmatism. “I’m really not that ‘high maintenance,’” she writes in the new book, “I can put on my makeup, costume and wig and be ready for anything in 15 minutes or less.”..

She remains true to country music’s historical role, not as a bastion of conservative patriotism (as it was rebranded when it was aligned with Richard Nixon’s “silent majority” in the 1960s) but as an inclusively populist, working people’s music meant to give outsiders a voice. Hence her decision to write the song “Travelin’ Thru” for the 2005 film “Transamerica,” about a trans woman’s attempts to connect with her son; and, in 2017, to join Miley Cyrus on the pro-gay anthem “Rainbowland.”

The Imagination Library videos on YouTube, where Dolly reads bedtime stories to you (or your children) from the books that she gives away free to children every month in order to promote literacy

Re her childhood poverty and dietary preferences, from Rolling Stone in 2003:
Despite all the modern trappings of her fame and success, Dolly Parton is a living link to what seems like an impossibly remote past. She was born the fourth of twelve children in a log cabin in Sevier County, Tennessee, on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The doctor who brought her into the world was paid with a sack of cornmeal. The Partons didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing, and her dad, a tobacco farmer, supplemented the family’s diet by taking his shotgun and heading off into the woods.

“People hear me talk about eating squirrel and groundhogs, but in the mountains like that, you really didn’t have much of a choice,” says Parton matter-of-factly. “There were twelve of us kids. We never ate possum — I remember Daddy saying, ‘That’s like a damn rat.’ But we ate everything — turtle, frogs. I just remember the big old groundhogs — whistle pigs, they called them — and you’d cook ’em with sweet potatoes, and you’d have different ways of making some of that gamy taste go away.” 
“Look,” she says triumphantly, throwing the cabinet doors open. It’s magnificent: cans of corned-beef hash, tins of Spam, loaves of white bread, a Costco-size brick of Velveeta. “I have to have my Spam,” she says. “And look at this!” It’s a pig-shaped ceramic jar. Inside is a baggie of bacon grease, neatly labeled with a date. “The people who come to clean my house every Thursday have to fry up bacon, so I have bacon grease to cook with. I have to have it in all my houses.” She brightens. “You want some Velveeta?” She saws off an orange hunk and offers it. “You didn’t believe me, did you?” she says. “I grew up with that stuff and I never got over it. Good, ain’t it?”  

She was the first in the history of her family to graduate from high school.  Lots more at the link. [note to self - extract more later,

The first episode of “Dolly Parton’s America” centers partly on the “9 to 5” songwriter’s reluctance to call herself a feminist. Earlier this year, Parton’s own sister, Stella, said she was “ashamed” of Dolly for not speaking out more about the #MeToo movement. In response, Parton told The Guardian: “I don’t feel I have to march, hold up a sign or label myself. I think the way I have conducted my life and my business and myself speaks for itself.”..

Like Cher, another 73-year-old multihyphenate icon, Parton has over the past few years ascended to a rarefied level of intergenerational celebrity: a saucy grandmother of social media...

Both-sides-ism rarely feels as benevolent as it does when coming from Parton, but that’s nothing new. When asked, in 1997, how she was able to maintain fan bases within both the religious right and the gay community, she replied, “It’s two different worlds, and I live in both and I love them both, and I understand and accept both.”..

Parton was born in January 1946, to parents so poor, they paid the doctor who delivered her in cornmeal. Their home at the foot of East Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains had “running water, if you were willing to run and get it” — one of Parton’s many, oft-repeated “Dollyisms” that makes light of her hardscrabble upbringing.

As a child — one of 12 — she had no exposure to movies or television, rarely even magazines, so her earliest ideas of glamour came from two seemingly disparate sources: the glittering kings and queens she heard described in fairytales and Bible verses, and from the “streetwalkers,” and “strumpets and trollops” she’d see when her family went into town. “I was impressed with what they called ‘the trash’ in my hometown,” she later mused. “I don’t know how trashy these women were, but they were said to be trashy because they had blond hair and wore nail polish and tight clothes. I thought they were beautiful.”...

For all the musical legends we’ve lost in the past few years, it’s heartening to see this show pony get her victory lap while she’s still around to bask in the glory. Not that she’s planning on going anywhere. Whenever she’s asked how she’d like to be remembered 100 years from now, Parton trots out one of her best Dollyisms: “I want ’em to say, ‘God, don’t she look good for her age!’”..

[In the WNYC podcast series "Dolly Parton's America,"] Abumrad narrates from his position as a relative outsider to what he calls the Dollyverse, presenting “Dolly Parton’s America” with the aesthetic language of the modern podcast: snippets of interviews, tonally appropriate background music, and the inviting, conversational voice of a man guiding you through his thought process as he travels down various rabbit holes of his own curiosity. Parton granted Abumrad quite a few sit-down interviews, and although seasoned Parton fans will find little of what she tells him to be new information, “Dolly Parton’s America” is a genial, compulsively listenable crash course in Parton’s lasting appeal...
And that will serve as a segue to my earnest suggestion that those wishing to understand Dolly Parton should listed to these podcastsThe full 8-part series of podcasts is here [transcripts are also available for those who want to skim quickly].  In the "Dixie Disappearance" she explains why she modified Dollywood's chief attraction - the "Dixie Stampede" after learning it offended people:
Well, there's several reasons that we changed the name or a few reasons. Maybe I should say a couple of reasons. One being that out of ignorance, people do things you don't know. A lot of my things that I do wrong, just out of pure ignorance really, because you grow up a certain way and you don't know. The Dixie, we always thought way down in the land of Dixie, it's like a Dixieland or Dixieland music, Dixie. You know, I just thought of Dixie as a part of the, part of America. And it was offensive cause like I say out of ignorance, you don't know that you're hurting people, never thought about it being, about slavery or any of that. But when it was brought to our attention, and some woman wrote about it and I thought, well Lord have mercy, I would never want to hurt anybody for any reason. And being a business woman, we didn't really have that many people say anything about it.

But I thought, Lord, if I've offended one person as a business woman, I don't want to do that. So we completely cleared all that out and started over that. But we, I just wanted to fix it cause I don't want to ever hurt or offend anyone. And so I did it as a good faith effort to show that it was never meant to cause anyone any pain.
Back in 2019 after listening to Radiolab's introduction to "Dolly Parton's America," I posted a summary of the podcast, including this: 
JAD: Like, she tore right through all of that noise. Through the general election and beyond. And I kept bumping into people who would describe the experience of being at a Dolly show as, like, standing in an alternate vision of America than what was unfolding on the TV.

JESSIE WILKERSON: I remember just standing out in the lobby and just people watching, because it was the most diverse place I’ve ever been. I was seeing a multi-racial audience. People wearing cowboy hats and boots. I was seeing people in drag. Church ladies. Lesbians holding hands. Little girls who were there with their families.

WAYNE BLEDSOE: You had a whole audience of people who absolutely their philosophies were in opposition to each other co-mingling, and everybody is polite to each other.

JAD: So that was one thing that caught my attention. That in this very divided moment, Dolly seems to maybe be a kind of unifier. And after doing a little poking around, the data does kind of bear this out. If you look at her global Q Score, this is a measure of how well people think about your brand, globally. What they do is they assemble a very diverse sample of people, they ask them a bunch of questions, and out of all of these different brands that are out there, all these different performers, she is in the top 10 globally in terms of everybody's favorites. But she's almost number one when it comes to lack of negatives, if that makes any sense.
That's what the United States needs right now

O.K.  That's the end of the multi-course dog's breakfast of my archived Dolly Parton links.  Now back to the "presidential nomination" part of this megapost.

First, I would like comments from international readers re what your reaction would be were the United States to nominate or elect Dolly Parton as U.S. president, and how she would play out on the world stage.  Björk had this to say back in 2003:
“Oh, Dolly’s big in Iceland,” says Björk. “Her voice is immaculate, really powerful. Her character is so warm and human, and she has a great sense of humor.” To Björk, Parton transcends her musical genre. “All my friends love Dolly, and most of them are people who would never listen to country music,” she says. 
But that's one talented musician talking about another one for a music-centered Rolling Stone magazine.  How would "regular people," diplomats, and other world leaders react?  Personally I can envision her attending a major international conference in the Hague, walking up to an obscure foreign minister to say "Hi - I'm Dolly," and him responding "Yes, I know.  My people back in Eastern Rumelia just love you."  "I'm so pleased to hear that.  Let's talk about this climate mess."

Second, we need to ponder a vice-presidential running mate.  Many years ago when Donald Trump was running for president, I thought the Democrats should counter with Tom Hanks, but at their convention they disastrously chose Hilary Clinton.  Now I would suspect that Tom Hanks would be too "woke" for this centrist new party.  Readers may have some reasonable suggestions, but in the end likely Dolly could come up with her own pick.  And what to call the party? (again, she can decide.  She built a multimillion-dollar business from scratch; she's good at this stuff).

The biggest problem is not getting her elected, but getting her to accept the nomination.  It would probably only take three degrees of separation for someone reading this post to ask someone they know to ask someone who knows Dolly personally to tell her that she needs to offer herself as a presidential candidate.  She will of course immediately decline.

I have no doubt that the idea of being president has been suggested to her many times in interviews.  The difference would be that this would be a serious appeal, not clickbait for a media video or post.  It needs to be emphasized to her that she needs to do this for the good of her country.  Dolly Parton probably has more true patriotism than all the congressmen combined, and she might well make sacrifices for that goal.  But her reply would probably also be a serious declining of the offer, because I believe her husband is probably in failing health.

Dolly has said that she would continue her music until her death and the only thing that would take her away from that would be if she is needed at home.  She has recently announced that she will no longer be touring - just doing occasional appearances, because she wants to spend more time at home with her husband.

The response to that would be an acknowledgement of her situation and the counteroffer that she can stay at home for the process.  She won't need to do any campaigning.  Just a simple 30 second video inserted during the upcoming Trump-DeSantis flame wars and during the Democratic staged "debates" in which she says "Hi - I'm Dolly, and I am also running for president.  Please write my name in on the primary ballots.  Thank y'all so much" would be sufficient to confirm her viability. 

And as president, she could also spend her time at home (except for those international conferences), Zooming with her cabinet.  This is the way business is done in the modern world.  What else does a president do in real life?  They go to tornado/hurricane/flood sites to hug victims and then get back in their motorcades of black SUVs back to their helicopters.  She could do that much much better.  And do it sincerely.

What can we do in the meantime?  Discuss this with friends and family as a serious matter, and start writing her name in on every online poll.  I've not been able to find her included in any FiveThirtyEight surveys, except for this casual aside: "these days it’s difficult to get 58 percent of Americans to agree on anything except perhaps distaste for airline travel and love of Dolly Parton."  Somebody over there please take notice.

I will offer this for her campaign song/theme video:

TLDR:  An intelligent, hard-working, compassionate businesswoman who puts people above politics is the best available representative for the United States at home and on the world stage.

Photo embedded at the top from the Associated Press, via a Los Angeles Times article on Dolly's receiving of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy.

Addendum:  A Bloomberg article about Dolly Parton's business management techniques.

If you are offended by a library book...

24 May 2023

Two geography quiz questions

I missed two on my first read of the cartoon.  Answers are in the reader comments at the GoComics source.

Part two:  
Name the world capital closest to "Null Island" (0 degrees north, 0 degrees east) (five letters).
The number of letters is specified, because I encountered this while working the most recent Sunday NYT crossword puzzle.  Since I was on the clock, trying to finish in 20 minutes, I didn't take time to reason it out and wound up having to back into the answer via crossing clues.

More on Null Island.  You learn something every day.

19 May 2023

Word for the day: sealioning

I encountered the term for the first time today in a post at Explain Like I'm Five.  Here are some comments from that thread:
It's a false pretense of an honest debate, it's very common in social media and basically a sub-set of trolling.  Basically the troll constantly peppers the victim with seemingly sincere requests for further discussion, further evidence, further reasoning without any desire to actually engage in a good-faith conversation. They're just trying to pester and annoy the victim to the point of frustration. If at any point the victim seeks to leave the cycle of debate the troll will declare victory, they they are actually the genuine "thinker" and that the victim was the troll or fool or wrong.

Wow, I had no idea this has a name. It's a pattern I learned to recognize after years on politics Twitter, and it made me trigger-happy to flee a conversation at the slightest whiff.  I have no way to prove it, but it feels like a lot of people who do this don't fully realize what they're doing - they've just stumbled upon the technique and realized it allowed them to "win" just about any debate through sheer hardheaded endurance. It's essentially just a variant of gaslighting.

It's also very successful as a performance, which is why you see it so much on Twitter or other discussions that feel more "public facing" than a comment buried 9 tiers deep in a Reddit threat. Not only do you "win," but people who are watching walk away thinking the other guy was a liar because he couldn't answer your questions.  That's a big part of why the alt-right loves it in particular, because almost all alt-right debates are intended to be performative. They want to change the minds of the people who are watching - they already know they probably can't change the mind of the person who is informed enough to know better.

Another term people use is JAQing off. "Just Asking Questions"
The cartoon embedded above is said to be the original source for the "sealion" reference.

Addendum:  a tip of the blogging cap to reader Bicycle Rider for locating Welcome to Advanced Trolling: Sealioning.

After the weekend, TYWKIWDBI will endorse a presidential candidate

It distresses me to no end to see that the news cycle is already going full-blast on the next presidential election cycle.  Everything I have read suggests that Americans are widely divided, and that even the major parties are unable to field candidates that appeal to the majority of voters in their own party - much less appeal across the blue-red divide.

After much thought I have decided that there is only one person who can bridge the gap that divides voters in this country.  I'll post their name after the weekend; you are welcome to speculate or offer your own choices in the Comments.

Jacqueline du Pré rocks the cello

Embedded above is her performance of Antonín Dvořák's Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104, B. 191
A recently re-discovered recording of a concert held in tribute to the people of Czechoslovakia days after the Soviet Union invaded. Filmed live at the Royal Albert Hall in September 1968.

1. Allegro 0:00 
2. Adagio, ma non troppo 16:10 
3. Finale 29:01
Below is a tribute to her, assembled in 2017, 30 years after her tragic death (follow the link to YouTube).

While writing this post I decided I need to rewatch Hilary and Jackie, so I've requested the DVD from the library.

Excerpts from Mahler's Symphony No. 2 in C Minor

I don't believe I've ever posted any symphonic music by Mahler on the blog before.  It's time to correct that.  His "Resurrection Symphony" came to my attention during my collegiate years in the 1960s, and I was so smitten by the music that when my aunt and uncle got married, my gift to them was a boxed set of LPs of this symphony.  It is still among my all-time favorites.

Embedded at the top is the Allegro movement that opens this symphony, and here below is the end of the fifth movement that brings the piece to its triumphant close.

The nine intervening parts are also available online; just follow the YouTube link. Or just start the part 1 and let it autoplay through the subsequent parts.

Little-known animal facts

Nothing really new, but entertaingly presented.  Via Neatorama.

Cartoons about books

Three selections from The Ultimate Cartoon Book of Book Cartoons by the World's Greatest Cartoonists (Princeton Architectural Press, NY, 2019).  I was glad to find a Booth among the selections.

13 May 2023

A quintessentially American Mother's-Day photo

The baby's "cranial helmet" is explained in the source nocontextpics subreddit post.  And I agree this photo could be filed in the AccidentalRenaissance category.  A tip of the blogging cap to reader Bicycle Rider for finding the relevant story.

Addendum:  reader Drabkikker's modification of the photo:

Happy Mother's Day to all.

Say goodbye to AM radio

Excerpts from a longread at The Washington Post:
Automakers, such as BMW, Volkswagen, Mazda and Tesla, are removing AM radios from new electric vehicles because electric engines can interfere with the sound of AM stations. And Ford, one of the nation’s top-three auto sellers, is taking a bigger step, eliminating AM from all of its vehicles, electric or gas-operated.

Some station owners and advertisers contend that losing access to the car dashboard will indeed be a death blow to many of the nation’s 4,185 AM stations — the possible demise of a core element of the nation’s delivery system for news, political talk (especially on the right), coverage of weather emergencies and foreign language programming.

“This is a tone-deaf display of complete ignorance about what AM radio means to Americans,” said Michael Harrison, publisher of Talkers, a trade journal covering the talk radio industry. “It’s not the end of the world for radio, but it is the loss of an iconic piece of American culture.”..

Now, although 82 million Americans still listen to AM stations each month, according to the National Association of Broadcasters, the AM audience has been aging for decades. Ford says its data, pulled from internet-connected vehicles, shows that less than 5 percent of in-car listening is to AM stations..

Some Democrats are fighting to save stations that often are the only live source of local information during extreme weather, as well as outlets that target immigrant audiences. Some Republicans, meanwhile, claim the elimination of AM radio is aimed at diminishing the reach of conservative talk radio, an AM mainstay from Sean Hannity to Glenn Beck to dozens of acolytes of the late Rush Limbaugh. Eight of the country’s 10 most popular radio talk shows are conservative...

“The automobile is essential to liberty,” right-wing talk show host Mark Levin told his listeners last month. “It’s freedom. So the control of the automobile is about the control of your freedom. They finally figured out how to attack conservative talk radio.”

Related: The top 40 songs of January 25, 1964

The top 40 songs of January 25, 1964

There's something very interesting about the "top 40" list above.  It's from a popular St. Paul/Minneapolis AM radio station in January of 1964, and it's loaded with what are now considered "golden oldies."  But this particular list brings back a flood of memories because of one entry.  

YMMV, but for me the salient entry is song #26 ("I Want To Hold Your Hand"  The Beatles - Capitol.  Debut.)  I remember standing in my high school's parking lot one afternoon that week, with my hair frozen*.  A classmate I was riding home with described a new song and my response was "Beetles?  Like insects?"

That's when it all started for me.  For many of my generation the memory of when we first heard The Beatles is as strong as when we heard of JFK's assassination.

I wonder how long it was before the Beatles fell off that top 40 chart.  Many years, I should think.

* (we had basketball practice as the last activity of the day, and after you showered and stepped outdoors your hair would at least frost up and sometimes totally freeze if you hadn't towelled it dry enough)

Reposted from 2013 (!!) to accompany the post about the impending death of AM radio.

Genuine Picasso plates found in thrift store

Cavaliere moved to New York City from Italy when she was just eight years old, and after getting married in 2014, she started to get into thrifting, mostly to furnish her apartment.

Picking up tableware, furnishings and trinkets, the 36-year-old hit the jackpot one day when she stumbled on a set of $6 plates... 

Picasso designed 633 different ceramic editions between 1947 and 1971—from simple utilitarian objects like plates and bowls to complex pitchers and vases...

The thrifter watched as the auctions climbed, and her ceramic discovery started selling for $12,000, $13,000, and even $16,000 [each]...

This isn't her only lucrative find, either. A while after the plates, she stumbled on an Alexander McQueen jumpsuit from his second ever collection. Picking it up for $20, it was sold for an amazing $8,500.
I donate to Goodwill, and enjoy shopping there occasionally.

"The Woman with the Handbag"

Statue created to memorialize this incident in Sweden in 1985:

The backstory is here.  Images cropped for size from the ones posted here.


Watch the video (runtime less than two minutes) before reading further.

Last fall an article in The Guardian offered these observations:
Sinclair Media Group is the owner of the largest number of TV stations in America. “Sinclair’s probably the most dangerous company most people have never heard of,” said Michael Copps, the George W Bush-appointed former chairman of Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the top US broadcast regulator...

The New York Times refers to the group as a “conservative giant” that, since the Bush presidency, has used its 173 television stations “to advance a mostly right-leaning agenda”. The Washington Post describes it as a “company with a long history of favoring conservative causes and candidates on its stations’ newscasts”...

Another cause for concern, and increased scrutiny, is what’s seen as the company’s pronounced political agenda. Sinclair forces its local stations to run pro-Trump “news” segments. In April, they hired Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump campaign spokesman and member of the White House press office, as its chief political analyst. His “must-run” 10-minute political commentary segments unsurprisingly hewed closely to the Trump administration’s message. The news and analysis website Slate, referring to Epshteyn’s contributions, said: “As far as propaganda goes, this is pure, industrial-strength stuff.”..

The focus of the concern is Ajit Pai, the man Trump appointed as head of the country’s top broadcasting regulator, the FCC. Since he began work in January, Pai has been busy relaxing the protections for local broadcasting that had previously limited Sinclair’s expansion. Trump’s new-look FCC has moved swiftly to clear the hurdles for Sinclair’s proposed takeover of Tribune... In addition to changes paving the way for Sinclair’s merger, Pai’s FCC has proposed eliminating one of its most fundamental rules, which requires local news stations to actually have a local studio where they broadcast the news.
Way more at the link.   Does Sinclair own a station in your broadcast area?  Almost certainly.  Wikipedia has a list of the stations owned or operated by the Sinclair Broadcast Group.

I have to commend whoever composed the video.  It is an absolute masterwork - and quite chilling.

For those interested in pursuing this more deeply, Judy Woodruff presented a segment on the PBS Newhour discussing the impact of Sinclair's extensive ownership of local television channels.

Reposted from 2018 because it still has relevance.


"An aerial view on May 11, 2023, of residential buildings razed to the ground by fighting in Maryinka, an eastern Ukrainian city in the Donetsk region, where heavy battles with Russian troops have been taking place."
The obliteration of the buildings is apparent, and reminiscent of the effects of a tornado.  But zoom in and look at the cratering of the greenspaces to appreciate the extent of the hellfire that must have rained down on this community.

Imran Khan explained

Should I eat it? Or use it for bait?

Malloreddus pasta, with sausage meat and a tasty sauce.  Hat tip to ccl.

The image instantly brought back memories of my childhood 70 years ago, walking through the woods in northern Minnesota with my mom, looking for old deadfall tree trunks and stumps.  We would harvest the pine knots to add fragrance to the cabin fireplace fire, and put any grubs from the rotten wood into a jar to be used that evening as bait for walleye fishing.

"The rich are different from you and me"

As reported by Bloomberg:
Airlines are reinvigorating first class as deep-pocketed customers embrace travel again, taking luxury to new heights up in the sky. 

First-class cabins are increasingly resembling mini hotel rooms, with sofas, double beds, televisions, desks, wardrobes, minibars and in some cases, walk-in showers. The more creative, the better. You can even book a chef...

Even with first class fares going for more than 10 times as much as standard economy seats, demand is there - either for bookings with cash or the rare opportunity to use up miles accumulated on credit cards during the pandemic...

A return Sydney-Los Angeles flight in Qantas first class costs almost $18,000, while Frankfurt-Tokyo on Lufthansa is about $15,000. That’s still significantly less that what some ultra-wealthy travelers fork out for private jets, a segment that experienced a boost during the pandemic as people looked to avoid crowds and virus-related restrictions...

Individual cabins currently feature armchairs and a 212-centimeter (83 inches) flat bed with memory foam mattress, as well as cotton throws, a duvet and pillow menu. 
Details and pix at the link.

12 May 2023

Eurovision compilation

Useful tip:  tapping the right arrow button on your keyboard fast-forwards content by 5 seconds.

09 May 2023

Rapeseed farm, Switzerland

Photo credit: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images, via the "Best Photographs of the Day" at The Guardian.
Rapeseed (Brassica napus subsp. napus), also known as rape, or oilseed rape, is a bright-yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage family), cultivated mainly for its oil-rich seed, which naturally contains appreciable amounts of erucic acid. The term canola denotes a group of rapeseed cultivars that were bred to have very low levels of erucic acid and which are especially prized for use as human and animal food. Rapeseed is the third-largest source of vegetable oil and the second-largest source of protein meal in the world.
And the question you were wondering about:
The term "rape" derives from the Latin word for turnip, rāpa or rāpum, cognate with the Greek word ῥάφη, rhaphe.

The rain in Spain isn't falling on the plain

As reported by Politico:
It’s barely spring, and Europe is running dry. 

A key reservoir serving millions of Catalans is dwindling away. A conflict over water triggered clashes in France, where several villages can no longer provide their residents with tap water. And Italy’s largest river is already running as low as last June. 

More than a quarter of the Continent is in drought as of April, and many countries are bracing for a repeat — or worse — of last year’s bone-dry summer

A study using satellite data confirmed earlier this year that Europe has been suffering from severe drought since 2018. Rising temperatures are making it difficult to recover from this deficit, leaving the Continent stuck in a dangerous cycle where water becomes ever more precarious. ..

France, where no rain fell for more than 30 consecutive days in January and February, experienced its driest winter in 60 years

Italy’s CIMA research foundation found a 64 percent reduction in snowfall by mid-April. The River Po runs as low as it did last summer; Lake Garda is already at less than half its average level...

For Europe to break out of the vicious cycle of starting each year with a major groundwater deficit, “we would need almost a decade of precipitation-heavy years,” Hattermann warned...
More gloomy details at the link, including the political infighting implications.  A Bloomberg article discusses some of the financial aspects:
In mid-April, the Coordinator of Farmers’ and Ranchers’ Organizations (COAG), Spain’s main agricultural association, released a report warning that the dry period is causing “irreversible losses” to more than 3.5 million hectares of crops. The report makes for apocalyptic reading: Water reserves are extremely low and crops in some regions will be completely lost unless it starts raining. In Murcia, sometimes described as the “vegetable garden of Europe,” the drought is destroying cereal crops and livestock has been abandoned. Farmers in Andalucia have decided to stop planting industrial tomatoes and other vegetables, with winter crops such as garlic and onions at risk. That is all of grave concern: Spain produced about 25% of the European Union’s fresh vegetables in 2021.
We’re already feeling the consequences of heatflation. Spain grows 63% of the olives that wind up in cooking oil in the EU. Consumer prices have already surged by 27% over the last year. With olive trees suffering from prolonged heat stress, there’s a strong possibility that supplies will be hit even harder this year. Prices aren’t coming down any time soon.
I would welcome first-person comments from European readers of this blog.


"A view shows the dry bed of the Llosas del Cavall reservoir, as the water supply has dropped to its lowest level since 1990, because of extreme drought, in the village of Sant Llorenc de Morunys, Spain, on May 5, 2023."

Billions in reparations proposed for black Californians

 As reported by NPR:
California's reparations task force voted Saturday to approve recommendations on how the state may compensate and apologize to Black residents for generations of harm caused by discriminatory policies...

After California entered the union in 1850 as a "free" state, it did not enact any laws to guarantee freedom for all, the draft recommendation notes. On the contrary, the state Supreme Court enforced the federal Fugitive Slave Act, which allowed for the capture and return of runaway enslaved people, for over a decade until emancipation.

"By participating in these horrors, California further perpetuated the harms African Americans faced, imbuing racial prejudice throughout society through segregation, public and private discrimination, and unequal disbursal of state and federal funding," the document says.

California has previously apologized for placing Japanese Americans in internment camps during World War II and for violence against and mistreatment of Native Americans.

The panel also approved a section of the draft report saying reparations should include "cash or its equivalent" for eligible residents.

Some estimates from economists have projected that the state could owe upwards of $800 billion, or more than 2.5 times its annual budget, in reparations to Black people.

The figure in the latest draft report released by the task force is far lower. The group has not responded to email and phone requests for comment on the reduction.
I have never understood how the concept of financial reparations can logically be justified for African-Americans but not for native Americans.  I suppose a lawyer could argue that the displacement and genocide of native Americans occurred before the "state" of California legally existed, but IMHO that's bullshit.


Image cropped for size from the original at the interestingasfuck subreddit, where all of your comments have already been voiced in the discussion thread there.

Trailer for the upcoming Oppenheimer movie

World-class director and a star-studded cast.  Should be quite a movie.

05 May 2023

A modern Pietà

1941.  A mother wearing a civilian respirator cradles her newborn while pumping the bellows to ventilate the baby gas helmet.  Photo from the archives of the Imperial War Museum, via Wikimedia.

Coping with massive food waste

Telling the broccoli story, even now, makes Usha Thakrar burn. It was nearly dark, she recalls, when a 53-foot tractor trailer packed with the fresh produce rolled into Stonefield Farm, headquarters of the Boston Area Gleaners, in exurban Acton. As executive director of the food rescue organization, Thakrar, M.P.P. ’95, understands waste. But in this case, the 2,500 pounds of “beautiful produce” had been rejected by a wholesale buyer that morning last fall simply because “one pallet had fallen over and a couple of cases were crushed,” she says. “And the driver was told by his supervisor to just dump it all somewhere.”

Instead of heading to the nearest landfill, the driver called the Gleaners. Staff poised to head home for the night instead pitched in to unload, and in the next few days got the broccoli to 13 Greater Boston food pantries, and on to hungry people...

These “kick loads,” as declined deliveries of produce are called, occur daily. The Gleaners and other local hunger-relief groups, like Lovin’ Spoonfuls and Daily Table, do what they can, but the surplus is overwhelming. “Because it takes infrastructure,” says Thakrar. “You have to take a tractor trailer whenever it shows up, have people to unpack as quickly as possible, and put all that food someplace cold—because very quickly you’re swimming in broccoli.” Untold tons of food—from perishable produce, baked goods, and prepared meals to expired canned, jarred, and frozen items—get tossed every day. U.S. Department of Agriculture data show that upwards of 30 percent of the food supply is wasted—even as 34 million people, according to Feeding America, face hunger. In Massachusetts alone, Project Bread surveys say, 16-18 percent of households experience food insecurity...

Gleaning is an ancient practice, referenced in the Bible: “And when ye reap the harvest of your land, thou shalt not make clean riddance of the corners of thy field when thou reapest, neither shalt thou gather any gleaning of thy harvest: thou shalt leave them unto the poor, and to the stranger.” (Leviticus 23:22) At various times around the world, gleaning has also been exercised as a legal right. The Gleaners’ work depends on an army of some 600 volunteers who cull produce from fields and orchards from July through the first frost, with later-season gatherings of apples and root vegetables. Thakrar and colleagues have continued streamlining logistics, given the idiosyncratic nature of agricultural operations. A grower in Western Massachusetts with 70,000 pounds of extra carrots calls on a Tuesday and needs it gone by Friday so he can plow the fields for the next crop, she says. Another farm has 44,000 ears of fresh-picked corn it can’t store. The nonprofit mobilizes to harvest and fetch these kinds of loads, holding the food less than 24 hours. In season, the Gleaners get 20 such calls a week, and last August and September took in about 200,000 pounds of produce, with a banner pick in October of 16,000 pounds of squash in a day.
The story continues at Harvard Magazine.  And here's a shout-out for Project Bread.

I love drone videos

(I recommend clicking the fullscreen icon in the lower right corner)

No help needed, thank you

Via the Miss Cellania humor blog.

Diabolo world champion

The diabolo (/diːˈæbəloʊ/ dee-AB-ə-loh; commonly misspelled diablo) is a juggling or circus prop consisting of an axle (British English: bobbin) and two cups (hourglass/egg timer shaped) or discs derived from the Chinese yo-yo. This object is spun using a string attached to two hand sticks ("batons" or "wands"). A large variety of tricks are possible with the diabolo, including tosses, and various types of interaction with the sticks, string, and various parts of the user's body. Multiple diabolos can be spun on a single string.

Like the Western yo-yo (which has an independent origin), it maintains its spinning motion through a rotating effect based on conservation of angular momentum.

"God save us all"

A Canadian offers a bemused view of the upcoming coronation from the standpoint of a colonial:
In a time of post-post-colonialism, of anti-racist iconoclasm, a time in which the very notion of gender as a legitimate distinction is contested, and Christianity has been reduced to a scandal management system with costumes, a 74-year-old British gentleman will ride a fancy carriage to an old church where a few other elderly British gentlemen in gilded dresses will declare him emperor, patriarch and head of state because God says so.

You might think you live in a time of truth and reconciliation, or perhaps even, if you’re feeling optimistic, progress. But this week if you’re British or a member of the 56 sovereign states that still, somehow, find themselves in the Commonwealth, you’re waking up in a country where a priest is going to smear oil – vegan oil from Jerusalem – on a rather pinkish, rather broad forehead to signify one man’s status as the Lord’s anointed...

This week, on his fancy carriage ride, Charles will be surrounded by many preposterous objects. He’ll be holding the world’s largest diamond on the end of a stick. He’ll be wearing a hat with a ruby that Henry V wore into battle. He’ll be sitting on a chair over the Stone of Destiny, a stone English kings stole from the Scots over 700 years ago...

As someone who has spent several weeks for the purpose of this piece looking at everything you can put Charles’s face on – tea towels, biscuit tins, trays, Christmas tree ornaments, mugs – I have learned that his face steers naturally towards caricature. It takes real skill and care not to make him look like a cartoon, even in photographs...

See, I knew what the Queen’s face meant, what it stood for. There she was, my whole life, looming in the darkened hockey rinks on the Canadian prairies, waving from the tops of airplane staircases, or smiling somewhere in the Caribbean like a tourist on the most exclusive package tour available.

The Queen was why I, a Canadian, had to learn which fork went with which course. What if I were invited to dine at Buckingham Palace and embarrassed myself by using the fish fork instead of the venison spoon? What would she think of my parents?..

My Canadian mother grew up in Lower Coverdale, New Brunswick, and that year, my grandmother drove her the seven miles to nearby Moncton to see the film of Elizabeth’s coronation. It was the only film she saw her entire childhood, the only film she saw before going to university. That’s how much the royal family mattered.

There were reasons for that significance. My original Canadian ancestors were press-ganged into the Royal Navy out of Wales for the war of 1812, and a little over a hundred years later, my great uncle Driver Leaman died in France fighting for the British empire. He received a letter on Buckingham Palace stationery – I have it framed on my wall – signed by “Mary R and the Women of the Empire”.

When Driver died, a local newspaper reported a letter he wrote to his mother: “After he was discharged from the hospital in July 1915 he was considered unfit for service and could have come home. But he wrote her and told her that his place was there. HE SAID HE WAS NOT ONLY FIGHTING FOR HIS KING AND COUNTRY, BUT FOR HIS HOME AND MOTHER.” That’s who I come from: cannon fodder for the British empire, a lot of men who died for a lot of British kings...

“Canada is the only country in the world that knows how to live without an identity,” Marshall McLuhan said in 1963. We have returned to that condition. The Canadian government plans to bring in a million immigrants next year. “You guys want to be here. We must be worth something,” that policy says. “Maybe you can tell us what we’re all doing here.”

Every time a Canadian sees Charles on the currency, they’ll know: our country makes no sense, and we have no plan to change it. Canada is a colony in search of a metropolis. We have become a colony of the absurd. There could be no more appropriate head of state to represent that absurdity than Charles...

Charles’s face means being stuck between traditional iconography and celebrity culture. It means living with a past that, while fraught with violence and idiocy, nonetheless upheld values that some cannot bring themselves to abandon and a future that, while much freer and more sensible, can also be cruel and vacuous.

I fear the reason we don’t like Charles, the reason we don’t want to celebrate him, is that he represents ourselves at this moment in history all too well. He is our king; that’s the most absurd fact of all. The face that represents us does represent us. His absurdity is ours.
I really shouldn't excerpt so much, but there's lots more at The Guardian.
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