October 22nd, 2016

The joys of makeup

Some people are wondering why on earth I seem so taken with makeovers. What’s the big deal?

Besides the obvious desire to get away from the gloom of the election and escape into something seemingly frivolous and entertaining, that is.

For example, “parker” asks:

…I don’t get the ‘makeover’ thing. What is wrong with looking like you are? Gravity and age are reality. Mrs parker is 68, she looks her age and remains lovely to me. Am I missing something?

Short answer: yes.

Less short answer: no, and in fact you are a very fortunate man, and your wife a very fortunate woman. The rest of the human race could learn from you—but alas, it probably won’t.

The even longer answer follows.

There is nothing wrong with looking like you are. But there is also nothing wrong with looking like you are but a little better. Or a lot better. Human beings seem to want to do that, and if you study anthropology you’ll notice that one of humanity’s near universals seems to be the desire to adorn oneself, and it’s not just limited to women.

Tattoos and nose rings aren’t just for youngish hipsters in Seattle; they’re ancient and widespread, and even odder things have existed like foot-binding, lip plates, and neck rings:

The custom of wearing neck rings is related to an ideal of beauty: an elongated neck. Neck rings push the collarbone and ribs down. The neck stretching is mostly illusory: the weight of the rings twists the collarbone and eventually the upper ribs at an angle 45 degrees lower than what is natural, causing the illusion of an elongated neck. The vertebrae do not elongate, though the space between them may increase as the intervertebral discs absorb liquid.

Many years ago I wrote a post on a fascinating book called The Unfashionable Human Body:

[The book] describes the lengths to which people have gone throughout history to overcome their essential boredom with the unadorned human form. Clothes are part of this effort, although of course they have many practical considerations as well. Jewelry likewise, minus the practical. But, especially in areas where clothing as we know it is more or less optional, the body itself became the plastic clay to be molded by humankind’s driving need to not leave well enough alone.

A lot of people around the world seem to agree with Shakespeare’s King Lear that, without extra adornment, man is just “a poor bare, forked animal.”

Makeup is a tame, reversible, easily-undone intervention that gives you an awful lot of bang for your buck, since the face is usually a big focus of human attention. And hair has to be combed and cut or it will grow into a wild and crazy nest, so why not develop hair-cutting to a fine art?

I’ve always been fascinated by makeovers because they are transformative, both in body and psyche. Right around puberty, I spent lots of time in my parents’ bathroom teaching myself the art of makeup (my mother was no particular help; she slapped on some basic cosmetics like rouge and lipstick and called it a day). By the time I was fifteen or sixteen, I used to cut the hair of some of my friends, and also would do their makeup for special occasions if they wanted. I had a very modest business performing those services to friends in my dorm in college, and I was surprised how many college-age girls really knew next to nothing about makeup.

And although makeup products have proliferated wildly since them, there still are a lot of women, young and old, who would like to learn but don’t know where to start. But although the young tend to look fairly good even without it, for most of us who are more “mature” (and without a parker to consider us still every bit as lovely as ever), carefully applied makeup is a big assist in preparing a face to meet the faces that we meet:

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

…and putting on their lipstick.


October 22nd, 2016

Bush v. Gore

During the discussion here and elsewhere about Trump’s debate remarks in which he refused to pledge to accept the election results, various people brought up the case of the 2000 election and Gore’s concession and then un-concession. They seemed to consider that to be some sort of analogy. I needed to refresh my memory on the details, and it’s pretty clear to me that a lot of people are in need of a little refreshment, too.

So I suggest you read that link I just gave you. The situation was complex, of course, and probably far more complex than you remember. It was actually a perfect storm of strange and unlikely events, although I suppose Murphy’s Law was operating rather heavily.

As I said, I suggest you read up. But here’s an excerpt that barely scratches the surface, to get you started:

The controversy began on election night, when the national television networks, using information provided to them by the Voter News Service, an organization formed by the Associated Press to help determine the outcome of the election through early result tallies and exit polling, first called Florida for Gore in the hour after polls closed in the eastern peninsula (which is in the Eastern time zone) but before they had closed in the heavily Republican counties of the western panhandle (which is in the Central time zone). Once the polls had closed in the panhandle, the networks reversed their call, giving it to Bush; then they retracted that call as well, finally indicating the state was “too close to call”.

So Gore wasn’t just being a sore loser when he rescinded the concession he had given to Bush privately in an earlier phone call based on the error the news outlets had made. In fact, the vote was a virtual tie, so close and so iffy that an automatic recount mandated by Florida law was triggered. Recounts are mandated for a reason, and that reason is not capricious—once a vote is that close, it is really pretty much of a statistical tie and a recount could reverse it.

So, even if Gore hadn’t phoned Bush to undo his concession, the recount would have rescinded it for him, at least temporarily [emphasis mine]:

Bush won the election-night vote count in Florida by 1,784 votes. The small margin produced an automatic recount under Florida state law. Once it became clear that Florida would decide the presidential election, the nation’s attention focused on the recount…

…charges were raised that some irregularities favored Bush. Among these was the Palm Beach “butterfly ballot,” which some pundits claimed produced an “unexpectedly” large number of votes for third-party candidate Pat Buchanan…

…there was a purge from the Florida voting rolls of over 54,000 citizens identified as felons, of whom 54% were African-American, and that the majority of these were not felons and should have been eligible to vote under Florida law. (It was widely presumed that had they been able to express themselves at the polls, most would have chosen the Democratic candidate). Additionally, there were charges that there were many more “overvotes” than usual, especially in predominantly African-American precincts in Duval county (Jacksonville), where some 27,000 ballots showed two or more choices for President. Unlike the much-discussed Palm Beach County butterfly ballot, the Duval County ballot spread choices for President over two pages with instructions to “vote on every page” on the bottom of each page…

Due to the narrow margin of the original vote count, Florida Election Code 102.141 mandated a statewide machine recount. In addition, the Gore campaign requested that the votes in three counties be recounted by hand. Florida state law at the time allowed the candidate to request a manual recount by protesting the results of at least three precincts. The county canvassing board would then decide whether to recount as well as the method of the recount in those three precincts. If the board discovered an error, they were then authorized to recount the ballots.

Once the closeness of the election in Florida was clear, both the Bush and Gore campaigns organized themselves for the ensuing legal process.

So, to recap: it was that mandated, automatic, legal process that ended up triggering the suit that decided the winner, via SCOTUS. It was not some renegade act of Gore’s, some petulance in not accepting an election because of Gore’s own idiosyncratic take on it.

[NOTE: Trump could easily have said in that debate that of course he will abide by all the legalities when reacting to the results of the election, and that would have covered it. In fact, he later did say something of the sort in a speech:

Of course, I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result,” Trump said. “And always, I will follow and abide by all of the rules and traditions of all of the many candidates who have come before me.

Trump said that after he was widely excoriated for his previous remarks during the debate, and after he had repeated the problem of the debate by saying (in that same speech; not in the debate) that he’d abide by the election results—if he wins. The corrective, sober, thoughtful paragraph of Trump’s that I quoted above was almost certainly not an ad-lib, and my guess is that it was written by others, although I cannot be sure.]

October 22nd, 2016

They told me to get over it, and I did

They told me to get over it. Trump is the nominee, suck it up, get with the program, shut up about it.

And so I finally did, sort of (all except those last two bits).

Not only that, but I’ve accepted that Trump will lose and Hillary will win. Actually, when I realized that Trump was the nearly-inevitable nominee—something I felt to be the case some time back in April—I also felt very strongly that Hillary would be our next president because of the weakness of his candidacy.

What does it mean to “accept” something? Not to like it, that’s for sure. It means to realize it’s going to happen, and that you can’t stop it. It means to not make excuses or rationalizations about it, or imagine that by some miracle they both will leave the race and some relatively sane and relatively decent human being (I’m not asking for much, am I?) will take their places. It means to try to understand the steps that got us here and hope there is some way to get out of this jam eventually. It means to not underestimate the forces you’re up against. It means being practical and realistic, and it means being resourceful and even (this may be hardest of all) wise.

I don’t see a whole lot of any of that on the right these days, and haven’t seen it for a long time. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist—it does—but not in enough numbers. There’s that Yeats poem again:

The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats was describing things he saw about a hundred years ago. But he could just as well have been writing now.

[NOTE: And yes, if I’m wrong in my predictions I certainly will admit it. Wrong is possible. I just don’t think I am, and that’s why I’ve gone out on such a limb with my predictions this time, something I don’t usually do except in private.]

October 21st, 2016

All Hail the Golden Russet

My latest apple discovery is something called the Golden Russet (“Harmony” type). I got a couple of them on a lark at a Whole Foods Market for about $2.50 or thereabouts a pound.

Truly truly great, this is the only apple I’ve found so far that rivals the Jazz. Not quite as supercrisp but plenty crisp enough, with another delicate yet strong, fragrant and complex flavor. It’s supposed to be an heirloom type of apple, according to Whole Foods.

It looks a bit—well, rusty. Or perhaps russetty. Absolutely (applelutely?) delish.

Here’s one of the two I bought. It’s not going to win any apple beauty prizes, although to me it has a special autumnal loveliness:


Here’s a review I found online. There’s not a lot of information out there about this apple, and I can’t recall ever seeing one in a store before:

THE apple for me. I’ve said it many times to growers and potential pickers, Golden Russet is the best kept secret in apple cultivation. The general population does not gravitate to it due to its non-red/green appearance, but from a beauty perspective, it certainly ranks up there. Very dense apple, weighty, similar in weight to a baseball. Soluble sugar contents rank as one of the highest at 21%. Can make a 10% ABV cider that borders on wine. Try mixing the juice of a few of these into an ordinary container of 1/2 gallon cider and be prepared to experience some of the richest cider you’ve ever tasted…

Fresh eating rating: 10/10 – King of Kings. I have yet to find an apple to meet or surpass this one. This includes the perennial Monticello winner, Ashmead’s Kernel. Its richness is merely a compliment to its perfect combination of flavors and texture. Best.

Culinary rating: 8/10 – Cooks very well, holds its shape, stays crunchy to add texture to pie filling. Will add natural sugar in place of processed sugars. Rich.

And from an apple aficionado in the comments there:

A lot of apples have initial flavor that drops off pretty fast. Golden seems to bloom in your mouth as you chew. The flavors are complex, but they seem to harmonize very well, like a symphony of flavor. After having several that drew all my attention while eating, found me chewing the pulp thoroughly to get every drop of flavor out but still wanting to finish one bite just so I could get to the next one, I realized that Golden Russet is no ordinary apple. I have two trees. One was attacked by wood rats and was set back (apparently the wood tastes good too!) and the other, though growing nicely and 10 feet tall, hasn’t produced more than 10 or so apples in the last couple years, which the birds have eaten all of. I’ve eat one half of an apple off my two trees, but it was really good! The trees are rangy, straggly, unproductive things that no one seems to know how to prune. Clearly the only reason it survived this far is the outstanding fruit quality. My main criteria for quality is apples now is how compelling they are. Golden Russet is extremely compelling and was really important in inspiring me to pursue the “apple trail” as Albert Etter put it. Sometimes I want an apple that I can just eat while paying attention to something else. A little sugar, some nice flavor, but I could forget I’m eating it and keep typing or talking or whatever. Golden Russet is not that apple. It demands attention. Very rich indeed.

It certainly got my attention.

[NOTE: At Wiki.]

October 21st, 2016

There was…

an internet attack today.

More here:

“Someone is extensively testing the core defensive capabilities of the companies that provide critical Internet services,” Schneier added.

It Ain’t Me, Babe.

[ADDENDUM: As a result of that attack, my blog was just down for about an hour and a half. Now it’s back, I hope for good, but the attacks have been episodic and they may continue. I always find all of this anxiety-provoking.]

October 21st, 2016

On polling for Election 2016

It is absolutely the case that individuals polls are often wrong.

But poll averages—while sometimes wrong—are more seldom wrong in terms of the general trend for candidates, win or lose. And the poll averages over time are almost never wrong.

Trump has been losing to Hillary in the average of polls over a long time; for about a year now. It is pretty safe to predict a loss for him for that reason. But of course such a prediction is never completely safe, and although I make such a prediction I definitely have acknowledged that fact and continue to acknowledge it.

Brexit polls are often cited as being a good analogy for those who would like to discount the current polls on Trump, and say that a Trump win is a very decent possibility. And it is understandable why people would make that analogy, because the pro-EU forces were ahead in the poll averages for a long time, and yet the anti-EU forces ended up winning in a squeaker, and it’s easy to believe that the anti-EU forces are roughly analogous in their makeup and orientation to the pro-Trump forces here (I happen to agree with that latter characterization).

However, if you look more closely at the Brexit polls, they had become much closer in the final few weeks before the referendum took place (for a while, the Brexit forces were even ahead). These later polls were such that the prediction went like this (I can’t seem to reproduce the chart, so if you want to take a look at it, follow the link and scroll down just a bit to “Brexit Poll Tracker”):

The chart below aggregates all public surveys and attempts to address their shortcomings, with greater emphasis given to pollsters who were more accurate in the past. Where they all agree: It’s too close to call, with the still-undecided voters likely to determine whether Britain will leave or remain.

That’s not what the aggregate is saying about Trump. Here’s a chart for the poll averages for Trump over time, and if you compare it to that Brexit data, the late trend looks very different:

There are two and a half weeks left, and unless something changes in those two weeks, I feel fairly confident making my prediction of a Trump loss, and not a close one.

[NOTE: You can take a look at more Brexit polling data here.

The Trump average trend is also bad in the state data, but I haven’t included that here because it would constitute a book.]

[ADDENDUM: See also point #3 here.

One more thing, neither scientific or mathematical. It is my gut feeling, and has been right along, that Trump will lose. My track record is good on this, because I was also one of the few people who did not predict a Romney win in 2012. Not only that, but those who know me personally can attest that I was virtually certain Romney would lose, and became extremely distraught about it in the weeks prior to the election. Various people tried to pep-talk me out of my conviction, but to no avail.

Perhaps the reason I felt that way was that I tend towards pessimism. But I was actually basing my belief on some personal anecdotal evidence in addition to my gut. The following is an excerpt from a post I wrote the day after the 2012 election:

I had been dreading yesterday for weeks, and I felt that dread especially keenly in the week leading up to the election.

The arguments on the right that the polls were rigged never made sense to me. When I researched polls I noted that, historically, poll averages have tended in most cases to correctly predict the outcome of elections. Exceptions are very rare. So the only hope I had about that was that, because the response rate to polls has gotten so low in recent years, polls had become more unrepresentative than they used to be.

But the polls stubbornly kept saying the same thing: Romney continued to fall a tiny bit short in many important states. And that’s the way the election panned out.

Last week I also discovered that, when I spoke to a bunch of liberal friends I knew who had adored Obama in 2008, they were all still very supportive of him and very strongly motivated to vote for him…Those on the right who felt that declining crowds and lack of yard signs meant that enough of Obama’s supporters had defected probably didn’t have the experience I had in talking to so many people who still had a very high regard for him. I saw almost no fall-off in support for him at all.

My anecdotal evidence this year is even worse for Trump than it was for Romney that year. I’ve written about it before so I won’t go on and on about it now, but suffice to say that the only people I know who are pro-Trump are already conservatives, and it’s a small group of conservatives at that. People I know who are moderates and/or Independents who don’t like Hillary at all and were prepared to vote for Rubio or Kasich don’t want anything whatsoever to do with Trump, whom they both detest and fear.]

October 20th, 2016

Yamato and Hansel and Gretel (and opera)

[NOTE: I wrote this post quite a while ago and never published it until now, so it’s not as timely as it once was. In fact, it’s not timely at all. But I think we continue to need the relief of art. Although the subject matter is somewhat Grimm—at least we have a happy ending here.]

When it was reported, the story of 7-year-old Yamato Tanooka—put out of his car by his parents as punishment for misbehavior and then lost in the woods for six days and ultimately found—reminded a lot of people of the tale “Hansel and Gretel.”

You all probably know the story, or an approximation of the story. The parallels were obvious, but the original story as the brothers Grimm related it is very dark, the parents’ motives much darker than Yamato’s parents’ reasons for their meant-to-be-temporary abandonment of their son:
Continued »

October 20th, 2016

Is Trump’s refusal to say he’d accept the results of the election the only thing that happened on earth today?

One would think so.

The MSM frame is that Trump has “contempt for democracy.” Not to nitpick, but if Trump really thinks that the election is rigged, his refusal to accept its results would show respect for democracy.

Just sayin’.

As you well know, I’m no Trump fan. And as my post on the debate indicates, that statement of Trump’s is one of the few that immediately caught my attention. I called it “pretty astounding” (and I didn’t mean that in a good way). “Pretty astounding, but not really surprising.”

Trump being Trump. It’s what his admirers admire him for, and what everyone else (the majority, as it turns out) despises him for.

You know what else that’s not surprising? That the press and the Democrats have fastened on that statement of Trump’s to the exclusion of just about anything else that occurred during the debate, including how awful Hillary was. Not that Trump took anywhere near full advantage of that fact, either. Trump is the gift that keeps on giving to Hillary.

I have long noticed that debates have become exchanges where each side is looking for the “gotcha” moment, the gaffe or the gesture or the statement that will nail the opposition. Everything else that occurs during a debate seems to fall by the wayside. Last night was no different.

It’s one of the reasons I detest debates.

Of course, Trump’s response about the election was more substantive than some of those other things in the past that were more gaffe-like (Bush Sr. looking at his watch in 1992, for example). Why did Trump say it? Stubbornness, playing to his base, not liking to be pushed to respond a certain way, not wanting to concede—plus, on some level I think he realizes he will lose, and he plans to take his followers down the long and merry road of saying that it was only because he and they were tricked and disenfranchised. It’s a dangerous game he’s playing.

October 20th, 2016

The obligatory “Bob Dylan wins the Nobel Prize in Literature” post

Yes, it was a surprise when Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

My reaction? I think it’s an absurdity. But I think quite a few of the Nobel Prize in Literature awards choices have been absurd, so this one’s just absurd in a different way.

And I like Bob Dylan. I remember the first time I heard him on the radio, on some obscure folk station before he was famous, and he sounded so different than anything I’d ever heard before. He had an awful voice that was nevertheless a great voice, completely compelling. You couldn’t figure out why it was compelling—the voice sounded like something you wouldn’t have wanted to hear another moment of—but still it was great. And even though the song was long (“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” was the selection, as I recall) it didn’t seem too long at all.

An’ it ain’t no use in turnin’ on your light, babe
I’m on the dark side of the road

Great lines. Great song. But great literature? Nope.

If you’re going to give a songwriter a Nobel for literature (and I don’t think that makes a particle of sense), give it to Leonard Cohen.

Here’s a Dylan song I happen to really really like. It’s a cover, though; he didn’t write it. In the early days he used to sing a lot of folk or traditional songs. This seems to have been one of them:

[NOTE: See, I’m putting this post in the “Music” category. I refuse to put it in “Literature and writing.” Eat your heart out, Nobel Prize Committee for Literature.]

October 19th, 2016

There’s a debate tonight

I will be very relieved when the last debate is over.

Are you planning to watch? I am doing something different than usual—going to visit a conservative friend of mine and watching it with her. I may or may not do some blogging during it (probably will), but at least I’ll have company. And I’ll be more likely than usual to not turn off the TV, since it won’t be my TV.


Well, I’m watching So far it’s pretty calm. Which is fine with me.

UPDATE 9:30 PM Immigration is certainly a topic that gets them going.

Clinton is trying to discredit Wikileaks, and there’s a great deal of overtalking now. Arguing about whether Russia was responsible, which is irrelevant to the issue of what they might have revealed.

UPDATE 9:50 PM The battle of experience, good and/or bad.

Aha, now Chris Wallace brings up the women Trump accusers. Trump accuses Hillary or the Hillary campaign of being behind it, and mentions also the Wikileaks revelations about stirring up trouble at Trump rallies.

UPDATE 10:06 PM Trump declines to pledge he will accept the results of the election. Pretty astounding, but not really surprising.

“I’ll keep you in suspense.”

UPDATE 10:36 PM My gut feeling is that Trump did better than usual. But there was so much overtalking, so much repetition (on both sides), so much seemingly petty squabbling, that my basic feeling was “Ugh.” I can’t imagine this debate changing much of anything, but it might have helped Trump a little—except for that failure to say he would accept the results of the debate. That’s very—if you’ll pardon the expression—un-American.

October 19th, 2016

Take a look…

at Evan McMullin. He’s running for president.

If you’re determined to vote third-party, he could be of interest.

October 19th, 2016

The Peaceable blog

Yesterday commenter “T” wrote:

One of the things that attracted me to this site years ago was the ability to agree to disagree and to use that disagreement to sharpen and refine my own thinking on a topic. Quite frankly, this seems to have all gone to Hell as proponents of either side just can’t seem to get away from snark attacks.

The two schools of thought seem to be A) Hillary is death warmed over and will lead the country to perdition. Trump may not. And B) Trump will lead the country to perdition and discredit conservatives. Hillary is bad, but not end-of times bad. Is it possible that the truth may lie somewhere in between?

We have allowed these two faulty Pied Pipers to lead us to vehemence on a site known for its considered discussion. To quote Walt Kelly: “We have met the enemy and he is us!”

Well, it has gotten much worse, not just here but all around the blogosphere, and in non-cyber conversations as well, and is one of the many profoundly distressing phenomena this election season. In my case, there’s a very small plus side, which is that my friends I are are mostly united in dislike of Trump. But we differ mightily on what we think of Hillary, and I think my angst and my dilemma are therefore far greater than theirs.

My answer to “T”—and to everyone else who bemoans the former halcyon days here—is that I feel your pain (and I’m not being sarcastic there, either). But believe it or not, this site is about a million times better than the vitriol you can find at most other sites that don’t do as much policing of comments.

The Trump candidacy and the 2016 Trump vs. Clinton election have effectively poisoned discourse all around the right side of the blogosphere, while the left celebrates. People are exceedingly upset and emotional, and the viciousness is incredible at most other sites (except blogs that have become complete Trumpian echo chambers, which is a great many). Disagreement and discussion is fine here—we have a mix of original Trumpers, enthusiastic late-adopters of Trump, reluctant Trumpers, uncertains (that’s me), and NeverTrumpers (and every now and then a liberal Democrat comes to visti, too), and all are welcome if they remain (relatively) civil and (relatively) cerebral.

Compared to most other blogs these days, this one is a veritable Peaceable Kingdom.


About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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