Discussion thread

This is an experiment born of my difficulty with braining today because it’s the anniversary of Grania’s death. Feel free to talk about anything. I’ll suggest some topics based on recent events or on New York Times or Washington Post articles, but you’re not at all required to even mention these.

A NYT editorial by Jennifer Finney Boylan that, while extolling the Supreme Court decision on LGBTQ rights, accuses J. K. Rowling of “hate”. (Boylan is a trans woman.)

A WaPo article on North Korea blowing up the liaison office with South Korea in the DPRK village of Kaeson, which served as an informal embassy. Is Kim Jong-un just bluffing for some unspecified gain. After all, war with South Korea (and perforce the U.S.) would destroy the country.

Here’s a Torygraph video of the destruction of the building:

Joyce’s Ulysses. Have you read it? (It took me about four tries, and I still like Dubliners (especially The Dead) better, though Ulysses is a world class novel—one that you need a guide to read.)

Ricky Gervais’s t.v. series After Life. I’ve managed to watch the entire first season and, like many readers, thought it was very good.  To me it was marred at the end, however, by the seeming need to wrap everything up with a bow in a happy ending, with Tony getting a girlfriend, making peace with the people he didn’t like (even giving a treat to Diane Morgan), reconciling himself to living, and so on. It was an abrupt ending—too abrupt—and though I think two more seasons are in store, I don’t see the point of going on with the series given the plot resolution. Change my mind!

And for your reading pleasure: a wonderful photographic essay on the Indian state of Gujurat.

Somebody start. And I tell you what: if there aren’t at least fifty comments, I’ll be disappointed in my readers and shoot this cat.

192 thoughts on “Discussion thread

        1. At least that kitten looks it has all nine of them ahead of it (and I don’t believe PCC(E) would really do the deed).

        1. All matter is made of fields! All lives are just excitations of fields – some more exited than others.

              1. I bet you couldn’t precisely determine both the position and momentum of spinning cat.

        1. I don’t think it is sensible to simultaneously advocate for defunding the police and disarming the citizenry.

          Too many negatives – or not enough.

          With the US awash with guns as it is, you cannot de-escalate the current situation. The police – or whatever replaces them – has to be armed to the teeth because they have to assume that any miscreant they try to apprehend has a high probability of carrying a firearm.

        2. Much of the failure of the police in issuing a gun licence was known very soon after the massacre but, of course, politicians needed to be seen to do something, so law-abiding NZ gun owners were penalised because of police screw-ups with a deranged Aussie.

          As for the gun buy-back, the limited evidence available suggests it has had limited effect. Ethno-criminal gangs have made it quite clear that they will not hand in guns. But, hey, the government cares and has taken action.

          1. But, hey, the government cares and has taken action.

            You say that like it is a bad thing.

            1. It can be a bad thing.
              I think some of the details of the Patriot Act in the US are pretty interesting.

              1. Let’s have an inactive government that doesn’t care about the citizens? How could you not find that appealing?

            2. I say that like it’s a bad thing because the new gun control legislation was virtue signalling on steroids; it penalised and smeared law-abiding gun owners, was rushed through when the inquiry into the massacre had barely begun, ignored the known particular circumstances (police incompetence in issuing gun licences, aided by a change in regulations recently authorised by the PM), was promoted against a background of unsubstantiated claims of right wing terrorism, disregarded advice that it would not be very effective.

              I’m not a gun owner or user, but prefer my government to make decisions based on facts rather than feelz, to focus on good outcomes rather than good intentions, to look dispassionately at costs vs benefits, and to follow the constitutional convention of preceding legislation by extensive public consultation and discussion in parliament, a process of considerable importance in a unicameral state.

              1. Interestingly, much the same thing happened in the UK following the Dunblane School massacre. It was covered up that the perpetrator had circumvented police firearms checks that could have prevented him from owning a handgun, because he was friendly with a local high-ranking police officer.

                As a result of the massacre a handgun ban throughout the UK was brought into law. (I don’t disagree with the ban, just with the way it happened).

        3. Defunding does’t mean taking away the police budget, but reallocating to social services what the police shouldn’t be doing and aren’t trained for it.

      1. Banning all semi-autos would still leave revolvers, which people can still shoot pretty fast. They do take longer to reload, but not THAT much longer. There’s a famous competition shooter that once used a revolver to shoot six rounds, reload, and shoot six more in just under three seconds. (Do a search for Jerry Miculek to find the video.)

        And if revolvers are banned, there are still lever-action and pump-action rifles and shotguns, both of which can fire repeatedly pretty quickly.

        I think the only firearms laws (other than banning them outright) that might help prevent mass shootings are to require everything to be single-shot only. Specifying particular types of actions as more dangerous than others doesn’t make much sense to me. It’s the autoloading function that makes them suited to insane deeds, not whether it’s semi-auto, double action, single action, lever action, or pump action.

        1. Dang, typed my own name wrong. 🙂 “Lowyr” does sound interesting though, like Romanian or something.

  1. I heard that gnats are attracted to the highest point on a human body. So if you’re on a walk and gnats are in your face, raise your arm. Someone wrote this up on Instructables, presenting a fake arm hat.

    I think Gervais should write a book.

    1. Brilliant. But if you’re seen walking down around with your arms raised it might cause some alarm.

    2. Good to know. I hate gnats…I wonder if this trick works with “No-see-ums”. Up in Alaska, I’ve been seriously hindered by those little bastards.

  2. Here’s a Covid-19 subject: as opposed to what a person might think, here in health care people are being furloughed, facilities closing. I work in a major metropolitan area in the south in a free-standing emergency room and they are closing multiple locations, with a few hundred laid-off, after completely closing another major market of ERs and a small hospital. There are not currently many openings in the area, but seeing the country open back up, I expect that it is only a matter of time.

    I adore that kitten!!

    1. It’s an amazing comment on how screwed up the US sick care system is that a pandemic is causing hospitals to suffer financial disaster. I do think that most of these jobs will come back pretty quickly, (my own family has contributed care costs for two broken bones in the last few weeks!). However, with so many millions out of work and thus losing health insurance there will certainly be no rapid return to normality with many institutions doing long term planning for reduced workloads. Furloughs and salary cuts seem to be the order of the day across much of the country.

    2. I have two questions related to COVID.

      1. One is what people think of the quality of two studies on the importance of wearing masks that just came out. The conclusions are that wearing masks (even just cloth ones) is really important to reducing transmission, and thus that this is one of the most important things that regular people can do to combat the pandemic and get life back to a regular normal before the vaccine is out. Here are links to the studies:

      Identifying airborne transmission as the dominant route for he spread of COVID-19: https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/06/10/2009637117

      A modelling framework to assess the effectiveness of facemasks in combination with ‘lockdown’ in managing the COVID-19 pandemic: https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspa.2020.0376

      2. This one is a bit more fun. What designs on face masks do you think would appeal to Trump’s supporters? Sure, American flags and MAGA, but what about bullets ripping through a virus? Or Donald Trump’s smile?

      1. You must mean Donald Trump’s smirk..
        Saw a great MAGA hat yesterday that said
        Make the Asshole Go Away.

      2. I have not read either paper, but the PNAS one was widely panned with a number of calls for it to be retracted. Twitter comments ranged from thorough take downs of methodology and conclusions to more concise “absolute bullshit” and “total rubbish” summaries. As such I’d treat it skeptically.

      3. A former workmate sent me this:

        Wear the friggin mask!

        Just saw this post from a friend:

        I am posting a comment that a Dr Sam Laucks posted. Worth the read

        “OK, here’s my rant about masks:
        I have spent the past 39 years working in the field of surgery. For a significant part of that time, I have worn a mask. I have worked with hundreds (probably thousands) of colleagues during those years, who have also worn masks. Not a single one us of became ill, passed out or died from lack of oxygen. Not a single one of us became ill, passed out or died from breathing too much carbon dioxide. Not a single one us of became ill, passed out or died from rebreathing a little of our own exhaled air. Let’s begin here by putting those scare tactics to rest!

        (It is true that some people, with advanced lung diseases, may be so fragile that a mask could make their already-tenuous breathing more difficult. If your lungs are that bad, you probably shouldn’t be going out in public at the present time anyway; the consequences if you are exposed to Covid-19 would likely be devastating.)

        “But”, you ask, “can’t viruses go right through the mask, because they are so small?” (“Masks keep viruses out just as well as a chain link fence keeps mosquitoes out,” some tell us.) It is true that individual virus particles can pass through the pores of a mask; however, viruses don’t move on their own. They do not fly across the room like a mosquito, wiggle through your mask like a worm, or fly up your nose like a gnat. The virus is essentially nothing more than a tiny blob of genetic material. Covid-19 travels in a CARRIER – the carrier is a fluid droplet- fluid droplets that you expel when you cough, sneeze, sing, laugh, talk or simply exhale. Most of your fluid droplets will be stopped from entering the air in the room if you are wearing a mask. Wearing a mask is a very efficient way to protect others if you are carrying the virus (even if you don’t know that you are infected). In addition, if someone else’s fluid droplets happen to land on your mask, many of them will not pass through. This gives the wearer some additional protection, too. But, the main reason to wear a mask is to PROTECT OTHERS. Even if you don’t care about yourself, wear your mask to protect your neighbors, co-workers and friends!

        A mask is certainly not 100% protective. However, it appears that the severity of Covid-19 infection is at least partially “dose-dependent.” In other words, the more virus particles that enter your body, the sicker you are likely to become. Why not decrease that volume if you can? “What have you got to lose?!”

        “But doesn’t a requirement or a request to wear a mask violate my constitutional rights?” You’re also not allowed to go into the grocery store if you are not wearing pants. You can’t yell “fire” in the Produce Department. You’re not allowed to urinate on the floor in the Frozen Food Section. Do you object to those restrictions? Rules, established for the common good, are component of a civilized society.
        “But aren’t masks uncomfortable?” Some would say that underwear or shoes can be uncomfortable, but we still wear them. (Actually, being on a ventilator is pretty darned uncomfortable, too!) Are masks really so bad that you can’t tolerate them, even if they will help keep others healthy?

        “But won’t people think I’m a snowflake or a wimp if I wear a mask?” I hope you have enough self-confidence to overcome that.

        “But won’t I look stupid if I wear a mask?” I’ve decided not to dignify that question with an answer!!

        “But I never get sick; I’m not worried.” Well, then, wear a mask for the sake of the rest of us who are not so perfect!

        There is good evidence that masks make a real difference in diminishing the transmission of Covid-19. Please, for the sake of others (and for the sake of yourself), wear your mask when in public. It won’t kill you!

        P.S. – And, by the way, please be sure that BOTH your nose and mouth are covered!”

        1. “ But won’t people think I’m a snowflake or a wimp if I wear a mask?” I hope you have enough self-confidence to overcome that.

          I like that one. I remember being on a car forum where someone said they liked a particular car but was concerned people would think he was gay if he bought it he got pretty much the same answer.

        2. “If you expect elementary school children to endure the trauma of active shooter drills for your freedoms, you can wear a mask to Costco.” (Don’t remember the source.)

        3. This is along the lines of what I was assuming. A mask, especially one with multiple layers of very fine weave, will give some benefit at preventing one from sending virus bearing droplets into the air.
          I have thought that the droplets, one exhaled, are at their largest and at that point there is the best chance to intercept them in the senders’ mask. Those droplets that escape and float thru the air, however, are rapidly evaporating and shrinking, and from that point on the mask of another wearer is less effective at intercepting.

  3. Don’t shoot the cat! Anyone who accuses Joanna Rowling of hate either hasn’t read, or is willfully misunderstanding her essay.

    1. She has been “facebooked”, she dared to question the social media version if reality.

    2. I think that a lot of the criticism of Rowling is due to confusing sex and gender. Rowling was talking about sex, but was being criticized on the basis of gender.

      In addition, her essay was criticized on the basis of being an apology, when instead it was an explanation of her opinions.

      I do find it very annoying that certain groups, particularly the woke, decide to make villains out of certain people because they don’t express all the politically correct opinions. It doesn’t seem to matter how much good someone does, eg. Rowling donating 160 million to charities in 1 year alone, if they can find something to criticize. They don’t seem to realize that no one is perfect, and if you search deep enough, you’ll find flaws.

      Generally we erect statues to honor someone for the good that they have done, and overlook their flaws. If the trend of judging someone in the past by the morals of the present continues, I expect at some point a statue of someone who did a lot of great things will be protested and/or taken down because they weren’t vegan or vegetarian. (This is not a criticism of removing statues like Columbus and Confederate leaders that were erected for racist and other bad reasons.)

      1. No, no! Persevere. It’s a wonderful book which you can re-read any number of times. My comment (15) gives a couple of hints.

        Another way to get into it is via an audio file. There’s an excellent one done by Irish Radio. It’s free on the Internet Archive.

        1. I read Ulysses many moons ago and have since forgotten it. I much preferred The Dubliners.
          Also, tried to read Finnegan’s Wake but was totally unsuccessful.

          1. Many moons ago for me, too. Liked Ulysses and Portrait of the Artist better than Dubliners. Haven’t tackled Finnegans Wake yet.

      2. If he’s gonna read Papa, go with the short stories — the collection The Fifth Column and the First Forty-Nine contains most of the best (plus Hemingway’s only play).

        If you’re going with the novels, The Sun Also Rises is tops — though A Farewell to Arms, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and the novella The Old Man and the Sea have their fans, too.

        1. All four of those novels are great.

          My personal preference ranking is:

          1. For Whom the Bell Tolls
          2. The Old Man and the Sea
          3. The Sun Also Rises
          4. A Farewell to Arms

          Also, DO NOT FORGET:
          Green Hills of Africa, one of my favorites
          Byline, a compilation of the newspaper pieces, mostly for the Toronto Star. Great stuff.

          I am not a big fan of short stories, in general. But I like Papa’s better than most.

    1. I will concur with the sentiment: don’t bother. In my youth, I had to force my way through. I thought I was missing something. Then I realized what I was missing: whatever trait it is that makes a person enjoy Ulysses. Some people have it. I do not. It was, to me, like reading Atlas Shrugged. I know there is absolutely no similarity, but the feeling was the same.

      I did derive great joy from Finnegan’s Wake (read piecewise and in no particular sequence over several months), and Dubliners has some stories that held my attention.

        1. Read Finnegans Wake in random order?

          As Dorthy Parker quipped upon hearing that Calvin Coolidge died: how can they tell? 🙂

        2. Aye, that I am. Flip around for something that looks interesting, and digest a few pages.

          I can’t imagine just sitting down and reading it cover to cover. I should imagine that there are those that would, and enjoy it at that, but I can only do that when there is a linear continuity.

    2. I only read the first and last pages just to check that it really is circular. I’m just suspicious that those who have read the whole damn thing and didn’t get whatever there is to get want to make the rest of us do it too.

  4. In a recent thread I suggested that compatibilists are compatibilists out of concern for the the loss of morality or “moral responsibility” if people don’t believe they have free will. I got some push back on this and was surprised. I am curious what other reasons there are for compatibilism.

    It has already been demonstrated ad nauseam that we do not need the concept of free will to protect society from evil doers so I am curious what other good reason people have to promote compatibilism. What is its purpose? What is its usefulness?

    One important note. Compatibilism is a philosophical discussion only. Neither the term compatibilism nor the term “free will” are used in every day language. So what’s up with compatibilist philosophers? Just seeing how things hang? Or is there an applied practical necessity for compatibilism?

    1. Actually, this is expected. When I did FW&D as a graduate student (20 years ago, mind), it was a “Topics in Moral Philosophy”-labelled course and most of the students and faculty involved were in some way ethicists. (As far as I remember I was the only one of the students interested in the metaphysics, at least initially. My colleague Lisa Fuller, for example, came to change her mind on this.) Free will, in many discussions, means “capable of sustaining moral responsibility”. Which entails “unpacking” the latter.

      I suppose one could care for more legal/philosophy of law reasons or (weirdly) purely for religious reasons, but in practice those are in the ethics debate too.

      1. Free will, in many discussions, means “capable of sustaining moral responsibility”. Which entails “unpacking” the latter.

        That seems a pretty low bar to meet for “free will.” More akin to “is your brain functioning according to spec” than “could you have chosen otherwise.”

        1. That’s pretty contentious: after all, if you are not responsible for your brain not being in spec, are you responsible for a given action? If it is in spec as a matter of luck, should that matter? (There’s a lot of work on “moral luck” these days.)

          It is by no means a low bar. Moreover, even if one grants the idea, then one has to further figure out what counts as appropriate spec, and that in turn is a huge topic.

    2. I think “free will” is used a lot in every day life. It’s built into legal agreements and people often talk about doing something of their own free will.

      1. Ive honestly never heard a non-philosopher or
        someone not engaging in a philosophical discussion or a non-lawyer or non-judge using that term. And I don’t consider legalese to be ordinary language. But I don’t doubt that some people who hold the folk libertarian concept of free will use that term from time to time but I do doubt that it’s common. If I hung out with someone who used that phrase a lot in ordinary conversation I would find that creepy. Certainly compatibilism is a philosophical term only and any talk of “free will” being compatible with determinism is a philosophical discussion not ordinary conversation.

        1. Really? I hear that stuff all the time in the regular world – on TV shows (especially in a religious context), in regular encounters where people talk about exercising their free will. And it’s not odd legalize language to say “of my own feee will” in legal documents you sign.

          1. I agree it’s very common legal language but I can’t say I share your experience of hearing people say it in ordinary conversation, or at least not “all the time.” I’m not doubting your experience, I’m an introvert and don’t get out much so I’ll take your word for it. I’ll concede that “free will” is occasionally used in ordinary conversation. I should have left that part out because I was really just trying to make the point that “determinism” and “compatibilism” are philosophical terms only and are not used in ordinary conversation. I shouldn’t have added “free will” to that because you are right that it is used in common language. I stand corrected on that, although I would push back on “a lot” or “all the time” if we are excluding legalese which I exclude from ordinary language. Never the less, I stand corrected.

    3. Seeing how things hang, and defending the credentials of naturalism. If people think naturalism makes nonsense of their decision-making, lots of people will stick with supernaturalism instead. Similar to how some people think we couldn’t have consciousness if human beings are thoroughly physical, thus they are ready to buy various varieties of woo.

      I agree with eric that free will is not the same as “capable of sustaining moral responsibility”. That’s a related issue, but not *that* closely related.

      1. Maybe their decision making IS nonsense and needs to be properly informed and corrected rather than placated. I see evidence that most people’s decision making is very bad and most of that seems to be due to this mistaken notion of “free will.”

  5. I’ve never read Joyce’s Ulysses, and I doubt that I ever will, given its reputation for being impenetrable. I’ll stick to Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey if I want a Ulysses fix, and maybe also Tennyson’s poem, which has some wonderful turns of phrase.

    Ulysses was also the name given to a joint NASA/ESA mission to put a spacecraft into a high-inclination orbit around the Sun to study its polar regions, which are all but invisible from the Earth. It was launched in 1990 on board the space shuttle “Discovery”, and used a close fly-by of Jupiter to alter its orbit in a way that would have been impossible with rocket engines. It far exceeded its nominal mission lifetime, sending back data until 2008, and sampling the tails of three comets.

    1. You want impenetrable, try Finnegans Wake; Ulysses is practically a “beach read” by comparison. 🙂

      1. I suspect that our gracious host will let the cat live and turn his weapon on those previous posters who put an apostrophe in Finnegans.

  6. The two cats that frequent my back garden have been noticeably more “forward” since lockdown, sitting outside the french windows trying to get in, following me around etc. They never did that before. Maybe food has been harder to come by? The badger and the fox are back as well, but only at night.

    Has anyone else noticed such an effect on cat behaviour, or is it purely local?

  7. If you want to see what Trump is about to do to our democracy I urge you to get on you tube and type in the name Donal Kagan, the Bass Professor of History and Classics and Western Civilizations at Yale University, who, in 1993 gave speech entitled “Periclean Athens and Modern Democracy.”


    1. I’m guessing Trump is more Cleon (especially as represented by the sausage seller in Aristophanes’ The Knights) than Pericles.

    2. I would very much like to see that speech, but have searched youtube and can find nothing with that title. Any chance you can post the link?

  8. Lately I’ve been following the “PogChamps” online chess tournament because finally there are people who are almost as bad at chess as I am. However it was very surprising to discover that half of the “Twitch” celebrities are annoying loudmouths who yell at everyone all day. Haha just kidding, not surprising at all.

  9. The song going through my head today is “Everyday is like Sunday”. Anyone got a different lockdown appropriate song I can try to replace it with?

    1. “All along the Watchtower” springs to mind. Is Trump the joker or the thief, though? The un-Covid-19 song I’m currently stuck with is the rather cheesy “Tell Laura I Love Her” – but then Ricky Valance died the other day, so at least I know why it’s suddenly appeared.

    2. Replace it with another Morissey song – Spent the Day in Bed. His songs stay in your head. I had Girlfriend in a Coma in my head for weeks.

  10. Totally agreed on ‘After Life’. I used to be a big fan of Ricky Gervais since The Office and still. But I find – in especially the second season – him to get too cheap with sentiment. He’s aiming so clearly on being endearing and the ‘raw husk bare kernel‘ type, that it started to annoy me. Gervais used to be independent and wasn’t trying to please his crowd and was what made him so uniquely funny and uncomfortable. The whole After Life comes across to me as a bit lazy. Season 2 seemed a collection of deleted scenes and was very predictable. As you mentioned, it’s obvious a vehicle that can repeat itself over and over – as long as it delivers the goods: the ‘ah, what sweet en wise man after all’. (The conversations on the bench at the graveyard with that so-called wise elderly woman are really cringeworthy)
    I really don’t understand why he wanted to make this. The only silver line is that he made some atheistic jokes (and truths) known to the mainstream. But hopefully he’s gonna spend all this earned Netflix money into a show we’re used to see from him. Maybe he needs Stephen Merchant as his checks and balance.

  11. Since this is a discussion thread. In light of yesterday’s Supreme Court decision “what are the panel’s thoughts” on what this means for decisions from the Roberts court.

    FWIW I think Roberts is still pretty conservative but a number of decisions over the last couple of years have made me wonder if he’s drifting slowly towards the center.

    By contrast I don’t think this is a change of direction for Gorsuch. As far as I’ve read he is much more interested in interpreting the letter of the law as written (not necessarily as intended).

    I’d be interested in hearing what the rest of you think.

    PS – don’t you DARE shoot that kitten!

    1. I think Roberts’ primary concern is preventing his SCOTUS being viewed as politically biased. I think he feels the weight of history.

      I agree on Gorsuch. As Ken K pointed out, Gorsuch authored most of the recent important sex discrimination opinions of the SCOTUS.

      1. I wonder with Roberts whether one of his considerations is not wishing to have a major decision of “his” court reversed in future. So he is trying, at some level, to be on the right side of history.

      2. I think you meant to say that Anthony Kennedy — the justice Gorsuch clerked for, then briefly served alongside — authored the gay-rights decisions, James.

    2. Gorsuch is libertarian and stands on principles that will piss progressives and conservatives off in turn. It sometimes makes him seem cold-hearted but his job is to follow the law not remake it. I like having someone independent on the court.

      Robert seems to care more about the supreme court’s image on momentous decisions and he takes into account politics. That does not seem to be job of a judge but perhaps it is part of being chief justice.

      1. Based on his record on the Tenth Circuit (and statements he’s made since his appointment to SCOTUS), I’m leery of Gorsuch regarding First Amendment religion clauses cases. I’d be surprised if he ever encounters an accommodation of religion that he doesn’t find is either guaranteed by the Free Exercise Clause or permitted by the Establishment Clause.

        He already suggested in yesterday’s Bostock opinion that there might be an exemption to Title VII where hiring a gay employee would contravene an employer’s religious convictions. (Shades of Hobby Lobby.) He also joined Justice Thomas’s concurring opinion in Masterpiece Cakeshop suggesting the baker had a Free Exercise right to refuse to make a wedding cake for a gay couple.

        1. Some times two principles collide and the choice is not obvious. There are times when I listen to lawyers explain a decision I initially do not like and decide that the decision was the correct legal one. Or there are times with an outcome I like has specious logic.

          In those cases, I prefer good legal decisions to decisions that have good results. Law and justice should be decided rules not desires.

          Just to be be clear, there are several decisions that Gorsuch has made that I disagree with but I prefer his style to the other justices.

      2. The case is an odd one. On the one hand I would have thought conservatives generally do not approve of gays or transgender. Also conservative libertarians, I’d have thought, would prefer that organizations elect to hire whom they want. On both counts, they should vote against gays and transgender.

        Only someone who prioritizes individual rights would elect to give gays and transgender the right not to be discriminated.

        The decision probably tears libertarian Christians (or Anti-gays) apart.

    3. You know that episode of Hogan’s Heroes where Hogan asks for a volunteer to step forward? And everyone takes a step back, except for one poor guy. Roberts has “drifted left” in exactly the same way as that poor guy “stepped forward”.

  12. Since this is Bloomsday, I’ll go for “Ulysses”. I do hope you didn’t try to read it all alone. The first time — or two…or three — it’s more easily negociated with a guide. I can’t remember now if I’ve read it three times or four, but I know I will read it again. Th first time, my guide was Gilbert Stuart; the last time, Harry Blamires (“The new Bloomsday book”). I prefer Blamires, but you should not overdo him as he is a bit prosaic.

    As someone else mentioned a few days ago, though, she was ready to read it again and was going to concentrate on the language, not the story, which is certainly a good idea.

    My wife and I spent Bloomsday 1997 in Dublin enjoying the festivities, including a visit to the James Joyce Center. The gentleman in charge of the library (all Joyce’s books, even Finnegans Wake, in multiple languages) agreed heartily with my wife that the key to the book is the humor. If you don’t laugh, you haven’t understood.


    1. I agree. I must have read Ulysses more than a dozen times now, and since I am devoting some of my lockdown time to re-reading all of Joyce, I will be getting back to Ulysses again before long. As is the case every time, I am looking forward to finding something new that I hadn’t noticed before.

      One way of approaching the book is to recall that Joyce is presenting us with a detailed view of life in Dublin over about 16 hours on one particular day. Just looking back at the last 16 hours of my own life, there was plenty happening around me that I didn’t understand, or even notice. So one shouldn’t panic, or even worry that much, if on first reading a lot of what Joyce is saying passes one by. The plot is not hard to follow, and once one understands what’s going on one can concentrate more on the language and start appreciating the various literary devices that Joyce uses.

      The dialogue is usually easy to follow: Joyce uses a dash ( – ) instead of inverted commas, but he always tells us who’s speaking. It takes a bit of effort at first to distinguish the narrative passages (which are straightforward at first, but get increasingly haywire as the book goes on) from the internal thought processes of the main characters. But once one has developed an ‘ear’ for how Stephen or Bloom think their thoughts, then a lot more falls into place.

      Above all, don’t take it too seriously, and enjoy the humour: some of it is laugh-out-loud stuff! Give it a go, and if you find you can’t understand a passage – well, skip it and move on to the next one. Ulysses really does repay the effort of persevering with it.

        1. It’s a difficult question! This is just my own take.

          Joyce was fascinated by language: not just meanings, but sounds, and how they mean different things in different languages; and also how different juxtapositions of sounds make different, or indeed ambiguous, meanings. What may look at first sight like just a series of plays on words may carry a wealth of meanings when unpacked.

          For instance, early on Joyce writes the words ‘foenix culprit’. This refers both to the Latin term ‘felix culpa’, or ‘fortunate fall’ (of Adam and Eve) and to the assassin of the Chief Secretary for Ireland in Phoenix Park in Dublin in 1882. Almost every sentence in FW connects some aspect of Irish, specifically Dublin, history to wider, more universal themes. Finnegan himself is a version of Finn MacCool, the legendary giant who is said to lie under Dublin, his head at Howth and his feet in Phoenix Park. (It’s worth noting that Joyce always saw Dublin as a Norwegian city rather than a Celtic one: hence the many Nordic references (and puns) in FW).

          The main character in FW, Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker (HCE: Here Comes Everybody) is an Everyman, who embodies the city, in all its pride and shame. His wife, Anna Livia Plurabelle, is the Liffey, forever renewing herself in the mountains and flowing out to her father the sea. Their sons, Shem and Shaun, (or Kevin and Jerry, among many other dualities) are artistic and practical antitheses – like Joyce and his brother Stanislaus. In one sense, HCE is dreaming the book; in another, he is its hero (and scapegoat).

          It is impossible to summarise FW, but it might help to think of it as a loving but critical portrait of a country, a city, and their history and legends, written by a man who nevertheless rejected the politics, religion and culture that he grew up in. All his books were written in self-imposed exile; but he never forgot Dublin, and never stopped writing about it.

  13. I am on my third, or possibly fourth attempt to read Joyce’s Ulysses. I agree, it is tough, but I am determined to finish it before taking my forever nap.

    Regarding After Life: we seem to have different impressions on how the first season ends. Tony and the nurse (she still doesn’t have a name) do not appear to be an item – not yet at least. Tony’s quest (assuming he has one) would seem to be learning to accept the people around him for who they are. I have watched series two as well, but I won’t comment on how his journey continues. The postman, the sex worker, the nurse, the cemetery bench lady all offer their honest thoughts on Tony’s situation. In fact, their suggestions tend to be far more helpful than the therapist, who would appear to be completely self-absorbed. I am interested to see how this all plays out. So far the show appears to have legs.

  14. I can’t read any of those articles because I don’t have subscription. I’m commenting for the cat.

  15. Those are gorgeous photos of Gujurat. There is one photo of a Maldhari cattle herder wearing a blue flowered scarf. It looks like the kind they used to sell in Switzerland and maybe they still do, I haven’t been in a long time. I’m surprised to see it on a cattle herder in Gujurat. I love that photo.

  16. Wonderful photos from Gujarat. Thanks for pointing us to those!

    The lighting that Michael Benanav achieved in some of those portraits is magic. I’m assuming use of fill flash or a reflector.

  17. North Korea’s blowing up the South Korean liaison office has a long way to go before it can compare to Oregon’s effort to dispose of a beached whale carcass with dynamite:

  18. I’m disillusioned by the utter lack of centrist news sources out there. I listen to Ben Shapiro (who is openly advertising his conservative bias) and Ezra Klein (a leftie). Jerry calls himself left-leaning but he’s the closest thing I can find to a sane centrist. Sam Harris as well. But the major news outlets like CNN just distort things so much (to the left) that I can’t watch, and honestly I think it actually hurts the causes they care about.

    Where should I go for centrist reporting? Something that looks at events from both sides? Something that admits Trump sometimes does some things right and calls him out when he doesn’t, instead of making everything black and white?

    1. I find BBC gives a refreshing take on US politics.

      If you think the mainstream is “too liberal” then you’ll probably think they have a liberal bias too. However, UK political factions don’t really align with US factions, so whatever axe the BBC may have to grind, it isn’t the Dem or GOP axe.

    2. I read NYTimes, WApo, Reuters, AP, NBC, Yahoo News, CNN, CBS, Boston Globe, Palm Beach Post, Google News and the Guardian. That tends to even things out via different perspectives.

      1. JB, try The Economist magazine (but you will have to pay for it unless you are willing to use a public or university library). It’s a weekly, it’s high quality journalism (covering international politics and economics, with a science section, a book section, sections on US, British, European politics, etc.), and it’s centrist. I do realize that you might not like it because you may find that it has too much international coverage and/or too much coverage of economic issues. (The magazine has about 15 sections, and only two are about economics).

    3. JB, try The Economist magazine (but you will have to pay for it unless you are willing to use a public or university library). It’s a weekly, it’s high quality journalism (covering international politics and economics, with a science section, a book section, sections on US, British, European politics, etc.), and it’s centrist. I do realize that you might not like it because you may find that it has too much international coverage and/or too much coverage of economic issues. (The magazine has about 15 sections, and only two are about economics).

    4. Middle conservatives and liberals are keeping quiet. The quiet majority that isn’t interested with being cancelled by the extreme edges.

  19. I’m sad today for two reasons: Grania died.
    And my brother (10 years younger than me) is dying. Because of Covid it is problematic to visit him. It’s heartbreaking.

    I haven’t been able to get through Ulysses yet, but will keep on trying. I have been able to read Joyce’s letters to Nora however, and they are quite salacious. Given their first date, it is not surprising.

    There is a fox hanging around our little cottage country road. It is quite bold, not afraid of humans and will taunt my cat if he is sleeping out on the porch. My fearless kitty has chased the fox away several times.

    Wtf is wrong with North Korea?!

    I’m glad we saved the kitty from being shot.

      1. Thanks GB. Yes, most distressing.

        He still has his sense of humour, and it comes through in his e-mails, which is how he is communicating with the family. He makes me laugh and cry at the same time.

        Love is hard…

    1. Sorry to hear about your brother Claudia!

      May we ask what is causing his untimely demise (aside from being human and alive)?

      Some of my wife’s cousins have been dying the last few years. I said to her: This is when it begins.

      My sister died many years ago at only 35 yo. That was MUCH harder than my Dad’s passing, at 86, or my Mom’s passing, at 84, just a few weeks ago. My parents both had long, interesting lives.

      1. Thank you jblilie for your kind words.

        Yes you may ask. Lung cancer, which has spread and is inoperable. Chemo, radiation, the whole bit going on. Docs haven’t given him any timeline yet, or at least, he isn’t telling us if they have. He has just said he’s trying to get “more time” by doing all the treatments.

        I agree, that is much harder than when parents die. I am finding this very difficult.

        Sorry to hear about your young sister and my condolences on the recent passing of your Mom. I hope you got to give her many hugs before she went.

        I grew up Catholic, so I did believe in an afterlife at one time. Now, of course, an atheist, I know that the end is the end. It’s a piss off though.

        1. Oh, so sorry to hear about your brother. Lung cancer is not good (as you know).

          Hang in there. I’m glad he’s kept his sense of humor. I think that helps both him and his family.

          Because of COVID not nearly as many hugs as would normally have been. But we spoke frequently and we continued to share meals with her (we brought her food). We had some very good conversations with her the week before she passed. She was loved and had a good life and knew it.

          1. “She was loved and had a good life and knew it”

            That is lovely and I am happy that you got to spend some time with her. She’s a lucky Mom!

        2. So sorry to hear of your brother and the isolation because of COVID during such a time. I’m sure he’s trying some of the immune system treatments that seem particularly useful with lung cancer. I do hope you get to see him.

    2. Sorry to hear this Claudia. I’ve read a lot of stories about people not being able to see their dying loved one’s during this pandemic; many of the stories are about loved ones who are dying of Covid, but there are plenty like your story as well. I can’t imagine how wrenching that would be. I hope you’re able to see your brother in person before he dies.

      1. Thank you Mark. I’m hoping so too and in the meantime, we are online daily “talking” on e-mail. He is losing his voice, so phone chats are out. He is a beloved younger brother and no matter what happens, he knows he is well loved.

  20. Perhaps it’s time for a “My theory, which is mine” competition, where we can air our personal pet hypotheses (PPH)

    1. Here goes…

      “All brontosauruses are thin at one end, much MUCH thicker in the middle, and then thin again at the far end. That is the theory that I have and which is mine, and what it is too”

        1. Diana,

          Ah, the Monty Python sketch is out of date for more than the obvious ‘I’m Older than I thought’ reason

          Ross (the aged)

  21. New York Times contributing opinion writer Jennifer Finney Boylan (JFB) seems to have problems with reading comprehension. About JK Rowling (JKR) she writes in her column:

    “She [JKR, in her essay from June 10 2020, posted on JKR’s website] stated that trans men transition because being a woman is hard [claim 1]; they do not. She stated that trans women pose a threat to others in the ladies’ room [claims 2]; we do not.”

    In fact, JKR makes neither of these claims.
    Regarding claim 1: JKR expresses concern that some psychologically troubled teenagers may think that their troubles would go away if they gender-transitioned by means of a medical treatment that comes with some irreversible bodily changes. Here JKR remarks: “I know transition will be a solution for some gender dysphoric people, although I’m also aware through extensive research that studies have consistently shown that between 60-90% of gender dysphoric teens will grow out of their dysphoria.”

    Regarding claim 2 JKR says this: “I do not want to make natal girls and women less safe. When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman – and, as I’ve said, gender confirmation certificates may now be granted without any need for surgery or hormones – then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside. That is the simple truth.”

    Does this passage say that “trans women pose a threat to others in the ladies’ room”, as JFB claims? It does not. JKR’s concern is that, if you can be a woman SIMPLY by saying you are one, then any man can use the lady’s changing room, and when asked what he is doing there say: I do have a penis, a beard and a hairy chest, but I feel I’m a woman and that allows me to use the lady’s changing room. So JKR is not concerned about a male-to-female transgender person, who has changed her appearance by taking hormones and through surgery using the lady’s bathroom or changing room.

    We already had this discussion here: Should a biological male be allowed to compete in female sports JUST because he says he feels like a woman? Nobody should try to answer this question by shouting at those who reply “No” that they are haters, that they just want to “erase” and “dehumanize” transgender people. (Note that, in her NYT column, JFB uses the words “erase” and “dehumanize” to describe those who disagree with her.)

    It is depressing that the NYT hires people as opinion writers who lack basic reading comprehension skills (or maybe just like to bully people with whom they disagree as opposed to argue with them without resorting to ad hominem arguments).

    1. Yes, and NPR, just the other day, severely misrepresented JKR’s positions, as you have outlined.

      Makes me think all they did was scan Twitter or a few biased articles such as the one you cite.

    2. “It is depressing that the NYT hires people as opinion writers who lack basic reading comprehension skills (or maybe just like to bully people with whom they disagree as opposed to argue with them without resorting to ad hominem arguments).”
      I agree… Unfortunately those kind of people seem to be the huge majority. I get really depressed about it.

      1. I don’t think they are a huge majority but a very vocal minority that bullies those with other perspectives into silence, thus they appear as the majority.

    3. I am heartened to see that at least the first fifteen of the top-rated (by readers) comments on the column either take Boyle to task for mis-characterizing Rowling’s words, or express views that respect the rights of trans people while asserting that it is not hate to recognize the different experiences of biological women.

    1. Very encouraging, indeed. Even though it only seems to help those needing supplemental oxygen or a ventilator, those are the people most in need of a treatment.
      Interestingly, dexamethasone (in somewhat larger doses, 20 mg instead of 6 mg) is a standard part of a number of leukemia/lymphoma treatments – such as bortezomib/dexamethasone/rituximab for Waldenstrom’s disease. But it’s only for the days you’re getting the other two drugs, not chronically. I asked my oncologist why the dex, and he said that he was not sure but thought that it boosted the effect of the actual anticancer drugs.

  22. We watched and loved both seasons of “After Life”.

    Gervais has a real gift for creating characters that are coarse and selfish, but have great humanity.

    Anyone who did not watch “Extras” should do so as well.

    1. I think my favorite Extras episode was the one with Patrick Stewart and how he was describing his screenplay where he uses his “Professor X” powers to take people’s clothes off. They try to put their clothes back on, but “he’s already seen everything”. Damn, that was hilarious.

  23. I see we’re at 90+ comments.

    So if 50 was the upper limit for ‘Jerry shoots cat’, is 100 the lower limit for ‘Cat shoots Jerry’?

    1. How about single-shot flintlock pistols at 20 paces, according to the rules of the code duello?

      I mean, fair’s fair, amirite?

      1. And it must start with someone taking off a leather glove, finger by finger, and slapping the other person across the face with it.

  24. I was away this morning. It is good that I was not needed to save the lovely kitten.

    I read the entire SCOTUS decision, except the footnotes and appendices. Both of the dissents focused on homosexuals. In listening to all three opinions, I wonder the following:
    How much did the transgender situation make the homosexual situation starkly obvious? That is, I suspect that it is starkly obvious that when the business hired a man, who then had gender dysphoria diagnosed and doctors who suggested the transition, who then presented as a woman – thus it is clear the business discriminated against that person because they were assigned male at birth. In contrast a woman who presented as a woman would not have been fired. Which the dissents largely ignored. I wonder how much that influenced the majority’s realization that a man attracted to men (and vice versa) was also clearly discrimination based on sex.

    So something that may not have been obvious to everyone in 1964 became obvious as time went on.

    I also found that Alito’s dissent got sooo close to going toward equality when it discussed in the paragraph beginning: ‘The answer is that this employer is discriminating on aground that history tells us is a core form of race discrimination.’. Take 883 F. 3d, at 158–159 (Lynch, J., dissenting), and replace race with sex and the historic rigid hierarchy suppressing homosexuals, and Alito should be headed to where the majority arrived.
    But no, he pivoted and immediately said it was completely different for semantics: ‘An employer who discriminates on this ground might be called “homophobic” or “transphobic,” but not sexist’. So Alito & Thomas believe previous SCOTUS can rightly expand the definition to include individuals whose spouse is protected by Title VII ‘race’, but we cannot expand to include individuals whose spouse is likewise clearly included in Title VII ‘sex’ – for an equivalent rigid history of discrimination. So they ignored SCOTUS precedent.

  25. I liked After Life season 2 better than Season 1. I think it’s darker and it doesn’t have such a neat bow on it.

    1. This discussion has so many posts to save the kitty 🐱 that I’m not sure where I was trying to reply, but it wasn’t meant to be the start of a new thread!

  26. My brother told me last night that his daughter who is turning 18 this year was told by her grandfather (on my brother’s ex-wife’s side) “If you don’t vote for Trump I am taking you out of my will.”
    What an asshole. When my brother told our mother about it, she said: “Bless his heart.”
    If Trump does get reelected, I don’t know if I can continue relating with my parents. They’re just lost in the cult and it’s almost unbearable listening to their Trump adoration “best POTUS of all time”. It’s truly distressing seeing one’s parents untethered to reality.

    And Grania’s death adds to my depression today.

    1. My turn to console you:

      I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had parents that supported Trump. You have my complete sympathy.

      Your nice should just keep who she votes for a secret. There is no rule that says she has to share that information. Secret ballot and all that.

    2. Your niece should tell him to shove his will up his ass. I have relatives that suck up to people for money. I told them everything I have I earned myself and they can keep their crap. Yeah, this is why people couldn’t care less about me living or dying but screw those assholes.

    3. Claudia: yeah, I spoke with her today and told her just that. I’m almost positive she’s not voting for Trump. I just hope she registers!

      Diana: thanks, you made me laugh. And I agree with you too.

    4. Simple solution. She votes however she wants snd lies to grandpa. That is why we have secret ballot.

      Actually, grandpa may be committing a felony since he is effectively trying to buy a vote.

  27. I am here to save the kitty! It has been a beautiful day in southern New Mexico. I hope it was beautiful in Chicago. When I was stressed and living in Hyde Park, I would wander around Burnham Park. Anyone else been there?

  28. Claudia: yeah, I spoke with her today and told her just that. I’m almost positive she’s not voting for Trump. I just hope she registers!

    Diana: thanks, you made me laugh. And I agree with you too.

    1. Oops…this was a response to comment #39…
      Or maybe I was subconsciously adding an extra comment even though kitty was already saved…

  29. Since the thread is open and I don’t want you to shoot the cat, I will recommend a book. On the Origin of Stories by Brian Boyd is a really fascinating read. It is a Darwinian evolutionary approach to literary theory. It is a more general theory of why humans practice art, but the book specifically focuses on literature. Unlike much of literary theory it is not an incoherent, arrogant, and obscure mess. I first came across Boyd when I tried to read Ada for the first time a year ago (Boyd is a Nabokov expert). I googled Brian Boyd and noticed his name appeared in a book with contributions from Steven Pinker and Geoffrey Miller. The book presents different theories on why art exists. From the Google search I was not sure if it was the same Brian Boyd, but as it turns out it is. Anyway I ordered On the Origin of Stories and it sat on my shelf for a year. Recently, with significant help from a website Boyd worked on, I succeeded in reading Ada. I decided to give Boyd’ book a shot and really liked it.

    1. This Boyd book sounds great, and I had never heard of it before (do have his Nabokov bio). Thanks! Ada is one of my faves, along with Speak, Memory. Must get back to old Vlad N. (How he’d HATE that nickname!)

  30. Hi Jerry we are the same age and so have a similar taste in music from our generation but if you want to get with it listen to Aldous Harding, a wonderful young songstress from New Zealand. Fair dinkum.

  31. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is cover-to-cover self-pitying, self-indulgent dross, and I cannot for the life of me figure out how it achieved its cult status.
    That’s all.

Comments are closed.