Greetings on cat shabbos, Saturday, January 21, 2023: National Clam Chowder Day (clams, like all shellfish, aren’t kosher). Remember, always get the New England style with cream and potatoes, not the so-called “Manhattan style” chowdah with tomatoes. Ecch!
Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the January 21 Wikipedia page.
*This is likely the reason our trip to Peru and the Galápagos was canceled yesterday: political riots have moved into the streets of Lima as protestors call for the ouster of the new President. There are clashes with the cops and the potential for severe violence is high:
Thousands of protesters demanding the ouster of President Dina Boluarte poured into Peru’s capital, clashing with police who fired tear gas. Many came from remote regions, where dozens have died in unrest that has gripped the country since Peru’s first leader from a rural Andean background was removed from office last month.
The protests have been marked by Peru’s worst political violence in more than two decades and highlighted deep divisions between the country’s urban elite, largely concentrated in Lima, and poor rural areas. Former President Pedro Castillo has been in detention and is expected to be tried for rebellion since he was impeached after a failed attempt to dissolve Congress.
Protesters were expected to take to the streets of downtown Lima again Friday, although the city was quiet in the morning, with less movement in the center of the capital than is normal for a weekday.
Thursday was mostly quiet, but punctuated by scuffles and tear gas. The government called on everyone who could to work from home. After sundown, clashes escalated, and late that night, a major fire broke out at a building near the historic Plaza San Martin, although no connection to the protests was immediately clear.
. . . Anger at Boluarte was the common thread Thursday as protesters chanted calls for her resignation and street sellers hawked T-shirts saying, “Out, Dina Boluarte,” “Dina murderer, Peru repudiates you,” and “New elections, let them all leave.”
It’s gonna get worse in Peru, I suspect, though I don’t mind being in the middle of political turmoil, just out of general interest. When I was in Valparaiso, Chile several years ago, waiting for our trip to Antarctica to begin, there were demonstrations that were met with the army in tanks bearing water cannons. I ran TOWARD the tanks, as I wanted to be in the middle of a political protest, but my companion held me back.
*The NYT has a good guest op-ed by political journalist Jonathan Alter, “Oh, Biden, what have you done?“. It’s about the classified documents found in Biden’s Delaware home and VP office, and how they may be pivotal in turning voters against him should he run again. It’s mainly because the atmosphere of trust and honesty that surrounded the Obama administration and, up to now, Biden’s, may be corroded. A few excerpts:
The optical equivalence between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden is phony, of course. Mr. Trump is a grifter who appears to have intentionally taken hundreds of classified documents, bragging that he kept the folders marked “classified” or “confidential” as “‘cool’ keepsakes.” He said of his stash of classified documents, according to several advisers, “It’s not theirs; it’s mine,” and seemingly defied a subpoena to return the documents, thereby exposing him to possible prosecution for obstruction of justice. Mr. Biden, by contrast, was sloppy and slow to search for and disclose the existence of about 20 stray classified documents but is fully cooperating with authorities.
Unfortunately for Mr. Biden, this distinction cannot easily survive the miasma of congressional and special counsel subpoenas, relentless questions from reporters and fresh allegations of impropriety that signal the arrival of a new episodic political drama. Many voters with better things to do with their time than parse the nuances of presidential record keeping may casually conclude that both men are careless, lying politicians.
. . .All 10 American presidencies since 1973 have faced investigation by a special counsel or independent prosecutor, except one: Barack Obama’s. For eight years, Mr. Obama and his vice president and other high-ranking officials were seen as figures of unusual rectitude, and the impression of integrity returned when Mr. Biden took office after four years of wall-to-wall corruption. But now this sharp ethical contrast with Mr. Trump has been dulled. That complicates the president’s expected re-election campaign — and could even short-circuit it.
Most Democrats still think Mr. Biden is honest, and they view his accomplishments on the economy, climate, infrastructure and defending democracy as far more significant than this lapse. But it’s hard to exaggerate the level of Democratic exasperation with him for squandering a huge political advantage on the Mar-a-Lago story and for muddying what may have been the best chance to convict Mr. Trump on federal charges. Mr. Biden’s more serious problem may be with independents, whom he carried by nine points in 2020. Unforced errors can take a toll with them. Even as the classified documents story eventually fades — it will most likely not be a first-tier issue next year — swing voters may see him in a harsher light.
. . .But even if Mr. Biden puts wins on the board, survives venomous Republican lawmakers and gets off with a slap on the wrist in the special counsel’s report, the classified documents story has likely stripped him of a precious political asset with some independents and Democrats: the benefit of the doubt. The general feeling that Mr. Biden — like Mr. Obama — is clean and scandal-free has been replaced by the normal Washington assumption of some level of guilt.
Republicans are ferocious attack dogs, especially when they have something to chew on. And Mr. Biden, a better president than candidate, has never had the nimbleness necessary for good defense.
And the rest you can read for yourself. Frankly, I don’t think Biden should run for a second term (I favor Mayor Pete), but it looks as if he has the self-confidence to declare himself a candidate again. And no other Democrat will put their hat in the ring if Biden does first.
*Andrew Sullivan has a huge paean to the movie The Banshees of Inisherin on his website, a movie I also loved, though a few readers didn’t. His take is somewhat political, seeing aspiration to leave as a liberal trait and staying on a dull island a conservative one (keeping the status quo).
Even by the standards of Martin McDonagh’s lifetime of work, The Banshees of Inisherin is a masterpiece. Like all masterpieces, everyone will have their own interpretation, because the layers of meaning are complex, multiple and interconnected. So what follows is just my own reflection on the piece — because it’s been hard to think about anything else this week. I watched the movie twice, and the first time I was riveted to my seat by the sheer emotional rawness of it all; and the second, I just couldn’t stop laughing. I suppose all dark comedies are a bit like that. But this one was darker and funnier than any I recall.
“What makes life worth living?,” the film asks insistently. Is it love and friendship and community and shared meaning? Or is it achievement, ambition, aspiration and individuality? The answer is both, of course. But the two instincts — the conservative one and the liberal one — chafe at each other. The trade-off is real — and modernity is the stage on which this conflict takes place. McDonagh sees both human urges lovingly — and puts this drama of modernity on a symbolic island.
The charm of pre-modern life is undeniable: that Irish blend of bluntness and humor, rage and gentleness, all moderated in the fog, is real and connected to the long living in this bleak, beautiful place. The pudgy priest, the bully cop, the sharp emotional insights of a “slow” kid called Dominic, the gossips and drunks and oddballs: what a place to live and die!
And yet also McDonagh lets Colm decry the banality of it all. . .
I won’t give any spoilers but please do see this movie. It’s infinitely better than “Top Gun: Maverick”, even if you do say they’re apples and oranges. I’d rather watch the apple five times than see the orange just once more.
*Over at the Free Press site, Nellie Bowles produced her weekly semi-snarky news summary; this week’s is called “TGIF: I love Davos“. Here are three of her shorter items:
→ Biden admin softening on notion of World War III: The president of the United States is now toying with the idea of helping (nudging?) the president of Ukraine to retake Crimea, which Russia took from Ukraine in 2014. Time magazine has this headline: “The Liberation of Crimea Is a Must.” Crimea, by international law, does still belong to Ukraine. But it would be a major escalation in an already expensive and drawn-out war—expensive both in U.S. dollars and in Ukrainian lives.
→ “There is no more room in New York”: Eric Adams, mayor of America’s largest city, announced that his town is just totally full and cannot accommodate any new immigrants. “Our cities are being undermined,” the mayor said this week. “We don’t deserve this. Migrants don’t deserve this and the people who live in the cities don’t deserve this . . . There is no more room in New York.” The liberal response to the surge of migrants goes like this: First of all, the border crisis is fake and racist. Second of all, it was caused by Trump, who is still the president. Third, Park Slope is at capacity.
→ Madonna announces a new world tour: Madonna, 64, is planning a new mega-tour to sing her greatest hits. There are worlds in which this would be good news, a farewell tour for an incredible pop star. But to say Madonna isn’t aging gracefully doesn’t quite capture it. She is rage, rage against the dying of the light. Face like a cat, implants in the butt (I think?), photoshoots meant to look like porn sets. Whatever these clips by the NFT artist Beeple were about.
Me, I plan to age gracefully. A little Botox when I hit 38, a facelift at 45, and then, at exactly 51 years old, I release—grow my hair long and gray, light the patchouli, and greet you at the door inexplicably holding a squash. Readers, there will be caftans.
*I recently watched “Top Gun: Maverick” with Tom Cruise, and while I found it an engrossing adventure flick, I couldn’t believe that it would be nominated as a potential Oscar-winner. It’s already appeared on many lists of the Best Movies of 2023, and for some reason Cruise’s acting is given many encomiums. It’s baffling: there is no substantial thought to the movie, just continuation of a franchise, and absorbing plot and good cinematography. Frank Bruni goes after it in the NYT: “Tom Cruise and the Insanity of the Oscars“, and he’s right:
Did Tom Cruise give an honest-to-goodness performance — one that involved disappearing into a character versus reveling in his own ageless and sinewy glory — in “Top Gun: Maverick”? I missed it. Maybe I was blinded by his toothy gleam.
I write that as someone who enjoyed the movie, appreciates a cocky fighter pilot as much as the next guy and believes fully in Cruise’s talent, which is among the reasons I’ve seen “Jerry Maguire” a half-dozen times. In that movie, he shows range. In “Maverick,” he shows off.
And yet there’s apparently an outside chance that he’ll land a best actor nod when Academy Award nominations are announced on Tuesday. Whether that happens is one of the more intriguing bits of Oscar suspense. Another is whether an unusual and impassioned grass-roots campaign to get Andrea Riseborough a best actress mention for the independent movie “To Leslie,” which you’ve probably never heard of, will pay off.
I haven’t seen “To Leslie,” so I won’t comment. More on “Top Gun”:
“Maverick” grossed more than $700 million in theaters in the United States on its way to a worldwide total of nearly $1.5 billion. Its proponents cite or allude to that box office bonanza as an argument for accolades. Isn’t commercial success a legitimate metric of achievement? Evidence that a project has resonated — and for reasons that surely include craftsmanship?
No! No! No! A movie is more than planes bombing targets and toothy grins.
. . . “Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Top Gun: Maverick” — call them the colon movies — are strong contenders for best picture nods next week, but then so are “The Banshees of Inisherin” and “Tár,” which have no colons, limited commercial appeal and deliberately challenging narratives and tones. Putting all four movies in the same contest is like contriving some athletic competition that pits football players against a water polo team. They ply different elements.
. . . I bet that neither Cruise nor Riseborough receives the recognition that they’re hoping for. They lie at opposite ends of the blockbuster-to-boutique spectrum. Oscar is comfiest in the mushy middle.
Of the movies I’ve seen this year, I would vote for Tár as “Best Picture” and Blanchett as Best Actress. Popularity with the public should not be a criterion for an Oscar. I’m watching the new movie “Predator” now.
Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili makes a funny:
A: Chimpanzees are the closest relatives to humans.Hili: I know, you cannot choose your relatives.
Ja: Szympans jest najbliższym krewnym człowieka.Hili: Ja wiem, krewnych się nie wybiera.
A Gary Larson Far Side cartoon via Stash Krod:
From The Two Crazy Cat Ladies on FB via Merilee. All cat staffers know about the post-poop dash out of the litter box. But I’ve never seen any discussion about this behavior. Why do they do it?
A temporal comparison from David:
I’m not sure who God is addressing here:
From Malcolm: feeding time for beach cats. Sound up!
Look at their happy tails and listen to the beach cats when our kind volunteer arrives to feed them.
You can help the #cats on this tiny Greek island by making a small donation to fund vital medicines, neutering & food all year round. Purr!#CatsOfTwitter https://t.co/eBupPyhtpP pic.twitter.com/YoJsZyTWYa
— Cats of Iraklia (@CatsofIraklia) January 10, 2023
From Nellie Bowles on her TGIF. And yes, the Intifada (and “right of return”) is a call to murder Jews.
At the University of Michigan, a call to murder Jews. pic.twitter.com/UoA0LUft1h
— Blake Flayton (@blakeflayton) January 13, 2023
From Simon, whose response was “good grief!”:
Pink Floyd updated their profile picture to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dark Side of the Moon, and the replies are… something. pic.twitter.com/e4zNZ2KGOS
— Travis Akers (@travisakers) January 20, 2023
From Barry, who says “there’s no doubt that it’s the human who’s carrying the band”:
What would you call this duo? 💙 pic.twitter.com/20Sf0GCaPF
— Jessi 💫 (@its_jessi_grace) January 14, 2023
From the Auschwitz Memorial, a woman who died in her twenties:
21 January 1919 | A Polish Jewish woman, Jadwiga Lichtensztajn, was born in Sosnowiec.
— Auschwitz Memorial (@AuschwitzMuseum) January 21, 2023
Tweets from Matthew. The interview below is a must-read, and includes these lines:
Excluding himself, who does [Crosby] think is the best songwriter in CSNY? “Stills, no contest. He’s the best guitar player, the best singer and the best writer. I really admire Stephen tremendously.”
If anybody fancies a read of my interview with a fabulously opinionated David Crosby in 2021, here it ishttps://t.co/7W5IyCigYh
— Simon Hattenstone (@shattenstone) January 19, 2023
Insect rope! (They must be on a twig):
This is NOT a rope
(membracid treehoppers) https://t.co/jQtrdmJkwf
— Gil Wizen (@wizentrop) January 15, 2023
Look at that leap over the fence!
Damn they lucky the windows was closed pic.twitter.com/EtZ3In7x8B
— Weird and Terrifying (@weirdterrifying) January 13, 2023