Sunday: Hili dialogue

June 4, 2023 • 6:45 am

Happy Sabbath to all Christian humans and cats: it’s Sunday, June 4, 2023, and National Cheese Day (my favorite is Comté aged for three years—until it has a granular texture):

It’s also National Cognac Day, National Cancer Survivors’ Day, National Frozen Yogurt Day, Hug Your Cat DayInternational Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression. and Memorials for the Tananmen Square Protests of 1989, which began to be suppressed on June 4.

Readers are welcome to mark notable events, births, or deaths on this by consulting the June 4 Wikipedia page.

Da Nooz:

First, some pictures of graduation (called “convocation” here). It was a glorious, sunny day for the rite. I don’t care who you are; if you’ve been through the ceremony, it does choke you up a bit to see these inchoate adults launched into the world. Here they are lined up ready to march into the quad before their parents and relatives:

Marching under the arch; my building is to the right. Note the gargoyles climbing up the arch:

Through Hull Gate and into the quad, which is set up with a big open tent under which the dignitaries sit:

Faculty waiting to march in after the students. These are faculty who didn’t get their Ph.Ds here, and are supposed to wear the cap and gown of the school where they got their doctorates (I don’t have one). Some of the foreign academic regalia are particularly attractive.

And the U of C faculty who graduated from here (mostly), wearing their maroon caps and gowns:

Faculty are traditionally marched in with bagpipes:

*In his eponymous website, Jonathan Turley discusses the new political-correctness kerfuffle in which John Cleese is embroiled. Cleese is definitely anti-woke, but is up against the Pecksniffs. They’re doing a stage version of “Life of Brian, and of course you know immediately what the problem is: it’s politically incorrect, mocking a lot of things considered taboo today. One bit in particular is problematic: (h/t Rosemary)

One of the favorite targets of the Monty Python troupe was political activists who lacked any humor or self-awareness. That was the thrust of scenes in Life of Brian involving Cleese’s character, Reg, the leader of the “People’s Front of Judea” who faced endless demands for countervailing causes — so many that the group never actually gets anything done beyond meetings.

In one scene, an activist named Stan announces that he wants to be a woman and have a baby:

Reg: “You want to have babies?!?!”
Stan: “It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.”
Reg: “But … you can’t HAVE babies!”
Stan: “Don’t you oppress me!”

Some actors reading the script urged that the scene be cut, and producers now face a dilemma after Cleese refused to drop it.

For the most part, the war on comedy is working. For nearly a decade, many leading comedians have avoided performing on college campuses because they simply have no material that will avoid triggering one group or another. Six out of ten students in a 2020 survey said offensive jokes can constitute hate speech.

Activists are converting much of the world into their own humorless, ticked-off image. It is hard to enrage others through identity politics if some comedian is making fun of different identities. So the message has become that there’s nothing funny about identity. Satire is now viewed by some as a vehicle for objectification, subjugation and alienation.

These are the modern versions of the Puritans and Victorians, imposing their own rigid demands on artists and writers to conform to their own social values.

When comedians become afraid to tackle subjects largely considered taboo, then the art loses its edge—and its ability to make us think. Imagine having to listen to Bob Hope forever!

*Over at The Weekly Dish, Sully is beefing about “The Unstoppability of Mass Migration.”

Or, of course, we could be living on the precipice of something much worse — a reactionary lurch toward authoritarianism fueled by native replacement and resentment. That’s what my reading of history and human nature inclines me to think. Replacement and resentment were the inchoate forces behind 2016; and some of the factors that made it happen — elite estrangement and the torrid pace of mass immigration — have only worsened since 2016. In Britain, the Tories could lose what’s left of any trust they once had — leading a far-right party to gain a serious foothold. In the US, Trump could soon seem like the beginning of something much darker. This week he renewed his pledge to ban birthright citizenship and described migrants as “some of the toughest, meanest people you’ll ever see,” arriving from “mental institutions” and “jails.” And he continues to froth at the mouth on Truth Social: “TITLE 42 EXPIRES NEXT WEEK. This date will go down in infamy!!!”

Immigration remains his strong card. A Gallup poll in February showed that public satisfaction over immigration had fallen six points in a year, down to 28 percent — “the lowest reading in a decade.” An AP poll that month found that 44 percent of Americans want immigration reduced and only 20 percent want more. And Biden is under water: 58 percent of voters in seven key battleground states disapprove of how he’s handled the issue, and another recent poll showed just 26 percent approval.

And by a critical measure — official systemic discrimination in favor of non-whites and non-Asians across corporate America, government and academia, i.e. “equity” — things have gotten a lot worse from the perspective of the “deplorables.” Throw in truly bewildering cultural change — sex changes for children, abolishing all distinctions between men and women — and it’s as if the left is almost testing the conditions for a far-right revolt. Just read some Edsall, and you’ll get the picture.

This is the fear I’ve had since 2016 knocked me out of my complacency. And it’s a lot more intense today than it was a couple of years ago. Trump is a lot stronger, and Biden is somewhat weaker. Immigration is surging again. White nationalism is resurgent. Inflation still eats away at the ordinary American’s sense of security. The left elites are incorrigible — now targeting children for re-education in the core concepts of critical race, gender and queer theory. Target was selling girls’ swimsuits with a pocket for penis-tucking. Whose brilliant idea was that?

The result is a truly disturbing and metastasizing irrationalism on the right that only seems to get more unbounded over time — an irrationalism that really cannot be represented by anyone but the Great Orange Id of them all. That’s why he’s on the march again. That — and because his strongest issue keeps getting stronger.

The refusal of Democrats to say anything about restricting immigration is definitely hurting them given the data that twice as many Americans want less immigration than want more of it; and we’re all aware that immigrants are supposed to be fleeing persecution but are admitted for any reason, and that seems to be what the Dems want. What we need is bipartisan immigration reform, for  and if both parties enact it, neither can really be blamed. Right now, the immigration issue is primarily hurting the Democrats and helping Trump., and Ceiling Cat help us if anything helps him.

*As the saying goes, “hoist with their own petard.”  That’s what Brian told me when he sent me this BBC news item about Utah primary schools banning the Bible.

A school district in the US state of Utah has removed the Bible from elementary and middle schools for containing “vulgarity and violence”.

The move follows a complaint from a parent that the King James Bible has material unsuitable for children.

Utah’s Republican government passed a law in 2022 banning “pornographic or indecent” books from schools.

Most of the books that have been banned so far pertain to topics such as sexual orientation and identity.

. . . The Utah decision was made this week by the Davis School District north of Salt Lake City after a complaint filed in December 2022. Officials say they have already removed the seven or eight copies of the Bible they had on their shelves, noting that the text was never part of students’ curriculum.

. . .The committee did not elaborate on its reasoning or which passages contained “vulgarity or violence”.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper, the parent who complained said the King James Bible “has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition”, referring to the 2022 book-ban law.

It was only a matter of time!

*The train is the cheapest way to get around in India, but if you’ve ridden in any class lower than first (and I always travel second class), you can see why 288 people were killed in a three-way rail crash in India last week. The trains are old, overcrowded, (people often stand packed like sardines, or, if there’s room, sit or sleep on the floor), and they’re best avoided if you can find a decent bus. What happened in the state of Odisha is a terrible tragedy:

Rescuers worked with excavators to untangle crushed train cars on Saturday at the scene of India’s worst rail disaster in decades, as relatives of the victims searched for their loved ones at local hospitals and a makeshift mortuary in a nearby school.

At least 288 people were killed and more than 700 others injured in what officials in a preliminary government report described as a “three-way accident” involving two passenger trains and an idled freight train in the eastern state of Odisha. Officials said they were investigating signal failure as a possible cause of the crash.

The toll, exceptionally large even in a nation with a long history of deadly crashes, has renewed longstanding questions about safety problems in a system that transports more than eight billion passengers a year.

At least 17 cars of the two passenger trains had derailed, some so twisted in the subsequent collision that teams of rescue workers with dogs and cutting equipment were still laboring to recover the bodies. Together, the two passenger trains had been carrying at least 2,200 people, according to railway officials.

And, reading through the piece, I found what I suspected:

Survivors at two hospitals in Balasore said that many of the 288 people who died were packed shoulder to shoulder in three “general compartments,” coaches where passengers buy inexpensive tickets to travel without seats allotted to them and find themselves standing.“It was full of people,” said Sayel Ali, who was admitted to a hospital near the site of accident. “You could only see heads. When the accident happened, I couldn’t see anything. I don’t know how I reached the hospital.”

Not only that, but passengers will ride on the top of trains or hold onto the outside or even stand between cars.  I once saw a train that was so covered with humans on the outside that it looked like a moving ball of people: the train itself was barely visible.

The suspected cause of the three-train crash was a signal failure.

*Tennessee reently passed America’s first “anti-drag” law, which, according to the AP,

. . . would have banned adult cabaret performances from public property or anywhere minors might be present. Performers who broke the law risked being charged with a misdemeanor or a felony for a repeat offense.

Just that description makes me worry that this law violates the First Amendment, and, indeed a judge—one appointed by Trump—ruled the law unconstitutional.

Tennessee’s first-in-the-nation law designed to place strict limits on drag shows is unconstitutional, a federal judge says.

The law is both “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad” and encouraged “discriminatory enforcement,” according to the ruling late Friday by U.S. District Judge Thomas Parker, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump.

“There is no question that obscenity is not protected by the First Amendment. But there is a difference between material that is ‘obscene’ in the vernacular, and material that is ‘obscene’ under the law,” Parker said.

“Simply put, no majority of the Supreme Court has held that sexually explicit — but not obscene — speech receives less protection than political, artistic, or scientific speech,” he said.

. . .[Judge] Parker used the example of a female performer wearing an Elvis Presley costume and mimicking the iconic musician who could be at risk of punishment under the drag law because they would be considered a “male impersonator.”

Friends of George’s, a Memphis-based LGBTQ+ theater company, filed a complaint in March, saying the law would negatively impact them because they produce “drag-centric performances, comedy sketches, and plays” with no age restrictions.

“This win represents a triumph over hate,” the theater company said in a statement Saturday, adding that the ruling affirmed their First Amendment rights as artists.

This one’s headed to the Supreme Court for sure. Although I wouldn’t characterize parents who worry about the effect of “sexually explicit” performances on young kids as riddled by “hate” (a word used too often), I do think the law as written is indeed unconstitutionally vague. We’ll see what the conservative Supreme Court does with it—if it agrees to handle an appeal.

Meanwhile in Dobrzyn, Hili is enigmatic again. I asked Malgorzata what Hili meant, and got this reply:

Elephants are always in somebody else’s room, not in ours. I think she meant it as a version of Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye;and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye. But who knows with Hili?

The dialogue:

Hili: An elephant in the room.
A: Our room?
Hili: No, the neighbour’s.
In Polish:
Hili: Słoń w salonie.
Ja: W naszym?
Hili: Nie, u sąsiadów.

And a photo of baby Kulka:


From Divy:

From David:

A bad spelling mistake from America’s Cultural Decline Into Idiocy:

From Masih. I don’t understand Parsi, but I know that “freedom” is ɑzɑˈd̪i, and that’s what you hear


Matt Walsh doesn’t seem to be an amiable human being, but he’s calm and knows how to ask questions. (He’s also a diehard conservative.) But the 1.25 hour movie in the tweet below, “What is a Woman?” is worth watching. The documentary was originally banned on Twitter as “hate speech,” for Walsh goes around asking various people (including Masai), “What is a woman?” He doesn’t get many answers, mainly because the Leftish people he talks to don’t want to define “woman” in a way that excludes trans women. Many wind up saying that “a woman is anybody who identifies as a woman.” But that kind of definition is recursive, and doesn’t work very well. (Try it with any other noun.)

From Malcolm, cats being cats:

An adorable baby seal getting swimming lessons from humans:

From the Auschwitz memorial, a Polish athlete who died of “exhaustion” in the camp:

Tweets from Matthew. The first one is beautiful:

A not-too-great magic trick:

Cat pwned by a duck:

32 thoughts on “Sunday: Hili dialogue

  1. Happy Sabbath to you! The momentum of the world is heading in God’s direction. And, your words are clear indicators.

    1. And what, exactly, is “God’s direction”. Couldn’t He stop the war in Ukraine if he wanted? The “direction”, as Pinker shows, is due to humanism, secularism, morality, and the Enlightenment. For an omnipotent being, God sure lets a lot of bad stuff happen to innocent people!

      I would be delighted to see your “proof” that God exists.

  2. On this day:
    1561 – The steeple of St Paul’s, the medieval cathedral of London, is destroyed in a fire caused by lightning and is never rebuilt.

    1783 – The Montgolfier brothers publicly demonstrate their montgolfière (hot air balloon).

    1784 – Élisabeth Thible becomes the first woman to fly in an untethered hot air balloon. Her flight covers four kilometres (2.5 mi) in 45 minutes, and reached 1,500 metres (4,900 ft) altitude (estimated).

    1855 – Major Henry C. Wayne departs New York aboard the USS Supply to procure camels to establish the U.S. Camel Corps. [?!]

    1876 – An express train called the Transcontinental Express arrives in San Francisco, via the First transcontinental railroad only 83 hours and 39 minutes after leaving New York City.

    1896 – Henry Ford completes the Ford Quadricycle, his first gasoline-powered automobile, and gives it a successful test run.

    1912 – Massachusetts becomes the first state of the United States to set a minimum wage.

    1913 – Emily Davison, a suffragist, runs out in front of King George V’s horse at The Derby. She is trampled, never regains consciousness, and dies four days later. [More than 30 protesters were arrested at yesterday’s Epsom Derby for trying to prevent or delay the race as part of an animal rights campaign.]

    1917 – The first Pulitzer Prizes are awarded: Laura E. Richards, Maude H. Elliott, and Florence Hall receive the first Pulitzer for biography (for Julia Ward Howe). Jean Jules Jusserand receives the first Pulitzer for history for his work With Americans of Past and Present Days. Herbert B. Swope receives the first Pulitzer for journalism for his work for the New York World.

    1919 – Women’s rights: The U.S. Congress approves the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, which guarantees suffrage to women, and sends it to the U.S. states for ratification.

    1939 – The Holocaust: The MS St. Louis, a ship carrying 963 German Jewish refugees, is denied permission to land in Florida, in the United States, after already being turned away from Cuba. Forced to return to Europe, more than 200 of its passengers later die in Nazi concentration camps.

    1940 – World War II: The Dunkirk evacuation ends: the British Armed Forces completes evacuation of 338,000 troops from Dunkirk in France. To rally the morale of the country, Winston Churchill delivers, only to the House of Commons, his famous “We shall fight on the beaches” speech.

    1961 – Cold War: In the Vienna summit, the Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev sparks the Berlin Crisis by threatening to sign a separate peace treaty with East Germany and ending American, British and French access to East Berlin.

    1977 – JVC introduces its VHS videotape at the Consumer Electronics Show in Chicago. It will eventually prevail against Sony’s rival Betamax system in a format war to become the predominant home video medium.

    1989 – The Tiananmen Square protests are suppressed in Beijing by the People’s Liberation Army, with between 241 and 10,000 dead (an unofficial estimate).

    1989 – Solidarity’s victory in the 1989 Polish legislative election, the first election since the Communist Polish United Workers Party abandoned its monopoly of power. It sparks off the Revolutions of 1989 in Eastern Europe.

    1889 – Beno Gutenberg, German-American seismologist (d. 1960).

    1907 – Patience Strong, English poet and journalist (d. 1990).

    1926 – Robert Earl Hughes, American who was the heaviest human being recorded in the history of the world during his lifetime (d. 1958).

    1927 – Geoffrey Palmer, English actor (d. 2020).

    1928 – Ruth Westheimer, German-American sex therapist, talk show host, professor, author, and Holocaust survivor.

    1951 – Melanie Phillips, English journalist and author.

    1954 – Raphael Ravenscroft, English saxophonist and composer (d. 2014). [Best known for his playing on Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street”, for which he was paid just £27.50 (about $34). Rafferty earned around £80,000 a year in royalties from the song.]

    1975 – Angelina Jolie, American actress, filmmaker, humanitarian, and activist.

    1976 – Alexei Navalny, Russian lawyer and politician. [Currently in a high security prison in Russia having previously survived being poisoned with a Novichok nerve agent.]

    Far above the world, Death nodded. You could choose immortality, or you could choose humanity:
    1798 – Giacomo Casanova, Italian adventurer and author (b. 1725).

    1922 – W. H. R. Rivers, English anthropologist, neurologist, ethnologist, and psychiatrist (b. 1864). [Known for treatment of First World War officers suffering shell shock, so they could be returned to combat. Rivers’ most famous patient was the war poet Siegfried Sassoon, with whom he remained close friends until his own sudden death.]

    1997 – Ronnie Lane, English singer-songwriter, guitarist, and producer (b. 1946).

    2022 – George Lamming, Barbadian novelist (b. 1927).

  3. IIRC Sony Betamax was a faster head drum record so better quality but had to record a slower rate to record a movie otherwise it would run out of tape. Whereas JVC VHS could record at it’s default speed on a E180 VHS tape for a movie no problem. JVC pushed VHS on the domestic market Sony seemed more interested in the broadcast format.

  4. Sullivan is correct in warning that issues such as immigration could fuel authoritarianism. But, if Biden and the Democrats do well in the 2024 elections (not an impossibility), they will have to thank one component of the American electoral system: the primary. The primary, originally conceived as an extension of democracy to allow the “people”, as opposed to party bosses, to nominate candidates, has degenerated to a means where zealots can pick extremists to be candidates. This phenomenon is most noticeable in the Republican Party. Some pundits have argued, I think rightfully, that if the Republicans had nominated more moderate candidates in 2022, they would have done much better. Now, imagine that in a saner world, the Republicans were to nominate in 2024 a relatively moderate conservative such as Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas (a declared candidate). He could run on the cultural issues such as immigration, CRT, and abortion, but not come across as a right-wing nut job, and he would likely be able to win the votes of many moderates in the general election. But, the primary system makes the likelihood of his nomination near zero. The party zealots that will dominate the primaries will pick Trump or much less likely, DeSantis, thereby giving Biden and down ballot candidates a chance to win because moderates will reject authoritarians. So, Sullivan is correct that immigration should be a Republican winning issue, but Republican extremists may throw away the opportunity it affords.

  5. I don’t know what is correct, but I have been reading recently that southern border crossing have lessened compared to recent years.

    1. There was also rampant exaggeration that the end of Title 42 would amount to utter chaos on the border. That didn’t happen. Republicans WANT the southern border to seem out of control, and even if it isn’t, it is. Also, Republicans don’t want to solve the issue, if they did, they would at least try. There have been a lot of good proposals put forth my democrats, and every time, the GOP refuses to take the issue seriously; they don’t want to hold a vote, they don’t even want to debate. The media only exaggerates the problem, so it’s very easy for republicans to demonize immigrants or “illegals” and score political points rather than actually solve problems.

  6. You can see why they want to ban this exchange. Can you imagine if they kept it in and people laughed at it? Think of the harm it would do (/sarcasm). Or worse, it might cause an “Emperor has no clothes” moment. And, for those who inexplicably, might not have seen this, here is a link.

    REG: Why don’t you shut up about women, Stan. You’re putting us off.

    STAN: Women have a perfect right to play a part in our movement, Reg.

    FRANCIS: Why are you always on about women, Stan?

    STAN: I want to be one.

    REG: What?

    STAN: I want to be a woman. From now on, I want you all to call me ‘Loretta’.

    REG: What?!

    LORETTA: It’s my right as a man.

    JUDITH: Well, why do you want to be Loretta, Stan?

    LORETTA: I want to have babies.

    REG: You want to have babies?!

    LORETTA: It’s every man’s right to have babies if he wants them.

    REG: But… you can’t have babies.

    LORETTA: Don’t you oppress me.

    REG: I’m not oppressing you, Stan. You haven’t got a womb! Where’s the foetus going to gestate?! You going to keep it in a box?!

    LORETTA: crying

    JUDITH: Here! I– I’ve got an idea. Suppose you agree that he can’t actually have babies, not having a womb, which is nobody’s fault, not even the Romans’, but that he can have the right to have babies.

    FRANCIS: Good idea, Judith. We shall fight the oppressors for your right to have babies, brother. Sister. Sorry.

    REG: What’s the point?

    FRANCIS: What?

    REG: What’s the point of fighting for his right to have babies when he can’t have babies?!

    FRANCIS: It is symbolic of our struggle against oppression.

    REG: Symbolic of his struggle against reality.

      1. Mine too. I just rewatched the movie on Thursday night at my daughter’s request.

        It was initially reported that the Loretta scene and the crucifixion were both being dropped from the upcoming stage production, but John Cleese has since tweeted to say that the reports were mistaken. The Pythons stood up to the bullying of the church, so it would have been extremely disappointing if they had caved to the new gender identity religion.

    1. The Easily Offended could search YouTube for The Life of Brian, watch a little, decide they didn’t like it and… not watch it, or a stage version.

      Actors hired to play a specific part want editorial control over the script? What did I miss? Who did they hire for these roles? A Meryl Streep?

  7. On the subject of pronouns alone, I recently saw a tiktok video where the person changed their pronouns every day. Good luck not “misgendering” that person.

      1. Good stuff. Nice kick-off to Pride Month. “Being gay is an attribute, not an accomplishment.” And it would be fading into the background of tolerance were it not for the trans extremists who have hijacked it.

        Little acts of resistance are starting to spring up. Stay tuned.

  8. The graduation ceremony is pretty special. A thing I rather like are where students decorate the tops of their mortarboard hat with messages or even elaborate constructs (engineers, of course).

  9. Life of Brian has another great scene, in which the leader of the People’s Front of Judea, grousing about the Roman oppressors, asks, “what have they ever done for us??” What follows is a hilarious and ever-expanding list: aqueducts, money, law and order, plenty of food… Would not be surprised to see the same pecksniffs complain that Python was “pro-colonialism”!

      1. Yes, people have complained that the “What have the Romans done for us” scene is “pro-colonialism.” A group of Oxford and Cambridge grads mocking freedom-fighters? Reactionary!

        It’s odd that what was so controversial when the film was first released–its mockery of religion–is never mentioned at all. The movie was picketed and even banned in some countries. Apparently religion is no longer the taboo target that it once was. Or else they figure that conservative Christians won’t be going to Broadway shows anyway.

  10. It is hard to enrage others through identity politics if some comedian is making fun of different identities. So the message has become that there’s nothing funny about identity. Satire is now viewed by some as a vehicle for objectification, subjugation and alienation.

    Authoritarians like that are right to loathe and fear satire and mockery — it’s a potent weapon against them. As the Enlightenment thinkers said, in the long run the authority of one group over another is a social contract that either side can revoke (see, for example, the second sentence of the Declaration of Independence). Therefore the only way to maintain power to maintain respect. Oh sure, in the short term they can use bluster, threats, and even violence, but eventually, even if we can’t defeat them by force, we can laugh at them – laugh behind their backs, laugh right in their faces! – and get others to laugh along with us. And there goes their respect. And there goes their authority!

    Mel Brooks directed a film in 1967 titled The Producers, which was about a stage production that featured Nazis being silly. Critics considered that to be in very poor taste, especially for a Jewish WWII veteran, but humor was Brooks’ secret weapon against authoritarianism. He said, “Rhetoric does not get you anywhere, because Hitler and Mussolini are just as good at rhetoric. But if you can bring these people down with comedy, they stand no chance.”

    1. Hard to believe The Producers was that long ago! But the fictitious musical the two grifters wanted to produce, they chose because it was the worst script they could find, —the movie depicts the two of them up late at night going through stacks and stacks of mediocre and terrible scripts that weren’t quite bad enough, till they hit gold: “Springtime for Hitler”, written by a sentimental old alcoholic Nazi. He signs the rights away for a pittance when the producers get him drunk. The idea is exactly that the play is in such poor taste that it will close down after one night and the producers will abscond with the investors’ money, who of course don’t expect to be repaid for a flop.

      I don’t dispute Brooks’s much loved mockery of authoritarianism. In The Producers, the sheer tastelessness and offensiveness of “Springtime for Hitler” would be to the fictional Broadway audience and theatre critics were central to the plot and, of course, the twist. A real-life film critic who objected to it was missing the whole point, not just being a pecksniff. (I never saw the more recent stage play, so can’t compare.)

      Very little of the supposed play is depicted, only the opening number to show how execrably offensive it is.

      1. Agreed: “The Producers” is in gloriously execrable taste, and quite hilarious. Couldn’t be made nowadays, of course; nor could “Blazing Saddles”, another of my favourites.

        Mel Brooks is still going strong at nearly 97. Let’s hope for at least one more piece of tasteless, non-PC satire while he’s at it!

    1. I think most people were aware that Target’s tuckable swimsuits were in adult sizes, the ones who would most need them, as your link makes clear. Your comment invites the misapprehension that the whole story was invented, when it was not.

      However there was a story a few years ago about a pair of parents who modified a girl’s swimsuit with extra material so their prepubescent daughter could conceal her penis. A fawning news story did describe their plans to market a line of children’s protect kids from transphobic hate created by unsightly bulges. Sully may have conflated the two events in his mind.

  11. That scene must be extremely triggering to the “western civilization = unmitigated evil” crowd.

  12. I don’t think “an X is someone who considers themself an X” is actually a recursive definition, or at any rate not a _circular_ one. Suppose I define “woman” that way and have no other notion of what a woman is. Can I use that definition to classify people as woman-or-not? Yup. I go around all the people and I ask them “do you consider yourself a woman?” and I’m done. Obviously there _is_ a sense in which this definition is “parasitic” on some other notion of woman-ness that comes from elsewhere, but I don’t think it’s problematically circular.

    Whether or not this sort of definition works well for “man” and “woman”, it arguably works well for things like “Christian” that are importantly about _belonging_ to a group that none the less wants to let people join it fairly freely. (Though it’s debatable there too; e.g., there are people who explicitly and vigorously deny literally all the supernatural elements of Christianity but still call themselves Christians, and some other Christians would object to that.)

    Continuing to stay away from the third-rail topic of gender, there’s a whole family of things where e.g. you have a set of _people_ and a set of _ideas_ and each is kinda defined in terms of the other. What is mathematics? It’s what mathematicians do. What’s a mathematician? Someone who does mathematics. What’s a Buddhist? Someone who follows the religion of Buddhism. What’s Buddhism? It’s the tradition that Buddhists follow. Etc. In these cases, I think the best you can do for definitions is to begin with some sort of “core” of easy cases — e.g., you’re definitely a mathematician if you spend most of your working time studying (say) topology or number theory or differential equations — and then imagine a sort of iterative procedure: look at what your “core” mathematicians/Buddhists/conservatives study/do/think, then look for people who broadly match that, then look at what _they_ study/do/think, and look for people who broadly match that, etc., and with a bit of luck this process fairly quickly converges to a particular set of people/ideas that doesn’t depend too much on exactly what “core” you started with.

    Back to gender: I think you have to do something a bit like this if you want to define “woman”, whether you want to do it in terms of people’s self-identification or not. Say that a woman-0 is any adult human with no Y chromosome, or something. Some people would want to stop there, but you don’t _have_ to and I think you shouldn’t because e.g. people with Y-chromosomes but complete androgen insensitivity are surely best considered “women” rather than “men”. You can make a similar definition for man-0. So then you say: a woman-1 is any adult human who, on the whole, is more like the typical woman-0 than like the typical man-0. And then a woman-2 is one who’s more like the typical woman-1 than like the typical man-1. Etc. After a few iterations this should stabilize, at pretty much the same place whether you started with “no Y chromosome” or “identifies as a woman” or “has breasts” or “has a name generally considered female in their community”. Where you end up will depend very little on exactly what your -0 populations are, but will depend a lot on what you think “like” means (which may vary with context). If you take “like” to mean “genetically similar” then you end where you began, with “no Y-chromosome”. If you take it to mean “anatomically similar” then you include people with CAIS, for instance. If you take it to mean “considered by themselves to be similar” then you end up with a not-circular version of “identifies as a woman”. If you take it to mean “considered by the people around them to be similar” then you end up including trans women in some places and excluding them in others. (Which might be a good way to define things if what you’re doing is surveying sexist attitudes, for instance.)

    (Technical note: actually it shouldn’t be “more like the typical X”, it should be “more typical of Xs”. This makes a difference in cases where e.g. Xs fall into multiple clusters and being typical of Xs means being near one of those clusters rather than being like some sort of overall average of all Xs.)

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