May 28, 2017

"Art should challenge us...."/"Why is that?... Are we 'challenged' by Constable and Turner? The Chartres Cathedral? The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?"/"Absolutely!"

From the comments to the post about the dismantled "Scaffold" at the Walker Art Center. The one in the middle is Michael. The first and third comments are from me. I'm the one who loudly proclaims "Absolutely!," even as Michael says:
Where was this cliche [that art should challenge us] born? Marcel Duchamp?... This idea of art is a modern thing and a concept that has as its fruit an unlimited amount of crap produced for people paying up to be "challenged."
A few notes and pictures:

1. The Chartres Cathedral. It represents the challenge to be a Christian. What greater challenge is there? Here's a modern public art display animating the old cathedral:

2. Turner.
"Turner... was a sharp critic of the industrial and commercial change sweeping mid-19th-century Britain. Casting a locomotive as a dark, sinister beast carving a pitiless path through the landscape in Rain, Steam and Speed – The Great Western Railway (1844), he drew attention to the threat posed to the natural beauty of the English countryside by the industrial revolution...."

3. The Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Michelangelo worked at Schumacher pace. Adam's famous little penis was captured with a single brushstroke: a flick of the wrist, and the first man had his manhood. I also enjoyed his sense of humour, which, from close up, turned out to be refreshingly puerile. If you look closely at the angels who attend the scary prophetess on the Sistine ceiling known as the Cumaean Sibyl, you will see that one of them has stuck his thumb between his fingers in that mysteriously obscene gesture that visiting fans are still treated to today at Italian football matches...

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis will dismantle "Scaffold," a sculpture "partly inspired by the gallows where 38 Dakota Indians were hanged in Mankato in 1862."

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports:
"I regret the pain that this artwork has brought to the Dakota community and others," [said Walker Executive Director Olga Viso]. "This is the first step in a long process of healing." She said that [L.A.-based artist Sam Durant] told her he was open to seeing his work dismantled because "it's just wood and metal — nothing compared to the lives and histories of the Dakota people."...

For the second day in a row, protesters gathered Saturday afternoon outside the fenced outdoor exhibit, holding signs with messages such as "Not your story" and "Hate crime." Earlier in the day, messages that had been placed on the fence Friday were removed, exacerbating tensions....

Rory Wakemup, a Minneapolis gallery director who specializes in contemporary native art, initially thought "Scaffold" was a ruse. He was shocked to hear that community leaders had not been consulted about it.

"Anything this heavy needs to have approval from a wide range of the community. There's no singular voice that can just do this," he said. "It's opened a wound and sets [Indian relations] back years."
We're told that the artist, Durant, "intended to raise awareness about capital punishment and address America's violent past." That's a comfortably safe political position for an artist in present-day America. Art should challenge us, and this artist chose to challenge the people who support the death penalty and the people who don't think enough about the violence done to Native Americans. But a work of art, left standing in public, cannot fine-tune its message. It can't say think only of it in these terms and not other terms.

Durant and the art museum obviously didn't intend to inflict pain on the Dakota people. Apparently, they assumed the Dakota would feel good about the amplification of their story in the public space, but they assumed wrong.

What an embarrassing show of elitist obliviousness! They assumed their well-meaning presentation of a painful story — a blunt replica of the gallows — would work as they intended, to inflict pain on the the right people, the sort of white people who voted for Trump, who'd think it makes sense to say Make America Great Again, when all the good people know America was not great.

And they didn't think about the possible impact on the very people whose story they wanted to beat the ignorant folk over the head with.

Why didn't they think to ask?! Wakemup — great name — got it right. You should have consulted with some people in the Dakota community. Show some respect for the people you want to show yourself off respecting.

I found this story because the commenter dustbunny brought it up in the comments here. She said: "Looks like censorship to me." It's not censorship in my book. The museum and the artist spoke first. Some people spoke second in response, and the response made the museum and the artist decide to change what they would say going forward. It's just like a conversation whether X makes a remark, Y says that's a terrible thing to say, and X then says, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have said that. I call that persuasion.

You know, public sculptures are big intrusions on a city. They just sit there. It's a lot worse than a book that was published and now sits where you don't have to read it. These sculptures are big, and they are in our space. A great deal of thought should be given to what belongs as a permanent fixture in our shared public places. A 2-story gallows is an awfully bad idea.

What were the mental processes of the elite arts people who decided this was a good idea? Now, they have to backtrack, because their mistake was so bad and they want to salvage their reputation. They're dismantling the thing they should never have put up. That's not censorship. That's belated shame.

At the Armor-and-Ambivalence Café...


... you can, in writing, appropriate anything you want.

(Photo taken on my iPhone yesterday at "Samurai: The Way of the Warrior" at the Chazen Museum ("a selection of more than ninety objects from one of the most important collections of Japanese arms and armor outside of Japan... armor, lacquered objects, helmets, swords, sword guards, saddles, stirrups, arrows, quivers, and bows from the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy").

Balance bike racing.

"Male fragility has been breaking all over the basements of social media and the stench of unwashed boxer shorts and toxic masculinity is wafting upwards gaining our attention..."

"... simply because certain theaters are hosting screenings exclusively for folks who identify as women and femmes. On Thursday, a theater franchise called the Alamo Drafthouse announced* that they would be hosting woman-identified only screenings for the release of the film... Now, of course, this made cishet men angry, because when everything has always belonged to you and entitlement happens to be one of your defining characteristics, it must be really hard to be excluded from a few screenings of a film centered around a female-lead. Of course you’re upset at not being invited to see Wonder Woman, that’s totally discrimination. Keep crying those salty tears.... I am no stranger to the wrath of white man-babies and it is clear that the more space women make for themselves – especially women and femmes of color – the more misogyny and racism we will be met with. The only thing we can do is keep carving out safe spaces for ourselves to heal and flourish."

Writes Laura Witt at Wear Your Voice/Intersectional Feminist Media.

ADDED: This is some great PR jujitsu.** Men are squealing to body-slam their way into a movie they'd have distanced themselves from. The woman-superhero purveyors have learned something since the lady Ghostbusters flop of 2016. The new idea is to act like you don't want men to see the movie. Suddenly, it's desirable. This movie is playing hard to get. Such a delightfully old-fashioned way to lure men.

* The announcement read:
“The most iconic superheroine in comic book history finally has her own movie, and what better way to celebrate than with an all-female screening? Apologies, gentlemen, but we’re embracing our girl power and saying “No Guys Allowed” for one special night at the Alamo Ritz. And when we say “People Who Identify As Women Only,” we mean it. Everyone working at this screening — venue staff, projectionist, and culinary team — will be female.”
** Sorry for the culturally appropriative metaphor.

"Brown and black skin and indicators of non-whiteness have been newly weaponized since the Trump regime was installed..."

"... and many of us are managing our Otherness more than ever as a matter of survival. And along comes a white woman by the name of Stacy Jacobs, whose gimmick is wearing saris in protest of Trump’s reign. She hashtags her fashion activism #BordersAreForSarees and #ProtestSarees. Her Instagram feed is filled with pictures of her in a sari every time Trump does something awful.... [T]here is a growing and disturbing trend of supposedly progressive and liberal feminists who seem to think that their political wokeness gives them free license to appropriate other people’s cultures. Under the guise of globalistic rhetoric, these so-called progressives justify and defend their cultural appropriation as the natural course of our globalized society — a post-racial society in which differences can be erased because they have decided so — veritably denying that cultural appropriation exists at all. To these fauxgressives, everything belongs to everybody and they have the right to transform these cultural and spiritual practices as they see fit. Like metal yoga, 'fuck you' yoga and beer yoga, not only has an ancient Indian spiritual practice been culturally appropriated, it has been mutilated and Frankensteined together into a monstrous shadow of itself."

From "This White Woman's 'Protest Saris' Are Peak Appropriation," by Sezin Koehler in Wear Your Voice/Intersectional Feminist Media.

"Some say 90 minutes is simply how long it takes to pace through all the sacred asanas, and that we shouldn’t tamper with tradition."

"But there is nothing traditional about most of today’s yoga studios, which are more about monetizing relaxation than they are about honoring whomever yoga is supposed to honor. I recently went to one class, supposedly a hybrid dance-yoga endeavor, in which the instructor shimmied around a stage to Jason Derulo. We’re not exactly meditating in the Indus Valley anymore...."

From "Yoga Classes Should Be Shorter/The light in me honors the light in you, but it is also extremely busy," by Olga Khazan (in The Atlantic), who got what she was asking for, comments denouncing her for "#whiteproblems" and bumbling through the puzzle of "cultural appropriation." (Is it better or worse to take less of the culture?)

ADDED: "Been around the world, don't speak the language/But your booty don't need explaining...."

Understanding the creepiness of wholesomeness.

Here's a piece by Amanda Petrusich in The New Yorker: "Miley Cyrus's Creepy Return to Wholesome." Do we think that a young woman is pure until she're not, and after that, if she presents herself as healthy and good, it's a disgusting fraud, and we've got to point fingers at her and call her out, so that no one is deceived into allying with this loathsome slut? That seems awfully retrograde for The New Yorker. Perhaps they never liked wholesomeness in the first place. Okay, now, I'll read the thing.

1. At the Billboard Music Awards, Miley Cyrus was introduced by her younger sister Noah with the (obviously scripted) line: "For the first time in years with pants on, my big sis, Miley Cyrus." Here's how that looked. The "pants" are very short white cut-off jeans. She also had the kind of off-the-shoulder blouse that we were just talking about in the Michelle Obama context. Instead of dancing about, Cyrus stood planted at the microphone, in the take-my-voice-seriously style of singers like Adele.

2. Cyrus has a video in which she "pets a dog, runs with balloons, and flashes her gold engagement ring." The song, we're told, "is a mix of Laurel Canyon and Nashville, equal parts bohemian and smarmy." Which doesn't sound wholesome. Petrusich says it's "lifeless." Lifeless isn't wholesome. Wholesomeness relates to goodness and health. Lifelessness is death. But Petrusich happens to prefer Cyrus's more vigorous demeanor in her song "Wrecking Ball" (which is about celebrating body-slamming ("I came in like a wrecking ball/I never hit so hard in love/All I wanted was to break your walls")).

3. Cyrus had a period a couple years ago in which she indulged in the white privilege of "trying-on and discarding of black culture," and now she's "essentially scrubbed her music and image of any hints of the hip-hop and R. & B.," and that might be "sinister."

4. Now, she seems to be doing a "good-girl routine," and it might be "a sendup" of — among other things — "our racially polarized political climate." Pop music is full of "artifice," we all know, and part of the "charade" is a cycle of "reinvention." Cyrus already reinvented herself from "Hannah Montana" to game sex object. To go back to "guileless, fresh-faced ingénue" is to pendulum swing between the 2 most obvious options for a female pop star.

5. Cyrus is getting married, we're told, and that seems to mean she needs to "find[] a new way to be (or act) virtuous." But what she's doing now is so "banal": "pretty, tamed, straight, still, white." Why is the "path forward" for young women so "narrow"? She can "become less selfish and wayward only by embracing antiquated notions of femininity and propriety."

Is that "creepy"? "Creepiness" is the headline-writer's word. Perhaps Petrusich's point is more that the reinvention is just banal and boring. A girl veers into badness for thrills and excitement. What comes next should be a better form of emotional satisfaction, not retreat to the starting point. But is retreat "creepy"?

Being boring and uncreative isn't really creepy. The creeping sensation — to get back to origins — is a feeling in the flesh, a "chill shuddering feeling, caused by horror or repugnance" (OED). If that's your point here, New Yorker, you've got to take this to the next level, to what I said in the first paragraph of this post and say that the pose is gross because what looks wholesome is actually unwholesome, and you feel revulsion.

But that wouldn't fit with the conclusion you chose, which was itself banal and boring, that after the innocence and debauchery, there's a new third stage, something less "less selfish and wayward" but not just "femininity and propriety." I guess that's supposed to sound like feminism, but I'm a bit creeped out by the statement that "femininity" is an "antiquated notion" and "white" is "banal."

Who's really creepy here?

By the way, if you declare "femininity" a "notion" — even without the "antiquated" —  how can you be trans-friendly?

"Wisconsin is the nation’s leading producer of sand used in hydraulic fracturing...."

"Wisconsin sand, prized by frackers for its grains’ ideal size, shape and durability, is shipped to drilling sites including Texas, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Canada...."
“This resurrection of the sand boom is important because it’s happening at a time when some communities are suffering because agricultural prices are low,” [said industry consultant Kent Syverson, chairman of UW-Eau Claire’s geology department]....

While the northern white sand found in the Midwest remains the highest quality and generates the highest yields for fracking, it costs $60 to $70 per ton to ship it to Texas, and more companies are exploring the possibility of using [lower-quality] Texas sand instead to save on transportation costs....
The article — "Sand industry back in business in western Wisconsin" — doesn't explain why this great sand is in Wisconsin. Ah, here, from the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences Arts & Letters:
Frac sand is defined by its purity, shape, and toughness. It is more than 99% quartz, the grains are highly spherical, and it is extremely hard to crush....

Quartz is comprised of silicon and oxygen. A silicon atom in quartz has four positive charges, and to each of those is bonded a negatively charged oxygen atom. It balances nicely, four negatives bonded to four positives. Many minerals contain silicon bonded to oxygen, but the special attribute of quartz is that its silicon atoms share oxygen amongst themselves: Each oxygen atom in quartz is completing the charge balance for not one but two silicon atoms. That means the atomic scaffolding in that tiny grain of rock is so inter-bonded that a billion years of weathering can’t break it down....

The quartz-rich crystalline rock of the Precambrian era is very old. According to [Wisconsin’s State Geologist James] Robertson, these sands spent nearly a billion years near Earth’s surface, relatively free of overlying rock, where they underwent a cycle of repeated weathering, re-working, and rounding before being swept into the Cambrian sea that eventually deposited them in today’s Wisconsin....

After a billion years, all that was left was the most resistant of all minerals: quartz. And even the quartz started weathering after a while with the hard edges of the sand grains getting chipped away, leaving more spherical bits of quartz.

These well-sorted, atomically fortified grains fit the frac sand bill. This sand, Robertson says, has a crush resistance of 4,000- 6,000 pounds per square inch (psi). That means each grain has the ability to maintain its shape while thousands of pounds bears down on it. Together, the grains can and do bear even more pressure from overlying rock thousands of feet deep.

“You can’t have a bunch of wussy sand that falls apart when you squeeze it,” Robertson says.
ALSO: Recently, in The New Yorker: "The World Is Running Out of Sand/It’s one of our most widely used natural resources, but it’s scarcer than you think."

May 27, 2017

"The visceral instinct to physically attack a person who has just attacked you is strong; the surge of adrenal hormones makes it feel possible and necessary."

"That circuitry is increasingly vestigial, but overriding it and playing the longer game requires an active decision," writes James Hamblin — in "How a Man Takes a Body Slam/In an assault in Montana, two very different ideas of masculinity" (The Atlantic) — praising the Guardian reporter Ben Jacobs for his "judicious, prescient reaction" to the body-slamming he seems to have received from Greg Gianforte.

Hamblin likes the idea of "redefining strength" by accepting, in the moment, that one has been "physically overpowered" and not getting caught up in "the idea of masculinity as an amalgam of dominance and violence." Instead, Jacobs, speaking "as if narrating for the audio recorder," said “You just body-slammed me and broke my glasses." He also "started asking for names of witnesses to the assault who will be assets to his case as it plays out in courts of law and public opinion," and reported the incident to the police.

Of course, Jacobs's choices were not merely a matter of overcoming physical impulses and meritoriously eschewing violence. I don't know how much of an impulse to retaliate on the spot he may have felt. I don't really know how violently he was hit. I don't even know if he did something first toward Gianforte and Gianforte was doing the old tit for tat retaliation. But narrating the audio, dropping it on line, going to the police, and taking names for litigation purposes is also a form of dominance. Some people would even call it violence. Why, here's an article in The Atlantic from just last June: "Enforcing the Law Is Inherently Violent/A Yale law professor suggests that oft-ignored truth should inform debates about what statutes and regulations to codify."

You know, if somehow I were given the choice between getting body slammed and getting charged with a crime and the question were How hard would the body slam need to be before you'd prefer to get charged with a crime?, I'd say pretty damned hard. And I'm just a little old lady. I'd rather be body-slammed than get sued in tort. If you body-slammed me, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't hit you back.* But I'll tell you one thing: If you sue me, I will defend to the hilt, and —  where ethically appropriate — there will be counterclaims.


* And I have been body-slammed, at rock concerts, when I was trying to stand out of the range of a mosh pit and some young man came flying out obliviously. And sometimes it was intentional, an effort to provoke non-moshers to listen to the music the properly physical way. But I didn't call the cops or take names or file lawsuits.

A "body-slam" is lifting someone completely of the ground and then driving their body to the ground.

It's not the same as "slam-dancing" on the periphery of a mosh pit, where one person slams his body into someone else's.
Wait. Let's get some shared understanding here. Does anybody think Jacobs intended to refer to the professional wrestling move? Here's a careful, precise demonstration of what that is:

Goodbye to Gregg Allman.

The rock star — who "struggled with many health issues over the past several years" — died today at the age of 69.

Let others stress the music. I remember his relationship with Cher. This detail is stuck forever in my mind:
They had a disastrous first date; Allman sucked on her fingers and tried to kiss her, and Cher fled. Against her better judgment, she agreed to a second date. Allman took her dancing, and they started to connect. "Pulling words out of Gregg Allman is like . . . forget it," she told Playboy that year. "Things started to mellow when he found out that I was a person — that a chick was not just a dummy. For him up till then, they'd had only two uses: make the bed and make it in the bed."
And then:

Maybe people don't want to relate to real human beings anymore, and we're consuming these movies to help us adjust to the "uncanny valley," so we can settle down there someday soon.

I'm reading "Male Stars Are Too Buff Now," by E. Alex Jung (in New York Magazine).
... Zac Efron’s body displays a muscularity I can only describe as “deeply uncomfortable.” The actor told Men’s Fitness that he wanted to “drop the last bit of body fat” for Baywatch and he seems to have meant that literally... Zac Efron does not look like a swimmer. His action-figure physique is much bulkier than you’d see at an Olympic pool...

In 2011’s Crazy Stupid Love, Emma Stone’s character said that Ryan Gosling’s body looked like it had been “photoshopped.” The joke seems practically quaint now.... Stars like Zac Efron and Hugh Jackman have simply been forced to go even further to separate themselves from the pack, to the point where their bodies look truly unreal. We’ve entered a reverse uncanny valley where the real looks unreal: Flesh and blood human celebrities now sport the vein-popping, skintight muscles comic-book artists could once only conjure in their imaginations....
Everything is so fake now. It's not just male actors, it's "female actors" too. Maybe we like fake. That's a lateral thinking explanation that makes sense, being simple. Maybe people don't want to relate to real human beings anymore, and we're consuming these movies to help us adjust to the "uncanny valley" as we move ever closer to the time when we'll be happy to satisfy our sexual and emotional needs with robots.

Here's the above-mentioned scene. (Warning, Emma Stone will shout "Fuck!" before "It's like you're photoshopped.")

"Wise-cracking funnyman Al Franken yesterday body-slammed a demonstrator to the ground after the man tried to shout down Gov. Howard Dean."

"The tussle left Franken’s trademark thick-rim glasses broken, but he said he was not injured.... 'I got down low and took his legs out,' said Franken afterwards.... "I’m for freedom of speech, which means people should be able to assemble and speak without being shouted down.'"

"Yesterday" = January 26, 2004.

The "Simpsons" take on Trump.

"I don't find the idea of wearing a romper that weird. I grew up around motorcycles and cars, and we called what we wore overalls..."

"... but it's the same single piece idea as a romper. I also wear a one-piece when I do competitive road cycling.... It feels easy, and you're not messing around with it every time you sit down. It lays how it lays, and that's it."

Said Shom, one of "5 Real Guys" who test-wore the male romper for Esquire. Shom recommended it: "One hundred percent. Especially the one I'm wearing—I would seek this one out. Actually, where did you get it?"

Guy #2 said: "Damn! This isn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. Actually... this is a solid look. A classic mechanic's suit...."

Guy #3 said also compared it to "a mechanic's jumpsuit," but didn't like the "dropped crotch"* and didn't recommend it: "Absolutely not. Under no circumstance could I, in good conscience, recommend anybody wear a romper at any point."

Guy #4, who was the only one given a pink romper, didn't mention the pinkness, but said: "It's an interesting feel because there's nothing on your waist. You feel a little naked, actually. I understand why women would enjoy it—it feels pretty good and breezy. Outside of the breeziness, the really low crotch is not great."

Guy #5, the only one who got a print (and it was a loud, fruity** print), liked it: "I felt like a little kid. It really brings out a lot of playful attitude." But he liked looking like a child — "I'd also recommend a regular onesie. I'd also recommend Crocs. Why not? And pinwheel hats." — so he's exactly what I've been talking about all these years about men in shorts: It makes them look like little boys. If that's the look you want, you've got it.

* Technically — and this is my observation — the crotch has to be really low because the entire thing is pulled up by the shoulders. If you lift your arms up or bend your torso forward, the whole thing is going to go up. Men's clothing is normally broken up at the waist, so the parts operate independently. If you make it one continuous piece, you're going to need to account for all the movement of the upper body. This is why dresses make more sense as a one-piece garment: The crotch is out of the action.

** Pineapples.


ADDED: The word "romper" to refer to the child's garment goes back as far as 1902, according to the OED.  The word is used for an adult garment, beginning in 1922, and not always for something worn by women. The OED has a definition: "(a) a fashionable, loose-fitting woman's garment combining esp. a short-sleeved or sleeveless top and wide-legged shorts; (b) (U.S.) a style of loose-fitting men's breeches or knickerbockers (now rare); (c) (Brit. Services' slang) any of several styles of military uniform; (d) a light one-piece garment allowing easy movement of the limbs, worn as sports clothing." Many of the historical quotes relate to men (but always with an "s"):
1941 Amer. Speech 16 186/2 [British Army slang] Rompers, battle dress.
1943 ‘T. Dudley-Gordon’ Coastal Command 85 Sipping hot coffee as he took off his rompers (combined parachute harness and Mae West life-jacket) he told us of his first night raid.
1954 H. Macmillan Diary 24 Aug. (2003) 346, I left the F.O. at noon and arrived for luncheon at Chartwell just after 1pm. P.M. was in bed—so I had to wait 20 minutes till he had got up and put on his ‘rompers’....
1990 D. Jablonsky Churchill, Great Game & Total War 145 In 15 minutes, Churchill, dressed in his ‘rompers’ was in the Intelligence Operations Room outlining his intelligence requirements.

"Don’t Judge Montana for a Single Body Slam."

A NYT op-ed by Sarah Vowell. I like Sarah Vowell, but this grated on me.

She's talking about all the diversity there is in Montana — "farmers; ranchers; miners; artists, including folk singers, though let’s not underestimate our potters; the inhabitants of two lefty college towns, Missoula and Bozeman, where I grew up; and the coastal refugees such as Mr. Gianforte...."

She goes on:
So what’s the tally — at least 14 varieties of Montanan? Fifteen if we include the summer roofers-winter ski bums affectionately known in my home valley as “dirt bags.” The dirt bags might look like a bunch of Hillary-voting hippies, but based on my five winters during the Reagan-Bush era tending bar at the local ski area, Bridger Bowl, they’re stingy tippers and therefore, I suspect, secret Republicans.
Has it ever been established that conservatives are worse tippers than liberals? Is that even a stereotype? I'm offended that this is offered up as a laugh line, as if, of course, NYT readers will get this. Presumably, it has more to do with the idea that Republicans don't support generous governmental spending, but that assumes that Democrats, who are generous with the taxpayers' money, won't be stingy with their own money.

Research shows that conservatives give more to charity than liberals give.

The liberal vanity about personal generosity, empathy, and goodness, is on display in Vowell's op-ed. I guess I could say it's funny, even if you don't believe the stereotype that Republicans are stingy, because you can laugh at the stereotype that Vowell embodies by saying that. And she keeps it personal. She says "I suspect." And we can picture her as the young bartender, noticing the tip is bad, and getting some solace out of thinking: must be a Republican.

She put him in her tip jar of deplorables. 

"If anything seemed to unite the sartorial choices the first lady made, at least during the day, it was a certain rigidity of line, monochrome palette and militaristic mien."

"She favored sharp power shoulders, single-breasted jackets with wide cinched belts and big square buckles, straight skirts and a lot of buttons. Mostly buttoned up.... For what battle, exactly, is she preparing? Theories have been floated: her husband’s critics; the prying eyes of the outside world; even her own marriage. Maybe it’s the much vaunted revolution the president was fond of saying he led; maybe she, too, is fighting for his agenda. Or maybe it’s just a signal that she is prepared to take her place on the home front."

That's from "Melania Trump on Display, Dressed in Ambivalence and Armor," by Vanessa Friedman in the NYT, trying to understand why Melania Trump wore what she wore on the big foreign trip. (Nice 14-photo slide show at the link.)

By the way, was Trump fond of saying he led a "revolution"? I blogged the whole campaign, meticulously inspecting the rhetoric, and when I search my archive for Trump and revolution, all the references I see to revolution are connected to Bernie Sanders, except where I myself am saying but isn't what Trump is doing a revolution? And I see that when Trump won the New Hampshire primary, he walked out on stage to the tune of "Revolution."

Googling, I see that Trump used the word "revolution" right after the 2012 election. He tweeted: "He lost the popular vote by a lot and won the election. We should have a revolution in this country!" But I don't think "revolution" was his word in 2016.

Please correct me if I'm missing references to "revolution" by Trump in 2016, but I think "the much vaunted revolution the president was fond of saying he led" is off.

As for Friedman's opinion of Melania, it reminded me of Robin Givhan's piece the other day, saying that Melania was dressed for "control and containment." Givhan didn't say "armor," but I used the word in my reaction to Givhan:
I'm not sure where the "control and containment" is supposed to be — maybe in the constricting leather skirt or maybe it's something she's extracting from the President who scampers at her heel — but from the waist up, I'm seeing a more freewheeling style, an eschewing of a fully controlled structure. I'm not criticizing this choice, I'm just saying this isn't the Jackie Kennedy choice of clothing as armor, but a stretchy sweater over something less than the most rigid undergarments. I see an amusing combo of loose and tight.
I was talking about one particular outfit, which you can see at that last link. Friedman, as noted above, has 14 photos of things Melania wore. Some of them indeed have a squared-off look with tight cinching that could be called rigid and militaristic, but other things were loose and flowing, including and especially #5, which was worn during the day. I guess whatever isn't "armor" gets tossed into the "ambivalence" pile, especially that $51,000 flower-encrusted coat she's wearing over her shoulders in photo 14.

Trump antagonists fail to see the comic fakeness of a comic artist's comic fake letter from Trump.

On Facebook, Berkeley Breathed — who does the comic strip "Bloom County" — put up a letter purporting to be from Donald Trump's lawyer. Here's the image of the letter, replete with law-firm letterhead and lawyerly bluster about Trump's supposed legal right over the "commercial" use of his image and threatening to sue for an injunction in federal court (specifically the Eastern District of New York).

The prediction that the "lawyer" will win the lawsuit is (pun intended) cheeky: "To use language that you might understand (per my client's wishes) we will have your ass in a sling before lunch." (The word "ass" is redacted in the posted image.)

Breathed followed that with an image of his own letter, typed on his letterhead (and I mean typed, because there's Wite Out.) He says he's "really, very sincerely sorry" and has taken down all the images that are "upsetting the President."

Is that fake-funny enough for everyone to get it? The NYT reports:
The letters rocketed around the internet. By Friday afternoon, CrowdTangle, which tracks social media activity, showed that the original Facebook post was seen by three million newsfeeds and generated 78,000 interactions — people sharing, commenting or otherwise reacting to it. Many of the people who shared the post on social media seemed to take it seriously.
Fake news. People fall for it, especially when it confirms their suspicions. But this wasn't even news. This was a Facebook post from a comics artist.
[The] website Uproxx, wrote about the letter as if it were real — “Trump Is Threatening the Creator of ‘Bloom County’ Over a Facebook Meme [UPDATED],” the headline now reads. That update at the bottom? A tweet from a BuzzFeed reporter who had confirmed with Marc Kasowitz, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, that the letter was not real.

“This is a fraud, not true,” Mr. Kasowitz, who did not reply to an email seeking comment on Friday, told BuzzFeed.
Fraud! Now, poor Breathed is accused of "fraud." He should sue. (I'm kidding!!!)

"Jared Kushner and Russia’s ambassador to Washington discussed the possibility of setting up a secret and secure communications channel between Trump’s transition team and the Kremlin..."

"... using Russian diplomatic facilities in an apparent move to shield their pre-inauguration discussions from monitoring, according to U.S. officials briefed on intelligence reports," The Washington Post reports.
The White House disclosed the meeting only in March, playing down its significance. But people familiar with the matter say the FBI now considers the encounter, as well as another meeting Kushner had with a Russian banker, to be of investigative interest.

[Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, who attended the meeting,[ reportedly was taken aback by the suggestion of allowing an American to use Russian communications gear at its embassy or consulate — a proposal that would have carried security risks for Moscow as well as the Trump team.

Neither the meeting nor the communications of Americans involved were under U.S. surveillance, officials said.
So... Kushner expressed interest in doing something that was never done. It was a bad idea — WaPo stresses — and if a bad idea was floated and then rejected, what is the story? WaPo says the White House disclosed this meeting back in March and "play[ed] down its significance," but is WaPo playing up its significance? What is the significance?
The FBI closely monitors the communications of Russian officials in the United States, and it maintains a nearly constant surveillance of its diplomatic facilities. The National Security Agency monitors the communications of Russian officials overseas.

Current and former U.S. intelligence officials said that although Russian diplomats have secure means of communicating with Moscow, Kushner’s apparent request for access to such channels was extraordinary.

“How would he trust that the Russians wouldn’t leak it on their side?” said one former senior intelligence official. The FBI would know that a Trump transition official was going in and out of the embassy, which would cause “a great deal” of concern, he added. The entire idea, he said, “seems extremely naive or absolutely crazy.”
But the "extremely naive or absolutely crazy" idea was rejected, so what is the significance? The meeting, we're told, took place on December 1st or 2d, and WaPo says it's part of "a broader pattern of efforts by Trump’s closest advisers to obscure their contacts with Russian counterparts." And yet, WaPo tells us, "It is common for senior advisers of a newly elected president to be in contact with foreign leaders and officials" and "The State Department, the White House National Security Council and U.S. intelligence agencies all have the ability to set up secure communications channels with foreign leaders, though doing so for a transition team would be unusual."  

Unusual? That means it has happened before. And it ultimately wasn't done with the Trump team, so when was it done? Which President's transition team set up secure communications and was it "extremely naive or absolutely crazy"?

I know Trump has been concerned that the Obama administration was "wiretapping" him. How does that fit with this story? Is it that the Trump team was trying to avoid being monitored by the Obama administration, and, if so, is there something wrong with talking about how it might be arranged so that the President elect could interact with foreign leaders without sharing everything with with Obama administration?

May 26, 2017

"To be sure, Trump got plenty of negative coverage in the press as well, but, during the campaign at least, the negative stories didn’t seem to stick to him with the same adhesion."

"And even now, as investigations of his administration’s connections to Russia splash across front pages, the Times has launched a new feature, a weekly call to readers to 'Say something nice' about him. I ask Clinton if she’s seen it. 'I did!' she says with a wide smile, taking a beat. 'I never saw them do that for me.'"

From "Hillary Clinton Is Furious. And Resigned. And Funny. And Worried./The surreal post-election life of the woman who would have been president," by Rebecca Traister.

AND: Here's the transcript of the graduation speech Hillary just gave at Wellesley:
You may have heard that things didn't exactly go the way I planned. But you know what? I'm doing okay. I've gotten to spend time with my family, especially my amazing grandchildren. I was going to give the entire commencement speech about them but was talked out of it.

Long walks in the woods. Organizing my closets, right? I won't lie. Chardonnay helped a little too. Here's what helped most of all. Remembering who I am, where I come from, and what I believe...
Too bad she didn't remember during the campaign. If she'd seemed at least a bit to be someone who believed in a few things, maybe the negative stories wouldn't have stuck to her with the same adhesion.