"Joy and pleasure are as real as pain and sorrow and one must learn what they have to teach. . . ." -- Sean Russell, from Gatherer of Clouds

"If you're not having fun, you're not doing it right." -- Helyn D. Goldenberg

"I love you and I'm not afraid." -- Evanescence, "My Last Breath"

“If I hear ‘not allowed’ much oftener,” said Sam, “I’m going to get angry.” -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from Lord of the Rings

Thursday, November 29, 2018

It Must Be In the Genes

Apparently, when you put one narcissist in office, you get a bunch of little narcissists to round out the set. Just one example:

WTF? She's just as coherent as her father, too.

Via Digby, who points out that this is equivalent to Trump being thankful for himself on Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Culture Break: Philip Glass: String Quartet No. 2, "Company"

I have this on an album by the Kronos Quartet, who for my money are about the foremost interpreters of Glass' work -- at least, the smaller-scale works. This performance, by Brooklyn Rider, however, is creditable, at the very least (yes, it's another case of no video of a live performance by Kronos, which is odd, at a minimum):

And yes, I'm about as enthusiastic about Glass as I am about Riley -- at least, since he left serial minimalism behind and broadened his scope. (Way back when, I used to regularly attend Glass' concerts in Chicago. He was still pretty much serial minimalist at that point, but I soon discovered that it was a lot easier to watch the concerts than listen to the recordings. Maybe because people were moving around and such.)

Today's Must-Read: Transactional Ideologies

Interesting piece by Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo that articulates a few points I've thought about but haven't really solidified. It starts off with an OpEd by Michelle Goldberg:

"A longing for validation is underrated as a political motivator," explains Michelle Goldberg, exploring the seamy side of political social climbing.

Exhibit A is the "tawdry, shallow memoir" of a Jewish former employee of the Christian right:

It’s not exactly a secret that politics is full of amoral careerists lusting — literally or figuratively — for access to power. Still, if you’re interested in politics because of values and ideas, it can be easier to understand people who have foul ideologies than those who don’t have ideologies at all. Steve Bannon, a quasi-fascist with delusions of grandeur, makes more sense to me than Anthony Scaramucci, a political cipher who likes to be on TV. I don’t think I’m alone. Consider all the energy spent trying to figure out Ivanka Trump’s true beliefs, when she’s shown that what she believes most is that she’s entitled to power and prestige.

(As regards Ivanka Trump's entitlement, see this. It's because she's special.)

The whole idea of political affiliation as a means of validation is more than apt: as more people than I have noted, Trump's GOP is no longer a political party -- it's become a cult, with membership proving you're one of "us". It also explains why appeals to reality don't work with Trump supporters -- reality is what their leader says it is.

What struck me most was this part:

His/their relationship with the law and the Constitution is also transactional, and more about social power and status than principle.

Immigration opponents’ insistence migrants seek asylum the “right” way (at an American embassy or consulate, they insist wrongly) echoes T-party howls from a 2012 recount a Democrat here won by 18 votes. T-partiers objected to counting votes of college students, even though Symm v. United States settled that question in 1979.

GOP activists argued students’ votes shouldn’t count because the students didn’t really live at their school addresses. The Board of Elections chair read them the statute aloud from the code book. They were unfazed. The law should be what they wanted it to be. What the law actually said didn’t matter.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services states (emphasis mine): “To obtain asylum ... you must be physically present in the United States. You may apply for asylum status regardless of how you arrived in the United States or your current immigration status.”

Immigration opponents do not care what the law actually says. The law is supposed to be what they feel it should be. The law carries weight only so long as it serves them.

That last short paragraphs sums up Trump's attitude toward the law -- the law should be what he wants it to be.

Sadly, the same applies to reality. If you don't believe me, ponder this:

Counselor to the president Kellyanne Conway claimed Tuesday that President Donald Trump's warnings of violent migrants making their way toward the U.S. were vindicated over the weekend by clashes at the Mexican border, even though no U.S. law enforcement officers were seriously injured amid efforts to block crowds of migrants attempting to cross the border into California.

"Everything that was predicted by the president and Secretary Nielsen and homeland security and others has come true," Conway told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" on Tuesday. "There are violent elements in this caravan. The mainstream media only wants you to see the children, the families. They're not telling you that most of the caravan are males traveling by themselves."

It occurs to me that Conway's role all along, both during the campaign and in the administration, has been to rewrite reality -- "alternative facts".

At any rate, read Sullivan's piece in toto -- it's very interesting.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Today in Trump's America: No Wonder They Support Trump

Speaking of your friendly local police:

WUSA9 reported that 23-year-old Samir Ahmed found his drunk neighbor passed out in his lawn on the morning of Sunday, November 17 and decided to walk him home.

When he came back, police — who had been called by someone else who was concerned about the drunk neighbor — had arrived.

Police claimed they smelled cannabis on Ahmed and that gave them probable cause to search him. Ahmed, those same officers claimed, resisted their attempts to search him.

In a video recorded by a bystander, neighbors can be heard insisting that the man lives in the neighborhood and had just helped a drunk person get home — to which an officer replied, “I think you’re the intoxicated one.”

Here's the capper:

In the nearly 18-minute long video, officers are heard laughing at the situation and telling bystanders who challenged Ahmed’s arrest that “we don’t answer to you.”

You think someone has an attitude problem? I'm surprized they didn't taze the guy.

Somebody should have taken names and badge numbers -- but they probably would have been arrested themselves.

Monday, November 26, 2018

No Bottom

What will it take for the morally bankrupt Trump party to start acting like normal human beings? This is beyond outrageous:

An Associated Press reporter saw U.S. agents shoot several rounds of tear gas after some migrants attempted to penetrate several points along the border. Mexico's Milenio TV showed images of migrants climbing over fences and peeling back metal sheeting to enter.

Honduran Ana Zuniga, 23, also said she saw migrants opening a small hole in concertina wire at a gap on the Mexican side of a levee, at which point U.S. agents fired tear gas at them.

Children screamed and coughed. Fumes were carried by the wind toward people who were hundreds of feet away. . . .

As the chaos unfolded, shoppers just yards away on the U.S. side streamed in and out of an outlet mall.

Is this what we've become?

Via New Civil Rights Movement, which has some of the reactions.

And this:

On CNN Monday morning Chief U.S. Border Patrol Agent Rodney Scott defended the use of tear gas by saying agents had to use it to protect themselves after some migrants began throwing rocks at them. When asked if any of the agents had been hurt he admitted they were not.

"You gotta do what you gotta do," he said on CNN.

Christ on a bleedin' crutch.

Which reminds me -- where are all the high-profile "Christians" in all this? *crickets*

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Review: Jean Cocteau/Philip Glass: La Belle et la Bête

I first saw Jean Cocteau's La Belle et la Bête many years ago on the big screen and was completely enchanted. And recently a friend loaned me a copy of Philip Glass' opera of the same title, which Glass composed to be performed with the film, and which I enjoyed thoroughly. When I had an opportunity to get a DVD that included both, I pounced. (The joke is that I finally bought a DVD that wasn't in Japanese -- it's in French.)

La Belle et la Bête is Cocteau's adaptation of the fairy tale by Mme. Leprince de Beaumont, about a young woman, Belle, who goes to live with the Beast to save her father, who stumbled onto the Beast's domain on his way home from an unsuccessful trip to salvage his business. Remembering his youngest daughter's only request, he plucks a rose and his fate is sealed: he must die or send his daughter to live with the Beast in his place. (His two older daughters, mercenary monsters both, asked for jewels and brocades.) He returns home and tells his story, and Belle, filled with guilt that her modest request had endangered her father's life, sneaks away on the Beast's enchanted horse.

The film is, to put it quite simply, magical. There's an element of surreality here that, it occurs to me, is basic to fairy tales. The white stallion with his sparkly mane, the doors that magically open, those are pretty standard. The bare arms that serve dinner and that hold candelabra that light themselves, and the sculptured heads that come to life, those are a little out of the ordinary, as is the sort of fuzzy boundary between inside and outside in many of the sets, most particularly Belle's bedroom at the Beast's mansion.

Visually, this one's scrumptious. I've always been fond of black-and-white as a visual medium, and this is just beautiful, with rich shadows, finely detailed highlights, and beautifully modeled grays. It's also full of wonderful tableaux and solo shots that are masterfully composed. This is the restored version released in 2003 by Criterion Collection, and they did a bang-up job: it's clean, smooth, and a joy to look at.

Both Josette Day as Belle and and Jean Marais as the Beast bring the characters to life (although the acting style is, in some places, rather broader than we're used to these days, but it's a fairy tale, after all), and it's Belle's growing acceptance and finally love of the Beast that is the core of the story. It's very well done, subtle and circumspect.

I elected to watch with Philip Glass' opera as the soundtrack, rather than the original with Georges Auric's score (which, on sampling a few bits, has also been beautifully restored). I have to say, the experience is even more magical than I remember the original film. Although the synchronization is not perfect, it's pretty close, and the music itself reflects the fairy tale quality of the story. If you're expecting the Philip Glass of serial minimalism and driving, repetitive phrases that sound like Balinese gamelan, be reassured: this is not that. Yes, the rhythms are there, but not obtrusive, and Glass has tied them to the action of the film. This is Glass from the mid-1990s, much freer and more engaging than the Glass of the mid-1970s.

The set comes with a wealth of features and extras, including a booklet (which I think one must necessarily designate as "lavishly illustrated") with the full film credits, an essay by Cocteau, an excerpt from Francis Steegmuller's biography of Cocteau, the original story, and notes on the restoration. (Strangely enough, the booklet doesn't discuss Glass' opera at all.) The disc itself includes commentaries by Arthur Knight and Sir Christopher Frayling; interviews with Henri Alekan, director of photography, and Hagop Arakelian, the makeup artist; the original trailer and the restoration trailer; a documentary on the restoration, "Screening at the Majestic," the theater where Cocteau viewed the rushes, including reminiscences from Alekan, Marais, and Mila Parely ("Felicie") at the locations used for the film, with narration from Cocteau's diaries. You can view the film either with the original soundtrack or the opera, and depending on your decision, you have the option of the movie subtitles, the opera subtitles, or no subtitles. (It's sort of amazing how much you can pack into one DVD.)

Yes, this is absolutely highly recommended with no reservations whatsoever.

(Criterion Collection, 2003)

What's New at Green Man Review

Another group of interesting -- can I say "fascinating"? -- things at GMR this week:

Doctor Who goes Victorian, cornbread, music from Nightnoise, concert hall staples, color photography, and there’s a bite on the air

And that's just a small sample. Scoot on over and enjoy.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Antidote: There Are Good People In America

I don't know if you heard about or witnessed Trump's latest "press conference", but it seems to be pretty much what we've come to expect. Here's a recap, if you can stand it.

And to help you back to sanity, there's this story:

A Dallas man saved a baby from a burning apartment building the day before Thanksgiving when he persuaded the child’s mother to drop her from a third-story window into his waiting arms, according to news reports.

“I didn’t want my daughter to lose her life,” Shuntara Thomas told KXAS. “He told me: ‘Just trust me. I got her, I got her.’ So without even thinking, I just dropped her.”

The 1-year-old girl was caught by Byron Campbell, who was one of the first people to arrive on the scene.

Campbell told Dallas News on Wednesday that he had seen smoke coming from the apartment building, so he drove to it. He went inside, knocked on apartment doors and told people to get out.

When he emerged from the building, he joined people who were using a mattress to help residents jump from the windows. That’s when he heard Thomas yell that she had a baby. “So I told her to drop the baby out,” Campbell said. “The baby was crying.”

After catching the baby, he said, he handed off the girl to a woman on the scene and went back to assisting others who were jumping out of the windows. Firefighters said six people escaped the burning building by going out the windows. No one was injured.

This is one of the people that Trump is trying to convince us is "dangerous."

Via Digby.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Happy Thanksgiving

That's all.

The news is the same old, same old, and I have no energy this morning (another gray chilly day in Chicago).

Enjoy the day, however you decide to celebrate.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The Rule of Law, Trump Version

Have you noticed how often Trump and the Republicans are invoking the "rule of law" lately? Remember that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III claimed to have "restored" it in his craven resignation letter. They make a lot of noise about it, but this is what it means to them -- to the Trump wing of the party, at least, which is pretty much the whole thing. This story is from a couple of weeks ago:

After Wednesday, elected officials in the Republican Party should have no doubt that Donald Trump will force them to choose in coming days, weeks, and months between loyalty to him and loyalty to the rule of law, between the public’s right to the truth and Trump’s efforts to hide it.

The president began the day with an extraordinary threat on Twitter: “If the Democrats think they are going to waste Taxpayer Money investigating us at the House level,” he wrote, “then we will likewise be forced to consider investigating them for all of the leaks of Classified Information, and much else, at the Senate level. Two can play that game!”

(Side note: So all those hearings on Benghazi!!1! and Her E-Mails!1!! were a game in Trump's eyes.)

There's been token resistance (Can you say "Jeff Flake"?), but they've pretty much fallen into line, from the illegal detention of migrant children while not allowing their parents to request asylum (which is a direct violation of American law, not to mention international treaties) on down the line.

And now we have another couple of examples. It's been obvious for a while that Trump considers the Dempartment of Justice, which has historically been a quasi-independent branch of the executive, to be his personal enforcers, but this takes it up a notch:

The New York Times reports:

President Trump told the White House counsel in the spring that he wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries: his 2016 challenger, Hillary Clinton, and the former F.B.I. director James B. Comey, according to two people familiar with the conversation.

No investigation, no evidence, just prosecute. Sound like a couple of twentieth-century dictators we could name?

Here's another little tidbit:

Trump administration officials have privately discussed the possibility that in the future census information could be shared with law enforcement, according to documents filed in a legal challenge over plans for a new citizenship question on the 2020 survey.

The subject came up after a Democratic lawmaker asked whether responses to the survey could ever be shared with law enforcement agencies, something that has been strictly illegal according to federal law governing the census.

After a congressional hearing in May about the citizenship question, Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) submitted a written query about whether the Justice Department agreed with a memo it had issued in 2010 saying the USA Patriot Act could not override the confidentiality of the census.

In a June 12 email, department officials discussed among themselves how to answer Gomez’s question in a way that left the answer open. Justice Department attorney Ben Aguinaga suggested to acting assistant attorney general John Gore that they not say “too much” in response to Gomez’s question, in case the issue were to “come up later for renewed debate.”

The confidentiality of census responses is not up for debate -- it's a matter of law.

Of course, Trump and the Republicans (sounds like a garage band, doesn't it?) think that "rule of law" means that the law is what they say it is. Well, no:

The ACLU and others had filed suit to stop the Trump administration from implementing rules that would prevent the migrant caravan from entering the United States and filing claims for asylum.


In an order laced with language accusing President Donald Trump of attempting to rewrite immigration laws, a federal judge based in San Francisco temporarily blocked the government late Monday night from denying asylum to those crossing over the southern border between ports of entry.

Judge Jon S. Tigar of the US District Court for the Northern District of California said that a policy announced November 9 barring asylum for immigrants who enter outside a legal check point '"irreconcilably conflicts" with immigration law and the "expressed intent of Congress."

"Whatever the scope of the President's authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden," Tigar wrote, adding that asylum seekers would be put at "increased risk of violence and other harms at the border" if the administration's rule is allowed to go into effect.

He really wants to rule by proclamation.

And lest you think I'm unfairly tarring the GOP because of Trump, read this post from Digby. It's not just Trump -- it's a Republican thing.

Thanks to commenter JCF at Joe.My.God., here is, I think, the image that perfectly captures what Trump and the GOP think of the rule of law:

Culture Break: Terry Riley: Arica

This is from the legendary Lisbon Concert, which album, of course, I've reviewed. The album was really well-done, the next best thing to actually seeing Riley live. "Arica" leads off the concert.

While searching YouTube for a Riley performance (which, strangely enough, don't seem to exist on YouTube, except for one or two concerts with lousy sound quality), I ran across a reference to "minimalist composer Terry Riley." Maybe once upon a time, about the time of In C, but he left that mode behind long ago. As far as I'm concerned, he's another American original in the mold of Ives, Copland, Bernstein, etc. Which is to say, unclassifiable.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Where's Try Gowdy When You Need Him?

Put your irony meter someplace safe:

Oh, Trey Gowdy? This is your jurisdiction. Surely you must be extremely concerned. This is actually current:
Ivanka Trump sent hundreds of emails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules, according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence.

White House ethics officials learned of Trump’s repeated use of personal email when reviewing emails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit. That review revealed that throughout much of 2017, she often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private email account with a domain that she shares with her husband, Jared Kushner.

She says she wasn't aware of all the rules. If that's the case, she's even more oblivious to the real world than I thought.

The only appropriate response is, to quote a source, "Lock her up!"

And from Trey Gowdy? *crickets*

There Is No Bottom

Not for this regime. Now they're going after 4H Clubs:

The Trump administration pushed the national 4-H youth organization to withdraw a controversial policy welcoming LGBT members — a move that helped lead to the ouster of Iowa's top 4-H leader earlier this year, a Des Moines Register investigation found.

The international youth organization, with more than 6 million members, introduced the new guidance to ensure LGBT members felt protected by their local 4-H program. The document and their attempts to broaden membership in the LGBT community was a smaller part of a larger, multi-year effort to modernize the federally authorized group. . . .

Within days of the LGBT guidance's publication, Heidi Green, then-chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, requested that it be rescinded, Sonny Ramaswamy, then-director of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the federal department that administers 4-H, told the Register.

Afterward, a NIFA communications manager sent an "urgent" email to at least two states — Iowa and New York — urging the 4-H organizations there to remove the LGBT guidance from their websites, the Register found.

Via Joe.My.God. There's some feeling in the comments at Joe's post that this is the work of Mike Pence. It's possible, but in this so-called "administration" there are enough bigots, both in office and hanging around the edges, not to mention in the halls of Congress, that it's not even necessary for Pence to get involved -- after all, Sonny Perdue is no prize himself.

The article is worth reading -- it goes into detail about how this fits into the Trump regime's attacks on LGBT Americans, which, after all, has historically been one of the favored targets of dictator wannabes.

Monday, November 19, 2018


Just a reminder: most of us are decent human beings:

Forest Lake Christian High School in Auburn faced Paradise Adventist Academy in a Northern California Division VI girls’ volleyball semifinal match Saturday night. Everyone knows that the city of Paradise has been pretty much destroyed by fire.

Forest Lake team members asked the California Interscholastic Federation that in lieu of charging admission if it could accept donations for their opponent and families. The CIF said yes.

Paradise had no uniforms and most of the families had only the clothes on their backs. When they arrived, they found new uniforms, knee pads and socks for every player. There was also a room full of goods for families and dinner was served.

At the end, the Paradise coach was presented with gift cards for each player and family, $300 per student.

Via TaMara at Balloon Juice.

Today in Disgusting People

You get a choice.

First, one of the perennial favorites:

How mature.

The Congressman's name, of course, is Adam Schiff. And special prosecutors don't need Senate confirmation. They're hired by the Attorney General.

This one just keeps piling it on:

Speaking to a college crowd, Hyde-Smith says, "There's a lot of liberal folks in those other schools who maybe we don't want to vote. Maybe we want to make it just a little more difficult. And I think that's a great idea."

Of course, she's a Republican. And of course, she's from Mississippi:

This is not the first time Hyde-Smith has used a racist "joke" in recent days. In speaking of a supporter of her, she said, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row."

Lynching was popular in Mississippi. Between 1877 and 1950, 654 lynchings of black people were reported in the state, and were often treated as an outing for white people in the state.

What really depresses me is that I could come up with a post like this every day.

Image du Jour: Taking Care of the Floor

Just in case you haven't heard Trump's totally brainless comment on forest management:

“You look at other countries where they do it differently and it’s a whole different story,” he continued. “I was with the president of Finland and he said: ‘We have a much different — we’re a forest nation.’ He called it a forest nation, and they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things. And they don’t have any problem.”

This is the best response I've seen:

Sunday, November 18, 2018

What's New at Green Man Review

As usual, there's quite a mix:

A Tull concert, limited edition Ritter chocolate bars, Novels from Ursula le Guin and Patricia McKilillip, German style sausages, ‘Take This Waltz’ by Leonard Cohen and other later Autumn matters

Toddle on over and take a look.

Review: Mizuna Kuwabara and Susumu Kodo: The World of Mirage of Blaze

Another Epinions foundling. I think I need to watch it again -- it sounds a lot more complex than I remember.

Mirage of Blaze is the anime developed from a series of boys' love light novels that have never been translated into English. I first watched it with German subtitles (nope, I'm no longer that fluent, and I need to work on that), and liked it enough that I decided to buy the DVD when I found it at a good price. Even though there is no real resolution, either to the conflict that forms the main plot or to the relationship between the protagonists, it's definitely worth seeing.

Takaya Ougi is, to all appearances, a normal high-school student whose best friend, Yuzuru Narita, has been "acting strange." Takaya is concerned, and becomes even more so when he encounters Nobutsuna Naoe, a strangely compelling older man with mysterious powers who tells Takaya that he, Takaya, is the reincarnation of a feudal noble, Kagetora Uesugi, who had been born a son of the Hojo clan and "adopted" (meaning turned over as a hostage) by the Uesugi. Naoe and Takaya are "Possessors" who have taken over host bodies to keep vengeful spirits under control, and work with Haruie Kakizaki, who has come back as a woman, and Nagahide Yasuda. And now the spirits of the dead samurai of the Takeda clan have begun to assemble to reconquer their ancestral holdings -- and quite a bit besides. Word is out that the Oda are also assembling. And the Hojo and their allies, the ninja clan Fuuma, have their own ideas about who should be in charge. There is a wild card in here, too -- Kousaka of the Takeda clan, who seems to be on no one's side but his own. If this all sounds complicated, that's only because it is -- and it gets a lot worse.

There is a huge helping of Japanese history and magic here, but that needn't be a deterrent: it reads well either as historical drama or fantasy. And I'm enough of a military sf buff to enjoy the strategy sessions. It's a fairly talky series, but the talkiness is all back story and development, so in spite of my insatiable appetite for movies where everything explodes, I wasn't put off by it -- and there are plenty of things exploding, anyway.

As far as the BL element, it's very understated and ultimately open-ended: the relationship between Takaya and Naoe is far from resolved. Takaya refuses to accept that he is Kagetora and has thoroughly repressed his memories of his previous incarnations, and it becomes plain that Naoe is a big part of the reason. Naoe finally confesses his feelings toward Takaya, but to say that Takaya is conflicted is a weak description: as we see from a couple of scenes, Takaya has strong feelings toward Naoe, but they are all tangled up with the few memories that come back to him of his previous life and his relationship with his older brother, what he perceives as an injury that Naoe inflicted on him in the past, and his unsureness as to whether Naoe's feelings are for him, Takaya, or Kagetora. (This relationship has been ongoing for four hundred years now, and apparently has always been this difficult.) "Love-hate" might be an accurate take on Takaya's feelings. This all contributes to some major psychological tension as the story progresses. The creators have managed to hit some real emotional depth here, and those scenes have a fair amount of power, in spite of the melodrama. (And I should point out that the melodrama is not on the order of the bosom-heaving film dramas of the 1950s, but only the product of some real intensity.)

This set also includes the OVA Rebels of the River Edge, which takes Takaya, Naoe, and Haruie in a further adventure involving an ancient mandala, woven with the hair of executed members of the Araki clan, and the reincarnation of their lord, who deserted them at a critical time. This is all complicated by the Haruie's belief that the lord, Murashige, is her dead lover, Shintaro, lost these two hundred years. And the relationship between Naoe and Takaya is as spiky and unresolved as ever. Takaya has changed, though -- there's an edge of sadism in his exchanges with Naoe, and you can feel Naoe's helplessness in the face of his strong love for Takaya. I had seen Rebels as a stand-alone, and strangely enough, it works better that way than as a sequel, perhaps because it undercuts what little resolution there was between Takaya and Naoe.

A word about the music. The opening title song for the main series falls into the category of "misfit" -- while the lyrics (in English, for some reason) do tie in, sort of, the music is an up-tempo rock/jazz combination that misses the core of the story by a mile. The incidental accompaniment, happily, is in general more on point, and the closing title song is a beautiful string quartet that captures the tenderness, pain and sorrow in the relationship almost perfectly.

This set includes production drawings, textless opening, trailers, and the option of English dialogue or Japanese dialogue with subtitles. I chose the latter, simply because I enjoy the sound of the Japanese.

As I said, I wasn't really prepared for the impact this one had on me -- there are some very strong scenes here, and the portrayal of the relationship between Takaya and Naoe is certainly a cut above most BL anime.

(Anime Works, 2008)

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Antidote: A Real Christian

It's so refreshing to get news about a Christian who actually behaves like a Christian and not some Old Testament judge. This is from Friendly Atheist:

The pastor criticizes people, including Christians, who are sharing images about “the supposed violence in the caravan.” When someone posted to Rogers’ Facebook page photos depicting violence, an image search revealed they were actually from 2012. One such post has been removed, probably because of its misleading nature. Local officers Rogers has talked to say the caravan has been overwhelmingly peaceful, with no police-related conflicts.

Read the whole thing.

Today's Must-Read: Don't Believe, Part II (Update)

As a follow-up to this post from yesterday, I ran across this article this morning that points up just how malignant not only Republicans are in their messaging, but how pretty much everyone in Washington, or writing about Washington, or commenting on Washington, falls into the same traps:

In a recent New York Times interview, Ocasio-Cortez mentioned how hard it is to find affordable housing in Washington; conservative pundits alternated between laughing at this and dismissing it as spin. Judy Miller, on Fox: “I think what she’s talking about is all of the money in Washington, all of the wealth in Washington, all of the power—and a little, simple person like her from New York can’t find a place to live. It is a brilliant political line.”

The author goes on to comment on how easy it is to weaponize hypocrisy.

This one's really hard to excerpt -- read the whole thing. It's not that long, and makes some good points. (Although the author does buy into the "protest" mischaracterization of Ocasio-Cortez' demonstration at Pelosi's office.)

With thanks to commenter SoCalGal20 at Joe.My.God.

Update: Whoopi Goldberg takes down Eddie Scarry, the commentator who first criticized Ocasio-Cortez' clothes.

Friday, November 16, 2018

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

Via Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars, this little tidbit -- Trump's latest rationale for "illegal voters":

In an interview with conservative outlet The Daily Caller, the president claimed that “potentially illegal votes” were responsible for Republicans candidates’ losses, which he claimed resulted from voters returning to their homes or vehicles, exchanging clothes and returning to voting places.

“The Republicans don’t win and that’s because of potentially illegal votes,” Trump told the Caller.

“When people get in line that have absolutely no right to vote and they go around in circles. Sometimes they go to their car, put on a different hat, put on a different shirt, come in and vote again. Nobody takes anything. It’s really a disgrace what’s going on,” he added.

As Brayton points out, it doesn't work that way: you have to prove who you are, and when you receive your ballot you're checked off on the list.

Digby has a transcript of the full interview here, if you can stomach it. It's really pretty wild.

Today's Must-Read: Don't Believe What Republicans Say You Believe

Today's "Must-Read" is a long string of tweets from John Stoehr which details one of the biggest mistakes the left has made over the last thirty years -- taking what the right says we believe as gospel. Here's the start:

It goes on, and it's worth reading the whole string. (As it happens, Ocasio-Cortez told her group of "protesters" that the message to Pelosi was that they had her back in pushing strong climate policy; Pelosi, in her turn, welcomed the support. The whole "protest" thing came from -- ready? -- a spokesperson for Paul Ryan. Yeah -- that Paul Ryan.)

The right has proven to be past masters at controlling the dialogue in this country. Of course, it helps that they've managed to intimidate our "free, independent press" so thoroughly that they'll parrot whatever the GOP talking point du jour happens to be. Oh, and don't forget their staple "analysis": "both sides do it."

Via Tom Sullivan at Hullabaloo, who underscores what we're up against:

Retraining the press and progressives conditioned to accepting standard narratives may be almost as challenging as advancing climate change legislation in a company town.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Culture Break: Peter Maxwell Davies/Duccio Ceccanti: Two Fiddlers (Dances)

Another one I couldn't find a live performance video of. It's one of the albums that snuck into my library somehow, of music by Peter Maxwell Davies (who before this was known to me primarily as a conductor), performed by Duccio Ceccanti. It's an intriguing album -- a wide range of styles, from "adapted traditional" to out-and-out contemporary avant-garde.

Today's Must-Read: He's Come Undone

Trump's mental health has long been a subject for speculation. Now it's become a matter of national survival. Alex Morris has interviewed a number of psychologists and psychiatrists, and the outlook isn't pretty:

According to Gartner, as the pressure mounts — as it likely will with a Democratic House investigating the Trump syndicate — the situation will only continue to deteriorate. “The more desperate he is, the more aggressively and the more recklessly he’s going to lash out — and not just lash out on Twitter, but really lash out in ways that are destructive to the bones of our institutions. So, he’ll try to declare criminal investigations on his enemies or anyone who criticizes him. He’ll fire everyone involved in the Mueller investigations. He’ll fire Sessions” —which, of course, he actually did last Wednesday. “He’ll ramp up his attack on civil liberties and the rule of law. He’ll escalate his incitement to violence, whether it’s supporting white nationalists or demonizing minority populations. Things that we think, ‘Oh, he could never do that, because that would be so outrageous,’ he can and he will. There’s no restraints here. There’s nothing he won’t do. And if it’s enormously destructive, that’s not actually a negative for him, that’s a positive.”

It's bad enough that we have a lunatic in charge. It's even scarier when your realize that, according to the latest figures, 42% of us approve of his performance. And he's systematically getting rid of anyone in the administration who might be able to rein him in.

Via Digby, who has some comments of her own.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Image du Jour: Honoring the Troops


Thanks to commenter Max_1 at Joe.My.God.

And this.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Mid-Terms Post-Mortem, Again

This pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the respective parties:


Thanks to commenter DesertSun59 at Joe.My.God.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Mid-Terms: By Any Means Necessary

I suppose I should comment on the races in Florida, Georgia, and Arizona, the three states where the Republicans are most blatantly trying to steal the elections. I don't think I really need to say anything, but, via BarkBarkWoofWoof, here's Charles P. Pierce on Florida. Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars details the ways Brian Kemp is trying to throw the Georgia election to himself. (Remember, he was secretary of state overseeing the election in which he was running for governor.) And from Joe.My.God., the Arizona race is still up for grabs, although Sinema's lead is increasing. Wait for the cries of "Fraud!" from the right.

And Digby has a wrap-up on Democrats' attempts to steal the elections from none other than Newt Gringrich.

I'm about newsed out this week, so this is what you get.

Review: Richard Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen

You're probably wondering why it took me so long to recycle this one. You have no idea how many reviews I've got in my files.

Richard Wagner's great Ring cycle actually began as an opera about the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, whom Wagner mythologized into the Siegfried of the Germanic mythical cycle of the magical ring forged by a dwarf from gold stolen from a god (in this case, the Rhine River). (The parallel Scandinavian cycle, Volsungasaga names him Sigurd and takes its own title from his father's name, Volse -- or, in Wagner's version, "Wälse.") He began with "Siegfried's Death," which became Götterdämmerung, and then, as he realized that the audience was going to need more background, worked backward in his story outlines. He actually began composing the music in 1853, but left off in 1857 to write Tristan und Isolde and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The whole cycle was completed in 1874, but not performed in its entirety until the completion of the theater built to Wagner's specifications at Bayreuth in 1876. I think perhaps the only thing more ambitious than the creation of such a cycle is the actual attempt to perform it.

Frankly, if you want a plot summary, look up the cycle or the individual operas in Wikipedia or someplace. What is most important about this cycle is that, whatever you may think of Wagner or his music, whatever you have heard from others or whatever your own experience has been, what he put into these four operas is simply everything that matters in human life on earth: trust, betrayal, honor, integrity, love, freedom, responsibility, the uses and misuses of power, all of human life in both its light and dark sides. And the music is without challenge among the most compelling and beautiful ever written.

Clemens Krauss is not a conductor of whom I had heard very much, perhaps because he died relatively young, in 1954, shortly after this Ring was taped. I picked this one for several reasons. I have Solti's recording on vinyl, which was the first complete recording to be issued, and it has always been my standard. Most of the cast is the same in this one, with some notable exceptions: Astrid Varnay, about whom I had heard good things, sings Brünnhilde, and she is an eye-opener. It's a brilliant performance, more intimate than Nilsson's later renderings and a stronger, more capable voice than that of Gwyneth Jones, who is the other Brünnhilde of whom I have strong memories. Ramon Vinay, as Siegmund, and Regina Resnick, in the days before she moved down to mezzo, as Sieglinde, are perfectly matched, and Vinay brings a dark, understated quality to his rendering that not only adds a new dimension in Act I of Walküre, but turns the end of Act II, the entire Todesverkundigung, into one of the most heartbreaking scenes I've ever heard, fully on par with Hans Hotter's unmatched performance of the "Leb' wohl" at the end of Solti's recording of the opera.

Hotter in this recording is at the peak of his vocal power, and it's an education to follow him through the brash, arrogant young god of Reingold through the more sober lord of heaven forced to make the right decision in Walküre, to the doomridden god at the end of the cycle who knows he no longer has any control over events. In Solti's recording (in which the role in Reingold was sung by George London) Hotter's voice was pretty much gone, but his ownership of the role was such that his acting not only carried him through but put his performance on a level seldom achieved by mortals. I'm not sure which I prefer.

Gustav Neidlinger owned the role of Alberich, the dwarf who started the whole thing, pretty much throughout the 1950s and into the 1960s. He delivers all the power the role demands, and in the later operas he is chilling, dark and threatening; one has a sense that the lid is barely on a creature who has become nothing but a walking obsession. It's in the Reingold Alberich that the most marked differences appear. He is near-perfect in this recording, but in Solti's later version he has completely unhinged quality in the scene in which Wotan takes the Ring from him -- he is absolutely spitting venom, and the final line of his curse becomes a shriek. Totally scary.

The other major member of the cast who needs comment is, of course, Siegfried. Wolfgang Windgassen, who for me has always been "the" Siegfried, was an innovation when this recording was made. If you've ever heard any of the recordings of the great Heldentenor of the 1930s and 1940s, their voices are somewhat heavier, "meatier." Windgassen projects an amazingly youthful sound, energetic, clear, lighthearted, bumptious and even mischievous. Robert Levine, who wrote the very informative notes, comments that he missed a beat in the forging scene but recovered quickly -- so quickly that I can't find it when I listen.

One thing that I want to stress here, and I think this holds true of Wagner's operas in general: you can get away with singing a role in Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, even Mozart. You can't just sing it in Wagner. You have to act it: Wagner called his works "music dramas," and the emphasis is evenly divided. So, in addition to their excellent singing, these people are all consummate actors, and that's something that catches you time and time again throughout these operas.

Which leads to an observation about the recordings themselves: yes, they are live, from the 1953 Bayreuth Festival. The sound quality is pretty good, although there are some signs of age here and there. Frankly, I've got "vintage" reissues that are much worse. It seems to be the larger orchestral passages that suffer from the limited tonal range sometimes evident in early recordings.

And finally, the guiding force behind all this. Krauss seems to have taken what is best about all the other well-known conductors of Wagner and put it together in an amazing Ring. He brings all of Solti's majesty, von Karajan's febrile enegy, Levine's intelligence and Furtwängler's darkness, and adds his own intimate humanity. While I might prefer some portions, particular scenes perhaps, of other recordings because of a certain characterization or vocal quality, overall this one makes every other recording (and the couple of live performances) I've heard also-rans. The version I have is a fourteen-CD reissue with stunning Art Deco-inspired illustrations by John Martinez, the whole is very compact and beautifully designed. The booklet is also beautifully done, with a design by Modesty Marie Sablan incorporating Martinez' illustrations, Robert Levine's essay, and clear synopses of each opera by Bill Parker. You can also view a complete libretto with English translation at www.allegro-music.com/opd/ringlibretto.

PS -- this is also one of the less expensive sets available -- as of this writing, about $80 new at Amazon, and it's worth every penny.

(Orfeo d'Oro, 2010 [recorded live at Bayreuth Festspielhaus, 1953])

What's New at Green Man Review

It's that time of the week again, and we have quite an interesting mix at Green Man Review:

TCHO dark chocolate, music from smallpiper Kathryn Tickell, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Korean manhwa, Peter Beagle on J.R.R Tolkien and other matters

As usual, the "other matters" are well worth checking out, so do it.


Just imagine having a litter of Tasmanian devils to take care of:

With Tasmanian Devil numbers in the wild currently dwindling to between 15,000 and 50,000 individuals, every birth is significant. The mainland breeding program of which the Zoo is a part could play an important role in helping to re-establish healthy wild populations of the species in Tasmania if needed in future.

The Tasmanian Devil (Sarcophilus harrisii) is a carnivorous marsupial of the family Dasyuridae. It was once native to mainland Australia, but it is now found only in the wild on the island state of Tasmania, including tiny east coast Maria Island where there is a conservation project with disease-free animals.

Digby has a post on this, with more videos.

And if that doesn't satisfy your cute quotient for the day, I don't know what will.

Friday, November 09, 2018

Today's Must-Read: "By Any Means Necessary"

Tom Sullivan has a piece up at Hullabaloo that underscores what I've been saying for a while about Republicans and their disdain for American-style democracy:

When in January David Frum typed, "If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy," was he writing as a prophet or a historian?

Sullivan follows up with a few examples from this week's elections. Read it.

The "Elites"

Republicans, over the past few years, have gotten a lot of mileage out of branding liberals as the "elite", especially those who have major cultural influence -- as in, Hollywood. Digby has a post on Trump talking about the "elites" at a recent rally, and one thing really struck me:

I don't know about you but many of you went to better schools than they did. We did better in the schools than they did. We have better houses, homes, boats. We do better than they do. We work harder than they do. We make more money than they do.

That's his measure: who has the most toys.


Thursday, November 08, 2018

Giggle du Jour

Ain't karma a bitch?


I'm sure he feels his religious freedom has been violated.

Thanks to commenter Clive Johnson at Joe.My.God.

Image of the Week

And it's so true. Thanks to commenter Calico Jane at Joe.My.God.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Can You Say "Tribal"?

If you're a Republican in some areas, you don't even have to be alive to win an election:

A Nevada brothel owner and reality TV star who died last month after fashioning himself as a Donald Trump-style Republican candidate has won a heavily GOP state legislative district.

Dennis Hof defeated Democratic educator Lesia Romanov on Tuesday in the race for Nevada's 36th Assembly District, which includes rural communities and large stretches of desert in the southern part of the state. County officials will appoint a Republican to take his place in the seat.

That's the New GOP.

Via Joe.My.God.

Tweet du Jour

It's not complete, but it's a nice list:

Culture Break: The Danish String Quartet: Unst Boat Song

Another from Last Leaf, and another of my favorites from that album. Here it is, even though I couldn't find a performance video.

Culture Break II: Happy Diwali

Given the results of the election, this seems appropriate:

Diwali (Dipavali in Sanskrit, meaning "row of lamps"; also spelled Divali or Deepavali) is a Hindu festival of lights, which is celebrated every autumn in the northern hemisphere (spring in southern hemisphere). One of the most popular festivals of Hinduism, Diwali symbolises the spiritual "victory of light over darkness, good over evil and knowledge over ignorance." During the celebration, temples, homes, shops and office buildings are brightly illuminated. The preparations, and rituals, for the festival typically last five days, with the climax occurring on the third day coinciding with the darkest night of the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika. In the Gregorian calendar, the festival generally falls between mid-October and mid-November.

There's more information at YouTube.

Well, It Wasn't a Perfect Election, But. . . . .

It looks like we took the House.

Hokusai:  The Great Wave off Kanagawa, c. 1830

And just to rub president "It's All About Me"'s face in it, there are the exit polls:

First, two-thirds of voters say the election is about Donald Trump. Some, like Donald Trump, might be happy about that, but the exit polls also place Trump's approval rating at just 44%, and disapproval at 55%. Worse for Team Trump, 47% are expressing strong disapproval.

MSNBC on-air notes that 16 percent of voters are first time voters, and 61% of them are voting for Democrats.

Trump sure can energize people, can't he?

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

It's Election Day

Do you know where your vote went?

Here are just a few of the ways the Republicans are gearing up for the big day:

First, the Orange Menace is setting up to challenge the legitimacy of the election:

A threatening tweet from President Donald Trump late Monday morning, less than 24 hours before the polls open nationwide, is leading some to accuse him of engaging in voter suppression. Others are saying the tweet is the President's attempt to lay the groundwork to call the results of Democratic midterm wins illegitimate.

"Law Enforcement has been strongly notified to watch closely for any ILLEGAL VOTING which may take place in Tuesday’s Election (or Early Voting)," Trump tweeted. "Anyone caught will be subject to the Maximum Criminal Penalties allowed by law. Thank you!"

As we all know by now, "illegal voting" is statistically non-existent in the U.S. And most of the very few cases that exist have been perpetrated by Republicans. Nevertheless, Trump is getting ready to throw the results out if Democrats win.

Others are taking more direct measures:

In Wisconsin, where incumbent Koch Bros. play toy Scott Walker is trailing in the polls:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has taken the unusual step of activating his state's National Guard, activating their cyber security team prior to the election.

While details are scant, walker's Executive Order asks the National Guard to, "provide essential services to the Wisconsin Elections Commission."

Walker is in a difficult race against Tony Evers. Evers, a democrat, is up on Walker by 5 points.

Reid Magney, a spokesperson for the Wisconsin Elections Commission, told the Associated Press that he couldn't recall any previous election with such an order being issued. The National Guard has only had a cyber security tea, since 2016.

In Georgia, Brian Kemp, who as secretary of state is overseeing the election in which he's running for governor, is calling "foul" even before the votes are tallied:

Current Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is also the Republican candidate for governor of Georgia, announced today that he was launching an investigation into the state Democratic Party, claiming that they had attempted to "hack" the voter registration system.

"While we cannot comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, I can confirm that the Democratic Party of Georgia is under investigation for possible cyber crimes," said Candice Broce, the press secretary for the Secretary of State in a statement. "We can also confirm that no personal data was breached and our system remains secure."

I reported on this in more detail here. Kemp has also been busily purging registered voters from the rolls.

And Trump's Department of Justice, headed by known racist Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III, is getting into the act:

When Americans head to the polls on Tuesday for the midterm elections, voters in 35 counties — from Las Vegas to Dallas to Tampa — will head to precincts that are being closely monitored by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division for “compliance with the federal voting rights laws,” the DOJ announced Monday.

“Voting rights are constitutional rights, and they’re part of what it means to be an American,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement.

Sessions also warned that “fraud in the voting process will not be tolerated.”

A number of these counties are being noted as "tilts Democratic" by the pollsters.

That's just what's popped up in the news the last couple of days. What's next, do you suppose?

Maybe Trump will redirect those 15,000 troops from the border to "questionable" precincts. You know -- with lots of Democrats.

Monday, November 05, 2018

Day Two

of Central Standard Time, and my body still thinks it's an hour later than the clock will admit to.

But then, I used to have jet lag flying in from New York.

By Any Means Necessary

That's how Republicans plan to stay in power. Via Joe.My.God., this story on how Brian Kemp, who, as Georgia's secretary of state, is overseeing the election in which he is running for governor, is responding to slipping poll numbers:

Just two days before the election, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s office launched an investigation Sunday into the Democratic Party after an alleged attempt to hack the state’s voter registration system.

Kemp, who is the Republican candidate for governor on Tuesday’s ballot, didn’t provide evidence linking the Democratic Party to the hacking attempt. He faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in the election.

The Democratic Party of Georgia called the allegation “100 percent false” and “an abuse of power” by Kemp’s office.

After election officials received a report Saturday that the state’s voter registration website was vulnerable, they blamed the Democrats instead of correcting the issue, said Democratic Party of Georgia Executive Director Rebeccca DeHart.

In fact, it looks like it was the Democrats who alerted Kemp's office to the problem:

Just before noon on Saturday, a third party provided WhoWhatWhy with an email and document, sent from the Democratic Party of Georgia to election security experts, that highlights “massive” vulnerabilities within the state’s My Voter Page and its online voter registration system.

According to the document, it would not be difficult for almost anyone with minimal computer expertise to access millions of people’s private information and potentially make changes to their voter registration — including canceling it.

In this election and during the primaries, voters have reported not showing up in the poll books, being assigned to the wrong precinct, and being issued the wrong ballot.

All of that could be explained by a bad actor changing voter registration data — and at this point there may be no way of knowing if that happened.

Georgia election officials -- i.e., Kemp -- are saying that there's no evidence that voter information has been compromised. I guess that's why the Democrats must be investigated.

As far as the investigation goes, there's apparently some confusion as to just who is doing the investigating:

According to Brian Kemp (R-GA), who’s in a tight race against state Rep. Stacey Abrams (D-GA) for governor, the state Democratic Party hacked the voter rolls but weren’t able to steal anything or change anything. Kemp provided no evidence to back up his claim, and it’s unclear who is investigating the claims.

Democratic Party chair DeBose Porter said that the FBI, who has jurisdiction in such cases, hasn’t reached out to him or anyone affiliated with the Democratic Party. He explained that it never happened and that’s why the FBI isn’t involved and hasn’t launched an investigation.

“This is simply an attempt to detract from his own record,” Porter told CNN’s Anderson Cooper Sunday. “Remember, this is a Secretary of State that mistakenly released 6 million voters’ Social Security numbers twice. What’s unnerving is that he has used the Secretary of State’s office and its official spokesperson on this made-up story.”

Of course, if it's the secretary of state's office doing the investigating, they'll come up with something. Especially if Kemp loses.

Like I said, they'll try anything.

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Review: Jim French: Men

Another from the late, great Epinions. I did several of these sorts of photo books, and some of those will be showing up here. Eventually.

I once said to an art dealer friend of mine, as he was mounting an exhibition of the work of yet another California-based Bruce Weber wannabe, “Honey, if you’re going to show beefcake, show Jim French.” French, the founder of Colt Studios, ranks with Bruce of Los Angeles and Bob Mizer of the Athletic Models Guild as one of the pre-eminent practitioners of modern “male photography.”

None of these people made any pretense about creating great art (which is one reason perhaps that I find them preferable to any number of other photographers who do male nudes). Their purpose was simply titillation, which they approached with honesty, and, in the case of Bruce of Los Angeles and Bob Mizer, with a kind of tongue-in-cheek playfulness that is quite refreshing, given the high drama resident in so much contemporary work in this field. French, perhaps because most of his career has spanned a period in which such images could be made and distributed openly, takes himself more seriously; fortunately, he approaches his subject with respect and sympathy and he is a consummate craftsman.

Out of the history of French’s work, I have chosen to review Jim French Men because it is an effective mid-career survey, and I happen to think one of his best books. The content is weighted toward black-and-white work, which in many ways is fortunate: although French displays a good command of color, the production values of Colt Studios, which owns State of Man, the publisher, were not geared toward fine-art reproductions. Nevertheless, there are only one or two images in the book that are truly garish, and the overwhelming majority, both color and monochrome, are what they set out to be: sensual and inviting. One major plus in French’s work is that he doesn’t seem to have an agenda: too many photographers in this area weigh their images down with high-sounding philosophical or political baggage that is simply beyond the work’s ability to bear. French just makes very good figure studies, working from his own considerable skill, talent, and sensitivity, and relies on the image to carry whatever message there may be.

A great deal of this effect depends on the model. Although all of these men are very well-equipped for their roles, none are so massive as to be grotesque – these are, for the most part, body-builders with a sense of proportion. And French himself has a sensitivity for those images that could be art: pictures of Bob Benedetti, Adam Hammer, and Kevin Walker leave behind the soft-porn calendar art that is so often the product of these shoots and, in their portrayals of introspection or confrontation, become portraits rather than merely pictures of naked men. (Walker, who has a lush body to begin with, gives the camera a coolly speculative look that boosts the eroticism of the image almost off the scale, while seated in a demure pose that reveals nothing you wouldn’t want your parents to see.) The standouts, to my mind, are French’s numerous pictures of John Pruitt. French worked with Pruitt frequently from at least 1984, the earliest in this book, through the mid-1990s. Pruitt has a quality that every photographer must dream about: while he is massive, particularly in his earlier pictures, he carries his muscle gracefully, and has an on-camera presence that is rarely found in any subject: He is able to project that elemental massiveness outward, and his body becomes truly sculptural, not only occupying space but defining it. And, where other models might be pretty, Pruitt, particularly in the later pictures where his bone structure becomes apparent, has a hauntingly beautiful face. He presents an image at once powerful, sensual, and vulnerable, and French is enough of an artist to have caught that quality in finely rendered black-and-white and carefully modulated color photographs.

Regrettably, even as fine a craftsman as French will come up with images in which the poses are strained or even ludicrous, and pictures that forego the erotic in favor of the blatant. Jim French Men has its share of those. While French is probably the best in this genre because of his craftsmanship and sensitivity to his subjects, when taken in the context of the range of books of similar nature, his efforts suffer from reproductions that are not among the very best. Nonetheless, in a field becoming more crowded by the day, Jim French deserves a place among the legends.

(State of Man, 1990)

(Note: Signs of the times: In doing a search for the cover image, I clicked the page on Amazon. You can now own a used copy of this book for $434.98; new, it's a mere $3,053.01. I did not pay that much for my copy.)

What's New at Green Man Review

Yes, it's Sunday again -- in fact, it's that Sunday -- do you know where your clocks are?

At any rate, it's a Guy Fawkes-themed day at GMR:
Charles de Lint’s Dreams Underfoot, Jakob Bro at the Old Church, Poetry by Robert Frost, Guy Fawkes Day and music in remememerence of, Joni Mitchell’s 1970 Isle of Wight performance, Poe’s ‘Masque of the Red Death’, Season of the Witch candy roundup and other matters of November

Just chock full of interesting stuff this week, so hop on over and enjoy.

Saturday, November 03, 2018

Saturday Science: RIP Kepler Space Telescope

Interesting article on the long life (well, longer than expected) of the Kepler Space Telescope, which is finally shutting down:

Image:  NASA

This afternoon [Oct. 30], NASA officially bid farewell to the Kepler Space Telescope, a pioneering spacecraft that helped discover thousands of planets beyond our Solar System. After years of service that extended long beyond its initial four-year mission, the spacecraft finally ran out of fuel.

Engineers realized that Kepler was almost out of fuel earlier this summer. At the time, they put it in safe mode for a brief time to focus on getting the scientific data that Kepler had already connected safely back to Earth. They managed to turn it on and collect more data, but they knew at the time that the spacecraft was nearing its end.

Kepler launched with enough fuel on board to last for more than six years; it lasted nine. “We filled it up with fuel to let it go as long as it could,” says Charlie Sobek, project system engineer for the Kepler spacecraft.

Read it -- it's pretty interesting, especially for space nerds. We are not alone. Probably.

Friday, November 02, 2018

He's Come Undone

Ladies and gentement, the President of the United States, unraveling before your very eyes:

Delivering a lengthy, highly-scripted, highly-political, and highly-ad-libbed anti-immigrant and anti-immigration speech from the White House, President Trump late Thursday afternoon blamed immigrants for illegal drug abuse that leads to death of U.S. citizens while falsely claiming Democrats will allow caravan migrants entering the country to vote.

It's not like the "illegal immigrants voting" thing is new -- he's just ramped it up a few notches. (After all, that's why he lost the popular vote -- all those millions of people voting illegally.) And of course, he's repeated it enough that his cultists will take it as Gospel. (On that note, watch out for "incidents" at the polls on election day.)

This one's really hard to excerpt, so click through and read it -- it's not very long, but it's broken up, and there are tweets mixed in. The bottom line is that he's panicking over the midterms, and immigrants have always been his favorite bogey-man.

White House staffers and President Donald Trump’s inner circle are gearing up for an onslaught of Democratic investigations as polls continue to show that the Republican Party may take a beating at the polls in next Tuesday’s midterms.

According to a report at the Daily Beast, even President Trump is starting to understand that he is going to be under increasing pressure after the midterms despite publically claiming that GOP will pick up more seats in what he calls a “red wave.”

“He’s definitely more spooked than he was before,” said one senior White House official. “Several of us are expecting to spend more time [testifying] on the Hill soon.”

If the Democrats do take back the House, in spite of all the election rigging going on in Republican states, watch for him to try to invalidate the election. After all, that's what his friends Putin, Duterte, Kim, etc. would do.

Digby elaborates on what is the most chilling part of Trump's speech:

"[If] they want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back," Trump said during a press conference at the White House. "We're going to consider it -- and I told them, 'consider that a rifle.' When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say 'consider it a rifle.'"

He's setting the stage for our military to commit war crimes. But then, it won't be a first.

Footnote: As a backgrounder, read this.

Today's Threat to National Security

From commenter Clive Johnson at Joe.My.God.

This is what Trump is threatening to send 15,000 troops to the southern border to protect us from.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Today in Trump's America: Worse Than Deplorable

This is just stunning -- a trumpie on immigration:

During a discussion on immigration, Trump supporter Cindy Ruggiero said that she was worried about the caravan of “14,000” migrants headed toward the United States from Central America.

When Camerota and other women on the CNN voter panel told her that she had vastly inflated the number of migrants in the caravan, she brushed it aside and said it was still too many people coming into the country.

She then insisted that she only objected to migrants who enter the country illegally and that she welcomed immigrants who came to the United States while following all the rules.

“Come in the legal way and you are more than welcome,” she said.

Camerota then pointed out that migrants fleeing from violence in Guatemala are not trying to sneak into the United States.

“I mean, it is legal to seek asylum,” she said.

Ruggiero sat in silence for a full six seconds.

“Well, I hope Trump changes that,” she eventually responded.

That's the kind of people who support Trump. The kind of people whose kids you wouldn't let your kids play with. I mean, talk about a moral vacuum: what kind of person wants to bar people fleeing persecution, starvation, violence from seeking asylum here?