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Safety/Irony Alert. CNBC (December 25): Your new home security system may be an open invitation to hackers to make you, and perhaps many others, unsafe.” -- CW

New York Times: "Prehistoric humans — perhaps Neanderthals or another lost species — occupied what is now California some 130,000 years ago, a team of scientists reported on Wednesday. The bold and fiercely disputed claim, published in the journal Nature, is based on a study of mastodon bones discovered near San Diego. If the scientists are right, they would significantly alter our understanding of how humans spread around the planet." -- CW 

If you're curious as to how realistic the New York City apartments of TV sitcom characters are -- in terms of what the characters could reasonably afford -- the Washington Post checks out several of the hovels & dream rentals of a number of shows. Kinda fun. CW: My husband & I (he paid the rent) had a fairly spacious two-bedroom with a galley kitchen (dishwasher included!) & dining room plus teensy closets on Washington Square in the 1980s & '90s. NYU owned the building & helped considerably with the rent.

Politico: "Comedian Hasan Minhaj will be this year's entertainer for the White House Correspondents' Dinner later this month, the association's president announced on Tuesday. Minhaj is a stand up comedian and senior correspondent on 'The Daily Show,' where he has performed caustic bits on ... Donald Trump, liberals and others in between. Minhaj has Washington experience already, having performed as host of last year's Radio and Television Correspondents' Association Dinner." -- CW 

AFP: "After months of uncertainty and controversy, Bob Dylan finally accepted the 2016 Nobel Prize in literature at a jovial, champagne-laced ceremony on Saturday, [April 1,] the Swedish Academy announced. The academy, which awards the coveted prize, ended prolonged speculation as to whether the 75-year-old troubadour would use a concert stopover in Stockholm to accept the gold medal and diploma awarded to him back in October." -- CW 


The Hill: "Arnold Schwarzeneggar says his first season as host of NBC's 'Celebrity Apprentice' is also his last. In remarks Friday, the former California governor cited President Trump, who has repeatedly mocked the ratings of his reality TV replacement, as his reason. 'Even if asked [to do it again] I would decline,' Schwarzenegger told Empire magazine.... 'With Trump being involved in the show people have a bad taste and don’t want to participate as a spectator or sponsor or in any other way support the show. It’s a very divisive period right now and I think the show got caught up in all that division.'" -- CW 

New York Times: "Penguin Random House will publish coming books by former President Barack Obama and the former first lady Michelle Obama, the publishing company announced Tuesday night, concluding a heated auction among multiple publishers. The terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but publishing industry executives with knowledge of the bidding process said it probably stretched well into eight figures." -- CW ...

Guardian: A statement by the Academy of Motion Pictures said "that PwC – formerly Price Waterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm that has been used by the Academy to handle the voting process for 83 years – had taken full responsibility for 'breaches of established protocols' that led to the error.... On Monday afternoon, the Wall Street Journal reported that ... Brian Cullinan, one of two accountants whose job it was to hand out the winners’ envelopes..., had tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of [best female actor winner Emma] Stone holding her statuette. The tweet, sent moments before the best picture announcement, raised the question of whether the accountant was distracted, handing Beatty the duplicate envelope." -- CW ...

... Actually, No, It Was Donald Trump's Fault. The Hill: "President Trump is calling Sunday’s Oscar ceremony 'sad,' saying the awards show was 'focused so hard on politics' it led to the epic mix-up over the best picture winner. 'I think they were focused so hard on politics that they didn’t get the act together at the end,' Trump said Monday in an interview with Breitbart News." CW: Because everything is about Drumpf. 

Los Angeles Times: "In one of the most surprising upsets and shocking moments in Oscar history, the poetic coming-of-age drama 'Moonlight' took home the top prize for best picture at the 89th Academy Awards, beating out the heavily favored 'La La Land,' which was actually announced as the winner. The win for 'Moonlight' came in a chaotic and confused moment that played out live in front of an audience of millions, as presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway initially presented the evening’s final award to 'La La Land,' only to have one of the film’s producers announce that 'Moonlight' had, in fact, won." -- CW 

Here's the LA Times' "live coverage" page.

CW: It would have been way better for the world if the Electoral College had admitted, as a body, that "There's been a mistake." Unfortunately, actors & film producers have more integrity than electors.

The New York Times embeds the February 23 late-nite's show responses to the latest political news.

Washington Post: "A newfound solar system just 39 light-years away contains seven warm, rocky planets, scientists say. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature, represents the first time astronomers have detected so many terrestrial planets orbiting a single star. Researchers say the system is an ideal laboratory for studying distant worlds and could be the best place in the galaxy to search for life beyond Earth.... The newly discovered solar system resembles a scaled-down version of our own. The star at its center, an ultra-cool dwarf called TRAPPIST-1, is less than a tenth the size of our sun and about a quarter as warm. Its planets circle tightly around it; the closest takes just a day and a half to complete an orbit and the most distant takes about 20 days.... TRAPPIST-1 is so cool that all seven of the bodies are bathed in just the right amount of warmth to hold liquid water. And three of them receive the same amount of heat as Venus, Earth and Mars, putting them in 'the habitable zone,' that Goldilocks region where it's thought life can thrive." -- CW 

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Dowd Disses Everybody

Maureen Dowd writes what she imagines is a satirical column about Elena Kagan, her detractors, Joe Biden & Obama supporters. Unfortunately, you'll have to read Dowd to understand my objections, which the Times, so far, has refused to post. Update: oh, there it is; #146.

The Constant Weader is disgusted:

This column is offensive on so many levels I hardly know where to begin, so I'll start with your mocking of the Vice President. Mr. Biden is married to a strong, bright woman. He has been an advocate for women's rights, for a woman's right to choose & was the principal sponsor & author of the Violence against Women Act which has been widely applauded by women's groups. To suggest he divides women into "girly" girls & lesbians is a hideous lie.

Second, your reducing the Solicitor General of the United States to a man-crazy fool who harbors preteen-style lust for George Clooney is about as anti-feminist as you can get. Yes, I know satire when I see it, & this isn't satire. It's shameful.

Third, your characterization of lesbians is deplorable. Maybe this IS satire, but it isn't justifiable satire. I'm sure Joe Biden knows plenty of gay women, and neither he nor even the usual homophobes (with the possible exception of Jay Leno) would stereotype their traits in the terms you ascribe to gay women.

Fourth, your memo's addressees -- "Obama Supporters" -- are precisely the people who don't obsess about a woman's sexual orientation. That Obama supporters would think learning that a person is straight was a particular "reason to smile" is absurd. We. Really. Don't. Care. So thanks for offending all of us, too.

AP photo.Or, maybe I'm just totally wrong, MoDo. Why, here's Kagan now, as she enters into a closed-door session with her hunky homeboy Sen. Scott Brown. Look at that smile of anticipation. Look at the lust in Brown's eyes as he ogles the nominee's derriere. Who could possibly believe their phony cover story that they spent their private time together discussing Kagan's attitude toward the military?


Jesus Weighs in on Rekers' "Heaven-Sent Rent Boy"

Frank Rich excoriates Family Research Council co-founder George Rekers for the "significant role...he many of the ugliest assaults on gay people and their civil rights over the last three decades." The "culture wars" in which Rekers was a general have resulted in, among many other ills, the attacks on Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan.

The Constant Weader throws the Good Book at Rekers
(not surprisingly, the New York Times censors have held back my comment. Update: ah, there it is, at #77!):

With the evidence mounting, it seems fair to assume that every homophobe is either gay or thinks s/he might be. These twisted people are to be pitied, but they are not to be given any credibility whatsoever. It is troubling that the mainstream media gives them any coverage at all, and that major papers like the Wall Street Journal use the "people are saying" subterfuge to air a matter that is immaterial to a nominee's suitability for the Supreme Court.

That so many of the objections to homosexuality come from the Christian right is particularly perverse. The Gospels contain a couple of stories in which Jesus is portrayed as caring not a whit about a character's homosexuality. The most famous one, I suppose, is the story of the centurion who begs Jesus to cure his slave lover, who is a young boy. Jesus remarks on the depth of the centurion's faith & cures the boy.

A Gospel verse in which Jesus specifically says homosexuality is unremarkable is Matthew 19:12 when Jesus describes "eunuchs who were born that way from their mother's womb." Here he is speaking primarily about gay men. Historian Kathryn Ringrose writes that the the ancients described castrati, celibates, homosexuals and transsexuals as "eunuchs." Since one "born that way in his mother's womb" is not a castrato, & not a celibate (Jesus mentions these two categories of eunuchs next), he can only be a homosexual or transexual. In short, Matthew has Jesus say homosexuality is God-given, a trait, sorta like brown hair or freckles, that precedes birth.

It isn't surprising that homophobic churchmen throughout the millennia have chosen to ignore this verse, but evangelical Christians who claim the Gospels are inerrant should feel comfortable accepting Jesus as the last word on the subject. This should allow them to get over their sad little prejudice against others & their shame in their own sexuality. (The Gospels, BTW, don't give Jesus anything to say about female sexuality. I suspect the Gospel writers didn't know much about it.)

The good news for the rest of us is that we won't have to endure the airing of this vestigial Christian right prejudice, and we can correct the wrongs that prejudice has wrought.


"Arms & the Airport"

Gail Collins is a little worried about making connections at Atlanta now that the Georgia state legislature has "passed a bill requiring the Atlanta airport to let people with gun permits take their weapons into the lobby, baggage claim, food courts — everywhere short of the point where you take off your shoes." In the body of her column, Collins cites Sarah Palin's latest warning against one of the President & Speaker's secret plot to deprive you of your freedoms:

'President Obama and his allies like Nancy Pelosi ... if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition,' Sarah Palin told the N.R.A. convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Friday. It was one of her stream-of-consciousness speeches, dividing the nation into Us (mothers, hunters, the Tea Party Movement, people who love America) and Them (Hollywood hypocrites, animal rightists who are opposed to the swatting of flies, dumb elitist fashion editors, liberals).

My comment on Collins' column is buried at the bottom of page 2, so I've reposted it here:

I'm generally a modest, even self-effacing, person. But all this makes me proud to be an elitist liberal. I wish I were a fashionable Hollywood hypocrite, too, but that is not to be.

I've never understood the mindset of the NRA & other advocates for expansive carry permits, but now I get it. These "real Americans" are JEALOUS of Hollywood hypocrites & fashion editors. They too wish they were among the elite. But they aren't & they know it.

So they crave instead the ability to shoot back, to assert their selfhood via firearms. Some weeks back commenter Kate Madison remarked that guns were phallic symbols, & I'll concur that must be part of the mystique. But the real substitution that's going on here is about more than just sexual power. It's about the need of the powerless to exert SOME power, any power. They're so lacking in originality that it wouldn't occur to them to channel their rage into something constructive. They prefer to strut their destructive impulses.

Doctors -- like elite, liberal psychiatrists & maybe emergency room doctors, too -- should start emphasizing the neurotic or even psychotic basis for gun obsession. Maybe if NRA members were stigmatized as being just kinda sick in the head, their bravado would lose a bit of its edge and they would lighten up on the notion that every fellow doing tequila shots should also be equipped to take actual shots at his fellow bar patrons.

The posture that guns don't kill people, people kill people is both facile & facetious. Playwright Anton Chekhov once said that if you set the first act of your play in a room with a gun over the mantle, you had better use the gun by the third act. People who carry guns certainly understand Chekhov's literary advice. They mean to use the guns they carry. If only lawmakers read more Chekhov.


The Great Googler

A dream is a short-lasting psychosis, and a psychosis is a long-lasting dream. -- Arthur Schopenhauer

Dick Cavett, writing in the New York Times, explores the meanings of dreams.

The Constant Weader suggests:

Like everyone, I have nightmares, but since I am a practical person, I often put my subconscious ruminations to a practical application. When I am having a problem figuring something out, I let my subconscious mind do the work. The problems I give it are usually of a mundane nature -- part of the design for a bookshelf, the next logical step in a story or article I'm working on, the name of someone or something I can't quite remember. So as I lay me down to sleep, I purposely think -- with some intensity -- about whatever it is that's vexing my conscious mind. Very often, tho not always, I'll have the answer when I wake up.

The subconscious is ever so much more creative that the conscious, so much less bound by strict, "logical" connections. The subconscious makes myriad links -- it is, I suppose, the Great Googler of the mind. So the next time you have some seemingly insoluble dilemma, let your subconscious take a crack at it. The subconscious isn't mad at all; it is the artist, the free thinker, the unconventional, the liberator. Celebrate it. And use it to your advantage.