Archive for November, 2017
21 Nov 2017

Important News!

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Daily Call:

The Pennsylvania Senate is advancing legislation to make the Eastern hellbender the official state amphibian, as researchers say its population is shrinking because of pollution.

The bill passed, 47-2, and heads to the House.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, the hellbender is an aquatic salamander that can grow up to two feet long, making them the largest North American amphibian. They are nocturnal and prefer shallow, clear and fast streams with rocks to live under.

RTWT

I know the Great Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) very well, having frequently met up with him on the Loyalsock, and I can testify to his fully deserving the status of State Amphibian.

21 Nov 2017

Painting of Washington’s Tent by L’Enfant Discovered

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Washington Post:

Philip Mead was online late one night in May, looking for possible artifacts from the American Revolution, when a painting up for auction caught his eye and got his heart racing.

The chief historian at the American Revolution Museum had spied an unsigned watercolor from 1782. It was a panorama of an army encampment, and to his expert eye seemed to feature the only known wartime depiction of the tent George Washington used as his command center during the Revolutionary War.

The tent is the marquee exhibit at the museum, which opened in April. And, thanks to Mead’s sharp eye, the museum now owns the painting that will anchor an exhibition next year.

Mead said the discovery seemed almost “too good to be true.”

“I’ve had this level of excitement only a handful of times in my 30 years of looking for this stuff,” Mead said.

When Mead saw the painting, he immediately emailed the image to Scott Stephenson, the museum’s vice president of collections, exhibitions and programming.

“My heart leapt into my throat when I realized what this painting was,” Stephenson said.

They had to quickly line up donors to bid on the piece, which was going up for auction just days after they spotted it. They were concerned maybe they weren’t the only people to spot the rare work, and they weren’t 100 percent sure the painting was exactly what they had hoped.

“Our motto is you must kiss every frog in case it is a prince,” Stephenson said.

In this case, it was a prince.

With only one other bidder, they landed the painting easily, for $12,000. Once in hand, the museum’s curatorial team was able to conclude the painting shows the Continental Army’s fall encampment at Verplanck’s Point, New York, and was created by Pierre L’Enfant, the French-born engineer best known for laying out the nation’s capital.

Before he created the blueprint for Washington, D.C., L’Enfant served in the Continental Army. He was wounded at the Siege of Savannah, taken prisoner at the surrender of Charleston and upon his release went back to serve George Washington for the remainder of the war.

The painting depicts hundreds of military tents arrayed across a rolling Hudson Valley landscape. Perched on a hilltop rising about the scene on the painting’s left side is Washington’s field headquarters, including the telltale tent.

RTWT

21 Nov 2017

“Look What Yale Made Me Do”

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Harvard-made video insulting Yale which was released just before last Saturday’s The Game. Poor Harvard, for the record, got slaughtered 24-3.

I was surprised by all the inaccurate boasting about Harvard’s alleged academic & test-score superiority. I fear these young people are deluded and misinformed. I’m not up on current stats, but I know my own Yale Class beat the same entering Harvard Class’s SAT scores.

The bit at the end, mocking all the other Ivy League schools, was amusing.

20 Nov 2017

Folding Glock!

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I’m not a fan of plastic pistols, especially the fashionable contemporary versions that come without a real safety. My own opinion is that trigger safeties are basically meaningless, and carrying an automatic pistol with no safety with a round chambered just makes me nervous.

I have consequently never bought a Glock, but now here is a version I would not mind owning.

The Firearms Blog:

Full Conceal is now shipping their Glock 19 folding pistol conversion called M3. The folding mechanism allows having a more compact carry package which in a matter of seconds unfolds and becomes a Glock 19 with a 21-round magazine. The reason why they advertise it with the 22-round capacity (21 round mag plus one in the chamber) is that the 21-round magazine most efficiently fits the slide length neither sticking out nor coming short of the overall length of the folded gun. The M3 pistol is available for purchase on Full Conceal’s website for $1,399 (the price includes one Magpul 21-round magazine).

Another important feature of the M3 pistol is the additional safety built into the folding mechanism. When folded, that mechanism blocks the trigger bar preventing any possibility of an accidental discharge when manipulating the folding mechanism. This system allows carrying the pistol with a chambered round being sure that it is safe.

The company also points out that even if the folded gun prints, it will rather look like a cell phone than a firearm. The folded M3 pistol silhouette basically matches the iPhone 7 Plus dimensions.

RTWT

Get yourself a second magazine, and you’ll be all set if you run into an irate Zulu impi.

19 Nov 2017

D.B. Cooper, Be Like Him; Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win.

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All these years later, the Daily Mail has news.

A letter newly released from the FBI’s archives may prove that DB Cooper – the 1971 hijacker last seen leaping out of a plane with a fortune in cash – survived his apparent death.

The letter, which was sent 17 days after the hijacking appears to contain information that was not released into the public domain until 13 years later.

If that’s the case it might reveal not only that Cooper lived to tell the tale of his extraordinary heist, but that the FBI covered it up to hide their embarrassment at his escape.

RTWT

18 Nov 2017

Boomers Will Be Avenged

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Promises Kurt Schlichter (who’s been on a roll rhetorically of late).

With all the awful things happening now – the discord, the anger, the stupidity – at least those of my generation can rest easy knowing that the Millennials are going to suffer after we’re gone. Sure, I’m going to die a lot sooner than them – unless someone invents some sort of expensive life extension potion that I can buy but they can’t because they will still be paying off their degrees in Oppression Studies and Virtue Signaling Arts until the year 2083. But at least I’ll know that we left them a suitably terrible world, since they are a terrible generation.

Millennials are the spawn we deserve – annoying, posturing, and frequently pierced. They are utterly convinced of their own moral superiority, and yet they don’t even believe in morals. Well, that’s not quite true – they just confuse morals with the increasingly bizarre patchwork of taboos and fetishes of the social justice weirdos they use as their moral compasses. When you ask people, “What’s the world’s biggest problem,” and they answer, “The structural paradigm imposed by cisgender Western males,” and you reply, “How about, I dunno, ISIS?” and they answer “Well, who are we to judge their culture?” it’s slappin’ time. …

OK, so we dug this country $20 trillion into debt, we have a world full of enemies and a military that’s collapsing, and we saddled Millennials with Obamacare, a magical system that makes healthcare worse, but at least it costs more. Yet they seem cool with it. Oh, and politically, the country is divided as never before, at least not since Lincoln, who you Millennials think owned slaves because … sheesh, you nitwits think Lincoln owned slaves. …

Back in the day, we crushed uppity Russian empires, no thanks to commie-hugging liberals who told us that the Reds loved their children too. You Millennials know that awful Sting song – your mom used to listen to it in the Volvo while carting you to soccer or whatever other sick, soul-killing enrichment activities she forced you into instead of letting you run free in the streets and woods like we did. But now we cower at the same losers Reagan stripped of their Ural Mountain oysters in fear of them posting some super-persuasive Facebook ads targeted at making autoworkers in Michigan fall out of their deep and abiding love for Hillary.

Yeah, we messed up, but you Millennials reading this on your smartphones, which you can see without glasses or squinting, shouldn’t act so high and mighty. You had a chance to fix all of this and instead you’ve chosen to never move out of your parents’ houses and to just sit around and invent new pronouns for genders that don’t exist. A couple decades down the road, when I’m dead from chronic bitterness and drinking too much expensive cabernet that I buy with the Social Security money you’ll be toiling to pay me, you won’t have families or careers. You’ll be my age and still making coffee for the next generation of ingrates, the children of the immigrants and super-religious Christians who represent the only portion of America still making babies. You’ll come home to your used Mitsubishi love robot named Olive, reheat some Sara Lee avocado toast sticks, and watch Saturday Night Live as it tries to make fun of President Donald Trump, Jr.

RTWT

18 Nov 2017

The Lost World

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“These stories seem at times to be stories of a long-lost world when the city of New York was still filled with a river light, when you heard the Benny Goodman quartets from a radio in the corner stationery store, and when almost everybody wore a hat.”

–John Cheever

HT: The Man in the Green Shirt

17 Nov 2017

Headline: “Senate May Not Seat Roy Moore”

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17 Nov 2017

Famous Democrats

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17 Nov 2017

Questionable Leonardo With Serious Condition Issues Sold for $450.3 Million at Christie’s

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New York Times:

After 19 minutes of dueling, with four bidders on the telephone and one in the room, Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” sold on Wednesday night for $450.3 million with fees, shattering the high for any work of art sold at auction. It far surpassed Picasso’s “Women of Algiers,” which fetched $179.4 million at Christie’s in May 2015. The buyer was not immediately disclosed.

There were gasps throughout the sale, as the bids climbed by tens of millions up to $225 million, by fives up to $260 million, and then by twos. As the bidding slowed, and a buyer pondered the next multi-million-dollar increment, Jussi Pylkkanen, the auctioneer, said, “It’s an historic moment; we’ll wait.”

Toward the end, Alex Rotter, Christie’s co-chairman of postwar and contemporary art, who represented a buyer on the phone, made two big jumps to shake off one last rival bid from Francis de Poortere, Christie’s head of old master paintings.

The price is all the more remarkable at a time when the old masters market is contracting, because of limited supply and collectors’ penchant for contemporary art.

And to critics, the astronomical sale attests to something else — the degree to which salesmanship has come to drive and dominate the conversation about art and its value. Some art experts pointed to the painting’s damaged condition and its questionable authenticity.

“This was a thumping epic triumph of branding and desire over connoisseurship and reality,” said Todd Levin, a New York art adviser.

Christie’s marketing campaign was perhaps unprecedented in the art world; it was the first time the auction house went so far as to enlist an outside agency to advertise the work. Christie’s also released a video that included top executives pitching the painting to Hong Kong clients as “the holy grail of our business” and likening it to “the discovery of a new planet.” Christie’s called the work “the Last da Vinci,” the only known painting by the Renaissance master still in a private collection (some 15 others are in museums).

“It’s been a brilliant marketing campaign,” said Alan Hobart, director of the Pyms Gallery in London, who has acquired museum-quality artworks across a range of historical periods for the British businessman and collector Graham Kirkham. “This is going to be the future.”

RTWT

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Times Critic Jason Farago (speaking on behalf of the Establishment) does not like the painting or its buyer.

You can’t put a price on beauty; you can put a price on a name. When the National Gallery in London exhibited a painting of Christ in 2011 as a heretofore lost work by Leonardo da Vinci, the surprise in art historical circles was exceeded only by the salivating of dealers and auctioneers.

The painting, “Salvator Mundi,” is the only Leonardo in private hands, and was brought to market by the family trust of Dmitry E. Rybolovlev, the Russian billionaire entangled in an epic multinational lawsuit with his former dealer, Yves Bouvier. On Wednesday night, at Christie’s postwar and contemporary sale (in which it was incongruously included to reach bidders beyond Renaissance connoisseurs), the Leonardo sold for a shocking $450.3 million, the highest price ever paid for a work of art at auction. Worth it? Well, what are you buying: the painting or the brand?

The painting, when purchased at an estate sale in 2005 for less than $10,000, was initially considered a copy of a lost Leonardo, completed around 1500 and once in the collection of Charles I of England. Over time, its wood surface became cracked and chafed, and it had been crudely overpainted, as an image in the sale catalog shows. Cleaned by the conservator Dianne Dwyer Modestini, the painting now appears in some limbo state between its original form and an exacting, though partially imagined, rehabilitation.

Authentication is a serious but subjective business. I’m not the man to affirm or reject its attribution; it is accepted as a Leonardo by many serious scholars, though not all. I can say, however, what I felt I was looking at when I took my place among the crowds who’d queued an hour or more to behold and endlessly photograph “Salvator Mundi”: a proficient but not especially distinguished religious picture from turn-of-the-16th-century Lombardy, put through a wringer of restorations.

RTWT

17 Nov 2017

A Selection of the 30 Most Disappointing People Under 30

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Bess Kalb chooses, in the New Yorker:

Will Heller, twenty-six
After a month at a Zen silent-meditation retreat, Heller went back to his job at Goldman Sachs as a commodities trader in oil and gas.

Victor Chen, twenty-eight
Chen used an app to hire a person to pick up and deliver a Chipotle burrito to him every night for twenty-two consecutive nights.

Joanna Feldman, twenty-two
Misquoted E. E. Cummings in her rib-cage tattoo.

Rebecca Meyer, twenty-nine
Since earning her M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia, Meyer has been at work writing her début novel in her sprawling Chinatown loft, which was paid for in full by her parents. She has written sixteen pages, and they’re not very good.

Haley DiStefano, twenty-seven
DiStefano is known for posting pictures of her eight-thousand-dollar Cartier bracelets on Instagram, accompanied by the hashtag “#ManicureMonday.”

David Saperstein, twenty-six
Shared an article about fatalities in Syria accompanied by the comment “So many feels.”

Oksana Iyovitch, twenty-four
Iyovitch purchased a Scottish Fold kitten after seeing a picture of one on the Twitter feed Cute Emergency. Tried to return the cat to the breeder when it “got too big.”

Tim Harris, twenty-seven
Started a Bay Area “summer camp” where exhausted tech bros can “unplug” for two thousand dollars a weekend.

Lizzy Balanchine, nineteen
Bad dancer.

Max Kaiserman, twenty-five
Shared upward of two Bernie Sanders-related Facebook posts daily from March through July, then continued to post anti-Hillary articles after she secured the nomination.

Bess Kalb, twenty-nine
Kalb started a screenplay, talked about it to at least thirty friends and family members and two Uber drivers, and then never finished it.

16 Nov 2017

Yglesias Does the Liberal Two-Step

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Fun, fun, fun! Matt Yglesias demonstrates the fine liberal art of feigning repentance as he throws the no-longer-useful Bill Clinton right under the feminist issues bus. Former heroes of the Left are all very well, but getting Roy Moore could mean one more vote in the Senate.

I, like most Americans, was glad to see Clinton prevail and regarded the whole sordid matter as primarily the fault of congressional Republicans’ excessive scandal-mongering. Now, looking back after the election of Donald Trump, the revelations of massive sexual harassment scandals at Fox News, the stories about Harvey Weinstein and others in the entertainment industry, and the stories about Roy Moore’s pursuit of sexual relationships with teenagers, I think we got it wrong. We argued about perjury and adultery and the meaning of the word “is.” Republicans prosecuted a bad case against a president they’d been investigating for years.

What we should have talked about was men abusing their social and economic power over younger and less powerful women. ….

Unfortunately for me, I’m a little too old to get away with claiming to have had no opinion on this at the time. My version of a sophisticated high schooler’s take on the matter was that the American media should get over its bourgeois morality hang-ups and be more like the French, where François Mitterrand’s wife and his longtime mistress grieved together at his funeral.

As a married 30-something father, I’ve come around to a less “worldly” view of infidelity. As a co-founder of Vox, I’d never in a million years want us to be the kind of place where men in senior roles can get away with the kind of misconduct that we’ve seen is all too common in our industry and in so many others.

Most of all, as a citizen I’ve come to see that the scandal was never about infidelity or perjury — or at least, it shouldn’t have been. It was about power in the workplace and its use. The policy case that Democrats needed Clinton in office was weak, and the message that driving him from office would have sent would have been profound and welcome. That this view was not commonplace at the time shows that we did not, as a society, give the most important part of the story the weight it deserved.

As the current accountability moment grows, we ought to recognize and admit that we had a chance to do this almost 20 years ago — potentially sparing countless young women a wide range of unpleasant and discriminatory experiences, or at a minimum reducing their frequency and severity. And we blew it.

And, if no Republican were in the cross-hairs, let us ask ourselves: what would Matt Yglesias be saying? We know perfectly well he’d be taking the same position he did twenty years ago.

15 Nov 2017

New Translation of the Odyssey

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Emily Wilson has recently become the first female, after 60 male predecessors, to have a go at translating The Odyssey into English.

Wyatt Mason demonstrates that her new version has its points.

Throughout her translation of the “Odyssey,” Wilson has made small but, it turns out, radical changes to the way many key scenes of the epic are presented — “radical” in that, in 400 years of versions of the poem, no translator has made the kinds of alterations Wilson has, changes that go to truing a text that, as she says, has through translation accumulated distortions that affect the way even scholars who read Greek discuss the original. These changes seem, at each turn, to ask us to appreciate the gravity of the events that are unfolding, the human cost of differences of mind.

The first of these changes is in the very first line. You might be inclined to suppose that, over the course of nearly half a millennium, we must have reached a consensus on the English equivalent for an old Greek word, polytropos. But to consult Wilson’s 60 some predecessors, living and dead, is to find that consensus has been hard to come by. Chapman starts things off, in his version, with “many a way/Wound with his wisdom”; John Ogilby counters with the terser “prudent”; Thomas Hobbes evades the word, just calling Odysseus “the man.” Quite a range, and we’ve barely started. There’s Alexander Pope’s “for wisdom’s various arts renown’d”; William Cowper’s “For shrewdness famed/And genius versatile”; H.F. Cary’s “crafty”; William Sotheby’s “by long experience tried”; Theodore Buckley’s “full of resources”; Henry Alford’s “much-versed”; Philip Worsley’s “that hero”; the Rev. John Giles’s “of many fortunes”; T.S. Norgate’s “of many a turn”; George Musgrave’s “tost to and fro by fate”; the Rev. Lovelace Bigge-Wither’s “many-sided-man”; George Edgington’s “deep”; William Cullen Bryant’s “sagacious”; Roscoe Mongan’s “skilled in expedients”; Samuel Henry Butcher and Andrew Lang’s “so ready at need”; Arthur Way’s “of craft-renown”; George Palmer’s “adventurous”; William Morris’s “shifty”; Samuel Butler’s “ingenious”; Henry Cotterill’s “so wary and wise”; Augustus Murray’s “of many devices”; Francis Caulfeild’s “restless”; Robert Hiller’s “clever”; Herbert Bates’s “of many changes”; T.E. Lawrence’s “various-minded”; William Henry Denham Rouse’s “never at a loss”; Richmond Lattimore’s “of many ways”; Robert Fitzgerald’s “skilled in all ways of contending”; Albert Cook’s “of many turns”; Walter Shewring’s “of wide-ranging spirit”; Allen Mandelbaum’s “of many wiles”; Robert Fagles’s “of twists and turns”; all the way to Stanley Lombardo’s “cunning.”

Of the 60 or so answers to the polytropos question to date, the 36 given above couldn’t be less uniform (the two dozen I omit repeat, with minor variations, earlier solutions); what unites them is that their translators largely ignore the ambiguity built into the word they’re translating. Most opt for straightforward assertions of Odysseus’s nature, descriptions running from the positive (crafty, sagacious, versatile) to the negative (shifty, restless, cunning). Only Norgate (“of many a turn”) and Cook (“of many turns”) preserve the Greek roots as Wilson describes them — poly (“many”), tropos (“turn”) — answers that, if you produced them as a student of classics, much of whose education is spent translating Greek and Latin and being marked correct or incorrect based on your knowledge of the dictionary definitions, would earn you an A. But to the modern English reader who does not know Greek, does “a man of many turns” suggest the doubleness of the original word — a man who is either supremely in control of his life or who has lost control of it? Of the existing translations, it seems to me that none get across to a reader without Greek the open question that, in fact, is the opening question of the “Odyssey,” one embedded in the fifth word in its first line: What sort of man is Odysseus?

‘I do think that gender matters. I’m not going to not say it’s something I’m grappling with.’
“I wanted there to be a sense,” Wilson told me, that “maybe there is something wrong with this guy. You want to have a sense of anxiety about this character, and that there are going to be layers we see unfolded. We don’t quite know what the layers are yet. So I wanted the reader to be told: be on the lookout for a text that’s not going to be interpretively straightforward.”

Here is how Wilson’s “Odyssey” begins. Her fifth word is also her solution to the Greek poem’s fifth word — to polytropos:

    Tell me about a complicated man. Muse,
    tell me how he wandered and was lost
    when he had wrecked the holy town of Troy,
    and where he went, and who he met,
    the pain he suffered in the storms at sea,
    and how he worked to save his life and bring his men
    back home. He failed to keep them safe; poor fools,
    they ate the Sun God’s cattle, and the god
    kept them from home. Now goddess, child of Zeus,
    tell the old story for our modern times.
    Find the beginning.

RTWT

13 Nov 2017

Poem

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FROM MYTHOLOGY

First there was a god of night and tempest, a black idol without eyes, before whom they leaped, naked and smeared with blood. Later on, in the times of the republic, there were many gods with wives, children, creaking beds, and harmlessly exploding thunderbolts. At the end only superstitious neurotics carried in their pockets little statues of salt, representing the god of irony. There was no greater god at that time.

Then came the barbarians. They too valued highly the little god of irony. They would crush it under their heels and add it to their dishes.

–Zbigniew Herbert

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