Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Facebook Lets Advertisers Exclude Users by Race

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I am uneasy about the amount of personal data on me individually is available to large corporations. How about you? No? Check out this article.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 October 2016 at 4:08 pm

Posted in Business, Daily life

“There are two sorts of people”: Classics of literature edition

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From the interview that was the subject of the previous post:

KURT VONNEGUT: [Saul Steinberg] said that in almost all arts, there were some people who responded strongly to art history, to triumphs and fiascoes and experiments of the past, and others who did not. I fell into the second group, and had to. I couldn’t play games with my literary ancestors, since I had never studied them systematically. My education was as a chemist at Cornell and then an anthropologist at the University of Chicago. Christ—I was thirty-five before I went crazy about Blake, forty before I read Madame Bovary, forty-five before I’d even heard of Céline. Through dumb luck, I read Look Homeward, Angel exactly when I was supposed to.

Forty, BTW, is an excellent age to read Madame Bovary. I read it at 16 and at 19 and thought “meh.” I read it at 42 and could not put it down, it was so gripping. In a day school where I taught, they had young kids = 6th graders, as I recall, but possibly 7th grade – reading Macbeth. It’s nice that they get exposed, but really, at that age they have no idea of ambition or of the depth of the crimes Macbeth committed: he killed man, who not only was a man but a guest, who was not only a guest but a kinsman, who was not only a kinsman, but the (divinely appointed) king—and, worst of all in that misogynistic time, he had done it because his wife made him. At they age they lack sufficient life experience.

So also with Madame Boavary.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 October 2016 at 2:16 pm

Posted in Books

The Paris Review interviews of Kurt Vonnegut: The Art of Fiction

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From the 1977 Paris Review:

This interview with Kurt Vonnegut was originally a composite of four interviews done with the author over the past decade. The composite has gone through an extensive working over by the subject himself, who looks upon his own spoken words on the page with considerable misgivings . . . indeed, what follows can be considered an interview conducted with himself, by himself.

The introduction to the first of the incorporated interviews (done in West Barnstable, Massachusetts, when Vonnegut was forty-four) reads: “He is a veteran and a family man, large-boned, loose-jointed, at ease. He camps in an armchair in a shaggy tweed jacket, Cambridge gray flannels, a blue Brooks Brothers shirt, slouched down, his hands stuffed into his pockets. He shells the interview with explosive coughs and sneezes, windages of an autumn cold and a lifetime of heavy cigarette smoking. His voice is a resonant baritone, Midwestern, wry in its inflections. From time to time he issues the open, alert smile of a man who has seen and reserved within himself almost everything: depression, war, the possibility of violent death, the inanities of corporate public relations, six children, an irregular income, long-delayed recognition.”

The last of the interviews that made up the composite was conducted during the summer of 1976, years after the first. The description of him at this time reads: “ . . . he moves with the low-keyed amiability of an old family dog. In general, his appearance is tousled: the long curly hair, mustache, and sympathetic smile suggest a man at once amused and saddened by the world around him. He has rented the Gerald Murphy house for the summer. He works in the little bedroom at the end of a hall where Murphy, artist, bon vivant, and friend to the artistic great, died in 1964. From his desk Vonnegut can look out onto the front lawn through a small window; behind him is a large, white canopy bed. On the desk next to the typewriter is a copy of Andy Warhol’s Interview, Clancy Sigal’s Zone of the Interior, and several discarded cigarette packs.

“Vonnegut has chain-smoked Pall Malls since 1936 and during the course of the interview he smokes the better part of one pack. His voice is low and gravelly, and as he speaks, the incessant procedure of lighting the cigarettes and exhaling smoke is like punctuation in his conversation. Other distractions, such as the jangle of the telephone and the barking of a small, shaggy dog named Pumpkin, do not detract from Vonnegut’s good-natured disposition. Indeed, as Dan Wakefield once said of his fellow Shortridge High School alumnus, ‘He laughed a lot and was kind to everyone.’“

INTERVIEWER: You are a veteran of the Second World War?

VONNEGUT: Yes. I want a military funeral when I die—the bugler, the flag on the casket, the ceremonial firing squad, the hallowed ground.


VONNEGUT: It will be a way of achieving what I’ve always wanted more than anything—something I could have had, if only I’d managed to get myself killed in the war.


VONNEGUT: The unqualified approval of my community.

INTERVIEWER: You don’t feel that you have that now?

VONNEGUT: My relatives say that they are glad I’m rich, but that they simply cannot read me.

INTERVIEWER: You were an infantry battalion scout in the war?

VONNEGUT: Yes, but I took my basic training on the 240-millimeter howitzer.

INTERVIEWER: A rather large weapon.

VONNEGUT: The largest mobile fieldpiece in the army at that time. This weapon came in six pieces, each piece dragged wallowingly by a Caterpillar tractor. Whenever we were told to fire it, we had to build it first. We practically had to invent it. We lowered one piece on top of another, using cranes and jacks. The shell itself was about nine and a half inches in diameter and weighed three hundred pounds. We constructed a miniature railway which would allow us to deliver the shell from the ground to the breech, which was about eight feet above grade. The breechblock was like the door on the vault of a savings and loan association in Peru, Indiana, say.

INTERVIEWER: It must have been a thrill to fire such a weapon.

VONNEGUT: Not really. We would put the shell in there, and then we would throw in bags of very slow and patient explosives. They were damp dog biscuits, I think. We would close the breech, and then trip a hammer which hit a fulminate of mercury percussion cap, which spit fire at the damp dog biscuits. The main idea, I think, was to generate steam. After a while, we could hear these cooking sounds. It was a lot like cooking a turkey. In utter safety, I think, we could have opened the breechblock from time to time, and basted the shell. Eventually, though, the howitzer always got restless. And finally it would heave back on its recoil mechanism, and it would have to expectorate the shell. The shell would come floating out like the Goodyear blimp. If we had had a stepladder, we could have painted “Fuck Hitler” on the shell as it left the gun. Helicopters could have taken after it and shot it down.

INTERVIEWER: The ultimate terror weapon.

VONNEGUT: Of the Franco-Prussian War.

INTERVIEWER: But you were ultimately sent overseas not with this instrument but with the 106th Infantry Division—

VONNEGUT: “The Bag Lunch Division.” They used to feed us a lot of bag lunches. Salami sandwiches. An orange.


VONNEGUT: When we were still in the States.

INTERVIEWER: While they trained you for the infantry?

VONNEGUT: I was never trained for the infantry. Battalion scouts were elite troops, see. There were only six in each battalion, and nobody was very sure about what they were supposed to do. So we would march over to the rec room every morning, and play Ping-Pong and fill out applications for Officer Candidate School.

INTERVIEWER: During your basic training, though, you must have been familiarized with weapons other than the howitzer.

VONNEGUT: If you study the 240-millimeter howitzer, you don’t even have time left over for a venereal-disease film.

INTERVIEWER: What happened when you reached the front?

VONNEGUT: I imitated various war movies I’d seen. . .

Continue reading.

Right after the above:

INTERVIEWER: And you finally arrived in Dresden.

VONNEGUT: In a huge prison camp south of Dresden first. The privates were separated from the noncoms and officers. Under the articles of the Geneva Convention, which is a very Edwardian document, privates were required to work for their keep. Everybody else got to languish in prison. As a private, I was shipped to Dresden . . .

INTERVIEWER: What were your impressions of the city itself before the bombing?

VONNEGUT: The first fancy city I’d ever seen. A city full of statues and zoos, like Paris. We were living in a slaughterhouse, in a nice new cement-block hog barn. They put bunks and straw mattresses in the barn, and we went to work every morning as contract labor in a malt-syrup factory. The syrup was for pregnant women. The damned sirens would go off and we’d hear some other city getting it—whump a whump a whumpa whump. We never expected to get it. There were very few air-raid shelters in town and no war industries, just cigarette factories, hospitals, clarinet factories. Then a siren went off—it was February 13, 1945—and we went down two stories under the pavement into a big meat locker. It was cool there, with cadavers hanging all around. When we came up the city was gone.

INTERVIEWER: You didn’t suffocate in the meat locker?

VONNEGUT: No. It was quite large, and there weren’t very many of us. The attack didn’t sound like a hell of a lot either. Whump. They went over with high explosives first to loosen things up, and then scattered incendiaries. When the war started, incendiaries were fairly sizable, about as long as a shoebox. By the time Dresden got it, they were tiny little things. They burnt the whole damn town down.

INTERVIEWER: What happened when you came up?

VONNEGUT: Our guards were noncoms—a sergeant, a corporal, and four privates—and leaderless. Cityless, too, because they were Dresdeners who’d been shot up on the front and sent home for easy duty. They kept us at attention for a couple of hours. They didn’t know what else to do. They’d go over and talk to each other. Finally we trekked across the rubble and they quartered us with some South Africans in a suburb. Every day we walked into the city and dug into basements and shelters to get the corpses out, as a sanitary measure. When we went into them, a typical shelter, an ordinary basement usually, looked like a streetcar full of people who’d simultaneously had heart failure. Just people sitting there in their chairs, all dead. A firestorm is an amazing thing. It doesn’t occur in nature. It’s fed by the tornadoes that occur in the midst of it and there isn’t a damned thing to breathe. We brought the dead out. They were loaded on wagons and taken to parks, large, open areas in the city which weren’t filled with rubble. The Germans got funeral pyres going, burning the bodies to keep them from stinking and from spreading disease. One hundred thirty thousand corpses were hidden underground. It was a terribly elaborate Easter-egg hunt. We went to work through cordons of German soldiers. Civilians didn’t get to see what we were up to. After a few days the city began to smell, and a new technique was invented. Necessity is the mother of invention. We would bust into the shelter, gather up valuables from people’s laps without attempting identification, and turn the valuables over to guards. Then soldiers would come in with a flamethrower and stand in the door and cremate the people inside. Get the gold and jewelry out and then burn everybody inside.

INTERVIEWER: What an impression on someone thinking of becoming a writer!

VONNEGUT: It was a fancy thing to see, a startling thing. It was a moment of truth, too, because American civilians and ground troops didn’t know American bombers were engaged in saturation bombing. It was kept a secret until very close to the end of the war. One reason they burned down Dresden is that they’d already burned down everything else. You know: “What’re we going to do tonight?” Here was everybody all set to go, and Germany still fighting, and this machinery for burning down cities was being used. It was a secret, burning down cities—boiling pisspots and flaming prams. There was all this hokum about the Norden bomb sight. You’d see a newsreel showing a bombardier with an MP on either side of him holding a drawn .45. That sort of nonsense, and hell, all they were doing was just flying over cities, hundreds of airplanes, and dropping everything. When I went to the University of Chicago after the war the guy who interviewed me for admission had bombed Dresden. He got to that part of my life story and he said, “Well, we hated to do it.” The comment sticks in my mind.

INTERVIEWER: Another reaction would be, “We were ordered to do it.”

VONNEGUT: His was more humane. I think he felt the bombing was necessary, and it may have been. One thing everybody learned is how fast you can rebuild a city. The engineers said it would take five hundred years to rebuild Germany. Actually it took about eighteen weeks.

And there’s much more.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 October 2016 at 11:33 am

Posted in Writing

Trump and his family know something: They are contributing no money at all to his campaign

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I imagine that, shrewd businesspeople that they are, they are refusing to contribute because they know more about the campaign (and Trump) than most people. Gideon Resnick writes in the Daily Beast:

With less than two weeks until the election, Donald Trump has amassed an impressive army of small donors, fueling his bid with individual contributions of $200 or less. But noticeably absent from the list of contributors is basically anyone with the last name Trump, many of the surrogates who represent The Donald on national television, and members of his own campaign staff.

According to a review of Federal Election Commission filings by The Daily Beast, only one of Trump’s children showed up on a list of itemized receipts for the campaign: Eric. On Sept. 7, 2016, Eric Trump appears to have contributed $376.20 listed only as “meeting expense: meals.” It appears that money was later refunded. Eric Trump did not respond to a request for comment about the transaction.

Ivanka Trump, who previously contributed to Hillary Clinton and John McCain in 2007 and 2008 respectively, does not appear to have given to her father.

Donald Trump Jr., who contributed to Iowa congressman Steve King in 2014 and Hillary Clinton in 2007, is also nowhere to be found.

And a search for Tiffany Trump yielded no results.

The Trump children are not the only prominent figures in his orbit who have not invested in the mogul’s presidential bid.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former Defense Intelligence Agency director turned Trump warm-up act, has not given the candidate a dime. Neither has Governor Chris Christie, Trump’s first rival for the presidency to endorse him. Christie gave his own campaign the maximum allowable contribution of $2,700 on Sept. 29, 2015.

Many of Trump’s surrogates, who have been generous in previous campaigns, this year have kept their wallets closed to The Donald.

Newt Gingrich contributed $4,600 to John McCain in 2008 but has yet to give any money to Trump’s campaign. Ben Carson, another staunch Trump defender, gave Mitt Romney $1,000 in April 2012 but nothing to Trump this cycle.

The rest of the Trump circle of staffers, advisers, and surrogates who are absent from his FEC filings includes: former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, adviser and attorney Michael Cohen (an admitted registered Democrat), and former executive of Breitbart and Trump’s campaign CEO Steve Bannon.

There’s no law or general practice that dictates whether family members or staffers should or should not give to presidential campaigns with which they are affiliated. . .

Continue reading.

Trump will not back himself. His family will not back him. His surrogates will not back him.

I imagine they know things we do not.

UPDATE: huh. Kevin Drum has a post that indicates Trump has indeed contributed to his campaign, and is contributing more. Still nothing from his family and surrogates, though.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 October 2016 at 10:27 am

Posted in Election, GOP

Big Easy Cigar Bar shaving soap, with the Eros slant

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SOTD 2016-10-28

bigdaddyjug, who was on Reddit at the time, offered to send me a complimentary sample of his shaving soap, and I accepted. I was surprised that when I tried to contact him to let him know I was reviewing it, I found that his account had been deleted. I hope he will see this.

The cigar fragrance is right on target. The puck has substantially more of the fragrance than the lather, but that’s not unusual. However, I suggest dialing up the fragrance a notch so that more carries into the lather.

I don’t have the ingredients, but based on the loading, I would say that this soap contains clay: I had to add water as I loaded, which is typical of such soaps. It was easy to load, and the lather was extremely good: thick and slick.

I did the first pass with the Eros slant, but thought it was not doing so well, so I replaced the blade (a Gillette 7 O’Clock Sharp Edge) with a different blade that had had less use (a Personna Lab Blue). I normally do not indicate the brand of blade I use because it is pointless: the brand may or may not work for you in your razor, and thus you would have to try a sample to see whether it was a good brand for you. But I got the request, and those are the brands that I used.

The Eros slant seems to me to be, in effect, the iKon 102 only in plastic and with extraneous material to provide a rectangular profile. But I get the same extremely comfortable and extremely efficient shave with the Eros as I do with the 102.

It is an all-plastic slant, and thus is quite lightweight, but I’ve never found that a lightweight slant is problem: slants cut easily through the stubble and do not require much heft to drive the blade, and since it is vital with a slant to use light pressure, having a very light razor is a good reminder.

Three passes, BBS result, and a splash of Very V finished the shave. And it’s raining! (at last)

Written by LeisureGuy

28 October 2016 at 9:27 am

Posted in Shaving

The drug war’s most enthusiastic recruit: Hollywood

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In the Washington Post Alyssa Rosenberg continues her excellent series on movies and law enforcement.

About the series: Police influence played a powerful role in shaping early Hollywood. The entertainment industry has since spent decades advancing ideas about policing that play out in some of our most agonized public debates.

PART I: How police censorship shaped Hollywood

PART II: How pop culture’s cops turned on their communities

PART III: In pop culture, there are no bad police shootings

PART V: Blue lives: Pop culture’s minority cops (Oct. 28)

The current part begins:

Santa Claus is running down the street, arms pumping, hat lost, beard blowing back over his shoulder. But he’s not in a hurry to deliver overdue toys — he’s on the hunt. His quarry trips and falls in an abandoned lot. Santa pulls a gun from an ankle holster and begins to pistol-whip the man.

This scene, early in “The French Connection,” perfectly captures not only the film’s grim, sardonic attitude but also a bitter national mood. Just a few months before the movie’s October 1971 release, President Richard Nixon declared drug abuse “public enemy Number One” and vowed an “all-out offensive” against the scourge. “The French Connection’s” tough-cop protagonist, “Popeye” Doyle (Gene Hackman), who battled a French heroin cartel, was one of the first cinematic foot soldiers in a war that would stretch on for decades.

Doyle shared a pessimistic outlook, a propensity for violence and racist views with Dirty Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood), who would follow Doyle to the big screen just two months later. Both men saw themselves as warriors rather than as civil servants. Yet where “Dirty Harry” pitted Callahan against a counterculture that was already beginning to fade even without police intervention, “The French Connection” pitted Doyle against the cultural and political enemy of the future.

Just as Jack Webb’s partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department on “Dragnet” and “Adam-12” benefited both Hollywood and the police, the drug war united pop culture and real law enforcement agencies in a new common purpose. The prospect of foreign drug traffickers invading American shores gave pop-culture cops a new and more dangerous enemy to fight, one that justified fast driving, explosive shootouts and all sorts of audience-thrilling rule-breaking. In return, Hollywood promoted the idea that drugs posed a grave threat that justified new, frightening police tactics and the erosion of basic rights.

Now, at a moment when the United States is attempting to reckon with the consequences of a militarized style of policing that has turned some American neighborhoods into occupied zones and normalized the idea that police officers might burst into private homes without warning, the rise of the action cop looks less entertaining and more sinister. In fighting narcotics, real police departments and the entertainment industry developed a damaging habit of their own, glamorizing gun-slinging cops who treat the citizens they serve like a dangerous enemy.

Even before “Popeye” Doyle started chasing down French drug dealers, police stories were already including the kinds of action scenes that Sheriff Andy Taylor would have seen as unnecessary and that would have given Joe Friday an unaccustomed dose of adrenaline. Most famously, in 1968’s “Bullitt,” the titular hero (Steve McQueen) pursued a mob hit man through the winding streets of San Francisco in one of movie history’s defining car chases.

The rise of the blockbuster era in Hollywood storytelling provided a strong incentive to continue this action-oriented trajectory. “Jaws,” Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie about a great white shark terrorizing a New England beach town, shook up the movie business. Previously, movies tended to debut in just a few markets and then roll out across the country, propelled by word of mouth. “Jaws” was bolstered by what was then a huge advertising campaign and opened in more than 400 theaters simultaneously. The movie proved that Hollywood could turn out huge audiences on an opening weekend. Often the best way to do that was with violent spectacle, whether a killer shark chewing up a whole boat or the intergalactic clash of “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” two years later.

The rise of the blockbuster era in Hollywood storytelling provided a strong incentive to continue this action-oriented trajectory. “Jaws,” Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie about a great white shark terrorizing a New England beach town, shook up the movie business. Previously, movies tended to debut in just a few markets and then roll out across the country, propelled by word of mouth. “Jaws” was bolstered by what was then a huge advertising campaign and opened in more than 400 theaters simultaneously. The movie proved that Hollywood could turn out huge audiences on an opening weekend. Often the best way to do that was with violent spectacle, whether a killer shark chewing up a whole boat or the intergalactic clash of “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope” two years later.

International drug traffickers proved to be the perfect villains for police stories that aimed to match the stakes and action of blockbusters such as “Jaws” and for network executives who wanted their fictional cops to have someone worth beating. Drug kingpins’ crimes had a corrosive impact on society — one of the drug dealers in “The French Connection” describes the cartel’s heroin as “Grade A poison” — and they ran their syndicates like corporations, operating for profit. And traffickers were often foreign, or in some way traitors to the United States, which allowed movies and television to set aside concerns about the police prosecuting a war against American citizens.

“The French Connection,” for example, was advertised with the tag line “Doyle is bad news — but a good cop.” Doyle’s antagonists were smart and frightening. They hid heroin in secret compartments in cars and also hijacked subway trains. The movie treated Doyle’s inclination to beat suspects, and even a scene in which he shot a fleeing French drug dealer in the back, as evils necessary to combat those who wanted to flood New York with $32 million worth of heroin. If the French drug dealers were going to kill New York cops, then at least one cop was going to fire back. . .

Continue reading.

This also might be of interest:

Syllabus: A complete guide to the movies, television and books this project explores.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 October 2016 at 8:47 pm

Linda Greenhouse on the corrosive effects of Trump’s campaign

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Linda Greenhouse writes in the NY Times:

The only presidential inauguration I’ve attended was Bill Clinton’s first, on Jan. 20, 1993. I took two spare tickets from the office, and brought my 7-year-old daughter, bundled against the cold like a little abominable snowman and old enough, I figured, for a civics lesson.

These were not V.I.P. seats, and we were far back on the National Mall, the proceedings barely visible. What I remember most vividly was what occurred immediately after the ceremony’s conclusion. A helicopter took off noisily from somewhere near the Capitol. I wasn’t sure at first what was happening, but word passed through the crowd that it was Marine One, carrying away the now ex-president George H. W. Bush and his wife, Barbara. Where were they headed — Kennebunkport? Houston? The destination didn’t matter. The helicopter receding into the winter sky was a richly evocative symbol, power transferring peacefully before our eyes from the defeated candidate to the victorious one, the old president to the new. I told my daughter: This is how democracy works.

That image came to mind last week during the third presidential debate. I watched the debate on a hotel television in the company of fellow participants in a conference I was attending. All were lawyers. As the debate proceeded, the group’s attention occasionally drifted, and we chatted a bit. But at Donald Trump’s refusal to say that he would abide by the election results, everyone snapped to attention. Someone had to break the stunned silence, so as the only one in the room with journalism experience, it fell to me to state the obvious: “That’s the headline.”

During this excruciating year, I’ve refrained from writing about the election, content to leave the subject to columnists for whom politics is central to their mandate. But law is central to mine, and since this is my last column before Election Day, I will use it to reflect on the challenge that this political season has posed to the rule of law.

What do I mean by that phrase? The rule of law isn’t readily reduced to a definition; we know it when we see it. It is both a process and an end state: the product not of a list of mandates but of ingrained habits, a collective turn of mind, shared expectations about how a civil society organizes its affairs and resolves its conflicts. We know that rules alone don’t suffice to create or maintain a rule of law; some of the world’s more odious governments have looked beneficent on paper.

The rule of law provides confidence that what is true today will still be true tomorrow. It undergirds the resilience necessary to absorb the inevitable shocks any political system faces. Resilience takes a long time to grow. The European “unity” now fracturing under 21st century strain is a mid-20th century artifact. That’s not very much time. In the United States, we have thought, smugly, that we have all the time in the world. Maybe we don’t.

Consider the Republican-controlled Senate’s response to President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, a nomination now nearly eight months old. Having vowed to prevent President Obama from filling the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, Republican senators have refused to schedule a hearing for Judge Garland, the distinguished chief judge of a major federal appeals court — or, with a few exceptions, even to meet with him and shake his hand. Ten days ago, Senator John McCain raised the stakes, vowing that Republicans would block not only this but any Supreme Court nomination made in the future by a President Hillary Clinton. “I promise you that we will be united against any Supreme Court nominee that Hillary Clinton, if she were president, would put up,” the Arizona Republican declared in a radio interview.

What was frightening about Senator McCain’s statement wasn’t that he said it. After all, politicians say nutty things all the time. What scared me was . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 October 2016 at 7:48 pm

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