Later On

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

Archive for November 17th, 2021

New life for a torn paper bag

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It’s as though the paper bag died and went to Heaven as a better version of itself.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 8:32 pm

Calvin and Hobbes

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Gabrielle Bellot, a staff writer for Literary Hub whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The New Yorker, The Paris Review Daily, The Cut, Tin House, The Guardian, Guernica, The Normal School, The Poetry Foundation, Lambda Literary, and many other places, writes in Literary Hub:

“To an editor,” Bill Watterson, the creator of Calvin and Hobbes, wrote in 2001, “space may be money, but to a cartoonist, space is time. Space provides the tempo and rhythm of the strip.” Watterson was right, perhaps in more ways than he knew. Newspaper comics, he wrote, provide a unique space for many readers before they start their day; we get to pass, briefly, through a door into a calmer, simpler world, where the characters often remain largely the same, even down to their clothing. Not all newspaper comics are like this, of course, particularly the more complex narrative comics of the past like Little Nemo in Slumberland or Terry and the Pirates, and the worst comics—of which there are many—retain that sense of sameness by being formulaic and uninspired. But this, too, is related to space. Space, broadly speaking, is what defines Calvin and Hobbes.

The strip follows Calvin, a blonde six-year-old American that Watterson named after the founder of Calvinism. Calvin’s first appearance was actually in a rejected strip from before Calvin and Hobbes called Critturs, in which he is the younger brother of the main character; the syndicate suggested he focus on this sibling instead, and that led to the creation of his flagship comic. Often, Calvin’s imagination represents a more exciting, more marvelous vision of the world around him; instead of listening in class to Miss Wormwood (herself named for C. S. Lewis’s apprentice devil in The Screwtape Letters), he may be dreaming of fleeing from aliens in other galaxies. An only child, Calvin’s best friend is a tiger named Hobbes, himself named for the author of Leviathan. To everyone but Calvin, Hobbes appears to be a stuffed tiger, while Hobbes is a real, talking tiger to Calvin. In Watterson’s words, Hobbes’s true nature is never fully defined by the strip, which is one of its beauties; Hobbes is a kind of ontological marvel, and yet utterly mundane all the same, for he is whatever he needs to be for whomever is perceiving him.

Calvin and Hobbes feels so inventive because it is: the strips take us to new planets, to parodies of film noir, to the Cretaceous period, to encounters with aliens in American suburbs and bicycles coming to life and reality itself being revised into Cubist art. Calvin and Hobbes ponder whether or not life and art have any meaning—often while careening off the edge of a cliff on a wagon or sled. At times, the strip simply abandons panels or dialogue altogether, using black and white space and wordless narrative in fascinating ways. Like Alice, Calvin shrinks in one sequence, becoming tiny enough to transport himself on a passing house fly; in another, he grows larger than the planet itself. In “Nauseous Nocturne,” a poem in The Essential Calvin and Hobbes that reads faintly like a parody of Poe, Watterson treats us to lovely art and to absurd yet brilliant lines like “Oh, blood-red eyes and tentacles! / Throbbing, pulsing ventricles! Mucus-oozing pores and frightful claws! / Worse, in terms of outright scariness, / Are the suckers multifarious / That grab and force you in its mighty jaws”; the “disgusting aberration” “demonstrates defenestration” at the sight of Hobbes. In one gloriously profane strip, Calvin even becomes an ancient, vengeful god who attempts to sacrifice humanity. Nothing, except perhaps the beauty of imagination, is sacred here. Watterson dissolves the boundaries of highbrow and lowbrow art. The comic’s freedom is confined—it’s not totally random—yet the depths it can go to feel fathomless all the same. Few other strips allow themselves such vastness.

I’ve always loved the way that the best books—including comics—change as we do. The narrator of Borges’s “The Book of Sand” receives an inscrutable book from a bible-seller that literally changes every time he opens it, for it is impossible to find the same page twice; conversely, another of Borges’s protagonists, Funes the Memorious from the story of the same name, cannot forget anything he reads or perceives at all. Reality is somewhere in the middle of these extremes. Some books are palaces or grand multilayered structures like the etchings of Piranesi; we may only find secret doors and halls and rooms in them on our second or fourth reads, and there are some doors one reader may stumble upon that no one else ever will, including the writer of said text. “The days are just packed,” Calvin tells Hobbes in one of Watterson’s strips, in a line that would serve as the title for a collection. And so is the comic itself, which I’ve reread in its entirety many times, and yet I keep finding new little hidden rooms in it.

I’ve gotten more into comics as I’ve grown older, but Calvin and Hobbes is the one that has stayed with me from childhood to adulthood. Though focused on suburban American characters, it crossed cultural borders for me in Dominica because so much of it seemed universal. I lived at the edge of a mountain village, and on the days when the wind had stopped blowing and everything felt still and stricken with the melancholy of a too-short Sunday I enjoyed retreating into a room and disappearing into the world of a book collection of Calvin and Hobbes. (I had . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 7:19 pm

Posted in Art, Books, Cats, Daily life, Humor

Liberals Read, Conservatives Watch TV

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Richard Hanania writes in his newsletter:

Disclaimer: This is a very long piece (about 9,000 words). I thought about breaking it up into different essays, but concluded this is one of those things where you need to see the argument in its entirety to appreciate the constituent parts. I also think it needs many qualifiers and caveats in order to avoid misunderstandings, as the argument is extremely broad. Anyway, feel free to read in more than one sitting. A summary can be found in the table right above the first sub-heading.

How are conservatives and liberals different?

There are many ways to approach this question. One can discuss psychological predispositions, demographics, education, professional background, or a hundred other things.

Political psychology interested in the question has fallen into two camps: narratives that flatter the left and insult the right, and those that work in the lab but don’t explain all that much in real life.

For example, some have claimed that conservatives are more “authoritarian” than liberals. When you ask people whether individuals should like the military and defer to cops, surprisingly enough conservatives are more “authoritarian.” Yet change the elites in question, and suddenly liberals become the authoritarians. Attempts to explain that conservatism is rooted in prejudice similarly fail because it turns out both sides are prejudiced, just against different groups.

The second way to explain differences is by positing different moral values. I don’t think this effort has had much success. Jonathan Haidt showed that in the abstract conservatives and liberals will adopt different values, but moral foundations matter a lot less than partisanship in the real world. This research is also extremely sensitive to how one defines terms like “sanctity.” When it comes to religion, conservatives are higher on this value, but as I saw Haidt himself once ask an audience, what would the reaction in the room be if he made a joke about Martin Luther King?

Psychological accounts focusing on the individual also tend to miss larger dynamics within each movement and society as a whole. If you want to understand the social norms of a prison, it is not enough to study the psychological profiles of criminals. One must also take into account the environment they’re in, which includes people with similar traits, and how such individuals interact with one another. We likewise miss quite a bit when we reduce political differences between groups to individual psychology and ignore the ways in which communities organize themselves.

I want to present a new theory of American politics: liberals live in a world dominated by the written word, while conservatism is something of a pre-literate culture. This can be summarized as “liberals read, conservatives watch TV.” Let’s start with a graph:

On the Republican side, when it comes to newspapers, the most relied upon source is The Wall Street Journal (11%). On the Democratic side, 30% read The New York Times, and 26% read The Washington Post. Democrats even read the WSJ more than conservatives do, and are just as likely to report The New York Post as a source! On both sides, only a minority reads any particular newspaper, but having half of your supporters read something instead of 15%, or whatever the exact numbers are, creates a completely different culture.

On the conservative side, 19% got their information from Hannity, and 17% from Rush Limbaugh. There are no equivalent personalities on the left, although liberals do listen to radio in the forms of NPR and the BBC. Yet those outlets are very different from Hannity and Limbaugh; although biased, they have apolitical content and should actually be considered more news than sources of entertainment. I think if you want to find a Hannity equivalent on the left it would be someone like Keith Olbermann, who is nowhere as influential.

Here are another two figures, showing media sources trusted by each side. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 6:54 pm

The Elephant Who Could Be a Person

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Jill Lepore, a staff writer at The New Yorker and the David Woods Kemper ’41 Professor of American History at Harvard University, writes in the Atlantic:

The subject of the most important animal-rights case of the 21st century was born in Thailand during the Vietnam War. Very soon after that, a tousle-haired baby, she became trapped in human history. She was captured, locked in a cage, trucked to the coast, and loaded onto a roaring 747 that soared across the Pacific until it made landfall in the United States. She spent her earliest years in Florida, not far from Disney World, before she was shipped to Texas. In 1977, when she was 5 or 6, more men hauled her onto another truck and shipped her to New York, to a spot about four miles north of Yankee Stadium: the Bronx Zoo. In the wild, barely weaned, she’d have been living with her family—her sisters, her cousins, her aunts, and her mother—touching and nuzzling and rubbing and smelling and calling to each other almost constantly. Instead, after she landed at the zoo and for years after, she gave rides to the schoolchildren of New York and performed tricks, sometimes wearing a blue-and-black polka-dotted dress. Today, in her 50s and retired, she lives alone in a one-acre enclosure in a bleak, bamboo-shrouded Bronx Zoo exhibit called, without irony, “Wild Asia.”

This fall, on a day nearly barren of tourists, I rode through Wild Asia on a mostly empty monorail, the Bengali Express, over the Bronx River. “You’ll have no trouble spotting the next animal on our tour, the largest land mammal,” the tour guide said, dutifully reciting a script. “The lovely lady we’re meeting right here, her name is Miss Happy.” A few yards away, behind a fence of steel posts and cables enclosing a small pond, a stretch of grass, and a patch of compacted dirt—an exhibit originally named the “Khao Yai,” after Thailand’s first national park—Miss Happy stood nearly still and stared, slightly swaying, as she lifted and lowered one foot. Miss Happy has managed “to keep her wonderful figure in shape,” the guide said, as if she were describing a vain, middle-aged woman, and the zoo takes “very, very good care” of her: She receives “weekly pedicures and baths,” she said, as if this were an indulgence, the zoo a spa. The script did not mention that the pedicures are necessary to help prevent crippling and even fatal foot disease, a common consequence of captivity, since, in the wild, these animals, traveling in families, often walk many miles a day.

I rode the monorail again. Happy stood and swayed and stared and lifted and lowered her foot. Next year, maybe as soon as January, the New York Court of Appeals will hear oral arguments regarding a petition of habeas corpus that alleges that Happy’s detention is unlawful because, under U.S. law, she is a person. She is also an elephant.

A “person” is something of a legal fiction. Under U.S. law, a corporation can be a person. So can a ship. “So it should be as respects valleys, alpine meadows, rivers, lakes, estuaries, beaches, ridges, groves of trees, swampland, or even air,” Justice William O. Douglas wrote in a dissenting Supreme Court opinion in 1972. Pro-life activists have argued that embryos and fetuses are persons. In 2019, the Yurok tribe in Northern California decreed that the Klamath River is a person. Some forms of artificial intelligence might one day become persons.

But can an elephant be a person? No case like this has ever reached so high a court, anywhere in the English-speaking world. The elephant suit might be an edge case, but it is by no means a frivolous case. In an age of mass extinction and climate catastrophe, the questions it raises, about the relationship between humans, animals, and the natural world, concern the future of life on Earth, questions that much existing law is catastrophically ill-equipped to address.

The U.S. Constitution, written in Philadelphia in 1787, rests on a chain-of-being conception of personhood. The men who wrote the Constitution not only made no provision for animals or lakes or any part of the natural world but also made no provision for women or children. The only provision they made for Indigenous people and for Africans and their descendants held in bondage was mathematical: They calculated representation in Congress by adding up all the “free Persons,” subtracting “Indians not taxed,” and counting enslaved humans as “three fifths of all other Persons.” When the question was raised in Congress earlier, about whether, in that case, domesticated animals like cattle ought to count toward representation, Benjamin Franklin had offered a rule of thumb for how to tell the difference between people and animals: “Sheep will never make any insurrections.” He did not mention elephants.

Much of American history is the story of people, rights, and obligations left out of the constitutional order making their way into it, especially by constitutional amendment. The purpose of amendment, as early Americans understood it, was “to rectify the errors that will creep in through lapse of time, or alteration of situation.” Without amendment, they believed, there would be no way to effect fundamental change except by revolution: everlasting insurrection. But, like the peaceful transfer of power, the people’s ability to revise the Constitution is no longer to be relied on: Meaningful amendment became all but impossible in the 1970s, just when the environmental and animal-rights movements began to gain strength.

The Constitution has become all but unchangeable; the natural world keeps changing. The average annual temperature in Philadelphia in 1787 was 52 degrees Fahrenheit. In 2020, it was 58. Last year, the World Wildlife Foundation reported that wildlife populations around the globe have declined sharply in the past half century, with the species it monitors falling by an average of two-thirds. “We are wrecking our world,” a head of the foundation said. Most of the latest extinctions are due not to climate change but to habitat loss. Meanwhile, in the violence of human conquest of animal territory and the atrocities of factory farming, diseases cross from animals to humans and back again. Nearly 5 million people have so far died of COVID-19, which will not be the last zoonotic pandemic. Humans, having destroyed the habitat of many of the world’s other species, are now destroying their own.

New federal and international laws could help, but Congress barely functions and most environmental treaties are either nonbinding or not enforced and, in any event, the United States is not party to many of them, having largely withdrawn from the world. With so many legal, political, and constitutional avenues closed, the most promising strategy, influenced by Indigenous law, has been to establish the “rights of nature.” One such approach relies on property law. Karen Bradshaw, a law professor at Arizona State University, argues that wildlife such as bison and elephants have ancestral lands, and that they use, mark, and protect their territory. “Deer do not hire lawyers,” she writes in a new book, Wildlife as Property Owners, but if deer did hire lawyers, they’d be able to claim that, under the logic of the law of property, they should own their habitats. Another approach, the one taken on behalf of Happy by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP), a sort of animal ACLU, relies on common law. It takes inspiration from abolitionists who used habeas corpus petitions to establish the personhood, and gain the freedom, of people held in bondage. Both strategies risk pitting animal-rights activists against environmentalists, two movements that have often found themselves at odds. (Environmentalists, for instance, wanted wolves in national parks, but accepted that wolves outside the park could be shot by hunters and ranchers.)

This case isn’t about an elephant. It’s about the elephant in the courtroom: the place of the natural world in laws and constitutions written for humankind. In the wild, the elephant is a keystone species; if it falls, its entire ecosystem can collapse. In the courts, elephant personhood is a keystone argument, the argument on which all other animal-rights and even environmental arguments could conceivably depend. Elephants, the largest land mammal, are among the most intelligent, long lived, and sentient of nonhuman animals, and, arguably, they’re the most sympathetic. As moral agents, elephants are better than humans. They’re not quite as clever, but, as a matter of social intelligence, they’re more clever than every other animal except apes and, possibly, bottlenose dolphins, and they’re more decent than humans. They live in families; they protect their young; they grieve their dead; they don’t eat other animals, and they don’t cage, isolate, and torture them. Elephants appear to possess a theory of mind: They seem to understand themselves as individuals, with thoughts that differ from the thoughts of other creatures. They suffer, and they understand suffering.

The Bronx Zoo insists  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 6:28 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law

Reason is the Slave to the Passions: Hume on Reason vs. Desire

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Daniel Weltman has a good 1000-word essay regarding Hume’s position on the relationship of reason and desire. Hume’s view (that reason along will not move us to action) has been experimentally verified, in a way. António Damásio in his book, Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain, discusses how people who suffer a brain injury that prevents them from feeling any emotion at all — that is, they have no passions, becoming Spock-like in their reliance on reason alone — are incapable of making decisions.

Weltman writes:

Imagine you’re offered a delicious piece of cake. You know it’s very unhealthy. Your stomach tells you to eat it, but your brain tells you to refuse.

Maybe you listen to your brain and you ignore both the cake and your desire to eat it. You don’t follow your desire: instead you listen to reason.

Or, maybe your stomach wins out, and you eat the cake, but you feel like you made an irrational choice: desire wins out over what you know is the rational option.

Many think that reason and desire fight over things like the cake. We might say that if reason wins, we act rationally, and if desire wins, we act irrationally.

This common picture of human action is denied by Scottish philosopher David Hume (1711-1776). Hume instead claims that acting rationally means going along with our desires. That is a central idea expressed by his famous quote: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.”[1] This essay explores Hume’s theory of how rationality and desire work together.

1. Terminology

Hume uses “passion” as a technical term to describe things like pride and humility, desire and aversion, happiness and sadness, and fear.[2] Broadly, passions are our emotions (e.g., feeling happy or sad), feelings (e.g., curiosity and confidence), and desires (e.g., wanting cake).

The passions are often contrasted with reason and rationality. In the cake example above, we imagined the brain and the stomach in a contest with each other. Hume agrees that the passions are in a different category from rational thought. But Hume thinks passions on their own are not rational or irrational.[3] It is never irrational merely to feel pride, happiness, or any other passion. Feelings are reactions to our experiences. The cake looks good to you, so you want it: you don’t need to reason about it first. Nor do the passions and reason oppose each other. Instead, they work together.

2. Reason, Passion, and Action

Hume thinks that reason’s role is to help us act on our strongest passions.

According to Hume, reason is always playing a role in our actions. When you walk to the store to buy food, reason tells you which direction to walk, why you should bring money, and many other things.[4] But Hume thinks that reason, on its own, never moves us to action.[5]

Hume argues that unless you have a passion that leads you to walk to the store, you will never walk to the store. Reason alone can’t get you to buy food: you need a passion, like an aversion to hunger, or a desire to cook dinner to impress someone.[6] Passion is in charge, and reason merely serves passion. “Reason,” he says, is “the slave of the passions.”

You might think Hume must be wrong, because we act against our passions all the time. If you leave the cake alone, isn’t that an example of reason winning out over passions?

Hume would reply that  . . .

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Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 5:21 pm

Worn down by bad news? You’re not alone …

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I must admit that more seldom peruse the news these days. And perhaps that is wise, from the standpoint of mental heallth. Neill Fitzpatrick, Assistant Professor, Journalism & Communications, MacEwan University, writes in The Conversation:

n 1983, Canada’s Anne Murray released another hit song. This one, though, was different than what her fans were accustomed to. A Little Good News is a sombre ballad summarizing the mood of the day:

“One more sad story’s one more than I can stand; Just once how I’d like to see the headline say; ‘Not much to print today, can’t find nothin’ bad to say’ […] We sure could use a little good news today.”

Nearly 40 years later, the lyrics strike a chord. Except, these days, the news coverage of those sad stories is non-stop. There’s a “fire hose” of information in the palm of our hands, day and night.

As we grapple with grim headlines about the pandemicpolitical upheavalracial injustice and climate change, we could all use a little good news.

In the meantime, many people — of all ages and backgrounds — are giving up on news, joining the ranks of the so-called “news avoiders.” Some are limiting how much they consume. Others are shunning it altogether. They don’t watch, listen or read.

News avoidance is the subject of my research paper “No News is Not Good News,” soon to be published in the Athens Journal of Mass Media and Communications. As a journalist for more than 30 years, I experienced massive changes to the news industry first hand. Now, as a journalism professor, I have the opportunity to explore what’s behind the avoidance trend.

Worn out & needing breaks

The weight of the world’s news can be too much. Even before  . . .

Continue reading.

I wonder whether this is an instance of ignorance being, if not bliss, then at least some increase in peace of mind.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 4:33 pm

Republicans praise bill they voted against

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Could Republicans in Congress make it any clearer that they are working against their voters’ interests? Heather Cox Richardson wrote last night:

Today, President Joe Biden hit the road to sell the benefits of the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill he signed into law yesterday. In Woodstock, New Hampshire, today, standing at a bridge deemed structurally unsafe—one of the 215 unsafe bridges in New Hampshire—Biden said “Clean water, access to the internet, rebuilding bridges—everything in this bill matters to the individual lives of real people. This is not something abstract.”

The popularity of the new law was evident today when Republicans began to tout its benefits for their districts, despite their votes against it. Representative Gary Palmer (R-AL), for example, told his constituents: “Funding the Northern Beltline has consistently been one of my top priorities.” He added, “Birmingham is currently one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country without a complete beltline around it. Completing the Northern Beltline will benefit the entire region and enhance economic development and employment opportunities.” Completion of the road will create more than $2 billion in 10 years, he noted, and could create 14,000 jobs.

And yet, Palmer voted against the bill. When it passed, he tweeted: “The Democrats’ recklessly expensive infrastructure bill finally passed tonight after weeks of disarray among their caucus.”

Since Biden took office, the Democrats have used the government to help ordinary Americans. In the wake of the 2008 crash, the government badly underinvested in the economy, leaving consumers unable to recharge it. After a terribly slow recovery, the economy stabilized and then, once again, crashed during the pandemic. In spring 2020, millions of people lost their jobs, incomes plummeted, and spending fell off a cliff.

Worried we would make the same mistake twice, leaving the country to limp along, lawmakers pushed money into the economy. In spring 2020, Congress passed the $2.2 trillion bipartisan CARES Act, then in December 2020, the $900 billion bipartisan aid package. Then, in March 2021, the Democrats passed the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan.

These put more than $3 trillion into the economy, raising incomes and enabling individuals to put money into savings. Yesterday, the government sent out its fifth monthly payment to the families of around 61 million eligible children under the child tax credit that Democrats expanded under the American Rescue Plan. Yesterday’s payments were around $15 billion. So far, the program has delivered about $77 billion to families across the country which, in turn, enables them to buy household goods that pump money into the economy.

By protecting individuals’ incomes, the government also protected income tax revenues, enabling state and local governments to continue to function, while the money in people’s pockets has also meant they continued to buy goods, keeping sales taxes producing money. Far from collapsing, as it looked like they might in the early days of the pandemic, state and local governments are currently strong financially.

Other economic news is also good. Today, news broke that the government has badly underestimated job growth. Between June and September, the Bureau of Labor Statistics underestimated job growth by 626,000 jobs. The pandemic meant that businesses were slow to fill out paperwork, and this, in turn, meant numbers were underreported.

Goldman Sachs says that by the end of 2022, the nation’s unemployment rate will be at a 50-year low. Unemployment is currently at 4.6% and is expected to be at 3.5% by the end of the year, a rate that will match that of 2019, which was the lowest in 50 years.

Retail sales are also higher than expected. They are 16% higher now than they were a year ago, during the height of the pandemic. They jumped 1.7% in October, with Americans spending about $638.2 billion in that month. The National Retail Federation expects strong holiday retail sales. J.P. Morgan has upgraded its growth expectations for gross domestic product in the fourth quarter from 4% to 5%.

Products are also refilling shelves. Walmart today reported that it will have full shelves for the holiday season.

On all of this news, the stock market rose again.

All of these indicators are excellent, and they reflect the government’s protection of the demand side of the economy to prevent a situation in which the economy can’t recover from a recession because not enough people have enough money to get things moving again.

But now we are looking at a very different problem. The . . .

Continue reading.

Regarding that supply-chain problem, see this post and this post.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 1:42 pm

Another iteration of “Cowboy Bebop” coming to Netflix

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This article in The Conversation by J. Andrew Deman, Professor of English, University of Waterloo, and Matthew Poulter, PhD Candidate in Communication and Culture, York University, Canada, gives a good account of the series (though the new Netflix offering is a live-action movie) and its enduring popularity and influence. The article begins:

The classic 1998 anime series Cowboy Bebop is back in the public eye with a bold and much-anticipated live-action adaptation arriving on Netflix on Nov. 19.

The occasion offers a moment to reflect upon the vast cultural and artistic significance of an anime that crossed literal and figurative borders to help carve out an international audience for the Japanese animation industry.

The original Cowboy Bebop played a monumental role in establishing the transnational potential of anime. Its genre-bending storyline about space-faring bounty hunters offered viewers a pastiche of American mafia movies, Italian westerns, Japanese cyberpunk, Hong-Kong style martial arts movies and many other international influences.

Accompanying the sampling of story genres is an equally diverse sampling of international music, seamlessly integrated. Music is an intrinsic part to both the atmosphere and storytelling of Bebop, which features jazz, funk, hip-hop, blues, rock, metal and beyond. . .

Continue reading.

You can see the original Cowboy Bebop 1998 series on Netflix.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 1:32 pm

Posted in Memes, Movies & TV, Music

Making cool stuff

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I have had little experience as a maker of things, and I now regret that, but I do enjoy watching others do it.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 1:07 pm

The oud, and scales from another culture

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I found the above fascinating video in an Open Culture post, itself worth reading.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 1:05 pm

Kuri squash this morning

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Photo source and more info:

I like to try new foods. On the now-rare occasions when I eat in a restaurant, I look over the menu and if possible order something I’ve never had. (That how I first tasted goat, which is excellent.) So when I was at For Good Measure and saw this squash with the peculiar color and shape, I had to try it.

I cut it in half, scooped out the seeds, and used the scooping spoon to scrape the seeds out of the fibrous womb in which they grew. This is a technique that evolved over time, and it works well. I then put the seeds into a bowl, added some extra-virgin olive oil and fine grey sea salt, and popped them into a 400ºF oven for 10 minutes (with my Field No. 8 upside down on the bottom rack for a bout of seasoning). The salt link is to, but you can surely find the equivalent elsewhere. There seem to be a good variety of grey sea salts available.

I then took half the squash, cut it into small pieces (this is another squash that does not require peeling), tossed those with olive oil, fine grey sea salt, smoked paprika, and garlic powder and mixed well. Once the seeds had their 10-minute head start, I added the squash pieces and cooked those for 25-30 minutes. (Test at 25 minutes, may want 5 minutes more.)

The squash is very tasty with a nice texture. The seeds, unfortunately, are very tough, not at all like the seeds from (say) a buttercup squash. I won’t bother with kuri seeds in the future.

So a nice meal: a bowl of kuri squash, greens cooked yesterday, intact whole-grain Kamut® (also from FGM), and black-eyed peas, with a dash of Louisiana hot sauce (and I’m now eager to making try my own fermented hot sauce).

Update: I noticed that the seeds at the edges of the flattened mass of seeds were not bad, so it occurs to me that the seeds were just insufficiently cooked. I’m going to try cooking them a bit more in a little oil in aa small cast-iron skillet to see whether their edibility will be thus improved. — I cooked the seeds longer. They were somewhat better, but I think in the future I’ll skip seeds from kuri squash. (I do like seeds from buttercup and other squashes a lot.) — Maybe not. Later in the evening, I tried them, and they’re not bad. Not company food, but actually pretty good.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 1:01 pm

“I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver. I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End.”

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Ryan Johnson has an interesting article at Medium, which begins:

I have a simple question for every ‘expert’ who thinks they understand the root causes of the shipping crisis:

Why is there only one crane for every 50–100 trucks at every port in America?

No ‘expert’ will answer this question.

I’m a Class A truck driver with experience in nearly every aspect of freight. My experience in the trucking industry of 20 years tells me that nothing is going to change in the shipping industry.

Let’s start with understanding some things about ports. Outside of dedicated port trucking companies, most trucking companies won’t touch shipping containers. There is a reason for that.

Think of going to the port as going to WalMart on Black Friday, but imagine only ONE cashier for thousands of customers. Think about the lines. Except at a port, there are at least THREE lines to get a container in or out. The first line is the ‘in’ gate, where hundreds of trucks daily have to pass through 5–10 available gates. The second line is waiting to pick up your container. The third line is for waiting to get out. For each of these lines the wait time is a minimum of an hour, and I’ve waited up to 8 hours in the first line just to get into the port. Some ports are worse than others, but excessive wait times are not uncommon. It’s a rare day when a driver gets in and out in under two hours. By ‘rare day’, I mean maybe a handful of times a year. Ports don’t even begin to have enough workers to keep the ports fluid, and it doesn’t matter where you are, coastal or inland port, union or non-union port, it’s the same everywhere.

Furthermore, I’m fortunate enough to be a Teamster — a union driver — an employee paid by the hour. Most port drivers are ‘independent contractors’, leased onto a carrier who is paying them by the load. Whether their load takes two hours, fourteen hours, or three days to complete, they get paid the same, and they have to pay 90% of their truck operating expenses (the carrier might pay the other 10%, but usually less.) The rates paid to non-union drivers for shipping container transport are usually extremely low. In a majority of cases, these drivers don’t come close to my union wages. They pay for all their own repairs and fuel, and all truck related expenses. I honestly don’t understand how many of them can even afford to show up for work. There’s no guarantee of ANY wage (not even minimum wage), and in many cases, these drivers make far below minimum wage. In some cases they work 70 hour weeks and still end up owing money to their carrier.

So when the coastal ports started getting clogged up last spring due to the impacts of COVID on business everywhere, drivers started refusing to show up. Congestion got so bad that instead of being able to do three loads a day, they could only do one. They took a 2/3 pay cut and most of these drivers were working 12 hours a day or more. While carriers were charging increased pandemic shipping rates, none of those rate increases went to the driver wages. Many drivers simply quit. However, while the pickup rate for containers severely decreased, they were still being offloaded from the boats. And it’s only gotten worse.

Earlier this summer, . .

Continue reading. There’s more.

Add to this the “lumpiness” of the delivery of goods caused by giant cargo ships — instead of goods arriving in ports in a steady flow of smaller vessels, they arrive as mountains to be moved — and the problem is worse. See Matt Stoller’s “Too Big to Sail.”

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 11:33 am

Bay Rum and Lupo with Tradere handle

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I had a couple of Tradere razors, which weren’t bad at all. Still, when I culled the collection, they did not make the cut. One handle still remained — somehow I had a spare — and I pressed it into service for the Lupo, whose head I like but whose handle I didn’t. 

I like the Lupo head for its feel and performance, but I dislike the curved ends of the baseplate, which means the razor cannot stand unassisted on its side, thus its flat posture in the photo.

It did a completely admirable job this morning, thanks in part to Phoenix Artisan’s take on the traditional Bay Rum. This is his Kokum Butter formular, the predecessor (still available) of the CK-6 formula. It’s an excellent soap, and I very much enjoyed the lather made by my Mühle synthetic. 

Three passes left a remarkably smooth result, and a splash of Dominica Bay with a squirt of Hydrating Gel finished the shave.

Written by Leisureguy

17 November 2021 at 10:55 am

Posted in Shaving

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