The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

My bête noir seems less beastly today

Parker hasn't felt like himself for a couple of days now. Last night after our Messiah performance I had the delightful experience of cleaning up after him for the third time in one day.

This morning he seems a lot better. We had a normal walk with normal, ah, results, and he snarfed down his entire breakfast the way he usually does.

I still have one more Messiah performance today, so he'll have to be by himself for a few hours. I hope he's fine. Because I'm running out of Nature's Miracle, and don't even get me started on how the house smells.

P-U

The good news: After being off his food for two days, Parker seems to be feeling better. He ate a small breakfast and a small lunch, and we've just gotten back from a 25-minute walk that he seemed to enjoy.

The bad news: His food is shooting through him with a velocity I have not often seen, so I've gone through two rolls of paper towels just today.

I'm about to leave my house for several hours to perform Händel's Messiah (for, I believe, the 8th time), so Sir Poopsalot will be confined to a small area of the house that has tile floors.

Meanwhile, I'll have a fan running in my living room. In December. I just hope the temperature stays above freezing until I get back, or my gas bill will be insane.

Too dishonest even to evaluate

As the Washington Post rounds up their biggest Pinocchios of 2017, they've encountered an unprecedented problem:

Usually, this is an easy task, as we sort through the craziest Four-Pinocchio claims on issues of substance made by members of both parties. But this is the era of Trump, and nothing is ever easy. If we were not careful, we’d end up with an all-Trump list.

After all, there has never been a serial exaggerator in recent American politics like the president. He not only consistently makes false claims but also repeats them, even though they have been proved wrong. He always insists he is right, no matter how little evidence he has for his claim or how easily his statement is debunked. Indeed, he doubles down when challenged.

When we last updated our database of false or misleading claims made by the president, the number stood at 1,628 after 298 days. That’s an average of 5.5 per day.

Given the profusion of Trump claims, in two cases we have wrapped some of his statements into all-around categories: flip-flops and taking all credit. Even so, he still ended up with six of the “biggest Pinocchios,” topping his 2016 record (when he received five.)

That makes their inclusion of a few Democrats seem even more like false equivalence, which is how we got here to begin with.

Lots going on

Yesterday started with a performance on local television and ended with a three-hour rehearsal and midnight showing of Star Wars. I'd already planned to go into work late today, but Parker didn't eat dinner last night and he refused breakfast this morning, so I'm waiting to see if I can get him to the vet.

With that and other things up for grabs today, plus two more performances this weekend, posting might suffer a bit.

Citizen Lab Security Planner

Via Bruce Schneier, an advisor to the project, Citizen Lab has created an online tool to help you stay safe online:

Security Planner is a custom security advice tool from Citizen Lab. Answer a few questions, and it gives you a few simple things you can do to improve your security. It's not meant to be comprehensive, but instead to give people things they can actually do to immediately improve their security. I don't see it replacing any of the good security guides out there, but instead augmenting them.

The advice is peer reviewed, and the team behind Security Planner is committed to keeping it up to date.

Some of the recommendations are simple: use Chrome; use https:// whenever it's available; use your computer's built-in encryption (BitLocker on Windows and FileVault on Mac). Some are a little more complex: use two-factor authentication; set up a password manager.

I recommend anyone who uses computers do a quick self-exam with the tool—especially if you aren't that experienced with security.

Occam's razor

I keep wondering if the Trump administration keeps doing the things its doing to destroy the Republican Party because they're secretly Democrats. Mark Theissen hints at this, but sarcastically:

Stephen K. Bannon and his alt-right movement have helped accomplish something no one in a quarter-century has been able to do: get a Democrat elected in the state of Alabama.

Alabama is one of the most reliably Republican states in the country. The last time a Democrat was elected was in 1992, and no Democrat has won more than 40 percent of the vote in a Senate race there since 1996. The closest election in recent memory was in 2002, when Jeff Sessions won reelection by a razor-thin margin of 19 points. Sen. Richard Shelby has won his last three elections by 35 points, 30 points and 28 points, respectively. So it takes a special kind of stupid to pick a candidate who can lose to a Democrat in Alabama.

Not just any Democrat, but an uncompromising pro-abortion Democrat.

Ah, but you see the last sentence of the second paragraph. And that hits on the logical test wherein you pick the simplest explanation for the facts at hand. In this case, it's what my Wills professor called "the omnibus explanation," or the thing that explains everything when other explanations come up wanting.

Stupidity.

Think about previous intellectual midgets who have served as President and the current occupant shows up impressively. Harding? A giant by comparison. Buchanan? Brilliant. McKinley? Magisterial.

What irony if we avoid Armageddon because Donald Trump is the stupidest person ever elected President of the United States.

Cat Person gets people's hackles up

A few days ago I lined to a story in the New Yorker by Kristen Roupenian called "Cat Person." I enjoyed the story, and identified to some extent with both characters. My takeaway was that being 20 sucks, and some guys are dicks.

Apparently the story got a lot more heated reactions than I imagined:

The story has run the gamut of viral reactions – from the initial chorus of sharing "this story is important", "everyone should read this", "it's almost too real"; to the inevitable backlash (over the fat-shaming descriptions of Robert's body, the focus on white middle class experience, the clumsiness of the prose, and of course the "not all men" contingent); to the inevitable defences against the backlash.

Many would now say we've reached the thinkpiece-overload stage.

Although the protagonists in 'Cat Person' have a real-life "meet cute", their relationship starts out mostly via text message. They only meet in person twice. Perhaps because of this, their interactions involve projection, suspicion and performance. At more than one point on their "date", Margot wonders whether Robert will murder her. Yet she also gets into his car, goes to the movies, invites him to have a drink and then sleeps with him.

Margot's underlying self-loathing and narcissistic gaze (she's attracted to the fact that Robert desires her, rather than Robert himself); the soul-deadening banality of their attempts to create magic through banter; the discomfort and obvious risk involved when interpreting a stranger's motives; her willingness to do things she doesn't really want (including have sex) to avoid hurting Robert's feelings and "seeming spoiled and capricious" – and likewise, her inability to bluntly reject him ... these aspects of the story speak to many young women on a deeper level than outrage over the final dump of abusive text messages.

New Republic thinks pieces like Jenny Noyes' (above) comprise a new form of literary criticism:

In this case, the media has been thrust in the position of the literary critic, drawing lines between the artwork and the broader culture. This isn’t a bad development, exactly—it’s great that a short story is making headlines. But it is also worth noting that the boundaries of literary criticism, at least as they are traditionally conceived, are being exceeded across the internet. The response to “Cat Person” is the latest evidence that we have entered new territory for online criticism, and no one quite knows what to make of it.

“Cat Person” is a short story, not a book, so until Roupenian publishes her collection it is not eligible for a review in one of the influential old literary criticism hubs. Instead, it has been treated as a quasi-news story, to be caught before its moment on Twitter has faded. It is being digested by critics whose job it is to digest cultural news, then regurgitated to readers as more fodder for the news cycle.

So when a literary phenomenon happens on social media, readers get the story-about-the-story, a commentary on how the conversation played out before it’s even finished. It’s the “Here’s Why You Can’t Stop Talking About ‘Cat Person’” style of take, and it treats you—the conscious and collaborative reader—like a consumer. This state of affairs is horribly unfair. It does no justice to the richness of literary conversations online.

I'm not even going to quote some of the less-formal criticism the story received on Twitter, because ew.