Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Humpty Trumpty

And all the King's horses
And all the King's men....
I fear that after Humpty Trumpty,
America will never
Be great again.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Gaslighting, explained in a coffeeshop in the Red Light District

Professor Rockower gave a lesson the other day on the difference between gaslighting, bullshitting and spin.

I went into a coffeeshop this morning, and the British fellow behind the counter recognized me.  You were here the other day, and he recalled an incident where a kid fervently tried to argue with the guy behind the counter that he was old enough, even though his ID had him just short.

"But it says you are born in April," the man behind the counter replied.

"Yeah, I am 18," the kid was boldly insistent.

The fellow just furrowed his brow and said, "we are in March.  You are not 18."

Nice try.  I can remember attempting that trick to buy cigars at Rodman's Liquor when I was still 17 but the dates were close.

I laughed at the encounter and his attempts to hold fast with the deployment of alternative facts.

When the guy behind the counter recalled it, I explained that this was: gaslighting.

Gaslighting is the attempt to manipulate you into believing something that isn't really true.

The fellow next to me asked if this wasn't just "bullshiting."

I explained it as such: bullshitting is just that.  If the kid had cracked a smile and said, "yeah ya got me," that would be bullshitting.  But since he was insistent that the guy had his facts wrong, that was gaslighting.  Bullshitting plus manipulation equals gaslighting.

The difference seen in tone and inflection.

"We've seen a lot of gaslighting these days with Brexit-- with the buses declaring how much would go to the NHS, and with Trump," the guy at the counter said.

"Yes, that's why the word is far more commonplace these days," I replied.

Thanks for the enlightenment, he said.  I smiled, and said that it was "disenlightenment, really...."

The Brit behind the counter told me that he used to be in advertising.  Years spent selling people things they didn't really need.  Now, he works in a coffeeshop and sell people things they want.  "I have never been a more honest salesman," he said.

"Now, I sell people something that brings them pleasure in the red light district," he smiled and said.

I smiled and replied: "now you are employing 'spin.'"

You get a 'spin' here too in the Red Light District, he said, for the right price.  I laughed my way out onto the terrace.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Old-timey

In an old-timey Dutch bar.  Cobwebs and dust cover the chandeliers and birdcages.  The place is lit by candle light, and smoky jazz croons. A cold glass of Brand pilsener casts the afterglow of the candle in a golden shadow.

Color affects emotion

Oh Van Gogh. I spent the morning with Van Gogh, and it was a delight.  I stared at his visage through an array of colors and moods.

Face to face with Van Gogh.

His self-portrait, him staring over his shoulder with no impressionist blur is haunting.  He is just looking over his shoulder, right at you.

Such utter brilliance.  Even his signature on letters were exquisite.

In one self-portrait, he is exploding in a confetti of color.  Others he is gaunt and drawn.

Or brown, in an elegant smoking-jacket--the brown pipe descending down his face. Or black in a black felt hat.  Or in suits and shades of blue.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a painting is double that.  A Van Gogh is wordless, but rather colored emotion.  Van Gogh understood that color affects emotion.  Goethe understood this too.  I don't have enough words to describe some of Van Gogh's portraits and self-portraits.

Just Van Gogh and Iron and Wine on repeat.  Upward.

The stirring textures of his work is without words.  The yellow of his sun flowers.  He only used three  shades of yellow to paint that masterpiece of yellow.  The King in Yellow.

Or the snowy white fields of orchids.  Fields of painted white snow flowers.

Ah, but my favorite amid all of it was not a work of Van Gogh.  Rather a Monet, "Tulip Fields near The Hague."


Hard to upstage Van Gogh in his own museum but I am quixotically biased.

Vincent Van Gogh, you are an eternal treasure.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The floating flower market

"You are a cupcake in a world full of bran muffins."

H/t Allie K.

I wandered my way through a floating flower market. This shop had canopies of hanging lavender, red roses, yellow daisies and tulips. Amsterdam is always a joy.


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

albert heijn lunch

Dipping brown pistolet bread into sweet savory kurriekip, Amsterdam tempts you with curry tastes of the East Indies.   Creamy humus too, to give you chickpea dreams.  Both were two euros.  Some kiwi-apple juice to wash it down. Blueberry cream cheese for dessert.  Amsterdam offers the finest dine-in lunches.

mending broken windmills

With my red wine, the KLM stewardess in blue handed me a white napkin with two delft blue windmills on it.  Dank Je Wel.

An amazing peace and calm met me in Holland when I first spied her shores.  A huge smile broke across my face when I saw those giant windmills..

When I was in Algiers, on the way to the final concert venue, we passed a broken windmill with a broken arm.  I said how much that felt like me.

America is a broken windmill.  It is literally in the Twilight Zone.

So now I am mending broken windmills in Amsterdam.

Carry on my wayward son...

Carry on my wayward son

"A lost homeland is like the corpse of a near relative; bury it with respect and believe in eternal life." -Amin Ma'alouf, "Leo Africanus"

Today marks the first steps I take to starting a new chapter in exile and a new life in Morocco. Journey on.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Happy Purim

Happy Purim! Purim is like the Jewish mix of Halloween and St. Patrick's Day. To celebrate Purim, you are supposed to dress up in costume and drink so much that you can't tell the difference between evil ("Haman") and good ("Mordechai").

So in that vein, may you drink so much you can't tell the difference between Trump and Clinton.

What if Trump and Clinton switched gender roles?

A fascinating program of what happens if Trump and Clinton switch gender roles.


As the Pence email scandal comes out, it is good to finally admit that this was never about emails but sexism.

Smoked and Stacked

Mine eyes hath seen the glory, and my lips hath tasted the fury. Kudos to Peter Bayne for his incredibly stellar pastrami spot, Smoked & Stacked.

 It was really one of, if not the, best sandwich I have ever eaten. And I am not one for gastrodiplomacy hyperbole. On my first bite, the only words that escaped my chaw were: oh ma gaw...holy shit.

 Carnivorous friends of gastrodiplomacy in or passing through DC, don't miss this one: http://www.smokedandstacked.com/

Heil to the Redskins....

There is a pretty good case to be made that the Washington Redskins are "America's Team"

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Israel on my mind

A few things of note related to Israel:

First is this courageous video by Israeli comedian and TV host Asaf Harel imploring Israel to wake up to the situation it is enmeshed in, the reality of apartheid:



-More food-for-thought comes from this op-ed by Samuel Friedman on the Trump-Bibi trade-off:

"The trade-off that Trump and Netanyahu have almost literally offered American Jews is a blunt one: If you want lockstep support of Israel, then shut your mouth about anti-Semitism here.

Don’t complain when the official White House statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day omits mention of the extermination of 6 million Jews. Don’t call attention to growing examples of anti-Semitism when they appear enabled, if not inspired, by Trump’s white nationalism. Don’t get upset when the president ridicules and humiliates a journalist from an Orthodox Jewish magazine who asks him an explicitly polite question about anti-Semitism. One can only imagine the wrath of the American Jewish right had Obama done any such thing.

For the vast majority of American Jews, though, an anguishing reality is now clear. To support Israel when it is cross-branded with Trump’s intolerance is to avert their eyes from a threat right here at home."

-Former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy has an excellent piece making the case on negotiating with Hamas.  Israelis say of the Palestinians that "they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity"; the two sides have been married in conflict long enough that it is equally so on the Israeli side. I am not too optimistic but one can hope that maybe Israel will listen--given the source making the case. If ever there was judgement I would trust on Israeli security, it is his.

-Finally, mazal tov to the Israel baseball team, which won a shocking upset in the World Baseball Classic. Ness gadol haya sham.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Postpone the Gorsuch Hearings

"Last spring, Senate Republicans claimed that Merrick Garland was a perfectly nice jurist, one who was irredeemably tainted by his connection to Barack Obama. As a result, Garland was allowed to sink below the radar of all constitutional norms and mandates. Likewise, Gorsuch is a perfectly nice jurist, one who is—perhaps equally unfairly—now tainted by his connection to the unfolding scandal around the Trump presidency. His nomination should not be allowed to sail above all constitutional norms and mandates. The same rule that held for Garland should be enforced for Gorsuch: Until the presidency is no longer under a cloud, there can be no hearings, and there can be no votes."
-Dalia Lithwick and Sonja West, "Postpone the Gorsuch Hearings"

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Everything is fucked, and it probably due to the internet


"The problem is when this level of distrust is turned on a people’s own political system, that political system will corrode itself.
Democracy relies on trust. Rule of law requires trust. If we lose our trust in our institutions, then those institutions will either crumble or turn cancerous.1
But the internet lines up incentives in such a way that it makes it profitable to breed distrust.
So, we’re fucked.
This isn’t a Trump or US thing either. This is happening everywhere. The Philippines, Turkey, Brazil, Russia, France, the UK. They’ve all had right-wing populist elections. They’re all becoming more fractious and uncompromising. The world itself is becoming more politically polarized. And people don’t trust most of the information they receive anymore, and as a result, they no longer trust many of the people in their own societies.
That’s because infinite information doesn’t enlighten people. It confuses them.
And when people become confused and distrustful, they resort back to their basic impulses, their instinctual drives to be tribalistic and self-absorbed: I take care of me and mine first. Fuck everyone else. If I can take care of myself, why can’t they?...
Civilization was built on people’s ability to suppress their baser instincts—their tendencies towards tribalism and narcissism, their penchant for slaughtering each other over superficial and imagined differences. It took millennia of education and advancement for us to learn how to not do this. Much of this education and advancement revolved around a respect for science, public debate, rational argument, putting multiple institutions in power to balance one another, and so on. We’ve barely even gotten it right the couple hundred years we’ve had it.
The problem is, as far as I can tell, the internet and its technologies don’t deliver us from tribalism. They don’t deliver us from our baser instincts. They do the opposite. They mainline tribalism into our eyeballs. And what we’re seeing is the beginning of that terrifying impact."
-Mark Manson, "Everything is Fucked, and I'm pretty sure it is the Internet's fault"

Reality revisited

Are we living in a simulated world? Adam Gopnik of the New Yorker postulates that it isn't so far-fetched. Fine by me, because I am just-about ready for the reboot. I just started the stellar West World, so this biz was already on my seemingly-sentient mind.