2:00PM Water Cooler 4/20/2021

By Lambert Strether of Corrente.

Bird Song of the Day

From a park in Asunción, Paraguay.

* * *


At reader request, I’ve added this daily chart from 91-DIVOC. The data is the Johns Hopkins CSSE data. Here is the site.

I feel I’m engaging in a macabre form of tape-watching.

Vaccination by region:

Alert reader RockHard says the spike in the Northeast is from Pennsylvania. And so it is. Here is the data for the Northeast:

If the Pennsylvania data is good, we need to do whatever they’re doing. But I don’t think it is good. From the Daily Item: “Pennsylvania state officials say more than 7 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered and a quarter of the state’s population is fully vaccinated after another 84,000 shots were given on Saturday.” The Daily Item again: “The state is receiving nearly 680,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines on Monday.” But are those vaccines, as we horridly say, “in arms”? Vaccinations cannot have increased by more than an order of magnitude suddenly. And if this is a reporting backlog, what a debacle. One would expect headlines and credit- or blame-taking somewhere. But nothing. This is Johns Hopkins data, so it’s down to them. Readers?

Case count by United States regions:

Good news two days in a row.

The Midwest in detail:

Crossed fingers on Michigan and Minnesota (Could be that people actually do listen when Governors ask them do so stuff, but enough, and enough of them?)

Big states (New York, Florida, Texas, California):

Florida, by a nose. California not following.

Test positivity:

Midwest increases.


Still heading down.

Case fatality rate (plus deaths):

Good to see those deaths dropping. The fatality rate in the West is increasing again, for some reason as unknown as why it dropped.

* * *


“But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature?” –James Madison, Federalist 51

“They had one weapon left and both knew it: treachery.” –Frank Herbert, Dune

“They had learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.” –Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord

Biden Administration

“Trump calls Afghanistan withdrawal ‘a wonderful and positive thing to do’ and criticizes Biden’s timeline” [CNN]. “Though the former President offered his support of President Joe Biden’s plans to bring home American troops, he urged his successor to draw an end to America’s longest war well before the September 11 deadline that Biden set last week. Trump said that while leaving Afghanistan is ‘a wonderful and positive thing to do,’ he had set a May 1 withdrawal deadline and added that ‘we should keep as close to that schedule as possible.’ … Biden said the withdrawal of American troops will begin on May 1, in line with the agreement the Trump administration made with the Taliban. Some US troops will remain to protect American diplomats, though officials have declined to provide a precise number.” • So already the walkback begins. And “in line with” is doing a lot of work.

Democrats en Deshabille

“Dems Somehow Pretend This Mostly Helps The Middle Class” [The Daily Poster]. “For years, Democratic lawmakers fought the GOP lie that cast estate tax cuts for billionaires as efforts to rescue family farms. But in this new era of ubiquitous misinformation, the same Democrats are waving a white flag in the battle against anti-tax bullshit. They are ripping a page out of the GOP’s “death tax” playbook and conjuring a new lie, this one depicting tax breaks for affluent donors as a defense of working-class homeowners. In the process, Democratic leaders show they fight far harder for the donor class than they do for the working class. At issue is the $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions that was included in President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax bill. The cap was designed to limit the amount of state and local tax payments that households not using the newly expanded standard deduction can write off from their federal taxable income…. Notably, members of Congress are not pushing a far more progressive reform of the SALT cap. They are also not pushing to merely raise the cap so that it provides a few more deductions to the lower end of top earners. Instead, they are demanding a full repeal of the cap, which would make sure the maximum amount of deductions flow to the richest sliver of the population.”

“I Have a Message for Andrew Cuomo’s Top Donors: Cut Your Ties Now” [Ron Kim, Newsweek]. • From an Assemblyman.

Our Famously Free Press

“Policy group hires Mark Halperin years after sexual harassment scandal” [Axios]. “Political journalist Mark Halperin, whose career crumbled in 2017 after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, has joined No Labels, a D.C.-based bipartisan policy group, Punchbowl News reports. Halperin was once one of the most powerful figures in Washington media. His downfall became one of the prominent examples of the #MeToo movement calling out abuse in the media industry in the fight to end sexual harassment.” • No Labels. Of course.

Realignment and Legitimacy

“Ohio nearly purged 10,000 voters who ended up casting 2020 ballots” [Guardian]. “The recent purge marks the second time in recent memory that Ohio has nearly purged scores of eligible voters from its rolls. Months ahead of a scheduled purge in 2019, the state released a list of 235,000 people who were set to be removed from the rolls. Voting rights groups found more than 40,000 eligible voters included on it and were able to prevent them from being removed. Democratic and Republican officials alike have overseen purging for years in Ohio, but a 2016 Reuters analysis illustrated the way the practice can disproportionally hurt Democrats. In the state’s three largest counties, voters in Democratic-leaning neighborhoods were struck from the rolls at twice the rate of those in GOP areas, the analysis found. In heavily Black areas of Cincinnati, more than 10% of voters were removed from the rolls between 2012 and 2016 because of inactivity, compared with just 4% in one of the city’s suburbs.”

Stats Watch

Housing: “February 2021 CoreLogic Single-Family Rents: Rent Prices Continue To Spike” [Econintersect]. “The Single-Family Rent Index (SFRI), which analyzes single-family rent price changes nationally and across major metropolitan areas, for February 2021 shows a national rent increase of 3.9% year over year, up from a 3% year-over-year increase in February 2020. As families continue to seek out more space and face housing affordability concerns, high demand and low rental supply inventory have led to rising rental prices across almost every price tier.”

* * *

Retail: “Amazon to open first-ever hair salon in London” [CNBC]. “The launch of the salon comes as many people in the U.K. are struggling to book appointments for haircuts as a result of a backlog that has been caused by the country’s coronavirus lockdown. “At the moment Londoners will take any appointment they can get,” said London-based venture capitalist Simon Menashy. … Amazon said it will also give customers one of its Fire tablets to use during their appointment.” • Gotta unload those tablets somehow, I guess. But is there a line of business that Amazon won’t invade?

* * *

Today’s Fear & Greed Index: 47 Neutral (previous close: 57 Greed) [CNN]. One week ago: 51 (Neutral). (0 is Extreme Fear; 100 is Extreme Greed). Last updated Apr 20 at 12:56pm. Looks like readers want to keep this. Thank you!

The Biosphere

“Extreme melt reduced Greenland ice sheet storage: study” [Agence France Presse]. “The vast melting of Greenland’s ice sheet caused by unusually high temperatures in 2012 had a lasting impact on its ability to absorb and store future meltwater, new research showed Tuesday. Authors of the research said it was evidence of how one-off or rare weather events could have a lasting impact on Earth’s frozen spaces and a knock-on effect on global sea levels. In summer 2012, much of the Arctic sweltered in a rare heatwave that saw blue lakes glimmering across Greenland’s previously frozen ice sheet. Using advanced modelling techniques, a team of researchers in the US reanalysed radar data collected by flights from NASA’s Operation IceBridge between 2012-2017 to interpret melting near the surface of the ice sheet. Ice sheet regions that haven’t undergone extreme melting can store meltwater throughout their upper 50 metres or so, preventing it from flowing into the ocean. But the team found that the melting in 2012 had refrozen into a layer of slick ice, creating slippery conditions that can speed up its movement and send chunks into the ocean. In some parts of the Greenland Ice Sheet, the team found that the melt layer had reduced its storage capacity to just five metres. ‘When you have these extreme, one-off melt years, it’s not just adding more to Greenland’s contribution to sea-level rise in that year,’ said lead study author Riley Culberg, from Stanford University. ‘It’s also creating these persistent structural changes in the ice sheet itself.'”

“Noise pollution may prevent forest growth: Study” [Guardian]. “The effects of noise can reach organisms without ears. Because of the way living things rely on each other, noise pollution may actually stop some forests from growing, a new study suggests. In a New Mexico woodland dominated by pinyon pine and juniper trees, researchers found far fewer tree seedlings in noisy sites than they did in quiet ones. The study raises questions about the future of the area. “If the noise stays there long term, are we going to see the slow-motion transition from a pinyon-pine forest to more of a scrubland, and lose this important ecosystem of the pinyon pine which supports so much wildlife?” said Jennifer Phillips, a behavioral ecologist at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. The study area is dotted with gas wells, some of which are quiet and some of which have compressors that create a constant din. This allowed Phillips and her colleagues to compare sites that were similar except for noise level.”

“These Ants Shrink Their Brains for a Chance to Become Queen” [New York Times]. • Not subtweeting KHive, I assume [rimshot. laughter].

Health Care

I’ll put the world chart here so it doesn’t get lost:

India is bad, for sure, but in absolute terms still behind the world’s #1, #1, peak United States (adjusted for population, they’d look even better).

* * *

“We know a lot about Covid-19. Experts have many more questions” [STAT!]. “STAT was curious which questions topped scientists’ lists. So, we asked a bunch. More than two dozen virologists, epidemiologists, immunologists, and evolutionary biologists shared with us their top question. (Some … cheated, submitting several.) There was surprising diversity in the questions, though many cluster around certain themes, such as the nature of immunity or the impact of viral variants. Knowing what scientists still want to learn shows us how far we’ve come — and how far we have left to go to solve the mysteries of SARS-2 and Covid-19.” • 

Police State Watch

“A Tradition of Violence: The History of Deputy Gangs in the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department” [Knock LA]. Amazing reporting, in fifteen parts. “There are at least 18 gangs within the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Officials at various government agencies, including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Los Angeles County District Attorney, the California Senate Senate Subcommittee on Police Officer Conduct, and the United States Commission on Civil Rights have heard testimony on the violence inflicted on communities at the hands of deputy gangs for decades. And yet, there have not been any internal investigations or significant policy changes to address the issue. Deputy gangs have killed at least 19 people, all of whom were men of color. At least four of them had a mental illness. Los Angeles County keeps a list of lawsuits related to the deputy gangs. Litigation related to these cases has cost the County just over $100 million over the past 30 years.” • Cheap at the price?

The 420

Happy 420:

Handy map:

“House approves cannabis banking bill” [Axios]. “The House voted 321-101 Monday to approve a cannabis banking bill that would allow banks to ‘provide services to cannabis companies’ in states where marijuana is legalized. In the past, banks have been hesitant to do business with companies involved with cannabis for fear of violating federal laws. If passed, this bill would remove one of the barriers to developing a national cannabis industry. The bill, which has rare bipartisan support, states that proceeds from legal marijuana businesses wouldn’t be considered illegal and prompts federal regulators to create regulations for supervising these kinds of transactions, per Reuters.”

“Americans overwhelmingly say marijuana should be legal for recreational or medical use” [Pew Research Center]. “As more states, including Virginia and New York, continue to legalize marijuana, an overwhelming share of U.S. adults (91%) say either that marijuana should be legal for medical and recreational use (60%) or that it should be legal for medical use only (31%). Fewer than one-in-ten (8%) say marijuana should not be legal for use by adults.”

Keeping my eye on Fetterman:

“Dallas police to stop arresting people for small amounts of marijuana after new policy” [Dallas Morning News]. “New policy comes after report found Dallas police made thousands of arrests for small amounts of marijuana on mostly Black and Latino residents.”

“Controversial Florida medical marijuana bill ‘effectively dead’” [Tampa Bay Times]. “A controversial measure being contemplated by Florida lawmakers to cap the potency of medical marijuana will apparently not become law this year. Proponents of the THC capping measure, including many House Republicans, said the legislation was needed in part to stop drug seeking behavior on the part of medical marijuana patients. At multiple committee stops, Roach compared the issues with Florida’s medical marijuana system to the issues that bred the state’s deadly opioid crisis. (Democratic opponents, noting that a marijuana overdose has never killed a Floridian, dismissed such concerns as ‘reefer madness.’) The bill’s apparent death was celebrated by medical marijuana advocates, who argued the measure would have amounted to the Legislature overriding a doctor’s medical advice. The bill would have limited the amount of THC in smokable cannabis to just ten percent of the plant by volume; what if, advocates argued, a doctor thought a patient needed stronger medicine than that?”


A comparison:

This is where I am, but opera, at least in this country today, is not followed by tens of millions of people.

“People Are Playing a Guessing Game in Google Maps” [Wired]. “GeoGuessr is a website that was created as a hobby project in 2013 by Swedish IT consultant Anton Wallen. You’re placed, virtually, into a random location around the world. GeoGuessr interfaces with Google Street View, allowing you to explore the surrounding area to use context clues to figure out where, exactly, you are. If it has a vehicle-accessible road near it, then it’s fair game.” • This looks pretty neat!

“Even As A Pacifist You Will Still Kill Over 700 People In Grand Theft Auto V” [Kotaku]. “Like they did with Max Payne, Sex Positive Gamer have sat down with Grand Theft Auto V and played it as peacefully as possible, keeping murders to the absolute minimum required to progress the story. And it’s still a lot of murders. 726, to be precise, most of them as part of missions where the objective is simply to kill XX number of bad guys, or certain targets, before it counts as being completed. They never ran over a single pedestrian, or triggered any police chases, and tested several missions with respawning enemies to find the fastest way possible to complete them. That’s 172 kills playing as Michael, 295 as Franklin and “only” 258 as the homicidal maniac Trevor Philips, with a final kill coming as a collaboration between all three in the game’s final (canon) main story mission.” • That seems like rather a lot. I wonder if killing in the imagination, as in the bloody Game of Thrones, is different from killing in a game, where the body is involved, not simply the mind.

“6 Creatively Funny Ways Gamers Abused NPCs” [Cracked]. • Non-Player Characters.

The Agony Column

“There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing” [New York Times]. “Languishing is a sense of stagnation and emptiness. It feels as if you’re muddling through your days, looking at your life through a foggy windshield. And it might be the dominant emotion of 2021…. In the early, uncertain days of the pandemic, it’s likely that your brain’s threat detection system — called the amygdala — was on high alert for fight-or-flight. As you learned that masks helped protect us — but package-scrubbing didn’t — you probably developed routines that eased your sense of dread. But the pandemic has dragged on, and the acute state of anguish has given way to a chronic condition of languish. Languishing is the neglected middle child of mental health. It’s the void between depression and flourishing — the absence of well-being. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either. You’re not functioning at full capacity…. Psychologists find that one of the best strategies for managing emotions is to name them.” • I agree with the last claim. Once I named “Seasonal Affective Depression,” it no longer had such power over me. I knew what was happening to me.

Class Warfare

“Inside the Alabama Amazon Union Drive: An Interview with the Lead Organizer” (interview) [Joshua Brewer, Labor Notes]. Interesting on nuts and bolts. Brewer: “So we did know that it was well over 1,500 workers at that point—we had over that amount of cards. When they filed and they returned back with the 5,800, we still had over 50 percent. We were looking at a mail-ballot election, and the committee was telling us it was hot: ‘Workers want to vote, they want to push, they don’t want to wait.’ We give them guidance and certainly there’s times where we even tell them, “Listen, we think you’re wrong here,” but at the end of the day it’s a worker-led campaign.” • So it was a “hot shop”?

“Amazon: How one cancer patient’s story helps explain the Alabama union vote” [BBC]. “Amazon’s tactics had a darker side though. The union wanted to talk about excessive workload, bathroom breaks and pay. Amazon pushed the narrative that the union might take away worker benefits, including healthcare.”

“The Repressive Politics of Emotional Intelligence” [The New Yorker]. “Gradually, one sees why the concept of emotional intelligence won such wide acceptance. It is not a quality or even an attribute but a regimen of restraint. It is a collection of practices—assessment, feedback, coaching, meditation—for monitoring yourself and others, in a way that marries the promise of total self-actualization to the perils of absolute social deprivation. For all its righteous proclamations about what ails the modern world, its goals are straightforwardly conservative: to encourage people to stay in school, to secure stable employment, to bind themselves to their work, to have families and keep them intact, and to raise their children to repeat this same cycle of productive activity. Emotional intelligence, in other words, is a self-help doctrine deeply indebted to the moralizing ideology of neoliberalism.”

“The Consequences of Catholicism for Political Theory” [Benjamin Studebaker]. “The countries we think of as ‘western’ are all countries where Catholicism was once dominant but is now in varying levels of retreat. Western countries are ‘post-Catholic’… It was only in the Catholic west that politics and morality were firmly separated, with the former rendered clearly subordinate to the latter…. Because Catholicism made politics subject to religion, it became especially important for its theology to be clear. If the legitimacy of the regime depends on the regime having the right moral orientation, a moral consensus must be maintained and articulated. Any breakdown in the consensus over religion would threaten to destroy the political consensus, too. So in the Catholic world, heresy became extraordinarily taboo…. The excessively strong, excessively precise claims of the Catholics led to the repudiation of these claims by the Protestants and humanists. This tore apart the Catholic consensus and badly undermined political legitimacy…. In the post-Catholic world, the state was still expected to justify itself in reference to morality. Without a moral consensus, the basis of the state’s authority was in jeopardy. So when post-Catholic states embraced pluralism, they had to embrace pluralism as a morality in itself, so that this morality could take on the role which Catholicism had previously played. This, ultimately, is what liberalism is–a kind of pluralism fashioned into a morality to which the state might be answerable. A liberal state, therefore, is one in which the state must demonstrate a commitment to pluralism to demonstrate its moral righteousness. This means that the liberal state demonstrates its moral righteousness by refusing to take specific moral positions that might undermine pluralism.” • Hmm. I’m not seeing any examples, here.

“The Dead End of the Left?” [Commonweal]. “Contra the “Catholic Left,” which tended to regard Marx’s atheism as accidental, and tried to rescue his socio-political analysis from his religious views, Del Noce concluded that what Marx proposed was not just a new theory of history or a new program of political economy, but a new anthropology, one completely different from the Christian tradition. (Louis Dupré had made a similar argument in the pages of Commonweal; see ‘Marx and Religion: An Impossible Marriage,’ April 26, 1968.) Marx viewed humans as ‘social beings’ entirely determined by historical and material circumstances rather than by their relationship with God. He viewed human reason as purely instrumental—a tool of production and social organization rather than the capacity to contemplate the truth and participate in the divine wisdom. Finally, Marx viewed liberation as the fruit of political action, not as a personal process of conversion aided by grace. Marxist politics was not guided by fixed and absolute ethical principles, because ethics, along with philosophy, was absorbed into politics. Del Noce concluded that there was no way to rescue Marx’s politics from his atheism, which had as much to do with his view of man as with his view of God.”

News of the Wired

“They Hacked McDonald’s Ice Cream Machines—and Started a Cold War” [Wired]. “Press the cone icon on the screen of the Taylor C602 digital ice cream machine, [Jeremy O’Sullivan] explains, then tap the buttons that show a snowflake and a milkshake to set the digits on the screen to 5, then 2, then 3, then 1. After that precise series of no fewer than 16 button presses, a menu magically unlocks. Only with this cheat code can you access the machine’s vital signs…. The secret menu reveals a business model that goes beyond a right-to-repair issue, O’Sullivan argues. It represents, as he describes it, nothing short of a milkshake shakedown: Sell franchisees a complicated and fragile machine. Prevent them from figuring out why it constantly breaks. Take a cut of the distributors’ profit from the repairs. “It’s a huge money maker to have a customer that’s purposefully, intentionally blind and unable to make very fundamental changes to their own equipment,” O’Sullivan says.” • Right to repair once more….

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Readers, feel free to contact me at lambert [UNDERSCORE] strether [DOT] corrente [AT] yahoo [DOT] com, with (a) links, and even better (b) sources I should curate regularly, (c) how to send me a check if you are allergic to PayPal, and (d) to find out how to send me images of plants. Vegetables are fine! Fungi and coral are deemed to be honorary plants! If you want your handle to appear as a credit, please place it at the start of your mail in parentheses: (thus). Otherwise, I will anonymize by using your initials. See the previous Water Cooler (with plant) here. Today’s plant (FreeMarketApologist):\\

FreeMarketApologist writes: “From Xalapa, Mexico, a cycad that has sent up new growth this afternoon.”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


    1. upstater

      I had to travel a number of times by air between September and February. Compared to prior years, planes were noticably cleaner. Windows, armrests, seats, pockets, lavatories. I think hygiene theater was great for traveling. No doubt airlines take the CDC cue and return passengers to filthy squalor.

  1. antidlc

    This is where I am, but opera, at least in this country today, is not followed by tens of millions of people.

    What’s not to like? Some of the most gorgeous music ever written. And the costumes, my goodness, the costumes!

  2. Captain Obious

    Some paranoid delusory pot fans are curious how much of the recent push for legalization has to do with political unrest and economic disaster. A useful pacifier?

    1. Arizona Slim

      ISTR reading that Prohibition ended for similar reasons. Sorry, I can’t recall the book title, so if someone else has it handy …

    2. drumlin woodchuckles

      So what if it is? Would they prefer re-outlawing it at the every-state level and resuming using such restored laws to re-feed the prisondustrial complex? If that is what they really want, they should come right out and say so.

    3. Mikel

      Arresting people for piddly crimes like possession of pot was a lot about curbing dissent.

      Ex: A lot of harshest crackdowns – 70s beginning of the war on drugs – was tied to drugs used by people protesting the Vietnam war.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        Is it fair to suspect that it was also about ” getting rid of ” cannabis/LSD/etc. for real in hopes of winning that huge customer base over to the government’s CIA-Narco Industrial Complex heroin, cocaine, etc.?

        1. Procopius

          Who knows what misguided ideas they had? Puritans say that they think that if customers are arrested as well as prostitutes, sex for money will be stamped out. I think they’re wrong because they refuse to admit their own character, but what do I know? I had a friend who was into pills and heroin back in the late ’50s. I think he did smoke the occasional doobie, but that wasn’t how he came to his preferred drugs, and I don’t think he would have felt inconvenienced if he couldn’t get marijuana. By the way, the federal penitentiary at Lexington, Kentucky, was a wonderful resource for jazz musicians and low-level dopers back then. That was before the commercialization and privatization of rehab.

      2. neo-realist

        Also fair to suspect that it was about locking up as many POC as possible – the overwhelming majority of the people who did time from those 70’s drug laws – to take out competitors for a piece of the soon to be dwindling American Dream pie.

    4. NotTimothyGeithner

      Not say a pacifier, but state legislators needing to produce something, anything. Now everyone has to catch up or be labeled as a do nothing.

      1. Tom Doak

        Also a source of state tax revenue to make up some of the tax base lost in the pandemic. Just like marijuana laws, all of a sudden there is zero resistance to online gambling, as long as it’s all licensed and taxed in the state where you’re domiciled.

  3. fumo

    “Even As A Pacifist You Will Still Kill Over 700 People In Grand Theft Auto V” [Kotaku]

    The GTA V map is an astonishing artwork in and of itself. Can definitely be enjoyed for many hours wandering and exploring without engaging in the game narrative at all.

    I never developed a love for opera in spite of hearing it a lot in my parents’ house growing up. Then a couple of years ago I went to a live performance in a real albeit small Italian opera house and the experience was astonishing first-hand.

    1. Geo

      That’s how I feel about jazz. I have spent many nights absorbed in the profound elegance, raw immediacy, and mind-boggling musicianship of jazz bands in various nightclubs, lounges, and venues. But, listening at home to albums just doesn’t do it for me. It just comes across as disjointed noise. There’s a few exceptions of course, but overall I just can’t get into casual jazz listening. Being able to see it live any night of the week is one of the things I miss most about my NYC life.

      1. Phacops

        Nothing beats the sponteneity of live jazz. I really enjoyed the experience at the Palm Court in NOLA where I was entranced by the music in a great room.

      2. Val

        So true for jazz and opera. Two years ago experienced opera for the first time. Wagner’s Parsifal at the Bavarian Opera House. The full dose. Then Puccini two nights later. What a town!

        Happy slappy 420 to all y’alls!

      3. Duke of Prunes

        I have a similar feeling about Blues music. Love it in person. Have a hard time listening to recordings for any length of time.

    2. HotFlash

      I greatly enjoy both opera and video games. I heartily agree with fumo, it has to be live opera and I think that’s what I miss most with the shut-downs. My violence, however, I prefer to be canned. Those Italian small-town and even village opera houses are little jewel boxes (if you have a high speed connection it’s worth the wait) and the acoustics are excellent, so glad the Italian govt had a push to restore so many of them in the 60’s. Many of my young singer friends hone their skills in these Italian small opera houses before Hitting It Big.

    3. Harold

      Experiencing opera through miked recording is like experiencing candlelight through a monitor screen. Operatic singing and classical instruments are never amplified electronically. A lot is lost— resonances, overtones. Once you know what you are supposed to hear, though, your brain can supply it.

  4. km

    The fundamental disconnect between Marx and Christ is that Marx saw people as means to an end, while Christ was at most disinterested in, or even hostile to, earthly ends.

    Behold the lilies of the field…” is not easily understood as call to seize control of the means of production. ” And Marx would treat “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” as so much bafflegab.

    1. Samuel Conner

      It might be that Jesus was pre-occupied with a more immediate problem — the looming war with Rome, which Israel had no hope of winning.

      I am captivated by the possibility that “the Cross” was an intentional act of political subversion — having become the focus of the nationalistic hopes of a significant fraction of the population, hopes that, if fulfilled, would (and ultimately did) lead to national disaster, Jesus crushed this ill-advised movement for generation by being crucified as Israel’s king, warning the people what Rome would do to them and their children in the future.

      If there is anything to that, the ends Jesus pursued — “peace in our time” — were exceedingly earthly.

      We could use kings like that in our day.

      1. Synoia

        That whole crucifixion process is riddled with anomalies.One being, that after death the Romans left the bodies on the Crucifix for 2 days. In Christ’s case the Bible states that his body was removed after one day.

        Then there is the stations of the cross, which had absolutely no place whatsoever in the C of E’s description of the crucifixion process.

        Or the choice of Birth Place in Bethlehem, chosen by Constantine’s mother 300 years after the Crucifixion.

        Smacks of a racket to fleece the tourists.

        Greed is the eventual winner.

        1. R

          I think very high Anglicans do the Stations of the Cross (like re-reformed smokers, being more Catholic than the Pope). I remember walking them on a school tour of Israel, in between buying booze and cigarettes underage in the Old City and later making an ill-advised shisha filtering rough Israeli tobacco through cheap vodka. I have never felt so ill. (Well, actually I have but only a few times. The gin tasting. The rugby club bar chits in the name of A Hitler and M Mouse and, our undoing, the Senior Tutor. The bottle of navy strength gin. The vodka espressos because we ran out of mixers in Italy. The sloe gin lock-in with the shooting types at the wedding bar. But I digress…).

      2. Stephen

        Very interesting take. I’ve heard many words spilled about Christ as Philosopher, Christ as Messiah, Christ as Fulfillment of Prophesy, and other standard visions of Christ. Never much about Christ as Political Figure. The political context of his message, and relationship between Rome and Judea, and the proximity of his career to the war in the early 70s CE (and his possible role in its delay or suppression)…this I haven’t read much about. This is interesting.

      3. John k

        He weeped from his vision of the temple destroyed… wonder if the vision included the diaspora immediately thereafter…
        hadn’t thought of him trying to warn the populace of what the romans would do if pushed too far.
        Wonder what he would think of Christianity… or popes… and would he be a Christian or Jew?

        1. ambrit

          I’ll jump in and say that, having been a Rabbi all his adult life, he probably would have been something similar to a Reform Jew of the present day.
          Present day Christianity is as much a product of the writings of Saint Paul as of the original Gospel. I’d dearly love to read an unredacted copy of the ‘Q’ Document ( the actual sayings of the Nazarine prophet.)

      4. The Rev Kev

        Christ wasn’t a threat to the Romans. He was a threat to the local religious/political establishment which is why he was crucified. But that establishment used the Romans to kill him so that they would not get the blame for it.

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          Why would the Romans care what any local religious/political establishment thought about anything? Why would Romans let themselves be used to settle a province’s own little internal grudge?

          1. The Rev Kev

            ‘drumlin woodchuckles
            April 20, 2021 at 7:46 pm’

            Bit hazy on this point but I believe that as this was a Roman jurisdiction, they had final say on capital offenses and that the locals could not simply do it themselves. So you will recall in the bible how the local establishment had agents go around following JC and trying to trip him up with questions that would get him into serious trouble with the Roman authorities. Remember that Paying Taxes to Caesar trick question? His answer was brilliant as it was short, easy to understand, and did not really answer the question until you sat down to really think it all the way through and how it answered a basic religious question.

            1. drumlin woodchuckles

              The problem is . . . . how much of the New Testament was re-written and re-re-written up to several centuries after the fact, culminating at the Council of Nicea, when it was decided that the Jews would be used as a negative organizing principle and a stepping stone upon which the Church would march from strength to strength.

              I remember reading some interesting indications that the anti-Judaic re-writers of the Gospels did not even understand some of the key words and meanings of the texts they were re-writing, and hence left unintended footprints of their re-writes.

              For example, we are told that the Mob was asked by Pilate whether he should spare Jesus or Barabbas the Thief . . . and the Mob screamed to spare Barabbas the Thief. This just went to show what Christ Killers those Jews were.

              Here is the problem: in those days most of the Judeans of Roman Judea spoke the language Aramaic. And in Aramaic, the word for “son of the Father” is
              ” bar Abbas”. So the legend coming down to the re-writers spoke of the Mob saying to spare ” bar Abbas” . . . . ” son (of the) Father”. And the after-the-fact re-writers changed ” bar Abbas the son of the Father” to ” Barabbas the Thief”.

              So that’s a problem with relying on Official Church Council ReWrites as a guide to who said/thought/felt what and when.

              1. ObjectiveFunction

                This, as well as our ongoing Woke Cultural Revolution, puts me in mind of this gem from Gore Vidal’s “Julian”:

                “The Christians wish to replace our beautiful legends with the police record of a reforming Jewish rabbi.”

                He goes on….

                “Out of this unlikely material they hope to make a final synthesis of all the religions ever known. They borrow from our mystery rites, particularly those of Mithras.”

              2. Procopius

                I’ve accepted that there are good reasons to be skeptical of the current translations of the Bible, but I think it’s a mistake to believe that they’ve been “re-written.” Maybe it’s just semantics, but to me “re-written” is not the same as “re-copied.” There are variations among the many manuscripts we have, but there is broad consensus among people who seriously study this stuff that what we have now is pretty much what was circulating in the second and third centuries (i.e., 100-300CE). There’s even a recently discovered fragment of the Gospel of John that has been dated to the first century (i.e., before 100CE).

          2. ObjectiveFunction

            Been some years since I read Norman Cantor’s “The Sacred Chain”, but the historical life of Jesus (as best we can understand it now) is a chapter in the fascinating if tortuous history of the Jewish people. For context:

            1. Begin with the ongoing decay of the Pharisaic priestly class and the line of David. I forget most of the details, but the pattern is sadly familiar. Out of touch elites, easy money and scheming against each other….

            2. Their taxes were oppressive enough, but now you add Caesar’s due (the aqueduct! genuflects to Python). This was, in standard Roman practice, franchised to local tax farmers (of the same Pharisaic elites, natch), who kept a rake. increasing precarity, social division and resentment (‘why does He dine with sinners and with tax collectors?’)

            3. I don’t *know*, but take as given, ruinous indebtedness in the Jewish commercial classes (genuflects to Hudson), from small traders to great merchant houses with agents in Bombay and Canton. This would have soared to stratospheric heights by the Pax Romana ‘globalization’ under Augustus (defeat of Antony secured the Egyptian grain supply) which also created the diaspora (per Cantor, 1/6 of the city of Rome was Jewish at one point!). Again, a distant mirror?

            4. Jews abroad, having no priestly class, reverted to traditional practice and formed congregations led by senior rabbis (adult male teachers of the Word). Well to do congregations could have very powerful rabbis, explore new directions in religion drawn from their surroundings and experience, and at times, bring those ideas (plus money) back home. The conflict between Rabbinical and Pharisaic Judaism is Cantor’s central theme.

            5. So given 1-4 above, you have a bubbling pot of opportunity, greed, precarity and resentment, along with exciting new ideas in ferment, among a very intelligent and stubborn people. Interacting with other similarly intelligent peoples: Egyptians, Phoenicians, Armenians, Asiatic Greeks, Persians. Even the occasional Roman. Fascinating time.

            6. I will pass over the very real spiritual yearnings for fulfilment of the Word, Moishiach, etc. But as most will know, Yeshua was one of many charismatic rabbis from the Maccabees through Masada who got too popular and had to be put down. The Romans and the local establishment were entirely united on this point.

            ….But His particular teachings were already resonating (and being retailored) out in the diaspora, and among the Gentiles, with results we know.

            For the record, I disbelieve the idea that Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) was ‘sent’ (by whom? lol, the Jerusalem establishment was a mess) to bring the Church back under priestly authority. Whatever else he was, Paul was a brilliant opportunist and aggressively brought Greeks and other Gentiles into the Faith, which no Pharisaic agent would have countenanced. The reintroduction of a priestly hierarchy was brought in later by the pagans. But perhaps a more learned historian of this period can educate me on this….

    2. zagonostra

      I watched/listened to a wide ranging dialogue between Jordan Peterson and Bishop Barron last night that I think NC Catholics and non-Catholics would enjoy. It’s a good sign when 200K have viewed the video that is two hours long and was posted only one day ago.

      This supports the proposition that people are starved for intelligent and serious conversations on religion and politics, two topics that in face-to-face interaction with friends, contradictorily, are the two topics most avoided. I think that the hyper commercialized culture programs us avoid talk about subjects which are non-trivial. Rather, conversation usually takes place in the safety of sports, movies, entertainment, purchases, etc…


      1. Procopius

        @zagonostra – Thanks for the link. I haven’t read or listened to Jordan Peterson, but see he has a lot of critics. I lost interest about five minutes in when he described chimpanzee “society” and seemed to think the idea that tyranny was unstable while interaction and cooperation were stable was somehow surprising. I’ve always found the beliefs of the Social Darwinists surprising — there’s plenty of death and horror in nature, but it’s not “red in tooth and claw,” and dominating your neighbors is not evidence of “fitness.” I haven’t found the sermon in a quick search, but the Buddha once explained the reasons for the Five Vows, which are renewed when the monks expound the Dhamma. What the Buddha said was simply, “If someone should kill me, I would not like that, so I do not want to do that to other people; if someone should take something that belongs to me, I would not like that, so I do not want to do that to other people; if someone should make love to my wife, or to a female in my care, I would not like that, so I do not want to do that to other people; if somebody should mislead me with false words, I would not like that, so I do not want to do that to other people.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, but it’s not hard to see why these simple rules are basic to any continuing social structure.

    3. Mao "No Landlords Now" Zedong

      >And Marx would treat “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” as so much bafflegab.

      “Thus political economy – despite its worldly and voluptuous appearance – is a true moral science, the most moral of all the sciences. Self-renunciation, the renunciation of life and of all human needs, is its principal thesis. The less you eat, drink and buy books; the less you go to the theatre, the dance hall, the public house; the less you think, love, theorise, sing, paint, fence, etc., the more you save – the greater becomes your treasure which neither moths nor rust will devour – your capital. The less you are, the less you express your own life, the more you have, i.e., the greater is your alienated life, the greater is the store of your estranged being. Everything ||XVI| which the political economist takes from you in life and in humanity, he replaces for you in money and in wealth; and all the things which you cannot do, your money can do. It can eat and, drink, go to the dance hall and the theatre; it can travel, it can appropriate art, learning, the treasures of the past, political power – all this it can appropriate for you – it can buy all this: it is true endowment. Yet being all this, it wants to do nothing but create itself, buy itself; for everything else is after all its servant, and when I have the master I have the servant and do not need his servant. All passions and all activity must therefore be submerged in avarice. The worker may only have enough for him to want to live, and may only want to live in order to have that.”

  5. Phacops

    To somebody who has zero emotional intelligence (high functioning, on the spectrum, only diagnosed as an adult since it was never diagnosed when I was growing up) it seems like that concept is only used to bludgeon dull-minded neurotypicals into conformity, marginalizing the neurodiverse even further. I would rather be myself, even if living with those with emotional intelligence seems like living with an exotic tribe whose language I can’t speak. Significantly, that has not prevented me from helping others. I saw how those with emotional intelligence hoarded their knowledge and skills as if they were treasure. I took the approach that my influence lay with sharing knowledge and skills, and that let me feel more connected the more I could help people succeed. Some may see that as emotional intelligence. I do not, as it is simple ethics.

    1. Geo

      Seems you’re the one with emotional intelligence struggling to adapt to an immature society centered on self-interest.

      The “pathology of normalcy” rarely deteriorates to graver forms of mental illness because society produces the antidote against such deterioration. When pathological processes become socially patterned, they lose their individual character. On the contrary, the sick individual finds himself at home with all other similarly sick individuals. The whole culture is geared to this kind of pathology and arranged the means to give satisfactions which fit the pathology. The result is that the average individual does not experience the separateness and isolation the fully schizophrenic person feels. He feels at ease among those who suffer from the same deformation, in fact, it is the fully sane person who feels isolated in the insane society – and he may suffer so much from the incapacity to communicate that it is he who may become psychotic.
      – Erich Fromm, The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness

    2. Mao "No Landlords Now" Zedong

      Is “neurotypical” really a better identifier then “normal person”?

      1. Phacops

        I think so. It is an incurable disease of unthinking conformity and constant lying in social situations along with a profound lack of curiosity (SNARK).

        Having been socially isolated by “normal” people is an experience I would not wish on anybody. Yet, the schadenfreude is strong when I read the whining about schoolchildren suffering mentally from COVID isolation, when the only advice given to me by adults and peers was; “deal with it.”

  6. John A

    In the meantime in Europe, the American-owner led landgrab for soccer to eliminate relegation for a small closed shop elite is rapidly unraveling amid mounting protests.

    1. Mme Generalist

      Yes! I just heard that Manchester City and Chelsea are set to withdraw. Excellent!

      And beautiful sentence, btw.

      1. Darthbobber

        And now all the English clubs are out. Scattering some awesomely preposterous excuses among the apologies.

        Owners will get it with both barrels whenever supporters come back to the grounds. And the Yankees among them will really be in for it. Truly spectacular misjudgements thinking this would fly.

    1. Phacops

      I regret not seeing one of the American Operas that Chicago’s Lyric Opera staged. I thought I knew Marne from the Hitchcock film until I saw the Opera version a couple of years ago.

    2. chris

      And then there’s the classic Final Fantasy game, where you have to control your characters as they participate in an opera :)

  7. Noone from Nowheresville

    Star Tribune is reporting that the Chauvin jury has reached a verdict. It will be read in court between 3:30 and 4:00 CDT today.

      1. drumlin woodchuckles

        That’s what Nixon said about Manson . . . . and got criticised for saying it before a verdict had been rendered.

      1. Phacops

        Thank goodness. I hope that this will make it harder for cops to hide their brutality towards minorities.

  8. ChiGal in Carolina

    Re yesterday’s links about CO2 monitors, which I forwarded to my colleagues. The shrink who owns the practice (and is that rare thing, a humanist with a head for numbers) sent this reply (after reading the article including the formulae):

    I feel very comfortable saying I could not begin to use the system they recommend. While I could apply the cut off number in the video, I strongly disagree with the idea that co2 levels are the appropriate measure of safety. While I am sure there is a positive correlation if you measure enough locations to cancel out other variables, those variables are what really matter in any single situation.

    Certainly more ventilation is better but a low CO2 can occur in a high risk environment and a high CO2 in a low risk environment. It would be dangerous to rely on a monitor to determine safety.

    Still for us, all of that is besides the point, the co2 measurement based risk is invalidated by the hepa filters that clear virus but not co2, and by the available mitigating strategies if the CO2 was above a given number.

    She has already calculated and purchased with some of our PPP funds the appropriate number of hepa units for each of our spaces.

    Amazing how lacking in rigor my thinking is despite all my efforts. I am currently engaged in an email back-and-forth with my microbiologist ex who is schooling me on some of the hyperbole and what he calls sloppy science in IM Doc’s post the other day. Aargh!

    1. freebird

      Is there no way to offer people something that would show them how good or bad the air is on an affordable, real-time basis? Is it hopeless, are we doomed?

      I’m forced to visit rooms and venues I know are horribly ventilated. I want and need a red-flag meter to close them down.

      1. Verifyfirst

        I imagine a CO2 monitor would still be a useful tool for your needs–to demonstrate to people that they do not have good ventilation. If there is a running, maintained free-standing HEPA air cleaner in each (small) treatment room, I personally would not be concerned about inadequate ventilation in that specific space (assuming all the other stuff is being followed–masks, vaccines, distancing, sanitizing).

        I would be interested to know more details about the statement above that: “…low CO2 can occur in a high risk environment and a high CO2 in a low risk environment.”

    1. crittermom

      I enjoyed the article, and to me the reasoning behind it made perfect sense.

      I now better understand my love of trees and wildlife, and the joy they bring me.
      I, too, am bothered by noise pollution. We’re on the same ‘wave length’ there.

      (Where I’m currently living, I also consider the intense wind noise pollution, as well. It howls here much of the time–unless it’s beastly hot and you’re yearning for a breeze to cool you off. Then dead calm!)

  9. DJG, Reality Czar

    Studebaker worries about the consequences of Catholicism.

    Well, I don’t follow his argument, in particular because he chops off the Orthodox world and never addresses political theory in the Byzantine Empire or successor states. Like most U.S. writers, he has no concept of who the Orthodox are. Imagine if I were to bring up the Armenian Church!

    Second, his own map shows that the influence and ideas about political theory would have been crossing the Mediterranean. I can think of Venice and its republic (which didn’t rely on the Roman Catholic Church for its moral basis). I can think of the Franciscan movement, which critiqued with much insight both the Church of its time and the state of its time.

    I think that when he is talking about “liberalism,” he is talking about an Anglo-American idea, which he then tries to dress up as a universal. So he’s guilty of some of the usual Anglo-American colonialism.

    And the big difference is that in Catholic theology, it’s the community that is redeemed. For someone like me, a lapsed/lapsed Catholic, it is still embarrassing to listen to Americans go on about their personal relationship with Jesus. So what he means is northern European ideas of “salvation by faith alone” and what they have done to the community–and how hard it has become to persuade people to maintain connections to the community or the state.

    It is liberalism as the so-called tragedy of the commons. When even your religion is reduced to pure self-interest, how does the state retain an legitimacy?

    1. Anonapet

      it’s the community that is redeemed.

      Ex-Catholic altar boy here and it was MY individual soul that was going to Hell forever if I as much as ate meat on Friday and died before confessing it to a priest or before having a “true* act of contrition.”

      *Whose sole motivation was having offended God, not concern for burning in Hell forever.

  10. vw

    Emotional intelligence matters, yes… but it doesn’t do you any good until it allows you to pierce through the self-serving crap of that book reviewed at the link, and understand it as manipulation.

    When you recognize precisely where the urge to spit in your boss’ face is coming from – and what the appropriate thing to do about it, to retain both one’s job AND one’s dignity, is – ah, indeed, then one is emotionally intelligent!

    Right now though, if anything, we are in an age of emotional eruption, not what is called “emotional intelligence”. For better and for worse. Reading that summary makes me wonder if cr@phole books like that are in part responsible. Society often reacts against, as much or more as moves toward, and I wonder if this philosophy has been winding us all up like a rubber band for the past 20+ years…?

    If so… we’ll see where the energy gets directed, I guess.

    1. ChiGal in Carolina

      More than a century ago in Civilization and its Discontents, Freud acknowledged the tension between the desires of individuals and the constraints of society. There is no doubt that the therapeutic enterprise requires finessing this so the therapist is not just an enforcer but also is not indulging impulses that will lead to more distress and disruption for the patient.

      Today on a listserv I noticed a convo among providers who treat autistic kids in which they referred to “compliance therapy.”

      Mostly I think we do better than that but as someone who worked in child welfare there is no doubt that we do try to encourage prosocial behavior—both in parents and kids.

  11. pictboy3

    If you want to understand video games as a an art form, you need to play through Witcher 3. The writing for the characters and narrative are incredibly well crafted, but it goes beyond that. Reading a novel is essentially a passive experience, you consume what the author has laid out for you. Sometimes it is not what it appears at first glance, but you are a only interacting with the story from the perspective that the writer wants to convey. In a well written game, you are adding the element of player agency into the story. Not only are you presented with a bifurcating narrative that can go many different directions, but you are essentially responsible for where it goes. Moral choices you make in the game are ones that you viscerally feel the consequences of. For example, one choice within the Witcher is whether you will allow a ruthless but more or less well-intentioned leader to take over a country, or save characters that have saved you and become your friends in the process (but condemning the country to being conquered by an empire that will enslave it and erase it’s culture). The choice you make will tell you something about yourself that you perhaps did not know beforehand.

    Weaving player agency into the narrative is where a story-based game really shines, and becomes a higher form of art.

    1. Noone from Nowheresville

      I don’t think reading is passive. Reading is a collaboration between the author and the reader hence why different readers can read or imagine very different stories / worlds within the confines of a finished work. The author provides the “rules” of world, the characters and gives us an implicit or explicit promise as to the experience the reader agrees to embark on. But said experience very much depends on an individual reader and the skillset of the author.

      e.g., Readers can have different perceptions of characters based on what the author tells us about a character, a plot thread or “the world” vs. what the author shows us through the character’s actions and reactions. Just like in real life our perceptions and life experience color what we perceive. And just like in real life, a reader can decide to disregard certain information provided to them.

      Within an interactive, chose a down this road game path, the narratives are still about the writing although most likely it is a team of writers as opposed to an individual author. The writers need a lot more flowing charting to determine where to take the gamer depending on their choices and the when(s) of said choices within the framework of the game. Plus all the programming, special effects, etc. which goes into making that narrative come alive on the screen.

      I think Netflix and/or Amazon created a mini-series based on viewer “choices.”

      The art form and its interactive choices to me is more passive than reading because reading requires me to engage my own imagination instead of having the world shown to me.

      1. pictboy3

        What I’m trying to get at is that taking a particular path in a game is revealing something to me about my own choices and moral framework. You can’t run away from the consequences by dissociating yourself from the character doing them like you can with a novel, because you are directly responsible for it, or at least you have some choice in the matter. I find that playing as that character and directly controlling their actions helps me feel those choices far more viscerally than reading a novel, where I’m merely an observer. While we can try and interpret a written text in different ways, we can’t change the actual story, unless there are blank spots we can fill in with our own imagination. That does it for some people, just not for me.

        You’re right that you’re essentially on rails, even when you choose which path to go down, but I think that agency, limited though it may be, is what draws me in far more than simply consuming a written work. The writing and effects all serve to bond you to the story, but it’s your actions that really draw you into the world in a way I just don’t get from reading.

        1. Greg

          So it sounds to me like the two arguments you’re making combine to prove that tabletop rpg’s are the one true path to narrative paradise and superior to either reading or (computer)gaming. A general sense of the world provided by the author, combined with individual freedom and the live interaction with the author ensuring that things can always go well and truly off the “rails”.

          It has struck me as the best form of communal storytelling available in the modern world, at least when it works well. Because its not a solo enterprise you get into the dynamics between people that complicate things somewhat compared to individual contemplation of art-sans-artist.

        2. Noone from Nowheresville

          pictboy3, I wrote something longer but I did block quotes so it’s stuck. Plus I should’ve streamlined it and gone in this direction instead.

          I looked up The Witcher. The source material for the game, the movie, the multiple tv series and the graphic novels is a book series.

          So the Witcher games are derivative works. They wouldn’t exist without the author and his book series.

          Which means to me that what doesn’t work for you, worked extremely well for other multiple someones who took that source material and created new works and new ways to interact with it.

          The fact that you’ve found a narrative format and a world which draws you in and gets you to ask moral questions is outstanding. Build on it.

    2. Basil Pesto

      I played through The Witcher 3 last year during the first lockdown and enjoyed my time with it very much, but the writing is definitely in ‘good – for a videogame’ territory (I’m an avid reader as well). There’s nothing passive about reading a novel. Choose-your-own-adventure novels, which are really what these multi-outcome game narratives amount to, are not a higher form of art. The ramifying storylines of some games where the player determines outcomes within a very limited range of possibilities and the ‘agency’ buzzword is invoked in practice rarely amount to little more than smoke and mirrors; special effects tarting up one or a series of straightforward moral dilemmas.

  12. Don Midwest

    Interesting post about the history of gangs in LA County Sheriff’s department.

    I read the first article and the first example and realized that I was there.

    It was an anti war march in LA when LBJ was in town. The march had a full spectrum of people – families, wheelchairs, hippies, etc.

    According to the article, there were 25,000 people in the march. The march stopped and police attacked from the side swinging their clubs. I was there with my cousin and we were able to get away, get back to our car and escape. The next day there was a special edition of a paper, the day of shame, with photos of people who were injured.

    The article mentions a journalist who exposed the behavior of the LA County Sheriffs and was murdered in a restaurant by a deputy and the deputy was never charged.

    It is a series of 15 articles!

    I have not lived in Long Beach CA for decades. I wonder if LA residents are aware of these gangs.

    How has this gone on for so long?

    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Are these traditional street gangs which have developed cells inside of Law Enforcement? Or are these special gangs evolved from withIN Law Enforcement itself and uniquely reflective of the Culture of Law Enforcement?

  13. R

    The Amazon hairdresser article is personally hilarious because I know both people quoted on it, who are both proper investors and entrepreneurs and not media whore rentaquote types. How great the chains of coincidence in our lives are, how contingent things are, if they can end up in such an article and about such ephemera.

  14. The Rev Kev

    ‘Marijuana should be legal’- Bernie Sanders. I can only assume that Bernie was high off is face when he went on a rant this week saying that Putin is murdering Navalny ‘in front of the world’ for exposing the Russian president’s ‘vast corruption.’ Bernie, people will remember, was accused of having his campaign being supported by Putin after he signed up for Russiagate leaving him nowhere to go-


    1. drumlin woodchuckles

      Well, if that is what Putin is doing, why not go ahead and say so?

      ( Now, it would lend him more even-handedness credibility if he were to note equally how the DC/UK regimes were murdering Assange in front of the world for exposing similar things about the DC/UK regime’s activities).

      1. The Rev Kev

        He criticized Assange’s treatment once (along with Elizabeth Warren) when Trump was president will will he do so with Biden as President?

        1. drumlin woodchuckles

          It would boost his credibility if he did. It might even get some on-hearers to think twice about Assange himself.

  15. The Rev Kev

    “People Are Playing a Guessing Game in Google Maps”

    This could also be useful in spy trade-craft this when you think about it. I mean following and understanding how these people determine where a place is by looking for visual clues. When you get down to it, in video one American street-scene can look like so many others. So if an agency had a clip of footage with street scenery in the background, it would be a good idea to have a range of methods to know how to determine just which city that footage was done in.

    This is not as unlikely as it sounds as many years ago the spook agencies had a program to identify any scenery in the world. So if you had an image of a North Korean diplomat on holiday somewhere, by putting that image into program it would identify the scenery behind him as belonging to Verbier in Switzerland. I would imagine that Google’s StreetView program would be useful as a database of knowledge here.

    1. WobblyTelomeres

      I thought something similar about their attempt to scan every book ever printed. Would be a great resource for a brute strength attack on a cyphertext suspected of using a one time pad based upon shared/common books.

      I bought a lava lamp shortly thereafter.

  16. solaire_of_astora

    There are tons of genres of video games. I’d classify GTA and most first person shooters (like COD) as action movies – violent, over-the-top, sometimes funny sometimes serious, not generally considered “high art”.

    Those same forms can also make more interesting works of art. Bioshock might be analogous to a “prestige thriller” that uses the tools and settings of the action genre, but combines it with compelling characters and interesting commentary.

    Probably more interesting are works of art that are purely video games. I’ve been playing a lot of Dark Souls recently, and I love it for things that only a video game could have. It’s very challenging, and forces you to master the game mechanics to progress. It takes me dozens of tries to beat bosses, and it’s fun to revisit them and notice new subtleties about their lore, art, and moves I somehow missed before. The setting and story is cryptic enough that you need to pay attention to the littlest things.

    All this to say – if you’re curious about video games as an art medium, it’s worth exploring farther than blockbuster FPSs :)

    (also Geoguessr is great!)

  17. drumlin woodchuckles

    The SALTaxes paid in the high tax high standards states are spent on things that help the Lower Class Majority in those states at least to an extent.

    The Republicans first suggested deleting FedTax deductibility for SALTaxes in order to tax-torture the high tax high standards states into becoming low tax low standards states. The benefits and values created by all the higher SALTaxes paid more-of by the higher-wealth-and-income people of the higher SALTax states did not all go to only the higher-wealth-and-income people of those states.

    Leaving SALTax deductibility removed or low-hardcapped may well induce the people, especially higher wealth and income people , of the high tax high standards states to demand their in-state taxes be lowered in response, all the way down to where the low taxes of the low standards states now are. If “progressives” demand the non-restoration of SALTax deductibility, “progressives” will end up living in “regressive” states.

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