tom moody

Archive for July, 2017

simple pigeon


gif by deactivated7e8937846298649
via Rising Tensions

- tom moody

July 26th, 2017 at 3:54 pm

Posted in animation - others

keen social insight via photography, part 2

I updated my post on Crooked Timber's "Trump's America" photo, after the photographer, a political science prof at a major US university, offered some clever sophistry at my expense :( in support of sliming the opposition (a tactic that didn't work so well in the 2016 election). This is still a live issue, since the unapologetic Clinton appears likely to run again.

In the comment thread responding to the photo, several people rehashed her "deplorables" remark...

We are living in a volatile political environment [Clinton said]. You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump’s supporters into what I call the basket of deplorables. Right? The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic — you name it. And unfortunately there are people like that. And he has lifted them up. He has given voice to their websites that used to only have 11,000 people — now 11 million. He tweets and retweets their offensive hateful mean-spirited rhetoric. Now, some of those folks — they are irredeemable, but thankfully they are not America.

...and debated how broad a segment of the American public she was denouncing. Was it half of Trump supporters? Half of Trump voters? Or did she just mean the Breitbart readers?

Commenter Heliopause says (comment 91):

This thread has gone a strange direction, hasn’t it? “Precisely how many people are in Clinton’s ‘Basket of Deplorables?’ Nate Silver will be joining us next…”

Look, people, smart politicians generally avoid statements of this kind because they have a rudimentary understanding of human nature. If you go to Cleveland to give a speech and say, “some of the people here are stupid,” a not insubstantial proportion of your audience hears, “he just said we’re stupid.” Next day the local paper headline is, “Speaker Calls Clevelanders ‘Stupid'”, and away we go.

When Trump made his infamous remark about rapists he of course did not say, “all Mexicans are rapists,” though that’s what most people heard. What he actually said was bizarre and racist enough; essentially that there was some sort of coordinated effort to send criminals, whatever their relative proportion of the population might be, to the U.S. But that’s not what got heard and reported around the world.

So I don’t see how it matters how many Deplorables Clinton really thinks exist, she was stupid to have said this within earshot of anyone who might have reported it out.

Update: The word "unapologetic" was substituted after publication for a harsher word.

- tom moody

July 26th, 2017 at 8:47 am

Posted in around the web

"2000s figures" stumbling in the age of you-know-who

Comments on Naked Capitalism:

July 20, 2017 at 3:04 pm

Trump’s Budget Shows How He Is Building a Police State
Trump is aiming to turn the federal government into a much more militaristic and paramilitary policing organization.
[link to David Cay Johnson story]

Lambert Strether
July 20, 2017 at 3:10 pm

There aren’t a lot of specific domestic programs mentioned in the post, which is what I expected (since a “police state” is by definition directed at the citizens of that state). One tendency liberal Democrats have is to point to some bad (undeniably bad) thing Trump is doing, while ignoring how Obama (and the now rehabilitated George W. Bush) either did the same thing or created the conditions for what Trump is doing. It’s like they built the car, assumed they’d always have the keys, and then scream because they don’t like the direction Trump is driving it). Uncharacteristic lack of focus by Johnston.

Tom Moody
July 20, 2017 at 4:13 pm

Yes, many blogs I read complain about [ongoing political evil] and stick “in the age of Trump” into the headline. Juan Cole is especially bad at this.

Swamp Yankee
July 20, 2017 at 8:25 pm

Agreed on Cole, Tom. He has not been at his best lately; Trump seems very difficult for him to get his head around. In general I’d say he is far more perceptive about the Middle East than America (I think this is related to his having been raised in large part as an American abroad). In general, I think figures from the 2000s like Cole’s time, in the sense of when they were most influential and insightful and central to world-historical events, has passed (see also Colbert, Stephen, Stewart, Jon, etc). The focus is back on the US, and off the Middle East.

I say all this with great admiration for Cole, I actually know him in real life and found him to be a very decent sort.

Tom Moody
July 22, 2017 at 7:07 am

I still read him for the Middle East coverage. Unfortunately every other headline is something like today’s “How our Intel Agencies Screwed us by Letting Sessions, Trumpies get away with Russia Scheme.” Immediately after the election Cole was skeptical of any “scheme.” Now he’s fully on board with the Clinton talking points.

Tom Moody
July 22, 2017 at 7:32 am

OK, I deleted his feed from my RSS reader — will scan his front page occasionally for Mideast analysis. I also had to delete Corrente a while back (sorry Lambert). They had a *daily* series going called “Trump therapy” which was like agony to read if you believe Clinton is no better. I made a skeptical comment which never left moderation, then deleted the RSS. Joe Conason’s blog remains in the queue for its reading of the current Clintonite thinking and because he posts infrequently. Swamp Yankee, you are right about those “figures from the 2000s.” Many of them seem out of touch with the reasons for popular anger.

- tom moody

July 23rd, 2017 at 5:38 am

Posted in around the web

keen social insight via photography

I can't say I haven't posted photos of overweight Americans in airports -- but I didn't caption them "Bush's America." My ill-advised snapshots from 2003-4 would have done nothing to stop Bush's reelection, anyway, and insulting voters turns out not to be a winning strategy, as we just saw. I'd like to think I've had some growth since fledgling blogger days, unlike Crooked Timber:


Will let you know if that comment passes moderation but I don't expect it to.

Update: Henry says the point of the photo is that one of the Trump Americans is wearing a neo-Nazi website T-shirt. Therefore, one supposes, it's OK to generalize about everyone else in the pic, because they are tolerating his presence. We must be eternally vigilant, etc. My comment was posted -- apparently Henry has dual comment threads depending on whether you click the photo or the blog title, very confusing.

Update 2: Henry says the dual comment threads are a Word Press glitch.

Update 3: Rationales for the photo changed a few times in yesterday's thread. For some, the T-shirt reference was clear. Some missed it. One commenter noted it was supposed to be a trick, as advertised by the website: "You will get a rush secretly wearing a Nazi t-shirt in public without having to suffer the consequences." I was trying to keep up with some of this and changed my update above a few times, trying to stay accurate even though I still hated the generalization "Trump's America." Henry noted a few of these changes and described them with trainspotter detail to discredit my criticism as some sort of fuzzy logic. Weak, but that's what he went with.
However, this comment was allowed to pass without paragraphs of exegesis about the "model of argumentation":

Donald Johnson 07.23.17 at 5:22 pm

The problem for me is that the title Trump’s America gave me the impression you were condemning all those people– initially I didn’t even see the Nazi T shirt and wondered what the heck you were doing. Then I thought you were condemning all those people for tolerating or being friends with a guy wearing a Nazi T shirt, which would only be fair if they knew what it was. It turns out you only meant to condemn the actual wearer (and presumably any friends in the photo who don’t mind his choice of attire).

I think it was a confusing post.

Update, July 25: Am still mulling over Henry's sophistry (he teaches political science at a major university and presumably is applying professional jiu- jitsu here):

You got your initial condemnation wrong, which is fine – it happens. But then, you replaced the condemnation with a grumpy statement to the effect that I was now in the game of condemning people for controversial t-shirts, which you then deleted, and have now replaced with yet a third unrelated complaint about how I am supposedly slurring the bystanders for their toleration. As far as I can see, the only common thread in your argument is that I am wrong (for three successive, but completely different reasons) and that you are completely right in your initial decision to be critical of me. I recommend Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber’s fantastic new book, The Enigma of Reason for a detailed discussion of what lies behind this model of argumentation (see especially the final chapters) – while, as they argue it can be harnessed for useful purposes at the collective level, it can also look a bit ungainly at the individual (consider this intervention the kind of social correction that Mercier and Sperber call for, and an invitation to reconsider your style of arguing and reasoning).

My "initial condemnation" (not deleted -- it's still at the top of the page) had a couple of elements: posting photos of random overweight people and sneering at the opposition as some kind of unwashed Other. Henry seems to think that once he informed me of the "gotcha" (one of the people in the photo is wearing a Nazi shirt) I should approve the photo and caption and back off. Did the "gotcha" change my feelings about his tactics, or that picture? Not really. I wrote the Update to acknowledge the "gotcha" and struggled a bit finding the right tone to convey that I still hated the photo and its premise. My error was live editing a blog update with such a fanatic self-justifier lurking around. He builds a case that these edits (done over a few hours but eventually gelling as the first Update above) were a flawed "model of argumentation," and then does some more sneering.

When I called out Henry for stalking my live edits, here's how he responded:

You first accused me of classist attacks on overweight people. Then, when I pointed out that this was wrong, you proposed in succession a variety of other attacks, which all seemed to me to be efforts to shore up your original position that there was something odious about the post, without ever quite managing to settle on a precise claim as to what that odious quality was. Obviously, this is a storm in a teacup, and none of us are at our best in comments threads, but I don’t think that your claim is correct. If you object to me pointing out the inconsistencies as “minutely tracking the revisions” (not actually so – I just happened to open up the page last night, and not finding the tab easily again this morning, opened it up again to find an entirely different claim as to why I was in the wrong), then I suppose, feel free to continue as you were.

He seems incapable of understanding that someone could hate his "Trump's America" photo regardless of the "gotcha" reveal of the Nazi T-shirt wearer. There were a few others on the thread who were troubled by the photo -- its tone, but also privacy and guilt-by-association issues -- yet escaped all this clever pushback.

- tom moody

July 22nd, 2017 at 4:56 pm

Posted in art - others, photo 2

lazy YT-jaying: "Firecracker"

Didn't realize "Firecracker," on the first Yellow Magic Orchestra LP, was a Martin Denny cover: [YouTube]

According to Discogs, YMO started as a one-off concept project of Haruomi Hosono's, interpreting Western oriental exotica, which then caught on as a band.
Riuichi Sakamoto and Yukohiro Takahashi originally came in as session musicians.
The Denny piece anticipates David Byrne's Japanese-sounding themes for The Last Emperor, which Sakamoto also wrote music for, so there's some kind of cultural loop thing going on here.

- tom moody

July 19th, 2017 at 3:55 pm

Posted in music - others

review by daniel albright (in and out of pull quotes)

I've been working on an informal bio of the late Daniel Albright, a college prof of mine and writer I subsequently became addicted to. I've found quite a bit of material online, including some feisty reviews he wrote for the New York Review of Books. The following post is a detour from the bio but it's a funny example of how publishers massage pull quotes.

In 1983, Prof. Robert M. Adams, one of the founding editors of the Norton Anthology of Literature, produced a volume of English history meant to accompany and contextualize the anthology's writings, titled The Land and Literature of England. Albright, at that time teaching literature at the University of Virginia, wrote a rather scathing NYRB review disguised as a good review, or at least, good enough for the publisher to cobble together some prominently-placed quotations (still in use -- this screenshot is from the current volume):


What's missing from the clips is an overwhelming tone of bemused contempt. Albright's main beefs are that Adams gives too much space to politicians at the expense of artists in his history, that he has a taste for conventional and orthodox thinking, and he is more interested by artists who deal with historical subjects than airy-fairy or abstract ones. The sly humor in this review of an admittedly pedantic text borders on cruel, and the mocking tone continues in an exchange of letters between Adams and Albright after the former wrote to correct some misimpressions in the review.

So you can get an idea of what's going on here, below are those pull quotes with chunks from the original review excerpted immediately afterward. The review itself is paywalled -- $4.99 -- excerpted under fair use.

"Professor Adams seems to have read the whole library and yet...retained his pith, vigor, suppleness, and good cheer."

Not many people would be capable of writing a book like this one. Professor Adams seems to have read the whole library and yet, instead of turning to dust along with the crumbling books, retained his pith, vigor, suppleness, and good cheer.

"In addition, he knows how to tell a story..."

In addition, he knows how to tell a story:

And their foot soldiers used bows and arrows to rain death from a distance on the Saxons, who had no way to reply. As long as the shield wall stood unbroken, neither cavalry nor arrows could do much execution; but sometimes, after an unsuccessful cavalry charge, the Saxon foot could not resist the temptation to pursue, and then the archers did deadly damage. After a full day of heavy fighting, Harold lay dead with an arrow in his eye…. His mistress, Edith Swanneck, was summoned to make identification, and though the face was mutilated beyond recognition, she knew, by certain marks on the body, that indeed it was Harold.

It is not until some thirty pages later that we hear that the principal source of historical knowledge for any account of the Battle of Hastings is the Bayeux tapestry; and Professor Adams does not mention the historiographical difficulty posed by this fact. One might hesitate to reconstruct the Trojan War if Homer’s Iliad had been lost and only Penelope’s weaving survived; and it is not clear that the weavers of the Bayeux tapestry knew as much about the Battle of Hastings as D. W. Griffith knew about the founding of the Ku Klux Klan; but probably Professor Adams did well to respect the urgencies of storytelling in a book that treats history in relation to literature.

Adams wrote the magazine to gripe that he knew of the extensive writing on the Battle of Hastings and blamed a picture caption for creating the impression that the source was the Bayeux Tapestry. Albright didn't relent, getting in a last crack that the text quoted above was a "cartoon."

"One of the real delights of this book, Professor Adams’s eye for the flinty detail..."

I have not yet spoken of one of the real delights of this book, Professor Adams’s eye for the flinty detail. Students, and readers well past their student years, will be grateful to learn that a fifteenth-century humanist, John Tiptoft, requested on the scaffold that his head be severed, in honor of the Trinity, in three separate strokes; and that the last entry in Napoleon’s schoolboy notebook for his geography class was “Saint Helena, a small island in the South Atlantic”; and that a French wit said of the conservative Lord Liverpool that, if he had been present at the creation, he would have cried, “Mon Dieu, conservons le chaos!” Such examples could be multiplied.

Coming immediately on the heels of a complaint that Swift has been reduced to mediocrity in Adams's account, and immediately preceding a criticism that the book has some "astonishing omissions," the above passage seems ironic -- "flinty" reads as lurid, batty, or irrelevant. Perhaps Albright actually liked these details but it's not all that clear.

"Much of the pleasure....lies in [the book's] rich texture of cross-references between history and literature..."

Much of the pleasure of Professor Adams’s book lies in its rich texture of cross-references between history and literature. Perhaps it would be ungracious to ask for even more. In his reference to the Old English “The Battle of Brunanburh” he might note that Tennyson translated it into modern English, with the help of a crib written by his son. Professor Adams quotes with gusto the climactic lines of “The Battle of Maldon”; Auden translates these same lines in an ode (“Though aware of our rank and alert to obey orders”). When Professor Adams tells the complicated story of Henry II and his two sons, Prince Henry and Richard the Lion-Hearted, he might mention that this history is the basis of Pound’s ambitious attempt to write a long Imagist poem, “Near Perigord.” Professor Adams would like to see something of a circular form to English literary history: he proposes that the rest of the twentieth century may be a recapitulation of the fifteenth (that is, empty of talent), and on his last page he speaks of Seamus Heaney’s poems about bog people as a renewal of prehistoric vitality. The references I have suggested might help to improve the feeling of the convergence of beginnings and endings.


After reading Professor Adams’s exhilarating book, I was chiefly impressed with the disparity between the achievements of the English political life and the achievements of the English literary life. No culture known to me has produced a body of literature superior to that of England; while the political narrative seems, with a few exceptions, a mean tale of temporizing, squalor, sordor, hollow glory. Professor Adams says in his foreword that history is “a matter of fascinating interest in itself,” and so it is, the shimmer of the snake’s rippling scales. In Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra a frightened eunuch runs up to Caesar to tell him that the library of Alexandria, the greatest repository of knowledge in the world, is on fire. Caesar tells him that it is a shameful history—let it burn. Were I tempted to give the same order, I would not want to see Professor Adams’s history perish.

- tom moody

July 19th, 2017 at 7:30 am

Posted in books

those clinton russia scandals

Clinton supporters avoid focusing on the poor election performance of their candidate by keeping a steady stream of revelations about Trump and Russia coming every day. The Washington media seem to think it's 1972 and they are Woodward and Bernstein, breathlessly reporting new details. Meanwhile Trump goes about his business, packing the government with cronies and reversing socially useful regulations.
The irony is the Clintons would be hip deep in Russia scandal if the same level of scrutiny were applied to them.
James Howard Kunstler summarizes neatly:

More interestingly, though, the meme that has led people to believe that any contact between Russians and Americans is ipso facto nefarious vectors into the very beating heart of the “Resistance” itself: the Clintons.

How come the Clintons have not been asked to explain why — as reported on The Hill blog — Bill Clinton was paid half a million dollars to give speech in Russia (surely he offered them something of value in exchange, pending the sure thing Hillary inaugural), or what about the $2.35 million “contribution” that the Clinton Foundation received after Secretary of State Hillary allowed the Russians to buy a controlling stake in the Uranium One company, which owns 20 percent of US uranium supplies, with mines and refineries in Wyoming, Utah, and other states, as well as assets in Kazakhstan, the world’s largest uranium producer? Incidentally, the Clinton Foundation did not “shut down,” as erroneously reported early this year. It was only its Global Initiative program that got shuttered. The $2.35 million is probably still rattling around in the Clinton Foundation’s bank account. Don’t you kind of wonder what they did with it? I hope Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller wants to know.

- tom moody

July 18th, 2017 at 7:56 am

Posted in around the web

egregious e-book errors: Routledge

From David Walley, Teenage Nervous Breakdown, 2d edition, Published in 2006 by Routledge, © 2006 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
The e-book retails for $24.69.


(page 78 of the e-book)

For a few seconds you could be forgiven for thinking there was a form of art-rock you missed called "rocfe." The word was supposed to be "rock."
It appears again later in the book: "Along with the new paradigms for sexual behavior came an inordinate amount of discussion about sexism in rocfe music among the females who’d formerly been the objects of lust and/or veneration, love or repulsion, but really (as always) approach and avoidance among the men." (e-book, page 373)

Walley's book is practically unreadable for a different reason: intermittently throughout the book the letter "k" is scanned as "b" -- this error occurs dozens of times. Thus you have "boob" for "book," "the bids" for "the kids" -- it's nerve-wracking to beep encountering these mistakes. Yes, "keep" appears as "beep" eight times in the text. Possibly these are mistakes that an algorithm doesn't catch because they aren't misspellings, just the wrong words. Thank you, Routledge.

- tom moody

July 15th, 2017 at 2:00 pm

egregious e-book errors: Pickle Partners Publishing

Have been spending quite a bit of time reading e-books lately, and the quality is pretty horrendous overall.

Main errors:
Typographical errors
Layout/formatting glitches
Lack of font uniformity
Poor handling of illustrations and "special characters" such as math symbols.

Main reasons for errors:
Widespread use of OCR (supposed "smart" character recognition within a scanned text) without subsequent human proofreaders
Conversion mistakes (changing one electronic format to another)
Lack of uniformity in fonts and word-processing applications
Change of corporate culture from giving-a-shit to laying-off-and-praying

I'm trying mostly to read .epub books and avoid Amazon/Kindle but occasionally I still have to resort to Kindle/mobi/azw and the situation is no better. Surprisingly, I've found public domain works from to be of better quality than many offerings from "respectable" mainstream publishers, although there are no guarantees.
This will be a series of blog posts (I hope) that document egregious e-book errors.
Let's start with a doozy, from Richard Ellman's Yeats, The Man and the Masks, 1948, e-book (c) 2016 by Pickle Partners Publishing. Ellmann is discussing an early draft of the poem that became "To his Heart, bidding that it have no Fear" (1896):


Astonishing, indeed. The word is supposed to be "part" -- only a demon would introduce such an error into such a lovely poem.
Also, note the weirdly italicized third line -- the text is supposed to be in italics from that line to the end. Pickle Partners, get thee hence to the typesetters.

- tom moody

July 15th, 2017 at 1:26 pm

"Little Infernos"

"Little Infernos" [mp3 removed -- please listen on Bandcamp]

Song made with Tracktion's Waveform digital audio workstation, running on Ubuntu Studio.
Sound sources include:
Eurorack modules: Violin samples granularized in the Qu-Bit Nebulae, filtered in Z-DSP VC-Digital Signal Processor, sequenced with Doepfer A-154/155, then timestretched and further altered in Waveform
Two Waveform Sampler Rack plugins with various beats from my burgeoning ".wav collection"
Arpeggiated 8-bit-ish synths played with the Helm softsynth plugin (LV2 version), running in Ardour, rendered and imported into Waveform

The mood here is creepy, disjointed, and languid.

- tom moody

July 11th, 2017 at 7:23 pm

Posted in music - tm