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Ball retriever

May 18, 2014 Leave a comment
Larry Ellison's Rising Sun

Larry Ellison’s Rising Sun

[From Live Yachting]

It’s been a busy two weeks, with travel and major events getting in the way of blogging. Had I written one more post two weeks ago, it would have been about the news of Larry Ellison’s basketball interest.

Ellison, co-founder of Oracle, has been among the three or four wealthiest Americans for years. In sports, he is best known for his America’s Cup yachts that have won the last two competitions. A little over two weeks ago, in the aftermath of the NBA’s decision to ban LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, the WSJ reported that “Oprah Winfrey is joining with entertainment mogul David Geffen and Oracle Corp. Chief Executive Larry Ellison with an eye to buying the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Clippers.”

We learn further down that in 2010,

Mr. Ellison unsuccessfully tried to purchase the Golden State Warriors, which are based near software maker Oracle in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Warriors were eventually sold for $450 million.

“Although I was the highest bidder, [former Warriors owner] Chris Cohan decided to sell to someone else,” Mr. Ellison said in a statement at the time. “In my experience, this is a bit unusual.”

Mr. Ellison, who routinely ditched schoolwork for basketball practice during his high-school years in Chicago, has yet to break into a major American sport.

His top sporting accomplishment has come in the America’s Cup, the world’s most famous yachting competition. He owns Oracle Team USA, the racing squad that lost the contest in 2003 and 2007 before winning in 2010 and 2013. Mr. Ellison, with an estimated wealth of more than $40 billion, lavished his own money on those campaigns; the head of Oracle Team USA estimated last year that the sailing squad’s budget for the 2013 America’s Cup was at least $115 million, though part of that came from corporate sponsors.

The Oracle chief has had basketball courts on at least two of his yachts, said Tom Ehman, who handles America’s Cup matters for Mr. Ellison. He said Mr. Ellison liked to relax by shooting hoops on these courts, and has had someone in a powerboat following the yacht to retrieve balls that go overboard.

How about that last detail? It got a fair bit of attention in the press, best of all in a piece the next day from the WSJ’s own sportswriter, Jason Gay, who imagines the powerboat pilot’s tale. Here’s an excerpt, starting with the tryout for the not-yet-explained job:

A couple of days later they brought me out to the Embarcadero. Put me in a powerboat, had me take the wheel and put a 12-foot net in my hand. Then they sent another boat out before me with a couple of dudes; told me to follow it.

All of a sudden, these guys just start chucking basketballs off the boat, right into the wake. They howled at me on a bullhorn to grab the basketballs with the net. It was completely bizarre. Here we are in San Francisco and I am reaching out with this net, grabbing Spalding basketballs and chucking them into the back of a boat. And it was tricky. If you know the water there, it’s windy as hell. They had the America’s Cup there for a reason.

The whole thing took about a half-hour. I guess I did OK. Something like 48 basketballs went into the ocean. I got 46. I heard nobody else got more than 30.

An hour after we returned to the dock, they told me I got the job. I still wasn’t sure what the job was. OWBR, they said. “Official Waterborne Basketball Retriever.” The pay was right. They wanted me to start immediately.

Mind you I still had no idea who I was doing this for, but the next week I’m flying first-class to Nice, and then a car picks me up to go to the Mediterranean. We pull into the harbor and I’m given the keys to a 44-foot powerboat.

“This is yours,” the guy said. “Go to that.” He points out into the sea.

And I look out and there is just the craziest and most blinged-out super yacht I’d ever seen. I mean, it looks like the Houston skyline. The guy tells me to keep the radio on channel 7 and wait for instructions.

“Instructions on what?” I ask.

“Basketballs, man.”

Categories: Humor, Life

Fun With Drones

February 24, 2013 3 comments

tailwindsdrone

It is an Amazon tradition for selected items to attract a commentary stream of ironic praise. David Pogue writes about this from time to time, for instance, here and here. And who can forget Playmobil’s Security Check Point, pictured at the bottom? This warranted a NYT article four years ago with the headline, “Playmobil Finds Fun in the Police State.” Be sure to read the Amazon comments.

Now we have a new entry. Amazon is selling (through third parties) a die cast Fresh Metal 97:1 scale model of a predator drone. Again, the comments are worth a look.

Two samples:

You’ve had a busy play day – You’ve wiretapped Mom’s cell phone and e-mail without a warrant, you’ve indefinitely detained your little brother Timmy in the linen closet without trial, and you’ve confiscated all the Super-Soakers from the neighborhood children (after all, why does any kid – besides you, of course – even NEED a Super-Soaker for self-defense? A regular water pistol should be enough). What do you do for an encore?

That’s where the US Air Force Medium Altitude, Long Endurance, Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator from Maisto comes in. Let’s say that Dad has been labeled a terrorist in secret through your disposition matrix. Rather than just arrest him and go through the hassle of trying and convicting him in a court of law, and having to fool with all those terrorist-loving Constitutional protections, you can just use one of these flying death robots to assassinate him! … Show him who’s boss, whether he’s at a wedding, a funeral, or just having his morning coffee. Sow fear and carnage in your wake! Win a Nobel Peace Prize and be declared Time Magazine’s Person of the Year – Twice!

This goes well with the Maisto Extraordinary Rendition playset, by the way – which gives you all the tools you need to kidnap the family pet and take him for interrogation at a neighbor’s house, where the rules of the Geneva Convention may not apply. Loads of fun!

And, more concisely, but with much the same point:

This is the best toy ever. Finally, I can pretend that I’m a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize! It’s like I’m sitting right there in the White House with my very own kill list!

playmobilsecurity

Categories: Humor, Politics

Line of the Day

July 31, 2012 1 comment

Stonehenge jump


[Tom Jenkins for The Guardian]

Guardian columnist Marina Hyde had a hilarious piece yesterday from the Olympic equestrian venue in Greenwich. Mind you, I understood only about half of it, between obscure references best understood by residents of the UK and obscure references best understood by the horse set. At least I know that wellies are Wellingtons, the famed rubber boot of British country life, and that Hunter has made them for decades. That got me started in the passage below. You’ll find my chosen line of the day in the third paragraph, but it’s all well done. (Hat tip: Geoff Shackelford.)

To Greenwich Park, home of the prime meridian line, where it was officially Country O’Clock for the equestrianism on Monday. To give you a handle on the crowd, no one was wearing the wrong shoes. During Sunday’s rains at the Olympic Park, all manner of error-strewn urban footwear planning was on show, with punters slipping and slopping around in sandals and flip flops.

At Greenwich, despite the sunny skies, there were innumerable pairs of Hunter wellies, for the simple reason that you never know how it’s going to turn out. Empty seats scandal in the morning, shepherd’s warning.

Even more clearly in evidence were the hundreds wearing riding boots – a bit like those spectators who wear golf shoes to championships, giving them the air of people who imagine they might be called on to the greens at any time and asked to replace Tiger Woods if he goes to pieces.

Then again, Greenwich feels like a more-than-usually expert crowd. “Those surface changes made a big difference to the arena at the weekend,” one man was observing to his neighbour as they watched the cross country, which saw horses clearing jumps shaped like tractors, in a park from which you can see the City of London.

Where many 2012 venues give the impression of a mixed crowd of sport-watching novices, dedicated tourists, and diehard fans, much of Monday’s Greenwich bunch seemed like they knew each other instinctively – and possibly socially.

And speaking of the equestrian events, the hurdles for the jumping competition are a wonderful bit of whimsy. Be sure to see the Guardian’s slide show here.

[Andrew Boyers/Action Images]

Categories: Culture, Humor, Sports

New Day for Metropolitan Diary

March 26, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been a long-time fan of the NYT’s weekly Metropolitan Diary feature. Fellow readers will know that each Diary consists of four to six short tales sent in by readers, each showing the human side of life in New York: conversations overheard on the bus; unexpected encounters on the street; clever remarks by storekeepers or taxi drivers; an appreciative note from a tourist. In recent years, the Diary has been a Monday staple. In the national edition, one would find it by turning a page or two forward from the editorial page.

As I began to move more of my NYT reading from the printed paper to the internet, I found that I would sometimes forget to read the Diary. Having already scanned the website Sunday night for most of the items of interest, I would take a quick look at the paper Monday morning and miss the Diary. Thanks to OmniFocus, I solved that problem — I added a weekly reminder that appears each Sunday telling me to read the Diary. Come evening, I do a search at the NYT website for Met Diary, find it, and read it. I no longer worry that the Diary will go unread.

Last night, though, something strange happened. I searched and searched without finding the Diary. Finally, I discovered that starting two days ago, the Metropolitan Diary has been converted from a weekly feature to a daily one. Online anyway. The weekly format will continue in the print edition, but each day a single Diary entry will appear online. Here is the explanation of the new system (along with perhaps a better description of the Diary than the one I attempted above):

For nearly 36 years, Metropolitan Diary has been a place for New Yorkers, past and present, to share odd fleeting moments at Bloomingdale’s, at the deli around the corner, in the elevator or at the movies. Since its debut, overheard conversations have shifted from the backseat of Checker cabs to Crown Vics, from pay-phone booths to cellphones and from the IRT to the JMZ. Still, punch lines delivered by surly waiters, witty train conductors, lively bus drivers, erudite window washers and adult children facing off with an overbearing parent continue to surprise us.

Glenn Collins, the third editor of the column, one of nearly a dozen diary editors, called it an “elegant cocktail of the city.”

While it’s hard to imagine a 20-pound mailbag as “interactive,” back in 1976, when Metropolitan Diary first appeared in The New York Times, a letterbox was the only inbox that existed. Predating the Internet and fax machines, the diary was an early example of a user-generated feature at the newspaper and served as a constant dialogue between readers and editors that captured the zeitgeist.

Taking this concept into the age of the Internet, we aim to make Metropolitan Diary even more interactive on City Room. For our dedicated newspaper readers, not to worry. You’ll still be able to read items in print on Mondays; but online, you can now share and comment on your favorite entries.

[snip]

Published contributors were once rewarded with a Champagne delivery, but today’s reward is a bylined entry into New York’s story canon, an ingredient of this “elegant cocktail of the city.”

Sometimes it takes readers years to gather the courage to submit, while others offer these New York moments unabashedly. Whatever your speed, whatever your medium, we hope you’ll share your tale with us.

You can read the initial four entries here. Plus, you can subscribe to the RSS feed. I did last night. No need anymore for my elaborate Sunday reminder and search system. I can instead await the new one each day in my newsreader.

I do have one beef with the Diary: the tradition too many entrants follow of concluding their tales with “Only in New York.” Geez. Really? If you’re standing on 34th Street, you look up, and you see a gorilla atop the Empire State Building, fine, submit a piece to Metropolitan Diary and say “Only in New York.” I get that. But otherwise, spare me. It just ruins the story.

Categories: Humor, Newspapers

Pym

February 6, 2012 Leave a comment

After finishing Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin two Friday nights ago, I thought about turning at long last to Tony Judt’s Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945, a natural successor, as I mentioned in writing about Bloodlands. More natural, indeed, than I even realized, what with the publication last week of Judt and Snyder’s joint enterprise, Thinking the Twentieth Century, which was reviewed in the Sunday NYT Book Review yesterday by Francis Fukuyama. (The book is based on conversations between Judt and Snyder before Judt’s death two summers ago.)

Instead, the next morning I found myself downloading Robert Crais’ new crime novel, Taken. I was a fifth of the way through when I stopped to write about it a day later, a week ago yesterday. By last Wednesday, the momentum was too much. I got home late that evening from the department’s annual dinner, read another 50 pages before going to sleep, then awoke at 4:30 Thursday morning and read the last 115 pages. Pretty good. Crais’ best in a while.

Once again, I had to figure out what to read next. Judt’s Postwar? Friday night, I paged through it, then saw the Fukuyama’s review on-line of the Judt-Snyder book and considered that. But I was leaning toward a novel, and at the top of my list has been Chad Harbach’s The Art of Fielding. I wasn’t feeling ready for a 500+ page commitment just yet, so I returned to my list of books to keep in mind, explored a few, then reminded myself of why Mat Johnson’s Pym was on the list. The reason was Adam Mansbach’s review in the Sunday NYT a year ago today, in which Mansbach begins:

“If we can identify how the pathology of Whiteness was constructed,” the narrator, Chris Jaynes, proposes early in “Pym,” Mat Johnson’s relentlessly entertaining new novel, “then we can learn how to dismantle it.” For Jaynes, the only black male professor at an “intimate, good but not great” college, the project of making whiteness visible has led to an obsession with “The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket,” the only novel by Edgar Allan Poe.

It’s as good a place as any to begin. Toni Morrison has written that “no early American writer is more important to the concept of American Africanism than Poe,” and his single work of long fiction is a simmering trove of racial terror. Poe’s protagonist, Pym, is a hapless seafarer whose adventures culminate in the discovery and exploitation of Tsalal, a tropical island located improbably close to Antarctica and populated by primitive natives so dark even their teeth are black. “Horrors from the pit of the antebellum subconscious,” Jaynes calls them.

I was ready for an adventure. I downloaded it, began reading, and now I’m some 90 pages in. It’s fascinating, constantly surprising, with a passage every few pages that is completely captivating. For instance, early on, the protagonist discusses the Diversity Committee at Bard College, the small school (a real school) on the Hudson River in New York where, as part of the novel’s plot he has been denied tenure by the president. Talking with a new colleague, Jaynes explains that

“the Diversity Committee has one primary purpose: so that the school can say it has a diversity committee. They need that for when students get upset about race issues or general ethnic stuff. It allows the faculty and administration to point to it and go, ‘Everything’s going to be okay, we have formed a committee.’ People find that very relaxing. It’s sort of like, if you had a fire, and instead of putting it out, you formed a fire committee. But none of the ideas that come out of all that committeeing will ever be implemented, see? Nothing the committee has suggested in thirty years has ever been funded. It’s a gerbil wheel, meant to ‘Keep this nigger boy running.'”

Coincidentally, Improv Everywhere, which has been re-mastering and re-releasing videos of some of their old missions, today put out a new version of Meet a Black Person, in which comedian Colton Dunn went to Aspen in 2006 to offer just that service.

In Pym‘s world, one where dozens of African-Americans in Gary, Indiana, can believe that their background is more Native American than African-American until, to their dismay, DNA testing by a University of Chicago proves otherwise, a “Meet a Black Person” stand sounds entirely believable.

Watch the video. Read the book.

Categories: Books, Humor

Annoying Golf Partners

December 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Cell Phone Guy

[Cy Cyr, Golf Digest, December 2011]

This may be of limited interest, but I got a kick out of Golf Digest’s slideshow of The 18 Most Annoying Golf Partners, so I’m passing it on. (HT: Geoff Shackelford.) Pictured above is Cell Phone Guy. Defining characteristics: Considers golf course an extension of his office, home, therapist’s couch, etc. Has perfected the balancing-phone-on-the-shoulder wedge shot. Favorite expression: “You guys hit. I gotta take this.” The Parking Lot Pro is good too. And The Air Counter. Have a look.

Categories: Golf, Humor

Joke of the Week

December 11, 2011 Leave a comment

I don’t anticipate that this will turn into a new Ron’s View feature. I’m trying it out in honor of my friend Paul, who dropped by my office Friday to chat before heading off for a conference in Stony Brook followed by holiday in his native New Zealand. In our conversation, it came up that Paul wanted to pass some information on to his father while they were on the phone, but his father didn’t have a pen at hand. This prompted Paul to tell his father a joke, which Paul then told me and which I am about to tell you. After delivering the joke, Paul suggested I put it on Ron’s View, but quickly had second thoughts, realizing it might not be classy enough for the neighborhood. Just this once, I will allow a lowering of the standards.

The joke is all about the punchline, so even if you forget the setup, you can create your own. With that in mind, and not entirely remembering Paul’s setup, I looked online last night and found many versions. As anticipated, the setup varies, but the punchline remains constant. Here’s my telling:

A busy doctor, nearing the end of a full day of appointments, is discussing a course of treatment with one of his patients. They agree to start the patient on a new medication and the doctor reaches into his jacket pocket for a pen. As he begins to write the script, he discovers that he is holding an anal thermometer.

“Damn,” the doctor exclaims, “some asshole has my pen!”

If you don’t like my setup, feel free to make up your own. Or do a search on “asshole has my pen” and study the many versions online. Some make the doctor a proctologist, which strikes me as overkill.

Thanks, Paul. Safe travels.

Categories: Humor

One with Everything

June 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I saw the video above first thing this morning and intended to write a post around it, but by now I’m a little late. The video has been picked up on Andrew Sullivan’s blog, and I suppose on just about every other major aggregating site in the English-speaking world by now. So you’ve probably seen it already. But in case you haven’t, click on the play button above to watch host Karl Stefanovic of Australia’s Today show tell the Dalai Lama a joke. Stefanovic’s willingness to make a complete fool of himself is adorable.

I initially stumbled on the video in a Language Log post by linguist Geoffrey Pullum, who uses it as an opportunity to reflect on the nature of humor:

Stefanovic is surely not the only person who has discovered to his cost how easy it is to underestimate the quantity of cultural and linguistic background needed if you are to reliably get the jokes that people tell. For this one, (i) you must have encountered the Buddhist idea of merging or unifying with the universe, expressed using the idiom become one with (which in other contexts is not common); and (ii) you must have encountered pizza in the American style, with loads of different topping choices, ordered using a preposition phrase headed by with (as in with pepperoni and mushroom); and (iii) you must have been in a pizzeria that has as one of the choices on its menu the indecisive glutton’s non-choice consisting of a megacombo of all available toppings (by no means all pizza restaurants give you that option), so that everything is a possible topping choice.

When you put it that way, no wonder the Dalai Lama was so clueless. As Pullum concludes, “it’s a wonder most jokes don’t [die a quietly horrible public death], considering the complex web of previously encountered phrases and cultural references that jokes typically rely on.”

Are You Comfortable?

August 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Once again, I’ve sat too long on a topic I meant to write about. Maybe I’ll give it a shot before the issues fade completely from my mind. The starting point was James Surowiecki’s economics column in the August 16 issue of the New Yorker, dated a week ago but now two weeks old. In the context of Congressional discussions on whether to extend the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year, he asks,

who counts as rich? The Obama Administration’s answer is that you’re rich if you make more than two hundred thousand dollars a year as an individual or two hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year as a household, and therefore you should have your taxes raised. Conservatives suggest that this threshold is far too low, and argue that Obama would be taxing mostly small-business owners, or the people a Fox News host has referred to as “the so-called rich,” rather than fat plutocrats. You might think this isn’t really much of a debate. An annual income of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars puts you in the top three per cent of American households, and is more than four times the national median. You’re rich, and a small tax increase isn’t going to rock your world.

Surowiecki goes on to note that “from surveys of how Americans describe themselves, most of the privileged don’t feel all that privileged.” He then reviews why this might be the case, with reasons ranging from the high cost of housing in certain parts of the country to the fact that those earning “a few hundred thousand dollars a year have done much worse than people at the very top of the ladder.”

Surowiecki proceeds to explore this last point in more detail. He observes, for instance, that “People in the ninety-fifth to the ninety-ninth percentiles of income have represented a fairly constant share of the national income for twenty-five years now. But in that period the top one per cent has seen its share of national income double … So at the same time that the rich have been pulling away from the middle class, the very rich have been pulling away from the pretty rich, and the very, very rich have been pulling away from the very rich. … there’s a yawning chasm between the professional and the plutocratic classes.”

Surowiecki concludes that the tax system should reflect this chasm, with the super-rich paying higher rates than the very rich. He concludes that doctors, lawyers, accountants — what one might call (and Matt Miller does call) the “lower upper class” — inhabit a different world from the ultra-rich and should inhabit a different tax bracket as well.

In a commentary at CNN, John Avlon made much the same point two weeks ago, perhaps influenced by Surowiecki’s article, though he doesn’t refer to it. Avlon writes,

There is another issue . . . beyond the increasing gap between rich and poor in the United States.
It is the gap between the “super rich” — who really do have more money than they know what to do with — and what might be called the “working wealthy,” who are taxed as though they’re rich enough to able to give away half their money.

These are individuals whose household income might bring them into the top tax bracket of $250,000 a year but who, with two parents working, might still find themselves struggling to stay in the stability of the upper-middle class in the expensive urban areas where they often work.
Much of the anger about the scheduled sunset of the Bush tax cuts for the increase in top-bracket taxes comes from this productive group of Americans.

The super rich are looking for charitable donations to deduct from their taxes each year, while the working wealthy are still trying to pay all their bills. But they are taxed at the same rate as the private jet set (what a few years ago might been called the Bernie Madoff crowd).

Avlon concludes with mention of “the growing gaps in our society, not just between the rich and poor, but between the super rich, the working wealthy and the forgotten middle class.”

At the Atlantic, Derek Thompson replied to Avlon’s piece, granting that “it can be challenging to put two kids through private school and pay a mortgage on $250,000 a year in an expensive urban area,” but disagreeing “that those families’ experience should guide our tax policy.” He ends up drawing the same conclusion as Surowiecki:

Avalon’s [sic] piece strikes me as an argument for more income brackets. If we acknowledge the country is getting ever more stratified between the wealthy, the super-wealthy and the sweet-lord-they-must-use-their-money-as-napkins wealthy, why not build an attic on top of income tax system to catch extra money at higher rates?

Thompson also takes exception to Avlon’s description of the struggling earners of $250,000 as upper middle class: “I know it’s polite to say we’re all middle class until our yearly income adds a seventh digit, but really. If the 95th percentile is the middle class, does that make the median income earner upper-lower class? Or is America’s middle class more like the stuffing in a three-story Oreo?”

Thompson has a link to a very useful document from Tax Policy Center, from which we can see that about .4% of the population earns over $1 million, whereas another .7% are in the $500,000 to a million range and 3.9% are in the $200,000 to $500,000 range.

Can someone really make $250,000 and be middle class? A week ago, at Andrew Sullivan’s blog site, The Daily Dish, Sullivan’s assistant Patrick Appel quoted from Thompson’s post and then addressed this question. (Sullivan is on vacation and his staff members are running the show.) Appel posits, “families tend to socialize with families who make a little more and a little less than they do. A family earning $250,000 a year likely has a number of friends that make around that amount. They probably also know a number of families making $300,000 to $400,000 a year and number of families making $100,000 to $200,000 a year. Even if an American is in the 95th percentile nationally, they are likely to feel middle-class in relation to peers.” A debate ensued among readers, which you can follow by going over to The Daily Dish.

The notion that we’re all middle class was impressed upon me very early through a joke my father used to tell. It’s a familiar joke, one that could perhaps work in any culture, but one that has come to be identified with American Jewish culture. Indeed, if one does a search on the joke, one finds that it is variously attributed to Henny Youngman, or told with instructions that the punchline should be spoken with a Yiddish accent, or written with Yiddish-accented words (“vell” for “well”) thrown in. Underlying the joke is the notion that one needs a euphemism for being wealthy, it being somehow unseemly for someone to actually admit to being rich. The particular euphemism used in the joke (and so, the euphemism I learned as a child) is that of “being comfortable.”

As for the joke, well, it goes something like this. A man (a Jewish man in some tellings, or more explicitly, a Mr. Cohen) is walking across the street when he is hit by a car. The driver (or perhaps a passing policeman) rushes out to the man, who is lying on the street, puts his sweater under the man’s head, and asks, “Are you comfortable?” The man replies, “Eh. I make a living.”

That’s my understanding of the issues. And yes, I make a living.

Categories: Economics, Humor

Haunting the Library

May 18, 2010 Leave a comment

Improv Everywhere posted their latest mission at their website this morning. You can watch the video above. It’s enjoyable enough, but not one of my favorites, perhaps because I was never much of a fan of Ghostbusters.

The video presentation of the mission shouldn’t be watched in isolation. Read also the description of the mission that follows the video at the mission webpage. Of particular interest is the fact that the mission originated through a request by the New York Public Library to host a mission as a means of publicizing their current financial difficulties.

Watching the three ghosts enter the library’s reading room, I found myself thinking of an on-line discussion at Andrew Sullivan’s blog last week regarding the wearing of burqas and niqabs. The discussion’s starting point was a piece by Christopher Hitchens at Slate on the issue of banning the wearing of burqas in France. Hitchens notes, as part of his discussion, that “[o]n the door of my bank in Washington, D.C., is a printed notice politely requesting me to remove any form of facial concealment before I enter the premises. The notice doesn’t bore me or weary me by explaining its reasoning: A person barging through those doors with any sort of mask would incur the right and proper presumption of guilt. This presumption should operate in the rest of society. I would indignantly refuse to have any dealings with a nurse or doctor or teacher who hid his or her face, let alone a tax inspector or customs official.”

Sullivan made reference to Hitchens’ article here, then continued the thread with several more posts sharing reader reactions. Of particular interest in the context of the New York Public Library mission is this reader’s comment:

I work in a public library in a very large American city and have encountered several women in a burqa at the reference desk. Immediately I am struck by how our culture is not set up for a woman to be almost completely covered like that. I am a woman, and have found myself several times by myself at the reference desk trying to converse with another woman, who happens to be veiled. The veil made it difficult to hear these women since it covered their mouths. It occurred to me this burqa is not designed for a free society where women are allowed and actually expected to speak for themselves. Body language communication was impossible to read from these veiled women which is such a huge part of conversing, almost as big as the words actually said.

Watch the video again. See the guard question the first ghost. Notice the reactions of the patrons when ghosts sit next to them. There’s no religious context here, just the oddity of sharing space with someone whose only visible facial features are his, or her, eyes.

Categories: Humor, Movies, Theater