August 21, 2004

Maureen Dowd slams Kerry: "one of the lamest things I've ever seen a politician do."

Maureen Dowd appeared on Tim Russert's CNBC show and gave quite an interesting interview. I was especially struck by this statement of hers, responding to Russert's inquiry about the lack of vigorous debate about the Iraq war:
Kerry totally muffed it up by falling for this ridiculous trap that Bush set up. Bush taunted him, in essence, saying if you ... knew then what we knew now that there was no evidence and no weapons, are you man enough to say you'd still go to war? I mean, that, in essence, was what he said and Kerry fell for it and said Kerry didn't want to be a wimp and he didn't want to be a flip-flopper, so he fell for it and said, yeah, I would still authorize you to go to war, even if there was no threat to us, no weapons, you know, no evidence. And at that moment, not only did he show that Bush had outfoxed him--Bush and Cheney immediately began chortling--but it also completely castrated his ability to make the case against war.

RUSSERT: So what does that mean for his candidacy?

DOWD: I think it was a devastating week for him. I just think it was one of the lamest things I've ever seen a politician do.

Dowd never tires of conceptualizing things in terms of a man's struggle to salvage his masculinity, does she? That conceit works quite nicely when the slam is: in your struggle to prove your manhood, you showed not power, but weakness. I'm surprised she hit Kerry though, because her hostility to Bush is so evident. And has the "flop" in "flip-flop" ever seemed so clearly to refer to the male anatomy as in that quote of hers?

UPDATE: Striking personal revelation by Dowd: "I was so paralytically shy."

ALSO, of special interest to bloggers: Dowd talks about learning to Google, and how it is now necessary for a NYT columnist to Google: "You have to go on Google, you know, for a column so now because there's so much opinion, and this Tower of Babel and bloggers and cable. You have to kind of check and make sure that someone hasn't made a joke or used a line or image before you have a chance to put it in the paper, because it's not like the days of Reston where everyone was waiting days to hear Olympian pronouncements."

Star-ratings for "Unfit for Command."

"Unfit for Command: Swift Boat Veterans Speak Out Against John Kerry" is currently enjoying a 4 1/2 star rating at Barnes & "Tony, political junkie," who gives the book one star, observes: "Yawn! Alrighty, those of you that give this more than 2 stars are buying into the typical right wing (BS) campaign." Actually, not one of the 56 reviewers gives the book 2 stars. Nearly everyone gives the book either one or five stars--not surprisingly. But since the average is 4 1/2, Bush supporters seem to be more web savvy.

Amazon, which for some reason only has seven reviews, has the book at 4 out of 5 stars (and only one hostile review). Hmmm ... it provides a link to "Conservative Book Service" where the price is a dollar less, and the Amazon page itself displays that lower price. But that can't account for the dearth of reviews, because the book is Number 1 in sales at Amazon. Either Amazon or some hacker is deleting reviews: here's a blog that notes that there were 20 reviews a few days ago.

And both sides are surely willing to push their agenda through website reviews: Here's the Amazon page for "Michael Moore Is a Big Fat Stupid White Man." There are 569 reviews, most of which are one or five star reviews. The Bush side is winning there too, with the average at 3 1/2 stars.

Possible inference: Bush supporters are more likely to vote.

"In a restless world like this is."

What a very touching appearance by Brian Wilson on The Larry King Show last night:
KING: When you say you heard voices can you describe what that's like? Because we read stories like that about people who -- what happens?

B. WILSON: Well, a voice is saying: "I'm going to hurt you, I'm going to kill you." And I'd say: "Please don't kill me."

KING: It's an actual voice.

B. WILSON: Actual voice in my head. Yes.

KING: Not your voice?

B. WILSON: No. No.

[Brian's wife Melinda] WILSON: That's called auditory hallucinations and if somebody's depression is deep enough that's what happens to them.

KING: And at the same time you're still writing songs?

B. WILSON: Yes, I could still write songs, yes, during that period.

KING: [Write] hit songs.


M. WILSON: That's the thing that's amazing. Right now when he goes out on tour I can look at him and I say to myself: "Oh my God, I can tell just by his face he's hearing voices."

KING: You still hear them.

B. WILSON: Oh yes. I still hear them. ...

KING: Do they ever tell you to do things?


KING: Just, "I'm going to kill you," or...

B. WILSON: Yeah, right.

KING: That's all they -- it ever says?

B. WILSON: Yeah.
A moment later he contradicts himself and says that sometimes the voices say nice things like "We love you, we love you, we can't do without you." He says several times that he doesn't hear the voices when he is singing and that he can work despite his illness. He says that he doesn't listen to the old Beach Boys records.
B. WILSON: No, we don't wallow in the mire over the Beach Boys. I used to listen to Andy Williams and Kenny Rogers and stuff like that. Perry Como and Nat King Cole, of course, that was our song, "When I Fall in Love" was our song. "When I fall in love, it will be forever" -- you know, that song.

KING: "Or I'll never fall in love/In a restless world like this is ...

B. WILSON: Yeah.

KING: I know that.

B. WILSON: Yeah, it's a beautiful tune.

KING: You're a beautiful guy.

NYT offers huge chunk of Gawker bait.

Too bad Gawker doesn't post on weekends, because this Michael (thick as a) Brick article is just begging--begging--for attention.

UPDATE: Bait duly consumed.

On the pain of not living in a swing state.

When I was in Ithaca a few days ago, I noticed a lot of yard signs that said:
Bush must go!
Bush lied, thousands died.

Of course, I can't stand this sort of hostility and bitterness in general, but, really, what's the point of trying to stir up negative passion when you live in New York? New York's electoral votes are all going to go to Kerry whether New Yorkers have steam coming out of their ears or are lounging around watching sports and laughing and drinking. I support the Electoral College approach to picking the President (and wrote an article about it--Electoral College Reform: Deja Vu, 95 Northwestern University Law Review 993 (2000)), but I really do feel a little sorry for people in the states that are so solidly in the hands of one party. The ones who get all mad about the election remind me of drivers who honk their horns a lot in the middle of completely gridlocked traffic. Except in this case, the people who are all mad are going to get what they want from everyone who's in range to experience their expression of anger. They are like people driving 80 miles per hour through Indiana on Route 90, honking their horn the whole time because of the traffic up ahead in Chicago.

"I think nobody is truly qualified to be president of the United States."

So said Teresa Heinz Kerry in an interview in Reader's Digest. Since I said the same thing in this post yesterday, I was struck to hear the "friends" on "Fox and Friends" this morning laughing about the remark. I didn't keep my "friends" straight--they were talking over each other and I wasn't looking at the TV--but at least one of them thought it was an utterly harebrained thing to say, chiefly because it was a blunt admission that her husband was not qualified. There was a good deal of exultant laughing before one of the "friends" conceded that he could understand what she meant, which launched phase two of the attack: Heinz Kerry is not appropriate First Lady material. That no human being is big enough for the job that the Presidency has become may be a crushingly obvious fact to most people, but the "Fox and Friends" attitude is: What kind of a crazy nut do you have to be to say it when you're running for First Lady? I suppose there are people at Fox (and elsewhere) who comb over ever word Heinz Kerry says looking for anything that can justify a teaser: She's at it again, making trouble for the Kerry campaign ... we'll tell you what she said ... after the break.

August 20, 2004

Blogads nostalgia.

Remember Blogads? They were an endless source of humor and commentary. But no, don't bring them back. The look of the Blogspot blog is vastly improved.

UPDATE: I've adjusted the color of the new strip that replaced Blogads. The "navigation bar." You can search this blog for words using the tool at the left. For example, type in "Blogads" and see all the times I carped about them. And I feel free to write "gay marriage" again, without worrying about having gay-marriage-related Blogads for the next month. I wonder what the thinking was that led to removing the ads. Maybe it was that the political ads were getting to be a problem. The last ads I had before the end of the Blogads Era were ads promoting Bill Clinton, but the ad-generating mechanism had no way to know whether I liked Bill Clinton or not. I might have hated him, and then complained bitterly to Blogger. I assume plenty of people did.

Champion of the beleaguered incumbent.

Ah! I see our resident public sociologist Jeremy Freese has devised a theory of me--the political me at least. Let's check this out:
toward a unified theory of ann althouse

While I was off in San Francisco, another blogger was examining Ann's voting record and announcing that, despite her professed undecidedness, she was likely to be voting for Kerry. This person is wrong; their error is paying too much attention to the party of the candidate Ann supports. If you look at Ann's electoral-biography, it would seem more reasonable to predict that--and quite apart from whatever eventual rationale she might provide for doing so--she's likely to vote for Bush. Consider her lifetime history of support in incumbent elections:
Supports incumbent: Ford, Carter, Clinton
Against incumbent: Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush I
Plain as day: Ann is more likely to support an incumbent the more unpopular the incumbent has been upon the time of their re-election campaign. She's a contrarian independent. The only instance that doesn't really fit the pattern well is her vote for Clinton over Bush in 1992. One explanation for this would be, if one looks back to Ann's various posts about Clinton, it's clear she thinks he's a hottie. Apart from the "hottie" theory, however, one might suggest that Ann is more likely to support an incumbent the more she feels like the political discourse is unfairly maligning the incumbent (a discourse-contrarian independent, then). ...
So it seems I'm the champion of people who are holding power, but beleaguered! (That, and I think Clinton is hot.) It is true that I have a thing about incumbent Presidents. It's connected with a life-long, unshakable feeling that no one is good enough to be President, especially no one who has the ambition and the nerve to say he should run. I really don't like anyone having the distinction of being President. The incumbent already has the distinction, so keeping the incumbent always involves denying the distinction to one more unworthy mortal. As for the beleaguered incumbent, perhaps it is true that regard for the office of the Presidency causes me to react to disrespectful criticism of whatever poor human being happens to occupy it. The man is doing the best he can at an impossible task: can't you at least make constructive criticism!

I remember truly despising Lyndon Johnson in 1968, then being caught off-guard the night he announced that he would not run for reelection. At the end of a speech about Vietnam, he said:
With American sons in the fields far away, with America's future under challenge right here at home, with our hopes and the world's hopes for peace in the balance every day, I do not believe that I should devote an hour or a day of my time to any personal partisan causes or to any duties other than the awesome duties of this office -- the Presidency of your country.

Accordingly, I shall not seek, and I will not accept, the nomination of my party for another term as your President. But let men everywhere know, however, that a strong and a confident and a vigilant America stands ready tonight to seek an honorable peace; and stands ready tonight to defend an honored cause, whatever the price, whatever the burden, whatever the sacrifice that duty may require.
I was seventeen years old, and I burst into tears. That poor man! That man I had hated. How old and worn out he looked. It still brings tears to my eyes today. It made quite an impression. Johnson's words resonate today. You call upon the President to address "personal partisan causes" that take him away from the "awesome duties of this office," and, yes, I do feel very protective of that beleagured incumbent. To say there are failings, that a more perfect Presidency could exist, is not enough. Everyone will fall short. I hear John Kerry assert time and time again that he would do better, that he has a "better way," and the way George Bush has gone about doing things is defective for one niggling reason after another. But Bush is the one who has actually had to do things. It's easy to look on and say I would have done better. Maybe when you were watching Paul Hamm the other night, all you talked about was how he fell on his ass after the vault. And, of course, you wouldn't have fallen.

UPDATE: Rereading this, I realize that I have similar feelings about Supreme Court Justices: harsh and bitter criticism, especially personal criticism of individual Justices, inclines me to see the legitimate and professional reasons for the arguments they have made and the outcomes they have reached.

Ah, to be back in Madison.

So I did leave Madison, but I came right back. That trip was mostly a big push of a drive there and back, but it was nice to be able to take my son to law school and to see the town for a day. Yesterday, I drove the 835 miles straight through, from 7 a.m., eastern time, to 8:30 p.m., central time. It was hard driving into rainstorms much of the way. The visibility was so poor that I didn't even see the sign for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame off ramp in Cleveland. Approaching Cleveland, I was thinking: so am I going to go? It seemed much like my attitude toward the Presidential Election--if Maureen Dowd can make everything that happens about the election, then so can I--I knew there would be I point where I would make one choice or the other, and perhaps the choice was already in my head, but the answer was not lit up in my conscious mind. I was listening to the radio for most of the drive, hitting the scan button often to try to get a station, and as I neared Cleveland, the rock and roll spirit of the city reached out to me as a hit to the scan button pulled in "Manic Depression." If Jimi wants me to visit the Hall, then surely I'm going. But at some point, squinting through the pounding rain, I was seeing too many trees and I had to admit I wasn't in Cleveland anymore.

With that chance for a significant break lost in the rain, I formed a new aspiration: beat the Chicago rush hour. I tried to calculate whether that was at all possible. Probably not, but at least get into the front end of the massive clog of cars that makes it crashingly obvious every day that Route 90 in Chicago is nowhere near what it ought to be. Newly inspired to make good time, I abandoned the thought of stopping for a mid-trip meal. I drove straight through, subsisting on a woeful Atkins diet of Diet Pepsi and cashew nuts. I reached Chicago at 5:30 p.m. and spent an hour--only an hour--making my way through America's biggest bottleneck. Finally, I broke free of the Chicago snarl to the Wisconsin leg of the trip. I was entertained by a beautiful sunset the whole way.

And now, here I am back in Madison, with three issues of the NYT to peruse and three crossword puzzles to polish off. I'll go in to my office and tie up the various loose ends: recommendation letters to sign, class materials to deliver to the copy shop, etc. I still haven't looked to see what day the first day of class is. Oh, September 2d. Thirteen more days. Half a month is left to vacation! That's an odd realization. I just dropped off my son to begin law school orientation, which gave the distinct impression that classes are about to begin, but thirteen days: that is rather a substantial chunk of vacation time. Which I am happy to spend in Madison, Wisconsin.

August 19, 2004

Leaving Ithaca.

It's dawn as I sit in the Statler Hotel looking out into the misty city of Ithaca. Time for me to make my way home. Having driven out here with the trusty Beetle packed with things for a law school dorm room, I'm about to toss my little bag into the tiny trunk and head back west. I intend to make it back the whole way today. I plan to see a lot of Route 90. The only real question is whether I'll take the off ramp to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when I hit Cleveland.

The National Anthem at the Olympics.

Maureen Dowd writes (in a column about how our foreign policy has toned down athlete exuberance at the Olympics): "Even our warlike national anthem has been transformed, from blaring horns to peaceful, soothing strings."

I wonder who provided that strange arrangement. I don't have the musical knowledge to express what has been changed about the anthem as played at the Olympics medal ceremonies, but it's beyond "peaceful" and "soothing." It's mournful, even regretful, reproachful, like the reprise of a once-joyful song at the end of a tragic play. Did the U.S. submit the music played like that, or is it a product of Greece or the Olympic Committee? I'd like to know.

And speaking of plays, Dowd uses the Greek Olympics to work in the old Greek play concept of hubris and to lash out against Bush over Iraq, because everything these days has to be turned into an occasion to talk about Bush and Iraq. Good thing she got her column done before Paul Hamm's victory yesterday, because it would have messed up the theme of American defeat she's burbling over. Our basketball players can't win because they aren't allowed to swagger because Bush .... etc., etc.

UPDATE: Geitner Simmons is looking for some answers. One theory is that the mournful sound just happens if your play the anthem without brass instruments. He also has some good material about the words of the anthem: it's not as "warlike" as Dowd assumes. And let me add a few words. Sometimes people say we need a different anthem, one without the word "bombs" in it. But the bombs in the anthem are lighting, making it possible to see the flag from time to time during the night. Dawn, light, twilight, gleaming, stars, red glare, bombs bursting: these words are all about light. Without the words, we have a melody that predates the War of 1812, and isn't even about battles. Here are the original words of the song, which is an ode to drinking. Interestingly enough, for present Olympics purposes, Olympus is mentioned, along with a lot of Greek gods. If Dowd or anyone else hears war in the melody alone, it is the mind calling up a (mis)interpretation of Key's words. I'm sure Dowd could extract a column from the original words. Anacreon, with his sons, is clearly George H.W. Bush. Wisecracks about the younger Bush's drinking are within easy reach. And I can just imagine what she'd do with the line: "So my sons from your Crackers no mischief shall dread."

ANOTHER UPDATE: The Washington Post gets to the bottom of the Olympics rendition of the anthem here.

Wisconsin celebrates.

August 18, 2004

Hotels with "High-speed Internet Access."

So let's say you want a hotel with internet access, and you find a hotel with a website that says "High-speed Internet Access." What's the least you would expect? I mean, if you followed a sign for drinking fountains, you'd expect more than a hose, right? If the sign said "restrooms," you'd expect more than, oh, a tree, right? I made a point of reserving a room that assured me "High-speed Internet Access," and what was there? A phone jack dangling at the end of a phone cord! Insane hotel dialogue:
How is a phone line internet access? Every hotel has a phone that you could disconnect the jack from and plug it into your computer and use the modem.

Well, you see, some hotels have "high-speed internet access" and some, like ours, require you to use a dial-in connection.

But every hotel has a phone, so every hotel lets you use dial-in, and your website said "high-speed internet access." You mean, just because there's a dangling phone wire that doesn't need to be disconnected from the phone that there's internet access?

You need to understand that there is "high-speed internet access," which some hotels have, and regular internet access.

A phone line? You mean, I need to pay for a phone call to connect?"

It's a local phone call. Here. Just use your AOL account ....

I need to be an AOL customer?

What is your dial-up service provider?

The University of Wisconsin. That would be a long distance call. You expect me to use the phone line, with long distance charges?

I won't dramatize how many times the swarm of desk personnel professed ignorance about the website that you can check for yourself at the link. I'll just proceed to the next subject:
Well, is there somewhere nearby with WiFi? A restaurant or a café?

There's an internet café ....

I mean, a regular café where they have WiFi ... [pause] ... a wireless connection to use with my laptop?

There's the public library ....

Isn't there a Starbucks or ...

[Proudly] We don't have Starbucks ...

Or any café with wireless?

They knew of no such thing or didn't even know what I was talking about. But they were obliging to call the Cornell Statler (which previously hadn't had vacancies) and get me a room with real high-speed internet access. They cancelled my reservation for me and lost my business. Good work, Holiday Inn Ithaca. Wandering around for a place to eat lunch, I passed several cafés within three blocks of the hotel that had WiFi. If the Holiday Inn could have just pointed me toward one, I would not have moved to a different hotel. How deceptive to advertise on the website that you have high-speed internet access when you have nothing but a phone line, and how abysmally lame not to know how to point out the places nearby that have WiFi!

Greetings from Ithaca.

We made it most of the way to Ithaca yesterday, ending up at the northern tip of one of the westernmost Fingerlakes. So yesterday was a day of dogged driving:

Though when we hit New York (the state), we got off the interstate (90) and took a more leisurely drive, with the sun setting in the rearview mirror, along Route 20, where it was fun to slow down and see the tiny towns, like Brockton:

This morning, we had breakfast at the Two Sisters Homestead Café in Waterloo, somewhere on Route 20 between Lake Seneca and Lake Cayuga:

We drove down Route 89, the length of Lake Cayuga, stopping to see Taughannock Falls:

And now, we're in Ithaca, where moving John into the dorm at Cornell Law School was accomplished, and we sat down for some oversized salad at the cookbook-famous Moosewood Café:

August 17, 2004

Art and the Audi TT Coupe.

Peter Bagge has a cool new comic that goes on at some length about the foibles of the world of fine art but ends up in an interesting place: in love with the beauty of the Audi TT Coupe and Japanese candy wrappers.

Which party can a moderate choose?

A question raised by yesterday's last post is: If I were registering to vote today, would I register as a Democrat? The answer is no. I would have to register as an independent. What I regret, and I think many people regret, is the polarization of the two parties. There used to be liberal Republicans and conservative Democrats. Of course, I have no interest in the retrograde conservative Democrats of years ago, but find the old-style liberal Republicans quite attractive. Bring them back, convincingly, and I would feel at home. Now, I know the Republican Convention is planning to present a liberal face. The face of Arnold? I find that attractive, but I suspect it will be no more convincing than the Democrats tough-on-security convention.

August 16, 2004

"Althouse Independents."

Much as I like to see my name in print, I don't know if I'm to feel flattered by that term, coined over at Daly Thoughts to refer to people who call themselves independent and even feel independent, but are really predictably Republican or a Democrat when it comes to voting. Daly has read this post of mine, in which I recount my presidential preferences going back to 1960 and reveal that I've only voted for one Republican (Gerald Ford)(and that I also supported Nixon in 1960 and Goldwater in 1964, before I was old enough to vote). (Yes, I'm quite old, readers--older than John Edwards.) Daly writes:
She may be undecided right now, but when push comes to shove the overwhelming majority of those just like her are going to end up going for Kerry. And those who are like her except for that they usually vote Republican will overwhelmingly end up going for Bush.
First, a modest point. I've actually never labelled myself an "independent." Everywhere I've ever registered to vote, I've registered as a Democrat. It has, however, been almost 20 years since I've needed to register, but I've never felt the call to go declare myself something other than that. I vote in the Democratic primaries. (I voted for Edwards, in case you're interested.) I do frequently call myself a "moderate" or a "centrist." But this is the much more important point: this is the first election since 9/11. In every other election, I was presumptively for the Democratic candidate all along. When I voted for Ford, I was for Carter until I was halfway to the voting booth. In none of those years--save for the 24-hour period before I voted for Ford--would I ever have called myself undecided. During the 2000 campaign, I was mocking the late undecideds just as many of you are now: What's wrong with these people? Why can't they decide? Why do they keep interviewing these losers on TV? Or are they just posing as undecided to get on TV?

I'm really not one of those people. I'm one of the people whose politics were changed by 9/11. Prior to 9/11, my disagreement with the social conservatives kept me from having much of any interest in Republican presidential candidates. After 9/11, I became quite bonded to George Bush. If I had to vote today, I would vote for Bush, because at this point, I cannot trust Kerry on security matters. Kerry has allowed himself to stand for so many different things, according to what is expedient at the moment. I didn't buy the strong-on-security pitch of the convention, which I know was aimed at shoring up support from centrists like me. The problem there is that I just don't believe them. (And I note that I've just written "them" and not Kerry. I was going to edit that out, but I'm going to leave it in, because it signifies my queasy feeling that Kerry is a device for returning to power a party that doesn't stand for much of any of the things that were promoted at the convention.) What would appeal to me from the Republican side, along with a convincing case that they really are competent about the security issues we assume they care more about, would be a more libertarian approach to social issues.

Unfortunately, both parties have to attend their "base," and, whenever they do, I don't like them. Because of that, I keep my distance. I don't love any of these people, and I don't have to vote today. So I will wait and see what happens in the world between now and November, and I'll watch all the debates (and blog about it). And, given my kiss-of-death history of voting, I'll probably vote for the loser.

Finally, let me just comment on my two recent blogpolls. First, I did not sign the petition to get Nader on the Wisconsin ballot. At the time of this post, 69.6% percent of you thought I did. Why didn't I? One reason is that I don't like to sign any petitions. But another reason is, as a general rule, I don't want to see an overloaded ballot, so a place on the ballot should be reserved only if there are enough people who actually want to vote for Nader. I don't want to vote for him. And I'm not so devoted to Bush that I would sign just to try to help him. What makes all you readers think I would? On this other poll, the votes make more sense. Nearly everyone either believes me when I say I'm undecided or thinks I'm taking an objective perspective as a way to write a better blog. Only twenty percent think I'm posing as an undecided voter as a strategy to influence people to support a particular candidate, and I'm heartened to see that the twenty percent split right down the middle about whether my secret preference is Kerry or Bush.

Iraq TV.

Television is transformed in Iraq, reports the NYT. It's not all propaganda or even all war and politics anymore. "We have no agenda," says the founder of a new Baghdad station, "We just want to inform and entertain and basically to help people to cope with their daily lives." Ah, he wants an Oprah.

What surprises me about the return of the preppy look.

I'm not surprised that the preppy look is replacing the grunge or goth or bondage look or whatever what we've been subjected to lately should be called. The fashion pendulum always swings. Each look provides the reason why the opposite look will seem fresh and new. And I'm not surpised that the NYT is running a front page story to tell us the news that grunge has given way to the preppy. What surprises me is that the NYT has run a front-page article telling us this news without calling upon a single political analyst, popular sociologist, or culture studies guru to tell us what it means. Surely, at the very least, some political expert could have told us this is the leading edge of the Bush landslide victory. Or some academic feminist could have cautioned us about encroaching patriarchy. Or some obscure lawprof blogger could opine that the lack of interest in the quotes of pop-culture-monitoring academics is part of the aftermath of 9/11.

"Warner's Tryst With Bloggers Hits Sour Note."

And the NYT's seduction of bloggers with headlines hits a sweet note. So let's see what the situation is here. Warner music, which is naturally against free MP3 files on the web, wanted to take advantage of blogs that offer music files along with music criticism. The blogs are popular, presumably based on the quality of the music writing. Irresistible marketing opportunity for the big music company? No one familiar with sites that allow comments should be surprised if industry people are posting anonymously defending their product. Outing these people is an old game, isn't it?

But a Warner employee, Ian Cripps, had a new idea. He emailed music files to some bloggers with the message:
"We are very interested in blogs and I was wondering if you could post this mp3," he wrote. "It's by one of our new bands - The Secret Machines. They are an indie rock band and we would love for people to hear the band's music from your site. Here it is, listen to it and let me know if you will post it. Thanks!!"
Those two exclamation points just beg for love and trust, don't they?
Some bloggers saw the message from Warner as a sign that the major labels might spare their sites while cracking on illegal file sharing.

"We didn't know if there was a wink that came along with it that said, 'We don't have a problem with what you're doing,' " said Mark Willett, a contributor to Music for Robots a popular MP3 blog that attracts about 2,400 visitors a day.
Music for Robots--which uses authorized downloads and links to online stores--looks good. The top post right now, which has a cool Peter Kuper drawing, analyzes four anti-war songs.
In an almost apologetic blog entry titled "Music for Robots Sells Out," Mr. Willett wrote that the song was appearing there not because the band needed the exposure, but to establish a relationship with Warner and to let readers know what was going on.
(Would it kill the Times to link to the post?) Most of the blogs snubbed Warners, though, for the reason implied by Robots' post title.

The Robots' comment section drew some suspicious comments like:
"I never heard these guys before, but theyre awesome ... I went to their website and you can listen to a lot of ther other stuff, very cool and very good!"
And it turns out, it was supremely easy for Willett to trace these commenters back to Warners. Warners makes exactly the excuse you'd think they would make: must just be some fans of the band that happen to work in the company. Blog mockery ensued. How pathetic to fall back on the old anonymous fan comment right when you're trying to do something new and blog-friendly! And to write lame, inarticulate, "awesome!" comments with misspellings is a gratuitous insult to teenage music lovers everywhere.

Digression: Remember when Warner was called "Warner Brothers"? I remember an old Jerry Garcia quote, when he was complaining about big record companies: "There isn't even a Warner brother."

August 15, 2004

My scotoma.

This afternoon, I was reading something on the computer screen, when I realized I could not see a spot about the size of one letter in the center of the screen. Instead of the letter I was trying to read I saw a spot of roiling light. I stopped reading and looked around and the roiling light spot was getting larger and opening up into an arc, a backwards c, that glittered and took on a zigzag shape and moved gradually off to the right. It looked the same if I closed one eye or another, signifying that nothing was wrong with an eye, but that my brain had to be the problem. I did not, however become alarmed. I had read Oliver Sacks's book "Migraine" and knew about the pre-migraine visual disturbance called "scotoma." I googled "scotoma," went to the second item Google retrieved, and found this, an animation of "a classic migrainous scintillating scotoma from a small paracentral bright spot to an enlarging bright, curved, zig-zag line (the scintillation)." The animation was precisely what I saw--save that mine exited stage right instead of stage left. The website predicted it would last 10 to 20 minutes, and in fact that was exactly so: the arc slipped out through my peripheral vision.

That was, for me, the all-time best performance by the internet. But yes, I did still call the doctor, mostly because it happened again a half hour later. I got sent to the emergency room, where I told the story of my scotoma to five different people, with the final verdict coming from the neurologist who said, given that I never did get a migraine headache out of all of this, that it was a "migraine equivalent."


Two cricket things.

Hong Kong police arrested 115 men for illegally gambling on insect fights on Sunday in the same building that housed a cricket lovers' association, a police spokesman said.

Police seized about 300 crickets and $1,025 in cash during the bust, said police spokesman T.K. Ng. ...
A rabbit set alight by a bonfire at a British cricket club got its revenge when it ran burning into a hut and set it ablaze destroying costly equipment, the club said on Friday.

Members of Devizes cricket club in Wiltshire, western England, were burning dead branches when a rabbit caught up in the waste sped burning from the flames spreading a fire which destroyed lawnmowers and tools worth $110,000.

"After it had been going 5 minutes, the rabbit shot out of the bonfire on fire and went into the hut which is our equipment store," club chairman John Bedbrook told Reuters.

Two fire engines were called to extinguish the blaze. The rabbit's skeleton was discovered in the charred hut.

"The firemen were certainly concerned about the rabbit. They felt sorry for it," said Bedbrook.

Two blue things.

1. I love this! Click on the "slideshow" for Claude Cormier's "Blue Tree," the first slide.

2. I've only gone to the theater for two movies this year ("Kill Bill, Vol. 2" and "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"), but unless this gets terrible reviews, I'm going. Click on the "slideshow" and go to the second slide for the beautiful blue. [UPDATE: Rotten Tomatoes is showing 100% freshness for this one, so I will certainly go.]

Ask an econometrician if he's a Republican. Go ahead! Ask!

Pithy NYT Magazine interviewer Deborah Solomon asks Ray C. Fair (who sees fair and is racy):
Are you a Republican?

FAIR: I can't credibly answer that question. Using game theory in economics, you are not going to believe me when I tell you my political affiliation because I know that you know that I could be behaving strategically. If I tell you I am a Kerry supporter, how do you know that I am not lying or behaving strategically to try to put more weight on the predictions and help the Republicans?

Great answer! These econometricians are such cards! Fair is saying Bush will win by a landslide--which is what I've been saying, close associates will confirm--and he's for Kerry, he admits (though apparently, on his own terms, we shouldn't believe him). Personally, I'm undecided.

Leaving Madison.

I'm the only Madison profblogger in town. Nina's in Venice (drinking a Bellini), Gordon's in New Orleans (eating at Bayona), Jeremy's in San Francisco (being recognized by sociologists for looking like his cartoon), and Tonya's in Booth Lake, Wisconsin (having a thoroughly family-style vacation). Don't I ever leave Madison (where I see, from the front page of the NYT, I live next to a nuclear reactor, which I never knew before)? But I will be leaving town soon enough. I'm going to give my son a ride to Ithaca. He's going to Cornell Law School, so it's a big adventure (vicariously, for me). We're going to load up the little Beetle with whatever we can and head out into the wilds of New York. Email me if you have any advice about what to do in Ithaca and where you would stop if you were driving in from the west and wanted to stay for the night someplace that was almost but not all the way to Ithaca.

Redefining sex appeal.

Diana Nyad writes--with approval--in today's NYT about the Olympians posing in Playboy. She likes that they are redefining female beauty:
The definition of sex appeal seems to have gone under the knife, and it is athletes — not just plastic surgeons — who are carving out the new look. Back in the 1960's, when I was a swimmer in high school with sizable shoulders and triceps, wearing a sleeveless blouse inspired unconcealed shock and dismay. Today, the running-back physique of Serena Williams may be setting the standard for a new femininity.
Of course, this new standard of beauty is much harder to achieve than the old one! But at least it's a powerful model to aspire to and you'll get some exercise trying.

UPDATE: Best letter to the NYT on the subject, from Keith Emmer:
It would be fitting if this year's Olympic Games in Athens marked the end of an era of denigrating athletes who choose to pose nude. After all, in the original Olympic Games in Greece, the athletes competed nude.
Not to be a killjoy, but one of the reasons the ancient Greeks thought women could not compete was that they could not compete in the nude, and women were barred from even viewing the Olympics, with the nudity of the men cited as the reason. And then there's this--from the sfgate article just linked--making a point about the politics of nudity that makes an interesting contrast to the more familiar feminist point about "objectifying" women:
So embedded was competing in the nude that our word gymnasium comes from the Greek gymnos for "naked," [UC Berkeley archaeologist Stephen] Miller notes in the book ["Ancient Greek Athletics"], an in-depth account of a culture that loved to watch the well-proportioned bodies of young men, their skin glistening with olive oil, compete not for medals but for a sprig of olive or bunch of wild celery.

On a deeper level, Miller said, nude competition helped foster one of ancient Greece's best-known contributions to posterity -- democracy. Nudity, he said, erases marks of rank and privilege.

"It came to me that the locker room is inherently one of the most democratic places in human experience," he said, "and that -- at the very least -- Greek athletics provided an environment in which democracy could, and did, prosper."

"We do not know the origins of competition in the nude," he writes in the book, but we do know the custom helped doom the Olympics to disfavor when Rome took over the Mediterranean world.

"Athletics were less successfully received in the West because the Romans were highly suspicious of nudity," writes Miller.
Mmmm .... celery.

Kerry--substance and style.

Substance: I'm glad to see John Kerry is taking a strong position on Darfur (as far as I can tell). Not much press coverage about it.

Style: Why does the official Kerry-Edwards blog display text so wide that I'm forced to scroll horizontally over and back to read each line? Is it to give a person who is merely reading Kerry's words the feeling of tedium and exasperation that you could otherwise only get from listening to him?

This display problem occurs using a small-screened iBook, using Safari and Mozilla. Let me try Explorer, which I'm trying to avoid, given various security problems I've heard about. Okay, now it looks right. Don't they test out their page with different browsers?