June 18, 2005

Nun crucified.

A 23-year-old nun was literally crucified in a botched attempt at exorcism -- in Romania.
"God has performed a miracle for her, finally Irina is delivered from evil," AFP quoted the priest as saying.

"I don't understand why journalists are making such a fuss about this. Exorcism is a common practise in the heart of the Romanian Orthodox church and my methods are not at all unknown to other priests," Father Daniel added.

Irini Cornici, who grew up in an orphanage, suffered from schizophrenia. She "was denied food and drink throughout her [three-day] ordeal, had been tied and chained to the cross and a towel pushed into her mouth to smother any sounds."

UPDATE: Indictments.

On blogging about Batman without comic book expertise.

Anthony Rickey has a problem with this post of mine about “Batman Begins."

He seems to think I must have gone to the movie knowing not only that Scarecrow was the villain but also that Scarecrow’s modus operandi is steaming people insane. I hate to tell you but I hadn’t the slightest idea who the villain was, and I’d never heard of Scarecrow. I like to see movies without knowing the story, so I use methods of finding out only as much as I need in order to decide whether I want to see it. Thus, since I’m interested in the director Christopher Nolan (from “Memento”) and I saw on Rotten Tomatoes that his movie had 82% "fresh" reviews, I read nothing more about it.

Rickey takes issue with another post of mine about the movie. I wrote:
I noticed a right-wing edge to some key statements: "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding." Take that, you Gitmo critics! And it was quite clear that we were supposed to think about the criminals as al-Qaeda. Here was this "League of Shadows," based in Asia, bent on destroying "Gotham." We were nudged constantly to make this connection.

He writes:

OK, look, can I make a deal with folks like Prof. Althouse? If we leave things like the First Amendment in their bailiwick, can they please not drag their politics into our comic books?

Hmmm.... Fanboys and their comic books! They're possessive, aren't they?

Let me just quote David Denby again: the movie is “so overdone and underfelt that [it’s] hell to sit through.” Having endured that ordeal, I’ll blog whatever observations I happen to have. The whole point of this blog is to drift in and out of my bailiwick as the spirit moves me.

I don’t go to the movies that often, but when I do, I post in my own style. And I don’t review movies. I blog about them. Here’s the prototype for my movie-blogging, a post about “House of Sand and Fog,” written on January 15, 2004, the second day in the life of this blog. And here’s my post on “Kill Bill: Volume 2.”

Anyway, Rickey shares his comic-fan expertise in an attempt to refute my observation that the terrorists in the film represent al Qaeda:
Ra's al Ghul started off as a Batman villain in the early '70s, long before anyone had even considered something called al-Qaeda. And far from shoving an al-Qaeda riff down our throats, the movie does everything it can to move the film away from anything vaguely Islamic. He's played by Ken Watanabe, for crying out loud. The scenes with him in it (or, see spoiler below) seem to be set in Nepal instead of Arabia. And the "Society of Shadows"--a fanatical organization devoted to his will--is part of the character of Ra's and has been, so far as I know, since his creation.

Obviously, the filmmakers didn’t do everything they could to eliminate the al Qaeda feeling, since they kept the Arabic name Ra’s al Ghul (“the demon’s head"). (And we were certainly familiar with Arab terrorism back in the early 70s.) I didn’t go out of my way to think about al Qaeda. I don’t care whether the original comic writers meant to say anything about al Qaeda, the filmmakers would be obtuse if they didn’t see the connections people would make. Just attacking New York City is enough to push us down that particular thought path. As for using Nepal: it was reminiscent of Afghanistan, the source of most of our al Qaeda imagery.

But what really interests me is not whether we moviegoers see a terrorist group and think al Qaeda – of course, we do – but whether Batman is right wing. The line I quoted – "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding" – struck me as distinctly right wing. But Batman, in this film, had some lefty instincts too. He was concerned with the roots of crime in poverty. On the other hand, he gleefully extracted information from a man by using torture (dangling him from a tall building and letting him drop part way).

Rickey points me to this old post of his in which he compares the politics of Spiderman and Batman, so it’s not that he objects to analyzing the politics of the film. He just seems to think you have to know the material from the comic books to analyze the movie. I can’t see why that would be. Movies based on books, including comic books, usually deviate from the books. Who feels they need to know the book to talk about the movie?

The blogger's favorite phobia.

Fear of editors.

I love to write, but I feel an unspeakable dread when faced with editing. Like right now. Just forming a mental picture of a FedEx envelope makes me feel bad. I'm sure some people dread publishing without having anyone check their work first. These people are not bloggers.

Basement rock.

Originally uploaded by John Cohen.
The basement chez Althouse was a favorite practice spot for many years. Now, everyone's dispersed, but much of the chalkings and posters are still there.

The Loft in Madison.

Originally uploaded by John Cohen.
Remember the Loft, the old Loft, now sacrificed to the very posh Overture Center? They had a cool Battle of the Bands every year. I took this picture once when Four O'Clock Tragedy played. My son John partly visible behind an amp.

Four O'Clock Tragedy.

Originally uploaded by John Cohen.
Another musical picture I took a while back that John -- the boy in the shadows here -- scanned the other day. This was taken at the Loft here in Madison.

ADDED: The post title is the name of this band, a different band -- very different -- from Toy Gun (in the previous post).

Toy Gun.

Originally uploaded by John Cohen.
Just a little band that used to practice chez Althouse. I took this picture a few years back. Only one of these is my son.

Film fakery.

I went looking for some reviews that expressed what I thought of "Batman Begins" and found this, from David Denby:
This is an overly methodical and heavy-spirited movie—pop without rapture. Bruce comes back to Gotham and slowly assembles the elements of his costume, his vehicle, and his mode of operation—the kind of equipment fetishism that used to be tossed off in a few barbed exchanges between Sean Connery and Desmond Llewelyn’s Q in the old Bond films. And I miss Anton Furst’s urban-grotesque production design from the first movie—the curious, malign details pulled out of the night. Most of this movie is just dark, and the familiar trope of a high-flying passage through Gotham’s bunched skyscrapers isn’t as thrilling as it was years ago. The young Welsh-born actor Christian Bale is a serious fellow, but the most interesting thing about him—a glinting sense of superiority—gets erased by the dull earnestness of the screenplay, and the filmmakers haven’t developed an adequate villain for him to go up against. The return of Liam Neeson late in the movie is a bust, and the action climax, in which the water supply threatens to combine with a vicious white powder floating around the city (the mixture will drive everyone crazy, or at least make them sneeze), is cheesy and unexciting.

The real failing is Nolan’s. There’s very little sense of Batman’s awesome surveillance of the city from the heights; he just drops out of nowhere, thrashes all the bad guys in a whirl of movement that is shot too close, and edited too rapidly, for us to see much of anything, and then elevates out of the frame. In “Memento,” Nolan and his editor, Dody Dorn, created a new syntax for movies. It’s depressing to see Nolan now relying on the same fakery as everyone else.
Yes, exactly.

And about that crazy-making steam... Wouldn't that have been a great choice for the threat in an extremely low budget movie? Blow in some steam and have the actors act crazy.

"A latte a day on borrowed money? It's crazy."

Students shouldn't go to cafés? The Washington Post weighs the question and points to a website that does the calculation: "a five-day-a-week $3 latte habit on borrowed money can cost $4,154, when repaid over 10 years."

How bad is that, really? You might easily blow $4,154 on a single vacation after college or getting a few extra options on your car. By contrast, it seems extremely sensible to buy years of a daily pleasure, which gives you some nutrition and focuses your mind and which gets you out of your little room or the library and puts you in a bustling, social environment, where you have your own little table and can get some good studying done.

A café is not just the coffee. It is an entire hours-long experience that contributes to your success as a student. It's true that to be financially savvy you have to realize that you spend a lot of money by spending a small amount of money on a daily basis, but there are much worse daily expenses that call out to students: bars, movies, cigarettes, fatty snacks.

I think the café-going student is operating at a high level, making a good choice. Do the calculation for yourself and think about whether Future You approves of that expense. I think the answer will be yes!

Do Segways increase or decrease air pollution?

As the New York State Legislature considers whether to classify the Segway as a motorized vehicle (like a car) or a a "personal assistive mobility device" (like a wheelchair), environmentalists are taking the position that the Segway increases air pollution by troubling pedestrians, pressuring them to switch to using cars.

I switched from walking to work, which I did for fifteen years, to driving, in part because I got quite annoyed by people bicycling on the sidewalk. Bicyclists at least know they are wrong, but rationalize that they need to protect themselves from cars. But Segways supposedly belong on the sidewalk, yet on most sidewalks, if two people are walking together, there is not enough room for the Segway to pass them. The thing clearly seems capable of knocking you down. There don't seem to be enough of them right now to matter much. They simply haven't caught on. (Because you look like a dork riding one?) People are tolerant of carelessly driven motorized wheelchairs -- which I see a lot of -- but insensitively driven Segways are going to drive pedestrians crazy.

Which is an environmental problem.

"Replacing one right-winger for a right-winger."

Senator Kennedy spouts opinions about replacing Chief Justice Rehnquist. If President Bush were to attempt to elevate either Antonin Scalia or Clarence Thomas to the position, it "would be completely troublesome," and Thomas -- only Thomas -- would surely be defeated.
Intriguingly, Kennedy said that of the three oft-mentioned, younger appeals court judges who are candidates for the chief justice slot - J. Michael Luttig, John Roberts or Michael McConnell - one would be acceptable. "I'm not going to get into which one" because that would be "the kiss of death" for that person, he said.

June 17, 2005

Two posts on movie trailers? Althouse, have you finally gone to the movies again?

Why, yes, I have. Yes, I have. Impulsively, I darted out to see "Batman Begins," as you might have guessed from my first post today.

And? How was it?

Well, it was a big messy melange of things. No opening credits, so I had to wait to the end to go, oh, so that's Katie Holmes. Not that I had never read that she was in this movie. Just that I forgot. I knew it was Christian Bale, looking baleful. Looking a bit like Tom Cruise actually. Holmes looked a lot like Drew Barrymore. The School of Crooked Smiles acting. Morgan Freeman, I recognized him. He's always someone who's boringly solid and good. Does that piss him off? Oh, I have to be that guy again. Liam Neeson, Michael Caine -- I recognized them -- pouring great ladlefuls of talent on undersized roles.

Lots of shadowy black-and-grey sets with smoggy mists and glinting puddles. You could play a game of counting all the hidden bat-shaped images in various shots.

The Batmobile was the ugliest Batmobile ever. More like a super-clunky SUV than a great sports car. It seemed to handle really badly. But, implausibly, it could fly. The flying car in the trailer for "The Dukes of Hazzard" was more convincing.

I noticed a right-wing edge to some key statements: "Criminals thrive on the indulgence of society's understanding." Take that, you Gitmo critics! And it was quite clear that we were supposed to think about the criminals as al-Qaeda. Here was this "League of Shadows," based in Asia, bent on destroying "Gotham." We were nudged constantly to make this connection.

The beginning of the movie was interestingly scenic in a "Lord of the Rings" way, and involved a lot of learning how to fight, Asian-style, in a "Kill Bill: Volume 2" way. But why did Bruce Wayne learn all about swordplay, and then concoct a Batman persona who has nothing to do with swordfighting? And what was Christian Bale holding onto at the end of that ice slide that kept him from falling over the precipice? Somebody conveniently installed a handle, apparently.

And why was the speech on the soundtrack all muddled? Whenever Batman had his costume on, his voice was altered in a supposed-to-be scary way that seemed to belong in a children's movie. And when they identified one of the villains early on as "Ra's al Ghul," I was all, what did he say? Al Gore?

Willie Wonka ≈ Michael Jackson.

Did Johnny Depp base his Willie Wonka character on Michael Jackson?

Based on the trailer, I'd say so. An apt choice, isn't it? The Chocolate Factory ≈ Neverland.

UPDATE: Chris emails:
Why didn't you mention in your Johnny Depp post that this is the second consecutive role in which he seems to indirectly be playing Michael Jackson (the first being Finding Neverland)? I agree that he looks eerily like Jackson in the trailer.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's my conclusion, after seeing the movie, about whether Depp based his character on Michael Jackson.

"Quirky situations."

Since when is that a basis for giving a movie a PG rating?

(Seen on the trailer for the movie "Sky High," which looked insufferable. Doesn't "quirky" imply some charm? I saw none.)

"The evident rush of adrenaline that comes from confronting America's boneheaded middle class."

Virginia Heffernan looks at Suze Orman.
Consider just one typical exhortation, derived by Ms. Orman from the given importance of people over money. She recently told the daughter of a mooch that she ought to leave her father to his bottomless debt, just as the woman's mother had done.

Speaking of the mother, Ms. Orman said, "She had the courage to look at the man that she loved and say, 'Sweetheart, you're going down the drain, but you're not taking me with you!' " This, she told the tremulous girl, is what she should also say to her father: down the drain with you.

Heffernan doesn't resist referring to "her hectic manner and garish appearance" and "the kick she gets from divining the straits her guests are in - "Crossing Over"-style."

Orman has invented a pretty cool TV niche for herself, hasn't she? What do you think? Can't switch channels fast enough? Or do you mean to click past but find yourself strangely fascinated?

"You can't get more desperate than that."

From Stephen Holden's review of "The Perfect Man":
The wittiest character [is] Jean's co-worker Lenny Horton (Mike O'Malley), a weepy lug obsessed with the band Styx who falls head over heels for his vanilla yogurt dream girl the moment he lays on eyes on her. Even after he screeches "Lady" under her window, Jean is so desperate for a husband that she refuses to rule him out as a possibility. You can't get more desperate than that.

Surely we can think of a few things more desperate than that ... even in movies.

And by the way, how many movies have a guy singing outside a woman's window? You'd think they wouldn't be able to get away with using that anymore.

MSN censorship.

Global Voices Online generates impressive evidence that MSN is helping the Chinese government censor blogging about things like "freedom" and "democracy." (Via Instapundit.)

I love the comments on this post, especially the way they jump on "Mike." Especially the one from "Ross" that begins "Mike, you’re a pantywaist."

"They say there is no such thing as earthquake weather..."

"... but there is."

Interested in the new Christopher Nolan film?

I haven't gone to the movies in a long time, but I'm slightly tempted to go see "Batman Begins." It's not that I love Batman, though I did like the first Tim Burton Batman movie well enough. It's that I like Christopher Nolan, who directs the new film. That is, I loved his film "Memento." "Memento" -- unlike virtually every other movie of the last twenty years -- did not underestimate your intelligence.

But one thing is bugging the hell out of me about the new Batman. As usual, they've redesigned his outfit. Superhero outfits are always ridiculous if you think about them rationally. You'll spoil the fun if you're distracted into thinking, why would that help? But the new Batman cape is so expansive and volumnious that it would be a hazard to wear if Batman were just tinkering around the stately mansion. But in a fight? Wouldn't he get all twisted up in it? Wouldn't his opponent use it as a weapon against him? And now I'm distracted into thinking that all superhero capes are counterproductive. The new Batman helmet extends rigidly around his neck and hits his shoulders. How can he even turn his head? Just sneak up alongside him. He'll never see you. And now I'm distracted into thinking that no one should ever want to wear a mask in a fight.

(One time, at a big children's party at a famous ad agency where I used to work, "Spiderman" got the kids riled up, and one of them grabbed his headgear. I was just looking on, laughing at the hijinks, when Spiderman came lumbering over to me, begging for help. I backed away. Horse around with the kids. Don't come at me. But eventually I got the message that the poor man really needed help. He couldn't see and the kids were scaring him. I straightened out the eyeholes and saved Spiderman.)

Anyway, maybe I'll overcome my distractability and give Nolan's movie a chance.

Here's a piece by Caryn James in today's NYT about the film that tries to make some political points and to compare it to the current "Star Wars" effort:
The [two] films' conflicts are not simply about good guys and bad guys, or even good versus evil, always the elements of broadly framed fantasies. With spiritual overtones, and an emphasis on an eternal struggle between equally matched forces of darkness and light, the films suggest a kind of pop-culture Manichaeism. And as crowd-pleasing movies so often do, they reflect what's in the air, a climate in which the president speaks in terms of good and evil, and religion is increasingly part of the country's social and political conversation.

Well, maybe I'll have something to say about all of that. Re Batman, at least. But I'm not going to suffer through "Star Wars" just to get into a position to make a comparison and pontificate about politics. Not that I wouldn't. I just can't put up with the experience of sitting through it.

Did you see the NYT op-ed about “Star Wars” by Neal Stephenson? I just wrote about that for GlennReynolds.com, ending my week of guest-blogging over there. If you have any comments about that, feel free to use the comments section of this post.

June 16, 2005

Is the glass half full or half empty?

I'm sorry, but why is the glass in question always half full? What about one quarter full or three quarters empty? Let's really have a challenge for your damned optimism.

AFTERTHOUGHT: And even when it's half full, why aren't we saying, half full of what? Something awful, I'll bet.

Are you sure that was meant as a compliment?

"What William Faulkner implies, Erskine Caldwell records." That's a quote from the Chicago Tribune on the cover of "God's Little Acre" by Erskine Caldwell.

"Did you find everything that you were looking for?"

I'm sitting near the checkout counter at Borders now. I notice they ask every customer that question. I think it would be funny if Bono were a customer.

Female on one side and male on the other.

It happened to a crab.

Thursday afternoon.

I've just finished the first week of my five-week summer class. I like the summer format with 4 days in a row of 2-hour classes. Very intense! No room for the illusion that we've got plenty of time to get to everything. You get a nice feeling of total immersion ... with a bit of a rest over the long weekend. And then it will be time to dive back in.

The long weekend is a good time for blogging. I went out after class for some lunch-and-blogging, but the WiFi at my usual lunch café was malfunctioning, so I left pretty soon and went home only to find the WiFi wasn't working there. The cable provider must be having some troubles today, so I went back out, to Borders, to pick up the T-Mobile Hotspot. I have a free subscription that came with something or other, and it's about to expire, but at least I've got it today when the cable is malfunctioning. So here I am blogging in the café at Borders.

A man walks into the café and says "Is there a doctor in the house?" Everyone looks over. We see he's just a guy who's got a funny way to say hi to a friend of his he's spotted in the café -- presumably, the friend is a doctor. We're all amused I think. I've never heard anyone seriously say "Is there a doctor in the house?" -- and I still haven't.

Here's an idle question: If you're ailing only slightly and it's a miserable, rainy day, are you still under the weather?

But I'm feeling fine, and the weather here in Madison is lovely.



"A G-Man's Life: The FBI, Being 'Deep Throat' and the Struggle for Honor in Washington."

I'm bestowing the award for Clunky Working Title of the Day.

Attention lawyers!

Newly deepened pocket!

For Bloomsday.

Why not help out with the "Finnegan's Wake" Wiki? Or just start reading, with help...

UPDATE: Sheila O'Malley has tons of Bloomsday posts. Keep scrolling.

The shock of the new.

Everything over at The Truth Laid Bear looks different now. The familiar categories remain, but the design is all-new and there are some new features. Check it out.

June 15, 2005

Standing in the doorway.

Originally uploaded by John Cohen.
Can you do this?

This is a picture I took quite a few years ago, but John just uploaded it to Flickr.

A woman is ordered to marry her rapist and to become her husband's mother.

BBC reports:
An Indian woman who was allegedly raped by her father-in-law is now being ordered by a Muslim council of community elders to marry him.

The council says under Islamic law the rape has nullified her marriage, according to media reports....

When the incident came to the notice of the council, it ordered that she marry her father-in-law and change her relationship with her husband to that between a mother and son....

A representative of a top Muslim body in India, the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, said the case should be dealt under Islamic law.

"Under the Sharia law, whatever happened with the victim is wrong and if her father-in-law has raped her, he should be sentenced to death," the representative, Zafarab Geelani, said.

A few words about Michael.

I have a new post up over at GlennReynolds.com. It's about the end of the Michael Jackson trial. Feel free to post comments here.

Public money and religious schools.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a detailed story about the school voucher program in Milwaukee:
One: On doors throughout St. Margaret Mary School, at N. 92nd St. and Capitol Drive, there are small printed signs that say: "Be it known to all who enter here that Christ is the reason for this school."

Two: More than 10,000 students - over two-thirds of the total using publicly funded vouchers to attend private schools in Milwaukee this year - were attending religious schools.

Three: Wisconsin is putting money into religious schools in Milwaukee in ways and amounts that are without match in at least the last century of American history.
Courts have already upheld the program, so the question is not whether it violates the Establishment Clause, but whether it is good policy. What do you think?

"It's amazing ... so dreamlike and silent."

Chernobyl tourism. Wouldn't you love to take a photography tour through a city that 45,000 persons suddenly abandoned twenty years ago?
A lethal exposure of radiation ranges from 300 to 500 roentgens an hour; levels in the tour areas vary from 15 to several hundred microroentgens an hour. A microroentgen is one-millionth of a roentgen. Dangers at these levels, the agency says, lie in long-term exposure.
So why not? Let's go!

"The only description I can come up with is that it looks like a Cheech and Chong movie."

We heard a lot about California's medical marijuana law last week when the U.S. Supreme Court held that Congress's power to regulate the possession of marijuana extended all the way to homegrowing medicinal users. But users and distributers in the state did not instantly readjust their behavior. Nothing forces federal prosecutors file charges, and it is unclear how the ruling will affect state prosecutors. To what extent are federal and state authorities now at odds with each other? Maybe not as much as you might think.

Here's a front-page NYT article suggesting that, quite aside from the conflict with federal law, California authorities have been having difficulty with their own Compassionate Use program, particularly the dispensaries or "pot clubs" that distribute marijuana, presumably to those who have a doctor's authorization:
Capt. Rick Bruce of the San Francisco police said more marijuana was on the streets than at any other time in his 30 years with the department. Captain Bruce said that while there were many sick people who legitimately turned to the drug for treatment, countless dealers had used the dispensaries as a cover for illegal sales.

"It's a huge scam," said Captain Bruce, who heads the city's Bayview station, which covers some of the highest-crime neighborhoods. "We see guys coming out of these places, and the only description I can come up with is that it looks like a Cheech and Chong movie. They are what you would call your traditional potheads; whether they have a medical condition beyond that is subject to debate."...

Getting inside the dispensaries, many patients say, is not difficult. Under the state law, would-be marijuana users seeking relief from a range of ailments, from chronic pain or nausea to cancer or AIDS-related symptoms, must receive a doctor's recommendation, which is roughly the equivalent of a prescription for federally approved medicines. If their usual doctors are reluctant to make a referral, patients can turn to "compassionate physicians" who advertise their services in newspapers and on the Web.

One of those physicians, Dr. R. Stephen Ellis, whose practice is explained on www.potdoc.com, promises to refund examination fees if an appointment does not result in a recommendation. MediCann, a chain of 10 clinics in the state run by a Santa Cruz doctor, Jean Talleyrand, processes about 700 patients a week, with about three-quarters of them getting a recommendation, said a spokesman, Nicholas Jarrett....

When some drug dealers are arrested, even with large quantities of marijuana, Captain Bruce said, many of them produce a medical marijuana card and insist they have done nothing wrong.

"It might as well be the summer of love out here," Captain Bruce said.
If we think the value of federalism is that the the states will serve as "laboratories of democracy," conducting policy experiments, we need to take a scientific attitude when we assess the results of the experiment. That means looking at all the evidence the experiment produces. We can't limit our view to the very sympathetic, suffering patients who brought the lawsuit that made it to the Supreme Court. They were genuinely ill, and they grew their marijuana at home. The dispensaries and the doctors are a different part of what has happened in California after the medicial marijuana law passed. As you form your ideas about what is good policy, you need to think, unsentimentally, about the whole picture.

June 14, 2005

Defining undateable.

Tonya has some idiosyncratic ideas.

UPDATE: One of the commenters writes:
Tonya's exchange sounded like something out of a Seinfeld episode. Man hands, low talkers, one-at-a-time pea eaters...those are all dealbreakers for Jerry!
This reminds me to link to a post Jeremy wrote last week about a friend culling through some on-line dating prospects. One listed "Conan the Barbarian" as his favorite movie. Another has this possibly fatal flaw:
While he is a liberal who greatly dislikes George W. Bush, he would not, himself, name a fondness for George W. Bush as being something that would be a dealbreaker for him in a prospective partner."

I wrote something in the comments over there, and my reference is to Seinfeld and peas-one-at-a-time.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Have you ever had a big affair with someone for a long time only to discover late in the game that one of those dealbreaker facts was true of him (or her)? A dealbreaker for me is believing in astrology, which is handy since so many numbskulls blurt out references to astrology very soon after you meet them. Once I told a former lover that I had met someone I really liked but when he brought up astrology I experienced a sudden, crushingly fatal loss of respect for the man, at which point the former lover said, "I believe in astrology." Now you tell me! How much time and anguish I might have been spared. I told this story to a colleague, a professor at one of the very best law schools, and she said "I believe in astrology." Does everyone secretly believe in astrology? What's wrong with people?

The blogging life.

Blogging, I assume I'll wake up each morning, utterly empty-headed one moment, but very soon thereafter in possession of three or four ideas juicy enough to share with thousands of people. If it happens often enough, I don't worry that it will continue to happen, just like I don't worry that the next time I feel like standing up, the will to do it and the accomplishment will occur simultaneously.

What if there is no new flow of ideas? Maybe some day, some physical ailment will suddenly afflict my brain, and I'll mean to stand up and the familiar response will not take place. I'll be left to marvel that I ever knew how to do that. It won't surprise me. I plan to think: yes, this is the sort of thing I always knew could happen to me and now it has.

By the same token, I could open up the laptop and the newspaper some morning and find no inspiration, nothing coming out of me in response to that. I'll think: of course, that was going to happen sooner or later.

Guestblogging over at GlennReynolds.com this week, I'm having something of that feeling. I have ideas that I feel good about putting here -- that cat-borne parasite that makes you act like a cat, for example. But I'm inhibited from putting things over there. Nothing jumps out and seems right. I have a different threshold about what to put over there, where I'm a guest and writing under someone else's name. This place seems so cozily familiar by comparison.

Over here, I have a nice group of commenters. There are no comments at GlennReynolds.com, but I do get email. It tends to be quite different from the response of my readers here. Today, someone wrote an email that ended: "Neither you nor Jethro will respond because you're both whores, liars, and cowards." ("Jethro," in this emailer's parlance, is Glenn Reynolds!) What made us "whores"? Just blogging about Kerry's college grades. Yesterday's post about Clinton led someone to write: "Are you proud of what you've written? Brother, you are sick. This is the best of your sick, sick life. The horror..."

Now, I've got to go collect my thoughts, command my brain to think. It should respond, but maybe... Who knows?

Have cats affected your brain yet?

Have they perhaps changed your personality causing you to exhibit "sex kitten" or "alley cat" behavior?
Professor Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague ... subjected more than 300 volunteers to personality profiling while also testing them for toxoplasma.

He found the women infected with toxoplasma spent more money on clothes and were consistently rated as more attractive. “We found they were more easy-going, more warm-hearted, had more friends and cared more about how they looked,” he said. “However, they were also less trustworthy and had more relationships with men.”

By contrast, the infected men appeared to suffer from the “alley cat” effect: becoming less well groomed undesirable loners who were more willing to fight. They were more likely to be suspicious and jealous. “They tended to dislike following rules,” Flegr said.

So a disease carried by cats makes you act like a cat? That seems awfully bizarre, yet it's hard to shake off the significance of a brain-altering parasite that half of us have -- and 80-90% of French and Germans have!

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of choice wisecracks!

I know it's harsh to call a 3-year-old a "potential criminal"...

But doesn't it make sense to intervene and help a child when he's most likely to respond? (Via Memeorandum.) Not that a more tactful label wouldn't help too.

How to do politically correct research about innate sex difference.

The rule is: always portray whatever you find in the female as superior.

Here's today's example:
Chimpanzees like to snack on termites, and youngsters learn to fish for them by poking long leaf spines and other such tools into the mounds that colonies build.

In a paper to be published in the journal Animal Behavior, researchers found that female chimps in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania picked up termite fishing at a mean age of 31 months, more than two years earlier than the males.

The females seem to learn by watching their mothers, said the paper's author, Dr. Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf, director of field conservation at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago.

Dr. Lonsdorf said that typically, when a young male and female are near a mound, "she's really intently termite fishing, and he's spinning himself in circles."...

[Under experimental conditions], adult females were [using the leaf tool] and a young female watched carefully and began to pick up the skills, she said. Two young males did not fare as well - one simply sat next to his mother and tried to steal some mustard from her, Dr. Lonsdorf said.

The behavior of both sexes may seem familiar to many parents, she said, adding, "The sex differences we found in the chimps mimic some of the findings from the human child development literature."

She pointed out, however, that at least in the case of chimps, each is doing something important, since the males' play is practice for later dominance behavior.

"They're doing stuff that's really appropriate," she said.

"A wonderfully intentioned system that in practice promotes greed and sloth."

John Tierney notes that Americans feel entited to retire with Social Security benefits when they are only 65 or even 62, even though that have no physical need to stop working:
The problem isn't that Americans have gotten intrinsically lazier. They're just responding to a wonderfully intentioned system that in practice promotes greed and sloth. Social Security is widely thought of as a kumbaya program that unites Americans in caring for the elderly, but it actually creates ugly political battles among generations.

With the help of groups like AARP, the elderly have learned to fight for the right to retire earlier and get bigger benefits than the previous generation - all financed by making succeeding generations pay higher taxes than they ever did themselves.
Tierney goes from this to promoting personal/private accounts on the theory that it will create incentives to work longer. Wouldn't it be a lot easier just to raise the retirement age? Why use words like "greed" and "sloth" if you're going to end up with a proposal based on restructuring financial incentives? Why not come out and tell us that reason and fairness support an obligation to work a few more years before collecting benefits for the rest of our lives?

IN THE COMMENTS: Responses that show why politicians don't dare to suggest the obvious, obvious solution! Make this proposal and the practically next words you hear will be "dog food."

UPDATE: Dr. Weevil shows why you'd be a fool to resort to dog food to try to save money.

June 13, 2005

"Michael, on behalf of mankind, we're sorry."

So read a sign in the crowd of supporters, as seen on CNN.

Jeffrey Toobin on CNN: "Utter humiliation and defeat" for the prosecution.

I hope Michael Jackson reinvents himself as an artist. He's gone through an ordeal. If he is an artist, he should talk to us about what has happened in his music.

Guest-blogging at GlennReynolds.com.

Go check it out. And feel free to do comments here.

Verdict reached in the Michael Jackson case.

The commentators on the news channels are going wild, anticipating the announcement at 4:30 ET.

On Fox News, they're speculating about how Jackson will react if he hears a guilty verdict. He's 5'11" and he started the trial weighing 120. He must be down to 105 by now. He's very frail. A spider bite put him on crutches. An ambulance standing by at the courthouse. They expect him to be taken out of the courtroom on a stretcher.

On CNN, they're showing the crowd of Jackson supporters outside of the courthouse. We see a sign reading "Stone Cold Innocent."

MORE: Drudge is running two revolving sirens. I can't remember seeing that before.

MSNBC is summing up the evidence, with commentary on how strong the prosecutor's case was. The news anchor breaks in to report that a "large plane" has crashed into a residential neighborhood in Fort Lauderdale. And back to speculation about the Jackson verdict. Fox and CNN are staying with the Jackson verdict.

UPDATE: I'm glad Michael Jackson was found not guilty. As everyone on TV is saying, there was reasonable doubt. I loved watching the press conference with the jurors. It's quite inspiring, how solid and smart and diligent ordinary people are. Quite beautiful, really.

The Supreme Court and federalism values: opportunity bypassed.

From SCOTUSblog:
The Court also refused to review a new test of its federalism views, a challenge to the Endangered Species Act when it is used to protect a species of insects found in only one state and having no commercial value.
From yesterday's Linda Greenhouse piece in the NYT, discussing the medical marijuana case:
Professor Mark V. Tushnet of Georgetown University Law Center, the author of a new book, "A Court Divided: The Rehnquist Court and the Future of Constitutional Law," said that the earlier decisions had "brought the justices to a threshold that was far away when Rehnquist joined the court." And now, he said, "they have to decide whether to stay where they are, or continue on, or retreat."

The marijuana case "does not necessarily mean a retreat," he said. "It was an easy case, a case at the heart of national regulatory authority." Professor Tushnet said a more telling case would be a challenge to the application of the Endangered Species Act to a species without commercial utility, found only within one state.

Such a case is on the court's calendar, awaiting the justices' decision whether to hear it. The question in GDF Realty Investments v. Norton is whether Congress has authority to apply the Endangered Species Act to require protection of six species of cave-dwelling insects that live in caves west of Austin, Tex.

A hectic Monday.

My summer Conlaw class begins today at 10:15. We've got five weeks to cover everything, so it will be very intense, but also, because it's summer and because the class will be small, it should be more relaxed than usual. Another thing about today is that it's the deadline to turn in the grades from the Spring semester, and I've got to make a final sprint to the finish line there. I must finish by 3:30 today as I've made an appointment to have my toenails painted. On top of all of that, I'm doing another one of those guest-blogging stints, this time over at MSNBC, and I haven't put anything up yet.

"I'm going back to my cottage to rape my wife."

Drudge quotes Edward Klein quoting Bill Clinton in "The Truth About Hillary."

Is everyone aghast -- either at Bill or Hillary or Matt or Ed? Sorry, I'm not. I'm going to assume for the sake of argument that Bill Clinton really did say that. I hate to tell you, but there was a time when Boomer generation folks would use the word "rape" lightly. (Did you know the original meaning of "ravish" is rape too?)

I'll bet Bill once said "I'm going to kill him" about somebody. Haven't you? And I'll bet he's said "F**k you" and not meant it literally!

All those lawprof bloggers.

PrawfsBlog is trying to list all the lawprof bloggers. They've only got two of us from Wisconsin, so they've missed three of us. With five, we'd be second only to San Diego for most lawprof blogs. But since they've probably missed a lot of others, I suspect we're not really second.

They've counted 103 lawprof blogs and only 20 of them are written by women. Well, two of ours they didn't count are written by women. Maybe our other female bloggers don't want to be on a list like this. They don't write about law. I'll leave it to them to email PrawfsBlog if they want the attention.

There are so many reasons why lawproffing and blogging go together. It's actually amazing there aren't a thousand of us.

The art of linking.

I noticed from my Site Meter referrals that I'd gotten a link from The Washington Monthly, so, in typical blogger form, I clicked over there to see what they were saying about me. Here's Kevin Drum's post. I just want to say, it's nicely constructed, amusing in itself, but designed to send readers off to read the linked posts. That's the nicest kind of link from the linkee's viewpoint. There's another sort of link, where the relevant material is used in the post in a way that gives readers the sense of already knowing what's at the link. You appreciate this link too -- as long as it doesn't make readers think you've written something that you didn't and wouldn't -- but it's not as nice as the first type. Then there are those blogs that don't seem even to have heard about linking to other bloggers. I'm looking at you, Huffington Post bloggers.

June 12, 2005

"Smart" and "dumb" states.

Wisconsin's #5, so should I approve of this silliness? We love rankings and we love lists, so here I am linking. I haven't checked the blogs on this, but I'm expecting a lot of "red state"/"blue state" observations. I wonder if anyone's saying smart people voted for Kerry and dumb people voted for Bush. Note how you have to go all the way to #25 before you see a southern state.

"We are women, we are the children of this land, but we have no rights."

With the presidential election days away, women in Iran demonstrate against sex discrimination.

Into the woods.

Just a walk at Blue Mounds.

Blue Mounds

Don't laugh!

You're a bad person if you laugh. (Via Stephen Bainbridge.)

UPDATE: A commenter points out that this video is from an old piece of viral marketing! Here's an article about it. Sorry to be recycling something so old!

Hating the President.

The other day, I was watching one of the old Larry King interviews that CNN has been running lately. There was King, in 1992, with Richard Nixon. Talking to my son, I worked the theme: you can't understand how much people hated Nixon. But my son has seen how people have hated Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. No, that was different. Nixon-hating was far beyond all of that.

Today, I read this in a NYT book review, written by Alan Ehrenhalt of John F. Harris's ''The Survivor: Bill Clinton in the White House'':
The passion of the Clinton haters is a phenomenon without equal in recent American politics. It is not based on any specific policies that Clinton promoted or implemented during his years in office. It is almost entirely personal. In its persistence and intensity, it goes far beyond anything that comparable numbers of people have felt about Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan or either of the presidents Bush. It surpasses even the liberals' longstanding detestation of Richard Nixon. The only political obsession comparable to it in the past century is the hatred that a significant minority of Americans felt for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Sorry, I am not buying that. Clinton-hating and (G.W.) Bush-hating are at about the same intensity. Nixon-hating was wholly different. But it's quite clear that Ehrenhalt's real point is that Clinton didn't deserve it. Nevertheless, I stand by my point: if we're talking about visceral, emotional, nonrational loathing: Nixon got the most.

Ehrenhalt highlights the author's explanation of why Clinton inspired this hatred that he didn't deserve:
If, as Harris believes, Clinton was in the most important ways a competent president -- and certainly not a combative or ideological one -- then the conundrum of Clinton-hatred remains essentially unsolved. Harris does try to explain it. He suggests -- as others have -- that Clinton, not entirely through his own doing, suffered as the embodiment of a generation and a set of values that much of the country had never understood or been willing to accept. He was the tangible symbol of the Baby Boom, its conceits, its self-absorption, its lack of discipline and failures of responsibility. He was a child of the 1960's preaching to millions of people who had never come to terms with the 1960's and didn't want to be reminded of them.
It's an interesting theory, really. It goes with my point that Nixon was hated on a more personal level. The theory that Clinton embodied the Boomers will probably stick. It fits the facts well enough, and it has a satisfying breadth. The theory saves us from needing to think about the historical details of the period -- what happened in Bosnia? -- and allows us to contemplate American culture. Let's think about the 60s!

Ah, dammit, I'm back to thinking about Nixon again.