July 16, 2005

"On a normal day, all the conservatives are blogging about one set of articles and all the liberals are blogging on another set."

About that WaPo article. I like the recognition for Memeorandum (one of my favorite sites):
Both [Newmark and O'Brien] check out a site called Memeorandum.com, which scans the blogosphere hourly to determine which news stories and opinion columns are generating the most Internet discussion. It is here, they both say, that the competing blogospheres, right and left, are most elegantly crystallized.

"It's fascinating," says Newmark.

"On a normal day, all the conservatives are blogging about one set of articles and all the liberals are blogging on another set," O'Brien adds. "Occasionally one piece gets everybody going, but most of the time we aren't commenting on the same things."

Memeorandum.com is fascinating, because it shows how our nation's competing realities are now formed. Bloggers scan for bits of evidence that fit into their existing views and then generalize from there. For example, supporters of the Iraq war will notice an article that seems to suggest some progress -- an insurgent leader captured, a new school opened -- and infer a universe of good news from that piece. Elsewhere on the same day, opponents of the war might find a piece of discouraging news -- an interview with a gloomy Iraqi leader, another suicide bombing -- and infer a mirror-image universe.

Ah, yes. I've noticed that. Memeorandum serves as a lesson to us bloggers, if we can stand to look at ourselves honestly.

Journalists are "sick with anxiety about the Death of Print."

A HUGE WaPo piece fretting about bloggers (with lots and lots and lots about Betsy Newmark and Barbara O'Brien):
Currently, we [journalists a]re worried about bloggers....

[We're] wringing our hands in countless articles about blogging, wiping our brows through endless panels devoted to blogging, scrying through bottomless poll data about blogging, and launching blogs of our own. If you are reading these words in a publication called The Washington Post Magazine, then the bloggers have not entirely overtaken the so-called mainstream media -- yet.
But you're not reading these words in a publication called The Washington Post Magazine, are you?


"Most prized of all are long, slimy white worms which are hacked out of mangrove branches and eaten live."

Life in the Tiwi Islands.

The Fame Audit on Lisa Kudrow.

Here. Note: I adore Lisa Kudrow and her new show "The Comeback." Frankly, I don't think Fametracker gets the show very well.

"This week will mark probably the biggest one-week spike in time spent book-reading in human history."

Says Jeremy.

The strategic timing of the O'Connor and Rehnquist retirements?

In today's radio address, President Bush talked about replacing Justice O'Connor:
President Bush gave the nation several clues Saturday about the person he will nominate for a seat on the Supreme Court, except for the most important one - a name.

In his weekly radio address, Bush said his eventual nominee will be a "fair-minded individual who represents the mainstream of American law and American values."

His candidate also "will meet the highest standards of intellect, character and ability and will pledge to faithfully interpret the Constitution and laws of our country," the president said.

"Our nation deserves, and I will select, a Supreme Court justice that Americans can be proud of," he said, without revealing the name that many are anxious to hear....

Much of the retirement speculation - before and after O'Connor's surprise announcement - had focused on Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who is 80 and ailing with thyroid cancer.

Rehnquist tried to dampen expectations this week, issuing a statement in which he said his retirement is not imminent and that he would continue on the court "as long as my health permits."...

Bush said he and Senate leaders agreed on the need for a dignified confirmation process for his Supreme Court choice....
Consider this:
Before the 80-year-old Rehnquist, who is battling cancer, announced on Thursday that he was staying, there was speculation that Bush was waiting to make a double-nomination - a conservative and someone more moderate - that could defuse a contentious confirmation battle.

"With two, he could have made an effort to please everybody,'' said Nan Aron with the liberal Alliance for Justice. "For this one vacancy, not only does it cause the White House to speed up the process, but there's that much more pressure being exerted on them by radical right groups. They're under much more pressure to placate their radical right base.''

With prospects for a double-vacancy off the table, Bush is faced only with replacing O'Connor, a moderate conservative who sided with liberal jurists in some of the Supreme Court's critical 5-4 decisions.
Am I the only one who is thinking that there is a behind-the-scenes strategy going on about the Rehnquist retirement and its timing in connection with the O'Connor retirement?

For a long time we've been expecting to hear of a Rehnquist retirement. Then instead, the O'Connor retirement is announced, unleashing an intense political debate in which the Democrats revealed what some of their demands and strategies would be. Then, the rumor of an imminent Rehnquist retirement heated up, and the Democratic demand firmed up: Bush can make good on his promises to appoint a strong conservative for the Rehnquist seat, but he needs to replace O'Connor with a moderate. With the Democrats cards thus exposed on the table, Rehnquist announces he's staying as long as he can.

Can this retirement-withholding be a deliberate attempt to help Bush resist the Democrats' demand (and also to resist his own urge to appoint his friend Alberto Gonzales)? If there is no second appointment, Bush feels more pressure and has more ability to replace O'Connor with a strong conservative.

Later, after the tough confirmation battle is played out and Bush has filled the O'Connor seat with a conservative, Rehnquist can retire. At this point, Bush can replace him as well with a strong conservative. The Democrats will not only be tired of fighting, they will have lost the basis for a "package deal" argument.

They will cry: You've already appointed a conservative, so now you should give us a moderate!

A moderate to replace Rehnquist, the towering figuring in the history of judicial conservatism? Never!

"The Triumph of his Will."

Our local free newspaper the Isthmus, has a big cover story title "The Triumph of his Will," a story -- I didn't read it -- about some guy's will. Why would anyone think that was an acceptable title?

Maybe my clever commenters can come up with equivalent examples of titles of evil works of art being used as headlines for imaginary, exceedingly tame local human interest stories.

UPDATE: In a similar vein, one often sees the name of something profoundly serious used in jokey titles. One that is done so often it's also offensive for being trite is "the Battle of the Bulge" to refer to weight loss.

The color of movies.

Martin Scorsese just came out with two lists of ten films that have the best use of light and color.
English Language Films

1. Barry Lyndon (1975, Dir. Stanley Kubrick; Cin. John Alcott)

2. Duel in the Sun (1946, Dir. King Vidor; Cin. Lee Garmes, Ray Rennahan, Hal Rosson)

3. Invaders From Mars (1953, Dir. William Cameron Menzies; Cin. John F. Seitz)

4. Leave Her to Heaven (1946, Dir. John M. Stahl; Cin. Leon Shamroy)

5. Moby Dick (1956, Dir. John Huston; Cin. Oswald Morris)

6. Phantom of the Opera (1943, Dir. Arthur Lubin; Cin. W. Howard Greene, Hal Mohr)

7. The Red Shoes (1948, Dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger; Cin. Jack Cardiff)

8. The Searchers (1956, Dir. John Ford; Cin. Winton C. Hoch)

9. Singin’ in the Rain (1952, Dir. Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly; Cin. Harold Rosson)

10. Vertigo (1958, Dir. Alfred Hitchcock; Cin. Robert Burks)

International Films

1. Contempt (1963, Dir. Jean-Luc Godard; Cin. Raoul Coutard; France/Italy)

2. Cries and Whispers (1972, Dir. Ingmar Bergman; Cin. Sven Nykvist; Sweden)

3. Gate of Hell (1953, Dir. Teinosuke Kinugasa; Cin. Kohei Sugiyama; Japan)

4. In the Mood For Love (2000, Dir. Wong Kar-Wai; Cin. Christopher Doyle, Mark Lee Ping-bin; Hong Kong)

5. The Last Emperor (1987, Dir. Bernardo Bertolucci; Cin. Vittorio Storaro; Italy/United Kingdom/China/Hong Kong)

6. Red Desert (1964, Dir. Michelangelo Antonioni; Cin. Carlo Di Palma; France/Italy)

7. The River (1951, Dir. Jean Renoir; Cin. Claude Renoir; India/France/United States)

8. Satyricon (1969, Dir. Federico Fellini; Cin. Giuseppe Rotunno; Italy/France)

9. Senso (1954, Dir. Luchino Visconti; Cin. G.R. Aldo, Robert Krasker, Giuseppe Rotunno; Italy)

10. Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (1964, Dir. Sergei Paradjanov; Cin. Viktor Bestayev, Yuri Ilyenko; Russia/Ukraine)

This is clearly a very idiosyncratic list. Just look at the dates: Scorsese is pointing to the films that influenced him in his impressionable years. We already knew how gaga he is for "Duel in the Sun" (a cheesy Western sometimes referred to as "Lust in the Dust").

Maybe in the comments you can come up with some alternatives. Is there a movie that springs my mind for its color? Not really. Those extra-vivid Technicolor movies like "Vertigo" and "The Birds" crowd out more subtly colored recent movies that I find more appealing. Any ideas?

Teenager jailed for burning the flag.

But apparently he wasn't trying to express any ideas. Does he still have a free speech defense against the statute that penalizes "desecrating a venerated object"?

High school is too easy.

Say the students. So, then, the teachers are slacking, right?

July 15, 2005

The doomed lobster, Hermione.

Here she is, friends. She is doomed. We were just squealing and shooting photographs a la Annie Hall. And now I'm furiously writing this post, so that you can see our dear Hermione, while she still crawls the face of the earth, before she reaches apotheosis, in the form of our elaborate, Nina-cooked blogger dinner.

The guest of honor, the sacrificial lobster:


UPDATE: RIP, Hermione.


ANOTHER UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers. And here's a picture of me at the dinner, taken by Tonya, whose birthday we were celebrating.

MORE: Here's Nina's explanation of how to make that soup. And here's Tonya's post which contains, among other things, the full list of amazing dishes Nina cooked up for us.

Are you into comparative heat?

Texans are:
I think that the heat in Texas is like playing baseball with a father who burns in fastballs that sting your hands, making you proud you can take it; and the heat back East is like a mother who makes you wear too much clothing.

State Street crowded with bargain seekers.

It's Maxwell Street Days time again. Here's a quick look at this year's shopping extravaganza:

State Street

Here's last year's much more in-depth coverage of the event. I usually try to avoid the crowds, but today I needed to get to a café, where I sat with an espresso. Ever notice how the baristas of today can scarcely believe anyone would order just an espresso? A single espresso? I got out my small stack of exams from my summer class and, looking up once in a while to watch the people pass by, I graded question 1.

State Street

The new new food pyramid.

A Madison window:

State Street

Two big plaintiffs' lawyer victories in the Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Yesterday, the court invalidated the pain and suffering damages cap that the legislature had put on medical malpractice cases. The law violated equal protection under the state constitution.

Today, the court said that a child injured by eating lead paint could sue the paint manufacturers. According to the dissenting Justice Wilcox, this makes Wisconsin the only state that holds the manufacturers liable in such cases.

"We are all responsible for it in a way."

Please, more -- much more -- of this:
[Sir Iqbal Sacranie, t]he head of the Muslim Council of Britain says he wants to take "concrete steps" to make sure atrocities such as the London bombings are never repeated....

"We are all responsible for it in a way", he said, because "very little had been done" to tackle elements in the community carrying messages of hate....

Sir Iqbal said Islamic scholars in the UK are to make a strong statement later at the London Central Mosque.

It would be "so powerful and strong" it would leave no-one in any doubt about the Muslim communities' attitudes to such atrocities, he said.

"That statement is going to re-define the position about what Islam has to say about acts of atrocity, acts of murder and criminality."

At long last: the "Let It Be" DVD!

And just think of all the extra footage they have to choose from in stuffing the discs with "with tons of lost and bonus features."

A military commission is enough...

And there will be no entree into federal court for Gitmo detainees, according to the D.C. Circuit court, as is well explained by Tung Yin.

UPDATE: Here's the NYT article:
The panel emphatically overturned a decision on Nov. 8 by a federal district judge in Washington, James Robertson, who had ruled that in setting up military commissions to try the detainees President Bush overstepped his constitutional authority and improperly brushed aside Geneva Convention provisions on the handling prisoners of war.

"The president found that Hamdan was not a prisoner of war under the Convention," Judge A. Raymond Randolph wrote for the panel in today's ruling. "Nothing in the regulations, and nothing Hamdan argues, suggests that the president is not a 'competent authority' for these purposes."...

President Bush has declared all Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters to be unlawful enemy combatants, and as such not entitled to be treated as legitimate prisoners of war.

Critics of the administration have argued that the military commission trials do not afford all the legal protections that courts-martial do. But in the appeal upheld today, the administration argued that the commission trials were fair - and not incidentally a vital part of its war on terrorism - and that since the stateless Qaeda terror network had never signed the Geneva Convention, its members were not entitled to the protections afforded prisoners of war, which include the right not to be put on trial for hostilities....

The appeals court said Congress had given the president all the authority he needed in a resolution passed just after Sept. 11, 2001. "It is impossible to see any basis for Hamdan's claim that Congress has not authorized military commission," the court ruled....

The court accepted the administration's argument that Mr. Hamdan - who has denied that he is a terrorist - does not fit the definition of "prisoner of war," and that Al Qaeda is not covered by the Geneva Convention.

"Every time Andrew Sullivan rattles his tip jar..."

Glenn Reynolds gets more donations, he says. And what about me? I have donation buttons too, you know. It would be nice if my readers made the gesture of appreciation for me too. Sullivan suggests a basic pledge of $20 for the "occasional reader" and a $50 for the daily reader, which, he helpfully points out is less than a dollar a week. True fanhood he goes on to say is demonstrated by amounts in excess of $50. These are ambitious suggestions! I'm just quoting them for your contemplation.

"The Real World" confronts the war in Iraq.

I saw that the new episode of "The Real World" is mostly about the roommates arguing about the war in Iraq, so seeing I had the show TiVo'd, I watched it, thinking -- what? -- that there might be some interesting debate about the war? Some insight into what young people today think about it? Something... bloggable?

So one roommate -- Rachel -- served in Iraq. We see her telling her some of her war stories... well, actually, just saying that in Iraq, she had to dig a hole to "poop" in. Then there's a cut to cast member Nehemiah saying:
I've just had it up to here with her bragging and boasting, because I'm against war, and for me to just sit back and hear her brag about it all the time and ... I'm going to react to it because I have an opinion, just like she does.
But the two just get into a fight about whether it's harder to be in prison or harder to serve in Iraq. This is a silly comparison. It may be safer and easier to be in prison, but it's involuntary and degrading. War and prison are just different, in obvious ways. In any event, it has nothing to do with whether the war is right or wrong.

Later, Rachel clashes with roommates after she takes it upon herself to pressure them to get up and get moving early -- as it's done in the Army. They try to tell her nicely not to be so bossy, but she's all about how things are in the Army. Chez Althouse, Chris says: "She needs to stop talking about how things are done in the Army." It's just not that relevant to how people need to act outside of the Army. I start to suspect that the producers, off camera, keep telling her to really play up the Army angle. She was cast to play a character, not just to hang out in a cool house.

Now we see them at the kitchen table and Nehemiah's calling Bush "a robot" and asking, "What's the whole war about?" But instead of seeing them debate about the war, we see knuckleheaded Nehemiah telling Rachel she wasn't even in the war, because she was a nurse. She blows up and goes on about the injured men she tended to and the dangers she faced. Later, another roommate helps Nehemiah understand that he was wrong to express his opposition to the war like that, and then we see Nehemiah and Rachel in a snuggy-kissy scene where they each apologize to the other.

And that the treatment of the war in Iraq on "The Real World -- Austin," and the episode is padded out with the usual crap where they go to bars, get drunk, display affection, and have minor misunderstandings that are soon patched up with a little whining and hugging.

Pretty much exactly what you would have expected.

"The Plame Rove Affair is One of the Biggest Wastes of Time of My Lifetime..."

I'm just browsing around the blogs this morning, and I see Roger L. Simon is saying exactly what I'm thinking.

But look on the bright side. A story like that filling the news signifies the absence of a bigger story to wipe if off the front page. How well I remember the summer we couldn't stop talking about Chandra Levy and Gary Condit.

ADDED: But there is something shameful about the way the London bombings have not fully engaged our attention. And, yes, I do realize that promoters of the Plame-Rove story will say it's all so connected.

Selling CDs, making lists, being too big to be snarky.

Amazon has made its own "Hall of Fame" for musicians, based on who's sold the most CDs on Amazon. Though the Beatles are number 1, some of the others in this list of 25 artists seem funnily out of place. Elvis is only number 25, bested by Van Morrison, Jimmy Buffet, Enya, Eva Cassidy, Josh Groban, Santana ... ah, I can't go on. I'll just say probably all the Elvis fans built their CD collections before 1995.

They've written a short blurb for each artist and they didn't bother to write these paragraphs in a distinctive, engaging style. It's all generic blather like: "Rock's truest iconoclast, [name] follows no trends and answers no commercial call." Guess who that is. If you do, it's only by chance.

But there's one exception: Enya, who's described as "[f]illing the studios of massage therapists around the globe."

Amazon: too big to be snarky -- except about Enya.

What emboldens the terrorists.

Normblog points to this Tony Parkinson column that soundly responds those who say that without Blair's alliance with Bush in Iraq the London bombings would never have happen. You should read it. It is well-argued -- especially this:
Chasing American forces out of Somalia in 1993 was held up as one of the first, great victories for the new wave of radical Islam. In the myth-making of the Middle East, it allowed the West to be portrayed as weak and irresolute.

To that extent, President Bill Clinton made the same strategic error as Ronald Reagan a decade earlier when American forces were pulled out of Lebanon after a massive Hezbollah suicide attack on US barracks in Beirut. It reinforced the idea that democratic societies didn't have the stomach to counter this vicious style of asymmetrical warfare.

For the same reason, Iraq today represents a critical test of will.

A mindset that can target innocent tube travellers in London is the same mindset that can dispatch a suicide bomber to kill 24 Iraqi children as they accept sweets from US forces in a Baghdad neighbourhood . . . or, indeed, force a Kuwaiti woman to eat her own flesh.

Conceding strategic victories to this mindset will not protect a single innocent life, in Iraq, the West or elsewhere. More likely, it will embolden those behind these acts of savagery.

I have never heard anything from the anti-war side that comes anywhere near responding to this.

July 14, 2005

The Bastille Day post.

Over in the comments at Sheila Variations, they are discussing the ending of "Casablanca":
Sadly, I think if I was on that tarmac, I'd go with Rick Blaine. If his WORK is so important to Lazslo, then let Lazslo marry his work!! Let me have my grand passion and leave me alone!! Greater good, my ass. We only live once, and I want to gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
Then the discussion gets sidetracked to whatever anyone feels like saying about the movie or whatever (including a half-eaten grilled cheese sandwich), and someone writes:
One of my favorite moments in the movie is Bogie giving the subtle head-nod across the bar to the orchestra - for them to pick up Marseillese ... member that? Apparently, they did that shot before they knew how the scene would go - so in real life, Bogie had no idea what he was nodding to. Feckin' amazing - it is such a moving moment. Bogart, the "I stick my neck out for nobody" cynic - giving Lazslo and the orchestra permission to drown out the Nazis. But Bogart was just told "Okay, we need a shot of you nodding - So nod." Bogie, man. He blows me away.

And someone else says:
That whole scene - Henreid upping the ante on Strasser, paying the band, the bandleader looking at Rick, the nod, the whole crowd scene - is the most gloriously manipulative scene ever! I laugh and cry and sing along and wriggle with schmaltzfreude and watch it over and over...

And then:
that scene of the orchestra rising to the occasion - and the crying French woman (the one who was wasted in the first scene and had to be escorted out of the bar) - she KILLS ME!! Crying and singing along to that song with all her might.
And all this talk of the Marseillaise reminds me that it is Bastille Day and that I wanted to link to Nina's post exposing the alarming words of the French national anthem (which begins with an innocent enough call to children to come along):
The howling of these fearsome soldiers
They are coming into our midst
To cut the throats of your sons and consorts...

Let impure blood
Water our furrows
Reveling in cutting the throats of the impure? A bit like our modern terrorist enemies, isn't it? But a national anthem can be a call to arms, and it worked brilliantly as a call to arms in "Casablanca."

"I want to put to rest the speculation and unfounded rumors of my imminent retirement."

Rehnquist speaks!

I am not about to announce my retirement. I will continue to perform my duties as chief justice as long as my health permits.

Okay, then. I guess that's that. That ought to hold off the rumors until maybe sometime next week.

Or, no. Actually, let me personally refuel them by analyzing the statement. He wants to put to rest the rumors: that might only mean he doesn't like us talking about him. He does call the rumors "unfounded," but that might just mean the people who are doing all the talking lack a basis for saying what they are saying, not that what they are saying is not true. And he's not about to announce his retirement. Still, he might be planning to retire but holding off announcing his plan. I can think of some politically strategic reasons he might want to do that. And that last sentence could mean he's planning to stop working any minute now. It's entirely enigmatic.

So, carry on!

Should we not be jubilant about No Child Left Behind?

This is great news:
The math and reading test, known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress, Long Term Trends, has been given to a representative national sample of 9-, 13- and 17-year-old students every few years since the early 1970's, virtually without modification, and social scientists study it carefully. The results announced today were from a test given to 28,000 public and private school students in all 50 states during fall 2003 and spring 2004. The test had not been administered since 1999.

Nine year old students born in the mid-1990's, on average, earned the highest scores in three decades, in both subjects.

In the reading test, the average score of 9-year-old black students increased by 14 points on a 500-point scale, to 200 in 2004 from 186 in 1999. Reading scores of 9-year-old white students increased by 5 points, to 226 in 2004 from 221 in 1999. As a result, the black-white achievement gap for 9-year-old students narrowed to 26 points from 35 points over those five years. In 1971, the gap was 44 points.

Education Secretary Margaret Spellings attributed the gains among elementary students to President Bush's school reform law, No Child Left Behind. Sounding jubilant, she also credited the nation's teachers, principals and state and national policymakers, including Democrats who have supported the federal law.

Despite Spellings' efforts at sharing the credit, I expect to hear lots of people going out of their way to discredit No Child Left Behind.

Is Bush trying to "avoid a partisan battle" over the Supreme Court nominee?

Reuters reports:
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators who crafted a compromise on judicial nominees two months ago said President Bush's talks with both parties for his first nomination to the Supreme Court may help avert a divisive confirmation battle....

"We all expressed mutual confidence and praise for the manner in which the president has initiated 'the advice and consent,"' added Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia. The U.S. Constitution requires that the president seek the advice and consent of the Senate on nominations....

Seeking to avoid a partisan battle, Bush is consulting with a variety of senators on who they would like to see on the court while insisting they will not get a veto.
What is the basis for concluding that Bush is "seeking to avoid a partisan battle"? The consultation with the Senators? Wouldn't he also do that just to avert criticism for failing to take the "advice" part of the Constitution seriously?

I find it a little hard to understand why Bush needs to go out of his way to avoid controversy on this. What is his motivation? He said quite clearly when he was running for election and reelection what sort of justice he'd choose. Isn't it more controversial to back down on that that to follow through? Why wouldn't he choose the person he genuinely thinks is best and proceed with the fight for confirmation?

"This thirst for total control of our government has driven them to things I thought I would never see..."

"...in the United States Senate."

So says Hillary Clinton in a letter I received in the mail today. The nerve of George Bush -- "after squeaking to victory with the lowest margin of any second term president" (AKA winning by a decisive margin) -- to want to reform Social Security and appoint conservative Supreme Court justices, she argues. Money is requested to help "stop the GOP power grab."

The theme of the letter is that the Republicans are power mad. But the exaggerated tone of the letter itself seems mad.

Is "British-style multi-culturalism ... failing"?

The BBC Islamic Affairs analyst writes about this question, which is being asked around Britain these days:
Multiculturalism was designed to bring different communities together, but its critics argue it has only served to keep them apart.


La Mosquée de Paris
Originally uploaded by John Cohen.
I love photographs of numbers. Here's one my son John took in Paris that I really love because of the way the intended 6 finds itself next to an unintended 3, making for the delightful emergence of 63. So if 63 is your number, consider yourself lucky.

The Brito-Freese -- or is it Frito-Breese -- wedding is a go!

But no, no, no -- don't put that bridesmaid's dress near me!

"A philosophical powerhouse."

That's who David Brooks wants George Bush to put on the Supreme Court:
[P]ick someone capable of writing the sort of bold and meaty opinions that will shift the frame of debate and shake up law students for generations.
Out of pure self-interest, I'd love that. Teaching constitutional law would be a lot more fun if the cases I make my students read and discuss were pithily written and brimming with brilliant ideas. (Pity the poor conlaw professor, forced to assign the landmark, authoritative cases, whether they are written by fuzzy-headed hacks or a committee of recently graduated law journal editors!)

Brooks promotes Michael McConnell as the kind of person Bush should pick, and ends this way:
Yet presidents often make their Supreme Court picks on the most trivial bases: because so-and-so is a loyalist or a friend, because so-and-so has some politically convenient trait or ties to some temporarily attractive constituency. By thinking too politically, presidents end up reducing their own influence on history.

Mr. President, don't repeat the mistakes of the past. Ideas drive history, so you want to pick the person with the biggest brain.
There are two different ideas here -- at least -- and I want to wedge them apart. Presidents should not use trivial, political grounds to select the person who will interpret the law for us all for a generation. That we ought to see as an outrage -- a shocking abuse of power. But "the person with the biggest brain"? I know a lot of big-brained people in law. I'm not sure which one has the biggest brain. Maybe we could sit them in a room and grill them with a series of tests. But there's a damned good chance the person with the biggest brain would be a disaster on the Court. Many of the smartest people lack judgment and character. They may lack feeling for the weaknesses of others and insight into their own weaknesses. And they may arrogantly dismiss what others have to say. The new Justice has to function in a group of nine, after all.

That said, I'd love a super-smart new Justice. But don't just "pick a genius" -- as Brooks says. Pick a real person -- a full human being with a deep understanding of life. (This request might be more likely to bring you to McConnell.)

And could you pick an excellent writer too while you're at it?

July 13, 2005

Thoughts at the end of a long, hard day.

It's been a rather slow blogging day, here at Althouse. My five-week summer session, teaching constitutional law, ends tomorrow, and I've been a bit distracted. But it's not just that. It's one of those days where the news doesn't reach out and grab me and make me want to talk back. The Rove story is swamping the newsmedia, and I don't have the time to study it enough to develop an opinon. I find the pro- and anti-Rove stock opinons off-putting. People who know what side they are on are churning out a lot of material. But I'm not going to wade through all of that. Maybe later. I see the Chief Justice has been hospitalized. Much as I'd like to see more turnover on the Court, I'm sorry to see anyone ailing, and I wish him the best. Fred Barnes is providing more anti-Gonzales argumentation, raking in links -- but there's nothing engaging there, really. It's the same old story. Bush will have to nominate a Supreme Court Justice -- or two or three. And the key action really is occuring now. (Once the nominee is picked, there will be little that can be done to prevent confirmation.) But I'm not seeing any interesting writing on the topic this week. Then there are these painful stories of the London bombers: "He was a nice lad. He was really nice ... He wasn't the type of guy to do it." I don't know what to say about this, other that that I wish very much that decent Muslims would reach out to the rest of us and show that they care about defining themselves strongly and distinctly in opposition to the bombers. If there's anything but silence, it's not very much. And it should be very loud and passionate.

Some movie clichés recently viewed.

"Pieces of April" was playing on Showtime's HD channel last night just as I was in the mood to settle in for a little TV. So I gave it a shot -- especially since it had Patricia Clarkson, who'd been so terrific in this week's episode of "Six Feet Under." POA was good enough to sit through -- especially since it was pretty short. It had a gritty, indie look, but it was actually over-the-top sentimental. There were two sets of characters: the young woman cooking Thanksgiving dinner with the help of various kindly, ethnically diverse neighbors in her NY apartment building and her family traveling toward that apartment in a car. In both locations, as you might expect, the characters encounter various troubles. You can see the wheels cranking away in the screenwriters' brains: Now what tiny obstacle can we toss in their path? The oven breaks. The neighbors don't speak English. The mom in the car has to puke.

Whenever a bunch of movie characters are stuck in a car for a long enough time, there's always a scene where they stop the car, and let the actors out onto the shoulder of the road to gesticulate and argue and plead with each other about some damned thing. Count on one actor to start walking off as if they are so emotional they've lost touch with the fact that they're going to need transportation. Count on another actor to follow along after them and have an intense encounter with the first actor that culminates with them getting back in the car and continuing on.

A funny thing about this movie for me is that it's the second movie I've seen this summer where I watched the whole movie with no idea who the young actress was until it was over and I saw that it was Katie Holmes. (The other movie is "Batman Begins.") That li'l Katie is cute, but somehow I'm incapable of remembering her face. I wonder why. There are many blander actress-faces than hers out there these days.

Rejecting "O'Connorism."

Edward Lazarus punctures the recently inflated reputation of Sandra Day O'Connor:
O'Connor reached [some conclusions liberals agree with] - as well as many conservative outcomes - using an approach to constitutional interpretation that should be as troubling to liberals as it is to her more conservative colleague, Antonin Scalia. Liberals link themselves to O'Connor's judicial legacy at the risk of losing the war of ideas before the next battle is even joined.

The rap against liberals is that they do not care about the text or history of the Constitution and do not have any principled method for interpreting the document. Instead, they simply enshrine their personal moral choices in the Constitution under the guise of interpretation....

Liberals have tried to paper over these flaws with nice-sounding rhetoric about the Constitution's grand promises of individual liberty and the "evolving standards" that infuse them with meaning....

O'Connor has been the master of self-referential, "I know it when I see it" standards for interpreting the Constitution. ... While her malleable tests may often minimize the reach of particular decisions, they maximize the power of an individual justice at the center of the court to define the Constitution according to subjective judgments about right and wrong instead of more objective and broadly applicable principles....

Liberals do have a principled constitutional vision to set against this conservative record. This vision embraces democratic principles of governance, a strong federal role in solving national problems, and a broad but not unfettered view of civil rights and civil liberties. This vision is grounded not in personal preference, but in the ideas actually expressed in the text of the Constitution as read in light of its history, subsequent experience and precedent. A Civil War was fought to elevate federal power over the rights of states and to secure equality, procedural fairness and the privileges and immunities of citizenship to every person in this country. The Constitution explicitly grants these guarantees and it is the warrant of judges to apply them against the perceived needs of our time.

Putting forth this vision in a convincing manner, however, will require liberals to liberate themselves from the intellectual shackles of Roe. If conservatives have proven anything over the last generation, it is that a clarity and integrity of ideology ultimately translates into political power. The upcoming hearings present an ideal chance for Democrats to start to heed that lesson - and O'Connorism should be no part of their plan.
Interesting. Lazurus must know the Democrats are only praising O'Connor and demanding that Bush replace her with someone like her to fend off a more conservative choice. I don't think they really have a problem visualizing a judge with a more stable, forceful liberal ideology capable of balancing the strong conservatives already on the Court.

But should we buy Lazarus's additional point: that this principled liberal Justice will not support abortion rights? As we think forward to a time when a liberal President will appoint a Supreme Court Justice, can we visualize his (or her) ideal being someone who would vote to overturn Roe? Roe has such a grip on the Democrats that it is virtually impossible to imagine. I have to think liberals have already built their mental defense against this proposition and will quickly say that support for abortion rights fits squarely into a principled judicial philosophy. But maybe Lazarus is right, and the liberal cause on the Court has been doomed by an overcommitment to Roe -- a fear of any lines of reasoning that would threaten it.

When government says what the "true religion" is.

Tony Blair spoke out yesterday about stamping out the virulent version of Islam that (apparently) led to the 7/7 bombings:
Talks are to begin on bringing in new laws covering preparations for attacks and to make it easier to deport people trying to "incite hatred", he told MPs.

The "moderate and true voice of Islam" had to be mobilised, he said....

"This is not an isolated criminal act we are dealing with," he said.

"It is an extreme and evil ideology whose roots lie in a perverted and poisonous misinterpretation of the religion of Islam."...

Those behind the bombings were perverting the teachings of Islam, he argued....
Of course, I understand his motivation for saying this, and I agree with his opposition to a dangerous, violent ideology, but how can he say what the true intepretation of a religion is? I realize Britain does not have as robust an approach to the separation of church and state as we have, and I can see the role of government promoting the more socially beneficial versions of religion -- quite apart from the truth -- but who is Tony Blair to say what is the "true" version and what is the perversion?

If the bombers' version was in fact the more accurate interpretation of the Islamic tradition and moderating fundamentalism was the perversion, he'd be for the perversion, wouldn't he?

July 12, 2005

Mohammed Bouyeri has confessed to killing Theo van Gogh.

BBC reports:
Mohammed Bouyeri, 27, said he acted out of his religious beliefs and that he would do "exactly the same" if he were ever set free.

Prosecutors say Mr Bouyeri killed Mr Van Gogh in a ritualistic murder committed in the name of radical Islam.....

"I take complete responsibility for my actions. I acted purely in the name of my religion," he told the court in Amsterdam.

"I can assure you that one day, should I be set free, I would do exactly the same, exactly the same," he added.
Purity! How dismal to fixate on one's own purity! How perverse to imagine that you could advance yourself in God's eyes by purifying yourself through killing someone you've judged impure. How can it never cross your mind that you might have made a mistake in your analysis, and why is it not horrible arrogance to proclaim that you are sure you know what God wants? What makes people think God wants purity, let alone to go on and imagine that a bloody stabbing is a pure thing?

Living in middle world.

Richard Dawkins:
"Middle world is the narrow range of reality that we judge to be normal as opposed to the queerness that we judge to be very small or very large."...

Our brains had evolved to help us survive within the scale and orders of magnitude within which we exist, said Professor Dawkins.

We think that rocks and crystals are solid when in fact they were made up mostly of spaces in between atoms, he argued.

This, he said, was just the way our brains thought about things in order to help us navigate our "middle sized" world - the medium scale environment - a world in which we cannot see individual atoms.
Of course, that's true. Try as I might, I cannot realistically think about very large and very small things. I do try. I understand the concepts, but I know what I'm picturing in my mind is still stuck in the middle and nowhere near the truly large and the truly small that exists out there and in there.

"More and more, there's a brutish flaunting of wealth and leisure."

The NYT knocks the "We Are Not Afraid" site:
[M]ore and more, there's a brutish flaunting of wealth and leisure. Yesterday there were lots of pictures posted of smiling families at the beach and of people showing off their cars and vans. A picture from Italy shows a white sports car and comes with the caption: "Afraid? Why should we be afraid?"

A few days ago, We're Not Afraid might have been a comfort. Today, there's a hint of "What, me worry?" from Mad magazine days, but without the humor or the sarcasm. We're Not Afraid, set up to show solidarity with London, seems to be turning into a place where the haves of the world can show that they're not afraid of the have-nots.


That "What, me worry?" crack resonants a little too much with the recent Hillary hoo-hah.

And, jeez, it almost seems to be implying that this is the answer to the question "Why do they hate us?"

What's wrong with Technorati?

Technorati has become almost useless lately. It takes forever to do a search, and then the information retrieved is pathetic. According to them, my blog hasn't been updated in 84 days. Links I know I have from checking Site Meter referrals don't show up on Technorati. I'll cut them some slack, since they've just configured the place, but it's so annoying to wait out the slow search and then get lame info.

Is science-hating a phenomenon of the left or the right?

Here's a letter to the editor responding to that piece about bisexuality in last week's NYT:
Some gay and bisexual advocates are condemning "Straight, Gay or Lying?" regarding a study suggesting that bisexuality may not exist among human males - something those of us familiar with the scientific literature have known since, basically, forever.

Compare this hysterical - and anti-science - reaction to the conservative Christians' anti-science reaction to studies showing that homosexuality is an inborn orientation like left-handedness. They're identical.

The right hates science because the data contradict (in the case of homosexuality) Leviticus; the left because the data contradict the liberal lie that we're environment-created, not hard-wired in any way.

These particular scientific facts are making these advocates scream like members of the extreme right, though it's they who always tells the right to let go of concepts that are contradicted by science.

Chandler Burr
New York

The writer is the author of "A Separate Creation: The Search for the Biological Origins of Sexual Orientation."
Very apt. Well said! Thanks for writing that, Chandler Burr.

I would love to hear, in the comments, from readers who have found themselves in college courses where instructors taught about sexuality and pressured students to accept theories of culture and actively excluded biological science. (Please don't name individuals.)

(Here's my post from last week on the bisexuality article.)

When technology revives a retro pleasure.

XM Radio and baseball:
Since XM announced last October that it would be carrying baseball games, it has gained nearly two million subscribers over all and expects to add another million by the end of this season, in part because a transient population is constantly looking for a connection to its roots....

"What you have here is cutting-edge technology that brings in the past," Bob Costas, the broadcaster and an XM customer, said. "With clearer reception, it's exactly what I did when I was 11 and 12, taking the keys to my dad's car, sitting in the driveway and trying to pick up games in different parts of the country through all the crackle."...

Baseball has always been regarded as the sport best suited to radio, given all of its long pauses and blank spaces. While football and basketball announcers could hyperventilate chronicling the incessant action, baseball broadcasters sprinkle quirky stories with signature home run calls. For transplanted fans, hearing a game is not unlike telephoning home.

"Because of the length of the season, the pace of the games and the soap-opera quality of baseball, listeners get to know announcers very well and become very close to them," Gary Cohen, the radio voice of the Mets, said. "But what I like best about XM is that you can also listen to other broadcasters. You can get a point of comparison."...

"In the past, I guess we'd throw in a CD or a movie at night," said Natalie Turner, an Orioles fan in Charleston, S.C., who is married to an Indians fan. "Now we listen to baseball. Part of the appeal is that baseball is so great on radio. I think it's because there's just one player in the spotlight at a time. You can picture the game without seeing it."
It's nice when advances in technology bring back old things -- like the way the email and blogging brought back the written word as the everyday means of communication.

Why Justice Stevens might retire too.

Stephen Bainbridge, citing an email from a "reliable source," says that Justice Stevens is planning to retire if the Chief Justice joins Justice O'Connor in retiring. This makes sense. If he thinks he may need to go before the end of Bush's term or if he thinks there is a good chance that the next President will also be conservative, he ought to take advantage of the current bunch-up. The best hope of getting replaced by a moderate rather than a strong conservative really is to have your vacancy become part of a three-person deal.

"Taking the judicial Fifth" and the Bork cautionary tale.

It's been so long since we've had a new Supreme Court nominee that you may have forgotten what the Senate Judiciary hearings are like. Or you may be too young to have ever followed one. Here's the reason you shouldn't expect too much excitement: the nominee will repeatedly and routinely refuse to answer questions -- and get away with it by portraying the refusal as a matter of lofty judicial principle.

The one recent nominee who did engage with the committee on substantive issues was Robert Bork, who is also the one recent nominee to be voted down. The linked article puts it this way:
At the outset of his confirmation hearings, Judge Bork declared, "I cannot, of course, commit myself as to how I might vote on any particular case." But Judge Bork had written and spoken extensively and provocatively on issues like free speech, sex discrimination, "equal protection of the laws," abortion and sexual privacy, and there was no way he could escape questions on such matters. Mr. Specter was especially aggressive in his questions, and Judge Bork often recanted and qualified his controversial views in ways that satisfied no one.
There may have been "no way he could escape questions," but he could have used the standard dodge and escaped answers. By answering, he gave the Senators opportunities to make him look bad, and he simply lacked the will or the ability to protect his on-camera image. I'm sure he realized soon enough that deflecting the questions in the usual style would have been the better strategy.
In the aftermath, Judge Bork said that the intense questioning of him on constitutional issues was improper and that the only people who could stand such scrutiny and be confirmed were those with such thin records on constitutional topics that they could duck the questions.
Well, if the questions were improper, he didn't have to answer them other than to politely note the impropriety. He chose to debate, and -- I think -- he chose it because he seriously believed he knew constitutional law far better than the Senators. But they knew TV better, and he was pompous and professorial. His belief in his own superiority showed. And people do not like the look of that on television. His notion that only people with thin records can survive the questions is another example of Bork displaying a superior attitude. If he'd just reined in that attitude and "taken the judicial Fifth" like everyone else, he'd have made it.

And now that everyone has his case to study as a cautionary tale, who will ever engage on the substantive issues again? So don't get too excited about what's going to happen at the hearings. They will -- almost surely -- be dull. Unless you find the usual senatorial preening and posturing amusing.

July 11, 2005

Thinking about podcasting.

I'm thinking about podcasting -- both in the sense of wondering about it and in the sense of kind of planning to do it. So I'm trying to get a sense of what works. I've browsed around in the iTunes "audio blogs" category. But really, I haven't run across anything that's the slightest bit appealing.

I'm sure many of the regular radio shows being podcast would be worth listening to, just as radio is worth listening to. But I want to hear something that has some real blogginess going for it. Any ideas?

Gay marriage politics in Wisconsin.

The Capital Times takes a look at the looming battle over an anti-gay marriage amendment to the Wisconsin constitution:
With 16 months to go before an expected vote on a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, groups on both sides of the issue are gearing up for a major fight....

Both sides expect a large turnout for the vote since several high-profile races will also be on the ballot that November, including the re-election battles of Gov. Jim Doyle, Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, all state Assembly representatives and half the state Senate....

Nationally, Wisconsin is considered a bellwether state because ban opponents here will have considerable lead time to mount an aggressive campaign to stop the amendment.

Other states have rushed such amendments to the ballot, but Wisconsin law requires that proposed constitutional amendments win legislative approval twice before winning a place on the ballot....

The Wisconsin legislature has approved the proposed ban once, in March 2004, and would need to pass it again before the end of the legislative session next June.
That two-vote requirement is a good safeguard, don't you think?

If the second legislative vote does send the question on to us voters, it will be quite interesting to see how that affects the race for governor and the fight over Kohl's Senate seat. I assume that hot-button issue will provoke a lot of extra people to vote, but it's not clear at all which side of the spectrum will gain more.

Did Depp base his Willie Wonka on Michael Jackson?

That's what everyone's saying, based on simply looking at the clips. Here's what he's saying:
Depp said his inspiration for the Wonka character was "part game show host, part children's show host... locked in a closet for about 10 or 15 years".

But he has denied rumours that he based his performance on Michael Jackson.

"It never entered my mind," he told Sydney's Herald Sun newspaper, saying the character was more similar to reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.

Of course, he simply must deny it at this point.

Director Tim Burton has this:
"I always laugh about that because to me there is like a night and day difference," he told reporters in Australia recently.

"Michael Jackson likes children and Willy Wonka can't stand children.

"To me there is absolutely no connection as far as my mind goes."

Well, of course, you can't make a mainstream movie for the whole family where the lead character has a sexual interest in children. You have to scour that out of the story. So the inappropriate love is translated into hate -- an easy and obvious step.

UPDATE: Seeing the film, I concluded that Depp did not try to act like Jackson.

Do mainstream video games contain hidden sexually explicit mini-games?

BBC reports:
Best-selling game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is being investigated in the US over reports that it contains sexually explicit mini-games hidden in its code.
The controversy surrounds a download available on the net which is said to unlock secret sex scenes.

Game makers Rockstar said they were complying with the inquiry, by the industry body that sets age ratings.

If the findings were to lead to an adult-only age rating, it could limit sales from major retail outlets....

Software code developed by GTA Dutch fan Patrick Wildenborg is said to have unlocked mini-games in the PC version of San Andreas that allows players to make game characters perform sexually explicit acts.

The industry body which regulates games in the US, the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), said it had opened an investigation into the so-called Hot Coffee modification....

The fan at the centre of the controversy, Patrick Wildenborg, has said he did not create the sex scenes, but enabled them with his modification.

"But all this material is completely inaccessible in an unmodded version of the game," he said in a statement on his website.

"It can therefore not be considered a cheat, Easter Egg or hidden feature But is most probably just leftover material from a gameplay idea that didn't make the final release."

It's hard to believe the manufacturer would deliberately impair the saleability of such a successful product. Could they really have thought that something available on the internet would only be noticed by people who were happy about it?

I like the way Wildenborg not only figured out how to unlock the material but also came up with the best excuse for Rockstar to use now that it's been discovered -- "leftover material."

"Screw Job, I’m not Job."

The Anchoress tells her story, struggles with her faith, and hears from many readers.

I love HBO.

Did you watch the new episode of "Six Feet Under" yesterday, the one where Claire belted a song about pantyhose to the tune of "You Light Up My Life" ("You Ride Up My Thighs"), where Patricia Clarkson drank red wine straight from the bottle and ranted thrillingly, where Susie Bright showed up and took part in a feminist meltdown, you know: the greatest "Six Feet Under" episode of all time?

And did you stick around to watch the new episode of "The Comeback," the show that makes me seriously think: Lisa Kudrow is my favorite actress?

UPDATE: Was that the same actress playing Vanessa's au pair in SFU and the linen salesperson in "The Comeback"? She's pretty funny -- good at doing a lot with a tiny part. Who is she?

Filming a documentary about pornography.

Looking at their film, the documentarians realize that they have simply made pornography. (Watch out: the link, to a NYT review, launches an audio track for "Mamma Mia.")

The good news from Afghanistan.

Arthur Chrenkoff has a roundup of good news from Afghanistan and concludes:
The worst disservice that the international media can do to Asia's newest democracy is to accentuate the negative and thus convince everyone that Afghanistan is a hopeless basket case that's not worth our efforts. The long-suffering people of Afghanistan deserve better than that.

What bugs me the most about Hillary Clinton saying "I sometimes feel that Alfred E. Newman is in charge in Washington."

It's so damned unoriginal. It's one of the oldest Bush-is-dumb jokes. That it got a laugh from her audience shows they're either:
starved for any morsel of humor


polite enough to laugh when the speaker says something in the form of a joke

so desperately anguished that Bush is President that just about anything can set them off.

Where was this audience? -- you may wonder. It was at something called the Aspen Ideas Festival. I don't know if the Aspen Ideas Festival has thought of using an acronym, but let me suggest: As-IF.

(And somebody tell Newsday that it's Alfred E. Neuman not Alfred E. Newman. Best not to misspell things, especially in headlines, when someone else is being called stupid.)

July 10, 2005

Specter speculates -- zanily.

Here's a rather odd comment from Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter today:
Specter also said there had been some speculation that O'Connor might be willing to remain on the court if she has a chance to replace Rehnquist as chief justice.

"There had been a fair amount of talk about that possibility. And in her letter of resignation, she conditioned it on the confirmation of a successor. So there's some flexibility. Who knows? Some speculation is that she might reconsider if she were named chief justice," Specter said.

"I think it would be very tempting if the president said, 'Justice O`Connor, you could help the country now.' She has received so much adulation that a confirmation proceeding would be more like a coronation, and she might be willing to stay on for a year or so."

Why on earth would Bush want to do that? He's been itching to see her leave, one would think. The adulation you receive on retiring can't be taken seriously and understood as a wish to keep you around, as you would learn soon enough if, on hearing such praise, you offered to stay on. And what's with the "help the country" bit? As if we were in some special terrible period of instability. The fact is the stability on the Court has gone on far too long, and it's time for the political sphere to express itself with a new appointment.

UPDATE: I'm further amused, seeing that the NYT takes the zany suggestion seriously. The ideation around O'Connor these days is just goofy. Well, not really. It's grimly manipulative spinning -- as previously noted here and here.

A technical question.

Let's say you had a thrillingly exciting podcasting project in the works. You have three persons having a dialogue. How should you mike them? Should there be one microphone that can pick up all three? (If so, be specific if you can and recommend one.) Or should each person have a separate mike? (And if so, what would you recommend, both for the mike and for the way to feed them into one track?)

Putting the ointment in appointment.

I don't know. I just thought of that title. Don't really have a post to go with it. Any ideas?

UPDATE: I'd also like to copyright the phrase "a fly in the appointment ointment."

When and why do you look at the Court and see a "revolution"?

Linda Greenhouse writes of the recently concluded 11-year-long "natural court" -- a court with unchanged membership:
The experiment has run its course: put nine justices together, add a healthy mix of some of the most challenging and contested issues of the day, and wait 11 years. Glance inside occasionally and find various revolutions in progress, portending major changes in federalism, religion and property rights.

But what finally emerged was something quite different: not revolutionary change but, in the end, continuity. In the interim, the period was dynamic, even tumultuous, but by the time it was over, the revolutions had fizzled or run their course, and the fervor appeared to have died. To the extent that there was basic change, it was to the left rather than the right: a firmer foundation for affirmative action, a constitutional framework for gay rights.
Greenhouse has been overusing the word "revolution" for years, so excuse me if I yawn over the observation that it wasn't really a revolution after all. That observation was always easy to make at every point along the way. The reason Greenhouse didn't make this observation before, I imagine, is that she wanted to alarm readers and create pressure for the Court to not abandon various positions she favored. The reason she makes the observation now, I suspect, is to align with the Democratic position that the Court has been balanced and stable with the presence of Sandra Day O'Connor and that the new Justice must preserve the existing balance or terrible new things will happen.

Which Greenhouse will call "revolution."

"And when there is an enemy to defame/They cloak their spite in fair religion's name."

Last night, we drove out to Spring Green to see the American Players' production of "Tartuffe," the wonderful 1644 Moliere play about an outrageous hypocrite who dupes a rich man by acting extremely pious. Many things are said about Tartuffe before the character appears on stage, including the fact that he's eating and drinking way too much, so when the character finally appeared, I was surprised to see not a fat man but a scrawny little man. The actor (James Ridge) reminded me of George Carlin.

The theater is out in the woods:

Spring Green

And you have to take a bit of a walk up a hill to get there:

Spring Green

But it's exciting to be out under the stars, and not a single mosquito appeared. They must spray the bejeezus out of the place when the Madisonians are not looking.

With a Moliere play, there's the whole problem of translation. Are you really going to try for the endless rhyming couplets? Some, not all, translations do. We heard the Richard Wilbur translation, which really was quite beautifully and cleverly rhymed throughout. At intermission, whenever I spoke one sentence I felt a strange compulsion to try to say a second sentence that would rhyme. I did resist this impulse.

The theme of religion and the lust for power has a lot of resonance today, so let me leave you with a passage:
These charlatans, I say, whose pilgrim souls
Proceed, by way of Heaven, toward earthly goals,
Who weep and pray and swindle and extort,
Who preach the monkish life, but haunt the court
Who make their zeal the partner of their vice --
Such men are vengeful, sly, and cold as ice,
And when there is an enemy to defame
They cloak their spite in fair religion's name,
Their private spleen and malice being made
To seem a high and virtuous crusade,
Until, to mankind's reverent applause,
The crucify their foe in Heaven's cause.

Revealed: the actress was self-dramatizing.

Joe's Dartblog has an update on the Natalie Portman story. Here's my recent post tweaking her for overdramatizing her encounter with the police in NYC. Portman was driving with an expired registration when she was stopped and then turned away from driving through a tunnel, yet she attributed the stop to the fact that her head was shaved (for a film). Dartblog confirms my suspicion that she was stopped for having an expired registration.