August 20, 2005

"She's the 800-pound hummingbird of the blogosphere."

Said about me.

Osama and the comfy chair.

Here.

Yes, I know.

I need to get out. I'm going, already. I don't want to go down this road.

Selling your house?

You need to know the magic words.

Making life in Madison look glamorous.

With Jetson stools, Chihuly light fixtures, and a faint hint of the chick-lit conversation. Bonus: picture of me surrounded by booze at the link.

I'm trying to engage in an activity called "vacation."

I'll be back later with photos.

The shoot-to-kill policy.

The London police are keeping their shoot-to-kill policy, with "one or two small changes."
"The methods that were used appeared to be the least worst option (for tackling suicide bombers) ... we still have the procedure in use," [London police chief Ian Blair] told the Daily Mail....

Operation Kratos outlines what level of force officers can use to thwart what police call a "deadly and determined attack".

Public awareness of the policy only emerged after police shot Jean Charles de Menezes eight times at point blank range as he boarded an underground train on July 22, the day after four bombs failed to explode on the London's transport system....

At the time of the incident Blair said de Menezes was under surveillance as part of a manhunt to catch the four fleeing bombers and had not respond to police challenges. The next day Police admitted they had shot the wrong man and apologised.

I'd like to hear more about the surveillance that led them to focus on Menezes. Surely, it's not enough to go ahead and make mistakes and just apologize afterwards. Presumably, the "one or two small changes" are designed to avoid further mistakes, but it seems to me that they should say a little more to inspire confidence that they are doing the right thing. But terrorists need to get the message that this one mistake isn't going to make life easier for them.

"A woman named Ann Althouse" responds.

Did I make trouble for Glenn with this Instapundit post? Read this, from Think Progress.

"Think Progress" — if you want to call yourself that, don't make the "think" part seem like a joke.

(Why does it irk me that TP referred to me as "a woman named Ann Althouse"? A whiff of sexism there? Or is it like "A Man Called Horse" — kind of noble? I'll put it on my list of possible titles for the memoir I'm writing about my life as a blogger. A key chapter will be on the big difference between the way bloggers to my left and bloggers to my right treat me.)

In the comments at the Think Progress link:
Trying to insist Reynolds is vicariously part of this “smear” campaign you charge is being perpetrated, through Althouse’s bringing notice to an editorial in Investors Business Daily and calling it harsh, while guestblogging at Instapundit, is an absolute textbook example of what people mean when they use the term “moonbat.”
Indeed.

Frankly, I haven't traced down the exact role of Jamie Gorelick as one of the government lawyers who played a role in restraining the sharing of information between intelligence and law enforcement. I didn't fact-check the assertions in the editorial I cited. Think Progress writes:
Shaffer’s story [re Able Danger], if it’s true, involved communications between the Department of Defense and the FBI. Gorelick’s 1995 memo was only about communications between the FBI and the criminal division of the Justice Department.
I didn't fact-check that either. I'd love to read a very substantial, unbiased analysis about the role of government lawyers in stopping the flow of information about the 9/11 plot. But isn't that what the report of the 9/11 Commission should, in part, have been? I don't want to see Gorelick (or anyone else) smeared, but by serving on the Commission, she contributed to the feeling many of us have now that we were deprived of the whole story.

This isn't a vendetta about Gorelick. The only other mention of her on this blog is in this post linking to my own Instapundit post (to make a place for comments). I'm genuinely concerned about the Able Danger story. But now that Think Progress is drawing attention to Gorelick, I can see that her presence on the 9/11 Commission impairs the credibility of its report. That's terribly important!

Isn't it?

If it's not, explain why, respectfully and rationally, and I'll discuss it with you. Don't just go into that ridiculous hysterical mode. My recent experience with lefty blogs that misread, freak out, and hurl insults makes me unwilling to engage with people who don't show a commitment to civil discourse. I'm going to save time by assuming it's not going to go anywhere.

UPDATE: A shorter Atrios... Wait! You can't get any shorter. I mean: Thanks to Atrios for providing an instant example of what I'm saying about lefty blogs. Sigh.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of hardcore types making fools of themselves and some good observations too. I just wanted to highlight this statement of mine about fact-checking:
Bloggers link to articles and opinion pieces all the time without independently checking the facts in them. If someone just sent me a friendly email when there's an error, I'd check into it and make a correction. There's nothing to flake out about. You're just being hardcore partisans looking for ways to attack all the terribly many people you view as your enemies.

I'm supposed to do independent research before I blog about anything that contains factual statements? That's a weird requirement, yet Atrios and Think Progress are acting all triumphant as if this post admits to some big failing! Really, is it their contention that you can't link to an opinion piece without checking any facts it includes? Do they follow that rule? I think not!

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 20.

It's Day 20 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) Today, I visit the Van Loon Museum:

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

If "Mrs. Rittenhouse" means nothing to you: go here. More here.

August 19, 2005

1000.

That's the number of miles I just drove. Beginning with the sunrise in the rearview mirror, I ended driving into the early part of the sunset, which made the mountains look like frosted glass.

A big difference between driving east and west from Wisconsin: tolls! It's tolls all the way after Wisconsin, going east. Not a single toll going west.

Driving with the sunrise in the rear-view mirror.

I love to do that!

Is this anti-woman?

Or anti-lawyer?

Roberts reined in Reagan.

Here's what looks like good news about Supreme Court nominee John Roberts.
Newly released documents from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library reflect Mr. Roberts's repeated efforts to protect Mr. Reagan and his aides and supporters from some of their own most zealous instincts. He warned against excessive public presidential support for the Nicaraguan contra rebels. In 1984, he wrote a somewhat defensive note to his boss, the White House counsel Fred F. Fielding, arguing that it was all right for a presidential letter on minority business enterprise to speak of "encouraging government procurements," adding, "I do not think 'encourage' connotes anything in the nature of a set-aside or quota."

In 1984, Mr. Roberts objected to the proposed draft of a presidential campaign speech that would have had Mr. Reagan refer to the United States as "the greatest nation God ever created." Mr. Roberts wrote, "According to Genesis, God creates things like heavens and the earth and the birds and the fishes, but not nations." He added that the phrase was "a likely candidate for the 'Reaganism of the Week.'"
He sounds like a tough and clear thinking character. We need someone with good instincts and the nerve and the intelligence to see the excesses in others and to stand up to them — in crisply apt English.

There's a limit to what we can infer from old papers, and we don't know how well the NYT picked through the documents and interpreted what it found, so I'm not going to become giddy with high hopes about Roberts. Still, I can't help but think that he will dramatically improve the quality of Supreme Court opinions. We shall see.

The ways of the spambot.

Analyzed.

UPDATE: Blogger now lets you require commenters to type in those non-font letters to prove your a human being. Just go to settings, the commenting. Sorry to bother everyone with that extra step, but given a weapon against spambots, I'm going to use it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: RLC writes a post saying that his mother just died and the seventh comment is from a spambot. ("Hi, I was just blog surfing and found you and i like your blog! If you like, go see my indianapolis escort related site. You may still find something of interest.") For shame!

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 19.

It's Day 19 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.)

Today's page puts side-by-side two drawings that observe couples in restaurants. One is a general observation about the way men and women relate to each other in restaurant conversation, which, traveling alone, I overheard constantly. The second depicts a particular woman, who deviated from the norm and gave her partner hell about every little thing.

I was feeling lonely on this trip, but I often thought about whether I would be happier if I were this particular woman or that, sitting with that man, experiencing that conversation. The answer was usually no. I put a lot of effort into trying to reshape my loneliness into a profound, spiritual solitude. That worked some of the time, and the drawings are the direct record of this effort.

Throughout this trip I was always aware of the vacations that other people had that were denied to me. They could pursue fun and relaxation, but had the threat of interpersonal friction. I was on an art pilgrimmage, far from any of these things.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

August 18, 2005

Tornado sirens.

Heard repeatedly this evening. Spooky!

Do you like picnics?

I don't. What's the point?

"The Apprentice: Martha Stewart."

This is probably far more than anyone needs to know about a show — that nobody really needs to watch. Am I going to watch? I'll test it out. (It starts September 21st.) I find Martha moderately fascinating, and it will be nice to see the female counterpart to Donald Trump. What will that look like? I will be interested in detecting the deep cultural meaning in how the translation to the female is accomplished.

Commenting.

A couple of vicious links to this old post of mine have resulted in a lot of action in the comments. I wouldn't mind if some of you went over there and beat back some of the nastiness.

"What effect is all this blogging having on the brains of bloggers?"

Ask Drs. Fernette and Brock Eide. Why it's a good question:
[O]ur mental activities actually cause changes in the structures of our brains--not only what we think, but how we think as well. ... After surveying the general range of materials that the blogosphere has to offer, we believe the following basic largely supportive conclusions are warranted:

1. Blogs can promote critical and analytical thinking.

First, there are blogs and there are...well, blogs. The best of blogs are rich in ideas and promote active exchange and critique. Rather than creating closed communities of like-minded troglodytes, these best blogs foster conversation, interactions with other blogs and other information sources, and invite feedback from their readers. Posts can form "threads" or links to other Web materials where readers can examine primary source material or articles that offer competing ideas and views. Blogs that follow this format are far from simple substitutes for television or video games. In fact, they are an ideal format for promoting critical and analytical thinking....

2. Blogging can be a powerful promoter of creative, intuitive, and associational thinking.

To remain popular with readers, blogs must be updated frequently. This constant demand for output promotes a kind of spontaneity and 'raw thinking'--the fleeting associations and the occasional outlandish ideas--seldom found in more formal media.... Raw, spontaneous, associational thinking has also been advocated by many creativity experts, including the brilliant mathematician Henri Poincare who recommended writing without much thought at times "to awaken some association of ideas."

3. Blogs promote analogical thinking....

4. Blogging is a powerful medium for increasing access and exposure to quality information....

5. Blogging combines the best of solitary reflection and social interaction....

Bloggers have solitary time to plan their posts, but they can also receive rapid feedback on their ideas. The responses may open up entirely new avenues of thought as posts circulate and garner comments.

Read the whole thing.

Great post.

I feel that I came to blogging with a brain ready to do exactly this and previously severely frustrated by an inability to do this. And I am also very aware that blogging has really affected my mind, mostly in good ways. For one thing, it's gotten me past that severe frustration of not blogging.

As I write this, the little kid across the street is screaming: "A worm! A worm! A worm! Oh! Ah! A worm! A worm! A worm! Oh! Ah!" And I'm already thinking, I want to blog about that.

Then I realize I don't need to start another post. That quote and my wanting to blog about it fit quite well right here, illustrating what blogging has done to my brain. In some ways, I feel I can think more clearly and quickly about what matters — in a bloggish sense of what "matters," which includes that worm quote. And I have a cool feeling of being able to pay rapt attention to whatever I'm thinking and writing about while still being ever distractable.

Careers for Girls.

Bradley's Almanac has some amazing pictures of the pieces of a 1966 board game for girls called "What Shall I Be?" (Via Jonah Goldberg.) There are six possible careers: teacher, nurse, actress, model, airline stewardess, and ballerina. Actually, that's I big improvement over what I heard about growing up. If you wanted to be a "career gal" — as opposed to a mother — your choices were: teacher, nurse, and secretary.

My intuition tells me...

This is a pretty well-done test. (Via Popdex.)

"Pleistocene re-wilding."

What?!
[The disappearance of very large animals in North Amerca in the last 13,000 year has] left glaring gaps in the complex web of interactions, upon which a healthy ecosystem depends. The pronghorn, for example, has lost its natural predator and only its startling speed - of up to about 60mph - hints at its now forgotten foe.

By introducing living counterparts to the extinct animals, the researchers say, these voids could be filled. So, by introducing free-ranging African cheetahs to the Southwest, strong interactions with pronghorns could be restored, while providing cheetahs with a new habitat.

Other living species that could "stand in" for Pleistocene-era animals in North America include feral horses (Equus caballus), wild asses (E. asinus), Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus), Asian (Elephas maximus) and African (Loxodonta africana) elephants and lions (Panthera leo).

"Obviously, gaining public acceptance is going to be a huge issue, especially when you talk about reintroducing predators," said lead author Josh Donlan, of Cornell University. "There are going to have to be some major attitude shifts. That includes realising predation is a natural role, and that people are going to have to take precautions."

Crazy! Or do I just have an attitude problem?

UPDATE: More on the subject from Tim Worstall and Glenn Reynolds.

Who are the ecotourists?

RLC describes his recent ecotourism. What sort of people vacation this way?
The adults were as follows: a philosophy professor, an education professor, a medical doctor, a physics graduate student, a psychotherapist, a psychotherapist in training, a software engineer turned transpersonal therapist in training, and an ex-novelist trying to keep his mouth shut. At times the conversation turned to university politics, and one wondered, “Have I inadvertently booked my vacation in the faculty lounge?” But given the right frame of mind the chat beneath the roof blended with the chatter of monkeys and insects and birds outside. It was life, it was members of a species calling back and forth, “This is my area, this is what I control.”

Do you want monkeys swinging from the rafters while you're trying to eat breakfast? Seems like a heath code violation to me. Except where you are, there is no health code. No hot water or electricity either. Yet somehow RLC calls ecotourism "being coddled in the middle of nowhere."

Why should a state run a law school?

Andrew Morriss, guest-blogging at Volokh Conspiracy, doesn't think there is a good enough reason for state universities to have law schools.
Why should states have law schools at all? If there is a desire for more lawyers in a state, funding a state law school (esp. a prestigious one) is not an efficient means of getting them. In Ohio, for example, Ohio State touts the opportunities for its graduates to get jobs across the U.S., not just in Ohio, after graduation. Clearly not aimed at maximizing the number of new lawyers in Ohio.

Here in Wisconsin, the diploma privilege — exempting Wisconsin own law students from taking the bar exam — shows we're serious about supplying lawyers for the state. Much as we also care about helping students find employment outside of Wisconsin, if they leave they will have to take a bar exam.

Morriss has more on the topic here, where he addresses many of the justifications that people raised in the comments to his first post.

Why pick on law schools, though? Look at all the other departments of the state university. Do they all make sense in a way that law school doesn't? I haven't read all of Morriss's posts over there, but his main topic has been law school rankings, and I think his more fundamental problem with state law schools is their participation in the effort to climb in the U.S. News rankings. If there is a reason for the state to run a law school, is it consistent with competing in the rankings?

This reminds me of the question Justice Scalia asked counsel for the University of Michigan in the oral argument in Grutter?
QUESTION: Ms. Mahoney, I — I find it hard to take seriously the State of Michigan's contention that racial diversity is a compelling State interest, compelling enough to warrant ignoring the Constitution's prohibition of distribution on the basis of race.

The reason I say that is that the problem is a problem of Michigan's own creation, that is to say, it has decided to create an elite law school, it is one of the best law schools in the country. And there are few State law schools that — that get to that level.

Now, it's done this by taking only the best students with the best grades and the best SATs or LSATs knowing that the result of this will be to exclude to a large degree minorities.

It is — it's not unconstitutional to do that, because it's — that's not — not the purpose of what Michigan did, but it is the predictable result. Nonetheless, Michigan says we want an elite law school.

Now, considering created this situation by making that decision, it then turns around and says, oh, we have a compelling State interest in eliminating this racial imbalance that ourselves have created.

Now, if Michigan really cares enough about that racial imbalance, why doesn't it do as many other State law schools do, lower the standards, not have a flagship elite law school, it solves the problem.

MS. MAHONEY: Your Honor, I don't think there's anything in this Court's cases that suggests that the law school has to make an election between academic excellence and racial diversity. The interest here is having a —

QUESTION: If it claims it's a compelling State interest. If it's important enough to override the Constitution's prohibition of racial distribution, it seems to me it's important enough to override Michigan's desire to have a super-duper law school?

MS. MAHONEY: Your Honor, the question isn't whether it's important to override the prohibition on discrimination. It's whether this is discrimination. Michigan — what Michigan is doing benefits —

Perhaps the question Morriss really means to ask is not whether the state should run a law school, but whether the state, if it chooses to run a law school, ought to have a different, less elite approach than a private law school.

Madison, late summer.

The place is nearly deserted:

State Street

The "Stop the War"/"Stop the Lies" guy is just chatting with someone who's sitting on the ground and who already agrees with him:

State Street

There are no lines at the food carts, and the folksinger has stacks of Bibles, untaken though free:

State Street

In two weeks this place will flow with students:

State Street

Come on back!

State Street

Come on in!

State Street

Students, we vigilantly await your arrival. Every seat will be filled soon, on some crisp football Saturday:

State Street

Window shopping.

State Street

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 18.

It's Day 18 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.)

After the Katten Kabinet:

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

"It was cold and calculating. There was no gray, it was black and white."

Taking an attitude like that, about 40% of Americans say they hated math in school. Interestingly, about 25% of Americans say it was their favorite subject. The reason for loving it seems to be identical to the reason for hating it:
"When you got all done, you got answers. With English you could say a lot of words that mean different things, my interpretation might be different from any of the teachers. But with math, there's no interpretation -- two plus two is four."

August 17, 2005

Googling and finding this blog first on the list.

Coming up first for this search is a funny traffic builder for this blog. [ADDED: Whoops, this one isn't first, just the top of a page — it's 41st.]

And this and this one surprise me. [ADDED: Actually, only the second one is first. Top of the page error again. Sorry.]

Here's a subject I know nothing about.

This brings people here every day.

And I'm #1 for "popcorn pajama pants," which is a funny thing to be looking for.

I'm #1 for "student protest photos," interestingly.

Strangely, I'm #1 for "this is not a goddess."

Condoleezza...

Is doing pretty well in the '08 polling:
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is a surprising top choice for president among Iowa Republicans, according to a poll to be released today — more than two years before the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Among 400 Republicans who said they are likely to attend the 2008 caucuses, Rice received the backing of 30.3 percent. U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona was second in the survey with 16 percent, and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani received support from 15.3 percent. Roughly 20 percent were undecided.

Very high numbers!

Comics on the web.

Should we see "wild-eyed optimism about Web comics" as "contempt for the comics form"? There was once a big debate about that. One key complaint from back then remains: on the web, there's a pull toward animation that threatens the things we love about the printed page.

Do the departing college kids just throw all their crap at the curb in your town?

They do here.

ADDED: You'd think Madison would be more eco.

Able Danger update.

The NYT reports on Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, an Army intelligence officer, who has come forward to say that "two briefcase-size containers" of Able Danger documents were passed on to the 9/11 commission.
Former commission chairman Thomas Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton said last week that the military official who made the claim had no documentation to back it up.

Shaffer rejected that remark. "Leaving a project targeting al-Qaida as a global threat a year before we were attacked by al-Qaida is equivalent to having an investigation of Pearl Harbor and leaving somehow out the Japanese," he said in the Fox interview.

In the Times account of the interview, Shaffer said he was ''at the point of near insubordination over the fact that this was something important, that this was something that should have been pursued'' in describing his efforts to get the evidence from the intelligence program to the FBI in 2000 and early 2001.

What can Kean and Hamilton say to this?

You paid $18 to see "The Wedding Crashers," why?

For the privilege of sitting in the balcony next to people who are eating monkfish and clinking wineglasses. Only the popcorn is included in the ticket price.
"Even without the popcorn, it's definitely worth the money," said David Raphael, a salesman from Boca Raton who, with his wife, Judy, was enjoying a glass of wine at the upstairs bar at the Palace before a screening of "Wedding Crashers." "We pretty much go here whenever we go to the movies. And we pass other theaters to get here."

None of this, of course, changes the fact that Hollywood movies seem to skew younger and younger every year.

"We're a product-driven business, and we don't have any control over the product, unfortunately," [Muvico president Hamid] Hashemi said. "But in all our customer surveys, the unifying factor is: 'Get us away from the kids.' It's the exact opposite of what we're led to believe in this business."

Apparently, people are crazy. If the movie is bad and you want to eat a nice dinner and not be near young people, why not just go to a restaurant? If the problem is that you don't know how to have a conversation that's as good as a bad movie, well, that's pretty sad. You could go to the restaurant alone and bring a good book. Or you could take out restaurant food and stay home and watch a good DVD (which is, I think, what most older folk do).

100 top albums of the 1980s.

Speaking of Prince, why was "1999" only #16 on Rolling Stones list of 100 top albums of the 1980s? Here's the top 20 (go to the link for the full list):
1.London Calling, The Clash
2.Purple Rain, Prince
3.The Joshua Tree, U2
4.Remain In Light, Talking Heads
5.Graceland, Paul Simon
6.Born in the U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen
7.Thriller, Michael Jackson
8.Murmur, R.E.M.
9.Shoot Out The Lights, Richard and Linda Thompson
10.Tracy Chapman, Tracy Chapman
11.Get Happy!!, Elvis Costello
12.It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy
13.Diesel And Dust, Midnight Oil
14.So, Peter Gabriel
15.Let It Be, The Replacements
16.1999, Prince
17.Synchronicity, The Police
18.Dirty Mind, Prince
19.New York, Lou Reed
20.Pretenders, The Pretenders

One answer is that they gave him the second slot for "Purple Rain" and even put "Dirty Mind" at #18. ("Sign o' the Times" is #74.) Another answer is that the list was made in 1990.

What looks really out of place on this list today? Maybe my younger readers will agree with me that this list reeks of Baby Boomer.

Roberts and prescience.

The NYT reports:
In 1984, [Supreme Court nominee John] Roberts twice wielded his wit to stop other White House staff members from writing letters for Mr. Reagan lauding Michael Jackson for charitable work.

"I recognize that I am something of a vox clamans in terris in this area, but enough is enough," he wrote in a memorandum in June 1984, using the approximate Latin for "voice crying in the wilderness." He added, "The Office of Presidential Correspondence is not yet an adjunct of Michael Jackson's P.R. firm."

Three months later, Mr. Roberts was batting away a new request. "I hate to sound like one of Mr. Jackson's records, constantly repeating the same refrain, but I recommend that we not approve this letter." He noted that a press report said that some young fans were turning from Mr. Jackson "in favor of a newcomer who goes by the name 'Prince.' "

Mr. Roberts asked, "Will he receive a presidential letter?"

1983 was pre-"Purple Rain," the time of "Little Red Corvette," "1999," "Delerious," and "Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)" ("Some people tell me I got great legs/Can't figure out why u make me beg"). Meanwhile, Jackson was at the peak of "Thriller" idolatry. Recognizing back in 1983 that Prince would overtake Michael Jackson — that's nicely prescient.

Nowadays, it's so obvious, Chris Rock gets a huge laugh saying:
"Remember back in the day when we all would argue who's better, Michael Jackson or Prince? Well, Prince won!"

Someday, maybe we'll be saying, remember back in the day when we all argued whether John Roberts would be as good as Sandra Day O'Connor? Well, Roberts won.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 17.

It's Day 17 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) Yesterday's drawings were inspired by a trip to the Historical Museum. Today we go to the Cat Museum — the Katten Kabinet:

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

What is the Cat and Mouse Act?
In 1913 the Women's Social & Political Union increased its campaign to destroy public and private property. The women responsible were often caught and once in prison they went on hunger-strike. Determined to avoid these women becoming martyrs, the government introduced the Prisoner's Temporary Discharge of Ill Health Act. Suffragettes were now allowed to go on hunger strike but as soon as they became ill they were released. Once the women had recovered, the police re-arrested them and returned them to prison where they completed their sentences. This successful means of dealing with hunger strikes became known as the Cat and Mouse Act.
And here's the printed poster of the time with the image I saw in ceramic:



("Mau" is the Egyptian word for "cat.")

What I'd like to see on television on September 11th.

Some network ought to simply run its original programming from the day. No re-editing to clean up the narrative or eliminate repetition, no reporters looking back on how they felt at the time, no analysis in light of subsequent events — just the feed we saw that day.

August 16, 2005

Elvis.

28 years ago Elvis died. August 16th isn't a date I keep in my head, but I was driving in my car, listening to the 50s channel and they were playing Elvis's Sun recordings and saying it's been 28 years. They played "Mystery Train." Very beautiful on a summer night.

I got to thinking about that night 28 years ago. I had gone to bed early and was listening to the radio and heard that Elvis had died. I got up and got dressed and came out into the living room to say "Elvis died!" They looked at me like they thought I was stupid and said who cares?

And I just thought you make me so lonely... I could die.

"September 11th is So Hot Right Now."

September 11th, coming soon to a theatre near you. I loathe the whole idea of 9/11 movies, so I suppose I should be outraged by this, but for some reason I'm not. (Scroll down to the photos.) There can't be any 9/11 humor, can there? Ever?

No, you wouldn't...

You wouldn't intentionally vomit-blog, would you?

Yes, I'm afraid I must. When I find that, quite by chance, a somewhat unusual word has come up twice in one day, I see if I can find enough other manifestations to make a post. Ten entries would be nice. Let's see:

1. Look! It's fossilized dinosaur vomit!

2. There hasn't been a vomit-in to protest the war in Iraq for a while. You can pass that on to the Cindy Sheehan cadre in case they're looking for a way to add oomph to their vigil.

3. Remember that student who deliberately vomited on his teacher? He was sentenced to clean up vomit in police cars — for four months. Mmmm!

4. Best vomiting in a movie? Maybe you have a better selection, but I think it's got to be Veronica Cartwright in "The Witches of Eastwick."

5. American Sign Language.

6. Rats can't vomit.

7. There really is something called "dog vomit slime mold." (This link is worth going to if only to enjoy some retro webpage design.)

8. I had a whole lot of fun with one of these when I was a kid.

9. Bible verse: "As a dog returneth to his vomit, so a fool returneth to his folly."

10. Sorry, I can't come up with a tenth thing. I have to go eat lunch. Well, let's just say I have to find my lunch.

UPDATE: An entry from Dahlia Lithwick:
I am enormously confident, however, that John Roberts has never smoked pot. And I know this because I knew guys like him in college and at law school; we all knew guys like him. These were the guys who were certain, by age 19, that they couldn't smoke pot, or date trampy girls, or throw up off the top of the school clock tower because it would impair their confirmation chances. They would have done all these things, but for the possibility of being carved out of the history books for it.

"Loud and obnoxious — er, I mean 'life-affirming.'"

Television Without Pity comes out with its TWoP Staff Special Achievement Awards, including one for Rosie O'Donnell, which they meanly call "The 'Stinkier Than a Day-Old Deviled Egg' Award":
Oh, Rosie O'Donnell. You had us with your fun and fresh talk show, then you lost us with that whole "lying gives you cancer" business, then you had us again when you came out, then you lost us again with that weird '80s asymmetrical lesbian haircut, then you lost us even more with your mildly psychotic free-verse blog. And then, you really, really lost us when you bought the rights to, produced and cast yourself as an unattractive, loud and obnoxious -- er, I mean "life-affirming" -- retarded woman with a public transportation fetish in the made-for-television pile of cat vomit known as Riding the Bus with My Sister. If at any point after you thrill us with the dulcet tones of your singing voice in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof you want to stop unleashing your creative talents on the world, we're totally okay with that.
(Ooh, second appearance of the word "vomit" on this blog today... and you know how I feel about un-hot eggs, even before they've gone bad.)

Lions view Mini Coopers as prey.

Yummy.

"Roberts' support of gender bias."

That's the headline Kos uses to introduce the news that Supreme Court nominee John Roberts opposed a judicial remedy boosting pay in jobs traditionally held by women, where market forces had left the pay lower than for jobs traditionally held by men. In the same post, Kos calls Justice O'Connor: "a tireless crusader for women rights in the workplace and schools." What tiresome exaggerations.

"My first reaction was, 'Oh, he reads books?' "

So said an anti-Bush author, mucking up the publicity opportunity presented by the news that President Bush is reading his book.

Sure, I'll keep it private!

I'll publish it in the New York Times, but other than that I'll keep it private.

"What dreary sentimental nonsense this all is, and how much space has been wasted on it."

An exclamation without an exclamation point shows how sick Christopher Hitchens is of Cindy Sheehan.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 16.

It's Day 16 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) Today, we learn something at the historical museum.

Amsterdam Notebook

(View large.)

Amsterdam Notebook

(View large.)

"A sepulchral RALPH NADER sat calmly eating peanuts, his lanky frame folded into his seat like origami."

I love that description of Ralph Nader sitting through the opening performance of that horrible new musical about John Lennon. After the show:
Upstairs, PAUL SHAFFER was making his way to the elevators when he passed Mr. Nader, who was standing near the wall. "You're Canadian!" Mr. Nader said, and they had a short discussion about Canada.

We asked Mr. Nader, who said he was invited by Ms. Ono, about HILLARY CLINTON's prospects for 2008, given her newly positioned centrist platform, and -

"She's not a centrist," Mr. Nader interrupted. "She's a social-services corporatist."

O.K. Would you run against her?

"Too early to tell."

He's good with the snappy epithet: Canadian! Social-services corporatist!

August 15, 2005

Courtney and the Pamela Anderson Roast.

I finally got around to watching the Pamela Anderson Roast I'd taken the trouble to TiVo. As you may remember, I wanted to watch it because of the fuss that was made over Courtney Love's behavior. Well, the show was excruciating, with second rate comics making one bad anatomical joke after another. It was supposedly a charity event for PETA – man, I remember when a politically correct operation like that would not sully itself with rank sexist material – and many, many of the jokes connected the kind of animals PETA cares about with the animal names that are used as slang for a woman's genitalia. So the show was utter crapola but somehow everyone wrote about Courtney, because apparently it's so fun to attack her. Interestingly enough, it turned out that Courtney had the best control over how to do a celebrity roast right. Everyone was holding a drink and badly faking high spirits, but she outdid them all, convincingly displaying a roasty attitude. When it was her turn to speak, she did her part perfectly. She played the rocker who deigned to stop by to give Pamela real rock cred because she loved her. She did her lines and her moves and then she kissed Anderson's high-heeled foot. Well played, Courtney! Chez Althouse, we love you!

UPDATE: Putting Pam and Courtney side-by-side made me want to spin out an analysis similar to the comparison between Jackie Kennedy and Liz Taylor in "Jackie Under My Skin" (by Wayne Koestenbaum). You have two icons and one is pure and idealized, the other is tainted and dirtied. In the Pam/Courtney comparison, both represent sexuality and self-indulgence, but Pam has some how made what was dirty into something utterly polished and glossy – essentially fulfilling the Playboy dream. Courtney is the real-life version of sexual indulgence: this is what trying to live that fantasy will really make you look like. Well, now I'm thinking of another book.

At the café.

We spent hours talking in the café in the late afternoon today. Tonya and Nina tolerated me testing out my new camera.

Tonya and Nina

And other electronic devices were used as well.

Tonya and Nina

Distractions.

I went to Thomas Hawk's blog to read his post about OpenTV, but got distracted by this cool photo. So do you want to talk about how exciting/scary OpenTV is, or would you rather look at follow that photo down the Flickr rathole – to the hyper-judgmental "Delete-me!" group?

Movies for puzzlers.

Eric Berlin is making a list of movies for puzzle lovers. For example, "Memento" – one of my very favorites.

I've got one: "The Draughtsman's Contract." An artist contracts with a rich woman to make 12 drawings of her estate and to bestow sexual favors on her while her husband is away. Mysterious objects appear in the scenes he's drawing – a ladder, a pair of boots – and these raise questions about whether the husband has been murdered. I saw this film when it came out in the 80s and can't remember at all how the plot was tied up, but I do remember that it was quite elaborate and clever. It's also beautifully filmed.

Help Berlin add to his list.

Don't you love the meanest sentence in a bad review?

From Ben Brantley's NYT review of "Lennon" (the Broadway musical):
This drippy version of his life, written and directed with equal clunkiness by Don Scardino and featuring a Muzak-alized assortment of Lennon's non-"Beatles" songs, suggests that he was just a little lost boy looking for love in all the wrong places until he found Ms. Ono and discovered his inner adult.
I was never a big Ono-loather, but this musical project has turned me into one.

When did Utopia become a bad thing?

Historian Russell Jacoby wonders in a new book – "Picture Imperfect: Utopian Thought for an Anti-Utopian Age" – about which Edward Rothstein writes:
Utopianism, he says, might ... have earned a bad name because of the prevalence of "blueprint utopianism" - attempts to specify particulars about the nature of a utopia's governance, family life or social arrangements. Such blueprints, he acknowledges, tend to betray "a certain authoritarianism."....

Utopianism is not a particular set of beliefs about what society should be. It is a way of believing. Its belief in perfectibility and harmony is a form of absolutism. A utopia will not admit opposition to itself, because then it would be subject to alteration - and would no longer be a utopia.

So utopias, in fact or fiction, have never been able to deal with individuality or private life or dissent. They construct a world in which there can be no disruption. Real-world utopian communities have either disintegrated under the pressure or turned tyrannical in attempts to control it. Their fantasy is that all inhabitants will yield voluntarily, which is never the case. That is the link between utopianism and totalitarianism. It is also why democracy, which presumes disagreement and transformation, is not a utopian ideology.

But Nazism and Islamicism are - not because of their particular beliefs but because of how they envision bringing their perfect worlds into being. They are meant to be all-encompassing, governing all aspects of life. They allow no qualification, whether the goal is the supremacy of the Aryan race or the submission of all humanity to Islamic shariah....

Mr. Jacoby sees enough to seek a somewhat different path. His iconoclastic utopianism is more a form of yearning, an amorphous desire for better things, a desire to improve the human condition. It is utopianism with a human face. Unless, of course, it becomes serious about this utopia business.
Well, readers, how about you? Let me ask my question in the form of a poem:
Are you now or have you ever been

Utopian?

"She likes kissing Sam's hairless frame, littered with blackheads, brown warts and moles."

The ugliest dog in the world. Enlarge the photo for the full Tales-From-the-Crypt scary effect. (Via Drudge.)

A walk in the cemetery – part 2.

Cemetery

Cemetery.

Cemetery

Justice Sunday II.

I contemplated attending "Justice Sunday II," a rally, held yesterday at a church in Nashville, aimed at educating evangelical Christians about the U.S. Supreme Court.
Many of the speeches targeted the Supreme Court's power and what the writers of the Constitution intended the justices' role to be.

"All wisdom does not reside in nine persons in black robes," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay told the crowd. "The Constitution is clear on the point that the power to make laws is vested on Congress."

The president of The Catholic League, Bill Donahue, suggested a constitutional amendment to say that "unless a judicial vote is unanimous, you cannot overturn a law created by Congress."

The court is trying to "take the hearts and souls of our culture," he said.

Dobson evoked the framers of the Constitution, saying: "These activist, unelected judges believe they know better than the American people about the direction the country should go. The framers of our great nation did not intend for the courts to have absolute and final power over us."
This familiar rhetoric would drive me crazy to have to sit through, I must say. There's no detail or serious analysis of the kind that would be interesting to someone who has studied law. These are ridiculous overstatements, and I'd be embarrassed to be sitting still listening to such empty jabbering.

Why did I consider going? I received an invitation, offering to pay my expenses. Unlike Jeff Jarvis, I didn't consider this an ethical challenge. I'm not a journalist. I'm a law professor. Lawprofs get invited to conferences and have their expenses paid all the time. Jarvis thinks there's a problem when an organization essentially pays to have its event covered. I don't object when some law school pays my way to a symposium, though I suppose I could view it as their self-promotion.

But I didn't go, partly because I'm busy, but partly because the content of the speeches would be very tedious to me, and the blogging I would do would be about the people. It would be a very strange milieu for me. Describing it and my reaction to it would be quite intriguing, but it was much too much trouble for me to go to to feel as uneasy as I imagined I would.

Charmaine Yoest was there and also has links to all the other bloggers who were there.

Here's Captain Ed's live-blog of the event. I'm going to read through this and think about what it would have been like for me to be on-site. Excerpts:
6:35 - Tony Perkins pushing the "Save The Court" kit. He wants people to hold small meetings in their homes to play the DVD of this program. It's free, I think. They're also promoting Ten Commandment bookk covers for school textbooks. It sounds clever, but can you imagine going to a public school and having your parents make you use them? You'd need body armor to get through the day.

6:38 - We have another reference to a 'right' to homosexual sodomy. I'm no fan of the Lawrence decision, but why pick on 'homosexual' sodomy? It sounds like sodomy doesn't bother them at all, just the homosexuals. Can we just drop the footstamping about homosexuality?...

6:58 - Zell Miller, for once, got a chance to sound calmer than the act he preceded. He gave a good speech, exhorting the audience to be "doers of the Word" and not just listeners. Very impressive.

7:03 - Jett Williams cut her song a bit short; according to the schedule we have, the program may be running a couple of minutes long. Now we have Phyllis Schlafly speaking, talking about judicial supremacy. She talks about the "heresy" of the notion that the Supreme Court decisions are the supreme law of the land. "Heresy", I think, is a particularly bad choice of words here.

7:08 - Phyllis does better with her baseball analogy than Tony Perkins did with his. She pointed out that umpires can't change the rules by, say, calling batters out with only two strikes. I said "better", not "great".
It sounds as though the event was well run, but I'm hardly sorry I wasn't there. The obsession with homosexuality is tiresome – quite aside from its wrongheadedness. And "judicial activism" really is a bland topic, even though people get all excited about it. We all want judges to do some things and not others. One of the things the speakers complained about was the Kelo case, but that was an example of restraint, not activism. The Court declined to enforce a right. And these speakers don't like too much Establishment Clause enforcement, but I'll bet they moan about not enough Free Exercise protection.

It doesn't sound to me as though the speakers penetrated one millimeter into the political veneer. I detect no interest in a real understanding of law and courts. Complaining about the courts being too political, they are too political.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 15.

It's Day 15 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) Today's page observes some signs and a street performer:

Amsterdam Notebooks

Amsterdam Notebooks

August 14, 2005

"Six Feet Under" – the penultimate episode.

Tonight's episode was intense, but mostly a bridge to the final episode. All the characters got shaken around. Next week we'll see where they end up.

I didn't intentionally set out to make death the theme of the day on the blog. The "dood" page turned up in the Amsterdam Notebook... and then there was that walk in the cemetery...

IN THE COMMENTS: A discussion of Clare's anti-war rant. Should we be mad at the writers or not? Read the first two comments, which contain no signficant spoilers.

A walk in the cemetery.

Cemetery.

Cemetery.

Cemetery.

Cemetery.

Cemetery.

"NARM Convention Kicks Off."

Ooh! Sounds dangerous! But it's not. If you don't know what I'm talking about, then you are undoubtedly not excited about the fact that there's a new episode of "Six Feet Under" tonight – the second to the last episode of the series. Some key characters are staring in the face of death now. Who knows where the next narm lies?

I'm going to keep saying "narm" a lot, because you wouldn't believe how much traffic I get from people Googling the word "narm." This blog is the highest ranked mention of "narm" that's actually about "Six Feet Under." Some tedious acronyms take the top four spots – the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, the North American Registry of Midwives, National Association of Reunion Managers – but then there's the Althouse blog, ready with some serious narm information.

Anyway, come into the comments and speculate about what is going to happen in the final two episodes. Who'll be the next to narm? If you've actually got any real info, don't reveal it. Stick to pure speculation. But go ahead and reveal info from past episodes. (Don't go in the comments if you're waiting for the DVDs to come out and don't want the old episodes spoiled.)

How hard it is to be a patient these days!

There's so much to understand just to try to decide what treatment you want. (The linked front-page NYT article features the UW Law School's amazing Meg Gaines.)

"Tented up in a ditch."

Drudge is getting awfully mean about Cindy Sheehan. There's a real danger to centering your political argument on one individual. You get the oomph of the personal, but you have a person, who might any minute say something stupid for your opponents to exclaim over. If I was camping out in the Texas sun – "tented up in a ditch" – with cameras in my face for weeks, I can't imagine what the dumbest thing I'd say would be, and I'm sure I'd completely lose touch with how it would look in the press. The real debate ought to be about the war, not about Cindy Sheehan. But it is human nature to divert our attention from a big, complex picture when we have the chance to think and talk about a particular individual. And so we have this endless focus on Ms. Sheehan.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 14.

It's Day 14 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) Today, we contemplate death and religion.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Asylum for gay persons?

The Ninth Circuit found that a gay man who had been abused by the police in Mexico was eligible for asylum in the United States:
The three-judge appellate panel said in its ruling that Boer-Sedano would likely face further abuse and have difficulty getting life-sustaining AIDS medication if he was sent back to Mexico, where the U.S. State Department has found violence against gays to be widespread.

The ruling is the latest in which the San Francisco-based court has granted refuge to gay or transgendered asylum applicants from Latin America based on evidence of abuse inflicted or condoned by police.

''It really does mean that he'll be safe now,'' said Boer-Sedano's lawyer, Angela Bean.