November 25, 2006

The Top 100 Cover Songs.

I love Retrocrush, and I'm just finishing the 99th podcast, which is about the top 25 of the Top 100 Cover Songs. If you haven't heard Robert Berry's podcasting, you really need to listen. He's got a hilarious voice and delivery style: adorably nerdy. He's pretty knowledgeable and articulate too. And I like a lot of his choices, though all 100 could easily be different songs. Here's the whole top 100 (with lots of YouTube clips). Don't miss #57: Crispin Glover's "Ben."

"'Strawberry Fields Forever' builds ... into a psychedelic swirl ... of 'Hello Goodbye,' 'Baby You're a Rich Man,' 'Penny Lane' and Piggies.''"

Are you listening to the new Beatles album "Love," the soundtrack for the Cirque du Soleil show? I am.
"I had fresh ears -- if you can have fresh ears to the Beatles -- and my job was to make things different,'' said [George Martin's son Giles] Martin, who was born in 1969 as the band was breaking up.

The rules were simple: Beatles tracks only, no electronic distortion of what they recorded, and no newly recorded music. The single exception was a string arrangement, written by original Beatles producer George Martin, to accompany an acoustic version of Harrison's "While My Guitar Gently Weeps.''...

I'm disappointed,'' [Beatles biographer Bob] Spitz said. "Not by the end product but by the fact that they are the Beatles' songs and overdubbing them and massaging them allows other people to impose their own creative ideas on something that was so immediate and of a particular time. I thought that legacy was virtually tamper-proof, until now.

"Once you meddle with something so fixed in the public's mind, you will risk having a failure on the proportion to Twyla Tharp doing Bob Dylan,'' Spitz said, in a reference to the musical that closed this month after less than a month on Broadway.
Is risk-taking inherently bad? You have the record. Judge it! Is it bad? I find it quite amusing. It's fun to encounter the lovable snippets -- e.g., the initial chord from "Hard Day's Night" -- out of place and leading to something surprising. It's nice to have the cool part of a song -- e.g., "Hela, heba helloa/Hela, heba helloa" -- extracted from the dross that is the rest of the song -- "Hello, Goodbye."

Let's look for some more opinion. There's this:
[I]t's exhausting.... There are 26 tracks which take elements from 130 different songs, whether it's a whole song or a guitar lick or a drum beat.

Some of them vaguely work as a curiosity, but are pretty obvious - Tomorrow Never Knows is one of the most mind-bending pop songs ever written (never mind that the group came up with it way back in 1966), but if you were going to mix it with another track, then Harrison's similarly Eastern-leaning Within You Without You is staring you in the face.

There are tweety birds in the background of an a capella Because. They place a live version and the studio version of I Want To Hold Your Hand over the top of each other. Drive My Car gets caught in a traffic jam with The Word and What You're Doing. Immediately after what is possibly the most famous sustained guitar chord in modern music (from the opening of A Hard Day's Night) comes possibly my favourite drum fill of all time (from The End on Abbey Road), and they're both bolted on rather clumsily to the front of Get Back.

Why? Martin is like a master chef, and these songs in their original form are gourmet meals, but Love takes these delicious dishes, pours them into a blender, hits the puree button, sticks a straw in it and asks you to suck.
And there's this:
[M]y skepticism was evaporated about 10 seconds into the album. "Love" is a work of art from original Beatles producer George Martin and his son Giles that keeps the spirit of originality and inventiveness that the Beatles poured into their songwriting and recording.

What the two Martins did is nothing short of audio voodoo. They've created the ultimate Beatles "mash-up." Combing through all the Beatles original master tapes, they grouped together songs of the same tempo, same key and same feel and layered parts of some songs into the middle of others. For example, the intro to "Get Back" is Ringo's rollicking drum solo from Abbey Road's "The End." "Blackbird" segues seamlessly into "Yesterday." Vocal harmonies from "Hello Goodbye" float throughout the background of many of the songs. I got a huge kick out of hearing the solo from "Taxman" inserted into "Drive My Car." And who knew "I Want You She's So Heavy" would make an absolutely perfect outro to "Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite?" Those examples merely scratch the surface of the mix-and-match approach that makes this album brilliant.
And:
Every fibre in my Beatles-freak being warned me not to be excited about the new Beatles album, Love....

[R]emixing all these classic tunes – as the soundtrack to a Cirque de Soleil Las Vegas show – is like messing with Picasso, or cut-and-pasting Tolstoy. Why do it?

Here's the answer. It's brilliant....

Love begins with the exquisite harmony vocals from Because floating in the ether. Then comes – what's that! – the closing chord from A Day in the Life played backwards so that it builds to a crescendo, followed by that unmissable opening chord from A Hard Day's Night, then Ringo's drums from The End, before somehow slipping in to Get Back as if that's the way it had always been done.

That magically segues into Glass Onion, seamlessly blended with hints of Hello Goodbye and what must be bits of brass reconstituted from Pepper. Nothing is real, indeed....

Play it without looking at the track listing and feel the buzz when you recognise what that tape-flipped-backwards choir is that leads to Something, or the guitar part from Blackbird turning into Yesterday.

And when Being for fhe Benefit of Mr Kite meets the heavy riff from I Want You and parts of Helter Skelter, the effect is totally in keeping with the spirit of The Beatles and the way they pushed the envelope of studio technology in the first place.
Enough. The point is made.

"I mean no disrespect."

Says Andrew Sullivan, chided by a Mormon for his post about Mormon undergarments. Here's the post. Do you buy "I mean no disrespect"?

ADDED: And here's an earlier post. Sullivan is so sure of himself on the subject of religion. He seems to think he knows just where it's right to dish out contempt about religion. But his contempt is mostly for religious people who he thinks are too sure of themselves. [ADDED: But that is exactly his character flaw.] In this case, it seems that Mitt Romney's opposition to gay marriage makes it morally upright for Sullivan to attack Mormons:
Mitt Romney will surely provide a fascinating glimpse into the Christianist mindset in the coming two years. He will be the candidate for the Christianist right, but he's not a Christian. And many Christianists may well recoil at the man's Mormon faith.... I'm sorry if I have little sympathy for Romney's plight. Live by fundamentalism; die by fundamentalism.
I wonder how many people "recoil" at Sullivan's sanctimonious pronouncements about "Christianists." He's become so devoted to that word of his. Does he not notice how snide and hostile it feels even to people who are not fundamentalists?

AND: I just noticed that last-linked post is titled "The Mormon Question." Wow. Is that tone deaf!

ONE MORE THING: The word isn't "sacreligious," as Sullivan has it at the first link, it's "sacrilegious." The word is not related to "religion":
Sacrilege’s Latin etymon was formed of sacer, “sacred” and legere, “to gather or steal”; sacrilege is “the stealing of sacred things” or doing other violence to them.
AND ANOTHER THING: Lest you freak out and think that last thing is meant as more of a put down of Sullivan than it is. I'm just talking about etymology and spelling.

AND: Glenn Greenwald is such an idiot. Am I supposed to respond to this foolishness? Glenn, you moron, in case you didn't notice, Sullivan is mocking Mormons in general. That's what bothered me. I don't object to the word "Christianists" if it is used fairly to refer to something that is the equivalent of "Islamists." I use the word "religionists" myself. See here, here, here, and here. Words like this mean something and have a place. The key is to use them in the right place. I criticize Sullivan when he shows a hostility toward ordinary religious people who aren't trying to bully their way around the political world. There are distinctions to be made here. Why not take a little trouble to try to understand the person you are criticizing before you write, you disreputable slimeball? (And your writing is putrid.) [But I do love the pathetic jealousy of your post title.]

EVEN MORE: From the good Glenn, Glenn Reynolds, linking here:
WELL, YES. Glenn Greenwald is extraordinarily lame, even when he's writing under his own name.The problem with the term "Christianist" isn't that it adds "ist" to the end of a religion. It's that, by parallelling "Islamist," it is a deliberate attempt at conflating people who oppose gay marriage -- or, apparently, Madonna's schlocky posturing -- with people who blow up discos and mosques, and throw gay people off of walls. That's the kind of execrable moral equivalence engaged in by the Soviets and their proxies, and it's the sort of thing that Andrew Sullivan used to oppose eloquently, before he started to engage in it himself.
Indeed. And it should be noted that using "Islamist" is a way to avoid using the word "Muslim." The idea is to distinguish a dangerous subgroup from the much larger group of ordinary religious people. I see "Islamist," "Christianist," and "religionist" all as useful terms to refer to political actors who rely on religious ideology. But the usefulness of the terms depends on making careful distinctions. You have to be careful not to drift over into the expression of hostility toward a religious group, as I believe Sullivan has been doing with Mormons. More generally, he simply is so hot about the gay marriage cause that he apparently really is willing to express contempt for the groups that stand against it. I support gay marriage and am much more socially liberal that most religious people, but I think it is terribly important to be respectful toward people with religious beliefs.

UPDATE: I have a new post on the subject here.

"But he's quiet, introspective, even paranoid. He's a very wound-up guy. But I don't think he's a racist."

The real Kramer reminds us that Michael Richards is not the real Kramer.
"I know the public is smart enough to realize that Michael Richards' personal actions in no way reflect on the character he portrayed on television or me, Kenny Kramer, the real person that the character was based on."
I know the public is smart enough... That's touching. Makes me think of: "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."

"The central principle of spin: However bad the trouble you're in, you can generally make the other side look worse."

From a description of Christopher Buckley's book "Thank You for Smoking," from a list of the 5 best books about PR.

A man who saved us so much time.

H. Donald Wilson, the man who thought up Lexis-Nexis, back in 1969, has died:
A turning point for the acceptance of Lexis came in the early 1970s, when Mr. Wilson arranged for a skeptical audience at the Supreme Court to use the new system. The Lexis system found more cases than the court clerks found by using manual research methods.
Sounds like a scene from the movie "Desk Set"... except in the movie -- spoiler alert! -- the human beings beat the computer.
Bunny Watson: I don't smoke, I only drink champagne when I'm lucky enough to get it, my hair is naturally natural, I live alone... and so do you.

Richard Sumner: How do you know that?

Bunny Watson: Because you're wearing one brown sock and one black sock.
See? People are better. But thanks for the machine!

Why the wine ads don't mention the benefits of resveratrol.

They don't want to litigate:
In 1991, some aggressive winemakers sought to trumpet the health benefits of wine, but they were quickly shut down by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which then regulated the industry at the federal level. Even the industry’s trade organization, the Wine Institute, counseled against promoting wine as a health drink....

“We put on a back label, that wine is healthy and recommended in the Bible,” [Michael Mondavi said]. “The B.A.T.F. sent us a cease and desist letter and made us change the label even though we went back to Washington and showed them the scientific evidence and read them the Bible passages.”
The article doesn't identify the passages. There's this:
Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for it is now that God favors what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun— all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
And this one, which is less grand but actually makes a health claim:
Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses.

November 24, 2006

Audible Althouse #72.

It's a new podcast! It's about: how I don't want to be called "Ann," what it means to be "Conservative Blogress Diva," the Krash of Kramer, my message to Jerry Seinfeld, the effect of the Kramer Krash on Borat, dressing like Bob Dylan, anorexia, horrifying 80s music, plastic surgery for your kids, and... "Rigoletto."

Stream it right through your computer here. But all the divas and the guys who can sing a cute aria subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

ADDED: Here's the Wikipedia entry for the song "Sussudio" (which I revile on the podcast), which I see was "was ranked number twenty-four on VH1's '50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever.'" The other song I rail against in this podcast is "I'm the Only One" (which I was forced to endure while sitting in a dentist's chair this week): "Please baby can't you see/My mind's a burnin' hell/I got razors a rippin' and tearin' and strippin'/My heart apart as well...."

YET MORE: I'm not actually mad at people for calling me "Ann," just slightly annoyed at people who criticize me for calling myself "Althouse."

O.J. on eBay.

There's a selling frenzy on of O.J. Simpson's canceled book "If I Did It." Here's a current auction, with the bid now over $60,000. Can you honestly say that if you had received a review copy you would not be trying to sell it? The question is: Who's buying? Or are these "fictitious bids to ruin auction"?

UPDATE: eBay seems to have taken down the book auctions.

Doesn't Althouse watch any reality shows anymore?

Now that TV seems to be the subject of the day -- TV and leftover squirrelage (≈ squism) -- you may be thinking: Doesn't Althouse watch any reality shows anymore? The fact is I do. Even though I haven't been blogging the weekly episodes, I have two shows that I'm following. (That seems to be my pattern: I like to have two reality shows to watch.)

1. "Top Chef." Great characters this season. The Thanksgiving episode was sublime, with Anthony Bourdain's exquisite insults ("Flintstonian"), Sam pushing Frank's buttons -- toothbrush on the floor! -- to make him terrorize little Marcel, Betty finally revealing the horror behind her ever-present toothy smile. Yummy!

2. "Survivor." I'd avoided watching this show since the first season, but the controversy about dividing the teams up by race made me tune in, and the characters kept me hooked. It's been interesting to see how members of the original (race-based) teams have behaved when the teams have realigned. Obviously, the editors have crafted what we get to hear about racial alliances, so we haven't heard the contestants say much about it (though they did let us hear white people talk about reforming their original team). But we are in a position to observe and talk about it on our own, which I think the producers intended. Ostensibly, however, they want us to see -- and they've edited it to highlight -- that everyone is an individual.

"I found myself saying 'these girls don't look all that thin...'"

A Television Without Pity comment on the HBO documentary "Thin," about a treatment center for anorexics:
[O]ne of the most disturbing things was when I found myself saying "these girls don't look all that thin..." and I realized it is because everyone woman on television is so skinny now that I didn't see anything out of the ordinary about the women on the show. (until they undressed anyway) This is such a rampant problem it's boggling.
Absolutely right! I tuned in expecting to see some lurid images of scarily emaciated women, but they all just looked like the usual actresses we see all the time and think of as pretty. What's going on out there? Are all the actresses we're so fond of these days actually -- like the women we see in the documentary -- spending their private moments leaning over the toilet vomiting out their last meal?

Is "Seinfeld" ruined? (My advice to Jerry.)

David Bernstein has started a conversation over at Volokh Conspiracy about whether Michael Richards' racist rant makes his Kramer character unwatchable.

I happened to try an old episode of the show the other day. The TiVo had dragged in the "real and... spectacular" episode, which begins with a lot of Jerry and Elaine. I wasn't really thinking about the Michael Richards incident. I was just passing the time, fooling with the TiVo. But when Kramer came in, after a few seconds, I turned it off. You know, there's usually a Kramerless beginning, and then, at some point, Kramer makes his entrance. Traditionally, you'd get a real lift at that point. The whole arc of the show is now screwed up!

But I'd love to see one more episode of the show where we discover that Kramer is a racist. We were always learning just one more odd fact about Kramer -- his first name, some hobby, some arcane field of knowledge, some impressive skill. And we were always tantalized by the unknown: What does the inside of his apartment look like? How does he support himself? Why don't we ever encounter the oft-referenced Bob Sacamano? And -- as one of the commenters on Bernstein's thread says -- the idea of the show was always that the four characters were not good people. We may have loved them, but it was not because they were purely lovable. So it would actually seamlessly fit with the show to have an epilogue episode where we learn that Kramer is evil.

Come on, Jerry. You like to push the envelope. Do a reunion show where we discover Kramer is a racist!

(Does anyone remember the old parody -- I think it was in the National Lampoon -- about "The Andy Griffith Show" where a black person comes to town and we learn that the lovely Mayberry folk are all racists?) [IN THE COMMENTS: Someone reminds me that it was in RAW, the comics journal, and drawn by Drew Friedman. I did have the Friedmanesque pictures in my head when I wrote this post. I must have the old copy of Raw around somewhere, as I never threw those things out.]

(And on the question whether a racist sitcom character could be lovable: That's a conversation we had back in the 70s when "All in the Family" came out. Is the answer different today?)

Looking back on the Thanksgiving squirrel.

I hope you had a good Thanksgiving. What did you have?
Squirrel, because it's not only different, it also happens to be the only type of animal my boys and I shot while out hunting at my parents' farm recently. No wild turkeys, No wild boar, no deer to grace the Thanksgiving table, but the more unusual Thanksgiving squirrel. After we cleaned them my dad made me take them home so I decided to toss them into the freezer where they would wait alongside the turkey for the Thanksgiving dinner.

November 23, 2006

Holiday.

The commenters on the previous post claim to be suffering from withdrawal on account of low Althouse bloggage today, so let me give you another picture:

Holly with shadow

I seem to be specializing in green. Check the pictures in the previous two posts. And I seem to be anticipating the next holiday on this holiday. Should I say holly day?

It's in the mid-50s today, here in Madison, Wisconsin. So it's not as if I'm buried in snow and longing for the green of summer. It seems rather green here right now, especially after I raked all the brown leaves off my lawn today.

Hear that? I finally raked the leaves! I've been feeling bad for weeks... almost months... because of my failure to deal with the leaf situation. I'd been on the verge of calling my lawn/snow service people and hiring them to do the leaves for me -- and I've never hired anyone to do my leaves -- and then wavering, thinking that it's more trouble to call and arrange for them to be done than to just do them myself. Two interchangeable chores, and me not doing either.

But this morning, it was warm and sunny, and I finally did it. Doing the leaves, I got a chance to see things in the yard that I normally overlook. Like that rabbit hole. (I kind of fell in it. Not big time. Just would have sprained my ankle if my foot were smaller style.) And I noticed that the little holly bush had grown lots of red berries. So I cut a few sprigs -- they weren't boughs of holly -- and put them in a glass on the glass table.

Then I noticed the shadows and got out the camera:

Holly shadow

After focusing on the hard shadows, I was able to perceive the soft light effects in the room:

Filtered light

The leaded glass made subtle rainbows on the painted cabinet.

Beauty is everywhere.

Thanks.

Oh, my! There he is!

It's the Thanksgiving Squirrel!

The Enemy

Keep safe everyone. Boil your meat well.

November 22, 2006

The Thanksgiving fish.

Eerie fish

Godspeed on your trek to Grandmother's house! May the fish be crispy and the squirrel succulent!

Hasn't it all been said before?

No. Everything is actually amazingly new:
[D]on't people accidentally repeat each other's sentences all the time? It seems to me that this should not be unusual. Yet try plugging that last sentence word by word into Google Book Search, and watch what happens.
It: Rejected—too many hits to count
It seems: 11,160,000 matches
It seems to: 3,050,000
It seems to me: 1,580,000
It seems to me that: 844,000
It seems to me that this: 29,700
It seems to me that this should: 237
It seems to me that this should not: 20
It seems to me that this should not be: 9
It seems to me that this should not be unusual: 0
It seems to me that this should not be unusual is itself ... unusual.
(From an article on catching plagiarists.)

Why this strange preference for a digital camera with AA batteries?

Glenn Reynolds has a big post about digital cameras with this line:
Ann Althouse has this small Sony, and a look at her blog will illustrate that it does excellent work. Unlike mine, though, it uses a proprietary rechargeable battery instead of AA batteries. I like the flexibility of being able to pick up fresh batteries anywhere in a pinch, though in truth I seldom have to do that.
But you end up with a clunkier camera! Look how elegantly slim mine is! If you're really worried about running low, buy an extra battery. It's tiny -- 1.4 x .2 x 1.8 inches. Really, that would be much better than having to look around for a store where you could buy batteries, which isn't always so easy anyway.

"A minor show-business miracle took place."

Virginia Heffernan admires the genuine spontaneity of Michael Richards' apology for his (also spontaneous) comedy club rant.
[T]he actor known almost exclusively as Kramer on “Seinfeld” managed, as he has not been able to do in his post-“Seinfeld” career, to fumble his way into a new and surprisingly credible — if unsympathetic — persona.... Mr. Richards was simply an angry white man laid bare.

As he put it in his act: “This shocks you. It shocks you. To see what’s buried beneath.”...

“You know,” Mr. Richards said at one point, seeming to address Mr. Letterman directly, “I’m a performer. I push the envelope. I work in a very uncontrolled manner onstage. I do a lot of free-association” — he slurred the word a bit — “and spontaneous. I go into character.”

That fairly simple point seemed, in the delivery, important. In the Laugh Factory clip, which was cut, framed and semiliterately subtitled by AOL’s entertainment site, TMZ.com, Mr. Richards begins by saying, “Shut up! Fifty years ago ...” and then the material becomes unpublishable. But viewed with the possibility in mind that he’s creating characters, it’s easy to see a trace of parody in the way he hams up his racist word, shaking his fist like the leader of a lynch mob.

A second later, when he retreats into another voice, one of hushed horror — “Ooh, Ooh” — it certainly seems as though the hang-’em-high character has been at least partly that, a character.

To Mr. Richards’s credit, he didn’t spend too much time in his appearance with Mr. Letterman on the question of whether he is or is not a racist. Sure, he delivered this magisterially messed-up sentence: “You can’t — I don’t — I know peop — people could — blacks could feel — what he’s — I’m not a racist. That’s what’s so insane about this.”

But what he emphasized so hard there, he seemed to retract a moment later. “And yet,” he said, looking caught. “It’s said!”

Ooh — that passive voice. “It’s said.” That can’t feel good.

Then Mr. Richards caught his breath for one last time. “It comes through! It fires out of me! Even now, in the passion, and the — and the — that’s here, as I — as I — confront myself.”
On Letterman, Richards did not offer up the explanation that he was playing a character that was not him. He was admitting that those feelings lay inside him. The only time the tried to lessen his responsibility for the hateful words was when he referred to the rage in everyone -- rage that drives nations into war. I think if had been less spontaneous, he might have worked through the material -- as Heffernan has done -- for evidence that he was playing a character or a sequence of characters. He could have said, essentially, it was a -- to coin a phrase -- botched joke and stuck to that story. But he laid himself out there, and that's worth something in the world of show-business fakery.

No more automatic loss of child custody for a divorced woman who remarries.

A new ruling from the Indian Supreme Court. Decisions will now be made on a case-by-case basis.

Guilt-tripping parents into getting plastic surgery for their kids.

I just heard a radio commercial for a local plastic surgeon. Over tinkly, sentimental music, we hear a concerned woman agonizing about how her little daughter is picked on at school and how she can see the girl's self-esteem spiraling downward. So she looked into it, and she discovered how plastic surgery can correct ears that stick out. Blah, blah, blah. Now, her daughter is brimming with self-esteem. Her whole life is back on track.

The implication is that if your child has some physical imperfection, you're a negligent parent if you don't get plastic surgery. The day is coming -- if the surgeons get to your mind they way they're trying to -- when your response to a child with, say, a big nose will be What is wrong with her parents? Don't they care?

ADDED: Discussion in the comments convinces me that the real subtext of the ad is breasts. I was going to say that it's odd that the mother is upset about her daughter's ears. Traditionally, only a boy is seen as unfortunate if he has ears that stick out. Girls can hide bad ears with hair. (It's not very polite, but I've heard people say, when they look at a baby's ears: "Good thing she's a girl.") So why is the mother fretting about a girl? And what's all this "self-esteem" business about ears? Are kids really mean to other kids about ears?

We would be outraged by an ad that directly pushed a mother to get her daughter breast implants to help her become more popular. The ear business is a ruse. Those ears are a path into the mother's head. In a more general way, she is made to feel responsible for taking advantage of what plastic surgery has to offer. She will have to make the final leap, but presumably many daughters will make the demand, and the ad will have primed the mother to believe that buying the surgery is a crucial component of tending to the child's self-esteem.

Is it "insane" for a college president to blog?

I don't know, but it is -- per the NYT -- front page news:
Veterans of campus public relations disasters warn that presidents blog at their peril; “an insane thing to do” is how Raymond Cotton, a lawyer who advises universities and their presidents in contract negotiations, describes it. But these presidents say blogs make their campuses seem cool and open a direct line, more or less, to students, alumni and the public.
Hey, coolness comes at a price. Blogging is risky. If you think it's an efficient PR tool, you deserve to screw up. You screwing up is important for maintaining the coolness of blogging.
“When I first started learning about blogs, I said, ‘Well, here I like to discourse on issues of the day, connect with the campus community,’ ” recalled [Trinity University president Patricia A.] McGuire, who said she wrote all her own entries. “Here’s a way I can talk a couple of times a week to everybody.”
"A couple of times a week"? That's not blogging.
And so she does: about Representative Nancy Pelosi, class of 1962, who will be the first female speaker of the House; about election results; about breaking ground for a memorial to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; and about lesbian alumnae and the Roman Catholic Church, sensitive ground for a Catholic undergraduate college serving mostly minority and low-income women.
What drives me up the wall about the NYT online is that at this point in the article, there's still no link to the blog, but "Nancy Pelosi," "Martin Luther King Jr.," and "Roman Catholic Church" are all hotlinked to whatever old articles happen to be in the NYT archive. (Here's the missing link.)
Dr. McGuire wrote that the church’s rejection of same-sex unions did not mean that the “alma mater must shun her own daughters.” She added, “All alumnae are welcome at Trinity, always.”
Oh, come on. This is a PR outlet in blog form. Why is this front page news?
At Towson University, outside Baltimore, the president, Robert L. Caret, who writes Bob’s Blog, appears online in sunglasses, casually unshaven and smiling gamely alongside the Towson Tiger mascot. Dr. Caret’s blog, though, plays it safe, mostly praising particular programs like summer courses or studying abroad, or urging students to join clubs and to help spruce up the campus.
Sunglasses + blogging = ???
But that does not mean the students play it safe.

Dr. Caret’s post titled “Education vs. Training” prompted a graduate student to complain about what he called a language barrier with foreign-born teachers. To illustrate his point, the student reprinted a note in broken English from one of his professors, which ended: “Of course, some class(es) may not satisfy your thirsty in terms of your learning expectation. But even those classes will be a small stone to build your career.”

The student asked Dr. Caret, “Can students learning a new subject be expected to comprehend the new topic when they are too busy trying to comprehend what was just said?”

Though Dr. Caret’s site posted the letter, he did not answer the question on his blog. In an e-mail message, he said he forwarded the complaint to the provost.
If you can't talk directly to that student at that point, your blog is a dismal failure. It is revealed as only intended as a PR outlet, and then it's not even an effective PR outlet. You wanted to give off the vibe that you are available and casual, but you retreat behind a bureaucrat's wall as soon as anything real is about to happen. (And, NYT, you want to give off the vibe that you are connected to the blog world, but you don't link to the post you're talking about... or even to Caret's blog. Here's the link.)
It is this kind of exchange that prompts Mr. Cotton, the lawyer, to urge caution. If trustees are dissatisfied with a president, Mr. Cotton said, blogs offer a president’s adversaries ready ammunition. A casual comment taken out of context, a longstanding problem not addressed, or a politically controversial position can all torpedo a president, he said.

“In this day and age of political correctness,” Mr. Cotton said, “it exposes the president to all kinds of unfair and unwarranted criticism.”
Lawyers!
So perhaps it is no wonder that Dr. Caret is not live on the keyboard. An assistant posts the thoughts that Dr. Caret dictates, while an employee in the marketing department screens responses and posts them.

“When you’re fund-raising, a big part of that is creating an atmosphere of excitement, of a campus that’s going places,” Dr. Caret said. The blog, he said, “adds to that.”
And that detracts from the blog... to the point where it isn't even a blog. "An atmosphere of excitement"... bleh!

A much more serious matter is the way a university administrator may try to dictate correct thinking to students:
Lou Anna K. Simon, president of Michigan State University, ... condemned a conservative group’s plan to stage “Catch an Illegal Immigrant Day” on campus. The event would have involved finding a student to play the role of an illegal immigrant and turning the “immigrant” in. Dr. Simon derided the game as “a way to mock and demean, not to educate; a way to exclude, not include, voices.”

That posting won her praise from the student government and others, said Lindsey Poisson, a reporter for the campus newspaper. Though the president’s choice of subjects did not always resonate with students, in this instance, students wanted to know where the president stood, Ms. Poisson said.

“Her blogging is one of the things that changed the image of the president on campus,” she said. “A significant part of everything she’s trying to do to is to reach out to students.”

But the group that planned the event, Young Americans for Freedom, said that the blog inhibited free speech, and that no professor or administrator should express an opinion publicly about anything.

“We’re here to be educated, to get our degrees,” said Kyle Bristow, chairman of the group, which dropped its plans in favor of a forum on immigration later this semester. “They’re here to provide an atmosphere where we can be educated. We should be able to think for ourselves and not have people like Lou Anna Simon thinking for us.”
I'd like to see the quote that got paraphrased "no professor or administrator should express an opinion publicly about anything." If professors and administrators are going to blog -- really blog, not just do PR in blog form -- they need to express opinions. But the decision to be censorious about student speech activities is a profound one. It's a bad opinion, and it ought to be criticized. Blogging facilitates that. People like Bristow should blog back at the administration.

Any time a professor or an administrator puts something up on the web, you have a ripe opportunity to quote and link and critique and mock. Don't let them get away with their phony PR and their bland ideology. It's not enough to tell them to shut up -- as Bristow does -- you've got the power of more speech, and they are handing you the material to cut and paste in to you own incisive, scathing blog.... and I mean a real blog.

"No single incident that soured their relationship... it was a series of small irritations..."

From an article about how Jane Harman and Nancy Pelosi don't like each other. I want to keep a close eye on the press to see if they write about women in power differently from the way they write about men. I'm not saying I'm actually seeing anything here, but this story -- about two women who (apparently) can't stand each other -- is luring journalists to spice up their writing with innuendo about how women in general treat each other.
"It's so unfortunate because they're both capable people," said William Coblentz, a San Francisco lawyer who has contributed to both their careers and coffers. "I know them both well, and I love them both, but I believe Nancy felt that Jane was abrasive and aggressive, which she can be."
Mmmm... don't you want hear more?

ADDED: Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus's analysis Nancy Pelosi is thoroughly gender-based -- and replete with extensive comparison to chimpanzee behavior!

What a humiliation for the Secret Service!

How could the First Daughter get robbed?

November 21, 2006

Graves of the Justices.

Here's your map. Plan next summer's car trip now. (Somewhere in my disheveled office, I have a book describing how each Justice died. I think it's called "Leaving the Court." Interesting reading. Harrowing to see what killed people 100 or 200 years ago.)

ADDED: Oh, it's called "Leaving the Bench." Still can't find my copy.

Robert Altman.

R.I.P.
He often took on Hollywood genres with a revisionist's eye, de-romanticizing the Western hero in 1971's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" and 1976's "Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson," the film-noir gumshoe in 1973's "The Long Goodbye" and outlaw gangsters in "Thieves Like Us."

"M-A-S-H" was Altman's first big success after years of directing television, commercials, industrial films and generally unremarkable feature films. The film starring Donald Sutherland and Elliott Gould was set during the Korean War but was Altman's thinly veiled attack on U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

"That was my intention entirely. If you look at that film, there's no mention of what war it is," Altman said in an Associated Press interview in 2001, adding that the studio made him put a disclaimer at the beginning to identify the setting as Korea.

"Our mandate was bad taste. If anybody had a joke in the worst taste, it had a better chance of getting into the film, because nothing was in worse taste than that war itself," Altman said.

How we loved Robert Altman back in the early 1970s. I don't have time to write more now, but I want to say that he meant a lot to people in my generation. He had a long and brilliant career, but those early films have deep and great significance.

"Consciously taking tactics from the gay-rights movement, polygamists have reframed their struggle..."

They speak in terms of freedom and individual choice -- not religion. Good move, considering the audience they are most likely to persuade.
The U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which voided laws criminalizing sodomy, ... aided polygamy's cause because it implied that the court disapproved of laws that reach into the bedroom.

Since then, liberal legal scholars, generally no friend of the polygamists' conservative-leaning politics, have championed decriminalization. One of them is Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University who has written two op-eds for USA Today calling for the legalization of bigamy -- and same-sex marriage.

"I find polygamy an offensive practice," said Turley, who has become something of a celebrity among polygamists in Utah. "But there is no way its practice among consenting adults should be a felony."

I think it's rather obvious that it shouldn't be a crime for adults to live together and call themselves married. As long as it's not about having more than one marriage treated as a marriage in the legal sense, forcing anyone to marry, defrauding someone, or having sex with minors, the government should leave people alone.

Why did Hillary Clinton spend $30 million on an election she won by more than 30 percentage points?

Front-page analysis by the NYT. Having spent so much money on extras -- $13,000 for flowers, $27,000 for valet parking, $930,000 on a campaign strategist -- she no longer has a financial advantage over the other presidential hopefuls.

Why did she do it? According to the article, it's not clear whether it was a lack of discipline or whether it has cleverly laid the groundwork for future fundraising.

But it doesn't make a pretty picture. And why would an ordinary person part with $100 or so if this is the way they think the money will be spent? And doesn't reckless spending say something about how the candidate will govern?

Let me remind you of an old Wisconsin Senator: William Proxmire:
His aversion to spending money extended to himself. Throughout his career, he wore inexpensive suits, paid for his own plane trips and spent less than $200 on his campaigns, with some of the money used to buy stamps to return donations sent by constituents.

"I think fully two-thirds of the senators could get re-elected without spending a penny," he once said.

"Shallow, flatulent, obsessive, incontinent, hypertensive, hostile, older than 100, paranoid, pasty..."

"... plaid-festooned, sinister-looking, advantage-taking, amphetamine-fueled..." There's a certain style to the personal ads in The London Review of Books:
“An advertising campaign focusing exclusively on the disgust people feel for your product strikes a lot of people as perverse,” [said Kate Fox, a cultural anthropologist and author of “Watching the English."] But when Britons exaggerate their faults, she said, they are really telegraphing their attributes. “It does speak of a certain arrogance, that you have the confidence and the sense of humor to say these things,” she said.

"How could we not adore such a strong-willed, right-wing judicial diva?"

Judge Edith Jones shatters David Lat's illusions.

November 20, 2006

"The Bush administration, or large parts of it, is now cutting if not actually running, and it is looking for partners in the process."

I have to link to a second Christopher Hitchens column today.

"Supreme Court to hear plea for creamy layer exclusion."

Headline of the day!

Shame...

... works.

"That's what happens when you interrupt the white man!"

Kramer -- Michael Richards -- freaks out in the least funny comedian melt-down I've ever seen.

Coincidentally, just last night I happened to catch the scene from the movie "Lenny" where Lenny Bruce (played by Dustin Hoffman) spouts racist epithets directly at people in his audience before mellowing into an explanation about how if we'd only use these words all the time they'd lose their force. Richards, however, never mellows... and Bruce's theory was a new theory when he tested it out, not a long-argued, tried, and failed one.

IN THE COMMENTS: Someone posts the text of the Lenny Bruce routine. I and others continue to distinguish what Richards did from what Bruce did. Some people get sidetracked into a discussion of how some people seem to be permitted to use racial epithets while others don't. To them I say, watch the video. This isn't a question of using the word. It is the entire sad, angry, sorry context for which there is no decent excuse.

UPDATE: Richards is on Letterman tonight, explaining himself. Here's a report on what he said:
"I'm a performer. I push the envelope. I work in a very uncontrolled manner on stage. I do a lot of free association — it's spontaneous, I go into character. I don't know. In view of the situation and the act going the way it was going, I don't know. The rage did go all over the place it went to everybody in the room.

"I'm not a racist, that's what's so insane about this."
ANOTHER UPDATE: I've watched the show now, so let me make a few observations.

1. Poor Jerry! Seinfeld was the scheduled guest, there to promote a new DVD collection of the old sitcom, trying to make the best of the situation, with Richards having degraded the value of the product.

2. Richards seemed calm -- and his deadpan delivery caused some clueless audience members to laugh -- but he also seemed deeply broken up and in need of help. At one point, he questioned whether to be talking on the show was the right place for him to be, and he seemed really stunned. Maybe he was on tranquilizers.

3. The stupidest part of Richards' performance was when he shifted from admitting to his own rage to talking about needing to get to the bottom of rage generally, including the rage that takes nations to war. He also tried to connect the offense that the black people in his audience took toward him to the effect Katrina had on black people.

"America did well to liberate Iraq. But Iraqis were used to tyranny and afraid of freedom."

Why all these staccato sentences?, I wondered as I read this NYT op-ed about the "Fear of Freedom" in Iraq. It is written by a poet, Waddah Ali. Read the whole thing.
America did well to liberate Iraq. But Iraqis were used to tyranny and afraid of freedom. The Americans entered Iraq without a psychological program for dealing with this fact. Iraqis had been programmed according to another system of thought and feeling. America should have considered that.

We own the W.

When it's the Motion W.

Anti-science irrationality.

Spot the illogic:
Lindsay Bowers, a spokesperson for Petri and a UW-Madison researcher, who testified during judiciary committee hearings in May [on a bill to toughen the Animal Enterprise Terrorism statute to protect researchers] said she feared researchers were going to leave the field because of threats made against their labs as well as their homes.

[Jean Barnes, director for the Primate Freedom Project], however, said little progress from animal testing has been made since Alzheimer’s has been discovered, citing her own mother’s recent massive stroke and her father’s battle with Alzheimer’s. She pointed her finger at for [sic] lawmakers knowing little of what happens in labs or homes across the United States.

“If [Congress] thinks that animal research helped people like my mother and her husband, then I’d like to invite them down to spend the weekend with me to change adult diapers,” she said.

"Sager is subtle, fast and deep. You should hire him."

Ronald Dworkin demonstrates how to get away with writing an incredibly short recommendation letter.

Mitt Romney versus the Massachusetts legislature.

It's a big gay marriage showdown.

If you're hoping to see the popularity of the Democrats decline...

... This must make your heart leap.

ADDED: Tons of commentary -- collected here. I haven't read that much of it, but somehow I feel as if I already have.

Doesn't the O.J. Simpson book represent "a decision... to get such a book written and to get him to cooperate with it"?

Christopher Hitchens thinks so:
Of the many things I can remember about the trial... one detail that sticks in my mind was the incidental disclosure that Simpson can barely read or write. This is, in other words, not just a decision to publish "his" book. It is a decision, which must have been taken some time ago, to get such a book written and to get him to cooperate with it. The title is, of course, illiterate to start with ("If I Did It, Here's How It Happened" rather than "If I Had Done It, Here's How I Would Have") as well as an admission (because, however modified or qualified, the "Here's How It Happened" still stands on its own) but both of those offenses are quite possible in today's publishing. It would still be mildly interesting to know who cooked up the idea and who did the inducement and the ghosting. The only thing that definitely didn't happen, rather like his ongoing search for the real killer, was Simpson bringing in a manuscript and submitting it for publication.

"I'm basically dressed like Bob Dylan in the '60s right now."

So says Rolling Stone style editor Ellen Carpenter.
All the stuff that's in stores this fall - skinny blazers, stovepipe jeans, boatnecked, French-philosopher striped shirts, fitted peacoats, flat-heeled, mod boots, Wayfarer sunglasses, striped scarves - it's all Dylan, totally owned and not done better than the chain-smoking, puckish, "Don't Look Back"-era Dylan.

Okay.
Fifteen jugglers
Fifteen jugglers
Five believers
Five believers
All dressed like men
Tell yo' mama not to worry because
They're just my friends

I'm not worried.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine...

November 19, 2006

Hey, it's Conservative Blogress Diva time again.

Use your discretion!

An afternoon at the opera.

In the lobby, waiting for "Rigoletto":

Overture Center

"They said to me: 'We get a pig? Great'... So I explained the exhibition. They said, ‘Yeah, yeah, yeah, but give me the pig. We’re poor."

Another art project for you to rail against:
A Danish artist has stirred up controversy by giving Ugandan villagers free goats, sheep and pigs — but on condition that they adopt his name.

Kristian von Hornsleth says his aim is to highlight the perils of tied aid in Africa, but his project has already been denounced by a Ugandan minister as “evil and satanic.”

Hornsleth launched an exhibition in Copenhagen on Friday of the project. The 108 photos of people holding up their new “identity cards” in the red, yellow and black of Uganda’s flag with the name “Hornsleth” are meant to comment on conditions Western donors attach to aid.

“It’s a remark about hypocrisy, about Western and Third World relations,” Hornsleth told Reuters.
Or do you think he's made a fine critique of the West's hypocrisy, and the Hornsleths are all glad because they all got a pig.

"Two years of Pelosi gives a good idea of what four years of Hillary will be like."

Said Tom Delay. Is that supposed to not be sexist?
"They are both committed liberals and we will make that clear to the American people."...

Tony Coehlo, a former Democrat whip in the House who ran Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign, acknowledged his party concerns. "Even seasoned Democrats are concerned about the Republicans' ability to tar the polished Hillary by attacking Mrs Pelosi," he told The Sunday Telegraph.

"If Nancy does poorly, that hurts Hillary. That's really unfair, but that's what everyone thinks. That's reality. To help Hillary, Nancy has to be perceived as an effective leader and she's had a terrible start. It was just an awful first week."...

[A] former strategist for a Republican House leader said: "If Pelosi comes across as not ready for prime time, that's going to hamstring Hillary. Fair or not, people can't help but make that comparison… Even Hillary's people are recognising that their fates are linked."

This is a ridiculous and offensive sort of logic. The next couple years will reveal much about the way Americans think about women.

Stairwell.

Stare well.

Overture stairway

The NYT pronounces the Federalist Society annual meeting "somber."

I watched C-Span's coverage of the part where they celebrate Scalia (and his huge family) and show the love for Alito. It didn't seem especially somber. But those were the on-stage doings. Let's check out the NYT article, written by Neil A. Lewis:
How glum was the mood? “Well, I guess I’ve just about climbed back from the ledge — the one I was about to jump off of,” said Daniel McLaughlin, a New York lawyer who attended the convention. Mr. McLaughlin said he could not stop fretting over who would be confirmed to the federal bench in the next two years.

John C. Yoo, a law professor at the University of California, Berkeley, who was a senior Justice Department official, said the mood at the convention was notably grim because of the likelihood that Democrats would block any identifiable conservatives from the federal appeals courts or the Supreme Court....

Professor Yoo said that the widespread dismay at the gathering was only over the prospect of judicial nominations, and that it did not signal any lessening of interest in conservative ideas. “The Bush effort to remake the judiciary has crested,” he said. “We all will have to play defense for a while on this.”

UPDATE: Daniel McLaughlin responds:
The part in quotes is, in fact, an accurate quote, albeit leaving aside the smile I delivered it with. (I should add that I thought that the line about coming in off the ledge was self-explanatory; I added the latter part when he asked for clarification). "Could not stop fretting" is another matter. As I have said to several people, I told him that I was more concerned about the loss of the Senate than the House because I'm concerned about getting the president's judicial nominees confirmed, but I didn't intend to leave him with the impression of despair; what I added was that since there were still 52 Senators left who voted for Justice Alito, my main concern was getting floor votes. That part didn't fit the theme of Republicans hanging their heads in defeat, I guess, and so it was blurred into "fretting".

All in all, a fairly typical MSM treatment - not a fabrication, no made up words; nothing so dramatic. In fact, as I said, the part in quotes is accurate, and might have bothered me a bit less if it stood on its own. And yet, there had to be a bending and selective truncation of my words to fit a pre-selceted narrative. Which, by now, is not news.

Advice for Giuliani.

From four political consultants. His biggest problem seems to be dealing with the social conservatives well enough to get through the primaries.

Mary Matalin: "[C]arefully evolve, but don’t be a phony. Social conservatives are conviction voters. And social moderates will reject political opportunism. Indicate your respect for conservative convictions and try to 'refine' your own. A late-life reversal on late-term abortion is entirely plausible and mandatory. Try to keep focus on constitutionalist judges."

Paul Begala: "You can’t switch on everything. So surrender to the far right on one issue: abortion. But the only way to do it is whole hog. Use your trump card: 9/11. Tell them the death you saw that day gave you a greater appreciation for the sanctity of life. You’re Saul on the road to Damascus. Praise the Lord and pass the delegates."

Mark Halperin: "Giuliani would seem to have two choices — try to back off of his previously held liberal positions on social issues, or confront the party by arguing that his conservative record on crime, taxes and national security should be sufficient for a party serious about being a big enough tent to win national elections. Giuliani watchers say they have no doubt that if he runs, he would pursue the latter course."

Rich Galen: "As to Rudy’s positions on social issues, I would interview the staff who ran Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s re-election campaign. California Republicans are decidedly conservative. Notwithstanding Arnold’s very moderate stance on most social and environmental issues, he got (according to one exit poll) 91 percent of the G.O.P. vote. That tells me Republicans want to win much more than they want to lose on the point of an ideological sword."

I'm very interested in this strategic problem, because I want more social liberals to succeed within the Republican Party -- just as I want more national security hawks to make it in the Democratic Party.

"Are you like me? Have you stopped being nice to foreigners? Because you’re afraid of being duped by Borat?"

A Letterman joke.

Why you should spend a lot of money on your handbag.

To show you care:
For busy women who do not live on mountaintops and who are not nuns, the choice of handbag is fraught these days, sending signals of status, taste and identity that others instantly interpret. “Bags help them suss out who’s their kind of person and who’s not,” the fashion historian Valerie Steele tells the author. “You can wear jeans and cowboy boots, but as long as you carry a $2,000 bag, people will place you where you want to be placed.” Ms. Gallagher dates the bag-as-icon trend to the rise of Miuccia Prada and to the emergence of must-have bags like the Birkin in the late ’80s. As recently as the ’60s, she writes, fashionable women labored to create color-coordinated outfits — the couture answer to Garanimals. Though the purse matched the outfit, it didn’t “make” it. But lately, the put-together look is fashion anathema. Clare Sauro, the accessories curator at the Fashion Institute of Technology’s fashion museum, explains: “Now the goal is to look like you’ve just thrown yourself together and don’t really care.” A $25,000 Gucci alligator bag reassures the world that, secretly, you do.

"Wisconsin will accept gay marriage sooner than you might think."

Wisconsin State Journal's editorial page editor Scott Milfred says. We amended the state constitution and we can amend it again. It's easy! We do it about every 13 months around here. We've already got 41 percent of the voters against the amendment. Don't you think it's more likely than not that over time the percentage will increase? How hard do you think it will be to pick up 9 more points and get to the simple majority needed to amend the constitution? It seems almost inevitable as young people replace old people in the electorate.

You know, the arguments against amending the constitution tapped into the idea that a constitution is a vessel for lofty values that we want to make permanent and invulnerable to transitory majorities. But that isn't the case if the constitution is easy to amend and entirely vulnerable to the will of any new majority. So some of the rhetoric that was deployed against the amendment is undermined by Milfred's point, but at least you don't have to feel so morose about the recent vote. It doesn't mean that much. But don't just cheer up. Milford wants to reinvigorate the amendment's opponents: Keep fighting. You can re-amend the constitution. It's a Wisconsin tradition.

"I don't want my gobblegook nonsense 'Romantic' cathartic unstable keening published."

Writes Courtney Love in her book of gobblegook nonsense "Romantic" cathartic unstable keening that gets a pretty good review in the NYT today. The reviewer, Emily Nussbaum, confesses a fair amount of love for Love.
There was a moment — let’s say 1989, since that’s when I discovered her — when Courtney Love seemed like the solution to every girl’s problems. A brazenly feminist punk rocker with big hips and a sloppy grin, she was the first female celebrity in a long time who wasn’t embarrassed to take up space.
Nussbaum's right! I've long specialized in approving of Love when others are out to get her. Read my old posts:

Untitled. I regard Love's wild behavior on the Letterman show as an actor's performance, playing a character, and quote what she says about judges: "The thing about judges that's cool is they're a lot like rock stars. They just get their own damn way."

"About a girl."
I tell you to leave her alone, as she attends "American Idol" with her beautiful daughter.

"Courtney and the Pamela Anderson Roast."
Again I defend a wild performance that other people trash: "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!"

Don't sue the blogger!

Jeff Jarvis just received "a grant from the Knight Foundation to create a guide with the top 10 rules bloggers and amateur journalists need to stay out of court." He links to this list of lawsuits against bloggers, which makes useful reading to get an idea of what actually moves people to file lawsuits.