February 7, 2007

"American Idol" -- the leftovers.

We're done with the individual cities, and now they're cutting together the odds and ends. Sounds bad, right? The best part of the show was the previews for next week, when we finally get to Hollywood, the place we've been hearing for weeks that we're going to. Mostly, we've got to wade through a lot of dross. A few comic characters, but I've seen too many in the last few weeks to be in the mood to describe them for you. There are a couple of sweet guys who aren't very good, but love Paula a lot, and everyone is pretty nice to them -- almost as if they suddenly feel a sense of responsibility for what happens in the lives of the rejected contestants. Amid all that there were four really good singers tonight.

1. Tami Gosnell, the pedi-cabbie who could pedal Randy, Paula, and Simon uphill and who they said looked like some star from the 60s (clearly, Janis Joplin). She sang "Whipping Post" with lots of power and a distinctive tone.

2. Paul Kim, an Asian guy who was irritated that when people think of an Asian guy on "American Idol," they always think of the comic contestant William Hung.

3. The incredibly beautiful (and tall and roller-skate-wearing) Ebony Jointer. She sings a Whitney Houston song and makes us think we're looking at the Season 6 winner.

4. Finally, there's the one we think of as the new Mandisa: Lakisha Jones. She sings "Think" -- "Freedom! Freedom!" -- exactly the way you'd want someone to sing "Think."

When a blogger goes to work for a presidential candidate.

Two bloggers -- Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwan -- get their dream job with a presidential candidate, causing his opponents to comb over their blogs and pull out their nastiest lines to try to discredit them -- and to hurt the candidate. All you bloggers seeking political jobs should expect the same ... and more. After this new dustup, your prospective employers should check to make sure there are no usefully discrediting quotes, and you may never get the job. Getting hired as a presidential candidate's liaison to the blogophere -- I call it "blogger wrangling" -- will never be the same.

Ironically, Amanda Marcotte has blogged about me, using exactly this technique of picking out quotes of mine and using them in a vigorous effort to discredit me. It's the way of the blogger, and now we see it turned on the blogger when that blogger goes to work wrangling bloggers for a candidate. It's interesting that Marcotte's attack on me was in response to my mocking a blogger who had been wrangled on behalf of a presidential candidate.

So I'm a little conflicted about this. Not because Marcotte attacked me -- that's life in the blogosphere -- but because I like to see bloggers use blogging to snag political jobs, and, on the other hand, I'm wary about this new activity of wrangling bloggers for the benefit of political candidates. For you bloggers seeking jobs: I hope you get them. But for you bloggers staying in this noble enterprise: Preserve your independence and don't let yourself get manipulated, even by some blogger wrangler you loved when she was one of you.

In that post of mine that Marcotte savaged, I really was trying to hurt this emerging profession of blogger wrangler. I want bloggers to keep their distance from candidates and not succumb to flattery and seduction. Oh, the candidate actually cares about me, wants to talk to me. It's fine to take advantage of some access, but don't come back like a sucker and blog about how nice the candidate was to you.

ADDED: Captain Ed -- noting Marcotte's "anti-Catholic screeds" -- says:
As a Catholic, I'm less offended by the likes of Marcotte and McEwan than I am surprised that no one in the Edwards campaign thought it was a problem for their candidate. Catholics have overcome bad weather that had more impact on our faith than either blogger, but Edwards wants to court the Catholic (and Evangelical) impulses for social justice and peace to bolster his populist campaign. Surely someone on his staff had the responsibility to actually read the bloggers' previous work to see if it matched the tone Edwards wanted to set with the on-line community and voters in general. That someone should be fired right along with Marcotte and McEwan.

Unfortunately, we can expect this incident to make it harder for bloggers to make the transition into traditional political roles on campaigns. We already have a Wild West reputation for shooting off our mouths and thinking later, which I believe is mostly undeserved; the media will use this to reinforce that impression of the blogosphere. The truth is that the Edwards campaign didn't work very hard to keep a couple of Catholic-haters out of their payroll, and while the media will also report that, that will get missed for the more sensational story of those bloggers and the liability they represent.
Implication: Bloggers gunning for political jobs have to tone down the anti-Catholicism.

UPDATE: Salon reports that the two bloggers have been fired. (Via Memeorandum.)

MORE: "The Pandagon Papers." (NSFW.)

TWO MORE THINGS:
1. Some people seem to think I'm gloating over Marcotte's misfortune. That is a weird misreading of this post, which is damned sympathetic to her plight, especially considering that she was as nasty to me as she possibly could be. I brush that aside as "the way of the blogger" and "life in the blogosphere," as I worry about the employability of bloggers and the pressure for self-censorship.

2. Some people think I'm just a big Republican, interested only in hurting Democratic candidates. But with a handful of exceptions, I've voted for Democrats for 35 years, and I happen to have voted for John Edwards in the Democratic primary in 2004. The Wisconsin primary took place when Edwards was the only man who could stop John Kerry, who I (correctly) thought would make a bad candidate. On the political spectrum, I'm somewhere around Joe Lieberman and Rudy Giuliani. In short, I'm the kind of person the candidates should be concerned about.

Are dissenting opinions vanity or dishonesty?

Tony Mauro has an interview with Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito:
Alito ... commented on Roberts' efforts to achieve greater unanimity on the Court, even at the expense of making broad rulings. Alito thinks there is merit in the idea, and says Roberts has already "worked to prevent fractured opinions." But Alito says Roberts has not made the pitch for unanimity to the justices as a group. For his part, Alito says, "I don't feel too strongly about writing separate opinions."

But he says Roberts' campaign points up a problem that any appellate judge "struggles with," namely, how far to go in compromising in the interest of unanimity and giving clear guidance, without crossing the line into endorsing "something you don't believe in."

Alito recalled that in his early days as a judge on the 3rd Circuit, he heard a judge -- whose name he can't recall -- lecture on the evils of writing dissents. "He said it was nothing but vanity, and that it didn't achieve anything. That's one side of it."
Aw, come on, who was it?
The other side, which Alito worries about, is the dishonesty of signing onto an opinion with which you disagree.

"I think of the analogy of someone coming to your door and asking you to sign a petition," says Alito. "You say no, you don't agree with it, and the person at your door says, ‘Sign it anyway.'"
So, dissenting opinions: vanity or dishonesty? I think it's somewhere in between. It's not really dishonest to sign on even though you disagree. Once a majority of the Justices have one opinion, it will be the precedent in future cases, and you'll cite it and follow it then. What difference does it make if you start following it before it issues? Should you always do that then? Should we agree with the unnamed Third Circuit judge who said that dissenting opinions were nothing but vanity? I'd say that is going too far, but reading dissenting opinions, you can encounter a lot of unseemly preening. Still, there is an important place for dissent:
Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., published an article in the January 1986 Hastings Law Journal, “In Defense of Dissents,” confessing that when he first came to the U.S. Supreme Court, he did not write a single dissent, although 42 of the 56 opinions he authored in 1985 were just that. So why dissent?

After all, the law is made by those who command the majority, not the outsiders. Even Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, the "Great Dissenter" at one point opined that dissents are generally "useless" and "undesirable." Justice Potter Stewart labeled dissents "subversive literature."

But by the time he wrote the article Justice Brennan was a true believer in the power of dissent. In this way flaws are demonstrated in the majority’s legal analysis, thereby laying the basis for future corrective action. And a dissent holds the majority accountable for the rationale and consequences of its decision. "At the heart of that function is the critical recognition that vigorous debate improves the final product by forcing the prevailing side to deal with the hardest questions urged by the losing side."
Too much antagonism toward dissent -- in judicial opinions and elsewhere -- betrays a fear that one's arguments are flawed. But that doesn't apply to what Chief Justice Roberts has talked about, which is simply narrowing the scope of the decision to the point where it can eliminate the disagreement.

But does it contribute to global warming?

Nancy Pelosi has been given access to an Air Force passenger jet, but it seems she wants an even larger one.

Driving while talking on the cell phone? You shouldn't even be walking and talking on the cell phone!

Not in New York City, if this bill is passed.

I love walking while talking on the phone. And I remember when I used to make fun of people who were walking around talking on the phone. It used to be that talking while walking alone was a sure sign of craziness, and the early phone walkers had some nerve, looking crazy like that. Now, I look out my office window and see that nearly everyone who's walking alone is talking on the phone. I think it's nice. People don't want to be alone. They want someone to talk with while they're walking, but there's usually not someone there who's going in the same direction. And it's a good use of your walking time, catching up with friends and family or planning meeting somewhere. In fact, it's a good way to get some exercise. When you need to do a phone call, take a walk. Sometimes, when I get a call, I leave the house and walk around the neighborhood, and it's gotten to feel so normal to walk and talk that I also walk around the house when I'm on the phone.

So this bill is not just censorship, it's part of the obesity problem.

The dreariest subject in the world: How to spice up your marriage.

I see that pop culture has come full circle:
Christina Aguilera has no problem showing skin - especially on weekends with her husband, music executive Jordan Bratman.

"We claim ourselves to be the coziest couple ever. We have something called 'naked Sundays..."''''

"You have to keep marriage alive, spice it up....We do everything naked. We cook naked."
This is straight out of "Total Woman," the best-seller that feminists hooted at in the 1970s:



The author Marabel Morgan had all sorts of advice aimed at conservative, middle class, Christian women.
Marabel Morgan's notorious 1973 book, The Total Woman, has lingered in people's minds because of the seduction techniques it recommends to unhappy housewives. They ought to consider meeting their husbands at the front door in sexy costumes (heels and lingerie, that kind of thing), calling them at work and talking dirty to them, seducing them beneath the dining-room table. (Morgan does not, however, recommend that women nurture a burning intelligence. In a list of unconventional locations in which to make love, she includes the hammock, counseling her readers, "He may say 'We don't have a hammock.' You can reply 'Oh, darling, I forgot!'"). But long before she describes any of these memorable techniques, Morgan gives a quite thorough accounting of how a housewife ought to go about "redeeming the time" and the energy so that she is physically and emotionally able to make love on a regular basis. A housewife should run her household the way an executive runs his business: with goals, schedules, and plans. She should make dinner—or at least do all the shopping and planning for it—right after breakfast, so that she isn't running around like a madwoman in the late afternoon with no idea what to cook. She should take time to rest and relax during the day so that she is not exhausted and depleted come whoopee hour. With the right kind of planning, "you can have all your home duties finished before noon." In a household run by an incompetent wife, however, "by the time her husband enters the scene, she's had it," Morgan writes. "She's too tired to be available to him." This seems a fairly accurate depiction of many contemporary two-career marriages, in which dinner is a nightly crisis (what to eat?) and an endless negotiation (who to cook it?) entered into by two people who have been managing crises and negotiating agreements all day long and who still have the children's homework and baths and bedtimes to contend with.
That's a passage from a 2003 article in The Atlantic called "The Wifely Duty" and subtitled: "Marriage used to provide access to sex. Now it provides access to celibacy."

"These people are extremely well-suited, by personality and training, to deal with the stresses of being in space..."

Back on earth... not so much. And those "Right Stuff" days are over:
Today’s astronauts find themselves in a world much less glamorous than the original crews. While the Mercury Seven raced Corvettes, today’s family-oriented fliers are likelier to tool around in minivans.
Isn't the Space Shuttle itself sort of a minivan?
They spend much more time in suburbia than in orbit, and there are no more ticker-tape parades for the returning heroes.

Some former officials of the space program said that romantic thoughts and even love triangles were not unknown to the program but that it was up to management to watch carefully and intervene.

Mr. Abbey, the former Johnson Space Center director, said, “You’ve got some hard-charging people...
Hard-charging, in diapers!
"... and you need to manage them.” Problems like this “don’t happen overnight,” and so “you have to be sensitive to what your people are doing.”

Now and then on his watch, he recalled, “I stepped in, and people weren’t happy about it,” he recalled, but it was important to tell them that “what you’re doing is not a personal thing for you — it’s affecting a lot of people around you, and affecting your performance.”
Oh, so it's one big soap opera with them? I await the TV series: "Desperate Astronauts." The possibilities are endless, both on the ground and in the orbiting giant minivan.

Is there no dignity left for that archetypal American figure, the astronaut? Now, they are reduced to whimpering to the media: "we call them urine collection devices."

"I have scraped many squirrels off roads."

"Because often when we are driving and we see a squirrel we assume they're dead — but they're not. They're just concussed. I always stop and lift them to the side of the road. So the next time you see a squirrel on the side of the road, stop and make sure."

Oh, now I'm sobbing at the beauty of human kindness. Please, somebody nominate Morrissey for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Enemy

The mainstream media notice Prince's phallic guitar shadow.

Checking Site Meter this morning, I can see I'm getting a lot of visitors searching for things like "Prince Superbowl silhouette" and "Prince Super Bowl silhouette."

(The incorrect one word spelling seems to be more common. We've spelled it both ways in the comments. It's easy to remember that the one word spelling is wrong: Just think about how it can be misread as "Superb Owl.")

My post, "About that silhouette," shows up on the first Google search page. So, I figure the mainstream media have caught up with Prince's phallic guitar shadow. Let's see if we're getting amusement at the blatant-yet-subtle imagery or if they're seeing it as in their interest to pretend to blow a gasket so they can manipulate readers into a frenzy like they did in the old days when Justin Timberlake popped Janet Jackson's armor-clad breast out of her costume.

If I go back to the older stories, I find things like the NYT's "A Noncontroversial Prince, Just the Way the N.F.L. Likes Him":
No doubt National Football League officials were pretty pleased... They know that the halftime show is still haunted by the specter of 2004, when Justin Timberlake enlivened an otherwise unmemorable show by baring Janet Jackson’s breast. Somehow, Timberlake’s role has been largely forgotten, but Jackson’s career has still not recovered. And compared with the controversial Jackson, Prince must seem like a pretty safe bet.

Would that last statement have made any sense at all 20 years ago? In 1987, Jackson was best known as Michael’s effervescent younger sister, and Prince was perhaps the most polarizing pop star in the country; the sexually frank lyrics of his “Darling Nikki” had helped spark a national debate about explicit lyrics.

Yesterday’s command performance was yet more proof that Prince has made that familiar journey from pariah to American treasure. He has a catalog of hits that everybody seems to love (even the players, who normally take little interest in the halftime show, were quoted praising Prince), and he sings and plays and moves as well as he ever did.

Best of all, he does not carry himself as a pop-star emeritus. Did you see his face during the first verse of “Purple Rain,” when he tossed his bandana into the crowd? He looked as if he were getting away with something.
I'm going to assume that -- unlike the headline writer -- the author of this piece, Kelefa Sanneh, knew that he did "get away" with something.

(Political information not included in this article: It was specifically Al Gore's wife Tipper -- not some red state prude -- who flipped out at "Darling Nikki" and ignited that national debate about sexy song lyrics.)

Here's one of my TV photos to refresh your recollection of the subtlety/blatancy of the tiny genius's imagery:

Prince

This isn't just a chance image. The whole time the sheet was up, the shadow looked phallic and was moved about into various different phallic positions. I thought it was obvious that Prince had his eye on the silhouette and was playing a shadow game:

Prince

It looks like the main MSM story that threw a spotlight on Prince's japery was Jake Coyle's AP piece "Prince's Halftime Imagery Questioned":
A number of bloggers have decried [sic] "Malfunction!" - including Sam Anderson at New York magazine's Daily Intelligencer. Daily News television critic David Bianculli called it "a rude-looking shadow show" that "looked embarrassingly rude, crude and unfortunately placed."

CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said Tuesday that the network has received "very few" complaints on Prince's performance. CBS last aired the Super Bowl in 2004 when Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake's "wardrobe malfunction" sparked criticism and a subsequent crackdown on broadcast decency from the Federal Communications Commission.

But this time, it was the NFL that produced the halftime show (MTV had in 2004). Spokesman Greg Aiello said the league has received no complaints.
That was what was so brilliant about it. The kind of people who would get upset and complain couldn't see it or might perhaps think they see it but fear the embarrassment of being told that they are the one with the dirty mind.

Prince

"We respect other opinions, but it takes quite a leap of the imagination to make a controversy of his performance," Aiello said. "It's a guitar."...

For decades, the electric guitar, by nature, has been considered phallic. From Jimi Hendrix's sensual 6-string swagger to Eddie Van Halen's masturbatory soloing, the guitar has often been thought an extension of a male player's sexuality.

Was Prince's pose phallic?
I love all the additional amusement I'm getting out of reading things like this. It was completely clear, yet there's still the question: Did that even happen? It's this playfulness of creating ambiguity in the midst of utter clarity that will go down in pop culture history.
"The short answer is, of course it is," says Rolling Stone magazine contributing editor Gavin Edwards...
And the long answer is: Wow!
"All that said, it didn't seem like a sniggering little puppet show," adds Edwards. "I think it was one of those things because a guitar at waist level does look like an enormous phallus."
Oh, come on. Was Edwards watching? Give Prince credit for this creativity. This wasn't just the usual guitar-is-phallic business. This was art. It came from a mind. It wasn't "sniggering" and it (really) wasn't "little," but it actually was a puppet show. A quite clever one. The billowing sheet looked beautiful waving in the light. It fit the stadium space sublimely, and made the little man big -- which is what the Viagra-consuming football viewers are always hoping for. Give the artist the credit he deserves.
By enlarging his shadow, it's possible Prince intended to accentuate this aspect of his solo, but it's just as likely it was accidental....
Now, I'm outraged at the denial of artistry. These critics think they are the perceptive ones and the dumb musicians only happen to flash imagery for the critics to choose to make real with their writing.

("All the critics love u in New York/Yes, we're certain of it, he's definitely masturbating.")
Stephen Colbert reacted with mock outrage on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report" Monday night: "They knew that they were dealing with a lustful, pansexual rock 'n' roll deviant," said Colbert, who joked that the sheet hid (not enhanced) Prince's "demonic guitar phallus."...
Actually, he said, "I don't care what you do with your demonic guitar phallus, any Hassid worth his [something Hassidic?] will tell you that as long as it's through a sheet it's kosher."
"If people want to be hypersensitive, they can be hypersensitive," says Rolling Stone's Edwards. "Those trombones are phallic, too. What are you going to do?"
I am going to draw a distinction between artistic creativity and mere chance.

February 6, 2007

"American Idol" -- San Antonio.

Pushing the Texas cowboy angle, the play "Rawhide" and edit the footage of the gathered crowd to seem like cattle. We're supposed to smirk at the kids' willingness to sing "Rawhide." Don't they know they're being led to the slaughter?

"Are you an aggressive performer?" Ryan asks the burly Bryan Kyrish. "Oh, yeah," he says. Ryan: "Why do you say it like that? It's almost creepy." Bryan is the first audition, and we're left puzzling over whether he's on because he's going to be great or because he's going to be awful. You'd think by now I'd've picked up the cues and would know what was going to happen, but all I know is that it's going to be one or the other. He sings "Rebel Yell," yells "Rebel Yell," and it's not creepy, it's scary. "It was a lot of shouting without a melody," says Simon. Yep.

Haley Scarlato looks good, sounds good, "a bit caberet." I thought they'd love her, but they're just: "You deserve a second chance."

Next is Jasmine Holland, who's terribly shy. She's a black woman from a gospel choir, so I assume she'll be terrific, but she's awful, and they laugh in her face. Paula says she seems sad, and she bursts out and says it's because "y'all're being rude" -- which is true. She then proceeds to attack Randy: "What do you do? I'd never heard of you before 'American Idol'... You were in the background..." Outside the audition room, she's all: "Simon, what is he? He's not even American." Her mother backs her up: "He needs to go back to... where's he from? French." Ryan corrects: "No, he's British." Mom: "He needs to go back to British and be the judge for British people. He's not American, so how can he tell who sings and not sings?" I'll bet they put some thought into whether to use this segment, since it invites viewers to laugh at people who aren't well educated, but I can see how they overcame whatever resistance they had. The young woman was quite bad and deluded, and she got nasty and abusive. She also cried two giant streaks of tears out of each eye.

Next is Baylie Brown, the girl from Krum, who lives around horses, but is also afraid of them. She has a brilliant smile and dimples, and she tells us that at heart she's a city girl. She's only 16. She looks fabulous and sings in a charming country style. "You're commercial with a capital C," Simon tells her.

They do the "wrong door" routine again, the lamest source of humor this season. Why is one door locked? There was at least a punchline: One girl got through the locked door.

A guy sings "Amazing Grace" all off key and gets a no. He's entirely accepting of that but as a joke, after he leaves the room, he starts yelling at them as if he'd lost his cool. His cousin Akron Wilson is next, and he sings the great song "A Change Is Gonna Come." They tell him he's charisma challenged but give him another chance, so he tears into "Let's Get It On," and they like him.

Next, they make a young woman cry. She's bad, and they say "Are you serious?"

Ashlynn Carr is beautiful but a little strange. She's one of the few contestants who gets a no from Randy and Paula, but Simon's a yes. After she's gone, Simon says we're making a mistake. Bring her back. She does "Inseparable," and Simon leans way back and massages his man-boobs in big circles and opines, "You have some very bad habits." But they let her through.

Jake the Snake -- Jacob Tutor -- says he's influenced by Kurt Cobain, and he sings something I can't recognize -- something about being in Hell. "I think you need to be in a very dark bedroom to sing that song," says Simon.

Jimmy McNeal says he's going to sing "Cupid," but he sings "Another Saturday Night" shifting into "Cupid." Simon says, "You're like a little, fun Ruben, aren't you? Remember when we first met Ruben. That was when he used to smile." Oh, how painful! That's the saddest thing anyone ever said on the show. Ruben doesn't smile anymore? He smiled when they first met him, and they they put him through the "American Idol" machine, and now he doesn't smile anymore. But welcome to the machine, Jimmy!

Oh, you know how I adore Dakota Fanning!

"A wig, a trenchcoat, adult diapers, BB gun, a steel mallet, some rubber tubing, and garbage bags."

When Astronauts Attack.

Oh, come on, haven't you at least thought of wearing a Depends to get you through that long, fast car trip... like when you're off to murder somebody?

"Lust and disgust, pride and humiliation, guilt and atonement... moral intuition, empathy..."

It's all there in your insula. Now, if we could just learn how to tweak it.... it would be great... or not.

A question for law students.

What do you think of the law school teaching style where the students are put in small groups and given exercises designed to put them in the role of teaching each other, with the lawprof off to the side in a supporting role?

ADDED: Former law students, lawprofs, prospective students are welcome to join the discussion!

That's not funny! Snickers.

Is this ad offensively homophobic?



The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and the Human Rights Campaign complained and got Masterfoods to withdraw it (after it played during the Super Bowl). I wonder if non-activist gay people and gay-friendly non-gay people are offended by that ad. I think it's funny. It makes fun of guys who are afraid of being gay, which isn't endorsing homophobia. It's mocking it. And what do they do when they feel compelled to "do something manly"? They rip hair off their chest. Hair on the chest is a longtime symbol of masculinity. And de-hair-ifying your chest is a metrosexual thing. And the fact is, they showed two men in a big, sweet open-mouthed kiss.

So the complaint is not only humorless, it's obtuse.

ADDED: Americablog is horrified and outraged by the ad. I disagree, but accept the point that idiots could view the ad and learn the reaction of violence. Given that there is anti-gay violence, one ought not to fool around with material like this.

MORE: As you can see at the Americablog link, there were follow-on ads that exacerbated the problem. And as the commenters point out, the original ad, even if funny and not homophobic, is still not a good way to promote a candy bar.

Hannity grills Giuliani.

No, no, I'm not a news junkie, but I am sitting here at 6 a.m. watching Sean Hannity interview Rudy Giuliani:

Rudy

After trying to pin Giuliani down about whether he's definitely running, Hannity asks the dopey question "Are you in it to win it?" Giuliani turns that into a chance to make the case for himself succinctly and -- I think -- brilliantly. The "only reason to do it" is to try to win it and:
The first thing you have to do is say to yourself: What can I bring to it? What can I do that's different or... And how can I make the country better? How can I prove it? And I think that the experiences that I've had Mayor of New York City, United States Attorney, all of them very, very strongly kind of...
Don't know why he went soft with the "kind of"...
... in the executive area where you have to have leadership and organization and focus...
Unlike the Senate!
... and having dealt with a city that was in really bad shape when I, when I took over and that had to kind of turn around...
I think he throws in "kind of" when his inner voice warns him not to sound like a braggart.
I think it gives you the background to approach it and to feel pretty comfortable that you can make a difference.
I wrote that I thought this part was brilliant before I transcribed it and got the chance to see the imperfections and the rambling structure. But I think this is not inarticulateness. I think it's intentionally pulling back from a stronger, more glib way of speaking that people might find off-putting. In addition to those two "kind ofs," he uses the word "you" instead of the more precise "I," and he breaks up the core statement -- that he's the experienced, strong, successful executive -- with softening material about "mak[ing] a difference" and "feel[ing] pretty comfortable." What I remembered before taking the time to transcribe this, was, in fact, that core statement, and all that extra material that surprised me when I did the transcription is the lubrication that let the message get through without irritation. So I'm sticking with my opinion that it was brilliant.

Hannity grills Giuliani about all the social conservative issues. This is important. Hannity represents the sector of voters that Giuliani needs to reach. The first big question is about abortion: "Where does Rudy Giuliani stand on abortion, and do you think Roe v. Wade is good law/bad law?" Rudy:
Where I stand on abortion is: I oppose it. I don't like it. I hate it. I think abortion is something that, as a personal matter, I would advise somebody against. However, I believe in a woman's right to choose. I think you have to ultimately not put a woman in jail for that, and I think, ultimately, you have to leave that to a disagreement of conscience, and you have to respect the choice that somebody makes.

So what I do say to conservatives because then you want to look at, well, okay, what can we look to that is similar to the way you think. I think the appointment of judges that I would make would be very similar to if not exactly the same as the last two judges that were appointed. Chief Judge, uh, Justice Roberts is somebody I work with, somebody I admire. Justice Alito, someone I knew when he was U.S . Attorney, also admire. If I had been president over the last four years, I can't think of any, you know, that I'd do anything different than that. I guess the key to it is -- and I appointed over 100 judges when I was the mayor so it's something I take very, very seriously -- I would appoint judges that interpreted the Constitution rather than invented it, understood the difference of being a judge and being a legislator -- and having argued a case before the Supreme Court, having argued in many, many courts -- is something I would take very seriously.
Hannity asks him if he'd look for someone like Scalia, Roberts, and Alito. (I note the non-mention of Thomas.)
Scalia is another former colleague of mine and somebody I consider to be a really great judge. You're never going to get somebody exactly the same, and I don't think you have a litmus test, but I do think you have sort of a general philosophical approach that you want from a justice, and I think a strict constructionist would be probably the way I'd describe it.
Hannity gets back to the part of his abortion question that Rudy never answered: "Is Roe bad law?"
I think that's up to the Court to decide. It's been precedent for a very, very long time. There're questions about the way it was decided, the basis for it. At this point, it's precedent. It's going to be very interesting to see, what Chief Justice Roberts and what Justice Scalia, um, Justices Scalia and Alito do with it.
Why does he throw in Scalia and not mention Thomas? Because he knows Scalia? Because they share an ethnic identity? It's not going to be "very interesting to see" what Scalia does. We've seen it! Actually, I think he meant to just name the two new justices, but said Scalia for Alito, in the usual "Scalito" fashion.
I think probably they're going to limit [Roe], rather than overturn it...
He goes on, with various details about different sorts of statutes regulating abortion, but see what he's done? He still hasn't said that he thinks Roe was rightly or wrongly decided. It's a matter for the justices, he'll be interested to see what they do, and he's got predictions that go right down the middle, offering something to both sides. He won't talk about his own legal opinion, but he does then make the subject himself -- himself as that strong, experienced executive he wants everyone to think about. When he was mayor:
Abortions went down. Adoptions went way up. Because we worked on adoptions as an alternative, so that there'd be a real choice. So that, ultimately, you respect a woman's choice, but it should be a real choice. Adoption or, if they make that choice, I don't think the criminal law can interfere with it.
Hannity says conservatives will like what he's said about appointing justices like Roberts, Scalia, and Alito, and asks him if he's concerned about the disagreement over abortion. Giuliani goes into his perky political mode -- with a marked change of diction ("ya gotta"):
There'll be disagreement on a lot of things. There are always disagreements. People... and then some people just won't be able to vote for ya. Ya gotta live with that. I mean, the reality is ya gotta be yourself. Ya gotta be who you are, be honest with people. If you've changed on something, you've gotta be willing to express it.
At this point, he shifts us off the abortion topic and onto how, as mayor, he changed his mind about education and came to believe in school choice and vouchers. That's some substance for you conservatives -- and another reminder that he's the experienced, strong, successful executive.

Very well done!

***

And here's a classic Hannity expression for you to interpret:

Sean

Do you see smugness or a kindly, good man?

And how about that "ALERT"? You can't tell from the still, but the red splotch behind the letters was pulsating. Okay, I'm alert. Now, what?

"Today, she is a voluptuous woman with a brown pixie..."

Writes Robin Givhan in a fashion article, where, the assumption is, you understand the terminology. If not, perhaps you'd get the absurd image of the voluptuous woman accompanied by one of these:



It's funny, though. If you read about a woman -- voluptuous or no -- a woman with a pageboy, you never picture her hanging about with someone like this:


When the psychiatrist thinks the patient is just an...

... asshole. And he writes a nice essay that gets published in the New York Times, where you can't come out and say "asshole."

February 5, 2007

YouTube politics.

The story so far.

ADDED: The link is a video (a video about video), and it includes a cool segment with Rudy Giuliani in drag... fooling around with Donald Trump. I think Rudy is delightful in it, myself.

"Are there drawbacks to being so smart?"

"It's easy to get bored with routine and hard to extract gratification from normal conversation, at least with most members of the bar crowd."

An interview with Christopher Langan, who's worked for years as a bar bouncer and has an IQ of 195. (PDF, via Metafilter.)

Are there lots of really intelligent people who are only marginally employed? Or do you think that if they are, they probably have mental problems? Perhaps they're only bored will all the things that everyone else finds interesting, and they are disabled from living in the world as all the ordinary people have arranged it.

This post is only for "American Idol" fans.

Really, go away if you're not. You won't even get it.... Paris Bennett -- who finished 5th last year -- has an album now, called "Princess P," and she's got this interview in Entertainment Weekly, with this wacky revelation:
Any featured guests?

Kevin Covais is on my record. He does a rap.

Kevin, as in ''Chicken Little?''



Yes. We're good friends and decided to do this sweet, funny interlude called ''Let Me Rap.'' What the world doesn't know is that he can really rap! He should do a rap record.

Go...

Rudy.

IN THE COMMENTS: Comments are piling up quickly, and I keep seeing liberals pop in to say the social conservatives won't accept Rudy, and then responses like this:
I'm a social conservative, but becoming more pragmatic [or is it 'live-and-let-live'?] as I age. I'd vote for Rudy in a New York minute over almost anybody else. I might vote ideology in the primaries, but if Rudy's the nominee, I'll happily vote for him.

"We love the Beatles and it has been painful being at odds with them..."

Apple Inc. and Apple Corps, together at last.

About that silhouette.

Are you feeling outrage or amusement or not really seeing what the big deal is?

Prince

Prince

Reminds me of the hospital sponge bath scene in the famous "Seinfeld" episode, "The Contest":
(On the other side of a curtain divider, the silhouette of a shapely nurse can be seen entering)

NURSE: Hi, Denise. Six-thirty, time for your sponge bath.

(The shadow of a patient awakening can be seen)

DENISE: Mmm.. is it six-thirty already? I fell asleep.

(The two women go about preparing the sponge bath. George is visibly affected - breathing heavily, and staring at them through the curtain)

SHELLY: (Seems not to notice what's going on beyond the divider) So, George, what are you doing now? I hear you got some kinda television, writing - thing?

GEORGE: (Slowly backing away, he's not at all committed to the conversation) Yeah.. television.

(The patient, Denise, is trying to get her gown off)

NURSE: Let me help you out with that. Here, just slip it over your head..

DENISE: Oh.. thank you.

SHELLY: (Nodding) Well, it's about time. We thought you were gonna wind up on the street. (As the bath is going on, George is now completely mesmerized)

What is it you're doing, exactly?

(A moment passes. George seems not to have heard his cousin)

ESTELLE: George, you're cousin, Shelly, is talking to you!....

***

JERRY: So the nurse was giving her a sponge bath?

GEORGE: Every night at six-thirty. The nurse was gorgeous.. then I got a look at the patient.. (Laughs, then snorts) I was going nuts.

JERRY: Oh, man. Well, I guess you'll be going back to that hospital.

GEORGE: (Fake sympathy) Well, my mother, Jerry..

(Jerry nods)

JERRY: (Pointing) But are you still master of your domain?

GEORGE: (Arms out) I am king of the county. You?

JERRY: Lord of the manor.

Prince

ADDED: I have more to say about this here.

"Rules for YouTube."

Lots of great advice here, including insight into the perfection of this:

So the violence in the Super Bowl commercials means what about the war in Iraq?

Some of the commercials were violent, like a guy throwing a rock at another guy's head. Surely, that means something about the war:
No commercial that appeared last night during Super Bowl XLI directly addressed Iraq, unlike a patriotic spot for Budweiser beer that ran during the game two years ago. But the ongoing war seemed to linger just below the surface of many of this year’s commercials.
Or all over the surface of your brain.
More than a dozen spots celebrated violence in an exaggerated, cartoonlike vein that was intended to be humorous, but often came across as cruel or callous....

During other wars, Madison Avenue has appealed to a yearning for peace. That was expressed in several Super Bowl spots evocative of “Hilltop,” the classic Coca-Cola commercial from 1971, when the Vietnam War divided a world that needed to be taught to sing in perfect harmony.

Coca-Cola borrowed pages from its own playbook with two whimsical spots for Coca-Cola Classic, “Happiness Factory” and “Video Game,” that were as sweet as they were upbeat. The commercials, by Wieden & Kennedy, provided a welcome counterpoint to the martial tone of the evening.
So if the ads are violent, they're about the war, and if the ads are sweet and gentle, they're about the war? And whichever way they go, they are against the war, right?

ADDED: Anchoress: "Hey, NY Times, put down the bong."

Why do cartoon food items always want to be eaten?

I'm still laughing at my mistake -- over in the podcast post -- of calling Aqua Teen Hunger Force Aqua Teen Hunger Strike. But if they were behaving rationally, cartoon food items would favor hunger strikes. Advertisers, of course, have a motivation to turn things like hamburgers into cartoon characters and to entertain us with the cute animals whose flesh their clients sell. Here's the original great classic animal who would like nothing more than for you to eat him:



Help me think of more cartoons who have a death wish that is supposed to stimulate your appetite.

ADDED: The first comment points me to this parody of the phenomenon:



It's slightly less funny to be laughing at death along with Phil Hartman.

Madison schools canceled for cold.

All the Madison area schools are canceled today for cold, including the schools in Madison itself. Madison schools are always the last to close. I know that from my many years of checking for school closings when my sons were young. I'd watch a long list of cities and towns scroll slowly across the TV screen, and even when the list was long, Madison would still be missing. Madison almost never shuts down for snow, and the main reason is that we expect it and, because we have enough snow and enough money to make it worth preparing, we prepare. But there is nothing to be done about cold. No trucks can plow it out of our path, and dealing with it must be left to individuals and families. It's up to them to figure out how to prepare for the winter, and if they are to send their children to school on the coldest days, they've got to figure out what kind of clothing to buy and spend the money for it.

Right now, the temperature in downtown Madison is minus 15°, with wind chill calculated at minus 31°. If weather like this were quite common, the school authorities might assume that parents had gotten their act together and committed the family funds to buying proper outerwear for their kids. But it really isn't rational for them to spend this kind of money on their kids -- who, of course, constantly grow out of things. Like a southern city that shuts down whenever it snows, parents are right to have no plan for clothing their children to go out on really cold days like today.

Even if you assumed that all parents did what informed, rational parents should do, the school district would need to conclude that attendance will be so low that the schools should close. In real life, some parents would decide to send their kids out in the warmest clothes they had, and children could get hurt. It's best not to create the conditions for that to happen. Keep the kids home.

But how about the University? We never close! I canceled class once in over 20 years, because it was in the middle of a big storm, but even then, the University didn't close. We're all adults here, and you're expected to dress yourself properly. Certainly, by the time you're old and smart enough to go to law school, you should know what to do. Your mom and dad aren't dressing you anymore. You're responsible for yourself. The institution isn't going to protect you from your mistakes. If we were, I'd be going up to every other kid I see on campus on bitterly cold days and telling him or her to put on a hat.

Here's a picture Nina took on campus on Saturday. See the woman on the left? She represents a theory of mine:



There is never a day in Madison when more than half the students walking outside on campus are wearing hats. But folks, if you're reading this, mom wants you to wear a hat.

The young woman on the right also has a good idea with the scarf over the face. If it's less than 4 below, you need a scarf over your nose or you can feel the air icing up inside your nasal passage. Take that as a sign that you need a scarf. And look at how both women are completely unprotected from the waist down. The hatless woman appears to be wearing canvas sneakers. You really do need a long, down coat and some kind of warm shoes.

But you are adults, so look out for yourselves.

And lest anyone think that I've written this post to cast doubt on theories about global warming, let me say that if you've read this post with understanding and without the usual emotional static, you should see that the implication is that people are less prepared for cold when they encounter less of it. The new -- I think it's new -- phenomenon of closing for cold is -- if anything -- a sign that we've been having warmer winters.

February 4, 2007

Audible Althouse #78.

Time to catch up once again with Audible Althouse: it's a podcast of the odd last few days on a blog called Althouse.

Things are not what they seem. How do you know what you're looking at? There were those "Aqua Teen Hunger Strike" non-bombs that freaked out Boston, those polar bears not really stranded on an ice floe not necessarily caused by global warming, and the 29-year-old guy who posed as a 12-year-old to attend school and do sleepovers with kids who thought they found a friend. Are you going to believe your own eyes?

You can stream it right through your computer here.

But all the cute animals have subscribed on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

This podcast is dedicated to the Althouse blog historian, Ruth Anne Adams.

IN THE COMMENTS: Daryl Herbert writes:
Aqua Teen Hunger FORCE, not "strike" The error is excusable when you consider that Master Shake was omnipresent at Cindy Sheehan's hunger strike... But frankly, I wouldn't watch a TV show based on anthropomorphicized fast food items singing praises of the Nazi death machine (what better way, Gandhi asked, could Jews prove their moral righteousness, than to limply submit to the Nazi extermination campaign?) I think it's a better political statement to eat a hamburger than set out on a hunger strike.
LOL. But I think Hunger Strike is better, because of the double meaning. Are they on strike or are they striking out? Frankly, if I was a food item, I'd favor hunger strikes. Why are cartoon food items always happy about getting eaten?

Prince!

I've just been reminded to watch Prince at the Superbowl. Here I am trying to finish up the podcast -- where I talk about not watching the Superbowl -- but finishing up the technical things, I put the TV on with the sound off and had stopped at the Superbowl, which does look snazzy in HDTV, even seen through pouring rain. So, let's watch and blog Prince. [Horrible too-much-law typo: Printz.]

***

With all this rain, I'm thinking: Keith Relf.

"All along the watchtower, princes kept the view..."

***

Well, it's purple rain.

***

Excellent. Nice of him to do hits we know. "Purple Rain" in the pouring rain. That was nice. And he escaped electrocution. Had to wear that scarf on his head though. I wonder how he felt about having to play in the rain. I only wanted 2 see him laughing in it.

You know from today's John Edwards post that I have the camera ready by the TV, and I did take some shots. I took 98 pictures! These should be better than the one from the paused TiVo of John Edwards (and that kissy shot really was just some place I chanced to pause). So wait a minute and I'll have some Prince photos (and a podcast).

***

Prince

Prince

Prince

Edwards: Obama was only right about Iraq because he wasn't burdened with the information I had.

On "Meet the Press," Tim Russert confronts John Edwards with a quote from Barack Obama that pre-dates the Iraq war:
[I] know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the middle east, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.
Russert challenges Edwards: "His judgment was on the money."

Edwards' response is a classic:
He wasn't burdened like a lot of us with the information that we were receiving on the intelligence committee and as members of the United States Senate. We were getting very detailed, intimate information about what was actually happening in Iraq.
Get it? Obama was in the Illinois legislature. It's so easy to be right when you're not burdened with information.

Anyway, Edwards said he was sorry, sorry, sorry. How many times does he have to tell you he's sorry?

Kiss me, America

Kiss me, America.

"Clinical and podium faculty" ... podium faculty?

"Podium faculty"? Is that what we're going to start calling lawprofs who don't teach in the clinics? A Google search shows that this term, which I encountered on a faculty email list, is a new coinage.

Ironically, at my law school, all the podiums were ripped out when the building was last renovated. Without a ramp, podiums are not wheelchair accessible. I understand, though I still find it uncomfortable to teach in a room with banked seating designed in relation to the now-nonexistent podiums.

But much as I like real podiums, I balk at being called "podium faculty." It sounds pejorative, but is it apt? "Pod-" means "foot," and we're just standing there, being pedantic; and "ped-" also means "foot," the appendage beneath which you might want to see us crushed for thinking teaching could be done with nothing but language.

The polar-bears-on-the-melting-ice-cap photo.

You've all seen it. This photo atop all the articles about the new report on global warming.



(Go to the article to see the larger size.)

Here's my question. How many people look at that picture and think the polar bears were living on some ice and it melted around them and now they are stuck?

And, yes, I realize a polar bear can drown... if, say, it's exhausted and swimming over 50 miles. But basically, these things can swim 15 miles easily, at a speed of 6 miles an hour, and they use the edge of an ice floe as a platform from which to hunt. Where's the photograph of the bear chomping down on a cute baby seal?

And, no, I'm not denying that there's global warming, even as I sit here a double pane of glass away from minus 12° air. I'm just amused at human behavior, such as the way it is possible to feel arguments at us. In particular, we are susceptible to argument by animal. We love the animal, if it's pictured right, in a way that pulls our heartstrings.

There is a sharper edge, voiced by a great director in his movie about bears and man: "I believe the common character of the universe is not harmony, but hostility, chaos and murder."

ADDED: I just remembered that last night I had a dream in which I was carrying around a stuffed-toy polar bear! And I saw this picture yesterday. See? This is how to get into people's heads! This is how opinion is really formed.



With bears!

-14.

That was the low temperature overnight here in Madison. It's -12° now, and we're expecting it to get up to -1. And I'm not talking about your candyass "wind chill" enhancements of the hardcore facts. That's the temperature.

"Social acupuncture."

For example, Haircuts For Children:
[Darren] O’Donnell trained 10-year-olds to cut hair, and arranged to have them offer free haircuts to adults in salons around town. The objective was to flip the typical power dynamic, so that the adult yields control, trusting the child not to chop off his ear. “The sophisticated intimacy that develops between the young stylists and their adult clients intimates new kinds of social interactions among generations,” says O’Donnell.
Then there's The Talking Creature:
Participants would approach people at random and invite them to a predetermined public place for a conversation — not to talk about anything in particular, but just to talk. In the process, the taboo (and fear) of talking to strangers was broken, and the encounters were remarkable for their “openness, relaxation, trust and joy.” What more can one ask of an artistic experience?
There, now, have I cured you of your performance art anxiety?

ADDED: Actually, it gives me an idea for a horror movie. Our serial killer uses the guise of performance art like The Talking Creature to lure his victims. Sorry, that Boston thing is still on my mind. Yeah, those guys were artists/admen, but the wily psycho killer will take advantage of the "social acupuncture" they applied. All that openness, relaxation, trust and joy is just what he needs. He moves on from single victims to a big project that will blow up the whole city. Everyone points at the little Lite-Brite cartoon figures on buildings around town and laughs. They get it. Except they don't.

February 3, 2007

Bush says the war is "sapping our soul."

He was speaking in a closed meeting of House Democrats. And before the press was shunted out:
He said disagreeing with him over the war — as many in the room do — does not mean "you don't share the same sense of patriotism I do."

"You can get that thought out of your mind, if that's what some believe," the president said. "These are tough times, but there's no doubt in my mind that you want to secure this homeland as much as I do."...

Bush said, "We don't always agree. That's why we're in different parties. But we do agree about our country. We do agree about the desire to work together and I really appreciate you letting me come by. I felt welcomed."...

"I listened to many members here, I listened to members of my own party, I listened to the military and came up with a plan that I genuinely believe has the best of succeeding," the president said....

"I do know we agree on some things and that is that the Maliki government is going to have to show strong leadership," Bush said. "There's benchmarks that they have got to achieve."...

The president also had a little fun at his own expense, hoping it would prove his willingness to find bipartisan consensus. His reference in his State of the Union address to their party as the "Democrat majority" — as opposed to the "Democratic majority" — caused grumbling and offense and he sought to make up for it.

"Now look, my diction isn't all that good," Bush said to laughter. "I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language. And so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party."
Come on, even if you hate Bush, you have to admit that he handled that well. On the other hand, the war is sapping our soul.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade wonders if Bush really said "sapping our soul." There were a lot of people there. If he didn't say that, I think we'll hear what he really said. To me, it seems that in the open part of the meeting, he reached out and clearly said that he's not blaming the war opponents for undermining morale. Then, in the closed session, there was more talk. I suspect that at some point, he said that morale was in fact undermined. If he said "sapping our soul," he -- it seems likely -- meant just that. Rather than view him as having made some devastating, tragic confession, we should probably credit him with sticking to his point of stirring up concern about the war without blaming anybody. What does this man have to do to get some support?

The Boston non-bombs.



Apologies have been made and reimbursement proffered. Isn't that enough? I mean, look at those things. It was some delightful performance art that should have puzzled and then amused people. I'm not saying people who got alarmed were ridiculous, but they need to move on. Free Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky. Or do they irritate you?



They're being yippies! [NSFW.]

"Black people get a little testy when white people call them 'articulate.'"

Notes Lynette Clemetson in the Week in Review explains why.
“Historically, it was meant to signal the exceptional Negro,” [said Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of humanities at the University of Pennsylvania.] “The implication is that most black people do not have the capacity to engage in articulate speech, when white people are automatically assumed to be articulate.”

And such distinctions discount as inarticulate historically black patterns of speech. “Al Sharpton is incredibly articulate,” said Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. “But because he speaks with a cadence and style that is firmly rooted in black rhetorical tradition you will rarely hear white people refer to him as articulate.”

While many white people do not automatically recognize how, and how often, the word is applied, many black people can recall with clarity the numerous times it has stopped them in their tracks.
What's really amazing is not that black people can speak well, but that white people haven't yet gotten the message that it's a bad idea to keep pointing it out.

NOTE: I edited the last sentence to make the point sharper.

Senators keep running for President, but they keep losing.

They have some kind of problem, right? Robert Geilfuss debunks the Senators can't win theory. Well, he tries to at least. I'm not convinced. I think there is something about the senatorial personality that doesn't seem right for a President.

"I find this very much akin to what we did with C-SPAN about 25-30 years ago."

HuffPo has a piece about Bloggingheads.tv — including the news that C-SPAN founding chairman Bob Rosencrans is putting money into it:
Rosencrans said he was instantly charmed by Bloggingheads TV when longtime friend Wright introduced him to it last November. "It got better and better as I watched it, and seemed like something really unique," said Rosencrans...

Though contributors will continue to vlog for free, [Bob] Wright says he hopes to someday be able to pay them (and points out that he himself draws no salary, and has invested his own capital.) So far Heads like Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, our own Arianna Huffington, Spencer Ackerman, Jonathan Chait, Joshua Marshall, Glenn Reynolds and the Alts — Eric Alterman, Ann Althouse and Jonathan Alter — don't seem to mind, nor does the still-ubiquitous and generously-browed [Mickey] Kaus.
The Alts!
Though obviously enthusiastic about the venture, Rosencrans said he has no plans to meddle in its success. "Bob has control - it's important that it's done based on his integrity and his vision," he said. "I find this very much akin to what we did with C-SPAN about 25-30 years ago — let it run, let it develop and the right people will take it on. Their integrity is the key to developing a very solid business." Also reminiscent of C-SPAN is its emphasis on substance over flash: "I love the civility of the discussion," he said. "That's unique on television." (That could just be because it's very difficult to imagine yelling at the mild-mannered and highly-respected Wright.)
I guess he didn't see the one with Byron York and David Corn. And I think Mickey kind of yells at Bob sometimes, doesn't he? It's not all that mild-mannered -- at least not all the time, isn't it? And there's some flash. Like that time Bob put a pencil in his ear.

What kind of commenter are you?

Dr. Helen, noting a comments thread over here, speculates about the types of commenters. She identifies four types, two positive and two negative. The positive types are the sympathizers and the problem-solvers, and the negative types are the passive aggressives and the openly aggressive.

Succulent truculence.

Mark agrees with Andrew about Maya's malapropism. But then he takes a closer look:
There are plenty of solecisms printed every day, and we comment on a small sample of them here on Language Log -- but Andrew Sullivan usually doesn't.

In fact, I'm not sure that he's ever commented on a grammatical point before, or indeed on any other question of usage that doesn't involve the interpretation of a politically-charged word like "islamist" (or "christianist", a term that Sullivan has done much to popularize)....

So it's hardly a stretch to guess that Andrew is truculent to Angelou because she is very much not of his political kind.

Some other conservative bloggers have reacted in similar ways. Thus John Derbyshire, apparently without a hint of irony, compared Maya Angelou to William MacGonagall under the title "Voice of the master" (NRO the corner, 2/2/2007).

Come on, you pundits. The analysis of word choice, sentence structure, and meaning is an honorable calling, and we linguists are always happy to have company. But if you're going to pounce on Maya Angelou's malapropism without saying anything about the alleged proliferation of Bushisms, or Tony Snow's misuse of "inveigling", or Lawrence Henry's odd use of "slurry", or any of the rest of the daily parade of politically-relevant points of usage, people might get the idea that your linguistics is really politics.
Okay, this is actually quite complicated.

1. Of course, for most political pundits, linguistics is probably going to be used as a weapon and aimed at targets of choice.

2. Some political pundits -- I include myself -- are interested enough in language to write commentary on the subject, and that commentary may stand apart from politics or be completely interwoven with political opinion. It varies.

3. Speaking of politics, Mark Liberman is himself making a political move of sorts. He's claiming sovereignty over the linguistics field. The implicit argument is that a scholarly domain belongs to the scholars, and that scholars are known by their neutrality. He is nice enough to say he's happy to have company though.

4. Sullivan may be choosing his targets based on politics, but Liberman hasn't proven it. He assumes -- because Sullivan calls himself a conservative? -- that Sullivan doesn't have Bush as a target -- but Sullivan is contemptuous of Bush. If you search for "Bushism" on Sullivan's blog, you can find him quoting a Bushism.

5. Attacking Maya Angelou may very well have nothing to do with politics. I mean, look at the quote Sullivan mocks:
The walls of ignorance and prejudice and cruelty, which she railed against valiantly all her public life, have not fallen, but their truculence to do so does not speak against her determination to make them collapse.
That writing style is incredibly annoying. Sullivan calls it "pretentiousness, self-righteousness and lame, exhausted metaphors." He's right! When you're reading something that bad and then you find a plain error, you're motivated to point out the error. The ridiculous reverence shown toward Maya Angelou -- reflected in the WaPo's nonexistent editing -- is one more thing that makes you want to pick on her. It's not necessarily politics.

***

The "she" in the Angelou quote is Molly Ivins, who died recently. After looking at that bad writing, you may want to refresh yourself with some really good writing.

UPDATE: Liberman responds and disagrees with my point #3:
Claiming sovereignty? On the contrary.

At the end of my LSA talk on "The future of linguistics", I did suggest that our field could learn from Linus Torvald's 1995 plan for Linux: "World domination. Fast". But the recipe for success, I argued, is inclusiveness. We ought to welcome the participation of anyone interested in speech and language, including Andrew Sullivan and Ann Althouse. (Who had some interesting things to say yesterday about "When one word is funnier than another".)
Well, sovereigns allow visitors.... on their terms.

I admit -- and I think my choice of words shows it -- that I was reading between the lines. Mark says maybe I didn't read well enough or maybe he should write more clearly, but I was looking for implications. While it's true that he could try harder to block implications, he can't -- even by appealing to my pride and casting aspersions on my reading ability -- stop me from speculating about the motivations of writers. I'm a law professor. I have to read judicial opinions all the time. The judges are constantly laying out their purported reasoning, and I'd be a fool to accept that at face value.

Another thing is that Mark edited the key paragraph after I formed an opinion about it and was in the middle of writing about it. The original version lacked the references to Snow and Henry and -- I believe -- ended with the words "people might get the idea that linguistics is really politics" (as opposed to "your linguistics").

The notion was -- and remains, though not as clearly -- that linguistics is a field of scholarship, an "honorable calling," and as such, it requires the exclusion of politics. I say this implicitly claims sovereignty over the field: I say what linguistics is, and it's something politics-free. You can come to my territory, but on my terms. If your use of linguistics is politicized, I claim the power to deport you. This is a political move, and it's not just the politics of the academy. It is an attempt -- albeit implicit -- to preserve the special authority of the expert in all sort of public dialogues.

Words that sound dirty but aren't.

My, this is a big internet topic!

Here's a list. I'm seeing some repeats from the inherently funny words discussion (e.g., succotash).

Here's an even longer list. "Obfuscate." Man, I say that in class all the time (when talking about the Supreme Court).

And here's a list of 94, with voting on which sounds dirtiest. #1: "ballcock."

Then there's the song (which I guess is actually NSFW):

When one word is funnier than another.

So, we've established that "naked" is funnier than "nude," and now I feel like this is a subject comics have riffed on hundreds of times. I'm trying to find some good examples of this. Oh! Wikipedia has it -- don't you love Wikipedia? -- under the heading: "Inherently funny words" (a somewhat broader topic).
In Neil Simon's play The Sunshine Boys, a character says: "Words with a k in it are funny. Alka-Seltzer is funny. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny. All with a k. Ls are not funny. Ms are not funny."
Hence the pickle jar in the "Seinfeld" episode.
In an article in the New Yorker published in 1948, H. L. Mencken argues that "k words" are funny: "K, for some occult reason, has always appealed to the oafish risibles of the American plain people, and its presence in the names of many ... places has helped to make them joke towns ... for example, Kankakee, Kalamazoo, Hoboken, Hohokus, Yonkers, Squeedunk, and Brooklyn."...

In the ["Simpsons"] episode "Homie the Clown", Krusty the Clown tells Homer during a lesson at his clown college: "Memorize these funny place names: Walla Walla, Keokuk, Cucamonga, Seattle." Upon hearing the word "Seattle", Homer bursts into laughter.

In another episode, Krusty the Clown paralyzes his vocal cords when he tries to cram in too many "Comedy K's".
And "naked," unlike "nude," has a k. Presumably, it's even funnier when spelled "nekkid."
Dave Barry's 1991 book Dave Barry Talks Back reprints a column on linguistic humor. He contrasts the phrases "Richard Nixon wearing a necktie" with "Richard Nixon wearing a neck weasel", and "Scientists have discovered a 23rd moon orbiting Jupiter" with "Scientists have discovered a giant weasel orbiting Jupiter." He concludes that weasel is a very funny word - "You can improve the humor value of almost any situation by injecting a weasel into it."
I don't remember reading that, but once, on throwing out the trash, I felt moved to say -- and got a big laugh -- "I don't want the weasels to get it." The normal thing to say was "raccoons," which does have a k. And that either goes to show you just how the word "weasels" is, or it's not about the word at all, but the fact that there are no weasels trying to break into the trash cans, and there are raccoons.



By the way, what's funnier: "trash," "garbage," or "rubbish"?
An old Internet phenomenon involved taking lines from the Star Wars movies and replacing one word from the line with the word "pants", with comedic effect. This suggests that "pants" may be an inherently funny word....

In his DVD commentaries, Simpsons creator Matt Groening has proclaimed the word underpants to be at least 15% funnier than the word underwear. This idea is based on a theory by Futurama writer Ken Keeler. In the show Futurama, underpants is almost always used in lieu of "underwear."

David Letterman has frequently used pants as a subject of humor, from screaming out "I am not wearing pants!" over a megahorn during the Today Show to naming his production company Worldwide Pants Incorporated.
I used "pants" for comic effect in the naked gym post.

Consider this dialogue in the dramatic movie "Anatomy of a Murder." The judge has called the lawyers to the bench after the word "panties" -- at a murder trial -- has caused laughter in the courtroom. There are times when the funny-sounding word is a problem. The defense lawyer -- Paul Biegler, played by Jimmy Stewart -- has been trying to bring in evidence that his client killed the man who raped his wife:
Judge Weaver: Mr. Biegler, you finally got your rape into the case, and I think all the details should now be made clear to the jury. What exactly was the undergarment just referred to?

Paul Biegler: Panties, Your Honor.

Judge Weaver: Do you expect this subject to come up again?

Paul Biegler: Yes, Sir.

Judge Weaver: There's a certain light connotation attached to the word "panties." Can we find another name for them?

Mitch Lodwick: I never heard my wife call 'em anything else.

Judge Weaver: Mr. Biegler?

Paul Biegler: I'm a bachelor, Your Honor.

Judge Weaver: That's a great help. Mr. Dancer?

Claude Dancer: When I was overseas during the war, Your Honor, I learned a French word. I'm afraid that might be slightly suggestive.

Judge Weaver: Most French words are.
And that's a whole other subject: words that sound dirty.

"I heard that some other gyms are offering courses on 'pole-dancing' as a sport, so I thought: Why not bring something new to the market?"

The new idea for the gym: naked Sunday. Sounds dangerous. All those machines. And not too clean. Even if you avoided the place on Sunday, would you want to use the machines on Monday?
Nude exercisers would be required to put towels down on weight machines and to use disposable seat covers while riding bikes. All machines would be cleaned and disinfected afterward. "We clean them every day anyway"
So you're going to need a layer of material between you and the machines. Shouldn't that be pants?

And another thing, nudes might look reasonably okay strolling around in the sunlight or frolicking in a pool, but do you really want to see them straining with weight machines? Remember that old "Seinfeld" episode, the one where he has a girlfriend who's always naked in the apartment:
JERRY: Coughing... naked... It's a turn-off, man.

GEORGE: Everything goes with naked.

JERRY: When you cough, there are thousands of unseen muscles that suddenly spring into action. It's like watching that fat guy catch a cannonball in his stomach in slow motion.

GEORGE: Oh, you spoiled, spoiled man. Do you now how much mental energy I expend just trying to picture women naked?

JERRY: But the thing you don't realize is that there's good naked and bad naked. Naked hair brushing, good; naked crouching, bad.
Naked crouching to pick up a heavy weight? Really, really bad and horrible.
MELISSA: You got anything to snack on?

JERRY: Uhh...

MELISSA: (grabbing the pickle jar and straining to open it) Oh, pickles! Unnhhhh! It's a tough one.

JERRY: Look, please stop! Let me help you with that!

MELISSA: (finally opening the jar) Unnnnh! Oooh. That's gonna leave a welt. Look at that.

JERRY: (leaving the room) I can't. I can't look anymore. I-I-I've seen too much....

...

JERRY: Well, I hit the wall yesterday with Lady Godiva. She did a full body flex on a pickle jar.

I'm picturing men and not women going for this. But it's the men I'm worried about getting... entangled in the machines.

By the way, I see that the "Seinfeld" script never uses the word "nude." It's "naked" every single time. There must be some serious comic research on which words are funnier, and "naked" is funnier than "nude." "Nudes" are serious -- they pose for artists, they have a solemnity and purpose. "Naked" -- it's just an adjective with no corresponding noun. You have to say "naked people." "Naked" has much more potential to be embarrassing and ridiculous.

"As things got heated, I just remember Nicole fell and hurt herself. And this guy kind of got into a karate thing."

O.J. Simpson describes the murders:
It was then, he says, that “I remember I grabbed the knife.” Later, asked about whether he had taken off a glove before handling the knife, Mr. Simpson says, “You know, I had no conscious memory of doing that, but obviously I must have because they found a glove there.”

According to the transcript, that moment is one of several during the interview in which Mr. Simpson, while maintaining that he is merely recounting a hypothetical narrative, says rather oddly that he cannot remember certain details.
Simpson's lawyer tries to explain. Simpson was bound by a contract with the publisher, and it required him to follow a script. The whole thing was meant as entertainment --"It was even more than entertainment... It was entertainment with a purpose, and the purpose was to sell the book." Stop, you're killing us.

February 2, 2007

"Just a word from her lips/And the deaf begin to hear."

Tornadoes ravaged central Florida today. The sound of the approaching storm was so loud, a deaf woman heard it. It made me think of this song:
You talk about your woman
I wish you could see mine...
Every time she starts to lovin'
She brings eyesight to the blind.

You know her daddy gave her magic
I can tell by the way she walks....
Everytime we start shakin'
The dumb begin to talk.

She's got the power to heal you never fear...
Just a word from her lips
And the deaf begin to hear.

IN THE COMMENTS: I love the internet. Regular commenter Downtownlad writes:
She wears a hearing aid. She's not deaf. She's hearing impaired. The article was very misleading.
Then Boomer responds:
With 90-95% hearing loss, I wear hearing aids and take them out at night. Trust me, you're deaf without them. Planes constantly fly pretty closely over my house, and while I can't hear them, I can certainly "feel" them while I sleep.
Four hours go by with nothing from Downtownlad, and Boomer observes that his/her response "falls on 'deaf' ears."

Ooh...

Linda's jealous! I'm a nothing. But how dare Marky go with me and not her?

ADDED: So, does Linda Hirshman respect women? You be the judge.

Feed me!



Hey, the feed works!

Thanks, Blogger!

Blogger love restored.

Me and my feed.

I got some personal attention from a member of "the Blogger team at Google."
Hi Ann,

We just noticed that your feed, http://althouse.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default - is giving 502 errors - we're looking into why and should have it fixed asap.

Thanks for your patience...

That was 20 hours ago. What does it say about Blogger that when they're actually paying attention to your problem and trying to fix it "asap," it's still not fixed after 20 hours?

UPDATE: I've gotten this response:
[T]he bug was identified yesterday and a fix is being coded as I type this. It's non-trivial, and has to do with the new way feeds are generated in the new version of Blogger. We apologize deeply for this - please understand that Blogger was completely re-built from the ground up, and we're ironing out all the bugs in the new version as fast as we can. Blogs with lots of posts and comments were delayed from migrating precisely to avoid these types of things, and we definitely fixed a bunch of issues in that meantime, but unfortunately we missed this one. Bugs are a reality of software development, and once found they're always fixed ASAP.

Fingers crossed, this fix will be rolled out today or tomorrow at the latest. For the time being, please let your readers know that we're incredibly sorry about this, and that they should visit your blog in their browsers (not their newsreaders) for the next day or two until this is fixed.

Again, you have our deepest apologies for this - thanks for your continued patience.
For now, I'm going to stick with Blogger. It's not blind trust, but I've put a lot of trust in them over the years, and this is a hump that they need to get over, and I want them to succeed. I'm also too busy to do the work of changing (and I'm naturally skeptical of change).

UPDATE: The feed was restored at around 3 pm today.

"Among many blacks, the awkward and painful debate about race, immigrant heritage and the presidency has been bubbling for months."

The NYT broaches the subject of the racial politics of Barack Obama:
The black author and essayist Debra J. Dickerson recently declared that “Obama isn’t black” in an American racial context. Some polls suggest that Mr. Obama trails one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the battle for African-American support.

“When you think of a president, you think of an American,” said [Calvin] Lanier, a 58-year-old barber who is still considering whether to support Mr. Obama. “We’ve been taught that a president should come from right here, born, raised, bred, fed in America. To go outside and bring somebody in from another nationality, now that doesn’t feel right to some people.”....

The black columnist Stanley Crouch has said, “When black Americans refer to Obama as ‘one of us,’ I do not know what they are talking about.”

Ms. Dickerson echoed that sentiment.

“I’ve got nothing but love for the brother, but we don’t have anything in common,” said Ms. Dickerson, who wrote recently about Mr. Obama in Salon, the online magazine. “His father was African. His mother was a white woman. He grew up with white grandparents."

"Now that Althouse's powerful spell has worn off," Mark Schmitt is still opposed to Linda Hirshman's WaPo op-ed.

You remember Hirshman's "maybe goddesses have some hypnotic effect on policy wonks," which I flagged here without comment (because I'd already had my say about the WaPo op-ed on the blog and on Bloggingheads.TV). Oh, I suppose I could have gone on about her blog post. Check out this line:
Ann Althouse, who opens her eponymous blog, each time by telling everyone that conservative critic Terry Teachout thinks she's "divine."
"Each time"... in other words, I've got the Teachout quote in the banner at the top of my blog. But Hirshman's real problem, of course, is that women who are liked by conservative men are not proper women. That and the usual diva/catfight thing.

More Hirshman:
(Maybe divinity strips you of the capacity to read the full text of a 2000 word article, but it's not a characteristic I anticipate from people making a living from the learning trades.)
Hey, get it straight. Am I a goddess or a tradeswoman or a scholar? Well, I stymie efforts to anticipate my characteristics.

By the way, the failure to read the full text of something you wrote is not evidence of incapacity to read. It might be evidence of good taste and judgment. Unfortunately, I did read it though, as my original blog post shows. Perhaps Linda has an "incapacity" to read the full text of my 700 word post.

But she's actually more insulting to Schmitt than to me:
The absolutely weirdest part of the entire performance art [i.e., Bloggingheads] was Schmitt, who works for the New America Foundation and writes about nothing but politics all of the time and has written about politics all of his adult life, nodding mindlessly while Althouse asserted that it's too early for any sane person to get interested in the election of 2008. Maybe goddesses have some hypnotic effect on policy wonks that has gone unnoticed until this time.
Did I say "it's too early for any sane person to get interested in the election of 2008" on Bloggingheads? No. There a difference between saying everyone who's interested in the election now is not sane -- I'd be insane by that standard -- and saying -- what I said -- that some people follow the news for emotional reasons and some people avoid the news for rational reasons. You can follow or not follow the election news now and be either rational or emotional (or both).

The truth is, nearly everyone, male or female, makes decisions about how to spend their time based on some mixture of reason and emotion. And if we choose to judge other people for how much time they spend on the political news, that judgment too will contain elements of reason and emotion. Reading Linda Hirshman, I get the impression that she is strongly attached to liberal politics and thinks that women, to be rational, must vote for Democrats. She is fired up and mad at women for not seeing that they must vote for Democrats. You tell me whether that's rational or emotional.

It's easy to see why she doesn't like me: I won't just accept the requirement that because I'm a woman, I need to vote for Democrats. I'm going to continue to taunt Hirshman about this, and I'll laugh when she fulminates about my lack of "reason." I'll laugh insanely.

But this is really a post about Mark Schmitt's terrific response to Hirshman. He really needed to push back here, because "goddesses have some hypnotic effect on policy wonks" is -- and is intended to be -- emasculating. (Really, the sexual politics of that line just fascinates me.)

From the Schmitt piece:
...Hirshman accuses Althouse and me of focusing only on the anecdotal evidence that follows and ignoring "half the article" that contains "hard political research." That other half consists of three paragraphs out of 32.....

After a long, condescending exposé of the modern-day Edith Bunkers of the Wednesday Morning Group, with their book-free nightstands and People magazine addictions, Hirshman has a few paragraphs of actual data....

I'm still unsure what Hirshman's main point is, but here's my own: I think the accusation that women aren't rational political actors -- compared to men -- is unsupported by "hard political research," and the claim that women are not a decisive force in elections is demonstrably wrong. Whether that has anything to do with Hillary Clinton is another question.

I think that is a sufficiently wonky response to a very troubling article.
I like that he embraces his wonkitude in the end.