March 31, 2007

Oh, you states, don't you know we judge you by your rest stops?

Oklahoma, I'm looking at you!

Sign at a rest stop in Oklahoma

Sign at a rest stop in Oklahoma

Sign at a rest stop in Oklahoma

(If you can't read the text on that first picture, click here.)


From Austin, Texas. Photos, video... coming soon. Not of Austin yet... but from the road.

"All of us are routing 'American Idol.' It’s so great. The No. 1 show in television and it's getting ruined."

Says Howard Stern, promoting the "vote for the worst" idea, which this year is supporting a sweet 17-year-old guy, Sanjaya Malakar. Stern gloats as Sanjaya stays on, but how do you interpret a big collection of votes?
A number of those voting for Mr. Malakar may be genuine fans, many of them in the pre- and early-teenage brackets, to judge from posts on a number of Internet bulletin boards dedicated to the show.

But the fans also include older women and Indian-Americans, and Mr. Malakar’s progress is being tracked voraciously by Indian newspapers in both the United States and India.
I'm one of those older women who support Sanjaya. I gave my reasons here. And I've got a sore spot -- (watch out!) -- about the interpretation of a vote. I've heard Nancy Pelosi, et al., assert way too many times that "the American people" -- (you know them) -- in voting in hundreds of congressional races, were specifically saying that Congress should end the war in Iraq.

And it's a bit irksome to take a sweet, young guy who is doing well and put a massive effort into trying to create the evidence that all his accomplishments signify badness. (You're like those teenagers who thought it would be great fun to elect Carrie the prom queen.)

Sanjaya has to work extremely hard and go out there and perform for millions of people, and you want him to be burdened by thinking everyone is just laughing at him.

They're all gonna laugh at you.

And here his is, the first Asian American to do really well. I'm surprised that Americans are gearing up to be so mean to someone from a minority group.

So, yeah, Glenn, I am pissed.

And you know how I get when I'm pissed. But you'll have to wait for my next "American Idol" vlog to witness the crazy Althousian fury.

The Wichita Eagle.

Don't you love when your hotel delivers a newspaper, and it's not USA Today, it's the local paper? For me, today, that means The Wichita Eagle.

Front page article: "What do you love about the Sunflower State?"
Some of Kansas' top draws are casinos, the Kansas Speedway, theme parks, lakes and state parks. But officials hope this contest also will expose Kansans to the state's quirkiness -- Big Brutus in Cherokee County, the giant ball of twine in Cawker City or the Garden of Eden in Lucas.

"The best places you can find are in those small towns, in some of those family-owned restaurants that fix fried chicken and fresh-baked pies," Asher said. "Those hidden treasures are something we are lucky to have."
May I recommend the website Roadside America if you like those quirky things. Here's the list for Kansas, which has Big Brutus, the giant ball of twine, and the Garden of Eden.
The Twine Ball story began in 1953, when farmer Frank Stoeber, like thousands of his rural brethren, found it tidy and efficient to roll spare bits of sisal twine into a small ball in his barn. But over the years, instead of re-using or disposing of the twine, Frank kept rolling. By 1957, his twine ball weighed 2 1/2 tons and stood 8-ft. tall. By 1961, when he turned it over to the town, Stoeber had over 1,600,000 feet of twine rolled into a sphere 11 feet in diameter.

A few states away in Darwin, Minnesota, Francis A. Johnson had been rolling his own twine since 1950. He kept it up, four hours a day, until he died in 1989. Though twine ball battle statistics from the critical early years are hard to come by, we believe Stoeber, starting later than Johnson, matched and surpassed his achievement in the late 1950s. But when Stoeber stopped rolling and eventually died in 1974, Johnson surged back, broke the 11-ft. diameter "Twine Barrier" and continued until his own death in 1989. Darwin's 12-ft. diameter ball continues as a celebrated town shrine, and not an inch of twine has been added that wasn't wrapped by Johnson's own hands.

Cawker City faced a dilemma. They wanted to preserve Stoeber's accomplishment as a single-minded Dreamer. But his twine ball would remain for all time an also-ran, a fading and forlorn claim to fame; if more contenders came along it might drop entirely from the Great List of Obsessions.
Did they preserve Stoeber's accomplishment, or did they intrude on its purity for the sake of competition? They went for the competition. They have Twine-a-Thons to add to the ball, and they have to worry that people will using string or yarn and not just twine, and the ball's gotten un-ball-shaped. Please visit them. They're twining for you to visit.

The Garden of Eden is more my kind of thing. I don't have time to go that far out of my way today, but maybe I will schedule the ride home so I can see it.
A concrete Adam and Eve greet you; Eve offers an Apple of Friendship. Above them on tall concrete pillars are the Devil, frolicking concrete children, and two love storks. To the left, high in the air, an all-seeing concrete eye watches over the Garden.

Biblical scenes mingle with political messages. In the back yard, Labor is crucified while a banker, lawyer, preacher and doctor nod approvingly. On one pillar, an octopus representing monopolies and trusts grabs at the world. A soldier and a child are trapped in two of its tentacles. Fear not. On the "Goddess of Liberty" tree, Ms. Liberty drives a spear through the head of another trust octopus, as free citizens cut off the limb that it rests upon.
This is the work of one Samuel Dinsmoor, who was "[g]ripped by severe dementia concretia at age 64."

So for me, Dinsmoor over Stoeber. I prefer the religious, artistic obsessive vision over the practical one. Still, I appreciate the charm of the practical endeavor that becomes absurdly impractical. And maybe that makes it the greater art.

And what of Big Brutus? He's not a man at all, but a big machine. Who knows what his obsessions are?

March 30, 2007

"I know I need a small vacation but it don't look like rain..."

Oh, but it do look like rain here in Wichita, where I'm finally on line. It's almost 700 miles from Madison to Wichita, the obvious place to stop on this drive to Austin. And as I reached the final 100 miles, just past Kansas City, crazy rain started, the kind that's such solid water that the windshield wipers make no difference and you struggle just to see the painted lines.

Some cars are pulled over on the shoulder, but I keep going, creeping along at 30 miles an hour, listening to a BBC radio program about lungfish. I start thinking: Kansas!

I have a feeling I am in Kansas. Tornados! How will I know where they are in the dark? If one hits and I'm thrown around in the car, will the airbags save me? I've heard you're supposed to get out of your car and cower somewhere. Where? What's to stop the tornado from picking up the car and slamming it down right on top of me? I'll take my chances driving, slowly, following the red lights on the truck in front of me, keeping my distance, thinking about ten car pile ups, hoping to drive to the end of this crazy rain.

And I'm here now, at a hotel nice enough to have room service until midnight. Ah, there's the knock on the door. A Caesar salad. A glass of wine....

UPDATE: Wine drunk, I Googled for some advice about how to survive a tornado while driving and hit upon this amusing information: "If a tornado seems to be standing still then it is either travelling away from you or heading right for you." All right, then!


This was.

When the rest stop has WiFi...

I can say hi from the parking lot.

Iowa rest stop

Somewhere in Iowa. Trying to get to Wichita. Just a stopover for the night.

"Three women in white dresses and hiking boots want to carry a pack on their back into a wilderness area. How harmful can that be?"

Can you scatter cremated remains on public lands? Does it make a difference if you want to make a business out of it. The "Ladies in White" charge $390 for the service. Does it matter if at first the state officials told you it was fine, but then they changed their mind when they heard from constituents who didn't like the idea? Do you change your position when you hear that the opposition came from Indian tribes?
The Forest Service has a version of a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy for private individuals who want to scatter the ashes of a loved one.

“We don’t prohibit it, but we don’t authorize it,” Mr. Schofield said. “People should do what they think is right.” But an allowed commercial enterprises require a permit, he said.

Wilderness Watch, a conservation group, opposes dissemination of human remains in wilderness areas.

“I understand wilderness is sacred ground and many people feel closer to the Creator there than they do in church,” said George Nickas, the group’s executive director. “But it’s also a place where commercial enterprise is not allowed. I think the prohibition on Ladies in White is the right thing.”
I can't tell from the article whether the Indian tribes oppose the activity because of their own ideas about the sacred quality of the land. It would be a particularly interesting question if it's one of competing religious beliefs, with the Ladies in White wanting to use the land for spiritual reasons and the tribes asserting a superior interest in preserving a religion that inheres in the land.


And the French presidential election.
[The conservative candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy,] has criticized immigrants and their offspring who resist the French model of integration, saying it is unacceptable to want to live in France without respecting and loving the country or learning French.

He touched off the current debate in a television appearance on March 8 when he announced a plan to create a “ministry of immigration and national identity” if elected.

[The Socialist candidate, Ségolène Royal] called the plan “disgraceful,” adding, “Foreign workers have never threatened French identity.”...

Mr. Sarkozy’s proposal has revived memories of the Vichy era. The idea of a national identity ministry has been compared to the General Commissariat of Jewish Affairs, which was created with ministerial rank under the Vichy administration. “Only Vichy developed administrative structures in their efficient way to defend a certain concept of ‘national identity,’ ” the columnist Philippe Bernard wrote in Le Monde last week. He said that the Commissariat, “even before being a tool in the service of the policy of extermination, responded to the objective of purification of the French nation.”...

Despite Ms. Royal’s criticism of Mr. Sarkozy, she followed his lead by wrapping herself tightly in her own mantle of nationalism....

She said all French citizens should have the French flag at home, adding, “In other countries, they put the flag in the windows on their national holiday.” And she promised that if elected, she would “ensure that the French know ‘La Marseillaise.’"

Those prissy, puritanical lefty bloggers.

There's been a lot of talk about me lately in the left-o-sphere. And, sorry, but I'm not going to link to it. You know how to find things. Anyway, for the most part, I don't answer back. As my mother used to say: You'll only encourage them. But I just want to comment on a new meme that's emerged in the anti-Althousiana.

(Oh, I'll do one other thing -- with a link. Check out the way the sublimely wonky Harry Farrell and Dan Drezner devote the first 11 minutes of their new Bloggingheads episode to talking about me... and the furious comments section that spirals out of it that's nearly all about me and not all that global politics stuff about the EU and so forth that they go on to chew over for the next 50 minutes. When anti-Althousiana goes viral, even the wonkiest academics lose their immunity. My favorite detail: Both Drezner and Farrell go on record as not particularly liking my blog. For context: I was pretty mean to Drezner here. Drezner attributes to me the notion that I don't accept disagreement on my blog -- an idea he seems to read into something I do say, which is that some people get what I'm trying to do here and some don't. See the quote from Jack Balkin in the masthead, above.)

Anyway, back to my point: the new meme about me in the left-o-sphere. Based on my "American Idol" vlog, where I hold up a glass of wine -- look, it's Jordin Sparks, reflected right here! -- and eventually take two sips of it, they are all: Althouse is a drunk, Althouse's drunken videoblogging, etc. This is the way these people see having a glass of wine? How very prissy and puritanical!

Take your spouse to work day... for the next four years.

So Rudy Giuliani says to Barbara Walters:
Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani told ABC News's Barbara Walters that he would welcome his wife, Judith, at White House Cabinet meetings and other policy discussions if he were elected president next year.

"If she wanted to," Giuliani said in the "20/20" interview to be broadcast tonight. "If they were relevant to something that she was interested in. I mean that would be something that I'd be very, very comfortable with."

Giuliani, who is leading the Republican field in early polling, called his wife an important adviser to him. His wife, a nurse, said that she would probably play an important role in developing health-care policy in a Giuliani administration.
[ADDED: Richard Perez-Pena has more in the NYT.]

Why is it that behavior that would be embarrassing or insane in the private workplace -- bringing your spouse along -- is considered not just acceptable but laudable in a President?

You want Judith Giuliani doing national health care policy? She was a nurse, you know.

Let's all vote for the most uxorious man to be President. Absurd!

And, yeah, I know there's a woman in the race. That's a whole other issue. And not because it will be weird to have a "First Man."

("First Man" sounds like a cave man, doesn't it? Or, for religion fans, Adam.)

It will be overwhelmingly strange to have a former President back in the White House in the spousal capacity. Can we talk about that a little? I think it's quite odd that we're talking about how Judith Giuliani will be contributing to national policy, but we're not talking about what Bill Clinton will be doing. Why the big silence?

If I did sock puppets...

... as part of this little blogging-as-performance art project of mine, do you know which commenter here is most like the character I'd do?

March 29, 2007





(Via Throwing Things.)

"Malakar is the rare male performer who relies so utterly on styling."

Robin Givhan on Sanjaya Malakar. (She's the WaPo fashion writer. He's the "American Idol" guy with the smile and the hair and the voice that was good back before the competition narrowed.)
[His hair] has been pin-curled into a thick mop of ringlets, slicked straight as if it had been fried by a Japanese perm and, most recently, scooped into a single row of upswept ponytails to create a faux mohawk....

As America's ears bleed, it sounds as though Malakar no longer is attempting to sing -- that is, to enunciate lyrics while simultaneously carrying a tune. How can he compete with Lakisha Jones, whose lusty voice could blow out woofers, tweeters and everything in between?

So Malakar has given himself over to style. Substance, what little of it there is on "American Idol," be damned....

At 17, Malakar does not ooze testosterone. He has a slight build that never fills out his studiously hipster clothes -- such as his graffiti blazer from Lulu last week. He typically looks as though he has been borrowing his wardrobe from a grown-up. When he is onstage, he gives no indication that he can dance. And when he races into the audience, one worries that at any moment he will trip over his shoelaces. Historically, he can be compared to Shaun Cassidy or Leif Garrett -- Tiger Beat regulars with bland voices but splendidly tousled hair....
And what's so bad about that? Young girls feel their affection for boys, not men. It's not easy to hit exactly the right zone. You could say that what's bad about Sanjaya's success on "American Idol" is that there are other competitors who are doing something more deserving of the win? Simon likes to say: "It's a singing contest." But it's an idol contest. And it's harder to be the boy young girls love -- to be David Cassidy or Peter Noone -- than it is to sing beautifully like Melinda Doolittle and LaKisha Jones.

You know, I love the show "Survivor," and the reason I love it is that it's a contest without rules. The contestants are trying to survive a sequence of votes and be the last person standing. Although there are various challenges along the way with specific rules, you can only win immunity. To actually win the show, you have to do something -- who knows what will work this time? -- that will leave you as the last one standing. You have to invent a way to win. Often the "survivors" have to remind themselves that "this is a game." It's a game, but what is the game? Just: to win.

"American Idol" can be like that too. You can have a strategy of being the best singer, but there are many other possible strategies. The least creative one is to simply sing well. That's not much fun. I like a contestant who comes up with an unusual strategy. I loved Jonny Fairplay, who devised a villain persona, and got to the final 3 in the Pearl Islands season of "Survivor." He came up with some cool strategies.

So give Sanjaya his due. It takes real nerve and style and charm to do what he's doing. He could try just a little harder with the singing, but since it drives folks mad that he's playing the game the way he is, it's part of a strategy. It gets Vote for the Worst votes. Why not snag those votes too?

ADDED: Andrew Sullivan endorses voting for Sanjaya on the vote for the worst concept because he wants to "subvert" the "far too self-important show." But I invite him to think more deeply about the positive side of Sanjaya, and the show's long-term homophobic edge. Not only do Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell continually taunt each other with references to homosexuality, but also Simon has for years acted squeamish about the less-than-fully-masculine male contestants. His hostility toward Clay Aiken was monumental. I think there is a similar issue here, where Sanjaya is setting off the old aversions. I think any young guy who would fit the David Cassidy niche so loved by young girls would tend to evoke homophobia in some people. Call them on it by supporting Sanjaya. And this is not meant to imply that I have any opinion about whether Sanjaya is gay. I don't. I'm not good at detecting whether people are actually gay, but I think I'm pretty good at raising questions about whether people are homophobic.

"Blogging well depends on being able to slice a cross-section down through your own consciousness at an artful slant..."

"... that encompasses a bit of the outside world, an intermediate zone of opinion and observation where you meet and mix with the world, and a glimpse of your own inner life." How aptly put, by Amba, who feels she's lost her slant. (I like putting slant in italics.)

Do you need to call in a consultant to make your home "relationship ready"?

Some people do!
The place is also dimly lighted, which, once you examine the kitchen nook in daylight, is probably not such a bad thing. The cabinets hold nothing but a six-month supply of powdered milk for Mr. Podell’s cereal, so that he can keep his trips to the supermarket to a minimum; the Formica countertop is peeling; the stove has been disconnected from the gas feed. (Mr. Podell, who usually eats out, sees no reason to waste fuel.)

All these things have proved detriments to love, but none so effectively as his sheets. Mr. Podell likes the ones from the ’60s and ’70s that tell a story: sheets with intergalactic battles or pink hippopotami or the Beatles. Since these are no longer available in adult-bed sizes, Mr. Podell’s sheets are now 30 to 40 years old.
Note: Podell is very rich!
Then there is Bob Strauss, 46, who writes dating advice for and has a real stuffed baby seal in his apartment. He didn’t whack the seal on its silky little head, it’s a family piece inherited from a rich aunt and uncle in Miami.

It is displayed along with Mr. Strauss’s South Park and Sonic the Hedgehog figurines and Lego collection.

“It’s provocative,” he adds. “I like going out with tough, smart, aggressive, challenging type people. It’s fine with me if they want to argue about it; I don’t want to blandify my apartment to make myself generically acceptable.”
Just the fact that he'd say that tells you a lot. Everything you might not like is part of his individuality, and everyone else is bland and generic.

I think it all depends on how much you like the person. If it's not that much, it probably takes one little thing to seal off the flow of good will, like the guy in the article who rejected a woman because she had a Klimt poster. You're just looking for an out. And if you like them a lot, some of the most ridiculous crap becomes endearing.
As he entered her apartment, a free-flying parrot relieved itself on his head. Then a large rabbit darted out from somewhere and licked his feet. A baby gate separated a second rabbit from the first — there had been a nasty penis-biting episode, his date explained. Also, the kitchen wall was covered with antique egg beaters, which looked to Mr. Heindl like weird tools.
Yet, he married her! I think the weirdest part of that is specifying the bitten rabbit part. Why not just say one rabbit bit the other?

Anyway, look around your house right now and take the point of view of someone who's feeling wary about having a relationship with you. You've got some horrifying stuff there now, don't you? I know I do! Every damned room has something in it that would scare off someone who was already in an aversive mode.

Here's my advice -- which can take the place of consulting an expert about making your place relationship ready. Get someone to make a video recording of you as you go through your house or apartment looking at all your things. You take the role someone who's just met you and is trying to decide whether to reject you. Be honest. Be merciless!

ADDED: The comments over at the NYT are full of hilarious descriptions of horrible housekeeping/decorating.
The wall above this guy’s bed looked like the opening montage from the Brady Bunch, except all nine of the pictures were of his face — and, no, he didn’t intend them ironically.
I dated this guy whose apartment was always a mess when I visited. However, occasionally it was clean. I finally figured out the pattern. He only cleaned the apartment when he had other woman visiting.
There was the guy with a big red and white barber’s chair and a telescope in the center of his living room.... And then there was the guy whose vast loft apartment was filled with cats and dozens of huge statues of mournful angels and bleeding eyeless, handless saints . . . first one of the cats ran over and bit me, and then the guy, after weeks of dating, announced that what he really wanted to do in life was become a Catholic priest.

"Try healthier, more constructive ways of using anger--like confronting others directly (like on Blogging Heads TV)."

Says Dr. Helen, who points to a study that shows that women are angrier than men and thinks the problem may be that female anger tends to get expressed in passive-aggressive ways.

The Promoting Responsible Fatherhood Initiative: is it illegal because it's only for men?

The National Organization for Women thinks so.
[They say the initiative] violates Title IX, the law that prevents sex discrimination in federally funded education programs and is best known for forcing universities to offer comparable sports programs for men and women.

"What we're asking them to do is to make sure that the grantees provide equal services to women and men," said Kathy Rodgers, president of Legal Momentum. "It should be a parenthood initiative."...

"If a woman says she wants to apply and it's not happening, we want to know about it," said Tara Walker, at the Administration for Children and Families, the HHS agency that oversees the grants. "Yes, fathers are the target group, but at the same time allowing equal access is required."

Problem solved? Not exactly, said NOW President Kim Gandy: "The proposals they received and funded clearly indicate that they only intend to serve fathers."

"He has a conservative bearing and a conservative presence..."

"... but he's independent in his thinking and his voting record. He has a commanding television presence that makes every other politician in America jealous."

So said Sen. Lamar Alexander about Fred Thompson.

Do you want Fred Thompson in the race?

"And when the captured British sailor admits she 'trespassed' into Iranian waters, there is fear in her eyes."

Why have so many journalists been saying that Faye (Topsy) Turney "admitted" the British sailors trespassed into Iranian waters? That implies that it's true, but she's obviously under duress. She said it. That's all.

Then there is her letter:
I am being well looked after, I am fed three meals a day and I'm in constant supply of fluids.
It's hard for me as an American to judge the natural language patterns of a British person, but "I'm in constant supply of fluids" struck me as something she didn't come up with herself.
Hopefully it won't be long till I'm home to get ready for Molly's birthday party and with a present from the Iranian people.
Here's the video of the statement she made.
They were very thoughtful, nice people... they were very, very compassionate.

It's all sweetness, love, birthday parties, and fluids with the Iranians.

March 28, 2007

"American Idol" results -- vlogged!

Lighten up. It's just fashion.

The gossip says this happened at the NYT:
Fashion editor Anita LeClerc was the aggressor and her superior, deputy editor Mary Ann Giordano, the victim, sources say.

The two had exchanged words just moments before, allegedly over turf, and LeClerc began stomping around the office, muttering loudly to herself. But when Giordano, a talented import from the Metro section, came over in a conciliatory way and tried to smooth things over, LeClerc made it physical.

"She shoved Mary Ann and pushed her, and Mary Ann said, 'Don't you touch me! Don't you touch me!'" says a source. "Mary Ann grabbed her wrists to try to stop her, and [LeClerc] just started flailing."...

"They were in there for a long time," reports a source. ["]When they came out, Anita went back to her desk, but Mary Ann went out for a walk. She looked shaken."
Don't you find things a little too boring at the office? Take some cues from the Times "Styles" department.

Oh, Althouse is just printing that to make her Bloggingheads outburst look tame by comparison. No, no, I'm making mental notes for future performances. Let's see: stomping, muttering, shoving, flailing....

ADDED: Audio.

"And people are going to have to take better care of themselves. We cannot afford all the illness that folks are bringing on themselves."

So said Hillary Clinton the other day. I just heard it on C-Span this morning, and it really struck me.

My reaction on seeing her say it on TV: Hillary Clinton wants government to take over our lives, nagging us about what to eat. She's playing the female role and acting like she's somehow going to take care of us, but she's really demonstrating that she either won't stick to the proper role of a President or she think she can hoodwink people by talking about things that are utterly irrelevant to the position of power she's trying to get her hands on.

My reaction reading the very same quote in print: Hillary Clinton is saying that she knows the government cannot solve every problem, and that people are largely responsible for their own lives, and they need to face up to that reality.

How bizarre! Why does TV make me so much more hostile to her? Is the important message in the words or in the whole picture as experienced via television? Is this just about me and Hillary, or is this something more general about TV and print? I think I've developed a strong set of defenses against manipulation by television. For reading, I'm extremely practiced at seeing what texts mean literally, and I separate that from my critical thinking about whether the person who wrote the words has ulterior motives and so forth. It may be largely a matter of timing, that, watching TV, you have to merge the task of understanding the words and judging the speaker in an instant. If I'd had the speech on TiVo, I would have backtracked and listened to the words to see if they justified my reaction, but would rewatching have had the same effect of looking up the quote as pure text.

In law, we speak of the "cold record," the written transcript of a trial that an appellate court is forced to use, as contrasted with the live testimony at trial. This is, of course, seen as reason to defer to the trial judge and the jury.

Does that mean TV gives us better insight into political candidates? But writing down my own honest reaction to the televised performance, I see my perception of the text spoken was quite distorted. And yet which reaction, to TV or to print, seems more true? I'm fascinated by the way she got conservative on paper but came across -- to me -- as liberal on TV.

Political ads.

Someone asked me to explain why I've got an ad for Rudy Giuliani over there. Same reason I have an ad for Widener Law School a little further down. The ad was submitted for my approval in the BlogAds system that I use, and like every other ad that has ever been submitted here, I approved it. I encourage all the candidates to put ads on my blog. I won't reject anyone. What would it take for me to reject an ad? Offhand, I can think of a few things: nudity, obscenity, an ugly personal attack. If there were an evil candidate, I'd reject the ad. And my standard for judging a candidate to be evil is very high -- that is, he'd have to be very low.

How I'm like Bill Clinton.

I'm really not trying to drag out the Bloggingheads to-do, but one of the commenters, Cyrus Pinkerton, asked this great question:
I reread your blog entitled "Clinton on Fox News Sunday," about Clinton's reaction to one of Chris Wallace's interview questions. What I'm curious about is how you compare your reaction to the "Jessica Valenti breast controversy" comment to Clinton's reaction to what he obviously considered an ambush by Wallace. More to the point, can you explain why you feel your reaction was appropriate and Clinton's was not?
I totally identify with Bill Clinton here. I've never claimed that my reaction was "appropriate." I say at the end of the diavlog that I'm sorry for getting so mad. And I never said that I thought Bill Clinton was a lunatic to react the way he did. He's a smart guy who is good at reading a situation, and he's not a cold fish. He's got some real human warmth to him, and it can take him to some regrettable places. I'm not saying I'm any different. In fact, let me sidle right up next to him and pose proudly.

Things I'm not talking about.

As you may have noticed, that Bloggingheads episode I did with Garance Franke-Ruta -- did you know I came up with the title "This Time It's Personal"? -- attracted a fair amount of attention yesterday. Many characters in the leftosphere used the two-minute segment where I get mad to rake over the old flame war that I spent those two minutes saying I wouldn't be dragged into talking about again.

I may be sorry I got as mad as I did -- but I think showing some anger in an argument is not a huge deal. There's so much repression and passive aggression out there. It's so easy to process your emotions with those grim tools. It's what we usually do. The notion that it's crazy to display emotion is.... crazy.

But I'm not sorry I didn't go back into the old flamewar, either in the video, where I was tweaked about it -- and reacted extravagantly -- or when all those blogs goaded me about it yesterday. So, have fun grinding over the old times amongst yourselves.

Insulting upwards.

Worked before. Works again.

"Asphyxiation games... "

“... have been with us for generations, but what makes the current generation’s execution of this game different is that more kids are willing to play it alone."

March 27, 2007

New U.S. News Rankings.

This purports to be the leaking of the new 2008 rank. Wisconsin +1.

"American Idol" -- Gwen Stefani phones in.

That was an amazingly weak "American Idol." Gwen Stefani was the lamest celebrity mentor they've ever had on the show. For a while, I had the theory that she's just an idiot, but I think what it was was that she wouldn't put any time into the show. So they had fake shots with her and each contestant, and we never saw any interaction. Then we saw separate shots were her saying a little something about each one. I'm going to assume she showed up for about an hour, stood by the piano while each contestant came in and stood next to her to make it look like they had a master class type thing together, then she sat in a chair and read a scripted line about each one. And then the songs -- her songs plus songs that "inspired" her. They weren't much. "Every Breath You Take" -- that was good, and Phil Stacey was kind of okay singing it. The rest: a blur. I think LaKisha was okay. What was all that other stuff? Blah!

Wait! Two more things surfaced in my jumble of vague memories. Paula Abdul had newly, obviously collagened lips. And Sanjay Malakar had this crazy thing done to his hair: a line of pony tails across the midline of his head, sticking straight up in a pseudo-Mohawk. [ADDED, for Googlers: faux-hawk, fauxhawk, pony-hawk.]

What am I missing? Ugh! That was dreadful.

Hot Bloggingheads segments.

Since I'm getting so much attention today for a hot encounter on Bloggingheads, let me remind you of this old Bloggingheads encounter with Jonah Goldberg. Anyway, here's the question: Who do you think would be the ideal Bloggingheads counterpart for me? Things to keep in mind: 1. I hate to be boring. 2. I want to have fun and be stimulated into finding new ideas. 3. I like the subjects that I talk about on this blog. 4. I like a good argument with a lot of back and forth.

Moderation. I don't like it... but....

I've got to do it. Moderating the comments again here... for a number of reasons. Please keep commenting. Be patient. It shouldn't take me long to get to them.

Suggestions for avoiding deletion: 1. Don't be someone I've banned. 2. Don't just insult me.

Noticing some things.

I didn't know Roger von Oech had a blog. He's the author of "A Whack on the Side of the Head" and "Creative Whack Pack" -- which I like a lot. Why aren't I better at noticing blogs?

Anyway, I noticed this because Glenn Reynolds linked to a post of his about Kathy Sierra, a blogger who's been receiving death threats. Here's Sierra's post about her experience.

I've been saying women need to be tough
and have a sense of humor about the nasty talk about them on the internet. That in no way means that the people who say bad things shouldn't be criticized harshly. I certainly think you're free to lambaste and belittle your opponents whenever you want, though it's usually best to ignore attacks and not give them a higher profile. I've been taking a strong free speech position and criticizing people who have been warming up to repression and censorship lately.

Nevertheless, threats of violence aimed at an individual are different, and people need to learn that lesson very clearly.

"The dread idea of arts administration has come to YouTube."

"... YouTube’s not really supposed to have any aesthetic or ideological principles, is it?"

"I am self-involved, mercurial and comfortable eating dinners of frozen waffles in my underpants."

I understand. And why do you like to live alone? Or -- in case you don't live alone -- what exactly would you like about it if you did?

March 26, 2007


It's me and Garance Franke-Ruta.

Topics and times:
Do women like looking at women? (07:41)

'Momoirs' and third-wave feminists (10:23)

Polygamy in NYC, wife-beating in Germany (09:25)

Too much Gore in 'An Inconvenient Truth'? (09:30)

Candidates and their wives and husband (08:20)

Is Ann a conservative? We don't know, but she gets really mad here (10:36)

Whew, that's over. Let's talk about things guys write on the web about women (17:01)
ADDED: There's an interesting discussion in the first segment about the ways of the journalist. Garance says, "I'm used to sitting quietly and using awkward silences to learn things." This makes me ask her if this is "a sort of a trick."
GARANCE: It's one of the ways that people report. It's a reporting technique. Being incredibly awkward. It's a reporting technique. There's also: seeming like you don't know what you're doing.

ANN: Oh! So it's a scam?

GARANCE: Well, I mean, that was the whole book: "The Journalist and the Murderer." Right? I mean...

ANN: Yeah, I read that. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

GARANCE: I mean, there's this idea that a journalist is inherently a somewhat... I mean, you're forging a bond in which it's very instrumental. It's a very instrumental bond.
Althouse thought: So is this what you're going to try to do to me in this diavlog?
ANN: But it's interesting that there's a pretense of ineptitude. It does remind me of sort of like a stereotypical male-female dating where the woman acts sort of helpless and is actually really thinking about everything that's going on and trying to control the situation by appearing helpless.

GARANCE: Right! Right.

ANN: You think there's like a gender relationship in journalism?

GARANCE: Maybe. I mean, maybe only because you're in the questioning role, and you're sort of putting yourself in that subservient questioning role.
Althouse thought: Does this make me the boy here?

MORE: There's a lot of discussion about how angry I get in that one segment. Some folks think I should pull my punches and adopt some sort of mentoring role. Ridiculous! Garance is an adult. She's over 30 years old and a senior editor at a major newsmagazine. Either I am in a debate with her or it's a mismatch.

UPDATE: Here's a neutral starting point if you want to peruse the evidence that this episode has gone viral. I hope Bob Wright is happy!

ANOTHER UPDATE: So a huge swarm of lefty bloggers in unison declared me to be an absolute witch for getting angry for one minute when Garance -- the woman who began the dialogue by owning up to the technique of "seeming like you don't know what you're doing" -- sprang a touchy old subject on me. What does it all mean? I think either: 1. ordinary human emotion frightens bloggers out of their wits or 2. the lefty bloggers are demonstrating my point that they are vicious and nasty. Of course, I think it's #2. I really find it too hard to believe that they are so numb or robotic that anger seems bizarre and insane. I could be wrong, but I think that's terribly sad. Or are you thinking: Ooh! Sadness! How crazy! No, no, you guys are just boring politicos -- still ready to do anything to defend your man Bill Clinton and to say whatever you must to deny that he set feminism back 20 years.



Lots of bare feet and mud. Plus: clean laundry, turtle, etc.

"In half a century, I have not seen a president so isolated from his own party in Congress..."

".. not Jimmy Carter, not even Richard Nixon as he faced impeachment." Says Robert Novak.
[N]ot many Republican lawmakers would speak up for Gonzales even if they were sure Bush would stick with him. He is the least popular Cabinet member on Capitol Hill, even more disliked than Rumsfeld was. The word most often used by Republicans to describe the management of the Justice Department under Gonzales is "incompetent."...

The saving grace that some Republicans find in the dispute over U.S. attorneys is that, at least temporarily, it draws attention away from debate over an unpopular war. But the overriding feeling in the Republican cloakroom is that the Justice Department and the White House could not have been more inept in dealing with the president's unquestioned right to appoint -- and replace -- federal prosecutors.

The I-word (incompetence) is also used by Republicans in describing the Bush administration generally. Several of them I talked to cited a trifecta of incompetence: the Walter Reed hospital scandal, the FBI's misuse of the USA Patriot Act and the U.S. attorneys firing fiasco. "We always have claimed that we were the party of better management," one House leader told me. "How can we claim that anymore?"

Overbreadth and vagueness in the federal anti-child-porn law?

The Supreme Court has taken U.S. v. Williams, a case about the constitutionality of a child pornography law:
The [11th Circuit] court panel found the pandering provision of the PROTECT Act of 2003 was overbroad and impermissibly vague, saying that it criminalizes the speech of someone who touts material as child pornography when in fact it is clean or nonexistent.

In the appeals court's view, the pandering provision could apply to an e-mail entitled "Good pics of kids in bed" sent by a grandparent, with innocent pictures attached of grandchildren in pajamas.
Michael Williams, who got the advantage of this finding, sent sexually explicit photographs to an undercover agent (after initially exchanging non-pornographic photos of children).

"He wanted to play hard... he nailed me with a really good one."

When Bob Dylan boxed Quentin Tarantino.

Lengthening the school day for kids.

Is lengthening the school day the solution for failing schools? I think not. In fact, I think it is a morally wrong solution. It's bad enough that children are cooped up and physically restrained for as long as they are to get through a school day. To justify that physical restraint, adults owe children a lot. If the adults are now failing to do what they owe children to justify physically restraining them, it is outrageous to attempt to make up for their own failure by increasing the restraint. What makes it worse is that the solution is inflicted disproportionately on minority kids. Oh, but it's a benefit! It's not as if we're proposing to put them in jail during those long afternoons when they might otherwise be roaming the streets.

Side note: At the link, there is an adorable photo of two little girls looking at a worm. Since the newspaper article is presenting the proposal in a positive light, it would like you to picture cute young girls benefiting by hands-on science classes. Please don't picture older boys slumped in chairs.

UPDATE: The same issue of the NYT has this article about a study showing about the time spent in day care:
A much-anticipated report from the largest and longest-running study of American child care has found that keeping a preschooler in a day care center for a year or more increased the likelihood that the child would become disruptive in class — and that the effect persisted through the sixth grade.

"Deep seated anxiety" about Mormonism.

Bruce Feiler opines on the way people "out there" feel about Mitt Romney's religion. So much for the faceless masses, but does Feiler -- who's written best-selling books about religion -- disrespect Mormonism? Watch how he responds when Bob Wright tries to pin him down about whether he thinks it's any weirder than Christianity. I mean, after he gives a strong, flat "Yes!"

Couric asks Edwards a tough question about cancer.

And then another and another and another. Oh, why not fill the entire space you have to fill with the only question you've got? Surely, the fact that it's an insensitive and awkward question won't make it any worse than all those other times you've repeated the question. A reporter's got to get to the truth, you know. And really, aren't you a power-mad lout, Mr. Edwards?

March 25, 2007

Later that same day....

Audible Althouse! It's back! It's #80.

Oh, my friends, I rediscovered the true meaning of podcasting tonight. If you're not with me on this one, you're not with me. Go away! Go away and never come back!

You don't need an iPod. You can stream it right through your computer here.

But if you're really with me, you'll subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

And stay tuned, because I've got a video clip of this recording session, which I'm going to add here.

ADDED: The video clip is coming. But I found the poem that I talk about in the podcast, the one that Jean Shepherd used to read. It's "Evolution" by Landon Smith. It begins:
When you were a tadpole and I was a fish
In the Paleozoic time,
And side by side on the ebbing tide
We sprawled through the ooze and slime,
Or skittered with many a caudal flip
Through the depths of the Cambrian fen,
My heart was rife with the joy of life,
For I loved you even then.

Mindless we lived and mindless we loved
And mindless at last we died;
And deep in the rift of the Caradoc drift
We slumbered side by side.
The world turned on in the lathe of time,
The hot lands heaved amain,
Till we caught our breath from the womb of death

AND: What it looked like:

"I've learned over time that my voices can't be rejected."

"No matter what I do, they won’t go away. I have to find a way to live with them."

Should there be a new acceptance of auditory hallucinations? Daniel B. Smith writes about the work of Hearing Voices Network, which argues that hearing voices does not always mean that a person is psychotic:
In his 2003 book, “Madness Explained,” [Richard] Bentall draws on the theory that auditory hallucinations may have their roots in what psychologists call “inner speech.” All of us, every day, produce a steady stream of silent, inward-directed speech: plans, thoughts, quotations, memories. People hear voices, Bentall argues, when they make faulty judgments about whether this inner speech is the product of their own consciousness or of something alien to their consciousness. Lapses in what researchers call “source monitoring” may occur for a number of reasons — because an individual is primed to expect a perception to occur, because the level of background noise makes it difficult to separate what is internal from what is external, because he or she is in a state of emotional arousal. But whatever the cause, Bentall writes, there is evidence to suggest that hallucinating “can be explained in terms of the same kinds of mental processes that affect normal perceptual judgments.”

This theory raises the critical question of why making source-monitoring errors results in psychosis: why, when people mistake their private speech for someone else’s, does it cause them to grow so distressed that they seek professional help? The answer Bentall gives echoes Romme’s observation that a fundamental difference between voice-hearers in the community and voice-hearers under psychiatric care is that the latter think negatively about their experience. According to Bentall, how patients perceive auditory hallucinations can have a significant impact on how those hallucinations are experienced.

"Tall latte's up."

"The biggest question is how far can Democrats go in opposing this president?"

Adam Nagourney assesses the Democrats in Congress:
“Democrats have an advantage because you are looking at a 33 percent president,” said Rich Galen, a Republican consultant, referring to Mr. Bush’s popularity rating. “You can get away with a lot,” said Mr. Galen, who served as a senior aide to Newt Gingrich, the House Speaker when Republicans battled the Clinton White House in the 1990s.

Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University, said: “They can push pretty hard on this stuff — especially testimony. There’s no trust right now in the Bush administration and the White House.”...

As they try to figure out what they can and can not do, the Democrats are looking back to Mr. Gingrich’s House. Republicans exercised their power with gusto, peppering the Clinton White House with subpoenas and, of course, bringing impeachment proceedings. Then came the five-seat loss.

“We got so focused on impeachment that voters got sick of it,” said Mr. Galen, recalling his experience in 1998. He said he thought Democrats had so far avoided the trap that snared Republicans, but warned of the price of coming across as doing little more than fighting. “The danger comes if there becomes this sense that they are being truculent for the sake of being truculent,” he said.
For what it's worth: I'm sick of them.


Despite its amazingness, the brain cannot concentrate on more than one thing at a time. Does this mean you shouldn't multitask? Does it depend on how old you are? It does! But not the way you're guessing it does:
A group of 18- to 21-year-olds and a group of 35- to 39-year-olds were given 90 seconds to translate images into numbers, using a simple code.

The younger group did 10 percent better when not interrupted. But when both groups were interrupted by a phone call, a cellphone short-text message or an instant message, the older group matched the younger group in speed and accuracy.

“The older people think more slowly, but they have a faster fluid intelligence, so they are better able to block out interruptions and choose what to focus on,” said Martin Westwell, deputy director of the institute.
Of course, some of us "older people" are over 39, possibly by quite a few years. I wonder how fast and fluid we are. At some point, we've got to slow down, and at some point, fluidity of the brain is dementia.

Concentration is a funny thing. I don't think you can test it with a single task and a single type of interruption. A younger person may be more easily distracted by an instant message because it has intense emotional associations -- new sexual adventures or emergency demands from bosses.

I know my ability to concentrate and my susceptibility to distractions have changed over time, but I can't sort out what is caused by age and what is caused by changing life circumstances. Am I unwilling to sit in a dark room for two hours and devote myself to watching a movie because I've aged, because blogging has rejiggered my attention span, or because I don't have the right movie buff companion?