February 2, 2008

Rock paper scissors.

McCain beats Clinton.

Clinton beats Romney.

Romney beats Obama.

Obama beats McCain.

I've caught this viral video and must convey it to you.

YouTube is doing something to us. I'm not endorsing any candidate, but I've got to say this production is some amazing, low-key brilliance. It's lovely in so many ways, one of which is that it makes Barack Obama seem to be a man whose mere speech is singing.

ADDED: I've rewatched this video and am just stunned by it — especially the way will.i.am sings along with Obama's speechifying. I've never seen speech and singing combined like that. It's very cool. I love the way it is so grand, yet simultaneously seems perfectly casual and offhanded. And they've packed a tremendous amount of feminine beauty into it without it seeming forced — like Scarlett Johannson just happened to drop by and some unplanned thing made her smile like that.

Some folks in the comments are saying "yes we can... what?" And this, of course, is the usual criticism of Obama, which is not undeserved. But the video doesn't try to do everything. It creates a mood and reaches us emotionally. Now, the most evil political movement in the world could operate that way too, so it's our responsibility to put some analysis into our choices. But that doesn't take anything away from this historically great video.

By the way, I heard a bit of a Hillary rally today on the car radio. She seemed to be rousing the crowd rather well, talking about health care for everyone, to be achieved by fighting the drug companies and insurance companies. (Why must they be fought?) Then the crowd began chanting. The chant: "Yes we can."

"Can a psychotropic jungle potion cure the existential angst of the McMansion set?"

You remember hoasca (or ayahuasca), the psychedelic plant at issue in the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao Do Vegetal. Here's the post I wrote at the time about this most ironic case. The Supreme Court had narrowed the Free Exercise of Religion clause of the Constitution, saying generally applicable laws are fine even if they substantially burden religion. Congress reacted with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act forcing judges back into the task of giving religion-practitioners exceptions from general laws. And that ended up meaning that the Controlled Substances Act didn't apply to the importation of a powerful psychedelic drug when it is used for religious purposes.

So can anybody join this religion and use the otherwise-illegal drug?
For ayahuasqueros such as [the young medicine man named Lobo Siete] Truenos and the eclectic mix of button-down professionals and New Age acolytes joining him on this night, the potion may be a conduit to higher consciousness. Who exactly are these psychotropic explorers? Truenos won’t reveal much about them, except to say that the owners of the home in which they are meeting are retirees (young ones, it appears) and that participants typically include doctors, lawyers, celebrities, New Age healers and academics....

Truenos took the court decision as a green light. He and his wife, Gabriella, have been leading ceremonies for several years. They haven’t consulted attorneys; instead they take their orders from the “Creator,” he says....

Truenos mentions a recent private ayahuasca session in which a participant experienced “a trust crisis,” refusing to believe Truenos could heal him. Mother Ayahuasca admonished the man for such self-delusion, leaving him writhing on the floor, wracked with emotion.

Despite this harrowing episode, Truenos believes ayahuasca’s dark reputation is exaggerated. It is transformative and healing, he says, a cure for the “cancer of indifference,” a remedy for our “failures in integrity.” But it’s even more than that. “Some people,” he says, “need to be frightened by the way they live their lives.”

Faces seen last weekend in Austin.

Chihuahua in a junk shop

From 2 shops on South Congress.


"I don't think there is a person of color in this country that doesn't struggle with what it means to be a part of your race..."

"... versus what the majority thinks is right."

Michelle Obama, commenting on what she calls the "silly" question of whether her husband is "black enough."

So you've paid $6 million for a vanity license plate, and there's one you'd pay $20 million for?

There's one? Which one?

Yes, right, there's one.

Which one?

There's one. I'm trying to tell you.

Well, go ahead and tell me.

Not chopsticks.

Bread sticks:

Brunch at the 4 Seasons

Mmmm. That's just the first plateload at last Sunday's brunch at the Four Seasons in Austin, Texas. I'm concentrating on the raw fish here but there is much, much more at this all-you-can-eat extravaganza. The waiters will whisk away plates of uneaten food without the slightest trace of disapproval. Personally, I think if you take it, you'd better eat it, but you get the impression they want you to be wasteful. Go get something else. Take one bite and move on. Waste away. You won't waste away.

Is the "Angry Left" dying?

Dan Gerstein says so:
The Kossacks and their activist allies -- who skew toward the Boomers -- believe that Republicans are venal bordering on evil, and that the way Democrats will win elections and hold power is to one-up Karl Rove's divisive, bare-knuckled tactics. Their opponents within the party -- who skew younger and freer of culture war wounds -- believe that the way to win is offer voters a break from this poisonous tribal warfare and a compelling, inclusive vision for where we want to take the country.
You mean "Kos kids" aren't kids? They are Boomers?

Gerstein worked on Joe Lieberman's last Senate campaign, so he's definitely got a point of view on all this. Kos worked on getting Ned Lamont to beat Lieberman for the Democratic Party nomination. As Gerstein puts it now, the "hope" candidate — Lieberman — won. You can see how this idea applies to the 2008 race for President:
Mr. Edwards, after running as the sunny son of a mill worker in 2004, returned last year as the angry spear carrier of the hard-line left, running on a dark, conspiratorial form of populism and swapping in corporations for Republicans as the villain in his us-versus-them construct. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has not just been selling possibilities and opportunities, but reconciliation and unity -- and, god forbid, promising to work with Republicans to meet the country's challenges. (Not surprisingly, throughout 2007, Mr. Edwards was the runaway favorite in the regular Kos reader straw poll -- besting Mr. Obama by 21 points as late as Jan. 2, 2008.)

Now that Mr. Edwards has formally dropped out of the race, we can say it's official -- hope and unity crushed resentment and division.
Gerstein is pleased, not just because hope is good, but because his enemy Kos is crushed:
The best evidence that Kos-ism is about kaput, though, comes from Kos's mouth himself. Yes, the most delicious irony of this campaign is that the supposed hatemonger is supporting the hopemonger.
Markos Moulitsas will — after "a process of elimination" — have to vote for Barack Obama.

You know, I missed the part where Gerstein established that Kos is a "hatemonger." I don't like Kos too much, but calling him a "hatemonger" sounds at little... hatemongerish.

"Congratulations to all same-sex couples validly married outside of New York State: You are now husband and husband, wife and wife."

It's not the highest court in New York but:
Even though gay couples may not legally marry in New York, the appellate court in Rochester held that a gay couple’s 2004 marriage in Canada must be respected under the state’s longstanding “marriage recognition rule,” and that an employer’s denial of health benefits had discriminated against the couple on the basis of their sexual orientation.

“The Legislature may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad,” a five-judge panel of the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court ruled unanimously in rejecting a 2006 lower court decision. “Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.”

For more than a century, the court noted, New York State has recognized valid out-of-state marriages. Moreover, it said that the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest judicial body, has said the Legislature may enact laws recognizing same-sex marriages. “In our view, the Court of Appeals thereby indicated that the recognition of plaintiff’s marriage is not against the public policy of New York,” the court held.

"Trying to wake up a teenager before 7 o’clock is like trying to awake an adult before 4 a.m."

Studies show that "youngsters — beginning around age 12 until they reach their mid-20s — only start producing melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, around 11 p.m. and that production peaks until about 7 a.m. In adults, melatonin peaks until around 4 a.m." So shouldn't middle and high school start much later than they do?

Obviously, yes, but the adults don't want to change things. You'd have to let the parents go to work later too — because even if those teens can sleep until 9, you can't trust them to get up on their own even at 9, can you? If you let teenagers sleep on their natural schedule — perhaps you do in the summer — they may sleep into the afternoon. Left to my own devices as a teenager in the summertime, I would sleep until 5 p.m. — and then stay up until dawn. (Admittedly, that had something to do with avoiding my parents.)

But why not help teens by changing the school schedules and promote flex-time for adults at their places of employment? Maybe not enough adults want to work from 10 to 6 or 11 to 7. We start winding down in the afternoon. As an adult, I've long found 4 p.m. to be the rock-bottom energy point of the day. (This academic year, I accepted the offered class time of 4 p.m. and found that I like it very much. If I have to do something at 4, I'm up for it. If I'm reading and writing at 4, I'm not too efficient. So, I've learned something new about scheduling.)

So, will adults rearrange their lives and subordinate their preferences to help teenagers? Unlikely! No one really wants to help teenagers. We already think they have it too easy. They look like adults, but they aren't self-supporting. Meanwhile, we adults struggle. Are we to struggle more so they can stay up past midnight and sleep late? Say what you will about melatonin, as long as adults are making the decisions,the answer is obvious.

"Two Amtrak trains carrying 400 people got stuck in the mountains of Northern California near Donner Pass..."

"No injuries were reported."

Oh, my! What did they eat?

ADDED: Pop culture bonus. Cannibalism, the comedy topic:
Hunger will make people do amazing things. I mean, the proof of that is cannibalism. Cannibalism, what do they say, I mean, they're eating and, you know, "This is good, who is this? I like this person." You know, I mean, I would think the hardest thing about being a cannibal is trying to get some very deep sleep, you know what I mean? I would think, you'd be like, (pretending to wake up) "Who is that? Who's there? Who's there? Is somebody there? What do you want? What do you want? You look hungry, are you hungry? Get out of here!"
Cannibalism, the horror topic:
Wendy: Hey! Wasn't it around here that the Donner Party got snowbound?

Jack: I think that was farther west in the Sierras.

Wendy: Oh.

Danny: What was the Donner Party?

Jack: They were a party of settlers in covered-wagon times. They got snowbound one winter in the mountains. They had to resort to cannibalism in order to stay alive.

Danny: You mean they ate each other up?

Jack: They had to, in order to survive.

Wendy: Jack...

Danny: Don't worry, Mom. I know all about cannibalism. I saw it on TV.

Jack: See, it's OK. He saw it on the television.

February 1, 2008

"Miss Spears, who reportedly had not slept for five days before being committed...."

I feel sorry for Britney Spears, and don't want to set up a post to talk about her. But this news of not sleeping upsets me. News reports had talk of Heath Ledger not sleeping for days before his untimely death. Have you ever gone even 2 days without sleeping? I haven't. I can't imagine having this problem. Some drug is involved, no?

IN THE COMMENTS: Gary Carson writes:
I've gone for weeks with no more than 2 hours sleep per day (mania) and was constantly drinking beer during my waking hours.

I probably would have really gone nuts without the beer to keep me calmed down.

I don't think it's at all weird that two entertainers have recently died [sic] after a period of sleep disorder.

It would be my guess that bipolar disorder has a higher incidence among entertainers than among the general population and it's certianly the case that risky behavior tends to go hand in hand with manic episodes.

"I'm not down with the Republican Party or the Democratic Party."

"I represent the Gangsta Party."

Ice quake!

Does anybody know about the quake? We do!
Thursday afternoon the staff from the University of Wisconsin-Madison near Lake Mendota felt a shake and heard a noise like a boom which was triggered by an ice quake.

According to the University of Wisconsin-Madison geologists, even though they didn’t feel the quake on West Dayton Street the tremor was recorded around 12:50 p.m. and lasted two or three seconds. At the time quake the temperature in Madison was of 16 degrees.

Patrick Brenzel, from the department of sociology situated at the eighth-floor, 1180 Observatory Drive, said: “It actually sounded like a bus drove into the building. The whole building shook.”

The ice quakes are triggered by large shifts in lake ice when temperature changes dramatically thus making a loud noise when it cracks, according to Cliff Thurber, a professor of geophysics....

Several people called police when they’ve heard the noise....

[P]eople coming out of the offices were looking at each other almost like saying “Do you think it was a bomb?”

ADDED: "The Pond in Winter."

Do you think maybe the problem people are having with Mitt Romney is that he's too...


Think about it: John Kerry, Michael Dukakis.... Is there a Massachusetts demeanor that just doesn't feel natural and normal to Americans in other regions? Something that seems cold or haughty or insubstantial? I mean no disrespect to Massachusettans — what the hell is the word for people from Massachusetts? — I'm quite serious. Massachusetts seems to produce a lot of candidates or near-candidates, and then when Americans take a closer look at them, they experience a strange revulsion.

IN THE COMMENTS: Theo Boehm writes:
I'm originally from California, but I've lived most of my adult life in Massachusetts. I can tell you categorically that the problem with Mitt Romney is NOT that he is "from" Massachusetts. I've been here about as long as he has, and, believe me, you're never "from" Massachusetts until your people have been here...oh...five or six generations. The kittens may have been born in the oven; that doesn't make them muffins.

Mitt Romney doesn't sound like he's from anywhere in Massachusetts; he doesn't have the body language or manner of someone from Eastern Massachusetts; and his religion and Western origins are seriously weird around here.

No, if you find Mitt Romney offputting, it's not because of Massachusetts. It's because he's an uninspiring, stiff bore. They grow those anywhere.

Michael Dukakis was an echt Massachusetts type: a well-tamed little nerdy Brookline doctor's son. Dukakis is, to Massachusetts connoisseurs, from Central Casting. Romney is from Not Around Here. The differences may be subtle to outsiders, but to Massachustts people, they're glaring.

John Kerry is a special case. He's not so much distinctly from Massachusetts, as he is a generic New England preppie. Those types range all over the Northeast landscape, but tend to have been fledged in places like Andover, Exeter, Yale, Dartmouth, and Harvard. They may wind up in New York or Massachusetts, but they usually have little local affinity. Bill Weld was another one of this type—a vastly more amusing and decent human being than Kerry, but very much of Kerry's class.

Of course the Kennedys are from Massachusetts, but they are a weird and nearly extinct breed: Irish who aped the accents and manners of the old Yankee codfish aristocracy. There are no old Yankee aristocrats to ape any more, and the Kennedy accent is dead as a doornail. You'll notice the younger Kennedy generation doesn't sound at all like Uncle Ted or the late, sainted JFK.

Massachusetts is halfway to England: You can tell where someone is from within a small area, what their socioeconomic status is, and what their ethnicity is as soon as they open their mouths. It's fading a bit, but it's still here. And, believe me, if you're from anywhere else in the country, you'll never figure it out.

I remember being at a dinner party soon after I got here, where someone pointed to another guest and said, "Lynn!" The other guest reacted in mock horror and said, "Oh no! WEST Lynn!" All the other guests were laughing their heads off. If you don't know what that was about, well, you're not from around here, are you?

No, neither Mitt nor I are From Here, and we never will be. You can blame Massachusetts for a lot, but please, don't blame it for Mitt Romney.

This is a nice shiny happy picture of Hillary 'n' Barack.

Blogged by Andrew Sullivan.

But for people like me with an eye for negative space in a photograph, we're looking at that strange haloed shape on their merged shoulder. I think it's Pokemon!

ADDED: I mean Pikachu. I stand corrected. Pokemon, I'm told is the generic category, and the particular yellow guy who — in phantom form — came to rest on the Hillobama shoulder is a Pikachu:
They are said to store electricity in their cheeks, and by simply squeezing them they can discharge sparks, bolts or other forms of electricity.... Pikachu gather in areas with high amounts of thunderstorm activity such as power stations. When threatened, a group of Pikachu can generate an intense electrical offensive, and the electro-magnetic forces exerted by the resulting field can even produce a short-lived, localized thunderstorm.

Did John McCain consider leaving the Republican Party in 2001?

That's the rumor, and the McCain campaign is eager to squelch it. They sent me email linking to various blogs that debunk the rumor, e.g. Power Line:
My guess is that after the 2000 election, McCain was understandably at odds with President Bush; like most Senators, he has friends on the other side of the aisle and probably did grumble to them about the Bush administration. In early 2001, the Democrats were desperate to convince a Republican to change parties, and McCain, as the loser to Bush in the 2000 primaries, was a natural choice.

With hindsight, the thought of McCain in the Democratic Party is ludicrous. Imagine a pro-life Joe Lieberman, and you're still only part way there. Given the way the Democrats have abandoned the war effort both in Iraq and globally, whatever grievances McCain has had against the Bush administration over the years are relatiely insignificant.
I really don't care if he considered changing parties or not. I like the people in the middle, like Joe Lieberman, who could fit — but only uncomfortably — into either party. I'm that way myself.

Am I the only one who can realistically picture myself voting for Clinton, Obama, Romney, or McCain?

The cure for global warming?

But don't get happy. It looks like doom.

"I was tempted to call this encounter a draw but...."

So there was this debate last night. I'm not sure if I watched it or not... But... are we supposed to talk about it now?

I assume the memo went out: We need to stop fighting before they stop fighting. We need to look good before they start looking good. They're about to coalesce, so coalesce already. It's happy friendly time.

But Andrew Sullivan wasn't bored. Whatever happened — even if nothing happened — you know it had to make Barack Obama look great!
The one-on-one format elevated him instantly and he commanded the stage and the occasion...
To the extent that Hillary Clinton did just fine too, it only "made his mastery all the more impressive."

"People like this should be air-dropped into reality. I'll bet dollars to donuts that she voted for Bush. "

"Tens of thousands of kids killed by sanction-wielding, war-monging asswipes in the White House, but she's all upset because of simulated violence. Die of cancer, bitch."

Idiots respond to idiots. That's a typical — and "favorited" — comment on a Metafilter post about a terrific collection of stupid complaints to the FCC about various TV shows.

IN THE COMMENTS: Another visit from our favorite ghost, Sir Archy:
To Professor Althouse.


As You know, in a recent Letter, I propos'd to take up the Office of Inspector of Lunaticks for this, your Theatre of Topicks (as I call it). Madam, I have not beg'd Preferment, but have only wish'd to place my occasional Hobby on a more regular Footing.

As the Ghost of someone dead these 250 years and more, I had, in my Day, seen many a Madman in Bedlam. I have made an especial Study of Madness and its Causes, and I have scour'd the Ends of the Earth for Physick with which to dose distemper'd Brains; yet I can honestly say, Madam, that nothing has prepar'd me for the Parade of Lunaticks display'd in this Topick.

That a Government Department, charg'd with licensing Television, should receive such Communications, opens a Field of Raillery that only a Dr. Swift could adequately traverse. In my Day, we had to go to the Expense & Bother of hiring a Coach, having a Pique-Nique prepar'd, and spending an entire Afternoon, in order to visit Bedlam on those Days when the Publick were admitted for a Penny, all so we might be entertain'd. Now, You may have more numerous and amusing Lunaticks before You by pushing a Button. Such are the Wonders of the Modern Age.

Madam, I hope you will not take it amiss if I tell you that I shall endeavor to make application to this Governmental Department for Employment. Altho' I was a Gentleman, honest Work was never beneath Me; and I might say that my Knighthood was occasion'd not by my Service in the Army, but my Labour at Administration.

That this Department should need an Inspector of Lunaticks is obvious, and seldom have I relish'd the Prospect of Employment more. As I have been assur'd that my Ghostly State and Foreign Origin are no Disbarments to becoming an American Elector, so I shall make bold to offer my Services to the American Government forthwith. If any of your Audience were able to offer Advice as to best Way to obtain Preferment in a Situation like this, I should be very Grateful.

Wishing always to retain my Amateur Status as Critick of Lunaticks here at Professor Althouse's fine Theatre,

I remain, Madam,

Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy
Sir, you may have whatever Status you like here in my Theatre of Topicks.

Ralph Nader just wants a little attention, a little love.

Is that so wrong?

The Lolita Midsleeper Combi, an item of cute bedroom furniture for little girls, offered for sale by Woolworths.

For the annals of cluelessness:
Whereas many mothers were familiar with Vladimir Nabokov and his famous novel, it seems that the Woolworths staff were not. At first they were baffled by the fuss. A spokesman for the company told The Times: “What seems to have happened is the staff who run the website had never heard of Lolita, and to be honest no one else here had either. We had to look it up on Wikipedia. But we certainly know who she is now.”
Via Metafilter. Sample comment:
Makes me think of "Amelia Earhart luggage"...
IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of imagined brand names, including — from Ruth Anne Adams — the Sylvia Plath oven range. Ouch!

ADDED: Here's an ad for the Lolita Midsleeper Combi: "This Lolita Midsleeper Combi is the perfect space-saving solution for your child's bedroom."

MORE IN THE COMMENTS: Omaha1 has more bad product names:
Jon-Benet kiddie cosmetics

Andrea Yates bathtub toys

Christopher Reeve rocking horse

OJ Simpson gloves

Lewinsky humidor

Bill O'Reilly loofah

David Koresh lighter fluid

Jim Jones fruit-flavored beverage

Michael Jackson underoos

John Denver model airplane kit

Lynn Spears' guide to successful parenting (oops that one's real!)

"I'd had a feeling for some time that there was something worth writing about coffee. My attachment to it. My desire to draw my children into it."

Good God! Would someone please have a cup of coffee with Judith Warner?

She seems to have immunized herself from ridicule by tying her bland coffee musings to mourning over dead family members. This post about coffee and dead loved ones is about her previous post — a week ago, in what counts as blogging on the NYT site — which was about coffee and dead loved ones. There's musing about musing about coffee and death:
I wanted to capture a sense of lost worlds. I wanted to try to express what it felt like to have the time to be present. I wasn’t prepared for how much the piece would end up being for me about loss. About interruption and sadness and relationships ruptured by death or distance or estrangement or the indifferent cruelty of growing up and growing away.
One would have to have a heart of stone to blog about that without snarking.

January 31, 2008

The big debate.

This seems as though it will be the most momentous primary debate ever. With only two participants, it should seem more like a debate between two party nominees -- perhaps like JFK and Richard Nixon.

Unfortunately, I am at LaGuardia waiting for a flight and there's no WiFi. Man, the Northwest gate area is pathetically shabby. But the lack of WiFi is the worst part of it. At least the debate is on CNN and that's the channel the TVs are set on. And I've got my iPhone, so I can get in some rudimentary blogging and give you a place to comment. And perhaps I'll develop a little skill at thumb typing.

ADDED: At 8, the channel changed from CNN to some basketball game! I guess I will try to locate some live-blogging. I have never attempted to follow a debate by reading some blogger's stray thoughts. Maybe I will learn something about blogging. But... Damn!

AND: I've reached my destination. Madison, Wisconsin. And CNN is rerunning the debate. It's 1 ET, though, so I'm not absorbing it too well. I note that Barack Obama is wearing a lavender tie.

"Lon Ponschock: Althouse should be willing to debate."

The Capital Times publishes an inane letter. So everyone who says the 9/11 conspiracy theory is nutty ought to show up for a debate about it? May I suggest that you get Bill Clinton then?

UPDATE: More from Bill Clinton: "You look like idiots."

That's not personal!

In the email:
A Personal Note from Sean Hannity

Dear Fellow American....

I just noticed that Dan Drezner called something "the Ann Althouse" idea.

In this segment of a Bloggingheads episode. [NOTE: You have to click on the segment titled "The dark side of libertarianism."] I don't think he gets it quite right, and I don't know why they talk about me by name but don't include anything I wrote in the sidebar list of links. But they're talking about Ron Paul's racist newsletter, and they refer back to the dispute I had with Reason Magazine libertarians. Drezner characterizes me as saying that if you believe in something — like libertarianism — that in the past was associated with something repugnant — like racism — you remain tainted by it.

I think my point is finer: If you believe in something that was once associated with something repugnant, you ought to care about demonstrating to people that your profession of belief in the idea is not a cover for something repugnant. A Reason Magazine editor subjected me to a haughty show of indignation because I wanted to see that demonstration: How dare I demand that anyone prove he's not a racist! But I'm saying that the fact that you don't care about disaggregating your philosophy from racism says something that matters.

By the way, Dan Drezner was quite disrespectful to me in the past about this, so I'm surprised to see that he remembers. Frankly, I'm surprised he even credits me with the capacity to have something he would call an "idea."

ADDED: Actually, I think he calls it the "the Ann Althouse question" — not idea. And, as reader_iam points out in the comments, Drezner isn't the one who brings up my name, his diavlog partner Henry Farrell does (at about 5:04). I should add that there is an old Bloggingheads — which I'm not going to dig up now — where Farrell and Drezner talk about me and Farrell is insulting — saying that he doesn't like my blog and doesn't get any ideas from it. That insult was over a year ago, I think, as was his encounter with the idea of mine that he still remembers!

AND: Here's the thing I wasn't able to dig up before. The exact clip of Henry Farrel saying he doesn't like my blog.

"Sperm cells created from female embryo."

The Telegraph reports, adding that "it may be possible for lesbian couples to have their own biological children."

Or any 2 women. They don't have to be lesbians.

It's just that we — some of us! — feel sympathetic to the desire of a lesbian couple to have a child that is biologically related to both of them.

But any 2 women could have a baby together — once the technology advances so that sperm cells could be made from a woman's bone marrow.

And face it: A woman could be impregnated with her own sperm.

But right now, at this stage of the technology, a female embryo is being destroyed to create a sperm cell. One doctor calls this procedure "double-damned," but — what did you think? — he (she?) doesn't mean that it will provoke God:
... Dr Robin Lovell-Badge, a stem cell and sex determination expert at the National Institute for Medical Research, Mill Hill, London, doubts it will work: “The presence of two X chromosomes is incompatible with this. Moreover they need genes from the Y chromosome to go through meiosis. So they are at least double-damned.”

In Brazil, a team led by Dr Irina Kerkis of the Butantan Institute in Saõ Paulo claims to have made both sperm and eggs from cultures of male mouse embryonic stem cells in the journal Cloning and Stem Cells.

The researchers have not yet shown that their male eggs can be fertilised to produce viable offspring, but they are thinking about possibilities for same-sex human reproduction.

If all these experiments pan out, then the stage would also be set for a gay man to donate skin cells that could be used to make eggs, which could then be fertilised by his partner’s sperm and placed into the uterus of a surrogate mother.

“I think it is possible,” says Kerkis, “but I don’t know how people will look at this ethically.”
I don’t know how people will look at this ethically. You might want to think about it. You know, yourself. Whether it actually is ethical. It's not just a matter of how "people" "look at" it.

Ms. Eythorsdottir made a "chandelier" of "beads of glucose that clung to twine and caught the natural light" designed to disintegrate in 5 months.

And you're hearing about her in the NYT. But why? Because she's part of a design movement that embodies a philosophy of slowing down. Is the notion of savoring life so alien to you that you would buy household objects intended to create awareness of the passage of time?
Thorunn Arnadottir, an Icelandic designer, made a clock using a string of beads draped over a notched metal disc. One bead drops every five minutes, marking time in a way that seems to slow it down.... A rattan basket designed by Alastair Fuad-Luke, a British sustainable design facilitator, as he described himself recently, will tip over if filled too quickly, “thus momentarily slowing you down as you rebalance it,” explained Mr. Fuad-Luke. (A student of Mr. Fuad-Luke’s once designed an actual speed bump for a living room. “You’d either step over it,” he said, “or perhaps you’d lie down and give it a cuddle.”)
Don't let the names deceive you: This is not a satire. This is the slowness movement. Personally, I like to take my time (or hurry up) when it suits me. I don't want some tippable object tripping me up. I don't want things that make life harder. Do we rejoice when we arrive at a traffic jam or hear that our flight is delayed? But why fly at all? Walk! It will take so much longer, and then maybe you will appreciate what it means to be alive.

As for timepieces that alert you at short intervals: My parents had a mantel clock that emitted a sequence of chimes every 15 minutes. It made me think — every 15 minutes — another 15 minutes, irretrievable. They were charitable enough to turn off the chimes when I was visiting.

Whether we need to buy objects to slow us down, we might still want protection from things that push us to speed up:
A 2005 study sponsored by Hewlett-Packard showed that the I.Q.s of workers who responded quickly to the constant barrage of e-mails they received during the day fell 10 points, more than double the I.Q. drop of someone smoking marijuana.

“Fast isn’t turning us into Masters of the Universe,” [said Carl Honoré, author of “In Praise of Slow: Challenging the Cult of Speed.”] “It’s turning us into Cheech and Chong.”
The article links to Honoré's website. (Hey! The NYT is hotlinking! They didn't use to do that. I thought I'd have to cut and paste the URL, and here it would have slowed me down, possibly thereby enriching my life.) I see Honoré has a blog. You may ask: Is that slow? But here's his post on "slow blogging" (which I can't find a way to link):
By its very nature, blogging is all about speed - instant analysis and reaction from the front line. At every conference I go to there are always a few people in the audience, laptops open, screens glowing eerily in the half-darkness, blogging away in real-time while speakers strut their stuff on stage. I'm in two minds about this. On one hand, I love the energy and insights that come from an instant reaction. I've read these real-time blogs and the best ones are sharp and profound. But sometimes I wonder how much these nimble-fingered bloggers are really getting out of the speeches - are they picking up all the shades of meaning, the different layers of the message? Might they see, hear and understand more if they gave their full attention to the speech, and then blogged a few minutes, hours or even days afterwards?
That's a good point. Live-blogging can screw up your listening. I tend to do it precisely because something is long and I want to keep engaged. But some things are worth listening to with full attention, unprocessed into writing, and the writing you produce afterwards may be superior, with so much dross efficiently sieved out by your brain.

Of course, this idea about writing is not limited to blogging. Are those people at conferences really blogging, or are they taking notes?

I think that slow blogging idea could be applied to taking notes in class. I've suggested to more than one law student that it might be a good idea to close up the computer (or put down the pen) during class, to engage and really listen, and then, after class, write a page notes. The material could be clearer and better digested.

Don't you find, when you read those voluminous notes you took during class that they are full of redundancies and filler? You might be better off if you relied on — and hence developed — your memory. Listen closely during class and then, when it's over, write down what you now see as the main point, followed by a few things that struck you as interesting. Are these not better notes? And more important: Isn't your mind working better?

I've strayed pretty far from the absurd objects that got me started writing this post. I see there's something here that I love to laugh at, but also something that I can appreciate. But let me tie it together — with glucose beaded twine! — by saying that I also appreciate entrepreneurs who find a way to make money embodying a philosophy in a product. I don't object to commerce. I can buy or not buy what I want. And if their merchandise makes me laugh, have I lost? No, I've won.

So keep what you like, use what seems usable. Remember something important, along with the trifles that amuse you.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade observes that one of my tags for this post is "fat." He writes:
Fat? I must have missed that part... must have read the post to quickly... need to slow... down, pay...

After taking a goodly amount of time to laugh, I went back to the article to retrieve something I'd had in the post but edited out:
[The architect John Brown says] that fast can make you fat and make you sick. “A cookie cutter house in a new development is like a Big Mac and fries,” he said the other day. Not only are you undernourished by awkward spaces and huge houses, he said, but far-away developments require lots of driving, stealing your time and your health. Mr. Brown’s hope is to raise awareness “about resources and options,” he said. “If you learn about materials, think about where your house comes from, you’re going to be more involved with the culture of the house, rather than just engaging with it as a financial instrument.”"
By the way, going back for that missing quote about "fat," I noticed a picture caption: "Christien Meindertsma knits rugs with wool from sheep she has met." Sheep she has met. Oh, I don't think that's good enough. A mere passing acquaintance with said sheep? Please form a lasting relationship with the sheep. Then, we'll see about obtaining the sheep's genuine enthusiasm about contributing its wool to your little knitting project.

"I’m thrilled that Grace Kelly is being talked about in fashion circles...."

"... absolutely without irony." (David Wolfe, fashion forecaster.)

So fashion is suddenly getting very conservative. What does it mean?

"There is an energy about being proper. It’s not about wholesomeness, it’s about respectability, about having manners again." (Thakoon Panichgul, designer.)

January 30, 2008

The Republican debate.

This time, no Fred and no Rudy, but Paul is still there, along with the 3 guys who've won primaries/a caucus. They're greeted — at the Reagan Library — by Nancy Reagan (who, unfortunately, looks terrible), and they take seats in front of Air Force One.

The first question is Reagan's question: Are you better off than you were 4 (or 8) years ago? Mitt reframes the question, because he's not running on Bush's record, as a boast about his stint as governor of Massachusetts. Anderson Cooper interrupts to inform him that he's not answering the question asked, and Mitt tells him to shut up — in so many words — and keeps talking about Massachusetts.

On the second question, John McCain taunts Romney about how the Boston newspapers endorsed McCain. He calls Mitt "my friend" and laughs and says he guarantees that the Arizona newspapers are going to endorse him. He's relaxed and happy and keeps inserting wisecracks.

ADDED: Asked about Reagan's choice of Sandra Day O'Connor for the Supreme Court, they all acted like they were respecting her (and Reagan), but proceeded to disrespect her. Only Paul admits he wouldn't have picked her. Huckabee says he's not stupid enough to sit in the Reagan Library and say he disagrees with Reagan and launches into a pro-life soliloquy. Ron Paul says he'd have picked a "much stronger constitutionalist." McCain says he's "proud" of O'Connor as a "fellow Arizonan," but he wants judges like Roberts and Alito who have a "proven record of strict interpretation." Romney says he wants judges like Roberts and Alito and Scalia and Thomas that "follow the Constitution and do not make law from the bench."

MORE: McCain and Romney really went at it over the Iraq "timetables" issue, and McCain garbled his words many times — such as calling April a "year" — and I think this evidenced great tension. Romney's self-defence got cheers. McCain kept asserting that the quote meant what it clearly didn't mean. Saying that we don't want al Qaeda waiting "in the weeds" until we leave means that we should never announce a timetable. McCain claimed to read it as a plan to leave on a timetable.

It's possible that Romney is such a fence-straddler that he threw the word "timetables" out so people would pick up the signal that he wants to leave, but he embedded it in a sentence so slippery that he'd never have to own up to any meaning he didn't like. McCain acts sure that he knows the "buzzwords" and he sees how politicians use them, and someone truly devoted to sticking it out in Iraq would never have uttered the buzzword "timetables."

Anderson Cooper presses Romney: Why did you refuse to take a position on the surge on the ground that you're a governor, when 2 months later, you declared your candidacy? The impression one gets is that he was carefully crafting his position to run for President. So he preserved his ability to go either way on the war. He accuses McCain of throwing mud. And McCain just smiles and assures us he knows what politicians are doing with language.

FINALLY: I think Huckabee was very appealing and modest. I liked in the end when, unlike the others, he declined to say that Ronald Reagan would endorse him. It would be "arrogant" to say that, so he just wants to say that he endorses Ronald Reagan. (But wait a minute. Isn't it actually arrogant to say it would be arrogant to say what the others just said? He's a crafty one too, that Huckabee.) Ron Paul is whatever he already is to you. McCain and Romney each helped and hurt themselves. There is so much at stake for them. They had to fight, and some of it looked pretty ugly. Yet they made their points. I think Romney established that McCain had been too hard on him about the "timetables" remark and that he's creative and capable on economic issues. But McCain is clearly the one with the rock-solid record on the war. He staked his reputation on it when Romney was being cagey.

That light you loved last April.

Last April, when I was in Austin, I blogged this photograph of a colored lamp in front of a convex mirror:


I got more comments on that photograph, and lots of people asked me what the store was. I couldn't remember. But I made a point of figuring it out when I was back in Austin last weekend. The store is Maya:


The round light isn't there, but the beautiful convex mirror is, along with some new, but similar lights:

Lights and a convex mirror

Here's the Maya website, and I think they'll help you find that round light if you want. Ah! Here it is.

Me, I'm in love with the mirror. It's expensive — over $1800 — but as I thought about possibly buying it, I realized what I wanted if for was to take pictures, and therefore what I really should buy is a fisheye lens for my Nikon D50.

ADDED: Is this the fisheye lens I need? Tell me, camera nerds. You know I love distortion, and the question — as always — is: Just how much bloggable fun can I possibly have?

It's the coffee!

What's wrong with Starbucks? Certainly not that it's pushing out independent coffeeshops. They are prevailing. The big trick: Make better coffee! Meanwhile, Starbucks has been switching to push-button espresso machines. In New York City, I'm stuck patronizing Starbucks, and I was shocked when I saw that they had automated the machines. Starbucks used to seem like a luxury brand, and now it feels like a fallback when you can't get to the real thing.
The man who built the chain, Howard D. Schultz, has retaken the reins in an effort to revive it. He is scheduled to roll out a plan on Wednesday that will almost certainly involve shutting down more stores in the United States while accelerating expansion overseas.

Mr. Schultz has said he wants to refocus on the “customer experience,” recapturing some of the magic of the chain’s early years...
As the company grew and customer traffic increased, Starbucks expanded its food offerings while introducing efficiencies like those automated espresso machines. Gradually, complaints surfaced that Starbucks felt more like a fast-food restaurant than a coffeehouse....

Mr. Schultz had already outlined many of the problems in a Feb. 14, 2007, memo that is now famous. Entitled “The Commoditization of the Starbucks Experience,” the memo acknowledged that rapid growth had diluted the Starbucks magic.
Part of the fast-food feel is the people who work there. You can call them "baristas," but you can tell that the job for them feels like a fast-food job.

ADDED: Starbucks also pre-steams big pitchers of milk. Even when the place isn't busy, those pitchers of hot milk are sitting around simplifying the barista's job. You go over to wait for your coffee and instead of seeing your cup made to order, you see a button pushed and old milk dumped in.

UPDATE: Schultz announces his plan:
Starbucks will close about 100 U.S. stores this year, scale back its U.S. expansion and begin focusing on faster growth overseas as it seeks to revive its cachet and rekindle sales growth that by one measure sagged to an all-time low last quarter.

The Seattle coffee-shop chain also will stop selling warmed sandwiches, which don't contribute much to profits but take employees' time and interfere with the smell of coffee in stores.
We don't need no stinking sandwiches.

John Edwards is quitting!

Says CNN.

"Any rational observer has to conclude that John McCain has a better shot of winning than Mitt Romney does."

Says Dick Morris. Read the whole thing. It's pretty convincing — assuming Hillary is the candidate.

IN THE COMMENTS: This modest post opened up a great comments thread.

How can paper ballots violate constitutional rights?

I saw on Instapundit — through to Slashdot — that the ACLU was suing a county for moving from touchscreen machines to paper ballots, and I couldn't even think of a bad argument. Slashdot describes the argument this way:
[T]he system chosen tabulates all votes at a central location. This means that voters don't get notified if their ballot contains errors, and thus they have no chance to correct it.
What? I still don't get it.

More here:
The ACLU alleges that the optical-scan system and centralized vote tabulation would not give voters notice of ballot errors — such as voting for two candidates for one office.

Opponents of the system say scanning should be done immediately at the precinct level to alert voters to such errors and allow them to correct invalid ballots.
So the constitutional violation is that the paper doesn't prevent you from mismarking it? If you're supposed to check one box and you check two, the paper doesn't call you a fool?

IN THE COMMENTS: Rastajenk writes:
I am a precinct captain in Ohio...

The system used in our county places scanners at each precinct; the voter marks his paper ballot and slips it into the scanner himself. If it is marked properly, the voter sees the ballot counter increase by one...he knows his ballot has been counted, right there on the spot.

If he doesn't mark it correctly...if he marks three school board members when he should have voted only two...or if he leaves blank an issue where he had no opinion...or if he doesn't vote at all for an uncontested position...any of these kinds of situations, the scanner would beep and produce a message saying where the error occurred, and give the voter a chance to repair the error, or accept it as is.

It's a very simple safeguard to address the whole undervote/overvote issue that Florida 2000 introduced to the world. If a person needs a new ballot, there are very simple procedures for giving him one and voiding the original.

What the ACLU is doing is promoting the system used in our county over the system proposed in Cuyahoga, wherein all the paper ballots are collected and sent to a central counting location. Any number of shenanigans can occur there that cannot occur in our situation. For once in my life, I am in the ACLU's corner on this one.

Ohio Sec of State Brunner issued a report last month recommending all counting be done in central locations. Brunner is a Dem; connect the dots.

Another feature of our precinct-counted system is that at the end of the day, I produce and post at that location a report of our activity: how many votes each candidate or issue received in our precinct. I can compare that report to official reports on the county's website and verify that they are the same; each precinct official can do the same for his precinct. At no point can the numbers suddenly change or not add up correctly using this system. Accountability starts at the bottom, not at some closed-door top level. This is what the ACLU is against. Forget the invectives about stupid voters; support them on this as I have.
I'm persuaded that the scanners are better, but I still don't see a constitutional argument.

ADDED: Here's how the complaint puts it:
The dual system of voting created by Defendants has resulted in the following inequity: voters living in election jurisdictions using voting systems without error notification... are significantly less likely to have their intended votes counted than voters who live in election jurisdictions that use voting systems with error notification....
This seems to be an attempt to use the Equal Protection argument from Bush v. Gore:
Equal protection applies... to the manner of [the exercise of the right to vote]. Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another. See, e.g., Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 665 (1966) (“[O]nce the franchise is granted to the electorate, lines may not be drawn which are inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment”). It must be remembered that “the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen’s vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise.” Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 555 (1964)....

The question before the Court is not whether local entities, in the exercise of their expertise, may develop different systems for implementing elections. Instead, we are presented with a situation where a state court with the power to assure uniformity has ordered a statewide recount with minimal procedural safeguards.

"I encourage conservative and libertarian — or just mischievous — students to flood the system with complaints about anything that offends them."

Glenn Reynolds is stirring up trouble for Brandeis University.

ADDED: I don't like this form of protest. Real individuals would be dragged into what is an ugly process, so it's not a prankish display of disrespect for campus authorities. I would like to see Brandeis students do what Wisconsin students did when the university invited them to feel offended and tattle: Ignore the system.

AND: For those who wish I'd say something more about the Brandeis incident. I did. Back in November.

"So it is over. Finished. In November, we'll be sending out our most liberal, least trustworthy candidate vs. to take on Hillary Clinton...."

Michael Graham has moves through the denial stage, toward anger:
And the worst part for the Right is that McCain will have won the nomination while ignoring, insulting and, as of this weekend, shamelessly lying about conservatives and conservatism.

You think he supported amnesty six months ago? You think he was squishy on tax cuts and judicial nominees before? Wait until he has the power to anger every conservative in America, and feel good about it.

Every day, he dreams of a world filled with happy Democrats and insulted Republicans. And he is, thanks to Florida, the presidential nominee of the Republican party.

There is weeping in National Reviewdom today.

Ramesh Ponnuru says it's 1996 all over again:
McCain is Dole: the old war hero who has run before, who does not enthuse either economic or social conservatives but has a pretty conservative record. Giuliani is Forbes: the socially liberal, economically conservative New York candidate. Huckabee is Buchanan: the social conservative with rhetoric that scares economic conservatives. Romney is Gramm, the movement-oriented candidate with boatloads of money but difficulty connecting with grassroots conservative voters.... The social-Right candidate takes out the movement candidate, the economic conservative ends up not playing a huge role, and the nomination goes to the old guy whom much of the Right distrusts.
ADDED: I should note that Ponnuru is happy with the development. He endorsed McCain a year ago. I assumed otherwise because: 1. The editors of National Review have endorsed Romney, and 2. Dole lost!

What if Hillary Clinton had to apologize for Bill?

How would she put it?

"If anything was said by anyone that caused any offense..."

"If we had people dancing on top of dead bodies that would indeed be disrespectful."

But a float depicting a pile of dead Holocaust victims for a Carnival parade called "Shockers"... come on! That's "extremely respectful, it's a warning, it's something shocking that we don't want to happen ever again."

"Kennedy is well known in the court's press corps for never using 1,000 words when 5,000 words would more murkily murk his murk."

James Kilpatrick is sick of Supreme Court cases and he's not going to write about them anymore.

(Via How Appealing.)

"This is a very hard case. I'm thinking very hard."

Said 2d Circuit judge Guido Calabresi at oral argument yesterday, reminding me of that "Math is hard" Barbie doll that Mattel had to reconfigure when feminists complained. But, it's common for judges to call cases "hard." Yet it's odd to say — at oral argument — "I'm thinking very hard." It sounds like a quip. It's a hard case, so I'm thinking hard. But it's not an amusing case. It's the case of Lynne Stewart, the lawyer who was convicted of aiding terrorists, and the hard question was the requisite level of intent:
To prevent [Sheik Omar Abdel] Rahman from advocating further violence, prison officials had required Stewart and the rest of Rahman's legal team to pledge not to carry messages on his behalf. Stewart broke that pledge. In one instance, she called a reporter in Cairo to announce that Rahman was urging a terrorist organization to withdraw from a ceasefire with the government of Egypt.

Stewart has said her goal was to keep Rahman relevant in Egyptian politics and improve his morale. That argument evinced little sympathy from the bench.

"You can have the intent of serving a client," Judge Calabresi said, "but if the means of furthering that intent are a conspiracy to kill people, than don't you have that intermediate intent as well?"

January 29, 2008

Romney and McCain tied at 30% each.

With 1% of the vote reported in the Florida primary. According to CNN TV.

ADDED: With 20% reporting, they're showing 36% for McCain and 31% for Romney — but they're not projecting based on the exit polls.

MORE: Now, its 34 to 33% with 32% of the returns in. Exciting. For McCain and Romney. For Rudy, it's pretty sad, but I think he lost it on his own, and not just because of the wait-for-Florida strategy. I had liked him best early on, but I disconnected from him a while back.

AND: TIME.com says Giuliani will endorse McCain.

AND: CNN just projected McCain as the winner.

AND: Giuliani speaks. He's saying lofty things about having a higher purpose. He wasn't in this for himself, he says. He believes in a cause, and he'll fight for it. He believes in the Republican Party. "This is a big party. I'm even in this party."

AND: From the McCain campaign: "Not as late a night as many expected. Romney outspent McCain by a huge margin. We find out on the 31st how much Romney has spent on his campaign. It will be an astonishing figure. At this point, he’s just hurting the Republican Party with his negative attacks."

AND: Romney speaks. He's got a memorized speech — you can tell when he makes a little misstep and starts over — and now the crowd is supposed to chant "They haven't" but they aren't chanting chantily enough. So Mitt and his crowd are stiff? So what? America is great, Mitt tells us. But the politicians are bad, so it's time for "the citizens" to take over. He's listing a lot of issues, like: People should get married before they have kids. He gives Bush credit for keeping us safe. Now, he's emphasizing the economy, which, you may already know, is in his DNA. He's "actually had a job in the real economy" — unlike those other politicos. Though he started out saying he had just congratulated John McCain, he ends triumphantly, as if he'd won, and clearly, he'll keep barreling along.

AND: McCain's speaking now. He emphasizes that this was an all-Republican primary. He's nicely modest about his margin of victory as he compliments Romney for "fighting hard." He thanks Huckabee for his "good humor and grace." He calls Giuliani his "good friend" and an "exceptional leader." He refers to Super Tuesday. It's a "national primary" and "I intend to win it," he says with a big smile. He talks about being inspired by Ronald Reagan, and outlines the story of how he's always been a conservative. The Republican Party only does well when it sticks to conservative principles, he says. (I note that's what Rush Limbaugh has been saying for the past week — in the context of attacking McCain mercilessly.) "We have a ways to go, but we're getting close."

Is this the person you want to be listening to a year from now?

"Imagine if next year was different."

Barack Obama responds to the State of the Union address.

A word on the aesthetics of this video. I'm getting a real 1960s vibe from the gray suit and the gray curtain in back. It seems to evoke lo-fi black-and-white TV. I kept thinking: Rod Serling. But then I realized what they want you to think is: JFK.

"We had to flip the whole interface around."

Blogger is finally available in Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian — languages that read from right to left. It's not going to solve all the problems in the Middle East. But blog on.

"He's totally eclipsed. Nothing he says is going to be important for anything that happens in the next 12 months. The speech is a nonevent."

Did you watch the State of the Union Address?

We did, talking over it a lot of the time. How can we feel that a man who is President doesn't matter anymore? Somehow we do. At least when he's making a speech. He may yet do something that could make us change our well-settled opinions. But let's hope that nothing much happens in the next year. When things capable of transforming the reputation of a President happen, they're usually bad. So let's hope the battered old man drifts further into oblivion over the next year, and when the State of the Union comes around again we have the occasion to get all excited about the seemingly boundless potential of another human individual.

The mysterious powers of the Empire State Building.

It stops cars. It's like the Bermuda Triangle.

So Teddy Kennedy came right out and called the Clintons liars.

"With Barack Obama, we will turn the page on the old politics of misrepresentation and distortion."

That's my interpretation.

January 28, 2008

So everyone was piling on Hillary on the Sunday shows...

That is, except for Hillary herself, whom we see a lot of in those clips. I don't know if it's all in the editing, but those attempts she makes to defend herself make her look even more unappealing.


In a junk shop in Texas.

I've been in Texas.

Monkeys Always Welcome

Monkeys always welcome.

"If you're going to de-sex the awards into subdivisions of Best Actor — if you're all actors, and the gender doesn't matter..."

"... then why not just give one prize, eligible to every performer in a leading role?"

Asks Chris Pizzello.

Yes, why all this sex segregation? Are women and men separate categories or aren't they? If you want two categories, why not drama and comedy?

Or does the Screen Actors Guild just want us to start thinking of "actress" as an insult? The women are quite different — but let's have some less retrograde terminology? Yet neologisms seem mocking or ludicrous.

Actmen and actwomen... dramamen... oh, it makes me sick....

"Blacker than any actual black person who could ever be elected in our children's lifetime."

That's how Toni Morrison described Bill Clinton. But now, she's supporting Obama, and it's not necessarily a contradiction. He's definitely blacker than Hillary Clinton, and Morrison never said that the blackest candidate ought to win. Her standard is somewhere in here:
In addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it.

Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace - that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.
Translate that purple prose, please.

Finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. I suspect that reflects a theory of government I'd object to if I could see through the incredibly annoying writing.

ADDED: If Frank J. wants to call Toni Morrison "a racist dumbass of monumental proportions" with any credibility, he ought to proofread his own writing. His headline — "Just So Someone Says It Publically" — has a gross misspelling. And whining about a class where he had to read "Beloved" and got a bad grade on his paper for "saying exactly what I thought of Toni Morrison," he tries this quip: "Man did I need a Tom Clancy novel as a pallet cleanser after that." Frank, a "pallet" is a narrow hard bed. Perhaps the pages of a pulpy novel are useful to soak up after an episode of bedwetting.

AND: Yes, yes, I know I typoed "necessary" for "necessarily" in the second sentence of the original post. (Now corrected.) If you want to criticize someone for bad spelling, you can never make a typo? I guess not. But Frank J. called Toni Morrison "a racist dumbass of monumental proportions," which was an incredible insult, and I thought he needed some push back.

"Following links is like putting on 3-D glasses."

That's a line from Sarah Boxer's big review of a lot of books about blogs in the February 14 issue of The New York Review of Books.

Oh, we saw "U2 3D" — the IMAX 3D U2 concert film last night. I'm trying to write a post about it, but I got distracted by this book review. I'm more interested in books about blogs than a humongous in-your-face concert film, but I'll just say the technology had one of us seeing double — the technology is not perfect — and me longing for the lush beauty and composition of traditional film. Also I don't really see the point of getting that close to Bono's face. His eyes are all but invisible behind those wraparound glasses — the wraparound 3D glasses curved inward in back and gave me a headache right behind my left ear — and his face is not expressive. He's a great rock and roll frontman because of his whole-body expression, which projects to the whole arena. So get back, get back, and see the whole arena, which did look very deep and real in 3D. Technology... Did you know the kids at concerts these days wave cell phone and camera digital screens around instead of cigarette lighters?

But back to Boxer's review. She's got a book of her own about blogs — an anthology of blog "masterworks" — but she's skeptical about blog books:
Political blogs are among the trickiest to capture in a book because they tend to rely heavily on links and ephemeral information. But even blogs that have few or no links still show the imprint of the Web, its associative ethos, and its obsession with connection—the stink of the link. Blogs are porous to the world of texts and facts and opinions on line.
What's the point of writing or reading a book about blogs? Write a blog or read blogs. What are books doing here?

Boxer has a nice, compressed history of the development of blogging:
When the blog boom came, the tone of the blogosphere began to shift. A lot of the new blogs—though certainly not all of them—weren't so much filters for the Web as vents for opinion and self-revelation. Instead of figuring out ways to serve up good fresh finds, many of the new bloggers were fixated on getting found. So the very significance of linking began to change. The links that had once mattered were the ones you offered on your blog, the so-called outbound links pointing to other sites. Now the links that mattered most—and still do—are those on other blogs pointing toward your blog, the so-called inbound links. Those are the ones that blog-trackers like Technorati count. They are the measure of fame.

Now that fame and links are one and the same, there are bloggers out there who will do practically anything— start rumors, tell lies, pick fights, create fake personas, and post embarrassing videos—to get noticed and linked to. They are, in the parlance of the blogosphere, "link whores." And those who succeed are blog celebrities, or "blogebrities."
She also has this list of words she found on blogs:
anyhoo, bitchitude, fan-fucking-tabulous, hole-esque, nastified, alternapop, coffin-snatching, YouTube-ization, touzing, Daddio, manky, nutters, therapised, Boo-Ya Nation, dildopreneur, dudely, flava, haz-mat, nut sac, sexbot, underwearian, fugly, vomit-y, consciousness-jumped, tear-assed, fetbryo, grapetastically, mommyblogdaciousness, Nero-crazy, Engrish, pidginized, votenfreude, angsty, malgovernment, bejesus, JumboTron, man-dresses, babe-aliciousness, droit de senny.
The squarest old man I've ever known said "anyhoo" a lot. We laughed at him behind his back... in the 1970s.

Boxer has a feeling for what makes blogging bloggy:
Bloggers are golden when they're at the bottom of the heap, kicking up. Give them a salary, a book contract, or a press credential, though, and it just isn't the same. (And this includes, for the most part, the blogs set up by magazines, companies, and newspapers.) Why? When you write for pay, you worry about lawsuits, sentence structure, and word choice. You worry about your boss, your publisher, your mother, and your superego looking over your shoulder. And that's no way to blog.
Yes, blogging must be free. Don't give those bloggers a job. But do send them money! Help them be independent. Place ads and hit the PayPal button.

January 27, 2008

Fun with mirrors.

We go to the Austin Museum of Art to see the Roy Lichstenstein show — which we loved — and get sidetracked into the hands-on kid's area where we take a lot of pictures in a tunnel of mirrors (and stick a few plastic dots on the white walls):





Okay, now stop that and tell me what dots and mirrors have to do with Roy Lichtenstein? Seems more like Wonder Bread and the funhouse.

The dots are the dots from newspaper printing that he enlarges and emphasizes for distinctive effect. Don't you think our children need to get more excited about dots so they can appreciate pop art? I do! I dot!

The mirrors relate to some of the prints on display, especially a series called "Reflections" that has as its subject matter works of art partly obscured by reflections, like this one called "Reflections on Minerva." I'm thinking Roy went to museums and got annoyed — and then inspired — by the glass that covers so many works of art and makes them hard to see.

Roy Lichtenstein seems to have a mania for processing images. You get the feeling he might look at anything — good or bad — Monet's haystacks, a stock photo of 1970s interior decoration — and want to work his set of artistic tricks on it just for the pure delight of taking one thing and making it into something else.



Caroline Kennedy says Obama is like her dad.

In a NYT op-ed:
Sometimes it takes a while to recognize that someone has a special ability to get us to believe in ourselves, to tie that belief to our highest ideals and imagine that together we can do great things. In those rare moments, when such a person comes along, we need to put aside our plans and reach for what we know is possible.
That is: Put aside your plans to vote for Hillary Clinton and take advantage of this rare opportunity. Believe in the possibility of believing.
I have spent the past five years working in the New York City public schools and have three teenage children of my own. There is a generation coming of age that is hopeful, hard-working, innovative and imaginative. But too many of them are also hopeless, defeated and disengaged. As parents, we have a responsibility to help our children to believe in themselves and in their power to shape their future. Senator Obama is inspiring my children, my parents’ grandchildren, with that sense of possibility.
The children need to believe, believe in the possibility of believing in... themselves!... or something. And that's why Obama should be President! Don't you get it?

AND: Bill Clinton says Obama is like Jesse Jackson.

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian says:
Why do so many of Obama's supporter's statements remind me of an NPR pledge drive, where marginally talented radio personalities have to fill five hours with repetitive pablum that ends up portraying NPR programming as a kind of corrective laxative?

With a little effort, you could turn the narrative of the Obama campaign into a collection of secular carols to be sung at UNICEF non-denominational holiday events.

In Austin, Texas, I pay my traditional visit to the 10 Commandment monument.

I've been here before, to show you the setting of the 10 Commandments monument that the Supreme Court — in Van Orden v. Perry — said did not violate the Establishment Clause. But I'm back here in Austin, Texas, so let's focus on the size of this thing, using me — a woman of average height — for measurement.

The Ten Commandments

Want to hear my law lecture?

The Ten Commandments

Which, if any, groups favored Hillary Clinton in South Carolina?

Let's take a closer look at that CNN exit poll:

1. Hillary Clinton did not win a majority or even a plurality of white voters. (Edwards won a plurality of 40%.) She did win a plurality — 42% — of the white female voters (but Barack Obama still won 22% of them). Edwards won a plurality of the white males — 44% (but Obama still got 27% of them). Clinton only got 20% of the black women.

2. Hillary Clinton did not win a majority or even a plurality of the over 60 white vote. (She shared equally with John Edwards, each receiving 42%.) Barack Obama received a majority of the white vote in the 18-29 category.

3. Barack Obama received a majority of the male vote and a majority of the female vote — with exactly the same percentage, 54%.

4. Barack Obama received a majority of the vote in every age category except over 60 — and he won a plurality of the over 60 vote. Only by isolating the over 65 vote do you see a plurality for Clinton (40% over 32%).

5. Barack Obama received a majority or plurality of votes at all education levels, at all degrees of religiosity, at all levels of voting experience, in all regions, at all income levels, and in urban/suburban/rural areas.

6. Barack Obama received a majority among voters who considered each of the 3 main issues — health care, the economy, Iraq — the most important.

7. Barack Obama received a majority from voters who were married and who were unmarried, who placed issues first and who placed character first, who thought the economy was good and who thought it was bad.

8. Barack Obama received a majority from voters who called themselves liberals and who called themselves moderates and a plurality from those who called themselves conservatives.

9. Hillary won a clear majority — 84% — among voters who put "experience" first when asked to rank 4 qualities. Obama won for 2 of the other qualities — "can bring about change" and "electability" — and Edwards won for "cares about people."

10. Hillary Clinton won a plurality from voters who said Americans aren't ready to elect a black President (and a majority of those who said "definitely not ready," though Obama even got 9% of those).

What can Hillary do? Work hard on getting out the elderly vote? Harp on her experience some more? Scare voters about the unelectability of a black man? Hope the other states are not like South Carolina?

Should smokers be denied a heart bypass? Should the obese be denied hip replacements?

Everyone can't get everything, can they, if the government is paying?

(Via Memeorandum.)