October 3, 2009

At the Red Hotel...


... it's very hot.


This only worked for me the second time, when I got really close to the screen. It's really cool, so get close. You have to stare for a couple minutes, but it's fun afterwards:

(Via Cartago Delenda Est.)

Why haven't we heard from Mia Farrow about Roman Polanski?

I'd like to hear what she has to say. She worked closely with him on "Rosemary's Baby" and she had her experience with Woody Allen (who has made a show of supporting Polanski). Without any current statement, I looked for what she had to say about Polanski in her memoir, "What Falls Away."

This passage follows a paragraph about the difference between the filmmaking methods of Roman Polanski and John Cassavetes. Cassavetes was a great director, and also an actor. He played Mia/Rosemary's husband in "Rosemary's Baby." Polanski shot 30 or 40 takes, which bugged Cassavetes, who thought it "killed all the life in a scene."
One workday, while we were waiting to shoot, Roman was discoursing about the impossibility of long-term monogamy given the brevity of a man's sexual attraction to any woman. An impassioned John Cassavetes responded that Roman knew nothing about women, or relationships, and that he, John, was more attracted than ever to his wife, Gena Rowlands. Roman stared at him and blinked a few times, and for once had no reply.
"Rosemary's Baby" was made in 1968, the year Polanski married Sharon Tate (who was murdered the following year).

Here's a picture of Gena Rowlands and John Cassavetes in 1968:

And here's a picture of Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate, that same year:

Clearly, it was Cassavetes who understood marriage. It reminds me of the last thing Andre Gregory says in "My Dinner With Andre":

South Asian men who marry British women... and are abused by them.

BBC reports:
"All they wanted was someone to earn money for them. I was being treated like an animal. All my dignity and self-respect had been taken away and I was also worried about the threats to my sister. I was powerless to do anything to stop it."

Due to feelings of shame Mahmood decided not to tell his family back in Pakistan.

"My wife would wake me up in the middle of the night and beat me, demanding money, and when I did not have any, my brother-in-laws would come and punch me and beat my back with iron bars. It was a living hell."...

Karma Nirvana, a group which helps abused Asian men and women, believes most men do not seek help as many victims marry cousins and can share the same uncles, aunts and even grandparents. Project team leader Shazia Qayum said: "Men would feel embarrassed to admit that they were having problems and choose to suffer in silence for the sake of respect."

"If the Reich-wing's glee over America losing the Olympic bid doesn't blow up in their faces then there really isn't much hope left for the future of this country."

The layers of emotion pile up unattractively.

Perhaps Obama would have won the Olympics for Chicago, if he had "had time for a personal lubricant."

Hans Bonde, professor of sport history at the University of Copenhagen, speaks the strange English:
"Here come the more favor Obama just before the deadline and made showoff. He clearly won the battle in the media, but it turned out indeed to be indifferent. IOC members did not feel important, and they were indeed reduced to spectators and not players. So if he had come, he would have had time for a personal lubricant."

ADDED: Obama went 9 minutes. Come on!

AND: Actually, it's an automatic translation, and — at the link — Don Surber speculates that Bonde meant something like "buttering up." Is that an improvement? I've seen "Last Tango in Paris."

How crazy must a person be to get this warning?

"A blog may have at most 2000 labels."

"Nobody has ever loaned me money. I mean, I was going to die on a few occasions. Johnny Depp gave me CPR on one."

"That’s as close as I ever got. I was watching that movie where he plays Dillinger, and I was like ‘Motherf***er, I never had myself any JD except CPR."

Yeah, Depp's adorable.

"The first film I worked on was Mommie Dearest. I used to measure people nipple to nipple. The first line I heard from Miss Dunaway was: 'Who is that fat girl in my eyeline?' I was terrified."

I don't really know what "I used to measure people nipple to nipple" means but that seems like an amusing thing to say. To do.

Anyway, the speaker is Courtney Love. Here she is reminiscing about her daughter, Kurt Cobain's daughter, Frances:

"[W]hen Frances was about nine, there was an awards ceremony that Michael Stipe, her godfather, was singing at, and Bono was picking up an award. “Frances was holding Stipe’s and Bono’s hands and she goes, ‘You guys are jealous of each other, aren’t you?’ It was the craziest moment. It was so brilliant. Genius. I was so proud of my child at that moment.”

"If you came here tonight for sex with a talk show host, you've got the wrong studio."

Leno. Funny at last, taking a jab at Letterman.

"When DeMille saw Junior’s publicity stills, he stated, 'Junior Coghlan is the perfect example of a homeless waif."

"Frank Coghlan Jr., a freckle-faced child actor of silent movies who in the sound era thrilled Saturday matinee audiences by shouting 'Shazam!' and mutating into the superhero Captain Marvel, died on Sept. 7 at his home in Saugus, Calif. He was 93."

"Parakeets cull is racist..."

According to Matthew Frith, Deputy Chief Executive of the London Wildlife Trust":
"Parakeets are birds from the Indian sub-continent that came here is the last century and are doing very well. Just like curry... There are concerns that species from other parts of the world are scapegoated but we have been bringing different animals here like rabbits and hares since Roman times. The biodiversity in our country is a mix of native and non-native just like the social make-up of this country."
What a terrible analogy! Especially for an anti-racist.

Top 10 species are: 1. Earthworms, 2. Algae, 3. Cyanobacteria...

What's so great about earthworms?
4. Rhizobia
5. Lactobacillus
6. Homo sapiens
7. Stony corals
8. Yeast
9. Influenza
10. Penicillium
Aw, come on. If we'd started with anything else — with the possible exception of stony corals — you wouldn't have paid any attention.

At the Princess Café...


... hurry up!

Ahmadinejad is...

... Jewish!

Cheering over Obama's failure to snag the Olympics and censorious head-shaking over the cheering.

I'm see a lot of that this morning. It's all about failure, excusing failure, relishing failure, and pretending that it's too mean to relish failure. (Like Dems wouldn't have hooted with glee if Bush had gone all out trying to get the Olympics to come to Texas and gotten his comeuppance in the first round of voting.)

Here's what I would like to talk about in all this: The First Lady and her husband made terrible presentations to the IOC! In retrospect, it makes complete sense that they got the boot in Round 1.

Here's Michelle Obama, patronizingly slow-talking, using the phony "crying voice," whining about the very special poverty and discrimination that is Chicago, trying to guilt-trip the IOC into being charitable to the downtrodden Americans who have suffered so much:

What's with these Americans and their endless fretting about their own self-esteem? If we're going to boost egos, why the hell would we boost American egos? They are scarily hungry for inspiration, for their inspiration. Why should the athletes of the world be enlisted in that effort? And, good lord, the woman's husband is the President of the United States — isn't that enough? She still needs us to make her feel good at long last? This insatiable lust for encouragement — enough!

Now, here's the husband that she introduced as if it was roundly well-understood that everyone adores him:

I got impatient with the emphatic, pause-laden slow speech and had to switch to text. Toward the end:
Nearly one year ago, on a clear November night, people from every corner of the world gathered in the city of Chicago or in front of their televisions to watch the results of the U.S. Presidential election. Their interest wasn't about me as an individual.
Can't you just see the eyes rolling? Somehow he's President of the whole world. And he's bigger than himself as an individual.
Rather, it was rooted in the belief that America's experiment in democracy still speaks to a set of universal aspirations and ideals....
Actually, it's kind of cool to hear him reciting the ideology of "American exceptionalism" he's usually accused of not believing in. But isn't this exactly the wrong place to do it?  Is he about Chicago or America or the whole world or does he somehow think it all becomes one... in him?
At the beginning of this new century, the nation that has been shaped by people from around the world wants a chance to inspire it once more...
That is, not only was the world inspired when he won the Presidency, the world can be inspired by — what? — the sheer greatness of Chicago?
And so I urge you to choose Chicago. I urge you to choose America. And if you do; if we walk this path together; then I promise you this: the city of Chicago and the United States of America will make the world proud. 
I'm picturing them thinking: What is this pride? Why would we be proud of you? Why should we give you the Olympics so that you can — what? — boost our self-esteem? Because — why? — we, the world, contain Chicago? Get your nutty American inspirationalism off me. We're talking about where to site the Olympic games, not who's the dreamiest city in the world. Why do the games belong in Chicago? What was the argument? It's Obama's adopted hometown and it has ethnic neighborhoods, where all the colorful peoples live in peace and harmony?

Nobody yelled out "You lie," but what a lie!

The NYT compares the cost of being an unmarried homosexual couple to a married heterosexual couple.

Obviously, it's immensely important in the debate about same-sex marriage to make the comparison between the costs to a couple of living single and living married.
[W]e set out to determine what they were and to come up with a round number — a couple’s lifetime cost of being gay.
But, also obviously, the economic difference is between married and unmarried, not gay and straight, since a straight couple can choose to remain single. It's interesting to all couples to know the financial effect of marrying. I got married recently — to a person of the opposite sex — and it mattered to us. Now, also obviously, when a same-sex couple is denied the right to marry, they don't get to use the economic analysis in a choice of how they want to structure their lives. But it should be clear that the economic difference is useful to both heterosexual and homosexual couples. And, again, the comparison plays an important role in thinking about legalizing gay marriage.

I've always supported gay marriage myself, and I would even if the economic difference was minimal or great or infinitely complicated. But I can suspect that the NYT's exercise is aimed at convincing people that denying the right to marry is a great injustice, so I'm looking at this economic analysis with some skepticism.

There is an unintended effect to portraying marriage as such a great financial benefit: People who already have the right to marry may decide they ought to marry to rake in all those great benefits.

One thing is that the model they used had a couple with an income of "$140,000, which is about the average income in [New York, California, and Florida] for unmarried same-sex partners who are college-educated, 30 to 40 years old and raising children under the age of 18." $140,000? That's awfully high! There's an old stereotype about gay couples being wealthier than heterosexuals, and I'm surprised to see the NYT stoking it. But I suspect they tried various incomes and hit upon this number because it produced impressive results. Given that the median household income in the U.S. is about $50,000, I don't think you're going to persuade too many same-sex marriage opponents to cry over families that make $140,000.
Here is what we came up with. In our worst case, the couple’s lifetime cost of being gay was $467,562. But the number fell to $41,196 in the best case for a couple with significantly better health insurance, plus lower taxes and other costs.
Most of the analysis involves taxes and pensions and the like — things that vary according to whether the couple is married, but the article also includes the costs of acquiring children: artificial insemination and adoption. These costs are simply the costs of infertility — which can afflict heterosexuals too —and nothing that can be cured by legalizing gay marriage. But there are also costs to marriage that are not included, and that ought to caution people against assuming there are great financial benefits to marrying. First, and the article notes this, your taxes can increase — there's the marriage penalty. Second, there's the risk of needing a divorce, and that can be tremendously expensive, especially if children are involved. There is nothing in the article about divorce.

So, try to make the best decision you can about whether to marry, if you have the right to marry. Money isn't the only thing, but it's worth taking into account. I think there is a dollar amount for each of us which, if we had to sacrifice it in order to marry, we'd choose to live together as an unmarried couple. And maybe there is also a dollar amount for every couple that if they could save it by marrying, they'd go ahead and marry. When I was unmarried, I used to think that I would marry a male friend in a certain scenario: He needed expensive medical treatment, and I had the health insurance coverage to share.

And, again, as for gay people, I think they should be able to look at the same factors that heterosexual couples look at.

October 2, 2009

"What's a girl to do?"

"My heart grows colder with each day..."


It's Rio!

Chicago eliminated in the first round!

BBC reports! "A very very loud gasp here."

Live stream at the link.

AND: Tokyo out too.

The Obama magic has truly fizzled. All that glamorous traveling.... and the backlash against it.

Should Chicago get the 2016 Olympics?

Is it possible to analyze this without thinking about wanting Obama to have a success/failure?

What the cryogenics lab people did with Ted Williams's frozen, severed head.

"In 'Frozen,' Larry Johnson, a former exec at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz., ... writes that in July 2002, shortly after the Red Sox slugger died at age 83, technicians with no medical certification gleefully photographed and used crude equipment to decapitate the majors' last .400 hitter.... Johnson writes that holes were drilled in Williams' severed head for the insertion of microphones, then frozen in liquid nitrogen while Alcor employees recorded the sounds of Williams' brain cracking 16 times as temperatures dropped to -321 degrees Fahrenheit. Johnson writes that the head was balanced on an empty can of Bumble Bee tuna to keep it from sticking to the bottom of its case. Johnson describes watching as another Alcor employee removed Williams' head from the freezer with a stick, and tried to dislodge the tuna can by swinging at it with a monkey wrench. The technician... missed the can with several swings of the wrench and smacked Williams' head directly, spraying 'tiny pieces of frozen head' around the room...."

May your dreams of immortality be non-corporeal.

I'll be on 2 radio shows this morning.

At 8 Central Time, I'll do the "Week In Review" show with Joy Cardin on Wisconsin Public Radio. That's the call-in show where they have a liberal and me as the conservative bantering about the news of the week. You can listen stream on line live or, later, listen from the archive. [Stream the "Ideas Network" (not classical music) here.]

At 11 Central Time, I'll be on Gary Eichten's "Midday" show on Minnesota Public Radio talking about the Supreme Court, previewing the new term (which begins on Monday). You'll be able to stream that show live too.

"Is Conservatism Brain-Dead?"

Eh. The question should be: Is it any more brain-dead than everything else? It's not as if the liberals running the government have a coherent and compelling intellectual foundation under them.

I thought she was dying.

How terribly inconvenient for poor John.

Helen Thomas wants Robert Gibbs's conscience to bother him.

"Has the president given up on the public option?"

"Wow! Giggly giggle giggle," says Gibbs.

Oops, Letterman really is the lecher he seems to goofily pretend to be.

Letterman has to admit it, because he needed to testify about an attempt to blackmail him over his secret sexual affairs with women who have worked with him. D'oh! And now it is revealed. How does that undermine his sweet, inept, self-mocking lecher he's been on the show all these years.

Here's video of the confession he did on the show last night. "I had to tell them how I was disturbed by this I was worried for myself, I was worried for my family, I felt menaced by this, and I had to tell them all of the creepy things that I have done that were going to be exposed. [Laughter.] Now why is that funny?"

He did a good job of damage control, I think. He made it sound as if it was just sex — which implies that you're a prude if you don't give him a pass. But sex with the women who work on his staff? This is the atmosphere of sexual harassment. What are the details that made the blackmailer think he could extort $2 million? Did some women get jobs and promotions because they were sexually available while men and other women lost out? 


Meanwhile, here he is with Madonna, in a cute bit where they go out for a slice of pizza in the Italian restaurant next door to the theater. Madonna, it turns out, has never had New York pizza-by-the-slice and she's quite fussy about cheese... and not fussy at all about touching hands all down the aisle of the theater and in the crowd outside and then eating with her hands. What a dame!

Earlier in the show, Madonna talked about her famous 1994 appearance and attributes her strange behavior to marijuana smoking. I'm not sure if that counts as promoting marijuana or warning against it, but it bothered me to hear the icon admit to doing it (even 15 years ago).

"I don't even know if I really savored every menage a trois I had. I don't want to do it all over again."


October 1, 2009

At the Crabapple Hotel...


... don't be cranky! Settle in and enjoy the conversation.

"I'm in a board meeting. Having a miscarriage. Thank goodness, because there's a fucked-up 3-week hoop-jump to have an abortion in Wisconsin."

Twittered the Brazen Careerist blogger Penelope Trunk. She got the attention she wanted:
The Wisconsin resident said that her attempts to schedule an abortion in that state turned into a bureaucratic nightmare when she attempted to go through her insurance provider. She subsequently made an appointment to have one in three weeks in Illinois. But within three days of the appointment, she miscarried, she said.

"I thought a lot of people would be responding about having to cross state lines to get an abortion, but a lot of it has also been [about] whether you should be sad about miscarriage," Trunk told ABCNews.com. "I think the issue surrounding the three-week wait is controversial, but not the relief."...

"If the public at large had to face up to the fact that not every miscarriage is met with a vale of tears, that could have a dramatic impact on how we regard pregnancy, abortion, and women's diverse experiences with our reproductive functions," wrote Amanda Marcotte in the women's issue blog, "XX Factor."
Oh, Amanda Marcotte is there with the commentary. I've had my issues with Marcotte over the years, but did you know that Penelope Trunk once interviewed me, then blogged that her attempt at interviewing me was a "bust" and proceeded to explain what she thought I said and got it completely wrong? When I blogged about that, she showed up in the comments and it didn't go too well.

As for Marcotte and Trunk's attitude toward abortion, it does not help the cause of abortion rights. Abortion rights are most firmly grounded in the recognition of the pregnant woman's serious search for meaning. As Justice O'Connor wrote in Planned Parenthood v. Casey:
Our cases recognize "the right of the individual, married or single, to be free from unwarranted governmental intrusion into matters so fundamentally affecting a person as the decision whether to bear or beget a child."... Our precedents "have respected the private realm of family life which the state cannot enter."... These matters, involving the most intimate and personal choices a person may make in a lifetime, choices central to personal dignity and autonomy, are central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. At the heart of liberty is the right to define one's own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life. Beliefs about these matters could not define the attributes of personhood were they formed under compulsion of the State.
If this process of finding meaning excludes respect for the potential life of the unborn, it becomes much harder to accept the woman's right to freely choose. Should Trunk (and Marcotte) pretend to care? It would be a good strategy for preserving abortion rights, I think. But shouldn't we want to hear the truth?

"We will be Live-Tweetin' the game and possibly stalking Emma Watson, so keep your eyes peeled for that, too!"

The actress/Brown student is stalked by Harvard students.
A succession of tweets posted on the [Harvard] Voice's Twitter account during the game followed, including, "Let's go Hermione! Lolz," a reference to Watson's character in "Harry Potter." It went on, "In enemy territory. Lookin for a certain witch," and, "WATSON FOUND. i repeat WATSON FOUND....

The Voice eventually attached an editor's note to its post of Watson's photo, saying, "There seems to be much ado about nothing over this photo and liveblog. Understand that these live tweets were made to be intentionally outrageous and overblown."
The Harvard students are almost surely not great artists, nor are they — I don't think — religionists, and yet they too feel a sense of privilege that lifts them up above the common people to whom the rules apply. It is the privilege that comes from being so much cleverer than the ordinary person. Clever with a famous stamp of cleverness — and good fortune — on you.

"Which living person do you most admire? Barack Obama... Who are your favorite writers? Ayn Rand..."

The infinite complexity of Ralph Lauren.

Brian David Mitchell — "evil, wicked, manipulative, stinky, slimy, selfish, not spiritual, not religious, not close to God" — raped Elizabeth Smart every day, repeatedly.

"She was 14 when she was abducted from her Salt Lake City home at knifepoint in the middle of the night. Shortly after her abduction, Smart said Mitchell took her to a mountain camp and performed a ceremony she said was intended to marry the two. 'After that, he proceeded to rape me,' Smart said. She said he held her captive with a cable attached to her leg that had a 10-foot reach. That line was attached to another cable strung between two trees. Smart said Mitchell plied her with alcohol and drugs to lower her resistance.... Smart was poised and composed while testifying for just under two hours."

Twice, in state court, Mitchell has been found incompetent to stand trial. Now, the question arises in federal court (where the charges are kidnapping and unlawful transportation of a minor).

Mitchell did not present art as his privilege to do what society criminalizes. He tapped into that other most grand and lofty source of transcendence: religion:
"Any time that I showed resistance or hesitation he turned to me and said, 'The Lord says you have to do this, you have to experience the lowest form of humanity to experience the highest,' " said Smart....

Meet Ardi.

Our 4.4-million-year-old (possibly direct) ancestor.

"Hollywood's defense of Polanski is no different than the Catholic Bishops' shifting of child predators from parish to parish."

Marci Hamilton comes on strong:
This society is so sick, that even Polanski's first known victim now takes his side. I don't even want to imagine how many from his circle have worked, over the years, to persuade her to abandon her own interest and that of other likely victims. What child sex abuse victim has a chance, in a society where the largest church and the titans of Hollywood side with the perpetrators and publicly say, "Let it go"? To the millions of child sex abuse survivors in the United States, I apologize for the heartless and self-serving adults who thought when you were young – and continue to think now — that your issues are not their own....

Let us be absolutely clear: Those shielding Polanski are choosing the sex abusers over children. It is an either-or choice.

Althouse goes to Washington.

An upcoming event.

"[Artist Richard] Prince wasn't inviting us to ogle [10-year-old Brooke Shields naked], but to see exploitation as symptomatic of what was happening in America in the mink-coated Reagan years."

Prince is an artist, excoriating "Spiritual America," and what is bad is not his display of a naked child, but... Reagan!

More on the Tate Museum controversy and British pornography laws, here:
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "Officers from the Obscene Publications Unit met with staff at the Tate Modern regarding an image. The officers have specialist experience in this field and are keen to work with gallery management to ensure that they do not inadvertently break the law or cause any offence to their visitors."

Prince's work is a photograph of a photograph. The original was taken by Garry Gross, a US photographer, in 1975. It was commissioned by Shields' mother, who was intent on turning her little girl into a child star and signed away the rights. The picture was later featured in a Playboy Press publication, and Gross planned to turn it into a poster....

In 1981, Shields made an unsuccessful attempt to buy back the negatives. A judge ruled that she was a "hapless victim of a contract... to which two grasping adults bound her". The legal battle caught the eye of Prince, and he describes Spiritual America as a commentary on Shields as an "abstract entity."
An abstract entity.

See? We have another morally superior artist man, claiming a privilege to use a young girl, because his use is injected with artistic sensibility. We should defer to the artist, who is here to critique us, the common people. Our attempts to do the same things he does would deserve punishment, because we would do them in our commonness, and that would be vulgar. Can't you see that's what Prince is revealing to you? Bow down, prole!

"The emerging belief among many establishment Republicans that Pawlenty is becoming the sole viable alternative to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney..."

Disrespecting Sarah.

In a violent emergency, who will step up? The men?

This was a topic of conversation here at Meadhouse last night, as we were watching "Day After Disaster" on the History Channel:
Against a morning sky, a mushroom cloud spirals heavenward. A nuclear bomb has detonated in the heart of Washington D.C., incinerating 15,000 residents in just 15 seconds. More than 50% of the population living within a 1/2 mile radius of the explosion is either dead or severely injured. The next 24 hours will determine whether the rest of the city lives or dies. To survive this horrific ordeal they will need a plan. And lucky for us--there is one. But will it work? For the first time on television, the Department of Homeland Security reveals the most detailed and comprehensive plan to save America should terrorists go nuclear. This chilling two-hour special delves into the complex and highly secretive world of disaster planning.
Okay. Cool TV show. A nice alternative to that godawful Ken Burns swill about the National Parks. (If you don't stop tinkling that piano, I'm going to advocate painting mustaches on Mount Rushmore.) We're only halfway through the nuclear aftermath, up to the part when there are suffering survivors in the radioactive wreckage and nothing like enough emergency workers. It made me flash back to 9/11, the image of so many men converging on NYC, propelled by a drive to save people. Who will step up? Men. But it's not always and only men. 

I thought of that conversation this morning, as I read this news story about a 21-year-old Pakistani woman, whose family's house was invaded by terrorists. She had been hiding under the bed, and they were beating her father (who had resisted their demands for food and lodging).
[S]he ran towards her father’s attacker and struck him with an axe. As he collapsed, she snatched his AK47 and shot him dead.

She also shot and wounded another militant as he made his escape.

Miss Kausar said she had never fired an assault rifle before but had seen it in films and could not stand by while her father was being hurt. “I couldn’t bear my father’s humiliation. If I’d failed to kill him, they would have killed us,” she said.
Rukhsana Kausar, setting a good example!

"Rape is - or should be - an art... And, as such, the privilege of committing it should be reserved for those few who are really superior individuals."

That's a quote from Hitchcock's movie "Rope" — with one word substitution: "rape" for "murder."
The few who are privileged to commit [rape] ... are those men of such intellectual and cultural superiority that they're above the traditional "moral" concepts. Good and evil, right and wrong, were invented for the ordinary, average man — the inferior man, because he needs them.
The scene, 9 minutes long, is embedded at Jac's blog, with commentary on Roman Polanski.

"Johanna wants to make communal vegetarian meals and keep chickens. Mariel Berger hopes for social, artistic and political collaborations. Harmony Hazard is into hula hooping, book groups and anarchism."

Look out, the NYT has a new style piece. It's very Stuff-White-People-Like. Very women-reader-pleasing. But I actually really love that first paragraph quoted above. Not that I'm not a woman reader. I am.

The writer is Penelope Green, and the subject is the new urban communal living. Actually, one of my favorite subjects is evolved hippiedom. So, I'm going to read all this:
... Ms. Berger and others seem to share the ideals of the old-fashioned communes of yore, except that their groups are tiny, urban-centric and linked to outside interests like fixing bikes or, here in New York City, membership in the Park Slope food co-op. And like communes, many collectives give themselves names: The House of Tiny Egos (a name that’s decidedly more evocative than, say, Findhorn, that of the hoary Scottish commune) is a five-person collective in a century-old brick bungalow in Bed-Stuy. Not only do they aim to remain of the world, they hope for a convenient location, one that’s near all the major subway stops....

Ms. Berger met Ms. Hazard, who had been living in the East Village in her mother’s town house and looking for work in “social justice”...
Looking for work in social justice... Why does that strike me as so funny? And another thing I like about Penelope Green is: She put "social justice" in quotes.
... she said, at a permaculture conference in Vermont last summer. Permaculture is big with the collective-living crowd...
... it’s a model for sustainable living that extrapolates principles from natural ecologies — like how different plants grow together for their mutual benefit — and applies them to other systems like, well, group housing.
Culture... as if it grows. Permanent... when even plants are not permanent. But why not have an ugly and silly word to denote your dreams?

I've had enough Hazard-Berger. On to the next exemplary communalists:
[I]n Philadelphia,... three roommates... needed five more.

Their advertisement on Craigslist [included:]

“You will probably not feel at home here unless anti-ableism, anti-ageism, anti-classism, anti-racism, consent, trans-positivity and queer-positivity, etc., are very important to you,” the ad read.
Very important? Not just important. I love the way they didn't reject the non-like-minded. They just threatened to make them feel uncomfortable. Appropriate, for folks so in love with the prefix "anti-."

One of the housemates is "Gauge, 30, who is transitioning from he to she and works in an S&M store, and also declined to give a last name. ('My family has no idea where I am — or if I’m even alive — and I’d like to keep it that way,' she said.)" No last name, but her first name is Gauge. They'll never suspect it's their Gauge.
Ms. Feigelson explained that they were being “super-selective,” because an activist house, which is what she hopes theirs will be, she said, “can create tension.”
Yeesh. And ha ha. Penelope Green is, I think, totally trashing them... and the whole "activist" self-image.

At this point in the article, Green consults Helen Fisher," a biological anthropologist at Rutgers University and a relationship expert (she is the scientific adviser to Chemistry.com, a spinoff of the dating site Match.com)." Fisher reads these ridiculous Craigslist ads and says, not what I would say — i.e., these people seem way too annoying to try to live with — but:
The idealized, small-scale communities they described reminded her of the hunting and gathering bands of pre-history. So she was a bit concerned that their creators didn’t seem to be searching for individuals with different skill sets. Dr. Fisher, whose new book, “Why Him? Why Her?” explores the neurochemistry of gender differences, concluded that the ad writers were by and large “estrogen-expressives, or what I call Negotiators,” which she defined as “compassionate, verbal and emotive,” as well as “Explorers, meaning those expressive of the dopamine system, or people who are energetic, creative, politically liberal.”
Negotiators? Compassionate? The hell! Could you please squirt a little more buy-my-book juice into your analysis, Dr. Fisher? Do people who are politically liberal really deserve to be brought down in this queasy sea of estrogen?

I think most people — most people I'd be at all interested in living with — would read this article and dream only of a solitary cell to live and be left alone in.

And, I should add, I never wanted to live in a hippie commune either, back in the old days.

"Former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis B. Butler was nominated by President Barack Obama Wednesday for a federal judgeship."

Congratulations to our alumnus and colleague!

September 30, 2009

At the Chrysanthemum Hotel...


... come in, luxuriate, sprawl about, and tell me everything...

"The French government has dropped its public support for Roman Polanski, saying the 76-year-old director 'is neither above nor beneath the law.'"

"The move follows a backlash against a campaign for Polanski's release, with several leading European politicians and cultural figures refusing to join."

"Folks at the Wisconsin Tourism Federation couldn't possibly have seen how the Internet would change the lingo when it was established in 1979...."

WTF? Stop laughing at Wisconsin!

Why slam those of us with great health care benefits? We worked for it. We earned it. And we're the middle-class people Obama said he wasn't going to hurt.

Mickey Kaus writes:
Charles Lane argues that unions are now a "significant" impediment to "sensible health care reform" because of their tooth-and-nail fight against taxing "Cadillac" health plans. ... Even if you think (as I do) that the unions have a point when they argue they gave up wage increases in order to get lavish health benefits, isn't the answer to give them five years (or until their next contract negotiation) to rebalance the mix to what it would be in a world in which employer health benefits didn't go untaxed? ... If the problem for powerful unions is they no longer have quite the clout they used to have to extract wage increases in exchange for giving up "luxury" health benefits ... well, that's their problem. ...
But if we with the "Cadillac" health plans have to start paying taxes on our benefits, that's a huge middle class tax increase, and we were promised that wouldn't happen. Rebalancing the pay package doesn't save us from that tax hit — even assuming our employers would reshuffle things. Plus we love our great health benefits, and we were told if we liked them, we'd get to keep them. How is it fair to change the rules on us after we worked so hard to get what we have? The Democrats, including Obama, got elected by saying "middle class" over and over again. They never said they were going to provide for the less fortunate at our expense, and I don't see how they would have gotten elected if they had.

IN THE COMMENTS: Ari Tai said:
They could go the other direction, a 100% tax deduction for all medical expenses (including insurance payments).
Yes, that would be appropriate. In fact, why not just do that and forget all the other chaotic changes? See how that works out.

Guns and federalism!

Cert. grant!

Gore Vidal turns against — among other things — Barack Obama.

The Times of London asked how he thought Obama was doing:
“Dreadfully. I was hopeful. He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters. He’s acting as if Afghanistan is the magic talisman: solve that and you solve terrorism.” America should leave Afghanistan, he says. “We’ve failed in every other aspect of our effort of conquering the Middle East or whatever you want to call it.” The “War on Terror” was “made up”, Vidal says. “The whole thing was PR, just like ‘weapons of mass destruction’....

Vidal originally became pro-Obama because he grew up in “a black city” (meaning Washington), as well as being impressed by Obama’s intelligence. “But he believes the generals. Even Bush knew the way to win a general was to give him another star. Obama believes the Republican Party is a party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred — religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists.”

Another notable Obama mis-step has been on healthcare reform. “He f***ed it up. I don’t know how because the country wanted it. We’ll never see it happen.” As for his wider vision: “Maybe he doesn’t have one, not to imply he is a fraud. He loves quoting Lincoln and there’s a great Lincoln quote from a letter he wrote to one of his generals in the South after the Civil War. ‘I am President of the United States. I have full overall power and never forget it, because I will exercise it’. That’s what Obama needs — a bit of Lincoln’s chill.” Has he met Obama? “No,” he says quietly, “I’ve had my time with presidents.” Vidal raises his fingers to signify a gun and mutters: “Bang bang.” He is referring to the possibility of Obama being assassinated. “Just a mysterious lone gunman lurking in the shadows of the capital,” he says in a wry, dreamy way.

Today religious mania has infected the political bloodstream and America has become corrosively isolationist, he says. “Ask an American what they know about Sweden and they’d say ‘They live well but they’re all alcoholics’. In fact a Scandinavian system could have benefited us many times over.” Instead, America has “no intellectual class” and is “rotting away at a funereal pace. We’ll have a military dictatorship fairly soon, on the basis that nobody else can hold everything together. Obama would have been better off focusing on educating the American people. His problem is being over-educated. He doesn’t realise how dim-witted and ignorant his audience is. Benjamin Franklin said that the system would fail because of the corruption of the people and that happened under Bush.”
Presented without comment. Say what you will.

I have a shred of sympathy for the Hollywood celebrities who defend Roman Polanski.

I think these people are not really very politically savvy, though they want to look engaged and good. They're surrounded by people who tell them what views to reflect and they got a clear message that made them think this was another easy one. And now, the backlash comes. Oh, poor celebrities! They just tried to say what their all-encompassing environment made them feel was good to say. Have a little compassion. It's not like they raped a kid.


Here's the NYT editorial:
From across Europe, nearly 100 representatives of the entertainment industry, including Pedro Almodóvar and Wim Wenders, signed a petition declaring themselves “dismayed” by the arrest, especially since it happened at the time of the Zurich Film Festival....

In Europe, the prevailing mood — at least among those with access to the news media — seemed to be that Mr. Polanski has already “atoned for the sins of his young years,” as Jacek Bromski, the chief of the Polish Filmmakers Association, put it.

We disagree strongly, and we were glad to see other prominent Europeans beginning to point out that this case has nothing to do with Mr. Polanski’s work or his age. It is about an adult preying on a child. Mr. Polanski pleaded guilty to that crime and must account for it.
Wow... atoned for the sins of his young years. Polanski was 44 when he raped the 13-year-old girl. 44! Young years! What a long long time some people would give men to run wild!

Sarah Palin's book is called "Going Rogue."

Why "rogue" and not "maverick"? "Maverick," of course, was John McCain's word, which Palin adopted and used in her speeches as she ran alongside him.

Here's a dictionary definition for "maverick":
1 : an unbranded range animal; especially : a motherless calf
2 : an independent individual who does not go along with a group or party
Here's a dictionary definition for "rogue":
1 : vagrant, tramp
2 : a dishonest or worthless person : scoundrel
3 : a mischievous person : scamp
4 : a horse inclined to shirk or misbehave
5 : an individual exhibiting a chance and usually inferior biological variation
"Rogue" has way more negative meanings in the dictionary, but "maverick" is the word long applied to John McCain, and for Palin, it can't signify her independence properly. Both words are applied to animals, and here the difference is good for Palin. The maverick animal is unbranded or motherless — unowned. This is a fate that falls upon the poor creature. The "rogue" is specifically a horse that resists being controlled by others. It is exhibiting its own will, and not the victim of happenstance. Now, fate touched Palin when McCain choose her, and she did get into trouble when she exhibited will, and the maverick's people called her "rogue":
The title of Palin's book is apparently a reference to stories that came out before Election Day that advisors to GOP Presidential Nominee John McCain felt Palin was "going rogue" and not following the advice and message of those running the campaign.
The idea of misbehaving works particularly well for a woman, especially a woman setting herself apart from the men. If we speak of a man misbehaving — being a rogue — we think of him straying sexually. But a misbehaving women — in my book — sounds like a great feminist: someone who thumbs her nose at the patriarchy.

And then there's Rogue, the X-Men character — "The more Rogue used her mutant power, the more her mind became filled with fragmentary psychic echoes of the people she absorbed." So the title is going to have a completely different feeling to the millions of people who know the word from the comics.


You can help support this blog if you use this link to buy "Going Rogue."

Inwood on Inwood.

Longtime commenter Inwood comments on last weekend's post about Inwood. 

"All that's left, then, is that he's been extraordinarily burdened by traumatic deaths in his family."

"You could say the same of Vice President Joe Biden, but I don't think anyone wants to give him license to go on a crime spree."

A 14-year-old girl died a few hours after getting the cervical cancer vaccine.

"The virus is often transmitted through sexual intercourse and authorities wanted to give the vaccine to girls as young as 13 so they are protected by the time they become sexually active."

Isn't it strange how we are completely outraged by a man having sex with a 13-year-old girl and at the same time we've given up on keeping 13-year-old girls from having sex?

Cervical cancer is a serious disease, but it's not something that suddenly strikes children like polio or whooping cough. There is some conscious mind involved in the decision to have sexual intercourse. Why must the vaccine be foisted at such an early age on girls who might prefer to avoid sexual intercourse with multiple partners, at least until they are older, and who can make a decision when they are 18 whether they want the vaccine or the risk of cancer? I don't see the justification for treating young girls this way.

"One female UW-Madison student spoke out and said that by renovating the park, the homeless would be driven out, no help would be provided to them and they would have nowhere else to go."

Why, in a city the size of Madison, which has numerous parks of all sizes, is a tiny little park on the most important commercial street downtown, the only place for homeless people to go?
The student also said she feared that if an ATM were installed in the proposed visitors center, which is part of the plan, then the homeless would be forced to panhandle farther away from the park because of a law prohibiting panhandling within a certain distance of an ATM.
So there you have it. "Go" means panhandle. The student is sympathetic with the people who want to panhandle, and presumably they like to be on a street that is teeming with pedestrians — which State Street is because of all the hard work and money business people have put into the shops and restaurants. State Street, I'd say, is one of the best places in the world for pedestrians, and yet you cannot walk down the street — unless you strategically switch sides along the way – without being asked for money by a man shaking a cup. Now, many, many students, especially the young ladies, are soft-hearted. They'll put dollars into those cups. Lord knows why students have that much money — and why they're not analytical enough to see that it would do more good to spend whatever extra cash they might have in one of the stores or cafés.

ADDED: Before you call me a sexist, let me add that "especially the young ladies" is based on years of observation of who gives money to the panhandlers on State Street. I am projecting a reason why people give money to panhandlers. I tend to think that it is soft-heartedness that moves people — of either sex — to give money to panhandlers. It's simple, spontaneous charity that is disaggregated from any larger economic or moral analysis. It could also be feelings of guilt or shame or a desire to please God or out of rebellion against parents who've told them not to give money to panhandlers — parents or other authority figure, such as law professors.

September 29, 2009

Now, it's time to curl up together in the Orange and Black Inn.


Sleep tight.


Mmm mmm mmm. Like Halloween candy, no?

It's good to know that fighting to win is something Obama passionately believes in.

Michelle Obama:
First lady Michelle Obama vowed Monday to "take no prisoners" as she and her husband launch an unprecedented bid for Chicago's 2016 Olympic bid....

"It's a battle -- we're going to win -- take no prisoners," the first lady said with a smile at a roundtable discussion with reporters in the White House State Dining Room....
On another front, asked to "define victory in Afghanistan," Barack Obama famously said:
I'm always worried about using the word "victory" because, you know, it invokes this notion of Emperor Hirohito coming down and signing a surrender to MacArthur.
(Emperor Hirohito came down?)

The Philosopher's Petition: "Apprehended like a common terrorist Saturday evening, September 26, as he came to receive a prize for his entire body of work, Roman Polanski now sleeps in prison."

Begins French Philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy, who is collecting the signatures of "writers and artists." I put "writers and artists" in quotes, because the list includes, presumably as "artists," at least one actor and one fashion designer. If "artists" is a comprehensive term, why aren't writers "artists"? But I delay. On with the rest of the petition:
He risks extradition to the United States for an episode that happened years ago...
And he fled! That's why time has passed. He's avoided the jurisdiction. It's not as if prosecutors let the case go stale.
...and whose principal plaintiff...
Plaintiff! You might talk like that in France, but here in America, that's the language of torts. And we are talking about crime.
... repeatedly and emphatically declares she has put it behind her and abandoned any wish for legal proceedings.
And how much money was she paid to settle the case? What were the terms of the settlement? Do you approve — as a general rule to be applied to all — of dropping criminal charges whenever the victim has been moved to closure?  It is the nature of criminal law that it is a crime against the people, and not merely a wrong against the victim. Do you argue against that, philosopher? Why? Give reasons! Your assertions are not enough — philosopher.
Seventy-six years old...
Yes, he's that old because he fled and because he was protected in other countries that apparently did not take rape so seriously, at least not when it was committed by a great artist.
... a survivor of Nazism and of Stalinist persecutions in Poland...
If a life of suffering excuses crimes, many, maybe most, of our criminals would escape prison. Wouldn't the Nazis themselves have cried about their own suffering in the years preceding their rise to power? Philosopher, do you approve — as a general rule to be applied to all — that those who have suffered earlier in their lives should not be punished for the serious, violent crimes that they commit? Explain, in abstract terms that meet the standards of the discipline of philosophy, why you think this is so.
Roman Polanski risks spending the rest of his life in jail for deeds which would be beyond the statute-of-limitations in Europe.
We have statutes of limitations here in America too. Do yours absolve fugitives? Philosopher, do you absolve fugitives who succeed in evading capture while a period of years passes? Would you do that for everyone? For Nazis? Explain your reasons in terms that meet the standards of the discipline of philosophy, so we can judge.
We ask the Swiss courts to free him immediately and not to turn this ingenious filmmaker into a martyr of a politico-legal imbroglio that is unworthy of two democracies like Switzerland and the United States. Good sense, as well as honor, require it.
Do you assert that an artist ought to receive special treatment? Would an ingenious Nazi deserve to live out his life in peace? What does the special treatment of artists have to do with democracy? Explain what ingeniousness, filmmaking, and democracy have to do with your proposed rule.

Bernard-Henri Lévy, you present yourself as a philosopher. I would like to honor philosophy. Back up your petition with a philosophical argument that we can understand and critique.

IN THE COMMENTS: Peter Hoh said:
So in Bernard-Henri Lévy's world, there are common terrorists. One must presume that some other terrorists are uncommon. Perhaps some are extraordinary. I wonder how one can tell the difference?
Surely, the 9/11 attacks were uncommon. In fact, they were ingenious.

Let's not forget what the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen said on September 17, 2001:
... Stockhausen...  called the attack on the World Trade Center ''the greatest work of art that is possible in the whole cosmos.'' Extending the analogy, he spoke of human minds achieving ''something in one act'' that ''we couldn't even dream of in music,'' in which ''people practice like crazy for 10 years, totally fanatically, for a concert, and then die.'' Just imagine, he added: ''You have people who are so concentrated on one performance, and then 5,000 people are dispatched into eternity, in a single moment. I couldn't do that. In comparison with that, we're nothing as composers.''
So, Bernard-Henri Lévy, by your standard, we should leave Osama Bin Laden alone?

"Creepy Ad Watch"?

That's what Andrew Sullivan calls this. I disagree.

I think it's totally clear and effective. It's not too scary. It's engaging and memorable. Don't knock the PSA. I mean, go ahead and laugh if you're beyond the age when you need this kind of help, but the only thing that makes this creepy is that you know there really are people who would trick kids this way.

ADDED: Here's a different approach:

At the Polka Dot Café...


... think what you like.

"I winced when I saw the wooden railroad plank being smacked against Derrion Albert’s head."

"My stomach turned when I saw the five other young black men stomp on Albert. By the end, my eyes welled up with tears when I realized what I saw: A 16-year-old child beat to death. No doubt it was difficult for me to get through the entire 2:27 of footage, even with parts blurred out, and I’m sure it will be difficult for others to watch as well, but the fact remains: We need to watch. We need to watch and not turn away because as history has taught us, it’s the only way we’re going to learn."

I don't believe it’s the only way. Go ahead and look if that's what you think you need to care. But how can you not already understand that other people are real?
Back in the 1960s, we only needed to see footage of black protesters being beaten, hosed down and attacked by police dogs once to understand how bad racism was down South.
That's a different use of "only." It is enough to see pictures sometimes (though pictures, even moving pictures, can deceive).  But that doesn't mean that pictures are the only way to learn what evil is, what suffering is. And we fall short if only pictures work for us. Indeed, we are open to manipulation if that is our sole method of learning.

I'm reminded of words from another context:
"Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."

"Sadly, Nancy."

The closing on an email that reads:
I so love reading your blog, and often so love reading the lively comments. But then there are the times when reading the comments that I feel like I am looking into an unflushed toilet. Does it have to be this way?

Yes, change has come.

We have been changed into creepy automatons.

All hail, education.

Senator ACORN.

"Franken won by 312 votes. ACORN claimed to have registered 48,000 new Minnesota voters. If just 1% were ineligible but cast ballots, or had ballots cast for them illegally, and survived the recount process ... that's 480 votes, almost certainly overwhelmingly cast for Franken. ..."

Mind if I quote Rush Limbaugh again?

I was just listening to the podcast of yesterday's show, and this just jumped out at me:
I'm confident that America has not changed as Obama believes it has or wants to make it change, and that this can be beat back. If I didn't think that, I'd chuck it. And I'd spend the rest of my days making sure the last check I wrote bounced.
He emits an enigmatic chuckle at this point. It seemed to mean ah, how well I know myself... or perhaps just I'm so funny... or maybe death, it comes for us all....

Dialogue about struggling with clamshell packaging: "It was entombed!" "Just get a box cutter!" “What am I, Mohammed Atta, I gotta get a box cutter?”

9/11 humor — in with the (profuse) blow job jokes on "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

Are we okay with this... now, after 8 years? I must admit, I laughed a lot.

Are Hollywood types defending Roman Polanski because they love him as a fellow artist or because of their own pedophilia?

Allahpundit trashes the Hollywood crowd for rushing to the defense of Roman Polanski.
Magically transformed, by Hollywood libertinism and douchebaggery, into an honest-to-goodness victim who’s being persecuted by the evil empire for, um, forcibly sodomizing a 13-year-old and then skipping bail.... ... Polanski and his cretinous supporters don’t care if he’s guilty or not. They want him to walk free, in the name of “art,” without another word spoken on the subject.
Is it just art, or is there a particular love in Hollywood film art of the forbidden love between the adult and child?

I thought I saw a pedophilia trend in the most honored films of 2008. I talked about that in this blog post...
I'm seeing all the well-reviewed year-end movies, and there's an awful lot of wrong-age sex. "Doubt" is about a priest accused of molesting children. "Benjamin Button," with its backwards aging character, had scenes of an old man in love with a young girl and an old woman in love with a toddler. "The Reader" had a 36-year-old woman seducing a 15-year-old boy. "Milk" had a man in his 40s pursuing relationships with much younger (and more fragile) men. "Slumdog Millionaire" shows a young teenage girl being sold for sex. I say that Hollywood is delivering pedophiliac titillation with the deniability of artistic pretension.
... and in this Bloggingheads with Glenn Loury:

Think about it.

Richard Cohen says "Let Polanski Go — But First Let Me At Him."

Absurd macho posturing from the liberal (?) columnist:
It’s alright with me if Roman Polanski is freed by the Swiss authorities who have detained him at the request of the United States -- if first I get a chance to bust him one in the mouth....
Ugh. This is on the level of hoping someone sent to prison gets raped. You think it's cute to flaunt your violent fantasies? I'll bet that elsewhere this guy acts as if it's important to follow the law, yet he loves the idea of punishment without due process whenever it jibes with the ebb and flow of his emotions.

I'll bet he's opposed to torture, yet he's in love with the idea of hurting someone as a way to express outrage. I'll bet he thinks that the locution "bust him one in the mouth" makes it man-to-man and somehow okay. Indeed, it's perfectly apt... to punch a 76-year-old man in the face.

Such is the fantasy of an aging major-media male opinionator. Look, either Polanski deserves to be put in prison or he does not. Take a position. Your fantasy is of committing a crime for which you would deserve to be put in prison. Yes, yes, of course, you'd never do it. Which is why you are a big hypocritical pussy.


This post is about the Washington Post Richard Cohen, not my ex-husband Richard Cohen. Around here, the WaPo Richard Cohen is called Richard Hasn't-Slept-With-Althouse Cohen.)

"Cocoon, the fish and meat maker, is the winner of the Electrolux Design Lab 2009 competition."

"The appliance will supposedly grow meat and fish from prepackaged 'genetically modified' meat and fish.... Apparently the genetically modified prepackaged food, can be 'grown' in the cocoon during cooking, like microwave popcorn.  The process isn’t like the food generators on Star Trek. It doesn’t create food out of thin air, nor will it clone food from natural fish and meat sources.  If it isn’t the genetically modified meat or fish, you can’t grow it."

You can't actually buy the Cocoon yet. But would you want one? ("Cocoon" suggests we're going to be eating insects!)

It reminds me of "Chicken Little" — "a huge mass of cultured chicken breast, was kept alive by algae skimmed by nearly-slave labor from multistory towers of ponds surrounded by mirrors to focus the sunlight onto the ponds" in "The Space Merchants," by Frederik Pohl (w/CM Kornbluth). Here's the description in the book:
Scum-skimming wasn't hard to learn. You got up at dawn. You gulped a breakfast sliced not long ago from Chicken Little and washed it down with Coffiest. You put on your coveralls and took the cargo net up to your tier. In blazing noon from sunrise to sunset you walked your acres of shallow tanks crusted with algae. If you walked slowly, every thirty seconds or so you spotted a patch at maturity, bursting with yummy carbohydrates. You skimmed the patch with your skimmer and slung it down the well, where it would be baled, or processed into glucose to feed Chicken Little, who would be sliced and packed to feed people from Baffinland to Little America.
And click on this link for a nice list of food in science fiction, with clickable details. You mayb be interested in the Butcher Plant, Carniculture Vat, ChickieNobs, Pseudoflesh, the Yeast-Beast Machine, etc. etc.

September 28, 2009

For some reason, people are interested in what Andy Williams thinks.

This story — "Andy Williams accuses Barack Obama of following Marxist theory" — is featured at Memeorandum and Drudge. Andy Williams is an 81-year-old singer. Here's what he was like in 1966:

In case you weren't around then and can't quite figure it out, let me assure you that this sort of thing was disturbingly square at the time. I'm laughing at it now, but I remember that back then, it would actually make me angry.

No one in the 60s, when he was popular in some quarters, would have cared what Andy Williams thought about politics. I can't imagine why anyone cares now. Really, that linked story looked like it belonged in The Onion.

Deliberate eggcorns.

Hey, I got linked by Language Log! I wish I could produce what has been identified as a variation on an eggcorn to celebrate the occasion.

IN THE COMMENTS: XWL fulfilled my wish:
Congratulations, you got Lincoln Logged!

(an eggcorn for "linked on log")

(it's a stretch, but I used to like those things)

At the Waterlily Café...


... you can rise above the petty worries of a Monday afternoon.

I miss Carl Sagan.

I miss Carl Sagan. I miss Carl Sagan.


For one thing, I don't see Tyson writing something like this:

There is a very nice self-titering aspect to cannabis. Each puff is a very small dose; the time lag between inhaling a puff and sensing its effect is small; and there is no desire for more after the high is there. I think the ratio, R, of the time to sense the dose taken to the time required to take an excessive dose is an important quantity. R is very large for LSD (which I've never taken) and reasonably short for cannabis. Small values of R should be one measure of the safety of psychedelic drugs. When cannabis is legalized, I hope to see this ratio as one of he parameters printed on the pack. I hope that time isn't too distant; the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.
(Read the whole thing — and don't assume I'm endorsing it. I'm not.)


Oh my God, Becky
Look at his cerebellum, it is so big!...

"Unless Obama learns to rely less on charm, rhetoric, and good intentions and more on picking his spots and winning in political combat, he's not going to be reelected...."

"The president's problem isn't that he is too visible; it's the lack of content in what he says when he keeps showing up on the tube. Obama can seem a mite too impressed with his own aura, as if his presence on the stage is the Answer. There is, at times, a self-referential (even self-reverential) tone in his big speeches. They are heavily salted with the words 'I' and 'my.' (He used the former 11 times in the first few paragraphs of his address to the U.N. last week.) Obama is a historic figure, but that is the beginning, not the end, of the story."

The mainstreamers are starting to regret the way they led the poor man on.

Proposal for a new kind of slang following the pattern "metal fork" for "metaphor."

The idea is to replace boring abstract words with very specific concrete things that sound pretty close to the original word. I'd like to build on the single example of "metal fork" for "metaphor."

This idea is based on a recent mishearing. Did I hear "metaphor" and think I heard "metal fork" or was it the other way around? If you want the answer to that question, imagine the breakfast table conversations chez Meadhouse and cull through all the many things that have been discussed on this blog since last January.

Midmorning repose.


Anne Applebaum says: Roman Polanski "did commit a crime, but he has paid for the crime in many, many ways..."

"... In notoriety, in lawyers' fees, in professional stigma. He could not return to Los Angeles to receive his recent Oscar. He cannot visit Hollywood to direct or cast a film."

What she doesn't say:
Applebaum failed to mention that her husband is a Polish foreign minister who is lobbying for Polanski’s case to be dismissed....
Incredible! We're talking about a Washington Post columnist here, who used the corporate pages to write a piece decrying "The Outrageous Arrest of Roman Polanski."

But is that any more absurd than saying he's suffered enough because of all the burdens on his career? Think what this means, generalizing the opinion into an abstract rule. It means that those with high professional standing do not need the usual criminal punishments given to individuals who have very little in this world. Ordinary people must be punished in prison, but big shots are already punished heavily by the mere revelation of their crimes and therefore should be relieved of much or all of the usual prison sentence. Care to sign on to that rule? 

IN THE COMMENTS: Mortimer Brezny says:
I used to agree with Ann that punishment ought to be equal. But then I realized that sympathy is unequal. If you are poor, you are pitied. If you are rich, you are not. No matter if you were born poor and worked diligently over years to build a business that provides you with your present level of wealth. No matter if you were born rich and worked hard to sustain and grow the wealth with which you started. This imbalance, of course, leads to an unfair resentment and hatred of the rich. The poor can get away with all sorts of horrors against the rich and the successful, the talented and the intelligent, and when the favored sons strike back, they are chastened. That is wrong. Equal means equal. If the rich are to be despised and the poor are able to strike them on a daily basis in innumerable ways, then the rich ought to be able to strike back. And the punishments should reflect the toll of the daily indignities. I say punish the poor even worse. Make them suffer for their petty hatred of the rich, for their nasty, impish wrongful jabs at the rich on a everyday basis.

And let us not forget about contribution. Ayn Rand may have been a loon, but the truth of the matter is some create wealth and some do not. Those who create wealth -- of whatever kind; art, business, science, political wisdom -- are rare and deserve our protection and admiration. Those who destroy wealth, those who pilfer from the coffers of others, they deserve nothing but our contempt.

"Now watch what you say or they'll be calling you a radical, liberal, fanatical, criminal."

"Won't you sign up your name, we'd like to feel you're acceptable, respectable, presentable, a vegetable!"

Would you do this if you were me?

Here's an email request from a major mainstream media reporter:
I’m working on a future series on Talk Radio. One or more of the pieces will focus on conservative talk shows so I’m looking for people who are avid conservative talk radio listeners and for the most part support the views of the radio hosts that they listen to. I read one of your blogs where you mentioned listening to Rush Limbaugh and I’d like to chat with you. (http://althouse.blogspot.com/2008/10/what-rush-limbaugh-had-to-say-about.html)
How do you picture that playing out?

What's your favorite slang expression for sexual intercourse?

Mine is in this performance:

It's not as clear there as on the original record, which I think he's lip-syncing to here. But I'm not embedding that video because it's really blurry... and because Al Green is has been seriously abused by his fashion stylist. Or do you think 1973 was such a crazy time that a man would get up in the morning and put that on? I know men like their shorts... but...

Evil giraffe...

... gets me.

"Is obsession with death a guy thing?"

Is obsession with death a bald guy thing?

Just kidding. To stave off the fear of death? Or is that not a problem for me, because I'm a girl?

Watch for the way Critchley says "love" and then sniffs. It's right at the end of the clip. That's a big clue.

Carry on.

Disorienting dinner.

The company was sublime, but, seriously, is this what you expect in a stylish-looking Mexican restaurant when you order shrimp fajitas?


And when you open the door to leave, is this what belongs on the sidewalk?


It looks more like — as one of my tablemates said — what belongs on the rim of a margarita glass. A giant's margarita glass.

Hail. It could be worse:

Shrimp can be worse too:

September 27, 2009

At the Middle/Far/Closeup Café...



DSC04519 copy

... you can be as friendly or standoffish as you want.

Ooh, I'm going to lie down here!


Meade takes a photo, after invoking what Neil Young song?

Is it wrong for me to wait too long before writing about what the NYT public editor has written about why the NYT took so long to write about the ACORN story?

Somehow I, a lone blogger, feel that it is wrong for me to wait, so how absurd it feels to me that the Times, with all its resources, waited as long as it did.

You can read what the public editor, Clark Hoyt, has to say on the subject here. Note the URL. I love the way the URL generator coined the word "pubed" out of public editor. It's not a new coinage though. Urban Dictionary has already defined "pube" — usually a noun — as a verb. Definition #5:
to place a hair from the pubic male region on a piece of food to be served to a customer usually though not necessarily, by a worker of the establishment

"i was pubed last night by the guys at jj's" (past tense)
There's got to be an analogy here, but I will move back to Hoyt's gentle probing of his employer. I'll skip a lot of the details, which you either know or can read at the first link. I'll just quote a couple things I want to comment on.
Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire. But others do, and a newspaper like The Times needs to be alert to them or wind up looking clueless or, worse, partisan itself.
Some editors told me they were not immediately aware of the Acorn videos on Fox, YouTube and a new conservative Web site called BigGovernment.com.
And Hoyt yelled "You lie!" No, he probably didn't, but come on. They had to be lying. I'd prefer to think they were lying. How could they be that out of the loop? It takes 2 seconds to glance at Drudge and Memeorandum. If you have any interest in current events, it's harder not to do than to do.

And what's with "Some stories, lacking facts, never catch fire." Isn't the Times in the business of looking for facts? A great newspaper should be setting the "fires"  — breaking stories — not covering stories that other people have broken, which is what the Times was left doing with ACORN.
[O]n Sept. 16, nearly a week after the first video was posted, The Times took note of the controversy, under the headline, “Conservatives Draw Blood From Acorn, Favored Foe.”...
By stressing the politics, the article irritated more readers. “A suspicious person might see an attempt to deflect criticism of Acorn by highlighting how those pesky conservatives are at it again,” said Albert Smith of Chatham, N.J.

I thought politics was emphasized too much, at the expense of questions about an organization whose employees in city after city participated in outlandish conversations about illegal and immoral activities....
Emphasizing the politics was a way of pretending that the earlier story wasn't news fit to print. It wasn't so embarrassingly late to be talking about the politics of it all.
[The reporter Scott] Shane said he thought it was correct to approach the Acorn sting as a political story. Absent that aspect, he said, the discussion of prostitution by low-level employees was not compelling news.

Some conservatives think O’Keefe and Giles were doing work that should have been done by the mainstream media. But most news organizations consider such tactics unethical — The Times specifically prohibits reporters from misrepresenting themselves or making secret recordings. And the two were sloppy with facts.
All that may be true, but why hasn't the Times ever investigated ACORN in all these years? Why was it left to a couple of quirky amateurs to bring some light to a huge shady operation. Follow great journalistic ethics and investigate some things and bring us some facts.
Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news, agreed with me that the paper was “slow off the mark,” and blamed “insufficient tuned-in-ness to the issues that are dominating Fox News and talk radio.” She and Bill Keller, the executive editor, said last week that they would now assign an editor to monitor opinion media and brief them frequently on bubbling controversies. Keller declined to identify the editor, saying he wanted to spare that person “a bombardment of e-mails and excoriation in the blogosphere.”
So you're assigning somebody to get the clues you've been too lame to pick up, and yet you don't want people to be able to send him clues because — you've got to be kidding! — he'd get too much email. Who with any level of connectedness has not learned to deal with a ton of email?! Come on. I want to just yell "bullshit!," but I'll spell it out. I get 100s of email messages every day, and it's not even my job to pick up clues. I deal with it, and it's not even that hard. You have an email address that is different from the one you use with people you know and trust, and you scan the first lines as they appear in the inbox. From that alone, you can see what's going on, and you can choose to click through to whatever you want and spend as little as half a second reading it if you are any good. Damn, if your clue-getter isn't able to do that, you might as well give up and write more stories about what middle-aged moms in Park Slope are saying about popsicles and iPhones.

And as for the desire to avoid excoriation in the blogosphere... have a nice day.

Roman Polanski is now in custody for having sex with a 45-year-old woman.

He did that that 32 years ago, when she was 13. You would think that by now it would be — if not forgotten or even forgiven — at least irrelevant. He's avoided capture for so long as he's lolled about in Europe, collecting kudos, and he's gotten so old — 76 — that it seems as though the reprehensible crime only exists in the sealed-away past.

And now that another woman — a 61-year-old woman, who, when she was 21 (not as young as 13), murdered his long-ago wife and his never-born child — has died, that other world seems impossibly distant and deceased. His victimizer Susan Atkins is dead, and the woman he victimized, Samantha Geimer, has settled with him. It might be part of the secret settlement, but Geimer does not want the old criminal charges pursued.

Nonetheless, the Swiss police arrested Roman Polanski when he touched down in Zurich to pick up another prize. Why did that happen?
"There was a valid arrest request and we knew when he was coming," ministry spokesman Guido Balmer told The Associated Press. "That's why he was taken into custody."
Oh! There is memory, and there is law, and you cannot rise above it, not by extreme suffering or extreme old age, not by great fame or great accomplishment, and not by profuse reconciliation with the victim.

Roman Polanski has been called to account at long last.

"What makes these tweets significant is that they were written by Raju Narisetti, one of The Post’s top editors."


Shut up, little Twitter bird!
As one of two managing editors, he’s responsible for The Post's features content and oversees its Web site. But he also sits in on news meetings and occasionally gets involved in “hard” news.

Narisetti said today he now realizes that his tweets, although intended for a private audience of about 90 friends and associates, were unwise.

They were “personal” observations, he said. “But I also realize that... seeing that the managing editor of The Post is weighing in on this, it’s a clear perception problem.”

He has closed his Twitter account.
What were Narasetti's tewible tweets? Stuff like:
“We can incur all sorts of federal deficits for wars and what not... But we have to promise not to increase it by $1 for healthcare reform? Sad.”
“Sen Byrd (91) in hospital after he falls from ‘standing up too quickly.” How about term limits. Or retirement age. Or commonsense to prevail.”
He hopped on some sensitive toes. Or he expressed himself — gasp! — personally — in a medium that is all about the personal touch. But he wielded the corporate media label, and his being opinionated undercuts his corporate media function.
In today’s hyper-sensitive political environment, Narisetti’s tweets could be seen as one of The Post’s top editors taking sides on the question of whether a health-care reform plan must be budget neutral. On Byrd, his comments could be construed as favoring term limits or mandatory retirement for aging lawmakers.
Could be seen? Well, duh! His ability to ignore that (and the Post's continuing ability to toy with the possibility that he didn't express an opinion) could be construed as believing that we readers are naive and dumb.
Many readers already view The Post with suspicion and believe that the personal views of its reporters and editors influence the coverage. The tweets could provide ammunition.
Ha ha. So you were hoping to fly under the radar, but you've started to worry that we're on to you? And so, you need to take precautions. But of course, you not only have opinions, you want to take advantage of the promotion that can be wrung out of Twitter and other new media that threatens to get out in front of you. What a dilemma!
Narisetti’s decision to stop posting coincides with today’s release of new Post newsroom guidelines for using Facebook, Twitter and other online social networks.
Oh, no! The party's over! The web, for all it's wild, casual fun must be taken seriously. But I wanna run wild and free over here and still command all the authority of my profession!

The truth is, there is a price to be paid for speaking freely. You get things and you give things up. You need to think about what you want, make decisions, and deal with the consequences. I know: I — a law professor — have been doing that for years.

When Narisetti heard about the coming WaPo crackdown, he tweeted:
“For flagbearers of free speech, some newsroom execs have the weirdest double standards when it comes to censoring personal views.”
Ah, but now Narisetti has folded his wings and supports the new guidelines. Here, read them:
When using these networks, nothing we do must call into question the impartiality of our news judgment. We never abandon the guidelines that govern the separation of news from opinion, the importance of fact and objectivity, the appropriate use of language and tone, and other hallmarks of our brand of journalism.
And I thought that even in the newspaper, items labeled "opinion" or "analysis" or whatever could range well beyond pure fact and objectivity and could get creative with language and tone. How does tweeting under an individual name break these journalistic principles?

I'm guessing that the real problem is not that we learn that the editors are real people with their own ideas and that they are not neutral to the bone. I think it's that the transparent revelation of personal opinion would allow us to see that the editors all or almost all slant in the same political direction, and that's something the newspaper would like to hide. If gulling us into thinking the paper is written by neutral editors is a journalistic principle, it's not one I care about.

The guidelines continue:
What you do on social networks should be presumed to be publicly available to anyone, even if you have created a private account. It is possible to use privacy controls online to limit access to sensitive information. But such controls are only a deterrent, not an absolute insulator. Reality is simple: If you don’t want something to be found online, don’t put it there.
That's true — so don't confess to crimes and misdemeanors — but does it refer to the expression of political opinions?
Post journalists must refrain from writing, tweeting or posting anything – including photographs or video – that could be perceived as reflecting political racial, sexist, religious or other bias or favoritism that could be used to tarnish our journalistic credibility.
That could be perceived... But, good lord, any criticism of the President is, these days, perceived as racial bias.

And shouldn't there be a comma after "political"? Maybe not, these days....

And God forbid you should show any religious bias. That means that every journalist who wants to keep his job will have to shut up about the fact that he actually believes his religion is the true one or that he thinks religion is a big lie.

Let's all be decorous little nobodies here in this newspaper we're afraid no one's going to want to read anymore.