October 2, 2010

"Man Walking Down the Side of a Building."

Where's the line between art/dance and stuntwork? Don't let the fact that the building is an art museum muddle your thinking.

(Video.)

The reason to read fiction: to engage with the mind of someone who isn't trying to sell you anything.

Argues Lorrie Moore (who's not saluting but having trouble keeping the light out of her eyes):



I love the idea that what we want from reading is to intertwine our minds with the mind of another human being and I understand why Moore connects that to freedom from commerce and why she find that purity in fiction. The funny thing is to want to write when you don't want to sell anything — even any ideas. It's not always true of fiction and not only true of fiction, but it is what we really want to read, isn't it?

A dedicated teacher gets a "less effective" rating... and kills himself.

The LA Times reports:
[Rigoberto Ruelas] tutored his students after class, visited their homes and met their families, steered them away from gangs and toward college. He arrived early for work every morning at Miramonte Elementary, and had near perfect attendance for 14 years, right up until last week, when he disappeared.

Ruelas' body was discovered on Sunday in a ravine beneath a Big Tujunga Canyon bridge. He left no note, but the Los Angeles County coroner has ruled his death a suicide. Family members have said he had been upset over his score in a teacher-rating database our newspaper created and posted online, which ranked him slightly below average.
If most teachers are excellent, it's not bad to be below average, but it will feel terrible nonetheless. That's the trouble with grading on a curve. Your performance is judged relative to others.

ADDED: Of course, if everyone's pretty bad, you can get a false idea of how good you are when there is grading on a curve. I've been grading law school exams on a curve — it's required — for a quarter century, and I know it is much easier to make relative judgments.

"At the moment if you want to become au fait with what this department thinks on how to keep order in class you have to read the equivalent of War and Peace."

"There are about 500 pages of guidance on discipline and another 500 pages on bullying. We will clarify and shrink that."

Is it unfair for tennis players to grunt?

Supposedly, this scientific study lends support to those who say it is:
Hundreds of video clips were shown of a player hitting a ball to either the left or right. The students had to determine the direction quickly, but on some shots were subjected to noises simulating grunting.

..."The findings were unequivocal. Basically, when the video clips did have a grunt, the participants were not only slower to react but they had lower accuracy levels. So they were basically slower and could actually be wrong-footed, if you could extend that to a real-world tennis court."
Is distracting a video-watcher similar enough to annoying someone who's actively playing the game under pressure? It's different... but which way is it different? Is the real-life player less or more affected by the noise?

Why is being noisy and annoying okay in some sports but not others? (I'm thinking of golf.)

"He’ll be remembered as a uniter, bringing left and right together in shared amazement at his lunkheadedness."

That would be Rick Sanchez.

"To want to own a restaurant can be a strange and terrible affliction."

"What causes such a destructive urge in so many otherwise sensible people? Why would anyone who has worked hard, saved money and often been successful in other fields want to pump his hard-earned cash down a hole that statistically, at least, will almost purely prove dry? Why venture into an industry with enormous fixed expenses (rent, electricity, gas, water, linen, maintenance, insurance, license fees, trash removal, etc.), with a notoriously transient and unstable workforce and highly perishable inventory of assets? The chances of ever seeing a return on your investment are about one in five. What insidious spongiform bacterium so riddles the brains of men and women that they stand there on the tracks, watching the lights of the oncoming locomotive, knowing full well it will eventually run them over? After all these years in the business, I still don't know."

Wrote Anthony Bourdain years ago, offered up now for insight into the 2 suicides by a chefs who appeared on the TV show "Hell's Kitchen." Bourdain wasn't writing about chefs who try to make it via TV show, and back when he wrote that, Bourdain himself hadn't leveraged his cooking into TV celebrity. So what is it — cooking or reality TV — that's more dangerous to the will to live? I'd guess reality TV. I think there is more delusion there and less likelihood of getting what you want.

"[A]rchaeologists have unearthed the upper half of a double limestone statue of a powerful pharaoh who ruled nearly 3,400 years ago."

A news item that would be so much better with a photograph.

UPDATE: Pic.

Ladies: What's the right skirt length?

Don't you know by now?

Hint: Look in a mirror!

"According to Bob Woodward, National Security Adviser Jim Jones called Emanuel and his fellow political aides 'the water bugs.'"

Writes William Kristol:
“They flit around,” Jones said. “Rahm gets an idea at 10 a.m. and wants a briefing by 4 p.m., and I will say no,” because the work can’t be done that quickly. According to Woodward, Jones believed “the water bugs did not understand war or foreign relations .  .  . and were too interested in measuring the short-term political impact of the president’s decisions in these areas.”

But Emanuel turned out not to be particularly good at measuring the political impact of the president’s decisions. Or was his sage political counsel too often rejected by the president—as he has suggested on not-so-deep background to friendly journalists?
UPDATE: Jones goes.

October 1, 2010

"I was dabbling in witchcraft, I've dabbled in Buddhism."

"I would have become a Hare Krishna but I didn't want to become a vegetarian and that is honestly the reason why because I'm Italian, I love meatballs."

"I’ve decided not to publish any more books in the traditional way. 12 for 12 and I’m done."

"I like the people, but I can’t abide the long wait, the filters, the big push at launch, the nudging to get people to go to a store they don’t usually visit to buy something they don’t usually buy, to get them to pay for an idea in a form that’s hard to spread … I really don’t think the process is worth the effort that it now takes to make it work. I can reach 10 or 50 times as many people electronically."

The hiker's still life.

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Late afternoon....

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... shimmering lake.

"Pennsylvania judge arrested for handing out acorns filled with condoms."

A judge did this? Well, I'm sure he can explain it.

David Brooks thinks Indiana governor Mitch Daniels will win the GOP nomination for President in 2012.

And also that he's the party's "spiritual leader."

At the Devil's Staircase Café...

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... let's elevate the discussion.

Walk with me, while you see and hear everything that I see and hear...

... as I walk around talking to you on my cell phone using an earpiece with a camera stuck on it.

"Reasonable gun control is one thing, this another. Chicago requires 1 hour on range for handgun permit but bars ranges."

A tweet, cited in a legal brief.

And all the nerds ask, what citation form was used? Answer: www.twitter.com/ adamwinkler, Aug. 16, 2010, 3:18 p.m. (citation omitted) (last visited Sept. 26, 2010). Is that properly Bluebooked?

"[A] man is being tried for stealing 40,000 hotel coat hangers..."

"... and Joseph Heller could not have written a more entertaining transcript!"

"Obama's speech to Gen44 tonight knocked my socks off.... If you've forgotten why many of you worked your ass off for this guy..."

Socks off... ass off...

You can discuss the substance of Andrew Sullivan's new celebration of the amazing oratory of Barack Obama, but I see this as an occasion to reprint what I consider to be the single most useful item of advice in George Orwell's essential essay "Politics and the English Language": "Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print." Background:
Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying.
I, the reader, am interested... and totally distracted by an assless man running around barefoot.

Lawrence Lessig on that Facebook movie that we all have to see.

It's been a long time since we've had a movie in that category, don't you think? (Remember when Pauline Kael single-handedly forced everyone to sit through "Last Tango in Paris" and believe this was the movie we'd talk about for as long as human civilization endured?)

Lessig says:
[Aaron] Sorkin crafted dialogue for an as-yet-not-evolved species of humans—ordinary people, here students, who talk perpetually with the wit and brilliance of George Bernard Shaw or Bertrand Russell. (I’m a Harvard professor. Trust me: The students don’t speak this language.) With that script, and with a massive hand from the film’s director, David Fincher, he helped steer an intelligent, beautiful, and compelling film through to completion. You will see this movie, and you should. As a film, visually and rhythmically, and as a story, dramatically, the work earns its place in the history of the field.

But as a story about Facebook, it is deeply, deeply flawed....
The total and absolute absurdity of the world where the engines of a federal lawsuit get cranked up to adjudicate the hurt feelings (because “our idea was stolen!”) of entitled Harvard undergraduates is completely missed by Sorkin. We can’t know enough from the film to know whether there was actually any substantial legal claim here. Sorkin has been upfront about the fact that there are fabrications aplenty lacing the story. But from the story as told, we certainly know enough to know that any legal system that would allow these kids to extort $65 million from the most successful business this century should be ashamed of itself. Did Zuckerberg breach his contract? Maybe, for which the damages are more like $650, not $65 million. Did he steal a trade secret. Absolutely not. Did he steal any other “property”? Absolutely not—the code for Facebook was his, and the “idea” of a social network is not a patent. It wasn’t justice that gave the twins $65 million; it was the fear of a random and inefficient system of law. That system is a tax on innovation and creativity. That tax is the real villain here, not the innovator it burdened.
But great movies about law really do shape what people think about law and that affects what law means. How many will read and understand Lessig's pushback?

ADDED: Here's the famous Pauline Kael review — the most famous movie review of all time that we will think about for as long as there are movie reviews:
This is a movie people will be arguing about, I think, for as long as there are movies. They’ll argue about how it is intended, as they argue again now about The Dance of Death. It is a movie you can’t get out of your system...

CNN reporting on Gloria Allred reads like a press release — an embarrassingly written press release.

Apparently, CNN is shameless. Its headline is "Gloria Allred is a girl's best friend." Text highlights:
Her clients include mistresses, starlets and allegedly wronged women from all walks of life. So, when Gloria Allred calls a news conference, media types know they're about to hear some dish.

So it was on Wednesday, when Allred and her latest client tossed a big, juicy curve ball into the tight California governor's race.
So so so... dish me you dish, juicy curvy CNN, you big slut.
Nicandra Diaz Santillan blotted tears from her eyes as Allred announced she'd be filing a claim against her client's former employer, Republican candidate Meg Whitman, accusing her of emotional abuse and financial exploitation....
Emotional abuse and financial exploitation? Clue me in, CNN. I'm just a law professor. Are those real torts in California? Contracts claims? Or are these just Wrongs Against Women in some Allred-y scheme of causes for press conferences that make CNN reporters drool?
To say Allred, 69, is well-known is an understatement. 
To say CNN is a news organization is an overstatement.

"This is your car?"

"I thought this was Desiree's car."

September 30, 2010

At the Faux Archaeology Café...

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... you can display what you've unearthed lately. Me, I excavated the grave of a sticks and stones man who was, it seems, buried in a landslide that preserved the horror of death on his face for all time.

(Enlarge: 1, 2.)

I'd vote for Donovan and Laura Nyro.

The new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominees.

"Jumping off the gw bridge sorry."

Suicide, announced on Facebook, after live-streamed internet exposure via secret webcam.

"Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my Web cam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay."

Let's take a closer look at that wording: "There's nothing in the bill that says you have to change the health insurance you've got right now."

Get it? Ha ha. Nothing in the bill said you had to change what you have, but things in the bill would cause your provider withdraw it, and then, you won't have it. Promise kept!

It's Rouse...



... to rouse us from our malaise lethargy.

"Obama 52%, Clinton 37% for 2012 Democratic Nomination."

Gallup finds — with particular support among women and — in a poll limited to Democrats — "conservatives."

Would you like to see Hillary challenge Obama?
Yes. I'm against the Democrats and think it will hurt them.
No. I'm against the Dems and think Obama's a great target and Hillary's a strong candidate.
Yes. It will test Obama, making him better or replacing him with someone better.
No. She'll weaken Obama, and the chance that she'll do better isn't worth the risk.
  
pollcode.com free polls

"If you do not care that Latoya Peterson, the founder of the blog Racialicious stopped reading JackandJillPolitics midway through the campaign..."

"... or if you do not even know who these people are, then Big Girls Don't Cry will seem pretty mystifying in parts."

I tried to read that book (by Rebecca Traister), and this review says a lot of things I couldn't motivate myself to get to the point of being able to write.
Ms. Traister laces her analysis with that of like-minded political bloggers and friends from New York who are similarly outraged... This book is shrewd and smartly written, but if there is a weakness to Ms. Traister's analysis it is that she relies too much on Internet chatter and on the insights of her group of friends. She traces each blog war that arose whenever there was a skirmish on the campaign trail and treats these online battles as if they really mattered, not only to politics but to the world off-screen....

Ms. Traister's effort to recount every flare-up from the 2008 makes this book seem either too early or too late. The due date for campaign books about the last election was about ten months ago. A lot of Big Girls reads like a game of "Do you remember when we cared about" archeological shreds of a dim and distant and mostly insignificant past....
There are so many things that are interesting to talk about in real time, when the election is still in play. That's what blogs do. I don't understand collecting all the detail in a book. Who is the compilation for? People who care about the details absorbed it all through blogs (and other media) at the time. They've moved on to the new details of the day and the current campaigns. People who didn't care at the time... why would they care now? It would have to be that the details seen together reveal a picture that couldn't be seen before. If you don't have that, you don't have a book.

"My experience with that show is like herpes. It never goes away, and it itches and sometimes flares up."

Yeah, you should see what dumbness and the inability to perceive humor does to your herpes.

"Once he imagined he was being pursued by men with black beards on horseback — mujahedeen..."

"he explained to his support team, who encouraged him to ride faster and keep ahead of them."

Jure Robic, the endurance bicyclist, who pushed himself beyond sleep and beyond reason, rode 50 mph down an unpaved twisty hill and who knows what he was hallucinating when he hit that car and entered into the final, endless ride that is eternity.
[H]e once rode 518.7 miles in 24 hours....

One occasional feature of his training regimen, which included daily rides or other workouts stretching between 6 and 10 hours, was a 48-hour period without sleep: a 24-hour ride followed by a 12-hour break followed by a 12-hour workout. ... [He] rode 28,000 miles — more than the circumference of the Earth — every year.

His five victories in the Race Across America, an approximately 3,000-mile transcontinental ride that has been held annually since 1982, are unequaled....

The winner generally sleeps less than two hours out of 24 and finishes in less than nine days....

In 2005, Robic won the race and two weeks later won Le Tour Direct, a 2,500-mile European version with a course derived from Tour de France routes that included 140,000 feet of climbing — almost the equivalent of starting at sea level and ascending Mt. Everest five times. His time was 7 days 19 hours.

As each race went on, Robic’s temper grew shorter and occasionally exploded. He was prone to hallucinations. More than once he leapt off his bicycle to do battle with threatening attackers who turned out to be mailboxes.
Amazing. With races like this, somebody has to be the guy that can go to the greatest extreme. Robic was 45, and it's hard to see how he lasted that long.

What is the sound of 250,000 signs yelling?

New York City must change every single street sign because the federal the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices adopted a rule against all caps. 250,000 signs X $110 per replacement.

Now, now. It's a lot of money. But you know all caps is the same as yelling.

Tony Curtis, RIP.

He was 85.
As a performer, Mr. Curtis drew first and foremost on his startlingly good looks. With his dark, curly hair, worn in a sculptural style later imitated by Elvis Presley, and plucked eyebrows framing pale blue eyes and wide, full lips, Mr. Curtis embodied a new kind of feminized male beauty that came into vogue in the early 1950s. A vigorous heterosexual in his widely publicized (not least by himself) private life, he was often cast in roles that drew on a perceived ambiguity: his full-drag impersonation of a female jazz musician in “Some Like It Hot,” a slave who attracts the interest of a Roman senator (Laurence Olivier) in Stanley Kubrick’s “Spartacus” (1960), a man attracted to a mysterious blond (Debbie Reynolds) who turns out to be the reincarnation of his male best friend in Vincente Minnelli’s “Goodbye Charlie” (1964).

Tony Curtis was great. I recently watched the second-rate movie "Sex and the Single Girl" and noticed how funny Curtis made lines that were really not very good. But "Some Like It Hot" is as good as a movie can be and Tony Curtis is part of what makes it fabulous. Here's one of my favorites scenes, where Tony sets up an encounter with Marilyn in which he's not dressed in women's clothes, he's pretending to be a millionaire:

September 29, 2010

"How am I going to celebrate? I’m going to spank some ass."

How would you celebrate a court decision finding a right to practice prostitution?

At the Litter & Poo Café...

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... did you Obamadisonians clean up after yourself as well as the Tea Partiers do?

Where are all the news media photographs of the big Madison crowd that Obama harangued last night?

I thought the University of Wisconsin was a major photo-op. Where are the photos — vistas of hopeful, youthful faces? There's a tiny thumbnail here in the NYT. Help me find some pictures or I'm going with the theory — offered by those who looked at my pictures — that the crowd was — as all those news media people loved to say about the Tea Party ralliesoverwhelmingly white.

My pictures were taken on Bascom Hill and the Memorial Union Terrace — overflow areas with piped in sound/video. I did not go through security and into the Library Mall area where the President could be seen in person, and I thought we were going to get some grand wide-angle shots of the President and his enthusiasts.

ADDED: Here's the vista in the Cap Times. "Overwhelmingly" is not the right adverb. It's too much of an understatement. (Thanks to former law student, in the comments, for pointing me there.)

I got my Bob Dylan tickets.

Previously on this blog: Despair. Now: A second show at the Overture, starting at 10. Are Meade and I too old to go to a 10 p.m. concert? We're younger than Bob!

(Pre-order info here.)

The University of Wisconsin had "to weigh the many benefits of a visit by a sitting president against the naked political purpose of that visit."

Analysis by Dan Barry of the NYT.

But first, the necessary quotation from Bob Dylan: "But even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked." In context:
While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Yes, wait while we blast political polemic that drowns out the classrooms....
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
Hope you made it through security...
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked
And you know that Bob Dylan wouldn't be "all cheesin' and grinnin'" with the President.

Now, back to the Dan Barry analysis:
[T]he event would be a kickoff rally for Democrats as they approach the midterm elections, and Barack Obama would be appearing as a party leader more than as a president....
[H]is visit wasn’t an easy call. Before the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and the Democratic National Committee signed a contract last week, in which the committee agreed to pay $10,500 to cover expenses, [UW Chancellor Biddy] Martin had to satisfy herself that it was the right thing to do.
$10,500! Where did they pull that number from?
“There was never a question whether we wanted President Obama to come to our campus,” Ms. Martin said. “That was clear. But the question was how to do this in a way that was fair to everyone in the community.”...

Ms. Martin, who has been chancellor since September 2008, was thrilled by the chance. You couldn’t buy this kind of educational experience, or, quite frankly, this kind of publicity; it’s an honor. 
Ah, yes! The publicity. That's what seals it, don't you think?
But she worried about the fairness of having campus life disrupted by a political event. A day or so of fretting followed.

Then, amid the many documents and manuals that provide guidance in the administration of a campus of 42,000 students and 21,000 faculty and staff members, someone uncovered a written policy called “The Use of University Facilities for Political Purposes.” Among other things, it said that each major political party can hold one event on campus during an election period.
If there's one thing I love it's a written policy. Good thing "someone uncovered" it!
And don’t forget: Library Mall, where the Democrats wanted to hold their rally, is a vibrant nerve center for the university and the city, with a rich tradition of political events and free speech.
And the great thing about a vibrant free speech forum is the way a political party can block every entrance but one and then require you to go through a "security" process that includes taking away any signs you might have.
Ms. Martin and the Board of Regents signed on, then received validation of that decision in the plans of students and faculty members to gather after the political rally to debate everything from the economy and the wars to the political process itself. 
That explains this sign we saw:

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"Eddie Long ... should openly admit what he did, disavow his antigay positions..."

"... and serve as a beacon to a black community that needs to get beyond an unthinking prejudice especially unseemly in a group positioning itself as a standard-bearer of America’s moral advancement."

Says John McWhorter, who thinks Long "would do himself and his own race a massive favor if he, shall we say, had a conversion here."
“Got the call,” to put it in language familiar in his realm.
I'm for overcoming homophobia too, but I'm squeamish about the suggestion that a religious leader should present a moral argument as if he'd heard it from God... unless he sincerely believes he heard it from God.

Impactfully yours, Thomas Friedman.

He's here to tell you that the Tea Party movement you see out there is actually the Tea Kettle movement "because all it’s doing is letting off steam" — and the real Tea Party movement is... well, guys like him:
The important Tea Party movement, which stretches from centrist Republicans to independents right through to centrist Democrats, understands this at a gut level...
This = "our politics has become just another form of sports entertainment, our Congress a forum for legalized bribery and our main lawmaking institutions divided by toxic partisanship to the point of paralysis."
... and is looking for a leader with three characteristics. First, a patriot...
A patriot isn't a characteristic. It's a type of person.
Second, a leader who persuades Americans that he or she actually has a plan not just to cut taxes or pump stimulus, but to do something much larger — to make America successful, thriving and respected again.
A leader isn't a characteristic.
And third, someone with the ability to lead in the face of uncertainty and not simply whine about how tough things are — a leader who believes his job is not to read the polls but to change the polls.
Someone isn't a characteristic.

Convert those 3 items to characteristics: patriotism, leadership, and... uh... leadership. That's what the real tea partiers know and the kettlefolk can't get through their steam-puffed noggins.
Democratic Pollster Stan Greenberg told me that when he does focus groups today this is what he hears: “People think the country is in trouble and that countries like China have a strategy for success and we don’t....”
Here it comes. The part of the Friedman column where we find out that China does it better. This time, a pollster is rolled out to mouth what I presume is the thesis of Friedman's new best seller.

And supposedly, Friedman has told us what the "real Tea Party" is. As for the Tea Party movement that he says is fake and would like to disparage as "Tea Kettle":
That is not to say that the energy behind it is not authentic (it clearly is) or that it won’t be electorally impactful (it clearly might be)....
Impactfully yours, Thomas Friedman.

"Florence Henderson and Corky Ballas find out they're safe and hug after Florence says something weird about locking hips with some guy. It sounds lude."

The Daily News reports on "Dancing With the Star" and sounds stoopid. Got some ludes?

Bill Clinton's in trouble for saying "I've dreamed of getting a lesson from Annika Sorenstam."

Now, is that fair?

"Who knows? This may be the only time Ann Althouse and Barack Obama have ever appeared in the same picture."

Ha.

September 28, 2010

"Boy, that's an overwhelmingly white crowd."

Says Instapundit, looking at my pictures from the Obama rally.

That's also a popular observation in the comments. Seven Machos started it:
I see white people...
Palladian said:
Do you think they'll photoshop a little diversity in that crowd, the way they used to at the University of Wisconsin-Madison?
Revenant said:
Heh! Yeah, it IS whiter than a typical tea party rally, isn't it?
Yes, that's the thing. If these were pictures of a tea party rally...

Obama tries to warm up the crowd at the University of Wisconsin with sports talk and hints of partying.

I took the video from my vantage point on the Union Terrace. The President is seen on TV. Listen for the booing when he mentions Chicago...



There's confusion when he mentions Sunday. Everyone in the crowd knows the Packers lost to the Chicago Bears on Monday.

ADDED: Do you believe that Obama, when he lived in Chicago, would come up to Madison to have fun? The students love that line, but I don't believe it.

"After a couple of blah songs by The National, then a long energy-sapping break for canned music (pace, people, pace), singer-guitarist Ben Harper plays a mostly pensive solo set."

"It’s the exact opposite of rousing," writes Dean Robbins about tonight's Obama rally:
But just when you think the rally (and maybe even the Democrats) are doomed, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold bursts onto the podium.

The media had predicted Feingold wouldn’t show up at the event, suggesting he didn’t want to be tied to the increasingly unpopular Obama. You wouldn’t know it from his passionate speech. “I’ll tell you something, Mr. President,” he booms, “you are my friend!”
I wondered if maybe the pace was all off because Feingold decided to come at that last minute. I wasn't buying it when he criticized right-wingers for saying he wouldn't come. Why didn't he announce earlier that he would? Why was Tim Kaine talking about  how it was perfectly normal for Feingold not to come?
... And here [Obama] comes... He’s more handsome in person than on TV, with a thousand-watt smile and more charisma than any one person should be allowed to have. He gets the crowd in the palm of his hand from his opening story of driving to Madison to visit student friends when he lived in Chicago. 
Robbins doesn't mention that the crowd booed Chicago. (The pain of last night's Packers-Bears game was quite fresh and raw.)
“I had some fun times up here in Madison,” he says. Perfectly timed pause, followed by the punchline: “I can’t give you the details....”
Isn't it amazing that we let him play coy about such matters? Why was that ever charming?

Pictures from the periphery of the Obama rally.

Arriving as we did around 5, we couldn't get into the restricted area that people had lined up all day to get into. First, we went to Bascom Hill, which was well wired for sound, and there were hundreds of people sitting or standing on the grass:

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This photo shows the attitude of the crowd before the speech:

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It was nice to see some students studying:

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We made our way over to the Union Terrace, about a block away from the live event, to hang in a mellower crowd by the lake. There was good audio and video over here, and some folks had their beer, while others, like me, had Babcock Hall ice cream cones.

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These people were relaxed and listening. It was hard to tell what they were thinking. But they didn't chant along with "Yes we can." There were a couple clowns protesting, like this:

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"9-11 Frame Up/Inside Job"... idiots.

We got cold and headed home before the speech ended and before the sun set.

ADDED: Some video.

We're back from Obamastock. Immense, overflowing crowds. And Feingold too.

Photos and video soon.

Huge crowds of students lining up to get into the Obama rally here in Madison.

I took this little video of the line at 2:25 CT. The security checkpoint wasn't set to open until 3:30, and the event won't start until 4:45.



It looks like President Obama will have the fabulous crowd he's hoping for.

Here's the email sent just now from the UW Police:
President Obama’s Library Mall rally is expected to draw a capacity crowd this afternoon. For safety and security reasons, Bascom Hill will be opened as a site for overflow spectators who can not fit into the event area.

To accommodate spectators, there will be amplification of the event and music up Bascom Hill, beginning at 4:30 p.m. As a result of the noise, there could be potential impacts on classroom meetings, academic activities or other events scheduled after this time.
So if you're one of those who think "Right now Nietzsche is a little more important" and things like that, you will be overwhelmed by sheer power and volume. I'm not enough of a Nietzschean to say what Nietzsche would have thought about that.

"I'm not a big opera buff in terms of going to opera, but there are days where Maria Callas is exactly what I need," says Barack Obama.

He was answering Jann Wenner's question: "What music have you been listening to lately? What have you discovered, what speaks to you these days?" I wonder what Callas arias are fulfilling his needs these days. He also says his iPod is "heavily weighted toward the music of [his] childhood: "a lot of Stevie Wonder, a lot of Bob Dylan, a lot of Rolling Stones, a lot of R&B, a lot of Miles Davis and John Coltrane." And a "lot of classical music." He makes a bow to rap music — his personal aid Reggie Love has helped him with that. And "Malia and Sasha are now getting old enough to where they start hipping me to things."

Wenner pushes him about Dylan, who recently performed at the White House. He says:
Here's what I love about Dylan: He was exactly as you'd expect he would be. He wouldn't come to the rehearsal; usually, all these guys are practicing before the set in the evening. He didn't want to take a picture with me; usually all the talent is dying to take a picture with me and Michelle before the show, but he didn't show up to that. He came in and played "The Times They Are A-Changin'." A beautiful rendition. The guy is so steeped in this stuff that he can just come up with some new arrangement, and the song sounds completely different. Finishes the song, steps off the stage — I'm sitting right in the front row — comes up, shakes my hand, sort of tips his head, gives me just a little grin, and then leaves. And that was it — then he left. That was our only interaction with him. And I thought: That's how you want Bob Dylan, right? You don't want him to be all cheesin' and grinnin' with you. You want him to be a little skeptical about the whole enterprise. So that was a real treat.
He segues on his own to the subject of Paul McCartney:
Having Paul McCartney here was also incredible. He's just a very gracious guy. When he was up there singing "Michelle" to Michelle, I was thinking to myself, "Imagine when Michelle was growing up, this little girl on the South Side of Chicago, from a working-class family." The notion that someday one of the Beatles would be singing his song to her in the White House — you couldn't imagine something like that.
Wenner asks if he cried, and he starts his response...
Whenever I think about my wife, she can choke me up. My wife and my kids, they'll get to me.
His aides make him stop the interview at that point. No crying in politics! Then he comes back a "moment later" and makes a speech to Wenner — "with intensity and passion, repeatedly stabbing the air with his finger" — about how people need to shake off their malaise lethargy.

"We know that cuts in Medicare are being used to fund national health care reform."

"We became concerned by the long-term viability of Medicare Advantage programs in general... And we also had concerns about our ability to build a network of health care providers that would meet the needs of our seniors."

"Buildings affected by President Obama’s Library Mall event... St. Paul’s Catholic Center: 5 p.m. Mass has been cancelled."

Oh, God.

"'Joey Ramone Place' is perhaps the most stolen of the 250,900 street signs in New York..."

So now, they've installed it higher — 20 feet off the ground. The last surviving Ramone, Marky, thinks it's too hard to see now. It's too high. Maybe they just need "a better way to attach it."

"With Physical Books Obsolete..."

"... The Strand Resorts to Luring Customers With Candy."

"Right now Nietzsche is a little more important."

Said UW student Justin Marita, who said he wasn't going to the President's big get-out-the-vote rally in Madison today.

But there are some students who are asking teachers to cancel class so they can attend. Imagine that! A teacher canceling class for a political rally.

I think Nietzsche is a little more important — important enough to correct the spelling of his name in the quote before putting it in the blog post heading. Madison.com spelled it "Nietschze." How do you misspell Nietzsche in a news story? Isn't it obvious you need to check?

"A special adaptation of Segway Inc.'s dynamic stabilization technology and a wider track maximize stability, while the x2's higher ground clearance ensures that steep hills, uneven trails, and errant rocks won't impede your ride."

And when you get to the point where you want the ride impeded... it will be too late.

Today's Drudgedy... Drudge comedy.



Eyes... bucks... Not sure what Drudge is driving at here. Some strange coded message to Ohio? And why show the front and not the back of the dollar bill?

"Democratic Party Chairman Timothy Kaine says he sees no slight in Wisconsin Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold skipping a campaign rally tonight where President Barack Obama is appearing on his behalf."

I see a slight: To the intelligence of the American people, if Kaine thinks we might believe that.

Obama's big get-out-the-vote-rally in Madison today is "a great experiment."

Says Chris Van Hollen, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee:
The challenge at the moment is how to get out the vote in Wisconsin and other battleground states...

“We know that first-time voters are difficult to bring out in midterm elections, and this will be a test of the White House’s ability to motivate those voters,” he said. “And the message is simple: Even though Barack Obama’s name is not on the ballot, the future success of his agenda and his presidency is at stake.”
And Obama himself says:
"People need to shake off this lethargy. People need to buck up"... The president told Democrats that making change happen is hard and "if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren't serious in the first place."
What if they were serious and they're not happy with what he did with the power they helped him win? The strong progressive opinion is anti-Obama these days. Don't be thinking that Madison is some kind of hardcore Democratic Party stronghold. It's not. This is a town where, in 2000, people resisted that notion that they should voted for Al Gore so Bush wouldn't win. What difference did it make? That was the argument I heard. "Bore and Gush" — remember that? It was important to vote for Ralph Nader. I heard that again and again. The President has taken his lefty fans for granted.

But I assume there will be a big crowd today — if it's not too hard to get through security. I, myself, will attend and put up with getting searched. I don't get jazzed up about seeing anybody in person, not even the President of the United States — not since 1975. But I am very interested in seeing how the crowd looks, getting some pictures, and talking to the people.

Sarah Palin on "Dancing With the Stars" — and allegedly booed.



She looked beautiful, and the crowd is ready to cheer her when the camera is on her, so we can only guess what caused the booing that was heard from backstage. Whoever uploaded this video asserts that the audience booed Sarah. I don't think so. The smarter opinion says it was about the scores the judges gave to Jennifer Grey.

Bristol danced last and, again the song was a "mama" song. Last week, you may remember, she danced to "Mama Told Me Not to Come." This week it was... ugh!... I can't remember. Something about not having sex at too early an age. It wasn't "Mama Said"... which is the only other "mama" song that comes to mind at the moment. Bristol's not very good, but she's perfectly nice and has no attitude of entitlement whatsoever and she's taking the dancing perfectly seriously, which — I think I can tell after watching the show twice — is the way to win the support of the judges and the viewers who vote.

September 27, 2010

At the Rural Sunset Café...

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... things feel so intense and random.

"But suddenly, the lawyer became so uncomfortably hot that he leaped up to move."

"He tried to put on his flip-flop sandals but, inexplicably, they were too hot to touch. So he ran barefoot to the shade."

The Las Vegas Death Ray targets a lawyer.

(Via Gizmodo.)

Hippie punch... it should be a drink!

I've had it with the "hippie punch" brouhaha. I want it to be a drink, like "Hawaiian Punch" or whatever. Help me devise a recipe.

ADDED: I'm recommending Ripple and... still water.

"Power, I said! Power to walk into the gold vaults of the nations, into the secrets of kings, into the Holy of Holies!"

"Power to make multitudes run squealing in terror at the touch of my little invisible finger. Even the moon's frightened of me, frightened to death!"



It's "The Invisible Man" with the magnificent Claude Rains and the lovely Gloria Stuart. Gloria Stuart — perhaps you know her from "Titanic" — dead now, at age 100.

The Devil's picnic.

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Pictures taken yesterday at Devil's Lake, Wisconsin.

(Not to be confused with this.)

Is Obama waging cyberwar against Iran?

"[T]he worm appears to be a case of outright industrial sabotage or cyber warfare, created and unleashed not by rogue hackers but by a state.... [T]he time stamp on the Stuxnet virus reveals that it was created in January, 2010, meaning that if the United States is behind it, it’s Obama’s doing, not Bush’s. If so, and if the United States is behind it, then Obama is already at war with Iran."

I'm beginning to understand why that lefty blogger asked Axelrod if he knew the term "hippie punching"?

Tobin Harshaw reviews the incident in the NYT. He quotes me. You may remember that I said I'd never heard the term (and I've been something of a hippie since the original days of the hippie movement). The light bulb went off in my head when I scrolled down to the comments:
Hippy punch is frequently used on many blogs I read: Pandagon, Eschaton, Hullabaloo, to name just three. They've been using it since 2008, at least. They are among the more popular blogs on the left -- it shows that while the White House may have some sense that the so-called professional left is upset, they don't care enough to read what they are writing.
Ah! It's a shibboleth. This is a term used within an in-group. If you don't know the term, you reveal that you don't read those blogs. Here was Axelrod trying to get the lefty bloggers to help Obama out, but — gasp!!! — he doesn't even read their blogs. How devastating for them! LOL. Imagine if Axelrod sat around reading Pandagon, Eschaton, and Hullabaloo?

It's hard being a lefty in Madison these days.

You live on the east side, you support Barack Obama and all that hope and change... and high speed rail... in your backyard?!
"I think there will be some things that will be upsetting, kind of on a personal level. Like maybe you've enjoyed your backyard in a certain way or there's a tree you've enjoyed looking at. Maybe it's not your right to use them, but you've just had it there and benefitted from it, and then it changes."...

[T]here are concerns about the fate of several pedestrian and bicycle crossings, both sanctioned and unofficial ones. Right now, he says, the railroad tracks are not considered a barrier for anyone, from "10-year-olds to 90-year-olds," to cross and the freight trains pose little danger. But high-speed rail is a different animal, and the probability for fencing all the way along the tracks is high....

"I think people were more concerned about getting to Walgreens than getting to Chicago"....
Yeah, why do you need to go to Chicago? Compared to strolling around your own neighborhood, getting to Chicago is nothing.
For Ken Fitzsimmons, the Ohio-Farwell crossing is a key one, as is one on Corry Street. If both are closed, he and his immediate neighbors will be "boxed in," with no access to the west side of the neighborhood except by going east to Milwaukee Street first.

"We're a two-person household with one car, so we definitely at almost all times are dedicated to some alternate transportation," he says.
Ironically, the high speed rail is presented as an alternative to driving to Milwaukee, as if it's going to reverse global warming, but in real life, people will have to drive more, just to get around their own neighborhood.
[Ken Fitzsimmons] jokes that he and wife "aren't becoming Republicans" because of the high-speed rail line - referring to Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker's pledge to stop it from happening. 
Why not? What's stopping you? A fear of change?

Good lord, the rail line is a disaster — a disaster justifying single-issue voting this time.
"The train is coming through as far as we're concerned... We're not putting in any effort to stop it because it could be a really good thing... I think the important point I was getting at is if they're really receptive to some of these ideas, we've got ideas. We're not trying to stop this train, we're just trying to limit its possible damaging effects."
Why not stop the train? I don't get it. You just have to accept everything that's jammed down your throat by the party you've been faithful to all these years? It could be a good thing? Maybe it will work out for the best? Why would you support an immensely intrusive change that affects your daily way of life? Why isn't the presumption against change — or at least against drastic new things that look terrible? Why this trust?

Why is obeisance to a political party compelling you to defy everything that your common sense is screaming?

Was it "racially insensitive" to say to gay people — as Ann Coulter did — "Marriage is not a civil right. You're not black"?

That's what Talking Points Memo says. I'm trying to understand the theory by which it's racially insensitive. The only thing close, in my view, and I know it's not TPM's, is that the remark contains the unwitting assumption that gay people are white. TMP notes Coulter's explanation:
It was part of a larger argument on which she later elaborated, telling the crowd that the 14th Amendment only applies to African-Americans and that it does not, in fact, apply to women, LGBT people or other minorities.
Can I get a quote? I don't trust this paraphrasing. She said the 14th Amendment only applies to black people? Or did she say that the 14th Amendment should be understood with some reference to its historical context of insuring rights for the freed slaves? It's not the same thing, TPM.

French politician Rachida Dati criticizes investment funds for "looking for returns of 20 or 25%, at a time when fellatio is almost non-existent."

That's translated from French, in which the key word is "fellation," which she supposedly confused with "inflation."
Miss Dati was a love rival of Mr Sarkozy’s third wife, Carla Bruni, for many months as both battled for a place in the Elysee Palace bed chamber. 
Now, why is that relevant? 

The owner of Segway rides a Segway off a cliff...

... and dies.

September 26, 2010

On the road in rural Wisconsin...

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... you can see right back to 1940.

"I had this belief that I couldn’t just accept to be treated as an object. It was a problem of dignity."

"But it wasn’t that. It was just that I couldn’t accept that they would call us by number, because I thought it would make it easier for them to kill us if they had to kill an object, a number."

Ingrid Betancourt describes her captivity... and its aftermath:
Betancourt says she made some immediate decisions about her new life: First, she would wear perfume every day; second, she would never deny herself the opportunity to eat cake.

"I promised to have ice cream in my diet, and I promised to change my priorities," she says.  In the jungle, one of the few books Betancourt had access to was the Bible, and she read it over and over again.  One passage stuck out:  "It says that when you cross the valley of tears, and you arrive to the oasis, the reward of God is not success, it’s not money, it’s not admiration or fame, it’s not power. His reward is rest. So that’s what I want for me now."
Her book is a big best seller. I wonder how many readers come to that cake-and-ice-cream part and think: Yes! I must eat cake and ice cream.... even though in their whole lives they've never left the oasis.

"Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

Said Jesus, describing the final judgment. There was a point in Stephen Colbert's testimony to a House subcommittee when he dropped his act and answered a question as himself:
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) asked, “Why of all the things you could testify about did you choose this issue?” Colbert seemed to surprise himself as he fell out of character--he rubbed his head in thought and said:
"I like talking about people who don't have any power, and this seems like, one of the least powerful people in the United States are migrant workers who come and do our work but don’t have any rights as a result. And yet we still invite them to come here and at the same time ask them to leave. That’s an interesting contradiction to me. And, you know, “Whatsoever you do for the least of my brothers”--and this seems like the least of brothers--right now. A lot of people are least brothers right now because the economy is so hard. And I don’t want to take anyone’s hardship away from them or diminish anything like that. But migrant works suffer and have no rights."
It was a powerful moment, all the more so because catching Colbert out of character for more than a few seconds of unguarded laughter is almost as rare as catching snow leopards mating. It was perfectly natural for Colbert, who has taught Sunday school at his Catholic church in Montclair, NJ, to quote Matthew 25:31-45 (“Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”). The tender earnestness of that brief moment when Colbert slipped the mask undercut any suggestion that his snottiness was a self-promoting stunt.
I think Stephen Colbert is quite serious about Christianity — as I have written before in some detail.

Things that you'd better not have on you if you want to walk through Library Mall on Tuesday afternoon.

"Laptop computers, sharp objects, metal or plastic drink bottles, backpacks and bags or purses larger than a standard sheet of paper, posters, and any food or drink."

President Obama will be speaking on the UW-Madison campus, and obviously, they expect a huge crowd, but I have watched students walk through the mall, the central crossroads of campus, for years, and I think they mostly have their computers, they surely have backpacks or big bags of one kind or another, and there's lots of food and drink. So anyone who wants to go to the event and is paying attention to the rules will need to plan ahead.

You can't just come over after class, because you'll have your backpack and laptop. And if you're just passing through and thinking of hanging out, because you're somewhat interested, you're going to be turned away because you have the stuff you normally have, and suddenly it's a national security threat. The screening process begins at 3:30 and the event goes on for several hours, and you're supposed to get by without anything to drink.

I'm sure they'll get a good crowd here anyway, but it's got to be a big irritation for many students to be rejected simply for having your normal gear. What if you come to campus by bus or a long walk?

Also, obviously, they don't want people with signs. No "posters." But I'm sure UW students know how to concoct signage without getting snagged by any of the restrictions. At the Class of 1995 law school reunion on Friday, I saw a video that included — among other things — the way some law students spelled out "UW Law" on the 50 yard line at the football stadium. With 4 willing souls, one being 2 letters wide, they accomplished the free expression. They can take away your posters, but they can't take away your underpants.

Ah, but you need to be respectful and hear out what the President says, which is — I assume — that you really need to vote for Democrats in November. That's the message. It's nothing loftier than that. It's a big political rally, snarling Madison traffic — on our narrow isthmus — blocking passage through the center of campus, and depriving us of our computers and our freedom of expression.