April 17, 2004

Ode to Masculinity. Since I spent most of the day witnessing male genius in the form of Beethoven and Tarantino, let me enumerate the lesser manifestations of masculinity I observed today, in reverse order of dorkiness.

4. At the restaurant, a young guy is wearing a shirt that bears the slogan "Pain is weakness leaving the body." On closer inspection, it turns out to be a Marines T-shirt. Low level of dorkiness assigned on the assumption the young man is a Marine.

3. At the movie theater, the young guy in front of me periodically moves to the edge of his seat and blocks the lower left corner of the screen. Not only does this cut off part of my view, but it distracts me with the knowledge of what sorts of things excite him, such as the preview for the movie "Hero." Sidenote: I love the utter straightforwardness of this quote from the director of "Hero," Zhang Yimou (speaking to the Chinese press): "My idea of the film was for it to be not too lofty or sublime. I just thought let us make a good film, make it attractive and get people to come and see it."

2. Two boys have a big trampoline set up under a basketball hoop, which allows them to make great jump shots.

1. A teenage guy is wearing sneakers that have a little skate wheel hidden in the heel. Even though he's walking with a pretty teenage girl, every once in a while, he goes up on one heel and slides ahead for a few yards.
Saturday at the Ironworks. More pictures from 9 Beet Stretch:






Kill Bill, Vol. 2 is gargantuan. An enjoyable afternoon was spent at the movies, seeing the new Kill Bill. I'm just going to say one thing general and one thing specific about the visuals and one thing specific about the music.

One thing general about the visuals: There were always numerous interesting details on screen to look at, which rarely happens in film and counts for a lot with me.

One thing specific about the visuals: In the scene at night in the graveyard, with the coffin lid up and the decayed body of the corpse partly exposed, the corpse's hand is sticking up and formed into a position to cause the shadow on the coffin lid to be a rabbit's head, as if the corpse were making a shadow puppet.

One thing specific about the music: In a key scene, the music is composed in part of a slowed down version of The Zombies' "She's Not There." If I were insane, I would take this as a personal message to me, because I am on record loving "She's Not There," and I spent the morning experiencing a slowed down piece of music (see below). In fact, as we were driving away from the ironworks, we were talking about the potential for slowing down other pieces of music. The Zombies' song was much less slowed down than the Beethoven however, which is now into its last half hour and must be evanescing into the sublime round about now.

UPDATE: Why a rabbit? I'm not positive it is a rabbit. It's a tiny detail. I'd have to see the movie again to check it out. But I note that there are at least two rabbit references in Kill Bill, Volume 1: "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids" and (in Japanese) "Time for the rabbit to come out of her hole" (at page 60 and 87 of the script found here). Ah, you figure it out!
"9 Beet Stretch" has reached the fourth movement. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has been playing at the Kupfer Ironworks on the East Side of town (see previous post) since 8pm last night. It will end at 8pm tonight. I arrived around 11 and had roughly calculated that the long fourth movement would have begun. I could not decipher the ambient sound I was hearing, until the long silence set in. When the sound resumed, I knew it was the profound beginning of the fourth movement. Even the melody became perceptible. Here are some photos of the ironworks, where you should certainly go if you can make it to Madison before 8. The scene was arty and somber, but a party atmosphere should set in. They were setting up a barbecue of all things and there was evidence of some other refreshments.

Don't forget that elongated Beethoven thing! Discussed below, it's going on now, and up to 8 pm tonight. It's a big installation, but I don't think too many people know about it. It's free. Check it out. I will and will report back. If you're in Madison, you've got to go, even if just to check out the building and hear how the thing sounds for a couple minutes. Go to the Theo Kupfer Ironworks building at 149 Waubesa St. Where's that? Start going East on East Washington, and per Yahoo's instructions "go 2.1 miles, Turn on MILWAUKEE ST - go 0.2 mi, Turn on WAUBESA ST - go 0.2 mi, Arrive at 149 WAUBESA ST, MADISON." Now you can't say you didn't know how to get there.
Video on Demand ... "The Dalton Girls" ... "Born Rich" ... The Apprentice. I caught the documentary "Born Rich," which is playing on HBO on Demand. And let me just pause to say I love the whole video on demand technology--except the way on my service if you leave it on pause too long a too-happy female voice booms "Welcome to video on demand!" Since I pause a lot, leave the room, enter into conversations and so forth, that "Welcome!" voice is the least welcome thing on TV. But a little video on demand and you can't help wanting the future of TV to arrive quickly. Right now some of HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime is available free and some other things are available for a price, but why isn't every movie and TV show ever made available? Why isn't TV more like the Internet? Why can't I just watch any old episode of, say, Dobie Gillis or I'm Dickens, He's Fenster whenever I want? Why can't I sit down any night and call up, say, "The Dalton Girls"? (Althouse trivia experts should know that was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. According to an IMDB user summary it's "Just another 'B' western, except the outlaws are babes." I see the plot was "After the Dalton boys are killed by the law, one of the Dalton girls is forced to kill a lecherous mortician who tries to rape her. Being branded a murderess, the sisters follow in their brothers tracks and take up a life of crime." Hey, this was some 1950s "Thelma and Louise"! Hmmm ... I wonder if that shaped my whole life. And how bad were my parents to let me see that when I was six? Ah, don't worry, she's not going to get the mortician rape part. She'll just see a bunch of cowgirls. Like Sally Starr! She loves Sally Starr!)

"Born Rich" was a nice documentary, made by a born-rich guy who had access to other born-rich kids, because (as I learned in the documentary), born-rich people are an inbred subculture. They hang out with each other and interact with each other, in part because only another rich kid can understand the sorrows of inherited wealth. The rest of us can look on with horror, amusement, sympathy, or whatever we like, now that we have this film to watch.

There's a nice variety of rich kids to react in different ways to. And I must say one of the nicest ones was Ivanka Trump, which has to remove a layer of loathsomeness from Donald Trump. And here's a good article in today's NYT on the aftermath of The Apprentice, for those who are still wondering if Bill Rancic is actually going to be trusted to run that billion dollar Chicago construction project. ("This is a large and sophisticated project, and the job is like being the conductor of an orchestra ... I don't know how somebody can conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra if they've never gone to a concert before, and if they've never played any of the instruments.") Read about the complexity of the project, and consider how absurd it would be to only make $250,000 (Bill's new salary) for running it. So why didn't Trump pick a more practical project to put Bill in charge of? Are you kidding?
"I felt that this was a great opportunity to promote a great project," Mr. Trump said.

Well, isn't the whole TV show an infomercial for Trump's projects? He features one project or another not because it makes for a good prize or competition, but because he needs to advertise it, as the end of the finale show on Thursday made crashingly obvious.

April 16, 2004

Comparing campaign letters. In a seeming testament to my political moderation, today's mail brought envelopes from both the Democratic National Headquarters ("Bushspeak/What you hear isn't what you get") and the South Dakota Republican Party ("Tom Daschle is hoping you will throw this letter away..."). Well, that's fair warning not to open either letter, but I did anyway.

"Ann, not only is this a fight we CAN win ... it is a fight we MUST win." Thanks for the personal touch. Either letter might have said that, but that line is urging me to fund the fight against Daschle, for his "extreme partisanship and obstruction of President Bush's agenda." According to the SD Republican Party letter Daschle has a 59% disapproval rating among South Dakota voters, and somehow this should encourage me to send them money. If SD voters dislike him so much, presumably he'll lose.

The Democrat's letter, from Nancy Pelosi, is mellower than her previous missives. It studiously avoids using the words "lie," "lying," and "liar," and goes with "haven't been straight," "misled us," "made promises they haven't kept," "I'm going to tell you the truth," "misleading rhetoric," "empty promises," "credibility gap," "the truth is," "in fact..," "the truth is," "the stark reality is," "his rhetoric is far from reality," "Bush has said one thing and done another," "what's really going on," and "get the word out about the real President Bush." Well, that's nice. I hate overheated rhetoric, that is, I'm not fond of it. And these so polite Democrats are not just asking for money, they want me to sign a "Statement of Affirmation," which seems a bit creepy to me:
As a proud American and a loyal Democrat, I am today rejecting the politics of privilege for the few and callous neglect of the many, and affirming my belief:

In a government characterized by fairness that keeps its promises to its citizens

In a government strong enough and caring enough to promise "compassion" to those in greatest need and really mean it.

In the deep conviction that the most blessed and affluent democracy in the worlds history--one that can spend billions on war and the weapons of war--can also create jobs for those that want them, educate its young, care for its elderly and infirm, provide hope for its destitute and downtrodden, protect its environment and guarantee equal rights and opportunity for all its citizens.

"Affirmation"? "Blessed"? It's just politics, people, it's not a religion. And why doesn't this "affirmation" appear on the web anywhere (so I could link to it)? Insiders only? Afraid of mockery?
Signs of end times. It's the second to the last weekend of the Law School semester, and signs of the end abound:

Conlaw class was ten minutes shorter today, because I had the students do teaching evaluations. Conlaw class was more freewheeling today, because of the newfound freedom in knowing that anything that goes wrong now cannot be a source of criticism on the evaluations. I used that freedom to become distracted by a loud buzzing coming from a locked closet in the room. Don't we always fritter away our freedom? (The buzzing itself was a sign of Lord knows what).

Packing up my laptop and final editing project to head out for coffee, I caught a glimpse of the small coterie of lawprofs who were practicing a song and dance number for the Law Revue. The Law Revue is another sign of the end. It's nice that there are lawprofs willing to do a little song and dance on stage to demonstrate their funloving nature and eagerness to participate in a student activity. I'm not that nice or funloving or eager. But good luck to all! Actually, I have no idea how to make fun of the Law School and its faculty and its students without being mean and inappropriate. I don't see how you can pitch that humor on the right level. Either it will be unfunny and boring or it will be quite nasty and unpleasant. But, again, good luck! Comedy is difficult. A musical stage show is difficult. Yet every year we put on a show. I never attend, so maybe I'm wrong about the prospects for entertainment and good feelings. I hope so!
The Apprentice: Pre-scripting, Post-scripting, and Omarosing. Was The Apprentice scripted? In a way. The cast was chosen in part to provide entertainment as they interacted, and the competitions were scripted like an improvisation exercise, designed to maximize drama and interaction. Clearly, once the footage existed, stories were created through editing.

I think someone had to be keeping an eye on whether the emerging story was going to produce interesting enough footage and that probably led to giving some contestants some direction. For example, maybe three people believe they are seriously trying to get a business deal to work, but the fourth is told to go ahead and make trouble for them, by oh, maybe taking a nap on the floor or taking an important phone call and then ignoring it. Things needed to get out of control, chaos-making was needed. These people were able to make a practical plan and stick to it, but somehow, things always turned frantic. I think the producers kept an eye on who could be the best chaos maker. For a while it seemed like Sam, but clearly Omarosa got the part. She was obviously the star of the show. Bill "won" and has the job (presumably--though how many times did Trump assure him that he'd be somebody's underling, kept on a short leash?), but Omarosa is the one everyone wants to see more of. She could very well have perceived this opportunity on her own, however, and realized that she wasn’t going to win the actual competition or even that it wasn't worth winning, but that there was an alternative competition, that she could set the terms of, to become a big celebrity with a future in show business.

A general life principle can be extracted: When you are invited to play in someone else's game, identify a competition that you can win and win it. Let's just call that Omarosing.

April 15, 2004

Kwame, I told you to fire Omarosa. Well, I predicted the plot of the Apprentice finale, and I was wrong. (And I broke my vow too, for which I make no excuses.) But, I was right that the Jessica Simpson/celebrity golf tournament challenge was a big nothing, and I was right that what ought to have happened is that Kwame should have fired Omarosa. Trump was pretty clear that Kwame ought to have fired Omarosa, and he lost because he didn't. Kwame's response was that he didn't know he was allowed to fire her. Well, there's your key to winning The Apprentice, then, isn't it? You should have listened to me!
"Classic urban warfare." Jeffrey Gettleman writes a brilliant account, in today's NYT, of brilliantly successful urban warfare in Falluja. An excerpt:
One of the most important tools for this battle comes from the garden shed: sledgehammers. On Wednesday, marines punched "mouseholes," just big enough for gun barrels, in the brick walls of the homes they occupied. They also smashed windows to scatter shards of glass across the front steps.

"It's an early warning system," Capt. Shannon Johnson explained, as he crunched noisily across the glass, "something the old guys taught us."

Nearby, a squad of young men with crewcuts swung heavy hammers under a punishing sun. They were knocking down the low walls along the rooftops so they could move on catwalks from roof to roof.

"This is classic urban warfare," said Maj. Gen. Jim Mattis, commander of the First Marine Division. "It's all the stuff World War II taught us, along with Korea, Vietnam and Somalia. People will be studying Falluja for years to come."
"You're not listening." Kerry got testy at a City College event:
Retired college professor Walter Daum angrily accused [Kerry] of backing an imperialist policy in Iraq and called on him to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"You voted for this," Daum shouted. As he spoke, a group stood silently and unfurled a large sign that read, "Kerry take a stand: Troops out now."

Exasperated, Kerry said at one point, "You're not listening."

Speaking with reporters afterward, Kerry argued that stability in Iraq is his top priority and dismissed the notion of withdrawing U.S. troops. He indicated he would support any request for more U.S. forces in Iraq. Bush, at his news conference this week, said he would support an increased U.S. military presence in Iraq. ...

"I think the vast majority of the American people understand that it's important to not just cut and run," Kerry said. "I don't believe in a cut-and-run philosophy."

Kerry, arguing that there are "very real differences" between him and Bush on Iraq, said, "I believe it is possible to reduce the cost and the burden and the risk to American soldiers."

"We shouldn't only be tough, we have to be smart. And there's a smarter way to accomplish this mission than this president is pursuing," he told reporters.
Well, what is it? If you still don't know what he would do differently from Bush, do you deserve to be snapped at for "not listening"?
The short answer about what to wear for spring. Here’s a nice set of essays in Black Table, all written by women on the subject of what men should wear for spring. The short answer is: no shorts.

And let me add: that goes double for the mailman. Could the Postal Service please ban shorts, at least unless the temperature is going to be in the 80s? I’m living in Wisconsin. There are maybe three months of the year when it is hot enough that there is a real comfort issue justifying the wearing of shorts. But the temperature goes into the 40s and guys start wearing shorts around here. Perhaps there's a belief that exposing oneself to cold is a demonstration of manliness. But the trouble is: shorts are children's clothes. There might be some sports exceptions there, but who is the best dressed man in sports? I mean, while playing. Clearly: Tiger Woods. Have you ever seen him in shorts?

Here are some choice words from Jessica Pressler’s Black Table essay:

Just say it: Shorts. The word itself is ugly. The lazy shh, the fat, gaseous "ort".

Shorts, of all kinds, are very, very wrong. They are unfortunate with hairy, knobbily legs shooting out of them, boring when covering the tiny bum of a skaterboader or indie rocker, and disturbing when pressed against a wide, flat ass. Most of all, of course, they are tragic when revealing ...

In a word: Shorts are pants, emasculated. Emasculating.

A woman who doesn't consider herself shallow may even find herself in the throes of SRS (Sudden Revulsion Syndrome) as the seasons change….
Funny Air America response to Drudge. (Via Instapundit.) Do I recognize the authorial voice that once gave life to The Yellow Press here in Madison, Wisconsin? I think I do!
This Liu-ser was ripping off our boss Evan Cohen big time (he can’t do that, that’s our job). Evan found out about it and he stopped payment on a check to keep Liu-cifer from ripping him off even more. You can touch Evan for the occasional meal or drinks but a million bucks is crossing the line. And if we ever get low on cash, we can always call Barbra Streisand. Or any of the Baldwins. Except Stephen.

So we got screwed, Liu’d, and tattooed. How Liu can you get? In Liu of payment. Liu’d and lascivious behavior. These write themselves. What we’re getting at is that we hate him.
Tainting the 9/11 commission's conclusions? Jim Rutenberg in today's NYT:
Democrats and Republicans alike have raised concerns about the degree to which [the 9/11] commission members are discussing their deliberations on television and, even, in newspaper columns — to the point that they are spinning their views like the politicians that many of them are ....

The accessibility of the commissioners to the news media, not to mention the openness of their views, is a departure from similar independent commissions of the past. Its members' openness troubles some officials here, who say they worry that it is giving the panel an edge that will taint its conclusions — especially when coupled with what some have called a partisan tone to members' questions at the hearings here.
"Taint"? Only just a worry that there might be a taint?? We are so far beyond mere taint, it seems pointless to pay any more attention to them than to the next political TV ad. It seems to me that some commission members are using that status to procure free airtime for what is essentially political advertising. Why should anyone take their conclusions seriously? What a shameful display!
Connecting Jon Peter Lewis to the right 60s pop star from Manchester. As noted last night, Quentin Tarantino likened JPL to 60s British pop star Freddie Garrity (of Freddie and the Dreamers). And I agree that Freddie was awfully geeky, in fact, way more geeky than JPL. And JPL isn't really more geeky than anyone since Freddie: David Byrne was geekier than JPL (and so were a lot of those 70s new wave guys). Freddie tied back to the Buddy Holly line of popdom, and in fact, emphasized his resemblance to Holly by wearing the same type of glasses. We know JPL's favorite 50s star is not Holly, but Elvis, based on key song choices, such as last night's Jailhouse Rock. His dance style is an homage to Elvis (even as it is a touching and open acknowledgement of the impossibility of being Elvis).

The 60s Manchester pop idol that JPL actually resembles, who was much less geeky then Freddie, was the teen-boyfriend cute Peter Noone--"Herman," of Herman's Hermits. Oh, how I loved Herman's Hermits. I still enjoy listening to their greatest hits CD. They should do a British Pop 60s night on American Idol so JPL can sing "I'm Into Something Good."

Manchester bands were an interesting contrast to the Liverpool (and London) bands in the 60s. For some reason, at that time, Manchester produced poppier bands. The greatest one was The Hollies. (How can you not enjoy a Hollies greatest hits CD? Look Through Any Window, Bus Stop, He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother, etc.). Another Manchester band was Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. I didn't care about them, but the Mindbenders had one truly sublime single after Fontana left the group. I'll never forget the single with the light blue label that I played over and over: "Groovy Kind of Love."

UPDATE: Perhaps a love of Buddy Holly rather than Elvis actually is the explanation of the difference between the Manchester and Liverpool bands of the 60s. The Beatles' love of Elvis is very well known. Freddie's connection to Holly is noted above. The Hollies connection to Holly is right there in the name. How about Herman's Hermits? One of their earliest album tracks was a perfect rendition of Holly's "Heartbeat," which was nice because they also had a hit called "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat?"

FURTHER UPDATE: And now JPL is gone! Goodbye, JPL!

April 14, 2004

Predicting the bottom three. Prof. Yin thinks the bottom three on AI will be Jennifer, Jasmine, and John Stevens. Hmm... well, I surely agree about Jasmine. But I mis-TiVoed and didn't get to see Fantasia. On the final clip, she just seemed weird. I mean, Summertime is maybe the greatest song ever, but it just didn't seem to be the stuff of American Idol. Neither is Somewhere, of course. Both those performances, Fantasia and LaToya, were problematically not part of youthful pop culture. Now John Stevens with As Time Goes By is so odd that it becomes young again, I'd say. And that boy is not in danger: he survived being bad last week, and now he was good. That boy has fans. He won't be bottom three. And I bet JPL gets the most votes.

I'm going to predict the bottom as: Jasmine, Diana, and George. (Oh, and if "Against All Odds" is a big favorite song of his, how come George kept singing the words as "against the odds"? It's the damn title!) I think it is more likely that LaToya will be in the bottom three than John Stevens. The one who needs to go, though, is Jasmine.
Quentin Tarantino, you are the geekiest film director--all right? But when you get into your geek mode--all right?--there's no one quite like you. So here's QT, talking to Jon Peter Lewis:
JPL, you are the geekiest rock singer since Freddie and the Dreamers--all right?--but when you get into your geek mode--all right?--there's no one quite like you. And today, was beginning to end: bravo!"
And really JPL, singing Jailhouse Rock, was the best thing about the show. And the geek dimension of popdom deserves it's place in people's hearts. Personally, I remember when everyone fell in love with Freddie and the Dreamers. I don't still have the album with the picture of them in striped nightshirts and night caps (in case the word "Dreamers" might have been beyond our grasp without some literal illustration), but I warmly remember when it seemed perfectly wonderful to "Do the Freddie."

And I just loved how QT went on AI not only unashamed, but totally into the show, owning up to watching it, and totally getting how to be a judge. He had great one liners: "Hudson takes on Houston ... and wins!" And he was really just wonderful, with the heart of a real American pop culture fan--which of course he brings to his movies--movies that have a finer art dimension than the popless product more seriously serious artists offer us.

A Tarantino-less side note: was there some kind of dispute with Disney? Why did two of the performers go on about a Disney film and then do a song that had nothing to do with the film they talked about? John Stevens prepped us for "Prince Ali" and then he sang "As Time Goes By," and LaToya London made out as if Finding Nemo was her favorite flim and she just loved animation, and then she came out and sang "Somewhere" from West Side Story. Since they delayed a day to show this, why couldn't they redo the clip and make it go with the song? But I didn't believe any of the assertions about what their favorite movie was. How could a grown man (George Huff) have The Wiz as a favorite movie? And how could anyone have Sister Act 2 as their favorite movie (Jennifer Hudson)?? They had a song they wanted to sing ... but how embarrassing to have to pretend, especially when two other singers didn't even sing the song that went with the movie they claimed as a favorite. What a ridiculously fly-by-night operation the biggest show on TV is!
"Blatantly violating that beautiful line." Here's Kerry at a fundraiser in Boston:
"There is nothing conservative, whatsoever, about this administration .... There's nothing conservative about blatantly violating that beautiful line drawn by our Founding Fathers that separates church and state in the United States of America."
Having struggled with my students through the difficulties of the Establishment Clause cases, I'd really like to know exactly what that "beautiful line" is. We find it awfully hard to see at all. But here's Kerry, seeing it so clearly that he not only is sure it's being violated, but it's being "blatantly" violated. By exactly what, I'd like to know.

Oh, and I'm bored by the old rhetorical maneuver that those who claim to be conservative are not really conservative. It's a classic move that I remember my old law school dean wielding in a speech at my graduation in 1981. He was criticizing the Burger Court, and dredging up the true, respectable conservative, Harlan, whom he probably didn't like much in Harlan's own day, but who served as a good example of why the Burger Court wasn't living up to its own standards. I'm complaining about the old rhetoric, yet that's a pretty old speech to still remember, so it's hard to blame Kerry for using it too.
Hey! I became an adorable little rodent! Only yesterday, I was merely a flappy bird! That's in The Truth Laid Bear ecosystem, as you probably know.

So a rat is better than an eagle? I think the eagle could quickly demonstrate otherwise.
Can we get a little coordination here? Bush, at his press conference, last night:
...the truth of the matter is most in the country never felt that we'd be vulnerable to an attack such as the one that Osama bin Laden unleashed on us.

We knew he had designs on us. We knew he hated us. But there was nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government that could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.
Rice, testifying to the 9/11 Commission:
KEAN. I've got a question now I'd like to ask you. It was given to me by a number of members of the families. Did you ever see or hear from the F.B.I., from the C.I.A., from any other intelligence agency, any memos, discussions or anything else between the time you were elected or got into office and 9/11 talked about using planes as bombs?

RICE. Let me address this question because it has been on the table. I think that concern about what I might have known or we might have known was provoked by some statements that I made in a press conference. I was in a press conference to try and describe the Aug. 6 memo, which I've talked about here in the - my opening remarks and which I talked about with you in the private session. And I said at one point that this was a historical memo, that it was not based on new threat information. And I said, No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon - I'm paraphrasing now - into the World Trade Center using planes as missiles. As I said to you in the private session, I probably should have said, I could have not imagined. Because within two days people started to come to me and say, Oh, but there were these reports in 1998 and 1999; the intelligence community did look at information about this. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chairman, this kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us. I cannot tell you that there might not have been a report here or a report there that reached somebody in our midst. ... All that I can tell you is that it was not in the Aug. 6 memo - using planes as a weapon. And I do not remember any reports to us, a kind of strategic warning that planes might be used as a weapon. In fact, there were some reports done in '98 and '99. I think I was - I was certainly not aware of them at the time that I spoke.
With Rice having so recently struggled through that elaborate dance responding to a question that "has been on the table," couldn't Bush have advanced beyond square one by now? I see spin material in the words "on such a massive scale": they envisioned planes slamming into buildings, but not three planes on the same day and not such large buildings. But I would appreciate a little more grace and frankness and display of deep knowledge and understanding from the President.

April 13, 2004

Tarantino on American Idol! According to Entertainment Weekly (possibly subscriber access only):
Next week on ''American Idol,'' the guest judge will be someone for whom the word ''DiVAS'' doesn't refer to Fantasia or La Toya, but rather Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. It's Quentin Tarantino, who'll be the celebrity guest judge during a week in which the contestants will sing movie theme songs. The 41-year-old director follows ''Idol'' closely, his publicist, Bumble Ward, told EW.com. ''He's no dilettante. He's the real deal when it comes to being a celebrity judge,'' she said. So when asked to be a judge, ''he leapt at the opportunity. ... He's an ardent and opinionated fan of the show.''
As a general rule, I can't stand the guest judges. Mostly because they aren't so good at talking. That's obviously not a problem with Tarantino. I think it's great that he's going to be on the show. Not only will he add verbal power to the panel of judges, but, based on the music he's put together for his movies, I'd say he has a lot of interesting insight into popular music. Too bad the theme is just movie themes and not Weird Old Pop Songs That Tarantino Might Put on a Movie Soundtrack.
Bill and Kwame: joint winners? Venkat, at Begging to Differ, notes how much I've blogged about The Apprentice and writes:
I bet $20 that Prof. Althouse breaks down and watches the finale, or spends at least two hours blogging the finale, after having read about it.
Don't forget: and blogs about breaking her vow not to watch it! Well, we've already resolved the American Idol/Apprentice TiVo issue at my house in favor of The Apprentice, though I wasn't the instigator. Venkat thinks Bill is going to win, which is also what the Bally odds are saying (via Gawker, which linked here too. So, hi Gawker fans, please look around). More interestingly, Venkat notes the potential to declare both Kwame and Bill joint winners. Well, maybe both will get jobs, just like both Clay and Ruben (and Kelly and Justin) got record contracts, but I think you've got to pay off in the end and have one winner. (Yeah, what about all the people who are betting?) One reason cutting the other way is that for the first time, the competition has no set standard for who wins, no dollar amount. They aren't even doing the same thing. There's a suspicious incommensurability here.

April 12, 2004

Dennis Miller's show is cancelled? Donald Trump, guest on tonight's show, said as much to Miller, and Miller said nothing! (Too bad! You have to give a show a chance to become something. What does CNBC have to lose?)

Miller on The Apprentice:
I like the Kwame kid, because you look last week at the guy ... he had the doll head ... [He means: Troy.] I remember thinking, wow, does this play in a cosmopolitan situation? ... It's a little too Hee Haw. That's the thing I dig about Kwame, 'cuz you look at Kwame, he's so smooth, so buttoned-down and smart ...
Miller brings up the subject of Erika being labelled a racist by Omarosa and criticizes Trump for allowing Erika to be depicted that way. He says: "Listen, I had Omarosa on the show the other day and I was scared s***less."
Poor Borders. So Tonya's laptop died and instead of just keeping life simple and picking the Mac with the features she wants, she went to Borders and studied computer magazines for a long time. Noting that she didn't buy even the magazine that was especially helpful, she bemoans the lack of copy machines at Borders. Ha ha! Poor Borders! Everyone takes advantage of their amenities. Yesterday, there was a young woman for whom it was not enough that they provided comfy chairs. She had to roll two of them facing each other to make a little bed, and she then took a nice long nap! Other people had so many books piled up to read at the café tables that they kept accidentally setting off the nearby theft-detecting device in front of the door. Some poetic justice ensued when the beeping device woke up the chair hog.
Student blogs. It's great that Gordon is running a poll to pick the best law student blogs. He's done a nice job of presenting the various contenders and highlighting particular posts that made him laugh. I can't systematically check them all out and form any conclusions--I'm not even sure law students want lawprofs reading their blogs! But, reading around, I'll just say this made me laugh ... maybe because I've always had a special place in my heart for Justice Kennedy.
People are not answering the question pollsters ask. This poll (which Instapundit called attention to today) really amazes me:
A Time/CNN survey taken [April 8] showed that 48 percent of Americans said they believe the Bush administration did all it could to prevent the [9/11] attacks, up from 42 percent in a poll taken March 26-28. A CBS News poll, also conducted yesterday, showed 32 percent of Americans said the administration did everything possible to stop the attacks, up from 22 percent the previous week.
Surely, with hindsight, we can see that there are additional things that might have been done! So why are so many people expressing this belief, which if true would be terrifying? It would mean that there is no way to anticipate the next step terrorists will take and to do something to squelch their new and surprising plans. I would like to think that, spurred by 9/11, our government is now getting out in front of the terrorists. I think that the 48 percent who said to the pollsters that nothing more could have been done don't really think that, but are answering the question that way as an expression of support for the President, based on a confidence that there he really is doing much more now than before 9/11, a forgiveness for not having operated at the highest level of vigilance before 9/11, and a weariness over the efforts of his political opponents to score points by scouring the record to find things to blame him for. The question should be: Do you blame President Bush for not having done more to prevent the 9/11 attacks? I think that is the question the 48 percent imagined they were answering. If the question where actually asked that way, I think the percent supporting Bush would be much higher.
So will you watch Bush or American Idol? Well, maybe if Bush would wear a tight black T-shirt and tell the reporters their questions are "ghastly," "dreadful," and "horrific." Or maybe if we could speed dial to vote in favor of our eight favorite policies.

UPDATE: Now Drudge is reporting (same link) that Fox will delay showing the Tuesday show until Wednesday and then do a live results show on Thursday. Excellent move, for two reasons. First, you don't want to lose the votes of the people who are politically engaged yet TiVo-less. That would skew the vote, assuming people like that vote in AI. Second, delaying the results show until Thursday helps--along with my boycott--to reduce the number of people watching The Apprentice.
Historic loss. Fire has destroyed the oldest restaurant in Wisconsin, the Post House, built in 1857 in Spring Green. This was the kind of place known for "Friday Fish Fry" (“with cottage fries, homemade bread …, and our famous coleslaw”), "Pasta Presentation Wednesday's" ("make-your-own-pasta-creation"), "Ribs on Thursdays" ("pork ribs, smothered in a tasty barbeque sauce"--also with "famous coleslaw"), and "Sunday Breakfast Buffet and Brunch" ("Homemade pastries, fresh fruit, made to order omelets, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, and French toast ... at 11am to 2 pm we add chicken, beef, and red bee potatoes to make a spectacular brunch").

So it's too late now to find out what sort of coleslaw can be famous or to chide them for how they made "Wednesday" plural. It's not too late to visit the oldest restaurant in your own town and have some of that great old comfort food, perhaps made by people who think the way to transform a meal into a spectacle is the simple addition of beef and potatoes. To me, it's just charming that there exists in the world something called red bee potatoes.
How soon before you can't even give away VHS tapes? Fortunately, we were early DVD adopters at my house. We were buying a lot of movies and I realized right away that it was unwise to buy any more in the tape format. The other day I cleared all the VHS tapes off the shelves, because no one wants to watch anything on tape anymore. Then I realized we needed to take these to the second hand place and unload them quick, because soon they will be worth nothing at all, like all the old Beta format movies I neglected to sell. So we took a carload of tapes over to sell and walked away with a cool $72. They wouldn't take the tapes in boxes that looked too shabby, so that left us, by chance, with this odd collection of VHS tapes:
Battleship Potemkin
Defending Your Life
Dick Tracy
Night of the Living Dead
Nosferatu (the Murnau one)
Postcards From the Edge
Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Three of those, we had replaced with DVDs. I think it should be obvious which three out of that group deserved to be replaced.
Supreme Court retirements in the offing? The AP is picking up ... nothing:
Each spring brings whispered theories, educated guesses and, sometimes, rank speculation about whether one or more of the nine Supreme Court justices will call it quits.

This year there's barely a peep.

No one, the thinking goes, wants to step down in a presidential election year because any nominee chosen as a replacement would probably become a political punching bag. History shows the Senate has a poor record of confirming election-year nominees, meaning the Supreme Court would be short-handed.

How many times were we told in the 2000 presidential campaign that the new President would have at least two and probably three Supreme Court appointments? (But Bush got zero.) I'm steeling myself for the new alarm: Whoever wins the election this year is going to get at least three, no at least four, but probably five or six, no, really, he's going to get to appoint a whole new Court!!! And the accompanying inanity: You really should therefore base your vote entirely on what you think about abortion.
Aw! Thanks to How Appealing for linking to this great picture of Justice Breyer:

"The marriage of comedy and politics is even more unhealthy than the marriage of church and state." So says Lee Siegel, TNR's TV critic. Too many metaphors: marriage and health. And unhealthy comedy is not going to kill anyone, whereas the diseases of the religion-state alliance have produced monumental evils throughout history.

But I agree with Siegel that right now politics is ruining comedy, especially The Daily Show (as I said here). Jon Stewart gets so much good press--the NYT never misses an opportunity to praise him--so it's really almost shocking to read strong criticism like this:
Stewart weighs down his jokes with a kind of Government 101 knowingness. He's not just funny about politics, you see, he's savvy about the way the system works, and he's going to help us through the maze. In Washington, "you have to cut through the partisan gridlock just to get to the bureaucratic logjam." Stop, you're killing me. But when it came to Richard Clarke and his controversial book, Stewart gave up even the pretense of being funny. ... Here was a slick, malleable, professional political advisor/operator, who had the choice of resigning in protest against an invasion of Iraq months before it took place, when such a protest might have had consequences, but chose instead to wait until his slighted ego burst at the seams--this Clarke, a true embodiment of human foible and folly, deserved to be manhandled by the spirit of laughter every bit as much as his accusations deserved to be defended by the spirit of truth. But like everybody else in public life, from politicians and pundits to performers and poets, Stewart wants to seem edifying and instructive. He wants to seem good.

Wanting to seem good is really bad for comedy. And, of course, picking a political side to be what is good is just bad for so many reasons. Siegel thinks Stewart is pandering to his audience, but I would think he's losing half of his audience. He's lost me. And (unlike Siegel) I was completely in love with him.

I'VE JUST GOT TO ADD: If I didn't independently agree with Siegel's opinion of The Daily Show, I would have been quite reluctant to trust him, because I think his instincts about comedy are a bit off, since he seems to have meant the following sentence to be taken seriously:
Politics hates the naked unbridled ego that laughter sets free; it hates it with the intensity with which laughter heaps its furies on the naked unbridled ego that hides behind the highflown sentiments of politics.

As Jon Stewart would say: Whaaaa?
Monday morning ... Apprentice addiction aftereffects ... I arrived at the Law School at 8 this morning. It's cold here, people! There were some flakes of snow in the air yesterday. Today, it's clear and sunny, but it's crisp. I mean it's in the thirties. I was pulling a small wheelie suitcase with me--a way to cart the load of admissions files, editing, laptop, etc.--and I had this feeling it was sort of cool and chic to be pulling a wheelie suitcase. Where did that feeling come from? It always used to seem dumb to be pulling along a suitcase, a tiny suitcase that you're too lazy to carry. Oh, I realized I had that feeling because of The Apprentice, where they are forever packing up their suitcases and wheeling them around!

Some people ask, isn't it a big waste to make everyone pack a whole suitcase when only one is leaving? But what makes you think those suitcases really have their stuff in them? How do you know they aren't just wheeling their suitcases around for effect? How do you know those are their suitcases? Those are just props! That's what I was thinking as I continued to wheel in my admissions-files-packed suitcase this morning. That and why must thoughts of the TV show I've sworn off continue to swirl in my little head, which must concentrate on the market participant exception to the negative commerce clause this morning?

Oh, did you know I took the "Which Apprentice Are You" quizilla? And since it turns out I'm Bill, I assume I'll be able to get ready for class by 11.

April 11, 2004

Blog or Psychedelic Band? The Test. Yesterday, I was fascinated by the names of old psychedelic bands at the website Fuzz Acid & Flowers, and I think I carried that psychedelic fascination with me this morning when I was reading the blog popularity chart on The Truth Laid Bear. What is it with blog names and 1964-1972 acid rock band names? Starting with The Truth Laid Bear, half of the blog names sound like old acid rock band names. Okay this is a test: old psychedelic band name or present day blog name?

Pinwheels and Orange Peels
Admiral Quixote’s Roundtable
Beatnik Salad
Sainte Anthony’s Fyre
The Marble Phrogg
The Reasons Why
Flagrancy to Reason
Balasubramania’s Mania
$27 Snap on Face

I could go on and on. Feel free to find your own blog names on the acid rock list and acid rock names on the blog list. Hey, everybody, make your own "Blog or Psychedelic Band?" test and post it on your blog!
"Tense, frowning Beethoven-ness" in Madison. Here's a strange and incredibly arty thing happening in Madison of all places, as reported by the NYT:
... Norwegian conceptual artist Leif Inge digitally elongates a recording of [Beethoven's Ninth Symphony] to make it last 24 hours. The piece slows symphonic time so that movement is barely perceptible. What you hear in normal time as a happy Viennese melody lasting 5 or 10 seconds becomes minutes of slowly cascading overtones; a drumroll becomes a nightmarish avalanche. Yet the symphony remains somehow recognizable in spirit if not in form, its frozen strings fraught with tense, frowning Beethoven-ness. ... The slowness eases you into a trance, but the layers of dissonance make the experience slightly uncomfortable.

Mr. Inge created the piece in 2002, and he is now bringing it to America. Tomorrow he will discuss it and play excerpts at Free103point9, a gallery in Brooklyn, and on Friday it will unfold in its full 24-hour glory at the cavernous Theo Kupfer Foundry and Ironworks in Madison, Wis. ...

Theo Kupfer Foundry and Ironworks? Never heard of it, and I've lived in Madison for 20 years. Well, here's an article about it in today's Capital Times:
When John Martens took his first look inside the cavernous industrial building at 149 Waubesa St., he was overwhelmed by its beauty and potential.

"I truly got weak in the knees," said Martens, a local restoration architect.

No mention in that article of "9 Beet Stretch," the glacially paced Beethoven the Times says is playing this Friday.