July 10, 2004

Devising personal methodologies.

At Borders, John was checking out "Law School Confidential: A Complete Guide to the Law School Experience," and I picked up "Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui." John had picked up his book first and asked me what I thought. I said I thought it would be better to devise your own plan for law school, based on what makes sense to you and accords with methods you've used successfully in the past. The law school book is designed to help a broad range of people with lots of different styles and abilities and intentions, and maybe you could scan it quickly and get some ideas, but you're better off creating your own methods.

I then set out to browse and picked up the clutter book, even though I detest bogus spirituality books, because ... well, why? Because Borders had it out on a display shelf? Because clutter in the house really does feel like a spiritual problem? Because I need inspiration to unclutter my house even if it is bogus? So I scanned the book, reconvincing myself that clutter must in fact be removed, but ultimately realizing that what I'd just told John about the law school book was true about the Feng Shui clutter book: I need to devise my own methodology. But I was pretty absorbed in the book for a while. When did I become unabsorbed? Oh, round about when the author moved on past uncluttering your house and your office to uncluttering your colon. I did check out the list of 21 steps for uncluttering. Why so many steps? [Speaking of clutter ... ] There were steps like "Attune yourself to the place. Announce your presence and radiate your intentions." There were a lot of rules too, like: don't play any music.

But steps and rules can be helpful, even if they are essentially made-up nonsense. They can create a sense of purpose and dedication. I invented a ritual for reading and studying in law school, then I believed in following my ritual, and that belief helped me. Now, with my cluttered house, I need to devise my own methodology. My idea is to locate the core of disorder--those shelves!--and tranform it into the origin of a new, austere, streamlined tranquility, then enlarge that core of orderliness by small degrees, moving out to the next locus of disorder.

Whoopi's swipe at Hillary.

According to the NYT, at that Democratic fundraiser the other night, where Whoopi Goldberg helped the slow members of the audience perceive the double entendre of the President's last name, she "also struck an unexpectedly nonpartisan note when she said Nancy Reagan was the last White House occupant who 'really looked good.'" Who even remembers Democrats saying anything nice about the way Nancy Reagan looked back in the 1980s? That was just purely, gratuitously mean to Hillary Clinton!

Coffee and conventions.

I've been sitting here at Espresso Royale, drinking caffeine long enough to start finding the laughter of human beings bizarre and annoying and reading and blogging long enough to run my laptop battery down to 48%. I'm torn between two directions to walk upon exiting this place. I could turn left and walk up to the Capitol Square, where, this week, the Art Fair is taking place. I love art, so I hate the Art Fair, but I might go up there and see what might be photographable. (The camera transforms places I don't like into destinations.) I could turn right and head up to the Law School, where I would like to edit a handout for Monday's Conlaw class, an answer key to the Spring exam. Other tasks abound--notably, writing the exam (to be given on Thursday) and editing the Civpro2 materials for Fall. [UPDATE: Left turn avoided.]

A few minutes ago, a colleague broke my screen-staring spell, and we chatted for a minute. She's off to various destinations, including Boston. I said I hoped she wasn't going during the Convention, because things are reputedly going to be very inconvenient. (She's not.) This led to a bit of a discussion about what the demonstrations in New York and Boston were going to be like. I was thinking about this New Yorker Talk of the Town.
“It’s going to be a little bit like the Battle of Seattle,” Pat Buchanan, the former Presidential candidate, predicted the other day, alluding to the large-scale demonstrations against the World Trade Organization conference in 1999, during which police fired rubber bullets at overzealous protesters. ...

Buchanan [reminisced about the 1968 Democratic convention where he] quickly realized that images of the most rabid, unruly protesters—inevitably the focus of television coverage—provided better counter-spin than any Republican sound bite could. ...

This year’s preëlection fervor calls to mind 1968 in many ways, though clearly the scenarios are not quite parallel. Democratic activists are intending to undermine the Republicans’ Convention, not their own. And Pat Buchanan is no longer a Republican operative. ... Buchanan plans to be in New York for the Convention, as a journalist. He will be wearing a coat and tie, of course, and some lessons of Chicago and Seattle will linger in his mind.

“I thought the demonstrators in Seattle”—the anarchist minority, that is—“destroyed the effectiveness of a protest by union people and a broad-based coalition,” he said. He imagined a swarm of his antiwar brethren: “If the image is of the President and Republicans assembled inside, having a strong, united, purposeful Convention, and you’ve got a bunch of ragtag, you know, anarchists and leftists and long-haired demonstrators and foulmouthed accusers outside, well, the contrast—I can tell you who will win that one.”

My colleague responded to this image by saying that it would be important then for demonstrators to think of creative ways to earn the attention of the TV news editors. I said something cynical about puppets--meaning those large political effigies one always sees at demonstations--and she opined that those puppets were great. I really don't think those things are going to tend to counter the impression created by ugly or chaotic demonstrations. We'll see soon enough.

What we're wondering about today.

Jeremy focuses attention on the pressing question whether Lambuel is a hoax. (Here and here.) Lambuel is such a sweetly drawn Christian lamb in a turtleck sweater that one resists the thought that the person who drew him was insincere. But elsewhere on the website, you see a Baby Jesus cartoon that was obviously drawn by someone who harbored ill feelings toward Christianity. And when that Baby Jesus finds his way here, as Jeremy notes, you've got to admit that Lambuel means only to mock. You can also tell it's a sham from the "children's drawings" section: you can always detect an adult's attempt to draw like a child. For some reason, it never looks right. I note that if you Google "lambuel hoax," Jeremy comes up third. A question I have is whether the comedians who put up this website were hoping only to entertain adults by satirizing the way religious belief is induced in children or whether they wanted to trick the kids who will surely find their way here.

Rank ambivalence.

The Saturday NYT, which maybe thinks nobody's reading, always runs a couple of articles that dip into the thoughts of the world of scholarship. Today, one topic is "rankism." (The other topic is radical traditionalism, and it's the better article, but I'm only going to talk about rankism here.) "Rankism" is a word coined by Robert W. Fuller to signify "the bullying behavior of people who think they are superior."
"I wanted a nasty word for the crime, an unpleasant word, a stinky word," he said, referring to his choice of the word rankism. "Language is incredibly important in making political change. I always go back to that word sexism and how it became the catalyst for a movement."

Hmmm... well, I believe in the power of language too. For example, when a grown man uses the expression "a stinky word," I pick up a whiff of childhood pain. And when a man tries to start a movement using a word, I hear the prudish teacher/nanny/mommy chiding "use words." And when the movement is about quashing "bullying," I sense the presence of a man intensely in touch with his sensitive inner child. So, that's the material whining for attention in the nerdy Saturday paper.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times, the one everyone reads, is running this article, which is up now online, jumping off the screen with candy-colored cartoons of luscious women. A woman named Coco Hanson Scales writes "The Hostess Diary: My Year at a Hot Spot," detailing how she wielded the ego-swelling power to exclude people from a popular restaurant.
[The owner] is fanatical about making the lounge an oasis of rail-thin, beautiful women. He drills me about the kind of clientele he wants and doesn't want. If people are unattractive, I must seat them in corners or turn down the lights so as not to draw attention to them. I make sure the servers know to bring their orders quickly so they are not tempted to walk around.

To Ms. Scales's credit, as she tells the story, she got tired of it all within a year--tired of hearing the cooks mutter "diablo" as she scampered by in skirts so short she could never bend over, tired of seeing the staff mock the President's daughter for loving Guns n' Roses, tired of shuffling Monica Lewinsky out the back door. She's thinking of going back to school. Maybe she's reading the Saturday Times. (Seriously, I think we all know what Scales is doing: writing a catty book about all the celebs that passed through Hue.)

July 9, 2004

Rethinking: Is Joe Schmo worth watching?

Well, Throwing Things convinced me to watch my TiVo'd episodes of The Joe Schmo Show from the last two weeks. "Quite possibly the most inventive show on TV"? (For slow watchers, I'm about to spoil some things.) I was all for keeping Ingrid on the show. After the cliffhanger episode two weeks ago, when she was saying "Where's my script?," I was yelling, "Give her a script!" So I was glad to see them reveal the trick to her and offer her a place as an actress in the cast. The move from out of the loop to in the loop is interesting. But almost immediately thereafter, they brought a new woman in to be the new dummy. They didn't "invent" much of anything. They kept Ingrid, but they essentially shuffled her to the side. When they brought in Amanda, they replaced Ingrid. They did not have enough clever ideas to really use Ingrid in a brilliantly reconceived story. They just wheeled in a dumber woman. I'm sorry, but I resent Amanda. The show should have turned into Ingrid's story: Can she act? Dare she betray what's-his-name? Doesn't she feel guilty about taking the $100,000 to dupe her counterpart? Instead, it's back to square one with Amanda. Who cares?

A political dieting strategy.

One man's struggle to avoid beer and another's to avoid politics, both complicated by conditions in Madison, Wisconsin.

Obsessing about the 0s.

Tonya is obsessing about turning 40 and soliciting advice from people who have. So I'll respond.

When you turn 40 (or any of the other 0s), you can finally stop thinking about how you're about to turn 40. You just did. It's the lead-up that's the problem. And it starts early, maybe even on the "5." That is, you've been thinking, oh no, I'm pushing 40. You don't have to think that anymore, and it's at least 5 years too early to start with I'm pushing 50. It's only the pushing that is onerous. No one ever frets about pulling 40. There isn't even an expression "I'm pulling 40." That's because the 0s are only hard to push, not to pull. So just get around over into the pull position and it'll be just fine. So enjoy the next 5 years. In fact, enjoy the next 8 years: you're free to see years 44-47 as your "mid-40s." Don't go with the "pushing 50" thought until you're 48. And then, you have my sympathies, because that's really going to hurt.

Which leads me to my second point. You can feel much better right now if you just think how it would feel if you were turning 50. But what about these poor souls who are pushing 50? Well, they can just think about how people turning 60 feel. But really, once you're 50, you've thought too much already about the subject, and, like a lot of other things, it's become too boring to keep thinking about. In fact, one of the benefits of being over 50 is that a lot of formerly troubling thoughts just don't have the power to bother you anymore. It's quite liberating to be so jaded.

UPDATE: Prof. Yin has a way to lengthen the time between the aging obsessions. I think if the zeroes came up more frequently we would make less of them. If the time between zeroes were longer, wouldn't we really flip out when they came up? Or is 10 years exactly the time period that makes the zero seem so significant? I remember turning 10 and thinking it was tragic that I would never again be able to write my age with a single digit. And that I was one-tenth of the way toward being 100. And how horrible it was to think that I was probably at best only going to have 9 more stretches of time equivalent to the inconsequential time period I'd already lived. I found that quite frightening, and I did not even yet realize that the 10 year periods feel much faster when you are older. I thought 10 years when you are a child seem like very little because when you are a child you hardly get to do anything. A related tangent: someone was saying recently that if the words "eleven" and "twelve" had been "oneteen" and "twoteen," we would not have the notion we do of what a teenager is.


I'll be talking about blogging--of all things!--on WHA-AM 970 here in Madison this Sunday at 2 pm on Jean Feraca's show "Here on Earth." The last time I was in the WHA radio studio was to do a call-in show right after the Florida Supreme Court's oral argument in Bush v. Gore. It seemed painfully obvious at the time that the litigation had reached the end of the line. Maybe I will manage to have some equally apt insights this Sunday.

Mineral Point.

Yesterday, I drove out to Mineral Point. Here's the view from High Street, looking down to Commerce:

It's a very old town, with some beautiful old buildings:

Here's the White House:

The most distinctive thing on High Street is this sculpture of a dog, which juts out above one of the storefronts:

The dog theme, tied to the town's name, is carried over into more recent representations:

There are a lot of antique shops, and maybe in one of them, you'll be able to find a dog you like, like this one, which I'm now sorry I didn't take home with me:

July 8, 2004

Where is Bush?

John (my son) sends me a link to this National Review editorial with the message "NR agrees with you ... Read the last paragraph." The editorial is mostly about Kerry's VP choice ("Edwards brings real strengths to the Democratic ticket. He is an attractive figure. Voters seem to respond to youth, energy, and good looks"). I see that NR agrees with a point I blogged yesterday; they write:
Republicans will be tempted to make an issue of Edwards's background as a trial lawyer. They should not overestimate the extent to which the public at large shares their dislike of trial lawyers. They make their money, after all, by telling sympathetic stories that win over ordinary people.

But that last paragraph John points me to is this:
Bush and Cheney have shown some lassitude this year. They should get their campaign started. The spur of competition might do them some good, too.

I haven't blogged this opinion of mine yet, but yesterday, I was saying to John that I don't think Bush is really trying to win the election. Where is he? Is he fighting at all? I was seriously speculating last night that Bush doesn't want a second term, that he's tired and thinks he's done enough. He's done so much in one term, and history will judge him on how well the events he's set in motion play out. It's as if he's thinking: I've already done two terms worth. I got my work done fast. Can I go home early?

Soup lyrics.

Here are the four lines of "At Long Last Love" that Cole Porter wrote while he was in excruciating pain with his legs crushed, pinned under a horse for hours, waiting to be rescued--according to John Lahr, writing in the New Yorker (link via A&L Daily):
“Is it an earthquake or simply a shock?
Is it the good turtle soup or merely the mock?
Is it a cocktail, this feeling of joy?
Or is what I feel the real McCoy?”

You know soup does not make an appearance in song lyrics all that often, but oddly enough, just the other day, I was sitting in a cafe, eating an almond scone, and I noticed this bizarrely soup-related lyric in a Sam Cooke song:
Shake it like a bowl of soup
And make your body loop de loop
Put your hands on your hips
And kinda let your backbone slip
Move your body like a whip
And just shake!

Now, you just know the original idea was to shake like a bowl of jelly (like Santa Claus in "'Twas the Night Before Christmas") but he switched to soup for the sake of rhyme.

The only other soup lyric I can think of offhand is the Lewis Carroll lyric "Beautiful Soup." I'll try harder later, but I've got to run to class.

UPDATE: Well, I see Bob Dylan did his own version of Sam Cooke's "Shake." It's called "Wiggle, Wiggle." Here's the soup part:
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a bowl of soup,
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a rolling hoop,
Wiggle, wiggle, wiggle like a ton of lead,
Wiggle - you can raise the dead.

Pretty funny, and a nice salute to Cooke. "Under the Red Sky" is a Dylan album I never paid any attention to.

And here's the text of "Beautiful Soup," set alongside the poem it was parodying. Carroll substitutes the homely image of soup for the lofty image of a star.

ANOTHER UPDATE: You can listen to "Wiggle, Wiggle," and buy "Under the Red Sky"--cheap!--here, on Amazon. The Amazon commenters are pretty brutal, several calling it Dylan's worst album. "Wiggle, Wiggle" wins special contempt. No one seems to get that "Wiggle, Wiggle" is to "Shake" as "Beautiful Soup" is to "Star of the Evening."

"Better hair."

John Kerry, on his first day of campaigning with John Edwards, makes this claim:
"We've got better vision. We've got better ideas. We've got real plans. We've got a better sense of what's happening to America," Kerry told thousands of supporters here in the first of two stops in Ohio. "And we've got better hair. I'll tell you, that goes a long way."

That bulbous wig of a hairdo Kerry's been using to offset his lengthy face is good hair? That flappy, fine fringe accentuating Edwards' babyish looks is good hair? Please! For decades, I've been groaning about the outdated Beatle haircuts worn by aging Baby Boomers. Long hair is a young man's style that makes an older man look like an unattractive woman! Beatle styling, with combed down bangs in front, belongs in the 1960s--early 70s at the latest. It's as if 20 years from now, some guy were to run for President and wear his hair like this. I realize practically every man in Congress is making the same mistake of keeping the Beatle do alive, but could someone please tell these people how terribly estranged from any sense of style these men are? The only one of the current candidates with a respectable hairstyle is George Bush. Cheney ought to wear much shorter hair: he's making the same mistake as Edwards, but he's unable to pull if off because of baldness. It's especially important for balding men to wear their hair quite short. (Bonus fashion advice for Cheney: get smaller glasses.)

Early morning.

Did you see that the first post today has a 4:33 a.m. timestamp? And yesterday's was 5:02? My two-hour 8 a.m. class has completely transformed my biorhythms, apparently. I was already a morning person, but this is a bit eerie. At least the NYT is already here at that hour. The Wall Street Journal is heard thudding onto the front sidewalk some time later. I don't subscribe to the WSJ, but for months someone else's subscription has been delivered to me. Why doesn't that person notice and call them? You may say that I ought to call, that I have an ethical obligation to call, and I agree. I called after three days of misdeliveries. I had to go through several touch-tone menu levels and then wait on hold for quite a while. Finally, I got through to a human being, and I patiently explained the problem and was told it would be fixed. Am I supposed to do that again? Frankly, I think the WSJ has an ethical obligation to come help me with my recycling!

"5 Films About Christo."

Even though I'm avoiding buying DVDs the way I did back when they first came out and it was possible to buy everything I was interested in, there are still some things I must buy as soon as I see they exist. "5 Films About Christo" is one of the things in that category. I love the Maysles Brothers documentaries (like this), and I'm also interested in the artist Christo. (Interested enough to consider planning a trip to New York just to be able to see "The Gates" in Central Park next February. I saw an exhibit about the project at the Metropolitan Museum, which is still on view and will be until July 25th.)

Here's a nice short review of it in the Onion AV Club. An excerpt:
Each film is rife with inherent drama, as Christo and Jeanne-Claude battle bureaucracy, weather, and countless other variables endemic in mounting projects of such size and scope. In Christo, the Maysles find a fascinating and dynamic protagonist, a mercurial, lanky, heavily accented, intermittently incomprehensible iconoclast whose Coke-bottle glasses, long black hair, and intense demeanor make him look like a cross between Kramer from Seinfeld and a deranged monk. In attitude and bearing, Christo is like a religious fanatic whose religion is art. In the early films especially, Christo interacts with drawling, homespun Americans who must see him as some sort of space alien from the Planet Art.

Naked lunch.

Here's an interesting little squib in today's NYT:
LOUISIANA: CLUB CAN'T KEEP WOMEN OUT OF 'MEN'S GRILLE' The State Supreme Court ruled that the Southern Trace Country Club in Shreveport could not exclude women from a public dining area based on its desire to protect their sensibilities and the men's privacy if the men wanted to dine "in various stages of undress." The club had argued that the Men's Grille, the only one of its restaurants that is open on Sundays, is near the men's locker room to preserve the "locker room environment," and that men occasionally eat there in only a towel or in the nude. The court said Tuesday that the practice violated the club's own dress code, and it upheld an appeal court's ruling that the policy was arbitrary and capricious.

Imagine if you were allowed to discriminate all you want as long as you are naked. Or did the court say that if only the clubhouse rules said you could dine naked, you really could discriminate?

But what is wrong with people that they want to eat in a "locker room environment"--with its fungal overtones? And while you're getting your act together, and getting rid of the "Men's" in "Men's Grille," how about getting rid of the "e" in that "Grille"? A "grille" is that metal shield for the car's radiator. You cook on a "grill." I love the way, in their quest for a manly clubhouse, they embraced the fey Ye-Olde-Shoppe approach to spelling. For a literal-minded person like me, "Men's Grille" conjures up a picture of a large car with lots of little (naked) men stuck into the front metalwork. I'm seeing a Gary Larson-style cartoon.

July 7, 2004

"When I'm 64."

Finally, a Beatle actually is 64. Happy Birthday, Ringo! And "A Hard Day's Night" is 40. Hmmmm... buy the DVD. It's got a lot of special features, like "Such a Clean Old Man!' – Memories Of Wilfrid Brambell." I see an Amazon commenter is complaining that Paul McCartney didn't do a commentary track, but, really, Paul's gotten to be a bit of an old bore. If you care about the Beatles, don't you already have the Anthology DVDs and haven't you, therefore, already heard enough from Paul? And I don't think good old Ringo is inclined to blab all that much. He's a decent guy and not a blabbermouth. I love them both, but leave Ringo alone, and Paul's said more than enough already. Just watch the great old movie "A Hard Day's Night." Hey, here's the whole script. A juicy segment:
Oh, wait a minute, don't tell me you're ...

No, not me.

Oh you are, I know you are.

No, I'm not.

You are.

I'm not, no.

Well, you look like him.

Oh do I? You're the first one who ever said that.

Oh you do, look.

[JOHN looks at himself in the mirror.]

My eyes are lighter.

Oh yes.

And my nose...

Well, yes your nose is. Very.

Is it?

I would have said so.

Aye, but you know him well.

No I don't, he's only a casual acquaintance.

That's what you tell me.

What have you heard?

It's all over the place, everyone knows.

Is it? Is it really?

Mind you, I stood up for you, I mean I wouldn't have it.

I knew I could rely on you.


You don't look like him at all.

Old TV gets the high art treatment.

In amongst the fancy fare playing at UW's Cinemateque this summer (like "The Five Obstructions") are some old TV shows. (Via The Capital Times.)(All shows are free.)

On July 30, they are showing two episodes of "Twilight Zone" along with two episodes of "Way Out." It looks like each "Twilight Zone" will be preceded by a "Way Out," the way the shows used to run on Friday nights in 1961. How well I remember completely loving "Twilight Zone" and watching the lesser "Way Out" to get a larger dose of Twilight-Zonishness on Fridays, often in the context of sleepovers and slumber parties. I never realized until just now, from the Cinemateque website, that Roald Dahl hosted "Way Out"!

On July 23, you can watch an "archival print" of the "Toody's Paradise" episode "Car 54, Where Are You?" with original ads for Tide detergent, Camay soap, and Gleem toothpaste. If I remember correctly, Camay "creams your skin while you wash," and Gleem has "Gardol" which is represented by an "invisible shield" of clear glass/plastic that protects the announcer when a golfer hits a golf ball into into it. I can't remember a thing about old Tide commercials, which I think is because I was in a state of hypnosis, caused by the whirly orange and yellow packaging. I remain incapable of buying any other laundry detergent.

Edwards ... and those terrible trial lawyers.

Yesterday, I set my all-time record for least posting: a single line. I wonder why the big announcement of Kerry's VP pick did not inspire me to write? Edwards was a choice I expected and approve of. We talked about it a lot in my house as we watched a different news channels last night. Most of my comments were about what a great speaker Edwards is compared to everyone else we've been hearing: Kerry, Bush, and Cheney. Both Kerry and Bush require some patience to listen to. The return of Edwards was quite a relief, a bit like the recent reexperiencing of the speaking skills of Reagan and Clinton. People on TV keep commenting on how good Edwards looks. More important is how well he speaks. Heard in my house: "He's the Great Communicator."

The other subject relating to Edwards that keeps coming up is the fact that that he was a--gasp!--trial lawyer. Are the news media getting enough play out of this? Attempts to stir up general anxiety about that fact alone are getting old already. Anyone who wants to raise this as a problem had best do it behind Edwards' back, because if he's around to respond, he will respond brilliantly. An attempt to drag Edwards (and Kerry) down by slurring lawyers is likely to end up improving the image of the whole legal profession. And after the events at Abu Ghraib and the Supreme Court's push-back against the most extreme assertions of unchecked power by the Bush administration, a return to law seems like a good theme.

UPDATE: A lawyer responds:
I disagree with your contention that Edward's profession is not a liability. Its significant that you call him a trial lawyer. Actually, he's a personal injury lawyer. The difference [is] the difference between pro-choice and anti-life, rain forest v. jungle, homeless v. vagrant, and many other formulations. A trial lawyer doesn't sound so bad - after all, Perry Mason was a trial lawyer! A Plaintiffs Personal Injury lawyer, as Dave Barry can tell you, is a shark.

Count on the GOP, if they're smart, to use his proper title. Count on them to solicit a lot of Doctors to oppose Edwards. Count on them to tell the truth, that we've never heard of a PI lawyer who didn't claim to " fight for little girls who were horribly mistreated." ( It's always a little girl.) Count on them to tell the Republic what percentage of consumer items goes towards lawsuit insurance. It won't be that hard.
Is "trial lawyer" a euphemism that the other side will gain ground by declining to use? I don't think there is a "proper title" here or that ordinary people are going to become excited if they are told that he calls himself a "trial lawyer" but really he's a personal injury lawyer. It's just not that alarming. It even sounds nice--personal. Now, "shark" is alarming, but it's hardly a "proper title." My point is that even if being a personal injury lawyer is something of a negative for some people, the issue is easily overplayed, beyond its significance to ordinary voters, and Edwards has a comeback that is so appealing and powerful that those who try to make headway are giving him an opportunity to display his skills and to make lawyers seem noble. Last night, C-Span re-ran a 2001 interview in which Edwards was asked about being a trial lawyer and his response was so perfect, so measured and balanced as he justified the role of the personal injury lawyer in particular cases with respect to truly culpable defendants. He is extremely well-prepared to respond to the kinds of arguments you cite. I'm not saying these arguments shouldn't be raised in some well-thought-out and substantial form, but the bare fact that he's a trial lawyer/personal injury lawyer is not good enough.

By the way, where did this idea that "rain forest" is a euphemism for "jungle" come from? I've heard that before, but it is just wrong. A rain forest is not a jungle.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Prof. Bainbridge is surely right that there are plenty of people whose support for Bush will be reinforced now that there's a trial lawyer on the Democratic ticket. And maybe some voters who could tip one way or the other could be influenced to tip away from Kerry because of some issues that have to do with trial lawyers. But I don't think the swing voters are going to be tipped by the mere label "trial lawyer," which is already overplayed. Something more substantive is needed, but Edwards is very good at dealing with these issues in a balanced way that would probably not strike moderates as anti-business.

July 6, 2004

Great cartoon.

About that John Edwards VP choice: this is a great cartoon.

July 5, 2004

Old campaign ads.

Here's a great website where you can watch ads from old presidential campaigns. (Via the NYT.) The ads are nicely organized by theme, and it is both funny and sad to see how the same themes have been used and re-used. For example, under the theme of "fear," the Republicans have repeatedly tried to scare us with the idea that the Democratic candidate would cut back on defense, and the Democrats have tried to scare us with the idea that the Republican candidate is a war-monger. Under the "commander-in-chief" theme, the Democrats keep finding a way to say the Republican candidate is too dumb to understand the complex issues, and the Republicans keep finding a way to say the Democratic candidate is too weak to do what is needed. Watching a lot of these old ads is a good way to immunize yourself against the manipulation of today's ads. It would be especially good for high school kids, who can't remember too many old campaigns, to study these things and to analyze the various themes and devices. But even for those of us who were subjected to these ridiculous short films the first time, it is enlightening to see them when one is not gripped by hopes and fears about the outcome of the election and the Presidency that would follow.

ADDED: Don't miss the bear ad. As John put it: "It seems like something from 'The Simpsons.'" (You have to click on the bear, over on the right side.)

A walk that starts at the zoo.

Chris, who wanted my car so he can go to see "Fahrenheit 9/11" with friends, drove me to the starting point of my walk: Henry Vilas Zoo. As soon as he drove away, I saw that I'd forgotten my camera, so I called him via cell phone, and he came back, drove me home for the camera, and re-drove me to the zoo. The extra driving elongated the conversation, which was about whether you could isolate your view of the art of a documentary film from its message. We agreed that you could. The example of "Triumph of the Will" was raised. Ah, here we are back at the zoo.

The orangutan was meditative:

The flamingoes were in love with the letter S:

Heading back toward home, I climbed up on Bear Mound, an Indian burial mound:

That is centered in the beautiful Vilas neighborhood, where, as a photographer, I gravitated to the unsightly things, like this area behind the bars across from the football stadium:

Can you see the grafitti under the white squares? It says: "Institutions support war. Stop supporting institutions."

Here's another wall I found photogenic:

Go here for the full set of today's pictures: I'm resisting displaying the "proud" grease vat, for example. [ADDED: Hmmm... Jeremy claims he used to live in the above-pictured boarded-up building with the proud grease vat next to the back door. ADDITIONAL ADDED: Now, he's saying he lived next door ... and was traumatized by a dumpster.]

Here's a faded "legalize" sign:

And some sadly under-neoned signage:

Ah, I've reached my midway-home goal, Ancora Café on Monroe Street, with its very blue, very well-ducted ceiling:

I get a tall cappucino and an almond scone and sit down to finish my book ("Stiff," by Mary Roach):

I read about the prospect of disposing of human bodies by freezing them, shattering them, freeze drying them, and then using the freeze dried bits "as compost for a memorial tree or shrub." The shattering part would be easy after freezing, I read, because the human body is mostly water, about 70 percent. Here's a morsel of the author's humor: "[Jellyfish] are either 98 or 99 percent water, and that is why you never see dried jellyfish snacks."

Then it's on to home to post these pictures and ask Chris how he liked the film.

UPDATE: Chris said the film was "okay." In answer to questions, he said it wasn't art, and it wasn't very funny, and it didn't change his opinion on anything political. He said the Madison audience really loved it--especially the brief part when Tammy Baldwin is on screen.

ANOTHER UPDATE: The book "Stiff," pictured above, was prominently displayed in the episode of "Six Feet Under" that ran on July 11, 2004.

Law School rankings.

Here's something for law-school-rankings-obsessed people to obsess over. (Via JD2B.)

"At the time these men seemed like giants."

John Burns has a beautifully written account in today's NYT of Dr. Muwaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's new national security adviser, who witnessed the arraignment of Saddam Hussein. Rabaie had not known that Hussein knew of his case--"he was seized from an operating room while still an intern in Baghdad in 1979, taken to a dungeon, tied up, and hung from the ceiling and rotated for hours"--but a prison guard told him that Hussein had said, "The man with the beard, was that Muwaffak al-Rubaie?" Rubaie describes what he was thinking as he watched the arraignment:
"You know, at the time these men seemed like giants, like monsters, but it turns out that they were basically just thugs. I sat there in court thinking, how could it be that men like this reduced a nation with a 5,000-year history of civilization to this? How did we allow it to happen?"

"The invisibility of Chief Justice Rehnquist."

Linda Greenhouse contends that this is "the year Rehnquist may have lost his Court." She notes the paucity of major opinions written by the Chief Justice and analyzes the voting pattern this way:
[I]t appears that while he has stood still, the court's center of gravity has moved away from him. One statistic is particularly telling. There were 18 cases this term decided by five-member majorities (17 were 5-to-4 decisions and one, the Pledge of Allegiance case, was 5 to 3 but would surely have been 5 to 4 had Justice Scalia participated; he would certainly have agreed with Chief Justice Rehnquist, in the minority, that the court should rule that "under God" posed no constitutional problem). Of the 18 cases, Chief Justice Rehnquist was in the majority in only eight.

In other words, in the closest cases, one of the swing voters (O'Connor, most likely, or Kennedy) is going to vote with the liberal set of Justices (Stevens, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer); the conservative set of Justices (Rehnquist, Scalia, and Thomas) is not able to keep both of the Justices it needs to make a majority. Greenhouse notes the trend:
[This most recent term] contrasts sharply with the chief justice's notably successful term two years ago, when he was in the majority in 15 of 21 5-to-4 decisions. A year ago, he was in the majority half the time, in 7 of 14 cases with 5-to-4 votes ...

She points to Tennessee v. Lane as evidence that Rehnquist's "federalism revolution ... [has] stall[ed] in its tracks." True, the Chief Justice dissented in Tennessee v. Lane, the case that rejected state sovereign immunity with respect to access to courthouses and the Americans With Disabilities Act, but the idea that the Chief was running a revolution headed in a different direction is wrong: he wrote the decision in Hibbs last year, which laid the groundwork for Lane when it found that Congress could abrogate state immunity with the Family and Medical Leave Act. (I have an article coming out on Hibbs, and will put a link to it here when I can.) That is, the Chief too has had cold feet about trusting states to operate autonomously.

The most important case written by the Chief Justice this year (considering the narrow point on which Padilla, his other "major opinion," was resolved) was Locke v. Davey, a case that allowed a state to exclude a student from its college scholarship program because he wanted to study for the ministry. Greenhouse characterizes this case as a falling away from the school vouchers decision of two years ago (which permitted a state to provide vouchers usable in religious schools and rejected an argument that it violated the Establishment Clause). But Locke ought to count as a decision in favor of state autonomy (the "federalism revolution" in Greenhouse-speak). By permitting vouchers (in the earlier case) and not requiring inclusion in the scholarship program (in Locke), the state is given the maximum latitude to experiment in the area of education: both the Establishment Clause and the individual's rights under the Free Exercise Clause were kept small, leaving the state with more autonomy. Where she might have seen the federalism principle at work, Greenhouse sees "pragmatism":
[A]lthough the consequences of turning permissible vouchers into required vouchers would have been profoundly unsettling, the court's recent insistence on an equal place for religion at the public table provided at least a plausible basis for that outcome. Instead, the majority looked at the consequences of carrying the recent precedents to their logical conclusion, and stopped short.

"Pragmatism rather than doctrine seems to be the order of the day at the court now," Greenhouse writes, tagging O'Connor as "the court's leading pragmatist." The suggestion is that the Court's federalism is somehow only doctrinal and bereft of any weighing of real-world effects. But the decision about whether judges should protect state autonomy does entail the pragmatism of thinking about consequences: when is disuniformity and decentralized decisionmaking a problem, and when are state and local governments involved in policy experiments that may improve life for people?

Think about the Compassionate Use medical marijuana law that the Court will resolve next year: do we think there's an answer in "doctrine" here? Surely, for Rehnquist as well as O'Connor, the practicalities of the federal government's drug policy and the possible benefits of marijuana used as medicine--not to mention public support for the autonomy of the seriously ill--will play a strong role in the decision.

July 4, 2004

Justice O'Connor.

Charles Lane has a terrific article in today's Washington Post Magazine called "Courting O'Connor/Why the chief justice isn't the Chief Justice." For law students who may resist thinking about the Supreme Court Justices as individuals, with their own styles of thinking, this would be a great place to start.

There is a lot of great information about her upbringing (living on a ranch, "[f]or playmates, O'Connor had lizards, a bobcat, horses with names such as Chico and Hemorrhoid, and a handful of leathery cowboys, who taught her how to ride and cope with cactus thorns"), her education (she was influenced by "an eclectic law professor named Harry J. Rathbun ... [who] taught business law during the week and led discussion groups on psychology, religion and ethics at his home on Sunday evenings"), her appointment to the Court ("much of her face-to-face meeting with Reagan was taken up by a discussion of horseback riding and mending fences on the Lazy B"), and her role on the Court.

Her importance as a swing voter is aptly explained. I liked this quote from Georgetown lawprof Richard Lazarus:
"What I do, and what I advise people arguing cases, is to treat all the justices with great respect," says Lazarus, who also practices before the court. "But . . . when Justice O'Connor asks a question at oral argument, every advocate would be well advised to answer in full, and pause and look at her, because nothing is more important to you than making sure you've addressed her concerns. With the others, it may not make a difference."

Hot dog eating inspiration.

At the Nathan's hot dog eating contest--on ESPN today--the winner, Takeru Kobayashi, set a new world record, eating 53 hot dogs in 12 minutes. Here are some inspiring words from the founder of the International Federation of Competitive Eating:
"This was nothing short of an emotional journey. I know, the journey within, down the alimentary canal. A journey is what it means to be a human. The very essence ... of humanity."

Here's what the skinny Kobayashi had to say about his skill:
"Fat grows out and also in, which makes your stomach smaller. The thinner you are, the more you can consume."

The 98-pound Sonya Thomas came in third, with 32, beating her old record of 25, which was the women's record. Here's how she conceptualized her competitive spirit:
"My nickname is the Black Widow. It's female spider ... bites male spider, right? And it kill him, right? So, when I'm doing eating contest, I wanna kill the men!"

Then there's this hot dog wisdom, from Badlands Booker (who is quite large, and came in fourth):
"The hot dog is the pinnacle of competitive eating, because you're dealing with two substances. You're dealing with the bun ... and also the dog. I've just gotta stay focused and stay hungry. I have the appetite, and now, I've just gotta focus my mind and just mind meld between me and the dog."

A great book and a bad cliché.

There's a decent discussion of Stephen Shore's great photography book "Uncommon Places," in today's NYT. The piece, written by Philip Gefter, ends:
In Mr. Shore's photographs, a descriptive, almost deadpan, quality lets the viewer contemplate the subject without ambiguity. That's the influence of Warhol in this body of work and what gives it the feel of that decade [the 1970s]. At the same time, Walker Evans remains the ghost in the frame. Mr. Shore agrees: "If I were to say in the photography world that there was one person who I used as a springboard for ideas and a resource to learn from, it was Walker Evans."

Mr. Shore's work is not quite so sober as Evans's. There is an antic undercurrent to his straight-faced pictures, as if, after staring at the sheer actuality of what was laid out before him, he might have burst out laughing before making the picture. Think of Walker Evans — stoned.

It's an excellent write-up generally, but I really object to that lame last line. Isn't it time to abandon the tired expression that something is like something else on drugs? To say it is to display a lack of descriptive imagination, but it is worse than the usual cliché, because it degrades the art it means to praise and deprives the artist of credit for his own vision.

The joys of C-Span.

C-Span at 6:26 am today:
Our next call comes from San Bernadino, California. Good morning.

Oh ... hello?

San Bernadino?

Yeah. This ... this is me.

Go ahead. You're on the Washington Journal.

Yeah. I believe George Bush should be re-elected. I think he really believes in people.

[After a long pause.] And why do you say that?

And ... why do I say that?

Why do you say he believes in people? What kind of evidence do you have?

Well, I think he's a strong believer in ... in the people.

Okay. Next up is Escondido, California. Good morning.

Two "Streetcar" dialogues.

John and I were watching "A Streetcar Named Desire" yesterday, and Blanche had just gotten Mitch to put the paper lantern over the bare light bulb. Blanche and Mitch were continuing to talk, and the lantern was conspicuously framed in the foreground:
John: Get that lantern out of the way! The director isn't very good at framing the shots.

Me (after pausing the film): That lantern is going to be very important.

Today, I'm driving Chris to work and talking about how John and I watched "Streetcar":
Me: John thought the lantern was blocking the view of the actors. I had to pause it and tell him the lantern was going to be really important.

Chris: It's a hypersituated object.

"Purple Rain."

For tonight's movie, may I suggest "Purple Rain"? It was twenty years ago today. Prince celebrated the occasion with a five-hour music extravanganza:
The show started out on a bizarre note -- Prince, onstage in a disguise of a straight-haired wig, hat and beard, playing the guitar on inline stakes as relatively unknown performers danced or sang around him.

Least obscure of the obscure: Graham, formerly of Sly and the Family Stone and Graham Central Station. Uh-oh ... it may be time to drop by Amazon again. What to add to reach the free shipping level?

"Purple Rain"? No. The reason the answer is no is the reason I don't already have it: the crappy DVD isn't widescreen! Come on! How about a re-issue with widescreen ... and lots of extras? That's got to be in the offing.

UPDATE: "Inline stakes" is the Times's typo. If Rollerblade hadn't been so fussy about its trademark, that never would have happened.


Hey! They are finally re-releasing The Zombies' great album "Odessey and Oracle"--the album so druggy they misspelled the title and never even noticed. The 1968 album is said to be a "perfectly balanced song cycle." The one song you probably know that is on the album is "Time of the Season," so imagine a perfect set of songs like that, and you can see that if it is the sort of thing you're inclined to like at all, it is indispensible. So go buy it right now. I did.

UPDATE: Okay. Number 1: that link I provided for buying the CD is not a link to the re-release the NYT wrote about. Having ordered it, I now see it is a release from the late 90s (which means the album hasn't been nearly as hard to find as I had thought). I'm not seeing anything more recent on Amazon, so maybe the Times was referring to something that isn't out yet. That's pretty annoying, the way it caused me to assume the older one was the new one. Number 2: I've listened to it now, and I do not think it is nearly as good as it's cracked up to be. The song "Time of the Season" is far, far better than the rest of the album, which seems quite unfinished to me. The rest of the album seems to be a rather pathetic attempt to copy the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds." You could say, but "Pet Sounds" is the greatest album ever, so can't something like it but not as good be good enough? Theoretically, yes; in this case, no. And is anything preventing you from listening to "Pet Sounds" again?

"A Streetcar Named Desire."

We watched "A Streetcar Named Desire" last night. We had been close to watching it the other day, and now, with Brando's death, it was easy to pick it out from the DVD collection as the movie of the night. We have a ridiculously large DVD collection, the product of too much idle shuffling about on Amazon.com. To give you a sense of the size and nature of the home collection, I'll list the four movies that were shelved on either side of "Streetcar" (from the set of alphabetized DVDs that belong to me and are not music, documentary, or television):
Stardust Memories
The Story of Adele H.

Sweet and Lowdown
The Sweet Hereafter
Swimming with Sharks
Talk Radio

("Stargate" was sent free by Amazon, back when Amazon used to send you presents to remind you that you were spending a ridiculous amount of money there. I've never watched "Stargate," but I'm interested enough in it not to have sold it.)

Here's an explanation of the censorship that affected the transition from the play of "Streetcar" to the movie. The rape scene, crucial to the plot, has been restored on the DVD. The tacked-on Hollywood ending, however, remains (though you're free to click the movie off at the point when Blanche finally exits). It's idiotic for Stella to have the last grand gesture, suddenly gaining feminist sensibility and leaving her abusive husband, as though she had turned into Nora from "A Doll's House." When I was in high school, we were shown a film of "A Doll's House" that had an alternate ending in which Nora's husband shows her their sleeping children and causes her to change her mind and stay. You can't just tack on a different ending to a great play. It's especially bad in "Streetcar" because Stella is not the main character, and her story had been appropriately tied up before the resolution of Blanche's grand tragedy. To reopen Stella's story in a banal, moralistic anti-climax was just awful. [ADDED: In the play, after Blanche is taken away, Stella calls after her, Stanley lulls her with a few comforting words and seductive petting, and one of the poker players calls out the last line, "The game is seven card stud."]

It was interesting to watch Brando display his grand talents. And he looks just great. (No human body in the history of cinema comes close to the extremes of good and bad set by Brando in "Streetcar" and "The Island of Dr. Moreau.") It's hard not to absorb the movie as: Brando takes off his T-shirt! Brando dunked in the shower! Brando screaming in the courtyard! Brando heaving the radio through the window! Brando gnawing on chicken bones! Brando uncapping a beer! Brando in his silk pajamas! It's a real struggle to concentrate on Blanche's story, even though the play is Blanche's story, and Vivien Leigh is on screen without Brando much of the time. It's especially hard to focus on Leigh today, since she seems so stilted and mannered compared to Brando, who seems to be acting not in some brilliant new way, but the way actors are supposed to act, because we are so used to all the actors that learned to act from looking at Brando. Is it worth the struggle to watch this movie and empathize with Blanche? You can only do so by compartmentalizing your reaction to Brando, which makes you think he's screwing up the movie by deliberately undercutting Leigh's performance.

A rainy Fourth.

It poured rain yesterday, squelching the planned "Rhythm and Booms" Event--Madison's "Family Festival" and fireworks display. Fortunately, the rain date isn't today, because it is raining again today, in that completely dreary way that seems to hold zero potential for breaking into a clear day. The rain date is tomorrow, so good luck to all Rhythm and Booms fans.