July 24, 2004

Charm, niceness assessed.

Yesterday, as noted here, I was declared a lucky charm. Today, I returned to Milwaukee for round 3 of the U.S. Bank Championship--a PGA golf tournament, though it sounds like a lot of banks having a fight!--but things did not go so well. Cliff (Kresge, my nephew) was 5 over today and fell from 39th to 75th place. My claim to charm is destroyed. The saving grace was that Cliff made a phenomenal shot in front of the big crowd at the 18th hole. After having such a bad day overall, on the 18th hole, he made his second shot into a horribly deep sand trap clear across the green from the hole. I was sitting in the bleachers, and felt awful to see him preparing to shoot: only his head and shoulders were visible above the grassy overhanging fringe of the green. How bad do things have to be? He shoots, the ball kicks up out of the trap and onto the green, rolls the length of the green and into the hole! The crowd goes wild. It was a par 5 hole, so that was an eagle!

I arrived at the golf course early today. With half an hour until tee time, I sat on a picnic bench to write some notes. One of the officials--one of the men who hold up the "quiet" signs when the golfers are shooting--comes over to me and says, "Ma'am, I'm sorry, you can't sit there." I see the bench is inside the rope, though the rope is on the ground at the moment, and it's quite close to the green. "Oh, I'm sorry," I say, embarrassed. "That's okay," he says in the extremely nice way people performing various functions around the golf course always have. People are so polite here. I'm an outsider observing the golf ethic: I have never played golf, and I am only interested in it because of my nephew. But I'm impressed by the super-niceness everyone embraces on the golf course during professional tournaments. People are quiet and maintain a thoroughly restrained manner. No one talks when the "quiet" sign is raised. In fact, there is only a little very quiet talking when you're allowed to talk. No one would ever do anything even close to, say, calling out "Miss!" when a player is shooting or laughing when a player misses an easy shot. It's just unthinkable. You never notice anyone rooting against someone. Even though it helps your guy when another guy misses a shot, you never hear the slightest indication of satisfaction. It hurts your guy when another guy makes a shot, and you never hear the slightest whisper of regret. Everyone claps when anyone makes a good shot. Go to a golf tournament, and even if you tend to think the golf manner is staid or repressed or geriatric or phony or whatever, you'll find yourself acting the same way too. You'll hold back when an official makes a little hand motion to signal that you need to wait for the players to cross one of the little bridges over a water hazard, and when the official motions to you that you may now cross the bridge, you'll say to him, "Thank you."

Clinton and British libel law.

This is really interesting:
Before publication in June of the British edition of his memoir, "My Life," Mr. Clinton authorized changes to a dozen or more passages, most of them related to Mr. Starr, apparently in an attempt to make the book and Mr. Clinton less vulnerable under Britain's tough libel laws.

The article has some examples of language changed: "continuing efforts to coerce people into making false charges against Hillary and me, and to prosecute those who refused to lie for him" is toned way down to "and to prosecute those who refused to tell him what he wanted to hear." It also has some striking info on the Chinese version of the book.

The NYT on gay marriage and jurisdiction.

Here's the NYT editorial on the jurisidiction bill discussed in the previous post. It stresses the history of jurisdiction cutback efforts:
The House's solution, stripping the federal courts of power, is one that opponents of civil rights and civil liberties have been drawn to in the past. Opponents of court-ordered busing and supporters of school prayer tried it. But even at the height of the backlash against the civil rights movement, Congress never passed a law that completely insulated a federal law from Supreme Court review.

It concludes by characterizing the current effort as a political stunt:
The House vote could be dismissed as election-year politics. It's highly unlikely the Senate will go along, and even if it did, there is good reason to believe the law would itself be declared unconstitutional. Still, even one house of Congress backing this sort of assault on the federal judiciary is an outrage.

Two UW grads in Congress fight over gay marriage and federal jurisdiction.

The Capital Times highlights two local members of Congress in the fight over gay marriage. Now the issue is federal jurisdiction:
Heated debate over a bill that would prevent federal courts from requiring states to recognize same-sex marriages ended with a showdown between two Wisconsin representatives. The bill passed the U.S. House, 233-194.

"Marriage is under attack," said Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls. "To say that this is an attack on the foundations of government is just plain wrong."

But Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, who led the Democratic opposition, sharply disagreed, calling the proposal "unnecessary, unconstitutional and unwise."

"We face no less than the specter of a sign posted on the courthouse door: 'You may not defend your constitutional rights in this court. You may not seek equal protection here,' " said Baldwin. "Today, the 'you' is gay and lesbian citizens. But who will be next?"

Both Baldwin and Sensenbrenner are graduates of the University of Wisconsin Law School. Sensenbrenner received his JD in 1968, so he's before my time. I've been here and teaching since 1984, and the subject I've been teaching the longest is Federal Jurisdiction, where one of the topics always is the scope of Congress's power to cut back the jurisdiction of federal courts and the focus of the study is always Congress's use of the power as a covert way to cut back on constitutional rights. A central question is whether having to assert your right in state court is equivalent to having less of a right. Are state courts as good as federal courts? So much been written on this complicated question that it has a one word name: "parity."

As a Federal Jurisdiction lawprof, it was nice to hear one of our graduates invoke the parity issue:
Opponents of the Marriage Protection Act "seem to think that state courts are second-class courts," said Sensenbrenner. He recalled his years as a law student in Madison and noted that the Dane County Courthouse is just a few blocks away from the statehouse. "Those judges are perfectly capable."

Hmm ... even he didn't assert a belief in parity. "Perfectly capable" doesn't mean "just as good" or "equally expert in the interpretation of the Constitution." Imagine if you were going in for surgery and had selected an excellent surgeon, then learned he would not be available, but that there was another surgeon who was "perfectly capable." You'd be alarmed, wouldn't you?
"We're doing nothing more than what the Supreme Court itself says is proper," added Sensenbrenner, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee.

Oh, there will be a few open questions to debate if Congress uses the jurisdiction cutback power specifically to control the meaning of a constitutional right, but there is a well-recognized argument that this power can be used as a check on the federal courts, even as a way to achieve a substantive end--cutting back constitutional rights--that could not be achieved directly short of a constitutional amendment.
"(This bill) is a terrible mistake," Baldwin said, wondering aloud whether Republicans would use similar tactics to prevent courts from ruling on other politically polarizing issues, including abortion and the Patriot Act.

"I suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg."

This argument tends to win in Congress. Even where members of Congress are unhappy with a particular court result (there was a failed attempt to cut back federal jurisdiction after the flag burning case), they get cold feet about cutting back jurisdiction, because their opponents call attention to its indirectness. If you can't do it directly, isn't it wrong to do it indirectly--even if, technically, you have the power? Maybe not, but when the issue is attacking constitutional rights (including rights that the federal courts have not yet articulated), it may look bad enough that a legislator may not want it on his record.

(I may write more on this later, but right now, I must dart off to Milwaukee again, for round 3 of the U.S. Bank Championship.)

July 23, 2004

Spectator extremes.

How strange it was to be a spectator at a huge arena rock show at 9 pm last night, then 12 hours later, at a PGA tour event. (Scroll down: I was at the Prince show in Chicago and the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.) The differences could scarcely have been more extreme!

The most obvious difference is in the sound level. The concert was played as loud as you can play without causing ear damage, and the woman screaming behind me was (from my position) even louder. At the PGA tour event, the crowd is nearly silent, to the point where I felt that the ice rumbling around in my soda cup when I took a sip was perhaps inappropriate. When a player is about to make a shot, several men hold up signs that say "QUIET" and the crowd becomes completely silent. Adding to the quiet was the breezy outdoor air and natural light, which seemed dreamlike after the crammed arena and its alternating darkness and glaring stage lights.

Another big difference is the amount of activity required to be a spectator at a golf tournament. While the concert forces you to stand nearly the entire time (because other people stand), to follow a player you care about, you have to walk the course just like him. It's quite a hike! (You can, if you want, sit in the bleachers at the 18th and the 9th holes. Or you can bring a little chair and sit wherever you want.) But it's quite demanding to attend a golf event. It's funny, because I think of golf as a low energy sport. Many people of all ages and weights play it for recreation. Many people smoke and even drink quite a lot while playing. But from the spectator's standpoint, golf is the most physically demanding sport I can think of.

The crowds were different. The average age at the Prince concert was maybe 35-40. At the golf course it was more like 50. Women outnumbered men at the Prince concert. Men greatly outnumbered women at the golf course. The racial balance was also quite different. Nearly everyone at the golf course was white. The Prince audience was a particularly diverse group.

At which event was my bag searched? Golf!

At which event is a cell phone absolutely forbidden? Golf!

At which event did a woman, a stranger, standing next to me, clasp her two hands around my upper arm more than once? The Prince concert! I'd turn around and look at her each time (of course), and she would then let go with a sort of oops-I-don't know-what-I'm-doing expression on her face. What the hell was that?

Insight into the mind of Amazon.

Amazon emailed me this:
Greetings from Amazon.com Alerts.

As you requested, we're notifying you of new releases matching the
following criteria:

DVD and Video with "Cary Grant" in the Actor's name. ...

Publication date: July 20, 2004 ...
We hope you enjoyed receiving this message.
Well, first, I did enjoy receiving this message. It was quite amusing, in fact. Cary Grant was in Dracula? I click on the "more info" link and see it's that 1992 Francis Ford Coppola version of Dracula — the one with Gary Oldman as Dracula. Winona Ryder is in it. I saw that movie, and even if I hadn't, I'd be damn skeptical that Cary Grant was in it. I click on the link to see the full cast of the movie. I search the page for "Grant" and then "Cary" and find the actors Richard E. Grant and actor Cary Elwes. Amazon isn't quite as smart as we might think.

Why a single victory over KenJen

should be deemed more impressive than KenJen's entire string of victories--perfectly explained by our public sociologist.

Lucky charm services performed.

I'm back from the U.S. Bank Championship PGA golf tournament. Despite the late concert and drive back from Chicago last night, I got up at 6:30, and after a brief blog break and a check of the driving directions, I mixed up a cup of coffee and milk, got in the car and drove to Milwaukee to the Brown Deer Park golf club to watch my nephew Cliff Kresge play his second round of golf. The tee time was 7:54 and there was no way I'd make it to the 10th hole (where he started) in time. I arrived at a quarter after 9 and calculated that he'd go at a rate of about one hole every 15 minutes, so I hurried along to the 14th hole. It was not his threesome, but I had a program listing the threesomes by tee time, so, based on who was playing 14, I was able to figure out which direction to go and I finally found him at 16. The sign had a red three for Cliff and I had to ask a spectator (who turned out to be a friend of Cliff's and a Madison lawyer) whether red meant under or over par. It meant over, so things were not looking good. [UPDATE: I've got red and black reversed in the previous two sentences. I would have thought red indicates a deficit, like the red ink used for debt in accounting. But in golf the negative numbers are good. So should red ink be used for under par or over par? It's confusing! But it's black for + and red for - , just as in accounting. I'll try to remember this time.]

Yesterday, Cliff was 2 over par, and the prediction was that the cut would be at even par (i.e., today would be his last day unless he made it to even). I later found out that he had bogied the first two holes and birdied the third. That had put him at 3 over. He needed to make up three shots (at least) in the 13 holes left to play at the point when I caught up to him. He proceeded to eagle on the 18th hole and then birdie on 2 and 6, ending the day at 1 under par. So he played at 4 under during the 13 holes when I was watching. Afterwards, the caddy came up to me and told me I was his "lucky charm," and then Cliff came out of the little armored building the players where the players officially verify their scores and said the same thing: I was his lucky charm. That was pretty nice.

"Dance, Music, Chicago, Romance."

Did I make it down to Chicago last night to see the big Prince concert? Yes!

Did Prince play the three songs we were talking about in the car drive down? Yes!

And the songs were? "When Doves Cry," "Sign O' the Times," and "Pop Life."

When Prince sang "When Doves Cry" and got to the line "Animals strike curious poses," which might be your all time favorite Prince line, did Prince in fact strike a curious, animal pose? Yes!

And the pose was? I'd identify the animal pose in question as a bit of a gibbon-style position with arms extended outward, elbows bent ceiling-ward, then with the fingertips pointed down.

So, excellent concert (other than the seemingly inevitable blurry speakers of a big arena), but I'm not going to attempt to describe it--for two reasons. First, it's incredibly difficult to write well about music. (I greatly admire the people who are able to do it.) And second, I've got to jump in the car this morning and drive to Milwaukee, to the Brown Deer Park Golf Club, for day 2 of the U.S. Bank Championship. I was going to wait until the weekend, what with the late night last night, but I need to give some support to my nephew Cliff Kresge who has a ways to go today to make the cut. So watch the leaderboard and root for Cliff. That's what I will be doing. His tee time is 7:54 and I'm never going to get there in time, so I've got to move. Maybe I'll have some golf stories later.

July 22, 2004

Is this the way to defend abortion rights?

Barbara Ehrenreich attempts to write a strong op-ed in favor of abortion rights. Her final paragraph is this:
Choice can be easy, as it was in my case, or truly agonizing. But assuming the fetal position is not an appropriate response. Sartre called this "bad faith," meaning something worse than duplicity: a fundamental denial of freedom and the responsibility that it entails. Time to take your thumbs out of your mouths, ladies, and speak up for your rights. The freedoms that we exercise but do not acknowledge are easily taken away.
Interesting imagery there. You wouldn't want to "assume the fetal position," of course, because you'll be quite vulnerable to people who would like to take away your rights--like a fetus.

Okay, but let's look at the rest of this piece and examine the tone and see how helpful it is. Ehrenreich is irked that so many women, even those who support abortion rights, still feel a lot of ambivalence about abortion. She complains that the HBO show "'Six Feet Under,' which is fearless in its treatment of sexual diversity, burdens abortion with terrible guilt." She puts the words "liberal media" in quotes as she wonders why they're not helping the cause of abortion rights by portraying abortion as an "acceptable option." She complains about the women who have abortions because of a health defect in the fetus and think they are superior to women who have abortions for economic reasons.
It would be unfair, though, to pick on the women who are in denial about aborting "defective" fetuses. At least 30 million American women have had abortions since the procedure was legalized, mostly for the kind of reasons that anti-abortion people dismiss as "convenience" - a number that amounts to about 40 percent of American women. Yet in a 2003 survey conducted by a pro-choice group, only 30 percent of women were unambivalently pro-choice, suggesting that there may be an appalling number of women who are willing to deny others the right that they once freely exercised themselves.
Her point is: people need to be honest. If you would have wanted abortion as an option when you were very young or in economic need or if pre-natal tests showed the fetus suffered from a serious health problem, you ought to think hard before denying that option to other people. It's much easier to think about abortion in the abstract and to adopt a severe position when you are not facing the occasion for making the decision. This is an important point, but it doesn't go as far as Ehrenreich thinks it does. It shows why the right to an abortion ought to remain intact, as a decision made by the individual who is facing the pregnancy. But it doesn't show why people should refrain from making moral judgments about abortion. It doesn't justify telling people to grow up and start promoting abortion as a guilt-free option. And there is nothing "dishonest" (to use Ehrenreich's word) about having an abortion and also believing it was wrong.

The ambivalence that women maintain about abortion ought to be seen as a reason to support abortion rights. If women had no qualms and misgivings and serious moral struggles about abortion, it would make more sense for government to deny them the right to choose. It is precisely because women experience torment over choosing abortion that people who feel abortion is wrong can reject the paternalism of an abortion ban. Supporters of abortion rights should not try to sanitize the difficulty and the guilt out of abortion. It is the very difficulty of the decision that makes it the domain of the individual.

And by the way, let me make a side point about Ehrenreich's use of the word "grubby":
I was a dollar-a-word freelancer and my husband a warehouse worker, so it was all we could do to support the existing children at a grubby lower-middle-class level.
"Grubby" means:
1. Dirty; grimy: grubby old work clothes. 2. Infested with grubs. 3. Contemptible; despicable: has a grubby way of treating others.
Being lower middle class doesn't make you dirty or despicable.

UPDATE: Prof. Bainbridge quotes my paragraph that ends "It is the very difficulty of the decision that makes it the domain of the individual" and asks: "And how would you differentiate infanticide or euthanasia of the elderly, both of which presumably present the actors with moral qualms too? Should they be in the realm of the individual, as well?" I understand and respect the pro-life position on this issue, even though I don't think abortion should be re-criminalized. Those who are strongly pro-life, like Prof. Bainbridge are similar to Barbara Ehrenreich in their exasperation with the large number of people who take a middle position. Most Democratic candidates take the middle position too: They say abortion is wrong but should be legal. In the case of candidates, one has to wonder whether they have a reason for their position other than the desire for political gain. But what about all these other people in the middle? Are they just not thinking clearly? Ehrenreich thinks these people ought to abandon the idea that abortion is wrong, because if they don't, abortion rights could be lost. Bainbridge thinks these people ought to face up to the consequences of their perception that abortion is wrong and make it illegal.

I am trying to say something about the middle position, which views abortion as wrong, but wants it to remain legal. Surely, making it illegal won't make it go away. What is the best way to reduce the number of abortions? I believe the most important thing is to foster moral decisionmaking in the individual. You could impose a lot of rules from above, which people would resent and look for ways to break. Abortions would continue, of course, and those denied legal abortions would feel defiant and oppressed about it. Women would feel outraged that the government was intruding its will into the interior of their bodies. I would prefer to see pro-lifers reorient themselves and, instead of working to force women to carry out their pregnancies, work to convince women to see the reason to choose to do so.

As to how I would differentiate infanticide or euthanasia of the elderly: Pregnancy is a great physical intrusion on the body of a single individual. If a decision is to be made, it is best to leave the decision with the person whose body is being subjected to that intrusion.

ADDED ON 7/28: No response from Prof. Bainbridge. Or, really, from anyone who stakes out the extreme ends on the abortion issues. I maintain a semi-fantasy that I'm talking to everyone across the whole spectrum of positions on this issue that people are so passionate about, yet I realize that the people at the extreme ends will almost surely stay exactly where they are. Realistically, I know I can only hope to reach people in the middle on the abortion issue, but I think this is where most people find themselves. We can't help referring to the people who speak from the extremes, but perhaps we can't seriously expect them to engage with our responses to them. LATER THE SAME DAY: Prof. Bainbridge has a response up now.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Patrick Brown (in the Psychology Dept. at University of Western Ontario) emails, raising questions about the 30 million/30 percent/40 percent numbers Ehrenreich uses as a basis for her analysis:
I was struck by Ehrenreich's comparison of a snapshot with a running total. The snapshot is a 2003 survey that suggests 30% of women in the US were unambivalently pro-choice. The running total produces the proportion of women who have had abortions since the procedure was legalized 30 years ago.

The problem with this method is that the pool of women who are "eligible" to have abortions was not constant over those 30 years - some moved out of the pool and others moved in. This matters when you're calculating the proportion. A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests the following. Assume Ehrenreich's claim that "30 million = 40% of American women" is true at any one time. Then 100% would be 75 million. (Since the 2001 census showed 107 million women lived in America, I assume that the 75 million refers to women of child-bearing age.) Now, suppose that lifespan = 80 years so that each year 1/80th of women leave and another 1/80th join the pool (I think that will serve as an approximation). That's about 940,000 per year. Over 30 years, that's 28 million. Added to the 75 million base, that means that the pool of women who might have had abortions over the past 30 years has included 103 million individuals. If this logic is roughly correct, then we get a value for the proportion of eligible women who actually had abortions that is very close to the proportion in the survey who are unambivalently pro-choice: 30/103 = 29.1%.

So it seems to me that Ehrenreich's claims were not only elitist, they were wrong arithmetically, too.
I asked our blogging sociologist Jeremy Freese about the math, and he wrote back:
It's a smart point, but it's hard to know. There is too much missing information in Ehrenreich's column to figure out what's going on with that number so precisely. As he notes, thirty million is not 40% of American women. It's fairly close to 40% of women aged, say, 14 to 50 today. You could count who was in the abortion window over the past 30 years as abortion-eligible, but that's a little misleading, as some of those women were only in that window for a short period of time in their mid-to-late 30's. For that matter, some substantial number of the women who have not had abortions yet will have abortions.

The bottom line is that Ehrenreich's stat is impossible to figure out without knowing more about its provenance, since she can't literally mean all American women. I don't know where the numerator of her statistic (the 30 million) comes from, either. Which is not to say that it's wrong. Her abortion attitudes figure should be adjusted to the same population, whatever it is, although I don't know if it would make any difference. But there are undeniably a lot of unambivalently pro-choice women who have never had abortions, so this is all kind of moot anyway: if there were 30% of women in-some-population who were unambivalently pro-choice and 30% who had abortions, this would not indicate the absence of hypocrisy, just that the number of unambivalently-pro-choice-no-abortion-women was equal to the number of non-unambivalently-pro-choice-women-who-have-had-abortions.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Several emailers have noted that the assertion that "[a]t least 30 million American women have had abortions since the procedure was legalized" seems not to take into account that some women have had more than one abortion. I assume that medical records are private enough that we don't know the actual number of women who have had at least one abortion. I haven't tried to research the abortion statistics, but I have a feeling that a lot of assertions about statistics are made in the arguments for and against abortion. This would be a good subject for a "How to Lie With Statistics" sort of article, I think. Email me if you know of one.

July 21, 2004

Aw, box doodles!

I love them! (Via MF Distilled.) Nice idea, great contributions, cool horizontal scrolling. Reminded me a bit of this.

The beauty of advertising.

Here's a nice Metafilter discussion that starts off about the beauty of this Lance Armstrong-oriented ad. Be sure to click on the link at "At then there's this peaceful piece."

UPDATE: Chris astutely points out that the last link there ("peaceful piece") uses the same trick used in this old "What's Wrong With This Picture?" thing that everyone got a kick out of a few years ago.

Jenna's adorable!

Nina is calling attention to the picture of Jenna Bush sticking her tongue out at the reporters. (As Drudge puts it: "CHEEKY JENNA TONGUES PRESS." Hey, Drudge, get a dictionary: she didn't lick them.) I'd just like to say, that picture of Jenna is incredibly cute. She's clearly smiling and good-natured in that picture--just completely charming. I approve!

Off to a slow start.

I'm doing a presentation to the faculty today about two Supreme Court cases (Newdow and Locke--the Pledge of Allegiance case and the case about denying a student a scholarship because he was majoring in theology.) The talk is at noon, and I'd like to pull my notes together in my office. But as I was sitting at the dining table this morning reading the NYT, it started to get quite dark. A storm was threatening, so I figured I'd wait it out. Well, it's been threatening for over an hour. Where the hell is it? Should I just dart out and get to my office? As noted two days ago, it only takes me ten minutes to get to my office. This waiting-out-the-storm thing is getting a little annoying. In the time I am taking to write this, I could be halfway to my office. And see: still no storm. A little rumbling in the distance. I'm probably timing this to insure that I will get soaked crossing the street to the Beloved Donor Law Building, but I think I've got to at along last take the big risk. I will report back on the extent of my drenching. If I don't, you may assume I've been struck by lightning.

UPDATE: Lightning bolts successfully dodged. I live to blog again, only slightly dampened.

Is KenJen boring?

I see Slate finally has come up with the Ken Jennings drinking game. It's nowhere near funny enough though, especially considering the help of tons of emailers. The only interesting one is:
Everybody drinks once whenever ... KenJen's answer ends with a stylistic flourish, like last night's, "What are the munchies, man?" in response to a clue about an 8-letter word for "hunger pangs."

The game is padded with generic rules that could be used when there is any strong champion, and the article is padded with material about great drinking games of the past. "Hi, Bob" was great because it was based on a neat observation about the show. Drink when KenJen gets one wrong is an embarrassing failure to be specific. Come on! I want some standards in my drinking games! Here's my drinking game: drink when someone announces a drinking game rule that isn't funny!

Maybe the problem is that Ken Jennings really isn't very interesting. And the show is less interesting than normal when Final Jeopardy presents no risk and no occasion for strategic betting. The only surprise is how much KenJen wins by. (An obvious missed opportunity in the Slate drinking game: there should have been a rule to drink when Ken bets just enough on Final Jeopardy to equal but not exceed the one-day record.)

On Final Jeopardy with KenJen, the people out of contention just seem like mere shells of a man/woman. What about that guy yesterday--you know, the guy that looked like Al Gore--just writing "What is ....?" when the question required the name of a country in Africa? At least name some country in Africa! The only possible thing you could lose there is your last shred of dignity if you were somehow to fail to name a country in Africa! But you did fail to ... ah ... enough already. That man was boring. And the woman was scarcely alive!

Conclusion: KenJen is making the show boring, but way more people are tuning in because of him than would watch on an ordinary day, where the contest would be more exciting. Viewers are dully observing the dollar total advance and sticking around because they want to be watching when some day KenJen falls. The percentage of viewers hoping to see him defeated probably increases each day.

The ant and me.

Unless it's cold, I usually go out in my bare feet to pick up the newspaper from my front walkway. This morning, I pick up the blue New York Times bag and then see a second blue bag under the hedge. The newspaper man must have thought I'd have trouble finding the one under the hedge and threw a second one. I step over to retrieve the second one and a horrible little red ant crawls up between my toes and bites me! Ah well, there are many, many good people who have been bitten by creatures. Look at Bethany Hamilton.

That Nelson Mandela remark.

Everyone seems to be ridiculing Martha Stewart for referring to Nelson Mandela after Barbara Walters asked her how she would deal with going to prison.
"I'm a really good camper. I can sleep on the ground. There are many, many good people who have gone to prison. Look at Nelson Mandela."

You can find that quote at the beginning of this article in the Wisconsin State Journal. This article, which outlines and compares on a point-by-point basis the life of Stewart and the life of Mandela, decently concedes that Stewart did not literally compare herself to Mandela, but says "it took real guts and guile (or gall) for Stewart to invoke Mandela. A lesser human would never have been able to do [it] with a straight face." That observation strikes a chord: when Larry King gave her an opportunity to deal with the remark now that people had taken it the wrong way, she said: "I wasn't comparing myself to Nelson Mandela. I am not a Nobel Prize winner." I laughed out loud at that. It's widely open to the inference that she's his equal except for the fact that she has not been awarded the Nobel Prize.

On the other hand, isn't it perfectly ordinary, when faced with a difficult task or an unfair burden, to think of an admirable person who got through an even more difficult task or carried a more monstrously unfair burden? Does anyone think that the people who say "What would Jesus do?" are claiming to be the equal of Jesus or the perfectionists affected by the New Testament verse "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" are claiming to be the equal of God? So leave our poor sentenced perfectionist alone about the Mandela remark.
[Larry King show caller:] Martha, I would like to ask you if you do have to do jail time and you come out do you -- will you bring some of your ideas from jail to your show?

STEWART: Wouldn't it really be better if I could take my ideas from my show to jail, I think that that might be a better thing.

Here is a woman profoundly dedicated to thinking in terms of how to do things well. Millions of people look to her for ideas about how to live, to the point where that caller was hoping she could extract some ideas for living out of the prison experience. In that light, one ought to be interested in her ideas about how to go to prison. We were given a chance to see that one of the things she did was contemplate Nelson Mandela. That's useful!

July 20, 2004

Martha Stewart on Larry King.

Just watched the episode. Here's the transcript.

Comment that made me think it would be good to go to prison:
KING: Have you spoken to Sam Waksal, by the way, at all? ... How's he doing?

STEWART: He seems to be OK. He said he's read 180 books and he's learned Italian.
The belief in research:
KING: Do you have thoughts as to how you might be treated [in prison]?

STEWART: No, not yet. I think I have to do some research.

KING: Which, knowing you, you will. You'll...

STEWART: Well, you have to. I mean, it would be silly not to don't you think
Stewart's book idea:
I think I'll write a book. Because, I think it could be helpful to other people, just about -- just about what lawyer to choose, how to behave, how to attend an interview. I mean there's things that, you know, there's no how-to book about this.

KING: No, there ain't.

STEWART: There isn't. Not that, you know, it's going to be a big bestseller. But for anybody who has to go through this process, there should be some guidelines. Because, guidelines would help.
Taking comfort where you can get it:
Donald Trump has been ... a very nice source of comfort for me.

That personality test.

Everyone seems to be taking that Personality Disorder Test today. Tonya took it (and it's her birthday, and she's got that whole turning 40 thing overshadowing the day). Prof. Yin took it--and put it in his "humor" category, though the only humor seems to be being "strangely" not disordered at all. The Slithery D took it, and seems to think scoring high for personality disorders is a mark of humanity.

The test is overwhelming affected by how you interpret the questions. Slithery D notes how often the word "sometimes" is used (really, only twice). What I noticed is how often the word "often" is used (eleven!) and how often an intense word like "yearn" is used. If you like the idea of yourself being un-disordered, you'll interpret "often" to mean more than the number of times you do a given thing. "Do you often feel uncomfortable in social situations?" Sure, you'd be weirdly numb if you never felt uncomfortable, but are you going to judge yourself so harshly as to say you "often" do? Who's counting? "Do you feel a yearning for acceptance among your peers?" Well, nearly everyone wants acceptance to some extent, but do you have so little of it and want what you don't have so pathetically that you mope around yearning? If, on the other hand, you are harsh on yourself or you like to think of yourself as an outsider or a wild man who doesn't fit the confining restraints imposed by society, it probably took less to make you detect oftenness and yearning and so forth.

So now that I've said all that, do you even care whether I took the test and if I did, what I got? I took it and scored "low" in every single category, but I don't think that means much of anything other than that I'm either nonjudgmental toward myself or I really have a way with question interpretation. Or I'm a liar. Or frighteningly sane. (Don't even ask what I got on the Dante's Inferno Test.)

Classical moods, by region.

Nina describes the standards of behavior for those attending the outdoor classical music Concerts on the Square in Madison:
You can eat, read books, drink wine or beer, play cards or board games, do pretty much any quiet, low-to-the-ground activity, using the music as an excuse to be there. Listening to the music is an option (about 75% do listen), but not a requirement.

If you try that in New York City, keep an eye on your shoes. (The story at that link reminds me of the shoe revenge taken in this book.)

UPDATE: And you're not even supposed to talk at a rock concert, according to the Washington Post (link via Throwing Things). Jeez! The last time I was at a rock concert, you had to shout right in the ear of the person next to you to be heard and no one else would even notice. What has happened?

"When Will I Be Loved?"

Linda Ronstadt is getting press today:
Singer Linda Ronstadt was thrown out of the Aladdin casino in Las Vegas on the weekend after dedicating a song to liberal filmmaker Michael Moore and his movie "Fahrenheit 9/11," a casino spokeswoman said Monday.
Now before people get all exercised about this, with cries of censorship or whatever, read this article that appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal before the concert in question:
"I always feel bad about being a (casino) shill," Linda Ronstadt says of her periodic visits to Las Vegas. She nonetheless returns to the Aladdin on Saturday, ... and that really amazes her.

The outspoken singer isn't a big fan of Las Vegas -- "It's such a strange, weird place" ....

[F]ans shouldn't expect to hear every one of their old favorites. Some songs "are not who I am anymore," she explains.

"Your story changes as your life goes on. We're not one self or editions of ourselves. You can carry those (editions) over, and they add weight to the current edition, but some songs don't lend themselves that well. They really need to stay back there for that particular moment."

The singer's political profile -- including her late '70s relationship with former California governor Jerry Brown -- are a past edition that does linger. "I've been dedicating `Desperado' every night to Michael Moore, trying to get people to go see `Fahrenheit 9/11,' " she says.

"They say the country is evenly divided, and boy is that true. One half of the audience cheers and the other half boos."

"I don't understand this country sometimes and I really fear for it," she adds. "The government is making everybody in the world hate us, including the people that used to be our friends."

Anyone who disagrees with that is welcome to get in line, behind whoever she manages to rile at the Aladdin this time.

"I keep hoping that if I'm annoying enough to them, they won't hire me back," she says with a laugh.
So what's going on here, really? It smells more like a contracts dispute or a publicity stunt than a political controversy. The Las Vegas Sun notes that she wasn't really up to the performance:
Ronstadt was merely going through the motions. ... Her performance was uninspired and generally flat. She lacked stage presence, doing little more than sleepwalk from song to song.
So, reduced to singing old songs in Las Vegas, a place she hates, Ronstadt leveraged the loathsome task into publicity that, perhaps, she hopes will make her seem relevant and important again. I'd guess she's delighted that the concertgoers "spilled drinks, tore down posters and demanded their money back" and produced "quite a scene at the box office." It seems that she'd like to publish a new "edition" of herself. Let's see how much help the press gives her.

July 19, 2004

Walking to work for a change.

Usually, I drive my car to work, even though the trip is only a bit over a mile. I can drive in and make it from the door of my house to the door of my office in less than ten minutes. But most of the time that I've lived in Madison I made it my practice to walk to work. I used to walk in no matter what the weather was. If it was more than five below zero, I would wrap a scarf over my mouth and nose, and it was a bit of an adventure, but that was my mode of transportation. I walked! The hardest part about it was that walking home, I was usually terribly hungry. But in the last few years, I've been buying a parking space in Grainger Hall (the UW Business School, across the street from the Law School), and as a result, I rarely walk in (though I like to take a walk up State Street at lunchtime). Today, Chris needed the car at eleven, so I walked in. It was a cool morning, in the mid-sixties, and the walk in reminded me of all the beauty I miss by driving. I stopped at the Allen Centenniel Garden, which is on the way, and saw these things:

I left the garden (it started to rain a little) and walked up to the overlook for a long view of Lake Mendota.

I continued up Observatory and over Bascom Hill, where, about to make the final descent to the Law School building (which is just called the Law School building, but may some day, like the Business School, bear the name of a beloved donor), I saw the elegant seated Lincoln, presiding over the beautiful, beloved hill:

"Bush is a bigot."

So says an editorial in today's Capital Times. The reason is his support for the Gay Marriage Amendment. I certainly don't like the amendment, but I also don't like the sort of crude name-calling and overstatement that marks this editorial:
On the same day that the amendment was dying in the U.S. Senate, Bush was prancing around Wisconsin claiming that the amendment was needed in order to preserve "traditional marriage" and "stable families."

(Side point: I've complained about the use of the word "prancing" before. If you want to complain about Bush not caring enough about gay people, how about staying away from a word that is used to describe a man when you want to make him seem insufficiently masculine?)
Bush is lying. Families, traditional or otherwise, are not threatened by allowing loving couples to marry. Heterosexual couples who marry lose no rights if homosexuals marry. The character, content and context of a union between a man and a woman is not altered when same-sex couples are allowed to formalize their relationships.

Gay and lesbians have been marrying in Canada for a year now, and in Massachusetts for several months. There has been no change in the stability of the "traditional" family anywhere that same-sex marriages have been allowed. Nor has there been any decrease in respect for the institution of marriage - marriages between heterosexuals have continued to be performed, without interruption or any problems.

So why is the president lying about a supposed threat posed by allowing same-sex couples to marry?

Not every case of weak reasoning or insufficient evidence is "lying." If it were, then the Capital Times would be "lying" when it claims the casual observation of "several months" of gay marriage in Massachusetts proves that there has been "no change in the stability of the 'traditional family.'"

Why is he attempting to demean the country's most important document by smearing it with an official sanction of discrimination?

Out of respect for the president and his office, we suggest that he is a bigot.

What a shabby, ridiculous way to write an editorial! Do the proponents of gay marriage hope to win their cause by intimidating the opposition with name-calling? The argument for gay marriage is completely sound and reasonable. Why abandon the high ground in the debate as if you think that reason is not on your side? Bush isn't lying and he isn't a bigot, he's just pandering--and that's bad enough.

The HBO extra-long sequence.

HBO seems to have hit upon the device of the disproportionately long sequence within one episode of an hour-long show that we've come to expect will be made up of medium length scenes. One of the reasons it's been so fun to watch "The Sopranos" and "Six Feet Under" over the years is that you never worry about getting bored because you know that within minutes, whatever heavy thing might be happening, the scene will soon end, often cut off abruptly with a clever move to a new situation and a different set of characters. "The Sopranos" broke the usual rhythm with Tony's twenty minute dream in the 11th episode of this past season. "Six Feet Under" did the same thing last night with the twenty minute kidnapping scene. Like the Tony's dream episode of "The Sopranos," last night's "Six Feet Under" has unleashed a torrent of complaints. The Television Without Pity forum discussion of the episode has nearly 300 posts already, many of them using the predictable phrase "jumped the shark." (Follow my Sopranos link above, which takes you to the point in the recap where the dream sequence begins, and you'll see the quick poll on the question: "Has this show officially jumped the shark?")

The extra-long sequence is an interesting device, but it can't be used very often or we'll be starting in too early thinking, oh no, is this going to be one of those endless sequences. Part of the effect is that you have the feeling the scene must end soon, bringing you relief, and you are oppressed when it doesn't. There needs to be a reason for putting the viewer through that grueling experience. Judging from the Television Without Pity forum, most viewers just felt abused. One comment is repeated over and over: Why didn't David escape? He had so many opportunities. The writers, I presume, trusted the viewers to know and care about David enough that they would work at understanding the reasons he did what he did, but many viewers thought the writers had just inserted an endless sequence of gratuitous violence! Partly, these viewers may have trusted their expectation that the scene would end and, when it didn't, instead of trying to understand why the writers had decided to deviate so momentously from the show's norm, they simply resorted to the outrage that takes the form of the accusation that the show has "jumped the shark."

I think the resort to the overlong sequence challenges us to understand why we are being shaken out of our normal assumptions. In fact, at the beginning of the episode, when we saw David and Keith parting, I was thinking, I'm so tired of David and Keith and their little effort to achieve a stable homelife. Keith is an especially bland character. Even though they do have him blow up every once in a while and do something violent, his basic function on the show is to offer David peace, love, and understanding, so we can then watch and see if David will be able to accept that offer. David's story began as one of self-loathing, which he's been abandoning over the years of episodes, but watching David relinquish his self-loathing over and over has become boring. One gets the point! The kidnapping scene gave us a chance to see something different and complicated about David. He was not just a perplexingly passive victim. He was actively seeking a dangerous adventure when he picked up the man who tortured him for the rest of the episode. I think we have so absorbed the idea that (in real life) it's wrong to blame the victim that we resist making the judgments about David that would allow us to understand the story the writers devised. Thus viewers passed up all the opportunities to gain interesting insights into David and instead experienced the prolonged sequence as unfairly tormenting the viewers who have come to care for him as a person. They think: Oh, why can't David just be happy with Keith?

But the scenes of David just being happy with Keith are completely tedious. This is a difficulty of a long-running drama: the characters must keep failing to solve their problems, even as we grow to love them and want the best for them. The character development that takes place has to drag them more deeply into their problems for the show to continue. The extra-long sequence was intended to convey the depth of the problem with David, without which we don't have a show.

July 18, 2004


Big Sitemeter milestone reached just now!

Before the parade.

After an hour or so of grading exams in a café on State Street, I decided to walk up to the Capitol Square, and there I happened upon a gathering parade--a gay pride parade.

Some people had the casual but painted look:

7/18/04 Madison Gay Pride Parade

7/18/04 Madison Gay Pride Parade

Others were more formal:

7/18/04 Madison Gay Pride Parade

There were plenty of signs for Tammy Baldwin and John Kerry:

7/18/04 Madison Gay Pride Parade

The religious counterpoint was also represented:

7/18/04 Madison Gay Pride Parade

Those holding religious signs were being relatively pleasant, at least during the pre-parade period when I was there. They would smile and say "hi" if you made eye contact. I saw and overheard quite a few real conversations between persons who supported the parade and those who showed up with signs to register their objection. Although I doubt that anyone's mind was changed, I was encouraged to see people having some serious face-to-face discussions that did not get ugly.

7/18/04 Madison Gay Pride Parade

Some paraders called out "Jesus loves everyone!" and at one point, they sang "Jesus Loves Me." These two saw the religious character as a good photo op:

7/18/04 Madison Gay Pride Parade

For all the parade pictures, go here. For Tonya's description of the parade, go here [Dead link.]

UPDATE: Prof. Yin thinks the green woman in the first picture looks like classic Star Trek woman Vina!

And here's the Wisconsin State Journal article about the parade.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Prof. Yin seems to think I recognized the character Vina, but I just clicked on the link he provided. So don't be thinking I keep track of Star Trek information. I have viewed some episodes of the original series, but that was back in the 1970s, and I can't remember much of anything except the basic look and demeanor of the characters and the general cheesiness of the sets. In the 70s, the show was of course already reruns. Did I watch the show when it was originally aired in the 60s? I watched at least part of one episode and concluded it was bad. I can't remember why. Either it seemed too phony or I didn't like the way they wore their hair. If I was going to watch a TV drama back in the late 60s, I think I wouldn't have been interested unless the characters wore their hair more like this.

Those Outdoor Games.

Prof. Yin asks why I don't have some photos of the Great Outdoor Games, which were held in Madison this year. The first I heard of this thing was from a local newspaper headline saying how successful the games were. If I'd have known, I would have gone and taken some pictures. What you're seeing on TV this weekend occurred a while back. Too bad I missed it. Those lumberjack-style games are pretty entertaining.

Sunday morning Madison profblogs.

Jeremy's trying to round up lefties who don't like Barbara Ehrenreich's NYT op-eds.

Nina bought a bunch of blueberries and baked them into a beautiful tart and then dropped it on the floor--pictures here.

Gordon is seriously into the Tour de France.

Tonya's talking about Prince and how the tickets to the big Chicago show say "Wear purple," but "Nobody wears purple anymore." I'm reading this as I'm dressed from head to toe in purple! No, I don't have my shoes on yet.

And me, my "Change the federal marshals' dress code?" post from yesterday got a nice Instapundit link this morning. The post reads in its entirety: "ANN ALTHOUSE is striking fear into terrorists." Yeah! Fear my blouse!!!

Well, as link-clickers flow over here, I'm going to put on my purple suede sandals and head out into the cool July sunshine to find my way to a nice café for a little bout of exam grading.