September 11, 2004

"It'll be similar to playing with Tiger last year."

The NYT quotes my nephew, Cliff Kresge, who will be paired with Mike Weir for the final round of the Bell Canadian Open tomorrow. Weir, in the lead by three strokes, is a good bet to win, and this is very exciting for Canadians, who have not in 50 years seen a fellow countryman win their big tournament.
New world number one Vijay Singh of Fiji, American Cliff Kresge and Jesper Parnevik of Sweden shared second place behind Weir, who will have a boisterous home crowd behind him in the final round at the Glen Abbey Golf Club.

I know the home crowd is thrilled with Weir, but the least known of these four is Kresge, my nephew, and if you're into rooting for your countryman and you're an American, Cliff Kresge is the American in the top group, so please consider rooting for him.
Kresge ended his round with two birdies to return a four-under 67. Singh rebounded from a triple bogey on the 11th hole to shoot a one-over 72 while Parnevik had a 71.

The 35-year-old Kresge will partner Weir on Sunday but he said he was used to the attention it would bring after he played with Tiger Woods in the final weekend of last year's Western Open.

"It'll be similar to playing with Tiger last year at the Western,'' Kresge said.

"Hopefully I can draw on those experiences and learn from that and do all right."

Go, Cliff! I was there last year, when Cliff played in a threesome with Tiger. I was impressed at how well he stood up to the crazy clamor that surrounds Tiger, and I'm always impressed by the nerves of steel it takes to play professional golf, where everything counts and hundreds of thousands of dollars are won or lost on a single stroke. On their home turf, the Canadians will be there in force cheering for Weir, just as the Tiger fans were all about Tiger last year when Cliff played alongside him. It will be a hard day of playing for himself surrounded by a hoard who loves the other guy. Much as I know the Canadians would rejoice to see their man win, I'm going to go all chauvinistic and say America! America! Let the American win!

September Saturday.

[This post once displayed many photos. They are lost.] I had Chris drop me off near the Capitol Square this morning because I wanted to look at a model condominium. Sometimes I think of selling my big house in University Heights and moving to a pristine apartment downtown with a glorious view. There is a new project on the Square with units that look straight onto the Capitol building and toward Lake Mendota and Lake Monona on opposite sides of the isthmus. On the way to check out the model unit, I pass through the Farmers' Market. There are sunflowers:


And politics:

The view from the condo is spectacular. What a project it would be to buy the raw space, work with the architect and the contractor to finish the interior, and accomplish the complicated financial transaction that would include paying for all of that and selling the house that I've lived in for nearly twenty years. Daunting but exciting. I'll probably wait a couple years, and maybe buy one of the already-finished units when someone resells. I like the idea of living on the Square, though, and having my walk to work be a walk down the length of State Street, with its shops and cafés and restaurants and lively street life.

I walk towards State Street and stop to take a picture of a merchant's stall that is hung with mobiles made of copper tubing twisted into a spiral with a handblown colored-glass ball set inside the spiral. A woman working in the stall points at me and then a man turns around and starts shaking his head and waving his outstretched arms in the international gesture for "no, no, it is forbidden" as he walks over toward me. I say "I'm sorry," and he makes a move as if he wants to take my camera. He says, "This is my art. You're stealing my art." I say, "I'm not stealing your art. I'm sorry. I'll delete the picture." He says, "I'm trying to make money and you're stealing." I say, "That's not very friendly," then, walking away, I wish I'd said something wittier. This selection of ripostes runs through my head:

Get over yourself! You bent copper tubing into a spiral!

Why would anyone buy new age junk from a man with such bad energy?

Okay, then I won't use my blog to make your mobiles seem to be part of the charm of Madison, Wisconsin, I'll use my blog to make you look like a jackass.

I proceed to walk down State Street. There's a panhandler who tries to show passersby his driver's license and makes the pitch: "I was born on 9-1-1!" There's a nice post-game crowd on the street. Lots of red to celebrate the Badgers:

I can never tell from looking at the people whether we won. I want to ask someone, but I don't. I stop at Fair Trade Coffeehouse for a latte and some bread and cheese. I run into Tonya and I tell her about the condominium model unit and the bad mobile man. We talk about a colleague who is thinking of starting a blog and about naming and renaming blogs, which leads to a discussion of Gene Wilder. She needs to work and I head out to continue in my walk toward home. [ADDED: And Tonya did, later today, rename her blog!] I take the Lake Mendota route and see lots of people having a great time on the swimming pier:

And learning to kayak:

I take the lake path. Some members of the marching band are also taking the path:

I leave the path and walk toward home, taking a stop in Allen Centennial Garden:

I sit down on a quiet bench and do some reading:

Then I walk the rest of the way home, past late after-game tailgating parties. It's very hot now and I'm glad to get home and take a bath. I check the web and see the Badgers won. How is Cliff doing today at the Bell Canadian Open? Ah, quite well! He's in second place! Now, the third round has concluded, and my nephew Cliff Kresge is tied for the second spot with Vijay Singh and Jesper Parnevik. Mike Weir at ten under is three strokes ahead. Excellent!

September 11th.

Three years ago, I was standing on the corner of Brooks Street and University Avenue, collecting my thoughts about my new class on the Constitution's religion clauses that would meet later that day, waiting for the walk sign. It's a long wait to cross the only street between the parking garage and the Law School, and it's not unlikely that a colleague will step up and join me in the wait. It's a nice time for a friendly hello. A colleague appears, I give a cheery hello and mean to go on to comment on the great beauty of the day. He says, "Haven't you seen the news this morning?"

To this day, when I stand on that corner, I remember hearing the news there. Not once since that day would it be that anyone could walk up and ask me if I'd seen the news that morning and the answer would be, as it was that day, "no." Since that day, I always check the television news when I get up in the morning. For a long time after September 11th, 2001, when I woke up in the middle of the night I would turn on the TV and check the news to see if anything had happened. Any time I woke up, I would, within a second, recall the sight of the burning World Trade Center and think "That happened. That really happened." It was the same feeling I had when a close and very young family member died some years ago. Very shortly after waking, my first thought was, "she died, she died." Even when I was awake, I would repeatedly think of the 9/11 attacks, like that death of that family member years ago, and re-experience hearing the news for the first time: "That happened. That really happened!" The length of time between those re-rememberings increased gradually over the weeks and months, but it took a long time before the thought could be experienced without containing an element of feeling as though I was learning the news the first time.

I remember going into the law school building that day three years ago, wanting to find out what happened. My colleague had only told me that planes flew into the World Trade Center towers. I pictured small planes hitting the buildings and falling onto the sidewalk below. Did they fall on people on the ground? He said he believed the planes went into the buildings and stayed inside. That inconceivable image, which I would by the end of the day have seen on television a hundred times, began to form in my head. I hurried to the law school, thinking I could find the news on the internet, but I couldn't get through to any of the sites. My son Chris called from San Francisco to ask if I knew. Unlike me, he had a television, and he described what he saw. He told me people were jumping. People were jumping! I went looking for a television. A colleague had a tiny portable television with a black and white screen. We all crowded around. On that five inch screen, I first saw the unreal sight of a tower collapsing.

I tore myself away from the little screen to make some effort at getting my notes together for my class. I was fretting about my capacity to do my job properly. Five minutes before class time, I went down to the classroom and found it dark and packed with people. A fifteen foot movie screen had been lowered, and everyone stared in shock at the projected television images of the attacks. Suddenly, there were the attacks, over and over, in brilliant color for the first time. Some of the people in the room were my students, sitting in their assigned seats for the class that was to begin in a few minutes. When the clock clicked over to the class time, I stood up and, worrying that it was wrong to project my voice over the events on the screen, I quickly announced that this was my classroom but there would be no class, and the television should stay on. I sat down and watched in shock with the rest of the group. How could it be?

When I finally left the building, to go home and continue to the vigil in front of the television, I remember walking between two large old university buildings on my way back to the street crossing where my colleague had told me the news a few hours ago. I looked at those buildings and thought: I had always assumed these buildings were so solid, but how foolish I was; these buildings are all now going to fall. I really felt, walking between those two buildings, that everything we had built was doomed, and that we had been living under an illusion that the world we had built could stand.

Today, when I go home after work, I still walk between those two buildings, and I often think about how I felt on that day that these buildings could not stand. Yet here they are. I'm amazed at how ready I was on that day to believe that the terrorists had taken our world away, that the will to destruction, now unleashed, would overcome the work of all of the rest of us who wanted to build things and to live our individual lives in the material world. Yet here we are, still building things, still making lives for ourselves. A car horn playing "On Wisconsin!" just roused me from this reverie. It's a beautiful sunny day here Madison. Tens of thousands of people are coming to the enlarged, rebuilt stadium for the game that starts in an hour. I can hear their yells from where I'm sitting in my dining room. Life goes on.

September 10, 2004

Go Cliff!

My nephew Cliff Kresge is currently sitting in 8th place at the Bell Canadian Open. He hasn't started Round 2 yet.

It's Friday!

It's Madison. Music:


More food:

"Wearable Archaeology":

What's the forgery, Kenneth?

Looking at this, I realized it was inevitable that someone would write "What's the forgery, Kenneth?" So here it is.

Do you have to stand for the Pledge?

A student cannot be forced to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, but does a student also have a right to refuse to stand for the Pledge? In this case the student was "called to the principal's office and urged to stand during the pledge even if she chose not to recite it."

UPDATE: I'm thinking that urging the student to "stand to show respect for your country," makes standing during the Pledge more of an expression of belief than it would otherwise be. I can't tell from the article whether the student's objection to the Pledge is to the "Under God" phrase or to the rest of the Pledge.

ADDITIONAL NOTE: Emailers cite a Third Circuit case, Lipp v. Morris, 579 F.2d 834 (3d Cir.1978), for the proposition that you can't be required to stand for the Pledge. We're in the Seventh Circuit, where the most notable case is Sherman v. Community Consolidated School District, 980 F.2d 437 (1992)(which, incidentally, held that "Under God" in the Pledge did not violate the Establishment Clause). In Sherman, the court, citing Lipp, noted that that "no pupil was compelled to recite the Pledge, to stand during the Pledge or place his hand over his heart, or to leave if he would not join in, and that no one was penalized in any way for remaining silent and seated." It then rejected the notion that "peer pressure to conform" amounted to compulsion. It seems to me that being urged by the principal is something more than peer pressure, but not outright compulsion.


Ah, some typography humor to break up the griminess of the current election season. Thanks Polipundit! I ran across that while looking for commentary about last night's "Nightline," which I TiVo'd because I'd heard they were going to cover the forgery story. I thought it was a bit laughable that instead of covering that breaking story in depth, they just merged it into the general theme of negative campaigning. Oh, everyone's so bad that we all just want to look away. Please look away, now, please! Oh, Nightline! At least the Times and the Post are looking straight at this ... which they would do whether bloggers leaned on them or not. Right?

UPDATE: More forgery humor here. Very funny! (Via Instapundit.)

Censoring Spiegelman.

Art Spiegelman, promoting "In the Shadow of No Towers," his new book about September 11th, gave an interview this morning on NPR'S "Morning Edition." I've long been a fan of Spiegelman's, because of Maus and Raw, and I am willing to accept a lot of honest self-revelation from someone who experienced the World Trade Center attacks from within ten blocks of the site, but he struck a bad note when he complained about The New Yorker's rejection of the comic strips that ultimately became his new book. (The audio link at the NPR site is not yet available, so I cannot produce a verbatim quote.) In these comics, he portrayed himself as feeling equally threatened by terrorism and by President Bush after September 11th. Although publishers in what he called "Old Europe" accepted the comic strips, The New Yorker would not. This, he said, was "censorship." What writer feels so important that he can call a rejection from The New Yorker censorship?! There is no more desirable placement for writing or comics in this country! You had to go to "Old Europe" to publish? Was there no other place to publish in all of the United States? Was your work published in the equivalent of The New Yorker in Europe? You equate Bush's policies with terrorism, and then when that overdramatization proves unappealing, you equate a rejection from The New Yorker with censorship, further overdramatizing.

UPDATE: Bad link fixed. Sorry. There is a glitch in Blogger. The audio is available at the link now too.

FURTHER UPDATE: I've corrected the title of Spiegelman's book. It is, I'm afraid, "No Towers," not "Two Towers."

September 9, 2004

And I watched "Joey" too.

Which was stupid, because I never watched "Friends," except that one time when Brad ("Hey, what am I smelling right now?") Pitt was on. I'm just watching because I miss Adriana. Within the first thirty seconds, I'm put off by the laugh track. I'm used to "Curb Your Enthusiasm," so the over-amused audience from nowhere is annoying me. Eight minutes into it, I can see Matt LeBlanc just isn't a very good actor. And ooh, the writing ("What are you a rocket scientist" "Yes."). It's astoundingly amateurish. Is this what people want? Intolerable.

"It's not good to accessorize an eel."

And therefore "Mosaic" lost, and poor Rob ("you didn't give me a specific task!") got fired. Yeah, yeah, I was sucked into the cultural vortex that is "The Apprentice."

"Stolen Honor."

On a powerful episode of Hardball, former POW James Warner swears that his Vietnamese captors intimidated him and threatened him with execution for war crimes based on John Kerry's testimony at the "Winter Soldiers" hearings. Chris Matthews pushes Warner repeatedly and brings on another POW (who says he was not similarly intimidated) and Ken Campbell (a vet who opposed the war, who says that Kerry only meant to blame the administration), and Warner stares them all down. Also on the show is Carlton Sherwood, the producer of the film "Stolen Honor." Sherwood and Warner clearly have a burning anger against Kerry for testifying that atrocities were committed "on a daily basis" in Vietnam. As the title of the film indicates, they feel Kerry deprived them of the honor they deserved for their service in Vietnam.

The new TV season.

I reached the height of my interest in the new TV season when I was 14. I can get the age exactly right because I remember poring over the new season issue of TV Guide the year "My Mother the Car"--aka "the worst television series of all time"--premiered. Since then, my interest has waned. I leafed through the new season issue of Entertainment Weekly last night, and I could scarcely turn the pages fast enough. I see there's a new season of "The Real World." That's worth checking out if only to see what the new house looks like. I see KenJen is back on "Jeopardy!" and I find I don't care. And "Joey" premieres tonight, but the only reason to care is that we get Adriana back. And "The Apprentice" is back. Do I feel compelled to watch by some horrifying cultural force? I feel compelled to TiVo, and time will tell if I watch the series, watch only until I get tired of it, or leave the recorded show to drift down to the bottom of the "What's On" list and then ignominiously drop off.

UPDATE: The TiVo list, which I've spent a lot of time looking at, is not called "What's On," it's called "Now Playing." How could I make such a mistake? Because "What's On" is what you say about TV. "Now Playing" is what you say about movie theaters. Having a TiVo doesn't turn your TV into a movie theater. (Nor does making your room into a "home theater.") Not only are you still watching the shows on a television, but you have the capacity to pause and rewind--how is that like a movie theater?

Also, I TiVo'd and watched the first episode of "The Real World," where they are in Philadelphia and they are living in a cavernous old bank, which has furniture set up to make it seem vaguely house-like. It's weird to see Philadelphia portrayed as "the big city," especially when one character goes on about how he's from a "small town," encountering "the big city" for the first time, and he's from Nashville! (Check the relative population of American cities here.) One thing about the show this season is that there is a UW-Madison student in the cast. He seems to be there to be officially the most ordinary person (male category--Melanie seems to be holding down that role in the female category). The big idea for the season seems to be having two gay guys in the cast to surprise the roommates who assume once they've found one gay guy there won't be another gay guy, but, oh, there is. Wow, and he's less obviously gay, so that's a big learning experience for them, but they seem to learn it in two seconds, so I wonder if there's much story left, because the narrative potential of this cast match-up seems fulfilled in episode one. Good episode, but what is left--other than the usual getting drunk in clubs and tubs?

Kerry on Iraq.

NYT editorial page calls Kerry's position on Iraq incoherent and his strategy of shifting to domestic issues unacceptable:
Given the political corner Mr. Kerry has painted himself into, it's not surprising that his advisers are urging him to start concentrating on the economy. But Iraq is still the great crisis confronting the United States. While the temptation to dodge it at this point is natural, Mr. Kerry should resist.

But Kerry is too indecisive to go all out with this focus on domestic things that people, like Clinton, are advising him to adopt. Kerry merges things. It's really nuanced. It goes like this: "Two hundred billion for Iraq, but they tell us we can't afford after-school programs for our children." I'm not looking at the whole text of the speech, but what is the point? Are we to think he's going to withdraw spending from Iraq and hand it over to after-school programs? Or just spend on both? I see that later in that speech he said "[Bush] doesn't believe that America can be strong in the world while we also make progress here at home. That's a false choice, and I reject it." So I guess, pinned down, he would have to concede that what he's asking for is massive new spending on domestic programs, but I think the rhetoric was designed to make listeners think he's planning to transfer the spending from Iraq to tangible things that voters can enjoy at home. He's going to make our schools great. That will be so nice for the children. I wonder if the school in Beslan had nice after-school programs. But if you say, don't we need to worry about security for domestic happiness to work? He might snap at you and say "You're not listening."

September 8, 2004

"We must all raise our voices, disown them."

At last. Thank you.

UW Police 9/11 remembrance banner attacked.

Here's a picture of the banner that has been hung on the UW Police building, which is across from the football stadium here in Madison. The banner includes a quote from President Bush ("We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail") and identifies him as the source of the quote. I received email today urging people to complain that the sign is an inappropriate political sign that needs to be taken down.

ADDED: What tone-deaf politics it is to complain about this banner!

Inside the dome.

I admitted that I lied when I said the dome on the Overture Center was beautiful, but today we got a look from the inside. It wasn't really open, but there was a group of people in there, so we went in and stayed and talked to a man who seemed authorized to show the place and who did not object to my taking photographs. So here is what it's like looking up at the dome:

I think, seen from the inside, the dome is beautiful. Really!

Here are some workers putting on some finishing touches, inside:

And out:

And here's a nice view from under the dome looking out into the street:

About Al Gore.

Sixteen interesting things about Al Gore, from David Remnick's article in The New Yorker.

1. Leon Russell is one of his neighbors—in the Belle Meade section of Nashville. 

2. Tipper Gore keeps a drum set in the living room.

3. They keep bugs out of their yard with a "system that sprays a fine mist of ground chrysanthemums from various discreet sources."

4. Gore is “having a blast.”

5. Gore has an eccentric artist friend who is "a crazy kinda guy” who's got a band called Monkey Bowl that's "a cross between the Fugs and Ali G."

6. Gore thinks the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas is "a ve-rrry interesting guy."

7. Gore has a problem with television: “There is just nothing on the dendrite level about watching television."

8. Gore is interested in "flow." Me too!

9. Gore has been avoiding “Fahrenheit 9/11." Me too!

10. Politics was a bad career choice for Gore because as an introvert, he's drained after an event. Clinton, an extrovert, is invigorated.

11. Gore didn't use Clinton in the 2000 campaign because he loves Tipper so much and cares about marital fidelity.

12. Gore thinks Bush is "a very weak man" who let other people push him around. He says Bush "was rolled in the immediate aftermath of 9/11." Gore doesn't think Bush is dumb, just "incurious." (Who started that "incurious" meme? It must have originally been a play on "Curious George.")

13. Gore doesn't seem to like Kerry very much. The two co-senators did not have much of a relationship, even though they had something in common: "aloofness." But, per Gore, Kerry "took the initiative to reach out to me and to identify the fact that he felt the relationship was not what it could be and should be and asked to sit down and talk about it and jointly create a basis for a much better working relationship. " That must have been one hell of a polysyllabic conversation.

14. Gore keeps an Apple G4 on the table when he eats a meal in front of the New Yorker reporter, who peeks at his bookmarks: the Times, the Washington Post, Google News,,

15. Gore seems a bit obsessed by a memo Lewis F. Powell, Jr. wrote just before he went on the Supreme Court. The memo argues that conservatives should strongly defend free enterprise because it is “'under broad attack' by well-funded leftists, who dominate the media, academia, and even some corners of the political world. " As if Justice Powell is at the root of a vast, right-wing conspiracy.

16. Gore doesn't like Bush's Christian fundamentalism because it doesn't have enough of the Sermon on the Mount in it—not enough about helping the poor. He and Tipper can't even find a church to attend in Nashville: “The influx of fundamentalist preachers have pretty much chased us out with their right-wing politics."

Stuck inside of Tuesday with the Blogger blues again.

Well, Blogger is driving me crazy today. The home page is stuck on Tuesday, even though I've entered posts on Wednesday. If I click on the most recent archive, I can see the new posts. I've tried republishing and every other annoying trial and error thing I can think of, as I sit here in the café, drinking a latte and listening to Bob Dylan music. Let's see if this shows up.

Music, politics, free lunch.

Free Adult Swim is providing music on the Mall. The sidewalk chalkings exhort us to political activity.

A local character is getting ready to serve as an alternate source of music. He's leafing through his songbook of old standards. Madisonians do not need to be informed what instrument he will be playing. For the rest of you: he will be playing the piccolo. Forever.

Elsewhere: free hot lunch!

"The 'Hey, What Am I Smelling Right Now?' school of acting."

What a perfect phrase! I'm going to remember that.

Ideas for the official Wisconsin state rock song: Part II.

On the subject of picking an official rock song for the state of Wisconsin, Hazy Dave (BSEE 78) writes:
I nominate "Rockin' Behind The Iron Curtain" by the Red Ball Jets, a Milwaukee group from the late 70's. An old Huey Piano Smith tune, IIRC, available only on a 7 inch EP they self-released back in the day, so I guess it's a bit obscure. Still, I thought it might strike a resonant chord up there in the People's Republic of Madison...

Group members included guitarist Mark Schneider from the late lamented Dirty Jack's Record Rack, drummer Rob McCuen, (nowadays an Iggy pop disciple - a much kinder word than wannabe - still haunting Milwaukee's club scene), and a singer called Molly Putz (a gym class putdown cut from the same cloth as "Violent Femme")...

I suppose anything of some national recognition by the Bodeans or Violent Femmes would be a better choice, but nothing I can think of has much to do with the state or hometown pride or anything like that. "Gimme the Car" is a bit profane for official recognition, and "Children Of The Revolution" is a cover of a T.Rex song... I'm not entirely sure if the Fendermen were from Wisconsin or across the border in the Twin Cities, but "Muleskinner Blues" was at least a national hit, a good natured novelty rocker in the early 60's or late 50's. I can't quite think of a good rockin' enough near-hit by the Robbs or the Legends, and the Spooner tune I'd choose, "Shut Up", isn't on any of their (out-of-print) albums anyway. "Johnny Stood Up" was another great Spooner song in the same boat...

Maybe the Spanic Boys' "Keep On Walkin'"? I'm not being too helpful here, but I recognize that an officially sanctioned State Rock Song would have to be much more mainstream and/or stupid than I'd prefer in order to be approved in the first place. "It's just the Good Life passing you by..." - Madison's Fire Town.

Hey, it's the "WHEREAS, Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town, and everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down" bit that really makes it anyway. If it came to a vote, I expect the Budweiser song ("When you say Wisconsin, you've said it all") would handily trounce all comers anyway. This is clearly an unacceptable solution from St. Louis (pun intended), so I recommend we table the motion.

September 7, 2004

"THX 1138."

George Lucas's first film, "THX 1138," is about to come out as a "director's cut" DVD. You can pre-order it on Amazon and get "at no additional cost--a collectible aluminum replica of the THX 1138 ear tag featured on the DVD packaging art (while supplies last)." Good thing it's collectible, because I wouldn't want an aluminum replica of an ear tag that somehow stood in the way of my collecting it. And what does it even mean to collect a single item? If there's only one, isn't it just ... keepable? A keepsake? And what is the charm of an ear tag anyway? I'd like to run across someone actually wearing a THX 1138 ear tag, just to test the image I have in my head of the kind of guy who would wear a THX 1138 ear tag. I'll just leave it at that. I won't be buying this DVD, even with the added incentive of the ear tag, because I've seen this movie. I saw it when it came out in 1971, and I consider that a bit of a distinction, because it was a pretty obscure movie. The name George Lucas meant nothing then. Francis Ford Coppola produced this movie, but it was still a year before "The Godfather." Back in those days we had a bit of a thing for "You're a Big Boy Now," the 1966 Francis Ford Coppola movie, but I doubt if that was the draw. As nearly as I can remember, we just liked science fiction movies. "2001: A Space Odyssey," "The Green Slime"--whatever. And "THX 1138" was "supposed to be good," which was enough. I saw this movie at a drive-in that summer (the same summer when I saw Alice Cooper in concert--or thereabouts). I was stranded in southern New Jersey. You know how you feel when you've gone away to college and then you come back in the summer and live with your parents? But it was worse because my parents moved right after I graduated from high school. So instead of going back to Wayne, New Jersey, where I knew people and could easily get to New York City, I had to go to Blackwood, New Jersey, a desolate place--literally "The Pine Barrens" (that is not just the name of an episode of "The Sopranos"). It was really dull and depressing, somewhere along the White Horse Pike, midway between Philadelphia and Atlantic City (pre-gambling Atlantic City). The closest thing to anything to do there was to play pinball in a bowling alley. I've only been punched in the face once in my life, and it was in the parking lot of that bowling alley. I made fun of the words to "Born to Run" yesterday, but "a death trap ... a suicide rap" is about how it felt. People think of those early Bruce Springsteen songs as being about New Jersey, but they are about southern New Jersey, and it really was an awful place to be in the early 1970s. People in New York who laugh at New Jersey are talking about northern New Jersey. Southern New Jersey is a big step down. But we did have a drive-in, and they were playing "THX 1138." I remember that the set was blank white, but not in the happy "Isaac Mizrahi Show" way, in the extreme sensory deprivation way. And--if I remember correctly--everyone was dressed in white, had shaved heads, and spoke in a flat, lifeless way. I was already living in southern New Jersey and that was already more sensory deprivation than I could take. Normally, I loved bleak cinema: we saw every Ingmar Bergman double feature that played at Cinema Guild during the school year back in Ann Arbor, and, believe me, Cinema Guild showed a lot of Bergman double features. But that summer, in that place, in a drive-in, "THX 1138" was profoundly, profoundly boring. So I will not be competing with all you ear tag collectors and George Lucas fans. In my alphabetized DVD bookcase, "Three Kings" and "To Kill a Mockingbird" will for now remain side-by-side. UPDATE: Chris points out that "THX 1138" is getting a theatrical release too.

Tuesday in Madison.

The new school week starts, a day late. The morning is spent reading cases about the Constitution's religion clauses and teaching the class at 11--lots of good discussion, both in class and after class. I tried to memorize the 33 names on the seating chart before class today, then in class, I kept getting the names slightly wrong. I'll get the first letter right, for example. I called Mike Matt, a mistake caused by my mnemonic device, which let me know it was an "M" name, and my readiness to say Matt, which seems to be a really popular name for this cohort. (You know what has become a really popular name in recent years, that I've never run into anyone in Madison actually having for a name? Madison.)

But now it's time for a little lunch and some fresh air, so I walk down Bascom Hill and into the Library Mall. There's the Red Gym and lots of students enjoying the day:

The view toward State Street, with food carts. Notice anything about that tree? It's this tree. See the remnants of the art project?

I go to Fair Trade Coffeeshop and set up at a little table by the window. The garden tables look enticing, but I like it here by the flowers.

The table seems a little wobbly, so I set my coffee mug on the windowsill.

I start to download my photographs. I like this one of a lamppost plastered with leaflets, with a bit of a view of Park Street, as it runs toward the lake.

And here are the nice sidewalk cafés along State Street.

But what is this strange image? Some message from the spirit world? Somehow it's well composed and intriguing. I don't know what it is, but I like it.

And what is this? A leftover photograph from the blogger dinner last Thursday. I was struggling to upload my photos and for some reason, I decided to photograph my struggle. Man, look at the beautiful torte and that lovely glass of cognac. How can I have put a computer on that table! But I wasn't the first. Look, there in the upper right corner of this picture. That's Jeremy's computer.

September 6, 2004

The grandiose propagandist.

Filmmaker Michael Moore gloats (via Drudge):
My pollster friend told me that he believes if Kerry wins, "Fahrenheit 9/11" will be one of the top three reasons for his election.
Yes, why don't you just go ahead and take credit in advance? One thing about Moore, which is kind of a safeguard against Moore: his ego is bigger than his desire to help the candidate he supports. Moore wants his movie "Fahrenheit 911" to air on television before the election, but the mean old DVD distributor says it would violate the contract. But the greater problem, he asserts, is sacrificing Oscar eligibility:
Academy rules forbid the airing of a documentary on television within nine months of its theatrical release (fiction films do not have the same restriction).

Although I have no assurance from our home video distributor that they would allow a one-time television broadcast -- and the chances are they probably won't -- I have decided it is more important to take that risk and hope against hope that I can persuade someone to put it on TV, even if it's the night before the election.

Therefore, I have decided not to submit "Fahrenheit 9/11" for consideration for the Best Documentary Oscar. If there is even the remotest of chances that I can get this film seen by a few million more Americans before election day, then that is more important to me than winning another documentary Oscar.
I love the way he flaunts his willingness to forgo an Oscar, when the home video contract also prevents him from intruding himself into the last days of the presidential campaign. It's obviously not going to be on TV, so the gesture of stepping out of the Documentary Oscar category obviously has other motives. Isn't it hugely big of him to forgo the Documentary Oscar for the sake of the greater good, when it doesn't make him ineligible for the Best Picture Oscar? Read for yourself how Moore asserts that he was a sure bet to win the Documentary Oscar, so that his withdrawing will give some of the lesser documentarians--whose success he made possible!--a chance.

How is Moore disadvantaged in any way in all of this? He gets to parade as some sort of political saint, promote his DVD, and put pressure on the Academy to nominate him for Best Picture! Does this grandiose character even help Kerry? But I'm not going to feel sorry for Kerry until he distances himself from this propangandist!

"Of course I pitied the children."

From a surviving Beslan terrorist:
"Of course I pitied the children, I swear to Allah. I have children myself. I didn't shoot. I swear to Allah," he said. "I don't want to die. I swear to Allah, I want to live."
I was going to call this post "Abject cowardice," but I just heard on a Fox News broadcast that some of the Beslan terrorists did not know that children were going to be the hostages and had the humanity to refuse to participate when they saw what they had gotten themselves involved in. According to the news report, these persons were killed. Conceivably, the quoted terrorist was another who was willing to participate initially and actually did withdraw his support when he saw the children. It is impossible for me to imagine people so evil that they would do the things that took place at Beslan, and a relief to think that at least some of those who willingly participate in the lowest evil still have something beyond what they will do.

If this man really refused to kill children, why was he not killed like the others? Conceivably, he hid his noncompliance with the others and avoided the fate of those who openly objected. Whether he pulled the trigger or not, he is still a murderer, because he went too far into the conspiracy to back out and avoid responsibility for their acts. My first thought with respect to this terrorist who survived was: he'll say anything now, begging for his own life. So I'm not inclined to believe him, yet even though I think he's loathsome to try to avoid his guilt, I take some shred of solace in his plea "I want to live." The inhumanity of persons who reject their own lives has been one of the most appalling aspects of terrorism. Loathsome as it is to try to beg for your life when you were willing to kill others, it is at least a very human form of loathsomeness. There is some small hope in that.

Necco Wafers redux: the Catholic version.

One of the nice things about having this blog is that former students of mine happen upon it and drop me an email. Yesterday, I heard from a student who attended the Law School back in the mid-80s when I was just starting out. What particularly amused me about the email was that she commented on what I have always considered my most obscure post, the Necco Wafers post! The former student wrote:
By the way, as a Catholic kid, Necco wafers were THE candy we all used to play "Communion". We meant no disrespect...we just wanted to practice receiving the Body of Christ before we actually got to do it for real in 2nd grade.

I wrote back and asked if I could quote her and if she wanted to be named, and she said yes. Her name is Ruth Anne Adams. In her email reply she added some detail:
In our house of 3 daughters and one son, it was an elaborate rainy-day activity. My brother who was an altar boy back when it only could be boys was de facto the priest. He wore his blue robe backwards [closest he had to black in his closet], so as to look clerical. We were post-Vatican II kids, so we didn't fashion a kneeling rail. Anyway, the three girls would rotate through the line until the package of wafers was nearly exhausted. Then my brother would return to the "altar" [piano bench] and consume the remaining hosts. We didn't have a pretend ciboria or tabernacle, so all the hosts had to be consumed. I'm pretty sure this is a universal experience, with minor variations, for the cradle Catholic kids. I've checked. You know, once is an anecdote; thrice is a trend.

Consult Shrinkette.

The blogging psychiatrist. She just got started yesterday. (I noticed because she linked to me.) She's promising to do political commentary with some psychiatric expertise on subjects like: "Does Zell Miller really have a psychiatric diagnosis (as many bloggers have decreed)?" and (in response to Frank Rich's "How Kerry Became a Girlie-Man") "Is every contest between powerful males inevitably a macho slugfest, with primitive, libidinous, murderous undertones, and is the weaker opponent always an emasculated, pitiable loser?"

Ideas for the official Wisconsin state rock song: Part I .

Earlier today, I asked readers to email suggestions for the official state rock song. I'm getting some good email, so I'm going to do a Part I post. More parts to come (presumably). If you're in a state other than Wisconsin (or Ohio, which already has a state rock song), feel free copy the idea and try to get an appropriate song for your state. Or country. Feel free to send me ideas for the official United States rock song. My choice is not "Surfin' U.S.A." and of course not "Born in the U.S.A." ("You end up like a dog that's been beat too much") or "Living in the U.S.A." ("We're living in a plastic land"). It's clearly and definitely "Back in in the U.S.A."! ("Well, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the U.S.A./Yes, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the U.S.A./Anything you want, we got right here in the U.S.A.").

But back to Wisconsin: keep sending Wisconsin suggestions. And here's what I've got so far.

As expected, I'm getting some cheese-based ideas. But another Wisconsin product, motorcycles, seems much more suitable for a good rock song. In that vein, one reader suggests Bob Seger's "Roll Me Away," which expresses some appropriate sentiments. The rider starts out in Mackinaw City, and the question is does he take Route 75 south on his way out to California, or does he go north, via the Upper Peninsula so that key events in the song take place in Wisconsin? "Twelve hours out of Mackinaw City/Stopped in a bar to have a brew…" I say he took the northern route: first, it's much more scenic and in the spirit of the motorcycle, and, second, he had "a brew" in a bar and that sounds like Wisconsin. It also gets in a plug for a second Wisconsin product. On the downside: local do-gooders will not like alcohol in the state rock song, especially in the driving context. I'll just note that he says "a brew." The emailer notes that the singer meets a woman in the bar—"definitely a Wisconsin woman"—and that as the lyric goes on she "misses her home and heads back (which I think is a common story for Wisconsinites who leave then come back.)" The song also has a hawk, as a symbol of hope, and we have some fine hawks here in Wisconsin. So I like this idea.

To follow Ohio's lead, you could look for who the Wisconsin musicians are. I see there's Steve Miller, who wrote "Living in the U.S.A.," mentioned above. There's also "Space Cowboy," where he says "I told you 'bout living in the U.S. of A." and explains why he prefers space:
I was born on this rock [in Wisconsin]
And I've been travelin' through space
Since the moment I first realized
What all you fast talkin' cats would do if you could
You know, I'm ready for the final surprise.

Now, that's just too pessimistic. It reminds me of how New Jersey once contemplated making "Born to Run … the unofficial rock theme of our State's youth" (here's the resolution)(don't ask me why they would go to so much trouble to make it unofficial!). But the lyrics really aren't what the state ought to be saying to the youngsters:
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young …

"Rips the bones from your back"? What kind of an attitude is that? Personally, I would vote against any Springsteen song for the Wisconsin rock song, because he's too associated with that other state. And, since he's endorsed Kerry, we can't get both campaigns to play us our song.

One Wisconsin band suggestion is "Closer To Free" by the Waukesha band, the BoDeans. The words are appropriate, I think:
Everybody wants respect
Just a little bit
And everybody needs a chance
Once in a while
Everybody wants to be
Closer to Free

Not a bad idea!

UPDATE: An emailer notes that there is this album, "Viva Wisconsin," by the Wisconsin group Violent Femmes. I don't think we need an official state rock album, and I don't know the album, so someone else will have to suggest a song. Some of these titles--like "Dahmer Is Dead"--make me suspect that nothing is going to express the right sentiment.

Observing Labor Day.

In observation of Labor Day and the time-honored labor tradition of getting paid for working, I'm adding an Amazon PayPage for this blog.

Absent tools.

Kerry senior advisor Tad Devine blames Kerry's failure to convey a clear message on the lack of a sufficient number of advertisements in the last five weeks:
"If you want to deliver a powerful message, you need all the means of message-delivery at your disposal. Absent those tools and those means it's just harder to deliver that kind of message."

Having a clear message might help too.

Bush campaign music, especially "Hang On Sloopy."

Elisabeth Bumiller writes in today's NYT about the music used by the Bush campaign. I took note the other day of the Kerry campaign's use of the Springsteen song "No Surrender," so let me take a look at the Bush campaign's selections. They've got a new video that uses "Taking Care of Business," and they follow something called the Karl Rove rule, according to campaign strategist Mark McKinnon:
"We go by the Karl Rove rule," Mr. McKinnon said, referring to the president's 53-year-old political adviser. "If Rove has heard it, we can't use it."
Hmmm.... Karl Rove and I are the same age. Same age as Rush Limbaugh too (Rush and I were born on the very same day). Karl Rove doesn't know "Taking Care of Business"? I guess it's not terribly hard to find songs he hasn't heard.

The Bush campaign is really sick of "Eye of the Tiger":
"We finally sent out the mandate that if anybody plays 'Eye of the Tiger' again we're going to come out and kill them," Mr. McKinnon said.
They also play "Hang On Sloopy," supposedly, according to McKinnon because it's "so old it's cool." Wait, I think "Hang On Sloopy" has always been cool. It was cool when it came out, it was cool in the 70s, and it was cool in the 80s. When wasn't it cool? Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is one song that did not have to age to regain coolness.

The Times notes that it's the "official rock song of Ohio State University," and they were playing it in Ohio, which, we all know, is the single most important state in the union. This is an election about what Ohio wants, it seems, so by all means, play them their song.

Wisconsin is a swing state too, not as big as Ohio, but I bet we could make them cater to our taste too. But we don't have an official rock song, so I think we ought to have one. Email me at althouse at wisc dot edu with some ideas for an official rock song for Wisconsin. I don't like our rival Ohio having one and not us. We've already got a better state song, so maybe that means we don't need a state rock song, but it would be interesting to try to think up what the right state rock song would be.
If you're wondering why "Hang On Sloopy" is the state rock song for Ohio, you can read the actual resolution here. The "whereas" clauses include:
WHEREAS, In 1965, an Ohio-based rock group known as the McCoys reached the top of the national record charts with "Hang On Sloopy," and ...

WHEREAS, If fans of jazz, country-and-western, classical, Hawaiian and polka music think those styles also should be recognized by the state, then by golly, they can push their own resolution just like we're doing; and ...

WHEREAS, Sloopy lives in a very bad part of town, and everybody, yeah, tries to put my Sloopy down; and ... therefore be it

Resolved ...
UPDATE: Maybe I'm too hard on the New York Times. I appreciated this article quite a bit, and I loved learning about "Hang On Sloopy," but did you notice the Times referred to it as the "official rock song of Ohio State University," when research shows it's the official rock song of the whole state?

As I write this, I can hear the UW marching band practicing playing "On Wisconsin!"--which is not just our official school song, it's our official state song. For an early post discussing my interest in state songs, go here. You can see all the Wisconsin state symbols there, including the state fossil (trilobite!). I remembered blogging about the state motto, "Forward," and I found the post back here in mid-February. It turns out it's a post about John Kerry being boring by working "Forward" into a speech he gave in Wisconsin.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I've gotten some email doubting that "Hang On Sloopy" is really the official rock song of the state of Ohio, so I did a little Nexis search and found plenty of confirmation, including a March 14, 1999 article in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, written by Joe Dirck. Here are some highlights:
14 years ago I led the successful drive to have "Hang On Sloopy" named Ohio's official rock song.

It started as sort of a joke. The state of Washington was considering making "Louie, Louie" its state rock song, and I suggested in a column in the old Columbus Citizen-Journal that Ohio adopt "Sloopy," which never fails to send Ohio State fans into a frenzy when the OSU marching band plays it at football games.

Well, the thing took on a life of its own. A team of morning radio jocks ran with the idea, and pretty soon there were "Sloopy" rallies and petition drives being held around town. … I picked my sponsors carefully. …

Well, I don't want to brag, but we won. Big. It passed at a festive session marked by the OSU band performing its rendition of "Sloopy" in the hallowed chamber. …

Answers to two recent blogpolls.

On Saturday, I asked readers to guess which one of three performers--Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, or Alice Cooper--I had seen in concert, and then Sunday, I asked readers to spot the lie in a particular post about the construction of Madison's Overture Center. I've been checking the results all along and find it interesting how stable the numbers are, which gives me some inkling of why actual scientifically done polling based on relatively small numbers is reliable. And not only has the pattern of answers in both polls stayed about the same all along, but the answers have been correct! I saw Alice Cooper (and only Alice Cooper) in concert and I completely lied when I asserted a belief that the dome is "beautiful." So, now, why did people do so well getting those answers? Do readers know me so well and am I that knowable on the question of what concert I would happen to have seen and what I would lie about, or were both questions surrounded by clues and cues that helped people guess correctly?

The easier question, by far, is spot the lie. With five potential answers, purely random guessing would lead to more errors, but having more answers dilutes the strength of the random-guesser vote. And two answers are quite unlikely to be lies ("gleaming" and "elegant," which came in at the bottom of the vote, with 8.5% and 11% respectively). Also near the bottom was the fussy-about-facades answer, with 11.4% of the vote. Of course, a place like Madison would tend to have historical preservationist types who would get involved in a big project like this. The second place answer, that I find random junk "picturesque" still only got 28.9% of the vote. People were attracted to this answer above the other wrong answers, I assume, for the obvious reason that junk is not in fact "picturesque." Regular readers might remember earlier pictures of junk on this blog and know to avoid this answer. The correct answer--that the dome is "beautiful"--got 40.2% of the vote. I'm thinking people got this because they were looking at the picture and did not themselves think the dome was beautiful. Certainly, it does not approach the beauty of the other dome in the picture, the one on the state capitol building. By the way, I regret writing "I knew I was lying" in the post setting up the poll, because it implies that one can tell a lie without knowing it is untrue, and I am critical of people who do that in political debates. And I was even alluding to the political slogan "Bush lied!" in the title of the poll ("Althouse lied!").

But, now, why did you guess that I would have seen Alice Cooper (51.2%) of the vote and not Pink Floyd (34%) or Bruce Springsteen (14.8%)? My theory is that you thought about my present day motivation to ask the question. Since Alice Cooper was the most interesting choice, I probably felt like doing that particular poll because Alice Cooper was the answer. It's too boring to have gone to a Bruce Springsteen concert, and that's why that answer came in last. Thus, correct answering doesn't really have anything to do with an understanding of my musical taste. In fact, it's pretty random that I even went to see Alice Cooper at all. It was a long, long time ago, by the way. It was back when "I'm Eighteen" was a hit (1971). I'm not even sure if "School's Out" was out yet (1972). It was the summer of either 1971 or 1972, in an obscure part of southern New Jersey, and my younger brother wanted to go to the concert. Even though I thought it was embarrassing to go to an Alice Cooper concert--people my age (20 at the time) considered him a joke--I loved the single "I'm Eighteen," so I went. There was an elaborate stage show, which I can't remember anything about. I do remember, I think, that at one point he stripped off a layer of his costume and had on a skin-tight gold lamé body suit, and that was the sort of thing that just wasn't done at the time by anybody my friends would respect. In fact, I remember Iggy Stooge performing on campus (at the University of Michigan) in 1969 or 1970 and everyone shaking their heads and expressing pity for this late-stage has-been who was taking off his shirt, writhing on the ground, and suddenly stooping to the pathetic ploy of renaming himself Iggy Pop. How astounded we would have been if we could have known that 35 years later these two would still be around and would be respected and that Iggy would still look good with his shirt off.

UPDATE: One of the reasons we thought Alice Cooper was a joke was because he was seen as a Frank Zappa side project, a Zappa prank. The album I listened to every day back then was "The Mothers Live at the Fillmore East," which includes some comical references to Alice Cooper:
Well, it gets me so hot
I could scream

You can read all the lyrics here. [Not for the faint-hearted.] I still love that album! People who love the song "Happy Together" but don't know "Live at the Fillmore East" are missing a key perspective.

September 5, 2004


I almost never go to the movies anymore. I used to go out to the movies two or three times a week and watch movies almost every day on videotape/DVD. But for some reason, a year or so ago, I lost interest in watching movies, not that I've turned against movies, just that on any given day, I don't feel like spending my time watching a movie. In the last year, I think I've only gone out to see "The House of Sand and Fog," "Kill Bill--Volume 1," "Kill Bill--Volume 2," and "The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind." So, clearly, it takes a lot to draw me into a movie theater. I've tried to analyze why. Sometimes I say I don't like committing to the physical confinement of two hours stuck in a chair. Sometimes I complain about the people: Why are they eating and drinking so much and walking in and out of the theater? Maybe it's that I'm never bored when I'm on my own and always bored some of the time when I'm at a movie, and I'm just trying to avoid having to be bored. Maybe it's that movies are really made for other people, not for me. For example, I detest "women's" movies like "The Hours" or "The English Patient." And "action" always bores me. Sometimes I encounter a movie I really love. In recent years, I loved "Memento" and "Fight Club." But the chances are high that I'm not going to like a movie, so I just don't want to make a commitment.

But, as I said a while back, I wanted to see "Hero." My primary reason: Beauty. I want to see beauty, and I had plenty of reason to see that this was a movie that went very far toward the extreme of cinematic beauty. So today, we went to see "Hero." I fixed my eyes on the beauty of the images and that caused me to miss a subtitle here and there, and pretty soon, I had to admit to myself: I don't understand the story! God forbid they should use dubbing instead of subtitles! Though the letters on the screen mar the image, the attitude about dubbing versus subtitles is so intense that they simply have to stick with subtitles. Snobs would denounce a dubbed art movie. But this movie would have been much better dubbed, because you have to choose between reading the text and seeing the grand images. I made my choice, then I had no idea what was going on, and as time passed, the images began to bore me. I started thinking things like: Has there ever been a movie with so much swirling, blowing fabric? And what's with all the cast of thousands? Why do they sometimes shoot a million arrows simultaneously and sometimes just stand back and allow the fate of a nation to be determined by two people having a sword fight? I could tell this was a movie that was designed to make other people very excited and to feel deep feelings. I didn't feel it.

This movie has gotten incredibly good reviews. Critics can see, as anyone can, that the filmmakers cared deeply about beautiful sets, beautiful costumes, beautiful shots, beautiful landscapes, beautiful images. It is hard not to give credit for that. But I did go to the movie out of a love and desire for beauty, and it left me cold, so I am going to have to admit that. I had an "English Patient" reaction: Everyone else is saying this is great, and these two lovers suffering in a grand landscape is supposed to be mindbendingly tragic, but I'm not feeling it and I'm resenting feeling that I'm supposed to be feeling it.

Interview with the would-be SLOTUS.

So, Elizabeth Edwards, you have a husband who tons of women think is incredibly attractive, and you're asked what's it like traveling around now without him, and this is what you come up with:
Since I quit traveling with my husband, I no longer have the air-conditioner set so high in the hotel room, so I am not getting sick anymore.

In other words: he was making you sick!

And you, elite New York Times Magazine interviewer Deborah Solomon, you want to ask a question about Elizabeth Edwards' campaign efforts meeting with groups of women, and here's how you ask it:
You've been making an effort to meet with groups of women. It reminds me of Tupperware parties.

What the hell? This reminds me of the way years ago men would refer to any group of women as a "kaffeklatsch." But I think Solomon's theory of this interview is to try to push Edwards to reveal that she doesn't appreciate being relegated to a retrograde women's role, because later she asks, "Do you find it hard to play the role of the submissive wife?" and "Do you ever wish that you, not your husband, were the candidate for vice president?" Of course, Edwards is savvy enough not to take the bait.

Great new "Hardball" ad.

The ad for "Hardball" that ran midway through this morning's "Meet the Press" featured a clip of Zell Miller saying to Matthews, that quote for the ages: "I wish we lived in the day when you could challenge a person to a duel." (And also ZM's "Get out of my face!") Is that duel challenge a real gift to Matthews? It does also call attention to Matthews propensity for talking way too much and interrupting people. But maybe that hilarious interchange can make people think that Matthews is quite a lot of fun ... as opposed to incredibly annoying.

The time I outright lied on this blog.

I really do try to be honest on this blog, but last night, I had to admit that there was one time when I just plain lied. I knew I was lying and I just went ahead and did it anyway. It's in this post. See if you can spot it:

UPDATE: The correct answer is discussed here.

"How 'Flex Time' Became a Republican Idea."

Is it "simply a scam to avoid overtime payment"?

The Kerry that didn't roar.

Regular readers of this blog will know why this paragraph--from an article written by Adam Nagourny and Jodi Wilgoren--on the front page of today's NYT caught my eye:
President Bush roared out of his New York convention last week, leaving many Democrats nervous about the state of the presidential race and pressing Senator John Kerry to torque up what they described as a wandering and low-energy campaign.
Yes, it's "roared." Friday's New York Times had an article, which I blogged about here, that began:
Roaring back at his Republican rivals, Senator John Kerry called President Bush "unfit to lead this country" for "misleading'' America into war in Iraq and said Mr. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney avoided fighting in the Vietnam War.
I found it a little hard to believe that Kerry was "roaring," and today, with two days to cool off from the post-convention mania, the Times is seeing Bush as the roaring one, and Kerry as still having failed to roar. I was thinking of roaring in terms of a lion, but now I'm thinking it's more of a motorcycle: Bush "roaring out of" New York, and Kerry needing to "torque up." As I wrote on Friday, the Kerry roaring was mostly a matter of the Times's wishful thinking. I've watched the whole Kerry midnight speech, and I don't think it's much of a roar in the sense of the lion (noise and fierce fighting) or the motorcycle (noise and momentum).

But as to this article today, the one that has Bush doing the roaring and Kerry "wandering and low-energy," it seems that everyone is constantly badgering Kerry to fight harder, to do more, to emphasize domestic policy and not national security or vice versa, and telling him to become "more engaged." What is the poor guy supposed to do? He was already trying to do all of that with the midnight speech. How can he do more without seeming unhinged, which is the kiss of death, as Howard Dean knows? Do something! Anything! people seem to be telling him. Don't be so "cautious," so stodgy! But isn't all of that to say, his style and image were never very good? He got the nomination when Dean's candidacy imploded, and he got it because he was just standing around, being the most normal, solid, grown-up person left on the stage. He is what he is. If he tries to change, he will seem bizarre. Remember in 2000, when Al Gore radically changed his style after each debate? Long ago, it was a brilliant strategy to "let Nixon be Nixon." Let Kerry be Kerry.

Of course, Kerry does seem to be on the path to defeat right now, so his supporters can't help panicking and find it hard not to yammer a lot of (conflicting) advice at him. But I think his best chance lies in continuing to be the lumbering, dull but solid and grown-up guy that he is, so that when election day finally comes and the excitement-seeking is over, people will look at him and say--perhaps: Yes, he's a frightful bore, but put him in the office and he'll probably earnestly work hard and make a decent share of good-enough judgments, which is all we really ever hope for anyway.

"We never knew how happy we were."

C.J. Chivers, in the NYT, writes the story of the Beslan tragedy.
People did what they could to take care of themselves, shedding clothes to cool down, and tearing apart textbooks to use as fans. "For two days I was continually waving my arm to fan my children," Ms. Bekoyeva said. [Paper copy adds: "They kept asking for more.] ... Azamat recalled one terrorist, a man with a short beard whom the others called Ali, saying, "Have you ever seen such kind terrorists?" ... Another boy who survived, Atsomaz Ktsoyev, 14, said the hostages were so hungry they ate the floral bouquets they had brought to school for the first day of class. "I never thought in my life I'd be eating flowers," he said. ... Others who survived dived for shelter, pressing flat. Emma said Azamat fell atop her and his younger brother, trying to cover their bodies and hold them to the gymnasium's floor. "He said to me, 'Don't be afraid,' " she said.