January 22, 2005

Blogger dinner chez Nina.

I'm blogging from Nina's, and in addition to me and Nina, there are three other Madison bloggers. The table is beautifully set, with a blue damask tablecloth, many wineglasses, including filled champagne glasses, big, deep white plates, a pottery vase with daffodils, and -- I hate to say it -- three computers.

"Don't be mean to [name deleted], she's psychologically fragile."

"Oh, but those are the most fun to be mean to."


The discussion turns to missent email, and there are many stories of people sending out email to a big group that they thought they were only sending to one person? How many email horror stories are there? We all know one.

We're celebrating a great event: Jeremy's department voted him tenure. Hence all the celebrating. We're using a ball point pen to sign the champagne cork, which, presumably, Jeremy will treasure forever.


Porcini butter or mustard-shallot-truffle? -- Nina gives us a choice of sauces for the tenderloin steaks she's cooking up.

Tonya is talking about the Preppy Murderer, a propos of my comment that Peter Cincotti (whose music I'm appreciating) looks a little psycho.

The statement is made: I'd rather live in a place that's too liberal than too conservative. That's not me, by the way.


Nina: "I want you all to appreciate that there are two tablespoons of Polish beer in these crepes."

Nina's a blur of activity:

[UPDATE: Sorry the photographs are no longer viewable. Apple, after taking my money for years with a Mac account, made the page with the photographs unavailable.]

UPDATE: There was a lot of simulblogging going on: here, here, here, here, here, and here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I did those links in the last update from bed, long after midnight, and I was far away from the power cord. The power was getting to 0% as I put the last link up, so I didn't get a chance to test them, and I'm not surprised, testing them this morning, that one link was posted twice and another omitted. I've fixed it now and am also reading more of the text at the links. Tonya specifies what Nina cooked -- "beef tenderloin, a corn and chanterelles mushroom dish, and a chocolate crepe with poached strawberries dessert." That leaves out the potatoes, which might have been the most delicious thing on the plate and the sauce, which was mustard-shallot-truffle. Tonya quotes me as saying, "Better than L'Etoile." L'Etoile is the best restaurant in town. That was truth, not flattery. And now Nina's finally had the time to do a post, and she says that having us over was "like being back in Poland, among friends."

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! You may be interested to know that the very next day I wreck my car and Tonya ends up on crutches. We have a second, less festive dinner on Sunday night, recovering from our wounds.

"It's a lovey, huggy little bear ... Who cares what it's wearing?"

Is political correctness about to stage a big comeback? Maybe.
"If Vermont Teddy Bear had produced a bear with a noose around its neck saying, 'I'd love to hang with you,' and called it a Ku Klux Klan teddy bear, the response would be overwhelming disgust and horror," said Anne Donahue, a Republican state representative.
Interesting that the offended politicians are Republicans.

UPDATE: Here's another article, with some detail about the woman who started the petition drive to stop the company from making the bear:
As the mother of a mentally ill 13-year-old boy, [the woman] has experienced the trauma of watching her son, [name deleted] being wrapped in a mechanical restraint or straight jacket [sic].

Along with her husband, [name deleted], she also has signed commitment reports for [the boy's] four separate psychiatric hospitalizations.

"There is a tremendous stigma in raising a child with complex mental illness, and I feel strongly that as a family we need to educate people in our communities to elevate mental disabilities to the same level of respect and care of those who are physically disabled," she explains.
I deleted the names. It seems to me that people should keep the medical records of their minor children private. I really don't understand being this upset about a slight or nonexistent increase in stigma and then making a spectacle of yourself opposing a teddy bear.


It's just getting light here, and I can see the snow that fell overnight:

I take the snow shovel and plow just up to where the NYT landed:

I wedge the shovel in the snow bank. It's Chris's turn to do the walk.

UPDATE: I write this on the following Wednesday and observe that these are the last two photographs of my car. There it is, covered in snow, and the very next day, it will be wrecked in a crash. Goodbye, Li'l Greenie!


Yesterday, I made fun of the old Five Man Electrical Band song "Signs." You know:
Sign, sign, everywhere a sign
Blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind
Do this, don't do that, can't you read the sign?

Today, I see this:
Like a naturalist conducting a tour of the jungle, [Hans Monderman] led the way to a busy intersection in the center of [Drachten, Netherlands] where several odd things immediately became clear. Not only was it virtually naked, stripped of all lights, signs and road markings, but there was no division between road and sidewalk. It was, basically, a bare brick square.

But in spite of the apparently anarchical layout, the traffic, a steady stream of trucks, cars, buses, motorcycles, bicycles and pedestrians, moved along fluidly and easily, as if directed by an invisible conductor. When Mr. Monderman, a traffic engineer and the intersection's proud designer, deliberately failed to check for oncoming traffic before crossing the street, the drivers slowed for him. No one honked or shouted rude words out of the window.

"Who has the right of way?" he asked rhetorically. "I don't care. People here have to find their own way, negotiate for themselves, use their own brains."...

To make communities safer and more appealing, Mr. Monderman argues, you should first remove the traditional paraphernalia of their roads - the traffic lights and speed signs; the signs exhorting drivers to stop, slow down and merge; the center lines separating lanes from one another; even the speed bumps, speed-limit signs, bicycle lanes and pedestrian crossings. In his view, it is only when the road is made more dangerous, when drivers stop looking at signs and start looking at other people, that driving becomes safer.

"All those signs are saying to cars, 'This is your space, and we have organized your behavior so that as long as you behave this way, nothing can happen to you,' " Mr. Monderman said. "That is the wrong story."


The flap about Summers.

Here's a good opinion piece (by Ruth Marcus) in the Washington Post about Harvard President Larry Summers and his suggestion that a biological difference between men and women might contribute to the underrepresentation of women in the sciences.
[S]ome who weren't present took the reported remarks and inflated them, as if Summers had said biological differences were both irrefutably established and the sole cause of the shortfall. Summers has since issued three increasingly lengthy -- and increasingly groveling -- explanation-apologies....

[M]any who find Summers's remarks offensive seem perfectly happy to trumpet the supposed attributes that women bring to the workplace -- that they are more intuitive, or more empathetic or some such. If that is so -- and I've always rather cringed at such assertions -- why is it impermissible to suggest that there might be some downside differences as well?...

"Impermissible" is an extreme word. The question should be: why is it worrisome? And then the answer is obvious: it's worrisome because there has been and continues to be so much deeply entrenched unfair discrimination against women that we are afraid that any negative quality that science might establish will be used to mean more than it should. Like Marcus, I cringe at the blather about female intuition and empathy and agree that those who talk about that seem to invite the observation that there is a downside. People talk about the positive in the hope of overcoming all the negative assumptions that underlie the unfair discrimination that really has taken place historically. But I do think it would be better to cut out the patronizing flattery of women. And I don't oppose legitimate scientific research into biological differences or think people should be gasping with horror at offhand speculation about biological sex differences, but we can properly demand that presidents of universities do a first-rate job of speaking in public about such things.

About that Wisconsin vote.

Here's the latest Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article trying to sort through the evidence of fraud in the presidential election.
A week after questions arose over 10,000 voters who registered on election day but whose identity couldn't be confirmed with verification cards, Milwaukee's top election official declared Friday that the number is inaccurate because it is based on an estimate.

Nonetheless, she could not provide an accurate count of how many people registered Nov. 2.

"We didn't have 5,000 people who voted twice," Lisa Artison, executive director of the city Election Commission, told an elections task force. "We did not have 10,000 people who voted who shouldn't have voted."

The 10,000 number was first raised Jan. 14 by state Rep. Jeff Stone (R-Greendale), citing the city's figures showing that 84,000 people registered on election day, though only 73,079 of them could have their registrations processed and confirmation cards sent to them.

At the task force meeting, which Stone attended, Artison stressed that the 84,000 number was an estimate, and then read an extensive dictionary definition of the word "estimate."

She later questioned an "agenda" by critics - including the media - in using the 10,000 number. She and others have said the gap is due to illegible cards, cards with incomplete information or cards that are duplicates, among other reasons.

Reading out an "extensive dictionary definition"? Sounds as though things are getting pretty hostile over there in Milwaukee.

January 21, 2005

Why I love the Drudge Report.

Have I ever mentioned that I adore the Drudge Report? I love the distinctive, iconic, minimal layout of the page. The real news is there, set plainly in three columns of underlined teasers, and weird, sensationalistic things are lined right up with them. Some of those things are so dumb, but they fascinate us even as we think they are too stupid to mention, like today's "Fish Discovered With Human Face Pattern..."

UPDATE: Note that the caption on the second photo at the link calls it "Human Fish-Face." We're still laughing about that chez Althouse. I'm picturing something like this.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's what Chris pictured.

YET MORE: Here's a much better photograph of the human-face fish (not, I repeat, a fish-face human). And this seems like a good time to mention Don Knotts.

AND MORE: A reader sends this from "Monty Python's The Meaning of Life." Another view of same. Hmmm... I should watch this film, which starts, fishily, like this:







What's new?

Not much.


Morning, morning, morning.

Frank was just asking what's new.

Was he?

Yeah. Uh huh...

Hey, look. Howard's being eaten.

Is he?

[They move forward to watch a waiter serving a large grilled fish to a
large man.]

Makes you think doesn't it?

I mean... what's it all about?

Beats me.

Why are we here, what is life all about?
Is God really real, or is there some doubt?

So are you watching the new season of "The Apprentice"?

I really thought I'd stopped watching that show, but last night I found myself drawn back in by some mysterious power. Well, that and the fact that Chris wanted to watch it, and I was already sitting right there in front of the TV. (I'd been monitoring the inauguration doings for hours.) I thought last season's show was boring, but they've tweaked it: instead of male/female teams, the contestants are split into those who went to college and those who didn't. Now, of course, this doesn't really prove anything about whether it's better to have a college education. They could have picked more competent people from the pool of less educated applicants and deliberately chosen some awkward, inept folks from the college grad applicants.

And, in fact, that's kind of what it looks like they did. One character is so goony, I suspected him of being an actor, unleashed on the group to screw them up. Since Trump decides whom to fire each week, he could easily keep the actor around, screwing up the morale of the college grad team. But I don't think this character is an actor. Why mess with the success of the show by cheating? And why trust an actor to get it right? In the huge pool of applicants for the show, you can find someone very weird and annoying, but also smart and articulate, with some business background. Anyway, the new season looks good. The people seem more real and differentiated than they did last time (when I had trouble telling them apart). The non-college people are lively, and the college-people are enlivened by the goofball in the group.

Code word: "Lambeau."

From a Wisconsin State Journal article about Wisconsinites at the the inauguration:
About 200 people from Wisconsin traveled by bus through the night Wednesday and early Thursday to participate in the Turn Your Back on Bush protest at the inaugural parade.

Wisconsin activists who were scattered along the route turned their backs at hearing the code word "Lambeau."

Interesting to choose a word that ought to remind you of your failed candidate's flaws.

The anti-inauguration playlist.

Tonya burns the CDs to be played at an anti-inauguration party (here in Madison, of course). You can read the playlist in its entirety. I post a comment to say "Won't Get Fooled Again" does not belong on the list.

When I heard she was looking for protest songs, I offered her my copy of "Songs of Protest," which she was surprised I had, but I am an inveterate 60s music fan, and I well remember when "Eve of Destruction" seized everyone's imagination ("Yeah, my blood’s so mad feels like coagulatin’"). And I can't tell you how many times I played Sonny Bono's "Laugh at Me": "I've got something to say, and I want to say it for Cher ..." So that paean to the wearing of lynx-fur vests goes. And who doesn't want to laugh about "Signs," that song expressing righteous indignation about signs? "And the sign said 'Long-haired freaky people need not apply.'" You remember when mean signs like that used to be everywhere "blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind"?

January 20, 2005

Inauguration events.

I neglected to set the TiVo to record the inauguration events, but when I came home at lunchtime, I started recording the CNN coverage, which stretches the whole length of the day. I'm hoping to see a repeat of the swearing in and inaugural speech eventually. I heard some discussion of it on NPR as I was driving home: a commentator thought Bush had delivered a crushing blow to Saudi Arabia, and there was chatter about how much he said the word "freedom" and how many times he referred to God. I'd like to hear this for myself. For now, I'm reviewing what the TiVo caught.

So, first up for me is the luncheon in Statuary Hall. Trent Lott describes a lot of the fancy trappings in the room, like a painting of a sunrise in Wyoming, two crystal hurricane lanterns (gifts from Congress to Bush), and a 100-year-old eagle-shaped lectern (which Lott calls a "podium"). Bush stands to give a little speech in which he thanks "distinguished members of the Congress and" -- Reaganesque sideways head flick -- "some who aren't quite so distinguished." Snicker. He says he was touched that Chief Justice Rehnquist made it to deliver the oath and there is much warm applause. Bush is "lookin' forward to puttin' my heart and soul into this job for four more years." Laura Bush is wearing a blindingly white suit. Lynne Cheney is wearing a light blue suit with a gray fur neck ruff. Closeup of Bill Clinton during the benediction: he's looking very grand. Now people are leaving the room. We see Bush give his mom a nice kiss on the cheek. Voiceover commentary from David Gergen, who says he's not picking up the the same "sense of hope" that there was at Bush's last inauguration. Apparently, everyone was feeling good about "coming together" back then, but they aren't now. They're itching for a fight. Even the Republicans are "restive." I'm hearing this theme in a lot of the commentary today: Bush is not trying to reach out to the other side, not showing a desire to bring people together. "The divisions are so deep here in the country, and the divisions with other nations are very deep."

Now Bush, Cheney, and their respective wives are walking down the Capitol steps. Hey, the Cheneys are getting ahead. The steps are miked so we hear the footsteps, including the click of the ladies' high heels. The men can't go downstairs at a manly pace, because the women have to step carefully in those heels. They stop halfway down for a military marching band playing a medley of all the songs you might predict they would play. There are some fabulous dress uniforms here, some in the Revolutionary War style, which look especially great. I wish the commentators would tell us what we're seeing, but they are yapping generically about pageantry.

The Bushes get into a spiffy Cadillac limo, and the commentators have plenty to say about the car. Now the car is rolling along toward the White House. Secret Service agents trot alongside it. Wolf Blitzer voices over that the "white stuff by the side the road" is snow. What would we do without the commentary? My God, there's some white stuff by the side of the road? Is that bioterrorism? Now, steam is coming out of a grate in the street, and Blitzer says, "Now, that looks like they're having a little smoke coming out of something." The commentators decide it must be steam, since the Secret Service men are not reacting to it. Well, at least he recognized snow right off the bat.

Now the car is passing the designated protesters' section. There's a banner that calls for impeachment and says "guilty of war crimes." A lot of people are holding up signs with a picture of Bush and the words "worst President ever." Someone is holding up a yellow frowny face. There's a lot of fist shaking. There are Bush supporters on the other side of the street, and each group is trying to out-shout the other. It's quite loud. Beyond the designated protesters' area, we see an occasional protester with his back turned on the motorcade. Two guys standing side by side hold cards that say "liar" high above their heads.

Waiting at the reviewing stand is Condoleezza Rice, wearing a sleek black fur hat. She's laughing and talking to Arnold Schwarzenegger. The President's parents and daughters are waiting at the reviewing stand. About a block from the stand, the President and First Lady get out of the car to walk the rest of the way. Bush's smile is so wide we can see his gold tooth. The commentators are quite taken by the symbolism of the President walking out in the open. It seems to say something about the success of the war on terrorism that the route can be so perfectly secured that this is possible. We see Dick and Lynne Cheney walking toward the reviewing stand. With them is Mary Cheney, whose sexuality the losing presidential candidate saw fit to intone about ominously during one of the debates, a misstep he will, I assume, regret for the rest of his life. The parade is in full force, including a big float of the unfurling Declaration of Independence.

Now, watching "The Jim Lehrer News Hour," I'm able to see the swearing in and the inaugural address. The show's editors seem to delight in displaying the gloomiest members of the audience. I'm touched by the freedom theme of the address, as Bush speaks to the people of the world and to those who oppress them:
All who live in tyranny and hopelessness can know: the United States will not ignore your oppression, or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you.

Democratic reformers facing repression, prison, or exile can know: America sees you for who you are: the future leaders of your free country.

The rulers of outlaw regimes can know that we still believe as Abraham Lincoln did: Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves; and, under the rule of a just God, cannot long retain it.

The leaders of governments with long habits of control need to know: To serve your people, you must learn to trust them. Start on this journey of progress and justice and America will walk at your side.

This is a profound and beautiful vision, and I cannot imagine the Bush-haters who turned their backs on the motorcade can have any better vision for the world. But, of course, I know, they think he's lying and they think, even if he believes in those ideals, he will fail in the attempt to fulfill them. So Bush's opponents have, at best, a pragmatism, a realism, a cynicism.

What did Bush say about God? I note that he said "freedom" twenty-seven times, "liberty" fifteen times, and "God" three times. Aside from the mention of God in the quote just above and in the final "May God bless you," the reference to God is in this passage, which takes a theological position that should be remembered:
We go forward with complete confidence in the eventual triumph of freedom. Not because history runs on the wheels of inevitability; it is human choices that move events. Not because we consider ourselves a chosen nation; God moves and chooses as He wills. We have confidence because freedom is the permanent hope of mankind, the hunger in dark places, the longing of the soul. When our Founders declared a new order of the ages, when soldiers died in wave upon wave for a union based on liberty, when citizens marched in peaceful outrage under the banner Freedom Now they were acting on an ancient hope that is meant to be fulfilled. History has an ebb and flow of justice, but history also has a visible direction, set by liberty and the Author of Liberty.

Bush excluded God from his prediction that freedom will triumph. God's will cannot be known. He takes his confidence not from a belief in God's favor, but from a belief in the human love of freedom, the "hunger" and "longing of the soul." It is a belief in humanity. God is mentioned one more time in that passage. He is the "Author of Liberty," to use the phrase from the song "America," which refers to the ideas of the Declaration of Independence ("all men are created equal, ... they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"). So Bush does not wholly present God as unknowable. Following the theory of the Declaration, he sees God as creating liberty, but his vision for the future, presented idealistically in the speech, is that the human love of freedom is what will prevail, as he promises to come to the aid of people all around the world. I'm sure Bush skeptics will see that promise as disastrously ambitious, but it is a beautiful promise, and those who hate Bush so much were once the people who themselves spoke of beautiful ideals.

Rereading this post, I acknowledge that one could see a contradiction in that last quoted paragraph from the speech. First, there is a claim that God's will is unknowable, and, later, there is a statement that history has a "direction" that is "set" by God. But I would say that the best interpretation of the statement is that God created liberty and this liberty is longed for by human beings, whose actions in pursuit of their desire cause history to have a direction.

Staving off dementia.

Good news:
In the largest such study to date, older women who drank moderately had less mental decline than those who abstained .... [R]esearchers found that light to moderate drinking of any kind of alcoholic beverage reduced the risk of mental decline by more than 20%, compared with abstinence.

Essentially, their brains were the cognitive equivalent of being 1.5 years younger....

The research, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, adds to a couple of large, European studies that found a reduced risk of dementia in drinkers, said Diana Kerwin, an assistant professor of medicine in the division of geriatrics and gerontology at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

"You get a benefit up to (the point of) excessive alcohol intake," she said. "Alcohol is not bad."

So drink as much as you can without drinking too much. There's some line there, and good luck finding it and staying on the right side of it.

Life in Madison: trash, string.

One of the distinctive features of life in Madison is the difficulty of following the trash collection rules. A thick booklet is mailed to us annually to let us know just what we are allowed to put out for the collectors and how we need to separate and package it. Sometimes you put something out, and you even try to follow the rules, but the trash collector doesn't pick it up. He doesn't leave a note identifying the rule you've failed to comply with, and you have to guess, try putting it out a different way next week, and hope the trash has become acceptable and collectible. I wore myself out on Saturday cutting down a lot of cardboard boxes. I'd had six pieces of furniture delivered, and they were quite elaborately cartoned. Recycling of corrugated cardboard is mandatory -- except for pizza boxes, for which recycling is forbidden. So I worked quite hard getting the boxes cut down and taped in a pile. But I've had my cardboard snubbed by trash collectors in the past, and I knew there was some rule about how small the piles had to be. When I dragged the four big piles out the curb this morning, I figured I was probably wasting my time and dreaded the recutting and taping that lay ahead. How happy I was when I returned home today and saw that the merciful trashman had picked up the oversized cardboard!

And about that tape. I wanted to tie up the cardboard with string. With string, you can make a slip knot and use it to tighten down the layers of cardboard. It's much better than tape. When I was doing the boxes on Saturday, I realized I was out of string and drove over to Target to buy some. Where do they put the string? Is it over on the housewares side of the store with the woman-oriented products? It's an ordinary household item like a sponge or a hanger isn't it? Or is it way the hell on the other side of the store, past the masses of clothing, with the home repair items, on the male-oriented side of the big store? Maybe over here with the wrapping materials? Here's packaging tape, so where is the string? I pick up the red telephone and ask about string. They say it's back in Automotive, near the back wall of the store. Okay. Automotive? What's automotive about string? I go back and find some odd things like rope and natural jute twine packaged for the crafts market. No normal string, such as you'd use to tie up cardboard. I find a stockboy and explain what I'm looking for. He says those things back in Automotive are really all they have, that Target is phasing out string. Phasing out string? How can you phase out string? It's a standard item. Well, he says, consolingly, maybe come back around March and they should have some kite string.

UPDATE: A reader writes:
Thank you for your post on Madison trash. I lived there in the early 90s. After we moved in, we had a prodigious number of cardboard boxes to break down. After several rebuffed efforts to recycle them curbside, I called the recyclers to ask what I had to do to get my boxes picked up. Elaborate rules were laid out. I asked what I would do if I were disabled, thinking that surely in Madison someone would have thought about those of us who cannot dice corrugated cardboard into precise squares. They suggested I ask a friend to help. I reminded them that I had boxes because I had just moved in. Because I had just moved in, I had no friends. No luck. Rules are rules.

Though he was new to town, he displayed some Madison-savvy by going with the what-about-the-disabled angle. I love when one liberal cause is played against another. Accommodating the disabled has just got to trump recycling!

ANOTHER UPDATE: I'm getting email about the difficulty of finding string at Target. And a propos of string, a reader sends this link.

The real reason the exit polls were wrong?

A study shows the exit polls skewed toward Kerry because the pollsters were so young. The theory is that younger people tended to vote for Kerry and younger people were more willing to be surveyed by young pollsters. The study was done by the research firms that designed the elaborate polling system. The young-pollsters theory ought to raise some suspicion, given that the firms have an interest in coming up with the least damning explanation for their miserable failure. The report asserts -- according to the NYT -- that "that the technical foundation on which their work was based was sound" and "that there was no evidence that the surveyors had embarked on any conscious effort to skew the vote." Whew! That's a relief!

French names.

We tend to think of the French as being to the left of us, but they are surprisingly reactionary about some things. They've just gotten around to freeing parents from the obligation to give babies the father's last name:
A "societal disruption," another proof that fathers are being forced "to renounce one by one the attributes of what used to be called their familial power," complained an editorial in Le Figaro, the center-right daily.

"This reform - we decree it silliness without a name," said a right-wing Roman Catholic newspaper, La Croix, in an editorial, calling the change a boon for genealogists, a nightmare for notaries.
Quite aside from the lack of interest in equal rights for women, France had been in violation of human rights requirements laid down by the Council of Europe in 1978.

And then there's the new law itself. Somehow, it took 26 pages of statutory text to remove the old obligation and 100 additional pages to explain the details of how to apply the law.

There's still something in it for reactionaries:
Paradoxically, the reform reinforces the spirit of patriarchy, or at least tradition. Aristocratic families that have produced only female offspring no longer will have to watch helplessly as their names die out.

At the Robert Debré hospital in Paris, 29-year-old Hélène de La Porte des Vaux and Nicolas Dudouet, a 33-year-old journalist, plan to give their soon-to-be-born baby girl both of their names - to preserve Ms. de La Porte des Vaux's chic name.

January 19, 2005

Penmanship and nonverbatim notes.

As I finish up grading exams, which are nearly all handwritten -- almost no one uses a typewriter and computers aren't permitted for exams here -- my heart lifts to see this article about the newly rekindled interest in teaching good handwriting! For years, everyone has just assumed that handwriting had gone into hopeless decline, that the hands of our youths had adapted to keyboards and would scarcely know how to hold a pen soon enough. What is the cause of this glorious, historic turnaround?
NOTHING, though, supplied such a jolt to the handwriting cause as the advent of the new Scholastic Aptitude Test. In the version being introduced this March, each student must write a 25-minute essay. And that essay, unlike the answers to the SAT's multiple-choice questions, will be read and rated by two genuine human beings, as Nan Barchowsky was quick to remind a class at Harford Day School.

"Do you know anything about the SAT's?" she asked, and the hands of these ambitious children predictably rose. "The people who'll grade those essays won't have any time to decipher illegibility. Scary thought, isn't it?" She paused. "And you're probably going to be taking notes for the rest of your lives. I don't know anybody who works on a computer and doesn't also have a pad nearby."
Ms. Barchowsky could add that they might want to go to law school some day. And then there's our new era of hotly contested post-election disputes:
As The Journal News in Westchester County recently reported, a judge disqualified ballots in a tightly contested State Senate race because he could not read the signatures.
Here's something else in the penmanship article that caught my eye:
In high school and college, any student without a 24/7 laptop cannot hope to keep accurate notes on a lecture course. Kate Gladstone, a handwriting specialist based in Albany, estimates that while a student needs to jot down 100 legible words a minute to follow a typical lecture, someone using print can manage only 30. "That's fine for class," she said, "if the class is first grade."
If my students are taking notes at that rate in my 3 credit law school courses, that means their set of notes for the course would be 220,000 words long. That's about 500 pages! The handwritten notes would be 66,000 or about 150 pages (in typescript). Isn't there some advantage to summarizing in your head as you write as opposed to speedtyping close to verbatim? The student with more voluminous notes has a big task ahead compressing those notes into a form that can be studied. The student who had to think to compress while writing in class has saved all that time and, if he is doing a good job of taking concise notes, will have absorbed the material better while writing, because you need to understand things at the time in order to phrase the notes concisely. Verbatim notetakers can get by thinking I'll figure out what this means later, but later, you've got those horrendously voluminous notes to deal with. And the notes actually won't be verbatim, just close to verbatim, so they may be quite puzzling. You may read it later and say to yourself: I know the teacher said that or approximately that, but what did it mean? Sometimes a student will come to my office and read something from his or her notes and ask me what it means, and it's too late to make sense of it. Being able to take down words nearly verbatim may give you a comfortable feeling that you've got everything there and you'll be able to get to it later. But will you?

UPDATE: Washington University School of Law lawprof Samuel Bagenstos writes:
Although I can't say I always agree with your comments, I am a frequent reader of your blog. I have to say that today I read something with which I completely agree. Why are so many students wedded to verbatim note-taking? I want my classes to be a conversation, where we work our way through difficult issues (and work our way through how to *think* about difficult issues). I don't want my classes to be a monologue, where I talk and they dutifully write down my words. (The only exception: At the beginning of each class I usually spend about five minutes lecturing in a way that recapitulates and synthesizes the previous day's discussion.) I want my students to think critically about the assigned reading and what I and their classmates say about it. They can't do that when they're trying desperately to get down every word I say. Anyway, virtually nobody I know talks in such a way that every word is precisely chosen and essential to the point. Among law profs who come to my mind, the only person who talks that way is Erwin Chemerinsky. When a student writes down my words verbatim, the words take on a kind of oracular quality in the student's mind. The student often spends undue time puzzling through hermeneutic questions about what that text means, when really there was nothing special about the particular words I was using. (You can see, I've had the same students-coming-to-my-office experience as you.)

Day two.

Today is the second day of the new Spring semester, and the first day of Constitutional Law I (aka conlaw), my only first year class. It meets at my favorite time: 11! It's in my favorite room: the Foley & Lardner room (aka the trial courtroom). Why is the trial courtroom your favorite room? Because the part of it where the class sits is backed by a wide and tall set of windows that look right out onto Bascom Hill, the beautiful heart of the UW campus. The students have a lot of light coming in over their shoulders (possibly bad for looking at computer screens) and the teacher has a great view. There is also an immense white board that rolls out and divides the class seating area from the courtroom setup, and you have to have experience with various sized whiteboard/blackboard arrangments to know how nice is it to have a truly huge whiteboard. You never run out of space, and you can write so much more freely with marker on whiteboard than with chalk on blackboard. I'm telling you, the different level of friction is genuinely liberating. Sometimes one gets carried away talking without writing, and, with a blackboard, it seems so hard to stop and pick up the chalk and grind some calcium into the slate. But with whiteboard and juicy marker, it's not hard at all to illustrate a lecture with lines and loops and arrows?

So, yes, I'm happy with the room. It will be packed to capacity: I resisted a proposal to move us a larger but lesser room as the class size edged up in the last few days. There will be overflow tables. But surely the overflow few students (five, I think) will flow out of the class after the first day or two, perhaps when they learn I give a closed-book exam. I won't do a seating chart on the first day, so there's no need to worry about getting your favorite seat today. I want to let the enrollment settle down. There are other first year conlaw classes to switch to and other second semester electives to put off conlaw altogether, which might be a very good idea. (I'll probably do a summer conlaw1 course, and that's a good option for conlaw.) I'm sure the 1Ls will compare notes and try to make some good decisions about what will really be best for them after everyone's had a taste of the first year electives.

Is Professor Althouse like her blog?
What do you think, dear reader?

Not having had a first year class last semester, I look forward to meeting some of the 1Ls, even if they are all jaded and broken in. After one semester of law school and one run in with law school exams and grades, the real IL feeling is gone. They're all 2L now. Grades? Mentioning grades draws attention to the fact that I have not finished my grading. Today is not just day two of the semester, it is the day grades are due. I'm well aware of that!

January 18, 2005

My pop TV weakness.

I hardly watch any regular network TV shows. I'm a fan of a few HBO shows ("The Sopranos," "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Da Ali G Show"). And despite all my carping, I watch "The Daily Show" daily. I watch a lot of cable news things. But network TV never seems worth bothering about. I watch some Sunday morning news shows like "Meet the Press." With the sole exception of "Joan of Arcadia," I skip all the network dramas. I've never even seen any of the recent/current shows about lawyers that you might think I would care about. I don't watch any network comedies and haven't since "Seinfeld" went off the air. I've only ever seen one episode of "Friends" (Brad Pitt was on) and one episode of "Everybody Loves Raymond" (it happened to be playing on an airplane). And then there are the reality shows, which I generally avoid. I have watched a lot of "The Apprentice," but I got sick of it this season and skipped most of it. But I avoid all the other network reality shows ... with one exception. Bad though it is, and it's nearly always bad, I can't -- I won't -- stop watching "American Idol," which starts again tonight. Is it that they stay away long enough that we miss them or at least forget the all the horror and tedium? What is the strange fascination with watching a big group assemble and then be whittled down in stages until only one is left?

UPDATE: Now, I've watched it. I'm glad they've raised the age limit (to 28). Eight minutes into the show, I'm already sick of the promotions of second rate celebrities: Mark McGrath (I don't care!), Kenny Loggins (Kenny Loggins!!). And now, after I've watched the whole thing, what can I say but that I'm in for the season? One thing I'll add is that I really feel for the young people who seem not to have anyone to help them, to let them know what isn't appropriate. A lot of these kids are just guessing at what is good and making bad judgments, but if they only had someone to direct them, everything would be different. Some of them seem so all alone. It's really very touching sometimes.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes: "Mr. McGrath spent this show making sure he did not overshadow the 'major' intellects he sat near. He played 'Celebrity Jeopardy' and mertilized (Calvin & Hobbes) all comers for days and won much charity money. He is one of the good guys although he came across as male bimbo on this show." I must admit, I had never heard of the guy and really was in no position to call him "second rate." I basically dislike the use of extra celebrities on the show, which is one of the many bad things about the show I overlook as I start watching it again.

By the way, did "Calvin & Hobbes" originate "mertilized"? Doesn't it go back a lot farther -- maybe to Snagglepuss? No one seems to care about Snagglepuss -- he's become a second rate cartoon cat -- but he was once beloved! He probably didn't originate "mertilized," I think, now that I am reminded (at the link) that one of his catchphrases was "Heavens to Murgatroid." So, well, I'll just "exit stage left."

AND YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I was just watching the TiVo'd "Daily Show" from last night (it's Wednesday morning -- I'm catching the show while scrambling some breakfast eggs), and I was surprised to hear Jon Stewart say "Heavens to Murgatroid." That's very weird! I haven't thought of "Heavens to Murgatroid" in, I think, decades. How can that happen? I guess we'll all start saying "Heavens to Murgatroid" now. When we were watching "Hair" over the weekend, I was struck by the hippie slang "bread." No one says "bread" for money anymore, but you don't notice when something once common stops altogether (not that "Heavens to Murgatroid" was ever common). By the same or not so similar token, I went to Target the other day to buy some string, only to learn that string is not really a common commodity anymore. I had to use the little telephone to inquire where string might be and was directed to a back area in Automotive where there was some strange natural jute twine packaged for the crafts market and some thick rope. I tracked down a salesperson and asked him about string. He said they were "phasing it out," but that maybe in the Spring there would be some kite string. Have I digressed far enough from last night's "American Idol" yet? I think so. Exit stage right.

Pixies we're sick of.

Dana Stevens trashes Natalie Portman's Golden Globe acceptance speech:
At the extreme unprofessional end of the spectrum last night was Natalie Portman, whose slip-of-a-girl adorableness has reached such thermonuclear levels that she all but ascended the stage in a cloud of pixie dust when she took the Best Supporting Actress award for Closer. Portman seemed overjoyed by her surprise win (and why shouldn't she be, going up against Meryl Streep, Laura Linney, Cate Blanchett, and Virginia Madsen?), but her complete inability to string together two sentences was off-putting. Sure, she's only 23, but the woman has been in show business for over a decade—couldn't she have prepared some remarks, however unlikely it was that she'd beat out the likes of Streep (whose character in The Manchurian Candidate could have crunched Portman like a piece of ice)?
Oh, let me just pile on by reminding people that Natalie Portman went to Harvard. Either Harvard has some explaining to do, Portman has suffered some catastrophic mental decline, or Portman is playing dumb.

"Kerry failed because of his inability to tell his own story."

The great filmmaker Errol Morris brings his storytelling expertise to political analysis on the NYT op-ed page today. The man who edited "The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara," writes:
John Kerry could have presented to the American people his full biography, but instead he chose to edit who he was. Why?

My guess is that Mr. Kerry and his campaign believed that certain things could not be mentioned. Foremost among these was Mr. Kerry's opposition to the war in Vietnam, which was largely erased from the candidate's life. That was a mistake. People think in narratives - in beginnings, middles and ends. The danger when you edit something too severely is that it no longer makes sense; worse still, it leaves people with the disquieting impression that something is being hidden.

But Kerry chose not to tell the coherent story because he figured people didn't want to hear it, and we can't know how things would have turned out if he done otherwise. Much as I like coherent stories -- and I love Errol Morris's brilliantly edited movies -- I think the antiwar leader version of Kerry would have been a disaster. Even voters who disagreed with the decision to go to war in Iraq still knew they needed someone to lead us to a stable conclusion of that war. Kerry's Vietnam era message was to give up, admit it was all a mistake, and just don't let one more American die for that mistake. Is that the attitude he would take in Iraq? Kerry made a decision not to stir up that worry in the minds of the voters. In making that choice, which was not obviously the wrong one, he walked into the problem Morris describes.

By the way, Morris used his filmmaking skills to make some commercials for the Kerry campaign, but his work was rejected -- with good reason, as I discuss here ("Bottom line for me: I love Errol Morris, but art and politics are a bad mix.")

UPDATE: Edited to correct some garbled syntax.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader writes:
Kerry failed because of his inability to tell his own story? No--Kerry failed because he *has* no story. Kerry's opposition to Vietnam was erased in this campaign? *Everything* we heard about John Kerry in this election, good and bad, had to do with Vietnam. What I (and many, many other voters) wanted to know was, what has he done *since* Vietnam? 20 years in the Senate and, as far as I could tell, the answer was, not a damn thing.

The long winter break is over.

Today is the first day of what we call the Spring semester. It's zero degrees outside. So don't go outside! I've already darted out to pick up the paper. Didn't even put on a coat. It's never so cold that you have to put extra clothes on just to go down the front walk and pick up the paper.

No lingering over the NYT this morning. Just a snappy run through the pages, and then I will put on a coat, dash to my car, dash once again from the Business School garage across University Avenue, and into the Law School. The atrium will be full of students again. Yesterday, the atrium door was locked. I had to fish out my key to enter the deserted building. But today, everyone will be back. The end to the break is never a weary, "vacation's over" feeling. It's always high energy and optimistic -- even when it's the Spring semester beginning, and it's dark and cold outside.

The first class, today at 9:30, is Federal Jurisdiction (aka Federal Courts), the law school course most known for mystery and arcana. Why do we have federal courts anyway? Why do you spend a whole semester answering that question? And how can you have answered the question for a whole semester for twenty years and still have an energetic, optimistic attitude about doing it all over again?

I once was on a panel of fedcourts lawprofs where innovations in teaching the course were being explored, and a famous old fedcourts prof took the anti-innovation position. He said "The topics are exhausted ... but not for the students." It was all new to them he said, and an important exercise in learning the ways of the legal process. We shouldn't teach the course to find interesting new things for ourselves, but to take the students down the well-worn paths for the first time. He said he was old enough to have had Hart and Weschsler as his teachers. He said he used a 19-year-old edition of the Hart and Weschsler casebook at one point, "and it didn't matter -- the questions were the same!"

Hey, the old lawprof sounds pretty cool. So who was he? If you're going to be quoting him like that, you should name him.

He was Henry Monaghan. Here are two other things he said that day in 1994:
I teach Constitutional Law as a process course -- and there's only one correct answer: the Supreme Court shouldn't decide it.

I once put a question to Herbert Wechsler and he said, "Well, it's rather obvious," and I said, "I agree. Which way is it obvious?"

If I had the time, I'd scan and display the two ink drawings I made of Monaghan as he was saying these things that I wrote down in speech balloons ten years ago. But I don't have the time. I've got to teach Federal Jurisdiction soon, and I consider myself terribly fortunate to have that obligation.

UPDATE: Matt Barr, Chicago-Kent College of Law, class of 1994, writes:
The law school course most known for mystery and arcana? Federal jurisdiction? Aren't they teaching property law anymore? Kids today.

I went into property development after law school and over the years never once came upon a real-life situation where I had to apply The Rule in Shelley's Case or the Rule Against Perpetuities or anything like Fee Simple Conditional to A with Life Estate to B, Remainder to B's children. I bet if I'd ever set foot in a federal court after law school, though, I'd've drawn on many useful things I learned in Federal Jurisdiction.

P.S., my Con Law professor taught Con Law as a "procedure" course as well, even to the extent where he pointed out that "substantive due process" is an oxymoron. I was fortunate enough to take the course from visiting professor John Hart Ely. (No non-giant in his field could have gotten away with such apostasy, I suspect.)
ANOTHER UPDATE: Here's a nice email from John M. O'Connell:
Thanks so much for the wonderful anecdote about Professor Monaghan. I am a Columbia Law School Class of 1993 grad who had the honor of sitting for two of Professor Monaghan's classes: Constitutional Law and Federal Courts. The second was particularly memorable, as Professor Wechsler, for the last time, taught the final third of the course. Professor Monaghan often called Wechsler the greatest legal mind to pass through Columbia (high praise!). Wechsler's diminished hearing made interactions with the class awkward, but his description of the behind the scenes details of New York Times v. Sullivan were riveting (including the story of Justice Brennan's wink to Mrs. Wechsler during oral argument in another matter some time after the Sullivan argument--but before the decision was announced--which Wechsler took to mean that Sullivan would go his way).

As for Professor Monaghan, his curmudgeonly persona and penchant for the provocative turn of phrase kept some students at a distance. (For example, I recall him saying, in substance, that while Roe v. Wade was a poorly reasoned decision, if men and not women bore children, abortion would be a sacrament.) Most students assumed that was "conservative" (or what passes for conservative at a place like Columbia), because he was not young and hip and he had little patience for the climate (the height of "political correctness") and the intellectual/legal fads of the day (e.g., Crits--ugh!). But it never seemed that simple to me and to this day I do not know his political leanings. I think this is a testament to his classroom method, which was questioning (not classically Socratic, because he did not call on unwilling students), rather than declarative.

Persona notwithstanding, those who made the effort found him to be a warm and kind man and a caring teacher. He took a great deal of time and care in commenting on a note I was working on for publication in the Columbia Law Review. Later, as an articles editor on the Review, I had the pleasure of working with him on an article concerning The Protective Power of the Presidency--and he was very generous in giving me far more credit and praise than I deserved. We spent plenty of time in 1992-93 talking about that article, the state of the law, and even my career plans--sometimes while shooting hoops in Riverside Park. (He'd lost a step by then, but still had a killer hook shot!) And one day I even had the surprising good fortune to be in his office (dominated by a bust of his hero, George Washington) when Justice Scalia paid a surprise visit while in town to film one of those old Fred Friendly PBS roundtables.

Years later, when I was looking for some advice about a contemplated career move, Professor Monaghan was warm and exceedingly generous--even though we had been out of touch for years.

Anyway, just thought I'd share. Professor Monaghan was and is an important figure in American legal scholarship in my view . . . but an even better person.

January 17, 2005

A blogging-like habit and a new blog design.

Years ago, as my sons were growing up, it was my habit, as I sat at the dining table reading the New York Times each morning, to pick out two or three articles and place them facing the seat on the opposite side of the table, in the hope my sons would see them, read them, and maybe want to talk about them a bit. I'm much less likely to do that these days, now that my sons are older, but today, I just had to set this article out. Doing that, I realized how like blogging it was.

Nowadays, I still read the New York Times every morning at my dining table, but my laptop is here, and, as I run across things that strike me, I set them out for everyone on my blog.

I would like my blog to have a beautiful graphic design. There would be a picture, maybe an animation, of me at the top, with the newspaper spread in front of me, and the rest of the screen would be an image of the dining table. When I had a posting, my screen character would tear a rectangle out of the paper and place it out on the table top. The posts would be different sizes of papers laid out, slightly askew, all over the table. You'd be able to see the first few words of the posts, and you could click on the rectangles -- like picking up the newspaper article -- and see a full-screen text of the whole post.

Judge Posner on "Blink" -- and The New Yorker style.

From Judge Posner's TNR review of Malcolm Gladwell's "Blink" (via Instapundit):
[T]his book ... is a series of loosely connected anecdotes, rich in "human interest" particulars but poor in analysis. There is irony in the book's blizzard of anecdotal details. One of Gladwell's themes is that clear thinking can be overwhelmed by irrelevant information, but he revels in the irrelevant. An anecdote about food tasters begins: "One bright summer day, I had lunch with two women who run a company in New Jersey called Sensory Spectrum." The weather, the season, and the state are all irrelevant. And likewise that hospital chairman Brendan Reilly "is a tall man with a runner's slender build." Or that "inside, JFCOM [Joint Forces Command] looks like a very ordinary office building.... The business of JFCOM, however, is anything but ordinary." These are typical examples of Gladwell's style, which is bland and padded with clichés.
I just have to say: This isn't just a quirk of Gladwell's, this is The New Yorker. [ADDED: Gladwell is a longtime staff writer at The New Yorker.] Somebody, somewhere along the line at that magazine, a long time ago, decided the writer has to paint a picture for the reader. So whether you're interviewing a movie star or a scientist, you've got to give us some words about the person's face, what the room was like, what food was consumed, whether a dog trotted into the room. What was the reason for this stylistic policy? To thin down difficult material with easy-to-consume trivia? The readers are going to skim anyway, so what the hell? Make the nonfiction in the magazine more like the fiction for an overall, classy, literary effect?

If the literary style of The New Yorker irks Judge Posner, however, it may have something to do with his once having been the subject of a New Yorker profile. Let's read the very first paragraph, which is not about his intellectual contributions:
Richard Posner is introduced. He extends a limp hand, smiles tepidly, and says something polite. He is long and spare, his eyes pale as a fish, his clothing conventional, his features thin. He moves delicately; seeming to hover rather than stand: he has about him the distant, omniscient, ectoplasmic air of the butler in a haunted house. He escorts his visitor to the waiting room of his personality, where the visitor will sit, lulled by the bland ambience of the place, until it is time for murder.
I would love to have seen Posner's reaction as he sat down to read the article -- perhaps on one of his "inobtrusive" living-room sofas or chairs that are "upholstered in brown and mustard" and positioned on oriental rugs on wood floors that until recently were "covered with a wall-to-wall carpet of forest green." Limp hand! Fish eyes! Ectoplasmic air! The hell!

But do read Judge Posner's quite brilliant review of "Blink." He deftly detects Gladwell's liberal bias. Somehow Gladwell's anecdotes never show that those intuitive judgments he's so fond of might lead to race or sex discrimination. And read the New Yorker article about Judge Posner too. It's quite rich:
"My cat doesn't like me," he says mournfully. "This cat, to whom I am slavishly devoted. She tolerates me, she's polite, but she clearly prefers Charlene. She regards me as a servant. I feed her, I brush her, I clean the kitty-litter box, I shower her with endearments-I've even started taking her to the vet to try to bond with her. Charlene says that I love Dinah more than anything human, but that is false." Posner has resigned himself to loving Dinah in the self-abasing tradition of courtly love, the object forever unattainable.

Posner loves cute animals of all kinds, except dogs. He dislikes dogs partly out of a sense of duty-he feels that, given his commitment to cats, it would not be quite proper for him to like dogs as well. But it is also the canine personality that he finds distasteful. Years ago, when he and Charlene lived in Washington, they owned a Norwegian elkhound of servile disposition, poignantly misnamed Fang; whenever anyone evinced the slightest displeasure with him, Fang's lips would tremble with anxiety, and Posner found this irritating. Posner is an ardent fan of monkeys, his instinctive attraction perhaps bolstered by his socio-biological sense that monkeys are basically humans with fewer affectations. A couple of years ago, he watched a nature program about baboons, and found them so delightful that he decided to call the zoo and adopt one.
An ardent fan of monkeys! An ardent fan of monkeys! What possible difference could that make! Sheer clutter!

January 16, 2005

"It's so unusual to be standing when we're usually sitting."

So let's just start there, with the first dumb quote since I turned on the TV to watch and simul-blog the Golden Globes. The statement was made by William Shatner (a nominee!) to Star Jones, and is a witticism, presumably, because normally one would talk to Star Jones while seated on the set of "The View."

Kathy Griffin to some actor I don't recognize: "Do you guys have any weed?" His answer: "On us? At the moment?"

Joan Rivers to Ashley Judd: "Go ahead and go in and get your award. They're screaming for you to go in."

Okay, well, that will kick off this post. The big show is about to begin, and I'll be updating through the night below, with each new entry next to a number:

1. Best Supporting Actor: Thomas Hayden Smith, aw -- he really looks like he wants to win. But it's Clive Owen for "Closer." He thanks a lot of people. Nothing interesting said. Yawn! Now Best Supporting Actress: Virginia Madsen looks like she really wants to win. Natalie Portman looks pretty in a flimsy nightgown of a dress. Tim Robbins, announcing the nominees, pronounces the name of her movie, "Closer," as if it's the title of a person who shuts doors or completes business deals. Then he corrects his pronunciation. Then he announces the award, and it's Natalie! So far, it's a sweep for "Closer." Mike Nichols, the director of "Closer," is, thus far, the most lavishly praised person in the room. He's beaming and looking very grand.

2. Best Supporting Actress, TV version: Oh, it's gotta be Adriana. Charlize Theron has short black hair! And Angelica Huston wins!!! I can't believe Drea De Matteo (Adriana) didn't win. After all of her suffering! Oh, no! Angelica is a goddess though. I begrudge her nothing. She's dripping in jewels. "It's such a pleasure to be in this business." Best Supporting Actor, TV version: Michael Imperioli -- how can he win when Adriana didn't win? William Shatner: why the hell not? And it is!!! It's Shatner! Imperioli takes a gulp of water. Shatner is bright red, as if he might have a heart attack and die while finally getting his recognition. "Wanna thank the wife ... Let's see ... Leslie, Liz, and Melanie ... Shelley, Kelly, and Donna ..." Chris says: "This is the most boring speech." But there was a moment there, when he first gripped his hand around the award and looked at it and said "William Shatner" that was kind of cool and touching. [UPDATE: Tung Yin explains how Shatner saying "William Shatner" was actually a reference to something his character on "Boston Legal" does.]

3. A clip from "Kinsey" is introduced, describing Kinsey as a man who, among other things, "changed his own life forever." What's the accomplishment in that? Would could possibly avoid such a thing? Now, here's Jim Carrey, making an inside joke about the Weinsteins. Goldie Hawn brays with laughter. Now we're "celebrating" ... oh, I don't know what ... apparently just the whole idea of movies. And now Bill Clinton -- of all people -- is on the screen. "Aw, he looks sick," says Chris. He's talking about tsunami relief. Best Actress, TV series drama: Jennifer Garner is dimpling magnificently. The winner is Mariska Hargitay. She's wearing a liquid lilac dress and showing very distinctive nipplage. She says "49 years ago my mother accepted an award" and goes into a crying tribute to her dad, who, unlike her beautiful mother Jayne Mansfield, is still alive. He's being supported by two people. He's trembling and weeping. He's Mickey Hargitay, once famous as a bodybuilder. Best Actor, TV series drama: Ian McShane, from "Deadwood." He clutches the award and says "Mine!"

4. Samuel Jackson introduces the clip from "The Incredibles." I'm impressed by the animation of the silky black hair on the little girl. Meryl Streep comes out to introduce an award and leans into the mike and says "Congratulations, Natalie" in a way that means, you little, undeserving bitch. Now the award for made-for-TV movie. They all look like crap. "Life and Death of Peter Sellers" wins. Actually, it did have the best clip. Three boring producer guys make their way to the stage while we hear the record "What's New Pussycat?" Speech: booooorrrrrinnnnngggggggg. Best Actor, TV series comedy is the next award. Do I even watch any of these shows? Yeah! Larry David, "Curb Your Enthusiasm." I love that show! Can Lar possibly win? No, Jason Bateman wins for "Arrested Development." He reads names from an index card, which he refers to and waves about. He has huge feet (always a good sign).

5. "Oh, she's pretty," I say when I see an actress in a beige swathing of a dress. It's Halle Berry, introducing the clip for "Finding Neverland," which plays with schmaltzy music. Closeup on the sweet Johnny Depp, wearing nice nerdy glasses. Now Will Ferrell is here to announce the Best Actress, musical/comedy. Kate Winslet got the most applause! I think she'll win! Go Kate! But it's Annette Benning, who takes a delicate sip of champagne before rising to kiss Warren Beatty and waltz up to the stage. She appreciates the award, and she had "a hell of a good time" making her movie ("Being Julia"). Best TV Series, drama. A long clip for each nominee is shown. Wow! "Lost" is cheesy. So is "Nip/Tuck." Weird. Obviously, "The Sopranos" is the best. They show the clip of Tony criticizing A.J. about "a coupla beers." "Nip/Tuck" wins. About ten people have to come up to the stage. "They're taking a million years," I say, getting impatient. A producer gives a boring speech while a tall woman with huge breasts is seen just over his shoulder. She knows which body parts are on camera. She shimmies the golden globes gelatinously.

6. Naomi Watts introduces the clip for "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" and makes a flub just as she's talking about having your mind erased. After the clip, there's a closeup of Jim Carrey, touched by his own film. Now the Desperate Housewives come out. The camera frames them all extra close, excluding their chests, as if a call came in from FCC Chairman Michael Powell during the last commercial break. They give the award for Actor, TV miniseries/movie. It's Geoffrey Rush, for the Peter Sellers movie, so we get to hear "What's New Pussycat?" again. He makes a joke about speech lessons using the term "vowel movements." Al Pacino comes out to give the award for Best Actress, TV miniseries/movie. Glenn Close doesn't seem to take herself too seriously. Bythe Danner smirks at her own clip. Miranda Richardson makes me say: "Ha! She thinks she's great." Glenn Close wins and holds her hand over her mouth in disbelief as she hurries to the stage. "Meryl is it okay? Are we still friends?" The award is a huge, shining cherry on a fabulous cake … or something. She thanks the person who made her huge, heartbreaking wig. She seems nice!

7. Quentin Tarantino is talking to … is that Henry Kissinger? Chris: "I think it's Martin Scorsese." Me: "That would make more sense." More commercials. Now Glenn Close is back, introducing a clip of "Closer." Best foreign is next. "The Sea Inside" wins. Alejandro Amenobar.

8. That last segment was the most boring of the show so far. Now: Best Screenplay. It's going to be Charlie Kaufman for "Eternal Sunshine," isn't it? No, Alexander Payne for "Sideways." I haven't seen the movie, but I've loved him from "Election." Shot of Schwarzenegger and Shriver in the audience. Jeez, she looks awful. Time for the TV comedy actress award. It goes to Teri Hatcher, for "Desperate Housewives." I've never seen it, and I don't care. I will say she's wearing a glorious silvery, stripey dress. She pretends to be ditzy. She takes the feminist angle: I get to work with so many great over-40 women. She's pleased to get to stand here in front of all these movie stars. Another pretty dull, get-the-unimportant-awards-out-of-the-way segment.

9. Laurence Fishburne introduces the clip for "Hotel Rwanda." I want to see that. Out come Usher and Lisa Maria Presley. "She seems so uninterested," Chris says. She's very blasé. As well she should be. Who can think what it would be like to be her? She's wearing a black cape. The award is for score. Who cares? "The Aviator" wins. "I'd like to thank my fellow nominees for their fine work" – boooorrriiingggg. You can hear people gabbing and misbehaving in the audience. Lisa Marie looks pissed. I think I see her mouthing an obscenity at Usher. She's stuck introducing a second music-related award, the loathsome best song award, which should be called least atrocious song. The song from "Polar Express" evokes retching noises chez Althouse. Mick Jagger has a nomination. So that's why he's there. I've been watching his wizened face all night. I want him to win, because I want to see him on stage. Yes! Yes! Yes! Applause chez Althouse. He says something like "I'd like to thank Dave's shirt for getting me into this mess" and then "music has become like a push-up bra for us" and something about "plunging." Mick rules. Mick's suit is shiny and dark blue. When his writing partner starts thanking his kids, Mick whisks him aside and says "and all our kids – they're too many of them – we're not going to mention them all." [UPDATE: Here's the real quote, taken from the TiVo copy. He really says "I'd like to thank Dave Stewart for getting me into this mess." And "He was the one who introduced me to the whole idea of this movie soundtrack, which we've never done before. And I'd like to thank the Hollywood Foreign Press for taking this rather obscure song and using it ... it's become like a push-up bra for us ... and plunging it ... plunging it back into the limelight."]

10. Prince!!!! Yay!!! Black suit, with pink shawl collar. He looks great! He introduces the clip for "Ray." Prince praises Jamie Foxx, and Jamie Foxx beams at Prince. The clip makes the film look like much more fun than I think of biopics as being. The next award is Best Director. We're up to Director?! Now, it's exciting. It goes to Clint Eastwood! We see a closeup of Scorsese clapping. Well, I wish Scorsese could get awards, but Eastwood rules. A standing O for Eastwood. Eastwood is modest. He gives thanks for the tsunami relief spot and then just thanks a lot of people and then says "bye." Out comes Diane Keaton in a fitted gray jacket, a white high-collared shirt, and a long tutu-y black skirt. She gives the Best Actor, musical/comedy award. "What happened to him?" is my reaction to Kevin Kline. Keaton: "Okay, okay, all right, all right, Jamie Foxx!!!!" Okay! Paul Giamatti is clapping. Closeup of Meryl Streep, emitting joy. Foxx leads the audience in that "Uh uh, oh oh" Ray Charles song. He wants to take what he's feeling and put it in the water so we can all drink it and we would all love each other. He thanks "a Caucasian man" for "taking a chance" on a black actor. Foxx is very charming! He plays the occasion to the hilt and makes it seem as if no one else all night has even been trying. Everyone is going wild for the bursting-out spirit of Foxx who is having his day. He ends by thanking his grandmother and choking back tears: "I used to think it was corny when people would say they feel someone was looking down on them. But I got a feeling."

11. What is this crap? Some special award for Robin Williams. I hate when these awards shows grind to a halt over a special award. He's kind and thoughtful with everyone. He loves his children. He goes to Iraq. He's a wonderful man. There's a big montage, and Robin mouths "whoa." He hugs Jim Carrey on the way to the stage. "My English is not so good," he begins. He rambles. He imitates Schwarzenegger. He offers his wife Marcia a "wife-time achievement award." He says his personal assistant brings him down to earth by calling him "Mork guy." He dedicates his award to Christopher Reeve and addresses him with the Hamlet send off may " flights of angels sing thee to thy rest." Commercial break!

12. Best Actor, drama, is next. It's Leonardo Dicaprio! Oh! Wow! He places his hand on his heart as he walks up. Closeup of Kate Winslet (his co-star from way back when). He thanks those who wrote the "intricate" script. After "growing up in this business," he says, the "pinnacle" has been to work with "the great Martin Scorsese." And he wants to use the occasion to urge people to keep contributing to tsunami disaster relief. He seems like a nice person, not reveling in the occasion. He took the complete opposite of the Jamie Foxx approach. He's gotten a lot of attention in his life and doesn't seem to need any more. Just see me as an actor, privileged to work with good people, blessed to exist in the light of the truly great Scorsese, and thanks.

13. Best TV Series, musical/comedy. "Desperate Housewives"! It must be good. It beat "Sex and the City." They called it a "satire" and couldn't sell it, so they called it a "soap opera" and it sold. The award-acceptor guy thanks his mom for supporting him and for giving him the idea for the show. "Is he calling his mother a slut?" Dustin Hoffman comes out to give the Actress, Drama award. High tension! Hillary Swank. I say, "She's gonna get it." Uma Thurman. I say, "I want her." And it's Hillary Swank. She's wearing a brown satin dress and a long brown ponytail. I'm glad for her. She didn't get the great roles after "Boys Don't Cry," and when she finally got another great role, she was great again. To Clint: "I don't want to ruin your go ahead and make my day image, but you have a great heart." She makes a joke of pretending to forget to thank her husband again, as she did when she won the Oscar.

14. Best Picture, Musical/Comedy. Goldie Hawn announces. It's "Sideways"! Next, it's Nicole Kidman, giving the award for Best Picture, Drama. It goes to "The Aviator." Reaction from me: "Oooooh!" Finally, Scorsese rises up out of his chair and ascends to the stage. Chris: "He's so short!" Scorsese stands on stage, listening to the producers' speeches. He's choking back tears. Aw! Nicole thanks us all for watching "and … good night!"

15. Chris summarizes: "It's interesting that Clint Eastwood got Director and "The Aviator" got picture. It's kind of a three way race for the Oscar now." The third movie is "Sideways," which won the Best Picture, Comedy award tonight.

UPDATE: Here's Virginia Heffernan's report on the pre-show doings, including this pearl:
[Joan Rivers] seemed angrier still when her interview with Mr. Nichols and Ms. Sawyer was interrupted by the actor Will Farrell. Mr. Farrell had some pretext for crashing the interview, and the couple seemed happy to see him. But Ms. Rivers appeared to take him for another reporter, or a hanger-on nobody. Sounding as if she believed her microphone was off, she snapped at him, "I have two big names here, so could you just wait?"

I'm enough of a Joan Rivers fan that I watched that wanting to believe she was doing a little humor routine, but it was awfully awkward, and Joan has a reputation for not recognizing people. Oh, but that's part of the fun. Joan's screw ups.

Here's the AP report on Mick Jagger at the Globes, reminding me of what had just barely dawned on me: Dave Stewart is the guy from the Eurhythmics. Someone asked Jagger how he maintained his "youthful appearance." Of course, he's a wizened old geezer, as noted above. He doesn't look young, he looks cool. Old and cool. Is that an idea that can register? Dammit!

What kind of man prefers a servant to an equal?

Good and Happy turns up this opinion about the Maureen Dowd piece I can't stop talking about:
I don't care how smart one is -- I'd say my husband and I are equally smart (2 Ivy League professional degrees) and that he he wants a smart woman as a major criterion -- there's a lot of self-discipline called for in dealing intimately with another person. And I'd say, especially a man. (A man has a veto power on the relationship for physiological reasons I don't care to belabor).

A lot of women have come to believe that a selective project of deliberate self-denial, giving up "rights" in a particular situation, putting someone else first in some areas for the sheer joy of it, somehow is unequal. Well, men, and probably people, really respond to that kind of affectionate focus. And are sometimes walking around in a stressed-out trance like anyone else, clutching at straws for relief and meaning in life.

Yes, those women who are willing to deny themselves and serve men will please men who prefer servants. And if the women are able to believe there is joy in service, isn't it all just a very lovely arrangement? I do consider that inequality, and I think that when a man and a woman find inequality comforting, they suffer a diminishment of themselves as human beings, even if they are too complacent to notice. I believe there is a great loss, even before one takes into account the damage to those other than the happy couple. As long as women are willing to play the comforter role, why should our somnolent male character bother to deal with a relationship with a woman who wants to be treated as an equal? Our somnolent man might want to awaken from his sleepwalking life and ask: What kind of a man does not love equality? What kind of man prefers a servant to an equal? What kind of woman wants a man like that, especially when the deal for her is to be the servant? What a weak and sniveling way to go about living!

Good and Happy's informant continues:
And, frankly, it's not unusual to encounter a woman who thinks that she is smart and stimulating, but isn't particularly, just stuff-fed like foie gras geese with the latest opinions and accumulated degrees, trotting out some unexamined cliche from her pals or NPR. Since MoDo made herself the focus here, I'll observe that apart from a few cute turns of phrase, I haven't heard a new or intriguing idea from her in years. What if the ranks of secretaries and nurses have a lot of women who pay attention and think for themselves? They may actually be smarter, more fun to discuss things with. I know who I'd rather see a movie with.

Of course, social critics who opine about the dynamics of relationships and don't themselves have good relationships may very well be undesirable partners for all sorts of reasons unrelated to the relationship dynamics they write about. I'm sure plenty of them are boring, mean, and irritating, as are many people who don't write about relationships. No one has said being smart is enough, and many people who act like they're smart are not as smart as other people who don't. And many of Maureen Dowd's columns are not that good. But I stand by my opinion that the one I linked to was a good one, and I hold on to my conviction that equality in marriage is best.

No jokes.

A professor who has read every single presidential inaugural speech reports that he has not found even a single example of something written to be humorous.


David Brooks has a pithy review of Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink." And here's a great discussion on the subject (posts + comments). Both pieces I'm linking find a political angle in the book's ideas about the value of quick, intuitive thinking. Brooks says:
What is the relationship between self-conscious reason and backstage intuition? Which one is right more often?

And if I have to cast my vote for either George ''I go with my gut'' Bush or John ''I deliberate until the cows come home'' Kerry, how should I evaluate their rival cognitive styles? Most important, that thick-slicing part of my brain, which is blessed and burdened by self-consciousness, wants to know the meaning of what Gladwell is telling it. When he is talking about the cognitive powers of the brain, he's not just reviewing a cool piece of software. He's talking about us, the thinking process that is the essence of who you and I are.

Richard Lawrence Cohen (the post at the second link) says:
Apparently, the key to success in these pre–deluge years is going to be the ability to make ever–snappier snap judgments. Go to war or not? No problem, the fix was in before any of the evidence was gathered. Undo seventy years of lawmaking that makes most Americans’ lives less of a desperate struggle? We’re getting right to it! Destroy vast tracts of irreplaceable wilderness in order to feed our money addiction? Sure, who needs them, they’re not worth anything!

In a culture where sustained attention is obsolete, where the workforce has an almost 50% annual turnover rate, where the president doesn’t do nuance and subtlety is for losers, BLINK provides the perfect justification for those who feel most fulfilled when creating messes for later arrivals to clean up. Its cultural origin—not that anyone cares—is the Old West motto, “Shoot first, ask questions later.”

A more sensible view, it seems to me, is that "Only bad things happen quickly." ... The "only" is hyperbole, of course, but the underlying truth is one that endures, and has endured, and will endure, after the fad for snap judgments has blinked itself out. And it’s authentic conservatism, not the reactionary madness that has misappropriated that honorable word.

(Disclosure: RLC is my ex-husband.)

UPDATE: The NYT has the first chapter of "Blink" available for reading on line.

The Madison blogger triple feature.

As predicted yesterday, I got everything done but hanging that damned blind. The Bolognese sauce was cooked and consumed. Pasta chosen for the sauce: rombi! I'm guessing that's Italian for rhombus, and who wouldn't want intensely delicious meat sauce served on equilateral parallelograms? The plan was to eat tasty food from bowls while watching movies on TV. I had my DVD player loaded up with some of my official favorites (as noted in my profile).

My fellow bloggers live-blogged the event, but, having gotten up at 3 a.m. and worked hard all day, I was too groggy to blog (and too bloggy to grog!). Nina's account is here, here, and here. The other blogger I cannot link to without pre-clearance. That's her policy, which I follow along with a policy of my own: no!

We played a triple feature, during which I took, oh, maybe, ten short naps. The first film was "Grey Gardens" -- because, really, why not confront your deep fears about decay while eating meat sauce? You can laugh and gasp at the cellulite and cat shit and the raccoons in the attic, but at some point you must feel the pain of your own anxieties and succumb to the intimacy of the humanity of Big Edie and Little Edie. "It's so hard to keep the line between the past and the present."

If I had been more awake, I would have insisted on following up on the decay theme with the other great movie about decay, "Decasia," but the un-spontaneously-linkable blogger had smuggled in "Hair." So bring on the hippies, hopping and jumping around NYC in the Broadway style made famous in "West Side Story." Just as urban gangmembers don't leap about balletically, real hippies had none of the wholesome peppiness displayed by the performers in "Hair."

The un-spontaneously-linkable one sang along with the inspirational songs: "I got my guts (I got my guts)/I got my muscles (muscles)/I got life (life)/Life (life)/Life (life)/LIFE!" So much for my decay theme! Could you be any more life affirming? The film has that candy-colored hippie philosophy that nonhippies are all up-tight straights who have no life at all, but they only need to see the light, let their "shining, gleaming, streaming, flaxen, waxen" hair down, and become hippies, and then they too could surely live. Life!

"Hair" might be the antithesis to "Grey Gardens," but remember the "Grey Gardens" scene where Little Edie sings and dances? Is there really such a distance between her and dancing, romping hippies?

Are you up for a triple feature? You over there, dozing on the chair arm? You said you weren't kicking us out until midnight!
That's quite true, so here is movie three, another one of my favorites, the Errol Morris concoction "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control."

How does this third movie fit with the other three? Well, how do topiary, wild-animal taming, robots, and naked mole rats go together? Errol Morris weaves those things together, and if I wanted to prolong this post, I'm sure I could think of some reasons "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control" goes with "Grey Gardens" and "Hair." Naked mole rats have no hair... I'll let you do the official Madison blogger triple feature and find the connections. And feel free to cook up some parallelograms and make some Bolognese sauce. The sauce recipe is in here:

UPDATE: Tonya, the erstwhile un-spontaneously-linkable blogger, has rescinded her pre-clearance policy, thus allowing me to link to her live-blogging of last night's triple feature, which includes a lot of (sort of) transcription of the conversation, including my obsession with the position of Treat Williams's bellybutton, and Nina and Tonya's interest in other Williams body parts.


Is it fair for me to get traffic from links to posts of mine where I note a term coined by someone who emailed me? Thanks to Jeff Jarvis for linking to this December 20th post of mine, where I offer the word "blogola" for money secretly paid to bloggers for positive postings. My emailer originally suggested "payblogga" as the word, then added:
That's a horrible name for it, no flow at all. "Blogola" sounds better, but it loses the derivation of the term. It could just be left as "payola", but today's buzzword/catchphrase world would desperately want to have "blog" in there somewhere.

I preferred "blogola," because it does flow better. There are other examples of coinages that misuse the root term. Consider the way the "-0holic" ending of "alcoholic" is used in words like "workaholic" and "chocoholic." Really, only the "-ic" should be needed, as that's all that's been added to "alcohol" to produce "alcoholic." The problem is that "-ic" won't be recognized for what it's supposed to be unless more of "alcoholic" is brought along. It just doesn't work to say "workic" and "chocolatic." The "Watergate" ending "-gate" is a similar example. Nothing about "-gate" meant scandal in the original word, but it's a distinctive ending, and we know what it means. I think "-ola" is like that. The loss of "pay-" might seem wrong, because that was where the original meaning was, but I think we need a suffix, not a prefix, and somehow "-ola" has come to signify the corruptness of under-the-table payments.

Anyway, it was interesting to go back to that December 20th post of mine, which predicts something that came true awfully quickly:
[D]oesn't it seem inevitable that there will be a blogger payola scandal at some point? We bloggers build up our credibility with readers over the months and years of writing. You assume if a blogger you trust says that a TV show or a movie or a book is good it's because he thinks so for purely independent and un-self-interested reasons unless he says otherwise. I don't think free review copies of things undermine this independence. MSM reviewers get free copies of the CDs, DVDs, and books they write about. A blogger has such a strong interest in maintaining credibility that he's likely to make a point of saying he's received a free copy.

But don't you think the day will come when we will hear that a trusted, seemingly independent blogger is being paid to express an opinion about a product or even a politician or important policy? Will we be horrified? Will we just stop caring what the blogger has to say? Or will we accept it, the way we accepted it when we found out about paid product placements in movies? I made my local car dealer look quite posh in this post, just because I had nothing better to do than observe my immediate surroundings (and also because I wanted to get in on the big new tire-blogging craze). But what if it were the case -- it's not! -- and you found out, that Zimbrick gives me free oil changes in exchange for disguised ads? Small potatoes, you might think. Who cares? Imagine something bigger then: a high-traffic blogger paid big bucks to back the privatization of Social Security.
(By the way, it was also one of my emailers who offered the term "tire-blogging." I think it's apt that traffic came to the blog because of tires.)

Is the blogger's interest in his own credibility much of a safeguard? You might think that all a blogger has is his credibility, and anyone who's built up his traffic to the point where someone wants to buy his influence won't want to squander his credibility. But people cave in to temptation all the time when things they care a lot about are at risk, and bloggers are especially vulnerable. For one thing, the blogger -- writing without pay -- is more likely to need the money and to feel frustrated about having done so much work without getting paid. Add to this the fact that writing multiple posts day after day can burn a person out. A blogger might be thinking: look at all of this work, but how can I walk away from all of this traffic? One strategy for ending one's grueling blog project might be to sell it off, by taking money during the next campaign season. If the blogger is discovered looting his blog's credibility: well, he needed to quit anyway.

I tend to think advertising is the best safeguard against blogola. It is the high traffic blogger who is able to make the most money with advertising. Back when Kos took the money from the Dean campaign, what was the ad revenue? If, back then, Kos had had the ad money he has now, the importance of maintaining his independence and high standards would have overshadowed the money the Dean campaign was offering, which would have looked like a piddling amount.

UPDATE: An emailer writes: "Regarding suffixes a la "-holic" and "-gate" and "-ola," an earlier example is 'burger,' from Hamburger, which was originally a kind of sausage patty from Hamburg."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Another emailer writes: "I am reminded of Homer Simpson, who, as a rageoholic, stated, 'I'm addicted to rageohol!'"