June 25, 2005

"Jane, you ignorant slut."

I guess Shana Alexander must have known all along that line would appear in her obituary.

Why can't I watch "The Simpsons"?

Every time somebody quotes "The Simpsons" -- like in the comments to this post -- I'm always terribly impressed. How smart and funny the writing is! I think, once again, I should watch that show. But the fact is, for the longest time, I haven't been able to. I just can't stand to see it or hear it.

What is it I hate so much about the look and the sound? I recognize the brilliance of the voice actors. But I don't want to hear them anymore. They just irritate me. And the look of the animation... What is it? Too much yellow?

I could just read the scripts, I suppose.

Anyone else feel the same way?

"Would a man do this to another man?"

Do what?

The death of a local playwright.

The Wisconsin State Journal reports:
Joel Gersmann, 62, artistic director of Broom Street Theater since 1969 and one of Madison's most prolific playwrights, died Friday in his home. He had been in poor health for some time.

The theater has a reputation for producing experimental, avant-garde plays, many of them controversial.

Currently, the theater is featuring "Oklahomo, a Gay Comedy About Curley, a Resident Drag Queen, a Transsexual Cow and Homophobia."...

Gersmann's own plays included subjects ranging from Nazis to Nancy Drew, and from abortion to pedophilia.
Anyone who's ever lived in Madison knows that the Broom Street Theater is one of those distinctive things that make Madison Madison. Goodbye, Joel!

Today's word challenge.

I'm looking at my old copy of "The Book of Lists," which has a list of the "10 Most Beautiful Words in the English Language" and a list of "The 10 Worst-Sounding English Words." (The lists are from different sources, in case you're wondering about the lack of parallel titles.)

10 Best: chimes, dawn, golden, hush, lullaby, luminous, melody, mist, murmuring, tranquil.

10 Worst: cacaphony, crunch, flatulent, gripe, jazz, phlegmatic, plump, plutocrat, treachery.

With the exception of "jazz" -- which just doesn't belong on the "worst" list -- all of these words align sound and meaning. That is, the words that sound beautiful mean something beautiful, and the words that sound ugly, have a negative meaning as well.

So here's the challenge: come up with words that sound beautiful but mean something ugly, or sound ugly but mean something beautiful.


Is there something wrong with you if you call your father "Daddy"? Jeremy posits that there is.

Here's the comment I put over there:
Jeremy, in my family, we kids always called our father "Daddy." He was Daddy. We stopped calling our mother Mommy (switching to Mother), but Daddy was always Daddy. We never called him Dad. Not once. We disrespectfully called him "the O.M." (for "the old man") for a while -- though not to his face. My mother always referred to him to us as "your father." It's hard to convey the deep sense in which "Daddy" was just exactly what he was. No matter how mature or immature I was at any given point, it would not have shaken that belief. This was not a matter of sentimental love either. The tone could be quite negative, yet he'd still be Daddy.
As I got older, I recognized that it seemed a bit oddly babyish to call him Daddy, but somehow it just wasn't possible to stop, even though it had not been a problem to drop the use of "Mommy." Jeremy raises the theory that there's a matter of regional usage here and that "Daddy" is a Southern thing, so let me add that we were raised in Delaware. My father was from Delaware but my mother was from Michigan, so it's possible that we kids followed the regional usage for each parent's place of origin, but that seems awfully weird. I have no memory of either of them telling us what to call them.

A fine point in my family is that early on my father's mother established that grandkids would call her "Mom." My father's father at that point became "Pop." So the paternal grandparents in my family were always "Mom and Pop," and neither of those words would ever seem to be a normal thing to call parents. Thus, we couldn't get to "Mom" from "Mommy," but needing to throw off the babyish "Mommy," we resorted to the oddly formal "Mother." Somehow, the corresponding "Father" never seemed right. And the way to "Dad" was also obstructed. So for the rest of their lives I called them "Mother and Daddy."

Now both are dead, and when I talk about them, I only say "my mother and my father."

An invitation to Moyers and Watt, accepted by one. Which one?

Bill Moyers embarrassed himself by slurring from former Secretary of the Interior James Watt. Patricia Nelson Limerick describes the incident this way:
Mr. Moyers gave a speech last winter at Harvard, criticizing the Bush administration's environmental policies and making the case that an unfortunate theology, particularly a belief in an imminent Second Coming, was the driving force behind these policies. At the start of his speech, to illustrate this theology, Mr. Moyers shifted back in time and quoted Mr. Watt. Mr. Moyers said that Mr. Watt "had told the U.S. Congress that protecting natural resources was unimportant in light of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. In public testimony, [Watt] said, 'After the last tree is felled, Christ will come back.' "

But there is no evidence that Mr. Watt ever said this improbable thing, and Mr. Moyers acknowledged his "mistake" in quoting a remark that he could not confirm....

By casting many evangelical Christians as enemies of the earth's well-being, Mr. Moyers has made a not entirely strategic move to alienate people who could, should they be persuaded to recognize the hand of the Creator at work in the creation, prove to be remarkable and effective supporters for a cause that he considers urgent and crucial.
Limerick frets about the way people are so contentious in these days of the endlessly yammering internet, and thinks if Watt and Moyers would just sit down to a nice meal together -- she offers to host them -- they'd learn to work together. She notes one of the two has accepted her invitation but doesn't say which. Given the way she's phrased the proposal, I've got to assume it's Moyers. Here's why.

Moyers used a quote that he had "no evidence" of and that is so bizarre that he can't even fall back on the fake-but-true characterization that it seems like the sort of thing Watt would say. And -- I'm just using the facts as stated in this column -- acknowledgement of mistake lies only in "in quoting a remark that he could not confirm." But if there's "no evidence," in what sense are you "confirming" a "quote"? There's nothing to confirm. Limerick is toning down Moyers' offense here, and it's an offense not only to Watt but, more generally, to evangelical Christians. It portrays them as dangerous and evil.

As Limerick puts it, Moyers has made "a not entirely strategic move" by alienating people who "could" be persuaded to join him in his cause. Note the assumption that evangelical Christians do not now care about the environment and that they haven't yet learned to see the hand of God in creation. Moyers is the dominant character here. He already knows the right answers, so he needs to adopt good strategies, and he made a mistake not to get the evangelicals on his side. But he could win them over to his cause -- the cause is his -- if he persuaded them with religious insight that they somehow aren't supposed to have on their own. Yet this observation is a plainly obvious one to a believer. To think otherwise is to think the fake quote really is the sort of thing an evangelical would say.

I agree with Limerick that people shouldn't be so contentious and that there's too much arguing. We never seem to reach the end of calling someone's statement outrageous and demanding another apology. Too many people are promoting themselves by acting all aghast about one thing or another and trying to divide Americans into stark politically partisan factions. But something about this proposed Watt-Moyers sitdown in front of a beautiful landscape rubs me the wrong way.

June 24, 2005

Did you hear the one about the lower-tier law school appointments committee that rejected a candidate out of hand for clerking for Justice Thomas?

Gordon Smith writes about the politics (and religion) of law school hiring.

''Matt, Matt, you don't even -- you're glib. You don't even know what Ritalin is."

Did you hear the Matt Lauer "Today Show" interview with Tom Cruise today? I happened to catch it on MSNBC radio this afternoon. Cruise is so recklessly passionate about psychiatry and psychiatric medications that he ... well ... kind of seemed to need psychiatric medication.

Lauer remained poised through the whole thing and was the very soul of moderation. If Brooke Shields believes that anti-depression medicine has helped her, why isn't that good enough? But Cruise would not back off. He kept pounding on Lauer and insisting that he knew everything because he's studied "the history of psychiatry" and because Scientology is the true religion.

Jeez, isn't anyone telling him he's going to lose a lot of fans acting like that? He seems truly deluded and must think this will actually win people over to Scientology, when, in fact, it's quite the opposite.

ADDED: Oh, here's the TiVo of last night's "Letterman," with Cruise. When he comes out, the band plays "Jump." Ha ha. Tom was just fine. Nothing strange at all. Dave is very good with him.

MORE: Here's the full text of the interview -- with a few helpful illustrations.

Screaming in the theater.

At a horror film, do people in the audience scream? Usually not, right? Today, I screamed three times -- out loud -- seeing "Land of the Dead." Each time, I felt embarrassed, because no one else screamed.

So, what do you think: is it idiotic to scream? Do you like when people scream or is it annoying? Or is it good if a lot of people scream but annoying if only one fool is a screamer? In my case, it was genuinely involuntary. I was not trying to be cute.

(Go back two posts for my comments on the film itself.)

The tobacco warehouses.

The graffiti'd walls of the tobacco warehouses in Madison:



Inside: beautiful loft apartments, in the final stages of preparation. Presumably, a sandblaster will blow away this graffiti. I'm told the courtyard between the two buildings will contain, in addition to lovely landscaped greenery, a bocce court.

UPDATE: Here's Nina's photograph of the interior of the building, and click to her main page and scroll (today) to see the whole set of shots.

The politics of the zombie.

Manohla Dargis writes about "Land of the Dead":
With each of Mr. Romero's zombie movies, the walking dead have grown progressively more human while the living have slowly lost touch with their humanity....

[T]he greatest shock here may be the transformation of a black zombie into a righteous revolutionary leader (I guess Che really does live, after all).

With "Revenge of the Sith" and "Batman Begins," "Land of the Dead" makes the third studio release of the summer season to present an allegory, either naked or not, of our contemporary political landscape. Whatever else you think about these films, whether you believe them to be sincere or cynical, authentic expressions of defiance or just empty posturing, it is rather remarkable that these so-called popcorn movies have gone where few American films outside the realm of documentary, including most so-called independents, dare to go. One of the enormous pleasures of genre filmmaking is watching great directors push against form and predictability, as Mr. Romero does brilliantly in "Land of the Dead." One thing is for sure: You won't go home hungry.
Hmmm.... should I bite? I'm interested in politics. And I like a brainy film.

UPDATE: I saw it! Very good! High quality photography. Exciting narrative. Great villain (a Donald Trump-ish Dennis Hopper). Nice band of good guys (always in danger of getting bitten and going over to the other side). Some sympathy for the zombies, who, despite their impairments, are trying to figure things out and act in their own interest.

I must say, though, that I was surprised they gave the Dennis Hopper character a distinctly Jewish name (Kaufman). At one point, someone declares "jihad" on him too. Kaufman was a very greedy rich man, very attached to his bags of money. It isn't hard to put together the case that there was some serious anti-Semitism here. I'm surprised the commercial backers of the film didn't nix the Jewish name. Wonder what was going on there.

(A little spoiler follows.)

The zombies in the beginning are controlled by fireworks, which dazzle them into a staring daze. When they get a little smarter, they overcome this tendency and become much more effective. So a political interpretation would be: staring at the fireworks equates to being blinded by appeals to patriotism. When the zombies/workers stop being dazzled by the show, they can overthrow the rich and powerful.

"What exactly goes on in the Hoegaarden?"

Just one of the questions Oscar has about Amsterdam.

The two novelists dialogue.

Which one did you side with?

UPDATE: Another round of two novelists.

It's a trap!

Fascinating! So Karl Rove really is a genius.

The South Bronx becomes So Bro.

I guess this front-page NYT article about how the South Bronx -- now So Bro -- is the hip new place will change the whole dynamic. Quick everybody, move the Bronx!

And what about all the people who have been living there all along, through the hard times? They provide the ambience in which the trendy newcomers bask:
There are also the allures of the longstanding Latino and African-American culture - sidewalk dominoes games, flamboyant murals, lush vacant-lot gardens and restaurants with fried plantains and mango shakes - that give the neighborhood a populist authenticity that cannot be matched in the more decorous precincts of Manhattan or Brooklyn.
But don't hate the young people. They are most attracted to the factory buildings, the lofts, which were "were forsaken with the decline in American manufacturing, and in the 1970's the neighborhood went into a tailspin of arson, foreclosures and rampant crime." Repopulating these spaces makes things better for the traditional residential buildings nearby.

On the other hand, this is the "first wave of gentrification," and the "second wave" is inevitable, right? The South Bronx is a quick subway ride into Manhattan. Won't all sorts of nonadventurous, nonartist types go looking for cheaper rents, especially now that this article is out? The article is the marking point for the beginning of the second wave, I would think.

Has the Court "erased the Public Use Clause from our Constitution"?

That's what Justice Thomas wrote in dissent in Kelo v. City of New London, yesterday's Supreme Court Takings Clause case. Much of the criticism of the case that I've seen taps the stimulating rhetoric served up by Justice Thomas. Is the outcry justified?

You have to accept that government can take property. The power of eminent domain is ancient. What the Constitution requires that "just compensation" be paid to the owners and that the taking be for a "public use." This case was about what counted as a "public use." What was the questioned use in Kelo? As described by Linda Greenhouse in the NYT: it was "a large-scale plan to replace a faded residential neighborhood with office space for research and development, a conference hotel, new residences and a pedestrian 'riverwalk' along the Thames River."
The project, to be leased and built by private developers, is intended to derive maximum benefit for the city from a $350 million research center built nearby by the Pfizer pharmaceutical company.

New London, deemed a "distressed municipality" by the state 15 years ago, has a high unemployment rate and fewer residents today than it had in 1920.
Some people would like to say that the city should have had to run the development project itself for it to count as "public use." Should that be an absolute rule? No private developers? The public benefit is still there:
"Promoting economic development is a traditional and long accepted function of government," Justice Stevens said, adding, "Clearly, there is no basis for exempting economic development from our traditionally broad understanding of public purpose."...

Justice Stevens ... said the plan "unquestionably serves a public purpose," even though it was intended to increase jobs and tax revenue rather than remove blight.

He described the plan as "carefully formulated" and comprehensive. Sounding a federalism note, Justice Stevens said that state legislatures and courts were best at "discerning local public needs" and that the judgment of the New London officials was "entitled to our deference.".
So we're left wondering what would overcome this deference to the choices of the local political processes, but the strength of the dissenters, who would have adopted a hardline rule against private development, cautions against overreliance on judicial deference:
Both Justice O'Connor and Justice Thomas ... said the decision's burden would fall on the less powerful and wealthy.

"The government now has license to transfer property from those with fewer resources to those with more," Justice O'Connor said. "The founders cannot have intended this perverse result."

Justice Thomas, who called the decision "far reaching and dangerous," cited several studies showing that those displaced by urban renewal and "slum clearance" over the years tended to be lower-income minority residents.
It's interesting -- isn't it -- that the Court's liberals stressed "federalism," which the conservatives often praise, and the Court's conservatives stress the oppression of the poor by the rich, usually the plaint of the liberal.

The question is how much courts should involve themselves in reassessing the work of local government. If the local political processes result in spending tax money in an effort of this sort, replacing one land use with another, how much should courts scrutinize that choice? How much should local government need to pour its resources into litigation in order to get something done that elected officials believe is worth doing? Whatever you think of the wisdom of the project in this case, the standard the Court sets will affect all sorts of other cases.

Reading the various commentators, I was impressed by this post from lawprof Tom Merrill (at SCOTUSblog):
I think the case sends just about the right message. The Court is not prepared to adopt a per se rule against takings for economic development. But the amber light is flashing. Stevens and Kennedy seem to say that careful planning and lots of community input are important in sustaining the use of eminent domain for economic development. Kennedy ... warns that he may come up with a theory in the future which would allow him to go the other way -- so watch out! The Court is closely divided 5-4, which means another, more egregious example of condemn-and-retransfer might get struck down. So the message to state courts is: go ahead and use eminent domain for economic development, but please try to take property rights more seriously in the future. I think this is exactly the right message. it preserves federalism in this area, but tries to re-shape values and attitudes to be less casual about overuse of eminent domain, which can be a wrenching experience for people.
There is a message here for local government: if you go further than the City of New London did in Kelo, you will get tied up in litigation. Thus, the case doesn't unleash local government to condemn property willy-nilly and shift ownership around lightly. Merrill describes the kind of case that might turn that amber light red: "a case in which it looked like some politically unaccountable development authority had sold out to a private developer or big box store."

I'm not an expert in this area of law, but readers requested my opinion -- perhaps hoping I would join the outcry about the Court "erasing" the Public Use Clause. It seems to me the Court struck a reasonable balance between property rights and government power. The Public Use Clause still has meaning -- just not an absolute meaning. I realize that people who like to give constitutional language crisp meaning are disappointed, as you frequently are, but there are good reasons why the majority of the Court is drawn to these nuanced interpretations you find so frustrating.

June 23, 2005

"I think it's her sleeve that perturbs me most..."

I've never mentioned how much I love Go Fug Yourself. Let me call you attention to this one about Katie Holmes's horrible red dress.

And this one about Helen Hunt ("suddenly partial only to dressing like a very sheltered librarian at her first luau").

De minimis!

Justice Kennedy misspelled de minimis (in Kelo, the new Takings Clause case).
This taking occurred in the context of a comprehensive development plan meant to address a serious city-wide depression, and the projected economic benefits of the project cannot be characterized as de minimus.
Man, you would think with all those hardcore law review types helping him out, he'd never fall into the most obvious spelling pitfall in all of law.

UPDATE: Here's my new post on the actual substance of the case.

"The moist, slightly dazed quality of a newly hatched baby chick."

John Stevens -- that Sinatra-y boy who got way in out of his depth in the third season of "American Idol" -- is singing in a nightclub in New York City. Here's the New York Times review:
Amid a sea of melismatic showoffs and crass belters, he stood out as an old-fashioned crooner in the thrall of a faraway vision. Still not fully emerged from his shell, this baby chick poked its head into the spotlight, oblivious to the smirks and raised eyebrows of the judges, to make a stand for a kinder, gentler pop of fluttery hearts and flowers and courtly gestures.

At Feinstein's at the Regency, where he is appearing with a small, well-rehearsed swing band, Mr. Stevens, whose first album (for Maverick Records) will be released next week, acquitted himself on Tuesday as a poised but diffident teenager whose musical personality is still mostly a blank slate. ...

Mr. Stevens's musical instincts seem mercifully uncontaminated by the ego-driven values of "American Idol." He has a pleasant, mild delivery and sings on pitch; his swinging instincts are palpable, if still tentative.


Missing the blogging boat.

One thing about being a blogging lawprof is that if a new Supreme Court case comes out and you let four hours pass without blogging about it, you seem to have missed the boat entirely. I was teaching my two-hour Conlaw class this morning and saw, during my ten minute break, that the Court had decided the long-awaited Takings Clause case. Since then, I've finished my class, answered my email, relocated to home, gotten some lunch, and read a few more pages of the morning newspaper I started reading at 6 a.m.

So is it too late to talk about the new case? Has everyone already said everything that can be said? The world whooshes by so quickly these days.

Cheeseburger in Paradise

I love Flickr... and Creative Commons.

Just got an email alerting me to this.

ADDED: And I love Blogger too! Despite my problems from time to time in the past, I'm really impressed by Blogger. It's been behaving really well lately. No hang-ups or lost posts in a long time. When you consider how many blogs Blogger handles, it's amazing! I've complained when things have gone badly, and it's easy not to notice when things go well. I just wanted to say, I've noticed.

"What we have is an essential love; but it is a good idea for us also to experience contingent love affairs."

So wrote Jean Paul Sartre to Simone de Beauvoir, who agreed to the arrangement. (Via A&L Daily.) She wrote:
"We were two of a kind, and our relationship would endure as long as we did: but it could not make up entirely for the fleeting riches to be had from encounters with different people."
Can a deal like this work? Would it help if you were a couple of geniuses like Jean Paul and Simone? Well, even for them, it fell short:
It was he who engaged in countless affairs, to which she responded on only a few occasions with longer-lasting passions of her own. Between the lines of her fiction and what are in effect six volumes of autobiography, it is also evident that De Beauvoir suffered deeply from jealousy. She wanted to keep the image of a model life intact. There were no children. They never shared a house and their sexual relations were more or less over by the end of the war, though for much of their life and certainly at the last, they saw each other daily.

With the posthumous publication in 1988 of her letters to Sartre, a good proportion of them written during the war years when he was at the front and then a prisoner, gaps that were left out of the autobiography are filled in. What the letters express is not only De Beauvoir's overarching love for a man who is never sexually faithful to her, a man she addresses as her "dear little being" and whose work she loyally edits. They also underline the mundanity of De Beauvoir's early accommodation to his wishes, her acceptance of what many women would reject as demeaning, her dependence.

The federal medical marijuana crackdown.

The NYT reports:
Federal agents executed search warrants at three medical marijuana dispensaries on Wednesday as part of a broad investigation into marijuana trafficking in San Francisco, setting off fears among medical marijuana advocates that a federal crackdown on the drug's use by sick people was beginning.

About 20 residences, businesses and growing sites were also searched, leading to multiple arrests, a law enforcement official said. Agents outside a club in the Ingleside neighborhood spent much of the afternoon dragging scores of leafy marijuana plants into an alley and stuffing them into plastic bags.

"The investigation led the authorities to these sites," the law enforcement official said. "It involves large-scale marijuana trafficking and includes other illicit drugs and money laundering."

In a separate investigation, a federal grand jury in Sacramento indicted a doctor and her husband on charges of distributing marijuana at the doctor's office in Cool, a small town in El Dorado County.

The doctor, Marion P. Fry, and her husband, Dale C. Schafer, were arrested at their home in nearby Greenwood and pleaded not guilty in federal court in Sacramento to charges of distributing and manufacturing at least 100 marijuana plants. The authorities said in a court document that Dr. Fry wrote a recommendation for medical marijuana to an undercover agent from the Drug Enforcement Administration even though there was a "lack of a medical record," and that her husband provided the agent with marijuana.
These actions come two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the extension of federal power even to marijuana grown by the user and authorized under a state law that attempted to legalize and regulate the medicinal use of marijuana. The federal crackdown we're seeing here is not targetting the homegrowing home-users like the plaintiffs in the Raich case.

"When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

That's another quote that didn't make the AFI list. (I write about the movie, "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," here.) John Tabin cites the quote as he debunks that compassionate lions story.

Hmmm... two animal posts in a row for me. How much more animals stories will I have? There are probably blogs that just do all animals stories. It would be very easy to monitor the daily stories about animals and link to them.

Another blog idea I had -- not for me to actually do, for somebody else -- would be to simulblog C-Span constantly. I had this idea while simulblogging the AFI quotes show. I think it's really fun to watch TV and just do a little post every fifteen minutes or so -- just some random observation or wisecrack or critique. Someone could do that with C-Span, just all the time, and do nothing else. Maybe someone already does.

Speaking of "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," the 60s on 6 channel of XM radio had a whole long show a few days ago, interviewing Gene Pitney and playing his various songs. I knew something strange was going on when I got in my car, put on my favorite station, heard "Town Without Pity" playing -- which isn't at all strange -- and realized it was being sung in German. Then there's Gene, presumably a pretty old man, talking about his career, talking about how the words to that song were translated into a blander story in German, because the story the song is based on involved a rape case in Germany and a straight translation would have been too upsetting.

Pitney goes on to talk about the cool song "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance," which many people hear before ever seeing the movie, think about when seeing the movie, then wonder, why wasn't the song in the movie? Well, the song was supposed to be in the movie and was written for the movie. It wasn't just some fan of the movie singing about a movie. Pitney didn't have any real explanation of why the song wasn't put in the movie. I suspect the nice poppy sound just didn't fit in the Western setting and was judged inappropriate -- perhaps by the director (John Ford). But why didn't Pitney know that? Maybe he did but didn't want to say.

Anyway, writing that last paragraph, I was trying to think of an example of a pop song that names a movie, but wasn't written in connection with the production of the movie, just somebody talking about a specific movie. The closest I could get were songs that referred to movies more generally, like "My Baby Loves the Western Movies," and "Watching the Detectives." Can you think of any? Use the comments, either to add to my generic movie reference songs or to supply examples of the kind of song I couldn't think of. It seems to me that people who write a lot of songs are always looking for subject matter and you'd think that they'd also go to the movies and then feel like writing about them. I'm sure there are plenty of songs inspired by movies that don't even mention movies -- you know, love songs written by people who don't have love stories in their personal life to draw upon.

June 22, 2005

The pangolin comes to town.

In Dhaka. The BBC reports:
The anteater is renowned for its razor-sharp scales, and has scent glands similar to those of the skunk which it uses to spray enemies.
Sounds awful, but click the link for a picture. It's really cool looking!

More about those movie quotes.

I TiVo-blogged the whole 3-hour AFI movie quotes show last night, so it's kind of silly to have anything more to say... but it just so happens I do.

Topic 1: short quotes. There were two one-word quotes that made the top 100, the predictable "Plastics" and "Rosebud." (Why not name your rock band "Rosebud Plastics"?) There were a lot of two-word quotes, including two that just repeated the same word. Those two were -- too bad I don't know HTML code to make the answer temporarily invisible so you can guess -- "Attica! Attica!" and "Toga! Toga!" Three other two-worders were "Hello, Gorgeous" and "Yo, Adrian" and "Here's Johnny" -- all are saying hi to a woman! Then there's "Lah-dee-dah, lah-dee-dah" -- which has always bugged me, because Annie Hall doesn't use it in the sense I've always heard it used in real life -- to mean "showily glamorous." One more two-word quote: "My precious." Think I got them all. Many three-word quotes. Basically, the quotes tended to be short.

Topic 2: movies I can't see why we care about. "Marathon Man." What is it? That repulsive dental torture scene? Are people out of their minds? Why would you look at one second of that?

Topic 3: attitude. Notice how many of the top quotes -- including #1 -- involve telling somebody off or daring them to confront the speaker. We love that.

Topic 4: final lines. People love a great closing line. For "Gone With the Wind," two characters got their closing line to count, even though Scarlett's is dopey.

Topic 5: does anyone say I love you? The synonyms for I love you on the list re "Here's looking at you, kid" and "You had me at `hello.'" Don't remind me of that "Love Story" quote. It's more of a precept than an expression of love.

That's all I've got... for now.

"A reward for ... complying"?

Should public schools give home-schooled kids access to extra-curriculars?
[M]any districts strongly resist the idea, citing inadequate resources, liability issues, questions about whether students would be displaced from teams and clubs, and concerns about whether home-schooled children could be held to the same academic and attendance standards. In some states, districts also lose state aid when children leave to be home schooled, although that is not the case in Pennsylvania....

Brian Barnhart, assistant superintendent of the 3,250-student Lampeter-Strasburg School District, said the school board remained unconvinced that home-schooled children could be held to the same standards as public school students.

Mr. Barnhart said many parents also worried that home-schooled students would take coveted positions from public school students. "We see extracurricular activities as a reward for students who are complying and who are working through school," he said.
I think the financial issues ought to be resolved fairly, but I'm not sure about the basis for the rest of this opposition. I suppose if schools kick regular students off sports teams for bad grades, those kids might feel resentful of the home-schoolers who get to be on the team. But then isn't the question really whether there's equivalent accountability imposed on the parents who home school for the academics that they teach?

"If you want to be the next president, it's time to start running..."

"...unless your name is Hillary Rodham Clinton or John McCain."
According to AP political writer Ron Fournier, now is the brief window of opportunity. Joe Biden "gets it," along with a few others.
McCain and Clinton will [try to] stay out of the fray for months — better to avoid the glare and grind as long as possible.
Seems to me McCain is jumping into the spotlight. He did a whole hour of "Meet the Press" on Sunday and talked about wanting to be President, even as he coyly declined to speculate about who he'd pick for VP.
If he seeks the presidency, McCain's challenge would be maintain his appeal to moderates while highlighting in the GOP nomination fight his support of Bush on Iraq and the war on terrorism.
I'm prepared to read that stock observation at least a thousand times in the next year or so. Am I already weary of the next election? Can't we let a year pass before we gear up again? I think it's that we like to talk about politics, but it's too much trouble to analyze issues in any sort of substantive way. It's so much more our thing to talk about personalities. Tom Cruise is acting strange... Biden is trying to look like a candidate...

June 21, 2005

The humanity of lions.

In the face of inhuman men.

UPDATE: It's a cute story, but consider the alternate interpretation.

Those 100 AFI quotes.

Okay, I'm game. I'll TiVo-blog, numbering each entry. Watch for continuous updates. Ah, it's good to be simulblogging again!

1. “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death.” That's the first one that made me want to type it out. That's # 91. Hmmm… I’m seeing a theme. Life affirmingness. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.” “Carpe diem.” “I’m the King of the World.” It’s all so damned positive… so far.

2. I singled out a few quotes in my post on the original 400 nominees, and coming it at #84 is one of my favorites: "Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast."

3. File under: movies no one feels any compunction about spoiling. "Soylent Green is people." (#77) Ray Romano: "Not a day went by when someone didn't yell that out in the school cafeteria."

4. "What a dump." (#62) The line everyone knows without seeing the movie. The movie is "Beyond the Forest," which I'm not going to recommend to you because I don't want to hear your bellyaching when you discover it's not a good movie. But I love this movie! I love when Bette Davis finally gets out of her damn little town and makes it to Chicago -- Chicago! of all places -- and she goes to a bar and, because she's a woman alone, she's perceived as a prostitute, and they kick her out. And then there's the part where she's pregnant, but she doesn't want the baby, so she just hurls herself down a hill. And all those great scenes where she stands by the window and looks at the smoking factory right outside and just burns with unexploded sexual passion. That is a movie! Oh, they scarcely tell us anything about this film, they just segue quickly to "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," with Elizabeth Taylor saying the same line. The line doesn't get counted a second time. The point seems to be it was such a line that it got quoted in the movies, quoted by a big, big movie star. But "Beyond the Forest," that's on my personal list.

5. We're getting into doubles for the same movie. A second quote from "Streetcar Named Desire." ("Stella" beat "kindness of strangers.") A second quote from "Casablanca." ("We'll always have Paris" beat "Of all the gin joints..." I'm predicting at least one more from "Casablanca.") A second quote from "The Graduate." ("Plastics" beat "You're trying to seduce me.")

6. Okay, enough baseball already! We're at the fourth or fifth baseball quote, including the mushy-headed "If you build it, he will come." (#39) "Luckiest man on the face of the earth" follows at #38.

7. Yes, another "Casablanca" quote: "Round up the usual suspects." (That must get extra credit for providing the title for another film.) Ah, now they tell us the total for "Casablanca" is going to be six. So three more to go. "Here's looking at you, kid" -- I assume. And "Play it, Sam." And, maybe the "hill of beans" quote. Or the final "this is the beginning" quote? Not sure what the third one left is.

8. "That movie is about so much. I think that it is so much about God...." So says Jennifer Grey about -- what else? -- "The Wizard of Oz." The quote at #23 is the dopey "There's no place like home." Aren't there 23 better lines in that film alone?

9. Another "Casablanca" at #20. Oh, it's "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

10. "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore." Now, that's a catchphrase. Remember when Peter Finch went on "The Tonight Show" to promote that movie -- "Network" -- and for some reason got to talking about how some of the people watching the show that night would be dead next week, and then he proceeded to die within the next week? Am I getting that right?

11. "Love means never having to say you're sorry." That's #13. Ugh! Pure crapola!

12. "Napalm in the morning" ... "Failure to communicate" ... "You talkin' to me?" ... "Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night."

13. "May the force be with you." George Lucas tells us he meant that to sum up and represent all religions and save us from the difficulty of scrutinizing the details that make them different.

14. "All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my closeup." #7. I approve!

15. The final "Casablanca" quote is "Here's looking at you kid." #5. (Doesn't Ingrid Bergman have the most beautiful lips?)

16. At #4: "Toto, I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." Only line on the list addressed to a dog.

17. Three left, and we're told one actor said two of them. Clearly, it's Marlon Brando, and as we see the first one is "I coulda been a contender," we know that "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" is either number 1 or number 2.

18. Second place goes to Brando, for "offer ... refuse." Why am I not thinking of the top quote? It should be obvious, right?

19. Oh, it's "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." Somehow, I had the feeling we'd already hit that one. So, sure. I would have put that first... in the world of American movie catchphrases.

20. Okay, that was three hours of slogging through the quotes. Three hours well spent? Who knows!

21. During the show, they pointed us to the AFI website to read a quote from "Mrs. Miniver" that wasn't on the list, but that, we were told, FDR had printed up and dropped from planes on Nazi-occupied Europe.
This is the people's war! It is our war! We are the fighters! Fight it, then! Fight it with all that is in us, and may God defend the right.

Of course, the war quote that made the list was the cynicism-promoting "I love the smell of napalm in the morning."

22. In the first entry to this post, I noted that the quotes seem to have been selected for their life-affirmingness. But toward the top of the list, things got darker. The top quotes are all pretty sad or cynical or nutty or negative. They stowed all that sunny stuff at the bottom of the list.

23. Adam at Throwing Things has some observations including the count of lines spoken by nonwhite actors: 3. All by men, I note. Two of the three make the speaker look bad ("Show me the money" and "stinking badges"), Adam notes. I note that the other one -- "They call me Mr. Tibbs" -- is too pretty. Why not one of Samuel Jackson's lines from "Pulp Fiction"? Adam asks. Which reminds me: how about Quentin Tarantino? Not a single line from him. Well, most of the lines they had drew attention to the actors that delivered them, not the person who happened to write them. This was not a celebration of screenwriters.

24. Here's the whole list. I took the trouble to figure out the percentage of quotes spoken by women: 25%.

Some Madison art.

Originally uploaded by John Cohen.
Just a little performance.

Here's the whole slideshow.


Durbin apologizing. I saw this on TV and found it ... icky. What are you really crying about, Dick? Your own miserable little career?

UPDATE: A reader writes:
Durbin is of Lithuanian descent. I don't know whether he's first generation ... or whether his grandparents arrived during the World War I wave. Durbin spent great energy courting the Lithuanian community in Chicago. Many Lithuanians fell under his spell and, for the first time, voted Democratic (those who emigrated in the late 1940s and early 1950s often voted Republican because they perceived that party as more anti-Communist).

I suspect Durbin's comparison of Gitmo to the Gulag and Concentration Camps tastes particularly sour to this community, which was pinched on one side by the Russians and on the other by the Germans. My dad--who rushed to Kroch's & Brentano's in Chicago when the first bootleg Russian copies of The Gulag Archipelago became available in this country--must have rolled over in his grave. My mother, whose best friend's husband froze to death during a seventeen-year stint in Siberia, is still spitting.

"Red on red."

How lovely!
"There is a rift... I'm certain that the nationalist Iraqi part of the insurgency is very much fed up with the Jihadists grabbing the headlines and carrying out the sort of violence that they don't want against innocent civilians."

Join us, insurgent nationalists!

"Oh, Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!"

Hey, the big AFI movie quotes show is tonight. Here's my earlier post on the subject. I'll be back with more later. Thanks to Throwing Things for reminding me.

Are politics genetic?

Maybe! Are you just influenced by your parents, or is there something very basic in your nature that makes you lean left or right? A new study, involving -- who would have guessed? -- twins.

The candidate's face.

Do we instinctively know whom to trust?

Don't retire, get demoted.

John Tierney responds to the criticism he received after he dared to suggest raising the age at which people qualify for Social Security benefits. We discussed the original column here, and his new column addresses the criticisms that you came up with.

Tierney's main point seems to be that older workers should be willing to take jobs they now consider beneath them. He calls this the "Adams Principle," in honor of John Quincy Adams, who served in Congress after he was President:
Adams started his new career at age 63, just about when the typical American man now retires. He wasn't especially spry, once calling his body "a weak, frail, decayed tenement battered by the winds and broken in on by the storm." Yet he stayed on the job until his death at age 80.

He accomplished so much in those years that he is remembered as a better congressman than president. You could call him an inverse example of the Peter Principle, someone who succeeded by being demoted below his level of incompetence.

But I prefer to draw a different lesson. Call it the Adams Principle for employees and employers: if the president can flourish after a demotion, so can anyone else.

"Is Batman a Republican?"

The Anchoress asks.

Like me, she heard the villain's name pronounced "Al Gore."

More American Muslims are going to law school.

According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The article is mostly about the support groups for Muslim law students. It lacks actual numbers on the extent of the increase and only speculates about the case of the increase. Is it 9/11 and the war on terror? Sheer demographics? ("The number of Muslims in the United States is disputed (from 1 million to 7 million), but it's believed to be growing through immigration, births and conversions .") Or is it the same increased interest in law found in the general population?

Quoted and pictured in the article is UW lawprof Asifa Quraishi.

("1 million to 7 million?" -- Is the available demographic information really so sketchy?)

June 20, 2005

Yeah, I hate Froot Loops too.

I love the first paragraph for this news story:
Saddam Hussein loves Doritos, hates Froot Loops, admires President Reagan, thinks Clinton was "OK" and considers both Presidents Bush "no good." He talks a lot, worries about germs and insists he is still president of Iraq.
Before he liked Cheetos, then he got some Doritos and forgot all about his Cheetos.

And here are the handsome soldiers who guarded Saddam and provided this useful info to GQ magazine. Saddam "was interested in their lives and even invited them back to Iraq when he returns to power."

I can't believe this artist.

BBC reports:
An art work purportedly made from excess fat from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has been sold for $18,000 (£9,862).

Switzerland-based artist Gianni Motti claims to have bought the fat from a clinic where the leader had a liposuction operation performed....

"I came up with the idea of because soap is made of pig fat, and I thought how much more appropriate it would be if people washed their hands using a piece of Berlusconi," Motti told Welwoche magazine.
We're asked to think the artist thought this up entirely independently of the widely known film/book "Fight Club." What do you think that bar of soap in Brad's hand is?

Whoever bought the thing is a fool for buying conceptual art where the concept is already extremely well known from a previously existing art work.

If you don't think the death penalty deters crime, why would you think the right to vote deters crime?

Jeremy asks.

"People can't just decide to be lesbians. It just doesn't work that way. Right?"

Tonya asks.

Apocalyptic politics.

There's so much pent-up political energy on the verge of release, waiting for a Supreme Court vacancy after all these long years. I wish the Justices felt a sense of responsibility about vacating their seats after a good long sit. Maybe after twenty years, a Justice should be saying: I've had my go at this. Time to rotate out and give someone else a shot. Time to give the political world a chance to express itself again by choosing someone new.

But they hold on so long. Who knows why? They think they own their seat in some special, personal way? They think no one else can do it quite so well? They willfully oppose giving the political forces an opening to affect the Court?

It's become so amazingly abnormal to replace a Supreme Court Justice that I worry about how foolish and combative we will be about it. Here's Elisabeth Bumiller's account of how, "Like hostile nations on the edge of apocalypse, Washington's political right and left are on code red over a Supreme Court vacancy that does not yet exist."

Was the artist Paul Gauguin a sex tourist?

That's the unromantic way to look at it:
HE romanticised himself as “a savage”, explaining and excusing his own nature. He deserted a wife, children and material security because of the conviction, shared by few, that inside him there existed a great painter. He was abusive, debauched, arrogant, derisive, intolerant, and possibly the loneliest man who ever lived. He also made most of the art of the 20th century possible....

The paintings from the South Seas look idyllic still, but in his dealings with some very young local girls Gauguin could easily be depicted as a sex tourist. He idealised nature and the “primitive” life as the only road to liberation, but even when he stood up for native rights he was as much of a colonist as any.

June 19, 2005

The best movies set in Paris.

What are the best movies set in Paris? I'm trying to make a list. Help me out.

Would McCain run as an independent?

On "Meet the Press" today:
MR. RUSSERT: Your hero, Theodore Roosevelt. Let me show you a picture of him. This is from Fargo, North Dakota, in September 1912. Mr. Roosevelt was then running as the bull moose candidate for president. He tried to win the Republican nomination; lost to Senator Taft. If John McCain ran for the presidency in the Republican primaries, carried the Independents, carried the crossovers, but didn't receive the Republican nomination, would you ever consider running as an Independent?

SEN. McCAIN: No, I don't think that that would be possible, number one. And number two is I keep emphasizing I'm of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. I see no other reason. By the way, a new book is out on Roosevelt's post-presidency year. It's very excellent. And one of the things he was seriously thinking about was running again in 1920. So...

MR. RUSSERT: You would never run as an Independent?

SEN. McCAIN: I cannot imagine a scenario where I would because, again, I would be leaving the party that I've been a part of and loyal to and worked for for all my political life.
Seems a bit inconsistent, doesn't it? He's devoted to the party because Roosevelt is his role model. Not very convincing. (Thanks to John for pointing this out.)

UPDATE: John cites the New Republic article "This Man Is Not a Republican."

Natural details.

I took a walk today on the Military Ridge Trail. There were luscious, juicy flowers:

Military Ridge Trail

Flowers that looked like fireworks:

Military Ridge Trail

And a mysterious hole in the woods:

Military Ridge Trail

Modernizing "Miss America."

If you had told me back in 1970 that "Miss America" would stay on TV until 2004, I'd have been surprised. It was already terribly outmoded. Now, they're trying to update it and get it started again. But what does it mean to modernize, 2005 style?
Instead of a once-a-year special that struggles to interest viewers, McMaster has pitched the idea of Miss America as a show aired over several nights, with viewers getting to know the contestants as they do on ''American Idol'' and other reality shows.

Whatever it is, Miss America's next TV outlet will likely scotch the saccharine speeches about world peace in favor of televised backbiting among the women vying for the crown.

''I don't think there's an audience for squeaky clean,'' said Shari Anne Brill, director of programming for ad-buying firm Carat. ''It has to be modernized in the way we've all been fed such reality. You need to see the tears, the drama, the makeup, the mascara, the crisis of finding out you have a zit.''

The insurgents' torture house.

The NYT reports:
Marines on an operation to eliminate insurgents that began Friday broke through the outside wall of a building in this small rural village to find a torture center equipped with electric wires, a noose, handcuffs, a 574-page jihad manual - and four beaten and shackled Iraqis....

The manual recovered - a fat, well-thumbed Arabic paperback - listed itself as the 2005 First Edition of "The Principles of Jihadist Philosophy," by Abdel Rahman al-Ali. Its chapters included "How to Select the Best Hostage," and "The Legitimacy of Cutting the Infidels' Heads."

"Everyone in my circle crinkles their nose when his name comes up."

The WaPo seems to know that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales is one of three frontrunners for the next Supreme Court opening and that hardcore conservatives aren't too happy about it.
[A] Gonzales nomination could trigger internal dissension among GOP activists, some of whom have warned the White House against naming the attorney general. At a meeting of conservative groups last week to plot strategy for a possible Supreme Court nomination, one leader spoke out against a Gonzales appointment, according to people in the room.

"Some of the groups share that concern," said Jan LaRue, chief counsel for the Concerned Women for America, who attended the session. While she noted that her organization has not taken a position, she predicted that if Gonzales is chosen, some activists "may not as vigorously support" the nomination, while Roberts or Luttig "would certainly have broader support across the coalition of conservatives."

"Everyone in my circle crinkles their nose when his name comes up," another activist said of Gonzales. "It would be a disaster if that happened."

On abortion, the most volatile test issue for both sides in any Supreme Court fight, Gonzales has offered only certain clues. Conservative activists complain he was not vigorous enough in enforcing a Texas law requiring parental consent before minors could obtain abortions when he was a state Supreme Court justice. On several occasions, he has said he recognizes that the Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion is "the law of the land," while once telling an interviewer that "how I feel about it personally may differ with how I feel about it legally."

Happy Father's Day.

Here I am -- long ago -- with my father Richard Adair Althouse.