September 24, 2005

I love HBO, but...

I am so mad at them for cancelling "The Comeback." I thought they were known for giving a show the chance to catch on, and "The Comeback" was notorious for the way people didn't get it at first. (Chez Althouse, we got it, but for some reason, people found it hard to get.) But only 1 million viewers saw the finale. I guess there's a limit to what is worth supporting.

What's wrong with people? The low popularity of that show makes me feel so lonely!

"Parents mourning their children in uniform lost in Iraq, and uncountable families motivated for first time to protest."

That's language found in an AP report about today's antiwar protest in Washington. How can that pass as professional journalism? The U.S. did not send "children" to Iraq. I get the poetic aspiration entailed in combining "parents," "lost," and "children," but save it for an opinion piece. And if the "families" are "uncountable," how do you manage to know what their motivations are and whether they have protested on prior occasions? How do you even know they are "families"?


Tung Yin watches all three new alien invasion TV shows. They all sound really bad. Though maybe if you get really excited about fractals, you'd like "Threshold."

Webpage design.

Have you ever stopped reading a webpage because the design changed? I used to check Memeorandum several times a day. It was my favorite place to go to see what news stories people were blogging about. Now, I have to force myself to go there, and I feel frustrated as soon as I see it. I mourn the loss of the old design. That page, to me, used to look like the conversation about the news. Now, I feel that I might be able to get a sense of the conversation if I studied the page for a while. But I can't stand to look at it, because it just rubs it in how much I miss the old Memeorandum.

"The real question - putting it baldly - is whether there is going to be a revolution."

A BBC opinionwriter muses about the American response to Hurricane Katrina:
Will the American social and economic system - which creates the wealth that pays for billionaires' private jets, and the poverty which does not allow for a bus fare out of New Orleans - be addressed?

It has been tinkered with before of course, sometimes as a result of natural disasters. There were for instance plenty of buses on hand for this week's Rita evacuation.

But the system's fundamentals - no limit on how far you can fly and little limit on how low you can fall - remain as intact as they were in the San Francisco gold rush.
The headline for this unbelievably smug piece is "Katrina prompts charity not change."

UPDATE: This post got a strange link from Andrew Sullivan:
ALTHOUSE ON THE BEEB: Picked up by Instapundit and the Corner as more evidence of wretched BBC anti-American bias, I read the piece assailed by Ann Althouse. It's an opinion piece, not news reporting, so obviously a little more lee-way for bias should be allowed. And yes, there's a bizarre assumption that there is no welfare net in America - or that we haven't just expanded it to cover millions of wealthy seniors, or that welfare rolls haven't been reduced by almost a half in a few years, and so on.
Was my post about the BBC being biased? Did I somehow not perceive that the writer I called a "BBC opinionwriter" was "writing an an opinion piece, not news reporting"? You'd think my use of the term "opinionwriter" would have nailed that down rather hard! But thanks for the ridiculously inappropriate patronizing, Andrew! Check out the title of my post! It's awfully damned obvious that I'm writing about the stupidity of this one writer's notion that the United States may be headed for a revolution, which Sullivan completely agrees with in his post, even though for some reason he writes as if he's taking issue with me. It's quite apparent that Sullivan is mainly concerned with things that Glenn Reynolds and Jonah Goldberg said at their sites when they linked to me, but he didn't bother to write accurately about me. I think if Sullivan is going to use my name in his post title, he ought to take care about acting as if he's got a problem with me, when, in fact, he doesn't. But Sullivan doesn't read my blog, I'm almost sure. He just reads Instapundit and the Corner. To him, I'm just an empty link found there.

"An overly compliant personality."

The psychologist explains Lynndie England. Does that description make her seem any less responsible for her actions? I'd say being "overly compliant" is one of the character flaws, like having a hot temper, that might lead a person to commit a crime. Slapping "personality" onto it doesn't impress me.

"I’m like, totally in love with Rush Limbaugh right now! This is awful!”

The Anchoress has a solution for the terrible divisiveness in American politics. If only you could have a sexy dream about some political figure you feel quite hostile toward.

September 23, 2005

"It feels like icepicks, almost."

Says FoxNews's Shepard Smith, suffering in the wind in Beaumont, Texas. Sometimes, I'm laughing at him, but I also feel awfully sorry for him. And kind of worried.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lots of talk about Smith's hat and underlying is-it-real hair, which we got to inspect when the hat blew off.

An old song comes to mind.

I'm watching the news reports, talking about Hurricane Rita aiming straight at Lake Charles, Lousiana. Maybe like me, you've got this song running through your head:
When I get off of this mountain, you know where I want to go?
Straight down the Mississippi river, to the Gulf of Mexico
To Lake Charles, Louisiana, little Bessie, girl that I once knew
She told me just to come on by, if there's anything she could do.

How is TimesSelect doing?

The NYT now requires online readers to pay to get to the op-ed columnists, and the paper hasn't written any articles about the new program since last May. What indication do we have of how well it's doing? I notice that the new "Most Emailed Articles" list is nearly bereft of the columns. Only one, by Paul Krugman, makes the top 25 in the last 24 hours list, way down at #14.

The columnists in the past were usually prominent on the list. Check the last 7 days list, which at the moment covers the period before the program began. It's got 7 of the columnists you now have to pay for in the top 25, with only one being from the pay-to-read period, down at #14. And 3 of the top 5 are from the regular columnist, from back when they were free. And look at the last 30 days. The top 4 are all by the regular columnists. 16 of the top 20 are. None of these are pay-to-read articles.

Isn't this squandering their popularity?

Me, as interviewee.

Remember that interview I referred to back on August 12th? Well, if you do, you are a strangely intense reader of this blog! Anyway, the interview is finally available: here.


Art, sex, and Scalia.

Antonin Scalia gives a talk about law and art at the Juilliard School. One topic: the 1990 statute -- brought on by Mapplethorpe and the "Piss Christ" -- that required the NEA to take decency and values into account as it made its arts grants. Scalia's apt comment:
"I can truly understand the discomfort with government making artistic choices, but the only remedy is to get government out of funding."
Another topic was law and pornography, about which Scalia opined:
"The line between protected pornography and unprotected obscenity lies between appealing to a good healthy interest in sex and appealing to a depraved interest, whatever that means."
What is less sexy than Scalia, et al, deciding what is "a good healthy interest in sex"?

And now, for a new entitlement.

A reader sends this link to an article (which Eugene Volokh linked to a few days ago):
Danish activists for the disabled are staunchly defending a government campaign that pays sex workers to provide sex once a month for disabled people.

Opposition parties call the program, officially known as ''Sex, irrespective of disability,'' immoral.

''We spend a large proportion of our taxes rescuing women from prostitution. But at the same time we officially encourage carers to help contact with prostitutes,'' said Social-Democrat spokesperson Kristen Brosboel.

Responded Stig Langvad of the country's Disabled Association: ''The disabled must have the same possibilities as other people. Politicians can debate whether prostitution should be allowed in general, instead of preventing only the disabled from having access to it.''
So, really, what was the first question that came into your mind? Wasn't it: How disabled do you have to be? (At the Roberts hearings Teddy Kennedy made a reference to 50 million as the number of Americans With Disabilities.)

I think it's creepy for the government to be deciding how often people ought to have sex and to be keeping official records about the persons participating in this program.


IN THE COMMENTS: A coinage. You've heard of the Nanny State. This is the Poonanny State.

"It's like looking at a murder... The first time is bad. After that, you numb up."

Watching the re-flooding of New Orleans. "[A] waterfall at least 30 feet wide poured over and through a dike that had been used to patch breaks in the Industrial Canal levee," and Rita has not yet arrived.

"It's Armageddon."

Said Orrin Hatch, referring to the upcoming confirmation battle over whomever George Bush picks to replace Sandra Day O'Connor. But aren't the Democrats hoping they've signalled to Bush that he must pick someone more moderate than John Roberts for this next slot? Hatch seems to already know that he won't: "I don't think the president is going to be bullied into putting somebody up that he doesn't believe in."

Ridiculous comparison blocks entry to article I want to read.

I love "Curb Your Enthusiasm," and as I eagerly await the premiere of the new season, I jump at the chance to read an article in the NYT about the terrific comedian who plays Larry's agent. But the article starts this way:
Just as there has never been another lead character on television quite like Larry David - it would be hard to imagine Ralph Kramden or Ray Barone picking up a prostitute to qualify for the carpool lane to Dodger Stadium - there has never been a sidekick quite like Jeff Greene, the fictional Mr. David's fictional manager.
All right. I have no interest in Ray Barone (and, in fact, have to guess at who he is -- he's the one "everyone" supposedly loves, I presume). But what the hell are you saying about Ralph Kramden?

Quite aside from whether Ralph was the kind of guy who would enlist a prostitute in one of his ridiculous little schemes (maybe he was) and whether such a plot could have run on TV in the years 1956 and 1957 when "The Honeymooners" was made: Dodger Stadium did not open until 1962 (and the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn in '56-'57), there was no such thing as a carpool lane back then, and Ralph Kramden did not have a car, he didn't even have a sofa.

As to "there has never been a sidekick quite like Jeff Greene": well, I love the character Jeff Greene, but if you want to bring up the question of great sidekicks and you've already mentioned Ralph Kramden, respect must be paid.

For a "Honeymooner" era traffic-beating scheme:
Ralph: It's rush hour. We'll never be able to get across town in this traffic.

Ed: Trust me. We'll go by sewer.
Now, let me go read that article.

So you want to major in video games?

You certainly can. Your parents might think it's self-indulgent compared to traditional majors, so you might have to explain economic realities to them. It's a $10 billion-a-year industry, and it needs people trained in the complex technology and design it takes to make a game.

IN THE COMMENTS: Warnings that employees do poorly in the video game industry.

September 22, 2005

The Apprentice, the Donald.

"I'm going to divide the teams into men versus women. The reason I like doing it this way is sometimes it's hard telling you apart. This way it's a lot easier." [So said Donald Trump setting up the competition in the first episode of Season 4.]

Huh? What the hell??

Chris: "I think it's the best way."

Me, blogging: "Let me quote you. Why do you think it's the best way?"

Chris: "You said it's the best way!"

Oh, yeah. Right. It is the most distinctive difference between people, and the interaction among women and among men is more nuanced and fascinating than the way men relate to women and women to men, which is more stereotypical.

Hey, wait. The first test, after they are divided into a male team and a female team, is a running test. Totally unfair! Of course, the men win. It's a shoe thing! Now, I'm pissed.

Now the show's over, and I must say, it was excellent -- much better than Martha Stewart's version last night. Chris and I agreed that the whole style of the production -- the suspenseful editing, the music, the attitude -- were much more absorbing and exciting. The boardroom scene was far superior. We laughed a lot at how Melissa behaved, richly deserving the ouster she got. All the other women hated her, and she proclaimed that women do all hate her, because of her beauty (though she was no more beautiful than the other women), and that, in fact, she could not work with women. Ha!

Well, we had a great time watching this show, and it made Martha's show seemed crabbed and small by comparison. Sorry, Martha! And I like Martha more than Donald. But it's just so fun not liking Trump. We often laugh just to see him walking onto the set, making his idiotically stern little faces.

UPDATE: By the way, I instantly loved Alla, the Russian immigrant. And when she was the first to speak up about Melissa, just as everyone was focusing on the project manager, and she laid it right out why Melissa should be the target, my bond became permanent. I want Alla to win.

Audible Althouse.

Episode 5, the new podcast, is suddenly available and utterly new!

"I know this is a metaphor, but it is the only way I feel I can protest the unjust occupations."

Said a performance artist, Hala Faisal, who took off her clothes in public, displaying the words "Stop the War." Where's the metaphor? Supposedly, taking off your clothes ≈ disarmament.

I like the way the lawyer got the charge of public nudity dismissed on the technicality that the summons failed to state which body part she exposed, but that he had also loftier arguments:
Women in New York are entitled to bare their breasts under "equal protection" rules since men are allowed to bare theirs, ... and anyone may bare all if they do so during a "play, performance, exhibition or show."

Inadvisably brusque answer to a question actually given by me today.


Really, I'm sorry. That was so inappropriate. Yet apt.

Sentence of the Day.

The award goes to David Montgomery of the Washington Post for this juicy mass of info in the form of a sentence:
Plump couches, radical books, free WiFi, $5 microbrews, killer sound system, a menu that runs from catfish and collard greens to peanut butter, banana and honey sandwiches: a cool, comfortable, slightly bourgy haven for a hot, bothered, slightly bourgy peace movement.

"It's just your mission to mow down everything in your sight because you can."

We're getting damned sick of your SUV of a baby stroller:
[M]any are beginning to suspect that the new big strollers are the latest fissure in a long-standing divide between parents and nonparents, a disagreement that usually goes unspoken, over who has made the right choice in life.

"These women have a child, and they're like, 'Look at me,' " said Ophira Eisenberg, 33, a stand-up comedian from the West Village who refers to oversize baby strollers as lawn mowers. "It's like this baby is more important than anything, and everyone should be bowing down because they created life."
I've never understood the charm of the oversized baby stroller. They should revive the old term baby carriage. Why would you want to look and feel bulkier and less maneuverable? I would think someone with a baby would look for ways to keep a sleek profile -- just like you try to lose the weight you gained during pregnancy.

But then I don't see the charm of the SUV.

But even if you like these extra-large possessions, why doesn't it bother you that they annoy other people? Don't you see why other people infer that you just don't care about how you make them feel?

Actually, my pet peeve about strollers isn't about how large they've gotten. (I assume this trend is worse in NYC, where people are into the "Sex and the City" trendy strollers and where walkways are more crowded.) My problem is the way people use strollers to immobilize older children who ought to be encouraged to walk. The dopey faces of the children who have adapted to this restraint really disturb me. What is happening to their minds and bodies?

And the Committee votes yes.

It's a 13-5 vote for John Roberts, with both Wisconsin Senators, Feingold and Kohl, doing the right thing. The noes are: Dianne Feinstein of California, Joseph Biden of Delaware, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts, Charles Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin of Illinois.

The ultimate media experience.

Watching the TV news coverage of the malfunctioning plane on which you are a passenger as it comes in for an emergency landing.

"Radically orientated," but too stoned to do anything.

The FBI on John Lennon.

Coffee and Donuts.

I prefer the spelling "doughnuts," but I'm writing "donuts," because, officially, we call what we do at the Law School "Coffee and Donuts." It's just a little morning session in the faculty library for students to listen to some faculty member talk about something or other, generally some activity aside from the usual Law School duties that the professor engages in. Today, at 8:30, I'm going to talk about blogging .

So, I need to get my act together a little earlier than usual this morning and must cut short this morning's blogging. But I'll be back later.

You've seen movies where the actors take off their clothes.

But would you like to see stills from famous movies where they actors have been digitally removed and only the clothes remain? This is a quiz — in Excel document form: here. See how many of the sixty films you can identify!

"Objectively disordered."

The Catholic Church is going to bar homosexuals from entering the priesthood -- even if they are celibate:
Although the document has not been released, hints of what it will say are already drawing praise from some Catholics, who contend that such a move is necessary to restore the church's credibility and who note that church teaching bars homosexuals, active or not, from the priesthood.

Other Catholics say, though, that the test should be celibacy, not innate sexuality, and they predict resignations from the priesthood that can worsen the church's deep shortage of clergy.
One explanation given is that the Church has long considered homosexual orientation to be "objectively disordered."

UPDATE: Sorry for misspelling "celibate" again. Corrected now. Remember to celebrate celibacy!

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm not participating in the comments on this one, but there is a huge argument going on in there! Enter at your own risk. I generally avoid arguing with anyone about religious beliefs. If you don't agree with the beliefs of a religion, then you don't believe in the religion. Doesn't the problem solve itself -- in a free country? Not entirely. Children have religion imposed on them, and members of a religion may want to change the beliefs of the religion rather than leaving it. You might think you know what the true substance of your religion is, that the leaders of it have gone wrong, and that you have a responsibility to rescue it from those who have distorted it. Anyway, if such things interest you, there are a lot of vigorous comments inside to read. The comments are not one-sided and do not go over the line into hate speech, in my opinion.

September 21, 2005

"Can we just have the corporate people over here and the creative people over here?"

Says a contestant on "Apprentice: Martha Stewart." You're watching, of course, aren't you? The group has to divide itself into two teams, and they go with creative vs. corporate -- the artist-y folk (like the chef) and the entrepreneurial types. The creatives call themselves "Matchstick," and the corporates call themselves "Primarius." I think we can see who's ahead at this point.

Ooh, they are tasked with writing a children's book. [My son] Chris says he thinks the tasks on Martha's "Apprentice" will be better than on Donald Trump's "Apprentice." I say, "Yeah, they'll be more creative, with more interesting visuals. Less just trying to sell something and more about the actual aesthetics. Which will be more fun to watch." Chris: "Remember, you've always thought the best task on 'The Apprentice' was that art related one?" Yes, the one where they had to choose an artist and then put on a gallery show. That was the best episode, by far. There's a lot of potential for Martha's shows to be like that one.

The corporates seem pretty creative and they interact well. The creatives get frazzled. The creative doing the writing stresses that she needs quiet, and another member of the group mocks her for that. The corporates -- Primarius -- feel they are at a disadvantage, but that feeling seems to be working as an advantage. The creatives run into trouble about how "dark" the story is (but fairy tales are dark aren't they?).

Chris notes that the tasks on this show won't feel as much like infomercials as the things they've been doing on Trump's show, because the whole Martha Stewart empire is itself a big product for which the show really is kind of an informercial. "But it won't feel like an infomercial." Yes, Corporate America, lay those informercials on me so that I don't even notice. It's so much nicer that way.

The Matchstick project manager is a bizarre control freak: "I am actually the leader of this team." Oh, he is so going today. If his team loses. And they do.

Now, let's see how the boardroom is done on Martha's "Apprentice." We totally expect the project manager (Jeff) to go, and if that's just what happens, there's a problem with the show. Something surprising needs to happen in the boardroom. Maybe Jeff will play his cards well and make the writer woman look more to blame. There should be some good back and forth, the way there is on Trump's show.

The reward scene for the winning team is always the worst part of Trump's show. On Martha's show, a beautiful dinner is served, and it goes nicely with Martha's persona, making it a more integral part of the show.

In the boardroom, Martha questions the dark themes of the story. A great, tense, blaming debate goes on, as the writer (Dawn) and a jerky guy (Jim) get chosen by Jeff to face the final cut. Hey, have you noticed there are no black people on the show? No Asians, either I think.

After the break -- which had a promo for Trump's show, which starts tomorrow -- there's a good final judgment scene, with Martha saying, "So Jeffrey, you just don't fit in." Will she say that every week?

As he leaves, we see her writing him a sort of thank-you note. Like an etiquette thing.

In the promo for next week's show, the voiceover says "Who will be the next to get Martha's letter?" So I think maybe the letter will be emphasized more than her equivalent of Trump's "You're fired." How will that work? What will they do with it? I'm thinking they'll try to blend the polite surface with the brutality of getting fired, that combination of prettiness and ruthlessness that Martha represents.

Is Martha as good as Trump? She didn't create as much stress in the boardroom. Chris says Trump's show has been declining and people have gotten tired of his boardroom act. "Maybe her persona will be less tiring than his." Me: "But maybe not as exciting." Chris: "There are more subtle ways that it being her version of 'The Apprentice' makes it more exciting throughout the show."

Bottom line: Excellent first show. I'll keep watching.

"But what's with people putting 'a's in their names where they don't belong? "

Said Volokh Conspiracy's Kevan Choset after someone pointed out that he'd spelled Katharine Hepburn's first name wrong. Cute!

"This is all that liberals like myself can fairly expect from President Bush's nominees."

Lawprof Bruce Ackerman on John Roberts:
The only way for Democrats to reverse the slow rightward drift in constitutional law is by winning elections. Within the present political context, it is fair to insist that President Bush recognize that he lacks a popular mandate for revolutionary constitutional change. In nominating Roberts, he has indeed made this crucial concession. Rather than oppose the choice, Democrats should use it as a benchmark for the next nominee. Though Roberts might be an appropriate replacement for the right-wing William Rehnquist, the Democrats should insist on a more centrist justice to occupy Sandra Day O'Connor's swing seat.
That sounds like exactly the right position for the Democrats. Here's what I said on the subject, by the way, last Friday:
I'd say [the Democrats] should express their deep reservations, invoking issues that matter to their constituents, but still vote for him, and say that it's because of the agile mind their astute questioning enabled him to display at the hearings. This should be combined with a warning to Bush that he needs to nominate someone more moderate to replace O'Connor.

"In my judgment, in my experience, but especially in my conscience I find it is better to vote yes than no."

Senator Leahy does the right thing and supports John Roberts.
"Judge Roberts is a man of integrity. I can only take him at his word that he does not have an ideological agenda."
Interesting. The hearings were full of statements by Democrats that it's not enough to be asked to take Roberts at his word that he's not an ideologue. Leahy sounds like he's admitting that the Senate's role is weak. At the same time, he's preserving room for himself to say later that Roberts deceived the Senators.

Remember what Hillary Clinton said about the vote on Roberts: "They will do what they think is in their interest, however they define it." Did Leahy successfully analyze his interests? Or do you "take him at his word" that he's following his conscience?

"Despite being ostensibly about gambling and gangsters, Revolver is full of obscure references to Kabbalah..."

"... with strange mentions of numbers and bizarre references to 'ego versus the light' - both Kabbalah allusions."

Is Madonna to blame for the depletion of all value from the once-admired Guy Ritchie?

"Two Danish artists who want to get their ironic anti-war message heard by ordinary Iraqi people."

The BBC reports:
The posters [pasted up in Baghdad] show elephants, mice and cats together with messages like "Trust in Propaganda" and "Kill your Enemy".

Underneath it says in small writing "...and keep life complicated".

The three designs were created by artists Claus Rohland and Jan Egesborg, who say they want to show Iraqis that - despite Danish participation in the US-led invasion - most Danes are against what is happening in Iraq....

The third design shows the three mice (a common theme in all three pictures) holding up a massive elephant, and the message "Support the Wrong One... and keep life complicated".

"We wanted to create a kind of small story around these three white mice, with a hidden meaning that makes people think," said Mr Rohland.

"It ought to be the elephant who is afraid of the mice - but who do the elephant and the mice represent? The Iraqi government? America? Denmark? It depends how you look at it."
Thanks a whole hell of a lot, Danish artists! What the common people of Iraq have been missing is Euro-irony. Nice touch writing in English too. It really helped the BBC pick up the story for you.

Time to go after the pro-sex feminists again.

Here's another article about Ariel Levy's book "Female Chauvinist Pigs."
"Women had come so far," or so the thinking went, that "we no longer needed to worry about objectification or misogyny." If male chauvinist pigs "regarded women as pieces of meat, we would outdo them and be Female Chauvinist Pigs: women who make sex objects of other women and of ourselves."

Well, Ms. Levy is having none of it, and she is not the only one. Even Erica Jong seems to feel that something has gone wrong. Known for popularizing the idea that a woman may want consequence-free sex, Ms. Jong today declares: "Being able to have an orgasm with a man you don't love . . . that is not liberation." It isn't? Someone should tell this to Annie, a blue-eyed 29-year-old who admits to Ms. Levy that she "used to get so hurt" after a night of sex that didn't yield an emotional bond. Now she has gotten over it, or tried to: "I'm like a guy," she brags.

How did this happen? Why did feminism sell its soul to the sexual-liberation movement in the first place? After all, the original feminists were fighting to be taken seriously. Hugh Hefner, by contrast, said that his ideal girl "resembles a bunny . . . vivacious, jumping--sexy." There seems to be a contradiction here.
First of all, doesn't anyone read "Fear of Flying" anymore? Well, everyone read it when it came out, and I can assure you that the Erica Jong character in that book, after pursuing the "zipless f**k" for 300 pages, finally gets the opportunity and realizes it's a bad idea. ("My zipless f**k! My stranger on the train! Here I'd been offered my very own fantasy. The fantasy that had riveted me to the vibrating seat of the train for three years in Heidelberg and instead of turning me on, it had revolted me!") So what's with this "even Erica Jong" business?

Second of all, doesn't anyone remember the Andrea Dworkin/Catharine MacKinnon era anymore? There was a whole theme back then about how pro-sex liberals were ruining feminism (and how real feminism had to be very hostile pornography). There's an indignant little anthology from 1990 called "Sexual Liberals and the Attack on Feminism." Feminists have been fighting forever about whether to be pro- or anti- sex or something in between.
It may be that, like Ms. Levy, a lot of feminists now regret getting in bed with Mr. Hefner. Yet if you mention the word "modesty" within 20 feet of them their heads spin around like Linda Blair in "The Exorcist." This is where they get stuck. Only if feminism can embrace the more traditional ways that men and women have courted throughout the ages can it have anything practical to offer young women. To the extent that feminists dismiss as worthless anything that is perceived as "backtracking," they only help to perpetuate the "raunch culture"--even as they deplore its effects.

Take a beach scene that Ms. Levy recounts, when the male "friends" of two girls pressure them to take off their suits. Soon surrounded by a circle of 40 screaming men, the girls say "no way!" but eventually give in and spank each other to appease the crowd.
Hmmm.... I wonder who's going to buy Ms. Levy's book? There doesn't seem to be anything new here about feminism -- which it apparently distorts ridiculously. Maybe the intended reader is the virtuous, puritanical sort who finds these lame sex stories exciting.

The author of the linked opinion piece (from the WSJ) is Wendy Shalit, who, we're told, wrote a book called "A Return to Modesty: Discovering the Lost Virtue."

Well, I'm sure Shalit encounters plenty of feminists who don't like her word "modesty," but her assumption that they have bought into a Playboy vision of free sex is absurd. They just hear social conservatism in that word. It's quite possible to reject social conservatism without falling into some exaggerated libertinism. Shalit's title advocates going back to old-fashioned values, so it's no wonder most feminists balk. They rightly want new ways to think about what is good for women, not a re-insertion into the old set-up.

And as for that "Exorcist" imagery: that's a pretty old cliché. Can we have something fresh?

"If you handcuff yourself to a tree you would die fairly quickly but maybe not as quickly as you would like."

When I clicked to this story from Drudge ("Artist died 'handcuffed to tree'..."), I assumed it was about an art project that had gone terribly wrong, but it turns out to be a suicide by a mentally ill man who happened to be an artist. His sister is quoted: "His idea was to kill himself but he couldn't do it because he couldn't upset everybody, including the people who would find his body." She speculated that he chose this method, selecting a very remote place, so that no one would ever see his body. In fact, only his skeleton was found. How do they know it wasn't murder? He tried the same method of suicide before -- and spent four days freeing himself after he changed his mind. Indications are that he changed his mind the last time too. Very sad.

Not So Lovely Rita.

Watching the new hurricane, hoping for the best.

September 20, 2005

Exactly how dorky...

Is a recumbent bicycle?

The Loneliness of the Recumbent Bicyclist

There are lots of them here in Madison. I thought I'd warn you.

Just a flower for your enjoyment, dear readers.


Audio of that radio show.

You know, the Pundit Review Radio show I did while drawing this? Listen to the audio here.

"When we work so hard to open academics and other opportunities for women, what kind of return do we expect to get for that?"

Does a woman squander her elite education when she opts to say home with her children? Many of today's college women say that's what they plan to do.

What they actually end up doing is a different matter, but I wonder if college women are more likely to say that in the end they will stay home than they are to actually do it.

When the time comes to actually make the choice, there will be some hardcore financial realities to face. (My advice: If this is what you want to do, never let your spending reach the level of your income. Stay on a restricted budget, and always view the money you've brought into the family as extra, so you don't have to cut back to meet your aspiration to take the childraising years off. Don't get addicted to the money.)

Another consideration is whether the woman will have a husband (or other partner) who will share her goal. Will a man who marries a highly educated and accomplished woman (who has high earning power) really want her to stay home and raise the kids? Some men will. Maybe more men than women like this arrangement. The article quotes a guy saying "I think that's sexy."

I wonder whether the decision to become a one-earner family is more available to those at the highest income level. Maybe not. These people may be the most likely to get addicted to the money. And surely, they are most able to pay for nannies and other child care. The less the woman makes, the less of a financial sacrifice it is when she stays home (assuming the partner makes a decent income), and in fact, one could come out ahead. Consider all the expenses of going to work: childcare, transportation, clothing, eating out.

Anyway, the linked article makes it seem as though it has discovered a new cultural development, but I think this issue has been a live one all along. Since the early 70s there have been older women carping about younger women not sufficiently valuing all the work that had been done opening doors for them and women who want to stay home complaining that [other women are failing to recognize that] their choice is equally worthy. The one thing I don't hear so much anymore is people questioning whether to hire or educate women because they will just quit when they have children. Oh, but look at that quote in the post title again. That's from Harvard's director of undergraduate admissions.

UPDATE: Bracketed material in the last paragraph added (for clarity).

IN THE COMMENTS: This is an especially interesting forum in which many readers grapple with personal and economic issues. One commenter becomes distressed about what she interprets as sexist stereotypes.

MORE: The linked article -- a front-page NYT piece -- is based on a survey, which had some pretty obviously weak methodology, as Jack Shafer pointed out in Slate on Tuesday. Gelflog has more, including the text of the questions asked.

What's the causal connection between blog traffic and blog advertising?

Gordon Smith observes that all but three of the highest traffic blogs have advertising. What's the causal connection? I doubt that having ads makes you popular, though there is a slight chance seeing ads gives people the feeling the blog is popular/professional and makes them want to keep visiting. It's more likely that having high traffic makes you more likely to accept ads, because you can charge more for them.

And maybe the sort of person who writes a popular blog is also the sort of person who would both want to make money and accept the idea of ads on the blog. That is, the sort of person who would have a thing against ads also tends to be the sort of person who writes in a way that doesn't appeal to the crowd -- but I note that Gordon didn't study how many lower traffic blogs have ads. By the way, Gordon does not have ads.

Note: He's relying on the TTLB traffic ranking, which is limited to Site Metered blogs. He also notes the TTLB problem of blogs that share a Site Meter, making it look as though each blog gets much more traffic that it does. I note that if advertisers then rely on the Site Meter, they are being duped.

September 19, 2005

Audible Althouse.

Podcast #4 is up now. 26 minutes. Try it!

Along Lake Mendota.

Yesterday, I walked the length of the path along the southern shore of Lake Mendota. Out near Picnic Point, the lake was a sea of reeds:

Lake path

Ah, there's a patch of water.

Lake path

I liked the look of the eutrophic surface of the lake, with the state capitol building in the distance:

Lake path

The UW campus paradise:

Lake path

But don't let the idyllic scenery fool you. You are living in hell:

Lake path

UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers. But... do people understand my last line? Is it too enigmatic? I hate to get out my sledgehammer, but I think a lot people are misreading "You are living in hell." I'm not saying that graffiti makes me realize that Madison is hell! I'm interpreting the mental state of the graffiti writer, whom I disapprove of.

TimesSelect: irritation upon irritation.

I just took the trouble to upgrade to TimesSelect, which is free for me, as a home delivery subscriber. It took about five minutes, then I pressed on the link to go to the TimesSelect page, and I clicked a link to the first article, only to get the first sentence followed by a pitch to subscribe to TimesSelect. And there is no button that says "I'm already a member" or some such thing. I can't figure out how to get in now.

Last week, by the way, I tried to activate TimesSelect and kept getting to a page telling me to try again or, if I continue to have problems, to call a telephone number. Finally, I called the phone number, got through the menus and the hold waiting time, only to get to a person who told me the page had technical problems that day and I should try again on another day.

All I can say is, if you're going to introduce a new barrier to the material, you ought to make sure it's as minimal as you can make it. I know a lot of people are irritated by putting the material behind a pay wall in the first place, and the Times has decided to go ahead and cause that irritation. But they really ought to avoid extraneous irritations! Especially when they are trying to get the new system off the ground.

What I really want to know is whether I can use the NYT Link Generator to link to the articles behind the wall. If not, I probably won't blog about them at all. It's awfully perverse to play up your influential opinion-leaders by making it harder for them to actually get into the interplay of opinion in the blogosphere. Or is the Times hoping this blog thing will blow over?

Oddly American: lawyer jokes.

Marc Galanter (my colleague) has a new book analyzing the phenomenon of lawyer jokes:
Galanter says lawyer jokes seem to be oddly American and he traces some of the animus that people have for attorneys to the expansion of the law in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, changes that afforded new protections for citizens.

"Law was seen as a liberating thing that gave more remedies to individuals ranging from school children to minorities to prisoners who were now able to use the law," Galanter says. "Suddenly, the managers of society were held to account by lawyers."...

By the 1980s, Galanter says, there was a rise in more aggressive humor that shifted from mockery to outright hostility. Galanter traced some of their roots to jokes about Communists and Jews that were often decades old, but changed to accommodate lawyers.

One old saw goes like this:

What do you call 6,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea? A good start.

Galanter says that after the joke appeared in the early 1980s and was directed at feminists, blacks, Iranians and Jews, the version featuring lawyers gained widespread traction.

"A lot of lawyer jokes were about Jews. A lot of lawyer jokes were about politicians," he says. "They are indicators of these currents of underlying sentiment - outcroppings that show what the social trends were when the jokes were in fashion."

I'm expecting the comments section on this post to fill up with lawyer jokes, but I'm expecially interested in the cultural/political analysis Galanter provides. What do you think of that?

Bonus nostalgia link to an old post: I object to that bottom-of-the-sea joke.

IN THE COMMENTS: Several commenters trace lawyer jokes to the problems of what is perceived as a litigation explosion in this country, and I point out that Galanter has written extensively debunking this as a myth. You can get his articles on the subject here.


The NYT reports:
Kidsbeer, a Japanese soft drink bottled and formulated to look like beer, may soon be available throughout Europe, but watchdogs of underage drinking say they will fight any effort to ship it to the United States.
Isn't this like the sparkling cider we get for the kids when we're toasting with champagne? No, not really. Champagne toasts are special celebratory events that you want to include kids in. But beer-drinking is the ultimate in routine.

Should we be upset about kidsbeer?
The last company that marketed a look-alike beer ended up with a public relations hangover. In 1995, Royal Crown drew the ire of Lee P. Brown, then the White House drug policy adviser, for its Royal Crown Draft Premium Cola, which also was in a brown bottle and beer-colored. The company agreed to change the soda's packaging, most notably its label, on which "draft" had been by far the largest word.
Now, wait a minute! What about root beer? It's even called beer! Around here, we drink Sprecher root beer, which comes in a bottle nearly identical to Sprecher beer.

The Times article also mentions the candy cigarettes of old (and reminds us we can still buy them on the web). I certainly remember loving the candy cigarettes that were made of the same substance as white Necco wafers. It allowed kids to practice how to hold cigarettes, puff on them, and basically learn how to be an adult. I also remember bubble gum cigars — so you could learn how to be one of those charming guys who chomp on cigars. And there was a non-food play cigarette, a white cardboard cylinder that had a white power inside that would puff out looking like smoke if you blew into it right.

Despite all this intense smoking play, I never became a smoker. I'm sure there are many things I played with as a kid that did not lead to adult behavior. And I am positive no one ever gave me any law professor toys to get me started in this adult preoccupation of mine. Though I will say I had a toy typewriter. And we did play school all the time, though no purchased materials were involved. We actually wrote our own materials, designing workbooks and things!

Bonus nostalgia link to an old post: Playing Communion with white Necco wafers.

"There is, I suspect, no ideal judge, but there is an ideal court: one composed of a variety of judges, compelled to talk to each other."

I have an op-ed in today's New York Times.

September 18, 2005

Another radio doodle.

I was just on Pundit Radio Review. Did you listen? Lots of sound clips and music swirling in and about the commentary. Very different from the Public Radio ambience I'm used to -- and also in quite a different place politically -- but quite fun. So here's the doodle:

Radio Doodle

(Full size.)

See if you can explain it!

The goddess born a hundred years ago.

[I]t's impossible to imagine a contemporary star with Garbo's intense and utterly genuine desire to be ignored. Morbidly shy and deeply private, she simply would not participate in any PR activity that made her uncomfortable.

Though this was unheard of for a young actress in the studio system, MGM capitalized on Garbo's introversion. It turned her need "to be alone," as her weary prima ballerina famously declared in "Grand Hotel," into the unknowable persona that defined her....

Garbo's sculpted features, languid carriage and assertive androgyny, in films like "Queen Christina," "expressed a worldly wisdom that was unknown among the Pollyanna good girls or the vamps"....

Exuding a blend of power and sensuality that defied gender expectations, Garbo "made you understand passion," says film historian David Thomson. "She identified the bittersweet quality of love better than any star."
Try to watch a Garbo film today. What would you recommend? I've only seen "Anna Christie," "Grand Hotel," "Queen Christina," "Camille," and "Ninotchka." "Ninotchka" is the only truly good movie on that list. "Camille" is, I think, the best choice for staring at Garbosity.
"You who are so young--where can you have learned all you know about women like me?"
UPDATE: Victoria has much more on the great faces of Hollywood.

Art metal.

Heavy metal music has gotten rather intellectual. So says the NYT. I don't know. You decide. This is offered up as evidence:
When Atsuo, the single-named singer-drummer for the sludgy Japanese post-metal band Boris, was asked recently in the online magazine about the influence of Satan on the band's work, he gave a predictably high-minded answer, engaging the question's absurdity - heavy metal's Satanic influenceis one of the genre's great clichés - and then trumping it. "It's simple to talk about Satan as a symbol, but it's important to consider the deeper meaning of the symbol," he said in one of his rare interviews to be translated into English. "To me, the Devil is not a symbol, but a moment that touches on morals. The moment when a person changes - that is the Devil."
Does that strike you as intellectual or ... I don't know ... something out of the "Spinal Tap" screenplay? But then, it doesn't matter so much what they say as how it sounds. I stop at the heavy metal stations on XM radio when I'm driving in my car and am often surprised at how good things by bands with strange names sound. I tell myself to remember the names. I don't know if the ones I've liked are the same art metal trend the Times is tracking. They do name a lot of bands in the article, but unfortunately I've forgotten all the names I meant to remember.

The NYT and WaPo editorials on the Roberts nomination.

The NYT opposes John Roberts' as Chief Justice: The position of Chief Justice "is too important to entrust to an enigma, which is what Mr. Roberts remains."
Over days of testimony, he dodged and weaved around many other critical legal issues. On abortion, church-state separation, gay rights and the right of illegal immigrants' children to attend public school - all currently recognized by the court - he asks to be accepted on faith. That just isn't good enough.
The WaPo comes out in favor of Roberts, making what I think is the most basic point: "Judge Roberts represents the best nominee liberals can reasonably expect from a conservative president who promised to appoint judges who shared his philosophy." The WaPo analyzes the politics of opposing Roberts for the Democrats:
[B]road opposition by Democrats to Judge Roberts would send the message that there is no conservative capable of winning their support. While every senator must vote his or her conscience on the nomination, the danger of such a message is considerable. In the short term, Mr. Bush could conclude there is nothing to be gained from considering the concerns of the opposition party in choosing his next nominee. In the longer term, Republicans might feel scant cause to back the next high-quality Democratic nominee, as they largely did with Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer.

If presidents cannot predictably garner confirmation for nominees with unblemished careers in private practice and government service, they will gravitate instead to nominees of lower quality who might excite their bases. Mr. Bush deserves credit for making a nomination that, on the merits, warrants support from across the political spectrum. Having done their duty by asking Judge Roberts tough questions, Democrats should not respond by withholding that support.
Clearly, this is important, and it's something the NYT editorial doesn't talk about at all. Is it because the NYT is more principled? No, the NYT is more political, insisting that the nominee come out in favor of the positions it cares about before it will support him. The Times doesn't even face up to the issue of the illegitimacy of binding the nominee to particular outcomes. The WaPo stands back and looks at the politics of the nomination. The NYT remains entirely embedded in the politics.

Extra observation: The NYT brings up the french fry case. Did any Senator question him about that one? No! I wonder why not, since it fits the John-Roberts-doesn't-care-about-people theme so well. Oh, how I would love to know the details of why they decided not to bring up the french fry about which we heard so much before the hearings. I'm guessing they decided it clashed with their most important theme: deference to the legislature (AKA: how much power we want you to say we have).

UPDATE: A reader writes:
Your reason on your blog for Senators not bringing up the french fry case seems accurate, but there is another interesting aspect to this. Senator Feinstein seemed to be one of the major advocates of almost unlimited legislative power via the Commerce Clause (at least based on what little I heard and on one of your posts). But, Gonzales v. Raich oveturned a law that a large majority of her constituents passed (well over sixty percent if I recall correctly--and probably near unanimous among those who vote for her). I presume that for her to be consistent, one would have to assume she must support the majority result in Raich, thus effectively negating the wishes of her constituents. I haven't heard anything about it in local California newspapers, however.

Post-Katrina cynicism.

Frank Rich has the essay idea of melding imagery from "The Wizard of Oz" with Katrina and its aftermath. Both begin with a big storm — tornado/hurricane — so it seems like a promising idea. And don't both involve politics? In "The Wizard of Oz," you have the big impressive leader, exposed as a sham behind a flimsy, dog-openable curtain. And in the Katrina aftermath, various political officials at various levels of government underperformed. Of course, the Wizard wasn't trying to respond to the tornado, and the various political officials who proved inadequate to the force of a hurricane had not set themselves up as phoney autocrats. They were elected officials, holding legitimate political positions, who simply failed to live up to the standard the electorate feels it deserves.

But Rich has just one key point of comparison he wants to make: Once we see the Wizard is just Professor Marvel, he can never go back to being the Wizard, and, by the same token, once President Bush — pay no attention to that mayor and governor behind the curtain — has been exposed as a fraud, nothing he can do thereafter can ever make us think of him as anything but a fraud. But, of course, this isn't true. Marvel was never a Wizard, and once we know that, we can never fall for the fakery again. But Bush really is the President, and the Presidency isn't a fraud, despite all the many mistakes the human being who tries to fill the impossibly large role will make. And Bush has made an ambitious proposal for dealing with the problems left by Katrina:
The president will ask Congress to declare the entire Gulf Coast region one big enterprise zone, qualifying for subsidized loans and tax breaks for investment and hiring. And in addition to dispatching legions of its own workers to process the paperwork, oversee the massive rebuilding effort and ensure that the billions are well spent, the government will contract thousands of private-sector workers to help them out. An estimated $200 billion in federal spending could be augmented by $60 billion in insurance payments and tens of billions of investment by individuals and firms.
Rich is dismissing all of this out of hand as just more of a pattern of indulgence in imagery and cronyism. But I get the feeling that Rich's op-ed is just more of his ongoing pattern of despising Bush, no matter what happens. Well, the little dog parted that curtain long ago. Let me turn my eyes slightly to the left — in the physical sense — and read David Brooks's column:
This is an effort to transform the gulf region, which had become a disaster zone of urban liberalism. All around the South, cities are booming, but New Orleans never did. All around the country, crime was dropping, but in New Orleans it was rising. Immigrants were flowing across the land in search of opportunity, but as Joel Kotkin has observed, few were interested in New Orleans.

Now the Bush administration is trying to change all that. That means trying to get around the corruption that made the city such a rotten place to do business. The White House is trying to do this by devising programs in which checks and benefits flow directly to recipients, not through local agencies....

His administration is going to fight a two-front war, against big government liberals and small government conservatives, but if he can devote himself to executing his policies, the Gulf Coast will be his T.V.A., the program that serves as a model for what can be done nationwide.
Is it foolish to want to be optimistic about this plan?

UPDATE: Donna Brazile went for the optimism:
The president has set a national goal and defined a national purpose. This is something I believe with all my heart: When we are united, nothing can stop us. We will not waver, we will not tire, and we will not stop until the streets are clean, every last brick has been replaced and every last family has its home back....

New Orleans will rise again. My hometown is down but not out, and with the help of every American, it will be back on its feet, bigger and brighter than ever.

Mr. President, I am ready for duty. I am ready to stir those old pots again. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Getting out of town for a minute.

So, Richard's in Spain and my Madison blogger friends are in Manhattan, but I did leave Madison yesterday long enough to drive to a shopping mall outside of Milwaukee. I felt like driving and shopping, but then I didn't feel like shopping that much, so it was mostly driving — a chance to reflect and listen to a lot of music.

What's the difference between shopping outside of Milwaukee and shopping in Madison? The most striking difference was that at Borders Bookstore they were playing a recording of "God Bless the USA" and had a group of four persons doing a sign language interpretation of the song. An overflow audience was intently learning the signs and, like a sing-along at a concert, doing a sign-along.

I've never seen anything like that at a Madison Borders.

A weekend jaunt.

Meanwhile, Nina and the other bloggers are in NYC for the weekend. Would you spend Friday and Sunday flying, with only one full day, Saturday, in NY? I love NYC, but not that much!

"What the mid-Bronx might feel like if it had narrower streets, was on a beach..., and for some unearthly reason became a tourist destination."

That's Barceloneta, described by RLC, who is driving around Spain with his old friend Dan. They go to a bar and watch basketball: Spain vs. Latvia.

Pundit Review Radio.

Oh, I forgot to tell you I'm going to be on Pundit Review Radio tonight at 9 Eastern, 8 Central. That's AM680 WRKO, in Boston, which live-streams here.

Yeah, I know: Why are you up and posting at 4:29 a.m. if you're going to need to talk on the radio at 8 p.m.? Are you letting acorns run your life?