April 15, 2006

The Madison Lollipop sees its shadow on Holy Saturday.


Does this mean 4 more weeks of winter?

Angry Lefties, online.

WaPo has a big article on the web's lefty ranters, but it's mostly a cutesy profile of Maryscott O'Connor, of My Left Wing. Here's the most substantive passage:
What's notable about this isn't only the level of anger but the direction from which it is coming. Not that long ago, it was the right that was angry and the left that was, at least comparatively, polite. But after years of being the targets of inflammatory rhetoric, not only from fringe groups but also from such mainstream conservative politicians as Newt Gingrich, the left has gone on the attack. And with Republicans in control of Washington, they have much more to be angry about.

"Powerlessness" is O'Connor's explanation. "This is born of powerlessness."

To what, effect, though? Do the hundreds of thousands of daily visitors to Daily Kos, who sign their comments with phrases such as "Anger is energy," accomplish anything other than talking among themselves? The founder of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, may have a wide enough reputation at this point to consult regularly with Democrats on Capitol Hill, but what about the heart and soul of Daily Kos, the other visitors, whose presence extends no further than what they read and write on the site?
Actually, I have to admit that I blog for self-expression, not with any expectation of affecting anything. In fact, I strongly favor blogging for the sake of blogging and mistrust bloggers who are tapping the medium because they have a goal that they want to accomplish. I have to think that the monumental talkfest that is blogdom has got to be having some effect. But I quite love the fact that the effect is far beyond the control of the individuals who take up blogging because they want to make something specific happen.

"Searching for the male equivalent of chick lit, but ... frightened when they actually saw what it looked like."

How "fratire" found success:
Many of the books in the fratire genre began online, either organically or out of necessity because mainstream publishers would have nothing to do with them. [Tucker] Max said that despite receiving approximately 60,000 visitors daily at TuckerMax.com, he got "zero interest" when he initially pitched his book.

"Bro, when I say 'zero interest,' I mean zero," he said, taking another slug of beer.

Frank Kelly Rich, the 42-year-old editor of Modern Drunkard magazine and the author of the book "The Modern Drunkard," said that it took the Web to help fratire get around the hang-ups of mainstream publishing houses that professed to be searching for the male equivalent of chick lit, but which were frightened when they actually saw what it looked like.

"The publishing houses filtered out anything politically incorrect or offensive," he said. "It took the Internet to show them what was popular and now they're going after it. Before that, they would just guess."
Well, isn't it that mainstream publishing houses reject pornography, even though it's extremely popular? I don't get this accusation that mainstream publishers are clueless about what men want to read. Everyone knows pornography is popular. Aren't these publishing houses just looking at the big picture for them and seeing that they have to preserve some overall standards?

By the way, Max went to law school (University of Chicago and Duke).

The Audi TT Coupe.

I love my Audi TT Coupe:

But look, they've redesigned it!

They've destroyed its charm. Look at those sharp ridges. Look at how they've tried to make it resemble the other cars that are around today -- all those ugly, ordinary, "angry" cars. There are so few cars that I like enough even to take a second look. Now, I have to cross the model I love off the list. It's hard for me to think of a car to be interested in now. I can only hope that styles change by the time the lease on my car expires.

April 14, 2006

A perception about time.

Seconds are short. Minutes are long. Hours are short. Days are long. Weeks are short. Months are long. Years are short. Decades are long. Life is short. Don't you agree?

Surviving 10 weeks in the Outback on leeches and frogs.

The BBC reports:
"The last thing I remember was driving up the road and getting a bit dazed and confused.

"The next thing was waking up, face down, in a hole. There was some plastic on me with some rocks and dirt thrown on top. What woke me was that there were four dingoes scratching the rocks to try to get at me."

After wandering for more than a week he stumbled upon a natural dam.

"I ate the leeches raw, straight out of the dam," he said. "Grasshoppers I just ate them. But the only thing I really sort of had to cook was the frogs.

"I slipped them onto a bit of wire and stuck the wire on top of my [shelter], let the sun dry them out a fair bit until they were a bit crispy and then just ate them."
Sun-crisped. I'm picturing fancy chefs adapting that technique for haute cuisine. Did you watch "Top Chef" this week? Harold made some bacon appetizer doing the cooking entirely with a blowtorch, and the judge was all I love blowtorched food. And what was with Stephen winning? That wasn't an appetizer, that was a painting.

But back to that amazing struggle in the Outback. There are lots of gruesome stories of folks who did not walk out alive like Ricky Megee. But we love the stories of the horrible struggles of people who do survive. Do you watch that TV show "I Shouldn't Be Alive"? I love that. Trapped under a boulder!

"While Islam promotes free speech, it is important to recognize that anything that is discriminatory does not qualify under this heading."

So reads a flyer from the USC Muslim Students Union, announcing a panel discussion titled "Islam and the Cartoons: the Responsibilities of Free Speech" (PDF), which Eugene Volokh is discussing here:
I take it that the implication is that criticism of Islam, or critical depictions of Mohammed (or is it any depictions of Mohammed at all?), is unprotected because it's "discriminatory." How about Muslim statements that other religions are misguided; are those "discriminatory," too?

Plus of course there's also the old chestnut about the supposed "differences between free speech and hate speech." Fortunately, modern U.S. First Amendment law does not treat the two as antonyms, just as it wouldn't discuss "the differences between free speech and blasphemy" or "the differences between free speech and sedition." It's a shame that the USC Muslim Student Union takes a different view.
Even though the flyer uses the phrase "free speech," it does not mention the U.S. Constitution or say that the discussion is about the constitutional law or the scope of constitutional protections. The cartoons controversy is not, after all, about government censorship, but about private individuals and groups trying to influence other private individuals and groups. No one writes and says and draws everything that constitutional law would permit, and most of us would be hard pressed to come up with things we could express that would be something the government could censor. There are plenty of hateful, ugly, and hurtful things we can easily think of that we would restrain ourselves from saying even though we have a constitutional right to say them. And I don't mean to appear to be lecturing Eugene Volokh about any of this, because it's an obvious given that, as a conlawprof, he knows this.

I just want to defend the Muslim Students Union here. There is nothing in that flyer that condones violence. I would prefer to see the Union openly condemn the threats of violence and distance their religion from the threats of violence that are plainly at issue in the cartoon controversy. But it is perfectly legitimate to have a private conception of "free speech" that is narrower than the legal definition. And it is is likewise perfectly legitimate to have a private conception of "discrimination" that is broader than the legal definition. Religions tend to have far higher standards for behavior and expression than the government would impose (which is one of the strongest reasons for having a separation of religion and state).

A private group that wants to hold a discussion can define the topic and impose some limitations, including demands that participants discuss the issue rationally and without shouting and deliberately provoking each other. Those who want to range into different issues and fling insults about are free to start their own discussion. Here, the Muslim Students Union may mean to say something like: We want to host a discussion, and we are going to try to keep the discussion civil. We want to talk with you, not provide an occasion for you to show up at our place and taunt us.

I'm thinking of a discussion I set up quite a while ago at the Law School. Some of the women students got the idea that the failure to use the Socratic Method discriminates against women. The male students, they had observed, were more likely to volunteer than female students, so a lawprof who relied on voluntary participation would have a classroom with a disproportionate amount of male speakers. I set up a discussion so that students and faculty could exchange ideas on the subject. Now, some of the students were really upset and even thought that there were teachers who deliberately used voluntary participation as a way to suppress women, a charge I thought was beyond the pale and distracting.

I wrote a flyer inviting students and faculty to the discussion and included a sentence framing the issue for discussion. I stated an expectation that we could have an intellectual discussion of the problem of whether the Socratic Method is needed in order to avoid a disparate impact on female students and that we ought to avoid emotional charges that anyone is deliberately discriminating against women.

One faculty member, a constitutional law professor, came to my office to express outrage that I had imposed that limitation on the discussion. The students should be free to vent emotionally and to air whatever accusations they wanted. Did free speech require that? I was setting up a discussion. I defined the ground rules in a way that I thought would be most fruitful and that would encourage more people to show up and contribute (something I do in the classroom constantly). My colleague could set up another discussion where students were allowed to talk about what bigots individual professors are, but I wouldn't even attend a discussion like that. Would you?

By the same token, I think it's fair for the Muslim students to try to set up a helpful discussion by signaling that the atmosphere is not going to be ugly. That can encourage attendance and a willingness to listen and exchange ideas on the topic chosen. If anyone thinks they've left something out, they can set up another discussion.

When a Broadway show and nature converge...

... to make a Biblical impression.

The sense that a person from the deep past sent something to you.

Have you ever had it?

April 13, 2006


Scariest hailstorm I've ever witnessed, here in Madison tonight. Big ice marbles bouncing everywhere for about 5 minutes. I've heard of golf-ball-sized hail and even grapefruit-sized-hail. I can't imagine what that must be like.

The bubble artist.

Fan Yang.

He's just warming up in that picture. Later, he encapsulates 15 pairs of people inside 15 bubbles and then gets all 15 of those bubbles inside a mega-bubble.

"Something emotional in the relationship"...

... between a human being and her robot.

"God curse America. We will win. It's just a question of time."

Moussaoui takes the stand:
He noted many relatives of victims wept on the witness stand, then walked past him in the courtroom and looked his way without crying. "I find it disgusting that people come here to share their grief over the death of some other person," he said.

"I'm glad there was pain, and I wish there will be more pain," Moussaoui said. "The children in Palestine and in Chechnya will have pain. I want you to share their pain."...

In a lengthy explanation of why he hates Americans, Moussaoui said Islam requires Muslims to be the world's superpower as he flipped through a copy of the Quran searching for verses to support his assertion. He said one verse requires Muslims "to fight against all who believe not in Allah."

"We have an obligation to be the superpower. You have to be subdued," Moussaoui said. "America is a superpower and you want to eradicate Islam."

He criticized U.S. support for Israel. "Every child who has been killed in Palestine has been killed because of you," he said. Israel is "just a missing star in the American flag," he added.
Much more at the link.

"It was necessary, he suppos'd, to drink strong beer, that he might be strong to labor."

I've been listening to an audiobook of Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography. The narrator has a terribly unnatural way of speaking, but it's not driving me as crazy at it was when I was wracking my brain trying to figure out who it reminded me of. Somehow I hit upon the answer: it's the rabbi from this episode of "Seinfeld." ("Elaine, often times in life there are problems, and just as often there are solutions.")

Anyway, I liked Franklin's description of all the drinking that went on at a printing-house in London:
At my first admission into this printing-house I took to working at press, imagining I felt a want of the bodily exercise I had been us'd to in America, where presswork is mix'd with composing. I drank only water; the other workmen, near fifty in number, were great guzzlers of beer. On occasion, I carried up and down stairs a large form of types in each hand, when others carried but one in both hands. They wondered to see, from this and several instances, that the Water-American, as they called me, was stronger than themselves, who drank strong beer! We had an alehouse boy who attended always in the house to supply the workmen. My companion at the press drank every day a pint before breakfast, a pint at breakfast with his bread and cheese, a pint between breakfast and dinner, a pint at dinner, a pint in the afternoon about six o'clock, and another when he had done his day's work. I thought it a detestable custom; but it was necessary, he suppos'd, to drink strong beer, that he might be strong to labor. I endeavored to convince him that the bodily strength afforded by beer could only be in proportion to the grain or flour of the barley dissolved in the water of which it was made; that there was more flour in a pennyworth of bread; and therefore, if he would eat that with a pint of water, it would give him more strength than a quart of beer.
We hear lots of excuses for drinking nowadays, but never that one. Hilarious. How could people get anything done, drinking like that?


Nicknames are big these days, we're told. (Did you know the word "nickname" is derived from "eke-name"?) It may not be that there are more nicknames, but that people are nicknaming themselves. I remember when George Costanza tried to do that. It wasn't cool at all.

Is there something about email and the internet that makes self-nicknaming different now?
[T]he process of acquiring a nickname was changed by the advent of e-mail in the 1980's, when users had to create their e-mail handles.
"Handles"? You're making it too easy to remember the CB-radio craze of the 70s. I think self-nicknaming goes back a little farther. But it you trace it back too far, it will seem less trendy. Possibly even hopelessly dorky.
GEORGE: Well, Jerry, I been thinkin'. I've gotten as far as I can go with George Costanza.

JERRY: Is this the suicide talk or the nickname talk?

GEORGE: The nickname. George. What is that? It's nothing. It's got no snap, no zip. I need a nickname that makes people light up.

JERRY: You mean like...Liza!

GEORGE: But I was thinking...T-bone.

JERRY: But there's no "t" in your name. What about G-bone?

GEORGE: There's no G-bone.

JERRY: There's a g-spot.

GEORGE: That's a myth.

George takes a bite of his sandwich and gets a piece stuck to his chin.

"Hey, that wasn't bad at all. They just showed Mohammed standing there, looking normal."

I haven't had the chance to watch the new "South Park," part 2 of a take on the Muhammad comics craziness. But Jim Lindgren and Captain Ed have posts about it, and I wanted to open up a comments thread in case you're dying to talk about it.

UPDATE: I've seen the episode now, and I see that Comedy Central censored it, blacking out the few seconds when Muhammad was just standing there, looking normal. Actually, the censored part could have been a joke. You have to read the newspaper to learn that it really was censorship. After the censored part, there's a gloriously uncensored animation, from al Qaeda, depicting Americans and Jesus amid a flurry of turds. Some folks are perturbed at this:
A frequent South Park critic, William Donohue of the anti-defamation group Catholic League, called on Parker and Stone to resign out of principle for being censored.

"The ultimate hypocrite is not Comedy Central — that's their decision not to show the image of Muhammad or not — it's Parker and Stone," he said. "Like little whores, they'll sit there and grab the bucks. They'll sit there and they'll whine and they'll take their shot at Jesus. That's their stock in trade."

Well, the point is that Comedy Central didn't censor the blatant desecration of Jesus, while it censored a depiction of Muhammad just standing there. So clearly, it is responsive to threats of violence, not to nonviolent religious sensitivities. This was the point being made throughout the show, as the character Kyle arged to the TV executive: "Either it's all OK, or none of it is. Do the right thing."

AND: You've got to love the manatees. All the idea balls must be in the tank, available to make into jokes, or they will not work at all. I note that Donohue is demanding that Parker and Stone follow the ethics of the manatee. I think it's enough to admire the manatee, and then continue to press onward and try to get some good work done. Donohue is really exhibiting the ethics of Cartman, who would say what he needed to achieve his real goal, getting the TV show he hates off the air.

Extreme shoes.

There's nowhere to go but down once they've reached this point, but go ahead and shell out $800 now. You won't wear them that much, but you could display them later on special little shelves, like the ones Eric Stoltz had in his wreck of a house in "Pulp Fiction." Redo the styles of the 70s now, and you can redo the ironic nostalgia later.


TV's 10 best.

April 12, 2006

"American Idol" -- the results.

ADDED NOTE: If you're looking for the results of the newest show, click on the banner at the top of the page and scroll down to the most recent "results" post.


They drag out the results to a full hour tonight, and they lard it with video from the various home towns. But much of that crap is damned touching. The truth is, they all have families that love them. Some have a mom and dad. Lots just have a mom. And Kellie has a grampa and a tiny brother. The grampa prompts the brother to say "I love you," and it makes us all love Kellie, doesn't it?

The bottom three are Elliott, Ace, and Bucky. We completely expect Ace to leave. The shock would be if it was Elliott. Bucky, we know is going to leave soon enough, but we love him.

Oh, no! It's Bucky!

"As soon as I got on the green I was a spaz."

Tiger Woods is being pilloried in the British press for saying that, but I don't think American media have paid any attention to it.

The BBC uses the occasion to take a vote on the worst words referring to disability, some of which I've never seen before. I guess there's a real danger with slang when an American goes to Britain. Some casual slang is heard as very offensive. Is this a one way thing? I don't know of anything the British say that upsets the hell out of us.

UPDATE: Apology and recognition that "spaz" isn't considered offensive in the United States.


After all these years, I finally caved in to using tax software. I really can't explain my past resistance. Was it the money? Was it some sense of control I felt handling the paper forms? Was it the prediction that typing in all the numbers would be a lot of trouble, offsetting all the efficiencies gained? Was it a fear that the software would crash and malfunction? I really can't say. But this year, things looked to be complicated enough and stressful enough that I finally bought TurboTax.

Bottom line: It was way easier.

"I think the proudest thing I have done on the bench is not allow myself to be chased off that case."

Said Justice Scalia, referring to the demands that he recuse himself in a case that involved Dick Cheney because he had gone on a vacation with him. I agree with him about recusal, but I'd like to examine this additional remark:
"For Pete's sake, if you can't trust your Supreme Court justice more than that, get a life."
"Get a life" is not an Italian hand gesture, it's an American idiomatic expression, so we speakers of contemporary American English have some expertise here. Isn't "Get a life" a tad rude? Or are you going to say "Get a life" to me for asking?

Anyway, these comments took place at the University of Connecticut Law School, where some students felt the need to protest:
Some gay rights activists set up a same-sex kissing booth outside the lecture hall. They said they believe some of Scalia's opinions amount to attacks on gays, women and other minorities.

"His visit opened a lot of conversation on this campus," said third-year law student Colby Smith, who was wearing an "I Kiss Boys" T-shirt. "We want to make sure people understand what the concerns are with him, and why his views are particularly offensive."
I tend to think that if he were asked he'd say that in his role as a judge he's happy to concede for the sake of argument that boys kissing boys eliminates social tensions and ought to be encouraged.
It is blindingly clear judges have no greater capacity than the rest of us to determine what is moral.
That's the Scaliaesque attitude.

"In the cockpit! If we don't, we die!"

The Moussaoui jury hears the Flight 93 recording.

"Naturally when you're applying to college you're looking at how your genetic status might help you."

A DNA test can help.

"Mr. Kennedy's drive to strike a deal with Republicans is making some in his party nervous."

Is Ted Kennedy making other Democrats nervous by behaving as though he's more concerned with solving the immigration problem than with partisan interests?

Beloved idiots.

I'm pulling a topic out of a comment thread. What do you think of the sort of TV comic character that's based nearly entirely on playing dumb? Some folks find it intolerable, but others think it's quite charming and a brilliant source of comedy. The currently controversial dummy character is Kellie Pickler on "American Idol." She's not (supposed to be) a fictional character, so her case is complicated by the suspicion that she's a fraud. I mean, how can you play dumb well if you're actually dumb? You wouldn't have the judgment to choose to blurt out the charmingly dumb remarks. Can she just be lucky?

I'm thinking that dumbness works especially well on TV. I don't have a theory why that's the case. But a couple great examples spring to mind: Goldie Hawn, Gracie Allen. Yes, I know my examples are ancient, but I haven't really watched many situation comedies since the 60s. Putting HBO to the side, I've only watched "Seinfeld," I think. (I've seen one episode of "Friends.") So help me out with recent examples of the great beloved idiots of the idiot box, and opine on the theory that dumb is good on TV.

Do you make a distinction between fiction and (supposedly) nonfiction shows? Maybe you love it when you know the dumb character is played by a very smart actress (like Lisa Kudrow) but you hate it when some reality show character tries to get the advantage by acting dumb or innocently gains an advantage by actually being dumb?

Another issue, quite obvious now that I've written this much, is whether it's different for males and females, and whether the physical beauty of the dummy is crucial.

"You can’t imagine the gratitude that I feel toward this particular law school."

The Wisconsin Innocence Project.

Lethal injections.

The legal challenges to lethal injections have been rather successful lately:
Their decisions are based on new evidence suggesting that prisoners have endured agonizing executions. In response, judges are insisting that doctors take an active role in supervising executions, even though the American Medical Association's code of ethics prohibits that....

The recent decisions, by contrast, rely on accounts of witnesses, post-mortem blood testing and execution logs that seem to show that executions meant to be humane have, in fact, caused excruciating pain.

The three chemicals used in lethal injections in about 35 states have long attracted attention for what critics say is their needless and dangerous complexity.

The first chemical in the series is sodium thiopental, a short-acting barbiturate. Properly administered, all sides agree, it is sufficient to render an inmate unconscious for many hours, if not to kill him. The second chemical is pancuronium bromide, a relative of curare. If administered by itself, it paralyzes the body but leaves the subject conscious, suffocating but unable to cry out. The third, potassium chloride, stops the heart and causes excruciating pain as it travels through the veins.

Problems arise, lawyers and experts for the inmates say, when poorly trained personnel make mistakes in preparing the chemicals, inserting the catheters and injecting the chemicals into intravenous lines. If the first chemical is ineffective, the other two are torturous.

In veterinary euthanasia and in assisted suicides in Oregon, a single lethal dose of a long-acting barbiturate is typically used. But corrections officials and their medical experts say using that method in executions would take too long and would subject witnesses to discomfort.
Takes too long and makes witnesses uncomfortable? How can that outweigh the interests on the other side? I imagine some of you are getting ready to write that people who get the death penalty deserve to suffer, and that's why I worry about the mental state of the person who prepares the dose of the first chemical. Now, it's known that if you skimp on it, the method of execution that was supposed to be gentle can be made excruciating. I'm not surprised that judges have responded by demanding supervision by medical personnel.

April 11, 2006

The beard and the oxygen mask.

Excessive secularism or basic science?

"American Idol" -- the final 8 sing Queen.

Ah, the show I've been waiting for. The kids sing the music of Queen. Let's see what they do.

Bucky Covington makes "Fat-Bottomed Girls" into a good country-rock song, and he's relaxed and charming. He's finally got his hair right -- loose and wavy and not too styled -- and he's wearing a leather jacket that's distractingly nice. Really, I ended up thinking about the jacket more than the song. Anyway, he didn't embarrass himself.

Ace Young is singing "We Will Rock You," and we see him trying to tell the members of Queen to play the song his way. Change the drumbeat! They decline. Simon: "It was 'we will rock you gently.'" Ryan: "What do you think of that." Ace (in a gentle voice): "I, uh, think I rocked." Well, maybe if the arrangement had been changed, it might have suited him.

Kellie Pickler gets to do "Bohemian Rhapsody." She was okay in the soft parts, but frightening in the hard parts, because of the horrendous singing but also because she started prancing in her stiletto boots up the stairs and along the narrow runway. I worried a lot. Simon, liked it and says: "On paper, it should have been completely hideous..." And she's all: "On paper???"

Chris Daughtry. The song is "Innuendo." Great! There's a lot of talk about whether it's a good song. Why didn't he do one of the hits? As if maybe he doesn't deserve votes because the song was not sufficiently familiar. Weird. But it should light a fire under his fans and get him plenty of votes.

Katharine McPhee decides to do "Who Wants to Live Forever" so she can just stand there and sing. She's heavily made-up, perhaps spoofing the over-the-top 70s style. She makes me think of Karen Carpenter for a minute, but then only to notice the lack of style and feeling. The judges are nice to her in a way that often spells doom on the show.

Elliott Yamin does "Somebody to Love." He gets some soaring high notes in.

Taylor Hicks picks the perfect song for him "Crazy Little Thing Called Love." Very entertaining. Simon: "Taylor, are you drunk? I thought it was ridiculous."

Paris Bennett sings "The Show Must Go On," a song that just feels ugly to me. She's all glammed up in a way that looks like dress-up on this sweet 16 year-old. She's got some good high notes toward the end. They're running out of time for the judges to talk, and Simon just blurts, "I found it all a little weird," and then music cuts him off.

Bottom 3? I'd say Katharine and Ace, for sure. Then maybe Paris will be unlucky again.

Safest: Taylor and Chris. Probably Kellie (she was funny talking to the judges, and she did that song everyone wanted to hear).

"Jesus, who never laughs in the canonic Gospels, is constantly laughing in this one..."

"...and it’s obviously one of those sardonic, significant, how-little-you-know laughs, like the laugh of the ruler of a dubious planet on 'Star Trek.'" Adam Gopnik reads "The Gospel of Judas. (Via A&L Daily.)
The disciples are furious at Jesus’ condescension, except for Judas, who thinks he knows what the laughter signifies. “I know who you are and where you have come from,” Judas says, standing before him. “You are from the immortal realm of Barbelo.” Apparently startled by his insight, Jesus tells Judas, “Step away from the others and I shall tell you the mysteries of the Kingdom.”

The true mystery, as Jesus unveils it, is that, out beyond the stars, there exists a divine, blessed realm, free of the materiality of this earthly one. This is the realm of Barbelo, a name that gnostics gave the celestial Mother, who lives there with, among others, her progeny, a good God awkwardly called the Self-Generated One. Jesus, it turns out, is not the son of the Old Testament God, whose retinue includes a rebellious creator known as Yaldabaoth, but an avatar of Adam’s third son, Seth. His mission is to show those lucky members of mankind who still have a “Sethian” spark the way back to the blessed realm. Jesus, we learn, was laughing at the disciples’ prayer because it was directed at their God, the Old Testament God, who is really no friend of mankind but, rather, the cause of its suffering.
Which is just so hilarious.

Even if you think you hate "American Idol"....

You really ought to watch tonight. The kids are going to attempt the music of Queen.

UPDATE: Link fixed. (Sorry.)

RV movies.

Adam, at Throwing Things, ReViles the new Robin Williams movie. At his behest, I viewed the horrible, horrible trailer -- no pun intended -- for "RV." Pee-yoo!

(Okay, somebody slam me this time for hating a movie I haven't seen. I dare you!)

Anyway, there's an RV movie tradition, isn't there? I think of "Lost in America" and "About Schmidt." These were both quite good, and used the RV to good effect. And, at the edge of my consciousness, just beyond reach, there's some movie with Randy Quaid parking his RV in front of some relative's house and causing trouble.

What are the other movies of the RV genre? (And does Williams's new movie exploit all the clich├ęs?)

What is the original RV movie? It's "The Long, Long Trailer," right?
It's a fine thing when you come home to your home and your home is gone!
Comedy gold, mined since (at least) 1954.

"The images ... bring forth a wealth of sadness in me that I cannot begin to explain."

My colleague Nina Camic writes about immigration, from her perspective as an immigrant, and has photos of people marching in Madison yesterday.

April 10, 2006

"Do not say: my mind was completely off."

Lee advises the English-deficient Lenny, on tonight's "Apprentice." Lenny's a little, why not?, I was really tired. Adorable!

Lenny is ousted, after he chooses to bring Lee back. Outrageous! Lee helped him, stood by him, and he fingered him. As they are leaving, Trump says: "And Lee, your loyalty was very nice."

Hey, it's a double episode!

Michael "is SUCH wanker" -- according to the guy with the English accent. The team won, but they lambasted Michael back at the hotel. In the new episode, Trump asks if anyone wants to switch teams, and Michael, smartly, decides to move.

"It will completely change your whole concept of reality." -- That's the desperate sales pitch for the pizza sandwich: P'eatzza.

So the teams try to sell P'eatzza, and who really cares what the problems were? Bottom line: the price point was too high. "Leslie, you fired. Phfeehrwhf!"

First person to be fired on her birthday? Oh, spare me. You know, if you are an adult, your birthday is an irrelevancy. With your spouse, you can act as if it's a big issue. But for the rest of the world: we don't care.

CORRECTION: I had the "wanker" quote slightly off -- not completely off -- and just fixed it. Thought you'd like to know. Not really. Thought some blogger ethics required me to confess.


Sippican Cottage, one of our very best commenters -- he kicked ass in the punk thread -- is writing about music, and focusing on 1966. I'm utterly charmed by this, and I've got to point to this old post of mine, which picked 1966 as the greatest year for music. (I was torn between 1965 and 1966, and "Substitute" determined the outcome.)

My Dinner With Camille.

So, remember that old post of mine about Camille Paglia: "Try to survive a tornado with a post-structuralist"?

And then remember that great BlogAd for Paglia's book "Break, Blow, Burn"? You can see the ad on the BlogAds page showing the best BlogAds (scroll down to the third ad). See how it links to my post and uses my name? The ad ran in the premium slot on my blog for quite a while.

Anyway, Paglia is returning to Madison to give a big lecture tomorrow. At the request of the promoters of the lecture, I did a post on this blog to encourage people to come to it, and I linked back to the old "tornado" post, saying her recent appearance in Madison had been amusing. A couple days later, I received a phone call inviting me to the pre-speech dinner with Paglia. I accepted the invitation.

But what's this? Suddenly, I'm uninvited! Camille Paglia has actually read "Try to survive a tornado with a post-structuralist," and -- I'm told -- she's angry and hurt by what I said about her. The very material that was used to promote the book has become a reason to demand that my invitation to the dinner be withdrawn. Okaaaaayyyy....

For 15 years, I've thought of Camille Paglia as an unusually tough and feisty woman. Wasn't she the one who sneered at women who acted like fragile victims?

Ah, well, it's true: despite my light touch and detailed coverage, the post was rather damning. Go back and read it, and you'll see. Funny, though, then, that you used the post to advertise the book.

And I don't blame her for not wanting to be stressed out at a dinner before a big speech. I didn't know I was capable of stressing out such a big rockstar diva. But apparently, I am. With the very post that her people saw fit to promote her with. That's too funny!

UPDATE: Look how the BlogAds blog praised Camille Paglia's ad precisely because of the way it included me:
There's some post-modern intertextual polymorphic joy (not forgetting that Paglia hates post-modernism) in the fact that Paglia's publisher bought an ad on Anne Althouse's blog quoting an Althouse post that quoted Paglia saying: "Once you’re 'swept up in the blogosphere,' you become self-referential."

Hey, you can have fun with advertising! Let's get out of the stiff and starched print-it-once-a-month-and-pray-that-someone-reads-it mentality. This Paglia ad is a wonderful respite from book blogads with blurry images sporting mumbling unreadable text, the bain of my existence.
(It's Ann, without the e!)

So, you can have fun with advertising, but it's back to the stiff and starched when it's time to make out the dinner list...

Give Bucky a big kiss!

(Badger Herald photo. Story.)

"Blogs by themselves just aren't that interesting."

Said James Nail chief marketing officer of Cymfony:
"But if you combine them with other features and keep them to specific topics, you could make the idea of consumer-generated media even more mainstream than it is now."
James Nail! People must say to him James, you nailed that. Or possibly, more often: Nail screws up.

It's hard to tell from the description in the article whether Nail's Squidoo is an effective way for bloggers to make money, but it's about blogs devoted to specific topics that connect to commercial products, something I find not that interesting.

CORRECTION: Nail is not affiliated with Squidoo.

A new take on the old having-an-affair-with-your-wife concept.

"Big Love" took a good turn last night. (Spoilers ahead.) We see that Bill Henrickson lusts after monogamy. With his Viagra supply deleted, he feels real attraction to Barbara, the only wife who was once an only wife. This favored love violates the system of morality the polygamous family has adopted for itself. The married lovers must tryst in a hotel or a car, the sex heated up by the fear of discovery and the knowledge that it's wrong. And yet it's not wrong, this monogamy, in the context of the larger society that is, in fact, about to discover the polygamy and ruin poor Bill. Meanwhile, the other two wives are going to find out about the monogamy in their midst and take revenge. What a complicated and exquisite dramatic conflict!

Stanley Fish has a blog...

And he's blogging about Scalia. Don't you want to link to it? But you can't! The NYT has put Fish in an aquarium: on TimesSelect, which makes him irrelevant in the great oceans of the blogosphere. Sigh.

You know, over the months that TimesSelect has limited access to its key writers, I've started to skip over columns as I scan through the paper in the morning, making quick decisions about which articles to read. Maybe Maureen Dowd said something provocative, but if I can't engage with it by blogging about it, I don't even take the trouble to find out what it is.

But this Stanley Fish blog is just crazy. It's a blog. But you can't link. By having blogs, the Times seems to want to say we're cool. By making them unlinkable, it's saying we're clueless. But maybe they want their subscribers to stay out of the linked-up blogosphere and wade around in the Times blogs. Stay here, in our safe domain -- our clean, well-lit aquarium -- with our approved bloggers. Of course, we riffraff bloggers, in wanting to link, are trying to send them more readers and to get a lively conversation going.

Please, don't send us more readers. Don't talk about us.


So what did Fish say about Scalia? (Limited link.)
Antonin Scalia is the most theatrical of the present Supreme Court justices. (He’s also the best stylist, but that’s a subject for another day.)
What, he picks out clothes and designs new hairdos for the other justices? I'm so ready to watch that reality show.

Oh, I know what you mean.

Anyway, the longish column of a blog post is about Scalia's well-chewed theory of interpretation. Here's a taste, which I've picked out for a particular reason -- see if you notice it:
If the Constitution’s meaning is fixed and unchanging, asks Paul Greenberg, a columnist for the Joplin Globe in Missouri, how do you explain the fact that it has been “subject to different interpretations over the years?” Easy. Justice Scalia’s thesis is not that the Constitution’s meaning will be perspicuous and agreed on by everyone. His thesis is that the Constitution has a meaning. The history of its interpretation is a history of successive efforts to specify what that meaning is....

Is Justice Scalia saying (a third question posed by blogger Wayne Besen) that “American jurisprudence has not evolved in two centuries?” No, he is identifying the jurisprudential goal, which is to figure out what the Constitution means.
Notice? He didn't provide links! He even quoted a specific blogger and didn't link to him!

What can you say about this purported blog? It's not linkable, and it doesn't link. It's also a longish column, essentially an op-ed, on a well-worn topic. It's called "Think Again."

Perhaps the Times could think again about what a blog is.

April 9, 2006

"The Sopranos."

I'm sorry, Tony. Adriana still has the award for best vomiting. But nice try. (Great episode!)

"Squirrels are not people."

A 911 call:
"What's the problem?" said [911 operator Vernetta] Geric, 46, of East Pittsburgh.

"I have a large tree in my backyard ... there's a squirrel stuck in the tree."

"Ma'am, this is a squirrel? In a tree? What's the problem?"

"It's been there for about an hour. It's crying; it needs help. There's a problem," the caller insisted.

"Ma'am, sorry, but this isn't necessarily a police issue. It's a wild animal, sitting in a tree. It's supposed to be doing that. The squirrel will be OK. It'll climb down when it's ready," Geric said.

"Are you telling me you're not sending me an officer?"

"Sorry ma'am, this isn't a police issue. An officer wouldn't be able to do anything. The squirrel will be just fine, really."

"But police officers help people in need right?"

"Yes, ma'am. Squirrels are not people."

"Well, never mind, anyway. You've spent so much time explaining why an officer won't help me, the squirrel left. Thanks."

Audible Althouse #44.

A new podcast. A town without pity, nuking Iran, John Kerry's spiritual depth, the Gospel of Judas, whether the Ten Commandments are interesting rules, boredom and philosophy, how to escape from a boring conversation, and that big argument about punk culture.

You don't need an iPod to listen. You can stream it here. Note: I've made a sound improvement.

Poets for the unmourned dead... with a political agenda.

An Amsterdam project:
Frank Starik leads a group of Amsterdam poets engaged in a highly unusual civic project -- attending the funerals of the city's unmourned dead and remembering them at the graveside with a specially-composed poem.

It spares people the indignity of a funeral without mourners, says Starik, a gaunt figure in a black jacket with an air of the Romantic poet about him.

"I want to give them back a life, a history," he said.

Amsterdam social services bury some 250 people a year, about 15 of whom leave no trace of relatives or friends. In such cases, the poets are called in....

Starik acknowledges there is a political aspect to the work.

"Part of the hidden agenda of this is that we have a very right-wing government, who are against foreigners, Muslims, and who are trying to reconstruct a society we had 50 years ago."

"This is not such a nice, tolerant country any more."

For migrants or asylum-seekers who die alone, the funerals are a chance to give them back their humanity and to consider their individual hopes and experiences in a climate contriving to demonise them and view them as a single mass, Starik says.

Dutch society is still reeling from the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh by a Dutch-Moroccan Islamist militant in 2004 which provoked an anti-Muslim backlash.

The murder of anti-immigration populist Pim Fortuyn in 2002 also saw mainstream political parties move to occupy his ground.
So a depressed loner commits commits suicide and a friendless woman succumbs to old age, and you, you sensitive poet, show up to use their funerals as a political platform against the people who are outraged by the murder of Theo van Gogh?

Nuking Iran.

I'm trying to get my mind around this story. It can't be, can it?

"Boredom: the desire for desires."

I was thinking about boredom -- and not because I was bored -- so I read the Wikiquote quotes on Boredom. I liked the above-quoted one best, partly because it's concise, and I like concise. It's Tolstoy. I nearly chose this one, from Soren Kierkegaard: "Boredom is the root of all evil - the despairing refusal to be oneself." I found it fascinating, but then I realized I had no idea what he was talking about.

MORE: Yes, I know it's absurd to browse so shallowly by reading Wikiquotes on a subject I purport to be interested in. Here's Roger Kimball on Kierkegaard and boredom:
“All men are bores,” he wrote in “The Rotation Method” (a key essay in Either/Or).
Surely no one will prove himself so great a bore as to contradict me in this. . . . The gods were bored, and so they created man. Adam was bored because he was alone, and so Eve was created. Thus boredom entered the world, and increased in proportion to the increase of population. Adam was bored alone; then Adam and Eve were bored together; then Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel were bored en famille; then the population of the world increased, and the peoples were bored en masse. To divert themselves they conceived the idea of constructing a tower high enough to reach the heavens. This idea is itself as boring as the tower was high, and constitutes a terrible proof of how boredom gained the upper hand.
Kierkegaard was very astute on the subject of boredom. He understood “the curious fact that those who do not bore themselves usually bore others, while those who bore themselves entertain others.” He also understood that boredom could be far more than a passing mood of nameless dissatisfaction. In Kierkegaard’s view, boredom is essentially a spiritual malaise, endemic wherever a purely naturalistic conception of man holds sway. Hence he defines boredom as “the daemonic side of pantheism.” It is the dark side of a life devoted to amusement and pleasure. What happens when amusement palls and pleasure fails to please? Boredom yawns before one, a paralyzing abyss. (Compare Tolstoy’s definition of boredom as “the desire for desires.”) It is part of Kierkegaard’s task to show that boredom can only be defeated by moving beyond what he calls the “aesthetic” conception of life, a mode of life unleavened by moral or religious engagement.
There. I feel I've done right by Soren. Very good. "Those who do not bore themselves usually bore others." Ah, there is a lesson in that for professors everywhere! In fact, I was thinking about boredom in the context of thinking about a professor who was boring me. I won't say when or where! It's not you! And, no, you don't need to remind me that I am a professor. I willingly admit that I don't bore myself. I know what that means in Kierkegaard's calculation. At least he said usually.

"Those who do not bore themselves usually bore others." That directly contradicts the folk wisdom: If you're bored, it's because you are boring.

"Madison is now Hockeytown, USA."

You might think it strange that I don't notice sports news more quickly, but...

We're number 1!
UW's scintillating 2-1 victory over Boston College Saturday night at the Bradley Center - renamed the Kohl Center East for the weekend - gave the school its sixth national championship and so much more.

It made UW the first school to win both the men's and women's NCAA hockey champions in the same season. Two weeks ago, the UW women won their first title with a 3-0 victory over Minnesota.

Congratulations, Badgers!

"If you confess what your little dirty little sins are, you're going to get a whole audience laughing..."

"... because they all have the same dirty little sin." Said by Shelley Berman, explaining the secret of comedy.

From the same little article, Fred Willard:
The perfect comic is the comic who will say something and you say: "Oh my God, I thought I was the only one who felt that way. I was, had this secret all my life. I thought I was a pervert, or I thought I was a racist, or I thought I was an idiot."
(That also sounds like the secret of the Internet.)

"In the tradition of self-help/business books that are characterized by flimsy data, padded writing and terminally cute titles."

Tara McKelvey slams "Rome, Inc.: The Rise and Fall of the First Multinational Corporation," the new book by Stanley Bing, author of "Sun Tzu Was a Sissy":
With Hun-like aplomb, Bing ridicules everyone he can get his hands on — Dennis Kozlowski, cowboys, Romulus, per diem consultants, Chaldeans, Roman Catholics. A parody — yet, remarkably, none of the one-liners elicit so much as a chuckle. But it's the rape-as-a-weapon-of-war jokes that raise the question of whether anyone, except perhaps the author, read the manuscript before it was published. There are other mysteries. Why, for example, are we privy to unfunny, rather icky fantasies that include a castle with "prepubescent lovelies of all races and sexes frolicking between the legs of all those depraved old geezers"? The big question is why anyone would read this book. The afterword is entitled "What Have We Learned?" Well, I learned that some corporate executives think whatever they write is interesting or, even more of a stretch, amusing to others.
Yeah, but these things are published because people buy them. We don't know that Bing thinks his own writing is interesting or amusing. The better assumption is that Bing (correctly) thinks he's found the formula for manufacturing one of those rectangular objects that people buy on impulse or for a gift. It's nearly Father's Day. Presumably, lots of people will think "Rome, Inc." is just the thing for Dad. He likes business, this looks funny and sexy, and the Rome angle will flatter the old man into feeling like something of a historian (or at least an HBO fan).

"Bush makes me sick. If he uses the 'mixed messages' line one more time, I'm going to puke."

John Green, a "Good Morning America" producer, was suspended from his job for writing e-mail like that.
"It isn't simply an issue of expressing one's opinion," [said Jeffrey Schneider, vice president of ABC News.] "It's also the vituperative nature of those comments."...

"What did this guy do wrong?" asked Michael Kinsley, a columnist for Slate and The Washington Post who in a recent column argued that the concept of objectivity is so muddled as to be useless. "Was it having these views, or merely expressing them? Expecting journalists not to develop opinions, strong opinions even, goes against human nature and the particular nature of journalists."

"I guess there are limits — if a guy's e-mail showed him to be a Nazi, you might not want him as a network TV producer," he added. "But unless the views themselves are beyond the pale — and millions of Americans hold views like those this guy expressed — expressing those views shouldn't be beyond the pale either."

William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, said he was troubled by the blurring of the public and the private. "For me, I think people should be held accountable for what they put on the air or in print," he said. And there is no proof this expression of private views affected news coverage, he said.
The problem with email is that it feels so breezy and transitory. By contrast, things written on paper seem more substantial to the writer. But things written in email are writing too, and they are much easier to send around. You may think you're just having some fun and blowing off steam when you shoot out an office email, but you're clueless and incompetent if you don't picture it bursting out into the general public. (Green's email appeared on The Drudge Report.) Kinsley and Kristol are in denial about what office email is. You think every single person in your office loves you and wants to preserve a tight circle of confidence for your sake? What a bizarre delusion!

"The majestic glaciated peak of La Meije... I imagined endless ski runs that would last a lifetime."

A 48-year lifetime.


Readers of this blog may not know when one of the old posts has an active, ongoing conversation in the comments, so I think I'll start flagging these for you from time to time. Right now, let me point to:

"It was the most cozy, lovely, lush experience."
(About midwives.)

"Punk culture and ideals promote all body types, all sexualities, all genders and all esthetics." (A rousing inter-generational debate, now with 119 comments.)

"Her touch has lightness and subtlety, yet she plays with crisp clarity and, when called for, robust sound."

A description of Condoleezza Rice, in an article that's all about her playing the piano. Her fans hit that sentence and imagine it also describes her political aptitude.