May 7, 2006

Audible Althouse #48.

Here's the new podcast. (Streamable here.) School's out for the summer, and I'm in a great mood, talking about teachers and students, laptops and film clips, and driving around the twisty backroads, listening to the radio.

God bless the dork...

Overheard on State Street today:
I said I would never go back to high school. But... I'm a dork. Every time, after Latin class, I'm so happy. And I just think, I want to feel like that all the time. I want to teach high school Latin.

Gimme shelter... an ochre and maroon café in Madison, Wisconsin.

"Although no one is being jailed today for speaking out against the war in Iraq, the spirit of intolerance for dissent has risen steadily..."

Does John Kerry make any sense? Believing in your own policies and disagreeing with your critics isn't the suppression of dissent. Strip away the paranoid rhetoric and Kerry would only be saying: The President fails to heed compelling arguments.

UPDATE: Jim Lindgren skewers Kerry for continuing to misattribute that dissent-patriotism quote to Jefferson. But wouldn't it be great if Jefferson had said it? Kind of like "fake but accurate": misattributed, but the kind of thing he would have said.

MORE: Vikingpundit: "Ridiculing Kerry is the highest form of patriotism."

Do the French love "short, blunt neologisms"...

... precisely because they don't belong in "their own mellifluous, Latin-based language"? Or are they comfy with acronyms because the French "do not mind being dependent on official bodies of one kind or another" and even "rather like it - it is the natural order of things."

IN THE COMMENTS: We're talking about the Beatles' song "Michelle."

Tales of British teeth.

Here's a horrific article about the lack of adequate dentistry in Britain. It begins:
"I snapped it out myself," said William Kelly, 43, describing his most recent dental procedure, the autoextraction of one of his upper teeth.

Now it is a jagged black stump, and the pain gnawing at Mr. Kelly's mouth has transferred itself to a different tooth, mottled and rickety, on the other side of his mouth. "I'm in the middle of pulling that one out, too," he said.
That man is 43? Yeeesh. Go look at the photograph. Read the other horror stories. Then come back here and say what you will about health care in America.

You can understand a lot about life in America today...

... from reading the roommates ads on Craigslist. Or so this article is designed to make you think. But in fact, you learn almost nothing. People don't want to live with smokers or other people's pets. But as a source of insight into the ever-changing subtleties of human behavior, Craigslist proved arid.

Kos against Hillary in the WaPo.

Markos Moulitsas rails against HRC. She needs to tend to her netroots... and lean left.

UPDATE: Tim Blair mocks Kos's piece point-by-point.

May 6, 2006

Eat meat...

Because animals are evil.

A walk across Library Mall.

The drumming will be infinitely superior at the show advertised on that flier you saw in the end. Click here for clearer info.

What? Your baby can't read.

You got a problem with it?

A shirt for your toddler.

Isn't it ironic?

This skyline:

Madison skyline

Madison skyline

Should Patrick Kennedy resign?

Orthogonal at DailyKos says so. "The Democratic Party needs to show it's different, that it's not a club of the elite taking care of the elite." The idea is that Kennedy should quit for the good of the party. Memeorandum collects links to Orthogonal's post. Lots of Democrats -- unsurprisingly -- disagree. Aside from what is good for his party, shouldn't Kennedy resign out of simple unfitness to serve?

Let's talk about the 2008 election.

Political analyst Charlie Cook has pithy analysis of the 2008 presidential possibilities: 11 Republicans and 11 Democrats. How pithy is it? Check out the analysis of Bill Frist:
Has the national platform and exposure to launch a strong campaign, but lacks the communication skills and political instincts to capitalize on it. Going nowhere.

I'm glad to get a chance to think about 22 individuals instead of the 8 or so that usually cross my mind. (Hey, Condi's not on his list.) But I must say looking at 22 doesn't make me feel any better. I don't really like anyone. I never do. It's nice to have 22, but I'm still feeling bad that this is all we have -- the usual collection of governors and senators. I'll need to see real campaigns and get used to the characters that actually manage to go forward before I can tolerate the image of any of them as President.

The piece is titled "Circling the White House." Is he calling them vultures (and Bush dead)?

"Uh. I'm sorry. I've called you that before and I got away with it."

On Open Source Radio, last Tuesday, I was introduced by the host Christopher Lydon like this:
"Ann Althouse is a lawyer and a libertarian among many other things..."

"Oh, I wouldn't call myself a libertarian. But go ahead."

"Uh. I'm sorry. I've called you that before and I got away with it."
(This comes about 21 minutes into the audio, streamable here.)

I suppose you should object to labels the first time. Why didn't I? Since I've started blogging, I've heard myself called a lot of things, and I tend to ignore really nasty things. (Why call attention to people who are insulting me?) Non-nasty things, I'm afraid I just let go too. At least it's not nasty. So why ever object? And why didn't I object to being called a lawyer? Am I closer to being a lawyer than to being a libertarian? I did practice law once, for two years, over two decades ago. But I've never been a libertarian. Haven't you noticed? How could you tell? For one thing, you need to take account of all the things I never talk about! If I were a libertarian, I'd have ready opinions on lots of topics that, in fact, I never write about. There are many problems that, for me, provoke only this thought: If it were my job to solve this problem, I would work on it, and, in this process working on it, anything I have to say about it now would be something I wouldn't waste my time on.

May 5, 2006

"They take four egg rolls and crab rangoon, take one bite of egg roll and throw the whole plate. That is wasting food."

Kicked out of an all-you-can-eat restaurant for taking more than you eat.
"We would welcome her back if she has respect and knows what she wants."

Damn it! Show some respect!

Exam written.

Do law students know (or believe) that we lawprofs mean for the exam to be a rewarding educational experience?

UPDATE: In the comments, lots of students and former students express the disbelief I expected, though there are concessions that an occasional exam seemed to fit my description. Sneaking Suspicions gives his perspective here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Jonathan Adler has picked up my question, so the conversation continues in the comments over on Volokh Conspiracy. And Rick Garnett has done the same at Prawfsblawg. I wonder how many of these commenters are students who should be studying for their exams. Many of them sound rather grumpy about the whole notion of finding the intrinsic value in exam-taking. No, no, it's torture. Just leave me alone with my vision of law school as torture. Well, would it help if I told you that if you could find the place in your head where exam-taking is a rewarding experience, you'd get a better grade?

Skyline irony.

The Frank Lloyd Wright building revitalized downtown into putting up lots of taller buildings that diminish the impact of the architectural marvel that once dominated the view of Madison as you drive in from the south and look across Lake Monona:
"[T]he very downtown renaissance that it was meant to help induce has now rendered Monona Terrace smaller in proportion -- an irony that is doubled when you consider that the vertical backdrop renders Monona Terrace almost Prairie Style in its low, flat geometry."

The linked article really needs a larger photograph. I should link to a better skyline photograph -- or go take one. For now, here are some pretty cool 360° shots of the Wright building.

UPDATE: I did go take some pictures.

I don't want to hear that "Art School Confidential" isn't a good movie.

I can see it's getting weak reviews, but I really care about this one:

1. I went to art school, and no subject is more appealing to me than the mockery of art school.

2. I love Daniel Clowes -- who wrote the film: I'm a longtime reader of his comics, and was thrilled when he originally came out with "Art School Confidential" (because it mocked art school).

3. I have loved Terry Zwigoff -- the director -- ever since "Crumb," one of my favorite movies, which I saw it in the theater two days in a row and have watched on DVD 10 times.

4. John Malkovich is in "Art School Confidential." Don't you love John Malkovich? (He has a pretty cool website, where you can buy his clothes. Seriously, he has a line of clothing, which he models. Check out the hat. Nice line drawings there too.)

Our al Qaeda video.

Making Zarqawi look like a ridiculous bumbler.
In releasing the outtakes, the American military sought to show that Mr. Zarqawi is a phony who cannot even fire a basic infantry weapon without help and who walks around the desert in comfortable Western jogging shoes.

"What you saw on the Internet was what he wanted the world to see," General Lynch said. "Look at me, I'm a capable leader of a capable organization, and we are indeed declaring war against democracy inside of Iraq, and we're going to establish an Islamic caliphate."

"What he didn't show you were the clips that I showed, wearing New Balance sneakers with his uniform, surrounded by supposedly competent subordinates who grab the hot barrel of a just-fired machine gun," he said.

"We have a warrior leader, Zarqawi, who doesn't understand how to operate his weapon system and has to rely on his subordinates to clear a weapon stoppage," the general said. "It makes you wonder."
It's all in the edit.

"The bull did not charge me, the trail did not exhaust me, the Mafia did not shoot me..."

"... and eventually a kind soul, out for a breath of night air, directed me to the most beautiful farmstead I have ever seen."

A referendum on the death penalty...

In the state that has banned the death penalty since 1853 -- the longest ban in the United States.

May 4, 2006

Should schools do more to accommodate parents with traditional values?

This is an interesting subject (raised by a lawsuit that seems destined to fail):
At the center of a federal lawsuit filed last week by two sets of Lexington parents over the discussion of homosexuality in public elementary schools is the question: Do parents or public schools have the final say in deciding what morals, values, and principles should be taught to children, and at what age should those lessons take place?...

[Joseph Robert and Robin Wirthlin] objected on April 6 after their son's second-grade teacher at the Joseph Estabrook Elementary School read to the class "King & King," a fairy tale that depicts two princes falling in love and marrying. A year earlier, David Parker, whose son was then in kindergarten at the same school, was arrested for trespassing when he refused to leave school grounds until administrators promised to excuse his son from classroom discussions about same-gender parents. Parker's son had brought home a ''diversity book bag" that included "Who's in a Family?" a book that shows pictures of same-sex parents and other types of families.
The more serious question is not the legal one, but a matter of policy: Should schools do more to accommodate parents with traditional values?

ADDED: I should note that the parents are not merely relying on constitutional rights, but on a Massachusetts statute that requires schools to notify parents about sex education lessons. Parents can have their children excluded. So there is a question about the scope of that state statute, which they are asking a federal court to interpret. Is teaching about family structure sex education? Is "Cinderella" sex education? If not, why is "King & King"? But the point of the lawsuit seems really to be to put pressure on the state legislature to expand the statutory law and clamp down on schools that are trying to present homosexuality in a positive light. That is an extremely important political dispute.

MORE: Here's the School Library Journal review of "King & King":
Grades 3-5--In this postmodern fractured fairy tale, a worn-out and badly beleaguered Queen is ready for retirement. After many hours of nagging, the crown prince, who "never cared much for princesses," finally caves in and agrees to wed in order to ascend the throne. Their search for a suitable bride extends far and wide, but none of the eligible princesses strikes the Prince's fancy, until Princess Madeleine shows up. The Prince is immediately smitten - with her brother, Prince Lee. The wedding is "very special," the Queen settles down on a chaise lounge in the sun, and everyone lives happily ever after. Originally published in the Netherlands, this is a commendable fledgling effort with good intentions toward its subject matter. Unfortunately, though, the book is hobbled by thin characterization and ugly artwork; the homosexual prince comes across as fragile and languid, while the dour, matronly queen is a dead ringer for England's Victoria at her aesthetic worst. Some of the details in the artwork are interesting, including the "crown kitty" performing antics in the periphery. However, that isn't enough to compensate for page after page of cluttered, disjointed, ill-conceived art. The book does present same-sex marriage as a viable, acceptable way of life within an immediately recognizable narrative form, the fairy tale. However, those looking for picture books about alternative lifestyles may want to keep looking for a barrier-breaking classic on the subject.
AND: Here's a somewhat more detailed article about the lawsuit, quoting the complaint, which claims "due process rights under the fifth and fourteenth amendments, as parents and guardians to direct the moral upbringing of their children." This is a very lightweight federal claim to hold the state claims in federal court. The state court ought to be interpreting that state statute, and the federal court should use its discretion to decline jurisdiction.

Oh, noooooo!

At the bottom of the ocean, no one can hear you scream.

"I was forced to sell him, but now I'm so happy to see my son's success."

Budhia, the 4-year-old long-distance runner.

UPDATE: The boy has serious health problems.

"So I got me a pen and a paper and I made up my own little sign..."

"You came here to be a martyr in a great big bang of glory... instead you will die with a whimper."

Judge Leonie Brinkema puts Moussaoui in his place with an allusion to "The Hollow Men."

UPDATE: Moussaoui's mother seems to think life imprisonment is worse: "He's going to spend his life in a hole like a rat. It's even worse than dying."

"Cher (vitamin pill), Carrie Fisher (Brussels sprout)..."

"...Dick Vitale (melon), Ellen Barkin (shrimp), Homer Simpson (doughnut)" = celebrities and the things Heimliched out of them.

"Tom Brokaw (John Chancellor, Gouda cheese), Verne Lundquist (Pat Haden, broccoli), Pierce Brosnan (Halle Berry, fruit), Justin Timberlake (a friend, nuts), Billy Bob Thornton (his potbellied pig Albert, chicken Marsala)" = celebrities and who and what they Heimliched.

UPDATE: A beautifully written family Heimlich story.

Can you be a good couple and desire separate housing?

The NYT reports a trend of couples -- real couples -- who like living apart.
"My last husband would lie around like Al Bundy and expect me to be waiting on him all the time," Ms. Toohey said. "Evelio helps with the dishes and he's grateful for what I do. When we see each other, he takes me out to dinner and doesn't expect me to cook every night or do his laundry. And when I do cook, he appreciates it."

She can take her time putting her 5-year-old daughter to bed, she said, without worrying that there's a husband in a nearby room "competing for attention."
Hmmm... So the idea is that living with a woman ruins the man? How do we know the Al Bundy guy would have been any good if kept at a distance? Or are you going to say it's only possible to be Al Bundy if you've got a woman putting up with it?
[Researchers] have even identified a new demographic category to describe such arrangements: the "living apart together," or L.A.T., relationship. These couples are committed to sharing their lives, but only to a point.
I like the idea, but I'm also skeptical. There are different reasons to want to live like this. Some couples probably just don't like each other that much, or they love autonomy more -- including the freedom not to have to show respect and concern for other person all the time and not to have the other person seeing everything that you do. As the article notes, in many cases, there are children who are not the natural children of the two adults in the current couple. Wanting a love relationship with someone doesn't necessarily mean you want him as a parent for your children or that you want to parent his children. And if both sides of the couple have children, those children don't necessarily see themselves as the Brady Bunch.
"Although social pressures encourage stepfamilies blending, only one out of three stepfamilies survive," [Jeannette Lofas, a clinical social worker, said.] "I always say to people, would you go on a plane to San Francisco with your child if you had a two-thirds chance of not surviving it?"
A strange comparison. Forming a family and then failing produces a breakup, a visible failure. Not forming a family can hurt too, but life goes on continuously, with no perceptible failure point.
[T]he rise in L.A.T. relationships may be due to a growing unwillingness to compromise, particularly among members of a generation known for their self-involvement.

"In many cases Baby Boomers want to have the freedom to live on their own terms," said the author Gail Sheehy, whose latest book is "Sex and the Seasoned Woman" (Random House). "As you age, you have more commitments and possessions in your life that you are attached to that the other person may not want to share."
Oh, it must be a trend. Gail Sheehy has written a book about it. So, yeah, Baby Boomers are selfish bastards. And old folks get set in their ways and don't like anybody messing with them.
Carolyne Roehm, the New York socialite and author, is similarly unwilling to sacrifice control of her space. Ms. Roehm, 54, said she is perfectly happy with her extreme version of the L.A.T. relationship, with Simon Pinniger, 53, a businessman who lives 1,700 miles away in Aspen, Colo.
Uh, yeah. Let's have a guy with a nice place in Aspen. But wouldn't it be better to have several guys, with housing in various quality vacation spots? But it's only a trendy L.A.T. if they are both devoted to each other. Well, that ought to keep her/him from cheating on you. What! You slept with someone else? But I thought we were a L.A.T.!
Ms. Roehm said she is not interested in making compromises to move in together, even if that makes her sound selfish.

"I have my own life, my own identity and want to keep it," she said. "I like having the things I love around me."
Let's hope Pinniger doesn't read that the wrong way.
But the relationship doesn't suffer from the distance between them, she said; after all, she was willing to fly out on a moment's notice when Mr. Pinniger voiced concern about the color of his fireplace stones.
What about the color of his moods -- the ever-changing, delicate human manifestations that only a live-in partner can know? Oh, please, I care about his damned fireplace stones! Did you know my boyfriend has a stone fireplace in Aspen?

"I never treated Tiger like a kid. I treated Tiger as an equal. We transcended the parent-child relationship..."

A magnificent athlete had a magnificent father. But I wonder whether whether, in general, that is is good parenting advice.

IN THE COMMENTS: Joan brings up "TSST!" -- last night's episode of "South Park," the one with The Dog Whisperer. Earl Woods ≈ Cartman's Mom.

Did they Wendy-ize Tiffani?

Unless you know the first season of "Project Runway" and have been following "Top Chef," my question can mean little. But there are certain reality show types. We all know what a Puck is, don't we? We all know what an Omarosa is, right? Pop culture literacy has some basic requirements. How can you not know the Wendy role? Then there's the whole issue of editing a person into the role, because it makes a good narrative. Was Wendy really, fully the Wendy character created by the "Project Runway" editors? But Tiffani? Suddenly, on this week's show, she's become the conniver who didn't come here to make friends. And Leann was the one everyone loved -- the Austin. (Or do you think Dave was supposed to be the Austin? No, Dave was the Andrae. Or was Andrae the Austin of "Project Runway's" second season?) Anyway, the two women -- Tiffani and Leann -- were seated side-by-side, and it was supposed to play as good versus evil, and -- oh, no! -- Tiffani makes it through to the finale. We're all supposed to cry for Leann and be stoked to see Tiffani fail in the finale. But what the hell? I'll be watching. Personally, I'm rooting for Dave. He's the underdog. He made it to the finale by making macaroni and cheese (with a truffle at the bottom) when all the others were being hoity-toity for the fancy-schmancy chefs. And he's so emotional. The other two -- Tiffani and Harold -- are steely/serene. Frankly, I'd rather work with either of them, because they radiate competence and control. Who wants a high-pressured work place to feel crazed and chaotic? But still, I'm a Dave fan. I've never seen a reality show where a verge-of-a-nervous breakdown character got this far.

Standing room on airplanes.

We had some fun with this subject last week. So let's call attention to this NYT correction:
A front-page article on April 25 about seating options that airlines are considering to accommodate more passengers in economy class referred incorrectly to the concept of carrying passengers standing up with harnesses holding them in position. During preparation of the article, The Times's questions to one aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, were imprecise and did not make it clear that the reporter was interested in standing-room "seats." As a result, the article said the company would not specifically comment on the upright-seating proposal. The company now says that while it researched that idea in 2003, it has since abandoned it. A correction of the article appeared on this page on Tuesday. It should have acknowledged that if The Times had correctly understood the history of the proposal, the article would have qualified it, and would not have appeared on Page A1.
And for more fun anyway, see the new New Yorker cover. [No longer displayable.]

May 3, 2006

"American Idol" -- the results.

[ADDED: For the results of the latest show, click on "Althouse" at the top of the page and scroll down to the most recent "American Idol -- results" post.]

Today's show begins with some unmemorable interviews and a mindbogglingly cheesy song. Some crap about "inspiration" and "a place where dreams are made" and "shining like the sun" and "together we are one." How anyone with any taste or artistic integrity can bear to stand there and sing such things is beyond me. Why, with all the money the show makes, can't they find someone to write beautiful lyrics of the sort that people wrote for pay back in the 1940s? The answer, I'm afraid, is that they don't think we want great lyrics. They think we're soft in the head. People who don't watch "American Idol," of course, tend to think those of us who do are soft in the head.

The Idols commercial has them transformed into "Hollywood" characters in the end. We focus in on the center of the screen: Chris, in a top hat, and -- especially -- Katharine, in a tight blue dress that is eye-riveting, even for those of us who are not lesbians or heterosexual men. Ryan yammers about Taylor's shoulder pads. Who was looking at Taylor? He was scarcely on screen, off to the side.

Ryan tells us that they are going off to Graceland after the show. Apparently, next week is Elvis week. Good!

They're picking out the bottom two. It's not Taylor. It's not Chris. Next is Paris, and she's in the bottom two. Who else? Elliott? Katharine? First, they make Paris sing. And it's Elliott! Oh, noooooo! He's made to sing.

It seems awfully likely that Paris is leaving. And yes, it is Paris.

Only one female left! And this is the earliest point on the show when all the black contestants have been eliminated.

"Mixed blogging is where the market tells us to go."

Stephen Bainbridge is -- as I already knew -- on my side in the "bloggership" controversy.

Banning laptops in the law school classroom.

This article is firing up the old topic. Personally, I think classrooms are physically restrictive for students, and web access provides a nice counterbalancing freedom that I would think they'd hate to lose. I'm surprised how many lawprofs are leaning in the repressive direction. I think if you want to get tough about something, make class participation count in the grade and make it clear that the exam is going to cover things that are presented only in class. Then trust students with their autonomy. They are going to be autonomous soon enough and affecting the lives of real people. I don't see the sense of paternalism at this point.

Moussaoui must live.

After thinking about it for 7 days, the jury rejects the death penalty.
[I]n their effort to secure Moussaoui's execution, prosecutors were fighting the current of recent history: A federal jury in Alexandria has never voted for a sentence of death. ...

Federal juries nationwide have also strongly preferred life over death. Since 1991, juries have voted for death sentences 51 times, compared with 93 sentences of life in prison, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel. Since 2000, amid publicity about the exoneration of some death row inmates by DNA and other evidence, federal juries have returned 69 life sentences, compared with 29 for death.

In the case most comparable to Moussaoui's, the 2001 trial of four al-Qaeda members accused of blowing up U.S. embassies in East Africa, a federal jury in New York chose life in prison instead of death for the two defendants eligible for death. Ten jurors wrote on the verdict form that executing one of the men would make him a martyr, and five said life in prison would be a greater punishment.
Let's hope it is.

"Pounced with fire on flaming roads, using ideas as my maps..."

Hey, "Theme Time Radio Hour with Bob Dylan" is on a 9 am on XM Radio, and I've only got the satellite radio activated for the car.

It was 5 to 9, and despite having written only one blog post this morning, I threw my things in the car and drove west, out anywhere where the landscape might mesh with Bob and the music and light up a dramatic mindscape.

It was the first show, the one I'd already streamed on the computer and been a little unenthusiastic about, but listening to it in the car, I melted into love. It's a very tight show, with a brilliant mix of songs and styles, tied together with Dylan's commentary and recitations of some of the lyrics. The peak of the show -- reached somewhere in the rolling farmland and twisty backroads around Black Earth, Wisconsin -- came when Hendrix's "The Wind Cries Mary" -- the theme was weather -- gave way to Judy Garland's "Come Rain or Come Shine." Surrounding them on either side were less well-known artists, much quirkier choices. A beautifully orchestrated program.

I've been resisting turning on the web version of my XM subscription. (It's a matter of making a phone call.) I think I like the idea of the car as a necessary part of the radio. What are the shows I love so much that I take a drive just because they are on? I've only ever had one other show I felt that way about.

UPDATE: Here's a nice review of the show that includes a full playlist.

Heavenly blue, crimson rambler and pearly gates...

The retro-hippies of today are hitting the morning glory seeds. Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase.

"The Blogosphere Is Alive With the Sound of Colbert Chatter."

The NYT has an article titled "After Press Dinner, the Blogosphere Is Alive With the Sound of Colbert Chatter." Okay, great, I'm blogging this. Let's see. They refer to a Gawker survey (without linking to it!). Yeah, Gawker's a blog. They refer to letters posted at Editor & Publisher (again, without a link!). Then:
Others chided the so-called mainstream media, including The New York Times, which ignored Mr. Colbert's remarks while writing about the opening act, a self-deprecating bit Mr. Bush did with a Bush impersonator.

Some, though, saw nothing more sinister in the silence of news organizations than a decision to ignore a routine that, to them, just was not funny.
Others? Some? Who are these mysterious bloggers? The article does quote a piece Noam Scheiber wrote on the New Republic's blog (again, without a link!). So one blog is quoted. Then the article collects some quotes from Al Franken (who's performed at one of these correspondents dinners), Mary Matalin, and Scott McClellan -- not bloggers.

Why isn't this article alive with the quotes of bloggers? And some links, damn it! Cluelessly, the article is dotted with links for various names that appear in the article. These links all take you to pages within the NYT site. There are no links that take you to the blogosphere chatter that the story is about, only links to stale bios and old articles.

The NYT wants to be hip by talking about bloggers, but they are deathly afraid of links that send readers away from their site, and that desperation is horribly unhip.


NOTE: I was on on Open Source Radio last night blabbing about the Colbert affair with various pundits. Stream it here.

May 2, 2006

Does "United 93" have a "documentary feel"?

Plenty of critics say so, but Christopher Althouse -- who's got a blog! -- disagrees:
Anyone who claims this movie has a documentary style has obviously not seen a documentary in a very long time. Over time, people have started to use that term when they really mean "shaky camera." If this were documentary footage somehow shot on flight 93, it would look completely different. In all likelihood, it would have been shot with one camera, maybe two. For it to be in real time, which this movie tries to be, it would either have to be all one shot or seem like an alternation between a very small number of cameras. In United 93 the movie, there is rapid cutting, cutting back-and-forth between all parts of the plane. The viewer, in fact, has no sense of where in the plane he or she "is." The uprising itself is cut quickly and with conflicting camera angles that give a sense of chaos over any objective view of what is going on. You are shown flashes of bodies moving, given in too fragmented a way for the viewer to piece together a picture of the whole. This is the opposite of what a documentary looks like. United 93 is shot like an action movie, not a documentary. It has a near-constant score, as well. In a documentary, this kind of Hollywood thriller music might seem pretty unusual. Yes, there are some shaky images and grainy film stock, but these are both typical of Hollywood action movies today.

Does the fact that United 93 was shot and edited like an action movie make it exploitation? Not necessarily, because those stylistic elements are only associated with the action genre because they happen to be used by action filmmakers. There's nothing about quick cutting that makes it intrinsically about entertainment; in this case, it was done in an effort to capture the psychology of those on board. The effect on the viewer, despite the defensibility of the filmmaker's intentions, is that one feels as though one is watching an action movie.

What we are left with is a film by a director whose experience is in the action genre, with the conventions of that genre used, probably by default, as his way of conveying chaos. The movie tries to please everyone who might be offended with a sugar-coated view of human nature. In the process, it adds little, other than an action movie aesthetic, to the scenario as we have all imagined it since the day it happened.
Read the whole thing. (There's a lot more about "United 93," including an explanation of "sugar-coated view of human nature") And bookmark the blog.

"You have to be ready now to make some kind of affirmative presentation."

Advice for advocates arguing to the Supreme Court. The Justices don't jump in with questions as they used to:
When former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was on the court, [lawyer Carter G. Phillips] recalled, she asked the first question so quickly and so predictably that there was little point in preparing an elegant opening argument. "Now you might get three or four minutes" without interruption, he said....

Has Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., himself the veteran of 39 Supreme Court arguments as a lawyer, shared with his colleagues the perspective from the other side of the bench, or maybe even laid down some new rules?

The latter theory is unlikely; the court's ethos calls for signaling rather than rule-making. To the extent that the new chief justice is leading by example — and there is no doubt that he is in charge of the courtroom — he is offering a model of how to ask questions that are tightly phrased, penetrating and often the last thing a lawyer wants to hear.
A fascinating change in style. Who knows what it has to do with the content of the decisions we will receive from the Roberts Court?

How Kaavya Viswanathan Got a Big Book Contract, Got Found Out, and Lost $500,000.

Feel free to use that as a book title. I won't cry plagiarism.

"It's not working. It's not working."

Said the condemned man, sitting up, after the lethal chemicals were pumping into his veins. A curtain was drawn, things were readjusted, the curtain reopened, and Joseph Lewis Clark was dispatched. Before the execution he apologized, and said, "Today my life is being taken because of drugs. If you live by the sword you die by the sword."

So much for radio... it's time for TV: "American Idol" -- the final 5.

Let's throw the cares of the world aside and fall into the arms of Ryan Seacrest, who will guide us through our national folly.

The theme tonight is songs from the year you were born.

Elliott Yamin was born in 1978, so he's singing "On Broadway." That's from '78? I remember hearing it in the 60s. Am I losing it? Key lyric: "And I won't quit 'til I'm a star." Elliott keeps winking.

Paris Bennett, born in 1988, is singing "Kiss"! I can't overstate how much I love this song choice. "You don't have to be cool to rule my world." Simon: "Screetchy and annoying." Paris: "I thank him." Ryan: whaaa? Paris: "I love all the opinions." Stay positive. You don't have to make sense to rule my world.

Chris Daughtry, born in 1979, sings "Renegade." Simon: "A million times better than the first two performances."

Katharine McPhee -- sorry I missed the year -- "Against All Odds." It sounds thin and -- well -- screetchy. But she looks lovely.

Taylor Hicks, born in 1976, sings the perfect song for him, "Play That Funky Music, White Boy." He's wearing a paisley shirt and doing a weird dance. He ends singing flat on his back on the stage.

For the second song, there's a new theme: current hits.

Elliott, "Home." Rich and sensitive, but kind of dull.

Paris, "Be Without You." Simon's right: "You did rather well with that."

Chris, "I Dare You." The band is putrid! The backdrop is licking red flames. But despite all that, Chris is good. The judges don't like it much though and keep saying his voice was giving out. Talking to Ryan, he's all short of breath. Poor Chrissy! Vote for him!

Katharine, "Black Horse in the Cherry Tree"? That can't be the title. She's crawling on the floor next to two guys playing (and sitting on) box drums. I'm simply not comprehending anything about this song or this performance.

Taylor, "Something." Ah! A song I can relate to! He's giving it the Joe Cocker treatment. How is this a current hit? Someone must have a record out. Whatever. Nice!

Everyone did a creditable job tonight. It's hard to rank them, but I'm going to go with: Chris, Taylor, Elliott, Paris, Katharine. The only person I think is safe is Taylor.

UPDATE: In the comments, there's some talk about what songs we would pick if we had to pick a song from the year we were born. I'm not commenting on that myself, because I already talked about it last year, here, when the same theme came up on the previous season of the show. Also, what exactly did Paris say about the song "Kiss"? "The song is not really a song that people can make a song, but I think I can." That quote is not really a quote that people can make a quote, but I think I can.

On the radio.

I'm waiting for the call to go on Open Source Radio and talk about Stephen Colbert. I hope Steve's listening!

I'm checking out various websites, trying to get a read on opinion. Are righties slamming him and lefties exulting? Sorry, I'm in the middle on this one. I like the Colbert character, but think it works better in his studio, which symbolizes his cocoon and his self-love. Surrounded by others, he can't really play such a pompous and insular character. It seems desperate, and we worry about him, standing so close to people who must be quite intimidating. It's damned hard to be that good of an actor, but he did pretty well, and it took a lot of nerve.

I'm on around 7:20 Eastern, after Helen Thomas and Noam Scheiber, and along with Michael Scherer of Salon.

But first up is Jay Rosen of PressThink. He was at the event. His theory is that people weren't laughing because the subject of the routine was the administration's disregard for evidence. I can't see why that makes it unfunny. I wonder if Rosen watches "The Colbert Report," since he pronounces the "t" at the end of his name a couple times.

Noam Scheiber, who was also in the room, thinks Colbert was just off that night. He thinks Colbert didn't quite have a grip on his character, and he slipped into ranting criticism of the President, and just didn't have good enough jokes. He notes that Ed Helms (of "The Daily Show") wasn't finding much to laugh at. Only people who "put politics ahead of comedy" are finding a lot to laugh at.

Helen Thomas is saying that one reason people in the room didn't laugh is that they think it's not right to laugh in the President's face.


That was fun! Did you listen? And, more importantly, did Steve listen?


Now, Robert Thompson is on. He's a TV & pop culture professor. I'm jealous of that job! "The President has now been roasted by one of the coolest, hippest guys in the country," and the President "didn't blow," so "in an odd sort of way," the hipness rubbed off on Bush. Was Bush hurt? No! He got an injection of coolness!, says Thompson.

Then, I got back in at the end. I had to disagree with some assertions about what a new thing criticizing the President and the press is. It might be new to criticize the President when you're a guest at a big event and standing a few feet away from him, but it seems to me Americans have been mocking the powerful and piercing phony rhetoric since before we were a country.

UPDATE: You can stream the show here.

Radio alert!

I'll be on Open Source Radio tonight talking about Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner. You'll be able to listen to it online or download it.

ADDED: The show is from 7-8 Eastern Time. Here's the post I wrote about the performance.

Days, weeks, months, years.

Which of these units of time is not like the others? Weeks! Weeks have no astronomical basis. So why do we have weeks? What are weeks for? Why 7? Because it was written in the Bible. Perhaps hardcore atheists should object to this sevenness.
There were rival weeks, both ancient and modern, including short or long weeks corresponding to market days in some agricultural societies, 10-day weeks in revolutionary France and both five- and six-day weeks in Stalinist Russia.
6?! That's just crazy. I can see wanting to go to 10, but 6? That's just perverse. But there's not much point trying to go all metric with 10, because days and years are determined by overwhelming astronomical facts.

Still, I wonder how different we would be if we hadn't settled on these cycles of 7 days. The rhythm of weeks shapes our moods and activities. We keep going through this short arc of ambition. Tuesdays are crucial, you know? Get cracking! If things don't happen on Tuesday, you feel like giving up. I mean there will be some chance to salvage the week on the Wednesday, but you'll have to do it under the weight of a failed Tuesday.

Man, it's Tuesday. Tuesday! Don't you understand about Tuesday?

But if we had a 10-day cycle, the second day would be just a smooth acceleration day. The third day would have more oomph. The fourth day would add room to really develop the week's accomplishments. Ah, how much potential life would contain, how effective I would be, if only those French revolutionaries had gotten their way!

Shut up! It's Tuesday! Get out of here! I can already see the gaping maw of defeat that is Thursday!

"I don't want to be the guy who calls a borderline walk and ruins this kid's shot at history."

Said the umpire, describing his "nice, big strike zone," and kind of besmirching the record -- 2 perfect games in a row -- as he purports to admire it.

IN THE COMMENTS: "So is this really a comment about Chief Justice Roberts in some way?" Yeah, good point! Damn! I keep forgetting to law blog! I need my commenters to elbow me into it. And here I am baseball blogging? Do I baseball blog?

The Anna Nicole Smith case.

One of the perils of lawprof blogging is that when the Supreme Court issues a decision in your field, posting about it seems compulsory. And this one even has a big hulking celebrity who would ordinarily be fun to write about for almost no reason at all. But I don't wanna to write about the Anna Nicole Smith case.

It's a unanimous opinion about a fine point of a doctrine about which I've never made any class read a single case in over 20 years of teaching Federal Jurisdiction. Suffice it to say: The jurisdiction of the federal courts is defined by statutes. Old case law contains a judge-made exception for probate cases. In the face of a statute that contains no exception and old case law making an exception, what are you going to do? Read the exception narrowly.

May 1, 2006

When Scalia met Ludacris.

Who knows what all the two men talked about after the White House Correspondents Dinner? All the reporter could wrest out of Ludacris was "Um, we didn't really talk about much." Scalia offered little additional detail: "I just said hello," and "He has a deep voice, doesn't he?"

Is there a left-right division about whether lawprof blogs should stick to law or range over multiple topics?

Eric Muller wonders:
[The] highly successful "mixed" lawprof bloggers all blog from, and to a readership primarily on, the political right....

The couple of genuinely "mixed" lawprof bloggers to the left of center – I'm thinking, I guess, mostly of myself and Michael Froomkin, and I'd probably throw in Ann Bartow of Feminist Law Profs as well -- don't hold a candle to their readership or their influence.

What do I make of that? To be honest, I don't really know. I certainly don't think the legal academy is skewed towards a Republican/conservative viewpoint; it isn't.

The preeminence of right-of-center "mixed" lawprof bloggers may, however, reflect an overall blogospheric tilt to the right; look at the TTLB ecosystem's ten "Higher Beings" and you'll see that seven are blogs from the right, whereas only two are blogs from the left.

Or maybe it reflects something else entirely. I'd be curious to know what you think.

In any case, Larry[ Solum's] thesis – that lawprof bloggers who blog about law as well as lots of other stuff will confuse their readership and drive them away, and that their blogs will therefore fade away – appears to be incorrect, or at least incomplete. Something surely explains why certain "mixed" lawprof blogs are among the most successful blogs in the blogosphere, even among lawprofs and other consumers of legal scholarship, and something surely explains why right-of-center ones do a whole lot better than left-of-center ones.
Obvious and inflammatory theory #1: Lefties are more easily confused.

Obvious and inflammatory theory #2: The flexible, wide-ranging intellect leans right.

Anyway... I think readers like mixed topic blogs more. Remember when Stephen Bainbridge took a vote about whether to put his material about corporate law on a separate blog? The readers strongly rejected the idea.

"Unfortunately, whenever there is talk of social corruption, fingers are pointed at women."

Said Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad:
"Certain prejudices against women have nothing to do with Islam," he said Friday, several days after lifting the ban [on women's attending sporting events]. The speech seemed to present him for the first time as a supporter of expanded rights for women. "Unfortunately, whenever there is talk of social corruption, fingers are pointed at women. Shouldn't men be blamed for the problems, too?"
That's quite a concession, that men might actually share some of the blame for social problems.

Why the feminist turn for Ahmadinejad? According to the article, it's a play for votes, albeit a risky one.

Notes on television.

Last night, I really wanted to settle in and watch two hours of quality television: "The Sopranos" and "Big Love." I watched the first 20 minutes of "The Sopranos," then turned it off to read until "Big Love" came on. I watched 10 minutes of that, then turned it off and read until I fell asleep. I was tired and not up to the task of watching quality television. So much going on, and you've got to absorb it at the pace they impose on you. Reading is much easier and much more self-indulgent and luxurious. You can drift into your own thoughts at will and return to you old place or skip ahead or back.

But if you're looking for a place to talk about "The Sopranos" and "Big Love," go right ahead and use the comments. Don't worry about spoiling it for me. I prefer the shows spoiled. It removes the distraction of paying attention to the plot points and to see what's really happening, to concentrate on the details. I often watch these shows twice, and the second viewing is always better. That's how you know it's worth watching once.

Recycling the leftovers from the "Person of the Year" analysis.

Time Magazine has another one of its lists: 100 People Who Shape Our World. It always seems as though they're just begging us to bitch about the three or four people who least belong on the list. I'm not going to Technorati this list and see all the bloggers who are exclaiming about Matt Drudge and Arianna Huffington.

Re Drudge: "With 10 million readers daily, Drudge, 39, has paved a generous path for the blogs; without his example, semipro scribes might not have unearthed 'Rathergate.'" Does that sound like irksome, backward Time-ese writing? Actually, Ana Marie Cox wrote that.

The writer of the post on Arianna eschewed Time-ese:
No doubt because of my (persuasive) prowess and Arianna's intellectual openness, she switched, becoming a lefty. With her indefatigable persistence, resourcefulness and good humor, Arianna, 55, has gone from ambitious project to ambitious project with varying degrees of success, finding herself the proprietor of the widely read, hugely influential liberal blog Huffington Post. None of this would have happened were it not for me. And it seems oddly ironic that it is Arianna, not I, who has been named one of TIME's 100 most annoying (sorry, influential) people. Arianna should be writing about me.
Me, Al Franken.

Bloggership Linkership.

Ian Best has a comprehensive collection of links about last Friday's "Bloggership" conference. Let's follow some of them.

I see Harvard lawprof Charles Nesson is making a bid for a spot in my banner by calling me "The glint on the edge of Solomon's Sword." That refers to something I wrote a long time ago, which I don't have a link for, but if you've got Lexis, search the law review file for his name and mine.

Daniel Solove did a nice bloggerly job of condensing everyone's talk into a one-liner.

Howard Bashman has this
to say:
At a conference chock-full of law professor bloggers, you might expect that among the presenters the ratio of law geeks to non-law geeks would be quite high. In that respect, I found it interesting to observe first-hand that the coolness (or lack of coolness) of a given law professor's blog did not reliably indicate the coolness (or lack of coolness) of the blog's author. Not surprisingly, however, with Ann she was every bit as cool as her blog....
I wonder who the sentence before the sentence about me refers to. Who's the uncool lawprof with the cool blog and who's the cool lawprof with the uncool blog?

Timothy Armstrong sure took
detailed notes. Thanks for reminding me of what I said. I was sort of wondering!

Roger Alford has a list of predictions for the future of law professors, e.g., "Law professors currently target their scholarship to appeal to student editors at major law journals (while also targeting their peers). In future decades, law professors will target their peers directly without intermediaries." Yeah, "disintermediation" -- I learned that word from Larry Solum.

But enough about the Bloggership conference. It's Monday, I'm back in Madison, and it's time to reengage with life here. Oddly, I've got to give a presentation about blogging today, at the "Socio-Legal Studies BrownBag." My colleague Gordon Smith, who was at the conference, is co-presenting, so it might feel a lot like the conference, but I'm thinking it won't be. A different crowd attends a "Socio-Legal Studies BrownBag" in Madison, Wisconsin then attends a conference on blogging and legal scholarship at Harvard. Expect me to reflect on the differences later today. And I've got to attend a Faculty Senate meeting today too. (I'm the Law School's alternate senator.) But what I really need to do is write some exams.

Digression prompted by the word "BrownBag": At the hotel the other day, I was watching some old "Monty Python" episode, and there was a sketch in which Graham Chapman played a man who would put a bag on his head whenever anyone said "mattress." It was typical Python nonsense, but Chapman had a way of putting the bag on his head that was far funnier than anything anyone else did. It was rather mysterious, that comic genius. How amusingly could you put a paper bag on your head? But I will not be putting a bag on my head at the "Socio-Legal Studies BrownBag," even though "Socio-Legal Studies BrownBag" sounds so serioso it makes me want to put a bag on my head.