May 13, 2006

"When I travel I tell hotels up front that 'Alexander Dog Cohen' is coming and he is my emotional-needs dog."

This is not a humor piece:
The 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act states that anyone depending on an animal to function should be allowed full access to all private businesses that serve the public, like restaurants, stores and theaters. The law specifies that such animals must be trained specifically to assist their owner. True service animals are trained in tasks like finding a spouse when a person is in distress, or preventing people from rolling onto their stomachs during seizures....

Aphrodite Clamar-Cohen, who teaches psychology at John Jay College in Manhattan and sees a psychotherapist, said her dog, a pit bull mix, helps fend off dark moods that began after her husband died eight years ago. She learned about psychological support pets from the Delta Society, a nonprofit group that aims to bring people and animals together, and got her dog, Alexander, last year. "When I travel I tell hotels up front that 'Alexander Dog Cohen' is coming and he is my emotional-needs dog," she said. She acknowledged that the dog is not trained as a service animal.

"He is necessary for my mental health," she said. "I would find myself at loose ends without him."

It is widely accepted that animals can provide emotional benefits to people. "There is a lot of evidence that animals are major antidepressants," said Carole Fudin, a clinical social worker who specializes in the bond between animals and humans. "They give security and are wonderful emotional grease to help people with incapacitating fears like agoraphobia."...

These days people rely on a veritable Noah's Ark of support animals. Tami McLallen, a spokeswoman for American Airlines, said that although dogs are the most common service animals taken onto planes, the airline has had to accommodate monkeys, miniature horses, cats and even an emotional support duck. "Its owner dressed it up in clothes," she recalled.

There have also been at least two instances (on American and Delta) in which airlines have been presented with emotional support goats. Ms. McLallen said the airline flies service animals every day; all owners need to do is show up with a letter from a mental health professional and the animal can fly free in the cabin.
What about the emotional needs created by finding that you're seated in coach next to a small horse and a person who's emotionally impaired enough to need a small horse and anti-social enough to impose it on you and shameless enough to exploit a law intended to help the disabled? Can I have a monkey to help me with that?

"People around here believe that if Merapi is going to explode there will be a sign, a magical sign."

"Either it comes in a dream, or in the form of a hallucination."

Not everyone leaves when warned.
Although most Indonesians are Muslim, many also follow animist beliefs and worship ancient spirits. Often at full moons, they trek to crater rims and throw in rice, jewelry and live animals to appease the volcanoes.
Beliefs -- beautiful and sad.

Perceiving a theme in today's posts...

It's something like: Boxed In! Caught in a small space! Claustrophobia!

A circle of heavy stones, suburbia, TV, the template, the crossword (with depression), a room (with a rabid bat), a too-small headline, Supermax prison, and a media pod.

Yikes. I'm going out.

"The Japanese love liminal spaces and gray zones."

Media Immersion Pods.
...Japan's "petit iede," or little runaways, come for downtime, free lattes and smoothies, and, at some branches, showers. They use the places as trial separations from home — staying a few hours, overnight or a few days, long enough to scare their parents. (A "night pack" allows use of the pod from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. for about $10; some places sell toothbrushes and underwear too.) Periodically the management will remind a customer that the cafe is not a hotel, but above all Bagus respects people's privacy.

ON a recent afternoon, at around 5:30, I visited the Gran Cyber Café in the Shinjuku neighborhood for the first time, to read e-mail and visit a news site or two. Checking in, I was assigned to pod 16-A.

I loved 16-A the instant I saw it. I closed the door, slipped into a low-slung leatherette seat and surveyed the all-you-can-eat tech feast, which includes VHS and DVD players, satellite and regular television on a Toshiba set, PlayStation 2, Lineage II and a Compaq computer loaded with software, all the relevant downloads and hyperspeedy Internet. In the nearby library were thousands of comic books, magazines and novels. On the desk was a menu of oddball snacks, like boiled egg curry and hot sandwich tuna.

The atmosphere is airless and hot, with a permanent cloud of cigarette smoke. Over all the effect is of a low-wattage, low-oxygen casino.

Prisoner 51427-054.

Moussaoui goes to the Supermax federal prison in Colorado, where "the soundproofed cells were designed so inmates cannot make eye contact with each other." Among the nearly 400 prisonmates he can't see are Ramzi Yousef, Eric Rudolph, Ted Kaczynski, Terry Nichols, and Richard Reid.

"Dean Cancels Berkeley Graduation Speech."

But who was supposed to give the speech? If that's the question that headline makes you ask, click on the link so you can laugh like I did.


If one of these things...

... flies in your window, while you're napping and brushes against you, don't just catch it in a towel and throw it out the window. You may assume it hasn't bitten you, but you might be wrong. A 16-year-old boy in Texas just died of rabies.

Here is my own personal bat story. I ended up with a lot of rabies shots, because we could not be sure that the bat I caught and threw out the window was not rabid.

"I have the true feeling of myself only when I am unbearably unhappy."

I love the Saturday crossword, because it's so hard (but you can get it in the end if you keep going even when it seems that you've hit the wall -- at least if you've built up your skill with easier days of the puzzle). But today's puzzle, by Brendan Emmett Quigley (edited by Will Shortz), is especially nice, because the 1 Across clue asks for the writer of that quote. It makes you want to dig in and solve, doesn't it? Or do you know the answer off the top of your (large-domed) head? Or does it just make you want to Google your way to the answer (which will take two seconds)? Or do you just tsk "somebody had a problem with depression"?

Only read this if you can give coding help.

I did some tiny little thing to my blog template yesterday -- deleting something just above "previous posts" in the sidebar -- and now, when I point to the "previous posts," the archive list, or the blogroll, the entire list, rather than just the individual item, gets underlined in red. What should I do?

ADDED: Problem solved! Thanks! The answer was provided 10 minutes after I posted -- actually, after I started writing this post.

MORE: And thanks to Scott for pointing out that I still had a problem even though I announced my problem solved. Which it now is. I think.

Who is clueless enough to think Stephen Colbert is a conservative?

At yesterday's Law School graduation ceremony, Gordon Smith got a chance to talk to Rep. Tammy Baldwin about -- well, what would you talk to her about? -- Stephen Colbert:
It turns out that she's a fan of Stephen Colbert, too. She asked whether I thought he was, at heart, a liberal or conservative. (Apparently, this is a matter of dispute among members of Congress.) I told her that I assumed he was a liberal, but she said that the congressman who claims to know Colbert best is convinced that he is a conservative.
Yeesh, are our representatives that dumb?

Here's a dialogue between Colbert and Terry Gross from the April 8, 2005 episode of "Fresh Air":
GROSS: Have you become much more political since doing "The Daily Show?"

Mr. COLBERT: Yes. I started off at the Second City in Chicago, which is ostensibly--it's an improvisational theater that ostensibly does social and political satire, but when I was there we generally didn't. And I made a conscious effort then not to do political stuff when I first started out, because I found so much political humor false, stuff that just told the audience what they thought already about a political situation.

I mean, the example is people making Ted Kennedy drinking jokes, which didn't seem to be informative or satirical. They just seemed mean-spirited and just told the audience what they thought already. And the people that I worked with--Paul Dinello and Amy Sedaris for the most part--we had a little pact that we wouldn't talk about politics, we wouldn't talk about pop culture and we wouldn't make references to real places or people. We would just do scenes of--between--relationship scenes.

And then when I got to "The Daily Show," they asked me to have a political opinion--or rather Jon did. When Craig was there, it wasn't so political. Jon asked me to have a political opinion, and it turned out that I had one, but I didn't realize quite how liberal I was until I was asked to make passionate comedic choices as opposed to necessarily successful comedic choices.

GROSS: Boy, I like the way you put that, passionate comedic choices.

Mr. COLBERT: Well, yeah. I mean, Jon has asked us to be political and to share his interest in doing political comedy that actually has some thought behind it, and as a result, if you don't do something that you feel passionately about, if you're not talking in a passionate way about it, you're gonna sound just as false as a politician who's doing a stump speech that is to please his audience and doesn't reflect a dearly held political idea. And more than anything else, we don't want to sound predictable and we don't want to sound--or I don't want to sound like I don't believe what I'm saying.
A nice thing about Colbert is that he cared first about being funny and only explored his political ideas because it was part of the comic role he had taken. The passion was for comedy, not politics. That means he's not a natural politico. (I like people like that; I identify with them.) Forced to take a political position, he was surprised by how liberal he was.

Now, you could say, but the environment of "The Daily Show" is so liberal that perhaps an unpolitical person would falsely "discover" that he was a big liberal. Creating his own show, he embodied himself in a ridiculous conservative character. But why did he do that? Our Congressmen and -women are wondering! Maybe at some point, he saw that he was only a chameleon on "The Daily Show" and longed to express conservative opinions, so he created the "Colbert Report" character so he could say all those things and still not lose all his liberal friends.

Sorry, that's the best I can do in an effort to absolve our representatives of the charge of cluelessness.

"Don't [mess] with suburbia, because we will chew you up and spit you out."

A man takes a nap in his car on a suburban street and proceeds into a living nightmare.

The Brazilian Stonehenge.

It challenges one's mental image of the size of the world to think that something like this could exist and not have been noticed until now:
A total of 127 large blocks of stone were found driven into the ground on top of a hill.

Well preserved and each weighing several tons, the stones were arranged upright and evenly spaced....

The stones appear to have been laid out to help pinpoint the winter solstice, when the sun is at its lowest in the sky.

May 12, 2006

Siskel and Ebert, uncensored.

The deleted scenes.

I haven't watched them yet, because I'm in a café and forgot my earphones. But judging from the comments at the link -- it's Metafilter -- there's some deliciously nasty stuff.

Walking out.

I run into the law school to pick up some exams and leave, through the stairwell with the pingpong table, out the door, into the 40° drizzle, and -- oh, lilacs!

But the petals are all falling...


For Rosie O'Donnell.

"We definitely knew that we were looking at somebody's grave."

"The thought was, 'Is this going to be our grave?' "

Lost campers think they've finally found someone, but what they've found is the campsite of a man who had become lost a year earlier.

"Chris Daughtry to become lead singer of Fuel."

Booted 'Idol' contestant gets new job/Chris Daughtry to become lead singer of Fuel says the headline to this CNN article. But the text of the article doesn't support that headline.

And while I'm doing a Chris Daughtry post, let me note that there is an awful lot of analysis out there saying that his fans got complacent and would have called in more votes if they'd suspected he was in danger of going. Chris himself is saying that in a quote in the CNN article. But, as has been demonstrated time and again on the show, voters respond to the performance on a given night, and Chris's performance last Tuesday was not strong enough to wow people who weren't already blinded by idolatry. Chris leaving was like Tamyra leaving in Season 1. Both of them had been great in earlier shows, but fell short one night -- a night when a person whose turn it seemed to be to leave stepped up (as they say on reality shows). Elliott Yamin, like Nikki McKibben in Season 1, felt the danger and performed. And "America" heard it.

(And Katharine McPhee has a female body. And "America" saw it.)

MORE: From The Anchoress, including what folks backstage think of Chris.

The silent strategy of the holdout juror in the Moussaoui case.

The WaPo reports on the jury deliberations, involving repeated 11 to 1 votes for the death penalty, with the holdout juror never identifying himself and thus never explaining his position.
The foreman said deliberations broke off April 26 when one juror questioned why they should take another vote. "What for?" the foreman remembers the juror saying, "We all know how it is going to come out."

The next day a juror called in sick, and there were no deliberations. That Friday, the jury returned. The foreman told the group that she wanted to send a note to U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema stating that the jury was "not holding deliberations in the true sense of deliberations because the con arguments were not being thrown out on the table so we could investigate them as a group."

She said the jurors did not want any notes sent to the judge, so they decided that the whole group would raise anti-death penalty issues because that way the lone dissenter would not feel isolated or "ganged up on." Deliberations continued, but the foreman said the lone dissenter still did not raise any issues. Three days later, jurors delivered their decision to Brinkema.

The foreman said at the end of the deliberations she felt better about the process but not the outcome.

"I felt frustrated," she said, "because I felt that many of us had been cheated by the anonymity of the 'no' voter. We will never know their reason. We will never be able to hold their reason up to the light and the scrutiny of evidence, fact and law."
This describes a fascinating group dynamic. Why did the lone dissenter remain anonymous? Was he (or she) afraid of the group's disapproval? Or was he instead worried that he couldn't articulate reasons good enough to fight back 11 opponents? Did he remain anonymous out of fear or did he perceive a strategy in remaining silent -- that is, could he predict the path the 11 would take?

The 11 had first to accept the fact that the dissenter was not going to talk and then to realize that they would need to generate the arguments against the death penalty. That meant that they could no longer hold fast to their pro-death penalty state of mind. Instead of deflecting arguments from the outside, they were forced to think the thoughts of the death penalty opponent. They had to state the arguments against their own positions, and in going through that exercise -- which would have been unnecessary if the dissenter had spoken -- they convinced themselves.

Meanwhile, the dissenter could preserve an armored mindset: I will not engage with you. I will sit here forever until you do the hard work of imagining what I'm thinking.

The silent approach seems to have worked in the Moussaoui case. But I wonder how effective this passive aggressive argumentation style is in general. It only has potential, it seems, in a situation like a jury room where the group cannot progress without the holdout's agreement. Jurors, moreover, separate at the end of the task and therefore lack a stake in the ongoing relationships within the group. But perhaps some variation on this strategy could work in a family, where one person has an opinion but feels incapable of arguing for it.

For example, a child might do well saying to a parent: Why do you think I feel this way? I need you to explain my feelings to me. There's no option to remain anonymous like the Moussaoui juror, but the strategy is to decline to offer an explanation to someone who needs your cooperation. And the hope is that in forcing the other person to articulate your position, they will understand and value it more than if you had said it to them.

Law professors can learn something here too. Sometimes we ask a question and a student take the position he believes in. We then might take the other side, pushing back with the opposing arguments, in an effort to strengthen the student's powers of reason and argument. But we can also, instead of arguing back, say: If I were the judge, I'd be thinking right now of ruling against you. Why do you think that is? Would the student be more likely to change his position -- or, better, to end up with sounder beliefs -- than if the teacher had taken the opposing side?

May 11, 2006

"They're not so different from a skirt... They have the same amount of fabric."

Justifying the vile practice of wearing shorts ... to work.

The best work of American fiction in the last 25 years.

The NYT says it's "Beloved." As this essay explains, they asked "a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages."
A few respondents, not content to state their own preferences, pre-emptively attacked what they assumed would be the thinking of the majority. So we received some explanations of why people were not voting for "Beloved," the expected winner...
We're not shown those explanations though!

Kipunji.... Rungwecebus....

A recently discovered monkey, Kipunji, has been determined to belong in a new genus, Rungwecebus.

Kipunji.... Rungwecebus... Kipunji.... Rungwecebus... Kipunji.... Rungwecebus...

"One of the great plug-ugly he-man overacting contests ever committed to celluloid."

That's A.O. Scott's description of Ernest Borgnine and Gene Hackman in "The Poseidon Adventure." They've done a remake of it, you may have noticed. Apparently, it sucks.

"It was the best of times, it was the first of times..."

" was the age of ice, it was the age of lava, it was the epoch of large sloping foreheads, it was the epoch of dictabirds and monkey traffic signals and woolly-mammoth shower massages."

"How Fred Flintstone Got Home, Got Wild, and Got a Stone Age Life."


Chris has a photo essay.

UPDATE: Chris's Friday photo essay is even better.

"You can hit me and I won't think much of it..."

"... but you can say something and hurt me very much."

Floyd Patterson, RIP.

Give me some camera advice.

I like my Sony DSC-V1, but I want to pass it along to a chosen recipient and replace it. I have a nice Nikon D50, my good SLR camera for serious photo outings, but I also want a small camera to carry around all the time. The Sony DSC-V1 has been great, but it's a little thick, and I'm thinking there are some improved and highly portable cameras out there. I want to be able to take nice stills and also to do little movie clips, like the one in the previous post. What should I buy?

ADDED: And is it too much to ask for a camera like this to interact properly with iMovie? Using my Sony camera with iMovie, the sound portion was eliminated, something having to do with the format, I believe.

Just another rainy afternoon, in a café.

Resized maps.

Fabulous revisualizations:

That's the world resized according to the number of airline passengers.

This one shows refugee origin:

Many more at the link.

The Brit with American in-laws.

On AskMetafilter, a British woman with American in-laws poses a question about how to deal with cultural difference -- do I seem like "a snotty, cold Brit"? -- then proceeds to trash the hell out of the horrible, horrible in-laws she obviously cannot stand. She gets the answer she seeks: everyone assures her that her in-laws really suck.

She also gets some actual advice about how to get along with horrible people, which really is one of the great challenges in life, isn't it? (Or do you just avoid people you can't stand, even when they are in the family or your workplace?) Another great challenge in life is figuring out where to draw the line: When do you mark someone as horrible and realize what you need is a coping strategy (or avoidance)? As you've gotten older have you changed where you draw that line? Did you start writing people off more quickly or did you become more tolerant?

ADDED, bonus usage question: Since we have to say "in-laws," is there any point in preserving the fussy form "mothers-in-law" (or fathers-in-law, etc.)?

Enough of this Stone Age life.

The Nukak-Makú walk out of the Amazon and do not want to go back. They want to stay in the modern world and that means they expect the government to take care of them:
Nor can officials force them to go back. So the town and the government are providing them food and clothing in a forest clearing called Aguabonita outside San José.

"We can't say, 'You're a Nukak, go back to the bush,' " said Ramón Rodríguez, who is overseeing assistance efforts from the central government's emergency aid organization, Social Action.
It would be fascinating if they were rejecting the life their people have lived forever, but that does not seem to be the case:
The newly arrived Nukak do not provide much detail about why they left. They just say that "the Green Nukak," a possible reference to Marxist guerrillas, who wear camouflage, told them to leave.

"The Green Nukak said we could not keep walking in the jungle, or else there would be problems," explained Va-di, another Nukak man, whose words were translated from Nukak by Belisario. "The Green Nukak told us to go where it is safe."
Meanwhile, they say they feel happy.
Used to long marches in search of food, they are amazed that strangers would bring them sustenance — free.

What do they like most? "Pots, pants, shoes, caps," said Mau-ro, a young man who went to a shelter to speak to two visitors.

Ma-be added, "Rice, sugar, oil, flour." Others said they loved skillets. Also high on the list were eggs and onions, matches and soap and certain other of life's necessities.

"I like the women very much," Pia-pe said, to raucous laughs.
Modern life seems good, but the comparison is to traditional life threatened by the Green Nukak. And there aren't enough monkeys:
The men still go into the jungle, searching for monkeys... Monkeys are grilled, dismembered and boiled, then eaten piece by piece.
You can't get over that taste for monkeys.

A dialogue about a call for a dialogue.

Recently, Yale Law Journal put out an invitation to lawprofs to submit proposals for "[a]rticles engaged in a dialogue on a single compelling legal topic." (PDF.) I didn't do a post promoting this, despite an emailed request from the editors, because I didn't think my readers would find it very interesting. At first glance, I misread it and thought they were looking for articles in dialogue form, like the famous Henry Hart piece, The Power of Congress to Limit the Jurisdiction of Federal Courts: An Exercise in Dialectic, 66 Harvard Law Review 1362 (1953). That would interest me. But what's special about two articles taking opposing positions? Or is it just that Yale is soliciting articles in proposal form? And I can't see my readers getting jazzed up about that.

But I'm bringing it up now because on Prawsblawg, Matt Brodie and Paul Horwitz are writing about it. I should say they are "engaged in a dialogue on" this topic, which may or may not be "compelling." Matt says:
In the traditional law review article-and-response, the article is sent out, read, and then responded to by another academic.... But the original author did not pick her interlocutor; the review did....

If the "debate" comes as a pre-arranged set, I worry that it will be "conflict for show." Like a musty vaudeville act, the combatants will have all their moves choreographed ahead of time. ("Two law professors walk into a talent agent's office . . . .") Having chosen each other, the two sides have to have some degree of agreement. The natural human tendency will be to pick a sparring partner who is good but doesn't level any really dangerous punches. Knowing this, the two sides will be encouraged to amp up the level of combat, at least on the surface, to make it look sufficiently contentious. In the end, the debate will be less like a true match and more like pro-wrestling: it will look really bad but the whole thing will be scripted ahead of time.
Wait. Isn't pro-wrestling entertaining? Shouldn't it be "it will look really good but the whole thing will be scripted ahead of time"? The use of "but" seems to demand a contrast. And no, I'm not trying to start another grammar and usage thread. Yesterday's is up to 56 comments. If I wanted to do that I'd also call attention to "scripted ahead of time."

So, anyway...

Paul says it's an "excellent idea," especially if it were done by lower ranked law journals:
For many legal scholars, who desire above all (well, almost above all) to be read, it might well be worthwhile to forego a more prominent placement in favor of a somewhat less prominent journal that guarantees that one's article will be given the serious treatment of a response (and that offers the original author a reply opportunity). This is also an excellent opportunity for those law reviews to promote the professors at their own school, since these professors would be among the natural candidates for the job of writing the response. I've been pushing this idea on my home institution's journal for a while; sorry to see that Yale, which doesn't need the extra lift, is as brilliant and thoughtful about the law review publication process as I am.
I don't see why the presence of a response, especially from the journal's own school, would stimulate more readership, aside from the close reading the responder himself would give it. And I really don't think a lawprof would go with a lesser law journal to expose himself to a critique.

The charm of the Yale idea really is in picking your partner. It doesn't have to be about getting a really intense critique. It merely needs to be two lawprofs speaking to the same subject from different angles. You should pick someone you want to debate about the issue with as you work on the material over the summer. You engage, you talk, you disagree, you learn from each other. It's really not at all like the problem of scripted wrestling versus a fair fight. It's about dialogue. You have a dialogue with someone who's good to talk with, not a hostile opponent. You don't need two enemies facing off. It's better to have two interlocutors who respect each other and can engage and use each other's ideas to produce something new: a dialectic -- to use Henry Hart's word. And it would be even better if the writing were in Henry Hart's form: a dialogue.

What righties read.

John Hawkins surveyed "right-of-center" bloggers on their favorite columnists. He asked me to participate, but I didn't, and not just because I don't identify with political labels including "right-of-center," but also because I don't have favorite columnists.

I need to remind myself to read more columnists. I mostly read the NYT, and ever since TimesSelect started, I've been skipping over the columnists. I see them as not bloggable. I know blogging's not the only reason to read something. Still....

The top columnist among the righties, by a wide margin, is Mark Steyn. Second is Charles Krauthammer, whom I do read, though not often enough. Third is Thomas Sowell (whose current column is "Is thinking obsolete?" -- about the price of gas). Fourth is Jonah Goldberg, whom I like, and not just because he once called me "cool." (One of the sources of my reputation for being right wing?)

"Sicilians are brilliant in getting their point across."

After a hike in the mountains -- with photos -- Nina drives into the beautiful Campofelice di Rocella and has dinner in a little restaurant where, the waiter tells her, no American has ever dined:
Such a mistake. True, no one speaks English here, but how could that possibly matter? I no longer take my ancient little dictionary anywhere. Sicilians are brilliant in getting their point across. And each explanation, each encounter ends with a handshake and a smile.

May 10, 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.


ORIGINAL POST: So, what do you think? It's got to be Chris or Kat going home, right? Not Taylor. He's popular. And not Elliott. He's my dear, sweet boy who was so good last night.

Rebecca Romijn is in the audience. She pretends as if she's all freaked out by the excitement, then claims to love all four contestants equally. That doesn't add up. If you like them all the same, what does it matter? She asks them to make Taylor Hicks sing "Jailhouse Rock" again, and that can't be just her idea. The phoniness is overwhelming.

But here's Taylor, bringing the party. He forgets the words. He forgets "If you can't find a partner, use a wooden chair." Come on. Who can forget that? That's one of the most amazing -- and disturbing! -- lines in all of rock history. Oh. On the second pass at the line, he gets it.

Ryan puts Taylor Hicks and Elliott Yamin on one side and Chris Daughtry and Katharine McPhee on the other. One side is the top 2, the other the bottom 2. And he does an "after the break" teaser. But you have to be incredibly out of it not to know which is which.

Ah, my boy, Elliott, is safe.

Ryan asks Simon who should go home based on last night's performance. He says Kat. Ryan then suddenly tells Chris he's going home. Aaagh! But it is deserved. He was my favorite, but I let him go last night. He just wasn't good enough. And there is a certain something that Kat brings to the show. You know, she was my favorite at the audition phase.

Aw, Chrissy.

Grammar conversation with references to Elvis, Bill Clinton, "After Hours," George Harrison (and Taylor Hicks).

So here's my email to John (referring to a comment in this thread):
Here's a sentence I just wrote: "The reason Taylor reminds you of Clinton and the reason it was especially noticeable last night is because both men are echoing Elvis."

Should "is" be "are"? I think it would sound ridiculous, but rule-based thinking would say yes.
John -- my son, John Althouse Cohen -- responds:
I think it can only be "is," even if you're using "rule-based thinking." "Are" would just be comical. It would remind me of the scene in "After Hours" where Griffin Dunne says:

So I march right in there to apologize, but she'd already killed herself. I was too late. He was about to give me the money, when all of a sudden, his phone rang. His girlfriend killed herself tonight. Is that a coincidence? No, because the same girl who I came downtown to see was dead, too. That's because they're the same person. They're both dead.

The point is: He was joking by using the plural and saying, "They're both dead." You can't use "both" in reference to one person. And in your sentence, there's only one reason; it just serves two functions.

Here's another analogy: "George Harrison was the guitarist and singer in 'Here Comes the Sun.'" By inverting that, you automatically get, "The guitarist and singer in 'Here Comes the Sun' was George Harrison." It would be absurd to use "were" instead of "was" in either of those sentences. It doesn't matter whether "George Harrison" comes first in the sentence; the grammar is still the same. "...are George Harrison" is just as ungrammatical as "George Harrison are..."

Incidentally, you should change "because" to "that." Look up "the reason is because" in any usage book.
The ice of my "rule-based thinking" is slowly melting.

The painting "registers the passage of time and conveys a preoccupation with degradation, exuding destruction and frailty."

That's the art dealer's description of Andy Warhol's "Small Torn Campbell's Soup Can (Pepper Pot)," which just sold for $11.8 million.

So do we like the torn label soup can better than the untorn soup cans in more familiar Warhol paintings? Does it draw us into deep thoughts about degradation, destruction, and frailty? And why pepper pot, rather than the more familiar tomato or chicken noodle? If the torn can drags us into thoughts of death, then pepper pot... oh my God! We're going to Hell!

Luttig resigns.

It's a lifetime job, being a federal judge, but you don't have to stay there for life. At 51 and not picked for the Supreme Court, he's moving on to become general counsel for Boeing. Via Metafilter, where you can read comments like "the resignation letter is awesome -- he makes it look like he's bravely volunteering to go off to war or something." Okay, let's look at the resignation letter (PDF):
The Boeing Company is an American icon. There's just something larger than life about the company...

In a word, I believe in the mission of Boeing, which reaches far beyond itself.
In a word?
Indeed, though I could have never expected that the opportunity would present itself, Boeing may well be the only company in America for which I would have ever considered leaving the court.
Well, that seems rather silly and gushy, but the real information is in the penultimate paragraph, where he speaks of his family and his two children who are about to go to college. You can't come out and say it in a letter, but the message is there. Federal judges are underpaid compared to their alternatives. But again, no one has to serve out the life term.

Professional help preparing college applications: should it be disclosed?

Orin Kerr thinks students applying to college ought to have to disclose whether they received professional help preparing their applications:
... I wonder if disclosure might help even out the playing field. First, it would discourage excessive packaging. Wealthy parents might want to give their kids a leg up by hiring a consultant to help Junior package himself for Dartmouth, but will they want to do it if Junior has to admit in his application that Ivywise was hired to help him out? Disclosure would help admissions officers, too, by giving them some useful context to evaluate applications.

Of course, disclosure wouldn't work perfectly. For example, lots of applicants would probably misrepresent the help they received. And it's not easy to figure out what kind of information should be disclosed and what shouldn't. At the same time, disclosure might take us a tiny step forward in evening out the playing field for admission to competitive colleges.
I would not add the complexity of disclosure and the new set of problems it brings. I've put many years into law school admissions work, and what's important is to try to understand the person behind the file. Someone from a privileged background tends to produce a slicker file: you take that into account. Someone else lets us know -- because we specifically ask -- that they are the first person in their family to graduate from high school (or college) or that their family was on public assistance. If that person's file does not crisply highlight the kind of facts that matter in admissions decisions, I would consider it my responsibility to look very hard for them and to compensate for that person's disadvantage in preparing the file. It's the job of the person reading the file to weight factors properly and not to be impressed by superficial things that money can buy. Professional help preparing the file is one of those things. It's not really much different from having sophisticated parents to guide you. It's the job of the admissions official to use the file as evidence and to form an accurate picture of the person who stands behind it.

Women will live longer than men.

Will this ever change? It's so deeply embedded:
[Daniel J. Kruger, a research scientist in the University of Michigan] School of Public Health and the Institute for Social Research] and co-author Randolph Nesse, a professor of psychology and psychiatry and director of the Evolution and Human Adaptation Program, argue that the difference in life expectancy stems from the biological imperative of attracting mates.

"This whole pattern is a result of sexual selection and the roles that males and females play in reproduction," Kruger said, "Females generally invest more in offspring than males and are more limited in offspring quantity, thus males typically compete with each other to attract and retain female partners."

For example, in common chimps, the greatest difference in mortality rates for males and females occurs at about 13 years of age, when the males are just entering the breeding scene and competing aggressively for social status and females.

From the tail of the peacock to the blinged-out SUV, males compete aggressively for female attention, and that costs them something. In nature, it means riskier physiology and behavior for the males, such as putting more resources into flashy plumage or engaging in physical sparring.

And even in modern life, where most dueling is a form of entertainment, male behavior and physiology is shortening their lifespans relative to women, Kruger said. In fact, modern lifestyles are actually exacerbating the gap between male and female life expectancies.

Male physiology, shaped by eons of sexual competition, is putting the guys at a disadvantage in longevity. Male immune systems are somewhat weaker, and their bodies are less able to process the fat they eat, Kruger said. And behavioral causes---smoking, overeating, reckless driving, violence---set men apart from most women. "Because mortality rates in general are going down, behavioral causes of death are ever more prevalent," Kruger said.

Looking at human mortality rates sliced by socioeconomic status shows that the gender gap is affected by social standing. Human males in lower socio-economic levels tend to have higher mortality rates than their higher-status peers. The impact of social standing is greater on male mortality than on female mortality, Kruger noted, partially because males who have a relatively lower status or lack a mate engage in a riskier pattern of behaviors in an attempt to get ahead, he said.
Clearly, the message to guys should be to put this competitive urge into the pursuit of economic success. The risks don't put you in physical danger, and wealth not only makes you attractive to females, but it will buy you living conditions and medical care that can prolong your life. So why are so many fewer males pursuing the higher education that has so much to do with economic success? I suppose this drive that evolution produced makes it harder for them to put their efforts into the long years of schooling.

May 9, 2006

How to beef up that "Big Love" website.

Yesterday, I complained about "Big Love" being too much about financial problems. I don't like watching someone suffering over financial problems. But Gordon Smith Christine Hurt -- he's she's a corporate lawprof -- loves that there's a show about financial problems. He She even wants to see the documents. Hey, HBO has a great website for "Big Love." Margene even has a goofy blog. Surely, they could put up the copies of the financial documents to feed the corporate lawprof blog niche.

CORRECTION: Sorry. The post is by Gordon's co-blogger Christine Hurt, also a corporate lawprof.

MORE: I'm trying to think of movies or TV shows that have concentrated on the financial problems of fictional characters. Are there any that I've enjoyed? I'm not including the general problems of being poor (or too rich), but the actual details of business transactions between characters. It's one thing for a lawprof to spot a legal issue and find that interesting to expound upon, but does one's interest in those underlying legal issues make the show enjoyable? I follow issues of jurisdiction in law, but I don't think I'd enjoy a drama about characters encountering jurisidiction problems. I'd love to blog about them, of course.

ADDED: Let me cite "Fargo" as an example of a great movie with a story built on financial transactions.

YET MORE: Larry Ribstein makes the excellent point that financial problems and polygamy are inherently intertwined and that the show displays that quite well. Ribstein brings in the comparison between polygamy and gay marriage, a point I discussed back here. I think the two arrangements are distinguishable precisely on the economic level.

"American Idol" -- the final four sing Elvis.

What an interesting night! We are down to four, and only one is female. They must want Katharine McPhee to make it through. They've got to want the beautiful woman to survive amid the three less-than-beautiful men.

They put Katharine in the last slot, which is the standard way to signal support. All she really needs to do is sing pleasantly enough. Why try so hard? But she overdoes everything. It reeks of desperation. She's advised to give meaning to the words of "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You," and then she goes out and sings it as if nothing mattered less than the words. Why, Katharine, why? But the judges are pretty mean to her, and that tends to light a fire under the fans, and I think she will make it.

And then there's Elliott Yamin. Dear, sweet Elliott. Everyone assumed he's the one who'll have to leave. But he sings brilliantly, better than anyone. The judges lavish praise on him, and this is likely to lull the voters. The chances that he will leave, even though he was clearly the best, are quite high.

What about Chris Daughtry, my longtime favorite? I've seen him carry the microphone stand all over the stage two too many times. He doesn't deserve to beat Elliott, dear, sweet Elliott.

And Taylor Hicks? We know he's popular, and he's not going home. He threw himself all over the place for "Jailhouse Rock," and then he pulled it all together for "In the Ghetto," despite the terrible, intrusive arrangement, and the idiotic truncation of the lyrics. "In the Ghetto" tells a life story. Ending it with "And a hungry little boy with a runny nose/Plays in the street as the cold wind blows" is beyond ridiculous. Ooh, how tragic, that a boy has a runny nose!

European Union jokes.

Anybody know any?
Austria's ambassador to the UK, Gabriele Matzner-Holzer, asked why there were no jokes about the European Union, and appealed to anyone who knew one to let her know.

Historian Timothy Garton Ash complied, with the one-liner "If the EU applied to join the EU it would not be admitted" - on the grounds that it does not meet its own standards for democracy.

He said political jokes were more characteristic of dictatorships, so their absence was a good sign - except that being as "boring" as the EU was also a problem.
Hmmm... So does it bother Europeans that their union is so boring? How boring is it?

Where's the "Apprentice" blogging?

I've been asked why I didn't blog "The Apprentice" this week. (And don't worry: I will be blogging "American Idol." It's Elvis week you know.) The thing is, like a lot of people, I'm getting tired of "The Apprentice." The tasks are so tedious. Require the Apprenti to put on an event to promote a product, drag us through an edit of all the details of the event, but then judge the winner by the dollar amount sold, so that the quality of the event doesn't make a damned bit of difference. The only thing interesting about the show was the perversity of firing a guy who wanted to follow a strategy that was not followed and thus had nothing to do with why they lost. In fact, if Michael's idea had been followed -- and two cheerleaders were ceded to the girls' team -- maybe the outcome would have been different. The two cheerleaders might have led the women into a more event-based approach, instead of the hard-sell. What sticks in my mind? A contestant in a steak-eating contest pulling an entire masticated steak out of his mouth. As they say over on Television Without Pity: A Series of Unfortunate Homoerotic Beef Orgies. The rest is a blur. But that steak... I'm seeing it in my dreams.

Guns don't kill people. Guns make people want to kill people.

Psychologists did an experiment that is said to indicate that handling a gun brings out the aggressive instinct in males:
Psychologists at Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., enrolled 30 male students in what they described as a taste study. The researchers took saliva samples from the students and measured testosterone levels.

They then seated the young men, one at a time, at a table in a bare room; on the table were pieces of paper and either the board game Mouse Trap or a large handgun.

Their instructions: take apart the game or the gun and write directions for assembly and disassembly.

Fifteen minutes later, the psychologists measured saliva testosterone again and found that the levels had spiked in men who had handled the gun but had stayed steady in those working with the board game.

The "taste sensitivity" phase of the experiment was in fact intended to measure aggressive impulses. After the writing assignment, the young men were asked to rate the taste of a drink, a cup of water with a drop of hot sauce in it. They were then told to prepare a drink for the next person in the experiment, adding as much hot sauce as they liked.

"Those who had handled the gun put in about three times as much as the others — 13 grams on average, which is a lot," said Tim Kasser, one of the authors.

So the subjects were given a choice whether to take apart a kid's game or a big, real gun? Wouldn't that sort the guys into two very distinct groups right there? I'd like to see a separate test in which the Mouse Trap choosing types are given a gun to assemble and disassemble, and the gun choosing types have to fiddle with Mouse Trap.

UPDATE: I think the answer to my question whether they were given a choice is no. One or the other object was on the table. So I guess there's no way around it: Guns don't kill people. Guns make people want to kill people.

IN THE COMMENTS: The best argument around the conclusion is that the gun stimulated feelings of fear not aggression. I note that Mouse Trap makes a flawed comparison because it is a familiar, cheerfully colored, flimsy plastic child's game. A fairer comparison would have been something made of gray metal and not associated with children -- maybe a motor.

UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links and says "I think this gives you a First Amendment right to own a gun." Hmmm. If holding a gun causes ideas to form in your head, a gun is like a book? He also links to this Jonah Goldberg post that discusses the same psych experiment. Jonah links to Andrew Sullivan, who's fretting about "what actually owning or handling a gun does to male psychology." Jonah points out how unsurprising it is that things affect our minds. And Glenn reminds us that Andrew Sullivan once promoted testosterone. Here's the old Sullivan article, which he provides on his own "Greatest Hits" page. A sample:
Because the testosterone is injected every two weeks, and it quickly leaves the bloodstream, I can actually feel its power on almost a daily basis. Within hours, and at most a day, I feel a deep surge of energy. It is less edgy than a double espresso, but just as powerful. My attention span shortens. In the two or three days after my shot, I find it harder to concentrate on writing and feel the need to exercise more. My wit is quicker, my mind faster, but my judgment is more impulsive. It is not unlike the kind of rush I get before talking in front of a large audience, or going on a first date, or getting on an airplane, but it suffuses me in a less abrupt and more consistent way. In a word, I feel braced. For what? It scarcely seems to matter.
For what? Perhaps for some practical jokes involving lots and lots of Tabasco sauce.

"Let the Winds of a Civilized Internet Blow."

That's the name of a Chinese government scheme that uses students to monitor on-line discussions and participate in the conversations to guide them in the politically correct direction.
Ms. Hu beams with pride over her contribution toward building a "harmonious society."

"We don't control things, but we really don't want bad or wrong things to appear on the Web sites," she said. "According to our social and educational systems, we should judge what is right and wrong. And as I'm a student cadre, I need to play a pioneer role among other students, to express my opinion, to make stronger my belief in Communism."...

"Five hundred members sounds unbelievable," said a male undergraduate who, fearing official reprisals, asked that he be identified only as Zhu. "It feels very weird to think there are 500 people out there anonymously trying to guide you."

As they try to steer discussion on bulletin boards, the monitors pose as ordinary undergraduates, in a bid for greater persuasive power....

The monitors do not see themselves as engaging in censorship or exercising control over the speech of others. In interviews with five of the monitors, each initially rejected the idea that they were controlling expression, and occasionally even spoke of the importance of free speech.

I can't help but feel that I do something like this as I participate in my own comment threads. I'm trying to build a "harmonious society," express myself, and sharpen my beliefs. But I only do these things on my site, and you come here to hang out with me. I wonder if some of our commenters have been sent by some government or organization. How would you know? Don't start thinking of the most disruptive commenters, the narcissistic characters who try to draw attention to themselves. The analogs of Ms. Hu will seem eminently reasonable, modest, and sensible.

Macabre mothers.

Natalie Angier badmouths motherhood.

Were the last two presidential elections "more about biography than about a view of government or a vision of the future for this country"?

That's what Representative Rahm Emanuel, chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says, referring to the current efforts of Democrats to define the party's vision:
"The conversations we're having now are essential," in part, he argued, because the last two presidential elections "were more about biography than about a view of government or a vision of the future for this country."
I don't remember the last two elections being "about biography." Maybe in the last election, beginning with the Democratic Convention, the Democrat's side of the campaign was "about biography." Really, what is Emanuel talking about?

"Complete and total slime" and a "complete and total sleazeball."

That's Mary Cheney's language -- in her new autobiography -- for John Edwards and John Kerry. Actually, "complete and total sleazeball" was quoting her sister.
[Mary] herself called him a profanity, she recounts with relish, after Kerry invoked the fact that she is a lesbian in non-response to a question during the presidential debate about whether he believes homosexuality is a choice.
Must we be so hard on the poor, defeated candidate? He already suffered so much for saying "I think if you were to talk to Dick Cheney's daughter ... who is ... a lesbian," and he was merely trying to get elected. And then he not only lost, but lost in part because he made that remark. Now, because of his innocent invocation of her name, Mary seems to feel entitled to savage him. Oh, why can't Mary see the great benefits to gay people that would have flowed from a Kerry presidency, as opposed to the terrible harms inflicted by Bush?

May 8, 2006

A dreary Monday study day.

Even looked at through flowers...

Flowering trees

The day is dull gray. You can go hole up in a café. But everybody's studying, or listening to an irritating, intense critique.

"His confirmation should not be about whether you're for or against the NSA program."

Said Jane Harman, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, of the nomination of Mike Hayden to head the CIA. But won't it be? It's the Senate that must confirm Hayden:
Critics [of the NSA program] -- many of whom are members of the Senate -- charge the surveillance program is a violation of law and an assault on civil liberties.

Hayden has defended the program, insisting it is a necessary tool to thwart terrorists and that the process of obtaining warrants is too slow and cumbersome to deal with "a lethal enemy."
Well, really, why isn't this the perfect occasion to hash it out about the program? If it is not made a central issue in the confirmation, I think I'm going to assume that the critics believe that airing the issue will hurt them.

Shocking news: youths break their virginity pledges!

The L.A. Times reports:
For the Harvard report, researcher Janet Rosenbaum analyzed data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, a survey conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. It is the only government-sponsored study that asks about virginity pledges.

The 14,000 survey subjects were interviewed in 1995 and reinterviewed in 1996 and 2001. They ranged in age from 12 to 18 and came from across the country.

Rosenbaum found that 52% of those who said they had signed virginity pledges had had sex within a year. And of those who had sex after telling the first interviewers they had taken the pledge, 73% denied in the second interview having made the pledge.

"This may indicate that they are not that closely affiliated with the pledge," Rosenbaum said.
I love that line "This may indicate that they are not that closely affiliated with the pledge." That's putting it diplomatically.

The Beatles lose. Apple wins.

In the fight over the use of the Apple logo on iTunes. Good.
Apple Computer chief executive Steve Jobs said: "We are glad to put this disagreement behind us.

"We have always loved The Beatles, and hopefully we can now work together to get them on the iTunes Music Store."
Please, let's all just make money together.

"I would say the best moment was when I caught a 7-1/2-pound largemouth bass on my lake."

That's our Bush, answering the question what was the "most wonderful moment" of his presidency. If you say he's an idiot, is he reeling you in?

Comment alert.

There is an active conversation going on in this old thread. If you're interested in the subject of public schools normalizing homosexuality, check it out.

"Sopranos," "Big Love."

I don't much like the burden of watching two dramas back to back, but that's how HBO got us interested in "Big Love," and now it's a weekly assignment. I could save one to watch on the rerun, but so far I haven't. Last week, I watched part of each show and bailed out on both. I thought I'd pick them up later in the week but never did. I just paid a lot of attention to the clips at the beginning of the show.

"The Sopranos" last week was devoted to two characters I never cared much about, AJ and Vito. (And let me just say that I think the whole Vito-is-gay story is an incredibly lame attempt to cook up a story for a character.) This week, however, was devoted to my favorite character, Christopher, and to one of the best secondary characters, Paulie. There was some tremendous drama (Tony and Christopher in the basement) and some fabulous comedy ("Where's the hat?"). And some perfect small doses of Janice and Carmela.

I'm a little ambivalent about "Big Love." I'm of two minds about this show about having three wives. The negative for me is that it's too much about financial problems, which I don't find entertaining. Roman is a great evil character, but he's operating mostly through financial methods, and then we have to watch Bill worry about financial problems. They try to make financial problems interesting by timing how characters find out they have financial problems and creating conflict between characters who find out about financial problems at different times. You knew and didn't tell me? At least, during one of the conflicts, Bill dug a big hole in the yard -- not a grave, a lobster pit -- and lit it into a blazing fire -- symbolizing Hell?

I did like the subplot with Margene: the squeaky clean nice neighbors, who think she's a widow, ask her to dinner and then spring a squeaky clean young man on her, and he promptly falls in love with her. She has to tell him she has "her eyes on someone else" and, as he retreats into the pouring rain, we think, no, someone else has his eyes on her. Escape Margene, escape!

UPDATE: Stephen Bainbridge has a long post all about the wine that Tony and Christopher stole, from the details on what it's worth (much more than Chrissie sold his for) to advice that storing the wine near a washing machine is a bad idea (vibrations!).

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.