June 7, 2006

Make a list of places you're not.

Richard did.

"I'm dying for me to shut up. I get on my own nerves, like, 'Please, not again. Please.'"

So says Sean Yazbeck, the winner of the recent "Apprentice" season, in an interview with TV Guide.

Here's the context:
TVGuide.com: I want to thank you and Tammy for bringing a hint of romance to what to date has been a surprisingly asexual reality series.

Sean: I have to say... I cringe every time I see myself go on about Tammy. [Laughs] I'm dying for me to shut up. I get on my own nerves, like, "Please, not again. Please."

Ha ha. We don't hear enough about what it's like for reality show contestants to watch their edited selves on TV. And really, wouldn't we all, watching a video of our own lives, get on our own nerves?

Speaking of things rarely heard, how about this question asked by TV Guide:
[C]an you discuss Aristotle's concept of "eudaimonia"...?
And they really mean it, and he really answers. And the answer makes you think: my God, why do I watch TV?

Stop the ghostwriting, let's go back to orality.

We were just talking about Supreme Court clerks here yesterday, and now there's a New Republic piece by Judge Posner, reviewing two new books on the subject:
Today's opinions are longer--a dubious virtue. There are more separate opinions, most of which are ephemeral. Today's opinions are more polished, more "scholarly," and more carefully cite-checked, but these are modest virtues. Neither judges nor their clerks are scholars. The scholarly apparatus of judicial opinions belongs to the rhetoric rather than the substance of judicial decision-making....

Although today's Supreme Court opinions are no more poorly written on average than opinions from the era in which the justices wrote their own opinions, there is nonetheless a loss when opinions are ghostwritten. Most of the law clerks are very bright, but they are inexperienced; and judges fool themselves when they think that by careful editing they can make a judicial opinion their own.
To say the least! Editing is not writing. You can try to make it look as though you've written something, but unless you've done the drafting, the ideas did not come out of your head. No touch-up job can compensate for the failure to do the real work of composing, of reading the cases and briefs and fitting the ideas together to see if the answers really lie where you intuitively believed. If someone else fits the pieces together for you, you haven't faced up to the lapses and disconnects. Someone has worked to fill in the gaps and make things look coherent.

Am I right to be so suspicious of the Supreme Court's work? It comes out of a black box, and as Posner says, the Court is preoccupied with confidentiality:
The Court's preoccupation with the confidentiality of its internal workings makes an illuminating contrast with the English judicial tradition (now in rapid decline because of caseload pressures) of "orality." Everything English judges did was to be done in public, so that their performance could be monitored. They did not deliberate, they had no staff, they did not have libraries, they did not read briefs: on the bench they read the cases, the statutes, and the other materials that the lawyers handed up to them. (So appeals might take days to argue, which is why the tradition has eroded.) Our Supreme Court (imitated in this by most other American courts) has gone to the opposite extreme, imposing--or attempting with mixed success to impose--a regime of secrecy on the judicial decision-making process.
So, what do you think? Would you like to see a return to the orality tradition? And, of course, it should all take place on television.

"They don't have the electric chair anymore."

"But if they did, they wouldn't name it," said Bob Dylan, after noting the names of a couple of defunct electric chairs, Old Sparky and Gruesome Gertie. Wikipedia lists a few more electric chair names: Sizzlin' Sally, Old Smokey, Yellow Mama. These days, execution is by lethal injection, and I don't suppose they name the needles, either, do they? There's something wrong with naming the deadly device, isn't there? We're supposed to be serious and somber about manipulating the machinery of death. But it's the prisoners that get the nicknaming going, isn't it? They're the ones who need to laugh at death. Do we really think these folks will ease up on the morbid humor? Somewhere, someone is calling the lethal injection Little Pricky.

Anyway, the theme of this week's "Theme Time Radio with Bob Dylan" was prison, but Bob branched out to some prison-related things like chain gangs ("Back on the Chain Gang" by the Pretenders) and electric chairs (Bessie Smith doing "Send Me to the 'Lectric Chair"). The last song -- I forget the title and artist -- was about a guy told he couldn't be executed until they'd brought him his last meal and if they didn't have the ingredients on had they'd go out and get them. The song is a list of items like dinosaur steak and crocodile tears. Most predictable song: "Folsom Prison Blues." He played that first, so you didn't have to think about when he would play it. Bob tells us Cash came up with the line "I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die" after deciding he wanted the worst reason to kill somebody -- and it didn't take long to think of that reason. The singer who impressed me the most: Wanda Jackson ("There's a Riot Going On"). What a voice!

What was Bob's attitude toward prison? I kept trying to discern it, but he was his usual enigmatic self. There was no preachiness about injustice. He was mostly matter of fact. People commit crimes, and then they go to prison, and it's bad. He didn't seem too sympathetic, nor was he channeling society's vindictiveness -- though at one point he seemed to approve of the chain gang. They're out there by the side of the road, and you can point them out and say don't let that happen to you. Mostly, as on all the shows, you can hear how much he loves all the singers.

Business etiquette, Vietnam style.

21 oil company officials must write self-criticism reports for failing to sing karaoke at a contract-signing ceremony:
"No one has been laid off yet but they have to criticize themselves for not participating in collective activities."
Is part of your job participating in office "fun"? Don't you hate that? Isn't that what the TV show "The Office" is about? I'd just like to see the Vietnam version of the show.

A policy of grade deflation.

Is this any way for a university to seek to distinguish itself?

"I know in many meetings of our colleagues when the issue of marriage comes up, heads drop."

Said Senator Rick Santorum, who's pushing the constitutional amendment against gay marriage. "It is just an issue that people just feel uncomfortable talking about. It's something that maybe in some respects they feel like, why do we even have to? Why is this even an issue?"

He, of course, goes on to defend the posturing in the Senate, which any sensible onlooker can see is about motivating social conservatives to vote for Republicans this fall. The assumption must be that these folks are too dumb to see what a hollow stunt it is. As for the rest of us, presumably we're supposed to acknowledge political realities and avert our eyes.

June 6, 2006

"God will save me, if he exists."

Shouted a man who crept into the lioness's enclosure at a zoo in Kiev. The lioness lunged straight at him and severed his carotid artery.

Tornado warning.

The first tornado warning of the season. The sirens are going now, joined at the end by thunder. I used to gather the whole family together and go down to the basement. But now, I just hang out close to the basement door.

Here's the '05 first-tornado-warning-of-the-year post. It was March 30th. Interesting. Why so late this year? Global warming? Global cooling?

Here 's the first mention ever on this blog of a tornado, "Tagliatelle Bolognese ... with tornado":
I don't spend much time cooking, and I normally go to great lengths to avoid setting foot in a grocery store, but when I saw [a recipe] the NYT Magazine today, I tore out the page, got in my car, drove to the store, bought all the ingredients on the list, drove home, and immediately put together the meat sauce. As I was checking out with the ingredients and some extra bottles of red wine, the young man behind me in line said, "I want go to your party." So now the sauce is almost done -- it needs to cook for 3 hours -- and the pasta water is coming to a boil. If there is one food I love it's Bolognese meat sauce. For many years, I've used the recipe in in this book. I'm not really looking to replace that fine, fine recipe, but ... YIKES!! The tornado warning just went off!!! Ah, don't worry about me .... I'm well positioned near my basement door and ready to seek shelter if I see some significant wind activity from this vantage point. I'm not going to the basement yet though. Because I'm still hungry.... and I fully intend to eat some pasta if it's the last thing I do.

Yeah, that's what I'm doing now. Waiting out the tornado. Wish I had some Bolognese sauce on the stove.


Strap-on stealth wings.

First, fire all the law clerks.

Stuart Taylor Jr. and Benjamin Wittes think the Supreme Court Justices have too much free time -- what's with O'Connor taking 28 junkets in '04 and publishing 3 books in 4 years? -- and it's making them arrogant. (Link for subscribers to The Atlantic... or use this link, which is good for 3 days.)
Eliminating the law clerks would ... make them more “independent” than they really want to be, by ending their debilitating reliance on twentysomething law-school graduates. Perhaps best of all, it would effectively shorten their tenure by forcing them to do their own work, making their jobs harder and inducing them to retire before power corrupts absolutely or decrepitude sets in.

No justice worth his or her salt should need a bunch of kids who have never (or barely) practiced law to draft opinions for him or her....

Justice Harry Blackmun’s papers show that, especially in his later years, clerks did most of the opinion writing and the justice often did little more than minor editing, as well as checking the accuracy of spelling and citations. Ginsburg, Thomas, and Anthony Kennedy reportedly have clerks write most or all of their first drafts—according to more or less detailed instructions—and often make few substantial changes. Some of O’Connor’s clerks have suggested that she rarely touched clerk drafts; others say she sometimes did substantial rewrites, depending on the opinion.

There’s no reason why seats on the highest court in the land, which will always offer their occupants great power and prestige, should also allow them to delegate the detailed writing to smart but unseasoned underlings. Any competent justice should be able to handle more than the current average of about nine majority opinions a year. And those who don’t want to work hard ought to resign in favor of people who do.
I heartily agree!


There is something unseemly -- a reader reminds me -- about all this talk of 666 and the Devil when it is also the anniversary of D-Day.

How is the "actual Satanist community" reacting to 6/6/06?

The BBC investigates:
Rev. John D Allee is the founder of the First Church of Satan in Salem, America, which split from the original Church of Satan 12 years ago.

"I plan to take Lillee, my High Priestess, to the opening of The Omen movie," says the self-styled Dark Pope. "Then it's out for dinner."

The Temple of Set takes a more solemn view. This is another breakaway from the Church of Satan, claiming a history of several thousand years, and "formally incorporated in 1975 CE".

Louise Renard is a priestess and assistant to the executive director in London. "There is nothing significant about that day or that number" she says. "Unless the new Omen movie turns out to be better than expected."

Meanwhile, Vexen Crabtree, the Minister of the London Church of Satan, plans to go to one of the alternative clubs that are celebrating 06/06/06. "My official take on it is that 666 is really only a Christian number," he explains. "But any excuse for a party is a good one."

Crabtree dissociates the Church of Satan from the Temple of Set and the First Church of Satan, saying it is the only Satanist group that is "sane and worthwhile".

He says any Satanists who actually worship the Devil, rather than revering "Satan" as an abstract value, are "immature, unstable and nothing to do with us".
I've got to say that the thing that upsets me the most about that passage is the placement of punctuation in relation to quotation marks! The Satanists themselves seem amusingly ordinary. Or is that a trick? But really, what's with the Satanic British punctuation? I know the argument for why it makes more sense than what we do, that our approach was to make things easier for printers, but it looks so wrong.

"I love to serve. I love the Senate. I love the Constitution. If I could live another 100 years, I'd like to continue in the Senate."

No 666 jokes. It's not until next Monday that Robert Byrd becomes the longest-serving member of the U.S. Senate.

The left and right blogohemispheres.

Jack Hawkins interviews RNC eCampaign Director Patrick Ruffini:
John Hawkins: Does the RNC have any sort of organized method for checking out what the blogosphere is doing on a daily basis?

Patrick Ruffini: Sure! Each morning we start off with a blog report that gets sent out in the morning and afternoon...that tells the entire building what bloggers are talking about that day.
Ruffini on the left blogohemisphere:
We read about the perfect Kos 0-19 record. It's not important how big you are, it's how effective you are, frankly, at winning elections and in all aspects of the campaign, be it money, be it volunteers, be it media buzz.
Hmmm.... did you see Markos Moulitsas (with Jerome Armstrong) on Tim Russert's CNBC show? Yeah, I know, insert wisecracks about how no one watches CNBC. I TiVo Tim Russert's show and usually check it out. I was struck by how un-camera-ready Kos and Armstrong were (as they continued to promote their book "Crashing the Gate"). Ah, well, what the hell does it matter? Russert himself isn't camera-ready. I'm always distracted by the way he gently sways, like a large, tethered balloon. But Armstrong seemed robotic, with his utterly frozen face. And Kos looked wild-eyed and rabbit-y, as he came right out and said the Democratic Party needs to become more aggressively left-wing:
Well, there was this, I think, notion in the progressive movement that politics is a pendulum, and all we got to do is sit and wait back for this pendulum to swing back in our direction. And [the 2004] election, I think in a lot of ways, brought home that even though we had the money -- money was always an excuse -- we had the money, we had the issues, we had the numbers in our favor, it still was not enough to win. So, therefore, there had to be something else. And as we write about, it's the lack of a left-wing message machine. It's lack of left-wing machinery, like a vast left-wing conspiracy to counter this incredible and very efficient, very effective machine on the right.
What do you think Russert was thinking then? Oh good lord, these are the guys who are supposed to help the Democratic Party?

Back to the Ruffini interview:
John Hawkins: Are there any issues or ways things were handled internally at the RNC over the last couple of years where you think the blogosphere may have had a particular impact?

Patrick Ruffini: I could probably spew off a few examples...

John Hawkins: Sure! Go ahead.

Patrick Ruffini: ...But, I think it would probably be in the realm of the, "inside the playbook," kind of stuff which we generally don't talk about. ...One of the very helpful aspects of the conservative blogosphere is that I think you cover...a wider variety of issues perhaps than your counterparts on the left. The blogs are talking about one thing and the RNC might be talking about something that day. I don't see that as a weakness, per se.
So much for the assertions that we bloggers just serve up the party's talking points. We can only guess at what Ruffini is not saying there.

It seems the left blogohemisphere wants to be a big machine for its party (but it foolishly wants to grind out a message that's too left wing). And the right blogohemisphere is all over the place, unwilling to provide mechanical services. Neither party can really get what it wants from the bloggers. That's a good thing.

But the style of not doing what the party wants is different on the right and the left. Which party is more threatened by the bloggers it perceives as allies? It should be the bloggers who oppose you that threaten to do the most damage, but I don't think it is. It's those bloggers who are trying to help that you've got to watch out for.

UPDATE: And here's Cox on Kos (via Instapundit):
Moulitsas’s rhetoric and passion have made him a posterboy bomb-thrower. He's the left's own Kurt Cobain and Che Guevera rolled into one, dripping sex appeal for progressives for whom debate has become synonymous with losing, who need a muscular liberal answer to the cowboy swagger adopted by the Bush Administration and its fans.
Sex appeal? Don't drip any of that on me.
Moulitsas does know he has become the face of the netroots, though he insists that it's a position he has inherited only by default. The left lacks many telegenic spokespeople, he says, "It's the difference between the Fox News anchors — you know, blond, put-together — and our people. It's like, 'You know, lady, put on a bra. Would it kill you to put on a bra?'"
Yeah, lefty ladies, your leader wants you to wear a bra. Put yourself together. Can't you bleach your hair and put on some of that high gloss lip goo? I'm hearing echoes of that famous old lefty line "the only position for women ... is prone."

Lefties assume they've got a solid image as feminist so they can say things like this and smile. They don't deserve that image, and people who care about feminism ought to resist it hardily. I recommend seeing feminism as something quite apart from other party politics. One party may seem to be on your side while it comes in handy, but they won't be there when it's not. Cultivate independence.

"John Updike writing about terrorism?"

Michiko Kakutani goes after "[t]he bard of the middle-class mundane, the chronicler of suburban adultery and angst" for his look into the mind of a jihadist in his new book "Terrorist":
[T]he journalistic portraits of the 9/11 hijackers that Terry McDermott of The Los Angeles Times pieced together — from interviews with acquaintances of the hijackers, "The 9/11 Commission Report" and material from interrogations of captured terrorists — in his 2005 book "Perfect Soldiers" are a hundred times more fascinating, more nuanced and more psychologically intriguing than the cartoonish stick figure named Ahmad whom Mr. Updike has created in these pages....

[He] is given to saying things like "the American way is the way of infidels," and the country "is headed for a terrible doom." Or: "Purity is its own end." Or: "I thirst for Paradise."

In other words, Ahmad talks not like a teenager who was born and grew up in New Jersey but like an Islamic terrorist in a bad action-adventure movie, or someone who has been brainwashed and programmed to spout jihadist clichés. Much of the time he sounds like someone who has learned English as a second language.

Mr. Updike does an equally lousy job of showing us why Ahmad is willing to die and kill for jihad. We're told that the imam who teaches Ahmad the Koran has become a surrogate father to the fatherless boy. We're told that Ahmad is disgusted with his flirtatious mother and her succession of boyfriends. And we're told that he wants a mission in life and can't think of anything else he wants to do after high school.
How I wish some filmmaker would do to this book what Stanley Kubrick did to "Red Alert"!

Actually, the first movie this review made me think of was not "Dr. Strangelove," it was "Napoleon Dynamite." Something about the teenager who doesn't fit in and talks funny called to mind the unforgettable dialogue:
Do the chickens have large talons?

Do they have what?

Large talons.

I don't understand a word you just said.
We need to make more fun of the terrorists. I don't want to see the World Trade Center burning in a horror movie. I want to see merciless fun made of the terrorists. Updike seems to be trying to understand terror-boy. Somebody throw a Kubrick at him.

We are horrified....

...by the new horror movie, "The Omen":
Early in the movie a shot of the World Trade Center in flames, introduced as a portent of Armageddon, sharpens this remake's sour tang of exploitation.
... horrified by the filmmakers' despicable greediness to manipulate emotion that they would appropriate and desecrate this image.

Alito is not Scalito.

Linda Greenhouse also writes about Zedner v. United States, a case the Court issued yesterday, dealing with the right to a speedy trial:
Justice Antonin Scalia refused to sign the paragraph of the opinion in which Justice Alito cited the legislative history of the Speedy Trial Act as further evidence for his interpretation of the statute.

"The use of legislative history is illegitimate and ill advised in the interpretation of any statute," Justice Scalia's concurring opinion declared in what has become a familiar theme from him.
Just one more reason not to call him Scalito.

UPDATE: WaPo echo.

Once again, the Supreme Court takes up the question of racial balance in education.

Linda Greenhouse writes:
The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to rule on what measures, if any, public school systems may use to maintain racial balance in individual schools....

The action came three years after the court upheld a racially conscious admissions plan at the University of Michigan Law School. Writing for the majority in that 5-to-4 decision, Grutter v. Bollinger, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor suggested that, at least in higher education, affirmative action might be necessary for another 25 years.
Greenhouse notes that the back in December, before Alito replaced O'Connor, the Court denied cert in a similar case. That is, it seemed as though there were not four Justices who were ready to go back to the issue that so recently roiled the Court in Grutter and now there are.
Briefs are now likely to pour into the court in advance of a November argument; the University of Michigan case drew more than 100 briefs. But one of the more influential analyses may prove to be a brief concurring opinion in the Seattle case by Judge Alex Kozinski, the Ninth Circuit judge whose views carry great weight among legal conservatives.

Describing the Seattle plan as one "that gives the American melting pot a healthy stir without benefiting or burdening any particular group," Judge Kozinski addressed the Supreme Court justices directly, on the assumption that they would soon be reviewing the decision.

"There is much to be said for returning primacy on matters of educational policy to local officials," he said.
Grutter had a similar theme appealing to conservatives: leave university officials alone to shape policy as they think is right, as they look at complex factors. This is not just a matter of deferring to education experts. It's a recognition that courts may not be able to make better decisions and that more litigation will drain resources that can be better spent elsewhere.

There are many differences between universities and early schooling however. Young children are compelled to attend school, and parents care a lot about sending their children to a nearby school. We can easily understand why they feel wronged when their child is turned away from the nearest school explicitly because of race, especially in a city (like Seattle) that never practiced segregation.

But there is local government, and these parents had their chance to participate in it and lost. The question is whether they should be able to enlist courts in the project of changing the policy produced by that democratic process. Can you say that they should without repudiating Grutter?

June 5, 2006

"The Apprentice" -- the finale!

Sean or Lee. Lee's young. Sean's in love. Oh, it's obvious! Sean is the most charismatic finalist they've ever had on the show. Lee is a cool guy, but Sean's an original. Who care's about the boring charity tasks they just did? We're looking at the big picture, the whole season. Come on! It's Sean, right?

UPDATE: And it's Sean! Who just said he's going to marry Tammy, by the way. The ultimate winner. He gets the job and the girl. And he's adorable.


Tomorrow's the big 666 day. June 6th, '06.
It all started with Revelation 13:18 in the Bible: "This calls for wisdom: let him who has understanding reckon the number of the beast, for it is a human number, its number is six hundred and sixty-six."
If there is a God, do you think there's a chance in Hell that he smiles on your superstitiousness?

This calls for wisdom...

Why doesn't that phrase get more attention? Wise up, people! Numerology, in all its manifestations, is utterly pathetic.

Do you think there are people in this world who think I'm an agent of Satan for writing this post? I do!

"A vote for this amendment is a vote for bigotry pure and simple."

Says Senator Kennedy. I'd say it's a vote for political gain -- whichever side you're voting on -- and it's not the least bit pure, though it is rather simple. You call them bigots. They emit sentences like: "Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society... Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all." I'm not going to listen to the details of this shameless talk. We've been through it all before, and there isn't a chance in hell that the damned thing is going to pass (given the required supermajorities).

Welcome to the new week.

How are you doing? Just starting a vacation, maybe? Embarking on an exciting new job? Congratulations! Me, I've just reached the day when the deadlines are kicking in. I've taken the pile of exams out of the drawer where they've been aging, like a fine cheese, for about one month. I have actually completely forgotten what the questions on the exam are. But the deadline is Friday, and it will be met. You can't put the exams in a drawer for a month and then not meet the deadline, especially if you're going to be cheeky enough to compare them to a fine cheese, in writing, on line. I've got three other obligations to meet this week, and I hope to interweave these projects with the exam-grading in some deft, energizing way. Will there be blogging too? Yes, blogging will occur. I will blog in the spaces to moderate the pressure. But I need this pressure. I've been waiting for it. This is the week.

June 4, 2006

"Sopranos," "Big Love."

Big finales tonight. Unfortunately, I had to do something in the real world, so I haven't watched any of it. I'll catch up in a day or so. But you can go ahead and talk about the shows. Don't worry about spoiling in the comments.

Audible Althouse #52.

Idle talk, convergences, and a blind item about some nasty bloggers. It's a hot new podcast. Stream it here.

And subscribe:

Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

"Screw all them people who don't like him."

"George is doing a hell of a job during very difficult times, more power to him." I know they keep saying, week by week, that George Bush's poll numbers have fallen even lower, and even lower than that, to the lowest of the low, 'til you'd just about think there was no person in the history of the world less popular. But take heart, Mr. President, you've got Mickey Rourke on your side. So screw all them people who don't like him.


When John was in town we watched the movie "Coffee and Cigarettes" one evening, and then the next day we listened to that Rufus Wainwright song "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk." Later, I was in the café and didn't like the music they were piping in, so I put in my earphones and fired up Pandora and meant to type in "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" to get to some more music like that. Mixing in the movie title and influenced by that coffee I was drinking, I typed in "Cigarettes and Coffee." Pandora turned up a song I'd never heard before called "Cigarettes and Coffee" -- by Otis Redding. I wasn't meaning to listen to that kind of music but I liked it well enough.

I'd been too busy this week to do my Wednesday morning drive to listen to "Theme Time Radio With Bob Dylan," but I went to check the website to see when the replays of the new show were, and I saw the theme this week is "Coffee," and one of the songs on the playlist was "Cigarettes and Coffee" by Otis Redding. Now When it's time for one of the replays, so I'm going to get in my car and go for a drive. If I kill myself in an accident, be sure to say she died doing something she loved, and link to this post. Have a cup of coffee and talk about convergences, including whatever it was my car converged with.

UPDATE, after hearing the show: More convergences. On the death theme, Bob mentions how Otis died, converging by airplane with a lake here in Madison, Wisconsin. And he plays a clip from the movie "Coffee and Cigarettes," the part where Iggy Pop tells Tom Waits he ordered coffee for him and then worries if that's okay.

Idle talk.

I love this Dave Barry review of Tom Lutz's book "Doing Nothing."
Lutz was inspired to write it by his 18-year-old son, Cody, who decided to take a year off before starting college, and seemed content to spend his time lying on Lutz's couch watching TV. Lutz found that his son's behavior angered him, and this anger troubled him, because in his own youth he had spent a fair number of years engaged in countercultural activities not widely considered productive....

And so Lutz set out to trace the history of society's attitudes toward working and slacking. He begins with two 18th-century giants who professed opposite views. On one side stands Benjamin Franklin, creator of the archetypal workaholic, Poor Richard, who believes man has a moral duty to waste not a single moment in the relentless effort to accumulate wealth. On the other side stands Samuel Johnson, creator of the "Idler," who believes the only value of work is to enable leisure, and the highest calling is to do as little as possible....
Both were bullshitting, Lutz tells us.
Lutz concludes that most of us are both workaholic and slacker — "we all tend to embody a bit of both ends of the spectrum." We feel we work too hard, but also that we fritter away much of our time. We scorn the lazy and unproductive, but we long to win the lottery so we can hit the hammock ourselves. We criticize our kids for doing exactly what we did when we were their age.
I put a lot of mental energy into thinking about whether I'm working too hard and about whether I'm goofing off all the time. Then there's that strange intermediate idea -- Barry talks about it -- where you think about how the seeming goofing off is really part of the work -- warming up, somehow, or gestating material. This blog is the very essence of all that.

One of the benefits of being single -- a topic we were just talking about -- is that there's no one keeping an eye on you, passing judgment on you for working too hard and goofing off too much -- which you know you are. You're probably doing both, right? You're surely doing at least one. And shouldn't your goofing off time be more active and pleasurable, more dynamic and outdoorsy? And shouldn't your work be more productive, more efficient, more beneficial to all mankind? More importantly, what's on TV?

The artist drops dead at his drawing table.

Goodbye to Alex Toth:
Before working in animation, Toth was a comic book artist, widely regarded as brilliant, who had some success but even more frustration.

He rarely held on to an artist job for long because of a simple, subtle drawing style and a stubborn adherence to his artistic principles. And he preferred pirate tales and westerns over the more popular super hero comics.

"Toth was one of the most brilliant artists ever in comic books but also someone who was the odd man out in many ways," said comics publisher and critic Gary Groth. "He was never associated with a particular character, and he was pushed off to marginal titles."

But Toth's forms would prove influential in underground comics and graphic novels in later decades. Comic artist Will Eisner called him "a mastery of realism within a stunning illustrative style."...

Drawing for Hanna Barbera in the 1960s and 1970s, Toth designed characters for adventure cartoons "Jonny Quest" and "The Herculoids" in addition to "The Superfriends" and "Space Ghost," and he achieved the wider recognition and commercial success that had eluded him.
Dying at the drawing table -- how often does that happen? Many times, when someone has died, I have heard the claim made that the person died doing what he loved, and it usually seems to be a sad search for something positive to say. But here was Toth, 77 years old and in failing health, still immersed in his life's work.

UPDATE: If I drop dead next to my laptop, be sure to link to this post and say you know what.


By Bill Wyman:

The one of Brian Jones, seen in a rear view mirror, is very evocative. Brian Jones looked so smudged up just before he died. I think of his picture here:

When that album came out I was shocked to see how bad he'd come to look, like some shrunken gnome.

(This is the album they play in the tent in "The Royal Tenenbaums." Though they are playing the vinyl disc, the right song doesn't follow "Ruby Tuesday" -- very striking to someone who's played the album more than a thousand times.)

ADDED: I'm just reading over quotes from the movie "The Royal Tenenbaums." I love that movie.
I did find it odd when you said you were in love with her. She's married you know.


And she's your sister.

So much better than "Match Point," which we watched last night. Why compare them? Just because we watched "Match Point" last night, and something today reminded me of "The Royal Tenenbaums." They do both have a lot of tennis in them -- and loving the wrong person -- but they play out quite differently. And TRT is immensely better.

"Match Point" quotes:
I don't know what I'm doing with you, you're never going to leave Chloe!

Maybe I will.

Stop playing games with me!

Keep your voice down.
Huh? That was typed in as "memorable"? Pathetic.

MORE: Hmmm.... I knew I'd blogged about "The Royal Tenenbaums" before. And it's true that the right song doesn't precede "Ruby Tuesday."

"The only thing I want to see that early, is coffee, the paper, and t*ts."

Said some guy explaining why he missed a morning basketball game, according to a column in Ladies Home Journal.

Did you read this post title and think hey, what's with that language on Althouse? It's from Ladies Home Journal. What's with that language in Ladies Home Journal?

And how bad is "t*ts," anyway? It's on the original George Carlin 7 Words You Can't Say on TV list, but even he, even way back when he started the list, immediately said "t*ts" didn't really belong on the list:
T*ts doesn't even belong on the list, you know. It's such a friendly sounding word. It sounds like a nickname. 'Hey, T*ts, come here. T*ts, meet Toots, Toots, T*ts, T*ts, Toots.' It sounds like a snack doesn't it? Yes, I know, it is, right. But I don't mean the sexist snack, I mean, New Nabisco T*ts. The new Cheese T*ts, and Corn T*ts and Pizza T*ts, Sesame T*ts Onion T*ts, Tater T*ts, Yeah. Betcha can't eat just one. That's true I usually switch off . But I mean that word does not belong on the list.

"Is it a good time for black men? Is it bad? It's right in between."

A WaPo poll.

The likelihood that a single 40-year old woman will marry....

It's not 5%, as Newsweek announced back in 1986. It's 40%. Newsweek now admits it was wrong. The statistic, we're told, was distorted by the failure to recognize that women would marry later in life than they had in years past.

The statistic itself became a vital part of pop culture:
In "Sleepless in Seattle," the character played by Meg Ryan informed a co-worker that the terrorist statistic was not true. The co-worker, played by Rosie O'Donnell, responded, "It's not true, but it feels true."
(Fake but accurate!)

I wonder if the fake statistic itself changed behavior. If you think your chances are slim, you may accept a mate you would have rejected if you believed there would be more options down the road. A great deal of pressure was created, urging women not to "forget to have children." And yet it's also likely that some women would give up and think: I'm 35 and not married, so I need to focus on trying to accomplish something that's within reach.

I really do wonder how much pop culture, including pop statistics, changed us and how it changed us. How much more powerful than feminism was all that? ... is all that?

June 3, 2006

"Match Point."

Is this movie any good? Chris says some things I agree with. We were laughing at it a lot early on, and I thought it was incredibly empty and stultifying. Woody Allen is mindnumbingly interested in rich people. But it ended well, and Scarlett Johansson did some terrific acting. She was quite fascinating even as she was saying rather dull lines. And both of the lead actors did have immense and shapely upper lips. That's gotta count for something.

The blog swarm, Chinese style.

"Many draw disturbing parallels to the Cultural Revolution, whose 40th anniversary is this year, when mobs of students taunted and beat their professors."

Another one of those art-cow things...

Madison's got one of these art-cow things going on this summer:


You feel compelled to stop and take a photo:


UPDATE: That's Chris in the second photo, and here's his photo essay from the same walk. (Warning: snakes!)

"Have a brewski together, have a hot dog together or whatever they want outdoors."

Said Jeb Bush, referring to you and your dog, after he signed some damned dog-lover pandering bill into law yesterday. He borrowed some politician's dog for the photo-op:

There, now, don't you love Jebby? Because he loves doggies.

Wait, I'm going to give Jeb a couple bonus points for the comic detail of suggesting "hot dog" as the food to eat with your dog. And I'm going to give him some additional bonus points because the law does not require restaurants to allow dogs. It empowers local government to permit restaurant owners to allow dogs in outdoor dining areas. The law is just loosening up the health code. If you don't like it, go to another restaurant. If you think it's disgustingly unhealthy, why are you not upset by all the dogs people have in their homes, running about the kitchen and the dining room? Finger-sucking babies crawl around on those floors!

Blind item.

Somewhere out there are two bloggers who have, in times past, been rather nasty to me, both in my comments and on their blogs. Recently, they got into a nasty squabble with each other. The squabble was not about me, but my name came up several times in the context of pointing out how nasty the nastier of the two bloggers was, as this nastier blogger really did have an unhealthy obsession with me. Well, the less nasty blogger has now conquered the nastier one, to the point where the nastier blogger has deleted his whole lame obsessing-about-me blog. Thanks, less nasty blogger!

ADDED: Let me be clear that the nastier guy chose to delete his own blog. The less nasty blogger merely created the conditions that made him want to do so.

Commenter gets NYT quote.

Remember that NYT Book Review piece from a while back about the best work of American fiction in the last 25 years"? This week's Book Review prints a collection of blog reactions and links to various blogs. The squib from this blog isn't from me, but from the comments to my post. So I'm posting here to alert PatCA that she got quoted in the NYT. (Here's PatCA's group blog.)

June 2, 2006

In you, dear animals...

We see ourselves.

Henry Vilas Zoo

Henry Vilas Zoo

Henry Vilas Zoo

"Is it petty and mean for a dear friend to pull such a woman aside and explain that today, at this moment, she is a blight on the scenery?"

Robin Givhan thinks you're fat. Don't be wearing those leggings, that shrug, or those low-rise pants. And you can lose all that disgusting weight and you still shouldn't wear flip-flops. I don't care how young you are or how cute your feet are. No one gets to wear flip-flops. Thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack, thwackety-thwack. Robin does not want you walking anywhere near her in those filthy things.

And what's this thing of men carrying around towels? "The subtext of the sweat rag seems to be that vigorous perspiring is a sign of manliness. Thus a fellow who carries thick, absorbent terry cloth to mop up his sweat must be drowning in testosterone." They are so, so, so very wrong, and Robin's had enough. Get your act together, guys. It's summer. Deal with it. Discreetly.

An extremely general, multi-part question about relationships.

If you wanted to be thoroughly selfish, concerned about your own pleasures and benefits, should you prefer living alone or with a partner? If you wanted to be unselfish, concerned about virtue and service to others, should you prefer living alone or with a partner? Which question has the clearer answer? Save all the hedging about how what matters are the details of the specific relationship. I want to hear you try to answer the question in the abstract. To help you focus: assume that in starting out in life, you are required to commit either to a solitary or a partnered existence, and you are making your decision by weighing the question first from the selfish perspective and then from the unselfish perspective. Is the answer from the unselfish perspective different from the selfish one? If it's not, were you really honest? If it is, which path do you choose? Does your answer to these questions match what you are actually doing? Are you sorry?

Searching the congressman's office.

I'm trying to think why I haven't posted on the search of Representative Jefferson's congressional office. I've been eyeing it from a distance, feeling insufficiently outraged at the intrusion or hot to defend it. But I see Adam Liptak has some analysis today, quoting various lawprofs, so let's take a look:
The Justice Department is probably correct in saying that it was legally entitled to search a congressman's office last month. But in ignoring history and established conventions in that case, some legal scholars say, the Bush administration has again unsettled widely shared understandings of constitutional relationships and freedoms that have existed for generations.....

[T]he argument that Congressional offices are immune from law enforcement searches has something in common with the argument that the president has the authority to reinterpret the bills he signs into law, said Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University.

"They have no taproot in the constitutional document," Professor Kmiec said of arguments. "They're all sound and fury."

Several legal scholars went further, saying they found it hard to take at face value the objections of many legislators about the search of Mr. Jefferson's office.

"Like a lot of these issues where separation-of-powers rhetoric is deployed and where you see cross-party lines of agreement, there's often a competing story," said Daryl J. Levinson, a law professor at Harvard. "Here the story that leaps out at you is that the Republicans are worried that they're next."
Does it bug you that when reporters ask lawprofs for a legal opinion, they get a political opinion? But that really does reflect the way many (most?) lawprofs think about difficult constitutional law problems. Liptak ends his piece with a quote from Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson that is always cited for this attitude:
"While the Constitution diffuses power the better to secure liberty, it also contemplates that practice will integrate the dispersed powers into a workable government," Justice Jackson wrote. "It enjoins upon its branches separateness but interdependence, autonomy but reciprocity."
"Workable government" -- it's a nice phrase, but what does it mean? Does it "work" or doesn't it "work" for the Justice Department to search the offices of members of Congress when it has probable cause to believe a crime has been committed? And do you like the answer to that question serving as the answer to what the Constitution means?


Enron, Enron, Enron, Enron, Enron.


Chris is 23! Happy Birthday!

"How do I phrase this diplomatically?"

New York State Comptroller Alan Hevesi introduced Senator Schumer this way:
"The man who, how do I phrase this diplomatically, who will put a bullet between the president's eyes if he could get away with it. The toughest senator, the best representative. A great, great member of the Congress of the United States."
He has since apologized.
"I do speak extemporaneously," he said. "And I've never said anything like this."
I'll bet. But anyway, thanks for apologizing.

June 1, 2006

The Spelling Bee.

Are you watching the Scripps Howard Spelling Bee? It's the best reality show on TV, is it not? Over at Throwing Things, they've been blogging up a storm. They're asking who are your favorites. In these parts, we love Isabel Jacobson, a Madison 7th grader, who made it to the final 45 by spelling "affenpinscher" and "tangential." Yeah, "tangential" we all know. "Affenpinscher"? It takes flights of fantasy even to imagine what that means.

Over at Throwing Things, they can't seem to say Samir Patel often enough. Pay some attention to our Isabel!

Hey, Isabel has a blog. Here. She hasn't posted since Tuesday, though. Let's not needle her about getting her blogging done, though. She's got spelling to do. Let's see what she wrote on Tuesday:
Before coming here, I was curious about what the other spellers would be like. Now I've met a few of them, and there's quite a variety. Some are as normal as anyone at my school. But some are not so normal. Quite a few are geniuses in other fields besides spelling. One boy I talked to is a nationally ranked chess champion. Another girl seemed very normal, until she revealed that she's been taking college-level math courses.

I studied for four hours the day before we left, but now that I'm actually here I haven't studied much; I feel like I'm as ready as I need to be. My main goal is to make it into the top 45 spellers, who will go on to Thursday's competition. I don't really know what my chances of this are; I've never competed at this level before, so I don't know how tough the other spellers are. I guess I'll just have to wait until tomorrow to find out.
Well, you made your goal, so is it all just for fun now? I've got to think all 45 finalists really want to win. I can't help thinking she sounds way less hardcore than most of them.

UPDATE: A quote from Theodore Yuan: "It's kind of hard to enjoy spelling, but I do it because I'm good at it."

ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, Isabel made it to 14th place and went out on the word "symminct." The prime time final rounds went very quickly, especially when it came down to Fiola Hackett and Katharine Close battling for first place. Both girls seemed to know all the words and spelled them with few questions, until Fiola paused a long and hard before making the gaffe of spelling "weltschmerz" with a "v" ... when she knew it was German! How??? It was like the boy who had to spell "giocoso" and, knowing it was Italian, began with a "j." How can you get that far and not know such basic sounds in such common languages? Do they just hit the wall and get tired, get spellschmerz? So Fiola couldn't hack it, and Katharine didn't just come close, she won ... on that word she totally knew, ursprachte!

MORE: Or was that ursprache?

"Just because he was inspired by the sea does not mean that no one else can use the sea to make glass art."

Says Bryan Rubino, a glass-blowing artist who is being sued by the glass-blowing artist, Dale Chihuly. (Rubino worked for Chihuly for 14 years.) "If anything, Mother Nature should be suing Dale Chihuly."
The suit, rare in art circles, offers a sometimes unflattering glimpse at how high-powered commercial artists like Mr. Chihuly work. The two glass blowers say that he has very little to do with much of the art, and that he sometimes buys objects and puts the Chihuly name on them, a contention that Mr. Chihuly strongly denies.

He acknowledges that he has not blown glass for 27 years, dating from a surfing accident that cost him the full range of shoulder motion, an injury that struck three years after he had lost sight in his left eye in a traffic accident.

Still, Mr. Chihuly said, he works with sketches, faxes and through exhortation. Nothing with his name on it ever came from anyone but himself, he said....

...Mr. Chihuly called Mr. Rubino a "gaffer," a term for a glassblower who labors around a furnace at the instruction of an artist. Asked to assess Mr. Rubino, Mr. Chihuly said, "He was an excellent craftsman" with little vision of his own.

"You think I would ever let Rubino decide what something looks like?" Mr. Chihuly asked.
Why is this a copyright case and not a contracts case? If Chihuly hired Rubino and kept him on for 14 years, why did he he never make Rubino sign a contract that would have limited Rubino from making similar shapes to sell on his own?

Bonus photo: a closeup of the big Chihuly sculpture at the Milwaukee Art Museum, taken last Saturday:

Chihuly Sculpture

There is a signature look to the work. It's impossible for me to tell from the linked article how close to Chihuly's Rubino's designs are. This article gives some more context:
Chihuly sued Rubino and Redmond art entrepreneur Robert Kaindl in October, accusing them of copying his designs and selling "knockoffs" at several local galleries. Last week, Chihuly alleged in court documents that the two had pored over books of Chihuly's works and picked out designs that Rubino would make for Kaindl to sell....

...Rubino says he created or co-authored some of the works that Chihuly is suing to protect, and that some of the work he did for the artist was done "without any creative input whatsoever from (Chihuly Inc.) or Dale Chihuly."

As evidence, Rubino submitted a fax he says he received from Chihuly. The fax includes sticklike drawings and the following instructions: "Here's a little sketch but make whatever you want. We'll get everything up to Tacoma when you're done and I'll try to come down while you're blowing. Till then, Chihuly."...

Rubino is asking the court to declare him a co-author of some of Chihuly's more famous pieces, and award him profits associated with those works.

Chihuly acknowledged in his suit that "Rubino worked on virtually every series created by Chihuly." But he claimed that Rubino signed away any rights to the work when he was Chihuly's employee, and that as a contractor, all of the work Rubino made for Chihuly was done under Chihuly's direction and control.
So what do you think, copyright experts? I'm guessing that it's rather obvious that the "work for hire" Rubino did for Chihuly makes him not a co-author and that this claim is a bargaining chip in the litigation process. Rubino just wants to be able to sell his own work now, even though it's similar to the work he did with Chihuly. Should he win on that claim? Artists are always copying each other's styles. It's disturbing to think that they should have to worry about being sued by the more successful artists who came before them. The old could prey on the young mercilessly, and the development of artistic styles would be crippled by litigious artists.

Chihuly's designs are way too distinctive to make me buy Rubino's argument that they are nothing more than nature's design. Chihuly may like to say that he's inspired by the sea, but these swirls and curlicues don't look much like any sea I've ever gazed upon. But perhaps his designs come quite directly from the inherent limitations of glassblowing, the traditional techniques of the craft, and the decision to work very large. If so, Chihuly is trying to monopolize the field of art glass.