September 16, 2006

The Pope uses the I'm sorry if you were offended form of apology.

The NYT reports:
A top Vatican official said Saturday that Pope Benedict XVI “deeply regretted” that a speech he made this week “sounded offensive to the sensibility of Muslim believers.”

The spiritual leader of Lebanon's Sunnis, the Grand Mufti Sheik Mohammed Rashid Kabbani, said the pope's remarks emanated either from "Ignorance and lack of knowledge or were deliberately intended to distort Islam."

"Reason is the substance of Islam and its teachings ... Islam prohibited violence in human life. Anyone who wants the truth (about Islam) must take it from Islam's holy book, the Koran, rather than from a dialogue or excerpts," he said.
Sounds great. Good thing Benedict shook that message loose, because it hadn't been getting around enough. Really, Kabbani and others like him: Get your message out. Overcome the "ignorance and lack of knowlege"... wherever it may be.

Comments, comments, comments.

I'm surpassingly sick of this comments thread from yesterday, and I'm not even going to read all the commentary on other blogs. The immense tiresomeness is actually undermining my will to blog this morning.

I don't mind an intense, verbal fight about ideas, but this wasn't that. This was, every time you expressed a substantive idea, the answer was, essentially, "Stop looking at my breasts." (I'm picturing an SNL sketch based on that concept, and like the usual SNL sketch, it goes on way too long.)

So, yeah, well, just about the last thing on the face of the earth I'm interested in today is breasts. I'm sure some readers feel that nothing could ever get them to the point where boobs are boring. Me, I'm at the point where boobs are so boring that everything seems boring.

But I did want to put up a post before I get out of here and go try to reignite my interest in the world.

On the subject of blog comments, Dr. Helen has this post, about how people went too far in the comments after she wrote something on the subject of women, here. A woman had lashed out with sudden, physical violence against a man who'd been trying to pick her up in a bar. Her husband blogged about it, and the commenters there cheered. Dr. Helen said -- aptly -- that if the sexes had been reversed, we'd be vilifying the man. I can't help noting that when Helen's husband Glenn Reynolds linked to that post about the bar-fightin' woman -- with its photo of a woman wielding a baseball bat -- he also linked to me and said "This cluebat is actually even scarier than this one." Hey, use words, kids. It's scarier.

Ah, well, the commenters themselves are doing what they can with words, but they are just boring the hell out of me.

Not all the commenters, of course. There is a regular group of commenters here that's quite fabulous. They're in amongst the tedium in yesterday's thread. Try to find them. They're really clever. The prize goes to XWL for calling it "a tempest in a C-Cup."

ADDED: Glenn says: "[F]eminism has become nothing more than a subset of the Democratic Party's activist base.... It's all about supporting the right people politically, even if it turns you into a groper's support group. Which was, of course, the point of Althouse's post." Indeed.

Well, phony feminism, anyway. There is a real feminism to be revived, but it must put feminism first, and let the political chips fall where they may.

IN THE COMMENTS: XWL points out that I should have said he won the booby prize. Oh, it's so terrible to miss a perfect wisecrack opportunity like that! But a really nice thing is that the comments here have a much higher concentration of regulars compared to yesterday's slugfest.... Ah, hey, I can daydream again! I'm picturing a slugfest consisting not of brutish humans punching each other, but slugs having a nice party.

I'm doubtlessly influenced by my long, head-clearing walk, the last quarter mile of which took me through throngs of Wisconsin folk -- all in red T-shirts -- finishing up the tailgate parties, and slogging sluggishly over to the stadium. Stay tuned for pics.

UPDATE: Damn! I can't upload my pictures. Flickr is suddenly telling me I've used 100% of my bandwidth for the month, when just yesterday it had me at 12%. Has something gone haywire over there?

September 15, 2006


Taking the lake path:

Lake Mendota

Impression, sunrise:

Lake Mendota

Morning people, studying on the Terrace, here on the UW campus ...

Lake Mendota

... sailing off ...

Lake Mendota

Let's take a closer look at those breasts.

NOTICE: You are about to read a post that has been widely linked and discussed on various blogs, and I suspect that you are not inclined to read this post carefully or with any sympathy toward what I intended. So, I'm adding this note to make it more likely that you will understand what I am trying to say. First, I am writing from a feminist perspective, even though I am criticizing a feminist. Second, the "breasts" referred to in the heading are the drawings and photographs of breasts that a feminist blogger sees fit to decorate her blog with. I don't like that. Third, the real target of this post is Bill Clinton. I think Clinton betrayed feminism (and I hate the way many feminists have given him a pass). Fourth, this post is written in a humorous, cutting style. It's meant to hurt, but I am attacking public figures about an important issue.

What follows after the asterisks is the original post.


I wanted to elevate a discussion from the comments section of a post from Wednesday, you know the one with the photo of the Daou-wrangled bloggers posing in front of Bill Clinton? The first commenter, Goesh, picks up on my prompt -- "Let's just array these bloggers... randomly" -- and wisecracks: "Who is the Intern directly in front of him with the black hair?"

Eventually, Jessica from a blog called Feministing, shows up and says: "The, um, 'intern' is me. It's so nice to see women being judged by more than their looks. Oh, wait..."

Snarky but somewhat conciliatory, I say: "Well, Jessica, you do appear to be 'posing.' Maybe it's just an accident."

Jessica Feministing returns and says:
It's a picture; people pose. And I'm not sure I understand your logic anyway. If I "pose" for a picture (as opposed to sulking and hunching over?) then I deserve to be judged for my looks? I don't see anyone talking shit about the other bloggers smiling pretty for the camera.
Provoked, I decide to actually give her a small dose of the kind of judgment for brains she seems to demanding:
Jessica: I'm not judging you by your looks. (Don't flatter yourself.) I'm judging you by your apparent behavior. It's not about the smiling, but the three-quarter pose and related posturing, the sort of thing people razz Katherine Harris about. I really don't know why people who care about feminism don't have any edge against Clinton for the harm he did to the cause of taking sexual harrassment seriously, and posing in front of him like that irks me, as a feminist. So don't assume you're the one representing feminist values here. Whatever you call your blog....
Making this colloquy into this new blog post, I actually click over to Jessica's blog, and what the hell? The banner displays silhouettes of women with big breasts (the kind that Thelma and Louise get pissed off at when they're seen on truck mudflaps). She's got an ad in the sidebar for one of her own products, which is a tank top with the same breasty silhouette, stretched over the breasts of a model. And one of the top posts is a big closeup on breasts.

Sooooo... apparently, Jessica writes one of those blogs that are all about using breasts for extra attention. Then, when she goes to meet Clinton, she wears a tight knit top that draws attention to her breasts and stands right in front of him and positions herself to make her breasts as obvious as possible?

Well, I'm going to assume Jessica's contributions to my comments are an attempt at a comic performance, as was her attendence at the luncheon dressed in the guise of Monica Lewinsky. Lord knows we need more comical feminists.

Or are you going to say she's some kind of Karl Rove plant? Alternatives: She's a clueless fool. She's in it for the money. (And you know the blog money is all in the T-shirts.)

UPDATE: You know what? If you breastblog and someone calls you on it, just laugh. If you try to deny it, people will laugh at you. Case in point? The big comments thread herein. I'm not saying you should read all the stuff in there, even though some of it's funny (and it could be useful as raw material for a Women's Studies master's thesis), but really, denial is some serious quicksand. And thanks to Glenn for linking. Quoting the title of this post unleashed some serious Instalanche action. (I knew it would.) The most ever, actually. And late on a Friday! What are you going to do? Guys love breasts. I think Jessica knows that quite well. And I think for all her gasping outrage, she's thoroughly pleased to get this attention. And as for you chumps who spent the afternoon defending her... well, you're chumps. So am I for giving her the publicity.... but what the hell? It's Friday.

ANOTHER UPDATE: This post has gotten a lot of links from folks who profess "puzzlement." I think a lot of this puzzlement is willful blindness to the criticism of Clinton.

Don't eat your spinach.

Strong women are dying this week.

First, Ann Richards. Now, Orianna Fallaci. Here's Michelle Malkin's tribute to Fallaci, focusing on her polemical last books. But let's remember her whole life. From the WaPo obit:
Fallaci set the pace for a daring life when she joined Italy's anti-fascist resistance as a teenager during World War Two, then showed the same fearlessness as a war correspondent.

She covered conflicts in Vietnam, the Middle East, and Latin America at a time when few women braved the front lines, and was shot and beaten in 1968 during student demonstrations in Mexico.

Later, she succeeded in fiction with novels including "A Man," inspired by her love affair with Greek resistance fighter Alexandros Panagoulis.

Her exchanges with Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir, the Shah of Iran, Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and other leaders, collected in her book "Interview with History," stood out for her provocative, uncompromising questioning.

In her interview with Kissinger, Fallaci needled the U.S. statesman until he agreed that the Vietnam War was "useless."

Kissinger later wrote that her interview with him was "the single most disastrous conversation I have ever had with any member of the press."

Unplayable 45s I won't throw out, #2.

This is not only the most unplayable 45 I won't throw out, it is the most excellent 45 I won't throw out.

Unplayable 45

ADDED: Here's a shrine to the single "Substitute." And here's an article in today's NYT about The Who concert in NYC on Wednesday, which I hadn't noticed when I wrote this post. I'm not a fan of Who comeback concerts, and, in fact, my love for The Who is all about the pre-"Tommy" things, back when Keith Moon was not only not dead, but looked like he was just a kid.

The discord, among Republicans, over the detainees legislation.

Carl Hulse at the NYT highlights the problem this presents for the fall elections:
Instead of drawing contrasts with Democrats, the president’s call for creating military tribunals to try terror suspects — a key substantive and political component of his fall agenda — has erupted into a remarkably intense clash pitting some of the best-known warriors in the Republican Party against Mr. Bush and the Congressional leadership....

Democrats have so far remained on the sidelines, sidestepping Republican efforts to draw them into a fight over Mr. Bush’s leadership on national security heading toward the midterm election. Democrats are rapt spectators, however, shielded by the stern opposition to the president being expressed by three Republicans with impeccable credentials on military matters: Senators John McCain of Arizona, John W. Warner of Virginia and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. The three were joined on Thursday by Colin L. Powell, formerly the secretary of state and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in challenging the administration’s approach....

Republicans concede that the fight among themselves is a major political distraction, particularly given the credentials of the Republican opposition, led by Mr. McCain, the former prisoner of war in Vietnam who was tortured in captivity....

House Republicans say the Senate plan is misguided and will hobble the American military. Representative Duncan Hunter, Republican of California and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said it would lead to “the lawyer brigade” being attached to combat troops to counsel detainees.

Representative Peter T. King, Republican of New York and chairman of the Homeland Security Committee, said: “I just think John McCain is wrong on this. If we capture bin Laden tomorrow and we have to hold his head under water to find out when the next attack is going to happen, we ought to be able to do it.”
I think it is good for congressional Republicans -- however it affects them in the elections -- to think and debate independently of the President. And I wonder how much they really "concede" this is a "distraction" for them. It looked as though they wanted to spend this time distinguishing themselves from the Democrats and driving home the message that Democrats don't care enough about national defense. But if they'd all just gotten into line and done exactly what the President wants, it would firm up the Democrats argument that the congressional Republicans are just following the President, that they don't exercise any significant oversight, and that they've lost track of American values of fairness and decency.

For the Republicans to debate among themselves should make a positive impression on people: it shows that they aren't mere puppets of the President, that they are taking the entire controversy seriously, and that they are not merely suckers for every national security argument that comes along but are capable of weighing the countervailing factors competently.

The Democrats, it seems to me, have to convince us that unless they gain substantial power in Congress, important values will go unserved. You know those Republicans. They'll lunge blindly forward at every mention of the phrase "national security." But if the Republicans themselves demonstrate their ability to weigh all the considerations in a sophisticated and mature fashion, there's much less reason to want to empower Democrats, who -- we may fear -- will only undervalue national security and fall prey to excessive enthusiasm for protecting the enemy.

So I think that despite the discord among the Republicans, a contrast between Republicans and Democrats is being drawn, and it may -- perhaps unintentionally -- make Republicans more palatable to moderate voters in the next election. And then there is '08... and McCain is inspiring respect right now.

ADDED: The linked article is attracting commentary, some bloggers are stating opposition to the President's proposal, and some, like me, address the political dynamics. Rightwing Nuthouse says:
[T[he fact that the debate is taking place almost solely and exclusively among Republicans and conservatives says volumes about the cynicism and lack of courage on the part of Democrats in both houses of Congress.
It's hard to resists standing back and letting your opponents beat each other up, but, as I've said, you risk looking irrelevant or worse. Here's Matthew Yglesias:
[B]y relying on McCain et. al. to do the heavily lifting, Democrats are essentially denying themselves the possiblity of reaping whatever rewards may exist for standing up for basic decency and morality against Bush's depredations....

[I]f you worry that liberals are timid and easily frightened, well, then this is some fairly timid and frightened-looking behavior....
There's also the fact that it means something different when Republicans stand up to the President and when they back off a step from national security. The Democrats can't do the same thing. They've been opposing Bush for everything they can think of for the longest time, and they have a reputation for undervaluing national security that they would only call more attention to. So they're keeping a low profile, and, as Yglesias says, looking pretty timid and scared.

CORRECTION NOTED: A commenter shames me out of using "forefront" as a verb, a problem I'd never given one second of thought to before. The dictionary doesn't support it, and Googling "forefronting," I get only 10 hits. But it should be a verb, and maybe if I'd left it, I'd get to be the quote in the OED for "forefront" as a verb, if the OED counted bloggers, I mean, which it'd be a fool to do. Anyway, "front" is a verb, and "forego" is a verb. QED.

Blogger woes.

Something off about Blogger overnight. I hope it recovers soon.

UPDATE: The Blogger status page reports that Blogger was down for about 30 minutes just now. If I hadn't gotten up so early, I wouldn't have noticed. It's funny that seeing an error page instead of my blog doesn't freak me out the way it would have two years ago. Seeing other people's blogs are out too makes it easier to take, as does being able to get to a page that shows all the old posts are really there.

September 14, 2006

The racially divided "Survivor."

Did you watch? I haven't watched "Survivor" since the first season, when I hit the wall of boredom at a competition over who could stand on a stump longest. But I was intrigued by the daring decision to divide the contestants into race-based teams. How would that work? In some ways, race is neutralized, because teammates voting against each other have only those of their own race to turn against. On the other hand, the team members had the burden of knowing that millions of people would be watching them and thinking about their entire race.

It was interesting the way the Hispanic team seemed to pull together right away and simply feel advantaged. The black team felt team spirit and actually stopped to do a cheer about how they were all black, but they didn't really pull together. Nathan interviewed that black people don't like to be told what to do, and two of the women got very close quickly, leaving the third woman feeling like an outsider. The Asian team took account of how they really weren't a uniform group. They were from different parts of Asia, and that mattered. The Vietnamese immigrant, Cao Boi, called attention to his outsider status: He really belongs with hippies. In the funniest scene, he cures another guy of a headache by pulling the "bad wind" out of his face and leaving a red mark. Meanwhile, on the white team, they catch two chickens and a woman called Flicka bumbles into letting them escape. And they're all scantily clad and really cold, so they form a "cuddle puddle" to sleep (and get sexual).

The challenge was complicated and way more interesting than standing on a stump, and it was pretty exciting. I liked the strategizing leading up to the council, and I liked the exile island and the way the exilee was chosen. So far, then, I'm hooked.

What do you think?

UPDATE: CBS has made the episode available on line here. So now you can't say you missed it but you have some opinions in general about what they've done, dividing people up by race. Well, you can still say you don't want to watch it, but you still have an opinion. And I'm not going to say you can't say that. CBS would like that too much. And I myself am known for having opinions on movies I haven't seen and books I haven't read. I've been criticized for it, and I've defended myself. Figuring out what not to put your time into is a very important skill, and explaining how you do it is worthwhile. I can totally understand shunning this show on general principle. In fact, I can totally understand shunning all reality shows and (even more) shunning all television. Personally, I watch less and less TV -- as I become more and more absorbed into the internet -- and a primary reason for watching what I do watch is that I enjoy blogging about it. By that standard, I loved watching the entirety of the political conventions in 2004, when they were really nearly unwatchable except in short doses, because it was fabulous raw material for blogging. Of course, that means that the mere fact that I'm blogging about a show can't be read as a recommendation that you ought to watch.

UPDATE: There are two law school grads on the show, both on the Asian team: Yul Kwon and Becky Lee.

A day in Madison.

Finally, it's sunny here in Madison, Wisconsin. Here's the view from the faculty library on the seventh floor of the law school:

Bascom Mall

Very lovely. But I'm going up State Street, and I'm not taking a laptop, just an article I need to read and write about. I'm going to take my seat right here.


At my magic table. Here's the view:


I don't know if looking up at that mish-mash of flyers helps me in any way, but I always seem to be able to get my work done here. I felt, as I approached this place, I'd get the idea I needed inside. Aha! I did. Afterwards, I cross the street to one of my favorite shops, where I buy six items of clothing -- one without looking at the price (I realize later). Checking, I see that it was $180. Is that the most expensive thing I've ever bought without even thinking to look at the price?

Heading back to the law school, I stop for a mega mango, and it's all gone by the time I make it back to the seventh floor....

Bascom Mall

...where I type out my handwritten notes and then this blog post.

Same day Supreme Court argument transcripts.

Starting in October! This is great news for us blogging lawprofs! Oh, the quotes we will mine! I'm beside myself with glee! From my point of view, this is much better than getting television coverage.

Unplayable 45s I won't throw out.

(The first in a series.)

Unplayable 45

ADDED: Sippican picks up the meme.

Ripping off Henry Timrod.

Or perhaps more aptly, making Henry Timrod famous. Here's the evidence that Bob Dylan took bits from Timrod's poetry to do the lyrics for "Modern Times." But Bob needn't worry. Timrod won't sue or even complain. He's from the mid-19th century (and was known as the poet laureate of the Confederacy). Should we feel bad about Bob?
This isn’t the first time fans have found striking similarities between Mr. Dylan’s lyrics and the words of other writers. On his last album, “Love and Theft,” a fan spotted about a dozen passages similar to lines from “Confessions of a Yakuza,” a gangster novel written by Junichi Saga, an obscure Japanese writer. Other fans have pointed out the numerous references to lines of dialogue from movies and dramas that appear throughout Mr. Dylan’s oeuvre. Example: “Love Is Just a Four-Letter Word” echoes a line from “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

This time around Scott Warmuth, a disc jockey in Albuquerque and a former music director for WUSB, a public radio station in Stony Brook, on Long Island, discovered the concordances between Mr. Dylan’s lyrics and Timrod’s poetry by doing some judicious Google searches. Mr. Warmuth said he wasn’t surprised to find that Mr. Dylan had leaned on a strong influence in writing his lyrics.

“I think that’s the way Bob Dylan has always written songs,” he said. “It’s part of the folk process, even if you look from his first album until now.”
Well, theft itself is a traditional "process," but it would still piss me off if someone robbed me, either with a six gun or a fountain pen.

At least Dylan called an album “Love and Theft,” and he's repeatedly presented himself as a thief in various lyrics. To have Bob Dylan steal some of your phrases and the Dylan fanatics ferret out the connection he declined to tell us about is to get publicity you never would have gotten otherwise. You should be delighted, or, if you're dead, like Henry Timrod, we'll imagine you delighted, to have the grand old lyrics-master steal your words and send his listeners off to discover you.

Or do you think I'm ignoring principle and letting Dylan off the hook because I like him?

Special sections and hidden themes in the NYT.

I have the extremely well-established habit of reading the New York Times every morning and, in the last two and a half years, spotting what's bloggable (in my idiosyncratic opinion). Sometimes, like today, I keep a list as I read. Looking at today's list, all the stories have a gay theme. It made me think -- what? -- is it gay day for the Times? It's as if they have a new special weekly section, but they've distributed it around the newspaper instead of collecting it in one place. Hmmm.... what are the special sections on Thursdays? Fashion ("Thursday Styles") and decorating ("House and Home"). So, then, it kind of is -- stereotypically speaking -- gay day at the NYT. I've got to think the NYT is saving up gay stories and putting them on Thursdays. Anyway, let's look at the stories.

1. Here is the obituary for Tyron Garner, who died on Monday of meningitis. We remember the name of the man with whom he was arrested for violating the Texas Homosexual Conduct Law, because it is John G. Lawrence's name that is memorialized in the case name Lawrence v. Texas. The obituary tells the story of the arrest this way:
Shortly before 10:30, an unidentified man called the Harris County Sheriff’s Department and told the dispatcher that “a black male was going crazy in the apartment and he was armed with a gun.”

The caller turned out to be Mr. Eubanks, who told deputies he was jealous of Mr. Garner, with whom he argued that evening and had fought physically in the past.

Mr. Garner and Mr. Lawrence were then alone together in the apartment, fueling Mr. Eubanks’s rage.

Mr. Eubanks stood at the door when the police arrived and directed them to go inside, where, he said, a man was threatening neighbors with a gun. No gun was found, but the police entered with trepidation. Inside, a still-mysterious man on a telephone directed them to a bedroom in the back.

They shouted out several times and entered the bedroom. They said Mr. Garner and Mr. Lawrence were engaged in sex. One deputy said they continued obliviously for as long as a minute. Another deputy said they stopped immediately.

Why the deputies enforced the sodomy law, a rarity, is unclear, wrote Mr. Carpenter, who said he doubted that the officers actually saw any sex. He dismissed widespread speculation that the event was staged as a vehicle to test the law, saying that among other reasons, the men were too inarticulate for appearances in the news media.
Garner is described repeatedly as very quiet and unassuming. R.I.P.

2. Here's a story about the "revival" of activism against the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy (datelined Madison, Wisconsin):
In August the gay rights group Soulforce opened a national campaign by recruiting openly gay people, including the three young men in Madison, who would have enlisted in the military if not for “don’t ask, don’t tell.” [As part of that campaign, two young people who were rejected as applicants on Tuesday at a recruitment center in Chicago returned there on Wednesday and engaged in a sit-in. They were arrested but later released without charges.]

The move to change the policy faces stiff resistance from the Pentagon and Republicans in Congress, who, in a time of war during a tough election year, have no longing for another contentious debate about gay troops. The House bill, introduced last year by Representative Martin T. Meehan, Democrat of Massachusetts, has picked up 119 supporters, but only five of them Republicans.
Republicans, Republicans... spare me. The Democrats aren't gay rights heroes on this. There are 201 of them in the House, and you know they have constituents who are more likely to want the policy changed, so it's less politically risky for them. I'm not impressed by either party on this issue. [ADDED: Captain Ed links to the NYT article and states his strong support for allowing gays people to serve in the military.]

3. Next, "Is This Campus Gay-Friendly?" A few days ago, I heard a street preacher try to alarm the passing students with the news that Madison is the "Capital of Lesbianism," but nevertheless, my campus is not mentioned in the article. The article reports on the book “The Advocate College Guide for LGBT Students," and I wonder how well the book does at really finding the places that are truly friendly to gay people:
Jeremy Marshall, a 20-year-old junior at Duke University and the president of Duke Allies, a student organization for those who support lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, said he was surprised Duke was listed among the top 20 friendliest schools.

“I don’t think Duke has warranted that position yet,” he said. “We were ranked one of the most homophobic schools in 1999,” by Princeton Review.

Mr. Marshall said he believes tolerance will improve eventually, but he was unhappy with the funding to Duke Allies this year and said that homophobic slurs can still be heard on campus.

The school has several gay awareness programs that make it look “good on paper,” Mr. Marshall said, yet “the real challenge is changing the hearts and minds of students.”
Googling, I see that UW did end up somewhere near #20 on the Advocate's list. I think we'd be much higher if it weren't for some issues at the state law level, which must have affected how we were scored on the 20-factor checklist.

4. This isn't directly a gay story, but it's on my list of things I found interesting, from one of the articles in the fashion section: "a men’s suit of heavy blue shirting with an 80-inch-drawstring waist." There's a photo on the second page of the article. Of course, a skinny guy is modeling it, but the text of the article indicates these pants would be useful for a man with some "body flaws" to hide. I can't really picture a fat guy in 80-inch waist drawstring pants that purport to be part of a suit. If there is one thing that hides a man's body flaws, it's the traditional suit, with unobtrusive pants. This thing on a fat guy would not only keep him looking fat, it would make him look crazy.

CORRECTION: Sorry I had 1, 2, 3, 5 on those items all day. There actually was a fifth item on that list I referred to, but it didn't fit the theme and it became the next post. Hence the foolish numbering! That was not some "hidden theme" of innumeracy or some inside joke. Corrected.

September 13, 2006

"Project Runway."

Well, a lot of things happened tonight, but in the end, exactly what you knew would happen happened. Kayne got eliminated. Something was missing at the taste level. We'd been told that ten times. Another thing I knew -- once they said there would be some special guests -- was that they'd be bringing back eliminated contestants. Do I have ESP or was that obvious? When Heidi called for the entrance of the first mystery guest, I knew it was going to be Vincent. And I knew he and Angela would be sent off once again, since they had to win to stay, and they weren't going to win. And when they gave the home viewers a chance to vote on which contestant they'd rather have seen return, you would have been safe betting any amount of money that the answer was going to be Alison. And it wasn't suprising that Michael made one of the nicest dresses and also took time out to help another contestant (Kayne).

So what was surprising? It was surprising that Laura acted so weak. Her confidence was shattered, she'd been blindsided, she was so terribly tired. She cried. But it wasn't all weakness. She had the strength to bully Angela, really to try to play a mind game on her, telling her she didn't deserve another chance. And Laura made the prettiest dress and won. It was a tad surprising that Angela dealt with the requirement to use all the fabric by stuffing lots of leftovers into a purse, that she tried to justify it as needed to puff out the purse, and that Heidi pointed out the purse in question had rigid sides and what was in it had no effect on its shape. It was kind of surprising that the tattoo boy, Jeffrey, finished in the bottom two, though not the slightest bit suprising that he survived. The judges swing back and forth with him. They either like their rock and roll boy, or they wonder why he is always the rock and roll boy. Well, I like him, and I even liked his goofy cocktail dress with plastic leg casings. So what if we keep getting Gwen Stefani?

Then there was the highlight of the night: Michael Kors imitating Uli, saying, in her German accent: Well, I live in hot wezzer. Clearly, they are sick of Uli's Miami mentality, and the smart bets say she's going home next week. The final three are Michael, Laura, and Jeffrey. And Michael wins.

Kazakhstan is really mad about Borat.

And Bush is getting involved!

An interesting question is whether Borat has made Americans like Kazakhstan more. What is the effect of over-the-top vicious and hilarious satire on the reputation of a country? Few Americans thought much at all about Kazakhstan before Borat, so he had the opportunity to become the entire reputation of the country as far as we were concerned. But, strangely, that might be to the good, even though Kazakhstan is pissed. The reason is that we know Borat is a joke and we love him. Kazakhstan gets name recognition and reflected love. We hear all sorts of ridiculous lies, we know they are lies, and we kind of love Kazakhstan.

So I hope when Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev visits the U.S. and meets with President Bush he doesn't bungle the opportunity! Show some humor and now that you've got our attention, give us something good to displace the crazy Borat info that is currently filling your reputation space. And don't be grumpy about the wonderful Sacha Baron Cohen. There lies further mockery.

Theme? America.

No, I'm not doing a theme day here on the blog, although as I set out this morning, I felt I'd left behind three posts that look like a theme: blogging/vlogging... blahhh! I'm not doing that. I keep telling myself not to blog about blogging too much.

But I had to make fun of those bloggers who gravitated to Clinton's lunch. It made me think of this video clip a reader sent me yesterday, with President Bush standing intimidatingly close to Matt Lauer and repeatedly making stabbing finger-pointing gestures at him. I like the way Lauer wasn't the slightest bit cowed. I want nervy bloggers who stand up to powerful politicos, not folks who gush about their charm and hospitality and how good they made their ideas sound.

But I lit out before I could dispel the impression that I had a theme day going, because I wanted to take the long way driving into work and listen to "Theme Time Radio With Bob Dylan." What was the theme? For the first time, there wasn't a precisely articulated theme like flowers or the devil or baseball. It was something about traveling all over the map. The first song was the city-naming song "I've Been Everywhere" -- which made me assume, incorrectly, that the most obvious city-naming song, "Route 66," would come up later. Sometimes Bob acted as if the theme was cities. There were songs about Chicago and Tulsa and Jackson and Knoxville. But not every song had a city name. There was "Jersey Girl" and "Hawaiian Cowboy" and "Stars Fell on Alabama." So what exactly was the theme? As the show was ending, under Dylan's closing remarks, we heard a mellow, evocative guitar rendering of "America, the Beautiful."

I think the theme was "America," but a decision was made to be subtle about it. Was anything said about 9/11? No, no, nothing at all. But I thought it was very interesting that Bob chose to play a song about the great Baltimore fire of 1904 and then took the time to quote what the mayor, Robert McLane, said at the time, when offers of help poured in: "As head of this municipality, I cannot help but feel gratified by the sympathy and the offers of practical assistance which have been tendered to us. To them I have in general terms replied, 'Baltimore will take care of its own, thank you.'" And: "To suppose that the spirit of our people will not rise to the occasion is to suppose that our people are not genuine Americans. We shall make the fire of 1904 a landmark not of decline but of progress."

Did he mean to imply something about New Orleans and New York City today? Was there a subtle political message to extract?

Bill Clinton, lunching with the bloggers.

Come on, you'd fly to New York City, to eat "southern chicken" with Bill Clinton and pose for a group photo, wouldn't you? And then you'd go home and blog about how he's good on your issues and how you're totally impressed, right? And, omigosh, "He's got beautiful blue eyes."

Hey, this blogger wrangling... it's easy when you've got blue eyes and chicken.

And check out the photo:

Let's just array these bloggers... randomly.

UPDATE: This discussion continues here.

"Is that a prediction, or a statement of the status quo?"

I like that zinger from Andy, commenting on a post at Prawfsblawg, which quoted David Luban saying maybe "a few years down the road":
... the question whether hiring committees should count blogging as legal scholarship might transmute into the question whether hiring committees should count law review articles as legal scholarship. If the best students and many scholars perceive the action shifting to cyberspace, law reviews will become less important repositories of at least one variety of scholarly ambition. Law reviews will concentrate on interdisciplinary, fancy-theoretical scholarship relatively disconnected from the flow of real-time political and legal events.
Luban seems to think lawprofs aren't much good at fancy theory anyway. (Is it just me, or did the expression "fancy theory" go out of style maybe like... five years ago?) I hear some professorial chortling as he repeats the quips that "there are no geniuses in law" and that lawprofs "make better kibbitzers than theoreticians." Does this poke at a sore spot or does it seem to whisper liberation?

Lonelygirl, the professional film project.

The masterminds of the Lonelygirl15 videos are Ramesh Flinders, a screenwriter and filmmaker from Marin County, Calif., and Miles Beckett, a doctor turned filmmaker....

“We were all under N.D.A.’s” [software engineer Grant] Steinfeld said, referring to non-disclosure agreements the cast — and their friends — were asked to sign to preserve the mystery of Lonelygirl15. “They had a lawyer involved,” he said. “My first impression was like, wow, can this be legitimate? Is this ethical? I was very concerned about that in the beginning.”
Did you watch these videos? I watched the first one and thought it looked too well done and too conspicuously designed to appeal to people who were not me. Fan quoted in the article: "she’s really not into Feynmann and Jared Diamond! (I’m heart-broken...)."

I like the way this illustrates the two sides of web behavior: individual users plunge into solo voyeurism but also coalesce into networks and perform intense investigations:
When Mr. Steinfeld’s dummy site, which had been set up before the first Lonelygirl15 video was even posted, struck users as suspicious and unsupervised — Mr. Steinfeld says he grew tired of running it, and dropped out of the project — fans set up their own site devoted to Lonelygirl15, which soon attracted more than a thousand members.

Both sites drew contributions from novelists, journalists, academics, day traders, lawyers, bloggers, filmmakers, video game designers, students, housewives, bored youngsters and experts on religion and botany. In the cacophony of conjecture, analysis, close-readings, jokes, insults, and distractions, good information sometimes surfaced.

Last month, a Lonelygirl15 fan discovered and posted a trademark application by Mr. Goodfried, which seemed to prove that the videos, which presented themselves as nothing but a video diary, were at least in part a commercial venture. Then, last week, three tech-savvy fans, working together, set up a sting on the e-mail being used by “Bree”; the operation revealed to them the I.P. address of Creative Artists Agency.
So, did the filmmakers succeed? Do you care about their project? Or do you feel defrauded and one notch more suspicious of anything that seems too good to be true?

September 12, 2006

I can see Daniel waving goodbye.

I feel really sad about this boy's death.

I remember seeing him in her old reality show. What happened? They're saying it wasn't drugs, wasn't a heart attack...

UPDATE: There will be a criminal inquest.


"...will wirelessly stream video and music from a Macintosh computer or from the Internet to a television."

Is this what we've been waiting for? Can I get rid of my cable service and my TiVo now? Everything will just stream over the internet really soon, right?

Avenging Steve Irwin by mutilating stingrays.

So it appears.

"It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation."

Okay, now that I've warmed up on Keith Olbermann, let's look at the President's speech itself. (Olbermann was anticipating what Bush would say.) I watched Bush's speech last night, but I was too tired to write anything about it, even just the kind of post that would have given readers a place to put their comments. Sorry. I was really tired. Anyway, it's just as well. It helped to sleep on it.

Last night, it wasn't making much of an impression on me. I was observing the superficial things, like how he kept his hands flat on the desk, one on top of the other, and occasionally the top hand would release the bottom hand, which would then flap about in the tiniest of gestures. The text seemed to be the sort of thing he needs to say and does say once in a while. As in most cases, it didn't seem extraordinary-- as if he really wants to communicate -- but dutiful -- as if he's doing that thing a President needs to do. He had his inflections right, but it came out in the usual singsong. Trying to think how he could have done better, I pictured President Reagan and imagined his inflections. I have the feeling the people who coach Bush have studied Reagan and extracted some tips, and Bush is doing what he can. But, as Bush might say, it's hard.

Let's look at the text, just the core of it here:
Since the horror of 9/11, we've learned a great deal about the enemy. We have learned that they are evil and kill without mercy -- but not without purpose. We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam -- a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. And we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings, and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations. The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation.
This invites us to support his military efforts not by scaring us about violence, but by inspiring us about American values. We can appreciate and want to protect our own freedom, and that should make us want to fight an enemy who would deprive us of it. That merges into an argument that we should want to engage in a struggle, the struggle of the century, to bring our values to people around the globe. He can't say this ideological struggle is between American values and Islam. The Islamic values here are a "perverted," "radical" distortion of Islam. The implication is that there is a real Islam, and the President knows what it is, and it's something much more like the American values. This all goes by so quickly when you're listening to the speech.

He speaks next of the threats of violence to us. "We face an enemy determined to bring death and suffering into our homes." To keep the enemy out of "our homes" and to avoid having the "Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons," we need to fight the war to victory. He argues that we have had much success so far, in Afghanistan, "put[ing] al Qaeda on the run." What about Iraq?
I'm often asked why we're in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress, and the United Nations saw the threat -- and after 9/11, Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take. The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. And now the challenge is to help the Iraqi people build a democracy that fulfills the dreams of the nearly 12 million Iraqis who came out to vote in free elections last December.
This is a very minimal restatement of why we went to war, and it won't satisfy anyone who wants to concentrate on that point, but it's not surprising that he moves quickly to the subject of the importance of sticking it out and making a success of it now that we're there.

Skipping some text:
We can be confident that our coalition will succeed because the Iraqi people have been steadfast in the face of unspeakable violence.
The fact that things are so bad is the reason why things are so good. You can mock that rhetorical move, but I suspect it's appeared in thousands of war speeches. What else can he say (considering that he's not going to give up)?
And we can be confident in victory because of the skill and resolve of America's Armed Forces.
He needs to inspire us to believe in victory, and he takes advantage of our respect for the troops. I'm eliding the sentences that detail his respect. From this paragraph, he goes to honoring the people who work in homeland security, as if the subject has been honoring the men and women in public service. The Iraq section of the speech is over.
Five years after 9/11, our enemies have not succeeded in launching another attack on our soil, but they've not been idle. Al Qaeda and those inspired by its hateful ideology have carried out terrorist attacks in more than two dozen nations. And just last month, they were foiled in a plot to blow up passenger planes headed for the United States. They remain determined to attack America and kill our citizens -- and we are determined to stop them.
This really is impressive and much more inspiring than Iraq. I can understand his frustration. Where things are going badly, in Iraq, there are events and pictures to demoralize us. Where things are going well, what we see is the lack of anything bad, and it is hard to get people to see that as anything at all.

Here's an interesting line tagged onto the end of that paragraph:
We'll continue to give the men and women who protect us every resource and legal authority they need to do their jobs.
There's your legislative agenda for the election season.

Now he returns to the theme of ideological struggle:
One of the strongest weapons in our arsenal is the power of freedom. The terrorists fear freedom as much as they do our firepower. They are thrown into panic at the sight of an old man pulling the election lever, girls enrolling in schools, or families worshiping God in their own traditions. They know that given a choice, people will choose freedom over their extremist ideology. So their answer is to deny people this choice by raging against the forces of freedom and moderation. This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations. In truth, it is a struggle for civilization. We are fighting to maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations. And we're fighting for the possibility that good and decent people across the Middle East can raise up societies based on freedom and tolerance and personal dignity.

We are now in the early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom. Amid the violence, some question whether the people of the Middle East want their freedom, and whether the forces of moderation can prevail. For 60 years, these doubts guided our policies in the Middle East. And then, on a bright September morning, it became clear that the calm we saw in the Middle East was only a mirage. Years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither. So we changed our policies, and committed America's influence in the world to advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism.
People given the choice will always choose freedom? Many people, it seems, accept mere order and security. Others give up every earthly freedom in exchange for the promise of heaven. It's a serious question, but he raises it only to drop it. He brings up 9/11 right there, so maybe you won't notice. And how does what happened on that "bright September morning" prove we need to remake the Middle East? Putting one sentence after another doesn't mean the ideas follow logically. There's some real sleight of hand in that last paragraph, and I think everyone knows it.

To stave off the doubts, he brings up Franklin Roosevelt, D-Day, Iwo Jima, and so forth. "Throughout our history, America has seen liberty challenged, and every time, we have seen liberty triumph with sacrifice and determination." Every time? Whenever we fight, we win, because we fight for liberty.

The conclusion:
On this solemn anniversary, we rededicate ourselves to this cause. Our nation has endured trials, and we face a difficult road ahead. Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country, and we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us. We will defeat our enemies. We will protect our people. And we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty.
I agree with the basic point of the speech: We must continue the fight to victory. I don't think he's created any new inspiration here, though. People who think Iraq is a lost cause love liberty too. They're still going to criticize the war. They aren't going to "put aside [their] differences." He said "our differences," but clearly he's going to stay in his position and defend it. So, essentially, that means: Stop disagreeing with me. And, yes, you can laugh at the irony: Freedom is so wonderful that you should shut up.

We must "work together to meet the test that history has given us." Note the passivity. I didn't choose this, history made me do it. And since it's history, you need to get in line, get serious. There's a core of that that I absolutely agree with. We're in a war, so we need to concentrate on winning, and you should only want to do the things that help. But I don't think the assertions here are going to convince anyone, and he's given his critics new material. They are going to resent and resist the demand that we perceive ourselves as caught up in a massive, historical ideological struggle.

Keith Olbermann's anti-Bush rant.

Can someone explain why Olbermann is going on and on blaming Bush for the fact that the World Trade Center site has not been rebuilt and that there is no memorial there yet?

I do understand that he wants to use what he crudely calls the "hole" as a metaphor for the "hole" "in the fabric of our nation," but it's an inaccurate set-up for what isn't exactly a brilliant literary device. There's video and text at the link. I watched the first quarter of the video -- the WTC site is visible behind him -- then had to switch to the text because his heavy-handed delivery was getting on my nerves. Why doesn't mainstream media find better people to put on the air?

Scrolling way down into the extended text, we find this:
Not once in now five years has this President ever offered to assume responsibility for the failures that led to this empty space… and to this, the current, curdled, version of our beloved country.

Still, there is a last snapping flame from a final candle of respect and fairness: even his most virulent critics have never suggested he alone bears the full brunt of the blame for 9/11.
Now, class the lesson for today is alliteration. He's really trying hard to write well. Earlier in this peroration, he was quoting the Gettysburg Address, and it's easy to tell he thinks he's bringing us elevated text.

Here's something about "The Path to 9/11":
A mini-series, created, influenced — possibly financed by — the most radical and cold of domestic political Machiavellis, continues to be televised into our homes.
Does the average viewer even know who the hell he's talking about or does this just sound nutty? So... uh ... Disney?
Just as the terrorists have succeeded — are still succeeding — as long as there is no memorial and no construction here at Ground Zero…

So too have they succeeded, and are still succeeding — as long as this government uses 9/11 as a wedge to pit Americans against Americans.
A wedge to pit? Well, maybe someone who cranks out prose like this and doesn't seem to think any editing is necessary also thinks you can quickly sketch out a design for a series of buildings and get going. (The memorial at Gettysburg was dedicated only four months after the battle, he tells us.) There was, of course, an early design for the reconstruction -- and, of course, it had nothing to do with Bush -- but it went nowhere, because it wasn't very good. (I don't know what physical monument Lincoln stood near when he gave the Gettysburg Address, but I think I can fairly assume it was the sort of thing that would be met with cries of outrage today. That said, maybe we should have put up a simple slab of marble with a reverent inscription. But that's another matter, and it's got nothing to do with Bush.)

Olbermann's drivel ends this way:
When those who dissent are told time and time again — as we will be, if not tonight by the President, then tomorrow by his portable public chorus — that he is preserving our freedom, but that if we use any of it, we are somehow un-American…

When we are scolded, that if we merely question, we have "forgotten the lessons of 9/11"… look into this empty space behind me and the bi-partisanship upon which this administration also did not build, and tell me:

Who has left this hole in the ground?

We have not forgotten, Mr. President.

You have.

May this country forgive you.
Should we forgive Olbermann for using the World Trade Center site as a backdrop and a metaphor for his (atrociously written) political speech?

September 11, 2006

"Best not to pick a fight with people who have gigabytes of text at their disposal unless you are interested in a duel on equal footing."

Well, it's not as catchy as don't pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel, but that's what the NYT is saying ought to replace the old saying. The point is that MSM needs to catch on that blogs even out the fight:
Professional reputations and affiliations with mainstream institutions don’t offer any cover — not The New Republic, not CBS and not The New York Times. [Lee] Siegel was obviously driven slightly batty by the new medium, even calling it “blogofascism,” a term that brought much ridicule down on his head.

He has since calmed down and has his regrets.

“People of course have a right to question a critic’s judgment, but there’s a difference between doing that and merely insulting someone you disagree with,” he said in a phone call. “So I wildly created an over-the-top persona and adopted the tone of my attackers, when I should have just gone to the gym instead.”


September 11th news

"Because of the crimes he conducts" and "because he conducts them in the name of Islam, the religion which is a harbinger of peace and justice."

Mohammed Khatami, former president of Iran, speaking at Harvard University, condemns Osama bin Laden.

The real-time 2001 coverage.

Beginning at 7:30 ET, CNN is repeating its coverage from September 11, 2001, on line, here.

"Why is writing important? Mainly, out of egotism, I suppose."

"Because I want to be that persona, a writer, and not," writes Susan Sontag, "because there is something I must say."
Yet why not that too? With a little ego-building — such as the fait accompli this journal provides — I shall win through to the confidence that I (I) have something to say, that should be said. My “I” is puny, cautious, too sane. Good writers are roaring egotists, even to the point of fatuity. Sane men, critics, correct them — but their sanity is parasitic on the creative fatuity of genius.
Well, this is all very bloggish, isn't it? I'm just noticing this long collection of journal entries because it's high on the NYT most-emailed list right now. It was in yesterday's NYT Magazine, which I never got around to opening -- other than to note that the second puzzle was not one of the kind I do. I was terribly busy on Sunday. And I don't mean just blogging about and trying to watch that damned docudrama. I did have the magazine in bed and then next to the bed all night, but I never got to the point of reading it.

Years ago, when I wanted to be an artist, I once expressed that idea "I want to be that persona, [an artist]" to a large mixed group. I said it too emphatically, to the point of... fatuity... and later felt quite ashamed and just wished I hadn't said it. I really felt that the important thing was to be an artist, to live the life of an artist, and then you'd have to do the art, of course, but that was secondary. Later, I thought, what an idiot, how embarrassing.

Too puny, too cautious, too sane.

September 11th.

Here is the post I wrote on September 11th in my first year of blogging, 2004:
Three years ago, I was standing on the corner of Brooks Street and University Avenue, collecting my thoughts about my new class on the Constitution's religion clauses that would meet later that day, waiting for the walk sign. It's a long wait to cross the only street between the parking garage and the Law School, and it's not unlikely that a colleague will step up and join me in the wait. It's a nice time for a friendly hello. A colleague appears, I give a cheery hello and mean to go on to comment on the great beauty of the day. He says, "Haven't you seen the news this morning?"

To this day, when I stand on that corner, I remember hearing the news there. Not once since that day would it be that anyone could walk up and ask me if I'd seen the news that morning and the answer would be, as it was that day, "no." Since that day, I always check the television news when I get up in the morning. For a long time after September 11th, 2001, when I woke up in the middle of the night I would turn on the TV and check the news to see if anything had happened. Any time I woke up, I would, within a second, recall the sight of the burning World Trade Center and think "That happened. That really happened." It was the same feeling I had when a close and very young family member died some years ago. Very shortly after waking, my first thought was, "she died, she died." Even when I was awake, I would repeatedly think of the 9/11 attacks, like that death of that family member years ago, and re-experience hearing the news for the first time: "That happened. That really happened!" The length of time between those re-rememberings increased gradually over the weeks and months, but it took a long time before the thought could be experienced without containing an element of feeling as though I was learning the news the first time.

I remember going into the law school building that day three years ago, wanting to find out what happened. My colleague had only told me that planes flew into the World Trade Center towers. I pictured small planes hitting the buildings and falling onto the sidewalk below. Did they fall on people on the ground? He said he believed the planes went into the buildings and stayed inside. That inconceivable image, which I would by the end of the day have seen on television a hundred times, began to form in my head. I hurried to the law school, thinking I could find the news on the internet, but I couldn't get through to any of the sites. My son Chris called from San Francisco to ask if I knew. Unlike me, he had a television, and he described what he saw. He told me people were jumping. People were jumping! I went looking for a television. A colleague had a tiny portable television with a black and white screen. We all crowded around. On that five inch screen, I first saw the unreal sight of a tower collapsing.

I tore myself away from the little screen to make some effort at getting my notes together for my class. I was fretting about my capacity to do my job properly. Five minutes before class time, I went down to the classroom and found it dark and packed with people. A fifteen foot movie screen had been lowered, and everyone stared in shock at the projected television images of the attacks. Suddenly, there were the attacks, over and over, in brilliant color for the first time. Some of the people in the room were my students, sitting in their assigned seats for the class that was to begin in a few minutes. When the clock clicked over to the class time, I stood up and, worrying that it was wrong to project my voice over the events on the screen, I quickly announced that this was my classroom but there would be no class, and the television should stay on. I sat down and watched in shock with the rest of the group. How could it be?

When I finally left the building, to go home and continue to the vigil in front of the television, I remember walking between two large old university buildings on my way back to the street crossing where my colleague had told me the news a few hours ago. I looked at those buildings and thought: I had always assumed these buildings were so solid, but how foolish I was; these buildings are all now going to fall. I really felt, walking between those two buildings, that everything we had built was doomed, and that we had been living under an illusion that the world we had built could stand.

Today, when I go home after work, I still walk between those two buildings, and I often think about how I felt on that day that these buildings could not stand. Yet here they are. I'm amazed at how ready I was on that day to believe that the terrorists had taken our world away, that the will to destruction, now unleashed, would overcome the work of all of the rest of us who wanted to build things and to live our individual lives in the material world. Yet here we are, still building things, still making lives for ourselves. A car horn playing "On Wisconsin!" just roused me from this reverie. It's a beautiful sunny day here Madison. Tens of thousands of people are coming to the enlarged, rebuilt stadium for the game that starts in an hour. I can hear their yells from where I'm sitting in my dining room. Life goes on.
Two more years have passed. Now five years have gone by since the day I believed the terrorists had unleashed the will to destruction and taken our world away. I would have been shocked all over again if someone from today could have sent me the message that five years later, no other building has fallen, no airplane has been brought down, no bomb has gone off -- not in the United States anyway. Still today, almost every time I walk between those two old university buildings, toward the street crossing where I first heard the news, I think about how I believed everything we had presumed to build was doomed and that we were victims of the illusion that we could build things and expect them to stand.

But we got it together and defended our way of life. I was surprised that Americans, inside, had some real cohesion and will. We look so scattered and individualistic most of the time, but in a crisis, we unite and get things done. That surprised the world. Over time -- five years now -- we disaggregate. We scatter back into our individual lives and roiling separate opinions. Some of us worry that this lets the enemy think we don't have the guts to keep fighting, that we're soft and weak. That's their failure to understand us. We're still all together here, no matter what the polls look like and how much we yell about politics. Our insistence on disaggregating is part of what we are: fierce individuals who will not let anyone take away our freedom.

September 10, 2006

"The Path to 9/11."

I wouldn't have watched this show, because I never watch shows like this. What does "like this" mean? Oh, there are at least five factors that would designate this as the kind of thing I don't watch: 1. network drama, 2. hyped miniseries, 3. dramatization of some hot issue, 4. 4 hours long, 5. lots of concerned emoting by actors who are often looking at video screens or arguing on the phone or sitting around fretting about things. I could go on. Basically, I don't like watching much of anything, though I do like the occasional HBO series and I enjoy unwinding to certain bloggable reality shows that I don't necessarily really like all that much.

But I am going to watch this now because of all the fuss. So take that! That's what you get for making the fuss. I am going to watch. And, since at least one reader has requested it and since it's the main thing that makes watching TV worthwhile, I will simulblog (or as some people like to say live-blog -- though the thing is not live, nor am I on the scene except in front of my HDTV). I may not have much to say, but I'll be saying whatever I feel like saying as the occasion arises. I'll put time-stamps on the following paragraphs so you can see what's new as we go along. Here goes.

7:10. There is a disclaimer explaining how dramatizations are done, by compressing time, combining characters, etc. An elegant opening sequence with black and white photography and tastefully minimal music. Early scenes show various earnest low level investigators who are generally thwarted by higher ups. We see a brief shot of a George Bush, sweating in a stretched out T-shirt, seen on an airport TV on 9/11, before the attacks, and later a bit of Mario Cuomo, just after the 1993 WTC attack. Each says a few words, enough to give us the sense that they are disengaged from the problems that are brewing underneath them.

7: 55. It's talky, interspersed with some action scenes. There are also scenes in nightclubs and closeups of bombmaking doings. In film, it seems, you have to constantly think about keeping people excited. It's not really an effective way to convey information. I'd much rather get it in writing. So many names and dates fly by. The terrorist guys are all sweaty, grimy, and pimply. No one worried too much about ethnic sterotypes.

8:06. "I don't want any lawyers getting in our way," says Harvey Keitel, as John O'Neill, showing up and taking charge, barking orders. (A little "Pulp Fiction" resonance there.) I'm totally bored, clicking over to websites to read the details of Ramzi Yousef to make sure I've got his story straight. I realize it's way easier and quicker this way. The movie is more about making you feel the frustration and the danger.

8:20. But I don't like surrendering to the manipulation of my feelings. I don't need a movie to help me feel something about 9/11. I'd rather read the 9/11 Report... or any number of things. I especially hate the scenes where characters walk quickly through hallways with the camera shaking and swinging about so we'll sense the urgency. Sometimes the camera is taken in and out of focus to try to make it seem like a documentary filmed on the fly. I have to confess I switched it off just now. I'm still TiVo-ing it, so I can go back, but the flashy cutting and the anxious actors yammering at each other are getting on my nerves. I need a break. You know this commercial-free thing has a down side.

9:18. That's an irrelevant timestamp, just the time here in Madison, Wisconsin, after I've taken a break and gone back to the TiVo'd version of the show. I don't like it at all. Too chaotic. Really, I've got to wonder how those geniuses at ABC figured out how to get Bill Clinton, et al., to do their publicity work for them. Totally viral!

9:29. Osama Bin Laden is introduced in a scene where O'Neill must tell Sandy Berger, "We're at war." The screen goes black, and the disclaimer runs. Something was cut here!

9:48. A vivid scene showing Berger accused of caring too much about following the law and covering his ass gives way the voice of Bill Clinton saying "I did not have sexual relations with that woman." The visual is a little Clinton, a little Monica, and a little Washington Monument (for the phallic effect). Then Keitel in a car, hearing the tail end of the Clinton assertions, being told that the President insists the scandal won't affect his decisionmaking. Keitel is all "So it's okay if somebody kills bin Laden, as long as he didn't give the order. That's pathetic."

9: 56. The scene with Berger refusing to give the order to kill bin Laden ends early.

10:09. I'm turning it off with an hour left on the TiVo. Maybe I'll pick it up tomorrow, but I'm just forcing myself, and only half watching it. Hey, I was forced into it. But I can only take so much.

The contrast between “Brave New World” and “1984,” the nature of Ophelia’s madness in “Hamlet,” and the theme of colonialism in "Lord Jim."

I love the hilarious obviousness of the paper topics chosen to test those on-line paper-writing services. Guess what? The papers they write for you are incredibly crappy.
Stephen Greenblatt, a Shakespeare scholar at Harvard and a confessed “soft touch,” said the grade he would give [the Ophelia] paper “would depend, at least to some extent, on whether I thought I was reading the work of a green freshman — in which case I would probably give it a D+ and refer the student to the writing lab for counseling — or an English major, in which case I would simply fail it.”

He added: “If I had paid for this, I would demand my money back.”
Hmmm... yeah, but you're thinking, I don't go to Harvard. Maybe I can still get by with it.

I hope teachers have a lot of ways to deal with the problem. Students who aren't cheating also write bad papers. It's not enough for students to know the web-bought papers will be fairly bad. They may be rather sure the paper they'd have to write would also be bad.

It's also not enough to use plagiarism detection search engines:
Thanks to search engines like Google, college instructors have become adept at spotting those shop-worn, downloadable papers that circulate freely on the Web, and can even finger passages that have been ripped off from standard texts and reference works.

A grade-conscious student these days seems to need a custom job, and to judge from the number of services on the Internet, there must be virtual mills somewhere employing armies of diligent scholars who grind away so that credit-card-equipped undergrads can enjoy more carefree time together.
At least these search engines are causing the papers to get worse. If students know that -- and I'm trying to help here -- that's a disincentive.

One thing I would recommend to teachers is having paper topics that are very closely tied to the idiosyncratic way the material was presented in class, so that a researcher outside of the class (including a student who skipped class) would not be able to handle it properly.

Another alternative is to base the grade on a proctored exam, which is what I do. Even where the exam is open book, you can ask a question that is not generic, that is tied to the way the material was discussed in class, and that presents a specific question that cannot be anticipated beforehand. And then you have to have the nerve to grade so that only writing that answers the question can receive credit. That's my technique.

Nerd wants love.

Thinks sucking up to feminists is a good move. Don't you realize all the best feminists laugh at that?

It's too late to decide to attack Bin Laden, so let's attack this TV show.

ABC's "Path to 9/11," we're told, by those who want it yanked, portrays the Clinton adminstration making a strategic decision not to take out Bin Laden in a military attack. With hindsight, after 9/11, it's easy to say that was the wrong strategic decision. The question I want to raise is whether it's the wrong strategic decision to cry out about "The Path to 9/11" because of the way it portrays the Clinton administration. To say the portrayal is inaccurate is to focus everyone on the issue, to highlight how sensitive you are about it, and to set off a vigorous effort to show that it is accurate.

Perhaps we were leaving the past behind, saying things like "9/11 reset the clock for me," but now we're distracted -- distracted? like a President caught in a sex scandal... -- and we start wondering why they are making such a stink about this: Are they trying to imprint the national mind with a new story, that Clinton did no such thing and there's some vast right-wing conspiracy to subvert ABC to slander him?

No, no, no, the strategy is to imprint the national mind with a new story, that Clinton did no such thing and there's some vast right-wing conspiracy to subvert ABC to slander him, not to make you ask whether they are trying to do that and certainly not to encourage you to go rummaging through the old evidence -- what's left of it -- and feel like looking at something like this:

Now, why in hell did you look at that? Don't look at that! What repulsive right-wing prurient urge made you want to look at that Limbaugh-style political porn star... Tom Brokaw.

ADDED: And everybody also wants to look at the very parts of the show that most rile its opponents.

MORE: How insanely repressive. You know, mainstream politicians really should worry about bloggers. Ironically, the bad judgment shown by bloggers here is about wishing for hardcore repression of speech, but free speech is our lifeblood!
Clearly Bill Clinton, Sandy Berger, Madeleine Albright and American Airlines have good cause to sue Disney/ABC, the BBC, Australian and New Zealand television, and any local affiliate that broadcasts the show. How can we further help their lawsuit? I think a first step is paying close attention in each country to how the show is being marketed. Get us copies of ads, promotions, etc. that show local broadcasters and others promoting the show as true and non-fiction. How else can we help their suit?
Oh, yeah, bloggers really ought to want to encourage lawsuits by public figures who think something inaccurate has been said about them. This is the worst case of myopia I've seen in my years of blogging. You guys are complete idiots.

AND: This post is getting a lot of links. Let's check them out. Glenn Reynolds calls the original post the "best take yet" on the contoversy. Blue Crab Boulevard calls this post "pure art" (and long time readers know that I'm in this for the art). Looking at the "You guys are idiots" addendum, Dr. Sanity wields her expertise as a psychiatrist:
I would be remiss if I didn't mention the psychological mechanisms involved--DISPLACEMENT and SPLITTING-- both of which allow these idiots (I am allowed to call them that because this is a deliberate, self-imposed psychological state to maintain their denial, delusion, and hatred ) to behave in this clueless and revolting manner with regard to a TV miniseries.
Go read the analysis. Tigerhawk agrees that "the legal part of the strategy is not even slightly in the interest of bloggers" and has a lot of discussion of other blog posts, which you should read. Lawhawk hates the idea of lawsuits.

MOREOVER: Ruth Anne Adams has 11 reasons why she's watching "The Path to 9/11," one of which is that Donnie Wahlberg is giving her a Jack Bauer vibe.