February 3, 2007

Bush says the war is "sapping our soul."

He was speaking in a closed meeting of House Democrats. And before the press was shunted out:
He said disagreeing with him over the war — as many in the room do — does not mean "you don't share the same sense of patriotism I do."

"You can get that thought out of your mind, if that's what some believe," the president said. "These are tough times, but there's no doubt in my mind that you want to secure this homeland as much as I do."...

Bush said, "We don't always agree. That's why we're in different parties. But we do agree about our country. We do agree about the desire to work together and I really appreciate you letting me come by. I felt welcomed."...

"I listened to many members here, I listened to members of my own party, I listened to the military and came up with a plan that I genuinely believe has the best of succeeding," the president said....

"I do know we agree on some things and that is that the Maliki government is going to have to show strong leadership," Bush said. "There's benchmarks that they have got to achieve."...

The president also had a little fun at his own expense, hoping it would prove his willingness to find bipartisan consensus. His reference in his State of the Union address to their party as the "Democrat majority" — as opposed to the "Democratic majority" — caused grumbling and offense and he sought to make up for it.

"Now look, my diction isn't all that good," Bush said to laughter. "I have been accused of occasionally mangling the English language. And so I appreciate you inviting the head of the Republic Party."
Come on, even if you hate Bush, you have to admit that he handled that well. On the other hand, the war is sapping our soul.

IN THE COMMENTS: Meade wonders if Bush really said "sapping our soul." There were a lot of people there. If he didn't say that, I think we'll hear what he really said. To me, it seems that in the open part of the meeting, he reached out and clearly said that he's not blaming the war opponents for undermining morale. Then, in the closed session, there was more talk. I suspect that at some point, he said that morale was in fact undermined. If he said "sapping our soul," he -- it seems likely -- meant just that. Rather than view him as having made some devastating, tragic confession, we should probably credit him with sticking to his point of stirring up concern about the war without blaming anybody. What does this man have to do to get some support?

The Boston non-bombs.

Apologies have been made and reimbursement proffered. Isn't that enough? I mean, look at those things. It was some delightful performance art that should have puzzled and then amused people. I'm not saying people who got alarmed were ridiculous, but they need to move on. Free Sean Stevens and Peter Berdovsky. Or do they irritate you?

They're being yippies! [NSFW.]

"Black people get a little testy when white people call them 'articulate.'"

Notes Lynette Clemetson in the Week in Review explains why.
“Historically, it was meant to signal the exceptional Negro,” [said Michael Eric Dyson, a professor of humanities at the University of Pennsylvania.] “The implication is that most black people do not have the capacity to engage in articulate speech, when white people are automatically assumed to be articulate.”

And such distinctions discount as inarticulate historically black patterns of speech. “Al Sharpton is incredibly articulate,” said Tricia Rose, professor of Africana Studies at Brown University. “But because he speaks with a cadence and style that is firmly rooted in black rhetorical tradition you will rarely hear white people refer to him as articulate.”

While many white people do not automatically recognize how, and how often, the word is applied, many black people can recall with clarity the numerous times it has stopped them in their tracks.
What's really amazing is not that black people can speak well, but that white people haven't yet gotten the message that it's a bad idea to keep pointing it out.

NOTE: I edited the last sentence to make the point sharper.

Senators keep running for President, but they keep losing.

They have some kind of problem, right? Robert Geilfuss debunks the Senators can't win theory. Well, he tries to at least. I'm not convinced. I think there is something about the senatorial personality that doesn't seem right for a President.

"I find this very much akin to what we did with C-SPAN about 25-30 years ago."

HuffPo has a piece about Bloggingheads.tv — including the news that C-SPAN founding chairman Bob Rosencrans is putting money into it:
Rosencrans said he was instantly charmed by Bloggingheads TV when longtime friend Wright introduced him to it last November. "It got better and better as I watched it, and seemed like something really unique," said Rosencrans... Though contributors will continue to vlog for free, [Bob] Wright says he hopes to someday be able to pay them (and points out that he himself draws no salary, and has invested his own capital.) So far Heads like Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, our own Arianna Huffington, Spencer Ackerman, Jonathan Chait, Joshua Marshall, Glenn Reynolds and the Alts — Eric Alterman, Ann Althouse and Jonathan Alter — don't seem to mind, nor does the still-ubiquitous and generously-browed [Mickey] Kaus.
The Alts!
Though obviously enthusiastic about the venture, Rosencrans said he has no plans to meddle in its success. "Bob has control - it's important that it's done based on his integrity and his vision," he said. "I find this very much akin to what we did with C-SPAN about 25-30 years ago — let it run, let it develop and the right people will take it on. Their integrity is the key to developing a very solid business." Also reminiscent of C-SPAN is its emphasis on substance over flash: "I love the civility of the discussion," he said. "That's unique on television." (That could just be because it's very difficult to imagine yelling at the mild-mannered and highly-respected Wright.)
I guess he didn't see the one with Byron York and David Corn. And I think Mickey kind of yells at Bob sometimes, doesn't he? It's not all that mild-mannered -- at least not all the time, isn't it? And there's some flash. Like that time Bob put a pencil in his ear.

What kind of commenter are you?

Dr. Helen, noting a comments thread over here, speculates about the types of commenters. She identifies four types, two positive and two negative. The positive types are the sympathizers and the problem-solvers, and the negative types are the passive aggressives and the openly aggressive.

Succulent truculence.

Mark agrees with Andrew about Maya's malapropism. But then he takes a closer look:
There are plenty of solecisms printed every day, and we comment on a small sample of them here on Language Log -- but Andrew Sullivan usually doesn't.

In fact, I'm not sure that he's ever commented on a grammatical point before, or indeed on any other question of usage that doesn't involve the interpretation of a politically-charged word like "islamist" (or "christianist", a term that Sullivan has done much to popularize)....

So it's hardly a stretch to guess that Andrew is truculent to Angelou because she is very much not of his political kind.

Some other conservative bloggers have reacted in similar ways. Thus John Derbyshire, apparently without a hint of irony, compared Maya Angelou to William MacGonagall under the title "Voice of the master" (NRO the corner, 2/2/2007).

Come on, you pundits. The analysis of word choice, sentence structure, and meaning is an honorable calling, and we linguists are always happy to have company. But if you're going to pounce on Maya Angelou's malapropism without saying anything about the alleged proliferation of Bushisms, or Tony Snow's misuse of "inveigling", or Lawrence Henry's odd use of "slurry", or any of the rest of the daily parade of politically-relevant points of usage, people might get the idea that your linguistics is really politics.
Okay, this is actually quite complicated.

1. Of course, for most political pundits, linguistics is probably going to be used as a weapon and aimed at targets of choice.

2. Some political pundits -- I include myself -- are interested enough in language to write commentary on the subject, and that commentary may stand apart from politics or be completely interwoven with political opinion. It varies.

3. Speaking of politics, Mark Liberman is himself making a political move of sorts. He's claiming sovereignty over the linguistics field. The implicit argument is that a scholarly domain belongs to the scholars, and that scholars are known by their neutrality. He is nice enough to say he's happy to have company though.

4. Sullivan may be choosing his targets based on politics, but Liberman hasn't proven it. He assumes -- because Sullivan calls himself a conservative? -- that Sullivan doesn't have Bush as a target -- but Sullivan is contemptuous of Bush. If you search for "Bushism" on Sullivan's blog, you can find him quoting a Bushism.

5. Attacking Maya Angelou may very well have nothing to do with politics. I mean, look at the quote Sullivan mocks:
The walls of ignorance and prejudice and cruelty, which she railed against valiantly all her public life, have not fallen, but their truculence to do so does not speak against her determination to make them collapse.
That writing style is incredibly annoying. Sullivan calls it "pretentiousness, self-righteousness and lame, exhausted metaphors." He's right! When you're reading something that bad and then you find a plain error, you're motivated to point out the error. The ridiculous reverence shown toward Maya Angelou -- reflected in the WaPo's nonexistent editing -- is one more thing that makes you want to pick on her. It's not necessarily politics.


The "she" in the Angelou quote is Molly Ivins, who died recently. After looking at that bad writing, you may want to refresh yourself with some really good writing.

UPDATE: Liberman responds and disagrees with my point #3:
Claiming sovereignty? On the contrary.

At the end of my LSA talk on "The future of linguistics", I did suggest that our field could learn from Linus Torvald's 1995 plan for Linux: "World domination. Fast". But the recipe for success, I argued, is inclusiveness. We ought to welcome the participation of anyone interested in speech and language, including Andrew Sullivan and Ann Althouse. (Who had some interesting things to say yesterday about "When one word is funnier than another".)
Well, sovereigns allow visitors.... on their terms.

I admit -- and I think my choice of words shows it -- that I was reading between the lines. Mark says maybe I didn't read well enough or maybe he should write more clearly, but I was looking for implications. While it's true that he could try harder to block implications, he can't -- even by appealing to my pride and casting aspersions on my reading ability -- stop me from speculating about the motivations of writers. I'm a law professor. I have to read judicial opinions all the time. The judges are constantly laying out their purported reasoning, and I'd be a fool to accept that at face value.

Another thing is that Mark edited the key paragraph after I formed an opinion about it and was in the middle of writing about it. The original version lacked the references to Snow and Henry and -- I believe -- ended with the words "people might get the idea that linguistics is really politics" (as opposed to "your linguistics").

The notion was -- and remains, though not as clearly -- that linguistics is a field of scholarship, an "honorable calling," and as such, it requires the exclusion of politics. I say this implicitly claims sovereignty over the field: I say what linguistics is, and it's something politics-free. You can come to my territory, but on my terms. If your use of linguistics is politicized, I claim the power to deport you. This is a political move, and it's not just the politics of the academy. It is an attempt -- albeit implicit -- to preserve the special authority of the expert in all sort of public dialogues.

Words that sound dirty but aren't.

My, this is a big internet topic!

Here's a list. I'm seeing some repeats from the inherently funny words discussion (e.g., succotash).

Here's an even longer list. "Obfuscate." Man, I say that in class all the time (when talking about the Supreme Court).

And here's a list of 94, with voting on which sounds dirtiest. #1: "ballcock."

Then there's the song (which I guess is actually NSFW):

When one word is funnier than another.

So, we've established that "naked" is funnier than "nude," and now I feel like this is a subject comics have riffed on hundreds of times. I'm trying to find some good examples of this. Oh! Wikipedia has it -- don't you love Wikipedia? -- under the heading: "Inherently funny words" (a somewhat broader topic).
In Neil Simon's play The Sunshine Boys, a character says: "Words with a k in it are funny. Alka-Seltzer is funny. Chicken is funny. Pickle is funny. All with a k. Ls are not funny. Ms are not funny."
Hence the pickle jar in the "Seinfeld" episode.
In an article in the New Yorker published in 1948, H. L. Mencken argues that "k words" are funny: "K, for some occult reason, has always appealed to the oafish risibles of the American plain people, and its presence in the names of many ... places has helped to make them joke towns ... for example, Kankakee, Kalamazoo, Hoboken, Hohokus, Yonkers, Squeedunk, and Brooklyn."...

In the ["Simpsons"] episode "Homie the Clown", Krusty the Clown tells Homer during a lesson at his clown college: "Memorize these funny place names: Walla Walla, Keokuk, Cucamonga, Seattle." Upon hearing the word "Seattle", Homer bursts into laughter.

In another episode, Krusty the Clown paralyzes his vocal cords when he tries to cram in too many "Comedy K's".
And "naked," unlike "nude," has a k. Presumably, it's even funnier when spelled "nekkid."
Dave Barry's 1991 book Dave Barry Talks Back reprints a column on linguistic humor. He contrasts the phrases "Richard Nixon wearing a necktie" with "Richard Nixon wearing a neck weasel", and "Scientists have discovered a 23rd moon orbiting Jupiter" with "Scientists have discovered a giant weasel orbiting Jupiter." He concludes that weasel is a very funny word - "You can improve the humor value of almost any situation by injecting a weasel into it."
I don't remember reading that, but once, on throwing out the trash, I felt moved to say -- and got a big laugh -- "I don't want the weasels to get it." The normal thing to say was "raccoons," which does have a k. And that either goes to show you just how the word "weasels" is, or it's not about the word at all, but the fact that there are no weasels trying to break into the trash cans, and there are raccoons.

By the way, what's funnier: "trash," "garbage," or "rubbish"?
An old Internet phenomenon involved taking lines from the Star Wars movies and replacing one word from the line with the word "pants", with comedic effect. This suggests that "pants" may be an inherently funny word....

In his DVD commentaries, Simpsons creator Matt Groening has proclaimed the word underpants to be at least 15% funnier than the word underwear. This idea is based on a theory by Futurama writer Ken Keeler. In the show Futurama, underpants is almost always used in lieu of "underwear."

David Letterman has frequently used pants as a subject of humor, from screaming out "I am not wearing pants!" over a megahorn during the Today Show to naming his production company Worldwide Pants Incorporated.
I used "pants" for comic effect in the naked gym post.

Consider this dialogue in the dramatic movie "Anatomy of a Murder." The judge has called the lawyers to the bench after the word "panties" -- at a murder trial -- has caused laughter in the courtroom. There are times when the funny-sounding word is a problem. The defense lawyer -- Paul Biegler, played by Jimmy Stewart -- has been trying to bring in evidence that his client killed the man who raped his wife:
Judge Weaver: Mr. Biegler, you finally got your rape into the case, and I think all the details should now be made clear to the jury. What exactly was the undergarment just referred to?

Paul Biegler: Panties, Your Honor.

Judge Weaver: Do you expect this subject to come up again?

Paul Biegler: Yes, Sir.

Judge Weaver: There's a certain light connotation attached to the word "panties." Can we find another name for them?

Mitch Lodwick: I never heard my wife call 'em anything else.

Judge Weaver: Mr. Biegler?

Paul Biegler: I'm a bachelor, Your Honor.

Judge Weaver: That's a great help. Mr. Dancer?

Claude Dancer: When I was overseas during the war, Your Honor, I learned a French word. I'm afraid that might be slightly suggestive.

Judge Weaver: Most French words are.
And that's a whole other subject: words that sound dirty.

"I heard that some other gyms are offering courses on 'pole-dancing' as a sport, so I thought: Why not bring something new to the market?"

The new idea for the gym: naked Sunday. Sounds dangerous. All those machines. And not too clean. Even if you avoided the place on Sunday, would you want to use the machines on Monday?
Nude exercisers would be required to put towels down on weight machines and to use disposable seat covers while riding bikes. All machines would be cleaned and disinfected afterward. "We clean them every day anyway"
So you're going to need a layer of material between you and the machines. Shouldn't that be pants?

And another thing, nudes might look reasonably okay strolling around in the sunlight or frolicking in a pool, but do you really want to see them straining with weight machines? Remember that old "Seinfeld" episode, the one where he has a girlfriend who's always naked in the apartment:
JERRY: Coughing... naked... It's a turn-off, man.

GEORGE: Everything goes with naked.

JERRY: When you cough, there are thousands of unseen muscles that suddenly spring into action. It's like watching that fat guy catch a cannonball in his stomach in slow motion.

GEORGE: Oh, you spoiled, spoiled man. Do you now how much mental energy I expend just trying to picture women naked?

JERRY: But the thing you don't realize is that there's good naked and bad naked. Naked hair brushing, good; naked crouching, bad.
Naked crouching to pick up a heavy weight? Really, really bad and horrible.
MELISSA: You got anything to snack on?

JERRY: Uhh...

MELISSA: (grabbing the pickle jar and straining to open it) Oh, pickles! Unnhhhh! It's a tough one.

JERRY: Look, please stop! Let me help you with that!

MELISSA: (finally opening the jar) Unnnnh! Oooh. That's gonna leave a welt. Look at that.

JERRY: (leaving the room) I can't. I can't look anymore. I-I-I've seen too much....


JERRY: Well, I hit the wall yesterday with Lady Godiva. She did a full body flex on a pickle jar.

I'm picturing men and not women going for this. But it's the men I'm worried about getting... entangled in the machines.

By the way, I see that the "Seinfeld" script never uses the word "nude." It's "naked" every single time. There must be some serious comic research on which words are funnier, and "naked" is funnier than "nude." "Nudes" are serious -- they pose for artists, they have a solemnity and purpose. "Naked" -- it's just an adjective with no corresponding noun. You have to say "naked people." "Naked" has much more potential to be embarrassing and ridiculous.

"As things got heated, I just remember Nicole fell and hurt herself. And this guy kind of got into a karate thing."

O.J. Simpson describes the murders:
It was then, he says, that “I remember I grabbed the knife.” Later, asked about whether he had taken off a glove before handling the knife, Mr. Simpson says, “You know, I had no conscious memory of doing that, but obviously I must have because they found a glove there.”

According to the transcript, that moment is one of several during the interview in which Mr. Simpson, while maintaining that he is merely recounting a hypothetical narrative, says rather oddly that he cannot remember certain details.
Simpson's lawyer tries to explain. Simpson was bound by a contract with the publisher, and it required him to follow a script. The whole thing was meant as entertainment --"It was even more than entertainment... It was entertainment with a purpose, and the purpose was to sell the book." Stop, you're killing us.

February 2, 2007

"Just a word from her lips/And the deaf begin to hear."

Tornadoes ravaged central Florida today. The sound of the approaching storm was so loud, a deaf woman heard it. It made me think of this song:
You talk about your woman
I wish you could see mine...
Every time she starts to lovin'
She brings eyesight to the blind.

You know her daddy gave her magic
I can tell by the way she walks....
Everytime we start shakin'
The dumb begin to talk.

She's got the power to heal you never fear...
Just a word from her lips
And the deaf begin to hear.

IN THE COMMENTS: I love the internet. Regular commenter Downtownlad writes:
She wears a hearing aid. She's not deaf. She's hearing impaired. The article was very misleading.
Then Boomer responds:
With 90-95% hearing loss, I wear hearing aids and take them out at night. Trust me, you're deaf without them. Planes constantly fly pretty closely over my house, and while I can't hear them, I can certainly "feel" them while I sleep.
Four hours go by with nothing from Downtownlad, and Boomer observes that his/her response "falls on 'deaf' ears."


Linda's jealous! I'm a nothing. But how dare Marky go with me and not her?

ADDED: So, does Linda Hirshman respect women? You be the judge.

Feed me!

Hey, the feed works!

Thanks, Blogger!

Blogger love restored.

Me and my feed.

I got some personal attention from a member of "the Blogger team at Google."
Hi Ann,

We just noticed that your feed, http://althouse.blogspot.com/feeds/posts/default - is giving 502 errors - we're looking into why and should have it fixed asap.

Thanks for your patience...

That was 20 hours ago. What does it say about Blogger that when they're actually paying attention to your problem and trying to fix it "asap," it's still not fixed after 20 hours?

UPDATE: I've gotten this response:
[T]he bug was identified yesterday and a fix is being coded as I type this. It's non-trivial, and has to do with the new way feeds are generated in the new version of Blogger. We apologize deeply for this - please understand that Blogger was completely re-built from the ground up, and we're ironing out all the bugs in the new version as fast as we can. Blogs with lots of posts and comments were delayed from migrating precisely to avoid these types of things, and we definitely fixed a bunch of issues in that meantime, but unfortunately we missed this one. Bugs are a reality of software development, and once found they're always fixed ASAP.

Fingers crossed, this fix will be rolled out today or tomorrow at the latest. For the time being, please let your readers know that we're incredibly sorry about this, and that they should visit your blog in their browsers (not their newsreaders) for the next day or two until this is fixed.

Again, you have our deepest apologies for this - thanks for your continued patience.
For now, I'm going to stick with Blogger. It's not blind trust, but I've put a lot of trust in them over the years, and this is a hump that they need to get over, and I want them to succeed. I'm also too busy to do the work of changing (and I'm naturally skeptical of change).

UPDATE: The feed was restored at around 3 pm today.

"Among many blacks, the awkward and painful debate about race, immigrant heritage and the presidency has been bubbling for months."

The NYT broaches the subject of the racial politics of Barack Obama:
The black author and essayist Debra J. Dickerson recently declared that “Obama isn’t black” in an American racial context. Some polls suggest that Mr. Obama trails one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the battle for African-American support.

“When you think of a president, you think of an American,” said [Calvin] Lanier, a 58-year-old barber who is still considering whether to support Mr. Obama. “We’ve been taught that a president should come from right here, born, raised, bred, fed in America. To go outside and bring somebody in from another nationality, now that doesn’t feel right to some people.”....

The black columnist Stanley Crouch has said, “When black Americans refer to Obama as ‘one of us,’ I do not know what they are talking about.”

Ms. Dickerson echoed that sentiment.

“I’ve got nothing but love for the brother, but we don’t have anything in common,” said Ms. Dickerson, who wrote recently about Mr. Obama in Salon, the online magazine. “His father was African. His mother was a white woman. He grew up with white grandparents."

"Now that Althouse's powerful spell has worn off," Mark Schmitt is still opposed to Linda Hirshman's WaPo op-ed.

You remember Hirshman's "maybe goddesses have some hypnotic effect on policy wonks," which I flagged here without comment (because I'd already had my say about the WaPo op-ed on the blog and on Bloggingheads.TV). Oh, I suppose I could have gone on about her blog post. Check out this line:
Ann Althouse, who opens her eponymous blog, each time by telling everyone that conservative critic Terry Teachout thinks she's "divine."
"Each time"... in other words, I've got the Teachout quote in the banner at the top of my blog. But Hirshman's real problem, of course, is that women who are liked by conservative men are not proper women. That and the usual diva/catfight thing.

More Hirshman:
(Maybe divinity strips you of the capacity to read the full text of a 2000 word article, but it's not a characteristic I anticipate from people making a living from the learning trades.)
Hey, get it straight. Am I a goddess or a tradeswoman or a scholar? Well, I stymie efforts to anticipate my characteristics.

By the way, the failure to read the full text of something you wrote is not evidence of incapacity to read. It might be evidence of good taste and judgment. Unfortunately, I did read it though, as my original blog post shows. Perhaps Linda has an "incapacity" to read the full text of my 700 word post.

But she's actually more insulting to Schmitt than to me:
The absolutely weirdest part of the entire performance art [i.e., Bloggingheads] was Schmitt, who works for the New America Foundation and writes about nothing but politics all of the time and has written about politics all of his adult life, nodding mindlessly while Althouse asserted that it's too early for any sane person to get interested in the election of 2008. Maybe goddesses have some hypnotic effect on policy wonks that has gone unnoticed until this time.
Did I say "it's too early for any sane person to get interested in the election of 2008" on Bloggingheads? No. There a difference between saying everyone who's interested in the election now is not sane -- I'd be insane by that standard -- and saying -- what I said -- that some people follow the news for emotional reasons and some people avoid the news for rational reasons. You can follow or not follow the election news now and be either rational or emotional (or both).

The truth is, nearly everyone, male or female, makes decisions about how to spend their time based on some mixture of reason and emotion. And if we choose to judge other people for how much time they spend on the political news, that judgment too will contain elements of reason and emotion. Reading Linda Hirshman, I get the impression that she is strongly attached to liberal politics and thinks that women, to be rational, must vote for Democrats. She is fired up and mad at women for not seeing that they must vote for Democrats. You tell me whether that's rational or emotional.

It's easy to see why she doesn't like me: I won't just accept the requirement that because I'm a woman, I need to vote for Democrats. I'm going to continue to taunt Hirshman about this, and I'll laugh when she fulminates about my lack of "reason." I'll laugh insanely.

But this is really a post about Mark Schmitt's terrific response to Hirshman. He really needed to push back here, because "goddesses have some hypnotic effect on policy wonks" is -- and is intended to be -- emasculating. (Really, the sexual politics of that line just fascinates me.)

From the Schmitt piece:
...Hirshman accuses Althouse and me of focusing only on the anecdotal evidence that follows and ignoring "half the article" that contains "hard political research." That other half consists of three paragraphs out of 32.....

After a long, condescending exposé of the modern-day Edith Bunkers of the Wednesday Morning Group, with their book-free nightstands and People magazine addictions, Hirshman has a few paragraphs of actual data....

I'm still unsure what Hirshman's main point is, but here's my own: I think the accusation that women aren't rational political actors -- compared to men -- is unsupported by "hard political research," and the claim that women are not a decisive force in elections is demonstrably wrong. Whether that has anything to do with Hillary Clinton is another question.

I think that is a sufficiently wonky response to a very troubling article.
I like that he embraces his wonkitude in the end.

"One of the most disgusting, foul things I've seen -- by any illiterate retard -- in a long time."

That's Lou Reed's description of the script for "Factory Girl." (Pathetic typo: "Faculty Girl.") From a Slate article about the (apparently) crappy movie about Edie Sedgwick, Andy Warhol, and The Musician Everyone Knows Is Bob Dylan.

Language stuff: 1. Are decent people allowed to use the word "retard" like that? 2. If you say "[o]ne of the most disgusting, foul things I've seen -- by any illiterate retard," aren't you really creating a tiny category of things written by "illiterate retards" and thus totally undercutting the force of your insult? You've left out all the disgusting, foul things written by anyone who is either literate or not retarded.

Sex stuff: They're trying to get attention for this struggling movie with the rumor that Hayden Christensen and Sienna Miller have unsimulated sexual intercourse in the big sex scene. This has worked to get some publicity, and it might bring a few more people to the theater, but I'm wondering why anyone cares and -- I assume we do care -- wouldn't it be a distraction to be thinking about that while trying to watch the movie? You want to be inside the scene, believing you're watching Dylan and Edie, not thinking about what Hayden and Sienna are up to.

"People who are already large are getting larger and on the other side is this shrinking ideal."

That's a quote from eating-disorder expert Cynthia M. Bulik, in Robin Givhan's excellent article describing super-thin runway models. "That makes the gulf between the actual and the ideal even bigger and that makes self-esteem plummet."

Designers claim to need extra-thin models to make their clothes look good when the clothes are designed thin. But isn't this a problem at the sales point? If the clothes are designed to look good when hanging from hanger-like shoulders, how is any real woman going to think they look right on her?
People buying designer clothes are super-thin.
Well, yeah. That's my point though. There are other people choosing not to buy. Why don't you want them as customers?
In the meantime, companies catering to the mass population, such as Coldwater Creek and Chico's, offer sizes 14 and 16 in lieu of 0 and 2.
Why do the designers concede all these customers?
Those in the fashion industry offer this reassurance: The pendulum will swing the other way. In due time, the industry will celebrate a more athletic ideal. This is discussed as if it will magically happen -- as if an outside force beyond the control of the industry will determine when that shift will occur.
The force of the market?

"I am not talking about subordinating strongly held views to achieve an artificial consensus...."

"But I am talking about deciding cases on narrow grounds, when that allows broader agreement."

So said Chief Justice John Roberts the other day. I know, perhaps you think it's absurd that I find that an exciting enough quote to make a post out of.

Two painful TV shows on Bravo.

1. The "Top Chef" finale. The decision was so wrong that I snapped the TiVo off at the point where they announced the winner. I watched the whole damned season, then refused to watch the last few minutes. [ADDED, with spoiler: You know Ilan -- the season winner -- is the guy who made a chocolate covered chicken liver.]

2. "Top Design." Come on, Todd Oldham doesn't have what it takes to host. He was in TV zombie mode. And you let the designers spend $50,000 on their rooms and they don't even -- as they say on "Project Runway" -- look expensive. You've got them designing for a secret celebrity, but when it's time to reveal who it is, it's someone we've never heard of -- Alexis Arquette.

Here's a simple rule: If you want to watch a Bravo TV reality show, make sure it has Tim Gunn.

February 1, 2007

"That's just some women sitting 'round in a book club, and you made it so interesting."

Don't you think that's an odd thing for -- of all people -- Oprah to say?

She's always pushing her book club, yet here she is revealing that she thinks women gabbing in a book club setting is the dullest thing in the world. Or is Oprah getting excited about "Madame Bovary" and the real, deep meaning of female adultery?

She's got Kate Winslet on the show, and Kate's talking about her (Oscar-nominated) role in "Little Children." And we've just seen the book club clip, where those other suburban women don't see the significance of female adultery, and our Kate -- in character -- says:
I think I understand your feelings about this book. I used to have some problems with it myself. But when I read it in grad school, Madame Bovary just seemed like a fool. She marries the wrong man. Makes one foolish mistake after another. But when I read it this time, I just fell in love with her. She's trapped. She has a choice. She can either accept a life of misery, or she can struggle against it. And she chooses to struggle... She fails in the end, but there's something beautiful and even heroic in her rebellion. My professors would kill me for even thinking this but, in her own strange way, Emma Bovary is a feminist... It's not the cheating. It's the hunger. The hunger for an alternative and the refusal to accept a life of unhappiness.
Oprah gushes:
Wow! Wow!! Wow. Thank you. I mean, the first time I saw that scene, I got chills. I thought that was so... liberating! I mean, and even now, the little hairs, standing on my head, when you said, "It's not the cheating. It's the hunger."
And X number of suburban housewives plunge headlong into disastrous adultery for the pure brilliance of the hunger. Even Oprah admits that life isn't found in reading groups! Over the years, she's made it seem that maybe it is, but in this intense moment, she makes it crashingly obvious that it is not!

"It is outrageous, in a post 9/11 world, that a company would use this type of marketing scheme."

Well, they certainly got your attention for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force," but now Peter Berdovsky, 27, and Sean Stevens, 28, have been arrested in Boston for placing a hoax device and disorderly conduct:
Officials found 38 blinking electronic signs promoting the Cartoon Network TV show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" on bridges and other high-profile spots across the city Wednesday, prompting the closing of a highway and the deployment of bomb squads. The surreal series is about a talking milkshake, a box of fries and a meatball....

The 1-foot tall signs, which were lit up at night, resembled a circuit board, with protruding wires and batteries. Most depicted a boxy, cartoon character giving passersby the finger — a more obvious sight when darkness fell.

The men did not speak or enter their own pleas, but they appeared amused and smiled as the prosecutor talked about the device found at Sullivan Station underneath Interstate 93, looking like it had C-4 explosive.

Smirking at the arraignment? You know you can't do that, post 9/11...

Guilty, of not realizing America doesn't understand jokes that play on the fear of bombs.

It reminds me of the case of the NYC artist Clinton Boisvert:
[In December 2002], with New Yorkers still very much on edge after the first anniversary of 9/11, Boisvert placed about three dozen Federal Express boxes in the heavily-trafficked Union Square subway station, during morning rush hour. Each was spray-painted black; each bore the single word "Fear."

At first, no one took notice. But ultimately, the police were alerted; the bomb squad arrived; and the subway trains were stopped, leaving commuters worried, inconvenienced, and annoyed. A bomb-detecting robot was sent into the station--in vain, since the boxes were empty.

Apparently, the police feared that the boxes were part of an act of terrorism, and might contain weapons. That suspicion was hardly unreasonable, given that innocuous means of delivery--such as a shoe sole, in the case of the "Shoe Bomber," or an envelope, in the case of the anthrax letters--had previously proved very dangerous indeed.

Boisvert claims that he hadn't anticipated that such a reaction might occur, until his teacher at the School of Visual Arts raised the possibility during class, afterward. Nevertheless, Boisvert was criminally charged for putting the boxes in the station.
The linked article is by Julie Hilden who practiced First Amendment law at Williams & Connolly. In what should give us some insight into the new case, she concludes -- as First Amendment lawyers tend to do -- that Boisvert had a First Amendment right and should not have been prosecuted.

I'm wondering if the "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" folks are really sorry. They got massive publicity, and Berdovsky and Stevens will be, if not heroes, at least objects of sympathy, and the intended market for "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" will probably be the sort of people who will think the authorities are acting ridiculous. Berdovsky and Stevens will presumably have first-rate legal counsel, and their ordeal will reap more publicity for the surreal cartoon show.

You might be in Blogger hell if...

... you find yourself Googling -- and remember, Google is Blogger -- "Blogger sucks"... just for... for what, really? Some kind of expression of your frustration, and you see -- in .01 seconds! -- that there are about 1,670,000 hits for "blogger sucks"... and you feel... what? What do you feel? Not so alone anymore? Some sense of hope that Google will put your post about "Blogger sucks" on the first page of the "Blogger sucks" results, so that you can connect, via your Blogger/Google blog, with all the other people who are tormented by Blogger and somehow, absurdly, turn to Google for solace?

"Sleep is the new bottled water" -- they're selling naps now, and don't you want to buy?

Take something people need and can get for free and transform it into a luxury item they can buy:
Yelo consists of seven private chambers that can be rented for 20- to 40-minute naps. Each hexagonal pod has a beige leather recliner, dimmed lighting, a soporific soundtrack and a blanket of Nepalese cashmere. Clients may also book reflexology treatments, designed to lull the body to sleep, for their hands or feet starting at $65....

Inside the pods, clients can electronically adjust the angle of the leather recliners; [owner Nicolas] Ronco recommended raising the leg rest above the head to slow one’s heart rate. When time runs out, ceiling lights gradually brighten, an awakening prompt meant to mimic dawn.

Mr. Ronco predicted that Yelo would appeal to commuters who want to stay in Manhattan for a late dinner and to club-goers seeking respite before a night out.

“I see 25 Yelo centers in New York, and then in every crazy low-quality-of-life city where people lack space,” Mr. Ronco said. “I see this in airports, malls, corporate offices and train stations.”
I hate to admit it, but I'm completely ready to buy this if it's right there somewhere, some time when I need it.

On "diversity purists" and "vulnerability to stereotype threat."

Here's a piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education (the link will be good for 5 days for nonsubscribers):
More than a quarter of the black students enrolled at selective American colleges and universities are immigrants or the children of immigrants, according to a new paper by sociologists at Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania.

The finding suggests that native-born African-American students are even more underrepresented at selective colleges than is commonly understood. The paper is likely to add fuel to a long-standing debate about the meaning and purpose of affirmative-action programs.

Selective colleges have expanded their enrollments of black students by "increasing the number of immigrant and multiracial black students," Camille Z. Charles, an associate professor of sociology at Penn who is one of the study's authors, said in an interview on Wednesday.

"If you're a purist" -- that is, if you view affirmative action as restitution for the harm done by American slavery and segregation -- "then you'll think that this is not in the spirit of affirmative action," Ms. Charles continued. "But if you're a diversity purist, and your idea is to expose everybody to as many different kinds of people as possible, then you'll think this is great."
Will you? And what exactly is a "diversity purist"?
At the most selective of the 28 schools, the ratios for non-native black students were even higher. The study included four Ivy League universities -- Columbia, Penn, Princeton, and Yale -- and at those universities, 41 percent of black students were first- or second-generation immigrants.
E.g., Barack Obama.
"There are differences in racial identity among black students," Ms. Charles said. "In terms of their vulnerability to stereotype threat, it's certainly possible that students who don't identify strongly with an African-American identity don't experience that kind of anxiety."

"On the other hand, it's possible that even though they don't identify themselves a certain way, they realize that other people might be pigeonholing them. So it could go either way. That's what we're trying to parcel out."
The first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. Parcel that out!

Are you getting more diversity or less if you've got a system that skews toward those who have less "vulnerability to stereotype threat"?

How do you know your child's 12-year-old friend isn't a 29-year-old sex offender?

Clearly, it's happened once:
[Neil H. Rodreick II] is also a 29-year-old convicted sex offender who kept a youthful appearance with the aid of razors and makeup.

And the men known as his uncle, grandfather and cousin, who until recently shared a three-bedroom house with him here, were not family at all, but a web of convicted sex offenders and predators, law enforcement officials say, preying in part on one another....

Though many parents have publicly praised the Surprise school’s handling of the deception, Mr. Rodreick’s enrollment has raised questions about admissions procedures, which officials at Imagine, one of the state’s largest charter schools, said they were reviewing....

While looking for Mr. Rodreick, Lieutenant Gillock stumbled upon his new life. He learned he had been posing as a 12-year-old named Casey and befriending families at a local church. He had spent the night with at least one boy, the lieutenant said, and traveled to the Grand Canyon, with Mr. Nellis in tow as his uncle, with another boy....

“He absolutely looked age-appropriate,” said Rhonda Cagle, a spokeswoman for Imagine Charter School, of Mr. Rodreick, who is listed on the Oklahoma Department of Corrections Web site as 5 feet 8 inches tall and 120 pounds. “We have several seventh-grade students who are taller and of a larger build than this individual.”
Strange that the town was called "Surprise" and the school "Imagine." Imagine no age limits/I wonder if you can... You may say I'm a dreamer/But I'm not the only one/I hope someday you'll join us... Uh... or maybe not. Imagine all the people/Sharing all the... No, no, I think imagination is not always such a good thing. Maybe we'll call the new charter school "Convention."


Why wouldn't this sort of thing happen a lot and go undiscovered? And now that this story is in the news, why wouldn't it give a few people some new ideas? Haven't there been several movies about adults who go back to school and pose as kids? I can only think of one: "Peggy Sue Got Married." If you think about it, Kathleen Turner plays a sex predator of sorts.

She's a grown woman, fully sexually experienced, and she goes back and interacts in sexually aggressive ways with a couple of teenage boys. Well, she's a woman, so it doesn't quite register as threatening, does it? I think there are some movies where the adult posing as a child is a male, but I'm sure -- if these are mainstream movies -- the adult male never does anything remotely sexual with a child. But the idea that an adult could pose as a child is definitely out there, and how can it not be enticing to pedophiles? Not everyone has the appearance or the skill to use this strategy, but at least one did. Why would there be only one?

"Eh, he's a nice old man, isn't he?" "Oh yeah, he's very clean."

"Clean" -- the word that ruined Joe Biden -- was a running joke in the old Beatles movie "A Hard Days Night":
JOHN: Eh, he's a nice old man, isn't he?

PAUL: Oh yeah, he's very clean, y'know....

GEORGE: It's Paul's grandfather.

SHAKE: Oh aye, but I thought ...

JOHN: No, that's his other one.

SHAKE: That's all right then.

JOHN: Clean though, isn't he?

SHAKE: Oh yes, he's clean all right....

MANAGER: Lord John McCartney, he's the millionaire Irish Peer, filthy rich of course.

CUSTOMER: Oh I don't know, looks rather clean to me....

GRANDFATHER: Lookit, I thought I was supposed to be getting a change of scenery and so far I've seen a train and a room, a car and a room and a room and a room. Well, that's maybe all right for a bunch of powdered gee-gaws like you lot but I'm feeling decidedly strait-jacketed. This is no life for a free-booting agent of my stamp. I'm a frustrated man and that class of McCartney is a dangerous McCartney.

GIRL: What a clean old man....

JOHN: You see. You know your trouble -- you should have gone West to America. You'd have wound up a Senior Citizen of Boston. As it is you took the wrong turning and what happened, you're a lonely old man from Liverpool.

GRANDFATHER: But I'm clean.....

The BOYS giggle and slap him on the back.

A train and a room, a car and a room and a room and a room. I think Biden will be spared the tedium of excessive traveling soon enough.

"I don’t know whether it was an attempt to diminish what I had done in '88, or to say Barack is all style and no substance."

Jesse Jackson comments on Joe Biden's botched compliment. (Hmmm... I wonder if Jackson was sliding in his own opinion on Obama there.)

Al Sharpton provides the wisecrack that threatens to become every black person's greeting upon meeting Mr. Biden: "I told him I take a bath every day."

ADDED: More from Sharpton:
No stranger to electoral intrigue, Mr. Sharpton was quick to offer a political motive: That Mr. Biden was drawing distinctions between Mr. Obama and African-American leaders like Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Jackson, to “discredit Mr. Obama with his base.”
And Sharpton, of course, has his own political motives. I think we've been seeing him try to get Obama to pay more attention to black voters (and black leaders).

"Google Posts Sharp Rise in Sales and Profits."

Too big to care anymore?
Google said net income for the quarter nearly tripled to $1.03 billion, or $3.29 a share, up from $372.2 million, or $1.22 a share, in the fourth quarter of 2005. Excluding charges related to stock-based compensation and other adjustments, the company earned $997 million, or $3.18 a share, in the latest quarter.

Google’s quarterly revenue rose 67 percent. to $3.21 billion, from a year earlier. Google sells ads that are displayed on other sites and passes most of the revenue from those ads to the owners of those site. Excluding those payments, Google’s revenue totaled $2.23 billion in the fourth quarter.
I used to have their AdSense ads up. I took them down, though, because the amount of money is so small that it's not worth the clutter on the page. The amount of money for me, that is. For them... those pennies pile up into billions.

If you're trying to comment...

On those last two posts, you're probably getting an error message, right? I'll just assume you're out there, sharing the hate... But I'm afraid readers are abandoning me because the site has become so sluggish... or because they're waiting to see evidence of updates in the feed.

I hate Blogger.

I am now bursting with hate for Blogger. I hate hate hate New Blogger. After that last post, I tried to open the comments page and got an error message. I tried to open the blog in a different broswer and got a "Server Error." Trying to open a "Create Post" window went nowhere for the longest time. Getting to the blog has been taking way too long ever since the switch. Perhaps you've noticed.

You know, for months, I wasn't able to respond to the invitation to switch to New Blogger because it was not ready to deal with very large blogs like mine. (I have over 7,000 posts.) Well, I tend to think they still weren't ready. But now I've switched, and I'm in this Blogger hell. And I have no way to contact anyone at Blogger support. They've scrubbed the site of any reference to an email address where you might reach an actual person. And it was never -- as far as I know -- possible to contact [ADDED: I mean telephone] anyone at Blogger, AKA Google.

ADDED: Thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking. And in case that gets any Blogger attention to this post, let me say that my main problem is that my feed stopped working, as complained about in the previous post, "New Blogger is driving me crazy!" And Glenn puts it well: "Google's success depends on things working right, because if they don't, there's nobody to call, and they quickly transform from cute-but-big company to hated uncaring corporate monolith."

MORE: A blogger representative did notice my problems and email me at 1:40 this afternoon. About my feed's dysfunction, he said "we're looking into why and should have it fixed asap." It's 7 hours later, and it's still not working. And though the big errors that everyone was getting this morning are done with, Blogger is still opening pages terribly sluggishly.

UPDATE: The feed was restored at around 3 pm on Friday.

New Blogger is driving me crazy!

Oh, how I wish I hadn't switched to New Blogger! I'm over the problem that the switch itself took three hours, though I'm still irked that there was no warning that it would take such a long time, which would have tipped me off to do it late at night instead of in the middle of the day. And I actually like some of the new features: I get to skip the word verification stage in the comments, I can use labels creatively, publishing is quicker. Maybe there are a couple other things. But the feed doesn't work anymore.

The feed on my tiny other blog kept working normally, and the feed on individual comments (a new feature) is working, but the feed for new posts on this blog has not worked since I switched. What makes it all the more irksome is that it's become impossible to find a way to email anyone at Blogger for help. I can find the recommendation that one participate in the Blogger Help Group, and in fact, I did post a question over there. But after one unhelpful suggestion, it's off the front page, swamped by repetitive posts that all seem to say "I can't find my blog." I can see from my Site Meter that I've lost a lot of traffic over this. I've also wasted a lot of time. Having no way to contact anyone at Blogger is the most frustrating part of it.

If you're going to bring in something important and new, you ought to wow people with it, not make them wallow in regret that you've deprived them of the old. I have defended Blogger for years when people have told me over and over to quit. Ironically, the main reason I've stayed is that I'm assume that anything new will come with its own set of problems.

UPDATE: The feed was restored at around 3 pm today.

January 31, 2007

"The word that got me in trouble is using the word 'clean.' I should have said 'fresh.' What I meant is: he's got new ideas."

Joe Biden is on "The Daily Show" tonight, and Jon Stewart confronts him with his dreadful quote about Barack Obama: "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy."

(I wrote about the quote earlier today. And Best of the Web wrote about it here and connected it to my earlier post suggesting that there was racism implicit in the excessive praise we've been hearing for Obama.)

So how does Biden deal with it? He smiles very broadly (while audience members boo), then says: "Well, let me tell you something. I spoke to Barack today...." Stewart butts in: "I bet you did." Another big, toothy smile from Joe, and then: "I also spoke to Jesse and Al Sharpton and uh..." Stewart butts in again: "And Michael Jordan and anybody you could get your hands on. The Jackson 5. Who else?" Biden: "Michael didn't call me. Look, what I was attempting to be was not very artfully [sic] was complimentary. This is an incredible guy. This is a phenomenon. This guy is... And look, the other part of this thing is... I... The word that got me in trouble is using the word 'clean.' I should have said 'fresh.' What I meant is he's got new ideas. He a new guy on the block. And... it's not workin', right?"

Oh, man, is that not workin' out. No one says "clean" to mean "fresh" in the sense of new ideas! It's like they took out the thesaurus and looked up "clean" to fish around for other words that he could say he meant. Yeah, "fresh" is a substitute for "clean" maybe in some ad for soap or some feminine hygiene product. But no one stumbles into "clean" when they're going for "fresh ideas." And there's no "clean guy on the block."

Stewart does a bit where he repunctuates the quote, but it's not too clever. Biden does that smile again and kids "That's what I meant to say." Stewart asks if he feels like that guy in the Maxell ad:

And Biden says "I kinda did," and then "It reminded me: Welcome back to presidential politics" -- as if the response he got was somehow exaggerated and unfair.

How hopelessly inept! Ironically, the message he wanted to get out in his interview was that Bush is hopelessly inept and the next President must be someone with the sort of practiced competence that you aren't going to find in Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, that you'll have to come to Joe Biden for. What a joke!

"American Idol," the Los Angeles auditions.

"You sound like Cher after she's gone to the dentist," Simon says to a woman who is trying to follow in her mother's footsteps. They're in Los Angeles, inviting in the Hollywood crowd, and this mother was one of the so-called "Golddiggers" on the old Dean Martin TV show. She sings a song that ends with the line "Shall I stay or shall I go?" and they scoff that they know the answer to that question. Told no, she gets down on her knees and begs, saying "I'm down on my knees, begging." She says "please" over and over, melodramatically, demonstrating that she'd also lose if this were an acting competition.

And I'm just not in the mood to describe anything else. It was a rather boring show tonight. There was a guy who used to be a backup singer who was good and seemed nice. There were a lot of quite bad people, unsurprisingly. And they had a guest judge. I hate that. Olivia Newton John. How terribly nice for her. How hideously boring for us. How it undercuts Simon's power to tell the contestants that they are hideous. To tell the truth, I'd probably have enjoyed the show a lot more if I weren't simultaneously -- Simontaneously -- trying to fix the problem with the damned feed on this blog that switching to New Blogger caused.

Perhaps I can snap out of this bad mood by watching "The Daily Show." I don't usually watch it these days, but I still TiVo it, and I see that Joe Biden is on! Watch for the new post about that. How can the poor man show his (unclean) face?

Ban incandescent lightbulbs?

This is a California idea. If I lived there and faced this ban, I'd buy my lightbulbs in another state. It's just too horrible to live in such an ugly glare. People who have no aesthetic sense don't understand how a limit like this affects people. I'd be happy to make up for it by turning off more lights or using dimmers.

Why don't you ban air conditioning?

"If I had to vote today... without a doubt... former United States Attorney and New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani."

So says Baseball Crank, who calls himself "a pro-life Reaganite conservative." His reasons:
1. We Need To Win The War....

2. We Need To Win The Election....

3. Leadership Matters....

4. We Can Hold The Line In The Courts....
Read the whole thing. If I had to vote today, I'd pick Giuliani too, but it's much easier for me, because I support abortion rights and the other liberal causes that make conservatives worry about Giuliani.

How do I get my feed to update again...

... now that I've switched to New Blogger? (I'd appreciate some help, with a very clear explanation. I know it has something to do with Feedburner... I think...)

Biden gets attention.

Everyone's talking about the interview Biden gave to the NY Observer. But I can't get through to it right now. Drudge is quoting him as saying, about Barack Obama, "I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." Clean! So, then, Biden's campaign is over, right?

UPDATE: I'm on the same page as Kos on this one.


Tattoos. And then there are the things you do to yourself that you can't hide with a shirt.

Here's a website devoted to bad tattoos. And here's one I like even better. There are different kinds of bad, though, you know, and I'm going to endorse this kind:

Meat-eating terror birds.

Run for your lives!

"Their lives overflow with dramatic possibility and struggle -- struggles that must be viewed through the prism of their gender."

David Lat defends his obsession with divas:
We will not apologize for having a weakness for divas. We have loved divas for our entire life, ever since we popped out of one's womb....

Every blogger develops his or her own idiosyncratic hobbyhorses and obsessions. Glenn Reynolds, aka Instapundit, is obssessed [sic] with "porkbusting." Dave Kopel, of the Volokh Conspiracy, is obsessed with guns. The Wonketteers are obssessed [sic] with Katherine Harris.

And then there's this post, devoted to Janice Rogers Brown (who Lat thinks looks like Wanda Sykes):
During the Q and A, we got up and asked her (among other things): "Judge Brown, you're a fabulous judicial diva. But you're stuck on a court that focuses on administrative law. Do you feel that being on the D.C. Circuit cramps your diva style?"

Tee hee. And I love the use of all-caps in her answer: "I have NEVER thought of myself as a diva."


Now that I've converted to New Blogger, I can add labels to my posts. I could even go back and add labels to old posts. But what's the point? It adds visual clutter. I don't like that. I guess you can click on them and get old posts with the same label to appear... Are people going to do that? I suppose I could go back and add labels to posts that would get the same label as some label I've put on a new post. Like, wouldn't you love to click on the "American Idol" label and see all the old "American Idol" posts? It might be a shameful display!

ADDED: I just realized I could go to the "Edit Posts" page, do a search for a term (such as "American Idol"), then "select all" in the results, and use the pull-down "Label Actions" menu to apply a label to all those old posts. So how many old "American Idol" posts do I have? You can click on the "American Idol" label below to see them, but I'll tell you: 206! I know, some of you are thinking: Where can I click to see the blog minus the "American Idol" posts?

AND: Here's a question for you. Now that I know how to use labels to collect a particular category of posts by searching for a recurrent term, what labels would you like me to create? Remember, it needs to be a particular word, for example, a name. I wonder which individuals I've written about the most, especially the ones I've obsessed over out of proportion to their significance in the current news.

AND: I'm doing some labels for various political characters: Kerry, Obama... It was interesting to see the first opinion I had about Barack Obama:
Now here is a speaker I can stand to listen to. He's modulating his voice and he seems to have the speech memorized, so he doesn't have that awful teleprompter stare. He places some emphasis on personal responsibility....

Obama does a great job delivering the speech, even though the words of the speech are quite banal. There are many references to hope. The speech is blessedly short.

Many references to hope, but actually quite banal...


The #1 movie at the box office has a 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (i.e., not one good review). That's got to be a record.

The next four movies have very poor reviews too. It's no secret why so many bad movies are made.

January 30, 2007

"Maybe goddesses have some hypnotic effect on policy wonks...."

Linda Hirshman responds to me and Mark Schmitt on Bloggingheads.

"Some people call this 'Idol' country...."

Ah! We're in the South tonight, where -- chances are! -- we'll find the best singers.

We're in Birmingham, home of Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, and Bo Bice.

Our first contestant, Erica Skye, is pleased to serve up what we know to be Simon's favorite song, except she calls it "Unchained Melodies." It's as if "Merrie Melodies" is intruding on the solemn grandeur of "Unchained Melody." She's a power singer, but ... she's not hitting the right notes. This is a deep shame that has prevented me from singing anywhere for decades, so I think it's kind of cool that a 19-year-old woman hasn't heard of this particular inhibition. But... she's crap... and she deserves the insults. "Erica, it was like a neverending torture." She's so horrendous -- yet powerful! -- that Paula is propelled off-stage. They tell Erica they hate her, and she does this little brushing gesture on her shoulder. Simon has to say, "What's that mean?" And Paula's response is bleeped.

Next is this crazy dorky girl who talks like a baby, but her singing makes me cry. Why? The singing is desperately mannered. There is something in it. There's a person in there. That's my theory anyway. Simon says no, but Randy says yes. They drag out the tension with Paula, and Paula agrees with Randy. We're not surprised, but we love this dear girl, Katie Bernard. She's this year's Kellie Pickler.

Next is Tatiana McConnico. She sings "I never loved a man the way that I loved you..." in a way that doesn't make us wish we could hear Aretha instead. Beautiful!

Bernard Williams II. He's going to rock with us! Paula thinks he's off-key. But Randy and Simon say yes, so he needs to find the key for Hollywood.

"I've got you standing in front of me, looking like some Easter Bunny nightmare experiment," Simon says to Margaret Fowler, who looks more fowl than bunny and in no way seems 26, which is what she claims. They demand the truth and eventually she admits she's 50.

Jamie Lynn Ward... she's 16 and her father shot himself, because her stepmom was cheatin' on 'im, and he's paralyzed from the waist down. She's not good enough. But Paula says something that makes them see the part that is good, and they let this sweet child through.

Chris Sligh is next. He says people tell him he looks like Jack Osbourne. I think he looks like Mark Volman. He sings "Kiss from a Rose" and gets a rise out of Paula. He's good.

There's still a third of the show left. but really it's not worth talking about. There's a woman whose hair is extremely long, but let's just leave all the rest unsaid.

Sorry, I've been away.

Yes, I know, I was a fool to click the button to switch to "new Blogger" in the middle of the day. I have a big blog to transfer, and I didn't realize it would take three hours. But I'm back, and I'm new. Whether anything will be different, I'll have to see.

"Wa wa wee wa, is Borat in trouble again?"

The Himalayan Times reports (yeah, I'm getting my news about Sacha Baron Cohen from Nepal!):
Dovale Glickman plans to sue the Golden Globe-award winning comedian for copyright infringement...

The Israeli comedian coined the phrase ["wa wa wee wa"] 16 years ago, for a character on the hit Israeli comedy show "Zehu Zeh." Glickman further popularized the expression in a series of TV commercials for the Israeli yellow pages. It caught on and is still commonly heard on the street in Israel.

Copyright infringement for a 4-syllable exclamation? Wa wa wee wa! Oops, now I'm in trouble!

It's me and Mark Schmitt...

...on Bloggingheads! Topics:
Ann's rock-star aura of coolness

Mark wants outrage over income inequality

Hillary Clinton calculates a central position

Those impulsive, irrational women

How Obama has entered our space and organized our thoughts

Who wants to join the peace march? Not Mark and certainly not Ann

How George McGovern made us fat

Wigging out.

From bad chompers to bad hair. Watch out for the NSFW expletives.

I saw that the other day, half forgot it, then played it again today and laughed even more. I see some commenters over at YouTube think it's fake -- I disagree -- and others feel very sorry for the young woman -- and I disagree with that too. The line "you'll look back on this and laugh" is spoken in the clip, and it was never more true. But if it's not -- if the bride never looks back and laughs -- I feel very sorry for the groom.

UPDATE: Hoax! (Via Metafilter.)

Exploding head syndrome!

It's just one of a number of unusual things.

And what do "My Head is Spinning," "Now, Stand Back For Your Own Safety!,” "Okay I'll Admit That I Really Don't Understand," "Schizos (Are Never Alone)," "Television Rules the Nation," "That Tastes Horrible," "Egg Sandwich," "Thermonuclear War (Is Good For Your Complexion)," The “Batman” theme song, and "Pennsylvania 6-5000" have in common? (Answer here.)

Actually, I think I experienced exploding head syndrome once. If you don't know what it is, you may be saying, how could you possibly have it more than once, and, moreover, why are you still here?

The Self-Esteem Dentist v. A Creature Unlike Any Other.

Dentist Larry Rosenthal has had it with relationship guru author Ellen Fein:
"If she had a life, she wouldn't be harassing him," said David Jaroslawicz, the dentist's lawyer. "What kind of nut sets up something called LyingDentist.com?"

The tooth doc, dubbed the "mouth whisperer" for his New Age methods, says Fein tried to extort $100,000 from him for allegedly ruining her chompers a decade ago....

The blond author, who lives on Long Island, co-wrote a female-friendly series of dating books called "The Rules," that include nuggets of wisdom like "Be a Creature Unlike Any Other."

Rosenthal is a high-profile proponent of "self-esteem dentistry" and has sold a raft of celebrities on his smile-your-way-to-success theories....

Fein went to Rosenthal to have her teeth spiffed up in 1996. But she says he butchered a mouth realignment and gave her "gigantic" teeth.
The two will gnash it out in court.

Self-esteem dentistry? New-Age-y as it sounds, it looks like nothing more than unnecessary procedures done for the sake of beauty. The link is to Rosenthal's website, where we see pictures of him smiling toothily next to Donald Trump, Tommy Hilfiger, and Kathie Lee Gifford.

You can find the Lying Dentist website yourself. I'll link to the website for "The Rules," which were quite the thing a few years back. Check it out: the authors will consult with you by phone for $250 an hour. Or just read some Rules yourself:
Be a creature unlike any other

Being a creature unlike any other is really an attitude, a sense of confidence and radiance that permeates your being from head to toe. It's the way you smile (you light up the room), pause in between sentences (you don't babble on out of nervousness), listen (attentively), look (demurely, never stare), breathe (slowly), stand (straight) and walk (briskly, with your shoulders back). When a relationship doesn't work out, you brush away a tear so that it doesn't smudge your makeup and you move on!
It's the way you smile.... with gigantic chompers.

Why aren't we ashamed of fawning over Obama?

Slate's Tim Noah has introduced a new regular feature called "The Obama Messiah Watch," devoted to "gratuitously adoring biographical details" about Barack Obama. The first item, from the LA Times, quotes a former classmate of Obama's marveling over the conciseness of the notes he took in class ("the pithiest, tightest prose you'd ever see").

Slate has some distance from the fawning it will be serving up. We can tell that Noah is sniggering at the overenthusiasm. Yet these regular features mean something. This one invites us to partake in the adoration of a man. "Bushisms" offers endless examples of another man's supposed stupidity. But Slate is committing to the repeated presentation of Obama as godlike for accomplishing tasks that require skill within the range of mere mortals.

"The Obama Messiah Watch" is ostensibly a fun little feature, highlighting the foibles of people who just love Obama so much. But what Noah fails to talk about is the likelihood that he's picking up evidence of racism. What accounts for amazement to the point of adoration at the fact that a man possesses excellent skill at something like note taking? Is it not that he can do it and he's black? You can laugh at Noah's nuggets of gratuitous adoration, but you ought also to look at them critically and think about the implications.

IN THE COMMENTS: Working on the theory that there's racism everywhere, readers are questioning my use of the word "sniggering"!

MORE: La Shawn Barber had some similar thoughts a few months back.

"I fear that Judge Alito will ... roll over when confronted with an administration too willing to flaunt the rules...."

Yes, we need judges who dare to tell the administration to quit waving the rules about in a showy fashion.

I know it's awfully late to point out usage errors from the Alito confirmation battle, but I was just reading up on Senator Hillary Clinton. I recorded a Bloggingheads episode yesterday, and my co-head, Mark Schmitt, let loose with a remark about Clinton's great accomplishments as a Senator. I was incredulous and went looking to see if there was something I'd failed to notice. (The diavlog isn't up yet, but I'll update with a link when it is.)

These Senators. They're always running for President, and their main accomplishment is that they are Senators. And that they can get themselves reelected.

UPDATE: The episode is up. The moment referred to is at about 36:40.

January 29, 2007

"This duck has taken us all on an emotional rollercoaster."

Oh, for the love of Daffy! I hope it's only the British press -- in some incomprehensible British eccentricity -- that's covering the duck-in-the-refrigerator story:
"But once the surgeon started sewing her back up she stopped breathing again, this time for 15 seconds."

When a second thump failed to bring Perky round, veterinary surgeon David Hale tried manipulating the duck's beak, before using a needle to shock her into consciousness.

At one point the duck was given pure oxygen through a face mask, Ms May said.

"At that point the vet turned and said: 'I'm sorry, she's gone.'"

The room fell into shocked silence as those present took in the news, but then Perky raised her head and began flapping her wings.

The relief reduced everyone to tears, Ms May said, describing one of her colleagues as "extremely emotional" as she left the room.

"For the duck to have gone through all of this and then to die at that time was a real shock," Ms May said.
This is a duck shot by a hunter and put in the refrigerator, presumably, to be eaten soon enough. Manipulating the duck's beak? This should become an idiomatic expression along the lines of "pulling my leg."

We've talked about this story before, and as one commenter said, why is it at all surprising that a duck can live in a refrigerator? They live outside. The appalling thing is that the hunter put the duck in the refrigerator in a condition that was survivable. As Meade said: "what sort of slob duck hunter fails to field dress or breast out the game upon retrieval while it is still warm?"

"Women Feeling Freer to Suggest 'Vote for Mom.'"

This is a front-page "political memo" from Robin Toner.
Today, many political strategists say women no longer have to be so defensive. Voters have grown more accustomed to women in powerful positions....

What this means, strategists say, is that motherhood and a focus on children can become one more political asset to be showcased — a way of humanizing a candidate and connecting with voters, especially other women....

National security remains a threshold issue for voters but is no longer such an automatic advantage for the Republicans because they have lost so much support on the war in Iraq, the polls suggest. And neither Ms. Pelosi nor Mrs. Clinton is neglecting these issues. On the campaign trail in Iowa on Saturday, Mrs. Clinton argued that all of this — security, maternity, affordable health care — was part of her potential-first-woman-president package.

“I’m going to be asking people to vote for me based on my entire life and experience,” she said. “The fact that I’m a woman, the fact that I’m a mom, is part of who I am.”
Well, I've already said what I think about Hillary Clinton on this one. I think she's overdone the mommy stuff at this point. But managing our feelings about women and power is a complex task. We may be "more accustomed to women in powerful positions," but it's still very complicated. And raising motherhood as a qualification is a new move, and we're not accustomed to that at all. This new rhetoric will create its own swirl of complex feelings about women and power. It remains to be seen who will be helped and who will be hurt.

"Arthur Godfrey once said that 'I'm proud to pay taxes in America, but I could be just as proud for about half the money.'"

Arthur Godfrey! You're quoting Arthur Godfrey?! Well, Governor Huckabee wins the prize for least hip candidate in the '08 race. That is beyond square. Truly weird! It was incredibly square and old to like Arthur Godfrey 40 years ago... 50 years ago!
MR. RUSSERT: You said this to the Des Moines Register: “Let’s face it. In our lifetimes, we’ve seen our country go from ‘Leave it to Beaver’ to ‘Beavis and Butt-head,’ from Barney Fife to Barney Frank.” Why, why include Barney Frank, a gay congressman, in that reference?

GOV. HUCKABEE: I think it was a matter of a rhetorical device...
Ack! Static! I can't hear anything he's saying at this point. Even the "Beavis and Butt-head" reference is old, old, old. (Note: I'm older than Mike Huckabee.) And the gay-baiting? So tawdry, however much you like traditional values. And, anyway, was Barney Fife a positive masculine role model?

Back to The Bee:
I just completed a book in which I talk about the difference between horizontal politics, where everything is left or right, everything is liberal or conservative, everything is Democrat or Republican. I think the American people are hungry for vertical politics, where we have leaders who lift us up rather than those who tear us down.
Well, you're doing a huckava job.

"Women don't decide elections because they're not rational political actors... [T]hey vote on impulse, and on elusive factors such as personality."

Linda Hirshman editorializes in the Washington Post. She interviewed some woman about Hillary Clinton:
I had such mixed feelings listening to these women describe their political selves. They're clearly idealistic, want to be good citizens, make an effort to get the information they need. It was hard not to like them. Their delight in seeing a woman so close to real power was palpable. Yet I couldn't escape the fact that they took in little of politics, especially compared with their husbands, that their decision-making seemed impulsive and that their response to Clinton's candidacy was driven to an amazing extent by personality.

They unwittingly confirmed my theory about why women don't decide elections....
The point here is that Hillary Clinton shouldn't count on women to get her elected. If she thinks women will vote for a woman because she's a woman, she's wrong.

Hirshman portrays woman as lame political actors. I get the impression that she's just exasperated that they don't reliably support liberal causes. Which, of course, wouldn't make them lame. Quite the opposite.

She seems to find it rather pathetic that they don't lock onto the political news the way men do, but that may be a perfectly sensible way to live a competent life. By contrast, it's rather crazy to be fretting about November 2008 right now. It's not so much that men are rational and women are emotional. Men just have different emotions. Male emotion tends more in the political junkie direction. "Junkie" is not the image of rationality.

Hirshman offers Clinton some advice on how to take advantage of women voters:
First, when it comes to women who vote, the political is the personal.... If the polls continue to reflect male aversion to her beyond the baseline male Republican tilt, Clinton may have to go personal to bring the women home. Maybe she could get a couch on casters.
Hirshman's contempt for women is rather shocking. She goes on to suggest that Clinton open up her personal story:
[S]he has had the soap opera story of the century with that charismatic, faithless husband. This has made her suffer, something one of the Wednesday women specifically singled out as a reason to support a candidate. Will she be willing to open that old wound to convince potential female supporters that her policies, such as universal child health care, arise out of her concern for women like them, rather than being just the usual liberal agenda?
She can't make Bill look bad now! And anyway, why would some personal sob story, even if it did show you really cared about children in some special way, make you seem as though you deserve the presidency? So you found yourself in a personal fix? Therefore we should put you in charge of the country?
The second lesson is that elections that turn on the female electorate bear an unfortunate resemblance to a popularity contest. The Republicans have succeeded with women at the polls when they've made Democrats look not just mistaken, but clownish or geeky. Reagan in blue jeans beat Jimmy Carter in a cardigan. George H.W. Bush looked like John Wayne next to Dukakis peering over the edge of a tank in a helmet. And who knows what would have happened if Kerry hadn't donned a wetsuit to go wind-surfing? Even the devil wears Prada. And women know it.
Hirshman is well on the way to convincing us that women shouldn't have the vote! On the other hand, I'm totally planning to blog about what everyone's wearing and how they look in their photo ops. And isn't Mitt Romney dreamy?

Hey, Hirshman forgot to mention that in each of the cases she described, we picked the better boyfriend. And don't forget Bill Clinton. He's the best boyfriend. And Hillary's our rival. We're going to inspect her critically, because why does she have the best boyfriend? She's just using him! Oh, why doesn't he see that she's not that pretty and she's not that nice? In short, Hirshman fails to complete that "popularity contest" thought!

January 28, 2007

Audible Althouse #77.

Oh, you've waited so long, podcast fans... if I still have podcast fans. This is just a podcast about trying to revive the joy of podcasting. There's some substance too. But I'm just hoping you'll come along for the ride as I try to discover a way to live inside the podcast again. So stuff those earbuds into your earholes and take a chance.

You can stream it right through your computer here. But the hardcore fans subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

I saw "The Queen."

I start recording a vlog, just as a way to psyche myself up to do a podcast, and though I mean to talk about blogposts, in my podcast style, I get exasperated with that effort and end up talking about going to the movies today.

Podcast to follow... presumably....

Nutritionism, the ideology that has replaced food.

Michael Pollan writes about how we got so twisted up about nourishing ourselves (as opposed to eating). He pinpoints the start of the problem. In 1977, a Senate Select Committee on Nutrition -- led by George McGovern -- told people to cut down on red meat and dairy products, then, caving to pressure from the red meat and dairy industries, revised the advice to: "Choose meats, poultry and fish that will reduce saturated-fat intake."
A subtle change in emphasis, you might say, but a world of difference just the same. First, the stark message to "eat less" of a particular food has been deep-sixed; don’t look for it ever again in any official U.S. dietary pronouncement. Second, notice how distinctions between entities as different as fish and beef and chicken have collapsed; those three venerable foods, each representing an entirely different taxonomic class, are now lumped together as delivery systems for a single nutrient. Notice too how the new language exonerates the foods themselves; now the culprit is an obscure, invisible, tasteless — and politically unconnected — substance that may or may not lurk in them called "saturated fat."
Pollan adds that the head of the Committee, George McGovern lost his next Senate election:
[T]he beef lobby helped rusticate the three-term senator, sending an unmistakable warning to anyone who would challenge the American diet, and in particular the big chunk of animal protein sitting in the middle of its plate. Henceforth, government dietary guidelines would shun plain talk about whole foods, each of which has its trade association on Capitol Hill, and would instead arrive clothed in scientific euphemism and speaking of nutrients, entities that few Americans really understood but that lack powerful lobbies in Washington. This was precisely the tack taken by the National Academy of Sciences when it issued its landmark report on diet and cancer in 1982. Organized nutrient by nutrient in a way guaranteed to offend no food group, it codified the official new dietary language. Industry and media followed suit, and terms like polyunsaturated, cholesterol, monounsaturated, carbohydrate, fiber, polyphenols, amino acids and carotenes soon colonized much of the cultural space previously occupied by the tangible substance formerly known as food. The Age of Nutritionism had arrived.
Did you know the politics of why we're so fat and sickly? It's McGovern's fault! Everyone started scarfing down Snackwell’s and pasta. Later, reacting to that disaster, everyone freaked out about carbohydrates and went on the Atkins diet.
By framing dietary advice in terms of good and bad nutrients, and by burying the recommendation that we should eat less of any particular food, it was easy for the take-home message of the 1977 and 1982 dietary guidelines to be simplified as follows: Eat more low-fat foods. And that is what we did. We’re always happy to receive a dispensation to eat more of something (with the possible exception of oat bran), and one of the things nutritionism reliably gives us is some such dispensation: low-fat cookies then, low-carb beer now.
In the end, the advice is to eat real food and to eat less. Actually, he's got 9 points of advice at the end -- well worth reading -- but it's mainly eat real food and eat less.


Interesting idea: "the Okinawans practiced a principle they called 'Hara Hachi Bu': eat until you are 80 percent full." Funny! I don't think Americans could even grasp the concept of identifying the 80 percent point. It's hard enough for us to notice the point at which we are full. We don't even know how to be put off by the gross portions that are set down in front of us in restaurants.

When I go to steakhouses here in Madison, I always order the smallest size -- "petite" -- and it's 6 ounces. I never want to eat the whole thing, and then I feel silly bringing home a 3 ounce portion. But, you know, 3 ounces is considered -- by some official standard -- to be one portion of meat. So I go to a restaurant, order the dinky size, and it's a double portion. It's very hard to develop common sense about how much to eat under such conditions. If you pay $30 for a steak, you don't want to leave $15 worth of it! You push yourself to eat even though you aren't hungry, and it becomes second nature.