May 19, 2007

"Is it possible to extract the Summer of Love from the distorting filter of narcissism?"

Or is narcissism the essence of the Summer of Love? Anyway, take note. This year is a milestone. It was exactly 40 years ago.
“Much about that summer, looking back, seems incredibly foolish and narcissistic and grandiose,” said Oskar Eustis, 48, the artistic director of the Public Theater who was 9 in 1967 and whose parents took him to a demonstration at which protesters tried to levitate the Pentagon. “But it’s not crazy to remember that we stopped the war, and we did.”...

Mr. Eustis of the Public Theater said he hoped to invoke the utopianism of 1967 without simply playing to nostalgia that runs on the desire to forget, not to remember. “Nostalgia is a corrupting emotion,” he said. “You’re imagining a lack of contradiction in the past. You’re imagining something that wasn’t true. It’s a longing to be a child again, to have magical thinking about the world.”

But he added that nostalgia could also have a “progressive aspect” that pushes people to think forward rather than back, to “remember that you can imagine a world that is different, where money didn’t determine value, where competition wasn’t the nature of human relations.

“That imagination can be powerful,” he continued. “The dream is real. The negative aspect of nostalgia is when we want that feeling that everything is possible, but we don’t want to do anything about it. That’s just narcissistic. That’s longing to feel important again. Baby boomers are very good at that.”
ADDED: I was a high school kid during the Summer of Love, and I was deeply affected by the hippie zeitgeist. But I never liked the people who wanted to appropriate the creativity and energy for political purposes, and I'm irked even now by those who say that the political activism was the good part and everything else was childish or narcissistic. I think what I thought then: They have no feeling for art and philosophy. The hippie thing was: Tune in, turn on, drop out. "Drop out" meant, among other things, leaving politics to the squares. Have you ever taken LSD? Did you think about politics at all when you were there? No, the political types like the Yippies were appropriating what they didn't create every bit as much as the advertising agency that made a Windex commercial out of "Let the Sun Shine In."

Oskar Eustis is 48. That means he was 8 years old in the Summer of Love. He's not talking about feeling what it was like first hand. I think Amba was saying a while back that what really imprints on you is what was happening when you were 17. That puts Eustis in 1976, the year of the Bicentennial, Jimmy Carter, Patty Hearst, "The Gong Show," the Son of Sam, and the unification of North and South Vietnam into a communist country. For music, well, there was "Frampton Comes Alive," all that disco, KISS, and maybe you noticed the Sex Pistols. I can see how, stuck with that, you would look back on the previous decade as a source for ideas that fit you political preferences. But that wouldn't be nostalgic, would it? Because it's progressive, and progressive means looking forward.

If you've been waiting around for me to finally get a post up this morning...

I hope you're not horribly disappointed if it's something you can't read because you're blocked by the spoiler alert or because you don't follow "The Sopranos." I didn't really mean to spend 5 hours writing it, but I can't deny the time stamp. I obviously did. That is, I know I did. Maybe you'd think I'd take a lot of breaks. But, in fact, I've scarcely moved.

Last Sunday's "Sopranos" episode: "Kennedy and Heidi."

I'm a little late to this, but I want to talk about the most recent episode of "The Sopranos." Of course, there are major spoilers below.

I watched this episode once, thought about it, slept on it, and then I woke up this morning -- as they say -- and had so many ideas about it that I came downstairs at 5 a.m. so I could watch it again on the "on demand" channel. I felt pretty sure that Tony had died in the episode, because of the way it ended with him standing in a landscape, staring at the sun and screaming "I get it!" But at what point does he die? When do we shift from life to afterlife? I'm drafting this post as I re-watch with lots of pausing and rewinding, but this isn't pure simulblogging. I go back and rewrite, as this sentence shows.

The episode is titled "Kennedy and Heidi." Heidi and Kennedy are, most conspicuously, the two girls in the car that Christopher swerves around as he loses control of his SUV. Kennedy, the passenger, asks if they should go back and help, but Heidi refuses because she's driving after dark on a learner's permit. Why do their names belong in the title to this episode where the central occurrence is Tony's murdering Christopher after the car crash?

Kennedy is an evocative name, and in earlier episodes Tony has shown an interest in President Kennedy. (He owns the dead President's hat.) Later in the episode, at Christopher's viewing in the funeral home, someone comments that his widow has adopted the Jackie Kennedy look. But why Heidi? If it's the character Heidi from the novel "Heidi," the reference is to a young girl who is so optimistic and good-hearted that she brings an isolated, mean old man back into the community. Our car-driving Heidi is all cold-hearted selfishness, so maybe it means that absolutely nobody is good in this damned world anymore, and nobody can ever save the horrible, nihilistic Tony.

Before the crash, Christopher is driving his SUV -- he's the driver, thus corresponding to Heidi -- and he's having a conversation with Tony -- who as the passenger, could be said to be the Kennedy. (Maybe he'll get shot in the head in the end.) They're having a conversation about a deal with Phil over the disposal of asbestos. This episode began -- and it will (almost) end with a garbage truck dumping asbestos waste. The conversation has a philosophical dimension. Tony doesn't want to cave to Phil's demand because life isn't worth living if you have to bend over for people. Chris thinks that in life you need to "smell the roses," and this moves Tony to concede that some battles aren't worth fighting. Then Chris mentions his daughter, and Tony reverts to bitterness and says that Phil would take those roses and stick them up your ass.

Chris puts the soundtrack from "The Departed" into the player, and the song is "Comfortably Numb" -- a song about using drugs as an escape. Tony glances over at Chris a few times as though he's trying to see if he may be using drugs again. He lets his suspicion show when he asks Chris how that party was the other day. The crash follows.

After the long, sickening roll downhill, Chris, pinned behind the steering wheel, confesses that he won't pass the drug test, so Tony now knows Chris is back to his drug problem. Tony gets out of the car and comes around and breaks the window to reach Christopher. He starts to call 911, then changes his mind and holds Chris's nose until he drowns in the blood that had been flowing out of his mouth. In the middle of the grim, silent killing -- couldn't Tony at least have said I'm sorry I have to do this? -- Tony looks up at the highway as a car goes by and its headlights pulse in the same mysteriously symbolic way that a light kept pulsing in the long coma-dream sequence in the second episode of Season 6. I think the pulse of light is the instant of Christopher's death.

Once Chris is dead, we get water imagery: It starts to rain, and Tony, calling 911, gives the locations as "Old Pumping Station Road, next to the Resevoir." Later in the episode, there will be more light and more water.

At the hospital, Tony's lying on a gurney in the hall, near Christopher's body bag -- we see the "Cleaver" hat next to it -- so this may suggest that Tony himself is dead. But I don't think so, because we also see Carmela at home, getting the phone call from him.

Now, there is a visit with Dr. Melfi and Tony is expressing happiness about Chris's death. "He was a tremendous drag on my future." But this turns out to be a dream. After checking with Carmela that he wasn't talking in his sleep, Tony goes downstairs, finds the "Cleaver" mug and hurls it across the swimming pool -- the central water symbol of the whole "Sopranos" series. The mug -- which represented Chris's hatred of Tony -- lands in the underbrush. We understand Tony's motivation for the murder fully at this point. Had Christopher lived, the drug test would caused the FBI to swoop in on him, and he would have betrayed Tony.

There is some question about whether and at what point Christopher wanted to die. Did he crash the car intentionally because he realized that Tony knew he was back on drugs and that Tony would want to kill him? Did he confess openly after the crash to offer himself up for the killing he knew Tony had in store for him? Why suffer the pain of his injuries and try to live only to die soon enough? His final words were "Call me a taxi." Is a taxi a symbol of death? There's "Death Cab for Cutie."
Bad girl Cutie, what have you done?
Baby, don't do it
Slipping, sliding down on Highway 31.
Baby, don't do it
The traffic lights change from green to red.
They tried to stop but they both wound up dead.
Death cab for Cutie
Death cab for Cutie
And there's Joni Mitchell:
Late last night
I heard the screen door slam
And a big yellow taxi
Took away my old man
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you’ve got
‘Til it’s gone?
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot
Presumably, that's Long Term Parking.

Carmela makes Tony a cup of coffee with that expensive expresso machine Paulie gave her in the April 22 episode. Tony says "It's good." At least something is good. They have a conversation that brings out the mother theme. (I note that Paulie's aunt/mother Nucci also dies in this episode, and there's a fair amount of childish whining by Paulie on the subject.) Carmela, crying over Christopher's death, says that when Tony was in the hospital -- back during that coma-dream -- "It was Christopher who held me." This mother-son image prompts Tony to bring up the baby seat in the SUV after the crash. It had a tree limb in it, so if the baby had been in the car, it would have been "mangled beyond recognition." Carmela stomps off, and Tony is left holding out his empty arms toward her in a way that says this boy has no mother.

The following scene is Tony's real session with Melfi, and he's talking about mothering. He's disgusted that Christopher's mother is showing up now and soaking up all the sympathy, when she didn't mother him well during his life. He says, "I hand carried him through the worse crisis he ever had." "Hand carried" is an odd expression, but it conveys the image of a mother carrying a baby. Of course, it's completely ridiculous for Tony to think he ought to be getting the sympathy when he's the murderer. Tony thinks Chris was ungrateful, that his hand carrying only inspired hate. Well, yeah. It consisted of offing Adriana.

This sequence of mother-themed scenes culminates in a gathering of various mothers in the Soprano living room. Tony wanders out of his bedroom and looks down on them from the upstairs railing. Christopher's baby is there. Christopher's mother says: "She doesn't know. Isn't God wonderful that way?" Christopher's wife pulls out her large breast and as the baby takes it, Tony snaps open the cell phone. He's calling some guy in Las Vegas. "I need a suite." The guy offers a plane too. Enough of the female. Bring on the phallic symbol. Escape from the family sphere into the realm of sin.

On the phallic plane, he looks out on the clouds. Is he dead now? I wonder. There's a quick but surreal-looking drive through a tunnel, which also gets me speculating. He arrives at Caesar's Palace. He plays roulette once, loses, gets up, and we see him eating in restaurant alone. It's all very quiet. Deathlike?

Cut to AJ's classroom. The lovely teacher's lesson is about Wordsworth. "'The world is too much with us.' Later, he invokes nature again. Why such strong words against the material world?" Cut to Tony in a lounge chair by the glitzy Roman-themed pool at Casear's. Water again. Water is death. The camera wheels around him, and we notice the incline of his head, propped up on a folded up towel. It mirrors Christopher's head angled up on the casket pillow. So is Tony dying now? Or is he still in the material world?

We see Tony driving past a sign for the Tropicana and the Folies Bergere. Then, he's in a hallway, where he transfers a wad of cash to his back pocket. He's going to see a woman who is never named -- except in the credits (as Sonya Aragon) -- and that money is the tip that she's a prostitute. But she did know Chris, and she's somewhat sad to hear he's dead. She asks how long Tony's going to be in town, and he says -- seeming to speak more generally of life itself -- that he doesn't know. He's playing it as it goes.

After a scene with Anthony and his friends beating up a young man, mainly because he's black, we see Tony driving through a tunnel again and then having sex with the woman who is never called Sonya. She offers him "paranoid free" marijuana. He takes it. She says, "Chris loved to party." Tony's all, "What's your point?" And she's says: "So much for paranoid free." Why is she comparing him to Chris? He wants to know. She tells him that Chris said sad things, but Tony seems really sad. He asks about peyote. Chris had talked about taking peyote with her. When he says "Why the f*ck am I here?" she thinks he means he wants to take peyote to get at the meaning of life, but he says "I mean Vegas."

AJ goes to his psychiatrist twice in this episode. The first time, he's doing well, even interested in school. That goes with the Wordsworth scene. In the second visit, after the attack on the black man, he's become completely nihilistic: "Everything is so f*cked up." Absurdly invoking Rodney King, he adds "Why can't we all just get along?"

Now, we see Tony taking the peyote with Sonya. Of course, he's got to vomit. Not only is peyote famous for causing vomiting, but "The Sopranos" is famous for vomiting scenes. Tony vomited in this one, and, in this one, Adriana performs "the best projectile vomiting scene in the history of television." After the peyote vomit, Tony collapses against an ugly patterned towel that clashes nauseatingly with his jagged patterned shirt. He stares up at the light fixture. There's the light! Is it death now?

Tony and Sonya are walking in the hotel lobby, across the shiny patterned floor. There's a slot machine with the word "Pompeii" on it to remind us of death and destruction. Then Tony is staring at a cartoon devil face on one of the machines. But, really, is he in hell finally? Now, he's staring at the roulette wheel and observing: "It's the same principle as the solar system." Does that make this the afterlife? He keeps winning. That's not the way real life goes. The croupier looks somewhat like Christopher. There's a strange white chip held in a vertical position on a glass cube. Are there really chips like this or is this more proof we are not looking at the real world? The chip seems to signify a communion wafer. Tony starts laughing a lot and says, "He's dead." He falls on the floor laughing. We're look down on him. Is he dead now?

Perhaps symbolizing the disposal of his evil body, the garbage truck full of asbestos waste backs up to the edge of the Jersey swampland and dumps. More water.

And now Tony and Sonya are hanging out peacefully, tripping on the sunrise in a beautiful -- unearthly? -- landscape. It was filmed in Red Rock Canyon, I see in the credits, so the place is really there, outside Las Vegas. Sonya is in a motionless trance. Tony is squinting toward the sun. As it rises above the canyon edge, it pulses in a burst of light that chimes with the headlight on the highway and all those lights in the coma-dream.

"I get it" he says quietly, standing, then once again, he stretches out his arms out. He yells -- and the canyon echoes -- "I get it." Surely, at this point, he is dead.

I see that over on Television Without Pity, there's talk that the entire episode was a dream. The episode begins and (almost) ends with a big truck dumping powdery contents, ostensibly asbestos, but also symbolizing the cocaine that caused Christopher's downfall, and perhaps representing the sleep of a dream.

The only part of the episode that is outside of the garbage truck brackets is Tony, at the canyon edge, getting it. Conceivably, Tony was asleep and dreaming throughout the episode, and the final dump of the toxic waste into the swamp was the point where he died in his bed like a good old godfather. The waste went down as the sun came up. He gets it as he passes into the infinite. The dream -- if that's what it was -- contained many indications of his death, but he was still alive and merely approaching his death. It is only when the sun bursts in the end and he shouts "I get it" that he dies.

We shall see this Sunday, if Carmela discovers his dead body in the bed.

ADDED: That powdery asbestos drifting off the garbage truck in the beginning and at the end represent the funereal line: "Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

May 18, 2007

"Justice Clarence Thomas sat through 68 hours of oral arguments in the Supreme Court’s current term without uttering a word."

Even for Thomas, that's impressive.
In nearly 16 years on the court, Thomas typically has asked questions a couple of times a term.

He memorably spoke up four years ago in cases involving cross burning and affirmative action, the court’s only black justice in the unusual role of putting his race on display through questions to lawyers.

But the last time Thomas asked a question in court was Feb. 22, 2006, in a death penalty case out of South Carolina. A unanimous court eventually broadened the ability of death-penalty defendants to blame someone else for the crime.

Thomas has said in the past that he will ask a pertinent question if his colleagues don’t but sees no need to engage in the back-and-forth just to hear his own voice.
As the old song lyric goes: When I have nothing to say, my lips are sealed.

McCain says "F*ck you" to Cornyn over immigration.

WaPo reports:
At a bipartisan gathering in an ornate meeting room just off the Senate floor, McCain complained that Cornyn was raising petty objections to a compromise plan being worked out between Senate Republicans and Democrats and the White House. He used a curse word associated with chickens and accused Cornyn of raising the issue just to torpedo a deal.

Things got really heated when Cornyn accused McCain of being too busy campaigning for president to take part in the negotiations, which have gone on for months behind closed doors. "Wait a second here," Cornyn said to McCain. "I've been sitting in here for all of these negotiations and you just parachute in here on the last day. You're out of line."...

"[Expletive] you! I know more about this than anyone else in the room," shouted McCain at Cornyn.
"A curse word associated with chickens"? Really, avoiding the actually language is so... chickenshit. But enough about WaPo, let's talk about McCain.

I have no problem with political characters saying "f*ck you" to each other behind the scenes. I almost think they'd be chickenshit not to. It's normal in tough, competitive situations. I remember when people were surprised by all the cursing on the Nixon White House transcripts, but that was a long time ago, and the fact is, it was normal even for Nixon era guys when they were in private. Remember when Bush said "There's Adam Clymer, major league asshole from the New York Times"? That was nothing, because it was a private comment that happened to get overheard. Political enemies exploit it as much as they can, but they can't get too far without seeming petty and prissy.

Now, McCain did say "F*ck you" in an official setting, and he did shout it. And it does resonate with that negative characterization of McCain as an angry man that his opponents want to sell us. So how much should this hurt McCain as a presidential candidate? I don't think it should hurt him at all. There doesn't seem to be a video clip of it (something that seems to change everything these days). It may have been a big meeting in an ornate room near the Senate floor, but it wasn't on the Senate floor.

This strikes me as babyish tattling. I want a President who says "f*ck you" and calls things that are chickenshit "chickenshit." Not where the kids can hear him, of course. But this was a closed meeting and Cornyn was apparently trying to disqualify his opinion because he dares to go off and run for President. McCain was entitled to push back. I say it's nothing.

ADDED: This is just my opinion. I should tell you I had a low key reaction to the Dean scream back in 2004. The morning after I heard it, I said I thought his opponents were using it because "it seems to confirm that the candidate has the quality we have come to fear he has" -- that is, anger -- but I thought that it didn't really mean anything because "In the context of the room, it made sense to play cheerleader for his disappointed fans."

"He got over the moat, which in itself is remarkable, because gorillas can't swim."

Gorillas can't swim... except when they can.

Theme day on the blog.

This is one of these days when my usual method of writing about whatever strikes my fancy produces the impression that I'm working a theme. Totally unintentional... but here's another car picture:

1968 Oldsmobile 442

That's a 1968 Oldsmobile 442.

"A person should have the right to make their own decision to explore their sexual boundaries outside what some government official says is moral."

Should you really have to leave Alabama to get your sex toys? Or should we celebrate the federal system, where the states are allowed to be different? If you don't like it, why are you living in Alabama? But if you like it, you can enjoy the deep pleasures of living in a distinctive culture that is able to enact a collective expression of its disapproval of sex toys.

Napoleon’s penis, Lincoln’s blood-stained collar, Hermann Göring’s cyanide ampoule.

The same guy owned all three things. Don't worry. He died. (There's a really nice, funny illustration at the link.)

Blogger thinks my blog is a spam blog!

UPDATE: Why was the original post here missing its text? Because Blogger is trying to detect spam blogs and thinks my blog is one of them, apparently because I post a lot. It is not only imposing a word verification step on my posting process, but it has twice erased the text of a post I'd written. Another new Blogger feature is "autosave." It supposedly saves your writing every minute automatically. Maybe the spam detection and the autosave are colliding buggily. How annoying!

ADDED: I guess this is the whole answer I need (from the linked page):
If you make a large number of posts in a single day, you will be required to complete a word verification for each one, independent of whether your blog has been cleared as a potential spam or not. If this happens to you, simply complete the word verification for each post, or wait 24 hours, at which point it will be removed automatically.

This restriction is in place as much to control the load on our servers as to prevent explicit spam. Therefore, there is not a whitelisting review process to exempt individual blogs.

But why was today the first time I triggered this device? Was yesterday my biggest posting day ever?

When women take classes in tennis, wine-tasting, sailing, etc., in the hope of meeting men.

They don't find them.
Yet in New York City, in many (if not most) adult courses, the women are numerous and the men are few — for approximately the same reason that men behind the wheel don’t ask for directions. It goes against the male grain to acknowledge ignorance about a subject, said professionals who organize classes....

Thomas Dare-Bryan, the manager and a wine buyer for Morrell & Company in Rockefeller Plaza, said that the makeup of the shop’s wine-tasting classes changes weekly but that they, too, mostly comprise women, some of whom have told him they wish there were more men. “They have actually come out with that statement,” Mr. Dare-Bryan said.

He offered this explanation for the disparity: “It’s argued that women are better tasters of wine than men. A higher percentage of women have more taste-bud receptors.” So maybe they are getting more out of the class. But, echoing others who lead classes, he added: “It may also come down to the fact that men think they know more about wine anyway, so they don’t need to learn more about it.”
You want to explain the behavior of the people who are not doing something, so... why not ask the people who are doing it? Talk to the women and the educators who attract them to find out what's motivating the men who aren't there. Because, after all, you know that if you're going to explain gender difference, you've got to assume that whatever the women are doing is good, and it's the men who have the problem. So: You know those men. They think they're so smart. You can't tell them anything. They won't ask for directions.

But it would be so easy to turn that around and present the male side as positive.

Men prefer to look at something they have decided to do and figure it out on their own. They like to observe, analyze, and discover. They accept the risks and enjoy the excitement of trial and error. They don't like sitting around having someone tell them what to do, and they aren't intrigued by the prospect of meeting women who spend so much time doing something they loathe.

Now, I just made that up, but it was no more made up than the explanation in the article.

ADDED: Thanks to Glenn for linking -- with one of those lines that made everybody have to click. And I should say that yesterday, I listened to the Glenn and Helen Show episode about "The Dangerous Book for Boys," and I'm sure that was affecting my mind when I wrote this. Actually, one of my commenters, Kirk, says "Now you're channeling Dr. Helen." So let's look at some more comments.

Hey says:
Classes typically don't work for men's schedules, especially the high earning/high potential men these women want to meet....

Classes for physical things are less helpful to men (much higher chance of some past experience than women) and in things like yoga it just highlights the differences between the genders. Some guy you don't know is likely going to turn you off when he's sweating, grunting, and inadvertently displaying assorted hair or body parts, especially in a yoga class (yoga pants are almost speedolike in their clingyness) where he's 2 feet away and you have to look through him for the pose.

Most classes are also not welcoming because they're set up as "safe" spaces for women. Hard to make contacts for a guy, not geared towards his style of learning, unwelcoming of male interaction with teacher and classmates...
Yoga pants... speedolike in their clingyness... 2 feet away and you have to look through him... You know, I think women like yoga -- in part -- because they think they look sexy wearing clingy clothes and contorting their bodies into positions dictated by instructors. And, theoretically, they want the guys there, but when they see them there, similarly dressed and contorted and following instructions, they find it hard to control their revulsion. Tragic!

Most classes are also not welcoming because they're set up as "safe" spaces for women. Does the classroom these days suggest the standards of avoiding sexual harassment and "a hostile environment"?

JohnH said:
My wife accuses me of being a typical man and never asking for directions. However, she wants me to do all the navigating, while she doesn't know North from South.

If we get a new computer, she won't read the directions to use it, but she starts talking right away about signing up for a computer class, or having a consultant come over to show us the way. I don't get it. Our minds work in different ways.
I'm seeing a lot of comments about men being willing to read maps and instruction manuals. So this thing about men and directions may not be so much about men thinking they already know things, but that they don't want another person explaining it. If women won't read directions, maybe they shouldn't criticize men for not asking for directions. The gender difference may be more about help-seeking and face-to-face interactions.

Roux said:
Why don't the women try going to a shooting range instead?
Good idea, but there's something a little frightening about meeting strangers where the very first thing you know about them is they shoot guns. On the other hand, they will know you do too.

There's also a lot of talk in there about wine-tasting, and it provokes Smilin' Jack to say:
How can there be a class on how to taste wine? Just unscrew the top and pour it into your mouth, and you can't help tasting it. What's next, classes in breathing?
Well, that yoga teacher is probably telling you how to breathe, if you can see her past that guy's thinly veiled genitalia.

But go in and read all the comments. And don't miss "just about the best straight line I've heard in a long, long while."

The fear of walking on sidewalk grates.

Not entirely unrealistic.

May 17, 2007

"Why did they make the doors open like that?"

I really couldn't say.


The answer is just... because it was something they could think of to do... right?


ADDED: I'm told that there are some advantages to doors that open up. I'm not inclined to believe any of this, given that there are so very few cars built this way. If it's a good idea, why isn't it used more? I've got to conclude that it's just to be different. Anyway, what I'm told is that the doors take up less space and that they are less likely to open accidentally because gravity holds them down. And the DeLorean may have been designed to feed on the reputation of the the Mercedes-Benz 300SL, which is so much nicer than the DeLorean:

I like these curves so much better than the sharp angles on the DeLorean.

If only Auntie Em could have blogged.

She'd have said: "Almira Gulch. Just because you own half the town doesn't mean that you have the power to run the rest of us. For twenty-three years I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now... well, being a Christian woman, I can't say it! But I can link to someone who will."

The 1964 Ford Galaxie 500 XL.

It's the Car of the Day here on the Althouse blog. It's not beautiful, but it's ugly in such a special way.

That side mirror is so rectangular:

Ford Galaxie 500 XL 1964

And that color. Painful! The upholstery seem to presage the "moon boots" kids had in the 1980s.

The grille is so pleased with itself:

Ford Galaxie 500 XL 1964

It's a very disturbing combination of stodgy and glitzy:

Ford Galaxie 500 XL 1964

Hop in...

Ford Galaxie 500 XL 1964

... and envelop yourself in shameless bad taste.

"It's a shame that there is no hell for Falwell to go to...."

Christopher Hitchens is having a fine old time working the Jerry Falwell death story.
Try this: Call a TV station and tell them that you know the Antichrist is already on earth and is an adult Jewish male. See how far you get. Then try the same thing and add that you are the Rev. Jim-Bob Vermin. "Why, Reverend, come right on the show!" What a fool Don Imus was. If he had paid the paltry few bucks to make himself a certified clergyman, he could be jeering and sneering to the present hour.

Yeah, well, I saw you on TV jeering and sneering over the death of a man. How did you get on?

I love the way Anderson Cooper preens about how CNN presents all sides of a story and brings on Hitchens to piss about "the empty life of this ugly little charlatan." Okay, fine, Anderson, but I want to see all your death stories spiced up like this from now on.

The immigration deal.

In the Senate:
The bill would provide an opportunity “right away” for millions of illegal aliens to correct their status, said Mr. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. It would emphasize family ties as well as employment skills in weighing how soon immigrants could become legal residents, he said.

But it would also emphasize improved border security and would call for “very strong sanctions” against employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants, according to Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania.

Both senators acknowledged that the bill, whose general terms are agreeable to the White House, is likely to come under fire both from the political right and the political left — decried either as “amnesty” or as “not humanitarian enough,” as Mr. Specter said....

Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell University, said: “The legislation taking shape in the Senate represents a major philosophical shift. It tells the world that we are emphasizing characteristics that will enhance our global competitiveness, like education and job skills. We would not rely as much on family background as we have in the past.”
I haven't written much about immigration because I see it as a complex policy issue that needs a pragmatic solution. I have no ready-made ideological response. So I'll just say I hope they figured it out as well as they could, congratulations for agreeing on something, and thanks for extracting this issue from the 2008 presidential campaign.

Unlike me, Mickey Kaus is constantly talking about immigration. I have never understood why he's so heated up about it, but since it's his thing, let's see what he's saying:
This is looking more and more like the Bush administration's domestic version of Iraq: a big risky gamble, based on wishful thinking and nonexistent administrative competence, that will end in disaster. What disaster? 1) Lower wages for struggling unskilled--and semi-skilled--American workers (including, especially, underclass men) even when the labor market should be tight; 2) Income inequality moving further in the direction of Latin America--maybe even to such an extent that social equality between the rich and their servers becomes difficult to maintain; and 3) A large semi-assimilated population along our southern border with complex, understandably binational allegiances--our own Quebec. ... Actually, I can see why some Republicans might not be so bothered by (1) and (2). But what about Democrats?

Rush Limbaugh runs into Bill Clinton at a steakhouse.

As told by Rush. I like this part, after the break, where his fans, having heard the story, give him hell for acting friendly and normalwhen meeting his enemy in a social setting:
I remember telling you this in the early to mid-nineties, "Bill Clinton is the kind of guy that you probably would love to go to a ball game with, chase women afterwards and have a great time." I'm already getting e-mails, "You're falling in with the enemy. I knew it! It happens to every one of our conservatives. They get famous, and fall in with the enemy, even you." What am I supposed to do, folks, when he comes to my table? Am I supposed to stand up and leave? Am I supposed to turn my back? What am I supposed to do? I'm not that kind of person. You people need to relax out there, some of you. Not all of you are uptight about this. Some of you need to just lighten up out there. I can't help it if I go someplace and this kind of stuff happens.
Yeah, you know, from what I've seen, people who are hostile to each other in the public arena act pretty cordial in a social setting. I haven't blogged about it, but I've had social interactions with some of my biggest enemies in the blogosphere -- including sitting down for a meal together -- and it was completely friendly.

"It is apparent that XM Radio is beholden to crybaby special interest groups who cannot separate humor from reality."

The pro-shock-jock backlash. (Via Instapundit.) XM subscribers -- who paid to get uncensored radio -- are pissed. Something I found myself doing instinctively in reaction to all this post-Imus repression: I subscribed to HowardTV.

"I admire him as a president and I regard him as a friend."

Bush and Blair in the Rose Garden. Poignant, almost tragic. I don't have a transcript yet, but I was listening to part of this on C-Span radio as I was driving in my car.

Bush said that he's read three biographies of George Washington in the last year and isn't it interesting that they are still analyzing what the first President did? If they're still trying to understand that now, it means that the final interpretation of what he has done will be written long after he is gone. So, he says, he feels confident in what he is doing, despite all the criticism. It's based on sound philosophical ideas, he said, and eventually people will see that he was right.

At some distance there were protesters, and Tony Blair said he couldn't quite hear what they were saying but he imagined it wasn't complimentary. Blair brought a light, humorous touch that contrasted with Bush's profession of deep commitment to philosophy and history. Blair expressed more concern for the people who think he was wrong about Iraq, though he still says the war was right, and of course he articulates the reasons why it was right so much better than Bush can. Everywhere in the world, Blair says, when people have been given the choice of what kind of government they want, they choose freedom and democracy, not a secular dictatorship or religious fundamentalism. I'm not so sure that's true, but it's always so beautiful when someone says it is.

Google's display of thumbnail images in search results...

... is "fair use" and not a copyright violation:
"We conclude that the significantly transformative nature of Google's search engine, particularly in light of its public benefit, outweighs Google's superseding and commercial uses of the thumbnails in this case," Judge Sandra S. Ikuta wrote for the panel [in the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit]....

"We think this is a tremendous decision for the principle of fair use," said Art Brodsky, a spokesman for the Public Knowledge advocacy group. "It gives search engines and other useful services the ability to take advantage of computer technology in the search for and use of information."

And while we're celebrating copyright progress and at the risk of providing an opportunity for you to attack me for failing to denounce Alberto Gonzales for other things, let me use this occasion to denounce Alberto Gonzales for this legal excrescence.

Candidates and torture... and blogger conference calls.

Here's an L.A. Times piece that discusses the emerging differences between the Republican candidates over the use of aggressive techniques in questioning detainees in the War on Terror.
The issue arose when the debate moderator, Fox News' Brit Hume, laid out a scenario in which suspects had been caught attempting to carry out a terrorist attack. The question was tailor-made for a response on the importance of being tough on terrorists, but McCain laid out a more nuanced reply colored by personal experience....

Giuliani and Romney both said they opposed torture. But when Hume raised the idea of water-boarding, in which a suspect is made to feel like he is drowning, Giuliani appeared to support it, and Romney said he supported "enhanced interrogation techniques." Both offered tough-sounding answers that drew enthusiastic applause from the Republican audience.
The article supplements material from the debate with descriptions of Giuliani's conference call with the bloggers yesterday:
Giuliani in his campaign has emphasized embracing Bush's aggressive anti-terrorism tactics and attacking civil liberties advocates as promoting a pre-Sept. 11 mind-set. He elaborated on his debate remarks during a Wednesday conference call with bloggers. He said he would leave the distinction between enhanced interrogation techniques and torture to "the people who do it," according to a report on the National Review's Web site. He described water-boarding simply as "aggressive," the report said.

Another blogger on the call, University of Wisconsin law professor Ann Althouse, said that Giuliani stressed his differences on the issue with McCain. "His view is that we should figure out exactly where the line is and go right up to it," Althouse wrote, describing Giuliani's Wednesday comments. "He specified that was more than McCain was willing to do."
The LAT reporter -- Peter Wallsten -- called me to check my story. It's interesting to see this interaction between the candidates and the bloggers and then between the bloggers and mainstream reporters. But I wonder if the candidates will continue to want to play this way. Here I am collecting quotations and presenting them my way, able to insert opinion and ridicule and digressive material at will and then becoming a source that injects bloggerly material into the traditional news media.

The candidate is giving up some control and creating risks. On the upside, he is getting some publicity, perhaps looking savvy, and creating some good will. Maybe we'll think twice before criticizing him, either because the feeling of personal contact mellows our attitude or because we fret about getting excluded from the next phone call.

I wonder if it's only a coincidence that a blogger conference call with John McCain that was planned for today got canceled. Seeing how bloggers homed in on the torture discussion, he may not be up for it. From the L.A. Times article:
McCain aides acknowledged that there is a difference between the senator and his rivals for the nomination, particularly on the question of torture.

"There are enhanced techniques that I don't think bother him, but water-boarding certainly does," said McCain's longtime adviser, Mark Salter.

Salter said he watched Tuesday night as the audience remained silent throughout McCain's "full and sophisticated, nuanced" answer. But he noted that the audience applauded after McCain said that most military leaders oppose torture.

"If you polled it, the Rudy-Romney position would be more popular with Republican primary voters," Salter said. "But I think McCain can hold that position and get that respect. I don't think anybody thinks he would be weak in the war on terror. We don't have that problem."
"Nuance." There's an evocative word! I got mightily sick of hearing it used to patch over Kerry's exasperating waffling in 2004. Salter's wrong in saying that McCain's statement at the debate was "full and sophisticated, nuanced." It may have suggested that McCain has a sophisticated, nuanced view of the problem, but, being wholly abstract, it wasn't "full."

Does McCain really know what he wants to say when pushed on the details? If not, the way the bloggers bore in on the torture question with Giuliani may have made McCain's handlers cautious about putting the candidate in this strange new environment. Or maybe he really does have "a sudden conflict with official business." I understand the caution, but I thought McCain really was good on the blogger conference call we did on April 27th.

So, we shall see how eagerly the campaigns continue with this blogger conference call approach. I rather like it, because I like to observe and write about the process. If things go awry, that's just more to observe and write about. The campaign must be careful, but being too careful won't work, and the bloggers will write about you whether you talk to them or not.

And we shall also see how the candidates deal with the torture issue. Are we going to get down to the specific techniques and try to draw that line Giuliani was talking about? As I wrote yesterday, he said some of the techniques are "too gory even to discuss," so perhaps we won't. Are we to be satisfied with the vague sense that Giuliani would go farther than McCain or that McCain has more feeling about the individual subjected to the technique (because of his personal experience), while Giuliani has more feeling about protecting American citizens from harm (because of his personal experience)?

CLARIFICATION: That last question -- "Are we to be satisfied..." -- doesn't mean that the "vague sense" might be a good enough reason to prefer Giuliani over McCain. It is intended only to ask whether we will be satisfied with that level of specificity about the difference between the two candidates as we decide whether to support either of them.

"Internal decapitation."

[Shannon Malloy's] skull separated from her spine, although her skin, spinal cord and other internal organs remained intact....

[A] will to survive kept Malloy, 30, alive long enough for surgeons to insert screws in her head and neck and attach a halo to minimize movement - no easy task.

"My skull slipped off my neck about five times," Malloy said. "Every time they tried to screw this to my head, I would slip."

I'm glad that the first time I'm hearing about internal decapitation, there's a happy ending, but having morbidly contemplated the question whether and for how long a guillotined head retains consciousness, I can't help thinking about what the experience of having -- being -- a detached/attached head was like. My skull slipped off my neck about five times. Yikes.

And don't tell me you haven't thought about the guillotine question.

May 16, 2007

I cursed my fate because I had no shoes, and then I met a man who had no feet.

Who the hell said that? I can't even figure it out with Google. Anonymous, apparently. One used to hear that old saying all the time. It was a big cliché, but I don't think people know it anymore. Just when I want to riff on it.

So... well... I just want to say I cursed Glenn Greenwald's writing because I was just reading his writing, and then I ran across him on video.

IN THE COMMENTS: People seem to figure out that the saying comes from Arabian folklore. And mcg quotes the Stephen Wright version:
"I cried because I had no shoes, 'till I met a man who had no feet. So I said, 'You got any shoes you're not using'?"

AND: From the new Bloggingheads with Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus:
BOB: Glenn Greenwald is on our site right now. Did you know that?

MICKEY: Oh, God, no. Really?

BOB: Hey, Mickey. It sounds like you want to challenge him to a duel.

MICKEY: I don't want to challenge anybody to a duel. You just... you'll let anybody in, won't you?

AND: Sorry I accidentally saved this as a draft after the update. I think Blogger just moved the buttons around today, and I didn't notice!

"American Idol" -- results -- America, don't take my Blake away!

Have you given Blake a fair shake? He needs to develop his arrangements and incorporate his original elements. Can you really compare him to hit-the-ground-running Melinda and Jordin? But, no, I don't think he's going. Do you? Did you see him in this Leno clip? Look, he'd never even see the show -- he says.

UPDATE: They start with Jordin. She's made it! Uh-oh! What now? Ryan asks Melinda to step forward. "America has decided... that this is the end of the road for you tonight." Ah, horrible! Blake makes it. That's what I wanted. But, no! Melinda must go. Nooo! That's not right!

MORE: Wow. I had a feeling this was going to happen. I think Simon knew it. He looked so gloomy through the whole show. Everyone knew she was the best. Ryan invites the judges to comment. Randy: You were the best. Paula: You've already made it. Simon: You are one heck of a singer. As Melinda sings her last song, Jordin looks oh so happy. Next week, I think we're going to see the winner is Blake.

John Lennon Day.

ADDED (THOUGH IT SHOULD BE UNNECESSARY): This post is about... well, first, Phil Spector. He's on trial for murder, you know! And second, the absurd notion that there should be a national holiday for every hero. Come on! I love John Lennon, but he shouldn't have his own holiday. Martin Luther King, Jr.... that was special. Basically, there's no Duke Ellington Day, no Louis Armstrong Day, no Bessie Smith Day, no Buddy Holly Day, no Elvis Day. Get it? And John Lennon wasn't even an American! There's only one "Day" for a nonAmerican in America. 2, if you count Christmas. The category is closed.

Some red car things.

1. Think about the Bel Air. This is a 1955, which deserves a nomination and maybe even the prize for most iconic car design:

1955 Bel Air

What makes that image so perfect? Is it a picture of an airplane? See how it matches the hood ornament, pictured here (from the same car)?

2. The inside of a 1959 Triumph:

1959 Triumph

I'm completely in love with this, even though it's really easy to picture yourself dying impaled on that steering wheel... or maybe because....

3. I know Chrysler's having a hard time these days. I mean, it's being taken over by the hound of hell! So let's show some love for the 1962 Series 300:

Chrysler Series 300 1962

Chrysler Series 300 1962

You know, maybe you feel like designing the rear window all weird and pointy. Back then, you could just do it. Some people might say it doesn't make sense. Form should follow function. That's just doing something odd for the sake of doing it. But looking back, it's so poignant. The hound of hell was far in the future. These were the crazy days of youth when things didn't need to make sense.

4. Okay, you take the 1932 Ford:

A red Ford and a blue Chevy

I want that Sting Ray. But we'll leave the blue for another day. Today's car post was brought to you by the color red.

UPDATE: The second picture under #3 is not the Chrysler. Sorry for the mistake. Two different commenters -- at the Flickr site -- have identified it as a Dodge Charger, probably 1968.

In which I'm cured of a serious case of NPR-inspired unease.

Yesterday, I called the testimony of James Comey before the Senate Judiciary Committee "disturbing." Although I didn't link to it, I was influenced by this NPR report that I'd heard in my car. And I really must confess that I struggle on a daily basis with the powerful emotional tendrils that spiral out of NPR and twine around my brain cells!

So let's seek out some counterbalance today. Here's John Hinderaker's defense of the Bush administration. You simply must read the whole thing, because Hinderaker explains an elaborate time line and puts Comey's testimony in context in a way that is not susceptible to excerpting. Here's the conclusion:
[I]f you put the whole sequence together, it may well be that no actor in this admittedly lurid drama did anything wrong. Ashcroft and Comey apparently decided to go along with the conclusions of the Office of Legal Counsel and insist on changes in the program. Nothing wrong with that. Gonzales and Card may well not have known of Ashcroft's changed opinion, arrived at on the same day he went to the hospital--this is a key fact we don't know--and thought that Comey was trying to reverse his boss's judgment. So they went to see Ashcroft personally. Nothing wrong with that, as far as we know. Ashcroft set them straight; nothing wrong with that. (It's worth noting that Comey described Ashcroft's performance as a demonstration of physical and moral strength that was unprecedented in his experience.) President Bush then got into the act, learned the facts, and told Comey to do whatever he thought was right as acting Attorney General. Nothing wrong with that; on the contrary. The NSA program was revised to satisfy DOJ's concerns, and continued in effect, protecting Americans from terrorist attack, to the present time. Nothing wrong with that, to say the least.
I'm declaring myself cured of that NPR-inspired unease about all this. If you think Hinderaker is wrong in his interpretation, please explain.

"What Shakespeare is to the high school English student, the society's accepted constitutional traditions are to the prudent jurist."

Said Antonin Scalia (in Oregon last month, as recounted in this nicely written article):
"I call this the Shakespeare principle, because it represents, within the realm of law, a proper sense of priorities that I learned in high school within the realm of literature," he said in his keynote. "I had a tough old English teacher who made an enormous impression upon my life by explaining the Shakespeare principle to one of my classmates ... who in our classroom discussion of Hamlet made the mistake of volunteering some sophomoric, ill-founded criticism of the play. This teacher looked at him for a moment and then uttered the line that has ever since seemed to me a pretty good guide in many areas of life and work: 'Mister,' he said, 'when you read Shakespeare, Shakespeare's not on trial. You are.'"

When the justice got rolling, he not only named the poor student, but broke into a New York accent when quoting his former teacher. It brought the house down.

"What Shakespeare is to the high school English student," Scalia said, "the society's accepted constitutional traditions are to the prudent jurist.

"He does not judge them, but is judged by them. The very test of the validity of his analytic formulas—his rules—is whether, when applied to traditional situations, they yield the results that American society has traditionally accepted."

"Who's most prepared to lead in this challenge, this transient, central challenge that we face called radical Islamic extremism?"

"Transient, central challenge"? Is that what McCain is saying? That's in the NYT transcript of last night's debate. It's at 5:07 in this video clip. What did he mean to say? Transcendental?

(And is McCain garbling his speech in a way that -- especially in view of his age -- should worry us?)

The Rudy Giuliani conference call with the bloggers.

Giuliani started off with a very brief statement about the debate: Fox News handled it well by giving the candidates more time to answer. (I note the implication that maybe his problems in the previous debate were the fault of the format. Do the format right, and he'll excel.) He says that the Democrats ought to give Fox a chance.

The first question is from Jennifer Rubin of ABC News. What does he think of the new vote in the Senate in which all the Democrats are now for cutting off money for troops? Giuliani says it's interesting, since they've taken different positions in the past. "They don't get it," he says. They don't understand "the nature of the Islamist threat." They'll never even say "Islamist terrorism threat" when they talk about terrorism: "They can't get the words out."

Blake Dvorak of Real Clear Politics asks why he's "leveling off" or falling in the polls. Giuliani immediately says "I don't look at polls." Then he adds that he did notice that the Wall Street Journal had him at 38%, only one point below where he was before. He wheel spins a moment saying he's "getting his message out," then moves on to a better spin: the states. (I note: there's way too much talk about overall percentages when the presidency is won on a state-by-state level.) He says he's got a large lead in many -- or he might have said "most" -- states, and he's the only candidate who is competitive in all states.

Next is Philip Klein of the American Spectator who asks about Palestinian violence. Giuliani gives a solid answer, but I did not take notes at this point.

Jim Garrity (sp?) of National Review asks whether Ron Paul should be included in the Republican debates. Giuliani says that what Paul said about 9/11 last night is something he'd have been surprised to hear anyone say even in the Democratic debate. Giuliani seemed to know that some people are talking about whether he characterized Paul's comment fairly last night when he lit into him, because he said he listened to it again and that there was "tremendous confusion in what [Paul] was saying." Paul said that because of our attacks on Saddam, al Qaeda wanted to kill us. That didn't make sense. Giuliani emphasized that he has been studying Islam and Islamic terrorism since the 1970s when he was in the Ford administration, and he knows that the reason they hate us is because of our freedom, notably our freedom of religion and the freedom for women.

Matt Lewis of asks him about what he said about torture in the debate: You seemed to say that in the worse case scenario, we should do whatever is necessary. Giuliani stressed the importance of seeing his comments within the hypothetical posed at the debate: we've captured someone who has knowledge of an impending terrorist attack that would kill thousands of Americans. He said that the question was about the definition of torture as contrasted with "enhanced techniques" or "aggressive techniques." His view is that we should figure out exactly where the line is and go right up to it. He specified that was more than McCain was willing to do.

Next was Skip Murphy of GraniteGrok, who invited Giuliani to talk about the effect of Islamic values on American culture, for example, the way Muslim cab drivers want to be able to refuse service to passengers who are carrying alcohol. Giuliani declined the invitation and used this segment to talk about how bad it is that in Palestine they're using a Mickey Mouse character to try to teach kids to kill and how the documentary "Obsession" shows what is being taught to young people.

Time for the last question -- which meant no question for me -- and it was from Bill Bradley of New West Notes. He went back to the question of defining the distinction between torture and "enhanced techniques." Giuliani repeated that it's important for the government to look at the specific techniques -- some of which are "too gory even to discuss" in the public debate -- and to categorize them. If it's torture, don't do it. He said he would not stress that the reason we avoid torture is to inspire our enemies to avoid torture. (I note: McCain states that reason.) We would avoid torture to be true to our principles and because it's the right thing to do.

That's it. I thought he was clear and substantive. He was not evasive except in not responding to Murphy's question. Good job.

ADDED: Watching the debate, I see the McCain also expressed the principled position on torture:
When I was in Vietnam, one of the things that sustained us, as we went -- underwent torture ourselves, is the knowledge that if we had our positions reversed and we were the captors, we would not impose that kind of treatment on them.

It's not about the terrorists, it's about us. It's about what kind of country we are.

I have heard him take the pragmatic position, and part of his statement last night was pragmatic. He invoked three key pragmatic arguments:
1. "[W]e could never gain as much we would gain from that torture as we lose in world opinion." [That is: It hurts our reputation.]

2. "The more physical pain you inflict on someone, the more they're going to tell you what they think you want to know." [That is: It's not effective.]

3. "If we do it, what happens to our military people when they're captured?" [That is: It encourages the enemy to torture our people.]
I remembered these pragmatic arguments, but I can see McCain made the principled argument too. I want to see the principled argument, but I don't object to combining it with pragmatic arguments. Nevertheless, in this case, the pragmatic arguments -- especially #3 -- are not that believable.

MORE: This was billed as a blogger conference call, but it was heavily weighted with mainstream media. I mean: ABC News?? If you've got some mainstream reporters doing some of their writing in the blog format at an MSM site, those aren't really bloggers in the meaningful sense of the word. Looking back, I'm annoyed that I got lost in the queue behind so many MSM reporters. If the candidate really wants to open himself to the bloggers, he should do conference calls that do not include mainstream reporters.

AND: You're misreading me if you think I'm saying the MSM bloggers were given priority. It was a matter of punching in a number to indicate you want to ask a question, and I didn't try to get in quickly.

Let's welcome Amazon to the digital music sales business.

No copy protection? Great. Let's have a response from iTunes and -- my favorite --

ADDED: And, yes, I know iTunes has a deal to avoid copy protection on EMI's recordings. That's in the linked article. I'm just glad to see this competition.

Don't know much about history...

... but know more than before.

Hey, how did that happen if No Child Left Behind was supposedly diverting teaching resources away from history and into reading and math (the subjects on the tests required by the program)?

Well, maybe reading is... you know... fundamental.

I mean, check out this question from the history test:
[A] question on the fourth-grade version of the test, which quoted three sentences from the 1858 speech in which Abraham Lincoln said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

The test asked students, “What did Abraham Lincoln mean in this speech?” and listed four possible answers.

a) The South should be allowed to separate from the United States.

b) The government should support slavery in the South.

c) Sometime in the future slavery would disappear from the United States.

d) Americans would not be willing to fight a war over slavery.
I'd say reading comprehension goes a long way on a history test that asks you to interpret a text, and, more than that, the ability to read and interpret texts gets you much farther along in the process of learning history than knowing some historical facts.

And why does reading even need to be a separate subject from history in school? Give them history texts and teach reading from them. Science books too. Leave the storybooks for pleasure reading outside of school. They will be easier reading, and with well-developed reading skills, kids should feel pleasure curling up with a novel at home. But even if they don't, why should any kind of a premium be placed on an interest in reading novels? It's not tied to economic success in life and needn't be inculcated any more than an interest in watching movies or listening to popular music. Leave kids alone to find out out what recreational activities enrich and satisfy them. Some may want to dance or play music or paint. Just because teachers tend to be the kind of people who love novels does not mean that this choice ought to be imposed on young people via compulsory education. Teach them about history, science, law, logic -- something academic and substantive -- and leave the fictional material for after hours.

And quit bitching about No Child Left Behind.

ADDED: Message to the self-appointed reading experts who are outraged at what I've written: Ironically, you are not reading very well. I'm not saying reading shouldn't be taught. I'm saying that the reading materials used in teaching reading should be nonfiction, so that students are absorbing information and practicing critical thinking while they read. I consider this to be efficient and appropriate for the school setting. Students would have access to fiction to read on their own for fun (and maybe, because it would be a change of pace, they'd have more of a tendency to experience it as fun).

I'm drawing on my own background as a law professor. In law school, we spend much of the time teaching students to read cases. So to me, the combination of learning reading skills and learning substantive material is very familiar. I'm working with adult students, obviously, but they are still learning how to read. If I were to try to adapt this to young readers, I would find elementary, well-written books that present scientific and historical information.

If you don't like this idea, but can do nothing more than call it stupid, then I can't respect your opinion. My working theory is that you are either stupid, lacking in creativity (despite your affinity for fiction), or have some conflicting interest in the publishing or education industry.

By the way, I was taught to read through the ridiculous fictional series known as Dick and Jane.

AND: I have a big new post here addressing some of the criticisms of this post (which, I think, really misunderstand my point).

"The connections burst ... and the sewage thus leaked from the bathroom down through the building and into light fixtures and through the ceilings."

How much American money has been squandered building things like this in Iraq?
A series of investigations, led by Stuart Bowen, the special inspector-general for Iraq Reconstruction, has found the reconstruction effort are riddled with waste, fraud, corruption, and shoddy construction. Bowen told NPR's All Things Considered about one particularly bad construction site he investigated — a $75 million dollar police training academy, built by Parsons [Corporation, a California company that had $1 billion in construction contracts].

"Essentially when they put in the plumbing, they had no fittings, so they just joined plumbing pipes, cemented them together," he said. "The connections burst once they started to be used and the sewage thus leaked from the bathroom down through the building and into light fixtures and through the ceilings."
Plumbing without fittings in a $75 million building that is flowed with sewage, into the light fixtures and through the ceilings.

The Giuliani conference call with the bloggers.

Rudy Giuliani is doing a conference call today with some of us bloggers. What should I ask him? I have an idea, but maybe you can push me toward a better one.

UPDATE: Well, he took 7 questions and I was somewhere in the queue if he'd gone on, but he didn't. He didn't hang out with us as long as McCain did, and he didn't do the McCain thing of saying "two more questions" when told there would be "one more question." So, too bad, but I won't hold it against him. I'll write up my notes in a new post, which will be up very soon.

Stone v. Posner on constitutional rights and the War on Terror.

Simon has the detailed play-by-play of the debate between Professor Geoff Stone and Judge Richard Posner that took place at the 7th Circuit conference last week. You know, the one I depicted in scribbled words and pictures. I saw his sheaf of notes and thought it rather strange at the time, but with a plan -- achieved! -- to produce the definitive description of the event, it made perfect sense. Little did Stone and Posner know that Simon was claiming dominion over things. If there are distortions in there, who will know?
Stone “consider[s] himself a ‘civil libertarian,’” and “usually argue[s] that restrictions of civil liberties should be a last resort, considered only after we are satisfied that the government that the government has taken all other reasonable steps to keep us safe.” Posner, on the other hand, “do[es] not think that ‘restrictions of liberties should be a ‘last resort.’ [He] prefer[s] to see all proposed counterterrorist measures arrayed[] and compared one with the other without a thumb on the scale”; he “describes [him]self as a ‘pragmatist’ … [and] usually argues that restrictions of civil liberties are warranted whenever the benefit to be derived from those restrictions in terms of increased security ‘outweigh’ the cost to society of limiting the rights.”

(Footnotes omitted.)

It's not the Kennedy Court it's the Roberts v. Stevens Court.

Jan Crawford Greenburg says people are wrong to focus on Justice Kennedy, despite his ability to tip the Court to one side or the other in tough cases. Greenburg portrays Stevens and Roberts in an epic struggle, and she says Roberts will win, and he will win because of Kennedy isn't the type to hold to the middle. He will be absorbed into the conservative group.

...Kennedy is not O’Connor.... He is perfectly willing to vote with conservatives nine times in a row—then vote with them a tenth—if that’s how he sees the case. He wants to be consistent. And when he decides on his position, he’s pretty comfortable there. Unlike O’Connor, he isn’t cautious. He doesn’t try to hold back the majority with a split-the-difference approach.

Kennedy also happens to be more comfortable with the conservative position than O’Connor ever was. In the battle for Kennedy, liberals are going to lose a lot more than they win...

On issues of race, Kennedy is never a swing vote. That’s as area—along with free speech--in which he’s been entirely consistent over the years. He opposes racial considerations and racial preferences much more so than O’Connor ever did....

Roberts realizes he’s presiding over a Court with just four judicial conservatives. But he surely must want to preside over a Court that functions as a Court—not one with a justice whose vote always is up for grabs and whose direction is set by that vote. That’s the position William Rehnquist found himself in with O’Connor. Lawyers wrote briefs and argued cases targeted at getting her vote. Roberts would say that’s bad for the law and bad for the Court—and I’d bet the other justices, including Kennedy, would agree.

Roberts is trying to shift the debate inside the Court. His position is that the Court--instead battling for one justice’s vote and swinging for the fences in the big cases--should take a more restrained and narrow approach.

If he could persuade the Court to write more narrowly, it would minimize Kennedy’s role. That would make the Court’s jurisprudence more coherent and clear, with better direction and guidance for lower courts and litigants.
If the Court ends up writing overly narrow decisions to rope in Kennedy, how is that minimizing his role? Or does Greenburg mean only that we won't notice his role the way we would if he provided a fifth vote with a concurring opinion that left the decision meaning very little, the way O'Connor so often did? And what's to prevent the Stevens side of the Court from using the same strategy and writing their side narrowly to win Kennedy's vote? Moreover how does the case law become "more coherent and clear, with better direction and guidance for lower courts and litigants"? If you resist stating the law in the form of rules of general applicability, how do you know how it applies in the next case? How would the Roberts v. Stevens struggle really play out? I'm picturing Roberts and Stevens competing over how narrowly they can frame the decision for the outcome they want and Kennedy coyly withholding his choice until he finds the precise narrow narrowness that piques his fancy. This picture strikes me as too absurd to believe. If I did believe it, though, it would give me absolutely no confidence that things would become coherent and clear.

May 15, 2007

The Republican debate.

Unfortunately, I went out tonight and screwed up the TiV0ing. I'll read the transcript tomorrow. But, for now, if you've got anything to say, go ahead.

ADDED: I'm listening to commentary on CNN, and they all seem to think that Giuliani won. "He had a Ronald Reagan" moment, they're saying (after something Ron Paul said about Iraq).

MORE: I wonder how many people watched this debate. I only noticed that there was a debate when I was reading the newspaper the day of the event. I immediately went to set the TiVo, but it was not listed as a program. I had to go look at the newspaper and see what channel and time it was on. I went back to the TiVo and set it for what I thought was right, that is, setting it for the Fox News show the debate preempted. But I made the time zone mistake, and only got the second hour of the show.

I started to watch the second hour, but I felt like I'd missed the main action and quit after a few minutes. In fact, I got to see the part where Giuliani jumped in after Ron Paul suggested that we'd provoked the 9/11 attacks. Big deal! Paul is an unimportant character, and the occasion for outrage was obvious. So Giuliani had the fire to take advantage of the situation. It didn't matter to me, because I don't care about Paul. In fact, one of the reasons I turned off the TV was that I had no patience for watching all the minor candidates (even knowing I can fast-forward through them).

I also saw the part where they talked about torture, and I do think this was significant. McCain took a clear stand against torture and made a solid and nicely understated reference to the torture he himself endured in Vietnam. After that, Giuliani aggressively embraced "enhanced interrogation techniques," a term used by Brit Hume in posing the question to him, and it seemed like a stark contrast to McCain, even though Giuliani's answer included a quick line rejecting torture. Romney followed on and seemed to copy Giuliani.

So, though I only saw a little, it seems I saw what the news reports are saying was the liveliest part of the debate. Why, then, did I turn it off? It was too late at night for politics for me. I was tired and annoyed at my TiVo mistake and irritated at having to see candidates who have no chance of winning. But also, I think some of what people are crediting as liveliness was created by applause and cheering from the audience, and I intensely disliked this interrupting crowd noise. I though Fox News should have required the audience to keep quiet, the way MSNBC did with the two previous debates.

I wonder if this audience response is the reason Rudy Giuliani gave a better performance: He does well playing to a crowd and gets energy from people. This may seem cheap or unfair in a debate, but it's probably a quality you want your candidate to have as he goes out on the campaign trail.

"Thank you, Randy Johnson," says Melinda Doolittle on "American Idol" tonight.

Give me a break! Melinda doesn't know Randy's name? [ADDED: I'm told she was making a joke, razzing the mayor who'd just misread Randy's name.] Well, here we are at the final three, ready to narrow it down to two for the final. Each judge is giving each of the three one song to sing. Jordin sang some jazzy thing chosen by Simon that I didn't recognize. Then, Blake sang the great, great song "Roxanne," chose by Paula, and the only thing you can say against him is that he didn't do as well as Sting. But, so what? Now, Melinda is doing that Randy-chosen song, some Whitney Houston thing, and they act like it's the best in the first round.

Round 2, chosen by the producers. Jordin does "She Works Hard for the Money," chose. Nice. Blake, "This Love." Okay. It was Blakey. Melinda gets the right song. It's a Tina Tuner song: "Nutbush City Limits." Excellent.

Round 3 has the singers chosing their own songs. Jordin choses "I Who Have Nothing." Cheesy. She reaches her outstretched hand at us. This is a Tom Jones song. Too hammy for my taste. "It's an incredibly old fashioned song," says Simon, correctly. Blake does some Sir Mix-a-Lot song. He shows his style and I think they like it. Melinda picks "I'm a Woman," the Maria Muldaur song. She does a great job, with all kinds of detail to it, and I think it's clear that she needs to make it through to next week.

So, who should go, Blake or Jordin?

ADDED: From Television Without Pity:
Back in Seattle, Blake and Sir Mix-A-Lot put it down and performed the mother of all shout-outs to Blake's magical ass, before Blake returns to L.A. to perform the only Robin Thicke song I'll ever enjoy, "When I Get You Alone."
I stand corrected... and admit my attention was flagging last night. I'm bored by the final set of contestants. I kept waiting for Blake to really bloom. Maybe he didn't have the time to work out original arrangements that included his beat boxing. Too bad. He could have been amusing. Instead, he seems weak, bookended by two powerhouse females -- who sing in a style that just doesn't interest me. I don't see how he can possibly win, but I won't be surprised if he gets through to the final.

"Justice Ginsburg and Willie Wonka..."

"... separated at birth?"

The car that attracts the most female attention...

1962 Jaguar

... is a 1962 Jaguar.

1962 Jaguar

Perfect! Beautiful!

1962 Jaguar

To see a slide show of all my pictures from Saturday's car show on State Street in Madison, click here.

"We are born into a war zone where the forces of God do battle with the forces of evil. Sometimes we get trapped, pinned down in the crossfire."

Jerry Falwell is dead. I was never a Falwell fan. Let me reread what I've written about him over the years on this blog. Four posts.

1. November 22, 2004: "Those religion-oriented law schools." I noted Jerry Falwell's new law school and quoted him saying: "If our graduates wind up in the government, they'll be social and political conservatives. If they wind up as judges, they'll be presiding under the Bible." I was critical of his idea for a law school and said: "What's needed are law schools that expose law students to the full range of professional debate. It doesn't make much sense to counter one law school with another law school: the poor student has to go one place or another!"

2. November 28, 2004: "Jerry Falwell's curtain imagery." Falwell had just appeared on "Meet the Press," and Tim Russert had asked him about what he said 2 days after 9/11: " "I fear... that [September 11th] is only the beginning. ...If, in fact, God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve ... I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle ... all of them who have tried to secularize America -- I point the finger in their face and say'`you helped this happen.'" Part of Falwell's answer was, "This morning in the shower I prayed for all 15 of our family by name, by need, because I want the curtain of God's provision upon them and protection along the highways and decision-making, God's wisdom." I wrote: "Falwell praying in the shower? I could have gone my whole life without having that picture in my head. But now that he's said it, I have some idea where he gets his imagery. 'God continues to lift the curtain ...' Was that the shower curtain? God as Norman Bates?"

3. May 5, 2005: "Hitchens on the Christian right." I quote Christopher Hitchens quoting Barry Goldwater saying he wants to "kick Jerry Falwell in the ass."

4. November 26, 2006: "'Can Romney endure the media exposure that awaits him? What if his great-great grandfather was a bigamist? And what about that underwear?'" I criticize some people for spreading prejudice against Mormons and quote a news article notes Jerry Falwell had said -- to his credit -- that Mitt Romney's religion was no barrier to the Presidency.

I guess I haven't been too hard on Jerry Falwell in the time this blog has been around. He wasn't that active in the last 3 years, and, as the linked NYT obituary says, "He surprised some critics by becoming more tolerant on gay issues in later years. "
But at his core, he remained through his career precisely what he was at the beginning — a preacher and moralist, a believer in the Bible’s literal truth, with firm beliefs on religious, and social issues rooted in his reading of Scripture that never really changed.

So there was no distinction at all between his view of the political and the spiritual when he wrote in his autobiography: “We are born into a war zone where the forces of God do battle with the forces of evil. Sometimes we get trapped, pinned down in the crossfire. And in the heat of that noisy distracting battle, two voices call out for us to follow. Satan wants to lead us into death. God wants to lead us into life eternal.”

"I thought I had just witnessed an effort to take advantage of a very sick man, who did not have the powers of the attorney general...."

Disturbing testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee from James B. Comey:
Although Mr. Comey declined to say specifically what the business was that sent [Alberto] Gonzales to the bedside of [John] Ashcroft in George Washington Hospital, where he lay critically ill with pancreatitis, it was clear that the subject was the National Security Agency’s secret domestic surveillance program. The signature of Mr. Ashcroft or his surrogate was needed by the next day, March 11, in order to renew the program, which was still secret at that time....

“I was concerned that, given how ill I knew the attorney general was, that there might be an effort to ask him to overrule me when he was in no condition to do that,” Mr. Comey replied....

Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card entered the room, with Mr. Gonzales carrying an envelope. “And then Mr. Gonzales began to discuss why they were there, to seek his approval for a matter,” Mr. Comey related.

“And Attorney General Ashcroft then stunned me,” Mr. Comey went on: He raised his head from the pillow, reiterated his objections to the program, then lay back down, pointing to Mr. Comey as the attorney general during his illness.

I have a theory about the new Sundance Theater here in Madison, Wisconsin.

I have a theory about the Sundance Theater

This is how I look while explaining a theory... specifically, how I look at the Sundance Theater bistro while explaining my theory -- which is mine! -- about the whole Sundance Theater enterprise.

I mean, check out this place:

The bistro at the Sundance Theater

This is upstairs, in case you want to get something to eat and drink before the show. Relax and mellow out. You won't have to worry about going down in time to get the seat you want, because you've got a ticket with the seat number on it, a seat you selected on a touch screen computer down at the box office. And don't worry if you don't have a dining companion to amuse with your theories. Go to the restaurant alone. There's WiFi. And think about it: you should go to that café downstairs all the time and hang out, use the WiFi, drink some coffee, and just see if you get in the mood to drift over into one of those arthouse-type cinema concoctions they're always showing.

Mmmm... but isn't this kind of... mmmm... elitist? I thought Robert Redford selected Madison for its lefty politics. Who's going to this place, anyway? How much money did you drop there? Who are these people?

Ooohhh.... look... trees:

The bistro at the Sundance Theater

This place is so... green!

See my theory?

What a fabulous commercial niche for the wily old Redford! What a perfect merger of left-and-right-winginess as aesthetic pleasure and refuge from the riff-raff are served up in perfect style. From the right, the aesthetes and sybarites will show up and bring their money because it's beautifully designed to dispense film art, and the lefties can set aside their worries about elitism and bring their money because it's Redford and it's green and it's lefty.

Ah. Enough theorizing. Let's say goodbye to the waitress and go downstairs to see the movie "Waitress." But first, let's pause in the stairwell to rake the Zen garden:

The Zen garden under the staircase at the Sundance Theater

And now, to our supremely comfortable reserved seats. There will be no commercials, no piped-in music, just a perfectly charming and subtle animation occupying the screen to maintain the purity of our aesthetic experience:

On the screen at the Sundance Theater

Is the internet "the end of the artist as a sensitive, bohemian soul"?

Here's a big, interesting NYT Magazine article about how musicians these days use blogs to get attention and success. You can go read all that, which focuses on a guy named Jonathan Coulton:
His fans need him; he needs them. Which is why, every day, Coulton wakes up, gets coffee, cracks open his PowerBook and hunkers down for up to six hours of nonstop and frequently exhausting communion with his virtual crowd.
Key words: "up to." Come on, here's his blog. He doesn't even post every day, and the posts I've read are just little updates on what he's been doing. There's also email:
Now fans think nothing of sending an e-mail message to their favorite singer — and they actually expect a personal reply. This is not merely an illusion of intimacy. Performing artists these days, particularly new or struggling musicians, are increasingly eager, even desperate, to master the new social rules of Internet fame. They know many young fans aren’t hearing about bands from MTV or magazines anymore; fame can come instead through viral word-of-mouth, when a friend forwards a Web-site address, swaps an MP3, e-mails a link to a fan blog or posts a cellphone concert video on YouTube.
Is this a hardship, or are you thinking if only I had these tools back when I had a band?
Across the country, the CD business is in a spectacular free fall; sales are down 20 percent this year alone. People are increasingly getting their music online (whether or not they’re paying for it), and it seems likely that the artists who forge direct access to their fans have the best chance of figuring out what the new economics of the music business will be.
What a fabulous opportunity!
Remarkably, Coulton offers most of his music free on his site; when fans buy his songs, it is because they want to give him money. The Canadian folk-pop singer Jane Siberry has an even more clever system: she has a “pay what you can” policy with her downloadable songs, so fans can download them free — but her site also shows the average price her customers have paid for each track. This subtly creates a community standard, a generalized awareness of how much people think each track is really worth. The result? The average price is as much as $1.30 a track, more than her fans would pay at iTunes.

Aw, that's cool. (Note that bloggers who give their writing away and may spend "up to" 6 hours a day writing have PayPal buttons that allow for the subtle creation of community and the heightening of generalized awareness.)
“If some kid is going to take 10 minutes out of his day to figure out what he wants to say in an e-mail, and then write it and send it, for me to not take the 5 minutes to say, dude, thanks so much — for me to ignore that?” [said Tad Kubler of the rock band the Hold Steady.] “I can’t.”
You know, it actually takes much less than 5 minutes to answer email like that, especially if you only write "Dude, thanks so much, Tad." Realistically, if you got 25 messages a day from fans, you could turn them around in half an hour, and you'd be crazy not to within this web-based economic model.
Yet Kubler sometimes has second thoughts about the intimacy. Part of the allure of rock, when he was a kid, was the shadowy glamour that surrounded his favorite stars. He’d parse their lyrics to try to figure out what they were like in person. Now he wonders: Are today’s online artists ruining their own aura by blogging? Can you still idolize someone when you know what they had for breakfast this morning? “It takes a little bit of the mystery out of rock ’n’ roll,” he said.
But those unreachable idols always released some personal details in their PR. They chose what to tell, and I'm sure some of it was just made up to give us whatever intimacy they wanted.

The same is true for blogging. It's an illusion of intimacy. There are only tantalizing little impressions. You may think, for example, that you have a view into my life, but I choose what you get to see and how much of it.

Look at this post of mine from Mother's Day and tell me what you know about my relationship with my mother. A commenter wrote: "You can tell by the pictures with your mother you were a good daughter." Another wrote: "Your Mom must have been a wonderful person." Another: "It's nice to know that even when your parents aren't with you physically, that they are still with you in every other way. I can just imagine that your mother is beaming with pride right now." I let those comments stand, signifying what they do, and I don't say whether the impressions are accurate. But apparently, you feel as though you've been embraced by some maternal warmth.

It's an illusion of intimacy
. Part of the illusion is the appearance of revelation and frankness I'm generating right now.
So Kubler has cultivated a skill that is unique to the age of Internet fandom, and perhaps increasingly necessary to it, as well: a nuanced ability to seem authentic and confessional without spilling over into a Britney Spears level of information overload. He doesn’t post about his home life, doesn’t mention anything about his daughter or girlfriend — and he certainly doesn’t describe any of the ill-fated come-ons he deflects from addled female fans who don’t realize he’s in a long-term relationship.
Yes, exactly. This is what it takes to blog. Think about how little you know about my private life. And yet I'm constantly told that my blog is so personal. People who worry about blogging don't understand this distinction.

The author of the article -- Clive Thompson -- worries that the internet will "change the type of person who becomes a musician or writer":
It’s possible to see these online trends as Darwinian pressures that will inevitably produce a new breed — call it an Artist 2.0 — and mark the end of the artist as a sensitive, bohemian soul who shuns the spotlight....

It is also possible, though, that this is simply a natural transition point and that the next generation of musicians and artists — even the avowedly “sensitive” ones — will find the constant presence of their fans unremarkable.
I don't really see the problem. You control access to yourself even more on line than you do when you venture out into the physical world. I think a shy, introverted artist had more trouble in the past trying to find success when it required interacting with people in the flesh, when they were available and had a moment to give you a chance to make a good impression. It's so much easier for a sensitive artist to allow the world to see what he wants seen by using a website and interacting with people in writing.