August 18, 2007

Deep anorexia.



"Is this the best possible book I can be reading right now, of all the books in the world?"

That's Tyler Cowen's question about reading any given book, which he poses in his new book "Discover Your Inner Economist." (Is that the best book?) He seems to be saying you should toss the book aside if the answer is no. I'm afraid that's a formula for never finishing a book. Isn't there something to be said for maintaining your focus and following through lest you approach reading -- and presumably everything else about life -- with a growing case of attention deficit disorder? Take it from me. I read virtually the same advice written by Doris Lessing in the introduction to "The Golden Notebook," which became the first book I tossed aside following the principle. That was about 30 years ago. Since then, I've started a lot of books, and I would have cast them all aside -- save one or two -- had I not forced myself through some of them. But the vast majority of the books I've started lo these 30 years, I haven't finished, and the crazy thing is that I maintain the belief that I'm still reading a book for many years as the pile of books I believe I'm reading piles up. One thing about reading on line -- especially reading to blog -- is that what you don't finish evanesces. Once the day has passed, you feel utterly absolved of any obligation to go back to anything. The text flows on and you grab what you want and feel no pangs about what goes by unread. The question is what's new? I mean, what was I saying about a growing case of attention deficit disorder?

A Brooklyn walk.

I took a midmorning walk, down under the Brooklyn Bridge...

Brooklyn Bridge

... then along a deserted street that would have scared me at little, except that there were police standing around at regular intervals. The graffiti was creepily cheerful:




Bursting with life:

Found painting

Around the corner, I found a nice café. There weren't many people there. And no WiFi. If there were WiFi, would it be full of people? Maybe it's just too early on a Saturday.


Around another corner, buildings encroached, seemingly spanned by a segment of Manhattan Bridge:

Encroaching buildings

"We can expect more global robot depression, more boom-booming 'til the break of boom..."

"... more getting diseases from monkeys, more foux de fa fa, and more rhymenaecology because HBO renewed Flight of the Conchords."


A new word.

"The perfect nexus of celebrity-spotting, couture gowns and young love -- with just enough wonk thrown in to explain even dour politicos' obsession...

Gearing up for a White House wedding. Haven't had one -- not a real one -- in 35 years. Hillary Clinton's brother doesn't count. If Chelsea had gotten married in the White House -- why do I get the feeling Chelsea will get married in the White House? -- it would count. The last time we had a real one -- the child of a President marrying -- it was Tricia Nixon.
"If Jenna got married in the White House, it would be a tremendous boost to [President Bush's] popularity," says Doug Wead, former special assistant to the first President Bush and author of "All the Presidents' Children." "Nixon received a lot of goodwill because of Tricia's wedding. I've said before that President Bush's best chance to come out of his term well is if they capture Osama bin Laden and one of the twins gets married."
I think capturing bin Laden would beat both twins getting married... in a double wedding... to twins. But we do need our distractions, and public opinion is tweaked down as well as up by all sorts of irrelevant things.

"There's a certain geometry to life... life has a certain math equation to it..."

Actually, it doesn't, and that -- from Ethan Hawke -- is from the most pathetic justification for a failed celebrity marriage that I've ever read.
"It's unfair when one person's career is taking off and the other is really suffering. "What happens -- it's not that they're jealous of each other; it's that the person you share your life with isn't in the mood to support. You want to have a pity party for yourself, but they're off to the Golden Globes and you don't want to go because everyone is going to think you are jealous. "There's a certain geometry to life -- that life has a certain math equation to it and if you're never together, you can't build a home. "Joanne Woodward put her career on the back burner for that marriage (to Paul Newman) to last. And something's got to give."

1. As the first commenter over at the link says, why didn't he put his career on the back burner for Uma? 

2. He had Uma! He should have done everything for her. 

3. Uma could come over there and kick his ass


4. He didn't want to go to the Golden Globes because somehow everyone would infer that he was jealous, but he says so now, which makes it obvious that he was jealous. 



 7. Whining is a dangerous game. Don't do it. Especially about Uma.

6 a.m. skyline.

New York at 6 a.m.

August 17, 2007

"And then he ran into my knife. He ran into my knife ten times!"

Remember that line from the song "Cell Block Tango" in the movie "Chicago"? All the women are singing about killing men, with the refrain "He had it coming." The women were singing from their cell block -- the jury didn't believe them. But here we see that a Madison jury acquitted a man who testified that a woman stabbed herself... in the neck.

"Northwest might eventually own Midwest."

Strange headline. (Unstrange article.)

"Beneath the pretty-boy exterior, there is something fierce lurking inside."

David Brooks on John Edwards. A fierce thing lurking inside -- sounds like an animal! Whatever it is, "[i]t comes out in his resentment toward those born to privilege (which helped sour his relationship with John Kerry)."

"The owner of the Psychic Experiences shop says she had a feeling something bad was about to happen to the signs outside her store."

Or so she said, after someone set fire to them. She's forced to add that she didn't do anything about that feeling, and that she has no insight into who set the fire except that it was probably just some kids. The travails of the psychic! Something bad happens to you, and people use it as an occasion to taunt you. If you're so psychic, why didn't you.... Oh, shut up.

"To be human is to be purely and violently self-interested."

That's the "creepy ideology that seeps into the movie ['The Invasion'] and informs its denouement," according to Manohla Dargis. I wonder exactly what got to her there. I'm guessing the movie felt right wing to her and that wouldn't do. But a good remake of "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers" should have some political theme. The original did. And it was pretty right wing.

MORE: In the comments, Michael points to this WaPo review by Stephen Hunter and says it explains what bothered Dargis. It's a bit of a spoiler, but here it is:
What I like about the film, however, is that as an intellectual tiff, it argues fairly. That is, it doesn't give us an idealized version of "freedom," as off a Norman Rockwell magazine cover in the '40s. No, no, it says: Freedom will be squalid, violent and dangerous. The key moment in the film comes when Carol faces freedom's ultimate challenge, which is defending it. She faces six men who want to take her down and "cure" her. They have totalitarian will and little regard for their own lives. She has a gun. But does she have the will to use it? Very interesting question, not only within the movie but within the world. The movie, at least, has an answer.

Another excellent moment: After making her decision, there's a wonderful scene that finds her in the kitchen as she has a crisis of the spirit: Did she make the right choice? Why was she so sure? Maybe her primal instincts were wrong?

Her ambiguity is the best coda to a movie that really asks the hardest question of all.
This makes me think about the book "The Sociopath Next Door," which I've been reading. The sociopath, the author (Martha Stout) tells us, has no conscience and is able to manipulate and harm normal people precisely because they do continually question what they are doing, whether they are wrong, whether they've lost their mind, etc. To wonder if you made the wrong decision then, is to give proof of your humanity. Stout talks about Barbara Graham -- the woman executed for murder portrayed in the movie "I Want to Live" -- whom she characterizes as a sociopath. Graham's last words were "Good people are always so sure they're right," which Stout says is exactly not true. Good people are the ones who are not sure -- as Graham (Stout thinks) knew when she chose them for the purpose of inflicting torment.

"The Qaeda training camp form had six of Mr. Padilla’s fingerprints."

That's a fact I learn reading paragraph 20, on page 2 of the NYT article about Jose Padilla. Here's paragraph 3:
The government’s chief evidence was a faded application form that prosecutors said Mr. Padilla, 36, filled out to attend a Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan in 2000.
Faded. Just an old, faded piece of paper. Injustice -- the idea is planted in the reader's head. And yet what is the evidentiary significance the fadedness of the paper? Nothing, without more. For example, if the prosecution had relied on the fadedness to explain a lack of fingerprints, it would affect the weight we'd give to the paper. But in fact, there were 6 fingerprints!

In paragraph 4, we're told that the jurors, leaving the courthouse, would not speak to the press, but one woman, contacted by phone, said -- in the words of the NYT -- "that she had all but made up her mind before deliberations began." The readers' suspicions of injustice are stoked. Yet really, the juror has admitted nothing wrong here. Why the paraphrase? What did she say?

Do people even click to see what's on page 2?
James Cohen, a law professor at Fordham University, said the fact that the Qaeda training camp form had six of Mr. Padilla’s fingerprints was “overwhelmingly powerful” and had very likely swayed the jurors.
Swayed? How about convinced? Do the citizens who served on the jury in a 3-month trial deserve the dispargement implicit in the word "swayed"? (Dictionary definition of sway: "To divert; deflect... To exert influence on or control over.") And, again, why the paraphrase? I take it Professor Cohen did not say "swayed."

I was also struck by this: "After being held in isolation in a military brig in South Carolina for three and a half years, Mr. Padilla (pronounced puh-DEE-yuh) was transferred to civilian custody here last year...." Three questions: 1. Why after all these years are we still being told how to pronounce this man's name? 2. Didn't the defense lawyers inform us that his name was actually pronounced puh-DILL-uh? 3. Are we now being informed it's puh-DEE-yuh because the lawyers decided puh-DEE-yuh will do a better job of exerting influence or control over us?

August 16, 2007

The Althouse blog arrives in Brooklyn.

The Althouse blog comes to NY

The exact point when I realize I'm going to witness many sunsets:

Sunset over New York Harbor

But I get involved in some IM-ing and forget to watch the dipping into the water part. That classic sunset stuff.

And then there's this:


A little silver slipper of a moon.

Harbor view

Just a line I remember from a play I was in long ago.

Laura, come here and make a wish on the moon!

New York changes -- first in a series.

Take less crap. Many comments deleted today. New policy: If I think what you wrote is crap, I'm deleting.

We like Underdog Hillary, not Dominatrix Hillary.

Glenn Reynolds notes a new poll that shows Giuliani beating Clinton by 7 percentage points, 47 to 40%. They were only one point apart a month ago and have long stayed within 3 points of each other. Glenn's theory:
[S]he's dropped because of attacks from Barack Obama and John Edwards. But if those rather mild attacks make this much of a difference, how will she do in a real campaign?
Here's my theory. In the last month, she's widened her lead over the other Democrats and now looks like the inevitable nominee. That's made her boring and also stirred up some realistic thinking and fears about what it would be like if she actually became President. She was more appealing back when she was struggling against Obama and Edwards. It's not their attacks that have hurt her recently. It's that they have failed in their attacks, and she has become dominant.

We like Underdog Hillary -- we first warmed to her when we found out about Bill and Monica -- not Dominatrix Hillary -- remember this Spy Magazine cover from February 1993?

Padilla guilty on all counts.

WaPo reports:
Jose Padilla... was convicted today by a federal jury in Miami along with two co-defendants of supporting al-Qaeda and other violent Muslim extremist groups....

They were found guilty on all three counts against them: conspiracy to murder, maim and kidnap as part of a terrorist campaign overseas, conspiracy to provide material support for terrorism and providing material support for terrorism....

In closing arguments, Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Frazier told the jury of seven men and five women that Padilla "provided himself to al-Qaeda to murder, kidnap and maim."

Padilla's lawyers disputed that, arguing that he went overseas to study Islam and learn Arabic. "His intent was to study, not to murder," defense attorney Michael Caruso told the jury in his own closing argument.

A White House wedding -- just the boost Bush needs?

I remember those two White House weddings back in the 1960s. Anyway, Jenna's getting married, and let's see how well this is coordinated to the political calendar. Sorry to be so cynical about love.

The way things look from...

(Link to video.)

"Global warming denial" is not a helpful phrase

Jeff Jacoby writes (via Memeorandum) about the overbearing attitude now being taken about global warming, using the word "denial" as in "Holocaust denial."
Why the relentless labeling of those who point out weaknesses in the global-warming models as "deniers," or agents of the "denial machine," or deceptive practitioners of "denialism?" Wouldn't it be more effective to answer the challengers, some of whom are highly credentialed climate scientists in their own right, with scientific data and arguments, instead of snide insinuations of venality and deceit? Do Newsweek and Begley really believe that everyone who dissents from the global-warming doomsaying does so in bad faith?
How ironic that people who want to rely on science are using not the language of science -- argument based on evidence -- but the language of religion -- believe or face condemnation.

What prominent blogger is impersonating me on Facebook....

... in violation of Facebook's Terms of Use?

UPDATE: I got him to take it down. Parody is one thing, but appropriating someone's name and using it in a way that can cause confusion -- as this person continues to encourage in the comments section of his blog -- is abusive. That's why it violated the Terms of Use over at Facebook. Unfortunately, this blogger -- I'm not going to link to him -- engages in a lot of moronic abuse on his blog. He seems to think it's funny -- and that I deserve it, of course.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I'm told that the person who made the Facebook page is not the same person who writes the blog that has encouraged impersonation, even though the person who made the page has the same first name as the person who writes the blog and encourages impersonation, and even though the person who made the page chose to brag about it on the blog that encourages impersonation. Whether this is one guy or two guys, he's an idiot.

AND: Facebook responded to my complaint and deleted the imposter account.

August 15, 2007



"Bond is an imperialist and a misogynist who kills people and laughs about it, and drinks Martinis and cracks jokes."

Matt Damon on James Bond. He, of course, thinks Bourne is better, but he's right, isn't he? Bond is mired in the 60s.

I remember a teacher in 1964 who talked about James Bond. Right about when "Goldfinger" came out, that was the high point. I remember going to see "Thunderball" and how everyone felt disappointed and sure that the James Bond fad had ended. We had some fun seeing "Diamonds Are Forever" in 1971. Bond was totally retro. How strange that the Bond movies have come out consistently every few years for almost half a century!

"The Bourne franchise is not about wearing Prada suits and looking at women coming out of the sea with bikinis on. It's about essence and truth, not frippery and surface." So says "Bourne" director Paul Greengrass, incredibly hoity-toitily.

"Don Imus referred to my client as an unchaste woman. That was and is a lie."

Imus sued and got $20 million from CBS. Now, the basketball players are filing their lawsuits:
Today's suit refers to terms used by Imus April 4 -- including referring to women on the team as "nappy headed" -- as "debasing, demeaning, humiliating, and denigrating" to Vaughn and her fellow players. "There's no way these bigoted remarks should have seen the light of day," Ancowitz told ABC News.
I suppose the key question is whether anyone hearing Imus's (idiotic) remark would think it meant that the women actually were prostitutes. I think we often describe someone's appearance metaphorically. If you say, "she has a horse face," no one would take that literally. Such insults are rude, but they aren't lies.

It's hard not to be distracted by Imus's large pile of money. Would it kill him to share? But I'd hate to think one could win defamation suits on a theory like this.

I did just call TRex "doughy" the other day. But then, he said I had "snakes in [my] head," so I have a counterclaim. He's not literally made of dough, but then, neither is he a dinosaur, not literally. But this is a matter of rhetoric and writing/speaking style. Look at the big picture here. It's not just Imus. It's us.

I'm opposed to the death penalty, but I still want journalism about executions to play it straight.

Here's ABC News presenting the supposed facts underlying a death sentence. The headline is "Man to Be Executed, Although Prosecutors Say He Didn't Kill," and there's a photograph of the man holding up his hands against the prison glass to "touch" the hands of a young woman, his "new wife," who is smiling for the camera and wearing a pink scrunchy in her hair:
On the night of Aug. 14, 1997, Foster, Brown, DeWayne Dillard, and Julius Steen were drinking and smoking marijuana when they decided to use Dillard's gun to commit two armed robberies, according to Foster's attorney, Keith Hampton.

As they drove home, LaHood's girlfriend Mary Patrick appeared to flag their car down. According to testimony from Dillard and Steen, the car pulled over and Brown exited the vehicle. There had been no discussion that he would rob or kill LaHood, and he was effectively "acting out of an independent impulse," according to testimony.

After Brown shot LaHood, Foster, who was 19 at the time, became very anxious and started to leave the scene, but Dillard and Steen made him wait for Brown to get back in the car. They drove off, but were arrested shortly thereafter, Hampton said.

Foster, who was tried alongside Brown, rather than given a separate trial, is charged under a Texas "law of parties" statute that disintegrates the distinction between the perpetrator of a crime and an accomplice, allowing Foster to be put to death, even though he did not actually pull the trigger.

Dillard and Steen both cooperated with the government and were given plea deals, Hampton said. Brown had testified that he acted in self-defense, but the jury didn't buy that argument, and both he and Foster were sentenced to death.
Here are the facts as stated by the Fifth Circuit federal Court of Appeals (PDF) as it denies habeas review of the state court proceedings:
On the evening of 14 August 1996, Foster and three others - Mauriceo Brown, DeWayne Dillard, and Julius Steen - embarked on armed robberies around San Antonio, Texas, beginning with Brown's announcing he had a gun and asking whether the others wanted to rob people: "I have the strap, do you all want to jack?". During the guilt/innocence phase of Foster's trial, Steen testified he rode in the front seat, looking for potential victims, while Foster drove.

Steen and Brown testified to robbing two different groups at gunpoint that night; the four men divided the stolen property equally. The criminal conduct continued into the early hours of the next day (15 August), when Foster began following a vehicle driven by Mary Patrick.

Patrick testified: she and Michael LaHood, Jr. were returning in separate cars to his house; she arrived and noticed Foster's vehicle turn around and stop in front of Michael LaHood's house; Patrick approached Foster's vehicle to ascertain who was following her; she briefly spoke to the men in the vehicle, then walked away towards Michael LaHood, who had reached the house and exited his vehicle; she saw a man with a scarf across his face and a gun in his hand exit Foster's vehicle and approach her and Michael LaHood; Michael LaHood told her to go inside the house, and she ran towards the door, but tripped and fell; she looked back and saw the gunman pointing a gun at Michael LaHood's face, demanding his keys, money, and wallet; Michael LaHood responded that Patrick had the keys; and Patrick heard a loud bang.

Michael LaHood died from a gunshot wound to the head. The barrel of the gun was no more than six inches from his head when he was shot; it was likely closer than that. Brown had similarly stuck his gun in the faces of some of the night's earlier robbery victims.

Later that day, all four men were arrested; each gave a written statement identifying Brown as the shooter. Brown admitted being the shooter but denied intent to kill. He testified that he approached Michael LaHood to obtain Patrick's telephone number and only drew his weapon when he saw what appeared to be a gun in Michael LaHood's possession and heard what sounded to him like the click of an automatic weapon.

In May 1997, Foster and Brown were tried jointly for capital murder committed in the course of a robbery. The jury found each guilty of that charge and answered the special issues at the penalty phase to impose a death sentence for each.
I agree with those who think that the sentence is too harsh, and, again, I am opposed to the death penalty, but journalists need to report the facts in an accurate and neutral fashion, not from an advocate's position. If I am to believe the Fifth Circuit case, Foster was driving the car that stalked Patrick, something you can't tell from the ABC article, which uses expressions like "As they drove home" and "the car pulled over" to make Foster seem less important than he apparently was. "There had been no discussion that he would rob or kill LaHood," writes ABC. Yes, but Foster joined a man who had displayed a gun and proposed a robbery spree. He drove around with that man sitting by him in the front seat as they looked for victims -- not LaHood, specifically. By the time they got to LaHood, they'd already robbed two groups of people and split the proceeds, and Foster was still driving the car. Tell the facts straight. Don't manipulate us with something that reads like a brief for the condemned man. I want to understand why people saw fit to give him the death penalty. From there, I can still see how one could fairly and persuasively make the argument that he shouldn't die for what he did.

I picked up this story from Memeorandum. From there, I see that Captain Ed writes:
[S]hould the punishment for the non-shooter be the same as for the shooter?...[

[W]hat bothers me about the death penalty [is that its] application is inconsistent, and it has the potential for abuse, which this case arguably demonstrates. Even if I supported the death penalty -- which at one point I did -- applying it to a known non-shooter would seem a miscarriage. Texas Governor Rick Perry should think about breaking his streak of non-intervention in this case.
Then there is this sort of overblown commentary, which I find offensive and unhelpful.

UPDATE: Kenneth Foster's life is spared.

Oh, Cécilia, I'm down on my knees, I'm begging you please....

... to go on a picnic -- a peekneek -- with George Bush.

But she won't! She's a French-style political spouse. She Cécilia Sarkozy. She had a "throat ailment" -- she had a mal de gorge -- mal de George.

I'll see you that Elizabeth, and raise you one Ann.

Are we getting enough political spouse this season?

TRex toddles up to the battlefield and twirls around.

Because, really, what are you supposed to do when baited? (With candy, remember?) If you take the bait, you've taken the bait. (And it was such yummy bait.) Well, there's that idea of pretending you didn't notice. Which was a good way to stall for time and think of an idea. And he did come up with something. I mean, a few things. Some were dumb. Like just making fun of my name. That was so Monica of him. But he came up with the idea of spoofing his own taking of the bait, with a sort of performance -- demonstrating that he's beginning to understands something of the Althousian-style bloggish performance -- of his own refusal to take the bait as he in fact takes the bait. I will not not let you use me to get traffic for your piddling -- AKA fabulous! -- blog, he says as he gives me 6 links.

Somewhere in the vast wasteland of a comments section he's got over there -- perhaps showing his frustration that his readers can't riff like mine -- he succumbs to self-pity:
Did you see those things she said about me?
Aw. Poor boy.
She’s got snakes in her head, man.
Classic gynophobia.
I think she did a little too much of that LDS stuff. Back in the hippie days.
Yes, it was me and the Mormons all the time back then. I don't know how I ever came down from that.
Glenn Greenwald said to me at YKos that my snubbing Ann Althouse on election night was the single interesting thing in her otherwise bleak Wisconsin landscape of a life and that everything she says and does toward me reflects the fact that she will never, ever, ever forgive me for not liking her and finding her interesting.
Glenn Greenwald and TRex had a big conversation about me at YearlyKos? That's so surreal.

By the way, whatever you think about me, you should be careful about insulting Wisconsin. As you lefty politicos allow your contempt for the heartland to ooze out, you should remember that some of these states are swing states you're going to need to pretend to care about. And the people here are fierce.
So now she’s stalking me.

Did you watch that video? Jesus. I started to wonder if she’s going to come down here to Georgia and try to boil one of my pets.
Oh, the hell! He's in Georgia. He's in Georgia, insulting Wisconsin? Well, now, it's a war between the states!

August 14, 2007

"All I could see was two sets of red eyes below me and all night I had to listen to a big bull croc bellowing a bit further out."

Man treed by crocodiles for a week.
Although [David] George's two sandwiches ran out after three days, he was able to get running water during the day and knew rescuers were looking for him as he could see helicopters in the air above his tree....

A chocolate bar, given to him by rescuers after being winched to safety, "was like a gourmet meal," he told the newspaper.

To me, a chocolate bar is a gourmet meal. And so, for a crocodile, is a 53-year-old Australian.

I await the reenactment on "I Shouldn't Be Alive." Meanwhile, one can rewatch the episode called "Blood in the Water":
Five friends enjoying a weekend fishing trip on one of Africa's wildest and remotest rivers are left fighting for their lives when a hippo suddenly attacks their boat in one of the world's most crocodile-infested rivers. Three of them manage to make it to a sandbank in the middle of the river, but the current's too strong for them to move. One of the men decides to swim for shore — the group's only chance of survival — only to be attacked by a crocodile along the way.

The people have to keep standing on the sandbank all night. Meanwhile, the guy who's attacked by a crocodile somehow has the wits to reach down the animal's throat and release the valve that prevents water from pouring in when it's trying to kill its prey in the water.

"It's the 'brain' striations of some awesomely distorted pork flesh and/or fungus..."

Now, this is the very essence of blogging.
This egg. Man, this crazy egg. For two months it hardly did a thing. For four months it barely moved. Gradually over the course of a year it morphed into a cloudy gelatinous puddle. Still, it's not eggxactly brimming with astounding stalagmites of terror. But it does have some rad internal textures and clouds.

Via Make, via BoingBoing, which also linked to this, which I just love.

"Dolley Madison had a decent rack."

Says Nasty, Brutish & Short in the context of discussing that diavlog that I had with Robin Givhan. (I corrected the spelling of "Dolley" above and in the quote below.)
It's a long episode of Bloggingheads, but it's well worth it. For the record, I thought Hillary wasn't showing too much cleavage. It's just the thought of Hillary showing any cleavage that I have a problem with. It's just too weird, too un-Hillary. It's so much of a departure from what we expect from her that it is disarming. It is pretty unfortunate that the first major female presidential candidate is so unfeminine. She could have been feminine while she was first lady. Then it would have been natural. Dolley Madison had a decent rack, and now there's a whole line of cookies names after her. By today's standards, she showed a lot of cleavage. But Hillary refused to be feminine as first lady, because it just wasn't her. She wanted to be taken seriously, and thought she needed to look like a man to achieve that. Now she's the first woman to have a real shot at the presidency, and she can't take advantage of her feminine wiles. Does she have any? Or because it's Hillary Clinton, are we just too skeptical about being manipulated?

With Hillary, you have to ask whether she's wearing something low-cut because of some political calculation. Is she channeling Eva Peron now? She used to be channeling Eleanor Roosevelt. What gives? Is it just too hard to believe Hillary would do something because it's what she wants to? With Hillary, do we assume there has to be a reason? Hillary and her mind games!

Mind games, manipulation.... maybe she is feminine!!
Well said. And here's Dolley:

Maybe God is "an advanced version of a guy who spends his weekends building model railroads or overseeing video-game worlds like the Sims."

John Tierney wonders, and really, haven't you been worrying about this possibility for a long time?
[I]f you accept a pretty reasonable assumption of [Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom], it is almost a mathematical certainty that we are living in someone else’s computer simulation....

Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems....

“My gut feeling, and it’s nothing more than that,” he says, “is that there’s a 20 percent chance we’re living in a computer simulation.”...

It’s unsettling to think of the world being run by a futuristic computer geek, although we might at last dispose of that of classic theological question: How could God allow so much evil in the world? For the same reason there are plagues and earthquakes and battles in games like World of Warcraft. Peace is boring, Dude.
So what does the Big Nerd want from us? And do we have any reason to care? We could try to understand the mind of the Big Nerd for the pure love of knowledge, or we could try to think of how He -- you just know it's a he -- might punish or reward us. The economist Robin Hanson figures that we ought to try to be -- not obedient and moral -- but interesting, so we'll get to continue in the next simulation.
If our descendants prefer their simulations to be entertaining, all else equal, then you should want you and the events around you to be entertaining as well, all else equal. "All the world's a stage, and the people merely players." Of course what is regarded as entertaining does vary somewhat across time and cultures, and our distant descendants' tastes will likely vary from ours as well. So one should emphasize widely shared features of entertaining stories. Be funny, outrageous, violent, sexy, strange, pathetic, heroic, ... in a word "dramatic." Being a martyr might even be a good thing for you, if that makes your story so compelling that other descendants will also want to simulation you....

If you might be living in a simulation then all else equal it seems that you should care less about others, live more for today, make your world look likely to become eventually rich, expect to and try to participate in pivotal events, be entertaining and praiseworthy, and keep the famous people around you happy and interested in you.
The Big Nerd God wants to be entertained.

The return of Imus.

Drudge has this "exclusive":
Radio host Don Imus has agreed to settle his claim with CBS for $20 million, and a non disparaging clause, legal sources claim. The move opens the possibility Imus will soon return to the airwaves -- on WABC in New York! Developing...
This is playing out predictably... and incredibly well for Imus. I'm sure he'll get back on the radio, with tons of publicity -- including this humble blog post. Think he'll be able to lure his big political guests back? I think he'll be able to get some sharp-tongued political analysts on the show right away.

UPDATE: AP confirms the story and adds:
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who led the move to fire Mr. Imus for his comments, did not immediately return a call for comment, he did say last month that he would not oppose a return to radio by Mr. Imus.

[Imus's lawyer Martin] Garbus had said Imus would sue for the contract’s unpaid portion. He cited a contract clause in which CBS acknowledged that Mr. Imus’s services were “unique, extraordinary, irreverent, intellectual, topical, controversial.”

The clause said Mr. Imus’s programming was “desired by company” and was “consistent with company rules and policy,” according to Mr. Garbus.

"Elizabeth Edwards pens inspiring memoir."

Ah, headlines! They're so wonderful. Sigh....

You know what would be cool? If some politician or politician's wife (or husband) "penned" a memoir and it wasn't the least bit inspiring. So, let's have a little contest here today. At the link, you'll see an excerpt from the "inspiring memoir." Choose a passage and rewrite as if you were the political spouse and you didn't give a damn about inspiring anyone. And I'm not asking you to trash or humiliate the woman or her yummy husband. Give us a good rewrite where the author is someone who despises cloying treacle, has some edge, and who knows what a real memoir should be.

Who's the real "prototype for the sexy geek"?

Some Entertainment Weekly editors are saying it's Seth Green, who seems to think it might be Weird Al. But that's because EW is interviewing Seth Green, and Seth Green just got done interviewing Weird Al. Nevertheless, it's a great -- or good enough! -- question to justify trying to come up with a list and then narrow it down for a vote. You're not limited to actors and musicians, and remember the key word is prototype. Who originally unleashed the possibility that we could see the geek as sexy? I think that means going back a long, long way. But keep the time frame within reason -- at least within the era of photography. We don't need to hear about what Alcibiades said about Socrates in "The Symposium." And frankly, it would be geeky to bring that up. Not even geeky. Nerdy.

"The mother lode of opposition research" on Hillary Clinton...

... is locked up at the Clinton Library.
"Opposition researchers would be very hungry to see what's there." Robert Shrum, senior political strategist in Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign, said: "In 2 million pieces of paper, would opposition researchers hope to find one where she wrote a memo saying, 'I wish I'd never gotten involved in healthcare?' Sure. That's what they'd love to find."...

Before documents are released, archives staff must read them and, by law, must redact material that they determine contains classified information, invades a person's privacy, reveals trade secrets, reveals confidential advice from presidential advisors or raises other concerns specified in the records law.

Asked how long it might be before Hillary Clinton's records are released, the library's chief archivist said it could take years.

"We're processing as fast as we can," Melissa Walker said....

What records that have been made public offer tantalizing details about Hillary Clinton's White House years. One memo reveals details about the "war room" for the healthcare plan. Aides wrote of the need for secrecy, but also presented Hillary Clinton with arguments she could make that the process of drawing up a healthcare plan was "the most open in the history of the federal government."

A 1993 memo discussed a plan to create reports on members of Congress, tracking their positions on healthcare. The files would log when members met with Hillary Clinton, how they voted on key bills, and -- under a category called "influence" -- whom they consulted for advice. One 1994 memo offers a historical curiosity: It draws Clinton's attention to a rising Republican politician, Mitt Romney, who is now a leading contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

In the memo, Clinton's aides discussed a trip to Boston, where the then-first lady was to appear at a fundraising event for Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass). Kennedy was then running for reelection against Romney.

"Romney, a millionaire business consultant with no political experience, is a Mormon," the memo reads. "His religion is a delicate issue, which Kennedy himself has not raised but other Democrats have."...

Other records kept from public view include a 1993 memo to the first lady entitled "positioning ourselves on healthcare," and another from that year called "public portrayal of the Medicare program."
We're processing the papers as fast as we can, and we just won't be able to get to these papers in time for the 2008 election. Do you accept that answer? Do you think the opposition's hunger for these documents is ugly, that they'll only rummage through it all to pull a few things out of context to make Hillary Clinton look bad? We already know enough about what happened with her failed health care program, don't we? Why should we get a chance to rip into the internal deliberations about it?

Jack Balkin and Eugene Volokh on Bloggingheads!

The estimable lawprofs talk about the constitutional dimension of guns and religion.

Will the French love us again?

Because of "Ratatouille"?
"Of course it resembles the usual Disney films, but it has more taste," said Christiane Fillet, 37, who watched the movie this week at Les Halles cinema in Paris with her 7-year-old daughter, Elise. "I cook, and I can tell you that they know what they're talking about. I didn't expect such gastronomical knowledge from an American cartoon!"

French movie reviewers too have melted like sugar atop creme brulee. "One of the greatest gastronomic films in the history of cinema," Thomas Sotinel declared in the often stuffy daily newspaper Le Monde.
This is such great raw material for next year's Oscar speeches. You know, it's because of Hollywood that the world finds a way to love us in spite of the dreadful ill-will that emanates from Washington.

August 13, 2007

Streetcars not desired.

I've complained in the past -- here and here -- about proposals to install streetcars in Madison. I'm thrilled to see today that the mayor has abandoned the plan:
Major public investments like streetcars should only be undertaken when there is broad consensus in the community, and that is clearly not the case with this issue. Ironically, I have not taken the time to build support for streetcars because I have been focused on more important priorities such as public safety, just the opposite of what has become a common misunderstanding.
In short, we didn't want streetcars, and you didn't get the chance to bamboozle us into wanting streetcars because .... something.

"The lines of cleavage penetrated everywhere."

I'm so glad -- I'm glad -- that Ann-Margret appeared in that video -- the second one -- in the previous post, because I love when diverse things happen to fall together. I could make a great paranoid if only I could believe such things happen for a reason and if it scared me. But I think it just happens, and it amuses me. And makes me blog.

You know we've been talking about Hillary and cleavage these last few weeks, and just this morning I was reading William Safire's "On Language" column about the word "cleavage":
Cleavage is a strong but multifaceted old noun that has gained an additional meaning. The Teutonic verb cleave means “to split asunder”; the split hoof of many animals is said to be cloven.
And the devil!
The O.E.D. found cleavage to have made its appearance in 1816 about the mechanical division of crystals “sometimes called cleavage by lapidaries” (cutters of gems, nothing to do with lap-dancing). It also became a metaphor in church controversies: “When differences of religious opinion arose, they split society to its foundation,” noted an 1867 essay on Martin Luther. “The lines of cleavage penetrated everywhere.”

We now turn to its sexual sense.... In the zoologist Ernst Haeckel’s 1875 “History of Creation,” the propagation of the egg cell by repeated self-division was described as “the so-called ‘cleavage of the egg,’ ” which we now know forms blastomeres and changes the single-celled zygote into a multicellular embryo, and which brings us to the recent explosion in the word’s usage....
“There was cleavage on display Wednesday afternoon on C-SPAN-2,” wrote Robin Givhan, a Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion writer for The Washington Post. “It belongs to Senator Hillary Clinton. . . . There wasn’t an unseemly amount of cleavage showing,” the reporter granted, but she found it “a provocation” and “startling to see that small acknowledgment of sexuality and femininity.”

The word was then in political play....

The last time the word got this much publicity was more than a half-century ago....

I did not realize it at the time, but the lapidarian-religious-medical meanings of cleavage had only recently been joined by a new sense of “the cleft between a woman’s breasts as revealed by a low-cut décolletage.” That O.E.D. definition has as its earliest citation a Time magazine article of Aug. 5, 1946: “Low-cut Restoration costumes . . . display too much ‘cleavage’ (Johnson Office trade term for the shadowed depression dividing an actress’s bosom into two distinct sections).” Unless a search engine belches out an earlier usage, that’s a coinage stunner: it was Hollywood that invented the latest sense of cleavage.
This inspired me to do some research. Legal research, as chance would have it. Imagine! Me, a law professor, doing legal research. Has the Supreme Court ever used the word "cleavage," and, if so, has it used it in the recent, Hollywood sense of a cloven bosom?

The answer is that the Court has used the word 31 times, beginning in 1913, and 30 of these instances have had nothing to do with human anatomy: "society's racial and ethnic cleavages," "possible cleavage between black and white voters," "the fundamental cleavage which Article I made between apportionment of Representatives among the States and the selection of Representatives within each State," "more or less definite lines of cleavage among the Justices" -- you get the point.

But there is one use of the word stands out, and it's a reference to Ann-Margret:
Nicholson has been running through an average of a dozen women a year but has never managed to meet the right one, the one with the full bosom, the good legs, the properly rounded bottom. More than that, each and every one is a threat to his malehood and peace of mind, until at last, in a bar, he finds Ann-Margret, an aging bachelor girl with striking cleavage and, quite obviously, something of a past. `Why don't we shack up?' she suggests.
That's from a Rehnquist opinion, but Rehnquist did not come up with that prose. He's quoting a Hollis Alpert review of the movie "Carnal Knowledge" (and finding the movie not obscene).

Don't you wish you were there when the Justices watched that movie? Fortunately, that case, Jenkins v. Georgia, came up during the period covered in the Bob Woodward & Scott Armstrong book "The Brethren":
A screen was set up, and several Justices attended the special showing. As the film progressed, there was little of the usual cackling, running commentary or leg slapping.

"I thought we were going to see a dirty movie," Marshall commented at the end of the movie. "The only thing obscene about this movie is that it is obscenely boring," said White. The Chief left early. He told his clerks the camera work and the lighting had been well done. Rehnquist said he liked the music.
I would like to end this post with a nice YouTube clip, but my head is reeling after looking through some of the crazy stuff a search for Ann-Margret turns up. Like this. I think I'm going to go home and act like this. Wait. This is good. And this is blurry and full of bad, but still good.

Now, go research something.

ADDED: Damn! I put the wrong link on "going to go home and at like this." Ruined the joke. Try it now. 

ACTUALLY: I've removed all the those links in the end. They've all gone bad. Some YouTube policing, presumably. I hope you caught them when they were good. 

AND: Links restored.

You people are soooo invisible. And you will always be invisible. Without me.

Hillary's first TV ad:

Wow! Does she think you are invisible! But she's not saying she views you as a massive horde of nonentities. Oh, no! She's the one who is here to make you visible. She's got the power to heal you of your invisibility. Just a word from her lips...

I love the #23 salad at The Old Fashioned...

... but why must they put that thing there?

Salad with a deviled egg

I'm shunning it! Ostracizing it! Why can I never remember to tell them to save that horrid thing with the Satanic name?

Creating a vortex...

... to fight global warming.

"I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman."

Mitt faces down the snowman and loses.

Much more compelling than Mitt Romney's insistence on dignity and decorum was the snowman's humble plea:

Wisconsin's entry in the 2008 race drops out.

It's all over for Tommy Thompson.

We've got to write about Huckabee.

Why did Huckabee do so well in the Iowa Straw Poll?
[F]or those who have followed Mr. Huckabee as he has traveled across the country these past six months, he has distinguished himself in another way: as a candidate of considerable humor who stands apart in this oh-so-serious field of presidential contenders (think Mr. Giuliani talking about the threat of terrorist attacks). Mr. Huckabee uses humor as a way to court voters, soften rivals, make political arguments and seamlessly slice an opponent.“I was the first governor in America to have a concealed handgun permit — so don’t mess with me!” Mr. Huckabee told a conservative convention in Washington.

Or consider this, as he invited Republicans to join in “a Q. and A.” with him in West Des Moines. “What it really stands for is questions and avoidance,” he explained. “I do my best not to say anything that would end my political career.”

Or this, talking about what Mr. Huckabee has described as frequent accusations of political corruption in the state: “It got to be where the five most feared words for an Arkansas politician were, ‘Will the defendant please rise’.”

Mr. Huckabee’s use of humor amounts to a style of politicking that many audiences have found engaging, and that stands out in an era of bloggers and journalists recording a candidate’s slightest slip.
This blogger says those are incredibly corny jokes... and all the candidates tell some jokes... so really... are you saying it's the damned jokes? I feel like the editors woke up yesterday and realized they had to write something about Huckabee. Uh... he told some jokes that got a laugh...

"They are likely to nominate a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate."

Paul Gigot interviews Karl Rove, who's got some predictions:
Looking ahead, he adds, "Iraq will be in a better place" as the surge continues. Come the autumn, too, "we'll see in the battle over FISA" -- the wiretapping of foreign terrorists -- "a fissure in the Democratic Party." Also in the fall, "the budget fight will have been fought to our advantage," helping the GOP restore, through a series of presidential vetoes, its brand name on spending restraint and taxes.

As for the Democrats, "They are likely to nominate a tough, tenacious, fatally flawed candidate" by the name of Hillary Rodham Clinton. Holding the White House for a third term is always difficult given the pent-up desire for change, he says, but "I think we've got a very good chance to do so."...

... Americans "do want change," but "every election is a change election"; even in 1988, when Ronald Reagan was popular, the Gipper famously said at the nominating convention for George H. W. Bush that, "We are the change." Adds Mr. Rove, "I don't want to be Pollyanish about it, but if we keep our nerve and represent big things, we'll win." He won't cite a favorite, if he has one, among the GOP candidates, though he has friends in the various campaigns. He'll offer advice, if asked, but at 56 years old says he is done with political consulting.
Hmmm.... 56 doesn't sound old to me. I wonder what Rove really will do. Anyway, what's "fatally flawed" about Hillary? Flawed, I get. But why fatally? Someone has to win. Who's so less-than-fatally flawed on the other side?

It seems so obvious, so early, that Hillary will get the nomination. That allows the other side to develop an elaborate attack on her and then to wait and wait to unleash it. Meanwhile, she can't concentrate on just one of the Republicans, and they really are rather different. Who knows? I assume Hillary will win the presidency. I find myself going through an involuntary process of accommodation to the idea. That is an advantage of emerging as the inevitable nominee so early. On the other hand, a year from now, she'll still be hovering around, not achieving anything, but just being what she always was, the inevitable nominee. That's going to be really boring. What happens to the hunger for change?

Rove goes.

Karl Rove is leaving the White House.
Mr. Rove was not only the chief architect of Mr. Bush’s political campaigns but also the midwife of Mr. Bush’s political persona itself.
Love the metaphors. You need an architect for a campaign -- it's a building! -- and a midwife for a persona -- it's alive!

Isn't it pleasant to get up in the morning? The New York Times is there. You can read it.

I love when summer ends. I love when it begins. Warmth is good, and all this unstructured time. But it's been too hot, and too many structureless days have melted into each other. So it feels good to get up at 5 a.m. and see that it's still dark. It reminds me of winter. Not that I'd put on a sweater or even long sleeves, but the air coming in through the window by the dining table feels cool.

Do I dart outside in my bare feet to pick the New York Times up off the front walkway? No! Today is the first day of my canceled subscription. I'd maintained that subscription since 1984 when I moved from New York City to Madison, Wisconsin. How happy I was back then to learn that you could get the Times delivered here.

In my favorite movie, "My Dinner With Andre," there's the moment of great relief when -- after an hour or so of Andre Gregory's rambling tales of avant-garde theater in strange places around the world -- Wallace Shawn finally asks if Andre would like to hear his response to all of that. And Wally's idea is that it doesn't make much sense to do all these unusual things in search of real life, because real life is right where you are in your real life. He says he can't imagine anything better than living with his girlfriend (Debbie), reading a book (specifically, the autobiography of Charlton Heston), and getting up in the morning to find his old cup of coffee (and it's pure bonus that no cockroach has died in it overnight). He exclaims:
Isn't it pleasant just to get up in the morning? The Times is there. You can read it.
And for all these years that I've had the New York Times delivered, I've thought of that line, that line that expresses the joy of ordinary life: "The Times is there. You can read it." But now, the NYT is not here.

It's here on line. And the truth is, I've been doing nearly all my reading of it lately on line -- often with the still folded paper right next to the laptop. But this symbol of real life, the paper, is gone. The coffee is real. It's not on line. The news is real. It was never in the paper. "What's in the newspaper?" is a funny expression. Or is "the news" only the human expression about things observed in the world? If something happened and no one reported on it, would there still be news? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody hears it, does it make a sound? Do we need that tree mashed into pulp to make paper to print the news for the news to be news? I think the news must be reported for it to be news, so, in fact, the news really is in the newspaper, but the newspaper doesn't need to be paper.

So I'll be reading on line now. Ironically, what pushes me over the edge to canceling the subscription is moving back to New York City. But I'm not in New York yet. I've got my keys to the apartment, but I'm still here in Madison, Wisconsin, where it's light out now, and life is real.

It's not 1984:

August 12, 2007

The new Bloggingheads: Robin Givhan and me!

What can we talk about?
Can we talk about Hillary's cleavage? (10:57)

Color scheming: Gore's earth tones, Hillary's pink (09:06)

Feeling the fury of the Clinton campaign (08:12)

The Business Suit as pinnacle of Western civilization (04:08)

Caught in Jeri Thompson's headlights (05:42)

Michelle Obama and the natural look (05:37)

Crocs, codpieces, and $60 million pants (09:38)

"Say it out loud. Do it. Fred. Fred. In the South, Fray-ud. Fur-red-duh."

"It has the tonal quality of something being dropped on the floor, something heavy and damp-ish. Waterlogged paper towel. Fred."

Is the Washington Post smoking pot again?

IN THE COMMENTS: Simon asks, astutely:
"What would you say is the difference between visual aesthetics - which you often remind us are at [least] fair game, and even important - and aural aesthetics, which is what this piece is about? That is: what's the difference between Monica Hesse's piece and anything by Robin Givhan? Why is discussing the psychology of what they wore different to the psychology of associations evoked by a name?"
First of all, I do want to support the discussion of aesthetics in politics. The key is to do it well. Actually, I think Monica Hesse is doing it reasonably well, using broad -- and a bit potheaded -- humor. I've never noticed her before, but I always notice Robin Givhan. Maybe Hesse is taking a cue from Givhan on what it takes to get noticed in our word-cluttered world. Good! She got a Drudge link out of this one. Last night I dreamed I got a Drudge link! I mean... A Drudge link! A Drudge link! Think what it means...
Every day, journalists and media executives in newsrooms across the land hope they'll have something that catches Drudge's fancy — or, as he has put it, "raises my whiskers." Most keep their fingers crossed that he'll discover their articles on his own and link to them. Others are more proactive, sending anonymous e-mails or placing calls to him or his behind-the-scenes assistant.

Drudge's following is so large and loyal that he routinely can drive hundreds of thousands of readers to a single story, photo or video through a link on his lively compendium of the news.
I've had links that send me thousands, even tens of thousands, but hundreds of thousands. Hundreds of thousands?! The mind reels....

Now, back to Monica Hesse. She wrote about the sound of names, and Robin Givhan got all that attention over writing about cleavage. It was mostly criticism, but attracting criticism can be a game worth playing. (Where's my sandwich?)

But the important thing is to do some good analysis! When it comes to politics and aesthetics, I want to stress the distinction between the subjective and the objective. The effect of the word "Fred" on a particular columnist is only significant if it tells us something about how it will affect people in general. What is the psychological effect of a particular name? Most politicians fly under the radar by being named Bill. But even "Bill" has the effect of no effect. Our minds are open to subliminal influence. Look at what care we take naming our babies. We want to give them the advantage of name that has a good subliminal effect on those who hear it. It's worth thinking about how various aesthetic aspects of a candidate -- including his name -- will affect the voters. Actually, talking about these subjective effects can help us make it conscious and therefore overcome the things that shouldn't factor into our decisions.

But there is an objective side to this. What is the candidate doing? Fred Thompson didn't name himself, but Hillary Clinton chose to wear that low-cut top. We should notice when politicians are trying to manipulate us, both so we can overcome the manipulation and because it tells us something about the person doing it. Not everything is intentional. I certainly assume Hillary knew exactly where her breasts were in that top. (The alternative explanation, which I reject, is that she -- and her assistants -- are incompetent.) But Fred has probably been called Fred for decades and has no real way out of being called Fred. It's just his name. It's nothing he's doing, just something that might affect us.

Now, Hillary's decisions about dropping "Rodham" into the cleavage between Hillary and Clinton -- that means something.

AND: Here's some good commentary by Jill Colvin:
The fact that appearance is a relevant factor in any political campaign is a long-proven fact...

According to [research by Dianne Bystrom, the director of the Catt Center for Women and Politics at Iowa State University], both male and female candidates must work very carefully to balance stereotypical masculine and feminine traits. Candidates, she says, must be seen as strong, yet compassionate, forceful, yet friendly.... [W]inning women candidates are typically those who are best able to balance stereotypically masculine and feminine images and issues, posing with children as well as in formal suits, and discussing both healthcare and defense. Those who are seen as too feminine tend to lose races, while those who are seen as “too hard” work frantically to soften their images....

Perhaps the most provocative aspect of the whole cleavage controversy is that no one has yet criticized Clinton for dressing inappropriately... Instead, everyone except for Hillary’s campaign seems strangely pleased with the development. Even the latest Rasmussen poll shows that Hillary has been steadily gaining support in the last two weeks, and now leads Obama 43 percent to 22 percent.
UPDATE: And don't miss the diavlog with me and Robin Givhan over on Bloggingheads.

"Bullfighting in Portugal is like a play with the ending missing... Killing the bull is an art..."

"Bullfighting in Portugal... deprives the bull of his dignity." It's illegal to kill the bull in Portugal, but one bullfighter did, and he's been fined $137,000:
The crowd had begun waving white napkins and chanting, “Kill the bull! Kill the bull!” [Pedrito] recalled in an interview. Eager to satisfy, he pulled out his sword and stabbed the raging half-ton bull in its spinal cord. He received a standing ovation, was hoisted on the crowd’s shoulders and paraded through the streets....

The case spawned a national debate here. His supporters argue that a death-free struggle is a sacrilege because the culmination of a bullfight should reflect man’s ultimate triumph or defeat against the bull, while critics contend that Portugal must retain its civility and show humanity to animals....

Sociologists here say that bullfighting in Portugal is less of a blood sport than in Spain because the Portuguese, compared with the Spanish, are “soft machos.”

Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa, a leading cultural commentator, notes in this regard that António de Oliveira Salazar, the dictator who ruled Portugal for nearly 40 years, was less authoritarian than Francisco Franco in Spain. Furthermore, he says, rather than pillaging their empire, as the Spanish did, the Portuguese married and reproduced with the inhabitants of their colonies.

“We Portuguese are lovers, not fighters,” he said. “And this is reflected in most aspects of our culture, including our approach to bullfighting.”
We are lovers! We fight bulls but don't kill them. Our dictators are less authoritarian, and our conquerors refrain from pillaging. Come on, that's a concept of love, isn't it?

Who is Merv Griffin?

The inventor of "Jeopardy," this man died August 12, 2007.

I tried to find a good clip from his old talk show. I'd love one of those great 1960s shows, especially with Richard Pryor as a guest. Or Minnie Pearl or Totie Fields or Moms Mabley. What hilarious interviews those were! But this is what I found, from a movie I'd never heard of -- based on a Kurt Vonnegut novel -- where Merv plays the role of a talk show host:

The idea of the discarded old Merv Griffin set seems more wistful today:

"He sounds almost annoyed that there's no religious statement for him to argue against."

Metafilter shreds the Christopher Hitchens review of "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

"I don't want an egg at this hour."

Eating while driving


Eating while driving

Eating while driving

ADDED: It's always a Fellini film chez Althouse. We're watching this one.

MORE: Martin Scorsese has this in today's NYT:
[Michelangelo Antonioni's] “L’Avventura” gave me one of the most profound shocks I’ve ever had at the movies, greater even than ... “La Dolce Vita.” At the time there were two camps, the people who liked the Fellini film and the ones who liked “L’Avventura.” I knew I was firmly on Antonioni’s side of the line, but if you’d asked me at the time, I’m not sure I would have been able to explain why. I loved Fellini’s pictures and I admired “La Dolce Vita,” but I was challenged by “L’Avventura.” Fellini’s film moved me and entertained me, but Antonioni’s film changed my perception of cinema, and the world around me, and made both seem limitless. (It was two years later when I caught up with Fellini again, and had the same kind of epiphany with “8 ½.”)...

I crossed paths with Antonioni a number of times over the years....

But it was his images that I knew, much better than the man himself. Images that continue to haunt me, inspire me. To expand my sense of what it is to be alive in the world.
I'm in the Fellini camp -- can we go to a place called Fellini Camp? -- where the images continue to haunt me and inspire me and expand my sense of what it is to eat an egg or a banana.

AND: Right under Scorsese's piece, Woody Allen writes about Antonioni's death partner, Ingmar Bergman:
To meet him was not to suddenly enter the creative temple of a formidable, intimidating, dark and brooding genius who intoned complex insights with a Swedish accent about man’s dreadful fate in a bleak universe. It was more like this: “Woody, I have this silly dream where I show up on the set to make a film and I can’t figure out where to put the camera; the point is, I know I am pretty good at it and I have been doing it for years. You ever have those nervous dreams?” or “You think it will be interesting to make a movie where the camera never moves an inch and the actors just enter and exit frame? Or would people just laugh at me?”...

I learned from his example to try to turn out the best work I’m capable of at that given moment, never giving in to the foolish world of hits and flops or succumbing to playing the glitzy role of the film director, but making a movie and moving on to the next one. Bergman made about 60 films in his lifetime, I have made 38. At least if I can’t rise to his quality maybe I can approach his quantity.
Because, among other things, size matters:

Woody Allen and the banana

Woody Allen and the banana

That's from "Sleeper," and note that Woody Allen also made a film called "Bananas."

Now, let's compare two men -- Woody Allen and Marcello Mastroianni -- as they encounter the banana:

Woody Allen and the banana

Eating a banana

It's true that Woody has the bigger banana, but I'm going with Marcello!

AND: The weirdest part of it is that Woody Allen has a movie that is entirely about a recipe for egg salad!

"There are many honorable reasons to oppose the Iraq war, but believing that our troops are sick monsters is not one of them."

Mark Steyn on the Beauchamp affair... and the recalculation of the global warming statistics. It's one of those 2-topic columns the editors warn you against. Final ¶:
As Pogo said, way back in the 1971 Earth Day edition of a then-famous comic strip, "We have met the enemy, and he is us." Even when we don't do anything: In the post-imperial age, powerful nations no longer have to invade and kill. Simply by driving a Chevy Suburban, we can make the oceans rise and wipe the distant Maldive Islands off the face of the Earth. This is a kind of malignant narcissism so ingrained it's now taught in our grade schools. Which may be why, even when the New Republic's diarist goes to Iraq and meets the real enemy, he still assumes it's us.

The Iowa Straw Poll!!

I'm just way too excited about it to think of a thing to say.