April 5, 2008

Is blogging so stressful that it should be considered "a young man's game"?

The NYT asks.
“I haven’t died yet,” said Michael Arrington, the founder and co-editor of TechCrunch.... Mr. Arrington says he has gained 30 pounds in the last three years, developed a severe sleeping disorder and turned his home into an office for him and four employees. “At some point, I’ll have a nervous breakdown and be admitted to the hospital, or something else will happen.”

“This is not sustainable,” he said.

AND: Isn't this the truth?
Have you ever seen such shameless traffic-baiting from the failing New York Times? Are they really feeling the Pinch this badly? And yet, I’m touched. So here’s a sympathy link.
It's really a dilemma. Should one link to these pathetic, absurd things? And aren't we pathetic to link to them when they talk about us?

I'm seeing a bunch of posts mocking the NYT article — mainly for pitying bloggers who complain about their working conditions. For example, noting the tales of bloggers getting heart attacks, Dr. Helen writes:
Funny, I had a heart attack before I started blogging. Now I am fine. Coincidence? I think not. Some bloggers actually see their craft as therapeutic. Perhaps it depends on your mindset. And as I have said before, I think many people who blog don't feel well to begin with. If they did, they might be out doing less sedentary things. So, some, though not all, may come to the keyboard already with health problems.
I think the mindset that makes blogging oppressive is doing it for money. I don't think Dr. Helen is blogging for a living, and I'm not blogging for a living. I get money from ads, but blogging wouldn't be so fun and fulfilling if I was depending on it for my livelihood. Some of the bloggers described in the article were working for someone else and getting paid $10 a post. At my rate of blogging — which is pretty intense and 365 days a year — that deal would bring in less than $30,000 a year. That would in fact be not sustainable. I'd feel like an idiot working this hard, getting this many readers, and only making that much money. Warning alarms would be going off in my head constantly: You have a terrible job! Feelings of self-doubt and regret would torment me. Friends and family would tell me I'm crazy, and I'd have a special segment of my brain playing a tape loop: Am I crazy? Am I crazy?

So is blogging "a young man's game"? If it's a game, it's several games. One is for young men and women: Use it as a calling card. Get some recognition and leverage it into a job in journalism, a nice book deal, or something else more substantial. Blog hard, but not for too long, and make it work as a means to an end. An older person changing careers might do this too. But there are many other games to be played through blogging: You can amplify another career (a career that brings you real income). You may care passionately about your cause and or your beliefs, something that you might otherwise contribute money to. You can do it with no idea of improving your income but purely for personal satisfaction.

Know why you are doing it and pay attention to whether it is doing what you want it to do for you. That's good advice for anything you do by choice. I think the stress people feel — in blogging, as in many other things — comes from the unattended-to knowledge that what they are doing doesn't make sense.

Glass enclosures.

The Oceania room at the Met

In the Oceania room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

ADDED: Since commenters seem unfamiliar with human costumery, let me add this picture I took a few weeks ago at the Museum of Natural History. (These are African.)


"I calculated that every time I have a Medicare patient it’s like handing them a $20 bill when they leave."

"I never went into medicine to get rich, but I never expected to feel as disrespected as I feel. Where is the incentive for a practice like ours?"

The political desire for more "preventive" health care for everyone meets the shortage of primary health care providers.

"I can't wear flat shoes. My feet repel them."

Just one of many interesting things about Mariah Carey.
She insists on wearing high heels at all times, and has even been filmed in her stilettos while using her home-gym equipment.

"Wisconsin is in many ways a liberal state... but its electorate showed this week that it favors judicial restraint over activism."

John Fund at the Wall Street Journal comments on the defeat of Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Louis Butler:
[T]he liberal majority on Wisconsin's Supreme Court [has] made so many suspect calls [beginning] immediately after Justice Diane Sykes stepped down to join a federal appeals court. Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle replaced her with Mr. Butler, a former Milwaukee judge and public defender who had lost to Ms. Sykes by a 2-1 margin in a nonpartisan race in 2000. Justice Butler soon wrote the infamous decision in Thomas v. Mallet, which created a guilty-until-proven-innocent approach to product liability. Wisconsin became the only state to adopt a "collective liability" theory in lead paint cases: Whether a company actually produced the lead paint that harmed a claimant was irrelevant to its guilt or innocence....

... Louis Butler's bid this year for a full 10-year term was bound to be contentious. Teacher unions, trial lawyers and Indian tribes (which had benefited from the court's controversial expansion of casino gambling) poured money into third-party ads attacking [his opponent] Judge Gableman. They were matched by business groups such as Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, which ran ads noting that Justice Butler had earned the nickname "Loophole Louie" from fellow public defenders for winning reversals of his clients' criminal convictions. Justice Butler made the mistake of embracing the nickname, claiming it was "affectionate." Voters weren't amused.
Fund's bottom line is in favor of judicial elections as "a check on the judiciary."
If judges are umpires [as Chief Justice of the United States John Roberts once said], the best way to ensure that they make the right calls is to bounce those who abuse their power from the game.

"On one day in Canada, he made $475,000 for two speeches, more than double his annual salary as president."

What do we think of all the money Bill Clinton has made giving speeches in his post-presidential life? It makes up more than half of the $109 million the Clintons have earned in the past 7 years.

April 4, 2008

Womanly ads in the green subway car.

Here's the car (at the NY Transit Museum):

Old subway car

I love this one (brassieres and war bonds):

Ads in old subway cars

And this — Who knew Chuckles would keep you alert? And look how enthusiastically that strange man is wielding his Chuckles at her.

Ads in old subway cars

Replacing Linda Greenhouse at the NYT...

... is Adam Liptak.
The resume is impressive. But what impressed me [i.e., Washington bureau chief Dean Baquet] most in my discussions with Adam was his remarkable ability to talk about the law with sweep and simplicity. It was striking that these are the precise qualities that make Linda such a great reporter.

"For me, 'I had an abortion' should be as morally loaded as 'I had a Pap smear.'"

Amanda Marcotte's morality:
The underpinnings of the moral angst about abortion — the idea that a woman has no right to pry loose a flag a man has planted in her (even if he agrees with her decision, as most men in this case do), or that she should be punished for having sex — offend me to the core, and that many women go through anguish over getting abortions depresses me.
Well, it offends me to the core that you think material like this helps preserve abortion rights (which I support).

The subject of the post at the link is actually this "I was raped" T-shirt that was written about on a NYT blog today. Marcotte is saying it makes a lot more sense to wear an "I had an abortion" T-shirt than to wear an "I was raped" T-shirt. Both shirts can be seen as an attempt to conquer shame, but obviously the messages are very different. The "raped" shirt is intended to help rape victims "own the experience," but it advertises the fact that the wearer has been attacked and overcome. Is that the first thing you want everyone to know about you? If it is, you ought to think through why it is.

The "abortion" shirt, on the other hand, admits that you've done something for yourself that involved sacrificing what many people believe is another human being. Why do you want to say that by T-shirt? In Marcotte's view, it's to show that you're proud of "taking care" of yourself "despite all the misogynist messages out there." I thought it was more to normalize abortion — to make it seem ordinary, widespread, and something that would be done without shame by nice, upstanding women.

When straps were straps and soap was profound.

A subway car from the early 20th century (at the NY Transit Museum):

Old subway car

I loved the old ads on display. Let's concentrate on the soap:

Old soap ad

Old soap ad

Old soap ad

ADDED: One more:

Ads in old subway cars

At 4:44 on 4/4 (i.e., today) you can hear "4 Minutes."

Here. (And it's in a very cute waiting mode now.)

ADDED: I'm still getting the clock after 4:44, so now this cute gimmick is just annoying me...

AND: I would never have posted and linked to this if I hadn't been led to believe the website would show the video. I feel so used. I will need to compensate via blogging by saying something mean about Madonna. Let me do it right now so I can move on. Ugh! Have you seen what Madonna's hands look like these days? They're hideous!

Wisconsin citizens seem to have demonstrated their liking for conservative state supreme court justices.

Does this mean somone can defeat Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson when she runs for a 4th term next year?
No one has announced plans to run against Abrahamson yet, but the election is a year away. Jim Pugh, a spokesman for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, said conservative judges — Diane Sykes, Patience Roggensack, Annette Ziegler and now Michael Gableman — have won each of the past four contested elections.

Gableman was elected Tuesday, beating incumbent Justice Louis Butler, the first time a sitting Supreme Court justice has been ousted in 41 years.
But who dares to challenge the monumental Shirley Abrahamson? Now that an incumbent has lost, perhaps someone with far more weight than Gableman will step up. People around Madison are stunned — stunned enough that I can see it from Brooklyn — at Butler's loss to someone who was quite obscure:
... Gableman wasn't well known before he decided to challenge Butler in this year 's race. Hailing from a one-judge county in far northwestern Wisconsin, Gableman announced his candidacy less than six months ago and defeated Butler, of Milwaukee, by 51 percent to 49 percent
So who will take on Shirley Abrahamson? I'm not calling for her defeat, please note. I am only saying that, given the Wisconsin voters' taste for conservative judges, we deserve top-quality conservative candidates.

ADDED: Here's a map showing the voting pattern in the Butler-Gableman election:

I think this says a lot about Wisconsin. My Wisconsin is that dark blue square down at the bottom.

Air America suspends Randi Rhodes for using nasty language not on her show, but in a comedy performance.

How incredibly pathetic. It's a comedy routine, using exaggerated language, insulting Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro in a style similar to the way Kathy Griffin insults Hollywood celebrities. Doesn't Air America know anything about comedy? (oh wait....)

Here's the offending routine (NSFW). I'm not saying this routine is very good, but it's obviously in a comedy genre that is quite common, and comedians need some room to breathe.

Here's the official response from Air America, which notes that Rhodes was appearing "on behalf of Air America" at an event "sponsored by an Air America affiliate station." Good luck inspiring comedy from your on-air personalities after this... not that you were getting much of it before.

The peace sign turns 50 today.

It was designed in 1958 for use at a ban-the-bomb rally by Gerald Holtom, who said: "I drew myself . . . a man in despair . . . put a circle around it to represent the world." It's been used by lots of different causes over the years, and whatever you think of those causes, you have to admit that it's a great logo.

Though I was in high school and college during the Vietnam era, I never wore a peace sign. In fact, as far as I remember, everyone I knew thought it was dumb and embarrassing to wear a peace sign — like the way a hippie would be depicted on TV.

Can a fat woman win Miss England?

This is like the perennial question whether a plus-size can ever win "America's Next Top Model." Anyway, Chloe Marshall is a big topic of conversation because she's either helping young females with their self esteem or setting an unhealthy bad example.

April 3, 2008

"Optimal Sex Takes 3 to 13 Minutes, Study Finds."


A tip: Set 2 egg timers.

Sex seems to be something like a boiled egg. Got to be at least soft-boiled, and even if you like hard-boiled, don't overcook.

And here's a handy dual timer. Set one side for 3, the other for 13:

Was Wisconsin's state Supreme Court election "a tragedy"?

Governor Jim Doyle said it was and the Wall Street Journal is not pleased:
It's surprising to hear how little he thinks of his constituents, who had the sense to depose one of the court's ultra-liberal justices and in the process helped toughen the standards for judicial accountability.

The election was a referendum on Louis Butler and the high court's sharp political turn. Justice Butler was appointed by Governor Doyle, a Democrat, to fill a vacancy in 2004.....

But Mr. Butler was required to stand for election, and on Tuesday he narrowly lost to district court Judge Michael Gableman. Mr. Gableman's 10-year term will begin in August and probably tip the balance of the court to a 4-3 conservative majority.

... The hotly contested race supposedly shows the need for "merit selection" or public financing in judicial elections. But both sides leveraged roughly the same amount of money, and voters had a choice of two distinct legal philosophies.
Should the people directly affect judicial ideology through elections, or is it better to restrict them to picking the governor and then allow the governor's ideology to affect judicial appointments? Are there many people who prefer a chief executive — governor or, at the federal level, President — with one political ideology but want judges with another? For example, you might want a liberal governor because you favor his taxing and spending policies and want him to veto socially conservative bills but still want the judges to adhere to a conservative approach to things like expanding tort liability and requiring the recognition of gay marriage. If you do, then it's a problem to let the governor's ideology flow into judicial appointments.

Do we like the way it's easier to believe that a governor (or President) has picked judges because of their neutral qualifications or is it better to have elections that make people see the ideology of judges? It's hard to picture elections ever moving us closer to choosing judges because of their lofty credentials and adherence to neutral principles, but it's not fair to blame the voters if they are savvy enough to see that candidates are ideological and to vote with their eyes open.

ADDED: More here, asking what does all this means for the next Wisconsin Supreme Court election.

Obama has to deal with an annoying man.


Was it that guy's goal to piss Obama off and get him looking bad on camera? I'd say Obama kept his cool and handled it well, but I'm sure there will be people who will say this is Obama losing his cool. To that, I'd say: If this is Obama losing his cool, Obama is very cool. Perhaps a better question is whether Obama is too cool — too bland and unemotional to enthuse us. But we've already gotten overenthused at Obama. Some day, we'll look back on these scenes and puzzle over the enigma of Obama.

Damn, that guy was annoying. He was a bit like a Sacha Baron Cohen character... except he was not funny.

NOTE: I've replaced the embedded video with a link. People continue to have problems with Redlasso video — I think because it's high-quality video.

Pick a movie to design a meal around.

That was the challenge last night on "Top Chef," which this post won't spoil, but there are spoilers at here, where I read about it. (I haven't watched this season of "Top Chef." Maybe I'll catch up with it later. Is it good this time around?) Anyway, Jim Hu, at the link, thinks the contestants made pretty lame movie choices. They should have been less literal, more creative, and more cleverly knowing about the content of a good movie. His choices:
Wizard of Oz: Rainbow trout with artichoke hearts and a poppy seed crackers.
Spartacus. Escargot... and oysters.
Duck Soup. Perhaps an exception to the obviousness rule, but how can you not do this?
The Godfather: Fish baked in parchment.
The main entree could be Dances with Wolves Buffalo steaks. Or you could do Silence of the Lambs, but only if you serve the lamb with fava beans
Citizen Kane Rose sorbet
Commenters, surely you have some ideas! Me? Well, my favorite movie already is about dinner: "My Dinner With Andre." To be creative and knowing, we'd have to get past the potato soup and squab and come up with something from inside the stories Andre tells. Maybe something covered in coarse salt to represent sand — Andre eats sand in the Sahara Desert (and laughs). [ADDED: Actually, he doesn't laugh: "We weren't trying to be funny. I started, and then he started, and we just ate sand, and threw up. That was — that was how desperate we were."]

Let me go on to the rest of the favorite movies I list in my Blogger profile:

"Aguirre the Wrath of God." This should not be an opportunity to serve Spanish or Brazilian food. I'd be all about the seaweed. (When they're really hungry they pull algae out from between the logs of the raft.)

"Crumb." The first thing I think of here is a drawing of a can labeled "[unwritable word] Hearts." Next, I think of Maxon Crumb ingesting a long strip of cloth dipped in water (to clean out his innards). Let's skip this movie.

"Grey Gardens." Paté on crackers! [ADDED December 20, 2014, after watching this movie again: ice cream right out of the container, Wonder Bread, cat chow, and corn on the cob.]

"32 Short Films About Glenn Gould." Pills!

"Limelight." Hmmm. Limes? No, the lime in limelight is not the fruit.

"It's a Gift." Kumquats!

"Dr. Strangelove." To drink: nothing but distilled water. [AND: Pure grain alcohol!] Food: a big buffet table. And every night: a food fight. That's our restaurant gimmick: We encourage the patrons to throw food. "The Grave of the Fireflies." In this movie, a Japanese animation, children starve. Must skip. "The Nights of Cabiria." Too easy of an excuse to make Italian food. Nothing specific comes to mind. "Fast, Cheap & Out of Control." Well, we can't serve lions or mole rats. Robots are not edible. We'd have to come up with some way to make topiary shapes out of things. "Slacker." Sorting through my memories of this movie, I'm just seeing a lot of coffee. IN THE COMMENTS: The name Ted Turner comes up, and there's a suggestion that his movie would be "Soylent Green."

April 2, 2008

Late afternoon in the Oceania room.

Late afternoon in the Oceania room at The Met

At the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

"We'll be 8 degrees hotter in... 30 or 40 years.... Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals."

Ted Turner has become a deranged old man.

"For those of you who carry just a wallet, how the heck do you do it?"

Dr. Helen got sick of carrying a purse, but finds it hard to edit down to just a wallet. She asks for advice. I was a staunch purse-avoider for many years. I was over 40 before I started carrying a purse and even then, I did it only some of the time. So I'm almost an expert.

First, get a very slim wallet. Dr. Helen links to the one she bought, and I can see from the picture that it is way too bulky. It's made of thick, pebbly leather and folds over twice. Ugh! This beautifully designed wallet by Comme Des Garcons is the best slim wallet I've ever encountered. Yes, I wish it were cheaper, but it's a beautiful design. When you're wearing pants with decent pockets, you can carry that in one pocket and your keys in the other.

But if you need anything more — cell phone, lipstick — it might get too bulky. A jacket can add some pockets, but the best solution is really a very small purse with a thin shoulder strap. And that's probably more comfortable and free than stuffing things in your pockets. The right kind of tiny purse with your essential things can be put inside a larger handbag, so that it's easy to switch from heavy to light. For example, I love this big bag, and I can put my laptop, papers, multiple pairs of glasses, cameras, books and everything in it, along with the much smaller bag that is easily taken out and used separately.

Finally, don't think so much about how annoying the big bag is. Look at the problem in a positive way. It's interesting to try to figure out ways to do all sorts of things more efficiently. The handbag issue is just one example of the many things in life that could be simplified and improved. It's good to develop your awareness of this and to enjoy thinking creatively about how to become more efficient. For example, think of how encumbered you are by the project of consuming several meals a day — all that shopping, cooking, chewing, cleaning up. The equivalent of the skinny wallet here is the Posh Spice approach to food — no meals, just a restricted set of snack items. Posh has chosen soy beans, pretzels, diet Coke. I think you could put together a much better selection, like maybe smoked almonds, carrots, and latte.

Travel light!

ADDED: Dr. Helen blames women for the lack of pockets in women's clothes. She states that women are "slaves to fashion." Eh. Some are. Some aren't. Here's her evidence:
Try going to the opening of a local Sephora (a make-up store, for those of you who aren’t “in the know”) and watch the parade of women swoon and swarm through the store as if they are on a drug-induced high. Then take a look at the puzzled faces of the men or boys they’ve dragged to the place while they watch the mysterious behavior of these women who are practically foaming at the mouth about make-up and tell me that this fashion — along with a lust for purses — is anything but the desire of the women themselves doing the longing.
But I've been lusting and longing for beautiful women's clothes with well-designed pockets for decades. That doesn't cause it to be in the stores. I think free markets work pretty well, but I still don't believe what is in the stores equates to what we really want.

But I must say, I was in Sephora the other day (to spend $22 for lip balm — "sweet and tart blackcurrant oil cushions the lips with plumping fatty acids"), and the women were in some crazy dream world. One woman raves to another that this cosmetics line is all natural, and the other oohs with excitement and surprise. But some women had in fact dragged men along with them, and way these men looked made me want to slap them back to consciousness and shout at them to get the hell out of there. I'm not saying that men must be very masculine or that there's something wrong with a man who actually wants to go into Sephora and buy something. (They have plenty of men's products, and beautiful salesladies will eagerly help you select great gifts for women.) But these particular men looked as though they had atrophied into mere appendages of women. They were willingly and weakly standing there discussing the women's products. They were placidly accepting their diminished existence. That's how I saw it anyway.

Hillary as Obama's benefactor?

Maureen Dowd explains:
Obama had not been hit hard until this campaign; he sailed through his Senate race. Without Hillary, he never would have learned to be a good debater. He never would have understood how to robustly answer distorted and personal attacks. He never would have been warned about how harmful an unplugged spouse can be. He never would have realized how a luminous speech can be effective damage control....

Hillary has clearly raised Obama’s consciousness about the importance of courting the ladies. Touring a manufacturing plant in Allentown, Pa., Tuesday, he was flirtatious, winking and grinning at the women working there, calling one “Sweetie,” telling another she was “beautiful,” and imitating his daughters’ dance moves by twirling around.

Later, at a Scranton town hall, he went up to Denise Mercuri, a pharmacist from Dunmore wearing a Hillary button. “What do I need to do? Do you want me on my knees?” he charmed, before promising: “I’ll give you a kiss.”...

At the Wilbur chocolate shop in Lititz Monday, he spent most of his time skittering away from chocolate goodies, as though he were a starlet obsessing on a svelte waistline.

“Oh, now,” the woman managing the shop told him with a frown, “you don’t worry about calories in a chocolate factory.”
Wait, is she toughening him up or feminizing him? And is the feminine stuff nauseatingly stereotyped?

Footnote: Lititz, Pennsylvania is the ancestral home of my paternal grandmother.

The Singles Map.

In case you want to pick where to live based on the supply of singles of the sex you prefer, Richard Florida has the info depicted nicely on a map. That map is telling me to get out of New York City — and back to Madison.

By the way, this idea that you should go where the sex ratio is best is called "the Jan and Dean rule":

I'm not sure which one is Jan and which one is Dean. I'm going to assume it's Jan on the left, because we read left to right, and moviemakers were probably trying to help us. But the first few seconds of that video are quite interesting, and I don't mean just as a study of nonactors not even trying to act. Why does "Jan" already have his 2 girls? It doesn't fit the dialogue (unless the point is supposed to be that Jan is an idiot and girls find Dean hopelessly unattractive). I think it's because without the girls, the dialogue would make Jan seem gay.

Which reminds me: Florida's map leaves you on your own to figure out the extent to which an oversupply of one sex means a lot of gay people choose to live there. But he's already telling us that New York has a huge oversupply of women.

Footnote: Richard Florida did a Bloggingheads recently.

Michael Gableman wins Wisconsin Supreme Court seat from Louis Butler.

This was a fight known mainly for the nasty ads put out by groups supporting the candidates, but the bottom line is that the balance on the court has changed.

Here's a recent Wall Street Journal article that focused on the race:
After four years of judicial activism, one of the court's most liberal members, Justice Louis Butler, is up for re-election -- and voters get to send a message about what they expect from their judges....

The last time Badger State voters had a chance to vote on Justice Butler, in 2000, the then-Milwaukee County Municipal Judge lost by nearly 2-1 to then-state Supreme Court Justice Diane Sykes. But when a seat opened up on the high court in 2004 with the elevation of Justice Sykes to the federal Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Democratic Governor Jim Doyle appointed Judge Butler to the slot.

Liberals suddenly enjoyed a 5-4 majority on the court, and it swung sharply to the left. The court systematically dismantled the state's tort reform laws, eliminating caps on noneconomic damages in medical malpractice rulings. In another case, the court made Wisconsin the only state to accept "collective liability" for manufacturers in cases involving lead paint. Whether a company actually produced the paint became irrelevant to guilt or innocence.

I didn't endorse a candidate (or vote) in this election.

CORRECTION: Sorry I had Butler's first name as Michael overnight. The perils of posting at 1 a.m.

UPDATE: President Obama has nominated Louis Butler to be a district judge here in the Western District of Wisconsin.

April 1, 2008

John McCain gets back at David Letterman.

(The song the band is playing is "Soldier Boy.)

(I'm embedding a Redlasso clip, which has caused problems in the past. Hopefully, it will work okay this time.)

ADDED: Redlasso clip replaced by YouTube. I don't know what it is about Redlasso, but it screws this site up for some people. It's such a shame, because they do a great job of putting together clips and getting them out quickly.

Moderns among the ancient.

A slim young man draws the hand of a hulky ancient:

Roman sculpture at the Met

Women huddle in threes and concern themselves with very old things:

Roman sculpture at the Met

Think about them all you want:

Roman sculpture at the Met

They will never think about you:

Roman sculpture at the Met

I said it 3 days ago, and now Hillary is saying it: Hillary is Rocky.

On March 29th, I presented the "Rocky" analogy:
You know if this campaign were a movie, Hillary would have to win... or at least "go the distance." She would be the central character, because the story is most interesting from her point of view. She's got a fabulous backstory, which includes suffering, but she starts out on top and full of hubris. Along come the one man who can block her path to fulfillment. She's torn down and laid low, humiliated once again. But she needs to learn to fight, and she's not going to give in. Come on, I'm getting chills just sketching it out. If the movie was about Obama, sure, it should have ended on Super Tuesday, with just an epilogue showing him in the White House. But if he's not the central character, we're still building toward the most thrilling climactic scenes.
Today, Hillary is all "I am Rocky":
... Clinton said to end her presidential campaign now would be as if "Rocky Balboa had gotten halfway up those art museum steps and said, 'Well, I guess that's about far enough.'"

"Let me tell you something, when it comes to finishing a fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up. And neither do the American people," Clinton said.

And as long as she's talking about beating him in a fight, why not expand into other sports? Especially bowling. Everyone can beat Obama at bowling. And sure enough, here's Clinton, taking advantage of any opportunity to kick his ass:

Dolly Parton mentors the "American Idol" crowd.

Are you watching? It's on now.

ADDED: Dolly is very sweet and incredibly likable, but don't be fooled. She's just walking through this. We see her listening to the contestant play a song once and doing nothing more than applauding and hugging afterwards. Then, in a separate clip she says a few — scripted, I think — words of gentle praise. That is, she never actually mentored the contestant. She never listened critically, never gave any real advice or worked with the singer at all. As an "AI" mentor — and I only mean as an "AI" mentor — Dolly comes nowhere near Barry Manilow. Here's what I wrote about Barry on "AI" in 2006:
I just want to say how much I like Barry Manilow. Not his music, which isn't to my taste, but him as a person. Unlike Stevie Wonder and various other guests, he did not do the show to get the kids to sing his songs, and he took his role as a music teacher seriously. He really analyzed each performance and came up with concrete help and never seemed to be at all about self-promotion. I know you could say that this nice-guy thing is just his gimmick, but if it is, it works well, and maybe more people ought to try it.
Lulu and Peter Noone followed the Manilow model last year, so it's disappointing to see Dolly Parton slough it off like this. That she's a bigger star than Manilow, Lulu, or Noone is no excuse. If she chooses to do the show to leverage her popularity, she should play the game.

AND: I'll put tonight's performances in this order: David Archuleta, Carly Smithson, Michael Johns, David Cook, Jason Castro, Kristy Lee Cook, Ramiele Malubay, Syesha Mercado. Now, I think Ramiele will be the one going home, because she sang such a nondescript song, and Syesha got to do "I Will Always Love You," which everyone knows and which gives a singer a lot of opportunity to show off — even if there is also the problem that, note for note, we will compare her performance to the famously brilliant Whitney Houston recording and think over and over again that she's falling short — way short. Syesha will get a lot of votes for singing that song, much as I hated it. But I don't even like hearing Whitney do it. I find it annoying. It's even annoying when Dolly sings it.

OOPS: I left Brooke White out of my ranking! Put her between David Cook and Jason Castro. Oh, now I'm thinking I got the whole thing wrong. Whatever....

"I don’t want them punished with a baby."

A quote from Barack Obama, talking about the importance of teaching kids about contraception.

Or do you think he was talking about abortion? Sean Hannity does. And the blogs go wild.

Obama is obviously talking about contraception education, but there is an implicit — albeit deniable — signal about abortion rights. Note that he says "I'm going to teach [my daughters] first of all about values and morals, but if they make a mistake, I don't want them punished with a baby." If they make a mistake, doesn't that mean they failed to use contraception? It suggests that to a lot of people, but I think he took the position that it would be a mistake to have sex at all, and therefore he wants them to know to use contraception — that is, to make a mistake with less consequence.

McCain ad labels him — literally — Episcopal.

With all this trouble Barack Obama has been having with his connection or seeming connection to religion that either is or seems extremist, wouldn't this be a good time to remind folks that John McCain's religion is the most mild-mannered Christianity: Episcopalian?

But we can't just get in people's faces proclaiming the man's Episcopalianism. We need a way to say it absolutely clearly — kind of without even saying it at all....


That's a frame from John McCain's new ad. In other ways, the ad distinguishes John McCain's religion from Obama's. You never hear religion spoken of directly. The theme is "heroes" — and at first you think John McCain is going to be called a hero, but that's for you to think, not for them to say. We hear about a hero teacher who influenced John McCain:
For John McCain, one of his heroes was in the front of his high school classroom.

William B. Ravenel was that hero.

He was the English teacher and football coach who inspired students to live the honor code.

"I shall not lie

I shall not cheat

I shall not steal

And I shall turn in the student who does."

The teacher who believed in exoneration and redemption.

When one of John McCain's classmates violated the rules and admitted to the infraction.

It was John McCain who declared that forgiveness was the best remedy.

Mr. Ravenel was the teacher who helped John McCain understand honor and redemption.
Here's a fuller explanation of that honor code story, in McCain's own words:
In the fall of my senior year, a member of the junior varsity football team had broken training and faced expulsion from the team. Mr. Ravenel called a team meeting during which players argued that the accused be dropped from the team and referred to the honor council. I didn't think that was fair. Since the student in question had, unlike the rest of us, chosen at the start of the year not to sign a pledge promising to abide by the training rules faithfully, I argued in favor of a less severe punishment.

Most of my teammates wanted to hang the guy. But I argued that since he had not been caught breaking training but instead had confessed the offense and expressed his remorse freely, his behavior was no less honorable than that of a student who signed the pledge and adhered to its provisions. My defense swayed the people in the room, about twenty or thirty guys. Mr. Ravenel closed the discussion by voicing support for my judgment.

After the meeting broke up, Mr. Ravenel approached me and shook my hand. With relief evident in his voice, he told me we had done the right thing, and thanked me for my efforts. He allowed that before the meeting he had been anxious about its outcome. He had hoped the matter would be resolved as it had been, but was uncertain it would. Still, he had not wanted to be the one who argued for exoneration; he wanted the decision to be ours and not his. He said he was proud of me. That was very important to me.
Whether you know the whole story or not, the ad sends the message that John McCain values forgiveness — Christian love and forgiveness. Think how deeply that contrasts to what we've been hearing lately from Obama's pastor Jeremiah Wright.

The new McCain ad does many things, but one thing it does is engage subtly and forcefully in the debate over religious values.

ADDED: This post is not intended to take a position on the question whether John McCain is a Baptist or an Episcopalian.

IN THE COMMENTS: Daryl raises 3 questions:
I also thought it was a none-too-subtle reminder that Sen. Obama has admitted to using cocaine and marijuana. Not that I care, but I guess a lot of voters do.

Bonus question: Don't Americans hate to elect preppies? George W. Bush lost his first election because his opponent portrayed him as an out-of-touch Yalie. Playing the "dumb cowboy" is the secret to his electoral success after that.

Double Bonus Question: The ad also emphasizes that McCain was supposed to narc on his fellow classmates. Is that really what his campaign wants us to think about? That "honor" really means betraying your friends, and every time McCain or his campaign uses that word, we think about a high school geek tattling to his teacher?
In answer to your last question, I thought there might be some connection to McCain's maverick role in Washington. The "friends" politicians have are other politicians and various insiders. Don't we want a politician who didn't cater to and cover up for friends like these?

March 31, 2008

Ancient animals.

Cypriotic art at the Met

"It is brash, coarse, menacing, ugly — deliberately so."

"This is not to say there aren't moments of beauty; but these are moments, fleeting. And when the opera is comic, as it often is, it is frightening-comic — not pleasant-comic."

That would be Prokofiev's opera version of the Dostoevsky story "The Gambler," which we saw at The Metropolitan Opera tonight. Frightening-comic — not pleasant-comic... Isn't that what you want in your opera?

"Top models... are like fossil fuels..."

"... don't burn through the models... because pretty soon, before you know it, models are going to be, like, $150 a barrel..."

Another religious monument case for the Supreme Court — this time it's the Seven Aphorisms of Summum.

SCOTUSblog reports:
The newly granted case on monuments on public property — Pleasant Grove City v. Summum (06-665) — will return the Court to the thorny issue of government control of expressive displays in city parks and other public places. The case grows out of a dispute between a city in Utah and a religious sect, Summum, that sought to place in a city park — along with other monuments, including one dedicated to the Ten Commandments — a monument to the tenets of Summum’s faith, the “Seven Aphorisms.”
What are the Seven Aphorisms of Summum?
So, expect to hear a lot more about Summum.


Lamby little lamblets!

Knitwear not to buy.

Street vending gone terribly wrong.


(Sorry about all the fisheye. I was traveling light, walking over the bridge yesterday, and I had to commit to one lens — to seeing the world this way. Frankly, by now, it looks completely normal. Are you sure your peripheral vision isn't curved? I think it is!)

UPDATE: I bought a new lens. Look for a new point of view coming soon.

"Have you dated liberals before. If so, any difference you can tell between liberal and conservative guys?"

Right Wing News interviews conservative female bloggers about dating.
I tend not to date liberals, for a reason. Politics is so important to what I do and I follow it so much. I can't respect a guy who's liberal all that much because it makes me question his intelligence. So, that's a big minus because I'm thinking how smart can this guy be if he thinks John Kerry is a great politician? (Laughs) If he thinks Barack Obama would be a great President, I think, gee, how bright could this guy be?
Ugh. This is almost as annoying as this essay the other day in the NYT — it's now #1 on their most-emailed list — about these literary types who abhor love from people who don't know all the authors or don't like the right books:
Anyone who cares about books has at some point confronted the Pushkin problem: when a missed — or misguided — literary reference makes it chillingly clear that a romance is going nowhere fast....

[S]ometimes, it’s the Howard Roark problem... “I did have to break up with one guy because he was very keen on Ayn Rand,” said Laura Miller, a book critic for Salon. “He was sweet and incredibly decent despite all the grandiosely heartless ‘philosophy’ he espoused, but it wasn’t even the ideology that did it. I just thought Rand was a hilariously bad writer, and past a certain point I couldn’t hide my amusement.”...

Judy Heiblum, a literary agent at Sterling Lord Literistic, shudders at the memory of some attempted date-talk about Robert Pirsig’s 1974 cult classic “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance,” beloved of searching young men. “When a guy tells me it changed his life, I wish he’d saved us both the embarrassment,” Heiblum said, adding that “life-changing experiences” are a “tedious conversational topic at best.”
Look out, there's a lot of aversion out there. But really, my question is, what did those guys who loved John Kerry, Ayn Rand, and Robert Pirsig look like?

"There is no repentance on the part of The New York Times. There is no integrity when it comes to The Times."

Writes the Reverend Jeremiah Wright to Jodi Kantor of the NYT in a letter published at Time.com:
Out of a two-hour conversation with you about Barack’s spiritual journey and my protesting to you that I had not shaped him nor formed him, that I had not mentored him or made him the man he was, even though I would love to take that credit, you did not print any of that...

... I spent approximately five to seven minutes on Barack’s taking advice from one of his trusted campaign people and deeming it unwise to make me the media spotlight on the day of his announcing his candidacy for the Presidency and what do you print? You and your editor proceeded to present to the general public a snippet, a printed “sound byte” and a titillating and tantalizing article about his disinviting me to the Invocation on the day of his announcing his candidacy.
The letter is dated March 11, 2007. Since then, no doubt, Jeremiah Wright has learned a whole lot more about how people extract sound bites (or "sound byte"). (But it's hard to believe he was so innocent even back then.)

The NYT responds to Times's printing of the old letter:
Ms. Kantor conducted herself professionally and honestly throughout her dealings with Mr. Wright. She did what any journalist would do: She brought the news he conveyed during the interview to the attention of her editors, including me. We decided to do what a newspaper does: to present that news to our readers, accurately, fairly and as quickly as possible. Ms. Kantor in no way misrepresented the nature or purpose of the interview; as soon as it was ready for publication, we published exactly the longer story we told Mr. Wright we were working on and that he referred to in his letter.

Putting aside the question of why a letter that is more than a year old is suddenly getting new circulation, it is worth noting that at no time has Mr. Wright challenged the accuracy of either story written by Ms. Kantor – both of which, given the events of the last several weeks, seem remarkably prescient about the potential political peril in the Obama-Wright relationship.”
Good answer!

ADDED: Instapundit links here and also points to this post by Ed Morrissey, speculating that Wright's letter caused the Times to go easy on Wright when it ultimately published the long piece Kantor was working on. He notes that her article has a very tame presentation of Wright's sermons. She wrote:
Mr. Wright preached black liberation theology, which interprets the Bible as the story of the struggles of black people, who by virtue of their oppression are better able to understand Scripture than those who have suffered less. That message can sound different to white audiences, said Dwight Hopkins, a professor at University of Chicago Divinity School and a Trinity member. “Some white people hear it as racism in reverse,” Dr. Hopkins said, while blacks hear, “Yes, we are somebody, we’re also made in God’s image.”
Ed says:
That’s about as close as Kantor ever got to the incendiary rhetoric offered by Wright. She apparently didn’t bother to research the videos and copies of sermons easily available, and so missed the exhortations that 9/11 was America’s “chickens coming home to roost”, that black people should sing “God Damn America”, and that the US had created HIV-AIDS as a tool for genocide against people of color. One wonders why Wright bothered to complain about the minor issue at hand while all of these political land mines remained just below the surface — and why Kantor and the Times never bothered to research Wright in more depth.

... [D]id the Times pull its punches because Wright complained about their early coverage?
Good question!

Uninspiring massage mascot.

Uninspiring massage icon

I don't know much about qigong, but I can't believe that guy embodies the spirit of the thing. As for tui-na, it means "push-grasp" or "poke-pinch":
Physically, it is a series of pressing, tapping, and kneading with palms, fingertips, knuckles or implements that help the body to remove blockages along the meridians of the body and stimulates the flow of qi and blood to promote healing...
Palms, fingertips, knuckles or implements... Not thumbs?! I was thinking it was all about thumbs.

Oppressing the dog.

I see so many big dogs in the city that are obviously built to run but who've had to adjust their gait to the trudge of the human. (Even the tiniest dogs, unleashed, take off and run, far outpacing their owners.) But what can you do? You walk at the speed you walk, and the dog is lucky to be loved by you. What bothers me is all the clothing. Like this:

City dog

That's uncalled for.

The celibacy club at Harvard.

Does celibacy require a social club? Does a celibacy club deserve a lengthy NYT Magazine article? Don't be silly! It's a celibacy club at Harvard. That's what makes it newsworthy in NYTworld. "Harvard" is named 22 times in this article.

Anyway, it is slightly interesting. The reason for a club is not so abstinence types can find love. It purports to have a somewhat intellectual — Harvard-worthy? — quality to it:
“People just don’t get it,” [Janie] Fredell said. “Everyone thinks we’re trying to promote this idea of the meek little virgin female.” She said she was doing no such thing. “I care deeply for women’s rights,” she said. Fredell was studying not just religion but also gender politics — and was reading Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body” alongside John Stuart Mill’s “Subjection of Women.” She had awakened to the wage gap, to forced sterilization and female genital mutilation — to the different ways that men have, she said, of controlling women. One of these was sexual. Fredell had seen it often in her own life — men pushing for sex, she said, just to “have something to say in the locker room,” women feeling pressured to have sex in order to maintain a relationship. The more she studied and learned, the more Fredell came to realize that women suffer from having premarital sex, “due to a cultural double standard,” she said, “which devalues women for their sexual pasts and glorifies men for theirs.”

She said she read in Mill that women are subordinated in relationships as a result of “socially constructed norms.” If men are commonly more promiscuous than women, it is only because the culture allows it, she said. Fredell was here to turn society around. “It’s extremely countercultural,” she said, for a woman to assert control over her own body. It is, in fact, a feminist notion. Conventional feminism, she explained, teaches that control of your body means the freedom to have sex without consequences — sex like a man. “I am an unconventional feminist,” Fredell said, in the sense that she asserts control by choosing not to have sex — by telling men, no, absolutely not.
Actually, that sounds incredibly lightweight — as if Catharine MacKinnon had never existed. But presumably the Times is not terribly sympathetic to Fredell and the values she represents.

The NYT doesn't link to the club's website, but here's the link to True Love Revolution. To my eye, the aesthetics are so poor that it clicking there opens a flood of mistrust. That blue background with a red flower, those ugly frames, the mismatched fonts. Their argument is about psychological wellbeing, but their website is driving me crazy.

Let me cut and past something from the FAQ:
Aren't people who have sex before marriage happier than people who can't get any?
Wait! That's an insane way to ask the question. I thought they were resisting and saying "no, absolutely not." Now they are people who can't get any?
Actually, premarital sexual behavior has the potential to negatively affect your emotional and mental health. Early sexual activity and having multiple sexual partners is strongly associated with increased depression, greater likelihood of maternal poverty, and higher rates of marital infidelity and divorce in future marriages.
Why are they arguing about "potential" and the statistical odds? Why is there a correlation — and does it apply to elite college students? And if you want to be philosophical, shouldn't you speak in terms of the individual?
Sexual activity in both men and women involves the release of powerful bonding hormones that are designed to help married couples stay together permanently and trust each other. Within marriage, these bonds are a cause of joy and marital harmony; but for non-married couples, such bonds can cause serious problems. When these relationships come to an end, the partners often feel a palpable sense of loss, betrayed trust, and unwelcome memories.
Did that answer the question whether you'll be happier if you abstain than if you go ahead and have sex? Can you really control the flow of hormones and the accumulation of bad memories by not having sex? Isn't the fear of future bad memories itself a source of unhappiness?

March 30, 2008

40° — that's warm enough to walk over the bridge, isn't it?

Brooklyn Bridge

Looking back at Brooklyn:

Brooklyn Bridge

Orange interior with cherry blossoms.

Restaurant with cherry blossoms

The Kitchen Club had a huge floral display.

Another room at the museum — children drawing sculpture.

Cypriotic art at the Met

Cypriotic art at the Met

Pictures from the Khmer Dynasty room.

Cambodian sculpture at the Met

Cambodian sculpture at the Met

Cambodian sculpture at the Met

Photos taken yesterday at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Dith Pran "saw his country descend into a living hell" and "survived through nimbleness, guile and sheer desperation."

Dith Pran has died.

See the slideshow, which includes many of his photographs.

Was Barack Obama a "law professor"?

This seems to be the issue of the day, and, being a law professor blogger, I feel compelled to pay attention. So, first, the Hillary Clinton campaign — stinging from the ridiculous Bosnian sniper fire lie/mistake — put out a press release that listed 10 items under the heading "embellishments and misstatements." Item #1 was:

Sen. Obama consistently and falsely claims that he was a law professor. The Sun-Times reported that, "Several direct-mail pieces issued for Obama's primary [Senate] campaign said he was a law professor at the University of Chicago. He is not. He is a senior lecturer (now on leave) at the school. In academia, there is a vast difference between the two titles. Details matter." In academia, there's a significant difference: professors have tenure while lecturers do not. [Hotline Blog, 4/9/07; Chicago Sun-Times, 8/8/04]
"Professors have tenure while lecturers do not"? You might want to avoid glaring mistakes of your own right at the top of your list of someone else's mistakes. A professor starts out without tenure. (Hillary Clinton herself was a law professor — at the University of Arkansas — who never had tenure.) But, let's proceed.

The University of Chicago Law School put up a statement detailing Obama's relationship with the law school: He was a "lecturer" and a "senior lecturer" and never held the title "Professor of Law."
Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School's Senior Lecturers have high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.
Some law schools use the term "Adjunct Professor" instead of lecturer. Here's a list of adjunct professors at NYU School of Law (where I got my law degree). Here's a list of adjunct professors at the University of Wisconsin Law School, my home school. The term is also used at Brooklyn Law School, where I'm visiting this year. It's a very common term used to dignify the role of the outside lecturer. Outside lecturers contribute a lot to the law school and do it for comparatively very low pay, so the honor is important. To withhold the title "adjunct professor" and use only the title "lecturer" is, I think, show-offy of the school: Association with us is such an honor that we don't need to puff it up the way they do at those lesser schools.

Next, in this Chicago Sun-Times blog post, Lynn Sweet stirred the pot for Hillary:
[Marsha Ferziger Nagorsky, an Assistant Dean for Communications and Lecturer in Law at Chicago] said there is a major distinction between a lecturer and senior lecturer, though both are not full-time positions. She said the status of a senior lecturer is “similar” to the status of a professor and Obama did teach core courses usually handled only by professors. While Obama was also part of the law school community, his appointment was not part of an academic search process and he did not have any scholarly research obligations which professors often do.

In August of 2004, I wrote a column about Obama’s U.S. Senate campaign literature saying he was a law professor at the U of C when he was a senior lecturer on leave at the school. Neither the school nor anyone in the Obama campaign complained at the time.

The University of Chicago did Obama no favor by saying he was a law professor when he wasn’t. This parsing is not necessary. There is nothing degrading about being a senior lecturer and bringing to students the experience of a professional in the field.
The question isn't whether it's "degrading" to teach law school without being called a "professor," but whether there's something wrong with applying the term "professor" to someone whose formal title is "lecturer." I think one ought to be careful about this. If your title was "lecturer" and you're applying for a job, you shouldn't say "I was a law professor." Even though it can be defended as not a lie, you're exaggerating and not being strictly scrupulous about the facts. And Clinton's press release didn't say this was a lie. It put it on a list of 10 "embellishments and misstatements." It's fair to say it's an embellishment. [ADDED: Actually, the item says Obama "falsely claims," so she is accusing him of lying. I think that's an overstatement — or, we might say, an embellishment.]

Noam Scheiber at TNR writes about what he sarcastically calls "the great 'law professor' controversy":
As best I can tell, the university regarded Obama as a professor, but didn't officially confer that title on him.

I guess I don't see the scandal in Obama describing himself that way. But maybe the voters of Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Indiana will see something I don't...
See what's going on? It was a list of 10 things, intended to show a pattern of puffery (and to balance the Bosnian sniper idiocy), and people are focusing on one item (admittedly, the first item), which is a distraction from the list as a whole. That's an okay rhetorical move, but excuse me if I see right through it.

So, the "law professor" puffery is something on its own. Not all that much, but something. Now, consider the other 9 items, and judge for yourself whether the Clinton campaign has made its point, which melds questions of Obama's honesty to the contention that he lacks experience:
  1. Obama claimed credit for nuclear leak legislation that never passed.
  2. Obama misspoke about his being conceived because of Selma.
  3. Sen. Obama took too much credit for his community organizing efforts.
  4. Obama's assertion that nobody had indications Rezko was engaging in wrongdoing 'strains credulity.' "
  5. Obama was forced to revise his assertion that lobbyists 'won't work in my White House.'
  6. 'Selective, embellished and out-of-context quotes from newspapers pump up Obama's health plan.'
  7. Sen. Obama said 'I passed a law that put Illinois on a path to universal coverage,' but Obama health care legislation merely set up a task force.
  8. 'Obama…seemed to exaggerate the legislative progress he made' on ethics reform.
  9. Obama drastically overstated Kansas tornado deaths during campaign appearance.
Details at the Clinton press release.

All this talk about Al Gore as a compromise candidate...

It's crazy, isn't it?

Meanwhile, Obama is saying Hillary can stay in the race "as long as she wants." Now, I'm sure he really only means that he's not the right person to tell her to quit. He should maintain his magnanimity. Let surrogates pressure her. But, whatever. He's right.

It's just a tight race and we need to "count every vote." That was the battle cry for Democrats the last time Al Gore came near the presidency. Anyone who thinks that playing out the process to the bitter end is too chaotic and divisive is sounding the anti-Gore theme from the year 2000.