May 31, 2008

Daywalker "totally bites him in the ass."

Scroll down to the "in the comments" part.

"Oh, damn. Where did you come from? I’m white. I’m entitled. There’s a black man stealing my show."

The things they say at Barack Obama's church:
In a guest appearance at Trinity United Church of Christ, the priest, the Rev. Michael Pfleger, who resigned about two weeks ago from an unpaid position on the Obama campaign’s Catholic advisory council, delivered a tirade against Mrs. Clinton that included fake tears, a high-pitched voice and top-of-the-lungs screaming. He also gave a racially tinged critique of so-called “white entitlement,” of which he says Mrs. Clinton is guilty.

“When Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on — I really don’t believe it was put on,” said Father Pfleger, 59, the white pastor of a predominantly black South Side church. “I really believe that she just always thought: ‘This is mine. I’m Bill’s wife, I’m white and this is mine. I just got to get up and step into the plate.’ And then, out of nowhere, came, ‘Hey, I’m Barack Obama.’ And she said, ‘Oh, damn. Where did you come from? I’m white. I’m entitled. There’s a black man stealing my show.”

Father Pfleger, a well-known longtime activist and friend of Mr. Obama, issued an apology late Thursday. “I regret the words I chose on Sunday. These words are inconsistent with Senator Obama’s life and message, and I am deeply sorry if they offended Senator Clinton or anyone else who saw them.”
Another sorry-if-you-were-offended apology.

Of course, the Clinton campaign is delighted by Pfleger's wonderful gift:
“Divisive and hateful language like that is totally counterproductive in our efforts to bring our party together and have no place at the pulpit or in our politics,” said Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton. “We are disappointed that Senator Obama didn’t specifically reject Father Pfleger’s despicable comments about Senator Clinton, and assume he will do so.”
How much mileage can they get out of this one?

Reading over Pfleger's remarks, I think they'd be perfectly apt in a comedy routine. The main problem is that they were in a sermon in a church... and it's Barack Obama's church, the source of way too many of his problems. How on earth could someone who supports Obama and is clever enough to say something like that be stupid enough to say it there?

ADDED: You've got to see it in video. [Better version of the clip swapped for the one I had before.]

Hilarious. Race-baiting... it's wrong. Still... LOL.

And here's Rush Limbaugh:
This is stupid! Unless there's a plan here. They must be out to sink Obama at this church, 'cause they know the whole world's watching. Well, that could be, too. Maybe they're just selfish. They're just trying to increase attendance and to hell with Obama. The thing is, this Pfleger guy, he's right. He stole that from me. I didn't say it quite that way, but we all know that the Clintons sitting around, you know, shell shocked. "What happened to us?"

AND: More Pfleger:

UPDATE: Obama and his wife resign from Trinity Church.

"Bleary-eyed and somewhat bedraggled... five and a half hours... 'felt like five and a half weeks."

That was last night. The real fight is today, as the Democrats struggle to find a way through the Florida and Michigan problem.

"Should he be introduced as a Neanderthal man, a bigot, a warmonger, looking out at us from the 19th century?"

Who asked that about whom in 1964?

"They wear high, tight, wight collars, black jackets and what were once known as 'ice cream pants.'" What the hell are ice cream pants? Did people even know that in 1964?

"Unknown Man Commits Suicide." A forlorn headline, from 1899.

Was it "absurd to turn around and start appointing people based on sexual preference" to a public policy committee devoted to the AIDS epidemic? In the Reagan Administration, in 1987.

Imagine arguing that the plan for the New York subway line should be bent eastward so Harlem residents don't flow downtown and unbeautify Central Park West. Some people did, in 1922.

"Will no one weep for the tulips?" Asked in 1939.

A warning that the ghetto law will soon be enforced. Also in 1939.

It's the Reagan Adminstration that's to blame — and never Congress — as the NYT looks at law, taxes, and racism in 1983.

Who is out to get the "carpers, critics and killjoys" and "reactionaries" in 1934?

Movies seen and not seen.

Yesterday at the Sundance theater here in Madison, Wisconsin, it was opening night for the "Sex and the City" movie. Women were swarming around and inside the place. Some arrived in groups of 4 and wearing short, tight dresses. The "caffe" area that, at Sundance, replaces the concession stand, had a party atmosphere. Were they serving drinks? I think they were.

But we weren't there to see "Sex and the City." We were there to see "The Fall." Unlike the ladies in little dresses, we did not dress like characters in the movie. That is, we did not wear loincloths or red masks with rectangular eye holes or helmets or diaphanous gowns. But we were just as eager to take in the show on opening night.

Here's the trailer that got me:

Watching the trailer again, I can see that it absolutely accurately represents what is in that movie, so if you like that, go see it. If you don't, don't. Here's the Roger Ebert review that the trailer summarizes in one word ("Magnificent"). And here are a few more Ebert words:
Either you are drawn into the world of this movie or you are not. It is preposterous, of course, but I vote with Werner Herzog, who says if we do not find new images, we will perish. Here a line of bowmen shoot hundreds of arrows into the air. So many of them fall into the back of the escaped slave that he falls backward and the weight of his body is supported by them, as on a bed of nails with dozens of foot-long arrows. There is scene of the monkey Otis chasing a butterfly through impossible architecture.
The monkey belongs to Charles Darwin, who's out on a quest with the Black Bandit, an Italian anarchist, an escaped slave, and a Indian (whom the man has described as an American Indian but the girl has pictured as a man from India). The alternating sequences of fantasy and storytelling reminded me of "The Princess Bride." And there's a satisfying ending that reminded me of [click for spoiler]. 

The movie has gotten mixed reviews. To the extent that these say the story isn't coherent, I think they are wrong. Pay close attention and you'll see how it makes sense. You have an impoverished 5-year-old child who is listening to a story told by a suicidal, drug-addicted man. The fantasy sequences are the combination of his words and her visualization.

The story takes place in the early days of Hollywood and filmmaking is a theme. The man is in the hospital because he was paralyzed in a fall doing a movie stunt, and in putting a story into words he is like a screenplay writer and the girl is like the director, so the slippage between his story and her imagination tells of the writer's loss of control of his story as it is made into a movie. The little girl is in the hospital because she fell out of an orange tree doing her work as a migrant picker. In her eagerness to see the man's story in her head, she's a movie fan.

ADDED: Importantly, this movie was made without CGI. They made models like this:

Better get that explosion right the first time. I hate CGI — I feel visceral revulsion to it. The beauty of "The Fall" is clearly film beauty, not computer tricks.

May 30, 2008

Court rejects challenge to the form of the Wisconsin referendum on gay marriage.

Wispolitics reports:
A Dane County judge upheld Wisconsin’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage Friday, describing the propositions included in the referendum put to voters as “two sides of the same coin.”

UW-Oshkosh instructor William McConkey challenged the amendment, arguing Wisconsin statutes limit referendums on constitutional amendments to a single question. McConkey’s attorneys argued that the marriage amendment asked voters to respond to two separate questions: how marriage should be defined in Wisconsin and whether marriage benefits should be allocated to unmarried people.
This decision is not surprising. I don't much like referendums, and I support same-sex marriage, but I don't like the use of a procedural hypertechnicality in court to thwart democracy. Defeat the amendment on the merits.

IN THE COMMENTS: Peter Hoh asks "What's the status of the amendment? Is it on the ballot for November?" No, it passed in 2006. This is an effort to invalidate it. "Defeat the amendment on the merits" was ambiguous. I only meant to say that if we're going to have referendums, the voters should prevail.

"I still happen to believe that Saddam Hussein was a threat, that he needed to be dealt with."

Tony Blair responding to Matt Lauer, who's quoting furiously from the Scott McClellan book.

Ezra Klein tries to figure out a way for the Democrats to secure their masculinity.

It's not through Jim Webb:
Democrats can't out-tough the GOP. It's possible that James Webb can do it. But he's sui generis; a Democrat who can win at politics when played under Republican rules. Democrats love those candidates, because they think of presidential elections as an away game, and they're endlessly hunting for the candidate who plays best under those conditions.
What then are the Democratic "rules"? Or what's the Democratic "home game"? Ezra mixes the metaphor. Sports don't have different rules at different stadiums. But he doesn't even go on to try to discern the rules or the conditions at the home stadium. He moves on to Obama-promotion:
His policies -- particularly his domestic policies -- have not been half as innovative as his politics. But his willingness to double down on opposition to the gas tax holiday, to battle back on negotiating with dictators, to respond to attacks by pressing the point, has been genuinely exciting. And though he has been confident and even aggressive in all of this, he has not been "tough."
And he disses Kerry:
He has not pretended to go shooting, or driven on to Jay Leno's show on Harley. He's essentially been making his own rules.
So can you figure out what Ezra wants to say about masculinity as played by Democratic rules in Democratic stadiums? He titles his post "The Politics of Masculinity," and I think his real point may be that Democrats shouldn't try to compensate for what appears to be inadequate masculinity, but try to find where he says that:
To be clear, this isn't a commentary on Webb.
Well, then be clear. What is it a commentary on?
But the argument for his elevation to the national ticket -- which is to say, to become one of the faces of the party -- is about the electoral benefit of a hyper masculine, effortlessly tough, culturally conservative (seeming) candidate who can win back those Reagan Democrats and white males.
I'd love to have a private, confidential conversation with Webb about what he thinks about the way his party perceives him as some sort of walking bucket of extra testosterone.
As I wrote the other day, I don't think the Democratic Party should be orienting itself towards reknitting that particular coalition.
Knitting! Only a Democrat would talk about knitting masculinity.
I think there are other, more plausible, paths to a majority coalition; paths that are more durable because they aren't so candidate-specific, and that could create a political model better for progressivism and for broad participation in electoral politics.
That's the last sentence of his essay! Come on, Ezra! Real men don't use semicolons. And more than that: Say what you have to say. Don't pussyfoot around. I think you mean:

We are the Mommy Party. Let's own it. Let's do it! The home game is knitting and cooking and putting bandaids on booboos. Be forthright about it. That's more masculine than driving a Harley or a tank or carrying a gun and a dead duck and nominating a bucket of testosterone for VP.

IN THE COMMENTS: George quotes a part of the essay that I left out:
"He [Webb] is the daywalker, combining a progressive's positions with a southern militarist's affectations."

A 'daywalker' is a vampire.

What does that sentence mean?
UWS guy said:
I thought the daywalker line was pretty hip. It also made Webb sound even more bad-ass.
Chip Ahoy said:
I find Ezra Klein nearly incomprehensible and in possession of a disordered mind. And yet his readers apparently 'get' him. One said he understood the metaphor of daywalkers, then elaborated incomprehensibly.
Newscaper says:
This is hilarious IMO. It doesn't mean what Klein, Mr. [wannabe] Hip thinks it does. The other comment here was right in that by making a semi-obscure (by mainstream stds) pop culture reference to Blade -- the vampire comics and Snipes films, he was trying to sound cool and edgy.

What a dipshit -- he actually botched the metaphor.

A "daywalker" is a vampire who can survive in sunlight and fully mingle with normal people and pass as one. But he's still a vampire.

Sounds like Klein is saying the Dems in general are the vampires who can't stand exposure in the light of day (see other commenter's correct 'prog' vs 'lib' observation), and admitting the Dems are treacherous, blood-sucking parasites -- yep, sounds about right :)

But, one might interject, "But wait, the daywalker Blade IS the good guy in the stories," to which I reply that Blade is only the good guy because he has turned *against* the evil of the other vampires, opposing their agenda rather than advancing it.

Klein's metaphor so totally bites him in the ass, by inadvertently being approriate in a way that is 180 out of synch with his intentions in using it.

"ROUND FIVE: It begins with #5 So-Young Chung shyly approaching the microphone as if it were a guillontine..."

"... with BBC Bailly saying "howdy, So-Young!" to her like they are at a Texas BBQ instead of the greatest spelling competition EVER, with So-Young thinking and pronouncing and pronouncing and thinking and asking for the definition over and over again. It's painful. It's polite. It's so very elegant. And it ends with So-Young spelling "chrysoprase" (an apple green variety of something valued as a gem) all wrong. So-Young's whispered thanks upon hearing the dreaded ding...heartbreaking."

The best Spelling Bee coverage ever continues at Throwing Things.

May 29, 2008

"That's a stain that will never go away!"

O'Reilly getting really mad.

The 100 greatest guitar songs (according to Rolling Stone).

#1 is "Johnny B. Goode."

#4 has a place in my heart.

A rare rhino is caught in the wild by a hidden camera and then flips out — like a Hollywood actor confronting the paparazzi.

Who understands the mind of the rhino? Look at him. Look into his eyes:

The Uncomfortable Face

Where are his eyes? What a face. Wouldn't you smash cameras if you looked like that?

"I Knew It Was a Terrible Mistake, but I Didn’t Mention It Until I Got a Book Contract."

The "most tedious" of 3 annoying types of political memoir, according to this NYT editorial. (The other 2 are: "'I Reveal the Honest Truth' a kiss-up-and-tell designed to settle scores (nod to honesty optional)" and "'I Was There at the Start,' designed to make the author appear to be the linchpin of history.") Like the NYT, I can't get past the rank venality of McClellan's project.

And does McClellan add anything to the discourse?

From the WaPo:
Instead, McClellan says, President Bush stayed in a "permanent campaign culture" and allowed his staff to use misleading and incomplete information to "sell" the Iraq war to the American people. While the president focused his public arguments on the possibility that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, McClellan said, his true goal in toppling Saddam Hussein was to boost democracy in the Middle East.
It seems to me that Bush didn't do enough to boost support for the war. He let criticism go unanswered and seemed to trust that the American people would understand why he was doing the right things, so I completely don't get the "permanent campaign culture" charge. As for the decision to concentrate on the WMD rationale over the democracy argument: It's been well known for a long time.

The insouciant orangutan.


The Insouciant Orangutan

Spelling is not on the list yet, but Grammar just made it at #99.

On the list of Stuff White People Like:
White people love rules. It explains why so they get upset when people cut in line, why they tip so religiously and why they become lawyers. But without a doubt, the rule system that white people love the most is grammar. It is in their blood not only to use perfect grammar but also to spend significant portions of time pointing out the errors of others.
You know, I was a little tough on Stuff White People Like when I first read about it, but I've come to appreciate how hard it is to write. (I even hope the "Stuff White People Like" book is successful. Here, buy it.) I mean, try to think what could be written about spelling if it were to be added to the list.

Also, I note that #100 — congratulations on getting to 100 — is bumper stickers. I was just writing about bumper stickers the other day, and I didn't think of writing:
When a white person drives an older car (6+ years old) that has a resale value under $2000, they will coat the entire backside of the car in bumper stickers. Because of the abundance of space they are free to include stickers from all areas of white support: music, politics, the environment, insults to right wing politicians, and various movements that tell people to keep a city “weird.”

But when white people have a nice new car such as a Prius or an Audi station wagon, the fear of losing resale value prevents them from applying more than one sticker. Therefore that one sticker must properly capture the essence of the car and the political views of the driver.

The safest and most accepted choice for a sticker is always one that supports a Democratic Presidential candidate (Ralph Nader is an acceptable substitute). As of February 2008, white law requires an Obama 08 bumper sticker to be placed on the back of every Prius. Though these stickers reach peak effectiveness during an election year, it is acceptable to leave this sticker on the car until the next election regardless of whether or not the candidate actually won. If it’s a disputed election like in 2000, the sticker can be left on for the life of the car.
The newest addition to the list is Being Offended:
[T]here are few things white people love more than being offended.

Naturally, white people do not get offended by statements directed at white people. In fact, they don’t even have a problem making offensive statements about other white people (ask a white person about “flyover states”). As a rule, white people strongly prefer to get offended on behalf of other people.

"Engaging kids who make funny kid decisions, like ordering the official polo shirt five sizes too big..."

"... or confounding Dr. Bailly with impromptu Napoleon Dynamite impressions."

"In a way, I think it’s that these kids are not just good – they are so much better than I am at something that I have done almost every day since I learned to write. Part of my job – a vanishingly small but nonetheless nonzero part – is spelling things correctly. I do it boringly, perfunctorily, and once a year it’s fun to see people do it daringly, with panache and joy and wispy mustaches."

It's National Spelling Bee time again and that's just part of one post at Throwing Things, where — like every year — there will be many, many posts.

I didn't travel far afield to take this photograph yesterday.


And my subject didn't hassle me. Nevertheless, I felt bad about it.

"If you take a photo surreptitiously, if you’re quick, your photo will be awful."

"If you take care, you will inevitably be seen by someone and most likely be told something in Arabic. It will sound angry. Maybe it’s praise for your ingenuity, but I doubt it."

Traveling far afield to take photographs. It sounds too hard.

May 28, 2008

In the arb.



Are you ready to talk about Scott McClellan?

I'm not. Start without me.

(If you're buying his book, please buy it here.)

IN THE COMMENTS: John Stodder says:
Wasn't McClellan horrible at his job? That's what I remembered. He looked clueless half the time and the press had no respect for him.

Why would anybody care what he says?

I don't mean this in a partisan way. If you wanted to read a memoir of any president, why would you choose the one written by an incompetent clown.

It's not the disloyalty that bothers me. It's the press suddenly finding wisdom in a guy they previously disregarded as stupid and unreliable.

It's inevitable that critical Bush-era memoirs will come out, but written by smarter people. I'll read those.

I hate that attention whore!

Because I'm an attention whore, and that attention whore is getting more attention. The whore!

UPDATE: Look at me! Don't look at me!

Uh oh. There's a rabbit in the yard.

Uh oh. There's a rabbit in the yard.



If they could somehow grow meat without it having ever to have been an animal, would you eat it?

And would you be required to eat it?

Oh, I'm picturing it:
Skum-skimming wasn't hard to learn. You got up at dawn. You gulped a breakfast sliced not long ago from Chicken Little and washed it down with Coffiest. You put on your coveralls and took the cargo net up to your tier. In blazing noon from sunrise to sunset you walked your acres of shallow tanks crusted with algae. If you walked slowly, every thirty seconds or so you spotted a patch at maturity, bursting with yummy carbohydrates. You skimmed the patch with your skimmer and slung it down the well, where it would be baled, or processed into glucose to feed Chicken Little, who would be sliced and packed to feed people from Baffinland to Little America. Every hour you could drink from your canteen and take a salt tablet. Every two hours you could take five minutes. At sunset you turned in your coveralls and went to dinner --- more slices from Chicken Little --- and then you were on your own. You could talk, you could read, you could go into trance before the dayroom hypnoteleset, you could shop, you could pick fights, you could drive yourself crazy thinking of what might have been, you could go to sleep....

Dinner was drab as usual; I couldn't face more than a bite or two of Chicken Little. Later I was hungry and there was the canteen where I got Crunchies on easy credit. The Crunchies kicked off withdrawal symptoms that could be quelled only by another two squirts of Popsie from the fountain. And Popsie kicked off withdrawal symptoms that could only be quelled by smoking Starr Cigarettes, which made you hungry for Crunchies. Had Fowler Schocken thought of it in these terms when he organized Starrzelius Verily, the first spherical trust? Popsie to Crunchies to Starrs to Popsie?

(Read the whole thing.)

How to snack like Barack Obama.

You'll want 2 things:

1. MET-Rx chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars. (Get some here. Hmmm: "This product contains sugar alcohols, which may cause gastrointestinal discomfort. Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect." Be careful, Barack!)

2. Black Forest Berry Honest Tea.

And if you're thinking of making this into the Barack Obama diet, so you can be as fit as Barack Obama, you might want to get your own personal "body man," and let's hope he has a name like "Mr. Love." Damn it, I want a body man. (Hillary Clinton has a body woman, you know — Huma Abedin.)
Mr. Love said he had been hired with “no job description whatsoever.”

“It was just like, ‘You just go out there and — Take. Care. Of. Stuff,’ ” Mr. Love said, taking his time with each word.
Would you want to be shadowed about by a body man (or woman)? What would your body man do?
When Mr. Obama dropped food on his tie while eating in the car between stops, Mr. Love was ready with a Tide pen. He always carries one, along with ballpoint pens, and has turned himself into a walking dispensary of Sharpies, stationery, protein bars, throat lozenges, water, tea, Advil, Tylenol, Purell and emergency Nicorette, not to mention his ever-present iPhone, BlackBerry and Canon Rebel XT digital camera.
So, one thing is: he basically carries your purse. Your gigantic purse. (Or manly variant of a purse.)

He watches TV with you:
“One cardinal rule of the road is, we don’t watch CNN, the news or MSNBC. We don’t watch any talking heads or any politics. We watch ‘SportsCenter’ and argue about that.”
He says nice things to the media when they are writing puff pieces about you:
“He’s quick and he’s strong,” Mr. Love said of Mr. Obama. “A lot of people still don’t know that he’s left-handed, so he can get to the basket and get his shot off, even though he’s not the most explosive or tallest player on the court.”
The things a lot of people still don't know. How will we ever get up to speed on the candidate by November? Anyway, Barack is left-handed, so hold that MET-Rx chocolate roasted-peanut protein bar in your left hand as a tribute when you undertake the Barack Obama diet. Get plenty of exercise, too. Play basketball. Don't be bowling. Watch sports. Don't watch the news. Check your BlackBerry and have a sip of that Black Forest Berry Honest Tea. Layer in some Nicorette for balance. Now, relax. Purify your hands. Hope. Dream. Everything is going to be all right.

ADDED: "Are you gonna save me? Can you save me? You gonna make me happy? You gonna make me smile? Can you save me? Tell me, Mr. Love."

I'm so mad at you, I'd boycott you....

.... but I don't patronize Dunkin' Donuts anyway, so ... uh... stop it — right now! — and maybe I will.

Caucuses = voter suppression.

The best of the pro-Hillary arguments.

May 27, 2008

Something we were talking about...

... back here... got me thinking about this:

"There was a time when residents in this liberal college city would greet homeless people by name."

The L.A. Times takes note of an attitude change in Madison, Wisconsin:
They'd stop to chat with Scanner Dan, the grizzled guy with a walkie-talkie buzzing at his hip as he asked for change. They'd offer odd jobs to a man known as Snowball, who was rumored to have been a smuggler for the Chicago mob during Prohibition.

Then two violent slayings in less than three months shook residents in the state capital, which is also home to the main campus of the University of Wisconsin.

Both victims were stabbed in their homes in the middle of the day by strangers, police said.

Though investigators have no suspects, the police focused on the city's homeless and transients, among others. Now a backlash against Madison's down-and-out population is brewing.

The real problem with electronic books.

I've been meaning to do another vlog about me and my Kindle. (Here's the original one.) The truth is, I hardly ever touch the damned thing.

(But please, if you buy one, buy it through this link so I can get a percentage of the $359 purchase price. And I'm saying that mainly to prompt some skepticism about rave reviews of the Kindle you might be reading in blog posts with Amazon Associates links like that in them. So if you appreciate that little lesson in skepticism, but still want to buy a Kindle, reward me by using my link.)

I've always thought my problem with the Kindle was the gray-on-gray screen — think Etch-a-Sketch — the one the rave reviews say is "easy on the eyes." Yes, and a room with dimmed lights is easy on the eyes, but it's a bad place to read. I want contrast: black letters on a white background. I want that in a book, and I want that in a computer screen, so of course, I want that in an electronic book. I want easy to read.

But anyway, maybe the ugly, hard-to-see screen isn't the real problem with an electronic book:
Books ... give off special smells. According to a recent survey of French students, 43 percent consider smell to be one of the most important qualities of printed books—so important that they resist buying odorless electronic books. CaféScribe, a French on-line publisher, is trying to counteract that reaction by giving its customers a sticker that will give off a fusty, bookish smell when it is attached to their computers.
I know. You're thinking: The French! But focus, people. The entire sensory experience of a book is important.

There's the feel too:
When I read an old book, I hold its pages up to the light and often find among the fibers of the paper little circles made by drops from the hand of the vatman as he made the sheet—or bits of shirts and petticoats that failed to be ground up adequately during the preparation of the pulp. I once found a fingerprint of a pressman enclosed in the binding of an eighteenth-century Encyclopédie—testimony to tricks in the trade of printers, who sometimes spread too much ink on the type in order to make it easier to get an impression by pulling the bar of the press.
Okay, I know. You're thinking, that guy is way more of an aesthete than I even want to be, and if I want some smells and feels — I'll have sex, not grope a book. (I'm talking about you, not me. I will grope an Apple computer.)


"That guy" is Robert Darnton, and his essay "The Library in the New Age" ranges far beyond what I've used here, so read the whole thing. Also, Robert Darnton wrote one of my favorite books, "The Great Cat Massacre," and if you buy it at that link, you will be giving me some money, so read that whole thing too.

IN THE COMMENTS: Simon says "Buffy" already did it:
"Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower or a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell... musty and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is... it has no texture, no context. It's there and then it's gone. If it's to last, then the getting of knowledge should be tangible. It should be, um... smelly."

UPDATE: Dan from Madison tells the story — with pictures — of me demonstrating the Kindle. Excerpt:
Here is a horrible backlit photo of a random woman who interrupted us to tell us how much she absolutely loved her Kindle. Both Ann and I told her she was nuts.

ADDED NOTE TO READERS WHO ARE HAVING TROUBLE UNDERSTANDING THIS POST: I've added boldface and enlarged some print in the original post, which was apparently a tad subtle. Let me be sledgehammer clear. The stuff about smell is humor. My problem with the Kindle was AND IS the gray-on-gray screen. I want contrast: black letters on a white background. I want that in a book, and I want that in a computer screen, and of course, I want that in an electronic book. I want easy to read. I don't want to read ugly gray-on-gray print. Get it?

"If Obama isn't an old-school Keynesian, what is he?"

Asks John Cassidy (as he reviews "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness" by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein):
One answer is that he is a behavioralist—the term economists use to describe those who subscribe to the tenets of behavioral economics, an increasingly popular discipline that seeks to marry the insights of psychology to the rigor of economics....

The central tenet of the Chicago School is that markets, once established and left alone, will resolve most of society's economic problems, including, presumably, the mortgage crisis. Keynesians—old-school Keynesians, anyway—take the view that markets, financial markets especially, often fail to work as advertised, and that this failure can be self-reinforcing rather than self-correcting. In some ways, the behavioralists stand with the Keynes-ians. Markets sometimes go badly awry, they agree, especially when people have to make complicated choices, such as what type of mortgage to take out. But whereas the Keynesians argue that vigorous regulation and the prohibition of certain activities such as excessive borrowing are often necessary, behavioralists tend to be more hopeful about redeeming free enterprise. With a gentle nudge, they argue, even some very poorly performing markets—and the people who inhabit them—can be made to work pretty well.

"The work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

That's what Teddy Kennedy said at the Democratic Convention in 1980 when he could not wrest the nomination away from President Jimmy Carter. Recently, he explained: "I loved the Senate before I ran for the president... I think I became a better senator, with greater focus and attention... It all depends on the attitude, what's in the mind of the person."

Will Hillary Clinton — assuming she doesn't pull off some miracle and get the nomination — return to the Senate with anything like this attitude? First, she'll be surrounded by Senators who supported Obama. ("I'm sure she'll remember, for the rest of her life, who was with her and who wasn't," says Christopher Dodd.) Second, won't she immediately start running in the 2012 election — if McCain wins — or for New York governor... and President in 2016?

It's boring to ask why men have affairs, so let's just talk about why women have affairs.

Emily Bazelon wants to talk about infidelity:
Like everything else about male sexuality, the male desire to lie with another woman is boringly uncomplicated. But why do women have affairs? The judgment of literature (Anna Karenina, Madam Bovary) is that they feel trapped and oppressed, or, less sympathetically, that they're easily gulled by preying males one or two notches up the social ladder. Two centuries later, I would imagine that life is a bit different. The answer we heard from writers like Erica Jong and Gael Greene back in the swingin' Plato's Retreat 1970s was that women crave sexual variety in precisely the same way men do. Three decades later, though, feminism no longer insists that women's desires and inclinations be identical to those of men. It may even be permitted to recognize that, at least superficially, the female sex drive seems, in the aggregate, less pronounced (or at least less conspicuous) than the male sex drive. You don't hear stories about men telling their wives they no longer want to have sex. You do hear stories about women telling their husbands they no longer want to have sex.
So, if sex, especially variety in sex, is less important to women, we must have more complex and fascinating reasons for committing adultery.

Christopher Hitchens hates it when the waiter pours the wine into anyone else's glass.

How come that idiot doesn't know that Hitch gets more than a proportionate share?

May 26, 2008

Get your craft to Mars.

"The spacecraft Phoenix landed safely on Mars yesterday, making a hazardous soft landing on the planet's far north with all its scientific systems apparently intact and ready to begin an intensive new search for life beyond Earth."

Free associating:

"This is a generation that is watching the world come undone."

Says the Oberlin professor. The diligent students unplug the refrigerator. And they set a 3-minute time limits on showers:
... Becky Bob-Waksberg, racked up the morning’s longest shower: Eight minutes. The house cuts Ms. Bob-Waksberg slack, Mr. Brown said, because of her thick, curly hair, which takes longer to shampoo.
The world is coming undone, but Ms. Becky Bob-Waksberg must maintain her luxuriant locks. You know, if you really cared — you unplugged the refrigerator! — you would shave it down to a crewcut... for the greater good. There's a 3-minute timer in the bathroom, to impose the rule on everyone else. There's also "a picture of former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina plastered to the ceiling."
That was Ms. Bob-Waksberg’s idea. No one wants to linger in the shower with someone staring down from the ceiling, she said.

“You could also look at it another way,” she said, “that John Edwards is encouraging me to take a shorter shower.”

Why Mr. Edwards? “He had the strongest global warming policies of any of the candidates,” Mr. Brown said.
Seems to me he has the most glossy, luxuriant hair. I think Ms. Bob-Waksberg is rubbing it in that you have to take a short shower and she doesn't.

"Oh, this is so terrible: The people they want her. Oh, this is so terrible: She is winning the general election, and he is not."

The fervid brain of Bill Clinton knows what those other people are thinking: "It is just frantic the way they are trying to push and pressure and bully all these superdelegates to come out."

Just frantic. Indeed. Is Bill Clinton crazy? She is winning the general election, and he is not. Oh my goodness, we have to cover this up.

There's also this: "I've never seen a candidate treated so disrespectfully just for running."

Who are these people he's so concerned about? Apparently, the media. But what is the media's motivation to drive Hillary Clinton out and elevate Barack Obama if the secret truth is — as Bill tells it — that only Hillary can win against John McCain? The media's self-interest is on the side of more news, and Hillary versus Barack is the news. It can't be that the media want the Democrat to lose in the fall. Is there any way to collect the scattered Clintonian thoughts? Maybe: The media fell in love with Barack Obama and now they'll do anything for him.


By the way, what got me to post on this story was his odd use of the present tense in the quote "She is winning the general election, and he is not." That's especially odd, you know, coming from a man who got into so much trouble over the fine point of the meaning of the word "is."

"It depends upon what the meaning of the word 'is' is. If 'is' means 'is and never has been' that's one thing - if it means 'there is none', that was a completely true statement."

Why did he speak in that too-cute way? It would have been so easy to say: "I was asked a question in the present tense. 'Is' means 'is.' In the present. The answer was no. Is means is and no means no. That was true. Period."

Ah! It doesn't help Hillary to have Bill out there, making us think about Bill all the time.

Palate cleanser.


Madison bumper sticker.

Madison bumper sticker

Because your political opinions are more important than protecting the innocence of children and your terrific sense of humor cancels out any ugliness that might seem to intrude on the sensitivities of repressed adults.

Did you watch "Recount," that HBO movie about the 2000 Florida recount?

I thought it was quite good. Though the story was mainly told from the Gore side, the Bush point of view was represented fairly, and there was a good overall balance to it. Complicated legal issues were explained surprising well without belaboring through through the use of various actors playing characters shown working out their next moves and real TV reporters seen in old video clips, telling us the news as it happened 8 years ago. It was especially exciting to see those old news clips, because, perfectly edited in, they stirred up the emotion that I felt when I saw them the first time. And the acted-out material really worked on me — as I was yelling at Al Gore not to concede and laughing at you don’t have to be snippy about it.

Kevin Spacey was the main character, Ron Klain. You either like Spacey or you don't. He seems to use dullness as his technique, and at this point, for me, it seems hammy. But his fleshy face was kind of subtly fascinating on the HDTV screen and I enjoyed him well enough.

We loved Laura Dern as Katherine Harris. It's so easy to mock the vain and exaggerated Harris, but Dern did a good job of getting inside the character. I could laugh and feel some reasonable sympathy for her.

The best actor was Tom Wilkinson, who, playing James Baker, mainly had to state legal positions and strategies. One thing I really love to get from an actor is the feeling that this person is thinking of the words he is saying — I want to lose the sense that there was a script — and Wilkinson really hit that spot for me with lines that must have looked dull on paper. After all, Baker was mainly about standing his ground, while the other side was scrappily fighting for every vote. But Wilkinson made this stolid intransigence damned exciting.

Of course, I got a kick out of seeing actors play the Supreme Court Justices. The Stevens and O'Connor were particularly good. The Ruth Bader Ginsburg didn't speak — maybe she wasn't even an actress — but she looked the part — amusingly.

That's my opinion. Take into account that: 1. I voted for Gore and rooted for Gore throughout the recount, 2. I accepted the Supreme Court's determination from the beginning (and continue to accept it after writing about it in depth and teaching it in detail numerous times), and 3. I didn't want Bush to become President, but I never hated him, and I voted for him in 2004.

IN THE COMMENTS: Somefeller writes:
I saw the film at a premiere last week at the Baker Institute at Rice. It was a lot of fun, and watching James Baker and Kevin Spacey elbowing each other every now and then when a good line in the film came on certainly added to the atmosphere. At one point, the sound went out on the film in a point when Spacey's character was having a big scene, to the horror of the Baker Institute staff, but it turned out great because Kevin Spacey jumped up and said his lines live, to the enjoyment of the audience, who basically got a free one minute live performance from Spacey. I spoke with Laura Dern at the reception after the film and asked her about her portrayal of Harris. She said the lines that Harris spoke in the film came from Harris's own book and from interviews with other GOP people involved in the Florida recount, so they weren't just created by the writers. She also said she tried to portray Harris (who she thought was basically someone in over her head and in many ways used cynically by other Republicans) sympathetically and not just as a cartoon character or villain, and she hoped that came through to the audience.

"What's a good-looking girl like you doing in a corrupt society like this?"

Note passed by Abbie Hoffman, during the Chicago 7 trial, to (female) courtroom artist Andy Austin.

May 25, 2008

Good night, Dick.

Dick Martin has died.
“My life has been divided into three parts in the show-business world: nightclubs, television, and then I was a director for 30 years of television shows. And I think the most fun I ever had was nightclubs. I loved nightclubs.”
And we loved you on television. "Laugh-In" came on in 1968, and you were more of an early-60s Playboy-type guy. But no matter. "Laugh-In" was a jumble, and you were part of it, the dumb guy in an old-fashioned comedy team stuck into a trendy new show that everyone watched back then.

"Does Senator Clinton understand how tasteless — even how ghoulish — it is to use the word 'assassination'?"

Chris Wallace confronts Terry McAuliffe. Video.

Prairie vortex.

Prairie vortex



Bars, horse manure, and sexual restraint.

Former bartender Paul Broomfield explains the problem of bars:
"When you work at a bar, you get to see the best and worst of a person in one night. They come in wearing a mask, looking like they've got it all together. As they get drunk, you see the decline, all the demons they're battling will emerge on a magnified scale"...

"It's all about self-affirmation, getting the attention you crave. Someone wants me, so that makes me feel good. The funny thing with the bar is that seldom are people there to help you. They want to take as much energy from you as they can"....
His new job is the shoveling of horse shit (literally):
"It's grounding, and helps me figure out where I am on my path. Do I do my work with love, unbegrudgingly, as best I can, even though the second I leave, the stalls will fill up with poop again?"
He's a yogi, and he practices brahmacharya — sexual restraint:
Yoga tames the ego, softens attachment to cravings, and helps Broomfield strive to live in ways which honour his path.

"My yoga practice is masturbation. It's stepping into that pool of self-hatred or sorrow, or whatever you're dealing with on that day, and finding love for yourself over and over again."