August 2, 2008

"But these Internet Savages are more like unto Vagabonds, Wastrels, or even common Thieves, enjoying the Benefits of Society, whilst doing no Good."

Surely, you recognize the voice of our ghost commenter, Sir Archy, dead these 250 Years and more. We'd been missing him, and now he's made an appearance, on that post about the trolls of the web.

The Obama-Spears-Hilton photo-op.


Context here. Enlarged, widened view here.

How to make Site Meter and Internet Explorer play nice.

Do what I did, explained here where it talks about editing the template to move the Site Meter javascript out of any tables (causing the meter to appear at the bottom of the page). This worked for me. I also put an ordinary link to my Site Meter page in the sidebar so it will still be easy to check the statistics (which I like to do).

Drive-by photography — L.A.

It wasn't all fisheye photography in L.A. I don't always have my big SLR camera at hand, but I do always have my Sony DSC-T9 at hand and often in hand — where it fits as easily as a deck of cards. It was fun to use the T9 from the passenger seat. Yes, on my trip to L.A., I had the benefit of never driving. So I was always looking at the scenery — fascinating, because we avoided the freeway — and seeing things to snap. Here are my 4 favorite drive-by shots:

1. (Enlarge.) A chance collage that seems to have everything: Marilyn, Elvis, the Beatles, a dog, an ATM machine, a traffic light, Thai food, Mexican food, a smiling guy waiting for the Metro, graffiti, "sop," "flo," "order now," a manly arm receiving a California tan. Yes, of course, it's cropped. (Uncropped.)

Traffic Montage

2. (Enlarge.) Like Madison, Wisconsin, and unlike NYC, L.A. has signs telling you the names of the neighborhoods. Here you see a sign for Thai Town. Under the sign are 2 women. Neither appears to be Thai. They look like hardworking individuals — do they have jobs that require white shirts and long blue pants? — waiting for the bus. The apt words "Working World" appear on a newspaper vending box. There's also the L.A. Times, and 2 women in shorts and flip-flops who don't seem to have to go to work. I love the colorful buildings — ocher and pink on one side and white-orange-blue Mondrian-inspired on the other. I love the checked sidewalk in pink, white, and 2 shades of gray. Fruit, palm trees, street lights, quintuple traffic lights. A very blue sky resonates with a blue sign that says "Western." There's a smaller sign that says "Hollywood/Western" and I know those are the intersecting streets, but it makes me think of a Hollywood western, and then I notice the black and white photographs of actressy models in the windows in the lower left corner and return to the rock-solid women waiting for the bus.

Thai Town

3. (Enlarge.) I only wanted to drive by Grauman's Chinese Theater, so my feelings vibrated with the pink-haired girl who was just trying to slurp up some caffeine and get home with her groceries. I love her squinty sneer as she slump walks past the Jack Sparrow impersonator and toward the hands (like mine) pointing a tiny camera at the scene. In a differently pink shirt, to the right of the shot, we see a woman who's happy to play the tourist and take a shot of her friend who's about to attempt a movie-star pose while standing on a sidewalk star. (And it would have been a better picture if we could see the friend posing, as we can in the next shot.)

You can be excited about Grauman's Chinese Theater or not

4. (Enlarge!) On our way to LAX, we pass a famous icon, the giant doughnut at Randy's Donuts, that Wikipedia informs me — in a ludicrously somber tone — "dates back to a period during the mid-20th Century that saw a proliferation of programmatic architecturely designed buildings throughout Southern California that were made in the shape of the products they sold." And I'm not going to perseverate —or proliferate any programmatic perorations — about the proper spelling of "doughnut." It's "doughnut." I established that rock-solidly — architecturely? — here.

Randy's Donuts

Was Bruce E. Ivins the anthrax terrorist?

If he wasn't, why did he commit suicide?
[T]o some anthrax experts.... his identification as a suspect fit a pattern they had suspected might explain the crime: an insider wanting to draw attention to biodefense....

Dr. Ivins was among the scientists who benefited from [the massive federal spending on research dealing with anthrax terrorism] as 14 of the 15 academic papers he published since late 2001 were focused on possible anthrax treatments or vaccines, comparing the effectiveness of different formulations.
Read the whole article. There's evidence that Ivins had murderous ideation, but maybe he declined into mental illness because of the suspicion that he was the terrorist. He was a suspect because he was one of the scientists with the knowledge that was needed to accomplish the attacks. If you were innocent and smart enough to be a high-level scientist, wouldn't you understand why you had to be investigated, suck it up, and deal with it? Isn't consciousness of guilt the most likely cause of the suicide and the murder threats that preceded it?
[Ivins] had bought a bulletproof vest and a gun as he contemplated killing his co-workers at the nearby Army research laboratory.

“He was going to go out in a blaze of glory, that he was going to take everybody out with him,” said a social worker in a transcript of a hearing at which she sought a restraining order....
I hope we hear the full story eventually.

McCain continues his ad theme, making fun of the worship of Barack Obama.

McCain takes the risky approach of mocking our love for the other man:

Sorry, John, I found myself smiling through all those images — and it was always pretty easy to pick up the humor and the missing context of all the various things Obama was saying.

And as for that "10 Commandments" punchline... Althouse did it first. I feel like you owe me a link.

But the important question is: Will ads like this and "the biggest celebrity" one work? As I said on the radio show yesterday — listen to the first few minutes — it's risky to show ads like this, but I think they work because of the way that they acknowledge that a lot of us love and enjoy Barack Obama, but urge us to separate that love from the serious question whether he is ready to be President. That is how the ads work for me. Now, I do think the ads works differently for different people.

Those who already don't like Obama can have a laugh. Aren't the people who worship the man ridiculous? This is the way Rush Limbaugh took it:
I'll tell you, if the Obama people got mad and fed up over the Britney Spears celebutard ad, this is going to frost 'em. This is fabulous. This is Barack Obama's words right back at him. This is what Obama has said. And it's fun! It's having fun, yes, but it's his own words thrown right back at him.
Obama devotees can also enjoy a laugh: Our candidate is so fantastic that the only thing McCain can come up with is that he's just too fantastic. We can't promote him with lavish worship — isn't it hilarious that McCain is doing the worship mode for us?

But the key is how the ads affect independent, undecided voters. (Like me!) And I think they may be succeeding in encouraging us to separate our thinking about Obama into 2 parts:

1. He's really cool and great and this whole campaign is a lot of fun.

2. Being President is a deadly serious and immensely difficult and important business and we've got to pick the man who is better prepared to take it on.

Why put such a negative spin on the desire to leave a message instead of reaching somebody when you call on the phone?

There's a device — Slydial – that takes you straight to voicemail:
... lets callers ... avoid an unwanted conversation — or unwanted intimacy...

.... We are constantly just missing one another — on purpose.

... turning some people into digital-era solipsists more interested in broadcasting information than in real time give-and-take.

... “You pretend to be communicating, when you’re actually stifling communication" ....

[Some guy] said he had ... used it to call in sick to work — without facing follow-up questions from his boss....

He acknowledges that the technology encourages a perhaps not-so-valiant character trait.

“It does make you more cowardly,” he said.
Wow. What about all the positive reasons for not wanting to make someone's phone ring? They might be sleeping, with someone, or concentrating on work. I often hesitate to make phone calls, not for selfish reasons, but out of consideration for others. You have no idea what they are doing. In fact, why did it ever become acceptable to cause a bell to ring that required somebody to drop what they are doing and talk to somebody who unilaterally decided it was time to talk? It had to have been an adjustment to phone technology as it was. If it is no longer necessary to behave that way, why is it still thought to be polite? At the very least, calling specifically to leave a voice message should be regarded as fine etiquette. Stigmatizing it as solipsistic and cowardly is ridiculous.

Views from the Santa Monica pier.

On the beach, a statement about the war:

Santa Monica pier

Take a step back:

Santa Monica pier

I told you Obama is everywhere.
And, hey, he really is the biggest celebrity in the world. He's literally overshadowing Paris Hilton, and I don't even see Britney Spears.

ADDED: Enlarge that celebriphoto. I think that's Britney in the back next to Johnny. Depp. (Not McCain!)

MORE: Here's a description of the memorial, which is called Arlington West and is put up by Veterans for Peace. I see that the crosses represent the deaths in Iraq, with red crosses signifying 10 deaths (so that the monument, which appears on Sundays, does not get larger over time, just more red). I couldn't find a discussion of why the Veterans for Peace thinks crosses are appropriate for all of the dead, since not all were Christians.



ADDED: More here:
The furor started on Thursday when Rick Davis, Mr. McCain’s campaign manager, said, “Barack Obama has played the race card, and he played it from the bottom of the deck.” Mr. Davis was alluding to Mr. Obama’s remarks on Wednesday that Republicans would try to scare voters by pointing out that he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”...

For Mr. Obama, the risks of fighting back are that anything that calls attention to the racial dynamics of the contest would potentially polarize voters and stir unease about his candidacy, particularly among white voters in swing states. He is, after all, a candidate who has sought to transcend his own racial heritage in appealing to the broad electorate.
Fighting back? He brought it up. He can't use his race as a factor and disqualify it simultaneously. Pick a position and stick to it. Obviously, the better position for Obama is transcending race, and obviously, if he thinks he can dip gracefully into the subject whenever it works for him, he's wrong.

[A]t one of his rallies on Friday, where seven self-styled African revolutionaries began shouting and pointing at him, accusing him of undermining revolutionary struggle.
Some people will try to lure him into talking much more about race. Friday's hecklers were easy to resist, but the same demand will be made in other, more subtle forms. He needs to stay race-transcendent. Lefties tend to revile race transcendence — to regard it as a kind of racism. I've heard that point of view many times, from very intelligent individuals who express themselves quite rationally and persuasively. They don't shout and point and interrupt. Obama has to resist them too.

August 1, 2008

If a reader came to my blog and Site Meter didn't record it, would it still make a sound?

Take down Site Meter? Noooooo. Site Meter means too much to me. You need to take down Internet Explorer.

Microsoft sucks.

IN THE COMMENTS: alank has a fix.... [FIX DELETED].

UPDATE: I followed the advice here and got my meter out of all the tables. It's at the bottom of the blog, in case you want to read it. Hope this works!

The original 6 degrees of separation research was pretty shaky.

But new research bears it out. Except it's more like 7.
"To me, it was pretty shocking. What we're seeing suggests there may be a social connectivity constant for humanity," said Eric Horvitz, a Microsoft researcher who conducted the study with colleague Jure Leskovec. "People have had this suspicion that we are really close. But we are showing on a very large scale that this idea goes beyond folklore."

Funny, I was just listening to this NPR Science Friday podcast about what a sham it was:
One researcher, Judith Kleinfeld, a professor of psychology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, looked at Milgram's original experiment in the hopes of updating it for the digital world. "Milgram's startling conclusion turns out to rest on scanty evidence," she says. "The idea of 'six degrees of separation' may, in fact, be plain wrong-the academic equivalent of an urban myth."

"Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and the Democrats adjourned the House, turned off the lights and killed the microphones..."

"... but Republicans are still on the floor talking gas prices....

I'm picturing Nancy Pelosi like Bill O'Reilly, yelling "cut the mike" and "shut up":

A mysterious phenomenon.

The air conditioner in my office is horribly loud, but I only notice when it cycles off. It goes off and I realize that I couldn't stand it. But if I couldn't stand it, why didn't I notice when it was on? And I also have the feeling that time reverses a bit: I seem to start hearing the noise a split second before it goes off. And I don't mean just once. I mean every time, thousands of times. I become aware of the noise and then it goes off. That's an illusion, of course, but I've experienced it so often that I know it's a very specific phenomenon, and I wonder how many other things there are that we perceive out of order like that.

"I’m so overexposed, I’m making Paris Hilton look like a recluse."

Hey, Obama started it!

True eccentricity.

It's what Manolo wants. He abhors "'faux eccentricity', the tendency of among many young fashion designers to adopt outrageous clothing and patently false personas in the hopes that they will mask the fully conventional heart which beats beneath."
Grotesque tattoos, wacky clothing, and affectedly stereotypical personas do not the unconventional mind make....

Indeed, from the past Project Runway seasons only Jay and Santino have been well, truly, and uniquely eccentric. And it is not the coincidence that both have been outsiders in every sense of the word.
What about Christian?
This season, only Stella, who has decided to live her entire life as if she were in the Whitesnake video, and holds to this position even when evidence suggests otherwise, comes closest to being the true eccentric, although her eccentricity is not in the least ways original.
She has decided to live her entire life as if she were in the Whitesnake video....

What if you had to commit to live your entire life as if you were in some music video? What video? We're talking fashion, attitude, mannerisms, assorted trappings... You need a convincingly eccentric persona for this challenge.

You cannot win by coming up with something crushingly ordinary.

ADDED: So, I mean you can't use something like this:

(Although I bet for a lot of you, that looks pretty eccentric.)

"It's entirely unclear whether or not Lieberman will be John McCain's VP..."

"... the prospect is on the table, but it's obviously an enormously risky move that could inflame the Republican base."

Yes, I suppose it could.

"Spanish is not a Secret Language."


It's true that a lot of Americans fail to learn foreign languages. Barack Obama told me that...
"It’s embarrassing when Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe and all we can say is merci beaucoup."
... and then he went to Europe and spoke English to everybody. But this notion that you can hide what you're saying by speaking a foreign language is absurd — especially if the language is Spanish.

"nice to have the 2 creeps together"

I IM'd in admiration of #25 to 21 on "The 40 greatest grunge songs" list.

"Death by train is a particularly declaratory form of killing oneself. It makes the act a form of theater..."

Very common in Britain, for some reason:
In the past months in Britain, there has been a sort of low-humming cultural unease about suicides on the Tube, which are readily announced over station intercoms as the reason for delays, presumably to allay fears of terrorism. A movie in general release, Three and Out, attempted to turn this unease into dark comedy by portraying a hapless Tube driver who tries to exploit a (fictional) loophole in his contract that grants him early retirement if he witnesses three suicides from his train. The film misjudged the nation's mood and was savaged by film critics, mental-health workers and the train drivers' union....
(Via A&L Daily.)

Comedy movies about suicide.... Do they ever work? I can only think of one that I've seen, "La Grande Bouffe." A short clip:

Hilarious? That movie was critically praised back in 1973, but there was no jumping under trains. Everyone was eating himself to death. I forget why.

There's also "Harold and Maude," which I've never seen. It's supposedly life-affirming. I never had any interest in it. Also from the early 70s. Was suicide funnier then?

Oh, "suicide is painless... it brings on many changes..."

Have to include "M*A*S*H*" — the Robert Altman movie with the great theme song, the lyrics of which were deleted for the TV show. That came out in 1970.

What was it about the 70s? The war? Or is suicide still considered a source of humor — think this'll be funny? — and I'm just not going to the movies too much anymore?

NOTE: Don't kill yourself!

Why did Newsweek express mistrust and disapproval toward "religious nomads" — people who don't come from "a simple, single tradition."

Amba reads an article about Barack Obama and wonders.
Only in the third paragraph from the end, almost as an afterthought, does the article mention that "Presidents such as Lincoln and Jefferson were unorthodox Christians."

Judging Week 1 of Above the Law Idol.

Read it here.

"I Am Lapidary But Not Eristic When I Use Big Words."

I said I was going to write about the use of the word "eristic," and the reason I wanted a whole separate post about the use of the word in the Mattathias Schwartz article discussed in the previous post is that I found this 1986 article — "I Am Lapidary But Not Eristic When I Use Big Words" — by William F. Buckley Jr.:
When is it O.K. to use an unfamiliar word? When is it not O.K.? - is endlessly argued, yet even so, sometimes, notwithstanding the debates' endlessness, fresh insights and original formulations are coined. One of these, I think, was Dwight Macdonald's distinction, made in his marvelous survey of Webster's Third for The New Yorker (March 10, 1962), between unusual words (O.K.) and words ''that belong in the zoo sections of the dictionary'' (not O.K.). I should think most people would agree, for instance, that arachibutyrophobia would be an example of the latter (the word defines the fear of peanut butter's sticking to the roof of your mouth). James Jackson Kilpatrick, in his book ''The Writer's Art,'' takes a position on the dogmatic side against the use of unfamiliar words and cites me, however kindly, as a prodigious offender (the Lord delivered Kilpo into my hands, because his proscriptive passage against long & unusual words contained four long & unusual words). Mr. Kilpatrick likes to quote Westbrook Pegler, who denounced the use of what he called ''out of town words.''
The tough — and subjective — question is: Which words are too annoyingly strange to use?

And was it eristic for Schwartz to use "eristic"?
''ERISTIC: (i ris/ tik) adj [ Gr. eristikos, d. erizein, to strive, dispute d. eris, strife ] of or provoking controversy, or given to sophistical argument and specious reasoning.''
If it was eristic to use "eristic," did Schwartz mean to offer word mavens a little inside joke, or — more amusingly — did he mean to send a secret signal to Buckley fans?

"Trolling is basically Internet eugenics... I want everyone off the Internet. Bloggers are filth. They need to be destroyed."

"Blogging gives the illusion of participation to a bunch of retards. . . . We need to put these people in the oven!"

The New York Times wants you to know there are some bad people on the internet. You know what? There are some bad people walking the streets of your home town.

The question is: What do you want to do about it?

Here's the conclusionish stuff at the end of Mattathias Schwartz's fascinating article. (He embedded himself with evil trolls and lived to tell the tale.)
Does free speech tend to move toward the truth or away from it? When does it evolve into a better collective understanding? When does it collapse into the Babel of trolling, the pointless and eristic game of talking the other guy into crying “uncle”?
(Hang on. I'm going to do a separate post about the use of the word "eristic.")
Is the effort to control what’s said always a form of censorship, or might certain rules be compatible with our notions of free speech?

One promising answer comes from the computer scientist Jon Postel, now known as “god of the Internet” for the influence he exercised over the emerging network. In 1981, he formulated what’s known as Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.” Originally intended to foster “interoperability,” the ability of multiple computer systems to understand one another, Postel’s Law is now recognized as having wider applications. To build a robust global network with no central authority, engineers were encouraged to write code that could “speak” as clearly as possible yet “listen” to the widest possible range of other speakers, including those who do not conform perfectly to the rules of the road. The human equivalent of this robustness is a combination of eloquence and tolerance — the spirit of good conversation. Trolls embody the opposite principle. They are liberal in what they do and conservative in what they construe as acceptable behavior from others. You, the troll says, are not worthy of my understanding; I, therefore, will do everything I can to confound you.
This is extremely useful to know. Remember that principle. People who want the most freedom for themselves and the least for you. They're not just the trolls of the internet. They're everywhere. Defend yourself by identifying them and continuing to claim a good amount of freedom for yourself.
[T]echnology reduces the social barriers that keep us from bedeviling strangers, it does not explain the initial trolling impulse. This seems to spring from something ugly — a destructive human urge that many feel but few act upon, the ambient misanthropy that’s a frequent ingredient of art, politics and, most of all, jokes. There’s a lot of hate out there, and a lot to hate as well.
It's human nature.
So far, despite all this discord, the Internet’s system of civil machines has proved more resilient than anyone imagined. As early as 1994, the head of the Internet Society warned that spam “will destroy the network.” The news media continually present the online world as a Wild West infested with villainous hackers, spammers and pedophiles. And yet the Internet is doing very well for a frontier town on the brink of anarchy. Its traffic is expected to quadruple by 2012. To say that trolls pose a threat to the Internet at this point is like saying that crows pose a threat to farming.
Ha ha. Great. Exactly.

So can we have maximum freedom of speech or do we need legal remedies for the really bad people?
Are we ready for an Internet where law enforcement keeps watch over every vituperative blog and backbiting comments section, ready to spring at the first hint of violence? Probably not. All vigorous debates shade into trolling at the perimeter; it is next to impossible to excise the trolling without snuffing out the debate.
That's Free Speech 101, but people seem to need to hear it again.


Schwartz assumes that trolls will successfully hide behind anonymity/pseudonymity, but we need to take note of the new developments in the AutoAdmit case:
With the help of a subpoena issued six months ago, attorneys for two Yale Law School students have succeeded in unmasking several anonymous users of the Web forum AutoAdmit whom the women are suing for defamation.

Some of the defendants will finally be named when the students soon file an amended complaint, said their attorney, Stanford Law Professor Mark Lemley, who declined to comment further....

John Williams, a court-appointed lawyer who represented AK-47, whom he has never met and whose identity he does not know, said he was disappointed by the judge's decision to sustain the subpoena, which he said went beyond where any other court has gone.

"Free speech takes another hit," he said....

Courts have long recognized that subpoenas may be available to identify anonymous commenters if litigants can demonstrate a plausible case for defamation and are not simply trying to intimidate critics, said Eugene Volokh, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles....

“If you’re doing right, the First Amendment will protect you,” [First Amendment lawyer Marc] Randazza said. “If you’re doing wrong, it won’t.”
Actually, the First Amendment won't protect you. A court is going to decide whether the plaintiff has met the legal standard Volokh is talking about, and a judge may not care enough about the right to say fuck you. You need more than the First Amendment for protection, you'll need judges who care about it and will stand tough and enforce hardcore free speech values even when confronted by seemingly nice, respectable plaintiffs who are royally outraged at insults and obscenities and delighted to use the courts to ruin brash young people who have said too much.

I'm on the radio in a few minutes.

I'm on the "Week in Review" show with Joy Cardin on Wisconsin Public Radio at 8 AM Central Time this morning. That's 9 AM ET.

Go here to listen on-line live. Call in. We'll be talking about whatever news stories of the last week people want to talk about. And you'll be able to listen to the archived show here, later.

The other guest is Paul Soglin. You know who he is.

He's on the left, so I'm on the right.

July 31, 2008

Seated next to a trash can, I continue my quixotic search for the double-fisheye effect.

Intelligentsia in Silver Lake

Where are we? At Intelligentsia, in Silver Lake....

Intelligentsia in Silver Lake

Where dogs are comfy fuzzy foot rests:

Intelligentsia in Silver Lake



Yes, I've seen it. You can stop alerting me.

I know the NYT published an article today on one of my longtime topics: men in shorts. I am only posting about it to put an end to your worries that I somehow missed it. I consider it a very poorly thought out article — shocking proof that the NYT passively observes fashion and lacks critical faculties. Excerpt:
“The idea of being threatened by the objectified male body has gone, the process is complete,” explained Aaron Hicklin, the editor in chief of Out magazine. “Men are the same as women now.”
Per Out magazine!
... A question arises, though, of what respectability looks like when underwear is routinely worn as outerwear and people travel in get-ups that look like onesies and the combined effects of a cosmetic surgery boom and an epidemic of obesity have given us all an uncommon level of intimacy with the contours of one another’s bodies.
So grotesque flesh spillage legitimates further grotesque flesh spillage. You want to know "what respectability looks like"? Apply some standards! Don't just glimpse about getting ideas about how all the standards have gone to hell.

If you're not going to be an arbiter of taste, why are you writing fashion articles? Or is the truth that fashion criticism in the New York Times has devolved into pop culture reportage. Sad!

Judge... that reminds me...

I'm supposed to be judging that "ATL Idol" contest. (Part 1. Part 2.) What have I got myself into? What if I hate everything? Somebody will still win, become the new Above the Law blogger, and I'll never get traffic-building links from there again!

Damn, maybe I should be the Paula. But I was going to be the Simon! Why coddle bloggers? If there's anyone that shouldn't be coddled it's a blogger. Nothing more disgusting than a coddled blogger.

That fish smells almost done.

UPDATE: I got my act together and wrote my first comment:

The most important part of blogging is —— to use an American Idol expression —— song selection. You should be spending much more time looking for good things to blog than actually writing up the post. But you've had your stories imposed on you, and they are stories that don't interest me at all. I clicked on the links, took a look, and couldn't be bothered. And why are they all about black people getting into trouble? Is that supposed to be funny?

But that's not the contestants' responsibility. You got stuck with that. It's like Mariah Carey night. I hate the songs, so how can I care how you sing them? You'd better do something very smart and tricky or I'm gone in a second. This is blogging! You have less than a second to reel me in. One thing I hated about the original articles is that they are complicated and about people I don't know and have no motivation to learn about. Why should I figure out what damned thing happened? So the least you could do is make it very short and funny in some way that didn't require me to understand a lot of crap I don't care about. But you all went long. And putting it in list form or as a series of steps doesn't fool me. It's still long and boring. Blah. I hate everything. You did not amuse me. I would never buy this record.

Some specifics:

Part 1: Exley. That lap dance picture. I was trying to read this sitting in the middle seat on an airplane between two large Harley Davidson bikers from New Zealand. That was an element of entertainment I didn't need. Then, I scrolled down to Alex's post and got a picture of some law books. Yeesh! It's one extreme or the other. And everyone runs with the photo of the smiling black man in happier days. That made me sad. But speaking of things women don't like, Alex, it's not cool to snark "lovers' quarrel" if a man has punched a woman in the stomach. And you've got that right next to a breast-emphasizing photo of the woman. Ugh.

Part 2: Frolic and Detour, only one phrase stood out: "groups of bridesmaids bonding as they make babies' footprints into tiny butterfly wings." Would I read a blog that offered me insight and entertainment in that form? No. You're sneering at ordinary women. Why? Who are you? Sophist falls back on the old device of how-to steps. I never find that funny. Seems like you could program a computer to turn news stories into a list of how-to steps. Here's a phrase: "back-end of the Lee gene pool." 1. Pools don't have a "back-end." You mean "shallow end." 2. Racism alert. Marin —— my eyes glazed over but I did see the phrase "picked himself up, dusted himself off." That made me want to run off to YouTube and watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Now, that was entertaining, but surely not the effect you want.


... mascara.


You be the judge.

"Hello. Today, I'm having a little get together. With my friends."

Another NY/LA comparison.

Here, at the architecturally amazing Prada store in SoHo, I had to sneak a photograph on my way down to the basement level space where you can root around for something you may like and no one puts in an effort to make you believe you could wear those clothes.

Prada store SoHo

Upstairs, you'll find all the handbags, where I think they make all the money, and the salespeople there will massage your credulity. In fact, I did buy a handbag, but never any clothes in this store that I visited many times.

Here's the Giorgio Armani store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, where a lovely saleswoman sees that I admire that jacket trimmed with fur and feathers and says something to me — "It's fox" — that prompts me to ask a question about sizes and the long-nurtured desire for the perfect pantsuit.

Giorgio Armani on Rodeo Drive

Before long, I am trying on a selection of jackets — they do have my size — and I'm buying that suit. Chris peruses a history of Giorgio Armani, and they serve us glasses of water as we complete the expensive transaction.

Compare New York graffiti.

These are all from SoHo, photographed last spring.

New York graffiti

New York graffiti

New York graffiti

Let's talk about the difference between New York graffiti and the California graffiti in the previous post. Does it say a lot about the difference between New York City and Los Angeles? Or are we only comparing beach hucksters and art poseurs?

Venice Beach graffiti, Melrose Avenue graffiti supplies.

In Venice Beach, California, the graffiti is institutionalized on a set of concrete walls, layered with new paint daily:


I don't know if it's also considered legitimate to spray paint the palm trees, but why not? There are plenty of unpainted palm trees, and no one seems to mind.


Here's a dazzling display of graffiti supplies in a store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles:


Can we have some deep analysis of the reprocessing of imagery that was once racist — and is perhaps not still racist when used by the right people in the right way? I'm talking about "Mr. Black":


Wisecracks that are too easy to make.

Look at that headline.


July 30, 2008

"He's the biggest celebrity in the world... O-BA-MA... O-BA-MA..."

He's a big celebrity, like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton... and gas prices are terrible.... get it? Being really famous and popular often goes along with being an empty nitwit, so if Obama is famous and popular, he's probably an empty nitwit. And gas prices are terrible.

∴ McCain.

It's logic!

IN THE COMMENTS: Bissage sings:
Life goes on, brah!
La la how the life goes on.

Barack Obama at the University of Chicago Law School.

Jodi Kantor tells the story of Barack Obama at the University of Chicago Law School.
Mr. Obama... was well liked at the law school, yet he was always slightly apart from it, leaving some colleagues feeling a little cheated that he did not fully engage....

“I don’t think anything that went on in these chambers affected him,” said Richard Epstein, a libertarian colleague who says he longed for Mr. Obama to venture beyond his ideological and topical comfort zones. “His entire life, as best I can tell, is one in which he’s always been a thoughtful listener and questioner, but he’s never stepped up to the plate and taken full swings.”
What are we seeing here? A shy man? A cipher? A man with a hidden agenda?
Mr. Obama had other business on his mind, embarking on five political races during his 12 years at the school. Teaching gave him satisfaction, along with a perch and a paycheck, but he was impatient with academic debates....
This seems very practical. A good hypothesis is: Obama is a politician, through and through.
Mr. Obama arrived at the law school in 1991 thanks to Michael W. McConnell, a conservative scholar who is now a federal appellate judge. As president of The Harvard Law Review, Mr. Obama had impressed Mr. McConnell with editing suggestions on an article; on little more than that, the law school gave him a fellowship, which amounted to an office and a computer, which he used to write his memoir, “Dreams From My Father.”
On little more than that... Come on. That was an easy decision. And we needn't be coy about what the "little more" was:
The school had almost no black faculty members, a special embarrassment given its location on the South Side....

His most original course, a historical and political seminar as much as a legal one, was on racism and law....
Clearly, the law school's interests were served as Obama used it to build his political career.
“Are there legal remedies that alleviate not just existing racism, but racism from the past?” Adam Gross, now a public interest lawyer in Chicago, wrote in his class notes in April 1994.
It's really rather funny to quote this long-ago law student for a point that is one of most common questions in the law of race discrimination. This is another example of presenting the ordinary as amazing.
For all the weighty material, Mr. Obama had a disarming touch. He did not belittle students; instead he drew them out, restating and polishing halting answers, students recall.
This describes nearly all law professors I've known (through a period that began in 1978).
In one class on race, he imitated the way clueless white people talked. “Why are your friends at the housing projects shooting each other?” he asked in a mock-innocent voice.
Well, this is a bit interesting. He had a "clueless white" person voice that he used it class for laughs?
As his reputation for frank, exciting discussion spread, enrollment in his classes swelled. Most scores on his teaching evaluations were positive to superlative. Some students started referring to themselves as his groupies. (Mr. Obama, in turn, could play the star. In what even some fans saw as self-absorption, Mr. Obama’s hypothetical cases occasionally featured himself. “Take Barack Obama, there’s a good-looking guy,” he would introduce a twisty legal case.)
I'm sure he was a popular teacher, but there are many popular law professors, and the locution "groupie" is not as uncommon as Kantor's prose leads you to think.
Liberals flocked to his classes...

But the liberal students did not necessarily find reassurance....

For one thing, Mr. Obama’s courses chronicled the failure of liberal policies and court-led efforts at social change...
Ahem! This is the conventional left critique of liberalism! It is a call to a stronger form of political consciousness.
... He was wary of noble theories, students say; instead, they call Mr. Obama a contextualist, willing to look past legal niceties to get results.
This was not at all special. This was absolutely standard lefty lawprof talk at the time.
For another, Mr. Obama liked to provoke. He wanted his charges to try arguing that life was better under segregation, that black people were better athletes than white ones.

“I remember thinking, ‘You’re offending my liberal instincts,’ ” Mary Ellen Callahan, now a privacy lawyer in Washington, recalled.
Offending liberal instincts was what lefty lawproffing was all about in those days. Anyone who reads this article and imagines that Obama has some conservative leanings is not getting the context.
While students appreciated Mr. Obama’s evenhandedness, colleagues sometimes wanted him to take a stand. When two fellow faculty members asked him to support a controversial antigang measure, allowing the Chicago police to disperse and eventually arrest loiterers who had no clear reason to gather, Mr. Obama discussed the issue with unusual thoughtfulness, they say, but gave little sign of who should prevail — the American Civil Liberties Union, which opposed the measure, or the community groups that supported it out of concern about crime.

“He just observed it with a kind of interest,” said Daniel Kahan, now a professor at Yale.
I would assume that colleagues strongly approved of "evenhandedness" in the classroom — which is the conventional pose, even among lawprofs who are politically engaged outside of class. The key piece of information here is that Obama either sought to avoid making a record of what he thought or he actually lacked opinions.

After his loss in the 2000 Congressional primary race to former Black Panther Bobby L. Rush, "colleagues noticed that he seemed exhausted and was smoking more than usual," and they offered him a tenured faculty position (with a job for his wife). Think about that! He never produced a word of legal scholarship, after all those years teaching, and now they would simply give him tenure — at the University of Chicago Law School, a top 5 school, where the faculty is known for voluminous scholarly publishing. The case for tenure in law school depends predominantly on scholarship. You don't get tenure for being a very popular teacher. The failure to publish anything should be fatal to the tenure case of a lawprof who was hired with a belief in his promise as a scholar, but here tenure is bundled into the original offer to someone who had demonstrated that he lacked that promise. So this is interesting. The University of Chicago Law School has some explaining to do.

It's also interesting that Obama turned down the sumptuous offer. He chose to run for the U.S. Senate. But is this hard to fathom? I don't think so. I think he'd figured something out. He had made himself into something and he knew what it was. He couldn't win the district that embraced a former Black Panther. That meant something bad, but also something really good. He was a black politician who could break out the old limitations. Running for the Senate seat was the most rational thing for him to do at that point. The run for President came soon after. He knew what he was and what he might do. And that — not anything he did as a lawprof — was amazing.

Obama is everywhere!


Obama Is Everywhere

"It's like Che," said the voice at the other end of that arm on Melrose Avenue.

He's lurking behind the mechanical fortune teller and the magic-mushroom beaded curtain in Venice Beach:

Obama Is Everywhere

"Down with Bush"...

Obama Is Everywhere

Says the visual pun (in Silver Lake).

"Obama is the new black."

Obama Is Everywhere

Obama is everywhere.

July 29, 2008

Did you feel that 5.4 earthquake?

I was saying I'd like to experience an L.A. earthquake... nothing destructive, but something. So there was this big earthquake today. And I felt nothing! I don't know why? Do you not feel it if you're driving in a car? Do you not feel it if you're eating lobster and truffles at The Four Seasons?

Me and Bella.

In the NYT.

The whole diavlog is here.

ADDED: Here's the clip the NYT is featuring:

Beverly Hills Althouse, sweet potato fries, and the discovery of the double fisheye effect.




That gorgeous, undulating facade.

Here are 2 more shots of that facade I already raved about:

Harry Winston on Rodeo Drive

Harry Winston on Rodeo Drive

It is the Harry Winston store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. You may be reluctant to step inside if you are not in the market for expensive jewelry, but please, go in anyway. The interior is truly beautiful, especially the ceilings in the oval antechamber and the main, rectangular part of the store. I would have loved to take some pictures of it, and I even asked if I could, though, as expected, the answer was no. The reason given surprised me a little: "For security reasons."

It made me think of this:

Sebelius, Kaine, Bayh, Biden — take your pick of the apparent finalists.

Seems like Biden is really the best...

ADDED: Adam Nagourney on why it's probably not going to be Clinton.

Thanks to all who came to the Althouse reader meetup last night.

We were ensconced amid big pillows in an alcove at The Abbey... a cool gay bar in West Hollywood.

ADDED: I didn't take pictures last night, but here's a picture I took of Chris there the other day.

Chris at The Abbey

3 arguments.... 1 logic error.

But can you explain the error?

Men in shorts.

The evidence.






(The photos are all from the Venice Beach "boardwalk." I'm from New Jersey, and I happen to think a boardwalk has to be made of boards. This is mainly a post about whether men should wear shorts, but you can also talk about whether "boardwalk" is a misnomer, when a potbelly on a man is charming, and — special to Trooper York — the glory of fleshy women.)

July 28, 2008

Above the Law Idol — and I'll be a judge.

Here's the explanation. And here's a comment I completely predicted when David asked me to be a judge:
Althouse = Paula Abdul.
No contest.
Drunk and batshit crazy.
Here's where you're wrong, oh, predictable "guest" commenter. Paula is on the "American Idol" panel to love and support the kids and cushion them from Simon's meannesss. I will not be performing that function. You need to think a lot harder— and identify yourself with a real name so I can come over there and kick your ass. You took a comment cliché and did nothing even to attempt to make it your own.

And Dahlia Lithwick wants to be the Paula, anyway.

How cool is Cuil?

I don't know. I checked it out by "Googling" my own name, and I love the way the results look ... except for that picture. Who is that guy?

More info on Cuil here.

ADDED: Partial screen grab to preserve the puzzling picture:

AND: This wasn't too encouraging:
We didn’t find any results for “university of wisconsin law school”

Some reasons might be...
  • a typo. Please check your spelling.
  • your search includes a term that is very rare. Try to find a more common substitute.
  • too many search terms. Please try fewer terms.
Finally, try to think of different words to describe your search.

You're gonna miss the Walk sign!


You can't stop to photograph everything!


What is it? Where is it?


Full Throttle doggie.

Full Throttle Doggie

I loved this dog, who had one light blue eye and one dark brown eye. Hated the Full Throttle, which they were passing out free at the Severe Tire Damage Not An Entrance to the parking lot at Venice Beach. The dialogue went something like this:
That stuff tastes evil!

I wouldn't say evil.

Evil! Why do they have to make it taste terrible? To make you think it's medicinal!

Maybe it tastes like that because of all the energy stuff they put in it.

They just want you to think that stuff does something, so they give it an evil taste so you'll think they put something significant in it. They made it taste bad on purpose.

Full Throttle Doggie

You can feel like you're slipping off the end of the world out here.


Your efforts are futile:




Blogging from the Pacific Time Zone.

It's hard! You can't catch the wave...


... of news and rumors and topics — it's always too late. I feel so out of it.

Not saying I don't love L.A.

I kind of do. You have to love the good and overcome the bad, but the time zone... I'm just saying the time zone is hell for blogging.

July 27, 2008

Hey! It's a new Bloggingheads — with me and Bella DePaulo.

The subject is the plight of the poor, terrible, discriminated against single.

At The Loft in Koreatown.

At The Loft in Koreatown


At The Loft in Koreatown

UPDATE: It's not "The Loft." It's just Loft. And who is that guy with the Treo? It's not, as some commenters have surmised, my ex-husband Richard Cohen.

Does reading on the internet count as reading?

Your mom thinks you should read a book.
[L]ike so many other teenagers, Nadia, 15, is addicted to the Internet. She regularly spends at least six hours a day in front of the computer...

Her mother, Deborah Konyk, would prefer that Nadia, who gets A’s and B’s at school, read books for a change. But at this point, Ms. Konyk said, “I’m just pleased that she reads something anymore.”
But I'm not your mom. I'm reading on line all the time too. If 6 hours counts as "addicted," then I'm so addicted. I spend a fair amount of time wondering if I read all the time or not reading much at all.
Children like Nadia lie at the heart of a passionate debate about just what it means to read in the digital age....

At least since the invention of television, critics have warned that electronic media would destroy reading. What is different now, some literacy experts say, is that spending time on the Web, whether it is looking up something on Google or even, entails some engagement with text....
Thanks for reading my blog... I mean... having some engagement with my text.
Clearly, reading in print and on the Internet are different. On paper, text has a predetermined beginning, middle and end, where readers focus for a sustained period on one author’s vision.
Oh, really? You can't flip around in a book? Read part of one book, put it down, pick up another, run over to the dictionary, pick up a notebook and write a few sentences, check the index, go to another page, write some marginalia? What a lame-ass book-reader you are!

And, damn, I hate these book-proponents who think what is so superior about books is that they control you in a linear fashion. The fact is they don't. Only movies do that. If you want to train us to have sustained, linear attention, make us go to the movies. But why is it good for us to be controlled by an author like that? Let's be free and active.
On the Internet, readers skate through cyberspace at will and, in effect, compose their own beginnings, middles and ends.
Horrors! Freedom!
Young people “aren’t as troubled as some of us older folks are by reading that doesn’t go in a line,” said Rand J. Spiro, a professor of educational psychology at Michigan State University who is studying reading practices on the Internet. “That’s a good thing because the world doesn’t go in a line, and the world isn’t organized into separate compartments or chapters.”
Spiro's right. And I appreciate the attention to the detail in the phrase "some of us older folks."
“The question is, does it change your brain in some beneficial way?” said Guinevere F. Eden, director of the Center for the Study of Learning at Georgetown University. “The brain is malleable and adapts to its environment. Whatever the pressures are on us to succeed, our brain will try and deal with it.”

Some scientists worry that the fractured experience typical of the Internet could rob developing readers of crucial skills. “Reading a book, and taking the time to ruminate and make inferences and engage the imaginational processing, is more cognitively enriching, without doubt, than the short little bits that you might get if you’re into the 30-second digital mode,” said Ken Pugh, a cognitive neuroscientist at Yale who has studied brain scans of children reading.
I definitely think that reading on-line restructures your brain. That may be bad in some ways, but it's got to be good in others. In any case, it's where I am now. I still read books, but I read them differently, for example, I cut to the essence quickly and spring into alert when I detect bullshit. I'm offended by padding, pedantry, and humorlessness. This may cut off some paths to enlightenment for me, but it also saves me a lot of time, and I find some other path.
Web proponents believe that strong readers on the Web may eventually surpass those who rely on books. Reading five Web sites, an op-ed article and a blog post or two, experts say, can be more enriching than reading one book.

“It takes a long time to read a 400-page book,” said Mr. Spiro of Michigan State. “In a tenth of the time,” he said, the Internet allows a reader to “cover a lot more of the topic from different points of view.”

"Even for Sarkozy the American, who loves everything in our culture... it was a wild gush over a new Washington crush."

On to the Maureen Dowd column. Yeah, I know I could be more creative about where to go for a Sunday morning's blogging, but the Frank Rich/Maureen Dowd pairing is telling today.
“You must want a cigarette after that,” I teased the candidate after the amorous joint press conference, as he flew from Paris to London for the finale of his grand tour.
Okay, so Dowd has some sardonic distance on the love fest — and yet I feel that she's teasing us here, showing off that she got close to the world's boyfriend — and can even kind of talk about sex with him. It's an interview. (Is Frank jealous?) She's on the plane, having a personal conversation! I'm jealous.
“I think we could work well together,” he said of Sarko, smiling broadly.

He did not get to meet his fan, Carla Bruni. “She wasn’t there,” he said. “Which I think disappointed all my staff. That was the only thing they were really interested in.”

He admitted showing “extraordinarily poor judgment” in leaving Paris after only a few hours. Watching Paris recede from behind the frosted glass of his limo was “a pretty good metaphor” for how constricted his life has become, he said, compared with his student days tramping around Europe with “a feeling of complete freedom.”
Aw. The man in the bubble. Let's write a different movie scenario — one where the fabulously successful candidate realizes he doesn't want to live like this. He only wants to be free. He just runs off one night. Have him climb out a window. He melts into the crowd. No one ever hears from him again. Maybe he grows a big beard and starts wearing glasses. Spends the rest of his life giving free legal services to the poor and teaching night classes as a third tier law school somewhere in America....

But he can't climb out the window now. He's on an airplane. With Maureen Dowd:
“But the flip side is that I deeply enjoy the work,” he said, “so it’s a trade-off.”
It's all about enjoying your work. Wouldn't it be amusing if some day, a President resigned because he just wasn't enjoying the work — not deeply, anyway?

But that comment makes me feel a little wistful and sad for the world's boyfriend. He admitted he feels trapped in his new role — he's given up his freedom. Yet, because he's a candidate, he had to immediately say that he really does enjoy it. Deeply.

Assertions of depth ≈ shallowness.

Life must be hollow now. Oh! I shed a tear for our boyfriend.
“One of the values of this trip for me was to remind me of what this campaign should be about,” he said. “It’s so easy to get sucked into day-to-day, tit-for-tat thinking, finding some clever retort for whatever comment your opponent made. And then I think I’m not doing my job, which should be to raise up some big important issues.”
The sacrifices our boyfriend makes for us.

But he's going to be even better in the future. He's going to raise up some big important issues. He won't just raise issues. He will raise up issues. He will glorify issues. And not just issues. Big important issues.
I asked how his “Citizen of the World” tour will go down in Steubenville, Ohio.

“There will probably be some backlash,” he said. “I’m a big believer that if something’s good then there’s a bad to it, and vice versa. We had a good week. That always inspires the press to knock me down a peg....

“Even if you start believing your own hype, which I rarely do, things’ll turn on you pretty quick anyway,” he said. “I have a fairly steady temperament that has at times been interpreted as, ‘Oh, he’s sort of too cool.’ But it’s not real.”
This is a good theme for him. Even, balanced, seeing the good and bad in everything....


"A smooth-talking rookie senator with an exotic name passes himself off as the incumbent American president to credulous foreigners."

Barack Obama's overseas trip seems like the scenario for some Borat-style movie to Frank Rich.
He never would have been treated as a president-in-waiting by heads of state or network talking heads if all he offered were charisma, slick rhetoric and stunning visuals. What drew them instead was the raw power Mr. Obama has amassed: the power to start shaping events and the power to move markets, including TV ratings.
Don't forget the power to turn back the rising oceans!

You know, I just passed up one breakfast spot — here in Beverly Hills — because they had Chris Matthews — Chris Matthews! — effusing off the flat-screen TV on the wall. Now, I'm in a café that is mercifully free of television, awash in mellow music. There's no thrill-up-the-leg Matthewzing to get on my nerves as I try to inject the appropriate amount of caffeine into my veins.

But there is still Frank Rich. Oh! The Power! The Raw Power! Ah! Stunning! Slick! And oh-so-manly POWER!

Sorry, Frank. He's married.

Rich pads out the middle part of his column with the usual material about how he disagrees with Bush about the war. He's got a point he's supposedly proving: Bush is so bad that Obama has somehow become "acting President" — especially in Euro-eyes.

And McCain is therefore royally screwed.
Mr. McCain could also have stepped into the leadership gap left by Mr. Bush’s de facto abdication. His inability to even make a stab at doing so is troubling.
Troubling... or modest and proper.
[McCain's] grim-faced crusade to brand his opponent as a traitor who wants to “lose a war” isn’t even a competent impersonation of Joe McCarthy. Mr. McCain comes off instead like the ineffectual Mr. Wilson, the retired neighbor perpetually busting a gasket at the antics of pesky little Dennis the Menace.
Who helped Rich with his semi-up-to-date Borat reference in paragraph 1? I don't know, but his back to showing his age with pop culture references from the distant past.
When not plotting such stunts, the McCain campaign whines about its lack of press attention like a lover jilted for a younger guy.
Well, you are plainly in love with that guy.

So, anyway, McCain is such a screw-up. He can't catch a break. And the whole world has embraced Obama as the new President. This thing is all over. What a blow out! Obama is crushing McCain. He must be about 20 or 30 — even 40 — points ahead in the polls by now.