February 14, 2009

What is Althouse doing lunching in this sleazy dive?


I have my reasons.

Onion rings

"Record nails broken in car crash."

Headline of the day. Not the worst car accident injury, though possibly the worst fingernail-breaking injury. 

And so, my friends, did you survive Valentine's Day? Break any fingernails or anything? 

Me, I'm out here in the heartland. Wait. I have some photos. Hang on a sec. 

ADDED: I wish somebody would bring her the world's largest blackboard.

ALSO: There is something usual about this post, but I can't say what it is.

UPDATE 15 YEARS LATER: I mean UNUSUAL, something unusual about this post. This mistake is hilarious.

Althouse on the road.


Somewhere in America. In the heartland.

February 13, 2009

"A variety of birds, followed by large quantities of cheese, topped off with unlimited desserts, and all washed down with a bucket of... duck fat."

The Gwyneth Paltrow lying-through-your-teeth diet.

"A Top Chef... whose default personality is not 'adorably half-asleep' (Harold, Stephanie) or 'kind of an asshole' (Hung, Ilan, soon-to-be Stefan)."

The case for Carla:
She has a spirit animal, she claims to be a former model, she yells "Hootie!" in public a lot, and her impression of a tortoise is unrivaled. She's fantastic. And not in a contrived, I'm-trying-so-hard-to-be-a-reality-show-personality kind of way, which is what I suspect of Fabio most of the time. I think Carla's genuinely like that....
Of course, everyone loves Carla's personality, but it's not Top Person. It's not even "Top Pussy," as Fabio said yesterday, explaining why he wasn't going to stop in the middle of a challenge to go to the hospital because he broke his pinkie finger. And anyway, if we're voting with our hearts, I ♥ Fabio. Cooking, in pain... that was hot.

"Don't worry, it won't smell like urine and will be tasty too."

Quaff some "gau jal" — "cow water" — the drink made from cow urine:
The drink is the latest attempt by [the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), India's biggest and oldest Hindu nationalist group] – to cleanse India of foreign influence and promote its ideology of Hindutva, or Hindu-ness.

Hindus revere cows and slaughtering them is illegal in most of India. Cow dung is traditionally used as a fuel and disinfectant in villages, while cow urine and dung are often consumed in rituals to "purify" those on the bottom rungs of the Hindu caste system.

In 2001, the RSS and its offshoots... began promoting cow urine as a cure for ailments ranging from liver disease to obesity and even cancer.
I don't mean to be culturally insensitive, but... ew. And to be a little bit positive, I do see how it might help with obesity.

IN THE COMMENTS: Apparently, if you must talk about the stimulus package, this thread is the appropriate place to gush forth.

It's Friday the 13th.

For the love of God, people, be careful. If you're going to take any risks, I hope it's worth it for you.

Would you rather kiss Bill Clinton or Barack Obama? Hillary picks Barack!

(Thanks, Chris.)

February 12, 2009

"So let us not talk falsely now, the hour is getting late."


6-word love stories.

A good idea in the abstract, but in the specific, why are they all so horrifically bad?

I turn away in revulsion and formulate the hope that the people with real love are not playing this game.

What's the most famous Barack Obama quote?

I think it is: "I won."

ADDED: "We" corrected to "I." Link added. Thanks to commenters who pointed to my error.

"It became clear to me to me that it would be very difficult day in and day out to serve in this Cabinet," says Judd Gregg, withdrawing.

The GOP Senator will not be Secretary of Commerce. I wonder what the whole story is.
[I]n the days since he was nominated he realized that to be "part of a team but not 100 percent with the team" was an untenable position.

In his written statement, Gregg cited recent developments regarding the economic stimulus package and the decision to have the next census director report directly to senior White House officials as evidence that he and President Obama were too different ideologically for the pairing to work. "This was simply a bridge too far for me," Gregg said of his decision....

"This is not a time for partisanship. This is not a time when we should stand in our ideological corners and shout at each other," Gregg said on Feb. 3. "This is a time to govern and govern well. And therefore, when the President asked me to join his administration and participate in trying to address the issues of this time, I believed it was my obligation to say yes, and I look forward to it with enthusiasm."
So who decided to go partisan: Obama or Gregg or both? Doesn't the stimulus package have to be seen as partisan at this point? The Republicans must define themselves in contrast to it, and the Democrats need to defend it boldly as their own work. We have a 2-party system. That's a good thing.

Today is the 200th birthday of our greatest President.


AND: Alternate Abe:

Alternate vision of Abe

"The domestic issues Mr. Obama ran and won on — health care, education, climate change, rebalancing the distribution of wealth..."

From a NYT article called "Obama’s Battle on Stimulus Shows Threats to His Agenda."

Obama ran on a redistribution of the wealth agenda? So, back when he was campaigning, and his opponents characterized things he said as meaning that he wanted to redistribute the wealth, and his supporters shouted that down as typical right-wing distortion, Obama was really laying the groundwork for claiming that he had won a mandate to redistribute the wealth? Incredible!

BUT: The redistribution will be $13 a week.

AND: David Weigel responds:
Err, yes. Sen. John McCain’s campaign spent the last three weeks of the presidential race accusing Obama of “socialist” tendencies because Obama told Sam Wurzelbacher that “if the economy’s good for folks from the bottom up, it’s gonna be good for everybody. I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody.”

Obama didn’t really back down on this — he mocked it: “By the end of the week, he’ll be accusing me of being a secret communist because I shared my toys in kindergarten.” But he didn’t deny that he planned to cut taxes for middle- and lower-income Americans while raising taxes on the rich.

If Republicans didn’t want to give Obama a mandate for “spreading the wealth,” they probably shouldn’t have made that their message and then lost the election to him.

I think Obama's mockery was a denial of the accusation. If Obama had said, "I didn't just accidentally say 'spread the wealth around,' I really believe in the redistribution of the wealth, and I want you to vote for me because you do too," he would have lost.

"Keith Plessy and Phoebe Ferguson stand on the railroad tracks at the corner of Royal and Press Streets..."

"... where in June 7, 1892, Homer Plessy was arrested after boarding a train designated for whites only."
On any other day in 1892, Plessy could have ridden in the car restricted to white passengers without notice. According to the parlance of the time, he was classified "7/8 white."

In order to pose a clear test to the state's 1890 separate-car law, the Citizens' Committee in advance notified the railroad — which had opposed the law because it required adding more cars to its trains.

On June 7, 1892, Plessy bought a first-class ticket for the commuter train that ran to Covington, sat down in the car for white riders only and the conductor asked whether he was a colored man.... The committee also hired a private detective with arrest powers to take Plessy off the train at Press and Royal streets, to ensure that he was charged with violating the state's separate-car law.

Everything the committee plotted went as planned — except for the final court decision, in 1896. By then the composition of the U.S. Supreme Court had gained a more segregationist tilt, and the committee knew it would likely lose. But it chose to press the cause anyway.... "It was a matter of honor for them, that they fight this to the very end."
(Thanks to our regular commenter Beth for emailing me that link.)

The Purpler Tree and the things you talked about last night.

Last night's purple tree opened a flood of conversation. Curtiss said:
Purple is the color of death.

But you know that, don't you?
I said:
I think men don't like the color purple. Women love it to excess, and men don't really understand. Death, indeed!
Palladian said:
I don't like anything Alice Walker ever wrote.
Instead of transcribing my laughter, let me give you a newer and purpler version of the tree that opened the canyons of your minds:

The Purpler Tree

When I stopped my starry-eyed laughing, I said:
But quite apart from [Alice Walker], I think visual perception is partly deeply biological and there's serious sexual discrepancy about purple.
Then Meade said:
"I think men don't like the color purple. "

The professor speaks truth. And she does so in a most colorful way.

I, however, as a man am an exception to the rule: I love purple. In fact, I wear a purple hat and a purple scarf. Men leave me alone while women can't seem to keep their hands off me. That is, as long as I wear the hat and scarf.
Meade inspired me to make the new tree the color of his scarf. And to give him this advice — in case we should ever meet IRL.

Subsequently, Meade asks the guys a great question, and Curtiss gives a great answer. You'll have to go in there and find those things, but don't trip over the things Titus says he's having trouble finding.

Professor Palladian had to step back in and cool us off with this historical lecture:
The word "purple" comes to us from the Greek (via the usual circuitous route through Latin and Old English) πορφύραν, porphura, of the mollusk that produced the only bright, deep, color-fast purple dye available in the world until the mid-nineteenth century. Walk through any art museum and you'll see no bright purple color in any painting produced before then. The color to which the name "purple" referred has changed many times depending on the time period and the culture being discussed. The "Prince" sort of purple that most people think of is not the color of the purple of antiquity. The ancient purple, Tyrian purple, is more akin to the color of a fresh Welch's grape juice stain on a white cotton shirt, only much more intense. Tyrian purple is made from the fresh mucous secretion of a big sea snail that is variously known as Murex brandaris and Haustellum brandaris. It requires harvesting and killing 10,000 of these gastropods to produce one gram of the dye, hence the astronomical price and rarity of the color.

I have a sample of the dye, about 50 milligrams, which cost me nearly two hundred dollars. To put that in perspective, an extra strength Tylenol pill contains 500 milligrams of Acetaminophen alone, not counting the weight of the other ingredients.

As I said, there was no other bright, color-fast purple dye or pigment available to artists until the 19th century. The use of Tyrian purple pretty much died out by the 11th century in the West. Artists could mix purple hues by glazing blue pigments with red pigments, but as there were only three bright red pigments available to artists until the 19th century, two [1; 2] of which faded rapidly and one of which is both too opaque and too orange to actually produce a mixed purple, not many artists bothered.

What changed everything (and by extension, the world as we know it) was W.H. Perkin's discovery and production of the world's first synthetic organic dye: 3-amino-2,±9-dimethyl-5-phenyl-7-(p-tolylamino)phenazinium acetate, or Mauveine, later known as the color mauve. Perkin was, on a challenge from one of his professors, trying to synthesize quinine and failed, producing a black lump. While he was trying to clean the lump out of his flask, he discovered that a portion of the lump dissolved in alcohol and produced a bright purple. Voilà! The first aniline dye, which changed not only the world of fashion and art, but as I said before, changed the entire world. It was through Perkin's discovery and subsequent manufacture of Mauveine and the resulting proliferation of aniline dye research and industry that the first antimicrobial drugs, the sulfonamides (the early examples of which were dye-based) were invented. Not to mention Tylenol, Polyurethane and the whole synthetic chemical industry.

Not bad for a chemical that started as an accident involving a substance (aniline, phenylamine) that stinks of rotting fish. An apt smell for the chemical that was responsible for the rebirth of purple in the modern world, the olfactory memory across the millennia of those vast piles of dead, rotting mollusks that yielded the color of Emperors.
Sex, science, and art — all night long, all because of purple. And trees. You know I'm an Ann Arborist. Here in Madison.

Why the Obama honeymoon ended so abruptly.

"... Obama doesn't grasp the essentials of presidential leadership. Rather than making a compelling case for his economic policies, he has resorted to curt rebuffs, such as telling House Republican whip Eric Cantor, 'I won.' House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the same thing the same day: 'We won the election; we wrote the [stimulus] bill.' This is the trope of a party that has lost its ability to make an argument. Mr. Obama and his team would be well advised to put aside the imperious FDR model and study Ronald Reagan's first 200 days in office. The contrast is instructive."

"This is the kind of drawing that results from being trapped in a molded plastic chair, lime green with little sparkly things embedded in it..."

"... while you wait for a prescription to be filled, and you sit there, pen poised over sketchbook, waiting for a parade of funny, odd, bizarre, eminently sketchable people to pass before you and no one does, not a soul, and all you see is rank after rank of aisles, each capped with an end cap, extending to infinity."

"I don't consider it to be my fault. She did not want help."

Can this not be a crime?

"Speaking of Japan my neighbor was in Japan and everywhere he went Japanese people yelled Yes We Can at him."

"I guess because he is an American. He said this lasted an entire week. Restaurants, stores, on the street, everywhere, Yes We Can. How scary."

So says Titus, who lies some unknown percentage of the time. Truth or lie, that's hilarious. Any other reports of Americans abroad receiving "Yes, we can" greetings? If so, surely, it must have fallen out of fashion by now.

AFTERTHOUGHT: The day may/will/has come when "Yes, we can" is a sarcastic taunt.

IN THE COMMENTS: Awesome said:
This explains it:


Titus says:
This I actually did not lie about. This is the neighbor that I hate and resent because he is richer, cuter and younger than me. But I would do him except for the fact that he is straight. Remember I wrote about his 6 week "holiday" during Christmas.
Well, that certainly substantiates your story!

February 11, 2009

Let the tree be purple.


"'Stump the Dog.' Sounds like the easiest TV game show ever."

Lileks tweets — referring, of course, to the Sussex spaniel that won Best in Show at the 133rd Annual Westminster Kennel Club show. A much-needed laugh for me (after doing those 2 death posts in a row).

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm not sure why this fit in the dog post, but there's a lot of talk about what Valentine present a man should get for a woman. It started when Michael H said:
On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being 'Punch His Lights Out' and 10 being 'Cut Up His Clothes and Call a Junk Yard Dog Divorce Attorney', how would you rank receiving either of these gifts on Valentines Day?

A). A Vermont Teddy Bear wearing something cute.

B). A Pajama Gram.


AND: The ineffably adorable Psychedelic George says:
I know what women want:

a) Wool socks. Good thick wool socks. Not heavy and ugly, but cute good thick wool socks.

b) On a budget? Flannel. Otherwise—cashmere.

c) Tea. If it sounds disgusting to the male palate, she will love it. Try 'Vanilla Sleepytime."

d) A subscription to 'Oprah.'

e) All things Jane Austen.

f) Wine.

Remember what I said about the socks being cute. And wool.
ADDED: I've corrected the text above to change "Original George" to "Psychedelic George." I'd mixed up 2 of my Georges — just when I was doing my big "ineffably adorable" compliment. I hope his girlfriend doesn't think it was the other George who got her the cute wool socks. Psychedelic George has only been commenting here since February 5th — under that name at least — and he's really stood out as a great commenter. And I mean no disrespect to Original George.

MORE: I'm told Original George = Psychedelic George.

"He apparently felt something. The car was not driving in a normal fashion."

Dragging a dead body 17 miles — and no criminality involved.

"Still, there is considerable evidence that Mr. Williams was truly sick, including the fact that he has since died."

A little incidental death humor in a serious NYT article.

See the muddy waters rise.

Thanks to Jason for pointing me to The Beatles Search Machine, after I tweeted about wanting a place to search Beatles lyrics, the way you can search Bob Dylan's lyrics at his official website. I wanted to know:
Is the only reference to "water" in the Beatles' lyrics "muddy water"? (Typical of the kind of thing I need to know to blog.)
Don't you think it's interesting that the word "water" appears only once in all those lyrics, and it's muddy water? The "he" of "Come Together" "got muddy water." (I'm not sure how well the "mojo filter" works to clarify said water.) Presumably, the reference is to the musician Muddy Waters, though surely he is not the "he" of the song. (It's Timothy Leary, right?)

The Beatles Search Machine also returned "Mother Nature's Son," but there, the word actually is "waters," so it does not undo the conclusion that the only "water" in a Beatles song is "muddy water." But the "waters" of "Mother Nature's Son" look sparkling clear:
Sit beside a mountain stream — see her waters rise
Listen to the pretty sound of music as she flies.
The usual things that are said about the difference between Paul and John can be said here. John's dark "shoot me" song has muddy water, and Paul's sweet happy song has us listening to the pretty music of a mountain stream. But I must add that "see her waters rise" today makes me think about global warming. Now, I hear that song and picture Paul, Mother Nature's son, in his field of grass, with his swaying daisies, and the mental picture is ruined by big old Al Gore lumbering up and harshing his mellow.

Mickey Kaus thought he was being paranoid, worrying that Obama's Democrats would unravel welfare reform.

"On bloggingheads my colleague Bob Wright routinely ridiculed me as paranoid for worrying that if Democrats got back in power they would unravel welfare reform. Even I thought I was paranoid. If only for political purposes, I figured, Dems would have to wait a few months or years before sabotaging Bill Clinton's major domestic achievement. It took them two weeks."

(Would it kill Mickey to give us a nice Bloggingheads snippet of Bob's savage mockery?)

AND: Not precisely apt, but funny:

Paglia's purple piffle.

Camille Paglia's new column begins with a purplishness:
Money by the barrelful, by the truckload. Mountains of money, heaped like gassy pyramids in the national dump. Scrounging packs of politicos, snapping, snarling and sending green bills flying sky-high as they root through the tangled mass with ragged claws. The stale hot air filled with cries of rage, the gnashing of teeth and dark prophecies of doom.
Doom! Yet read for a few paragraphs and you'll get hit in the face with the insipidity of: "But aside from the stimulus muddle, Obama has been off to a good start."
True, I was disappointed with the infestation of the new appointments list by Clinton retreads and slippery tax-dodgers.
Yeah, so then not just aside from the stimulus muddle, also aside from the multiple muddled appointments.
Nevertheless, I was very impressed by Obama's relaxed, natural authority with military officers on Inauguration Day, in contrast to the early Bill Clinton's palpable unease and exaggerated posturing.
The President was able to look decent standing next to military personnel. This is the "good start"? She should blush deep red with embarrassment to have defined the standard of presidential achievement down so low.

To be fair, Paglia also credits Obama with saying he'll close Guantanamo. Then, instead of acknowledging that he made only a promise — a promise devoid of details — to do something a year from now, Paglia lamely lambastes "conservative talk radio" for its supposedly claiming — rotely — that every Guantanamo detainee is a proven terrorist who should be "severely punished." But Guantanamo is not about punishment, Camille, it's about detention, and that's the conservative radio talking point.

Now, enough with that distraction, get back to Obama's purported "good start." That one-year-from-now promise and relaxed demeanor around military folk was good for you? But no, Paglia is tripping off to other topics. And WTF are "gassy pyramids" anyway?

February 10, 2009

At the Arborist Alehouse...

The Arborist

... I'm hanging by a thread. Talk me down from here.

Sirius XM, the bankruptcy.

Oh, no!

"Has Barack Obama’s presidency already failed?"

The Financial Times asks a question that maybe you too were thinking.

"Administration officials were greeted with sarcasm and laughter Monday night when they briefed lawmakers and congressional staff..."

"... on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner's new financial-sector bailout project... The laughter was at its height when Obama officials explained that the White House planned to guarantee a wide swath of toxic assets — which they referred to as "legacy assets" — but wouldn't be asking Congress for money."

"While sympathy for Mrs. Clinton is outside the normal fare of these columns...."

"... one cannot help but feel that she is surrounded by people who are, at best, strangers and, at worst, enemies."

Along Lake Mendota in the February Thaw.

From the top of Observatory:

Mendota Thaws

The garden:

The Centennial Garden

ADDED: The same 2 views, from last September. (Thanks, chickenlittle.)

Schumer on "those little tiny, yes, porky amendments": "The American people really don't care."

Yikes. The contempt.

(Via Michelle Malkin.)

IN THE COMMENTS: Synova said:
Just for my curiosity...

Who is "the chattering class"?
Joe said:
Anyone who disagrees with Schumer.

More generally, anyone who attempts to actually debate the contents of any bill in Congress.
reader_iam said:
Schumer--Schumer!--dissin' chattering?!?

Now, THAT'S what I call high comedy. Next thing you know, he'll be dissin' TV cameras! Can't wait, myself.


MEANWHILE: Barack Obama says:
We’ve had a good debate, but the time for talking is over.

You hear that? Shut up!

"Stocks Tumble as Bailout Plan Is Unveiled."


Grossed out and laughing...

... I'm loving this unauthorized commercial for Trader Joe's:

Via chuck b.

"It was such a loosey-goosey era. I'm guilty for a lot of things. I'm guilty for being negligent, naive, not asking all the right questions."

"And to be quite honest, I don't know exactly what substance I was guilty of using."

For the annals of slithery confessions.

Wondering what jewelry to wear for Valentine's Day?

"Wear your heart…on your ears. These tampon heart earrings display both your romantic sentiments and your menstrual pride."

Shepard Fairey sues AP before it sues him.

"Mr. Fairey’s lawyers... contend in the suit that Mr. Fairey used the photograph only as a reference and transformed it into a 'stunning, abstracted and idealized visual image that created powerful new meaning and conveys a radically different message” from that of the shot [Mannie] Garcia took. The suit asks the judge to declare that Mr. Fairey’s work is protected under fair-use exceptions to copyright law, which allow limited use of copyrighted materials for purposes like criticism or comment."

I hope Fairey wins this one. To make an Obama poster, an artist has to refer to some image of Obama, and Fairey chose a perfectly generic photograph. How else are you supposed to do an artwork about a famous person? Garcia's image was mainly the raw material Obama provided by having a face. I suppose Fairey could have looked at a couple images and made a freehand drawing or morphed a series of photographs, but he still would have needed to appropriate someone's photography.
Further complicating the dispute, Mr. Garcia contends that he, not The Associated Press, owns the copyright for the photo, according to his contract with the The A.P. at the time. In a telephone interview on Monday, Mr. Garcia said he was unsure how he would proceed now that the matter had landed in court. But he said he was very happy when he found out that his photo was the source of the poster image and that he still is.
Well, if this were a Civil Procedure exam, that would be a good joinder problem.
“I don’t condone people taking things, just because they can, off the Internet,” Mr. Garcia said. “But in this case I think it’s a very unique situation.”
No, it's really not unique, other than the high profile of the artwork and the consequential strong whiff of money. I hope Fairey uses the power he has acquired to establish the rights of smaller artists to use news photographs to make artworks about celebrities.
He added, “If you put all the legal stuff away, I’m so proud of the photograph and that Fairey did what he did artistically with it, and the effect it’s had.”
I ♥ Garcia. But let me say that his pride in the new and brilliantly expanded life of his photograph is something that belongs in the law, something that should affect the fair use doctrine. What if Garcia had been asked at the outset: Would you accept the use of your photograph in this manner, with no money going to you, or would you prefer that the artist appropriated someone else's generic photo of Obama's face? Because it's obvious that Garcia would say yes [— please use my photograph —], I would like to see the court hold it to be fair use.


Just now:


Over at TalkLeft, look how they struggle to understand...

... me.

I give a balanced description, and Big Tent Democrat decides I must be insulting Obama, then a clutter of dimwitted followers in the comments proceed to react as if I'd written BTD's slanted paraphrase. Finally, a commenter named Teresa questions the interpretation:
When I first read it, I thought she was making fun of Bush play acting like "I'm the President." How he always acted so proud of himself even when we were making fun of him. Maybe you're right, though.
Maybe you're right, though... and everyone slips back into a stupor.

February 9, 2009

This tree is far too overbearing...


... but let's curl up here anyway. There are so many things we could talk about.

AND: Alternate view:


Live-blogging Obama's first press conference.

6:38: Starting soon. Think he'll get the hard questions? Think he'll use his boring professorial mode or his testy exasperated mode or might he attain true presidentiality?

7:02: He begins. If you don't believe we're in a crisis, you should talk to one person who's lost his job. Why would that be convincing? Only government can solve this problem. Money should go to the people most likely to spend it — not the wealthiest people, supposedly.

7:08: Failure to act "will only deepen" the crisis. That's less inflammatory that some of his recent statements.

7:10: Jennifer Loven asks him about his stronger earlier statement, that without action we may never recover. Do you think you risk losing credibility? No no no no no no. "You potentially create a negative spiral."

7:14: "That wasn't just some random number that I plucked out of.... uh" — he's thinking: can't say my ass — "out of a hat."

7:17: Iran. He's looking into it. "In the coming months, we will be looking for... openings...."

7:20: He's filibustering — using the boring professor mode.

7:23: "Everyone needs to be possessed with a sense of urgency." Let's be bipartisan: You must agree with me.

7:25: This isn't pork. There are no earmarks.

7:28: Is it so terrible to have a schoolhouse built in the 1850s? Let's see the school! You have to stop teaching when a train goes by. You get to hear a train go by. [ADDED: Don't liberals care about historical architecture?]

7:37: Jake Tapper asks how people are supposed to know if this economic plan is working — considering that earlier efforts haven't seemed to work. Obama talks about "creating or saving" 4 million jobs — huge difference between those 2 things! He talks a lot, but I don't feel that we got an answer (or that we could).

7:41: Will Obama let the press come photograph soldiers' coffins? He's looking into it. He'll get back to you later.

7:44: He's not going to let al Qaeda "act with impunity," but he has no details right now.

7:45: A reporter totally repeats Jake's question and Obama points it out. Embarrassing!

7:46: "I don't remember exactly what Joe was referring to." Laughter. "Not surprisingly."

7:47: "I have no idea" what Biden was talking about. "I really don't."

7:51: Helen Thomas gets her first shot at him. Does he know of anyone in the Middle East who's got nuclear weapons?

7:52: Huffington Post gets a question. What about Patrick Leahy's "truth and reconciliation commission" to investigate the "crimes" of the Bush administration? Will you rule out prosecutions? Come on, Barack. Just give us a nice upstanding "yes." [Sorry, I had "no" before, based on misreading the phrasing of the question.] Instead, we get the usual bullshit about how he hasn't "seen the proposals" and can't really "express an opinion" and he's got to look into it. Ugh! But his administration will do everything right. Fine. Good. Perfect. But the question is whether you will go in for this retribution against the prior administration? He does end with: "But my general orientation is let's get it right moving forward." Now, that is the right answer, and I think he knows it. It would have been presidential to take a stand against the Leahy effort. But that was not to be. A sadly missed opportunity.

7:58: "There's some ideological blockage there that needs to be cleared up." That's the characterization of the opposition to the stimulus. Makes those of us who are hesitant sound like some kind of disease. "But I am the eternal optimist... People respond to civility and rational argument... and that's the kind of leadership that I'm going to provide. Thank you guys!" Well, I respond to civility and rational argument, but I believe you just talked about me like I was some kind of disease!

8:00: He ends exactly on the button. We hear a stomp as he steps off the podium, and his walk back into the White House is noticeably different from Bush's. How can I describe the different feeling I get from that walk? You can object to this if you want. It's just my feeling. I think Bush would walk away in a ritual fashion that said: I am the President and I have accomplished what the President must do. Obama's walk said: I'm a man who has this job and now I've done it and I'm out of here.

Oh, Glenn Loury is not allowed to say that.

"We're not a group, African Americans... We're not a people."

Click through to continue the diavlog.

The Kindle 2.

If you're thinking of buying the new Kindle 2, please use this link and you'll be supporting this blog (without paying more for the Kindle).

As you may remember, I got the original Kindle and initially thought it was cool, then abandoned it for one big reason: the gray-on-gray "Etch-a-Sketch" screen.

The copy on the new one says:
Improved Display: Reads like real paper; now boasts 16 shades of gray for clear text and even crisper images.
I don't care how many shades of gray there are. If you want it to "read like real paper," the background should be white and the text should be black. Screw gray!

Anyway, Amazon ought to ship me a free Kindle 2 after taking my money for what was for me an unusable Kindle 1. I promise to give it an honest review. I will say the new one looks better, apparently it's not wedge-shaped anymore. But I need to see the screen.

ADDED: Try the Stanza app for the iPhone. I like that. It's free and you can download lots of free books too. Any classic book is easily available. I've been reading Mark Twain. The text is black-on-white on the clear, brightly lit screen. Kindle seems to be aimed at people who feel that a lit screen is hurting their eyes. That's not me. I look at a lit screen all day long and enjoy it.

The Fordification of Barack Obama.

Given this, will "SNL" need an Obama impersonator who — like Chevy Chase — can do pratfalls?

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian said:

It would be funny if, after he bonked his big noggin, he said "Wait a minute... we're about to sign some bill spending a trillion dollars of unnecessary pork during a recession? What?! Not on my watch, we're not!" and promptly ran back to the White House and fired everyone.

"Take a moment... take an hour... to try to revive and savor the antiquated pleasure of writing someone a letter."

"And then come back and say what it was like. Did you feel fidgety and impatient? Did writing feel too slow for your thoughts, or did it slow them down in a pleasurable and even fruitful way? Holding a pen to me is like holding an eager dog on a leash. Has your handwriting deteriorated from disuse, too?"

Well, I'm not going to do this, because everyone I know would either think it was crazy to write and mail a paper letter or feel oppressed by the implication that now they need to handwrite a letter.

But I do still use handwriting, and I often prefer it when I'm writing notes for my own private use — that is, not composing something for readers. I prepare for class by writing notes in the margin, and I teach the class using those notes along with the assigned text. I feel that the handwriting has a spirit to it that helps me a lot. It's not something I use to show my personality and feeling to another person, though I understand why handwriting conveys that. It's something that, for me, remains more closely interwoven with my continuing thinking about a subject. It's less final and it works better to keep me connected with the original text. Marginalia — it means a lot to me.

"He looked so cute with his purple skin and bright yellow hair."

Well, that's sweet, from the octo-grandma, but everything else she has to say is .... harrowing.

"9 Sometimes when I am Stvck for a rhyme, I new-mint a Worde because I jvst want to get the Damned script ovt the fvcking doore."

Wm. Shakespeare's Five and Twenty Random Things Abovt Me.
19 I work ovt my calues thrice weekly, usvally three pyramid sets of Calf-Rises whilst holding a flagon of Meade. I knowe I should stretch afterwards, but it Bores me so I do it not.
(Via mcg.)

Obama's insipid emails are annoying Leon Wieseltier.

I was going to do a blog post a week or so ago titled Barack Obama is spamming me — you could sing it to this tune — but it was clear enough on the face of the email that a simple click would unsubscribe me from his email list, and since something stopped me from clicking, I could see I'd be lying if I posted that. But Wieseltier has his column bitching about the email:
"As we begin the work of remaking America," the president wrote to me, "we must draw on the common hopes that brought us together this week." And: "I'm counting on you to keep the spirit of unity and service alive." And: "We face many challenges. But we face them as one nation." And: "Our journey is just beginning." And: "Thank you for all you do." It is all perfectly platitudinous, a Hallmark homily, but not in Obama's universe. Does the renovation of the civic sense really require such a return to literalness? I do not look to the White House for irony, but the extent to which the Obama bliss is premised upon such undisabused belief vexes me.
Bliss premised upon undisabused belief vexes Wieseltier. Indeed! He's no platitudipus. Can you imagine someone running for President and saying he was "vexed" let alone saying he was vexed by "undisabused belief"? I mock Wieseltier even as I thoroughly agree that the Obama's aphorisms are hollow and inane.

Wieseltier ends his column — confession: I skipped the middle — by disapproving of a President's using an email list:
Scholars have documented the inexorable effect...
... the vexingly exorable effect...
... of the Internet in creating "communities of interest," and the Obama machine wishes to portray the nation itself as a community of interest; but this returns us once again to that mythical unity. What is more likely happening is that Obama's community of interest is depicting itself as America's community of interest. Communities of interest are formations of exclusiveness enabled by technologies of inclusiveness.
Communities of interest are formations of exclusiveness enabled by technologies of inclusiveness. It trips off the tongue!
So it was odd to get that email from my president. I voted for him, and I gave him a few dollars, but I do not revolve in his vast magical orbit.
Yo, Leon, you can unsubscribe from the list.
The personal touch had a distinctly de-personalizing effect, the way Amazon does when it teaches me about my tastes. The Obama machine may be excited to be connected to me...
Isn't it freaky when you're having an encounter with a machine and the machine gets excited?
... but I am not excited to be connected to it. I am not connected to it. The jazziness of the means aside...
Jazziness? When was email last jazzy? In 1999? 1989?
... this was junk mail.
And thus, Leon Wieseltier reveals that he is the last man on earth to perceive that email can be "junk mail" — or — in the jazzy slang of the day, here's a word for you — spam. The kids call it spam. And the kids who started calling it spam are now in their 40s.

Kissing is complicated.

The science of it.

"But I'm not an economist, so I don't know."

(Via Jac.)

I don't know about you, but I'm feeling very queasy about the whole routine of: Trust us, hurry up, your instincts are irrelevant because you're not an expert, stand aside, shut up, obey.

"I'd like to say: I'm bewildered. In the old days, we would have called this selling out. But I think it's a good way to spend a Sunday."

Thanks, Robert Plant, for summing up the lameness of today.

February 8, 2009

"When the novelty of the first African American president wears off, the sight of Obama talking on television might have less impact..."

"For now, though, the White House is cranking up the volume, staging Obama's first presidential news conference [Monday night] -- in prime time."

How long does it take people to get something through their skulls? The Prez is black. I've been used to it since months before it happened. (And it seemed normal to me back when he was a long shot.) Are people really still going around dumbfounded, marveling that this — this! — happened in America? What is wrong with you? Get up to speed, people.

And yes, I'm very interested in the first big press conference. But that's because the country seems to be going to hell, and I want to see some competence and accountability. If Obama's people think they are "staging" some feel-good diversity show — it's "the first African American president ... talking on television"! — they must be crazy.

"Cherry Limeade is all well and good, but I doubt they'll have a pitcher of Old Style for a buck fifty on Thursdays."

SONIC comes to Madison.

The prairie reverie.

There was a snowman the warm weather had made disproportionate:

Disproportional snowman

And evil trees:

An evil tree

This one attempted to claw out my eyeball:


But these are all trivial details. In the end, it was mostly like this, which I consider essence of prairie...


... because, as you can see, there were no bees and no clover.

"You can have a roller coaster ride with a nice guy in a sweater."

Dita Von Teese.

At the Mud Parking Lot Café...

The Mud Parking Lot

... you can keep the conversation going without me. Right now, Silvio needs me. I'll join you when I can.

"Barack Obama's temperament is famously unflappable."

Remember that meme? "No drama Obama"? It help get him elected. I believed it. Now, look at him here:

"We're not moving quickly because we are trying to jam something down people's throats." Ugh! That makes me feel like he's trying to jam something down my throat!

AFTERTHOUGHT: Oh, but maybe the reason Obama seemed — last fall — to have such a measured, even temperament is that these things are relative.

Mr. Forward wrote a poem.

Here. It's a tad "inside Althouse" but very charming (to me, anyway):
Althouse's favorite commentater
Lives under the refrigerator.
He appears as a ghost
when he bothers to post,
Admits "it's the only way I could date her."
AND: Psychedelic George follows on:
A mere common tater,
a tuber who wishes he knew 'er.

Christian Bale Freakout + "Newsies."

This remix, as you might imagine, has some spoken obscenities:

(HD version.)

Obama is like Bush... even when The Daily News doesn't notice.

I had to screen-capture this juxtaposition:

bush and o

You're supposed to think Barack Obama is witty and multifaceted, and Bush is a big idiot. But both are just adult men caught in the middle of a goofy facial expression — just about exactly the same expression, but for Bush they used the shot taken in the middle of a blink.

Rush Limbaugh will "pale in comparison to the goods work of the new Republican national chairman, Michael Steele."

Says former RNC chairman Rich Bond, who thinks: "The question is: Are we going to have an all-white-man litmus test under the Republican Party?"

I'm just quoting him because I think "pale in comparison" is a funny phrase for the race-obsessed.


By the way, is it true, as the linked LAT article says, that Limbaugh's listening audience "predominantly ... male"? There seem to be more women than men getting their phone calls through on the show, and these women frequently express fervent love for — as Rush calls himself — the "lovable little fuzzball." It may be the screener's doing, and it's clear to me — and I'm a big fan of the show — that Limbaugh prefers chatting with the lady callers. But what's the male-female balance? If "predominantly" just means 51% or some such thing, who cares? But Bond is trying to reinforce Obama's don't-listen-to-Rush message by saying the GOP will keep losing if it goes Rushward. So the audience better skew way male for this to be a good point.

How worried should Republicans be about a modestly different gender balance in the 2 parties? It may be the case that the average woman has instincts that naturally take her in a more liberal direction than the average male. If so and if we want a vibrant 2-party system, then we should expect a different gender balance in each party. It's only a problem if one party has so little total support that it can't win anymore. Rush's point has been that the GOP can't win by going liberal, because if people want liberal, they will vote for the Democrat. Thus, McCain lost. Isn't he right about that and about the need for the GOP to produce attractive candidates who can articulate an appealing conservative vision?

"Hell in all its fury has visited the good people of Victoria in the last 24 hours."

At least 49 dead in Australian wildfires.

How to get $8,000 for taking a photo of a woman "laying on her stomach with her skirt pulled up over her butt."

Key step: Get arrested.
[From a distance of 15 feet,] Actor Robert Kabakoff snapped a photo of a woman's bottom as she sunned herself in Central Park...

[H]er friend saw and admonished him with a wag of her finger.

Before he knew it, the woman was talking to cops and Kabakoff was handcuffed in the back of a police cruiser.

During the next 18 hours, he was charged with "unlawful surveillance," a felony, and spent the night in jail. The charge was later dropped, and Kabakoff sued.
The city settled the lawsuit for $8,000, getting off cheap, I'd say.

What makes people — even cops — think photography is a crime? It's one thing to manipulate a camera into a position to take a photograph up under a woman's skirt, quite another to respond to a woman who lies down with her skirt hiked up to sun her ass in Central Park.

Finally, credit is due to The Daily News for: "It was a bum rap."

IN THE COMMENTS: Dan from Madison says:
This also happened to me, but at least I didn't get arrested.

About six months ago I took a photo of a car in front of me because the bumper sticker was funny and I wanted to share it with a few people. Little did I know.

Driving the car was an 18 year old woman who had issues with others in her past. She called her parents who the cops and gave them my license plate number.

About two weeks after that I received a visit from an officer asking why I was taking a photo of that vehicle, etc. etc. Eventually I got aggravated and politely asked the officer if I had done anything illegal. He responded "no" and then I (again) politely informed him that the conversation was over.

The not getting arrested part is key. Now, I do think we should be careful about doing things that may scare other people, and I'm sure that if you had thought this young woman might worry that I'm stalking her, you wouldn't have taken the photograph, even if you were certain it wasn't a crime. And I think it was fine for her to photograph you for future reference — in case you turned up again. But it amazes me that the police actually launched an investigation over a report of someone photographing their car. And it's interesting to know that if someone bugs you — you, meaning a woman — in Madison, the police will take you seriously. Perhaps too seriously. It shouldn't be too easy to be able to summon the police to intimidate people you don't like.

"Attacking Iran is a shovel-ready project."

An economist joke.

(From an excellent interview with Robert Barrow — which Instapundit linked to — on why the stimulus bill is so terrible.)

ADDED: This post got linked by Instapundit. Isn't that going to cause feedback?

"I would rather do the right thing and have 1 term than be mediocre and have 2."

So said Obama.

Sounds like something Bush would say. It was Bush who decided to do what he thought was right and to accept the love or the hate that came with it.

But it also makes me think of Jimmy Carter. Because, you know, it is possible to be mediocre and have only 1 term.

"Court upholds free speech of activist rat."

Interesting headline. Not that far from literally true.