December 5, 2009

The $127 million losing streak.

Terrance Watanabe, you old fool.
Mr. Watanabe's situation illustrates the often-uneasy relationships casinos have with their biggest clients, also known as "whales." Casinos vie to lure these high rollers by doling out luxury suites, use of private jets, and a cadre of personal handlers to fulfill every flight of fancy, from wire transfers to fishing trips to Alaska....

In a series of emails signed by Mr. Ning, the Harrah's marketing executive, the casino company laid out the terms that it was willing to offer him, which included "a special formula just for Mr. Watanabe."

Mr. Ning specified such offers as tickets to the Rolling Stones, $12,500 a month for airfare and $500,000 in credit at the gift stores. Harrah's also offered 15% cash back on table losses greater than $500,000, special high-limit games and other incentives....
Well, is there some point at which you would blame the casino?

"The little mouse, Jerry, I believe, gets ahold of thread and runs with it causing an entire sweater to unravel from the bottom to the top..."

"... and leaving a cat, Tom probably, naked in front of a crowd in an auditorium. Ha ha ha ha ha. This is great."

That's Chip Ahoy, somewhere in the depths of the "What an asshole"/global warming thread. Since this is a day on the blog that began with the suggestion that we ought to declare Sweater Christmas, it made me want to do a new post knitting it all together by embedding "Undone — The Sweater Song," but embedding is disabled, so you'll have to pull the thread and walk away over at YouTube. And I did look for that Tom and Jerry unraveling. Unsuccessfully.

I'm in the NYT.

And they give me the last word about Tiger Woods and race.

"To hold it in your hands is really quite thrilling."

"It was really, really exciting. I just sat with it for a few minutes and looked it over and savored the moment."

What the Climategate scientist said to the global warming skeptic.

Scroll back to the beginning for the context, or read this.

"It was just sort of a recognition that, 'Duh, that's what in effect the commander understands he's been told to do.' Everybody said, 'He's right.'"

The "'whoa' moment" in the deliberations over the Afghanistan strategy:
In June, McChrystal noted, he had arrived in Afghanistan and set about fulfilling his assignment. His lean face, hovering on the screen at the end of the table, was replaced by a mission statement on a PowerPoint slide: "Defeat the Taliban. Secure the Population."

"Is that really what you think your mission is?" one of the participants asked.

In the first place, it was impossible -- the Taliban were part of the fabric of the Pashtun belt of southern Afghanistan, culturally if not ideologically supported by a major part of the population. "We don't need to do that," Gates said, according to one participant. "That's an open-ended, forever commitment."

But that was precisely his mission, McChrystal responded, enshrined in the Strategic Implementation Plan -- the execution orders for the March strategy, written by the NSC staff.

"In her luminous memoir..."

I thought the memo had gone out that the word "luminous" had been banned from book reviews:
Several years ago, overwhelmed by the flood of material unleashed annually by the publishing industry, I decided to establish a screening program by purchasing only books that at least one reviewer had described as ''astonishing.''

Previously, I had limited my purchases to merchandise deemed ''luminous'' or ''incandescent,'' but this meant I ended up with an awful lot of novels about bees, Provence or Vermeer. The problem with incandescent or luminous books is that they veer toward the introspective, the arcane or the wise, while I prefer books that go off like a Roman candle. When I buy a book, I don't want to come away wiser or happier or even better informed. I want to get blown right out of the water by the author's breathtaking pyrotechnics. I want to come away astonished.
That's Joe Queenan, writing in the New York Times in 2007, but now here's the New York Times with its 10 Best Books of 2009, calling a memoir "luminous." How can I trust their judgment? To be fair, they didn't call anything "incandescent" or "astonishing."

"Those were the days my friend. We thought they'd never end."

The days have ended for Liam Clancy.

"Liam Clancy, the man Bob Dylan described as the 'best ballad singer I’d ever heard in my life,' has died. He was 74."

Oh, my friend we're older but no wiser, for in our hearts the dreams are still the same...

I have an idea: Sweater Christmas!

Let's buy Christmas (and Hanukkah) presents. Why not agree amongst your loved ones that everyone will buy a particular type of present? For example: Everyone buys everyone a sweater...

... or a scarf. Have Sweater Christmas. Or Scarf Christmas. Or Sweater/Scarf/Gloves Christmas. It would be so much simpler and nicely reciprocal. And if people are traveling by plane, it will be easy to slip these things into the suitcases and nothing's going to get broken.

Or do you think you need to be more creative? If so, I have a suggestion! It's The Hoof Candle, from D.L. & Co.:

Aunus, the roman version of pan, is the companion of the nymphs and god of shepherds and flocks. His lower half being that of a goat represents our barbaric nature or beastial side of our humanity: indulgence and celebration. The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans often designed their furniture with the legs of beasts, this grounded the pieces to the earth and paid homage to the animal nature in all humans. D.L. & Co.'s Effigy Wax Sculptures are exquisite, exceptional works of art, each a timeless treasure to appreciate and admire. Due to the non-linear shape of the sculpture, the wick does not run from the top to the base.
Aunus, my ass. Sweater Christmas, okay? That will serve my "beastial" nature quite well enough.

IN THE COMMENTS: The comments are off to a great start, with Pogo:
I'm gonna have an Ambien n' golf club Xmas.

Hold the Escalade.
And Wardwood, "Sweater and animal":

December 4, 2009

"Amanda Knox stood looking down as she learned her fate."

"At first there seemed little reaction, then she turned and buried her head into the chest of her lawyer. It was then that her head and shoulders began to shake as sobs came.... As the full verdict was read out, the gaze of each of the six jurors seemed almost fixed to the court's back wall from where a crumbling fresco of the Virgin Mary and Child looked down."

"Uh, Facebook."

So how do we know there haven't been other gate-crashers?

Was Tiger Woods sleep-driving when he crashed?

An emailer writes:
I had a eureka! moment last night. Tiger was not awake when he crashed his car. This is why he was said to be snoring in the street by the neighbor in the police report. He probably is using ambien and "sleepwalked" the whole thing. His wife probably broke the window to attempt to wake him up, following him out of the house, but obviously being behind enough in time that he already had gotten in and started the car. This type of thing is a very common side effect of ambien. He can't sleep because his wife had already found out about the girlfriends.... I'm surprised I haven't seen this explanation offered by anyone.
Here's a news article saying he was sleeping and snoring in the street after the crash:
They found Woods apparently unconscious in the street, while his wife, Elin Nordegren, standing nearby. Woods was shoeless, in a T-shirt and shorts.

"He was actually snoring," [a witness] said.
Sleeping and snoring in the street after all that? You don't snore when you're knocked unconscious, do you? That sounds like a sleeping drug, which also explains how the highly skilled Woods could drive so badly.

Looking for that news article, I found this:
From Radar: "[Rachel] Uchitel told friends that she and Tiger liked to have sex while taking the drug Ambien. Uchitel told one pal, 'You know you have crazier sex on Ambien — you get into that Ambien haze. We have crazy Ambien sex.'" Readers: Is that a thing? We've witnessed people in an Ambien haze, certainly. But Ambien sex? This makes us feel old not knowing this.
Is it all fitting together now?

ADDED: The emailer was Elliott Althouse (no relation). And, in the comments, several people say that a person unconscious with a head injury might snore.

Hey! That's sexism against Sarah Palin!

When Glenn Beck says it.

"Take Your Name Off Your Phone."

The voicemail remix:

"The Obama administration’s ranks are filled with people, fresh from the academy and the think tanks, who talk about the need to manage American decline..."

"... and even boast about how much more sophisticated they are than the Bush people on this score. They do say all this off the record, however. Perhaps they know that many Americans would not applaud them for their sophistication. Let’s hope the man in the Oval Office knows it, too."

Robert Kagan.

Palin goes birther.

Sarah Palin was asked "Would you make [Obama's] birth certificate an issue if you ran?":
"I think the public rightfully is still making it an issue. I don't have a problem with that. I don't know if I would have to bother to make it an issue, because I think that members of the electorate still want answers," she replied.

"Do you think it's a fair question to be looking at?" Humphries persisted.

"I think it's a fair question, just like I think past association and past voting records -- all of that is fair game," Palin said. "The McCain-Palin campaign didn't do a good enough job in that area."

McCain's campaign counsel has said the campaign did look into the birth certificate question and, like every other serious examination, dismissed it.

Palin suggested that the questions were fair play because of "the weird conspiracy theory freaky thing that people talk about that Trig isn't my real son -- 'You need to produce his birth certificate, you need to prove that he's your kid,' which we have done."
But I thought she thought the question of Trig's parentage was not fair. Do 2 unfairs make a fair in her thinking? Is she saying that since people got all "weird" and "freaky" on her, she wants equal treatment for Obama in the "weird" and "freaky" department?

The female female impersonator.

An interesting category, but who would we put in it? Guy Trebay starts with Wendy Williams. (It's an article about Wendy Williams.) But who else? He suggests Phyllis Diller, but then he backs off:
But Diller was a comedian...
(Ahem. Diller lives. Born in 1917 and alive.)
... and so are her spiritual descendants, people like Kathy Griffin and Margaret Cho, women sharp enough and shrewd enough to wade into the cultural scrapheap that is gender and recycle all the trashy signifiers they find there for laughs.
Williams is different, Trebay says, because she's a talk show host.
Like a kooky media divinity, a god in a comic book myth, Williams, 45, is permeable, superpotent and with no observable boundaries. She performs tricks on the air that involve her surgically amplified bosom. She suggests to guests like Omarosa Manigault Stallworth, the confrontational star of “The Apprentice,” that she look into facial fillers to correct the marionette lines that frame her stiff, practiced smile. She vows to keep her audience up to date on her vaginal toning. She cries, but then on television lately it’s hard to shut off the waterworks.

“You just have the audacity and the unmitigated gall to say what you think and let the chips fall where they may,” Williams said.
Nice. But I'm more interested in the general idea of the female female impersonator. The first person who sprang to mind for me is Dolly Parton. And Marilyn Monroe. And then Courtney Love, Madonna, Lady Gaga.

And as long as I'm in YouTube, here's the great Phyllis Diller:

And here she is with Groucho Marx — and she's the one with the drawn-on eyebrows — and here she is with Liberace.

Anyway, the topic for discussion is female female impersonators. And Phyllis Diller. And eyebrows...

"Am I glad that a hapless 77-year-old man won’t be put to death by the State of Florida? Yes, I am."

"Am I concerned about a Supreme Court that dispenses empathy so selectively? Also yes."

Linda Greenhouse wants more evenly spread empathy.

December 3, 2009

It's the "Special Wood-Themed" Edition of Bloggingheads!

With me and Hanna Rosin!

The racial angle to the Tiger Woods saga
Will high-status men invariably cheat on their wives?
Is lack of sexual desire in women an illness?
The impossibility of writing a non-awful sex scene
Hanna: Sorry, Tolstoy—happy marriages are fascinating!
Ann: Don’t give books as holiday gifts

"One night after a long day of campaigning, when the haters had made my spirits reach a nadir, I looked into Todd's eyes..."

"... which were as blue as the stripes on Old Glory, and too representing truth and loyalty, and he looked back at me with a twinkle of determination which I hadn't seen since I told him my goal of having another baby in my fifties and naming it Tron, then did I know for sure that I could carry on, like he, and we, have done together all of these years on this long, Iron Dog race of a marriage that is at once grueling and celestial, onerous and majestic."

Raisins, orgasms... what's the difference?

Here's another big NYT Magazine article for women that I didn't want to read, but I'm reading now to use in a Bloggingheads episode. It's been on the most-emailed list all week, this "Women Who Want to Want" business. I looked at it when it came out and the intro about staring at raisins really irritated me. I felt like I was reading the 1969 bestseller "The Sensuous Woman" again. 40 years later, I still remember the advice — for women in search of an orgasm — to get an ice cream cone and pay a whole lot of attention to every detail of the thing. But jeez, at least you got an ice cream cone. Orgasm or not. In 2009, it's a damned raisin?!
"I’d like you to start by examining your raisin... Study its shape, its contours, its folds. Touch the raisin with a finger. Look into the valleys and peaks, the highlights and dark crevasses. Lift the raisin to your lips."
This is going to help you want to have sex — to "want to want"? When I read that, I want nothing. Nothing at all. And get that raisin out of my face.

But I will go on, because I said I'd talk about it. Get past the raisin.
[Lori] Brotto is careful to keep in mind that not all women who feel erotically uncharged are desperate to change. Some may not be dismayed in the least.... [B]etween 7 and 15 percent of all young and middle-aged women... feel distressed over the absence of desire....
So you could either find a way to feel sexual desire or get over feeling bad about the way you really do feel.
Brotto is now studying... a sample of 70 women who... are sent home with assignments — to observe their bodies in the shower and describe themselves physically in precise and neutral language, in phrases that hold no judgment; and, after another session, to repeat over and over, “My body is alive and sexual,” no matter if they believe it. They are taught about research that shows that belief doesn’t matter, that the feeling will follow the declaration. And they are instructed, in their sessions, to place the raisins in their mouths, to “notice where the tongue is, notice the saliva building up in your mouth . . . notice the trajectory of the flavor as it bursts forth, the flood of saliva, how the flavor changes from your body’s chemistry.”
Back to that raisin. Is there a fruity nugget in this big bowl of oatmeal? Is it that women really have sexual feelings, but they emerge during a sexual encounter and may go unnoticed because we aren't good at noticing them? Or is this mainly about defining mental disorders in the D.S.M. — there's something called hypoactive sexual desire disorder (H.S.D.D.)? I'd like to hear less about raisins and Buddhist — it's always Buddhist — techniques of mindfulness or whatever, and more about who's channeling money where....
As is so often true in the poorly financed realm of sex research....

8,000+ words on Elizabeth Weil's marriage.

In the NYT Magazine. Seriously, I did not see the value of all this. Help me out. I agreed to talk about it on a Bloggingheads episode, to be recorded in a few hours, and I cannot figure out what is interesting here... aside from the fact that the husband's cooking obsession entails the use of very expensive ingredients. There were those "Taoists Thrusts" for the "Multi-Orgasmic Couple," which were mainly about visualizing one kind of animal or another burrowing into some sort of hole, but really, I found nothing to justify all this blather about one couple. And this is a condensation from a memoir. There's nothing even wrong with Dan. He works out. He cooks.
He was now reading Soviet-era weight-training manuals in order to transform his 41-year-old body into that of a Marine....

On a ho-hum weeknight Dan might make me pan-roasted salmon with truffled polenta in a Madeira shallot reduction.
She's vaguely dissatisfied with the man even as she feeds us the stuff of envy. Yes, your man is very muscular and he feeds you delicious food and you feed me 8,000 words.

"So, why has [Amanda] Knox been jailed for two years?"

"As near as I can tell, she is on trial for inappropriate behavior. A widely shown video showed her kissing her boyfriend and cuddling just days after the murder. An athlete, she did cartwheels — cartwheels! — while in the midst of a long interrogation. This was evidence of her “contempt” of authorities, prosecutors said. And she wore t-shirts with Beatles lyrics to court...."

"Now, if they put a noisy hot dog stand that keeps you up at night, doesn't that violate the statute?"

"Well, you can have quiet hot dog stands during the daytime."

Justices Breyer and Scalia concern themselves with hot dogs (transcript PDF) in a case about whether public access to newly added beach is a "taking" of the property of homeowners who previously had private beach extending all the way to the water:
“You didn’t lose one inch,” Justice Stephen G. Breyer told the lawyer for the owners, D. Kent Safriet. “All you lost was the right to touch the water. But the court here says you in effect have that right because you can walk right over it and get to the water.”

The new strip of land is as wide as 75 feet in places, and the public has access to it.

“If somebody wanted to put up a hot dog stand on this new land,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. asked, “would you have the right to tell them they can’t?”

“Absolutely not,” Mr. Safriet answered.

Justice Breyer said the relevant law did protect the owners’ right to enjoy their land in peace, meaning they could at a minimum ban “a noisy hot dog stand that keeps you up at night.”

Justice Antonin Scalia found the middle ground, as it were. “You can have quiet hot dog stands during the daytime,” he said.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor added that even before the beach project, “a hot dog stand could have sat in the water.”

"Comedian Chris Rock undoubtedly put it best when he said, 'A man is only as faithful as his options.'"

"And few men have the sexual options of the most famous athletes in the world.... Fact is, over the last century the greatest athletes of whatever day are virtually winless against sexual temptation.... Look, infidelity can take down elected officials (though not John Fitzgerald Kennedy and, in the final analysis, not William Jefferson Clinton). It can rub out a guy in the office, like Steve Phillips of ESPN. But it's not taking down the greatest athletes of our time."

That's from sportswriter Michael Wilbon. Ah, but wasn't Tiger Woods perceived as a special god-like man? And isn't that key to the most lucrative aspect of his career, endorsements?
Forbes estimated earlier this year that Woods was the first athlete to surpass $1 billion in career earnings, more than 80 percent of that coming from endorsements with companies such as Nike, Gillette, Gatorade and AT&T...

[C]ompanies that may have wanted to align themselves with Woods might rethink that -- particularly companies whose target audience is women or children. Part of Woods' appeal has been his pristine image, off the course as well as on, and events of the last week have tainted that, making him an easy target....
Time Magazine's Bill Saporito says:
I don't think he's going to lose very many endorsements. Sure, he has been revealed as a fraud, but Michael Jordan, another big sports fraud and the very role model for Tiger, is still selling.... [B]y some respects, he'll only become a bigger attraction. Tiger's on the cover of People. He's now moving up in the Jon and Kate–Brad and Angelina celebrity solar system. You know what happens next: an appearance on Oprah with his wife Elin, national contrition. And even bigger ratings at his next tournament. Unless, of course, Mrs. Woods throws the bum out.
Ah, yes. The Church of Oprah. But is Elin willing to be used that way? Who knows? I'm seeing that there is a prenuptial agreement, with frantic renegotiations going on. Elin is, it seems, needed in the shoring up of Woods's image, and there is a ton of money to be thrown around to overcome whatever preferences the woman might have. But talk about things that make women feel bad about a guy. Manipulating a wife with vast sums of money after abusing her with affairs....

December 2, 2009

At the Cypress Knee Inn...


... bend an elbow.

For a while there, it looked as though a vote today in the NY Senate was going to legalize same-sex marriage.

Witness the excitement.

But it was not to be:
The bill was defeated by a decisive margin of 38 to 24. The Democrats, who have a bare, one-seat majority, did not have enough votes to pass the bill without some Republican support, but not a single Republican senator....
... State Senator Rubén Díaz Sr. of the Bronx made an impassioned argument against same-sex marriage, describing his continued opposition as reflecting the broad consensus that marriage should be limited to a union between a man and woman. “Not only the evangelicals, not only the Jews, not only the Muslims, not only the Catholics, but also the people oppose it,” he said.

Orin Kerr notes a convergence of lawprof blogging and lawprof scholarship.

"Back in 2005 and 2006, a lot of law-professor bloggers wondered whether blog posts could and would serve as ways to advance scholarly ideas about law. At the time, I was very skeptical... and I now think my old self was wrong....  In the past five years, legal blogs have become an acknowledged and accepted part of the world of legal scholarship.... It might be because more law professors are blogging. It might be because our experience has been that what profs say on their blogs is usually the same as what they say in their articles.... [T]here seems to be more of a convergence between scholarly blogging and 'traditional' law review articles today than existed 4 or 5 years ago. That convergence encourages more scholarly blogging and recognizes its value."

All that may be true, but I still maintain, as I did back then, that blogs are a distinct form that offers the opportunity to write in new, challenging, artistic ways. Reading Orin's post reminds me to think of myself as a true blogger, not a professor taking advantage of a device to push out scholarship. Of course, I want credit and regard for my writing here, but because it is different, not because it is the same.

Tiger Woods concedes his "transgressions" and invokes the "important and deep principle" of a "simple, human measure of privacy."

"Although I am a well-known person and have made my career as a professional athlete, I have been dismayed to realize the full extent of what tabloid scrutiny really means. For the last week, my family and I have been hounded to expose intimate details of our personal lives."

You don't need to say anything you don't want to say, even to the police. But if they have evidence of a crime the fact that you are well-known shouldn't get you immunity from investigation that ordinary people don't have. Now, the tabloids have no interest in the transgressions of ordinary people, but you've made yourself interesting to us, and you can't stop them. You can refuse to talk to them, but they can find other people to talk to.

You got to do this for me. Huge. Quickly. Bye.

He wants privacy, and he wants that woman to become nothing... a number... whaddyacallit.

ADDED: Has it ever occurred to you that maybe golf is not like painting? Maybe spunkier is not what you need for great golfing.

The $20,000 K9 Storm Intruder — "a bulletproof dog vest with a wireless camera, speakers and a microphone built in."

"The handler can see what the dog sees and issue commands through the audio system.... Military working dogs are major investments, costing up to $50,000 each to purchase and train...."

"Architect Clive Wille, 56, shouted 'Die, you bitch' as he tried to suffocate third wife and former secretary Susan Wille, 38, on their marital bed."

But Susan still wants to be friends with him. The judges said: "Nevertheless I am of the view only a significant sentence can be justified given the serious nature of the offence." Significant sentence? 7 years. (It's the UK.)

"The ABA editors, however, have put us up against one of the oldest and most popular legal sites, Althouse."

Wow. Professor Turley is really trying to kick my ass.
[W]e are up against one of the top three and best recognized sites. It is, therefore, the ultimate Dave and Goliath moment. The Cinderella Man moment. The Crossing of the Delaware moment. The Hail Mary moment. Yes, it is your moment. Think of the children, the unborn, the undead. Think your pets, your country. Think of me for God’s sake.

"It is the ultimate Grinch to suggest there is no God during a holiday where millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ."

Said Mathew D. Staver, of Liberty University School of Law, reacting to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's "No god? ... No problem!" ads.

I like the way Staver blithely invokes a mythical character as he asserts that God is not a mythical character.

"It's time for traditional media companies to stop whining."

Said Arianna Huffington to the trad media types who don't like what the internet has done to their business. She thinks they ought to quit complaining that sites like hers are using the news they produce and be grateful that her site is sending them traffic.

"Up to now, the president hadn’t done anything to upset any of the constituency groups of the Democratic party."

Now he has. Thank heavens for that.
Despite the shortcomings of the speech, Obama made the right policy decision. He deserves credit for that. It won’t go down well with the antiwar, pacifist left wing of his party. That’s not only his base. It’s his political home.

December 1, 2009

At the Pink Nightclub...


... you can stay until you're the last one here.


... lie.

"We must deny al Qaeda a safe-haven. We must reverse the Taliban’s momentum and deny it the ability to overthrow the government."

"And we must strengthen the capacity of Afghanistan’s Security Forces and government, so that they can take lead responsibility for Afghanistan’s future.... [W]e will pursue a military strategy that will break the Taliban’s momentum and increase Afghanistan’s capacity over the next 18 months...."

ADDED: I only got a chance to watch the last 15 minutes or so. (Office Christmas party.) But I'll say what I thought: He sounded oddly stern, like he was lecturing us. Annoyed at us. The words were meant to be inspirational but there was no lift... no lift of a driving dream. Is he tired of being Obama? Or was it the vibe in the room? I don't think those West Point folk liked him too much. He made some pauses that felt awkward in advance of grudging applause, and the response at the end was minimal. The camera searched among the faces and found only grim ones. No one glowed with the fire of Obama-love.

AND: "America – we are passing through a time of great trial." I wanted to feel that line, but the delivery was cold and perfunctory. I had to imagine Reagan saying it to understand what it was supposed to mean.

Cuttlefish or chewing gum?

You decide.

"Climategate: Follow the Money."

"Why did the money pour in so quickly? Because the climate alarm kept ringing so loudly: The louder the alarm, the greater the sums. And who better to ring it than people like [Phil] Jones, one of its likeliest beneficiaries?"

Do we need to try to understand Charles Johnson?

"[Johnson's] explanation is a little thin. It’s more an illustration of how he’s flipped out, from right to left. But apparently it works like this: If you disagree with any element of half of the American body politic, you disagree with the whole thing. This makes you saner, more compassionate, more embracing of diversity. Probably smarter, too. And if you agree with any element of half the American body politic, you agree with the whole thing, and you are a crazy hater. But the whole thing is crazy and hateful...."

Personally, I don't need to go through the exercise of figuring out what happened to Johnson. I've avoided him all these years because he seemed too extreme and hateful. Now, he's fired up about other people being extreme and hateful? And he's fired up in a way that seems extreme and hateful? I do not need to go there. That was never my scene.

"Their description of me made me sound like an arrogant prick."

John Horgan talks about the science of and his experience with eHarmony, in a Bloggingheads episode that begins with his revelation that he is separated from his wife and headed toward divorce. He doesn't talk about why he is getting divorced — that would be even more inappropriate than all this openness about dating while one is actually still married. But we wondered about his marriage. His wife is Suzie Gilbert, and here's an article about what she's been doing in recent years:
Gilbert floundered before landing work in a nearby Hudson Valley animal hospital and later volunteering at a raptor center. Hooked, she opened her own rehab operation, Flyaway, Inc.
I love the use of the verb "floundered." Before she found birds, she was like a fish.
“Some people are drawn to cuddly things,” she notes. “But I’m in awe of these creatures that can hurt you. I can’t get over their strength and nobility. It’s a force of nature.”
And here's a description of her book:
In this captivating memoir, Suzie Gilbert tells the rollicking story of how she turned her family life upside down to pursue her unusual passion for rehabilitating wild birds....

She began bringing abused and unwanted parrots home and volunteering at a local raptor rehabilitation center, activities she continued for the next eleven years, even as she started a family. Then came the ultimate commitment to her cause: turning her home into Flyaway, Inc., a nonprofit wild bird rehabilitation center.

Gilbert chronicles the years of her chaotic household-cum-bird-hospital with delightful wit, recounting the confusion that ensued as her husband and two young children struggled to live in a house where parrots shrieked Motown songs, nestling robins required food every twenty minutes, and recuperating herons took over the spare bathroom. Gradually, however, the birds came to represent the value of compassion and the importance of pursuing even the most unlikely of dreams.
Compassion and dreams... and a whole lot of birds. But eHarmony thinks the husband is an arrogant prick. Well, Horgan has quite a sense of humor about himself, I think. He's smiling and laughing there, isn't he? Or is that a grimace, a rictus?

In any event, good luck to all, human and bird. I know the human being and bird can coexist peacefully.

"We were invited, not crashers."

The gate-crasher couple, who have to worry about criminal prosecution, get their side of the story out to the press.

"Tiger's only choice is to skirt gender equity and opt for chivalry."

(I love the use of the verb "skirt" here!)

Hanna Rosin explains — as I alluded to yesterday — that Tiger Woods must refrain from telling the story of his wife's attack on him — if that's what happened — because, under Florida law, the police would have to arrest her.

Glenn Reynolds takes Rosin to task for minimizing domestic violence perpetrated by women:
Rosin ... writes: “It is impossible to imagine Tiger occupying the same cultural brain space as Rihanna, with Nordegren playing Chris Brown. If Tiger had been chasing down his wife with a golf club and she had shown up with bruises, even if she had cheated with, say, K-fed, we would be a lot less ambivalent and complacent.” That’s probably correct, for certain values of the word “we,” but why is that, exactly? Cheating men deserve to be beaten, even with weapons, while cheating women do not?

Or could it be, you know, sexism? But that’s not possible, because Hanna Rosin can’t be sexist, and neither can those who agree with her. If you’re Hanna Rosin, “sexist” is a name you call other people. You know, bad people who believe in stereotypes and stuff.
Maybe it's "impossible to imagine" if you are someone who thinks women are weak and men are strong: The poor women, if she struck out, it was probably because the powerful male intimidated her, and even if she was violent, she probably didn't intimidate him. Of course, that template is sexist too.

"I am now part of the conspiracy to intentionally make simple ideas obscure and complex."

An economist makes the incomprehensible comprehensible and then recomplicated it to the point where even he couldn't understand it. And, he says, he'll probably do it again.


I lost my patience with unnecessarily complicated writing a long time ago. Life is too short to give parts of it away to careerists who are bolstering their résumés and reputations with scholarly writing that takes extra time to read because, as you go along, you have to undo the obfuscation that the writer seems to have generated to give the appearance of depth to ideas that could be stated simply and crisply.

"I begin to get nervous when I see the commander in chief making decisions apparently for what I would describe as small ‘p’ political reasons, where he’s trying to balance off different competing groups in society."

"Every time he delays, defers, debates, changes his position, it begins to raise questions: Is the commander in chief really behind what they’ve been asked to do?... Here’s a guy without much experience, who campaigned against much of what we put in place ... and who now travels around the world apologizing. I think our adversaries — especially when that’s preceded by a deep bow ... — see that as a sign of weakness."

Dick Cheney.

"A woman who had everything lost her life to have..."

"... a slightly firmer behind."

"You're either on the bus or off the bus."

It's an old hippie saying that sprang to mind when I looked at this photo (taken a week ago in Madison).


What exactly did it mean? From Tom Wolfe's "Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test":
[Ken] Kesey's explicit teachings were all cryptic, metaphorical; parables, aphorisms: "You're either on the bus or off the bus." "Feed the hungry bee," "Nothing lasts," "See with your ears and hear with your eyes," "Put your good where it will do the most," "What did the mirror say? It's done with people."... The world was simply and sheerly divided into "the aware," those who had the experience of being vessels of the divine, and a great mass of "the unaware," "the unmusical," "the unattuned." Or: you're either on the bus or off the bus. Consciously, the Aware were never snobbish toward the Unaware, but in fact most of that great jellyfish blob of straight souls looked like hopeless cases...

November 30, 2009

The ABA Journal has its new list of 100 best law blogs.

Here's the list. My blog is in the category "IMHO." ("These sites, while sometimes taking a substantive look at the law, often attract our attention with rants — or let’s say strong opinions — about what’s in the news or creating a stir in the legal community.")

You can vote for me here.

"We must avoid the temptation to drown in distractions and distortions."

Debate begins, with a warning against... debate.

Albany details.





"A Virginia woman was struck and killed while taking flowers to a roadside memorial for her granddaughter..."

"... who died in a crash at the same spot a week ago."

"With just one speech tomorrow night you will turn a multitude of young people who were the backbone of your campaign into disillusioned cynics."

Disillusioned cynics ≈ realistic skeptics. I don't see the problem.

"Una had stretched out on the bed of the guillotine; I lifted the lunette, made her put her head through it, and closed it on her long neck, after carefully lifting her heavy hair."

"She was panting. I tied her hands behind her back with my belt, then raised her skirt. I didn't even bother to lower her panties...." Etc. etc. "... Leaning over the lunette, my own neck beneath the blade, I whispered to her: 'I'm going to pull the lever, I'm going to let the blade drop.' She begged me: 'Please, fuck my pussy.' - 'No.' I came suddenly, a jolt that emptied my head like a spoon scraping the inside of a soft-boiled egg."

Ha ha ha. And with that, Jonathan Littell ("The Kindly Ones") has snatched this year's Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

Read all the finalists — and laugh (or climax!) — here. Be charitable. It's really very hard to write about sex. Have you ever tried to do it? If you have, I hope you had the sense to laugh at yourself.

ADDED: From the BBC::
Over the years, some of literature's most glittering names have competed for one of its least coveted prizes.

Ian McEwan, Salman Rushdie, John Updike and Philip Roth are titans among novelists, generally acclaimed for their representations of every kind of human experience - except one.

When writing about sex, says the Literary Review magazine, their standards slip.
Here's the Roth passage that got noticed this year (from "The Humbling"):
He had let Pegeen appoint herself ringmaster and would not participate until summoned. He would watch without interfering. First Pegeen stepped into the contraption, adjusted and secured the leather straps...
It was a big year for devices, apparently. Again, I'm cutting the most NSFW parts, which you can click over and read.
... There was something primitive about it now, this woman-on-woman violence, as though, in the room filled with shadows, Pegeen were a magical composite of shaman, acrobat, and animal. It was as if she were wearing a mask on her genitals, a weird totem mask, that made her into what she was not and was not supposed to be. She could as well have been a crow or a coyote, while simultaneously Pegeen Mike. There was something dangerous about it. His heart thumped with excitement - the god Pan looking on from a distance with his spying, lascivious gaze.

It was English that Pegeen spoke when she looked over from where she was, now resting on her back beside Tracy, combing the little black cat-o'-nine-tails through Tracy's long hair, and, with that kid-like smile that showed her two front teeth, said to him softly, 'Your turn. Defile her.'....
Oh, okay. I liked the coyote, though, Phil. That was good. And the "mask on her genitals," that "weird totem mask." That meant something.

IN THE COMMENTS: DADvocate wrote:
I've always wanted to write about nerd sex. Certainly, it would win the Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

"After the proper amount of digital manipulation of each others genitalia, I inserted my penis into her vaginal orifice and began rhythmic thrusting motions at a cadence I had calculated to maximize her arousal...." 

At the Duct Tape Café...


... let's try to keep it together.

"Come on, folks, we're being asked to believe that the Secret Service let these people in without going through checkpoints?"

Rush Limbaugh — speaking on the radio right now — does not believe the story of the state dinner gate-crashers. He's suggesting they were, in fact, on the guest list, and the White House later found a reason to want to distance itself from them. He notes that when he's gone to a White House function — he, a very recognizable celebrity — he has had to give his Social Security number and go through multiple checkpoints with the Secret Service. There is something more to this, he wants us to know.

ADDED: Is the Secret Service taking a fall for Obama even as Tiger Woods is (perhaps) taking a fall for Elin Nordegren? That is, perhaps, there is a damaging connection between the gate-crashers and the Obama administration, and the Secret Service is absorbing the blow by taking the blame, when in fact it made no mistake. And Tiger Woods, perhaps, is saying that he's to blame for his accident...
The only person responsible for the accident is me. My wife, Elin, acted courageously when she saw I was hurt and in trouble. She was the first person to help me. Any other assertion is absolutely false.
... when it may be that Elin did things that are, in fact, crimes.

"Why Do You Believe What You Do? Do our beliefs form the basis of our partisan and ideological affiliations?"

Here is Josh Marshall asking what, for me, have always been the most interesting questions about politics. I've taken a lot of flak for it too. I've found it really annoys people to take a political or philosophical discussion in this direction. But Josh Marshall isn't really going where I hoped he would with this. He's going where I'd expect Josh Marshall to go, toward showing why Republicans are bad:
There's been a lot of recent evidence not only that Republicans disproportionately disbelieve the evidence for man-made global warming but that their skepticism is growing.
Yeah, but isn't there skepticism growing because there is a whole load of new evidence that the scientists were not being too scientific? Is that "disbeliev[ing] the evidence" or paying attention to evidence?
I think that trend is fairly classed under the general heading of Republican/conservative hostility to science.
Aw, come on now! Why do you, Josh Marshall, believe what you do? Why do you believe that skepticism is hostility to science as opposed to the methodology of science? Why do you believe that the evidence for man-made global warming is real evidence and the evidence of misbehavior by scientists is not real? Is it because you are committed to the policy choices that of your partisan and ideological affiliations?

Marshall makes absolutely no attempt to look into the structure of his own mind. He's a politico using interesting questions not because he's curious about the truth but because he seems to think they work well to attack the people he already wants to attack.

There's more to Marshall's post, and it may get a little better, but it's also vague and meandering. Please read it and let me know if you think I'm being unfair to Marshall, but I think he wanted to take a shot at those bad anti-science Republicans and the rest is vague gesturing at the fact that he went to college and could write a coherent essay on the theme he wanted to take the trouble to do it.

"He thinks he’s playing with Monopoly money... Too much Leonard Nimoy... That’s the Chicago Way... He’s a pushover... He sees America as another pleasant country on the U.N. roll call, somewhere between Albania and Zimbabwe... President Pelosi... He’s in love with the man in the mirror...."

7 templates.

Why aren't they getting more use?

Mike Huckabee deploys the passive voice.

In a statement about Maurice Clemmons, the man wanted in the shooting of 4 police officers. Boldface added:
He was recommended for and received a commutation of his original sentence from 1990, this commutation made him parole eligible and he was then paroled by the parole board once they determined he met the conditions at that time.
These things just happened to Clemmons, according to Huckabee, who, as Arkansas governor, was the giver of the commutation that Clemmons received.
He was arrested later for parole violation and taken back to prison to serve his full term but prosecutors dropped the charges that would have held him.
Bad prosecutors.

"You know you have a child with autism if ... your child takes more pills than your grandmother."

Oh, ha ha ha. Let's tell jokes about the intensive experiments that parents are performing on their autistic children.
The Tribune found children undergoing daylong infusions of a blood product that carries the risk of kidney failure and anaphylactic shock. Researchers in the field emphatically warn the therapy should not be used to treat autism.

Children are repeatedly encased in pressurized oxygen chambers normally used after scuba diving accidents, at a cost of thousands of dollars. This unproven therapy is meant to reduce inflammation that experts say is little understood and may even be beneficial.

Children undergo rounds of chelation therapy to leach heavy metals from the body, though most toxicologists say the test commonly used to measure the metals is meaningless and the treatment potentially harmful.

Last year, the National Institutes of Health halted a controversial government-funded study of chelation before a single child with autism was treated. Researchers at Cornell University and University of California-Santa Cruz, found that rats without lead poisoning showed signs of cognitive damage after being treated with a chelator....

Many parents who try alternative therapies cite an analogy popularized by a luminary of the movement, a physician who wrote a book on recovering children from autism. They say they feel as if their child has jumped off a pier. Science hasn't proved that throwing a life preserver will save the child, but they have a duty to try, right?...

One Yahoo! group has more than 8,000 members. The treatment takes many forms, including creams for the skin, capsules, suppositories and intravenous infusions of powerful medicines usually used on people with severe metal poisoning.

"In some of the pictures Lincoln's right eye looks half-asleep while the left stares wide-open."

"Cover half the face and each side looks like it belongs to a different person, one appearing downcast and uncertain, the other determined. A person speaking with him would in a sense face two Lincolns, one soft and exhausted, the other fiercely alert."

The radically asymmetrical face of Abraham Lincoln. What does it mean? Does it have something to do with the functioning — presumably high functioning — of the hemispheres of his brain? Generally, we find symmetrical faces beautiful, and this asymmetry may be the key reason we see Lincoln as ugly — though we excuse and even love his ugliness because we feel confident we are looking into the face of a great man. But let's think about asymmetry in faces of other human beings. Perhaps we should make a conscious effort to keep looking at the individuals who initially repel us. Is it Lincolnesque asymmetry? And what complexity and power of the mind lies behind that facial dualism?

And let's think about why — if my hypothesis is true — we feel drawn to the people who lack this complexity and power. It might be that we have evolved to feel comfortable interacting with simple, straightforward people, and our eyes and minds are trained by the long experience of the species to see those qualities in a symmetrical face. That is, our ancestors trusted people who were, in fact, trustworthy, and that is why they survived and produced descendants. The nonancestors of human history did not read faces so well and were betrayed by deceitful, duplicitous, wily people with powerful, complex brains.

Our ancestors were successful in their mistrust of 2-faced individuals. But that doesn't mean that today we should shun the ugly. Not all asymmetrics are dangerous. Some, perhaps, are the very greatest human beings — like Lincoln. Now that we are able to think consciously about what lies beneath the repellent face and now that we live an an ordered society, let's not pass up the opportunity to benefit from the minds that show an asymmetrical face to the world. Don't turn away from the ugly.

"What are you wearing? What do you want to do to me? What do you want me to do to you?"

If there's ever a scandal where your sexting is made public, I seriously hope whatever it is you've written is more creative than that. And if you're going to lie and make up sexting to attribute to somebody else, I hope you're not so lame — it's bad enough to be a liar — that you'd invent generic lines like that. Come on, people — cheaters and liars — raise your game.

November 29, 2009

An inconceivably bad monument.

We are entering Empire State Plaza, that heinous monument to government waste and stupidity:


Just around that corner is the expensive toilet displayed in the previous post. But continue on a few steps, and you will arrive at something beyond comprehension. This is what the state of New York has in its capital as a memorial to the victims of the 9/11 attacks:


I hate to shock you over this, but I must insist that you take a few steps back and gaze with horror at the larger view:


Expensive toilet.


An all-too-inviting corner of the atrocity that is Empire State Plaza.

"I don’t want to put you on the spot, but you sure deliver that song like a true believer."

"Well, I am a true believer."

Bob Dylan answers a question that was inspired by his singing of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" on his recently released Christmas album.
Some critics don’t seem to know what to make of this record. Bloomberg news said, “Some of the songs sound ironic. Does he really mean have yourself a Merry Little Christmas?” Is there any ironic content in these songs?
No not at all. Critics like that are on the outside looking in....

"There are surprisingly few hours in the middle of the night, if you get up at say 1am and start working on something."

Said rhhardin, in the comments to the last post, the one about stopping at the welcome center in Pennsylvania.

It's a sound observation, and it got me thinking about insomnia and whether it's worse in the winter when the nights are longer. If you're not going to sleep at all, don't you think it's easier in the summer when the night is over quickly?

Stopping at the Pennsylvania welcome center at the New York end of I-90.

It's eerie late at night...


At the foot of the "Pennsylvania Wineries" column, lies inebriated Santa:


But don't worry....


"You can't make a wrong turn in Pennsylvania."

IN THE COMMENTS: Palladian yells: "FROSTY THE SNOWMAN NOT SANTA." Oh, yeah! Good point. Ha ha. I need to get my American iconography straight. 

"If you don't fuck too hard, your painting will be all the spunkier for it."

Advice from Vincent Van Gogh:
"I already told you last spring. Eat well, do your military drill well, don't fuck too hard; if you don't fuck too hard, your painting will be all the spunkier for it."
It's your choice. Do you want spunky paintings or not?

At the Stairwell Café...


... you can get down and dirty.

"I am a local artist, who has created sculptings made up Duct-Tape.. 100% no wires, or fillers."

Dennis Gervasio has "created the illusion of pewter." His opposition to "fillers" may explain his shortening of the term "outsider art" to "outside art" and his penchant for the 2-dot ellipsis.


His sign appears in the window of the Albany café called The Daily Grind — a locale also pictured in  "Man in green sneakers reads Sartre. Dog arrives."

The sculptings look like this, seen from inside the restaurant...


... and this, seen through window static...


"I think it's funny that I, a black man, would never have considered the possible racial implications of that gargoyle."

The Crack Emcee said.
Hell, I wouldn't have even cared - while two white folks are all concerned and ready to point the finger at,...who? What? History? Spare me.

I, too, am joining everyone else in voting for Jimmy Carter - not because I actually saw him, but because I live in the here and now, and not somebody else's past.

Give it a try.
(By the way, Crack has a great blog.)

Are we "still supposed to believe that his wife, Elin Nordegren, somehow turned one of Tiger's Nike SQ drivers into the Jaws of Life"?

"Woods was driving a Cadillac Escalade out of his own driveway, which is the same as driving a tank. He wasn't going fast enough to deploy his air bags. But we're supposed to believe that in a rescue worthy of the new series, 'Trauma,' his wife had to bust a back window to pull her husband to safety after he ran over a fire hydrant and into a tree."

Mike Lupica tells Tiger Woods to get his story out — whatever it is.

AND, from the comments of Fridays's Tiger Woods post: a poem, by David (with "deep apologies" to William Blake):
Tiger, Tiger, that wasn't too bright.
Grabbin' the Caddy and takin' flight.
Perhaps the very lovely Ellin
Some Tiger hanky-pank was smellin'?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what pussy fried thee thy brain?
What the putter? What the wood?
What, her lawyer? Gonna whup you good.
AND: From Inwood follows David with his own "Tiger, Tiger":
TIGER, tiger, not so bright
In the caddy late at night,
What immortal hand or eye
Have framed thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or drain
Burnt the fire of thy brain
What babe you been A-W-O-L-in?
What you think that do to Ellin?

When Ellin threw your clubs like spears
Did’st water heaven with thy tears?
Did she smile her work to see?
Will she who made this ruin ruin thee?

"OMG, can you believe Obama changed his mind about going to Copenhagen after all this stuff came out? It's like sprinting to board your ship at the last minute, and it's the Titanic."

"You're the Titanic. You are."

Jim Treacher has a dialogue with the global warming evangelist who lives in his head.

"Michaele Salahi (far r.) poses with 'American Idol' judge Randy Jackson (l.), Fergie and other members of the Black Eyed Peas, Micheale's husband Tareq, and, of course, President Obama."

I'm sorry. I want to hate these people. But there's such a silliness to it all. It's so pop culture. And Obama is part of pop culture. It's like that picture I took on the Santa Monica Pier in the summer of '08...

Santa Monica pier

... come to life.

ADDED: "Everyone needs to stop being so mean. Why aren't our White House Party Crashers being toasted? These guys are awesome... for America."

We left Albany at about 1:30 pm (Eastern Time) yesterday, and we pulled into the driveway here in Madison at 2:30 am (Central Time).

Not easy, but we had 2 drivers, and we're both good at napping in the passenger's seat, and it's not fun to stop in a just-off-the-interstate motel around midnight and go through the tedious routine of getting stuff out of the car, checking in, getting a few hours sleep, checking out, getting stuff back in the car, when you could be rolling along and end up in your own bed, with the next morning free to luxuriate in the glorious routine of breakfast and blogging in the Meadhouse dining room. And there are a number of ways to make the driving fun. One that I can show you here is trying to grab photographs from the car window. I'll post a bunch. The compositions are half chosen and half determined by the movement of the car through the American landscape.

1. Kurver Kreme:


2. Babyland:


3. Liberty Income Tax:


4. I-90 sunset:


5. Near Chicago and midnight:


"I like old lady glamour."

Says a 25-year-old guy in an LA Times slideshow about street fashion in Silver Lake.


Note: I did some street photography in Silver Lake (back in 2008).

Improvising with the bear.

TJ Miller really wanted the part of Ranger Smith in the Yogi Bear movie. After 2 failed auditions, desperate, he made this video:

He got the part. Actually, I'm a little suspicious. Maybe first he got the part and then this clip was made. A smarter-than-the-average studio effort at viral video... and I'm the carrier.

The proposal to ban new minarets in Switzerland.

BBC reports:
Partial results from the poll which closed at 1100 GMT indicated that the German-speaking canton of Lucerne accepted the ban, while French-speaking cantons Geneva and Vaud voted against....
What is it about minarets specifically?
There are unofficial Muslim prayer rooms, and planning applications for new minarets are almost always refused.
The BBC could be clearer here. Is a Muslim place of worship "unofficial" if it lacks a minaret? Regulation of buildings can be neutral toward religion, and one can imagine a government regulation that happens to exclude the construction of minarets. But this is a case of targeting religion. (A ban like this in the United States would violate both the Free Exercise and the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.)
Supporters of a ban claim that allowing minarets would represent the growth of an ideology and a legal system - Sharia law - which are incompatible with Swiss democracy.
So it is not only discrimination against religion, it is a restriction of the sort of speech that is most valued in a democracy — criticism of the government. This argument, an attempt to excuse discrimination against religion, makes the ban worse, not better.
But others say...
One hardly needs to hear from the other side. The supporters make the argument against themselves.
... the referendum campaign has incited hatred. On Thursday the Geneva mosque was vandalised for the third time during the campaign....
The president of Zurich's Association of Muslim Organisations, Tamir Hadjipolu, told the BBC that if the ban was implemented, Switzerland's Muslim community would live in fear.

"This will cause major problems because during this campaign in the last two weeks different mosques were attacked, which we never experienced in 40 years in Switzerland.

"So with the campaign... the Islamaphobia has increased very intensively."
Now, this is the situation without the ban, so it's not obvious whether actually having the ban would make things worse or better. If the campaign for the ban is the problem, then Hadjipolu too is critical of free speech. Ironically, both the supporters and the opponents of the ban are afraid of free speech.

ADDED: Swiss feminists lead the fight against minarets, which they portray as "'male power symbols' and reminders of Islam’s oppression of women."

AND: Final results:
In a vote that displayed a widespread anxiety about Islam and undermined the country’s reputation for religious tolerance, the Swiss on Sunday overwhelmingly imposed a national ban on the construction of minarets, the prayer towers of mosques, in a referendum drawn up by the far right and opposed by the government.

The referendum, which passed with a clear majority of 57.5 percent of the voters and in 22 of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, was a victory for the right. The vote against was 42.5 percent. Because the ban gained a majority of votes and passed in a majority of the cantons, it will be added to the Constitution.