January 12, 2013

"When the melody rose, her voice broke up sweetly, following it, in a way contralto voices have, and each change tipped out a little of her warm human magic upon the air."

Today's Gatsby sentence, describing singing, has us picturing the woman as a vessel containing warm human magic. Because she's a contralto, her voice needs to break as it reaches for the high notes, and in these breaks, there's a tipping that spills out a little of her contents — warm human magic. The magic spills upon the air. There's rising and falling: The melody rises and the voice along with it, and the magic falls out, upon the air. It's very light, this human magic, to be on top of air. It is the sweet, warm liquid of the woman tipping out.

The football game.

Sad, here in Wisconsin.

"The cave of Azykh in the territory of the Fizuli district in the Republic of Azerbaijan..."

"...is considered to be the site of one of the most ancient proto-human habitations in Eurasia."

"The influence of ancient peoples and civilizations including the Sumerians and Elamites came to a crossroads in the territory of Azerbaijan.... In the 8th century BCE, the semi-nomadic Cimmerians and Scythians settled in the territory.... The Assyrians also had a civilization that flourished to the west of Lake Urmia in the centuries prior to creation of Media and Albania."

Today's "History of" country is Azerbaijan. 

Imagine if... women bought cars!

An ad from the May 5, 1967 issue of Life Magazine:


"You'll discover that even driving down to buy bread can be kicks. You'll find yourself saying 'I'll pick you up' even when it's Helen's turn to drive. Or Ed's.'"

I love the use of the word "kicks." It's almost as if our little lady is getting in some of those drugs we've been reading about as the Summer of Love rolls in.

The mid-calf skirt is suddenly a mini skirt, but it's only 1967, and if you're as old as I am, you know what that meant — your stocking tops and even your garters might show:


ADDED: The anti-drug song "Kicks" was a hit in 1966. If you ever worry that you don't know how to dance, I guarantee you that 20 seconds into this "Kicks" video you will be able to dance as well as Paul Revere & the Raiders.

"Prosecutor as bully."

Lawrence Lessig on the suicide of Aaron Swartz (which we've already been talking about here). Lessig was Swartz's friend and — for a time — his lawyer:
From the beginning, the government worked as hard as it could to characterize what Aaron did in the most extreme and absurd way. The “property” Aaron had “stolen,” we were told, was worth “millions of dollars” — with the hint, and then the suggestion, that his aim must have been to profit from his crime. But anyone who says that there is money to be made in a stash of ACADEMIC ARTICLES is either an idiot or a liar. It was clear what this was not, yet our government continued to push as if it had caught the 9/11 terrorists red-handed.

"Fifty years ago Saturday, Sam Cooke stepped onstage at a club in Miami."

"The result was loud, raw, artful and raucous — but it wasn't the Sam Cooke the label was looking to sell to mainstream audiences. RCA decided to tuck the Harlem Square Club recording into its archives."

Here's "One Night Stand: Live at Harlem Square Club 1963."

Reading the above-linked article wasn't my first encounter with Sam Cooke today. Earlier, someone sang me a beautiful rendition of his version of "Mean Old World," which he'd learned from "Complete Recordings of Sam Cooke with the Soul Stirrers,"

"Boston’s becoming a town devoid of nightspot fun as some bars in the city eliminate board games and water pong..."

"... fearful that city regulators will come crashing in and accuse the pubs of sponsoring drinking games."
“If two friends at a bar say, ‘I’ll buy your next beer if you make this shot on the dartboard,’ the bar may have to go before a board. It’s silly how arbitrary it can be,” said Chris Mitchell, general manager of the Better Off Bowling league, who has seen the bar crackdown firsthand.

"Audiences like nicely dressed characters. They also enjoy nudity."

"Split the difference by putting your character in a pair of cut-offs and call him a Never-Nude. Advanced: feel free to dip him in a vat of blue paint. That's a real turn-off."

ADDED: You can buy the complete "Arrested Development" series — all 3 seasons — for only $38.50.

"I just saw an animal that looked like a small lion."

"It had the mange and everything."

"Chris couldn't afford to buy a Ferrari 250 GTO..."

"... so he painted one on his garage door."

ADDED: It's a pretty standard idea for a mural: Make it look like the wall you're painting isn't there — fool the eye into seeing something inside. Here are a bunch of examples of that.

"Reddit, Creative Commons and Demand Progress co-founder Aaron Swartz committed suicide in New York City on Friday, Jan. 11."

"He was 26 years old."
Aaron Swartz was facing a potential sentence of dozens of years in prison for allegedly trying to make MIT academic journal articles public.... In September 2012, Aaron Swartz was charged with thirteen counts of felony hacking. In July 2011 Swartz was arrested for allegedly scraping 4 million MIT papers from the JSTOR online journal archive....

Swartz's subsequent struggle for money to offset legal fees to fight the Department of Justice and stay afloat was no secret....
Demand Progress — itself an organization focused on online campaigns dedicated to fighting for civil liberties, civil rights, and progressive government reform - compared The Justice Department's indictment of Swartz to "trying to put someone in jail for allegedly checking too many books out of the library."

Swartz's suicide came two days after JSTOR announced it is releasing "more than 4.5 million articles" to the public.
ADDED: Here's a podcast from a year ago in which Swartz discusses his activism stopping SOPA (the The Stop Online Piracy Act). The part with Swartz begins at 17:20.

AND: Here's Swartz's Wikipedia page. Picture:

ALSO: Cory Doctorow:
I met Aaron when he was 14 or 15.... Aaron accomplished some incredible things in his life... His stunts were breathtaking. At one point, he singlehandedly liberated 20 percent of US law. PACER, the system that gives Americans access to their own (public domain) case-law, charged a fee for each such access....


... panorama.

"Study says homeless facilities may increase the value of nearby property."

May... meaning it probably increases the value of the property over there where we'd like to site the facility but not over here where I live.
The study, released in 2008, compared home sale prices before and after the development of Project H.O.M.E. housing facilities and controlled for many other factors that could affect home values, said [Kevin] Gillen, an economist and senior research consultant at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania....

"These properties were overwhelmingly in distressed neighborhoods. If you were to do the same thing in affluent neighborhoods, it may not bring the same result. But given the choice living next door to a well-maintained homeless facility and a vacant abandoned building, you’ll take the homeless facility," he said.

"Only RGIII can make the Redskins change their name. Here’s why he won’t."

Says WaPo sportswriter Mike Wise:
Pro players who take on controversial social debates are gone, replaced by athletes whose goal is to not offend... There is no Muhammad Ali, who lost his heavyweight boxing title as a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War. There is no Jim Brown, arguably the greatest running back in NFL history, who found more meaning in bringing rival L.A. gang members together than in playing on the gridiron, where, he realized, he was just “a highly paid, over-glamorized gladiator.”

There is no Arthur Ashe, the late tennis champion and civil rights activist, who in 1985 was arrested outside the South African Embassy in Washington during an anti-apartheid rally. There’s not even a Curt Flood, the St. Louis Cardinal who didn’t accept a trade to another team in 1969, appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark case that paved the way for free agency.
Sports stars (and other pop culture stars) have clout, but what do they know about the political issues they could influence? Wouldn't the best, most ethical stance be to acknowledge their lack of qualification outside of their field of expertise?
“Have you thought about what it’s like to play for a team that’s named the Redskins?” I asked. “Because a lot of American Indians and others feel that’s a derogatory term.”

“I’m not qualified to speak on that,” Griffin said. “I didn’t even mean to stir up the other thing, so I’m not going to touch that one.”
Isn't that exactly right? Shouldn't more celebrities do that?

(By the way, "the other thing" refers to that "down with the cause... cornball brother" business.)

"The anti-Americanism of Jackie Chan."

"He is passionately political, a staunch defender of the Chinese Communist Party and harsh critic of anyone he sees as opposing Beijing. Today, that includes the United States."

"If there were equal justice under the law, what would be the point of being a Very Important Person?"

Asks Glenn Reynolds after quoting me on David Gregory and equal justice under the law.

I'm working on my song parody:
David Gregory had a high-capacity ammunition magazine
He held it and twirled it 'round his diamond ring finger
At a "Meet the Press" studio society gath’rin’
And the cops weren't called in but the bloggers demanded
That David Gregory should be booked for possession
Take the rag away from your face
Now ain’t the time for your tears....
I've parodied that song before (back when William Zantzinger died).

This isn't parody — this is straight from the original "Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll":
In the courtroom of honor, the judge pounded his gavel
To show that all’s equal and that the courts are on the level
And that the strings in the books ain’t pulled and persuaded
And that even the nobles get properly handled
Once that the cops have chased after and caught ’em
And that the ladder of law has no top and no bottom
In David Gregory's case, the cops never even considered chasing him. There will be no judge pounding the gavel, because there will be no prosecution. Bob Dylan was outraged that Zantzinger — Zanzinger, to spell it the Dylan way — got a light sentence. At least he went to trial. And he was convicted.

Here, the "noble" David Gregory got special handling, the strings in the books were pulled and persuaded, and the ladder of law obviously has a top.

I'm not saying I want Gregory prosecuted. I only want people to see how unfair it is to have a law that seems ridiculous to enforce against him, when that law is used against others. And Gregory richly deserves to be slapped around on the blogs, because he's making the argument — that's why he was waving that thing around — that there ought to be more invasive gun laws. He wants the government to reach more deeply into the ordinary lives of private citizens, and he's entirely reckless about what these laws would really mean to ordinary people, and it's a recklessness that thrives in the mind of someone who easily and instinctively believed — correctly! — that the law did not apply to him.

And even the nobles get properly handled....

Can you think of a new way to do some photo portraits?

Here's one that's pretty cool. The apt title of the photo set is "Blow Job." (Safe for work!)

By the same artist — Tadao Cern — who did the Van Gogh portrait I pointed you to yesterday.

Maybe Cern got his idea for those "Blow Job" pics from the fashion photography cliché of blowing a fan at the model to make the clothes and her hair look more active and interesting. I feel like there should be a movie scene — in something like "Bruno" or "Zoolander" — where the fan is turned up way too high.

You say it's your birthday?

It's my birthday too.

UPDATE: Meade brings me a glass of coffee and says "Here you are, Lincoln, Nebraska."

January 11, 2013

"Out of the corner of his eye Gatsby saw that the blocks of the sidewalks really formed a ladder and mounted to a secret place above the trees..."

"... he could climb to it, if he climbed alone, and once there he could suck on the pap of life, gulp down the incomparable milk of wonder."

"The ordinary people were not happy. They loathed the Emperor's interference in every detail of their daily lives."

"Why should they be forbidden to bake ginger-bread just because Joseph thought it bad for the stomach? Why the Imperial edict demanding the breast-feeding of infants? Why the banning of corsets? From these and a thousand other petty regulations, enforced by a secret police, it looked to the Austrians as though Joseph were trying to reform their characters as well as their institutions. Only a few weeks before Joseph's death, the director of the Imperial Police reported to him: 'All classes, and even those who have the greatest respect for the sovereign, are discontented and indignant.'"

From the History of Austria. Joseph II, who ruled from 1780 to 1790.

Austria is our "History of" country today, as we proceed through the 206 countries of the world using the Wikipedia summaries. So much has happened in Austria over the ages. The "History of" project cannot begin to summarize the summary. I merely offer up a snippet, one thing that struck me as something that might have particular resonance. But it is only one of many things. For example, from 25,000 BC:

"Some time ago a stranger asked me to make his portrait... So I did. I sent him the image and I never heard back from him again since that moment."

"Not long ago I saw one painting and I felt that it was very familiar to me. And then I got it — It was a copy of my photo! I did a little research on that and it seem that the guy who [copied] it is quite well known around... His name is Vincent Van Gogh or something..."

(More here.)

D.C. attorney general confirms that law is for the little people.

No charges will be filed against David Gregory "despite the clarity of the violation of this important law, because under all of the circumstances here a prosecution would not promote public safety in the District of Columbia nor serve the best interests of the people of the District to whom this office owes its trust."

The clarity of the violation of this important law....

Why is the law important? If Gregory clearly violated the law, but there is no interest to be served in prosecuting him, doesn't that prove that the law is not important? If the precise thing that he did — which is clearly what is defined as a crime — raises no interest in prosecution, how can we be satisfied by letting this one nice famous man go? Rewrite the law so that it only covers the activity that the government believes deserves prosecution, so there is equal justice under the law.

"The Duchess explained that she would like to be portrayed naturally — her natural self — as opposed to her official self."

So says the artist of the official painting that is apparently horrifying people.

"Artist found burned to death on top of his masterpiece."

"Artist Jorge Selaron may have taken his own life by setting himself on fire on the very steps of his masterpiece, a brilliantly colored public staircase that became a symbol of Rio de Janeiro..."
The stairs, his life's work, were declared city patrimony in 2005, when Selaron was made an honorary carioca, as Rio residents are called. The steps have been featured in Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful" and U2's "Walk On" music videos, as well as part of the video that Brazil made for their 2016 Olympic bid.
Here's the Snoop Dogg video. Here's the U2.

"Alligator found guarding 34 pounds of pot in a Northern California home."

"[Sheriff's Sgt. J.D. ] Nelson said [Assif ] Mayar apparently acquired the alligator, named 'Mr. Teeth,' in 1996 to commemorate the death of rapper Tupac Shakur."

It all makes sense. If you had an alligator, you'd name it Mr. Teeth. If you had a big supply of marijuana and an alligator, you'd use the alligator to guard the marijuana. If you wanted to "commemorate the death" of Tupac Shakur, you'd acquire an alligator. I don't even know why banalities of this kind make it into the newspaper. You might say, well, maybe they had an exciting picture they wanted to scare us with. Actually, they have 2 pictures. I especially liked this one:

Bo, the Famous Retriever.

It's a book I learned about while reviewing the Althouse Amazon Associates Reports from yesterday.  Someone purchased it through the Althouse portal and, at no additional cost to the purchaser, it retrieved $0.52 to the Althouse blog.

Wow, cool, thanks!  52 cents here, 52 cents there... pretty soon we're talking about real money!

No really, thanks everyone for using the portal for any of your Amazon shopping. We notice.

Student with a shotgun fires up to 20 rounds and is disarmed by the teacher.

How did the teacher do it?

"What we found was that people are pretty patient for up to two seconds..."

All right then.

IN THE COMMENTS: Levity over my forgetting to include: the link.

"By now, you have likely listened several times to the muffled 911 call placed by the Catholic priest who enjoyed..."

"... slipping into a bondage mask and handcuffs inside a church rectory in Springfield, Illinois.... this time he put the handcuffs on with the keyhole up instead of down...."

Although I find this bloggable, I don't want to listen to the recording. Hmmm. I guess don't enjoy hearing suffering, but I want this to be a lesson to you. Stop wasting the police's time with your handcuff incompetence.

Champagne chair...

... contest.

IN THE COMMENTS: Lauderdale Vet said:
I passed that along to my wife, who seems interested :) She'd make a nice chair, I think.
Which made me think of this famous Thurber drawing:


There must be a comical drawing of a woman as a chair or an actual chair in the form of a woman. I looked for furniture in human form, and found some stuff in the general neighborhood — the Dali-inspired lips sofa — and this amused me:

And you can unburden yourself here:

Was Giglio chosen for the inauguration benediction in order to provide cover for Chuck Hagel?

"An evangelical pastor from Atlanta [Rev. Louie Giglio] announced Thursday that he would not give the benediction at President Obama’s swearing-in ceremony after a sermon he gave on homosexuality in the mid-1990s resurfaced earlier this week."

Suspicion: Giglio was chosen with full knowledge of that sermon and the intention that it would "resurface" and that he would then conspicuously withdraw. This would promote Obama's pro-gay stance and take the heat off Chuck Hagel, who's got an anti-gay remark in his record which the Obama people would like to submerge. It was all planned: the desire for Hagel to become Secretary of Defense, the known problem of his anti-gay remark, the desire to perform a conspicuous expiation, the identification of Giglio as a plausible benediction-giver with an anti-gay remark in his history, choosing Giglio, revealing the old Giglio sermon, Giglio bowing out in a tribute to Obama's rejection of homophobia, Hagel saved by the scapegoat.

I'm not saying I believe this is what happened, and I certainly have no inside knowledge. I'm just noticing the correlations and putting together a hypothesis. Please discuss.

You can pull me back from this suspicion if you make a great case for why else Giglio would have been chosen for this honor. He's a white male, by the way.

"Humans need straight lines, nature doesn't. Indecisive river and orderly farmers, central Asia."

Tweeting photos from space.

"My mom would have given up every part of her body to be here for me, to watch me in the pageant."

"If there's something that I can do to be proactive, it might hurt my body, it might hurt my physical beauty, but I'm going to be alive."

After the Miss America pageant, contestant Allyn Rose will have a pre-emptive double mastectomy:
Rose said it was her father who first broached the subject, during her freshman year of college, two years after the death of her mother.

"I said, 'Dad I'm not going to do that. I like the body I have.' He got serious and said, 'Well then you're going to end up dead like your mom.'"

This gun control controversy is a real gift to Republicans.

It got them out of the morose election postmortem. Now, they're in their zone. Guns! — such invigorating shift from having to talk about Mitt Romney.

Righties should be sending thank you notes to Joe Biden.

ADDED: Biden actually said: "There is nothing that has pricked the consciousness of the American people (and) there is nothing that has gone to the heart of the matter more than the image people have of little 6-year-old kids riddled - not shot, but riddled, riddled - with bullet holes in their classroom."

Like it's all a matter of the capacity to visualize gore.

If we picture a bloody mincemeat of fetuses, then do we get to take away abortion rights?

Tomorrow is my birthday, but today is a day for...

... getting a flu shot — done! — and a mammogram — later. The mammogram is something I'd been putting off, but deciding to go in for the flu shot gave me the push I needed to schedule the mammogram. Dialogue with the nurse:
NURSE: Do you have breast implants?

ME [with slight disgust and amusement]: Nooo! [Changing my tone:] Oh, I mean, I didn't mean any disrespect to the women who have breast implants.
This is the instinctive all-inclusive political correctness I carry about in my daily doings here in Madison, Wisconsin. Not that the nurse would have expressed disapproval if I'd said anything wrong. And I'm not even sure if my self-protective instinctive political correctness is a comic routine. It is something I see myself doing. Sorry if that's TMI on the breasts, but I'm just saying: Come on, everybody, get your flu shots and (if needed) mammograms.

"Academics Struggle With Managing E-Mail."

Did you just curse out loud? Or are you actually sympathetic with the arduous life of academics?

Meanwhile, Robert Fisk is having trouble with his email. Remember when we used to "fisk" things — when the name "fisk" was a verb like "bork"? I don't see fisking anymore. Did that go out of style on the internet? Am I the first one to notice (and to miss it)? Back in the olden days of blog, we used to cut and paste a whole article and intersperse commentary to produce a long blog post alternating between indented quotes from the fisking victim and unindented attacks from the blogger. If that did indeed go out of style, I'd say it's because it's too easy to do. It's lazy. It could be done really well, but how do readers know this is going to be good? They see the tell-tale signs of fisking — that alternating indenting and unindenting — and they don't bother. The blogger is lazy and the reader is lazy, and suddenly, nothing happens.

Anyway, Fisk's problem with email is a bit more sympathetic than the plight of academics who've simply allowed too many messages to pile up in their in-boxes.
The Islamist cut-throats you sympathise with would gladly slash your pencil neck from ear to ear just because you won’t bow to their bloodthirsty pedophile [sic] prophet.
I think the "[sic]" is there because that's not how you spell "pedophile" in England. Fisk wants something to be done about the scourge of invective. Fisk isn't "sure that anonymous emails kill," but:
Just before Christmas, an Irish minister of state, Shane McEntee, committed suicide after receiving a swath of online hate-mail.
(Will suicides ever be held responsible for the murders they commit?)
Now in the old days, when someone stuffed something abusive in your letter box, you’d be round the cop-shop in no time, brandishing green-ink letters in the face of the station sergeant. Threatening behaviour, at the least. But now, merely to complain about this sort of incendiary material marks you as the oddball....
The cop-shop? Brandishing green-ink letters? I'm sorry, this is all very British. I hope Mr. Fisk survives his terrible struggle with the mail. The academics? The need to quit whining and find the delete key.

"The Charmin corporate Twitter account got in on it with a surprisingly trenchant commentary on the disposability of American currency."

That's the way Slate — displaying the winners of its design-a-$1-trillion-coin contest — refers to the symbolism here:

"Surprisingly trenchant commentary." Come on! I like delicate toilet paper, but why the delicacy talking about toilet paper? What, exactly, is the commentary? I assumed it was: American currency is something you may as well wipe your ass with. But then I thought the idea was: Uh, oh, we just pooped ourselves.

Maybe you're wracking your brain for a way to use the old "Don't Squeeze the Charmin" slogan, but that was the 1960s. The current slogans — if I am to believe the Charmin Wikipedia page — are: "Enjoy the Charmin experience" and "Enjoy The Go." Enjoy the go?! Put that on the coin. Hell, make that the national motto. "In God We Trust" is getting old. It's divisive. And, frankly, it's unfair to God.

"Enjoy the Go"... I looked it up to see how they were playing this slogan in the commercials:

The relief. The calm. The clean. The comfort.

See? That's the way you'll feel after that $1-trillion is deposited in the toilet bank. This image evokes Sigmund Freud:
Freud suggested that children in the anal stage of development regard the release of their feces as a gift to the parent — a gift that can be given or withheld. Children will release the feces if given sufficient love and withhold them if not. In Freudian thought, fecal matter becomes a type of currency in the parent-child relationship, which can be withheld or dispensed, thus giving the child a sense of control. The word currency is appropriate in this context; Freud assumed that the human unconscious makes a symbolic equation between feces and money. In a 1911 paper on dreams in folklore, he noted that according to ancient Eastern mythology, “gold is the excrement of hell” (Freud & Oppenheim, 1911/1958, p. 157).

(I'm riffing on the toilet paper topic topic Meade introduced late last night. That was Meade — did you notice? — not me.)

January 10, 2013

Ultra Soft... Ultra Suave... MEGA!

Plunging into the Amazon Associates Earnings Report today, category "Health & Personal Care, I see someone — anonymous, of course — purchased THIS.  Hey, what a great idea!  A commonly used everyday item.  And at no additional cost to the buyer, this blog receives $1.80 from Amazon.

So it got me thinking and I went over to the SiteMeter to see that the blog had approximately 25,000 visitors today.  And I thought — what if just 10% of those 25,000 visitors were to regularly, so to speak, in the privacy of their own homes, meet their Quilted Northern needs via the Althouse Amazon portal?  I'll let you do the math.  But let's just say it would leave the Meadhouse, well, flush.  And of course a flush blogger… is a blogger who feels well-appreciated.  So thanks, anonymous and everyone else who used the Althouse Amazon portal!  May you ever experience great softness, comfort and convenience. 

Meanwhile, yesterday, we were talking about clown suits and trillion dollar platinum coins and I see Slate put out a call for ideas on designs for the proposed imagined magic coin.  My personal favorite design idea:

Well done! Let's see... can Charmin be purchased on Amazon?  Why yes, yes it can!  Ultra Soft... Ultra Suave... MEGA!

Equal justice under the law — a proclamation in pictures.

Issued in 1816 in Van Diemen's Land, which is to say, Tasmania, in Australia, today's "History of" country.

"The 12 best political rants."

And #1, of course, is... Phil Davison (the "aggressive campaigner").

ADDED: I just rewatched the "Dean Scream" (#3) and — after all these years — what I'm seeing is a failure to completely commit to the scream. He held back. That may be the opposite of what you feel you remember, but watch it. He needed to do a big manly shout, like a guy at a football game, and the hand gesture should have been a fully abandoned punch in the air. What is that he does with his hand? It's like he's doing a comic imitation of somebody else — somebody he doesn't respect — doing a punch. And the yell is kind of an old lady yell. That's why it's never called a yell but a scream.

"We're not going to go hog wild."

Says Governor Scott Walker, announcing a plan for a "significant" cut in state income taxes.

ADDED: In the comments, Mary Beth said: "I'm surprised, and a little let down, that this post didn't also have a history of the phrase 'hog wild.'" Thanks for missing the kind of Althouse extras that I really do love to provide. And here they are. The OED has this:
hog-wild adj. U.S. completely wild or unrestrained; crazy (chiefly in to go hog-wild).

1893   Galveston (Texas) Daily News 11 Mar. 4/3   The state of Kansas has gone ‘hog wild’.
1940   C. McCullers Heart is Lonely Hunter i. ii. 26   This here white man had just gone hog wild. He were butting his head against the side of this brick wall.
2005   Time Out N.Y. 3 Feb. 82/1   New York City Ballet went hog-wild with promotions on January 22.
And here's a graph of the history of the use of "hog wild." For some reason, it spiked in 1942 and 1963. WW2 and the Kennedy assassination. Big events in those years. Any number of reasons to turn to "hog wild."

The Invisible Driver Prank.

Nicely done!

"A breeze stirred the gray haze of Daisy’s fur collar."

Very little going on in the action here. A tiny wind creates a bit of motion in a small subsection of the lady's clothing. But poetically — in the sound and look of the words — this is a very happening sentence.

Breeze and haze go together, with their z's. Gray rhymes with the beginning of haze, and haze rhymes with the beginning of Daisy. Gray... hay... day... Gray heyday.  

Stir and fur rhyme, and there's a faint echo of that rhyme at the end of collar.

We saw the wind ruffling Daisy's clothes one other time in this "Great Gatsby" project, but we can't talk about that now, because the idea is to restrict ourselves, each day, to one sentence, in isolation.

"I haven't been a black conservative since 1995..."

Glenn Loury talks about people he's known for 40 years who won't say hello, who won't look him in the eye because he USED TO BE a black conservative. USED TO BE! John McWhorter talks about those who think "it would be wrong to even print my name. They think of me as Satan. And that's just how it's been."

Much later in the diavlog, Loury and McWhorter weigh in on the affirmative action case that's pending in the Supreme Court. "Would you think it was a good thing if the Supreme Court outlawed racial preferences as we knew them?" McWhorter takes the "not nuanced" position that racial preferences should be proclaimed "obsolete." (Loury disagrees.)

"An evangelical pastor from Atlanta announced Thursday that he would not give the benediction at President Obama’s swearing-in ceremony..."

"... after a sermon he gave on homosexuality in the mid-1990s resurfaced earlier this week."
In that sermon, the Rev. Louie Giglio called for Christians to “firmly respond to the aggressive agenda” of some in the gay community and warns that widespread gay marriage ”would run the risk of absolutely undermining the whole order of our society.”

At the Writer's Café...


... why is there no 1 here?

"But what 'borking' really amounted to was holding the nominee’s vigorously expressed views up to the light for public inspection."

Says Linda Greenhouse:
In five days of testimony, then-Judge Bork – a former professor of mine whom I liked and respected – had every opportunity to make his case. His ideas were fully aired and considered. By a vote of 58 to 42, the senators, having heard from their constituents, concluded that his constricted constitutional vision, locked into the supposed “original intention” of the framers, was not what the country needed or wanted....

"Western tourists (mostly female) visiting Southeast Asia (Thailand, Vietnam, and Bali) are ending up dead, likely poisoned."

"Local officials have blamed the use of the insecticide DEET as an exotic ingredient in so-called 'Bucket Drinks,' or the use of Chlorpyrifos in hotel rooms. But...."

"Is Your Jury Biased Against Fat People?"

A study shows bias mostly coming from male jurors against fat women.

"The biggest and weirdest myth out there about the $1 trillion platinum coin is..."

Matthew Yglesias debunks a myth without establishing that anyone believes it.

Clue to Matt: No one believes it.

This is one of those glaring examples of the attitude of superiority leading to missing humor and subtlety. You may think you're smart, but it's not smart to assume other people aren't smart too. I recommend a working assumption that other people are smart, and when you think you're reading something ridiculously stupid, go through the exercise of reading it with the thought that the writer is wonderfully clever. This is especially important when you are reading something concise/elliptical. Look at every word. Think before you mock.

"Acting requires some intentionality on the part of the actor, some conscious effort to adopt a persona other than his or her own."

"Even adult actors who get criticized for 'playing themselves' are engaged in a series of more or less conscious decisions about how best to be themselves onscreen."
A young child, meanwhile, likely isn't thinking at all about how to be herself, let alone a character. She's a kid, and she just "is." This is, of course, a big part of what we're responding to when we watch Wallis: her innocence and her lack of self-consciousness. She feels genuine precisely because she's incapable of being otherwise.
From an article in The Atlantic a month ago titled "Sorry, Quvenzhané Wallis, but Best Actress Oscar Nods Are for Big Kids."

This morning, Quvenzhané Wallis got that Best Actress Oscar nod.

I loathe movies that exploit our instinctive urge to protect and care for children. The child is automatically that sweet and innocent character, whom the author sadistically torments for our sick pleasure.

Oscar nominations.


Observations: Quentin Tarantino punished. Who's Benh Zeitlin? Benh Zeitlin gets a director nomination and QT is out. Ben Affleck shunned as well.

"Zero Dark Thirty" punished.

The award ceremony is set up to be a solemn struggle between 2 inspiring models of virtue: Lincoln and Pi.

What is "Beasts of the Southern Wild"? Isn't that the question everyone's asking. Here:

"I see that I'm a little piece of a big big universe." Blech!

Obviously, it's Inspiration Year.

This is why I don't go to the movies.

Leave me alone, Hollywood.

"Be a Sadist."

Rule #6 on Kurt Vonnegut's 8 rules for writing a short story:
No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them-in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
This is a problem I have with fiction. Characters are created for you to care about and the author invents torments for them — for us to enjoy. Have you ever written a fictional story and experienced sick excitement as you contemplated what you were about to do that poor unsuspecting sympathetic character you created? Or do you only read fiction. If you're able to get into fiction, is it because you fully trust the author to deliver the titillation of bad things happening to this sweet leading character?

This is a line of thought that brings me back around to an opinion I've arrived at from other directions as well: Give children nonfiction to read.

"Nobody ever became a writer just by wanting to be one. If you have anything to say..."

"... anything you feel nobody has ever said before, you have got to feel it so desperately that you will find some way to say it that nobody has ever found before, so that the thing you have to say and the way of saying it blend as one matter — as indissolubly as if they were conceived together."
Let me preach again for one moment: I mean that what you have felt and thought will by itself invent a new style so that when people talk about style they are always a little astonished at the newness of it, because they think that is only style that they are talking about, when what they are talking about is the attempt to express a new idea with such force that it will have the originality of the thought.
ADDED: For comparison: "Something that you feel will find its own form."

January 9, 2013

At the Black Dog Café...


... I hope you made it home by sundown.


It's bad this year.

Have you gotten a flu shot? If not, why not?

I must say that I have not. I've only gotten a flu shot once in my life — following the instructions of the President of the United States. I've had the flu once, but only once, so I tend to think I'm good at not getting the flu, even as I know how horrible it is at the individual level. And I've read "Flu : The Story Of The Great Influenza Pandemic," by Gina Kolata, so I understand how horrible it can be at the global level.

Meade got a flu shot, as he usually does. I made my usual excuses. It won't happen to me, I think, even though I know I can't know that. And more importantly, it's not just about protecting myself individually, it's a responsibility that we have toward others not to be a vector of disease. I'm going to go in tomorrow. 

It is not too late to get a flu shot.

"Zorbing has become so popular in Russia that it is one of the symbols of next year's Winter Olympics."

"Unfortunately, zorbing led to tragedy Thursday when a ball containing two men veered off course and sailed over a rock ledge in the Caucasus Mountains of southern Russia...."

"Clinton will take a long, much-deserved vacation, then assume a low-key schedule of advocacy work and lucrative speaking engagements."

"She'll exercise, sleep more and eat better.... Her hair will finally find the sweet spot between the Stepford-esque helmet head of the campaign trail and the current granny-cum-Eileen-Fisher-model look...."
And then in late 2014, a more vibrant, less jowly Clinton will return to the spotlight and announce her candidacy for president....

When it comes to historic elections, 2008 was just what most Democrats wanted. First the exciting young black guy, then the somewhat less exciting but eminently reliable old white lady. It was as if liberal voters promised to eat their vegetables if they could just have dessert first.

The oldest leather shoe and skirt were found...

... in Armenia. Today's "History of" country.

"The Best and Worst of the London Menswear Shows."

Not a joke. Or... tell me it's a joke....

I've complained a lot over the years about men in shorts, but this takes the cake:

That's a clown suit question, bro.

Did you see the comment by Patrick that Glenn linked to?
“I think it would be the ultimate act of honesty to dress the Secretary of the Treasury in a clown costume. I have no objection to that at all.”
Well that gave me an idea. What would be the value of having all 14.5 2.1 million federal government employees — starting at the top with the President — made to wear clown suits every day for, say, the next four years? Would it be worth as much as a trillion dollar coin? More? I propose we find out:

Step 1: Purchase 14.5 2.1 million clown suits through the Althouse Amazon Associates portal, natch.

Step 2: Make federal government employees wear them every day for 4 years.

Step 3: ???

Step 4: Pay off national debt!

"So a big UK liberal newspaper, mainstream... with a huge, long story on how pedophilia is normal and should be considered normal, and quoting academics...."

"And all of a sudden CNN discusses it as though I'm making the assertion...."

"Language change across the lifespan."

"One theory, anyhow...."

Mark-of-the-beast tag for school kids.

"Plaintiff's objection to wearing the Smart ID badge without a chip is clearly a secular choice, rather than a religious concern."

"No to the man with 762 home runs. No to the pitcher who won 354 games. No to the hitter who got 3,060 hits."

Baseball Hall of Fame vote against steroid-era stars.

"The president is going to act... Executive order, executive action that can be taken; we haven't decided what that is yet."

"But we're compiling it all with the help of the attorney general and all the rest of the cabinet members as well as legislative action, we believe, is required."

Gun control, it's coming, we don't know exactly how we're going to do it, but we're going to do it without the assistance of Congress, says VP Joe Biden.

"I couldn't take it anymore: 'Your father! Great! Genius! I always liked him!'"

"The idolization has got worse and worse since he died."

"I suppose the latest thing is to sit back and let Mr. Nobody from Nowhere make love to your wife."

I wonder if "the latest thing" was a new expression back in 1922 when F. Scott Fitzgerald started writing "The Great Gatsby." Was "the latest thing" the latest thing, that is, new slang? If so, it's even funnier to see it used sarcastically like this. What a crazy trend it would be — a fashionable sex kink?

But then maybe there actually is such a trend these days. The "cuckold fetish" is a routine subject in Dan Savage's sex advice column, e.g., "Fuck My Wife, Please!"

Anyway, the sarcasm in today's "Gatsby" sentence is sublime. There's "the latest thing" and "sit back and let" and the marvelous "Mr. Nobody from Nowhere" — all of which only become funny — painfully funny — when you get to the tragically pedestrian phrase "make love to your wife."

It's also amusing that the problem is less that somebody is fucking his wife than that a nobody is fucking his wife. Mr. Nobody from Nowhere, who — if you violated the rules of the Gatsby project and go beyond the sentence — is the (supposedly) great Mr. Gatsby.

IN THE COMMENTS: Bill Harshaw uses The Great Google to show that "the latest thing" was, in fact, a well-established expression. The casual use of the word "thing" seems like modern slang. There are a lot of common phrases like "the thing to do," "a [fill in the blank] thing," "it's my thing," and "the real thing" that seem like things people would have said 100 years ago.

ALSO IN THE COMMENTS: Much discussion about how far Mr. Nobody really got: What did "make love" mean in the 1920s?

Scrambling to pose Obama with some female advisers.


IN THE COMMENTS:Paul Zrimsek said:
Get that man some binders, stat.

We're supposed to believe John Kerry is this much of a comedian?

He supposedly gave this answer to the question how he deals with jet lag:
"When I’m flying, I usually take an Ambien and listen to one of my own speeches on my iPod. I’m out in seconds. But it doesn’t always work, and sometimes you’ll have some funny moments from being overtired. There was an incident in New Orleans, at Mardi Gras, in 1997. But the video has been destroyed and I gave the beads back."
Come on. That sounds like one of Jay Leno's monologue writers wrote it. But speaking of Kerry and comedy, I was just thinking of him in connection with that whole clown suit business — how much credibility one loses dressing up in a clown suit, and that time Kerry's people let him do this:

Once you put on that clown suit, people will have that image of you as a clown forever.

Obama's inauguration poet "tackles 'the intersection of his cultural identities as a Cuban-American gay man.'"

The poet is Richard Blanco, the verb "tackles" comes from Politico, and the quote within the quote is in the Presidential Inauguration Committee press release.

I'm not a poet, but I pay attention to images, and I find the picture of tackling an intersection absurd in a particularly amusing way. Intersection of his cultural identities is also absurd but only in that dry, dreary academic way that makes you want to say to all your children and grandchildren: Do not major in the humanities!

What amuses me about tackling an intersection is that it seems to reveal the author's anxiety about the masculinity of the gay poet. Why make us picture a football move? Admittedly, the verb tackle originally meant to equip (a ship) with the necessary furnishing and then to harness (a horse), and only later "To grip, lay hold of, take in hand, deal with; to fasten upon, attack, encounter (a person or animal) physically." So says the OED. But it's all pretty damned macho.

There's no Blanco poetry at the link, but there is a description of an essay "Afternoons as Endora" from a collection "My Diva: 65 Gay Men on the Women Who Inspire Them."
“According to [my grandmother], I was a no-good sissy — un mariconcito — the queer shame of the family,” Blanco wrote. “And she let me know it all the time: Why don’t we just sign you up for ballet lessons? Everyone thinks you’re a girl on the phone — can’t you talk like a man? I’d rather have a granddaughter who’s a whore than a grandson who is a faggot like you.”
Go here for a little more of the writing, including Blanco's description of dressing up like Endora and watching "Bewitched" on TV:
Together we'd turn Mrs. Kravitz into a chihuahua, Derwood into a donkey, or Uncle Arthur into a chair. We were unstoppable....
I was a helpless and scared child, powerless against my grandmother, while Endora was a mighty witch with limitless powers. Unlike Samantha, her foolish daughter, she was a witch who wasn't afraid of being a witch, and used her magic to get her way or enact revenge every time she had a chance.
A fantasy of power. Suitable for a presidential inauguration.

AND: More on Blanco:
"Since the beginning of the campaign, I totally related to [Obama's] life story and the way he speaks of his family, and of course his multicultural background,” Mr. Blanco said... “There has always been a spiritual connection in that sense. I feel in some ways that when I’m writing about my family, I’m writing about him."...

Cynics might say that in picking a Latino gay poet, Mr. Obama is covering his political bases....
Aw, come on. People observing the normal things that happen in politics don't deserve to be called "cynics." OED defines "cynic" as:
A person disposed to rail or find fault; now usually: One who shows a disposition to disbelieve in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions, and is wont to express this by sneers and sarcasms; a sneering fault-finder.
Oh, what the hell. I'll accept the label. With politicians, we should be cynics. By the way, "cynic" comes from the Greek for dog-like (which you can sort of see in the word currish, which echoes in churlish).

At the Pink Ice Café...


... be cool.


That all-caps at Instapundit comes across as a comic misspelling of "Occupied," but the nice guys in question are at OKCupid. I'm not sure which purportedly "nice guys" deserve more sympathy, if any.

Here's the underlying linked-to article by Rachel Hills in The Atlantic. It's a critique of the critique of guys who cite their niceness as a reason why they can't get girlfriends.

How should we celebrate the 100th birthday of Richard M. Nixon?

It's today.


1. Tell us your favorite thing about Richard Nixon. (It's his birthday. No need to trot out all the usual hatred.)

2. When you encounter someone today, instead of saying "hi," do that 2-arms-raised-with-V-for-victory-fingers gesture.

3. For lunch: Ketchup on your cottage cheese.

4. Work Nixon phrases into conversations, e.g. "the lift of a driving dream."

5. When you put on your coat, call attention to the fact that it's a "cloth coat," as if that's remarkable, as if anyone would ever expect anyone these days to have a fur. If people look at you funny, double down by calling it "a respectable Republican cloth coat." If somebody gets the jump on you and calls their coat a "cloth coat" first, show that you get it by saying, "As I always say, you'd look good in anything."

6. At some point today, when you're with someone who never kneels to pray, insist that they get down on their knees and pray with you.

7. Wearing a dark suit and wingtips, take a walk on the beach.

8. Secretly record all your conversations. (Or is everyone already doing that?)

9. If anyone happens to say "pardon me," say: "Pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section II, I grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto you for all offenses."

10. When you leave a room, turn to anyone who remains in it — or even to an empty room — and proclaim: "I leave you gentlemen now. But as I leave you I want you to know, you won't have [your name] to kick around any more."

11. This is special for lawprofs and other law folk. If anyone mentions Rehnquist, act like they got the name wrong, and faux-correct them with "Renchburg."

12. From Ron in the comments: Play ping pong. Watch Dr. StrangeKissinger. Just for the hell of it say, "Sock it to me?" Just for today call your closest friend "Spiro." Play Checkers.

13. If you find yourself in the kitchen with somebody, strike up a debate and at some point, start needling them about being a Communist.

Are "community gardens" too ugly to have in a conspicuous place in a city park?

Controversy in Madison, Wisconsin.
Critics of the plan say weeds and scraggly vines would be visible to nearby residents and cars rushing by on West Washington Avenue, and that public park land should not be carved up for gardens used by only a few.
But.... vegetables!!!!

Is Nate Silver "concerned that during future elections, the accuracy of your predictions will lull readers into a mindset of 'it has been foretold, therefore I needn’t bother to vote'"?

Yes, "a bit."

Did Nate Silver "enjoy getting the ire of pundits (not the few who actually critiqued your method, models, or assumptions, but those who just dismissed your work wholesale)"?
At some point in the last few weeks of the election, I guess I decided to lean into the upside outcome a little bit in terms of pushing back at the pundits in my public appearances — as opposed to emphasizing the uncertainty in the model, as I had for most of the year....

Stupid poker analogy: part of playing well is in maximizing the amount of value you get from a hand in the event that things go well, in addition to mitigating your losses if they don't.

Hope and change... into a clown costume.

Paul Krugman responds to the pushback he's received on "the trillion-dollar-coin thing":
There seem to be two kinds of objections. One is that it would be undignified. Here’s how to think about that....
The professor is about to teach us how to think. Get ready!
... we have a situation in which a terrorist may be about to walk into a crowded room and threaten to blow up a bomb he’s holding. 
Okay. A hypothetical. I'm up for hypotheticals. And it's an analogy, because the trillion-dollar-coin thing isn't promoted as a solution to terrorism. But terrorism is something that you can picture quite concretely and you understand it as very real and scary — unlike the debt ceiling problem which is awfully abstract. (Even to say "ceiling" is to resort to metaphor.)

So, anyway:
It turns out, however, that the Secret Service has figured out a way to disarm this maniac — a way that for some reason will require that the Secretary of the Treasury briefly wear a clown suit. (My fictional plotting skills have let me down, but there has to be some way to work this in). 
In this hypothetical, you have to accept that the Secret Service has found "a way." It will work. The professor is telling you how to think, so you're going off track if you want an explanation for why that would work or if you — much more likely — would be thinking what the hell is going on in this country when the people in charge are figuring out solutions involving clown suits and believing that clown-suit solutions work? Krugman reveals that he knows his hypothetical is horribly flawed, and he tries to paper it over by confessing to second-rate "plotting skills." There has to be some way to work this it. The professor is teaching us how to think — use this analogy — but he can't piece together the hypothetical. How's that supposed to help us think?

He continues:
And the response of the nervous Nellies is, “My god, we can’t dress the secretary up as a clown!” Even when it will make him a hero who saves the day?
Wait. The normal people who go with the working theory that the government has gone mad are "nervous Nellies"? Yes, because Krugman's hypothetical locks it in that the solution works. So the people aren't supposed to be thinking that sounds crazy. It's posited that they know it will work, so all they can realistically be concerned with is that the secretary will look undignified dressed like a clown.

Krugman turns to the second objection, as if it's unconnected to the first one:
The other objection is the apparently primordial fear that mocking the monetary gods will bring terrible retribution.
Why weren't the people who say it looks crazy credited with having some fear that it wouldn't work? Because in the clown-suit hypothetical it was posited that it would work? These "nervous Nellies" were mocked in Part I of Krugman's krushing of all adversaries. In Part II, we see troglodytes who imagine a "god" who will punish us for doing something wrong.
What the hysterics see is a terrible, outrageous attempt to pay the government’s bills out of thin air. This is utterly wrong, and in fact is wrong on two levels.

The first level is that in practice minting the coin would be nothing but an accounting fiction, enabling the government to continue doing exactly what it would have done if the debt limit were raised....
So it's a trick, but it's not that different from other tricks. It's just weirder looking. Like a clown suit. Which gets back to the point I made when I criticized Krugman a couple days ago:
It's strange that it's come to this, but I don't believe the President of the United States would choose to do something that will strike the people as so bizarre, even if he feels capable of articulating the legal theory with a straight face. The President must maintain the people's trust and confidence. He must be comprehensible as normal, sound, and sane to ordinary folks.
Krugman's response to these ordinary folks — the people upon whom the President's power depends — is: They're hysterical and ill-informed. Well, how did this President — how does any President — get elected in the first place? It was by generating confidence. He's a con man. Let's say the management of the national debt has been a lot of trickery for a long, long time. What then does it matter if we do something that is quite obviously a trick, that everyone will see as a trick?

Does the trick work if the magician points to the hand that's doing the sleight?

Yoga in public schools — an Establishment Clause problem.

NPR has trouble seeing the objection. This kids are stretching, readying their minds for learning, don't you know? But here's one mother's report:
"They were being taught to thank the sun for their lives and the warmth that it brought, the life that it brought to the earth and they were told to do that right before they did their sun salutation exercise"...
The woman, Mary Eady, was able to take her son out of the classes — which is an appropriate accommodation but insufficient to solve an Establishment Clause violation. (In the old prayer-in-school cases, excusing the students who chose not to pray did not suffice.)

"Gossip site Gawker publishes names of ALL licensed gun owners in New York City."

"The names of permit holders are available from NYPD with Freedom of Information Law request/Journalists receive death threats within an hour of publishing list on site."

Gawker seeks traffic. Stirs up outrage. (Link doesn't go to Gawker.)

January 8, 2013

"Since the dawn of time, mankind has wondered: is there any creature more powerful than Marmaduke..."

"... our awful tormentor, who rules over this plane of existence with gore-drenched fangs?"

"How does raking in $100 million petrodollars fit with [Al Gore's] life’s mission?"

"Though the deal’s been widely criticized on the right..."
... most of my progressive friends have a more tolerant attitude towards the transaction: "After what happened to him," in the recount of 2000, one friend remarked, "I’d forgive him almost anything." A politically active environmentalist, too, was taking the news in stride: "I don’t think the community is too upset," he said. "My personal sense is he got a good deal."

"A serious person should try to write posthumously."

"By that I took her to mean that one should compose as if the usual constraints—of fashion, commerce, self-censorship, public and, perhaps especially, intellectual opinion—did not operate."


"Write...  as if you are alive, both because the alternative is cramped and stupid, and because you don't have any other choice."

"Is God happy?"

"The question is not absurd."
... If He is not indifferent, but subject to emotion like us, He must live in a constant state of sorrow when He witnesses human suffering....

If, on the other hand, He is perfectly immutable, He cannot be perturbed by our misery; He must therefore be indifferent. But if He is indifferent, how can He be a loving father? And if He is not immutable, then He takes part in our suffering, and feels sorrow.

Let's begin with Hipólito Yrigoyen.

The Radical:

The Radicals took over in 1916, after years of conservative power, in the first election after the beginning of universal male suffrage in...

Althouse-approved short pants for men.

These shorts have the guts. Do you? No? Buy the book.

"Gatsby, pale as death, with his hands plunged like weights in his coat pockets, was standing in a puddle of water glaring tragically into my eyes."

The most interesting thing about today's "Gatsby" sentence is the use of plunged for the action of the hands into the pockets, when the feet are in a puddle of water. A puddle isn't deep, and Gatsby is just standing in the puddle. He can't be plunged into a mere puddle, but then again, his pockets are not bodies of water, so the plunging into the pockets is metaphorical.

At the Icicle Café...


... we're all dammed.

"Do you think it makes me a bad American to confess that I have no desire to see the movie Lincoln?"

A comic strip at The Soxaholix, which — I'm amused to see — has a link to my blog in the 4th frame. Plus, it goes on to explain why one ought to prefer watching sports.

"Finding Little Evidence Of Foreclosure Fraud..."

"... Feds Give Up."
Has there been a single case in the past five years of a homeowner who was current on his mortgage being foreclosed through fraud?

"Kim Kardashian: How do Armenians feel about her fame?"

BBC homes in on the question everyone is asking.
"Kim is an Armenian and famous in the world, so this is enough for every Armenian to be proud of Kim. But because of cultural and traditional issues, they do not want to accept that she is an Armenian," [says BBC monitoring journalist Armen Shahbazian].

Stories about Kardashian are frequently a topic for comedy programmes, he says.

"They always compare the Armenian French singer Charles Aznavour, who they are proud of, with Kim Kardashian, who is seen in a more negative light. They don't want her to present their country," he says.
Deep into this article we get to some comparative material about what the people of Gibraltar think about fashion designer John Galliano and what the people of the Isle of Man think of Dan Quayle, who — "was internationally ridiculed when it appeared he could not spell the word 'potato.'"

Curiosity brushes off a rock.

On Mars.

Professor who teaches a course called Culture of Conspiracy...

... is denounced for "inquir[ing] whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place — at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation's news media have described."

People these days seem to be so confused. If we hear about something terrible happening, it's as if talking about the details is equivalent to saying you don't care about the people who were hurt. This is a dangerous development, which itself ought to be examined as a possible conspiracy.

Lake Mendota, yesterday.


Will this thing ever freeze all the way?

Eagle-watching time.

We're having whole festivals here in Wisconsin.

The mystery of why 50-year-old men suddenly...

... stop buying new clothes.

The argument for letting your hair grow long and white as you age and not getting any facial surgery or Botox.

From 83-year-old "supermodel" Daphne Selfe. (Great name, by the way.)
Selfe, who went gray in her 40s, gave up coloring her hair and decided to let it grow.

“My hair is long now because it’s cheaper. I don’t have to do anything but put it in a topknot or a French pleat,” she said. “It avoids that old lady permed look, lengthens the neck and lifts the face.”

"The snake, not in any way, shape or form, had intended to eat the baby — it was trying to have a group hug."

"So in the dark, they’re going to see a baby as this warm spot."

Al Roker: "I pooped my pants" at the White House.

Something to think about before you spring for that gastric bypass surgery.

For comparison purposes.

Are those comediennes funnier than these?

And let's try to think deeply about gender politics. There's something distinctive about the argument — coming from females — that we will withhold sex unless you give us something we want. The argument, even as joke, assumes the audience grasps the notion sex is not intrinsically valuable to women. It's currency to be used to purchase something else.

In contrast to the idea of women exercising power by withholding sex is the idea that men seek political power to get sex. "Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac" is something famously said by a man who looked liked this:

That's Henry Kissinger in his younger days. Think he would have had much political success saying do what I want or I won't have sex with you? No. It was the other way around for him. By acquiring power he became seductive.

Perhaps men have had such success reaching high positions of political power because of their sexual drive. If sexual energy propels their climb to power, it's surprising women ever win elections. Why bother? I mean, really. Why bother? They must really want political power as an end in itself. And... well, there's this:

Goodbye to Richard Ben Cramer.

The author of the great book "What It Takes," died yesterday at the age of 62.

Here's Throwing Things:
If you've never read Cramer's What It Takes, buckle down for 1000+ pages (and that's why we have e-readers) of the most masterful, insightful writing about politics you'll ever have the joy of reading — and it regards a presidential campaign (1988) which you wouldn't think merited such attention. But Cramer uses old-school research and access, combined with New Journalism vividness, to reveal the character of six men who seek the Presidency (Bush, Dole, Dukakis, Gephart, Hart, Biden) in such a compelling way as to make the tactics and daily tick-tock of the campaign almost secondary. Dole the recovering war hero; Dukakis the insufferable prig; Biden the exuberant climber devastated by tragedy and then undermined by his own actions... it's all there.
ADDED: I don't know why Adam at Throwing Things says "that's why we have e-readers" and then complains (in a part I didn't quote) that he can't find any good quotes on line to copy to the blog. If you have the book in Kindle, you can cut and paste.

"In a funny twist, Ed whispers how the man at the table next to ours is feverishly working his prayer beads with his hand."

"The man hears us and laughs. Not prayer beads -- he says in decent English -- this is what we do here when we try to quit smoking. You know, keep your fingers busy!"
In 2010, Greece passed a law banning smoking in restaurants, bars and even enclosed outdoor spaces. Let me assure you, this law is completely ignored....

There are a number of good seafood tavernas lining the waterfront and we choose one that has the lovely "no smoking" sing on the door. Except that inside, we see there are ashtrays on the tables and both the owner and the waitress are puffing away. Still, the dining room seems free of smoke and so we settle in at a table that seems relatively protected, should someone choose to light up.
A good lesson about law. What makes people follow the law? Surely, a statute is not enough. There are cultural elements. Some law is passed in Athens, but who's keeping track of what's happening on all those islands? How many islands are there in Greece? Depends on how you count. It could be 6,000. It could be 163. The story above comes from the island of Lesbos. The man with the smoking beads was one of 90,643 Lesbians, who follow the law... who knows how assiduously?

"More intelligence and fewer offspring?"

"Perhaps Idiocracy was stating a more general rule...."

But another thing...
When it comes to humans, for example, though our brains are only 2% of our bodies, they take up a whopping 20% of our energy requirements. 
If that's really true, it could be the key to why one person can eat heartily and never gain weight while the next person, eating the same thing, gets fat. Maybe it's a big brain/small brain distinction. Also, is it possible that instead of going to the gym or getting on a bicycle when we hope to lose weight, what we really should be doing is studying calculus or reading philosophy?

ADDED: Idiocracy primer:

"Your average Dylan fan could be excused for not knowing about a new European compilation called The Copyright Extension Collection Vol. 1."

"Only 100 of these four-CD sets even exist, and they've been shipped to a tiny number of stores located in Germany, France, Sweden, and Britain."
Though it collects Dylan's highly precious unreleased studio outtakes and live recordings from 1962 and 1963, Sony is putting almost no promotion behind the collection....
Although this no-promotion thing works as a kind of promotion, viral promotion. But apparently, this release isn't about selling product at all. It's about preserving copyright. After 50 years, if nothing is done with a recording, the European copyright would expire. By doing something — next to nothing — the copyright can be extended for another 20 years. So they put out a 4-CD set — only 100 of them.

Obviously, ultimately, this is a product that will be mass produced. But it's not what Dylan wants to put out now,  and it doesn't hurt business, in the long run, to have this enticing rarity out there getting people advance-excited over what is only 86 outtakes from the Times-They-Are-A-Changin' days.

January 7, 2013

"There is a gap between me and everyone, like a perforated box of polluted air is separating me from people..."

"The space from me to anyone who might understand how lousy I feel seems vast. I am harsh and defeated, and I never thought I would describe myself in either way. The list of things I can’t be bothered with goes on forever. The list of things that bother me goes on forever. I have lost my life."

A fragment of Elizabeth Wurtzel in New York Magazine. It's time to talk about her again, I thought I should let you know.

At Abby's Café...

... say hi to Joey and Bingo's new sister.

A mystery! [Kindle Edition].

"The Great Gatsby" [Kindle Edition]. Hey, this is fun. I can go into the Amazon Associate reports and see what people have purchased through the Althouse portal. I can't see who, but I can see what. And someone apparently wants to read along with Althouse as she brings us her Great Project. And that's great! So thanks. Thanks for reading the blog, thanks for commenting, and thanks for using the portal whenever you do your ripe, beautiful, cool, gay, radiant, (not) musty, fresh, breathing, redolent, shining, (scarcely) withered shopping on Amazon.

"There was a ripe mystery about it, a hint of bedrooms up-stairs more beautiful and cool than other bedrooms..."

"... of gay and radiant activities taking place through its corridors, and of romances that were not musty and laid away already in lavender but fresh and breathing and redolent of this year’s shining motor-cars and of dances whose flowers were scarcely withered."

Ripe, beautiful, cool, gay, radiant, (not) musty, fresh, breathing, redolent, shining, (scarcely) withered. What I'm seeing in today's Gatsby sentence are a lot of adjectives, adjectives all about a house, a house that we're told is a mystery. The adjectives tantalize us about the nature of the mystery. Every adjective says sex. If only we could get upstairs to the bedrooms or into those corridors. Those places are alive! They are breathing.

"Should President Obama be willing to print a $1 trillion platinum coin if Republicans try to force America into default?"

"Yes, absolutely. He will, after all, be faced with a choice between two alternatives: one that’s silly but benign, the other that’s equally silly but both vile and disastrous. The decision should be obvious."

Says Paul Krugman.

It's strange that it's come to this, but I don't believe the President of the United States would choose to do something that will strike the people as so bizarre, even if he feels capable of articulating the legal theory with a straight face. The President must maintain the people's trust and confidence. He must be comprehensible as normal, sound, and sane to ordinary folks.


3 comediennes taunt Wisconsin state senator Glenn Grothman: "Good luck getting laid."

Apparently, he didn't support some laws they wanted, so this is what passes for comedy and liberalism these days:

ADDED: Don't miss the part of the taunting that comes in the form of insinuating that the senator is gay, as if it's okay — for liberals? — to use that as a form of disparagement.

At the Morning Ski Café...


... you'd better get out there before it melts.

"The Elvis Problem: Defining Religion Under The First Amendment."

Instapundit weighs in on the Kwanzaa question I brought up yesterday.

And I want to drag something I wrote in my own comments section up to the front page. The Madison School District portrays Kwanzaa as something that belongs in government-run schools because it's a "culturally relevant practice," but:
Religion is a "culturally relevant practice."

It just doesn't belong in public schools.
I mean practicing it doesn't belong in public schools.

It's fine and even desirable to teach children about the various religious traditions. It's part of history and social studies, and it should be taught competently and with a fact-based approach, not infused with promptings to feel inspired and devoted.
I think this is such a solid point that the definition of religion — for these school-based Establishment Clause cases — should be built around the idea that the compulsory attendance coerced in the name of education should not be exploited to capture the part of the child's mind that turns to God when the child is religious. All human beings have this aspect of their minds, whether they are religious or not, and the state's power does not belong there. When we see devotional exercises in public schools we should be revolted.

Background note: In the most relevant Supreme Court case (which is in a somewhat different context), the Court spoke of religion as "a sincere and meaningful belief which occupies in the life of its possessor a place parallel to that filled by the God of those [religions] admittedly qualifying for the exemption." (The context was conscientious objection from the military draft.) The value of the Court's definition was that it avoided making distinctions and favored equal treatment under the laws.

Archaic People, Saladoid people, Arawaks, Caribs...

I'm trying to read the "History of" page for Antigua and Barbuda, which is a single country. It's today's country as we run through the list of 206 countries in the world. But this Wikipedia page is kind of a mess. There are names of various people who arrived in succeeding waves, mostly, it seems, paddling from Venezuela. I'm not quite picturing how one group "replaced" or "succeeded" another. But the earliest people were there by around 2900 BC. These were the "archaic people."
The Catholic Encyclopedia does make it clear that the European invaders had some difficulty identifying and differentiating between the various native peoples they encountered.
So maybe it's not just a Wikipedia problem. But you'd think by now they'd have sorted out who replaced whom, when, and how. Maybe not. Maybe my expectations for archaeology are excessive. And then there's the question: how/why did they leave?