September 14, 2013

Butting heads.

(Via Metafilter.)

"Why Madison, Wis. is a top foodie paradise."

It's not me saying that. It's Fox News. With 10 suggestions, one of which is where I spent the evening tonight.

"No place on earth celebrates the loogie quite like China does."

"At any given moment in China, there are millions of people hawking enormous globs of phlegm and expelling them in great cascading arcs until they splatter on streets and sidewalks. It’s done for medicinal reasons, a way of expelling bad elements from the body. The government has observed that westerners find the habit strange and more than a little icky and so they’ve undertaken a campaign to stifle the spitting. I can only hope that they fail. Having grown up in a loogie-sensitive culture, to suddenly encounter a nation of hurling spitballs is one of those up-is-down, black-is-white experiences that periodically makes traveling so gratifying. I should note that I mean that in the broad, philosophical sense and not as an endorsement of spitballs and the like."

Said Maarten Troost in 2008 in an interview about his then-newest book "Lost on Planet China," which I'm just noticing today along with his now-newest book "Headhunters on My Doorstep: A True Treasure Island Ghost Story" and his 2006 book "Getting Stoned with Savages: A Trip Through the Islands of Fiji and Vanuatu."

Last night, in Milwaukee...

... I chose to wear a baseball cap for the first time in my life.

"I love the sweet aroma of squirrel, and I’m surprised at most folks’ inexperience with serving the little guys."

Says the chef, Levon Wallace, with a recipe for Braised Squirrel With Bacon, Mushrooms, and Pinot Noir.

When "progressive pop culture people" make fun of a woman for being old...

... and the woman is Sarah Silverman, who's 42, Sarah has something to say about it:

"Young men in Great Britain, Australia, and Canada have also fallen behind."

"But in stark contrast to the United States, these countries are energetically, even desperately, looking for ways to help boys improve," writes Christina Hoff Sommers in The Atlantic.

"Why is the Nobel Prize in Literature almost always given to a novelist, never a scientist?"

"Why should we prefer our literature to be about things that didn’t happen? Wouldn’t, say, Steven Pinker be a good candidate for the literature prize?"

Good idea. (An idea in the form of 3 questions.)

This is related to my strong belief that schools should teach reading through nonfiction literature. This opinion was surprisingly controversial, and it heightened my suspicion of those who become adamant about the lofty regard that belongs writing in the fictional mode. It's funny that what's not true must control the highest position.

The 3 questions above are from the famously atheist Richard Dawkins, and my statement that begins with "It's funny" feels like an invitation to atheists to say something about religion.

And in my mind, I hear — though there is no sound — religionists and fiction lovers alike clamoring to talk about greater truths.

A monument to prolific writing and the aversion to travel.

And I thought I was prolific and averse to travel. Check out this profile of Peter Ackroyd. Excerpt:
Ackroyd writes nearly all day, nearly every day. Each morning he takes a taxi from his London home, in tony Knightsbridge, to the office he maintains in Bloomsbury, where he typically divides his workday between three books. He begins by writing and doing research for a history book, turns to a biography sometime in the afternoon and finishes the day reclining on a bed in a room adjacent to his book-lined office, writing a novel, in longhand....

In the past decade alone, he has published some two dozen books. These include four novels; a prose retelling of “The Canterbury Tales“; a magisterial “biography” of the Thames River; “London Under,” about the world beneath London’s streets; “The English Ghost,” about the national obsession with specters and spirits; a cultural history of Venice; a beautifully written series of history books for children; biographies of Chaucer, Shakespeare, Newton, J. M. W. Turner, Edgar Allan Poe and the Victorian literary oddball Wilkie Collins; and a handful of other books....

Ackroyd is a provincial and proud of it, with a hermetic lifestyle that supports his writing regimen. He hates to leave London, professing a strong dislike for the countryside (“It’s too noisy, too dangerous, I don’t trust their food”) and no interest in traveling to other cities (“I don’t understand their histories”). 
He's written multiple, massive histories of England, especially London, so he's vastly interested in history, but he's all about depth of understanding in his particular place. 
Ackroyd says that when he walks London’s streets, he will sometimes lapse into a time-travel reverie, toggling backward to envision, with crystal clarity, how a street, an intersection, looked two or three centuries before.
Those of you who argue for travel because it's broadens your mind, makes history "come alive," and foments complex understanding, please contemplate Ackroyd.

"23 Things Every Woman Should Stop Doing."

I thought that was the title of a parody of internet "listicles," but it's a real article at Huffington Post, one that that inspired me to compose a list of things not to do:

1. Succumb to the temptation to read articles with titles like that.


A 5-minute visualization, brilliantly achieved:

Danielle from Anthony Cerniello on Vimeo.

We have a framework.

And outline.

What do you think? free polls 

September 13, 2013

Please take my Establishment Clause test.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sued to have the motto "In God We Trust" taken off U.S. money. The federal judge, applying a familiar old doctrine, dismissed the suit, saying "the Supreme Court has repeatedly assumed the motto's secular purpose and effect."

Here's my test: You have 30 seconds. Don't read the article and don't look anything up. Write one sentence articulating a secular purpose for having "In God We Trust" on the money. Do the best you can — that is, be on against the Freedom From Religion side for the purposes of this exercise.

ADDED: I will read all the comments later today and pick some winners, but after reading a few, I feel like saying that the requirement that a law have a secular purpose can be diminished to nothing if you accept the proposition that there is a secular purpose for religion. Government can always say it is using religion to mollify/control/improve people for worldly ends. The argument would be that as long as religion is the means and not the end, it's a secular purpose. Note that complete atheists could embrace this kind of religion (and I assume they have throughout history all over the world).

CORRECTION:  The original post said "on" where it should have said "against." That was confusing, and I'm very sorry. It makes no sense — perhaps you noticed — to articulate the FFR side, which is there is NO secular purpose. The idea is to come up with a secular purpose, and I wanted you to do your best at that, even if you'd prefer to see FFR win this.

It's not just Kenosha: "It seems like the majority of our affiliates in the state aren't seeking re-certification."

Everyone's talking about the Kenosha teacher's union getting decertified, that's a quote from a WEAC official, so "Kenosha is a trend setter, not an outlier."
Kenosha Unified is the third largest school district in the state. It has a well-earned reputation as a district dominated by it's [sic] unionized teachers. Pro-union school board members helped extend the previously-existing contract to delay the implementation of the Act 10 reforms there.

"The Republican Party is gaining a public-opinion edge on several key issues ahead of the 2014 elections..."

"... a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows."
Republicans are now rated higher than Democrats on handling the economy and foreign policy, and the GOP's lead has strengthened on several other issues, including dealing with the federal deficit and ensuring a strong national defense.

Rainbow seen from the vantage point of my desk while writing about not traveling.


"If this video doesn't inspire you to plan a trip, nothing will."

Buzzfeed offers this "Facts That Will Make You Want To Travel." Since questioning traveling is a big theme on this blog, I'm going to embed this before watching it. I'll get back to you on whether it consigns me to the category Buzzfeed considers uninspirable.

UPDATE: Second-by-second reaction.

"Solidarity singers hijack Scott Walker's 'Unintimidated' book title."

The Capital Times can't get enough of fawning over Wisconsin protesters. You'd think someone would have noticed that the "hijack" metaphor lacks the intended cuteness on September 11th.


(Photo source: here.)

"I feel that at this point Krakauer has an agenda to prove that McCandless was poisoned."

"In his book ['Into the Wild'] he advances the theory that it was an alkaloid poison in a similar looking plant. Later, tests determine that the plant had no such poison. He then supposes that it was a toxic mold on the seeds, but Wiki says no mold was found his seeds."

From the discussion at Metafilter about this new New Yorker article by Jon Krakauer.

Another Metafilter comment, further down and much favorited:
I've done things a few things woefully underprepared where I drastically overexerted and overextended myself and skirted the edge of disaster before, and had the thought "fuck if I die doing this, it's going to look pretty stupid", but you know on the other hand those were some of the best times in my life....

It's kind of sad to see people here 20 years later on a silly web blog shitting on a young guy for trying to live life the way he wanted, and with a level of adventure and self-reliance few ever experience. He didn't force his story down your throat - go back to watching TV and working in an office and patting yourself on the back for living smarter and longer than he did.
By the way, it's "web log" not "web blog." Just say "blog" like a normal person and you won't need to remember this, but that commenter was going all righteous on Metafilter, which isn't a "silly" blog. It's a grand and awesome enterprise, going back to 1999.

This 99+-comment-long thread on McCandless is a testament to how unsilly it is, including this comment calling it silly.

"There is something deeply beautiful about how Mule is living."

"Just read through his Facebook page to see how much people admire his deliberate wanderings and his simple, poetic insights. Many of the things he says about development, the 'Megatropolis,' and balance sound almost prophetic. It's especially captivating to hear him talk about his way of life as a place in and of itself. 'These mules and the way that we are living is a place. It's got its own magic, there's no doubt about it. We are protected and guided. I'm out there on the side of the road, with cars coming at us, and there is something protecting and guiding us. This place has got its rules. You only take what you need, and you give your hope and your faith to this place. It's a great place to be.'"

From an article in The Atlantic called "There Is a Man Wandering Around California With 3 Mules."

How can he be offering himself as an example of how to live? How many people wandering around with mules would it take before it would no longer be true that — as the article states — "It’s rare to find places where mules are explicitly prohibited by law"?

Asking Rand Paul about what Ron Paul said.

There's going to be a lot of this, and Rand Paul needs some skills here. Yesterday was a challenge, as he was asked about his father's statement that the 9/11/01 attacks were "blowback for decades of U.S. intervention in the Middle East." Rand's response:
"What I would say is that, you know there are a variety of reasons and when someone attacks you it’s not so much important what they say their reasons are... The most important thing is that we defend ourselves from attack. And whether or not some are motivated by our presence overseas, I think some are also motivated whether we’re there or not. So I think there’s a combination of reasons why we’re attacked.... The bottom line is, I think people around the world and our enemies around the world need to know that if we’re ever attacked on something like 9/11, if anyone were ever to use chemical weapons on our soldiers anywhere in the world, the response would be an overwhelming one from America and I think that’s the credibility we always need to maintain."
Rand's response was: free polls 

"Ethical wills can take various forms — a simple letter, a hardbound book, even a musical composition."

"Often, they include a historical narrative, a sense of the writer's place in the generations of a family; the writer's experiences and wisdom gained; and their hopes for the future."
"It can be a great tool for helping define oneself to the next generation — what's important to me, what I stood for," said Eric Weiner, a Mequon marriage and family therapist and author of "Words from the Heart: A Practical Guide to Writing an Ethical Will."

Mequon is the name of a place in Wisconsin, not a religion. The religion under discussion is Judaism. (Yom Kippur begins today.)
While some will inevitably use the process to nurture a grudge from the grave, Weiner said, he encourages writers to be positive. An ethical will, written and timed well, can start a family conversation and defuse some of the animosity that surrounds decisions about money and business succession.

"It's possible, when one writes this, to bring some healing to a relationship that would benefit from that," he said. 

"This case definitely falls in the rarest of rare categories and warrants the exemplary punishment of death."

Said the judge, in India. 
Earlier, protesters outside the court had demanded that the four men should be hanged.

As they were escorted to the courtroom, the four men shouted to the crowd: "Brothers, save us!"

Wisconsin waterspouts — yesterday on Lake Michigan.

Near Kenosha:

Putin "cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar al-Assad in power."

"Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East (Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran."

That's Krauthammer's matter-of-fact invitation to Americans take the old Sunni-Shiite division to heart as the continuation of the old-but-less-old Cold War. The column is called "The fruits of epic incompetence," blaming Obama and Kerry for giving Putin the opening:
Assad, far from receiving punishment of any kind, goes from monster to peace partner. Putin bestrides the world stage, playing dealmaker. He’s welcomed by America as a constructive partner....

And Obama gets to slink away from a Syrian debacle of his own making.
Elsewhere in The Washington Post, Ezra Klein puts the pro-Obama gloss on same facts:
A lot of people have wondered why Russia and Syria seem to be working to throw the Obama administration a lifeline. But the answer is clear: Assad only cares about his chemical weapons insofar as they help keep him in power. Sacrificing them to end the threat the U.S. poses to his regime is more than worth it to him.

"In Boulder, the rainfall record for September set in 1940 was shattered..."

"... unleashing surging floodwaters in Boulder Canyon above the city that triggered the evacuation of some 4,000 residents late on Thursday."
"There's so much water coming out of the canyon, it has to go somewhere, and unfortunately it's coming into the city," said Ashlee Herring, spokeswoman for the Boulder office of Emergency Management.

Boulder Creek, which runs through the heart of the city, became a raging torrent that burst its banks and flooded adjacent parking lots and streets as warning sirens wailed.

September 12, 2013

Voyager 1 becomes the first man-made object to enter interstellar space.

The trip took 36 years.
The lonely probe, which is 11.7 billion miles from Earth and hurtling away at 38,000 miles per hour, has long been on the verge of bursting through the heliosphere, a vast, bullet-shaped bubble of particles blown out by the sun. Scientists have spent this year debating whether it had done so, interpreting the data Voyager sent back in different ways.
It hasn't sent back any pictures since 1990.

"Of all the photos we have, this one is in the poorest condition."

"That's because Grandmother carried the snapshot slipped between the pages of a Russian Orthodox prayer book that jiggled in her pocket as she escaped Russia during the 1917 Revolution."

ADDED: A post about the prayer book:
Why did Tatjana already have a Roman Catholic prayer book when she fled Russia? There's an explanation....

"The city does not allow meals to be served to members of the public in someone’s home."

Illegal "supper clubs" in NYC.

Basically, these are dinner parties where guests pay. Something about exchanging money makes the private zone public, right? Like with prostitution.

"Pastor Terry Jones arrested with thousands of kerosene-soaked Qurans."

What crime is this in America?

Who are you rooting for?

Decisive results for the question I asked yesterday.

"It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation."

Writes Vladimir Putin... in a NYT op-ed.
There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.
What a fine time Putin is having, repurposing American pieties and slapping our President around!

That's the very end of the op-ed, and here's a line from the top of the column: "But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together." Putin is sly enough not to be explicit, but the inference is there: Remember when the Nazis encouraged the Germans to see themselves as exceptional?

Poor Obama! Righties have been pummeling him for years for failing to manifest a belief in American exceptionalism. He throws them a sop and Putin hits him over the head.

Why is this called "The Anti-Male Craziness at Yale"?

KC Johnson attacks Yale University's regulation of sex, which might be crazy, but I don't see the justification for calling it "anti-male."
This week the university produced a document... which tried to explain its approach.... The document listed eight "scenarios" that fit under the university's extraordinarily broad conception of "non-consensual sex."
Johnson highlights only one of Yale's fictional scenarios:
"Morgan and Kai are friends who begin dancing and kissing at a party. They are both drunk, although not to the point of incapacitation. Together they decide to go to Kai's room. They undress each other and begin touching each other. Morgan moves as if to engage in oral sex and looks up at Kai questioningly. Kai nods in agreement and Morgan proceeds. Subsequently, without pausing to check for further agreement, Kai begins to perform oral sex on Morgan. Morgan lies still for a few minutes, then moves away, saying it is late and they should sleep."

According to Yale, "Kai" is a guilty of having had nonconsensual sex, a term that most people would consider to be rape. 
Note to Johnson: The statutes in my state use the terms "sexual contact" and "sexual intercourse" (not "rape") and "sexual intercourse" includes cunnilingus and fellatio. [ADDED: Statutes defining crimes.]

But quite aside from that, what's with "anti-male"? I have absolutely no idea whether Morgan and Kai are 2 men, 2 women, or a man and a woman. And if they're a man and a woman, I can't tell if Morgan's the man and Kai is the woman or Kai is the man and Morgan is the woman. I think Yale's fiction writers are deliberately making the sex of these 2 characters inscrutable, which makes the scenario damned hard to visualize.

I am concerned about the due process problems in the way universities enforce their sex codes as they bumble along trying to make the campus climate welcoming for everybody, but I'm drawn toward pitying whoever got the assignment to write those scenarios. Pitying and laughing at. Imagine needing to describe explicit sex that is utterly not titillating and duly instructive.  Morgan moves as if to engage in oral sex and looks up at Kai questioningly. It's up to you to picture that move and that look. Later, Morgan fails to look and Kai moves. Or Kai fails to look and Morgan moves. Who are these people? What are they doing?!

September 11, 2013

"Federal judge backs Scott Walker in Act 10 ruling, dismisses lawsuit."

Act 10 was the law the big 2011 protests were about.

"Under Act 10, general employees remain free to associate and represented employees and their unions remain free to speak; municipal employers are simply not allowed to listen."

When Meade and I were traipsing around in that Wisconsin landscape...


"Sydney Leathers, former sexting partner of Anthony Weiner, attempts to crash his election night party."

"The 23-year-old, clad in a tight red dress and platform heels, said that she wanted to finally meet the man who 'manipulated' her into a months-long relationship. The Weiner mayoral campaign went limp after Leathers came forward with her explosive revelations."

For the annals of attention whoredom.

But nobody empathizes with Anthony.

As for Huma... we might have empathized once, but empathy fatigue set in long ago.

Who are you rooting for? (You must choose one.) free polls 

The scholar relied on by Kerry and McCain to make the case for attacking Syria has been fired for lying about having a Ph.D.

Politico reports, noting an unbelievably small discrepancy:
[Elizabeth] O’Bagy told POLITICO’s Kate Brannen in an interview Monday that she had submitted and defended her dissertation and was waiting for Georgetown University to confer her degree.

IN THE COMMENTS: Tom Ault said:
After I defended my dissertation, I was told by my adviser that I could start calling myself a PhD as soon as my committee signed off on it, even though the degree wouldn't be formally conferred on me until sometime later. I suspect that the lack of a formal PhD in this case is simply cover for firing a scapegoat. 
I agree.

UPDATE: "O’Bagy confirmed to The Daily Beast that she was only enrolled in a master’s program at Georgetown and had applied to join the joint MA/Ph.D. program but was never accepted."
“I would like to deeply apologize to every person with whom I have worked, who has read and depended upon my research, and to the general public,” O’Bagy said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “While I have made many mistakes and showed extremely poor judgment, I most particularly regret my public misrepresentation of my educational status and not immediately disclosing that I had not been awarded a doctorate in May, 2013.” 

"A growing trend to leave salt off the table in restaurants should fill me with satisfaction."

"I have said for years that it doesn’t belong there. In a restaurant, the chef should determine the seasoning of the food, and you may judge the restaurant on the choices made. If you want to decide for yourself, eat at home. Salt no more belongs on a table than do cloves or cinnamon or, for that matter, pepper.

But Mark Kurlansky — author of the book "Salt: A World History" — is not happy about this trend.

"That was perfunctory."

If you want to know what I said after listening to Obama's speech last night, that's it.

I wasn't so much talking about the text, but the way he said it — the choppy, listless delivery, especially as he came to the end:
With humility, but with resolve, let us never lose sight of that essential truth.

Thank you. God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.
I found myself immediately retreating to the cliché of imagining how Ronald Reagan said those words "God bless the United States of America."

Like he meant them.

And I'm not saying I don't think Obama means them. I'm only saying that he said them as if they meant: Okay, now I gotta get outta here.

"If a possum takes up residence in your shed, grab a barbecue brush to coax him out. If he doesn't leave..."

"... brush him for twenty minutes and let him stay. Let a dog (or two or three) share your bed. Say the rosary while you walk them. Go to church with a chicken sandwich in your purse. Cry at the consecration, every time. Give the chicken sandwich to your homeless friend after mass.... Put picky-eating children in the box at the bottom of the laundry chute, tell them they are hungry lions in a cage, and feed them veggies through the slats. Correspond with the imprisoned and have lunch with the cognitively challenged. Do the Jumble every morning."

Tips from Pink — of Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin — made public via obituary by her 6 children and 17 grandchildren.

She was 85, so the Richard Dawkins approach to thinking about child abuse applies (if you've got any inclination to condemn that "hungry lions" method of getting kids to eat vegetables).

Could you assemble a similarly charming list of tips from the quirkiest things your mother did? Consider the potential for matching the love these children and grandchildren showed and the alternative: Indict mom for child abuse.

The other day, when Meade and I were traipsing around in that Wisconsin landscape (the photo of which sat at the top of this blog for 18 hours), we were talking about stories people tell about the hardships they endured as children and, in mockery, we started listing the worst things that were done to us, some of which would, I think, be regarded as criminal child abuse today. For example: In the summer, I was taken to Ocean City, New Jersey for a thorough, painful sunburning. (And, no, it did not "turn into a tan," as some people used to say — and Meade still says — about the way their skin functions.)

"Just as we don't look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism..."

"... I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild paedophilia, and can't find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today."

Said the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, drawing fire and drawing attention as he comes out with a new book, a memoir (in which he reveals himself to have been the victim of child abuse).

The book is "An Appetite for Wonder: The Making of a Scientist."


Today is the 12-year anniversary of the attack on America (as well as the 1-year anniversary of the Benghazi attack).

September 10, 2013

Wisconsin, September.


A photograph from Sunday — when it was overcast and cool — that I was motivated to pull out of the camera by my own comment, dropped in the post about the man who fell or was pushed off a cliff in Glacier National Park:
When we went to Glacier, I was too afraid to hike there. You have these fantastic views, but then you can't enjoy them.

One more reason not to travel: The gentler landscapes of Wisconsin are more beautiful, because they don't force you to think about dying.
There's a human scale to Wisconsin. It feels humane. The West is dramatic, and I have enjoyed many trips though those landscapes, including Death Valley, the national park named to confront you with its hostility.

Why do we seek extreme experiences, when the subtleties of our normal lives are so close by? Why would we ever want to leave their sweet embrace? Ultimately, death will drag us away from the places we love, but why do we torment ourselves with those experiments in exile we call travel?

"Ally’s playing the guitar and I went ‘Who’s that pervert looking in the window?’ I got up, because I’m a bit blind, got to the window, telling him to sling the hook, with a few choice Scottish words..."

"... and at that moment I realised it was Bob Dylan.... I was so embarrassed, because then I had to phone Jake. I was like, ‘I’ve just told your dad to sling his hook.’ Which was really weird."
Later that night, Chrissie Hynde took [Sharleen] Spiteri to meet Dylan. “He’s talking away, never mentioning anything. And then he just turns to me and repeated what I said to him shouting through the window.” And despite what she says on camera, the phrase certainly wasn’t as innocuous as ‘sling your hook’. “I’ve never been so embarrassed in my whole life,“ admits Spiteri. Dylan, however, was apparently amused by the incident. “He’s got a dirty sense of humour,” according to Spiteri.
I had to look up "sling your hook" (even though we can see that "sling your hook" is not what was said, but a euphemism for it). More here:
It is a dockers phrase from the industrial revolution in the early 1800s in places like East London, Liverpool and Portsmouth. Much of the trade coming into these ports were in bales, especially bales of cotton and wool.... It was common practice for Dockers to have hooks in which they would impale the bales in order to make them easier to carry. Work was given out daily on an ad hoc basis depending on how many ships were in port and what cargo they were carrying. Queues of dockers would form, and when all the days jobs were allocated, the remaining dockers were told to 'Sling your Hook', or 'Sling yer 'ook', as in 'Throw away your hook or put it over your shoulder and leave, there's no work for you today.'

"The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Syria at 4 p.m. ET Tuesday...."

Fast moving events in the Syrian crisis. Fast moving advancement of... delay?

Is Obama allowing Putin to feel a sense of control over this? Are we observing "leading from behind"?

It takes big balls not to help with diaper changing and feeding and bathing the baby.

Or something like that —  according to a new and purportedly scientific study reported at

Be careful, ladies, about bragging to your friends about how much your man is helping with the baby. You may be unwittingly revealing that his testicles are small.

And, note, the scientists can't say which came first, the testicle size or the degree of helping with the baby. So getting the man to help might cause shrinkage of the testicles.

So men, asked to help, might beg off using a testicle-size-maintenance argument. 

The paucity of anti-war protest on Syria.

A candlelight vigil in Berkeley drew "[a]round 100 people."

An elderly crowd, based on the photos.

More photos here.

A Texas appellate court holds the "Improper Photography" law unconstitutional.

This was the case of a man caught with a digital camera containing 73 photographs of children in bathing suits that the prosecutor said "target[ed] the children's breast and buttocks areas."
The law states a person commits an offense if he "photographs or by videotape or other electronic means records, broadcasts, or transmits a visual image of another at a location that is not a bathroom or private dressing room without the other person's consent and with intent to arouse or gratify the sexual desire of any person" or invade their privacy....

"Thompson argues the statute has a substantial impact on free speech because there is no careful delimitation of criminal conduct, but rather anyone who takes photographs of non-consenting persons is at risk of violating the law," [wrote Justice Marialyn Barnard wrote for the Fourth Court of Appeals panel.] "We agree...."...

"...Thompson argues innocent photographers run the risk of being charged with violating the statute because the government is attempting to regulate thought, a freedom protected by the First Amendment,"" Barnard wrote. "We agree...."

I was going to send you to this piece about a fashion designer "pushing" women "into a trap" or "a prehistoric exoskeleton."

It's Robin Givhan expatiating about Thom Browne. She seems to be going overboard.  But then I clicked through to the first picture in the slide show and I'm frozen in horror. Please look at that picture first.

Okay, now, I've settled down, and I think that picture is funny. I'm amused. I can go on with the slideshow. It's quite amazing!

I like this one too. Not as something that could be worn in a real person's life, but as theater. And this.

And — isn't it just perfect? — when the artist emerges, he's a man in shorts!

Back to Givhan. Would you like the job of describing this stuff in a world that has photography? Givhan develops a theme about the literary tradition of portraying women as crazy. It's an old feminist theme. "The Madwoman in the Attic." Were you ever trapped into reading that? Anyway, what does that have to do with Thom Browne?
Browne is not a feminist scholar nor an academic of any sort, but his fashion told a lucid and thoughtful story about constraints, social expectations, and cultural prejudices....

... Browne’s intricate, high-minded gestures served as an invigorating reminder that fashion has the potential to tell stories and raise fundamental questions about how we live our lives. 
After all that, Givhan comes to rest on the same idea anyone flipping through the slide show:
One only wished that Browne had allowed his audience to see more clearly, if only for a moment, something fundamental to a fashion show: What he proposes women wear.
I thought the fashion cognoscenti were aloof from the proletarian question: Who can wear that? When the artist goes this far, it's gauche to ask.

"But dead serious if u don't hear from me at all again tonight, something happened."

Text message sent to a friend by a woman accused of second degree murder, whose husband died in a fall off a cliff in Glacier National Park. Jordan Linn Graham had been married to Cody L. Johnson for about a week.
Graham told police that her husband grabbed her by the arm. She turned and removed it.

"Graham stated she could have just walked away, but due to her anger, she pushed Johnson with both hands in the back and as a result, he fell face first off the cliff," the complaint read.
Who goes walking along a deadly precipice next to someone with whom they have a hot dispute?

"Betcha I can swing my gun around my finger 3 times like a cowboy," says the cop in the worst ad.

From a French horse-racing bookmaker (via Bloggingheads):

Should Wisconsin Democrats go left to challenge Scott Walker?

Here's Paul Fanlund in the Capital Times fretting that Scott Walker-haters will be too mean to Mary Burke, the wealthy moderate who might run as a Democrat in next year's gubernatorial election.

9/11 is not like Washington's Birthday/Lincoln's Birthday.

You're not supposed to use them to promote your commercial enterprise.

A Wisconsin golf course — Tumbledown Trails — advertised a $9.11 special for 9/11. It was, understandably, not well received. It was, in fact, so poorly received that they're considering closing the place on 9/11 to protect employees from the unpleasant things people might say.

Considering war and death, we should object to Washington's Birthday/Lincoln's Birthday advertising. There is some criticism of that now and then, but not much, perhaps because they're from the somewhat distant past, perhaps because we commemorate them on their birthdays — or a day around their birthdays — and not on an anniversary of their suffering.

And then, there's just something about golf. That golf should be played when anything serious is happening!

September 9, 2013

"Unbelievably small."

John Kerry.

She's the new Levi Johnston.

How's he doing now?

ADDED: "Police later said they did not find a gun on Zimmerman's person."

"Who the hell are you?"

"George Zimmerman in police custody after 'threatening his estranged wife and her father with a gun.'"

"Shellie Zimmerman called police in Lake Mary at 2pm on Monday, claiming he was brandishing the weapon at a home belonging to her parents, David and Machelle Dean."

She's just filed for divorce:
"I have supported him for so long and neglected myself for too long and I feel like I'm finally starting to feel empowered again."

She is now wanting custody of their dogs - a Rottweiller named Oso and a mixed breed named Leroy - and a share of the money he gets from a lawsuit against NBC....

It was also revealed this week that she is reaping more than $4,000-a-month from his defense fund despite splitting from him weeks after he was cleared.
And here she is last week on TV:

Protesters heckle Tammy Baldwin on Syria by singing “Which side are you on?” at the Fighting Bob Fest.

Internal divisions on the left.
U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., ... who opposed strikes in Kosovo, Iraq and Libya -- said she would continue asking President Barack Obama’s administration “tough questions” to further the debate. 
She wouldn't say how she would vote.

ADDED: It looked like this:

"At least we know the color of the gun."

Comment posted on this Madison, Wisconsin news report:
Two men entered a Vilas Avenue apartment Sunday night and robbed the three men inside, according to Madison police.

Police said the two robbers were in their teens to early 20s with medium builds and they entered the apartment in the 1200 block of Vilas Avenue at about 11 p.m. One of them carried a black semi-automatic handgun and they ordered the victims to the ground....
I suspect the news media are avoiding what I've termed "counter-Trayvonism," but why tell us the gun is black?

A new Van Gogh. Declared "100 percent genuine" now.

Back in 1908 it was declared a fake and stuck up in an attic.

Hey, if it's really a Van Gogh — from the "mature" period, no less — why wouldn't it be something you'd hang in full view even if you believed it was fake?

Let's contemplate the importance of authenticity. But don't start — as I tried — by Googling that phrase. You'll get bullshit about personal relationships, not art. I wanted bullshit about art.

Being who you really are. That seems like an old-fashioned subject. Something we talked about in the 60s, right?

This topic of personal authenticity took me back to "The Above Ground Sound" of Jake Holmes, specifically "Genuine, Imitation Life" (audio at link):
Chameleons changing colors,
While a crocodile cries.
People rubbing elbows,
But never touching eyes.
Taking off their masks,
Revealing still another guise.
Genuine, imitation life.
That was not a joke, but 100% genuine in 1967. Or... I'm reading the Jake Holmes article at Wikipedia and I'm now not sure that it wasn't a joke. Was he making fun of serious folksingers, making fun of authenticity? A picture from that article raises questions:

What's going on here? Caption: "Jim Connell, Jake Holmes and Joan Rivers when they worked as the team: 'Jim, Jake & Joan.'"

Holmes also wrote the song "Dazed and Confused" (recorded by Led Zeppelin) and many famous advertising jingles, notably "Be a Pepper" and "Be all that you can be." This is blowing my mind. Just that the same guy urged us to "Be all that you can be" (in the Army) and to "Be a Pepper." I'll bet the Army kicked you out back then if they found out you were a Pepper. That's weird. But that he also wrote "Dazed and Confused." And worked with Joan Rivers (and looked like he looked working with Joan Rivers).

Now, I'm questioning the authenticity of that Wikipedia article. But here's a 2010 NYT article about Holmes suing Led Zeppelin for copyright infringement.

Anyway, back to Van Gogh. Think that's a real Van Gogh?

What do you think of that "Van Gogh"? free polls 

ADDED: I found — on YouTube, not in my attic — some Jim, Jake & Joan (from a 1964 movie called "Once Upon A Coffee House"):

The real problem with ending the 3d year of law school: What would happen to the clinics?

Instapundit asks "Should The Third Year Of Law School Be Cut?" which is a link to Paul Caron's excerpts from a set of NYT letters addressing the proposal that President Obama entertained recently.

But Caron's excerpts don't contain what I think would be the real sticking point for law schools. Let me do a different excerpt, with boldface added. From Georgetown lawprof Philip G. Shrag:
Small seminars to teach research and writing would vanish. Education in ethics would be threatened. Clinical education, which best prepares students for the real practice of law, is expensive because of its hands-on approach. It is taught mainly in the third year, and it might be the first to go.
After decades of building up clinical education in law schools, this 2-year approach looks like a devious plan to scrap them. But a second letter, from Hastings lawprof Marsha N. Cohen, makes it look completely different:

"Has the typewriter remained in use because of me... or am I still around because of the typewriter?"

Obituary for a typewriter repairman. Manson Whitlock was 96.

"This one here is the original sinsemilla, Bob Marley's favorite. And this one here is the chocolate skunk. It's special for the ladies."

Pot tourism in Jamaica, modeled on those wine tours people do in northern California.
Here, in Jamaica's verdant central mountains, dreadlocked men escort curious visitors to a farm where deep-green marijuana plants grow out of the reddish soil. Similar tours are offered just outside the western resort town of Negril, where a marijuana mystique has drawn weed-smoking vacationers for decades...

"I can get stronger stuff at home, but there's something really special about smoking marijuana in Jamaica. I mean, this is the marijuana that inspired Bob Marley," said a 26-year-old tourist from Minnesota who only identified herself as Angie as she crumbled some pot into rolling paper.
I have a problem generally with traveling to foreign countries. Is this what they mean by broadening the mind? Isn't it mind-expanding enough to consume the powerful Minnesota marijuana while playing Bob Marley records and contemplating the man who no longer lives anywhere in his natural habitat? Do people from Jamaica journey to Minnesota to think about Prince? (And he's still around. You might entertain the hope of actually seeing him.)

My mind is already sufficiently expanded to contemplate Bob Marley solely by reading about him and remembering hearing his music, and it's also expanded enough to imagine how bad I would feel getting near criminal activity in a foreign country.

I picture: "He was a 20-year-old American boy, up against a system he didn't understand, spoken in a language he couldn't speak...." Can you handle your legal problems in the language of Jamaica?

Yes, of course marijuana is still illegal in Jamaica. Here's another quote from Breezy, the Jamaican pot farmer quoted in the post title:
"The government needs to free up marijuana soon, man, because it's a natural thing, a spiritual thing.... And the tourists love it."
Ah, but what sort of bland old rule-abiding travelers would clog up the place, ruining the ambiance, if it weren't a crime? What's marijuana without the transgressive edge?

"President Obama’s toughest Syria hurdle: The calendar."

Oh no! Our leader, assailed by the calendar!
Obama will sit Monday for interviews for six TV news programs, which will air within an hour of what had promised to be the week’s most highly anticipated Washington event: the NFL Redskins’ season opener against Philadelphia....

If Monday Night Football pushed Obama’s address to the nation on Syria to Tuesday, odds are low for the president to have the nation’s attention to himself the rest of the week either.

The Sept. 11 anniversary comes Wednesday, the same day the Senate could vote for cloture. Yom Kippur begins Friday night.
Oh! That pesky September 11th anniversary, randomly popping up as a "tough hurdle" on Obama's — what's the metaphor? — race toward war! And this year, it's not just the usual anniversary of the day the terrorists declared war on the United States, it's now the first anniversary of the attack in Benghazi. Oh, my lord! The double 9/11 and football.

"A Swedish sociology professor has nominated Edward Snowden for the Nobel Peace Prize..."

"... saying that awarding the former NSA employee would correct Nobel Committee’s mistake in giving the award to President Barack Obama in 2009."

"Naomi Watts says she had to paralyse the right-side of her face to play Princess Diana in a new biopic."

"The 44-year-old actress was so determined to perfect the late Princess of Wales’ mannerisms that she changed the way her mouth moved."
“I didn’t just want to appear like her, it’s also about the tone of her voice and the way she moved her face,” Naomi explains.

“It’s completely the opposite of how I move my face. I move my face on the right-hand side and she moved hers on the left. I had to walk around with a cocktail stick in my mouth to paralyse the right-hand side of my face for weeks.”
Oh, she did it with a stick in her mouth. The headline made me think she used injections.

And isn't it a shame? After all that effort, the movie has putrid reviews. These body modification hijinks get attention from the awards-giving community, but not when the movie is terrible.

Stick in your mouth for weeks, eh? Not quite Christian Bale and "The Machinist," but thanks for playing Win an Oscar.

"Armed police pointed their guns at Prince Andrew and ordered him to 'put your hands up and get on the ground'..."

"... after mistaking him for an intruder in the gardens of Buckingham Palace."
Royal protection officers were said be "jittery" after a genuine intruder had been found in the Palace’s state rooms two days earlier....

[A] royal insider said: “Everyone is talking about these two incidents and can’t quite believe what has happened. The fact that this guy was able to wander off unchallenged and not be spotted by anyone is bad enough. But then to mistake the Duke for another intruder is almost incomprehensible. There is a high turnover of the police on duty at the Palace, but you’d think anyone would know what Prince Andrew looks like."
I've looked at the photo at the link, and I have to say, Prince Andrew looks like some guy. Would you recognize him outside of his natural habitat? Yes, he was in his own "gardens," but if he were unaccompanied and dressed nondescriptly, would you know it was him and not one of the "genuine intruders"?

September 8, 2013

David Gregory moderates an excellent discussion on Syria with David Axelrod, Newt Gingrich, Jane Harman, and Chuck Todd.

On "Meet the Press" today. Gingrich is especially good. Here's his answer to Gregory's question paraphrasing Denis McDonough's argument for the strike ("It's going to be limited. Don't worry. Very, very limited, very targeted. And by the way, if we don't act, Iran, the real enemy, is watching"):
No, look, I thought Denis was very effective, making a bad case. And I think that's their problem. If the strategy is inexplicable to a normal American, we're going to sort of punch you, but we're not going to punch you too hard, and we really would like you to leave, but we don't want you to leave enough to get rid of you, and we hope there's a political solution, although we haven't got a clue what it is. I mean, that's very hard to build momentum for. 
And Harman left a strong impression on me when she said:
But the notion of going to war or launching a limited strike, at least to me, to project American power in a way that deters really bad consequences in Iran and North Korea and so forth is by my rights, the right thing to do. And I think what's going on here, in my view, is all these folks in both parties, especially in the House, are worried about being primaried. The base in each party is against this. I'm sympathetic to that, the economy hasn't rebounded in most parts of the country. They're against it. So these folks think that the reelection, my view, matters more than perhaps taking a principled stand.
Video of the whole segment:

Denis McDonough won't answer those "if" questions.

Today, on all the talking heads shows, Denis McDonough was everywhere, making Obama's case for Syria, and got pushed over with the question what if Congress votes no...

... as captured by the great Crack Skull Bob/Walt Taylor. (Lots more of this morning's heads at that link.)

Wrestling voted back into the Olympics.

"The sport - one of the original disciplines at the Ancient Olympics - had been due to end its Olympic participation at Rio 2016 following its dismissal by the IOC earlier this year."
Wrestling's triumph in the vote follows a number of sweeping reforms made following its exclusion, including overhauling its rules, administration, gender equality and operations.

About that 38-year-old woman extracting egg-freezing money as her husband disentangles himself from the marriage that didn't get her pregnant.

Robert Stacy McCain took issue with my use of the phrase "best fertility years":
Professor Althouse, “the best fertility years of a woman’s life,” from a strictly scientific view, are ages 18-24. After age 27, fertility begins to decline and, in your 30s, that decline accelerates. So by the time Lieberman’s client married at 30, she was past her prime.
I responded:
So, I should have said her last good fertility years. When a woman marries at age 30, she's right if she thinks she's comfortably on track for childbearing. But if she turns out to have difficulty getting pregnant, as this woman did, what seemed like plenty of time can turn into an anxious struggle. I don't know what led to this particular divorce, but needing fertility treatments and enduring them without success must create pressure that some people don't handle very well. There's something very sad about a woman's desire to continue her struggle by extracting support from the husband who failed to make her pregnant. I recommend handling divorce with grace and realism, but a lot of economic advantage-taking can ensue, and you rarely know the whole story of who did what to whom and why a stepped-up legal attack seemed like a good idea. This is, above all, a failed relationship, and you can never see the ground level of that failure.

"They think they know where the targets are, they think they know how to hit it with enough force but not too much force, they think they know how the Russian and the Iranians will react."

"We cannot determine all this. On some level, we’re assuming the reaction from Russia and Iraq and Syria will be zero: We’ll carry out this attacks, and there’ll be no response. This is a bit of a sensitive subject, but the administration has been honest that they have no smoking gun that the attack was ordered by Assad. The evidence of his involvement is circumstantial. We’re two years into a civil war that he’s winning. The Russians and Iranians have told him not to use chemical weapons. Hezbollah has told him not to use chemical weapons because their fighters are at risk. So he’s winning, there’s scant and circumstantial evidence that he ordered the attack. Why are we gaming out his incentives when we don’t know he ordered it?"

Says Alan Grayson, a Democratic congressman from Florida, in an interview with Ezra Klein (who's been doing some excellent interviews lately).

Bloomberg says mayoral candidate de Blasio's campaign is not just "class warfare," it's "racist."

This comes in a New York Magazine interview. The interviewer immediately asks the simple question "Racist?" and Bloomberg says:
Well, no, no, I mean*...
The asterisk goes to a footnote that says they've inserted these words which they can't hear on their audiotape because the mayor's office asked them to.
... he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. 
De Blasio has a black wife and mixed-race offspring, and he uses his family in photo ops and ads.
I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing. I do not think he himself is racist. It’s comparable to me pointing out I’m Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote. You tailor messages to your audiences and address issues you think your audience cares about.
That doesn't make the campaign "racist"! He could have said "racial" or "race conscious."
But his whole campaign is that there are two different cities here. And I’ve never liked that kind of division. The way to help those who are less fortunate is, number one, to attract more very fortunate people. They are the ones that pay the bills. The people that would get very badly hurt here if you drive out the very wealthy are the people he professes to try to help. Tearing people apart with this “two cities” thing doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s a destructive strategy for those you want to help the most. He’s a very populist, very left-wing guy, but this city is not two groups, and if to some extent it is, it’s one group paying for services for the other.

It’s a shame, because I’ve always thought he was a very smart guy.
And it's a shame that Bloomberg said "racist" and dragged in the man's wife and kids, because he's got an important message here — warning New Yorkers away from excessive leftism. What a gift to de Blasio!
At an appearance in Brooklyn on Saturday with his wife and their 18-year-old daughter, Chiara, Mr. de Blasio called Mr. Bloomberg’s remarks “very, very unfortunate and inappropriate.”

“I’m exceedingly proud of my family,” he added. “I hope the mayor will reconsider what he said. I hope he realizes it was inappropriate.”

In her response to the mayor’s comments about her husband’s campaign, Ms. McCray said, “Do I look like an inanimate object? Or a tool? I walk, I talk and make my own decisions.”

Obama submits to 6 interrogations on Syria — by Diane Sawyer (ABC), Scott Pelley (CBS), Wolf Blitzer (CNN), Chris Wallace (Fox), Brian Williams (NBC), and Gwen Ifill (PBS).

Why is he doing this?

1. It gives each network something unique of its own to show on the night before Obama does his live address, so maybe this was part of a deal to insure that they'd all preempt regular programming for the live address.

2. It acknowledges our skepticism not only about Syria but about the journalists who have coddled and promoted him to us for so many years. Putting them in competition with each other creates an incentive for somebody not to be a lackey. 

3. It makes him look strong, alert, and vital in the midst of many observations that Obama looks tired and weak.

4. If he's so vigorous and ready to go to war, maybe Americans who say we're tired of war will rouse ourselves.

5. We're not just tired of war, we're tired of those damned journalists, but isn't there one person on that list of 6 that you're not tired of?

6. At least you can't accuse him of dodging the tough questioner on some other network. He's submitting to Fox too. (But Chris Wallace is kind of a sweetheart. Look at him here.)

ADDED: It's also possible that Obama, knowing the vote on Syria is already lost, is using the occasion to set up the congressional vote so that it will work to the best advantage of Democrats in the 2014 elections.

There's "a line between rhetorical hyperbole and defamation."

Said the court that let the climate scientist Michael Mann — he of the "hockey stick" — to continue with his lawsuit against the National Review. 
The court...  pointed to terminology such as “whitewashed,” “intellectually bogus,” “ringmaster of the [tree]-ring circus” and “cover-up” as “more than rhetorical hyperbole.”
The linked article miscorrects the joke "tree-ring circus" to "three-ring circus." Here's the blog post  that drove Mann to file a lawsuit — Mark Steyn calling attention to some football-and-hockey bad-taste humor.

"[T]he more exquisitely gender-sensitive the school environment became, the less resemblance it bore to the real business world."

"'Are we trying to change the world 900 students at a time, or are we preparing students for the world in which they are about to go?' a female professor asked."