October 12, 2013

2 God Dogs.

Zeus and Ares:

Video by Meade.

"And Mr. Chandor can verify to skeptics Mr. Redford’s claim that his hair remains naturally Hubbell strawberry blond."

"His locks survived the months of sun and chlorine, with no colorist in sight," writes Maureen Dowd in that NYT article that we're already talking about in that first post of the day.
“No one believes me,” Mr. Redford said. “Even my kids didn’t believe me. I keep thinking of Reagan. It’s freaking me out.”
Chandor is J. C. Chandor, the director of Redford's new movie, "All Is Lost," which is a seafaring tale, hence the "sun and chlorine."

Dowd doesn't say whether she believes him, but she quotes "No one believes me" without stating her view. She has the mysterious line "Mr. Chandor can verify," but did she ask Mr. Chandor, and who can believe that Mr. Chandor watched Mr. Redford at all times? Who thinks Ronald Reagan didn't dye his hair? But it's nice of Robert Redford to keep thinking about Ronald Reagan. These slow-aging Hollywood RRs need to stick together with their age-defying secrets.

What does Hubbell refer to in "naturally Hubbell strawberry blond"? The Hubbell telescope? "There are no 'natural color' cameras aboard the Hubble and never have been. The optical cameras on board have all been digital CCD cameras, which take images as grayscale pixels." It's Hubble, not Hubbell, so it can't be that — though I'm interested in the fakeness of all those colorful photographs of the universe that we've been looking at all these years.

Here's the atheist Christopher Hitchens burbling about "the color and depth and majesty" of the Hubble photographs as he urges us to see the revelations of science as more awe-inspiring than the old stories told by religions:

"Now the moon is almost hidden/The stars are beginning to hide/The fortune-telling lady/Has even taken all her things inside."

Just an old Bob Dylan lyric that crossed my mind writing the previous post.

And here's the Jefferson Airplane song that I linked to in the second paragraph of the first post today, on the words: "You're only pretty as you feel." That link goes to a nice "extended outtake" of "Pretty As You Feel," which should remind old Baby Boomers of the pleasant languors of psychedelic rock concerts circa 1970.

By the way, it always bothered me when an artist that I liked to think of as hip and cool built a song around some old adage or platitude, especially when the saying was sung over and over and with apparent sincerity. Think of some other examples. Here's the one that hardened my hatred for this half-assed lyric-writing: "It's nature's way of telling you something's wrong."

Did Bob Dylan ever do that? I can't think of any examples, and I ask Meade — whose head is a bigger storehouse of Dylan lyrics than mine — and he can't either.

When does someone who's selling services as a "psychic" deserve to be prosecuted for committing a crime?

In NYC, the government prosecuted a fortune teller — Sylvia Mitchell, 39 — who worked in some storefront in Greenwich Village. The jury convicted her and she could be sentenced to as much as 15 years in prison. The charges were larceny and a scheme to defraud.
During a weeklong trial, prosecutors portrayed Ms. Mitchell as a clever swindler who preyed on distraught people, promising them that she could alleviate their troubles through prayer and meditation to remove what she called “negative energy” and rectify problems that arose from their “past lives.”
In my book, this is entertainment and unconventional psychological therapy. Let the buyer beware. Who's dumb enough to actually believe this? Should the government endeavor to protect everyone who succumbs to the temptation to blow a few bucks on a fortune teller? But this was a case where there were a couple victims who somehow had enough money to make their losses nontrivial. One woman gave Mitchell $27,000 in what was portrayed as an "exercise in letting go of money." Another put $18,000 in a jar as a way to relieve herself of "negative energy."
Both women admitted on the stand under cross-examination that they were deeply skeptical of Ms. Mitchell’s techniques, but paid her anyway, suggesting that they were never tricked into thinking the psychic had the power to better their lives, [Mitchell's lawyer] said.

But an assistant district attorney, James Bergamo, described Ms. Mitchell as an expert at discovering people’s vulnerabilities and scaring them into handing over their cash. It mattered little, he argued in his summation, if Ms. Mitchell’s clients believed what she said about their past lives or negative spirits: the important fact was that they believed she would return their money. “The facts scream scam,” he said.
In Stupid World, no one can hear facts screaming. 

"I don’t see myself as beautiful. I was a kid who was freckle-faced, and they used to call me 'hay head.'"

Said Robert Redford, who also reports that when he was 18, studying art in Italy and France, the women there did not find him attractive.

So — if we can believe that — even the prettiest pretty boy may still fall within the shadow of the old adage "You're only pretty as you feel."

Now, after years of recognition as incredibly good-looking — he's 77 — he says:
"And I guess the nice thing about getting older is that you don’t have that [beauty] quite so much anymore. I never had a problem with my face on screen. I thought it is what it is, and I was turned off by actors and actresses that tried to keep themselves young."
That face is the only face we get to see in his new movie — "All Is Lost" — in which he's (apparently) the only actor.  I've seen the trailer. He's lost at sea. Tom Hanks is also having lonesome, though not that lonesome, trouble at sea in a big movie this fall, and Sandra Bullock is alone in a space suit, bereft even of gravity in a grave situation in "Gravity."

It must say something about us that we're being presented with tales of rugged individualists far adrift from any foundation. Did we ask for that? It's what Hollywood decided, back when this fall's movies were given the go, that we'd need in the Fall of 2013. There's no reason to give much credence to Hollywood's notion of who we are right now. Hollywood thought we were the Lone Ranger and Tonto last summer, and the people said no. Perhaps the Lone Ranger isn't lone enough for our alienated psyches. He had Tonto. Where's my sidekick? the public that shunned "The Lone Ranger" might have thought. How can we identify with his loneliness when he has Johnny Depp?

Robert Redford famously had a sidekick, Paul Newman, in the 2 movies that made him seem to be even more handsome than the already-impossibly-handsome Paul Newman — "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting." And Redford did have another movie in the works with Newman — a movie version of Bill Bryson's "A Walk in the Woods" (my second-most-listened-to audiobook). Newman died 5 years ago, but now the news is that it will be made with the not-always-completely-cute Nick Nolte. If you know the book, you may agree with me that Nolte seems more like Bryson's "Walk in the Woods" sidekick Stephen Katz than does Paul Newman.

You might think Newman was more like Katz because he was (half) Jewish. ("Newman had no religion as an adult, but described himself as a Jew, saying, 'it's more of a challenge.'") Nolte, on the other hand, is (apparently) a man disconnected from any particular religion. ("'Where’s God?' You’re gonna kill yourself with that. You’ll never be able to answer that.")

But Bryson's Katz — despite the distinctively Jewish name — is not Jewish, as Bryson reveals in his memoir of childhood, "The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid" (my most-listened-to audiobook):
Some years ago when I came to apply a pseudonym to one of my boyhood friends, I chose the name Stephen Katz partly in honor of a Des Moines drugstore called Katz’s, which was something of a local institution in my childhood, and partly because I wanted a short name that was easy to type. Never did it occur to me that the name was Semitic. I never thought of anybody in Des Moines as being Jewish. I don’t believe anyone did. Even when they had names like Wasserstein and Liebowitz, it was always a surprise to learn they were Jewish. Des Moines wasn’t a very ethnic place.

Anyway, Katz wasn’t Jewish. He was Catholic.
You've come to the end of this longish first-post-of-the-day, and maybe you're wondering, What are we supposed to talk about now? The issues are: beauty, aging, loneliness, sidekicks, floating adrift without foundation, the extent to which Hollywood may know who we really are, and Where's God?

October 11, 2013

Nude descending a staircase.

Is this helping anyone?


This stairwell is gloomy and deserted, and a nude that's more studiously analytical might enliven the minds of the enlibraried souls, but this is so literal and depressing for everyone. It's a flappy slap in the face as you hit the landing:


In the same stairwell — stare well — you get this:


Closer, with alienating reflections from fluorescent lights:


"What’s the best book about the law ever written?"

A question asked of Scott Turow, who answers: 
“A Theory of Justice,” by John Rawls. It’s not beach reading, but I don’t know of a more lucid articulation of the intuitions many of us share about what is just. Among works of fiction, Melville’s “Billy Budd” would be my first choice, especially in the present day, when the sexual undertones that once dared not speak their name are so apparent.
Because if you want to do some great law writing, you're going to want those sexual undertones. 

Also, I'm interested that Turow cites of "The Count of Monte Cristo" as the book that has had "the greatest impact" him, because that was my father's favorite book. Apparently, it's quite thrilling. I've never read it. I'm adding that to my Kindle. Why have I always resisted reading the one book my father encouraged me to read? How would my life had been different if I yielded to just that one suggestion (let alone all the other things my father would have encouraged)?

"[S]olemn words from the formerly boisterous figure, a bear of a man at 6 feet 4 inches who many believed would lead Detroit out of its long economic downturn."

"But on Thursday he stood slouched, wearing a tan prison uniform instead of the flashy suits he once favored. Court officers replaced the entourage of bodyguards that used to follow him around. The diamond that once studded his ear, an emblem of his reputation as the 'hip-hop mayor,' was gone."

The NYT evokes twinges of racial discomfort — am I too sensitive? — in its reporting on the sentencing of Kwame Kilpatrick. He got 28 years.

At the Straight-and-Curly Café...

... you can promenade across the horizon or get right up in our face.

(Video by Meade.)

"The Screwtape Letters" is not an egg salad sandwich.

In yesterday's Boardwalk Café, Saint Croix said:
I should have said this in the Scalia post — the devil made me not do it — but one of the interesting things about The Screwtape Letters is the insight that a devil is simply an angel with free will.

Thus if you believe in an afterlife — and an overwhelming number of people believe in an afterlife — you should acknowledge devils. They are simply angels who are in rebellion with God. Which God allows, because God believes in free will for humanity.

What a fantastic book The Screwtape Letters is.

I would pay money for Althouse to blog that book!
Pay money to get me to blog about something? That's been done... to get me to eat an egg salad sandwich. I'd written a post — back in 2005 — listing "10 things I've never done," and #2 was "Eaten egg salad, devilled eggs, or cold hard-boiled eggs" — hmm, interesting second appearance of the Devil in this post! — and somehow that led to my saying you'd have to pay me $200 to eat an egg salad sandwich, and some commenters got together and collected $200 and PayPal'd it to me, and I blogged — vlogged! — The Eating of the Egg Salad Sandwich.

But I didn't want to eat an egg salad sandwich. Reading the "Screwtape Letters" is something I would like to do. I read it years ago — and I'm old so that "years ago" in the history of Althouse is almost half a century ago — but I'd like to read it again, especially with the ability to blog it and the context of Scalia's recent remarks about it.

So I added it to my Kindle. You can add it too: here. And if you use that link, you'll be sending me a little money (without paying more). If you like this blog, you can funnel money to me by entering Amazon through the Althouse portal and buying something, anything, at some point before clicking away. But to get me to blog on specific topics, you could attempt the Egg Salad Method. That might work for some things — bloggable, vloggable things, for the right price. You could also just ask, as Saint Croix did, and it might work, if I'm interested enough. This blog is all and only about what interests me.

So I bought "The Screwtape Letters" and read a few pages last night. Here's the first thing I highlighted, and I'll put it here out of context, because you know that I like isolating sentences from their context — so sue me — for the purposes of discussion. That's what we did last winter with The Gatsby Project, which actually has one post that got the "egg salad" tag. It was the post with the "salads of harlequin designs." Remember?

I'm not saying these "Screwtape Letters" posts will only be isolated sentences in the manner of The Gatsby Project. But I am getting us started with this sentence, as the devil Screwtape advises his nephew devil on how to screw with some human being, referred to as "the patient":
"By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?"

The Morning Meade-dog.


The newest in the endless stream of photographs Meade took at the Capital Springs Dog Park.

I love the use of shadow... and tongue...

"Why is your logo a pair of Y Fronts?"

"I had never heard of Y-Fronts, so I wrote it off and scrolled right past. But they kept coming…"

I got there from here: "A data company turns an unusual branding issue into a case study: does its logo looks like a pair of men’s underpants?"

ADDED: What's worse making your logo accidentally look like men's underpants? Making it accidentally look like the contents of men's underpants. I first blogged that link back in 2005, when we laughed until we cried.

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons wins the Nobel Peace Prize, I say, and Meade says: "That's a slam on Obama."

"Why?" I ask, and he says, "Obama was going to go to war over chemical weapons. They're trying to say: Maybe we shouldn't have given you the Peace Prize." Hmm. I read the NYT article:
Urging the destruction of “an entire category” of unconventional weapons, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded its 2013 Peace Prize on Friday to a relatively modest and little-known United Nations-backed body that has drawn sudden attention with a mission to destroy Syria’s stocks of chemical arms under a deal brokered by Russia and the United States.
"Don't we need to look at their explanation of why they gave the prize." I mean, it could be more of a statement about how bad chemical weapons are — which would align with what Obama's been saying. But it could be about how there are peaceful ways to go about eliminating chemical weapons, which might be phrased in a manner that disapproves of Obama.

But look what we are doing! It's what everybody's been doing for the last 5 years: Making everything about Obama. The sun rises in the morning, and what does it mean for Obama? A bird twitters in a treetop, and what is he saying about Obama?
The chemical attack outside Damascus initially drew an American threat of military reprisal before Moscow and Washington reached a compromise arrangement to seek the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stocks under international supervision.

Thorbjorn Jagland, the former Norwegian prime minister who is chairman of the panel, said chemical weapons had been used by Hitler’s armies in their campaign of mass extermination and on many other occasions by states and terrorists. He denied that the award to a body based in The Hague represented a Eurocentric shift after last year’s award to the European Union. “It’s global,” he said.
Nothing like denial to point the way to the truth?

What does this year's Peace Prize say about Obama?
pollcode.com free polls 

October 10, 2013

At the Black-and-White Café...


... you can find perfect harmony.

"Insane Tourists Blatantly Defying The U.S. Government’s Demands."

Can't they read!
People. The Washington Monument is CLOSED. Quit posing with it!
You know, last Sunday, I got out of the car to take this picture, and somehow it didn't occur to me until I got home that I should have walked around that thing just to be funny.


I'm such a rule-follower!

ADDED: I show this post to Meade and he says — quoting me from an old story about something I said to the cops in the 1980s — "You can't close the park, man." Or, no, wait. I didn't say that to the cops. Fallible memory! I said that after the cops told us a park that had no walls or gates was closed. We meekly got in the car and left, but I did my imitation of a hippie backtalking to a cop, in the safety of the car: "You can't close the park, man." I'm normally duly submissive in a cop situation.

"[T]he most distastefully bro-worshiping, wife-fearing season yet."

Linda Holmes at NPR with 10 elaborate reasons why "Sexism Is Silently Killing 'Survivor.'"
10. And finally, just as a general matter, this season has been almost entirely a story of men being unpleasant and dismissive of women.... You cannot sell, season after season after season, the idea that it is a coincidence that your show is morphing into a grody love letter not to men, but to bullies.
Oh, but that's what's so fun, when they get their comeuppance.

At the Boardwalk Café...


... come on out.

Bill Maher, anti-science?

"Stand-up comedian and television host Bill Maher called more than 100,000 Madison-area numbers Tuesday to warn University of Wisconsin-Madison students, faculty and the Madison community about animal cruelty in campus research labs.... But the university said in a statement Tuesday the claims have no factual basis...."

"Racism of Sports Logos Put Into Context By American Indian Group."

"The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) published a powerful poster..."
... featuring two baseball hats that each have a stereotypical racist image of a Jewish man and Chinese man to show it has the same connotation as the Cleveland Indians.

The hats were titled “New York Jews” and “San Francisco Chinamen.”

It's an effective poster, you have to admit. It says: You'd never accept those other stereotypes, so why do you accept this?

"Since Shirley Sherrod is going after Andrew Breitbart's widow..."

"... here's a Pigford roundup."


"Beauty is often treated as an essentially feminine subject, something trivial and frivolous that women are excessively concerned with."

"Men, meanwhile, are typically seen as having a straightforward and uncomplicated relationship with it: they are drawn to it."
The implication is that this may be unfortunate — not exactly ideal morally — but it can’t be helped, because it’s natural, biological. This seems more than a little ironic. Women are not only subject to a constant and exhausting and sometimes humiliating scrutiny — they are also belittled for caring about their beauty, mocked for seeking to enhance or to hold onto their good looks, while men are just, well, being men.
Women have the power to rebalance things, but they are too nice/decorous/deceitful to do it. We would need to become more expressive of our desire for beauty in our male partners. If it's really true that men subject us to a constant and exhausting and sometimes humiliating scrutiny, then we could do the same to them. I don't think it's really that bad — constant and exhausting and humiliating — but we could put the same amount of pressure on men.

Men who seek other men seem to be putting much more pressure on each other than women put on heterosexual men. You might say that's because men desire beauty more than women do, but I think it's more that women hold back from demanding what they want.

We are hoodwinked into trying to be nice (which produces results that aren't necessarily that nice). So here we are, working at both beauty and niceness in ourselves, instead of demanding — and perhaps getting — beauty from men.

How about more direct expression and honesty? Women, like men, love beauty. Stop denying that you want it, and stop complaining that you don't have enough of it for yourself. What's really "trivial and frivolous" is endlessly fantasizing that other people are making you fritter away hours looking at yourself in the mirror and fiddling. Own your vanity, revel in it, laugh at it, or reject it, but move on to other activities, like finding a man who's as beautiful as you are.

AND: By saying "as beautiful as you are," I am not bullshitting that all women are beautiful. If you insist on getting someone who is more beautiful than you are, how is that going to work? You may say that men are looking for women who are more beautiful than they are, but that's my point. Why should that work? If you think it works because men sweeten the deal with money, that's something you might use to deepen your contemplation during that otherwise possibly frivolous time you spend at the mirror.

"This bill is bad for Mukwonago taxpayers, bad for the Republican Party and its reputation for having a race problem, bad for Scott Walker if he aspires to the national stage..."

"... but most importantly this bill is bad for children. You will be doing a favor to everyone including Mukwonago and your own Republican Party if you let this horribly racist legislation die a peaceful death in committee."

Try to think of what the bill in question could be. It's pending in the Wisconsin legislature. It's not the bill discussed in the previous post, which was about creating a new basis for lawsuit. This one is actually about repealing an existing basis for lawsuits. Here's another quote about the bill:
“There’s an elephant in the room that needs to be addressed directly. The elephant in the room is white Republican racism... Some have called [this bill] the ‘most racist legislation of the current generation.... That could be the kiss of death for a politician having national aspirations...” 
The politician with national aspirations is Scott Walker. What is this law that would put the stink of racism on Scott Walker and wreck his career?

Authorizing alcohol sellers to sue underage buyers — and their parents — for $1,000 and legal fees.

It's the Brown Jug Bill, which passed yesterday in the Wisconsin state senate.

Oh! The discord that awaits, driving wedges into the traditional relationships of parent and child and liquor buyer and liquor seller.

"More tongues than a Miley Cyrus concert. Thank Dog they're not twerking!"

Clyde comments on the dogs.

By the way, can you identify the breed of the dog in the first photo (at the link, above)? The second photo is obvious, and the beautiful face in the third is what happens when you don't worry so much about breeding.

And here's another dog, a new puppy in town:

Alice Munro wins the Nobel Prize in Literature.

"Alice Munro, the renowned Canadian short-story writer whose visceral work explores the tangled relationships between men and women, small-town existence and the fallibility of memory, won the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. Ms. Munro, 82, is the 13th woman to win the prize."

Is that interesting or exciting? I can't remember if I've ever read anything of hers. Were there stories in The New Yorker back in the 1970s, when it seemed important to read delicately honed observations of what men and women were doing in their relationships? I can't remember if there were or even why it seemed important back then, when it quite obviously isn't doesn't anymore.

Let's see what The New Yorker is saying about this. They're highlighting an interview from 2012:
In your stories, there is often a stigma attached to any girl who attracts attention to herself—individualism, for women, is seen as a shameful impulse....

I was brought up to believe that the worst thing you could do was “call attention to yourself,” or “think you were smart.”...

You’ve written so much about young women who feel trapped in marriage and motherhood and cast around for something more to life....

It wasn’t the housework or the children that dragged me down. I’d done housework all my life. It was the sort of open rule that women who tried to do anything so weird as writing were unseemly and possibly neglectful....

I’m sure this is an irritating question, but do you consider yourself a feminist writer?

I never think about being a feminist writer, but of course I wouldn’t know. I don’t see things all put together in that way. I do think it’s plenty hard to be a man. Think if I’d had to support a family, in those early years of failure?

October 9, 2013

At the Dog Park Café...

... you can talk about anything you want, but I'd like to show you the pictures Meade took there today:

"Reich is a proven fabulist... But we're interested in the supposed moral of the parable of Reich's Disgusted Imaginary Friend..."

Writes James Taranto, after Robert Reich claims to have an "old friend who has been active in politics for more than 30 years" who says he's "giving up," because he "can't stomach what's going on in Washington anymore."

Disgusted Imaginary Friend has "better things to do with my life."

What are your imaginary friends — human and mollusk — saying about the mess in Washington?

What have we here?


The door is not locked...




Fending off the genderistic nonsense about Janet Yellen.

"For years, the Federal Reserve has been led by men who had a scientistic view of monetary policy. These men – including Paul Volcker, Alan Greenspan, and Ben Bernanke... – viewed the job of running the country's economy as if they were dealing with chemical reactions or physics experiments," writes Kevin Roose, in a New York Magazine piece titled "Welcome to the Humanist Federal Reserve, Led By Janet Yellen."
[Janet Yellen] looks at the economy not just as a series of charts and figures, but as a moving, breathing organism, a collection of millions of people who are struggling to make their lives better today than they were yesterday.
Roose — who refrains from saying he attributes Yellen's difference to her gender difference — cites a Yellen speech at an AFL-CIO-sponsored conference that he says is "a remarkable look at the empathy she brings to policy-making." Empathy... visualizing the economy as a moving, breathing organism....

"If Congress tried to limit spending by newspapers, the courts would reject such meddling as a blatant violation of the First Amendment."

"Likewise if Congress tried to accomplish its goal indirectly by limiting the amount of money newspapers receive from advertisers," Jacob Sullum begins his explanation of the campaign finance case that was argued in the Supreme Court yesterday.

"I had no plan. I did have a lot of tolerance for confusion and contingency..."

"... a deep belief in dialogue and open debate, a love of experimentation and spontaneity, a fascination with particularity, an instinct for action, a willingness to dance the dialectic with some abandon, and an abiding faith in ordinary people as agents, actors, and history makers."

Think about that and note your reaction before clicking through. Then click, read, and come back here and, if you please, comment.

"Thanksgiving Under Attack From Hanukkah."

The 2 holidays arrive on the same day this year.

Mary Burke's job-creation claim rated "Half True."

By the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's fact-checker.
The numerical part of the claim is on target -- Burke’s tenure was pre-recession and despite gains Wisconsin has not yet rebounded to 2007 levels. But Burke overstates the credit that she and Doyle deserve for the 2007 figure, and skips past the recession that helps explain the statistical truth.
Burke, the Democratic challenger to Scott Walker in the 2014 Wisconsin gubernatorial race, was Commerce Secretary under Doyle, the Democratic Governor who was in office until January 2011. Since Burke left in the end of 2007, she's able to make statement about her time in office that distract us from from the fact that there were 3 more years of Doyle, and the bad numbers in those years can't be pinned on Walker.

ADDED:  Typo in the headline corrected. I apologize for creating the false hope that there could be something called a "job-creation clam."

Scott Walker gives up fighting for the permit requirement for protests in the Capitol.

Under pressure from an ACLU lawsuit.
Under the new rules, groups must notify the DOA of a gathering of 12 or more people two business days before the event takes place. The notification may be sent by phone, email, in person or by a state form, according to the statement. There is no limit on the number of notifications groups and individuals can submit.
That's a good resolution of the problem. There's a long tradition of spontaneous protests in the Wisconsin Capitol building, and the permit requirement interfered with it. Yeah, sometimes the protests get way out of hand, and the building does require security that varies when a lot of people show up at once, but focus on those real issues. Don't have a policy that's designed — or seems to be designed — to suppress spontaneity.

Taunting the litigious.

Seems dangerous.

"Ann could drop her camera and it would somehow take an amazing photograph. Some people just have the eye."

"I'm not jealous, its just that I would have to take two or three hundred photos to come up with one of Ann's throwaway overnight thread pics."

Said Jimmy in yesterday's "Yellow-and-Red Café," which features a photograph that — Jimmy doesn't realize — was one of 200 shots I took on a single walk through Horicon Marsh the other day.

"President Barack Obama sustained an hour-long press conference today without a single question about his signature healthcare law..."

"... and the glitches that continue to plague the insurance exchanges -- a point that frustrated several conservatives."

Ha ha. Conservatives got frustrated. That's funny. Meanwhile, Obama sustained an hour-long grilling by his fans. What an icon of endurance!

And those poor dumb conservatives. I can just see the steam coming out of their ears. They are such losers. They are losing the shutdown. I read that everywhere in the fan magazines.

She said, sarcastically.

Hey, remember civility?

I remember when liberals were pushing civility in public discourse. I made the tag "civility bullshit" for this topic right away, because I knew it was bullshit, and this morning it seems that everywhere I look on the web, I'm seeing inflammatory rhetoric from liberals. Here are 3 things I happened to see first thing today:

1. "Right-wing nutjobs’ last stand: The debt limit endgame arrives/As the debt limit deadline approaches, conservatives are trotting out the real nonsense. The fantasy is almost over." That's a headline at Salon for an article by Brian Beutler. Apparently, at Salon, they think news analysis is just fine when it calls leaders in the political party they disapprove of "right-wing nutjobs." Does Beutler deserve that presentation? I don't know. Maybe Salon is just fighting for clicks in this crazy world.

2. And here's President Obama, the man who lectured us about civil discourse after the Tucson massacre, talking about the shutdown/debt ceiling problem, and he's using crime as a metaphor: "Think about it this way... The American people do not get to demand a ransom for doing their jobs." Why should we think about it that way? We're supposed to see the Republicans as kidnapping... I don't know... somebody. The Republicans are elected members of Congress, which makes the decisions about spending. They're having a hell of a time getting through this decision, but what makes it crime-like? The comments at that link, which goes to the NYT, pick up the President's cue. One comment — a NYT pick, highly rated by readers —  begins: "President Obama is right. He should not be forced to negotiate with a rope around his neck." Suddenly, the metaphor is lynching.

3. "Will the Supreme Court Allow the Richest Donors to Corrupt American Politics Even More?" That's a front-page teaser at Slate leading to "Poor Little Rich Guys/The Supreme Court clamors to protect the right of Richie Rich, Scrooge McDuck, and the Koch brothers to further corrupt American politics." The article is by Dahlia Lithwick, who's been describing Supreme Court oral arguments for years. She's reporting on yesterday's argument in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which is a challenge to the limit on how much a person can donate to various candidates. It's not about how much you can give to any single candidate, just the ceiling on total contributions, when you're spreading money around to many candidates. (The limit is $48,600 every 2 years.) Richie Rich? Scrooge McDuck? Will Slate allow the stupidest bullshit to erode American minds even more?

You know who's also rich? In addition to those characters from comic books that Baby Boomers read when they were children? The owners of the Washington Post and the New York Times. How about a law that puts a ceiling on how much they are allowed to spend putting out their political speech? Poor little rich guys. Boo hoo. Who cares? Fuck them, she said, sarcastically.

"At the heart of this quest was an ancient idea, the concept of symmetry, and how it was present in the foundations of physics but hidden in the world as we experience it."

"In art and nature, something is symmetrical if it looks the same when you move it one way or another, like a snowflake rotated 60 degrees; in science and math, a symmetry is something that does not change when you transform the system, like the length of an arrow when you turn it around or shoot it."

October 8, 2013

The Supreme Court oral argument today in the federal campaign finance law limiting total contributions an individual may make to various candidates.

Adam Liptak thinks the Court is divided "along familiar ideological lines" and "prepared to strike down" the law:
“By having these limits, you are promoting democratic participation,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. “Then the little people will count some.”

Justice Antonin Scalia responded, sarcastically, that he assumed “a law that only prohibits the speech of 2 percent of the country is O.K.”
Scalia responded "sarcastically." Why an adverb for Scalia's statement and not for Ginsburg's? It seems biased not to spread the adverbs around on both sides of the "familiar ideological line." Journalism should be judged by the fairness of the distribution of adverbs.

Help Adam Liptak give adverbial equality to Justice Ginsburg.
pollcode.com free polls 

UPDATE: Adam Liptak emails to say: "I meant to signal that he was saying the opposite of what he meant. The quoted words standing alone would mislead the casual reader. It also seemed to me to capture his tone." I know that was the function of the adverb, but it seems to me that the NYT is continually nudging us to view Scalia as mean/nasty... and I was having a little fun with it.

At the Yellow-and-Red Café...


... you can talk about whatever you like.

"This is the wave of the future in archeology."

The new archeology is the archeology of all the stuff that's accumulated within the collections of archaeology departments.

Normally, we admire actors whose performance looks like real life. But if it's actually real...

... and we're being scammed into thinking it's acting, there's no performance that can impress us, only the illusion of performance.

Once you know it's real, you can't admire the acting. You could admire the nerve of the performers to go through the ordeal, but only if they chose to do it that way. Were they paid enough? Did they willingly submit to whatever surprises the filmmaker had in store for them? Did they know there were limits to what would be imposed on them? What power did they have to draw the line?

What if you knew that the actress in a rape scene had no idea what the scene would be and a willing actor was directed to rape her on the set? Assume that afterwards, she was convinced that it worked to produce what looks like a great acting performance, for which she might receive an Oscar, and she was persuaded to keep the director's methodology secret. But the truth slipped out somehow. Would you refuse to see the movie because of the way it was made? If others chose to see it, would you denounce them as moral cretins?

Related questions:

What did Alfred Hitchcock do to Tippi Hedren to produce the footage that became the movie "The Birds"?

Should an actor get drunk to play drunk?

Do we prefer to watch love scenes with actors who really love each other or actors who have to act like they love someone they hate?

Did Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie fall in love because they got so deeply into the roles they were playing in "Mr. & Mrs. Smith" and never found their way back to their previous personas?

If an actor stays in character for months — on set and off — is that acting or something like madness?

Are very young children playing movie roles undeserving of acting credit because their performances arise out of their childish inability to distinguish fantasy from reality?

What do they say to little child actors to make them cry and emote?  

Were animals harmed in the making of that movie?

"New Study Says That Lesbians Hold Hands Better."

A headline at Slate marks the emergence of a new rule in reporting on scientific studies: Where a difference is shown between gay and straight people, portray what is true of gay people to be better.

What's bad about the way heterosexual people hold hands? There's a "dominant" position, and the man takes it. That's funny. I always thought there's a more comfortable position and the man lets me take it. Am I supposed to feel all subordinated retrospectively?

"But you don’t think that the proof is in the pudding at all? It is such a brilliant film."

"Yeah, because you can see that we were really suffering. With the fight scene, it was horrible. She was hitting me so many times, and [the director] was screaming, 'Hit her! Hit her again!'"

"In America, we’d all be in jail.... She was really hitting me. And once she was hitting me, there were people there screaming, 'Hit her!' and she didn’t want to hit me, so she’d say sorry with her eyes and then hit me really hard."

It's hard for me to get past "The proof is in the pudding."

No, it isn't.
Yes, I selected that quote for the headline — I had my reasons — despite the presence of a cliché — normally, I filter out clichés — and a particularly bad cliché, since it's a corruption. Like "You can't have your cake and eat it too," it's a cliché that has superseded an earlier cliché that made more sense. Here's a couple of NPR guys talking about it:

October 7, 2013

At the Wetlands Café...


... you can talk all night.

"He Beat Us in War but Never in Battle."

Excellent headline for a column (written by John McCain) about Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap, who died last week.

Mary Burke will challenge Scott Walker in the 2014 election for Wisconsin governor.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.
Mary Burke, a former Trek Bicycle Corp. executive and state Commerce secretary, ended months of speculation Monday by announcing in a web video that she is running for the Democratic nomination to challenge Gov. Scott Walker.

As a millionaire, she brings substantial personal money to the race, giving her a leg up in fundraising that delights many Democrats but also provides a potential critique for Republicans.
Here's the video, heavy on the Trek bicycle branding and soft piano music — which of course adds up to the theme of promoting business and ending discord.

Do you feel bullied by all those lists of things you supposedly must do before you die?

I don't. As soon as you remind me that I'm going to die, I feel like: What's the point of spending my precious and dwindling time trying to pack up a storehouse of memory that will be entirely obliterated? The mind is not a museum or a library to be curated and preserved. I feel inspired more than ever to reject a phony sense of obligation and live for the day.

But if you feel bullied by these 100-things-to-read/see/do-before-you-die lists, read this and this.

What Justice Scalia really means when he says he believes in the Devil.

About halfway her wonderful interview with Justice Scalia, after some discussion of homosexuality in legal and in Catholic doctrine, Jennifer Senior pushes the old judge to worry about how history will look back on his era of the Court. The first prompt — "Justice ­Kennedy is now the Thurgood Marshall of gay rights" — gets merely a nod. She tries again, with another non-question: "I don’t know how, by your lights, that’s going to be regarded in 50 years." He says doesn't know and he doesn't care:
Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it. 
Some might hear "standing athwart" homosexual rights and get an amusingly unintentionally sexual picture of Scalia straddling gay men. But I assume it's an allusion to William F. Buckley's famous 1955 mission statement for The National Review: "It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it." The topic was history, you know. And who else says "standing athwart"?

Which state attorneys general "were throwing away important points of law, not just for their state, but for the other 49"?

In his New York Magazine interview, Justice Scalia says that these days, when the states have cases in the Supreme Court, they send in "people who know how to conduct appellate argument." But:
In the old days, it would be the attorney general—usually an elected attorney general. And if he gets a case into the Supreme Court [pumps his fist], he’s going to argue it himself! Get the press and whatnot. Some of them were just disasters. They were throwing away important points of law, not just for their state, but for the other 49.
Who, specifically, do you think he might have been talking about there? I'll tell you who I thought of when I read that: Roger A. Tellinghuisen, the Attorney General for the state of South Dakota, whose argument in South Dakota v. Dole — the key case about Congress's power to attach conditions to spending — threw away an important point of law that could have limited the spending power. For years, when I teach that case, I've urged students to listen to that argument as a lesson in what not to do.

"Learn to Love our Natural World." [UPDATED with a list of 9 annoying things.]

Seen yesterday:



Meade points to the signage — orders from The State:

"While it is impossible to genetically modify humans..."

... humans will envy the results achieved in mice.

Maybe something like this can be done with diet or dietary supplements, but what if it can't and what if the results in the mice really do overcome obesity and produce an increased capacity to exercise without tiring and to be relatively muscular even if sedentary?

At what point do you think humans would reconsider the ethics of genetic modification?

"I wish I could be with you tonight, but I find it impossible to sit through two hours of relentless adulation..."

"... especially for somebody else."

I was going to make a list titled 9 Things Justice Scalia said in his New York Magazine interview.

Most interviews with Supreme Court Justices are not even worth that. The Justices say such predictable things that I might pull out the most interesting thing or, not finding one, I skip blogging it altogether. But this interview by Jennifer Senior is so good (and long) that as I read it (before getting out of bed just now) I decided I'd pull out 9 items (the number 9 pops into my head when I'm thinking about Supreme Court Justices) and do something like:

1. He calls DVDs "CDs" (and the "CDs" in question are episodes of "Seinfeld").

2. He thinks "blurbing" on the internet is narcissistic and interferes with the process of becoming a good writer.

3. He's most proud of his opinion in Morrison v. Olson (where he's the lone dissenter in the decision that found the Independent Counsel law constitutional).

4. He thinks Congress is truly dangerous — if only it would actually use the powers it has.

5. He's not "a fan of different levels of scrutiny" in constitutional interpretation.

6. He believes in the Devil, because it's Catholic doctrine, but maybe because it's a helpful metaphor.

7. He plays poker, claims to be good at poker, but is unfamiliar with the term "tell."

8. He has friends that he knows or "very much suspect[s]" are homosexual, and doesn't like the interviewer's suggestion that — re homosexuality — he's "softened."

9. To imitate Rehnquist, he "turns his nose up theatrically, flutters his hand in dismissal."

There are more than 9 things worth treating that way...

10. You have to be very careful picking law clerks because "one dud will ruin your year."

11. His dissents have the tone they do — "breezy" and with "some thrust" — because they're written for law students and law students will read that sort of thing.

12. Back in the 80s, Supreme Court opinions were loaded with the "garbage" of legislative history (and they're not anymore, and he takes credit for that).

13. He wants the Catholic Church to be more evangelistic.

14. He blames "The Gipper" for turning the State of the Union Address into the "childish spectacle" it's become.

15. He likes Bill Bennett's radio show.

16. He won't read The Washington Post anymore because it became so "shrilly, shrilly liberal" that he can't "handle it."

17. The worst thing about the Constitution, he thinks, is that it's way too hard to amend it.

18. He "repudiate[s]" his old statement that his originalism is "fainthearted."

But I decided (at the point of finally getting out of bed) that I wanted to do a series of posts on a number of topics, taking them on individually and blogging — or blurbing — my way through and going somewhere with the idea. It's the Devil topic in particular that made me want to do that. I know there are people who are linking to this interview just to say Scalia believes in the Devil, but — is the Devil making me do this? — I feel there's a lot in his discussion of the Devil that needs to be taken apart and examined. The blog will blurb and burble.

ADDED: Here's the promised Devil post. And here's a post about a topic that isn't represented on that list of 18 things.

October 6, 2013

Disturbing black and yellow things.

1. Hornets on an apple (in Horicon Marsh today):


2. On the federal side of Horicon Marsh, a makeshift sign:


Yes, they have Ikea in China, but it "is gripped by a kind of anarchy that would rarely be seen, or tolerated, in its country of origin."

"There are picnickers everywhere - their tea flasks and plastic bags of snacks lining the showroom tables."
Young lovers pose for "selfies" in mock-up apartments they do not live in. Toddlers in split pants play on model furniture with their naked parts coming in contact with all surfaces.

On a king-size bed in the middle of the largest showroom, a little boy wakes from a nap next to his (also sleeping) grandmother. When the old woman casually helps the boy urinate into an empty water bottle, dripping liquid liberally on the grey mattress under his feet, most passers-by seem not to mind or even notice....

Virtually every surface [in the bedroom and living room sections] is occupied by visitors appearing very much at home. Older people read newspapers or drink tea; younger visitors cuddle or play with their phones. Most, however, are sound asleep...
Read the whole thing. Ikea has accommodated Chinese ways, and it's now the largest foreign commercial landowner in the country.

Basking on the Wisconsin River beach.


I walked all the way around to the other side to show you this alternate perspective on this river beachscape:


Click to enlarge to see the hearty beach lovers. And feel free to talk about anything you want in the comments.

"I unexpectedly found the creatures washed up along the shoreline of the lake. No-one knows for certain exactly how they die..."

"... but it appears that the extremely high soda and salt content of the lake causes the creatures to calcify, perfectly preserved, as they dry."

"The National Park Service placed cones along highway viewing areas outside Mount Rushmore this week, barring visitors from pulling over and taking pictures..."

Cones! The dreaded cones!

After I read that, this song verse played in my head:
If you drive a car, I'll tax the street,
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat.
If you get too cold I'll tax the heat,
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet.
ADDED: Meade reads this post and asks: "Was it even a federal highway?" Yeah, was it the interstate? Why don't they close down the whole interstate highway system? Obviously, they're not doing everything they can, they're just choosing particular things, trying to be annoying in just the right way to sculpt public opinion. They're poking at us. With orange cones. And we are annoyed. But which way are we annoyed?

AND: If the giant head of the President has blocked your sight line to the giant heads of the Presidents, here's another sculpture for you:

ALSO: The government doesn't seem to know that a lot of those visitors to South Dakota ride motorcycles. A motorcycle can get right in there between the cones.

IN THE COMMENTS: TosaGuy said:
I lived in South Dakota for five years. Orange comes don't stop anyone from doing anything in the land where every sign on a rural road has a shotgun blast in it.

Mr Obama, tear down your Barrycades!
Hagar said:
This has to be State Highway 244 that goes by Mt. Rushmore. U.S. Route 16A is farther away, and, of course, neither has anything to do with the interstate system. However, South Dakota, like every other state, receives Federal money for their highway systems through the FHWA, and per Murphy's Golden Rule, whoever controls the gold gets to rule.
That's not true in Wisconsin! Scott Walker resisted the pressure to shut down state parks.
No Federal money comes without strings, but in this case I think the FHWA would have to side with the Park Service, and I think it is not like they have any actual jurisdiction; all they could do would be to threaten to be difficult and withhold future funding for this road (and other projects?), I think.
Yeah, that too happened in Wisconsin, after Scott Walker rejected the federal money for a "high speed" train. But let's remember that at some point, conditions on spending count as coercion and the federal government cannot force state government to do its work.

"If the federal government has the power to shut down roadways and parks and your disability check, why would you give them power over your health care?"

Asked Jane.

"I understand people think there is a dilemma presented by a Web site where you can pay to have a mug shot removed."

"I understand that people don’t like to have their mug shots posted online. But it can’t be extortion as a matter of law because republishing something that has already been published is not extortion."

Said the lawyer for BustedMugshots and MugshotsOnline, 2 companies that are the target of a lawsuit brought on behalf of individuals displeased by the results of Google searches on their names.

"In any compromise between food and poison, it is only death that can win. In any compromise between good and evil..."

"... it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromise is the transmitting rubber tube."

That's the quote from "Atlas Shrugged" that Ted Cruz read on the Senate floor during his (it's not a) filibuster. We talked about it here, and it sprang to mind this morning as I was reading Rich Lowry's column "Stubborn democrats escaping all the blame in shutdown":

NYC Human Right Commission is suing Hasidic-owned stores for signs that say "No Shorts, No Barefoot, No Sleeveless, No Low Cut Necklines Allowed."

"In an interview, agency general counsel Cliff Mulqueen claimed the signs imposed 'certain rules of the Jewish faith,' which 'crosses the line.'"
Mulqueen also asserts that the signs discriminated against women, non-Jews and non-religious Jews by making them feel uncomfortable, even though the signs apply to all potential ­customers....

We’ve never... seen the city sue a pizza parlor that might post a sign reading “No shirt, no shoes, no service” — let alone fancy eateries like the Four Seasons, which require business attire.
Which means the city is targeting the Hasidic stores because of religion!

Despicable and stupid.

"With less than a year left in his final term, President Hamid Karzai insists that he is eager to leave the presidential palace and lead a quieter life."

"It turns out, though, he may just be moving next door, to a lavish new home yards from the complex that has been the seat of his power for more than a decade."

It could work. It's a little like Pope Benedict and Pope Francis. Listening in on one of the new Pope's famous phone calls to ordinary people:
“Hi, it’s me again. I know I’m being Pope Pushy, but I’d like your advice. I’m having problems with Pope Benedict. Well, he’s not really the Pope anymore, but he sits there, in that mother-in-law apartment, and he criticizes. He’s always, like, ‘When I was the Pope . . . ,’ and, ‘I’m fine, don’t listen to me, just go Skype with all your new gay buddies. . . .’ So I just need to hear you say that I’m doing O.K.”