Friday, April 30, 2004

Talking heads who can talk. In Entertainment Weekly, Jessica Shaw recounts the behind the scenes drama of the Barry Manilow episode of American Idol:
"I would never nix a song and say, 'That's not for you,'" vocal coach Debra Byrd says. ''I might say, 'Okay, you don't sound so good right here. Let's rearrange it or change the key or leave out that part.''' This week, a high note at the end of ''Mandy'' was plaguing John Stevens, she adds, so ''I said let's get rid of that gorilla sitting at the end of the song waiting to kick your butt. You know you're gonna screw it up."

Okay, Fox, what I want is a reality show that follows Debra Byrd around! Or alternatively, I'll take a reality show following around Dean Banowetz, the hairstylist:
[re: flower-wearing Jasmine Trias] ''I have been working on de-flowering that girl since day one.''

[re: the problem with John Stevens's hair that requires some burgundy hair dye:] ''the Howdy Doody Idol thing''

[re: his plans to redo Fantasia's hair to look like Whitney Houston's in "The Bodyguard" after Simon said LaToya's hair looked like a "dead cat":] ''After the whole cat comment ... we have to think twice ... But at the end of the day, he's a white guy from the U.K. What does he know about a sista's weave?''

To all TV producers, of fiction and reality shows: I want to watch people who have a way with words! TV is talking heads. Put on people who are good at talking!

And in this light, I have a request for the Presidential campaign: Senator Kerry, President Bush, could you please submit your campaigns in writing?
Do passive students need more toys? Prof. Maule has some thoughts on that classroom clicker device that I wrote about yesterday. I came out for student autonomy both because I saw the devices as coercive and intrusive and because I think students should need to take on the responsibilities of autonomy. Prof. Maule writes:
The typical post-modern student wants to be passive, to be fed information, and to regurgitate it. That's been the educational experience of most of these students. (Too) many of the teachers that these students have encountered, eager for high rankings on student evaluations, prefer to play to the crowd, placate the desires of students weaned on television, and refrain from pushing students to become active participants in their own education. …

If indeed post-modern culture prevents a return to the days of holding students responsible by putting them on the spot, de-valuing their baseless complaints on student evaluations about work load and academic expectations, and failing those who fail, then perhaps getting them involved by "making the work fun" is worth the effort. The clickers are toy-like, they are almost identical to the TV remote with which the student is deeply familiar, they are snazzy and exciting, and they equalize the participation level at something other than zero. Faculty using the clickers claim that the students are enthusiastic about them. That's not a surprise. So surely it's worth a try.

Hmmm.... which side is he really on? When did we cave to "post-modernism"? Do young people today really see themselves in these terms or are they tired of being characterized as the MTV generation and so forth? Aren't we post-9/11 now, so that it's not too late to talk about a serious world of real values and consequences?

I've never seen a personal statement in an admissions file that was all about how the applicant has been spending his life so far playing video games and is hoping to find some snazzy, exciting, familiar devices to play with in the classroom. Nearly every file portrays an individual who is serious about taking on the challenges of learning how to be a lawyer and who has a strong record of independent, responsible academic achievement. No one writes, I'm looking for a place where the teachers will hover over me and feed me information and expect to see me glazed and numb unless they excite me the way TV excites me! On paper, every applicant is hot for a big challenge. I want to hold them to their own representations, not shrug and view these idealized self-portraits as a post-modern joke. Let the joke run the other way: we take these things seriously, we believe you are adults, we think the practice of law is challenging and serious and important, and we are going to treat you like the person you claimed to be when you applied to this school and made us believe you deserved to sit in that seat you are slumping back in right now!

UPDATE: Prof. Maule has a long response to this. What can be done about lack of class participation? I have no special new solution--other than blogging about it. Maybe that will change things. Basically, I favor the traditional law school model. Prof. Maule has something good to say about PowerPoint in the classroom. I detest PowerPoint. If those clickers are helpful the way PowerPoint is helpful that's another reason to be against the clickers. Signed, Cranky Old Retro Lawprof.
Howard Dean will have his own talk show. (Cheap humor: scream show.) I'll believe it when I see it--where's Clinton's talk show we heard so much about?--but here's my advice: don't do it! When has someone prominent successfully started a talk show with full attention focused on him from the first day? You need to work your way into a good talk show, building an audience, while honing your style and making a lot of mistakes. If everyone tunes in to see if you're really any good, at a point when you won't be that good, the show will crash early and embarrassingly. You'll be taunted about your inadequacies from day one.

Anyway, the news of the possible new show appears here in Variety (via Drudge). At first, I didn't notice it was Variety and I was cringing and saying to myself "Who wrote this?" Why is a reporter calling a talkshow not just a "gabfest" but a "skein"? Yesterday, I looked up something about Air America--how's it doing lately, after its big, conspicuous launch, with critcs ready to pounce? I turned up an article (in NEXIS) with the headline: "Two Air America execs ankle." What? Oh, that's Variety, where people can't just leave, they have to "ankle."

But how would a Dean do on a talk show? I have to admit, watching Kerry the other day, I was thinking I miss Dean. Don't you? Wouldn't things be so much more exciting if he were the nominee? Sorry, "presumptive nominee." Oh, I know it's not about excitement. I'm happy to have a boring competent person disappear into the White Hours and do the right things. (Just get to the point, Senator Kerry, and convince me you're competent, so I can stop wasting time listening to you. Feel free to submit it in writing.)

According to "ex-Big Ticket TV topper Larry Lyttle," who seems to be putting the Dean deal together, Dean will be perfect on TV because: "He's a little bit of Howard Beale, a little Dr. Phil and a little Donahue all rolled into one..." The Howard Dean/Beale similarity has been widely noted. So, great--if he'll freak out on camera periodically, we'll tune in, like people used to tune in to Jack Paar, to see if tonight was a night when he'd break down and cry.

According to Lyttle, "The last thing we're going to talk about is politics... [Dean will] look at things like, What happens if you lose a sibling? What about when you're victimized by not having health care?" Oh, yeah, no way that'll verge into politics. We'll steer way clear of that.

UPDATE: A reader--Tracey Berry, a former student--alerts me to a typo up there:
I know that this is a typo: "...disappear into the White Hours..." ... but I could not help but think it sounds very Wasteland-esque -- just the sort of thing that Kerry himself might want to misquote.

"Disappear into the White Hours"--yes, that is (not) going to be the name of my first volume of poetry. I like it as a name for an alter-ego anonymous blog. Or possibly the title of the sort of prestige movie that would star Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, and Julianne Moore and that I'd kick myself afterwards for thinking I would like.

Alternate response: somehow when I'm thinking about Kerry speaking, the word "hours" lodges itself in my brain.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

"The sniper community." For years, I've been following the overuse of the word "community." Not everyone who can be put in one category (e.g., gay) is actually in a communal relationship with others in the category who may, in fact, commune in a group. (You could feel sad and left out if you were something that gets called a community but didn't have any rewarding group experiences.) And not every category that people can be put in is the sort of thing that suggests the relationships of community. I remember hearing the expression "the military community" about ten years ago and thinking, now, the use has reached its most ridiculous extreme. Today, on Morning Edition, I heard the most ridiculous one ever, in a story about American soldiers trained as snipers. One of the soldiers referred to "the sniper community." Next up: the loner community.

UPDATE: Chris notes that the most profound misuse of the term "community" is the expression "the international community."
Simon guesses who will be the AI final two. My guess, as I clicked on this article in Entertainment Weekly, was LaToya and Diana. Turns out that is what Simon Cowell thinks, though he thinks it should be LaToya and Fantasia. I said last night: I think Diana is going to win.
Striking ... splinters. Jeremy links to some blogs written about the stresses of striking by striking TAs, like this one:
this morning i had a bit of a breakdown and couldn't stop sobbing. it just seemed so ridiculous, the whole picketing thing. everyone kept saying "emily, you are just tired. you have been working so hard!" but other people have been working just as hard or harder and did not break down and cry just because. i mean, what did it was really having to hold in my emotions for so long. i could chant my heart out, but not be bored. i could yell and shout about the sanctity of the picket line, but not feel doubt about a strike i was against. i could sing "solidarity forever", but not hate the people on the line with me. i snapped after being on the line for just one hour. after lunch, i was better. i still have splinters that i can't seem to get out, but i am better.

I felt especially sympathetic re the splinters part, because my son just got a lot of splinters in his hand moving some fencing material around at work. And I tried to get it out using the method that I thought was the right method, using a sterilized needle to pick out one end of the splinter and then tweezers to pull it out. I couldn't get any of them. I resorted to Googling for tips on splinter removal, and learned that the method I was using was the right method, but it wasn't working. I found another method, in more than one place, which was to spread Elmer's Glue over the affected area, then let it dry, then peel it off. That might work for very fine splinters (like after an encounter with a fuzzy cactus), but it didn't help. Another tip was soaking it periodically in warm water with baking soda over the course of a few days and see if they just come out somehow. So more than a day passed before we realized professional help was needed. We went to the UW Clinic, where a nurse (basically using the needle/tweezers method) removed 25 splinters (more than we realized were there). So, strikers, with picket sign splinters: you need to go to the doctor. (I know you have health insurance.)

This is from another TA blog linked by Jeremy----and it explains the hostility of yesterday's chalkings:
Day two of the strike was even worse than the first. After an entire day of certain people literally chasing undergrads, snarking at them, swearing at them, and telling them that they'll rot in hell, we were ordered to be nicer to them today. The thing is, the union never told us that we would be asking undergrads not to attend their classes in the first place. So if the TAs, who were striking, didn't know this fact, how were the undergrads supposed to know?

As I looked around me today on the picket line, most of the people I saw were those of us who voted not to strike. If all of us who voted "no" didn't picket, the Social Sciences building would have been empty. Where were all the "yes" voters?

And now we're supposed to withhold our grades. I was talking to a union member friend today, and I think she summed up best how the next membership meeting and rest of semester will go: "So all the PAs and militant jackasses will vote to grade strike, we'll vote not to do it, and then 7110 Social Sciences will be THE ONLY FUCKING TAS TO ACTUALLY STRIKE."

PS. I do realize that first poster meant emotional splinters ... which reminds me of a question we were batting around the other day about physical and emotional pain. It seems to me that at different levels of pain it switches back and forth whether physical is worse than mental. Take slight pain, like a mild headache: I'd rather have the physical pain. But at some degree of pain: I'd much rather have mental than physical. Yet it is possible to imagine and even higher degree of pain, where you would prefer the physical version again (for example, if the mental pain were the death of a loved one). Not sure where hard-to-remove splinters lie on that spectrum.

PPS. Jeremy seems to think the splinters were real wood splinters, and that's what I thought at first too, but then I decided, no, I was excessively real-wood-splinter focused after this two day splinter-struggle with my son. I need to read what's on the page/screen and not infuse my interpretation with so much of my own personal experience. The whole post was about emotions, with no mention of the physical ordeal of holding the strip of lumber that makes up the picket sign. But if Jeremy thought it too ... and presumably he hasn't been having real splinter problems lately ... (we'd know, wouldn't we?) ... I admit I'm not really sure.

PPPS. Ah, so it is actual wood splinters. And it was the rough lumber of the picket sign handle.
Omarosa and ... the ordeal of the bier! According to Jeannette Walls at MSNBC News:
The much-loathed reject from “The Apprentice” was scheduled to appear on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” last week, but refused to go on air when she saw a lie detector test backstage.

“The lie-detector test wasn’t even for her,” a spokeswoman for the show told the Scoop. “It was intended for Jimmy’s Uncle Frank [a regular character on the show], but when Omarosa saw it, she just freaked.” Some fellow contestants have accused Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth of lying when she said one of them used the N-word. “We tried and tried to calm her down, but she just kept saying ‘I’m not going on stage with that lie detector test’ then she just walked out.”

That reminds me of a lesson about relevant evidence I used back in the days when I taught Evidence. We read a 1894 Missouri State Supreme Court case, State v. Wisdom (sorry for the long block quote, but this is not otherwise available on line and it's really cool):
In the course of the examination of the witness Hill, he was asked to tell what happened down at the morgue by the dead body of Mr. Drexler, when the witness Willard and defendant were there, prior to the inquest. This was objected to as immaterial; the objection was overruled. The witness answered that "they told us to put our hands on Mr. Drexler," and that he "and Willard did so, but defendant wouldn't do it." Officer McGrath corroborated this statement. Defendant objected to McGrath's statement, but assigned no reason. The action of the court in this regard is now assigned as error. Who it was that told them to put their hands on Mr. Drexler's dead body does not appear.

The request to touch the body was evidently prompted by the old superstition of the ordeal of the bier in Europe in the Middle Ages, which taught that the body of a murdered man would bleed freshly when touched by his murderer, and hence it was resorted to as a means of ascertaining the guilt or innocence of a person suspected of a murder.

This superstition has not been confined to one nation or people. It obtained among the Germans, prior to the twelfth century, and is recorded in the Nibelungenlied, the great epic poem of that country, in the incident in which the murdered Seigfried is laid on his bier and Hagen is called on to prove his innocence by going to the corpse, but at his approach the dead chief's wounds bleed afresh. That it dominated the English mind is attested by the passage of Matthew Paris, that when Henry II. died at Chinon in 1189, his son and successor came to view his body, and as he drew near, immediately the blood flowed from the nostrils of the dead king as if his spirit was so indignant at the approach of the one who caused his death, that his blood thus protested to God. And Shakespeare voices the same superstition in Richard III., in act 1, scene 2, thus:
"O! gentlemen, see, see! dear Henry's wounds Open their congealed mouths and bleed afresh."

And so does Dr. Warren, in "Diary of a Late Physician," 3 vol., p. 327. That it was a prevalent belief in Africa and Australia, in another form, see 17 Encyclopedia Britannica, pp. 818, 819.

This superstition has come to this country with the emigration from other lands, and, although a creature of the imagination, it does to a considerable degree affect the opinions of a large class of our people.

It is true it was not shown that defendant believed that touching this body would cause any evidence of guilt to appear, or that he entertained any fear of possible consequences, but it was simply a test proposed by some bystander, and it was offered as showing the manner in which the three suspects conducted themselves when it was proposed. Clarke v. State, 78 Ala. 474; Chamberlayne's Best on Ev., page 488.

While defendant had a perfect right to decline, either because of his instinctive repugnance to the unpleasant task or because no one had a right to subject him to the test, and his refusal might not prejudice him in the minds of a rational jury, on the other hand, a consciousness of guilt might have influenced him to refuse to undergo the proposed test, however unreasonable it was and it is one of the circumstances of the case, that the jury could weigh. The jury could consider that, while it was a superstitious test, still defendant might have been more or less affected by it, as many intelligent people are by equally baseless notions as shown by their conduct and movements. It often happens that a case must be established by a number of facts, any one of which, by itself, would be of little weight, but all of which taken together would prove the issue.

So, getting back to Omarosa: even if the lie detector was not to be used on her, and, indeed, even if lie detector tests are not reliable, if she believed it was to be used on her and believed it was reliable, her running off at the sight of it is some evidence that she had lied in her accusation about the other contestant. On the other hand, it isn't very strong evidence. She may have believed lie detector tests are not reliable, especially for someone under stress (as she would be if given the test on camera), and so she could be telling the truth but rejecting the test to avoid producing evidence that would be used against her. And it is also completely sensible to flee the lie detector because it gave her the strong impression that she was going to be subjected to intrusive, disrespectful intrusions other than the interview she agreed to. Oh, and I'd like to see a lie detector test given to the spokeswoman for the show, with questions about whether they were planning to ask Omarosa once she was on stage whether she wouldn't like to take the test.

A sidenote: that case appeared in an early edition of the Green and Nesson problem method Evidence book. I harshly critiqued that edition of Green and Nesson in "The Lying Woman, The Devious Prostitute, and Other Stories from the Evidence Casebook," 88 Northwestern Law Review 914 (1994). That's not available on line, but it makes excellent reading. Having written an article with that title, I now have the rare distinction of having a resumé with the word "prostitute" on it! File that under: Things I Didn't Think About At The Time. And I have no quarrel with later editions of Green and Nesson's book, at least some of which included passages from my article.
If only law students had a remote control ... not that they could click off their boring lawprof, but they could conceivably be kept constantly engaged by needing to click in answers to multiple choice questions.
PAUL CARON, a law professor at the University of Cincinnati, uses [high tech clickers] to break through what he calls the "cone of silence" in his classroom.

Well, I've struggled with this "cone" Prof. Caron talks about. And I'd love a high tech solution.
The devices look and work much as a television remote does, sending infrared signals to a receiver at the front of the classroom. The receiver is connected to a computer, which tabulates and analyzes the responses. The data can be displayed by an overhead projector, incorporated into a spreadsheet or posted on a class Web site. Responses are anonymous among the students, but not to the teachers, who can identify students by the serial numbers of their clickers.

In a Constitutional Law class you could accumulate a nice political profile on everyone in the class. You collect a lot of statistics this way, and it is awfully coercive. It doesn't matter in a Tax Law class perhaps, but I think it would be too intrusive to systematically collect this sort of information in some classes, such as Conlaw. Would we not have to comply with University regulations about human subjects experiments? Consider this:
[Indiana University sociology prof Melissa Wilde] uses the devices to turn the 400-student class into a sociological laboratory.

At the beginning of this semester, she had the class use the clickers to answer several basic questions about themselves, including their race, household income and political affiliation. Thanks to the clicker technology, she could collate the data immediately. At the next class, she posted the results, which showed that, compared with the average for the nation, the class had three times as many wealthy students and one-fifth as many poor students.

"They were really surprised and tried to figure out why," Professor Wilde said. "For 20 or 30 minutes, they got really fired up."

"Basically I get them doing sociology of themselves," she added.

Well, that's a nice friendly demonstration of a point about the economics of higher education, but where do we go from there?

I started writing this post with a childlike I-want-one-for-Christmas-too attitude, but I'm getting an oh-no-Big-Brother twinge.
Professor Wilde acknowledged that because she can attach names to each answer, "there's a real potential for abuse." She says she promises the students that for the sensitive survey questions she asks, "I will not connect that serial number to their name." So far, she said, there have been no complaints.

To the contrary, students appear to love the clickers.

Inevitable Orwellian observation: "He loved Big Brother."

Here's where I end up. Students deserve their autonomy in the classroom. By law school, they are adults and they should be taking responsibility for their education. They will soon enough have clients relying on them, and there will be no lawprof wired in to supervise whatever they decide to do. With classroom autonomy, students can play video games or blog or IM or sleep or think about their personal affairs or even engage and learn something. The consequences are there and they will need to live with them come exam time. If they aren't up to keeping track of their responsibilities autonomously, why should they be unleashed with law licenses on an unsuspecting public? So I end up, once again as Cranky Old Retro Lawprof.

UPDATE: Prof. Maule responded to this, and my response to that is up here.
Sex in Space. So, what's the expert scientific opinion on who should be sent on a Mars trip? According to Peter Bond, "a British expert on space matters" (link via Drudge):
"[T]he ideal Mars mission would have - in Star Trek terms - two Mr Scotts and two Mr Spocks, and definitely no Captain Kirks, or Mr Sulus, or Dr McCoys. You need the Scotts to do the engineering stuff, and the Spocks to do the science. You don't need a Kirk because all he does is issue orders - and kiss any woman in sight."
Prince/Musicology. VH-1 ran a nice, but ridiculously short concert show with Prince last night. The first part, with new songs, featured a big band, and Prince in a gray, not purple, suit that was zoot-suitishly long on one side but short on the other side. The second part was done unplugged style with Prince sitting on a stool, doing some of his old songs (though none of my favorites), chiding the audience for not singing along loudly enough, and demonstrating the first song he ever learned to play ("Proud Mary"). Here's a screen capture:
Blog conversation instead of in-person conversation. Tonya has remarked on our tendency to converse via blog, but I'm still going to answer the question she raises at the end of this post about comedians: Margaret Cho.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Kerry on Hardball. I'm watching Kerry on Hardball. This is billed as an "exclusive" interview with Kerry. What does that mean? Any time one person interviews another it's "exclusive"? (No two snowflakes are alike.) It's only exclusive, I'd say, if it's a person who hasn't given any interviews in a long time. That's not Kerry.

Comment on Kerry's face: Whoa! It's re-Botoxing time! He's re-craggifying. Especially, on the right side of the face. Yikes! This Botox stuff wears off unevenly? That's pretty embarrassing.

It's on and on about the medals and ribbons. This is incredibly irritating. I agree with Kerry that it's pointless to quibble about whatever it was he threw away when he was an young man with an issue to fight for. But let's make a deal then: stop using Vietnam as an argument for why you should be President. The whole issue is a waste of time. I'm willing to accept that both Bush and Kerry are good people with good character. Now, get on with it! Give me some substance!

After the first commercial break, Kerry is smiling--with teeth showing oddly. Someone told him to smile, so he's taking stage directions. Oh, I'm so hopelessly tired of Kerry. If he would only take a strong stand about following through in Iraq now, looking forward and not backward! But he is in robotic mode: "The fact is that, uh, to PEEL it away, I think it comes down to this larger ideological, neocon concept of fundamental change in the region and who knows whether there are other motives with respect Saddam Hussein, but they did it because they thought they could." That lack of a "to" after "respect" is in the original. And before he launched into that he seemed to get a weary, okay-I'll-have-to-run-the-neocon-ideology-tape-loop look on his deBotoxifying face. Ugh!

I'm distracted by this news, which puts everything in a new light, but I make it through the final moments of the Hardball interview, as Kerry plugs in the domestic-economy-working-people-tax-cut-for-the-wealthy loop. Then Chris Matthews, sounding like an idiot, complains about calling a technical help line, getting a person with an Indian accent, and saying "Forget about it!" to that person. Why isn't that offensive? Someone answering the phone in an Indian accent justifies some sort of outrage? Meanwhile, Kerry is laughing, showing his teeth awkwardly again. Are we supposed to have contempt for the people of India? How does that relate to the idea that we need to cooperate better with the people of the world, which is what Kerry seems to be talking about half of the time? He's so manipulated and machined-tooled into his candidacy, there doesn't seem to be a real person there to think about putting your trust in.

UPDATE: Strange Doctrines criticizes me for asking for substance while being insufficiently substantive myself, but I'm not the one running for President. I keep asking for a substantive plan for what Kerry would do in the future in Iraq (here and here and here and here and I'll stop there, but that's just April). Without that, I cannot begin to think about him as a replacement for the person who is currently seriously trying to deal with the situation, however imperfectly. Do I need to have my own plan for how to wind down the conflict in Iraq? Kerry is robotically repeating fragments of stump speeches, almost incoherently, as quoted here. How can you understand what he's blabbering about (e.g., re neocons) unless you remember the point from before? As for Matthews, I was truly offended by his prejudice toward people with Indian accents, and Kerry just laughed when Matthews ranted about hanging up on such a person. Kerry is coming across as an empty shell of man.

FURTHER UPDATE: Strange Doctrines responded to that update, but none too coherently. I never said Bush had a more substantive plan for Iraq in the sense of a verbal expression of a plan. What Bush is doing, I can see in the news. Kerry has to tell me what he will do, because he isn't in the position to be actually doing anything yet. I've have wasted untold hours of my life listening to Kerry and trying to detect an answer. I waste little time listening to Bush, because I can see what he's doing. I think they are both bad at speaking, if it's any consolation, and I have the complaint about lack of substance with respect to virtually every sort of political debate, speech, or event from Kerry, Bush, and everyone else. Why do I say anything about Kerry's face? One: because he calls attention to it by doing things to it. Two: because I am so bored waiting for an answer to the one obvious question that he never answers that I have to grope for things to do with my mind. Three: because physical appearance is a valid and interesting topic, generally, and even specifically, with respect to the Presidency. It has a lot to do with how people respond to a candidate (e.g., Nixon vs. Kennedy) and matters of style have something to do with how a President is able to persuade and influence.

THIS IS THE LAST ONE: Strange Doctrines still thinks I'm being unfair to Kerry because I'm only asking for a "future" plan for Kerry and not for Bush. Only Kerry's presidency is in the future. I just want to know what he'll do if and when he's President.
What do I have to do to get some crab around here? Here, being Hokkaido. And: the cutest kids in the world.
Harmony and order have been restored in American Idol Land. Aw, that was a sweet results show. The dear boy, John Stevens, had to leave and completely deserved to leave, because you just can't sing that many notes wrong. The charge that Americans were voting in a racist way will dissipate, one would hope, now that no white contestants seem to be left. The top three were the ones who clearly were the best last night. And the vote count was extremely high (28 million), which suggests last week was a fluke, caused by general undervoting and overvoting by some rabid fan types. The ordinary viewers were shaken out of their complacency after Jennifer slipped through the cracks last week, and sheer numbers had a regularizing effect. The right outcome was reached. The tribute to the 16 year old retro grandma-loving boy was quite touching and everyone felt good and cried and loved everybody.
"Whereas, Ann A. Althouse, is known to represent the highest Republican ideals and principles..." Okay, a week or so ago, I made fun of the Statement of Affirmation Nancy Pelosi sent me on behalf of the Democrats. Now, I turn my attention to a letter from Bill Frist that arrived in today's mail:

Based on your remarkable support for President Bush in 2000 and our Republican Senate candidates in 2002, I am honored to extend to you an invitation to become a Platinum Member of the Republican Presidential Task Force.

Fewer than one percent of Republicans will ever attain this honor.

Wait, he's honored, I'm honored--there's a hell of a lot of honor being passed around here. But for what? My "remarkable support" for Bush in 2000? Well, all right, if by "remarkable support," you mean voting for Al Gore. And what on earth are the 99% of Republicans to do to get ahead of me in line for this honor?
Only the most committed Republicans have been recognized with this coveted invitation ... and your place in this long and unbroken line is well earned.

Thanks for all the undeserved flattery and the assurances that it is deserved, but what I really want to know is why is it great to be in a long line? And why "unbroken"? I'm picturing a lot of elite Republicans standing in line and no one cutting in. It doesn't make a lot of sense as something to "covet." And if I have an invitation, why must I wait in line? Is there a show? A gala event? I see there is a lapel pin, and that it "instantly marks you for recognition at the most exclusive Republican gatherings in Washington, D.C., Wisconsin and throughout the nation"--yeah, as somebody who made a contribution in response to this letter, as someone who was impressed by this nonsense.

But this is the thing that I found funniest and that put me in mind of that eerie Affirmation the Democrats sent me to sign:

Why not just send me a signed statement attesting to your belief that your supporters are narcissistic idiots? I'm "affixing" my "grand seal" of bullshit on this.
Meandering about gerrymandering. I haven't chewed over the new gerrymandering case, Vieth, enough to want to take position. It's hard to say whether we are better off being told the courts ought never to consider a challenge to political gerrymandering (as Justice Scalia wrote for a plurality) or thinking that there is a remote possibility, but don't count on it (Justice Kennedy's fifth vote which produced the outcome). Will the legislators do better knowing their decision is the last call or if they know there is a very, very, very slight chance of judicial supervision? That's a close question about human nature and political practice, but perhaps the deciding factor is the huge waste of resources that goes into litigating cases that amount to nothing.

In any event, Prof. Grofman should feel complimented that Justice Scalia thought his wisecrack about Bandemer (the earlier gerrymandering case) worth quoting in full. It goes like this:
As far as I am aware I am one of only two people who believe that Bandemer makes sense. Moreover, the other person, Daniel Lowenstein, has a diametrically opposed view as to what the plurality opinion means.
Madison cops. I'm typing this in a café on State Street, looking out the window at two Madison police officers. They are wearing shorts, standing next to their bicycles, and chatting while sipping Jamba Juice with straws.
The speed spraypainter guy. Here's a local street artist, putting on his speed spraypainting show and gathering a crowd. (But what's more entertaining, speedpainter guy or low-rise jeans girl?)

I offer no opinion about whether this tribute to the World Trade Center is in good taste:

Trivia about the Park Street pedestrian bridge. In the Rodney Dangerfield movie, Back to School, filmed here, the bridge is draped with a sign that says "Great Lakes University," the made-up name for the school in the movie. It was fun watching, from my office window, as Rodney and crew filmed a scene for this movie.
"Good people don't cross picket lines." The TAs undertake the teaching of ethics on Day 2 of the strike.

I know it looks like the TAs are reading while picketing (which seems rather scholarly), but they are singing a traditional union song, and I believe those are songbooks, containing songs like these. I walked over the Park Street Bridge, the path from Bascom Hill to Library Mall, which takes you over the street and up to the second level of the Humanities Building. Two picketers were at the Humanities Building side of the bridge and this larger group of picketers was down at the end of the main stairway to the Building. I took a side stairway to avoid crossing the line. As I write this, I'm sitting in a café on State Street, and a large group of strikers marches up the middle of the street, toward the Capitol Building. (Their issue here is really with the state legislators.)

I wrote early today of the anti-strike chalkings. Here you can see that the TAs are correcting student writing, despite the strike, as it relates to the strike:

UPDATE: Here's a shot of the strikers as seen from the café:

The semester has ended. It's a beautiful day and the last class is over. Time now to write exams and tie up all the many lose ends and do all the errands that I've been putting off (like having the oil changed in my car). But first, I'll take a walk down State Street, perhaps capturing some photos of Madison happenings. I'm going to make my way to a restaurant, where I plan to read the new Supreme Court case about political gerrymandering. (Ah, a new Supreme Court case on the political question doctrine comes out just as it is too late to talk about it in Conlaw 1!) Then I mean to go to a café and do a little photoblogging (if, in fact, Madison happenings were captured) and a little blawging (if I can extract a distinctive thing to say about the Justice Scalia/Justice Kennedy stand-off that left us with only a plurality opinion about the political question doctrine). So do come back. I'd like to also listen to the oral argument in the Cheney case, the one that bored all the reporters because there was too much talk about federal jurisdiction, but that will take a little time. There are also the arguments about habeas corpus in the Padilla and Hamdi cases to listen to. I almost regret that the Federal Jurisdiction and Conlaw 1 classes have already ended, just as so many interesting things are happening in the Supreme Court. Yet something tells me that this close to exams, students are not inclined to find anything "interesting," just burdensome. The lot of being a lawprof is often a matter of becoming immensely interested in things students are sorry to find out they need to slog through at all. But there are always some students who really do see what is interesting and important inside the arcana of jurisdiction and federalism and separation of powers. (If only when reading admissions files I could figure out who's who!)
"Kerry is in an impossible box on Iraq." I keep waiting to hear Kerry say what he will do in Iraq, and I can't even think about the possibility of voting for him without an answer. Chicago polisci prof Daniel W. Drezner explains in TNR why Kerry can't answer (along with why we are in a Bizarro World where the war going badly helps Bush):
On a normal issue, if a challenger disagrees with an incumbent--and, moreover, if the incumbent's initiatives are both objectively failing and increasingly unpopular--then the challenger can simply advocate taking the opposite approach. But Iraq isn't a normal issue; there is no opposite approach (or, at least, no responsible opposite approach). ...

I will now go back to averting my eyes from the futile flailings of this campaign season.

I say she looks great. Maybe everyone is making fun of her, but you can't really make fun of a person who's having so much fun daring to look in a way that other people will find easy to make fun of. Me, I've said it several times here and I'll say it again: I love curly hair! So, Anne Heche, I approve! And this is what celebrities are for. (Picture via Gawker.)
"No Strike in Our Name." Things chalked on the sidewalk on Bascom Mall relating to the TA strike:
Get to work hippies
Students hate TAA
Unite against unions
TAA is greedy
Unions suck
TAA sucks
No Strike in Our Name

Nothing pro-strike.

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

"The holy city of ..." What are the journalistic standards for referring to a city, in an ordinary news report, as the "holy city of," say, Najaf? I'm sure many cities have shrines that are important to a religious group, but why must a reporter use "holy" as if it were part of the city's name? Reporters would never say, for example, the holy city of Salt Lake City. That would hit people as the inappropriate insertion of religious opinion into an objective report. Why does a different rule apply to cities in some other countries? No city in the United States ever gets referred to as "holy." Other than Toledo, I mean.
Yay! Nina's blogging photos from Hokkaido! Glad she got the camera/website coordination problems fixed, over there in Sapporo. She's even photoblogging the sushi. (That makes me think: I'll bet there are blogs where people just upload photographs of whatever they are eating at any given time.)
Simon's new tactic. Here's my take on Simon Cowell on tonight's American Idol. He took stock of the way American voters reacted to his open support of some contestants (e.g., telling LaToya she was the best singer in the competition) and his harsh attacks on others (namely, John Stevens). He saw what that led to last week: the voters are either reacting against being told what to do or they are making supporters of his favorites feel like they don't need to vote (while stimulating people who like Stevens to act now to save him). So this week he backed off and was lukewarm to his favorites even though they were good (chiefly, LaToya) and was as nice as possible under the circumstances to John. We'll see how his little tactic works out. I think they are seeing the voting numbers so high for John that they've just faced the fact that he's going to be around for a while and that it was wrong to be so mean to a 16 year old. This week Cowell called attention to the fact that John is only 16 and complimented him for his manliness in the face of criticism--in Simon-talk, that's "every bullet we've thrown at you." (Isn't it funny how the judge who is the most articulate muddles every other expression?)

Anyway, who will leave this week? I think Fantasia and George are in real danger. That Latin theme was tough! Diana DeGarma was the only one who could really sing in that style, but LaToya was also good (and I love her new super-short hair!). Jasmine was fine--I even believe she is the most likely winner of the whole contest. Isn't all of Hawaii watching the show and voting constantly for her?

I'm assuming John Stevens is safe, and not just because all the grandmas in America have to love him after he sang that song to his grandma. One thing I like about John is that he stood tall after singing all those wrong notes to millions of people. I won't even sing in front of one person, because I think it is so shameful to sing off key. So his nerve is exhilarating.
What are the chances that John Edwards will end up as the Democratic nominee? Interesting speculation in The Village Voice (via Drudge).
Blogging your way to free housing at NYU. Wasn't there always a story about an NYU student living in the library? I remember hearing such a tale when I went to NYU Law School (yeah, I know, it's "School of Law") back in 1978. So now it's front page news that someone is using the old technique of living in the stacks. Why? Because the school found out about it, through the student's weblog ("on line journal"), and now is giving him a free room in a dorm. (And other students struggling to pay the bills must be thinking, damn, why didn't I think of that?) I tried going to the webaddress given in the Times:, but there was nothing there. (Wait, he had his own domain? Why didn't he have to use blogspot??)
As he put it on the Internet, where he has spent four or five months recounting his adventure, it was "the tale of a penniless boy and his quest to gain a college education." He said he took refuge in the library after being denied adequate financial aid, and described himself as "a furtive figure amongst dusty stacks of books, below the offices of the elite administrators of the university."

Could it really be true?

That is hard to say.

Hmmm.... he is a "creative writing major." Fiction writers deserve to get paid or to get their grants or whatever. He did engage the other students with his writing. What did you do, you other students who are struggling to pay your expenses?
"Freedom is keeping us free." Ah, Television Without Pity has its recap of last week's American Idol shows up. I particularly appreciate Shack's assessment of the group song on the Wednesday show:
Ryan then introduces the kids and Barry back onstage to sing a song from Barry's new album called "Let Freedom Ring." If he was going to ride the coattails of socially enforced patriotism, shouldn't this song have come out about a year ago? The kids all file out onstage and start by singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee." There's choreography. Patriotic songs shouldn't have choreography. That's just tacky. It's saying that the song isn't good enough to just stand on its own. After they sing about a verse of the song, it switches over to Barry's tripe, and he wanders out onto the stage to sing. The song is dull and poorly written. "Let freedom ring / Let it celebrate sweet liberty that is keeping us free and strong." Freedom is keeping us free. What a dumb-ass song.
"Kenny Boy" and the Times and the oral argument in the Cheney case. I know the Times has a standard policy of alerting its readers to the age of seemingly anyone mentioned is a news article, but what is the policy for noting Bush's nickname for a given person? This is from the report in the NYT on the oral argument in the case involving Cheney:
Mr. Bush, a former Texas oilman himself, has always had close ties to the energy industry and business leaders like Mr. Lay — "Kenny Boy" to the president — who was once one of his most generous campaign donors.

What does the nickname add except an implication that the nickname reinforces the statement that Bush is very close to Lay? The best that can be said for providing the nickname here is that Bush's propensity for nicknaming everyone is so well known that no one is misled that the "Kenny Boy" nickname means anything. People seem to never tire of saying "Kenny Boy."

There's also this:
The presentations today were so highly technical at times that spicier elements of the long-running controversy were all but buried — notably, the duck-hunting trip that Justice Antonin Scalia took with his old friend Mr. Cheney shortly after the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case argued today, Cheney v. U.S. District Court, 03-475.

Oh, so the reporter was disappointed in his search for more excitement, which could scarcely come from understanding the legal issues in this important case about Presidential power? He was sitting there waiting to hear about ducks. Good luck trying to understand the real issues from this press report. Perhaps the reason we're not getting any explication of the issues here is that the case in favor of Cheney is just too easy. But the article seems only to say, oh it's all just too technical to bother to explain, so please just see it as a hopeless legal tangle with no legal answer that will therefore be resolved by the Justices based on whether they like Cheney better than the Sierra Club. And so what really matters is those damn ducks. I wanted to hear about the ducks again. Please tell me about the ducks.
The music of the strike. Well, the TA strike is on and visible, audible from my office window, which looks out on Bascom Mall. There was a little eddy of picketers at the entries to the Political Science building and the Education building (across from the Law building) earlier in the day. The Political Science TAs have dissipated but the Education picketers are still going strong. The "Strike Party" is in gear, in front of Bascom Hall, and they are playing highly amplified rap music that is about to drive me out of my office. Now its something more Grateful Dead-like with harmonica, and I don't like that either. Frankly, I don't want to hear anyone's music while I'm trying to work. Not even the jazz or "world" music that my colleagues sometime feel free to unleash on the 7th floor. I've got to get out of here. I really, really love quiet, and need to retreat to my ultra-quiet home base.

UPDATE: My noisy air conditioner came on and white-noised out the party, keeping me in the office. When it switched off again a horrendous live band was playing, a rock band ... with trumpets. I've never liked any rock music with trumpets in it, and this is just insufferable. Why should a strike be like the Manuel Noriega seige? (Hmm... I see at that link that the Army used rock music at the Fallujah siege this month, including AC/DC's "Hell's Bells." New answer to the question: "Why do they hate us?")
That Dick Cheney case in the Supreme Court. Nina Totenberg had an excellent presentation this morning on the case about compelling Dick Cheney to provide discovery delving into the meetings of his energy task force, which will be argued in the Supreme Court today. Most of the news coverage of this case up until now has been about the effort to induce Justice Scalia to recuse himself for having gone on a duck hunting trip with Cheney. But this is an important case about the power of the Executive Branch, and without question, Justice Scalia is the strongest voice on the Court for protecting the independence of the Presidency. He has been a lone voice for the strongest position, most notably in the Independent Counsel case (Morrison v. Olson), so it is naive or self-deceiving to believe the effort to eliminate his participation in this case is primarily a matter of principle about judicial ethics. This is a vital area of law, in which Scalia's writings are unique and of great distinction: the arguments of those who oppose the power of the Presidency in this case ought to need to go through the scrutiny of this Justice. Those who care about the quality of constitutional law should dearly want the contribution he can make to the articulation of law in this case.

The attention to the duck-hunting trip and the petty indignation about the appearance of impropriety, rather than to the important questions of the independent functioning of the Presidency, is typical of the way public discourse in this country slips into the gossipy level of talking about celebrities and their evil ways. Why are we, as a nation, so uninterested in talking about ideas?
Shocking blog-related thing I did last night.
I guess it was a slow comedy day. I was told by someone who seemed to know that The Daily Show had given up on doing a segment on the antitrust case against the University for participating in getting the local bars to give up drink specials. I was told the reason was they just couldn't find a way to make it funny. But the segment ran last night and, of course, we were highly entertained to see clips of State Street and Bascom Mall on camera. And some nice students were game enough to do that routine of sitting on a couch while the "correspondent" (Ed Helms) peppered them with inappropriate questions (in this case, about drinking a lot of beer). It seems the path the show took in an effort to make it funny was to just talk a lot about beer. There was exactly one short line about why the agreed-upon abandonment of drink specials might be a legal problem, so I think they really were stymied trying to make antitrust law funny. So I stand by my original statement that you should pat yourself on the back if you've found a way to be funny about antitrust law.

Monday, April 26, 2004

More blog dangers. Tonya notes that having a blog can make you cut short an ordinary personal conversation by saying I've blogged about that or I was just about to blog about that. Scroll down to read her post about whether the American Idol voting last week is evidence of racism (or just bad taste in music).
Things to read. Ooh, I see Nina's finally gotten around to blogging from Japan. And blogging an awful lot. It's late, so I'm just going to print that out. I've also got an article I want to read: "Individualism, States' Rights, and the Right of Revolution in the Antebellum Debate Over Bearing Arms" (by Ohio State history prof Saul Cornell, who's going to be speaking on this subject here in Lubar Lounge at noon tomorrow). I think I'll gather these papers together along with my unwieldy oversized casebook (oversized but still overcutting the cases!) and head out for an early dinner at a new restaurant I kind of like. Tomorrow is the last day of class in Federal Jurisdiction--and the first day of the TA strike. No TAs in the Law School, but that doesn't mean there won't be a picket line. I hope the students show for the last day of class!

Here's a NewsHour discussion of the right to bear arms that includes Saul Cornell.
I can't improve on Wonkette's priceless wisecrack about this picture, but, oh, does this T-shirt irk me! What the hell kind of feminism is it that would gain power if the person asserting it is pretty? Especially if the person asserting it claimed her opinion was more valuable because she was pretty? Especially if the opinion is that feminism is an important and strong set of values. And I know Gloria Steinem famously said (when she turned 50), "This is what 50 looks like," but she was saying it to knock the person who told her she didn't look her age. It was a way of telling that person off for having a stereotype about 50 year olds rather than taking the bait and saying, "Yes, you're right I am prettier than other women." It was a sisterhood thing to say. The T-shirt person in the photograph is bringing up the subject herself, contrasting herself to plainer women that no one was even talking or thinking about at the time. That's the opposite of sisterhood.
The area where Clinton hopes to be the equal of Ulysses S. Grant: Writing a worthy memoir. But Grant only wrote a good memoir because he "devoted the vast majority of the book to his triumphant Civil War military leadership and wrote virtually nothing about his often disastrous presidency." So the chance that Clinton's memoir will turn out to be a good read is slim. The chances are quite high, on the other hand, that his book will get lots of attention for quite a while. It's been one book after another this Presidential politics season. One week it's Clarke, then the next week we only want to talk about Woodward. Woodward's book seems to have more staying power than Clarke's (which wiped an even lesser book off the stage). But when the big Clinton book arrives there should be quite an uproar. I suppose everyone is already getting ready to use the choice nuggets to prove whether Bush or Kerry should be elected. Or maybe, now that we know the book is coming out in late June, both Kerry and Bush can plan to do or say things that they'd like to see fail to attract attention.

UPDATE: But they can't plan too much, because Clinton has a well-known tendency to be late. It's a way of sucking even more oxygen out of the room ... sucking the oxygen out of several adjoining rooms.
The VMI dinner prayer case. The U.S. Supreme Court denied cert. today in Bunting v. Mellen (link via How Appealing), a case that presents federal jurisdiction questions galore. There are some pesky problems of mootness and qualified immunity. Justice Scalia dissents from the denial of cert., and writes about the problems created by forcing courts to decide whether a constitutional right exists before going on to decide whether qualified immunity protects the state official from having to pay damages (qualified immunity being premised on whether or not the constitutional law is clearly established). Here, because the students who sued the Virginia Military Institute had graduated, the claims for prospective relief against the school were moot, so all that remained that could be reviewed was the claim for damages against the school's superintendent, Bunting. But he won the case, because the law wasn't clear and he therefore had immunity.

That leaves the statement that the prayer violated the Establishment Clause just lying there on the books, and Bunting wants it reviewed. He doesn't like that announcement--which conflicts with decisions in other circuits--that a voluntary, generic, before-meal prayer violates the Establishment Clause. Should he be able to invoke Supreme Court review? He won! Well, if this is a jurisdictional limitation, it's a strange constriction of the Supreme Court's lawsaying role, brought about by the Court's own doctrine that locks decisions about constitutional rights inside decisions based on qualified immunity. Maybe the Court should reexamine that, but there's no reason why this must be the case to deal with that problem. (Especially since Bunting is now retired, which may well make the case moot for an additional reason.)

But what is VMI to do if it still wants to have the supper prayer and has not been able to get higher court review of the announcement that it violates the Establishment Clause? If the law is now to be considered clearly established, individual officials at the school will no longer have immunity from personal damages. I suppose they need only file a new lawsuit, seeking a declaratory judgment. It will take a while to get back to the Supreme Court, and by then the Pledge of Allegiance case will have been decided, and the Court of Appeals will have an opportunity to consider the Establishment Clause issue in light of that new case, either eliminating the split in the circuits or sharpening the issue for the next go at the Supreme Court.
The looming Bucky. What’s this they’re setting up on Bascom Mall?

A giant-headed mascot badgers me to have my picture taken with him. That’s me in the corner:

There’s free breakfast and assorted cavorting on the Mall. Further down the hill is what first amendment law calls a “designated public forum.” Here you’ll find various unattended public displays expressing some point of view, often informing us of shocking statistics by covering the hill with various items representing the subject of the statistics. (Earlier examples: here and here.) Today there are 2000 little pink flags, and you can see them here, loomed over by the giant figure of Bucky Badger:

According to the signs, each flag represents one of the “2000 undergrad women who will be raped before she graduates.” Is that 2000 within any given 4 year period? Over the entire history of the University? I can’t tell. I’m guessing that the assertion is that 500 students are raped each year. According to another sign, only 1 in 10 (or was it 1 in 20) "of these crimes" are reported. Presumably, some surveying produced that statistic. Still, if this shockingly brutal environment is really what exists here in Madison, where are the criminal trials? Does this book describe what life is like for college women? Where is the complete unraveling of the social fabric that those flaglets purport to document?
"The pursuit of beauty is honorable." So Estée Lauder used to like to say. The announcement of her death at age 97 along with a picture of her taken 16 years ago appears on the front page of today's NYT. The front page color-picture shows the 81 year old Lauder dressed and coifed and made up with drama and perfect taste. On-line, it's the one with the purple hat, here. There's also a nice slide show with narration that emphasizes her "marketing genuis" and success in making the business a family empire. But it's that quote that caught me: "The pursuit of beauty is honorable." Now, clearly, she built a business empire that depended on women's believing that using makeup (and spending a lot of money on it) was a fine thing to do.

That makeup is a great feminist and pop culture topic is very clear to a woman like me who became a teenager when Mod fashion hit us from London at the same time as the Beatles and ended her teenage years when hippies and feminists advocated the no-makeup look as a matter of principle. The fabulous Mod period brought a new and extreme way to wear makeup. Why not draw a thick dark brown line at the top of your eyelid? Especially if the makeup was by Mary Quant! How exciting Mary Quant makeup (essentially, the packaging) was then! Why not paint extra eyelashes--"twiggies"--directly on the skin under your eyes like the model Twiggy? In the hippie period, it seemed that a whole way of life included rejection of all the material purchases that people like Lauder and Quant had hoodwinked women into making. Our high principle--which opposed war and materialism and Nixon and male chauvinism--would be demonstrated, in part, by never wearing any makeup at all. It was possible to believe at the time that all women would reach a kind of feminist enlightenment that would necessarily entail stopping using makeup.

The principled rejection of makeup remains. I saw an example of it just yesterday in the NYT, in a quick interview with documentary filmmaker Jehain Noujaim (who's made a film about al Jazeera):
What film are you making next?

I don't have any of those ambitions. I should probably quit working in film and just find a husband. It would be nice to be in one place for a while and have a social life again and get a job. But I'm not qualified to do anything. That's the problem.

Perhaps you can get a job as an anchor with CNN or Al Jazeera.

I don't think so. I don't wear enough makeup.

Well, maybe she's just kidding, but wouldn't it be weird if the female talking heads on CNN walked around off camera in makeup like that? The notion that they applied for the job already in the on-air style makeup is actually pretty funny. But I hear in that comment the same kind of assertion of superiority (or that superiority/inferiority mix that David Brooks refuses to acknowledge) that I used to hear from hippies and feminists in the early 1970s.

Anyway, respect is due to the magnificent businesswoman, Estée Lauder, whose companies included not just Estée Lauder, but Clinique and Prescriptives (as if she had to create worthy competitors for herself!), and (for men) Aramis, and (for you aging hippies looking for some solace) Origins.

Sunday, April 25, 2004

A new dimension of law school nurturing. The worst thing about that Adam Liptak article (discussed in the previous post) is that it presents Concord Law School as distinguishing itself from traditional law schools by not using the Socratic Method. Liptak writes that "many students find the method terrifying" and then quotes Concord's dean as saying that his school has a "more nurturing atmosphere" and a Concord student "welcoming" that nurturing: "They don't think we need to be yelled at, screamed at or scared."

Which of the existing non-virtual law schools are using the yelling, screaming, scary type of Socratic Method? I'd really like to know! An innovative idea for a new law school would to use an old style hardcore Socratic Method approach. It's actually hard to find Kingsfield-type lawprofs any more; everybody's already competing to be the most nurturing. I'd like to see a school compete for students and faculty by offering a retro hardcore method.

A virtual law school brings a new dimension of nurturing: it lets you stay home altogether. But the fear of the classroom that is just a fear of speaking at all in class and of being challenged with hard questions: that is a fear that needs to be overcome! Would you hire a lawyer who had not been willing to face down that fear? Attacking the nonexistent Paper Chase-type law school is beside the point.
Has Concord Law School conquered law school? Adam Liptak, in today's NYT, writes about a law school--Concord Law School--that exists only in on-line form. Naturally, traditional law schools will tend to say virtual law school is just terrible. Here's a nice juicy quote from Emory lawprof George B. Shepard:
This reminds me of how small, high-cost retailers will fight bitterly to prevent Wal-Mart from opening nearby. Or unions will fight to prevent the import of cheap goods from China. Existing producers will always claim that suppressing the new technology is necessary to protect consumers. Sometimes this may be true. But often these arguments are merely a facade.

I think most current lawprofs would not want to teach law school if there were no interaction with students in a classroom. But maybe different people would love to have the job of teaching from a remote location and never being on stage, never looking at the students faces. I think it would be quite dreary to be a teacher at what is essentially a correspondence school. Three years ago, when Concord Law School came on line, our tech director made a presentation to the faculty about how we just had to develop our own on-line program or be outpaced by all the other law schools that would be eager to compete in this area. The presentation totally failed to inspire the faculty. The response seemed to be: he's trying to redefine my job into a job I would never have applied for in the first place.

Still, the key question is: which is better for students? I'm sympathetic to the needs of prospective students who have jobs or family or other obligations that make it hard to relocate and attend law school in person. It's just not the ideal. Yet the classroom itself often falls short of the ideal. Still, it's impossible for me not to think that the law school classroom, when everyone is engaged and prepared, is an exciting place to be and that it could never be the same if there were no physical gathering place.

By the way, where are all the virtual programs that our tech director warned us about?
Stylish punctuation. Edmund Morris gives a pretty bad review to the brilliantly titled book about punctuation, "Eats, Shoots & Leaves."

Memorable observation from Morris: "The greatest stylists -- those who 'hear' as they write -- punctuate sparingly and subtly." This observation is followed by some wonderful examples of subtle punctuation by great writers and a dig at editors bound to present-day style manuals:
I just reread ''Middlemarch,'' alternating between old (1891) and new (Modern Library, 1992) editions, and was disconcerted by the latter's willingness to alter Eliot's original marks. For instance, Dorothea Brooke, in 1891, was ''troublesome -- to herself, chiefly.'' A hundred years later, that long, corrective dash is gone, and so is the comma emphasis. Qualification is now changed to consequence. This is not editing: it's rewriting.
"I really feel like we were discriminated against..." The outrage of being denied a twelfth slab of roast beef at the $8.99 buffet. (Link via Blogdex.) When you follow the Atkins Diet, you get the feeling that normal standards of behavior no longer apply to you.
"It's so embarrassing actually," said Leota. "We went in to have dinner, we were under the impression Chuck-A-Rama was an all you can eat establishment."

If it's so embarrassing, why not just say, "Oh, I'm sorry," and not call more attention to yourself?

What confused the couple was the word "buffet," which they thought meant "all-you-can-eat buffet." If only people were more fastidious about avoiding redundancy, confusion like this wouldn't occur: you'd know that if there is an expression "all-you-can-eat buffet," "buffet" can't already mean "all-you-can-eat." This incident demonstrates the need for prescriptive grammar.

I love the name of the restaurant: Chuck-a-Rama. It sounds like a vomitorium.

UPDATE: Throwing Things notes that The Simpsons already did it. ("Mr. Simpson, this is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my suit against the film, "The Never-Ending Story.")
The Times gets the Quote of the Day wrong again. It should be:
"We're a victim of the drug war. It seems like we still got plenty of cocaine coming into this country, but now we got cheap asparagus as well."
"You were wrong dissociable brindle." You know it is bad enough that I couldn't sleep at all last night (except for the first three hours), but getting up at four and trying to check email and getting things with subject lines like that really is making me start to dissociate. And perhaps I am a being that is "tawny or grayish with streaks or spots of a darker color." And I'm sure I wrong about a number of things. The Volokh Conspiracy has a Sunday song lyric series, so let me offer the slice of the song lyric that email called to mind for me:
Discorporate & come with me
Shifting; drifting
Cloudless; starless
SEA: Wah Wah

You can read the rest of the lyrics to "Absolutely Free" here. And here you can get the lyrics for all the songs on what is one of the greatest albums of all time "We're Only In It For The Money." It's one of the greatest album covers of all time too, the kind that make you regret CDs came along and eliminated that entire field of art.

Saturday, April 24, 2004

Marrying the father figure. So if a teenage girl goes for a year believing an older man is her biological father, but then finds out it was just rumor, is it okay to marry him? I mean in a conventional family-oriented movie. That's what happened in "That Hagen Girl" (discussed here, with pictures, yesterday). Ronald Reagan was none too happy with the role of the father figure and begged for a rewrite in which he doesn't end up marrying Shirley Temple.
Reagan's misgivings about the script were borne out when the film had its first preview screening. After he rescues Temple from her suicide attempt, he admits that he loves her. But when he said the words on screen, the preview audience screamed "Oh no!" almost in unison.

So they recut it, so people wouldn't scream in horror! But that only made it an inexplicably sexless marriage.
The TA Strike. The TAs here are about to strike:

But I wonder how much student support for them there is:

(You may need to scroll down on that second link to get to the discussion of the strike.) Note the technique used by the signmaker to engage the interest of undergraduates in labor issues: "Don't go to class!" That surely has appeal quite aside from any understanding of which side is right in this dispute. But "Strike Party"? Okay, skip class and come to a party--that will surely prove the degree of student support. Not a word on the sign about why the TAs are striking. Note the fine print: "Kites--Music--Dancing."
"Defend your beloved country." The NYT reports:
L. Paul Bremer III, chief of the American occupation authority, delivered a stark television address on Friday in which he declared that "Iraq faces a choice" and that the American plan to bring stability and democracy here might not succeed unless ordinary Iraqis come quickly to its defense.

"If you do not defend your beloved country, it will not be saved," he said.

Why doesn't that tell the reasonable Iraqi to do nothing? If time is short and the Americans are about to give up and leave Iraqis to their own devices, wouldn't you want to lie low and not call attention to yourself? Wouldn't you picture the future by reference to the aftermath of the 1991 war and steel yourself for the next brutal regime?
Inferiority or superiority? David Brooks has a meditation on misunderstanding the Columbine murderers (who suffered, the evidence now shows, not from feelings of inferiority but feelings of superiority):
[I]t is striking how resilient this perpetrator-as-victim narrative remains. We still sometimes assume that the people who flew planes into buildings — and those who blew up synagogues in Turkey, trains in Spain, discos in Tel Aviv and schoolchildren this week in Basra — are driven by feelings of weakness, resentment and inferiority. We cling to the egotistical notion that it is our economic and political dominance that drives terrorists insane.

But it could be that whatever causes they support or ideologies they subscribe to, the one thing that the killers have in common is a feeling of immense superiority. It could be that they want to exterminate us because they regard us as spiritually deformed and unfit to live, at least in their world.

Interesting how he turned self-blame into an "egotistical notion." I'm sure the self-blamers will find a way to say that the distorted sense of superiority grows out of a feeling of inferiority--mania is a mood swing away from depression.
Technical difficulties experienced. It was a morning of minor technical difficulties.

The Charter cable internet access was down again, so I couldn't get to my blog quickly with my laptop open on the dining table next to my New York Times and my coffee. I noted bloggable ideas on a Post-It, as I used to do before I got the high-speed access. Then I used my dial-up access and learned something that I'll try to put to good use. I knew I was putting up a lot of photos yesterday. It was that sort of a happening day, what with the Sexual Health Festival, The Madhatters, Ernie & Roger, and it being Shirley Temple's birthday and all. And still hanging around on the not-yet-archived first page were all the many photos taken last Saturday in the best photo-op in Madison ever, the 9 Beet Stretch. And then there was that day I walked to Dancing Grounds and took pictures of the neighborhood flowering trees along the way.... Needless to say, the page loaded slowly. So I'll try to be a little more careful, within a given front-page span, not to put too many pictures up. And yet... I liked that new idea of recapping a film with photos, every one of which was justified. Oh, really? Even the blur of Reagan--or Reagan's double--diving into the river? Why, yes, emphatically! And that was Reagan. And Reagan caught pneumonia diving repeatedly into the river, and it left him hospitalized at a time when Jane Wyman went into premature labor and gave birth to a baby that soon died. The marriage never recovered, I read, from that harsh separation in time of direst need. So that dive changed the entire history of the world, didn't it?

I also set Roomba, the robot vacuum cleaner, to try its ... uh ... hand at my living room. I set a row of thick candles to block the entry to the fireplace, which was full of ashes, and tucked the rug fringe under according to instructions, and I draped the curtains up over the radiator and closed all three sets of French doors (which I like to call "freedom doors"). I go back to my newspaper and Roomba is making its little electronic sound that means "I have a problem." Well, it's one thing after another. Tucking the fringe under made a bump that Roomba got stuck on. Untucking the fringe led to some nasty tangling. Roomba got stuck under a chair. Roomba started up the slanted base of a floor lamp and couldn't figure out what to do. One thing that didn't stop Roomba was the line of candles I foolishly believed would keep it out of the fireplace: a trail of ashes had been dragged across the rug when I wasn't supervising. Oh, but the instructions said to supervise Roomba the first time you do a room. But this thing is supposed to save time. And just the task of tucking the fringe under took longer than old fashioned vacuuming! Yeah, but you have to drag out the vacuum cleaner. I have to drag out the Roomba. The worst thing about the Roomba, though, is that long hair (like mine) gets coiled around the brush axle, and I have to wield a Phillips screwdriver to detach the brush and remove the axle-braking hair after every use. Conclusion: much more work than an old-fashioned vacuum cleaner. I'd love to have more robots for housework and yardwork, but they need to be much better!

Roomba did provide some amusement, like when my son imitated its blind idiocy as it bumped into objects and picked another direction setting it into an eccentric zigzagging path that would take forever to actually find every spot in the room. And when my other son said, "Every time I hear the word Roomba, I think of the line 'Do you rhumba? Pick a rhumba from one to ten.'" (And if you know what movie that's from you will enjoy this trivia test. Hmmm.... Mrs. Claypool's first name was Fluffy!)

End of my exposition of the morning's technical difficulties. I'm now at the café, using the wireless access here, and watching the folks stroll by on State Street. It's the first Saturday of the Farmer's Market and there's a big race, called Crazylegs, that will be snaking all over the town. I saw all the traffic barriers that I expect to find blocking many of the roads I'd intended to use on the way home. But it's all just fine. It's a cool but lovely Saturday, the last weekend of the semester. Ah! Here come the runners!

Friday, April 23, 2004

Ronald Reagan and Shirley Temple. Today is Shirley Temple's birthday, and TMC is showing a lot of her movies. I love Shirley and have my TiVo programmed to capture her work. Today, it caught "That Hagen Girl," which is only a one-star movie, but it co-stars Ronald Reagan, so--what the hell!--I started watching and made it to the end. It's bad, but awesome. Ronald Reagan comes to town, hears people gossiping about him, and doesn't like it.

He's a lawyer, and he sets up in a law office that has a nice portrait of Lincoln on the wall:

When he mouths off to a pretty young teacher, he apologizes: "I'm sorry I sounded off on you. I'm an attorney and every once in a while I talk to people as if they just belted someone with a meathook." Here's how he looks, delivering that line:

The gossip is all about how Mary Hagen, played by Shirley Temple, is an illegitimate child and the father is Reagan. Shirley was the most adorable child ever, but here she is as a gorgeous teenager:

The small town in this movie is entirely designed for the purpose of torturing Shirley Temple. Here's how to insult people in the town: "Why don't you go somewhere and catch yourself, you foul ball?" What possible solution could there be for poor Shirley? Especially after Ronald Reagan offers to pay her "tuition fees" to go to a university that they'll choose for her after she graduates from junior college. But she hangs around and has conversations like:

I've never done anything wrong ... except getting born.

I know, it seems like an injustice, but...

We remain confused throughout the movie about whether Reagan really is Shirley Temple's father, until the point where he's about to call her on the phone and ask her to marry him. At exactly that point, the townsfolk read in the newsaper that Reagan has received a medal from the President of the United States for his contribution to "the successful launching of atomic warfare." Apparently, Reagan has dropped the atomic bomb on Japan! The townsfolk decide they love Ronald Reagan, and they burst in on him just as he's about to go to Shirley. He tries to leave. They say:
But we haven't accomplished our mission!

Like you boys in the airforce, we believe in Mission Accomplished.

(Hmmm.... there's a phrase!) They invite him to speak at graduation. He suggests the subject of his speech: Mary Hagen! But she's been expelled! For going to the "tavern"! He tells them off. They leave, and immediately an official of some sort arrives and hands him a suicide note from Mary! She's "picked the lagoon," according to the note. Thunder rolls. We see Mary walking in the rain, and, wet, Shirley is modern and fabulous:

It's our dear girl, Shirley, wet and suicidal! She's looking into the water and her whole life flashes in front of her, and her whole life is the mystery of whether Ronald Reagan is her father. I watch the flashback and think: 1. Shirley Temple was so beautiful (I seriously believe Marilyn Monroe derived her vision of female loveliness from Shirley), and 2. Mary Hagen really needs to go to college in some other town! Suddenly, Ronald Reagan runs up, his trenchcoat flapping in the storm: "Mary! Mary!" We see him desperately trying to take off that trenchcoat and then a wide shot of trenchcoat-removing Reagan and the flowing river. Mary has jumped! Reagan, in dress suit and shoes, but sans trenchcoat, dives into the river.

Now, here is Reagan, with Shirley, by the fireside. She's still saying she needs to know who she is, where she came from.

And our man Reagan, finally, after all these years, tells her that isn't important. "It's what you are, and where you're going that really matters." He tells her she was an ordinary adopted orphan, no connection to him at all. Yay! Reagan can marry her!
Old things. This book finally came out. It was interesting (for me at least) to go back and read that entry from the early days of this blog. Funny to see a post right under it, from January 25, about The Apprentice, titled "How much of 'The Apprentice' is a set up?" I considered the possibility that the women were actresses, in on a joke on the men.
Beyond the Madison Sexual Health Festival. Well, the Sexual Health Festival wasn't the only thing happening in Library Mall today. The Madhatters were giving an al fresco a cappella performance and drawing a big crowd:

And Ernie & Roger's is back with their giant vat of popcorn, stirred with a big paddle and popped in the open air:

I love the joyous spectacle of dumping the popcorn into a huge copper kettle:

Oh, and ASCAP has a new way to try to get the kids to stop downloading music:

Do you know who you hurt when you download music? A little baby! You bad, bad person!

Ah, guilt! Just the thing to wash away the atmosphere of fun and games generated by the Sexual Health Festival. Once sex was very, very serious, and often involved a lot of guilt. That was not the mode of presentation used for the Sexual Health Festival, which portrayed sex as hilarious. Why was sex more serious when the topic wasn't disease? I don't know, but this downloading music business: it's very serious, people. Something really terrible is going to happen to a baby if you don't cut it out!
Festival atmosphere explored. Place: Library Mall, Madison, Wisconsin. What's this festival atmosphere?

Did you notice the warning sign? Neither did I, not until I was leaving the area. But here's a closer look.

So walk into a public square, my friend, and you are giving your consent. To what? Well, there's this:

And this (which doesn't seem too scientific):

And this (which could be taken as a personal insult--like the old Army slogan "Be all that you can be"):

And--oh, no!--there's this (possibly unintentionally inspiring abstinence):

The vote for versus the vote against. Prof. Yin has an interesting new post on the question of whether the American Idol vote this week is evidence of racism, in part responding to my post here. He agrees with me (and Jennifer Hudson's own public statement) that the voting system is the most likely cause of the outcome. He says the voting system should be changed, possibly switching to voting against people instead of for them.
Since we are voting for who want to keep, not who we want to boot, people who think that Jennifer, Fantasia, and LaToya are the three best are in a bit of a quandary. Who do you vote for? You could spend two hours splitting up your votes among all three, but that makes you less effective than the obsessive John-boy fan who spends two hours voting for him.

But the show has a successful formula based on voting for who you like, not ganging up on someone to convey the message that you are against them. The spirit is positive. The voters who are happy with three contestants and dislike one should not be able to kick off the guy that is the only one some other people love. If three "divas" make a great show, why didn't more people watch the all-diva VH-1 contest a year ago? (And why don't more people buy the unbelievably great gospel recordings that already exist?) It's not an objective talent contest. People like the music they like (and much of it is by black artists). The producers want to keep everyone watching to the end, want the winner to sell records (not just be the least disliked, but to have rabid fans, as Clay does), and are not averse to the drama produced by the constant risk that the "wrong" person will go. That's the successful formula. Don't change it. Just keep reminding people to vote--a lot--for the one they love most. That split vote effect works to keep at least one person of the type that a segment of the audience likes. That's how John Stevens survived after JPL was gone. And Nikki McKibben outlasted Tamyra Gray because people who loved Tamyra also loved Kelly Clarkson and people who liked "rockers" had only Nikki to vote for after Ryan Starr was gone. It's the nature of the game.

Hey, I wonder if Kerry would have emerged from the Democratic primaries as the candidate if the process were one of sequentially voting against the one you like least, until only one was left.

UPDATE: has a big piece on the AI "controversy." This is interesting:
The New York Post reported it was deluged with calls complaining that the voting was racially motivated: Hudson, Barrino and London are black. (The Post is owned by News Corp., which also owns Fox TV.)

George Huff, still in the competition, is black, as was last year's winner, Ruben Studdard. "American Idol," unlike other reality shows featuring competition, is more popular in black homes than white homes.

For the current season, the show was watched in 19 percent of all black households, compared to 15 percent of white households, according to Nielsen Media Research.
"You better pick a nice, good, expensive college.'' I love that Trump locution. It reminds me of Peter Sellers improvising in the role of Quilty disguised as a police officer in Kubrick's Lolita.

(Donald Trump is offering to pay for the college education of Apprentice contestant Troy. Subscribers to Entertainment Weekly: go here, where you can also read about Omarosa getting fired from a Clairol Herbal Essences ''streaking party'' ad.)
Jeremy thinks he's special. Or not. Funny that his response to the charge "narcissistic" was to go to the DSM and mine was to recast it as sin, which may indicate that law is not a social science, though the Law School is in the Social Sciences Division here. Or it may indicate that Jeremy's natural instincts are the sort that cause a person to become a political liberal and mine are the sort that pull in the other direction: if something is wrong, do you think of it as a disease to be cured or a personal failing for which the individual should take responsibility? Anyway, Nina's response is to be off to Japan, and she promises to blog about the extent to which she becomes lost in translation. She's flying to Japan over the Atlantic Ocean and she's not going to Tokyo, so it's all very mysterious! The original "friends" that called blogging narcissistic were/was apparently only one person, whose response was to start her own blog. So you see, just like your mother always told you: they're just jealous. And: you are special!

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Speaking of language, John reminds me that it is wrong to say "expound on" something, as I just did in that last post. It's so common to say "expound on," especially in legal circles, that it almost seems too prissy to refrain from using it in casual speech/writing, but John is definitely right that you should say that you expound something, and that the misuse arose from confusion with the phrase "expand on" (or the more rare "expatiate on"). According to Wilson Follett's Modern American Usage:
To expound is to set forth in systematic order ...

Not necessarily reticulated...
... to explain, make clear, elucidate--the word calls for a direct object without intervention. You expound a doctrine; you do not expound on it.

I think people are attracted to the word "expound" over "expand" because "expound" contains "pound" and therefore feels weighty, while "expand" seems "expansive" and that seems empty. "Expound" thus seems to work when you want to flatter someone who speaks at length, because their words have weight, and when you want to insult someone for being ponderous. Isn't it interesting how the weight metaphor works in both a positive and negative way? Well, whether it is or not, people like to say "expound," often with an added "on," which is incorrect, technically, for now, according to Follett ...
What the President thinks of the use of weird words. Having just expounded on the use of strange words, I especially enjoyed this extract--in Slate's always appreciated we-read-this-so-you-don't-have-to series--from Bob Woodward's book Plan of Attack:
Page 186: Bush aide Nick Calio declares his intention to vitiate a congressional filibuster. Bush says, "Nicky, what the fuck are you talking about, vitiate?"
Is blogging a sin? Nina's friends keep telling her blogging is "narcissistic"? Self-publishing falls into the category of "vanity": printers with self-publishers as customers are called "vanity presses." So some vanity, a sin, must be involved. (And a little envy on the part of those friends, in that other ring of hell.) But it's a very low-grade sin isn't it? Think of all the trouble we could be getting into if we weren't tied up at our keyboards.

Putting a picture on my blog has got to heighten the vanity entailed here. When Chris was taking photos yesterday, I can't say that I said, "Please try to get something unflattering." And when I sorted through the results in iPhoto, I can't say that I thought, "Let me find the one that's most reticulated."

UPDATE: Oh, and that internal self-referencing! Not to mention going back and rereading ... and updating ...
"If I had paid enough attention to discover what was going on ... I would have called the chancellor's office and said, 'Hey, do you guys realize that you've got a problem?" More about the Madison bars, drink specials, and antitrust lawsuits involving UW.
Who wrote "the maximum number of words that a human being can scratch out in 49 years"?
Why, it was Alexander Hamilton, "inspired windbag."
"Reticulated"? That's reticulatus! Justice Scalia conspicuously used the word "reticulated" in the oral argument yesterday. Let's examine this. Now, we know Scalia cares a lot about text in legal interpretations, and he seems generally to have an interest in language and etymology. So when he comes out with an unusual word like that, we should do more than laugh and think "That's ridiculous" or nod and think "He's really smart."

He asked, as I noted yesterday, whether the Supreme Court ought to be in the business of "draw[ing] up this reticulated system to preserve our military from intervention by the courts."

To the Dictionary. And if you've read his opinions, you know he likes to cite dictionaries. Let's look up "reticulate" in the American Heritage Dictionary:
ADJECTIVE:Resembling or forming a net or network: reticulate veins of a leaf.

VERB: Inflected forms: re·tic·u·lat·ed, re·tic·u·lat·ing, re·tic·u·lates (-lt)

TRANSITIVE VERB: 1. To make a net or network of. 2. To mark with lines resembling a network.

INTRANSITIVE VERB: To form a net or network.

ETYMOLOGY: Latin reticulatus, from reticulum, diminutive of rete, net.

re·ticu·late·ly —ADVERB
re·ticu·lation —NOUN

First, a tiny point. "Reticulate" is already an adjective, so he could have simply said "this reticulate system." But a good number of listeners would have heard that as "this ridiculous system"--it would even have gone into transcripts and print articles in that form.

But here's the real question: why use a big word that a lot of people don't know? I can think of a number of reasons: to try to appear learned, to exclude the uneducated, to be funny, to achieve an aesthetic effect, and to attain precision that can't be attained with more common words. The first two reasons are almost never justified.

How about the comedic use? Polysyllabic humor has it's place--picture W.C. Fields calling a nose a proboscis--and it actually was pretty funny. Would it be inappropriate for Justice Scalia to have been funny in the middle of an argument about the Guantanamo detainees? Justice is serious business. I think mild humor was justified in this context, which was to emphasize the ineptitude of judges in this area. The word might have been used to draw a cartoon in our heads of a judge with an overinflated opinion of his own powers, drawing all the wrong lines in an area of great importance.

How about the aesthetic use for choosing an unusual word? One might pick a different word for rhythm or alliteration. (For example, if you wanted to refer to some people who were nattering, you might want to call them nabobs.) But quite aside from the poetics of the sound of a word, there may be aesthetic appeal to saying something in an unusual way. If nothing else, it may be striking and memorable. The statement Scalia made that contained the word "reticulated" stuck a memory marker in your head. I actually don't think I will ever forget it!

The best reason for using an unusual word is that it has a precise meaning that is what you really want to say, and no simpler words do what is needed. (The weird word won't work, however, if listeners don't understand it.) Here, we need to ask, does "reticulated" mean what Scalia wanted to say, and was there really no other word that means that? I think he meant to say something like "detailed, delicate, and nuanced." But "reticulated" means having lines on it in the pattern of a net. Most people who know the word "reticulated," I would hazard to guess, know it because they've heard of the reticulated giraffe. So is the legal framework the judges would have to draw up similar to the a pattern of lines on a giraffe? I'd say the pattern of lines on a giraffe is rather regular and easy to map out once you get started. The etymological root of "reticulated" is the Latin word for "net." A net pattern can be graphed, so a judge tasked with drawing a legal framework in a "reticulated" form really could rely on abstract reasoning neatly within the judicial capacity. Therefore, "reticulated" is surely not an odd word justified by its unique, precise meaning. It isn't even the right word at all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Redoing the blog photo and color. When Gordon said I look just like the sidebar picture, but with orange hair, that was another picture. This one has actual orange hair, and I've made the blog background color orange in the bargain--dull orange, ochre really, dulled down so it wouldn't clash with the various photographs that appear here from time to time. The photo isn't the staring-into-the-computer, Josh Marshall look I was going for, but just something Chris snapped this afternoon. I got some good photos of him too, looking, I think, like a young Robert DeNiro. I was trying to get him to adjust his face with the advice "lips together teeth apart," which I was under the impression was standard advice, and it caused him to make a face that made me laugh so hard the neighbors must have thought I'd lost my mind. Anyway, I hope you like the new look!
American Idol: The Outrage. What the hell happened? That was the worst thing ever on American Idol. See my post from this morning for how I read the show last night: I thought Jennifer was the best. I thought the three Divas would be the final three. They were the bottom three! How could that happen? Jennifer was my original favorite, from the first audition. I can only think that the strong praise for the Divas caused people to think they didn't need help, and people speed dialed for two hours for favorites they believed were in danger. I must say they really revealed the results dramatically, telling George to join the safe group, causing him to walk over to the Divas (forming a group that was my predicted final four: George and the Divas), then telling him he'd joined the wrong group. Oh, the outrage!

UPDATE: Prof. Yin was also shocked but questions whether this was actually the worst thing that ever happened on AI. The only serious contender for worst, in my opinion, is when Tamyra Gray didn't make the final three. But that was far from this bad, for several reasons. Her performance that week was really bad. And the remaining three had well-deserved fans. I especially liked Nikki McKibbin. I thought she had real style, and she sang more the sort of music I like. The night Nikki beat Tamyra, Tamyra sang a bad rendition of that dreadful Dr. Laura song "New Attitude" and a song I can't remember called "Feel the Fire." Nikki was at her peak doing "Mary Jane" and "I'm the Only One." Tamyra was better over the whole season, but Nikki beat her fairly that night.

Wait, wait, a cloud just lifted from my memory. There is one other contender for the worst thing ever on AI. It happened on tonight's show. It was that horrible ... thing... that thing... that ... that... that Barry Manilow song! What the hell was that? Some crap about freedom. He made me hate freedom!

The outrage about tonight in the Television Without Pity forum is over the top. (Sample page.)

FURTHER UPDATE: Wow, Shack at Television Without Pity deleted the board I just linked to, with the statement:
Jennifer was ejected. Comments that don't make ridiculously unfounded accusations of racism against the voters are welcome.

YET FURTHER UPDATE: Hudson herself voices the theory stated in the original post:
"I think people just take it for granted because it's Fantasia, Jennifer and LaToya, and we are the divas,'' she said ''They just assume we'd be fine so they decided to help out somebody else... and just left us hanging.''
"Shrummery." Most interesting passage in Ryan Lizza's piece on Bob Shrum in the May issue of The Atlantic:
More than any other figure, Shrum has crafted the populist philosophy that for two decades has been the hallmark of Democratic politics: the belief that "powerful forces" stand in the way of progress for average Americans, and that Democrats are the only agents of change who will fight to restore balance and fairness. It has become one of the most potent and oft-used strains of Democratic rhetoric, famously echoed in Al Gore's 2000 campaign pledge to fight in behalf of "the people, not the powerful" against the "special interests."

And how does that relate to Kerry?
What is perhaps most fascinating about the coming election is that Shrum's trademark populism, which seemed so discordant just two years ago, will suddenly have renewed resonance. With much of the country passionately aligned against President Bush, the consummate Shrum villain if ever there was one, the sociological and political landscape may at last be hospitable to the consultant's steadfast world view. And a win for Kerry would bestow on Shrum the one thing that separates him from Karl Rove: credit for bringing a President to power.

If, however, Kerry loses, he will become the second patrician Democrat in two presidential elections to do so on populist themes of economic and class warfare. It's hard to see how Shrum's outsize reputation—and by extension the current direction of the Democratic Party—could possibly remain intact.

It's a good day for reading about Shrum, because Kaus is also on his case. ("Can Shrum Do Centrism?") "Shrummery" is Kaus's word, and here's his bottom line:
[A]sking Shrum--who's spent much of his life looking for the next JFK--to be the man to tell Kerry--who's spent all of his life trying to be the next JFK--that he isn't the next JFK seems way too much to expect.
Surreal moment of the week. I'm working away in my office, get up to take a short break, walk twenty feet down the hall, and there's Janet Reno, standing at the lectern in the faculty library (talking to a group of students it turns out).
The oral argument in the Guantanamo detainees case. You can listen to the whole oral argument here, but it's not very edifying. Retired Judge John Gibbons, arguing for the detainees, stumbles along, and the Justices seem to hold back from pushing a fellow judge too much. At one point near the end, Gibbons seems to be groping to find something else to say, then says there seemed to be a question Justice Breyer asked a while back that he might not have answered, but he's forgotten what it is. Justice Breyer, perhaps only because time has almost run out, says he’ll take it up with the Solicitor General. Gibbons did hit upon some good lines, and these will be found in the press reports, but there was a woeful lack of eloquence overall.

The SG, Ted Olson, has a sonorous voice, but his argument was uninspired. He responded to key questions by noting for the third or fourth time the absence of statutory language and “the line that this Court drew” in an old case. “But why is it a good line?” Justice Souter burst out. I don't think Olson ever conveyed a strong reason to stand back so far in deference to the President. You can say "The United States is at war"--Olson's excellent opening line--but that can't mean: so anything goes. The question is how far back to stand, and you ought to have good reasons for the degree of deference you're asking for.

Justice Scalia actively picked up the slack. (Listen to Nina Totenberg's summary with great clips from the oral argument here.) His argument is all about the lack of judicial capacity to draw lines in this area and the lack of need for a judicial check on the Executive because the political process can respond. That's no help if you're an innocent detainee and the American public is willing to ignore you. But in Scalia's view, the courts do not sit to right all injustices. The fate of some individuals can be left in the hands of the Commander in Chief--which, of course, is inevitably true in war to some extent. Everyone's real question is: to what extent? Scalia is likely to say: if the detainees are not American citizens and are not on American territory, we should leave it to the President to determine how similar or different they are from persons detained on the battlefield, because it will be too hard for the courts to design the necessary legal structure to deal with this area properly:
We have only lawyers before us, we have no witnesses, we have no cross-examination, we have no investigative staff. And we should be the ones, Justice Breyer suggests, to draw up this reticulated system to preserve our military from intervention by the courts?

Breyer took another tack, and ribbed Scalia for saying "reticulated." He asked Olson whether the Court might not help him in a different way, by finding jurisdiction, reaching the merits, and then "shaping" the substantive law so that there is no significant limit on the Executive.

So the Court might find jurisdiction, probably because the United States controls everything in the rented space that is Guantanamo Bay--as Gibbons noted, a letter with a stamp with Fidel Castro's picture on it would not get delivered, and we protect the Cuban iguana. But that will just mean that the federal court on habeas will reach the merits of the claim, and it is likely that very little will be needed to satisfy the courts that no relief is warranted. Deference to the Executive will be accomplished by articulating extremely narrow or nearly nonexistent rights--or no rights at all.

Breyer might be right that the Executive would benefit from this approach. His opponents could no longer bemoan the large area of unchecked power and the neat trick of putting everyone in Guantanamo, but power could remain virtually completely unchecked by courts, just unchecked in a way that makes it difficult to criticize as unchecked. If that's true, maybe those who worry about the detainees ought to reconsider the appeal of Scalia's position. If the courts forthrightly say, we will have nothing to do with these matters, people cannot soothe themselves with the hope (the futile hope) of a judicial check and may still see the need to push the Executive (or Congress) to behave in a just way toward the detainees.

This is of course an old argument, and I cite law types to Felix Frankfurter's opinion in Baker v. Carr and Robert Jackson's opinion in Korematsu.
First, a word or two about American Idol... and then I'm going to approach the reticulated Cuban iguana I was too tired to talk about last night.

I've never liked Barry Manilow's music, but I've seen him on talk shows and think he is a really nice person. That meant he'd be a bad addition to the already-too-nice panel of judges and he was. It was like two Paulas, except one of them had a lot of opportunities to murmur about his own greatness, in the Neil-Sedaka-you-did-my-song-proud mode. And Barry Manilow seized every opportunity. My favorite thing about Barry Manilow was how all the contestants performed as instructed and enthused about how great he was, and the phoniness of this fawning became obvious when Diana DeGarma accidently called him "Mr. Barry" twice. (As if he was her hairdresser.)

Though I don't like the Manilow type of music, it is powerfully melodic, so it offered the contestants a chance to show that they can put over a melody. Unfortunately, the American Idol selection process leaves us with people who try to avoid the melody (and not just by going off key). They trill and do melismas and cover the melody up, like it was an embarrassing family secret. Poor Mr. Barry!

Only one contestant is melody-focused: John Stevens. But like Diana DeGarma, he's been branded "too young" to stand up to the powerful three women who last night were branded "The Divas." Stevens's performance made me remember how unsweet the narrative voice is in "Mandy": you just know Stevens would never have sent Mandy away in the first place. (That song has an infectious melody, but I've always hated the words, because the "I" is so damned self-involved: good for Mandy for staying away from that shaking, curable-by-kissing loser. He needs her again to solve his problem? Tough! Develop some inner resources for a change! I'd like to hear a nice bitchy song called "Mandy's Side of the Story": So you think you sent me away?)

The branding mentioned above is being done by Simon Cowell, who tries so hard to influence voting and whose favorite test of the contestants is "Do you think you can win this?" For a pissy old bastard like Cowell to embrace the philosophy You're a Winner If You Only Believe is just part of the mixed up world of American Idol. Cowell likes to create drama too: not only are Jennifer Hudson, LaToya London, and Fantasia Barrino The Divas who deserve to be the final three--they can make if they only believe--but they just hate each other now, don't they? C'mon Jennifer, admit it--you hate them: that was Cowell's attitude last night.

This attitude seems to reflect a theory that the voting process will tend to produce a race and sex balance (as if the telephone dialers were a University Admissions Committee). But ask Jon Peter Lewis if that's true. And if John Stevens leaves tonight, maybe the Ruben-Can't-Win racial theories of American Idol voting ought to be retired. And quit pushing Jennifer, LaToya, and Fantasia to hate each other. Those three are completely different and not special rivals just because they are all black women. LaToya is much cooler, maybe too cold to win, and she sings the songs in cleaner style. Fantasia has a strange, distinctive tone to her voice, a very manic personality, and a strong happiness and energy (even though she made herself cry singing "Summertime" last week). Jennifer is very warm and emotional, sometimes to the point of corniness. But she was great last night. The best of the group. The idea that the voters will be mixing these three up is really insulting to everyone involved. I understand Cowell wants to produce a drama, but must part of the drama be: how can the three best performers survive when they are all black women?

But I think he wants them to be the final three, and I give Cowell and the rest credit for not even seeming to have an idea like: for the sake of the ratings we need to keep some white performers. The white performers have been slammed, and it's quite likely that the final four will all be black: George and The Divas.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, Tonya's young son likes John Stevens the best, because he thinks he looks like a Weasley. He calls him "that red-headed guy." (But he doesn't remember last year's red-headed guy. Imagine how Clay Aiken would have thrilled us if he'd had the chance to sing "Mandy.") Prof. Yin thinks the bottom three will be John Stevens, Diana DeGarmo, and Jasmine Trias, and that Jasmine will lose. Jasmine hit a horrendous note at the end, and though Kelly Clarkson got away with hitting the single worst note in the history of American Idol (singing "Natural Woman"), I think Jasmine might be punished. Also, she discarded her magic flower. But I predict Diana will be the one to go. I think Stevens will survive, because he sang "Mandy," which stood out as the best song, and he sang it so we could hear it and understand it, and I think enough people appreciated that.

FURTHER UPDATE: After the results show, which I discuss here, by my own standard ("if John Stevens leaves tonight"), it's not yet retirement time for racial theories of American Idol voting.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Reticulated Cuban iguana. I listened to the oral argument in the Guantanamo detainees case, but I'm too tired now to blog about it. Tomorrow.
Adding that picture. I was fooling around with the blog template tonight and figuring out how to have a little self-portrait appear in the sidebar. I take Josh Marshall's classic blog photo as the model. I like the way his position and demeanor suggest the existence of the computer outside the frame. Anyway, this picture is just a place holder for now so don't get used to it. I would like to redo the whole template here, because I don't like the standardized Blogspot look. Mostly by trial and error, I've tweaked it a little over the weeks, like changing the light blue background to lilac. It took me forever tonight to figure out where in the mass of html coding to stick the image, but now that I've figured it out, I'll work on getting the properly emblematic picture to replace this one.
How I bought four gadgets. So I got the brilliant idea to make my own Atkins-satisfying Haagen-Daz-quality ice cream. (This stuff isn't very good. And it's surely not "super premium." And the brand name rubs me the wrong way.) I go to Sharper Image, which weirdly has a branch near here in what a couple years ago was farmland. I find a nice little Panasonic ice cream maker but I also walk away with three other gadgets, like the kind of big Sharper Image sucker that the store was invented to hypnotize. One thing was a clothes steamer, which makes sense because it looks like way more fun than ironing and doesn't involve dragging out the ironing board. One thing was an alarm clock that is a light that comes on very slowly, like a sunrise, which makes sense because sunrise wakes me up very nicely (compared to sound) and because I bought a similar device 15 years ago, but it never worked right (it would come on at some completely wrong time in the middle of the night). The fourth thing, the most expensive, was a Roomba robot vacuum cleaner (a "pro elite" one no less), which makes complete sense, because my vacuum cleaner is 20 years old and because it seems really cute and cool and because I never feel like dragging out the vacuum (which is undoubtedly why my vacuum cleaner still works after 20 years). So am I a Sharper Image idiot or a reasonable person?
Hey, that was my answer. "Starfish and Coffee"!
Free speech in Philadelphia. I love the photoblog Satan's Laundromat. Here's a choice example of the style.

UPDATE: Photo removed.
How should Clinton title his memoirs? It was a good idea for a readable magazine list to ask a bunch of usual suspects this question, but the answers are so lame as either political commentary or comedy that it wasn't worth publishing. (Via Swamp City, which I discovered looking for blogs that made fun of Kerry's "restaurants" remark.)
So you want to meet a foreign leader? Now that the transcript from Kerry's Meet the Press appearance is available, let me reprint the part that had us laughing at my house:
MR. RUSSERT: Let me see if I can clean up a comment that you made in March that created an awful lot of controversy and stir. "I have met more leaders who can't go out and say it publicly but, boy, they look at you and say, `You gotta win this, you gotta beat this guy, we need a new policy'--things like that. So there is enormous energy out there. Tell them, wherever they can find an American abroad, they can contribute."

The Washington Times added this: "Although Mr. Kerry indicated that he had met in person with foreign leaders who privately endorsed him, he has made no official trips abroad in the past two years. Within the United States, he has had the chance to meet with only one foreign leader since the beginning of last year, according to a review of his travel schedule."

Specifically, which foreign leaders have you met with who told you that you should beat George Bush?

SEN. KERRY: Tim, first of all, that is an inaccurate assessment of how I might or where I might be able to meet or talk to a foreign leader, number one.

MR. RUSSERT: But you have talked to foreign leaders who told you...

SEN. KERRY: Number--Tim, what I said is true. I mean, you can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader. There are plenty of places to meet people without traveling abroad. ...

Let's see, I need to meet some foreign leaders. I'll just go to restaurants ... because, you know, it's New York...
Understanding politics with brain blood flow patterns. Maybe some people will be critical of the use of MRI technology to test political ads.
[A man] lay inside an M.R.I. machine, watching commercials playing on the inside of his goggles as neuroscientists from the University of California, Los Angeles, measured the blood flow in his brain. Instead of asking the subject, John Graham, a Democratic voter, what he thought of the use of Sept. 11 images in a Bush campaign commercial, the researchers noted which parts of Mr. Graham's brain were active as he watched. The active parts, they also noted, were different from the parts that had lighted up in earlier tests with Republican brains.

Here's why I was eager to find out what science can tell us. Democrats were harshly critical of Bush for using 9/11 images in ads and asserted that they were outraged at the desecration of the images. But maybe the claim of outrage is being asserted because it is an effective political argument to counter what is actually an effective commercial that doesn't outrage people who have some potential to actually vote for Bush. So can you answer such questions from seeing blood flow patterns?
Mr. Graham, like other Democrats tested so far, reacted to the Sept. 11 images with noticeably more activity in the amygdala ["the part of the brain that responds to threats and danger"] than did the Republicans, said the lead researcher, Marco Iacoboni, an associate professor at the U.C.L.A. Neuropsychiatric Institute...

"The first interpretation that occurred to me," Professor Iacoboni said, "is that the Democrats see the 9/11 issue as a good way for Bush to get re-elected, and they experience that as a threat."

But then the researchers noted that same spike in amygdala activity when the Democrats watched the nuclear explosion in the [LBJ] "Daisy" spot, which promoted a Democrat.

Hmmm.... so what's the interpretation?
[Clinton strategist Tom] Freedman suggested another interpretation based on his political experience: the theory that Democrats are generally more alarmed by any use of force than Republicans are. For now, Professor Iacoboni leans toward this second interpretation, though he is withholding judgment until the experiment is over.

Freedman's interpretation is self-serving, but is there an alternative? Maybe not. What makes someone affiliate on a deep level with a political party? It can't be actual rational agreement with all the positions that party currently espouses. Maybe present day affiliation with the Democratic Party is founded on an emotional aversion to violence. Maybe people with steelier nerves (or an attraction to violence) are drawn into the Republican Party.

This is even more interesting:
One of the most striking results so far is the way subjects react to candidates after seeing a campaign commercial. At the start of the session, when they look at photographs of Mr. Bush, Mr. Kerry and Ralph Nader, subjects from both parties tend to show emotional reactions to all the candidates, indicated in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain associated with reflexive reactions.

But then, after the Bush campaign commercial is shown, the subjects respond in a partisan fashion when the photographs are shown again. They still respond emotionally to the candidate of their party, but when they see the other party's candidate, there is more activity in the rational part of the brain, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. "It seems as if they're really identifying with their own candidate, whereas when they see the opponent, they're using their rational apparatus to argue against him," Professor Iacoboni said.

That seems to explain a lot about the way people behave in politics and why people talk past each other once they've bonded with their candidate. It also suggests why people in the middle (like me), who actually have the potential to vote for either candidate, get so sick of hearing the arguments both sides make.
High contempt on the Jack Paar Show. I watched the first of the full-length episodes of the Tonight Show on The Jack Paar Collection. It is a night in 1962, before the classic desk-chair combination became The Tonight Show set and before the show adopted the classic order of guest appearance (biggest star first, music performance last). But the show does begin with an announcer, followed by a monologue, and the monologue has the familiar attribute of an easy joke about a celebrity who the audience can be depended on to know has one distinctive characteristic (in this case, Jackie Gleason is fat).

The show gets off to a crashingly slow start as Giselle McKenzie sings two songs, one right after another, one of which is "As Long as He Needs Me," that song from Oliver! that romanticizes domestic violence. Then Giselle comes over to sit next to Jack, where she makes one lame remark, before Jack introduces Jonathan Winters. In the introduction, Jack asserts that all comedians except Winters have influences. Winters is a true original. The truly originally thing to do turns out to be to play the character of a stereotypical "sissy" (who hilariously is a sailor on the Pequod who has brought his mother aboard, which displeases Ahab).

Finally, the big guest of the night comes out. It's Bette Davis! The highlight of her appearance for many will be the part at the end when Bette, Jack, Jonathan, and Giselle all light up cigarettes and start puffing heartily. Bette coughs and causes Jack to make a crack about cancer. And then Bette teaches the others how to smoke like Bette Davis, which mainly involves twirling your hand around and saying, "Peter," even though, as she asserts, she's never said "Peter" in a movie.

But the highlight for me comes later, when Bette talks about "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane," which has just come out and proven a big success. Bette recounts how the Hollywood people refused to back the film. The look of contempt on Davis's face as she says "Those two old dames! I won't give you a dime!" is priceless:

Monday, April 19, 2004

So what is it like in Madison today? Springtime is moving in at a decent enough pace. Remember this tree? Here's how it looks now:

The flowering trees are are pre-peak but lovely:

The nonflowering trees have a youthful spring look:

More intense maturity can also be found:

If you take a walk in my neighborhood, University Heights:

Prince: "I don't run with that." First, he has the classic style of arrogance (and rightly so!):
Benjamin Disraeli: When I want to read a good book, I write one.

Prince: When I want to hear new music, I go make some.

Second, he has an opinion of the record industry:
''You know that guy who dances funny on 'American Idol'? The Asian-American kid?'' He means William Hung. ''That works for the record industry,'' he says with a laugh. ''We need somebody to release those kind of records.'' Does his implied critique include packaged popsters like Britney Spears, too? Prince begs off, not wanting to name names. Kinda. ''I mean no disrespect,'' he says. ''But I see it as my duty to school young people coming up. Lip-synchers? What does a kid -- what do other artists get out of that? I don't mind if Mariah Carey hits bad notes.''

Is he wallowing in the past?
''You know that old lady in 'Sunset Boulevard,' trapped in her mansion and past glories? Getting ready for her close-up? I don't run with that."

These quotes and much more are in a big article in the new Entertainment Weekly, which you can read here if you have a subscription. But go buy a paper copy, the one with Prince on the cover!

And Chris Rock has this to say in his new HBO show:
"Remember back in the day when we all would argue who's better, Michael Jackson or Prince...well, Prince won!"
Kerry on Meet the Press--a few observations. Kerry has been working on his face. As Chris put it, "He made himself orange." Why did he do that? Going orange didn't work too well for Gore. I supposed it's the Tanned-and-Rested image, which he seems to be striving for generally. At least he went with brown rather than red rouge. Chris adds:
He has the Charlize Theron tan. You realize it's like a major Hollywood fad. All the big Hollywood celebrities, especially the female celebrities, are getting an orange tan. Britney Spears got it. ...He's gone way too far. I mean, it's hard to even take him seriously."

Why did Kerry get his eyebrows waxed half off? They now begin directly above the inner edge of the iris. Once you notice it, it looks really weird. I assume they thought you wouldn't really notice but would just subliminally think he had stopped scowling.

The degree of facial reconfiguring that has gone on is made clear whenever Russert puts one of Kerry's old quotes up on the screen: there's a little picture of Kerry looking quite pallid and withered. The fact is, he does look a hell of a lot better now, despite weird eyebrows and orangeness.

Most insane exchange:
RUSSERT [after playing a 1971 clip of Kerry stating that he took part in war atrocities in Vietnam]: You committed atrocities?

KERRY [laughing]: Where did .... Where did all that dark hair go, Tim? That's a big question for me.

He does then go on to deal with the issue of his characterization of the fighting in Vietnam as atrocity: it was the "over the top" language of the time. As to "all that dark hair"--as if he's gracefully accepting the effects of age and wouldn't use artificial means to regain youthful looks!

Russert asks him a direct question, maybe the single most important question: What would you do different from Bush in Iraq? Kerry's "response" is to launch into an anecdote with no apparent connection to the question (about a Vietnam vet--of all things) and gradually work his way toward something that will seem to be an answer. The strategy is to put the "answer" as far from the question as possible, in the hope that you'll forget the question and accept the proffered "answer" as an answer (or just hope that he'll stop talking already). Does Kerry ever answer the question about the future of Iraq? He always substitutes assertions about mistakes in the past. The most I'm hearing about the future is that Kerry will pursue all the same goals, but in a "smarter way." I'll just do it better. Trust me! Why? Because Bush hasn't been good enough.
How Bob Mould and Justice Scalia helped me lose weight. Really! You've got to go with the inspiration that happens to come your way in life.

A few years ago, when Justice Scalia gave a talk at the Law School, I ended up sitting next to him at the luncheon that followed. When I somehow had the nerve to banter about how neither of us was eating the dessert, he told me about his diet, which sounded like the Atkins diet--I think it was the South Beach Diet. His comment: "You can have all the butter you want, but you can't put it on anything." That inspired me to go on a diet, just because I figured, it was so strange to talk about dieting with Justice Scalia, that I had to go on a diet. So, thanks, Justice Scalia!

More recently, following a link from (I think) Gawker, I checked out diet tips at Bob Mould's blog. Now, Bob Mould offering diet tips on his blog is scarcely on the level of a personal discussion with Justice Scalia. But one of the tips was to buy a good scale, with a link to Amazon. You may remember my recent run-in with my doctor's scale, which weighed me about 20 pounds more than my home scale. The home scale was pretty untrustworthy, because I could stand in different places on it until I got a weight I was willing to accept. So Bob Mould's advice and link caused me to get the high tech scale. It arrived and forced me to see the reality: the doctor's scale was right. So now I'm desperately trying to live up to that scale's standards (aka "reality") and am Atkins-ing once again. So, thanks, Bob Mould!
Old houses, old windows. My last name means "old house," and in fact, I live in an old house. And it's an old house with the original windows--which look really nice, by the way. But that means every spring the big wood-framed storm windows need to come down and the big wood-framed screens need to go up. In the fall, it's the reverse. Twice a year, I am overjoyed to get the call from the guys who do this job for me. Twice a year, I worry that they might not call, that they are quitting doing it. (They are firemen and retired firemen.) This year, when they said, "We'll see you in the fall," I said, "I certainly hope so. I don't know what I'd do without you. I'd have to move."

You know, one of the nicest things about Madison is that all the people who work on houses--plumbers, construction people, window guys--are really competent and smart and polite.
Least Exciting Slate Headline of the Day.
The Genius of Helen Mirren

Usually Slate oversells its articles with front page headlines, but I don't know what happened there. Ooh! I've just got to find out why Helen Mirren is a genius! Maybe there's something about the Slate demographic I don't understand. Diehard PBS types who will exclaim, "Finally, the recognition that is her due!"

Okay, so what is the Most Exciting Slate Headline of the Day? "Sticking It to a Book-Mauling Homophobe"? No, just books involved in, apparently, mauling. You can't trick me there. I'd say it's:
Did Kerry just endorse means testing?

Now, that's exciting. But I would have checked Kausfiles on my own. Ah, Kerry on Meet the Press. According to Kaus, Kerry backed a form of means-testing that's modified in a way that it won't make any difference, bottom line. So what's the political strategy there? People who make a lot of money will figure out that they won't lose anything so they won't oppose him, but other people will be excited that he's doing something at the expense of people who make a lot of money? Presumably, these groups think differently, move in separate circles, and don't compare notes.

Actually, the book-mauling headline may be worth following. There's a slideshow of art made out of vandalized books. But the image on the Slate front page is quite a bit better than the other items in the slide show--and some are real stinkers. My position on political art: It's usually bad. And: No political statement justifies making bad art.
A busy Monday morning. Welcome morning visitors. Check out the wealth of weekend posts if you haven't already. I'll have something today by mid-afternoon, but for now I've got some notes that need studying and a class to teach.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Congratulations, Cliff! My nephew, Cliff Kresge, after a difficult Saturday which left him in 58th place, shot 5 under par today to finish in 16th place at the MCI Heritage tournament. That was done with an eagle and three birdies--he was one of only three bogey-free players--for a 66. Nice! Only one player had a better day, Stewart Cink, who shot 7 under par to move from 22nd place to win the tournament, beating out poor Ted Purdy who started the day with a big lead but fell to second place at two over par. The tragic case of the day was Heath Slocum, who began in second place, but shot 7 over par and fell to 32nd place. What a relentless and remorseless game golf is, where every shot counts and people can rise and fall so far in one day.
Ode to Masculinity, cont'd ... ovation for nature. Sarah offers an addition to my Ode to Masculinity, which involves guys running down State Street in the rainstorm last night:
Some are screaming because they're bothered by the rain, but others--disproportionately male--are cheering the rain. One guy actually yelled, "bring it!" Yes, that's right: he yelled at the rain for the rain to "bring it."

Yeah, that definitely belongs on the list. Something about the high spirits tinged with ridiculousness/stupidity. (The larger the ridiculousness/stupidity tinge, the higher the dorkiness ranking, but you need some of that tinge--in my opinion--it's not a bad thing.)

She also recalls another nighttime rainstorm, on Halloween, when "[h]undreds of people--whose costumes were ruined by the burst of rain--stood in the street cheering for the thunder. ... Each and every time there was thunder people screamed and applauded." Well, that gives me an opportunity to do one of my I-remember-back-in-the-60s things. It was August 1969 and, no, it wasn't Woodstock. (I didn't go to Woodstock because I didn't have $17.)

It was before Woodstock, the Atlantic City Pop Festival, the one no one remembers, because there was much less suffering--no mud, bad acid, traffic jams, or fence-jumping. But it was pretty cool. Joni Mitchell got mad at the audience for fooling around too much and not paying appropriately folky rapt attention to her. She told us off and quit, then skipped Woodstock too, then wrote a song about Woodstock as if she were really all into the chaotic love-in atmosphere. Ha ha!

The festival took place at the race track and there was a nice open air stage. (I remember it had a big red peace sign right in the middle, which my pal Bruce said was like a pimple in the middle of a forehead. Did you know that in the summer of 1969, the peace sign was considered embarrassing (quite aside from actual political preferences about war and peace)?)

Anyway, there was an amazing lightning storm. No rain, just vast networks of lightning branching over the whole sky. Oh, did the audience enjoy that light show! The screams and applause for nature went on and on through the night.
Blogtending. Do I spend a lot of time writing this blog? A better question might be: do I spend a lot of time reading this blog? One reason to write is to make something you yourself want to read.

Benjamin Disraeli said: "When I want to read a good book, I write one." Well, that's a little arrogant. He did also say: "An author who speaks about his own books is almost as bad as a mother who talks about her own children." And we all know how bad that is! Anyway, I think the point is, if you want a piece of writing that addresses only what you're interested in, you ought to write it yourself, which is how I feel about blogging. (And, perhaps, if you want to find children endlessly interesting, have some.)

But a big part of reading your own blog is just rechecking your own proofreading. Even though I care a lot about grammar and spelling and form of expression, I have an uncanny ability not to see typos. I could check five times and then find a typo on the seventh. Like this morning, when I wrote "If you're easily board..." And you might have thought, yeah, why am I reading a blog by someone who's too "board" even to proofread? So, I spend a fair amount of time reading my own blog so you won't have to think that. And yet... there is always one more thing!

UPDATE: I could check five times and then find a typo on the seventh. Uh, I meant to say that?
"Getting-Into-College-Camp." The NYT has a new entry in its continuing series of stories about how students today are working too hard. They need to ease up and enjoy life more--that's the theme. Today's article is about--horrors!--high school kids who spend a couple weeks in the summer living in college dorms in places like Boston and LA and taking a bunch of classes about writing good college applications and managing the SAT. But they aren't hiking! They aren't getting enough fresh air!

"How far can the frenzy over college admissions go?" wails Times reporter Tamar Lewin. The dean of admissions at Pomona College in California offers Lewin a quotable quote: "This is just sick ... I can't imagine how it's going to help, and it sounds like such a ridiculous waste of money that it distresses me that parents would be so obsessive-compulsive." Well, that's a tad hysterical. Admissions deans ought to look into their own failings, not criticize students who are trying to get throught the barriers they set up. And I say that as someone who managed to get into a good law school despite the fact that I was clueless about how to do the application, had no idea of the importance of the personal essay, and, not even realizing I could type out extra pages and writing only what fit in the space provided on the application form, told the simple truth about what was going through my head about going to law school! (And what was going through my head was cringe-inducingly lame!) I would have loved to have had a way to talk to someone who could have explained what is involved in putting together a competitive application. That said, when I read application files today as an Admissions Committee member, I try to look through the application and see the person. There are some people who don't come from a background to know what a competent advisor would tell them or even to realize that they could have gotten some advice. That these people still can prevail because of the facts in the file certainly doesn't mean that there is no reason for any given applicant to do what they can to present a good file. For people who do not come from an underprivileged background, a poorly prepared file can convey the impression that they are not mature or dedicated or hard-working enough.

Exactly why is doing a little summer course so terrible and "obsessive"? If the real point that admissions dean is making is that summer camp is expensive, so the underprivileged lose out, he should deal with that disparity himself, by reading files carefully and taking account of deficiencies in applications that are traceable to lack of privilege. But don't knock students who just work hard at perfecting their applications! And don't act like living in a cool city for two weeks with other kids your age is terrible because you ought to be out hiking. Personally, I'd rather "hike" around a cool city. To be able to discover a city, with kids your age, while you get some advice about something that is making you really anxious: I would have loved to have done that as a high school kid! With that anxiety tended to, there are still ten weeks left to the long summer for long hikes in the woods--though I bet far more of that time is spent indoors, watching movies and TV and playing video games, while the parent who sent you to get-into-college camp is hounding you to go out and get some fresh air!
Listening. You can listen to 9 Beet Stretch on line here. (See yesterday's posts if you don't know what I'm talking about.) It takes a while to make any audible sound at all, so don't give up. The ordinary speed first movement has a mysteriously slow intro, so when you slow that way the hell down, it might make you think the MP3 isn't working. I think it's nearly silent until the second minute! Well, if you're the impatient sort maybe this isn't your thing, but you might want to speed ahead to minute 2. The first audible note is very Ninth Symphony. If you get easily bored, you could simultaneously play, in slow motion, with the sound off, your DVD of Clockwork Orange. Or just read--read Philip K. Dick, like this guy, who made 9 Beet Stretch his Philip K. Dick reading soundtrack, noting that that it "is somewhat reminiscent of Blade Runner's soundtrack. It's got just the right mixture of desolation and transcendence, and is my favorite online audio find since SpamRadio."

I found the 9 Beet Stretch website through this nice review in The Village Voice. Here's an excerpt from that:
Electronic-sound jockeys must have fantasized about this idea ages ago, and it's a wonder that it waited for [9 Beet Stretch composer Lief] Inge to get around to it. Early composers who worked with audiotape agonized over their inability to change the speed of a sound without raising or lowering the pitch as well. In the '60s (according to genius sound engineer Robert Bielecki, my source for such data), there was some success in doing this with vocal samples, but music-quality time compression and expansion waited for the digital age. Today, many audio programs like ProTools contain pitch-shifting algorithms, because that's what you need: Changing the pitch without changing the speed is the same problem. Slowing down a sound is especially difficult, since the computer needs to interpolate identical wave forms in between the ones already there, but without causing glitches....

The second and third movements are remarkably lovely, eight hours of ethereal ambient music between them. The isolated violin notes of the scherzo's fugue turn into gossamer lines, while the slow movement's dissonances and suspensions take forever to melt, holding the ear rapt like the slowest Furtwängler recording of a Mahler adagio, only much slower. I find this 330-minute version of the Adagio a considerable improvement over the original. Who would have thought that Beethoven could have been a great ambient composer, if he had only divided his metronome markings by a couple dozen?

Looking back over my photos from yesterday, I realize that a glaring question is: Where is everybody? It looks completely empty! I was avoiding including people, in part because I wanted to be able to put the pictures up here and in part because I thought most people didn't add to the somber glory of the abandoned factory (visitors to my office know that when my iMac is unused for a couple minutes it starts to play pictures of abandoned buildings, which I got from a website I've now forgotten and would love to be able to find again (Inge used an iMac, by the way)). There was one woman I wanted to photograph--I would have asked her first, though. She was dressed like the people in this book. Oh, how I would love for this style of dressing to take hold in Madison!

I wonder if the audience grew as the 8pm end time approached. Perhaps it seemed to be an evening thing to do, or people just assumed the Ode to Joy part of the symphony would be best, the way I thought I'd prefer to hear something other than the Third Movement, which seems least interesting in normal time.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

Ode to Masculinity. Since I spent most of the day witnessing male genius in the form of Beethoven and Tarantino, let me enumerate the lesser manifestations of masculinity I observed today, in reverse order of dorkiness.

4. At the restaurant, a young guy is wearing a shirt that bears the slogan "Pain is weakness leaving the body." On closer inspection, it turns out to be a Marines T-shirt. Low level of dorkiness assigned on the assumption the young man is a Marine.

3. At the movie theater, the young guy in front of me periodically moves to the edge of his seat and blocks the lower left corner of the screen. Not only does this cut off part of my view, but it distracts me with the knowledge of what sorts of things excite him, such as the preview for the movie "Hero." Sidenote: I love the utter straightforwardness of this quote from the director of "Hero," Zhang Yimou (speaking to the Chinese press): "My idea of the film was for it to be not too lofty or sublime. I just thought let us make a good film, make it attractive and get people to come and see it."

2. Two boys have a big trampoline set up under a basketball hoop, which allows them to make great jump shots.

1. A teenage guy is wearing sneakers that have a little skate wheel hidden in the heel. Even though he's walking with a pretty teenage girl, every once in a while, he goes up on one heel and slides ahead for a few yards.
Saturday at the Ironworks. More pictures from 9 Beet Stretch:

Kill Bill, Vol. 2 is gargantuan. An enjoyable afternoon was spent at the movies, seeing the new Kill Bill. I'm just going to say one thing general and one thing specific about the visuals and one thing specific about the music.

One thing general about the visuals: There were always numerous interesting details on screen to look at, which rarely happens in film and counts for a lot with me.

One thing specific about the visuals: In the scene at night in the graveyard, with the coffin lid up and the decayed body of the corpse partly exposed, the corpse's hand is sticking up and formed into a position to cause the shadow on the coffin lid to be a rabbit's head, as if the corpse were making a shadow puppet.

One thing specific about the music: In a key scene, the music is composed in part of a slowed down version of The Zombies' "She's Not There." If I were insane, I would take this as a personal message to me, because I am on record loving "She's Not There," and I spent the morning experiencing a slowed down piece of music (see below). In fact, as we were driving away from the ironworks, we were talking about the potential for slowing down other pieces of music. The Zombies' song was much less slowed down than the Beethoven however, which is now into its last half hour and must be evanescing into the sublime round about now.

UPDATE: Why a rabbit? I'm not positive it is a rabbit. It's a tiny detail. I'd have to see the movie again to check it out. But I note that there are at least two rabbit references in Kill Bill, Volume 1: "Silly rabbit, Trix are for kids" and (in Japanese) "Time for the rabbit to come out of her hole" (at page 60 and 87 of the script found here). Ah, you figure it out!
"9 Beet Stretch" has reached the fourth movement. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony has been playing at the Kupfer Ironworks on the East Side of town (see previous post) since 8pm last night. It will end at 8pm tonight. I arrived around 11 and had roughly calculated that the long fourth movement would have begun. I could not decipher the ambient sound I was hearing, until the long silence set in. When the sound resumed, I knew it was the profound beginning of the fourth movement. Even the melody became perceptible. Here are some photos of the ironworks, where you should certainly go if you can make it to Madison before 8. The scene was arty and somber, but a party atmosphere should set in. They were setting up a barbecue of all things and there was evidence of some other refreshments.

Don't forget that elongated Beethoven thing! Discussed below, it's going on now, and up to 8 pm tonight. It's a big installation, but I don't think too many people know about it. It's free. Check it out. I will and will report back. If you're in Madison, you've got to go, even if just to check out the building and hear how the thing sounds for a couple minutes. Go to the Theo Kupfer Ironworks building at 149 Waubesa St. Where's that? Start going East on East Washington, and per Yahoo's instructions "go 2.1 miles, Turn on MILWAUKEE ST - go 0.2 mi, Turn on WAUBESA ST - go 0.2 mi, Arrive at 149 WAUBESA ST, MADISON." Now you can't say you didn't know how to get there.
Video on Demand ... "The Dalton Girls" ... "Born Rich" ... The Apprentice. I caught the documentary "Born Rich," which is playing on HBO on Demand. And let me just pause to say I love the whole video on demand technology--except the way on my service if you leave it on pause too long a too-happy female voice booms "Welcome to video on demand!" Since I pause a lot, leave the room, enter into conversations and so forth, that "Welcome!" voice is the least welcome thing on TV. But a little video on demand and you can't help wanting the future of TV to arrive quickly. Right now some of HBO, Cinemax, and Showtime is available free and some other things are available for a price, but why isn't every movie and TV show ever made available? Why isn't TV more like the Internet? Why can't I just watch any old episode of, say, Dobie Gillis or I'm Dickens, He's Fenster whenever I want? Why can't I sit down any night and call up, say, "The Dalton Girls"? (Althouse trivia experts should know that was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. According to an IMDB user summary it's "Just another 'B' western, except the outlaws are babes." I see the plot was "After the Dalton boys are killed by the law, one of the Dalton girls is forced to kill a lecherous mortician who tries to rape her. Being branded a murderess, the sisters follow in their brothers tracks and take up a life of crime." Hey, this was some 1950s "Thelma and Louise"! Hmmm ... I wonder if that shaped my whole life. And how bad were my parents to let me see that when I was six? Ah, don't worry, she's not going to get the mortician rape part. She'll just see a bunch of cowgirls. Like Sally Starr! She loves Sally Starr!)

"Born Rich" was a nice documentary, made by a born-rich guy who had access to other born-rich kids, because (as I learned in the documentary), born-rich people are an inbred subculture. They hang out with each other and interact with each other, in part because only another rich kid can understand the sorrows of inherited wealth. The rest of us can look on with horror, amusement, sympathy, or whatever we like, now that we have this film to watch.

There's a nice variety of rich kids to react in different ways to. And I must say one of the nicest ones was Ivanka Trump, which has to remove a layer of loathsomeness from Donald Trump. And here's a good article in today's NYT on the aftermath of The Apprentice, for those who are still wondering if Bill Rancic is actually going to be trusted to run that billion dollar Chicago construction project. ("This is a large and sophisticated project, and the job is like being the conductor of an orchestra ... I don't know how somebody can conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra if they've never gone to a concert before, and if they've never played any of the instruments.") Read about the complexity of the project, and consider how absurd it would be to only make $250,000 (Bill's new salary) for running it. So why didn't Trump pick a more practical project to put Bill in charge of? Are you kidding?
"I felt that this was a great opportunity to promote a great project," Mr. Trump said.

Well, isn't the whole TV show an infomercial for Trump's projects? He features one project or another not because it makes for a good prize or competition, but because he needs to advertise it, as the end of the finale show on Thursday made crashingly obvious.

Friday, April 16, 2004

Comparing campaign letters. In a seeming testament to my political moderation, today's mail brought envelopes from both the Democratic National Headquarters ("Bushspeak/What you hear isn't what you get") and the South Dakota Republican Party ("Tom Daschle is hoping you will throw this letter away..."). Well, that's fair warning not to open either letter, but I did anyway.

"Ann, not only is this a fight we CAN win ... it is a fight we MUST win." Thanks for the personal touch. Either letter might have said that, but that line is urging me to fund the fight against Daschle, for his "extreme partisanship and obstruction of President Bush's agenda." According to the SD Republican Party letter Daschle has a 59% disapproval rating among South Dakota voters, and somehow this should encourage me to send them money. If SD voters dislike him so much, presumably he'll lose.

The Democrat's letter, from Nancy Pelosi, is mellower than her previous missives. It studiously avoids using the words "lie," "lying," and "liar," and goes with "haven't been straight," "misled us," "made promises they haven't kept," "I'm going to tell you the truth," "misleading rhetoric," "empty promises," "credibility gap," "the truth is," "in fact..," "the truth is," "the stark reality is," "his rhetoric is far from reality," "Bush has said one thing and done another," "what's really going on," and "get the word out about the real President Bush." Well, that's nice. I hate overheated rhetoric, that is, I'm not fond of it. And these so polite Democrats are not just asking for money, they want me to sign a "Statement of Affirmation," which seems a bit creepy to me:
As a proud American and a loyal Democrat, I am today rejecting the politics of privilege for the few and callous neglect of the many, and affirming my belief:

In a government characterized by fairness that keeps its promises to its citizens

In a government strong enough and caring enough to promise "compassion" to those in greatest need and really mean it.

In the deep conviction that the most blessed and affluent democracy in the worlds history--one that can spend billions on war and the weapons of war--can also create jobs for those that want them, educate its young, care for its elderly and infirm, provide hope for its destitute and downtrodden, protect its environment and guarantee equal rights and opportunity for all its citizens.

"Affirmation"? "Blessed"? It's just politics, people, it's not a religion. And why doesn't this "affirmation" appear on the web anywhere (so I could link to it)? Insiders only? Afraid of mockery?
Signs of end times. It's the second to the last weekend of the Law School semester, and signs of the end abound:

Conlaw class was ten minutes shorter today, because I had the students do teaching evaluations. Conlaw class was more freewheeling today, because of the newfound freedom in knowing that anything that goes wrong now cannot be a source of criticism on the evaluations. I used that freedom to become distracted by a loud buzzing coming from a locked closet in the room. Don't we always fritter away our freedom? (The buzzing itself was a sign of Lord knows what).

Packing up my laptop and final editing project to head out for coffee, I caught a glimpse of the small coterie of lawprofs who were practicing a song and dance number for the Law Revue. The Law Revue is another sign of the end. It's nice that there are lawprofs willing to do a little song and dance on stage to demonstrate their funloving nature and eagerness to participate in a student activity. I'm not that nice or funloving or eager. But good luck to all! Actually, I have no idea how to make fun of the Law School and its faculty and its students without being mean and inappropriate. I don't see how you can pitch that humor on the right level. Either it will be unfunny and boring or it will be quite nasty and unpleasant. But, again, good luck! Comedy is difficult. A musical stage show is difficult. Yet every year we put on a show. I never attend, so maybe I'm wrong about the prospects for entertainment and good feelings. I hope so!
The Apprentice: Pre-scripting, Post-scripting, and Omarosing. Was The Apprentice scripted? In a way. The cast was chosen in part to provide entertainment as they interacted, and the competitions were scripted like an improvisation exercise, designed to maximize drama and interaction. Clearly, once the footage existed, stories were created through editing.

I think someone had to be keeping an eye on whether the emerging story was going to produce interesting enough footage and that probably led to giving some contestants some direction. For example, maybe three people believe they are seriously trying to get a business deal to work, but the fourth is told to go ahead and make trouble for them, by oh, maybe taking a nap on the floor or taking an important phone call and then ignoring it. Things needed to get out of control, chaos-making was needed. These people were able to make a practical plan and stick to it, but somehow, things always turned frantic. I think the producers kept an eye on who could be the best chaos maker. For a while it seemed like Sam, but clearly Omarosa got the part. She was obviously the star of the show. Bill "won" and has the job (presumably--though how many times did Trump assure him that he'd be somebody's underling, kept on a short leash?), but Omarosa is the one everyone wants to see more of. She could very well have perceived this opportunity on her own, however, and realized that she wasn’t going to win the actual competition or even that it wasn't worth winning, but that there was an alternative competition, that she could set the terms of, to become a big celebrity with a future in show business.

A general life principle can be extracted: When you are invited to play in someone else's game, identify a competition that you can win and win it. Let's just call that Omarosing.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Kwame, I told you to fire Omarosa. Well, I predicted the plot of the Apprentice finale, and I was wrong. (And I broke my vow too, for which I make no excuses.) But, I was right that the Jessica Simpson/celebrity golf tournament challenge was a big nothing, and I was right that what ought to have happened is that Kwame should have fired Omarosa. Trump was pretty clear that Kwame ought to have fired Omarosa, and he lost because he didn't. Kwame's response was that he didn't know he was allowed to fire her. Well, there's your key to winning The Apprentice, then, isn't it? You should have listened to me!
"Classic urban warfare." Jeffrey Gettleman writes a brilliant account, in today's NYT, of brilliantly successful urban warfare in Falluja. An excerpt:
One of the most important tools for this battle comes from the garden shed: sledgehammers. On Wednesday, marines punched "mouseholes," just big enough for gun barrels, in the brick walls of the homes they occupied. They also smashed windows to scatter shards of glass across the front steps.

"It's an early warning system," Capt. Shannon Johnson explained, as he crunched noisily across the glass, "something the old guys taught us."

Nearby, a squad of young men with crewcuts swung heavy hammers under a punishing sun. They were knocking down the low walls along the rooftops so they could move on catwalks from roof to roof.

"This is classic urban warfare," said Maj. Gen. Jim Mattis, commander of the First Marine Division. "It's all the stuff World War II taught us, along with Korea, Vietnam and Somalia. People will be studying Falluja for years to come."
"You're not listening." Kerry got testy at a City College event:
Retired college professor Walter Daum angrily accused [Kerry] of backing an imperialist policy in Iraq and called on him to demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

"You voted for this," Daum shouted. As he spoke, a group stood silently and unfurled a large sign that read, "Kerry take a stand: Troops out now."

Exasperated, Kerry said at one point, "You're not listening."

Speaking with reporters afterward, Kerry argued that stability in Iraq is his top priority and dismissed the notion of withdrawing U.S. troops. He indicated he would support any request for more U.S. forces in Iraq. Bush, at his news conference this week, said he would support an increased U.S. military presence in Iraq. ...

"I think the vast majority of the American people understand that it's important to not just cut and run," Kerry said. "I don't believe in a cut-and-run philosophy."

Kerry, arguing that there are "very real differences" between him and Bush on Iraq, said, "I believe it is possible to reduce the cost and the burden and the risk to American soldiers."

"We shouldn't only be tough, we have to be smart. And there's a smarter way to accomplish this mission than this president is pursuing," he told reporters.

Well, what is it? If you still don't know what he would do differently from Bush, do you deserve to be snapped at for "not listening"?
The short answer about what to wear for spring. Here’s a nice set of essays in Black Table, all written by women on the subject of what men should wear for spring. The short answer is: no shorts.

And let me add: that goes double for the mailman. Could the Postal Service please ban shorts, at least unless the temperature is going to be in the 80s? I’m living in Wisconsin. There are maybe three months of the year when it is hot enough that there is a real comfort issue justifying the wearing of shorts. But the temperature goes into the 40s and guys start wearing shorts around here. Perhaps there's a belief that exposing oneself to cold is a demonstration of manliness. But the trouble is: shorts are children's clothes. There might be some sports exceptions there, but who is the best dressed man in sports? I mean, while playing. Clearly: Tiger Woods. Have you ever seen him in shorts?

Here are some choice words from Jessica Pressler’s Black Table essay:

Just say it: Shorts. The word itself is ugly. The lazy shh, the fat, gaseous "ort".

Shorts, of all kinds, are very, very wrong. They are unfortunate with hairy, knobbily legs shooting out of them, boring when covering the tiny bum of a skaterboader or indie rocker, and disturbing when pressed against a wide, flat ass. Most of all, of course, they are tragic when revealing ...

In a word: Shorts are pants, emasculated. Emasculating.

A woman who doesn't consider herself shallow may even find herself in the throes of SRS (Sudden Revulsion Syndrome) as the seasons change….
Funny Air America response to Drudge. (Via Instapundit.) Do I recognize the authorial voice that once gave life to The Yellow Press here in Madison, Wisconsin? I think I do!
This Liu-ser was ripping off our boss Evan Cohen big time (he can’t do that, that’s our job). Evan found out about it and he stopped payment on a check to keep Liu-cifer from ripping him off even more. You can touch Evan for the occasional meal or drinks but a million bucks is crossing the line. And if we ever get low on cash, we can always call Barbra Streisand. Or any of the Baldwins. Except Stephen.

So we got screwed, Liu’d, and tattooed. How Liu can you get? In Liu of payment. Liu’d and lascivious behavior. These write themselves. What we’re getting at is that we hate him.
Tainting the 9/11 commission's conclusions? Jim Rutenberg in today's NYT:
Democrats and Republicans alike have raised concerns about the degree to which [the 9/11] commission members are discussing their deliberations on television and, even, in newspaper columns — to the point that they are spinning their views like the politicians that many of them are ....

The accessibility of the commissioners to the news media, not to mention the openness of their views, is a departure from similar independent commissions of the past. Its members' openness troubles some officials here, who say they worry that it is giving the panel an edge that will taint its conclusions — especially when coupled with what some have called a partisan tone to members' questions at the hearings here.

"Taint"? Only just a worry that there might be a taint?? We are so far beyond mere taint, it seems pointless to pay any more attention to them than to the next political TV ad. It seems to me that some commission members are using that status to procure free airtime for what is essentially political advertising. Why should anyone take their conclusions seriously? What a shameful display!
Connecting Jon Peter Lewis to the right 60s pop star from Manchester. As noted last night, Quentin Tarantino likened JPL to 60s British pop star Freddie Garrity (of Freddie and the Dreamers). And I agree that Freddie was awfully geeky, in fact, way more geeky than JPL. And JPL isn't really more geeky than anyone since Freddie: David Byrne was geekier than JPL (and so were a lot of those 70s new wave guys). Freddie tied back to the Buddy Holly line of popdom, and in fact, emphasized his resemblance to Holly by wearing the same type of glasses. We know JPL's favorite 50s star is not Holly, but Elvis, based on key song choices, such as last night's Jailhouse Rock. His dance style is an homage to Elvis (even as it is a touching and open acknowledgement of the impossibility of being Elvis).

The 60s Manchester pop idol that JPL actually resembles, who was much less geeky then Freddie, was the teen-boyfriend cute Peter Noone--"Herman," of Herman's Hermits. Oh, how I loved Herman's Hermits. I still enjoy listening to their greatest hits CD. They should do a British Pop 60s night on American Idol so JPL can sing "I'm Into Something Good."

Manchester bands were an interesting contrast to the Liverpool (and London) bands in the 60s. For some reason, at that time, Manchester produced poppier bands. The greatest one was The Hollies. (How can you not enjoy a Hollies greatest hits CD? Look Through Any Window, Bus Stop, He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother, etc.). Another Manchester band was Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. I didn't care about them, but the Mindbenders had one truly sublime single after Fontana left the group. I'll never forget the single with the light blue label that I played over and over: "Groovy Kind of Love."

UPDATE: Perhaps a love of Buddy Holly rather than Elvis actually is the explanation of the difference between the Manchester and Liverpool bands of the 60s. The Beatles' love of Elvis is very well known. Freddie's connection to Holly is noted above. The Hollies connection to Holly is right there in the name. How about Herman's Hermits? One of their earliest album tracks was a perfect rendition of Holly's "Heartbeat," which was nice because they also had a hit called "Can't You Hear My Heartbeat?"

FURTHER UPDATE: And now JPL is gone! Goodbye, JPL!

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Predicting the bottom three. Prof. Yin thinks the bottom three on AI will be Jennifer, Jasmine, and John Stevens. Hmm... well, I surely agree about Jasmine. But I mis-TiVoed and didn't get to see Fantasia. On the final clip, she just seemed weird. I mean, Summertime is maybe the greatest song ever, but it just didn't seem to be the stuff of American Idol. Neither is Somewhere, of course. Both those performances, Fantasia and LaToya, were problematically not part of youthful pop culture. Now John Stevens with As Time Goes By is so odd that it becomes young again, I'd say. And that boy is not in danger: he survived being bad last week, and now he was good. That boy has fans. He won't be bottom three. And I bet JPL gets the most votes.

I'm going to predict the bottom as: Jasmine, Diana, and George. (Oh, and if "Against All Odds" is a big favorite song of his, how come George kept singing the words as "against the odds"? It's the damn title!) I think it is more likely that LaToya will be in the bottom three than John Stevens. The one who needs to go, though, is Jasmine.
Quentin Tarantino, you are the geekiest film director--all right? But when you get into your geek mode--all right?--there's no one quite like you. So here's QT, talking to Jon Peter Lewis:
JPL, you are the geekiest rock singer since Freddie and the Dreamers--all right?--but when you get into your geek mode--all right?--there's no one quite like you. And today, was beginning to end: bravo!"

And really JPL, singing Jailhouse Rock, was the best thing about the show. And the geek dimension of popdom deserves it's place in people's hearts. Personally, I remember when everyone fell in love with Freddie and the Dreamers. I don't still have the album with the picture of them in striped nightshirts and night caps (in case the word "Dreamers" might have been beyond our grasp without some literal illustration), but I warmly remember when it seemed perfectly wonderful to "Do the Freddie."

And I just loved how QT went on AI not only unashamed, but totally into the show, owning up to watching it, and totally getting how to be a judge. He had great one liners: "Hudson takes on Houston ... and wins!" And he was really just wonderful, with the heart of a real American pop culture fan--which of course he brings to his movies--movies that have a finer art dimension than the popless product more seriously serious artists offer us.

A Tarantino-less side note: was there some kind of dispute with Disney? Why did two of the performers go on about a Disney film and then do a song that had nothing to do with the film they talked about? John Stevens prepped us for "Prince Ali" and then he sang "As Time Goes By," and LaToya London made out as if Finding Nemo was her favorite flim and she just loved animation, and then she came out and sang "Somewhere" from West Side Story. Since they delayed a day to show this, why couldn't they redo the clip and make it go with the song? But I didn't believe any of the assertions about what their favorite movie was. How could a grown man (George Huff) have The Wiz as a favorite movie? And how could anyone have Sister Act 2 as their favorite movie (Jennifer Hudson)?? They had a song they wanted to sing ... but how embarrassing to have to pretend, especially when two other singers didn't even sing the song that went with the movie they claimed as a favorite. What a ridiculously fly-by-night operation the biggest show on TV is!
"Blatantly violating that beautiful line." Here's Kerry at a fundraiser in Boston:
"There is nothing conservative, whatsoever, about this administration .... There's nothing conservative about blatantly violating that beautiful line drawn by our Founding Fathers that separates church and state in the United States of America."

Having struggled with my students through the difficulties of the Establishment Clause cases, I'd really like to know exactly what that "beautiful line" is. We find it awfully hard to see at all. But here's Kerry, seeing it so clearly that he not only is sure it's being violated, but it's being "blatantly" violated. By exactly what, I'd like to know.

Oh, and I'm bored by the old rhetorical maneuver that those who claim to be conservative are not really conservative. It's a classic move that I remember my old law school dean wielding in a speech at my graduation in 1981. He was criticizing the Burger Court, and dredging up the true, respectable conservative, Harlan, whom he probably didn't like much in Harlan's own day, but who served as a good example of why the Burger Court wasn't living up to its own standards. I'm complaining about the old rhetoric, yet that's a pretty old speech to still remember, so it's hard to blame Kerry for using it too.
Hey! I became an adorable little rodent! Only yesterday, I was merely a flappy bird! That's in The Truth Laid Bear ecosystem, as you probably know.

So a rat is better than an eagle? I think the eagle could quickly demonstrate otherwise.
Can we get a little coordination here? Bush, at his press conference, last night:

...the truth of the matter is most in the country never felt that we'd be vulnerable to an attack such as the one that Osama bin Laden unleashed on us.

We knew he had designs on us. We knew he hated us. But there was nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government that could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.

Rice, testifying to the 9/11 Commission:
KEAN. I've got a question now I'd like to ask you. It was given to me by a number of members of the families. Did you ever see or hear from the F.B.I., from the C.I.A., from any other intelligence agency, any memos, discussions or anything else between the time you were elected or got into office and 9/11 talked about using planes as bombs?

RICE. Let me address this question because it has been on the table. I think that concern about what I might have known or we might have known was provoked by some statements that I made in a press conference. I was in a press conference to try and describe the Aug. 6 memo, which I've talked about here in the - my opening remarks and which I talked about with you in the private session. And I said at one point that this was a historical memo, that it was not based on new threat information. And I said, No one could have imagined them taking a plane, slamming it into the Pentagon - I'm paraphrasing now - into the World Trade Center using planes as missiles. As I said to you in the private session, I probably should have said, I could have not imagined. Because within two days people started to come to me and say, Oh, but there were these reports in 1998 and 1999; the intelligence community did look at information about this. To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chairman, this kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us. I cannot tell you that there might not have been a report here or a report there that reached somebody in our midst. ... All that I can tell you is that it was not in the Aug. 6 memo - using planes as a weapon. And I do not remember any reports to us, a kind of strategic warning that planes might be used as a weapon. In fact, there were some reports done in '98 and '99. I think I was - I was certainly not aware of them at the time that I spoke.

With Rice having so recently struggled through that elaborate dance responding to a question that "has been on the table," couldn't Bush have advanced beyond square one by now? I see spin material in the words "on such a massive scale": they envisioned planes slamming into buildings, but not three planes on the same day and not such large buildings. But I would appreciate a little more grace and frankness and display of deep knowledge and understanding from the President.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Tarantino on American Idol! According to Entertainment Weekly (possibly subscriber access only):
Next week on ''American Idol,'' the guest judge will be someone for whom the word ''DiVAS'' doesn't refer to Fantasia or La Toya, but rather Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. It's Quentin Tarantino, who'll be the celebrity guest judge during a week in which the contestants will sing movie theme songs. The 41-year-old director follows ''Idol'' closely, his publicist, Bumble Ward, told ''He's no dilettante. He's the real deal when it comes to being a celebrity judge,'' she said. So when asked to be a judge, ''he leapt at the opportunity. ... He's an ardent and opinionated fan of the show.''

As a general rule, I can't stand the guest judges. Mostly because they aren't so good at talking. That's obviously not a problem with Tarantino. I think it's great that he's going to be on the show. Not only will he add verbal power to the panel of judges, but, based on the music he's put together for his movies, I'd say he has a lot of interesting insight into popular music. Too bad the theme is just movie themes and not Weird Old Pop Songs That Tarantino Might Put on a Movie Soundtrack.
Bill and Kwame: joint winners? Venkat, at Begging to Differ, notes how much I've blogged about The Apprentice and writes:
I bet $20 that Prof. Althouse breaks down and watches the finale, or spends at least two hours blogging the finale, after having read about it.

Don't forget: and blogs about breaking her vow not to watch it! Well, we've already resolved the American Idol/Apprentice TiVo issue at my house in favor of The Apprentice, though I wasn't the instigator. Venkat thinks Bill is going to win, which is also what the Bally odds are saying (via Gawker, which linked here too. So, hi Gawker fans, please look around). More interestingly, Venkat notes the potential to declare both Kwame and Bill joint winners. Well, maybe both will get jobs, just like both Clay and Ruben (and Kelly and Justin) got record contracts, but I think you've got to pay off in the end and have one winner. (Yeah, what about all the people who are betting?) One reason cutting the other way is that for the first time, the competition has no set standard for who wins, no dollar amount. They aren't even doing the same thing. There's a suspicious incommensurability here.

Monday, April 12, 2004

Dennis Miller's show is cancelled? Donald Trump, guest on tonight's show, said as much to Miller, and Miller said nothing! (Too bad! You have to give a show a chance to become something. What does CNBC have to lose?)

Miller on The Apprentice:
I like the Kwame kid, because you look last week at the guy ... he had the doll head ... [He means: Troy.] I remember thinking, wow, does this play in a cosmopolitan situation? ... It's a little too Hee Haw. That's the thing I dig about Kwame, 'cuz you look at Kwame, he's so smooth, so buttoned-down and smart ...

Miller brings up the subject of Erika being labelled a racist by Omarosa and criticizes Trump for allowing Erika to be depicted that way. He says: "Listen, I had Omarosa on the show the other day and I was scared s***less."
Poor Borders. So Tonya's laptop died and instead of just keeping life simple and picking the Mac with the features she wants, she went to Borders and studied computer magazines for a long time. Noting that she didn't buy even the magazine that was especially helpful, she bemoans the lack of copy machines at Borders. Ha ha! Poor Borders! Everyone takes advantage of their amenities. Yesterday, there was a young woman for whom it was not enough that they provided comfy chairs. She had to roll two of them facing each other to make a little bed, and she then took a nice long nap! Other people had so many books piled up to read at the café tables that they kept accidentally setting off the nearby theft-detecting device in front of the door. Some poetic justice ensued when the beeping device woke up the chair hog.
Student blogs. It's great that Gordon is running a poll to pick the best law student blogs. He's done a nice job of presenting the various contenders and highlighting particular posts that made him laugh. I can't systematically check them all out and form any conclusions--I'm not even sure law students want lawprofs reading their blogs! But, reading around, I'll just say this made me laugh ... maybe because I've always had a special place in my heart for Justice Kennedy.
People are not answering the question pollsters ask. This poll (which Instapundit called attention to today) really amazes me:
A Time/CNN survey taken [April 8] showed that 48 percent of Americans said they believe the Bush administration did all it could to prevent the [9/11] attacks, up from 42 percent in a poll taken March 26-28. A CBS News poll, also conducted yesterday, showed 32 percent of Americans said the administration did everything possible to stop the attacks, up from 22 percent the previous week.

Surely, with hindsight, we can see that there are additional things that might have been done! So why are so many people expressing this belief, which if true would be terrifying? It would mean that there is no way to anticipate the next step terrorists will take and to do something to squelch their new and surprising plans. I would like to think that, spurred by 9/11, our government is now getting out in front of the terrorists. I think that the 48 percent who said to the pollsters that nothing more could have been done don't really think that, but are answering the question that way as an expression of support for the President, based on a confidence that there he really is doing much more now than before 9/11, a forgiveness for not having operated at the highest level of vigilance before 9/11, and a weariness over the efforts of his political opponents to score points by scouring the record to find things to blame him for. The question should be: Do you blame President Bush for not having done more to prevent the 9/11 attacks? I think that is the question the 48 percent imagined they were answering. If the question where actually asked that way, I think the percent supporting Bush would be much higher.
So will you watch Bush or American Idol? Well, maybe if Bush would wear a tight black T-shirt and tell the reporters their questions are "ghastly," "dreadful," and "horrific." Or maybe if we could speed dial to vote in favor of our eight favorite policies.

UPDATE: Now Drudge is reporting (same link) that Fox will delay showing the Tuesday show until Wednesday and then do a live results show on Thursday. Excellent move, for two reasons. First, you don't want to lose the votes of the people who are politically engaged yet TiVo-less. That would skew the vote, assuming people like that vote in AI. Second, delaying the results show until Thursday helps--along with my boycott--to reduce the number of people watching The Apprentice.
Historic loss. Fire has destroyed the oldest restaurant in Wisconsin, the Post House, built in 1857 in Spring Green. This was the kind of place known for "Friday Fish Fry" (“with cottage fries, homemade bread …, and our famous coleslaw”), "Pasta Presentation Wednesday's" ("make-your-own-pasta-creation"), "Ribs on Thursdays" ("pork ribs, smothered in a tasty barbeque sauce"--also with "famous coleslaw"), and "Sunday Breakfast Buffet and Brunch" ("Homemade pastries, fresh fruit, made to order omelets, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy, hash browns, and French toast ... at 11am to 2 pm we add chicken, beef, and red bee potatoes to make a spectacular brunch").

So it's too late now to find out what sort of coleslaw can be famous or to chide them for how they made "Wednesday" plural. It's not too late to visit the oldest restaurant in your own town and have some of that great old comfort food, perhaps made by people who think the way to transform a meal into a spectacle is the simple addition of beef and potatoes. To me, it's just charming that there exists in the world something called red bee potatoes.
How soon before you can't even give away VHS tapes? Fortunately, we were early DVD adopters at my house. We were buying a lot of movies and I realized right away that it was unwise to buy any more in the tape format. The other day I cleared all the VHS tapes off the shelves, because no one wants to watch anything on tape anymore. Then I realized we needed to take these to the second hand place and unload them quick, because soon they will be worth nothing at all, like all the old Beta format movies I neglected to sell. So we took a carload of tapes over to sell and walked away with a cool $72. They wouldn't take the tapes in boxes that looked too shabby, so that left us, by chance, with this odd collection of VHS tapes:
Battleship Potemkin
Defending Your Life
Dick Tracy
Night of the Living Dead
Nosferatu (the Murnau one)
Postcards From the Edge
Who Framed Roger Rabbit

Three of those, we had replaced with DVDs. I think it should be obvious which three out of that group deserved to be replaced.
Supreme Court retirements in the offing? The AP is picking up ... nothing:
Each spring brings whispered theories, educated guesses and, sometimes, rank speculation about whether one or more of the nine Supreme Court justices will call it quits.

This year there's barely a peep.

No one, the thinking goes, wants to step down in a presidential election year because any nominee chosen as a replacement would probably become a political punching bag. History shows the Senate has a poor record of confirming election-year nominees, meaning the Supreme Court would be short-handed.

How many times were we told in the 2000 presidential campaign that the new President would have at least two and probably three Supreme Court appointments? (But Bush got zero.) I'm steeling myself for the new alarm: Whoever wins the election this year is going to get at least three, no at least four, but probably five or six, no, really, he's going to get to appoint a whole new Court!!! And the accompanying inanity: You really should therefore base your vote entirely on what you think about abortion.
Aw! Thanks to How Appealing for linking to this great picture of Justice Breyer:

"The marriage of comedy and politics is even more unhealthy than the marriage of church and state." So says Lee Siegel, TNR's TV critic. Too many metaphors: marriage and health. And unhealthy comedy is not going to kill anyone, whereas the diseases of the religion-state alliance have produced monumental evils throughout history.

But I agree with Siegel that right now politics is ruining comedy, especially The Daily Show (as I said here). Jon Stewart gets so much good press--the NYT never misses an opportunity to praise him--so it's really almost shocking to read strong criticism like this:
Stewart weighs down his jokes with a kind of Government 101 knowingness. He's not just funny about politics, you see, he's savvy about the way the system works, and he's going to help us through the maze. In Washington, "you have to cut through the partisan gridlock just to get to the bureaucratic logjam." Stop, you're killing me. But when it came to Richard Clarke and his controversial book, Stewart gave up even the pretense of being funny. ... Here was a slick, malleable, professional political advisor/operator, who had the choice of resigning in protest against an invasion of Iraq months before it took place, when such a protest might have had consequences, but chose instead to wait until his slighted ego burst at the seams--this Clarke, a true embodiment of human foible and folly, deserved to be manhandled by the spirit of laughter every bit as much as his accusations deserved to be defended by the spirit of truth. But like everybody else in public life, from politicians and pundits to performers and poets, Stewart wants to seem edifying and instructive. He wants to seem good.

Wanting to seem good is really bad for comedy. And, of course, picking a political side to be what is good is just bad for so many reasons. Siegel thinks Stewart is pandering to his audience, but I would think he's losing half of his audience. He's lost me. And (unlike Siegel) I was completely in love with him.

I'VE JUST GOT TO ADD: If I didn't independently agree with Siegel's opinion of The Daily Show, I would have been quite reluctant to trust him, because I think his instincts about comedy are a bit off, since he seems to have meant the following sentence to be taken seriously:
Politics hates the naked unbridled ego that laughter sets free; it hates it with the intensity with which laughter heaps its furies on the naked unbridled ego that hides behind the highflown sentiments of politics.

As Jon Stewart would say: Whaaaa?
Monday morning ... Apprentice addiction aftereffects ... I arrived at the Law School at 8 this morning. It's cold here, people! There were some flakes of snow in the air yesterday. Today, it's clear and sunny, but it's crisp. I mean it's in the thirties. I was pulling a small wheelie suitcase with me--a way to cart the load of admissions files, editing, laptop, etc.--and I had this feeling it was sort of cool and chic to be pulling a wheelie suitcase. Where did that feeling come from? It always used to seem dumb to be pulling along a suitcase, a tiny suitcase that you're too lazy to carry. Oh, I realized I had that feeling because of The Apprentice, where they are forever packing up their suitcases and wheeling them around!

Some people ask, isn't it a big waste to make everyone pack a whole suitcase when only one is leaving? But what makes you think those suitcases really have their stuff in them? How do you know they aren't just wheeling their suitcases around for effect? How do you know those are their suitcases? Those are just props! That's what I was thinking as I continued to wheel in my admissions-files-packed suitcase this morning. That and why must thoughts of the TV show I've sworn off continue to swirl in my little head, which must concentrate on the market participant exception to the negative commerce clause this morning?

Oh, did you know I took the "Which Apprentice Are You" quizilla? And since it turns out I'm Bill, I assume I'll be able to get ready for class by 11.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Blog or Psychedelic Band? The Test. Yesterday, I was fascinated by the names of old psychedelic bands at the website Fuzz Acid & Flowers, and I think I carried that psychedelic fascination with me this morning when I was reading the blog popularity chart on The Truth Laid Bear. What is it with blog names and 1964-1972 acid rock band names? Starting with The Truth Laid Bear, half of the blog names sound like old acid rock band names. Okay this is a test: old psychedelic band name or present day blog name?

Pinwheels and Orange Peels
Admiral Quixote’s Roundtable
Beatnik Salad
Sainte Anthony’s Fyre
The Marble Phrogg
The Reasons Why
Flagrancy to Reason
Balasubramania’s Mania
$27 Snap on Face

I could go on and on. Feel free to find your own blog names on the acid rock list and acid rock names on the blog list. Hey, everybody, make your own "Blog or Psychedelic Band?" test and post it on your blog!
"Tense, frowning Beethoven-ness" in Madison. Here's a strange and incredibly arty thing happening in Madison of all places, as reported by the NYT:
... Norwegian conceptual artist Leif Inge digitally elongates a recording of [Beethoven's Ninth Symphony] to make it last 24 hours. The piece slows symphonic time so that movement is barely perceptible. What you hear in normal time as a happy Viennese melody lasting 5 or 10 seconds becomes minutes of slowly cascading overtones; a drumroll becomes a nightmarish avalanche. Yet the symphony remains somehow recognizable in spirit if not in form, its frozen strings fraught with tense, frowning Beethoven-ness. ... The slowness eases you into a trance, but the layers of dissonance make the experience slightly uncomfortable.

Mr. Inge created the piece in 2002, and he is now bringing it to America. Tomorrow he will discuss it and play excerpts at Free103point9, a gallery in Brooklyn, and on Friday it will unfold in its full 24-hour glory at the cavernous Theo Kupfer Foundry and Ironworks in Madison, Wis. ...

Theo Kupfer Foundry and Ironworks? Never heard of it, and I've lived in Madison for 20 years. Well, here's an article about it in today's Capital Times:
When John Martens took his first look inside the cavernous industrial building at 149 Waubesa St., he was overwhelmed by its beauty and potential.

"I truly got weak in the knees," said Martens, a local restoration architect.

No mention in that article of "9 Beet Stretch," the glacially paced Beethoven the Times says is playing this Friday.

Saturday, April 10, 2004

Poor Ingmar Bergman. The BBC reports on a Swedish TV interview:
"I don't watch my own films very often. I become so jittery and ready to cry... and miserable. I think it's awful ... [I've] managed to push the medium to something beyond the normal boundaries, and also myself ... There hasn't been anyone with whom I can discuss my scripts ...Even when the film is done, there is no-one I can show it to who gives his sincere opinion. There is silence."
Is it spring yet? On the way to the café, spring seems to be an iffy proposition.

Here's the café, Dancing Grounds--four blocks from my house.

Walking home, duly caffeinated, I'm thinking it is Spring. Look, that tree is squirming with pleasure!

The right way to think about US News rankings? Gordon Smith discusses this forthcoming article, "What Law Schools Can Learn from Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics," from two Cincinnati lawprofs, Paul L. Caron and Rafeal Gely. Caron and Gely pick up on Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler picking up on Michael Lewis ("Moneyball"):
In many ways, legal education is teeming with more inefficiencies than Beane uncovered in baseball. We argue that changes in the economic conditions of higher education and the legal profession, combined with increasing demands for accountability and transparency, created the market demand for measuring organizational success which U.S. News & World Report met with its annual law school rankings.

As Gordon notes, baseball teams have a pretty specific goal, winning games, and certainty in the knowledge of whether they've reached the goal: they either win or lose. But what is the goal of a law school? Yet claims that our goals are too subtle and amorphous to quantify seem less attractive than usual if we think in terms of accountability and transparency. But who is US News to set the terms of the account? Ah, thanks to Caron and Gely if they can advance the ball (sorry for the wrong sports metaphor ... and for a sports metaphor, period), but I can already hear all the old protestations being raised again. It does seem to me, though, that if there is a game to be played using the rankings, there is something to be said in favor of the upstart schools that find ways to challenge the old established institutions that were hoping to rest on the stability of longstanding reputation.

UPDATE: Paul Caron has a new blog, Tax Prof Blog.
Howard Stern ... Oprah. That picture of Frank Zappa reminds me of Howard Stern, which reminds me that I had to laugh out loud this morning when I heard a TV news report that Howard was saying he's no worse than Oprah. Jeff Jarvis, who is intensely covering the Stern controversy, has a good account of Howard making the comparison. The comparison is more apt than you might think. The difference is one of tone: Stern is having fun and being funny. Oprah is informational and cautionary. Doesn't that make distinguishing them viewpoint discrimination?
In which Althouse has a psychedelic flashback. I don't know about you, but sometimes I've tried to remember, what were the shows I saw at the Fillmore East? I remembered some of the bands, but who really were the others? So I was thrilled to find this site, which is trying to list every act and every show.

So who played with The Mothers of Invention in 1969? The date was Feb. 21/22, and the opening acts were Chicago and The Buddy Miles Express. And I went to see Neil Young & Crazy Horse one night in 1970 and the opening acts were The Steve Miller Band and Miles Davis! When did I see The New Riders of the Purple Sage play with The Grateful Dead? 1970? 1971? I can't tell from this, because there are several such shows. When I saw them there was a third act, which played in the middle, that was just Pig Pen and Jerry Garcia on acoustic guitars. It must have been May 15, 1970, because I remember hearing them make a big deal about the upcoming concert with Crosby, Stills & Nash, which caused us to scoff and shake our heads in dismay. Rock and Roll was over and people like them were destroying it! Or was it this night, when "Phil places two bass notes that are just perfect."

Remember when people were all excited about Delaney & Bonnie? And who were Mason & Elliot that they were headliners? (Oh.) Remember when people were crazy for Ten Years After? Remember The Hello People (they played at my high school once)("It's a Monday Kind of Tuesday"... or was it Wednesday?). Remember Elephant Memory? Or am I mixing them up with Crazy Elephants? And who were Cactus? How could they have topped Edgar Winter and Humble Pie some night in 1971? And there's Elton John, late of American Idol, already headlining in 1971 (with Wishbone Ash and Sea Train).

And there's T. Rex in 1971--was it already T. Rex or was it still Tyrannosaurus Rex? (We played their album Unicorn all the time in 1970.) In 1970, you could have seen The Incredible String Band (I knew people who worshipped them!) along with The Stone Monkey Mime Group (good lord! who were they?). And who were Soft White Underbelly, Grootna, and Blodwyn Pig?

Looking for some answers, I ran across Fuzz Acid & Flowers, which is an amazing compilation of info about "U.S. psych and garage music 1964 - 1972," with "band histories/musical analysis on over 5,400 US acts of the era." Great fun browsing just for the psychedelic names. We remember Strawberry Alarm Clock, but there was also Strawberry Tuesday and Strawberry Window. Was there Orange? Of course: Orange Colored Sky, The Orange Groove, and The Orange Wedge. How about "electric"--was that a popular psychedelic word? Here's the official list:
The Electrical Banana
The Electric Company
Electric Firebirds
The Electric Flag
Electric Hair
Electric Junkyard
Electric Love
Electric Piano Playground
The Electric Prunes
The Electric Screwdriver
Electric Toilet
Electric Tomorrow
Electric Train
Electrified People
The Electro Magnetic Flowerseed
The Electronic Concept Orchestra

And I love the places where the same psychedelic idea struck several groups independently:
Stix and Stoned  
Stix and Stones  
Stix & Stonz

Okay, enough of that. Go make your own discoveries. I've got admissions files and a law review edit and income tax forms ...

Oh, and that previous entry, which looks psychedelic next to this one--it's a Monday kind of Tuesday/It's a Thursday kind of Saturday--is just about the NYT crossword puzzle. ... In case you're inclined to worry about me! Did you finish the Saturday puzzle?
Cherty? Cherty?? I guess that's why this is a Saturday and not a Thursday.

Friday, April 09, 2004

Which side benefited from the insistence that Rice testify? Consider the ratings:
Citing figures from Nielsen Media Research, the networks said Fox News drew an average of 1.921 million total viewers in the period from 9 a.m. to noon ET on Thursday, ahead of CNN's 1.228 million and MSNBC's 470,000.

So Bush supporters, it's fair to say, were far more likely to watch than Bush opponents. Democrats Bob Kerrey and Richard Ben-Veniste grandstanded, using Rice's presence as a way to get attention for their own opinions. But I'm sure this made a terrible impression on most of the people who were actually paying attention. The Democratic partisans who would have enjoyed Kerrey and Ben-Veniste's behavior were apparently not interested in hearing what Rice had to say.
Madison, Good Friday. A street preacher in Library Mall. As I walk by I hear him say, "Boys, you need to control your sexuality. Girls, you too. And about alcohol..." The laundry list of sins to clean up. In the café, where I'm uploading the photograph, the man at the next table is explaining Descartes's proof of the existence of God.

UPDATE: On my way back from the café, I saw the preacher again and from a distance saw that he had drawn a crowd and that they were laughing, mockingly, which seemed to fit the crucifixion imagery. As I got close enough to hear what was being said, it turned out they were asking him serious theology questions: from the question of whether only Christians were saved, they were moving on to why there is evil in the world. So the age-old debates continued on this Good Friday at both ends of State Street.

The political and the nonpolitical blog. Nina is wondering why she doesn't feel like blogging about politics. Brayden King is commenting on a recent Time article about family blogs and weighing in on the big subject of "Domestic blogging and the separate spheres myth." Apt. 11D has a list of things currently excluded from her brain, and she's linking to This Woman's Work, a "mommy blog" that the Time article talks about. Here's a blog called The Mommy Blog. The subject of a blog gender gap is on the table. It's been noted that political blogs, which tend to be the most popular, are much more likely to be written by men, but I don't think it's necessarily a woman thing to turn away from the political right now. Gordon recently noted a lack of interest in writing about politics.

I think it makes a lot of sense, after the primary season, to ignore the Presidential campaign as much as possible. There's no reason for a moderate like me, who might end up voting for either candidate, to follow the campaigns right now. For one thing, it's not fair to Kerry, because I find him a boring speaker and I'm really going to get tired of him if I pay any attention to him. For another thing, I can't think about him seriously until I know what he plans to do in Iraq, and he hasn't said what he will do. (Will, meaning, in the future. How the past might have been different is not going to determine my vote. And don't try my patience by telling me that I can infer what he will do in the future from what he asserts he would have done in the past.) He has no motivation to take a position on Iraq until closer to the election: why should he pin himself down when events are in flux?

The Presidential campaign affects what too many people say about too many things, and that causes me to turn away from a lot of subjects that might otherwise be bloggable. Take yesterday for example. I couldn't bear to watch Bob Kerrey and Richard Ben-Veniste bully Condoleezza Rice. I couldn't watch The Daily Show, formerly my favorite TV show, because Jon Stewart has put partisanship over comedy and has sunk to a smirking hostility toward everyone in the Bush Administration. His take on Condi Rice's testimony last night was to assume everyone believed she couldn't have defended the Bush record and, for a joke, to have her responding to their questions by babbling in Spanish (??). I can also page through The New York Times a lot faster because every political story seems framed to undercut Bush.

One thing I like about blogging is that it lets you see a pattern emerging over time: the blog preserves a record of what has caught my eye from day to day over the months. Part of what I see is my aversion to politics and a search for the things about life that are not politics, but that does tend to bring me back to politics some of the time. Basically, I like miscellaneous commentary that is indirectly personally revealing, because it lets readers see that emerging pattern of things that caught your attention from day to day.

I do, however, avoid revealing personal facts about my family, so this would never be a "mommy blog." My sons are adults, anyway. It's easier to write about really young kids because they don't read what you say and get mad and demand that you quit invading their privacy and embarrassing them. Babies have no idea that pictures of them are being put up for all the world to see.

UPDATE: Whoops! No sooner do I write that than Prof. Yin puts up a picture of his new baby! Very cute! Congratulations!
Feminism, the Quentin Tarantino version. This is from a Q&A; in Entertainment Weekly (you probably have to be a subscriber, like me, to read the whole thing):
After seeing ''Reservoir Dogs,'' I never would have pegged you for a feminist. But ''Jackie Brown'' and ''Kill Bill'' are female empowerment fests -- and Jackie and the Bride are certainly two of the most multidimensional women ever to be seen in genre films.

I definitely do have a feminist [sensibility]. I almost feel weird about categorizing it as ''feminist.'' Not because I am demonizing the word, but I think it's more of a femininity, an appreciation for women rather than a label. But I mean, it's not hard to figure it out if you think about it. I was raised by a single mom who came from white-trash beginnings. She created a very nice career for herself as an executive -- a legend in her own time in the HMO field. From the very beginning I never considered that there were boundaries, things a woman can and can't do. I had my mom as an example of someone who came from nothing and she was going out to eat in nice restaurants, paying her own way. She had nice s---, she drove a Cadillac Seville, and she was living the life.
The the. I noticed that when Gordon linked to my prediction for the Apprentice finale, he wrote "The Apprentice finale." I just had to say:

You know, I thought a lot about whether to capitalize the "t" in "the Apprentice finale." If you're capitalizing the "t," it should be "the The Apprentice finale." And now, I feel I have to blog this conversation, and if I blog this conversation, I will officially and conspicuously become a person who blogs too much.

A Person Who Blogs Too Much.
The plot of the Apprentice finale predicted. Here's my theory about why Omarosa was picked to be on Kwame's team and given the role (and I do mean role) of blatantly screwing everything up. As I noted yesterday, it didn't make any sense for Kwame to pick her, especially to also pick Heidi. So what was the set up? (It is all a set up, of course.) Did you notice Kwame saying things like, too bad I can't fire my employees? I was thinking, why can't he? Now, I realize, he couldn't last night because it wasn't the finale. Next week, things will escalate over the two hour period, with Bill's team doing reasonably well and Kwame's team falling to pieces as Omarosa screws up one thing after another and as she gets into amusing catfights with Heidi. The audience will be led, by skillful editing, to believe Kwame is going down and Bill is coasting toward victory. Then, at the last moment (where everything always happens in these competitions), Kwame will say to Omarosa, "You're fired!"--which will seems really exciting and cool. On the basis of that brilliant move, firing Omarosa (which in reality any fool would do), Kwame will be recognized as the true leader and will win the game. The show will tie up with some elegance, because Trump has been firing people all along and Kwame, as the only one who ever did the Trump-like thing and fired someone, will be deemed truly Trumpian enough to lead a Trump company. See? That plays out so neatly. That's got to be it. Time saved: 2 hours. Or now does the finale sound like fun? Well, enjoy it. I've taken a vow...

Thursday, April 08, 2004

The deep chasm of extreme nothing. The Apprentice revealed its essential emptiness tonight, as Gordon's simulblogging documents. I don't really want to throw good time after bad by talking about it, but basically, the whole thing is bogus. First, I can't believe that when Bill and Kwame got to pick teams that Omarosa wasn't the last one picked. She wasn't even close to last. And Kwame got stuck with both Omarosa and her nemesis Heidi? How did that happen? I can't believe that was just Kwame picking. Then what was the competition? Interviewing?? Some damn golf course thing that seemed to only have to do with moving a lot of boxes (incomprehensible!) and then making sure Jessica Simpson got from the airport to the hotel (a flunky's job!)? And we're left with a "To be continued" cliffhanger about the "missing rock star"??? Cut back and forth to worried faces while playing the chiming music of doom all you want but that is just nothing! Nothing!!

So next week is the finale. The two hour finale. Let me make a public vow: I will not watch it!

UPDATE: Wow, Miss Alli at Television Without Pity totally disagrees with me. She gives the episode an A+ (seemingly largely because she agrees with Trump's choices--why should I care!?). I've never disagreed with TWoP more.
Do you crack jokes about antitrust law? If you can, you should give yourself a lot of credit, because The Daily Show got all geared up to do a segment on the Madison free-drinks antitrust problem (noted here) and they gave up. They didn't know how to make it funny. That's what I heard.
Condoleezza Rice. So I TiVoed Condi Rice's testimony and tried to watch some of it, but I find it impossible and irritating to try to look through the fog of the Presidential campaign, which surrounds everything. I know they can't help it, but I don't have to watch. Averting one's eyes from the Presidential campaign--my policy until after the conventions--is quite hard to do, because it's everywhere.
"Get Me a Table Without Flies, Harry." Speaking of sketchbook travels, this book, by Bill Griffith, had a big influence on me. Unfortunately, it's out of print and Amazon isn't even showing a picture of the cover of the book. Worse, there are only three reviews, all high praise, but two of them didn't figure out how to give a star rating and are counted as zeroes, leaving the book with one and a half stars. Too bad! Oh, forget Amazon--and curse the tendency to always start there--go here. Bill Griffith sells it from his own site--which has lots of great stuff--with the inscription of your choice. Get this book!

Drawn in a café in Paris. Antoine de Saint-Exupery's plane was found in the Mediterranean, as acknowledged here yesterday. Here's a drawing from one of my sketchbook trips, taken a few years ago:

I'm offended by my juice bottle. I was annoyed when the mango juice sold in the Law School snack bar changed its name from Fantasia (no connection to American Idol) to Naked. When I'm consuming liquid, I don't want to contemplate nakedness. That's just wrong: why are you making me think of bodily fluids? For a year, I refused to buy the drink I had been buying for years. Today, I bought one, and I have a number of additional complaints about the packaging.

1. The full name of the juice is "Naked Superfood Food-Juice/Mighty Mango-go." That's too heavy on the assertion that the drink is also a food (big news) and too un-clever in the idea of jazzing up mango by repeating the "go." "Food food" "go go"--and naked! I'm sorry, I don't even want a drink that exciting.

2. Under the ridiculous name it says, "It's an anti-ox mango-fruit-tango!" First of all, I don't need ox repellent. There are no oxen in these parts. Second, it's not clever enough to combine mango and tango especially since you didn't resist mango and go one line up on your packaging. It's like you brainstormed about "mango," then just used all your ideas. (Hey, how about "Man, go!"). Third, mango is also a fruit, so technically, you should say "It's an anti-ox mango-nonmango fruit-tango!"

3. Then it says "Get Naked! 'cause Life is Sweet Enough!" That's not even positive. You're saying your juice is sour? You're going to make my life worse, apparently, and you're also injecting sex into the subject of some juice you want me to drink. That's not good!

4. On the side, it directs me to "SHAKE & CHUG." Okay, fine to tell me to shake it. It needs shaking. But telling me the attitude I'm supposed to adopt while drinking and dictating a speed? That's an irritating intrusion into my lunchtime demeanor.

5. Elsewhere, it says: "With extra A & C, plus Vitamin E and Selenium, every velvety-smooth mouthful of this tropical treat helps you fight free radicals without swinging a punch." Now, you're mixing incomprehensible science, sexual innuendo, and weird political humor. That's just a mess!

It doesn't seem to taste as good as when they called it Fantasia and the packaging had a mild psychedelic theme. I guess they thought they needed to update it. (Or did Disney threaten to sue them?) Maybe they decided they needed to get men to buy it. I really can't understand, but it seems as though they just had a big jumble of motivations and really just didn't think about anything clearly.

UPDATE--CHRIS OFFERS A CORRECTION: "Fantasia did not change its name to Naked. They are two completely different companies. Naked put Fantasia out of business by making deals with all the stores to sell their product and not sell Fantasia." Yeah, the people who sell it kept asserting it was the same thing, but it really doesn't seem to be. So I guess Naked tasting worse wasn't all my subjective reaction to offensive packaging. I won't keep buying it.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader credits Naked with trying for a Dr. Bonner's Soap kind of effect. That old too-much-on-the-label approach to cleverness is very much a late 60s/early 70s sort of ethos, which I find hard to see in Naked, because it replaced my beloved Fantasia, which was had a tastefully psychedelic label. That Dr. Bonner's Soap sort of humor was adopted by Madison Avenue when products got names like Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter. Now if Naked had called itself Why The Hell Isn't This Fantasia, I would have found it amusing.
The Apprentice backstory. Wow, read this description (found via Gawker) from a guy--Keith Hollihan--who lived beneath the apartment that was rented for more money on the apartment renovation episode of The Apprentice! There are some amazing things, including the graphic suicide of the previous occupant, but one thing stands out because it calls into question the legitimacy of the entire competition.
It turned out that [the new tenant] had actually rented the apartment before it was renovated. She had looked at a few places in the neighborhood, picked the apartment upstairs from us, and made arrangements to move in before learning that it had been pulled off the market for the show. She went ballistic. The landlord told her not to worry, she could still have the apartment at the agreed-upon rent but would have to participate in the episode in order to get it. During the filming, she went through the motions and rented the apartment at a price higher than the one she would actually be paying. The negotiation was a sham. ... Troy’s team won because they had secured the higher rent. Since D actually was paying less than the stated amount, this meant the results were rigged.

I wouldn't be surprised if every episode were rigged in some way.

Imagine if we learned that American Idol didn't actually use the telephoned-in votes every time.
"Despite popular and academic beliefs to the contrary, we have shown that police have varied responses to protest." UW Sociology Prof. Jeremy Freese describes how a sentence like that brings on a "Certain Type Of Moment" when he is "transported back home to the family farm, where I am sitting at the kitchen table with my mother, who dropped out of high school to get married and who has always been suspicious (even while supportive and proud) of this whole 'professoring' gig of her youngest son." Mom takes all the wind out of professor-son's sails:
Then my dear and wonderful mother looks up at me, a little puzzled, and she says, politely: "So they're saying the police don't respond to all situations the same. Like sometimes they make arrests or try to break things up, and sometimes they don't. Seems pretty obvious, don't it? But, they're saying that before they did this research, everybody believed that police responded to every--whatyoucallit--'protest event' in exactly the same way. That's a pretty strange thing for everyone to have believed, if you ask me.

He's trying to collect more sentences like the one boldfaced above and to come up with a name for sentences like that. Jeremy's focused on sociology, but there must be a law school version of the same. Maybe every field has things like that: hard-sought insights that the lay person feels are already quite obvious.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

The Little Prince. So they've found Antoine de Saint-Exupery's plane in the Mediterranean Sea, where it crashed in 1944, when the brilliant author was only 44 and while he was on a wartime reconnaissance mission. There were no bullet holes in the plane, and no body was found. I believe he merged with the stars.

It's interesting to see that "Le Petit Prince," which I read in French class in high school, was originally written in English! So I guess I should have been saying "The Little Prince" all these years, when I thought I was being true to the source.

Nina contemplates the fact that The Little Prince is third on the all time best seller list after the Bible and Das Kapital. I find that impossible to believe, but okay.... Nina wonders if the same people are reading The Little Prince and the Marx tome:
After the eyestrain of paging through Marx, ‘The Little Prince’ may well offer the perfect antidote.

‘The Little Prince’ is one of those books that makes you think that surely there is a subtext, a Great Meaning of some sort. It’s not hard to imagine a Great Meaning hidden in simple statements about our planet –as seen from the eyes of an interstellar traveler.

I'm guessing Das Kapital is bought a lot more than it's read and when it's read, many words are skipped. The chance of reading every word of The Little Prince is infinitely greater. Many read it over and over.

Speculating about Communists reading The Little Prince reminds me of the discussion in My Dinner With André, when André, totally fixated on the book, starts speculating that Nazis would love the book and goes off on a strange rant. Nothing on the web to link for that, so you'll just have to watch the movie yourself. Oh, but a Little Prince quiz did turn up--a really great Quizilla. As for me:

For the annals of self-surgery.
A woman in Mexico cut open her own womb with a knife and delivered a healthy baby boy in her rural home when problems developed during labor, doctors report in a medical journal.

The woman and her son, her ninth child, both survived despite an eight-hour car ride to the nearest hospital and a wait of several hours once she got there, said co-author Dr. Rafael Valle, a Northwestern University obstetrician who learned about the case from a colleague.

"She was asked, 'Why did you do that? Do you know you could have died?' She said, 'Yes, but I wanted to save my baby,'" Valle said Wednesday. He added: "This is heroic to me."

The authors of the report said there are other cases of women attempting the same thing, but none they could find in which the mother and child survived.

The woman, 40, lived in a dirt-floor house with no electricity or running water and had previously lost a baby during childbirth, the authors said.

She was alone when she went into labor, and fearing the same thing would happen when it appeared childbirth was not progressing, she decided to perform the crude C-section. She drank three small glasses of hard liquor first to numb the pain, he said.

Yikes! That reminded me of story told by the great director Werner Herzog--I think it's in the incredibly cool documentary My Best Fiend--about working on the movie Fitzcarraldo. A crew member who was cutting down brush with a chainsaw got bitten by a snake so poisonous it would kill him in seconds. The man instantly used the chainsaw to cut off his own leg, saving his life. I don't trust Herzog not to lie, though, but it's a great story. The C-section one though is in a medical journal ... apparently.
"I remember when rock was young." They probably never play Speedy Gonzales on the radio anymore--it's absurdly politically incorrect by today's standards--but people ought to know that Crocodile Rock completely borrows from Pat Boone's novelty hit. John Stevens is kind of a Pat Boone type, so conceivably that connection led him to choose that song.

And let me point out another the Clay Aiken-Grease/John Stevens-Crocodile Rock similarity: they both conspicuously wore red jackets. And both, previously non-dancers, let loose with some weird dance moves. Judges were equally skeeved by both redheads.

Oh, and what about Speedy Gonzales the cartoon character? Should he be banned?
American Idol mostly drove home for me how great a singer Elton John is, as the contestants bungled or oversang his songs. It was pretty much torture last night. I don't have a good sense of pitch myself, so I didn't suffer as much as someone who really hears pitch well, but I was cringing at all the bad notes. I didn't even like my previous favorite Fantasia, who doesn't seem to care enough about the melody or musicality of a song, and who tries to make up for it by redoing her old trick of adding ten "yeahs" to the end of the song (which I think is most like something Paul McCartney used to do). Jennifer Hudson--oh, great, we said at my house--she's going last so she must be the best. Well, really, I think the show was trying to save Jennifer and LaToya by putting them last and as far away from Fantasia as possible, because they were in the bottom three last week. I suspect the producers think that Fantasia is getting a lot of votes that should be shared with LaToya and Jennifer. Because John Stevens (newly Aikenized) or JPL (looking like the young Elton John) are getting the young-girl-loves-cute-boy vote, which has no potential to shift to the more adult sounding black female singers (even if they are the best). Actually, last night George Huff was the best. He cracks me up, because he has the most mature-sounding voice and then after he's done singing, when he's interacting with people, he gets really childish facial expressions, that are kind of endearing, but that also remind me of Gomer Pyle or a cute baby. Well, at least he's distinctive.

Jennifer, my original favorite, didn't impress me with her bellowing of that Lion King song, though I still want her to stay around and really like her personality. Picking the Elton John song young kids know best was a sly move. But I don't like that kind of cornball singing. It's not poppy. It's not sophisticated. It's devoid of real human feeling. I really find it tedious. But the judges loved it. But then I like John Stevens. He's adorable! And he had nerve to do Crocodile Rock. And the judges, who want to destroy him, seemed to be going all out to make him cry on camera. They know he's getting a lot of votes and they want him out. His performance last night reminded me of the time Clay Aiken sang Grease and the judges pilloried him for it. But Clay gained energy from the adversity. They always tell you to get out of your box--as Television Without Pity's commentator likes to point out--but then they slam you for doing it. Did it take nerve to do the Pat-Boone-singing-Speedy-Gonzales part of the song (the falsetto la-las)? Yeah! I enjoyed it.

So what are Prof. Yin and Prof. Brito saying? Go check them out.

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

"I really think it's time we stopped flying together." David Brooks sustains a column-long metaphor about flying on specialized airlines, the like of which I have not seen since Prince's International Lover:
Good evening. This is your pilot Prince speaking.
U r flying aboard the Seduction 747
And this plane is fully equipped with anything your body desires...

Except Brooks is using his metaphorical device to critique partisan politics. His column caught my eye because he invokes my hometown (Brooks is obsessed with American geography):
The political divisions in this country being what they are, it's not enough that liberals and conservatives have different radio networks, different Web sites and different networks of friends. In order to eliminate all possibility of trans-partisan conversation, I really think it's time we stopped flying together. It's time to set up two different airlines: Liberal Air, with direct flights between Madison, Berkeley, Ann Arbor and the New School for Social Research; and Right Wing Express, which will have planes with no oxygen masks in case of emergencies because anybody who can't handle a little asphyxiation doesn't deserve to live.

Brooks doesn't usually go for humor this broad. Maybe he got a look at the Quizilla test (which I noticed via Prof. Yin): "Which New York Times Op-Ed Columnist Are You?" I took the test and didn't post it because, though I didn't mind being David Brooks, I couldn't identify with the quiz's description of Brooks:
You are David Brooks! You're exceedingly smart, but your writing is as compelling as wallpaper. You are a thoughtful though hard-line conservative, but lack any of Safire's verbal pyrotechnics. In addition, you dress like you're colorblind. Fall down, juvenile.

So maybe Brooks is trying to spice things up, to be more Dowd-y.

Note to Mithras: I didn't identify with "hard-line conservative."

Sidenote: Safire has "verbal pyrotechnics"?? Don't you mean Dowd? Safire is interested in language, but he's awfully mellow and restrained!

Interior decorating note re "compelling as wallpaper": depends on the wallpaper.
"Welcome Back, Kotter" ... Groucho Marx. Here's a nice thing from the NYT Boldface Names about "Welcome Back, Kotter" and ... Groucho Marx:
... RON PALILLO, perhaps best known for his role as ARNOLD HORSHACK in "Welcome Back, KOTTER," [didn't want to talk about various things and] preferred to recount the time GROUCHO MARX arrived on the set to do a guest appearance in 1975 or '76, not long before his death.

"We were his favorite show," Mr. Palillo recalled. "We didn't know what to say, so we all just went up to him and made the famous HARPO raspberry mouth. It really threw him. He just misted over and couldn't speak. They took him out and he never got to do the guest spot."

Of course, "Welcome Back, Kotter" would have reminded Groucho of the Marx Brothers' vaudeville skit "Fun in Hi Skule." And to see all the Kotter boys do the brilliant Harpo mug would have been incredibly endearing and overwhelming for the old man. How sweet! (Boldface doesn't seem to care for the pathos of this scene, being much more involved in finding ways to show that celebrities on the decline are pathetic.)
Althousercation. I see I was added to the blogroll at NewzillaNotes. I don't know much about that blog, but there's a good post about The O'Franken Factor with David Kay. I see I'm listed right after Altercation. Hey, I should have named my blog Althousercation.
Jerry is to Superman as Darrin is to Samantha. As Tonya notes, Jerry Seinfeld was on The Daily Show last night, basically to get people to go to the American Express website to look at a five minute commercial that you have to go there to see. Tonya has the interchange with Jon Stewart ribbing him about doing a long commercial that you have to go out of your way to find, and that was pretty funny. Jerry showed admirable restraint by not gloating about how he not only can get people to go watch his commercial, he can get Jon Stewart to let him on a show to do an extra long interview just to promote a commercial. Who else has ever gotten to do that? And, amazingly, still looked good doing it. Think of all those actors who can barely pull off promoting a good movie.

Since Superman is in the commercial, Jerry had the opportunity to talk about Superman, which seems to be an endless source of material. I enjoyed the speculation that Superman is really not too bright and that that would be a side effect of having superpowers. Jerry was talking about the next ad, which has him and Superman going on a road trip and getting locked out of the car. Superman offers to rip the hood off the car, and Jerry protests that they had an agreement that it was going to be a no superpowers trip. So he's like Darrin in Bewitched, who made Samantha promise not to use witchcraft to accomplish her various household tasks. Samantha, of course, always entertained us by using her powers at the drop of a hat whenever Darrin's back was turned. So that's my question for Jerry: does Superman use his powers on the sly? (I guess I have to watch an AmEx ad to find out.)

I'm thinking Jerry and Superman would have a whole ethic going, like "the covenant of the keys", and if Superman broke the deal, the whole relationship would implode. There would be no next time (as with Darrin). It would be like:
I don't want the keys back! No, I'm glad the way things turned out. I was clingin' to those keys, man! Like a branch on the banks of a raging river. And now I have let go. And I'm go with the current. To float. And I thank you.

Great writing! Important to recognize though that Seinfeld didn't write that, Larry David did.

Speaking of writing, Tonya's also defending Stone Reader, but I think her defense supports my position--public service ads have some bit of flair, don't they?
Right? I haven't activated the comments function on this blog, mostly because I want to control how things look and also because anyone can communicate with me by email (using the name of this blog followed by and I'll post comments that I think are worth reading, but some other blogs have comments. Prof. Yin has comments, and I just discovered that someone said something about me in response to something nice Prof. Yin said about me. The commenter is "Mithras," who has named himself after a god and also has a blog. Check this out:
"...she exhibits a level-headed non-partisanship."

You are kidding, right? I haven't noticed one time that she criticized conservatives for anything or praised liberals for anything.

"The Democrats try to scare me about the Republicans, and the Republicans just want to be loved."

She doesn't curse, is that what qualifies as a thoughtful conservative now?

Well, talk about overheated rhetoric. Oh, and taking things out of context. I was writing about the letters I get from both parties, who both assume I'm already a supporter, and comparing the styles of the pleas for help:
I always find it weird that they assume you're a hardcore supporter, but they must find that the assumption helps make people feel needed and willing to chip in. I even receive membership cards to things I've never joined and letters inquiring why I haven't "renewed" my membership, letters full of wacky self-examination, mulling about what they could have done wrong to turn me away, like some needy old lover. Those last few things are all Republican moves. The Democratic letters are always trying to scare me about things that are about to happen, how I'm about to lose all my rights and so forth. I would have thought the Democrats would be more about love and the Republicans more about fear, but not so, at least when speaking to people they think might have some money to hand over. The Democrats try to scare me about the Republicans, and the Republicans just want to be loved.

The assumption that "Democrats would be more about love and the Republicans more about fear" hardly seems more flattering to the Republicans. And the part Mithras quoted, "the Republicans just want to be loved," goes with the earlier statement that their letters are "full of wacky self-examination, mulling about what they could have done wrong to turn me away, like some needy old lover." I haven't read much of Mithras's blog, but I see from Technorati he's reasonably popular. Well, I don't like his rhetoric from what I've seen (that one comment about me).

"You are kidding, right?" is the sort of line that passes for a witticism in TV screenplays (the actor lays heavy, faux world-weary emphasis on the second word). That thing of adding "right?" at the end of a statement, you can get dependent on that, right?

Monday, April 05, 2004

Even women aren't reading the Styles Section. Ridicule Karen Hughes's fringed outfit (worn on Meet the Press) all you want Electablog and Wonkette. I think it's ridiculous too. But it's quite in fashion. And it's not hard to learn this info. It's all over the NYT Styles pages.

Here's Ruth LaFerla:
"It's funny," Nanette Lepore, a New York designer, was musing last week. "Women don't really know why they want something — they just do." Ms. Lepore was trying to puzzle out why little bouclé jackets — and in particular a tweed plaid version with a boxy shape and frayed edges, a knockoff of a Chanel original — should be the surprise hit of the season.... "

Here's Ben Cunningham (click on "Into the Fray"):
Not long ago, frayed edges signaled that a jacket should be sent to a charity sale. Today, such jackets and skirts with clipped and frayed edges are the trend. The styles this spring, shown here in New York and Paris, have had their fringe manicured for wider appeal. The raggedy extreme, from Junya Watanabe, may be seen at the far left. The look's inspiration can be traced back 20 years to avant-garde apanese and Belgian designers. Chanel's fringed versions are elaborately refined.

Try shopping at Barneys. That damn fringe is everywhere. Don't "rag" on Karen Hughes about it!

Today's Bascom Hill display--inopportunely following a weekend when Madisonians thought a lot about false reporting--features life-size silhouettes painted with statistics about sexual assaults:

Political correctness, Spring 2004 version. Yesterday, I was at my favorite café and they were playing very irritating music that made it hard to concentrate on the editing project I was struggling with. As one of the few customers (Sunday morning), I considered asking them to change the music. But I decided not to, because the music was distinctly ethnic, and I was afraid it would be taken the wrong way. This morning, Cheryl came to work wearing a rather insane jacket that was covered with large cartoon characters (I'm talking twenty faces, 5" in diameter).
That's quite a jacket!

I thought I needed to liven things up. But the problem is there are no persons of color.

Just when you're trying to amuse the students, who knows what risks of offense one takes? I think the students should be happy that the teacher is willing to wear something positively absurd in order to cheer them up. Would anyone really think: Hey, that jacket is not inclusive enough!

I pointed out that that faces on the jacket were white (that is chalk white) and orange, so there was color variety, but she clearly felt it was deficient that a more pronounced attempt at diversity had not been made by the lunatic that patched that jacket together. And I'm not disrespecting Cheryl's clothes. I think clothes should be amusing, at least much of the time.

Oh, I forgot I had the digital camera! Missed opportunity! Cheryl did give me permission to blog about her jacket.
Elevator conversation at the Law School:
It's winter again.

I heard it's going to snow.

Where'd you hear that?

NPR. But I don't believe any of their crap.

It's a left wing conspiracy.

Yes, everything is terrible. Part of scheme to get Kerry elected.
Constitutional thrills. For me, apparently, daylight savings means waking up in the middle of the night and seeing that the time is close enough to a reasonable hour to go ahead and get up. The NYT is here, I can check out the overnight activity on my blog. Hmm... someone came here after doing a Yahoo search for "this kind of very comprehensive supreme being, Seeger-type thing," a phrase Justice Breyer used to refer to God in the Newdow oral argument. This entry of mine is one of only three results for that. I'm surprised more people haven't commented on Breyer's striking locution.

One of the search results is just a reprint of Leon Wieseltier's article in The New Republic, "What America Can Learn From Its Atheists."
Citing United States v. Seeger from 1965, though he might have illustrated his speculation more vividly with the historical precedent of the Cult of the Supreme Being in revolutionary Paris, Breyer proposed that such a faith "in any ordinary person's life fills the same place as belief in God fills in the life of an orthodox religionist," and so "it's reaching out to be inclusive"--so inclusive, in fact, that it may satisfy a non-believer such as Newdow. Breyer suggested that the God in "under God" is "this kind of very comprehensive supreme being, Seeger-type thing." And he posed an extraordinary question to Newdow: "So do you think that God is so generic in this context that it could be that inclusive, and if it is, then does your objection disappear?"

Oh, yes, life would be so much more vivid if Supreme Court Justice's would stop being so stodgy as to prefer references to their own old cases! Please cite more foreign sources, Justices, because that is way more fun ... and it gets a rise out of Scalia.

Anyway, the only thing extraordinary about Breyer's statement is the idiosyncratic syntax. The idea itself is straight out of ... oh, how tedious ... some old Supreme Court cases. But Wieseltier is jazzed up by the way Newdow did not back down, even though, obviously, since he's trying to win his case, he wouldn't. Breyer was just asking for a response to the utterly predictable argument that generic ceremonial deism doesn't violate the Establishment Clause.
Newdow's objection did not disappear, because it is one of the admirable features of atheism to take God seriously. Newdow's reply was unforgettable: "I don't think that I can include 'under God' to mean 'no God,' which is exactly what I think. I deny the existence of God." The sound of those words in that room gave me what I can only call a constitutional thrill. This is freedom.

If only more ideologues could get the opportunity to do Supreme Court arguments, more constitutional thrills could be had by all. According to Wieseltier:
Breyer was advocating the Lockean variety of toleration, according to which it would be based on a convergence of conviction, a consensus about the truth, among the overwhelming majority of the members of a society. The problem with such an arrangement is that the convergence is never complete and the consensus is never perfect. Locke himself instructed that "those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the Being of a God." The universal absolute is never quite universal. And there is another problem. It is that nobody worships a "very comprehensive supreme being, Seeger-type thing." Such a level of generality, a "generic" God, is religiously senseless.

Except that Breyer wasn't invoking Locke's idea about freeing up the discourse so the individual can search for the true answer. Breyer was talking about an invocation of God that is too bland and generic to warrant judicial intervention. What Wiesentier is calling a "problem" is the central point Breyer's argument makes: no one's version of God is being preferred. And it isn't fair to Locke either, again quite obviously. Is the person who makes the first big step toward freedom and away from repression to be raked over the coals because his step was not big enough? Should we impute a blindspot that existed in 1689 to Locke's intellectual descendants of today? That's just sophistry. The ceremonial deism idea--even though it can be criticized as encouraging the ennervation of serious religion--is valuable because it allows courts to avoid excessive intervention in small matters. That ideologues can pump up small things and make them seem all-important is very old news.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Is Stone Reader a good documentary? Tonya is praising the film Stone Reader, so I feel compelled to dissent and say that this is a ridiculous excuse for a documentary, though people who enjoy the pacing of, say, NPR radio may enjoy it. (Sideswipe at NPR: This morning they went on and on about people in India who made clay pottery. Why they kneaded the clay by hand and used a potter's wheel! We listened our way through each supposedly bizarrely primitive step of the pottery process that will be familiar to anyone who ever took a ceramics class.)

Stone Reader is the dragged out search for an author of a book the filmmaker read and loved a long time ago. Tonya writes: "You must see this film if you are a bibliophile." I'd say if you're a bibliophile, just read, don't waste time watching a movie about how long it takes to find an author--with numerous pointless shots of things like raking leaves (you know, time is passing, and the author is still not found) and the filmmaker's son opening his new Harry Potter book and interviews with people who might know where the missing author is that go on and on and then conclude with the news that the interviewee does not know (and, yeah, I know Citizen Kane kind of proceeds in that way--"Rosebud? Never heard of it!"--but this is not Citizen Kane). Read the customer review "10% actual content, 90% padding" at Amazon. And check out the inflated price of the DVD--which I paid. (Sure, it has a lot of special features, but what consolation is that? There's no special feature that gives me two hours of my life back.)

Stone Reader feels like a 2-hour public service announcement about the benefits of reading. Can a good movie be made about reading? What movies are there about reading? I can think of The Neverending Story and The Princess Bride, which use the device of reading a book to enter into a story (which Alice in Wonderland does too). I can think of really only one decent movie that really is (pretty much) about reading: La Lectrice. It's hard enough to do a film about writing, but reading? Reminds me of that episode of Seinfeld--The Pitch--where George and Jerry pitch the idea of the show about nothing:
JERRY: ..Well, as I was saying, I would play myself, and, as a comedian, living in New York, I have a friend, a neighbor, and an ex-girlfriend, which is all true.

GEORGE: Yeah, but nothing happens on the show. You see, it's just like life. You know, you eat, you go shopping, you read.. You eat, you read, You go shopping.

RUSSELL: You read? You read on the show?
Here's a mean but funny list from NY Press: 50 Most Loathsome New Yorkers (via Apt. 11D). At #50, the first entry hit me as hilariously dead-on--for Sophia Coppola:
AN ART BIMBO whose daddy happens to be movie royalty rides in on the tired back of Bill Murray and is proclaimed a new film genius. The genius' film, Lost in Translation, is the most pretentious, overrated movie of last year, about an alienated Yale brat who feels so lonely in her five-star hotel that she strips down to her panties and curls up on the windowsill every half-hour.

Love the drawings, even if they do make Sarah Jessica Parker (number 13) look an awful lot like Coppola. Aw, what's so bad about Parker?
WHEN GIRLS THINK another girl is beautiful, but guys know she isn't, call it the Sarah Jessica Parker syndrome. Parker is a dual monument to millennial American female vanity and inanity. Spoiled and groomed to the point of psychosis, Sarah Jessica Parker is the final dead-end in the American feminine odyssey.

Do girls think Parker is beautiful? It seems to me most actresses who are called beautiful are nowhere near beautiful. It's often a stretch to call them pretty. The fascinating ones are rather weird looking, really, like Angelina Jolie and Julia Roberts.
Please, guys. Please read the Styles Section. Once again, the NYT makes an all out bid to get guys to read the Styles Section. This time, it's a giant front page article headlined "The Very Long Legs Of 'Girls Gone Wild.'"

Interesting business angle: GGW is a $100-million a year business. Do they pay the "girls"? "Occasionally we pay if they ask, but 95 percent of the girls just get a tank top."

Interesting legal angle: the founder of GGW, Joe Francis, is being sued by the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive business practices and is being prosecuted in Florida, charged with "racketeering, obscenity and enticing underage girls to expose themselves and engage in sex acts."

But this is the Styles Section, and the big colorful photo on the front page shows the "girls" having nothing but fun. There's also a nice little picture of Francis posing in front of his swimming pool.

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Oh no! It's the new US News rankings!

So four posts on US News and that's all for Saturday? Strange but true.
US News & me. Back in the early 1970s, after I graduated from the University of Michigan's School of Architecture & Design with a BFA degree, before I went to law school, I supported myself by working for a small market research company in NYC. We specialized in producing a monthly report analyzing the editorial content of magazines and doing various individual studies for magazine publishers. I thought this was a very nice day job for an artist, because we sat around reading magazines all day. I read at least 50 magazines a month, including many I never want to see again (like Woman's Day, Grit, and Sports Afield ...), for about three years.

One of the clients that were most interested in our individual studies was US News & World Report. Like the 3d and 4th tier schools on their present-day lists, US News had an inferiority complex. For them, Time and Newsweek were like Yale and Harvard. They wanted to find a niche. They needed leverage of some kind to get ahead of the elite newsweeklies. Their idea was "news you can use." Time and Newsweek, you see, didn't care about the consumer. They just told you what happened in the news. But how could you use that news? US News would give you news you can use, and they wouldn't just give it to you, they would document that they were doing it and use that documentation to prove that they were better than the two newsweeklies with the bigger reputations. At my little market research company, we found and measured and counted up the lines of news you can use in the newsweeklies, producing a statistical report that US News could use to show that they had more news you can use.

Specialization as the newsweekly that serves the consumer led them to serve the consumer of educational services. What poetic justice that the little newsweekly with the inferiority complex found a way to make all the elites tremble every year as it made its own success as a publisher of special school-ranking issues! What poetic justice that in finding a way to distinguish itself, US News created a mechanism that all the schools snubbed as inferior could use to challenge their elite competitors!
The US News peer assessment component. Brad Leiter has analyzed the US News rankings too, and he seems to find the most value in the peer assessment score, which is derived from a survey about faculty quality. My school has always done relatively well on this factor, and we invariably call attention to how well we do and (of course it's self-serving!) how this is the factor that matters most. But how can the surveyed profs know enough about all the schools they are asked to score? You are most likely to think of the people you know at the school--are the school's most well-published scholars in your field?--and judge the whole school by that standard. Are you thinking about the present or the long history of the law school? Do you really know if the scholars who exemplify a law school are still active on the faculty? If someone prominent moved to a school you are more likely to know, because the schools--especially the richer schools--put great effort into glossy reports to show off information precisely with the purpose of affecting the US News survey. At what point, in judging so many schools, are you resorting to general opinions about the prestige of the school? And where does that opinion come from? Oh, certainly not from the US News survey! No, no, no! That couldn't happen. Do you think reputation is some sort of echo and US News a huge echo chamber?

UPDATE: Leiter's discussion used faculty quality rankings not from the US News peer assessment factor, but based on an independent survey. It differs from the US News faculty survey results. For example, he shows Yale first, but US News puts Harvard and Stanford above Yale. Well, UW is at 19 for US News and only 22 for his survey, so you can guess which survey I think is more ... accurate. US News surveys "the dean and three faculty members at each school." Leiter surveyed "150 leading legal scholars." [UPDATE ABOUT THIS UPDATE: US News, when re-sorted by the peer assessment factor puts Harvard, Stanford, and Yale at the same level. H & S are only above Y as a matter of alphabetical order. Leiter puts Yale alone in first place and Harvard and Chicago tied for second, and Stanford 4th.]

ANOTHER UPDATE: I was just rereading that update (blog tending can get pretty damned involuted) and it struck me that surveying "the dean and three faculty members at each school" versus "150 leading legal scholars" makes a big difference. I'm sure Leiter's survey has been dissected elsewhere, and excuse me for not looking up previous comments, but these 150 "leading legal scholars" are a particular sort of person, likely to interact with other profs at a very elite level and to think well of the people who cycle through elite events. They will have their preferences and allegiances. US News is surveying a much larger group, which includes many much less elite faculty members, who are going to bring quite different ideas to the process of participating in determining who has the opportunity to become the new elite. These are people who struggle to bring recognition to their schools, and they may feel that schools that outrank them on the reputation score are riding on longstanding prejudice. It's not at all clear to me that Leiter's survey takers are more trustworthy. I wonder, do scholars with big reputations read more of other scholars' work? Maybe profs who write more read less. Maybe people who build their own reputations pay less attention to exactly what everyone else is doing.
US News and law school admissions. The new US News rankings are out, and I subscribed to their website so I could re-sort by LSAT, GPA, "peer assessment," or whatever subcategory contributes to the overall score that produces the famous, agonized-over ranking. I'm unusually interested, not just because I'm a lawprof and on the admissions committee here (60 files are stacked on the floor of my office at the moment, and I've also got two articles to edit in the next week). I'm especially interested because one of my sons is applying to law school. So I'm well aware of how the rankings affect a school that is trying to assemble a class of students for the next year and how an applicant simply must take the rankings into account. A school could go all out for the numbers, knowing that would produce a rise in the ranking, and perhaps in some later year, it could switch to more complicated factors, knowing the people it wants to select with these factors are more likely to apply and accept if the school has a higher rank. A school that goes all out for the complicated factors and downgrades the importance of the LSAT and the GPA has to know that it will sink in the rankings and that in the coming year, the people it would like to select using those complicated factors will not be applying or, if they apply, when the see the new rankings in the spring, will not accept.

As a US News subscriber, I reranked the list purely on LSAT score and could easily see which schools went all out for the LSAT score, because they would appear in the rankings far above their overall ranking. Georgetown is 14th in the overall ranking, yet appears 7th when you resort by LSAT. Fordham goes from 34th to 16th. On the other hand Michigan sinks from 7th to 12th and Texas from 15th to 22d. My school, which is 31st overall, is sandwiched between two schools that are ranked at 67th overall. But you'll find some other fine state schools down here with us: University of North Carolina, Iowa, Illinois.

If you re-sort by GPA, you'll find Baylor ranked 4th, though overall it is ranked 50th. Berkeley, which people seem to think doesn't deserve to be ranked at 13th overall, is, quite interestingly in 5th place in the GPA rank. North Carolina, which slighted LSAT scores, has compensated with GPA, because here it appears in 6th place (overall rank 27). In 8th place is Florida (overall rank 43). And in 9th place is Nebraska (overall rank 89). When I read admissions files and look at GPAs, I take into account how competitive the college is, what courses were taken, the trend over four years, grade inflation at the school, and so forth. But we could simply pick the highest GPAs. Now, maybe Nebraska, for example, could be explained this way: they take a lot of people from Nebraska who have terrific grades from Nebraska, and that's what they should do. They aren't necessarily playing a US News game. But it's pretty damn obvious how to play the GPA factor--it's the most playable thing in the game. Why are Columbia and NYU at 13th and 14th place in the GPA rank, when they are at 4th and 5th in the overall rank? Maybe they are going lower into the pool from some very strong, competitive colleges and taking people with terrific LSATs (they rank 3d and 4th on the LSAT rank).

My school is in first place on one of the re-sorted list (shared with Marquette): "School's bar passage rate in jurisdiction." 100%. How'd we do that? Why that's the neatest trick in the whole US News game! Just try to beat that, US News competitors!

Friday, April 02, 2004

Madison life. It's this kind of afternoon in Madison:

The students are lounging and conversing on Bascom Mall:

But what is this display?

You are invited to take one of these flags and proudly show your support for MEChA:

I am seeing no MEChA flag taking or waving of any kind. [CLARIFICATION: MEChA is sponsoring the display, but the flag itself is a United Farm Workers Flag.] Here's another hardcore political image from campus:

In the end politics merges with the more beautiful and gentle aspects of life in Madison:

Short-fingered vulgarian. I'm enjoying reading Throwing Things, which has a lot of smart remarks about TV (and movies). I hadn't seen the "short-fingered vulgarian" term for Trump in a long time, and seeing it on TT made me Google for something Spy Magazine-related and find this, from a cool website devoted to Spy nostalgia. So, really, what were satirists satirizing seventeen years ago?
Wonderfalls ... Rumsfeld. I keep hearing that Wonderfalls is a good TV show and seeing it lumped together with Joan of Arcadia (a personal favorite of mine). But what was it doing on at the same time as The Apprentice? Okay, I'll watch a little and TiVo The Apprentice. No, no, it's not on the JoA level. It reminds me of those exaggerated sitcoms with smartass kids that have been on forever and that I never watch. Or am I wrong and it's in a kind of Serial Mom style? Pink Flamingoes noted. And I did like the idea of the talking animals, but in execution, it's not as good as the God characters--like Goth God--on Joan of Arcadia. And I did really love that the dad looks exactly like Donald Rumsfeld. But since he seems to be a quite a bastard, the show perhaps belongs in this discussion.
Music videos. Chris recommends this list of greatest music videos of all time. Does Madonna deserve all this recognition? Yes! And more. I especially like "Open Your Heart," which is number 16 (or as they say in music list talk: which comes in at number 16). Nice to see the old 80s favorites like "You Might Think." I always liked The Cars--they seemed to be keeping something from the 70s alive that was keeping something from the 60s alive that was keeping something from the 50s alive.
Not driving. Like some of the best people I know, Andrew Sullivan doesn't drive--can't drive. Not driving keeps you from doing some things, but the limitation shapes your life in many positive ways, as AS notes. Personally, I love to drive, but once I lived for a semester in Boston without my car, and not having the car made life better in many ways. Oh, and "once" I lived in New York City for 10 years without a car, and it was great. Not driving increases the likelihood that you will live somewhere interesting.
Is it clever to call your show "Morning Sedition"? Well, the play on Morning Edition has been used before. I'll just note that I started by misreading it as "Morning Sedation," thinking they were making fun of the tediousness of (some of) Morning Edition and then thinking "Sedation" isn't a good term to repeat to people when they are trying to get up in the morning.

You don't want to pick a name that makes it easy to make a joke at your expense ("Morning Sedition"? More like Morning Sedation! ... ha ha....) And considering that a big theme of Air America is that liberals are patriots too, isn't sedition--"[c]onduct or language inciting rebellion against the authority of a state"--the wrong word? Quite aside from that, isn't the liberal self-image "I'm a revolutionary" a bit tired? I mean like 30-years-out-of-date tired?
In which I pan last night's The Apprentice. Gordon Smith has some funny simulblogging. And Prof. Yin has a lot of observations. I thought the episode was pretty boring. The contestants tried to rent out fancy real estate for as much $ as possible. Wow, beautiful space, I thought at first. Later, I'm still looking at that big empty space, and I don't really know anything about the people looking at it or anything about what they'll do with it--other than, have a big party. But I don't get to see a party or anything. Just a few characterless people filing through! And the dumb narrative device we've seen before: just when the team was losing all hope, with seconds left on the clock, a customer from the blue walks in the door and makes a big offer. Compare that to the art-selling episode, which had the different paintings, the artists, the gallery parties.

With the best players left, the most colorful contestants are gone. I'm not surprised they are now resorting to trying to get us excited by revealing they're bringing back Omarosa (the break-out star of the series!). And then, poor Troy has to go, because he is least bland person left, so he looks out of place. There was only so much cowboy we could take, and then we want only smoothly polished applicants. The main reason Troy was told he had to go was that he lacked the education the other two team members had. As a mere high school graduate, he never really had the qualifications! But good for you for making it this far, high school boy.

Oh, and the dullest part of the show has always been the winner's reward. Too often the reward is that you get to fly somewhere in some aircraft. You're in New York, there are a million great things to do, but we've got to keep flying you out of there because we want to show off the aircraft. Yeah, it was quite nice, but like the cavernous apartment space, it's boring to keep looking at it. We might as well have an episode that's just a closeup on Trump's face where he looks into the camera and says, for an hour, "I am rich, I am so rich, I am so much richer that you can imagine .... " That's what it felt like last night.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Dawn. It is April 1, so say a prayer for Dawn. And, you readers, all still alive, take care driving. That left turn could be death. Hesitate.

UPDATE: I am an aunt to two persons, one the lamented Dawn. But let me not only lament Dawn, let me cheer my wonderful nephew Cliff Kresge, who is in 17th place after the first round of the Bell South Classic. Life goes on.

UPDATE FRIDAY AT 3: Not a good day for Cliff, but there he is just under the cut line. It looks like there's a decent chance that the cut will be moved though. I hope.
High-tech-problem-is-really-a-low-tech-problem... Soylent Green ... Cocteau. My dear return readers will know of my recent travails with my digital camera, which turned out to be one of those high-tech-problem-is-really-a-low-tech-problem problems (a wall switch was involved, a variation on is-it-plugged-in troubleshooting). Another high-tech-problem-is-really-a-low-tech-problem problem happened again today, when Charter Communications set up my cable modem, but the cable guy recoiled in horror at the sight of my wireless device (Airport): "I can't touch that!" He will only hook the cable directly into to the one desktop computer that doesn't have a wireless card and checks it all out and I'm supposed to do the Airport part of the setup myself after he leaves. But oh it's easy, he says, just reconnect the cable to the airport and then run a cable to the desktop. But, no, that in fact does not work, as I eventually figured out. The cable modem will have given an IP address to the desktop, so the Airport won't be able to "pull" an IP address of its own. Solution: unplug the cable modem box and turn it back on with Airport connected. How much time did I throw away before I discovered the old unplug-it-and-replug-it maneuver? Hours. And a life is only made up of hours....

Ah, but okay, I like the wireless, now that it's working, and all the digital cable that got attached seems pretty nice too. I like the "Music Choice" channels, as I sit here writing, using the wireless. I don't usually listen to music, but maybe now I will. One of the channels is called "Light Classical." I can't read that term without thinking of Edward G. Robinson in Soylent Green. Am I the only one? In the unforgettable scene in which Robinson requests Light Classical music in Soylent Green (why am I refraining from spoilers? isn't this the most spoiler-ruined movie in movie history?), what is played is Beethoven's Sixth Symphony.

Once, I drove to San Francisco, then to Las Vegas, then back to Madison. I was visiting family members in those two cities, but I also cared about driving through Death Valley, between SF and LV. Driving, I was listening to The Teaching Company lectures about Beethoven's symphonies along with the symphonies. What was so strange and beautiful was that Death Valley coincided with Beethoven's Sixth Symphony, the un-Death-Valley-like Pastoral. In thinking about music not matching the visuals, I always think about Jean Cocteau's memoir about making Beauty and the Beast, which I could not more highly recommend. Cocteau favored film music that wasn't closely tied to the visuals. Put in the score, and let accident determine what sound went with what visual. The spirit of Cocteau was with me when I loaded up the CD player with Beethoven symphonies and drove across the vast wastelands of the American west.
Ridiculous turns of phrase. I have two. There's this, from a NYT story about Kerry's shoulder operation taking him out of active campaigning:
"The Bush people have seized the vacuum," said Carter Eskew, a senior adviser to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign

Isn't that a bit ... askew? Seized the vacuum? I don't think the image is of the housecleaning appliance. You're referencing nothingness. Not seizable. Fillable.

The second one is a Bush quote that appears in Michiko Kakutani's review of Richard Clarke's book (which is worth reading generally--the review, I mean. Key line: "The narrative of 'Against All Enemies' is very much a story in which Mr. Clarke depicts himself as the prescient gunslinger trying, often in vain, to rally a bunch of dilatory bureaucrats.") Here's the locution I'm going to critique:
"I was prepared to look at a plan that would be a thoughtful plan that would bring [bin Laden] to justice and would have given the order to do that. I have no hesitancy about going after him. But I didn't feel that sense of urgency, and my blood was not nearly as boiling."

Boiling blood is extreme hyperbole for anger. It is enough to say, after 9/11 my blood was boiling. Even that is too extreme. How could one carry out the duties of the Presidency if one fell into the greatest extreme of rage? I would think after 9/11, a person in the President's position would feel a crystalline concentration of the mind, not boiling anger, but a state beyond anger, to an instant resolve to do all the things that need to be done. Boiling blood is nevertheless an acceptable trope for the 9/11 state of mind. But the expression "my blood was not nearly as boiling" enfeebles the whole statement. You mean your blood was boiling before, but at more of a slow boil as opposed to a rolling boil? Absurd! His blood was not yet boiling, but he doesn't want to concede that he wasn't intense enough about the war on terrorism before 9/11. He wants to be able to say 9/11 really changed him without admitting that he didn't care enough before 9/11. I do understand the impulse, though. Politics makes people use ridiculous expressions that they would not use if they spoke straightforwardly.
Are American Idol voters crazy? Here's Shack at Television Without Pity:
I just figured that after Leah's and Matt's ejections, the increase in viewership had stabilized some of the more bizarre voting decisions. Silly me. What was I thinking? Given terrible performances by Jon, John, Camile, and Diana, the voters send … Amy, Jennifer, and LaToya, to the bottom three.

I think what happens early on, when there are a lot of contestants, is that voters concentrate on helping people they like who they think might be in danger. They assume the really best people, like LaToya are getting votes from someone else. That's a real problem. Maybe each judge ought to have the power to bestow immunity on one contestant at this phase. But no, it makes the show exciting when the wrong people are voted into the bottom three. What fun it was for millions of people to watch the closeups of John Stevens, a sweet teenage kid, and look for a sign of a tear and impute thoughts to him ("I am so much worse then LaToya! The American people are wrongly favoring me and missing the true talent!"). Just don't put Tasia in the bottom three, or I'm going to get mad. I had been expecting the finale to be Fantasia and LaToya, but now I guess I don't think so. Based on this week, Fantasia and George are the best. And, please people, let poor Camile go home. If you really want to do something nice for her, don't vote for her. She's terrified and suffering and needs to go home.

UPDATE: I didn't link to Prof. Yin in my original post (and he commented last night), so here's the link. (Too busy to check the usual blogs this morning!) He also disapproves of America's choice for the bottom three. And he thinks Jennifer Hudson was good. Now, Hudson was my original favorite, going back to the first audition, but I have switched to Fantasia. I have a problem with Hudson's singing now. It's weak and kind of weird in the lower register and it seems phony to me, not that I think she is a phony. I think she knows she has to knock people out, and she pushes hard to do that, but as a result, there's no warmth of feeling. Generally, that is a problem with the show. Lots of power belting at the expense of believable interpretation.

I actually like John Stevens because he resists the pressure to be like that: he sings in an easy manner and tries to do good phrasing like his singing idols. But he's just a kid--he's not Frank Sinatra. Yet, I'll bet the kid Frank Sinatra was really great (any recordings of him at 16?). I'll bet Frank never aimed his singing at his grandparents. That said, I'll bet a hundred thousand young girls have a crush on young John.

Now, Fantasia, my favorite for the last few weeks, is able to do all the power stuff they want you to do and still seem like a specific, real person with personality and style--and to be having a great time on top of it. She's just way more entertaining than anyone else! Even that goofball sweater she was wearing was entertaining.
Law School Rankings. The U.S. News website is still showing the 2004 Grad Schools guide, and I'm seeing some discussion of the "leak" of the of rankings (here and here), but the new guide was on the magazine rack at Borders on University Avenue yesterday.

Anyway ... it's that time again for schools that moved up to preen and schools that moved down to denounce U.S. News and their mischievous, unscientific ways. How tedious to listen to this self-serving blather year after year! Or is it that I can afford to be blasé because my school stayed in the same place.

Really, I think it is good that U.S. News gathers and systematizes information for people who are making decisions about where to go to law school. If it's not perfect information, it's still some information, and let someone else try to put out better information and compete with U.S. News. If U.S. News is so defective that ought to be easy. U.S. News sells plenty of these guides so there must be a lot of money in the enterprise.