June 5, 2004

Ronald Reagan.

Here's a picture of Reagan I took a while back, a freeze frame from the movie That Hagen Girl. (My long post on That Hagen Girl appears here. It's a horrendously bad movie that he didn't want to be in.) I'm listening to the TV coverage of Reagan right now. The coverage is quite nicely done. [MSNBC] So beautifully positive. A really nice tribute from Bill Clinton just now.

Turtles, frogs.

A little girl was led by her father to the end of the wooden pier that extends into the Turtle Pond in Central Park. One second before she looks over the end of the pier, she says, "There are no turtles." Then:



Ah! There are 10 big--foot long--turtles right there. And optimism is instilled next to the little girl's skepticism. And here's a little boy reaching up toward an exotic frog. See the other one right there in the middle? (Now we're at the Frogs exhibit at the Museum of Natural History.)



Here's a frog that looks like moss.



This one is not inclined to blend in:

Fashion advice.

May I suggest, this season, for the man, the Cossack look:

Comedians from another time and place.





Two abstracted faces.





Lips.

Lips that spoke to me.


Unnatural ahistory.

The faces that spoke to me today at the Museum of Natural History--taken out of tribal context.













Partisanship ... and good-bye to Ronald Reagan.

Over breakfast this morning and out of range of the internet, I read David Brooks's op-ed in today's NYT, which dealt with a question I think about a lot: why do people have the party affiliations they do?
Donald Green, Bradley Palmquist and Eric Schickler argue in their book, "Partisan Hearts and Minds," ... people do not choose parties by comparing platforms and then figuring out where the nation's interests lie. Drawing on a vast range of data, these political scientists argue that party attachment is more like attachment to a religious denomination or a social club. People have stereotypes in their heads about what Democrats are like and what Republicans are like, and they gravitate toward the party made up of people like themselves.

Once they have formed an affiliation, people bend their philosophies and their perceptions of reality so they become more and more aligned with members of their political tribe.

I spent much of the day at the American Museum of Natural History catching glimpses of the tribal ways of the human being. It is sometimes very beautiful and poignant. And yet I have to think that we are born to rise above these attachments and to think rationally and scientifically.

As I walk across Central Park--that rationally constructed imitation of nature--my cell phone rings and it's John telling me of news reports that Reagan is near death. Back at the hotel, I get connected to the internet and begin to download the day's pictures. John calls again to say that Reagan has died, and we both turn on CNN together in time to hear a clip of Reagan's Challenger speech, which seems to refer to his death now. There are shots of Reagan on horseback and striding in the sunlight with Nancy at his side.

I'm struck by how soon after I heard he was dying that I--mired in this partisan world--began to think about the effect his death would have on the Presidential race. It would help Bush--wouldn't it?--to return to the positive images of the Reagan era for the next week. It could only hurt him if he overreaches and uses the occasion for his advantage too noticeably, if he makes what we might call the Wellstone Mistake. I imagine the Kerry camp cursing their bad luck or contemplating how or whether to mix the nice things they must say about Reagan with sideswiping comparisons to Bush. I wish I hadn't even thought about these things. The aged President has died--one ought to think kind thoughts about the dead man and not taint the occasion with politics, but that doesn't seem possible. How I hate partisan politics!

June 4, 2004

I love writing.

I love unnecessary words:



And words that seem meaningful:



And words that seem a bit off, like this celebration of the American-ness of meat:



And this grammatical conundrum (if they are selling pedicures cheap, are they not selling NYU students?):

Catching fast dogs.

I got the idea of catching pictures of dogs as they passed by. I aimed the camera down and took a chance, not wanting the owner to know what I was doing. Here's a picture I took of a guy and his dog before I got the the aim-down-quickly idea:



Here's one that came out using The Method:



Here's one that is just so weird that I loved the way it didn't come out. Just sheer essence of passing dog:

My old neighborhood.

There is so much more to photograph in Manhattan than in Madison. And there's so much more to do in Manhattan than in Madison. But I can't post what I do on the web the way I can post my photographs. And I'm trying to resist going overboard. But I've just got to continue. I want to show you the building I lived in when I was a law student. It's called The Rembrandt.



The same company owned another building nearby called The Van Gogh. You might think it inadvisable to live in a building named after a person who famously committed suicide, but I lived in The Rembrandt for only two years and one day I came home from work to see a body lying under a tarp right in front of the door. I ran upstairs and told my then-husband who said he thought he'd heard a strange noise. On another occasion during our two-year lease, a man who lived across the street committed suicide by jumping from what was a one-story building. The Rembrandt is on the corner of Jane Street and 4th Street, a corner most famous for The Corner Bistro, which has one of the best burgers in the city:



I walked from The Rembrandt down 4th Street all the way to NYU School of Law, which was my walk for the first year of law school. Fourth Street is much spiffier now, and I stopped for lunch in a restaurant, pictured below, where the customers looked and acted like the sort of people I once associated with the Upper East Side, not the Village.



What did I eat? Why, my favorite: pasta with bolognese sauce! The place is called La Focaccia. Why don't you go there?

13 details of Greenwich Village and SoHo.




































Inside Seton Hall.

I'm here in Newark for the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics Annual Health Law Teachers Conference (as mentioned here). It's at Seton Hall University School of Law which has a beautiful modern building with a spectacular atrium. This is just a slice of the huge space:



I gave my talk--about federalism, medical marijuana, and assisted suicide. Here's what the view from the speaker's position looked like:



You try talking about drugs and suicide while looking into such an alienating space! It felt like a scene from a Terry Gilliam movie. From the speaker's perspective, the people look like disembodied heads lined up on shelves. But teachers make great audiences, usually. They know how helpful it is to smile and nod.

Students usually keep a poker face because they don't want to be called on. It can be unnerving. So a word to all the law students who read this blog: just smile and nod occasionally. It won't make us call on you. Now, frowning and shaking your head: that's asking to be called on. I once had a student who constantly frowned and shook his head, and I always had to say "Is something wrong?" I had to call on him to find out if I'd said something wrong or if there was a point he wanted to disagree with me about. But he just didn't like what the Court was doing (and didn't mind talking about it in class--he was a terrific student). I sometimes feel that students attribute the cases to me: if they don't like the outcome or the reasoning or think they are complicated and confusing, they appear to be mad at me. This is another reason for students to speak in class. Or just do that nodding and smiling thing once in a while.

June 3, 2004

Two details--Manhattan.






A lower Manhattan theme:











Faces seen around town.

A clown on a wall:



An unrecognizable face on a lamppost:



Gandhi on the sidewalk:



Three faces on a wall:



An elusive face in a shredded poster:



UPDATE: I now know that the "unrecognizable face" is Andre the Giant and that it is part of a big art project. I'm not going to publicize it because I don't think artists should deface--even with a face--public property. I like to photograph things that are destroyed or partially destroyed, but not because I want to encourage destruction.

SoHo art, not art.

A closeup of a gaudy scupture outside an art gallery, mellowed by the shade of a fire escape:



An exuberant sculpture reflected in a gallery's mirrored window:



Mannequins:

Manhattan vending views.

A seller of anti-Bush t-shirts with a graffiti'd truck:



Buddhas for sale:



Pink things:



Wigs:



UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers! I've got some more Manhattan photos here, here, here, and here, FURTHER UPDATE: 13 Friday photos here.

The view from Newark.

Why, yes, I am in Newark. Sorry to post so late, but I got up at 4:30 to get an early plane, and there was no WiFi in the airport, and I'm only now in a hotel room with internet access.

The taxi arrived early-- it was not yet 5:30 am--and the cab driver engaged me in conversation. Is that your VW Beetle in the driveway? That question was used to drag me into a long discussion about gas mileage and the bad people who buy cars that don't get good gas mileage and so forth. Yeah, I don't like SUVs either, but I don't really want to talk about it before 6 am. He likes driving the early shift, because he likes to see the sun rise, because there are only so many sunrises that are going to take place in one's lifetime, so one ought to try to see them all. Thanks, I always like to think about how short life is first thing in the morning, especially before getting into an airplane.

The people in the airport were mercifully quiet. Everyone seemed to get the idea that it was too early in the morning to talk. I arrived in Newark (for my conference tomorrow) only to find the hotel would not let me check in until 3. So I checked my bag and got on the PATH train for Manhattan, where I spent the day wandering around the Village and SoHo. Photos to follow this post very soon. I must first sort through the 100+ pictures I took before the battery died.

June 2, 2004

A new David Sedaris book!

There's only one person who writes books that I pick up the first time I see them and buy without even looking inside to see if it's good. That's David Sedaris, whose new book Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim appeared yesterday in lots of nice big stacks at Borders. They weren't there the day before. They sprang up overnight. I picked one up immediately and set about to do the shopping that led me into the store in the first place.

I walked up the big central staircase. We have an amazingly large and nice Borders on the west side of Madison, a city that has plenty of people who carp lengthily about businesses that aren't locally owned. My answer re Borders, if I ever engage with this sort of carping, is that I lived and shopped in Ann Arbor back in the days when Borders was the local bookstore. Am I supposed to punish it now for being so good and successful? Let the local business be better and I'll go there. The local University Bookstore has filled up its first floor with T-shirts and sweatpants: they are the ones I chose to punish. On the other hand, I get my coffee on State Street at the locally owned Espresso Royale or (if I want a sandwich) Fair Trade. I walk past Starbucks, not because it's a chain, but because their coffee isn't as good. (They are remodelling it, making it more comfortable somehow, so I'll probably check it out.)

So, as I was saying, I walked upstairs at Borders, and one of the store employees saw I had the new David Sedaris book and said, "He's really funny." I said, "Yeah, I know. He's the one author whose books I buy right away without even looking inside." She said, "That's what everyone says."

What's distinctive about June 2?

It's Chris's birthday! Happy birthday to Chris and to anyone else who shares this excellent day for a birthday. Chris, the younger of my two children sons, is now 21.

UPDATE: Chris--who has a summer job at Whole Foods--emails:
Thanks for blogging about me. And feel free to mention that my first legal drink was an Appletini while you're talking about Gwyneth Paltow's baby's name. I've also been memorizing PLU numbers for every kind of apple we have at Whole Foods, so it's been very appley. If that's at all interesting; maybe it isn't.

June 1, 2004

Even The Economist is trying to figure out why Gwyneth Paltrow named her baby Apple.

It's a rather complicated meditation (link via A&L Daily):
Alexander Bentley, of University College, London, and his colleagues are studying the mathematics of cultural transmission. For this sort of work, birth records—which contain every instance in a country of one sort of cultural object, namely people's first names—are a particularly good source of data.

Dr Bentley looked at the frequencies of different first names in American babies. One of his findings was that the “mutation rate” in names is higher for girls than for boys. Parents, in other words, are more liable to be inventive when choosing a name for a baby girl. The researchers have found that for every 10,000 daughters born in America there is an average of 2.3 new names. For sons, the figure is 1.6.

Dr Bentley is not sure why this is the case. One possibility is that in a society where family names are inherited patrilineally, parents feel constrained by tradition when it comes to choosing first names for their sons. As a result, boys often end up with the names of their ancestors. But when those same parents come to choose names for their daughters, they feel less constrained and more able to choose based on style and beauty.

Well, that still doesn't explain Apple. Re Apple, it's less helpful than US Magazine which said on the cover it was going to explain the name, which led me to pick up the magazine, check the index, look for page 34 (hard to do because these ad-filled magazines have very few pages with numbers on them), only to find this quote from Paltrow's husband: "We thought it was a cool name."

And not only doesn't The Economist explain "Apple," it is nerdily obtuse about why people give more weird names to girls. Obviously, it's the same reason men keep wearing gray suits decade after decade while women wear all sorts of colors, patterns, and styles. Back in the 60s I seriously thought that was going to change. (And I'm finding it too hard to get a good link to pictures of extremely mod "Dedicated Follower of Fashion" and completely hippie men's fashions.) But it hasn't. Despite the gay rights movement--it all boils down to: fear of looking gay.

"17½-year-olds vary widely in their reactions to police questioning, and many can be expected to behave as adults."

So writes Justice O'Connor, concurring and providing the fifth vote, in today's Supreme Court opinion, Yarborough v. Alvarado. The Court leaves in place a state court conviction and reverses the opinion of the Ninth Circuit, which would have required a new trial excluding the statements that were given without Miranda warnings. Under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996--an omnibus congressional reaction to the Oklahoma City bombing--federal courts can only grant habeas corpus if the state court's decision “was contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law, as determined by the Supreme Court of the United States.” The Supreme Court has cases saying when Miranda warnings are required, but none of them make the defendant's age a factor. The state court only has to get the clear rules of law from the Supreme Court cases right and then not apply them in a way that is unreasonable. The cases in question required police to follow an objective test of whether the person being questioned would feel free to leave. Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, concentrating on keeping the test objective, thought that "consideration of a suspect’s individual characteristics–including his age–could be viewed as creating a subjective inquiry." Thus, it wasn't "unreasonable" for the state court to fail to make any reference to the defendant's age.

Justice Breyer dissents, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Ginsburg:
Alvarado’s youth is an objective circumstance that was known to the police. It is not a special quality, but rather a widely shared characteristic that generates commonsense conclusions about behavior and perception. To focus on the circumstance of age in a case like this does not complicate the “in custody” inquiry. And to say that courts should ignore widely shared, objective characteristics, like age, on the ground that only a (large) minority of the population possesses them would produce absurd results ....

UPDATE on the theory that some reader somewhere wants some opinion on the subject: This 5-4 split is a very old rift for the Court, which goes back far beyond the 1996 Act that gave the Justices some new terms and some new Congressional intent to take into account. Since at least the mid-70s, the Court has been split over what the role of the federal courts is in habeas cases for state prisoners. To put it simply, one side of the Court views the lower federal courts as having a role similar to the U.S. Supreme Court, making up for the fact that only a very few criminal cases will be heard by the Supreme Court on direct review. They think that the lower federal courts ought to serve as a surrogate for the Supreme Court, redoing the work of the state courts and correcting for mistakes in the articulation and application of law. The other side of the Court thinks that direct review is different from habeas review, and that the lower federal courts, exercising their habeas jurisdiction, should leave state court decisions as the last word unless a particular state court's performance is too far out of line (for example, to use the terms of the 1996 statute, if the state court missed the clear Supreme Court case law or applied it unreasonably). There are very basic differences about federalism here. One side mistrusts the state courts and thinks the federal courts are needed to ensure that there isn't a systematic underenforcement of federal constitutional rights. The other side thinks the state courts basically deserve respect as courts and the role of the federal courts should be to serve as a corrective only when state courts show some sign of not taking its duty to enforce federal law seriously enough. You might think the intrusion of Congress in 1996 into the whole longstanding debate would have resolved this conflict, but, quite interestingly, it hasn't. Congress has the constitutional role to make the statutes that govern federal jurisdiction, but the courts have to interpret those statutes, and the tendency to see in jurisdiction statutes what one thinks federal jurisdiction should be is very strong.

Newark!

Ah, Satan's Laundromat is photoblogging Newark. These are my kind of photographs, and I will be heading to Newark at the end of this week for the American Society of Law, Medicine & Ethics Annual Health Law Teachers Conference. I'm not a health law teacher, but I was asked to speak on the subject of New Federalism and Health Law. I'm only speaking for 15 minutes, but I'm charged up at the moment to draft an article with the title "Experimenting With Drugs in the Laboratories of Democracy: Assisted Suicide, Medical Marijuana, and Federalism."

It will be interesting to see Newark, a city I lived quite near when I was a high school student. We lived in Wayne, New Jersey, in a community called Packanack Lake, that had an exclusionary scheme--you had to be accepted into the "country club" to be allowed to buy a house--that got enough press that they sang a song about it on "That Was The Week That Was," which was kind of The Daily Show of its time. Except weekly. And David Frost was on it. Newark was considered too uninteresting/ugly/dangerous to visit. If you wanted to be in the city, you'd go to New York. Another thing I always held against Newark is that it impinged on my original home town of Newark, Delaware. If you said you were from Newark (pronounced "New Ark") and didn't add Delaware, everyone not from New-Ark would try to make you say it in an unpleasant slurred New Jersey way. And now the dominating New Jersey city has even overwhelmed my own pronunciation. I have to stop and think to say the name of my own home town right.

So maybe I'll have some gritty Newark sights to photoblog like Satan's. Or maybe I'll take a side trip to Wayne and see what's happened to it in the 30+ years since I've laid eyes on it. But you can't be in northern New Jersey without longing to be in NYC, and I intend to ensconce myself in a nice hotel looking out on Central Park on Saturday and Sunday. I want walk around the City again, and see some museums, including these frogs. Maybe I'll go to the theater, but it's too early to see The Frogs.

What's in the Times Arts section today?

1. A Princeton student (Kathleen L. Milkman) gets a big article, with a big picture of herself, all about her senior thesis, on the first page of the Arts section. How does one pull off such a thing? She did a statistical analysis of the content of the stories in The New Yorker. (Hmmm .... sounds like a job I used to have.)
The study was long on statistics and short on epiphanies: one main conclusion was that male editors generally publish male authors who write about male characters who are supported by female characters.

The study's confirmation of the obvious left some wondering why Ms. Milkman, who graduates this morning from Princeton with high honors, went about constructing such an intricate wristwatch in order to tell the time, but others admire her pluck and willingness to cross disciplines in a way that wraps the left and right brain neatly into one project.

... and left others wondering why the NYT put a big article about her on the first page of the Arts section. Standard reader response: What about my plucky graduate? The answer must be: we all care about the short stories in The New Yorker. ... Don't we?

2. New Oprah's Book Club choice: Anna Karenina. (The nice Pevear/Volokhonsky translation.) Can't say anything against that, can you?

3. Stanley Kubrick's crazy archive has been transformed into a huge museum exhibit. I want to see it, but--right now at least--it's in Frankfurt, at the Deutsches Filmmuseum.

4. There's going to be a big fundraising concert for John Kerry at Radio City Music Hall on June 10th. It has a name: "A Change Is Going to Come." That title is based on the beautiful song "A Change Is Gonna Come," which was written by Sam Cooke after witnessing a civil rights demonstration in 1963 ("I was born by the river/In a little tent, and just like that river I've been running ever since"). I guess "Gonna" had to be changed to "Going to." But that is one of the best songs ever, and it never hurts to stop and think about how great Sam Cooke was. Go to that first link and see the list of artists who have covered that song. Artists appearing at the June 10th concert are: Jon Bon Jovi, Whoopi Goldberg, Wyclef Jean, John Mellencamp, Bette Midler, James Taylor, and Robin Williams.

5. David Foster Wallace has a new book of short stories and Michiko Kakutani is not being very nice about it.
Unfortunately for the reader, such tiresome, whiny passages predominate in this volume. There are moments in "Oblivion" when we catch glimpses of Mr. Wallace's exceptional gifts: his ability to conjure both the ordinary (a Midwest motel room with a television stuck on the motel's welcome page) and the extraordinary (a Spider-Man-like figure, who may or may not be a terrorist, scaling the slippery side of a skyscraper); his ability to map the bumpy interface between the banal and the absurd.

These moments, sadly, are engulfed by reams and reams of stream-of-consciousness musings that may be intermittently amusing or disturbing but that in the end feel more like the sort of free-associative ramblings served up in an analyst's office than between the covers of a book.

"Reams and reams of stream-of-consciousness musings ... free-associative ramblings ..." -- sounds like a blog!

May 31, 2004

Sensual aftereffects of rain.

There is respite from all the rain, and now the front garden is teeming with insects that I'm afraid are baby mosquitoes. If anybody needs fresh chives, I've got them. I don't intentionally grow edible things in my yard. The chives have just lived on from the days when I did try to grow food:

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But what are these? They look awfully lewd!

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I'm not about to eat the mushrooms that are lolling about in my yard. But are they morels?

Image-12D94B27B34A11D8

UPDATE: Yikes! Diva competition!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Tonya posts a relevant literary passages and relays dinner hilarity in the midst of which I said, "I thought my yard should be wearing pants."

WAC Life.

For Memorial Day, here are some scans from my mother's "WAC Life/War Department Pamphlet," dated May 1945.

The cover:

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Chapter 1 (Text: "So you're in the Army! You've had your fears and doubts, your cheers and kidding, your tears and farewells. Now, as the boys say, 'This is it!' You're somewhat of a different person already. You're not 'that sweet little Smith girl from Sycamore Street' nor 'that awfully capable Mrs. Smith' any more. Now you're Mary Smith, enlisted woman ..." )

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Chapter 2 (Text: "Your job as a Wac, in its broadest definition, is to back up the fighting man. Your place is to render a service to him, not to fight at his side. He depends upon the service which you provide. The fact that your function is service rather than combat does not put you in any secondary or subordinate position. Your activities contribute directly to the winning of the war. Activities such as yours could not alone win the war; but alone they could lose it if they were left undone or were done badly.")

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Here's some advice from Chapter 7:
As a people, we're earnest about this war. Our enemies have learned that we're deadly earnest. So are our Allies. We don't wail when things go badly, nor blow off steam at every victory. The fight goes on, come good news or bad.