October 30, 2004

Two Madison still lifes: Election Year 2004 .

Let me say this about that.

I didn't understand much about politics when I was 12, but I nevertheless bought the wildly popular LP "The First Family." Vaughn Meader, who brilliantly impersonated President Kennedy on that record, died yesterday. People talk today about how comedy shows, especially "The Daily Show," are the place where young people learn the about politics, but "The First Family" worked like that too. I was a big Nixon supporter in 1960, quite simply because my parents were. I wore a big button to school -- in fourth grade -- that shifted back and forth between the face of Nixon and that of his running mate Lodge -- through the magic of that technology used in old crucifixion pictures to make Jesus Christ's eyes open and close. I loved Nixon then because my parents supported him. Yet when Vaughn Meader's brilliant comedy record came out, hit number one, and its tracks were played on Top 40 radio as if they were rock and roll singles, I went out and bought the record album. And there was something about that record that invited me in to the Kennedy mystique. Comedy can do things like that.

When Kennedy was killed, the great record became unplayable, and Vaughn Meader went from being one of the coolest people in the country to a person that no one wanted to talk about.
Mr. Meader often referred to Nov. 22, 1963, as "the day I died."

He drifted into alcohol and drugs before experiencing what he described as a religious awakening in the late 1960's. In recent years, he worked as the manager of a pub restaurant in Hallowell, Me., and performed in small clubs as pianist and singer, specializing in gospel and bluegrass.
Who could feel much sympathy for the comedy man, when we were all mourning our President? No celebrity has ever risen and fallen like Vaughn Meader. But thanks for the great fun you brought us back in those golden days, and goodbye.

UPDATE: I don't know why I didn't think to look it up before, but you can buy "The First Family" on CD, and even listen to some clips, which show how great Meader's Kennedy impersonation was.

Speaking of email.

Do you ever wonder what stories are being pitched to me in the email that I don't post on? Well, I can't really tell you, because then I'd be posting on them, wouldn't I? But suffice it to say, especially now, in the final days before the election, there are several subjects that I'm getting numerous emails about, that people would like to use blogs to turn into the issue of the day. Have I become a gatekeeper? Well, I'll keep this gate at least.

Email advice of the day.

This is the kicker from an email, responding to this post over on Instapundit and chiding me for not telling the world that the Osama bin Laden video "is fake, a phony, not the real thing":
Your a law student, well if you want to be a real lawyer, not a government lawyer working in an agency or on a commission, YOU'D BETTER SMARTEN UP.

The five items that came in the mail today.

1. An 8 1/2 x 11 inch glossy card addressed to me, from the Democratic Party of Wisconsin. One side of the card has a picture of John Kerry, dressed in an elegant suit, his eyes cast upward, his hand on his heart (just under a U.S. flag lapel pin), with the heading "The Direction of Our Nation in in Your Hands" and a 6-line quote under the picture that in includes the words "Wisconsin" (twice) and "Wisconsonites." The other side has a picture of Kerry, Edwards, and the two candidates' wives, all dressed in casual clothes and standing behind a rough hewn length of wood that is probably part of a split-rail fence, but for all I know is just one rail being held up by campaign aides standing outside the camera frame. The word Wisconsin appears four times on this side of the card.

2. Another copy of the card just described, but addressed to my sons. (I got the same card yesterday as well.)

3. A flyer from the Human Rights Campaign, addressed to one of my sons. It has a picture of Kerry and a picture of Bush with the question "Who can make a difference on discrimination?" and the answer "YOU." The inside of the flyer summarizes the two candidates positions on the Federal Marriage Amendment, "workplace fairness," hate crimes, and "fighting HIV/AIDS." According to this, Bush "has failed to advocate for the needed increases in federal spending for HIV prevention and care and treatment of people with HIV/AIDS." Well, that doesn't seem very fair! Hasn't Bush pushed for huge federal spending to fight AIDS? This organization makes some good points about gay rights, but then impairs its own credibility.

4. An 11 x 6" glossy card from the Republican Jewish Coalition addressed to the "Cohen Family" that has a picture of a heavy-set, middle-aged woman leaning over a porch railing. She is named, captioned as a "Registered Democrat," and quoted as saying "I feel safe with President Bush." On the other side of the card is a cropped version of the photograph and a longer version of her quote, including the statement "I disagree with President Bush on a lot of issues" and "I've always been a pro-choice Democrat, but party loyalties have no meaning when it comes to my family's safety." There is also a "Join the RJC" pitch, which notes "President Bush's unprecedented pro-Israel policies, his commitment to fighting global anti-Semitism and winning the War on Terror."

5. A postcard with a full color photograph of a man's head lying on a pillow. There is blood rolling down his face and spattered onto the pillow. He appears to be dead. There are green and orange stripes on either side of the photo, and on one of the stripes the words "The Flaming Lips" appear. Well, at least something isn't about the election! How refreshing! The other side of the card, which is addressed to one of my sons, has more blood spattering and the heading "Waking Up With a Placebo Headwound." It's an advertisement for a book of photographs.

Consider this, my Madison friends.

Here's a line from the Instapundit email that came in today (as Glenn Reynolds has returned):
Thank God you're back! You go away a few days, leave your blog in the hands of a (admittedly talented) bunch of lefties, and Bush's lead in the polls diminishes. Coincidence? I think not.

Two pre-election dialogues.

Dialogue #1:
Chris (my son): I hope Kerry wins.

Me: He might not. It's going to be a squeaker.

Chris: I just heard a guy on TV use that word.

Me: Yeah, I've never called anything "a squeaker" before. What's wrong with me? Everyone's calling it "a squeaker" so now I'm saying "squeaker" too.

Dialogue #2:
Me: Hello?

Guy on the phone: Yes, I'm [some name] calling from [some organization] to remind you to vote on Tuesday and to see if you have any questions you would like to ask.

Me: Yeah, I have a question.

Guy on the phone: Yes?

Me: How can I get people to stop calling me on the phone and nagging me about voting? It's getting really annoying.

Line I thought up after I hung up the phone that seemed like it might work: "You know if I get one more phone call, I'm going to vote for Bush."

Halloween politics in Madison.

Madison -- as I just overheard in the beauty salon -- was voted by some publication or other as the best place to be for Halloween. The first email I opened up on returning home was this:
My wife and I were out on State street last night for the Friday night warm-up to Halloween. There were 2-3 million cops deployed to keep things under control and quite a few good costumes, my favorite was Lt. Dangle from Reno 911 in the tiny shorts and cool rays. The interesting thing was the large number of positive reactions I got to a Bush Cheney sticker on my jacket. Easily more than a dozen people said something along the lines of “Bush Cheney, right on man!” including two young gentlemen in flight suits with prominent packages. The other thing that struck me was the lack negative comments. Earlier in the day a patchouli-smelling scraggly little fella told me “You are a selfish SOB!” and I got a Nazi salute and Zieg Heil from another but all night long it was Bush supporters happy to see someone showing the flag in Moscow of the Midwest.
Maybe the big get-out-the-vote effort here in Madison will help Bush or at least not hurt him as much as the Soros-money-wielding folks are hoping. But keep in mind the big Halloween doings here draw in people from well outside of Madison.

UPDATE: This is from the local paper's report on the Halloween excitement:
At about 9 p.m. the crowds quickly went from thin to thick, as a parade of costumed revelers flooded the top three blocks of Madison's storied downtown walkway. Judging from Friday's crowd, fairies are in this year, as are pimps, police officers and firefighters.

Scattered throughout the crowd were more provocative costumes, including a shocking number of young women who took advantage of the warm weather to dress in as little as possible, and young men who arrived in identical, store-bought giant penises.

"It's a lot of fun," said one phallic tower, Ryan (he would not provide his last name), a 19-year-old UW-La Crosse student. "I looked for the costume that would make the most people laugh."

The crowd was heavy on out-of-towners who arrived for the celebration, which came under the national spotlight during the violence of the past two years. All of those interviewed Friday deplored the past rioting, but all were looking for excitement.

Tim Masarik, 19, of Milwaukee, came to visit friends with two others, and at about 9 p.m. he was parading down the street dressed in royal red with a urinal hanging on his torso. He was a royal flush.

"I know it's going to pick up," he said. "I have faith."

He was right. Just after 10 p.m., the crowd became too big for the sidewalks and began taking over the street. ...

One of [the people openly drinking alcohol], a man who would give his name only as Justin and said he was 21, was among many people dressed as cows with protruding udders. Although he hadn't been arrested yet, the UW-Whitewater student stood out as he drunkenly hauled what was literally a bucket full of beer down the street.

Camille talks!

Camille Paglia -- in a Salon interview -- declares her support for Kerry ... and also says any number of mean things about him. I liked this one:
Kerry's weakness as a personality became clear when he wasn't able to dislodge [Democratic National Committee chairman Terry] McAuliffe from the DNC. He wanted to get rid of McAuliffe -- that servile water boy of the Clintons -- and he choked. Kerry didn't have the balls to get rid of him. Every time that yapping buffoon McAuliffe is on the air, the Democrats lose the votes of the undecided.

So let's see ... we're going to trust him to get rid of the terrorists, but he doesn't "have the balls" to get rid of McAulliffe ...

The interview concentrates on the presentation of the candidates in the media. For example:
It's as if we have no eloquent speechwriters any longer. The Democratic Party has become a p.c. wallow over the past 20 years -- a sinkhole of unctuous, bleeding-heart liberalism and emotional manipulation, always using seniors or "disenfranchised" African-Americans as convenient straw men. We're supposed to be in a constant state of empathy, on high alert to a cosmos of injustice. And always there are the aggrieved -- and those nasty people in high places who are doing awful things to them! It's become a tedious soap opera removed from reality.

No one puts things as well as good old Camille Paglia. It's great when she checks back in with us.

Interesting revelation: she adores Sean Hannity!
Liberal pundits underestimate Hannity because they see him on his Fox TV show, and he's just not that good on TV. But he's a dynamo on the radio. Even though I don't agree with his politics, I find him riveting. He's funny, he's ebullient, he has endless energy, and when he gets going on a tirade, he has the rhythmic passion of generations of Irish-Catholic priests!

There's great material here about the Mary Cheney Incident too. Paglia does not approve:
And as a lesbian, I strongly object to the Democrats' amoral use of sexual orientation as a wedge issue. The Democrats are supposed to be pro-gay, and yet they're using an assertion of gayness to unsettle the Evangelical followers of the Republicans. They're deliberately fomenting and reinforcing hostility to gays! What the hell's the matter with the Democratic consultants? I'd like to kick their asses up and down the Eastern seaboard for this Mickey Mouse episode.

Well, I've read the whole interview, which Salon titles "Camille for Kerry!" and there's precious little here about why she's for Kerry.

UPDATE: To be fair, the first page sums up her pro-Kerry case. I skimmed past that to get to the hotter material that begins on the second page of the six-page interview.

Bill Maher and his audience, an unhealthy relationship.

I don't go out of my way to watch Bill Maher's HBO show anymore, though I do occasionally watch part of it until I get sick of him or some awful celebrity, and I didn't check in on last night's show. But Jeff Jarvis watched the show so we don't have to. He has this:
Maher says some of the stuff in the bin Laden tape "I swear to God could have come out of the Democratic National Committee or a Kerry speech." Maher starts to read; Gen Wes Clark interrupts -- sensibly -- and doesn't want to seem by silence to be agreeing with that. Maher reads some of bin Laden's statements and the audience -- amazingly -- applauds! Maher: "Sometimes you can agree with an evil person. I mean, Hitler was a vegetarian." What the F has become of us? A studio audience is applauding a mass murderer?

Those studio audiences can ruin comedy shows worse than a bad canned laugh track. But Maher is responsible for his audience's idiocy. By pandering to one side, telling too many jokes that only work if your main political idea is that you hate Bush, you've stocked that audience with people who are ruining what chance at humor and decent political commentary you might have had.

Trippi says bloggers couldn't deal with the bin Laden tape.

Annoyingly, the transcript from last night's "Hardball" is not yet available on the website, but I was irked enough by Joe Trippi -- "MSNBC political analyst and our connection to the blogging world" -- that I'm going to type this out:
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Joe, what's the buzz in the blogging world about this emergence of the bin Laden tape?

JOE TRIPPI: Amazingly subdued, Chris. I mean, what's interesting is, both sides of the blogs are basically ... let go of the sarcasm, let go of the big rants, and are only putting up sort of the official statements of Kerry and Bush and sticking with caution to that. They know something's changed, but they don't know what, and they think they may have to wait for some polls to come back. I mean, there's real fear about what's changed here, and they're just keeping to that, pushing the straight story. It's a pretty amazing thing. ... Like I said, they're sticking to official statements of the two campaigns. ...

MATTHEWS: Headline: Blogs Clogged!

Great, Joe, you've really got your finger on the blogging world. We got all scared by the bin Laden tape and couldn't figure out anything to say and it's either rant or pass along party talking points with us folks and we don't know how to rant on anything complicated until we see some polls showing how people are perceiving the new event because we always rant in service of the candidate we're in thrall to. Oh, the world of blogging just came to a crashing halt yesterday. I mean, it was really, like, amazing.

Oh, sorry, I just didn't know how to rant successfully for Bush about the OBL tape so I had to rant against Trippi. That was pretty amazing. Well, time to go check out some polls and official talking points so I'll have something to say today.

UPDATE: Truth Laid Bear has an actual roundup of blog reactions to the OBL tape (along with his own "Batman Effect" comment). Somebody tell Trippi, that MSNBC connection to the blog world.

The guestblogging gig winds down.

Glenn Reynolds has returned over at Instapundit, but he's invited us guestbloggers to stay for a while (until the election), so I'll keep doing some posts over there. Expect more here now, though. Given the realities of the work week, I tend to have the most to say on Saturday and Sunday, and it should be an interesting weekend, with the run up to the election.

October 29, 2004

A few things about movies.

"Ray" is still getting a lot of good reviews, but it's not "100% Fresh" at Rotten Tomatoes anymore. I don't have to read many reviews to absorb the basic message: Jamie Foxx is great, Ray Charles was great, but biopics are a drag.

I see "Finding Neverland" seems to be drawing good reviews. I'm glad. Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet are extremely popular in my household.

Three new DVDs arrived in the mail yesterday: "Purple Rain," "Coffee and Cigarettes," and "Super Size Me." I put "Super Size Me" in the DVD player, not because it's the one I'm most interested in, but because I was planning to listen to it from the next room while taking a bath and then watch part of it until I fell asleep, and it seemed to be especially susceptible to that abusive treatment. I noticed that "Super Size Me" -- which turns into a big attack on McDonald's -- starts with a line like "When I was a kid, my mother cooked dinner for the family every night." So the real culprit here is not McDonald's, but all of us non-June-Cleaver mothers. But you can't make a movie against us, so better to switch to a corporate scapegoat.

We just completely forgot about "The Apprentice" last night at my house.

Does anyone care about that show anymore? I just read the Television Without Pity mini-recap and deliberately spoiled the episode for myself.

UPDATE: Another source for "Apprentice" recaps is TVGasm. (I really like the design of the page there.)

A popular pro-Bush video.

This video is getting a lot of play today. I think it's kind of funny but also too heterosexist. On the other hand, I hadn't been reminded of Teddy Ruxpin in a while.

Digression: Remember when Teddy Ruxpin seemed wonderful? But I bet you don't remember when Mr. Machine seemed wonderful. I want a link for the Mr. Machine TV commercial jingle. Which has nothing to do with the election! Really.

October 28, 2004

"Going over to see Hairy Scary or whatever it is they call him? You better hurry!"

That's what a street-type person said to me as I headed over to the big Kerry rally in Madison today. I describe the scene in some detail over on Instapundit. And I also put three of my photographs there. But here are some extra pictures for Althouse insiders. First, a little street theater:



This man was literally foaming at the mouth:



Did anyone drive in from Illinois for this? I think so:



People piled up in the houses on West Washington to get a good view:






I think Bruce Springsteen is somewhere in this shot. He was singing and I was holding the camera above the crowd:



Some pro-Bush guys were there, but no one bothered them and they didn't heckle:



Here's Kerry:




There was a good deal of solemn flag-bearing:



And just some boring waiting around:



Yeah, rallies don't thrill me either. A huge crowd. A big exhortation. That sort of thing produces no reaction in me. I suppose if the crowds got overenthused, I would find it a bit disturbing. But they didn't at all, so I just felt like an objective observer. My objective observation is that it's a good thing Americans don't get too excited by politicians.

UPDATE: Welcome Daily Kos readers! There sure are a lot of you. Sorry I'm not voting for your guy, but nearly everyone I know is. Nice photo there showing the full perspective on the crowd from a crane shot. I got an email, perhaps from a Kos reader, denouncing me for not posting that picture (calling me a Nazi, in fact). But I'm just posting my own pictures. It's damn hard to get perspective on a big crowd from the ground! Nice to get the beautiful Capitol building framed in the shot and everyone waving the signs simultaneously, but the notion that I'm slanting by not getting that shot is awfully distorted.

"No signs."

The tickets to the Kerry event on the Capitol Square today also say "no signs." Why's that? I'm guessing they need to ban all signs to keep out the anti-Kerry/pro-Bush signs, but then won't they pass out pro-Kerry signs after you pass through the barriers?

Today, I'll officially be one of "those fools."

Bruce Springsteen fans will need to get to the Capitol Square before noon -- the time my law school class ends -- if they want to see their boss play his anti-education anthem "No Surrender" as he pumps you up with voting enthusiasm for his man Kerry:
We busted out of class had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three minute record than we ever learned in school ...

Now on the street tonight the lights grow dim
The walls of my room are closing in
There's a war outside still raging
you say it ain't ours anymore to win ...

Not too inspiring on following through in Iraq either, is it? But somehow it's supposed to make you want to vote for Kerry. Maybe you don't care about the words, and it's all in the seemingly optimistic way (to use a Kerry-word) Springsteen sings his cynical words.

I'll make my way as far as I can up to the square after class and get some photos of whatever I run into that happens to be of interest. I should have something post-able later. I don't know how close I can get to the event. I have two tickets, left on my doorstep. Strange to need tickets to get somewhere on the street, but presumably there will be barriers and guards of all sorts. We're told to leave large bags and even umbrellas at home. But it looks like rain. Are we supposed to go out in the rain without umbrella? I guess so. You, perhaps, to bask in the radiating aura of the rock star and the potential President. Me, to get pictures of you, so basking.

Readers don't desert in droves.

The readership at Instapundit is remaining stable across the course of the week, despite the shock Glenn-fans had to have felt upon checking in on Monday and encountering us upstarts. It is the week before the election, so maybe readership would have spiked if only Glenn had been around, but I'm happy that we're maintaining the plateau.

October 27, 2004

Course number humor.

Chris sends this link and says "look at the title and course number of this class."

Most of what I'm saying today is on Instapundit.

So you might want to go over there. Is it intimidating to be read by 20 thousand visitors an hour? Funny, I feel completely used to it right now.

UPDATE: Sorry I had a double post here for the last two hours. Blogger has been processing things slowly lately, and an edit can end up as a double post.

No, please, no, not streetcars!

Madison officials carted in the designer of Portland's light rail system to extol the benefits of what he makes his living designing. According to Madison's Mayor Cieslewicz:
"What we're talking about now is not so much whether or not we'll have a rail system in Madison ... We're debating what kind of rail system we'll have in Madison: whether it ought to be electric or diesel, whether it ought to be primarily a commuter system or a system that works for urban development."

When did it already get decided?

UPDATE: Streetcar email of the day:
Sorry, but streetcars/light rail are ever-so-much better than buses, because.... ummm... well... their wheels are metal, that's why! As far as
the question posed by your mayor:
whether it ought to be primarily a commuter system or a system that works for urban development.

He left off the true choice, which is "a system that works for urban developers."

The emailer adds that he "lives in Tacoma, WA, one terminus of the unimaginably stupid Sound Transit rail system, and also the cute little 'Train to Nowhere' rail link between the major transit center and downtown, and cost a mere $60+ million in construction costs to do what buses could to better with lower running costs."

Note to readers: send more streetcar horror stories. I'm committed to printing anti-streetcar material! I'll listen to the other side as well, but ...

October 26, 2004

Ving Rhames as the new Kojak.

That's pretty cool. I love Ving Rhames, not just from "Pulp Fiction," but from "Bringing Out the Dead." Good luck! (I didn't realize until I looked up the links just now that "Ving" is a nickname for "Irving.")

One more week.

One more week and it will be all over, right? Oh, how I hope so. I'm looking forward to liveblogging the election results. Won't that be fun? Sitting around watching the election returns roll in, reacting on-line ... I really look forward to that. But, dear God, let it end that night!

"'Born in the USA' will never ring truer'"...

according to the Capital Times, than when Bruce Springsteen comes to Madison this Thursday to do a concert in support of John Kerry's candidacy. Oh, really? Presumably, then, Madison will become "a dead man's town" where we feel "like a dog that's been beat too much." Yeah, I'm tired of the election season too, but it's not that bad.

The Return of Justin Guarini.

In a cruel but enticing new reality show, Guarini is one of the second-rate actors who are in on the joke of tricking struggling actors into to delivering lines like "You may bite through my flesh, but you'll never bite through my soul," and see if they notice the joke is on them.

The day will come when someone who actually is trying to make a real movie decides to salvage the project by reframing it as a trick on some of the actors, telling them it was somehow all a joke and filming their reactions.

UPDATE: Just fixing the time stamp on this.

A MORE SUBSTANTIVE UPDATE: Okay, here is what really bugs me about this new show. It doesn't take into account two things. First, an actor in a movie often has no workable overview of the film and can't tell if it is good or bad. Second, most movies ARE terrible. Someone who is grateful for the work is not going to speak up and say this movie seems to be bad. That isn't the role of the actor, and the actor isn't an idiot not to outwardly manifest recognition that the film is bad.

Why not talk about al-Qaqaa?

The story I get the feeling the we-miss-Glenn readers of Instapundit most want me to write about is the news of the missing explosives at Al-Qaqaa and the possible pro-Kerry bias of news media like the NYT in suppressing information about when the explosives went missing. I acknowledge that this story is brewing, but before jumping on the NYT and others, I'd like to understand the facts better. NBC News seems to be a good place to start:
An NBC News crew that accompanied U.S. soldiers who seized the Al-Qaqaa base three weeks into the war in Iraq reported that troops discovered significant stockpiles of bombs, but no sign of the missing HMX and RDX explosives.

It remains unclear, however, how extensively the U.S. forces searched the site in the immediate aftermath of the invasion to topple Saddam Hussein.

I'm not interested in throwing a lot of extra chatter into the mix. I don't mind jumping on the NYT. I've done it before. But at this point, I can't see what's going on well enough yet to talk about it!

Note: one of the other guestbloggers, Michael J. Totten, is keeping up with this issue, updating a post from yesterday.

Post that I'm probably going to delete ...

... after I see whether it works to push the previous hung-up post through the Blogger machine. Unless I decide to leave it up as an expression of annoyance against Blogger!

I can never take the place of your Instapundit.

Cool as it is to be guestblogging over on Instapundit, there are things people want from the site, things Glenn Reynolds has been willing to provide consistently for a long time, that I'm just not going to give (and that the three of us guestbloggers put together will probably not give). People expect to find acknowledgement of key events -- instantly -- with an apt take by a trusted ... pundit. If a news story exists and not acknowledged, email flows in: hey, why haven't you pointed out yet that the NYT is still running the story about the missing explosives without admitting that the explosives were missing before we invaded??

To do what Glenn does, you have to monitor everything and duly note things of importance along with an appropriate nugget of wisdom. That's quite a different enterprise than keeping a blog like this one where you speak if and when you have something you want to say on whatever subject moves you. People don't expect me to cover everything worth covering, like a one-person newspaper. But the tens of thousands of people who check and recheck Instapundit -- myself included -- have a feeling that by going there, they can see the lay of the land, the general look of the world. Yes, it's a delusion, and yes, Glenn himself has from time-to-time tried to tell readers not to expect that from him, but the fact is he comes close enough to meeting it, a fabulous accomplishment. I'm more writing for the pure pleasure of the moment of self-expression. You can come along and see what Ann Althouse is thinking about today if you like, but you can never email me and say "hey, why aren't you talking about [whatever]?" I don't think you should do it to Glenn either. Maybe one day he'll become The Blogger Formerly Known as Instapundit.

Blogger malfunction?

I'm getting a blank page when I try going to the main page of my blog. Is it just me?

UPDATE: Hmmm .... Posting this post unsnarled the problem. Strange! It seems that the previous post triggered the malfunction, but why? Was it the unusually long title? Or should I blame Sharon Stone?

October 25, 2004

"We have to remember that when we vote for our president, a commander in chief, we're voting for the father of our nation."

When actresses try to play the role of feminist.

Madison politics.

I walked up State Street, partly because I needed to get some food and partly because it's sunny and 60 degrees, but also to see what the political climate is here in the center of Madison. The fall colors on Bascom Hill are quite lovely. Look closely to see our beloved Lincoln statue presiding calmly over the scene:



But other Presidents, current and would-be, are on our mind. Shouldn't campus be buzzing with political energy? But, actually, it is not. Nearly the only politics I see are the plentiful chalkings on the sidewalks. There are some pro-Bush chalkings, but most of the chalkings are pro-Kerry (including a few that say: "Kerry '04/Don't be an idiot and vote straight ticket/Vote Green locally"). Here's one of the pithier pro-Kerry ones:



This one tries the same approach, but with less success:



Well, just don't whimper if your man loses.

Down on Library Mall, we see these "Vote" folks:



That's the Memorial Union in the background. From that location, vans run every hour to City Hall, taking students over for some early (and often?) voting. No ID needed! Note the orange-suited man (a local fixture, he plays the piccolo more than a lot of people want to hear piccolo music)

You can buy a "Run for President" game (along with your Badger-themed merchandise):



Here's some political material, in amongst the jumble of kiosk signage:



A lot of the State Street storefronts have "Bucky for President" pictures, colored by children:



Bottom line: the politics of Madison are looking quite mellow today!

"Luce del mondo e amore!"

"The light of the world is love." So ends "Turandot," beautifully produced in Madison this past weekend, with fantastic sets by the great artist David Hockney. Here's a blur of color, shot in the dark, the glorious curtain call:

"

Self-criticism heightened.

I find myself being much more critical about fussy details of writing for my Instapundit posts. For example, when I described Nina's writing as "discursive, digressive," I not only felt the need to look up "discursive"--is it really a word?--before using it, but I also fretted afterwards that "discursive" and "digressive" were redundant. I see I wrote "who," when I should have written "whom" in this one. Damn! And after I wrote "extra-shamelessly," I thought about and even had a conversation with Gordon about how it doesn't make sense to say "extra-shameless," because once you have no shame at all you're "shameless," so how can you have less than no shame?

UPDATE: And, of course, if I'd written "Where are the supporting players?" over there, I'd be really kicking myself, because of the obvious implied statement that I see myself as the star of the "show." Which I don't really ... but if they don't show up soon ... I'm getting a little nervous!

The Instapundit experience so far.

So what's it like scampering onto the big stage? First, I find myself alone. Where are the supporting players? Where are Megan and Michael? Michael posted at 2 am, so at least I'm not worrying that his boat sank. The last time we'd heard from him, he was "sailing to Gig Harbor." He's out there in the Pacific Time Zone, so my guess is, he's just not up yet.

Finding myself alone in a big, unfamiliar place is like something you might have happen in a dream. In fact, I did have a blog-related dream last night. I was sitting alone at a big table in a nice and crowded restaurant, having nothing but a cup of black coffee. The waiter brought the check, charging me $20: $5 for the coffee and $15 for occupying a table that could have been used for customers who would have ordered dinner. I told him if he didn't take the $15 charge off the check, I was going to write about it in my blog. Oh, what? You have more exciting dreams, I suppose?

"Cow head hurts our image, some Cheeseheads say."

Even as I'm debuting on Instapundit, there's another Wisconsin debut today: the Wisconsin state quarter. And some people are not that happy about it.

Guestblogging on Instapundit.

I've made my debut over on Instapundit, working with MovableType rather than Blogger for the first time, which makes it just that much more nervewracking. Do I put my title up in the title spot? Whoops, I think not. I think the form there is to skip titles altogether and capitalize something in the body for a title-like effect. If so, I did it wrong the first time and edited it. I'm really trying not to mess things up!

Ah, I think it was set up to block me from getting a post with a title through, so I didn't start off by embarrassing myself. And now my big first post is up, so go check it out (assuming you haven't already stopped by there, which would be a sensible thing to do).

October 24, 2004

The big guestblogging gig.

Yes, it's true! I'm going to be guestblogging--along with Megan McArdle and Michael J. Totten--over at Instapundit for the next few days. I'm told I can go over there right now and post, which seems pretty amazing. I'll have to think up something to say! I suppose if I already feel comfortable speaking off the top of my head to a few thousand people a day, I should feel comfortable speaking to a couple hundred thousand people a day. What's the difference, really, in the grand scheme of things?

UPDATE: But stop by here too. I'll post the things here that seem not to belong there, and won't it be interesting to see what I think doesn't belong there? I feel so free over here all of a sudden. I used to have a second blog that I used for the things I felt didn't go so well here, so I'm used to having a two-track attitude about blogging. (That other blog--which you can see here--was largely an experiment with the software iBlog, but I used it to post very casual stuff. Now that the software expired, I can't do anything with that blog, but the funny thing is, I still get email about the post "The Mystery of the Saucer," which upsets some people.)

A writer admires a writer he identifies with.

Tom Carson has a deft essay on Bob Dylan's "Chronicles," in the NYT Book Review. Carson writes elaborate start-and-stop sentences full of interesting ideas. Here are a few that jumped out at me:
Yet the man only had to grow an emaciated ant colony under his nose to get me regressing into speculation about his motives -- or, at any rate, thinking How strange instead of Wow, we're both geezers.

Even more gnomic and less rewarding was those liner notes' unreadable amplification in his ''novel'' -- ah, remember when the term ''novel'' conferred cachet? -- ''Tarantula,'' published in 1971 but written much earlier.

At once naive and wily, the diction summons up the hobbledehoy eagerness, skeptical wit and odd hardscrabble decorum of a half-remembered, half-concocted native idiom with such verve that you can scarcely tell the genuine colloquialisms from the ones he's just made up.

As self-serving as ''Volume One'' is, not to mention coy -- unless I seriously misremember his marital history, the nameless ''my wife'' of 1971 and her 1987 counterpart are two different people -- the sprays of language, cockeyed aphorisms and good anecdotes win out, with highlights ranging from Dylan's spilling the beans that his boyhood dream was to attend West Point to a charming description of the day he met -- and serenaded -- John Wayne in Hawaii, where the Duke was filming ''In Harm's Way.'

Picturing and dreading a long litigious November.

If you want to demonstrate to yourself how mindbogglingly close the election is, refer to the polls in the battleground states here and test out various possibilities on this interactive electoral college map. My election day prayer is: may whoever wins win by a lot.

Enough about the election! What about art?

Two new movies are currently listed on Rotten Tomatoes with 100% positive reviews: "Ray" and "Sideways." There are only 6 reviews for "Ray," but lots of Oscar talk for Jamie Foxx. "Sideways," though has 42 reviews. Truly amazing. And Oscar buzz for Paul Giamatti! When's the last time they gave a Best Actor/Actress Oscar to someone with no sex appeal whatsoever? (Sorry Paul, but isn't having no sex appeal kind of your speciality?)

Yeah, I finally get around to thinking about something other than the election and I'm still thinking in terms of competition. Yikes! I need to readjust my mind, which I will do very soon, because I'm going to the opera in two hours. But perhaps I'll obsessively relate the plot of "Turandot" to the election. I've been known to do such things.

UPDATE: I can't believe I mistyped "Turandot" both here (now corrected) and on Monday's post (also corrected). Thanks to the emailer that pointed it out. And really, I do know the name of the opera, my fingers just go for preexisting patterns when I type. I mistype my own last name about 20% of the time, for some crazy reason. And I mistype "jurisdiction," one of the main subjects I teach, about 40% of the time. Sigh.

Why a goose?

Kerry decided it was a good campaign move to go hunting. But why a goose? Clearly, the campaign people must have thought about all the opportunities it would give writers to use goose clich├ęs, like "goose is cooked," "silly goose," "sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander," "Mother Goose," "loosey-goosey," and "goosed." I see Maureen Dowd is going with "Cooking His Own Goose."

I'm thinking the reasoning was that geese are overplentiful, like deer, but not the subject of any Disney-induced sentimentality. Many people, especially the suburban women who are most likely to object to hunting, have had to vary their usual walking paths because of the problem of goose excrement. And maybe it seems decently sporting to shoot a goose, because it can fly, but it's still easy enough--they are plentiful, large, and stupid--that you're assured of success. And a goose is also clearly an animal most people can comfortably visualize eating, so we aren't going to think he's only hunting to amuse himself.

Did Kerry impress the locals in Ohio (where he desperately needs to win)? Here's a report from the county where the goose-ridden cornfield was located:
Presidential candidate John Kerry made his fifth visit to the Mahoning Valley, this time however, his campaign claims the trip was more recreational than political.

The Senator and several others, including Congressman Ted Strickland, went goose hunting on a farm in Springfield Twp.

After a couple hours trudging through a cornfield, the group emerged as reporters and photographers watched, all of them carrying a goose, except for Kerry, who claimed he was “too lazy” to bring out the bird himself.

He later told reporters he’ll have the goose shipped to his farm near Pittsburgh.

After the hunting excursion, Kerry went to the regional airport in Vienna to board his campaign jet and fly to Columbus for a speech.
Think the locals bought the imagery? After all that cornfield-trudging, what stood out was that he wouldn't carry his own goose--obviously because he didn't want there to be a photograph of himself holding the neck of a limp, dead animal. The reason he gave, laziness, aside from being an easily detectable lie, undercut the whole effort to make him look like a manly, down-to-earth hunter. And not only won't he carry his own dead goose, he's having his people ship it to his Pittsburgh estate, pointing up just how much real estate he owns and how much money he has to spend on lavish extras, unlike the locals who might hunt geese on their own farms.

Who's better at losing?

Instead of thinking about whether John Kerry or George Bush would do more good (and less harm) as President, let's consider the longterm effects on of each candidate's party that would flow from a loss. Which party will do better if it does not hold the Presidency in the next four years? The NYT Week in Review has Adam Nagourney spin out the effects of a Kerry loss and Elisabeth Bumiller does the same with a Bush loss. Interesting set up, but my suspicions of NYT bias lead me to expect that the conclusion will be that the Republican party will greatly benefit from a power time-out, while the Democrats will only stew in a new round of recriminations if they lose again. Conclusion: please, people, give the Dems a turn!

Now, I've actually read the pieces.

Nagourney sees the Democrats plunging into the sort of struggle for self-definition that we saw during the primary season. He quotes an unnamed Democratic consultant:
"Democrats will go back to 'What does it take to win?' - except this time, it will be, 'Oh my God! What does it take to win?'

"There will be a push from the left saying we weren't left enough. And there will be a push from the center saying we weren't center enough."
The Republicans, on the other hand, will not take their loss as a cue to reexmine what they stand for, according to Bumiller, who quotes David Gergen:
"I don't think [great soul-searching within the party] is going to happen. Conservatives will argue that it's not because of our conservatism that we lost. They'll look for scapegoats on the national security team. They'll say the war was a good idea, it was just poorly executed.''

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld would be blamed, Mr. Gergen said, although a victory on Nov. 2 would just as quickly make him a hero. "It's one of those things that you're only a bum if you lose,'' Mr. Gergen said. "Rather than blaming the ideas, they'll blame the people.''
She also quotes Bill Kristol: "We'll fight back. It'll be fun.''

So there you have it. The Republicans, unlike the Democrats, really know what they stand for and as a result, they will handle the loss much more positively. So vote for the Democrat! But knowing what you stand for could also make you better at shouldering the job that you have to take on if you do win. Where do we really want these handwringing, perennial self-redefiners? In power or out?

More campaigning at the niche level.

The Washington Post collects some good examples of candidates campaigning at the niche level, a phenomenon I wrote about here. Most of us are voting based on big issues like national security, but the difference in any given state, that captures that state's electoral votes, could be made by single-issue voters concerned with a micro-issue that is only an insignificant part of what the President's job is about.

Must Jon Stewart change his interview style, now that Henry Kissinger is doing his show?

Damien Cave, in the NYT Week in Review, argues that Jon Stewart should do tougher interviews on "The Daily Show," because his audience is such a large chunk of an important demographic, because he's getting such important guests, and because it's tiresome and lame to keep excusing himself with the "hey, I'm just a comedian" line. Cave quotes Dan Kennedy's Boston Phoenix blog:
"Stewart needs to be more self-aware ... By offering serious media criticism, and then throwing up his hands and saying, in effect, 'Hey, I'm just a comedian' every time [Crossfire's Tucker] Carlson took him on, Stewart came off as slippery and disingenuous. Sorry, Jon, but you can't interview Bill Clinton, Richard Clarke, Bill O'Reilly, Bob Dole, etc., etc., and still say you're just a comedian."
(Can someone justify the NYT practice of not putting hot links in its on-line text? Here's the missing link.)

Cave's piece is titled, "If You Interview Kissinger, Are You Still a Comedian?" The complaint is with the softball interviews, not the blatant pro-Kerry bias that has undercut the comic value of the rest of the show. So let's talk about the interviews.

The interviews on "The Daily Show" have always been filler. I nearly usually skip the excruciating interviews with celebs pitching their (usually horrible) films. Some comically-gifted guests do well with Stewart and can be the best part of the show. As for the political guests, they come on the show to promote a product too, usually a book. Clinton, remember, was selling a book (and also selling his party's candidate for President). But how is Stewart to adapt his style of managing the self-serving promoters who stop by his show to these inherently unfunny politicians? Stewart relies heavily on his shambling, stuttering, I-am-an-idiot pose, while hoping to spot an opportunity for a wisecrack. If he tried to make these interviews more hard-hitting--to Russertize his style--he would likely drive away the high-level guests Cave and Kennedy are talking about, leaving only the most motivated book promoters.

Stewart can preserve the style of interviewing he's worked out for himself, which gives him a safety zone and avoids pretending his background is not the entertainment business. He just needs to resist getting sycophantic with guests whose politics he's motivated to sell. As to the truly high-level guests who aren't there to sell books--such as John Kerry--he's got to put them at ease and be respectful or they won't come on the show at all.