November 20, 2004

Political humor of the maitre d' kind.

Gawker prints this "Gawker Stalker" item sent in by a reader:
Freemans, tuesday night the 16th of nov. the bush twins , along with 2 massive secret service men, tried to have dinner. they were told by the maitre'd that they were full and would be for the next 4 years. upon hearing, the entire restaurant cheered and did a round of shots... it was amazing!!! [Ed: We're hearing that this is actually true.]
Too ugly, of course, but it was a rather clever thing for the maitre d' to come up with to say.

It doesn't seem right to root for Ohio State...

Over my undergraduate school Michigan. But thanks, Buckeyes. And go, Badgers.

UPDATE: AAAAGGGHHHH! That was grim!

Life is a sport.

At the moment, one of the listings on the sports page of Google News is:
Oldest man dies at 113
CBC Montreal - 3 hours ago
SYRACUSE, NY - The world's oldest man, according to Guinness World Records, has died less than two weeks before he would have turned 114.
And this is on the sports page because ... ?

UPDATE: Several readers have emailed to say that the article has a line about the man being a Red Sox fan. One of the articles on Google's list under this heading does call the man a "noted Red Sox fan." I'm sorry, I don't like that answer. I think the answer is that we are all participating in a competition, refereed by Guinness, to try to outlive each other.

Out-of-touch Hollywood.

On last night's episode of "Joan of Arcadia," Joan's boyfriend said to her: "So what if you don't make Ivy League? Is it really that big of a deal? If George Bush is any indication..."

The actor says "George Bush" with a mild but scoffing inflection that invokes the Bush-is-dumb opinion it's assumed we share. But this a big, popular network show, and Bush just won a decisive re-election. Who do they think watches the show? Or maybe they are just trying to keep the Kerry voters from hating the boyfriend character for having such an evil last name: Rove.

Doodle of the day.

This one wasn't drawn today, but it looks like the ones drawn yesterday and the day before. And it is photographed on today's paper:


Oliver Stone conquers the New York Times.

The NYT is helping Oliver Stone lay the foundation for the excuse he's planning to use when his movie "Alexander" bombs. (I pointed out Stone's plan here.) Here's the NYT:
As the culture wars rage anew between social conservatives and their liberal counterparts, Hollywood is preparing to break fresh ground by releasing a high-budget epic film in which the lead character - a classic, and classical, action hero - is passionately in love with a man.

In Oliver Stone's three-hour [$155 million] drama, "Alexander," Colin Farrell, as the fourth-century Macedonian conqueror Alexander the Great, has a number of tender love scenes with his best friend, Hephaistion, played by a long-haired Jared Leto.
We're being warned not to give in to our impulse to laugh as these two dopey actors -- in big close-ups and, we're told, heavy eye make-up -- declare their love in "tender" scenes. Don't laugh or you're homophobic! Yes, but what if the scene is laughably BAD, as tender love scenes in Hollywood ancient history movies usually are? No, you have to sit there and behave solemnly, appreciating the lesson in diversity and history that Oliver Stone is now going to teach you or you're a homophobe, you bad person! Now, just a minute, Oliver Stone is going to teach me history? Haven't we been there before?
[T]he director, who critics say took liberties with historical fact in films like "J.F.K." and "Nixon," said that his choice with "Alexander" was to hew to the record.

"I don't want to corrupt history," Mr. Stone said in an interview. "I don't want to say, 'How do I make this work for a modern audience?' Alexander to me is a perfect blend of male-female, masculine-feminine, yin-yang. He could communicate with both sides of his nature. When you get to modern-day focus groups, to who'll get offended in Hawaii or Maine, you can't get out of it."
Oh, yeah, that sounds really historically accurate. The Greeks with their yin-yang philosophy and their self-help books about "communicat[ing] with both sides of [your] nature." What's feminine about Alexander? I mean, even assuming he had sex with men, what's feminine about that? I love the way Stone is lecturing us, as if we are too backward to tolerate homosexuality, when he's relying on the stereotype that men who have sex with men are feminine. Are gay men supposed to be so damned pleased a big expensive movie is including them that they have to appreciate the way Oliver Stone defines them? And in the end, it will all be about Oliver Stone, won't it?
Mr. Stone said he was concerned that there might be a backlash. "I'd be naïve not to be concerned, in America, anyway," he said. "I didn't know there would be a parallel situation going on."

The parallel situation Mr. Stone refers to is that in the wake of the presidential election and the passage of prohibitions on gay marriage in a number of states, homosexuality has resurfaced as a focus of debate and controversy among cultural critics.
Oh, Oliver Stone will cry: I'm being politically persecuted! Ooh, the backlash! How was I to have known, when I set out to provide this useful history lesson, that there would be a -- gasp! -- political situation? Oh, no! So if you're not right-wing, and you wanted Kerry to win, you better get out there right away and see my movie and applaud me. And don't you dare laugh, because laughing means you're a homophobe.

November 19, 2004

Kerry credits bin Laden.

How awful of John Kerry to give Osama bin Laden credit for determining the outcome of the election! I'm sure bin Laden appreciates your acknowledgement of his influence, which is exactly what he seemed to want.

This is from "Special Report With Brit Hume" tonight:
In Little Rock, at the dedication of the Clinton Library, Fox News has learned, John Kerry said what tipped the election scales was the last minute Osama bin Laden videotape. Well, the tape surfaced the Friday before the election. Kerry says he didn't have enough time over the weekend to reassure voters that he could protect them as well as the President. Kerry told several friends of Bill, "It was the Osama tape, it scared them," meaning voters.
I'm sure Kerry feels a lot of pressure to explain his loss, but he really ought to resist giving bin Laden this affirmation. The fact that Kerry would say that bin Laden holds this power over the minds of Americans, for me, reinforces the mistrust of Kerry that made me decide to vote for Bush. And Kerry's contempt for us -- we're just scared, and without a bin Laden tape, we'd have forgotten about bin Laden! -- is just one more hearty shove in the direction he sent me two months ago. Thanks for making me feel sure it was right to vote for Bush.

UPDATE: Sissy Willis agrees (and has a great final zinger).

ANOTHER UPDATE: Thinking about Kerry's bin Laden comment and remembering Kerry's snub of Allawi makes me think Kerry really lacks good instincts about conducting foreign affairs!

Just when I thought I was out...

I watched "The Apprentice" again! I had stopped watching it. Prof. Yin even blogged about how I'd stopped watching it! Well, it was kind of interesting last night. Maria was nutty. Per Entertainment Weekly:
As Maria slowly but surely lost her mind, I got legitimately giddy. Like, Al and I kept pausing the DVR so we could make weird pointing gestures with our hands just like her and so I could write down the completely psychotically bizarre things that were coming out of her mouth. A couple fan favorites: ''Give me bitchy or give me death. '' Oh, or how about, ''If sexy is wrong, I don't wanna be right!'' Or, wait, my favorite: ''It angers me to be called a control freak, because I'm just quite simply not.'' Blink-blink. Blink-blink. BLINK-blink. Bli-ni-ni-ni-ni-ni. Blink-blink....
The word "ass" was said about a thousand times -- call the FCC! -- as the contestants made up an ad campaign for Levi's jeans and Trump excoriated the losing team for not fully appreciating how jeans are all about "ass" -- a word he says in a uniquely unattractive way. The winning team's reward was, as it often is, torture. This time: spending time with Billy Joel, which motivated the EW recapper to write this song parody:
''What's the matter with the show I'm watchin'?
(Can't you tell that it's out of touch?)
Will the P.M. ever not get fired?
(Don't you think that you ask too much?)
Nowadays you can't be too sentimental.
The best characters are gone, and everyone is mental.
Blond chicks, Trump's tricks, who picked these big —
Anyway, it's still rock & roll to me-heeeeeeee....''
UPDATE: Tung Yin has a long recap of the show, and somehow it doesn't include the word "ass." I don't get it. If I had a one word recap of the show it would be: Ass. And I'd say it like Donald Trump: ey-ess.

400 greatest movie quotes.

It takes a while to read through all 400 quotes nominated as greatest movie quotes by the American Film Institute, which Throwing Things threw at me. If you decide to read over the downloadable PDF document available at the first link, note that the list is in alphabetical order, not order of greatness: "All-righty, then" from "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" is not the greatest quote in the history of film. I spent a moment contemplating how anyone could think such a thing. These are nominees, from which a final 100 will be chosen. Reading the standard the jurors are asked to apply helps makes some sense of some of the choices (e.g., "Damn!"):
CULTURAL IMPACT
Movie Quotes that viewers use in their own lives and situations; circulating through popular culture, they become part of the national lexicon.

LEGACY
Movie Quotes that viewers use to evoke the memory of a treasured film, thus ensuring and enlivening its historical legacy.

Well, so we're really trying to generate a list of greatest catchphrases. It's not so much great writing as a particular actor memorably getting off a "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn" zinger at a key point in a big film. Once that's clear, it's fun to read the list.
"Sanctuary!" (from "The Hunchback of Notre Dame")

"Oh, no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast." (from "King Kong")

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!" (from the "Wizard of Oz")

"Hey, lady!" (Jerry Lewis as Herbert H. Heebert in "The Ladies' Man")

Some work for me as beautiful lines:

"I was born when she kissed me. I died when she left me. I lived a few weeks while she loved me." (from "In a Lonely Place")

"To God, there is no zero. I still exist." (from "The Incredible Shrinking Man")

And some are perfectly insufferable:
"It's amazing, Molly. The love inside, you take it with you." (from "Ghost")

Here's the most hilariously bad one:
"Oh, Moses, Moses, you stubborn, splendid, adorable fool!" (from "The Ten Commandments")

And somebody please teach these clowns some basic Italian. It's not "Take the cannolis."

UPDATE: A reader writes:
"Cannolis" may not be grammatically correct in Italian, but indeed the Godfather mafiosi called them "cannolis" in the movie, and so do all my Italian in-laws.
I haven't gone back and checked the movie. I'm seeing both versions on line. The DVD doesn't have this line as a chapter title. Sarah Vowell called her cool book "Take the Cannoli."

Important note: I don't mean to insinuate that anyone who says "cannolis" is a clown, only that if the original movie has "cannoli" and AFI corrupted it into "cannolis," they're clowns. They present themselves as an "Institute," suggesting an academic take on film. Now they produce these top 100 lists, that are more pop culture and promotional, so their reputation is on the line. They need to get the quotes right. As to what the right quote is, the emailer makes me doubt my memory of the film.

ANOTHER UPDATE: A reader notes something I didn't know about that "In a Lonely Place" quote.

And as long as I'm back here updating again, let me ask, with respect to the email quoted in the previous update, if the mafiosi say "cannolis," why don't the mafiosi say "mafiosis"?

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: I've checked the DVD, and it is "Leave the gun. Take the cannoli." It's a little hard to hear, and easy to imagine you hear an "s," but I listened to it four times and also put on the English subtitles, and it is definitely "cannoli." Which I'm sure is a relief to Sarah Vowell and to grammarians everywhere. And to people who think the AFI is not the high-tone outfit it might like to seem to be.

BONUS: Here's a good, amusing article about Americanized Italian-speaking.

Doodle of the day.

Drawn during a presentation about voting rights, at noon today, in the faculty library:

"Irritable Male Syndrome."

I think what we need is a term for the syndrome that involves coming up with a memorable but annoying name for a banal observation in order to sell books. Anyway, you'll be happy to know that if you're a male and you're suffering from this problem (basically, being a cranky bastard), there are some solutions available for you, according to this review:
[Jed] Diamond's many suggestions include buying his book, adding more zinc to the diet, decreasing licorice (he says it can reduce testosterone levels by 34 percent), practicing meditation and positive thinking, and avoiding circumcision.

Great, now he tells us.

"I now believe that this practice is one of the physical factors that contribute to IMS," Diamond writes with his typical surety based on no findings whatsoever. "Although there haven't been studies linking circumcision to IMS, there is enough evidence of the effects of early childhood trauma that I believe it's wise for parents to carefully consider the subject before making a decision."
Oh, what the hell? Just make stuff up. What's the difference? Why not encourage men to blame their penis (and their parents) for everything?

Local radio guy slurs Condoleezza Rice.

Here's the Wisconsin State Journal coverage of the story about Madison talk radio host "Sly" (John Sylvester). Note how gloriously polysyllabic Senator Feingold gets trying to distance himself from the guy:
"While it is not my intention to comment on every extremely inappropriate remark made in our society," Feingold said in a statement today, "given the proximity to the unfortunate comments made by another member of the media, I feel it is necessary to completely reject and repudiate these recent comments."

Feingold is referring to the fact that back in October, a Milwaukee talk radio host slurred Mexicans. That doesn't seem all that proximate to me. I think most observers would conclude that Feingold felt it was necessary to speak because Sly had intensely supported Feingold in his recent successful re-election campaign.

At the library.

Most interesting paragraph in Todd Purdum's account (in the NYT) of President Bush's remarks at the opening of President Clinton's library:
There was no mention of the sex scandal that led to Clinton's impeachment. Bush recalled that shortly before leaving office, "President Clinton said, 'Christ admonished us that our lives will be judged by how they do unto the least of our neighbors.' Throughout his career, Bill Clinton has done his best to live up to that standard and Americans respect him for it."
He did "his best," and we won't be uncivil and point out that he wasn't always perfect. And note how elegantly Bush implicitly takes a swipe at those who criticize his religiosity: he quotes Clinton beautifully connecting public service to religion (and not just amorphous "ceremonial deism," but Christianity.)

I wrote about the umbrella decisions yesterday, but there's good new detail here:
The wives of the four presidents walked out to the stage, each with an umbrella. Their husbands followed with no umbrellas.

As the men took their places, the women hurried to try to cover them. Bush first took refuge under Chelsea Clinton's umbrella, posing for pictures with his arm around her, then settled on pairing with his wife. Barbara Bush eventually prevailed in convincing her apparently reluctant husband, the elder Bush, to come under her umbrella as well.
So the undersized umbrellas were the women's umbrellas. The manly thing to do is to stride out there with no umbrella at all. (Don't want to be the "man with the umbrella.") But it won't do to look sodden in all the photographs. The hairspray melted out of Clinton's hair, de-pouf-ifying it into a Julius Caesar style. So the women rescued the men. Then, there they were with the undersized women's collapsible umbrellas, emasculated en masse.

UPDATE: A reader sends this link to the Army Officer's Guide:
There is a long-standing taboo against a male officer in uniform carrying an umbrella. However, it is authorized and proper for women in the Army to do so when not in formation.
Three of the four Presidents who went umbrella-less in the rain are, of course, former military officers. They may have a strong sense that carrying an umbrella is inappropriate for a man. Ironically, this left them open to being pestered by the women to hold dinky women's umbrellas after they'd paid the price of manhood and gotten soaked. Interesting that Bush got help from Chelsea before he "settled on pairing with his wife." I'll bet Laura, unlike Barbara Bush, did not prevail upon her husband to take umbrella-shelter, and Chelsea offered the umbrella and the two of them had a nice little relationship. Time to quote this Hollies lyric:
Bus stop, wet day
She's there I say
Please share my umbrella
Bus stop, bus goes, she stays, love grows
Under my umbrella
All that summer we enjoyed it
Wind and rain and shine
That umbrella we employed it
By August she was mine

November 18, 2004

The Mel Gibson movie-making model.

You may remember that Mel Gibson put up $20 million of his own money to make "The Passion of the Christ." But do you realize that Andrew Lloyd Webber put up $90 million of his own money to make "The Phantom of the Opera"? It's all about the deep belief and the strong personal vision. And having a huge load of cash.

Doodle of the day.

Drawn on page B11 of today's NYT, the page facing the crossword puzzle and the Alessandra Stanley review of the new Carrie Fisher talk show.



UPDATE: I caught the first episode of Carrie Fisher's talk show, the one where she interviews her father, Eddie Fisher. It was ragged, frighteningly raw, really, but very funny. He is an eely sweetheart of a man, and he sat there and let his daughter bounce zingers off him for an hour. She's bitter and good natured, and she let him have it about his life of heavy drug use and womanizing.

Abused by blogs.

Last night I had a blogger dinner with two bloggers who have in the past taken down posted statements after I've linked to them and a third blogger who has demanded that I clear it with her before I link to her blog anymore. Now, the one who demands the right of pre-link clearance has no compunction about blogging about my "hard-edged realism and cynicism" (i.e., I don't stoke romantic fantasies long and hard enough). One of the post-link tamperers is publicly blaming my hair for the fact that dinner was scheduled for seven rather than six thirty, and the other used his blog to invite the public to advise him whether he ought to attend the dinner or take an alternate invitation (i.e., please, ladies, fight over me). No links for any of you!

Presidential umbrellas.

Can't someone find a real umbrella for these men? Those short-handled, foldable ones look absurd on anyone, but if two Presidents are going to appear side-by-side at a major photo op, can't they find suitable props?

UPDATE: I think they had the usual big umbrellas, along with spiffy-looking guys to walk around holding an umbrella over each presidential head, but it was decided it looked silly to have four guys, and maybe Hillary and Chelsea too, followed around by umbrella-holders, and you couldn't have all of these people holding full-sized umbrellas, or it would have spoiled the photo op with comical bumping around, trying to decide whether to hold one umbrella higher or lower than the other guy's umbrella, and never getting the presidential faces close enough for a good group shot. That said, it was gutsy of Hillary to go with the optimistically beige-colored umbrella amid the uniform black of all the other umbrellas. Still, the NYT managed to center and flatter Chelsea in its front-page line-up of umbrella celebrities. (Can't find the picture on line, sorry.)

Augusten Burroughs.

Augusten Burroughs was just on Fresh Air. You can listen to the interview here. The show ends with him explaining how he changed his name and why he chose "Augusten Burroughs." It has nothing to do with William Burroughs, whom he'd never heard of at the time.

I highly recommend the audio versions of Augusten Burroughs's books. His manner of speaking adds a lot to the humor (and the horror) of his books.

2000 nostalgia.

Yesterday, Best of the Web wrote about nostalgia for the 2000 election.
History repeats itself, as Karl Marx observed, first as tragedy, then as farce. In the farce of 2004, the Libertarian and Green parties have raised enough money to pay for a statewide recount of presidential ballots in Ohio. "The recount would be conducted after the election results are certified in early December," reports the Associated Press.

There's no chance that it'll change the outcome in Ohio, where President Bush won by some 136,000 votes; in Florida four years ago, even multiple recounts by partisan officials in heavily Democratic counties were able to generate no more than 1,500 votes for Al Gore. The Washington Post reports even an aide to John Kerry "is rolling his eyes" when discussing conspiracy theories about a stolen election.

I've noticed a kind of nagging, low-level election 2000 nostalgia. We just had an appointments vote here at the Law School, and people could not get through it without saying "Florida," "butterfly ballot," and "hanging chads." Will that ever get old? I hope.

Can that kid get his quarters back?

U.S. News reports that Democrats are a bit irked about how much money Kerry has left over from the campaign.
"Democrats are questioning why he sat on so much money that could have helped him defeat George Bush or helped down-ballot races, many of which could have gone our way with a few more million dollars," said Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 presidential race.

Apparently he had much more (at least $15 million more) than he could spend. Maybe next time candidates come around asking for contributions, people won't be so ready to believe they need to stretch to send in money. You didn't even use what we gave you last time! Remember this passage from Kerry's concession speech:
And I thank your families and I thank you for the sacrifices you've made. And to all the volunteers all across this country who gave so much of themselves. You know, thanks to William Field, a 6-year-old who collected $680 a quarter and a dollar at a time, selling bracelets during the summer to help change America.

Thanks to Michael Benson from Florida, who I spied in a rope line holding a container of money and it turned out he had raided his piggy bank and wanted to contribute.

I think little William and Michael have some reason to be irked too.

Oliver Stone's preemptive strike.

Here's how it looks to me. Oliver Stone's big, expensive, horribly bad movie "Alexander" is about to come out, and Stone is trying to lay the foundation for blaming moral-values, red-state Americans for his own embarrassing failure.
"Alexander lived in a more honest time," Stone told Playboy magazine.

"We go into his bisexuality. It may offend some people, but sexuality in those days was a different thing. Pre-Christian morality. Young boys were with boys when they wanted to be."

Yes, ancient Greece was all about honesty, and we're all just too Puritanical and repressed to appreciate your God-awful movie.

The political structure of academia.

The NYT reports on a study that shows (unsurprisingly) that Democrats greatly outnumber Republicans in academia. The ratio is 7 to 1, generally, 9 to 1 at Berkeley and Stanford. The article doesn't say where the Republicans are clustered (the hard sciences?), but it does say that the studies found a more extreme disparity among younger professors (183 to 6).

There are a lot of different theories on why this is so and what, if anything, should be done about it.
One theory for the scarcity of Republican professors is that conservatives are simply not that interested in academic careers. A Democrat on the Berkeley faculty, George P. Lakoff, who teaches linguistics and is the author of "Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think," said that liberals choose academic fields that fit their world views. "Unlike conservatives," he said, "they believe in working for the public good and social justice, as well as knowledge and art for their own sake, which are what the humanities and social sciences are about."
The other side of that theory would be that conservatives are less likely to have a problem with trying to make a lot of money, which causes academia to fall in their ranking of preferred options. Then there's this reference to The Federalist Papers:
Some non-Democrats prefer to attribute the imbalance to the structure of academia, which allows hiring decisions and research agendas to be determined by small, independent groups of scholars. These fiefs, the critics say, suffer from a problem described in The Federalist Papers: an autonomous "small republic" is prone to be dominated by a cohesive faction that uses majority voting to "outnumber and oppress the rest," in Madison's words.

It doesn't need to be a nefarious desire to oppress the minority here.
Martin Trow, an emeritus professor of public policy at Berkeley who was chairman of the faculty senate and director of the Center for Studies in Higher Education, said that professors tried not to discriminate in hiring based on politics, but that their perspective could be warped because so many colleagues shared their ideology.

"Their view comes to be seen not as a political preference but what decent, intelligent human beings believe," said Dr. Trow, who calls himself a conservative. "Debate is stifled, and conservatives either go in the closet or get to be seen as slightly kooky. So if a committee is trying to decide between three well-qualified candidates, it may exclude the conservative because he seems like someone who has poor judgment."

It's an ancient human foible to think people who don't agree with you must be uninformed or dumb.

UPDATE: The Times points us to a website where you can read the details of the study. And contrary to what I wrote above, the Times did have a bit of information about where the Republicans were clustered: "The ratio of Democratic to Republican professors ranged from 3 to 1 among economists to 30 to 1 among anthropologists." Looking at the survey itself, you'll see that it's 28 to 1 in Sociology, 13.5 to 1 in Philosophy, 9.5 to 1 in History, and 6.7 to 1 in Political Science.

A glance at the Clinton Library.

When I first glanced at this photograph of the inside of the Clinton Library (I didn't see the headline, just the picture), I thought: what a glamorous-looking prison!

UPDATE: You may have to scroll down for the picture that shows the big interior view. The picture at the top right now shows Clinton looking at models of Buddy the dog and Socks the cat in a glass case. That doesn't remind me of prison. It did make me wonder whether they actually had the freeze-dried or taxidermied bodies of the actual dead pets. My guess, based on an estimate of presidential library-style taste--is that these are sculptures.

What really sets us apart from the apes.

"Have you ever looked at an ape?" Dr. Bramble said. "They have no buns."
Dr. Dennis M. Bramble of the University of Utah has co-authored a study of the ability to run and its role in human evolution, reported in today's NYT.

November 17, 2004

Teaching evolution.

In my Religion and the Constitution class this week we're talking about a favorite topic of mine: teaching evolution in the public schools. It's especially timely here in Wisconsin, considering this recent report about Grantsburg:
The city’s school board has revised its science curriculum to allow the teaching of creationism ... School board members believed that a state law governing the teaching of evolution was too restrictive. The science curriculum “should not be totally inclusive of just one scientific theory,” said Joni Burgin, superintendent of the district of 1,000 students in northwest Wisconsin.

Last month, when the board examined its science curriculum, language was added calling for “various models/theories” of origin to be incorporated.

“Insisting that teachers teach alternative theories of origin in biology classes takes time away from real learning, confuses some students and is a misuse of limited class time and public funds,” said Don Waller, a botanist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
There is a 1987 Supreme Court case -- Edwards v. Aguillard -- striking down a Louisiana law that required schools that teach evolution to also teach the scientific evidence that might support creationism. In Edwards, the Court said the statute had no secular purpose. The idea that it protected academic freedom was rejected on that ground that it did not give teachers any new flexibility in designing their curricula; it deprived them of the option of teaching evolution without creationism. The Grantsburg curriculum, on the other hand, allows the teaching of creation theory, as a way to balance the evolution that the state already requires teachers to cover. So I don't think Edwards dictates the outcome here, and I don't know how any litigation might play out.

But I tend to doubt that teaching creationism in public school will prove very satisfactory for anyone. Some parents and kids will chafe at having their time wasted on the topic or at having religious subject matter presented in public school. And people who are eager to have creationism taught may change their minds as science teachers invite kids to compare the evidence and look critically at a subject people normally approach through scripture and faith. In practice, there is a lot of potential for holding up religion for scorn among the students and offending the creationism-believing students and parents who are now hoping to find their beliefs supported and accommodated. Asking students to take a scientific and critical approach to religion seems more likely to undercut religious belief than just teaching evolution without mentioning religion. I think Grantsburg will abandon its creationism experiment soon enough, with or without the intervention of a court.

Back when I was in 9th grade in the mid-1960s, we were taught evolution by a teacher whose last name makes me infer that he was probably Catholic. One day in class I made a statement, which I can't precisely recall anymore, that indicated that I accepted the theory of evolution as a true account. The teacher snapped at me: "You're not a good Christian!" I was stunned. I bet they don't do that in public school anymore. And this was a very fine high school in an affluent suburb in northern New Jersey. For many years, I felt that I had been deeply wronged by this teacher, and understanding the Constitution now, I can easily see how wrong he was. But it has only been in teaching the constitutional religion clauses these last few years that I became able to understand what could have made him say such a thing. I think he was forced to teach evolution in order to keep his job and that he must have thought that he was committing a sin if his teaching made students believe it was true. Faced with plain evidence that I believed the theory, he lost it and said something completely inappropriate. And no, I didn't think of things like phoning up the ACLU. I just went around for a couple years feeling bad that my teacher said I wasn't a good Christian. After I got through that, I had a long period of feeling he had outrageously wronged me. Only in the last couple years have I been able to see the way in which he suffered.

It's a difficult topic.

UPDATE: Speaking of difficulty, I should acknowledge (as several emailers have pointed out) that Catholics do not have the same problem with evolution that Protestant fundamentalists have. I don't want to purport to distinguish among theologies, but from what I've read, Catholicism has been harmonized with evolution. Still, at some point God plays a role in the process within that harmonization. Since I can't remember what I said that triggered the over-the-top response from my ninth grade biology teacher (a man of Italian descent), I'm left with a mystery. Maybe my newfound sympathy for the man is not called for. Maybe he had no problem with teaching evolution generally, and I'm just imagining he suffered. Should I get pissed off at him again?

And what about Condoleezza Rice?

Having just relayed the NYT description of Kerry's lonely lunch, let me pass along the description (by Elisabeth Bumiller) of the Condoleezza Rice lifestyle, which includes lunch:
Her entire life has been instilled with ... discipline, from her training as a concert pianist and competitive ice skater to her service on the first President Bush's National Security Council staff and as provost of Stanford University. Even now, Ms. Rice still packs her lunch many days as a way of avoiding the expense and calories of the White House mess. She rises at 5 a.m. to run on the treadmill ... that she keeps in her sparse Watergate apartment, is in the office before 7 a.m. and is in bed by 10 p.m.
But what does she eat for lunch? Broccoli and green beans? Bumiller needs to get some writing tips from Purdum (see previous post). But Bumiller does have the good fashion details in this nice account of the surprise party Bush gave her:
Ms. Rice, who has never married, celebrated her 50th birthday last weekend with a black-tie surprise party at the British ambassador's residence, attended by Mr. Bush, who put on a tuxedo and spent a rare night out in formal Washington.

Ms. Rice, who arrived in casual clothes en route to what she thought was to be a dinner at a restaurant with relatives, changed into a red gown that the designer Oscar de la Renta had created for her for the occasion.
Wow! Beautiful! And there's good material here too about her preference for Brahms:
"I love Brahms because Brahms is actually structured," she said in the interview a year ago. "And he's passionate without being sentimental. I don't like sentimental music, so I tend not to like Liszt, and I don't actually much care for the Russian romantics Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff, where it's all on the sleeve. With Brahms it's restrained, and there's a sense of tension that never resolves."
Bumiller ends the article with that point, and you know she means for you to take that statement about Brahms and to read it as Rice's description of her own personality.

What is Kerry doing these days?

He's back in the Senate, the NYT reports in this nicely written article by Todd S. Purdum:
Mr. Kerry attended the morning caucus in the Old Senate Chamber where his fellow Democrats selected the new minority leadership, in which he has no formal role, and got a warm reception and multiple ovations....

But Mr. Kerry skipped the weekly Democratic caucus lunch of chicken, salmon and salad in a meeting room off the Senate floor in favor of takeout shrimp, broccoli and green beans with a side of rice, ferried from Hunan Dynasty on Pennsylvania Avenue by his trusty assistant, Marvin Nicholson, to his cubbyhole up a winding stairway above the Little Rotunda in the Capitol's Senate wing.
Nicely observed details. Broccoli and green beans, eh? Sounds so sad and grim. New Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said this of the Senator who retreated for a solitary lunch in his cubbyhole:
"Senator Kerry is not a shrinking violet," Mr. Reid said. "We are looking for John Kerry to find what he wants to do.''
The news story continues:
In a parliamentary system, Mr. Kerry himself would loom as a likely leader of the opposition, but Mr. Reid already had that job locked up before Mr. Kerry could even really decide whether he might be interested. Mr. Kerry has won praise from his fellow Democrats for running a strong race, but the Senate is now as full of potential rivals as it is his supporters, especially should he decide to run for president again in four years.
I wonder what the climate in the Senate really is for Kerry right now. Sounds chilly. The Times article doesn't mention it, but Kerry has $45 million left over from his campaign, giving him a big headstart over anyone else who may want to run in 2008. One can imagine Hillary Clinton having an easy time raising a lot of money, but what about everyone else? I would not be surprised if his Senate Democratic colleagues, already struggling to make a show for themselves from the minority position, want to block him from finding a shining new role for himself in the Senate.

UPDATE: The $45 million number is from mid-October. The estimate is that the final number Kerry will report having left over is $15 to 16 million. And note note that he seems to be on the receiving end of a lot of bullying about it:
Democratic Party leaders said Wednesday they want to know why Sen. John Kerry ended his presidential campaign with more than $15 million in the bank, money that could have helped Democratic candidates across the country.

Some said he will be pressured to give the money to Democratic campaign committees rather than save it for a potential White House bid in 2008.

"Democrats are questioning why he sat on so much money that could have helped him defeat George Bush or helped down-ballot races, many of which could have gone our way with a few more million dollars," said Donna Brazile, campaign manager for Al Gore's 2000 presidential race.

November 16, 2004

"It's okay to eat fish, 'cause they don't have any feelings."

So sang Kurt Cobain, not so many years ago. But now PETA says they do have feelings. (Via Drudge. Hey, do we have to "via" Drudge? He never "vias" anyone else.)

Check this photo, of PETA's big plush fish-with-feelings. See how they put the eyes in front? It makes them seem more human. You can't identify with an animal with eyes on either side of its head. That's why we love owls more than other birds. And note that the PETA fish has eyelids. We don't identify with a beast that has gaping ever-open eyes. That's one of the reasons Wesley Clark did so poorly in the primaries.

Time's Person of the Year.

Hasn't it been leadenly obvious for the past two weeks that George Bush will be Time Magazine's Person of the Year? But Time ran a panel discussion on the subject of this year's choice, and Andrew Sullivan, one of the panelists, describes it. I guess if you're on a panel like that you have to come up with interesting things to say. You can't just say, duh, it's Bush! Sullivan came up with "Karl Rove, Muhammed, or a mix of Michael Moore and Mel Gibson." Doesn't the person have to still be alive? Why? Check out 1988: the person doesn't ever have to have been alive. Time can do what it wants. The wonder is we care.

The swimming pool boondoggle.

Madison has five lakes and many beaches, and it has private swimming pools that are undersubscribed, not to mention a short swimming season, but some public leaders here have long pushed for a lavish public swimming pool project. The current political momentum for the project has been generated from a private donor pledge of $2 million. Here's the description of the pool that is supposed to get us all enthused:
[T]he pool ... would offer something for everyone: The preferred option is a $4 million, 16,400-square-foot "family aquatic center" with capacity for 1,000 people. It would have an eight-lane, 25-meter lap pool with two diving boards, a pool with beach-style entry and water fountains for young children, a deep well pool with two waterslides, dressing and shower rooms, concession stands, a sand volleyball court, group shelters and a sand play area for young children with outdoor showers.
Something for everyone? Well, there's nothing for those of us who don't want to go swimming, but I assume there will be something for me in the form of a tax bill. Oh, but there are private donors? That description says it's a $4 million project, which is already twice what the donors are offering, and that project described sounds as though it's going to cost a lot more than $4 million. Even if the described fantasy pool could be built for $4 million and the full amount could be raised privately, there will be no end to the costs for maintainance, employees, insurance, and the like. One must be awfully naive not to see all the tax money that will flow into this huge pool. How about raising a private endowment that would actually pay for the ongoing costs of the luxury of maintaining a elaborate public pool in Madison? I'm tired of the public fawning over two donors whose donation is a small part of the real costs. It is as if these two have simply bought the right to direct public policy!

UPDATE: An emailer writes:
I think your concerns about the public swimming pool are spot on. I live in California, in a community that highly values its swim teams - summer is just not summer if we aren't at the pool every day for practice and every Saturday a.m. and Wednesday evening. for meets. An "aquatic center" was built several years ago on the grounds of our high school due to a large grant from a donor. It is a huge 20 lane or so pool, bleachers, changing facilities etc. plus 2 separate pools for warm-ups and water polo. From what I understand, the pool has consistently lost money every year, even though it gets $$ from user fees. Every year our swim league holds a huge 2 day meet there (1000 swimmers plus spectators) and even with the fees that meet generates the aquatic center can't break even. And the center is used year-round, due to our weather! You are right to be concerned.

That reminds me. I forgot to mention: our high schools already have indoor pools! Our high schools are terrific, by the way, and I don't mind paying taxes to make these schools great. Read about East High School here and West High School here.

ANOTHER UPDATE: I just fixated on the expression "family aquatic center." What an absurd phrase! Why say "aquatic center" instead of "swimming pool"? It's as if you wanted to be made fun of. And, more seriously, why "family"? If there is "something for everyone," why use a restrictive term? Are you trying to telegraph that this is about parents and young children, and no one else belongs here? (Ah, it would be so much cheaper for the city to just subsidize memberships at the private pools for lower income residents!) Or is "family" just a word that is supposed to mean "good, clean fun" or "uplifting, wholesome activity"? How I detest that cornball use of the word! But maybe the point is to make the place seem so hopelessly square that no teenager would want to set foot in the place and the parents with young children can feel warmly cosseted at the swank aquatic center.

Beatles Faux Sale!

My son John responds to the previous post:
The decision to release the American albums does not "make the most sense"; it distorts the Beatles' artistry. The fact that certain songs are on Revolver and certain songs are on Rubber Soul matters a lot; you can't just mix them around. For some reason, some executives decades ago decided that Rubber Soul would be better starting out with "It's Only Love" (John's least favorite song of his; intended to be on Help!, not Rubber Soul; and totally inappropriate as an opening track) and that Revolver would be better if it had more George songs (3) than John songs (2).

Some people, like you and me, understand this point, but a lot of people are going to be misled by these "albums." It's particularly bad because the original misleading was completely deliberate. It wasn't just saying, "Let's take out some filler to make the album shorter" (though that would have been bad enough). It was saying, "Rubber Soul starts with Drive My Car--that's bad, because we want the selling point to be that the Beatles are turning 'folk'--so start out with a slow acoustic song." Drive My Car sets the tone for the whole album. (It makes sense to have Drive My Car on the same album with Norwegian Wood, Michelle, and Girl; they're all joke songs.) If there are people who feel that it's "wrong" for the album to have Drive My Car, that's all the more reason to have it on there.

The only John songs on Revolver are the two side-closers, She Said She Said & Tomorrow Never Knows---creating the impression that Paul is the leader, the brains behind the Beatles, while John turns up every once in a while to do something heavy and far-out. Only the original album--with 3 extra John songs--gives a complete picture of the band. Again: This is not a problem for YOU, because you're aware of this. But if "Revolver" is being sold as a CD, teenagers are going to buy it mistakenly thinking, "I heard that this is the #1 album of all time."

(I know that those albums aren't being released yet, but presumably they'll be in "Volume 2" or something.)


UPDATE: Somebody emailed to tell me: "Your son sounds like a music snob." Somebody else emailed about this nice website dedicated to the Beatles' American albums.

"'Something New'? That can't be a Beatles album because we have all the Beatles albums and we don't have that."

That's something that a Generation Y-er said to me a few years ago. And my own son likes to say to me, when I say something like, "That's my favorite song on 'Beatles 65,'" "There is no 'Beatles 65.'" My answer is something like: ""Beatles 65' is more real to me than whatever it was released as in England and on CD. 'Beatles 65' is part of the structure of my brain! 'Beatles 65' is my youth!"

Of all the packagings and repackagings of the Beatles music, the decision to release the original American albums on CD makes the most sense. These albums may be dismissible to later generations because they are not the collections the Beatles themselves made, but they have everything to do with memory and feeling for those of us who made these albums a part of ourselves, one by one, as they were released to us in the 1960s.

Funny, my previous post talks about the problem I had when "Ruby Tuesday" followed "She Smiled Sweetly" when Margot played "Between the Buttons" in "The Royal Tenenbaums." The records you play as a teenager make a deep and meaningful imprint!

November 15, 2004

"The Life Aquatic," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Nico Icon," "Between the Buttons."

I'm so looking forward to the new Wes Anderson movie, "The Life Aquatic" -- which has a cool webpage -- that I got out the old DVD of "The Royal Tenenbaums" and watched it today. I don't know if there is a movie made in the last five years that I like better. The part that precedes the opening credits is perfect. Gene Hackman and Owen Wilson could not be funnier. Gwyneth Paltrow is perfectly un-show-offy as the deadpan Margot, who wears a mink coat (when she's not soaking in the bathtub and turning off the TV with her toe) and smokes (when she's not huffing on her nicotine inhaler). Danny Glover also takes a low key role as an accountant (whose book is wonderfully titled "Accounting for Everything"). Angelica Huston is beautifully repressed (telling Glover her secret: she hasn't slept with a man in 18 years). And Bill Murray and Ben Stiller are there too.

I loved the music in "The Royal Tenenbaums," especially the singing by Nico (and if you like Nico, don't miss the documentary "Nico Icon") and the use of "Between the Buttons," which Margot plays on the record player in the great scene in the tent in the ballroom, where Margot and Richie declare their love. They let "Ruby Tuesday" play after "She Smiled Sweetly." I guess they think you won't notice that's the wrong order. The real album deprives you of the comfort of hearing the two slow songs in a row. "Between the Buttons" is one album that really takes me back to a painfully specific time and place, so the effect of those songs playing in that scene is overwhelming to me. And it's hard not to think of poor Brian Jones: look at what a weird gnome he had turned into by 1967--at age 25!--when that album came out (he's in the center). Just a few years earlier he had looked like this, and a couple years later he was dead.

UPDATE: A "Royal Tenenbaum" character name was corrected.

"Beavers weave stolen cash into dam."

Yes, that happened:
A bag of bills stolen from a casino was snapped up by beavers who wove thousands of dollars in soggy currency into the sticks and brush of their dam on a creek in eastern Louisiana.

So: Condoleezza Rice for President in '08.

ABC News reports:
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, one of President Bush's closest counselors, will be nominated to replace Colin Powell as secretary of state...

UPDATE: Andrea Mitchell on Hardball tonight, giving a reason why Rice may be more effective than Powell: "She is really an extension of George Bush."

The chaplain's view of Iraq.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a story about a Wisconsin native who serves as a U.S. Army chaplain in Iraq:
[Ken] Sorenson said he had talked and prayed with two wounded soldiers who were leaving an aid station in Fallujah and were eager to rejoin their unit. After spending eight years as a military chaplain, he said he is amazed by the spirit of American soldiers.

"Over the course of this year, I've seen a number of wounded soldiers," he said, and "their attitude is phenomenal. It's - 'Get me back in the fight.' They really look after each other. It's wonderful to be a part of it."

"We have been silent enough."

The Washington Post has a compelling account from one of the 2000 Iraqi soldiers who fought with U.S. troops against the insurgents in Fallujah:
"If we could control Fallujah and defeat the terrorists in the city, all Iraq will stabilize," Mustafa said. "I've seen nightmares for the last few days, all about the fighting in Fallujah, but when I think of the results, I feel better."

Mustafa said that after the city is secure, the 1st Battalion will head to the northern city of Mosul, where U.S. and Iraqi forces have been clashing with insurgents for the past several days.

"I think people there are waiting for us," Mustafa said.

He said he would never think about giving up now, not when his country needed him. "If I don't try and others don't, those rats will spread with their diseases," he said. "We have been silent enough."
Americans need to give more respect to these Iraqi soldiers. In fact, we need to give more respect to the American fighters. The NYT quotes Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, a senior Marine commander in Iraq:
"People will never appreciate the movement of soldiers down here, what it took to move them and immediately conduct a relief in place with the soldiers. It ought to go down in the history books."
But the Times article emphasizes the devastation of the buildings in Fallujah and the movement of rebels to other cities. Military victories are never celebrated anymore. They are barely recognized.

UPDATE: Don't think you need to email me to point out things that did not go right in the battle in Fallujah. I am aware of these things too. But what is your message to the Marines and the Iraqis who are doing the fighting? That if anything goes wrong, you will deny them credit for all that they have done? Since war cannot be done perfectly, then either you want people to fight but to keep it to themselves like a dirty secret or you want to delegitimate all war.

A woman's view of Carville's smashing that egg on his face.

Okay, it was pretty funny when James Carville smashed a raw egg on his face on "Meet the Press" yesterday. It's hard to do self-abasement well, and he does. But my immediate reaction was that the egg went flying everywhere and his wife Mary Matalin was sitting right next to him -- dressed and coifed (wigged?) to the hilt for the big Sunday show. Mary's always got a bit of a sneer on her face anyway, but she was not laughing, not prepared, and pretty disgusted at James's antics. Much as I like James Carville -- he was great in the documentary "The War Room" -- this female viewer was worrying about Mary's clothes. Tim Russert handed her a handkerchief to wipe the egg slime off her husband and she gave his suit shoulder a quick swipe before tossing the icky, salmonella-contaminated handkerchief on the table. Or was Mary actually prepared for the stunt and just did a great job carrying out her part in their comedy duo routine?

Interesting times ahead.

Bush is buoyant, Colin Powell is resigning, Arafat is still dead, there was quick victory in Fallujah, new places may open on the Supreme Court. There are interesting times ahead. From the first linked article:
The West Wing is buzzing with a new sense of possibility...

The president is moving briskly to seize the moment. He is consolidating power at the White House, channeling ever more influence to Vice President Dick Cheney, his closest confidant, and counselor Karl Rove, architect of his November 2 victory. Senior White House officials tell U.S. News that Bush plans to replace at least half his cabinet over the next few months. His aim is to remove officials who have become lightning rods for controversy or who seem to have lost their desire to serve in Washington. ...

White House officials say they've rarely seen Bush so upbeat. "He's got the wind at his back," says a senior aide. "He's in very high spirits. He looks at the election as strong validation of his agenda."

November 14, 2004

"Had we done in April what we did now, the results would've been the same."

Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Natonski, who designed the ground attack on Fallujah, describes the brilliant, ahead-of-schedule takeover of the city:
"Maybe we learned from April ... We learned we can't do it piecemeal. When we go in, we go all the way through. We had the green light this time and we went all the way."
The linked article has some nice details on the military tactics:
Natonski described the six days of ground war as a "flawless execution of the plan we drew up. We are actually ahead of schedule."

Several pre-assault tactics made the battle easier than expected, he said.

Insurgent defenses were weakened by bombing raids on command posts and safe houses. Air-dropped leaflets may have also demoralized some defenders and convinced some residents that the city would be better off under government control, he said.

In the days before the raid, ground troops feinted invasions, charging right up to Fallujah's edge in tanks and armored vehicles. Natonski said these fake attacks forced the insurgents to build up forces in the south and east, perhaps diverting defenders from the north, where six battalions of Army and Marine troops finally punched into the city Monday.

The deceptive maneuvers also drew fire from defenders' bunkers, which were exposed and relentlessly bombed before the ground assault.

"We desensitized the enemy to the formations they saw on the night we attacked," Natonski said.

Are the blue-state secessionists learning they love federalism?

Andrew Sullivan is promoting this Dan Savage piece and this article in the Stranger, both of which go on about various liberal urban areas and how they ought to withdraw from the dominant national trends and do things their own way (which they think is better). That is, they want to take advantage of federalism values. But don't look for that phrase anywhere in these articles. For years, liberals have been decrying federalism as a nefarious conservative plot.

Politics and storytelling.

Rational Explications had a post (via Instapundit) a few days ago that sorted occupations into two columns. Column A listed several occupation -- Actor, Lawyer, Teacher, Writer -- and tied them, first, to "the ability to tell a story well" and, second, to the Democratic Party. The Republican Party by contrast was tied to other occupations -- Business Owner, Physician, Engineer, Soldier -- and to "the ability to perceive the facts of a given situation clearly." The election results were explained as "a clash between the realm of talk and the realm of action."

With that in mind I was struck by this passage from the today's Boston Globe article, "On the Trail of Kerry's Failed Dream," describing Paul Begala's advice to Kerry:
Begala, knowing the senator was a former prosecutor, asked the candidate to present his case to voters to hire Kerry and fire Bush. Kerry responded by naming six issues, according to Begala's notes of the conversation: Jobs, taxes, fiscal policy, healthcare, energy, and education.

This was a list, not a "case," Begala fretted.
That is, Kerry was failing to put his issues into a story form to persuade the voters (like a good lawyer).

Today, on "Meet the Press," James Carville had this analysis of why Democrats keep losing presidential elections:
By and large, our message has been, we can manage problems, while the Republicans -- although they say we can solve problems, they produce a narrative, we produce a litany. They say, I'm going to protect you from the terrorists in Tehran and the homos in Hollywood. We say, we're for clean air, better schools, more health care. And so there's a Republican narrative, a story, and there's a Democratic litany.
So is Rational Explications wrong about the Democrats being the "storytelling" party, or are Begala and Carville just coming up with a story -- the story of the lack of a story -- to explain Kerry's defeat? I know what Carville means. Kerry was going around listing things everyone cares about, as if people would vote for him simply for naming the problem. Yet, what is the main thing Carville says Bush did differently? Is it that he specified that he was going "protect you" from various problems, or that Bush had a different list of problems? I don't see how saying "I will protect you" from the problems is much more than the implicit promise of a solution when a candidate cites a problem. Neither is enough. The candidate must inspire trust in his competence and willingness to solve those problems. And in the end, saying things is not enough. But, of course, the belief that the solution lies in telling a better story -- as opposed to doing things that inspire trust -- is what "Column A" types do.

The kitten bowler hat.

This discussion on Metafilter about an optical illusion involving a paper cutout of a dragon led one poster to write "I just found perhaps the ultimate optical illusion, the kitten bowler hat," which I found terribly funny.

The 51st State.

The post-election talk of blue-state/red-state divisions (and the recent retirement of Jimmy Breslin) got me thinking about the time Norman Mailer ran for mayor of NYC (with Jimmy Breslin as his running mate). It was 1969, and their big issue was that New York City should become the 51st state. They had a cool poster, which I looked for and couldn't find on line. By chance, I ran across this photograph from 1970 showing the very poster. Too bad it's so blurry and not in color, but let there be at least one display of the great old poster on the web. And that's me, at age 19 (looking annoying in that special 1970 way).

Althouse in 1970, age 19

"Coffee and Cigarettes."

I loved the movie "Coffee and Cigarettes" (which is newly available on DVD). Keep in mind that two of my favorite movies are "My Dinner With Andre" and "Slacker" before regarding my opinion as a recommendation. Here's the beautiful "Coffee and Cigarettes" website.

When a movie is broken into a series of vignettes as this one is, critics usually can't resist saying which vignette is the best and grousing that some vignettes are better than others. With an ordinary movie, it doesn't seem worth saying that some scenes are better than others! But with each vignette, you get a new set of two or three actors, so it's hard not to single out, for example, Cate Blanchett. Patty Duke style, she plays two cousins who have the same face, but different hair, clothes, mannerisms, attitudes. The final vignette is especially poignant. It features Taylor Mead, so unrecognizably older than he was in the Andy Warhol movies -- like "Lonesome Cowboys" -- where we loved him so much.

I must get back to watching "Dead Man," which, like "Coffee and Cigarettes" is directed by Jim Jarmusch. I watched about a third of that movie once and then got distracted by something -- too long ago to remember what. I'll have to go back to the beginning now. But the gorgeous black and white photography of "Coffee and Cigarettes" -- which looked great on the Sony HDTV -- makes me want to get back to "Dead Man." Longtime readers may remember that I bought "Dead Man" along with four other DVDs back in March when I went on a Johnny Depp-focused buying spree.

Pajamas: not just for blogging anymore.

The NYT reports -- on the front page -- about how much cereal young people eat. They love their Cap'n Crunch, Cocoa Puffs and Fruity Pebbles. What's interesting is that businesses are catering to their humble taste in comfort food:
A new restaurant called Cereality Cereal Bar and Café is scheduled to open at the end of this month on the University of Pennsylvania campus, with a menu of more than 30 cereals and even more toppings served by pajama-clad "cereologists" in a setting of comfy chairs and farmhouse tables.
It's considered "hip" now to eat cereal:
"When we went out to do our initial research it was clear that college kids were getting tired of typical institutional food service and were looking for more branded and hip concepts," said David Roth, a co-founder and the president of Cereality, which is based in Boulder, Colo. ''Cereal was a staple of their diets, and they would eat it at different times of day."
But wait! Here's is an important marker of generational change. A whole big culture article about eating cereal all the time and no mention of Jerry Seinfeld?