August 13, 2005

Looks like the Celebrity Roast of Pamela Anderson is a must-TiVo.

And not because of Pam. Because of Courtney:
With Ms. Love thrashing around, it can be hard to remember that it is Ms. Anderson's night. Smoking cigarettes, Ms. Love heckled the comedians and flipped people off, regularly flashing her underwear and pulling up her top. When not lurching toward center stage in raw bids for attention, she slumped so far down in a white sofa that some of the male comedians - particularly the M.C., Jimmy Kimmel - appeared to prop her up. Toward the end of the roast, she reclined entirely.

"How is it possible that Courtney Love looks worse than Kurt Cobain?" the comic Jeffrey Ross asked. Is that line even legal?

But when people joked about Ms. Love's history of substance abuse, she would respond slurrily, "I've been sober for a year!"

"If you're not on drugs," Mr. Kimmel shot back at one point, "you've got problems."
In other Courtney news. She didn't commit suicide. She failed a drug test. And she's got a new boyfriend, to whom she wrote:
“It’s so weird and wrong and good and sweet and evil being with you…You are beautiful my little baby and by the way, I love you too.”
We love you too, Courtney! Good luck!

For the annals of reality show litigation.

The NYT reports:
In what sounds like a tale by Charles Dickens, warped to fit the 21st century, five orphaned siblings who thought they had found shelter in a nine-bedroom mansion courtesy of the television show "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" are suing ABC, the company that built the house and the couple who took them in after their parents died, The Associated Press reported. The children, ranging in age from 15 to 22, contend that the couple, Phil and Loki Leomiti, undertook "an orchestrated campaign," including insults and poor treatment, to drive them from the house. The siblings moved out of the Leomitis' home in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., southeast of Los Angeles, and are living with friends, said Charles Higgins II, the eldest. "What we're really seeing is the collision between reality TV and the perception reality TV seeks to create in the minds of the general public," said their lawyer, Patrick Mesisca. On Wednesday, when the siblings filed a lawsuit charging fraud and breach of contract and seeking unspecified compensatory and punitive damages, he said that they were never promised a house in writing but that the network's statements and actions could be legally construed as a promise. ABC said in a statement, "It is important to note that the episode was about the rebuilding of the Leomiti family's existing home to accommodate the inclusion of the five Higgins siblings, whom the Leomitis had invited into their lives following the death of their parents."
What a fabulous fact pattern for a Contracts exam!

An ooh, how fiendish of the Leomitis! They made themselves desirable subjects for the show by taking in five orphans and then.... what did they do? I'm sure they have their side of the story. Five young people aged 15 t0 22 are naturally going to clash with their parents. Too bad there weren't reality show cameras to capture the arguments so we'd know whether it was a a big plot to use the kids for the sole purpose of getting the house done or whether the kids used the house makeover as a weapon against the parents whenever they called for discipline.

The cell phone ring as practical joke.

"Instead of a catchy ditty or an electronic symphony, cell phone rings can now be programmed with a recording of a porn actor making sexual noises." And you just know the clown that would do that would also be bad about remembering to silence the ring. Hmmm.... and when it rings near a child, what should happen to you?

They're remaking "Westworld."

With the director Tarsem Singh – who made the "The Cell." "The Cell" was kind of bad as a story but it had beautifully visionary dream sequences. I believe "Westworld" had a good story. (Right? I haven't seen it.) So the remake should be good, I'm going to predict.

Here's my old post on "The Cell":
If you enjoy seeing people suspended from the ceiling in a horizontal position, trekking across sand dunes in glamorous gowns, and watching their own intestines being twirled onto a rotisserie held up by statues of seahorses, this is the film for you.

"The right to be free, the right to own the fruits of your mind and effort now all made sense."

Marc Emery has, by his own admission, sold over $4 million in marijuana seeds. The U.S. government is now seeking his extradition from Canada, and the NYT offers an awfully sympathetic profile – as profiles of criminals go:
Mr. Emery describes himself as "a responsible libertarian, not a hedonist," who extols the virtues of capitalism, low taxes, small government and the right of citizens to bear arms.

He said he grew up a social democrat, influenced by his father, who was active in trade union work. But he said his life changed in 1979 when he began reading the works of Ayn Rand, who championed individual freedom and capitalism.

"The right to be free, the right to own the fruits of your mind and effort now all made sense," he recalled. Only a few months after discovering Rand, his girlfriend at the time offered him a joint and he smoked marijuana for the first time.

IT was an epiphany," he said. "I had a sixth sense added to my five senses. The silence sounded different, smells were more nuanced and the brightness of the moon made it look bigger and more substantial in the sky."

The combination of Rand's philosophy and the marijuana set him on a course of advocacy in which, he said, "I decided to dedicate my whole life to repudiate the state."

Then living in London, Ontario, he sold banned marijuana and pornography books and magazines, contested laws limiting the right of stores to open on Sundays and led a municipal tax revolt. He even resisted a municipal garbage strike, by renting a truck and picking up the garbage himself.

After traveling for a while in Asia, however, he has dedicated his efforts to promoting marijuana and its culture.

"Now the Goliath, now the evil empire has made its move on me," Mr. Emery told his Web site audience. But he promised that his crusade would continue "till liberty or till death."
The Times links to his website, where he appeals for money to fight his extradition. (Supposedly he's spent all the millions he's earned selling seeds to finance his publishing operations.) Excuse me if I don't link there too.

Mental exercises.

An Instapost this morning:
THE WORLD MEMORY CHAMPIONSHIP COMPETITION is going on now at Oxford University. The current champion is Ben Pridmore, 28, who can memorize a pack of cards in 32.13 seconds. I wonder if the people who actually have the best memories use their super power to do things like memorizing packs of cards. Shouldn't they want to fill their heads with things that will be beautiful or useful to think about – volumes of great literature or the complete tax code and regulations, perhaps? But no. Competition is intrinsically rewarding. My question is like asking the fastest runner why he competes in the Olympics instead of running around looking at the trees and flowers or traveling back and forth to work.
I'll bet you think that people like Pridmore must be lacking in other mental qualities, like that fellow in "The Mind of a Mnemonist." Most relatively smart people want to be even smarter but are still not all that concerned about not having an extremely strong memory. Yet having a great memory would be awfully useful!

What would you memorize if you had a superpower for memorizing?

Would you perform memorizing stunts for the public's entertainment? Would you enter some line of business (or form of gambling) where memorizing something would give you a great edge? Would you pursue memorizing as matter of pure pleasure or enlightenment?

If you could choose a great mental power – not a supernatural power, but just get into the top 0.0001% of human abillity – would you chose memory? If not, what power would you prefer and would you be worried that extreme memory powers would degrade some other aspect of life?

The NYT picks up the "Six Feet Under" eco-burial theme.

Catering to the Boomers will always be good business:
Here, where redwood forests and quivering wildflower meadows replace fountains and manicured lawns, graves are not merely graves. They are ecosystems in which "each person is replanted, becoming a little seed bank," said Tyler Cassity, a 35-year-old entrepreneur who reopened the long-moldering cemetery last fall....

Mr. Cassity, a GQ-ish sort with rock-star stubble who wears sunglasses indoors, has cultural feelers well tuned for the business. He previously did an extreme makeover of Hollywood Memorial Park, the formerly bankrupt final resting place of Cecil B. DeMille, Tyrone Power and Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and Sr. With his brother Brent, 38, he runs Forever Enterprises, a Missouri company with cemeteries, cremation societies and a coffin business.

Together, they transformed the once-derelict cemetery into Hollywood Forever, a pastoral "Sunday on La Grande Jatte" of death, where weekend screenings of classic films projected onto the side of Rudolph Valentino's mausoleum attract 2,500 picnickers.

As Forever Hollywood tapped into the zen of Southern California, an oasis for the Rodeo Drive dead, so Mr. Cassity anticipates Fernwood will do for the mountain-biking, Luna bar-eating culture to the north.
So are you hankering for an eco-burial to match the other boomerified rituals of your life, like those self-penned wedding vows and videotaped childbirths?

"A Democratic president would have been at most a year behind the Bush Administration’s track in the War on Terror."

So writes Austin Bay. What do you think? If Gore had won in '00, would he not have gone on the offensive the way Bush did? And all you people who despise Bush, what would you be saying now if Gore had been President all these years and had taken the same approach to national security? If you can perform this mental exercise honestly and see that you would approve of the things you now disapprove, you ought to consider yourself too partisan. I'd certainly say you are.

If you think I'm just jerking you around and being a Republican political partisan, remember that I voted for Gore in 2000. I've thought all along that Gore would have done basically the same thing Bush did.

Bay's piece is commenting on this interview with Christopher Hitchens. An excerpt:
Q - Your much-discussed separation from the American left began shortly after the September 11 attacks. What prompted your displeasure with the left?

A - The September 11 attacks were one of those rare historical moments, like 1933 in Germany or 1936 in Spain or 1968, when you are put in a position to take a strong stand for what is right. The left failed this test. Instead of strongly standing against these nihilistic murderers, people on the left, such as Noam Chomsky, began to make excuses for these murderers, openly saying that Bin ladin was, however crude in his methods, in some ways voicing a liberation theology. This is simply a moral and political collapse.

But its not only that. It’s a missed opportunity for the left. Think of it this way: If a group of theocratic nihilists drive planes full of human beings into buildings full of human beings announcing nothing by way of a program except their nihilism and if they turn out to have been sheltered by two regimes favored by the United States and the national security establishment, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to be precise, two of only three countries to recognize the Taliban, and if Republicans were totally taken by surprise by this and if the working class of New York had to step forward and become the shield of society in the person of the fire and police brigades, it seemed to me that this would have been a good opportunity for the left to demand a general revision of all the assumptions we carried about the post cold war world. We were attacked by a religious dictatorship and the working class were pushed into defending elites by the total failure of our leadership and total failure of our intelligence. The attack emanated partly from the failure of regimes supported by that same elite national security establishment– Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. If the left can’t take advantage of a moment like that: whats it for? whats its secularism for? Whats its internationalism, class attitude, democracy for?
That's brilliantly well put. Much more at the link.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 13.

It's Day 13 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.)

You can see by the ticket stub collaged into the first side of the page that it's August 10, 1993. I go to see the movie "The Piano" and am confused by some things and pleased by others. On the second side of the page, I draw two signs for bookstores: Tweedehands Boekwinkels and Oom Wim. I'm delighted by these words, though I realize they must be perfectly ordinary in Dutch – surely "Tweedehands Boekwinkels" is just "secondhand booksellers" – but irresistibly cute and silly to American ears.

I go into a third store, a big comics shop called Lambiek. I'm utterly under the spell of "Get Me a Table Without Flies, Harry," as these notebook pages attest, so I ask if he has any Bill Griffith books. He has "Yow!" and I buy it. I also buy "Verre d'Eau" (that is, "Weirdo," R. Crumb's comic), "Understanding Comics" (which had just come out), and two books by Mark Beyer, whom I adore. The two Mark Beyer books are "Amy and Jordan" and "Agony." I'd been searching for "Agony," which I'd read before, but not owned, and was happy enough to find a German-language copy of it. "Amy and Jordan" makes a huge impression on me for the rest of the trip and distinctively influences the drawing that you'll see on Page 22.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

August 12, 2005

The TV houses of your mind.

With the five-year series nearly over, someone at Television Without Pity came up with an idea for a new forum thread about "Six Feet Under." The subject: the house. Why is it so depressing? One topic being discussed is something that just began to puzzle me as I watched the newest episode: Are the kitchen and sunroom upstairs? Another puzzle: Why is Ruth's place so much shabbier than Nate and Brenda's and David and Keith's? Is the business supposed to be doing well or not? Or have they just decided to make the living quarters of the funeral home depressingly dowdy as an expression of Ruth's character?

It's interesting to try to understand the layout of the house of a familiar show and to question whether the house fits the economic situation of the characters. Do we really understand where those doors lead? Do the exterior shots match the interiors? Does the second floor really fit on the first floor?

I remember a book from a few years back that had diagrams for the houses of 60s sitcoms like "Bewitched" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." Someone had really tried to figure out where all the closets and bathrooms and so on would need to be – a strange little obsession that produced a pretty cool book. I also remember reading an article about how the characters on various TV shows set in NYC did not have jobs that would pay them enough to afford living in the nice places they had. (Jerry Seinfeld was the exception.)

Then there's the whole subject of TV houses that have been important to you. I think there are a lot of people who deeply bonded with the house on "The Brady Bunch." I'm not one of them. That was never one of my shows. But wasn't there some house you really wanted to live in? Can't you still picture it and take a mental walk through those rooms today? Is there some particular thing in that house that appeals to you: Laura Petrie's kitchen island? The louvered shutters that opened Lucy Ricardo's kitchen to the living area? The spiral stairway in Mork and Mindy's apartment? Samantha Stephens' retro wallpaper?

How many details from old shows are still part of the furniture of your mind?

The geekiest analysis of relationships ever.

The BBC has this:
Richard Ecob adapted a system for modelling atoms in radioactive decay to investigate how we look for partners.

He found that "super daters", people who have many short relationships, have a good effect on others' lives.

This is because they break up weak couples, forcing their victims to find better relationships.

At the root of the system, says Mr Ecob, is the similarity between the probability of the nucleus of an atom decaying and that of a couple breaking up.

The decay of a nucleus is described in terms of "transit states": the series of change it has been through to get to its current situation.

The probability of someone having been in two relationships, for example, is the same as that of a nucleus decaying twice....

To model the phenomenon, he wrote a computer program which placed "software singles", people seeking partners, in an imaginary social network.

Each single had a set of interests, which they also looked for in potential partners.

The research suggested that multiple daters, those who form many relationships, were less effective at finding the right partner than those who remained in one place and let others come to them.

"If you have a complex network and you stay in one site you see more traffic coming through," he said. "It's a denser network, so there are more possible matches."

I'm guessing Ecob is remaining in one place waiting another to come to him.

I can see why they went out of their way to give the new Apple mouse a masculine name – Mighty Mouse.

They were hoping somehow they could keep you from noticing how terribly clitoris-like it is. I'm really enjoying mine – my new mouse!

"Are you Christian?"

I just walked over to a perfect stranger in a café and said that to him. I was supposed to meet someone named Kristian for an interview. He was late, and I walked over to a guy who had the rectangular glasses my interviewer said he'd be wearing, said "Are you Kristian?" – he wasn't – and only afterwards realized I'd made myself sound like a religious proselytizer.

Preview of a podcast team.

I'm working on a podcasting project with two of my colleagues. We had a trial run the other day, testing out the equipment and the style of interaction. We're not going to post our overlong first attempt, but here's a sample:
A: Are we interested in the fact that the Rolling Stones are writing a song that's insulting Condi Rice?

G: I saw that.

A: I think they’re just trying to get their tour going.

G: You think it’s just publicity?

A: The Rolling Stones and political songs? Some of their songs were political, weren’t they? Anything come to mind as being a distinctive Rolling Stones political song?

G: I don’t remember the Rolling Stones being particularly political. Jumpin’ Jack Flash? No. “I can’t get no satisfaction.” I don’t know.

A: Yeah. “Crossfire hurricane” – is that a military term? What is that, anyway?

G: So you think they’re just trying to sell records?... They’ve got a new album coming out too. [To X:] Are you a Rolling Stones fan?

X: Not particularly. But if there’s money to be made in insulting Condi Rice, I’d like to, uh, get in on some of that.

"They put stickies on the face of Mohammed Atta."

I wrote this over on Instapundit:
"MAKES YOU WONDER WHAT ELSE THEY TOSSED OUT." Betsy Newmark on the 9/11 report, commenting on the news of omissions about Mohammed Atta. Here's the very harsh Investor's Business Daily editorial:
[Curt Weldon, R-Pa. said] "They put stickies on the face of Mohammed Atta on the chart that the military intelligence unit had completed, and they said you can't talk to Atta because he's here on a green card."

Lee Hamilton, co-chair of the 9-11 commission, said the commission "did not learn of any U.S. government knowledge prior to 9-11 of surveillance of Mohammed Atta or of his cell . . . Had we learned of it, obviously it would've been a major focus of our investigation."

But they did learn of it. The New York Times reports that the 9-11 commission staff had the Able Danger data but decided not to share it with the panel members because the information sounded inconsistent with what they thought they knew about Atta.

Commission staffers plan a trip to the National Archives to retrieve their notes on Able Danger's findings. Yes, the same National Archives where Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger was caught stuffing classified documents about terrorist threats down his pants, presumably to remove them from public scrutiny.

And this is the same commission that included one Jamie Gorelick, a deputy attorney general in the Clinton Justice Department. She's also architect of the policy that established a wall between intel and law enforcement, making "connecting the dots" before 9-11 a virtual impossibility.

Are these not truly shocking revelations?

The 9/11 recordings.

Are you listening to them?

"Now when I go to a cafe to read the Sunday papers, I take along a Thermos of coffee and a small sandwich."

That's one man's solution report from Iceland, where tipping is not customary.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 12.

It's Day 12 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) Today's page shows my fascination with language, both Dutch and English as seen by the Dutch. With a little Salvador Dali barrette to go with the fashion theme on the second side of the page.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Can't you women hear the buzz?

You might wonder what it's like reading the email that pours into the Instapundit gmailbox. How much of it is bitching about Glenn being gone?

Well, there's this:
Clueless Ann. I don't expect to agree with your guest bloggers but I do expect them to at least blog about something worth reading once in a while. With all the under reported stories buzzing around the blogosphere how did Ann and Megan miss all of them? I can't remember the last time I saw an Instapundit where nothing was worth following up on.

Why's he picking on me (and Megan)? Why no mention of Michael? Sexist!

There's only about one message a day like that, actually. But that email does hint of the burden of being Instapundit. I'm not really feeling that burden myself, because I feel I've been called over to do my thing over there, not to imitate Glenn. I assume the way Glenn writes his blog is what he enjoys doing, but I would find doing that a full-time job, not an energizing avocation -- which is how I experience this blog.

Notice the emailer's notion that Instapundit exists to put a stamp of approval on stories. Blogs are talking about X and you haven't acknowledged it yet! There are an awful lot of political blogs that crank out generic posts, expressing the usual outrage in the same canned language. And yet somehow they feel entitled. Because there's a buzz. Look at me! I'm part of a swarm!

And yeah, I realize I'm acting like the very NYT I just tweaked over there.

August 11, 2005

Must we talk about the "girl crush"?

I didn't get around to linking to this article this morning, and now it seems so yesterday... and it was kind of dumb in the first place anyway, but I thought you might enjoy talking about the supposed phenomenon of the "girl crush" or the way the NYT falls all over itself trying to tell us about cultural phenomena like the "girl crush."

Mostly, the "girl crush" seems to be a vogue phrase for something that has been around for a long time: a fawning but nonsexual interest one woman has in another. Basically, one woman is just way too interested in how fabulous another woman is, and if the object of the crush realizes this, it's not really going to work out very well as a friendship.

Presidential history blogging.

Rick Shenkman has expanded his one-man blog POTUS to include 15 new blogger-historians – including UW history (and law) prof Stanley Kutler.

"Crunchy places like Boulder attract crunchy types and become crunchier."

"Conservative places like suburban Georgia attract conservatives and become more so." David Brooks wants us to overcome our fastidious correctness and examine the mechanisms of "cultural geography."

Small peeve of the day.

Why is there always that one company that sends out its bill so it arrives just after you've paid a stack of bills and before you accumulate another pile worth sitting down with so that you're always paying that one company's bill late? Either they need to pick a better day of the month for the bill to go out or they need to give longer lead time. (This has been bugging me for years!)

Parallel photography.

Oscar compares photographs of the same subject, taken by three of us blogographers on last weeks photowalk.

My Instapunditry.

Today, so far:

1. Looking at Terry Teachout's diary.

2. Remembering Barbara Bel Geddes.

3. Calling attention to Sheila O'Malley.

4. Wondering why unborn lamb fur is a special problem.

5. Loving some drawings.

6. Displaying a little bloggy obsession.

Feel free to comment on any of that stuff here. I'm thinking #4 is the most commentable topic, but it's your call.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 11.

It's Day 11 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) Today's page continues yesterday's language theme. On the first side of the page, I'm interested in the way English (or English-seeming) words are used on products. The second side of the page is a composite of signs and things seen in store windows -- and a part-full glass of beer inserted into a door handle, as if the handle were a cup-holder. Traveling alone, I was quite the day person. Venturing out in the morning, I always saw evidence of the partying that raged on during the night.

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

August 10, 2005

"Why don't we put the mothers of other soldiers on a bus..."

"...and send them to Crawford to tell the President they understand the commitment their sons and daughters made...?"

In case you were wondering if anybody was going to lay into Cindy Sheehan....

Music meme.

Here's a new meme suggested by the comments on this post from yesterday. Commenters correctly guessed that I saw Iron Butterfly perform "In-a-Gadda-da-Vida." (It was 1969, at the Atlantic City Pop Festival, and they played a very long version of their big song twice.)

Picking up the cue, commenters started talking about great acts they had the privilege to see in their prime. And Volokh Conspiracy's Jim Lindgren totally won.

But it made me think of a new question: If you could travel back in time, which five music performances would you like to see? Give the artists' names, the year you want to hear them in, and -- to make it more interesting -- the song you want them to play.

UPDATE: This chart might help. (And let me just brag that I was at the June 14, 1969 and the May 15, 1970 show.) That chart suggests lots of other questions: the one show you'd most like to have seen, the most obscure show, the most ridiculous combination, the most quintessentially sixties show ...

President Bush is "in the clutches of the most reckless parts of the extreme right wing."

Senator Edward M. Kennedy has written me a letter, raising the alarm about a number of grave dangers. Did you know that President Bush has a "wish list" with this at the top:
Turn the Supreme Court into the Enforcement Arm of the Ultra-Right – Pack the court with far-right ideologues who will turn back the clock on half a century of progress on civil rights, economic progress, and the environment.

Well, I guess they drafted the letter before Bush actually picked someone for the Supreme Court, so we mustn't be too hard on poor Mr. Kennedy. He worries a lot, you know. And the letter was kind of dashed off without proofreading. I mean, "progress on ... progress"?

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 10.

It's Day 10 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.)

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

"The omnipotent and infallible monarch of his personal Magic Kingdom."

Such was Michael Eisner, according to the judge who handed him a rich victory. For the ultimate in in-depth analysis, head over to the Conglomerate symposium.

Visual puns.

Here's one.

It's expensive and students don't take it seriously, so...

Why not abolish the third year of law school?

Ridiculous! It is amazing that one can hold oneself out as a lawyer after a mere three years of education. And I've never noticed third year students not taking the classes seriously. If you're teaching law and your students are slacking off, you can -- and should -- remedy that problem by including attendance and participation in the grade, writing an exam that rewards engagement with the classroom discussion, and not generously curving the grades.

Third year should be full of the most challenging material -- of which there is plenty in the law. Anyone who thinks law school should be easier for law students needs to spend more time thinking about their future clients. And if you think I'm being too harsh toward law students, I would say that the law students themselves should demand an intensely challenging experience for their time and money.

On buying a product that makes you think of a song.

Back when I was contemplating buying a Corvette, I thought about how, if I had a Corvette, it would make me think the song "Little Red Corvette" every time I got near it. But I love that song enough that I think I'd always feel good about it. But I do not like the song "Kodachrome" enough to want to have it run through my head every time I pick up my new D50:
I got a Nikon camera
I love to take a photograph

I really could do without that.

Ever had an object that kept making you think the same song?

Or maybe you met a person with a name that's in a song. That might ruin a relationship. I wonder if anyone's ever even changed her name because she (or he) got tired of having people croon that song to her. I wonder what the worst name for that problem would be. And what would be the best one?

What is the first name equivalent of Corvette? (And don't suggest that there probably are some kids out there actually named Corvette.) I remember back during Beatlemania days being jealous of a girl lucky enough to have the name Michelle. But would I be sick of it by now if every boyfriend had sung it to me? I don't know -- depends on the boyfriend.

"Day by Day."

If you're not already familiar with Chris Muir's comic strip "Day by Day," today is not the best day to get a feeling for what it's usually like. But go there today anyway.

August 9, 2005

Extravagant music of the sixties.

You may remember that I'm a big fan of the 60s Decade channel on XM satellite radio. In the last couple of days, I've caught a few great examples of overdone recordings from my favorite era. They're all overdone in different ways, but all seem to me to share a kind of exuberance that belongs to the 60s. The songs are:
"Alice's Restaurant" ("Shrink, I want to kill.")

"The Year 2525" ("Everything you think, do, or say/Is in the pill you took today")

"MacArthur Park" ("In love's hot, fevered iron/Like a striped pair of pants")

"In-a-Gadda-Da-Vida" ("In-a-gadda-da-vida, honey,/Don’t you know that I love you?")
And let me add that back in the 60s I saw one -- and only one -- of these songs performed by the original artist. See if you can guess which.

Which is the most fun to hear again today? Oh, they all were deliciously fun!

"It's precisely because I respect all life that I did this."

The Boston Globe reports:
A Chinese artist who grafted the head of a human fetus onto the body of a bird has defended his work as art after a Swiss museum withdrew the piece from an exhibit.

"It's precisely because I respect all life that I did this," artist Xiao Yu said Tuesday. He said the bird and fetus "died because there was something wrong with them. ... I thought putting them together like this was a way for them to have another life."

Swiss museum visitor Adrien de Riedmatten, 29, filed a complaint on Monday with the district attorney of Bern, Switzerland, calling for an investigation into the piece, which was on display at the Bern Art Museum....

The work was removed, curator Bernhard Fibicher said Tuesday, because museum directors didn't want the controversy surrounding it to overshadow the rest of the "Mahjong" exhibit, which features avant-garde Chinese works from the last 25 years. The museum is planning an Aug. 22 symposium with artists, philosophers and ethics experts before deciding whether to re-exhibit the piece.

Xiao said he bought the head in 1999 for a few dollars from a man who was cleaning out a scientific exhibition hall. The glass bottle in which it came had a handwritten sticker identifying it as a female specimen from the 1960s. According to Xiao, it had no name or cause of death....

The name of the piece, "Ruan," is a word Xiao invented that combines the Chinese characters for different kinds of animals. Xiao said he added the eyes of a rabbit to the head.

Xiao is known for shocking material. He once paid an assistant $1,200 to sew pairs of living lab mice together at the hip and displayed them in glass bowls.
Well, I hope the the artists, philosophers and ethics experts can figure this one out. I wonder which of the three -- artists, philosophers or ethics experts -- will have the strongest objection and which will be most supportive of Xiao. And while you've got those artists, philosophers and ethics experts assembled, please ask them about the sewn-together mice.

Don't you understand art?

UPDATE: Creative taxidermy is more widespread than you may realize.

Carnival overload.

Should everything in "carnival" form be linked on Instapundit? Apparently. But I'm not up to doing it. Personally, I don't link to carnivals because I don't have anything to add. But it's awfully nice of Glenn to do all that linking!

If only we could truly communicate.

A woman in Atlanta named Leslie Ruth Hunter writes to the NYT about its recent editorial "Measuring the Blogosphere":
I have a suggestion that would save us all a lot of time and aggravation as we grow increasingly more addicted to modern technology.

It's ridiculously simple really. How about if all those who spend much of their time chattering on their cellphones stow them somewhere, and actually talk to the living, breathing human beings right in front of them? Then maybe they wouldn't have to spend so much time blogging us all senseless.

We'd all be truly communicating, and we'd have more time to truly accomplish something. Or perhaps just enjoy life.

Radical idea? You decide.
I understand -- really, I do -- how someone who doesn't feel moved to blog and doesn't enjoy reading blogs might feel dispirited by all the blogging. And I agree that face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication. I'd even go so far as to say that -- in its highest manifestations -- it's the best thing.

But blogging is just writing, and like other writing, it has aspects that are better than conversation:

It can reach beyond the people you know.

It can reach people in the future, including the people you know.

It can reveal things that cannot come up in ordinary conversation.

It can allow one person to contribute a larger share of the ideas than would be seemly in conversation.

It lets you leap over your immediate physical environment.

If I stuck to face-to-face conversations, I'd be talking to people in Madison, Wisconsin all the time! One of the best things about blogging for me has been the ability to talk to (and with) people outside of this very specific locality. I'm not knocking it as a place to come and be a student for a while. (Come to our wonderful Law School!) But it's damned insular. The self-satisfied, easily offended lefties can really get to you after a while! [UPDATE: This does not refer to my friends!] One reason I blog (a lot) is that I have so much material I can't use in real life conversations. I'm conversation starved here and have been for twenty years!

And then, of course, there are the links. When bloggers talk, we sometimes say: "I wish I could link to" some article we've read. I'm used to talking about things and showing you the text at the same time. I can't do that very well in conversation, even if I carry the NYT around with me. In conversations chez Althouse, we do often start taking books off the shelves and pointing out paragraphs, but that's more of a family thing.

Finally, once we've become bloggers, our conversation changes. Many times I've said or heard things like:
I already blogged about that... [so I think it would be tedious to repeat this.]

Well, if you'd read my blog ... [you wouldn't be making me repeat this.]

That's the short version, you should read the whole thing on my blog...
And for us hardcore bloggers that last line seems like an amusing witticism, right?

"Do they suppose that a defeat in Iraq would be a defeat only for the Bush administration?"

Christopher Hitchens puts into words what I find so disturbing about the way anti-war types seem to lap up the bad news about Iraq.

This is your op-ed columnist on drugs.

Okay, commenters. You can take potshots at NYT columnist John Tierney, who adopts the libertarian position on drugs and seems to think that for most people who take meth the good outweighs the bad.

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 9: "The Shirt Page."

It's Day 9 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) Today's page collects three drawings -- scattered about the original notebooks -- that are all about shirts.

Amsterdam Notebook.

Amsterdam Notebook.

Amsterdam Notebook.

"I'm from the school that considers it impolite to comment on other people's elections."

But I'm starting a world tour and I need some publicity.

Okay, 6 posts over there.

Time to pay attention to my readers in Althouse-world.

Did you notice I quoted one of yesterday's Althouse commenters over at Glenn's place?

Both Michael Totten and I have linked to Dan Savage guest-blogging at AndrewSullivan.com. Michael calls Dan "gay sex advice columnist Dan Savage," which presents a complicated grammatical or punctuation problem, because if there's one thing about the Savage Love column, it's that Savage, though gay, rarely writes about gay sex. The idea -- as you already know if you're a regular reader -- is that there's something especially useful and interesting about a gay man giving advice to heterosexuals.

Speaking of advice, feel free to give me advice about what to do and not do with my Instapundit pedestal.

August 8, 2005

Close-up on a "Stop the War" chalking.

Here in Madison:

Mother Fool's

The world line of a deep space tube sock.

That's a phrase I've remembered for a long time, and not just because I'm amused by incongruity: There is a congruity among the three terms in the phrase. Can you guess what it is?

(RLC is not permitted to participate in this contest!)

IN THE COMMENTS: People are trying, but in need of a hint/clarification. So, let me help. The three two-word terms appeared in a newspaper article in the mid-1970s. The article did not use the one long phrase I made out of the three terms. There's nothing known as "the world line of a deep space tube sock." The question is: what news article contained the phrases "world line," "deep space," and "tube sock"? It is possible to just think hard about what sort of article this would be and come up with the right answer!

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 8.

It's Day 8 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) I've left the museum, and am walking about, noticing the details:

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

One particular detail:

Amsterdam Notebook

"I don't want to take the edge off."

Brenda said on last night's "Six Feet Under." She was refusing the vodka her mother offered. She also rejected the funeral poetry as "maudlin." Virginia Heffernan has an interesting (spoiler filled) piece assessing the series, which showed its third-to-last episode Sunday night. Heffernan contrasts "sincerity" and "authenticity":
[T]he ideal of sincerity has long ago been devalued, rendered commercial or quaint. Today, for example, it is associated with Coldplay, mewling God-and-country Republicans and weepie cable-television dramas like "Six Feet Under" that appeal mostly to women and gay men.

Authenticity, on the other hand, is regarded as rougher stuff, a man's job. Authenticity is gin to sincerity's chardonnay. (Look for it on "The Sopranos" and "Deadwood.") It suggests, as Trilling puts it, "a more strenuous moral experience" than does sincerity, as well as "a less acceptant and genial view of the social circumstances of life." Authenticity, in other words, is a confrontation not with the self, which its practitioners regard as elusive and false, but with death, horror, being, nothingness.
But "Six Feet Under," it is a woman, Brenda, who contrasts with all the mewlers on the show. I don't want to do spoilers, so read Heffernan's article if you want the details. She's got some good ones!

Extreme male brain.

Look out! The scientists are categorizing brains:
Three types of people were revealed through our study: one for whom empathy is stronger than systemizing (Type E brains); another for whom systemizing is stronger than empathy (Type S brains); and a third for whom empathy and systemizing are equally strong (Type B brains). As one might predict, more women (44 percent) have Type E brains than men (17 percent), while more men have Type S brains (54 percent) than women (17 percent).
As you may have noticed, scientific findings that put women in a bad light are frowned upon, but don't worry. The NYT op-ed I've just quoted goes on to say this:
According to what I have called the "extreme male brain" theory of autism, people with autism simply match an extreme of the male profile, with a particularly intense drive to systemize and an unusually low drive to empathize. When adults with Asperger's syndrome (a subgroup on the autistic spectrum) took the same questionnaires we gave to non-autistic adults, they exhibited extreme Type S brains. Psychological tests reveal a similar pattern.

And this analysis makes sense. It helps explain the social disability in autism, because empathy difficulties make it harder to make and maintain relationships with others. It also explains the "islets of ability" that people with autism display in subjects like math or music or drawing - all skills that benefit from systemizing.
The author of this piece, Simon Baron-Cohen, posits that the increase in autism is "the genetic result of 'assortative mating,'" as two strong systematizers have children together. He doesn't go on to say it, but it seems necessary, if this is to be the theory, to have an idea why more strong systematizers are mating these days.

It's outrageously politically incorrect to go where that theory seems to be headed and say that the women's movement is to blame for autism. More women in the workplace means that more men meet and bond with women who share whatever brain type they have. It thus becomes more likely that two extreme brain types will have children together. In the pre-feminist set-up, men would be more likely to mate with women who would nuture and care for them. Her empathizing brain type would moderate his and save their children from autism. But in the modern world with equality of the sexes in a relationship, the man is much more likely to mate with someone who shares his qualities of mind. I'm not saying I believe this is what is happening. I'm just noting that this criticism of the women's movement is lurking inside Baron-Cohen's theory of autism.

IN THE COMMENTS: People scramble to deny what must not be permitted to be true!

ADDED THOUGHT: We shouldn't be afraid to discover the truth. If there is, in fact, something like an "S brain" and if the offspring of two "S brain"ers has a high risk of autism, the solution would not be to exclude women from the scientific workplace (obviously!) or even to discourage two "S brain"ers from marrying. It's just a matter of giving good genetic advice to persons planning to become parents so that they can choose to have children by artificial insemination if they don't think the risk is appropriate. But I don't know enough about autism to have an opinion about whether the condition really is such that we should try to prevent autistic children from being born. It may be that the two "S brain"ers would produce an extraordinary individual, who might be difficult for us to understand but who would bring great gifts into the world, which we should want to see and embrace.

Double-blogging.

I'm double-blogging this week, here and on Instapundit. Ooh! Lookit me on Instapundit! Feel free to comment my Instapundit posts here. It's interesting noticing bloggable things and deciding whether they are Instapundit-bloggable or Althouse-bloggable. I mean, everything I think is bloggable is Althouse-bloggable, but only a subcategory of that is Instapundit-bloggable.

A dangerous, cramped, narrow view of the right of privacy?

Noting the belief that Robert Bork was defeated because he disaffirmed the right of privacy, Adam Liptak tries to discern what Supreme Court nominee John Roberts thinks on the subject.

He quotes an article Roberts drafted in 1981 for Attorney William French Smith:
"All of us, for example," he wrote, "may heartily endorse a 'right to privacy.' That does not, however, mean that courts should discern such an abstraction in the Constitution, arbitrarily elevate it over other constitutional rights and powers by attaching the label 'fundamental,' and then resort to it as, in the words of one of Justice Black's dissents, 'a loose, flexible, uncontrolled standard for holding laws unconstitutional.' "
Liptak then quotes Harvard lawprof Larry Tribe:
Laurence H. Tribe, a law professor at Harvard, said the views expressed in Judge Roberts's draft article were at the time "still at least marginally defensible although, by my lights, misguided even then."

This was no longer the case, Professor Tribe said, after Judge Bork's nomination was defeated, an action that he and many other liberal law professors supported. "It was not until the mid-1980's," Professor Tribe said, "that intervening developments could be said to have exposed such views as resting on so cramped and narrow a concept of liberty that any nominee committed to a project of restoring them to the law posed a danger to the American Constitution."
"Still ... even then"? You don't get much clearer markers of a belief in an evolving Constitution. And what are the "intervening developments" that "exposed" the dangerous narrowness of the view expressed in the Roberts' draft? The Bork hearings?

Actually, the Roberts' quote doesn't clearly disavow the right of privacy. It's certainly nothing like the flat ridicule Bork aimed straight at the right. The quote is fussing over "an abstraction" that becomes too free-wheeling and gets elevated over other rights that also require attention. It looks to me that all Roberts is saying is that we need to be careful articulating the right of privacy. Ironically, he simultaneously frets about imprecise interpretation and fails to tell us exactly what he has in mind.

I'd advise you to watch out for that sort of thing.

And watch out for statements like Tribe's too. He's spouting generic verbiage that mostly means: liberals expanded constitutional rights to a point that is good, and if anyone tries to touch them we're going to slam you.

August 7, 2005

The Amsterdam Notebooks—Page 7.

It's Day 7 of this 35 day project. (The set thus far.) As you may remember, I've just made my way into the Van Gogh Museum, which was the #1 thing I came to Amsterdam to see. I'm looking at the paintings and watching the people:

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

Amsterdam Notebook

"Niño en rodaje."


Niño en rodaje
Originally uploaded by * No. Pip, no!!! *.
I love this shot of a little boy in Barcelona. Yes, that's a costume, not the result of real poverty. He's in a movie and that's a movie costumer's idea of what a boy in rags looks like.

I found this picture on the Top 20 Portrait Shots pool on Flickr, where you delete one portrait as you add one, so it's a fascinating self-organizing phenomenon.

John has put two pictures up, so at the moment there's one of me. We'll see how long it lasts -- and how long the "Niño en rodaje" lasts.

"Write me a letter!"

Said Cary Grant fending off Katharine Hepburn in the last scene of "Bringing Up Baby," which John quotes when I remark that it's pretty funny that we keep emailing each other when we're sitting three feet away at side-by-side tables, here at Espresso Royale.

I need to see that!

I've loved Lisa Kudrow's great HBO show "The Comeback" from the first minute, but it's been low rated and a lot of people don't seem to get it. Entertainment Weekly defines the stages of coming to terms with the show:
(1) Befuddlement. I thought this was supposed to be a sitcom, and yet I didn't laugh once during the entire pilot episode. What's going on here?

2) Revulsion. Puppy poo in her hair? Give me a break! How much degradation can one character take?

3) Anger. Why is everyone so mean to Valerie? I hate that stinkin' Boyd Duzpauliegsuck!

4) Addiction. Note to self, I don't need to see that! Note to self, I don't need to see that! Note to self, I don't need to see that! Note to self, I don't need to see that!

5) Acceptance. I've got a lump in my throat because they scrapped the ''Aunt Sassy'' episode of Room & Bored and that beaver coat shtick was actually kind of funny. I think I might be a little bit hooked.

6) Adulation. I'm a huge fan of The Comeback and I'm not ashamed to say it anymore! Anyone else out there with me? Anyone?
I'm going to assume HBO is cool enough to keep the show going and give viewers time to get through the stages, but, jeez, what's wrong with people? The brilliance of the show was glaring right at you in the "Well, I got it!" sequence in Episode 1.

And Paulie G is a great villain. Ooh! He's fun to hate!

"Shocking ignorance of American history."

Arthur Schlesinger Jr. has a letter in today's NYT:
"Nomination for Supreme Court Stirs Debate on Influence of Federalist Society" (news article, Aug. 1) does not go into the shocking ignorance of American history displayed by the Federalist Society's members.

The Federalist Party, the party of Washington, Adams and Hamilton, stood for a strong central government. The Federalist Society stands for negative government and states' rights. If its members were honest, they would call themselves, in the terms of the 1790's, the Anti-Federalist Society.
Schlesinger is relying on our "shocking ignorance" for his zinger to work. With no actual knowledge to get in the way, we shouldn't imagine that Washington, Adams and Hamilton were distorting the truth when they claimed the term "Federalist" for themselves or that the modern-day centralization of American government far exceeds what even the strongest nationalists of the founding era had in mind.

Flag in the window.

A commenter drew attention to the flag in the window (along with a Kerry-Edwards sign) in this photo (second image) and seemed think it was just a meaningless decorating choice. But the American flagas a window treatment dates back to the hippie era. I'm not sure why it became so easily comprehensible that the flag stood for the anti-war position back then, but the old practice has lived on.

What other flags can be seen in Madison windows? There's this:

Madison's East Side.

Speaking of toilets.

The most amusing juxtaposition we encountered on Friday's East Side photowalk was an array of giant balls of twine and toilets:

Madison's East Side.

The huffy walk-out.

A propos of Robert Novak's huffy walk-out, here are the other big TV walk-outs:
In 1960, Jack Paar looked into the camera and announced: "I am leaving 'The Tonight Show.' There must be a better way of making a living than this." ... A few weeks later, his point made, Mr. Paar returned, beginning his monologue with, "As I was saying ..."
Paar was pissed at getting in trouble with the network for saying "water closet."

"The nudity at that moment was so essential to the storytelling and the revelation of character."

That's what you'd expect them to say, but this other quote, from an article about all the nudity in Broadway and Off Broadway plays, rings true:
"There is no question that nudity has been used to try to artistically justify a false moment, or to cover up mediocre playwriting or, more commonly, to sensationalize a play to get people in the seats."
And why all the male nudity? In current shows, there are 40 naked men and only 10 naked women:
"Maybe a naked male is threatening, maybe it's fear, or homophobia," he said. "I think an artist who chooses to use nudity is trying to communicate something. And I think a penis is more theatrical."
Clearly, male nudity means something different from female nudity, but we might want to know whether these plays are about producing meaning and not just producing profits before we should bother to plumb those depths.

Side note: I used to go to life drawing sessions here on campus, and the organizer once admitted that the artists used to call her up in advance to try to find out if the model was going to be male or female. They were planning to skip the session if the model was male! She wouldn't tell them though and was offended that they'd even ask.

"My feelings danced. I was happy. I cried."

Said the wife of one of the seven men rescued after three days in a submarine entangled in a fishing net 600 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
The men aboard the mini-sub waited out tense hours of uncertainty as rescuers raced to free them before their air supply ran out. They put on thermal suits to insulate them against temperatures of about 40 F inside the sub and were told to lie flat and breathe as lightly as possible to conserve oxygen.

To save electricity, they turned off the submarine's lights and used communications equipment only sporadically to contact the surface.

"The crew were steadfast, very professional," Pepelyayev said on Channel One television. "Their self-possession allowed them to conserve the air and wait for the rescue operation."

UPDATE: What did the men think about, lying in the dark, breathing lightly, in limbo between life and death? Such a deep meditation! Are they not enlightened?