July 22, 2006


I've put Amazon "Omakase" ads up in the sidebar:
Omakase is a Japanese word meaning 'leave it up to us'. It is commonly used in Japanese restaurants for a meal where the chef uses their experience and knowledge to select and prepare the meal for a customer without specific directions.
Amazon somehow reads the contents of the blog and constructs ads based on what it learns. Some of its learning is impressive. Like, right now, it's putting up links to George Orwell writings. But some of it is off. I keep getting books by guys named Althouse. I've seen the name Jay Althouse before. He does music books for kids. He's no one I know. Then, I was wondering why there was a book about welding. Had I ever mentioned welding? But, again, it's just an author named Althouse. You might think anyone named Althouse is someone significant to me. It's funny how often people have asked me: "Do you know [first name] Althouse?" The answer is always "no." I will blog about it if this fact ever changes, but I have never in my entire life met anyone named Althouse who was not a member of my extended family, which is really small.

Anyway, I like the Omakase program at Amazon. It's pretty smart. But they need to iron out the kink that believes anyone with my last name is making something my readers are likely to be interested in. But I'm sure some of you are interested in teaching music to kids. And welding.

"The most overrated essay in the modern canon... turgid, self-righteous and philosophically hopeless."

I'm just noticing how harshly Stanley Fish slammed George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language." This is in a review of a book that I've been reading lately: Geoffrey Nunberg's "Talking Right: How Conservatives Turned Liberalism Into a Tax-Raising, Latte-Drinking, Sushi-Eating, Volvo-Driving, New York Times-Reading, Body-Piercing, Hollywood-Loving, Left-Wing Freak Show." Great title, no? It's a book about using language to sell your political program. Nunberg is quite taken with how well the right has done this and is trying to prod liberals to do better:
[A]ll Nunberg can think to do is claim for the left an advantage that is irrelevant to his book's project: "Liberals have a linguistic advantage of their own, in the form of truth." That is to say (and he says it), the right's success is built on a structure of "distortions." "We" are truth tellers; "they" are political liars.

This notion is particularly odd given an earlier section of the book in which Nunberg does a nice critical number on what is surely the most overrated essay in the modern canon, George Orwell's turgid, self-righteous and philosophically hopeless "Politics and the English Language." Commenting on Orwell's distinction between words politically inflected and words that plainly name things, Nunberg points out that plain language is as political as any other and will probably be all the more effective because it "seems to correspond to concrete perception." The point, as he has been saying all along, is not to strip all of the political overlay from your language but to make the language that carries your political message the lingua franca of the public sphere.
Perhaps Orwell's essay fails to impress Nunberg and Fish because, over time, we citizens have gotten deeply in touch with our natural human revulsion for elaborate euphemisms and bureaucratese. The last sentence of Orwell's essay is: "One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase — some jackboot, Achilles’ heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse — into the dustbin where it belongs." Maybe enough time has passed, and we've absorbed his lesson. The jeering has gotten easy and reflexive. We forthrightly love straight talk these days, and we're not bamboozled by, but instinctively mistrust those who get caught up roundabout rhetoric -- as Senator Kerry learned in the last election.

Dammit, I love the old Orwell essay.

Let's all go read it again. Or just read Orwell's great set of writing rules:
Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

Never use a long word where a short one will do.

If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

Never use the passive where you can use the active.

Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
We've seen it before, but it's still helpful. (Now let me read this one more time before posting and see if I can find some words to cut.)

I hate to disturb you, but...

The Capital Times has a long, appreciative piece on the 9/11 denialist Kevin Barrett.

UPDATE: I saw the paper version and can tell you that this story -- with photograph -- runs across the front page, above the fold.

Drinking the vitriolic acid here at the University of Wisconsin.

Glenn Reynolds quotes one of my readers who commented on this post yesterday. The quote, from Telemacchus, is:
Enough. I've read and re-read all the material on the Barrett case and then discussed, thought some more, and discussed again. In the end, we're going to act locally because our unease coming out of this just won't ease. As the father of an inbound freshman who completed SOAR and is a month away from moving into the dorm, we're pulling the plug on UW here, and actively calling back some of the schools we turned down. Yes, it is because of this Barrett class, not this one nut alone, but of the even scarier indifference and lack of systemic accountability involved throughout this process. It really is a truth teller as to what is in store for us the next 4 years, and so, we are opting out. My wife and I are both highly educated and of a fairly liberal bent ourselves, but clearly this 9/11 incident has legs and is indicative of a deeper core cancer at this institution.
Here's what I said to Telemacchus back in the comments:
If you really feel that way, you should write to Farrell and others. I suspect they are reading this. (They are a bit inept if they are not.) But you should write. Write an op-ed or a letter to the Cap Times, the State Journal, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. And the Isthmus. Taking the strong action you describe is quite meaningful. You should want it to be felt.
Is having the quote on Instapundit more powerful?

Telemacchus goes on, beyond what Glenn quoted:
How shameful that UW, a former great school, has allowed the winds of the far radical left to blow into and take root in the fertile fields of the Wisconsin heartland. Remember shame? It was once a useful social tool for folks to police their own ranks, clearly a lost concept here at UW. For all the swirl here, this dilemma does lend itself some of the more old fashioned solutions. Resignations are in high order here. Names must be taken. Asses must be kicked. And we will move on.
Please note that I am not endorsing all these statements. I believe the University of Wisconsin is a great institution. It's a huge place, people! Even if Barrett represents a problem that's bigger than one part-time instructor's despicable plan to teach an idiotic conspiracy theory, it only relates to part of the university and not, for example, to the sciences. Yet I understand the urge to punish the university for something you find so offensive and the decision to steer clear of a place that feels wrong to you. The university, in not firing Barrett, cites free speech values, but Telemacchus is also speaking. Free speech is a marketplace, and to choose a different university is to act in that market. I was encouraging students to shun the class as a way of participating in the marketplace of ideas. Shunning the whole university is a much stronger move.

I worry about the extremity of the "old fashioned solutions" Telemacchus advocates. His idea that this is a problem of "far radical left" politics should make us all wary of backlash. There is a huge difference between teaching ridiculous bogus science in a religion course and teaching humanities and social science courses with what is or could be perceived as a political slant. How is what Barrett is doing left-wing politics? You could say that no one on the left is openly complaining about him, but that doesn't mean they like or even accept what he is doing. Why would anyone who cared about left wing politics want to be associated with Barrett? He's obviously wrong! It would only make your beliefs seem like a load of lies and idiocy. I think people on the left and the university are simply trying to isolate and endure him as he passes through the system in his one semester. Do you hear any university lefties praising him? Do you hear anyone here praising him? I think not. You're only hearing the most minimal statements, all designed to encapsulate him so that he can pass through the system doing the least harm. These bland statements are like the milk you're supposed to drink if you swallow vitriolic acid. Refusing to fire him is like following the do-not-induce-vomiting advice. I think they are right that firing him would do more damage than passing him through the system.

But they do need to figure out how to avoid drinking any more vitriolic acid.

IN THE COMMENTS: Mary asks how we know Telemacchus is not a fictional character telling a fictional story. I acknowledge that I had the same question. I invite Telemacchus to email me and identify himself.

The Goodridge separation.

They gave their name to the Massachusetts case that required the state to allow persons of the same sex to marry, and now they have separated. Julie and Hillary Goodridge lived together for nearly two decades. They began their lawsuit -- with two other couples -- in 2001, and they married two years ago, after they won the right they fought for. Who can know whether it was the pressure of the lawsuit that broke them up? Perhaps even marriage itself hurts a relationship, especially if you'd become very stable in the unmarried state. It must be painful to try to deal with private problems when you know you symbolize something to the general public.

They have not filed for divorce. I can see why you would choose to stay married even as you go their separate ways to try to avoid having everyone opine wildly about you and draw all sorts of conclusions about the cause you believe in. But now the separation has gotten attention, and people will say all sorts of things. But if you support same sex marriage, it shouldn't be because gay relationships meet some higher ideal that heterosexual relationships. It's a matter of equality, and that includes the potential for breaking up.

July 21, 2006

"Do people come up to you on the streets now and just ask you to speak?"

Entertainment Weekly fawningly asks Malan Breton, the newly auf'd "Project Runway" contestant, with the oft laf'd at accent. His answer:
Once upon a time, many, many years ago, I worked at a restaurant. Women used to offer to take off their clothes if I would read them the menu. It was hilarious.

And what's he up to now?
Right now I'm in the process of doing two couture gowns — one for an A-list celebrity; another one is a B-, C-list celebrity. I've been in talks with a ballet company in New York to do costumes. In 2008, I'm going to be releasing a series of 13 short films. Hopefully soon I'll be working on a theatrical show. I'm auditioning now. I'm going to be fine. I'm incredibly motivated. In the next five years I'm going to see my name along Donna Karan and Helmut Lang. There's no question in my mind.

I'm thinking his whole life is a theatrical show.

My wild yard.

I picture hawks gliding around looking for prey -- with their hawkeyes -- and then swooping down and grabbing the unlucky furry thing. But this morning, in my front yard, I had a hawk stalking a bunny on foot. He had his tail fanned out and he was stalking. The bunny froze, then sought refuge under the car. The hawk walked right under the car. Now, that seemed awfully strange, especially since the bunny was larger than the hawk. What's going on?

I hope the hawks are coming back to live in my yard again. I've been noticing a lot of new bird activity here in the last week. I'm seeing goldfinches for the first time. They like to hang out in the beams above the window where I usually sit. And they seem to be building a nest. I welcome them too.

The main birds that love my yard year after year: cardinals. I love them too.

Meanwhile, that rabbit has a hole right in my front yard. I don't mind if a rabbit makes its home in my yard, but he's put the hole in a bad place. Any suggestions as to what I should do? Roll up a newspaper, set it on fire, and stick it in the hole? Is that wrong? Is that illegal? Would it work?

IN THE COMMENTS: Tibore explains the ways of the hawk... as learned watching cartoons:

The mention of cartoons inspires TioMoco:
What to do with the rabbit hole? Put a mailbox with the name "B. Bunny" next to it. That wascally wabbit always makes me chuckle...

And Icepick think I need this:

Tiggeril has a solution that reminds me of something Artie Bucco did in this past season of "The Sopranos," but you'll have to picture me with a gun in my front yard here in Madison, Wisconsin. Or... oh... I guess Elmer Fudd is the better pop culture reference, since we're doing cartoons. Or not, since I don't want to be the loser.

Ernst Blofeld tells a story with a great punchline. It's got rabbits, hawks, and Marines.

Bad song lyrics.

Well, it's bad to get engrossed in such an obvious, easy topic, but here's the article, and here's the Metafilter discussion. I'm less interested in the plainly stupic lyrics than the more specific mistakes, like Bruce Springsteen getting baseball terminology wrong ("speed ball" for "fast ball") and this one:
THE SONG: Relient K, "Who I Am Hates Who I've Been"

THE LYRIC: "I watched the proverbial sunrise/coming up over the Pacific/and you might think I'm losing my mind/but I will shy away from specifics"

THE VERDICT: Not just the "duh" rhyme of "Pacific" and "specifics," but more importantly, why the proverbial sunrise? How is a sunrise proverbial?
Notice how the criticism -- which is trenchant -- doesn't even point out the oceanic boo-boo. I guess Mr. K couldn't think of a rhyme for Atlantic. Let me suggest: pedantic.

IN THE COMMENTS: I'm told there is no "Mr. K" ... and that I'm either not recognizing the concession that the speaker is supposed to seem crazy or that I'm being too West Coast-o-centric.

Divorce madness.

The previous post is about a ridiculous -- and ridiculously long -- article in the NYT about how women cheat on their husbands [and boyfriends] with the contractors who work on their house. It begins with an anecdote about a guy -- David Mager -- who made a joke about his wife longtime girlfriend and the contractor -- "Maybe I should just get you two a hotel room... It would be cheaper" -- only to discover later that they really were having an affair. One theme in the comments to that post is: Why the hell did the guy further humiliate himself by telling his story to the New York Times and letting them take his picture?

An article I read in the NYT this morning suggests an answer. As usual, I didn't read the article straight through. I jumped around looking at parts that interest me, forming questions, and searching for answers. This is a divorce proceeding, and the husband is a well-known -- not by me, of course -- football player: Michael Strahan.
She accused her husband of beating her, secretly videotaping her sister undressing and carrying on affairs with three different women, including one nicknamed Cupcake. He complained that his wife last year spent $22,500 on photographs, $27,000 on clothes for their 20-month-old twin daughters, and $1,700 in sign language classes — even though neither daughter is hearing impaired.
I'm completely on the side of the wife at this point. The offenses are not comparable at all. If they are rich -- and they are -- buying expensive clothes for the children is quite ordinary and even laudable. She puts her efforts into the children, and twins are a lot of work. Dressing two girls beautifully, while not the loftiest undertaking in the world, is worthwhile and, I would think, what the typical rich man would love for the mother of his children to do. Having the girls take enriching classes is also something good. To make it seem extravagant to teach them sign language when they are not hearing impaired is perfectly obtuse. Learning any language develops mental skills, and wanting to be able to communicate with people who don't speak your language or to translate for them is altruistic. Paying for education is the norm.

I scanned the article for something supporting Mr. Strahan's side and saw that there was a pre-nuptial agreement. Ah! I was ready to switch to his side. The agreement should be enforced. But what's this?
The 41-year-old Mrs. Strahan, a former cosmetics store manager, and her husband entered into a pre-nuptial agreement in 1999, the year they were married, that was to have set aside 20 percent of Mr. Strahan’s earnings annually. The accumulated amount would be hers in the event of a divorce. On top of that, she says she is owed half his assets and is seeking $14 million.

But Mr. Strahan’s lawyers have argued that the Strahans agreed to verbally void the arrangement shortly after their marriage, and that she is owed only $7 million of his estimated $23 million.
He's the one trying to get out of the agreement! He not only got her to sign a pre-nuptial agreement. He now wants her to get even less than she agreed to!

The article generalizes about how vicious both parties sound, but Mr. Strahan has no material:
For instance, the 34-year-old Mr. Strahan in a radio interview during the trial said his wife of seven years was a “very, very disturbed person” who spent to excess but at the same time had more frugal tastes like Target, Kmart and Houlihan’s Restaurant.
What sense does that make? That's the normal way people spend money. You go to a nice clothing store, but you still go to Target for housewares. You might even buy some clothes there, especially for children: socks, underwear, pajamas. This isn't a sign of a mental problem!

Strahan, I see, is a big football star with a $46 million contract and commercial endorsements. Why wouldn't he pay up quietly, following the pre-nuptial agreement? Why would he want his daughters to see this? Why would he impair his own earning power? He's done commercials for Campbell’s Chunky Soup -- a product women buy and feed to children. He's ruining the image you need for wholesome products like that.

How do you explain his behavior? Maybe his lawyers are playing him for their share of the big pot of money, but you can only be played if you've got a mind for it.

I'm thinking Michael Strahan and David Mager are case studies in divorce madness. They've lost all normal judgment and perspective. Mager is a lot easier to understand: His wife not only spent a lot of his money, she spent it providing cover for the man she was having an affair with. Strahan, what explains him? He's beyond belief! He cheated on her, he won't even meet the terms of the pre-nuptial agreement, and he's dragging the mother of his daughters through the fire for -- what? -- spending some money? Absolutely incredible!

CORRECTION: Mager wasn't married. The story is about his "longterm girlfriend." The couple had two daughters, however, and "shared" (owned?) an 18th century country house. ADDED: Too bad I'm committed to the post title "Divorce Madness." Mager's not being married makes his humiliation less poignant, more humiliating.

July 20, 2006

This is the most ridiculous article I've ever seen in the NYT.

Really, I can't get over them publishing this. It's really long too. Is David Mager someone they know or something? Even though I'm an older woman myself, and I love reading the NYT, I find myself frequently scoffing at the way so many of the articles seem designed to titillate older women. This thing seems like porn plots reprocessed for ladies who want but can't bring themselves to watch porn. And it's not just the sex. It's the real estate.

"Do you really think anything is ever going to get better as long as there are 6.2 billion people?"

"Don’t you see that the wars we are fighting now are for resources? It’s just going to get worse; it’s utterly tragic and I have no solution. I’ve been writing about this for a long time.”

I want to like novelists. Really, I do. For example, T.C. Boyle. I read him sometimes. That is to say: I subordinate my mind to his and let his thoughts become my thoughts. But then I read quotes like this, and it sets me to wondering all over again about this practice of reading novels. They're written by novelists, you know.

ADDED: Roy thinks I'm objecting to Boyle's politics. He specializes in calling me an idiot, in numerous posts, but he never seems to begin to understand my writing. Here, he comes to the defense of writers. But do writers even want to be defended by a man who is such a poor reader?

"I still have every expectation this will be a very positive educational experience for our students."

Says UW Provost Patrick Farrell. "Some are upset about Mr. Barrett's viewpoints on 9/11 and don't want to pay much attention to what makes for a quality educational experience."

Upset? Viewpoints? Farrell goes for a lightweight, breezy tone, making no effort to engage with his critics, who -- I dare say -- aren't going to believe that Farrell is paying "much attention to what makes for a quality educational experience."

I wish I could link to the article on Barrett in the Isthmus (a local paper), which ends with his expressing complete certitude that anyone reading the evidence would have to believe that the U.S. government carried out the 9/11 attacks. Where is the educational experience in learning from someone who is teaching completely outside of his field of expertise and expressing certitude in an obviously wrong theory? Ironically, Farrell's scholarly expertise is engineering.

Farrell relies on private conversations he had with Barrett, but Barrett's remarks in the Isthmus make it damned hard for ordinary Wisconsin citizens to believe that he could have given the appropriate assurances. And to tell us that we just aren't "paying attention" is insulting. I simply can't understand why Farrell doesn't take the criticisms seriously and speak to the citizens who are so outraged about this. If examining controversial ideas is such a "quality educational experience," why aren't the citizens of Wisconsin entitled to a little of it? Why brush them off and tell them that they just don't get it, they are not paying attention?

Sixty-one state lawmakers sent a letter Thursday calling on University of Wisconsin-Madison to fire [Barrett].

The letter signed by 52 Assembly representatives and nine state senators, including Republican leaders, condemns a decision earlier this month by UW-Madison Provost Pat Farrell allowing Kevin Barrett to teach an introductory class this fall on Islam.

Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, said the letter, which called Barrett's views "academically dishonest," sent a strong message to top UW leaders....

The lawmakers sent the letter to the governor, university leaders and Barrett instead of approving a formal resolution offered by Nass during the last day of their session last week. Republicans did not take up the resolution, saying it was not the right day for political bickering.
Oh, yeah, it's all just politics. Sorry, forget it. Nobody actually cares about students and education in any kind of a principled way. Now, go. Get out of here. Go pay attention to some damned thing.

Audible Althouse #59.

This one's about The Abode of Chaos, those three hickory trees that are threatening the life of a boy, and the man who's suing for the right to tan naked with his terrier.

And here's that old post I refer to: Tattoos Remind You of Death.

It's a new podcast. You can stream it right on your computer -- no iPod needed -- right here. But all the cool people subscribe on iTunes:
Ann Althouse - Audible Althouse

"I see that all the time. That doesn't make me sad."

Says Kevin Smith, to the NPR interviewer who's asking about sequels to "Clerks" where the characters keep getting older. What about a 45-year old guy manning the register at a convenience store? This is in the last 2 minutes of the linked clip, where Smith goes on at length about how some folks aren't that ambitious, they just want to get by, and somebody's got to do jobs like flipping the burgers.

Smith also talks about his Christianity about midway through the audio clip, right after a bit from his new movie "Clerks II," where the characters discuss whether the Transformers are blasphemous. Smith says: "I'm a pretty spiritual cat. I'm a prayer, sir." He's praying "hardcore" for "Clerks II" and even "busted out the rosary beads."

I found that all charmingly un-Hollywood.

Crazy storms....

Here in Madison last night and again just before dawn. Lightning can strike you through the window, can't it? I was worrying about that a few minutes ago. The strikes were so close. My grandmother told the story of standing at the kitchen sink and then coming to, lying on the kitchen floor. She'd been struck by lightning, she said. I was never sure whether to believe it, but as a young girl, I used to worry about sleeping with a bobby pin in my hair. I imagined the metal would attract the lightning.

In the middle of the night, last night, the blinds were crashing back and forth, and this morning, I saw that one screen -- were the attachment levers all the way down? -- had blown in and was lying on the floor, leaving a large window completely open for what must have been hours. Did anything fly in? I'm going to assume nothing was flying around out in the rain in the dark or, if it was, that it wouldn't have found that opening. There were leaves scattered on the floor though, and my computer was sitting in a puddle of water. It's working, but its keyboard seems to be shot. Yes, I know, normal people close the windows in a big, windy storm.

“It’s a granularity of media that we in the commercial media could not scale down to."

"Niche media is ‘me’ media, and the blogosphere is the ultimate manifestation of that." Chris Anderson, the editor in chief of Wired, the author of “The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More” reacts to the Pew report about bloggers.

“It’s going to have an impact on a lot of people, because nobody is going to want to stay for a storm again.”

The doctor who stayed when others left now faces murder charges. Other doctors left her to deal with the suffering patients:
Overheated patients were dying around her, and only a few could be taken away by helicopter, the only means of escape for the most fragile patients until the water receded. Medicines were running low, and with no electricity, patients living on machines were running out of battery power. In the chaos, Dr. Pou was left to care for many patients she did not know.
The Attorney General contends that Dr. Anna M. Pou and two nurses gave lethal injections to at least four patients:
At least three employees said Dr. Pou had talked of administering “lethal doses” of morphine to those patients. One also saw her with packs of morphine and syringes, and another witness said that out of the corner of her eye, she saw one of the two nurses inject one of the patients with something.

July 19, 2006

"Project Runway."


The snotty little man showed his vulnerable side... and had to be auf'd. He was so proud, and then he admitted his mommy hurt him and he wanted to show her, and then... oh, no! Evil mommy was right! You will never be a fashion designer! And the dress looked like that gelatinous tree fungus sometimes found in restaurant food you wish you didn't order. And it made one breast larger than the other: you can't do that.

Poor Malan! Didn't he kind of remind you of Heather Matarazzo in "Welcome to the Dollhouse"?

Didn't you want Angela to go? Quite aside from the way she tormented the poor Man on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, she didn't make a sketch during the 30 minute sketch period. I don't do sketches. How do you feel about long gloves? Ugh.

ADDED: Adam Bonin asks some good questions, like "Is there such a thing as too much ruching?" and "Is there a show you thought you were less likely to hear the term 'feminazi' than this one?" And I'd like to ask: Is there anything more distracting than having the word "Detroit" tattoo'd -- in large script -- on your neck? And don't say a woman's plunging neckline that reveals only the boniest possible chestal region.

Don't read this unless you like answering computer questions.

[ADDED: Readers answer my question -- with extra tips -- in minutes. Thanks!]

What's the best way to convert a mov file to divx on an iMac? (I record the file in QuickTime or iMovie.)

A man named Tur inspires hordes of YouTubers to add a "d" to his name.

Robert Tur, who could have just asked YouTube to remove the video someone had uploaded, instead left it there and then sued demanding $150,ooo for each of the 1,000+ viewings that occurred. YouTube took the video down when the lawsuit called attention to the problem.

Well, we knew eventually someone would sue YouTube, but could it be anyone less sympathetic then a guy who once got lucky and was there with a camera when someone else was getting beaten up?

"Cheney should use this as a teaching moment."

Lawprof Akhil Reed Amar wants Dick Cheney to argue free speech, not official immunity, to win the lawsuit brought by Valerie Plame. To argue immunity is to snuggle up alongside of Richard Nixon in the case law:
Wouldn't it make more sense for him to position himself in the lawbooks alongside John Peter Zenger?

... Cheney should use this as a teaching moment, to explain how a proper understanding of First Amendment principles actually supports him and not the Wilsons, who have claimed that Cheney violated their free-expression rights. The result would be an elegant First Amendment jujitsu, using all the Wilsons' free-press momentum against them, to defeat their lawsuits.

Here is the key fact that Cheney should stress: Unlike Nixon, who fired a government whistle-blower, Cheney did not fire the Wilsons. He merely spoke out against them. True, he did so furtively, in what many might view as an underhanded whispering campaign. But the First Amendment protects a wide variety of speech and expression, encompassing the right to print, orate, and yes, to whisper—even to whisper anonymously and with petty or partisan motivation.

And to whom were Cheney and his fellow defendants whispering? To the press! This is the other key fact for the New Dick Cheney—the Zorro/Zenger Defender of the First Amendment. The Wilsons claim that they were being punished for speaking out against Cheney and the administration. But if the Wilsons have a right to criticize Cheney in the press, Cheney can claim that he has an equal right to criticize the Wilsons when talking to the press, whether on the record or off....

[R]ather than hiding behind the claim that he, like the president, is somehow above the law, Cheney should assert that he—like any ordinary citizen!—has a legally protected right to speak to the press.
Nicely put. Read the whole thing. Amar hasn't convinced me that Cheney ought to set aside the strong defense of immunity and only make the free speech argument. Immunity is an important tool for fending off the many lawsuits that would otherwise be aimed at the individuals who undertake public service. Just because Nixon was involved in using this defense doesn't mean it's sleazy (even assuming you think Nixon is sleazy). Should you have to worry about making a free speech defense because Larry Flynt is unsavory?

But I do like the First Amendment argument. The fact is Joe Wilson made a harsh attack on the administration, and we ought to want to know who he is, in context. There is other law to protect national interests from those who would disclose government secrets. A vigorous inquiry was made into whether that law was violated, and it came up dry. This is a tort suit, and anyone who is rooting for Plame -- feeling the old anti-administration blood lust -- ought to try to calm down for a few minutes and think about the broader picture. Do you really want to intimidate people into silence this way?

Bush's first veto.

As expected, President Bush has vetoed the attempt at loosening up restrictions on stem cell research. Too bad.

"A demented jag of blasphemy, multicultural weirdness, splatter-movie tropes and inchoate meat metaphors."

Hey, kids, let's go to the movies. It's "Mad Cowgirl."

Oh, you know, the first movie I ever saw (in the theater) was about cowgirls.

Why we blog.

A survey:
About 77 percent of blog authors, or "bloggers,'' said they post to express themselves creatively rather to get noticed or paid, according to the report, released by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
I'm surprised the number is that low, especially considering the likelihood of saying this as a modest or disingenuous characterization of what you're doing if you haven't got many readers. But maybe not. What would novelists in a survey say about why they write? I think the delusion that they've got a best-seller in the making is pretty widespread. But we bloggers are a saner lot... right?

"The classical pimples of the adolescent working his first gas pump would also pump for her..."

Virginia Heffernan quotes and is disgusted by a PBS show about photographs of Marilyn Monroe:
The narration sounds like a terrible Norman Mailer rip-off except that it’s Mr. Mailer himself, professor emeritus of the University of Marilyn Blather. Like so many smart people recruited for documentaries, he drops his sense of humor and intones in that portentous, “would”-heavy way typical of programs about American culture. (“The mayo packet would change American drive-through cuisine forever.”)
He may be humorless, but it sounds like there are laughs to be had. And pictures of Marilyn.

"It's humanly intolerable, ugly, dramatic, with its images of destruction."

"Whatever you think, for me it’s not art, it’s a provocation." So says Mayor Pierre Dumont about "The Abode of Chaos," a $5 million house project that the neighbors don't like too much.
Together with artists from several countries, [Thierry] Ehrmann, who occupies the house with his two Great Danes, Saatchi and Reuters, has painted the two-story house and the wall around it black and arrayed them with giant black-and-white portraits of noted personalities, including eight popes, as well as President Bush and Osama bin Laden.

The garden is strewn with sculptures, mainly by Mr. Ehrmann, including a crashed helicopter, a wrecked oil truck marked “Halliburton” and a model of the jagged steel remains of the World Trade Center. A reproduction of an oil platform perches on the roof, which is draped with camouflage netting.

Mr. Ehrmann, who is married and has two children, began the project in 1999 as a kind of monument to his eclectic religious beliefs, which range from Roman Catholicism to alchemy. Hence the popes, but also numerous salamanders, an animal sacred to the alchemists, cut in steel and affixed to the walls of the building.
This monstrosity is in France, in St.-Romain-au-Mont-D'Or (which means Saint Lettuce on the Mountain of Gold). We here in Wisconsin understand the mentality of the house artist. We've been to The House on the Rock.

Anyway, yesterday we were talking about the neighbors who wanted to stop the woman who got the city to agree to cut down three nut trees on her property that were messing up her swimming pool and threatening the life of her grandson. So today, let's talk about a new set of neighbors who are offended by the preferences of a property owner. Let's see if you readers maintain a principled consistency, you who chided me yesterday for taking the neighbors' side and left me exposed as a tree hugger.
... Mr. Dumont has taken Mr. Ehrmann to court, arguing that he has violated laws concerning building within the town limits. In June, the court ruled against Mr. Ehrmann, fining him and ordering him to restore the house to its original state. A final verdict by an appeals court is not expected until September.

When Marc Allardon, a neighbor, peers across from his yard at Mr. Ehrmann’s house, he sees the crashed helicopter and the oil platform, but they do not disturb him. He considers Mayor Dumont and Mr. Ehrmann equally stubborn. “I try to mediate between the mayor and Thierry,” Mr. Allardon said. “Both are born hardheads.”

Indeed, Mr. Allardon has begun parodying Mr. Ehrmann, decorating his own home and declaring it a monument to a mock religion. Atop a stone column in his front yard stands a statue of the Virgin Mary arrayed in a rainbow-colored garment. A serpent made of pipe wraps its curls around her; in its mouth a sign says, “Let’s Be Tempted.”

On the roof of Mr. Allardon’s house are signs with uplifting words like “Tolerance,” “Utopia,” “Joy,” “Hope.” Artificial flowers sprout from the chimney, which is wrapped in green paper.

Mr. Allardon said he would do more, but his wife, a historian, brakes him. “She tells me to slow down,” he said. And what does he think of “The Abode of Chaos”? “At the start it was shocking,” he said. “Now I like it.”...

[Ehrmann] speaks dismissively of his opponents. “I told them, ‘Don’t commit the irreparable,’ ” he said. “ ‘In your resistance,’ I tell them, ‘you are contributing to this work. This work is encapsulating you, absorbing you.’ ” His friend Mr. Allardon is confident. “It’s like the Eiffel Tower,” he said. “At first, people were against it. Here it will be like that. Some day the Japanese tour buses will come.”
Okay, discuss the legal question. It's in France, so you can completely make stuff up.

Me, I'd just like to see the movie of this. My favorite character is Allardon. Ehrmann's ridiculous provocation is one thing, but the contrasting responses of Dumont and Allardon are what really makes it. Let's set this movie in America, so we can cast American actors. Ideas?

July 18, 2006

"I'm not going to put that on my blog."

Yeah, that's the last thing Tonya says in the vlog I helped her do, which is on her blog (and contains a bonus appearance by me). I have been demonstrating to various people the incredible ease of vlogging via Quick Time Pro, and more than that I've been showing them the pleasures of Photo Booth. But why explain that in writing, when I can vlog it?

(That was Althouse Vlog #6.)

ADDED: Here's a 4 1/2 minute clip of Steve Jobs demonstrating the new Photo Booth to a delighted audience.

"Why [HuffPo] needs $5 million in outside capital to fulfill its vision is another question."

Private Equity Week reports:
Meta blog Huffington Post, launched by talking head Ariana Huffington, is aiming to raise $5 million in venture capital-its first institutional funding round, PE Week has learned.

Huffington Post co-founder and former America Online executive Ken Lerer declined to comment on the funding, but a knowledgable source says the company has been talking to VCs and hopes to close the round by the end of summer.

HuffPo, as it is affectionately known, enjoys more than 1.3 million unique visitors monthly, according to Nielsen/Netratings. This despite the fact that most of the Hollywood stars and political heavyweights who promised to blog for Huffington stopped showing up several months after the site launched....

Why it needs $5 million in outside capital to fulfill its vision is another question. Clearly, its founders aren't hurting for money. Moreover, two weeks ago, Huffington inked an agreement with IAC/Interactive Corp., in which IAC's Advertising Solutions sales group will exclusively sell advertising for the site. Malik, who has a similar agreement with ad sales startup Federated Media, says such deals "let people focus on content and not worry about the ad stuff."

Huffington's efforts to raise outside capital may suggest that it plans to sell itself to a larger media property down the road. At least one other political blogger says he has no interest in VC because he wants to remain independent. Markos Moulitsas, founder of left-leaning political blog Daily Kos, says: "For me, outside investment is not necessary and it would make little sense for me to jeopardize the site's independence for a little more cash." He says his site is "extremely successful financially," thanks to advertisements, including one featured last week from Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO.
Yeah, I don't get it. Any ideas?

And 1.3 million visitors a month? That's not too good for them! It's half of Instapundit's traffic. And Kos... Kos has more than 10 times that. So I guess he could raise $50 million.


The inability to recognize faces.
People with face blindness can typically understand facially expressed emotions — they know whether a face is happy or sad, angry or puzzled. They can detect subtle facial cues, determine gender and even agree with everyone else about which faces are attractive and which are not. In other words, they see the face clearly, they just do not know whose face they are looking at, and cannot remember it once they stop looking.
How strange. A person with this problem must have many painful social encounters, especially before being diagnosed. On the other hand, many of us are just lazy about noticing and remembering people. We could make casual claims of prosopagnosia, the way we make casual claims of attention deficit disorder.

Two memory tips.

From today's Science Times.

1. If you want to remember something, study it right before you go to sleep.
Sleep... plays an active role in consolidating memories. “Rather than being a passive state, it’s a dynamic neurobiological process,” said Dr. Jeffrey M. Ellenbogen, the lead researcher. “It turns out that the process of memory doesn’t end when we stop studying, but continues during sleep. That’s important to all of us.”
2. If you want to avoid the memory decline associated with old age, stop believing in that association:
“The implication is that some of the things we say about ourselves in conversation — joking about ‘senior moments’ is a perfect example — these kinds of comments may in fact undermine our own memory at the time we’re saying them,” Dr. Hummert said. “And the fear is that it has a cumulative effect, that it becomes a negative feedback cycle.
On a larger issue, why are people so ready to say "I have a terrible memory." People who would never say, "I'm really not very intelligent," have no problem insulting their own memory. Quit doing that! It's probably making your memory worse. Try to memorize something at night before you go to sleep, following Tip #1, supra. Then, give yourself credit for your achievement, following my extension of Tip #2.

You won't forget to do this.

Forcing the city to cut down three mature hickory trees...

Because your 3-year-old grandson is allergic to nuts.
Some cried foul because the boy’s grandmother had some political ties and had once before sought to have one of the stately trees cut down because it interfered with her pool. Others criticized the city’s decision to demand only a $1,000 donation from the family for new, “less allergenic’’ plantings to replace what might be $143,000 in city property. “It looks like the future of Milford will be concrete and chlorine,’’ said Christine Simpson, whose house faces the doomed trees....

“It’s just a shame,” said Ms. Simpson, who asserted that Mrs. Glennon’s family was “using the child thing’’ and not acting in good faith. “There are hickory trees all around the house, and it’s just the three trees over the pool she wants out,’’ Ms. Simpson said.
And don't blame the courts. It's the city. Do you think the courts should oppose the city? It's quite unlikely that they will. Isn't the best approach for the neighbors to shame Glennon by getting newspapers to run articles like this one?

Don't you think Glennon ought to move if she doesn't like the trees? Trees are immensely valuable to everyone in the neighborhood.
Mrs. Glennon ... said valuing the trees at $143,000, as one member of the tree commission did, was absurd. She said only one of the trees was there when she moved into the neighborhood four decades ago and that the other two shot up on their own. “Do you think vagabond trees are worth that?’’ she asked.
Vagabond trees! Ha.

Anyway, you'll be glad to know they've found a nut-free school for the boy to attend.

The President and the open microphone.

Yesterday, I considered writing a little post about President Bush's remarks that were caught on a microphone that wasn't supposed to be on, but I couldn't think up anything interesting to say about it. (The key quote is: "See, the irony is what they really need to do is to get Syria to get Hezbollah to stop doing this shit.") Frankly, I don't care if the President says "shit" in private conversations unless it upsets the person he's talking to.

Then, I saw the brutal treatment of President Bush that Jon Stewart did last night on "The Daily Show," and I reconsidered. The funny thing is that what bothered me intensely was the way President Bush was chewing with his mouth open right before he said it, which Stewart imitated mercilessly. But that's got nothing to do with a microphone left on. He knew he was on camera. I really don't get it! He eats like that at an official affair? That's only marginally acceptable at a backyard barbecue with your drunken friends.

Anyway, reading the NYT this morning, I was surprised at how mellow its article was. They don't find the actual "shit" quote fit to print. They just say:
Using a vulgarity, Mr. Bush said at one point that Syria should get Hezbollah to stop its attacks on Israel, describing American policy in the kind of unfettered language that he acknowledged only weeks ago sometimes gets him in trouble when he uses it publicly.
But Jim Rutenberg's article doesn't concentrate on that one quote, but on the general tone of the President's "chit-chat."
“No, I’m just going to make it up,” Mr. Bush said in one aside, presumably to an aide, apparently referring to remarks he would be making to the other leaders. “I’m not going to talk too damn long like the rest of them. Some of these guys talk too long.”
I'm sure they do. They've got Bush in their presence to lecture.
...Mr. Blair walks by, and the president yells out, “Yeah, Blair, what are you doing? Leaving?” It is the beginning of a conversation contrasting Mr. Blair’s soft-spoken style to Mr. Bush’s more forceful one, with Mr. Bush often interrupting him.

After Mr. Blair raises the issues of global trade talks, Mr. Bush abruptly changes the subject to a recent gift from the prime minister for Mr. Bush’s 60th birthday. “Thanks for the sweater, awfully thoughtful of you,” Mr. Bush says, then jokes, “I know you picked it out yourself.”

Mr. Blair, laughing, says, “Oh, absolutely, absolutely.”

Mr. Bush again abruptly changes the subject to the most serious matter of the meetings here, the Middle East. “What about Kofi?” he says, referring to Mr. Annan. “That seems odd.”...

“I don’t like the sequence of it,” Mr. Bush said. “His attitude is basically, cease fire and everything else happens.”
Does it hurt to hear that?

ADDED: And then there's "einer Blitz-Massage."

July 17, 2006

"A Scanner Darkly."

I hadn't gone out to a movie theater, I think, since last December January. (The movie was "Capote.") I'd been considering various movies but never quite got sufficiently motivated until today. It's not just that I wanted to see "A Scanner Darkly." It's that it was also disgustingly hot out, and that pushed me over the edge.

I love Richard Linklater -- the director -- mostly from "Slacker," which will always be one of my very favorite movies. And I'm interested in Philip K. Dick enough to care. I also like flat animation a lot, even thought Linklater's watery, flow-y rotoscoped style, which I'd seen in "Waking Life," is not my favorite thing. But that was enough. I finally went to the movies.

I took some folded up notebook paper in case I wanted to write down quotes for a blog post. Here, let me put this through my scanner (darkly):

notes from

The word "bigs" is supposed to be "bugs." I wrote that during the first scene, which was harrowing... and involved bugs. I forgot I'd already written on that side of the fold when I wrote down a sentence from a long conversation three hopeless Substance D addicts had about a guy who wanted to be an imposter -- like the guy Leonardo DiCaprio played in "Catch Me If You Can" -- but he figured out he could just be an imposter imposter: "You could just pose as an imposter, it would be a lot easier."

Despite the seeming charm of that, this is not a film that finds drug use cute. It's very hallucinatory, so it's most likely to draw in an audience that is interested in drugs, but it is devastatingly antidrug, to the point where it made me feel guilty for writing that post last week about psilocybin. Just say no, kids, or you will be scrounging around in the dirt of an endless cornfield trying to pick the little blue flowers of death.

The film was quite brilliant, and if you think about it hard you can figure out what happened. Presumably, it helps to have read the book, which I haven't. It would probably be more enjoyable the second time for me, to notice all the details now that I understand the story.

While I've got the scanner fired up and receiving my handwritten notes, here are the (extensive!) notes I made for podcast #55:


They seem hallucinatory in the afterglow of "A Scanner Darkly."

"I'll bet your office isn't that yellow."

It's Althouse Vlog #5.

"I used to be the tight one/the perfect fit/funny how those compliments can/make you feel so full of it."

That's the precise point in the CD when I realized I had to write a post to give The Dresden Dolls the Althouse seal of approval. I was already completely taken in by the time I got to "Coin Operated Boy," but something about that line made me laugh out loud.

And that website is really nice. Here's their hate mail page. And they're offering up some downloads here.

The singer, Amanda, should remind you of the great Nico, and she also reminds me of the great Val Haynes, whom you may not remember, who sang the lead in a band that Spin Magazine, with the help of Elvis Costello, once selected as the best unsigned band in America. The band -- The Units, AKA Fear of Strangers -- remained unsigned, and that was back around 1980, when you didn't have the internet to let you leap over the obtuseness of idiots.


You may remember a couple Christmases back, we got absorbed, Chez Althouse, in playing all the versions of "Blue Christmas" we could find. Here's a look at all the versions of "Hallelujah," the incredibly beautiful Leonard Cohen song. I found that via Metafilter, where they are talking about this entrancing rendition of the song. Then there's this Ask Metafilter discussion of what the lyrics mean.

"A gift to all those who want to malign liberals as America-haters and to portray the academy as a hotbed of left-wing lunacy."

Cathy Young has a piece in The Boston Globe about what she calls our "academic follies" at UW. As you remember from earlier posts here, Kevin Barrett, a part-time instructor hired to teach this fall will be inflicting his idiotic 9/11 conspiracy theory on any students foolish enough to sign up for his course. (Note to students: You have the power to strand Mr. Barrett in an empty room.)

Cathy writes:
Defenders of the course say that academic freedom is at stake. But does academic freedom really protect the teaching of what Farrell politely calls "unconventional" views? How about a course expounding on Flat Earth theory and presenting "compelling evidence" that the moon landing was faked? Or, better yet, how about a course called "Germany: History and Culture," in which the instructor presented his "unconventional" view that the Holocaust is a myth and Hitler was a misunderstood great leader?
This is a crucial point. Farrell's invocation of academic freedom only works if he would apply it in a viewpoint neutral way. But how can we believe that he would?
Mir Babar Basir, a recent University of Wisconsin graduate and former president of the Muslim Students Association, told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel that Barrett had many supporters, which was not surprising since "Madison is fairly liberal." But what exactly is 'liberal" about the belief in bizarre conspiracy theories? If one wants to promote tolerance toward Muslims and counter the stereotypes that equate all Islam with terrorism, denying the link between Islamic fanaticism and Sept. 11 is hardly the way to go about it.

No one knows if Barrett's nonsense will persuade any of his students. One thing, however, is clear: His course, and the university's lame defense of it, are a gift to all those who want to malign liberals as America-haters and to portray the academy as a hotbed of left-wing lunacy.
To be fair, I think most liberals and lefties around here -- not that I'm talking to everyone -- just want to keep their distance from this character. The strategy is to move to a high level of abstraction and talk about academic freedom. I'd like to see them use their free speech to say some more robust things and to engage with the horror that ordinary citizens feel when they see something this repulsive being taught at what they think they should be able to embrace as their public university.

The official reaction from the provost must feel snooty and elitist: You people need to appreciate abstract principles. But when the tables are turned, for example, in the case of affirmative action, the university will say exactly the opposite: You people naively refer to abstract principles, but you don't understand the subtle, contexualized problem.

It's no wonder people get so mad at us. And it's no wonder right wingers find rich raw material to exploit. Why don't the good, serious, scholarly, sane liberals and lefties at the University of Wisconsin speak to the citizens who are watching us?

BlogHer... and plotting the trip to San Jose.

Are you going to the BlogHer convention next week? I'm on a panel on day two, which is described like this on the website:
Political Blogging:

Same shit, different day? What did political blogs accomplish in 2004, besides bringing down Dan Rather and selling tickets to Farenheit 911? Will poli-blogs and hyper-local citizen journalism sites really make a difference in 2006 and 2008? Are bloggers better off trying to influence their own communities or sway the masses? Lisa Williams talks with Jarah Euston and Kety Esquivel, Courtney Hollands, Lindsay Beyerstein and Ann Althouse...bloggers representing all types of blogs, and with a range of opinions on what they expect to achieve with those blogs.

Any advice? I've got to say that if I weren't on this panel, I'd be more interested in one of the other panels going on at the same time. I'm really not that interested in politics, and I usually like to keep it at arm's length. But that will kind of be my topic. Political blogging is not just for politicos, and being not the political type is an angle on politics that can work in blogging. It drives the really political people to distraction.

This is going to force me to leave Madison, which I've been avoiding for the longest time. I've spent a lot of time looking at maps. Yes, of course I'm driving. I love my car and I love to drive across the western landscape. It's a long way to San Jose, and please don't mention that song, which is hard enough not to think about when you're going to San Jose. And the person in the song is just trying to get to San Jose from L.A. How hard is that? What a loser!

Plotting my route, I kept my eye on two things: the green dotted lines representing the scenic drives and the one motel chain that made it absolutely clear that they have wireless internet in every room at every location. Do you know how many chains brag that they have high-speed access ... in the lobby? My favorite example was one that showed a beautiful woman in a bathrobe sprawled across her bed, smiling with delight at her laptop. Some lobby that must be.

In the past, I've driven long distances and just figured out where to stop as I was traveling, which can cause some trouble, like the day I drove all the way from Madison to Salt Lake City and then thought I might as well go on to the next town. If you don't know how stupid that is, look at a map. [ADDED: Speaking of being driven to distraction!]

So, I've picked my stops, which I hope will keep me from doing foolish things and free my mind for the true aesthetic and spiritual experience of crossing the landscape. I'm taking three days to get to the destination and somewhat longer driving back, which will include a stay at a very posh resort. So I'm driving a big loop, for a total of well over 4,000 miles, with stopping points in two places on the way to San Jose and three places on the way back to Madison.

July 16, 2006

Flight 800 -- it was 10 years ago, tomorrow.

What happened?
Investigators eventually recovered 98 percent of the wreckage from the ocean floor and painstakingly rebuilt a large part of the airliner.

"We studied if it had been a missile, what would it have done to the fuselage? We had scientists in the desert shooting rockets into old fuselages," [said Robert Francis, the former vice chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board.] "We didn't find a single piece of wreckage that would have pointed to that kind of explosion. So I say to the missile theorists, 'Show me something."' ...

In the end, he said the definitive answer to the mystery was the center fuel tank.

Why did so many people have doubts?

"It's more acceptable to the public if somebody did this, rather than blame it on maintenance or design," said Pete Field, a retired Marine Corps pilot from Missouri who now works as an aviation crash consultant.

He said witnesses who claimed to have seen streaks of light heading toward the doomed jetliner were actually seeing the plane breaking up after the catastrophe -- the official theory offered by the NTSB.

"You see trails [of light] and it's easy to get your mind confused," he said. "I do accident investigations all the time and I find that the mind traps an image, even if it's not there. Even some aviation experts will tell you they saw something that just could not have happened."
Why do people find it "more acceptable" to believe that something was done intentionally than to see it as just a mistake? It's painful to think that human beings can be so evil, but maybe we like to have an image of punishing someone for the things that go very wrong.

But it's larger than that. We like to think there's meaning, that behind what has happened there is an intelligence, thinking and planning. We reveal this need when we believe in God and when we say "Everything happens for a reason." So if bad things happen, we even want there to be evil people who did it.

If the weather is bad, instead of it being just more meaningless weather, we think God has sent it, perhaps to punish us for our sins, or we can leave God out of the explanation and say it is just our bad behavior -- greedily burning fossil fuels -- that is the cause. I'm not saying the theory that human beings are causing global warming isn't true, just that thinking it is true is one of the things that satisfies our need to find someone responsible.

You see trails of light and it's easy to get your mind confused.

"I really, honestly, believe that the more creative you are, the more likely you are to be a liberal."

So says Charles E. Sellier Jr. And he's not doing that thing where you think that the people who agree with you are finer, better, truer, more beautiful, more talented, more all-around wonderful than those slimy rats who don't. He's a righty director.
What [three right-leaning filmmakers] acknowledge... is that something besides liberal bias is responsible for the striking shortage of conservative nonfiction cinema at a time when filmmakers on the other end of the spectrum are flooding screens with messages about global warming, the war in Iraq and the downside of Wal-Mart.
If it were a left-wing agenda, it wouldn't be traceable to the studios. They don't deal in documentaries. It could be the film festival programmers. But left-wing politics might be inherent in the nature of filmmaking. Here, the theory is that "the very nature of conservatism runs counter to the rebellious impulses that make a good film... that a critique like Robert Greenwald’s 'Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price' is inherently more exciting than a defense like Ron Galloway’s 'Why Wal-Mart Works.'"
“The origin of the word conservative is about not changing, accepting what is,” said the director Wash Westmoreland, who is not a conservative. “And that’s never a very interesting thing to make a film about. The thing that drives you to make a documentary is seeing it as a way to social change. Societies with little conflict tend not to make interesting art.”
And yet, lefty critiques usually follow a predictable pattern. And it actually isn't the slightest bit innovative to display rebelliousness. It's a huge Hollywood tradition, going back to the silent era. So are we really talking about creativity?

Call in the grave digger...

For the man who wanted his wife "transformed from gold digger to ash and rubbish digger.''

"So I said to myself, 'Self...'"

Language Logger, Benjamin Zimmer tries to figure out who got the first laugh with that locution. Does it come from country music or Spike Jones or does it go back to vaudeville ... or is it in the Bible?

Speaking of Spike Jones -- and unrelated to "self, Self" -- I turned the satellite radio all the way down to the 1940s channel the other day as I was watching for the light to turn green at the corner of Regent and Midvale, and they were in the middle playing his version of "You Always Hurt the One You Love." I was laughing in my car, something I almost never do -- unless I'm with a passenger, in which case, I laugh all the time and I might not even wait for the light to turn green.

So you were at the corner of Regent and Midvale, eh? Any more stray info you'd like to include in this post?

Yes, in fact, I'd like to say that I've noticed the mind's strange tendency to record and store the locations where the car was when a particular song was played on the radio or a passage read in an audiobook. I don't realize I've saved this unnecessary knowledge until I hear or think about the song or passage again and I picture the place where the car was. The reverse happens too: I'm driving through the place again and I remember the song/passage. I think that's awfully funny but also profound and quite mysterious. They mind has its own wild system of organization, and if you tried to organize your house, office, work, or life according to that system, you'd get all mixed up, wouldn't you? Perhaps not. Perhaps we are using this system, and it's why we're always failing to do much at all after all those times when we say to ourself, Self, you've got to get organized.

By the way: visualizing the placement of ideas in a physical environment is a classic mnemonic device, the one used by this fabulous character.

Tracking down links for this post and reading the Wikipedia entry for Spike Jones's "You Always Hurt the One You Love," I see that the first part of the song contains some "Amos and Andy"-style humor -- which you can hear in the clip found on this page -- and I hasten to add that I showed up in the 1940s zone of the radio after that part of the song had played. So don't knock me for laughing at that. But go ahead and hit me if you think I've failed to respond correctly to a song that makes a big joke out of domestic violence.