November 29, 2008

The Blogofractal.



From xkcd.

Subtle editorializing at the image juxtaposition level.

Noted on The Drudge Report today:



(Enlarge.)

"I have come to view hotness as the enemy of everything about pop culture that I enjoy."

Linda Holms hates hotness.
Because hotness is a vapid, ill-considered cheat so you don't have to discuss, think about, or take a position regarding the quality of anything. "You know what's hot? Twilight!" "Okay, but...is it good?" "Not the point! Not the point! Read these 1000 words on why it's hot!"

Consider the Rolling Stone ["hot"] list. Barack Obama is hot; so is Leighton Meester from Gossip Girl. The sport of winching is hot; so is genuinely brilliant musician Bon Iver.

The closest I can come to explaining what "hot" is supposed to mean in this context is something like: "Things you have already heard of, or things that everyone else has heard of except for you, and if anyone finds out you haven't heard of them, they'll make fun of you, so listen carefully."...

If you wander through the recent news listings looking for the word "Hottest," you will see exactly what I mean. As of this writing, the results include Lonely Planet's possible endangering of the Bay Of Fires by naming it the "Hottest Travel Destination" of the year; a discussion of the continuing hotness of the Wii; and plenty of coverage of the aforementioned Suri Cruise being named the Forbes "Hottest Tot."

That's right: Hottest Baby.
Hottest Baby? Is hottest baby thirsty? I've got just the thing.

I think Holmes should simmer down. There's a benefit to labeling things hot. It tells you to move on to something else, something newer and hipper or -- if you hate hipness even more than hotness -- to whatever it is you actually like as a matter of personal taste -- if you still have any. If you don't. Get some. It's hot.

Jorn Utzon, architect of the Sydney Opera House, never saw his creation.

And now, at age 90, he has died, and the question whether he will ever return to Australia and see it has been answered for good.

From Bill Bryson's book "In a Sunburned Country":
Nothing so daringly inclined and top-heavy had ever been built before and no one was sure that it could be. In retrospect, the haste with which the project was begun was probably its salvation. One of the lead engineers later noted that if anyone had realized at the outset how nearly impossible a challenge it would be, it would never have gotten the go-ahead. Just working out the principles necessary to build the roof took five years -- the whole project had been intended to last no more than six -- and construction in the end dragged on for almost a decade and a half. The final cost came in at a weighty A$102 million, fourteen times the original estimate.

Utzon, interestingly, has never seen his prized creation. He left the project in 1966 in a dispute over rising costs and has never been back. He also never designed anything remotely as celebrated.

"It's the recession that creates a political opening here. I think there's great receptivity on the part of legislators... because of the economy."

Receptivity to what? To higher taxes here in Wisconsin, where there is a $5.4 billion budget shortfall. The quote above is from Jack Norman, the research director of the Institute for Wisconsin's Future. I'd really like to know why the recession creates receptivity to higher taxes. Is the idea that when people are beaten up badly enough they won't notice a few extra punches?

"Obama may do more for George Bush's reputation than anyone thinks."

Says Victor Davis Hanson.

What are the strange luminous shapes in the shadows?

I was the only one who noticed them...

DSC09638

but if someone else had noticed...

DSC09637

... they might have thought: angels!

AFTERTHOUGHT: ... strange luminous ...

Why is it so hard to fight pirates?

"[T]he bureaucratic and legal hurdles facing international institutions and national governments have so far defeated most efforts to deal with the nimble crews of pirates in speedboats, whose tactics have grown bolder as their profits have paid for better weapons and equipment."

Number of ships hijacked this year: 40.

Ransom collected so far: $25,000,000.

Orin Kerr makes having the middle name "Ralph" and failure to be "super nice" into a federal crime.

How can one lawprof, acting alone, rewrite federal criminal law?

"Naturally as a human being ... some kind of desire for sex comes, but then you use human intelligence..."

"... to make comprehension that those couples always full of trouble. And in some cases there is suicide, murder cases."

The Dalai Lama -- not using a translator but speaking in English -- explains why celibacy is the best way of life: "We miss something, but at the same time, compare whole life, it's better, more independence, more freedom."
Considered a Buddhist Master exempt from the religion's wheel of death and reincarnation, the Dalai Lama waxed eloquent on the Buddhist credo of non-attachment.

"Too much attachment towards your children, towards your partner," was "one of the obstacle or hindrance of peace of mind," he said.
Less attachment, more peace and freedom.

Comments please... if you are not too distracted by your own personal obstacles and hindrances.

IN THE COMMENTS: Paddy O says:
This is little different than Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 7.
... I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.

And the unmarried woman and the virgin are anxious about the affairs of the Lord, so that they may be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about the affairs of the world, how to please her husband.

I say this for your own benefit, not to put any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and unhindered devotion to the Lord.
That people assume hypocrisy on such comments is sad, but probably deserved in some cases. Not most, however. It's just the hypocrites that get in the news and cause such terrible problems.

Those that live up to this, who have lived as the Dalai Lama, do in fact find a focus and dedication. But it's hard. It's hard just like any kind of discipline is hard. Especially in a culture that equates sexual activity with identity.

Those who can face this passion, feel the burn and use the energy for positive directions, do in fact find an enlightenment of a kind that those consumed with sex can't, and won't, understand.

There was a Seinfeld episode on this... George gets entirely smarter when he can't have sex.
That "Seinfeld" episode is "The Abstinence."
Jerry: You're no longer pre-occupied with sex, so your mind is able to focus.

George: You think?

Jerry: Yeah. I mean, let's say this is your brain. (Holds lettuce head) Okay, from what I know about you, your brain consists of two parts: the intellect, represented here (Pulls off tiny piece of lettuce), and the part obsessed with sex. (Shows large piece) Now granted, you have extracted an astonishing amount from this little scrap. But with no-sex-Louise, this previously useless lump, is now functioning for the first time in its existence. (Eats tiny piece of lettuce)

George: Oh my God. I just remembered where I left my retainer in second grade. I'll see ya. (He throws finished Rubik's cube to Jerry and he exits.)....

...

Elaine: What is with all these books?

George: I stopped having sex.
But let's not forget, if we're going to believe "Seinfeld," that "the no sex thing" has a "reverse effect" on women:
Jerry: To a woman, sex is like the garbage man. You just take for granted the fact that any time you put some trash out on the street, a guy in a jumpsuit's gonna come along and pick it up. But now, it's like a garbage strike. The bags are piling up in your head. The sidewalk is blocked. Nothing's getting through. You're stupid.

Elaine: I don't understand.

Jerry: Exactly.

So this promotion of celibacy, in "Seinfeld" logic, is a male supremacy scheme.

Ah, but recognize that the "Seinfeld" logic is also a male supremacy scheme.

Which male supremacy scheme is more powerful?

November 28, 2008

"Jdimytai Damour.... thrown back onto the black linoleum tiles and trampled in the stampede..."

Shopping frenzy and death. At Walmart.

ADDED: I wonder if it's true that Damour was literally trampled. Did people really walk on him and brutally crush or smother him? Or did he simply fall over in the push and then die perhaps of a heart attack?

"His last words before being cut off were 'Lo tov'... which means 'not good' in Hebrew."

Rabbi Gavriel Holtzberg -- along with his wife Rivka -- died in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

AND: "The miracle of this life continues to unfold for me on a daily basis," wrote Alan Scherr, who "devoted his life to meditation and the search for peaceful balance." He took his 13-year-old daughter Naomi with him to India, on a spiritual quest. The 2 of them died in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

"Thief... the people remember." "Regime change... at last."

DSC09639

2 posters on a Madison window.

"I would like to be a person remembered as a person who, first and foremost, did not sell his soul in order to accommodate the political process."

Bush speaks.
"I’d like to be a president (known) as somebody who liberated 50 million people and helped achieve peace; that focused on individuals rather than process; that rallied people to serve their neighbor."
He can say that, but can anybody hear him?

One thing I notice is his reuse of the word "process." What is this process that he sees himself as above and apart from? What about the detainees who argue they were denied due process? Surely, the President did not intend to jog our thoughts about them. He meant this focus on the individual in a warm, compassionate, positive way, I presume. But if you regard an individual as evil and ignore process, where will focus on individuals take you? There's a reason why process is fundamental to the rule of law.

Others may read about metaphysics. Me, I'm making a puppet out of the sugar packet...

... drawing on the recycled-paper-brown napkins...

DSC09654

... and wondering if it's possible to finish a blueberry scone.

The question arose: Is time not an illusion?

At long last, I finished the scone, performed a puppet show to the tune of "Hang on Sloopy"...



... scrounged for the last crumbs of scone, and worrying about the 2-hour limit on my parking spot, took leave of the Metaphysics Café.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Did you notice the chef's hat?

DSC09699

So everyone hated Rosie O'Donnell's attempt at bringing back the old-fashioned variety show.

I can tell from all the links about it on Drudge. Is it that people just don't like Rosie anymore, that no one wants variety shows anymore, or is it just the combination of Rosie and variety that's poison? Writing the headline to this post, I typo'd "old-fashioned variety sow," which seemed like a clue from my not-very-nice subconscious.

Only 5 million tuned in at all, so the problem can't have been the actual content of the show:
Segments included Kathy Griffin impersonating Nancy Grace, Alec Baldwin hitting Conan O'Brian with a pie, O'Donnell singing "City Lights" with Liza Minnelli and Jane Krakowski doing a product-placement-themed striptease for White Castle burgers and Crest Whitestrips.

Critics were not kind. The NY Times described it as "hokey comedy with an enemies list." TV Guide called it a "ghastly ego trip." And the LA Times asked, "Rosie, what on earth were you thinking?"
That NYT review -- from Alessandra Stanley -- came after the show aired. So it seems the concept was off-putting enough to people, but if hadn't been, they'd have found the execution deadly. Per Stanley:
In between skits, celebrity cameos and hokey novelty acts, the legendarily thin-skinned Ms. O'Donnell found time to take potshots at some of her favorite targets, including Donald Trump, Nancy Grace and Bill O'Reilly....

Ms. O'Donnell's self-referential swats at detractors were light, but they clashed with the context, lending a hard, contemporary edge to what was intended to be a corny, heartfelt homage to variety shows of yesteryear, like "The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour" and "The Carol Burnett Show."...
It's not easy to be the brilliant Ms. Burnett, and you should never, never underestimate what constitutes the greatness that is Cher.

From the L.A. Times:
For weeks now NBC has seduced and tantalized with the promise of a cross between Carol Burnett and “Sonny and Cher.” And this is what we get? Rosie in a glitter top having Baldwin speak into her cleavage and making jokes about her weight? Someone get a hold of Tim Conaway, stat.
Tim Conaway? I guess the L.A. Times doesn't really spend much time reminiscing about the old Carol Burnett show.

Joe Gandelman blogs:
If you’re a student of show biz history, there are books that detail the careers of Burnett, Sullivan, and Martin that chronicle the thought and care that went into the preparation of their shows and what they were trying to do on them....

But what you don’t read as much about are the many variety shows that hideously flopped over the past 50 years and the performers who either hit a dead end and didn’t do as well on weekly TV series as they did in other venues: Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr. Jerry Lewis and a host of other. Every attempt at a variety show didn’t click: a huge number of shows noisily bombed....

So the variety show format isn’t dead. It could still be revived– with the right performer who isn’t controversial, with careful thought, and with packaging and production values more akin to a Vegas or cruise style variety show than a celebrity vanity production with a bunch of celebrities instead of high-powered talent of its era.
Any ideas as to who could fit that role? Celebrities are so awful these days. Who wants to see how they behave presenting other celebrities?

We'd rather watch another season of "American Idol," with third-rate music and annoying youngsters who only want to become the celebrities who have become too loathsome to watch. At least we get to see "American Idol" contestants judged and insulted for thinking they are much good. Maybe the old variety format could live again with a panel of judges or some sort of on-screen vote tally as we phone in and tell them they're nowhere near as good as they think they are.

Buy stuff.

You're supposed to buy stuff today. I read that in the newspaper.

November 27, 2008

"so far it s been a pretty good thanksgiving"

blogging cockroach said...
weird but pretty good
you see mom here at the house is french
dad is american
their son tommy
whose computer i use
is very confused
that didn t stop tommy from making a very good
pumpkin pie which i just sampled yum dessert
anyway you know the french don t eat early
so mom s idea of thanksgiving dinner is 6 pm
that s super early in france
that s super crazy over here
dad says thanksgiving is the only day
the americans eat better than the frence
mom says merde
but mom did get talked into making a dinde
that s turkey in french
with the usual fixings
but how do you explain stuffing to the french
not to mention creamed onions
but mom did her best with dad s help
and it all worked out
though they got into a bit of a dustup
the biggest problem was the wine
why am i not surprised
dad had this bottle of puligny montrachet
picked out and mom says it s all wrong
dad says ok we ll drink the mondavi
you ve been cooking with if that s how
you re going to be and mom says you need
a nice cote du rhone but not chateauneuf du pape
more something like a cornas
and dad says but that s red and i drink white
wine with turkey and mom says your palate
isn t educated so go open one of those bottles of
05 cornas in the basement before the
damn dinde drys and i get angry
so they had a slightly sulkey dinner with dad
coughing and making faces at the wine
and mom reminding tommy that the pilgrims
and the indians probably didn t have any good wine
but some people never learn to appreciate such
things and it was just as well they drank
beer and dad says he could use a good beer
about now

well this went on and given the late start
and the bickering over wine things didn t wind up
until very late when it was too hard
to really clean up well which is fine by me
as you know i like to dine fashionably late too

Talk about Thanksgiving... or anything...

Checkout

... at the Paper Bird Café.

"We have water and we're hunkered down and patient and ready to wait it out. We're OK. Last night was a different story, but today we're OK."

An American woman, still trapped in the Taj Mahal hotel.

UPDATE: Who is doing this?
Christine Fair, senior political scientist and a South Asia expert at the RAND Corporation, was careful to say that the identity of the terrorists could not yet be known. But she insisted the style of the attacks and the targets in Mumbai suggested the militants were likely to be Indian Muslims and not linked to Al Qaeda or Lashkar-e-Taiba, another violent South Asian terrorist group.

“There’s absolutely nothing Al Qaeda-like about it,” she said of the attack. “Did you see any suicide bombers? And there are no fingerprints of Lashkar. They don’t do hostage-taking and they don’t do grenades.” By contrast, [Sajjan Gohel, a security expert in London] said “the fingerprints point to an Islamic Al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist group."

"Society still recognises that adultery damages social order."

"The punishment of a two-year jail term is not excessive when comparing it to responsibility."

So said the South Korean court to Ok So-ri
-- okay, sorry -- a famous -- and married -- actress, who had an affair with a famous pop singer. She relied, unsuccessfully on a right of "sexual self-determination and privacy."

"He's a socialist, a Muslim, an actual love-child of Malcolm X."

"His birth certificate was missing, his book had been ghost-written by William Ayers, and his wife, 'Mrs. Grievance,' as a National Review cover dubber her, was perennially on the cusp of getting caught ranting against the white man. The only thing keeping the Illinois senator's infamy from going public is the quiescence of the liberal media."

Dubber? Uh, dub, that's how Michael Schaffer -- author of the upcoming One Nation Under Dog -- characterizes the beliefs of the Obama-haters out there, in a New Republic article that my "Today at TNR.com" email titled "Why Anti-Obama Hate Will Be So Different Than Anti-Clinton Hate." Dub, are we saying "different than" now? "Anti-Obama haters" -- are they different than -- I'm catching on -- plain old Obama haters or do they hate them too? Why are we contrasting Obama haters only to Clinton haters -- or anti-Clinton haters, if that makes more sense to you -- and not also to Bush haters?

It seems to me that hating the President has been an American tradition for a long, long time. I was going to say ever since the Kennedy assassination, but then I vividly remember people hating JFK. I was 12 years old when JFK was assassinated, and on that day, a school mate asked "Who would do such a thing?" I thought it was an easy question and the obvious answer was: Republicans.

So, yes, it's an American tradition to hate the President, and there are always going to be some people digging up reasons to hate the President -- reasons that are true and false and everything in between.

Schaffer writes:
Whatever its effectiveness ahead of Election Day, the right-wing hate campaign made for a nice exercise in nostalgia. For eight years, opposition politics have mainly involved attacking the president for, like, things he's done or wanted to do in office----and not, say, secret religious view he holds or convoluted murders involving his wife. Now, after an administration in the wilderness, they were back--the conspiracy theorists, the paranoiacs, the fringe figures whose dubious relationships with the truth weren't enough to disqualify them from star turns in the right-wing media. The last Democratic president had spent his White House years in perpetual battle against well-funded crackpots peddling far-fetched theories, and now this one would, too.
Oh, so Bush hating belongs in a different category because... the author agrees with it. It was "for, like, things he's done or wanted to do in office." Like, okay, I get it. None of that Bush-hating crap was paranoid, conspiracy nonsense? He was accused of blowing up the World Trade Center!

Skipping ahead in the article:
Once he was living in the White House and flying around on Air Force One, Clinton became a symbol of the country, for better or worse, and attacks on his love for America became a lot less credible. And for all his faults, he also became the rapidly graying man in a suit on TV every night rather than a bearded hippie whose (fake?) marijuana-smoking represented a Main Street worry.

The same thing will happen to President Obama. Once he's the man at the lectern with the presidential seal--the real one--he's pretty hard to dismiss as a frightening outsider... In 2009, Obama's [sic] will move elsewhere, too. But where?
As Shaffer sees it, Bill Clinton did some things in office that spurred new nutty conspiracy theories and promoting these theories was more difficult in the days before YouTube. Because of these differences, Shaffer says, Obama hate will leave behind all the crazy theories from the campaign and become what Bush hating has (supposedly) been: critique of any real failures of governing. Happily, then, "the only thing he has to do now is govern well."

Dub?

Of course, it would be nice if people were sensible and scrupulous about the facts and the conclusions they draw from them. But Shaffer himself falls way short in this very essay, in a respected political magazine, one that presumably has fact-checkers (and editors). I think President-hating will rage on, mixing truth with flakiness, fantasy, nastiness, and anything else anybody wants to offer in the marketplace of ideas.

What Shaffer is selling... I'm not buying.

"Praying that your own Thanksgiving Dinner, and those of your Audience, should, in no wise, consist of Gruel..."

Sir Archy, our ghost commenter, pays us a Thanksgiving visit:
To Professor Althouse.

Dear Madam,

As the Ghost of a Gentleman, dead these 260 Years and more, you may imagine the Tales of Adventure in untam'd Quarters of the Globe that I had read in my younger Days.

In truth, my earliest Reading was much proscrib'd by my Parents, intending me as they did for the Holy Ministry. During my Service in the Army, however, I more than made up for my youthful Neglect of this Species of Entertainment; the Reading of heroick Romances being a more wholesome Pastime in Camp, than, Whoring, Drinking & Gambling, the habitual Diversions of too many of my Fellow-Officers.

After my Discharge following the Wars, when I was first employ'd as Secretary to My Lord, the Earl of O-----, I had form'd an Ambition to become the anonymous Author of such Books; but, I may tell you, Madam, the appearance of Gulliver's Travels in the Year 1726, compleatly overthrew my Plans. In a Stroke, Dr. Swift turn'd such Tales on their Heads, having made one into a biting Satire, and thus all others of its Kind into Laughingstocks.

Dr. Pepusch and Mr. Gay did a very similar thing when they wrote their Beggar's Opera, and so drove Mynheer Handel's ridiculous Italian Operas from the Stage. Of course, neither Opera Seriæ, nor Tales of Heroick Courage in remote Lands ceas'd to be made; but, they came to be regarded with bemus'd Contempt by the more intelligent Part of the Publick.

The Story of the American Colonists' first ordain'd Day of Thanksgiving at Plymouth in Massachusetts was wholly unfamiliar to me from my Youth. I may have read an Account of it, as an Example of proper Christian Gratitude for GOD's manifest Favour; but, as you may imagine, it made as little Impression upon me as one of the good Rev. Dimwiddie's ancient Sixty Sermons Saving Sinners' Sicke Soules, that was forc'd upon me at about the same Time. I had rather have read Pilgrim's Progress, and at least found Pleasure in a lively Style, than to have had my tiring Eye fall on such dreary Examples of Christian Perseverance as the Story of the bare Escape by the so-call'd Pilgrims of New-England from the Ill-Effects of their own Bungling, all puff'd up as Divine Favour.

Nay, Madam, I was all for Tales of an entirely different Character. It may have been that my Imaginations were likely to run away with my Reason; but, had I thought of it whilst I was alive, I could hardly have conceiv'd of anything more rightly romantick than the Story of Sackajaweea, and, her Journey across the the North American Continent.

Indeed, I can imagine now how the Book would have been advertis'd, had Sackajaweea been born 80 or 90 Years earlier, and, the British more forward in pressing their Claims in America. If it were to have made the Lists in, say, the Year 1723, we might have seen the following, viz.:

The Indian Princess,
or, The Slave Redeem'd.

Being a true Account
Of the Capture & Enslavement
of
An Indian Princess,
in
The Mountains of Louisiana in America,
By the Ancient Enemies of Her Tribe;
Her Variety of Fortune,
and,
Her Ransom by, and subsequent Marriage to
A French Gentleman Adventurer;
and,
Their Service to His Britannick Majesty
as Guides & Translators,
to
His Majesty's Corps of Discovery,
In finding the Headwaters,
& Traversing the enormous Length
Of a previously unknown River,
Emptying into the Pacific Ocean
In the Regions North of the fabl'd Province
of California,
Thus laying a rightful British Claim
To this new & unexplor'd Country;
together with
Episodes of Courage & Fortitude
In the Face of
Wild Indians,
Attacks by Bears, Lions, Wolves, &c.
Of Prodigious Size & Ferocity;
and including,
Tender Scenes of new Motherhood;
An Affecting Account of
The Reunion of

Princess Sackajaweea

With her Brother, now King of his People;
and,
Her tearful Departure to resume her Duties;
Her subsequent Happiness;
Delight in her Children, &c.

Illustrated with several curious CUTS.
____________________

LONDON:

Printed for Sebastian Cruikshank
in the Strand;
and to be had at Booksellers
in the Principal Cities.

Anno MDCCXXIII

price bound 4s. 6d.

* * * * * * * * * *

Ah! Madam! I might have been laugh'd out of the Town, or, gotten a Fortune from such a Book! I would not have omitted a close description of Sackajaweea's firm, young Breasts, heaving as they were upon her Capture against her tight-stretch'd leathern Bodice; and, the cords that were cinch'd about her Arms and Ankles by her cruel Enemies, &c. But, all would have been concluded with a pretty Moral upon the Virtues of Marriage, Constancy, Motherhood, Duty, Fortitude, &c.; such that both a Parson & his Stable-Boy would have found Entertainment & Improvement enough in its Pages.

But, leaving off Projections of undone Literary Endeavours near to 300 Years old, I shall only say, Madam, that every Nation needs its Legends & Fables in order to bind the common People more closely together. The Arms of many a Family in Scotland, including my own, bear some heraldick Device from the Age of Robert the Bruce, whose Exploits were the Subject of several accurate Accounts from his own Day; yet, whose Legends abound in Scotch Lore, the Details of which may be not wholly truthful; and, indeed, may often be foolish Concoctions, cook'd up hundreds of Years after the Events they purport to describe. That does not prevent such Legends from serving their Purpose, which is the maintenance of an Ardour for the Liberty & Unity of the Scottish Nation amongst the People.

Similarly, you should not be asham'd of your own National Legends, such as that of your first Thanksgiving, or, even of better-attest'd ones, such as the fantastick Adventures of Sackajeweea; whose main Import & Thrust are the noble and good ones of human Brotherhood, Fortitude in the Face of Adversity, and, Trust in the Beneficience of a Supreme Being. A People who value these Ideals will never willingly thrust their Necks into the Yokes created for them by those who sneer at such Principles and the Tales told to inculcate them.

Altho' the Story of the first American Thanksgiving is, in its Original, thin Gruel indeed (as I above aver), I cannot forbear to remark, by way of closing, that, were I alive, I should be very glad to get such a Dinner as is commonly prepar'd in its Honour.

Praying that your own Thanksgiving Dinner, and those of your Audience, should, in no wise, consist of Gruel, I am,

Madam,

Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

November 26, 2008

He's won the "Bad Writing Contest" twice, but now Professor Fredric R. Jameson has won the $900,000 Holberg Prize.

"The prize, established in 2003 by the Norwegian Parliament and worth about $900,000 this year, is awarded annually to an outstanding scholar in the arts and humanities, the social sciences, theology, or law."

The Duke literature professor has written such things as "Postmodernism, or, the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism."

His 1997 "Bad Writing" prize honored such sentences as -- from "Signatures of the Visible":
The visual is essentially pornographic, which is to say that it has its end in rapt, mindless fascination; thinking about its attributes becomes an adjunct to that, if it is unwilling to betray its object; while the most austere films necessarily draw their energy from the attempt to repress their own excess (rather than from the more thankless effort to discipline the viewer).
Were you ever required to read that sort of thing? Did you ever assign such readings to yourself?

Lori Drew not guilty of felony ... but convicted on 3 misdemeanors.

And there was a deadlock on the felony conspiracy charge.
[J]urors found Drew guilty only gaining unauthorized access to MySpace for the purpose of obtaining information on Megan Meier -- a misdemeanor that potentially carries up to a year in prison, but most likely will result in no jail time. The jury unanimously rejected the three felony computer hacking charges that alleged the unauthorized access was part of a scheme to intentionally inflict emotional distress on Megan....

The slap-on-the-wrist verdict is a rebuke to federal prosecutors, who elected to charge Drew federally even after authorities in Missouri -- where the hoax unfolded -- found that Drew's behavior did not violate any state laws at the time. Some legal experts and civil libertarians decried the prosecution as an abuse of computer crime laws.
Good. It was abusive.

ADDED: Orin Kerr -- one of Drew's attorneys -- explains the verdict:
The government's theory in the Lori Drew case is that it is a federal crime to intentionally violate the Terms of Service on a website, and that it becomes a more serious crime — a felony rather than a misdemeanor — if the Terms of Service are violated to further a criminal or tortious act. The tortious act the government alleged is intentional infliction of emotional distress, which in this case was alleged to have led to Meier's suicide.

The jury agreed that it is a federal crime to intentionally violate the Terms of Service on a website, and that Drew directly or indirectly did so, but it acquitted Drew of having violated Terms of Service in furtherance of the tortious act. That is, the jury ruled that Drew is guilty of relatively lower-level crimes for violating MySpacs Terms of Service (for being involved in the setting up of a fake MySpace account). It acquitted Drew for any role in inflicting distress on Meier or for anything related to Meier's suicide. The maximum allowed penalty for the misdemeanor violations are one year in prison for each violation, although the majority of federal misdemeanors result in a sentence of probation.
The phrasing "The jury agreed that it is a federal crime to intentionally violate the Terms of Service on a website" seems wrong, but Kerr, responding to comments, assures us he meant what he wrote. Why was the jury asked to define the crime?

AND: From the NYT article:
"As a result of the prosecutor’s highly aggressive, if not unlawful, legal theory,” said Matthew L. Levine, a former federal prosecutor who is a defense lawyer in New York, “it is now a crime to ‘obtain information’ from a Web site in violation of its terms of service. This cannot be what Congress meant when it enacted the law, but now you have it."
It is shocking to think that these website terms of service agreements -- which no one reads -- could could be incorporated into the criminal law this way.

At the Sepia Café...

At the Sepia Café

... you can talk about your faded dreams.

Indoor woman, outdoor man.

Indoor Woman, Outdoor Man

"Democrats are bailing out on the word 'stimulus.'"

Writes Carl Hulse.
In a notable shift, Congressional leaders and officials of the incoming Obama administration are actively trying to retire that term and use the more marketable “economic recovery program” as the descriptor for the multibillion-dollar economic initiative to be considered early next year.
Is this just label-changing? "Recovery" -- is the result you want, the end as opposed to the means. No, no, no, it's a recovery program. The means is a program.
The change in emphasis reflects a realization that words matter. Architects of the $700 billion Treasury Department program concluded too late that something unabashedly promoted as a Wall Street “bailout” conjured images of well-heeled suspects sprung from jail or water feverishly tossed from a rapidly filling boat.
And it made everyone want one.
And “stimulus” — a buzzword from earlier this year — combines bureaucratic wonkiness with the concept of shock therapy, Democrats worried....
Combining bureaucratic wonkiness with the concept of shock therapy... hmmm....

Lawprofs Jack Balkin and Eric Posner talk about what sorts of "policy views" Obama will try to "entrench" on the Supreme Court.

In this new Bloggingheads episode.

Obama might want ideological liberals -- right? -- but he doesn't really want judges who will rein in executive power, does he?



"Much of what the Obama administration will do in the area of executive power is just dial things back one notch."

Hmmm....



So, Obama will dial back to 10?

Shouting "tyrant!" at Michael Muskasey, did Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders intend to cause fear of assassination?

Washington Supreme Court Justice Richard Sanders confesses that he was the one who shouted "Tyrant! You are a tyrant!" at Attorney General Michael Mukasey, during Mukasey's speech at a Federalist Society dinner:
"Frankly, everybody in the room was applauding or sometimes laughing, and I thought, 'I've got to stand up and say something.' And I did," Sanders told The Seattle Times Tuesday. "I stood up and said, 'Tyrant,' then I sat down again, then I left."

It wasn't until the next morning — when he turned on the TV in his hotel room — that Sanders learned what happened after he departed: Mukasey, later in his speech, began slurring his words, slumped at the podium and passed out.
Mukasey didn't faint immediately upon hearing those words, so maybe you think it's hard to pin the fainting on Sanders. But consider how stressful it might be to hear "Tyrant! You are a tyrant!" shouted from a crowd like that.

The words immediately call to mind "sic semper tyrannis":
The phrase is a shortened version of Sic semper evello mortem Tyrannis, which translated means "Thus always death comes to tyrants." ...

The phrase is originally attributed to Marcus Junius Brutus, the central figure in the assassination of Julius Caesar on March 15, 44 BC.... In American history, because of the association with the assassination of Caesar, John Wilkes Booth reportedly shouted the phrase after shooting United States President Abraham Lincoln on April 14, 1865. Timothy McVeigh was wearing a T-shirt with this phrase and a picture of Lincoln on it when he was arrested on April 19, 1995, the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing.
An unknown person in a large crowd shouts "tyrant" at a political leader. If he knows history, it should strike fear into his heart. It would feel like the prelude to assassination. And yet, you would keep speaking. Nothing has happened yet, so of course, you go on, terror gnawing at your consciousness...
... men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth....

"We Hate Your Kids, The Poors, The Panic of '08, Journalismism, New York Times, The Rich."

Tags on this Gawker post -- "The Infuriating New Face Of Poverty" -- about a truly absurd NYT article headlined "To Buy Children’s Gifts, Mothers Do Without."

"And what I would give to see a movie in which the death of a martyr is not filmed in excruciating, can-you-believe-how-tragic-this-is slow motion."

Christopher Orr, writing about "Milk."

First comment: "[O]ne of the things I liked about Saving Private Ryan was that our hero Tom Hanks was shot in the background and it took a bit of time for anyone to notice..."

Biden will be given nothing to do.

David Axelrod puts it bluntly:
"I'm sure that there will be discrete assignments over time... But I think his fundamental role is as a trusted counselor. I think that when Obama selected him, he selected him to be a counselor and an adviser on a broad range of issues."
Or do you think that's tactful?
“I don’t think there’s any risk of Vice President-elect Biden being marginalized, regardless of who else is in the cabinet,” said Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to Mr. Obama. “Regardless of who is selected, there will be plenty of talent around the table.”
Non sequiturs are revealing, aren't they?
Aides say Mr. Biden and Mr. Obama sometimes rib each other in private meetings, and they maintain that Mr. Obama was not unduly angry at Mr. Biden for his gaffe predicting that Mr. Obama would be tested by a world crisis in his first six months in office.

Since then, however, Mr. Biden has not had much to say to the news media.
Not unduly angry.

November 25, 2008

Cooking up the Thanksgiving eyeballs.



Here I am searching the internet for some good instructions on how to make vegetable broth -- this looks helpful -- and suddenly I see that Secular Right noticed my link earlier in the day and decided to greet me with a post illustrating that peevish old Albrecht Durer prayer goading God to make the unbelievers "pluck out their own eyes and cook them in a holy broth."

Cahiers du cinéma’s 100 Greatest Films.

Based on a survey of 76 French film-types. Causing consternation because there's not a single British film (though there are Hitchcock, Chaplin, and Laughton films on the list).

"Their separate bodies gradually lost their boundaries and merged into a third body..."

"... one that contained all their female and male differences and erased all their anatomical contrasts and inversions."

Who deserves the bad sex writing award this year? Want it to go to literary bullshit like that (from Russell Banks)?

Something more political....
His irrepressible carnality enthralled her. It was like the first time with her husband, her only other lover – but then it was not like that at all. In fact, she reflected, this is me losing my real virginity at the hands of this infernal, lovable, Jewish clown who is so unlike any of the macho Bolsheviks in my life.

He's a madman, she thought as he made love to her again. Oh my God, after twenty years of being the most rational Bolshevik woman in Moscow, this goblin has driven me crazy!...

He made her forget she was a Communist.

"I like this tight feeling. It feels good."

Men's bras. In Japan.
"I think more and more men are becoming interested in bras."



Via Metafilter, where they go right for the "Seinfeld."

"Iranian blogs are the true voice of the next generation."

[VIDEO REMOVED. Available at link.]

(Via Boing Boing.)

"It is clear that sexual orientation is not a predictor of a person's ability to parent."

"A child in need of love, safety and stability does not first consider the sexual orientation of his parent. The exclusion causes some children to be deprived of a permanent placement with a family that is best suited to their need."

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Cindy Lederman struck down the Florida law that excludes gay persons from adopting children, in a case involving 2 men who have been foster parents for 2 young brothers since 2004. Lederman wrote that once the state allows gay persons to be foster parents, there is no rational basis to discriminate when it comes to adoption.

"What animal would you most like to be?... A giant squid. Basically it eats and it lurks; I can do both of those things!"

A great Normblog profile from Eve Tushnet.

(Really, read the whole thing. There's a lot of serious stuff in there too -- conservatism, Catholicism, etc.)

Ann Coulter has her mouth wired shut.

After breaking her jaw.

I hope no one breaks any bones in the rush to crack jokes about it.

"'There is nothing to be served by dressing up as a racist stereotype.'"

"[Michelle] Raheja, an English professor at UC Riverside who specializes in Native American literature, said she met with [kindergarten] teachers and administrators in hopes that the district could hold a public forum to discuss alternatives that celebrate thankfulness without 'dehumanizing' her daughter's ancestry."

Correlating politics to belief in God.



From the new blog Secular Right ... which John Derbyshire was promoting at The Corner:
I have got together with a handful of other conservative unbelievers and we have started a blog, Secular Right...

I'm blogging on the site as "Bradlaugh," in honor of my home town.
A welcome addition to the Blogroll. Note that they are unbelievers, not just people who favor the separation of religion and state.

"Conservative unbelievers" is a weird phrase, unintentionally suggesting a lack of belief in conservatism. Why not say conservative atheists?

IN THE COMMENTS: Some people hate that graph, and some see the face of Jesus in it. Graph that! DHP normalizes it:


Did you recognize that it needed normalizing?

Balfegor addressed the use of the word "unbeliever":
I think it's intended to be an ironic appropriation of a term used by believers to describe people who do not believe. See, e.g. this apparently unironical use of the term "unbeliever." (it's the first hit that comes up on Google). I'm actually a little surprised that the word is still current in its original non-ironic useage -- I thought it had fallen out of general use decades ago, along with "infidel," "heathen," and "pagan."

Anyhow, it's a jab -- or a stab, if you like -- but it's a jab back.
He adds this quote from Albrecht Durer:
O God please smite the unbelievers with your holy wrath. Make them as toads in the garden eating dirty flies. Let them pluck out their own eyes and cook them in a holy broth.
Sorry, Albrecht! We're going vegetarian this Thanksgiving. And we prefer renewable local foods.

AND: "I appreciate the 'annalanche' from putting up my normalized data, but it is dbp, not dhp. Just think, dustless black pepper." LOL. I'm glad someone remembers dustless black pepper. That epitomized an afternoon of office ennui.

Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart make mashed potatoes.

This is really very charming and funny -- from Snoop's puzzlement over the peeling of potatoes to the controversy over white, not black, pepper to the risqué rearrangement of the red dress on a bottle of cognac:



(I need to "via" someone for this link, but I've forgotten the source. Sorry.)

ADDED: Oh, Metafilter. Sample comments over there:
The fact that Snoop forgets what they're making half way through is hilarious....

She has done more jail time than Snoop...

He's lucky she didn't shank him....

Christopher Hitchens hates the idea of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State.

"A president absolutely has to know of his chief foreign-policy executive that he or she has no other agenda than the one he has set. Who can say with a straight face that this is true of a woman whose personal ambition is without limit; whose second loyalty is to an impeached and disbarred and discredited former president; and who is ready at any moment, and on government time, to take a wheedling call from either of her bulbous brothers? This is also the unscrupulous female who until recently was willing to play the race card on President-elect Obama and (in spite of her own complete want of any foreign-policy qualifications) to ridicule him for lacking what she only knew about by way of sordid backstairs dealing. What may look like wound-healing and magnanimity to some looks like foolhardiness and masochism to me."

So Obama is a babe in the woods or Hitchens is a hothead... a bulbous hothead.

"So, Letterman like Palin blows Katie Couric interview too."

"Turns out old Dave got so focused on making fun of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin that he forgot to ask Couric about how Republican presidential candidate John McCain happened to be on Katie's news show, choosing to stand up Letterman's guest invite at the last minute earlier in the fall."



(Via Instapundit.)

Vegetarian Thanksgiving -- why and how.

Why? Are you kidding?! We just found out that turkeys were once living, breathing creatures and that they must suffer bloody murder if they are to become food.

No, actually, maybe some of us have been vegetarians for a long time. I'm not (though I had a 5-year stint as a vegetarian). But I don't care about any particular meat on any particular day enough to complicate the preparation of dinner when I have guests who are vegetarians.

How? Tofurky? That's insane. Let's not exacerbate abstinence with fakery. It's time for winter vegetables, mushrooms, and grains. Did you notice that this recipe for sweet potato and butternut squash soup has been topping the NYT most-emailed list all week?

November 24, 2008

$7.7 trillion...

$7.7 trillion...

That's "half the value of everything produced in the nation last year."
The money that’s been pledged is equivalent to $24,000 for every man, woman and child in the country. It’s nine times what the U.S. has spent so far on wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.... It could pay off more than half the country’s mortgages....

In his Nov. 18 testimony, Bernanke told the House Financial Services Committee that the central bank wouldn’t lose money.

“We take collateral, we haircut it, it is a short-term loan, it is very safe, we have never lost a penny in these various lending programs,” he said.

A haircut refers to the practice of lending less money than the collateral’s current market value.
Okay, then.... They haircut it.

"If you hadn't heard the indictment read to you, you'd think this was a homicide case.... This, ladies and gentlemen, is a computer case..."

Closing arguments in the bizarre prosecution of Lori Drew:
The defense attorney insisted the only question is whether Drew violated the terms-of-service agreement of the MySpace social networking site. He said that Drew... never read the seven-page agreement.

"Nobody reads these things, nobody... How can you violate something when you haven't even read it? End of case. The case is over."
In the prosecutor's view: "The rules are fairly simple. You don't lie. You don't pretend to be someone else. You don't use the site to harass others."

Okay, fine, as a general rule, but should you go to prison for 20 years for lying and harassing and pretending to be a fictional person on line? Are we prepared to treat practical jokes like that across the board? Obviously not.

"Today we’re beginning this sexperiment, seven days of sex."

Ugh! What is creepier than religious leaders ordering their followers to have sex?
A week after the Rev. Ed Young challenged husbands and wives among his flock of 20,000 to strengthen their unions through Seven Days of Sex, his advice was — keep it going.

Mr. Young, an author, a television host and the pastor of the evangelical Fellowship Church, issued his call for a week of “congregational copulation” among married couples on Nov. 16, while pacing in front of a large bed. Sometimes he reclined on the paisley coverlet while flipping through a Bible, emphasizing his point that it is time for the church to put God back in the bed.

Trying to picture him reclining on a paisley-covered bed, fiddling with his Bible? Let me help:



Does he make you horny?

AND: As for the bed-on-the-stage routine... Madonna did it better:

Searching "Zippy."

You can now do a word search through all the old "Zippy the Pinhead" comic strips! How incredibly cool. What's the first word you search?



"So the first Thanksgiving in America was actually held by grave robbers."

Here's the (Madison Wisconsin) Capital Times article about Thanksgiving that Rush Limbaugh is about to rage about.

IN THE COMMENTS: Beth says:
Rush Limbaugh is about to rage about something? Stop the presses.

Rush Limbaugh is about to rage about something from Madison, Wisconsin. That stops the presses at Althouse.

UPDATE: Here's the rant. Rush really struggles with the text here, because he wants to conclude that the University of Wisconsin is pushing a -- horrors! -- multicultural curriculum, but it turns out to be about the bubonic plague, not anything about the comparative values and practices of Pilgrims and Indians. He ends like this:
I know it can't be proved because of the two words "most likely." The Indians were "decimated...most likely by a disease." It can't be proven. Nobody knows. This is just a multicultural curriculum which is designed to get as many little kids as possible to question the decency and the goodness of their own country.
That last sentence comes out of nowhere. It's where he intended the rant to end up, but nothing was getting him there, so he just said it anyway. He doesn't always do that, but when he does, it's really screechingly awful.

"At first when the problem started I just wanted to have sex all the time, I thought I was a sex addict."

"But when I looked around the room and heard the stories other people told, about how desperate they were for sex, I realised I wasn't like them."

"Play The Quietus' Album Cover Quiz Game."

Hilarious... even if, like me, you can hardly guess any of them. (Via Metafilter.)

Come on! It's funny. Don't say you "hate mimes." Hating mimes has been a big cliché for more than 30 years.

From the pre-mime-hating period, the supposedly profound ending to highly respected film:



AND: I just want to send my love to The Hello People.

Should Barack Obama go to church?

He doesn't go. It's kind of a big production for him to go. And maybe he doesn't want to go. Do you have a problem with that?

Academic freedom -- it's probably not what you think it is, says Stanley Fish.

"[A]cademic freedom, rather than being a philosophical or moral imperative, is a piece of policy that makes practical sense in the context of the specific task academics are charged to perform. It follows that the scope of academic freedom is determined first by specifying what that task is and then by figuring out what degree of latitude those who are engaged in it require in order to do their jobs."

Oh, hell. Why don't we restate all our freedoms this way? Practical policies, recognized only to the extent that they serve the purposes we embrace as a society.

Amazing, incredibly expensive things: The eat-in kitchen! The smart toilet!

The Daily News tries to wow us with "NYC's most expensive things," and some of the details just aren't working for me. First, there's an apartment that rents for $200,000 a month. Fine, that's expensive. I'm impressed. But what are the amazing features of this palace in the sky?
The penthouse includes a library and state-of-the-art eat-in kitchen.
If you're paying $200,000 a month for an apartment, why would you give a damn about being able to eat in the kitchen?

Next, we get a hotel room that's $34,000 per night -- it's the whole top floor of the Four Seasons Hotel, designed by I.M. Pei -- 9 rooms and only one bed -- only one bathroom. What I'd like to know is, what are all those rooms that are so much better than another bed- or bathroom? Instead, we see there's a "smart toilet." What if 2 people need a bathroom at the same time? The toilet can't be that smart.

"Sloppy Dems may spell Franken advantage."

Politico says:
While the conventional wisdom is that these recounted ballots should break the same way as the broader election results, Republicans fret that sloppy Democratic voters might mean Franken votes emerging as the recount continues.

“Democrats are [thought to be] more creative, free-spirited, so the idea is they’re more likely to make a mistake that the optical scan won’t pick up,” explains [election law lawyer Robert] Hentges. “But when they recount the hard copy, those votes will be counted for Franken. If you talk to Republicans, they say it will be Franken’s advantage, because Democrats are stupid and will screw up ballots more often.”
And FiveThirtyEight does the math with characteristic bravado: "Projection: Franken to Win Recount by 27 Votes."

One thing is for sure: If Franken wins, he will win ugly.

Convicted of 9 murders, sentenced to 5 life terms, Red Army Faction leader Christian Klar must be set free after only 26 years.

Under German law, there is no ground to hold him any longer.
[His] group, also known as the Baader-Meinhof gang, targeted bankers, businessmen, judges and US servicemen.

More than 30 people were killed by the gang, before it disbanded 10 years ago....

Along with the principal targets of their terror, bodyguards and drivers were gunned down.

In one case, the head of a bank was assassinated at his home, after being presented with a bunch of flowers by the killers.

This year's film - The Baader Meinhof Complex - by Uli Edel, has been named as Germany's official entry for the 2009 foreign language film Oscar.
Oh, fabulous. Perhaps Klar will attend the Oscars alongside the actor who portrays him in the celebrated film. From Red Army to red carpet.

"Optimistic on Obama's potential usefulness to black nerds."

John McWhorter still is. (Previous discussion -- with video -- here.)

How personal is this for McWhorter?
I was lucky as a black Urkel: Having inherited my mother's sharp tongue, I did not get called "white" for liking school. But I do recall one Asian kid who gave me a hard time for being "smart" once in eighth grade. Somehow I came up with "Okay, Rex"--yes, Rex, go figure--"but one day you're going to be asking me for a job." That did get to him somehow, and I received no slapping-up, beating-down, or snapping-upon.

But I still wish I could have said something about Barack Obama.

November 23, 2008

"Is It Too Soon to Start Talking About the Failed Obama Presidency Just Because He Isn’t President Yet?"

Reputed title of a Weekly Standard piece by P. J. O’Rourke, according to this NYT article called "Irony Is Dead. Again. Yeah, Right."

What's the connection between the death of irony and Barack Obama? Joan Didion made the connection, saying people these days were into "naïveté, translated into 'hope.'"

The Times -- struggling mightily to develop its theme -- tried to get Didion to explain herself:
“Basically,” she said on the phone Tuesday, “I don’t like to talk about anything I’ve written or that I’m writing. What you write down, there it is and you’ve done it.”
Which means: Fuck you, I'm a wordsmith.

Tattoos, tattoos, tattoos.

Yesterday, I started a discussion about tattoos. Chip Ahoy said, for himself, he'd always wanted "a snake crawling out of my arse crack," that is a tattoo of same, not an actual snake. For me?
Something tattooed on a spot on the body that moves like an elbow or a knee so that a frog appears to croak or a woman's breasts bulge, or eyes widen.

A tattoo that appears to be a rip in the skin revealing underneath to be steam-punk mechanism of gears and levers rather than muscles...
Like a sly reference to the "In His Image" episode of "The Twilight Zone"? (Video.)
...or perhaps a sack of worms.

A tattoo to look like an alien being born by tearing its way out.

A realistic eyeball on the back of your neck. [When I was a youngster I asked my mum how she knew what I was up to and she answered, "Because I have eyes in the back of my head." Being a literalist, I took her on her word, and for years tried to examine her head more closely to confirm it. She was always such the bullshitter.]

Conversely, a realistic eyeball on your forehead that blinks when you furrow your brow.

Weighing scales that rise and fall depending on your arm movement would be too trite. Reject those.

Something in Latin that makes a person asking appear foolish for having asked isn't worth the joke. Reject that too.

Also reject some long passage or inspiring message that must be closely examined in order to be read. They're pretentious and the reader is ultimately let down for having troubled.

A dung beetle placed on your gluteus maximus appearing to be rolling a piece of dung away from your anus.

A radiation hazard symbol tattooed on your penis. Oh wait.

An archer fish depicted spitting placed near your urethra.

A Boxer dog tattooed on each breast so that when they sag they magically become Shar-peis.

For myself, I've always been partial to Egyptian designs, at least that's what I doodled all through college, and that's the art I sell, so the only tattoo acceptable for myself is a design of my own in the Egyptian style. It would be large, colorful, and dramatic. Probably a winged solar disc with something within the disc, possibly a uraeus.

There's an idea for you, a uraeus on your forehead.
Back to the snake!
Or a snake wrapped around your arm.

Or a gold bracelet with lapis lazuli. But then that begs the question, why not a real bracelet? I always thought if you were inclined to tattoo barbed wire around your arm, then real barbed wire would be much more dramatic.

A crown of thorns across your forehead.

Bugs crawling from out between your breasts.

An "R" and a "L" tattooed on the back of each hand appropriately. Or the word "Down" tattooed on top of each foot and possibly "Up" tattooed on your forehead.

"I'm with Stupid --->" tattooed immediately beneath your clavicle.

A diver hands clasped together aiming downward tattooed on you one side of your belly appearing to be preparing to dive into your pants.

An alligator snapping out of your crotch.

An elf, a fairy, a gnome, a leprechaun, or otherwise, some tiny being tattooed making it's way out of your pubic hair.

Ropes tattooed around your arms and legs so when you crossed your arms or legs it would appear as if you were suggesting bondage.

Robot parts tattooed on working segments of your body.

Open eyes tattooed on your eyelids.

A mustache tattooed with glow-in-dark ink, just for fun.

Jagged backhoe bucket teeth tattooed around your mouth.

Mucus tattooed draining from your nose.

Ants tattooed crawling in a line across your shoulder or torso carrying off some treasure like a leaf segment or other bug parts.

Bees laden with pollen tattooed to appear crawling out of your ears as if they [were] flowers.

A raptor on one knee and a bunny, chipmunk, fox, lamb or some other prey animal on the other knee, so that when your legs are crossed one appears to engulf the other.
Wow! Chip was a blog thread unto himself. Such overwhelming thread domination could have silenced everyone else. But we still had Christy:
A stylized slightly tilted fibonacci spiral that starts directly above the center of your left eyebrow, arches up and drops to end in a tight swirl beside your left eye. In blue, a strong blue. With wings coming off the outside edge of the curve that reach up and out to your hairline. A little black can be used to give definition to the wings.
Then, Dody Jane said:
I am going to answer seriously... I was in a writing seminar once called "Writing Family Stories". There was a man in the class of East Indian heritage - he was first generation American. 

He told a lovely story about being taken to India as a child. It was a pilgrimage of sorts. His mother had the back of his neck tatooed with a round black dot. She was not going on the trip. He was going with his father. She told him she had the tattoo placed at the nape of his neck so that God would be able to easily identify him when he looked down from heaven and protect him from harm while on his journey. The way he told the story was so incredibly moving. 

I think this is an ideal tattoo. I told my daughter it is the only tattoo I would sanction. Otherwise, I told her I am leaving everything to charity. She remains untattooed...
See, I hear that story, and I imagine God thinking: There's that kid with the dot again, whose mother thinks he's so special, like I'll be all screw the other kids, this one has a dot.

Freeman Hunt said:
I told my husband about this thread, and he had a recent tattoo anecdote I have to share:

Last week my husband was down in our basement with his friends for their weekly movie get together. One of the men took off a fleece pullover and inadvertently pulled up the t-shirt underneath, revealing what appeared to be a large flower on one pectoral muscle with his nipple forming the center.

"Wait a minute--what was that?! Is that a flower around your nipple? Lift up your shirt again."

"No. That's the only time you'll ever see it."

"Why do you have a giant flower around your nipple?"

"It's not a flower. I'm going to get it fixed. It was going to be something else, but it hurt too much, so they couldn't finish it."

"Well, right now it looks like a flower."

"I know."

Ha.
Ha, indeed.

The Bush twins, Barbara and Jenna, taught the Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, how to jump on the White House beds.

First Lady Laura Bush verified the story, and added that there was a real trick to proper White House bed-jumping: "They're really tall beds; you need to get a running start."

***

In some families, you can jump on the beds, and in some, they tell you no jumping on the beds. Both the Bushes and the Obamas allow bed jumping. Or, no, maybe Barack and Michelle are the no-jumping-on-the-beds kind of parents. And Malia and Sasha will say but Jenna and Barbara jumped on the beds -- they showed us how to jump on the beds. And Barack and Michelle will be all: The American people voted for change. No more of the failed policies of the Bush years. No more jumping on the beds.

Do very fat people -- riding on airplanes -- have a right to 2 seats for the price of one?

They do in Canada now, says Swaraaj Chauhan, who illustrates his post with an astoundingly apt photograph. Hipopinion has an even more distressing photograph. (Canada might want to recognize a right not to have one's obesity appropriated to amuse and teach lessons to the normal-weight community.)

If you get a free extra seat now, won't people be clamoring to be considered one of the truly obese? Does some government agency certify that you are fat to the point of disability and thus entitled to accommodation? Or is this just a matter of airlines telling some people they'll have to pay for a second seat -- and now, they're being told they will need to give that seat for free? If the latter, some of the chubbier passengers may decide to sprawl strategically to extort extra space from the airline. If the plane is full, who gets bumped?

"The biggest mistake Obama could make is thinking this problem is smaller than it is."

"On the other hand, there is far less danger in overestimating what will be necessary to solve it."

So asserts Yale finance professor Jeffrey Garten, quoted at the end of today's Thomas Friedman column.

Is this some general rule or profound truth that we need to understand? When you don't know the extent of a problem, overestimate it? Does that apply to everything or just finance or just the the current financial situation? I'm worried that this insistence on overestimation will be used to justify foisting a giant liberal wish list on us. I'm thinking of that Rahm Emanuel line Rush Limbaugh was playing for us all last week:
You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. What I mean by that is it's an opportunity to do things that you think you could not do before. This is an opportunity. What used to be long-term problems -- be they in the health care area, energy area, education area, fiscal area, tax area, regulatory reform area -- things that we had postponed for too long that were long-term are now immediate and must be dealt with. And this crisis provides the opportunity for us, as I would say, the opportunity to do things that you could not do before.
So I think I'm going to take the less dangerous approach of overestimating what these people are planning to do to us. Don't want make the big mistake of thinking it's smaller than it is, right?

Why have the French abandoned their cafés?

The NYT has a longish article about how business has plummeted in cafés in France. Go ahead, read it, and see how long it takes you to figure out what's causing the problem. There are many colorful sentences about how sad it is that the cafés are deserted. But why? Some café owner is quoted saying "People fear the future, and now with the banking crisis, they are even more afraid," and there a vague reference to "changing attitudes, habits and now a poor economic climate," but how did that explain the sudden "free fall" in business?

Finally, I got to this:
[O]n Jan. 1 of this year... France extended its smoking ban to bars, cafes and restaurants....

Before, clients would go inside a cafe, have a coffee, a cigarette and another coffee. But now they go out to smoke, and sometimes they do not come back....
And then there's this:
[T]hose who drink are newly wary of the local police, who now hover near the bar, especially at night, to test the sobriety of drivers....
So, there it is. Your café culture is inconsistent with the safety world you have chosen.

***

Meanwhile, politicians in Madison, Wisconsin want to impose a smoking ban on the whole state, and local media blame "the powerful Tavern League lobby" for opposing it. Perhaps the NYT could do a sympathetic article on the traditional tavern culture of the charming state of Wisconsin. Oh, wait, they already did that article, last week. It was about what a bunch of drunkards Wisconsinites are and how the culture needed to be destroyed.

Relocate to France, and it all looks so different.

Does Viagra give athletes an unfair advantage?

An unfair advantage in sports, that is. The World Anti-Doping Agency thinks it might and is considering a ban.

Let the jokes begin.

"At five years old, she loves pink so much that she wants to wear only pink clothes and use only pink toys or objects."

That would be the daughter of photographer Jeongmee Yoon:
To make "The Pink and Blue Project" images, I visit the child's room, where I display and rearrange his/her colored accessories. I ask my models to pose for me with their pink or blue objects, in an effort to show the viewer the extent to which children and their parents, knowingly or unknowingly, are influenced by advertising and popular culture. I first lay out the larger items, blankets or coats, and then spread smaller articles on top of the clothes. This method references objects that are displayed in a museum collection. In some pictures, the children even look like dolls.
Via Andrew Sullivan, who calls the kids "children who would only wear and buy gender specific clothes and toys." Do the kids deserve that? I see a pink shovel and a blue vacuum cleaner. To have a favorite color -- the color the culture assigns to your sex -- is not necessarily to want only sex-typed toys and clothes. Are these children stereotypes or are we adults stereotypers?

Consider the possibility that children have powerful aesthetic principles, that they love color as color, and that they perceive order in monochrome.

Of course, there is nothing inherently masculine about blue or feminine about pink:
[F]or centuries, all European children were dressed in blue because the color was associated with the Virgin Mary. The use of pink and blue emerged at the turn of the century, the rule being pink for boys, blue for girls. Since pink was a stronger color it was best suited for boys; blue was more delicate and dainty and best for girls. And in 1921, the Women's Institute for Domestic Science in Pennsylvania endorsed pink for boys, blue for girls.
There's a W.C. Fields movie -- maybe "The Bank Dick" -- where a woman annoys him -- women annoy him in every movie -- by fretting over whether pink is for boys and blue for girls or the other way around. That would have been around 1940.

Surely, there are children who latch onto colors other than blue or pink. I remember my mother deciding that orange was the right color for me, and I believed that for a while.