January 17, 2009

"My hollow shell gives you the finger."

That was Blake's response to Palladian's "The absence of real winter is deadening to the human spirit. I mean, look at southern California. Or Florida."

Just something in the comments to my "Unmade Noises" post that made me make a noise — laughter — in the dead of the night... in the dead of winter...

AND: "It was a brutal 78 degrees F today near the beach. I forced my hollow shell to take a hollow walk and record a bunch of hollow images to document the hollowness of a life lived bereft of seasons."

In Britain, the slowly dawning realization that burglary is a serious crime.

The Lord Chief Justice, acknowledging "a long-standing, almost intuitive belief that our homes should be our castles," is urging courts to give tough sentences to those convicted of burglary.

Labour initially adopted a tough stance on burglary, enacting a Tory plan in 2000 to impose minimum three-year jail terms for those convicted of a third offence, although the measure was watered down to give judges more discretion.

But since then magistrates and judges have increasingly been encouraged to hand out more community punishments, and the proportion of convicted burglars sent to jail has plunged from 51 per cent to less than 40 per cent last year - down from 14,338 offenders to just 9,237 - while the number of suspended sentences has soared.

Police recorded more than 280,000 domestic burglaries in England and Wales last year but clear-up rates are low at just 13 per cent, and a quarter of all burglars caught by police are let off with a caution.

The Home Office's recent 'policing pledge' does not expect forces to visit burglary victims promptly unless they claim to be 'distressed', and sentencing guidelines published last month urge courts to consider softer punishments for burglars who steal to fund a drug habit.

As Andrew Wyeth slips away into the next life, the blogging cockroach waves a poetic antenna.

Yesterday's post marking the death of the popular painter lured the little insect — who's very popular around here — out of the woodwork and onto the keyboard:
you know i have this human soul
and i can still remember last time
before i was reborn as a cockroach
i was a 12 tone composer and music professor
at a 3rd rate state u but now i live near harvard u
which is probably comeuppance for my last life
anyway when i was in a human body
and believe me i was in as many female
grad students human bodies as i could be
which may be one reason i m a cockroach now
i remember that only abstract expressionism
would do over at the art dept
just like only 12 tone or serial music was
if you were a composer and no matter what
you had to like it if you were a serious modern
person at all but i don t think that applied to
cockroaches which is one benefit of my current status
yes abstract expressionism and serial music went
hand in hand at the college of arts and god
help you if you had any other ideas i know i sure didn t
so if you were a studio art student and painted
an actual picture of something you might as well
have composed a piece of music in g major
oh the shame

abstract expressionism and 12 tone music also
had a lot of trendy leftish ideas stuck to them
like mold on an overripe fruit ready to drop into
somebody s hands except if you were
an old fashioned communist you had a problem
cause stalin liked mickey mouse and minuet in g
and zhadinov would send you to siberia for
bourgeois formalist tendencies if you thought
jackson pollock or anton webern were cool
ah the rat maze of politics and art
except most of the rats i know these days
are smarter than that which is another problem

bourgeois was the catch all epithet
used against art like andrew wyeth s
i bet you thought i d never get to the point
and i ve got to tell you i still get a little queasy
at christina s world because it was part of the air
i breathed that stuff like that was stupid
and sentimental bourgeois illustration
dark and humorless as it is
i remember this visiting french art professor
and several of us going to a wyeth exhibit
in town for a good laugh
except he was a little dark and humorless himself
and used to puff his cigarette between his thumb
and forefinger with his hand turned toward his face
and say ah you amerwicains you are so bourgeois
you theenk a fire burning in ze fireplace is expressif
what is expressif is a fire burning ze house down
i think he was a structuralist
he would sit in his cafe on the rue de bac thinking
and then amble over to the universite and teach
for which the republique francais paid him enough
to sit in a cafe on the rue de bac in paris thinking
i was luckier because the state u where i taught
paid me enough to not have to think at all

no tenure for poor wyeth and no cafe sitting either
he had to paint pictures and gasp sell them
so the non trendy ignorant bourgeoisie
could gape at them not understanding
the slightest thing about art
except you can see the grass blades
oh the shame

"'Cloaca,' what you see in front of you, might be a shit machine..."

"...but actually it's about a whole range of other ethical and moral issues, from the food we eat to what we do with feces."

It's Wim Delvoye's "Cloaca No. 5," a "'machine/sculpture' that recreates the phases of human digestion, from chewing to defecation," on display at the Université du Québec à Montréal gallery. You can buy the freeze-dried fake shit in the gift shop. Is it a faux pas to make a gift of faux poo? Perhaps you'll want to keep it for yourself.

Now, I'm reading about this not because I have a Google alert on "cloaca," but because the nostalgically nicknamed Fred4Pres linked to it in the comments to that post about Maureen Dowd. He quipped:
I know lots of op-eds, like Maureen Dowd's column, that have been doing this for years.
I read, mildly amused, and then I'm stunned:
Mr. Delvoye, who will be in Montreal today for the opening, has been exhibiting various versions of Cloaca -- the name is Latin for sewer -- since 2000. His other work has included biker-style tattoos on live pigs and mosaics using tiles that carry images of his own feces.
Wim Delvoye — I'd forgotten the name, but he inspired the blog post that I've often said was my best: "Tattoos remind you of death."

How I love when things come full circle, and perhaps — it seems — so does Mr. Delvoye.

Now, here in the middle of the night, I'm reading the comments on that old post about mementos, and even as I delight at the names of some commenters who are still with us, I see some that I'm sad to have lost. Like Goesh, who says:
I was blessed to have been born and raised on a farm, and we used to finger-paint the pigs. We just assumed they would like it. What pig wouldn't want to look pretty, and we enjoyed it too. Kids are kids as they say. If you scratch a pig on the stomach, it will plop down on the ground. Let's face it, it is pretty darn hard for a pig to scratch its own belly if you think about it. They can rub against things to get their sides and back and butts scratched but not their bellies. Once the pig was lying down, one sibling would keep scratching his/her stomach while the rest of us made pretty pictures. When Porky and his pals would get sent off to market, we would always check to see if any of our art went with them. Often bits of it did and we always wondered what the butchers thought when our pigs came down the slaughter line. My younger brother once remarked that maybe they wouldn't kill them if they saw our paintings. This recollection yields a bit of a sad feeling, but hard reality sets in as I recall that Keith, my younger brother, relished bacon as much as the rest of us did.
We know the finger-painted pigs are long gone, but what of Goesh? He used to write poetry here too, under the moniker Lonely Donut Man/LDM.

But where are the snows of yesteryear?

Old blog posts remind you of death. Those pseudonymous commenters who are no longer with us — how can I know if they are, as they say, no longer with us? What if Goesh has scarfed his last doughnut and pooed his last poo?

I considered spelling "doughnut" his way, as a tribute to our lost poet. I looked up the old posts — here and here — where I talked about my spelling preference. The first one has some poetry by Robert Frost (and the speculation that he ate frosted doughnuts). The second one, in the comments, has a poem by Lonely Donut Man:
Verily thou could'st reference my lovely, lonely verse
its subtle allusions to the trans-fatty acids curse
O! Sugary, longing words of lust n'er terse
Lo!The collusion of flesh and grease, which be'th the worse?
I hope Lonely Donut Man still waddles on this earth. If only he'd return I'd feel such... mirth!

In the blog commenters come and go
talking of loaves and donut holes.
Ricpic said:
How jejune and utterly predictable of the avant-garde it is
To make a production of pinching a loaf and spraying a whiz.

January 16, 2009

"Once you went to a spa when you felt tense. Now you feel tense going to a spa."

Oooooh! Maureen Dowd goes to some Florida spa, and, I ask you: Was anything ever more ready-made for Stuff White People Like?

But let's listen to Our Maureen:
I wondered if spas were a bit out of date. Shouldn’t they be offering more cutting-edge fare than the usual back rubs, rock-wall basics and lectures on “The Secret to Perfect Posture” and “Understanding Chakras”? What about face transplants instead of face cleansing? Social climbing in the Obama era rather than rock-wall climbing? Cure you of a man rather than a manicure?
She agonizes, but she's there, in that cornball outpost in Miami Beach.
I went to a lecture called “Let Me See Your Tongue”....
We politely draw the curtain...
As at the spa, it was hard to tell if the lack of a crowd signified that tourists just don’t know this ravishingly rococo spot is open or if real austerity abhors faux antiquity.
This — this — is the anguish of The Maureen.

ADDED: I can't see the point of traveling somewhere to get a massage. If you like massages, find a good masseuse in your own town. You can get massages every week all year 'round for the cost of that one trip. Meanwhile, if you go to all the trouble of traveling, go somewhere where you can see some interesting things. Why go somewhere to close your eyes?

"It's just one tool among a number of tools that I'm trying to use, to break out of the bubble, to make sure that people can still reach me."

A man wants his Blackberry, even if he is to be President.
"If I'm doing something stupid, somebody in Chicago can send me an email and say, 'What are you doing?'

"I want to be able to have voices, other than the people who are immediately working for me, be able to reach out and send me a message about what's happening in America."
Well, can somebody in Madison, Wisconsin reach out and tell you, Barack, don't be an idiot?

But I'm touched that he sees he's about to be pulled out of the realm of normal human connections and he's still got that part that says: Nooooooo!

Unmade noises.

Surrounded by winter...


I sink into a reverie.

I gaze up and see one word...


Roaring. So then... roaring.

Was this some sort of divination?


Yet things were profoundly silent.

Who will restore George Bush's tattered reputation? Barack Obama!

Charles Krauthammer explains:
The beauty of democratic rotations of power is that when the opposition takes office, cheap criticism and calumny will no longer do. The Democrats now own Iraq. They own the war on al-Qaeda. And they own the panoply of anti-terror measures with which the Bush administration kept us safe these past seven years.

Which is why Obama is consciously creating a gulf between what he now dismissively calls "campaign rhetoric" and the policy choices he must make as president. Accordingly, Newsweek -- Obama acolyte and scourge of everything Bush/Cheney -- has on the eve of the Democratic restoration miraculously discovered the arguments for warrantless wiretaps, enhanced interrogation and detention without trial. Indeed, Newsweek's neck-snapping cover declares, "Why Obama May Soon Find Virtue in Cheney's Vision of Power."
This is something I thought a lot about when I decided to vote for Obama. The Democrats need their turn in the position of power so they will own and take responsibility for the things that really do need to be done. And it is an opportunity for all of us to see and understand clearly what these things are.


By the way, I was surprised to see Krauthammer use that vivid expression "neck-snapping," when Krauthammer is paralyzed as a result of snapping his neck in a diving accident. I suspect there are many individuals with disabilities who make a point of using the very imagery that other people might apologize for using in their presence.

"As popular paintings go, 'Christina’s World' is remarkable for being so dark and humorless..."

"... yet the public seemed to focus less on its gothic and morose quality and more on the way Wyeth painted each blade of grass, a mechanical and unremarkable kind of realism that was distinctive if only for going against the rising tide of abstraction in America in the late 1940's."

Really? I think people — even all those ordinary people who make up the substance of popularity — responded to the sadness and loneliness. Later, when photo-realism made the grade with elites, what were they focusing on?


Andrew Wyeth, dead at age 91.

You can see "Christina's World" at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.

"Obama coopts the old McCain by severing him from the wack-job from Wasilla. More shrewd moves."

"If the GOP decides to be the pajama party of Palin and Wurzelbacher in response, Obama's move will look shrewder still."

It's [?] to me.

Graphing the world's metaphors of incomprehensibility:

If Global Warming Is Real Then Why Is It Cold?

The blog.

Thanks, Jac.

I wonder who will be the last person to think this wisecrack is an original observation? And yet, I think it should persist.

But then I've always thought the remark "Hot enough for you?" is funny. Now, I've never said it or heard anyone else say "Hot enough for you?" The first time I ever read it was in the 1960s in Mad Magazine. It was a Dave Berg comic strip showing one person after another say "Hot enough for you?" to a guy until he freaked out. (Would it kill Mad Magazine to have a website that let us search for old crap we remember from the 60s?)

Back then, I got the point the way a kid gets a point: So that must mean there are a lot of adults out there who keep saying "Hot enough for you?" and I need to know that's been said way too much before I ever say it or hear it. I was keen on figuring out in advance how not to embarrass myself.

And it seems everyone got the memo — if not from Dave Berg, then from somewhere. Whenever it was really hot, I thought about Dave Berg and how no one ever says "Hot enough for you?" and I got to thinking it really is pretty funny in the way that later generations might think it is funny to say "Could it be any hotter?" But I had to laugh to myself because no one ever said it.

So if you see me on the street some very hot day, feel free to say it to me: "Hot enough for you?" You don't even have to wait, you can say "Cold enough for you?" if you see me today. I'll be especially amused if you look like this:

Now, has it become clear why you should go ahead and keep up with the if-global-warming-is-real-then-why-is-it-cold jokes? They haven't gone away yet. They are at the stage in the life span of a joke where "Hot enough for you?" was when Dave Berg drew his comic strip. But, you may ask, doesn't that mean that people who don't want to be embarrassed should be getting the memo that these jokes cannot be told anymore?

No, I think we're at the stage where we keep up with the joke out of pure sadism to irk the folks who can't take it anymore. They are the earnest folk who want everyone to accede to scientific consensus and meekly swallow whatever remedies are prescribed. Taunt them!

"My heart sank. I had a very happy life in Arizona. I was a judge. I liked my lifestyle. I liked my family."

"I liked where we lived, and I didn't want to move to Washington, D.C. ... I had not served on the federal court. ... I didn't know if I could do the job well enough."

Sandra Day O'Connor remembers how she felt back in 1981, when Ronald Reagan nominated her to the Supreme Court.

Our hero!

"Where am I going to go? City? City? River."

"I don't understand why he would feel any better looking at a dozen bald guys."

Where is the line between warm gesture of solidarity and scary peer pressure?

(Scroll to second item. First item is lurid.)

Something you can do with this cold, cold air.

You can throw a cup of boiling water into it!

Reel Geezers talk about "Gran Torino."

"The miasma of toxic stink leaves you gasping, breezes batter you with filth, and even the rats look forlorn."

"Then the smoke parts and you come across a child ambling barefoot, searching for old plastic cups that recyclers will buy for five cents a pound. Many families actually live in shacks on this smoking garbage."

Is that the image you have in mind when you see that the product you buy is made from recycled materials?

Meanwhile, the child dreams of a job in what we would call a sweatshop.


State Street

(Temperature is right now. Photo is from a couple days ago, one of the few times I've ventured out of the house in the past week.)

January 15, 2009

"As the years passed, most Americans were able to return to life much as it had been before Nine-Eleven."

"But I never did."

Lampooning the balance between "would-be controversial attacks on national character and undisturbing decoration of an official space."

It's "Entropa," by Czech artist David Cerny, a 172-square-foot multi-part sculpture attached to the European Council building in Brussels. It's the Czech Republic's turn at the EU presidency, you see.
Entropa portrays Bulgaria as a toilet, Romania as a Dracula theme-park and France as a country on strike....

The Netherlands is shown as series of minarets submerged by a flood — a possible reference to the nation's simmering religious tensions.
Indeed, it's possible!
Germany is shown as a network of motorways vaguely resembling a swastika....
The old swastika — on a government building.

Cerny would like to know "if Europe is able to laugh at itself."

UPDATE: Czech Deputy Prime Minister Alexandr Vondra says:
"I apologise to Bulgaria and its government if it feels offended..."...

"We wanted to prove that 20 years after the fall of the Iron Curtain, there is no censorship," said the former Czech dissident.

But he refused to share the platform with the artist, who insisted his piece was in the European tradition of satire, like Monty Python and France's Les Guignols.

He also denied that the Lego entry for Denmark was a representation of one of the controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that appeared in 2005.

AND: Here's a picture of the Demark section.

Camille Paglia says Jesus was "a performing artist with startling improvisational gifts."

Responding to a reader who asks her to consider the possibility that The Bible is true, she writes:
I respect the Bible as one of the world's greatest books, based on a magnificent body of oral poetry. It is a fundamental text that everyone, atheist or believer, should know. It speaks profoundly to everyone at each stage of life. And of course its hero sagas, from Moses to Christ, have been absorbed into the Western fine arts tradition.

But I do not accept the Bible as divinely inspired. Indeed, most scholars would agree that the New Testament was purposefully written as a point-by-point response to the Old Testament to prove that Jesus was indeed the Messiah whose arrival had been forecast for centuries. Therefore the details of Jesus' life and experiences were tailored and shaped to echo the language and imagery of the Old Testament.

Personally, I do believe there was a historical Jesus. The evidence is fragmentary but, to me, convincing that a charismatic, itinerant preacher of his name was swept up into the cruel politics of the Roman occupation of fractious, rebellious Judaea. Furthermore, as a literary critic, I hear a very distinct speaking voice in the sayings attributed to Jesus. This was a brilliant poet who was able to find simple, universal metaphors (a coin, a tree, a mustard seed) to convey spiritual truths to the masses. He was also a performing artist with startling improvisational gifts. Whether or not he himself thought he was the Messiah is unclear.
A performing artist with startling improvisational gifts? Does that cover the miracles (magic tricks?)?

"It was a bird strike... It could easily snuff out the engines of an airplane."

Heard on TV. The story. There are some amazing photographs of the crashed plane, floating in the Hudson River, with passengers standing on one wing, on the front page of the NYT right now.

Dr. Helen, who says she's "slightly afraid of birds and ha[s] a flying phobia, asks: "[W]hy can't an engine stand up to a few birds flying into it?" The answer in the comments: It was a whole flock of birds.

Judge Richard Posner on Philip Hamburger on judicial review.

A review — titled "Modesty and Power" — of the book "Law and Judicial Duty."
Hamburger believes deeply in judicial modesty. He argues that what has come to be called judicial review was intended to exemplify rather than to reject judicial modesty, which is why the framers of the Constitution took the power for granted, and so felt no need to talk it up in the constitutional text....

There is a deep ambiguity in the concept of judicial modesty. Hamburger advocates strict adherence to formal legal doctrines. That is a form of intellectual modesty: no policymaking, no talk of a "living constitution," let the chips fall where they may, fiat iustitia, ruat caelum. An alternative conception of judicial modesty, first clearly articulated by James Bradley Thayer in the late nineteenth century and embraced by Oliver Wendell Holmes, focuses on the consequences for democracy, liberty, progress, and welfare of too free-wheeling a conception of judicial power to invalidate legislation....

Hamburger has fallen in love with the judicial culture that he found in the Anglo-American past, and that he hates the modern judicial culture that is discontinuous with it.
Much more at the link.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation boldly advertises "Imagine No Religion" in Portland, Oregon.

Imagine no reaction.
The billboards have been introduced in 14 states since late 2007.... But in Portland, the signs aren't inspiring much furor...

"I worry more about the Bible Belt places, where there is a sense of entitlement, that everyone is a Christian," [some Portland guy] said. "In Portland, someone who chooses to be a Christian is a pretty thoughtful person about the faith."
Hey, did the estate of John Lennon endorse this campaign or is the Foundation just creating the impression that it did?

Speaking of God and appropriating John Lennon, check this out:

"The Surpassing Significance of Herring."

For the annals of ludicrous headlines.

"What kind of blogger attends a breakfast with the president and reports nothing?"

"Why attend? Do you think Obama wanted to be your BFF?"

The Ricardo Montalban/al Qaeda connection.

"Baby, It's Cold Outside."

The first line of this post is what I would have made the title if I didn't feel the need to be somewhat discreet.

"There is a Barack Obama dildo. You can purchase it in either blue or gold, and if you stare at it long enough, you will begin to question the morality of free markets. Is a smiling Obama phallus really what Adam Smith envisioned? And the dildo’s just the beginning; scour the Internet long enough and you’ll be able to purchase just about anything with the president-elect’s likeness or name on it. So, with this in mind, we’ve created a slideshow of the worst online Obama kitsch we could find."

Hmmm... well, the free market I'm noticing here is magazine publication, and The New Republic is looking pretty desperate.
(Only the second "slide" is NSFW — and only mildly.)

By the way, the Obama dildo is wearing a flag lapel pin.

Tim Geithner — does he belong in the Cabinet or the prison?

Where does Tim Geithner belong?
pollcode.com free polls

Background: here.

AND: You know, it's patriotic — and easy! — to pay your taxes:

Why R. Crumb drew an album cover for Janis Joplin, but not for Mick Jagger.

"You don't want to support that guy."

Oprah to Kate Winslet: "I love your breasts... Your breasts do what real breasts do."

Kate Winslet to Oprah: "The way they race for sanctuary in your armpits when you lie on your back."

"We'd know if Bob Dylan came in here. What was he, in disguise?"

"There are a lot of people who come here who are Bob Dylan fans." "Did we miss him?"


Well, you know sometimes Bob Dylan wears his Bob Dylan mask.

IN THE COMMENTS: Original George suggests it was a Napoleon Bonaparte mask . And just remember, if you try disguising yourself, Bob Dylan would like you to know he can see through your masks.

MORE IN THE COMMENTS: Meade sends us here:

AND: That's from "No Direction Home," which you might want to buy, here. And Meade finds and especially likes the audio clip those guys in at the first link were talking about.

1967 — the mood in Tompkins Sq. Park.

The photograph is by James Jowers (American b. 1938), from the George Eastman House Collection. I love the comment at the Flickr page: "A moving paper fantasy...." All the hippies know what that means.
We starve
Look at one another
Short of breath
Walking proudly in our winter coats
Wearing smells from laboratories
Facing a dying nation
Of moving paper fantasy
Listening for the new told lies
With supreme visions of [???]
Facing a dying nation... that was before Barack Obama, of course. It was before Nixon. In any case, I will be wearing a winter coat today, because it's -16° here (and I am not talking wind chill). Whether I will be walking proudly remains to be seen. But I'm not going to rip off my clothes and twirl around like a hippie in Tompkins Sq. Park in 1967. I do seek to amuse you however, so let me play you the brilliant version of that song — which is called "Flesh Failures" — by one of my very favorite voices, Julie Driscoll.

If you liked that, don't hesitate to buy the whole album, "Streetnoise" — Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger and The Trinity. I've loved that since it came out, back in 1968. It's almost worth the high price for the cool drawing on the cover:

And if you liked the photograph, look at the whole James Jowers set, which the Eastman House tells us is not under copyright.

"You see, their young enter through the ears and wrap themselves around the cerebral cortex."

"This has the effect of rendering the victim extremely susceptible to suggestion. Later, as they grow, follows madness and death. These are pets, of course. Not quite domesticated."

These pets were the Ceti eels, and I am tormented with regret that I came so close but missed a beautiful chime yesterday. I love when a theme, character, or image that appears in one post recurs in another post on the same day. Yesterday — a day when I should have been highly attuned to the distinctive pleasures of blogging, because it was the 5th anniversary of the blog — a notable animal appeared: the eel. I made an "eels" tag to honor it, and saw that there were only 3 other posts that had been visited by the elusive eel — in all these 5 years.

As the blogging day drew to a close, I memorialized 2 actors — I called them "iconic TV actors" — who had died. One of them was Ricardo Montalban. When I think of Ricardo Montalban, I think of "Fantasy Island".... I mean right after I think of rich Corinthian leather....

But, in the comments, it became clear that my readers thought of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan." Cedarford said: "They gave Ricardo some great villain lines. All time classic villain lines." He listed some quotes, and one was what I used to begin this post.

In the comments, I express my delight at the reappearance of the eel: "Wait! There are eels?!! I started today with eels. This blogging thing is so spooky." I heard the chime, but I didn't sound it on the front page. The chime must be noted on the front page or else.

Not Althouse asks: Or else what?

Are you kidding? Didn't you notice? Else is an anagram for eels. Or else: eels!

Eels! Eels! Eels! Eeeeeeeeeeeels!

Did I choose the German version because I loved the German title "Der Zorn des Khan," reminiscent of the title of my second favorite movie of all time? No, I'm sorry I couldn't find the scene in English, and it's pretty cool in German, and in any case, the eels have only body language.

January 14, 2009

2 iconic TV actors — Ricardo Montalban and Patrick McGoohan — have died.

Montalban died this morning. McGoohan died yesterday. Montalban presided over Fantasy Island, "where visitors fulfilled their lifelong dreams," and McGoohan was The Prisoner in "a small enclave known only as The Village, where a mysterious authority named Number One constantly prevents his escape."

So, dreams and nightmares. Escaping to and escaping from. "Fantasy Island" aired from 1978 to 1984, and "The Prisoner" was a product of the 1960s. "Fantasy Island" was American, and "The Prisoner" was British.

How interesting that the synchronous deaths of these 2 men — Montalban, 88, and McGoohan, 80 — stir contemplation of the similarities and differences between 2 old television shows.

Let's watch "American Idol."

It's perfectly acceptable behavior, I assure you.

7:06: I love the pure optimism of delusion. A young woman sings horrendously and is told she sings horrendously, and she processes it into the notion that she picked the wrong song.

7:20: Big-hearted opera guy sings "Think!" and they restrain him before he gets to the "Freedom!"s. He's operatically emotional about his doom, and — cue opera soundtrack — we see a montage of other doomed contestants.

7:36: I knew when they inserted a commercial break that the "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" guy — Von Smith — was somehow going to be approved of, and he was. Strange. I can believe that they saw talent, but couldn't somebody have mentioned the taste issue?

7:46: Matt Breitzke — the welder — sings the great song "Ain't No Sunshine." He's good, and you can tell he's one of those guys that get through because he's masculine. They put his audition right after a strange man who... was not.

7:54: Jessica Furney touches me the most, and not just because she lives with her 93-year-old grandmother and has to yell at her to talk to her. Not just because she sings Janis Joplin ("Cry Baby") and I've been waiting all these years for a female rock singer to get somewhere on this show. She's nicely natural and real.

8:11: Daniel Gokey — whose wife just died — sings "I Heard It Through the Grapevine." He looks like Robert Downey Jr. and he's good. He makes it through, which is what we wanted, after he said that he wanted to be here so that people would find out about that woman who died.

8:15: Anoop Desai — who's pursued the academic study of barbeque — auditions in shorts. "It's all a bit geeky," says Simon, but the guy was good. And he's through to Hollywood. Sweet Paula say, "Forget the clothing thing, you're fine."

8:19: A montage of everyone singing "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" — which, right?, makes all lawprofs think of Marbury v. Madison — reveals the essence of the show: the terrible curse/blessing of American confidence. Is it bad to be bad if you believe in yourself? Yes, but it doesn't matter much. Is it good to be good? Yes, of course, now please make me happy.

Drudge draws national attention to Madison's planned "climate change" ordinances.

The link goes to a business website that freaks out about "central planning gone wild" and "draconian" regulation that would "dramatically limit free enterprise and personal liberty":
According to the “Broad Strategies” section of a meeting agenda recently posted on the City of Madison Web site, an ordinance being considered would force city zoning to account for and mitigate climate change:
10. Zoning should adapt to meet the demands of climate change; use zoning to address or mitigate effects, or adapt to climate change; remove any barriers to mitigating the effects, adapting to climate change (trees, green space, mobility, renewable energy, land use).
I guess a lot more people will want to live here if things warm up.
Another item in the “Broad Strategies” section has a grim outlook for the future. It includes a proposal that spells out a doomsday scenario – allowing for the city to function should shortages in energy and food occur:
11. Write the code to allow the city to function when automobile travel will be severely limited and oil-related products, including food and heating fuel, become prohibitively expensive because of the scarcity and high-cost of fuel.
Don't you want your town's ordinances to become more science fiction-y?

Do people become famous because their heads are large, or does celebrity actually cause the head to enlarge?

Over in last night's "American Idol" thread, Trooper York wrote:
The girl that sang "At Last" has an extremely big head. Which is very good since most popular actors have heads out of proportion to their bodies.
This reminds me of something that I read a while back in Tina Brown's excellent book "The Diana Chronicles":
What struck me at lunch was how much celebrity itself had transformed Diana's appearance. I have come to think that being looked at obsessively by people you don't know actually changes the way your face and body are assembled — not just in the obvious ways of enhanced fashion sense or tricks of charm and self-possession, but in the illusion of size. The heads of world-class celebrities literally seem to enlarge. Hillary Clinton's, for instance, has grown enormously since she was the mere wife of the governor of Arkansas. It nods when she talks to you like a balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. The years of limelight so inflated the circumference of Jackie O's cranium, it seemed her real face must be concealed by an oversized Halloween mask. If you looked into her eyes, you could see her in there somewhere, screaming.

In Kondappanaikkanpalayam, they saw the flying squirrel.

"It ate fruits and nuts like ordinary squirrels but unlike them, had sharp fingers, teeth and cat-like face and its bite was poisonous."

This is bloggable because:

1. Squirrel news.

2. I have never in my life seen a cooler place name than Kondappanaikkanpalayam.

"Sir, the conversation's over."

(Via Volokh Conspiracy.)

In 2 new Supreme Court cases — one a clear conservative-liberal split and one decidedly not — the government wins and the criminal defendant loses.

Here's Herring v. United States:
Officers in Coffee County arrested petitioner Herring based on a warrant listed in neighboring Dale County’s database. A search incident to that arrest yielded drugs and a gun. It was then revealed that the warrant had been recalled months earlier, though this information had never been entered into the database....

Held: When police mistakes leading to an unlawful search are the result of isolated negligence attenuated from the search, rather than systemic error or reckless disregard of constitutional requirements, the exclusionary rule does not apply....

To trigger the exclusionary rule, police conduct must be sufficiently deliberate that exclusion can meaningfully deter it, and sufficiently culpable that such deterrence is worth the price paid by the justice system.
The opinion was written by the Chief Justice, joined by Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito. There is a dissenting opinion by Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, and Breyer. Here we see a clear split between conservative and liberal Justices, with the conservatives siding with the government and the liberals with the criminal defendant.

Here's Oregon v. Ice:
Respondent Ice twice entered an 11-year-old girl’s residence and sexually assaulted her. For each of the incidents, an Oregon jury found Ice guilty of first-degree burglary for entering with the intent to commit sexual abuse; first-degree sexual assault for touching the victim’s vagina; and first-degree sexual assault for touching her breasts....

Held: In light of historical practice and the States’ authority over administration of their criminal justice systems, the Sixth Amendment does not inhibit States from assigning to judges, rather than to juries, the finding of facts necessary to the imposition of consecutive, rather than concurrent, sentences for multiple offenses.
Justice Ginsburg wrote the opinion, joined by Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Breyer, and Alito. Justice Scalia wrote the dissenting opinion, joined by the Chief Justice, and Justices Souter and Thomas. In this case too, the government wins, but it is not a clear split between conservative and liberal Justices, and, interestingly, there are more conservatives seeing a constitutional right, and more liberals siding with the government and conservatives and liberals on both sides.

Justice Ginsburg writes:

Members of this Court have warned against “wooden, unyielding insistence on expanding the Apprendi doctrine far beyond its necessary boundaries.”.... The jury-trial right is best honored through a “principled rationale” that applies the rule of the Apprendi cases “within the central sphere of their concern.”... Our disposition today—upholding an Oregon statute that assigns to judges a decision that has not traditionally belonged to the jury—is faithful to that aim.
Justice Scalia writes:
The rule of Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U. S. 466 (2000) , is clear: Any fact—other than that of a prior conviction—that increases the maximum punishment to which a defendant may be sentenced must be admitted by the defendant or proved beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury. Oregon’s sentencing scheme allows judges rather than juries to find the facts necessary to commit defendants to longer prison sentences, and thus directly contradicts what we held eight years ago and have reaffirmed several times since....

The Court’s peroration says that “[t]he jury-trial right is best honored through a ‘principled rationale’ that applies the rule of the Apprendi cases ‘within the central sphere of their concern.’ ” ... Undoubtedly so. But we have hitherto considered “the central sphere of their concern” to be facts necessary to the increase of the defendant’s sentence beyond what the jury verdict alone justifies. “If the jury’s verdict alone does not authorize the sentence, if, instead, the judge must find an additional fact to impose the longer term, the Sixth Amendment requirement is not satisfied.”... If the doubling or tripling of a defendant’s jail time through fact-dependent consecutive sentencing does not meet this description, nothing does.

Here in Wisconsin, the night before last, a sleepwalker died in the cold.

"Timothy Brueggeman was found about 190 yards from his house.... Deputies followed tracks of his bare feet in the snow to find him."

The temperature was -16°. (We don't speak in wind chill here. That was the temperature.)

Sleepwalkers, lock yourself in well.

"Screw Civility: Why Bush-Bashing Should Be Obama's Eeelection Strategy."

That's heading used by The New Republic in email that got me to click over to this article by Michael Schaffer.

Naturally, I was interested. Interested in eeelection, which I took to be a way of e-voting for electric eels. Also screwing civility sounded hot, though I deplore the close proximity of screwing and electric eels. And then, of course, it's provocative to advise Obama to Bush-bash — or to screw him with an e-eel.

Clicking over, I see the sober headline is "Exit, Pursued By History: How Bush treated Clinton and how Obama should handle Bush."
Obama should save the civility shtick for Republicans he'll have to work with. As for the guy retiring to Texas, the new administration should ensure he remains the useful foil he was during the 2008 campaign. That starts with letting nothing--not public amnesia, not nostalgia, and certainly not a statesmanlike gesture from the White House--lift him from the PR cellar. When the new crew opens up the books on Bush's government, they ought to let every embarrassing detail out....

There's no guarantee Bush will remain this loathed forever. After next week, bad employment figures and reports about failed initiatives land on Obama.
There was Clinton-hating before there was Bush-hating, and there will be Obama-hating too. Can we break the chain of hate? Shaffer thinks that's for losers. Keep hate alive.
Democrats ran against Herbert Hoover for decades; Republicans kicked around Jimmy Carter for a dozen years. If Bush's successors play their cards right, Democrats could use his legacy as a thumb on their side of the scale for a generation....
Because hope and change... that would be such a stupid path to take.

Meanwhile, in a more civilized location, Barack Obama is dining with the conservative opinion leaders.

"By making a 15-minute-of-fame political media celebrity its point man in Israel, PJTV took a risk and they've now been bitten by it."

"Joe is now the face of PJTV. His saying that reporters should not be with front line soldiers undercuts any effort by PJTV to put reporters on the front lines of a war."

J.D. Johannes is — rightly — taking this personally.

Via Instapundit – and I appreciate seeing the Pajamas Media bloggers deviate from promoting the project.

5 years ago today, the long scroll that is this blog began.

"Writing in a blog is both less and more permanent than writing in the margin of a book." That's the sentence at the very bottom of this long, long scroll of what is now 14,450 posts and — though I'm not doing a precise word count — probably well over 2 million words.

It's funny to think that the word at the end of this scroll I started writing 5 years ago today has always been "book," even as the top word kept changing and the scroll got longer and longer. If I were writing in separate books, this blog would be 30 volumes by now, but no one would have published 30 volumes of such disconnected material, and since so much of my time and energy would have been drained off into editing work, it couldn't have been 30 volumes. It wouldn't even have been 10 volumes. There is no me over there in that alternate world where I was writing books instead of blogging. And you wouldn't have been there reading them either. You couldn't have cared about those books. What could they have been? Something completely different from this blog, and someone else, in this world, is writing fine books.

Me, I'm blogging. It may all be disconnected — one post after another, one thing that happened to interest me after another, along with all the things each post made you readers want to contribute, as the threads inside the posts go spinning off wherever they go. But it is all connected too. It is one long scroll — a 5-year-long scroll, with an average of 8 posts a day, and not one day missed. And it is connected in that other sense of being always instantly connected to readers. To be able to see and feel the presence of readers as I write is a deep pleasure denied to the writers of books.

So there are no books. There is only this, the blog, my magnum opus. And to say that is not to brag. Wikipedia says:
The term "magnum opus" is distinguished in usage from "masterpiece" by a requirement that it is a work on a large scale, and by the absence of a requirement that it is generally regarded as among the creator's most successful works. A masterpiece may be small, short or slight, but still highly successful. A magnum opus may be generally regarded as a failure. For example, several 19th century composers devoted enormous amounts of time to writing operas, but are mainly remembered for much shorter works for smaller forces. Examples include Schubert, Schumann, Isaac Albéniz, and Franz Lizst. Similar examples in literature include William Wordsworth, Thomas Pynchon and John Keats. With other artists, such as The Beatles, Beethoven, Wagner, Michelangelo and Raphael, the two terms coincide in their work—their largest works are among those regarded as their best.
It's my magnum opus, then, for good or bad — this stack of posts, now 5 years high.

January 13, 2009

Yes, I've noticed...

"American Idol" is back. Are you going to watch this time?

AND: I liked the way they opened with an homage to the myth of themselves.

AND: After that suicide of a contestant, I think they are making a big effort to show the love. Even when they say no, they say, but you're really very sweet. Hope that doesn't get mawkish.

AND: They've got this new judge, but she doesn't do much. It's as if she's deliberately holding back and letting Paula dominate so it doesn't seem as though she's been brought in to replace Paula. As a result, however, we don't know what she's doing there.

"A more perfect... you... nyun!"

(Via EDH, in the previous thread.)

Obama's pick for Solicitor General -- Elena Kagan -- has never argued a case before the Supreme Court.

In fact, it appears that she has no appellate experience at all.
[F]ormer Solicitor General Charles Fried, now a Harvard colleague of Kagan's, exclaims "Nonsense!" when asked if Kagan's lack of appellate experience is a deficit. "Anyone who tells you it's a problem is trying to maintain a guild lock on Supreme Court arguments."...

Fried himself had not argued before becoming deputy solicitor general in February 1985 -- a few months before he was elevated and confirmed as solicitor general....

... Georgetown University law professor Richard Lazarus -- currently visiting at Harvard -- the appointment of Kagan represents a "return to the mold" of earlier solicitors general, most of whom arrived from academia or the bench with little or no appellate experience.

It was not until Seth Waxman's appointment by President Bill Clinton in 1997, Lazarus says, that a new trend began of drawing SGs from the ranks of private firms, where they had honed litigating or appellate skills....

But the Waxman trend also tracks -- and perhaps responds to -- a new era on the Supreme Court itself, of a searingly "hot bench" with eight very active, combative questioners, as opposed to past courts where as many as three or four justices were almost as silent as Justice Clarence Thomas is now. That intensity has helped promote the notion that a new level of skill and specialization is needed to conquer the modern-day Court....
Well, it will be interesting to see how this works out.

Meghan McCain: "Sarah Palin is the only part of the campaign that I won’t comment on publicly."

Oh, my.

"These are not just regular costumes. These are the costumes that remind someone of the plantation in Gone with the Wind."

Edward Vaughn, head of the Alabama NAACP, does not want the Azalea Trail Maids representing Alabama in the Inauguration Day parade.

Here's how they look:

Out of place in the celebration of the first black president? 11 of the 50 Trail Maids are black, by the way.

The balls, the finger, the dogs — let's talk about Mickey Rourke.

ADDED: Let me transcribe the part about the dogs: "I'd like to thank all my dogs — the ones that are here and the ones that aren't here anymore — because sometimes when a man's alone, that's all you got is your dog, and they meant the world to me."

"A programmable robotic vagina that looks sort of like a cake mixer promises to be the most exciting sex toy ever invented for men."

I renew my argument that the term should be "sex tool," not "sex toy." Apparently, you plug it into your computer and it derives "artificial intelligence" from the pornography you are viewing.

Too scary? This may be more your style:

"Bush portrait label assailed."

Touching vigilance in the effort to deny the 43rd President the least speck of honor.

Does this display of neediness befit a man with his chosen namesake?

No wonder he's losing the Weblog Awards voting. Man up, Swift, you pussy.

Apparently, it's "They're Not as Alike as They Seem" day on the blog.

Perhaps you have some other examples.

There's a big difference between Kate Winslet and Sigourney Weaver.

They both won 2 Golden Globes in one year, and Sigourney Weaver then failed to win an Oscar — but that's not going to happen to Kate.

There's a big difference between Walt Kowalski and Archie Bunker — "Gran Torino" is not "All in the Family."

Moviegoers today enjoy the Walt Kowalski character in "Gran Torino," who spits epithets — and spits — at his Hmong neighbors and at some young black men. Why is this amusing us? I remember when the same questions were asked about the Archie Bunker character on the 1970s TV sitcom, "All in the Family." Back then, some people said it's terrible to make a racist lovable. It was bad to show this hateful man in a family of good people. Decent people should shun someone like that. One answer was that the storyline was always to prove Archie wrong. The black people next door were better than him: George Jefferson was an industrious entrepreneur and his son was a diligent student. The family that surrounded Archie continually modeled better values, and prodded the stubborn man along the path to a colorblind society of shared values.

Walt Kowalski, by contrast, has been shunned by his family. They minimalize their contact with him and don't have any enlightened values to push on him anyway. He lives alone in his old neighborhood, where he is the only white person left. And it's not as if everything would work out fine if he'd just wake up and quit being a racist. The nonwhite residents have actually ruined his neighborhood. There are no responsible adult males, just violent gangs. His is the only neat green lawn, and his is the only house that isn't dilapidated. His son and daughter think he should give up and move out. So his racism is of a piece with his stubborn refusal to move out, and when he takes action it is to bring his values of hard work and respect for property to the nonwhite residents.

Archie Bunker's racism was delusional, and his problems could be solved by changing his thinking. Walt Kowalski's racism is partly reality-based, and the part that is not reality-based, but Archie Bunker-like, has kept him in the place where he is able to do something about the problems that the other white people have fled.

ADDED: Please note that when I say "Walt Kowalski's racism is partly reality-based," I am referring to the reality depicted in the movie. By the same token, "Archie Bunker's racism was delusional" in the reality of the sit-com, where George Jefferson was an industrious entrepreneur and so forth. We're comparing 2 characters in 2 contexts — and all of it is fictional and the degree of distortion of reality is a separate question.

January 12, 2009

"Read Bono's column and, in 20 words or less, explain its theme."

Says Dan Drezner, who thinks the column is insufferable nonsense, and enters his own contest with: "Did you know that I knew Frank Sinatra?"

I'll enter the contest: Art is in the moment.


Here is yesterday's post on the Bono column.

Serving process on the Chief Justice — at his home.

"[Daniel] Portnoy, owner of D.C. Legal Process, was serving papers in atheist Michael Newdow’s challenge of the words 'so help me God' in the oath that President-elect Barack Obama will take next week... [John] Roberts was surprised he was being served at home, Portnoy says. But the process server had to reach Roberts in his individual capacity..."


Now, I've broken my silence on the atheist's case about the oath. I don't really want to talk about these attention-seekers, even though I teach Religion & the Constitution, because I resent the way they cause many people to despise the Establishment Clause and to think atheists are litigious louts. I detest the idea that Obama's magic moment — turning into President — has been intruded upon by people doing PR for their crusade.

"Entrepreneurs tend to have a singular weakness that allows them to do things without checking their conscience."

"Juvenile delinquents act and then try to sort things out afterward. I think entrepreneurs have this tendency."

Entrepreneurs don't care what you think. They're going to do what they want.

"I'm not stopping. It would be an act of shallow cowardice." Sounds juvenile delinquent-y, doesn't it? It's actually what the Segway entrepreneur keeps telling himself.

ADDED: Gordon Smith thinks entrepreneurs are too varied to be stereotyped — which is, I think, a slam on the whole idea of applying psychology generically.

Lettuce is selfish.

It belongs on a list of "socially unacceptable foods."

"Is there really a believable study that shows that Qi-freaking-Gong, of all things, is good for chronic pain?"

"Ancient hokum about 'energy fields' and 'life force' does the trick, does it? My idea of a good trial of Qi Gong would involve one group of patients getting the full hand-waving treatment according to the best practitioners of the art. The other cohort gets random hand motions from a system I will gladly invent on request, and which I will have to be forcibly restrained from naming Don Ki Kong."

"But when the revolution did not arrive on schedule, countercultural warriors had to find an alternative reward."

"The one they found was: mind-blowing orgasms."

That time Bob Dylan called Mickey Rourke.

"I've known him several years and we talk on the phone. Well, he's not big talking on the phone. Not big talking, period. I had a little part in some arty farty movie we did. He called me in the middle of the night and I'd say, 'Who's this?' And he'd say, 'Bob.' And I'd say, 'Bob who?' And he said, 'You know... Bob.' Oh f**k. Bob Dylan. He would ask me what he should be doing in a scene when he had no dialogue, and I would say, 'Why not do some activity?' I'd give him some little acting points, and we became friends."

Bush's last press conference: "We have been through a lot together."

"Kate Winslet... looks so good wearing red lipstick that maybe all of us women will be wearing red lipstick tomorrow."

I said it last night, live-blogging the Golden Globes.

Today: "Madonna the dupli-Kate with her new transformation impersonating Winslet."

ADDED: I fool with red lipstick and Photo Booth:

Photo 11

"Father and son duo are first to serve in priesthood for 900 years."

First time — supposedly — since the First Council of the Lateran imposed the celibacy requirement.

Surely, there have been cases of the illegitimate sons of priests going on to the priesthood, but this is an example of an openly married Catholic priest. There's loophole, you know, for Anglican priests who go papist.

"Cats and dogs weren't considered as therapeutic robots because... people get tired of these domestic animals and 'become critical' of them."

"They find more novelty in seals, animals they don't regularly see... The robotic seal also has artificial intelligence and can remember how it was treated, encouraging its owner to caress it again, but it has a 'kind of a sad cry, a negative reaction' if it's hit or mistreated."

Rush Limbaugh: "This program is an outpost...."

"My newsletter and website are go-to places for the exposure, the explanation, the selling, the love of conservatism. That's what this program is all about. By criticizing liberalism, by explaining it, I at the same time present the alternative.... It's about inspiring people, motivating them. It's not about depressing them. It's not about having them sit on their rear ends."


And Happy Birthday to my birthday-mate Rush Limbaugh — same day, same year. (So for those of you who believe in astrology — you fools — look out.)

Are the kids alright?

song chart memes
more music charts

(Via Erik J. Heels.)

(Bonus link.)

"Why are people so cruel on the internet?" Tina Fey is asked...

... after winning a Golden Globe and telling various commenters at The Envelope to "suck it." Video and commentary here. And here are the commenters at The Envelope talking about Tina talking about them:
anyone who reads the Envelope even on a cursory basis knows that when she started with "Babson LaCrosse" (who has since slunk away and changed his screen name (hahahahahhaaha) and continued with "Dianefan" and "Cougar Lover" that she was talking about The Envelope....

Oh My God! Tina is among us! I screamed at the tv when she said 'dianefan' and 'Babson LaCrosse'... I'll just start to say bad things about her right now on every single thread of this forum...
Now, Jesus said "Love your enemies," and he was onto something. And I don't mean pussy Jesus with the lambs and such. "Love your enemies" can be a muscular strategy if you do it with style, as Tina did. And I think it works especially well on the internet, where everyone is looking for love, really — aren't they? — whether they're gawking at porn sites or trashing divas.

"I don’t think journalists should be anywhere allowed war."

"I mean, you guys report where our troops are at. You report what’s happening day to day. You make a big deal out of it. I think it’s asinine. You know, I liked back in World War I and World War II, when you’d go to the theater and you’d see your troops on, you know, the screen, and everyone would be real excited and happy for’em. Now everyone’s got an opinion and wants to downer – and down soldiers. You know, American soldiers or Israeli soldiers. I think media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting. You know, war is hell. And if you’re gonna sit there and say, 'Well look at this atrocity,' well you don’t know the whole story behind it half the time, so I think the media should have no business in it."

Joe the Plumber, in Israel, shaming the journalists.

I'm sure the reaction to this will range all the way from idiot to genius.

An Althouse blog comments community project.

Yes, it's my birthday, but more important: Wednesday is the 5th anniversary of this blog. One thing that meant the most to me has been the ongoing conversation in the comments and the way it has developed over the years.

There have been great commenters who've built a lasting reputation, who've peaked and flamed out, who were wonderful until the day they stomped off, who go silent and then reappear, who go off and write on their own blogs but still stop back here from time to time. There have been trolls and quasi-trolls — trolls that annoy us and trolls that amuse us. It's been tremendously rewarding, and I'm glad to have you in my coffeehouse.

So here's the idea for the anniversary. Starting now, in the comments here, link to your favorite old thread or specific comment. You can highlight something your wrote or something from another commenter. Generate material of this sort, and, depending upon what you give me, I'll work it into a post for January 14th. (Remember, to link to a specific comment, click on the time under the comment, and then add the letter c to the URL after the #. Don't ask me why that c business is needed. It just is.)

"The Althouse delinquents, unable to grasp more than one thing at a time, are convinced this has solved the question of racist language."

Lean Left thinks you're not getting it.

IN THE COMMENTS: Bissage says:
I managed to get about one-third of the way through.

That’s exactly the kind of sophomoric and prolix crap that tempts a survey course grader to take the stack of bluebooks and simply toss them down the stairs.
Ha ha. Now, I've got to link to Daniel Solove's great old post demonstrating the down-the-stairs method of grading.

AND: Oh, look, Glenn Kenney is reacting to us:
[T]here seems to be some theory afoot that the oft-played-for-laughs deployment of racial epithets in the picture, when considered in tandem with a years-old video of England's Prince Harry, now makes it okay for one to refer to, say, one's Jewish friend as a "kike" to his face....
We've been talking about whether the film may make some people think it's okay, not that it actually makes it okay. (And, Glenn, the character's name is Thao, not Bee. Bee is the actor's first name.)

Here's the post where you can wish me happy birthday.

I brought doughnuts:

Coffee & Doughnuts

(When I started to add the "doughnuts" tag, Blogger tried to autocomplete that to "douchebags." That can only happen because I actually do already have a "douchebags" tag. At my age!)

"Yes, our announcement post title is grammatically incorrect."

Blogger tweets. That is Blogger, the blogging platform that I use, has a presence on Twitter now. I can't link to the tiny blog post — AKA tweet — that I've just quoted, but I can link to the announcement, which is titled: "Blogger in 140 characters or less."

The less/fewer distinction is popular with grammar sticklers — the anti-split-infinitivians — but I think more sophisticated grammarians would approve of that post title. It's colloquial and even preferable to say, for example, "Write an essay in 100 words or less." If you say "fewer," you seem like a non-native speaker who is consulting a rule before speaking. Any English speaker with even one ear knows to say "I have less than $100" and "We've got less than 20 minutes before the store closes."

The only reason why "Blogger in 140 characters or less" could be considered wrong is because in Twitter, when you're writing your post you see a countdown from 140, and you know that if you go into the negative numbers, your post won't publish. So there is as distinct particularity to the individual items in the whole mass.

Nevertheless, I say the original title was grammatically correct.

January 11, 2009

"Hey, I just saw 'Gran Torino' — is there some place safe to talk about it without worrying about spoilage?"

Asks chickenlittle. The answer is yes, here.

Will the Golden Globes affect the Supreme Court's "fleeting expletives" case?

At tonight's Golden Globes ceremony, the producer accepting the Best Drama award — for "Slumdog Millionaire" — said "Oh, fuck!" when he got the signal to cut his speech short. But we didn't hear it. There was a second of silence. So, as I noted at 10:03 Central Time on my live-blogging of the show, we got a conspicuous demonstration of how easy it is to snip out what has come to be known as a "fleeting expletive."

This Term, the Supreme Court is considering a case — FCC v. Fox Television Stations — on precisely this subject.
[In] March 2004, [the FCC] said, even a single use of “the F-Word” on the air would be treated as illegal....

The agency changed its approach after getting complaints about two broadcasts on Fox television of the Billboard Music Awards – the show in 2002 when singer-actress Cher used “the F-Word,” and the show in 2003 when actress Nicole Richie used variations of that word and used the four-letter excrement word – and a broadcast on NBC-TV in 2003 of the Golden Globe Awards, when rock singer Bono used a variation of “the F-Word.”
Ha ha. The Golden Globes! And now here, tonight, we had the Golden Globes on a tape delay with the "oh, fuck!" removed. So it's not that hard for the broadcaster to protect us from the careless, casual speech of celebrities. I wonder which Supreme Court Justices were watching? Probably just Kennedy.

I'm live-blogging The Golden Globes.

6:00: Come hang out with me. I'm watching Nancy O'Dell on the red carpet interviewing the Jonas Brothers. They seem like nice young men, but boring. I guess they don't need to be interesting, as they are obviously loved for whatever it is they do — which I've never experienced.

6:05: Commenting on her success, Miley Cyrus says she's not a big planner, but "God has a plan." She looks pretty there in her very long drapey white dress, with her dad who's flat-ironed his hair as much as a man possibly can.

6:15: Steve Carrell bows down to Ricky Gervais.

6:27: Gah! I screwed up the title line. Fixed. Sorry. The red carpet stuff is made less glamorous by the presence of TV folk, who seem especially interested in getting camera time. Meanwhile, we see Kate Winslet lurking over there, looking splendid.

6:29: Vanessa Hudgens's hair doesn't just look like a wig, it looks like a play wig. Jessica Lange is escorting Drew Barrymore. They are holding hands. I love Drew's hair — it seems to be inspired by Marilyn Monroe after a long night of drinking. Blah! Now it's Jeremy Piven whining about his ailment that no one believes he has.

6:41: Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio together again. This time he's the one who looks ever so slightly bloated. She's wearing a black dress and looks so good wearing red lipstick that maybe all of us women will be wearing red lipstick tomorrow.

6:47: Is that Tom Cruise's phone ringing? He's moved off to the side so Nancy O'Dell can get to Robert Downey Jr. — who's wearing dark sunglasses and looks very unkempt, yet brags about his sobriety — and then Sting — who's very red and bloated and bearded. He needs to go on Tom Cruise's diet, because Tom looks radically rejuvenated, all sharp edges.

6:50: Marisa Tomei promotes her movie — "The Wrestler" — which she says is "very verité."

7:01: Jennifer Lopez is handing out the Best Supporting Actress movie award. And it's... Kate Winslet. She's acting flustered, which she attributes to her "habit of not winning things." She's glistening with sweat. And maybe the rest of us women will try to be glistening with sweat tomorrow. She's thanking the movie makeup people for "making me look so old." [LATER: Ricky Gervais says he told her if she did a Holocaust film she'd win. This is a reference to the first episode of "Extras," where Winslet plays herself as an actress who is doing a Holocaust film in order to win an Oscar.]

7:07: Best Song. I was going to say I don't care, but then I see that the "Gran Torino" song is up. And there's Bruce Springsteen, who bellyached his way through a typical Bruce Springsteen song for "The Wrestler." And damned if he doesn't win. "This is the only time I'm going to be in competition with Clint Eastwood. That's for sure."

7:19: Supporting TV Actor. I guess Ben Franklin will win. Yeah. Tom Wilkinson. One of these days I'll finish watching the episodes of "John Adams." It wasn't my favorite sort of thing, but Wilkinson was good in it. He's acting quite geezerly now.

7:22: Supporting TV Actress. The only one I know is Laura Dern from "Recount." And she wins. She played Kathrine Harris — very amusingly. Oh, now, she's blabbering about the election and looking forward to "amazing change in this country." I hope that doesn't make anyone else think now would be a good time to talk politics. At least, her little TV movie was about a presidential election.

7:31: Best TV Actor is Gabriel Byrne, but he's not there. So on to Best TV Actress. Anna Paquin wins for "True Blood." Remember how cute she when she won an Oscar -- as a little girl? By the way, the presenters are the 2 young actors who are playing Captain Kirk and Spock in some new "Star Trek" project. They look interestingly like William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy — but handsomer — younger and handsomer.

7:40: "Wall-E" wins for animated movie, and the guy accepting the award thanks his kids and says they inspire every emotion he tries to capture on film. That sounds nice until you think about it for about 2 seconds.

7:45: Best Actress in a Comedy/Musical goes to Sally Hawkins, and I'm sorry I didn't see "Happy-Go-Lucky." She beat Meryl Streep, who detains her on the way to the stage. Bow to the Streep. She beat Emma Thompson too. And Frances MacDormond. That's some major ass-kicking.

7:56: Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore are still holding hands. They're presenting the Best TV Mini-Series or Movie. Unsurprisingly, "John Adams" wins. Surprisingly, the award is accepted by Tom Hanks. He could use some makeup.

8:01: Best Supporting Actor in a movie. Heath Ledger wins. He's not there to accept the award... needless to say. The director Christopher Nolan accepts the award. They show the "You complete me" clip.

8:05: Here's a list of all the nominees, in case you're wondering who the losers are. Now, here's Tom Brokaw. Why? Oh, he's introducing the clips for "Frost/Nixon." Funnily spoofed on "SNL" last night as "Frost/Other People."

8:09: Best Foreign Film. Oh! Israel won. "Waltz with Bashir." The producer accepts and says he hopes when his kids watch the film some day, the war it depicts will be something from the past.

8:13: Actress in a TV Mini-Series/Movie goes to Laura Linney — Abigail Adams — and it's no surprise. She's wearing an ugly dress and that hairstyle that mainly consists of not brushing.

8:22: Movie Screenplay. "Slumdog Millionaire." Excellent!

8:24: Best TV Actor. Alec Baldwin. I don't watch his show, but maybe I should.

8:33: Actor in a TV Mini-Series/Movie. Of course, it will be Paul Giamatti, right? Yes.

8:38: Best TV Comedy series. Obviously, it will be "30 Rock." I've never watched it. Heard it's good.

8:45: Original Movie Score. Gotta be "Slumdog." Yeah. A lot of movie music is just background emotional mainipulation, but "Slumdog" had some really exciting stuff. The composer thanks the "billion people from India."

8:48: Everyone seems to know that Tina Fey will win Best TV Actress, and she does. She's got a dress cut all the way down to the waistband, but don't get nervous. It's clearly glued on. She's bitching about the internet. She's telling specific bloggers — I think they're bloggers, they sound like bloggers — they can "suck it." It's nice to know the celebs read what the bloggers say about them and that it can bug them.

9:03: I'm not interested in watching the honoring of Steven Speilberg. It's not about this year's movies. It's such a drag. I hate all the shots of actresses faces — all that admiration. I imagine them all thinking about whether they look pretty giving the impression of caring.

9:15: A big one: Best Director. I say out loud: Danny Boyle. And that's right. It's Danny Boyle. I loved "Slumdog Millionaire" — saw it twice. Apparently, everyone in India is watching. That would be 1 billion people. Maybe some of them are watching TVs in shop windows, like the people in "Slumdog."

9:21: Colin Farrell wins the Best Actor in a Comedy/Musical. He says things like "Ignorance is nemesis."

9:32: Sacha Baron Cohen is riffing on the subject of economic hard times. "Even Madonna has had to get rid of one of her personal assistants. Our thoughts go out to you, Guy Ritchie." The audience sighs with disapproval... and also laughs. The award he's presenting is Best Musical/Comedy. Ah! "Vicki, Christina, Barcelona." Nice to see a Woody Allen movie win.

9:40: Best Drama Actress. This is the one where the GG website seemed to reveal that Anne Hathaway had won. But no! It's Kate Winslet!!!! Our Kate! She's won twice! "Okay. Gather." "I want to thank my beautiful agents."

9:46: Best TV Drama: "Mad Men."

9:53: Best Drama Actor. Mickey Rourke! I'm glad he won over Sean Penn simply because he's there and Sean is not. He gets a big, enthusiastic standing ovation. He looks really cool — sleazy cool — with stringy, highlighted hair, a mustache, light sunglasses, dark spray-on tan, dark satin lapels, and a dark sequined scarf. It shows that he really wanted it. He's touchingly pleased and genuinely humble.

10:00. Tom Cruise is here to give the Best Drama award, and I think we know it's going to be... it is... "Slumdog Millionaire."

10:03: The producer accepting the award, getting rushed to wrap up, says "Oh, fuck!" and the audio is removed. So we know it was tape delayed, and I wonder if this will affect the Supreme Court's "fleeting expletives" case. See? It's not hard to snip out the fleeting expletive. And here it is so conspicuously demonstrated. (And now, I can put the "law" tag on this post.)

10:07: Ah, finally, it's over. Highlights: Kate winning twice. Mickey Rourke. All the kudos to "Slumdog."

What would someone have to say on "Meet the Press" to prompt a follow-up question from David Gregory?

The previous post is about something Bill Cosby said on today's "Meet the Press." That was part of a segment about what Obama can do to help "the black community" with its "deepest problems." Also in this segment was Congresswoman Maxine Waters. Take a look at this:
[DAVID] GREGORY: You go home to Watts and you go out there and you see young people--the fact that we have a black president, that means something.

REP. WATERS: Well, of course it means something. He's absolutely a role model. I was watching the young boys from the Ron Clark school who have a--they were in a choir, and they have created a song about Obama. And I was watching their faces. And certainly if there's one thing you can say about this historic election, it is that he has created hope. He has, you know, let young people know and young black boys know that you can, you can indeed succeed.

Let me tell you about this parenting issue. I have--or we just had a Black Caucus retreat, and parenting emerged as the number one concern in that retreat. Now, as a public policymaker and a legislator, I think about ways by which we can be helpful in bringing about the kind of public policy that will assist families. And so parenting is one thing that I'm going to spend a lot of time on, because I think that we should dedicate personnel in our public schools to work with parents and to get parents involved. The PTA does not do that. But the teachers cannot do that, the teachers cannot be concerned about what is going on in the classroom and follow the kids home. But if we have a component in the school that's dealing with going to the home, finding out what is happening with this child, what are the circumstances under which they are living, and be able to direct resources toward that family and give families support, I think we can use parenting as a way to begin to deal with these very serious problems where children drop out and children are already considered failures before they reach high school.
I'm really feeling hopeless about David Gregory as Tim Russert's replacement on MTP. No follow-up question? Does he even listen to what the guests are saying?

Waters just said that the teachers can't follow the kids home, but that there ought to be "a component in the school" that — what? — follows the kids home? What sort of "component"? I'm afraid of these components! What is Waters proposing, and does Gregory have any capacity for critical thinking? How is it acceptable for government authorities to intrude into the home this way?

Then, Bill Cosby is going on about service:
... these Jesuits, I — they have an answer, and they make their boys go out into the community and give service... One of the things I've heard... is that when a person gives, when a person does a service, that there's something that happens to them emotionally. I've heard people in prison working with prisoners talk about prisoners breaking down and crying because they taught another prisoner, they mentored another prisoner to learn how to read. And that the, the mentoring person started to cry. You can't--as a policeman, as a policeman said to me -- make a man cry by punching him in the face. They don't cry. But here this man is, and it's something emotional about us giving to each other, teaching each other. And that's what this family's talking about.
Again, no follow-up from Gregory. Is Cosby suggesting that the government — like the Jesuits — should make their boys go out into the community and give service? A public-service draft? Could Gregory give some critical push-back?

Or was Gregory patronizing black people? Not only was he sparing his black guests any challenging questioning, he also abysmally failed to see the libertarian interests of black people as those guests went on about following black kids home from school to check on whether their parents are decent and forcing young black men into service. If those proposals had been made in a way that seemed to extend beyond the "black community" with its "deepest problems," would the light bulb in Gregory's brain turn on? What exactly are you talking about doing? How would you respond to those who would argue that this is an unacceptable — perhaps even an unconstitutional — burden on individual liberty?

When Bill Cosby voted: "Well, I took my father's picture, I took my mother's picture and I took my brother James, he died when he was 7, I was 8..."

"And I took the three of them into the voting booth in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts, and I pulled the curtain and I took their pictures out and I said, 'And now we're going to vote.' And I — we only, I only voted once. But — and I did that and their pictures were out, and then I put them back into my pocket and I opened the curtain. And it, and it was wonderful."

IN THE COMMENTS: Chip Ahoy said:
When I voted I stepped into the booth and closed the curtain. Then I took out of my overcoat photos of my mother and father and my four brothers and sisters and my dog that I have in little frames and taped them to the voting machine. I came prepared with Scotch tape because I remembered last time they didn't have any shelves in that voting booth. Then I took out a couple of candles and taped them to the sides of the voting booth. Then, from another pocket of my overcoat, I took out a bento box that I stuffed with sushi and sashimi and mixed the soy sauce into the wasabi, and using chopsticks, had a little snack. Then I took out a flask of saki and took a few long swigs. Then I gazed at the pictures for a long time. I thought heavily about each member of my family as I went down the row of election choices and made my selection. Then when I was finished with my little ritual I looked at the pictures again, individually, and said to them as if they were in there with me, "You're wrong about nearly everything and although I have only an idea how you all voted I have but one vote to counteract yours, so here goes." Then I pulled the lever. Put the pictures back into my pocket, snuffed the candles, put those away too, then the flask. Then closed the bento box and left.
Bissage said:
When I voted I brought my menagerie of Star Wars figurines and wrote in Jedi Master Mace Windu.

And it, and it was wonderful.