Monday, February 28, 2005

"American Idol" -- the "guys."

Simon reveals that he has already identified the winner.

Mario Vasquez: He's my favorite, but he was a little bland tonight. Simon's nice to him -- I think because he doesn't want to lose him.

Ryan Seacrest reveals his weight. It's 142.

Anwar Robinson: He's one of the best, and at first I'm worrying about him, as he blandly begins "What's Going On," but he builds it up as he goes along, and ends nicely. Simon babbles that he usually watches Anwar and thinks he's good but then afterwards, when he "watches back," he sees it's not so good. But this time he thinks it really is good. Of course, he hasn't "watched it back" yet, so what can that possibly mean?

Joseph Murena: "Let's Stay Together." A classic "American Idol" song. He's cheesy, and he tells the audience to "come on." Which is the mark of cheesiness. His voice is not rich and distinctive enough. He's got a whole cocktail lounge vibe. Randy says he's "waiting for one note" that would prove something. Paula: "Good for you." Simon: "This is 2005 ... We could have been in a Portuguese nightclub in 1974." Just a nightclub singer -- that's what I thought too.

David Brown: He's wincing and melisma-ing his way through "All In Love Is Fair." How far can you get just trying to be Stevie Wonder? He didn't bring his "sparkle," Simon says. I like his huge billowy lavender shirt. I hope he doesn't get booted out this week.

Constantine Maroulis. The rocker. Yikes! What a mess! Horrible song. What is it? Too Hard to Handle? Oh, it's an Otis Redding song: "Hard to Handle." I don't remember that one, and he sure doesn't sound like Otis Redding.... [UPDATE: Several readers have emailed to say he was doing the Black Crowes' version of the song.] I'm expecting him to get slammed. And you know they stick the worst performances in the middle. Uggghhh! Randy: "At least you had a really good time." Paula: "Definitely, definitely." I hope Simon is mean! "I could go to any bar ... and see someone of the same caliber as you." I agree! Ryan looks tiny next to him and says, "Yes, I am short."

Scott Savol: He didn't think he'd make it based on his physical appearance. He sings some oozy R&B song. He's cultivating some facial hair designed to give him a chin line. Paula thinks he "brought it." She likes everyone, though. But Simon agrees! That might be a trick to get people not to bother to vote for him, but I think Simon tells the truth and doesn't game it.

Travis Tucker: He's going to lose, I predict. Wait! He's dancing. But he's off-key and unmusical. He's singing that Lionel Richie song "All Night Long" -- makes me realize how great Lionel Richie was. Randy reveals it's not a challenging song, so I guess Lionel Richie wasn't all that great.

Nikko Smith: The guy with the rectangular glasses. He sings without his hat! "Let's Get It On." A little lackluster, but with some nice screaming. Randy loves him, because "it's about singing the song." Simon thinks he's 1000% improved, but looks too much like Bobby Brown!

Alexander Federov: Uh-oh! Seems off key, singing "I Wanna Know What Love Is." I hate this sort of song. Wait! He hits a high note -- and we forgive everything! Randy: "You worked it out." Paula: "You kicked it into a different gear." Simon: "I think you did a fantastic job." He doesn't want to lose him.

Oh, Bo is last! He must be good. He's my favorite. (I mean, him and Mario.)

Bo Bice: I think he's the guy Simon has pegged as the winner! He's the best rocker and the most masculine singer the show has ever had. Wow! He blew everyone else away. Randy: "I love you." It was an Allman Brothers song. Paula: "You are the real deal." Simon: "Every year -- somebody comes on the stage -- we had it last year with Fantasia and LaToya -- and does something so fantastic, it blows you away." That song was "Whipping Post": Good lord, I feel like I’m dyin’.

Okay, Bo is now my favorite. Sorry, Mario.

Who should go? Joseph Murena and Travis Tucker. Sorry guys. I would say Constantine, but ... What the hell? Constantine deserves to go to? Why? Because he is not Bo!

About those high-heeled boots.

This amused me.

Free-floating anti-SUV hostility.

The NYT has some letters to the editor today about that op-ed that said the reason Frenchwomen don't get fat is that they smoke a lot. (I blogged about that op-ed here.) This letter caught my eye:
The reason Frenchwomen are slim and American women are fat is simple: American women drive S.U.V.'s, and Frenchwomen walk.
Would you not get fat if your just drove a Prius everywhere?

"German to build corpse art factory in Poland."

So reports Reuters. It's just Gunther Von Hagens back in the news. I like that photo and recommend clicking to enlarge, but you might be offended.

The morning after the Oscars.

Last night, I simulblogged the Oscars. The morning, what sticks in my mind?

First: how mad I am at Jamie Foxx for romanticizing child abuse! Why did people just sit back and laugh and accept his account of how much his grandmother beat him? Just because he presented it in a positive light? I'm grouping this with the stories surrounding Hunter S. Thompson's suicide. People in the public eye need to see beyond themselves and think about what they are legitimating when they choose to present a bad thing in their own lives in an uncritical positive light.

Second: how out of place Chris Rock was. I like him as a comedian: I've watched his HBO shows and I own a couple DVDs of his comedy routines. But his style is built on a harshness and his mode of delivery is yelling. That just didn't go with a roomful of elegantly dressed people -- even if they are too full of themselves and in need of some puncturing. Sean Penn's use of his time on stage -- presenting the Best Actress Award -- was awkwardly devoted to restoring the reputation of Jude Law, the one actor Rock decided to rip into most viciously. I'm sure Rock chose Law because Law is riding so high and is regarded as so handsome. But it was too mean.

Third: the fashion for inflated breasts has ended. All the coolest looking women had smallish breasts, including the two Oscar winning actresses, Hillary Swank and, especially, Cate Blanchett (who won for portraying that great small-breaster of the Golden Era, Katharine Hepburn). Last year's winner, Charlize Theron was also sporting the micro look last night. So was nominee Natalie Portman. They all looked great. (I enjoyed reading The Anchoress's review of the dresses, which includes: "I loved Swank's dress; it was dangerous and bold, and a hard - unforgiving - dress to wear - if her bustline was the merest big bigger, it would have been a disaster, but she pulled it off.")

UPDATE: Tom Bozzo notes that I didn't say anything about Clint Eastwood last night -- I was tired by the time he got up! -- and points out that I had a lot to say back when the nominations were announced. So let's look back at that post, which was a morning after correction of typos -- and a meditation inspired by one of the typos:
I meant to express irritation "for the Oscar-worthy projects that extract Oscar recognition from the Hollywood fossils," but I wrote "Oscar-worthy projects that extract Oscar recognition for the Hollywood fossils," which is an even worse sort of mistake because it makes sense and just means something I didn't intend to say. Looking at the statement this morning, however, I'm thinking I could intend that statement to some extent. There seems to be an attempt going on to extract Oscar recognition for the "Hollywood fossils" Martin Scorsese and Clint Eastwood, but I wouldn't have used that epithet against them intentionally.

I will say though that Clint Eastwood looks horrible on the cover of the new Entertainment Weekly. When I saw it, I exclaimed "he looks like a snake head" about five times. Would grizzled old Clint get a face lift? Instead of a face full of interesting lines and crags, his thinned out skin is stretched back, forming a taut, glossy surface that does not look human. And it sure doesn't help that his ears are so far back that they are scarcely visible in the full frontal view. Why? Why? Why would someone that old do something that can't make him look young, but only make him look very weird? Why would an actor who is only suited to play weathered old men ruin his face -- his instrument -- in search of an unattainable look that belongs to men who belong in roles he could never have anyway? And why did Clint Eastwood get a nomination instead of Paul Giamatti? Maybe the old fossils look at his new, old snake head and see themselves.
In retrospect, that seems too mean. Clint Eastwood deserves credit for playing characters who are his age, and, on stage accepting the Best Director Oscar, he called attention to his geezerhood, showing the wisdom and grace of age. (See last night's post for the "wisdom and grace" reference -- it's from Drew Barrymore). I liked how low key and modest Eastwood acted. He's a real sweetheart, not a snake head at all!

ANOTHER UPDATE: MSM didn't like Rock. Tom Shales in the Washington Post called him "strangely lame and mean-spirited. " USA Today is harsher: "Loud, snide and dismissive, he wasn't just a disappointment; he ranks up there with the worst hosts ever." What's more:
[W]hat many viewers are most likely to remember — particularly those who feel Hollywood is out of touch with many of its customers — is Rock's lengthy attack on George Bush.

It went over big with the crowd, and if you voted for John Kerry, you probably found it amusing. But that routine had nothing to do with the Oscars, either, and it very likely sent half the audience fleeing from what was otherwise a politics-free evening.

But apparently, the ratings were good, so I suppose we're in for more of this sort of thing in the future. And what is that? An abrasive, political comedian followed by a parade of anaesthetized Hollywood folk with nothing to say? Actually, I think the people who voted for Kerry should be worried. But they'll have to get past their in-group enjoyment of themselves and their own imagined superiority and get some concept of how the people who didn't vote for Kerry -- AKA the majority -- respond to this sort of display.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: Nina disapproves of my statement that a majority of people didn't vote for Kerry. Admittedly, I should have said a majority of voters didn't vote for Kerry, and I ignored non-Americans (though they didn't vote for Kerry either). [ADDED: And anyway, it is true that most people, including most Americans didn't vote for Kerry.] But I think her post overall is an example of exactly the problem I'm trying to talk about: Kerry voters do not want to worry about the impression they are making. They adored "Fahrenheit 911" and they trashed Bush viciously, and then their man lost the election. And then their reaction was: how could that possibly have happened? I'd say that if you want to win, you have to be able to imagine how things you find delightful look to people who don't share your politics.

AND MORE: Several people have written to say they also think Eastwood has had his face surgically altered, and one sends this picture link.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Simulblogging the Oscars.

5:51 Central Time. There is still an hour to go before the big Oscars show begins, and I will be going strictly live beginning then. No TiVo tomfoolery once the official broadcast starts -- that's a rule enforced chez Althouse, but not by Althouse. But I want to watch on HDTV anyway, so I guess that would be my rule too, even if it were up to me, which it's not, because I share this old house with someone who is much more serious about film and all of its accoutrements than I will ever be. But pre-7, I'm going to catch up on what the TiVo dragged in: E! Live from the Red Carpet. This show for me, is all about the absence of Joan Rivers. Yes, I know that Joan lives on over at the TV Guide channel, but that show is sad and low energy. I want the old Joan back -- Joan before she was tossed aside by E!. So, what we have is Star Jones, reading her lines and not even pretending to be interested in anything but selling her $20 shoes, and Kathy Griffin trying to do comedy even though her face is disturbingly immobilized.

6:10. Jones interviews Morgan Spurlock. The bodice of her dress fits so badly, so loosely! Here's Carlos Santana. "Che Guevara! That's the luck right there," says Star Jones, after she asks him what he's wearing for luck and he opens his black jacket to reveal a Che Guevara T-Shirt. He is promoting "Motorcycle Diaries," so perhaps we shouldn't be so hard on him. Don Cheadle, not nervous? "I took the right meds before I got here, so I think everything will be smoothed out the rest of the night." Melanie Griffith is wearing a blue-gray dress and carrying a cane -- she's broken her leg! Antonio Banderas has very stringy greasy hair tonight.

6:29. Leonardo Dicaprio! He doesn't care about fashion, but for the Oscars: a Prada suit. What would the little girls out there find surprising about you? "I'd say just about everything." Hilary Swank in a dark blue looks-like-it's-on-backwards dress provokes Jones to say "You are on my list as a perpetual Glamazon." Swank says hi to her fifth grade teacher. Virginia Madsen brings her glamorous mother. Mother and daughter have big swinging earrings. Scarlett Johansson looks incredibly light pink with nearly white poodle hair. The dress is black, a very dramatic contrast. "Aging is about wisdom and grace," Drew Barrymore informs us, with the perspective of her thirty years.

6:48. Spike Lee is wearing a white suit, with a black shirt and tie -- and a black fez! So far, on the hat front, we've seen Carlos Santana in a Che beret and now Spike Lee in a fez! Salma Hayek shows up and suddenly ranks at number 1 on the home voters' best fashion list. Her dress is another dark blue dress -- what's with all the dark blue? -- and it's got black bows and other black trimming all over it. Alan Alda says Morgan Freeman is going to get the Supporting Actor Oscar and he's just there to have fun. Kate Winslet in bright, medium blue: beautiful! She's talking to the other Cate -- Cate Blanchett. Cate is impossibly fragile, with translucent skin and a lemon-sherbet-colored dress. Johnny Depp! He's in dark blue. He's still got some gold teeth from the pirate movie. His wife is beautiful and, actually, looks a lot like him.

7:00. Now, I go to live-blogging, and to HDTV. I love the red carpet on wide-screen, and it's great to get a chance to see all the flaws on the stars. Annette Bening is beautifully crinkled – presumably with grace and wisdom. Jamie Fox is proud to have "cracked open" the love for Ray Charles that was hidden underground.

7:13. Orlando Bloom is asked why everyone admires Johnny Depp so much. Bloom, who's doing the new pirate movie with Depp, starts to explain something slightly complex about integrity, and the interviewer talks over him and shoos him along.

7:34. Nice clip show to begin. I hope they do more montages, less on-stage entertainment. Now Chris Rock comes out and gets a standing ovation. Why a standing ovation? It makes no sense. It's as if they were warning us about all the overpraising we've got coming tonight. "There's only four real stars, and the rest are popular people." Rock is yelling his routine. It's about how moviemakers should wait for the real star to be ready to film. Don't make "Alexander" with Colin Farrell. "If you're doing a movie about the past, you need to get Russell Crowe's ass." Rock loved "Fahrenheit 911," he says, and we see numerous stars in the audience clapping solemnly. Rock talks about Bush: imagine seeking a job, and while you're seeking that job, there's a movie playing everywhere about how awful you are. He goes into a long Bush-bashing tirade, and we see the audience cracking up and clapping. He ends the routine, though, by sending out love for all the troops.

7:44. "The Aviator" gets the first award, for Art Direction. The nominees are all made to stand on the stage, which seems a little sadistic, but does allow the women to show off their gowns. Renee Zellweger comes out in a stiff red dress. She moves like an inchworm. Her hair is dyed black. Best Supporting Actor is next. They don't make these guys line up on the stage. Based on the clips, I said "Anybody but Church." Morgan Freeman wins. He thanks everyone, especially Clint Eastwood. "This was a labor of love."

7:54. Robin Williams comes out with white tape on his mouth, presumably symbolizing censorship. He rips it off and does a little routine about how various cartoon characters -- other than Sponge Bob -- are gay. Donald Duck, with that sailor suit and no pants. Best Animated Feature: "The Incredibles." Cate Blanchett announces the makeup award from the audience, not from the stage -- innovative! "Lemony Snicket" wins. Drew Barrymore announces the first performance of a nominated song. My suggestion for a better Oscars show: just get rid of the song award altogether. Beyoncé sings in French with a boy choir. She looks great, with lots of green eyeshadow, but the song is absolutely deadly.

8:07. Chris thinks Beyoncé sang that song just great. We argue through the commercial about this, with me taking the position that it demanded more of an operatic voice and was not suited to Beyoncé, who I'm willing to believe is an excellent pop singer.

8:10. Chris Rock goes downtown to ask ordinary people what their favorite movie was. "I'm not going to lie, and I'm not going to front to these people," says one guy as he admits he didn't see "Sideways." Scarlett Johansson announces the scientific and technical awards, and I suddenly feel that I understand her dress. Pierce Brosnan announces the Costume award with that fashion character from "The Incredibles," causing me once again to regret that I didn't have a child of an age that could have justified my going to a cartoon this year. On seeing the clips, I mutter "The Aviator," and I'm right, and I take that to mean that "The Aviator" will win the most awards, including Best Picture. Tim Robbins -- who bores us to death with his politics, per Rock -- announces Supporting Actress. Oh, I love them all. And my Cate wins!!!

8:26. A tribute to Johnny Carson, with horrendously smarmy music. Leonardo Dicaprio introduces the Documentary Feature award. The nominees are lined up on stage. One expects Spurlock to win. I saw that movie and thought little of it. So I'm thinking: anybody but Spurlock. And I am satisfied. It's "Born Into Brothels." Kirsten Dunst and Orlando Bloom come out to do the Editing award. If "Aviator" gets this, the handwriting is on the wall. And it does!!!

8:42. Adapted Screenplay: "Sideways." Not surprised. I've like Alexander Payne for a long time. He accepts the award knowing all of his actors missed out. Visual Effects: "Spiderman 2." Didn't see it, but the clip made me laugh with delight. Now we reach the great slump section of the night. Everyone goes into a coma now, and maybe later we will emerge and think, why am I so tired? when will it all end? I like Al Pacino but spare me the awards that don't relate to the past year!

9:08. Struggling to emerge from the coma. What was that? Beyoncé again! Yes, that was Beyoncé, but was that a song? I can't tell you one word that was in that song or remember a single musical phrase. Jeremy Irons ad libs "I hope they missed" when we hear a sound like a gunshot. Best Live Action Short -- a pointless category. "Wasp" wins. I have no idea if it's about the insect or not. Short Animated Film - well, could you show a clip, maybe? Wouldn't that be a better use of time than those damned songs? Something called "Ryan" wins. No one cares. Kate Winslet! We love her chez Althouse. Cinematography is the award. I predict "The Aviator," because it's been an "Aviator" night. And so it is.

9:20. Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz side by side. Fascinating! Another line-them-up-on-the-stage-award, that is, a low-valued award. What is it? Sound mixing. Who cares? The award is announced but the movie isn't named, so we're all confused. What won? Oh, it's "Ray." Now, Sound Editing. What the hell's the difference between that and Sound Mixing? No one knows or cares. Why isn't this grouped with the technical awards that are done in a separate ceremony? The coma continues... Okay, it's "The Incredibles." Here's where I miss using the TiVo assist. The acceptor says these aren't "technical" awards, these are for "artistic decisions." It's as if he heard my bitching. And now, another damned song. Salma Hayek not only announces the song from "The Motorcycle Diaries," she translates the words into English. Carlos Santana plays guitar and Antonio Banderas sings. It's the sort of thing where if you wandered into a bar and this was going on, you'd turn around and walk out.

9:34. Here's Natalie Portman in a dress that requires her to stand perfectly upright. Best Documentary Short Subject, the low point of the evening. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Original Score is next, and John Travolta does us the kindness of speaking very fast. "Finding Neverland" wins. That's one of the movies I saw, but I have no memory of the music.

9:47. Okay, I've ignored the humanitarian award. Annette Bening introduces one of my favorite sections, the memorial to dead filmfolk. Yoyo Ma plays the cello to set the lugubrious tone. Reagan is first, and we hear only applause. Good. It ends with Marlon Brando, with a series of clips. Clearly, Brando is the greatest actor to have died in the past year.

9:56. Sean Combs introduces another boring song, again with Beyoncé. What is the pont of this overuse of Beyoncé? The song is awful, the thing from "Polar Express." Combs tells us we should listen to the words, that they have some important message especially relevant today. I think he may have said that it's "hip." But the song is about how you should believe in your dreams! "Believe in what you feel inside, and give your dreams the wings to fly." Oh, how I hope that song loses, even though none of the other songs made any impression on me. And now, it's Prince! Pink pants, blue jacket. Sparkly hair! He just reads his lines -- doesn't do anything odd. The "Motorcycle Diaries" song wins. Good! Get it over with. The guy who accepts re-sings the damned song. As if we care! At least he doesn't talk. No more songs!!! Finally, we are at Best Actress. Announcing the award is Sean Penn. He tells us Jude Law is one of our finest actors, which he says to contradict Chris Rock's insult to him in the opening routine. Ha! Humorless Sean Penn -- but he was right about that! As expected, Hillary Swank wins. "I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream."

10:12. Gwyneth Paltrow comes out to give the Best Foreign Language Film. "The Sea Inside." Samuel Jackson gives the Original Screenplay Award. Some good films here. "Eternal Sunshine." Charlie Kaufman. Good! He seems like a sweet guy, and he really is doing something that no one else does. And it makes Kate Winslet happy, so... "It's the one thing that really deserved it," says Chris.

10:22. Charlize Theron, in a fluffy light blue dress, introduces the Best Actor nominees. As expected, Jamie Foxx wins. Standing O! But the standing O was cheapened earlier in the night. "Thank you, Ray Charles for living." Love! Love! Love! He praises his grandmother for beating him and that gets a big laugh. Ah, but grandma is dead and he's crying over her. So, love! I'm sure there are some people who beat their kids who are sitting at home thinking, see, I'm right, it does the kids good, and they'll thank me for it some day.

10:32. Julia Roberts introduces the directors, who bring their visions to the "scream." Clint Eastwood wins, so we can continue to talk about how Martin Scorsese has never won an Oscar. Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand (dressed in dark blue) come out to give the Best Picture award. Hoffman seems to be in a weird trance. Seeing Streisand reminds me that no one (other than Rock) brought up politics tonight. "Million Dollar Baby" wins.

10:40. That's it!

UPDATE: Here are my morning after thoughts.


The BBC has a reporter live-blogging behind the scenes at the Oscars. Are you better off blogging the Oscars from inside Hollywood or in front of the TV (as I will be doing tonight)? These bloggers with special access tend to blog too much about their access hassles:
It was elbows out all the way to try to wrestle my way into the Razzies worst film awards, which were held last night at a small theatre near the Oscars venue.

Despite having my name booked there in advance, I was herded outside onto the street along with about 30 others, including journalists from Sky News.

The box office staff apologised profusely, saying there weren't enough seats, and fire regulations prevented them from over-filling the theatre.

Not one to give up easily, I persisted at the door several times and was stunned when I managed to persuade one of the staff to give up her seat, just before the curtain went up.

Her husband looked a bit surprised when I sat in the place he'd saved for his wife, but she explained it was more important that the BBC see the show than her.

There's much more material like that over there! Well, I will not be wasting your time tonight describing my access hassles. There are no obstacles in the way of my armchair.

Who's emigrating for political reasons?

The NYT reports on the large number of Dutch citizens who are eager to emigrate:
Many Dutch also seem bewildered that their country, run for decades on a cozy, political consensus, now seems so tense and prickly and bent on confrontation. Those leaving have been mostly lured by large English-speaking nations like Australia, New Zealand and Canada, where they say they hope to feel less constricted.

In interviews, emigrants rarely cited a fear of militant Islam as their main reason for packing their bags. But the killing of the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, a fierce critic of fundamentalist Muslims, seems to have been a catalyst.

"Our Web site got 13,000 hits in the weeks after the van Gogh killing," said Frans Buysse, who runs an agency that handles paperwork for departing Dutch. "That's four times the normal rate."

Mr. van Gogh's killing is the only one the police have attributed to an Islamic militant, but since then they have reported finding death lists by local Islamic militants with the names of six prominent politicians. The effects still reverberate. In a recent opinion poll, 35 percent of the native Dutch questioned had negative views about Islam.

There are no precise figures on the numbers now leaving. But Canadian, Australian and New Zealand diplomats here said that while immigration papers were processed in their home capitals, embassy officials here had been swamped by inquiries in recent months.
One man who is leaving is quoted saying, "I'm a great optimist, but we're now caught in a downward spiral, economically and socially." The article notes that those who are leaving are affluent and successful: "urban professionals, managers, physiotherapists, computer specialists." There is also a lot of talk about the lack of "living space" in the country, and the antipathy toward nonnatives seems generic and not limited to violent factions. This is truly sad and frightening.

Don't romanticize Thompson's suicide -- redux.

Here's a long piece by Hog on Ice about the Hunter S. Thompson suicide. ("I guess that if there's anything more ignominious than scrambling your own brain because you wasted your life and you can't write any more, it's having your dead body used by your own wife and son, as a grisly prop in a pretentious 'counterculture' celebration.")

My "Don't romanticize Thompson's suicide" is here.

The other day, Tim Russert reran his old interview with Hunter S. Thompson from February 2003.
RUSSERT: Tell me why you oppose the war against Iraq?

THOMPSON: Well, it seems like not just dangerous but insanely dangerous for us, for me. I don't even think it's our war. I think it's Mr. Bush's war. And I think it's just like they say about the Civil War, that's Mr. Lincoln's war. But it just seems incredibly stupid to go off--here's a man who's taken the country in two years from a prosperous nation of peace to a broken nation of war. You know, that's kind of hard to--to vote for him it would seem when--the people keep voting for him. And that's what baffles me about the American people now.

RUSSERT: You said it appears our nation is having a national nervous breakdown.

THOMPSON: That's what I--I recognize it as.

RUSSERT: Explain that.

THOMPSON: Oh, God, explain that. Well, it seems that I think in a n--in a nervous breakdown, I believe, you kind of seize up and go sideways, more or less paralyzed. I wouldn't want to get into psychetry--psychiatric research here, but that's how it seems. I--the--the utter torpor of the American people in voting for a person who makes them broke, takes away their education and their libraries and tax refun--you know, you got--tax refunds--seem to be wrong with these things, but I live out in the mountains and the woods and that's the way it seems to me. And I've--I've done this for a long time, you know, governed a lot of elections and seen a lot of politicians. But I've disagreed with a lot of them. But I haven't been appalled. Nixon--yeah, Nixon--well, he was fun compared to Bush. He was a liberal.

RUSSERT: Nixon was a liberal.

THOMPSON: Compared to Bush.
"[H]ere's a man who's taken the country in two years from a prosperous nation of peace..." -- it wasn't as if anything other than Bush knocked our prosperous nation off the path of peace. "[T]he people keep voting for him" -- he said that in 2003, so that referred to nothing. "I've ... governed a lot of elections" -- well, we all misspeak sometimes. But all of this was said in horrendous muddle-mouthed speech. I turned it off after a few minutes.


I'm not saying I'll ever podcast, but I'm trying to figure out how I would do it with my iBook. I've got a decent microphone, which came with ViaVoice. (ViaVoice -- a dictation to typing program -- made me imagine it would make work wondrously easier. It did not. It just introduced a weird new world of tasks, along with a certain amount of found humor, similar to spellcheck humor, as it heard what you said and guessed what word you meant. It didn't know any of the proper nouns in the cases I was writing about, so the writing was full of ridiculous substitutions. You spend a lot of time correcting errors and trying to get it to understand you. Trying to get an inanimate thing to understand you is a chump's game. It's not going to fall in love with you. My ViaVoice relationship was doomed to remain forever at the dictation-to-typing level.)

I've read you can do the basic recording for podcasting in Garage Band, which is a fancy program designed to do so much more than voice recording. It becomes an effort to get the fancy stuff out of your way just to record. I couldn't figure out how to pause. And then I got distracted by the fancy stuff that was easy to figure out and recorded multiple voice tracks in the manner of Glenn Gould's "Solitude Trilogy" (remember "The Idea of North" in "32 Short Films About Glenn Gould"?).

So I need to be able to pause. Voice activation would be better. And Garage Band doesn't take you from recording to a file you can put up on the blog. I like how easy it is to use iPhoto to get the photos up on the blog (though I must admit it took me a long time to figure out how to do it). Shouldn't podcasting be part of iLife? But iBlog wasn't even an Apple product.

Any advice? I mean simple, Macintosh advice.

UPDATE: A very nice emailer has helped me up to the point where I can record in Garage Band -- the space bar works to pause -- and make an MP3 file by importing it into iTunes and converting it. After that, I'm stymied. I was going to put it onto my homepage, but the file is 2 MB and that will use up too much space too quickly. Then there's the whole RSS aspect to it all that I don't even want to think about yet. I hit the wall, tech-wise, for the day just getting this far.

MORE: It troubles me to see how much memory an audio file uses, even saved at a low quality level. A text file of the entire novel "Moby Dick" is less than my little 10 minute blabber. Isn't that just wrong?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Mr. Moderato.

A new trend?

"Scissors count, but the knife does not."

Now that we've defined what a gadget is, let's identify the top 100 gadgets of all time. Or, let the fighting begin by having one magazine -- Mobile PC -- identify the top 100 gadgets of all time. Most of them are either electronic or goofy novelties (like the Ronco egg-scrambler): the list is dripping with bias toward things the listmakers remember from their own lives. So, lest you get steamed at the absence of the catapult -- or whatever -- you might want to read "all time" as all the time that youngish guys have personally experienced. But they do throw in some old stuff to try to make it look a little "all time": the sextant and the abacus get slotted in at 59 and 60. Yet somehow Etch-a-Sketch and Speak-and-Spell are greater! Numerous different laptops make the list -- I lost count -- and the Apple Powerbook 100 comes in at first place.

The taser is number 79. (No other guns make the list!) Did you know a University of Wisconsin professor is testing tasers on pigs?
Over the past three years, more than 70 people in North America have died after being shocked by Tasers, according to the human rights group Amnesty International. But John Webster questions whether Tasers were really the cause of death.

Many of those people were high on drugs, namely cocaine, argued the emeritus professor of biomedical engineering.

"If you Taser someone with a cocaine overdose, and they die, did they die of the Taser?" Webster said. "I know that many people make it to the emergency room and then die. In my opinion, they were not electrocuted by the Taser. They were high on drugs."

He'll use about 10 anesthetized pigs to help settle the question of whether Tasers alone can send a subject into the deadly state of ventricular fibrillation. A Taser gun ejects darts with a 50,000-volt electrical charge that is designed to briefly immobilize people.

Some of the pigs will be shot with the Taser. Some will get cocaine or another drug. And some will get both the drug and the Taser shot. Webster and his students will measure the effect on the pig's heart.

"The question I'm trying to answer is, can Tasers electrocute subjects?" Webster said. "My hypothesis is, no." He did leave open the possibility that an "emaciated person" who is hit by a Taser whose darts hit directly on and around the heart could die of the shot.

The study is funded with a two-year, $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice.

It seems to me that people high on cocaine are especially likely to get into the kind of situation where they do get shot with Tasers. If you know the Taser-cocaine combination is deadly, isn't there still a problem?

The Oscars!

Yes, I will be simulblogging the Oscars tomorrow night. Will I be playing the Oscars Drinking Game while simulblogging? Better not! But great list: "Drink if you can't figure out a damn thing Prince says when presenting an award." Prince is presenting an award? Yes. And well he should. He won an Oscar once. I wish I could find a picture of him in that purple-hooded cape he wore when he accepted the award.

Why does Road Kill candy send the wrong message?

A rash of criticism has already bullied Kraft into getting rid of its Road Kill candy, a Gummi-style candy in the shape of various animals with a tire-tread mark. But why is this considered offensive? The complaint was that it encouraged cruelty to animals. It seems to me an ordinary Gummi animal -- sans tread mark -- has the kid biting into a living animal, which would indeed be cruel. The road kill animal has died an accidental death. To eat road kill is to dispose of flesh in an environmentally sound way -- to recycle. It would seem to me that even those who oppose meat-eating out of deference to animals should accept the eating of road kill. So what's wrong with candy that presents road kill as the acceptably edible form of an animal? I really think Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals went after the wrong product. They should complain about ordinary Gummi bears and worms and the like. And what about Animal Crackers? I bit off the head! I bit off the legs! Why have we been tolerating that all these years?

Power and image.

My post about Condoleezza Rice on brought a lot of email, some of which I reprint here, but one email really stood out. Reader Edward Tabakin makes a brilliant association between Rice's new look and the new image devised by Queen Elizabeth I as she rose to power:
Ms. Givhan wrote in her article that "Rice's coat and boots speak of sex and power . . . . the mind searches for ways to put it all into context. It turns to fiction, to caricature." Well, maybe her mind. My mind went to historical movies and history. The scene that came to mind was the one at the end in the movie "Elizabeth," with Cate Blanchett in the leading role. Elizabeth has foiled the Pope's plot to kill her and ordered the deaths of the conspirators, including the man she might have married had her life turned out a little differently. In the last scene, she makes herself up in a new look: she cuts her hair short, applies makeup almost like pancake makeup to whiten her face; she creates the image of Elizabeth R.

Elizabeth is famous for one particular speech, which she gave to the troops, the soldiers, sailors and marines, who were about to go out to fight the Spanish Armada. Spain was the great military power at the time, and England was a second or third rate upstart. Elizabeth was about 55 years old at the time 1588, roughly the same age the Dr. Rice is now. The photo of Dr. Rice before the troops also made me think of Elizabeth's Armada speech. Here it is:

My loving people, we have been persuaded by some, that are careful of our safety, to take heed how we commit ourselves to armed multitudes, for fear of treachery; but I assure you, I do not desire to live to distrust my faithful and loving people. Let tyrants fear; I have always so behaved myself that, under God, I have placed my chiefest strength and safeguard in the loyal hearts and good will of my subjects. And therefore I am come amongst you at this time, not as for my recreation or sport, but being resolved, in the midst and heat of the battle, to live or die amongst you all; to lay down, for my God, and for my kingdom, and for my people, my honor and my blood, even the dust. I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too; and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realms: to which, rather than any dishonor should grow by me, I myself will take up arms; I myself will be your general, judge, and rewarder of every one of your virtues in the field. I know already, by your forwardness, that you have deserved rewards and crowns; and we do assure you, on the word of a prince, they shall be duly paid you. In the mean my lieutenant general shall be in my stead, than whom never prince commanded a more noble and worthy subject; not doubting by your obedience to my general, by your concord in the camp, and by your valor in the field, we shall shortly have a famous victory over the enemies of my God, of my kingdom, and of my people.

"I know I have but the body of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart of a king, and of a king of England, too." Wow, who wrote that, Shakespeare? Cutting through the 16th century english, it's an amazing and inspiring speech. As every school child once knew, the English won that battle, defeated the Armada, and because the great island empire. Nineteen years later, the first settlers landed in Jamestown.

When I think about image and political power, the first movie that springs to my mind is this one. Too much focus on image ought to alarm us. We should worry that a political figure means to reach down past our reason to some primal level where we cannot defend against manipulation.

But Rice's new look does not consist of very much. Surely, it is not the sort of extreme and shocking transformation chosen by Elizabeth. But like Elizabeth, Rice must convince the world that she has the "heart of a king." We should not pretend woman are judged in the same way as men. Saying that you believe it is wrong to judge us differently does not make it stop. Even if you sincerely want to believe and even do believe that a woman can be a great world leader, something involuntary, underneath your conscious reason, may still say: but no, not her, she cannot be the one, this does not feel right. Whoever does overcome that prejudice and become the first woman President will need to be able to reach into that part of our mind and turn it around.

It may seem bizarre that thin, three-inch heels could dislodge that last grip of prejudice. How many times have feminists written that high heels symbolize sexual vulnerability by making a show of the woman's inability to run away? That is too rational. Something much less accessible to the rational mind occurred when people gazed on that photograph of the Secretary of State. Something in that image -- the heels, the black, the brass buttons? -- had a very strong effect.

If there were some way to figure out exactly how to devise an image that would make people accept the exercise of power, we would be in trouble. Or perhaps not: all who seek power would simply adopt that image and that would cancel out image as a factor, leveling the playing field. To a great extent, men have hit upon an answer: the dark suit, the white shirt, the red tie. But a woman who just adopts the power-seeking man's look would set off a whole different set of associations. Women need to find some other way, something similar perhaps, but also different.

In the historic movement of women into power, how women look matters, and Condoleezza Rice played a role. Those high-heeled boots belong in the Smithsonian, do they not?

ADDED: Even the men's power look is complicated, as a reader points out the recent shift to blue ties. Another reader asks whether Condi Rice is Galadriel and quotes this, from "The Fellowship of the Rings":
"In place of a Dark Lord you would set up a Queen. And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night! Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain! Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning! Stronger than the foundations of the earth. All shall love me and despair!"

MORE: Several people have emailed to say that running is not much of a sign of strength -- especially if you're talking about commanding the military. Standing your ground is the stronger position.

Another thing about those thin high heels: not only are they named after a weapon -- the stiletto -- but they exert a heavy force by concentrating your weight on a small point. Stiletto heels are quite damaging to floors for this reason. You could really hurt someone stepping on their toes with a stiletto heel: that's a power image.

And, of course, heels make you taller.

Friday, February 25, 2005

"These boots are made for running for President."

So you want to know what I thought about that Washington Post article about the sexuality of Condoleezza Rice's new clothes? I put my opinion up over on -- where somehow writing under a male name provoked me to fem it up all week!

UPDATE: I'm getting an avalanche of pro-Condi email from that post. A sampling:
I agree with you about those boots - made for walking right into the Oval Office. What struck me about the picture is her comfort with herself and the situation. She's a woman, and dresses with style and femininity, which is wonderful to see. She's a world leader, and she strides out in command of the setting, just as she should.

them boots are for kickin' ass. . . now, and in '08! run, condi, run!


You GO Condi!

So Dr. Rice enjoys and understands fashion. She is fortunate in having the face and figure to look good in very fashionable clothes. She comes across as elegant and graceful - also very comfortable in her choices. So analyzing her wardrobe as if it all has some Freudian deep meaning is just too silly and awful.

I certainly hope Condi runs! I'll come out of polical campaigning retirement (since Reagan left office) if she does!

I liked her before and I like her more now that I know she can look like the first female president. I say more presidents should wear black leather. Well, maybe not Taft.

Ann, I agree 100 percent. She looks good and I don't think she detracts from her position at all. Miss Condi is attractive, smart and witty and brings some fresh air to the President's foriegn policy. I would vote for her in '08 without hesitation.

Is it all pro-Condi? No, I got this too:
Is it wrong to talk about powerful women this way? How about this way? Condoleeza Rice must have been conceived in a testtube and raised in a laboratory. Where else in world history can you find a black woman so devotely facist. Who else claims religious principle and has an oil tanker named after her. Condoleeza is a liar, a hypocrit, a coward, and severely overrated. She is basically a rightwing whore like you.

"distinctly attractive"???? Who the heck are we talking abut here cuz it sure ain't Condoleeza (even her name is damn ugly!!!). You must be some sick weirdo, that gets off on satirical humiliation of others.

Attractive - are you kidding! Rice is one of the least attractive women I've ever seen! Her hair dooo - for one - is pretty ridiculous. She has an over-bite and looks angry and mean most of the time. Her smile is devilish. That outfit was pure EGO - all bark - no bite! Probably trying to attrack the attention of her "husband" - Bush. Probably will grab it - next we'll see Laura in black with high heels. She is already trying to slim down and dress up - Rice is tough competition!

God help us if this obfuscating Shrub puppet ever became another pResident. She's worse than the lying hypocrite who has been installed as pResident. The problem as I see it: The so-called "religious moral values" voters are so sexually repressed that when they see a woman in black and wearing, oh my, black high heeled boots they get so hot and bothered that they want to run her for president. These sexually repressed "values" voters need to get into a normal healthy sexual relationship;perhaps, then, they can see past the, oh my, black coat and back high heeled boots as articles of clothing and not as a sex object for their repressed fantasies. Rice failed miserably as security advisor! Black boots and coat may turn on the sexually repressed, but thinking individuals know that the only reason she got where she is is because she will mouth whatever she's told to mouth. Get a normal healthy sex life for God's sake before you sexually repressed "values voters" attempt to sieg this obfuscating puppet on America as another pResident.

A "normal healthy sex life"? Does being a right wing whore count?

Don't romanticize Thompson's suicide.

Under big red block letters that say "ENTERTAINMENT" over on
Thompson shot self while talking with wife

'He set the receiver down and he did it'

...She said her husband had asked her to come home from a health club so they could work on his weekly ESPN column -- but instead of saying goodbye, he set the telephone down and shot himself.

Thompson said she heard a loud, muffled noise, but didn't know what had happened. "I was waiting for him to get back on the phone," she said.

I have a hard time thinking of this suicide as a rational act, like that of a person in the advanced stage of a painful, fatal disease. He kills himself while he's in the middle of talking to his wife and trying to get her to come home and help him do his work. He doesn't say goodbye. And he shoots himself in the head, leaving the gory remains to be cleaned out of the kitchen. And meanwhile, his son, daughter-in-law, and 6-year grandson are in the house, doomed to come upon the scene before the wife comes home from the health club. That seems like a sudden, impulsive act that expressed some strong feelings toward the wife. The wife characterizes things this way:
"He wanted to leave on top of his game. I wish I could have been more supportive of his decision," she said. "It was a problem for us."

The wife is 32. He was 67.

UPDATE: Ambivablog adds her thoughts. And here's news of family and friends sitting at around the kitchen table with the hours-old corpse, drinking Chivas Regal and exchanging stories.
"It was very loving. It was not a panic, or ugly, or freaky," Thompson's wife, Anita Thompson, said Thursday night in her first spoken comments since the icon's death Sunday. "It was just like Hunter wanted. He was in control here."

Anita Thompson also echoes the comments that have been made by Hunter Thompson's son and daughter-in-law: That her husband's suicide did not come from the bottom of the well, but was a gesture of strength and ultimate control made as his life was at a high-water mark.

"This is a triumph of his, not a desperate, tragic failure," Anita Thompson said by phone, recounting that she was sitting in her husband's chair he called his catbird seat in the Rockies.

She added: "He lived a beautiful life and he lived it on his own terms, all the way from the very beginning to the very end."
And so begins a new legend, a story spun by the survivors. I repeat the point from my title: do not romanticize a suicide. I'm sure the family needs to find ways to deal with their own loss and their own sense of responsibility and, less sympathetically, has an interest in preserving and promoting the reputation of the author, but statements like this are reckless and dangerous. How many young (and older) people read and admire Hunter S. Thompson and sometimes have thoughts of suicide? Portraying it as a beautiful thing, a triumph, and an act of sublime control over destiny is profoundly wrong!

ANOTHER UPDATE: Bebere joins the plea not to romanticize suicide and reminds us of the Werther effect.


Like the new lips festooning my sidebar? I do!

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Blog game ironies.

A ridiculous irony in the game of blogging is that you can score a lot of links by saying something that people disagree with vehemently. It's particularly ironic that Kevin Drum has hit the link jackpot by pissing a lot of women off about how men are better at playing the blogging game. I've played into his hand more than once already, and I do it one more time in my role as guest-blogger over at, where I score an Instapundit link every time I post, but don't win any points in the blogging game because the links go there not here. Which just goes to show how badly women play the blogging game!

Let me thuddingly say that I'm kidding, and I greatly appreciate the opportunity to blog on and all the Instapundit links I've gotten over the months, and I'm not jealous of all the links Drum has attracted by being unattractive to women.

And, quite seriously, the real way to win at blogging is to create a place for yourself that you find energizing and intrinsically rewarding, which is probably going to be at odds with the goal of getting the most traffic and the most links. It's the readers that you get and keep by writing in a way that you find intrinsically valuable that matter the most, sort of like the way your best friends are the people who like you when you're being yourself. So those traffic and link rankings do not show who is really winning. You'll have to look into your own heart to find out if you're winning.

And yeah, yeah: go ahead and mock me, guys, for being like those school teachers who ban dodgeball and insist on games where everyone can win. I mean it: mock me! Mock me and link, because I find it intrinsically rewarding to gaze at Site Meter and the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem!

UPDATE: I like this Drum slam over on the RLC blog:
Why don't people who are pretty sure that what they have to say is stupid just keep it to themselves? Why the "my blog can kick your blog's ass," anyway?
I hope some readers are getting a little mixed up and thinking, I thought Drum was the liberal blogger and Althouse was the right wing blogger. Think, people! Is the left feminist? Is it?

ANOTHER UPDATE: Kesher Talk wisecracks:
I think Ann has the goods on Kevin. He's playing dumb to get links. How feminine of him. Bat your eyelashes, too, Kevin baby.

Confronting terrorist plane hijackers -- circa 1985.

Goodbye to Uli Derickson, whose story appears on the obituary page today:
On June 14, 1985, when a pair of Lebanese gunmen commandeered a T.W.A. flight from Athens to Rome, Ms. Derickson took the lead in protecting the 152 passengers and crew members.

Though the two hijackers spoke almost no English, Ms. Derickson was able to speak with one of them in German and occasionally calm him by singing a German ballad he requested. She won the hijackers' pity for one passenger by explaining that his daughter had been delivered by a Lebanese doctor.

She also intervened during beatings, often putting herself in harm's way.

"Don't you hit that person," she would shout, a passenger later told The New York Times. "Why do you have to hit those people?"

When a ground crew in Algiers refused to refuel the plane without payment, even when faced with the terrorists' threat to kill passengers, it occurred to Ms. Derickson to offer her Shell credit card. The ground crew charged about $5,500 for 6,000 gallons of fuel.

The most terrifying moment for her, she later told Glamour Magazine, was when the crueler of the two hijackers asked her to marry him.

At one point they asked Ms. Derickson to sort through the passengers' passports to single out people with Jewish-sounding names. Although various news organizations initially reported that she had followed their orders, she in fact hid the passports, her son said. "Everybody looked to her for courage and guidance," Tom Cullins, an architect in Burlington, Vt., who was a hostage on the plane, said in an interview yesterday. "She was clearly in control. She even made demands of the hijackers."

Mr. Cullins added, "We have nothing but the utmost respect for her and a debt of gratitude for really heroic acts."

After about 36 hours, the terrorists released a second wave of hostages, including Ms. Derickson and 65 others, in Algiers. They had already killed a Navy diver, Robert D. Stethem, but his was to be the only death. The hijackers released other hostages over the next 15 days, with the ordeal ending for the last 39 on June 30. It ended after Israel's release of 31 Lebanese prisoners, a fraction of the 766 the hijackers had demanded.
What a story! If only we could all keep our wits about us in times of crisis as she did.

What the heavy metal musician is really thinking.

Citing his Christian beliefs, guitarist Brian 'Head' Welch leaves his heavy metal band, Korn:
Welch told The Bakersfield Californian that his decision might be surprising to some. "A lot of people think I'm crazy. I don't care."

Welch said he'd become increasingly disenchanted with producing heavy metal music that invokes dark and morbid images.

"Those guys in the band, they're not bad guys. They're just a bunch of kids getting marketed how these guys in the big corporate firms want to do," Welch said. "It makes us look like bad people, but we're really just a bunch of kids who never had a chance to grow up."

Of course, dark and disenchanted teenage angst has been packaged and marketed for decades. The bands convey a sense that in expressing such feelings they are finding liberation from the terrible oppression of [???]. But perhaps they are nice young people -- hardworking, earnest musicians who are feeling oppressed by the obligation to pretend to be dark and disenchanted and becoming horrified at looking out on an audience of even younger people who are merging with and mirroring that ersatz negativity.

UPDATE: More from MTV:
On February 8, he had apparently written a "letter of resignation" to the band's management. In the note, Welch detailed a long list of reasons for leaving the band, including increased moral objections to Korn's music and videos. In particular, he was upset by how he was portrayed in the clip for their cover of Cameo's "Word Up," off their recently released Greatest Hits, Vol. 1 album. In the video, Welch's face was superimposed on a dog patrolling a strip club.

"I can go up there and play those songs and those solos but ... I distanced myself from Korn for probably a year and a half, two years. I just wanted to fade away, it was crazy. I was so gone," Welch told Bakersfield, California, radio station KRAB on Sunday. "But I found my way out and I want to help anyone that wants to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I had to go through the lows to appreciate the highs and it's not perfect but it's damn near."

The good teacher's nightmare.

Richard Lawrence Cohen reports this true story from Austin, Texas:
In an Austin elementary school known for its diversity, a second–grade class was learning about Texas’ segregationist past. Their textbook taught them a slogan segregationists used to chant: “Two four six eight/ We don’t want to integrate.”

At recess, the teacher found a group of her girls chanting that slogan on the playground. A beautifully mixed bagful of kids—white, black, brown, yellow—clapping hands and chanting together loudly and happily, just because it was such a fun rhyme.

Read the rest of the story at the link.

The horrible Mr. Wead.

I'm officially abandoning my theory that Bush knew Douglas Wead was taping him -- because things have gone so badly for Mr. Wead:
Mr. Wead has appeared on several television news and talk shows to defend his actions, insisting several times that he had never sought to profit from the tapes and had decided to release some of them only after the president's re-election.

"My thanks to those who have let me share my heart and regrets about recent events," Mr. Wead wrote in the statement, posted on his Web site Wednesday. "Contrary to a statement that I made to The New York Times, I know very well that personal relationships are more important than history."

That statement itself is a lame formulation of what Wead had to have learned from his long twisting in the wind. What he learned -- and he's too much of a weasel to put it straightforwardly -- is how deeply wrong it is to betray a friend for personal gain.

Are personal relationships more important than history? That question calls to mind a famous movie quote: "[I]t doesn't take much to see that the problems of three little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world." Many virtuous people have sacrificed personal relationships because they understood that there were historical matters of greater importance.

Here's Wead regrouping his thoughts:
In a telephone interview Wednesday, Mr. Wead, sounding noticeably fatigued, said he decided to change course because of "the perception that I have tried to exploit the tapes and make money off of it and hurt the president and had all kinds of agendas."

"This seems like the best thing to show that isn't the case," he said.

"Nobody believes my story that I saw him as a figure of history," Mr. Wead said with exasperation. "I guess I have got a story that is unbelievable to people."

Oh, no one believed his story? We all formed a "perception" about his motives -- which was wrong because those motives in fact were so unbelievably lofty. We imagined his mind worked like that of an ordinary person -- an ordinary person with a book to sell and a publicity gimmick and the ear of the NYT.

Yeah, and we don't believe that either, Mr. Wead.

UPDATE: Regarding my question "Are personal relationships more important than history?" Richard Lawrence Cohen -- AKA my ex-husband -- emails:
E. M. Forster famously said, "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country." That comment, although collected in the 1951 TWO CHEERS FOR DEMOCRACY (the essay is "What I Believe"), is often seen today as emblematic of the mentality of prewar middle-class British appeasers.

Strangely, as I was in the middle of writing this update, I opened an email from the Conlawprof list and saw that someone was offering this very E.M. Forster quote about a completely different subject. Just a coincidence I guess, or are people thinking a lot about betrayal these days.

ANOTHER UPDATE: For more on coincidences, read this recent post of mine and click on the last link.

Descent into karaoke hell.

Tom Bozzo has some nice photos of last night's blogger dinner, both before and after it descended into karaoke hell. Tonya writes: "The only holdout was Althouse -- but she seemed to be having a good time enjoying the spectacle of the rest of us singing our hearts out." Key word: "seemed." Nina portrays karaoke as being some sort of irresistible force and reminds me of the horror of some of the song choices. I did not need to hear hear two [adjective deleted] professors sing "It's getting hot in here/so take off all your clothes."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Some blog thoughts.

There's a blogger dinner tonight, and we're bringing our laptops and cameras, so who knows what might get posted. I look forward to some good conversation -- some of which somebody is sure to blog -- and plenty of food and drink. But it's a school night! Some people have arranged their schedules so that the weekend starts Wednesday night, but I've got a 9:30 class tomorrow -- Fedjur -- and have to be fresh enough to talk about ripeness (and ripe enough to talk about freshness). Meanwhile, I'm sorting through my mental file of ideas for something that's When you go to the front blog page over there at MSNBC, you see Glenn's name, not mine, in front of my title, and maybe he's not so happy to have, so far this week, the titles "Primate Perversions" and "Fat is sinfully complicated" next to his name. So I'd like to do something with more law or politics. What do you think? The Wead tapes? The Oregon Death With Dignity Case? Kevin Drum's Hobbesian blogosphere (bloggsean Hobbosphere)? With some luck my threads of thought will knit up into something before it's time to head over to the dinner.

Comparing the reactions to the deaths of Hunter S. Thompson and Arthur Miller.

Have you noticed the difference in how the press has covered the deaths of these two prominent writers? When Arthur Miller died, the press did what was necessary to mark the passing of the man who was generally recognized as a major literary figure (and had the celebrity plus factor of having been married to a mega-celebrity). But the outpouring of interest in Hunter S. Thompson doesn't seem to be an effort to give coverage equivalent to his literary standing. It seems to be an expression of genuine, spontaneous love. That's my impression anyway. Do you disagree? I realize part of it is that journalists have a special feeling for another journalist. But the coverage of Thompson has been extraordinary.

Just to take the NYT, in addition to the usual obituary, there are a number of extra articles, like "The Thompson Style: A Sense of Self, and Outrage" ("To Mr. Thompson, it was all true, every word of it. Maybe not literally, you-can-look-it-up true, but true in a way that the bean counters would never understand.") and "With an Icon's Death, Aspen Checks Its Inner Gonzo" ("Some said that Mr. Thompson's suicide on Sunday night marked the stilling of a voice that kept some of Aspen's old counterculture alive. Others said the roots that he helped establish here ran too deep and would live on without."). In contrast to the usual circumspection about the use of guns, the Times picks up an AP story that begins this way:
Hunter S. Thompson, the "gonzo journalist'' with a penchant for drugs, guns and flame-thrower prose, might have one more salvo in store for everyone: Friends and relatives want to blast his ashes out of a cannon, just as he wished.

"If that's what he wanted, we'll see if we can pull it off,'' said historian Douglas Brinkley, a friend of Thompson's and now the family's spokesman.

Thompson, who shot himself to death at his Aspen-area home Sunday at 67, said several times he wanted an artillery send-off for his remains.

"There's no question, I'm sure that's what he would want,'' said Mike Cleverly, a longtime friend and neighbor. ``Hunter truly loved that kind of thing.''

Shooting the remains of a gunshot suicide out of a cannon? Isn't it extraordinary for the NYT not only to refrain from the usual headshaking about the suicide risk from keeping a gun around the house but also to seem to celebrate the craziness of shooting a gunshot victim from a cannon?


Coy lawprof blogger "Oscar Madison" has some some thoughts about blogging pseudonymously. (What is the blog equivalent of "pen name"? I say it's keyboard name.)
Maintaining [a professorial] image means drawing a line between your professional persona and your personal life.

Most law-prof bloggers seem content to put their blogs largely or mostly on the professional side of that line. While they don't always blog about law, they seem to refrain from saying stuff that would be inappropriate in a conversation with a student in their offices. Folks like Professor Bainbridge, or the Volokh Conspiracy, or Althouse, or Conglomerate maintain an informal, yet not-unprofessional tone. To varying degrees they trade on their academic affiliations, and would have relatively little ground for complaint if, for example, their law schools posted something about their blogs on the law school web sites.

Oscar wants to be free to use naughty words and otherwise break out of the professorial mode. But my experience is that even though students know who I am and can and do read this blog, they seem to accept this as a separate mode of mine and don't use it as a basis for talking to me in a newly confidential way. In the law school, the student-professor relationship is very well established. It really doesn't break down, even when students read your personal journal.

Of course, there are things I won't say here, but these are things I wouldn't say even if I used a keyboard name. I would never insult or demean or deliberately hurt the feelings of students. I wouldn't casually knock my law school (though there are some considered criticisms I would be willing to make). I wouldn't hurt my family or acquaintances or even reveal much of anything about them (without permission). So there aren't really any significant ways using my own name limits me. Like Oscar, I care immensely about freedom as I do this blogging. But I also want to be aware of myself as an identifiable person, responsible for what I say (which is true whether you use a pseudonym or not). And I don't mind getting personal credit for anything good I might happen to say. Also, I kind of like being a public persona.

UPDATE: I don't know but is a blog with an important good reason for remaining anonymous: to protect children. Here, the authors want to be able to write about -- among other things -- parenting children with Aspergers syndrome.

Women and blogging, re-Drummed.

Kevin Drum collects responses to his recent Women and Blogging post, including mine. He concludes:
Hmmm, should I defend myself? Only to this extent: the reason I suggested that women are turned off by the "fundamental viciousness" of blogging and opinion writing is because many women have told me this (and have told me the same thing in non-blogging contexts as well). Men are so routinely dismissive of women and so fundamentally dedicated to playground dominance games that many women decide they just don't want to play.

But hey — click the links and decide for yourself. My critics certainly make a spirited — if anecdotal — case for the proposition that women have no problem being as nasty as men.

Well, that has nothing at all to do with the point I made, so let me just sigh again.

Condi's glower.

I'm an early enthusiast in the Condi for President movement. See here and here. But I still laughed a lot at "The Daily Show" last night, which featured photographs of Condoleezza Rice, sitting behind the President at various recent events on the current make-nice European tour. Jon Stewart verbalized her thoughts in the form of a kid dragged along on a European vacation when she just wanted to stay home with her friends: "I didn't even want to come on this stupid trip." Well, you can just imagine the classic Condi look that made that line funny.

And note, I'm not saying Rice ought to smile more. Everyone ought to have a look. She's got a look. I think it's cool. And, of course, when it was her job to go to Europe and take the lead in the make-nice effort, she had all the Euro-leaders smiling warmly. And check out her smile at that link. Make fun of Condi all you want, Daily Show. I'll watch and laugh and still think Condi rules.

Let Oregon be Oregon?

Here's Linda Greenhouse's analysis of the Oregon assisted suicide case, which the Supreme Court announced yesterday it would hear. (The Ninth Circuit case to be reviewed was decided back in May, and I wrote about it at the time here.) Greenhouse (along with others) has written so many pieces decrying the Supreme Court's "federalism revolution" that it's interesting to see how she (and others) will write about a case where deferring to the states upholds a policy choice that is as far away from social conservatism as you can get. By the same token, it will be interesting to see if conservatives can stick to their federalism values and will be able to entertain the notion of letting Oregon be Oregon.
In the administration's view, suicide is not a "legitimate medical purpose" under regulations that carry out the federal Controlled Substances Act. Consequently, the administration will argue before the Supreme Court, as it did unsuccessfully in the lower federal courts, that doctors who prescribe drugs for committing suicide violate the federal law and are subject to revocation of their federal prescription license. The license applies to broad categories of medications and is necessary, as a practical matter, for a doctor to remain in practice.

Yet the case presents more of a challenge for the liberal side than for conservatives. Given the existing case law, the basis for federal power over prescription drugs is very strong, and it's hard to think of a way to pry drug law enforcement out of the grasp of federal power, even if you do believe that state experimentation in this area is a good idea. The same sort of federalism problem is also present in the medical marijuana case that the Court is already considering.

Liberals have strongly supported strong and pervasive federal legislative power for a long time. It is hard to think of how they can back off from that commitment simply because they approve of a policy a particular state has devised in a given instance. I think, to be principled, they should denounce the administration for taking the position it has with respect to enforcing the drug laws and stop there. Here's Greenhouse:
Although the justices have agreed to review the case, the "who gets to decide" argument on the merits may be a hard sell. The court has been notably deferential to the states, and eight years ago, in another assisted-suicide case, it appeared to invite continued state experimentation.

So here's the liberal talking point: the conservatives on the Supreme Court have been deferring to the states and they specifically encouraged state-experimentation in this area, so if they fail to follow through and uphold Oregon's experiment, they are unprincipled and result-oriented.

Don't believe it! The Supreme Court has upheld federal regulatory power quite consistently, and the deference it has shown to the states has only been in discrete areas. Congress's power to regulate all components of a national market -- such as the market in drugs -- is quite solidly established. It will be hard to find a way to back off from that. I support the Court's federalism decisions and I approve of allowing the states to experiment as Oregon has, but I don't see a good way, considering the precedents, to disempower the Attorney General in this decision about how the Controlled Substances Act ought to be enforced.

Note: The Ninth Circuit case is named Oregon v. Ashcroft, and it was Attorney General Ashcroft who announced the policy to lean on Oregon's doctors. But now Ashcroft is gone, so it will be Alberto Gonzales who will have his name on the case: Gonzales v. Oregon.

Surgical -- and plumbing -- wonders.

Not for the faint-hearted.

Which pre-blogging writer created the style of writing found in blogging?

Ambivablog introduced the topic, we emailed, I said that one of her choices is the answer, and she updates her post to add that. (This writer used to be represented in the "favorite books" category of my profile, but is no longer. Why did I take him out? I probably thought people would think it was pretentious, but it really isn't. It is the opposite of pretentious!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

"American Idol": the hazards of splitting up the "guys" and the "girls."

The restructuring of "American Idol," separating the male and female contestants for the middle phase, is making me hyper-aware of my preference for male singers! Tonight, I could barely put up with hearing out the female singers. I was groaning in pain at having to listen to at least nine of the twelve. I hated watching them, with their awkwardly glammed up looks and their appalling dance moves. Must everyone plant their feet a yard apart and then bounce up and down? Must they all belt out meaningless, melody-deprived lyrics until my ears bleed? I never, ever, want to hear anyone sing whatever that crap song is with the line "How am I supposed to live without you?" (Translation: I am, literally, a parasite.) Last night, I listened to the guys, and I enjoyed nearly all of them. Especially Bo and Mario. I'm not saying men are better than women, but I think someone or something gets to the kind of woman who want to be on a show like this, and drains the very humanity out of them. And the clothes! Must everyone wear tight jeans topped with a floppy, floaty baby-doll dress? The men all seemed like real people. Some were boring, but they haven't been bent out of shape by some strange show biz force, some pitiful hunger to be loved.

Federalism and the assisted suicide case.

I'm glad to see that the Supreme Court has taken cert in the assisted suicide case:
The Oregon law was intended to help adults with incurable diseases who are likely to die in six months. They can obtain lethal drugs from their doctors, who may prescribe but not administer them. Doctors are granted immunity from liability.

In a 2-to-1 decision last May, a panel of the Ninth Circuit declared that the states, not the federal government, bear primary responsibility for evaluating doctor-assisted suicide.

"We express no opinion on whether the practice is inconsistent with the public interest or constitutes illegitimate medical care," Judge Richard C. Tallman wrote for the majority. "This case is simply about who gets to decide."

From a strictly legal standpoint, that may be so. But it also involves personal concepts of morality. Social and religious conservatives have long sought top undermine or abolish the Oregon law, contending that any official sanction of suicide is immoral.

In 1997, the Clinton administration's attorney general, Janet Reno, said individual states should be able to regulate their own doctors, as she rejected a request to declare that physician-assisted suicide violated federal law.

That request came from John Ashcroft, who was then a Republican senator from Missouri. As President Bush's attorney general, Mr. Ashcroft reversed Ms. Reno's position and tried to get the court's to nullify the Oregon law.

Here's a post I wrote when the Ninth Circuit opinion came out:
Today, the Ninth Circuit issued an opinion in Oregon v. Ashcroft rejecting the "Ashcroft Directive," the Attorney General's position that a doctor using a controlled substance to assist a suicide violates the federal Controlled Substances Act and faces criminal prosecution and the loss of prescription privileges. The court tapped federalism values as it made room for Oregon's experiment under its Death With Dignity Act.

In Washington v. Glucksberg, a 1997 Supreme Court case cited in today's opinion, Justice O'Connor wrote a concurring opinion, agreeing that there is no federal due process right to physician-assisted suicide and arguing for the narrow interpretation of constitutional rights because the states were actively serving as "laboratories," working through the complexities in this complicated area of policy. The laboratory that is Oregon subsequently produced the Death With Dignity Act, and the Ninth Circuit cited O'Connor's Glucksberg opinion as it showed great respect to Oregon's policy work today.

The court also cited another Ninth Circuit case about doctors, federalism and the Controlled Substances Act: Conant v. Walters (2002), which protected doctors who recommend marijuana for medicinal purposes under California's Compassionate Use Act. In Conant, the court saw the states as having the central role of supervising doctors and looked askance at the federal government's attempt to use the CSA to horn in on the state's area of responsibility. The Ashcroft Directive at issue in today's case also involved the federal government's use of the CSA to prevent doctors from carrying out the state's ideas about good medical practices. Conant involved the recognition of the doctors' First Amendment right to communicate with their patients, though Judge Kozinski's concurring opinion relied much more on federalism values. The case today saw a special role for the states with respect to doctors, and based on that traditional role, it chose a narrow interpretation of the CSA to leave that traditional role untouched.

In opting for narrow statutory interpretation to serve the interests of federalism, the Ninth Circuit cited the 1991 U.S. Supreme Court case, Gregory v. Ashcroft. Gregory stands for the proposition that federal statutes will not be read to change the traditional federal-state balance unless they make a clear statement of their intent to do so. (John Ashcroft was a party to that case as a state governor, successfully avoiding the application of the federal law against age discrimination to state judges.) Today's decision uses the Gregory presumption in favor of the traditional federalism balance and finds enough unclarity in the Controlled Substances Act to justify reading the CSA not to permit the Justice Department to punish doctors who are engaged in the practice of medicine within the standards set by state law.

One judge (on the three-judge panel) dissents. Judge Wallace relies heavily on the principle that courts should defer to the Attorney General's interpretation of the act he has the duty to enforce. Let Congress change the statute if he's wrong, or let the people elect a different President and bring in a new Attorney General. (Note that Clinton's AG, Janet Reno, took the position that the CSA did not reach the Oregon doctors). The majority rejected that sort of deference though, again, on federalism grounds. It cited the 2001 U.S. Supreme Court case Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, which rejected the Army Corps of Engineers' interpretation of the Clean Water Act to apply to nonnavigable streams. In the Solid Waste case, though, the Supreme Court wrote, "Where an administrative interpretation of a statute invokes the outer limits of Congress’ power, we expect a clear indication that Congress intended that result." The problem there was that Congress may have reached the end of its Commerce Clause power if it meant to reach isolated wetlands. But there is no question that Congress could reach doctors in the practice of medicine under the Commerce Power. The Solid Waste Court premised this departure from the usual deference on a "prudential desire not to needlessly reach constitutional issues and our assumption that Congress does not casually authorize administrative agencies to interpret a statute to push the limit of congressional authority." That is not true in the Oregon case.

The Solid Waste court did also say that its concern about a statute reaching the edge of congressional power was "heightened where the administrative interpretation alters the federal-state framework by permitting federal encroachment upon a traditional state power." And that is the issue the Ninth Circuit is relying on. So a key question that should face the U.S. Supreme Court very soon is whether to accept this idea that medical practice is a special area of state power to be protected from federal intrusions. The Ninth Circuit has taken the federalism cases of the the conservative Supreme Court and applied them to protect the autonomy of states like California and Oregon that are engaged in the sort of policymaking that tends to bug the hell out of conservatives.

Unlike individual constitutional rights, which can be found to extend to some substantive areas but not others, constitutional federalism protects state autonomy, and the state may do all sorts of different things with that autonomy. If you think you like (or don't like) federalism, you may want to rethink it if a state starts to do something you don't like (or do like). To want to do things with federalism, judges have to want to take the good policies and the bad, to trust local decisionmaking--unless they are reckless enough about their appearance of neutrality to turn their support for federalism values on and off, depending on whether they approve of what a particular state has done.

Everyone will want to talk about the morality of assisted suicide, but you should also pay attention to the federalism aspects of the case, which are extremely important.

Why does the word "bloggers" appear in the NYT's Hunter S. Thompson obituary?

A bold-faced, pull-out line in the paper NYT reads:

Like bloggers, building his case for the state of America around his opinions.

Here's the whole context:
[T]his early work presaged some of the fundamental changes that have rocked journalism today. Mr. Thompson's approach in many ways mirrors the style of modern-day bloggers, those self-styled social commentators who blend news, opinion and personal experience on Internet postings. Like bloggers, Mr. Thompson built his case for the state of America around the framework of his personal views and opinions.

So what do you think. Is this one more sign that the NYT is obsessed with bloggers? Or is it actually a pretty damned accurate insight?

"Fat is sinfully complicated."

That's the title of my new post over on Someone emailed to denounce me for ignorantly ripping on the Atkins diet, which I found amusing, because I'm always using the Atkins diet. I love it for precisely the reason stated in the post: it's excitingly transgressive!

UPDATE: If I had to judge from the email I'm getting -- and I would be very sad if I did -- I'd have to say people don't seem to understand much of anything about why I wrote that post. People keep emailing me to inform me that the best way to lose weight is to eat less and get more exercise! And here's something someone wrote me about the Monday post over there (the one about Koko the talking gorilla): "You as a law professor at worst have encouraged this gorilla tit problem. At best ignored it." I'm not entirely sure what that means. I know it's a criticism of me, but it certainly made me laugh quite a lot.

In the style of MSM, fiction-writers worry about bloggers.

Some fiction writers blog about bloggers making them obsolete. RLC concludes it's the "Americanization of the arts, going along with the Americanization of the whole world."

Wolfe on Thompson.

Tom Wolfe writes a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson, who shared his first-hand research for "The Hell's Angels, a Strange and Terrible Sage" with Wolfe, giving him what he needed to write "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test." People like to say Hunter S. Thompson invented something new, Wolfe writes:
Yet he was also part of a century-old tradition in American letters, the tradition of Mark Twain, Artemus Ward and Petroleum V. Nasby, comic writers who mined the human comedy of a new chapter in the history of the West, namely, the American story, and wrote in a form that was part journalism and part personal memoir admixed with powers of wild invention, and wilder rhetoric inspired by the bizarre exuberance of a young civilization.

Monday, February 21, 2005

A rabbi looks at Christo's "Gates."

On Kesher Talk. An excerpt:
The gate is the threshold between the known and the unknown, past and future. It's a place of risk, where demons lurk; it's where one hangs the mezuzah.

Very nice. That makes me think of the familiar use of "gate" in the New Testament:
Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.

Speak English.

Gregg Easterbrook writes in TNR that it's great when languages die out. [ADDED: The link is for subscribers only -- sorry.] The fewer languages the better. There's no interest comparable to the interest in biodiversity. It's better for more people to be able to communicate.
[T]he fewer languages, the better--and I say this not just because English may win the competition. Mandarin might win; Barbara Wallraff of The Atlantic Monthly devoted a lengthy 2001 story to the idea that Mandarin will best English in the struggle to be the global tongue. Okay, maybe Mandarin comes out on top. As long as the number of languages in common usage keeps declining, I'll be happy.

Well, I can't remember reading Wallraff's article, but I can't imagine what mechanism would drive the spread of Mandarin much beyond China. Easterbrook himself notes the recent NYT article about the drive to teach English in Mongolia:
Even here on the edge of the nation's capital, in this settlement of dirt tracks, plank shanties and the circular felt yurts of herdsmen, the sounds of English can be heard from the youngest of students - part of a nationwide drive to make it the primary foreign language learned in Mongolia, a landlocked expanse of open steppe sandwiched between Russia and China. "We are looking at Singapore as a model," Tsakhia Elbegdorj, Mongolia's prime minister, said in an interview, his own American English honed in graduate school at Harvard. "We see English not only as a way of communicating, but as a way of opening windows on the wider world."
Why is Singapore so much more affluent than its neighbors? In part owing to a long-standing policy of teaching public-school students English. Someone safely tenured in a comfortable Western university might idealize living a subsistence lifestyle speaking a rare language unintelligible except to one's tribe. For citizens of the developing world, speaking a top ten language opens doors to a better life.

If you were making policy in one of those countries, choosing a second language to teach everyone, wouldn't you, like Mongolia, pick English?

UPDATE: From Ireland, Paul Musgrave disagrees and has a lot to say, including a lot about Irish.