Sunday, April 30, 2006

Audible Althouse #47.

I'm feeling at cross-purposes with the other lawprofs at the lawproffy "Bloggership" conference at Harvard, and I'm thinking about Neil Young and what he meant to me when I was young. I'm home from Boston, sitting in my big room, and there are big birds flying across the sky. It's a very podcasty podcast that touches on the blogginess of blogging.

Here's the podcast. Live stream here.

Catching up on the NYT/taking a hot bath.

I want to read the three newspapers that came while I was away, but I don't want to spend all evening on the task. I've got a podcast to record, and "The Sopranos" and "Big Love" are on tonight. I'm also freezing on this damp, blustery day, in which I had to run around in the wind and rain twice -- once to get to an airplane. The solution is to run a hot bath and page through all the newspapers in the 15 minutes it takes to fill the tub. I'll speed-choose pieces to blog and set them aside to blog once I've soaked myself back to a normal temperature.

***

1. "Neil Young Is Angry About War and Wants Everyone to Know It" (on line title: "Neil Young's 'Living With War' Shows He Doesn't Like It") by Jon Pareles:
The songs on "Living With War" are straightforward and single-minded, setting aside the allusive, enigmatic quality of Mr. Young's rock classics. "These are all ideas we've heard before," he said. "There's nothing new in there. I just connected the dots."...

"We are the silent majority now, and we haven't done a damn thing," Mr. Young said. "We've stood by and watched this happen. But there's more of us than there is of them, and we have to do something. When people start talking and see they can get away with it, it's going to happen everywhere. It's going to be a landslide, it's going to be a tidal wave. This is just the tip of it."
The tip of the landslide... the tip of the tidal wave... damn... if only I could think of another metaphor...

Those "allusive, enigmatic" lyrics of long ago are far out of reach.

Blue, blue windows behind the stars/Yellow moon on the rise/Big birds flying across the sky/Throwing shadows on our eyes....


Oh, Neil... There are politics and there is art. I'll always love the Neil Young of the distant past.

The chains are locked and tied across the door/Baby, sing with me somehow...


2. "New York City as Film Set: From Mean Streets to Clean Streets," by John Clark:
David Thomson, author of The New Biographical Dictionary of Film, said: "There's been a sea change. I can remember well into the 70's films where there is the terrific sense of New York as being this adventurous place. Certainly if you go back to the 30's and think of a film like 'My Man Godfrey,' New York is a great, dangerous playground. Those films really had a sense of how jazzy and exciting it was to be in New York. I can't think of the last film I've seen that had that feeling."

Paul Mazursky, the Brooklyn-born director of New York films like "Next Stop, Greenwich Village" (1976) and "An Unmarried Woman" (1978), echoed this view: "I'm trying to think of the last good New York movie." (He's still thinking.)
How ironic that the gentrifiers make the city too beautiful to serve as the backdrop for the art they love, when they love art because it is beautiful.

He was as tough and romantic as the city he loved. Beneath his black-rimmed glasses was the coiled sexual power of a jungle cat. I love this. New York was his town, and it always would be...

3. "An Adjective for Cakes, but Not for Bill Gates," by Geoffrey Nunberg. I want to blog about this based on the title alone, and I have no idea what the article is about. Oh, it's about the word "rich." Ha, ha:
Asked in 2003 if he felt rich, Bill Gates would say only, "At this point I'm clearly not by some definition middle class."

Unlike "prosperous" or "affluent," "rich" implies a society divided into separate estates, a legacy of the word's origin in the Indo-European name for a tribal king.

People may disagree on exactly how much money it takes to be rich, but that only confirms that it's an absolute threshold, and that those who have crossed it are delivered from the cares that afflict the rest of us. (Nobody who wins the lottery cries "I'm affluent!")
One of my sons, when he was little, used to often ask me, "Are we rich?" There's a feeling we have about what it would be like to be rich. And it always seems as though we'd have to make at least twice as much as we do to have that feeling. Later, if you make that much money, you'll think you need twice that to feel rich. But if you look at yourself from the perspective of the vast majority of people in the world, shouldn't you be ashamed to say you're not rich? So how do you answer the child who asks "Are we rich?"

4. "Films of Infamy," by David Thomson.
... I can imagine a film other than "Munich" or "United 93," a greater film, a film about different kinds of courage. In this film, the courage of the passengers would be shown and honored, but there would be an equal effort to show the courage of the terrorists (without calling them simply "evil" or "insane")....

The really difficult film to make or offer in America will be the one that says no, the world did not alter its nature on 9/11, even if the worst politicians used that event to switch their reality. But on 9/11, we faced the first need to ask ourselves how other people — evil, alien, insane — could be so brave. The history of terrorism — and it includes the independence of this country — is that in the end you have to understand the grievance of the aggrieved, whether you agree with it or not. That film has still to come.
Well, films have shown the perspective of criminals and villains quite often. These characters, if the film is any good, have their motivations, grievances, and, of course, they are bold and daring enough to carry out their evil actions. But how can you think anyone should make such a movie about the enemy before the war is over? Filmmakers aren't cowards for declining to make a show of their own courage like that.

5. "Outgrowing Jane Jacobs and Her New York," Nikolai Ouroussoff.
The threats facing the contemporary city are not what they were when she first formed her ideas, now nearly 50 years ago. The activists of Ms. Jacobs's generation may have saved SoHo from Mr. Moses' bulldozers, but they could not stop it from becoming an open-air mall.

The old buildings are still there, the streets are once again paved in cobblestone, but the rich mix of manufacturers, artists and gallery owners has been replaced by homogenous crowds of lemming-like shoppers. Nothing is produced there any more. It is a corner of the city that is nearly as soulless, in its way, as the superblocks that Ms. Jacobs so reviled....

The lesson we should take from Ms. Jacobs was her ability to look at the city with her eyes wide open, without rigid prejudices. Maybe we should see where that lesson leads next.
Jacobs as a method, not a conclusion. Subtly and modestly stated.

***

Now it's time to do a podcast and then settle in for a strong dose of television. I have not watched enough TV in the last four days. It's time.

Home! Home! Madison! Home!

That's how I feel about home!

Composed en route from Boston:

Why, oh, why does it cost $7.95 to access the WiFi in an airport? What good is a "day pass" when I'm only here for an hour? In fact, when your security check-in is as abysmal as what I just went through at Logan Airport, here in Boston, you ought to make up for it by giving us free WiFi, or at least cutting the rate way down. If the check-in had gone as fast as it does at my home airport in Madison, I might have been willing to pay perhaps $5 for the time I would have had to fool around with the internet, but I spent half an hour in line. No $7.95 for you.

So here I am, composing my post in advance. By cutting me off from my beloved internet, you are causing me to write more about how I can't stand your airport. Give me free WiFi or I will bitch about your crappy airport on my somewhat popular blog.

What was so bad about the security check-in? The line was long. There were two lines on an incline in a hot corridor, and then one of the lines branched into two lines, which means it goes twice as fast, and at least I lucked into the faster line. At the front, where you lay out your carry-on items, instead of long, banked stainless steel channels, there are pushed-together plastic folding tables of the sort that a caterer might hide under tablecloths at a big outdoor banquet. My line snakes behind the monitors displaying the contents of bags belonging to people in the line we branched off from. Everyone in my line blithely invades the privacy of those other passengers by staring. What else is there to look at?

Well, there's that green-and-white Starbucks logo beyond the security checkpoint. In the dreary hell of the security line, you're concentrating your hopes on getting to the end. And there is that shining logo, the light at the end of the tunnel.

I'll have a large latte.

I didn't think of saying "venti latte." I never do. But if I had, I would have said it, because by then I was in love with Starbucks.

Continuing this post draft in Milwaukee: The WiFi here is $9.95. My flight boards in 10 minutes. Do I love the internet enough to pay $1 a minute? Apparently not.

Decompressing in Boston.

I spent yesterday wandering around Boston, going visual after the long day of words that was Friday.

Boston

Any conference is a mix of tension and boredom, ideas and clichés, interacting with other people and being alone inside your head. The "Bloggership" conference was an especially strange mix for me. On the one hand, I am surely and very securely a blogger and a law professor. These are two indisputable facts about me.

(Yesterday, I was minding my own business, walking down Newbury Street, and a homeless man hissed "stinking white bitch" at me and got some facts right.)

Boston

On the other hand, I feel that I have little in common with the other lawprof bloggers. Walking around Boston yesterday -- dodging epithets -- I was wondering if I was not entirely at cross-purposes with everyone else. At times, I exhorted them to blog like me, but I also always knew that they don't want to blog like me. Why should they? So much of their discussion was about how to get credit for blogging within their institutions and how to promote their professional standing through blogging, that is, how to exploit blogging in service of traditional law professor interests. They remind me of the journalists who mean to harness blogging to preserve and further the interests of mainstream media.

Where are my soulmates, the people who put blogging first? Are you not in love with blogging for blogging's sake, looking to see where blogging might lead you?

Boston

Decompressed, I've got to go now and find my way back home.

Stephen Colbert at the White House Correspondents Dinner.

Did you watch Stephen Colbert's performance at the White House Correspondents Dinner? I love Colbert, but it was a little scary watching him do his "Colbert Report" character outside of his brilliantly comical studio set that frames him as a ridiculous right-wing blowhard. We love the humor in context, but when the targets of the humor are there in the room with him, we can't dissolve into hilarity. We're completely distracted by thinking about how the live audience is reacting and whether Steve the actor has the -- well, as Stephen Colbert would say -- balls to stay in character, to stay pompous and righteous when he knows he's sticking it to the people Steve the comedian would normally depend upon to buoy him up with laughter.

Colbert could have tried to go on as a decent guy being a nice guest and supplying some perfectly pitched stand-up humor, the way Drew Carey has done in the past. But Colbert really isn't a stand-up comedian, and his humor is always set inside a character who is not him. He's an actor, and how hard, how monumentally awkward, it must have been to stay inside his character with such intimidating people around him. Wouldn't the sheer instinct for self-protection make him want to twinkle and say I kid but I love?

Wasn't it awful to perform without laughs? Maybe he should have filed the edges off a couple of jokes, but, basically, he did what he had to do to maintain his credibility with his real audience, those who watch "The Colbert Report." And we'll remember the horrible laughlessness of that night and marvel at the steely nerve of Stephen Colbert.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Garden shadows.

In the Boston Public Garden today, the brilliant sun made lusciously dark shadows:

Boston

Boston

Boston

Boston

Boston

Boston

God bless the man...

... who chaperoned a gaggle of teenagers in Boston's Public Garden today and wore an utterly self-abnegating sweater, so that the kids who seemed only to disrespect him would be able to find him easily in case they got a little lost.

Man in a ridiculous sweater

All the bad things you thought you might one day read had happened to Keith Richards...

Was falling out of a tree even on the list?

"The Star-Spangled Banner"/"Nuestro Himno."

Is it wrong to sing the national anthem in Spanish? (Listen to it here.) When President Bush says "I think people who want to be a citizen of this country ought to learn English and they ought to learn to sing the national anthem in English," is he saying that it's wrong to have a Spanish language version?
Mr. Bush has tried to occupy a middle ground in the raging debate over immigration, supporting legislation that would grant immigrant workers temporary legal status and perhaps a path to citizenship, while pushing for immigrants to learn English also pressing for more steps to stop the flow of newcomers over the border. But his statement about the anthem was taken by members of both parties as a clear signal to conservatives that he stood with them on what many of them see as a clash between national identity and multiculturalism.
The middle ground is awfully hard to occupy!

I can't translate the Spanish words back into English to see the ways in which the meaning has been altered. But I can translate Bush-speak into plainer English for the purpose of fending off those Bush haters and Bush lovers who are reading more than they need to into his words.

He's said that people who want to be citizens should learn English, and to say that is not to say that they shouldn't also speak Spanish, just that wanting to be a part of the country should include wanting to be able to interact with the people here who do speak English. And he's saying that people who want to be citizens should want to learn to sing the anthem along with the rest of us, as we've sung it since it was written, in English. That doesn't mean you can't also sing it in Spanish.

Are we so partisan that we can't hear a moderate statement anymore?

In France, in a city I've never heard of, looking for an internet connection.

Nina's off on her long European trip, and the first stop is Apremont, because when you think of trekking to Europe, you think of Apremont, right? She's taking lots of beautiful pictures, and diligently seeking out an internet connection in places that -- judging by the photos -- look as though they don't even have telephones.

Meanwhile -- let's check in with all the Madison bloggers, while I'm far afield myself.

Tonya's reminiscing on the occasion of her sister's birthday, in a post that has a cool picture of her sleekly stylish family, posing back in 1970. I especially love Mother-of-Tonya's dress (and hairdo).

Oscar's doing a panel on blogging at the Journalism School:
[T]he J-school's first choice was the splendid and brilliant Ann Althouse, but she was unavailable.
I had to blab about blogging elsewhere.
The first thing I noticed as the panelists took their seats was that we were six white guys between thirty and fifty. Six married white guys. From my seat on one end of the dais, I looked to my right and caught an excellent "I wish had my camera" visual of five left hands resting in a neat row on the table, each sporting a wedding ring. From now on, if the topic is blog-related, I'm just going to take the damn photo and say "it's for my blog!"

The second thing I noticed was that the other five panelists were all professional print or broadcast journalists who seemed to believe that there are only two kinds of blogs: those that function as news clipping services -- essentially filtering and linking to useful news items that may not make the final edition of their paper or news show -- and those for people who want to post pictures of their babies.

I was dumbstruck, and kept thinking "man, if Althouse were here, she'd be ripping these guys a new one!"
Tee hee. Read the whole thing. There's lots more, and it's not all about me. But, as you go through your days, keep in mind the handy phrase: "man, if Althouse were here, she'd be ripping these guys a new one!"

Gordon's blogging the cheese we had for dinner. The cheese posed elegantly for a photo I was sharp enough to snap. Gordon's also got some pictures of the conference participants at dinner, and notes that it was hard to get good pictures in the room where the event was held. [CORRECTION: Christine Hurt took the pictures.] Yeah, I know. They had the blinds down so the big screen would have some clarity. At the end of the day, they opened the many huge blinds that had seemed like just part of the wall. Here were dozens of big windows. The room was transformed, beautiful. It made me sad that we had been oppressed by lack of shining window beauty all that day -- all for PowerPoint, damn it! I do have a kind of cool photo of Eugene Volokh speaking -- he's very animated, even when he's just eagerly awaiting his turn to talk -- but all three profs in the picture look angry, so I'm not going to post it. I find the picture amusing, but I'm not positive they would, so.... the nice side of Althouse prevails this time.

Does Jeremy count as a Madison blogger? Having given him too much trouble last week, I'll just say, here's his blog, it's the original model for the Madison blog. You should check it out every day. Jeremy's the best sociologist in the world.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Photography in buildings.

Kristian Knutsen writes about the difficult distinctions between bloggers and traditional press when it comes to taking photographs inside a public building. At issue are the photos taken on the opening day of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCa). The photos I took, blogged here, are part of the controversy. But -- as the article notes -- I asked if photography was permitted as I entered and was told yes. Now, the museum authorities are expressing concern about this photography.

Ironically, I gave them a lot of free publicity, better -- I think -- than advertisements they might shell out a lot of money for. I'm also quoted in the article saying that I think the rights of the artists need to be protected. Myself, I avoided closely picturing any artwork out of respect for the artists' rights. And I think it's important not to interfere with the aesthetic experience of museum-goers. Turning off the flash is an absolute minimum, and standing back and not intruding is a matter of basic respect for others.

As for architecture, however, I think you've got to be allowed to photograph buildings. The building authorities are now fretting about "professional photography," and saying it's different from photography "for personal use." Clearly, they haven't really grasped what photography has become in the age of Flickr. What does it mean anymore to speak of photography "for personal use"? Ordinary people upload their digital files. How repressive do public authorities really want to be about that?

Live-blogging the Bloggership conference!

I'm here, in the nerdy front row, and I'll be live-blogging all day.

Here's the link if you want to listen. No video, so you'll just have to picture a bunch of lawproffy types in a cavernous auditorium at Harvard Law School.

Next to me is Randy Barnett, who's reading my blogging on his Palm Treo 650, showing me that he's reading it, taking a picture of me blogging, and emailing me the picture to blog. Is that self-referential enough for you? It's really, really bloggy. And we're just getting started.

The photo:

Photo_04

Don't you love technology?

Gordon Smith is nudging me and saying pay attention. Good point! Live-blogging should entail paying attention. Paul Caron is talking. And Gordon is also live-blogging. Do we care about what the speaker is saying or what the bloggers in the audience are blogging about it and linking to each other and blogging about the blogging?

9:13: Here's the agenda, listing the times of the speakers. Paul Caron is doing the introduction, assembling a lot of statistics about blogging and scholarship. Paul used a lot of PowerPoint slides. There's a huge screen, and I haven't got slides myself. Now Doug Berman is speaking, and he's just displaying his blog on the big screen. So I guess I'll end up putting mine up too and that will mean this very post will be up on the screen. Should lawprofs be blogging?, Doug Berman asks. Hey, Randy's commenting on this post, I just noticed, causing him to turn that Treo thing away. I have to read it the tech way, after he posts it here.

9:22: Here's Gordon's live-blogging post. He notes the many empty seats in the room, so we big bloggers aren't such a huge draw. Somehow, I think the students are probably sleeping at this hour. Or are they studying or taking exams? Is anyone listening to the live feed? Gordon is putting together his PowerPoint slides, Googling for a picture for "network."

9:27: Berman rejects the notion that lawprof blogs are like listening in on a faculty lounge conversation. "It's not as robust and engaged as the law professor blogosphere is." I'm trying to think if things in Lubar Lounge are "robust and engaged." Randy tells me he can't post his comment because he doesn't have a Blogger account. Email it to me:
It is divine to be seated next to Ms. Althouse watching her at work . . . I mean at play. Maybe she will let me borrow her PC so I can post a link on the Volokh Conspiracy to her blogging here. I have not yet installed a blogging client on my Treo 650.
He used the Althouse code word "divine," but he called my PowerBook a "PC."

9:37: Larry Solum says blogs aren't changing anything about legal scholarship but are manifestations of other changes. He loves very long law review articles, but concedes that no one reads them. Yes, it's a funny thing about blogging: it's read. You have these elaborately written things that aren't read, and then everyone thinks of blogging as just thrown together. But short posts can be carefully written, and they can embody ideas that you have thought through in more formal scholarship. Larry's saying that short form "disintermediated" writing is a trend, and not just in blogging. He'd like to see a Wiki law encyclopedia.

9:47: Kate Litvak, commenting on the laptops in the audience, says she's going to ban computers in the classroom. Is she trying to tell me to to close the laptop? She's the panelist who doesn't have a blog.

10:05: Paul Butler starts the commentary on the articles, which he finds insufficiently excited about blogging. He says: "The blog is walking up to legal scholarship and slapping it in the face."

10:10: Butler asks, "What if law review articles had Site Meters?"

Eric Muller blogs a contribution to the scholarship and blogging conversation.

10:17: Jim Lindgren: "Why do you want to know if it's scholarship or not?"

10:35: Ellen Podgor says that before she started blogging -- at White Collar Crime Prof Blog -- she had never been quoted in the Wall Street Journal. She teaches at Stetson, note well. The reporters used to call lawprofs based on their law schools. Blogging can shake up the hierarchy and give different people a chance to be heard.

11:10: Gail Heriot says blogging is fun and lawprofs can do whatever we want. That's stating the problem plainly! "The legal academy has turned inward on itself," she says, describing what legal scholarship has become. It doesn't speak to lawyers and judges. Blogging lets the lawprof get back in connection with the practical legal world, to influence people on the issues of the day.

11:22: The audience has gotten a lot bigger since the break. I wonder if people in the room are reading my simulblogging. Leave a comment! Or are you going to tell me you can't register with Blogger? Email me, then (my last name, followed by @wisc.edu).

11:26: Orin Kerr starts off funny. He uses the computer on the lectern to check his Site Meter statistics. He's all, "Hold on just a sec..." Then he pretends he's accidentally brought his old notes from a 1999 conference called "Listservship: How Email Is Changing Legal Scholarship).

11:35: Orin ends by saying that if anyone is live-blogging the conference, we should say that he got thunderous applause and a standing ovation. Now, Gordon is up and he starts by displaying this post of mine, photo and all. He calls attention to the part about how he's putting together his PowerPoint slides, and then that's his intro into his PowerPoint presentation.

11:45: Gordon does care about whether blogging is considered scholarship, because he wants to legitimate what he's doing. Randy Barnett is next, and he frets about the "flight from scholarship," which has long been the "dirty little secret" of lawprofdom. "It's a syndrome," one symptom of which is saying nobody reads legal scholarship, and it doesn't matter. "I should also mention that a lot of law professors don't like teaching. Or serving on committees." Lots of lawprofs are looking for "something else." And along comes blogging, and the self-justifications of the lawprofs who get into it.

Bloggership Conference

12:00: Michael Froomkin mentions classroom blogs. He suggests that lawprofs write 1 or 2 page posts reviewing long-form scholarship.

12:10. Question time. They've got a microphone now. The first question is about the "performative" nature of blogging, meaning that bloggers are performing for an audience.

2:00. Back from lunch, and now Glenn Reynolds is video-ing in his talk. He did not -- as I thought he might -- laugh at us for going to the conference, us low-tech losers. Walking to lunch, we were talking about the coming video'd-in performance, and Randy Barnett commented on how Glenn was going to be a 12 foot head on the screen, then said that Glenn Reynolds actually was a 12 foot head, which is why he couldn't appear in person. Waiting for the talk to start, Jim Lindgren compared him to Orson on "Mork and Mindy." Glenn compared himself to some other pop culture character on a screen, but I've forgotten which one. Anyway, Glenn's talking about why there are so few libel suits against bloggers. Answer: Bloggers are unlikely to commit libel. They're big on support, and their mistakes get pointed out and corrected quickly. Also, bloggers are less trusted so the crap they (we) say causes less harm.

2:15: Eugene Volokh is talking about blogging and liability. Lots of detail: listen to the podcast. Should bloggers get worse treatment than traditional journalists? That's just one of many things he covered.

2:30: Eric Goldman has a very specific topic: group blogging activities. Being a solo blogger, I guess I don't have to worry about these problems... unless you commenters are causing problems.

2:38: Jim Lindgren types with one finger. You rarely see that anymore.

2:50: Betsy Malloy is talking about anonymous bloggers and what rights they have to preserve their privacy.

2:55: Daniel Solove is comparing Eugene Volokh and Jessica Cutler (the "Washingtonienne"): both so love to blog about sex.

3:45: My panel is about to start. I'm up on the dais now and feeling nervous, even though I think there will hardly be any audience left (except out there is cyberspace, so I guess I can't just fool around). I check my email. A student at Georgetown has sent me this:

althouse_referential

3:50: Larry Ribstein is listing the categories of lawprof blogposts: amateur journalism, self-expression, "blogicles" (little law scholarship articles), self-promotion (getting people to download your articles), and publicly engaged academic posts ("PEAPs").



The PEAPs idea is to "leverage your expertise" as you contribute to the public debate. You tap your serious scholarship, as you write about some timely issue.

4:05: I notice that Glenn noticed I was blogging about his head.

4:22: I'm done! Having written my article in bloggish form, I tried to do the talk in podcasty form (which is bizarrely stressful!).

4:25: Christine Hurt is talking about blogging without tenure.

4:28: Christine says that by blogging -- as part of reading the news every day -- she forces herself to keep up with legal developments, which gives her a headstart on the serious projects she begins in the summer. If she weren't blogging, she says, she'd be more consumed with teaching during the school year and putting off reading up on the current developments. This is a good point: I know I read cases as soon as they come out, cases that, pre-blogging, I would have just downloaded for later consumption.

4:38: Howard Bashman is up to comment on Larry, Christine, and me. He also has a lot to say about his blog, How Appealing.

4:50. Peter Lattman, the Wall Street Journal legal blogger, is next. He says journalists don't see bloggers as competition, but as fodder.

5:12. Nice questions. Listen to them in the podcast. Now, Harvard lawprof Charles Nesson is closing and talking about the Berkman Center, which sponsored the event. The internet, he says, has thrived because large institutions haven't figured out how to use it yet. There's a danger now, and he has a proposal, which you can hear on the podcast.

THE END!

ADDED: Douglas Berman was live-blogging here. And Larry Solum sort of disagrees with me here (that is, he thinks that to be taken seriously, a law scholar had better keep the fun stuff on a separate blog). Solum is concerned about how "academic administrators" will figure out how to reward the part of the blog that deserves to be considered part of one's professional work. I'll just say that I have not encountered this problem at the University of Wisconsin Law School and assert that that makes my school cooler than the schools that fret about clear line drawing, like a child eating dinner and worring that the meat is touching the mashed potatoes!

"On some level he means what he's saying, and is making fun of himself for meaning it..."

Amba on religion and "The Colbert Report":
Colbert is something far more subtle than a fundamentalist, but on some level he means what he's saying, and is making fun of himself for meaning it by impersonating a fundamentalist's absurdly over-the-top way of saying it. No wonder Harris is baffled: it's impossible to tell where Colbert is really coming from. If you assumed he was mocking religion itself and therefore agreed with you, you'd fall into a trap.
Harris is atheist Sam Harris, and you can watch Colbert's interview with him here. Enjoy all the perplexing subtleties!

So Alec Baldwin punched the wall because of the air conditioning.

Here's a puzzling story about an actress, Jan Maxwell, quitting her role in a NY play, because she can't stand Alec Baldwin, her co-star.
[Maxwell wrote] in an e-mail message to a friend that Mr. Baldwin "created an unhealthy and oppressive situation." She referred specifically to an incident in which Mr. Baldwin punched a wall because he was angry that the air-conditioning was not turned high enough....

Mr. Baldwin admitted to punching the wall, but said he had been sweating onstage and, as his character wears glasses, the sweat was making it difficult to see.
Baldwin also says that the play -- "Entertaining Mr. Sloan" -- subjects the character Maxwell plays to relentless misogyny. Is the actress broken by the "unhealthy and oppressive situation" of the play itself, or is Alec Baldwin really so terrible? That air conditioner incident just doesn't seem like enough to justify cutting out on the play. His explanation sound pretty decent, but maybe there is a whole list of scary Baldwinesque acting out on and around the stage.

Hmmm... we could try to make a Top Ten list: Things Alec Baldwin Did to Freak Out Jan Maxwell.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

At the Bloggership conference.

Well, here I am at the Cambridge Hyatt, where, from your room, you hear some guy playing schmaltzy music on a grand piano that is located somewhere in the grand atrium. You know, there was a time when Hyatt atria were seen as quite wonderful. It was decades ago.

So we bloggers had a nice dinner at the Harvard Faculty Club, courtesy of Microsoft. Microsoft provided some excellent food for us humble bloggers. I met a bunch of famous bloggers, some of whom defied my mental image, like Orin Kerr -- because I always just pictured him looking like the only other person I've ever met in my life named Orin (who was an old man with a big head of white hair). Silly, but that's how the mind works, isn't it?

And now it's time to meet the public, in the Zephyr Lounge.

"I know that you will be able to read this from Heaven."

What will happen to your web space after you die? Will the commenters swoop in and talk about you, talk to you? Will new readers flow in, tipped off by MyDeathSpace, to soak up the after-death atmosphere and contribute the perspective of the -- what should we call them? -- death spectators?

Extremely fussy bedding.

Here's an article about how women are layering their beds with all sorts of fancy pillows and "bed scarves" and other paraphernalia:
"I could go weeks without ever seeing my living room," said Judy Roaman, an art collector and retailer in Manhattan and East Hampton whose bed is as crowded and graphically articulated as the wall of artwork leading into her bedroom. "The bed for me is about having everything around me. We have the takeout on trays, and lollipops and Kleenex and every magazine known to man — and the dog, who has his water bowl on the floor. I hate to tell you this, but the dead dog's ashes are right by the bed, too."

The bed, Ms. Roaman said, warming to her theme, has two lives, "a glamorous, gorgeous day life, where she's made up in the morning, all fluffed with her glammy pillows and her propping pillows and her duvet and her chic little blanket at the bottom — and she's definitely a she — and the nighttime life, where we all jump in."
The least convincing thing in this article is the repeated assertion that an exciting and messy life goes along with a complicated bed system. Do you really think a woman -- they're all women -- who maintains a bed like this is enthusiastic about sticky kids jumping in? Do you really think she lets them bring whole takeout meals on trays into her insanely fancy bed? Does anyone ever actually have sex here or does the whole setup scream sublimation?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

"American Idol" -- the results.

ADDED: If you're looking for the results of the latest show, click on the banner -- "Althouse" -- at the top of the page and scroll down to the newest "American Idol" post.

***

Oh, good, Althouse is back to talking about "American Idol." I'm soooo sorry I complained about her blogging about "American Idol."

So, from painful hyena sex to painful Ryan Seacrest. It's almost an anagram!

What's Paula wearing? It looks like caviar.

Did you see that Donny Hathaway's greatest hits collection is at #25 in sales on Amazon today, thanks to Elliott's singing "A Song for You" last night?

Cute "Call Me" ad, with doggies and Taylor Hicks acting up.

Andrea Bocelli belts out a number. His "American Idol" appearance has his new record up to #4 on Amazon. Expect it to go higher tomorrow.

They're breaking the contestants up into 3 groups of 2. Katharine, Elliott, and Kellie start each of the 3 groups. Then, Paris is told to join Kellie, and those in the know are assuming that's the bottom group. Taylor goes with Elliott, so Elliott's safe! Chris joins Katharine, and clearly she's now safe. Elliott and Taylor are the top. Nice!

After the break, we learn that Elliott and Taylor were actually the middle group. That makes sense, doesn't it, because of Chris? Chris and Kat are seated.

And it's Kellie who's leaving! America got it right!

Aw, but she was very sweet. I think she got a little tired. Someone ought to build a sitcom around her character. We love her as a comedienne.

"The Painful Realities of Hyena Sex."

See what I found for you? An article about the painful realities of hyena sex:
[I]n the final stages of pregnancy, high-ranking females provide their developing offspring with higher levels of androgen—a male sex hormone associated with aggression—than lower-ranking mothers provide to their developing young....

But providing the extra hormones takes a toll on the mother. The dose of androgen that she received from her own alpha mother damages her ovaries, making it difficult to conceive.

It also causes female reproductive organs to grow. A lot. Her clitoris, which contains the birthing canal, protrudes 7 inches from her body.

"Imagine giving birth through a penis," said study co-author Kay Holekamp of Michigan State University. "It's really weird genitalia, but it seems to work. Although giving birth through a 'penis' isn't a trivial problem."
And now it's a problem that you can think about.

"A strange combination of religion, karaoke, and pride."

Why Birmingham, Alabama is at the core of "American Idol."

The sleek new press secretary.

So what do you think of Tony Snow as the new White House press secretary? He's got a nice polished look and demeanor. That's got to help.

I like this:
In a November column, posted on Townhall.com, Mr. Snow wrote of Mr. Bush: "His wavering conservatism has become an active concern among Republicans, who wish he would stop cowering under the bed and start fighting back against the likes of Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Wilson. The newly passive George Bush has become something of an embarrassment."

In a March column, Mr. Snow wrote, "A Republican president and a Republican Congress have lost control of the federal budget and cannot resist the temptation to stop raiding the public fisc." And he derided the new prescription drug benefit that Mr. Bush signed into law.

As press secretary, Mr. Snow would probably have to defend just such a program.

When asked about Mr. Snow's more critical comments, the administration official said, "What better way to pop the bubble that people think there is here."

At least it's something new.

"They possess sufficient mental faculties and emotional life to justify their inclusion in the community of equals."

"They" being apes. (Via Memeorandum.)

"He's just a smart, funny guy."

That would be Mick Jagger, who went for an offer of a secondary role in a TV pilot. "He did a lot of ad-libbing. Some of the funniest stuff in the pilot came from him." says Rob Burnett, one of the writers of the show, which is called "Let's Rob Mick Jagger."

I like seeing Mick Jagger get recognition for his comic acting. Remember when he played the role of Keith Richards in an SNL sketch with Mike Myers (who played the part of Jagger) in a "Point/Counterpoint"? And there was another SNL sketch where Jagger and Jimmy Fallon both played Mick Jagger, as Mick Jagger looking in a mirror.

Surveying the readers of political blogs.

BlogAds surveyed readers of political blogs. Here are the composite results, and here are the results for Althouse.

Does anything surprise me? A lot of my results are close to the composite. I was surprised that only 12.29% were lawyers or judges. I guess lawprofs check the "education" category (5.08%), and law students check the "students" category (7.63%). Adding all three categories, you get 25% (which includes nonlaw teachers and students). Not as much as I thought. I like having a mix of readers, so this is nice to know! I have more engineers than teachers, strangely, and quite different from the composite.

I guess the political breakdown is important:
Apolitical -- 1.75%
Democrat -- 10.92%
Republican -- 35.81%
Libertarian -- 25.33%
Independent -- 25.76%
Green -- 0.44%
More than half my readers are libertarian/independent? And Democrats do not love me. But I already knew that.

ADDED: Am I low in the "teachers" category because Democrats do not love me?

"I'm the decider, and I decide what's best."

That Bush quote has gotten a lot of attention, including this front-page NYT article. It's not about Bush, though, and then it's not even about how regular people have started saying "I'm the decider" to their spouses. Well, one guy did, but then the article devolves into an inquiry into who makes the decisions in relationships. I feel I've been had. An article I wanted to read -- one that whispered "bloggable" to me -- was just another dumb "relationships" piece.

Anyway, I rather like the idea of "I'm the decider, and I decide what's best" catching on in relationship talk. It's a cool way to exert control, but take the edge off it with humor, shifting the attention from your controlling behavior onto our presumably ridiculous President.

And have we figured out yet if "decider" is a word? In law, we use the term "decision-maker" all the time, so if "decider" is a word, we should be ashamed of our verbosity. However, if "decider" isn't a word, the President should be ashamed -- one more time -- of his language garble-making.

Dictionary check: "Decider" is a word! Recalibrate your ridiculousness assessment.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

"American Idol" -- the final 6.

ADDED: If you're looking for the results of the latest show, click on the banner -- "Althouse" -- at the top of the page and scroll down to the newest "American Idol" post.

Katharine McPhee belts "I Have Nothing," and fortunately her yellow ball gown is tight enough to show a very visible panty line -- or we'd be super-slow-mo-ing the TiVo all night to try to figure out if we saw what we thought we saw when the dress flaps open in the end. Hey, even Paula's being mean to her. Everyone says: You're not Whitney. Only Ryan refers to the "great moves with that dress."

As they say on "Project Runway": too much tootie.

Elliott Yamin, "A Song for You." (The theme is love songs.) He wants to bring Donny Hathaway "back to the forefront" (and Hathaway's beautiful daughter, Kenya, is one of the background singers). Randy's right that the arrangement was confusing. Paula is weeping. "You move me." Hilarious. "You are a handsome, evolved performer." Simon's sniggering. At Paula. For Elliott: "Superb."

Kellie Pickler does "Unchained Melody." She seems almost afraid of the song. Simon: "So monotonous and so bland. No warmth."

Paris Bennett sings "The Way We Were." She is strong, but often weirdly phoney.

Taylor Hicks is doing a song I don't know, "Just Once." He's bellowing tonight. Too formal and un-fun. Not what we've come to expect from Hicksy.

And they saved my boy Chris for last.

Chris Daughtry. "Have You Ever Really Loved a Woman." In the practice session, they get him to sing lying on the floor, apparently to activate the diaphragm. After his performance, they barely have enough time to fit the judges comments in, and I think Paula's going out of turn when she jumps up and does a "Love you love you love you" dance, but that turned out to be her chance. Strange! But my Chrissy was great! Wasn't he the only one who seemed to really be singing about love? Tell me have you ever really sung a love song?

Best: Chris! Second: Elliott. Last: all those others.

I forgot the most important question: Who will leave? The bottom three should be Katharine, Kellie, and Taylor. But that's quite unlikely. I think Elliott is in danger. Paris too. Just leave my Chris alone, America.

"She bulldozes out of existence every desirable innovation in urban planning during the last century..."

Ah, to write a truly great, truly influential book!

Goodbye to Jane Jacobs.

"The Death and Life of Great American Cities."

Meet the bloggers.

There's that big "Bloggership" conference at Harvard Law School this Friday. Not only can you attend this conference -- it's free and open to the public -- you can even hang out in the Zephyr Lounge with us the night before the conference, Thursday, 9 to 11 pm. (The Zephyr Lounge is at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge, 575 Memorial Drive.)

It sounds disturbingly intimate, but all these characters are doing it: Randy Barnett, Howard Bashman, Douglas Berman, Paul Butler, Paul Caron, Michael Froomkin, Eric Goldman, Gail Heriot, Christine Hurt, Orin Kerr, Peter Lattman, Jim Lindgren, Betsy Malloy, Ellen Podgor, Larry Ribstein, Gordon Smith, Dan Solove, Larry Solum, Eugene Volokh, and me.

I wonder if anyone will blog about it.

A "dominant face" and a "submissive face."

Composite images:



Actually, I'm offended by the whole notion. It reminds me of an exhibit of Nazi propoganda I saw at the Anne Frank House a while back -- pseudo-scientific explanations of why a particular face was "criminal."

But those pictures are from a BBC report of a study done at Liverpool University:
Researchers in the university's School of Biological Sciences showed their subjects, all of whom were in long-term relationships, a series of 66 pictures of two facial types - dominant and submissive.

They were then asked to rate the pictures for dominance, with a dominant person being defined as someone who "appeared as if they could get what they wanted".

Those with partners in the most fertile stage of their menstrual cycle were more able to spot classic masculine face types - ie men with strong jaw lines, thinner lips and smaller eyes.

But those with partners who were not at risk of getting pregnant at that particular time were not.
The study apparently assumed what constitutes a "dominant face" and a "submissive face," and only inquires into whether having a girlfriend who's ovulating heightens a man's perception of male threats. Count me skeptical... and disgusted.

"McKinney ... kept restating her charges of discrimination and profiling - which is just how a good bluff works."

Lawprof Steven Lubet -- who's got a new book, "Lawyers' Poker: 52 Lessons That Lawyers Can Learn from Card Players" -- is blogging about Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and poker:
Bluffing depends on uncertainty. Did the Capitol Police really have a history of discrimination? Did the officer really use excessive force? Does McKinney have solid evidence to back up her claims? And how much were the Capitol police willing to pay - in the currency of reputation and credibility - in order to find out?

Whatever you think of McKinney, it was hard not to be impressed by the way that she kept raising the stakes. It would have been hard enough for federal prosecutors to take on a member of congress in any circumstance, but she put them on notice that they might be publicly branded racists - and perhaps face a civil rights lawsuit - if they filed charges against McKinney. Under that sort of pressure, no one would blame them for backing off.
Poker. It's about everything.

"Propped against a padded backboard, held in place with a harness."

Now, you can be even more squashed on a plane. Here's the crazy new standing section.

"I think I belong in the women's section of the jail, but I don't foresee that happening."

Where would you put pre-operative transgendered inmates?

IN THE COMMENTS: A lot of folks are focusing on this: "She legally changed her name in 2004 from Michael to Michelle, and her driver's license lists her as female." They're trying to say the state is locked into a commitment to treat the person as a female. I disagree.

"I've thought about starting to pretend to be more politically conservative than I am in seminars just to feel less complicit in all this."

Suffering through sociology, where "[y]ou are asked to believe that the way to 'de-racialize' something is to take an award with no name attached to it and attach to it the name presently attached to the major sociology award associated with race."
It's like sociology is engaged in this campaign to purge the air in its hallways from heterodox thought as much as possible, and then it simultaneously wonders why students trained in this sterile environment have trouble articulating their ideas to the general public.
Well, go read all that. But here's my question for you current and recent students. Did you take or avoid classes in sociology? Tell us about it.

Monday, April 24, 2006

"There will be blood on the walls. There will be #&!*ing blood everywhere."

Allie does not want to lose on tonight's "Apprentice." She gets over-the-top fierce planning how she's going to destroy Andrea in the Boardroom. And, in fact, Andrea is destroyed in the Boardroom, but the blood isn't visible. The destruction is accomplished through clearly spoken support (for Allie) from the other team-members, especially Roxanne, who never seems the slightest bit vicious. So that's how blood is done well these days.

"I don't want that grand, visionary, transporting movie experience made for the big screen to become a thing of the past."

That's a general idea -- expressed by James Cameron -- that I can embrace whole-heartedly. But the specific idea is frightful: 3-D.

I've enjoyed some 3-D films in my time -- including "Flesh for Frankenstein" in its original theater release. (I well remember what it was like to have a human liver dangled on a spear out over the audience.) It's a fun novelty. But how could it possibly be what could save film? It's just one more thing that would make film like a theme park ride. So destructive!

Blogger is annoying me...

It just can't seem to push the posts through. This is just a post designed to ram the preceding posts through, not that I think it'll work... just that I feel like doing something.

UPDATE: Yay! It's back!

"An action can be collectively willed but enacted by small groups."

Says Paul Greengrass, director of the film "United 93," who had to find a way to tell the story and not offend the families of the victims, many of whom did not want to see the men who took action "elevated" above the other passengers.

"It ran sideways, like a crab, and all that."

Virginia Heffernan loves the Ricky Gervais podcast, but she struggles to convey why Karl Pilkington is so funny. Finally, she sort of gives up and transcribes a long thing:
"When me gran died, right, she had this rubbish dog, right? And that's all we got left. It's like this little poodle. It was rubbish, right. It's called Fluffy. And like me gran looked after it in a way like it was a human. Do you know what I mean. It had a little coat on when it went out, and all that. Anyway, so she died, we got left it, and me dad's like, 'bloody hell.' Before you know it, it only took about a month; it was a wreck. Because we weren't sort of bathing it the way she bathed it. If it wanted to go out, we took it out. It got covered in oil. It used to go under the car and everything. It went from looking like this fluffy, you know, poodle to just being a bit of a wreck. It got hit by a car. It ran sideways, like a crab, and all that. So it went from being overtreated to just being treated like a dog."
Still, if you're not hearing Karl's voice, are you getting why that is hysterical?

"We are not all the Nokia-wielding people the government would like you to think we are."

A national identity crisis:
"Finns nearly choked on their cereal when they realized we were the face Finland would be showing to the world."

IN THE COMMENTS: Are heavy metal fans nerdy?

Sunday, April 23, 2006

"The Sopranos," "Big Love."

Did you watch? I thought both shows were relatively uninteresting tonight. Maybe it's just me. I'm always happy to watch Christopher act like an idiot -- and "When are you going to stop playing the Adriana card?" was a great line -- but much of what went on tonight bored me.

Ditto "Big Love." Nicky's credit cards, yawn. Somebody turns out to be gay -- what an original plot turn! Bill's car drives up and parks in front of the house -- fascinating, please show that a hundred more times. Loved the missionaries though -- especially when they rode away on bikes and did the dorky hand turn signals. Really loved every syllable uttered by Tina Majorino. She's brilliant!

Audible Althouse #46.

Here. What I hate about movies, who's beautiful and who isn't, feeling transformed by architecture, what makes a good song lyric, why animals love a nuclear disaster, and how I suffered through writing about blogging.

(You don't need an iPod. You can stream it on your computer here.)

200 photographs.

I was just thinking that my text-to-photograph ratio had shifted way too far toward the photographic -- a consequence of springtime? -- and then I went here...

Where am I?

... and ended up taking 200 photographs.

It will take me some time to tweak my digital files and upload things, but I plan to make a good Flickr set out of this material. I'll link to it when I'm done...

MORE: Here's the whole set of photos -- weeded down to 57 -- from the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, which just opened today. The interior architecture -- by Cesar Pelli -- is beautiful, framing infinite enticing compositions.

There's a fabulous rooftop sculpture garden (with a café):

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Some marvelous display spaces:

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

And many nice perspectives on our charming city:

Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

"We are being played by the lawyers, with leaks and well-chosen sound bites."

Do you think you know which side is telling the truth in the Duke lacrosse team rape case? You shouldn't.

IN THE COMMENTS: I defend Dahlia Lithwick as commenters rage about a line -- "our sons are spoiled misogynistic bigots" -- that appears in the essay.

ADDED: A commenter links to the Slate version of Lithwick's essay and makes a persuasive argument that my defense of Lithwick is wrong. [MORE: Actually, several commenters made good arguments.]

Suddenly, something is keeping us alive.

Did you notice the stunning drop in the death rate? The National Center for Health Statistics reports that there was a 2 percent decrease in the death rate in the United States last year. 50,000 fewer people died last year than the year before.
U.S. deaths ordinarily rise slightly each year. The last decline in annual deaths occurred in 1997, a modest drop of 445 deaths from 1996, Minino said.

The number of deaths has not dropped this steeply since 1938, when there were about 69,000 fewer than in 1937. A drop in 1944 came close - about 48,000 fewer deaths than the previous year....

Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death, accounting for 27 percent of the nation's deaths in 2004. Cancer was second, at about 23 percent, and strokes were third, at 6 percent.

The good news: The age-adjusted death rate for all three killers dropped. The heart disease rate declined more than 6 percent, the cancer rate about 3 percent, and the stroke rate about 6.5 percent.
And yet we've gotten so fat! Or is that layer of blubber -- like the embrace of a loving grandmother -- cushioning us as we fall through life.

"The yield of her legendary scrutiny informed by a worldliness more political than clitoral."

Do you trust a writer who writes like that to tell you why one writer is better than another?
Her spare precise locution rewards not spectatorship but collaboration: the reader's full discovery of the dread she leaves largely tacit.
It's not hard to see that Joan Didion is a better writer than Erica Jong, but that doesn't mean that trying to write like Didion and not Jong will make you a better writer.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Art bikes.

Art bikes

Art bikes

Art bikes

Tulips and politics.

Today, in the public square, it's all tulips and politics.

Tulips and Politics

Closeup on the politics:

A Madison Saturday

Respite:

Still life with Starbucks

"It creates a habit of fluency that pours right over the surliest block."

The surliest writer's block, that is. So says Amba, talking about blogging, in response to -- thanks! -- my little "pseudo-blog" of an essay (written for next week's "Bloggership" conference). More from Amba (about my piece):
Even though it's written to coax a specialized audience off its safe shore of stodginess, timidity and pomposity and into the fast-moving waters of blogging, it's one of the best all-round blogging manifesti yet, especially for any blogger who does other kinds of writing for a living and/or calling.
Read the whole thing. Hers, I mean. Which will perhaps send you over to mine.

And read the other conference papers too. Here's a tribute to the other papers, received via email, from one of our regular commenters (not Amba):
OK, I'm a nerd. I ended up spending quite a chunk of this afternoon and evening reading the papers, and I'm very glad I did. It has literally shifted my thinking about the way I should be, well, thinking about certain things. I'm very open to learning to new information and do that all the time, but it's not so often anymore that I feel this sort of "stop and think" (in a good way), outside of encounters with art and other non-info-oriented things.

I'm very much hoping that your commenters--in particular those who are also bloggers, but small, and not lawyers, and perhaps without other sorts of useful backgrounds--go over and read some of those papers and think about them.

I love the free-ness (more potential on my part, but I'm working on that) of blogging and of the blogosphere. But like any morphing and maturing media, there are certain caveats -- and most especially as/if people start thinking of themselves as citizen journalists. I'm not sure that those caveats come under consideration as much as they should, at last not by bloggers not in the "higher ranks", or not lawyers, or whatever. Some day, that may come home to roost for some poor blogger who's ill-equipped to deal with it.

ADDED: The commenter who wrote the email is Reader_Iam, who actually wrote a post on here about it.

The naked carpenter.

Percy Honniball. (Love the name!)
He told officers he stripped before crawling under the client's house to do electrical work because he didn't want to soil his clothes, police said.

Honniball said Thursday that working in the nude gave him a better range of motion and that a skilled craftsman can work clothing -- and injury -- free....

Honniball was caught working naked in Berkeley three times in the last six years and put on probation for violating a city ordinance.
Oh, come on. You're allowed to do things like that in Berkeley aren't you?

But really, naked carpentry? It sounds dangerous -- though somehow I'm not getting a mental picture of the precise accident I'm afraid of. And I'm not believing the cleanliness argument. He's got to put his clothes back on to leave the job, right? And he's not showering on the job, presumably. So he's just getting the insides of his clothes dirty. If you're going to say then he preserves the appearance of his clothes by keeping the outside clean, the simplest solution is wear the clothes inside out on the job.

Oh, my lord, I'm thinking way too much about the naked carpenter!

What I hate about movies.

I've been avoiding going to the movie theater for a while. After years of weekly attendance, I've cut down to perhaps five times a year. Recently, I developed the suspicion that what keeps me away is the sound.

My sudden decline in attendance coincides with dramatic sound enhancements made at the local theaters. Movie sound had been bothering me for years. This 1997 movie had sound effects that drove me up the wall. No one could walk anywhere -- even when they are sneaking up on someone -- without tromping footsteps. I avoided seeing the movie "Gladiator" after I heard the trailer: the clanking sound effects were absurd and distracting.

Worst of all is movie music. Are you supposed to be able to ignore it? The music is terrible, loud, and intrusive. It is constantly ordering you about, telling you when to feel what. You don't have the chance to have your own feelings based on what is happening on the screen.

Yesterday, I was flipping channels on the television, and the movie "Troy" came on. There was a big battle scene, with spears and shields and burning arrows. It was semi-ridiculous. Still, I might have been able to imagine what it would have been like to be there, fighting like that. They went to a lot of trouble to depict the battle techniques. But the blaring, insane music made that kind of engagement with the story utterly impossible.

I know "Troy" is supposed to be a bad movie. But looking at it yesterday crystallized my thinking about what I hate about movies. It's the sound. What torture "Troy" would have been in a theater with all those oppressive speakers bearing down on me!

Making movies into an intensely physical auditory experience has ruined them.

"A remarkably beautiful woman who was surprisingly shy, yet spoke her mind fearlessly... who thought little of herself as an actress..."

Peter Bogdonovich on Ava Gardner.

I must confess that I've never understood why people -- is it just men? -- are enthralled by Ava Gardner. Was she ever good in a movie? Is she really so especially beautiful? I don't see it in the stills, and maybe I've never seen one of her movies. She made a hell of a lot of them, but look at the list. What a shocking lot of crap!

Anyway, I like that she was good with the snappy remark. Bogdonovich quotes this crack about Clark Gable: "Clark is the sort of guy that if you say, 'Hiya, Clark, how are you?' he's stuck for an answer."

Photos from the set.

Rick Lee has photos from the set of the movie "We... Are Marshall." The movie is set in 1970s, so the costumes are horrifying, especially on Matthew McConaughey. It's one thing to have to look like a guy in 1970, quite another to have to look like a coach in 1970. That's a truly humbling hairstyle and a frightening mixture of stripes and plaid.

Friday, April 21, 2006

An evening walk.

It's nice to make it to the end of what was a grueling week here in Madison, Wisconsin, but let's step outside for a little walk. There is beauty just outside my door. Within three blocks of home:

An Evening Walk in University Heights

An Evening Walk in University Heights

An Evening Walk in University Heights

An Evening Walk in University Heights

"Be Ashamed, Our School Embraced What God Has Condemned/Homosexuality is Shameful."

Those are words on the front and back of a T-shirt, worn to school by a student reacting to the school's Gay-Straight Alliance events. At Volokh Conspiracy, there is a vivid discussion of the Ninth Circuit's decision upholding the district judge's denial of a preliminary injunction to the student, after the school's principal required him to remove the shirt. (PDF.) I don't have the time right now to read the decision, but I wanted to give readers a chance to talk about this very interesting free speech problem.

The majority is concerned about what it calls "speech that intrudes upon the rights of other students." Judge Kozinski, dissenting, cares about that too:
I ... have sympathy for defendants’ position that students in school are a captive audience and should not be forced to endure speech that they find offensive and demeaning. There is surely something to the notion that a Jewish student might not be able to devote his full attention to school activities if the fellow in the seat next to him is wearing a t-shirt with the message “Hitler Had the Right Idea” in front and “Let’s Finish the Job!” on the back. This t-shirt may well interfere with the educational experience even if the two students never come to blows or
even have words about it.
How different is that hypothetical shirt from the one the principal banned? Did the principal disapprove of the shirt because it was disruptive or because it contradicted the school's official message?

"Bullet and teardrop shapes and parallel 'speed lines'..."

Streamlining -- "the paring down of shape until it presents the least possible resistance to the flow of air or water" -- is a modernistic design trend that belongs to the 1930s and 40s. Do you love the futurism of the past? Or does it make you feel sad? If you get a bad twinge from it, is it nostalgia or disappointment? That is, that we live in this place that was once called the future, and we see that it doesn't have that exciting futuristic look we once imagined? We got tired of the future before it ever arrived, and we decided to preserve the look of past, except that part of the past that was the futuristic vision.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Getting some words written.

Today was the deadline for the papers for next week's "Bloggership" conference. Here's a list of the words in my essay least likely to appear in any of the other essays: oblivion, lollipop, Sopranos, bloxxing, psychotic, whore, squishy, gooey, strumpet's, ankle, fairy.

UPDATE: The papers will be posted here. Some are up already.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Mine's up.

The hill warms up.

At dawn, Bascom Hill is austere:

Bascom Mall

Later, warm springtime firms up its grip on us, and some feel it more than others:

Bascom Mall

Ah, the boyfriend -- as supportive as a chair!

"Theme Time Radio Hour With Your Host Bob Dylan."

I'm glad Bob Dylan's XM Radio show is finally going to debut (on May 3rd), but what's with the title? Well, he is going to have themes. The first one is "weather" -- which seems like some vague nod to "you don't need a weatherman" and "blowin' in the wind." Then on to such startling topics as "dance," "police," "cars" and "whiskey."
Bootlegged whiskey in his hand...

The whiskey's in the jar and the money's in the bank...

Don't need a shot of whiskey, help me be president....

I'm gonna buy me a barrel of whiskey - I'll die before I turn senile...

Might like to drink whiskey, might like to drink milk,
You might like to eat caviar, you might like to eat bread,
You may be sleeping on the floor, sleeping in a king-sized bed...

You're going to have to play something.

UPDATE: I have a lot more to say about the show -- which I love! -- here.

The 100 unsexiest men in the world.

Surely, there's someone less sexy than Gilbert Gottfried, but when you're making a list, you've got to put famous people on it. But anyway, Gottfried is funny, and don't all those surveys about what women find sexy always put humor near the top? I know... but still... There's got to be a guy who looks and sounds like Gottfried but isn't funny.

I'm not going to pick over this whole list. I'll just focus on #38, Larry David. I've had spontaneous discussions with women on the precise subject: Larry David is sexy.

And let me single out one choice to agree with: #45, Nick Nolte. I don't know exactly what it is, but I have a physical aversion to him. (Which makes me want to ask: why isn't Michael Douglas on the list?)

And what's with throwing in Osama Bin Laden -- at #8. (And why 8, specifically? Just to stick it to guys like Alan Colmes, who fared worse?) If the list is open to the likes of bin Laden, this guy springs to mind.

"She makes her entrance in the first act and freezes with the unyielding stiffness of an industrial lamppost...."

Julia Roberts is in a Broadway play.
Ms. Roberts often gives the impression that she is parsing her lines, leaving lots of dead air between fragments.

And yet, and yet. I found myself fascinated by the way her facial structure (ah, those cheekbones!) seems to change according to how the light hits her. In repose, her face seems impossibly, hauntingly eloquent.
Well, maybe that is exactly what works in film: having an amazing face and giving people lots of time to gaze upon it. Loving the film idol, you're drawn to the theater where you can be in the presence of the star. Does that ever work right?

"A lot of birds are nesting inside the sarcophagus."

Chernobyl as paradise, for animals.
As humans were evacuated from the area 20 years ago, animals moved in. Existing populations multiplied and species not seen for decades, such as the lynx and eagle owl, began to return.

There are even tantalising footprints of a bear, an animal that has not trodden this part of Ukraine for centuries....

There is nothing to disturb the wild boar - said to have multiplied eightfold between 1986 and 1988 - except its similarly resurgent predator, the wolf....

[T]he benefits to wildlife of removing people from the zone, have far outweighed any harm from radiation.
Does this story make you ashamed of what human beings have done to the world? For the animals, a nuclear disaster is preferable to life with us.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

"American Idol" -- the results.

NOTE: To read about the most recent "Amercian Idol" results show, click on the "Althouse" banner above and scroll down to the top "results" post.

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I must confess that I adore Ryan Seacrest! He perfectly manages our excitement and makes sure the cruelty is just enough that we feel good about it. Tonight, he creates two groups of three: Elliott, Kellie, and Katharine on one side, and Chris, Paris, and Ace on the other. Then, Taylor -- told he's safe -- is asked to go join the group that he thinks is the bottom three. But first a commercial. TiVo...

Taylor chooses correctly, joining the Elliott set. Then Paris is told she's safe. Surely, Ace is leaving. But if my Chrissy goes... Oh, no! ...

Ah, but it is Ace who is leaving... Which is exactly what we expected. He deserves it.

Aw, Ace, you should never have pulled back your lustrous curls!

Oh, and Rod Stewart sang. He kind of sang badly, but I still have a lot of love for Rod. Take me back, carry me back, down to gasoline alley where I started from.

ADDED: Did you have a vague memory of a show a while back where they used the seventh person the way they used Taylor tonight? I did. I dug out the old post from April 2004:
American Idol: The Outrage. What the hell happened? That was the worst thing ever on American Idol. See my post from this morning for how I read the show last night: I thought Jennifer was the best. I thought the three Divas would be the final three. They were the bottom three! How could that happen? Jennifer was my original favorite, from the first audition. I can only think that the strong praise for the Divas caused people to think they didn't need help, and people speed dialed for two hours for favorites they believed were in danger. I must say they really revealed the results dramatically, telling George to join the safe group, causing him to walk over to the Divas (forming a group that was my predicted final four: George and the Divas), then telling him he'd joined the wrong group. Oh, the outrage!
But Jennifer Hudson is now starring in the movie "Dream Girls." So that worked out rather well.

YET MORE: The final 7 results were also done this way in 2005. Here's my post:
The results will be revealed by bringing everyone on stage into one of two groups and then saying which is the bottom group. We saw this last season in the shocking results show where the three black female singers were grouped and, to our amazement, told they were the bottom. (One of them, Fantasia, went on to win the contest.) So I'm expecting that the group that looks safe will be the bottom, but I can't see how that can happen with these contestants, since clearly Bo and Constantine will not be in the bottom group. Vonzell too. Vonzell goes to the left, Anthony to the right. The right must be bad. Anwar joins Anthony. Okay, then there is no question. Right is bad. Constantine joins Vonzell. What scintilla of suspense can there be? Carrie goes to the left. Scott goes to the right. What about Bo? The groups are even. So he's just told he's safe and then he's asked to join the group he thinks is the top. He goes to the middle. He's not playing games. Why should he take orders?

After the break, we're told what we already know. The Scott, Anthony, Anwar group is at risk. And the loser, as I, and many others, predicted, is Anwar.

"The hookah is 3,500 years old, it's part of culture, it's part of religion, and everyone loves it."

Here's a NYT article on the college tobacco hookah-smoking trend. And here's the part about UW:
Near the University of Wisconsin's Madison campus, hookah smokers were disappointed last summer when a smoking ban stopped the Casbah Bar and Lounge from offering hookahs indoors. Sales plummeted from about 300 hookahs a month to about 30, for outdoor customers.

"We've been experimenting with a nontobacco product, for $12, a mixture of hibiscus, eucalyptus and molasses," said Sabi Atteyih, the owner. "Hookah cafes are an important cultural experience, a place where Muslims and Jews and Catholics and people of color can sit side by side, and share."
I like the idea of smoothing over cultural differences. It's probably a good idea to develop that theme when dealing with the City Council and the health-oriented anti-smoking forces. Diversity trumps health in this town, right? Anyway, it has a shot.

"I don't want a 'competent' lawyer. I want a lawyer to get me off. I want a lawyer to invent the Twinkie defense. I want to win."

Said Justice Scalia yesterday, in a case about whether a criminal defendant has an absolute right to the lawyer of his choice.
The government argued in its appeal that a new trial was not warranted unless the defendant could show that the preferred lawyer would have made a difference in the outcome....

Justice Antonin Scalia was clearly unimpressed by the argument that as long as the trial was fair and the lawyer competent, the Sixth Amendment was not violated.
Compare Justice Alito:
"Let's say the defendant wanted to be represented by a relative who specialized in real estate law," Justice Alito said. If that lawyer was disqualified and the defendant was eventually represented by an experienced criminal defense lawyer with a national reputation, "why wouldn't that be harmless error?" he asked.

That would still be "unquestionably a Sixth Amendment violation," [the defendant's lawyer] replied.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

"American Idol" -- the final 7 sing old standards.

Rod Stewart is here tonight to lead the kids into "the great American songbook." "I've always loved these songs. I was brought up on them." Okay. I'm willing to believe that. Now, just get the kids to sing these songs well.

Chris Daughtry. "What a Wonderful World." Lovely! Simon: "Great!"

Paris Bennett. "These Foolish Things." Rod is impressed by Paris. She's only 17! "I was still digging graves when I was 17." A little phonily over-mature and over-enunciated. The judges are entirely complimentary, which is nice of them.

Taylor Hicks. He's doing "You Send Me," which doesn't seem to be from the right era, but it's a cool song. Rod, approving of Taylor: "You've got to grab the audience by the balls... Will that be allowed?" (It's not.) The band is way too loud tonight, and it makes him seem subdued, until the end where he kind of rocks out ... or something. The judges love that make-it-your-own ending.

A huge commercial break follows and makes me think the potential losers are about to follow. Losers and Kellie.

Elliott Yamin. "It Had to Be You." This song always makes me think of "Annie Hall." Wow! I finally get Elliott. He's the only one so far who really seems natural inside this music. Simon is a bit mean, but this is helpful to him. People need to know to vote. (Not that I vote. I only voted in Season 2, I think.)

Kellie Pickler. "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered." Cute interaction with Rob. Super red dress! Pretty... devolving into thin and whiny. I was ready to love her. Really! Randy: "What am I going to say?" Kellie: "Ah butchered it!" Okay, that's my favorite thing she's ever done. What nerve to concede badness before anyone's even rubbed your face in it! Cool! Simon: "It wasn't great." Kellie: "Ah agree." Nice!

One bad performance can destroy you on this show. (Remember "New Attitude"?) And Kellie astutely got ahead of the problem, using a new technique. She is so not dumb!

Ace Young. "That's All." Rod thinks he's "absolutely brilliant." His curls are all slicked back into a -- what's that? -- a bun? The band is overpowering and he seems desperate. I don't know. Without the hair... For some reason, as Randy is talking to him, the camera pans down to his shoes. Yeah? He has huge feet. We're impressed. The judges aren't mean, and that may be just the kiss of death needed to lull his fans.

Katharine McPhee. "Someone to Watch Over Me." Rod is totally in love with her. We get some beautiful extreme closeups. I love this song, especially as Frank Sinatra sings it. So her singing seems too harsh to me. Simon: "So much better than the others."

My ranking: Elliott, Chris, Katharine, Taylor, Paris, Ace, Kellie.

"I thought that would be good. Very nutritious."

Said Tom Cruise, about his baby's placenta. (Is the placenta the baby's or the mother's? And which way troubles you more?) It seems now that he was just joking, though some folks really do believe in eating the placenta.

I want to say that I wish the new baby well. It's a little girl, named Suri. Let's be nice!

But first, I want to say that in the interim before the only-joking word came out, Christopher Althouse Cohen emailed:
My question is: if you're going to eat the placenta after childbirth, why not eat the foreskin after circumcision?
There's more to that email, but out of respect for little Suri, I won't reprint it (though it was quite hilarious).

My response:
Why isn't placenta-eating cannibalism? The way biting your cuticles is cannibalism... Or should I say, biting someone else's cuticles?

"American Idol" is really "Southern Idol"... but why?

Some analysis from WaPo writer Neely Tucker. It's not that southerners watch the show more and vote more and vote for their own, Tucker argues.
"Idol" kids grew up in the postmodern era, long after the throes of the civil rights movement, long after interstates and Wal-Marts had made small towns in north Alabama look a whole lot like small towns in Michigan. The old days are gone. Listen to two iconic Southern recordings: Hank Williams's (Alabama) "Your Cheating Heart" and Robert Johnson's (Mississippi) "32-20 Blues." The first is twangy beyond description and the second is almost incomprehensible.

People don't talk like that anymore. But a softer Southern accent persists, as does the cultural memory of things long gone. There is still an emphasis on church and family, both entities that, in the course of Southern life, heavily influence music, particularly among the working class.

"There's still an awful lot of old-school singers who got their starts in church, and many mainstream country musicians still do a gospel album," said John Reed Shelton, professor emeritus of sociology at the University of North Carolina and one of the region's most respected observers. "Everybody tends to go to church, and Southern evangelical Protestantism, both black and white, emphasizes and rewards musical performance."

Plus, as Wilson, the Mississippi scholar, points out, the only way a lot of kids stuck in one-horse towns know that they can find life-changing fame and fortune is on the stage.

Writing about blogging and blogging about writing about blogging...

I see from this Prawfsblog post by Paul Horwitz that Orin Kerr has posted his paper for the Harvard Bloggership conference. The conference is next week and the papers are due Thursday. Kerr's paper is only 10 pages long. The papers are only supposed to be that long. I'm not done with mine yet.

You'd think it would be easy for me to bang out that much verbiage on the subject of blogging, considering how much I write on the blog, but it's always different writing a paper, intriguingly, weirdly different. It's not just the style or content of an essay for publication. It's the mental place where you find yourself. It's really different! Blogging is so much more fun because you find yourself in a much freer place. That's sort of what I'm trying to write about, actually. But I have much I need to do to finish by Thursday.

Let's see what Horwitz has to say about Kerr:
First, Kerr starts his paper by suggesting that the contributions to the symposium will likely have "a slightly self-congratulatory flavor. When asked to opine on blogs and legal scholarship, law professors who blog will tend to present a rosy picture. Call it self-selection, or maybe just self-interest." ... Kerr is ... likely right, but I'm not sure I'd lead with my chin so much; maybe everyone will show up with papers that begin, "I'm sure the rest of you will be triumphalist, but here are my second thoughts...."
Well, now that we've been tipped off that we're going to be scrutinized for self-congratulation, maybe we'll all go back over the draft and do a humility edit. Or -- here's where it gets complex -- maybe we think everyone else is going to do that, so the better strategy is to go ahead and be the triumphalist.

It's a fun job... and somebody's got to do it.

I'm glad to see that Robin Givhan won a Pulitzer Prize.

Here's the report in her newspaper, The Washington Post. The category is Criticism. Criticize all you want, but she's my favorite bloggable columnist. There was that column on Condoleezza Rice's stiletto boots:
As Rice walked out to greet the troops, the coat blew open in a rather swashbuckling way to reveal the top of a pair of knee-high boots. The boots had a high, slender heel that is not particularly practical. But it is a popular silhouette because it tends to elongate and flatter the leg. In short, the boots are sexy.
Blogged here:
Robin Givhan... heavy-breathes about the sexuality of Rice's clothes, even though all we're really talking about here is that the outfit was all black ("The darkness lends an air of mystery and foreboding"), that the boots had high heels ("Heels … alter her posture in myriad enticing ways, all of which are politically incorrect to discuss"), and that women often dress much less attractively ("She was not wearing a bland suit with a loose-fitting skirt and short boxy jacket with a pair of sensible pumps").

Women with power easily unleash ideation about sex -- and sex and power. If the woman can't be contained by the thought that her powerfulness has removed her sexuality altogether, then the thought becomes that her sexuality has merged with her power. In the case of Condoleezza Rice, who has a high position of power and is distinctly attractive, she seems to become a strange new being -- a superhero – like Neo in "The Matrix"!

Is it wrong to talk about powerful women this way? I say no. Image, fashion, and beauty are all important. And we certainly didn't refrain from talking about how the male candidates for President looked in 2004. We obsessed over their ties, their hair and their makeup, and the bulges under their clothes. So go ahead and spout your theories about the meaning of Condoleezza Rice's high-heeled boots.

Mine is: these boots are made for running for President.

There was the one about John Bolton:
The fulsome silhouette of the mustache makes for a particularly dreary distraction and seems to pull his whole face downward. It makes Bolton, who is only 56, look hoary and dour. For a man who has shown little evidence of a capacity to charm -- an ability that can come in handy for an ambassador -- the mustache makes him appear unwelcoming. For all of the testimony about his spiteful dealings with both colleagues and underlings, and his denials of such behavior, he managed to look mean.
Blogged here:
Well, that goes along with my longtime opinion of mustaches: they make men look mean. Charlie Chaplin might be the only exception. Please men! Let us see your philtrum! Nothing makes a man more adorable than a well-shaped philtrum. And nothing uglifies like a mustache!
There was the one about what Judith Miller and Li'l Kim wore for their sentencing walks:
The women seemed acutely aware that the sentencing walk -- like its predecessor, the perp walk -- defines them in the public's mind. In its execution, it is not enough to stand straight and hold one's head high. This is a powerful visual image capable of conveying subtleties and broad strokes. Both women were playing to their fans.
Blogged here:
Givhan goes on to describe the effect serving time will have on the two women's careers. Since Li'l Kim is a rap artist, according to Givhan, it can only help. For rap fans: "The prison term seems less an ordeal than a right of passage." Well, you can argue about whether that's politically incorrect, but it sure is a usage error. Where are the WaPo proofreaders?
(Whoops.)

There was the one blogged here:
"Why dress in 'ho gear' and risk being treated like a hooker?"

Oh, come on. You're not going to blog every single essay Robin Givhan writes, are you?

Well, I don't know, maybe I should. You know she does ask some pretty tantalizing questions:
If clothes function as semiotics, where does the power lie -- with the sender or the receiver? And what happens when the sender is purposefully offering up misinformation?

Yeah, you find those questions tantalizing?

Uh, no, I guess not. Now that you mention it.
There was the one about Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish:
All of ["The Comeback"]'s nuances are reflected in Cherish's most distinctive physical characteristic, her long red hair with its painstakingly organized curls that have been flipped back and away from her face. That hair is gloriously thick and the waves fall with an unnatural precision. The hair appears Breck Girl clean, devoid of the styling products now used to give hair an informal, slightly messy appearance. Hers is hair meant to be tossed in slow motion during the opening montage of "Baywatch."

In constructing the character, Kudrow has said that Cherish's hair color was a calculated decision. In Cherish's mind, "blond is dumb comedy, red hair is smart, sexy comedy." And, presumably, brunette isn't funny at all.
Blogged here:
Givhan doesn't mention it, but red hair and comedy are indelibly associated with Lucille Ball. But of course, Cherish is wrong about a lot of things, so Kudrow's analysis of how Cherish thinks must be understood in that light. But I have a feeling Lisa loves Lucy....

Why is red hair so meaningful?
There was the one blogged here:

"Standing alone, Mrs. Bush looked lovely."

"But next to Camilla, whose Robinson Valentino blazer and skirt made her look like a large rectangle, the first lady reminded one of a radiant bride shining brightly next to a dutifully bland bridesmaid." That's the description from WaPo's Robin Givhan, who also takes note of the President: "The president looked handsome in his tuxedo. For once he didn't have the body language of a kid with a bad sunburn forced to wear a wool suit."
The one blogged here:

Saddam on trial -- in a Western suit with a pocket square but no tie!

Robin Givhan wonders what that means:
The pocket square was a particularly distracting flourish. Paired with a tie, a pocket square tends to make a man look more formally attired. But without that accompaniment, it can look almost jaunty and rakish -- like Sinatra or Dino in Vegas.

Hussein's style choice throws the viewer off balance. Is his modest paean to the Flamingo a simple reflection of his hair-dyeing, gold-leaf-loving, frightful vanity? Or has he decided to beat the "occupiers" from within their own system? Take it over, or mock it?
There was the infamous slam at the Alitos, as blogged here:

"They often looked as though they had coordinated their ensembles in the manner of a family heading off to the Sears photo studio."

WaPo's Robin Givhan analyzes the Alitos from the fashion standpoint:
He and his wife of almost 21 years wore similar wire-rimmed glasses. His were only slightly more angular than hers. They both have short-cropped brown hair....On the first day of hearings, her red suit with its contrasting piping matched his red tie. On the second day, she echoed his pale blue shirt with her blue sweater, which fell discreetly to mid-thigh. On the fourth day, her white jacket over a red dress mirrored his white shirt and red tie.

Givhan skirts very close to sneering, but in the end, she seems rather admiring. Or is that patronizing?
Earlier she'd written about the more perfectly dressed John Roberts family, in a column called "An Image a Little Too Carefully Coordinated":
Dressing appropriately is a somewhat selfless act. It's not about catering to personal comfort. One can't give in fully to private aesthetic preferences. Instead, one asks what would make other people feel respected? What would mark the occasion as noteworthy? What signifies that the moment is bigger than the individual?

But the Roberts family went too far. In announcing John Roberts as his Supreme Court nominee, the president inextricably linked the individual -- and his family -- to the sweep of tradition. In their attire, there was nothing too informal; there was nothing immodest. There was only the feeling that, in the desire to be appropriate and respectful of history, the children had been costumed in it.
Reading about the Pulitzer Prize reminded me first of that column, which I was suprised to see I didn't blog about. Didn't everyone blog about that one? Looking back at my blog from that time, I can see why I didn't get to it. I was incredibly busy dealing with the nomination itself.

Givhan put down Hillary Clinton too:
After eight years as first lady wearing innumerable skirt suits that did little to flatter her physique, she now wears pants almost exclusively. As a matter of personal style, this is a good thing. The senator looks more streamlined and elegant.
Oh, don't say that's not a putdown. No woman wants to hear a compliment like that! Blogged here (getting to the subject of men in skirts).

Most recently, she caught my eye with this one about the way they dress on "American Idol," blogged here.

So congratulations to Robin Givhan! Keep up the richly bloggable work.