Monday, March 31, 2003

"A language is a dialect with a navy." Andy Lamey criticizes linguistic purists.
Quote of the Day:
"Noble deeds and hot baths are the best cures for depression."
~ Dodie Smith

Song of the Day:
Soft Cell, "Tainted Love"

Happy Birthday:
Colin Farrell
Al Gore
Ewan McGregor
Rhea Perlman
Two of the funny cartoons I saw in the Trib were borrowed from the LA Times. They are here--the ones for March 30 and March 25. Look closely at the signs the anti-war protestors are holding up in the March 25 cartoon.

Sunday, March 30, 2003

As the second day of NCAA regional finals begins, here's a sweet article about North Carolina State's improbable championship in 1983.

The Wolfpack didn't even come close to having the best team in the ACC (Virginia had Ralph Samson at the time, Maryland had Len Bias, and North Carolina had Michael Jordan), but they won the ACC tournament to earn an NCAA slot, survived an overtime scare against Pepperdine in the opening round, and went on to beat Houston's "Phi Slamma Jamma" team that included Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon. In seven of NC State's last nine games, they trailed in the final minute.
GreenGourd admits that he likes figure skating. A lot. He has many updates from this week's action in the world of figure skating, which I admit I have not been following -- except to read about Michelle Kwan winning another world championship last night. This is her fifth. Sarah Hughes came in sixth.
The National Guardsman who changed his name to Optimus Prime now has a weblog. (Link from InstaPundit.)

His first entry notes that "The Transformers community has come a long way."
Don't have triplets in North Korea:

All triplets in North Korea are being forcibly removed from parents after their birth and dumped in bleak orphanages.

The policy is carried out on the orders of Stalinist dictator Kim Jong-il, who has an irrational belief that a triplet could one day topple his regime.

The children are housed in "triplet rooms", which visitors describe as bare but clean. They are said to receive good foreign-aid food, but none of the love and affection bestowed on most children. A member of a foreign delegation that visited one such orphanage said they were greeted with a vision of desperate isolation and sadness. The triplets were placed together in one room, with many of them rocking backwards and forwards in an almost trance-like state.
More than 300 sets of triplets are born in North Korea every year.
Today's NYT wedding took place at Yale's Battell Chapel and was presided over by the Rev. J. P. Morgan.

And here's an article about bizarre wedding cakes. I love the snide line about the baker "whose list of wedding cake clients has regularly included Jennifer Lopez."
Quote of the Day:
"Keep cool: it will all be one a hundred years hence."
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Song of the Day:
Eric Clapton, "Layla"

Happy Birthday:
Warren Beatty
Eric Clapton
Francisco de Goya
Celine Dion
Vincent van Gogh
Norah Jones

Saturday, March 29, 2003

Pro-war Newspaper

Home in Chicago for my dad's 60th birthday and I've discovered just how pro-war the Chicago Tribune is. Check out this article about N.Y. reservists who are motivated by Sept. 11 (reg. req'd). They've also got a slew of very funny pro-war political cartoons, but I can't seem to find them on-line.

But while we're talking about the Trib, check out Steve Chapman's ridiculous column about how "playing the patriotism card is shameless," as he wonders whether dissent has a place in wartime. Well, if you haven't been paying attention, Steve, there's been plenty of dissent and it's been loud and clear--to the troops, too. Why don't we talk about how playing the peace card is shameless? If you're going to accuse some camps of saying anti-war equals anti-America, then let's talk about how the anti-war bunch think they have a monopoly on the desire for peace.
The CIA is killing people, reports the WP.

Hello, and sorry for the non-blogging yesterday. The Kitchen Cabinet was recovering from the events of Thursday night.

Kate is out of town, and I don't know where Iris is.

I have a huge to-do list, so I probably shouldn't spend all day in front of the computer. I'll be back later.
Quote of the Day:
"You don't get there alone."
~ The X-Files

Song of the Day:
Duran Duran, "Rio"

Happy Birthday:
Jennifer Capriati
Ashley Dyson Harrison
Priya Kundra

John Major
Eugene McCarthy
Jessica Sebeok
John Tyler
Sam Walton

Thursday, March 27, 2003

"It's f*****g embarrassing," says one Chicago Sun-Times staffer about the paper's decision not to send a reporter to cover the war in Iraq.

The Kansas City Star, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and even the Merrillville, Indiana Post-Tribune all have embedded reporters.
Captain Indignant e-mails me to say in reponse to my post below that "every article -- by every court observer -- says that the guy advocating for Texas yesterday was gawdawful."

He points me to the account on SCOTUSblog, and Dahlia Lithwick in Slate. (Lithwick, though entertaining as usual, seems a little off her game -- I assume it's because she's about to give birth.)

I don't doubt that the lawyer for Texas did a bad job. But I still don't think the news account of the argument in the next day's New York Times is the place to be calling one advocate "assured and elegant" and hinting that the other is an idiot. Greenhouse's piece -- again, the only article I could find about the argument in America's paper of record -- simply does not read like a news report. Even the headline is subjective: "Supreme Court Seems Set to Reverse a Sodomy Law." I'm betting they will, too. But Greenhouse's cheerleading makes me less confident about her prediction, not more.

For what I consider a much better attempt at an objective report of the argument, check out the Washington Post's piece.

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan on the case. And the Volokh crowd, here and here.
Read Linda Greenhouse's account of yesterday's Supreme Court oral argument, and ask yourself whether you're reading news or opinion. Her opinion here happens to be one with which I agree, but it's still grating to read stuff like this:

The argument proved to be a mismatch of advocates to a degree rarely seen at the court. Paul M. Smith, a former Supreme Court law clerk and experienced practitioner there, who argued for the two men, John G. Lawrence and Tyron Garner, was assured and elegant in his presentation. Mr. Smith was unperturbed even while sparring with Justice Antonin Scalia, a predictable adversary whose vote he had no chance of winning and whose questions he was able at times to turn to his clients' advantage.

Charles A. Rosenthal Jr., the district attorney for Harris County, Tex., whose job was to defend the Texas law, was making his first Supreme Court argument, and he made a first-timer's mistakes. He appeared surprised by questions that more experienced lawyers would easily have anticipated and unable to recognize the helping hand that Justice Scalia regularly offered. The justices ended up talking over Mr. Rosenthal, sparring with one another.
The "assured and elegant" former Supreme Court clerk against the bumbling hick from Texas: I suppose that's how I, Linda Greenhouse, and most of the Times's readers would like to imagine it. But given the way she lets her opinions seep into every crevice of her reporting, I have little confidence in anything she writes.
George Will, who was a good friend of the late Senator, has this appreciation of Daniel Patrick Moynihan.
Movie Review

In David Cronenberg's new picture Spider (adapted by Patrick McGrath from his own novel), Ralph Fiennes plays Dennis "Spider" Cleg, a psychotic young man released from an asylum to a halfway house in the part of London's East End where he grew up. His return to the neighborhood sparks flashbacks in which the adult Spider is present at scenes involving the young Spider and his plumber father and housewife mother, played by Gabriel Byrne and Miranda Richardson. (This is the staging technique famously used by Alf Sjöberg in his strong 1950 adaptation of Strindberg's Miss Julie, starring Anita Björk and Ulf Palme.) Spider mutters the remembered dialogue slightly out of sync with his younger self and his parents, giving you a sense of our schizzy relationship to our memories. But once you notice that the adult Spider is present at scenes that the young Spider didn't witness, you realize that his memory doesn't represent a straightforward access to the past. Something schizzier yet is going on.

We first see Spider's father as a brutal heavy drinker who escapes to the pub from which he then slips off with a bottle-blonde tart with a haggy cackle. (This woman flashes a tit at the boy when he comes to the pub to bring dad home for supper.) Spider's mum is a well put-together, respectable working-class woman and has a protective bond with her sensitive, alert only child, who keeps his big eyes on her while she's cooking, putting on makeup, trying on a new satin slip. But later, after Spider "remembers" the tart replacing his mother in his father's bed, the memories shift. The father seems more sensitive, frustrated that he can't get through to his alienated little boy, fearing he's delusional. The respectable mother may be the mother Spider wishes he had instead of the tart, or the tart may be the result of the boy's irrepressible sexual fantasies about his respectable mum. What seems relatively clear is that the boy's ending up in the asylum is connected to his mother's fate--he spun a web of twine through the house that he could pull on from his bedroom to turn on the unlighted gas stove downstairs in the kitchen.

The adult Spider is a full-blown psychotic obsessive-compulsive. He wears four shirts at a time, mumbles incoherently to himself, keeps his tobacco and rolling papers in a tin in a sock stuffed down the front of his pants and smokes until his fingers have a Rembrandt varnish of nicotine, and scribbles in a private language in a notebook he hides under the floor covering. Cronenberg's way in to Spider's story is to suggest the connection between Spider the spinner of webs, the artificer, and himself as artist. As he said in an interview for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation:

For example, in Patrick's original script Spider writes English words in his journal and you hear the voice over telling you what he's writing. I wanted it to be incomprehensible. I wanted it to be Spider's own language. And, not intentionally I must say, the idea emerged that in a way Spider is an artist, that he is the emblem of an artist.

A person who works alone in an interior way--probably a writer more than a film maker--is creating and recreating his own life. But he is speaking a language that is so obscure that he only has himself as his audience--and certainly as an independent Canadian film maker I've had that experience myself. So maybe in an unconscious way Spider becomes the archetype of the misunderstood: the isolated artist.
There's an intriguing suggestion that an artist who works close to his own interior material, or works in an intuitive way, shares a border with Spider, with his scribbling and mumbling, and his combination of erotic fixation and blockage--potential forms of communication that actually cut him off from the people around him. As Cronenberg is quoted as saying in the online magazine Film & Video, "Then I also realized, but not until I'd finished making the film, which goes back to the instinct thing, that Spider is in a way the nightmare archetype of an artist. He's a guy who writes with great passion and inspiration, but in a language that no one can understand. So I guess I was drawn to him as this crypto-artist figure as well."

Similarly, the movie goes in and out of the different versions of what happened to Spider's mother, making the most gradual of transitions from a coherently psychologizing narrative to psychotic distortion. Once we realize that Spider's past may not have been what we're witnessing, we're constantly engaged in trying to make a real-world story that explains the adult we have before us. We try to make his disordered story one we can understand rationally.

The movie is slow and deliberate, shot on low contrast film stock (click here for production details), which gives much of it the look of something taking place in a dirty terrarium, the star never says a fully articulated sentence or engages with any other actor, and yet the story's puzzle-like quality is absorbing. A story told in part from the point of view of a madman takes you back nearly to the beginning of feature films, to Robert Wiene's German classic The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919). Spider doesn't have the impact of Caligari's unforgettable expressionistic sets, of Conrad Veidt's great, sinuous performance as the nefarious somnambulist Cesare, or of the intensity that moviemakers living in society in violent disarray could bring to a story about mental dissociation. But it's more communicative than Roman Polanski's Repulsion (1965) in which we experience Catherine Deneuve's breakdown from her perspective, and it isn't an object of derision like the nonetheless compulsively watchable Joan Crawford mental-breakdown melodrama Possessed (1947; showing today at noon on TCM).

Spider certainly fits in the cold metallic latest phase of Cronenberg's career, which includes eXistenZ (1999), starring Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh, and probably the best of all Is-it-a-game-or-is-it-really-happening? mindfuck movies, and Crash (1996), which manages to freeze the charisma of J.G. Ballard's amazing cult novel. Spider doesn't generate the elegant dread of Dead Ringers (1988) in which Jeremy Irons plays twin gynecologists who go over the edge, and watching it you'd hardly believe Cronenberg capable of his more extroverted efforts, The Fly (1986) and The Dead Zone (1983), which are true to their shlock origins and still showcase wonderful star performances by Jeff Goldblum and Christopher Walken, respectively. By my count Spider has exactly one moment of humor: Spider on work detail with two fellow inmates from the asylum reaches down the front of his pants for his tobacco tin in the sock, a second man reaches into his pants for something he keeps in a sock, and then the third reaches down the front of his pants for what men usually reach down the front of their pants for. But despite its lugubriousness and morbidness I left the theater going over the narrative possibilities and what they implied about the characters in a surprisingly pleasant mood. The movie is creepy without being overbearing and literate without being complacently fancy--you can play at unweaving it.

You can find this review and a lot besides at
In anticipation of today's Washington Post cover story on how the war could take months, an MSNBC anchor asked a military analyst whether the war would (or could) take months. The response: it depends. It depends because the war is not one-sided. As the analyst (a retired marine corps major) said, the enemy gets a vote. And mother nature gets a vote. The anchor then said something to the effect of "well, c'mon major, that's not an answer." Uh, yes it is. I'm not sure the Major could have been much clearer. But it wouldn't be proper reporting if we didn't accuse the military of evading the question now would it?
Wow. Lily has certainly kept the blog going in my absence (accounted for both by my super important paper and my poisoning by my food).

Not much time to post anything significant, but in my tradition of rooting for dynasties, I'd like to mention Tiger Woods is now three for four in his tournaments this year. That is, he's won three out of the four tournaments in which he's played. And that fourth? He finished fifth.

Oh yeah, these two posts (here and here) are mine, not Lily's.
Quote of the Day:
"There is one unmistakable lesson in American history: a community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any set of rational expectations about the future – that community asks for and gets chaos. Crime, violence, unrest, disorder – most particularly the furious, unrestrained lashing out at the whole social structure – that is not only to be expected; it is very near to inevitable. And it is richly deserved."
~ Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Song of the Day:
Janet Jackson, "Escapade"

Happy Birthday:
Mariah Carey
Randall Cunningham
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe
Arthur Mitchell
Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen
Henry Royce
Edward Steichen
Quentin Tarantino

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

The Institute for Justice, with which I was once affiliated, has filed an amicus brief in the case of Texas v. Lawrence, the sodomy case the Supreme Court heard earlier today.

In its brief, the Institute says:

Texas asserts that it may criminalize a noncommercial, nonpublic, non-harmful activity between consenting adults in the privacy of their home for the sole reason that it believes that activity immoral. Texas' statute exceeds the police power.
IJ attorney (and YLS grad) Dana Berliner, in a press release, added:

The State has no more power to criminalize consenting adult sexual conduct than it does to regulate what I make for dinner or what time I go to bed. It's hard to imagine a more stark example of invasive government power than the power to go into bedrooms and tell consenting adults which exact activities they may and may not engage in. We believe that government power is limited, and this case is one example of government stepping over-far over-the line of proper authority.
Here's an early report on the oral argument. Apparently the Cato Institute, another brief home of mine, also weighed in against the statute.
The anti-Lincoln crowd is at it again, this time staging a conference in Richmond to protest the unveiling of a statue of Honest Abe and his son Tad there:

"Let's have in Richmond something far more appropriate -- a statue of Jefferson Davis and little Joe," said Dr. Clyde Wilson, a professor of history at the University of South Carolina.
The conference purported to reveal that Lincoln "had a stormy marriage, was an inattentive father and told bawdy stories."
Steve Jens once again calls Abby's very existence into question. Perhaps this will rouse our dear sister, whose alphabetical primacy gives her top billing on our blog, to post something.

Then again, who am I kidding?
Howard Kurtz reports on the war between the neocons and paleocons. Though the way he tells it, it sounds more like a personal tiff between David Frum and Robert Novak.

UPDATE: Frum responds. This whole thing is kind of a yawner, but read it if you like.
InstaPundit's coverage of the war has been excellent. Go on, give the poor guy some hits.

Seriously, Professor Reynolds is so prolific it should shame all the rest of us who claim to be bloggers. The man was born to blog.
Quote of the Day:
"And since to look at things in bloom
Fifty springs are little room,
About the woodlands I will go
To see the cherry hung with snow."
~ A.E. Housman

Song of the Day:
Laura Branigan, "Gloria"

Happy Birthday:
Alan Arkin
Robert Frost
A.E. Housman
Duncan Hines
Erica Jong
Sandra Day O’Connor
Leonard Nimoy
Diana Ross
Martin Short
John Stockton

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

"Operation Piss Off the Planet." War coverage from The Onion.

Kate was poisoned last night -- either by evil forces trying to prevent her paper from being written, or some bad Indian food. She is on the upswing now.

Other than that, a pretty uneventful day. There were hints that spring may eventually reach New Haven. I am still trying to find a Tennessee quarter. And I learned that my bar preparation class will cost a whole heck of a lot more than I thought.
The Hotline makes the connection:

"With a camera strapped to his fin, the bottle-nose dolphin is one of about 100 dolphins and sea lions helping to clear shipping lanes in the Gulf."
~ The London Evening Standard

"I ask for one simple favor here and that's for sharks with frickin' laserbeams attached to their heads."
~ Dr. Evil, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery
There's a long letter to anti-war protestors over on the YLS Republicans' blog.

Also, someone reports that the "progressive" crowd is ripping down posters advertising a "support our troops" rally that's being held here at Yale tomorrow. The posters are being replaced with ads for a counter-protest.

Ah, the left rips down the right's posters. Or burns the right's newspapers. Or shouts down the right's speakers. And then tells us we're supposed to be worried sick about those dissent-crushing right-wingers.
Page Six reports that an op-ed writer was told by The New York Times that he couldn't use the expression "Gee, thanks" because "Gee is an abbreviation for Jesus, [and] for a century this has been a Jewish-owned newspaper and we have to be very careful about anything that might offend Christian sensibilities."

Somehow I think Jerry Falwell would let that one go.

It also reveals that Susan Sarandon's mother is a Republican.
Eric Tam points us toward this Washington Post mention of some plucky lawyering in the Middle East mess:

Even a team of six Marine public affairs officers and lawyers sent to investigate Saturday's disappearance of three British journalists near Basra were ambushed today and two were injured. While normally not combatants, the Marines grabbed their weapons and returned fire, Marines said.
I guess that's what they give them weapons for... but I'm still quite impressed.
Movie Review

One of the results of the counterculture's loosening of restrictive codes for moviemakers since the late '60s is that bad serious movies aren't as funny as they used to be. All of Joan Crawford's melodramas from A Woman's Face in 1941 to Trog in 1970, for instance, or Cecil B. DeMille's moralizing biblical extravaganzas, hinted so mightily at what censorship kept them from showing, and so transparently used final punishment of transgressors as a license to hint, that anyone with a brain was bound to get the giggles. As college students my parents were thrown out of a theater for laughing out loud during DeMille's Samson and Delilah (1949), and they raised me on the old definition of camp: something so bad it's good. The golden age of Hollywood was in this way the golden age of unintentional camp.

Since moviemakers can be explicit about any subject now, there isn't as much huffing and puffing around controversial topics, and this has taken the helium out of the balloons of unintentional camp. Movies like The Hours and Far from Heaven are dull but basically unrepressed and so don't trigger laughter to the same extent as the Douglas Sirk movies that inspired Todd Haynes's Far from Heaven do: nasty nympho Dorothy Malone doing the cha-cha while her old man croaks of a heart attack in Written on the Wind (1956), for instance. (Sirk's fans claim his work as intentional camp because he can't have taken the material seriously, but the material, vetted by its Hollywood producers, takes itself seriously. His fans include the gay directors Rainer Werner Fassbinder, who druggily pushed camp in the direction of amorphous naturalism; Pedro Almodóvar, who turned unintentional camp into intentional camp and transcended it; and Todd Haynes. In any case, superficially Sirk's work has a pokerfaced luridness that has all but disappeared from our movies.)

Hollywood also used to make intentional camp. James Whale (the movie director played by Ian McKellen in Gods and Monsters (1998)) was the master and his 1935 Bride of Frankenstein is deliriously funny and yet still adequately creepy for a monster movie. The hallmark of Whale's intentional camp is the ability to turn self-consciousness about the silly aspects of the project into high style. John Waters, the director of the classic independent low-budget drag-queen travesties Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974), by contrast, turns self-consciousness into low style, wearing his amateur standing like a crown of laurels. Both roads lead to Rome. But Hollywood didn't make very much intentional camp and in any case such efforts were far outnumbered by the ludicrous self-seriousness of the unintentional variety. (Certainly the best recent effort has been SoapDish (1991), a spectacular send-up of TV soap operas starring a brilliantly unhinged Sally Field.)

The new Gwyneth Paltrow comedy View from the Top (directed by Bruno Barreto, written by Eric Wald) is a sad, paradoxical example of Hollywood ineptitude undermining intentional camp. When a serious movie was inept it was often funny despite itself; when intentional camp is inept it's pathetic. I don't just mean it's lame--it goes soft, tries to jerk tears. View from the Top is like a number of recent failed campy comedies with female stars--it starts out getting laughs either from showing a heroine who is driven by a tacky ambition (here Paltrow's dream is to be a stewardess on an international route; in To Die For (1995) Nicole Kidman wanted to be a TV weathergirl) or from showing a girl out of her natural context (Reese Witherspoon as a ditzy sorority girl at Harvard Law School in Legally Blonde (2001); Sandra Bullock as a tomchick FBI agent going undercover as a beauty contestant in Miss Congeniality (2000)), but by the end takes her ambitions or relationship to that context and her emotional life seriously. These movies start out seeming as if they were made for a gay male audience and end up seeming as if they were made for teenaged girls. (To Die For is a bit more complex in that it takes its editorializing about the media seriously as melodrama, but still starts bent and ends straight.) Even a mostly terrific example like Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997) takes the bitchiness of the high school A-list girls too seriously, but it manages to keep you laughing. The disadvantage is that when intentional camp fails you don't laugh. It's weirdly dispiriting because you've been led on by the moviemakers' deceptively hip signals.

Gwyneth Paltrow dresses tacky but unlike Mira Sorvino she won't really go undercover in the role of the Nevada babe who dreams of offering gamblers and drunks the best service in the sky. In Romy and Michele, and before that in Woody Allen's Mighty Aphrodite (1995), Sorvino adapted her voice and body language to the outlines of the caricature. Sorvino doesn't do sketch acting like Mike Myers does as Wayne or Austin Powers, exactly. Her performances have more body than that without abandoning the realm of camp. She approaches camp like an artist, yet without self-seriousness. Paltrow has one good scene early on--her first day on the job is also her first flight--but generally holds back from the artificiality, saving herself for the teary serious scenes, which of course can't really mean anything to us because they've been undermined by the campy establishing scenes.

Myers appears in View from the Top as Paltrow's cross-eyed trainer and does his specialty--openly insincere, gimmicky delivery--in scenes so limply directed that empty style and the parody of empty style merge. Goldmember is a much better example of how a movie can relentlessly send up the conventions it's employing. (It also shows that camp is not the exclusive province of gay men.) Can you imagine if Myers had tried to wring emotion from the father-son scenes in Goldmember? Paltrow's hesitation about going all out probably explains why these movies with female stars are half in and half out of camp. I would guess that the majority of the female audience doesn't want to see a pretty girl like Paltrow being irredeemably ridiculous. The result is this neither-nor comedy, painless but less memorable than movies that are much much worse.

For instance, the best old unintentionally campy movies were never done with a stewardess until she'd had to land the plane in an emergency, taking instructions over the radio. I treasure the memory of Doris Day at the end of Julie (1956) popping the stays of her breathy repressed emotionalism, as if using the flight instruments were the real test of an actress; or Karen Black in Airport '75 (1974) bringing the big bird down despite a hole in the cockpit, her hair wisping gently in the breeze. In View from the Top Paltrow actually plays for emotion the scenes in which she gives up her highly coveted international route so that she can be with her boyfriend in Cleveland. Then at the end they try to restore the already dim twinkle by showing us that she goes on to become a pilot, which is just the Disney-feminist version of the stewardess landing the plane, with a hint of camp as an insurance policy with the hip crowd. I bet it goes over even better with junior high school guidance counselors.

You can also find this review, and a lot more besides, at
The other night, as Kate and I were watching CBS, we thought we heard Dan Rather say something like, "Night in Baghdad. Rockets' red glare, bombs bursting in air." We thought it might have been a mass hallucination, but this article confirms it.

He later added, "Oooh, that was a big noise..." before opining that the attack was an attempt to give Saddam Hussein "the willies."
I haven't been watching much CNN (I delighted in switching to Fox News at commercials during the Oscars last night and seeing my liberal friends glance awkwardly at each other as if embarrassed for me), but here's what's been going on over there:

In case anyone had missed it the first time it was aired, or the 372nd, CNN replayed the clip of reporter Walter Rodgers shouting, "What the hell!" and diving for cover as a missile shot past high overhead. The sequence would have been more powerful were it not for the fact that, a day earlier, Rodgers himself had seemed kind of embarrassed about the fuss and downplayed the danger he had faced, noting that the missile had ultimately landed "some ways away from our position," which is journalistic code for "the soldiers I'm with damn near pissed themselves howling at me." The reports from Rodgers and other "embeds" have ranged from profoundly confusing (and therefore useless) to weirdly compelling.... But the true test of the "embed" program won't come until one of the units encounters genuine military resistance and suffers significant casualties, at which point we'll finally be able to determine from the nature of the reports just how far up the Pentagon's ass the correspondents are embedded.
What little of the TV coverage I've seen so far has been decent. Brokaw gets my vote for the sanest and most balanced of the Big Three anchors.
I warned you... yes, here comes a recipe! I made this for my Oscar party. It was good, although I was a little disturbed to discover that the nice lemony color of lemon curd... well, it doesn't exactly come from lemons.

You can use this as a filling for tarts, or as a spread on cake or cookies.

Lemon Curd

6 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Combine egg yolks, sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Stir constantly until sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, about 8-10 minutes. Pour through a fine seive into medium bowl. Stir in butter, one chunk at a time. Refrigerate at least one hour before serving. Makes 1.5 cups.
The current whereabouts of the Cabinet members:

Kate is working on a very important paper. Shhhhhh!!! Don't bother her!

Iris is... scattered.

Abby = hopeless.

So we are rather thinly staffed at the moment. Bear with me; I may have to resort to posting recipes again. It's not as if there's a lack of news lately, but the war is already being blogged very thoroughly, and I just don't have much to say about it. And if you're coming here for war news... you shouldn't be. I hear this is a good site for that.

It occurs to me that this is approximately the one-year anniversary of the idea for this blog. Last year, I watched the Oscars and was put all out of sorts by Julia Roberts's presentation of the Best Actor Award to Denzel Washington ("I love my life! It's all about me! Me! ME! I'll go maul Denzel now!"). I tried to express my vexation to someone the next day and got a blank stare. So I thought it might be fun to start a blog and get blank stares from even more people. The seed was planted. It took six months, but finally Kate and I got it up and running in September. And here we are.
Quote of the Day:
"Some of us are becoming the men we wanted to marry."
~ Gloria Steinem

Song of the Day:
Elton John, "Sacrifice"

Happy Birthday:
Bela Bartok
Howard Cosel
Aretha Franklin
Elton John
Tom Monaghan
Flannery O'Connor
Sarah Jessica Parker
Gloria Steinem
Arturo Toscanini

Monday, March 24, 2003

Last night at the Oscars, Mexican actor Garcia Bernal, star of Y Tu Mama Tambien, informed us that "If Frida [Kahlo] was alive, she would be on our side against war."

Eugene Volokh reminds us very graphically of Frida's fondness for Stalin and asks "Why exactly should we care which side Frida would be on (unless we want to be on the opposite side, an admittedly imperfect heuristic)?"
Bill Simmons's Oscar-night summary asks, "How can you not be there when you win an Oscar? Should we just assume you're trapped under something?"

His mom also added this to Nicole Kidman's acceptance speech: "And (expletive) you, Tom!"
James Grimmelmann, who we've apparently succeeded in turning Duke blue, writes in that "some enemies are quite good at making themselves look ridiculous..."
A Tufts University senior is having her "Senior Award" revoked after she made "a vulgar hand gesture" at President George Bush I.

I find it interesting that this girl, who is apparently a big campus activist, is now claiming that she wasn't the one who made the gesture. So the minute she actually faces a consequence for her childish behavior, she renounces it and blames someone else.
"Speaking of shock and awe," says the Hotline, "how about Torie Clark's outfit on Saturday?"

Seriously. I thought there was something wrong with my TV.
Tom Shales calls last night "one of the best, and certainly most stimulating, Oscar shows in years."

I dissent. The clothes were drab, the speeches lame. Who cares what these people think about the war? I'd love for someone to explain to me why Nicole Kidman's views about foreign policy should be any more interesting or compelling to me than my mailman's.

If I ever win the Best Actress Oscar (I'd be wearing something tasteful in navy -- oh c'mon, you've thought about it too), I'd like to think that I'd graciously thank the people who helped me turn in my great performance and get off the stage.

An interesting study of people perceiving things differently: A lefty guest at my party thought that "somone" was booing during Michael Moore's anti-war diatribe. My own perception, and that of this article, was that the boos "filled the theater." Anyway, Moore is a monstrous blowhard, and I would find him odious whatever his political persuasion. At least he's a counter-example to the proposition that you have to be attractive to succeed in Hollywood.
Quote of the Day:
"'Yes, sir,' said Jeeves in a low, cold voice, as if he had been bitten in the leg by a personal friend."
~ P.G. Wodehouse

Song of the Day:
Grateful Dead, "Black Muddy River"

Happy Birthday:
Thomas Dewey
Bob Mackie
Peyton Manning
Steve McQueen
William Morris
Watched the Oscars tonight. It occurred to me that being a Republican in Hollywood must be vaguely like being a Republican at Yale Law School.
Pool Scores: Heading into the Sweet 16

Brian (Out of School): 201 (32/48)

Chris (Signifying Nothing): 181 (37/48)

Tim (Fog of Warre): 163 (34/48)

PE (blogless reader): 163 (32/48)

Vanessa Jean (Vanessa Jean products/Vanessa Jean blog): 154 (32/48)

Steve (Jens n' Frens): 148 (30/48)

Abby Malcolm: 146 (32/48)

Lily Malcolm: 144 (32/48)

Matt (It Could Be a Lot Better): 143 (33/48)

Dean (Jens n' Frens): 143 (26/48)

Kate Malcolm: 137 (27/48)

SA (blogless reader): 134 (32/48)

DS (blogless reader): 118 (29/48)

--The monkey, i.e. the selection committee, has 135 points (34/48).
--I am beating the monkey!!! (Thanks to Butler, I had a pretty good day and may have locked up a not-last-place finish)
--Several upsets today!! And look at the Big East, who the selection committee doubted.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Because it's Sunday and I'm too tired to hunt for more interesting stuff, I'll direct you to Punditwatch and the NYT wedding.

Classes resume tomorrow, which means I'll be 1.) in front of my computer, 2.) online, and 3.) bored. This will mean more blogging goodness for you than you've been finding here lately.
I've spent most of today preparing for my Oscar party. At the moment, my apartment is admirably clean, and the food is ready.

It will be interesting to see how political the show is tonight. On that note, Captain Indignant asks what it means to "support the troops," since many people profess to do that while being against the war.
This site hilariously points out the ambiguity in government warning signs.
"Dwight Yoakum's Boyhood Home Not Selling," reports the AP.
Quote of the Day:
"You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did all that could be done."
~ Ronald Reagan

Song of the Day:
Van Halen, "Right Now"

Happy Birthday:
Roger Bannister
Joan Crawford
Chaka Khan
Keri Russell

Saturday, March 22, 2003

Pool Scores: Through the end of Saturday's action

Chris (Signifying Nothing): 155 (32/40)

Brian (Out of School): 149 (28/40)

Steve (Jens n' Frens): 142 (28/40)

Tim (Fog of Warre): 137 (29/40)

Vanessa Jean (Vanessa Jean products/Vanessa Jean blog): 134 (28/40)

Lily Malcolm: 130 (28/40)

SA (blogless reader): 126 (29/40)

PE (blogless reader): 125 (27/40)

Dean (Jens n' Frens): 125 (23/40)

Matt (It Could Be a Lot Better): 123 (29/40)

Abby Malcolm: 120 (27/40)

DS (blogless reader): 98 (25/40)

Kate Malcolm: 95 (23/40)

--I am posting this for Kate, who is hard at work on her paper tonight.
--Someone who had picked all higher seeds would currently have 121 points (30/40). Kate calls this the monkey score. Steve Jens also has a good suggestion.
--Even though there were some very exciting games today, only two resulted in upsets: Connecticut over Stanford and Notre Dame over Illinois. And both were 5-seeds beating 4-seeds, so not even really upsets.
--I was bemoaning the lack of upsets as the Duke game was starting. Then I realized that was bad karma and knocked furiously on wood. It worked.
Regarding Kate's post of last night about changing the tournament pool rules, Steve Jens points out that the proposed scheme would not accomplish our goal of giving even greater weight to the later rounds. We could probably come up with a rule that would actually do this, but we're too busy actually watching basketball -- plus, we'd feel a little guilty about changing the rules mid-game. So we are going to keep things as they are.
Quote of the Day:
"In plain, non-Vulcan English, we've been lucky."
~ Star Trek

Song of the Day:
The B-52s, "Rock Lobster"

Happy Birthday:
Bob Costas
Lena Olin
William Shatner
Stephen Sondheim
Reese Witherspoon
We've received an email from Matt at It Could Be Better about the pool. He offers two things:

(1) "weber state stabbed me in the back! i should have known to expect as much from a team i know nothing about..." Yeah. Sucks.

(2) "i'm wondering about your scoring system. you said it was round multiplied by seed, to give weight to upsets. i like that. but that means if you pick a one seed to win the championship, you only get six points for that title game. you get more than that for picking a seven seed to win in the first round. i understand the points accumulate with more correct picks, but i'd implement a scoring system like this: round times 10 plus seed" An interesting proposal, but you're coming to law students with a proposal to change the rules of a game halfway through. What about due process and fair notice?!!

I understand Matt's logic and, given my position, would love to change the rules to allow a heavier weighting to later rounds. It obviously gives me and Matt a chance to get back into the game. I personally think a 10 multiplier per round is too much, but might be willing to implement a 2 or 3 multiplier per round if there was a fair way of implementing that change.

So, even though it is highly shady, I've decided to let people vote on the change (basically, because this is our contest, you paid nothing to enter yet get a tres valuable prize if you win, and it's just for fun anyway). I suppose if we really wanted to be fair, we'd have a meta-vote on whether to open this up to a vote. Hmm... I've been in law school too long.

Anyway, if we receive a majority voting for the change, then we will implement a multiplier of 3 per round (this seems arbitrary, and it is, except for the fact that it then makes a one seed winning the final (18 points) higher than picking a 16 to win in the first round. there seems to be some inherent logic there.). If you don't vote, we take that as a no. And to make it all that much less shady, though I have voted for the change, Lily has already voted against it. Thus, far, two votes for (me and Matt), one vote against (Lily). There are thirteen people, we need seven votes to change. Vote closes by the end of tournament play tomorrow night (probably around midnight EST).
Pool Scores: Through the end of the first round

Brian (Out of School): 133 (25/32)

Chris (Signifying Nothing): 119 (26/32)

Steve (Jens n' Frens): 118 (23/32)

Lily Malcolm: 112 (24/32)

Dean (Jens n' Frens): 109 (21/32)

Tim (Fog of Warre): 105 (24/32)

Vanessa Jean (Vanessa Jean products/Vanessa Jean blog): 98 (23/32)

PE (blogless reader): 95 (22/32)

Matt (It Could Be a Lot Better): 93 (23/32)

SA (blogless reader): 92 (23/32)

Abby Malcolm: 86 (21/32)

Kate Malcolm: 81 (20/32)

DS (blogless reader): 70 (20/32)

--Someone who had picked all higher seeds (the favorites, so to speak) would currently have 91 points (24/32). I like to call this the monkey score--if a monkey picked all favorites (since that is the easiest).
--I have still done worse than the monkey. Sad.
--There were only 8 upsets this year, despite all the talk of parity. Add to that the fact that three of the upsets were 8-9 and two of the upsets were 7-10, both of which are widely regarded as not really upsets. So, we're talking three real upsets a 13-4, a 12-5, and an 11-6.
--Our leader, Brian, only has three of his final four standing.
--Watch out for Abby and SA. Their brackets have been least affected. They have fifteen of their sweet sixteens, all eight of their elite eights, and all four of their final fours still in it.
--Watch out for Lily and Chris, both of whom have flown up the rankings, because they have fourteen of their sweet sixteens, all eight of their elite eights, and all four of their final fours still in it.
--After Penn's loss today, Vanessa Jean, who had Penn in the final four, is in little danger of winning her own prize.

Friday, March 21, 2003

Pool Scores: Through 24 games

Brian (Out of School): 90 (17/24)

Steve (Jens n' Frens): 89 (17/24)

Chris (Signifying Nothing): 83 (19/24)

Vanessa Jean (Vanessa Jean products/Vanessa Jean blog): 81 (18/24)

Tim (Fog of Warre): 76 (18/24)

Lily Malcolm: 76 (17/24)

Dean (Jens n' Frens): 76 (15/24)

Matt (It Could Be a Lot Better): 69 (17/24)

PE (blogless reader): 64 (15/24)

SA (blogless reader): 61 (16/24)

Abby Malcolm: 57 (15/24)

Kate Malcolm: 52 (14/24)

DS (blogless reader): 46 (14/24)

--Someone who had picked all higher seeds (the favorites, so to speak) would currently have 60 points (17/24)
--I'm not last! NICE.
--Most improved: Chris.
--Least improved: PE.
--Our leader, Brian, only has five of his eight elite eight teams still standing.
--Watch out for Abby, SA, and Matt. Their brackets have been least affected. All of their remaining picks, except for one pick out of the second round (but that team then loses in the next round), are still standing.
The front page is pretty amazing at the moment.
Vanessa Jean's duct tapes wares are now being sold at Bottega Giuliana in New Haven. Kate and I went the other day to check them out in person and were suitably wowed.

Inspired by the spring collection, I have ordered something for myself in "Pretty Princess Pink."
For the first time ever during major breaking news, Fox News has more viewers than CNN. Between 9:30 p.m. and midnight EST Wednesday night, Fox averaged 7.12 million viewers. CNN had 6.62 million.

Until now, the conventional wisdom held that although Fox was winning the ratings race among hard-core cable news junkies, CNN would continue to attract more of those people who only turn on cable news when big stories break.
Cleaning my apartment, with war and basketball on TV.

Little Austin Peay faces Louisville this evening. When Fly Williams was Austin Peay's star in the 1970's, he inspiried what has to be the greatest all-time college cheer: "Fly's open; let's go Peay!"
Icky local news. You know a politician is in real trouble when he's testifying that he only received oral sex from a prostitute, in his office, while getting "mental stimulus" from watching an 8-year-old girl playing with coloring books in the next room. Nothing more than that. Ugh.
Geitner Simmons continues the comparison of recent days with "High Noon." Our own Alan Dale's impression of that movie, and other similar Westerns, is here.
Sub Judice has a fun appellate judge name challenge: use the last names of actual judges to make imaginary three-judge appellate panels with funny names.

An example: "What might a man armed with a Krups but no dairy creamer want to do? SELYA, BLACK, COFFEY (1st, 11th, 7th)."
Lake Shore Drive

The Chicago Tribune (reg. req'd) reports that Lake Shore Drive was shut down yesterday by 10,000 anti-war protestors. I'm all for free speech, but how does this help the anti-war effort?
Rawls embraced her friends outside the Grand Avenue lockup after her release. She said she was heartened the protest was peaceful but disappointed with the way it ended, with police hauling demonstrators to jail.

"You grow up thinking you have these rights," Rawls said. "I was never read my rights. I was herded with everybody else like cattle. I haven't slept or eaten for 24 hours."


Maurer said police would respect people's right to demonstrate peacefully, but added, "When you start disrupting the lives and routines of everyone else, we're going to put you in jail. And if we can, we are not only going to prosecute you, we will sue everyone we can for civil violations. We will take every nickel away from them as individuals or as organizations."

"I'm not sure charging down East Oak Street will bring somebody out of Baghdad. This is silliness."
Exactly. So stop your whining. If you engaged in protests with some sort of rational cause or strategy in mind, that would be something entirely different. But you are stopping parents from getting to their children and emergency vehicles from getting to hospitals. Sure, protest, but think first!

Pool Scores: Through 16 games

Steve (Jens n' Frens): 76 (13/16)

Brian (Out of School): 64 (11/16)

Dean (Jens n' Frens): 63 (11/16)

Tim (Fog of Warre): 60 (13/16)

PE (blogless reader): 57 (11/16)

Vanessa Jean (Vanessa Jean products/Vanessa Jean blog): 55 (12/16)

Lily Malcolm: 51 (11/16)

Chris (Signifying Nothing): 48 (12/16)

SA (blogless reader): 45 (11/16)

DS (blogless reader): 39 (10/16)

Matt (It Could Be a Lot Better): 37 (10/16)

Abby Malcolm: 35 (9/16)

Kate Malcolm: 35 (9/16)

--Someone who had picked all higher seeds (the favorites, so to speak) would currently have 47 points (12/16)
--I'm in last. All the wrong upsets... damn.
--Brian, who's in second, picked the biggest potential upset (Vermont over Arizona). He also has Vermont into the elite eight.
--Brian doesn't have a monopoly on upset fever. Vanessa also picked Vermont over Arizona.
--Least improved: PE.
--Our leader, Brian, only has five of his eight elite eight teams still standing.
--Watch out for Abby, SA, and Matt. Their brackets have been least affected. All of their remaining picks, except for one pick out of the second round (but that team then loses in the next round), are still standing.
Quote of the Day:
"And when it's really bad I guess / It's not that bad."
~ No Doubt

Song of the Day:
The Beatles, "Let It Be"

Happy Birthday:
Johann Sebastian Bach
Matthew Broderick
Timothy Dalton
Jonah Goldberg
Harvey C. Mansfield
Rosie O'Donnell
Gary Oldman

Thursday, March 20, 2003

Over 19,000 Big Macs served.
This is probably already blogged to oblivion, but the Trib also reports this
The very missiles Saddam Hussein fired at U.S. forces in Kuwait appear to have been the same weapons he either claimed not to possess or agreed to destroy.

U.S., British and Kuwait military officials said Iraq fired at least three missiles Thursday -- though they differed on how many of them were Scuds, which have been banned by the United Nations.

The first salvos were both a telling sign of Iraq's hidden weapons and a frightening reminder that Saddam still has the capability to deliver chemical or biological warheads.
Hussein is a liar. Tell me something new.
The Chicago Tribune (reg. req'd) reports that the Sears Tower was on the list of 9/11 targets.
Pool Scores

Through eight games (I've used initials if you're blogless. If either is incorrect (as in, don't use initials or "hey, I have a blog!") please let me know). Also, just for fun, I've got the number of correct picks--which I think will eventually show how quirky our scoring system is:

Vanessa Jean (Vanessa Jean products/Vanessa Jean blog): 36 (7/8)

PE (blogless reader): 30 (6/8)

BP (blogless reader): 29 (5/8)

Chris (Signifying Nothing): 29 (7/8)

Steve (Jens n' Frens): 28 (6/8)

Kate Malcolm: 26 (6/8)

SA (blogless reader): 26 (6/8)

Abby Malcolm: 25 (6/8)

Dean (Jens n' Frens): 25 (5/8)

Lily Malcolm: 24 (6/8)

Matt (It Could Be a Lot Better): 23 (6/8)

DS (blogless reader): 20 (6/8)

Tim (Fog of Warre): 20 (6/8)

--Vanessa, who leads the pool, has Penn through to the final four!
--Four people have Duke in the finals. All of them have Duke winning the national championship. Two more (for a total of six) have Duke in the final four.
--Ten people have Kentucky in the final four.
--Tim, who currently trails, picked only one 12-5 upset and one 11-6 upset. Nothing worse than that.
--Only two people picked Oklahoma State over Penn in the first round.
Well, we are at war. It's a shame we didn't get Saddam last night and end it all before it started.

True to our word, we will keep up some "superficial" blogging despite the war. And on that note, here's the final plug for the NCAA tournament pool. There are now twelve entries. Click here for your bracket and the rules. Deadline: 25 minutes and counting.
Quote of the Day:
"If we are safe today, it is because America has stood with us. If we are to remain safe tomorrow, it will be because America remains powerful and self-confident. When, therefore, the Americans face difficulties, we need to say to them more clearly: 'We are with you.'"
~ Margaret Thatcher

Song of the Day:
Garth Brooks, "The Thunder Rolls"

Happy Birthday:
Henrik Ibsen
Spike Lee
Pat Riley
Fred Rogers
B.F. Skinner

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The latest from the tournament . . .

Weather delays teams, including sentimental favorite Vermont.

ESPN and CBS reach a deal on tournament coverage: "Should it be necessary, ESPN can accommodate games for Thursday and Friday and some over the weekend."

And Jason Whitlock ("Play the games, cherish the good times") and Mark Kreidler ("There's no cheering in war") offer both sides of the debate over whether to play (or delay) the tourney. Says Mark,
Of course sports should shut down if the U.S. invasion of Iraq begins this week. Of course they should. Surprised that any American even asks that question. There is a time for games, and the opening salvo of a war isn't the time.
And of course, sports should resume as quickly as possible after that, as quickly as it makes sense and feels respectful to do so. There's no timetable to this, no established outline, but the pro football and baseball leagues in America sat down for a week after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Is the commencement of war in the Middle East worth any less?
Well, um, sorry Mark, but you're wrong on this one. It's a cheap shot to ask where the commencement of war is "worth any less" than the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. Sure, it's only natural, and proper, to make the comparison. But it's not a question of "worth"; it's a question of changed circumstance. As Jason puts it,
But to me, 9-11 was totally different than Bush's Saddam Hussein manhunt. The nation was in shock after 9-11. We were in deep mourning and had no idea what the future would bring. Would there be more attacks? It was necessary and appropriate for the nation to step back and reflect. But to me, 9-11 was totally different than Bush's Saddam Hussein manhunt. The nation was in shock after 9-11. We were in deep mourning and had no idea what the future would bring. Would there be more attacks? It was necessary and appropriate for the nation to step back and reflect.

Now we know what to expect. Terrorism can strike at any time. We've been preparing for and fearing future attacks for 18 months. Delaying basketball games wouldn't help us prepare.
More important is the role of sports in this country-its significance and the role it serves as an outlet and as a bond. Sport is in many ways one of the things that makes this country unique and strong. And it is an all important sign that the country remains fully functional. The email Jason cites is rather telling:
I'd argue that we would be doing our troops a disservice by bowing to terrorists. As proof, here's an excerpt from an e-mail I received Tuesday morning:
"I am a former Marine who served during the first war in the Gulf. I was fortunate enough to work in communications so the AP wire was readily available to me and my platoon. Day-to-day life going on at home is extremely important to the troops serving. It provides an alternative to thinking about war and worrying about death and worrying about the people you love at home. ... Everyone was asking about the news. We were the only way to find out who had won any of the games.

I can still remember watching the AP roll across as Derrick Thomas rolled up seven sacks in one game. I still remember reporting on the Bills-Giants Super Bowl. ... Athletes (should) make an effort to show these troops some personal attention. Sign a ball and send it over to no one in particular. Give them a ticket when they get home. Do something other than talk. It matters to the troops."
I'm in Oklahoma City as I write this column. This city knows a thing or two about dealing with terrorism. I can't speak for everyone here, but no one I spoke to Tuesday night wanted the games delayed. Oklahoma City is excited about hosting first-round games that will feature Oklahoma and Kansas. Good times are cherished here.
America. "Home of the Brave . . . Play Ball!"
Jonah Goldberg attacks Reason and the Cato Institute for tolerating bad libertarians. I think he has a point.

All this is prompted by a David Frum piece on so-called paleoconservatives. Frum calls them

a fringe attached to the conservative world that cannot overcome its despair and alienation. The resentments are too intense, the bitterness too unappeasable. Only the boldest of them as yet explicitly acknowledge their wish to see the United States defeated in the War on Terror. But they are thinking about defeat, and wishing for it, and they will take pleasure in it if it should happen.

They began by hating the neoconservatives. They came to hate their party and this president. They have finished by hating their country.
And kudos to National Review for calling them on it.
It's kind of nice, in the midst of all the beating of the war drums this afternoon, to read Dahlia Lithwick's pregnancy diary. Here, she experiences "terrifying hungers" and "fits of weariness that approach narcolepsy."

And here, she's at breastfeeding class:

Mostly, it is terrifying, in all the ways that imagining milk suddenly springing from your body is bound to terrify. I find myself gazing at my thumbs, wondering if grape juice will magically begin to spray out of them, and checking to see whether peanut butter is dripping from my wrists.
In other frivolous non-war news, I am busy planning an Oscar party and hoping the show won't be cancelled. Here's a WP Oscar-picking contest.
Oh, the irony. Scalia bans press from an award ceremony where he receives an award for being a champion of free speech. Maybe he's just shy...

In a nonsequiter that appears to have been meant as some sort of rational explanation, Kathleen Arberg, spokesman for the Court, said, "Cameras and recording devices are banned from the Supreme Court chamber, and Scalia prefers not to have camera coverage in other settings." Huh?
This is a cat?
More on the New Era

Not only is this an age where tyrants do not wage war in ways to which we have become accustomed, but CS Monitor reports that the deck is completely reshuffling. Remember that New World Order they talked about at the end of the Cold War? Well, it looks like it's here.
Equal Protection? We don't need no stinkin' Equal Protection.

A reader writes in about Ohio's ratification of the 14th Amendment (again, yes, the 14th Amendment): "[W]hat's truly amazing is the resistance (some of which, it seems, was race-based) that the ratification proposal encountered." He directs us to these articles (here, here, and here) that cover the story.
Busy day, so blogging will be light for this afternoon. May pick up in the evening.

But, here's the daily plug for the tournament pool.

(1) No entry fee
(2) Prize from Vanessa Jean
(3) Augmented rules that gives extra weight to upsets

We already have five brackets in, and there are at least three more on their way. Click here for the bracket and rules. Bracket due in less than 24 hours--tomorrow at 11 am EST!!
Quote of the Day:
"Good women always think it is their fault when someone else is being offensive. Bad women never take the blame for anything."
~ Anita Brookner

Song of the Day:
The Corrs, "Breathless"

Happy Birthday:
William Jennings Bryan
Glenn Close
Wyatt Earp
Adolf Eichmann
David Livingstone
John Sirica
Dustin Terry
Earl Warren
Bruce Willis

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Game On

The tourney will not be postponed, says NCAA President Brand. As for television coverage,
Should war with Iraq begin later this week, CBS-TV likely would show wall-to-wall coverage of the first few days of the conflict in Iraq to fulfill its affiliates' FCC responsibility to best serve the public's interest. CBS would then move its NCAA Tournament coverage to other Viacom-owned networks, including TNN and Nickelodeon.

Although a CBS deal with ESPN was not completed as of Tuesday evening, the sports cable network would be able to broadcast first-round games on Thursday and Friday. ESPN was also clearing room for men's basketball for second-round programming, although it still will cover the NCAA women's basketball tournament, which begins Saturday.
A worthwhile distraction, I think.

A cheery marriage proposal story from a blog I found via Vanessa Jean. He's also got some good thoughts on war in Iraq.
Found this interesting Cato Institute argument that the war is not about oil at Quare.
Whispers from the Past

From the anti-war camp, this interesting column by Kristof in the NY Times:
The Trojan War was the very first world war, between Europe and Asia, and the legends suggest that it was marked not just by heroism but also by catastrophic mistakes, poor leadership and what the Greeks called atê: the intoxicating pride and overweening arrogance that sometimes clouds the minds of the strong.


First, even when one has a legitimate grievance, war is not always the best solution. The Greeks were initially divided about whether to attack Troy, with even heroes like Agamemnon and Odysseus reluctant. Yet the hawks won the day, in part by offering an early version of the Bush doctrine: if we let the Trojans get away with kidnapping Helen, then they'll steal women again; if we don't fight them now, we'll have to later, when they're stronger.

Turns out the doves were right. So many lives were lost "in this insane voyage," as Achilles put it, "fighting other soldiers to win their wives as prizes," that even for the victorious Greeks the struggle was simply not worth it. "Why must we battle Trojans?" Achilles asks in what I fancy was an early advocacy of an alternate strategy of containment.
But for every Troy, there is a Hitler. And so, we are back at what I said in my earlier post today. The trouble with vision is that it can only be tested in hindsight. The Administration sees the dawning of a new era. May history prove them right.
Ohio ratifies the 14th Amendment. Yes, the 14th Amendment--the one to the U.S. Constitution. You know, equal protection, state action, all that stuff.
Daily plug for the tournament pool

Check here for our rules and bracket. We have implemented an interesting scoring system that gives extra weight to picking upsets... Tempted? Intrigued? Good.

UPDATE: I didn't miss this smack on Green Gourd. Hmm... maybe Green should put his, bracket where his blog is.
A New Era

The NY Times has this to say about Bush's speech last night:
His argument boiled down to one precept: In an age of unseen enemies who make no formal declarations of war, waiting to act after America's foes "have struck first is not self-defense, it is suicide."
The problem with vision is that it can only be proven (or disproven) by hindsight.

Wow. If the Internet hadn't completely destroyed the image of pornography being watched in isolation in seedy theaters, this story definitely does.
William Ury, one of the authors of the famous book on negotiation, Getting to Yes, believes that there's still hope Saddam Hussein will cut bait and leave. I certainly hope he's right.
Recording Industry scare tactics continue... (from Chicago Tribune, reg. req'd).
Vanessa Jean

Our friend, Vanessa Jean (who may provide a prize for our NCAA tournament pool), seems to have done quite well since we last checked in on her. She is featured in this magazine (as a "trend alert," no less!) and this magazine, and has been on the local news (and will do another appearance this coming Sunday). Apparently, "Vanessa recently got an order for eleven pink Mini Maron totes for bridesmaids in a wedding." Nice. Here's a clip from Hoard Magazine:
HOARD: Be honest okay. How durable are your duct tape designs? Do these handbags, totes, wallets and belts have a long life? How long before it all unravels and falls apart? Is the merchandise made for durable use? Or is this just cute novelty stuff?

VANESSA: At craft shows, I always bring my trusty old 'Vanessa' bag as a demo for durability. I carried it every day of my last semester at school, jam packed with books, supplies, personal stuff and sometimes even my computer, and I'm mean with my bags too! but it's still alive and kickin' and fully functional. These bags and wallets really are functional and durable, they don't peel and they don't fall apart. They succumb to normal wear and tear, scratches, dirt and all that, but no more than any other bag. The upside is that these goods can be washed with a damp cloth and are waterproof, which is good if you are graceful like me and tend to spill coffee in or around your bag.
Is this the next big thing? According to News Channel 8, "in July look for her designs to hit Young Miss magazine's trend of the summer."

UPDATE: There will be a Vanessa Jean prize for the tournament pool. And, Vanessa is doing even better. Her products have finally broken into New York City!
Eric at Antidotal has some really good stuff about the strike (start here, look for March 14, and scroll down). I don't really agree with all of it (once you read it, that will become clear), but it's all very very thoughtful and very well reasoned.
NCAA Tournament Update

NCAA President Myles Brand announced the tournament might be postponed for a few days if we go to war this week.

Monday, March 17, 2003

Power of the Unspoken

Interesting how Bush chose several times to allude to things that were obvious without actually saying what they are. Any good trial lawyer will tell you that's an old cross-examination trick.

(1) "The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize new and undeniable realities. In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war."

(2) "Yet some permanent members of the Security Council have publicly announced that they will veto any resolution that compels the disarmament of Iraq. These governments share our assessment of the danger, but not our resolve to meet it."

(As an aside, the second statement is missing from the Washington Post transcript of the speech. I remembered hearing it and finally found it in the NY Times transcript. The Post transcript actually is missing that whole chunk of the speech--did someone fall asleep and forget to write it down?)

Good speech. But I say that every time. He's got some great speechwriters. He doesn't field a press conference well (but hey, I can only imagine myself at a press conference and totally clamming up), but he delivers a great speech.
NCAA Tourney entries

We've already got one entry from Matt at It Could Be Better . . . But Worse is More Likely. And it sounds like Dean Jens will also be entering (no, Dean, you cannot pick a team to win in a later round if you haven't picked them to win in an earlier round). See our post here for rules and a bracket and keep them coming in!!! And pick this up on your own blog if you've decided to enter--spread the news.

(As a reminder, posting will be light this week. We are on spring break. While that normally means lots of free time, for sad third years, it means writing papers that are required for graduation.)
Dixie Chicks

Of all the news today, the bit that threw me most for a loop was the reaction to statement made by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks. (They also have this statement on their website.) I think her statements are ridiculous, but I always thought these artsy folks were given quite a wide berth on what they said. Maybe I'm missing the imaginary line that she crossed. Her "apology" is here.

As for the war, I can't speak for everyone here at The Cabinet, but I personally will probably not blog much on the war. It is important, it is sobering, and it is scary. And while I will definitely pick up on important stuff, I see the blog serving a role much like movies. It is a place to go for something other than what's on everyone's minds. I just want to get this out there now so that people understand why I continue to post "frivolous" stuff when America is at war.
Dahlia Lithwick is "deeply relieved -- in the most sexist way imaginable -- that Don Rumsfeld is not expecting twins next month."

Just go read it.

Also on Slate, Kausfiles is well worth a scan.
Stuff I missed yesterday: a pre-war Punditwatch, and the NYT wedding -- featuring vocals by Lisa Loeb.
Tim Schnabel doesn't like the "50 State Quarters" program because it detracts from having a "uniform national currency."

I happen to love the quarters and can't wait to see the latest one -- Alabama.
More on those "freedom fries" from Saturday Night Live: "In protest to France's opposition to a U.S. war on Iraq, the U.S. Congress' cafeteria has changed French fries and French toast to freedom fries and freedom toast. Afterwards, the Congressmen were so pleased with themselves they started freedom kissing each other. In a related story, in France, American cheese is now referred to as 'idiot cheese.'"
Apologies for my non-posting lately. Tomorrow I will return to New Haven, where I will be online more frequently.

Meanwhile, as I listen to the President's somber speech, a lighter note: Congratulations to the ACC men's basketball champions. The last time the Duke Blue Devils failed to win this tournament, I was a Duke student.
Quote of the Day:
"Dictators ride to and fro upon tigers which they dare not dismount. And the tigers are getting hungry."
~ Winston Churchill

Song of the Day:
R.E.M., "Stand"

Happy Birthday:
Nat King Cole
Rob Lowe
Rudolf Nureyev
Roger Taney
Madness amongst the Madness:

The Selection Committee put BYU into a bracket that would have the team playing on Sunday if it made the Elite Eight. BYU has a policy of not playing on Sundays. This article details the problem and attempts to explain why the Committee did not switch BYU and fellow 12-seed Weber State. The article is so poorly written I couldn't figure out why. That aside, the problem obviously moots itself if BYU loses one of its first two games. Therein is probably the best reason not to move BYU--they face U Conn in the first round. Never mind that I think BYU shouldn't even have made the tournament given the other far more talented bubble teams that got shafted. No, never mind that. The more important point is that U Conn will beat the daylights out of BYU and this whole problem will quickly be forgotten.

And since I've already gotten started talking about teams, I pick Penn over Oklahoma State in the first round. had this reminder:
Penn is no bully on a small block, either. This season the Quakers have defeated Temple by 25 points, Villanova by 14 and Southern Cal by 38 -- yes, 38.
Let the doubters never forget 13 seeded Princeton's victory over 4 seed UCLA in 1996 or 11 seeded Penn's upset of 6 seed Nebraska in 1994. You've gotta respect the Ivy League.

Sunday, March 16, 2003

In related news, CBS might bump its coverage of the NCAA tournament if war breaks out. And it sounds like war probably will break out this week.
March Madness pool!

So, it seems like everyone has take a bit of a hiatus from blogging--well, I will be off and on since I am in a week-long hole trying to finish a paper. So don't desert us!

In the meantime, we've decided to go ahead with the Kitchen Cabinet March Madness Pool! We don't have a prize yet (that is, a prize in addition to fame and glory), but Vanessa Jean has graciously offered to donate something. (There's stuff for guys and girls at her site.)

Without further ado, the rules: Download the form. It is a Word document. Type in your picks and save the document on your computer. Email us your changed document by Thursday, March 20, 2003 at 11 AM EST. You are welcome to use a different bracket so long as you can email us your picks in an easy-to-read format. Now here's the catch. We are going to use a scoring system slightly different from the traditional one in which each game in a given round garners a fixed number of points. Our system will be based on seed/round. The points you get for a correct pick = the seed of the team you picked (and that won) multiplied by the round. For example--if you pick a 12 seed to beat a 5 seed in the first round and your pick wins, you get 12 points (12 for the seed, multiplied by 1 for the round). If you then pick that 12 seed to win in the second round and it does, you get 24 more points (12 for the seed, multiplied by 2 for the round). Get it? Gives weight to upsets.

Anyway, I think it will be fun. If you have question, shoot us an email. Otherwise, we hope to get several entries and we will post running totals as the tournament progresses.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Movie Review

At the very end of her 7 February 2003 Salon interview, in which she expressed thoughtful opposition to the war in Iraq (ignoring her haruspical intonings about the shuttle disaster), Camille Paglia said,

If I could, I would assign everyone to watch "Gone With the Wind"--which is dismissed these days as an apologia for slavery. But that movie beautifully demonstrates the horrors of war…. It shows the destruction of a civilization, the slaughter of a whole generation of young men, and people reduced to squalid, animal-like subsistence conditions. And that's what's missing right now, as we prepare to march off to Baghdad -- a recognition of the horrors and tragic waste of war.
I disagree that such awareness is missing, and I also think that the horrors of war you see in Gone With the Wind have to do with a civil war (e.g., starving soldiers scavenging as they straggle home across the blasted countryside) and with a war fought with pre-modern weaponry and before modern medicine (the amputation scene still makes my thighs ache). The scene in which the women breathlessly scan the casualty list after the battle of Gettysburg absolutely communicates to people who have never endured having loved ones in battle, but a movie about the Nazi Blitzkrieg against England would probably be more apposite to what the Iraqi people will face. (To make her point Paglia might recommend William Wyler's Mrs. Miniver, a phony but earnest homefront movie from 1942; John Boorman's 1987 Hope and Glory is the infinitely better movie, but it preserves the mixed feelings that survivors of the winning side can have. Boorman shows the bombing of London autobiographically from his childhood perspective, and it's exciting and dazzling, like living inside a fireworks display. But then Paglia has never clearly understood the difference between a movie's aesthetic merit and its utility in making a point.) Still, she's right that Gone With the Wind is a powerful movie, and you can watch it uninterrupted in a version with restored Technicolor tomorrow afternoon on Turner Classic Movies.

Gone With the Wind is the most spectacular and multifaceted of what used to be called women's pictures. At the basic level Scarlett is a tempestuous heroine out of a bodice-ripping historical novel, a focus for fantasy projection on the part of far more sedate women. (I once heard a young woman from the San Fernando Valley tell about a party she had gone to where you were to come dressed as a character from Gone With the Wind and the hostess was disappointed that every single female showed up as Scarlett.) This aspect is clearest in the scene in which Rhett carries Scarlett upstairs and forces himself on her and she wakes up the next morning purring with satisfaction.

But the story works because Scarlett isn't just a soap opera vixen, she's actually divided about the feminine wiles she makes use of to get whatever it is she thinks she wants. While still a girl she senses there's something pointless about acting silly to get a husband; she says so in the scene in which Mammy makes her eat before the barbecue at Twelve Oaks so she'll no more than peck at the food in front of all the eligible young men. Scarlett is good at flirting but it leaves something unexpressed and connects her to men who don't have the temperament to fulfill her. At the same time she backs away from Rhett who cuts through her hypocrisy and appeals directly to her sensual side.

Jezebel, the temperamental-Southern-belle picture made by Warner Brothers in 1938 to beat Gone With the Wind to theaters, features a great performance by Bette Davis, probably William Wyler's best direction, and has a lot less audience-pleasing fussy-fancy trimming. But at its center it's fundamentally squarer about its heroine than Gone With the Wind. Julie's fault is expressing her will; she flouts convention by wearing a red dress to a ball and afterwards her beau is through with her. Feeling her mistakes, she later apologizes to him in virginal white, not knowing that he's come back to New Orleans with a bride. The point in Jezebel is not that the conventions of female decorum are too constricting but that Julie realizes their importance too late.

Scarlett is the more meaningfully modern character: she undervalues honor but sees through decorum too late. Her problem is that although she has a natural aptitude for kittenish Southern female propriety, she's also aware of the limitations it places on her, which is especially galling during the war and then the Reconstruction era when she's the most capable person around. (The men are dead or defeated, or, like Ashley and her second husband Frank Kennedy, less ambitious and capable in the first place, while the women are passive or, like her sister Suellen, resentful of her determination.) So Scarlett is from the start half in and half out of the Southern belle act, and the movie interestingly leaves that unresolved. At the end she wants Rhett, but she's really tied to Tara, the plantation she worked back from nearly-Trojan devastation, and to the lumber mill she built up over her husband's objections (and that she operates in a way the other characters find deplorable, for reasons we're meant to share, i.e., using convict labor, and for reasons we aren't, i.e., it's unseemly for a woman to be in business). "What does woman want" turns out to be a much more pressing and complex question for women from the inside than for men from the outside.

The Scarlett-Rhett love story is thus full of friction, like the Streisand-Redford love story in The Way We Were. But Streisand and Redford's characters are wrong for each other. What holds them together is how much she wants him, how she feels validated by his attention. (Probably nobody but Streisand could play this masochistic role and hold her own as a star. In fact, the masochism serves as a channel for her powerhouse emotionalism.) Scarlett and Rhett are right for each other, it's just that she won't admit it because it doesn't fit with her idea of what she should be, in public anyway.

As Scarlett Vivien Leigh has the ideal ability to tailor every gesture, every delivery, for the audience she's playing to. Leigh also has wonderful skill at showing Scarlett's moments of inattention when she thinks her audience isn't worth much effort, perhaps most amusingly in the scene when Charles Hamilton proposes to her while she's despondently watching for Ashley before he goes off to war, when she says in a manner so convictionless it's could almost be facetious, "I'll cry into my pillow every night." Scarlett can flirt while sleepwalking. Leigh's evident technique is perfect for this headstrong young woman who is trapped improvising an ill-fitting role as the scenery goes up in flames around her.

The movie is famous for its production values, but aside from the design, and the hectic scenes of the siege of Atlanta, which benefit from the effects you can get only from using extensive sets packed with well-directed extras, the moviemaking can't compare technically to such other large-scale works about war and social upheaval as Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915), Visconti's The Leopard (1963), Bertolucci's 1900 (Novecento; 1976), or the Taviani Brothers' Night of the Shooting Stars (La Notte di San Lorenzo; 1982). (The Visconti and Taviani pictures also have scripts of an imaginative subtlety Mitchell's material can't approach.) The alertly put together scene in which the women wait for the men to come back from cleaning up the shantytown after Scarlett has been attacked is the standout. All the same, it's not as if its effect on audiences were based only on sumptuous sets and costumes.

The work may be at bottom a low-grade historical novel, but the point-of-view of a defeated people gives it a basis in genuine feeling that holds all the characters and incidents and historical details together--the entire movie has stayed vividly in memory since I first saw it as a child. (By comparison, Titanic, with thousands of souls on board, managed to come up with only two and two-half characters, and the only thing that has stuck in my head is the technological fact that the ship broke in two before sinking to the bottom.) But watching Gone With the Wind as an adult I have also noticed clever aspects that went by me as a kid. In the first part of the movie, for instance, much of the exposition is given to Mammy, but you don't experience it as boring background info because Hattie McDaniel delivers it all as irascible mumbling. The last part of the movie lacks the measured flow of the rest and there are other movieish mistakes. The burning of Atlanta, for instance, suffers because they resort to the cheap suspense of whether the horse will get past the explosives before they go off, as if a historic catastrophe weren't interesting enough by itself. But these mistakes don't throw you out of the movie.

Some of the campiest parts might, and these turn out to involve not Scarlett or Mammy or even Prissy, but Ashley and Melanie. Leslie Howard as Ashley is just plain bad I think, perhaps because he has the most wooden-Victorian lines--I love your passion for life, Scarlett, but a Wilkes cannot think only of his own desires, etc. He also stands for a supposedly liberal Southern position that even in 1939 would have been hard to take seriously--that he would have freed his slaves when his father died. Freed them to do what? Ashley is of course supposed to be an etiolated branch, but this seems to drain Howard, who was the only other real actor besides Leigh in the cast. Clark Gable's more limited star acting comes off much better in a movie like this. He gets us on his side just by scoffing at the notion of "gentleman," which the movie's beloved vanished South is otherwise so invested in.

Olivia de Havilland is actually good as Melanie who seems like a sweet woman rather than just some phony ideal of the moviemakers. We believe in her generosity when she accepts a donation from the madam Belle Watling and most movingly when she says she feeds Union soldiers hoping that in the North some woman is feeding Ashley. De Havilland also makes seamless transitions to the moments when Melanie lies or abets Scarlett in concealing and profiting from a murder. What makes her a hoot is that she's wrong when she's generous to "our darling Scarlett," who is, after all, trying to steal her husband. The movie never gives an account of whether Melanie knows all and forgives all, maybe out of Christian charity, or has some other reason for holding to a vision of Scarlett that's better than reality, or is just dense, her head full of buttercream. All this said, the moment when Melanie spots Ashley coming home is extremely effective, one in the long line of homecomings in American movies, such as The Birth of a Nation, Hallelujah! (1929), The Best Years of Our Lives (1946), Sounder (1972), that tie black and white experience together by the commonality of human bonds.

Many critics avoid writing about Gone With the Wind because it's so central to the mythology of the supposedly golden age of Hollywood. You don't want people to think that what you write about it is how your work should be judged, nor do you want to overstate its importance as an example of the art of moviemaking. And at some level it doesn't make much difference what you say--if you just get people to watch it you probably don't have to tell them how to enjoy it.

It's easy to enjoy, but only if you close one eye to the race issue. The view of the slaves is the southern fantasy that they were better off owned than free. The best case for this view could no doubt be made for a house slave like Mammy, and I think that there must have been relatively well-treated slaves who did identify with their masters (who were in a sense entrusted to their, the slaves', care). Frederick Douglass wrote in his 1845 autobiography, with a mixture of sympathy for the situation and disgust at the result, about slaves who identified with their masters and would fight with each other over whose was richest, smartest, most of a man, etc. As Douglass points out, it is in a sense only human to identify with what is one's own, and if you can accept that then you can say that Mammy is a well-drawn character. Of course, the character, and the actress, are limited by the bounds of deference that make African-American characters in old Hollywood movies so cringingly subhuman--asexual and with less self-assertion and anger than would be normal in a house pet--and by the patronizing attitude toward them that the moviemakers seem to share with the characters. (Most noticeable when Rhett makes Mammy show him the red taffeta petticoat he gave her.)

At the same time, however, the movie simply ignores Mammy's status as chattel; in the world of the movie it's a non-issue. Mammy has more in common with the perennial character of the devoted servant (a word that derives etymologically from the Latin verb related to "servus" meaning "slave"), such as the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet, than with the representative slave appropriate to an abstract discussion of the "peculiar institution." McDaniel's performance shrewdly suggests the extent of authority a trusted house slave could have assumed in a non-abusive household. Given the social and aesthetic limitations of the studio system in the '30s, and of producer David O. Selznick's taste, I believe in her as Mammy.

Prissy remains opaque to me, however--is she meant to be retarded? More likely her problem is that the movie is too invested in plantation-darky humor; you know that from the little "quittin' time" exchange between two field slaves. It shares this failing with a far greater work, Huckleberry Finn, which is programmatically anti-racist, an odd mixture of attitudes that Arnold Rampersad has written about perceptively. Gone With the Wind is divided enough in its depiction of race that it includes Mammy in a group of three disreputable or despised figures--Rhett, Mammy, and Belle Watling--who are excluded from the plantation romance and yet have more practical honor than anyone else. But the movie will not stand as a rounded, or even particularly sensitive, depiction of African-American experience in the South, despite Selznick's intention not to dishonor the race. (See Leonard J. Leff's interesting Atlantic article from December 1999 about the political pressures on Selznick over the race issue; see also Gavin Lambert's two-part Atlantic article from 1973 about the making of the movie more generally.) About the best you can say is that the movie is not, at any rate, programmatically racist, as The Birth of a Nation is, which makes a point of showing the infantile unfitness of blacks to serve in Congress.

Overall, Gone With the Wind is weakest on race. It draws its power generally from the situation of the South, which was conquered without being annihilated. Rather, it was, more peculiarly, absorbed into an inimical civilization, a situation producing tensions that endure to this day (e.g., Trent Lott's comments about Strom Thurmond). But it's the character of Scarlett that accounts for the movie's enduring hold on our imagination--the flirty-pouty heroine who, despite herself, finds an empire-builder inside the corsets and hoopskirts.