April 18, 2015

In Madison, Wisconsin, the Farmers Market returned to the Capitol Square today.

The farmers were there...


And the deep-fried cheese curds...


And the proponents of peace...


And the Walker-haters...


"Did punk begin with 'I'm Henry The 8th I Am'? The minimal production, the basic drums, the snotty sloppy carefree vocal delivery..."

"... the directly Ramones-inspiring, 4th wall breaking cry of 'Second Verse, same as the first'.. to what extent could this track be considered an overlooked antecendent of the punk rock movement?"

That's an internet discussion I encountered after reading jr565's comment — "in regards to Henry Viii - now we know where the Ramones got their 'second verse, same as the first' from" — on last night's post about the #1 songs of 1965.

Here's how the song looked as interpreted by Patty Duke (in her Cathy persona) on her old TV show in 1965:

Here's the adorable original Peter Noone (in his Herman persona):

Actually the original is Harry Champion (it's really a British music hall from 1910):

"Gay Events That I, Marco Rubio, Would Go To."

A comic piece at The New Yorker — #1 on The New Yorker's "most popular" list — that riffs on a WaPo item that reads:
Presidential candidate and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said in an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos on Wednesday that he would attend a gay wedding of someone he was close to — while qualifying that he wouldn’t condone the union itself.
It's a good comic idea, which is why I and, I assume, many others clicked on it, which is all that is needed to be "popular" for the purposes of climbing an internet "most popular" chart. The execution of the comic idea is another matter. But that's subjective, and it's going to depend on whether you feel empathy for politicians who need to adopt a namby-pamby pose on gay marriage.

I stopped to contemplate the quality of my own humor. Should I say "a namby-pamby pose"? To help decide, I did a Google image search on the phrase "a namby-pamby pose." #1:

My question is answered. The god Serendipity has spoken.

UPDATE: Speaking of gods speaking, no sooner do I publish this post than my doorbell rings. Though I don't normally answer the doorbell, I go to the door. It's 2 men in suits and a little boy. They've got copies of The Watchtower. Here's how I reacted:

Ah! It's such a perfect day today! I believe in The Universe!

"One virtue of appointing federal appellate judges to the Court is that these highly judicialized folk are already masters at applying Supreme Court doctrine."

"After all, this is what circuit-court judges do every day: they study and apply what the Supreme Court has said about one legal issue or another. One problem, however, is that Supreme Court precedent can be dead wrong. Sometimes, in fact, it is baloney. And lower-court judges, who daily slice and eat this doctrinal baloney, may be ill-equipped to see it for what it is. Specifically, they may be inclined to think that judges are more right than they really are, and other branches of government, more wrong. A lower court’s job is to follow the Supreme Court’s precedents, whether right or wrong. But the Supreme Court’s job, in certain situations, is to correct its past mistakes—to overrule or depart from erroneous precedents. (Brown famously and gloriously abandoned Plessy v. Ferguson’s malodorous 'separate but equal' doctrine.) Someone who has not spent his or her entire life reading Supreme Court cases — who has instead spent time thinking directly about the Constitution and also spent time in a nonjudicial branch of government with its own distinct constitutional perspectives and traditions — may be particularly good at knowing judicial baloney when he or she sees it."

Writes lawprof Akhil Reed Amar in "Clones on the Court/A Supreme Court that once included former senators and governors is populated today by judges with identical résumés. Here's why that's a mistake."

"I grew up with: midcentury furniture, and I still get a sense of rightness from living with it."

"I don’t think it’s only because of a generational memory; 60 years later, some of these objects still seem unsurpassed. I have two chairs designed by Gio Ponti the year I was born [1952], which are really perfect."

Said the artist David Salle, responding to a prompt (in bold face) from The Wall Street Journal, which includes pictures of various things including a chair, but not the Gio Ponti chair he declared perfect. I'm going to guess — consider the possibilities — it's this:

Salle also praises the book “Several Short Sentences About Writing,” by Verlyn Klinkenborg, which (I see) says things like:
Why short sentences? They'll sound strange for a while until you can hear what they're capable of. But they carry you back to a prose you can control...
Dot dot dot because that sentence actually turns out to be long and I'm transcribing and don't want to transcribe it all. Do you need to learn to control your prose? Did you forget about the usefulness of short sentences? Do you need a book to remind you?

Salle also has this:
A transformative technology can: change how you hail a cab, but I’m not sure it changes the structure of things that are really important to me. When I was in art school, the first portable black-and-white video cameras were introduced and quickly became part of the artist’s tool kit. There was a lot of talk then about how they would fundamentally transform art. And of course they did no such thing.
When I was in art school, circa 1970, we were invited to become entranced with a dot matrix printer that could only print letters and numbers but which could produce a crude image of, say, a face because of the way various letters and numbers read as darker or lighter from a distance. Is this where we were going?

"Being exposed to sweat produced under happiness induces a simulacrum of happiness in receivers, and induces a contagion of the emotional state."

"Somebody who is happy will infuse others in their vicinity with happiness."

"They weren’t thinking about me, just about my mother. They just ripped me out and tossed me aside," said Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra was a gigantic baby, the year was 1915, the setting was the family's kitchen, and the midwife had to call for the doctor, who arrived, with forceps, to save the mother. 
The doctor cut the cord and laid the boy - huge and blue, bleeding from his wounds, and apparently dead - by the kitchen sink, then quickly shifted his efforts to ­saving the nearly unconscious mother’s life.

The women all leant in, shouting advice in ­Italian. At the back of the scrum, one of them looked at the seemingly lifeless baby, picked up it up and, just in case, ran ice cold water from the sink over it and slapped its back. It snuffled and began to howl....

In a nightclub with a lover named Peggy Connelly, he flinched when, in the dark, she caressed his left cheek and her fingertips touched his ear. Though she had barely noticed the deformity, he told her how sensitive he was about it....
Connelly recalled: ‘There was no ­outburst of emotion, just a ­lingering bitterness about what he felt had been a stupid neglect of his infant self to concentrate on his mother, otherwise his torn ear might have been tended to in time.’
As for the mother, Dolly Sinatra:
After Frank was born, there were no more babies, possibly because the birth rendered Dolly unable to have any, but more likely because she ­simply decided — and she was one of life’s deciders — she didn’t want to go through that again.
But she compensated for her trauma in the strangest of ways. She chose to become a midwife and an abortionist, for which ­illegal activity she got the ­nickname ­Hatpin Dolly and a ­criminal record.
The link goes to an excerpt from the book "Frank: The Making Of A Legend" by James Kaplan. I ran across that this morning because last night we were watching the new HBO documentary "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All," which isn't based on Kaplan's book, but goes through the same story of the birth and contains that brief, startling fact: Sinatra's mother was an abortionist.

We were watching the Sinatra documentary because we'd gotten tired of that other, much more noticed HBO documentary "Going Clear," which is based on the Lawrence Wright book "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief." I'm sure the book is much more worth your time. The movie is just too dumb for my taste. In the part I put up with, there were too many boring people on camera stating that they were indeed taken in. But why? Some of the clips of L. Ron Hubbard were interesting. He was brilliant/crazy/devious. He's a good character. The rest of the cast... well, one wonders what they would have done with their lives if they hadn't entered the "prison of belief" in Scientology.

I was surprised to see that both documentaries were made by the same guy, Alex Gibney. If he could have been allowed to stay with the interesting character in "Going Clear," I might have liked it as much as "Sinatra: All or Nothing at All." But left to delve into the mystery of ordinary people getting and staying inside of religious belief, he had little insight. At least not in the part I put up with.

Maybe I'll finish it at some point... or, more likely, switch to Wright's book or just Wright's New Yorker article, "The Apostate, Paul Haggis vs. the Church of Scientology." I could get interested in Scientology's complicated legal problems, but I don't want to hear long accounts of dumb people getting trapped in "the Prison of Belief." Why are other people's beliefs a "prison"? If some beliefs are prisons, what beliefs are not prisons? Now, if the point is, the organization threatens and bullies anyone who tries to leave, then it's not belief that is the prison.

ADDED: Lawrence Wright goes on the podcast "Here's the Thing with Alec Baldwin" which I was in the middle of listening to when I tried to watch HBO's "Going Clear." This morning, having given up on "Going Clear," I went back to the podcast and was surprised to get to hear Alec Baldwin complain that what the movie was missing was just about exactly what I'd thought. Go to 23:32. Baldwin had seen the movie, and he said: "There wasn't any sense, to me, of: What are the people who are in Scientology, who remain in Scientology, who are dedicated to this, what do they perceive they're getting out of it?... What does it do for them? Why are they there?" Baldwin suggests "maybe it's in the book," and Wright is able to give some answers — but these are answers that make me want to ask whether the motivations are different from what brings people into other religions.

By the way, at the "Here's the Thing" site, the title of Wright's book is misstated as "Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Unbelief." That's a good (if unwitting) response to my statement (above) it's not belief that is the prison.

April 17, 2015

"In 1965 there were a ton of deserving No. 1 songs on the Billboard charts..."

"... and two silly novelty ones."

ADDED: The discussion about The Ramones that begins in the comments continues here.

"There was the story about a man bringing a gun to an Easter church service – which went off when it got caught on his pants."

"Then we had a guy accidentally shooting his mother-in-law through the wall of her trailer when his target was actually an armadillo ('That bullet couldn’t have taken a more American journey if it had punctured a Kraft single, ricocheted off a Nascar trophy and got lodged in a painting of Elvis and Jesus holding hands at a rodeo,' observed Williams). But neither of these news stories could even come close to the report that succeeded in taking home the 2015 'Mercun Award crown..."

From a WSJ report on "The Daily Show"'s  awards based on the "popular social-media meme #Murica." The WSJ's link on the hashtag goes not to Twitter but to the Urban Dictionary, which defines the term in an openly bigoted manner: "The way un-educated Americans (generally rednecks, hicks, republicans, or very patriotic people) say America" and "The term 'murica' is the way how many people with extremely thick, American accents, pronounce 'America'. The term is used to denote extreme, extreme nationalism and patriotism, but not necessarily facism. It is generally seen as a derogatory yet humorous way to describe most Americans: fat, lazy, gunwielding, war loving, horse riding, saloon fighting, beer drinking, sex wanting or etc."

"The swing member of the state Supreme Court lashed out at a lawsuit brought by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson over how the court's leader is selected..."

Justice N. Patrick Crooks said: "I think it's not only sad, it's unfortunate. I won't give you my view of the merits of that lawsuit, but I will tell you I think it's something that should not have been done. We've become a little bit of a laughingstock, or at least she has."
In the interview, Crooks said he was considering seeking the position of chief justice himself after some of his colleagues talked to him about it. He declined to name them. The 76-year-old justice also held out the possibility of running for re-election next year, despite suggesting to his colleagues last year that he would not seek another 10-year term.
In case you've forgotten, Abrahamson has been chief justice for a long time under the old seniority rule, a part of the Wisconsin state constitution which the voters amended. Now, the justices are to vote to select the chief, and Crooks seems to be positioning himself for selection — and for reelection if he wants to run again. Calling Abrahamson "a laughingstock" is awfully harsh, even if it's what he genuinely thinks (as opposed to what's politically opportune). If the idea is to restore the dignity of the court, it's a bit strange. But perhaps the unnamed colleagues who've talked to him include Abrahamson:
Crooks distanced himself from Abrahamson, saying he had a "very different" judicial philosophy than her. Regardless, he argued the decision on who should lead the court should be about who is best able to bring members of the court together, not a "philosophical tug of war." He said he felt he could serve that function.

"I view the job of chief justices I think very differently than Justice Abrahamson does," he said. "I think that the chief justice is a first among equals. I think the approach that's appropriate is that you're a team player and you try to get everyone involved in the team."
If I were in Justice Abrahamson's position masterminding the coming election, that's exactly what I would advise him to say. And by the way, call me "a bit of a laughingstock" so it won't look like I'm colluding with you.

"Should You Get Married (Or Divorced) For Tax Reasons?"

Do the math.
Whether you get a tax bonus by being married or end up paying the marriage penalty depends on how much income you and your partner make and how it’s divided between you. Type your own numbers in [at the link] to see how marriage affects your taxes.
The link goes to FiveThirtyEight, where I love the update:
In response to comments on Twitter, we’ve changed the color scheme of these graphics from green-and-red to blue-and-red to make it possible for people with red-green colorblindness to read them clearly.

"For all the righteous concern people expressed about the welfare of my children, what most of them failed to understand was that taking those pictures was an act separate from mothering."

"When I stepped behind the camera and my kids stepped in front of it, I was a photographer and they were actors, and we were making a photograph together. And in a similar vein, many people mistook the photographs for reality or attributed qualities to my children (one letter-­writer called them 'mean') based on the way they looked in the pictures. The fact is that these are not my children; they are figures on silvery paper slivered out of time. They represent my children at a fraction of a second on one particular afternoon with infinite variables of light, expression, posture, muscle tension, mood, wind and shade. These are not my children at all; these are children in a photograph. Even the children understood this distinction...."

Writes Sally Mann, whose very arty photographs of her (sometimes naked) children were published to much elite acclaim in 1992 and — simultaneously — intense criticism as “manipulative,” “sick,” “twisted,” “vulgar” — in part because of what Mann calls the "cosmically bad timing" of coinciding with the controversy about Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs. Mapplethorpe had "included images of children along with sadomasochistic and homoerotic imagery," and: "Into this turbulent climate, I had put forth my family pictures."

From the comments there (at the NYT):
There is absolutely no question that Sally Mann is a photographic artist of great stature. There is also no question that were she not, she would have had her children taken from the home decades ago, and probably would have been jailed. If the father down the block from Mann took similar photos and made them public, he would have been thrown under the jail house. She was, and remains, ethically tone deaf - at best. To use one's children, who cannot possibly understand the ramifications of what they are doing, as one's subjects to create sexually charged images, is the grossest violation of the concept of informed consent. and is inexcusable.

"But what exactly is civility—and is it a prerequisite for a vibrant intellectual climate?"

Asks Joan W. Scott in "The New Thought Police/Why are campus administrators invoking civility to silence critical speech?"
As with all polemic, tweets can be satirical, ironic, blasphemous, outrageous. To read them literally is often to misread them, as was the case with one of the tweets most often invoked to indict [Steven] Salaita as an anti-Semite...

The medium of Twitter is complicated because it provides a public space for private, personal expression. In one sense, it is no different from a speaker’s rostrum at an antiwar rally or any other highly charged political event....

Twitter disrupts this careful separation of the hidden and the acceptable, blurring the boundaries by offering a public forum for venting private feelings. In so doing, it makes the hidden visible and seems to reveal the “true” nature of the tweeter—the reality ordinarily concealed by the rules of decorum and politesse. They may not realize it, but those... who take tweets to be indicators of the “real” nature of the tweeter (and so the ultimate proof of his or her unfitness as a teacher and colleague) are also acknowledging the limits, if not the inauthenticity, of civility as a form not only of political but also of intellectual exchange. For some members of the UIUC faculty, as for the chancellor, the tweets exposed the underlying premises of Salaita’s scholarly work, the hidden transcript of his articles and books. The tweets became not an easily compartmentalized instance of extramural speech (and so of the First Amendment right of the scholar as citizen), but the key to the entire body of his work and to the unacceptability of the politics that informed it....
Much more at the link (which goes to The Nation).

"In interviews, Ryan has characterized his #BottomForHillary movement as 'just a fun way for people to show support for a presidential candidate'..."

"... but many gays aren’t laughing. A Huffington Post commenter decried the phrase, writing, 'we do not need this type of exposure, as it does not help our LGBT community at all,' and Zach Stafford has penned a screed against the thing in the Guardian, declaring that it relies on a logic of 'bottom-shaming,' the essentially misogynistic notion that bottoming is more effeminate—and therefore a lesser act—than topping. Stafford’s point is well-taken (I definitely share his dislike for the way bottom-shaming often creeps into gay men’s discourse), but I wonder if it’s totally fair...."

From a surprisingly long piece at Slate by J. Bryan Lowder called "Should Gays Bottom for Hillary?"

"But wait a minute... there's nothing inconsistent about being a libertarian and collecting Social Security."

"If you believe the government is wrongfully taking your money (in the form of taxes), naturally you should want to take as much of it back as possible (in the form of benefits). You can still complain that this was inefficient because you would've spent the money better if you had kept it all along; some of your money was siphoned off by government workers; etc. By analogy, if a thief stole your wallet and spent half of the cash that was in it, then offered you the wallet back, you'd take it back, simply to recover most of what you had lost. That wouldn't be an admission that what the thief did was good."

, reacting to a "Zing!" by Daily Kos over a tweet that says "Rand Paul is running from Libertarianism faster than Ayn Rand ran to the mailbox for her Social Security checks."

April 16, 2015

"When I began as a young lawyer in the 1960s, text was an interesting jumping-off point."

"It was sometimes even read from beginning to end. But it was rarely dispositive…. One of the great triumphs of Justice Scalia’s work on the Court over the years — with help from a number of the other justices — was to remind us that text does play an important role, and that we should be spending more time with the text."

Said NYU lawprof Burt Neuborne, talking about his new book, "Madison's Music: On Reading the First Amendment." Alongside him was Justice Sonia Sotomayor, whom he thanked for "her human voice." Is that a compliment? Is this a compliment: "It’s a fun book for someone who's not immersed in the law"? That's what she said about his book.

I got to that NYU page via email that promotes NYU School of Law things to the school's graduates (which include me). I hesitated to link to it, however, because I'm ashamed of the inaccuracy of this sentence:

"Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday he had an 'honest, frank conversation' with Spike Lee to let the movie director know..."

"... that he doesn’t like, 'Chiraq,' the working title of Lee's coming movie on black-on-black violence based in Chicago’s crime-ridden Englewood community."
Emanuel didn’t say whether he asked Lee to change the name.... But the mayor made it clear that he had used the Hollywood pipeline provided by his brother, super-agent Ari Emanuel, to make his feelings known directly to Spike Lee. The face-to-face meeting took place in the mayor’s office prior to Wednesday’s City Council meeting....

In an apparent attempt to soften the blow of the title, "Chiraq," Lee... noted that gun violence is “not limited” to Chicago. It’s happening in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York, where he’s from. He even talked about the derogatory name used to describe a part of Brooklyn where he’s from. He talked about how similarly insulting names applied to Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Well, apparently "Chiraq" is a great title. It's getting such high level attention. You can't buy that kind of PR. Obviously, it's also negative PR for the city, but Rahm is trying to squeeze good PR out of the bad (on the theory that Chicago isn't really that bad and even if it is, other cities are also bad... or worse).

ADDED: From a year ago: "How Chicago Became 'Chiraq'":
President Obama may have gotten our troops out of Iraq, but the gunfire in his hometown of Chicago is still earning it a searing nickname coined by young people who live there.


"Resistance is not part of civil disobedience."

"Civil disobedience is a symbolic non-violent violation of the law.... The act must be nonviolent, open and visible, illegal, performed for the moral purpose of protesting an injustice, and done with the expectation of being punished."

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin instructs, explaining the arrests of the high school students who, protesting the police shooting of Tony Robinson, may have resisted police efforts to relocate them from the street to the sidewalk.
"In the future, while all of these protests are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, MPD will not be facilitating extended street closures."
In the past, the police have facilitated protests that took over the street. During the big protests of 2011, we saw police cars blocking the streets so cars could not get through. We've had it personally explained to us by a police officer that redirecting the cars was considered the best approach.

I don't know what the precise policy is, but I note the word "extended" in the mayor's statement. I guess the police will facilitate your street-blocking protest in Madison, but not for too long. I hope it means that where there are marches confined to the sidewalks (or State Street), police ought to stop traffic to let the whole march cross an intersection as a single, densely packed group. But the phrase "on a case-by-case basis" hints of: 1. something that permits flash-mobbish takeovers of the streets, and 2. something that could be applied — consciously or unconsciously — in a way that is not viewpoint neutral.

"I love that Etsy gives a platform to someone who can crochet these shorts and sell them to men who love pants made of yarn."

"I’m probably going to buy this glowing owl necklace right after I publish this story. I need this coffee mug. I like Etsy just the way it is. And that’s why I’m taking time to soak in the company as it exists today, before Wall Street forces it to change."

Why is Hillary Clinton misstating checkable facts about her life?

Buzzfeed reports: "Speaking in Iowa Wednesday, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that all her grandparents had immigrated to the United States, a story that conflicts with public census and other records related to her maternal and paternal grandparents."

Meanwhile, Chelsea Clinton expects people to believe that her very curly hair on its own changed into glossily sleek, slightly curved straight hair:
"My curls, in my early twenties, just fell into waves. I don't know if they got tired of me, but the curls slowly subsided, and so now it's naturally a little bit wavy but... I miss my curls."
Why lie about things you don't even need to lie about, things that can be checked? Why lie so badly?